This story contain no graphic scenes of sex
This story contain no graphic scenes of sex


TUM   BIN...
[ Without You... ]

Part Nine

Aahan snuggled closer, moaning softly as he buried his face between Neeladri's shoulders, his arm thrown over... their naked body pressed tight... Aahan's morning hardness fiery against the small of his back... flexing tantalizingly.

Aahan was still sleeping, the breathing gentle... but Neeladri was awake and had been so for a while now, but didn't want to move, wanting to enjoy the closeness... relish the moment...

It was the 8th, and they would be leaving for Pune that evening, after he got back from work... and who knew what would happen next...

The week had been amazing, and for a few selfish moments Neeladri had had his doubts... loath to let go... reluctant to keep his promise and make the trip. He was tempted to abandon the plan, not go anywhere and stay put. Aahan was happy, and he was happy too... then why complicate matters?!

Yes, that would be terrific...

But when Aahan recovered, got his memory back, what then? Would he still want to be with Neeladri? Would he even remember these few amnesia intoxicated months? And if he did remember, what would he think of Neeladri, about what the doctor had done to him?!

No, they'd go to Pune as planned... besides, it would be easier to say 'good-bye' now... let go while it was still young, rather than later... It would be more painful then!

A trekker's paradise, the area around Pune was replete with rugged ridges and towering cliffs... scattered with amazing trails, and the ancient trade-routes. The hillside dotted with rock-cut cave complexes and medieval forts perched precariously atop the most inaccessible crests. And though he had never been to any of these places before, not being a trekker himself, he'd heard enough about it from friends.

He had also done his own bit of 'research' on the net, and asked around a few online trekkers' forums too!

His tentative plan was to leave for Pune by the night train and reach there the next morning, freshen up and leave for the Karla circuit after breakfast, hike up the hills and visit the caves at Karla, Bhaja and Bhedsa and then return to Pune. Leave for the Bhimshankar Sanctuary the next morning and finally do Junnar on Sunday, before taking the train back home. Of course, they'd skip the more arduous trails and just walk the easy ones.

Well, that wasn't exactly a trekker's dream run, nor would he be doing justice to the place, but it was about giving Aahan a glimpse of the area, try and see if it triggered recognition or recollection... In fact, the Bhimshankar and the Junnar areas itself would need at least two days each, and then, there was the more famous Malshej Ghat area, just a stone's throw away from Junnar, a special favourite with serious hikers, trekkers and adventure seekers.

But alas, where was the time!

The moment Neeladri stepped off the train, early in the morning, he sensed it... something very odd. Despite the usual din and the crowds at the railway station - porters and passengers - something was missing.

And as they drove through the silent streets, he wondered... when it suddenly struck him - it was Diwali... it was Diwali day!

Gosh, he had just been thinking of a long weekend... about getting three whole day to explore the area. How could he forget Diwali, and the explosive noise associated with the festival?!

The pyrotechnics - firecrackers, bombs... and the loud explosions... every city, every town and every tiny village going crazy for the day... late into the night!

And what effect would the night-long racket have on Aahan?

Yes, they'd be safe in their hotel room with the TV on to drown all other sounds... but that would mean that their plans of expedition for the day would have to be shelved - no Karla or Bhaja; and neither would they be able to explore the city, go out for walks!

His very purpose of bringing Aahan to Pune would now have to be put on hold!

Disgusted at his own stupidity, he mulled, when an idea struck him - they could actually check into the hotel, dump their luggage, take a cab and drive straight to Bhimshankar Sanctuary, spend the day there and return next morning - that way they would avoid all the fireworks and the associated disturbance, AND, the day wouldn't be a waste!

But alas, there was even worse to come... and once they checked into the neat little hotel tucked fascinatingly in a quiet lane off J.M. Road, he found out...

"Sorry, sir," the lady at the desk gave him an apologetic smile, "it's impossible to get a cab today..."

"Why?" Neeladri asked, incredulous.

"Sir, it's Diwali day, and most drivers are on leave..."

"And if I had to take a flight or catch a train, huh?" the doctor asked.

"Usually people book the car in advance, especially on days like this, sir."

"Couldn't you try other travel agencies, huh?" he pleaded.

