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Pranav Deshpande

Drama Crime Thriller


Pranav Deshpande

Drama Crime Thriller

The Assassin

The Assassin

16 mins 31 16 mins 31

Everyone is staring at me. Some people like to be stared at; it makes them feel special. But I don’t feel special. I feel I’m standing on that thin line that separates feeling special and feeling singled out. You stare back with a discerning gaze but there are plenty of eyes on you, blank and curious, and you can’t discern a sea of faces. You can only gauge the general mood of the crowd and in that too, you could be wrong. Whoever said that the eyes are a mirror to the heart or soul or mind or whatever, was maybe gazing into the eyes of one person. Singular, not plural. Now I know what an animal in a zoo must feel like. But then, zoos have a different culture.

Well, as I was saying, they’re staring at me. And I’m, totally freaked out at the moment. My mind conjures up meanings of the various expressions in their eyes and I’m segregating, unconsciously. And I see, some have hostility in their eyes, others have admiration, still others contempt and if my mind isn’t playing tricks on me, I see some envy too! After all, media attention is media attention and there are no wrong reasons, see. I’m living the Andy Warhol quote – but it’s not merely fifteen minutes; it’s a lot more fame than I bargained for.

I’m an educated person. I got a college degree and all. And good percentages too. I even passed the IAS with a good percentage. But during the interview, it turned out that I did not have the requisite percentage. You know what I mean.

There are a few others with me. The guy next to me doesn’t seem to have bathed all month and my keen sense of smell can actually detect the foul odour of unwashed armpit hair. But he’s wearing a tie and he has been reading Stephen Covey and he’s into some ‘seven habits’, which I haven’t discerned yet. There’s quite an amount of things that I can’t discern.

There are a few others. Even someone in a wheelchair, the amputated legs there for all to see and speculate. There is a hush and whispered murmurs. I glance around fearfully, for I’ve never been here before. It’s going to be my moment. Any moment now, they’re going to summon me. It’s a special occasion, you see.

I have assassinated a President. I hear the whispers, some of them, a little too loud. I was meant to hear them, I realize. Then someone whispers “Shhhh!” and the room is silent.

They call me ‘the assassin’. One of the speakers had, in a fit of humour, given me the sobriquet of the ‘assassin’, who killed the ‘President’. Although, people laughed, I didn’t get the humour. I never do. Hard to laugh at blood when you’re involved in spilling some.

Anyways, I’m not flattered. I didn’t choose my name but I felt that I atleast deserved to be the judge of any nicknames that I would get and assassin was not one of them. It wasn’t classy, somehow and I’ve always felt that I’ve got class. But then, it’s not in my hands. The sobriquet has stuck and become part of my persona. I wonder if the ordinary everyday assassin looks like I do. Then again, do looks or appearance have anything to do with it? I don’t know. There are a lot of things I don’t know. But I do have a college degree to prove I know something. To prove to myself, I mean.

There’s still some time before my name is called. Or so they tell me. So I blank my mind to the images of the present and travel back. To the past. I’ve done this before when I’ve felt discomfiture. A temporary escape from the present reality and maybe the conscious can settle down, while the unconscious soothes itself, with pleasant memories of the past. But the situation that I am in now, the only memory that asserts itself is the memory of the assassination. The thing that started it all. So I go back, but not too far back. I halt at a point in time, for I cannot go further. Or further backwards, if you get my drift.

To that fateful day, when I pulled the trigger and the bullet escaped from its locked prison and went forth, to fulfill its destiny. After all, what destiny does a bullet have, than to create a hole in already scarred human beings! Enter bullet – exit life – of another man, that is. Snuffed out, just like that. I like that phrase – just like that. It’s the way most things happen in our lives.

I feel like God. I have the power of life and death, see! Another man’s life, and my finger controlling it. Is that what God feels like?

No idea. I’m not a philosopher. Am I blasphemous? I don’t know that, either. But I hope not. I’ve already committed many sins.

