The Witches of Waitiki

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Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. The men stopped in their tracks. In the chaos, Rishi turned around and walked back to his mother, who snatched him up and rushed him indoors. Outside, the witches and the men with sticks exchanged more verbal attacks, but five minutes later everyone returned to their own side of the fence.

Is he all right? He has high fever running through his body, otherwise there are no signs of harm. I'll take care of him. Then you must take him to a special temple. Mrs Subramanium and Rakhi were left alone, holding on to each other and shedding silent tears. The residents of the three houses and most of the Subramanium family had re-entered the dream world they had so rudely been awakened from an hour ago. But Rishi was far from asleep. His father had tried to make him reveal what had happened there on the open grounds. But all he said was, "Nothing. But he could find no moment when he had felt threatened, or under her control.

To make sure, he went through the incident a couple of times more, but was convinced everyone had got it wrong. The woman at no time had tried to 'use her powers' on him. She was just trying to be friendly. He sat up with the thought.


She was just trying to befriend him and the other witches were nowhere around at that point of time. She was alone, and just wanted him nearby. He was convinced this was the real situation. But if she was evil, why should she try to befriend him? He stood up, alert.

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It was the sound of someone crying - a long, wailing and mournful cry. Pitiable, yet creepy enough to make one's hair stand on end. It continued for a few minutes. Slowly and unbelievably, Rishi began walking towards the sound, drawn to it like a moth to light. He got off the veranda and headed for the house of the witches. On the veranda, Manu too got up. Half expecting something like this to occur, he had not slept a wink, but had only pretended to be asleep. Quickly and quietly, he picked up a stout stick and followed Rishi at a discreet distance.

Rishi did not falter or look back even once. His concentration seemed to be totally engulfed by the wailing sound, now getting louder. Keeping himself out of sight by hiding behind trees and bushes, Manu was eaten up by the dilemma he faced. Should he confront his son and bring him back to safety, or allow him to continue and see through to the end of this He decided on the latter. Rishi reached the two houses where the witches lived.

Outside, the fire they were tending to in the evening still burned dully through the ashes. He stood there for a minute. Why was he doing this? He realised he was neither scared nor were his brains scrambled. He was certainly apprehensive, but he had a conviction and this was the only way to prove it. I am sure I've made a mistake in not stopping him. Rishi stood his ground, squinting his eyes to get a better view of the witch. It was the same one he had confronted earlier. Another door opened and the other two witches came out. With a sharp yelp they were about to run towards Rishi, when the first witch put up her hand and stopped them.

Rishi hadn't moved an inch. Go back to your own people," the first witch said, waving her hand. Her words were barely audible. But Rishi, though quivering like a leaf, still stood his ground. I'm sure," he tried to convince himself.

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In answer, the other two witches came forward, half limping, arms outstretched, wicked grins on their faces. He stepped forward to the first witch and raised Iris arm to touch her. Please don't," she pleaded and ran back into her house. Rishi followed her without hesitation, pushing aside the door and stepping in. He was not ready for what met his eye. Slowly, he put his stick down and gaped in wonder.

The witch was on the floor, her head covered by the arm, sobbing inconsolably. And Rishi was crouching above her, his hand caressing her head affectionately. Rishi jerked around on hearing his father's entry. Look Daddy, they are not witches! As his acute excitement vanished, Manu's feet could support him no longer.

He too slumped down on the floor. He just couldn't believe what he saw before him. He was ready to see the wickedest unholy things under this roof, but what he saw was just short of a temple.

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Daddy," said Rishi softly, still stroking the woman's head. Suddenly, it all fitted in, as though a veil had been lifted and the truth revealed. He should have guessed it earlier when he first saw them. But then, when an imaginative mind wants to lead you astray, there is very little the practical mind can do about it. We've been chased out of every city, town and village we tried to settle down in. We've been abused and physically assaulted, all in the name of 'cleanliness 1.

We just couldn't find a place where we could live peacefully Seeing the situation here, we decided to take matters into our hands. So instead of lepers, we presented ourselves as witches. People shunned us, but feared us too, with the result that we were finally left in peace. What about the old man, Pandu? How did he become bedridden? He is paralysed waist down. But his plight helped us completely establish our identity. The villagers themselves did the rest. They used their imaginations and drew up their own conclusions.

