"Shit..." cursed Mayank, just as Ali entered the room..."why the hell doesn't he answer?!"
XV. Terror Strikes
They had returned to Mayank's cottage with Harsh's belongings - the teen devasted by his ruined board; and Mayank terrified by the event, yet unable, or unwilling, to share his fears. Both subdued and quiet as they showered and changed... silent, as they climbed in bed, both in pajamas for the first time; neither in the right frame of mind to indulge or enjoy. Mayank wrapping his arms around Harsh, pulling him close... and as Harsh nuzzled, Mayank held him tight, kissing his forehead, comforting him... till finally, the boy had slept...
But Mayank lay awake, the incident leaving him jittery, making it impossible for him to relax or sleep even after the tiring trek, his hands gently stroking and caressing the sleeping boy... And finally it was early morning when he had dozed off, both waking up late... and then had to rush as he dropped Harsh off at his college, before returning home to get ready for office. He had clearly instructed the teen not to venture out of the college building, "I'll pick you up after class," he had told Harsh, "just remain inside." And now, he had been trying to reach him for the past fifteen minutes, to find out if classes were over and if he should go and pick him up, and though the phone kept ringing, Harsh wasn't answering it!
"Harsh," Mayank replied, "he's refuses to answer the call!"
"Relax dude, he must be in class, busy or something."
"Well, his class should have been over at noon, besides, if he does have any extra class, he can at least send an SMS letting me know that he's busy and will call back later!"
"Listen, this is a serious matter," said Ali, "the calls were okay, maybe pranks, but the break-in, about which you never told me, and yesterday's events are real serious stuff; I honestly feel that you should report it to the police..."
"What will the police do, huh? Ask a lot of silly and irrelevant questions and then go back to doing their own stuff," snapped Mayank, "besides, what do we say? Do I mention the calls, and how do I explain them?"
Ali shrugged, "I don't know dude, but something needs to be done and we surely need help..." and then after a pause added, "God forbid, if things take a more serious turn, what do we do? Isn't it better to seek help and advice, from a more competent authority?"
"Maybe, but I want to wait a while longer," replied Mayank, once more trying Harsh's number, "but somehow I hate getting too many people into this, I hate the questions that will be asked... I hate to answer them!"
"Where are you off to?" he asked in surprise as Mayank jumped up and grabbed the car keys.
"To the campus, I need to find out, need to talk to him..." replied Mayank as he reached for the door knob.
"I'm coming..." called Ali, running after him.
They drove down to the college and parking the car ran up the steps. They didn't see a single student outside, nor on the steps, and the only person they spotted was the bored guard lounging near the entrance to the main building. "The boys have left," he informed them, shaking his head when asked if some may still be inside.
Walking down the deserted hallway, wondering where to go, or who to ask, they saw a group of young students walking along the upper floor balcony, "Hey, that's Ashish, the guy we saw with Harsh at the pub that day," Ali suddenly grabbed Mayank's arm, "let's ask him..."
"Hey, Ashish," he called, making the young man pause and look down. He grinned once he spotted Ali and came down, "Er, is Harsh around?" Ali asked.
Ashish gave Mayank a once over and then looked back at Ali, "No clue," he shrugged, eyes back, watching Mayank.
"Like, did he leave?" asked Mayank, desperate.
Ashish shrugged, "Well, he did come down after class, but I had to go to the library and..."
"Um, is Peter there?" Mayank asked again, suddenly remembering Harsh mentioning him, about going shopping.
"Yes, he's at the library..." Ashish replied, "What's this all about?"
"Um, nothing," replied Ali, "could you please call Peter, or are we allowed to go to the library?"
"Nah, you can't go there," Ashish shook his head, "you stay here, I'll go, get Peter."
He ran off, up the stairs, and the two men waited, Mayank pacing, looking up every few seconds. "Relax," Ali whispered, "getting yourself worked up won't help!"
A couple of minutes later they saw Ashish return, another boy in tow, "Well, this is Peter," he announced.
"Um, Peter, you have any idea where Harsh is?" Mayank asked the startled teen.
Peter stared back, looking at both men and then back at Ashish before shaking his head, "Well, we came down together," he said, "and he mentioned that he had to wait for a friend, so we went out and stood near the entrance when this guy called him... Harsh seemed pleased and ran down, they spoke for a moment and then Harsh waved back at me and they left in a cab."
"A cab?" asked Mayank, surprised, wondering. "Did he... did he mention where?"
"I told you, I was still at the top, he ran down to greet this person..."
"Do you know him, seen him before?"
"No," came the reply, "but probably it must have been Mayank, Harsh's surf buddy, a guy he keeps mentioning, the same guy who was supposed to pick him up... What's all this about, and who are you?"
