Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

Vikram Karve : COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE

February 12, 2011

Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE.

 

COCKTAIL – Short Stories about Relationships By VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Fellow Bloggers and Friends,
My book titled COCKTAIL – a collection of my fiction short stories is about to be published soon. I will let all of you know the moment it is ready and about the launch. I look forward to your patronage and encouragement. Here is the backcover blurb
Relationships are like cocktails.
Every relationship is a unique labyrinthine melange of emotions, shaken and stirred, and, like each cocktail, has a distinctive flavour and taste.
The twenty-seven stories in this collection explore fascinating aspects of modern day relationships – love, romance, sex, betrayal, marriage, parenting and even pet parenting.
You will relish reading these riveting cocktails of emotions narrated in easy engaging style and once you start reading you will find this delicious “cocktail” unputdownable.
Wish me luck
Vikram Karve
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop’s School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. He has written a foodie book Appetite For A Stroll and a book of fiction short stories COCKTAIL which is being published soon and is currently busy writing his first novel. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve
Creative Writing by Vikram Karve: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm

http://shopping.sify.com/appetiteforastroll-vikram-karve/books/9788190690096.htm

http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?pages#!/pages/Cocktail-by-Vikram-Karve-APK-Publishers/177873552253247

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LOVE IN MYSORE – a short story by Vikram Karve

January 19, 2011

LOVE IN MYSORE.

LOVE IN MYSORE
Romantic Fiction
by
VIKRAM KARVE
From my Creative Writing Archives: One of my earliest short fiction stories, written long back, maybe 15 years ago…
The Mysore racecourse is undoubtedly the most picturesque racecourse in India . The lush green grass track, the verdant expanse right up to the foot of the rugged Chamundi hills which serve as a magnificent backdrop with the mighty temple atop, standing like a sentinel. The luxuriant ambience is so delightful and soothing to the eye that it instantly lifts one’s spirit. And on this bright morning on the first Saturday of October, the atmosphere was so refreshing that I felt as if I were on top of the world!
“I love this place, it’s so beautiful,” I said.
“And lucky too,” Girish, my husband, added. “I have already made fifty grand. And I’m sure Bingo will win the Derby tomorrow.”
Girish appraisingly looked at the horses being paraded in the paddock, suddenly excused himself, and briskly walked towards the Bookies’ betting ring.
I still can’t describe the shock I experienced when I suddenly saw Dilip, bold as brass, standing bang in front of me, appearing from nowhere. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “I think you have dropped this.” In his hand was tote jackpot ticket.
He was looking at me in a funny sort of way, neither avoiding my eyes nor seeking them. I understood at once. I took the tote ticket he proffered, put it in my purse and thanked him. He smiled, turned and briskly walked away towards the first enclosure.
I felt a tremor of trepidation, but as I looked around I realized that no one had noticed our quick encounter in the hustle-bustle of the racecourse. As I waited for my husband to emerge from the bookies’ betting ring, in my mind’s eye I marveled at the finesse with which Dilip had cleverly stage-managed the contrived encounter to make it look completely accidental.
It was only after lunch, in the solitude of my hotel room that I took out the tote jackpot ticket and examined it. I smiled to myself. It was the simplest substitution cipher – maybe Dilip thought I’d gone rusty – a last minute improvisation for immediate emergency communication.
That meant Dilip wasn’t shadowing me; he hadn’t even expected me at the Mysore racecourse. But having suddenly seen me, he desperately wanted to make contact. So he quickly improvised, contrived the encounter, and left further initiative to me. The ball was now squarely in my court.
I scribbled the five numbers of the jackpot combination on a piece of paper. For seasoned punters, racing buffs, it was an unlikely jackpot combination that hardly had a chance of winning, and now that the races were over the ticket was worthless. But for me hidden in it was some information since I knew how to decipher the secret code. To the five numbers I added the two numbers of my birth-date. I now had seven numbers and from each I subtracted Dilip’s single digit birth-date and in front of me I had a seven-digit combination. I picked up the telephone and dialed [At the time of this story Mysore still had seven digit telephone numbers – I wonder what it is now!]. It was a travel agency – a nice cover. I didn’t identify myself but only said, “Railway Enquiry?”
“Oh, Yes, madam,” a male voice answered. I recognized it at once. It was Dilip, probably anxiously waiting for my call. “You are booked on our evening sightseeing tour. Seat No. 13. The luxury coach will be at your hotel at 3 in the afternoon. And don’t carry your mobile with you. We don’t want to be tracked.”
I looked at my watch. It was almost 2:30 . Time for a quick wash. I tore up the jackpot tote ticket and scribble paper and flushed it down the toilet. It was too dangerous to keep them around once their utility was over. And should the ticket fall into the wrong hands, anything was possible – one couldn’t underestimate anybody. For human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve.
The tourist bus arrived precisely at 3 o’clock and soon I was in seat No. 13, a window seat. I had hardly sat down when Dilip occupied the adjacent seat No. 14. He was carrying the ubiquitous tourist bag, but I knew what was inside – the tools of his tradecraft.
“Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said.
“I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him, “And Girish…”
“You haven’t told your husband about us?” Dilip interrupted.
“No.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife”
“I can’t. I don’t want to. It’s too late now.” I was getting a bit impatient now. “Listen, Dilip. This is dangerous. What do you want? Girish, my husband…”
“He’s gone to Ooty. It’s a four hours’ drive. Should be half-way up the hills by now,” Dilip interjected looking at his watch.
“He is coming back tomorrow.”
“I know. He’ll be there in time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it? It’s a hot favourite too!”
“How do you know all this?”
“It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment. “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two in the afternoon. And the Derby is at four. We’ve got plenty of time together. He won’t know. I promise you.”
The bus stopped. We had arrived at the majestic Mysore Palace .
“Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera.
“No,” I snapped.
“Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace entrance in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.”
I pointed the camera in the direction of the palace and looked through the viewfinder. But the palace wasn’t in the frame. The camera had a ninety-degree perpendicular prismatic zoom lens. I could see the tourists from our bus crowding around the shoe-stand about fifty meters to my left, depositing their shoes.
“Dilip, tell me, who is the Target?” I asked.
“Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. And the man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.”
I happily clicked away, a number of photos, the unsuspecting victims, the young target couple, not once realizing that it was they who were in my frame.
“I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the Mysore Palace , admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession. “The boy looks so young, mod and handsome. And the woman – she’s middle-aged, a shy, timid, unadventurous, stay-at-home type. And just look at her face, her looks – so pedestrian. A most improbable combination.”
“Yes, a most improbable combination – that’s why their affair is flourishing for so long!”
I gave Dilip a quizzical look.
“Three years,” Dilip said. “It’s going on for over three years. The woman is a widow. She gets a huge monthly maintenance from her in-laws’ property – in lakhs. It’s a wealthy business family. They want to stop giving her the monthly maintenence.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, confused.
“The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity,” Dilip quoted matter-of-factly.
“What nonsense!”
“That’s what their hot-shot lawyer told me. The one who commissioned this investigation,” Dilip said. “They’ll probably confront her with this evidence and coerce her into signing-off everything. Maybe even her children.”
“What if she doesn’t agree?”
“Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering image morphing if nothing else works.”
I was shocked. “Isn’t it morally disgusting? To do all these unethical dirty things. Extortion? Blackmail? To what length does one go?” I asked Dilip annoyed.
“Once you have the right information, the possibilities are endless,” Dilip said softly, “It’s not my concern to worry about moral and ethical issues. I never ask the question ‘why’. I just state my fee. And even if I do know why, I’ve made it a policy never to show that I understand what other people are up to.”
“What are you up to Dilip? And why me?” I asked.
Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus. I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my past, and my helplessness. Filthy emotional blackmailer. Shameless bully. I looked at Dilip with loathing but he just grinned at me bald-facedly like a Cheshire Cat.
Nalini, my elder sister, had been right about Dilip. Thanks to her for saving my life. But for her timely intervention, I would have married Dilip. Maybe even eloped with him. I shudder to think what my life would have been like had I married Dilip.
“It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting – ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – at the Mysore Museum .
“Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts.
“Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.”
I did not answer, but I clearly remembered. It was our college tour. And Dilip had quickly pulled me into a dark corner and kissed me on the lips. A hasty inchoate stolen kiss. My first kiss. And the tremors of trepidation. How could I ever forget?
“Vibha. Tell me honestly. Why did you ditch me so suddenly, so mercilessly?”
“Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words.
“And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.”
“Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.”
“Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother-in-law also, isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically.
“So what?” I snapped angrily. “It’s not illegal. Two brothers marrying two sisters – it’s quite common. And it’s none of your business.”
“Business!” Dilip said. “That’s it. Business! Two sisters marry two brothers. So it’s all in the family. The business. The money. The tea estates and coffee plantations. The industries. The property. Everything.”
“So that’s what you had your eyes on, didn’t you? My father’s property!” I knew it was a cruel thing to say and I could see that Dilip was genuinely hurt. Instinctively I realized that Dilip was still in love with me. Maybe he was jealous of my successful marriage, my happiness and probably my wealth, my status in society and that’s what had made him bitter. But seeing the expression on his face I knew that Dilip would not harm me, for he was indeed truly in love with me. “I’m sorry, Dilip. Forget the past and let’s get on with our surveillance,” I said looking at the ‘target’ couple.
And so we reached the magnificent Brindavan gardens, posing as tourists in the growing crowd of humanity, stalking the couple, surreptitiously taking their photographs as they romantically watched the water, gushing through the sluice gates of Krishnarajasagar dam, forming a rainbow admits the spraying surf.
After sunset we enjoyed the performance at the musical fountain sitting right behind the ‘couple’. Suddenly, the lights went out, everyone stood up and started moving. Trying to adjust our eyes to the enveloping darkness, we desperately tried not to lose track of target couple as they made their way, in the confusion, towards “Lovers’ Park.”
It was pitch dark. But through the lens of the night vision device I could clearly discern two silhouettes, an eerie blue-green against the infrared background. The images were blurred and tended to merge as the two figures embraced each other, but that did not matter since I knew that the infrared camera would process the signal through an image intensifier before recording, rendering crystal-clear photo quality pictures.
“Let’s go,” Dilip whispered, and we stealthily negotiated our way out, but in hindsight, there was really no need to be clandestine about it, since we were just another couple ostensibly having a “good time” in the darkness and dense foliage of “Lovers’ Park” as it was known.
Pondering over the day’s events I realized how right Dilip had been taking me along. Surveillance involves hours of shadowing and stalking training and tracking your target, sitting for hours in all sports of places like hotels, restaurants, parks, cars, hanging around airports, railway stations, bus stands or even on the streets, waiting and watching. A man and a woman would appear for less conspicuous than a single man or a pair of men. And if they look like a married couple it’s even better for the cover. And we did look like a much-married tourist couple.
I wondered why I’d agreed to do all this. Maybe because I felt a sense of guilt, remorse, a sort of an obligation I owed Dilip. Any girl always has a feeling of debt, a guilt-complex, towards a decent man who she has ditched, brutally dumped. Or maybe because I wanted to find out what life would have been like had I married Dilip. Or maybe because I was scared and fearful that Dilip would blackmail me. Dilip was the only secret I had kept from my husband – a skeleton I wanted to keep firmly locked away in the cupboard. Or maybe it was because a woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart. I guess it was a combination of all the above reasons.
The tourist bus reached my hotel at precisely 9.30 p.m. Before getting down from the bus, Dilip handed over the bag containing the infrared device, special cameras and all paraphernalia to a non-descript middle-aged man sitting right behind us.
“Who was that man?” I asked after the bus drove away with the man  sitting in it.
“Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel.
“No,” I insisted. “I want to know.”
“It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself, his own self, under observation,” Dilip said nonchalantly.
At first the sentence sounded innocuous, but gradually comprehension began to dawn on me, and as I realized the import of those words I experienced a chill of panic. All sorts of thoughts entered my brain. Photographs of Dilip and me. Oh my God! The man may even have bugged our conversation. The possibilities were endless. I looked at Dilip. Didn’t he have any scruples? My impulse was to run to my room and lock myself up. But when Dilip invited me to have dinner with him in the restaurant I knew I dared not refuse. I had no choice. Dilip now had me at his mercy. He had his manacles on me. The only way to escape Dilip’s clutches was to tell Girish everything. But could I? Especially after today! I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the consequences.
After dinner I invited Dilip to my room for a cup of coffee. I knew it was suicidal but I had decided to give Dilip what he wanted and get rid of him, out of my life, forever.
The moment we entered the room, the phone rang. It was for Dilip- a man’s voice – probably the same man sitting behind us in the bus.
Dilip took the receiver from my hands and spoke, “I told you not to ring up here……… What…? But how is that possible?……… Oh, my God! I am coming at once.”
“What happened?” I asked him.
“We got the wrong couple on the infrared camera in Lovers’ Park. Couldn’t you see properly?”
“No, it was dark and hazy,” I said. “I could see just blurred images.”
Instinctively I rushed along with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory. He emphatically told me not to come, but I did not listen, a strange inner force propelling me.
I looked at the blurred images on the large workstation monitor. Then as Dilip kept zooming, again and again, enhancing the magnification and focus, the images started becoming clear, and as I watched something started happening inside me and I could sense my heartbeats rise.
Oh, My God! I couldn’t believe it! It was Nalini and Girish. Or Girish and Nalini. Whichever way you like it. It doesn’t matter. Or does it? Nalini, my darling elder sister – the very person instrumental in arranging my marriage to Girish. And Girish – my beloved ‘faithful’ husband. Their expressions so confident, so happy, so carefree. So lovey-dovey. So sure they would never be found out. So convenient. How long was this going on? Living a lie. Deep down I felt terribly betrayed. I felt as if I had been pole-axed, a sharp sensation drilling into my vitals, my stomach curdling as I threw up my dinner.
It was extraordinary how clear my mind became all of a sudden. “Listen, Dilip,” I said emphatically, “I want a full-scale comprehensive surveillance. Two-way mirrors, bugs, photos, video, audio – the entire works. A no-holds barred investigation. And dig deep into the past. I want to know everything.”
“No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.”
“You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.”
“Why, Vibha. Why?”
I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon about your professional credo and motto: You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.”

