‘Cocaine?’ Virkar’s eyebrow arched ever so slightly as he stared into Dr Girish Gite’s earnest face. The young doctor worked at the forensic lab in Santa Cruz and occasionally served as a ‘personal’ forensic consultant for Virkar, giving him a deeper insight into whatever case he was working on at the time. He had agreed to do this because Virkar had been instrumental in his becoming a doctor instead of a Naxalite. In his teens, Dr Gite, aka Giriya, had been enamoured by Naxalite propaganda until Virkar had been transferred to the police station near Giriya’s home in the district of Gadchiroli. As part of his policing duties, Virkar also engaged with the youngsters of the district and gave them English lessons. He was quick to identify Giriya’s restless intelligence and made a conscious attempt to veer him towards positive activities. He was the one who had recommended Giriya’s application to Nagpur Medical College and the rest was history. Giriya had become Dr Girish Gite and had got a job with the forensic laboratory in Mumbai. A few years later, when Virkar had come to Mumbai, they had connected once again and Dr Gite had become Virkar’s go-to forensic expert.
Earlier that night, Virkar had received the customary SMS that indicated he should meet Gite later that night. Now, as Virkar took in the information that he had just received, he wondered if the trip had been worth it.
‘Yes, cocaine. First grade quality, too,’ said Gite, interrupting Virkar’s thoughts.
Virkar put up his hand to stop Gite. ‘Hold on. You’re telling me that you found minute traces of cocaine on the gun that Akhbir was using and that this is a breakthrough?’
‘Yes,’ Gite nodded with a hint of impatience.
Virkar shrugged. ‘I really don’t get the significance, Giriya.’
‘It could mean that Akhbir or the previous owner of the gun were cocaine users,’ Gite explained.
Virkar shook his head. ‘That’s a really big assumption. The traces of cocaine could have come from anywhere. The gun fell on the floor of the SuperTrance Nightclub. There could have been some cocaine particles on the floor that could have been transferred to the gun—’
‘Not in this case,’ Dr Gite cut Virkar off in mid-sentence. ‘The particles were attached to the upper section of the trigger, the part that meets the body of the gun. That part generally doesn’t come in contact with the floor even if the gun is laid flat on the ground. However, that portion comes in constant contact with the gun user’s trigger finger—the same finger that a cocaine user generally uses while handling his cocaine.
Virkar looked at Gite thoughtfully. ‘Okay, I’ll grant you that. Let’s say Akhbir was a cocaine user. But how is this detail going to help me?’
Gite now sounded excited. ‘Well, you could start questioning all known cocaine dealers and find out more about Akhbir and his associates.’
Virkar sighed. ‘If only I knew how to get in touch with the drug dealers in the city. Even if I did, I doubt they’d be willing to share any information about their clients with a policeman.’
Gite opened his mouth to say something and then fell silent, looking a bit deflated. Virkar noticed his disappointment and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. ‘I’m sorry, Giriya. I know you try hard but some leads are just too difficult to pursue.’ Virkar gave his shoulder a friendly pat. ‘I am quite stuck on this one, too.’ Giving him a small smile, Virkar turned and walked out of the building.
The cool night breeze that brushed against his face as he rode his Bullet on the highway lifted Virkar’s spirit to some extent. For the past week, he had been coming up with nothing; all leads had dried up and there was no silver lining in sight. Deep inside the pit of his stomach, an ugly feeling had begun to sink in—the fear that the case would turn cold. Virkar slammed the breaks on the Bullet and drove it to the side of the highway. When he came to a stop, he pulled out his mobile phone and dialled a number.
After a few rings, the call was picked up.
Before Virkar could say anything else, Naina said, ‘So this is what I have become to you—a night-time phone call.’
Virkar stuttered. ‘N-n-no. It’s not like that. I’ve just been caught up with the case.’
‘So caught up that you couldn’t even call me once over the past eight days?’
‘I…I…I…’ Virkar continued to stutter.
‘It was clear to me right from the beginning that you didn’t know how to deal with a woman, but I didn’t expect you to be an absolute dhakkan.’
Virkar wanted to reply but found no words. On the other hand, Naina was in full flow. ‘And I suppose now you’ve hit a wall and suddenly thought of me as a way to divert your attention.’ Virkar listened shamefaced as she continued, ‘I bet you thought that some sex will change your mood and clear up your head?’
‘I want a truthful answer from you, Virkar. Just a plain yes or a no.’
For a few seconds, the only sound that could be heard was the whoosh of a passing car.
‘Yes,’ Virkar finally said.
‘Yes, that’s what I thought,’ Virkar admitted.
Naina was silent for a few seconds. Finally, her voice sounded over the line, ‘Well, at least you’re honest. I’m at home. Come over.’