Ranjit was traveling in the tractor trolley along with the laborers. The laborers were fetching the debris, back from the shrine to dump these outside the town limits. He was dropped on the main road by the trolley. The hue and cry caused after he had shot Tanwar gave him enough time to jump from the pillar directly into the backyard of the   Sanctum Sanctorum. He ran towards the trolley parked in the street behind. The trolley took off immediately, before the police and the security forces could come into action and stop the movement of traffic. They were still looking for the shooter from amongst the crowd of the pilgrims, at the main gate and the other smaller exit points of the shrine.

The bullet he fired had punctured Tanwar’s neck from behind.  Tanwar fell just in front of the stairs leading from the periphery to the outer gate. The earsplitting music being played on the shrines’ loud speakers drowned the pitch sound of the silencer fitted gun used by Ranjit. The other police officers walking down the outer circle first thought Tanwar had slipped on the marble floor, soon the blood gushed out of wound created by the gun shot. The Chief Minister Pratap had almost fainted when he saw this ghastly sight.  The senior officers accompanying him thought of the worst. They feared that Pratap too had been shot at. The bewilderment amongst all the people running towards the fallen chief minister gave Ranjit enough time to jump from the temporary platform put up for the repairs of the pillar.

He boarded the state transport bus going towards Depalgarh. His uppermost thought told him, “The news of the shoot out will soon spread and I must cover as much distance as possible between me and the holy place”.

General Durjan had instructed him “you can use any of the means available so long it was not a private vehicle e.g. a two-wheeler or a private car or a jeep. These vehicles will be searched at all points and are likely to attract attention. The safe mode to travel away from the shrine and the city could be a train”.

“But I do not want to waste time waiting for one”. Ranjit had said “the schedule for the next train may not coincide with my plans”.

“You must jump into the first public bus available and move away from the town. The cops will not be able to catch you.  But you must remember that every young man found in the vicinity will be the likely suspect.  A rigorous questioning by the police could break any one down.  The police officers will be at their most ruthless after the murder of their senior officer.  You must go away from the scene of the crime as soon and as fast as you can. We do not want you to fall into the hands of the police .Your falling into police hands can jeopardize all future plans of the organization”.

General Durjan was too keen to save this boy for his future plans. They had long felt the need of such a courier, who could move the consignments from the drop points in different parts of the country to the shrines and their other storage hideouts. Besides he also had the experience of getting into different countries borders without having been caught by their customs even once. A clean record was always helpful with the customs and other authorities at different check posts. The movement of the clandestine arms was a job of a professional. It was certainly not the job of the amateurs of the cadres employed by General Durjan through the shrine. Such amateurs from the shrine had proved quite expensive.  Their unprofessional handling of the consignments had alerted the security forces and other anti subversive agencies. The inept handling by such layperson resulted in capturing of the arms and the couriers themselves by the security forces.

Ranjit found a seat for himself in the crowded bus. He went to sleep. He was exhausted by a long wait on the wooden platform all through the night. The severity of the  cold winter night and the fear of being found out by the cops below kept him absolutely still and virtually on his back all through the night. The arduous task of staying immobile was attained through the military drill he had undergone at the camp. The instructor will often repeat “you must stay still. You must stay calm.  There is death waiting for you if you move. One little movement of hand or the foot means the instant death. You can defy it by being momentarily dead rather than going up permanently”. The instructor also taught him the art of breathing without feeling the noise of air in his nostrils, through the yogic exercises. “Be mentally alert and physically dead. Think of a tiger in the forest who waits on his prey without letting out any sound and then suddenly it pounces on its prey when the moment arrives”, he would often say.

Frequent progress of the boarding and alighting of the passengers after every few kilometers failed to disturb the sound sleep he had gone into. He dreamt he was back into the university. He saw a beautiful and charming female figure emerging from the dark in a distance. She was Koena coming closer to him. She would yet get away the instant he reached out to touch her. He dreamt of traveling in an aircraft along with her.  They were both landing into some international airport.  But when the aircraft landed she was not on the seat next to his. He saw two hands pulling her away from him.  The hands gradually formed a human face. The face belonged to Abdul. He dreamt of fighting it out with Abdul.  Ranjit managed to snatch her away from him.  He was embracing her too tightly now. She squirmed under his weight and protection. He would not let go of her.

The noise of the voices of many people woke him up. He was holding on to fellow passenger’s handbag, whose stop had arrived. The fellow passenger wanted to get off the bus, “you seem to be quite sleepy and tired. It appears you have not slept for many days “, the passenger remarked as he picked up his baggage from underneath him.

As the bus reached Depalgarh he heard a vendor selling the afternoon edition of the newspapers shouting at the top of his voice “shootout in holy shrine .DIG killed. Narrow escape for the chief minister Pratap”. Ranjit picked up a copy of the vernacular newspaper and started towards his home. The bunch of extra keys handed over to him by his grandmother when she was alive would still be available at the place he had hidden them .He wanted to get away from the entire world for the next few days till he was mentally and physically fit to come back.  “There could not be a better place than your own shack”, he told himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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