“Really? You think so?” She asked, playing with her curly hair, which was drifting through her cheeks in the light evening breeze.
“Mm Hmm. The beach in the background, your hair drifting in the light breeze and the sunset. You look like a Ravi Varma painting in a museum.” He said, looking at her dimple.
“Are you flirting with me?” She asked, acting furious.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Her dimple became even deeper when her lips widened.
“What is your name?” He asked, sipping from her wine glass.
“That’s my wine.” She replied, giggling.
“Oh, that’s why it’s so tasty.” He licked the last drop from the glass.
“Adley.” He got up suddenly, removing his heavy blanket and opened his eyes to realize that it was just a dream. William was standing next to his bed, looking at Adley with his curious green eyes. A sudden shiver triggered through Adley’s body when the body temperature dropped due to the atmospheric temperature. Adley hated winter. Winter is so depressing when the one you love is not with you anymore.
“Adley, are you ok?” William asked again, switching the lights on.
Adley nodded. “Just a bad dream. What’s the time?”
“Seven-thirty. You were whispering in your sleep. Sorry to disturb your sleep. I got worried.”
“It’s ok. I overslept.” Adley said, still confused.
“Adley, I am sorry, I have to go to the office, have an important meeting. I’ll drop Isha at school and will go to the office.” William said touching his bald head, looking in the mirror. Adley looked around, still couldn’t believe it was a dream. He looked around to make sure. The framed painting on the wall, the plastic flowers in the case kept on the table didn’t make any sense in a bedroom. The light colored curtains, covering the closed windows were not moving.
Adley came out of the trance when he heard Isha, shouting and calling her papa. She was too smart for an eight-year-old. “Bye. Isha will reach home by 2.30 in the afternoon. Drop her at her aunt’s in the evening so that we can have a couple of drinks tonight. She knows the route well enough. See you in the evening.” Said William, literally running.
Adley accompanied them to the door to see them off. Adley looked at little Isha, in her uniform, dancing towards the car, holding her father’s little finger, singing her favorite song. She waved goodbye to Adley before entering the car. Adley waved back. He stood there, watching the car disappearing in the winter fog.
William rang the doorbell, looking at his watch, almost six-thirty. It was already dark. William thought about Adley. He was William’s best friend once. But, after what happened to his wife, he was nowhere to be found. William didn’t recognize the person who rang the doorbell the day before. He was surprised to see his friend after almost ten years. The gray hair, dark spot under his eyes, wrinkles in his face, Adley had lots of changes. He looked way too old for a forty-year-old.
The door opened after a couple of minutes. “I am sorry Willie. I was a little busy in the kitchen.” Said Adley.
“What? In the kitchen?” asked William, while keeping his briefcase on the table.
“Yeah, preparing dinner.” Said Adley.
“There was no need. I was planning to order online.”
“I enjoy cooking. One thing that I enjoyed being alone.”
William nodded. “I will freshen up and be right back.”
William took his time. He took a warm bath. Changed into his night dress and returned to the living room. He dialed his sister’s number from his cell phone to talk with Isha. No answer. He heard the clattering sound of the plates from the dining area. He walked towards the dining room redialling.
The dining table arranged with different kind of food items was similar to a buffet of a five-star hotel. William wondered how Adley managed it with an empty fridge. William never cooked when Ritu, his wife was away on business trips. He usually got food parcels or visited his sister’s place. Isha loved her aunt so much that Ritu’s absence usually did not affect the girl. The call got disconnected again with a beep sound.
William opened the cupboard and took an unopened bottle of Caol Ila Scotch whiskey and walked towards the kitchen. Adley was standing near the sink, facing the wall. “Uisge Beatha.” Adley turned hearing William. “Water of life.” Said William, showing the bottle. “Water of life?” Asked Adley with a smile. “Yeah, the name Whiskey is an English corruption of Water of life.” Replied William, opening the bottle.
“In fact a corruption. You still haven’t been corrupted with the conundrum of life. You still have a taste for classics.”
