The room where they sat, face to face across each other, was dark and dingy. The inmate’s clothes lay half scattered on the bed that stood inside. The couch was the only real furniture which consumed space of the room beside the two chairs which were occupied. Four men nearly of the same height and build, all armed to the hilt, stood stiff converging on the two gentlemen who sat engulfed in deadly silence. Each of these four men wore the same formal outfit, though the organization for which they worked never mandated any uniform. The doors were shut and not a single sound from the adjacent busy road could make way inside the room. It was a sultry summer evening in the busiest square of the city, yet from inside the room it felt like an island devoid of human society outside it. The silence was definite and absolute, only the humming noise of the old table fan kept against that hush. Two goggled men guarded the tattered door and the chauffeur sat uncaringly inside the shining black Benz parked nearby.
Taureeq unbuttoned the holster from the insides of his jacket and menacingly pulled out his 0.32 Magnum. He neatly placed it on the table. He yanked out the bullet case from his pocket and began loading its contents one by one inside the revolving chambers of the 0.32. Taking a long drag of his half smoked Marlboro, he placed the gun back on the table between him and Robert. The device had a sinister shine about it, and from it one could guess the number of lives it had claimed. Foreboding and without mercy, brutal. To the point and to the target
‘There are two ways we can go about this Robert.’ Taureeq began in his cold tone, inviting a threatened look from him. ‘One without .. and the other, with it’ he exclaimed plainly suggesting at his revolver. Robert didn’t say a word in return. He kept observing Taureeq. A man who had the blood of hundreds on his hand. The chosen mercenary of the Badshah family. He would shoot at the drop of a hat if the boss desired. As for Robert himself, he was only a carrier. The mule. His only job was to ensure that boss's cocaine reached the end users, who were in hundreds. He therefore seemed to wonder what had brought Taureeq, the accomplished gunman, to his not much of a house. Perhaps a deal had gone wrong and Taureeq had come to exact his life as its cost. Or perhaps they wanted to close loops of a hot one, no ends open, and he was perhaps the last one to be shut. Or was he simply intimidating to get something done that he can't get done. He was to soon find out.
‘It’s actually our old frienship that I ‘m honouring. Actually, assignments like such are taken care of by the ones standing around you. A simple task you know. Just the bangs. Saves all the literature’ Taureeq concluded non chalantly.
‘What do you want?’ Robert wanted to keep things precise and to the point.
‘Nothing you know. Just the usual. Payment’ replied Taureeq
“Payment for what?’
‘You are a smart man Robert. I believe a lot of that smartness comes from your excellent memory. So why don’t you spend some of that memory instead of asking questions which by the standards of even these men around us are stupid ’ Taureeq commanded, though with a smile.
The fan hummed away. Taureeq sank back in his chair and comforted himself as if he was ready to wait for as long as it would take for Robert to recall what he wished him to. There was no reply from Robert. Nothing came from him for a very long time. Taureeq went from being quiet, to whistling to shaking his leg impatiently.
He suddenly leaned forward and burst ‘Don’t fuck with me Robert. I don’t have all day’
‘Well, my friend I can’t remember what you are suggesting. I don't owe boss’ Robert confessed trying to sound calm.
‘Alright. I’ll help you out’ Taureeq declared and took his revolver in his hand. ‘You remember botching up the Reqett deal. Does that word ring a bell, eh?’ Taureeq had bend ominously close at Robert.
‘Nothing brother’ Robert nodded his head disappointingly.
‘You like games, don’t you?’ Taureeq hid his perturbed self.
‘You know how it is Taureeq. Nothing is hidden from you. Martha is gone. It’s me and my brother now. Debts, cops, a dozen crime busting agencies vying to extract info from me. My neck is on the line. I’m no more myself. My mind is just dead. All after Martha was taken away’ Robert revealed with a placid sincerity.
‘I don’t give a damn. You get me?! You wanted out right. Here’s your chance. Just pay for what losses you caused and you are a free man. Your register would be closed and you can start afresh. You have my word. You have the boss’s word’ Taureeq declared unfazed by Robert’s confessions and placed his gun back on the table.
‘The boss never told me he wanted payment. I’ve run errands so many times without a fee. I guess boss took that one fucked up assignment and wrote it off toward my unpaid remuneration. I know boss forgave me. He promised me he did. And it just isn’t his rule to break his own promise’ Robert argued.
