By Neel Anil Panicker

“Up around the corner” was his standard reply. That was how he stonewalled all her queries. That was the staccato reply she received every single time she asked him in the month or so they had known each other, having met rather serendipitously at the zoo.

“I love animals. They are a joy. Keep coming to watch them” were among his very first words.

On Monday too, just as the two kissed goodbye for the evening and left the comfy comforts of their love nest in Hotel Lakeview, she had asked the same question and received the same response.

“Up around the corner”.

This time she wasn’t satisfied. Call it sixth sense or a woman’s intuition, something from inside her said this needed some investigation.

And so she headed after him, following him as he climbed the incline, his thick leather boots producing metronomic chimes as they hit the rain washed asphalt.

She as careful to camouflage herself behind the tree lined balustrade every time he so much as half turned, mindful of not getting caught and then being accused of stalking him.

She didn’t have to wait for long and very soon he had reached the bend. Ahead, lay a small cobbled pathway and he disappeared down the lane.

Her curiosity now at its prime, she ducked under the branches of a massive peepal tree and surveyed the scene that was unfolding before her eyes.

Slicing through the evening mist filled dampness,  her eyes spotted her friend shaking hands with another person__a man__ a man whose face was all over the newspapers; a man whose rugged mug shot was on every single television screen for the past two weeks___Amir Raza, the dreaded Hizbul Mujahiddin terrorist who had escaped from Chennai Central Prison a fortnight ago.

As realization hit her she felt as if she were hit by a heavy boulder. Her head began to wobble and stars floated all around her.  She thought she would collapse. With great resolve she steadied herself and looked ahead.

The two were smiling, exchanging pleasantries; she even saw a small packet, covered in a brown manila envelope being exchanged. The other man, the terrorist, took it and then swiftly disappeared into the rocky landscape beyond.

And then she saw her ‘friend’, the man she had met and fallen in love and given her all under the course of a month, clamber up and then amble his way further up the hill.

She stood there, immobile and terror struck, as she watched him disappeared down the hill.

So this was it. She, Ananya Sarkar, a 23-year-old bright final year Masters student of Philosophy, and more worryingly, the only child of a sitting High Court judge was mixed up, even if inadvertently, with dreaded terrorists who were running from the law,; ruthless and vile men accused of killing several innocents.

She slumped to the ground and thereafter, for a long while, simply sat there, immobile, her brain a comatose, unable to fathom how she landed herself into such an elephantine mess.

#neelanilpanicker #fiction #flash #shortstory #510words #instashorts

Sunday Writing Prompt – Select a Heading

Up Around the Corner

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