The gun felt uncomfortable in the boy’s hands because the weapon was heavy and strange. And in the hands of a boy who usually spent his time working on the computer, the gun actually felt weird.
The boy had tears in his eyes as he remembered how many years back his father had reluctantly taught him to use the weapon. And that was just because the boy had pestered his father repeatedly. His father had been unwilling at first, but then his father could never refuse him anything. His father. The man who had raised him. The man who was now lying dead in the hospital, with a bullet wound.
And from his car, the boy saw the man whom he was following had got out of his car. And for a second the boy gasped. Because the man who got out of the car was a small man, with twinkling gray eyes and thick wavy hair. Nothing about the man stood out exceptionally. And the man did not see anything around him as he walked towards the seedy hotel. Admittedly, there was nothing to see at one o’clock, in the night. Nothing at all, except for a boy in his late teens with a raging heart and a loaded gun.
The man walked inside the hotel. There, the man woke up the sleepy hotel manager and a few minutes later, the man walked inside as the boy lost sight of the man.
From his car, the boy saw lights of a room in the first floor of the hotel come up and could see the silhouette of the man inside the room.
The boy was shaken out of his reverie as another car honked loudly from behind and drove inside the parking of the hotel.
The light in the first floor hotel room was on for a few seconds and then there was darkness.
A cold darkness.
The man was sleeping peacefully after what he had done, the boy thought savagely as he pulled the gun and slipped it inside his pocket because he honestly did not know where else he was supposed to keep the gun. For a brief second, the boy wondered who the man he was going to kill, really was. Because his father had never told him that. “I work for a man with many names. Considering what we do for a living it is necessary. But I work for him because he respects life. He does not believe in violence and does not keep weapons at all. Because he believes that weapons take away life – An act that can never be undone.” Despite what his father did for a living, the boy’s father was never frivolous about life. In fact the boy had never even heard his father talk about life or death.
And this man was responsible for killing my father, the boy thought angrily as he pulled on the muffler he had brought from his home and put on his gloves, as he got out of the car. He saw that the man's room in the first floor could be reached by jumping on the parapet.
And the foolish man inside the hotel room, had kept his window open, the boy thought as he walked towards the side of the hotel not noticing the basic fact that no one seemed to have gotten out of the other car which had come inside after the boy had come inside the hotel.
The man inside the first floor hotel room, went by many names, but today he was just plain, old Shyam Karthick. No one knew whether that was his real name. But for today that was his name.
Shyam pushed the window open as he heard the noise from below. He then walked towards the bed and was lying on it. Shyam was thinking about who it could be. There was something about this job. Right from the time, Hari had approached him giving him information about the stone in the museum, to the actual steal, today. Something was just not going right and Shyam could not believe that the scrap with the cops today was just because the breaks went against them.
Shyam heard someone climb inside his window.
“Don’t make any stupid moves,” The boy snarled as he came very close to Shyam.
Despite the muffler and the gloves, it took less than a second for Shyam to know that his assailant was a boy. And a terrified one at that. The boy pulled out the trembling gun and pointed it at Shyam’s forehead.
“You have five seconds to say goodbye to your pathetic life,” The boy said stuttering badly. The gun in the hands of the boy shook even worse as the boy yelled, “Five seconds to reflect on your pathetic life,” the boy repeated savagely.
“Five.” The boy said adjusting the weapon to point it at Shyam.
“Four.” The boy continued his voice trembled even worse.
“Have you ever even used the gun before?” Shyam asked the boy. “And how do you have this gun?” Shyam asked again as he saw the weapon in the dim light.
The boy’s grip on the weapon tightened as his hands were shaking even worse. “SHUT UP,” the boy yelled and the man wondered whether the boy was going to pull the trigger out of fear. “SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” The boy swore angrily but looked incapable of pulling the trigger.
Shyam smiled mirthlessly. “It would really help if you remove the safety catch from the gun.” He said.
The gun shook dangerously as Shyam got up from the bed in a swift movement and stepped forward as the gun moved in an arc crossing him. The man hit the back of the gloved hands real hard.
The boy let the gun go, almost shouting in pain as the gun fell with a clatter. Shyam kicked the gun away from the boy.
Other than a ragged breathing and panting from the boy, nothing was heard from the room.
