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The men had patiently sat outside the guesthouse the whole morning, and then followed him when Anit went out later that afternoon... wondering what the young man was up to... loitering around Colaba like a backpacker... alone?
Though pleased (for that only made their job that much easier), they were also confused - especially after Dubai repeatedly confirmed that his companions and bodyguards had accompanied him!
So, where were those men?
They debated on whether to pick him up immediately, before the men arrived (it sure would make their task not only more difficult, but also a lot messy once they joined him)... but decided that they simply couldn't risk it - the Causeway and Apollo Bunder, especially along the Taj and Gateway stretch, was, as usual, teeming with people. And, after the horrible terrorist attack of 2008, was also crawling with security men; the whole damned area covered with strategically placed cameras!
After dinner, when Anit went back to the Gateway, the men decided that it was time to act... they simply couldn't wait any longer, miss the opportunity - they'd grab him when he returned to the guesthouse... it was an ideal location, dark under those huge trees, and without any pedestrian at that hour!
Unaware of the men, or their nefarious scheme, Anit simply provided them with an even better opportunity when he decided to take a walk along Apollo Bunder... right up to the lonely stretch of road where there was no one at that time of night... and so much more darker.
The car hurtled along the steep Ghat road at an incredible speed, recklessly swerving around the sharp bends as the men hurried towards their secret seaside hideout. It hadn't been used for years now, neglected, but not forgotten... and it was the perfect place - far from all habitation, and deep in the woods. No one would ever guess, and no matter what, no one would hear him even if he screamed his head off.
The young man had been surprisingly easy to take, and the sharp whack on his head had knocked him out cold. They'd lock him up and leave him there... and then let Ranjeet sweat it out for a day or two before they made the call... inform the bastard that they had his precious son.
Oh, it would be their moment of victory... to hear the man cower and beg... and then, only then, would they negotiate... make that arrogant bastard pay for what he had done... all those years ago!
Anit blinked open his eyes and groaned... God, his head was throbbing, and his body ached all over... And the bed too felt hard and rough.
And as he tried to move, get into a more comfortable position, he realised that he couldn't... his hands and feet were bound!
He was lying on the bare ground... and the room, or whatever it was, was pitch-dark... with a musty smell hanging in the stale air like a fog.
He lay silent for a moment, trying to make sense of where he was, when slowly it all came back to him - his walking away from the Gateway... those two men, grabbing and shoving him into the car... speeding away... and then, everything was a total blank.
So, was it last evening? And was it still night, or was it morning?
Anit couldn't say for sure since there was total silence... not a sound from anywhere. And the darkness - an absolute pitch-black darkness!
Yes, he could blink, and that meant he wasn't blindfolded... and though he blinked rapidly several times, and closed his eyes tight before reopening them, he still couldn't see a thing!
So, who were those men, and what did they want from him? And how long had he been here - a night? or, was it longer?!
Anit tried to sit up, or at least prop himself up... but no matter what he did, how hard he struggled, he simply couldn't make it... and there was nothing close by that he could use as a support.
He must have lain there for hours, suddenly realising how hungry he was... and thirsty... when he became aware of a very slight glow - not a point or shaft of light, not rays... but a glow... and as he stared hard into the blackness around him, he gradually discerned a faint line of lesser darkness at his eye level...
He wondered, and then quickly realised that since he was on the ground, the faint line in the gloom must be the gap between floor and door!
He slowly dragged himself towards it, and once he reached it, he got himself to a sitting position taking the support of the cold, stone wall.
Yes, it was indeed a door - a solid metal door... and as he felt it with his back and arms, he sensed the raised ridges of the frame...
An idea came to him, and he tried to listen, calling out softly... to make sure if there was anyone outside - a guard perhaps. But there was nothing to listen to... and his calls were answered with complete silence...
There was no one... and so, he could try out his plan!
Edging himself closer, he began to rub his wrists along the raised edge of the frame... up and down, up and down... taking a break whenever it got too tiring, and then rubbing again...
It was exhausting... and only made him more thirsty, but he went on and on, labouring for hours with short breaks... and finally, long after the glow that he had perceived began to fade once more, Anit felt the bond loosen.
Encouraged, he rubbed harder... wondering how much time he had before the men returned. He was tired, damp and cold... and terribly thirsty... and hungry too... but he wanted his hands free before they came back...
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to him, he felt something give way... and he was able to wiggle and move his hands and wrists. He renewed his effort and soon worked his hands completely free!
He fell sideways, totally drained, panting as he rubbed his aching wrists... slowly massaging his arms and elbows.
It was dark inside the room once more... that faint glow that had guided him to the door now gone.
So, he deduced, it must be night again... and that would mean he had been working at his bonds for a whole day!
He sat up and slowly began working on the knots that bound his feet... It was a frustrating task in the blinding darkness, the bonds very secure... but gradually he managed to work them out and was soon free...
He sat for a while and then stood up... quickly reaching for the wall as the floor under him seemed to give way... feeling faint as the blood drained out and flowed down to his legs. He stood still, slumped against the wall for a long moment, till the feeling passed... and then tried the door...
It was heavy, and solid... and nothing could budge it!
Finally giving up, Anit walked around the whole room with the wall to guide him - it was a sealed box... just rough, cold walls, and nothing else - no windows and no other doors.