I paused, and said, “So my dear Dilip. Don’t ask any questions. Just state your fee. And do a good job!”

“But, Vibha. What will you do with all this information?” Dilip protested.

“The possibilities are endless,” I said, almost licking my lips in anticipation, as I could feel the venom rising within me. “Yes indeed! Information is power, isn’t it? Once I have all the information, just imagine what all I can do. The possibilities are endless – aren’t they?”

“Yes,” he echoed, “The possibilities are endless.”

“Now,” I said, intertwining my arm in his, “Let’s go to Lovers’ Park!”

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book “Appetite for a Stroll”. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm
Academic Journal Vikram Karve – http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve – http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

RENDEZVOUS at LANDOUR PEAK

July 25, 2010

The Woman with Restless Eyes and Enticing Perfume.

Chilled Beer

May 6, 2010

CHILLED BEER

Fiction Short Story – A Mystery

By

VIKRAM KARVE

It’s a lazy Sunday morning and I sit languidly in my balcony reminiscing the good old days of my wonderful past, melancholically mourning the gloomy and depressing present, and speculating with foreboding about what the ominous future may hold in store for me.

The doorbell rings.

I curse at being disturbed from my reverie, and wonder who’s come to meet me on a Sunday morning.

I open the door.

I am dumbstruck.

It is that gorgeous snooty pompous beauty called Monica, my wife Anjali’s friend and colleague, who lives across the street.

“Anjali is not at home,” I say tersely.

“I know,” she says, “I’ve come to see you.”

“Me…?” I stare at her baffled, for till now the pretentious haughty Monica, who doesn’t care for losers, has always ignored me as if I did not exist.

“Yes, Ajay, I know Anjali is not at home. I’ve come to see you. I want to talk to you alone.”

“Alone…?” I am curious as I can feel a shiver of anticipation rising within me. We’ve never been alone before.

“Yes. Alone. Won’t you ask me to come in…?”

“Of course. Please come in. Shall we sit in the balcony…?”

“No. We’ll sit inside here, so no one will see us and we can talk in private.”

Monica looks chic and ravishing, in tight jeans and a close fitting pink T-shirt.

I try not to stare at her.

The moment we sit down on the living room sofa, she says, “Suppose you found out that your wife was being unfaithful. Tell me, Ajay, what would you do…?”

Taken aback by the bombshell, I say, “What…?”

“Suppose you caught her having an affair.”

“What nonsense…!” I say angrily, but inside me there germinates a small seed of doubt. Does Monica know something…? Why is she saying all this…? Trying to hide my fears, I put up a solid face and say, “Come on Mrs. Kumar. It’s impossible. You know Anjali for so many years and how much she loves me.”

“Hey, stop calling me Mrs. Kumar. I’ve told you before, haven’t I…? You just call me Monica…” Monica says, looks provocatively into my eyes, and asks, “Now think carefully…Suppose, just suppose, you caught your wife Anjali having an affair, cheating on you, betraying your trust with infidelity…”

“I’ll kill her,” I say instinctively.

“How…?”

“How…? What do you mean ‘How’…?”

“I mean ‘How’. How will you kill your wife…?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I say getting up from the sofa, not wanting to continue this conversation.

“Let’s hypothesize. Will you shoot her…? Strangle her…? Stab her to death…? Suffocate her with a pillow…? Push her over the balcony or shove her off a cliff…?  Electrocute her…? Drown her…? Douse her with kerosene and set her on fire…? An ‘accidental’ gas cylinder explosion…?”

“What do you want from me…? Why are you harassing me…? Please go away Mrs. Kumar. Anjali will be here any moment,” I beseech her.

“No, she won’t. I know she’s gone to the health club and parlour for her Sunday session. She’ll be back after twelve. We have enough time together, haven’t we…?” Monica says mischievously looking up at me and adds, “Okay, you just tell me how you would kill your wife if you caught her having an affair, and I promise I’ll go away…!”

“I’d probably use poison,” I say, and start walking towards the entrance door.

Monica remains seated in silence for some time, and then she looks at me intently and says, her words clear and deliberate, “Poison… The way you finished off Nisha, your first wife…?”

I stop dead in my tracks.

Stunned, pole-axed, I can sense a sharp, cold fear drilling into my vitals.

I look at Monica, into her shining eyes.

She knows…

And she wants me to know, that she knows…

And now I know that I have no choice.

I walk back to my sofa, sit down and say to her, “So you want to kill your husband. Just because you think he is having an affair.”

“You killed Nisha, didn’t you…?” she asks, looking directly into my eyes.

I feel very frightened, scared.

How much does Monica know…?

Or is she just speculating, guessing…?

Maybe she’s just trying a shot in the dark…

But seeing the venom in her eyes, I realize that I dare not take any chances, so I smile and say, “Well, Monica, you have got your manacles on me, haven’t you…?”

“Listen, Ajay,” Monica says, her voice soft, as she speaks in measured tones, “I don’t want a scandal, that’s why I haven’t given him even the slightest hint that I suspect. But I can’t live a lie any longer pretending I am happy. The flimsy façade of our successful marriage, the veneer of pretence – it’s all going to blow-up sooner or later as he is becoming more and more indiscreet and careless.”

She pauses for a moment and says, “He’s got to go. Quickly. Quietly. As ‘normal’ a death as you can arrange.”

“Why don’t you leave him…? Ask him for a divorce.”

“It’s much better to be a widow than a divorcee, isn’t it…?”

I think about what she says.

Monica is right. It is much better to have all the sympathy of a widow than the stigma of being a divorcee; inherit all her husband’s riches, money, property rather than the paltry alimony.

Her husband is rich and successful, and her marriage a social triumph.

“Tell me, who is he having an affair with…?” I ask out of sheer curiosity.

“It’s none of your business,” she says angrily. “Just do what I tell you and don’t delve too deeply.”

“I thought maybe…”

“What’s the use…? He’ll get another one – bloody philanderer,” Monica says with contempt. “It’s he who has betrayed me and I want to get rid of him fast. You do this for me, Ajay, and my lips remain sealed about Nisha forever. I promise…”

“That’s all…?”

“I’ll clear all your gambling debts, your loans, the mortgages – with the bookies, financers…”

Inside I tremble with indescribable terror… outside I try to be calm and say, “You know all about me, don’t you…?”

“I’ve done my homework. Now you execute a foolproof plan. And after it’s all over there’ll be plenty more to come for you. I’ll give you so much money, you can’t even imagine…”

“Okay, let’s brainstorm. You tell me everything about your husband. Each and every detail, his food habits, his routine, his programme for the next few days, about both of you, everything. Absolutely everything.”

“I’m thirsty,” Monica announces.

“Fresh Lime…?”

“How about a chilled beer?”

I get two cans of chilled beer from the fridge.

“Hey,” Monica exclaims holding up a beer can, “you know what…? Kumar drinks the same brand of beer as you do…! It’s his favourite beer.”

“That’s a good start,” I say and clink my beer can with hers, “Cheers… To our success… Now tell me everything.”

Monica tells me everything about her husband Kumar.

I listen intently and carefully make notes.

By the time Monica finishes, in my mind’s eye I am already evaluating the pros and cons of various options of how Kumar is going to die.

“How do you want him to die…? Instantaneous death or prolonged illness…?” I ask Monica.

“I want to finish it off as quickly as possible. Painless. Fast. When he is far away from here. Like maybe during his trekking trip to Mussoorie next week,” she pauses for a moment and says, “but make sure it’s a perfect foolproof job – not even an iota of doubt or needle of suspicion.”

My mind races, exploring and weighing all the options, like maybe an exotoxin which leaves no trace, excretes itself from the organism within a few hours…?

I keep on thinking, my brain cells working at lightning speed, and all of a sudden I know what I’m going to do…

“We’ll give him something in his favourite beer,” I say.

“What…? Tell me, please…” Monica says excitedly.

