Henderson had come into her life very recently. More precisely, he was brought into her life by Tony.
Tony knew Gaitonde because the cop had nabbed him one day in the act of smooth-talking a foreign tourist, and taken him in for questioning. And because he had used third-degree methods without asking him any questions or charging him with anything specific, Tony, alias Mayank Tandel, had confessed to the murder of Deepya in Gorai village.
A few discreet enquiries over with the Gorai village police thane had given the wily Gaitonde some very interesting information. Deepya, in his dying declaration, had said that the heavy oar had fallen on his head. Nobody had said anything about a murder, and so the police had put it down in their files as an accidental death. That night, Deepya was cremated beside Mayank's father, and his wife had wailed with her arms thrown around Mayank's mother. If anybody knew the truth, they weren't telling.
So there was no murder case against the fugitive boy. Gaitonde could have told him that, but that, he felt, would be wasting a perfectly good opportunity to earn some money on the side.
So he offered Mayank a deal: work for me, help me run my little rackets, and I will help you stay free. If you refuse, I'll put you on trial for murder, and earn a promotion for solving the Deepya Murder Case.
Which intelligent man could refuse such an offer? Tony started bringing in foreign customers for Namita's classy services in the classily furnished flat. Gaitonde was truly amazed at the amount of money he could earn through this fortuitous teamwork. So were Namita and Tony.
Henderson was one of Namita's repeat-customers. Tony had lured him into Gaitonde's flat the first time by offering him an “exotic Mumbai massage”.
Lying on his back in his boxer shorts, it was only a matter of time before gazing down his massuese's plunging blouse had given him an erection. Namita was a luxury to the eyes, compared to his pale, flat-chested Edith. And so, when she made small-talk with him, and casually offered to give him a “special full-body massage”, refusing her required the self-control of a saint. Henderson was no saint.
Afterwards, Henderson returned to his hotel room full of remorse and self-loathing. He refrained from telling Tony anything about his massage session. “How was it?” Tony asked casually. “Oh, very good”, the Britisher replied, equally casually, naively believing that Namita was just a professional massuese who had done him a special favour out of love for him. Why else had she refused to take any extra money, he reasoned. But he had resolved never, never, never to return to her flat again.
His resolution was shortlived. Every passing day, every night found him nursing an almost painful erection. To his credit, he struggled religiously to conjure up visions of Edith's flat-chested body for the first few days when the memory of Namita's lush contours came upon him. But his entire body remembered Namita with longing. His hands ached for the soft plumpness of her breasts, with her black-currant tits in the centre of his palms. His eyes wished for… no, prayed for… another glimpse of the soft curves of her waist and hips and thighs.
She spoke very little English. “You like, Sir?”, she had asked attentively, raising her head from his pubis, her lips moist. “Ah, yes, please continue”, he had replied, gazing at her long black hair dreamily. His ears ached to hear her voice again, so soft, so full of concern for his pleasure.
It was most disloyal of him, but he couldn't help comparing Edith's her boyish body and even more, her boyish approach to sex. Edith would undress without ceremony the moment they entered his flat together, and sit down on the bed naked even before he had taken his socks off. “What's taking you so bloody long, Archie? Don't you want it tonight?”, she would demand, as he pottered around his house, putting away his laptop, his purse and his tie in their respective places. And when he did get into bed with her, she would lie down on her back gamely and turn off the light.
Henderson was basically a loyal chap. And so he had never put it into so many words before. “Making love” with Edith -- she hated it when he used the words “sex” or “f**king” -- was actually textbook sex: he was expected to put his “thing” into her “thing” and “do the job”. Once, he had tried gallantly to creep under the covers and please her with his mouth. A couple of kisses on the thighs and stomach was as far as he was allowed to get. No sooner had she sensed his intentions, she had jumped up with a shriek, and stood up on the bed with the covers gathered around her. “Archie! What on earth are you trying to do!! Don't do that! Don't ever do such… such animal things again!!! It's a sin! God forgive us, it's A SIN! Don't you understand?!!”
He never got over the shock of being reprimanded for what he considered the ultimate act of love. He had sulked, but Edith was unrepentant. She had, still naked, trotted out a Bible, and shown him passages that forbade “bestiality” and “unnatural acts”. And then she sat down on the bed, and was totally dismayed when he was just not interested. “Archie, what happened? You don't love me any more!”, she had wailed, with total lack of comprehension.
