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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#RubyIyer: BOMBAY SHORTS 19 - 'The Hand that feeds Kit-Cat'

Previously: Ruby Iyer is pushed in front of a local train in Bombay, and wakes up with super powers. Now, as Bombay Vigilante, she is trying to find her new identity. But life insists on throwing her a curve ball, when she meets an attractive cop.


- The Hand that feeds Kit-Cat -

Caught between the heart and the head or was it more akin to the devil and the deep sea?

Ruby looked from Edward to Vikram, while the pithy metaphors pinged hard and fast in her mind.  “Panky aren’t we already late for that… thing?” She asked in desperation.

“What... what thing?” Panky looked at her as Ruby rolled her eyes from the cop standing further ahead, to the man on the right who still had his hand around her shoulders: “Oh! Yes!” he gasped:“thaaat, thing! Right, right. Ruby chalo, chalo, we are late already, lovely!”

On cue, she wriggled out from beneath Edward’s grasp, heaving a sigh of relief on breaking free.

Yet, a tinge of regret rippled down her spine, at not being able to reciprocate his feelings.  There was something quite nice in realising this man had a huge crush on her.  She wondered why she could not bring herself to reciprocate the same kind of intensity.  Was it because he was all but wearing his heart on his sleeves?  It was all too easy to reach out and embrace what he offered. Or was she just being careful? 

After all, one never knew when lust could slip into obsession…and it seemed to her, he teetered on the edge there.

“Gotta go Edward. It was really nice of you to come and make sure I was okay.”

Seeing his forehead furrow, Ruby turned to Pankaj, anxiety writ large on her face, pleading with him silently for help. 

In response, Pankaj walked up to Edward and patted him delicately on the shoulder, before leaning in to whisper:  “not to worry, old chap, I will have her to you soon, I promise!”

Overhearing them Ruby warned: “Panky!”

Pankaj chuckled: “lets get outta here, girlfriend.”

“Bye Cop….” Somehow she couldn’t bring herself to say Vikram’s name aloud: it seemed more apt to maintain a distance, by just calling him something more generic, so she could view him as a noun, and not an adjective.  Without waiting for his response, she turned and linking her arm through Pankaj’s walked to his familiar battered red Swift.

***

“So…?”  Pankaj let the single word hang in the confines on the car.  They had been driving steadily for nearly half-an-hour, and were once more ensconced safely in the arms of the gridlock that was Linking Road.

“So… what?” Ruby did not turn to him, preferring to look directly ahead.  The weak spell that had her swallowing half the Arabian Sea, had passed long ago and she was feeling stronger by the second.  On impulse she rolled down her window and poked her nose out, inhaling deeply.

Pankaj coughed.  “Really? Must you do that? Letting in all the pollution, and the heat—”

“The dust that is Bombay!” Ruby sighed with pleasure, “and the smells!”

“You mean the whiff from the open gutter there.”  He nodded towards where a vile, dark looking liquid, bubbled up from an open drain just below her open window.

“It feels so real, so earthy—”

“So awful!” Pankaj wrinkled his nose.

“The sight and sounds: the colours of the city. They overwhelm me. All my senses open up and I can feel the pores on my skin pop in joy!” Ruby turned up her face to catch the last rays of the setting sun.

“Those, lovely: are the signs of forthcoming pimples: thanks to all the contaminants in the water you dunked yourself in!”

“Well that’s the thing Panky,” she turned to him, confusion furrowing her forehead: “I don’t understand why I felt so weak in the sea water. I am fine now, see?” She looked down at her drying clothes now caked with streaks of dirt.

“Was it all a ploy to get the attention of that rather handsome cop?” Pankaj said only half jokingly.

Ruby chuckled, “you mean Mr. Tawny?”

“When you laugh that evil laugh, I know you are up to no good. Flirting with the policeman, and right under Edward’s nose!” Pankaj admonished her.

“What can I do, not my fault when I stumble across an amazing specimen like that. By the way, did you see the way he filled out his clothes?” Ruby fanned herself with her palm in an exaggerated gesture.

“Of course I noticed that piece of eye-candy, lovely.  But I am allowed, I am single—for the moment of course—” he hastened to add.

“So am I Panky.”

“But, Edward—” Pankaj interjected.

“Well, I am not exactly married to him now, am I?”

“Hmm!” Pankaj looked straight ahead as if fascinated by the traffic.

Ruby snapped at him: “I so hate it when you hmm!

“What?” Pankaj looked at her, with mild surprise: “it was just an innocent hmm!”

“No it wasn’t an innocent hmm! More like a HMM!!” Ruby looked at him annoyed: “spit it out Panky!”

“It’s just… I wonder if you know what you are doing Ruby? It’s not like you to be so, so—”

“Erratic? Cold-hearted.” She supplied the missing words. 

Truth was, she had surprised herself by flirting so outrageously with the policeman, which was not to say she had not felt sorry about hurting Edward’s feelings. “No, I don’t know what I am doing. Ever since this superpower thingie has waved its wand over me, I feel like Cinderella who will soon be left with rags at the stroke of midnight.”

“You mean, you think your powers will not last?” Pankaj asked surprised.

She shrugged, “dunno Panky. But, I am not as invincible as I thought.”

“Hey even Superman had a weakness.” Pankaj consoled her.

“Kryptonite.” Ruby said aloud, considering. “You mean the sea water is my Kryptonite?”

“I wouldn’t go that far… but, once you were out of the water, you regained your strength very quickly—Aha! Here we go!”  The traffic began moving suddenly: like champagne bubbling out from an uncorked bottle, and Pankaj concentrated on the driving.  Was he right?

***

The sleek brown cat with copper coloured eyes, leapt from the top of the wooden cupboard, onto the table in front of the computer screen streaming a steady flow of YouTube clips.  They showed Bombay Vigilante’s daring rescue of the man who had jumped off the Bandra – Worli Sea Link.

The animal purred as the Hand reached out to pat its glossy head absently, before turning around to tune into the news-channel, which was muted.  But he did not need the annoyingly chirpy voice of the commentator to tell him what the visuals already revealed. 

Bombay Vigilante was fast becoming a household name. “So what do you think Kit-Cat” he asked, his voice guttural like that of a smoker who had overdone one too many nights of cigarettes.  The palm of his hand was soft like that of a teenager, as he rubbed the cat’s head so it purred in delight: “time to show her who the real superhero of Bombay is, don’t you think?”

- to be continued

Laxmi Hariharan is a kindle bestselling author. Find her on Facebook. Click here for more Ruby Iyer episodes.

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