The end to the story Lost in the Alley
‘Here you go, Latte for you just the way you like it’ said Nishit as he handed the takeaway coffee cup to Preeti. It was a cold winter day and it had become their routine to drink coffee while walking towards the bus.
‘Thanks. It’s too chilly isn’t it?’ said a smiling Preeti as both entered the bus. She looked elegant dressed in beige formals with a black over coat. She was radiant with her cheeks having a tinge of pink due to the freezing temperature. One look at her and Nishit would feel his heart beats surging. It was an hour’s drive to their office and they truly enjoyed each other’s company oblivious to the morning traffic. While the other passengers sat with earphones plugged to iPods and mobiles or working on the laptops, Preeti and Nishit would talk the whole way down to their offices. It had become a part of the day that both would look forward to.
‘Nishit, you need to take that customer. Nishit! Nishit are you listening!’ was what he could hear. He looked around and he was in his bank not in the bus with Preeti. How could he, she was gone and he was responsible! Nishit had become a recluse after that day. He hardly spoke in office or had any interest in his work. He was always in a daze, in a different universe as his friends said. That day too wasn’t any different, he had wondered off in his thoughts. The befuddled customers stared at him while his colleague called out to him from behind. He always knew that he had a soft corner for Preeti but he hadn’t fathomed the depth of his feelings till she was gone. She had become a part of his life; a part without which his life was crumbling down.
Five weeks had passed since that unfortunate night when Preeti had been taken by the assailants. Nishit would visit the police station everyday to find out if there was any lead or if they were anywhere close solving this case. As a result of his visits Nishit had become well acquainted with some of the officers including Adil and had got to know several details of the case. There had been 14 similar kidnappings leading upto Preeti’s. Though it was known why the girls were being taken but they couldn’t find any clue as to how they chose the girls. They were from different backgrounds, working in different offices and were not even in the same social circle, atleast not that their relatives knew of. Perhaps if they could find that elusive link between the girls, they would probably be able to proceed in a right direction.
Nishit really wanted to help in the search but what could he do. The events of that night after dinner were hazy to him; he didn’t even remember the numbers of the cars. But he wanted to get Preeti back more than anything else. He even got one of the officers to give him a list of the names and photographs of the girls that had gone missing, possibly he could figure out a link. Obviously that wasn’t legal or by the books, but the intensity of Nishit and his persuasiveness finally caused the officer to heed to his demands.
Every night Nishit would go through the pictures and list of names. Maybe Preeti had mentioned one of them to him. He kept thinking but to no avail. He went through Preeti’s Facebook Friends but none of the names matched. How would all these girls be linked that they were being picked up one after the other? Maybe there was no link and it was merely random but still something didn’t add up.
It had become a practice for Nishit to go back home every day and sit with the pictures to try and figure out some sort of connection. He didn’t want to give up. He knew the police were doing their job but perhaps he could help them, he could see what they probably wouldn’t. Days were passing and he knew the more the delay, the greater the risk of never being able to see Preeti again. It had become an obsession for him; day and night he would contemplate how to do the next search. He stopped shaving and ate only when it was absolutely necessary to. He just had one thing in his mind, the connection!
Preeti was in another part of the city, chained in a dark and claustrophobic room of some sort. There were two others girls in the same room. She had lost track of the time or the number of days that had passed by. They would be allowed to go to the washroom twice a day and were fed once at night. Initially she cried and refused to eat. But eventually she lost all strength; the other girls too had undergone similar emotions. Preeti had no family but till this tragedy she managed quite well alone but being shackled there she could only think of Nishit. She missed him and wished for being with him soon.
Preeti along with the other girls had eventually given up hope of any light at the end of the tunnel. There was not even a flicker of light there just like hope which had vanished from their hearts. One day the girls got talking, sharing each other’s pain and found out surprisingly that they had actually met each other before. They had spent time with each other prior to ending up in this hell.