"Well, this is Mayank," Ali introduced, "and he was supposed to meet Harsh after class. And I'm Ali, a friend of both of them, and Ashish here."
Ashish nodded as Peter looked at him... before giving Mayank another once-over, the lips curled in a knowing smile.
"Is something wrong?" asked Peter, concerned.
"Nah, thanks Peter," said Mayank and after a brief pause asked, "can you, um, can you describe this guy?"
"Er, I'm not good at such stuff," replied the boy, hesitant, "um, he was like tall, very tall and... about your age; clean shaven, short hair, and was wearing blue jeans and a white tee!"
"Well, thanks," said Mayank, wondering if that sort of description could offer any help.
"What's the matter?" asked Ashish.
"Well, Harsh was supposed to meet Mayank after class, and he isn't here," answered Ali, "and his phone, er, isn't... um, working, and so, Mayank is worried. Now you two run along and have a lovely day!"
Both quickly walked out and ran down the steps to the car, Mayank once more trying Harsh's number. "God," he exclaimed in astonishment, staring at Ali, "it's switched off now!"
"Switched off?!" asked Ali in surprise, "Now what?"
"Check his place," answered Mayank starting the car.
The house stood silent and empty, the gate closed. They got down and went up to Harsh's room on the top floor. The door was locked, just as they had left it the previous night...
"Mayank," Ali said as they walked down, "my uncle stays down this lane, just two houses away... maybe we could ask him, you know, if he knows Harsh, has seen him today..." already aware how ridiculous that sounded. "Well," he finally suggested after a sigh, "could be, he went home, you know, some urgent message..."
"Fine, he got a call and left for Gokarna," shot Mayank, "but what stopped him from informing me, huh?"
"Mayank, dude, he must have been upset, you know, and probably rushed, packing and getting the ticket and stuff..." Ali replied, "He'll call once he can, as soon as he can!"
"Okay, let's accept your version for a moment," answered Mayank, looking at Ali, "someone from home comes and picks him up, it's urgent and he has to leave, right? He wouldn't need to book a passage or buy tickets, since this guy who picked him up, came in a cab... He didn't pack or pick up his clothes, because all his stuffs at my place... Okay, he had to rush, fine, but what stops him from messaging me, huh? It escaped his mind in his hurry, or distress, or whatever, but why not answer my calls, and, why switch off the phone?!"
Monday evening had been spent continuously trying Harsh's number, and shuttling between the cottage and the rented room... and by Tuesday afternoon, Mayank was desperate, unable to concentrate on anything, totally raddled. He had already been to the house, twice, and also visited the college, once... but there was no Harsh, and no one had seen the boy. Finally he had gone to his boss and taken the next four days off, not sure what he'd do, yet determined to track the boy down... find out what was going on.
"What's the plan?" Ali asked as they returned to Mayank's room.
"By tomorrow morning if he doesn't get back or answer the phone, I'm leaving for Gokarna..." he announced.
"Okay, why don't you call his home and find out first..." suggested Kajol.
"I don't have his home number..."
"Do you have the address then?" asked Milind, who had been with them since afternoon, on Kajol's request.
Mayank shook his head
"Then how will your going to Gokarna help?" asked Kajol.
"I don't know, but I need to go, I'm sure I can trace out his family there, it's a very small town after all..." Mayank mumbled.
"I'll still say that it's a better idea to go to the police now," suggested Ali.
"I too think that's a good idea, Mayank," said Milind, "you do need to tell the police..."
"What do I tell them?" questioned Mayank, his voice irritable, "and what answers do I give them when they ask those idiotic questions, huh? Like, are you related, and if not, how do you know him, where are his parents and why are you so fucking concerned?" for once ignoring the presence of a lady and using an expletive.
"Well, you have to tell them, tell them about the calls, the break-in and about the surfboard..." replied Milind.
"What's troubling you, buddy?" asked Kajol in exasperation, "how long do you think you can hide facts, huh? And if tomorrow, you find out he hasn't returned home, obviously his parents will want to know, and then they'll go to the police and a few enquiries at the college will bring them to your doorstep, can you still avoid those very same questions, huh? And think, then it will be more serious, they will want to know why you didn't approach them once you knew Harsh was missing, or that you had already been threatened..."
"Listen, Mayank," said Milind, "my brother, Nalin, is with the police force, if you want we can call him over and talk to him... you know, like not to the police, officially, but ask him, take his view..."
"I don't know..." Mayank answered, exhausted.
"Why this reluctance, what are you afraid of, buddy," shot Kajol, "that people will find out about you, huh?"
"Damn, I don't care about anyone finding out anything, and most people, who know me, already know about me!" snapped Mayank, his eyes furious, "but yes, I don't want to..." he stuttered, "like, I can't do it to Harsh, besides, he isn't there to decide if he wants people to know..."