So I travel back to that fateful day. It’s a dull afternoon, is what it is. A dull, windless, cloudless day. The sky is bright. The sun is shining, not that I’ve ever seen the sun do anything else, but that is what everybody says about the sun. It’s a virtual certainty that the sun will rise and shine. The sun is not human, after all. It’s a celestial body. And some may argue, that the sun doesn’t shine, always, you know. Like when it’s night for instance. But I say the sun continues to shine, just that we don’t see it for its on the other side of the globe. Where the grass is greener. There is green grass here too, but here, its just trampled underfoot. Without a thought. But then, as they say, the eyes have it.

Anyways, I’m digressing.

I arrive at my past. At that particular point in time, that set the chain of the present, from which I’m trying to alternate back into the past. A pointless contiuum but so many things in life are – so here’s one more.

I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable position, see? Assassins have to, usually. It’s not an assassination if its not ‘executed’, (you’ll pardon the expression), properly. There’s got to be some class, some panache to the execution. That’s what separates us assassins from the ordinary killer riffraff, see? And as I said before, I’ve got class. This is the proof.

So there’s a rifle in my hand. I hold it lovingly, like I’m holding a girl. But the rifle doesn’t struggle, nor can it scream and shout. But that’s another story. For the moment, suffice it to say that the rifle is fitted with telescopic sights, so that the face of the person is brought closer. We don’t go close, we merely expand the illusion and weave technology into that. Another example of ‘class’

Sometimes, I wonder how it would feel to simply focus the telescopic sight on different people and hold your finger lazily on the trigger and then take it off. You have the power of life and death on people! You’re God! Or the power drunk version of Him, atleast! As I said before.

I wonder if I should consult someone and ask them if what I’m feeling is normal. You know – this urge to have this power over life and death. But then, I don’t like these mind doctors, that’s what I call them. And at the end of the day, they simply tell you to read something. I don’t like to read.

I must be a very evil person to have these thoughts.

But wait – simple ordinary folk are not in my sights. I’d like the achievers in my sights. So I can blow them off. It’s simple.

I am here to assassinate a President.

I am an expert. I’m an acknowledged expert, though the acknowledgments were mostly silent admirations or a couple of pats on the back. Sometimes, that works. And sometimes, that’s the only thing that counts.

And it doesn’t have to do with the number of targets I shot or my accuracy parameter; the telescopic sights have taken care of that. No, my expertise is more of the psychological kind. I’ve got a psychologist friend – the one I don’t reveal myself to, because he will tell me to read books – who gave me this theory, that one of the reasons why I’m an expert is because I can force myself into a state of feelinglessness. I thought about it and it kind of makes sense, you know.

But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I watch this stuff in movies – people who kill, without any emotion, make for great killers. But I don’t understand it. I mean, the ones who display emotion, are they bad killers? They’re also killers, right? Killing is a sin, right? What have emotions got to do with it?

Another dilemma. I’m not good at dilemmas.

It’s like I regard the person I’m going to kill, as a piece of meat. The meat didn’t have a heart or a soul, it didn’t love or wasn’t loved by others. It’s just meat. I eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. On the other days, I affectionately pat the animals, who carry that meat.

I’m a killer of meat, not a killer of souls. Souls are immortal anyway, I’m just freeing them, aren’t I? A thing of glory, see!

Sometimes my psychologist friend is jealous of me.

It’s a big mansion, that I’m standing outside of. Of course, I can’t be seen – I’ve taken precautions to be hidden in a mass of foliage, which can’t be seen by a naked eye. Funny word, that – naked eye, I mean. When have you ever seen an eye ‘dressed’? Ha Ha.

See, I too have a sense of humour.

So I’m waiting. For that face to appear. I’ve been told that today is D-Day, whatever that means. That ‘he’ will come and I shall pull the trigger and he will be dead and I will be rewarded. I don’t know what D means. I’ve heard of D Company, there was a film released by that name. Apart from that, I don’t know.

