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#RubyIyer: BOMBAY SHORTS 22 – ‘Ruby vs The Hand’

Previously: Ruby Iyer is pushed in the path of a Bombay local train and wakes up with superpowers. As Bombay Vigilante she now protects women in the city. Yet, on coming face to face with her nemesis The Hand her superpowers are no match. Can she save herself?

– Ruby vs The Hand –

Ruby looked at the bartender of Toto’s Pub in Bandra, who had gone back to polishing the wine glasses, wiping down the surface of the counter, and doing other such bartendery activities; which seemed to keep those of his tribe suitably occupied, thank-you-very-much.

As if sensing her perusal — Martin, she read the name tag pinned to his starched, white shirt — flashed her a grin before resuming his rhythmic movement.

His torso completely still; yet elbow downwards he was the epitome of the ever-paddling ducks-feet underwater.

“It’s a nice whiskey isn’t it?”  The smooth accented voice of the man she had labelled as The Hand poured over her: “one of my favourites, Jameson Irish.  It’s always available in Bombay pubs too.  Far more suitable than Chivas, which Indians seem to prefer don’t you think?”

Wham-wham-wham, Ruby was surprised to find her heartbeat speed up, as if engaged in a physical fight.

Why did he hold such power over her? That last time she had seen him, he had been walking away from the wreckage of a Yellow Ferrari —

“ — Damned shame about that Ferrari really” his words startled her: “it wasn’t mine, but hey, I have a weakness for her type of car.”

“And women, what about them?” Ruby hissed back, still unable to shore up the courage to meet his eyes.

“Ah! That is the question isn’t it?”

At that, Ruby swivelled around, and glared at him. How dare he!

“Now, now, don’t be angry with me,” he put up his thin hands, palm up.

He wore a small tattoo shaped like a barcode — at least it resembled a barcode — at the base of his right wrist.

“Interesting right? I got it in Hong Kong. A young Australian girl, your typical beach blonde, she drew it on me.” He grinned suddenly. “Well come on, don’t you want to know what it means?”

“What did you do to her?”  A sickening inevitability gripped her.  He couldn’t.  He wouldn’t.  But he could… he must have. This just emerging from his teen’s man, he was capable of anything.

“Moi?” He looked at her surprised, “why Ruby. Don’t you trust me? After all, I did for you.”

She looked at him blinking stupidly. Had he just confessed to pushing her in front of the train? Yet, here she was, sitting around, chatting to him, about the merits of whiskey for heaven’s sake, rather than — she heaved the contents of the glass she was holding, satisfied to see the golden liquid dripping from his face.

“You really shouldn’t have done that Ruby” he wiped the fluid running down his face: “but I forgive you.  You are the most surprising of my creations so far.”

He bent close, his forehead almost touching hers so she could see the pupils of his eyes, slightly dilated; as if he was excited, turned on by their conversation. Yeesh! What kind of a monster was this?

“Don’t be scared lovely — isn’t that what Panky calls you?”  His peppermint scented breath brushed over her cheeks, and she turned away in disgust. “But, you are already dead, so I can’t hurt you, not anymore.”

Ruby sprang to her feet, overturning the barstool in her haste and lunged at him, so they both went crashing to the floor. The flash flood of fuming fury fired her with a nameless, red-black hunger; it surged through, consuming her.

Everything around her faded, the noise of the pub downed its shutters.

Looking at him as if through a tunnel, she tasted blood on her tongue from where she had bitten it.  Leaping back to her feet, she held him up by his collar, so he hung suspended from her grip, the tips of his feet brushing the ground.

Ruby drew back her right hand, determined to take his face off with a single punch when he gurgled: “don’t you want to know how you really got your superpowers?”

She paused mid way to connecting her knuckles with his jaw. “Only I know what really happened: “he gasped: “if you hit me, you’ll never find out.”

Ruby looked into his eyes, so he could not miss staring right back, into the clear hazel-brown-depths of hers: “honestly? Who cares?”

She swung at him, a fierce right hook which connected with his chin, the sound: like a heavy thud of a small bird crashing into the propeller of a plane.  The glass still clutched in his hand crashed to the floor, and out spewed a geyser of blood and a few teeth, all of which splashed onto the crisp white shirt of the bartender.

***

Vikram jerked, in the middle of writing up the report of the jumper from the Bandra-Worli Sea Link; his concentration broken.

His iPhone pinged and simultaneously the phone on the far left of his desk — the one that was a hotline to the Chief of Police himself, rang.

Secretly pleased at the possibility of postponing the tedious job on hand he snapping to attention, unconsciously sitting up straight, before reaching for it. The voice on the other side pounced on him.

“Bomb alert, Bandra station? On my way sir!

– 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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