My short story, Dream Warriors: Ramayan Redux gets included in the Triangulation: Parch Anthology. Editor: Stephen Ramey.
Here’s an excerpt of this story (in its earlier, unedited form):
Drifting through the corridors of sleep, voices press from every side. ‘Lust-crimes will destroy everything,’ whispered the one camouflaged in a light so brilliant that it was blinding. Within moments, a trace of a woman emerged and his dream ceased.
Detective Kapeesh awoke and sat in bed. I hate dreams like these… but I’ve had such dreams before…
Shuddering from the disruption of his sleep, he reached for a glass of water.
His stocky, six-feet-three frame glistened with sweat. Here, a woman stalked him in his dreams, but not one befriended him in reality.
How, he wondered, could any woman date a man with hands like shovels, an enormous chest, and a jaw as square as a sideboard? These days women preferred the lithe physique, hairless chest, and nimble-fingered Adonises.
It was already 7 a.m. and he swung out of bed.
Flexing his shoulders and looking into the mirror, he thought his mother was right in naming him after Kapeeshwar or Hanuman, the Lord of monkeys, from the ancient tale of Ramayan.
‘You are my little monkey,’ she would say, reciting the epic-story at bedtime, ‘One day you will grow big enough to rescue Sita from Ravan. Always help women, okay, Kappu. We are strong, but not against evil men or evil minds.’
Kapeesh showered and dressed.
Holstering his Glock 22 (.40) pistol, he set out to work.
At the office of Bahri Agencies of Anti-Crime, his boss slapped a file on his desk.
“What’s so special about this one?” asked Kapeesh.
“Case of kidnapping – woman of twenty four, missing for six months,” said his boss.
“Nothing different from the fifty files here… one worse than the other,” Kapeesh shrugged, thumping the stack on his desk.
“The woman’s from Ranchi, an industrialist’s wife,” replied the boss.
“Ah!” Rich or poor they were all mistreated alike. “You mean she’s rich and money talks,” said Kapeesh.
“Sometimes I just get pissed off that we push the poor further down the chain, boss. Isn’t all life sacred?”
“Apparently not this time. They are hounding us to solve this one. And it’s already too late. Get on it.” His boss turned away.
Kapeesh retrieved a small suitcase from beneath his table, kept for just such an assignment. In it was a set of fresh clothes and a personal care kit.
He set out for the airport to catch a plane to Ranchi taking with him the newspaper of the day.
On the flight, he read about Rambha Malhotra, who was molested by a cop in a police station. Now six years, later her case had reached court.
Supporters of the accused – politicians, ministers, and fellow colleagues had rubbished the case in the media.
‘What is molestation, after all?’ they said. ‘It could have been the girl’s imagination. She could have been of poor character.’
Despite bureaucracy, political clout and stalling by the authorities, somehow her family and lawyers had made it.
Kapeesh studied the girl’s picture in the newspaper. Now at twenty, fierceness marked her eyes, born out of all she had to go through, perhaps. And then he froze. Wasn’t she the one from last night’s dream? …Rambha? Kapeesh frowned with the thud of his flight landing in Ranchi. …Wasn’t it here that she was molested six years ago, that he was now going to for another woman’s case?
Gray rains of May had followed him from Delhi. He huddled into his jacket; he hated this weather. Fog had descended everywhere as water splattered and sprayed moisture bristles, steaming up his spectacles and the panes of his pickup-car. It pelted the windshield like fierce tears from grudging clouds.
After a brief stop at his hotel, Kapeesh headed to the Sharma residence – his new client. There he met the tall, elite and bereaved Raghav Sharma and his fine-featured and reserved younger brother, Anuj. Though rich, their skins were haggard and smiles less-than-willing. Kapeesh was sure they had seen much better and healthier day.
“We miss her. We have been very worried.’ Anuj said as they sat down. “We have been through a wild goose chase. Hiring the best sleuths, cops, detectives in these six months hasn’t helped.”
Kapeesh took the file the brothers gave him. A quick glance through its pages revealed nothing new.
A. Vaidehi was missing since last December. B. She was headed to a social function from which she never returned. Her Mercedes was found near the local police station with its key still in ignition. D. There were no phone calls, threats or demands for ransom. Since that night there had been no trace of her.
Kapeesh considered abduction, murder, business rivalry, personal enmity, family feud, secret lovers, freak accidents but what did not add up was her abandoned car, that too near a police station. That wasn’t anywhere near the route to where she was going. The social gathering was planned on the other side of town.
Kapeesh took the brothers’ leave and headed to the police station. Submerged in the din of crime and punishment, it looked much smaller than its newspaper photos.
Constable Nathuram greeted him. He identified Vaidehi’s pictures when it was flashed in front of him. “Yes, I’ve seen this girl. She had come to report on some eve teasers ….around last year.’ He said rocking his head, ‘Dashanan sahib went with her to tackle those rascals. Bas! Neither he nor she returned. He was transferred the same day to another city.”
Here’s the link to the anthology: http://www.amazon.com/Triangulation-Volume-Stephen-V-Ramey/dp/098286065X
There’s a story behind this story:
This story was written for Zubaan’s Ramayan anthology. It was too young and got rejected. It slowly went through scores of edits until it reached Triangulation: Parch. I would grumble about this story to writer-friends: that I should have never written it based on external submission guidelines, that now it will rot on my computer, that I’m tired of finding a place for it.
Then one day, just like that it’s published, with verbal and monetary appreciation. And I have nothing to crib.
I’m searching for a new thing to chew my nails about…rummaging through the pet peeve archive.