“Now you don’t delve too much…” I say haughtily. “Just do what I say. Lips sealed. And ask no questions…”

“Okay.”

I look at the notes I have made when she was telling me about her husband and ask, “His weight is only 70…?”

“That’s right. Seventy kilograms. Five feet ten. Thirty Eight years of age. Ideal, isn’t it… He’s a fitness freak.”

“And he leaves for Mussoorie on Thursday…”

“Yes. Early in the morning.”

“Okay,” I say, “I’ll have the beer can ready by Wednesday evening. Make sure you collect it by six before Anjali comes back from office and see that he drinks it…”

“No. No. You serve it to him. Let him have it here. In front of you. Right here.”

“He’s never come here to our place before…”

“He will come here. If you invite him.”

“Fine. I’ll tell Anjali to invite both of you to dinner on Wednesday evening. She’s been wanting to call you over for a long time.”

“And…?”

“I’ll make sure your Kumar drinks the special beer. He’ll be off to Mussoorie on Thursday, and you should have the ‘good news’ by Sunday morning.”

“He shouldn’t pop off here…”

“He won’t. I’ll calculate everything precisely – make sure there’s at least a 36 hour incubation and proliferation period.”

After Monica leaves, I realize three things.

Firstly, murder is a rather lucrative business.

Secondly, from an amateur, I am going to become a professional.

And thirdly, infidelity is not only reason why Monica wants to get rid of her husband.

Everything works as per my plan.

I meticulously keep the vacuum microencapsulated ‘special’ can of beer firmly in its designated place in the fridge on Wednesday morning the moment Anjali leaves for work.

Then I leave for my office.

When I open the fridge the moment I return early from work on Wednesday evening I notice that the particular beer-can is missing.

My heart skips a beat, I feel a tremor of trepidation, search desperately in the fridge, don’t find the can, and soon I’m in a state of total panic.

After a frantic search I find the empty beer can in the kitchen dustbin.

I pick up the can and check.

Oh yes, no doubt about it – it is the same beer-can.

And the beer can is empty…

I try to think, steady my confused mind.

Who can it be…?

Everything becomes clear all of a sudden and I find myself shaking in sheer terror.

I rush to the bedroom, run around the house like a crazy animal.

Anjali is not at home.

I dial her mobile.

An excruciating wait as time stands still.

Anjali answers.

“Anjali…? Where are you…?”

“In the mall. Picking up some stuff for the evening.”

“So early…?”

“I took half a day off. Came home for lunch, got things tidied up and ready for the evening and am just getting a few things from the market. I’ll be back soon.”

“Anjali. The beer…! The beer…! ” I stutter anxiously.

“You want me to get more beer…? I thought we had enough.”

“No. No. There is a beer-can missing in the fridge. I found it in the dustbin.”

“Oh, that. I drank it in the afternoon,” Anjali says.

“What…? You drank that beer…?” I shout anxiously.

“Yes. I drank it. I came home in the afternoon. It was hot. I felt thirsty. So I opened the fridge, picked up a can of beer and I drank it. It’s that simple.”

“You stupid fool… Why did you drink that beer-can…?” I scream into the phone.

“Stupid fool…? How dare you…? Ajay, have you lost it…? I just can’t understand your behaviour now-a-days…” Anjali says and disconnects.

It was extraordinary, how my mind became clear all of a sudden.

There was no known antidote to the stuff I had synthesized.

Clinically, there was nothing I could do.

Logically, there was no point in doing something stupid in desperation.

It was a question of my own survival.

Having sunk to the depths of depravity, all I could do was helplessly wait and haplessly watch Anjali die.

She was less than sixty kilos, much lighter than Kumar.

By Saturday evening it would all be over…

The evening passes in a haze.

My heart sinks as I watch Kumar enjoy beer after beer, but what’s the use…? That beer-can, the one I had specially prepared for him, is lying empty in the dustbin.

There is a gleam in Monica’s eye.

What excuse am I going to give her…?

She does not know what’s happened and I shudder to think what she may do when she realizes.

At best she may forget everything; but knowing her vindictive streak, anything is possible…

Inside I tremble with fear in unimaginable agony… outside I try to present a happy and cheerful façade and make pretence of enjoying the dinner.

Time crawls.

I feel wretched and suffer in painful silence the longest and most agonizing hours of my life.

Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

I closely observe Anjali for symptoms, waiting for the worst.

Nothing happens.

Anjali seems normal, in fact, quite hale and hearty.

Sunday.

Anjali is still going strong…!

She sits across the dining table devouring her favorite idli-chutney-sambar Sunday breakfast.

I marvel at her constitution, her liver, it’s got to be super-strong; or maybe I’ve goofed up!

My cell-phone rings.

It’s Monica.

My heart skips a beat.

“Hello,” I say with trepidation.

“Ajay, congrats… You’ve done it… Kumar is dead. I just got a call from Mussoorie,” Monica says excitedly.

“How…?” I mumble incredulously, perplexed, baffled out of my wits in consternation.

“It happened exactly like you said. In the early hours of Sunday morning. He died in his sleep. They say maybe it was heart failure. Painless, instantaneous death.”

“I’ll come now…?” I ask Monica.

“No… No… Not now. We can’t take chances. I’m rushing to Mussoorie now. I’ll finish off everything; make sure the paperwork is done okay. And when I return, you can come and offer your condolences…” I hear Monica’s voice trail away.

I disconnect, put my mobile phone in my pocket, and look at Anjali.

“Who was it…?” she asks.

“Someone from the office,” I lie, trying to keep a straight face.

“Anything important…?”

“No. A man died. That’s all…” I say nonchalantly.

I look at Anjali, into her large brown liquid eyes, and comprehension dawns on me like a bolt of lightening.

What a cuckold she’s made me, a real sucker.

My brain goes into a tizzy. I wonder what I should do to her.  The possibilities are endless, aren’t they…?

And while I contemplate on my plan of action…I think I’ll have a chilled beer…

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

The Third Slap – Fiction Short Story – A Romance

May 4, 2010

THE THIRD SLAP

Pure Fiction – Pulp Fiction – Junk Fiction

A Comical Story – A Tall Story — A Yarn

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Dear Reader, I urge you not to read this story.

I think it is one of my worst stories – an example of my inchoate and amateurish attempts at creative writing.

I wrote this rubbish sometime in the 1990’s, I think, when you travelled to Goa by those delightful metre-gauge trains winding their way down from Londa past the cascading Dudhsagar falls to Vasco.

I wonder what genre one can call this. Pulp Fiction…?

Maybe ‘Junk Fiction’ is more apt…!

I’ve warned you…

Now, if you still want to read this bizarre, preposterous story, go ahead, do so at your own peril.

Have a laugh … and don’t forget the brickbats (or the bouquets) …

As always, I value your feedback and comments.

PART 1 – THE FIRST SLAP

I looked thoughtfully, with nostalgia and pride, at the words inscribed on the brass plaque I held in my hand:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

This engraved plaque was the only item I had brought with me from my old office in Pune. I had now made it big time. A top job in a prestigious firm in Bangalore .

I gave the brass plaque to Suhas and told him to hang it on the wall. For added effect, I loudly recited the words – a Chinese proverb – again and again.

The first impression is a lasting one. I wanted to project myself as a tough guy, and had dramatically succeeded. I had totally intimidated Suhas into submission. He had never expected that I would order him to drive me from the airport straight to office on a Sunday, get the office opened, and brief me in detail.

Suhas had been one of the aspirants for the chair I was sitting on; now he would be my deputy. If he was disappointed at not being promoted, he did not show it. After all, he had worked for ten years in the same firm and surely did not like an outsider like me thrust upon him.

As I stroked my beard, I looked appraisingly at Suhas. True to his name he had a sweet pleasant smile. But he looked a weakling – one of those suave, slimy, effeminate characters that adorn the corporate world – a soft-spoken, clean-shaven, ingratiating sissy with an almost feminine voice and carefully cultivated mannerisms as if he had been trained in a finishing school. Suhas had no masculinity, no manliness about him. He was one of those cissy types who were bullied and ragged at school and college. In my mind’s eye I smiled to myself at my excellent assessment.

Suhas handed me an invitation card and stammered, “Sir, an invitation for the New Year Eve party tonight.”

I was genuinely pleased and gave him an appreciative smile. In my euphoria I had almost forgotten the date.

Eager-Beaver and sycophant that he was, Suresh had organized a partner for me. Anita. A young executive anxious to please the boss. Anita was openly showing her willingness to get involved with me. A pity. I was not interested. She was not my type of woman. Anita was one of those synthetic beauties; pleasing to look at but not exciting to embrace. Dainty, delicate, perfectly poised, petite, precise, prim and proper. Her make-up perfect and exact, she looked like an artificial doll – optimally designed, precisely engineered and finished to perfection. Her actions appeared carefully contrived; there was no spontaneity about her. That vital spark of sensuality was missing. I could see that she had titivated for me, but I was not titillated. I liked voluptuous, sensual, earthy women – the rough-and-ready kind. As we danced she pressed against me in desperate appeal. I was not stirred. She was too simulated to stimulate me.

I signaled to Suhas who rescued me. I picked up a drink and took up a strong tactical position with my back to the wall. I looked at Anita – Good from Far, but, Far from Good. I smiled to myself. I sipped my drink, lit a cigarette, and looked at the entrance.

I saw her almost at once. She radiated an extraordinary sensuousness of a degree I had never experienced before. The impact was so overwhelming that I was instantly aroused and consumed with desire. She could not have made her body more inviting. There was nothing delicate about her. Plump and lusty, she oozed raw sexuality. I ached with desire and drank her in with my eyes insatiably.

“Enjoying the party, Sir” Suhas had followed my transfixed gaze and guessed what was on my mind. “That dish is Menaka. She’s a hot-shot executive in our main competitor. Let me formally introduce you.”

“No,” I said, “not now.”

Politeness is a pleasant way for a man to get nowhere with a woman.

Suhas got the hint and left me alone. My hungry eyes locked on to Menaka. I was feasting my eyes on her captivating face when she suddenly turned and glanced at me. Our eyes met. She looked at me for that moment longer, and with a curious smile, she turned back to her group.

I kept my eyes on her, looking steadily and directly; trying to transmit and project my thought-waves of passionate yearning. She adjusted her stance slightly, probably to observe me through the corner of her eye. Her gestures indicated that I had succeeded in disturbing the equilibrium of her personal inner comfort zone. I was thrilled with anticipation.

Suddenly she excused herself from her group, walked towards a secluded corner, turned and looked directly towards me. She held my gaze in a kind of challenge, there was a lengthy pause, and then she smiled. There was a conspiratorial look in her expressive eyes; at once inviting and taunting. She teased me with her eyes. My stimulus had evoked a response.

Encouraged by her enthusiastic response, I indulged myself lavishly. I made love to her with my eyes. She responded with unrestrained zeal; exhilaration pouring out of her eyes. As our mutual visual interplay became intense, I could clearly decipher the language in her eyes. I did not require the power of clairvoyance to look into the province of her mind; to read her thoughts. I boldly walked up to her and asked her for a dance. As I led her onto the dance-floor, I realized that every man, who was a man, was hungrily ogling at her. I felt the natural pride of possession that any man feels when he has the company of a woman that other men desire.

