By Neel Anil Panicker
An eerie silence enveloped the icy darkness. Missing too was the shrill bark of the street dogs disaffected by the hiss of a passing vehicle or a rustle in the trees; or even the uneven coughing of the vagabond shifting and shuffling his legs under the improvised paper sheet.
The wintry chill embraced one another victim.
An hour of uneasy twists and turns and, Raghav gave up.
Having lost the battle of sleep, he extricated himself from his comfy Dunlop spring bed, pulling away from the warmth of the room heater.
Tonight, they seemed to be of not much use.
Slipping into his slippers, he moved out to the balcony.
‘What was it? Is he reading more into it? Or is there something wrong, something greatly wrong?’
The torrent of questions continued unabated, assaulting his mind as they had been doing for the past one day, ever since Peter had left for the city.
A maelstorm of crisscrossing emotions assailed his mind. The migraine that was his loyal companion all through the day hovered over his head and threatened to once again consume him in her blinding fury.
As his head began to swim, being tossed and turned around in the massive tidal waves of the ever maddening seas, Raghav began to feel he would drown any moment.
Desperate for a way out, he slumped into the garden chair___his body quaking with fear as trickles of sweat began to stream down from his limbs.
Rags took a deep breath and tried to compose himself.
After a moment, he checked his watch. Four o’clock. Almost six hours since Peter left.
His mind went into analysis mode for the umpteenth time.
He went through the happenings of the previous day. He had decided to leave, for good.
Enough of swindling, enough of making money out of gullible customers. A decade expended selling bogus and inflated insurance policies to fat cat society ladies and oil rich multi-millionaires, skimming them of their wealth, had seen him turn into a millionaire, several times over.
He can’t be gone this long. After all the bank’s merely an hour’s journey from here. And what had he said, just before he had handed him the signed cheque? “Sir, I will be back in an hour much before your flight to Panama”.
That was Peter, his trusted employee, more than that, his Man Friday, his right-hand man__his partner in crime, almost.
Peter was due to bring him his stash___all of fifty million dollars!
Rags’ mind raged through the uncertainties.
‘Has Peter done a Brutus on him? Ran off with his hard earned money. Why would he do that? Wasn’t he paying him enough?__ a bungalow, the latest model high end car, a fat cat salary in six figures…and if all this were not enough a flat ten percent commission on every single dollar transaction that he brought in ?
His mind, a cauldron of conflicting thoughts, raced through one possible scenario after another; but with every passing minute___like strands of sand slipping out off his hands___all the best case ones began to vanish into thin air.
As the avalanche of dreadful fury began to build up and the ache in his heart threatened to tear asunder his lungs, Raghav looked over at the horizon.
The sky above was an odd tinge__ a greyish blue. And what was that? A spire, a flame, a vertical beam___the colour of faded orange jutting out into the stratosphere?
‘Strange, odd for a rainbow… an anomaly’
And then it hit him?
What had Peter said, “Sir, I will be back in an hour much before your flight to Panama”.
‘… your flight to Panama’.
‘No one knew he was flying off to Panama. No one…except’
The thought left him cold. A fierce rage swept through his heart.
Like a crazed man he ran into his room, picked up the phone and dialed the number.
The call didn’t through. It was dead.
She had left__Lisa, his wife of fifteen years.