They drew up the right conclusions, as far as we were concerned, and we were left in peace. Most lepers in our country are not contagious. It's only a very small percentage of the afflicted people who are contagious, and the doctors confine them all to a solitary place. Ours is not a malignant disease and we all have a doctor's certificate stating just that. But nobody believes us and nobody cares to see the certificate either. But every now and then, we crave for normal company.

That's what happened to Seema here, and your son. Why is she taken u p by him so much? How did you manage that? He would help them somehow. Early next morning, Manu held a meeting with all the residents of the village. He explained the entire story and ended with, " And to show you they are harmless, I want you all to follow me. At the first sight of the villagers, the lepers panicked and were about to run away, but Manu ran ahead and held them by his hands. He circled his arms around all the three women, much to the surprise of all, more so, Mrs Subramanium.

The lepers cringed, not comfortable with such a show of affection. This should convince you all that these women are harmless. They could once again live without fear. There is no such thing as witches and ghosts and what have you. Such things don't exist! Later, the villagers and lepers accompanied them to their car and awaited the mechanic who had promised to come in the morning. It can't be seen from here. That is old Shankar from our village, who died on this stretch of road in an accident 20 years ago.

Ever since, he keeps sending people to our village. He turned to his son with a knowing look and said, "See? Such things do exist! The word that chills the spine of adults and leaves them numb with fear. The word that conjures images of dark and misty nights, of hooded figures lurking in the shadows, of terrifying screams The word that brings unabated excitement to the bored detective, but despair to the overworked policeman.

But to year-old Krishna, it brought just pure and undiluted terror. If there was one thing in life that this young man couldn't fathom, it was the need of one human being to kill another. The thought of someone taking a life, and that too with so much pain to the victim, always gave him nightmares. There was little escaping the word either, as it was there in the newspaper almost every day, in its full gruesome form Anyone can tell you are reading about some murder. How could his sister, at the tender age of 14, deal with a subject like murder so casually and callously?

It never seemed to bother her that someone's precious life had just been terminated under unnatural circumstances. In fact, she would derive great pleasure finding out details like exactly how the murder was committed, how long the victim took to die and what murder weapon was used. Krishna was convinced his sister was not normal. Indeed, she was so, so And Krish because she shared many similarities with famous ex-cricketer, Krishnamachari Srikkant, whom, incidentally, she idolised.

What do you mean, 'again'? That's the third case of strangulation in a month's time and, like the others, there are no clues, no witnesses and no motives. He knew she was smart, though at times he found her oversmart. And he also knew she was real quick in everything she did. That was another sore point he had to learn to deal with as he often found himself struggling far behind her in everything they did together.

He looked quite shaken as he stood up and pointed at the newspaper. Krishna looked around him in desperation as though he had suddenly collapsed into the middle of a vast desert, with no hope of survival from any side. The killer is still at large. Why are you shouting? You think I am frightened? A bachelor who changed more jobs in a year than he changed shirts.

Not that he didn't like to work - it was just that he was less tolerant of others' behaviour. There were very few places where his job lasted for more than two months. Presently, of course, his record was zero days, as he had got into an argument with his boss in the elevator, on his way to the office on the very first day. He had come to their house on a weekend visit two years ago and had somewhat overstayed his visit.

Not that anybody was complaining, as he was welcome company and loads of fun. The only problem was he was immensely forgetful. He would forget days and dates. If there was nothing to remember, he would still worry himself sick trying to remember what he thought he was forgetting. Krishna always maintained that he had even forgotten tjaat he had come over just for the weekend. Not a pleasant subject so early in the morning.

His name was Mr Das. It would have been more pleasant dealing with any of A1 Capone's relatives. Vijay Uncle cleared his throat and looked inquiringly at his niece, almost dreading to ask the next question. Krishna just grunted something under his breath that sounded like 'hard nut 1 , and walked out of the room. Karishma indeed was a hard nut.