We danced continuously, without break. I held her tightly. She let her body rub against mine. Suddenly, the lights went off. Someone announced, “One minute left for the New Year.”

It was pitch-dark. The dance-floor was packed with bodies. I locked Menaka in a passionate embrace. Intoxicated by the aroma of her natural scent, I caressed her neck with my tongue. Her skin was moist with sweat. She sighed and her breathing became heavy and rapid. I kissed her warm mouth, a fervent passionate kiss. She kissed me back, most eagerly and amorously. As our tongues intertwined I could taste the fresh flavour of her mouthwash mixed with her hot saliva. We were luxuriating in a wave of sensuality which had engulfed us when the lights were suddenly switched on. Everyone seemed to have gone berserk – shouting “Happy New Year” at the top of their voices, and hooters, whistles, horns, drums, shouts raising the noise level to a deafening din.

“Happy New Year,” it was Suhas. He was quite drunk. Anita was standing next to him – her hurt evident in her eyes.

Before I realized it, Menaka had quickly disengaged and walked away. I was too confused to react. Anita pulled me to dance. She still hadn’t given up hopes. I kissed her on the cheeks, wished her a Happy New Year, and joined in the merrymaking. It was only after a considerable amount of time that I noticed that Suhas had disappeared.

It took me a week to sink my teeth into my new assignment. I worked hard. My first vital challenge was to win a huge software development contract with a multinational company. It was a prestigious contract. A large number of firms would be vying for it. It was imperative that I succeeded in winning it – to establish my credentials and prove my worth. The primary reason I had been appointed to the top post was owing to my expertise and track record in this area. My professional reputation was at stake. By the end of the week I had my proposal ready. I kept just one hard copy – no soft copies – for I believe that one should not store anything in a computer that one cannot display on a public notice board.

But my being busy at work was not the only reason that I had not contacted Menaka. I had not forgotten the sensuality of her body. During nights, as I lay awake in bed, I desperately yearned for her and I felt like a volcano without eruption.

I purposely did not make the first move. I didn’t want her to think I was desperate and grovel before her. I had ardently communicated my unspoken intentions to her on New Year’s Eve – if she wanted me, she’d contact me.

One day, while I was working in my plush office, suddenly my phone rang. It was Menaka. I felt a tremor of anticipation. She invited me to lunch at a nearby restaurant. I accepted.

Menaka was waiting for me outside the restaurant. She was dressed in a full-sleeved blouse and a heavy formal blue silk sari. It was hot. The fabric of her blouse around her armpits was wet with sweat. She looked and smelt natural. No attempt to camouflage her raw steamy sensuousness behind the synthetic mask of make-up and deodorants. Raw steamy sensuousness – that’s what I liked about her. It stimulated me and attracted me towards her.

As we sipped chilled beer, I found that she was easy to talk to. I had a strange feeling of elation. In these moods there was so much to say, the words simply came tumbling out. I told her everything about myself. In hindsight, I realize that she hardly told me anything about herself.

We met often during the next few days, arranging rendezvous in restaurants and our club. She tantalized me. But she did not let me go all the way. A bit of petting, necking, fondling, caressing, hugging, kissing, cuddling – it was okay. But there she drew the line. She never invited me home nor talked about her personal things. At first I was patient. No point hurrying up or forcing things. I did not want to lose her. There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen. I thought I would let things happen. But the more I met her, the more the desire began building up in me. The time had come to make things happen. I was wondering what strategy I should adopt when Suhas interrupted me, “Drying a divorcee’s tears is one of the most dangerous pastimes known to man.”

I tried to hide my surprise and regain my composure. I certainly wasn’t interested in drying Menaka’s tears!

“I didn’t know she is a divorcee,” I said truthfully. “In any case it’s a purely platonic friendship.”

“All such platonic relationships have a potential to culminate into affairs,” Suhas pontificated.

I was getting angry now. Surely I didn’t need a lecture on how to handle women from this prissy effeminate sissy.

He sensed my feelings and pleaded, “The office grapevine is pulsating with juicy rumors about your romance with Menaka. Such liaisons can be dangerous. She is working for our rival firm which is competing for the vital contract.”

This was news to me. Menaka hadn’t mentioned the contract. I looked innocently at Suhas. I would have to be careful with this Nosey Parker around.

One evening I was stunned when Menaka suddenly walked into my office. I had not bargained for this unexpected situation at all. It was one thing to meet Menaka in some restaurant or club. It was quite another thing to have her show up bold as brass at my office; it was embarrassing and downright dangerous.

“Don’t worry, everyone has gone home,” Menaka said and came around my desk and stood close to me. I was sitting on my swivel-chair working on the computer. I swiveled my chair around. Her silky smooth stomach was inches from my face. I sensed the beginnings of the experience which had been eluding me. I was tremendously excited, yet frightened. Even the improbability of the situation made me slightly incredulous and cautious. But I could not control myself and animal instinct took charge of me. I clasped her hips and buried my face in her stomach, and we both were going wildly berserk when suddenly the door opened and Suhas walked in.

A few moments later, as I sat in Suhas’s office trying to regain my composure, I realized that Suhas had not spoken a word, and was totally ignoring me. He was sitting quietly, ostensibly engrossed in work. The nuance wasn’t lost on me.

I had left Menaka in my office to tidy up. I wondered what effect this episode would have on her.

Suddenly an ominous thought entered my mind and I was overcome by a strange foreboding. I rushed to my office. Menaka had disappeared. I yanked open my desk drawer. I broke into cold sweat. My premonition had come true – the vital file was missing.

Disgraced, and accused of moral turpitude and disloyalty, I resigned my job and left Bangalore forever, under a cloud of shame, a discredited man.

Needless to say, Suhas walked into my job.

PART2 – THE SECOND SLAP

But I was not one to wallow in despondency for long. I put the episode behind me and went on a sabbatical. Interestingly, I found my true métier in the world of academics. I bounced back into life with vigor and zeal. I started teaching and, in a couple of years, was heading my own computer training institute.

Five years later, I stood on the platform of Pune Railway Station and scanned the passenger list on the reservation chart. No matter how many times I begin a train journey; there is always an intriguing interest in seeing who one’s follow-passengers are. I was on berth number 27. Berth number 28 was reserved in the name of a Mrs. M. Rao, Age 35. All others in the vicinity were males. A disappointment. I always wondered why all the good chicks were in other trains, other compartments. Let’s hope this Mrs. Rao was worth a look, at least.

When Mrs. Rao entered and sat down opposite me, I was dumbstruck.

It was Menaka.

She gave me a warm smile and started talking of me as if she were expecting me. Her behaviour was natural, as if she had fixed up a rendezvous with me here on the train. No guilt, no regret, no remorse. There was absolutely no trace of surprise at seeing me evident on her face. She had blossomed. Her beauty had enhanced with age.

“I was looking forward to meeting you,” she said looking directly into my eyes. “It’s good they organized the seminar in Goa . We shall enjoy ourselves. And, of course, finish our unfinished business. It’s so exciting!”

I couldn’t believe my ears and cannot begin to describe my emotions I felt. At once, I hated her for the way she had played with me, used me, and tossed me by the wayside; at the same time she evoked within me the familiar stirrings of passion. But I knew it was dangerous, so I decided to steer clear of her – once bitten, twice shy

I avoided talking to Menaka, snubbed her when she tried to start a conversation, pretended to read and we traveled in silence on the broad-gauge train from Pune to Miraj, where we would change over to the connecting metre-gauge express to Goa . Hopefully, Menaka would get seat away from me.

In the evening, just before Miraj, the train conductor arrived and said, “There is no air-conditioned service on the metre-gauge overnight train from Miraj to Vasco Da Gama. You will have to travel first class.”

“Both of us are together. Give us a coupe,” Menaka said.

I was tongue-tied.

“Yes, Madam. Coach F-1, coupe compartment D,” the train conductor gave me a canny look, and said in railway lingo, “This train reaches Miraj at 2000 hrs. The connecting train leaves at 2030.”

Menaka sat down close to me on the berth of the coupe of the metre-gauge train. The compartment’s smallness forced us into such an intimacy that I could not control myself when she made her move.

She made love to me with a professional’s skill and an amateur’s enthusiasm. Making love in a speeding metre-gauge train was an awesome experience. As the train rocked and sped through the night, we went crazy with passion, and she did not let me rest, but brought me back to her each time I tried to slide away from her, exhausted.

In the next two weeks, I realized the wildest of my fantasies with her. We made love to each other in all possible ways, at all possible places.

Later, as I lay next to her on the wet sand in a secluded corner of the beach, intoxicated with ‘feni’, I felt exhausted, drained and gratified. “Enough is enough”, I said to myself and I decided to leave quietly next morning.

Six months later I had a surprise visitor. Anita. She had a parcel for me. I opened it. There was a ‘Thank-you’ card from Menaka. There was also the brass plaque with the Chinese proverb which I had forgotten in my Bangalore office. I was baffled, nonplussed.

“Tell me Anita, who is this Rao that Menaka remarried. Or is it her first husband’s surname. Or maiden name.”

Anita burst out laughing, “She married Suhas. Suhas Rao. Your ex-deputy. Have you forgotten him?”

I felt angry, betrayed. Suhas Rao. That effete womanish softy. He was hardly man enough for her. What a mismatch. She needed a real man; a strong, virile, potent man like me.

Seeing the look on my face, Anita spoke quickly, “Suhas and Menaka got married soon after you left. Now they have set up their own firm. I work for them.” She abruptly stopped speaking. I could sense her hesitation. But I wanted to know why Menaka had sent Anita to me. It was an intriguing mystery.

“Go on,” I said. “Tell me everything.”

Anita gave me a curious look and said, “Menaka is pregnant. For the first time. She was trying desperately all these years. I am so happy for her. The baby is due in another three months time.”

Comprehension dawned on me pretty fast. Anita need not have spelt it out to me. I did not know whether to laugh or to cry. Menaka had used me again, for the second time, to realize her goal and then cast me aside. She had “slapped” me again!

But was it a slap? Had she slapped me for the second time? I don’t know. I truly don’t know. And I don’t care. I picked up the brass plaque and read the proverbial words written on it:

“The first time you slap me it is your fault…

The second time you slap me it is my fault…”

Then I looked at the brass plaque nostalgically for one last time and tossed it out of the window. No more proverbs for me.

“Convey my congratulations and best wishes to Menaka,” I said genuinely to Anita. “Tell her I am eagerly waiting for the next rendezvous with her. Whenever she wants me, wherever she wants me, any time, any place, I’ll be there at her service.”

Ten years have passed since – ten long years. Often I think of Menaka, yearn for her, and wonder when I am going to have my next rendezvous with her. Yes, I eagerly await the “third slap…”

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Vengeance – Short Fiction – A Chilling Romance

December 8, 2009

VENGEANCE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

I waited in anticipation, scared stiff, overcome by tremors of trepidation, secretly hoping he would not come.

