‘Move! Move! Move!’ The instructor screamed into the megaphone as the recruits whinged and crawled their way under the barbed wire with live fire going whizzing past their heads.
‘Remember this sound! This is the sound of AK-47! This is the weapon of choice of your enemies, of our enemies. And it makes a very distinctive sound.’ The instructor yelled as he watched one of the recruits duck to avoid getting his head blown off.
Yvet looked over his shoulder and looked at his buddy and smiled his gleeful smile.
‘You watch my six!’ Yvet grunted. The man grinned, showcasing his white teeth before the instructor kicked dirty water over the two.
‘Move! Move! Move!’
The two men trudged forward on their fours in water, mud and pig guts strewn over the barbed wires, to replicate human fatalities.
The man opened his eyes. The ceiling didn’t look familiar; neither did the smell of the place. It wasn’t a hospital - the smell was too floral and homely to be a hospital or a clinic.
‘Mummma!’ the man heard a shrill young boy’s voice ring out close to him and the sound of soft skin on the boys’ feet flopping stupidly over the marble floors.
The man tried turning his head around, but it hurt. He ran his hands over his torso, to gauge the extent of the damage. He was shirtless, his wound heavily bandaged.
His eyes rested on the flat screen television set and the souvenirs resting on top of it. Owl figurines, toy airplanes and a digital photo display. The pictures changed every five seconds. The pictures showed a happy family of three – Serious looking husband with a severe case of receding hairline, a pretty looking wife and a young boisterous son aged seven or eight. The sunlight
‘Ah! You are awake!’ The male voice boomed. The man saw a balloon dressed in khaki walking towards his cone of vision.
‘Dr. Sinha was fearing that you might die on her couch.’ The pot bellied man dressed in Khaki with the three stars on his lapel suggested that he was the man in charge, the fact that he spoke in what could be construed as English and was followed by the woman in the photos with a young boy in tow underlined the man’s suspicion. The woman and the boy kept their distance from the man and stayed plenty of feet behind the Inspector.
The man blinked as he grunted while trying to pull himself up against the armrest of the couch.
‘Shivu go inside!’ He heard the woman instruct the young boy. The boy held on tightly to the woman’s beige pants. From the look of the woman, she didn’t seem like she had any sleep in the last thirty six hours. The skin around her eyes was tight and dry.
‘The boy was the one who reported the flooding in your flat. He was also the one who found you bleeding on the bathroom floor’ the inspector explained, flashing his eyes. The man mentally took note of the name on the badge, ‘Hemant Gowda’.
‘Madam, if you could go inside, I would like to take his statement’ the inspector motioned to the woman and the boy towards their bedroom, breaking into his native tongue. The woman caught hold of the boy’s hand and turned her back on the man. The boy craned his neck and smiled an innocent smile which he found the man returning.
Inspector Hemant Gowda pulled forward one of the settees and sat at the edge of it. He surveyed the naked torso and the bloodied pants of the man laying on the couch.
‘You know, I have been hearing reports all day yesterday of some foreigner with green eyes, thin lips, short cropped hair asking about some stupid chain has been walking around and making a mess in my city.’ The inspector lowered his voice as he looked over his shoulders to ensure that Dr. Sinha and her son were away from earshot.
The inspector held out a maroon colored passport with the emblem of three lions and the British monarchy’s crown etched over its crown. If the man was smiling, his lips or his face didn’t show. It was clear that the cops had searched his place, but hadn’t found his stash of passports and emergency money stowed away behind the geyser in the bathroom.
‘Mr. Smith?’ The inspector studied the photograph glued inside the passport with skepticism.
‘I am sure that you are not going to be placing a complaint, nor are you going to aid us in our investigation to find out who was behind this dastardly attack. And I can bet that you wouldn’t know anything about this gun we found in your apartment either’ The inspector’s voice was low and conspiratorial, to avoid the accidental eavesdropping by Dr. Sinha.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about officer’ The man grunted as he clutched the bandaged wound on his gut.
‘You know, I knew you would say something like that. They show Hollywood movies dubbed in Kannada you know’ the inspector grinned glibly. ‘You know that auto driver you met yesterday?’ The inspector looked keenly the man’s face for any signs of recognition. There was none.
‘He would have been the one who spoke in English? Rajshekar?’ The inspector added, till his found the expression what he was looking for - dilated pupils and the ever so slight twitch of the eyebrows.
The inspector smiled before continuing, ‘He told me that he would be doing something stupid like this before he barged in with his men like some idiot. And when I asked him if he was stupid enough to leave behind a gun, he said that it was you who kneecapped two of his men before they got the better of you. Now, I can arrest you for that, but it brings too much attention. You will call your embassy and then the media will be involved. And the paper work… yabba! So much paper work’
The man raised his eyebrows, but looked on with a blank expression pasted on his face.
‘You see that ninety percent of autos in this city are owned by people like me and my bosses. So anything that happens to the drivers, then it becomes a personal matter.’ The inspector placed his hand over the man’s torso. The heel of his palm pressing hard over the blood stained gauze. The man winced as his neural pathways ignited with pain. The man grinned, which surprised the inspector.
‘You see you owe me and my men seventy thousand rupees. Let us just for damages’ The inspector took off his hand and wiped it on the bedsheet covering the man. ‘I wouldn’t be making this demand if I had found money stashed in your apartment. But we didn’t. And that puts me in a very awkward position.’ The inspector continued as he pulled up the bedsheet and covered the man’s bandages. ‘I will keep your passport for safekeeping, Mr. Smith, you shall get it back once you have repaid the money you owe me and apologized to my men. And with regards to the matter of the chain you been searching, I wouldn’t be so hopeful. In all likelihood, it would have been pawned off and then sold off. So you better call whoever you have to call to get me my money. You understand?’ The inspector concluded as he pushed back the settee and stood up, extending his hand with his visiting card. The man took the card and nodded. The inspector motioned to one of the constables to bring out Dr. Sinha and her son. The man nodded in response to the inspector’s implicit threat.
The man smiled at the boy who followed behind his mother. The boy reminded the man of the picture which was ensconced in one half of locket hanging on the gold chain.
‘Thank you Madam!’ The inspector spread his fat cheeks and contorted it to resemble a smile. ‘You really should have allowed Mr. Smith to be admitted to a hospital’.
‘It’s okay. I am just glad that he is alive.’ Dr. Sinha smiled feebly as she clutched her son’s shoulders tightly. With the awkward weight of silence hanging in the room, Inspector Hemant Gowda ushered his constable to vacate the premise.
‘Will call you soon with updates Mr. Smith’ The inspector called out as he stood outside the door. The man was sitting on the couch by now. There were questions he wanted answers to and he couldn’t ask them with the cop standing in front of the doorway with the glib smile pasted on his face.