The Masquerade || Sharanya Krishnan


 A Few Years Ago:

 

We were driving back home after Uncle’s wedding. It was quite late at night and the road was really deserted. Dad and Mom sat in front while I sat at the back. As dad speed the car through the road, mom tried spicing up the journey singing all my favorites songs. It was the best long drive till date. Or rather, THE WORST.

Because as we delved into our own world filled with love and happiness, the car went soaring up in the sky and i was thrown out of it.

 

CRASH!

And then when my eyes opened, I saw a man and a woman running for their lives. Leaving us alone. Leaving me alone with two dead bodies in a car set ablaze.

 


 

 Present:

 

As the rooster went on again, he put one hand out of his blanket trying to reach for his phone which unusually seemed to be out of reach. The rooster was getting uncontrollable as it went on crowing in different variations. “Dad! Sleep is an elixir of life. “, he mumbled. “Not when you have a flight in two hours and Mahek is waiting for you from an hour in the living room, Tushar.” said dad switching off the alarm. ” What? Is she here? Why did you not tell me this earlier? Now I”ll have a session on Punctuality and Time Management on board.

 

I slept off because of that damn nightmare. Saw it once again yesterday.The dark road one which Mahek also claims to gets visions of. I don’t believe her though. She’s just pulling my leg. Anyways, I better get going.” said Tushar as he leaped from the bed and directly reached the washroom. “The nightmare, the dark and deserted road, the car crash, Tushar and Mahek should be kept in the dark and this vacation is the last resort.”, dad said to himself.

 

“Bye guys! Have fun.”, said dad as Tushar and his girlfriend left for the airport. As they left the telephone rang. It was Dr. Ram. ” Did he see the same dream again? In the last hypnotism session, I had with him he only told me about some drive, deserted road in the midst of a thick jungle and he also mentioned a six-year-old child. I think it is a case requiring Past life regression.

 

We need to take a peek into Tushar’s past and maybe Mahek’s too.”, he went on as dad stopped him. “Enough Doctor! Tushar already has enough and more complications in his life. Didn’t you hear about the attacks made on him since the day he took over as the CEO of our company? Business rivalry.If it was not for the security system in office he wouldn’t be with us now.He is away on a vacation. You can call it a cowardly escape from the threat of attacks. But I can’t let him die in the hands of those goons. I want no more issues in his life.

 

Therefore I can’t allow you to proceed with this regression therapy. I”ll take care of my son.”. Saying this he hung up. After an hour and a half as dad sat on the armchair sipping his favorite tea and reading the Business Magazine with his son’s photo on the front cover the bell rang and Vinod entered. Seating himself on the beanbag he said,” Uncle, I have been following up on all the attacks made on Tushar and I must say the mastermind behind this is a shrewd guy and a born criminal. No traces of any of the goons. No evidence. It’s all like a lightning bolt.

 

Each time I try to rewind the tape of happenings it’s almost impossible because everything’s so quick. But i heard you have been consulting the psychiatrist for Tushar. May I know why? See, I’m a detective. I need to be knowing all the facts of the case before solving it. So please cooperate”, he said. “Oh, sure! Why not. Tushar has been getting nightmares about a car, and a deserted road in the middle of a jungle and so does Mahek. Forty-five years ago, my parents died in a car crash. I was orphaned. Had no home to go and no relatives.

 

I grew up in an orphanage. Difficult times they were. Of course, I must say that at some point in time or the other the black clouds do clear off and the growth of Batra industries is an epitome of my blood toil and tears. ” said Mr. Armaan Batra. “So you mean Tushar and Mahek were your parents who passed away in that car crash?” asked Vinod was hesitatingly taken by surprise and shock.

Armaan went on without answering his question, ” That was the last I had a hearty laugh. As a six-year-old, I felt helpless seeing them die right in front of my eyes while the drunk couple fled leaving me in the middle of that road. I couldn’t do anything about all this. “Jab unke chehra se katra katra khoon girne laga mere aankhon se aasu tapak ne large.” But today Armaan Batra is one of the biggest industrialists of the country.

 

My thirst for revenge will be quenched tonight. That couple who were responsible for giving me the orphan title will meet their end in two hours on board Haven’t you heard? Muskaanein Jhooti hain!.” , he said with a wide grin making an airplane out of a paper with Tushar’s name on it while Vinod dropped his wine glass on the floor.