But he did come. Right on the dot. Sharp ten o’clock at night. As planned.

He said nothing when he entered.

But the moment I recognized him I started to tremble.

He didn’t seem to notice. He turned around, as if he had forgotten something, took two quick steps and bolted the door.

Hoping to conceal my emotion, I began to speak in order to gain my composure: “Please be seated, sir,” I said. “Would you like a drink?”

“Whisky and soda,” he said, loosening the knot of his tie, as he moved towards the sofa. He sat down and gave me an appraising look.

I took my time getting up from my chair, taking care to make my movements deliberately slow, in order to hide my fear and nervousness.

I walked towards the fridge, my back turned in his direction, but still I could feel his eyes piercing me.

Soda, glass, opener, ice-bucket and a bowl of peanuts ready on a tray, I opened the liquor-cabinet. At first my hands instinctively touched a bottle of cheap whisky, but then I hesitatingly picked out a bottle of the best premium whisky. After all this was a first-class client. And maybe his last drink. Let him enjoy it.

I carefully set the loaded tray on the table in front of him and sat down on the chair across. I poured him a stiff drink and opened the bottle of soda.

“Put lots of ice,” he said, in a commanding voice. And then, as an afterthought, he added, “What about you?”

“No,” I said handing him the glass, “I don’t drink on duty.”

“Duty?” he laughed looking me in the eye.

He took a sip of the whisky and closed his eyes with a gesture of fatigue, as if waiting for the whisky to caress his brain. His was not an unpleasant face. In fact he looked quite handsome.

“Without any effort I could go straight to sleep,” he said with his eyes still closed. Then suddenly he opened his eyes, looked directly at me, and with a mischievous smile he said, “But there’s plenty to do tonight, isn’t it?”

“Yes indeed!” I said to myself. “There was plenty to do tonight.” In my mind’s eye, I tried to visualize how I was going to do it.

The man shifted on his seat, took out a wallet from his hip pocket and stylishly extracted ten crisp red thousand-rupee notes and put them on the table in front of me.

I did not pick up the money. “It’s okay,” I said. “It’s on the house.”

“Who said so?” he snapped an angrily.

“The person who sent me here,” I answered.

“What else did he say?”

“That you are a very special guest.”

“And?” he asked.

“He told me that I should be very discreet; shouldn’t even breathe a word to anyone.” I paused, and then said, “It is okay. You can trust me.”

He smiled and said, “Take the money. I always pay for everything. I am a man of principles.”

Suddenly I could feel the venom rising inside me. A man of principles my foot!

Hypocrite. That’s what he was. A bloody hypocrite!

Where were his principles when he had killed my husband and concocted lies that it was a gruesome accident? And then quickly disposed off my husband’s body at sea – consigned into the Davy Jones’s Locker at the bottom of the deep ocean.

Murderer, bloody murderer – that’s what he was – an unscrupulous mendacious murderer.

And tonight he was going to pay for it.

Everything was in my favour.

I had recognized him but he did not know who I really was.

For him I was just a nameless face. A one-night stand. To be used, discarded and forgotten. And though he could not possibly realize it, it was he who had reduced me to this. And now he had unknowingly walked right into my hands.

“Is it enough?” he asked, pointing to the money on the table.

“My normal rate is fifty thousand,” I said. I wanted to embarrass him for I had glimpsed into his wallet when he took out the money. I picked up the ten thousand rupees from the table, tucked them in my blouse, and said, “But for you, it’s okay.”

He smiled, looking intently into my eyes for a few seconds. Then he gulped down his drink, got up form the sofa, came around the table and stood behind me. I sat still, waiting for his next move. He put his hands on my shoulders and said matter-of-factly, “Let’s go to bed.”

When I woke up, for a moment I could not imagine where I was. The silence was so intense that I could hear my heart beating. The room was not quite dark, for the door of the bathroom was partly open, and the light in it had been left on.

As I turned and I saw him lying beside me, I felt a sudden flush of passion. It was after a long time that I had really enjoyed it. But I quickly controlled my feelings and carefully observed the sleeping man.

He breathed steadily, like a man immersed in deep sleep, fully satiated. But I had to be sure.

“Hello,” I whispered near his ear.

No answer. He was dead to the world.

Very slowly, very silently, I slipped out of my bed. I slowly bent down near the bedside table, unplugged the two-pin electric plug from the socket on the wall and carefully coiled the wires around the base of the table-lamp.

I picked up the table-lamp in both hands holding the plug carefully, and stood for a while, looking at the man to see whether I had disturbed him.

His breathing was as regular as before. I took a couple of tip-toe steps and halted, took a few steps more and waited, and so on, until I reached the bathroom door. Then I quickly went inside and locked the door.

I yanked out the wires form the table-lamp, and with my teeth, removed the plastic cladding from the open ends exposing at least two inches of naked copper on both the wires.

I smiled to myself. In my hands was a weapon of death. A set of coiled wires, one red and one black, long enough, a two-pin plug at one end and the other end exposed, naked.

I retraced my steps, tiptoed, leaving the bathroom light on and the door a bit ajar, so that I could just about see slightly. I put the plug in the socket. Then I uncoiled the wires, carefully holding one wire in each hand, a few inches away from the naked exposed copper, my hands apart.

I switched on the electric switch with my left toe, got on the bed and slowly advanced on my knees towards the sleeping figure. The man was lying on his back, sleeping soundly, dead to the world.

I decided to aim for his eyes. Simply thrust one live wire into each eye. Hopefully death would be instantaneous, the electric current flowing though his brain; even if it wasn’t, at least he’d be unconscious and then I could take my time.

The live wires had almost touched his eyes when some invisible force seemed to have grabbed my wrists.

I froze.

And suddenly felt a turbulence of conscience.

“I don’t want to be a murderess. What do I gain? And then what’s the difference between him and me? What about his family? Why should I make them suffer for no fault of theirs? And maybe what he said was indeed true; that it was just an accident, like he had reported,” said one part of my brain, pulling my hands back.

“Revenge! Vengeance! He deserves it,” desperately urged the other part of my brain, pushing my hands forward, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Do it now. Fast!” – And slowly my hands started moving forward.

Suddenly the man moved, started turning.

I panicked, and in a reflex action I instantly pulled my hands back.

In the confusion, the naked wires touched; there were sparks and then total darkness.

Short Circuit – the fuse had blown.

My blood ran cold. There was no movement from the man. Instinctively I guessed that the man had turned over on his side, his back towards me.

I tiptoed to the bathroom, retrieved the table-lamp, kept it on the bedside table and tucked the wires underneath.

Then I lay down on my bed as if nothing had happened.

The centralized air-conditioning was still on; but the bathroom light had gone off.

Probably only one fuse, the light fuse had blown, but I didn’t know where it was.

I had muffed up a golden chance.

The man was lucky to be alive.

Sheer luck!

But I knew I would try again.

Again and again.

Again and again.

I would not rest till I finished him off, had my vengeance, for he did not deserve to live.

And with these thoughts I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning, I saw that the man was still fast asleep. The dawn had broken.

I opened the window and let the sunlight in.

“Who’s that?” he asked, startled, adjusting his eyes to the sunlight.

“You must go to your room now,” I said, “someone may notice.”

I walked towards the sofa, picked up his clothes and threw them to him.

He dressed hurriedly and quickly walked to the connecting door between our rooms. He opened the door, paused for a moment, and turning towards me he said, “Good Bye, Mrs. Morris. They told me that you want to kill me. I came to find out. But killing isn’t easy. You can take my word for it.”

With these words he left my room, silently closing the door.

I sat in dumbstruck silence, a deathly grotesque deafening silence.

I never saw him again. I never want to. For I have never felt so scared, so frightened, so petrified as I felt at that moment – and whenever I think of that chilling terrifying night, a tremor goes up my spine, a shiver perambulates throughout my whole body, and I resonate with fear.

VENGEANCE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

Appetite for a Stroll

vikramkarve@sify.com

A Sizzling Love Story

November 28, 2009

LOVE LUST DECEIT ELECTRICITY
Short Fiction

 

A Sizzling Love Story

by

VIKRAM KARVE

There is a saying: “ If you decide to murder your husband you must never act in concert with your lover ”.

 

That’s why I did not tell Raj.

 

Or involve him in any way.

 

Not even the smallest hint.

 

I made my plans alone and with perfect care.

 

An “accident” so coolly and meticulously designed.

Precisely at 12:50 in the afternoon, the ghastly accident would occur.

 

And then my phone would ring – to convey the “bad” news.

 

And suddenly I would be a widow.

 

Free.

 

Liberated from shackles.

 

Released from bondage.

 

Then all I had to do was to keep cool, maintain a solemn façade, and patiently wait for Raj to return after completing his project in Singapore.
Then after the customary condolence period was over, Raj would propose to marry me – an act of chivalry, of sympathy, or even “self-sacrifice”.

 

First I would demur, then “reluctantly” succumb to the pressure from my friends and relatives, and accept – just for my children’s sake.

 

There would be nods of approval all around.

 

And soon Raj and I would be Husband and Wife.

The phone rang.

 

I panicked.

 

There is no fear like the fear of being found out.

 

I looked at the wall-clock. It was only 10.30 am.

 

Had something gone wrong?

 

I felt a tremor of trepidation.

 

The phone kept on ringing – it just wouldn’t stop ringing.

 

I picked up the receiver, and held it to my ears with bated breath.

 

The moment I heard Anjali’s voice I felt relieved.

“Why didn’t you come to the health club?” Anjali asked.

I’m not well,” I lied.

“Anything serious? Should I come over?” she asked.

“No!” I tried to control the anxiety in my voice. “It’s a just a slight headache. I’ll take a tablet and sleep it off,” I said cautiously.

“I hope Manish and you are coming over in the evening,” Anjali asked.

“Of course,” I said and put down the phone.

 

I smiled to myself.

 

That was one party Manish was going to miss. Probably they would cancel it and would be right here offering their condolences and sympathy.

 

I would have to be careful indeed.

 

And to hell with the health club and the painful weight loss program. I didn’t need it any more.

 

Raj accepts me as I am – nice and plump and on the “healthier” side, as he calls me lovingly.

 

Not like Manish who is always finding fault with me.

 

I know I can always depend on Raj.

 

He really loves me from the bottom of his heart.

I looked at my husband Manish’s framed photograph on the mantelpiece.

 

Soon it would be garlanded.

 

My marriage to Manish had been a miserable mistake, but soon it would be over and I would be free to live the life I always wanted.

 

I wish I didn’t have to kill Manish, but there was no way out – Manish would never give me a divorce, and if he came to know about me and Raj, he would destroy both of us, ruin our lives; for he was a rich and powerful man.

 

Also, I prefer to be a pitied widow rather than a stigmatized divorcee.

The plan was simple.

 

I had programmed a Robot to do the job.

 

The huge giant welding robot in Manish’s factory.

 

At exactly 12:45, when the lunch-break started, Manish would enter his pen drive into the robot control computer to carry out a maintenance troubleshooting check.

 

And then he would start inspecting various parts of the robot – the manipulator, end effectors and grippers – to cross-check their programmed movements.

