Suspense Adventure Fiction

Title: Midnight Mumbai Dash

It was early morning and the rain poured down on Rajesh's taxi and only dim lights lit up his cabin. It was a Hindustan Ambassador from the 90s and was his pride and joy. Black on the sides and yellow on the top, a Buddha hung from the rearview mirror. Not that he was a strong believer, but he and Buddha looked a bit similar so it made him smile.

He was parked outside of the Shree Siddihivinayak Temple and munched on a portion of Vada pav. The deep-fried potato dumpling crunched in his mouth and he released a sigh of awe as to how the universe could produce such a delicious meal. Rajesh looked much like the passion of a Michelin star chef who was solely focused on eating the food rather than cooking and was draped in layers of cheap jewelry. He shaved whenever he remembered and his pagdi was unlike most of his friends, a testament to a madman's search for as many colors as possible. He wore a short-sleeved used blue shirt and loose white cotton pants and swam through clouds of Bella Vita perfume every time he woke up from a night shift.

Tunak Tuank Tun by Daler Mehndi played on the car stereo for the thousands time at 150 beats per minute. The CD and volume were stuck and the song was on repeat. When it happened he didn't have the money to repair it and after a few days, he simply got used to it. Sometimes it drove him mad, other times he sang along to the lyrics for hours as if it was another gift from the gods. He figured that it was much like life itself, a series of horrible accidents along with moments of pure joy.

He hummed away with the song as he ate and looked at a picture that was glued to the dashboard of his late wife and two children. If he worked hard he would afford to send both of them to a good university, maybe even abroad. There were some scholarships available and both of them performed well enough academically.

Listen to what my heart says

Come and love me

O my beloved

Tunak tunak tun, tunak tunak tun..

The back door to the taxi opened and a rather tall Caucasian man entered. His face looked like someone had opened a men's fashion magazine and ripped out the model. Handsome but at the same time forgettable. There was a certain aura of composure that emanated from him, Rajesh suspected that he must be a businessman that was completely lost. The temple was closed and the immaculate suit didn't really give the impression that he was a late tourist. The man sat down in the back seat opposite Rajesh and placed a black suitcase on the other seat.

”Welcome sir! Welcome to Taxi Rajesh the best taxi in town, to anywhere at any time wherever you are, how can I help you today?”

The man smiled. ”Anywhere at any time eh?” the man responded in an English accent that only men and women of certain ancestral dignity could muster. ”I am John Smith. This evening Rajesh, I must pay a visit to a number of places and therefore require your services for some length."

Rajesh smiled. There was something unsettling about the man. While presented himself, he had not said hello. Rajesh tough, had come accustomed to strange passengers after 20 years of driving in Mumbai and for some reason, a lot of Britts, Americans, or Russians in the past few years. They often tipped well and did not smell or puke in his car.

”Ah Mr. Smith, Rajesh at your service my good sir. However, driving around for such a long distance drive together, and I think maybe lots of waiting? I will have to charge you more.”

The man smiled artificially and nodded. ”Of course Rajesh, I completely understand. So, we are at an understanding - tonight we shall travel a long journey together?”

Inside Rajesh high-fived himself for his excellent negotiation skills. Maybe Rajesh could have a bit of Rajesh time this week instead of working.

"Of course sir, tonight we are travel companions!" he turned, tilted his head and looked at the man, and gave his biggest, genuine smile.

”So Mr. Smith, where are we going?”

”Our first visit will be at Shri Vithal Desai Park”

"Ah very nice, I have lunch there often. There is an old woman, Aadhila, she makes a very good stew for me. I used to know her son, a very good boy. He died in an accident at only 20 years old. Very bad, so I visit her often. Her home smells of coconut." Rajesh turned the key and the engine came to life.

"Ah I see, You know this city well?"

"Like my own pocket sir! My head knows every street and my pocket is always empty!" he laughed. He pulled out on Swatantryaveer Savarkar Road past the lights at the intersection of Kashinath Dhuru Marg and onwards. Parked taxis, teal buildings, men and women going to or from places of the mundane, and the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks passed outside their windows.

"Is that your family?"

Rajesh glanced at the picture. "Ah yes, my wife is dead now but my two children are the reason my pockets are empty. I will soon send them to good universities."

