“I will be back before you know it, Maxie,” I said cajolingly to Maxwell. Maxwell was my dog, and sole companion in my apartment. I could not close the door to leave for the bank because his head stuck out. After a few shoves from my side and a few grunts from his, I managed to shut the door.
I did my routine check of the mailbox and patted a boy who seemed to perpetually be playing in the lobby, every time I passed it. I needed to draw a few thousand rupees from the bank as I was low on cash. I fished around in my pockets for my credit card and found it in my left shirt pocket. Another perpetuity in my life was that the nearest ATM was always out of order and I had to go to the bank to draw cash.
Naturally, there was a long line at the counter. I stood in line behind a tall woman, in and office outfit. She was presumably very well-to-do. She wore a white skirt, a pink shirt and a white jacket over it. She had a light complexion, brown eyes and brown hair to go with them. A beige coloured purse was slung over her right shoulder and she held a large mobile phone in her left hand.
My attention went to a man behind me in the line. He kept taunting the fish in a huge fish-tank that was apparently a new addition to the bank’s interiors. The woman ahead of me drew one lakh rupees and I cursed myself for listening but there was only so much you could do for privacy when the ATM was out of order. I drew five thousand rupees and sat beside the woman, recounting my money.
The woman left before me and I saw her in the distance, walking swiftly. What caught my attention was an incongruous figure walking behind her. He was hard to miss, with his neon hoody. Co – incidentally, the three of us took the same turn on Main Street. He followed her everywhere. I managed to get closer to the man and saw the figure of a gun in his pant pocket pressed against his body. He moved up beside the woman, caught her left arm, and moved her into an alley.
My worst fears were coming true. Without losing any time, I dialed ‘100’, the number for the Mumbai Police and told them my location. I saw the man holding the gun to the lady’s forehead. I hid the money in the back pocket of my pants and walked into the alley.
“Leave her alone,” I said with all the courage I could muster up, “Let her go.” I decided I must stall him till the police arrived.
He pointed the gun at me and said, “This is a loaded gun. I can shoot you and get it over with right now. You don’t want that, do you? Run away now. What’s she to you?”
“Just leave her alone. This doesn’t have to get any worse. Nobody has to know this happened.”
I knew he would not listen but I kept negotiating with him and after what seemed like an eternity, a police car came and blocked the far end of the alley. The man ran towards me to run out through this end. I tried to hold him just as he went past me, but he shot at my feet and as I recovered from the deafening sound of the gunshot, he ran off, swearing at me.
I was taken to the police station to give my statement along with the woman. As I walked back home, I went over the events of the morning in my head, but one thing remained unclear to me: how would I apologise to Maxwell for being out for such a long time?