This short story is participating in Write Story from Picture India 2012 – Short Story Writing Competition.
[The Devil’s Benevolence Code – Short Story Suspense]
F—! The flashlight fell with a resounding thud onto the floor.
“Sorry” I whispered.
I could feel my companion’s anger even in the dark.
I swore softly to myself.
“What the f— do you think you are doing by making all that noise?” he hissed.
“There’s this weird devilish face like thing in the corner, the light fell on it and it caught me off guard” I said by way of explanation, half apologetically, half indignantly at the thought of being rebuked like a child.
“Focus on the work and don’t let your imagination go frolicking about” he said gritting his teeth.
I wanted to smash his face with a fist and break all his teeth. His pedantic tone was driving me crazy. But I kept quiet. The benefits of this alliance far outweighed the triviality of creating a ruckus over being reprimanded and treated like a novice. So I merely clenched my fists, hurled obscenities at him mentally and went about the task of retrieving the errant flashlight.
I got down on my knees and started feeling the floor with my hands, coerced into temporary blindness by the situation. Evidently this needed practice and a familiarity with one’s surroundings, both of which I lacked. After losing a complete precious minute on finding the absconding flashlight, I decided I had to ask his help. I swallowed my pride and prepared for a second round of words filled with disdain.
“Brett, I need you to lend me your light for a minute so that I can find mine”, I said, dying a thousand deaths with every word.
“God! You are an absolute moron! Good for nothing! I wonder what Dan sees in you to recommend you for the job”, he said with all the malice he could muster in one breath. He scanned the floor with his flashlight and we saw mine lying in the opposite corner.
“Get to it fast so that we can continue with our work” he muttered.
I ran tiptoe towards the flashlight and picked it up, turned the switch on to check if it was broken. A perfect blue white light punched into the darkness illuminating the dust specks in the air.
Satisfied, I turned to join my counterpart when the thought of checking up the eerie looking face made me pause. Brett had already moved into the adjoining study room. He was so engrossed in his work that he had forgotten about me. Taking advantage of this I made my way to the corner where I had seen the face.
It was a weird piece of accessory for the bedroom. Pots of clay balanced on top of each other. The topmost ones sat overturned and had faces embossed on them. Devil faces. The eyes were red and huge, not quite in proportion to the face, the ugliness of which was compounded by the dark moustache that covered half of the lower face and the protruding tongue bridged between vampire teeth. Truly hideous. Why would someone keep such a despicable item in their bedroom?
Still there was something riveting about these pots and they seemed to have a hypnotizing quality in them that kept me glued to the spot for several seconds. My reverie was interrupted by a sharp smack on my head.
I have been trained for combat and the sudden smack on my head sent all my reflex systems into high alert and I took out my knife that was strapped to my ankle with my left hand and the right hand I hooked it around the neck of my attacker, giving him a blow with my knee in his pelvis at the same time.
“You dumb —! Why did you hit me in my stomach, you son —- “, the pained, groaning incoherent voice of Brett broke the silence of the room. I pointed the flashlight in the direction of the voice and saw him lying in a fetal position holding his stomach on the floor.
I tried to slow down my breathing and get rid-off the impulse to kill him. “Why did you attack me in the first place? You should have known better. Now get up and don’t be a sissy” it was now my turn to rebuke.
Saying this I padded into the study room to survey the work that had been done by Brett so far. The instruments were set, the circuit in place. I slipped my gloves over my hands and approached the steel door that earlier lay concealed behind the bookcase.
One look at the alarm was enough to tell me that it was of the latest technology and the instant the safe was broken into it would trigger off a series of calls to the police and the owner of the safe. The nearest police station was a ten minute drive from the house. So we had ten minutes to steal and make a clean getaway.
“Hurry up!” Brett’s voice which was still recovering from the blow spoke from the darkness. “We haven’t got the whole night”.
I punched the numbers and moved the dial, inch by inch, clockwise, anti-clockwise, 45 degrees clockwise…the sequence of opening the safe was easy; I had cracked tougher ones in the past. I heard the sharp click and I knew that the safe was open and immediately the red light on the alarm started blinking.
Brett pushed me aside and pulled the door open – two shelves that were filled to capacity with crisp bank notes and a few cases of jewellery boxes piled into the third shelf. I watched him stash away the loot in a duffel bag while I put back all the instruments into a different one. With five minutes left we both started heading for the door when the thought of those devil faces made me hesitate. They had captivated me and without a thought I picked up both of them and put them inside along with the wires and circuit boards.
“What are you doing?” Brett asked with a slight hint of irritation.
“My memento for the job done” I replied and before he could pound me with further questions I added “it has been my thing, one of my idiosyncrasies”. I flashed him a smile.
He scowled but didn’t retort back.
We exited the house and took the left sidewalk. Hundred meters ahead we had parked a stolen minivan that was to be our escape vehicle. We slid into the car, Brett at the wheels while I made myself comfortable on the passenger seat as we headed down to the subway where we would abandon the car and take the metro to our respective hideouts.
“Count the loot” he said as soon as we had moved onto the road.
There were fifty bundles having hundred thousand rupee notes each and ten jewellery boxes of which three were empty. The gold would probably be worth around twelve lakhs or so. It was a modest heist for one night.
“Take five lakhs from the money. That’s your share” he said staring straight ahead.
I looked at him. I could kill him then and there and take away the entire stash and no one would know. Damn! Dan would know and it was not a good idea to mess with Dan. He would need a cut in this too. He was the lord of the whole racket.
“Dan gets seven, I take the rest. No funny business, else you know the consequences” he said as if reading my thoughts.
I took the bundles of crisp notes and put them away along with the other stuff into my bag. Brett seemed to be keeping a close eye on the money. But I didn’t play foul. I had already had an altercation with Dan a year back in which I had lost my little finger of the right hand and the consequences of another disagreement although unknown would be definitely more catastrophic.
We left the car in the parking lot and took the metro to our stops, never once looking back at each other or wasting any time on pleasantries.
I reached home and stashed the money under the mattress and under one of the tiles in the floor. But my usual hiding places already had remnants of my previous adventures and after having exhausted all possible options of creatively storing them I started contemplating on a new hiding spot.
I looked about my room for any potential nook or corner that would serve the purpose when my eyes were drawn on the two devil pots that leered at me provocatively from the air bag. I picked one of them up and noticed that it had a sliding base. For now this would serve as my temporary storage. I slid the base open.
I picked up the phone on the first ring.
“Did you see the morning papers?” I heard Brett’s voice.
“No, what does it say?” I asked, still half asleep.
“It covers the robbery. It mentions that along with the cash and gold, a priceless collection of diamonds was stolen as well”.
“I don’t know – where there any diamonds?”
“Nope. The guy must be doing this to get insurance and make up for the loss. He probably is sitting over it right now, it’s a common ploy by these scheming rich men”, this seemed to satisfy him and he hung up.
I was wide awake now, the events of yesterday’s evening flashed before my eyes and I lay smiling, planning an extravagant future in a different country and a new identity as I rolled a diamond between my fingers and winked at the devil pots.