Note: This is chapter twenty eight of 'Memory Intrigues', a collaborative novel being etched out by a group of ten bloggers.
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|Designed by Ruchita|
Read the previous part of the story here
Confused, Cyrus agrees to listen to Jennifer’s plan, as she explains some details.
“Listen Cyrus, now that we trust each other, our first duty is to get Roohi and you out of this mess” and she shares her plan with him.
Cyrus listens carefully to all the details. He picks up some breakfast for Roohi, Ahuja and himself, and walks back to the guest house.
Jennifer is not sure whether Cyrus has actually understood her or whether he is just pretending. She feels that it is better to give him a chance before she calls in the police. She believes it to be better for Roohi and that she is safe as long as the police are not involved in this.
“Ahuja will not hesitate to kill Roohi and implicate you in the matter”
“Ahuja will not hesitate to kill Roohi”
Jennifer’s words keep ringing in his ears; Cyrus’s ears turn hot and red and he starts sweating profusely as the proverbial double edged sword dangles above his head. He had never meant to do any harm to little Roohi, but now not knowing whom to believe, he feels trapped in this quagmire; now he fears dragging the innocent child into all this mess if he does not get his act together fast.
Whether Jen is lying or not, will be known sooner or later; but one thing is for sure, Ahuja is surely a charmer. Hadn’t he sweet talked his way through to Cyrus and got him involved in such a dirty situation? “God dammit, you egg head! What could you have been thinking of?” Cyrus curses himself as he nibbles at his sandwich. The other two oblivious to Cyrus’s mental turmoil happily wolf down their breakfast..
“At least we have done something right,” Cyrus thought looking at Roohi’s smiling face. Her blue frilly frock swirls around as she laughs and jumps animatedly, her eyes twinkling; she is so much more at peace here with us outsiders, than with her own parents, Cyrus mused. The parents didn’t get a whiff of what was going on when their only daughter walked out of their house all alone in the middle of the night. What kind of parents are they,” he shudders thinking about that night.
Two evenings ago:
Cyrus is visiting Ahuja’s; the two are casually seated in the expensive mahogany decorated living room of the ‘struggling actor’, enjoying a neat scotch. Cyrus has just dropped Tara home after a hectic day at work, when Ahuja in his usual jovial manner invites him in for a drink.
“So you are working with Taraji on the memory card case?” Ahuja winks as he brings out the ice bucket. “Two? Three?”
“What? No…I’m just…”
“Oh, you can tell me! It’s no big secret, it’s been splashed all over the news! Do you know what the memory card holds? You know what it means??” Ahuja jumps up excitedly.
“It will all be over soon, like the fizz slowly vanishing from this soda leaving behind tonic water. That’s what will come out of the case, I tell you! This is all a media gimmick. Hand in hand with the politicians, they just want to charge up the atmosphere before the upcoming elections”
“So you are telling me…you are sure…the memory card is fake?” the excitement in Ahuja’s voice recedes .
“No, I’m not saying that! I don’t know…I’m tired! This is strong, man” Cyrus grins sheepishly gulping down the scotch.
“You know, if we can get hold of that evidence…that lottery ticket…we could become millionaires in no time. The minister would be willing to pay anything to cover his own ass” Ahuja had let out a macabre laughter, just as the commotion from the Dutta’s house filters in through the windows and walls.
“Do these two always fight like this? Have they no consideration for their little girl?” Cyrus peeps out of the window and panics. “Ahuja! Look Roohi!”
They run towards the teary-eyed Roohi, her one hand rubbing her sore eyes and the other hand dragging behind her beloved Teddy. She is carrying her flourescent pink backpack stuffed with a few clothes.
“Where are you going princess?” Ahuja asks in a silken voice. Cyrus does not notice an evil agenda behind that gentle voice. But he feels light in his head and lets Ahuja handle the matter.
“You should not be going out alone in this dark. It is dangerous. Come, we will take you there darling…”
They drive along for a while and soon come to a posh locality of Mumbai – Pali Hill. Ahuja opens the gate and drives down the driveway and stops in the portico of an old but very well maintained bungalow.
“How do you like this place Cyrus? I run a guest house here. Right now there are no visitors.”
“Uncle!! You told me that you will take me to my Naani’s house, but why did we all come to this house?” asks Roohi somewhat confused and afraid. “Beta, let me finish some important work first and then I will surely take you to your Naani’s house. Let us go inside and you go to sleep. I shall wake you up as soon as my work is over and take you to your Naani.” says Ahuja.
Cyrus loves Roohi’s innocent smile. He feels bad about the way her parents neglect her. They are so engrossed in carving out a niche for themselves in their respective careers. Although he is not really very comfortable with what he is doing, a little voice inside him tells him that this entire episode of Roohi’s disappearance would serve to teach her parents a good lesson. Hopefully they would learn to prioritize her equally or above their careers.
“Shall I get you a hot pizza from a nearby place Roohi?” asks Ahuja.
“I don’t want anything uncle. Just drop me at my Naani’s place. I don’t like this house, I am very scared,” Roohi feels distinctly uncomfortable in the new place.
"Chalo, let’s have a pizza!” says Cyrus and walks out of the old house to get a pizza for Roohi.
“Let me just get my share of money from Ahuja and I shall drop this little girl back” soliloquizes Cyrus. He belongs to a middle class family and has always seen the ups and downs of life. With this one adventure, Cyrus hopes to clear all his long standing debts and swears to himself never to get involved in any such activities again. He wants to groom himself to be a good lawyer and earn a reputation for himself.
Today, after breakfast:
“Does that tickle?” Cyrus is brought back to the present as Roohi comfortably sits next to him. “Cyrus uncle, you have curly hair all over your body!” she says with a tinkling laugh.
“You two make quite a sight!” smirks Ahuja. He pulls Roohi’s cheeks playfully, “Now run along princess, you can play with the new Barbie doll I gifted you, while we big boys talk.”
“Before you impose your plan on me Aryan, I need to….”
“Hey – hey, quit that tone with me man!” Ahuja flares up and Cyrus sees his eyes take on a sinister.
Cyrus quickly changes track, realizing that Jen could be right; Ahuja could really be dangerous!
“Friend, all I’m saying is, if we don’t get Roohi back to her parents, there could be a possibility of irreparable damage – to our careers, our lives…we don’t want that, right?”
“I AM NOT LETTING THAT GIRL GO UNLESS I GET THAT PASSWORD! It is our password to untold wealth and we will not have to think about our careers anymore. Don’t you get that smarty?”
The sudden rage in Ahuja catches Cyrus off guard. He nods meekly and goes around the house to the terrace. Lovely potted ceramic plants lined up at the entrance, leading to an aesthetically done sitting area, confuse Cyrus all the more and Jen’s words come back to haunt him.
“That is how he manages to own a flat and a guest house in posh localities in Bombay. Do you think a struggling artist can afford all this?”
He knows that Jen is not the saint she is making herself out to be. She must have her own motives to save Roohi. After all, the mystery of her sudden disappearance and her casual reappearance at the climax of this intriguing drama is a question that continues to bother him. However, thinking of Roohi’s welfare, Cyrus has no option but to choose the lesser of the two evils. He decides to play along with Jenny’s plan and rehearses the steps in his head.
Read the next part if the story here.