“Why do you want to kill me, Arpit?” Shyam asked.
The boy nearly bolted away from the room, whimpering half in rage and half in fear. Arpit seemed to realize the utter futility in the hood and nearly ripped it off as he stared at the man in front of him.
Shyam stared at the fresh face of the boy in his late teens with the mad, popping black eyes who was panting hard and felt a stab of pity for the boy. And somewhere in some corner of Shyam’s mind it registered that the boy looked exactly like Prasad.
And then Shyam was suddenly scared. Not a twitch in Shyam’s face betrayed what he was feeling. But Shyam was beginning to get very scared. He had known he was being followed. But Shyam did not know by whom or for what. Now seeing that it was Prasad’s boy who was following him, Shyam was worried.
The boy swiped angrily and honestly the punch was not even anywhere aimed at Shyam. Shyam did not even bother catching the punch as he bent down and kicked the boy hard on the feet. The boy did not even know what hit him as he collapsed on the floor.
“Stay down!” Shyam said as he was getting up as he saw the boy. “I know that you have a knife in your back pocket. Please do not use it and just tell me how you managed to track me!” Shyam said urgently.
“HE DIED,” Arpit yelled in rage, cutting back a sobbing breath. “My dad died,” Arpit screamed trying to get up and falling hard because he was actually crying. “Because you left him to die,” the boy whispered in a hoarse voice, staring at the floor angrily, thumping his hands hard on the ground.
And the news hit Shyam real hard. For the first time, a look of profound sadness passed Shyam’s face.
Shyam did not have many friends. With the kind of life the man led, that was a necessity. But the boy’s father – Prasad, was a friend. A really good friend.
Shyam studied the boy before him and suddenly remembered how Prasad never stopped talking about his son. Arpit was his father’s pride and joy – the boy who was a topper in class and had managed to get employment in one of the biggest firm in the city. The very same boy who was now before Shyam with a gun in his hands out to kill him.
Shyam was thinking hard about the things which happened an hour back, when he had dropped Prasad back at Prasad’s house, after that very dangerous steal at the museum. It was dangerous because the cops had almost got on to them. Shyam was worried about the quickness with which the cops had operated, which was why Shyam had asked Prasad to stay low for a few days. Shyam was driving away from the city, when he had realized that he was being followed. Hence the detour to this hotel. This hotel was definitely not the top ten of Shyam’s favourite places, but it had its uses and Shyam used this hotel specially for contingencies like this. And with all this, Shyam could not understand how the boy had managed to track him. Prasad was very firm on keeping his personal and professional life separate.
“Who told you about me?” Shyam asked in a slight whisper as he was focusing on hearing. It was important right now.
“Dad never told me about you,” Arpit said talking to himself in a small voice. “He said that there was a man who always called him for small jobs here and there and after every job, dad had a lot of money. But then today when I was walking out of the hospital, I overheard three people who had come to see my dad. They were talking to each other that you were the one who hired my dad for jobs and that you were responsible for killing my father. They were talking that you come to this place in times like this,“ The boy said letting out a shuddering breath.
“Get up,” Shyam said as he pulled the boy up. Arpit felt something heavy drop in his jacket as Shyam pulled him up roughly. “Window!” Shyam said pointing at the window behind him. “We are in the first floor. I want you to jump out of the window and go onto the parapet and down to the ground floor and then keep walking. If you have come by your vehicle, get inside and drive away. Away from the hotel. As far away as possible,” Shyam told the boy.
“What?” Arpit asked the man, shocked and angry.
“Climb out the way you came, boy,” Shyam snarled angrily. The boy was looking blankly as Shyam saw him sharply. “Do you understand?” Shyam demanded.
Arpit shook his head looking slightly less angry but more confused.
“I am a thief,” Shyam told the boy, “And whether you believe it or not, your father is a friend. One of the best friends I had.” Shyam shook his head. “I would never hurt him. After our work today, he was fine and I got him home and asked your dad to lay low.”
Arpit snorted angrily as Shyam ignored the slight throbbing in his hands where he was hurt just an hour back, when he and Prasad were trying to escape the police. “I had a feeling that we were betrayed and I wanted to figure things out,” Shyam continued.
