The Heist


“We need thirty-one of those,” Rahul pointed inside the store. “The Boss was very specific about that.”

A well-aimed brick sailed through the helpless glass window with a loud crash.
Rishi tiptoed in around the glass remains and picked up the loot with her gloved hands, careful not to drop any of it, and stashed it away in an airtight container inside her backpack. She wished she could contain her nervousness too, but her trembling hands didn’t listen. After all, The Boss had personally asked for these. One mistake and her partner would have to deal with a gooey mess. Not a pleasant thought. Her hands trembled a little more.

“Nice job back there, Rishi. How many did we get?” Rahul asked between deep puffs of breath after they had put a decent distance between themselves and the crime scene.
“Thirty,” Rishi replied, with a mix of disappointment and fear. She knew that The Boss never settled for less, even if it was only one less.
“That was all of them?”
Rishi nodded.
“Not good.”
Rishi nodded again.

Rahul paused to catch up with some more of his breath and thoughts. The Boss still hadn’t approved his request for company conveyance and he was too old for these post-heist sprints. He looked at his mobile phone’s clock. It was an hour to midnight. Not only was he already too old, he constantly continued to get older. The last of his twenties would sail out of reach in another ninety minutes. He should have been partying with his friends, getting sozzled beyond recognition, yet here he was, carrying out dangerous nocturnal heists instead. The thought of his friends jolted him out of his musings. Most of them had been bumped off over the years because they had failed to carry out The Boss’ missions. He needed to focus, regrets could wait until he sponsored the next instalment of The Shrink’s obscenely generous pension plan.

“We must find one more,” Rahul said.
“But…from where? We just got every single one, didn’t we?. We’ll have to wait until the next batch.”
“We can’t wait that long. We have less than two hours to get these to The Boss. He explicitly mentioned that he wanted them by midnight. He even had The Glint in his eye when he mentioned it.”
“Not The Glint, no,” Rishi backed away instinctively.
“Yes, The Glint”. Rahul assured her.
“Do…do you have a plan?”
Rahul looked at her square in the eye. “I do. And we’ll need another brick.”

The second well-aimed brick of the night sailed through the Jaguar’s windshield, making the obligatory loud crash. The security alarm wailed into the night. Rahul and Rishi receded into the belly of a particularly dark corner in the driveway and waited.

The Maker, as his patrons called him, stirred in bed. Years of paranoia, arising from a mix or real and imaginary attempts to steal The Formula, had turned him into a light sleeper. The frantic cries of his Jaggu did not go unheard for long.

The front door of the duplex house soon opened with a thud. Rahul waited intently behind the bush. A generous belly poked out of the door as if to scout the area, before being followed by the rest of The Maker’s middle-aged figure out into the adjoining driveway. The Maker let out a scream as he surveyed the grisly remains of his Jaggu’s windshield, or at least he tried to, before he was ambushed by an age-defyingly-nimble Rahul. A quick tap on The Maker’s head by Rishi, using the multi-talented brick, brought the driveway scene to a close.

The Maker woke up a couple of minutes later, a little groggy, and tied to one of his own chairs.
“Give us The Formula, if you want to live,” Rishi growled on cue.
“Yes, give us The…um, no, that’s not what we want.” Rahul scowled back.
“No?
“No! What’ll we do with The Formula? He’s The Maker, not us. Only he knows make more of them the right way.”
The Maker, interjected at this moment, “Are you saying that you’ve broken into my house, at this ungodly hour, to make me make you a…”
“Yes, and it should be done in the next twenty minutes,” Rahul interjected.
“What if I refuse?”
“That car of yours still has a few windows left, I notice,” Rishi replied.
“I’ll do it! There’s no need to get loved ones involved.”
Rahul untied The Maker and walked him to his workshop.
“Now, don’t you get any ideas. Just do as you’re told and no one or thing shall get hurt,” Rahul spelled out the standard threat.
The Maker rolled his eyes, “Who do you think I am? Iron Man? I assure you that I won’t create suit-of-war in there. Now leave me alone. I need to concentrate.”
Rahul stepped back with his hands raised in a mock gesture.
“Sheesh. This one has a temper, doesn’t he? I certainly wouldn’t want to break into his home again anytime soon.” Rishi said.
Rahul looked at his phone’s watch. Ninety minutes to midnight. They might just make it in time.

