Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Short Story: Vertical Limit at the Murmuring Oasis

Phalgun stood with his back to the vegetable cart, both his hands gripping the rim of the cart from behind with such force that a vein in his forehead almost popped out. Salil stood beside him, tapping his fingers and occasionally his feet, to relieve the tension. There was no sign of the film producer who ought to have driven through the gates of the multi-storey apartment complex at least thirty minutes ago. Salil was growing more and more impatient and he increased the tempo of his tapping. Phalgun turned around and stared at Salil for a full two seconds to convey his irritation at Salil’s impatience. If they weren’t disguised as vegetable vendors with Phalgun’s pistol hidden under a pile of tomatoes, Salil might have had the opportunity to experience Phalgun’s anger in a more corporal manner, but at that moment, there was no way Phalgun could afford to slap Salil or give him a good kick.

The two pot bellied guards in blue uniforms were caged in the tiny booth, which adjoined the entrance gate. Phalgun and Salil could see them through the bars of the small square window as they lolled in their chairs, their only weapons a whistle each and a log book in which every visitor to the building was required to enter his name and address. Phalgun found it very hilarious. How on earth could those two guards with their whistles and log book provide any sort of security from a toughie like him?

A car drove up to the gate and Phalgun’s pulse quickened. But no, this was not their target’s car. Big Boss had given them the registration number of the film producer’s car. A middle-aged woman who was walking past, stopped, looked at the vegetable cart and came up to them. This was so irritating!

‘How much does the cabbage cost?’ she asked Phalgun.

‘Five rupees a kilogram,’ Phalgun told the woman who then decided to inspect all the vegetables in the cart. Phalgun was tempted to picked up a cabbage and smash it against the woman’s face. Why on earth did she have to shop at eight in the night?

‘Are you two fellows planning to spend the entire night in front of this building?’ one of the security guards called out to them, sounding as though he owned the entire apartment complex. Phalgun did not bother to reply. He saw that Salil had lifted up his shoulders and inhaled deeply, a prelude to an obscenity. So he quickly said, ‘Saheb, can we please stay for another hour? People from your building may want to buy our vegetables. If it is okay with you Sahebs …..’

Salil pursed his lips in irritation. Phalgun knew that Salil would love to kill the guards after they had killed the film producer, but it just wouldn’t do to kill anyone unnecessarily. Each additional dead body increased the pressure on the police to find the murderers, even if it was the body of a lowly security guard. That meant Big Boss would have to pay a bigger bribe. Youngsters like Salil had no discipline whatsoever. Things came to them so easily. They never experienced much hardship, never underwent any suffering. Phalgun on the other hand had done every menial job under the sun, including vending vegetables in a push cart like the one he was using now, before Big Boss hired him.

The woman finally decided to buy some cabbage, but she just wanted just half a kilogram of it. Phalgun expertly chopped a cabbage into two, weighed it and wrapped it in a piece of newspaper.

Just then, the car they were waiting for, drove up. The woman was fumbling with the change. One of the two security guards came out of the booth and opened the gate. For good measure, he saluted the corpulent man inside the car. Phalgun waved away the change which the woman proffered him and dug out his pistol from under the pile of tomatoes. He fired a shot into the rear window of the car and saw the bulky man inside slump forward. For good measure, he fired two more shots. Salil had pushed the cringing woman to the ground to make sure that she did not get in Phalgun’s way. The security guard who had come outside had his mouth wide open. Hs colleague inside the booth was dialling furiously.

Phalgun was tempted to kill the man making the phone call, but he desisted. A phone call to the police station would make little or no difference to their getaway.

Salil was dancing in front of the security guard who had opened the gate.

‘Sahib, can we please stay for another hour? Please Sahib,’ he mocked the guard and waited for Phalgun to finish him off, grinning like a demon from ear to ear.

Phalgun walked away, tucking his pistol under his threadbare shirt. Salil looked stunned for a second, then he quickly followed Phalgun like a dog.

Phalgun’s heart was thumping and he walked as though he were mounted on a set of springs. It took him an enormous effort to not to jump and shout with joy and exhilaration. He had not let the Big Boss down. This was his tenth big job and there would be many more to come. As they left the secluded cul-de-sac and reached the busy main road, they saw that the battered ambassador car waiting to take them away had its engines running. The driver must have heard the shots being fired.

‘All well?’ the driver asked as he put the car into gear.

Phalgun took a deep breath and said, ‘yes, it went off well.’ ‘The bastard looked like a circus clown when he fell forward,’ he added with a chuckle.