"My condolences, and congratulations on your hard work."

"Thank you, Mr. Smith. When I am done it will be less work and more Rajesh time!" He laughed again. Mr. Smith gave a concerned smile. "Rajesh, do you drive a lot of individuals like myself?"

"Actually yes Mr. Smith, since not many years ago I started to get more and more British and American passengers. And many Russians too! Why do you ask?"

"Just curious."

They drove for another 10 minutes until they arrived and Rajesh parked outside of the Bank of Baroda. "Wait here, I will be back soon." The man exited the vehicle and took his briefcase with him. Rajesh climbed out and lit a cigarette. The warm night air of Mumbai embraced him. There was a hint of salt in the moist air that came from a lingering memory of hot oils, deep-fried potatoes, bakeries, traffic, and the sweat of millions of people working from the day before.

Not before long Mr. Smith came back around a corner, hastily and looking over his shoulder, and quickly entered the taxi. Rajesh put out his cigarette with his fingers and put the stump in his breast pocket. The anxiousness of the passenger in the back seat made him a bit uneasy. "So Mr. Smith, what is it that you do?"

"One could say that I am in the field of procurement"

"Procurement of what Mr. Smith"

"A bit of this, a bit of that." The man offered Rajesh a pasted smile which Rajesh reluctantly accepted. Mr. Smith opened his briefcase and seemed to read some papers. A scent emerged from the suitcase, a mixture of coconut and iris. Rajesh took a deep breath, it reminded him of better times. The memories were warm feelings rather than images, and they waved off any ideas that it was a similar scent to that of Aadhilas home.

"Next stop Rajesh, is All India State Bank on 270 Bhaudaji Road, you know it?"

"Of course Mr. Smith" Another bank? Rajesh suspicion grew.

"Is this song always on?"

"The CD is stuck and always on" Rajesh smiled. "And now it is like a wife you know, sometimes good sometimes bad but in the end, you are always there for each other."

"When did it happen?"

"Many years ago."

"Is that so." Mr. Smith responded.

They arrived more than an hour later, normally it took less than fifteen minutes. But this was Mumbai: love, chaos, and unpredictability.

Rajesh parked close by and Mr. Smith exited the vehicle, went up to an open side parking gate, and disappeared. Rajesh lit his cigarette again and waited. Was the man robbing banks in the middle of the night? Not long after, Mr. Smith came running out, waving at Rajesh and yelling "Get in the car!". Rajesh jumped into the driving seat and turned on the ignition and started the car. Mr. Smith soon came after and jumped into the back seat.

"Mr. Smith! Are you robbing banks in the middle of the night?! I am not taking part in any robberies of banks!" he yelled in panic.

”Calm down Rajesh! I am an MI5 operative on a mission to get information on Russian weapon deliveries”

”You are a spy?!”


”And they are also spies?!”

”yes, but on the other side.”

As he spoke three individuals in bad-tailored suits came running out from the parking entrance, yelling in Russian with silenced guns drawn, and opened fire.

”Just drive, Rajesh! Get us to the British Deputy High Commission!”

Rajesh slammed on the gas. The tires screeched as the taxi roared away from the scene. He rushed down Bhaudaji Road towards the Dr Ambedkar roundabout. Tunak Tunak Tun repeated once again on the stereo. In the rearview mirror, two black Mercedes-Benz 500E came out from the parking entrance and followed them. From the passenger side window, men leaned out and began firing at them.

”Why the hell are you being a spy in my back seat?! There are many other places to be a spy, perhaps your own back seat! Back seat of another taxi, a tuk-tuk, or their back seats! I’m sure it's very nice. There are many other back seats in Mumbai!”

"Perhaps you should take a position of positivism and see this as an unusual adventure that you can relay to your children."

"Adventures?! I have not asked for any adventure! Quite on the contrary sir!" Rajesh twisted his hands and tilted his head franticly as he spoke. "I do not like adventures, Rajesh time is a complete lack of adventures. As Guru Singh says; the purpose of life is to do nothing. Nothing Mr Smith! Maybe you should try nothing instead of a lot of somethings in the back seat of my taxi!"

