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Authors: Maria Barrett

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BOOK: Dishonored
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Imran was waiting with a car outside. He met Mitchell as he came through arrivals and deduced his mood immediately. He wasted
no time on peripherals.

“I’ve agreed a price, subject to your approval,” he said. “There’s no need to go to Baijur.”

Mitchell kept hold of the briefcase. “How much?”

“Ten thousand US dollars.”

Mitchell stayed silent as he followed Imran out of the airport to the waiting Mercedes. Inside, away from the smell and heat,
he sat back and loosened his tie.

“It’s too much,” he said. “Our friend in Baijur’s got greedy.”

Imran had pre-empted Mitchell’s response. “He pretty much controls the police force down there,” he replied. “He will guarantee
what goes into the report.”

Mitchell took a cigar out of the top pocket of his suit and lit it up. “So he removes Suzanna’s name from the file and the
inquest, for ten thou?”

“And he organizes a road traffic accident report.”

“Very neat. Who is this man?”

“An Indian official, of sorts. There’s always someone to help if the price is right.”

Mitchell said nothing and Imran shut up. Mitchell didn’t have any choice but he wasn’t going to point that out.

“What about the charity story?”

“That’s extra.”

“Christ! He is a greedy bastard!” Mitchell flicked his ash on the floor of the car. “How much extra?” he said after a pause.

“Three.”

“Shit!”

Imran waited for a minute or so then said, “So far there’s been nothing released; we’re in a good position. If you move quickly,
deliver within the next twenty-four hours, this man can release a news story with witnesses to the CNS. It’ll be something
like—wealthy British woman on charity mission is tragically killed in road accident.” He paused. “You stay till the end of
the week, release a press statement from Delhi, where you flew immediately from Dubai on hearing the news, distraught, shocked
etc. etc.”

Mitchell smoked on in silence. He finished the cigar and ground it out under the heel of his shoe. “What about Mills?”

“I didn’t ask. I didn’t think he was important.”

Mitchell glanced out of the window. “He isn’t.” He turned back to Imran. The boy had done well, he was proving to be a valuable
asset.

“OK. Do it,” he said. “Then come back to Delhi for a few days.” He dropped his hand heavily on to Imran’s thigh. “I’ll wait
for you there.”

Imran kept his face averted, he didn’t want Mitchell to see the revulsion in his eyes.

“And Mills’ wife, the one they think did it. Where is she?”

“I don’t know, no one knows.”

Mitchell removed his hand, instantly angry. “Then find her,” he snapped. “And damn fucking quick!” He took out another cigar,
his relaxed friendly mood over. “I don’t want to be embarrassed by some maniac wife turning up with the full monty!” He lit
up a second time. “So get that fucking woman out of the way! D’you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

Mitchell said nothing else and they drove on to the hotel in silence.

It was freezing in the garden, the sort of glorious, clear, cold English December morning, where the ground was covered with
white frost and the pale blue sky touched the tips of the bare trees. John Bennet sat alone in the greenhouse, the panes of
glass frosted over, his breath making clouds of steam in the icy air. He perched on the edge of the bench, a handful of compost
in his hand and a half-potted bowl of pansies and ivy at his side. He was motionless. He hung his head and stared at the floor,
littered with clumps of soil, gravel, sawdust and he waited for the sound of the car to disappear up the drive.

“John?”

He glanced up. Caroline Bennet stood in the doorway. “He’s gone,” she said. “You can come back into the house now.”

John winced at the tone of voice she used. She was tired, as stressed as he was, but the difference was she had hardened to
it. She had let a moment of doubt intrude on her thoughts and Jane had ceased to be the daughter she remembered; she had become
the woman in the Mills case, and all her mother wanted was for it all to be over, over and forgotten.

“What did he want?”

“The same as all the others, a different angle, a photograph, one of the wedding.” She snorted derisively. “As if we would
let these people into the privacy of our lives! It’s insulting!”

John held out his hand and she came across and took it. They stayed like that for some time, not looking at each other, both
sad, both grieving, but separately.

“I just wish we knew where she was!” John said suddenly. “I wish I knew she was all right!”

Caroline snatched her hand away. “Give it up, John!” she snapped. “For God’s sake!”

