I woke up gasping for breath. I could feel life slowly leaving my body. I was breathing heavily, my body drenched in sweat. I opened my eyes to look around myself and familiarize myself to the surroundings. I could feel that my hands were bounded by a rope. I looked around, my heart pounding fast. I was not sure what happened to me or what was happening around me, but by the look of it, it was nothing pleasant. I tried recalling my last few memories in an attempt to construct a view of what might have happened and how I ended up in this situation. Nothing. I was trying hard but there was no clue I could gather about my previously known whereabouts.
I had recovered a bit of my consciousness by this time and decided to analyse the surroundings I was in. With my current state of being, it surely looked like that I was being held captive. The room was small and dimly lit with the only source of light being the sunlight peeping through the curtains. There was a bed, table, some chairs and a television in the room, so it was a hotel, though not an expensive one. There was a bustle out in the street, loud overlapping noises and honking of cars and bikes. This meant that I was on a low floor, maybe ground or first, and the hotel was built in the midst of a busy neighbourhood, a market most likely. So, I was tied to a chair in a cheap hotel situated in a busy market. That is good for a start. I glanced in the mirror to have a look at myself. I was looking shabby, tired and my clothes were torn- signs of a struggle. Oh! It looks like I put up quite a fight. I was admiring myself in the mirror when sound of footsteps approaching caught my attention.
The sound grew heavier as it came near. The lock turned and the door opened. On the doorway was standing a man. He was heavily built, probably in his early thirties, unshaven and a round belly swaying. He had a tattoo on his left wrist, some sort of logo, probably of the organisation he worked for. But wait, he looked like a mafia muscle. Whoa! Wait a minute. Mafia! Hell, no! Now what in heaven’s name have I done to get me in strings which the mafia. Think! Look through your mind files. He was staring me and was giving me some kind of a ‘You are a dead man’ look which was freaking me out. I gathered up some courage and asked, “Who are you? Why are you holding me here? Who are you working for?” And like every other Indian caught up in some screwed up situation, the most idiotic question, “Do you know who I am?”
“Well, I wouldn’t have kidnapped you if I didn’t.”, said a voice that came from behind. Wait. Someone was watching me all this time sitting just a few feet away behind me? How was I not aware?
“And who you might be Mr.?” I left the question incomplete.
“My name is not of any importance to you. But first, I need your confirmation that you will cooperate with me.” He sounded very serious. The man was not kidding.
I was scared but managed to ask, “Who the hell you think you are? And who am I dealing with? Show me your face!” I wanted to sound demanding, make them feel like they messed with the wrong guy here. The man walked past me and stood in front. He was an averagely built guy, maybe in late forties. He wore a tailored blue suit. He had a charm about his face, it was radiating with energy, with life. The dude seemed to be rich.
My mind was racing fast. I was thinking what this situation was. By the look of the two men who were keeping me company, it looked that they were not messing around and surely meant business. I was trying hard to focus on of how can I be of any use. And how will I escape from this. Even if I agreed to help them what were the odds that they won’t kill me to keep their secret. The two men were engaged in a conversation. They were talking in hushed voices, and fast. They were in an argument, I guess. The rich dude was looking a bit unsatisfied and the belly man seemed like he was doing everything with a dead enthusiasm.
They both left the room, locked the door. The belly guy was probably just outside, guarding the door. Now is my chance. I have to do something quick. I tried to free myself from the ropes. With a lot of effort and bruises on my wrist, I was successful in getting loose from the rope. Now I had to find a way to escape, undetected, deadly silent and fast. My first thought was to burst the door open and make a run but I realised what a stupid idea it was and that I may get killed trying to act hero. I opened the window and found that I was on the first floor. The window was small but wide enough to fit me through. I opened the window, climbed up the chair and squeezed myself through the window. In the name of the Almighty, I jumped out hoping to land on something smooth. I ended up falling on a food cart passing. A street vendor selling fruits. I was in no mood to argue with him. I tossed some few hundered notes from my wallet and made a run for it. I ran as fast as I could, as far as I could until I was sure that I was far enough to get a head start.
I stopped to analyse the neighbourhood where I was in. It looked like a residential colony. But all the houses were looking exactly the same. How could this be? Each and every house looked same, painted in same color, and had just number written on the front door. I stopped at house numbered 25 and knocked the door. No one answered. I tried again. I called out. No answer. I tried the next door, same. The door next to it. The response was same. This was freaking me out. What the hell was happening? I looked back but could not find the way I came. These doors were all that were there. The sky which was sunny and lively a few minutes ago was now covered with dark dense clouds converging together in thick layers. This was driving me crazy. It seemed like I was losing my mind. And when I was about to lose all hope of ever getting out of this godforsaken place, one of the doors opened and an elderly woman asked me to quickly come inside. I first thought that it was an illusion, a foul play of the brain to convince me of a reality I wished to see. She rushed to me and quickly took me inside.
The house looked like one of those old Victorian era mansions you see in movies. A large colonial type place that old woman had. She was looking at me in amaze as if she were setting eyes on a man for the first time in years. She looked in her late sixties but I don’t think she was weak because of the pace at which she came out and rushed me inside. She was wearing a white saree like one they force a bollywood widow to wear. Her face was wrinkled, she looked fragile. Her fingers were thin and long. I was looking at her. She continued looking at me for a few more seconds and then turned towards some other room, kitchen maybe.
“Who are you woman? What is this place? Why nobody answered the door? Why was I not able to find the road back?” I was shooting questions at her like a commander who had captured an enemy soilder and was interrogating him for all the answers he could get.
She remained silent. Maybe she was deaf or chose to ignore my questions. She gave me a look from the corner of her eye and then resumed whatever she was doing. I sensed that something was wrong about this place and that I needed to leave as soon as I could. I tried reaching the door but with each step it seemed to be drifting away from me. No matter how hard I was trying to reach for the door, I could not reach it. And just then, snap! The floor beneath me betrayed me and gave away. I fell, screaming. And just when I was about to hit the ground, I woke up breathing heavily. My body drenched in sweat. Heart beating fast. My head was spinning, it all seemed very blurry and hazy. My hands were tied up behind a chair.
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