As already mentioned, she had very few friends, if any at all. The boys shied away from her, as they feared she would beat them The girls avoided her, as there was very little in common between them and her. She didn't care about dressing up, or shopping, or even parties. Though she was quite attractive and had an athletic figure, she was comfortable only in her faded jeans and loose tops. And it was only on special occasions that one caught her in a more feminine salwar kameez. She read a lot, mostly PG Wodehouse and murder mysteries, and seemed most happy when left alone with her books.

She cared a lot about her family but would refrain from displaying her emotions. And she was often caught gazing at something intently for hours at a time, deep in thought, or just daydreaming. Vijay Uncle was used to these sudden bouts of questions that generally came out of nowhere. He politely gave the riddle two minutes of thought. What is the common factor? That's why I asked you. There were only two ways to handle her questions He was in the process of looking around for a stonewall when he decided to change his method.

That's what's needed in tackling this girl,' he decided. Patience, he reminded himself. Remember, no shouting at the dining table? And I'm the forgetful person around here. I asked what was the common factor between a retired army officer, a businessman and a stockbroker? Well the three men strangled this week were from those disciplines. I was wondering what was common to such different men that they were destined to die in exactly the same manner.

They could see a lot of activity around Venus Apartments. A small crowd had gathered on both sides of the road. The police looked frantic, and showed a lot of importance.

Venus Apartment was a dirty looking three-storeyed building. It looked in desperate need of a facelift as the paint had totally been washed out and at places even the plaster had crumbled. Mr Das, the victim, was its landlord for the past odd years. The sub-inspector was excitedly talking to him, obviously sharing his opinion about what must have happened on the second floor.

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The Witches of Waitiki has 2 ratings and 1 review. たつあき said: Very interesting, but this book was a little difficult to read. The content was very intere. The Witches of Waitiki is riveting story that holds you spellbound till the are forever in a suspense wondering whether Rishi will be overcome by the.

But the inspector kept shaking his head, obviously not agreeing with his deputy's point of view. Karishma pushed her way through the crowd and tried to get closer to the inspector. And like the other two cases, there seems to be no motive here either. Hard to believe, but we do seem to have a psychopath on our hands. I'm sure there is a motive, some proper reason, behind these murders. So she had been thinking along the right lines. Even the police felt the murders were connected.

She had already walked in, and he had to hurry behind her. Where do you think you are going? The sight of a policeman to him was 'law 1 , 'truth' and 'uprighteousness 1. Since he was a kid, the mention of a policeman immediately brought out the best behaviour in him. And here was his own younger sister, blatantly lying through her teeth to one of these upholders of law and order. When he finds out she's been lying, he would probably send her packing in front of all these people. The policeman looked hesitant but moved aside.

This is no place for children. Krishna faltered, but only for a moment, and in a flash was next to her. Why do you want to see that room? You'd think they'd want to install a lift Krishna looked up and was horrified to see two men coming down, carrying a stretcher between them. He knew the pallbearers would have to pass him on the narrow staircase and he couldn't think of a more frightening experience. Feeling a little dizzy, he stepped aside, trying his best to melt into the wall.

Karishma, meanwhile helped them manoeuvre the stretcher around the tight corner. That makes you next in line for the Heavenly Gates. Karishma recognised most of the people as residents of the building. Karishma knew her too. But who could have committed such a ghastly act? He was dressed in a white kurta pyjama, and his pencil- thin moustache was unevenly cut. Till now Krishna was but a mute bystander, shifting his gaze from Karishma to one of the neighbours and back to Karishma.

Then turning to the small group she asked, "But why would anyone want to kill Mr Das. He was such a nice man. He would expect his rent on the first of every month, and no excuses. But it's not right to criticise a dead man. Poor man was always scrounging for money. Vijay Uncle came in that afternoon in a huff. A company with that good a reputation, and their Personnel Manager does not know the basics of public relations! It was I who rejected them! All along the interview he kept on slurping it, quite loudly at that, mind you, and he didn't even have the decency to offer me some.

How could you expect me to work with such people. Karishma made a mental note of warning her mother to expect Vij ay Uncle to be with them at least till his retirement years. Why don't we go out someplace? I haven't seen Shaniwarwada for quite sometime now, so let's go there," she said, marking her page with a fold of the corner and shutting the book. Shaniwarwada was the ruins of the Peshwa Palace, built by Bajirao in the 18 th century.

