The boy was standing looking at the desert. He was all alone near a road with endless desert stretching on both sides. Suddenly his contemplation was disturbed as two cars approached the area. They stopped and four people, two out of each car came out. One of them who was a bit fat ordered to catch the boy.
“So it was you who was calling me for last few days. You don’t know me child. I am synonymous to terror, but I will give you a chance. Raka!! Bring me the swords. You said you are the best warrior. Then show me! Release him.”
He threw one of the swords towards the Boy. The boy in reaction moved a few steps backwards letting the sword fall in the sand. “This sword has a sharp edge. I just couldn’t catch it. Had I tried to do so, I would have hurt my hands. Who are you and why are you dragging me into this?”
“Shut up and pick up the sword. Aren’t you the man who was threatening me for last few days? My henchmen have given me the exact news.”
“Why would I do so? I don’t even know you.”
“Even if you don’t know me, you will die today. You see I can’t disrespect my sword. It requires blood.”
“Why are you determined to kill an innocent like me? You are picking the wrong man. Now only I understand. That guy is the real culprit.”
“The one I met this morning. He told me that he has cancer and will die soon. He used to be a thug and looted a number of people. He said he had hidden all the money here in the desert. He was impressed by my benevolence and hence told me the route to his treasure. That means he was lying. It was he who was calling you and chose me to die at your hands.”
“Are you telling the truth? Listen boy, if you are saying the truth, I will leave you and if you are proven a liar you will die today.”
“I speak truth, believe me.”
“I won’t believe you that easily. Get hold of this guy and chain him. He has seen the culprit, so he will come with us now. And you boy… lead us to the place you met that man.”
“I cannot lead you on feet. It is far away from here. I myself came in a reserved taxi. You have a car. Allow me to sit in please. I will show you the way.”
“You are my prisoner and hence cannot demand anything. It is me who can demand, not you…. You will walk and we will follow you in our cars.”
The boy turned and began walking. He walked so slow that it was almost impossible for the cars to follow him at such a speed.
“Walk fast or we will crush you below our cars”. One of the henchmen shouted.
“What’s good in that? I am dying of thirst and urge to have some comfort. I know you people will kill me in the end. I too won’t be spared, just after you kill that man. I have death on both sides. Sadists spare nothing. They won’t spare me too. Well the blame need not fall on you. It was my greed perhaps…”
“The kid speaks too much. Sir, order me to decapitate this rascal. We will find the real man on our own.”
“The boy is right. He has death on both sides. It’s true that we cannot spare him. But why not hire him for some work before killing him? He is tired enough. Free him and adjust a place in your car.”
The henchman did as was ordered.
“I don’t understand why that man wants to kill your boss. And most importantly why did he want to get me killed at your hands. I had served him selflessly thinking that he is a patient and deserves attention and care.”
“He has called our boss a number of times and the series started at the starting of this month. He said that boss will pay for all his sins within a month and he himself will come for the fight and defeat boss for he was good at everything. This infuriated boss and he asked us to find the man. We searched day and night. He called from public booths. No booth operator could identify him. But this morning, when we received the call and tracked it, we found that it was the same booth he had made the first call from. The operator this time recognised him as a fat man with moustache and talking about going to the west side of the desert.”
The boy looked startled. “So the booth operator said he was a fat man with moustache and told you that the culprit was planning to visit the desert. Why on earth would a person leak such information to a booth operator? Just tell me… how did the booth operator himself look?”
The man stopped the rushing car applying sudden brakes. He looked back at the boy. “He was fat and had a moustache.” He sounded serious.
The car behind stopped too. People came out. The boy was thin and had a clean face. How could the goons be so fool? When people have their lives at risk, they begin act foolishly and vice- versa.
“The guy I was talking about, the cancer patient is fat and has a moustache. He works at a telephone booth to disguise himself. He had told me.”
Everyone looked at each other.” We have seen that person. We can find him now.” One of the goons said.
“So we don’t need this boy any more. Kill him and bury him in the desert.” The boss said.
