“I would rather remain single all my life rather than marrying in such a treacherous family like yours!” Aditya’s parting words had killed Sumitra’s soul. She woke up every night remembering them; terrified by their callousness. “I believed you when you said your father had not stolen the money in his factory. I believed you, didn’t I? And now he has the tenacity to cheat my father with this fake money. You know I would have married you even if you had told me that you could not give the dowry my dad asked for. You broke my heart Sumitra! I loved you so much.” Aditya had tears in eyes while Sumitra had tears in her heart. How could he be so vicious? The tormenting image of Aditya leaving her minutes before their marriage slowly gave way to the more devastating visual of her father sitting lifeless in the middle of the house. “My little girl… I want to ask you only one thing. You believe your father, right?” He asked with imploring eyes which rained tears seeing his daughter nod vigorously and collapse on his lap. He whispered softly in her ears: “That’s all this old man wanted to hear my child! That’s all!” That was his last whisper.
The four men were talking in low voices. Raghav went a little closer and positioned himself behind a banyan tree. The man who was speaking animatedly was the man who Raghav had trusted the most. “Kishorilal sahib.. It was a master stroke to have the currency serial numbers included in the house pledge agreement. Poor Ramcharan didn’t even know such a thing existed when he signed the papers. You easily matched those to what you had withdrawn from the bank that morning and we did the rest to frame him for giving us fake money as dowry!” Aditya was bragging away. “Actually Ambarish uncle set it up nicely.. What an act it was! Getting his own money robbed and framing it on Ramcharan just days before the marriage. And then we could play the fake dowry money drama to completely crush him. It was all too easy!” Raghav wanted to strangle him right away. But he stopped himself. He was not ready.
Ambarish who was silent all this while spoke slowly and frigidly. “You just had to break the man.. And then he killed himself. I was really annoyed when your father decided to get you married to that Sumitra. I only got my element back when you explained me your master plan. I must say... I couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law. I have had my eyes on that palatial house of Ramcharan for a long long time. That is certainly worth a killing. Now we get that free of cost and I get to keep his gratuity and pension as a souvenir!” Aditya interjected. “Let us not forget how important a role my dear friend Ajeesh has played here. And not to forget his sexy but lethal car! Honestly, I liked Sumitra. I feel a little sad for her.” They all burst into laughter. Kishorilal was still perturbed. “We still have that problem with the house. You can’t just take it!” Aditya dismissed that nonchalantly. “That I am going to take care of without beating a sweat, Sir!” His wicked smile brought solace to the others.
Raghav could not bear to hear a word more as his blood was at its boiling point. He returned home to see Sumitra sitting lifeless in the middle of the house. Just like father. He caressed her head, she turned away. He held her hand gently. He couldn’t feel her pulse, but her pain flowed through him. She couldn’t feel his touch but the glitter in his eyes meant that the wait was over. Finally the echoes that pound her ears would soon stop. “They are here. I saw them. After three months, they have come out from hiding. They feel fear no more. The time has come. We have waited long enough.” His eyes were spitting fire. That moment they heard the door open!
The air inside the house was filled up with lethal venom as familiar evil made its way in. “Ahh.. here we are! Take a look at our catch. The trophy for our master plan! It was easier than I expected. I didn’t really think that we could get rid of that Raghav so easily. We didn’t have to do anything. The guy killed himself. What a shame!” Aditya sounded a little disappointed.
“You haven’t felt too much pain boy, have you? When the only two people you ever cared for in your life are no more, you easily tend to question the reason for your existence. And don’t forget, he had the impossible task of paying up for both the money his father had borrowed from Kishorilal and also the money that was purportedly stolen from my factory!” Ambarish was methodically stone cold in his inference.
Aditya’s best friend Ajeesh made his presence felt. “That is why it was so important to make it look like Sumitra had also killed herself. If Raghav had known that we had planned that, he would have certainly come after us for vengeance. You all should thank me for volunteering to do your dirty work.”
“Don’t get too arrogant boy. You were not supposed to come to this village again. You were the perfect stranger under whose car a dejected Sumitra willingly ended her life. Your act is over, remember. If anyone sees you with us, then we could be in trouble. And by the way, you didn’t do it for charity, son!” Kishorilal was fuming.
Aditya patted Kishorilal on the back. “Relax! no one can do anything now. It is now time for the final act. I am going to make people believe that I am still so smitten by Sumitra’s love and that I can’t live without her. I buy this house from Kishorilalji and I spend a year mourning Sumitra’s death. That much time is enough for people to forget about wars. Then Ambarish uncle will persuade me to marry his daughter and I will reluctantly give in with a heavy heart. And then the bride and groom will live happily ever after! In this very house! Kishorilalji gets Ramcharan’s gratuity while Ajeesh gets the stolen factory money. How about that for a plan? Sounds fair, isn’t it!”
Thunderous claps applauded his deviously ingenious plan. A ghastly silence ensued as they looked at each other totally befuddled. Raghav and Sumitra had just welcomed their prey. An unknown fear gripped them. Aditya broke the silence. “Oh.. Come on.. That’s just the wind beating against the windows. What is with you guys? Has the dark night gotten to your nerves? Now don’t tell me that Sumitra’s spirit is waiting inside to haunt me. I wouldn’t mind a little bit of romance anyways!” His evil laugh echoed back from the walls in Ramcharan’s voice. An eerie chill engulfed the souls of the sinners!
“Bhaiyya… you can take care of the others.. but this one is mine! A few months ago, in this very house, he had promised me that very soon he is going to entrust me with his life. Now I am just going to take what is already mine. Nothing much has changed, has it?” Sumitra winked at Raghav who saw the rare twinkle in his sister’s eyes. “Sure my dear.. give him all the romance he is yearning for!”
After 2 hours of drinking and some heavy duty gambling, the three of them bid good bye and good luck to Aditya who was completely sloshed. He went straight to the bed. He heard the door bolt behind him!
- A SHORT STORY BY RAJ