22 September, 2016

#SpecialFeature :: Read an #Excerpt from The Karachi Deception

*** Special Feature - September 2016 ***

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Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine have fought valiantly to repel the rampaging hordes from Devaloka and Patala – but Avanti has been brought to its knees. Ujjayini lies battered its citizens are scared and morale is badly shaken. Meanwhile, the barbaric Hunas and Sakas are gathering on the horizon and cracks are emerging between the allied kingdoms of Sindhuvarta.

The only silver lining is that the deadly Halahala is safe. For now.

Bent on vengeance, Indra is already scheming to destroy Vikramaditya, while Shukracharya has a plan that can spell the doom for the Guardians of the Halahala. How long can the human army hold out against the ferocity and cunning of the devas and asuras? And will Vikramaditya’s love for his queen come in the way of his promise to Shiva?

The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction.
But was the Halahala truly destroyed?
A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it.
As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos!
A sweeping tale of honour and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend.

Three commandos of the Indian Army’s elite Unit Kilo—Major Imtiaz Ahmed, Captain Shamsheer Suleiman and Lieutenant Rafiq Mehmood—are chosen for a one-of-a-kind ops mission: to enter Pakistan and eliminate dreaded underworld don, Irshad Dilawar. However, somehow, the Inter-Services Intelligence and Dilawar always seem to be one step ahead of them, foiling every plan they make. It doesn’t take long for Major Imtiaz to realize that something is amiss—the operation has been compromised. Will he be able to successfully complete his mission, or are he and his men, like Abhimanyu, entering a trap they cannot make their way out of? Set in the world of covert operations, where double-crossing and diabolical mind games are the norm, The Karachi Deception will keep you hooked till the very end.