Such a simple plan. All plans are simple, actually. And beautiful, too. The planners don’t have to implement them. That’s the beauty.

For so many things could go wrong! He may not come at all! And all that waiting would have been for nothing. How many times has this happened, when you plan and plan for something, put your heart and soul in it, waste valuable time, effort and money on it, and some small hitch, some unforeseen problem, some last minute emergency and the last thing that was gonna turn your dream into a reality, doesn’t happen!

Remember all the excuses you gave, while defending your failures. Weren’t they all on the same lines?

It was all for nothing!

I wonder, how many people, on the cusp of imminent death, in that final moment of transition from Life to eternity, have felt like this!

All the sorrows, all the hatred, all the envy, all the jealousy, all the fear, all the hypocrisy, all the double standards – it was all for nothing!

But I have hope. For that’s what life is about. So I hoped and waited.

And then it happened.

The doors of the mansion opened. I could make out the words ‘Embassy’ printed on the outside of those doors. They opened slowly; as do the minds of people, towards anything new or unknown. They opened to reveal, to anyone standing outside, a splendorous mansion inside and well tended green lawns. I’ve never understood the logic behind these green lawns, anyway. Those who have time to play in the grass, never tend to it. And the rich and famous and the lords and earls and masters, who have no time to venture into such sights, who ‘see without looking’ as they pass by, need their lawns all well manicured and well tended to. Perhaps, the illusion expressed is that an orderly lawn behoves an orderly mind. We are the keepers of illusions.

Well, as I said, the doors opened, a couple of servants and drivers moved to one side, one important looking guard screamed to the other and a Rolls Royce came into view. Slowly. Uncertainly. It’s windows were not even closed. That’s a godsend to any assassin.

The guards saluted. The watchmen saluted. The cops stationed around the entrance saluted. There’s something about quality cars that makes people recalculate their own comparative worth and express their inferiority accordingly. Even my hand went involuntarily upwards. Then I remembered that I had class. So my hand went down, again.

I became tense. The moment was upon me, as I’ve heard it said. The Rolls was moving at a slow leisurely pace.

A Rolls moving with its windows open is an unusual sight. But royalty can get away with anything.

A sweat bead materialized on my forehead and trickled downwards. As always happens during tense moments, the sweat beads invariably move towards your mouth and you can taste the salty unclean water that has escaped your body and is now getting back in.

The Rolls moved forward slowly.

And then it happened.

From the surrounding forests, a group of men burst into the open. However, don’t mistake me, the bursting wasn’t a picture of confusion and mayhem, it was well co-ordinated; I realized they had practised this action before. They were dressed in what looked like military fatigues. The leader wore a green colored bandanna on his forehead. Their intent was clear – death and mayhem. Their attitude was cocksure, their whole bearing, fearsome, their target, it became immediately apparent, the Rolls.

But they were a fraction of a second too late in opening fire. A fraction of a second. Such a small microcosm in the endless plethora of time. But this fraction separates a living breathing human being and an unfeeling, unliving corpse. And that is what happened. And that is how it happened. And that is why, we have class. Unlike the riffraff. Another evidence.

The security personnel hidden in the forests surrounding the embassy grounds, in hiding for more than two hours opened fire on the ambushing men. A fraction of a second earlier than that group did.

I guess all the fractions we learnt at school finally helped!

The ambushing group disintegrated, fell apart, writhing in a foam of blood that suddenly covered the thicket from whence they had sprung. Their leader however was injured, but alive. He turned back to dive into the woods.

In less than a moment, he would be gone. And it would all have been for nothing.

But this time, he had me to deal with. Me, the hidden sniper seated on the small platform built on the overhanging branches surrounding the embassy doors. Well hidden and well prepared. He didn’t know me. He didn’t need to. All he needed to be acquainted with, was a well aimed bullet, that would transport him from one personal hell to, what I hoped, was another. I called on all my instincts. All my years of training. All my experience. All of that had boiled down to one second, that would determine, whether it was all worth it, or whether it had all been for nothing. And I was determined to make this moment count.