It used to be the seat of political power in Maharashtra and lay in the heart of the city. Though in ruins, the fortress-like structure still communicated an impression of great beauty and strength. Why do you want to visit that crowded place? And, I'm sure it will help you relax. A quick walk around it and Vijay Uncle suggested they explore the inside. Let's have some tea there. First his ego was hurt thanks to a mannerless manager, then he was dragged miles away to an old palace he was not interested in, and when he did show some interest in it, he was being shuttled off to a dirty old restaurant.

Well, now I'm offering you one. Soon the owner- cum-waiter-cum-dishwasher brought them their tea in cracked cups, which appeared to have been in use since Bajirao himself. Before he could say anything, the owner-cum-waiter-cum-dishwasher answered, "No. There are many murders these days. Everybody knows about it," the owner-cum-waiter-cum-dishwasher said lightly. But since all his other businesses failed, he was not much of a landlord either As you can probably see from the condition of the building.

He was all alone in this world. But now his new partner will look after the building. Hopefully, he can put in some money and do up the building. But there just didn't seem to be anything in common, except that the murdered men were landlords, besides their own professions. And that, both were broke. Later that evening, Karishma who had taken up position outside Venus Apartments cornered Bina Aunty, as she returned from her grocery shopping.

Aunty," she offered, hurrying towards the elderly lady. Yes, these old limbs are no longer what they once were. Poor man lost all his money in the stockmarket crash. Mr Das solved part of his financial problem by selling half of the building's rights to Mr Seth, just a couple of months ago. Thank God, we won't be left in the lurch, as Mr Seth seems to be financially strong. Karishma made a mental note of the fact that both the landlords had taken a partner. Was it the same person? She had to find out if the partner who took over the Piccadilly Cafe was also a Mr Seth.

She quickly escorted Bina Aunty to her floor and rushed back home. Common sense told her that would be impossible, but life was never governed by common sense, so she took the chance. The reason why such a dilapidated place had a telephone was probably because the Cafe had seen better days, years ago. Er, yes," she said, trying her best to sound like an adult.

Am I dreaming, wondered the owner, or is it some joke? No one in his right mind would want to purchase his dump. But as I understand, you are a tenant. Therefore you will also have to involve the landlord of the building in the deal. And what's his name? She was hoping it would be a Mr Seth. She could almost hear the desperate "Hello! She may have failed in her investigations, but at least she would have put some hope into the life of the owner.

Next morning when Karishma opened her eyes, she didn't seem as bright and fresh as usual. In fact, she had spent half the night tossing and turning in bed, trying to figure out the connection between the three murders. Her gut feeling told her there must be a connection, and she had found a couple of them. But both had led her nowhere. She must give one more try. The third building, where the third man was murdered Has anybody seen my spectacles?

I can't remember where I last left them. Now I can look for the newspaper Uncle," said Karishma, without looking up. Very helpful, you bet. And the Aussies were coming over next week for a One Day International. Something Krishna was looking forward to. He looked distastefully at his sister's attempt at blackmail. Let's go to the open Cantonment area. Always a good place for a ride.

I'm ready when you are," she said and got up from her chair. Soon Krishna was pedalling heavily, quite unused to carrying a passenger. They moved aimlessly through the open roads, lined with old banyan trees and cute bungalows, and all the colours of bougainvillaea in full bloom. Army officers generally owned these bungalows. Suddenly Karishma cried out, "Ah, Kahun Road.

Now let's look for Number But if there is a method to madness, then equally, there is madness to your methods. At least she got to where she wanted to be. At number 42 she got off and inspected the structure at number 44 before her. It was too large to be termed a bungalow, and too small to be an apartment building. There were two floors to it, with a large courtyard in front. Neither the courtyard nor the building had seen any maintenance in at least a quarter of a century. At the gate was the nameplate, "Lt.

