The Masked Criminal
"I think my calls are getting tapped."
Sarbari kept her coffee mug on the table and looked up at Rima.
"How do you know?"
"For the past few days I have a nagging feeling that someone is listening to my conversations. This morning I called Ma. While we were talking, I distinctly heard the voice of an unknown man in the background. Ma too heard him and asked who he was. I said I didn't know and thought that the sound came from her end. She said that the others were still asleep and there was no one around her. I can't understand what's happening."
Sarbari looked thoughtful.
"Then your phone is definitely being tapped."
"That's what I said. Nowadays different apps are available in the market for tapping android phones."
"But why should anyone feel interested in your conversations?"
"That I cannot say. Unfortunately I have an enemy who might be having underworld connections."
"I understand. Did you tell your husband?"
"But why? You should tell him and inform the police too."
"Tomorrow he and the children are leaving for Mumbai. I don't want to give them unnecessary tension and spoil their vacation."
"Oh yes, you said before that you all will be going to Goa. That means you will be alone in your house for two days?"
"Yes. But don't worry; my house is quite safe and secure."
"Even then, it's better to remain careful. Come with me. I'll help you buy something."
Sarbari selected a pepper spray for Rima and described it's usefulness to her.
"This little weapon is an instant solo rescue provider. The spray covers a range of about 12 feet and the effects last for about 45 minutes after the initial burst. Always keep it handy with you."
Rima thought Sarbari was being too dramatic, but said nothing. She appreciated her concern and did not want to hurt her.
Sarbari purchased stationery items for her daughter from a department store and gifted a small diary to Rima.
"You should start maintaining a diary," she said. "It is not necessary that you write every day. But you should keep an account of the interesting and unusual incidents. You can start by narrating your call tapping experience this morning."
"Okay I get your point. I will surely try."
On her way back, Rima noticed a grey Scorpio tailing her car. She did not notice it on the crowded main road, but as soon as she entered the less crowded by lanes she saw it following her. Though the Scorpio maintained a reasonable distance, Rima did not fail to spot it. At first she thought that she was being unreasonably suspicious. To be sure she parked her car in front of a shopping mall and went inside. She went upstairs and peeped through the glass window. To her utter dismay she found the Scorpio parked a little behind her car. It was impossible to discern the passengers behind the dark glass windows. She zoomed her mobile camera and took a close picture of the car's number plate. She passed half an hour in the mall window shopping and thinking hard. She could not think of any reason why anyone should want to follow her. At last she decided to ignore it and resumed her journey. The Scorpio followed her till she reached her neighbourhood. Then it increased speed and drove away.
Once home Rima became busy packing the travelling bags of her children and forgot about the matter. She decided not to say anything to anyone and give them unnecessary tension.
'Its Sarbari's fault,' thought she. 'I think she reads too many detective novels. And now she's trying to influence me as well. Imagine a doctor carrying pepper spray with her! Ridiculous!'
She opened her hand bag and took out the small bottle of pepper spray. She looked at it for some time and then casually pressed the button. The impact of that small splash was shocking. She rushed to the washroom coughing. Her eyes seemed to have caught fire. She splashed cold water into her eyes to reduce the burning sensation. It took quite some time before she felt normal again.
'If that was the indirect impact of this thing,' she thought, 'I wonder how disastrous the direct effects should be.'
Thoughtfully she returned the pepper spray bottle back into her bag.
"Now close your eyes and relax. Stretch you legs and be comfortable. Now you will sleep. Sleep...sleep...sleep..."
The soft voice seemed to take her farther and farther away from the world of consciousness. She was falling asleep. The dim light, soft music, faint fragrance of jasmine and his soothing voice had a calming effect on her turbulent mind and she fell asleep.
Dr Sen, the Psychiatrist, moved his chair closer to her seat and said, "You are now in a peaceful state of mind. I will ask you questions and you will answer them. Can you hear me?"
"Yes." She replied softly.
"Tell me about your problems. Don't keep anything back. Remember, I'm your friend and am here to help you. Now speak!"
"I can't sleep at night."
"I see horrible nightmares."
"Describe your nightmares."
"I see blood everywhere."
"Do you see your own blood?"
"Then whose blood do you see?"
"I see her blood."
"Who is she?"
"My worst enemy."
"Why is she your enemy?"
"Because she is trying to blackmail me."
"By sending me pictures."
"What type of pictures?"
"My private pictures."
"How did she get them?
"She hacked my mobile."
"Why is she doing this? Did you ever do any wrong to her?"
"Yes...No! I did nothing!"
"That's strange! So what do you want to do now?"
"I want vengeance."
"How do you plan to get it?"
"I cannot say...I have no idea."
"Yes, you have. Tell me your plan."
"No, I can't. He won't like it."
Suddenly she started shivering. Dr Sen gave her some time to calm down. Then he resumed his interrogation.
"Are you feeling okay now?"
"Can you answer a few more questions?"
"You said you see her blood in your dreams. Do you wish to see her dead?"
"Yes, I do."
"Will her death make you happy?"
"Yes...I don't know."
"Are you not happy now?"
"I...I don't know... I'm afraid."
"Afraid of what?"
"Afraid of being poor again."
"Are you poor now?"
"No. But once I was."
"And you're afraid that she can make you poor again."
"Yes...I don't know."
"Would you like to kill her?"
"Me? No!! Not I."
"Then someone else maybe?"
"I....I don't know!"
"You want someone else to kill her, right?"
She did not reply.
"Who is your enemy? Tell me her name."
"No! I can't."
"Why not? I'm your friend, remember?"
"No, you might tell her."
"Do I know her?"
"Birds of a feather flock together."
"Birds of a feather? Is she a Psychiatrist?"
"I...I can't say."
"So she's a doctor."
"I want to go home."
"Okay. Your session is over. You will forget everything you said to me. Now wake up..."
The doctor switched on the light and snapped his fingers.
She opened her eyes as if from a dream.
"How did it go, doctor?"
"Better than I expected."
"What shall I do now?"
"Go home and lead a normal lifestyle. Do some meditation everyday."
"He thinks I'm mad and need treatment. Do you think so too?"
"It's too early to say. Talk to my compounder for the date of your next appointment."
"Thank you doctor."
"Have a great day."
Dr Sen rang the bell to call his next patient.