February 14, 2014

"Happy Valentine's Day, Love"

14th February was less than 2 hours away. Naina was going to raped and killed. She knew that well by now. She was just grateful they hadn't touched her yet.  She could hear them laughing and hooting, as the animals had found their prey for tonight. She guessed there were 4 people in the jeep that was running fast into the jungles. 4 men, who were going to rip her apart soon. But she didn't know what to feel. She had stopped crying and screaming for help. It was clear now that no one was coming for help in the deep dark jungles of Assam. Even her captors had tied her hands and legs but did not bother to gag her. The trees and snakes and occasional leopards weren't going to be her savior. She just wanted the inevitable to happen now, so that she could die and be done with all this.

She tried to remember, what she was doing here thousands of Kms away from her home in Bangalore. She had come here for a little vacation with her friends. Her 'normal' friends. Friends who wouldn't be so stupid to stray away from the camp at night, when you cannot see anything. 

She just wanted to 'see' them one last time, so that they could deliver her message to her uncle - "Sorry Ammana". She didn't have a mother and father. They had left her an abundance of money, but what she wanted the most was them. Her Uncle was both her Amma and Nana now.

They had all come here to celebrate Valentine's Day. Of course she didn't have a lover. Who would love Naina? But she thought if she could just stay close to the couples in love, may be she would feel loved herself. Besides she just wanted to get out of home for the first time in so many years, and feel the fresh air. Her uncle tried to persuade her, almost pleaded to not go with her friends all by her own. He even offered to take her some place "better" (she knew he meant "safer") on a family vacation. But she was 22 now. She felt she was entitled to be independent. Even though, her uncle didn't feel so, she was confident she could take care of herself. And who wants to go on a family vacation when you are 22?

The jeep stops after jumping up and down the barren tracks of the jungle. From the smell and breeze she sensed that they were near some kind of lake. The men get out of the jeep and start talking something. They were probably deciding "their turns". They had been saying a lot of things to each other all through the road, but she couldn't understand a word. It was their local dialect. They were most probably tribal people who had come to their favorite adda.

After a while they stop talking and start unloading the 'package'. She starts crying again, desperately pleading them to let her go. She even tries to speak in her broken Hindi, hoping against hope that they might understand. One of them gives 3 tight slaps on her face, and kicks her on the abdomen and orders her to shut up. Two of them start dragging her from her hands while 2 others walk behind spitting at her. The path was full of gravels, and Naina was hurting, but who cared?

After dragging her for about half a KM, they throw her in a shallow pit. Naina understood they were going to dump her body in the same pit after they were done with her. She was going to be raped in her own future grave. Naina won't stop shrieking, trying somehow to get out of that muddy pit. And they all were laughing uncontrollably, enjoying her struggle.

"THUUUUDDDDD". 

Suddenly a loud echoing noise and one of the men was down on earth. Before anyone could understand, another loud noise and another man was smelling the soil. The other two started running in one direction screaming like mad. Two more sounds and everything was silent now. 

Naina was scared. She did not know what was going on. It was a full moon night, but she could not see anything. It was dark for her. Very dark...

There was silence everywhere now. No more laughing, no more chiding, no spitting on her. But she was too afraid to move. She lay there waiting for someone to come save her.

After about 5 mins, Naina hears some footsteps approaching her. Her heart starts beating loudly. Did the men return. No, no, they were dead. Then who was coming? Who was coming? She starts crying again. 

The sound of footsteps stop after a few seconds. "Who's there?", a deep husky voice penetrates the silence.

"Please don't hurt me, please. I want to go back to my Ammana. Please don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me.", Naina kept repeating loudly.

"Stop crying lady and identify yourself", the voice was monotonous, but had a British accent. 

"My name... My name is Naina. I... I live with my Ammana in Bangalore. I came here with my friends on 2 days vacation. These men...", Naina stops and  takes a few deep breaths. "These men, they.. they kidnapped me from near our resort... It's on the outskirts of the jungle." 

The man puts a torch in the pit. There was a slightly chubby girl, lying in mud curled up like a baby. She had curly charcoaled hair, like little snakes coming out of her head. She had a muddied light blue shirt and a pinkish skirt on her. Her shoes were missing. Her black sweater was half torn from all the dragging and she was bleeding from her back, knees and ankles. She was Naina.

