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"Why didn't you tell me?" Trishul finally asked, taking Anit's hands in his own.
Oh, he wanted to wrap his arms around the man and pull him close... kiss him once more... make all the hurt, all the terrible things that had happened, go away.
It had been such a long while... a whole damned week... and yet, it seemed life a lifetime away -- It was a Saturday when Dash had found Anit in the woods... and it had been another Saturday, two weeks later, when he had vanished. And now, exactly a week later, they were meeting again, halfway across the globe, in Interlaken... in Marius' cellar!
As promised, Marius had brought Anit along that Friday morning... but Gilberto had come too, insistent... and was adamant that he too be allowed to accompany Herr Uberoi to the cellar. But Marius had been firm: 'This isn't some fairground for any and everyone to barge in,' he had waved his hands in righteous indignation, 'you wait for Herr Uberoi in my office, and after he's made his decision he'll join you there!'
Trishul had been waiting since ten in the morning, waiting for Rach, um Anit... and as Marius led him in, leaving them alone... a whole range of emotions coursed through him... wanting to rush forward and embrace him... forget everything that had happened, forget his walking away without even a single word... and, there were all those questions - why did he lie, why did he leave... and, why did he call, especially after he'd chosen to leave?!
But Anit hadn't given him the opportunity, to ask all those questions, coming forward and apologising instead, narrating his story...
Trishul stared on in disbelief... shocked and horrified... all the hurt, all the slight that he had felt... every single doubt that he had entertained, vanishing instantly, and he reached out, taking Anit's hands... asking just one question: "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Trishul..." Anit murmured, "I'm so sorry... I really am... but I was scared... didn't know what to think, who to trust. I didn't know who they were, or why they had taken me... and I didn't know if you too belonged to that same gang, or maybe another one. And later, once I realised... I was afraid... afraid of what you might think, how you'd feel... like, maybe I was some crank, lying about my name... making up wild tales. That I'd disgust you... turn you off... and I didn't want that to happen!"
"That would never happen..." Trishul said, caressing Anit's face, "I would never turn away!"
"I wanted to tell you, I really did... but with each passing day it somehow got more and more difficult... and I just couldn't," Anit responded with a wan smile, "I didn't know where to begin, or how to begin... and yes, I don't enjoy talking about my family... I'm ashamed... of the things they've done... the past..."
"The past doesn't matter to me, and neither does your father or brother," Trishul answered, still caressing his face. "So, was that why you left? Or, was it because you were reluctant to meet my family? You could have told me, I'd never force you!"
"I didn't leave, I would never..." Anit shook his head letting out a sigh, "My father had me picked up."
Ranjeet had thought that the ransom call that Friday afternoon was some crank call... after all, Amit wasn't visiting Mumbai... he was in London, and they had just spoken, barely a few mintues earlier. And as for his trip to India, it wasn't even finalised. Besides, no one, not even the staff at the office, knew about it!
But the men were persistent... calling repeatedly... and finally Ranjeet had enough of their pestering and told them to go, take a hike... though not exactly in such polite terms!
Later, much later that night, a disturbing thought came to him... just a hunch... and he called Rachna. It was then that he learnt about Anit's trip to India... about his proposed trek to the Himalayas. Rachna mentioning that he might be unreachable since there would be no connectivity in those remote areas!
Ranjeet immediately guessed what might have happened and called up an old 'friend' from his earlier hawala days, in Mumbai and gave him the telephone number that the calls were made from... asking him to make discreet enquiries, without giving away that he was interested in the person or persons... and also informed him that Gilberto would be reaching Mumbai... to help him track the men down.
Gilberto was in Mumbai by Saturday afternoon, and was informed that the men they were interested in had been traced... and they seemed very keen on a certain guesthouse in Colaba... keeping a close watch over the place since early morning...
Gilberto went right in and asked for Anit Uberoi... and the lady at the desk informed him that Mr. Uberoi had indeed checked in, Wednesday morning, had paid in advance for two weeks, mentioning that he might go treking and would like to keep the room. Then he had left later that night, and hadn't returned!
Gilberto made his report to Ranjeet and dug in - checking into the same guesthouse and waiting...
Meanwhile, the calls stopped - the men never called after that Friday night!
It was totally weird... they claimed they had Amit, and yet, after those half a dozen calls, they made no further attempt to contact Ranjeet... and their keen interest in the guesthouse, where Anit had checked in, made Ranjeet wonder if indeed they had taken Anit...
Yes, they must have spotted him, and wrongly assumed that it was Amit... but the claim of having kidnapped him, that surely was a bluff!
Ranjeet tried calling Anit, but all calls to his cell were immediately transferred to his voicemail... and that made him absolutely certain that his deductions about the alleged kidnap had been correct, and that Anit was probably, right at that moment, camping somewhere in the Himalayas!
Ranjeet's old friend meanwhile made further enquiries and called him Sunday evening...
"Have news..." he said with a mirthful chortle, "the grapevines here are buzzing with the news that Amit is in town, visiting..."
"That's nonsense!" Ranjeet responded.
"Well, that number you gave..." the friend continued, mentioning the name of a certain hawala syndicate, informing him that they seemed pretty upset about something, tense and jittery... the men on the run, and the top bosses all gone underground. "No one seem to know the details, but two of their most trusted henchmen are in hospital with knife injuries... and the men watching the guesthouse have vanished!"
"So, is he?" the friend finally asked with a knowing chuckle.
"What?!" Ranjeet questioned.