Once the car started to move, Phalgun gave Salil a pat on the back and said, ‘you idiot, you nearly messed up things.’ He gave another chuckle so that Salil did not get too upset. This was the first time he had worked with Salil. Most probably, this was Salil’s first kill, though he had earlier claimed to have gone with another senior hit man on a hit.

‘You could have killed that guard as well,’ Salil told Phalgun in an accusing voice, sounding like a kid deprived of candy
‘Listen, you wet-behind-the-ears-baby, you keep that big mouth of yours shut and watch and listen and you may make something out of yourself. That is, if you don’t get killed first.’

The driver broke into a loud guffaw on hearing that.

Three days later, refreshed and relaxed, Phalgun presented himself at Big Boss’s bungalow. The bungalow was a dream in white and the room where Phalgun waited to meet Big Boss actually had air conditioning. The only other person in the room was a bodyguard nicknamed the Viper, one of the dozen or so of bodyguards who surrounded Big Boss at all times.

Viper was bursting with gossip and Phalgun was not uninterested.

‘It was I who went and fetched Baburam for Big Boss,’ he informed Phalgun grimly.

‘Just you? No one else?’ I don’t believe it!’ Phalgun waited for Viper’s clarification.

‘Hafiz came with me.’

‘And did he make a fuss?’

‘Fuss? No way. We knocked on his door, told him that Big Boss wanted to talk to him and he just came. As meek as a puppy.’

‘Why didn’t he try to run away?’ Phalgun wondered aloud.

‘Or even try to kill us first?’ the Viper asked. I was quite scared to go and ask him. When Big Boss told me to bring Baburam, I actually thought of running off to my village and not come back at all.’ They both laughed at that.

‘You say that he just came along meekly?’

‘Yes, he did. And he was such a big guy!’

‘Was it Big Boss who fired the shot?’

‘Oh yes! That’s how it’s for traitors, isn’t it? Big Boss would not have it any other way.’

‘Did you see his body?’

‘Yes, I did. It was Charles who carried it to the sea.’

‘I wished I had been there. It must have been some sight to see Baburam go so quietly.’

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Then Phalgun asked, ‘Is Big Boss still angry with Charles?’

Viper sighed. ‘I don’t really know. There are times when Big Boss summons Charles and shouts at him. And then there are times when he sounds as if he is …

There was no opportunity for Viper to finish his discourse. Big Boss walked into the room and sat down, an affable old man who would not look out of place in a group of respectable senior citizens on a group tour to the Prince of Wales museum, the planetarium and the aquarium. Phalgun jumped up immediately.

‘Son, I’m very proud of you,’ he told Phalgun and patted him on his back before sitting down.

Phalgun stood tongue-tied in front of Big Boss who at times had an eerie resemblance to his grandfather.

Big Boss looked at Viper who left the room immediately.

‘How are things with you?’

‘With your blessings and by God’s grace, I’m doing well Big Boss.’

‘Ha! Ha! You don’t need my blessings if you have God’s grace.’

‘But Big Boss, you are God.’

‘I’m not God, Phalgun. I’m not.’ Big Boss sounded tired and exhausted.

‘How’s your wife? How’s your son? Vinayak? Isn’t that his name?’

‘Yes Big Boss. He is. Vinayak. That’s his name.’ Phalgun found himself floundering over simple sentences.

‘Vinayak must be, how old is Vinayak? Ten years old? Am I right?’ Big Boss scratched his head as he searched his legendary memory.

‘Yes Big Boss. He is ten. Almost eleven now.’

‘When’s his birthday?’

‘Oh, it was last month. He’s eleven now.’

‘Ah, is he? How time flies!’

Big Boss sat there in thoughtful silence and Phalgun stood politely in front of him. After a lengthy stretch of silence, Big Boss asked Phalgun, ‘son, are you ready for another job?’

‘Big Boss, I shall do anything you ask me to do.’

‘I know Phalgun, but are you ready to do it? To do it successfully?’

‘Yes, Big Boss, I am.’

Big Boss sighed once more. ‘There’s this builder called Hinal Mehta who has switched allegiance to that bastard from Vikhroli. He has stopped paying me money. Altogether.’

Phalgun kept quiet. He knew that Big Boss liked people to listen to him when he spoke.

‘He needs to be taught a lesson,’ Big Boss added.

‘I shall kill this Hinal Mehta. Definitely. Who is he and where does he live?’ Phalgun demanded Big Boss. ‘You only have to say the word.’