The man enters the pit and comes closer to her. "Naayna, my name is Arthur. I am a tourist here from England. You need first aid. I am going to touch you to help you get up. Please don't be afraid".

As Arthur tries to grab her arm, she shivers and clutches herself tightly. "It's alright, it's alright. Shhhh... They are gone. They can't... hurt you anymore. You are safe... from them. Now can you raise your left arm for me, so that I can hold you".

Naina stays still for a minute, while Arthur waits patiently. He knew, she was traumatized and had to be dealt carefully. Naina slowly raises her left arm, and Arthur grabs her and pulls her up carefully. He asks Naina to put her arms around his neck for support. But Arthur was too tall for her. He was over 6 feet in height while Naina barely managed 5' 4. So Arthur holds her from both sides and helps her get out of the pit.

"Naayna, if we take the lake it will be easier for me to take you to your destination.  I came here by my cruiser boat. It's parked in the lake about 1.5 Kms from here. I had already blown the tyres of their jeep, so they can't run away. So we will have to walk up to that place. Can you do that for me?"

"Ya... yeah. Yeah".

"OK, so let's take baby steps. We don't need to rush". They start walking slowly back through the gravel path. Who knew, she would be able to go back through that path again. Naina was limping but Arthur had held her tightly.

"So, Naayna, tell me who all have come with you? You said you are from Bangalore, right?", Arthur wanted to keep her talking so that she doesn't get to think about the nightmare that she just went through.

"Yeah... it's called Bangaluru now". Naina's voice had started to mellow down now. It was a good sign.

"Oh, is it?"

"I came here... with 6 of my college friends. They wanted to celebrate... Valentine's Day. I tagged along with them. Ammana... didn't want me to go", she starts crying again.

"Hey, hey, hey... It's alright. Shh..". Arthur hugs her tightly. Arthur was too huge and it felt he was hugging a teddy. 

A hug from a complete stranger, alone in the middle of jungle was too weird, but Naina could care the least. She just wanted to feel safe. And Arthur's embrace felt warm in that chilly night. She didn't resist. 

After about 2 minutes, Arthur breaks the silence. "Are you alright now, Naayna?". She nods slightly.

"You are shivering girl. Here... take my jacket". Naina doesn't move. So, Arthur helps her put on his jacket. It came up to her knee, but she felt better.

"Ohhh.. wait. Damn it, I forgot something down at the pit. I need to go back and take care of it".

"No.. No No Arthur, please don't go. Please don't go.". Naina felt she was in danger again.

"It's important Naayna. Do not worry, you will be always in my sight. We have hardly walked 10 mins. I will be back in a jiffy".

"Please Arthur, please". She wanted to clutch his hands and not let go, but something stopped her from trying to do that.

"Here take this whistle, if you feel you are in danger, just blow this once. I will be here within 10 seconds". Arthur helps Naina sit down under a tree and puts a whistle in her hand.

"Nobody will hurt you today Naina, it's my promise. I'll be back before you can blink an eye". Arthur says and moves away.

Naina sat there, covering herself from Arthur's jacket. She knew those men were dead, but she didn't feel safe. The winters were still not over and it was a breezy night. She could hear the sounds of animals coming from a distance. February 13 was still not over. They had all planned to party at exact 12 am tonight, but she knew right now her friends would be desperately searching for her. The men had already broken her phone, so there was no way they could find her right now. She had ruined everyone's plans. Why are you so stupid Naina? Why?

She put her face between her closed knees and shrunk herself a little more. She felt there was something in Arthur's jacket. Something heavy. She put her hands in its pocket and found a big knife in one of them. She deduced she was a hunter. But he had just killed 4 Indian men, won't he be prosecuted? No, no I won't let anything happen to Arthur. I will tell Ammana everything, he will definitely save Arthur. Nothing will happen to him. 

The sound of someone approaching startles her. She immediately takes out Arthur's knife and wields it. "Who's there, tell me who's there?".

"I asked you to use whistle girl!", Naina recognized that voice.

"I... I..". Naina didn't know what to say.

"It's alright, now can you put that knife back in the jacket? Let's move". Arthur helps Naina get up again.

