*drumroll please* Thrilled to announce that we have a winner!
Trisha Bora started the series, Tanushree Podder took forward an exciting premise, Amitabh Pandey brought on the twists, Vish Dhamija steered matters beautifully to the penultimate chapter, and Kalpana M. Muttireddi, the winner, has brought the story to a satisfactory, convincing conclusion. Thank you, Kalpana and congratulations!
Mira turns at the sound.
Dinesh takes advantage of her momentary distraction and grabs the knife. He stabs her in the arm, dragging the knife down towards her palm.
And just like that, the tables turn. Leaving her bleeding, Dinesh smiles as he rushes towards the door.
He is expecting somebody. The realization chills Mira, and just then, voices from the hall reach her.
She tries to stem the flow of blood with her dress. The swine had been attempting to slash her veins, but thankfully, he’d missed. Pressing the dress to her wound, Mira runs towards the kitchen, heading for the backdoor.
But just as she enters the kitchen, a hand grabs her from behind and throws her against the wall.
Instinctively, she knows it isn’t Dinesh. It’s someone stronger, someone used to man-handling people, to violence. Through the haze of pain exploding in her head, she sees the face.
She knows this man – he’s a local gangster, a man she’s only seen on television so far. As shock and fear sluice through her, Mira tries to make sense of the situation.
Was he last night’s visitor?
‘This wasn’t the plan, Dinesh. You were supposed to drug her,’ the man hisses. ‘We discussed this yesterday. You keep her ready, I pick her up and do the deed far from home.’
‘But I did drug her tea,’ snaps Dinesh, and then catches himself. Of course, Mira hadn’t actually had the tea! Damn! He had got distracted.
As the two men face each other, Mira tries to make a run for it. But before she can move, the hitman hurls her against the wall, face first. Bones crack and pain radiates down her body, as she slides to the floor.
‘Why…?’ she rasps.
The man laughs, “Your husband took a big, long loan from me and you are re-paying it.’
Mira looks at Dinesh, agony and fury mingling inside her.
He merely shrugs. ‘Don’t blame me. Blame your father. He’s the one who passed on his business to me.’
He turns to the other man. ‘I want her to sign some documents,’ he says to the man. ‘After that, kill her.’
Heart thundering, blood pounding in her ears, Mira tries to steady her breath. As the men approach her, she screams softly, and then pretends to faint. Calling upon her vipassana training, she draws into herself and falls to the ground, still.
They tie her up.
Her unconscious state makes the hitman careless, and he leaves the ropes looser than they should be.
Mira’s heart beats with hope.
They walk into the hall.
She lies there, still. Still.
Her dream foretold the savage treatment awaiting her. But if she plays her cards right, with luck, she might get out of this alive. She hopes her father has read the messages she had sent him late last night, wanting to talk to him about Dinesh.
As the duo move upstairs, she acts. Silently, she frees herself, twisting out of ropes, and runs. Out the back door, into the woods.
Dashing through the uneven landscape, she hears yelling and running feet behind her. She stumbles, skidding into a dry creek bed.
Bruised and bleeding, she looks around. The winter sun is fading. Trees cast eerie shadows on the forest floor. Rodents scurry. Leaves rustle.
And then: footsteps, crunching across bramble.
‘It’s getting dark, get what you need to find her and finish the job here.’ Dinesh’s voice floats down. She clamps her hand over her mouth, shrinking into the side of the creek, praying she hasn’t left a bloody trail. The footsteps fade.
Shadows lengthen and disappear into the cold darkness as nocturnal sounds fill the air. As the adrenaline wears off, pain closes in. Along with grief and fear.
She lies there. Shivering. Exhausted. She loses sense of time. Images dance in her mind as she flits in and out of consciousness. A strange languor takes over.
Don’t judge, don’t react, just watch.
She is back in her vipassana class.
An image comes into sharp focus.
A party. Dinesh’s fortieth. No expense was spared. Alcohol flowed freely, coke passed hands and everyone was in a happy haze. Except her. She’d skipped the alcohol and drugs because she was pregnant.
He didn’t notice when she followed him as he left the room to take a call. He had paled visibly when he saw the number and Mira had instinctively wanted to reach out him, to make sure he was okay. But he had locked himself in the bedroom and she couldn’t quite catch the conversation.
When questioned the next morning, he had brushed it off as nothing and she let it pass. But something happened that night.
What was it?
Now, as the maelstrom of grief, anger and confusion rage within, she sends a final prayer to the heavens, lets go, and gives in to blessed oblivion.
Mira wakes to fuzzy whiteness and a throbbing headache. She blinks, looking around. She is in a hospital room. On a nearby chair, her father sits, his face lined with exhaustion and worry.
‘Mira…Thank God, you are safe!’
Oh, the relief!
‘How did you find me?’
‘I saw your messages and tried to call you. There was no answer for so long that I called Dinesh. He seemed evasive. Worried that something was wrong, I rushed to your house with the police. There, we found blood in the house and Dinesh and some thug rummaging in the woods behind. Dinesh said that there had been a break-in, and you went missing. They said they were looking for you. But there was enough evidence in the house to know that he was lying. I got them arrested.
‘It turns out that Dinesh was neck deep in his dealings with the mafia. He’d been paying them off after gaining control of my businesses and siphoning funds from there. But lately, even that was not enough. So, he did the only thing he could. When the mafia came calling, he served you up on a platter.’
‘Me? How?’ She asked.
‘You own the house. Dinesh couldn’t sell it, but would have inherited it after your death. The house and the sprawling estate that came with it were part of the deal. He has been planning this for a while.’
‘He also took out a huge insurance policy in your name, last year, as an extra measure.’
That explained why that party and this dress figured prominently in her dream.
‘That which is not understood, is feared.’ Her late mother had once said.
Mira smiled. Finally, she owned her power.