by Sanjoy Dutt
(Portland, OR, USA)
It was a bad night to spiral down the hilly road. With heavy rains and gusting wind, the dark road and forest around only became visible for a moment when the lightning hit.
Dev looked at his watch, started his car and drove down till he hit the lone cottage by the route. He walked to the doorway, the cold metal clutched his hand hidden in his pocket and tapped on the door.
A woman answered the door and was surprised, “Dev! Is that you?”
Dev looked awestruck. He did not expect to see Pia here after so many years. His hand froze in his pocket.
A male voice yelled from deep down, “Pia, who is it?”
“My car broke on my way back to the city. It’s a tough night to drop in this jungle; the illumination from your cottage brought me to your door.” Dev hesitantly replied.
“Jag Mohan, this is Dev. We went to college together!” Pia said.
Dev is welcome in the house. Dev and Pia share old memories of their college days with Jag Mohan. While remembering the past, they took care not to reveal their courtship during college.
“Jag Mohan, why are you staying in this lonely cottage?” Dev asks.
“My family has been in the timber business for over 70 years. My trusted men have appeared after the affairs here so when we got married twelve years ago, we held out and managed the business from the metropolis. Six years ago Lucky approached me about joining him in his mining business. I smelled good profit in mining and invested a large sum of money in purchasing the plant and machinery. Initially, I was getting satisfactory returns. In precisely this last year the earnings dropped.
Even though spending on blasting, power and labor increased, things just didn’t add up. I got here to mention the day to day performance and find out what was going awry. This cottage lay vacant and is only a few miles from the mines so it is convenient for that purpose. Unfortunately, our son had to stay in the city for school and it is difficult not having him with us. ” Jag Mohan smiled “What you do Dev? What brought you here tonight?”
“I work for an insurance company, and I came here to inspect machines deployed at the dam site, up the hill,” Dev replied.
“Dev, we have so much to catch up. Hope you can stay up late tonight.” Pia smiled.
“Oh. Please excuse me, have an early morning tomorrow so I have to go to bed. Please feel free to stay up and catch up with Pia. Good Night! ” Jag got up from his chair and left the room.
Dev sipped his drink silently watching Pia, as she looked outside at the darkness.
“Why did you just vanish after college?” Pia demanded.
“It’s a long story, Pia! My life changed. I had to
discover a means to make money for all my mother’s medical bills. I knew I could never give you the life you deserved. You have a better life now, more than I could ever give you.”
“And what about all of our promises?” Pia’s eyes were hazy.
Dev paused for a moment. Looking to avoid the painful past, he asked, “Why is Jag Mohan staying here?”
“Lucky started stealing from the mine. He was giving falsified expense reports so Jag Mohan decided to come here and take care of matters himself. Since he came things are improving.”
“Are you aware his watchful eyes have earned him enemies?”
“I have tried to convince Jag Mohan to withdraw his share and let Lucky run his business himself. Lucky is unwilling to return any money, he says the mine is running at a loss. Two weeks ago, Jag Mohan pressed the issue and while he was in the mine someone set off explosives. It was Jag Mohan's luck, he escaped unharmed, but how do you know he was upsetting people?” Pia inquired.
“I have my sources. This is not a safe place for either of you.” He warned. How old is your son now? ” Dev asked.
“He is fourteen now!”
The reply shocked Dev. The math did not add up. “But you have only been married for twelve years. That is what your husband said before right?”
Pia was silent. She had not planned on telling him ever, but now that he was in front of her, she determined she must. “He is your son!”
“Oh! What was I about to do?” Dev whispered to himself.
There was absolute silence in the room. Pia, taking his reaction as rejection, fled the room.
Dev slept badly and before the crack of dawn he went away the cottage without saying goodbye. The rain had stopped leaving a chill in the air. As Dev put the key in the ignition, he looked down at the gun lying on the seat beside him.
This was not his first job, but it would be his last. His first job helped to pay for his mother’s treatment. The money was good and the work was easy enough that he continued to hire out his services. He has had to change his identity so many times and almost lost himself in the process. It was clear to him who had sent him as death to Pia’s door. If he was not the one to finish the job, he knew someone else would and he could not let that happen.
A few days later there was a small article in the local newspaper. All it read was “Mr. Lucky was found dead from a gunshot wound at his mansion. Police have begun a probe into the slaying. Mr. Lucky was said to have taken in large amounts of money from traders to supply mining products that were never rendered. ***