Nishit was almost falling asleep that night while browsing through the internet and Facebook, when he found a photograph where Preeti had been tagged. It seemed like someone had recently tagged her in that. As he looked through it, he saw a face which seemed similar to one of the victims. He looked for it and found it was Asha who had been kidnapped few weeks before Preeti. He looked again just to make sure he wasn’t imagining it. Yes he had found the link, it wasn’t huge but still it was one. This was the photograph of Preeti’s Salsa troupe. Yes it had to be some sort of connection; it was too strange to be a coincidence. The other girls too would be linked in some way or the other he imagined. He picked up his phone and called Adil.
‘Hold on. How did you know? Where on earth did you get the list?’ retorted a sleepy Adil. Ofcourse he knew the madness in Nishit and it wasn’t really a surprise to him either.
They met and Nishit showed him the pictures. Adil and his team left for the academy. Though Nishit wanted to tag along, he had done enough and there was no way they could include a civilian in field investigations like that and bring him in the harms way. So he waited at the headquarters hoping for some sort of news.
Adil and his team questioned those who ran the institute. They ran background checks on all the employees and teachers and found one security personnel of that institute who particularly stood out. His bank account had seen a sudden spurt in cash since the time the kidnappings had begun. They picked him up and brought him in for interrogation. It lasted for days; he was a tough nut to crack. Though they tracked down the cash flow to an overseas account in Dubai but before anything they had to get the name and details of the gang behind this racket.
Finally after five days of rigorous torture and questioning the man broke down and confessed to having supplied information to a certain gang about these girls. He was approached by one of the handlers to gather information about ‘probable girls’. He had to find out one place where the girls would spend time away from friends and family and then inform the handler. Then people from the gang would befriend these ‘targets’; as in dance classes where Preeti and Asha were students or other places where the targets would spend time away from close acquaintances. They would then mingle with them and in the most sly fashion find out where they would be going or what they would be doing to finally kidnap them.
Few more hours of questioning and he told them about the kingpin and their hangout. All the while Nishit waited outside the headquarters as he was anxious and worried. He wished for good news, he wished to see Preeti again. This time he would not whirl away time any further and tell her how he felt. He wouldn’t for a moment delay his life with Preeti. He just needed her to come back safely.
Just about then he saw Adil and his team rush out of the headquarters. He looked towards them with eager eyes. He was restless and kept pacing from one end to another all the while looking towards them. Adil saw Nishit and walked towards where he was.
‘I will get her back. Go home and wait for my call’ said Adil as he patted on Nishit’s back.
It had been ten hours since Nishit had reached home. He kept looking at his phone. He waited for that call. He would pick up the phone often to dial Adil’s number as the wait was killing him literally. He prayed for some good news. He didn’t eat or drink or even sat. He stood the entire time looking at the gate outside and the phone in his hand. Suddenly it rang and as Nishit picked up Adil told him about Preeti.
They had caught the men and had found out where the girls were. Unfortunately a few were already sold to bidders in Europe and Dubai. They would seek the help of the foreign ministry in their quest to get those girls back. There were four girls who were on the way to Mumbai to be shipped to Dubai and one among them was Preeti. The police had already contacted their counterparts in Maharashtra and they had managed to get a hold on them. Preeti was safe now; in Mumbai and would return to Delhi soon.
Nishit was relieved but would he wait till she returned to Delhi? Not at all, he rushed to the airport and on the first available flight flew off to Mumbai. He reached where Preeti was staying. They met, she looked exhausted and had bruises on her head and arms. The moment she saw him, she hugged him tight and cried her heart out. They sat for hours together without saying a word, perhaps Nishit found comfort in having Preeti infront of her and she felt safe with him around. Where was the need to speak? As Leroy Brownlow said there are times when silence has the loudest voice perhaps Nishit and Preeti communicated more in silence that day than they ever did before.
Finally just before leaving for Delhi, Nishit held Preeti’s hand and put a beautiful ring in her finger asking her to marry him and be with him forever. Preeti nodded while tears overwhelmed her. They walked towards the cab, hand in hand, looking forward to a happy future leaving behind all unpleasant memories. A learned man once said a bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn; Nishit and Preeti were among those who successfully made the turn!