Karan knocked at the hairdresser’s door. They didn’t even know her name, but they had a shortlisting… Sunny got her hair done by Mrs. Virmani, or a young girl Anushka. They didn’t know which one this was, for Karan had only seen the one address when he had had to leave. But it wouldn’t be difficult guessing who this was, given the convenient age difference.
A young girl opened the door, and Karan was just about to address her Anushka when Jeremy stopped him, and said instead, “Hi. We are from the district electricity department… we need to talk to someone older, please.” As Jeremy had guessed right, the girl was one of those youngsters people kept as aid… the permanent kind. This also meant that Karan was very tense since he didn’t judge so himself…poor Karan. She told them to wait, bolted the door cautiously behind her as any smart girl in Delhi would, and called her mistress. Mrs. Virmani ambled to the door at an appreciable speed for her age, justifying her ability to work still. “Yes?” she asked in an agreeable pleasant voice.
“Ma’am, we are from the district electricity department. We are afraid that we might have to cut down the lights from seven to eight today, the wiring needs some urgent repair. Also, if you will permit, we will like to check your house’s electric panel… might as well check the wiring here too…”
By the time Jeremy was done with the introduction, Mrs. Virmani had concluded that the two boys were harmless. She kept looking into Karan’s eyes… as if she identified something in their depth. Whatever it was, it must be strong, for she decided to trust the boys even when she knew how helpless she would be if she let them in.
Everything was going according to plan. As the boys entered the quiet flat, they got on with their jobs… the act and the true aim… Jeremy asked Mrs. Virmani to show him the panel, and as most panels are near the door itself, Karan was given the more important job of scanning the house quickly as Jeremy engaged the lady. It was too quiet for someone else to be in the house. The maid was in the kitchen, her handling of the utensils told Karan. As planned, Karan asked for a glass of water when he was done with the inspection, and as the maid came out with one, both Jeremy and Karan turned in one quick motion and took out their guns, Jeremy holding his to the old lady, and Karan aiming more steadily at the girl. He couldn’t have her scream, so he had to shock her into silence.
Without wasting time so for the girl could loose her mind, Jeremy asked the two of them to sit down, and listen carefully. Then, in native Hindi, he set off with the instructions he had for them…. the tough part of the plan, as they couldn’t be prepared for the complications possible.
“Look, I don’t have any reason to kill you, either of you. It’s just that I need to know something right now, something harmless. The guns are the last resort, we couldn’t be sure of you would co-operate. So even if the information you give to me causes you any problem, though I don’t see how, you can always saw that I put a gun to your head. Don’t scream, don’t cry out, because that’s the only possible reason I might have to take some action. Just talk to us for five minutes and we swear we won’t be back ever.” For good measure, Jeremy pushed his gun back under his shirt while Karan aimed at the two women on the sofa. He was surprised, the young girl was still shocked, but the old woman was calm… as composed as if she was in such situations everyday.
“We know that a Sunny Aggarwal came to your parlour today, to get her hair done. She is 5 feet 4 inches, wheat-ish coloured-”
“I know Sunny. Sweet girl. Yes, she came to me.”
Mrs. Virmani kept looking at Karan, making him feel useless. Wasn’t he holding a gun to her face?!
“She’s dead. But I need to know, Mrs. Virmani, what she talked about. What time did she come? Was she with someone? Did she attend a call? Anything she did, while she was at your parlour would be very helpful to us.” Jeremy had moved so close to her he had his hand on her arm. If it wasn’t for Karan’s silent aim, the setting might just have been amiable.
Still looking at Karan, Mrs. Virmani answered in her normal voice, “She came at 8. She came alone. She didn’t talk to anyone, she just told me that she was going to a party that day. Small talk. But five minutes after she had gone, a man came looking for her. Seemed like he knew her. Anyway, we just told him she had left.”
Before Jeremy could ask about the man, she prompted, “Tall, lean, dusky complexion, middle aged, and name probably began with an ‘A’, he had a big, white A painted on the back of his phone.” Both men knew. Ankur.
Karan was getting queasy. He might as well put the gun down, he thought, since she was so obviously the one in command. The girl anyway was getting agitated. She had stopped staring at the barrel, and a frown was moulding between her eyes. Any moment now, she would lose it.
Jeremy sat silent for a few seconds. This was too easy, something they certainly hadn’t thought of. What to do now?
“Just let us know if there’s anything you want to say. I’m going to trust you Mrs. Virmani. I’m going to give you a number to contact me. I have a feeling you are as concerned about Sunny’s death as we are.” What a joke! No one could beat Karan on that, but anyway.
Jeremy passed her a small slip of paper with ten digits on it, and for the first time Mrs. Virmani looked ta him. She smiled and took the paper. Jeremy nodded to Karan and they quietly walked to the door. Karan’s hand was sweating as he pushed his own gun down his belt.
They were a step away from the door when they heard a shrill scream piercing their ears and the unmistakable sound of a gun going off. The front window of the house shattered as a bullet zoomed in and hit the poor young girl. One swift movement again, and both had drawn their guns and were yelling, “Get down, Get down!”
About sixty metres away, the police siren sounded, and the screeching rubber tires of a police jeep sped towards them.