That’s when another one of the clearly overworked brick fraternity made its way through the workshop’s window. They knew how to make an entry, one had to give them that. They could have taught a thing or two to the three burly men in masks, who ungainly followed the brick in, negotiating the remaining bits of glass.

The leader of the burly pack scanned the occupants, “Rahul? What are you doing here? You know you aren’t supposed to be part of this mission.”
“Don’t tell me what I can or cannot do, Sharma. You’re not the boss of me.”
“Well no, but The Boss is the boss of you, isn’t he? Didn’t he explicitly forbid you to mess with this heist?” He threw down his mask, “Oh, and thanks for outing my name, you idiot. So much for my disguise.”
“Right,” Rahul rolled his eyes, “The Maker now knows that his house has been broken into by one of the two million Sharmas in the city. You’re done for.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Sharma retaliated as best he could.
Sharma looked at Rishi’s backpack and eventually two and two were put together, “Hold on. What’s in there? Is that the loot? Were you responsible for the break-in at the Master’s store?”
“Well…”
“I should have known. You’re always trying to one-up me in front of The Boss. Well, not this time. Hand it over.”

To be continued…

The wish


I never left my television on. But, I wished I had been forgetful tonight.

The night was still as usual. But, I wished the cracked window pane, was the wind’s doing.

My boyfriend wasn’t home. But, I wished those footsteps I heard creeping up behind me, were his.

As I turned to face it, I wished I was dead.

Sometimes, wishes do come true.

The Twist


The steak was succulent. The chicken juicy. The entire meal had a certain…character to it. He tucked into the dinner with an unusual abandon, even for him. When he’d finished licking his fingers, she finally spoke. He had almost forgotten that she was eating with him.

“You like it?”

“Like it? It’s magical! Where did you find such a genius of a chef?”

“Oh, he’s good, no doubt. But the magic here lies in the ingredients and also…” she hesitated “…the meticulousness with which they were sourced.”

**********

“Stop! Halt! I’m not going to listen to any more of this tripe. I can see the twist coming a mile away. She served him a human being, didn’t she?”

I smirked in that annoying way which always got on people’s nerves.

“No, she didn’t. How predictable would that be? And who said anything about there being a twist, anyway?” I said, as insincerely as I could.

“Fine. Continue then,” he said gruffly.

“Where was I now…oh right.”

**********

“Where do you source your food from?” he asked.

“We grow it ourselves.”

“What’s your secret?” He asked as he not-so-discreetly scraped the remaining juices off the plate using his fingers.

“Our farm animals are put on a very special diet. So, are our vegetables. We don’t use ordinary feed or fertiliser.”

**********

“She grinds humans up into the fertiliser and the feed, doesn’t she? Is that it? It’s even lamer than I thought!”

“Why are you being so morbid? And I do agree – that would have been very lame. Now, if you don’t have any more ‘theories’, shall I continue?”

He nodded. A cold, steely determination had crept into his eyes.

I smirked again.

*********

“I’d love to meet and compliment the chef in person. This was easily the best meal I’ve had in my life,” he said.

“Of course. I’ll summon him immediately.”

A couple of seconds later, a voice coughed behind him. He looked up to see a tall slender man in a chef’s hat standing over him. “Well, that was quick,” he said.

“Meet The Count, our head chef. He has apprenticed under a lot of master chefs and is now a man who definitely possesses the sum of their skills. He’s absolutely lapped up their talents, so to speak.”

The Count smiled at him. He smiled back. The Count’s teeth glinted.

