Positioned in his favorite spot on the beach Nirmal watched the first rays of the Sun hit the shimmering waters. As the sky turned from orange red to golden yellow he was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the spectacular scene. He picked up his note book and started scribbling. He wanted to capture each and every nuance of nature's glory unfolding before his enthralled eyes.
Nirmal had come to Simran, a lovely city with one of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches on the west coast of the Country, to spend his summer holidays. His Mama Mahesh Mehta was a successful criminal lawyer and his Mami Shobha was a school teacher. Their house was close by and Nirmal would come almost every morning and evening to watch the Sun rise and set.
He had even managed to locate a secluded spot on the beach right in the middle of a cluster of huge rocks. Covered with boulders on three sides it was like the mouth of a cave. Sitting ensconced in his hideout Nirmal was completely hidden from prying eyes.
A student of class nine, Nirmal was good in neither games nor studies. He had only one passion. And that was writing. He wanted to become a writer. He had met with modest success so far. A few of his poems and short stories had been published in children's magazines. Right now he was attempting the most ambitious project of his literary career. 'Natkhat', the most popular children's magazine, had announced a short story competition in English for school going children. The first prize was a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Nirmal had already thought of an outline for his story, the climax of which was to take place at a beach at dawn. He was here this morning to soak in the 'atmosphere' at the beach so that he could add that touch of realism which was so very important in modern fiction.
His story was about two friends who stumble upon a cache of heroin on the beach and set about investigating. He had even thought of a title for his story: 'Heroin on The Beach'.
Nirmal, with his pencil between his lips, was now deep in thought. The heroes had managed to reach the hideout of the gang which was smuggling the drug. Just as they were about to slip away and inform the police they were caught by the gangsters. Now Nirmal was flexing his creative muscles to set them free.
Suddenly the silence was shattered by a crash. Nirmal jumped in the air startled out of his wits. For a moment he thought the gang had decided to forget the characters and target the author. He looked around. A bottle had crashed on the rock to his left and its fragments lay scattered. He was about to get up and express his annoyance, when he heard something which made him freeze.
"Bhai, we should pack enough RDX to blow up the entire building," a gruff voice was saying.
Nirmal turned towards the spot from where the voice seemed to be originating. From the spaces in between the boulders he could see three men sitting above him slightly to the left.
"Munna, you don't have to teach me these things. I have already taken care of all the details," replied the fellow whom Munna had called Bhai. He was a burly man with shoulder length matted hair, a thick moustache and a straggly beard. He looked like one of those thugs who gets bashed up by the hero in the second or third reel of a typical Hindi movie. His voice however was distinctive. It was squeaky and sounded like a sharp nail being dragged across a tin sheet. Coming from the huge body it sounded quite weird. He was facing Nirmal while the other two had their backs to him. Nirmal confident that he could not be seen pressed forward to hear Bhai speak, his heart pounding with excitement.
"Today is Monday, the 27th. On 29th, exactly at eleven thirty, the Natraj Supermarket will be blown to pieces. Now listen carefully to the plan. The RDX will be placed in the dickey of a scooter and the time bomb will be set for eleven thirty. Few days back I bought a second hand scooter, got it repainted and changed the number plate. You, Munna, will drive the scooter and park it in the parking lot in the basement exactly at ten thirty."
"But Bhai why not earlier? I can park it at eight and vanish."
"You idiot, I asked you not to use your brains. Natraj opens at nine. If you go at eight will you not be too conspicuous. Later, when the police investigate they will find it much easier to trace you. By ten thirty the place will be very crowded and no one will notice you. And to make sure it is absolutely safe I'll be there by around nine."
"Where Bhai?" asked the third guy who hadn't yet opened his mouth.
"Right opposite Natraj is an over-bridge. I'll be there by nine. Munna, when you wheel in the scooter look up at me. If anything is wrong I'll remove this red scarf from my pocket and tie it around my neck like this," Bhai demonstrated slowly as if explaining to a mentally retarded three year old.
"But Bhai, will I be able to see you clearly?" asked Munna.
"You donkey! You have eyes or buttons. The over bridge is right opposite. From that distance you will even be able to see the colour of a baby's panties."
"And in case I don't remove the red scarf you can assume it is all clear and wheel the scooter in and park it in the basement. In the meantime Saheb, you will be waiting on a motorcycle which I have arranged. Both of you decide where you will park it. As soon as Munna parks the scooter he will rush to you and the two of you can disappear. I'll keep watch till ten forty five and then I too will slip away. We'll meet in our usual place at around eleven thirty. All the arrangements for our escape have been made. I'll tell you the details when we meet. But this much is certain, by 29th afternoon we'll have crossed the state border to freedom. Is it all clear?"
Munna and Saheb nodded.
"Okay then. You will proceed exactly as per this plan."
"Bhai do we meet again?" asked Munna.
"To.. to revise our...."
"Don't be stupid Munna. Don't you realize every time we meet we are taking a great risk. I had chosen this spot and time very carefully because I know this stretch of the beach is completely deserted in the mornings. We will now meet only after the job. In case there is any change of plan I'll contact you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Bhai," Munna and Saheb answered in tandem.
Nirmal shrank back, his heart in his mouth. He knew if they saw him he would be finished. With bated breath he waited for the footsteps to die down.
After around ten minutes he picked up his things and scurried out of his hiding place . He looked around, there was no sign of the thugs. He ran straight home and told his Mama and Mami the whole story.
His Mami immediately said, "Nirmal forget about the whole thing. You don't have to get mixed up with terrorists or whoever they are."
"Don't be silly Shobha. How can you say such a thing?" Mahesh said. "If those thugs succeed in their plan hundreds of innocent lives will be lost. You know an entire floor of Natraj is devoted only to kids' stuff. Just imagine what will happen to those tender souls," Mahesh paused for a moment and then continued, "The DSP of this area is Vikram Sinha. He and I have worked on several cases together. He is a dynamic and daring officer. I'll take Nirmal to him right away."
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