And so, Namita's very professional attitude of pleasing him in every possible way felt to Archie Henderson like an expression of total, selfless love. And, blissfully unaware that she gave herself with equally selfless devotion to half a dozen paying customers every week, the naive Britisher had proceeded to fall in love with the prostitute.
The second time that Tony had casually suggested a massage on one of their afternoons together, Henderson had equally casually agreed, but closely observed the instructions that he gave the taxi-driver, who, luckily for Henderson, was a bhaiyya, and didn't speak Marathi. Tony had to give detailed instructions with landmarks, and the retentive Britisher caught every word of it.
Then, over the next week, Henderson visited several times without Tony, and felt more comfortable for it. He was afraid that showing too much fondness for Namita's massages would give away his personal fondness for her.
For Henderson, their meetings weren't about sex. It was about the admiration of her utter feminity -- something he had never seen . There were times when he wanted to do nothing more than tenderly undress her and caress her with his hands and lips. Namita wasn't surprised. She knew a couple of men who did that, and she knew how to respond -- like a blushing bride on her first night. An Indian bride.
Henderson was completely floored by her demure enjoyment of his caresses, her eagerness to be pleased by him and to please him in return. He was completely enchanted by her willingness to let him enjoy her in every concievable way, passive and yet participative. He was ecstatic when she allowed him to spend the night in her flat, in her bed! To fall asleep with his face buried between her soft breasts, or with a black tit held in his lips! And to wake up to find her gently arousing his flaccid manhood in her warm mouth! Ah, heaven! Ah, heavenly heaven!
And he was utterly downcast when she refused to meet him for several days, saying she was busy! “Today, I have other customers”, she told him him plainly when he phoned. She had no intentions of misleading him as to the nature of their relationship. On one particular afternoon, two of Gaitonde's bosses dropped in unexpectedly. She opened the door in her flimsy nightgown, seated them in the sitting room, and sent Henderson home hastily. “Can't you tell them to wait till we finish?” “No”, she replied. “It will take two or three hours with them.”
Perhaps it was the height of naivete, but Henderson really believed that these people were there only for a massage!
“Your Britisher was here last night”, Namita told Sub-Inspector Gaitonde in Marathi as she lay in his arm one day.
“Who? Tony's Britisher?”
“Yes”, she replied. “I think he is in love…”
“Really?”, asked the paunchy man, sleepily. And then he suddenly became alert, and raised himself on an elbow to look intently at her. “Really?”, he asked again. “In love? With you?”
“I think so”, she replied. “Why?”
“Just like that”, he replied, sitting up and lighting a cigarette. But his mind was racing. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for. And this Britisher was just the sort of bakra he needed for his scheme to work. “When is he coming next?”
“He didn't say, but maybe tomorrow. But tomorrow I think your bosses will be coming, so maybe I will tell him next week…”
“No”, said Gaitonde. “I will tell the DSP and his men not to come tomorrow. If he phones, tell him to come tomorrow evening, and stay the night if he likes.”
“Why?” asked Namita. “Do you like him so much?”
“I know the Britisher is your favourite, because he doesn't treat you like a raand! He treats you like his lover, right? So I like him. Saala phirang! Bachcha hai!“, the policeman replied.“Doodh peeta bachcha”, he joked, pinching a ripe nipple.
As expected, Henderson came the next day. While they were having the dinner that he had brought along, the phone rang. “Is the gora with you?”, Gaitonde asked her in Marathi. Namita said he was. “Will he stay the night?”
“Will you stay here tonight?”, Namita asked aloud. “Yes”, he replied. “Who's that you're talking to?” he asked.
“Just a friend”, she replied before telling the policeman that he was staying. “Why do you want to know?”, she asked him as an afterthought.
“I wanted to come over with some friends”, he lied.
“Should I ask him to go?”, she asked, willing as usual to please her master at all cost.
“No, let him stay. Why should I spoil your fun?”, he teased her, before hanging up.
That night, Henderson was more curious than usual. “Who was that?”, he asked again, while they were lying in bed.
“A friend. I told you”, she replied.
“What sort of friend?”
