Manasvi took a leave from the women she had met and returned to sit in the cab she had hired from the hotel.
Once she was inside the cab, she started making calls once after the other, to Krish, to Anshuman’s father, RajSingh Shekhawat, to the Chief.
The Chief’s phone was out of the coverage area.
Krish informed her that he was in touch with Mr. Mehta and he had assured that he would use his contacts to know more about Anshuman. He would inform her as soon as they were able to get a breakthrough.
Anshuman’s father said the same. He had approached the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi and were waiting for an appointment with the secretary to the External Affairs Minister. The office had assured them that they would soon do something about Anshuman.
Manasvi was not relieved. She had waited for an hour till she was talking to Anshuman’s nanny and her sister so that the people in India had enough time to reach the authorities. But nothing had happened as of now.
Was one hour less time to take an action? Should she wait more?
Her mind said that she should give people time to take a concrete action. But how could she explain the same to her heart? That rammed frantically in her chest, worrying about Anshuman, whether he was fine, if he ate something, or whether he was being treated well…
She called the Chief again. The Chief was still out of reach. She knew that he was the only person who could immediately help Anshuman because he was the one to arrange visa for him at the last moment for urgent travel to Pakistan. That meant that he had contacts in the Government offices in Pakistan too. He could influence them to release Anshuman. But unfortunately, he was unreachable.
Manasvi tapped the seat of the cab, pressing her lips, thinking trying to think of how to contact the Chief –Franco Martin. Should she go to the PBB website and try to find a way to connect with Anshuman’s friends and the Chief? Should she send an SOS message to PBB headquarters?
Suddenly, Manasvi remembered that Anshuman had once told her that he might be out of reach on phone for several days as they were supposed to travel to far-off places. However, his colleagues and he, all of them, surely checked their emails. She quickly opened her gmail mailbox to locate the email where Anshuman had forwarded his last posting details to her. Praying desperately to God, she opened that email.
Almost as a stroke of luck, she found the official email id’s of his colleagues, all email ids, in one single mail. Probably, the duty roster for the last posting was sent to ‘all’ and it included the names and email id’s of Amanda, Alex, Anshuman’s other doctor friends, and the Chief, Franco Martin, as well.
Manasvi thanked God and quickly typed an email with trembling hands –
‘Anshuman is in trouble.
He has lost his passport and travel documents in Karachi, Pakistan.
He has been under arrest there.
She forwarded the same email to all of his group at PBB, trying her best to keep her racing heartbeats to a normal pace. The cab driver safely took her back to the hotel, without asking anything about her situation or disturbing her. He knew the hotel she was staying at, and now he had begun to understand her problem too.
When the driver dropped Manasvi to the hotel, she stepped down and paid him the fare. He asked, “Do you want me to come tomorrow, as well?”
Manasvi looked at him gratefully and asked, “Can you come?”
He smiled warmly and said, “Of course! I see that you are alone and need someone here. It won’t be safe to go around with a new person every day. You never know who meets you at the end of the day.” The man spoke responsibly.
Deeply thankful for this gesture, Manasvi sighed, “I was thinking the same. I hope, it is not too much of a trouble for you?”
“Never mind. It’ll be my pleasure to help you.”
Manasvi thanked him again and asked him to be there on the following day in the morning, at around 10:00 am. The cab driver promised her to be there on the next morning and left after greeting her.
Manasvi went inside the hotel. It was already late and she felt drained. So, she headed directly to her room after asking the lady at the reception to send dinner to her room.
The cab driver called someone, while driving back, from the hotel.
“Hello!” The gruff voice on the other end answered the call.
“There is a woman. From India. On some weird mission. Looks like, she is searching for something. About someone.”
“Yes, all alone.”
“Good! Bring her, then.”
“Tell me, how much you will pay?”
“We will decide about that later. Let’s meet her first!”
“No. You tell me how much. And then only I will bring her.”
“Don’t act smart!” The voice growled.
“Think about it. I have few more contacts. If it’s a ‘no’ from you, I will make a deal with someone else.”
The guy at the other end, calmed down, “Okay. Give me time. I’ll talk to the boss and call you.”
The phone was disconnected. The cab driver began to mull over exactly how much money he was going to ask from the man belonging to the underworld in exchange for Manasvi.
Oblivious to the sinister plan against her, Manasvi prayed to God for sending people to help her and be with her in this difficult phase. She ate dinner and settled by the slab near the window in her room. Observing the setting sun and the view of the desert till eyes could see. The desert was so beautiful and yet so depressing. So warm and yet so frightening.
Since childhood, she had been afraid of the deserts.