She moved forward, and then saw him. For a split second she was rooted to the spot, and then quickly dived behind a large banyan tree. From there she saw a m an angrily walking up the pathway. He stopped and looked directly at the tree she had taken refuge behind. With a puzzled look he continued up the path, jerked open the old picket fence gate and got into a blue Maruti Zen. It was the same man she had seen on the stairs, leading to the third floor of Venus Apartment.

The middle- aged man dressed in white kurta pyjama, sporting a pencil- thin moustache. After the car sped away, she came out of her hiding place. She looked coyly towards her brother. Hands deep in his pockets, he grumbled, "Why are you poking your nose into these murders?

Yesterday you almost got us arrested, and I suppose today is the day of court martial! But of course it's pointless asking you to back off. Where is Colonel Uncle?

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This spontaneous promotion given to his assistant bank manager father was bound to rebound on them, he was sure. If she ever allowed him to reach marriageable age, he promised himself, no daughters for him. I'll explain," said the old man and disappeared inside. As they reached the second floor, the door opened and a ferocious looking black Doberman charged out.

Krishna hated dogs and the minute he saw one, he turned around and hurriedly started climbing down. Never retreat when facing a dog, they say. It is a cue for them to chase. And that's exactly what this dog did. Ignoring Karishma, who stood still, he took it upon himself to bring down Krishna.

He had got the scent of a hunt. In a split second, during which all one could see of Krishna was a blur something like Superman when he reached super speed , he was out of the house and out of the grounds, with the picket fence gate securely closed behind him. His task complete, Brutus returned to his master. How about getting back to Colonel Uncle? The police are still not sure who did it, or even why. But how come your father didn't hear of it? Financially in ruins, he used to survive on his pension. No money for the upkeep of this big place. That's why he let out the top two floors on rent.

His wife died ten years a go, and they had no children. Now it will be his duty to maintain it, I suppose. In fact, that man was here just five minutes ago. She knew she had her man. Now to put the pieces together, and form a complete picture.

The Witches of Waitiki

His name is Salvi. Brutus wouldn't have hurt you if he thought you were a friend. In it was a middle-aged man dressed in a white kurta and pyjama, studying them with a worried look. As if on cue, he started his car and went after the two. On a lonely stretch, he suddenly accelerated and went straight for the bicycle. There was a loud screech of tyres, the sickening bang of a collision, and the cycle went crashing over the sidewalk and into a fence.

As they lay stunned, Karishma caught a glimpse of the speeding blue Maruti. A while later they were helped up by a passer-by, and a car dropped them home. Karishma had escaped with minor bruises, but Krishna suffered a fracture on his left leg. Very little of it was left for repairs.

Seeing her brother with a plaster on his leg set Karishma boiling. But since nobody believed her story of an intentional hit-and-run, she would have to go about it in her own way. There were still two loose ends to be tied up before Karishma could get the police involved. Getting the police involved would not be a major problem, as her father's cousin was a senior officer in the department.

Of the loose ends, she sorted one out comfortably. The confirmation that the man she had seen on the staircase, the one with the white kurta pyjama, had also gone into a partnership deed with Mr Das, the landlord of Venus Apartments. The confirmation came from one more trip of grocery delivery for Bina Aunty. He just couldn't believe what he had heard, and kept staring at his niece in amazement. There he was 15 minutes ago in the middle of his afternoon nap, when he was suddenly rudely awakened md bludgeoned with details of three buildings, three landlords and three murders. We'll have to go back there and inquire with the Cafe owner.

Wish I had a photograph of that man," she said glumly. By the way, how do you propose to put forward your question to the owner? You don't have a photograph of that man, so how will you confirm if he is the same man? I'm just an innocent bystander here. I don't want to meddle in this cloak-and-dagger stuff. Just tell him you have a friend by the name of BJ Sircar and are wondering if he is the same as the new owner of the building.

Then when you both start describing your BJ Sircars, I'll be able to find out if it is the same man. He looked suspiciously at his niece and asked, "What is the name of the school you go to? But how in God's name did she guess? Even the police have been fooled He called up a number on his cell phone.

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I have another job for you. Be at my Shaniwarwada building in five minutes. Come straight up to the terrace. The batata ivadas came and they both instantly lost their appetites. The snack looked quite burnt, a little soggy from too much oil and almost crumbling into pieces.

