The Scribbler's Orchard: Part 27
Team name: Scribbler's Orchard
Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17 Part 18 Part 19 Part 20 Part 21 Part 22 Part 23 Part 24 Part 25 Part 26
Arjun stood shell shocked for a second as he tried to gather his bearings. He could hardly believe what he was seeing and motioned his officers to hold their arms.
There lay in front of him a scene straight from a nightmare. The Ulema of Jama Masjid sat bound tight in a kneeling position on the ground. A huge fire blazed in front of him. Horror and pain was written large on the Ulema’s face as he squirmed, the ropes cutting into his arms and legs.
“Please let me go,” he was crying out, his voice hoarse from screaming. “Please, sir, I beg of you!”
Towering above him, with the smoke of the raging fire swirling around him, stood a fierce figure enrobed in white.
“Prime Minister Sir…”
Arjun silently mouthed the words, disbelief washing over him. Even with the ashes smeared all over the minister, obscuring a large part of his face, his identity was apparent to Arjun.
“Acharya ji, if you please,” he told Arjun in a patronizing tone. “The post of Prime Minister is just a garb. I had to don it to bring the nation under my command. This is the real me – the faithful son of the Fire!”
The Acharya’s eyes glittered with the fervor of a maniac as his voice rose quaveringly.
“There is only one God out of which all life is born and that is the Fire,” he raised both his arms skywards, as if in praise. “Glory be to the true God!”
The fire continued to spit and splutter, its ambers crackling in response to the Acharya’s extol of its virtues.
Arjun took a deep breath, his mind steeling up on what he was duty-bound to do.
“I shall have to arrest you, Sir,” he said resolutely. “We have evidence against you regarding the political murder in Kochi, the murder of Ismail Abdullah and Mr. Ahuja, and the abduction of Roohi Dutta.”
The Acharya seemed unfazed.
“All necessary deeds, I assure you, Arjun,” he said. “Although I admit the man in Kochi had to be removed more from the Prime Minister’s point of view than mine. Ahuja was my right-hand man, someone I had groomed to handle my empire. But in the end, he had become too much of a threat. He came to know too much than I would have liked him to gather. That wouldn’t do, would it? Besides, Roohi is my blood, and he had tried to violate her by clicking those photographs.”
The Acharya paused, the mad gleam returning to his eyes.
“And so, Ahuja had to go,” he said menacingly. “I do not allow loose ends.”
Arjun stood his ground.
“What about Ismail Abdullah? And the Ulema now?” he demanded. “Why do you want them dead?”
The Acharya smiled at Arjun, the cold smile of a executioner.
“But these are not murders, Arjun,” he said. “Don’t you see? These people are to be my offerings to the Fire, my ahuti. The Fire God has to be appeased.”
He threw a glance at the squirming Ulema.
“And then, after I have offered him to the Fire,” he spoke with an increasing tenor. “My father will be pleased. He will grant me invincibility!”
The Acharya let out a loud laughter.
“You heard that, Arjun?” he said. “I shall become invincible! The All Powerful One!”
Arjun shivered with trepidation as he realized a circle of madness engulfing the Acharya.
"Sir," he pleaded. "No matter how far you have gone on a wrong track, turn back."
But his request was met by an empty, cold stare.
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