He didn’t realize the enormity of the situation.
Two hours before he was scheduled to meet the local politician, Sins had heard from his sources, that the politician had been kidnapped, murdered through multiple stab wounds and his body had been thrown face down into a low lying drain.
Sins had reached the spot to witness the politician’s supporters plotting a counter strategy.
They were going to start a riot.
In exactly three hours.
All the necessary permissions had been taken. The chief minister, police commissioner, party president and the high court supremo had been briefed about every development.
The go ahead for the riot had been sanctioned in under seven minutes after the first call.
Sins had been invited to join in, a subtle acknowledgement that he was important enough to be considered loyal to the party hierarchy.
He had been asked to kill.
Swords, tridents, axes and machetes were the weapons of choice.
Sins had taken an Uber and left the scene in under seven minutes, towards Starr’s home to lie low for the next seven days, in case his house was sought for him.
Starr had greeted him in a towel.
All thoughts of the day’s developments evaporated from his mind, as they tore at each other’s bodies, lust overcoming both their senses. Sins felt like leaving the city with her, escaping all responsibilities, going completely off the digital grid, saying byes to their elders – parents chief among them and beginning a new life at a place near nature.
Who needed so much when necessities were so few and far in between, sex, food and company, primarily. They had enough mental space to learn something new to create value and get by, in any local economy, to figure out the resources for cloth and shelter, using their savings in the meanwhile.
Sins wondered if they could leave now. Would Starr agree?
“I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don’t care about anyone or anything else. We both have the resources to start a new life at some place you’ve always wanted to. Like the mountains you told me about last week, remember? We’ll stay like Shiva and Goddess Parvati, ingraining ourselves into the local economy and culture by learning from the locals. Let’s do it”
Starr looked at him weirdly, as if he had lost his mind. Sins wondered if she would ask him to leave, in light of whether the commitment was too much for her…now. Sins felt the familiar needle like stabs piercing around his chest, would Starr really ask him to leave? If it happened, it would be difficult for him to return back to normalcy. He would simply try to get over the shock of loosing her, after asking for her hand.
Starr turned, went back to her bedroom and bolted the room shut, its clanging sound, reverberating across his ears like thunder, as if it signaled something momentous, like the time when he had met her, and knew his life wouldn’t be the same again. Maybe, Starr was too good to be true, a passing phase of their relationship, where he lay between a friend and a potential life partner. Maybe, Sins had overstepped his mark. Maybe, he wasn’t as good as he thought himself to be, or maybe it just wasn’t to be in spite of all his sincere efforts. Maybe.
Sins settled down on the worn out sofa, a depreciating piece of furniture that had been used for activities strictly not meant for it with respect to the stress it had been subjected to for the last six weeks, a time that Sins would always harbour close to his heart because, for the first time in his life he had made an effort to understand someone else’s values, dreams and aspirations, and felt connected to it, so closely that it bought out feelings inside him that he had never known existed.
After fifteen minutes, Sins felt absolutely normal again. It seemed, like many times before, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, maybe he was guilty of hoping too much, expecting reciprocation too soon, maybe bordering pushy even, maybe. Maybe. He didn’t know. Maybe, it was a flaw that simply didn’t resonate with the people he sought to impress, personally or professionally.
Sins felt empty, bereft of emotion, as if he were a vessel to be filled and emptied from time to time, as and when required, and to be gotten rid off when the purpose had been served. If Starr rejected him, he would leave the city alone, taking the first flight out, heading towards the northern airports, trudging further north from there, seeking out the lush Himalayan valleys that lay strewn out, in all their majesty and splendour, radiating the sort of gaze that would feel calm and reassuring.
His mobile rang. It was the party president. Sins decided to answer, what was the most that could happen? Threatened to compensate his cowardice in exchange for silence, complicit due to him being a witness? Sure, Sins would agree to that deal.
He didn’t realize the enormity of the situation.
“Hello? Hi Sir, Sins here. To what do I owe the pleasure”
“Where are you?”, his voice was soft, quiet, completely against the sentiment that would be running among the party cadres now, bordering on hate and murder, a dreadful, testosterone driven machoism fueled by alcohol and substance usage, that would spill out onto the streets, like a tidal wave consisting of blood and fire.
