Private India City on Fire(3)
Author:James Patterson

    “So that’s settled,” added Rupesh. “Private India can spearhead the investigation provided all information is shared with us in a timely manner. Oh, and as long as any credit for successfully solving the case comes to us.” His grin was shark-like. “Mubeen will be doing the autopsy, I take it?”

    “With your consent.”

    “Granted. Provided the corpse is first taken to the police morgue and that the state’s medical examiner is present during the final examination. Fine?”

    Santosh nodded and the two men parted. Rupesh back to the crime scene. Santosh headed to Private HQ. What happened to us? wondered Santosh as he waited for the elevator. What happened, when we used to be so close?

    Had life come between them? Or was it death?

    Chapter 6

    THE COCKTAIL PARTY on the rooftop of the Oberoi Hotel was what’s known as a “page-three event,” where guests came to strut and pose like peacocks, hoping that the shutterbugs’ lenses would alight upon them.

    Events like this made Bhavna Choksi feel inadequate. Even the white-gloved waiters made her feel inadequate. Not for the first time she wondered how her dreams of great journalism had been reduced to this, eking out pathetic tidbits for the Afternoon Mirror gossip column.

    She hated the fact that she was familiar with these people. Priyanka Talati, the “singing sensation.” So what? Lara Omprakash, “Bollywood’s hottest director.” Sure, until next week, when there would be a new one. She hated the fact that she’d be reporting on what the politician Ragini Sharma was wearing, rather than her policies.

    Keeping her eye on the door for new arrivals, Bhavna saw Devika Gulati—a yoga guru to the hip set—waft in through the doors at the rooftop, the cutouts of her gown emphasizing her body. Devika accepted a drink from a waiter, then stood, surveying the room.

    Bhavna took her chance and moved over before any of the rooftop’s single men made their move. “Hello,” she said, extending her hand to shake. “It’s Bhavna Choksi, from the Afternoon Mirror. May I say that’s a beautiful gown.”

    Devika’s gaze traveled over Bhavna’s shoulder, still scanning the rooftop.

    “Miss Gulati?” prompted Bhavna. “We spoke on the phone. I was wondering if you’d had second thoughts about an interview.”

    At last Devika focused on her. “I’m sorry. Yes, of course. I’m sure we can arrange that. Please, call the studio, speak to Fiona, and she’ll fit you into the diary.”

    “Thank you.” As Bhavna moved away, she was able to see what it was that had caught Devika’s eye. Or, in this case, who it was: India’s Attorney General, Nalin D’Souza.

    Interesting, she thought as she heard the faint buzzing of her phone inside her tote. Pulling it out, she answered the call.

    “Ah, it’s you,” she said. The voice at the other end spoke for twenty seconds before Bhavna replied. “Sure. Tomorrow morning is fine. I usually leave for work by nine thirty but I can wait for you. Do you need my address?”

    Chapter 7

    SEVERAL FLOORS BELOW the party that still raged on the rooftop of the Oberoi Hotel was a room, dark apart from the glow of a dim lamp, and silent but for low moans from the bed. Puddled on the carpet was Devika Gulati’s metallic-blue gown. Beside it a pair of boxers belonging to the Attorney General, Nalin D’Souza.

    In bed the couple moved to their own urgent rhythm. Naked, Devika was on top, skin bathed in a thin film of sweat. Beneath her Nalin arched upwards each time that she ground herself into him. He reached to cup her breasts as he felt his climax approaching. Some moments later they had switched positions and he rode her with double the passion.

    Spent and tired, the couple remained intertwined under the bed sheets, breathing heavily. She switched positions again, clambering on top of him in order to gaze upon his handsome features, pushing a hand through his hair.

    “You’ve had it cut,” she said.

    “The other day. Do you like it?”

    “It makes you look younger. Where did you go?”

    “The Shiva Spa Lounge. I’m told that Mumbai’s trendy young things are flocking there. Talking of which, was that a newspaper reporter I saw you with earlier?”

    “An irritating woman from the Afternoon Mirror.”

    “What did she want?”

    Sensing a change in him, Devika moved off him and lay with her head propped on her hand, tracing his chest hairs with her fingertips. “She wants to speak to me.”

    Tickled and irritated, he brushed her hand away. “Why does she want to speak to you?”

    “Wouldn’t you like to know?” she teased.

    But he had lost patience. “I’ve got to go,” he said, shoving her to one side.

    She pulled him back toward her and kissed him deeply, twining her tongue around his. “Sure you don’t want to go again?” she asked playfully.

    “I need to be back in New Delhi to prepare for a case tomorrow,” he said, pulling away. “I’ll give you a call sometime.”

    “That’s crap and you know it,” sneered Devika. “You will be too busy with your wife. The one who wants you to fuck her but can’t inspire you to get it up.”

    “That’s not true,” said Nalin impatiently. “Her inability to produce a child has absolutely nothing to do with any failure on my part. You should know that by now.”

    “There are many stories about your other women,” said Devika. “It’s a bloody exhaustive list. How long before you tire of me—and what will happen to me when you do?”

    The Attorney General smiled at her. She had one of the best bodies he had ever had the pleasure of pleasuring. Besides being beautiful, Devika was a seductress. There was an erotic charge to virtually everything she said or did. He still found it difficult to believe that she had once been in prison. What an amazing transformation.

    He grasped the edge of the sheet and whipped it back, leaving Devika lying on the bed, resplendent in her nakedness. He felt the tumescence between his legs once more.

    She laughed. “Don’t you need to be back in the office?” she asked.

    “Fuck the office,” he snarled as he got back on top of her.

    “I thought the fucking was reserved solely for me.”

    Chapter 8

    SANTOSH STEPPED OUT into a scorching October morning for his walk to work. He never drove. Driving meant revisiting the screeching tires and the burned-rubber smell of his nightmares.

    Mumbai—once known as Bombay—was a throbbing metropolis with the attitude of New York City, the chaos of Kathmandu, the vibe of Miami, and the infrastructure of Timbuktu. It was the fifth most populous city in the world, its population nudging a little over thirteen million.

    It could be charming yet repulsive. Old British monuments jostled for space with corporate glass towers and filthy slums. At traffic signals, handcart pullers slowly made their way to warehouses, their bodies bathed in sweat, while chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benzes transported their millionaire owners to luncheon meetings. Long queues of people waited patiently outside temples to catch a glimpse of their favorite deity while an equally long line of people waited to get inside the stadium for a celebration of India’s alternative religion—cricket. Mumbai was a study in contrasts and people tended either to love it or to hate it. Santosh loved it when he was drunk—which was often—and hated it when he was sober.

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