Shalini could feel Raj Sir’s eyes on her all through the last class. She waited until the rest of the class had rushed out for after school activities and Rajkumar went to the door and peered down the corridors. He nodded his head in the direction of his office and told her to wait five minutes before following.
Soon after she entered his office shaking uncontrollably. She had no idea what to expect. “Lock the door!” He commanded.
“Meena said she’s already talked with you.” Shalini stood shaking and looking at the floor.
“Look at me! So, you understand you’re in trouble now and must do what you’re told. That’s good! Unlike the others you’ve been specially chosen by people above me who I don’t know personally. Because of your relationship with the Commissioner and Chief Minister you’ll be our protection and eyes. You will not believe me, but I hate what I’ve had to do to you but have no option now as my life and my relative’s lives are in danger if I don’t follow instructions. The same goes for you. We both must make the most of this situation and try to survive. Do you understand.”
In a quivering voice Shalini spoke. “Please don’t make me do anything bad Raj Sir as I couldn’t bear to live after that.”
Rajkumar sat blankly at the desk and tears formed in his eyes. Death would be a sweet release for him he thought. He’d sacrificed others to save his sisters but the enormous gilt he felt every time he recruited yet another for the club was beginning to destroy him. Who would save his sisters if he didn’t continue? He pulled himself together quickly.
This package must be delivered to an important person who sent an unsigned note this morning. Ramesh the autorickshaw driver will take you as he knows the place. I don’t. I get all my instructions and threats through Ramesh. He’s been warned not to touch you, so you don’t need to be afraid.”
The rickshaw rushed past Shalini’s house close to the school and weaved through traffic until it came to an imposing bungalow. Ramesh pointed to the door then took out a key which he used after pushing the terrified girl to the door. Once inside he locked the door and pushed her down a flight of stairs and along corridors arriving at a locked door. He pressed a button four times and waited. There was a click and the door swung open. Ramesh pushed her inside and then left.
Shalini scanned the crowded room noticing the people there were all well-dressed. The imposing grey-haired man at the head of the table spoke.
“Let me introduce you to one of my relatives. He passed around some photos and the man beckoned Shalini to his chair and reached out for the package she was to deliver.
“In a moment we will all enjoy the photos Shalini has delivered today on that large screen and you’ll stay by me and enjoy the show Shalini. Isn’t it nice to have someone close to the Chief Minister and his fix-it man in our club as an insurance? Shalini you’ve developed into a very nice young lady! You’ll be well protected if you just follow my instructions from now on. They will be delivered to you through Ramesh of course and if you ever mention you’ve been to this place you’ll find something happens at home you’ll be responsible for because you haven’t learned to keep secrets.” Shalini shivered in fear.
The man at the head of the table gave a signal and threw the package to a man on his left. The package was unwrapped, and a DVD extracted then placed in a slot in the flat screen TV.
One by one images flashed on the screen and Shalini gasped in surprise and horror. Some of the images were students at school she recognized but most of them she couldn’t identify though she knew they were young. There were murmurs of appreciation from the men seated around the table.
“These are the latest crop available and meetings can be arranged. Shalini you can now return home with Ramesh and must never tell anyone what you’ve seen here today because bad things happen to the families of those who don’t know how to keep secrets. I’ll let you know through Ramesh what you are to do each day and Ramesh has been warned not to touch you. Do you understand?”
Shalini still shaking uncontrollably looked hopefully toward the door and her escape. She’d run away from home today rather than bring shame and danger to the family she loved. The thought of never seeing them again bought tears to her eyes and she imagined jumping a train to another city and taking her chance living on the streets. She had no idea how dangerous that would be. As her thoughts rapidly processed what she’d seen and heard she remembered the man at the head of the table had claimed to be a relative. Who was he and why was he in this evil trade? Why would he do this to her if she were his relative?
Judge Gaikwad pressed a button on his table to signal Ramesh he should collect Shalini for the return trip. Then he pressed another electronic button on the wall behind him to disconnect the door lock. The door opened and a frightened Ramesh stepped inside with a gun thrust into his back. A large group of special police entered the room and took up positions around the room with guns at the ready. They were followed by Bhaskar Gaikwad and another policeman with a video camera. “Video everyone in the room!” Bhaskar barked.
The last picture shown was still up on the screen. Bhaskar’s quick eye noted this and he went to the screen to inspect it. He pressed a button and the DVD popped out. “Video this while the DVD is still in its cradle!” he barked again.
Then he noticed the girl cringing in the corner with head down. “Bring that girl here!”
She was dragged over to Bhaskar and her head pulled up to face him.
Bhaskar gave a loud cry of pain and wept. “Shaloo, what are you doing here?” The police surrounding them shifted uneasily on their feet. This was a huge event, what would Bhaskar Sahib do now his family were compromised? But he recovered quickly. “Take her to the Police Commissioner’s office and I’ll interrogate her later. He carefully made an inventory of the faces seated around the table. Shaking his head in surprise and disgust.
“You are community leaders do you have no shame? You are going to pay a big price for what you’ve done to these children.”
Judge Gaikwad recovered quickly. “On the contrary Bhaskar, your head will roll because of this error of judgment. I thought you were more professional. This group were having a meeting to deal with what we’ve uncovered happening in this city. We can’t trust the current political leadership or the police to deal with it, so we set up a citizen’s action committee of these prominent citizens to find a way to deal with corrupt police and politics. These men are pillars of society and you’ve insulted some powerful people who will no doubt take you to court and see you’re dealt with appropriately. The media are always looking for a good story so let’s see how this plays out when we give them the facts. I’ll certainly offer my services to these men to see you are sued for everything you have for attempting to blacken their names when they are only trying to deal with evil in our community.”
To be continued.
© Copyright 2019 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
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