“I’ve decided not to be part of the violence Sir. Its against my values and principles that I’ve always adhered to. Yes, we have been struck, but retaliation will only cause more worse repercussions which we aren’t capable of predicting yet. let’s not fall into this trap, I beseech you”
“Where are you?”, the man’s voice became quieter. Sins felt the oncoming of an intuition, that screamed at him to lie.
“I came back home”, Sins replied without changing his tone. “I had no purpose to be there. We still have time, let’s not do this. Waldo would never have wanted this”
“Waldo never wanted to be butchered as well”, the man’s voice raised so suddenly, that Sins could feel the sting of the venom that cast itself into the man’s tone. “Didn’t you see what they did to him, you sisterfucker! They cut open his stomach and poured sulfuric acid into it. And did they stop? No, you sisterfucker! Before doing the whole thing, they anesthetized him, chopped off his hands, made a video of it and sent it to his wife, who is still unconscious. If you have sympathy for such ghastly crimes, god help you my friend. Stay blessed”, the man hung up.
Sins was still lying in the same position on the stressed couch, when his mobile rang again in seven minutes. It was his neighbour, Kolt Simmer.
“Sins! Where are you!?”
“Hey Kolt. I’m outside, had a meeting. What’s up?”
“I saw a gang of men enter your home”
Sins froze. A cold chill spread throughout his body. Maybe, he had outlived his usefulness after all, now just someone to be gotten rid off, like his mentor before him. Did they suspect him for that or was it because he would later be dangerous as a witness? Probably both.
“Kolt, listen to me. I’m in danger. Don’t venture outside until and unless you feel you can avoid being seen, before doing so. They may question you about me. Say you don’t know me, Kolt. Please”, Sins was gripped by fear.
“Don’t worry. I’m out of sight, smoking a joint on the terrace”
Sins couldn’t help, but smile. The situation demanded so. Kolt was getting high, when a gang of men had come for his neighbour’s life. Here was a person, totally focused on the present, all his priorities encapsulated on himself. Kolt was a professional gamer, his days devoted to live streaming his in-game strategies to his ardent followers, his nights devoted to getting as high as possible with all his useless friends, useless in the sense that they possessed habits like inhaling coke off other humans’ body parts and participating in day long rave parties, their body metabolism seemingly adopted, flexible to experimenting with any chemical it was subjected to.
Sins had met Starr at one such rave party. Both of them had been drunk and ended up running their hands all over each other. Others across them were doing the same. Swaying vigorously to the beats, a fast paced Motorhead classic from the eighties, they had lip locked each other for a full ten minutes, hands on each other’s backs, content to feel the other on each other for as long as possible.
Starr was Kolt’s ex-girlfriend. They had been seven months strong before drifting apart like two persons, one dumb and the other deaf. Kolt Simmer was the most talented gamer in the country, and was commercially, exclusively represented by Sins. Last week, Sins had closed a deal for Kolt worth millions, a figure historic in the gaming industry. Sins had turned into an overnight legend, and had received networking calls from far and near, seeking an audience with him. One of them had been Waldo Simmer, Kolt’s father, the local politician, butchered in the morning.
Kolt hadn’t spoken to his father for seven years. He stayed separately and wasn’t involved in the family business of retailing apparel, footwear and a chain of fast food outlets that sold smoothies and beverages with burgers and pizzas.
“My father?”, Kolt sounded apprehensive. “What about my father?”
“I’m so sorry I’m having to give you this news, Kolt. I thought you would have heard of it online”
“Sins, relax”, Kolt sounded normal. Too normal. “Sins, his time had come”. Sins could feel Kolt smirking on the other side of the phone.
“Sins, I had my father killed. I take responsibility”
Sins almost dropped his mobile. Kolt Simmer, the most popular gamer in the country, a youth icon, had had his father killed? A father, who had been next in line to be party president? With a clout that extended all the way into the corridors of power in the North? No, it couldn’t be. And then, why was he in danger if Kolt had executed it all? Sins was his manager, the man who made him his gaming money!
“Kolt, I don’t understand”
“Sins, you’re so naive. You just can’t connect the dots, can you? Let me jog your memory. Do you remember the day my father cut me off from his will because he was disappointed I wasn’t interested to join his stupid business of clothes and shoes, which used cotton as the pre-dominant raw material, a crop that kills our farmers everyday?”
“Do you remember the day when my father opposed my proposal in public, of making marijuana legal in our state, quietly lobbying for the alcohol and tobacco companies, who raked their millions through destruction, and greased people like my father with it?”
