To Hell and Back-continued...
by Eva Bell
Continued from page 1
The hand around her neck tightened. The point of the knife glittered menacingly a few inches from her chest. But some urchin began thumping the door impatiently, begging for his usual share of bread. The man moved away angrily, and in that split second Gowri landed a blow on his head with her metal betel box. Then, before he could recover from the shock, she fled through the back door and was lost to sight like a rat in the sewers.
Gowri’s contacts were legion. She had influential clients who would do her bidding. Some out of genuine concern for her, others for fear of blackmail. Gowri seldom asked for favours. But now she decided to protect me at all costs. She made contact with the policeman in the area, and lodged a complaint that an unknown customer had tried to kill her. She asked for police protection. The red-light area was a cauldron of trouble, and there were always a few policemen on the beat. For the next few days, the lane was swarming with constables. Gowri also made contact with my employer, and told him to keep me out of circulation for a few days.
My employer was a man who minded his own business. He conveyed Gowri’s message to me and advised me not to venture out of my room. Though he had to drive himself to work, he made no fuss about it. But a few days later, when my photograph was flashed in every newspaper, accusing me of stealing a Mercedes and making off with three lakhs of rupees, the doctor saw red.
“You blackguard,” he yelled, “You have the audacity to take cover in my house? I’m going to call the police right now. I knew there was something fishy between you both. I refuse to be a party to this.”
“Sir,” I pleaded,” These are false charges. Please listen to my story and take pity on me.”
I don’t know what he would have done next if Gowri hadn’t pressed the door-bell at that precise moment. The doctor greeted her with a volley of abuse. It was so unlike him that she was taken aback for a moment. But her killer-instinct took over.
“Hey, Doctor Sir, you just watch what you’re saying. If anything happens to my brother, your wife in the village will be
the first to know of your indiscretions.”
His face looked blanched. Then he found his tongue.
“Okay, pipe down you hag. We’ve got to think. The missing vehicle must be found at once.”
He asked for the exact location and date when I had pushed it down into the ravine. Then he assured Gowri that he would do his best, provided she never set foot in his house again.
“Off you go. For all you know, those guys might have trailed you here. Get out by the back door and be on your way.”
Dark and dismal thoughts passed through my mind as I stayed cooped up in my room for more than a week. Was I never to be free? Was my life going to be one long game of ‘Hide and Seek’? Why didn’t I end it all by going down the ravine in that car?
After what seemed years, the doctor came in one day waving a newspaper. The news item said that a hunter had discovered the wreckage of a car in some ravine in the Western ghats. Most of the vehicle had been burned to cinders including the occupant of the car. But a few scattered remnants and part of a number-plate had helped identify the lost car. In view of this fresh evidence, the hunt for Rafiq Ahmad the man on the ‘wanted’ list, had been withdrawn and the case closed.
“How did you manage this, Sir?”
“It was obvious that the car had not been found. Hence the search for you continued.
I persuaded a friend of mine to send out a search party and promptly report it to the police when the wreckage was found. You know the rest.”
”Sir, how can I thank you for your kindness?”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Gowri. You know what a persuasive woman she can be.”
I’ve been to Hell and back, and while I’m enjoying my freedom, I’m still chauffeuring the doctor around. But not for long. I’ve got a Bachelor of Arts degree in my pocket, and I’ll be moving on. I’m also an eligible bachelor to date and perhaps I’ll stay that way for some time. Gowri continues to be my well-wisher and friend. She is thrilled to see me walk tall again. But next time I goof it up, she might just let me go to Hell. The End