 

It was a routine exercise, and I knew Manish had become quite complacent as the robot had never developed any faults so far.

But today it would be different.

 

Because I had surreptitiously reprogrammed the software last night.

 

This is what was going to happen.

 

At precisely 12:50 all safety interlocks would be bypassed, and suddenly the robot would activate and the welding electrode would arc 600 Amperes of electric current into Manish’s brain.

 

It would be a ghastly sight – his brain welded out and his body handing like a pendulum, lifeless. Death would be instantaneous.

 

Manish had been a fool to tell me everything and dig his own grave. A real dope – he deserved it!

It was a foolproof plan and no one would suspect since the program would erase itself immediately. I had ensured that. It would be an accident, an unfortunate accident.

 

Condolences, compensation, insurance – soon I would be a rich widow, with one and all showering me with sympathy and compassion.

 

And then I would wait for Raj to come back from Singapore.

 

And then, after a few days I knew he would propose to me, and I would ‘reluctantly’ accept and we would live happily ever after.

I looked at the wall clock. It was almost 11 O’clock.

 

Suddenly I began to have second thoughts. Maybe I should give Manish a last chance.

 

All I had to do was pick up the phone and ask Manish to rush home.

 

Feign a sudden illness or something.

 

But no! I tried to steel my nerves. I had crossed the Rubicon, and there was no going back. The tension of waiting was unbearable, but I must not lose my head.

I tried to divert my thoughts to Raj.

 

The first time I suspected that Raj loved me was when he didn’t attend my wedding. Then he disappeared abroad for higher studies and I almost forgot him. And one fine day, after almost fifteen years, Raj suddenly reappeared to take up a job in my husband’s factory.

And when I learnt that Raj had still not married I realized how deeply in love with me he was.

 

At that point of time I was so disillusioned with my marriage that my daily life was rather like sitting in a cinema and watching a film in which I was not interested.

 

Raj and I began spending more and more time together, and somewhere down the line emotions got entangled and physical intimacy followed.

Did Manish suspect?

 

I do not know.

 

Was that the reason he had sent Raj to Singapore?

 

I don’t think so.

 

We had kept our affair absolutely clandestine.

I looked again at the clock.

 

11.45 am.

 

One hour to go.

 

I began to have a feeling of dread and uneasiness, a sort of restlessness and apprehension – a queer sensation, a nameless type of fear.

 

So I poured myself a stiff drink of gin.

 

As I sipped the alcohol, my nerves calmed down.

 

Today was the last time I was going to have a drink, I promised myself.

 

Once I married Raj I would never drink – there would be no need to.

 

In my mind’s eye I could almost visualize my husband Manish sitting in the vacant chair opposite getting steadily drunk every evening.

 

Manish was an odd creature with effeminate mannerisms that became more pronounced when he was drunk.

 

He was always picking at an absurd little moustache, as though amazed at himself for having produced anything so virile.

 

How I hated the mere sight of him.

 

The very thought of my husband made me gulp down my drink.

 

I poured myself one more drink and gulped it quickly to steady my nerves. Then I had one more drink; and one more, when my cell-phone rang.

I shook out of my stupor and picked up my mobile phone. It was an unknown number. I rejected the call.

 

The cell phone rang again; same number. I looked at the number. 65….. – it was from Singapore.

 

Was it Raj? From Singapore? My heart skipped a beat. I answered urgently.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hi Urvashi, how are you?” it was Raj’s voice.

“Where are you speaking from? Is this your new number?” I asked.

“No. This is Rajashree’s cell-phone,” Raj said.

“Rajashree?”

“Yes, Rajashree, she wants to talk to you,” Raj said.

 

“Hi Urvashi,” a female voice said, “Raj has told me so much about you.”

It was strange.

 

Who was this Rajashree?

 

I knew nothing about her!

 

So I said, “But Raj has told me nothing about you!”

“I know,” Rajashree said, “it all happened so suddenly. Even I can’t believe it could happen so fast – Love at first sight, whirlwind romance, swift wedding.”

“Wedding?” I stammered, shocked beyond belief.

“Yes. We, Raj and I, got married yesterday and we are on our way to our honeymoon, on a cruise liner.”

“You bitch! Give the phone to Raj,” I shouted, losing control, the ground slipping beneath me.

“Hey, chill out. What’s wrong with you?” Rajashree said calmly, paused for a moment, and spoke, “Raj has gone to the embarkation booth. Hey, he’s waving to me. I’ve got to go now. Bye. We’ll see you when we come there.” And suddenly she disconnected.

I stared at my cell-phone, never so frightened, never so alone.

 

I felt as if I had been pole-axed.

 

I looked at the wall-clock.

 

12.55.

 

Oh, My God!

 

The deadline of 12.50 had gone.

 

It was too late.

 

My blood froze.

 

The telephone rang.

 

I picked it up, my hands trembling.

“There’s been an accident, madam,” said the voice. It was the company doctor. “We are rushing Manish Sahib to the hospital. I am sending someone to pick you up.”

“Hospital? Tell me the truth,” I shouted hysterically into the phone, “Tell me, is he dead?”
“No. He’ll survive.”

Manish did survive.

 

I wish he hadn’t.

 

For his sake. And for mine.

 

For till this day he is still in coma.

 

And I know I will have to live with a ‘vegetable’ husband all my life.

It was a small miscalculation.

 

600 Amperes wasn’t enough.

 

But then the Robot is a machine.

 

My real miscalculation was about Raj.

 

 

LOVE LUST DECEIT ELECTRICITY

Short Fiction

A Sizzling Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

September 27, 2009

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

A detective always remembers his first case. Let me tell you about mine.

This happened long back – more than thirty years ago – in the 1970s – when Pune was a salubrious pensioners’ paradise – a cosy laid back friendly town where everyone knew everyone.

And let me tell you – at the time of this story – I was not even a full fledged detective – but I was just a rookie part-time amateur self-styled sleuth – studying in college – skylarking in my spare time as a private detective – masquerading as a Private Investigator for my uncle who ran a private detective agency.

Dear Reader, please remember that way back then, in good old days of the 1970s, there were no cell-phones, no PCs, no mobile cameras, handy cams or digital cameras, no modern technology gadgets, not even things like email and the internet that you take for granted today and the only method of investigation was the tried and tested good old physical surveillance where one spent hours and hours patiently shadowing and tailing your target.

“A woman wants her husband watched,” my uncle said giving me a slip of paper with a name and the room number of a well-known hotel in Pune.

“That’s all?” I asked.

“He is a businessman from Mumbai…drives down to Pune very often…at least once a week…sometimes twice…ostensibly in connection with business…but she suspects there is some hanky-panky going on…”

One week later, waiting for the client to arrive at our planned rendezvous, I sat on the balcony of Café Naaz atop Malabar Hill sipping a cup of delicious Chai and enjoying the breathtaking sunset as the Arabian Sea devoured the orange sun followed by spectacular view of the Queen’s Necklace as the lights lit up Marine Drive.

She arrived on the dot at seven and sat opposite me.

I looked at my client.  She was a Beauty, a real beauty, 35…maybe 40… must have been a stunner in her college days…I tried not to stare at her.

“Okay…Tell me,” she said, getting to the point straightaway.

I started reading from my pocket-book, “Thursday morning at ten fifteen he left his hotel room…deposited key at reception telling them that he was going for work would return in the evening…started to drive down in his car towards Deccan…picked up a female who seemed to be waiting for him…she sat next to him…and as they drove off away from the city into the countryside they seemed to be getting amorous…lovey-dovey, you know, a bit of kissing, cuddling…”

“No…No…skip the details…just tell me…is he or isn’t he…?” she interrupted me.

She seemed to be in a hurry. Maybe she was not comfortable being seen sitting with me over here and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

“I think he is having an affair,” I said.

“You think…?”

“Yes…I am pretty sure…”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well we look for three things – the three key ingredients which are required to have an affair – TIME, INCLINATION and OPPORTUNITY…”

“Time…Inclination…Opportunity…” she repeated looking quite perplexed.

“Well they certainly had the Time…they spent the whole day together in seclusion…and they certainly had the Opportunity…behind the privacy of closed doors in that lonely discreet motel hidden in the back of beyond…and as far as the Inclination part is concerned…well, the way they were behaving…I have no doubt about it….”

A smile broke out on her face.

I was flabbergasted – now tell me dear reader – what would be your reaction if you came to know that your spouse was having an affair – would you just smile…

Suddenly I remembered what my uncle had told me, so I asked the woman, “Do you wish to increase coverage?”

“Coverage…?”

“Photographs…receipts…documentary evidence…round the clock surveillance…full details….” I elaborated.

Of course all this would be handled in a professional manner by my experienced uncle and his agency…maybe he’d take me along as a learning experience.

“I don’t think so…” the woman said.

“No?” I said perplexed, “but you will require all this as evidence to establish that your husband is committing adultery…”

“Husband…? Who said he is my husband…?” she said grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“You said so…to the head of the detective agency…”

“No, I didn’t….I just told him that I wanted a man followed…”

“But we assumed…”

“A good detective shouldn’t assume things, isn’t it…?

“But then why did you want that man followed…?” I asked curious.

“Well that’s my private matter,” she said, “but since I like you, I’ll tell you…It is like this… One day, fifteen years ago, the day I completed my graduation, my parents showed me two photographs…the first photo was of the man you were following…the second photo was of the man who is now my husband.”

The woman paused for a moment, had a sip of water, and continued, “My parents told me to choose one…and I made my choice…but since then…during all these years of my married life… I was always tormented by the thought that I had made the wrong choice….now…thanks to you… I know I made the right choice!”

She took out an envelope from her purse and gave it to me. “Your fee…and there is a bonus for you too for doing such a good job…” she said and then she got up and walked away into the enveloping darkness.

Later when I opened the envelope and saw that the “bonus” was more than the fee, I wondered whether she had two envelopes in her purse, one for each eventuality.

I never forgot the cardinal lesson I learnt from this case – I never assume anything…and now…before I start a new investigation…the first thing I do is to carry out a background check of the client.

THE MARRIED WOMAN AND THE YOUNG DETECTIVE

Fiction Short Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

The Derby

September 3, 2009

Prologue

I am not a die-hard punter, but I love to go to the races once in a while.

Whenever I was in Mumbai there was one race I never missed. I always went to the Race Course on Derby Day, not to gamble, but to enjoy myself, the atmosphere, the excitement, the horses [the four legged variety] and, of course, the lovely decked-up dressed-to-kill chicks [you know which variety].

The Indian Derby is normally held on the first Sunday of February at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai, and, like I said, when in Mumbai, I made it a point to enjoy the most exciting race of the year.

I was fortunate to witness races at Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Ooty too, and one of my most cherished memories is enjoying the Mysore Derby at probably the most picturesque race course I have ever seen, many years ago.  In fact, it was such a splendid unforgettable experience etched in my memory that, a few days later, I wrote a fiction short story set in Mysore.

Here is the fiction short story – The Flirting Game.

