I knocked on the door but my wife did not open the door. I said, “Sorry, I will not flirt with any girl in future.” But she did not open the door. May be she knew that I would promise not to flirt but would find opportunity to do this again.

The toy car suddenly came and stopped near my feet. I smiled and reversed the direction of the car towards my six year old daughter. She had the remote in her hands. She loved playing with cars.

I always wanted to go to an island resort to have fun and enjoy life. Finally God listened to me.

Next day in the morning I had to go to Maldives for office meeting. No one was taking family along.

But I had to take Kavya along with her two year old daughter Ramya.

 I reached at the hotel lobby located in the centre of beautiful Maldives and enquired at the reception if the single room could be upgraded into double room as I had to bring my family. The beautiful lady at the reception said, “Sir this is peak season and all double rooms are booked since most of the tourists are couples.”

I looked at her shirt pocket to check the name. I smiled and thought of doing some flirt. I said, “Malvika it will be very great if you could make some arrangement as the weather is very pleasant and I don’t feel like spending the day alone or with discomfort in a single room.”

I knew this would start working.

Malvika looked at Kavya and Ramya who were sitting in the lounge. Kavya was telling Ramya that she would be fine in some time. Malvika asked, “Sir, What happened to your daughter.” I said,” nothing much. My daughter is having high fever.”

I gave a cunning smile to her. The room was upgraded and I paid the differential amount.

Kavya was very stressed and kept on insisting, “It’s entire my fault that I wanted to come with you in this hotel. Our daughter is also not well.” I said, “It’s Ok. At least we are together.”

The time flew and it was late night. I ordered dinner but it had been finished. I enquired if there was anything to eat outside and also if milk was available. Yes, it was available.

I went out to search for this.

Kavya was not hungry. In next half an hour she kept the empty bottle on the table and waited for me to return.

I was walking through the green belt. The hotel was in a farm house with lush green jungles all over that seemed to be never ending. After walking for about 20 minutes I saw a couple in the room on the left side making love. I could not control. I opened mobile and searched for Naina’s number. I chatted for about 15 minutes and then suddenly heard a noise as if some snake was rattling. I was scared. I kept the phone and reached a small shop that sold milk and some grocery items all night.

I returned and found Kavya waiting for me. She was crying as there was no improvement in Ramya’s fever.  I gave the milk bottle that became empty in 10 minutes as Ramya was badly waiting for this.

Next morning we woke up late. It was a very sound sleep for all of us.

I went for a shower.

Five minutes later Kavya came rushing to me and asked if I had seen Ramya. I casually said, “Where can she go?  She must be playing around and must have gone nearby or may be hidden somewhere.” She said, “Abhinav, don’t take this lightly. I searched everywhere but could not find her.”

Now I became worried and came out of the shower. In next five minutes we were about to go out to search her when suddenly my phone rang. I said, “You go out, I am joining in a minute.”

My manager asked when I could join them for lunch. I told them that I would be joining in an hour. I had no choice. Family was not allowed and I had not informed my company about this.

I went out with Kavya and started searching everywhere calling her name but there was not reply and no trace of her. Kavya was very worried. She kept her head on my chest and started crying.

We came back to the hotel and informed the security and the officer in charge of the hotel. Manmohan Dev, the hotel manager confirmed that he would  take care of this issue and was starting the chase to search the missing girl.

No news came in next 2 hours. Kavya was tensed. She told me that if the girl is not found in next one hour she would call the police. I was terrified now.

The company had booked ship for me so that I could enjoy while working in Maldives. Kavya was running in the corridor of the ship with a baby in her hands wrapped in a towel. I asked if she needed help. She said, “No, thanks.”

We both entered the same cabin as there were 2 compartments in each cabin. She was trying to pacify the baby but I could not see face of the baby. We started chatting and enjoyed one another company. She told me that she had run from her home as her husband was very cruel and was after her life.

I told her that I live with my wife Naina and a six year old daughter. I asked, “Can you live without your husband as girl is Papa’s child and son is Mom’s child.”

“Yes.  I will have to as I have no choice.”

“Ok. But for me it is difficult as I believe child needs mom also. Later on I informed her that I was going to hotel for official work and was alone. “If you feel comfortable you can come with me and stay with me otherwise it may cost your life. The hotel is a safe place and no one will enter there.”

She agreed. We became intimate on the ship itself and came to the hotel in a happy mood. I knew my flirtatious nature and I could do this.

The hotel manager knocked on the door and asked why we had called the police.  “Our hotel’s reputation will be at stake as police never came earlier.”

I shouted at Kavya. “Why you have called the cop. You very well know that we are not married couple and my wife will come to know about this once investigation starts.”

Kavya retorted, “Why you are shouting at me. Did you make any sincere efforts to search for the missing girl? You are always on the call either with your manager or with your wife. It seems you are not interested in the child. You were only interested in me.  Do you remember the missing girl’s face?”

I was shocked. My head became numb. I had never seen the child’s face nor made any efforts to go close to her. It was my lust that brought them here in my hotel room.

The investigating police officer, Mr. George Bosh came into my room. He was a bald man of about 45 years wearing a dark blue crisp shirt with a beige trouser and a black coat.