“A police Sub-Inspector”, she replied.
There were lots of questions that Henderson hadn't asked because of the restrictions that her limited English vocabulary placed on their conversation. He had taken her answers for granted. But tonight, he was uneasy. He had been getting a feeling that there was something Tony knew about her that he didn't know.
Tonight, he resolved to set his doubts at rest.
“Does he come here often?”
“Of ten?”, she repeated, uncomprehending. “Means?”
“Does he come here daily? Everyday?”
“No. Only sometimes.”
“Sometimes. Sometimes with friends.”
“Hmm.. sometimes policemen, sometimes other friends… Why?”
Henderson didn't know how to broach the topic in the right way. “Do you massage them?” he asked hesitantly. “At night?”
“No”, she replied truthfully. “At night, no massage. Only sleep.”
That was a relief, thought Henderson. She was just like Edith, who stayed alone. Sometimes, when she had had friends over, her place was a mess of beer bottles, salted peanuts and crumpled bedsheets. So the beer empties standing in a corner of Namita's sitting room, and the cigarettes in the ashtray didn't bother him.
“Do you have any women customers?”, he asked, lying with his cheek on her belly.
“No”, she replied.
“What why?”, she asked, a bit self-righteously. What did he take her for -- a pervert? Chee-chee!
“Why not women?”
“I don't like”, she said in an orthodox way, her face going sour. Then she decided to end the conversation by getting down to business. She put her face to his large, flaccid organ and began to breathe life into it.
Henderson sighed. “You don't like giving massage to women… only to men… that's unusual”, he mused, and gave himself over to his pleasure.
He was woken up by loud knocking. But before he had gathered his wits, Namita had put on a nightgown, gone out of the room and opened the door. “You!” she exclaimed, seeing Gaitonde in full uniform.
“Be quiet”, he commanded, and brushed past her. “Ye re!”, he told the two constables carrying nightsticks.
When the small posse entered the bedroom and switched on the bright tubelight, it was a nightmare for Henderson. He was roughly dragged out of bed naked, and made to stand in the sitting room. Namita was crying and pleading with the policemen in Marathi. Then the Sub Inspector slapped her so that an ugly bruise bloomed within minutes, and he grabbed the shoulder of her gown, and ripped it right off her arm. He pulled her hair and roughed her up quite a bit, and Henderson had never felt so powerless in his entire life.
He had no idea why he was being arrested. Was it a crime in this country for two consenting adults to be found in bed together? Was there no civilization in this country? Or were there some laws by which people engaging in sex outside wedlock could be publicly stoned to death, as it happened in some Islamic countries? His blood ran cold, and he wished he had taken time to consult a lawyer about Indian laws before coming here.
A waiting jeep took them to a police station, where he was interrogated. The drab office, the sleepy constables, the yellow light, and the wooden stool on which he sat -- all of it made him feel like a common criminal. His consciousness of being a foreign citizen usually made him feel quite empowered. But this wasn't one of those moments.
Henderson answered all the questions truthfully. “Did you have physical relations with her?”, Gaitonde asked. “Yes”, he replied. Meanwhile, Namita was roughly dispatched, bitterly weeping, in a jeep, to God alone knows where. But Henderson was allowed to go home after his Hotel address was taken down. “Please come here tomorrow morning before noon and hand over your visa to us, Mr Henderson”, said Sub Inspector P K Gaitonde. “You have committed a very grave crime.”
“But what is my crime?” asked the Britisher, on the verge of tears.
“She says you beat her and raped her”, replied Gaitonde. “We sent her for a physical examination to confirm this. A semen test will show if this is true.”
“But she was willing!” said Henderson, his voice fraying in desperation. “She was a consenting adult!”
“Are you saying she is of loose moral character?”, demanded the policeman, drawing himself up to his full height.
“No, but she consented! She agreed!”
“Then why did you beat her? Why did you tear her clothes? Why did you forcibly rape her?”
Henderson gaped at the lying policeman wordlessly, thunderstruck. It slowly seeped into his
He phoned Namita the moment he got back to his hotel room. No reply. He phoned every half-hour until, late in the afternoon, she picked up the phone. “Hello, Namita? Listen…”, he managed to say before she hung up. The next time he called, a man's voice replied rudely, “Hey, pleej don't phone. Haven't you harassed her enough last night? Abhi kuch karne ka baaki hai kya?” This time, Henderson hung up wordlessly, feeling trapped, feeling drained.