“Don’t I deserve to know why did he want to kill me? Why did he send me here? Am I doing any wrong to you? Please give me one chance to meet that man and ask him the reason. After that, kill me or leave me in a lion’s cage. I won’t mind. Please” the boy requested sitting down on his knees.
“We hate to be driven emotionally. Leaving you for now, but next time don’t even dare to show such a drama. We will definitely kill you.” The boss said angrily.
The cars once again began to move. “Has your boss ever laughed?”
“That’s none of your concern. You would have died there. As long as you are alive, you can tell us how you met that man. May be we too are able to derive some conclusion.”
The boy began, “I work as a compounder at a clinic. There was a young man on bed no. 11. He kept coughing all the day. I seldom went to attend him. Nurses too didn’t like serving him. However case was different with the matron. She was always there for him. She would clean his bed, feed him with soup and help him like a mother. Yesterday he vomited blood. He was immediately taken to the ICU. Everyone was sure that he won’t survive. I was constantly being asked to bring medicines and surgical equipment.
Matron was restlessly moving near the operation theatre. I asked her to sit down calmly, but she didn’t. She was like mother to me, so I brought her a chair and pushed her to sit. Suddenly a coin fell from her handkerchief. It was a gold coin. She picked it up at a lightning speed. What’s that? I asked. She hesitated first but when I threatened to make a noise, she gave the coin to me and said, “Take this and be happy.” I understood that there was something wrong. I insisted again and finally she told me giving an oath of not disclosing it to anyone. The young man was wealthy beyond imagination. He used to give the matron a gold coin every day for her service. This was the sole reason why matron served him. He was like the goose with golden eggs to her and hence she didn’t want him to die early. He was suffering from throat cancer and was sure to be in hospital for at least 2 to 3 months. We came back and checked his bed if he had hidden coins there but we did not find any. Matron said that a fat man with moustache was visiting him every day and maybe he gave him the coins.
One of the goons interrupted, “you mean to say there were two different people… One was a patient and one was a fat man? Earlier you said that you met one man who was fat and had cancer.”
“Yes I did so, because my life was in danger… I allowed everything that came out of my mouth because I had lost my senses. Now as I am convinced that I would be dead after meeting the man and have no chance of surviving, the fear has receded without notice and I feel free, hence speaking truth with a calm mind. There are only two options for me. Either to weep, wail and cry, or to do something good in the little time I am left with. May be the real man behind all this is that patient and that fat man was just an intermediary.”
“The patient was saved and was brought back into the ward on bed no.11. Matron was happy, but I was ready with a different plan. I secretly gave her a high dose of anesthesia and left her in the rest room. I came back to the young man who was now conscious and served him all the day. When asked about the matron, I said she was ill. He looked impressed. He couldn’t speak clearly but we could understand what he said. He didn’t give me any coin, nor did any fat man visited him. Perhaps the only coin he was left with was already given to the matron that morning which was eventually given to me. I was not satisfied with that one coin.” The boy said and took out a coin from his side pocket. It was a real gold coin. The goon sitting beside him snatched the coin.
“You cannot take this coin to heaven or hell. Continue…”
The boy gave a sad look and continued. “I asked him clearly about his wealth and he told me to wait till the morning. The next morning a fat man visited him and they had a small conversation. I was looking at them from a distance. The fat man then called me and told about their lives as con men and said that they had accumulated huge wealth which they divided in equal shares after converting all the money into gold. As the first one was sure to die, he wanted to do some charity. He said that they both had chosen me as the heir of his wealth which was buried in the west side of the desert. I had no faith on what he said but just for curiosity I visited the place and met you people.”
“They said they used to be con men, and you accepted without reservation?”
“Why not? The first thing that came in my mind was the treasure. Why to think about anything else?” the boy replied.
“Did you find the treasure?”
“Did you find ‘me’ with the treasure? You people reached there before I could exactly locate the place. I was told that I have to find a large black stone in the sand. The treasure is just below it.”
