“He’s just left his office.”
“Any breakthroughs?” her voice trembled slightly.
“No, still trailing him. I’ll call you soon. “
I hung up abruptly, noticing his car swinging out of his office campus and off up the road. The car turned left at the end of the road, as I hurtled to keep an eye on him from a safe distance, gripping the steering wheel tightly with my sweaty palms. The way ahead was completely jammed with vehicles. His right arm was visible from behind where I was, resting on the open car window with a lighted cigarette.
The prospect of trailing this successful executive in his thirties, tall, medium complexioned, with broad shoulders, dark hair and a strikingly confident and serious face; was something I’d been contemplating with a certain awkwardness.
Big cities, big money. Big people living double lives, perpetually stuck with uncertainties and risks all around. Games that never amount to more than they’re meant should, however, play themselves out, sooner or later.
The car ahead slowed down, halting at a parking lot beside a large college campus. Stepping out smartly, he slammed the door shut and crossed over to the opposite pavement of the busy road, looking out casually on either side.
As I grappled with parking my car at some distance, an attractive young lady, fair, slender, with shoulder length hair in a red halter dress came running into his arms cheerfully. Guessing she must have been waiting for him, I crossed the pavement briskly, watching them walk into the café together.
Taking my place at the cigarette stall in the corner, I silently watched them catching up animatedly over coffee and snacks. The glass exterior of the café glinted brightly in the now setting sun. An hour later, they headed towards the deserted parking lot area, holding each other closely as he whispered in her ears and she giggled. My hand instinctively fumbled for my car keys in my left pocket as I camouflaged myself behind some overgrown hedges at a short distance from the neat row of parked cars, leaving them apparently alone.
Headlights from a passing vehicle interrupted me armed with my camera, illuminating the place in bright white, while I was unmindfully clicking their intimate goodbyes.
My heart raced.
Her hands loosened the grip on his shoulders, eyes widened with shock. She froze, now aware of my unexpected and unnecessary presence.
Tension erupted like lava, scorching me inside, wiping out every other feeling. I doubled the grip on my digicam and immediately turned, darting past the bushes hearing her exclaim. With sheer panic throbbing in my head, I burst out of one lane to another aimlessly, making spontaneous deviations here and there, till I was completely sure that neither he nor his female accomplice had any possibilities of trailing me. The lady had caught a glimpse of my face before I managed to exit. He would have, at the most, seen a figure slipping into the dark shadows of the bushes.
Long time later, I walked back to my car panting heavily, watching the varying length of my dark shadow as I passed by under the illuminated yellow street lamps on the pavement.
I looked up at the night sky; the stars stared back, unblinking, indifferent and unobscured by pasts, ghosts and memories.
No, I wasn’t born for this kind of life.
I desperately longed to get back to my Colt, now lying idly locked up in my closet, from after my suspension from duty. A bullet too many and getting spotted with some really bad company became public knowledge; and the vigilance department started breathing down my neck like vultures after carcass. And here I am, off the force as a private eye leading the trail of an extra-marital affair, while being simultaneously and ironically tangled with my very own internal affairs, waiting to get the cases off my back.
Grabbing some much needed Jack Daniel’s back home, I turned over the day’s newspaper and lighted a smoke. A huge photograph of a familiar face filled most of the inner page.
My next case. Another corrupt individual.
“Battle for Mayor’s Post Intensifies”
The instructions were clear. Aid a little low risk tragic incident and conveniently frame the rival for the job.
Downing the bottle, I looked into all the photographs in my digicam, while trying to remember every small detail right from the beginning of the investigation of this extra-marital affair after the tip off. The drink was enough to cast all these unforgiving fragments of bitterness, disappointment and uncertainty, together into a comforting blur.
I closed my eyes for a moment, feeling downright miserable about the nature of my job. Unsettling questions buzzed in my mind repeatedly about the serious consequences of proving this extra-marital affair. It was my sole duty as a private investigator though, to keep up the responsibilities from my side to my client, with the job that she had entrusted me to do, going to any extent to do it well.
Attempting to console her with that reasoning, I phoned her soon afterwards, assuring to meet her the next morning.
Still flipping through the photos, I visualized the confrontation in my head. Short, fair and slightly plump, she was a prominent figure independently running her own charity trusts and orphanages successfully, and had a very impressive and pleasing personality. Pondering over the sensitivity of the issue at hand, I felt drained, exhausted.
My job was done.
“Are you sure you don’t want a drop home?”
“…Vikram…really, I’m fine,” she said, pulling her face together. It was an extremely sticky moment. She rushed on,”…my sister must be waiting in the car…thanks, for all your help…”
Recognizing my dismissal, I gave her one last glance watching her turn away while trying to stash the envelope containing the photographs I’d handed over minutes ago into her leather handbag. Behind her, the ceramic Buddha sat still with strong incense wafting around leisurely, with his eyes closed, looking serene, at peace and rather paradoxical.
I stepped out of the Chinese restaurant, the honking of vehicles and hankering of vendors clearly growing louder by decibels. I looked at her car ahead, my eyes still unfocussed, as I imagined her sister growing restless waiting for her inside.
She was looking down examining her manicured nails. Checking her watch casually, she looked out of the window, our eyes met.
I was then sliding uncontrollably on an expanding avalanche of shock, as sparks of recognition flickered between us.
We stared, frozen, dumbfounded, as reality seemed to close upon me; and we both realized we didn’t exactly need a formal introduction.
Prologue Script to short film ” Fate Plays” by independent film maker Santosh MP.