The police control room was busy. Agent Bhagavathy picked up the call that landed just a seconds ago.
“Thank you for calling emergency services. How can I help you?”
There was a woman at the other end. She complained of her husband who had gone missing. She started crying as she spoke.
“Ma’am, please calm down. I need a few details… What is your husband’s name and age?”
A minute later Bhagavathy had logged the complaint. Automatic pages immediately went out to the missing persons task force.
* * *
Tamizhchelvan, Assistant Commissioner of Police was sitting at the head of the table. Around the room he had various members of his team.
“Thanks every one for reporting in immediately. We have a situation. Mr. Bhagavathy, please brief them.”
“ Dr. Nallathambi, 38 yrs old, is missing since last night. Yes, he is the world famous mathematician and the first Fields Medal winner from India.”
There was shock around the room. He was a very popular mathematician and a role model to youngsters.
“ He was returning from a conference in Norway yesterday. I have already checked with Immigration. He cleared Immigration and Customs at 11.21 PM yesterday”, added Bhagavathy.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this appears to be a kidnapping”, said Tamizhchelvan.
“I want all of you to work your sources. We need to nab the culprits and ensure the safe return of Dr. Nallathambi!”
* * *
The chauffeur stopped the car in front of the beach house in Neelankarai on East Coast Road. Tall coconut trees dotted the perimeter of the house. The main gate automatically closed with a small bang that echoed in the cool silent night.
Dr. Nallathambi lay unconscious in the back seat of that car. The chauffeur pulled him out and carried him into the house, holding his briefcase in one hand.
The briefcase fell and the contents scattered on the floor when he tried to open the door.
The chauffeur returned a few minutes later and collected the contents of the briefcase. He picked up everything but failed to notice Dr. Nallathambi’s Fields Medal, something that the mathematician carried with him all the time. It lay there on the floor, a few feet away from the door.
* * *
Sudhakar Rao was an analyst with the police force. Everything had moved to digital media and police work today involved rummaging through digital trash, finding clues that would strengthen cases and stopping crime before it happened by detecting suspicious behavior. Sudhakar Rao was that kind of person with a gift of interpreting sophisticated patterns in data that others could not discern that easily. He was also an expert marksman and a top athlete. He had joined Tamizhchelvan’s team just a month ago and the ACP had high regards for him.
Something was bothering Sudhakar Rao. He stared at the data in front of him. There was something very odd about it.
Dr. Nallathambi’s kidnapping is not the first of its kind. There were twenty eight other high profile cases in the country in the last 180 days before Dr. Nallathambi. If one had looked at the data locally, there would be no pattern since these people lived in different cities all over the country. Yet, there was something that common to all these cases. The crème de la crème of the country had gone missing.
He picked up the papers and walked up to Tamizhchelvan’s office.
* * *
Tamizhchelvan listened intently to Sudhakar Rao’s explanation about the kidnappings of Indian intelligentsia. That is when it happened.
A 6.0 Richter earthquake tore through the Andamans with the tremors and aftershocks being felt throughout the South Indian coastline. A tsunami alert was triggered automatically through the early warning system and the evacuation protocol was invoked.
* * *
The police patrol vehicle had already made evacuation announcements and almost everyone had been temporarily asked to move farther away from the coast.
There was a power cut and the entire area was covered in darkness, except that lone beach house. The moonlight was rendered dull by the diesel fumes that rose from the backup power generator.
Inspector Rathnam stopped his car in front of the closed gate. He got down from his vehicle and searched for the watchman. There was no one at the main gate. He searched for the calling bell and couldn’t find one.
‘Isolated rich bastards’, he thought to himself and scaled the wall.
* * *
Dr. Nallathambi lay flat on the operating table.
The chauffeur had now changed into a surgeon’s attire. The bright lights that illuminated the operating table reflected off the scalpels, scissors and other surgical tools that were neatly arranged by the side of the table.
* * *
Inspector Rathnam walked towards the door when he noticed the shiny object. He picked it up.
His walkie talkie buzzed with a message from the control room. It was a missing persons alert about Dr. Nallathambi.
Rathnam drew his revolver and opened the door with caution.
The foyer of the house led to a large hall. On the wall he saw a series of Degrees, Diplomas and certificates of membership of various medical societies in London, United States, Germany and other countries. He then saw the photograph of Dr. Sinha, world renowned neuroscientist and surgeon.
A terrible chill ran down Rathnam’s spine when he realized what he saw next—Twenty eight jars lined up against the wall, containing human brains with electrodes stuck into them and wires running down, all leading to a huge rack of computers.
He also saw the surgeon pick up the scalpel.
Dr. Sinha dropped the scalpel and turned around.
* * *
ACP Tamizhchelvan addressed the press gathering.
“We solved a major case today due to some very good police work and a timely tsunami alert. I will let my colleague Sudhakar Rao brief the gathering.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, today we arrested Dr. Sinha, world famous neuroscientist and neurosurgeon on charges of 28 counts of kidnapping and murder at his Neelankarai beach house. His victims were from all over India. We rescued his last kidnapping victim Dr. Nallathambi minutes before his certain death. Dr. Sinha has published numerous papers on the functioning of the brain. His obsessive passion was to explore how the brain worked. He has successfully found out a way to harness thoughts and ideas from human brains and has built the ultimate thinking machine powered by human brains harvested from intellectuals. He has confessed and is now in police custody. Inspector Rathnam found out Dr. Sinha by chance when he walked into his beach house to order an evacuation due to the tsunami alert. There he found this medal belonging to Dr. Nallathambi…”
Sudhakar Rao held out the Fields Medal.
The Latin inscription on the medal glistened in the camera flashlights that went off in quick succession. Transire suum pectus mundoque potiri—to transcend human limitations and to master the universe…