She was scared of being swallowed by the vastness and the terrifying expanse of the territory. As if it was going to engulf her, drown her, bury her…
She had walked for an entire day to cross this desert in the darkest hours of the night, when she was only twelve years old. At that time, she had known that the desert was familiar to none. It was no one’s friend. It didn’t help or support anybody in his journey.
It only mislead.
She knew that she had been terribly tired. And disoriented. Still, she didn’t want to sleep. She was worried. It had been a weird day. On the one hand, she had found a link to Anshuman’s past. On the other, Anshuman was in deep trouble and she was unable to help him.
Why did he even go there for her? She would have managed, somehow! How was she going to forgive herself, if, God forbid, something happened to him?!
She wished she could talk to him, once… Only once.
A cyber-cell expert arrived to meet ACP Junaid Khan. He placed a printed excel sheet on Junaid’s table and spread it, explaining the details to him.
“These are the details of the last few calls made from his phone. One to the Chief of PBB, whom we are trying to contact. And 2-3 calls to the number he called last. The number belongs to some Manasvi Rathore from Mumbai. But surprisingly, the calls are being currently diverted to Kabul.”
“His wife?” Junaid asked.
“Seems like that. He said the same name. None of the calls seem suspicious.”
“Thank you!” Junaid nodded and waited for more reports to follow.
The next was the SI who had gone to Manasvi’s school which Anshuman had named. He handed over Manasvi’s TC in duplicate and conduct certificate to ACP.
“Yes. You are right. She is his wife, the one he was talking about, it seems. He is saying the truth that she studied in Karachi up to senior secondary level. He had come here for these certificates.”
ACP examined the certificates keenly – They were named ‘Manasvi Rathore’ and the school name was clearly written in bold – Sindh Government School, Karachi. He collected them along with the excel sheet of call records and kept every documen in a folder before him. Next, he received a call from the police officer sent to the airport who confirmed that a man named Dr. Anshuman Shekhawat had arrived from Abu Dhabi on the same morning. He had hired a cab from the Prepaid taxi service and his signatures were in the booking register. The location was near the one where he was arrested. He also had tickets booked for the same night to go to Kabul.
Junaid made a detailed summary of all that he had received as information during the investigation and after thorough search of Anshuman. His statement and call records were assimilated with the report. Finally, he called his senior officer, “Sir, it looks like it’s a genuine case and this man is not likely to be a threat. He lost his documents when he arrived for a valid cause and has now landed in a soup.”
“Did you get in touch with the organisation he is working for? What is its name?”
“PBB.” Junaid replied leaning by his desk.
“Yeah, that one… did you get in touch with them?”
“No. The Chief who arranged for his visa and travel documents is out of reach, as of now! We are waiting for a call from him. We have left messages for him. Though, it seems irrelevant now.”
“Nothing is irrelevant, Junaid. Don’t be in a hurry to wind up the case, like you always do. Learn to hold things until you are doubly sure. Okay??”
“Okay, sir!” Junaid rolled his eyes, not really agreeing with the approach of wait and watch. He was someone who was known for wrapping investigations faster. At the same time, he was staunchly honest and uncorrupted. So, he was one name to be trusted in crucial cases. Every convoluted case was handed to him because his presence assured that there won’t be any lapses.
The Officer left a huge breath, “Great! Now, wait for that Chief’s call and then we will decide what to do. Right?”
Junaid disconnected the call, deep down, feeling confused and uncomfortable about holding Anshuman in the lockup, even after he was nearly proved to be innocent. He turned to Anshuman’s cell and said, “I’m afraid we can’t do much about you… Not right now… unless we receive a call from your chief…”
“But… you do know that I’m innocent?” Anshuman asked, hopefully.
Junaid nodded and said, “Almost! The preliminary investigation says that what you spoke was correct. But you need to understand that it is a sensitive issue. We need to be sure.”
Anshuman sighed and shook his head, side to side, and replied, “I trust you.”
Junaid shrugged cluelessly and said, “Just for tonight, you’ll have to keep patience and spend the night in this lockup. We’ll do something tomorrow.”
Having said that, Junaid turned around to walk out of the police headquarters. Half of his staff had already left. The cops on night duty had started arriving. Anshuman called Junaid when he turned around.
“Can I make a request, ACP?” Anshuman asked.
Junaid stopped and smiled as he turned around. “You know, what… I know already, what it is going to be…”
“Do you?” Anshuman lifted a brow, skeptical about it.
“I guess so… Your wife is in Afghanistan, right? You are worried for her. Right?”
“If I can talk for 1 minute…only once…” Anshuman hesitated.
Junaid slowly walked ahead, looking directly at Anshuman as if he was angry, so as to not attract any undue attention from his staff. When he reached sufficiently near the bars of the cell, he took out Anshuman’s phone from his denim pocket and slipped it from between the bars to gave it to him. Softly, he said –