Big Boss gave Phalgun a sad smile. His next few words confirmed his disappointment in Phalgun. ‘If you kill him, how will he pay me?’

‘If you kill him, how will he pay me Phalgun?’ Big Boss repeated, drawing out the last syllable of Phalgun’s name in a manner that showed his irritation.

‘I’m so sorry Big Boss. I’m so very sorry Big Boss. Please forgive me.’

‘We will have to kill someone else, so that this man pays me. Do you understand?’

‘Yes, Big Boss. Someone else. Of course.’

Phalgun bit his tongue and waited for Big Boss to tell him who that someone was.

‘Hinal Mehta, he cannot be killed. But one of his friends can be.’

‘Yes Big Boss. That’ll make Hinal Mehta pay up. It will.’

Big Boss drew a sharp breath and said, ‘Now listen carefully. Every Saturday, Hinal Mehta likes to have a drink. With his friends. Three or four of them. I want you to kill one of Hinal Mehta’s friends when he does that. In front of Hinal Mehta. Can you do that?’

‘Yes Big Boss. I can do that. Easily! Of course, I can do that.’

‘And how will you do that?’

Phalgun gulped. He was another catch. What should he do now? ‘Whatever way you ask me to do Big Boss,’ he said.

Big Boss was pleased. ‘Listen carefully,’ he said once more. Phalgun clasped his hands behind his back, bent his head slightly and almost stood on tip toe so that his body was inclined towards Big Boss as he sat on the brown leather sofa.

‘Right now, Hinal Mehta is putting up a huge building at Kandivali. A fifty storey luxury apartment complex. The building is almost complete. All fifty storeys have been erected. The plastering is done. A set of lifts have been installed. There is some painting work left. A garden has been planted with a water fountain in its centre. Soon, people will start moving into this building.’

‘Yes Big Boss.’

‘The fountain. Ever since the fountain was installed three weeks ago, that’s where Hinal Mehta has his weekend drinks. Most probably, he’ll do the same this Saturday as well.’

Phalgun grinned. It would be good fun to kill one of Hinal Mehta’s friends near the fountain.

‘I want you storm into that compound with four men, beat up Hinal Mehta and kill one of his friends in a special way. So that Hinal Mehta is scared. Really scared.’

Not a problem Big Boss. I can make the waters of the fountain run red. Have you decided which friend is to be killed?’

‘Patience Phalgun, I’ll come to that in a minute. I want to frighten this Hinal Mehta. Scare the daylights out of him. Convince him that the Vikhroli gang cannot protect him. How do we do that?’

‘I could beat up Hinal Mehta and all of his friends properly. Their mothers wouldn’t recognise them after I am through!’

‘Phalgun, use your brains. They will be right next to a fifty storey building. Would do you think we should so?’

Phalgun had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He caught his breath. He knew what was coming. His legs started to tremble. His worst nightmare was coming true.

‘I want you to nab them when they are drinking near that fountain, beat them up well and good, threaten to kill them all, make them beg and cringe, take them up the lift to the fiftieth storey, make them climb up the ladder to the terrace, stand them near the parapet with their backs to you and then, when they are all shitting in their trousers, push one of the friends over the parapet. Just one! That ought to scare Hinal Mehta. So there! Can you do it?’

Phalgun’s mind was in a whirl. If he had any sense he would admit to Big Boss that this job was beyond him. But No! He could never say No to Big Boss who had picked him from the crowd and made him what he was. ‘Yes Big Boss. I will do it,’ he firmly, trying to shut out a vision of the fifty storey building.

‘Can you do all this with just four men?’ Big Boss asked him thoughtfully.

‘I think so Big Boss,’ Phalgun reply, trying to sound confident. ‘That’ll be five people including me.’

Big Boss was silent. Then he asked Phalgun. ‘Would you do it, Phalgun? If you are cornered by a hit man who you think is definitely going to kill you and asked to climb a parapet, would you do so?’

‘No Big Boss, I would not.’

‘I know. You’ll need three men to pick up one of Hinal Mehta’s friends and throw him over the parapet.’

‘It can be done Big Boss. Two of us can keep the rest of them quiet when the other three throw one of the bastards over. It will be easier if we could kill the man before pushing him over.’

‘No, no, no. I want him to scream as he falls down.’

‘Or at least hit him on the head…’

‘I don’t care where you hit him as long as he screams when he falls down’

‘The tough bit will be to get the bastards to climb the ladder from the fiftieth storey to the terrace.’