Rajesh pulled the handbrake hard, turned the steering wheel sharply to the right, and drifted into the roundabout and out on Sulochana Shetty Road. The tires screeched and made puffs of rubber smoke that left black trails on the asphalt. Rajesh continued to zig-zag down the road and violently pressed his horn while the pace of his heart matched the beats of Tunak Tunak Tun. He sang along silently to himself as he did another handbrake maneuver into Rashtrasevika Laxmibai Kelkar road that eventually would take them up on the highway.

Beloved, the strings of the instrument are playing

Listen to what my heart says

Come and love me

”Rajesh, unfortunately, I choose your taxi for a reason.”

”Me? Nobody asked me if you could choose my taxi! Do not choose me, Mr Smith! Chose someone else!” Rajesh shouted back as he zig-zagged between cars, bicycles, tuk-tuks, and trucks.

”I am not the first operative you have driven Rajesh. Think about it, why were you parked outside the temple tonight?”

Rajesh panicked. ”Because I was hungry!”

”No, because you dropped off a woman half an hour earlier. You have been driving us around for months.”


"Yes, Rajesh" Mr. Smith's voice hinted at a slight bit of panic. "I need you to wake up, you are not a taxi driver, you do not have a dead wife and you do not have two children. You are the son of a Gurkha and a British operative since before you could even walk."

"You are mad Mr. Smith, the only thing I operate is my taxi and that is enough thank you very much. And it is very rude to say that my family does not exist. And look at this belly! I made it with fried potatoes and it's not suitable for any other operation than eating and sleeping!"

"What is the name of your children? What is the name of your wife? Name them!" Mr. Smith demanded.

Rajesh opened his mouth but could not muster a word.

"You have mentioned them tonight, but not once said their names."

Rajesh stumbled on his thoughts. His brain was unable to comprehend the situation.

"It is a cover, why or how your cover identity became your identity we do not know. You gained weight and started to drive a taxi to take on Russian operatives as passengers, overhear their conversations and gain their trust. Two weeks ago you informed the woman you dropped off earlier that she should meet you today, and that you would provide her information. But she did not meet Rajesh the operative, but instead Rajesh the taxi driver. Our only idea was to travel together with you to places we know you have been, behave as operatives do, and expose you to smells and sounds to restart your memory. We had no indications that there would be Russians in our path. The information I need is inside your head Rajesh! The world depends on it! " Mr. Smith reloaded his gun, turned back, and returned fire again.

Rajesh's taxi rushed through the Mumbai morning traffic that had slowly awakened from its slumber. Behind them, the two black Mercedes tightly followed. Bullets winced passed and put holes in the trunk and the back window. Mr. Smith provided his response by firing back. The muffled sound of silencers exchanging spicy arguments with each other made people turn their heads. Rajesh tried over and over again to remember the names of his family but to no avail. Instead, his mind was drawn to the smell that came from Mr. Smith's suitcase. To the banks that he had waited outside. The lady he had left in the taxi. Rajesh thought of his home, a small one-room apartment that he rented temporarily. Why not stay with his children? He shook his head. Impossible.

Suddenly, the car stereo exploded from a bullet and no more Tunak Tunak Tuk was heard from the stereo. Rajesh gasped. Daler had been his friend in the stereo for years and now he was gone! "Damn you Mr. Smith and your adventures!"

"It is our adventures, your adventures Rajesh! No normal taxi driver drives like this!" Another bullet hit the side rear view mirror on the passenger side. He looked over and he suddenly had a flashback of a woman leaning outside the window, but they were driving down twisting roads down a mountain pass instead of the streets of Mumbai. He looked back out the front window, his eyes grew wide as they crashed into a fruit cart, oranges flying everywhere and angry voices shouted after them. He looked at Mr. Smith in the rearview mirror. "Andrew, your name is Andrew!"

"Good! Remember more! It must have been that ridiculous song, it hypnotized you in some way and replaced your memories!"

"The weapon is a dirty bomb, a missile that is going to be transported through Nepal and then to a ship in Calcutta!"

"Rajesh, you are back!" Andrew yelled.