‘Guess what. These are new house rules. Boss is old and hangs by his bed. He has his grandson to play with in his large garden. Work is left to me and he doesn’t mind the way I run things. I run the syndicate now. I decide things now. And I decide in the larger benefit of the org. I can't agree writing off a loss of millions. Either you pay or work for us as I say. If you don't, you have to buy your freedom, the freedom of your brother and the rest of your kins. I decide your life now. You will eat as I wish. You will dream as I wish, you will breathe as I wish now. And I wish to put a price tag on your freedom. You’ll have to purchase it’ Taureeq was convincing in his tone. 'Or as a second choice you may choose to work for us again. The same thrillin' life of money and women which you once swore by. Limitless power and all what you want. In case you've forgotten, everything you want could be yours. Just hop back in' Taureeq offered and sank back confident of the fruits of his little speech. Robert paused and carefully thought his response. He looked to his left and right and looked at Taureeq again. The silence was complete. “Martha wouldn’t have wanted this you know. She wanted me to leave all this. She wanted me to live clean’
‘Last time I saw, Martha was in a coffin under six feet of dirt Robby. You don’t have to worry about her. Do what’s right for you. Take this chance. This is where you belong, always belonged. It's either this or payment and ofcourse the choice of ..you know..being with Martha. (The gathering save Robert broke into giggles) Look, I know about all your cash and where they are stacked. All your grand pretension of poverty cannot fool me Robby’ Taureeq smirked tauntingly as he spoke his words. Soon after these words were uttered, silence reclaimed their conversation. This time it was more certain and brooding. An air of unpredictability hung between the two men. Taureeq continued to wear his mocking smirk and Robert was engulfed by an uneasy calm, the one which precedes a storm.
‘Who put her there Taureeq?’ Robert asked, looking dead straight into Taureeq’s eyes.
‘Excuse me?’ Taureeq queried. A certain unsettledness had suddenly seized his form.
‘Who put Martha in the coffin?’ Robert repeated, pronouncing each word slowly as if he demanded an answer. There was an unmistakable resolve about Robert’s mannerism. It seemed as if the tables had suddenly shifted. Robert had gripped the moment by its scruff and now Taureeq found himself fidgeting under Robert’s gaze.
‘Wh..What the hell do you mean who put her there?’ Taureeq’s voice was slippery. He carefully and slowly budged his palm toward the sitting revolver without taking his eyes off Robert. Robert didn’t move his eyes as well. Their glance was locked as if both knew what the other was thinking. As if both knew what was coming. Neither showed any sign of movement. They were transfixed in their gaze upon each other as silence filled the room. Before anyone in the room could fathom what was happening, the only door of the room flung open violently. It was dark outside and the road lamps hadn’t been lit yet. It was difficult to comprehend the identity of the man who barged in. But he had come determined at his task. The first shot he took was at the man who stood the most near to Robert. The rifle boom was deafening, as the man standing beside Robert in black suit flew back a couple of feet and landed still on his back with a loud fall, blood gushing out of his bullet ridden chest. He had taken two. In the commotion, Robert leaped on the table and grabbed the Magnum, removed its safety lock in a flash and began firing blindly at Taureeq’s direction. Taureeq had by then lifted the cover of the table and hurled it at Robert preventing his bullets from penetrating beyond its wood. But Taureeq was unstoppable. He punched the tossed table cover with his bare fist and removed it. Taureeq was making his way out amidst the gunpowder - rain and smoke, as the man at the door covered the exit and kept aiming and shooting at the guards one by one, taking them out effortlessly. The man was unfailing in his aim and he was fatally quick. He gave no chance for those burly armed men to even unholster their guns. He had planted bullets in each of them sending them to dark pits of hell. One of the bullets had taken out the light of the room and it was pitch dark inside. Only the recoil sparks of the guns, which ran ablaze, lightened the room frequently like thunder. Taureeq was now on the floor, cusping his head with both hands as he lay kissing the ground as bullets flew over his head. In seconds the room fell silent. The hanging light creaking and gnawing madly due the force of the bullet shots it had taken. The humming table fan had fallen silent, its blades twisted and mangled. Every man standing was either dead or groaning, except Taureeq who grovelled for his life under the feet of the other two men with gun, one at the door and the other Robert. Their barrels were still chimneys.
