Chinese Whispers: Yes, the same fun game we used to play in our childhood (ha! even now, if you are playing, count me in..) – where one person whispers a message to another, and this process being repeated till the last person, who finally announces what he received.
We at the Write Tribe are trying something similar – with a twist. We are whispering stories. Parts of a story, to be exact. 9 bloggers collaborate to weave a story; one chapter by each blogger. Blogger 1 gets the honour of starting off the story. Bloggers 2 through 8 takes the story forward subsequently. Blogger 9 finishes it off. I am number 9.
This is the final part of the story. If you landed here first, I urge you to go through the other awesome chapters first:
The Story So Far:
Chapter 1: Like You Know Me Better Than I Know Myself By Richa
Chapter 2: The Dream I Dream… By Shilpa
Chapter 3: The Plan Unfolds By Pixie
Chapter 4: The Beginning By Phenomenon
Chapter 5: First Stroke Of Luck By Santulan
Chapter 6: Shishir’s Mind By Ayush
Chapter 7: The Plot Thickens By Vidya
Chapter 8: Fighting The Demons by Ishithaa
Diamond cuts diamond
For a moment, an awkward silence filled the room. Rohan and Chauhan were staring at each other with unwavering gazes. Chauhan noticed as the expression on Rohan’s face changed. The face which harboured a timid nervous look now bore a menacing and intimidating stare.
“Chauhan, don’t you dare think you are the only one who can pull strings”, hissed Rohan through his clenched teeth. If this sudden turnaround surprised Chauhan, his face showed no trace of it.
“So, you are playing games now? Who is your saviour? Huh?”, smirked Chauhan.
“You see Chauhan, I had decided to switch sides the moment you talked about betraying the Big boss.”, retorted Rohan.
“Ah! I see! The big boss… So you are counting on a faceless someone to be your protector?”, guffawed Chauhan.
“Faceless or not, I have been around you long enough to know better than to turn my back on you.”
“Good for you then. But too bad It ain’t gonna make a difference any more”, said Chauhan as he pulled out his revolver and pointed it at Rohan.
Rohan was petrified and stood frozen to the ground at this sight. He did not dare move from his stance.
“You still have a lot to learn Rohan”, said Chauhan as he cocked the trigger. “Here’s one lesson – keep your firearm with you. Always.”, he said as he pulled the trigger.
The silence in the hall was permeated by a dull thud as metal struck against metal. It took a moment for Chauhan to grasp what had happened. That single moment of slack was enough for Rohan, who disarmed a shocked Chauhan with a smooth round house kick. He pulled out a few bullets from his pocket and let it drop over Chauhan, who was sprawled on the floor.
“Perhaps it is you who need to learn a lesson or two”, remarked Rohan. “First, you need bullets in your gun. Second, do not use firearms that belong to a museum.”, said he and began laughing loudly, thinking of the ridiculousness with which Chauhan handled the revolver.
Rohan eased his laughter and listened, as his ears picked up the sounds of a vehicle screeching to a stop on the gravel outside, followed shortly by sounds of muffled footsteps.
Rohan turned to Chauhan, who was still on the floor, and said with an evil grin, “The big boss is here.”.
Ankita was frantically searching for something that could relieve Shishir of his pain. She was oblivious to a dark shadow entering the flat through the open door and closing in on her. Her heart skipped a beat as a strong hand cupped her mouth from behind, and another pinned her hand behind her back.
“Ankita, I am not an enemy. I have come to help you. Drop the gun, and let me explain.”, said the voice. Ankita was a nervous wreck by now. Her mind and body were disoriented and weak by all these sequence of events. She complied and dropped the gun. The man picked the gun and loosened his grip on her.
“Who.. who are you?”, Ankita turned around and demanded. She saw a tall, lithe man, dressed in black. His determined, grizzled face showed a genuine expression of concern.
“I am Sidharth. Sidharth Avasthi. You can call me Sid.”
Ankita was seated on a leather chair. Her hands were still trembling. A bottle of cold water was kept on the glass topped table before her. Sid was looking out of the window on the far side of the room.
“So.. you work for the Crime Branch?”, asked Ankita.
“Yes”, Sid replied.