"Naayna, I will have to carry you up to the boat. It's still about a Km from here and I know you are not able to walk." Arthur meant it. Naina didn't have much choice either. She was walking bare feet on the way full of  gravels and sharp shrubs and she had a deep cut in her left knee.

Naina nods slightly. Arthur gets forward and extends his hands. Naina doesn't move. Probably she was still deciding. But Arthur didn't want to waste his time. So he gets near and lifts her up slightly taking care not to touch the wounds on her back. 

Naina was slightly heavy but Arthur's strong arms wouldn't have felt anything. He starts taking big strides in one direction. 

"We are just about to reach... It's just nearby... I hope I am not hurting you.." Arthur kept saying something throughout their 10 minutes journey to keep Naina's mind busy. She understood that too. She was feeling drowsy. May be she was too tired. Or, may be Arthur's arms were too comfortable. Naina wasn't interested to know either.

"There. You see. That's our cruiser!". Arthur points in one direction. Naina doesn't look that way. She was examining a skull shaped locket in Arthur's  neck.

Arthur takes her to the boat and puts her on a recliner. "Feel comfortable, Naayna. Let me bring the first aid box from the cabin". 

He returns with a can of water and a first aid box. Naina drinks some water from his hand. Arthur then washes her wounds and does dressing. 

"There. We are done. Now let's take you to your final destination!". Arthur says probably trying to cheer her up, but Naina kept looking one way towards the water.

Arthur notices her for the first time under moon light. Naina was traumatized, but she still looked so beautiful. The only thing more round than her face were her eyes. She had perfect cheekbones, and her nose looked like a Chinese date. She puckered her lips, eyes still glued in one direction.

"So, tell me about your uncle, Naayna." Arthur starts up the engine of the cruiser.

"You mean.. you mean my Ammana". 

"Yeah, sorry, sorry. I mean your Amanaaa", Arthur corrects himself quickly.

"My Ammana is the only person I am left with. My mom and dad passed away in an accident when I was very young. But my Ammana never let me feel that I was alone. He would give his life for me. "

As the boat starts to race deep into the lake, Arthur slowly picks up a baseball bat from the floor and moves to the other side of Naina.

Naina keeps talking unchanted, "He didn't marry himself because he thought his wife would never be able to love me as her child. My Ammana is...".

Arthur lifts the bat and quickly throws it towards her, stopping just inches from her face. Naina doesn't buzz an inch. "... the only person I trust".

"YOU ARE BLIND. YOU ARE BLIND!", Arthur shouts at the peak of his voice. "NO, NO NO...". He falls down with a thundering noise.

Naina gets startled from the noise and gets up from the recliner. "Arthur, Arthur, are you alright? Arthur where are you?". Naina tries to search him in the full moon light.

Arthur grabs her hand and helps her sit back in the recliner. "It's alright Arthur. I lost my eyes in the same accident in which I lost my parents. May be this is what God wanted. But he sent my Ammana to take care of me. My Ammana says I will be able to see again one day. Ammana is consulting the best doctors in India. He...". 

"STOP TAKING HIS NAME NAAYNA, JUST STOP", Arthur roars. "HE WANTS YOU DEAD. HE HIRED ME TO KILL YOU."

Naina gets silent. There was just the sound of breeze and motor now.

"Your Amanaaa just wants your money. He didn't kill you all these years because then the money would have gone to the trust. ".

"NO, YOU ARE LYING. YOU ARE A LIAR", Naina cries hoarsely.

"This is the truth Naayna. You will have to believe me". Arthur's voice was monotonous again.

"But my Ammana loves me. He loves me more than anything else in the word", Naina was almost pleading now. Every inch of her wanted to deny what she just heard. Because if that were true then her life of 22 years would become meaningless.  

"He doesn't love you. He never loved you. All he ever planned was to give you a death where you would disappear completely. After a few years you would be presumed dead, and he will become the natural heir of all your property. Nobody would know where you went, and how you were killed. The perfect death."

Naina was crying now. Arthur continued, "He wanted to kill you by taking you on a family vacation. But you won't buzz, so he had to change his plans. He contacted me about 2 weeks ago, and informed that you are going on a vacation in the jungles of Assam. I have been keeping an eye on your group for past 1 day."

