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Stories. 
A Tryst with a Terrorist 3
by Ramendra Kumar

The next day by eight thirty Nirmal was sitting in a Maruti-800, a few meters away from the over-bridge. The car was parked under a banyan tree. The DSP and Mahesh were with him.

"Nirmal keep your eyes on the over-bridge. Though I am sure he won't appear before nine, let us not take a chance. Now the crowd on the over-bridge is not much. In another thirty minutes or so it will get really crowded. We will then go and stand there."

"But Vikram will the thug not recognize you?" asked Mahesh.

"That is why I have come in plain clothes. And moreover, these dark glasses and cap will make me look sufficiently different," the DSP said putting on the cap at a rakish angle and dark glasses. In his casuals he looked more like a model than a DSP.

"Mahesh you remain in this car. As soon as Nirmal spots Bhai he will signal to me and rush to you. You drive down quickly. My men will be waiting in a van down the road. As soon as they see you approaching they will drive up and take care of things."

"Is it a police van?"

"It looks like an ordinary Maruti Van from the outside but on the inside it is a perfect police van with transmitters, receivers, the works."

Sharp at nine the DSP opened the door of the car and Nirmal and he stepped out and walked towards the over-bridge. On reaching it they stopped at the railing and casually leaned against it as if taking a birds eye view of the supermarket.

The road was now quite crowded. Nirmal began scanning the faces intently. Children with their shoulders sagging under the heavy weight of their school bags, college students in their trendy clothes, office goers rushing to beat the clock, urchins peddling newspapers and magazines, hawkers selling their wares - it was quite an interesting mix. But in this sea of changing faces there was not even a single one that looked like Bhai's.

The DSP kept looking at his watch from time to time. Minutes ticked by and with every passing minute the tension increased. Nirmal scanned each and every face, hoping, praying that he would be able to recognize Bhai. But there was no sign of him.

Had they changed their plan? Had they already planted the scooter and vanished? Was the time bomb already ticking away somewhere in the basement?

As it neared ten thirty Nirmal's anxiety increased in geo -metric progression. He now started scanning the supermarket and its vast compound below. He was hoping to catch a glimpse of Munna even though he knew it was quite impossible for him to recognize him. The compound was teeming with cycles, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and cars of every make and color.

Sharp at ten forty five the DSP lowered his head and whispered, "Nirmal, I think there is no use. Either that scoundrel has changed his plan or you have failed to recognize him. I am crushing to the van to tell my people to start clearing the crowd of shoppers. You go back and wait in the car with Mahesh."

The DSP started walking down the over-bridge. As Nirmal turned around to head towards the car some one bumped into him.

"You silly fool. Can't you see where you are going?" he hissed. Nirmal looked up. A tall, burly, clean shaven man with short hair glared at him and walked ahead.

Suddenly Nirmal froze and looked at the huge man walking ahead. The man had short hair and was clean shaven, but the voice - it was familiar - very familiar. Yes. It was Him!
Nirmal turned and scampering towards the DSP tugged at his shirt sleeve. "I have seen him."

"Where?"

"Come with me." They hurried back. "There, that huge fellow in the blue kurta."

“Are you sure?"

“100 per cent.”

Good, now go and ask Mahesh to alert my boys in the van."

Nirmal saw the DSP slipping into the crowd and ran back to the car.

Fifteen minutes later the DSP came to the car.

"It’s all over. It was Bhai. In the beginning he was acting tough. Because he didn't know how much we knew. I told him, ‘Sonny boy I know that the time bomb is in a scooter parked in the basement. If you don't spill the beans fast I'll tie you up and leave you in the parking lot. I'll clear the crowd and when your time bomb explodes, along with the building you will also be blown to pieces’."

"Did he talk?"

"Of course he did. He told us the location of the scooter. My men rushed to the spot removed the time bomb and diffused it. No one even realized what happened. It was all done so quietly and swiftly.”

"What next Uncle?"

"We'll take him to the police station and work on him a bit. A little persuasion, a little force and he will vomit everything out?" DSP paused and patting Nirmal on his back said, "I should really thank you, Nirmal for recognizing him in the nick of time. I must say you have a great memory for faces."

"Uncle, actually I didn't recognize his face. He had cut his hair very short and shaved off his beard and moustache. He looked really different."

"But than how did you _ ?"

"It was his voice which gave him away. I can recognize that voice any time, any where."

~*~

Three days later Nirmal was sitting and completing his story. The setting was the beach but the title and plot had changed. It was now called 'A Tryst With A Terrorist'.

Hearing a familiar voice he rushed out. His Mama had entered with the DSP looking really smart in his uniform.

"I have personally come to congratulate my brave, young man," he said shaking hands and handing him a box of Swiss chocolates.

"Thanks a lot Uncle," Nirmal said. "What happened Uncle? Could you get the rest of the gang?"

"Of course, your Bhai needed a lot of persuasion but finally he came out with the entire plan. This was only the first in a series of blasts planned in our state as well as the neighboring states"

"But Uncle who is behind all this?"

"The details are still being investigated because the actual master mind has covered his tracks real well. But indications are that behind the entire operation is a Mafia don operating from abroad."

"What about Munna and Saheb?"

"They, along with Bhai are cooling their heels in the cooler," DSP said. He then looked around and asked, "Where is Bhabhi?"

"She is in the kitchen making tea for us,” Mahesh said.

Just then Shobha entered.

"Bhabhi I have got great news for you. Your nephew's name has been sent by my department for this year's bravery award. So you can all start planning a trip to New Delhi around 26th January next year. Nirmal will receive the award at the Republic Day celebration from the Prime Minister. I hope at least now you will forgive me for putting your baby boy to so much trouble."

Everyone laughed and Shobha, pulling Nirmal close, hugged him.

~*~

Three months later the result of the 'Natkhat' Short Story competition was announced. 'A Tryst With A Terrorist' won the first prize and Nirmal was the proud owner of a complete set of the invaluable Encyclopedia Britannica.

On January 26, Nirmal received the bravery award from the President of India himself. His photograph appeared in several newspapers and two TV channels even carried his interview.

In his school he became a celebrity with the class one kids even coming and asking him for his autograph!

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Image under license with Gettyimages.com

3-Dec-2006
 
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