He looked up at her. They went round and round in circles like this, every day, every night. He couldn’t rest, he knew Jane
hadn’t been involved, he knew his daughter and he worried, he worried himself sick, night after night. But Caroline, she tried
to blot it out, to forget it in any way she could.

He stood and dropped the soil on to the ground, brushing the palm of his hand on his gardening trousers. He didn’t understand
his wife, he never had. It had been months now but he couldn’t give up hope, he wouldn’t ever give up hope, but the prospect
of that, the loneliness of it dismayed him. He followed Caroline out into the garden, abandoning his potting, unable to finish
anything these days.

“D’you want coffee?” she asked.

John shrugged. “I thought I might have a look at the roses,” he answered. Caroline’s nostrils flared but she said nothing.
The roses were his and Jane’s, they reminded him so acutely of his daughter and she didn’t understand why he had to keep punishing
himself like this. She walked away from him toward the house.

“Don’t be long,” she called back. “It’s cold, you’ll get a chill.”

He nodded and watched her disappear inside. Then he turned toward the rose garden, the pruned and clipped bushes stiff with
ice, and smiled sadly at the memory of Jane’s love of her roses.

22

March, 1966

J
ANE SAT ON THE VERANDAH OF HER SMALL HOUSE IN THE HILLS
above the mountain town of Ghanerao, in the southeastern part of the state of Balisthan, and looked across the valley as
the sun crept over the landscape. It was early morning, the coolest part of the day, and the mist was just beginning to lift.
She let a long thin shaft of warm sunlight gently caress her face as she leaned her head back and folded her hands in her
lap. She let her mind drift, her daily thoughts of Rami mixed with a calm happiness and peace that she had lately begun to
feel. She was tired, she hadn’t slept well and as the shaft of sunlight lengthened and widened, sliding across the verandah
to warm her whole figure, she closed her eyes and sighed contentedly.

“Memsahib? Memsahib?”

Jane opened her eyes and realized that she must have dozed off. She saw her ayah and smiled. “Hello, Usha,” she said. “Gosh.
I must have fallen asleep.” She sat up with difficulty and the ayah stepped forward to help her. Giving a little laugh, she
took the hand she was offered.

“Is that my tea?” she asked, settling herself.

“Yes, memsahib, and there is something for you to eat, something that will be giving you strength.” The ayah smiled and came
forward, laying the tray on a small cane table by the side of Jane’s chair. She gently placed a hand on Jane’s stomach. “Something
that will be giving you both strength.”

Jane smiled. She had got to know this Indian woman well over the past few months; she trusted her. It was a small household,
all of the servants chosen by Bodi, but the ayah was the only other woman Jane came into contact with. She would have been
very lonely without Usha’s company. Jane took the tea and sipped, looking over the rim of the cup at the valley as it came
to life.

“Is your brother coming to Ghanerao this month?” she asked, as the ayah cut the fruit for her.

“Yes, memsahib, he is coming a week on Saturday.”

Jane sat still and continued to sip but she couldn’t quiet the sudden racing of her heart. Usha’s brother worked for Dr. Yadav
and he would bring Jane’s letter from Rami. She finished her tea and exchanged the cup for the small plate of peeled fruit.
“Thank you,” she murmured distractedly; she was already thinking about the letter. Rami would know now, she had kept it a
secret for as long as she could but she had had to tell him, in her last correspondence. It was getting close, she needed
help, she needed a midwife, maybe even a doctor. She wondered what he would say, whether he would be pleased, or anxious,
angry even. She longed for his writing, for Usha’s brother to visit his family in Ghanerao and bring Rami’s words. She longed
for his answer to her letter, telling him that she was pregnant with his child.

* * *

Shiva looked at Rami across the table in the restaurant of the gymkhana club in Baijur and watched him sip his water. Rami,
the chiseled beauty of his face calm and; composed, averted his eyes. He knew Shiva was watching him; he felt the force of
the gaze and he continued to look away. He had planned this meticulously, he had been working on it since he received Jane’s
letter and he wasn’t about to make any mistakes at this stage.

“You leave at what time?” Shiva asked, clicking his fingers for the waiter.

Rami turned back to his grandfather and shrugged. “Later, some time this evening,” he answered. “Viki wishes me to keep it
secret.”