“Do you remember that, in spite of having the power to do so, my father lobbied for the gaming industry to be severely regulated through taxing gaming events separately, because according to him ‘games aren’t part of our culture because these events corrupt our youth through indecent dressing senses and alien values’, when the fact was his own ministers are accused of rape and murder?”
“Then how could I tolerate him staying alive, a man as corrupt as his generation, the same generation who look down upon our generation as spoilt, entitled and good for nothing! So, I made a couple of calls and arranged for my father’s demise. Cool, right? The stupid party establishment think its his enemy from the opposition party, with whom he’s exchanged murder threats before quite openly, that’s responsible because I made sure the men who did the work belonged to him!”
Kolt sounded gleeful.
“Also, do you remember that day when Starr left me and you won her over a month later?”
“There’s a camera placed inside her house”
“You heard me. I can see you sitting on her sofa, the same one on which you guys fuck”
“Kolt, what’s happening?”, fear gripped Sins.
“Don’t worry Sins. Starr is absolutely fine. In fact, as we speak, she’s packing up a few bags. Are you guys planning to leave the city? Good choice”
Sins momentarily felt joy. Starr was going to surprise him. She would tell him yes. They would be together..forever. He felt tears welling up inside him. So much had happened since morning, he didn’t know what to feel anymore. All he cared about was, if he had Starr beside him, he could do anything. As long as she was there beside him.
“Can you live without her, Sins? For my sake?”
“Kolt, no. Please, what has she got to do with this?”
“Oh, everything. She has everything to do with all this. You’ve no clue, my friend. She’s the reason for these chain of recently occurred events that have been years in the making. Do you remember the day when Starr met us at one of the parties I hosted, and she puked inside the pool?”
“Well, that, my friend is where it all began. Starr is a double agent”
“She’s a double agent, an assassin”
“Kolt, what’re you saying?”
“Listen to me carefully. Get out of her house this instant. She’s packing to leave as well, she’ll kill you on her way out. You can’t thank or haunt me from the afterlife, if there exists one. So thank me later for saving your life”
Sins was too late. Starr’s bedroom door opened. She walked towards him with a suitcase, dressed in a matching suit. She was carrying a gun as well. Sins looked at it and felt the air inside him fizzle out, loosing all hope of life, the images of the imagined mountainous range flashing before his eyes, as he lay strewn on the sofa awaiting an imminent end. And to what fucking purpose? He was just a pawn, in a game that he didn’t even understand, a game for what fucking purpose? There was no peace in the world. Sins pitied all the characters he knew, in his life.
Starr looked at him and smiled, a radiant, bright smile that lit up Sins’ world. What a pitiful way to die, to be killed by the woman he wanted to marry and spend the rest of his life with around a picturesque snow-clad valley.
“Are you going to kill me? Why? I love you”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“No, let’s leave the city”
“Yes, my suitcase is packed. I’m ready to come with you. Are you?”
“Will you marry me?”
They got an Uber to take them to the airport. On the way, Starr filled him in with some details.
“I’m pregnant with our child”
Sins smiled. Starr took his arm.
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere”. They drifted into a steady, peaceful sleep.
Both of them didn’t notice the the black sedan tailing them, filled with three men, one of them was talking on his mobile.
“Both of them are together. I think they are going to the airport. Should we take them out? Personally, I think they won’t do any harm to us. They’re out of the game”
“Hmm”, wondered the party president.
“Sir? What do you want us to do?”
“Let them go. A couple of kids in love aren’t worth the effort. Turn around and return. We’ve to start the attack in thirty minutes”
Starr was stirring, he phone was ringing.
“Is he with you?”, asked the voice on the other line.
“Finish him, leave him in the car and return. I’ll assign you to another project. Sins’ chapter is to be closed off today”, the man on the other side hung up.
She had other plans. She looked at Sins’ face, caressing his face, illuminated slightly by the evening sun, with her nails, lovingly. He always made her feel special, she felt safe with him. She would not leave him, no matter what.
She made the decision.
Gathering her phone, dismantling it, including the gun, she chucked her handbag out of the car, towards the bushes that dotted the highway. Now, she was unreachable, and safe. One flight and they would be truly, completely free. She could hardly wait to begin her new life, in company of a man who adored her. She felt excited.
Four hours later, they found themselves in a small motel, hands roaming all over each other wildly, drunk out of their minds, not a care for anything else in the world other than themselves.