 


Story – 2

 

So the gardener kicked the bucket too. It’s all because of me”, he said kneeling down with his head bowed down. She stroked his hair affectionately and said,” Hey, all of us have faith in you. It’s not just me but the whole neighborhood is offering you support and strength. You don’t need to blame yourself for this serial murder scandal. Y-” “But I am entrusted to get the culprit damn it! It’s my job. To stop all this havoc! And all I’m doing is creating more and more problems. I had a glimmer of hope when the Gardener informed me that he did see something that night when Mr. Jay was murdered.

 

And I like an idiot told a few outsiders about this just because I got too carried away. Now  looked what happened.”, saying these words he covered his face with his hands. His face had gone red in guilt and embarrassment like it always did. She held his hands and said,” How about your favorite Margherita Pizza for lunch today?”. He looked up and gave a vague but loving smile. “Sir, if you just sit in front of me and smile like this the Pizza wouldn’t assemble itself. Also, I ain’t as lucky as you since these legs have decided to quit functioning forever.”, she said with a grin. “Sorry! Couldn’t take my eyes off, you lady. And by the way, I am lucky. You know why? Because I have you with me. “. Saying these words he got up and took control of her wheelchair.

 

Suddenly the doorbell rang and he sped to open the door. It was the milkman.” O-h sir. G-Good morning. I thought the maid would – I mean here’s the milk. “, he said and hurried away. “who’s it?”, she asked while he seated himself at the kitchen table next to her wheelchair, “It was the milkman. I don’t know. There’s something about him that makes me feel he’s related to all this. I mean, as soon as he saw me he started behaving all weird. He used to deliver milk to Mr. Jay too .”, he said thoughtfully. “Hey, you are just complicating stuff! He has always had the stammering problem. Also, he’s the timid kinds and he must have expected the maid to open the door as always.

 

Plus who’s not afraid to be a detective?”, she said with a proud smile as she started cutting the vegetables. ” Yes, you’re highness. But Nandini, on a serious note, the gardener was telling me about one Mr. Singhania. This dude is supposed to have been Jay’s business associate. He passed away 6 months ago in a road accident. But the gardener thinks otherwise. It seems Mr. Jay’s dark secrets were known to him and this shrewd guy was about to spill the beans by calling a press conference. So Mr. Jay apparently finished him off silently and the gardener thought that this may have something to do with Jay’s murder. “, he said. “Hmm.

 

So this story has this angle too. Raj, you ought to be happy. At least you could get this precious piece of information out from the gardener before he passed away. Now just focus on this particular dimension of the case and move forward. I know you will crack it my Poirot!”, she said triumphantly. ” Too much of faith on your Poirot, I must say! what if he lets you down?”, said another voice. ” Doctor! Hey come on in and have lunch.”, said Nandini whose face was all lit up. “Sure! but I need to check up on Mr. Dutt. I”ll just finish with that and join you for lunch.”, he said patting Nandini and glaring at Raj. As soon as he exited, Raj took out his notepad from the pocket and his pencil to scribble something. ” Raj! No way. How can you suspect doctor? He’s like my father.

 

The man who became my family after my own one ditched me after the accident. Don’t forget that he stood by us too.”, she said defensively. “Hey! I didn’t accuse him. I just suspected him. But I guess you are right. As a detective, too much of observation might complicate things. Afterall why would doctor murder Jay! I wonder if they even knew each other. But you can’t deny the fact that something that happened in the past has been wiped away. All traces made to vanish. Therefore now there’s a blank space into which the missing piece would perfectly fit in. I need to find it.

 

Anyways I need to collect some evidence from Jay’s office. I”ll be back in an hour. Take care.” Saying these words he drove away in his car. This was followed by the doctor’s entry. ” Your husband is unbelievable! Did he doubt me? I, who have done so much for the both of you, feel hurt. I can’t cope with this nonsense. A strong cup of coffee please. “, said the doctor distressed. ” Yeah. It does hurt. Doubting the wrong person. I apologize on his behalf. “, she said. “For what? For your husband mistaking me or for being the one instead of whom I’m mistaken?”, he questioned with a snigger as Nandini Singhania jumped up from the wheelchair to make two cups of coffee.


The short stories by the writer – Sharanya Krishnan