There were two henchmen in the car. One was driving and the other was sitting at the back seat with the boy. The driver said, “Let’s not be telling this to anyone. Once this boy and the culprit are dead, we both will return back and look for the treasure.” Both the goons smiled looking at each other.
A man could be seen waving his hands. He was not too far away. He looked tired and thirsty and was signalling that he wanted some water.
“Why don’t you stop to help the poor guy?” the boy asked as the cars were just about to pass the man.
“Don’t teach us. Only boss can give us orders.”
“Once you get the treasure, you people won’t be having a boss anymore. You have business in the desert. You got to befriend the desert by helping people here, or the desert will deceive you.”
“One more word, and I will kill you. We will keep driving.”
There was a loud blunt sound and the tyre of the first car got punctured and it had to stop. The man approached with trembling legs. “Water, please, water”, he could fall down any time. He was knocking the window of the boss’s car that had stopped following the car ahead of it. The two goons stepped down of the first car and marched to the boss to tell about the tyre. “Oh please, please…” the man once again cried. All four looked at him. One of the goons pushed him hard. “We don’t have water you moron. We drink blood.” He said laughing.
“Don’t waste the time. Change the tyre and move fast.” The boss said angrily. The thirsty man had fallen down unconscious. The four ignored him as they had their own important business. The two goons reached their car. The boy wasn’t in the car. The car had no living entity inside. The goons went pale. They looked at each other and then around to get a clue of the boy. He was nowhere to be seen.
“What happened?” shouted the boss’s driver.
“The boy isn’t here.” One of them said trembling.
“What are you saying?” The boss sprang out of the car and came running to the first car. They all looked in once again. The car was vacant. The desert stretched on both sides of the road. The wind carrying desert made visibility dull and the dunes made it difficult to have a perfect picture. All they could see other than themselves was the poor thirsty man.
” it’s all because of this man.” Boss cried with anger. “Kill him”, he said. Three shots were fired and the man was freed from the pain.
“Now go and search around. I want that boy. I cannot leave him alive. Get him alive or dead in next 10 minutes or I will kill you all.” The boss roared. The goons dispersed in different directions and he himself sat in his car with his fully loaded gun waiting for his men.
“Was that boy saying the truth or he himself was the real culprit?” He was frightened as well as angry. He consoled himself. “He is too young to hurt me. I have killed hundreds of matured and brave men. What could this coward do to me? He couldn’t even lift a sword.” The boss thought and looked for the swords he always kept below his seat. They were missing.
He was frightened and turned on the AC of the car to feel a bit relieved. However he was in unrest and checked his gun. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… 6 bullets, fully loaded gun… I will blow up the head of whoever comes to hurt me. He tried everything but couldn’t convince himself. “May be someone would target my car and try and blow it up. I must not be staying in. Better to stay outside and hide in the dunes.
The henchmen moved all around but did not find anyone. They met and asked each other if they found anything. “Boss is going to kill us all.”
“Yes, right… he would be very angry. Why are you carrying his swords?”, Asked one goon. It was the boss’s driver who carried the swords.
“Oh I took them from his car. I thought of bringing him the boy’s head to make him happy. After all I am his favourite assassin.”
“Who said you are his favourite. That’s me Okay, the last time he chose me over you two to kill the SP.”
“Oho, and that MLA? He chose me for that and rewarded me 50,000.”
Hearing the figure the driver of the first car was reminded of the treasure the boy had told them about. “Okay, you both are his favourite. Let us start the search again and go in different directions. We have to find the boy or boss will kill us.” He said and the three started again. He confirmed that the other two had disappeared. “It’s the right time to reach the place. If the boy said the truth, he must have moved towards the treasure. I must reach there, kill him and take all the money. Even if he was lying and he is the culprit, he will kill boss. In both cases I am free.” He thought, but perhaps the second goon too was thinking the same.
The loyal goon on the other hand had a different thinking. He suddenly stopped. “Boss is all alone near the cars. The boy could attack him. Although he has a loaded gun with him, but what if he boy comes with his own men, guns and other arms? I must reach there to help boss. Let these fools wander around. Boss will be happy to see me coming to his rescue and I shall be rewarded.”