Shiva nodded. He was handed the wine list and surveyed it with the waiter standing at his elbow. Rami knew he wasn’t really
looking, he was playing for time, for effect. “Chablis,” he ordered, his habitual choice, “the sixty-three.” He glanced up
and closed the list. “You are being escorted?”

“Yes, by three of Viki’s men. They will be escorting me to the city limits to ensure I am not followed.”

Shiva nodded. He looked away and smiled, raising his right hand in greeting to one of the English contingent from ICI. He
didn’t trust Rami, hadn’t trusted him from that first moment that Jane Mills disappeared, but whatever way he followed him,
whatever way he watched him, it always came to nothing. He was very, very careful. The wine arrived and Shiva tasted, then
nodded. It was poured and he took a mouthful.

“How long will you be gone?”

Rami shrugged. “As long as it takes,” he answered.

Shiva momentarily lost his patience. “For goodness sake, Ramesh!” he hissed. “I am your grandfather! You might at least have
the courtesy to tell me what is going on!”

Rami sat silent. He had been waiting for this moment in his task for Viki, the very last part, the removal and hiding of the
family wealth. He had prolonged it for as long as he dared, waiting until he needed the cover, knowing that Shiva wouldn’t
dare try to follow him on royal instructions. He was going to see Jane for the first time in four months and he was using
the final chapter of Viki’s book as a cover.

“I am unable to tell anyone anything,” he said, “I am sorry.”

Shiva’s nostrils flared but it was the only outward sign of the intense anger he felt. His grandson was insolent! He was deceiving
him and Shiva knew it, he sensed it, felt it. He had never had the justice that was deserved. Without a culprit, the Mills
murder had faded from view, become just another unsolved crime. Without Jane Mills to elevate it to a scandal of the highest
proportion it had been forgotten and this pained Shiva; he didn’t like his jobs only half done.

“But you will be back for the wedding?” Shiva raised an eyebrow. “It would be a great insult not to return for the wedding.”

“Of course, I will be back in time for the first ceremony.” Rami knew he had three days before the celebrations began. He
could just make it in three days.

Shiva smiled. So Ramesh was heading south-east. He clicked for more wine and sat back to enjoy his second glass. He wouldn’t
attempt the desert terrain to the west in just three days. He was obviously heading for the hills above Ghanerao; that was
a three-day trek. He sipped the wine and looked across at his grandson. You have slipped, Ramesh, he thought, his lip curling
slightly in a sneer, you are not as clever as you think you are. And he dragged his eyes away from the face that had disappointed
and deceived him and began to plot the course that his men would have to take.

Imran Devi stood on the corner of the bazaar and peeled an orange, dropping the peel on to the ground and kicking it idly
into the gutter. He had been in Baijur for over four months now, his Hindustani was perfect and his olive skin had burnt a
dark Asian brown. He wore native dress, a fine muslin
kurta
and
churidar
, his slippers were soft kid, embellished with gold leaf. He was a high-caste Indian, he lived in a suite of rented rooms
in a bungalow on the Eastern drive and filled his days doing very little, keeping out of sight, watching, listening. He rang
London once a week and he waited.

He was waiting now. He had arranged to meet someone, he was early but that didn’t matter and he was tense. The meeting was
important; if his information was right then there wasn’t much time. He glanced up as an Indian joined him on the street corner
and stopped to light a cheroot.

“You wanted to see me,” the man said, flicking the lighted match to the ground. “You have some work?”

Imran dropped the remains of his orange into the gutter. “Yes,” he answered, “I have.” He turned toward the crowded streets
of the market. “Come,” he said. “This way.” And he led the way through the bazaar to a small coffee shop and a tiny, dark
back room he had hired for his purpose.

Dr. Bodi Yadav had left Baijur two days earlier. He had said goodbye to his wife and family for his extended visit to Europe
and a medical convention at which he was presenting a paper in London and Paris. They didn’t ask any questions; it was something
he had done before and his wife was used to his business trips away from home.

But Dr. Yadav didn’t leave for Delhi, he didn’t board the British Airways flight for London, he had no intention of doing
so. He waited for two days in a small town on the western side of Balisthan, a dried-out, fly-infested place that no one ever
visited and few had ever heard of. He made the last of his arrangements and took delivery of some things he had ordered in
Delhi. When the time came, he would be with her. He was ready.

BOOK: Dishonored
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