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#RubyIyer: Bombay Shorts 17 – ‘Bombay Vigilante dies of Shark Attack!’

Shark attack

Recap: Ruby Iyer is pushed in front of a local train in Bombay, and wakes up with super powers. Now, as Bombay Vigilante she has just saved a man’s life. But, her love life is just about to get more complicated.

– Bombay Vigilante dies of Shark Attack! –

Her limbs shut down and the water closing in over her, she felt herself sink. Bombay Vigilante realised she was flagging.

No question.

The adrenaline, which had propelled her through the rescue, had dried up suddenly.  It felt as if her hands and feet had enormous weights attached to them. Her speed reducing to a crawl, she gritted her teeth: concentrating simply on propelling herself forward, one stroke at a time…then those last grains of energy too ran out.

This was it then? So, today’s heroine was tomorrow’s obituary lead?

Her mind conjured up the tabloid headlines: Bombay Vigilante found floating below the Bandra – Worli Sea Link.

Ruby Vigilante dies rescuing spineless man.

No, no, but her name was Ruby Iyer; yet, wasn’t she also Bombay Vigilante, super-heroine par excellence? The one who beat up the bad guys? Her mind raced on—

Question: Why was Bombay Vigilante like a Duracell bunny?

Answer: For her energy never ran out—

She snickered: PJ! At-least her own feeble joke had made her feel slightly better. Panky had always said she had a weird sense of humour, laughing at the most inconsequential things. But now, she did not feel exhausted anymore, just a little punch-drunk. All the unwanted country liquor—did they pour all the leftover country liquor into the sea? Was that why she was so woozy?

Given she had swallowed enough of the horrible sea water—packed with pollutants—even if she did not drown she was probably going to be dead of some horrendous disease very soon.

No, no, Bombay Vigilante was invincible! Nothing could hurt her right? Then why was it that she was beginning to feel pleasurably numb? It was all so pleasant, so dark; everything whirling around her: her head swirled as if she had gulped an entire bottle of tequila.

Humming a little, she gave in completely to the seductive warmth and prepared to be fully enfolded within the beckoning cocoon of comfort; when, a vice like grip around her waist had her rearing up in alarm.

She struggled feebly against the pressure around her waist; while her sluggish mind pulled on its remaining shreds of sanity, changing the headlines on tomorrow’s tabloid to – Bombay Vigilante dead by Shark Attack

The soundtrack to her life changed to the music from JAWS, that horribly suspenseful build up: starting with a normal beat, then gradually picking up pace and intensity…

Until her heart was JUMPING with adrenaline once more. She had got her second wind. Feeling a renewed surge of energy, Bombay Vigilante began to fight against whatever had her in its hold in earnest.

She could feel herself rise up towards the surface. Each inch of her ascent seamlessly synchronised with the growing decibel of her pulse beat, which now threatened to jump right off the Richter scale.

All of a sudden, her helmet was being torn off and she gasped; taking in a lungful of air, and with it an entire bucketful of the rancid seawater, which had her choking. Eyes burning and feeling totally helpless, she lashed out blindly.

“Hold still now!” The voice in her ear had her suddenly go limp with relief. At least she wasn’t going to become a shark’s dinner.

Keeping her eyes closed, and swallowing down the weakness, which had sprung out of nowhere, she berated herself for feeling so vulnerable. Losing the helmet had made her feel particularly naked as if she had lost her clothes—which she hadn’t—she reminded herself.

But just the feeling of being unmasked made her anxious, and she began to struggle again.

“I told you to stay still, didn’t I?” The same voice—impatient now—scolded her.

“Helmet…” She gasped, “I want my helmet. Give it back.” Forcing her eyes open she looked around to find they had reached shore. Ruby found herself being half dragged, half carried, over the rocks before both of them collapsed on the bleached white surface of the stones.

“Give me my helmet!” She tried to get to her feet, only to sink back as the sky swirled dizzily around her.

Right, she was going to be sick, she thought disgustedly, as a dull pounding behind her eyes began to drum, and then rapidly pick up pace as if in competition with the waves crashing a few feet away.

She shut her eyes firmly against the sparks flying between her ears. Did being a superhero mean you also had to put up with super-sized-headaches?

“You mean this—?” The thread of humour lacing through the voice had her prising open one eyelid. She looked at the bedraggled object in her line of sight, before nodding and sinking back against the rocks.

“Are you going to take it or do you want me to put it on you?” At his persistence, she held up a hand weakly tapping his chest before letting it slide back to lie on the ground; sighing in relief as he slid it back over her head. “There! Happy?” He paused before adding, “by the way you do need to get to a hospital,”

“No, no…” she choked out, through the open visor of the helmet, yet pleased to have a barrier to hide behind “I will be fine, we super-heroes tend to recover rather quickly!”

At what sounded like a chortle she opened her eyes fully, “are you laughing at me?” She asked in dangerously dulcet tones, taking her first good look at his face.

As if hearing the underlying threat in the question, he quickly cupped his hand around his mouth and coughed before answering, “me? No, no!”

“Wait… aren’t you the cop from the boat…?”

It was Mr. Tawny? The same policeman, to whom she had handed over Amit.

“What are you doing here?” Curiosity made her forget all about her weakened state and she sat up, peering up into his face as he got to his feet, the sun against his back.

In reply he merely held out his hand. She hesitated before clasping his palm firmly with her own, determined to show him how firm her own grip was. His palm was warm, dry, wider in breadth than her own, and latched onto hers as if seeking a companion.

For a few seconds, their fingers grappled with each other, each trying to touch as much surface area of the other as greedily possible. This was no tentative querying, more a war of skin against skin. Little vibrations of surprise shot up her right arm, and as if sensing them at the same time as her, he instantly let go of her. They stayed as they had been, he standing and she still seated on the rocks.

“Why do you wear that?” He pointed to the bedraggled helmet, through the open visor of which she was staring up at him owlishly.

“To hide my identity of course!” Ruby blinked as a worrisome thought struck her, “and now that you know who I am—”

“Don’t panic,” he sniggered, obviously unimpressed by her earlier rescue of the man-in-distress “your secret is safe with me!”

She felt the first sparks of anger rise up from the base of her stomach: Ha! What an annoying man, he was, full of himself! Acting as if he ran into vigilante superhero’s every day!

“How come you turned up so soon at the scene of the crime? It’s not like the marine police are known for their efficiency.” Ruby prodded him.

“Yah, and that’s why Vigilantes like yourself take the law into your own hands. Not all of us cops hang around all day just killing time, while people are killing themselves out here!” He shot back. They looked at each other, the anger shimmering between them competing with the heat from the now-overhead sun.

“Ruby!” She turned to see a tall, slim man, with dark brown hair running towards her. “Edward!” How could she have forgotten all about Mr. London himself?

–to be continued

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

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