They both avoided looking at it. You know, I have a friend by the name of BJ Sircar. Vijay Uncle looked stumped. He didn't expect a counter question. He looked desperately for help from Karishma. He is middle-aged, a little overweight maybe, and wears glasses with But she controlled her impulse and simply said, "Well, you could say I've met him a couple of times.

You can meet him again if you want, as he is here right now. Please don't take the trouble. That's why they were so good. Once outside, Karishma burst into an excited reaction. He has definitely murdered those men and he was the one who tried to run over us. There are too many things to pin him down for it to be a coincidence.

Let's go straight to the police station. Since we're dealing with a killer, we must be extra careful. What if he recognises you the way you recognise him? Then even your life could be in great danger. Let's inform the police, and they'll get the whole story out of him. We'll go home first. Next we'll ask your father to contact his cousin in the police department. Let the police come home and you can tell them your story. But you, young lady, need to be behind locked doors immediately.

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Just 20 feet behind them, a one-eyed ruffian took another rickshaw and followed them. It was a quiet but excited group that sat huddled around the dining table later that evening. After all the facts she has unearthed, that man definitely is behind the killings. Though we've still to know his real identity, his motives, and the way he arranged the killings. I'll immediately arrange for her protection.

Wishing them goodnight, he left. He got into his jeep and sped off, not noticing a dark figure standing in the shadows across the street. Two minutes later, the figure struck a match and lit a cigarette. It was the one-eyed ruffian. His cold eye narrowed as he took in the scene. She is onto him. I'd better warn him first, and take care of the girl later in the night. One of the policemen was standing inside the main gate of the building downstairs, and the other was outside the door of their flat on the second floor.

Somehow, he must have got wind of the fact that the police were onto him and had already escaped. But his description was passed onto all police posts, as well as to the two policemen on guard. There was no way he could cause any harm to Karishma. Reassuring though he may have sounded, the family was far from comfortable and worried that the killer was still at large. With all the excitement of the day behind her, Karishma could not sleep.

She opened the door to the balcony and stepped out for a breath of fresh air. They had a long balcony that covered the entire front of the house. There were three doors opening onto it, Karishma's, then the hall, and finally, Krishna's room. She looked down at the road.

It seemed almost deserted. The area they stayed in, Gultekdi, was mostly residential and by eight in the evening it was almost deserted, and peaceful. She stretched her arms with a yawn and then caught sight of the lit cigarette. It is said that a lit cigarette can be spotted from as far away as a flying plane, therefore spotting it from a distance of about 50 yards was no big deal.

A lit cigarette generally would cause no alarm, but when it is held by a man crouching behind a tree and studying the building you live in, as the headlights of a passing car caught him doing so, it was something to be alarmed about. Karishma quickly stepped back into her room, shut the door and returned to the safety of her bed. Could it be the killer, she wondered. Maybe it was some hired killer that he had sent. Maybe all the three murders were executed by a professional killer. And if that was so, the kurta pyjama man may still prove himself innocent with solid alibis.

However, he would still have to answer the question of having three different identities, but that may not land him in serious trouble. He probably had a ready answer to squirm himself out of that kind of a situation. The thought that the man may actually prove himself innocent angered her beyond reason.

She would not allow that to happen. Not after he had almost killed her brother. There was only one thing to do. She got up from her bed, went back to the balcony and switched on the lights there. Then she leaned over the parapet, as though searching for something. She made sure she was in full view of anybody on the streets. Switching off the lights, she went back to her room, leaving the balcony door wide open. Then she took guard and waited. It was well past midnight when she heard the scraping sound. Trembling with excitement and fright, she quickly settled her bed to make it look as though someone was asleep there.

Next, she tiptoed out of the room into the adjoining hall, and locked the door between the hall and her room. Then she hid behind the sofa in the hall. She strained her ears but could hear nothing from the balcony. Another few minutes of breathless silence and she impatiently came out of her hiding place and stealthily crept towards the balcony.

