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#RubyIyer: BOMBAY SHORTS 23 – ‘Kiss Your Friend Goodbye’

Previously: Ruby Iyer is pushed in the path of a Bombay local train and wakes up with superpowers. As Bombay Vigilante she now protects its citizens from criminals, and sometimes even themselves. Yet, on coming face to face with her nemesis The Hand her superpowers are no match. Can she save herself? Now read on:

– Kiss Your Friend Goodbye –

“Ruby!” Edward burst in on her, his blonde hair awry; his shirt pulled out of the habitual rigorous tuck-in it received into the waistband of his trousers.

Without removing her eyes from the face of the person she hated the most in the entire world, Ruby paused about to take another swing at his already crumpled visage; then screwed up her nose, as a putrid, pungent, very familiar stink assailed her: “Eww! What’s that smell—”?

“Rubbish” Edward frowned.

“Yes, exactly what did you do? Fall into a pile of heaped garbage? Which is exactly where this m— f— belongs.” Ruby pulled back her right fist to complete the punch—

“—No, wait. I mean don’t stop. I mean, yes! I know… I already fell into a pool of trash outside trying to save your friend.”

“What?” Edward had her full attention now.

“Panky?” Her heart stilled, gripped by a nameless fear: serene in the certainty of what was to come.

“Yes, your friend, he’s gone.” 

“What do you mean, gone?”

“Taken, kidnapped!” Edward cut the air with his palm facing down for emphasis: “abducted!”

The Hand gurgled and flailed his arms, causing Ruby to tighten her grip on his collar: “P—an—k—”

“You think he is trying to say something?” Edward asked.

“No!” Her pulse sped up slamming against her temples now, and Ruby completed the punch: her fist connecting with his face once more, before loosening her grip on him.  The Hand dropped to his knees, before crawling to the bar, to lean against it: “yes!” He spat out fragments of teeth, before wiping his bleeding lips; the crimson streak leaping out from against his pale yellow-white forearm like the grim reaper’s scythe.

“Hope you had time to kiss your lovely friend goodbye.”

“You f— g—” The blood roared in her ears and Ruby took a step towards him, shaking off the placating hand Edward placed on her shoulder as the fury built to a crescendo in her head.

“If something happens to Panky…” Her hands shook with suppressed nervous tension; the coppery taste of blood in her mouth warning her she had bitten her own tongue. 

She fisted both her palms in a fighter’s stance, nails digging into her own skin as she tried to restrain herself from leaping on him and crushing him with a single pounce.

“Ruby… RUBY!” For the second time in a few minutes Edward’s urgent voice cut through the haze of fury

“WHAT?” She yelled back, more in an attempt to direct her wrath at something other than the pathetic excuse for humanity crawling at her feet.

Something in his eyes had her dropping her hands to her side as she followed his urgent gesture to the muted Television above the bar. 

On cue someone turned up the volume and a presenter’s whiny, high pitched, rattled breathlessly: “In breaking news now, a bomb alert has been reported at Bandra Station… fresh reports coming in have just indicated that there is a man… I repeat, a man wearing what looks like a bomb-rigged vest tied to the front of a packed local train, the 17:35 to Churchgate. “

The cameras obligingly zoomed in for a close up to show his face slumped forward on his chest; close enough to show a trickle of blood roll down his forehead onto his cheek.

“Panky!”

***

Even before his jeep had come to a standstill in front of Bandra Station, Vikram had jumped out, Kumar close on his heels; both in protective vests.

Weaving their way swiftly through the milling crowds, they came onto the bomb squad police who had formed a protective human chain all across the platform on which the local train—now emptied of all its passengers was now parked.

Pausing to nod to the ACP heading up the operation Vikram jumped onto the tracks, going as far he could. A few metres away was the motionless body of the man, spread-eagled and chained to the front of the train.

“Is he dead?” he asked the tense commando leading the bomb detonation squad.

“No, but if we don’t defuse this bomb in the next fifteen minutes he will be” was the terse reply. “Who are you?” The older clean-shaven man, with greying temples, a faded scar running up his throat and half way up his left cheek surveyed Vikram warily.

“QRT” Vikram bit off his reply, and was not disappointed at the dismissive snort.

“You young punks, think just because you can make power point presentations you have all the answers?”

“You older, more experienced gurus of the force should know that in times of crisis like this, we are better off pooling our resources.  All that matters is saving him.” Vikram surveyed the prone body, wondering if he had detected a slight movement.

As if in response the man moaned.

He was just a boy really, early twenties, there was something familiar about him, just in the way he held his body, the turn of his head.

He juggled his memory, trying to take a closer look at his face. Something about the maroon colour of his slacks, the uber trendy Superdry hoodie he wore, sparked off a bell of recognition. It couldn’t be, could it? Was it…?

A sound had him look up and across the track to the platform on the other side of the tracks. Ruby… no Bombay Vigilante, he corrected himself.

What was she doing here?

– 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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