‘What do we do now?’Mohita the quieter one spoke out of nervousness.
Mallika got out of the car and stretched her arms as if nothing had happened, yawned and looked around with lazy elegance.Mohita followed suit , gingerly alighting the car inhaling the cooling breeze blowing across.
‘Looks like the breeze is picking up speed’ Mohita opined.
Mallika offered silence as an answer.
The sun seemed to be in a hurry to rise elsewhere, and the moon was conspicuous by his absence but the stars made their presence felt, in full glory.In the dying light of the day a distant ray of hope showed itself in the form of two headlights.
‘Ah – see there is civilization – we re not alone’ Mallika announced triumphantly.
‘B-but what if-’
‘Hush’ Mallika gestured wide-eyed.
A white Ambassador with dark tints stopped right beside them. As the window rolled down slowly, Mohita’s heart skipped a beat. There was an uneasy calm in the atmosphere that evening. Mohita looked at her watch - it was precisely six hours since it had all begun.
A man looked out of the window, frowned his thick bushy eyebrows and asked ‘What are you girls doing here?’
There was silence.
Mohita’s heart was racing and her throat parched.
‘What help do you need?’
‘We need a ride to Bikaner’
‘Ah – that is not the direction I am headed to – I can give you a ride till the nearest railway station Deshnok Junction - you are on your own from there’.
The girls looked at each other and then looked back at the man.
‘Open the boot – we have luggage.’ Mallika announced.
Mohita whispered – ‘ask him if he wants money?’
‘We will give him what we have – there’s not much else we can do, can we Mohita?’
‘Give me the keys to the boot’ Mallika asked. The man switched off the car engine and gave her the key.
‘This is heavy I need help’ Mallika shouted from behind the car.She could not lift the suitcase alone.He watched her struggle,but did not get
down, instead egged them to hurry up.
‘Mo – I need some help with the suitcase here’
‘Yes coming –just wait’ .Mohita opened the rear door and stuffed her belongings in the seat and helped Mallika dump the suitcase in the trunk of the car.
‘Men – will always be men’ lets get going fast.
Mallika slammed the boot and went and sat beside the driver's seat while Mohita slipped into the rear seat.
Mohita noticed the man looking at her through the rear-view mirror a number of times and all she could see is two blood shot eyes and a thick bushy eyebrow.
Mallika sat beside him with a clenched fist and one hand holding a metal sipper bottle. About 23 minutes into the ride, the man announced – ‘I think you should roll up the windows – there is a sandstorm up ahead.’
This made Mohita really nervous. The windows shades were pitch dark , with almost zero visibility outside. She thought what if this man was a monster, what if he was some sort of a serial killer – lock up strangers inside the car and rape and kill them? What if…
‘Mohita – didn’t you hear the man – just do as he says’Mallika asserted.
As the windows rolled up it was stuffy inside and a strange pungent odour emanated from the floor of the car . A stale smell, perhaps the first signs of rot setting in somewhere. Mohita was nauseous and immediately took out her deodorant and sprayed it around.
‘What’s that smell’ the man asked.
‘I don’t know - keep driving’ – Mallika replied.
The man looked at her with a frown. He was not used to be treated like that before, not from women certainly. He chose to ignore and drove on.
His head was starting to hurt,probably his blood pressure was high.The mood was tense inside the car as the sandstorm blew sideways swaying the car.
‘How far from the Deshnok railway station?’ Mallika asked.
‘About 20 minutes, but in this weather it might take a bit longer.’
No sooner had the man said this – Mallika’s hands began to shake vigorously as if she had a fit.
She took the metal sipper bottle and banged it on her forehead. Blood splattered out immediately. She took aim and hit the same spot one more time – bang and it was a wide gash because this time the metal cap screws scraped the wound. She let out a loud scream. She wiped her bloodied hands on the dashboard, on the seat and then…. on the man’s shirt.
‘Mallika – here pull the rope quick ’ she hissed. Gone was Mohita’s dainty whispering voice.
Mallika tugged hard at the rope – it almost choked Mohita’s throat. It drained the blood from her face and her eyes were bulging out.The man tried to escape – but the door was jammed. He could not open it.He banged in desperation and screamed for help but nothing went out of the car.
She leaned over and did the same with the gasping Mohita. The man looked on motionless in horror.
‘Now - take this knife and hold it still.’ Mallika spoke in a low trembling voice.
‘No-no, you c-cant do this – are you mad what are you doing please leave me – take whatever you want –the man pleaded.’
Mallika looked at him with a wry smile and said – ‘you will do as I tell you – you will not use your brains lest I scrape it out.’
Mohita lunged from behind and scratched his face with her sharp nails taking out chunks of flesh on the way. The man was ravaged and brutally assaulted.
‘That man…. was me your honor–I shouldn’t be alive’ Baldevsingh Karni recounted the horror he went through in great detail.
‘I am a small town tourist operator from the Nokha village and was on my way to receive a tourist party for the Rajasthan villages tour when I met these ladies mid way you honor’.
The silence in the courtroom was broken by the clapping hands of the prosecutor.
‘That was a master work of art Baldev – you should try your hand in writing horror scripts for Ram Gopal Verma movies you know’ the lawyer said sarcastically.
‘It has all the ingredients of a super hit movie right there. But I am afraid you will have to wait till the next life time – your honor, this man is wasting the courts time in such fictitious misdirecting stories after such incredible amount of evidence against him.’
‘A dead body in the boot of the car – brutally chopped to pieces,face beyond recognition, and dumped in a suitcase , just by using a Swiss knife, which have his fingerprints and blood stains. As if this was not enough, he cooks up a story about two women assaulting him in the middle of no where. He also claims the women hurt themselves before inflicting pain on him – how odd is that?’
‘You have got to believe me sir – they did that deliberately to insure their protection in the event anyone else saw them ,the police chowk was just ahead of the Deshnok Railway station -as we were approaching town,– they could present themselves as victims.’ Baldev pleaded to be believed.
‘Why would some stranger suddenly want to hurt you – and that too a man of your size?
‘Where’s the motive? And more importantly where is the evidence?’
‘Your honor this is an open-shut case of a greedy tour operator who killed a man brutally in cold blood and wanted to pass on the blame ,but he got caught in his own story.’
‘That’s not true – why would I do that? What was my motive for killing somebody?’
‘Ah so now you do agree that there might be a chance that you were somewhere in the whole scheme of things and the woman story was all bogus- at least one point is proven here you honor.’
‘The motive was money – the police found a huge amount of cash in the back seat of the car – tightly rolled into bundles of thousand rupee notes - talk about a healthy tip eh Baldev?’
Baldev’s jaw dropped – he was helpless he had no defense left.
“Shyam Singh Rathore, 40,divorced, looking for a suitable companion, homely, yet smart, traditional and modern can take care of home and assist in family business. Interested parties please post a picture and send bio data to Bikaner Times,PO Box number 2311 Bikaner - 334001.”
Just then,one of the girl’s phone rang –a lawyer like voice on the other end of the line spoke - ‘my darlings,we have a new case…”