The investigation started.

He asked, “Where each one of you was sleeping and how you were sleeping. I am asking this because this is very crucial to know how the girl could go missing.”

Kavya said, “I was sleeping with my daughter here and Abhinav was sleeping in the room outside.

George raised his eyebrows.  Kavya informed that I was sleeping outside as I had to go office next day and could not afford to disturb me in the night. I hesitated for about a minute. George could feel this. He asked me to show the tickets of the ship. The tickets of both of us were generated and issued on different dates and the seat numbers were far from one another. George did not say anything and left the room.

I told Kavya that we would have to behave and live like husband and wife till the time investigation is over. She agreed.

The entire hotel and the farm house had become military camp where 20 security personnel along with the shepherd dogs were looking every corner of the farm house.

Next day the inspector called me and told me to give description of the child to the sketch artist. I was speechless. I had not seen the face.  I was quiet for some time. But then I mustered courage and started giving description what I could think about the child based on the stories told by Kavya.

Mr. George came in about half an hour and checked the sketch. He was surprised. He asked me, “Are you sure that this is Ramya’s sketch.”

“Yes, Mr. George.” He produced another sketch and kept it on the table. I asked, “Who is this?”

Your wife Kavya also gave description of the child and this is the sketch. I looked at him. He was smiling. He would have known about this by now.

I was now in a closed room with the officer and his two assistants. The officer started, “So you do not know your own daughter. This is very strange. I was suspicious from the beginning when you slept outside and the tickets were issued on different dates. Now please tell me the truth gentleman. Who is Kavya?”

I was blank. I had to act soon.

The officer looked surprised and asked me what had happened.

 I started weeping. I drank a glass of water and started. There was no Ramya.

There was silence in the room and everyone was looking at me. The inspector was furious and told me not to joke. “I am not joking. Kavya is mentally imbalanced and creates illusion when she sees any doll. Infact she had doll in her arms and kept on telling stories about Ramya assuming the doll is her daughter.”

George’s head was spinning and could feel swollen nerves on his forehead and on top of his ears.

“Are you serious?” said the inspector.

“Yes. Why I would make stories?”

After some time I was in my room.  We looked at one another but could not find any solution.

I was in the lobby of the hotel when the officer and Malvika appeared and sat facing me on the sofa.

Officer asked Malvika what she had seen when Abhinav came at the reception and requested for room upgrade. She immediately replied, “I saw Abhinav sir and then looked at his wife and the child in her arms. Sir did not look concerned but his wife was very concerned for the child and was talking to her who was wearing pink skirt.”

I retorted. “How you can see the child when she was not there.”

“Sir, I am sure because I confirmed this on the night when you had gone out to find dinner and milk. I was on a regular visit that night. I heard cry of the child and knocked your room. Your wife opened the door and told me that her daughter had high fever and that’s why she was crying.”

The officer confirmed if Malvika had seen the face of the missing child when she was at the reception and when she visited the room in the night. Malvika hesitated and told that she had not clearly seen the face.

I felt relieved. As soon as this was over I went out to take some fresh air and then headed for my room.

George was not convinced with all these stories as this mystery was getting more enigmatic.

He had earlier ordered his assistants to get the couple’s background checked. Next day the officer confirmed if my wife was from Delhi and lived in Paschim Vihar. He was telling me, “Her name is Naina and has six years old daughter.” I was shocked to hear this and could not think what to do now.

I had to narrate the whole story and informed that I am a middle class service man who works for a private company. Sometimes I become flirty and this episode is the result of that trait.

The inspector slapped me and asked if I was telling a lie earlier or I am lying now. I realized that the inspector has taken earlier story as the truth and now the truth seems to be a lie. I could feel that the inspector was confused now even though he had traces of my family in Delhi.

Next day in the morning there was chaos in the hotel as few other people had claimed that their daughter with the name Ramya had gone missing and was believed to be in this farm house.

I had to act fast. I decided to leave this hotel to escape from this mess. I thought of leaving Kavya here as she would not go without Ramya. I packed my suitcase and was about to secretly step out of the room. I saw Kavya ready with her suitcase packed. She said, “I also want to escape from here. I will go even if Ramya is not there.  My mind was not working. I agreed. After reaching the lobby I managed to remain there for some time as my mobile was ringing. There was disturbance and the call dropped.

I saw an aged man talking to the receptionist and was showing a picture of his daughter. He mentioned the name as Ramya. I wanted to hear this conversation. I managed to hear the short conversation as there was pin drop silence. The aged man was inquiring for Ramya who had run away few days back. The receptionist nodded and returned the picture to the aged man made. The picture I saw made me shocked.

Kavya whistled secretly and asked me to run. I started walking with her and once out of the hotel we started running through the jungle to find a way to the road and go back to India. After some time we both were sweating. I could not run anymore and wanted to take rest for some time. I stopped. After about a minute I wanted to know if Kavya had strength to run further.

But she was not there. I looked all around and after few seconds could see her running disappearing into the jungle.

I felt relived as I did not want to go with her. The whole episode starting from the ship till now was a cooked story.

The photo returned by the receptionist to the aged man continued to haunt me.

The missing girl in the photo was Kavya.

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