Monday, October 10, 2016

Andy Karan's New Novel "The Girl Who Loved a Spy" Launched: Chapter Reveal

"Chapter reveal" from the latest thriller, "The Girl who Loved a Spy.'
Once in his room on the fourteenth floor that overlooked the Colaba bay, Andy thought about his course of action. He had checked in under a false name with the fake identity provided by Kapoor. "Now that they know your name, they might be watching you," he had said in a brief message.
Andy took a ten-minute, therapeutic hot shower, dressed in fresh denim and a white half-sleeved linen shirt, and went to the bar. It was ten-fifty. There were a few men and women speaking rather loudly, laughing at each other’s slightest display of humour. A typical late-night bar scene in any hotel in the world. No one noticed him come in and sit on a stool by the counter except a tired-looking waitress, who smiled at him warmly. He ordered a large 100 Pipers on the rocks instead of his Old Monk rum—a new drink for a new identity.
Andy called Hakim using the new phone that had come with the identity papers. As the phone continued to ring, Andy sipped his whiskey. The call went unanswered, and he decided to try again after a few minutes. While on his third drink, he was finally able to get through to a man who said that he might not be Hakim but was still willing to meet him in Colaba at midnight. He sounded weird on the phone, and Andy sensed the hesitation of a double-cross in his voice and knew he had to be careful.
From the hotel, he walked towards Colaba on the Madame Cama Road, with the local ministers’ houses on his right and the Mantralaya, the state secretariat, on his left. Scores of policemen in khaki walked about, munching vada pavs, their favourite midnight snack. He arrived at Café Royal, opposite the police headquarters in Colaba, at the stroke of midnight. The manager walked him in, and he chose a table for two near the wall. He asked for a cola, careful not to drink too much and risk muddying his senses. Brightly painted portraits of Bill Clinton and Marilyn Monroe looked at him from the wall.
Fifteen minutes later, a man walked into the café and looked around uncertainly.
‘Hakim!’ Andy called out.
The man was about sixty and sported a sparse beard. His forehead was darker, suggesting his accustomed and regular prayers. He was wearing trousers and a t-shirt that was too loose on him, clearly clothes he wasn’t used to. When Andy shook his hand, he realized Hakim’s hand was trembling. It also left his palm wet.
‘You shouldn’t have called my name so loudly.’ He looked constantly at the entrance instead of Andy.
There was a shadow outside, and Andy was quick to realize the danger as Hakim’s mouth opened wide.
Instinctively, Andy punched Hakim hard on the nose. He screamed in reflex. The manager ran towards them, and they were surrounded by waiters within seconds. In all the hullabaloo, one of the waiters tripped and fell, bringing the others crashing down on him like footballers jumping on each other after scoring a goal.

Andy made his way through the heap of bodies as they began scrambling back to their feet and dashed for the entrance. He saw the shadow at a little distance from him. His distance from the entrance told Andy something he already knew—the man was uncertain whether he should run away or watch what happened next. By now, two policemen patrolling nearby were heading for the café.
In the end, seeing Andy rush out, the man decided to run. He was a large man, and Andy was sure he could catch up with him quickly. The man ran towards the High Court, and Andy followed him, closing the distance between them faster and faster.
Suddenly, a car appeared out of nowhere, the man jumped into it, and it dissolved into the night mist as Andy stopped and watched it go, out of breath. It had all happened too quickly for him.
Andy returned to Café Royal. The policemen were asking Hakim questions in a strong Marathi accent. Andy decided to help the poor man, even if it came with the suspicion of a double-cross. Help is help, and Andy knew it should be treated as such. It took him ten minutes to send the policemen away.
‘Who was that man outside?’ Andy asked Hakim after they were alone and the restaurant got back to business once again.

‘I don’t know. But for the last week, I have seen strange people watching me all the time. I’m very scared, sir.’ He sounded like someone who was convinced he wouldn’t survive for long. Andy had been told that Hakim had been helping the police and intelligence agencies for the past ten years. These things came with considerable risks, and Andy felt like Hakim’s time might have run out.
Andy decided to pull the carpet out from under him. ‘Please send your family someplace safe.’ It was a blow for sure. The man’s eyes rolled, and he nearly fainted. He’d just been told that he should prepare to die.
‘I thought the government would eliminate these men.’ He was shaking, the glass of cola exhaling bubbles in front of him sitting untouched.
‘Act brave. If you panic like a pigeon, the cat will pounce on you and eat you. Don’t close your eyes. If you think your life is in danger, their lives are in danger too. And everyone else’s in Mumbai, if our enemies have their way. We have to stop them. Your enemy and the nation’s enemy are the same, Hakim. It is only a question of who strikes first.’
Hakim nodded and finally decided to turn to his cola for relief. He finished it in one go and banged the glass on the table rather noisily. Andy thought the man was getting control of himself and smiled. Time to press for more information. ‘What do you have for me?’
‘Murud Janjira.’
‘What’s that?’ Andy had heard the name from Gulabo and seen it in Kapoor’s evaluation.
‘It’s an unmanned fort on an island about 180 kilometres south of Mumbai.’
‘What’s at Murud?’
‘Explosives, I think.’
Hakim got up after this and left the restaurant as if he’d suddenly remembered something important.
Andy paid for both of them. From the café, he walked to the deserted Gateway of India, a hundred meters away. The air was cooler than he had expected, and he shivered. Mumbai was never cold enough for anyone to wear woollens, but at that moment, late at night, Andy wished he had something warmer on. He watched the ships anchored in the harbour in the distance, their decks brightly lit. Small boats bobbed in and out of the waves, and their lights shimmered. He turned and looked at the Taj hotel with awe. It had been restored after the fire and bombings by terrorists a couple of years back. Now it looked grand, as it always had.
He considered the terrorists who had sailed in fishing boats from Karachi, braving the rough Arabian Sea for three gruelling days, their peanut-sized brains bleached white by a guaranteed seat in heaven. Was it the same people who were now planning to replicate the attack? Sending more brainwashed fools? But fools could do a lot of damage, as they had the previous time.
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