The ACP kept looking at Anshuman while he finished his call within the time limit set for him. 60 seconds.
Anshuman handed back his phone to the officer and muttered a humble – ‘Shukriya!’
The officer didn’t reply to him and walked away with his phone. Anshuman walked back to pace around the cell, hoping for Manasvi to get in touch with his Chief and others to get help for him.
The sub-inspector of the police station asked the ACP, “Sir, why did you allow him to make a call. Maybe he called his associates and sent a coded signal. How can we trust him?”
The ACP replied, “We can’t! That is why I allowed him a call. He hasn’t confessed to any spying or illegal activity. And we haven’t found any spying device, camera, mic, papers, maps with him. We can’t let him go free. Now, contact your experts and find out where did he call and to whom? I want all the details within 2 hours.”
The SI saluted him and went inside the other room to prepare a report about the last few calls history and particularly this call that he had made saying that he had called his wife. He called the experts and asked them to be there within few minutes.
The ACP returned and sat on the officer’s chair, observing Anshuman keenly. Anshuman had been pacing around the small cell. He found the officer observing him and saw a glint of hope in his glance. He returned back to the bars and tried to convince me, “Trust me, officer. I am here for my wife’s documents from her school. I have been to several countries before because I am a doctor working for PBB. I am deeply dedicated to my work. Nothing else.”
The ACP nodded with a toughened look on his face, “We’ll find that out. And you should really pray that your story is proved correct. Or else, you have no idea what we will do to you. You should be scared of that.”
Anshuman shrugged and chewed his lower lip, with a sigh, “I don’t need to be scared. Because my story is true. I haven’t done anything that makes me an offender in this land. So, I really hope that I will be treated well.”
ACP gave him a sarcastic smirk and pulled out his gun from the case before putting it on the table after a slight tap here and there, mainly to threaten Anshuman. Anshuman found the gesture meaningless because he knew that it was threatening him and he wasn’t threatened at all. The officer received a call from another officer and after a serious conversation of five minutes, he disconnected the call.
Then he turned towards Anshuman and said, “We ran a reverse search of your photograph and the initial reports say that you are employed with Indian army.”
Anshuman never knew that a brief history of service in the army will go against him. He refuted vehemently, “No…no… I ‘was’ once with our army. Not anymore.”
The ACP was suddenly very angry. He yelled, “Do you think you can fool us here? You are no more with the army because they recruited you with RAW for spying… right?”
Anshuman heaved a huge sigh, and replied calmly, “No. I am no more with the army because I have a broken knee and a broken ankle. And I have only one kidney because I was hurt in an attack. I was fighting for my life and when I recovered I was not fit for the army job anymore. In any case, I was not a soldier at any time of my life. I was a doctor then. I am a doctor now.”
The ACP mellowed down. He eyed Anshuman suspiciously and said, “Are you speaking the truth?”
“Each word I have spoken to you ‘is’ only the truth.” Anshuman spoke on a taut jaw.
“Call the doctor.” ACP turned sideways and ordered the constable standing behind him. Then he turned to Anshuman and said, “We’ll get you examined. I hope you don’t mind.”
Anshuman replied calmly, “Of course not! Why would I? Please call your doctor.”
The ACP asked the Inspector, SI and other juniors to make a detailed report of all the findings and send them to him on the mail as well as record them in a physical file.
He had been receiving one phone call after the other. Some from his senior officials who wanted to know about the progress of the case. It was a very important issue right now. It concerned safety issues. And the more news spread, more pressure was created on each one of them.
Some calls were made from the media houses to know the smallest of details. Some media houses had hi-profile connections and they created a pressure over the officers to give news-bytes for TV channels so that they could turn it into a TRP driven exercise. The reporters pressed hard for an interview. The media was already interviewing the crowd outside the store where Anshuman was arrested, people from the market who saw him, and the crowd outside the police station who had collected to see the Indian spy caught in their area. The ACP tried to dodge all media calls, strictly refused any bytes and interviews, and was getting annoyed by the interference now.
