Karan turned as he was walking and that was when he realized that his suit was horrible. After that really messed up meeting where the tables had turned on him so badly, Karan had no recollection of even walking out of the hotel. He was numb with shock. His own people and they had just got rid of him. Just like that. If this was what they were going to do, they need not have invited him at all. They could have just removed from the company, without even having to call him to the meeting. But still they called him in. Just to rub it in. And now he was no longer the MD of Informatics. His company...No more.
Karan honestly did not even remember that he had come to the hotel in his own car and had just kept walking out of the hotel.
He had walked for a very long time and the walk seemed to calm him. Calm him from the shame of having attended that meeting.
And after walking for so long, it was only now that Karan realized that existence of other people in the planet besides him. Agreed that he was a long way from calm, but at least he was beginning to think. And that was always a start.
It was a few seconds later that Karan realized that he had heard someone else speak to him.
He turned and stared....Stared blankly.
Standing before him was an skimpily dressed woman with far too much make up. There was probably a time when the woman looked beautiful even without the make up, but right now, it was hard to tell. Her eyes had that hard tough look which only years of living on the streets and surviving could get and she looked like an extremely tough cookie. A woman who had seen human nature at its worst, endured it and was right now in a position to even handle it well.
"You look like a man who has had a rough night and looking for some company," the woman said as she realized that she had the attention of the man who had been walking haphazardly until a few seconds back.
"Who are you?" Karan asked. Even in that numb state of mind, Karan really did not need his wits to know what the woman was. Karan looked around and realized that he had walked close to a few kilometers and he had not even known about it. He was in the older, worse part of the city. The one that people like himself usually did not even try stepping into.
People like himself.... Karan was having a dry feeling wondering whether he could even consider himself a part of that group. After all, they had taken away his company from him. He had nothing left now. He had invested everything in his company. That was his dream. And it was gone. In a second.
But even as he spoke, the practical side of Karan, which was not feeling sorry for him, was taking over. He had not risen to what he had been by not having an ounce of common sense. He had it. Plenty of it. Just that right now, the breaks went against him.
And right now, Karan was practical enough to pay attention to note the way the woman was dressed, her coarse tongue, the fact that he had left his cell phone at the hotel and that it was almost past mid night and that the street that he was in, was dark...All these realizations were making Karan steadily scared.
"No one has ever asked me who I am!" The woman said as she gave a rough laugh. "And if it bothers you so much, you can pick a name for me."
Karan stared and wondered why he was feeling so sorry for the woman. He shook his head trying to think. "I need to be getting back," Karan said turning and looked at the road, wondering which way he had to walk to get back home.
"To what? You don't look like a man who has anyone to talk to," The woman said.
"THAT'S NOT TRUE!" Karan shouted suddenly, feeling an unnatural anger build up inside him. You have no one to talk to..... What the hell did that woman know about him? Or what rights did the damned woman have to talk about him?
"Ok." She shrugged. His anger did not seem to bother her. "I spoke because I thought that some company could do well for you," She said running an appraising eye over him.
"My family is waiting for me!" Karan said seething angrily.
She laughed and shrugged. "If you want me to believe that, I will," She said rolling her eyes.
"Leave me alone, please." Karan said and he was really pleading now.
"Fine," The woman said shrugging looking disappointed. "The main road is three kilometers to the right." She said turning away from there.
Three what? Karan was numb with shock as the words of the woman made its way to his brain. Karan looked behind and saw the dark road and real fear gripped him. He did not know why. But he was afraid. For the first time in his life, Karan realized that he was not too sure he could make it back to the main road...safely....
He looked at the woman and willed himself to control his revulsion and his fear. "Here," Karan said pulling out his wallet and taking half the money from the purse and held it out to her. "Take it," He said in a hoarse voice.
The woman turned and she saw the money and then a smug expression came to her face. "People always come around," She told him, shaking her head.
Karan nearly winced as he looked at the woman, "No, you don't understand," he stammered, "Escort me till the main road and you get the rest." Karan promised her.
The woman came forward and there was instant suspicion in her face, which made her face go almost hard. "I need half the money now," She said in a sullen tone. "And no weird stuff," She said. "And I definitely don't do drugs. And..." She saw him as Karan felt her study him thoroughly. "You a copper?" She demanded suddenly hostile.
Karan swallowed painfully and shook his head. "No, I am no cop," Karan said willing that the woman would believe him.
She took the money and looked at him still suspicious and in the dim street light, she even checked the notes as Karan looked around the place.
Now that he saw the place, he could see more people lurking in the shadows. And Karan's fear suddenly heightened, as he was wondering what was really happening to him.
She seemed completely oblivious to the entire surrounding as she seemed satisfied with the genuineness of the money.
"These days you just can't be sure anymore," She told him as she walked near him, leading him right.