It was three days before he could bring himself to give Tony a watered-down version of what happened. Of course Tony knew about the whole thing already from the Sub Inspector himself, but he feigned complete ignorance, and made clucking noises as Henderson narrated the goings-on of the night.
“India is very corrupt place, Mr Henderson. Terrible”, and he shook his head in dismay at what his country was coming to. “But one thing: you shouldn't have started doing Namita without telling me. You don't know this country! I could have protected you! I know everybody here! Do you know, the Chief Minister is my personal friend, he comes to my house every year forGanapati-visarjan. But now even he will say, what can we do after semen-test and all that? You are in big trouble… but why you worry? Money solve all problems here. Everybody take money here. We have money-power… You have money-power, no? I will talk to police myself. I will go today, and see what that corrupt Sub Inspector wants.”
The next day, Tony came back sadly shaking his head. “You are in big trouble. You haven't surrendered your visa to the police station yet? They can arrest you immediately for that! Give it to me, I will take it to police station. And the matter has gone to the higher-ups, who won't let you go without Rs one lakh. I told them, saab, be kind, be reasonable… he is only a British student, young man starting out in life… But they didn't listen!”
“Maybe they will listen to me”, said Henderson, with a confidence that seemed to come out of nowhere. “I will come with you.”
At the police station, Gaitonde was sitting expansively at his wooden desk, marked with sugary tea-stains that nobody seemed to have wiped away for weeks. He thought Henderson had come to pay him the 15,000 rupees that he had told Tony he wanted. And so, when Henderson said, “Please, Mr Sub Inspector, you are asking for too much money!”, Gaitonde blustered, “What! 15,000 rupees is too much for a white gentleman to pay for the honour of Indian girl? It is not for me! I will have to convince her to withdraw her case! There are expenses, you see! Lawyer expenses, big-big expenses! This is Bombay, not small village!”
“You want Rs 15,000? That's all?” asked Henderson, momentarily losing what little street-smartness he had learned in his protected life. “I will give you Rs 15,000, and you will let me go?” He couldn't believe his ears.
“What you thought? That we want one lakh? Or ten lakhs? Oh no, no, no. The honour of slum girl is not very costly, Mr Anderson”, said Gaitonde, laughing. But he took the visa from the table and put it away safely in his bottom drawer. “For one lakh, Mr Anderson, you can spend the night with top film actress in her bedroom, hehehe!”, he whispered conspiratorially. The Englishman gaped in wonderment at the brown-stained gap-teeth. Then he neatly wrote down in his little pocket diary, in full view of the policeman, "15,000 rupees".
“You need not take trouble to come, Mr Anderson”, he said pleasantly to the Englishman. Send it with Tony! He is my good friend!”
As Tony walked out of the swing door, Henderson turned on an afterthought. “Slum girl? What slum girl? She lives in that flat, doesn't she?”
“Slum girl. That is not her flat”, said Gaitonde, through half-lidded eyes. “Good day, Mr Anderson.”
Chapter VIII: Ajay Mathur Gets to Work
By the time they got to Mahim Church in Ajay Mathur's spacious Pajero, Ajay had completely changed his plans of going with Henderson to meet Namita at her slum house. That is, if ever he had had such a plan to begin with.
“That's completely useless, old chap!”, he said, twitching his moustache. “She's a pawn. Tony is the main guy here, in my opinion. I need to understand him and he needs to understand me. So let us take him someplace private where we can talk.”
Henderson shuddered at the thought of complicating matters further. On the other hand, with the Mathurs on his side, he felt he was on surer footing than he had been before. And so he decided to let Ajay Mathur play this ball.
“How?”, he asked.
“Bring him to this car in half an hour”, said Ajay confidently, “And leave everything to me.” They parked on a side road within sight of the church and, as the Englishman stepped out of the car, the stockbroker was already calling someone on his mobile. “Dalal, I'm just five minutes from your office, and I need a favour…”
Henderson approached the church with a light heart. Things looked like they were working out. It was 5 O'clock already, so maybe he wouldn't have to wait long.
