She played with her fingers, too lost in both agitation and amazement to pay attention to her surroundings. Did that really just happen? Did she, Riya Mukherjee, honestly just spend the last few minutes of her life more or less cursing out her own boss, Arjun Suryakant Raute - that too to his face? She pondered the question for a few moments before smiling with self-satisfaction. Good, she thought. He needed to hear it. His know-it-all attitude and dismissive demeanour had begun to irritate her to no end.
She picked at her nails, boredom and a severe craving for her bed - her own bed, not the bacteria-infested death trap she was currently sleeping on - setting in.
"How far did I come during the sneeze-hunt, anyway?" she wondered quietly. It seemed like a much longer walk to the shack this time. She looked around, noting that it was lighter now. Daylight, she thought dismissively as she went back to fixing her cuticles. It took a few seconds for her surroundings to register and she looked up again in panic when they did.
It wasn't daylight at all.
It was artificial light.
Artificial light from the deserted little tea stalls a few yards away from her.
Tea stalls that had not been there before.
Tea stalls that had not been there before because this was not the way she had come earlier.
"Shit!" She looked out into the expanse of dry, cracked ground surrounding her. How could she have been so careless? Pushing her hair back from her face, she closed her eyes and counted to ten. Arjun's critical words floated through her mind, complete with his mocking tone.
Tumhara dhyaan kaha rehta hai, Riya?
For once, she agreed with him. He must have known, too, she thought bitterly. She could - and did - fault the sadu many things but his sense of direction was not one of them.
She sighed in annoyance and began to turn back when a sharp, pungent smell hit her. Gagging, she looked up and found herself looking at a tall, hirsute man. About Chotu's height but nowhere near as muscular, she mused. Closer inspection told her that not only was he in dire need of a shower, he was drunk out of his mind too. His dark pupils dilated as he looked her up and down and she didn't miss the way he licked his lips expectantly.
Groaning inwardly, she rolled her eyes. Of course. Of course the cliche of getting lost in a dark, strange place would not complete itself without a sweaty creep being thrown into the mix.
"Oye, Bulbul," he grunted. "Chal."
She shot him a scathing look and began to walk away but prayed mentally that he would try to force her into coming with him. She needed an excuse to beat the crap out of someone.
It was apparently the night of answered prayers since, a second later, she felt a vice like grip around her upper arm and saw the man clench his teeth as he pulled her towards him.
She looked heavenward and gave the powers that be an appreciative nod before curling her fist.
This was her favourite part of the job.
Aiming a kick to his mid-section, she grabbed a handful of the man's greasy hair and threw two punches at his face. Pushing him onto the floor, she lifted her leg and readied herself for another kick before her face fell with disappointment. Damn, she thought. He was unconscious already.
Shrugging, she tugged down the hem of her shirt and began her walk back to the shack yet again.
* * *
He rounded the corner of a mass of trees and spotted her a few steps away, hands in pockets and whistling quietly. He allowed the distance between them to remain and, noting her messy hair, smirked at the possibility of her having attacked an unsuspecting idiot while she was away.
"Planning on a sneak attack, Sir?" She looked over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
He shook his head. "You're not worth it."
He heard her scoff. "I see that super cop Raute finally got himself out of the pit. What a shame." He sensed the smirk in her voice and smiled inwardly at the retort he was about to voice.
"It is a shame, isn't it, Riya?" She turned her head slightly and he continued. "Of course, not as much of a shame as the Commissioner allowing glorified Wing Chun instructors to serve in the ETF just because they can rattle off a few percentages from their tablets. But do stick around a little longer, Riya. I'm sure you'll easily convince everyone of what a bad idea it is to let women into the Emergency Task Force." He saw her stiffen and smiled with satisfaction.
Oh, it had landed, alright.
He had barely had time to celebrate the small victory before he heard her feral growl and saw her turn swiftly to face him, eyes ablaze and fists curled. She lunged at him, effectively closing what little distance there had previously been, and sent them both crashing to the floor. Grabbing his collar, she aimed a punch at his face and he managed to skilfully dodge it just in time. Their scuffle on the ground continued as she attacked and he defended and he had just noted that the rage in her eyes had not subsided for even a second when he heard footsteps behind them.
"Oi!" A furious voice roared and they both froze as they recognised it. Arjun watched as Riya gulped and a silent prayer escaped her lips.
The pair rose to their feet and turned slowly to face Sameer Rathod, the master of wrath himself.
Edited by kaamchorni - 13 November 2012 at 2:24am