Rajesh did not really agree, sure there was a flashback and he clearly knew information and names that he shouldn't. But in terms of who he was, in his heart, nothing had changed. He was Rajesh the taxi driver who knew Mumbai like the inside of his pocket. They crossed the Chunabhatti connector. The Russian cars pulled up beside them on either side. Rajesh braked hard and pulled the steering wheel to the left and slammed the front of the taxi into the back of the Mercedes, forcing it into understeer and it bounced off the center curb and crashed into an oncoming truck.

The second Mercedes put itself in front of them and Andrew quickly climbed into the passenger seat next to Rajesh and continued the exchange of arguments with the Russians. As they rushed through an intersection and down Avenue 786 Rajesh put the car in the right lane as if he wanted to continue on Latika Road up to the right and the Russian Mercedes did the same. At the y-intersection, the Russians turned right but Rajesh used his handbrake skills again and continued left on Avenue 786. The Mercedes quickly did a 360 maneuver, throwing Tuk-Tuks into the air before it came after them but one minute behind.

Andrew pulled up a cell phone and called a number and yelled at the person on the other end to open the gates. Rajesh turned left down on Avenue 4. Andrew waved franticly with his hand that he should turn left into the parking of the High Commission, as he did, large metal gates closed behind them. The black Mercedes screeched to a halt in front of the gate. The driver and passenger looked angrily but passively at them before driving away.

"Rajesh, that was some splendid driving," Andrew said. "I am glad that you are back."

Rajesh shook his head. "Mr. Andrew, I am not back. It seems like you have said some true things. And I remember adventures and things that I did not know about this morning. But I'm still Rajesh, and now it now my whole family is dead. They never existed."

Andrew looked at him with compassion for the first time. "The people who removed your soul and replaced it with your cover identity is a mystery. It is hardly the Russians, it would serve them better to have you killed. There is a third party involved in this. We can help you find out who you really are."

Rajesh sighed. "Whoever I was is now a part of the one I am now, and whoever I am to be."

"Well, Rajesh, operative and taxi driver. The new you and I have a long journey together ahead of us." Andrew replied.

August 01, 2023 11:50

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Russell Mickler
21:59 Aug 10, 2023

Hi there, Daniel - An Indian setting, wonderful! Really liked the opening with a simple way to reference the physical characteristics of your character. The appeal to the senses with food, nice touch, strong use of native vocabulary, and your details on the attire are great. My heart sank on para 4; a good effect. Really good dialogue, drawing a line to your character's personal experiences; good attention to dialects. Liked the robbing banks premise. Ha! He's a diplomat? Immunity maybe? Loved the "there are many other backseats" dial...


Daniel Brandt
07:00 Aug 11, 2023

Hi, thanks for the feedback :) Anything you would have done differently? ps. my secret to Mumbai streets is google maps :P


Russell Mickler
14:48 Aug 11, 2023

Hi there, Daniel - You know, for a post to a Reedsy competition, Daniel, it wasn't bad, but the judges here aren't scrutinizing your work in a way that'd be found in other writing contests. In your next work, focus on mechanics - spelling, punctuation, capitalization, tense, etc. There were some minor errors in this piece that - like I said - aren't considered by Reedsy but are considered elsewhere. They're glaring errors that distract from the experience; I think one of your commenters mentioned it earlier. Overall the story had good pa...


Daniel Brandt
05:45 Aug 12, 2023

wow, great feedback thanks! :)


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R W Mack
16:06 Aug 06, 2023

I loved this story despite some grammatical mistakes. With a week of time, I have to temper my perfectionist editting eye when I see minor issues in an ohltherwise compelling story. Perfect grammar/technical writing, fleshed out story and well-paced delivery with personality. I'm happy to get two of those and the technical crap is not my top priority when the characters and narrative are this enjoyable. Of all the stories I judged, the driver is by far one of my favorite characters in months. Possibly in ANY submission! His dialogue was cri...


Daniel Brandt
08:19 Aug 07, 2023

Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree about the editing. English is not my native language so yeah, and I was late at writing so I just wanted to send it in time. Excuses, but yeah. The ending was hard as 3000 words is so little and I wanted to stick with the theme of them continuing together. Though leaving a bit of an anti-climax now that I read it again. But I wanted to fit in the concept of what is the meaning of the self? Our memories define us, and its not uncommon for people to have vivid memories from their childhood that nev...


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