Arpit shook his head angrily as Shyam continued. “Your father was evidently followed.”
The boy shook his head again, refusing to believe Shyam.
“I knew you were following me for the past half an hour.” Arpit watched Shyam and looking at Shyam’s piercing gray eyes, it was impossible not to believe Shyam. “I came into this place because I wanted to see who you were and..." Shyam picked up the gun from the floor and pointed it at the door.
The door burst open.
The boy whimpered falling back, nearly screaming, as Shyam nodded his head studying the people who had come inside the room.
“...And because you were followed.” Shyam told Arpit, as inside the room came three men looking huge and they had three very big guns in their hands. Really big guns. And all of them were pointing at Shyam. Arpit definitely did not notice that Shyam had stepped in front of him almost as if making sure that the new comers did not notice the boy.
No one even noticed Arpit, who was looking stunned and numb. But Arpit knew the three people. They were the people whom he had overheard in the hospital.
“You were supposed to kill the boy!” the person in the middle told Shyam. The speaker was Hari, a security guard working in a museum. And the two people near him were big, stupid and someone whom Shyam did not even waste time studying.
“I am a thief, Hari” Shyam said sharply. “Not a killer.”
“You and your morals,” Hari, said almost grumbling. But then Hari grinned. “I guess your morals are what helped us now. It was so easy to make the boy believe that you were the one who killed his father.”
Hari pointed the gun at Shyam. “Do not waste my time, Shyam, or whatever it is you are calling yourself now. Where is the stone?” Hari asked Shyam in a sharp voice.
“What stone?” Shyam asked softly. “The one for which you killed Prasad?”
Hari saw Shyam with a little anger and Hari waved his gun a little sharply nearly ramming the gun at Shyam’s face. “Where is it?” Hari asked in angrily. “And if you don’t tell me, I will kill the boy,” Hari said with a cold smile.
Shyam Karthick smiled mirthlessly, “Do you know why I chose this place to come to?” Shyam asked as he pushed the gun to a side.
There was a slight frown in Hari’s face.
The door behind Hari opened again.
“Boys, there is a really big gun pointed at all three of you!” The voice from behind, told them. “And I really don't miss!”
One of the men near Hari turned, as there was a slight “pfft” and the man who had turned winced, gasped and fell down clutching his bloodied shoulder.
Arpit was whimpering and groaning as neither Shyam nor Hari even noticed it. Hari pulled his hands up and so did the other unhurt person near him, just to show that they were unarmed.
“Any one else is feeling like dancing?” The voice continued as Hari and the other men stood like statues.
“Don't hurt the boy!” Shyam told Chirak, the hotel manager whom Shyam had met downstairs and who was having the gun in his hands. “The boy is innocent and knows nothing!” Shyam said as he came forward studying the men.
“Chirak, all of them are armed and I do not want to frisk them,” Shyam told the manager.
“Why?” Chirak asked confused.
“One of their weapon could be a murder weapon,” Shyam said. “And I do not want my fingerprints anywhere on it.”
Chirak gasped and then stared at Shyam, “Prasad?” Chirak asked as Arpit moaned unable to stop sobbing. Shyam nodded.
“I am going to kill them!” Chirak said angrily cocking the gun in his hands.
“Don't be a fool!” Shyam blazed angrily. “Make sure the cops know of this,” Shyam said as Chirak nodded reluctantly. Chirak held his gun more tightly as Shyam pulled out a cell phone from his hands and put it in Chirak’s pocket. “That cell phone is untraceable. Call the cops and get rid of the phone.” Shyam said as Chirak nodded.
“I just want the stone!” Hari mumbled whispering, “I was the one who came to you telling you about the stone!” Hari said with open hatred and anger. “I just wanted it.”
“Didn't you learn sharing when you were younger?” Shyam asked Hari. “We all worked for it. I planned to get the stone out! Prasad got us inside the museum. We all worked together,” Shyam shrugged. “We all could have shared the proceeds!” Shyam said.
“It is mine,” Hari said snarling. “All mine!”
“Me and Prasad were practically ambushed by the cops, Hari,” Shyam said viciously. “The cops knew we were coming. And it was not me and it could not be Prasad. So how could the cops know our plan?” Shyam asked with a cold smile on his face. And a part of Shyam noted that there was movement behind him. That meant that Arpit had used the window and was out of the room.
