It was raining heavily that night. Mayank could see the rain thrashing the empty roads ahead of his car. He sped his car and thought to himself, “Driving on Mumbai roads can be fun sometimes. Only sometimes!” As he was driving, he saw something. He could see a hand waving rapidly on the side of the road. As he neared, he saw a beautiful woman holding an umbrella. He halted the car as she was frantically asking for a lift. He rolled down the car’s window.
“Hey, can you drop me at the nearest police station?” she asked hurriedly.
He looked at his watch. It was 1 AM. He looked at her. She seemed desperate. Mayank was returning from an office party. He was delighted about his promotion and was in a cheerful mood. It was a long drive from the office to his home. Almost an hour away! He was skeptical about letting a stranger in his car at this time, but the police station was not far from here, and the good guy in him couldn’t leave a woman helpless like this.
“Okay, sure. Get in.”, He opened the door for her.
“Police Station?”, he asked as she got inside the car.
She answered at once, “I want to report this man who is torturing me consistently.” He looked at her in concern, “Are you okay?”
She sighed and said, “Yes, I think I am… I know it is late, but I have to report this guy who is harassing me. I’m afraid he’ll break into my house someday.”
“That sounds bad. Hope he didn’t cause any problem.”, Mayank said.
She looked out the window and said, “No… Not yet.”
“Do you know him?”, he asked.
She looked at Mayank and said hesitatingly, “Yes, we met at a party and shared numbers. We met a few times post that, but …I saw him as a friend while he wanted more.”
Mayank was surprised. “Oh, Okay. Sorry to hear that ma’am. You’re doing the right thing.”, was all he could say.
She smiled and said, “Thanks for the lift, though. I thought no one would help me.”
Mayank smiled back, “No problem.”
“I hope they believe me. I have numerous call recordings and text messages of him harassing and threatening me. I want him behind bars. He has caused me mental trauma over the past month, ever since I met him. Had I known he would be like this, I would’ve never gotten friendly with him.”, she added.
“Hmm.”, Mayank replied. He didn’t know what to say to her.
The rain was just not stopping, and they both were awkwardly silent for a while.
“May I know your name?” Mayank asked to break the silence.
“Chhaya,” she replied as Mayank stopped the car in front of the police station.
Mayank halted his car and said, “Here you go, Chhaya. Do you want me to accompany you?”
Chhaya replied,” No. I’ll take it from here. Thanks again.”
Soon, Mayank reached home. His dad opened the door, Mayank smiled at his dad. His dad went back to his room. His younger brother was on the PlayStation. “Ved, any luck with your job hunt?” Ved said, “Not yet, bhai” and continued playing. Mayank’s dad was a retired man. He had gone into his shell after the death of his wife. Mayank missed his mother dearly. How she would feed him favorite food and talk to him for hours after he returned from work. He snapped back to reality. He had a long day and had to report to the office the next day at 10 AM for an important meeting. He quickly freshened up and went to sleep.
The next day, he reached the office at sharp 9.30 AM. He logged in and started checking his emails. He replied to some important mails and headed to the conference room for an hour-long meeting. Mayank took a breather at around 12 PM. He headed to the cafeteria to get a coffee. As soon as he entered the cafeteria, he spotted a colleague, Jai.
Jai punched his bicep. “What’s up, man? Yesterday’s party was awesome! “
Mayank laughed, “Had fun after a long time! So, what’s new with you?”
“Nothing much, heading for a ciggy break. Coming?”
Mayank said, “No, actually, I have a report to prepare.”
Jai said, “Oh, okay! See you at lunch!”
“Yeah, man. I’ll catch you later”, said Mayank
Mayank sat down on the sofa with a cup of hot coffee and opened up the newspaper.
He turned a page, and something caught his attention. He kept the cup of coffee on the table and rechecked the news piece.
He saw a picture of Chhaya. How could he forget that beautiful face?
But there was something wrong.
She was dead. Mayank blinked his eyes.
Mayank kept the newspaper on the table with quivering hands. He started sweating profusely. The headline was revolving in his head, “YET ANOTHER ASPIRING MODEL COMMITS SUICIDE IN THE CITY.”
He picked up the newspaper again. He looked at her face in the picture. This is her. This is Chhaya, he thought to himself. No smile, no expression, just closed eyes. So very different from the surreal beauty he saw yesterday night.
Mayank wanted to know about her. He wanted to know what happened! He was getting impatient. She was alive at 1 AM when he gave her a lift. She was alive at 1:30 AM when he dropped her off at the police station. Did the police turn her away? What happened?
Why did she commit suicide?
Mayank’s head was exploding. Mayank couldn’t focus. He skipped his lunch and was quiet all day. He left for home at around 7 PM. He was driving back home, when suddenly he decided to head to the police station, he dropped her to.
At the police station, he was asked to wait till the Sahib came to his desk. He waited patiently and saw an Inspector walk in a crisp uniform. “Tell me, Mister,” said the Inspector.
Mayank asked, “Ss-sir…Ch-chaaya, that model, she committed suicide? Wasn’t she here to register a complaint yesterday night?”
The Inspector looked at Mayank from head to toe and said, “That woman has never stepped foot in this police station. And yes, she jumped from her apartment on the 9th floor. Who are you, and How do you know her?”
Mayank gave his introduction and asked, “When did this happen?” Inspector said that the death took place around 10 PM yesterday night.
Mayank couldn’t believe his ears.
10 PM, yesterday night?
How can this be! She was with him at 1 AM! This Inspector is a liar.
Mayank narrated the incident to the police. Inspector laughed at him. “Sir, we don’t believe in stories. We need proof. Do you have any proof that she was murdered or that she was with you at 1 AM?”
Mayank couldn’t think of anything. He recollected the conversation he had and said, “A man from a dating app was harassing her. Please check her phone. I don’t know, please just check.”
The officer said that the phone was found in her pocket. It was crushed to pieces.
Mayank wanted to do something but couldn’t understand what he could do. The officer looked at him and said with a straight face, “Sir, don’t complicate a simple suicide case. I suggest you go home and take rest.” Mayank never felt this helpless before. He left the police station, shocked and scared.
How could she be beside me while she was dead? What happened last night? Where is Chhaya! Are the police lying? Why did she choose me? Why me? What could I have done? Why did this happen to me? His mind was overworking itself while he drove to his home.
He reached his home and uneased his tie. His father was watching the TV. His brother Ved brought water for him and said, “I am going to a party; do you want to join me?”
Mayank drank the water and declined. He was too disturbed to think straight or socialize with anyone. He went straight to the room to get some rest. He thought perhaps a nap would calm him down. He noticed Ved’s phone lying on the bed. “This boy is so careless. He left his phone at home.”, he thought to himself.
He picked up Ved’s phone and noticed a WhatsApp chat window was open. He read the chat window’s last message. It was sent yesterday evening by Ved. It read, “This is the last time you are rejecting me.”
He opened the profile photo to see who he was talking to and saw Chhaya’s smiling face.