Next, he received a call from the secretary of state at Home Affairs. He wanted to know the minute-by-minute detail of what was going on and how they were proceeding with the interrogation and investigation. The ACP gave the details to the Government officer and called his own officils again.
The Police Officials ordered him to shift Anshuman to the police headquarters in Karachi under strict security. It wasn’t safe to keep him locked up in a small police station fearing a mob attack at night.
The ACP asked the digital experts, the doctor, and the phone call tracking experts to report to the headquarters and moved Anshuman out of the police station. He drove Anshuman himself to the police headquarters, where another crowd of public and media was waiting to create a ruckus on this issue. Everyone wanted to know what was going on, who was he, how was he caught, what did he want, and how their Government was going to deal with this issue. Suddenly a lot of curiosity was created in both common public and officials responsible for safeguarding national interest.
The sight of the growing crowd, the media with photographers and hundreds of mics, the tight security and the chaos made Anshuman’s heart sink. This was growing out of proportion. Something that he had not expected. This also meant that with every turn of the needles of the clock, it will keep getting tougher to be free from here.
His only hope, now, was Manasvi.
The moment Manasvi disconnected the call from Anshuman, she began connecting calls to everyone she knew and who could help them – his Chief, Amanda, Alex, Anshuman’s father, and Krish.
Anshuman’s father, Raj Singh Shekhawat, was shocked to know about him as he had no idea how Anshuman landed in the neighbouring country. He became panic ridden but he assured Manasvi that he will try to find some contacts at the Home Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs to help and get Anshuman acquitted at the earliest.
Krish was worried too. He assured her that he will talk to Mr. Mehta and find out if they could do something about the issue.
The Chief couldn’t be contacted as he was travelling. So were Amanda and Alex. Manasvi left a voice message in their phone inboxes informing them about Anshuman’s situation. She requested them to call her as soon as they received the message.
She could feel her hands and feet getting cold and numb, and her lips getting dried. Her heart sank to the deepest crevices of her fears. She couldn’t swallow her saliva or breathe normally, anymore. As if her life was trapped out of her, somewhere out of her body, and her lifeless form that remained with her couldn’t bear the tussle to join the missing part. A vague fear of impending doom was beginning to consume her. She felt like a caged bird flapping her wings furiously to be free.
Her first instinct was to go back to the hotel. But what would she do alone in the hotel, except fretting and worrying about things out of her control. Now that she had come this far, she decided to go ahead and talk to the women that she had been directed to by the locals. This was another way to keep her mind occupied while people she had contacted sought help.
She knocked at the door. Someone asked her to step in. She scrolled her phone to find the picture sent by Preksha and entered the courtyard of a small house with walls needing maintenance and some paint work. An elderly woman of around 80 years was sitting on the cot in the verandah, sieving rice grains and cleaning them. Manasvi stepped ahead after taking permission from the lady and greeted her. Then she showed her the picture and asked her if she knew about this boy who was kidnapped years ago.
The woman examined the face keenly and nodded to refuse. “Though I live here for years but I don’t remember this boy. But my sister might have a clue. She was a teacher in the primary school in this area and worked as nanny for several families. She has a good memory too. Maybe she can guide you more about how you will find more details.”
“Please tell me how to meet her.” Manasvi asked.
“Wait here. I’ll send someone to call her. She lives in a lane behind this one.” Then the old woman asked a young boy of around 7 – 8 years to run and call his grandmother. The boy ran towards the back lane, while Manasvi was asked to sit and offered water. She sat down on the cot beside the woman, worrying about Anshuman. Each moment passed like a stab at her heart. With so many uneasy, dreadful thoughts crossing her mind despite her best efforts to shun them away. Her head pained and a few tears rolled down on her cheeks. Manasvi buried her face in her palms, trying to avoid a display of emotions before the older granny. The woman placed a hand over Manasvi’s hair and stroked it warmly.
“Lost something?” The woman asked compassionately, in a warm considerate tone.
“Everything, I had!”