Suddenly, she heard the soft thud of someone landing gently on the balcony. So far things had gone as she had anticipated Now, he should be entering her bedroom. She parted the curtains slightly to make her next move, but was mortified to see the big man two feet away from her. Luckily, she was so terrified that no sound escaped her. She saw him give the hall a quick look and return to the balcony. A minute later, shaking like a leaf, she carefully peered outside. He was not there. Now she had to make her last move. Brushing aside all stiffness that had crept into her body, she swiftly stepped out onto the balcony and rushed to the door leading to her own room.

In the faint moonlight she saw the man bending over her bed with outstretched hands. He was holding a thin rope in both hands. Suddenly, he whirled around and saw her. He tried to charge towards the door. But she beat him to it as she banged the door shut and bolted it from outside. He was now securely trapped in her room. She went back to the hall, where she heard him straining against the door in-between. She rushed to the front door and ushered in the policeman.

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He was startled to see the young girl open the door. I have the tiger in the cage," she informed the policeman coolly. The killer was apprehended and escorted to the police station. Half a dozen policemen asked a hundred questions, and when all were answered they too left. Next morning the inspector returned. The paid-killer identified his employer as a Mr PA Shinde, and we nabbed him in one of his dens.

Apparently, this businessman had recently entered into the real estate scene. He would spend weeks to locate dilapidated buildings around Pune, where the owner was financially weak and had no heirs. Then he would step in with some cash, entice the owner and get into a partnership deal with him. So after an appropriate period of time he hired this killer and got rid of the landlords of the three buildings he had identified. And why change his identity? Then he intended demolishing these buildings and constructing multi-storeyed ones in their place.

You would have noticed all the buildings were located on prime land where he could have sold the flats at very high rates, netting in huge profits for himself. And about changing his identity, his intentions were to dupe the authorities. We at the police station certainly didn't make the connection, as whenever we called him over for routine questioning, he would arrive in different disguises. With different names, and different appearances, we took him to be different persons. Then, at the Land and Building Registration Office, the properties showed up in the names of three different people.

Finally, when he later sold his flats, he would have received payments in different names too And were it not for Karishma, he would probably have been successful too. Mr Patil studied his daughter as though he was noticing her for the first time. He wanted to tell her many things, warn her of the many evil people who could cause serious damage. But all that he could come up with was, "Well done. And nobody contradicted her. You hope it goes away without you having to shake it off. But it never does, and goes on tickling your senses, challenging a reaction from you.

Finally, unable to bear the tickle, you shake it off. And your sleep goes out of the window with the fly. I find this most annoying. Even more annoying are the times when you are fast asleep and someone comes along, pats your head heavily and asks, "Are you asleep? And if you try to remind thej about it, you get a shoe flying back at you.

My name is Cocktail though nobody calls me by that name any longer , and I believe I'm a pure breed. Frankly, I don't know what it means, but I have often heard my master proudly introduce me as a 'pure half- breed'. The word 'half' I'm sure he adds, as half of me is brown in colour, and the stomach and chest are pure white. I'm six years old, that's middle-aged to you, and a little hairy which unfortunately means frequent haircuts. My mother being a poodle and my father a Lhasa apso, I am extremely short.

Temperamentally, I believe in the 'You don't bother me, I don't bother you' theory. Currently, I don't have a regular girlfriend, but I do have someone in mind, and I'm working on it. I love my food, my sleep, my home and some of the four humans I call my 'masters'. My secret pact with them? Take me out for a walk twice everyday, and fill my plate twice daily too. In return, I will protect their house from burglars, salesmen, postmen and even rats and cats particularly cats, as I hate them.

It was a simple deal and I was happy with it. But do they keep their part of the promise? They're always forgetting these simple routines. And, as already mentioned, when I remind them of it, there's hell to pay. It's already 8 o'clock! Vishnu is 16 and in his last year at St. Vincent's School, one of the top-notch schools of Darjeeling. He had been a decent sort of chap till recently, and I used to get along fine with him.

But of late, this past year or so, he has turned into a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed, lazy fellow who can't talk politely to anyone, not even his own parents. And to wake him up from his sleep could mean only one thing But an order from the Commanding Officer the mother was the one who always filled my plate was an order to obey.