He entered the yard and stood near the Madonna, where people were lighting tapers and praying on their knees. He hadn't prayed since he was a child. He had discarded this childhood habit as unfashionable at some point in his youth. Watching people go down on their knees when they were in trouble made him sick. He gave a sidelong glance at the Madonna, with her painted all-knowing, all-loving expression, and moved away. He stood under the church awning, smiling politely at the people going in and out of the church. What if Tony didn't come? What if Ajay was wrong in his approach? What if Gaitonde didn't return his visa? What if Namita named him as a rapist in a court? His name would be mud. He would be ruined.
Suddenly, the tall Englishman felt weak and helpless in this hostile land. He sat down on the steps and cried, burying his red face in his large red hands. “Oh please, oh please, oh please please please…”, he whined under his breath. A minute later, he realized he was praying to be helped out of his situation somehow. That realization brought him back to the here-and-now, and he looked up to see if anybody was looking. Except for the iconic Madonna gazing sightlessly, nobody had paid the least attention to him. Seeing Tony walk into the yard, waving, he quickly dried his face with a large handkerchief and blew his nose.
He glanced at his watch. Ten minutes to go. “We have to talk, Tony”, said Henderson. “Not now”, said Tony. “Taxi is waiting. Namita will be at home now. We will talk on the way.”
“No, let the taxi go!” said Henderson. “We have to talk first.”
Cursing the unpredictable gora under the breath, Tony paid the taxi fare and returned. “OK, why you are wasting time?”, he demanded.
“What are we going to say to Namita?”, he asked.
“What can we say? You will say sorry, please take this money and tell the police…”
“But why sorry? What have I done wrong?”
“You are saying what you did was right?”
It was a pointless argument. “I'm hungry. Let's eat”, said the beefy Englishman. “I think there's a food joint nearby.”
Conveniently, the tea-shop was across the road from where the Pajero was parked. And when they paid and stood up to leave, Ajay Mathur gave an inconspicuous nod, which Henderson acknowledged.
He crossed the road and stood behind the Pajero, looking about for a taxi. Tony followed him, and suddenly found himself in the grip of a burly security guards, who roughly pushed him into the hatchback, and climbed in after him. Henderson climbed into the front. Tony found himself looking into the muzzle of a large and clunky-looking pistol, and ceased all efforts to break free. They drove in silence for about ten minutes in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, with all the tinted windows rolled up. A security guard rolled down a window just enough to let himself be recognised as they passed the security booth at a gate.
The vehicle halted at the entrance of the industrial estate, and Tony was suddenly grabbed by the scruff and hauled ignominously out of the car. “A thief. Chor hai, saala”, a security officer explained to the curious office staff who were leaving the building. “Rangey haath pakad liya.” And for effect, the securitymen slapped him before taking him up the stairs. The securitymen opened the lock and rolled up the shutters of Dalal's unused industrial gala, which was almost completely empty, except for some aging machinery and broken furniture in one corner, and bits of mouldy cloth lying everywhere.
“You are a bad boy, Tony!”, began Ajay Mathur. “And you are bothering my friend here. So I want to get to know you a little, and find our how we can sort out all our problems.”
Tony's cheeks were red from the slaps he had received. His hair and clothes were a mess. All his dignity drained out of him, and he began to cry.
Sitting on the back of a dilapidated sofa, Ajay Mathur lit a cigarette. “Sorry about that, Archie-boy, but I need a smoke. I think you had better go sit down with Leela in the office, while I have a talk with our friend here”, he said, glancing at his wife. “Sahab and memsaab ko AC mein bithao, aur kuch thanda pilao”, he commanded. One of the three securitymen in the room led them out, and made them comfortable in Dalal's private office.
“Is he like this always?”, asked Henderson admiringly.
“Only when he decides to take charge”, said Leela, carefully removing a fleck of dust from Archie's hair.
Two hours later, Ajay Mathur joined them. “It�s all settled”, he said, sliding into Dalal�s swivel chair with the air of a man who has just concluded a lucrative business deal. “Actually, our friend is in a bit of a pickle himself, and I�m going to have to help him save his skin, in return for his helping you walk free.”
Henderson gazed at him with gratitude. “Don�t mention it, old boy!”, said Mathur, patting his shoulder. “It isn�t over yet!”