"Sir, it's the same with every cab service," she shrugged, the smile regretful.

"What about tomorrow, and the day after?"

"Oh, that can be arranged, sir!"

So, booking a car for Saturday and Sunday, they went up to their room...

"FUCK!" Neeladri exclaimed once they were in the room. What a fool he had been, God, how could he possibly make such a blunder?!

Aahan giggled, quickly reaching for his belt buckle, "Lets!"

Neeladri spun around, slapping Aahan's hands away, "Cut it out!" he scowled, and then looking at the man added, "How could I be such a stupid fool, huh?!"

"Beats me!" Aahan grinned back.

"Stop being funny!" Neeladri snapped, turning away.

Aahan suppressed a laugh as he sat down on the bed, watching Neeladri pace the room.

God, all his plans where now ruined... a whole damned day wasted, simply unable to conceive how that one detail had escaped him... he should have known!

"How could I?", he mumbled as he paced, "And, what do we do now?"

"Well, if you ask me," Aahan said, stretching out on the bed, "your original idea still sounds the most interesting!"

"Which idea?" Neeladri asked, pausing in midstride, looking down at Aahan.

"The one you mentioned as soon as we entered the room..." he replied, up on his elbows, the eyes hooded, the lips suddenly pouty, "Fuck..."

Neeladri curled his lips, baring his teeth... and then with a growl threw himself on Aahan... both men laughing as they tumbled around the bed, hands frantically working as they ripped the clothes off.

And so, they spent the whole day making love... getting out of bed only to take showers together, and grab a hurried lunch, before getting back in, locked in each other's arms, rocking the bed...

"Do you need a shower each time, huh?" Aahan grinned, lifting up on his elbows and looking over his shoulder at Neeladri, his eyes twinkling with a puckish glint, "We just took one after tea!"

"Yup," the doctor laughed, "but I'm sweating!"

"In spite of the air conditioning?!" Aahan asked, the look impish.

"Yes," Neeladri smiled, shrugging, "I do get all sweaty after even the slightest exertion..."

"The slightest?!" grinned Aahan, rolling his eyes, "Gosh, and I'm still sore!"

"Well, can I help it," Neeladri retorted, walking back and swatting his naked butt, "you simply drive me crazy!"

"And I hate washing off your scent..." Aahan smiled, taking an exaggeratedly deep breath as he rolled over and sat up, looking gorgeously delicious in his post-coital, languorous nakedness. "Can I tempt you back to bed, huh?"

"After dinner!" Neeladri laughed, opening the door to the bathroom, "I need my nourishment!"

Aahan giggled as Neeladri went in, leaving the door slightly ajar.

He walked out of the bathroom towelling his hair, "Aahan, let's go down to the restaurant for dinner instead of calling room-service," he said throwing away the towel and looking up.

But the bed was empty...

"Aahan?" he called, wondering.

Well, it wasn't a suite, just a standard room, and there was no other room to go to.

'Where's this guy?' he thought... wondering if Aahan was suddenly in the mood to play some silly juvenile game?! But then, there was no place to actually 'hide' in that room, and the feet would show under the drapes!

"Aahan..." he sang, looking around... and that's when he saw Aahan's missing clothes. The jeans and tee that he had worn on the train, and which they had collected off the floor and dumped on the chair, was gone!

"God, he's gone down!" Neeladri exclaimed under his breath, quickly checking the table and noticing that Aahan's wallet, the one he had given the man (with the cash he was carrying on the night of the blast, Neeladri's name and contact, and the hospital details) still there, right next to his own.

So was their small suitcase and gripsack, right where it had been placed...

Neeladri opened the closet - for a moment expecting Aahan to jump out, screaming and laughing, but it was empty - and quickly pulling on fresh clothes ran down, hoping to find Aahan in the lobby.

"Good-evening, sir," the lady greeted him.

He nodded, asking her, "Um, my friend, did he come down?"

"Yes sir," she smiled, "about fifteen minutes..."

"Did he say something," Neeladri interrupted.

"No sir," she shook her head, giving him a curious look, "he went out..."

"Which way did he go..." he asked, already feeling stupid, she possibly couldn't see that!

"Sorry, sir, but I could ask the guard at the entrance gate outside..." she offered.