Hari was slightly scared as Shyam nodded, “It had to be you and you killed Prasad, when he did not tell you where the stone was!” Shyam said with cold anger in his face. “And you made sure the boy overheard you! You knew I do not hurt people unnecessarily. You figured the boy would lead you to me!” Shyam said with cold anger
“I..it… is just business,” Hari said with frightened eyes.
“I am a thief, Hari. I don't mess with people's lives. And I definitely don't betray people!” Shyam repeated. “But for you I am willing to make an exception. Just remember that if you walk out of prison alive, that would be the last day of your life. Because that would be the day that I will hunt you down and kill you,” Shyam told Hari, with a cold smile. “And nobody will be there to avenge your deaths. Not one person,” Shyam declared as Hari’s face paled.
“Where is the stone, boss?” Chirak asked Shyam, as he pulled out handcuffs from his pocket.
“Safe!” Shyam said as Chirak cuffed the three men behind their back as Shyam kept a watch on them. “You will get your share in the morning!” Shyam declared as he walked out of the room.
Shyam turned to the hotel owner, “Make sure you are clear when the cops arrest them,” Shyam said closing the door behind him. “And don’t drag the name of the hotel anywhere during the arrest.”
The last was a very useless piece of information because Shyam knew that Chirak was very careful in that regard. That was one of the reasons, the hotel was still running.
Shyam took a deep breath as he was walking down the stairs.
And that was when Shyam found the boy huddled in the lounge of the hotel looking incapable of moving. Shyam felt very sorry for the boy as he walked towards him. “Come, Arpit! I will drop you home,” Shyam told the boy.
Arpit shook his head trembling. “I don't want to go home,” Arpit said struggling not to cry. “I want my dad.”
“Come, I will drive you around,” Shyam said unhappily.
Listlessly, the boy followed Shyam as they got inside Shyam’s car, forgetting Arpit’s car. Arpit was silent as Shyam started the vehicle.
“Your father was a good man, kid!” Shyam told the boy, “And he is one of my best friends!”
Arpit said nothing. They passed a police van which Shyam studiously ignored. The boy was watching the police van go towards the hotel frowning. But Arpit still said nothing.
There was complete silence in the van as both the man and the boy were lost in their own thoughts. Both grieving.
“You have known dad for long?” Arpit asked after some time.
Shyam nodded, not elaborating.
“Sorry,” the boy said in a voice which sounded like he had cold. “Dad told me what he did for a living, because I kept asking. But he never told me anything else. When I heard those men in the hospital, I was filled with rage. Blind rage,” the boy said sobbing. “I thought that my dad had worked for you his whole life and you just betrayed him!” Arpit said breaking down crying.
Shyam said nothing. But he did realize why Prasad loved his son so much. Shyam was feeling a dull ache in his heart but he said nothing as he stopped the car in the side of the road.
“I am so sorry, I tried to kill you,” the boy told him, hiccuping a sob. “ I was mad with anger. I went home and got dad's gun and I wanted to shoot you,” the boy wept again.
“Your father enjoyed his work. But he never wanted you to come close to it,” Shyam told the boy. “He loved you. You were the reason he took up the jobs, I gave him. He wanted you to have everything that he did not have!” Shyam said as the boy wept again.
As the night went on, Shyam talked to the boy as he was driving. Shyam told him how he and Prasad had been childhood friends and how he had always been a thief. And by the end of a few hours the boy was beginning to look slightly less morose.
“Hari approached me for robbing the museum!” Shyam told the boy. “I was not too keen but Prasad wanted to do it!” Shyam looked sad, “So I planned it!”
“Where is the stone?” Arpit asked. “They thought my dad had it,” Arpit shook his head. “It was not there with him.”
“Safest place I know!” Shyam said with a small grin.
Arpit frowned as Shyam put his hands inside Arpit’s jacket and pulled out a shining beautiful emerald from it. “I had it with me when you attacked me,” Shyam said with a smile as the boy was watching the stone shocked.
“You could get out of that room alive,” Shyam said, “I was not too hopeful of my own chances! Besides I want you to have it!” Shyam told the boy as the boy saw the sparkling stone, words completely failing him.