‘They will do what you ask them to do if they are frightened properly.’

‘Yes Big Boss. I guess Hinal Mehta will have a bodyguard with him all the time?’

‘Two of them actually,’ Big Boss smiled. ‘And they are not ordinary guards. Apparently they are specially trained in martial arts and cost Hinal Mehta fifty thousand rupees each every month.’

‘They won’t be so special when we are through with them.’

Big Boss smiled. ‘Take Salil, Ramesh, Charles and Abdul with you. I know you can handle Hinal Mehta’s bodyguards, but don’t be overconfident.’

‘Big Boss, I can kill Hinal Mehta’s friend wherever you like. I can do it the way you just described. But if you like, I can also kill his friend in front of his family. Maybe in front of his wife and children. Whatever you like Big Boss.’

‘Phalgun, I don’t want to scare his wife and children. I want to scare Hinal Mehta.’

Phalgun’s shoulders slumped, but he tried not to let his fear show on his face.

‘I am going to rely on you Phalgun,’ Big Boss said, his attitude that of a grandfather entrusting his business empire to his grandson. ‘I want this to be done this Saturday itself. That gives you just four days.’

Later that evening, Phalgun took a taxi to Khandivali and stood in front of the Murmuring Oasis. It gave him the shivers just to look at it. Fifty storeys tall and the joker of an architect had encased the entire front fa├žade in glass. Phalgun tried to imagine living on the fiftieth floor and shuddered.

He never had a head for heights, as far as he could remember. If he had his way, he would level to the ground all tall buildings in the world. His earlier memory of a tryst with vertigo was when his family visited the sacred temple at Saptasring Gad. His father had insisted on the entire family climbing the innumerable steps that led to the temple, which was on top of a hill. Phalgun had managed a dozen steps and then sat down dizzy with fear. His father had carried him to the top, only to have Phalgun cringing in fear during the entire visit.

Charles was responsible for fixing a security guard at the Murmuring Oasis who could get them access to the building prior to the raid. He had promised to get it done in a day’s time. Once it was done, he would be able to make as many trips as he wanted to in order to familiarise himself with the building. ‘We’ll never go there as a group,’ he had told Charles and the others. Charles was actually much more experienced than he was, but since he had got into some trouble or the other, he had been demoted. If not, it would be Charles who would be leading the team for this piece of action. Thank God for small mercies, Phalgun thought.

When Phalgun was in his teens he had a friend who lived on the fourth floor of a block of flats. Every time Phalgun visited his friend, he used to be terrified as he walked up the stairs. Climbing down was even worse. But after a few trips, his fear had been brought down to manageable limits. Could he do the same thing with this building? Phalgun doubted it. Big Boss had made his intentions clear. He wanted all four victims to be taken to the terrace of the building. The climb to the terrace from the fiftieth storey would be through the service ladder. No, there was no way Phalgun could climb a ladder from the fiftieth storey. He might have managed it if it had been an enclosed stairway. Maybe! Maybe not! And then there was that action planned for the terrace. Big Boss was very clear. He did not want them to kill or even stun the friend before throwing him down. He wanted Hinal Mehta’s friend to scream as he fell. The mere thought of doing all that made Phalgun tremble.

Maybe he ought to go to Big Boss and confess. Tell him the truth. After all, it was a genuine problem, wasn’t it? But no! Big Boss had this habit of not relying on a person who he thought had let him down. He would be instantly demoted and would soon be running minor errands and accompanying senior hit men, just as Salil accompanied him on his last hit. It seemed to be a no-win situation.

Two days later Phalgun made a visit to the Murmuring Oasis. The crooked guard had given them three passes, each of which when struck to a paint splattered shirt, allowed the wearer to ramble around the building, provided he had a paint brush in hand.

The moment Phalgun came out of the lift on the fiftieth storey, he was hit by vertigo. His feet trembled under him as he looked out through the sheet of glass in front of him. Fifty storeys of sheer madness dangled not less than ten feet from where he was. He quickly got back into the lift and hastily went down. Once on the ground floor, he lit a beedi and inhaled deeply. His heart was beating as if it was trying to break free from his body.

‘Shhhh, there’s a supervisor coming along,’ a workman told him as he walked past.

Phalgun gawked at the workman, who had a friendly look.

‘You idiot, you aren’t allowed to smoke in this building,’ the man told him and disappeared.