"Amit, is he in town?"
"NO!" Ranjeet snapped.
"Whatever you say," sighed the old friend, "but he sure will make you proud!"
Well, things now made a bit more sense... this was the same gang that he had successfully deracinated when they tried to encroach upon his turf, had two of their men convicted and hanged... and they had sworn vengence!
So, they must have spotted Anit and tried to pick him up... had failed, and once they saw Gilberto, had gone into hiding fearing retaliation!
Good, now Gilberto simply needed to trace Anit... make enquries with the airlines, or the railways and find out where he went...
But even after a whole week of enquiry, Gilberto had nothing... absolutely no news about where Anit might be. After the airlines and railways, he had been to all the major tour operators in town, and every major cab service... but no one had heard of Anit Uberoi!
Then, after two weeks of vigil, Gilberto spotted Anit walking into the lobby that fateful Saturday morning...
He immediately called Ranjeet, and went straight to Anit's room.
Anit was floating on air... smiling to himself as he walked in...
God, even in his wildest dreams Anit had never imagined meeting someone like Trishul... and now, he was actually with such a person... crazy in love...
'Don't get lost!' - Anit remembered the parting shot and laughed silently. Gosh, Trishul was so incredibly cute with his concerns!
And he was about to checkout and join him...
Meet his family that same evening... get to know everyone... and then, they'd go back to the vineyard the next day...
Well, he didn't know where all this would lead to... but then, why bother about something you didn't know... why not simply enjoy the moment!
Lost in his happy thoughts, Anit hadn't seen Gilberto... and when the knock came and he opened the door, it was like seeing a ghost... a living nightmare staring him in the face!
He instantly knew that his father had sent Gilberto... and as always, the mere thought froze him.
"Pack and check out," the man said, "Amit is on his way and should be here later this afternoon."
Amit was furious, ranting and raving about Anit letting their father down... allowing his enemies to threaten and bully him!
And how dare he travel outside Europe without dad's permission or knowledge, huh?!
"How could you?!" he yelled, "And now, you're going straight to Dubai, dad wants to talk to you."
Gilberto escorted him to the Mumbai airport, and by Saturday evening they were in Dubai... Anit silent as his father raged and thundered...
But somehow Anit wasn't scared of his father, or Amit, any longer... simply thinking of Trishul... worrying and wondering what Trishul might be thinking... how upset he must be once he discovered that Anit was gone. And he didn't even have his real name! Suddenly feeling very guilty about it.
If only he could call... tell him that he was Anit, and not Rachit... was in Dubai - safe, but unable to return. Helpless since he had no money, and his papers and passport was with his dad!
"Now, you'll go back to Interlaken, and stay there till I've spoken to your mother," Ranjeet finally pronounced, turning to Gilberto and instructing, "Take him home, and keep him there... and no one, absolutely no one is to know that it's Anit!" adding, "Once home, hand over his papers and passport to the pilot. He won't be needing them, not any more... I'll keep them."
Anit spent the whole of Sunday locked in a room at his father's Dubai mansion... his only possession - Trishul's business card with his number. But he had no way of contacting him, for though he looked around, there wasn't a phone in the room. He even tried to sneak out, but the door was locked!
Back at the mansion, Gilberto led him to Amit's suite of rooms, not the room he used when visiting... and informed him that he was NOT to leave the room without him!
The man then went around removing all the telephone sets in the rooms, and disabling the internet... making Anit almost laugh despite the situation - what would he do with a net connection? He didn't even have a gadget - net enabled or otherwise!
So, there he was, a prisoner in his own father's home... with no access to the outside world... and no papers, documents or passport! Just that single card - Trishul's business card - that he had managed to retain.
It was miserable, and he was sick... cooped up in that room and with nothing to do. The staff mostly left him alone, though he did notice the curious glances. But would any of them help him? After all, he never stayed there, and their loyalty surely would be to Ranjeet...
He had tried the doors on several occasion and found them to be locked.
And then, Wednesday night... it must have been well past ten... Anit once more tried the door, and surprisingly, it opened!
He cautiously peered around - there was no one - and slowly crept out...
Anit went down the long passage... searching... and on the landing at the end of the passage, on the ornate walnut writing desk, he found what he was looking for - a telephone!
Moving silently, he picked up the handset, quickly dialling Trishul's number... and after a few breathless seconds, it began to ring...
Anit prayed, wishing Trishul would answer... yes, it must be very late in India, um, very early morning... but still... and then, on the fifth ring he heard the voice: 'Hello?'
"Trishul..." he began, and at that moment felt the hand on his shoulder...
He tried to shake it off, but Gilberto grabbed the cord and yanked it off the wall socket.
"Who are you calling?" he demanded.
"That's none of your business," Anit replied, taking Gilberto by surprise
Yes, he had enough of being fearful and scared... and like the blow in the woods that had filled him with courage and helped him escape, the thoughts of Trishul, and the sound of his voice now gave him strength.
"Father asked you to keep me here, keep an eye on me," he said, "so, do just that and don't you dare exceed your brief!" leaving Gilberto staring, slack-jawed, as he stalked off, back to Amit's room.
'FUCK!' he cursed silently as he closed and bolted the door behind him, it was so bloody frustrating... he had his one chance, and he blew it... and now, he was sure, Gilberto would remove that instrument too... and there was no way he could contact anyone... not even his mother... tell her, inform her that he was a captive in his father's mansion in Interlaken!
... to be continued
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