“The food is kept there in the casserole,” Ipsita chucked the words in the air and went out, slamming the door behind her.
Rajarshi cast a hateful glance at his wife. He had never seen a sari worn in a raunchier style! And the prosthetic eye-lashes, the garish make-up, the purple lipstick, the weird hair-do…yuck! God knew exactly what her job was in that damned C.A farm that never had many clients and it was an even greater mystery why she was given such a handsome salary by her employer – that debauched old hag!
“Bitch!” Rajarshi grunted under his breath. He picked up his mobile phone and speed dialled a number. The other party took the call almost immediately as if the call had been awaited.
“Is it K.K?” Rajarshi asked.
“Yes boss,” a gruff, husky voice was heard.
“She has just gone out. Do it today itself. You have the photo, right?”
“No need boss. K.K does not forget the face of a beautiful woman, he he he...”
“Hmm, good. But the work has to be done anyhow. I just don’t want to see that woman back again!”
“She is gone! You can start preparations for her last rites! K.K never fails. And by the way, keep my balance payment ready – in cash. I will come to you in person with the good news, he he he...,” that lumpen guffaw sounded like music to Rajarshi at this moment!
“All the best. Bye.”
Rajarshi opened a steel almirah and took out a fat wad of currency notes. He kept the wad on the centre table. This was the remaining one-third of the total amount to be paid to K.K on successful completion of the assignment. After that, he made a large peg of whiskey for himself and tossed it down. Then he guzzled another medium sized peg. He prepared a third, and started taking little sips from it.
Though this K.K was a bigmouthed scoundrel, he was undoubtedly a gifted killer – Rajarshi tried to reassure himself and lit a cigarette. Never in the last four harrowing years of his life had he felt any better!
He was spewing rings of smoke circling his lips. The rings were getting bigger and thinner before disappearing against the white wall.
The whiskey was taking its effect. Rajarshi started feeling dizzy. He was looking at the white wall with inebriated eyes. Suddenly it seemed to him that he was seeing a series of passing scenes of a riveting movie caste over the wall by an invisible projector.
Scene 1: A marriage ceremony. A young couple were seated beside each other before the sacred fire, muttering marriage oaths as prompted by a smiling priest. The groom and the bridegroom were exchanging shy, fun-filled glances at each other. Both were evidently very happy.
Scene 2: A beautiful, snow covered mountainous place. A young man and a woman – a couple it seemed – clad in heavy winter garments, were throwing snow at each other. They were playing, giggling, running, jumping….
Scene 3: A maternity ward of a posh nursing home. A healthy baby had just been born. It was a daughter. The young father was insane with happiness. The mother, still lying on the bed, was proudly claiming that the baby ‘clearly’ acquired her features!
Scene 4: A happy threesome: an ethereal looking girl – about 6 years old – and a young woman – possibly her mother – were dancing around while a young man, evidently the father, was singing a Rabindra Sangeet “kothao amar hariye jaowar nei mana…”
Scene 5: A horrible scene of an accident. An expensive car, with its frontal portion severely mauled, stood in front of a big tree. The trunk of the tree was badly bruised, too. The blood-stained dead body of a little girl – about 6-7 years old – was being carried out by some people from the ruins of the car. Another person was being helped out of the driver seat – he appeared completely unhurt, by some strange freak of fate.
He could not understand the next few scenes properly as they appeared shadowy, grainy, and full of strange cacophonic sounds.
Then there was darkness.
“Gabhiro rajani namilo hridoye ar kolaholo nahi…” – the song, actually the ringtone of Rajarshi’s mobile phone, helped break his stupor. He came round with a jerk and found himself lying on the floor between the chair and the centre table. Like a mad man, he pounced on his mobile phone. There were 9 missed calls and a Whatsapp message from K.K. The message read, “Work done! J Pls stay home. I am coming.”
Rajarshi read the message once, twice, thrice – over and over again. Work done! …Work done! Ipsita had been eliminated! That witch…
Rajarshi discovered that he was not feeling happy, nor even relieved. Rather, he was being filled with a morbid emptiness. He had just got his wife slain by a contract killer! He had just proved Ipsita right. He was indeed a murderer. During these four years, Ipsita had relentlessly reminded him of a particular day and tormented him with a false accusation that was not false anymore.
The memory of that infernal day crashed on him once again. That day had destroyed his life beyond redemption.
Rajarshi was driving a car – their new Volkswagen Polo that had been bought just one and a half month back. Their only daughter Damayanti, their precious Tuli, was sitting beside him in the front seat. They were returning from a party and had already dropped Ipsita at her ailing father’s house. Rajarshi was heavily drunk. Ipsita had repeatedly forbidden him to drive but he did not listen. He would ram the car straight into a tree. The little Damayanti got killed right in the spot. Surprisingly, Rajarshi survived with only a minor scratch on his shoulder!
Ipsita never pardoned him. She held him squarely responsible for their daughter’s death. She had a peculiar theory about this accident too: Rajarshi apparently doubted that he might not be Damayanti’s real father and deliberately killed her. That he survived the tragedy unharmed helped Ipsita find credence for her bizarre theory. Rajarshi made desperate efforts to convince her that he never had any such suspicion and it was an accident, but her belief had already turned into a deep conviction.
The aftermath of the incident was even more traumatic. The devastated parents started living through hell. Besides bereavement, their relationship got completely crushed, all of a sudden. Ipsita had been a very different kind of a woman before. But she fell victim to a queer psychological warp. She decided to punish Rajarshi by polluting herself. She completely unleashed the good woman in her to hit a shocking moral low – only to teach her husband a lesson! Initially, Rajarshi tried his level best to bring her back but soon ran out of patience and interest. And just as vengeance always comes home to roost, it was Ipsita’s obnoxious life style that, in turn, raked up the monster in Rajarshi.