"So who are you really? Is your name really Arthur or is that also a lie?", Naina had lost her faith in everything she knew about the world.

 "My name is Arthur Naayna, but I am not a tourist from England. I am a Russian hitman. People call me a serial killer, a mass murderer, a kill-contractor among other things. I have killed 78 people in past 11 years. Never missed a target. I am the best at what I do."

"But if you wanted me dead, why didn't you let those 4 men kill me? Why be a hero then? Why?", Naina shouted out loud.

"I wanted to give you a death of dignity, Naayna. Those men wanted to not only kill your body but your psyche too. I wouldn't have let that happen. I have given them what they deserved Naayna. I am coming after mutilating their body beyond recognition. The animals are going eat away their meat now"..

There was a minute silence. Naina thought she was going through a nightmare. It was just a bad bad dream. Everything would go away once she opens her eyes. But her eyes were wide open.

"Besides, I don't want you dead Naayna. It's your uncle who does so. I am just hired to kill you."

Naina's cries had turned to muffled weeps. Her world was turned upside down in last 10 mins. And she knew she probably had less than 10 mins to live now.

"But what that bastard didn't tell me was that you are blind. I would have never taken your contract otherwise.."

"Arthur... can you do one thing. ", Naina interrupts him in between. Her voice was eerily calm now. She had already accepted her fate.

"Yeah".

"Can you let me go?"

There was silence again. "No... No Naayna. I can't do that. I am hired for a job and I must complete it.".

"Ok, I thought so...", She pauses.  "Then please tell my uncle, I forgive him. Tell him I would have given my life myself if he had asked once". Naina was mentally preparing herself now.

Arthur was clinching his teeth. He never felt so helpless in any of his kills before. The cruiser had come in the middle of the lake now.  Arthur halts the cruiser's motor. There was nothing but water on all the sides.

"What are you thinking Naayna?", Arthur enquires.

"I am alone Arthur. I have absolutely no one in this world. I am going to die alone.  I don't want to die. I.. "... Arthur didn't want to kill her either. But he was duty bound. There was nothing more important to him than his contract.

"Can I do something for you?".

"I am afraid Arthur. What can you do for me? What can you possibly do? Tell me!", Naina barked.

Arthur drops on his knees in front of her recliner. "All I can offer you is a hug right now. Come here." Naina feels two arms opened around her.

Naina was really alone. No one loved her. Her killer was the only one who was there to listen to her. She just wanted to feel safe for a few moments.

She moves ahead and hugs Arthur tightly. Arthur closes his arms behind her. Naina breaks down completely, "Why Ammana, why did you do this? Why?... Aaahhhh..." Arthur hugs her a little tighter.

Several minutes pass, but Arthur doesn't move an inch. This was the only thing that he could do for her. Naina felt the same warmth she felt when Arthur hugged her the first time. She felt safe. Her nerves start to calm down.

After about 20 minutes, Naina speaks slowly, "Arthur".

"Yeah".

"I am ready". But she doesn't let go of her grip from him.

Arthur looks at his watch. It was 12.19 am now. Naina's first Valentine's Day. And her last Valentine's Day.

He takes out the knife from the pocket of his jacket which Naina was wearing. 

Arthur removes the hair against her hair, takes his mouth nearby and slowly whispers, "Happy Valentine's Day, Love".

He quickly grabs her mouth with his left hand and stabs her in her upper back with his right hand. The knife pierces Naina's heart and Arthur's jacket together. A stream of blood spills over Arthur's face. Naina's blind eyes scream out, as he slowly cuts her open. She was struggling, but Arthur's hold was too strong for her. Not even a single voice could come out of her gagged mouth. She kept struggling for 2-3 minutes and then she got still. Forever.

Arthur had a ritual to cut out the right eye of his 'targets'. He would preserve them as trophies. But he didn't want to do that for Naina. She was blind.

He got up and looked at Naina's moonlight drenched face one last time. She was dead, but she still looked so beautiful. There was no trauma, no anxiety, no pain on her face now. She looked calm.

Arthur picks her blood soaked body and takes it to the edge of the boat. He looks at her again and then throws her in the lake.

He then starts the motor of his boat again, and moves towards the other side of the lake. While Naina's body gets buried in the water. Never to be found again.