I muttered a silent prayer. I screwed up my eyes, flicked the sweat bead, re-arranged the tension in my practised fingers, made my mind blank, my breath still, my conscious, in limbo. I just became, an angel of death.

And I pulled the trigger.

The yearning bullet, released from its prison, hurtled forward and struck the leader in the back of his head. At an exposed area. The bandanna disintegrated. And so did the back of the head.

I am a good sharpshooter. The leader fell. He was dead.

Dead, before his face crashed to the ground. I’m sure of that. It’s the knowledge that separates us, from the others.

All the killers were dead.

The men from the Rolls got out; they were not the men from the embassy; they were also security personnel, the braver lot, for they would have been the first to be fired upon. But then, it was all worth it. The group that had been threatening the Embassy was dead. The group’s traitor, who had negotiated with us and offered up valuable information about the assault, had also been killed. He had stayed slightly back, when the group attacked, but not far enough to escape the spray of bullets.

Collateral damage. Atleast his wife would be a slightly richer widow. Slightly, that’s all.

The group’s fearsome leader, whom I had killed was known throughout the terror fraternity as ‘The President’. And he was dead.

Assassinated by me.

It became a joke and it stuck.

They all congratulated me. They had tasked me with just one job. My single job had been to finish off the President, because he was the real inspiration, the real leader, the rest were simply followers. They had called upon my sharpshooting skills and I had delivered.

Suddenly my name is called out and I’m jolted back to the present.

Everyone is staring at me. Some people like to be stared at; it makes them feel special. But I don’t feel special. I feel I’m standing on that thin line that separates feeling special and feeling singled out. You stare back with a discerning gaze but there are plenty of eyes on you, blank and curious, and you can’t discern a sea of faces. You can only gauge the general mood of the crowd and in that too, you could be wrong. Whoever said that the eyes are a mirror to the heart or soul or mind or whatever, was maybe gazing into the eyes of one person. Singular, not plural. Now I know what an animal in a zoo must feel like. But then, zoos have a different culture.

Well, it’s a grand function. I receive a telegram one day, stating that the State has decided to honor me, for my brave task. I didn’t quite see the bravery in it all, but who am I to refuse the State.

I am to receive a medal from the State Governor and all the dignitaries and guests look at me as I walk towards the stage, to collect a trophy for killing the dreaded terrorist. I am scared. I have never been comfortable in public functions and my discomfort shows. Since I’m in the limelight, my mind cannot go back to the security of the past. I have to focus.

I remember what I’ve been taught. The way to walk, how to take the steps, the handshake, the bowing, the smile before the camera and the acceptance of the platitude. It all comes back to me. I ‘execute’ it perfectly. With class.

I’m not sure I deserve the platitude, I kind of feel that the ones who sat inside the Rolls, with their windows open, should have deserved the medal. They had placed their life and their trust in our hands – and sure, we had delivered – but it could have gone either way.

Of course, if they would have died in the battle, I would not have been the one walking towards the Governor. There would have been some weeping ladies and some proud ladies, dressed probably in white. There would have been other things said and done. The speech would have been profound. Probably televized. As it turned out, there were no widows and no eulogies. But it turned out all right, though. For me, atleast.

My colleagues have not be-grudged me, my good fortune. And that, is my good fortune.

I’ve even got a pay raise, now. I can probably get my kid admitted in that private school again, for I can now pay the fees. And maybe plead for leniency. Maybe the trophy I win here, would work. Just maybe.

My cheques won’t be returned due to insufficiency of funds. The Bank Manager will order coffee and discuss the weather, with me. Such an important thing, weather. I never realized that, till now.

I feel like a fraud when I accept the trophy. But my face is smiling and it will appear in tomorrow’s newspapers.

I walk back. They are already calling the name of the next person. The wheelchair amputee passes me as I walk back towards my group. My family. And my brothers in arms.

And oblivion.

Until the next time. And the next hunt………


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