There was no way that he could get out!
He sat down with a sigh, his back against the door... his mind once more wondering - Who? Why? What was this all about?!
Suddenly he remembered his phone... of course, how stupid of him... now that his hands were free, he could make a call... yes, call the guesthouse... or, no... call his mother... and she would get in touch with the authorities... and his phone's GPS would help them track him to this infernal place!
He reached into his jeans pocket... and then tried the other one before gasping - his wallet and mobile was gone!
The men must have taken them, he thought, and then tried to remember... He had left his passport, papers and credit card locked up in the room, so, it was just some cash, and the phone... his documents were safe!
It was Friday evening when the men finally returned... furious at the failure of their plot...
All their plans... all their hope of finally crushing that arrogant bastard, had come to nothing... Zilch!
And to think, Amit was his own son!!!
Ranjeet simply refused to listen... or talk... declining to even acknowledge that his son was missing!
Well, if it was a bluff, then he'd regret it all his life. They'd make him really sorry for his intransigence... they'd 'gift' him the battered and bruise body of his dead son!
Maybe then, only then, would he realise that they had meant business... that they weren't playing games.
And also, it would be sweet revenge...
The two young men had been their best - brave and loyal... and Ranjeet very succesfully managed to frame them! He had the drugs cleverly planted, and then tipped off the authorities in the UAE... providing them with false evidence that got the men - mere boys! - convicted... and sentenced to death!
And for what? Simply because they declined Ranjeet's offer to switch sides... refused to betray their boss!
And now, he had cleaned up his act, given up his hawala trade and become 'respectable' - Hah!
Yes, they'd teach him a lesson he'd never forget!
They'd first beat up that boy black-and-blue... break every bone in his miserable body... beat him till he was begging for mercy.
Oh, no, they wouldn't let him pass out, or die too easily - they were trained men and knew how to do their job. They'd beat him with their bare fists till he was a mere pulp of human flesh and bones, but fully awake and conscious. And then, only then, would they finally release him of his suffering... end his pitiable life!
Later, they'd make sure that the body was recovered by Ranjeet's stooges... and sent back to him!
Anit lay curled near the door... cold and weak with thirst and hunger.
It must have been two days now, Anit thought, and yet, no one had come... and as he lay, he heard a faint sound... an indistinct rustle...
With great effort he sat up and listened... footsteps... and as they drew nearer, he crawled into the darkest corner of the room... instinctively hiding his free hands behind his back and curling his feet under him.
He heard the door being unlocked... and as he looked up, he saw it open and two men enter the room.
They paused for a moment, letting their eyes adjust to the gloom within... and then, without a word, pounced on him... grabbing his arms as they roughly pulled him up... showering him with savage blows and kicks!
Taken aback at the suddenness of the attack, Anit momentarily wondered who the men were, and what they wanted - they hadn't asked for anything, hadn't demanded anything... then why the violent assault? Why were they after his blood?!
Already weakened by his two days of forced starvation, Anit reeled under the brutal onslaught... making a desperate attempt to get away from the crazed men and falling... quickly curling into the foetal position as he feebly tried to ward off the blows and kicks with his hands...
Realising that their prisoner had managed to free himself, both men roared... kicking him with a renewed viciousness as they pulled him back on his feet... and Anit felt a searing pain rip through the left side of his face as the large ring of one man caught him under the left ear, leaving a deep and open gash.
Despite the numbing weakness, as if galvanised by the intensity of the pain, Anit lurched out at them... flailing his arms as he swung wildly... a couple blows making sharp contact!
Both men sprang back, surprised, and Anit, in desperation, threw himself at the nearest man, quickly pinning him against the wall and bringing up his knee between the parted thighs...
The man howled in pain, going limp as his body sagged, but Anit held him against the wall... and brought up his knee once more.
Outraged at Anit's assault on his partner, the second man whipped out a knife... the blade glinting evilly in the fast fading light of the day as he advanced menacingly towards the two struggling forms...
This was it, this was the moment, Anit thought, it was time to flee - he'd either make it and live... or he'd perish!
Fear endows even the meekest with an astonishing degree of courage and strength... tapping on some subconscious, hidden reservoir of power that probably lies concealed in every being... and Anit felt it surge through him as he watched the man with the knife advance...
With a startling rush of vigour that amazed him, he gripped the first man tighter and swung around, twisting his arms with savage ferocity, and as the second man came closer, shoved the groaning man at the knife-wielder with all his might...
The man stumbled forward... and immediately Anit heard the agonised grunt followed by the piercing scream of pain as the two goons went sprawling down...
But he didn't wait to listen or see... quickly stumbling towards the open door and rushing out.
He pulled it behind him and latched it before running...
He had no clue as to where he was... and no idea which way to go... he simply ran blindly as he tried to get away from that dreadful place and those men... Panting as he floundered over the rocky, uneven ground in the darkness... the low, scraggy branches of the stunted trees, and the sharp thorns of the undergrowth tearing at him... shredding his clothes.
He ran for over an hour, or was it two... tripping and falling... crawling and then getting up... till his foot slipped into a fissure in the ground and he cried out at the jarring shock of pain that ran up his right leg... stumbling forward as he keeled over the edge and went hurling down...
Everything mercifully going black as his exhausted body finally gave up and he lost consciousness...
... to be continued
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