*********

“Vampire!”

“This, sir, isn’t chic-lit!” I said, with as much indignation as I could muster.

*********

“What’s your secret?” He asked.

“Would you believe, cauldrons? I always cook in cauldrons. And I like to sing with the other chefs while I do it,” The Count replied.

“That’s…interesting.” He said.

“Surely, there must be something else?” He probed further. He knew that The Count was hiding something.

The Count hesitated for a bit, then leaned into his ear and whispered.

*********

“Warlock?”

“Nope.”

**********

“Salt. Lots of it.” The Count said. “And a shitload of MSG,” he added with a wink.

**********

“You’re horrible at spotting the twist” I said. And then I ate him.

Telling that story always gives me the munchies.

The Rewrite


She showed him the horror again. Clear as crystal. His own. It can really affect you, that.

It was the curse, she told him.

He had heard about the curse before. From her as well as the elders. Three centuries ago, an ancestor had burnt a witch in cold blood. The witch’s sister, who plied the same trade, hadn’t been impressed. Every male heir since then had met with a gruesome, albeit creative, end.

He believed what he’d seen. He believed in the curse. But he also believed that he could undo it.

*****

It had required a lifetime of effort, but it was finally ready. He sat at the controls and drew in a deep, purposeful breath. This was it. He was ready to rewrite history, and his own future in the bargain. He pressed the button, the science did its thing, and the machine hurled back into time.

*****

He peeped through the window again. The witch still lay asleep. There was no sign of any tip-toeing ancestors in the vicinity. He guessed he had some time to kill before he’d have the opportunity to prevent the deed from being perpetrated. He sat back down, lit himself a cigarette, and waited.

The screams jolted him out of his nap. He rushed to the source. The machine was up in flames. So was the witch. She must have gotten inside, curious to determine what the contraption was. Maybe she had fiddled with the engine. Maybe there had been a short-circuit. It was too late to save her, or the machine which would soon become her coffin.

A cold tap on the shoulder caused him to turn around. It was who he’d thought it’d be. And she was mad.

Forbidden fruit


“Don’t eat that pear,” she said.

“But why?” He asked, giving it a look over.

“It’s forbidden.” She tried to snatch it from him but he dodged her attempt.

“Who are we, Adam and Eve? And this isn’t even an apple!” He chuckled, taking a huge bite out of it anyway.

“Well, it isn’t a pear either.”

He was too busy choking on the wax to notice her joy at having nailed the punchline.

Doubt


“How can you not believe in yourself?” The others always ask me. They find it amusing.

Maybe they have a point though. I can fly like a bird. I’m faster than a train. Bullets don’t even tickle me. I can perform feats which no ordinary man can. Why do the doubts still persist then? I’ve tried to push them away. I’ve tried to see what they do when they look at me. But the doubts always return. I can’t do it. I can’t get myself to believe in ghosts.

Birthday – flash fiction


After years of heartbreak, the adoption agency finally called. We were happy. We were complete. At least, until the sickness engulfed his tiny frame.

He offered to help. In exchange I’d have to sacrifice another human on my son’s first birthday. I’d have taken a worse deal. He kept his word. When the dreaded day came, I kept mine. Her eyes will haunt me forever.

I hid the body and returned home. My hands still trembled. My wife greeted me with a bemused look. “You won’t believe this. The adoption agency called a few minutes ago. Apparently there was a mix up with his birth certificate. They said his actual birthday is on the fourth of next month.” She looked around at the decorations she had spent all day putting up and laughed. “What a waste,” she said. I nodded in agreement.

The screams


I followed the screams. I had to reach her. She continued to run down the wrong path. I tried to warn her, called out to her to stop, but my voice muffled by the thunderous rain always seemed to fall short. For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid.