“This apparently has nothing to do with corporate espionage. Tell me what happened. And where is Shishir? Is he ok?”, Ankita was almost in tears now.
Sid turned and walked down to console her. “Calm down Ankita. Shishir is fine. He is under treatment . And yes, this operation was not entirely corporate espionage. Though your part was strictly meant to be that.. But as you see.. things spiralled out of control.”
Ankita’s mind was full of questions. She needed to know what happened there. She had suffered a lot due to this. It was her right to know what happened.
“Drink some water, Ankita. I’ll clear your doubts. I know you have many”, said Sid.
“But what about Sanket and Rohan? Those culprits would get away!”, cried Ankita.
“Don’t worry. They have been taken care of.”
Sid opened his drawer and took out a rectangular gadget, about the size of an e-reader. He handed it over to Ankita.
“Ever seen that?”, asked Sid.
Over the glossy screen, there was a logo of a flask containing some chemical, into which another beaker was tilted. The logo was animated, with the chemical flowing from the beaker in to the flask in a never ending loop. Across the logo was a symbol of a chain secured with a padlock. Below the logo, the following letters glowed a neon green: Oak A Che RCo LTD.
“The logo looks familiar, but I can’t remember where I saw that. Is that some company name below it? Looks awkward… almost like a chemical formula.”, replied Ankita.
“Yes, that represents the company name. Oakland Advanced Chemical Research Company Ltd. That’s what it stands for.”
“I think I’ve heard that before.”
“Probably. They are an overseas R&D company specializing in advanced chemical researches. Turns out, it’s a fraudulent one. Sanket Chauhan and Rohan Kataria controlled and owned it.”
“Oh… So, Bioluminance?”
“Bioluminance was a farce. There is no such company. It exists only in name. We created it.”
“You?!”, Ankita’s voice was incredulous.
“Yes. We had received information that the Oakland Chemical company was a cover for some thing more sinister. So we decided to break in and find out what they were up to. But we decided not to use force. Instead, we contacted Chauhan in the garb of businessmen interested in their new formulae which they were developing. They were hostile at first, but when we laid down a few of their other works which we had intercepted earlier, they relented. They probably thought we were representing some big shot, and for our convenience we created Bioluminance. Correspondence with them was always carried out through encrypted channels, with our fictitious CEO, the Big boss.”
“Lure of money is very strong, especially for people like them. They bought in to our bait. We demanded them to show us a sample of the work they were doing. Apparently, their work was still in preliminary stage, and they wanted some time to develop it. Our intention of course was to honey trap them.”
“So, in effect, Chauhan and Rohan were working for you?”, asked an awed Ankita.
“Well, sort of. We then modified our strategy, since we had time in our hands. We decided to penetrate their organization and get information on their work while they were at it. You see, they had a deadline to meet, and they could use people. Two officers from our team were designated to carry out the operation as double agents. We got in through their recruitment channel and got inside their organization. But that Chauhan guy is one smart bloke. I’ll give him that. He seemed to have sensed something wrong, and always kept us away from the main lab. After months of futile tries, we decided to take outside help – to hire professionals who deal with corporate espionage.”
“And that’s how we got involved..”, completed Ankita.
“Exactly. We contacted your agency and had them assign it to their best guys; and you and Shishir got the assignment.”
“Shishir!”, exclaimed Ankita, “What happened to him? Will he be alright?”, she asked. There was a panic in her voice.
“Don’t worry. He’ll be okay. He had to go through a lot of pain though. And we feel responsible for his debacle, since it was due to us that you people got involved.”, said Sid.
“Pain.. less physical and more mental. He.. he got caught Ankita… and.. he became the lab rat for Chauhan’s crazy experiments.”
“What?!”, shouted Ankita.
“Yes. In fact, Shishir had done his job exceptionally well. He almost had his hands on the formula. But as fate would have it, my partner got caught.”
Ankita felt Sid’s voice waver a little as he continued, “She was tortured and those crooks messed with her mind. She was forced to reveal Shishir’s name. And then they used her for their dirty work. They made her kill people. They made her set up the bodies so as to frame Shishir. Those ruthless criminals, they messed up both their minds. And when they had no use of her any more, they put a bullet through her head..”. Sid’s voiced choked and trailed away.