Read an Excerpt from The Karachi Deception

May 7. Commune III, Bamako, Republic of Mali

Le dessert est servi. Oumar stared at the message that had just been delivered on his cell phone, his eyes adjusting to the screen’s brightness in the darkened interior of the car. For a moment he sat still, allowing the significance of the message to sink in. Dessert had been served at Le Cercle d’Or. In under a quarter of an hour, the man he had been hired to kill would emerge from the hotel. Oumar and his partner Youssouf would have less than a minute to finish the job. Kill number twenty-eight. Oumar dropped the phone on the empty seat beside him, drew a deep breath and cranked up the car’s air conditioning. As blasts of cold air surged through the vents, he sat upright and gripped the steering-wheel with both hands. Knitting his brows, he squinted down Route de Guinée towards the Bamako Imperial, where dessert had just been served. ‘You’ll get only one chance, so give it your best shot.’ Oumar wasn’t sure if the rasping, sun-dried voice on the other end of the phone had chuckled at the pun. But he knew there had otherwise been little mirth in the voice as it went through the routine one last time, late last night. The owner of the voice hadn’t introduced himself, but Oumar guessed he was talking to Algerian warlord Musa Zawawi. Though why Zawawi had picked English over French or his native Kabyle was beyond Oumar. One thing was certain, though. Zawawi personally overseeing the assignment meant the stakes were much higher than Oumar had previously imagined. Not that he laboured under any illusions about his target—Irshad Dilawar. The man was wanted by the Interpol for organized crime, counterfeiting, and the shipment of narcotics to the United Kingdom and Western Europe. There was evidence that he was in close contact with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan-based terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The dossier said that he had even established links with al-Qaeda’s charismatic leader Osama bin Laden. The United States Department of Treasury had designated the man a global terrorist, and he also headed a list of most wanted men issued by the Indian government. Oumar didn’t know who wanted Irshad Dilawar dead or why. He never bothered asking. Indiscreet questions didn’t take one far in his line of business, and Oumar had travelled quite a distance. Twenty-seven people killed in cold blood in fifteen countries across three continents. What mattered was the money, and Zawawi and Olaf were prepared to shell out astronomical sums to have the man, presently having dessert at Le Cercle d’Or at the Bamako Imperial, eliminated. ‘Accept this job and there’s no going back,’ Olaf had growled darkly, as they stood leaning on the railings of the wind-blown Pont des Martyrs and gazing at the broad sweep of the Niger River. ‘And even if you succeed, you might not come out of this alive to enjoy the things all this money will buy.’ That was four months ago, and now as he sat hunched in the car, Olaf ’s words suddenly took on an ominous, prophetic ring in Oumar’s ears. Soon, the waiter at Le Cercle d’Or would send his second message, and minutes later it would be over, one way or the other. Oumar leaned back and glanced at the rear-view mirror. Down the sunny street, a grey Citroen was parked unobtrusively in the shade of a giant baobab tree. If those idiots were slow off the block, Oumar knew he and Youssouf didn’t stand an ice-cube’s chance in hell. * * * La cible se déplace. The second message from the waiter at the Bamako Imperial had just come in. The target was on the move. Starting the engine, Oumar threw the car into gear, took a deep breath and pressed the accelerator. As the car nosed up the empty street, Oumar looked briefly at the grey Citroen drawing away in the mirror and sent up a quick prayer. The first time was always difficult. Then it got easy, they said. Oumar had learnt that it never did. Umpteen dry runs had shown that at a leisurely pace, the 400-metre drive to the parking lot of the Bamako Imperial would take him under two minutes. In forty-five seconds, Oumar was at the hotel’s main gate, and after a perfunctory security check, the guards lazily waved him in. Oumar eased the car past the fountain in the courtyard and manoeuvred into the parking lot. Taking care not to pick a space too close to the exit, he parked the car and stepped out. In his light grey suit and matching grey Ray-Ban Highstreet, Dell laptop bag in his left hand and a bulky business daily in his right, Oumar could have passed off as one of the many local businessmen or mid-level corporate executives who frequented the hotel. Retracing his steps towards the hotel entrance, Oumar transferred the newspaper to the hand carrying the laptop, reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Flipping it open, he punched a couple of keys and held the phone to his ear. Meanwhile, his eyes took in the sight of a black limousine drawing up to the hotel’s door. A dark green Toyota Land Cruiser followed the limousine closely. ‘J’ai besoin d’argent,’ Oumar spoke into the phone, before switching to English. ‘If you do not make the payment in the next two days, I will not be able to source the computers for you. And that will mean more delay.’ Walking slowly, Oumar pressed the lifeless phone to his ear as he took stock of the situation outside the lobby. He observed a hotel employee drive an electric mopper into the courtyard from the opposite direction, their eyes meeting briefly. Youssouf was in position. Turning slightly, Oumar saw the grey Citroen slowly approaching the hotel gates. The large revolving door of the hotel slowly spun around, discharging five men into the courtyard. Oumar’s eyes instantly locked on the man he had been hired to kill. Irshad Dilawar, standing less than five-and-a-half feet in height, stocky, a thin black moustache covering his upper lip. Even at this distance, Oumar could see the distinguishing scar that ran down his left cheek. Watching Youssouf slowly begin manoeuvring the mopper towards the limousine, Oumar nodded and spoke into the phone. ‘Merci. I shall wait for two days. Bon jour, monsieur.’ Snapping the phone shut, Oumar deposited it into the inside pocket of his jacket. Youssouf was just twenty feet away from the group in the courtyard. Their target was still some distance from the limousine, smiling at something one of his associates was saying. His guards were spread around, but two of them were already moving towards the Land Cruiser. Oumar saw Youssouf unhitch a hose attached to the machine and slowly point the nozzle in the general direction of the guards. Breathing in deep, Oumar began moving towards the group, the fingers of his left hand feeling the contours of the lightweight Kel-Tec PF-9 nestling in the folds of the newspaper. Oumar turned one last time to glance casually towards the gates of the hotel. His jaw dropped and his heart skipped a beat. A large, yellow refrigerated truck stood rumbling at the gate. Two security guards were methodically shoving the large mirror under the truck’s carriage, while a third was talking to the truck’s driver and writing something in a long notebook. The grey Citroen was barely visible behind the bulk of the truck. The truck, which was clearly making deliveries to the hotel, had somehow swung into the gate ahead of the Citroen, and Oumar and Youssouf, intent on getting into position, had failed to notice this development. Oumar cursed and looked frantically at Youssouf. His partner had his back to the gate and was oblivious to the truck blocking the Citroen’s path. With eyes widening in dismay, Oumar saw Youssouf raise the hose and point it at the men closest to the Land Cruiser. Oumar was acutely aware of the sweat running down the back of his neck and the emptiness in the pit of his stomach. There was no way he could warn Youssouf about the truck without drawing attention. And there was no way the Citroen was going to make it to the courtyard in time. * * * The first two shots that Youssouf fired from the hose attached to the specially designed electric mopper hit one of the guards standing right next to the Land Cruiser. The next two went wide, one hitting and shattering the Land Cruiser’s window, the other smashing into the car’s door. The group by the limousine instantly swung into action. Three of the guards moved between Youssouf and the target, using their bodies to shield their boss, even as they pulled their guns free. The other guards began scattering in all directions, making it hard for Youssouf to decide where to fire. He randomly fired another volley, hitting one of the guards. Oumar, his mouth dry as sandpaper, looked at his target. The man was running quickly towards the limousine, his body bent at the waist. Oumar realized that all the guards were looking at Youssouf, their backs to him. He also saw that his target would be inside the limousine in a matter of seconds. As the guards opened fire on Youssouf, Oumar heard Olaf’s voice in his head. ‘Musa has staked his reputation on this one. Botch it up and he will make sure you run out of places to hide. And once he finds you, death will be sweet mercy.’ Oumar reached into the newspaper in his left hand and his fingers wrapped around the grip of the Kel-Tec PF-9. Pulling the gun loose, Oumar raised his arm, aimed at Irshad Dilawar and pulled the trigger. As the gun bucked gently in his hand, Oumar stared in surprise. Instead of hitting the target, the bullet had been intercepted by one of the guards who had chosen to climb out of the limousine at that very moment. As the guard toppled forward, dead before he hit the ground, Irshad Dilawar lunged through the limousine’s open door into the car. Oumar rapidly fired two more rounds at the car’s window, but he knew it was futile. The bullet-resistant glass would ensure the target got away. Awake to the new source of threat, some of the guards swivelled towards him as the limousine’s engine roared. Oumar turned and broke into a run, zigzagging towards the parking lot. The nearest car was ten metres away. He fired twice over his shoulder, desperately hoping to keep the guards down. He heard the squeal of tyres and knew the limousine was making a getaway. Musa Zawawi would be extremely pissed, Oumar thought idly. The protective bulk of a Honda Accord was just two metres away when Oumar heard two shots go off behind him. Almost immediately, he felt a searing pain in his lower back, just to the right of his spine. He also felt a warm fuzziness in his head as he felt himself being lifted and hurled towards the Honda Accord. The last image to register in Oumar’s mind was a light shower of blood splattering the shiny, silver hood of the car. Then, as he cannoned into the car head first, darkness descended.

About the Author:

Door-to-door salesman, copywriter, business journalist & assistant editor at The Economic Times; Shatrujeet Nath was all this before he took to writing fiction full-time. He debuted with The Karachi Deception in 2013, followed by The Guardians of the Halahala and The Conspiracy at Meru, the first two books in the Vikramaditya Veergatha series. At present, he is writing volume three of the series. Shatrujeet lives in Mumbai, but spends much of his time in the fantasy worlds of his stories.

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