This post is part of #GameOfBlogs team name 'Story Weavers'.
You can read the first part of the story here
And the previous part here
Tara was besides herself in a frenzied madness. It was like an entire building had collapsed on her head and she lived to witness the destruction and desolation. For all her cool, no-nonsense and crisp facade of a professional, the call from Shekhar, undid the years of building up this image of hers, crumbling down the masks she donned. It was the school that informed Shekhar. His worst fears had come true. And she had been so blaise! She could afford that luxury despite being a mother of a nine year old, taking comfort in the arrangement that Shekhar worked from home. She could pack and move at a minute's notice because Shekhar was there to look after their precious. But for how long could they insulate Roohi from the harsh world outside? And now... Roohi was thrown into an abyss straight from the cradle...Her little baby... Suddenly Tara found herself drowning in a deluge of mayhem none of which made sense to her. They were no longer detached news to be covered now and walk out with the plumes. This was real. Her Roohi was in the railway station. And she was going to be the sacrificial lamb now. Her Roohi. She rushed to their media van parked outside to catch the footage. The terrorists were intent on making this into a horrific spectacle for all to see. To drive home their terrible potency in pursuit of jihad.
Through blurred vision, Tara could see the masked man with a gun pointed at a child out side the station. Roohi, little Roohi. He must have dragged her out to catch the media's attention. After all what was the point of execution if there was no audience to gasp at the terror. He made her the human shield from all the shooters and the snipers. Tara slumped to the floor of the van. From somewhere deep within, a force made it's way up through all the grief and disillusionment, pushing all of them into the periphery. There was not a second to lose now. She tucked the flying strands of her short hair behind her ears and called up her boss. She asked for a switch explaining the twist in the situation that affected her. After patiently listening to her forced coherency, he said,
" Right, Tara! I suggest you reach the station without the paraphernalia, immediately. The crew in the van will handle till Rahul replaces you. And you say your friend Jennifer is inside ...God knows how you managed that... but move now! Flash your card wherever they stop you and call me if you are stuck!"
"... and Tara, take care. Have faith..."
Shekhar was hunched over a blueprint of the station in a van outside, refusing to look at the screen that flashed Roohi's scared face. He would never forgive them. Even if he had to hunt each of them to the last corner of the earth. He marked on the blueprint barking out orders to those around him. This had to have the laser precision of a surgeon. Not an inch here nor another there. He could concentrate on the station now having appraised his superiors about the two other terrorist attacks on the hotel and the BARC. Other RAW and NSG teams would tackle that. He would not budge from the station. As of now. Suddenly the officer at the monitor motioned to him,
." Sir, there is a slight movement..."
Shekhar craned into the monitor.
"...there...can you see?...just behind that shutter at the entrance..." he pointed towards the screen at a dark body.
Shekhar noticed it. It was there. Definitely a movement. Someone was trying to inch towards the lunatic. A rush of hope flooded every cell of his being. He spoke into the walkie- talkie, alerting all the men positioned.
" Alpha calling all vectors. A movement behind the 'bull's eye'. At the slightest hint of surprise he will turn for a fraction of a second. You have only a fraction of a second. Vector 10, you are closest. Move as close as you can and pull the child out. You will have only a few seconds before the others join in. Do not miss!" He kept the walkie - talkie on and prayed Roohi would remember to duck and run behind the lunatic. That was the safest spot. All other directions she would be a sitting duck. He was glued to the screen waiting to bark the minute that angel acted. And then he remembered. He switched the channel of his walkie talkie.
" Black out all media. Now!"
And across the country, the horrifying unfolding of events at the New Delhi railway station went blank.
Jennifer removed her shoes as she went into the hotel. It was such a pity, all those extravagant interiors were reduced to shambles. And to think that the rich always believed themselves to be immune to such carnage. At the end of it all everyone was at the same level. When death stared squarely at you, it didn't matter what your bank balance was or the number of countries you had travelled to or the number of strings you could pull or where the next meal was going to come from. Death was a great level player. Absolutely impartial. Didn't she know? Losing her father before she saw this world and watching her mother give away to cancer, she had toughened up from her childhood. She crawled into adulthood in an orphanage learning the vagaries of the adult world when she should have been playing with barbies. She had learnt the greatest skill of all in there. Like a trained doberman she could smell the routes to survival.
She tip toed into the kitchen kissing her butterfly tattoo. Her lucky mascot. It was a replica of a locket her mother wore once. She had to be extremely careful here. This was the first place those fanatics would ransack to refuel. She picked up a paring knife from the counter and tucked it under her belt. It would be difficult to hide a bigger one. Not when she was in her shorts. She could have kicked herself for not wearing her jeans.
She moved stealthily towards the door ducking behind the counters. She peeped out of the glass door. No one was out there. Where had everyone gone? She didn't know the layout of the building. Climbing that spiralling grand staircase would be a dead giveaway with nowhere to hide. There should be a service elevator somewhere. Elevators were a no no. She finally zeroed down to the fire escape. She could hear some one talking now although it was not clear. It was coming from the floor above. Sidling up the iron stairs which took ages for her to reach the first floor, Jennifer stopped at the door. She strained her ears to listen for footsteps or voices. All seemed quiet. She turned the handle down little by little and made a small opening. She peeped in through the sliver of the opening. The coast was clear. Were all those fanatics stupid enough to be in one place? Feeling like the Lord himself over the helpless, whimpering hostages? She moved to the second floor now taking the emergency exit. And here she saw all the hostages pooled into the centre of what looked like a lounge. And around them were six armed masked butchers. Jennifer didn't know how many of them were in the building. Were all the hostages here or was anyone out in one of those rooms without these buggers realising. It was a chance she would have to take. She couldn't tackle these bastards on her own, a la Jhansi ki Rani style. Get your facts right, she reminded herself. You are here to cover this not dive into a major rescue operation and commit harakiri. Thank God, this hotel had just three floors sprawled across a mammoth area. She steadily crept up the stairs amazed at having survived so far. And just as she reached the door to the third floor it opened leaving her exposed.
Read the next part here.