"Uh, thanks, I'll do it," he mumbled, running outside.

The man just pointed in the general direction the lane took towards F.C. Road, "He went that way, sir."

"Thanks," Neeladri called out as he ran.

The night was reverberating with the continuous blasts of crackers and other fireworks, frightfully loud... the air thick with the smell and the smoke. God, Aahan would surely have one of his panic attacks... he'd freak out!

Neeladri ran down the lonely lane like a crazed maniac... seeing the bright lights in the distance... and the noise of celebration!

He reached a spot where groups of young men and children stood bursting crackers on the road, screaming and yelling as they ooh'ed and aah'ed... but he couldn't spot Aahan there.

"Where is he?!" Neeladri groaned, his heart slamming wildly, debating whether to ask the men, but already knowing that no one would have noticed him in the crowd.

He ran on, pausing wherever he saw a group, checking the faces in the dancing light of the fireworks... and then running on, right up to F.C. Road!

Nothing, no Aahan... the man seemed to have simply vapourised. He stood for a while, debating, and then retraced his steps, slowly this time, paying attention to the narrow bylanes and alleys...

"Did he come back?" he asked the guard once he'd reached the hotel.

The man shook his head.

"Where is the nearest police station?" he asked.

"Sir?" the man asked, uncomprehending.

"Police station," Neeladri repeated, "the nearest one, or the one under which this area falls."

"Yes, sir," the man nodded, directing him the opposite way, "it's very near..."

"Thanks," Neeladri said as he trotted down the lane.

"Hmm..." the officer on duty finally stirred, looking up at him, "so, why don't you go back to your room and wait for him?"

"Officer, I've explained everything to you, he's not, um, well..."

"Yes, you've told me a lot, but nothing really makes sense..."

"What doesn't make sense, officer," Neeladri suddenly snapped, at the end of his tether. He had been patiently waiting, having already explained the circumstances and the urgency of the situation... the 'mystery' behind the name that wasn't real. Silently enduring the condescending smile on the officer's face, uncomplainingly answering all the seemingly innocuous questions... tolerating the sardonic sniggers as he repeated himself...

Sitting and watching drunken men and petty thieves being brought in and booked... locked up for the night. Listening to the phones ringing off their hooks - complaints, and more complaints - about petty scuffles and drunken brawls... about unruly roisterers engaged in altercations and fisticuffs over obstreperous celebrations. About noise and air pollution!

"What doesn't make sense, that a man has gone missing, that he's actually unwell... or, that I'm asking you to find him? What doesn't make sense?!"

The Inspector slowly sat up, "What day is today?" he asked, the voice calm, almost casual.

"Huh?" Neeladri responded, uncomprehending.

"I asked, what day is today..." the officer repeated, the tone suddenly aggressive, totally unfriendly.

"Um, it's the 9th, a Friday..." Neeladri mumbled, still unsure what the Inspector wanted.

"Yes, and what's today?"

"Diwali..." Neeladri answered.

"And who do you think I am," the man asked, the voice freezing, "some fuckin' bastard?"

Neeladri felt the tremor; his teeth clenching... forcing himself to remain calm, control his rage.

"I have a family," the man suddenly roared, "and I should be home, celebrating Diwali with my wife and two kids. Lighting lamps and feasting, not sitting here and listening to people like you, snivel about some goddamned missing madman, and he's not even gone for an hour! By the way, what makes you think he's gone, or in danger, huh? He's probably back in the room right now, wondering where you've vanished!"

Neeladri sat fuming, but unwilling to antagonise the police any further... not if he wanted them to find Aahan. Suddenly realising that the interview had gone horribly wrong. Somehow, they had started off on a wrong note.

The officer called a clerk, "Take down this man's complaint," he told the man, and then turning to Neeladri added, "Give him the details... all the details!" going back to the magazine he had been reading when Neeladri had entered his room.

It was over an hour since Neeladri had finished giving the details to the police clerk, and had been sitting at the station, worrying and wondering... But no one seemed bothered... no one concerned.

And in that hour he called the hotel reception over a dozen times, asking if Aahan had returned, and each time getting the same reply.

"Sir," Neeladri finally approached the Inspector once more, "please, he, um, Aahan, doesn't have any idea about anything, doesn't remember his real identity or where he is, could you please do something?"