William laughed while moistening the glass with his fancy whiskey. He offered the glass to Adley and poured another glass of whiskey for him.
“Let’s toast.” Said William, raising his glass. “What the f##k will we toast for, my dear friend?” Asked William, acting confused.
“Let’s start with cheers.” Replied Adley, with a smile.
“Cheers. “ Both clinked their glasses.
“So? What’s going on?” Asked Adley, sipping the scotch.
“Isha. That’s what’s going on in my life. She is my life. It’s wonderful being a father. There was a time in my life when I felt drinking with friends, night parties, smoking weed, f##king a whore and all those cool stuff I used to do, gives à pleasure.” William paused sipping his whiskey. “But, when the hot nurse from the hospital handed my little Isha over to me, I felt..” William cleared his throat and continued, “I felt fear, when I held her for the first time, I felt the pleasure when she blinked at me for the first time, and I felt the deepness of the emotion called joy when she smiled at me in her sleep for the first time.”
“An irresponsible freak to a responsible father? So, let’s toast for Isha.” Said Adley, raising his glass.
William raised the glass in agreement and said, “For my angel.”
“When was the last time we met, Adley?”
“Ten years back, the day before the party,” Adley replied, emptying his glass.
“Hmm. Yes. It was terrible, what happened to Tesa.”
“How are you holding up now, Adley?”
Adley smiled. He sipped a little whiskey. “I wonder whether I loved her. The harder I try, the harder it becomes to remember how she looked. I remember how she smelled, the moistness in her lips, her voice, and the dimple in her face, the curly hair drifting through her face. I remember her warm hugs. I can still feel her face in my chest.” He continued, draining his glass, “I live in my dreams with her. The rest of the time I spent figuring out how she looked.” He paused and continued “For me, life is a countdown.”
Adley didn’t speak anything for a couple of minutes, lost in his thoughts. William didn’t interrupt. Adley suddenly realized that he was in a trance and continued, rubbing his head, “F##k, I think I am high.” And he laughed. William joined his friend.
“Try this.” Said Adley handing over a dish to William. “It’s a special dish. I haven’t named it yet. You are lucky enough to be the first person in the world to taste it.” Adley said with a naughty smile. William took a small piece of cooked meat, and looked at Adley, acting scared. “Bon appétit.” Wished Adley, with the same crooked smile.
“Mmm. Wow. Did you make this?” Asked William feeling admired.
“I have never had anything better than this in my life. I swear.” William said taking another piece from the dish, a bigger piece this time.
Adley offered the dish, laughing.
“Ritu and I were planning to hire a cook. Are you interested?” William asked, laughing. Adley continued his laugh.
“So, what is this dish?” Asked William, trying to control his laughter.
“What is Isha’s full name?”
“What?” William asked, confused.
“You heard me, Willie. Isha’s full name.” Adley asked, smiling.
“Why does that matter?” William asked, still confused.
“It does matter. Ok. I will give you the honor to name the dish made of your daughter’s meat.”
William raised from his seat furiously.
“Ah. Ha, ha.” Adley said playfully pointing a revolver at William.
“This isn’t funny,” William said noticing his revolver.
“Believe me, Willie. It’s f##king not meant to be.” Said Adley, signalling William to sit using the revolver.
“Why are you doing this?” William’s face became red in rage.
“You know exactly why. Don’t you, Willie?” Adley was calm, still looking at William.
“No, I don’t.” William was shivering.
“You still want to play this game? Really?”
William sat without saying a word. Tears started rolling from his eye’s.
“Why did you kill my wife and my baby?” Adley paused. “Mmm?” William was still sitting with his eyes down. “Why the f##k did you kill my wife and my baby you ba##ard?” Adley asked again, furiously, kicking the table in front of him. ”You raped, slaughtered and killed her. Why did you do it?” Adley asked breaking down into tears.
“I am sorry, Adl..”
“Stop this shit. I asked you why. I asked you why you killed my wife on our happiest day, the day she told me that she was pregnant. I don’t need your f##king apology.” Adley said, hitting the table hard with his fists.