As I said I wrote this story long back, and maybe the writing is a bit old-fashioned, but I am sure you will like it.

THE DERBY

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

The Mysore racecourse is undoubtedly the most picturesque racecourse in India.

The lush green grass track, the verdant expanse right up to the foot of the rugged Chamundi hills which serve as a magnificent backdrop with the mighty temple atop, standing like a sentinel – the luxuriant ambience is so delightful and soothing to the eye that it instantly lifts one’s spirit. And on this bright morning on that delightful Saturday in October, the atmosphere was so refreshing that I felt as if I were on top of the world.

“I love this place, it’s so beautiful,” I said.

“And lucky too,” Girish, my husband, added. “I have already made fifty grand. And I’m sure Bingo will win the Derby tomorrow.”

Girish appraisingly looked at the horses being paraded in the paddock, suddenly excused himself, and briskly walked towards the Bookies’ betting ring.

I still can’t describe the startling shock I experienced when I suddenly saw Dilip, bold as brass, standing bang in front of me, as if appearing from nowhere, looking straight into my eyes.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said. “I think you have dropped this.”

In his hand was tote jackpot ticket.

Now he was looking at me in a funny sort of way, neither avoiding my eyes nor seeking them.

I understood at once.

I took the tote ticket he proffered, put it in my purse and thanked him.

He smiled, turned and briskly walked away towards the first enclosure.

I felt a tremor of trepidation, but as I looked around I realized that no one had noticed our quick encounter in the hustle-bustle of the racecourse.

As I waited for my husband to emerge from the bookies’ betting ring, in my mind’s eye, I marvelled at the finesse with which Dilip had cleverly stage-managed the contrived encounter to make it look completely accidental.

It was only after lunch, in the solitude of my hotel room that I took out the tote jackpot ticket and examined it. I smiled to myself.

It was the simplest substitution cipher – maybe Dilip thought I’d gone rusty – a last minute improvisation for immediate emergency communication.

That meant Dilip wasn’t shadowing me; he hadn’t even expected me at the Mysore racecourse. But having suddenly seen me, he desperately wanted to make contact. So he quickly improvised, contrived the encounter, and left further initiative to me. The ball was now squarely in my court.

I scribbled the five numbers of the jackpot combination on a piece of paper. For seasoned punters, racing buffs, it was an unlikely jackpot combination that hardly had a chance of winning, and now that the races were over the ticket was worthless. But for me hidden inside it was information, a secret message from Dilip to me, since I knew how to decipher the secret code. To the five numbers I added the two numbers of my birth-date. I now had seven numbers and from each I subtracted Dilip’s single digit birth-date and in front of me I had a seven-digit combination. I picked up the telephone and dialled [At the time of this story Mysore still had seven digit telephone numbers – I wonder what it is now]. It was a travel agency – a nice cover. I didn’t identify myself but only said, “Railway Enquiry?”

“Oh, Yes, madam,” a male voice answered.

I recognized it at once. It was Dilip, probably anxiously waiting for my call, and he said, “You are booked on our evening sightseeing tour. Seat No. 13. The luxury coach will be at your hotel at 3 in the afternoon. And don’t carry your mobile with you. We don’t want to be tracked.”

I looked at my watch. It was almost 2:30. Time for a quick wash. I tore up the jackpot tote ticket and scribble paper and flushed it down the toilet. It was too dangerous to keep them around once their utility was over. And should the ticket fall into the wrong hands, anything was possible – one must not underestimate anybody – for it is well known that human ingenuity can never concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve.

The tourist bus arrived precisely at 3 o’clock and soon I was in seat No. 13, a window seat. I had hardly sat down when Dilip occupied the adjacent seat No. 14. He was carrying the ubiquitous tourist bag, but I knew what was inside – the tools of his tradecraft.

“Thanks for coming, Vibha,” he said.

“I was scared you’d do something stupid, indiscreet.” I scolded him, “And Girish…”

“Don’t tell me you haven’t told your husband about us?” Dilip interrupted.

“No.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell him now. There’s no place for secrets between husband and wife”

“I can’t. I don’t want to. It’s too late now.” I was getting a bit impatient now. “Listen, Dilip. This is dangerous. What do you want? Girish, my husband…”

“He’s gone to Ooty. It’s a four hours’ drive. Should be half-way up the hills by now,” Dilip interjected looking at his watch.

“He is coming back tomorrow.”

“I know. He’ll be there in time for the Mysore Derby. Your horse Bingo is running, isn’t it? It’s a hot favourite too!”

“How do you know all this?”

“It’s common knowledge. Besides I make a living prying into other people’s lives.” Dilip paused for a moment, “Don’t worry, Vibha. The races start only at two in the afternoon. And the Derby is at four. We’ve got plenty of time together, the whole of today and tomorrow morning. He won’t know. I promise you.”

The bus stopped. We had arrived at the majestic Mysore Palace.

“Come, Vibha. Let me take your photo,” Dilip said, talking out his camera.

“No,” I snapped.

“Okay. You take mine. I’ll stand there. Make sure you get the Palace entrance in the frame.” He gave me the camera and said, “Have a look. It’s a special camera. I’ll focus the zoom lens if you want.”

I pointed the camera in the direction of the palace and looked through the viewfinder. But the palace wasn’t in the frame. The camera had a ninety-degree perpendicular prismatic zoom lens. I could see the tourists from our bus crowding around the shoe-stand about fifty meters to my left, depositing their shoes.

“Dilip, tell me, who is the Target?” I asked.

“Lady in the sky-blue sari, long hair. And the man in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, still wearing his Ray Ban aviator.”

I happily clicked away, a number of photos, the unsuspecting victims, the young target couple, not once realizing that it was they who were in my frame.

“I don’t think they are having an affair,” I said, once we were inside the cool confines of the Mysore Palace, admiring the wall paintings of the Dasera procession, “Come on, Dilip, the boy looks so young, mod and handsome. And the woman – she’s middle-aged, a shy, timid, unadventurous, stay-at-home type. And just look at her face, her looks – so pedestrian. It is a most improbable combination.”

“Yes, a most improbable combination – that’s why their affair is flourishing for so long.”

I gave Dilip a quizzical look.

“Three years,” Dilip said. “It’s going on for over three years. The woman is a widow. She gets a huge monthly maintenance from her in-laws’ property – in lakhs. It’s a wealthy business family. They want to stop giving her the monthly maintenance.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, confused.

“The right of a widow to maintenance is conditional upon her leading a life of chastity,” Dilip quoted matter-of-factly.

“What nonsense!”

“That’s what their hot-shot lawyer told me. The one who commissioned this investigation,” Dilip said. “They’ll probably confront her with this evidence and coerce her into signing-off everything. Maybe even her children.”

“What if she doesn’t agree?”

“Then we’ll intensify the surveillance. A ‘no holds barred’ investigation. Two-way mirrors with installed video cameras, bugs with recording equipment,” Dilip paused, and said, “In fact, in this case I’m so desperate for success that I’m even considering image morphing if nothing else works.”

I was shocked. “Isn’t it morally disgusting? To do all these unethical dirty things. Extortion? Blackmail? To what length does one go?” I asked Dilip annoyed.

“Once you have the information, the possibilities are endless,” Dilip said softly, “It’s not my concern to worry about moral and ethical issues. I never ask the question ‘why’. I just state my fee. And even if I do know why, I’ve made it a policy never to show that I understand what other people are up to.”

“What are you up to Dilip? And why me?” I asked.

Dilip did not answer. He just smiled and led me towards our bus.

I was glad I had not married Dilip. I had never known he could sink to such depths. I hated him for the way he was using me. Taking advantage of my fear, my past, and my helplessness. Filthy emotional blackmailer. Shameless bully. I looked at Dilip with loathing and disgust, but he just grinned at me bald-facedly like a Cheshire Cat.

Nalini, my elder sister, had been right about Dilip. In my mind I thanked her for saving my life. But for her timely intervention, I would have married Dilip, maybe even eloped with him. I shudder to think what my life would have been like had I married Dilip.

“It’s beautiful,” Dilip said, looking at the famous painting – ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – at the Mysore Museum.

“Yes,” I answered, jolted out of my thoughts.

“Remember, Vibha. The last time we were here. It’s been almost ten years.”

I did not answer, but I clearly remembered. It was our college tour. And Dilip had quickly pulled me into a dark corner and kissed me on the lips. A hasty inchoate stolen kiss. My first kiss. The electric shivers, the tremors of trepidation. How could I ever forget?

“Vibha. Tell me honestly. Why did you ditch me so suddenly, so mercilessly?”

“Nalini told me not to marry you,” I said involuntarily, instantly regretting my words.

“And then she forced you to marry Girish, your brother-in-law.”

“Girish is not my brother-in-law. He is my co-brother.”

“Co-brother indeed! He is the younger brother of your elder sister Nalini’s husband. So he is your brother-in-law also, isn’t it?” Dilip said sarcastically.

“So what?” I snapped angrily. “It’s not illegal. Two brothers marrying two sisters – it’s quite common. And it’s none of your business.”

“Business!” Dilip said. “That’s it. Business! Two sisters marry two brothers. So it’s all in the family. The business. The money. The tea estates and coffee plantations. The industries. The property. Everything.”

“So that’s what you had your eyes on, didn’t you? My father’s property.” I knew it was a cruel thing to say and I could see that Dilip was genuinely hurt.

Instinctively I realized that Dilip was still in love with me.

Maybe he was jealous of my successful marriage, my happiness and probably my wealth, my status in society and that’s what had made him bitter.

But seeing the expression on his face I knew that Dilip would not harm me, for he was indeed truly in love with me. “I’m sorry, Dilip. Forget the past and let’s get on with our surveillance,” I said looking at the ‘target’ couple.

And so we reached the magnificent Brindavan gardens, posing as tourists in the growing crowd of humanity, stalking the couple, surreptitiously taking their photographs as they romantically watched the water, gushing through the sluice gates of Krishnarajasagar dam, forming a rainbow admits the spraying surf.

After sunset we enjoyed the performance at the musical fountain sitting right behind the ‘couple’. Suddenly, the lights went out, everyone stood up and started moving. Trying to adjust our eyes to the enveloping darkness, we desperately tried not to lose track of target couple as they made their way, in the confusion, towards “Lovers’ Park.”

It was pitch dark. But through the lens of the night vision device I could clearly discern two silhouettes, an eerie blue-green against the infrared background. The images were blurred and tended to merge as the two figures embraced each other, but that did not matter since I knew that the infrared camera would process the signal through an image intensifier before recording, rendering crystal-clear photo quality pictures.

“Let’s go,” Dilip whispered, and we stealthily negotiated our way out, but in hindsight, there was really no need to be clandestine about it, since we were just another couple ostensibly having a “good time” in the darkness and dense foliage of “Lovers’ Park” as it was known.

Pondering over the day’s events I realized how right Dilip had been taking me along. Surveillance involves hours of shadowing and stalking training and tracking your target, sitting for hours in all sports of places like hotels, restaurants, parks, cars, hanging around airports, railway stations, bus stands or even on the streets, waiting and watching. A man and a woman would appear for less conspicuous than a single man or a pair of men. And if they look like a married couple it’s even better for the cover. And we did look like a much-married tourist couple.