He remembered the scenes he had been hallucinating just before passing out. Though the faces of the characters were blurred, he could easily recognise the images as some reflections of his own life. This must be a conspiracy of his subconscious mind to organise that show just moments before his ultimate separation with Ipsita. But what did his subconscious mind actually want?
Rajarshi’s head sunk in despair. He felt a tempest of grief brewing inside him. It was too late. It was just too late! The “work” had already been “done”! Ipsita was no more. Four years after killing his own daughter – although inadvertently, Rajarshi had today killed his wife!
But how would he survive after this? How would he live in this world with such stigma? Even if he got away with the law, how would he come to terms with his own conscience? Ironically, such thought had never occurred to him when he was planning to get Ipsita bumped off.
No. He would not live. He would have to meet his daughter and wife as soon as possible – he had to make amends for the mistakes he committed on this side of death!
K.K entered the dark room.
“Boss! It’s K.K.”
“Switch on the light. Second from left.”
K.K hovered a little, then found the right switch. The room got lit up.
Rajarshi was sitting glum on the other side of the centre table. There was no sign of smile on his face. K.K was little surprised. However, he did not fail to notice two bunches of notes kept on the table. He pulled a chair and sat facing Rajarshi.
“I have done it, boss. See!” He showed Rajarshi a few photographs of a dead Ipsita on his mobile phone. Rajarshi squinted and covered his eyes with two palms. K.K said to himself in his own mind, “These fools don’t even know what they actually want! Damn!”
“Here is your money,” Rajarshi shoved one bundle towards K.K.
“Oh thanks,” K.K picked it up with a grin and put it in his black side bag.
Rajarshi pointed at the other wad of notes and said very wryly, “This is also for you K.K. You have to do another work for me, please.”
“Yes. You have to kill me, too! I don’t want to live further.”
K.K took some time to realise, then burst into a boisterous laughter,
“Ha…ha…ha…you people are priceless, by god! Ho….ho…ho…”
“What’s so funny about it?” Rajarshi frowned. For the first time, he found this man repulsive.
K.K took up a bottle full of water and emptied it in no time. Then he pulled the chair close to Rajarshi. K.K was not smiling any more, rather wearing a rock-hard expression. His eyes were piercing through Rajarshi.
“I have got a little story to tell you, Rajarshi sir. Listen carefully. This particular assignment, I mean the one of killing your wife, turned out to be the easiest job in my entire career of contract killing. You know why?”
“Because this was the first case where I did not have to find out the target, rather the target found me out!”
“What do you mean?”
“You called me in the morning, at around 10:30 am, right? Just after we hung up, I received another call from an unknown number. Do you know who it was?”
“Who?” Rajarshi held back his breath.
“Your wife! Yes, Ipsita madam!” K.K lit up a cigarette and leaned back in the chair, his stares fixed on Rajarshi’s face.
“Ipsita called you? Ipsita?” Rajarshi almost fell from his chair.
“Yes. God knows how she got my number. She asked me to meet her at a particular place. And I met her. I admit, I was no less surprised than you are now. Can you imagine why she wanted to meet me?” K.K gave a deliberate pause.
Rajarshi was too astonished to comment, or ask anything.
K.K said with a straight face, “She gave me a contract to kill you.”
Rajarshi did not react, for he had already started guessing it. He was just feeling a deadly fatigue.
“It was a good twist, no boss? That is not all. She was saying many more things which I could not realise properly or maybe I cannot understand people of your class, rather. What I understood was that she wanted to take a revenge on you. But she was another crack, just like you. She said that she would not be able to live after your death, so she gave me a second contract. That was to kill her, before killing you!” K.K paused to drink some water and said, “What a couple you were! I shall dedicate a full chapter to you two should I ever write my autobiography, I swear!”
Rajarshi looked on, without any expression or emotion.
“She gave me two full payments – one for killing you, the other for killing her. And she also gave me this chocolate for my daughter. I think my daughter is about your daughter’s age. See the difference. You always talked business with me and never bothered to ask about my family etc. But madam was so gentle, so cordial! In fact, I was really feeling bad when I shot her! And she took only a single bullet to die – so sensible of her! Bullets are quite expensive nowadays, you know. Such a good client!” K.K nodded in admiration, with a very serious face. He had already taken out a 9 mm pistol and a loaded magazine from his black leather bag. With a gentle push, he inserted the magazine into the pistol’s handle. “Now boss, it’s your time! Please be considerate like your wife and be happy with only one bullet, right?” K.K trained his pistol at Rajarshi and pulled the hammer with his thumb.
Rajarshi raised his hand, “Just one minute K.K. Did you tell her that I had sent you to kill her?”
“No, I didn’t. But I should have, like now I have told you everything.”
“Thank you so much. By the way, what’s the name of your daughter?”
“Akanksha, we call her Titli. Why?” K.K’s voice trembled a bit.
“No, just asked. Please give her my blessings, love and best wishes. Now please shoot me,” Rajarshi said with a smile. Then he laughed. He laughed his heart out. He laughed so heartily for the first time – and the last time as well – in the last four years.
K.K pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced through the left side of Rajarshi’s chest and hit the opposite wall. K.K stooped over Rajarshi’s fallen body to check whether he was really dead. “Good,” K.K exclaimed and picked up the second bunch of notes from the table.
“What an assignment this was! Got four payments for killing just two people! Now I can safely take my Titli to Vellore for the treatment.”
The happy father got out of the house, humming a popular Hindi film song.