“I was drunk. I am sorry.” William was crying and shivering.
“Wow, what an excuse. Will you accept the apology of an as##ole who f###ed and killed your wife because he was drunk? Will you?” Adley clapped his hands and continued “I told you. My life is a countdown. A countdown to this very day for the last ten years.” Adley took something from his jacket pocket. He showed it to William. “Do you remember this? Hmm? The fancy earring that you used to wear to show how cool you are.”
William identified his earring. He didn’t say anything. He sat with his eyes still on the floor.
“Did you know that she was talking to me when she opened the door? Did you ever wonder how did you manage to get away from the scene without leaving any fingerprints?” Adley stopped and looked at William and continued “I will never leave you in the hands of the corrupted law and order and the pimps who dances according to the bribe you offer.”
“I could have killed you. But, what’s the fun in that? I wanted you to enjoy your life, have a family and have someone you love. I wanted you to feel safe. I made sure not even a single evidence points at you. I wanted you to move on. I waited for ten long years. I made sure I am not crossing path with you. I didn’t want to lose the pleasure that I am feeling right now by killing you earlier.”
“I am sorry, Adley. I am not that person anymore.” William said sweating in the winter cold.
“Maybe you aren’t that monster anymore. But for me you the person who killed my wife.” Adley drank the whiskey directly from the bottle.
“Adley. Please tell me that my daughter is safe.” William was still trembling.
“How does it feel eating your daughter? Do you want to know how I killed her? Mm?” Adley paused, to see William’s reaction and continued. “Don’t worry. I made sure that she didn’t suffer. I covered her face with my hands and slit her throat. But she is a fighter. She struggled when she was suffocating. I loved it, but I didn’t want her to suffer.” Adley raised from where he was sitting and slowly walked towards William.
“I mainly used her little thigh for the meat. She was so small and skinny that I couldn’t carve from most of her other parts.”
William furiously raised, took the knife from the table and stabbed Adley in his neck. He didn’t stop. He stabbed him continuously all over Adley’s body. Then he grabbed the revolver and pulled the trigger aiming at Adley’s motionless body. Nothing. He pulled the trigger again, nothing. He opened the revolver and checked. It was empty.
William sat in the room, handcuffed, confused. He still couldn’t believe how the police arrived at his home. His mind was full of questions. Is Isha alright? Why did Adley use an unloaded revolver if he wanted to hurt William? Willam noticed that his heart was beating faster. He kept his right hand on his chest. There was something in his shirt pocket. William pulled it out. A piece of paper.William opened it. It was a letter. He started reading, still trembling.
My dear friend,
Isha is alright, for now. I have added a chemical to her evening milk, which she loved. She has 48-hours before it becomes too late for the antidote. You can decide whether your daughter should remain alive or not. The only thing you have to do is confess to both the murders. Confess. Your daughter will live. I am a man of my word. I don’t want to hurt her. So, be quick. The clock is ticking. Tick tick.
The door opened with a loud noise. A constable entered. He walked towards William and kept a small bottle with a lid on the table. “The antidote.” He looked at William “Now. Do you wish to confess? Or you let your daughter die?”
William came back after seeing Isha and Ritu in the visiting room of the prison. There was a letter waiting for him in the mailbox. He opened the letter. The same handwriting. He started reading.
My dear friend,
How does it feel to be a criminal in front of your daughter and wife? Are you so dumb to believe that I will hurt a child for my selfish revenge? I know you have a lot of questions in your mind. But I am not in the mood to answer. I am still in the mood for revenge. Sorry Willie. It’s not over yet.
Last time I told you that I mixed a chemical in Isha’s mill. Well, I lied. I didn’t mix it in the milk. I mixed it in our innominate dish. Don’t worry. It will not kill you. I am not a murderer, like you. Probably, within a week you will start losing your body parts one by one. Then your whole body becomes paralysed. You will become a living dead body. You will beg to kill you. But you can’t even beg. How does it feel like knowing your future, buddy?