The man slowly sat up, reluctantly setting the magazine aside, "Do you realise that it's Diwali night and we're already stretched, on our toes attending crank calls and genuine complaints, struggling to maintain peace and security with the limited manpower we have... and you want us to go chasing a man, a grown up man, who might have just gone out for a stroll, huh?!"

Neeladri stood defeated... furious but helpless.

"You're a doctor?" the officer asked, looking up at him, not bothering to offer him a seat.

"Yes," he answered.

"What do you specialise in?"

"I'm just a general physician, haven't done my masters yet."

"So, how come you're handling a mental patient?"

"Aahan's not a 'mental patient', officer, he's not mad, he simply has amnesia!"

"Isn't that the same, huh?" the officer asked, the tone irritatingly amused.

Neeladri remained silent, seething with frustration and impotent rage.

"Do doctor's go on vacation with their patients, that too, not a regular patient, but the victim of a terror attack?!"

"Officer, I've told you everything, and repeated the whole story to your staff there," Neeladri replied, "No, we don't go on vacation with patients, and neither is this a vacation..."

"A business trip then?" the officer interrupted with a snicker, "or, should I say, a scientific, um, medical research expedition?"

Neeladri ignored the question, "You have my hospital numbers, you have the names and numbers of my senior doctors, and also the name and number of the police officer in charge of Aahan's case. You can call any of them and..."

"Exactly, and that's why you're still outside, else I'd have put you right inside that lockup," the officer snapped. "Why couldn't you have brought him here, and then, for whatever reason, murdered him and disposed off his body, claiming that he's vanished, huh?"

Neeladri stared back at the officer, his jaws dropping... his heart suddenly slamming.

"Of course, we can always find out if he actually left that hotel, alive..." the man suddenly smiled, sitting back and stretching. "Now, go back to your hotel room and get some sleep. We'll inform you of any progress."

Neeladri walked out of the station and stood on the sidewalk... totally drained. He didn't know where to go, or what to do. It was already well past midnight and it wouldn't be proper to call either Dr. Reddy, or the police officer.

Slowly walking over to a nearby circular tree seat, he sat down with a groan, burying his face in his hands...

No, he wasn't afraid of losing Aahan... he was worried, worried about the things that could happen to him. The poor man hadn't a clue to anything, and he, Neeladri, was responsible for his wellbeing. He had brought him to this strange city, and now, he'd lost him!

God, where could Aahan be? What was he doing? If something happened to the man Neeladri would never forgive himself... And how would he ever face Dr. Reddy, or Dr. Ramchandra? And if tomorrow, Aahan's family turned up in search of him, what answers did Neeladri have?!

Could it be that somehow... by some weird quirk of fate, Aahan had actually recovered and remembered his past, had regained his memory?

God, it must have been so traumatic for him, suddenly finding himself in a strange room, in a strange city!

He groaned, well, there was nothing else to do... he just had to go back to the room and wait... wait for the police to get back to him.

"Sir..." the man at the reception desk called out as soon as he entered the lobby, "a police constable was here earlier, around midnight, asking about you and Mr. Aahan..."

Neeladri nodded, "Yes, I've reported him missing."

"Did they find him, sir?" he asked.

Neeladri shook his head, asking for the key.

"Good night, sir," the man nodded, handing over the key to the room.

Finally, hungry, tired and exhausted, he returned to the room and called home.

"Ma," he puled as soon as his mother answered the phone, "I'm sorry Ma, I'm terribly sorry..." and for the first time in his adult life began to cry.

"Neelu, calm down," she said, "Tell me what happened, are you okay, is Aahan all right?"

"Aahan's gone," Neeladri sobbed, "I made an awful mistake..."

"Okay, Neel, now listen to me," she finally said after he had narrated the whole story, "please, get some rest and go back home tomorrow. Take the first flight you get or a train... or simply book a cab, but go home. Your father still has some friends in Pune, but it's too early to call people... besides, yesterday was Diwali night, he'll talk to them later. We'll start for Delhi by noon and if we get the tickets, we'll be with you by late evening. And please, stop worrying; it wasn't your fault... I'm sure he's fine, and we'll find him... please, Neelu, get some rest!"

to be continued...            

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