I wondered why I’d agreed to do all this. Maybe because I felt a sense of guilt, remorse, a sort of an obligation I owed Dilip. Any girl always has a feeling of debt, a guilt-complex, towards a decent man who she has ditched, brutally dumped.

Or maybe because I wanted to find out what life would have been like had I married Dilip.

Or maybe because I was scared and fearful that Dilip would blackmail me. Dilip was the only secret I had kept from my husband – a skeleton I wanted to keep firmly locked away in the cupboard.

Or maybe it was because a woman’s first love always has an enduring place in her heart.

I guess it was a combination of all the above reasons.

The tourist bus reached my hotel at precisely 9.30 p.m. Before getting down from the bus, Dilip handed over the bag containing the infrared device, special cameras and all paraphernalia to a non-descript middle-aged man sitting right behind us.

“Who was that man?” I asked after the bus drove away with the man in it.

“Never mind,” Dilip said leading me into the foyer of the hotel.

“No,” I insisted. “I want to know.”

“It is sometimes important for an operative conducting surveillance to put himself, his own self, under observation,” Dilip said nonchalantly.

At first the sentence sounded innocuous, but gradually comprehension began to dawn on me, and as I realized the import of those words I experienced a chill of panic. All sorts of scary thoughts entered my brain. Photographs of Dilip and me.

Oh my God!

The man may even have bugged our conversation.

The possibilities were endless.

I looked at Dilip. Didn’t he have any scruples?

My impulse was to run to my room and lock myself up.

But when Dilip invited me to have dinner with him in the restaurant I knew I dared not refuse. I had no choice. Dilip now had me at his mercy. He had his manacles on me. The only way to escape Dilip’s clutches was to tell Girish everything.

But could I tell him everything?

Especially after today! I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine the consequences.

After dinner I invited Dilip to my room for a cup of coffee. I knew it was suicidal but I had decided to give Dilip whatever he wanted and get rid of him, out of my life – forever.

The moment we entered the room, the phone rang. It was for Dilip- a man’s voice – probably the same man sitting behind us in the bus.

Dilip took the receiver from my hands and spoke, “I told you not to ring up here……… What…? But how is that possible?……… Oh, my God! I am coming at once.”

“What happened?” I asked him.

“We got the wrong couple on the infrared camera in Lovers’ Park. Couldn’t you see properly?”

“No, it was dark and hazy,” I said. “I could see just blurred images.”

Instinctively I rushed along with Dilip to his office-cum-laboratory.

He emphatically told me not to come, but I did not listen. A strange irresistible inner force was propelling me.

I looked at the blurred images on the large workstation monitor. Then as Dilip kept zooming, again and again, enhancing the magnification and focus, the images started becoming clear, and as I watched something started happening inside me and I could sense my heartbeats rise.

Oh, My God! I couldn’t believe it! It was Nalini and Girish. Or Girish and Nalini. Whichever way you like it. It doesn’t matter. Or does it? Nalini, my darling elder sister – the very person instrumental in arranging my  marriage to Girish. And Girish – my beloved ‘faithful’ husband. Their expressions so confident, so happy, so carefree. So lovey-dovey. So sure they would never be found out. So convenient.
I wondered how long was this going on? Both of them living a lie and fooling a trusting and naive person like me.
Deep down I felt terribly betrayed.
As I thought about them, suddenly I felt as if I had been pole-axed, a sharp sensation drilling into my vitals, my stomach curdling as I threw up my dinner.
I washed up, sat down, and closed my eyes in silence.
When I opened my eyes I saw Dilip staring intently at me.

It was extraordinary how clear my mind became all of a sudden.
“Listen, Dilip,” I said emphatically, “I want a full-scale comprehensive surveillance. Two-way mirrors, bugs, photos, video, audio – the entire works. A no-holds barred investigation. And dig deep into the past. I want to know everything.”

“No, Vibha !” Dilip said. “I can’t do it.”

“You can’t do it or you won’t do it?” I asserted. “Listen, Dilip. You have to do it. I want you to do it.”

“Why, Vibha. Why?”

I smiled and said, “Dilip, remember what you said in the afternoon about your professional credo and motto: You never ask the question ‘why’. You just state your fee.”

He looked at me nonplussed, in silence.

I paused, and said, “So my dear Dilip. Don’t ask any questions. Just state your fee. And do a good job.”

“But, Vibha. What will you do with all this information?” Dilip protested.

“The possibilities are endless,” I said, almost licking my lips in anticipation, as I could feel the venom rising within me. “Yes indeed! Information is power, isn’t it? Once I have all the information, just imagine what all I can do. The possibilities are endless – aren’t they?”

“Yes,” he echoed, “The possibilities are endless.”

“We’ll meet tomorrow at the race course,” I said, intertwining my arm in his.

I am looking forward to an exciting day at the Race Course tomorrow – it is going to be a thrilling Derby.

THE DERBY

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

vikramkarve@sify.com

OFFICE WIFE

July 20, 2009

I WANT TO MARRY YOUR HUSBAND

[Fiction Short Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

One of my favourite short fiction stories guaranteed to drive away your Monday Morning Blues

“I want to marry your husband.”

“What? Are you mad or something?”

“No. I am not mad. Can’t you see? I am perfectly okay. I want to marry your husband. So I have come to ask you to please let him free…”

“I don’t want to talk to you. Please leave my office.”

“Come on Anu…”

“Anu? Listen Madam, my name is…”

“Anamika – Mrs. Anamika Prem Kumar, Senior Project Manager, IT whiz kid, ambitious, ruthless, careerist… I know everything about you…and don’t ‘madam’ me…call me Priti…that’s my name…Prem must have told you about me.”

“Priti?…never heard of you…I don’t know who you are…Prem’s told me nothing about you…he’s never even mentioned your name.”

“Funny, isn’t it? Think about it. I know everything about you but you know nothing about me. You see, your husband Prem tells me everything about you – each and every detail, he even shares your intimate secrets, but he doesn’t tell you about me – your darling husband hides his relationship with me from you!”

“Relationship? Intimate secrets? What nonsense…”

“Shall I tell you about your honeymoon…Things only you and Prem should know?”

“Who the hell do you think you are? Barging into my office unannounced…”

“Hey, I didn’t barge in. I sent you my visiting card, and you called me in, isn’t it? It’s all there on my card, my name, designation, the company I work for…Let’s say I am your husband’s colleague, his work-mate, his teammate, we almost share the same desk…”

Anamika looks at the card, picks up her cell-phone, but before she can dial Priti interrupts her, “You’re calling Prem? Don’t disturb him, Anu. Prem must be sleeping.”

“Sleeping? At eleven in the morning? He should be in office…”

“See, you don’t even know…”

“What?”

“Prem had his wisdom tooth extracted last evening…it was very very painful…Poor Prem…He was in such excruciating agony that I had to sit at his bedside the whole night…First thing in the morning I gave him a sedative and drove straight down to Pune to meet you.”

“You were with him the whole night?”

“No. No. It’s not what you think. We’re not having a physical affair – it’s purely platonic – maybe you can call it an emotional affair – at least till now – but it’s still a love affair, isn’t it?”

“Love? How can he love you? I am his wife!”

“Wife? Oh yes, you’re his legally wedded wife! But tell me Anu, where are you when he needs you..?”

“Needs me…?”

“See, you’re so busy out here in Pune chasing your career dreams that you don’t even know what he’s going through staying alone in Mumbai.”

“Of course I know. I speak to him on the mobile every day…”

“I know. Prem tells me all about it…and he also tells me how you bore him sick during your weekend rendezvous with your nauseating mask of fake love, he is fed up of your sugary sweet talk, your pretence, your ‘caring and sharing’ act…”

“That’s not true…we spend ‘Quality Time’ together…”

“Ha, Ha… ‘Quality Time’ indeed…once a week…it’s once a month now isn’t it…since you have started working on weekends to meet your deadlines…and long gaps when you go globetrotting on your projects…well you may be having your rare moments of ‘Quality Time’ with Prem, but me and Prem are spending plenty of ‘Quantity Time’ together…and that’s what really matters…”

“Listen Miss Priti…I’ve tolerated you long enough…I think it’s time you go now…I’ve work to do…And I am warning you…don’t try to steal my husband from me…”

“Steal your husband? There is no need for me to steal your husband…he is already mine…it is you who have thrown Prem into my arms then I am quite willing to have him be there…and hold onto him tight…”

The woman called Anu gets up and says, “I think it is time for you to go now.”

“I’ll tell Prem to get the papers ready. I think it’s best to get this over with as fast as possible.”

“Papers? What papers? I am not going to sign any papers. And I am warning you Miss…you just stay away from my husband…Good Bye!”

“Be reasonable, Anu…we are three persons in this marriage. That’s not good. There should be only two persons in a marriage, not a threesome. You are his paper wife, I am his office wife. Between the two of us I think I am more in tune with him, so I think it is you who will have to leave the threesome…Think about it…take your time…I am sure you will understand…” Priti says and leaves Anu’s office.

She doesn’t take the lift, but deliberately walks down the staircase, reflecting on her tête-à-tête with Anu, congratulating herself on a job well done.

She returns her visitor’s pass at the reception, walks past the foyer, crosses the road and reaches her car.

The moment Priti sits in her car she calls up her “office husband” Prem from her mobile.

“I spoke to her,” Priti says to Prem, the moment comes on line.

“I know. Anu rang up just now,” Prem says.

“So fast?”

“You really seem to have really rattled her. Anu’s coming down to Mumbai this evening after work. She’s taken a week’s leave. She wants to stay with me in Mumbai, talk things over. She was even asking about my wisdom tooth…she said she wanted to look after me!”

“Really?”

“Thanks, Priti. I think you’ve saved my marriage.”

“Come on Prem…there’s no ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ between friends.”

“Yes, Priti, you’re really my true friend, my best friend in the world!”

“Hey, don’t get senti…and by the way…if she doesn’t turn up…gives you a ditch…remember I’m always there for you…but I’m sure she’ll come and everything will work out for you two.”

“I hope so.”

“I’m sure of it…and now I am going to make myself scarce for a few days…spend some time with my sister in Pune…then we’ll meet at the office and talk…bye.”

“Bye,” Prem says and he feels a flood of love, a unique affection, a sort of warm gratitude for Priti.

Meanwhile, Anu aka Mrs. Anamika Prem Kumar leaves her office and walks across to the cabin of her “office husband” and closes the door.

“You won’t believe it,” she laughs, “dodo is having an affair!”

“Your husband…affair?” the man says incredulous.

“The female was here…Priti…works in Prem’s office…she came here all the way from Mumbai,” Anu says, and then Anu tells her companion all about it.

“Just imagine, Anu! You were almost going to tell him about us…and you were feeling so guilty…now what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to Mumbai…I’ll throw a tantrum…create a ruckus…accuse him…tell him I want out…it’s better he has the guilt conscience, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” the man says, “it is much better he has the guilty conscience.”

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

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