She caught his hands as Karan pushed himself back, wiggling out her grasp. "Touchy customer," She muttered rolling her eyes and started walking right.
Karan took a deep breath, trying to calm himself as he followed the woman telling himself to ignore the cheap perfume of the woman which was making him nauseous.
They had walked for two to three minutes and Karan thought he heard some faint wailing from one of the buildings. Almost as a reflex he turned trying to locate the sound. The lady's grip on his hands were so strong that Karan winced, pushing himself back.
"Keep to your business and do not interfere in stuff you don't understand!" She hissed angrily in his ears as the wailing continued. "Just walk!" She said angrily pushing Karan ahead. Karan saw her give an angry look at one of the buildings as she was muttering something vile under her breath as she kept walking and still clutched his hands tightly. Her grip told him something that he already knew. She was very angry.
Karan swallowed painfully pointing back and caught up with the woman and was about to ask her something when she stopped suddenly looking ahead.
She swore viciously, pushing Karan hard against the wall behind, while making sure that they were completely hidden in the shadows.
And Karan found himself too close to the woman. Far more close than he could even tolerate. "HEY," He yelled. "JUST.."
"SHUT UP!" The woman sneered angrily, clamping his mouth. "What sort of idiot son did your father raise?" She demanded. "Rik is coming this way." She told him in the same whispering voice. "He seems drunk. You wouldn't want to meet that bastard right now," She told him. She muttered a lot of other words which Karan had been taught never to even think. Saying it was quiet some other thing.
And Karan was completely going to freak out and run away from the place. For heaven's sake, he was lost and needed to get home. Not have a crash course in what seemed like every single word which had never made it to any dictionary in any part of the world.
Karan never got around to saying anything. From the shadows emerged what was a huge boulder. The fact that it was moving, told Karan that it could not be a boulder.
As his vision adjusted to the dark, Karan realized that it was a man. A man built to what seemed to be gigantic proportions. Karan was no small guy but right then, Karan felt like a pygmy. The person whoever it was, was huge, which was probably an understatement.
"Don't talk," The woman hissed at Karan angrily.
Karan nodded fervently wishing that the woman just removed her hand from his mouth as the woman looked something close to disgust at him and let him go.
Rik, whoever he was, went away without noticing them and honestly Karan was struggling to get his breath out as he saw the boulder guy rumble across the road.
"Can we go now?" Karan asked getting out a shaky breath.
The woman nodded and that was when they heard a slight sound.
Karan saw a car vrooming silently through the streets and strangely the car had no headlights. The streetlights from the other side was shining the light on the inmates of the car as the car passed them.
Karan almost winced as the woman shrieked in a whisper and let lose a barrage of insults most of which Karan did not even know.
"What are the coppers doing here?" She demanded angrily as she saw the car moving across. She swore again in what seemed like every single horrible word ever known and suddenly she stopped as she looked at Karan suspiciously. "You lied, didn't you?" She demanded snarling angrily pushing Karan back hard as his head thudded painfully against the wall.
Karan winced and groaned as he fell down. Even as he fell down, Karan was filled with an intense fear. Some survival instinct in his head was activated as he realized that the woman thought that he had something to do with the people in the jeep.
"No," Karan gasped as he was clutching his head hard as his vision was blurring badly. "Please, believe me," Karan croaked as he could make out her outline as she again raised her hands looking to slap Karan.
Strangely the woman stopped as Karan pushed himself back haphazardly, trying to avoid her slap.
"You really have no idea, do you?" She asked as Karan was trying not to throw up as he was leaning heavily against the wall, struggling not to tremble.
"No," Karan said dully. His head felt like it had been cracked open and he could not focus on anything.
The woman swore angrily as her red lips almost went a darker shade. Karan was groping in the dark hoping his head would stop hurting as he was struggling to focus on the woman. That was when the woman swore again. "I am sorry," She said gruffly. "Didn't know you were such a pussy." She said as she helped him up. "Let's get you some place safe. The cops must have come for Rik." The woman studied the dark streets again. "If we are here, the damned street is going to be ablaze in an hour. Very unhealthy for watchers," She said in a philosophical voice, as Karan was leaning heavily on her as she was leading him away from the place. "And if the cops do get you, they will just close the case against you claiming you were a criminal," She finished as she was walking slowly helping him up.
"I wanna go home," Karan said swallowing painfully. He needed some painkillers, a bath and some sleep. Then he would know for sure that all this was just a horrible nightmare which he had concocted when he lost his mind after losing his company.
For the first time, the woman laughed softly but that did not take away the contempt in her voice. "You really have no idea about the real world, do you?" The woman asked him as she never stopped walking. "We don't wear suits and shirt and speak in a rich way like you do," She said in a sneering voice. "We survive here. We keep our eyes open and try not to die. That is all."