Chapter 1

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The morning sun bludgeoned the city of New Delhi making the air hot and sticky. It was the last place on earth that Cody Powell wanted to be but her daughter Jessica had insisted on leaving Australia to teach English and then had returned home in a rectangular packing case after someone shot her in the left eye.

Determined to find who did this, Cody had engaged the services of the Delhi Investigative Gurus. Now she sat in front of the chipped wooden desk of Sekar Vishal Chaudhri, the head of operations. He wore a taupe linen suit over a crumpled white, open necked shirt.

"I told you on the phone, Ms. Powell, that you did not have to come in person," Sekar said, thrumming his fingers impatiently and irritably jiggling one knee.

"And I also told you that my experience with the Federal Police could be helpful if you are to find my daughter's killer," she snappily retorted.

"And which part of India are you from?" Sekar mockingly sneered.

Cody blinked.

"Well actually," she snapped, "if you must know the Powell's adopted me from a Mumbai orphanage, 42 years ago."

Despite this, she was Australian with only the tiniest connection to India. She vowed that once they found her daughter's killer and justice was served she would leave immediately and never return.

 "Did Singh agree to talk?"

Sekar's voice became tightly controlled and he issued each word deliberately as if she was hard of hearing.

"Yes, madam, he did." He deliberately folded his arms and sat back in his chair. Then he added, "It is his deepest wish you should have your payback."

Fifteen minutes later they sat in Sekar's Mercedes-Benz. The leather upholstery was cracked and the dashboard dull and faded. Sekar drove slowly out of the Nehru Building's car park and was about to enter the tarmac slipway onto Africa Avenue when an untidy man stepped in front of them holding up his gnarled hand.

Sekar sucked in the stifling hot air and his glinting brown eyes followed as the man skittered around to his window. Sekar rolled it down with an annoyed sigh.

The man was thin, and knotty dreadlocks sprouted from his head. He wore a long cotton scarf and a small beaded shoulder bag slung over his boney left shoulder. But the thing that fascinated Cody was the wooden staff he held with a bronze cobra curling around it. He was also covered from head to foot in grey ashes from a funeral pyre and he peered at them with bloodshot eyes then spoke through brown stained teeth.

Cody frowned. She caught snatches of what he was saying in Hindustani.

"....Sekar Ji, that 100 rupees ..... for Lord Siva and Kali Ma..." Sekar handed him some grubby notes and wound up the window.

“What did he say?” Cody asked.

Sekar laughed unconvincingly.

“He said that he wishes you a very pleasant stay. When we meet with Rajdeep you must let me do all the talking.”