“Sumana“, thought Ankita as realization struck her. “Sumana was your partner?”, asked Ankita.
“Yes.”, replied Sid, his composure back now.
“I am sorry.. I..”, said Ankita
“That’s okay. When we found out that Sumana was compromised and Shishir was captured, my instructions were to keep an eye on Shishir. The plan was to take them down after we got enough evidence. We were to move in today. But the inevitable happened. We lost Sumana.”
Sid paused to drink some water. His throat felt parched. Ankita was observing the gadget in her hand. It seemed locked with a pass code of some kind.
“That”, said Sid, pointing to the gadget, “contains the blue print of one of their side projects. You need a password to open it.”
“What is the password?”, inquired Ankita.
“You need to rearrange those letters to form the password. Here, let me do it.”
Ankita handed over the gadget back to Sid, who began rearranging the letters that formed the initials of the company’s name. Ankita watched in awe as Sid rearranged the letters to form the password.
She let out a gasp as she saw what the pass code was: DaRk ChOCoLaTe
“Dark Chocolate? I know … I.. I have that thing with me.”, spluttered Ankita
“Yes, me too. Some twisted sense of humour these thugs have! We had its samples sent to our own lab. Analysis reports say it contained some hitherto unknown derivative of LSD and Cannabis. It was probably intended as an analgesic. You see, the subjects would be under excruciating pain after these experiments they were doing. To abate that pain, they were supplied with these, shaped like chocolates. But this only aggravated the conditions.It subdued the pain, but it had a very bad effect on the subject’s mind. The detailed reports are not yet out, but our scientists say the side effects could include Schizophrenia, bouts of hallucination, slurred speech and a very weak body. The subject can become very paranoid. I guess you saw these traits yourself in Shishir.”
Ankita nodded her head in silence. She was fighting hard to keep in the sob.
Sid continued,”The actual experiment that we were after involved some sort of genetic material transplantation. And from my investigation, it seems Chauhan used his own genetic sequences for the experiments. During my brief meetings with Shishir at Bioluminance, I have seen him alluding to him being Sanket. I think that’s another side effect of the experiment. We do not know what they were up to with these. But surely, it was far from ethical. So we decided to move in and bust them. ”
Sid got up and walked over to the window again.
“I had also noticed that Chauhan and Rohan were not in very good terms with each other. We used that to our advantage. Rohan fell for our bait and led us to their meeting place. He would have received the shock of his life when he saw cops coming in instead of the Big boss.” Ankita could feel the slight touch of triumph in Sid’s voice. She too was relieved that the nightmare had finally come to an end. Now it would just be a matter of time before Shishir becomes normal again.
“I hope that clears your questions Ankita.”, said Sid, turning around.
“Yes.. I guess.”
“Sorry for all the trouble caused. We did not expect this to end like this.”
“No Sid, I realize no party was left unscathed by this. I am sorry for your loss. I thank you for saving Shishir’s life. And mine too.”
“Shishir will be back to good health soon. He is making steady progress.”, said Sid. “I guess you can return to your quarters now. I have some unfinished business with our Oakland chemists..”
Ankita got up from the chair, nodded her head and left.
Six months later, on a decrepit beach side restaurant…
Sid, Ankita and Shishir were seated on an old rickety table facing the beach. Sid was still in his business suits. Apparently, he had came there for a short visit.
“Still in vacation mood, Psycho?”, asked Sid, playfully punching Shishir.
“Doctor’s order dude, doctor’s order..I am such a nervous wreck, you know”, said Shishir as he winked his eyes at Ankita.
“Well, I came by to ask if you were interested in another case I am handling. I am short of assistants, you see”, said Sid.
“Hmm..”, said Shishir as he crossed his legs over the table and leaned back on the chair, “Impress me!”
“What do you know of Hieroglyphs?”, asked Sid, a twinkle in his eye.
“Iam impressed!”, said Shishir as he sat up.
“Good. Here are some details. Go through it, and if you are interested, which you better be, you know where to find me. “, said Sid, as he handed them a manila folder.
“For now, I take your leave.”, he said as he bowed his head in theatrical fashion and left.
Ankita took the folder and opened it. On the first page was written, “The Scimitar of the Rouls”.
[Image courtesy: Original image of bullets courtesy of Xandert.]