He started running back. Meanwhile the boss was hiding in the dunes. His mobile phone rang. The battery was running out, but he didn’t want to go back to the car to charge it. He was too afraid to do that. For the first time in his life he felt that how alone and weak he was without his goons and bodyguards. He picked the call. It was from the same person who had been threatening him. “Hello…”
There was a laugh on the other side. “I lied man. I am never going to kill you. They are your own goons who are to kill you. They are my men and not yours. Let me see how you escape now. The three are coming to slice you up into pieces!” the call disconnected and the boss saw his driver coming running from the other side with two swords in both his hands. He was running at lightning speed. The other two were nowhere seen. They could attack from any side. The boss was afraid.
“Let me get rid from him first” he thought and fired the first bullet. It missed the chest by 5 inches and drilled a hole in the shirt. The goon was alarmed. “Boss is in real trouble. They have got silencers in their guns. I must take out mine.”
He dropped the swords and took out his gun. The boss was seeing all this. He had no any option now. He stood up and kept firing… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.. three shots missed, one drilled the chest and one went through neck. The lifeless bloody goon fell down straight on the fallen swords. The boss sat down again. He felt a bit relieved, but had no more bullets now. I must get away from here, before the other two come. He ran towards his car.
The boy suddenly appeared from the dunes. He shoved the boss and he fell down. “Sorry boss, I cannot allow you run away.” He had a rope with him. The boss had grown weak. He had lost enough energy due to his fears. He stood up and tried to stop and fight with the boy but he kept shoving him with little effort. Every time he would fall down like a kid. The boy tied both the cars and started the second and drove away saying bye.
“Water! I want water.” The nearly fainted boss began looking around.
The two goons met while walking towards the treasure. “You? Here? We were supposed to go in different directions.”
“I thought the boy must have tried to visit the treasure.”
“So did I. what are your plans if the boy isn’t there?”
“Let us reach there first.”
“That’s not an answer. We are good friends. We can divide the treasure.”
“We will, if we find it”
The straight answers of the first goon made the second goon suspicious. “May be he is thinking or planning of killing me after getting the treasure. I will have to stay smart and play the reverse game.” He thought.
The two reached the place they had discovered the boy. They started looking all around for the black rock. After half an hour of futile searching, one of them felt something below his feet and they dug the sand. They found something black there. With utmost effort they lifted and removed that large stone. Below lied a large box. They pulled it up. Both of them took out their guns at the same time. “I want this treasure.”
“And for that you will even kill your best friend.”
“Even you are pointing the gun at me.”
“I did so because I knew that you were planning to kill me after getting the treasure.”
“Even I thought the same. Let’s throw our guns brother and divide the money. Killing each other will live neither of us getting anything. We have always divided everything. Why go selfish now?”
They both threw their guns and the sand covered them. “We will live a better life now. No more killings for money. We can be good.”
They both opened the box. There was another box inside. It had something written over it. They laughed reading it and opened the box. “Oh no! Snakes! Run!” perhaps their last words.
The top of the box fell down. “Go back and lead a good life. Find a work and help the helpless. You don’t require this money to lead a better life. It’s all a matter of choice.” It read.
The boss was starving now. He had nothing. His phone battery had died. His wallet was missing and he had nothing to eat or drink. The desert stretched on both sides of the road. And it was seldom that people took this path due to fear of sand storms. Sand had deposited on most parts of his body. His head was paining badly. He was walking slowly but the road seemed endless. Suddenly he saw two cars coming. He stretched his hand for help. The cars passed by without taking any notice. However looked like the tire of the first car deflated and both the cars stopped. The boss walked towards the second car with trembling legs. He knocked the window and requested for some water and lift to the city. Two men got down of the first car and shoved him. “Get away from here. Don’t disturb our boss.”
He fell down. The goons returned to their car following the order of their boss. And then one of them cried, “Boss!! The boy is missing.”