Phalgun put out his beedi. He got back into the lift and pressed the button for the fiftieth floor. He would make multiple trips and get rid of his fear. Ten trips to the fiftieth floor and he would be able to walk around, wouldn’t he? Tomorrow he would come again and practice climbing the ladder to the terrace. Of course he would do it. He, Phalgun Patil, had done so many things in life that other men only dreamed of doing. And he could bloody well climb up to the terrace if he put his mind to it.

He got out of the lift and took bold a step forward. Fifty storeys below, the cars and buses were tiny and ant-like. His breath hissed out of him and his legs buckled. No, this was impossible. He had absolutely no control of his body. If someone pulled a gun on him when he was in this state, he would be helpless. Phalgun slowly sat on the floor, his whole body trembling with fear. Thankfully there was no one nearby. He crawled back to the lift, keeping his eyes to the floor so that he did not have to look out through the glass.

The next day Phalgun went to the Siddhi Vinayak temple at Prabha Devi and prayed. Please, please God. Please take away this irrational fear, he pleaded again and again. On his way out, he gave away two thousand and two rupees to the various beggars who surrounded the place. For good measure, he also went to the Sai Baba Mandir at Borivali and repeated his prayers, sacrificing a large marigold garland this time. There was nothing more that a man in his position could do. It was all in the hands of God.

The day of the raid dawned bright and clear. Big Boss had expressed his fear that if it turned out to be a rainy day, Hinal Mehta might decide to go elsewhere for his drinks. Phalgun had prayed for rain desperately. But no, the rain gods let him down despite his fervent requests. If only it had rained and Hinal Mehta had gone to a good restaurant with his friends, Phalgun would have been the happiest man in the world.

Salil, Ramesh, Charles and Abdul were excited with the idea of throwing a man down fifty storeys while Phalgun tried to avoid thinking about it. He failed miserably. Time and again his brain conjured up images of the terrace, fifty storeys above the ground. If only his legs made it up the ladder, he could ask three of the others to throw one of Hinal Mehta’s friends down the building. To fall down fifty storeys! The very thought gave him the jitters. If it weren’t for Big Boss, he wouldn’t do this to his biggest enemy.

The van they used to take them to the building had been stolen that morning from the company which maintained the fountain. To be doubly safe, the guard supposed to be in charge of the entrance gate that day had been bribed. Charles had wanted to try and to fix one of the personal bodyguards as well, but Big Boss overruled him. The man who ran Top Shot, the agency which supplied the bodyguards, was unlikely to play along and if they tried and failed, word would get to Hinal Mehta.

They rolled into the compound at half past six when the workmen had left for the day and dusk had set in. The yellow lamps which dotted the garden had been switched on. Phalgun avoided looking at the building which looked very beautiful in the setting yellow sun.

Hinal Mehta and two of his friends had just finished a round of drinks when Phalgun and his team got out of the van, dressed as workmen. The two specially trained bodyguards didn’t have a chance against the five men. Even before they could suspect anything and draw their pistols, they were shot dead in cold blood. Hinal Mehta, a short pudgy man in his early fifties, and his friends cowered in front of Phalgun’s men.

Phalgun made sure that his back was to the building so that he was not reminded of the climb that awaited him.

Salil walked up to Hinal and kicked him in his groin. ‘You thought you could get away with it, didn’t you? he asked Hinal.

‘Why are there only three of them and not four?’ Abdul whispered to Phalgun.

‘Who cares? We just need to kill Wilfred. And he is here.’ Big Boss had decided on Wilfred the previous day, since he was closer to Hinal than any of the other drinking buddies. Wilfred was a tall thin man with a straggly French beard. He ran a health club at Napean Sea road which was frequented by the most happening people in Mumbai.

Phalgun nodded at Charles who dragged the third friend forward, pushed him down and kicked him in the face. Blood oozed out of his mouth. Ramesh and Salil joined him. They worked systematically on the three men, punching and kicking them all over their bodies, but taking care to avoid their vital organs. Phalgun stood back and watched, one eye at the entrance gate for any gate crashers. The crooked guard had been tied up in his chair so that he wouldn’t get into any trouble over his inaction.

The third friend whose name they didn’t know was the stoutest of the three men and he started breathing heavily. Phalgun signalled to the men to stop. They all did, except for Salil, who had to be prised away from Hinal.

‘Don’t you want him to climb up to the terrace?’ Phalgun chided him.

‘Noo. Please don’t kill us. We’ll pay you,’ Hinal started to beg. ‘I can ask my wife to deposit fifty lakhs in your bank account right away,’ Hinal pleaded. ‘Let me just make one phone call.’