Footsteps approached Taureeq. It was Robert. He leaned and whispered near Taureeq's ear ‘Get up buddy’. Taureeq was so frozen in fear that it took Robert’s brother, who had lowered his gun and had walked from the door to grab Taureeq by his collar, to lift him up and make him sit on the chair where he sat earlier. Robert walked near him, placed the gun’s nozzle on his temple and asked in perfect control ‘I won’t ask again.....I mean it..I won't. Who ordered the hit on Martha. We both know she didn’t die in any random gang firing. No one would have dared touch her. She was my woman. So hurry up you don’t have much time, I’d rather not see you die painfully and slowly’ Taureeq just kept on panting, his mouth dry and silent. Sweat streaming down his cheeks. Robert allowed Taureeq a few seconds before he started to stutter ‘Y...you kn..know. Nothing ev..ever hh..hhappens without the boss’s approv...’ Taureeq hadn’t completed his sentence when Robert pumped all the remaining bullets into his chest from point blank range. Blood spurt out in thick stream and puddled near Robert’s feet. The body of Taureeq fell silent after a few throbs. He died instantly on the chair, his hands spread hanging by his sides. Robert took out Martha’s photo and looked at her as if sharing with her his accomplishment. He kissed her and tucked it back inside his wallet. But he couldn’t step away from Taureeq’s lifeless form. He kept staring at it.
‘Come’n Robby. Cops will be here. Gotta get out’ Benjamin, Robert’s brother, warned him as he pulled his hands trying to drag him away. Robert finally looked away, he looked at Benjamin and hugged him. Tears rolled down his eyes. But there was no voice, no wailing, no sobbing. The job was only half done. The brothers remained in each other’s hug for a minute.
‘Just a moment Benji’ Robert said and walked towards the closet. He brought out a device which had wires tapped all over and clicked it ON. When the beeping began, he placed it on the chest of Taureeq alongwith a cleaned maimed bullet. He looked at Benjamin. He felt no need to tell him what it was and from whose body he had recovered it. He had preserved it all along. Making it wait silently with an aim, which no gun would give it. The two men stepped out of the house and shut the door behind them. The guards outside the door lay dead and were covered in blood and the chauffeur slept still with his head resting on the steering wheel as a narrow line of blood trickled from his forehead and gathered on the car’s base. Robert stole a glance at Benjamin and smiled. Benjamin kicked the motorcycle to life and said ‘It wasn’t tad bit tough. The two here at the door were merrymaking. It took me exactly two bullets to lay them, not a shot wasted. Our friend in the Benz was taking dirty to his girl over his phone, I walked straight to him and he didn’t even care to look. I pulled the trigger right between his eyes’
Robert noticed a crowd of onlookers. They stood mute. They had witnessed everything. But he trusted them. He trusted them to keep things to themselves for they knew his tale. The boy who grew up an orphan, sheltered by Ahmadi Badshah, made to do his dirty work, which he wouldn’t let his nephews and sons soil their hands with. His perished fate reincarnated by Martha, when he was verging on self destruction. The woman who showed him light, gave him a new life and set him upon a new purpose, was ruthlessly taken away. It was their town's open secret that Ahmadi’s men had taken her life. No way he was going to let her replace the leash on his dog.
Benjamin asked him while turning the bike’s accelerator ‘Where to?’
Benjamin asked him while turning the bike’s accelerator ‘Where to?’
Pausing momentarily Robert replied ‘To where it all began’
‘Are you sure Robby?’ Taureeq wanted to be sure, that his brother who had just shot his first bullets ever, was up for killing the town’s most dreaded gangster.
‘I am not. But then I wasn’t sure you would come in perfect time and we would execute our little plan to the hilt back at the room. I wasn’t sure I could ever pull the trigger but five bullets are now buried in Taureeq’s heart. I am not sure if I will put bullets in Ahmadi’s head. But I want to have Martha’s revenge. I want the blood of each and every man who was there when she died, each and every one of them. Of that I’m sure’ Robert confided with an air of surety.
‘Godspeed to both of us then!!’ Benjamin murmured as he turned the accelerator with full force and the two brothers sped away under the watch of the lifeless throng. The crowd howled and screamed and ran inside their homes as Robert’s house was engulfed in flames after a loud explosion which followed their departure. The ride of retribution had just begun for Robert.