And then I heard the sickening thud. She had fallen. I filled with dread when I saw a figure run towards her, with a pistol gingerly extended in front. I had to reach her before he did. Her screams were barely coherent between her frightened sobs now. “Help…daddy…please,” she repeated, over and over. She finally looked in my direction. I waved at her between strides, trying to tell her everything would be fine, but I could sense the fear in her eyes as they darted between me and him. I suddenly realised, with almost paralysing apprehension, that her life depended on who won this race. I think she did too. She closed her eyes, and waited.

Luckily for her, I came in first, and I knew what I had to do.

I plunged the knife into her ribcage with all my might, twisting it in, until all that remained was silence. I looked up to him as he finally reached her. The family resemblance was obvious – she had his eyes. I watched calmly as those eyes, now brimming with tears, aimed the pistol at my head. I wasn’t afraid anymore. The screams had finally stopped.

The Kohli way and the competitive whitewash


This has been a very interesting overseas series for India. The results haven’t been very different from the ones that have come before it, yet the way they have got to them has been. For starters, the team hasn’t been shamefully outplayed – there is a possibility that this series may be the one the ‘most competitive whitewashes’ that India has been part of in recent times, if that makes sense. We haven’t been ineptly bounced out of the game. There have been a couple of long sessions where the batsmen have taken the fight to the Aussies. Even the bowlers have come up with the odd decent performances where they’ve been able to restrict and control the scoring with some incisive bowling before letting the session wander away. And most noticeably, our fielding has been consistently top notch, even among the members of that not-so-exclusive slip cordon club. In both the preceding test matches, India have found themselves at least once in a position where they could have gone on to a memorable overseas victory, before squandering it away in a way that the Indian fan is very familiar with.

The other standout aspect of the series has been the ‘banter’. Virat Kohli gave this very peculiar no-holds-barred press conference yesterday after playing yet another great knock in Australia.

People predicting that the game may become a bit gentler in the aftermath of the massive tragedy that preceded the series were proved very wrong, very quickly.

Now, Virat is a naturally aggressive individual who likes to take on his opponents. In fact, he actively seeks opportunities to do so. It’s a refreshing trait for Indian cricket fans to see in one of their star players. It makes for great television every time he stands his ground and gives it back to a bowler like Johnson, or when he blows kisses to the people inside as well as outside the playing field. That’s the Kohli way and he’s God’s gift to cricket broadcasters, commentators and writers everywhere. But , as with everything, it seems to come at a price.

In the press conference I’ve linked above, a visibly agitated Kohli says that the banter doesn’t affect his batting, but then goes on to contradict himself by saying that he made a conscious effort to ‘back up the talk’. Bowlers the world over have already figured out that it is very easy to break his concentration by getting under his skin, even if it may not always work out in their favour. But hey, they’ll say, it’s definitely worth a try when things aren’t going your way. As one of the best batting talents of his generation, Kohli needs to think about whether there will come a day ten years in the future, when he will look back and wonder if he could have scaled higher peaks, if he wouldn’t have let these things bother him. For the sake of Indian cricket and his numerous fans who have already been witness to some scintillating Kohli innings, let’s hope that question never needs to be brought up.

Happy sixtieth birthday Pops!


My dad(or pops as we called him!) turns 60 today. If he were here today, we’d be watching the cricket match and having detailed discussions about it’s nuances on a phone call(if we were in different cities) or over a hot plate of pakoras(if we weren’t). It’s moments like that, which I’ll always cherish, and miss, Pops.

I don’t think we ever truly realized how lucky we were to be able to call someone like you our dad. I guess we never think about those things until it’s too late, especially us sons. But, I hope you knew, you understood, how much you meant to us. Every little good thing that the world sees in me, in my brother, is a reflection of how you brought us up, the examples you set, the things you opened our eyes to, and the belief you had in us. I hope we’re able to let those parts of you live on within us. On a related note, the jar-opening trick you taught me never fails to impress people ;)

I’d like to believe that you’re still watching over us somehow. Have a great 60th birthday, Pops! Our world’s always going to be a poorer place without you.