A Reality without a Shadow- The shadow creeps up.

“I chased, I chased, and I chased,” Yuva said. That’s the know-how. That’s all there is to say. Maya allowed herself to direct a sly smile at Yuva as she passed by and over heard Yuva blabbering about the science of enticing Priyanka to fall in love with him to Prakash.

Maya knew there is trouble around the corner. It is just a matter of time before the media and higher authorities would come after their department for their apparent inability to trap or catch the serial killer who has been at large among the public for a considerable amount of time. No profile was ever gathered on this purported killer, and they are as clueless as the people around them are.

But today is Yuva’s day- Maya has no right to ruin his day by leveraging on these issues. “You look tense,” Prakash said as she passed by him in one of her fervent rushes up and down the stairs to prepare for the wedding. “Don’t worry too much, we have time to worry about all of that, you should just be content today,” he added in a whisper, before she continued.

Maya had done almost everything. Negating the details of the wedding; and also convincing Priyanka’s parents that Yuva is the right choice for her. She refused to be identified as his elder sister when people tried to label her as such. She was his friend, and a very good friend at that who grew up together with him. There is no reason to find a new name to their relationship just so that the general public would feel convenient in reference to it. A friend is a friend. Nothing changes.

If Yuva put so much energy in pursuing Priyanka over time, she put almost an equal amount of effort to make the wedding happen as his only representative, well-wisher and family member. “I’ll do it even better when your turn comes,” Yuva said, as she sat exasperated on the stairs, feel uncomfortable with sweat making her feel uneasy in the well-decorated, expensive saree. It is the first time in Maya’s life that she is wearing the traditional Indian outfit. “Don’t worry, I am not getting married,” she said, wiping away the little sweat that dribbled from her forehead. Yuva sat beside her, himself dressed in a decorated groom’s outfit. “Well, I think you do have a suitor,” he said. His sight was pointing in Prakash’s direction.

“Stop it,” she said and walked away. She walked away because when she thinks about it, it does seem like a good idea. Except that she is superior to Prakash in terms of rankings and she strongly believes the ego of an Indian man wouldn’t suit such a situation.

The wedding commenced and ended successfully thereafter. Maya took a few more rushed steps up the stairs and ended up with a sprained ankle, to which the doctor had advised her to an extra day or two off duty, to which Prakash duly repeated his advice- ‘The time is not ripe to worry yet. Now you deserve to rest’.

And when the night fell, all of whom were involved knew something has changed and something is changing. Unsolved mysteries tinged curiosity.

Pritam is a local mob leader, a henchmen who can gather people to throw flakes of flames into shops or the streets to create chaos, under the orders of a bigger power that be around the area. He was courted to be arrested by Yuva a couple of times when Yuva was still in the force, but slipped from his grasp. Tensions run high between those two. Maya and Prakash have been keeping tabs on him ever since.

And it was his old, cranky Nokia phone that rang that night- at around 2 am. He struggled to get up from his bed, with his fat belly making things difficult for him. “Ayye,” he grumbled, as he stuttered to recall which button should he press to answer the call. “Pritam?” it was the polite, professional voice of Prakash at the other end of the line.

“Yes,” he continued in his grumbling tone.

“There is a word on the street. One big bhaiyya has been going around, killing people at his own whimsical wheel. And obviously the bhaiyya’s ways of doing it is so smart we don’t even know how he does it,” Prakash said. Pritam did not say anything. He knew he is speaking to a  police officer. An introduction is not necessary.

“Bhai, I don’t involve in killing people,” Pritam said.

“I know, we are not fools to call you if we suspect it’s you who are doing it, wouldn’t we?” Prakash retorted.

“I want possible names.”

“At this time? Are you for real?” Pritam asked.

“I want names Pritam bhai,” he continued sternly.

“Tell me the full story first,” Pritam demanded.

“Someone’s doing it smart, bhai. No external damage. The person just falls off and dies, holding the head,” Prakash said. Pritam rubbed his eyes to make sure they are wide open.

As Prakash was busy probing into the issue at his home, Maya massaged her ankle, looking solemnly over the view at her balcony. She needs to make a decision- she needs to move out. She needs to allow Yuva and Priyanka to have the privacy that they deserve as new couples.

Priyanka couldn’t sleep. For all her pessimism about finding the right guy, she is right here, sleeping beside the man that made her feel treasured for the first time in her life. She kept her eyes open, running her finger on Yuva’s nose as he was fast asleep, almost on the brink of snoring.

“Bhai, I never head of something like this before,” Pritam said, now wide awake, as a stern, interrogating conversation meandered into a personal conversation. Prakash was yawning, as he received a message in his other phone.

“I don’t know anyone who can do things like this, I swear,” Pritam insisted.

Maya continued glancing at the moon outside, when she heard a shuffle at Yuva room’s door. She turned around, and blinked. She was taken aback by the sound, but she remained in her seat, not doing anything.

“Shit!” Prakash said, upon reading the message. “Got to go,” he blabbered off to Pritam and ended the call.

“Amazing stuff,” Pritam whispered to himself once Prakash ended the call.

Maya heard the noise again, and she shuddered. It seemed to have gone up a notch. She walked to the door, and knocked it.

“Yuva, slow it down,” she said, almost feeling embarrassed about the whole episode. The door, the traditional wood types which opens like a gate, was now slanting rather untowardly towards Maya. She tried pushing it back so that it will be straight, but to no avail.

She realized the door is on the verge of opening up from the inside. She gave it a slight nudge and it parted ways.

Lying on the ground, perched against the door was Priyanka. Yuva was seated on the bed, shirtless, panting, but looking blur as if he could not comprehend what had happened.

Maya placed her fingers over Priyanka’s nose, and checked her pulse. Maya stopped bending down and just sat down on the floor. Priyanka’s dead. She looked up to Yuva in a perplexed manner.

The story begins after this

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