Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ramesh And The Costly Mistake (Part 3)

Ramesh gulped down the last dregs of his soft drink, replaced the empty bottle on the table of the dhaba we were sitting in, and gazed out through the doorway at the antique shop across the street, glanced down at his wrist-watch and exclaimed: “Its four thirty and nobody’s turned up yet!”

Sanjeev bit into his fifth samosa. "Let’s sit here a while longer, yaar,” he mumbled through his full mouth. “The customer might turn up yet.”

Ramesh frowned at him. “You seem to think we’re on a picnic!” he exclaimed.

“I’ve got to keep up my strength, yaar!” said Sanjeev defensively. “Detective work can be very tiring. You don’t want me collapsing on you, do you?”

“Certainly not,” I grinned.

Ramesh squirmed restlessly in his seat. “Anyway, I can’t sit here any longer! I think I’ll go and snoop around at the back of the shop.”

“Should I come with you?” I asked.

“No, you stay here and see who goes into that shop,” replied Ramesh. He looked scornfully at Sanjeev. “Our friend here will be too busy eating to notice!” He got to his feet. “I’ll be back soon.”

Ramesh left and I ordered another soft drink for myself. The minutes ticked by. Some of the dhaba’s collection of flies settled on our table and began eying Sanjeev’s samosas in an offensive manner. Nobody entered or left the antique shop. Nor did Ramesh return. I slowly began to get worried. What was keeping Ramesh?

At five o’clock, even Sanjeev began to share my worry. He stopped eating and stared uneasily out of the window. Suddenly, he grabbed my arm.

“Look!” he hissed.

I looked. The street was filing up with evening shoppers. Harrassed householders were haggling over fruit pieces at the stalls to the right of the antique shop. That wasn’t why Sanjeev had grabbed me. A thin man with long hair had halted in front of the antique shop. He carried a bundle under his left arm. After a second’s thought, he entered the shop. He came out a few minutes later, minus the bundle, and walked away.

Sanjeev looked at me. “Was he the customer we were waiting for?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied, with a worried frown. “I wish Ramesh was here. He’d know!”

But Ramesh had not returned.