BY Neel Anil Panicker

12:30 on a Sunday afternoon is virtual madness at the City Fish and Vegetable Market that is situated just behind the sky high mega towers that line the mile long Marine Drive that borders the Indian Ocean.

Whizzing his way past the the byzantine lanes and sub lanes that are a choc a bloc with an array of hole in the wall enterprises that sell everything from fish to farm produce to fruits and fresh vegetables to locally made perfumes to even multi-coloured bottles sprays that promise ‘ever lasting sexual pleasure’, Detective Will cursed himself for not being forceful enough about fixing an alternate venue for the rendevouz.
‘Listen, whoever you are__I know a better place…much quieter…and less messy’.

The voice on the other end had been adamant.

No Sir, I can only meet you at the Market. And remember, I don’t have enough time. I am being watched. Be there at Nathan’s, 12: 40 sharp.\’

‘But…but how will i recognise you? Give me a…’

Blue saree, white border, red handkerchief in right hand”.

The phone had gone dead with a click.

Saar, want Aila. It’s fresh, just lifted off the sea. How much saar? Two kilos, five kilos…how much shall I weigh?”

Detective Will looked at the woman and her fare___a wicker basket filled to the brim with the short tailed silver coloured fish, its size slightly more than a man’s palm.

Just then a blast of westerly sea breeze blew in from high above the towers turning the air into a deadly mix of the most repulsive odour; the nauseatingly putrid smell of unwashed fish and half rotting vegetables colliding with an array of locally made suspect perfumes rendering the air virtually unbreatheable.

Dipping his fingers into his trouser pocket, Detective Will quickly extricated a well worn handkerchief that he proceeded to quickly place over his mouth.

Muttering a mute ‘Not today’, he hopped and skipped his way out of the lane and made his way, this time firmly elbowing his way out of all further trouble.

A few minutes later, as was promised, he spotted a bright red Flex Board hanging out from an electric pole that stood as if half in salute, at the northern periphery of the bustling market.

‘Nathan’s is on the second floor, just above the Flex’, the girl (he was still not able to make out whether it was a grown woman or a teenage girl on the other end__ the clipped furtive voice had rendered him utterly nonplussed).

His mind still swirling with confusion and hunting for answers to the umpteen beguiling

questions that zigzagged through its membranes, Detective Will climbed up te rickety steps and reached the landing.

A lone soiled curtain that clearly had seen better days greeted him at the entrance to what was the only door. Without thinking much, he ducked under it and entered what turned out to be a small rectangular room with a side exit at the extreme left corner. He glanced around and found there were no patrons inside, not one soul was seated around any one of the four tables that lined the brick walls that overlooked the market below.

Just when he thought that possibly he may have come on a wild goose chase, he spotted a figure appearing out of the corner slit.

“You must be Detective Will, right? She said, her voice, waif like, and wafting through the cacophony of all other noises around them.

Detective Will could only muster a nod as the question was less of a question but more of a rhetoric.

As the two settled down on plastic chairs at the corner table, Detective Will wondered what the beautiful young girl seated opposite him had to tell him so very urgently.

#neelanilpanicker #OisforOutrageous #fiction #A-ZCHALLENGE


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