Phalgun slapped them him. ‘Aren’t you shameless? You could have paid fifty lakhs to Big Boss and avoided all this. You disrespected Big Boss and now you must pay for it.

‘Why don’t you search them to see if they are carrying any weapons? he ordered the men who looked at him in surprise. This was not part of the agreed agenda.

‘Go on,’ Phalgun said and set an example by standing Wilfred up and patting him down. Salil quickly searched Hinal and Charles shook down the third friend.

‘Now walk,’ Phalgun said and pointed in the direction of the building block which was being painted in navy blue. As he looked at the building for the first that evening, dizziness hit him in waves. He would soon have to be on top of that miserable structure!

Wilfred turned around and started to plead. ‘I have a family. I have three daughters. I need to…’

‘We’ll take care of your daughters,’ Salil told him to the accompaniment of loud laughter.

‘Listen, I know you are going to kill me. So, why should I do what you ask me to do?’ Hinal asked them, his eyes flaring. ‘If you want to make a deal with me, let’s talk, otherwise, you can do what you ….’

Before Hinal could complete his sentence, Phalgun went up to him, grabbed him by the back of his belt and punched him in his solar plexus. Hinal gasped for breath and went down like a bag of rotting onions.

‘If you don’t walk, I’ll beat you to a pulp and then make you walk anyway,’ Phalgun said. He was breathing hard and sweating. Hinal believed him and tried to stand up, but couldn’t.

Abdul prodded Wilfred and the other friend with his pistol, none too gently from behind, and they started to walk forward.

Phalgun had another idea. ‘Let’s make them take off their trousers and walk in their underwear. It’ll make things easier for them.’

The men liked the idea. They formed a circle and Hinal and his friends were forced to stand in the centre.

‘Go on, take off your trousers. I want to see the colour of your underwear,’ Phalgun told them. They hesitated.

‘The last one with his trousers on will have a pistol shoved up his arse,’ Phalgun announced. Wilfred and the third friend did not waste much time in unbuttoning their trousers and taking them off. Hinal was still panting from the blow to his solar plexus and fumbled with his buttons as the men watched in amusement. When he finally managed to drop his trousers, a small black Berretta ultra-compact fell down from the inside of his trousers. Phalgun and the men looked at the pistol, transfixed. Hinal himself seemed to be puzzled and he stared at the pistol, which was so small that it could fit snugly in a man’s palm.

Wilfred, who stood near Hinal, moved first. He took two steps and picked up the pistol before anyone else could move. ‘Don’t anyone dare come near me,’ he stammered, his eyes darting about wildly and his pistol hand jerking up and down.

But Phalgun acted courageously and fast. He whipped out his pistol and shot Wilfred between his eyes. As he was shot, Wilfred pressed the trigger, but no one got hit. They didn’t even know which direction the bullet went. The pistol fell out of Wilfred’s hands near Hinal’s feet. Hinal dropped to his knees with the intention of picking up the pistol, but Charles shot him in his thigh and he collapsed forward.

Abdul ran forward and picked up the pistol and gave it to Phalgun who slid out the magazine. ‘It’s unloaded,’ he announced with a chuckle.

‘What a fool!’ Abdul said as he looked at a bleeding Hinal Mehta with disgust. ‘Carrying an unloaded pistol in his trousers and …’

‘I thought you had searched the bastard,’ Phalgun told Salil, making no effort to hide his sneer.

‘I did. I just don’t know ….’

‘What do we do now?’ Abdul asked.

‘I guess our job’s done,’ Phalgun declared. ‘Let’s go. Someone’s bound to have heard the shot.’

Phalgun led the way. As they got into the van and drove away, Charles told Salil, ‘if I were you, I’d do back to my village and stay there.’

‘Don’t you have a pistol exactly like the one which Hinal had? The one you got from that Pedder Road job?’ Charles asked Phalgun.

‘Oh that! No, I didn’t keep it. I never do. I had got rid of it immediately. It was tainted you know. It’s always dangerous to keep a pistol from a job,’ Phalgun said.

‘Are you going to get rid of this one as well?’ Salil asked him. ‘In that case, can I keep it?’

‘You stupid idiot! How many mistakes do you want to make in a single day?’ Phalgun shouted at him. He avoided looking out of the window until Murmuring Oasis disappeared from sight.


pali said...

Great story. Good narration.
Was interesting the whole time.

Though I read this post only 'cos my name is 'Phalgun', I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winnowed said...

Thanks Phalgun. Am glad you liked it.