"Listen buddy, if things do get beyond a certain point, then you'll have no control over it, and whether Harsh is there or not, things will come out and people will know..." Ali said softly, passing his arm around the hunched shoulders, "there will be questions..."
"I don't know," mumbled Mayank, defeated, "I just don't want to put him in any sort of trouble..."
"You may have already put him in trouble..." Kajol whispered, "We need help!"
"I'm really disappointed Mayank," Nalin stated, "and surprised by your total immature behaviour. Your irresponsible act may have actually put your young friend into a dangerous situation. I'm also disappointed with you three," he said looking at the other, "especially you, Kajol, why didn't you come to me? Harsh is also your friend, right?"
"I... how could I if Mayank didn't agree?" she defended herself, "besides, I wasn't even aware of the break-in, or the surfboard episode."
"Well," sighed Nalin, "whatever, now it's too late in the evening, nothing much can be done unless Harsh or someone else gets in touch with you. If anyone calls, or Harsh turns up, please, do let me know, no matter how late. Tomorrow morning I'll go to the college and meet the principal, get Harsh's home number and address. I'll call his home... and earnestly hope that he is there, and then we'll take it from there."
"But, let me make one thing clear..." he added after a brief pause and a shrug, "if, and I repeat, if Harsh hasn't gone home, then my involvement needs to become official and you will then have to report him missing at the police station."
Mayank started back at him, "And... and what will you tell his parents?"
"Relax," Nalin smiled at him, "I'm a police officer, and I know how to handle such situations. I'm sure we'll find him there."
The three nodded as Mayank kept staring, woebegone...
Mayank felt the warmth of the body as Harsh snuggled close, wrapping his upper arm around him... He smiled as he slowly awoke, relishing the limp weight against his back... becoming aware of the rigid heat pressing against his buttocks.
The gentle breathing told him that the boy was still asleep, and so, the boner must be one of those numerous, involuntary nightly erections! He smiled again as he slowly, gently shifted his body, turning around, facing the boy, his hand reaching between the teen thighs, petting the hardness as his mouth covering the parted lips...
Harsh stirred sleepily, his lips working against Mayank's... the limp arm suddenly awake as fingers gripped his shoulder, moaning softly...
Mayank hugged him tighter and soon they rolled over, Harsh on top... now fully awake and grinning down at him, the teen hips already swaying in joyous anticipation... the flexing column blindly jabbing away, searching for the entrance.
Reaching lower and taking hold, Mayank guided it... gasping as Harsh shoved in with a powerful thrust... and suddenly with a start Mayank sat up, letting out a strangled cry as he realised that he was alone... the room dark and silent.
"Mayank, is everything okay," he heard Ali call from the living room where he had camped for the night, refusing to leave Mayank alone after Kajol and Milind had departed.
"It's... it's okay," Mayank called back.
"Get some sleep, buddy," Ali said, as Mayank lay back... feeling miserable, wondering if he had indeed made the right choices by keeping the calls a secret, by not reporting the break-in... not seeking help when there was time...
Ali had called in and taken the day off and around noon left for Nalin's office, having received an urgent call from him. "Milind will be here," Nalin had said, "and no need to bring Mayank along."
"Well, Harsh hasn't gone home and no one from Gokarna visited him..." Nalin informed the two.
"Then?" Ali asked, real worried, realising the seriousness of the situation.
"Hmm, since Harsh hasn't got in touch yet, and now that his mobile is switched off, we can only guess..." replied Nalin, "but I think it is time to make an official report, so, take Mayank to the local police station and file it... I'll personally look into the matter and handle the case."
"What did his parents' say; didn't they ask why you were calling?" Ali asked after a while.
Nalin shook his head, "No point in getting them worried unnecessarily," he replied, "they still don't know that he is missing... but maybe another day, and after that they'll start to worry, especially since they can't contact him over the phone."
Ali and Milind nodded solemnly.
"Now, something on the positive side," he added, making Ali sit up, "I've traced all the cabbies that picked up passengers near the arts college around noon... There were a total of five pickups, and since I hadn't given out any details, my men couldn't question them," Nalin informed. "Three of those drivers are in town, and they have been asked to report here, I'll personally interview them later in the afternoon, and hope one of them will turn out to be the man we're looking for. Else, we'll have to wait till tomorrow evening, when the other two men return from their trip to Mumbai!"
"I also made a few enquiries about Lluis, and Ajay," Nalin added, tapping a file on his table, "nothing much. Unfortunately, this whole affair still being `unofficial', I can't pick them up for questioning without something more concrete, or a formal complaint... So, your filing a missing-person report at the station is absolutely vital..."
Ali nodded again, both slowly getting up and leaving the room.
a story by outlaw
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