Book: Anti Social Network

Previous: Chapter 37
Next: Chapter 39
38

That Richard is good, yaar, thought Virkar to himself as he walked down Bazaar Gate Street in Mumbai’s Fort area. He was pretending to look for a cover for his cell phone among all the small hole-in-the-wall cell phone shops that dotted the street. Earlier that afternoon, Richard had made a breakthrough. Although he had tried several times to locate the mystery man’s mobile phone, he simply could not pinpoint its location while it was turned off. However, during this exercise he had discovered that the phone had been used three times during the early hours of the morning in the Fort area before being turned off. In fact, the timing of the last instance when it was used in the Fort area corresponded with the call made to Virkar’s phone while he was out on the Koli Queen. Richard had communicated this to Virkar who, in turn, surmised that the mystery man’s base of operations was probably the Fort area, since the unearthly hour when the phone had been used indicated that the mystery man was indoors in an office or a home. Richard had identified the location to be somewhere in the vicinity of the Bora Bazaar in the Fort area.

Bora Bazaar lies sandwiched between the upscale Victorian buildings lining Pherozeshah Mehta road to the south and the General Post Office and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (commonly known as V.T.) to the north. The majestic D.N. Road borders Bora Bazaar on the west while the venerated Ballard Estate lies to its east. The buildings in this area are jammed together between narrow lanes that are choked with vehicles and people at all times. Small stationary shops jostle for space next to photo labs, mobile stores, electrical and hardware stores, stores selling computer spare parts, wholesale paper merchants and small printing presses. Basically, it is a conglomeration of vendors who supply material to the offices of Ballard Estate and the Fort area.

Above the shops, the rickety buildings stretch up to three or four storeys as is the norm in the Fort area. These buildings mostly have small cubby-holed offices of small traders, equally small law firms and fly-by-the-night tour operators. In short, the Bora Bazaar is a haven for a small, shady operator or someone with a flighty business.

A perfect place to operate a sextortion racket from, Virkar thought to himself as he stood feeding the pigeons that nested at the small kabootar khana under the Bazaar Gate tower. From that position, he could look down three streets of Bora Bazaar. What he saw was not encouraging. The mystery man could be anywhere in the tight environs of the labyrinthine streets. For a few seconds, Virkar’s resolve was a little shaken but he pulled himself together quickly as he visualized the mystery man threatening him over the phone. Virkar did not like being threatened. He threw the last of the grains towards the hungry pigeons and turned towards Gunbow Street, making his way past the Jain temple into the heart of Bora Bazaar.

For the rest of the afternoon and through most of the evening, Virkar scoped out the streets of Bora Bazaar, looking into every nook and cranny that seemed suspicious. His eyes grew tired of scanning the faces of most of the shopkeepers and many of the passers-by. Virkar tried his best to commit each face to memory to the point that he became quite familiar with many of the people who inhabited the bazaar’s teeming lanes. Unfortunately, through the entire exercise, Virkar didn’t come across anything that he felt had even a remote connection to the mystery man.

By 7.30 p.m., most of the shops had shut down and the crowd on the streets had thinned. As it was a typical Mumbai commercial area, it would soon transform into a ghost town. Virkar sat in a chai shop that was still open, facing the road and eyeing the few people passing by, sipping his first chai of the day. The sweet liquid flowed into his system, giving his body the energy that it sorely needed. Virkar had every intention of patrolling the streets of Bora Bazaar all night. In fact, he welcomed the emptying of the streets as he felt it would be easier for him to spot the mystery man should he come in contact with him.

The strains of the aarti being performed at the nearby Jain temple wafted into Virkar’s ears. As he downed the last few sips of his chai, the music soothed his tired brain. This, combined with the sugar rush from the chai, refreshed Virkar and elevated his mood enough for him to begin looking forward to his night’s vigil. Suddenly, a thought struck him. He slapped a twenty-rupee note on the sunmica tabletop of the chai shop and rushed out. A few quick strides later, he was standing outside the Jain temple. The aarti and the mangal deevo were in progress and Virkar could hear every note loud and clear. He pulled out his cell phone and dialled Richard’s number. A few rings later, Richard picked up.

‘Hello, Richard.’

From the other side, Richard replied, ‘I can’t hear what you are saying. The temple music or whatever that’s playing behind you is too loud.’

‘Hold on,’ Virkar replied and walked over to a spot about a hundred yards right of the temple. ‘Now can you hear me clearly?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ Richard confirmed.

‘What about the aarti music? Can you hear that?’

‘Yes, faintly.’

Virkar now spoke in a measured tone. ‘Richard, I want you to go to Google maps for the Bora Bazaar area and mark a spot for me.’

‘Wha…what? I don’t get you.’ Richard was confused.

‘Just do as I say. Download the map and mark the New Badariya Guest House, approximately a hundred yards from the Jain temple.’ Saying this, Virkar walked back towards the temple and went approximately a hundred yards down to the opposite side. He now stood in front of a ramshackle office block past the post office. ‘Can you still hear the aarti?’

‘Yes. Again, it’s quite faint,’ Richard replied, wondering what all this was about.

‘Then mark the Dhotiwala building too.’

‘Inspector, I’ve done as you said. But why I am doing this? Please explain,’ Richard asked, unable to contain his curiosity any longer.

‘Because of the aarti,’ replied Virkar, sounding triumphant.

‘Have you suddenly become religious?’ Richard asked.

‘No, my young friend. I already am,’ Virkar replied. ‘I just remembered that the same aarti was playing in the background when the mystery man was speaking to me that morning.’

Richard drew a sharp breath. ‘That means...’

‘Yes. That means our man’s adda is located somewhere within a hundred yards of this temple in any of the four directions.’

Richard was excited too. ‘So what are we going to do now?’ he asked.

‘I’ve done my bit. Now you’re going to do yours,’ said Virkar. ‘I want you to tap into all the working mobile phones in this area—there shouldn’t be too many during the night—and I want you to listen for keywords like “kill”, “photos”, “pics”, “nude”, etcetera.’

‘That’s a huge task,’ said Richard.

‘Then you’d better get started, shouldn’t you?’ said Virkar.

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Next: Chapter 39