“Shit! I think we have to push this bloody stupid car!”
“Just try again, turn the key, and push the clutch in and gas a little bit, I guess”
“I did many times, sweetheart! But see? Still, this shit does not want to move, even for an inch! I had no idea what happened, I have checked everything before we left Shimla, right?”Ok, I got an idea, would you mind sitting on the wheel whilst I am pushing this car? Would you, Stacy?” Michael looked so hopeless.
“Ok, but tell me, when should I push the gas, because I never drive manual car, you know?” Stacy looked so worried.
The night should be an absolute delight in the winter season in New Delhi as an air of euphoria floats about in the air. The warm smell of roasted peanuts was one of the best smells in this town. The birds flew from one tree to another as perhaps they looked for the warmest place to stay. And the fogs were getting down and they were already feeling the chill creep into their bones. Michael looked at the watch; it was already 02:00 a.m. His eyelids got heavy and were tempted to sleep in the car.
“Baby, I am freezing, freezing cold! Can we just stay in the car until morning? It would be easier to ask someone to help us or we can call a mechanic to fix up the car?” her voice trembling in a chill.
“Just a minute, I think I can fix it up,” he said calmly.
All of a sudden, in the silent night, there was a black Mercedes stopped in front of a modest brick and beautiful house which was just the opposite Michael’s car. Three men with the mask got off the car and walking towards the house. I am so curious. What on earth is happening? He ducked himself towards them.
Michael…Michael, what’s going on?”She whispered.
“Shh…” he signaled her to stay in the car.
They opened the gate by the remote control. What the hell? He followed them inside. He decided to wait in the bush and thinking what would happen next.
Twenty minutes later…
“Oh Lord!!! Forgive me for what I saw!” he was shocked and jerked away.
And unfortunately, one of them heard the voice and directing the flashlight into the bush.
“Get the boy, quick!!!”One of them asked their friend to run after him.
Michael kept running and avoiding his car because he knew that his girlfriend was inside and he did not want her to be caught as well. Stacy heard people running and she peered out of the window’s car.
“Oh God, please save him”
The man shot him with an air rifle. Michael fell down and crawled to reach a safe place. But no safe place. He got caught.
“So you got him, Rahul?”
“Yes, boss, I got him!”
“Good, bring him to our car, I was wondering what he was doing around here?” the boss said.
They blindfolded him and walked towards their car that had been waiting.
“Wait, you guys go ahead, I need to check on something”, Rahul said.
Rahul walked towards the car. He wiped the dew on the window with his elbow. He saw Stacy inside. She looked terrified and staring at him.
The next morning, Sanjay, a gardener of Mr. Deepu Jayarathan found him hanging dead from the balcony. He was trembling and ran inside to wake up the family.
The wife and their two teen daughters hugged each other and cried. Their father was one of Lok Sabha members and would be appointed to be a Chairman [Committee on Subordinate Legislation].
In the past few weeks, he was involved with an important discussion about Tobacco VS Cancer. The discussion was really hard as one of the other members disagreed and looked disappointed and said “there is no evidence that tobacco causes cancer. He had argued that no Indian study had ever shown a link between cancer and the use of tobacco, and had asked the government to put on hold the increase in the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products instead.
Mr. Deepu was in his late forty and had grey hair, dark eyes and a warm smile. He was intelligent and humble. And he was one of the very successful in Parliament and earning the reputation that got the things done.
“I appreciate your opinion, Mr. Rakesh Ziyaudeen, however, if we were asked whether there is any link between tobacco and cancer, I would absolutely say yes, there is”, he said calmly.
He clicked on his laptop keyboard which was connected to the projector screen. All the members of parliament looked up and started to listen.
“According to Cancer Research in The UK that experts agree that tobacco is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer in the world. And smoking does not only cause cancer. It also causes tens of thousands of deaths each year in the UK from other conditions, including heart and lung problems. And in the US, tobacco use is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths; this equal about 480.000 early deaths each year”
“Well, that was only in the UK and USA, right?” I do not think WHO agreed with that”, Mr. Rakesh cut in rudely.
“The WHO estimates that each year tobacco causes about 6 million deaths and in the 20th century, tobacco is estimated to have caused 100 million deaths!” Mr. Deepu said.
He clicked on the slide and said “So, ladies and gentlemen, the bottom line is tobacco has very bad effects on human health. Research has focused primarily on cigarette tobacco smoking. Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. And of course, the last but not the least, that smoking can damage many parts of the body!” he closed the slide and flipped the laptop. All the members applauded and they looked satisfied with all the explanation from the chairman to be.
“And one more thing Mr. Rakesh, I think we have to increase in the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products.
Twenty minutes later, the Indian Police arrived with two medical examiners walked behind. They installed the police line at the crime scene. Detective Joseph asked two officers to take the body down. They brought him inside and laid him on the floor. The two medical examiners started to investigate with great care. They must distinguish between hanging and asphyxiation caused by other means such as manual strangulation and smothering.
Shortly after, one of the examiners said, “It has been ruled as a suicide!”
Detective Joseph approached and said “explain to me…”
Ian, the examiner explained that he found neck mark, “Look, sir! The marks run diagonally across the neck, but… it would be a horizontal mark if it is manual strangulations of a hanging, however, we need to bring the body first so that we can investigate further more…”
Stacy woke up. She looked around, but nothing she could see, it was really dark. Bad smell and humid. She could not remember anything. The last thing she saw was the Indian guy, staring at her through the window’s car. “Oh Lord, what is happening to me? And where is Michael?” she suddenly remembered what had happened the night before.
She reached her pocket and took a green St. Pio Rosary beads. Wrapping them around her fingers. She bowed her head and began to pray.
Stacy and Michael were on their holiday to visit India and Nepal. They were a young couple from England who had passions to explore South Asia before they got married. Michael was twenty-two, strikingly handsome, with brown hair and an athletic build. And Stacy was twenty, slim with soft-honey colored hair. They looked like a perfect couple that most of their friends thought they could not live apart at any second.
Ten minutes later, the door suddenly swung open and two men stepped inside and turned on the light. It was a small light, but was enough to see around. She was startled to see Michael, who had been bound and gagged. He looked at her. He wanted to whisper to her “be strong, babe” and hold her for a moment. But he could say nothing. He shuddered to think what would happen to her.
“Hey, Rahul, get the boy out of here!” A tall man with black curly hair asked his friend.
“And bring him to the boss!” Rahul nodded and said, no problems, Jack!” He lifted Michael to stand up and brought him out. Stacy ran to him, but Jack, the black curly hair, held her tightly. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She said, “Michael, I love you!”
Michael looked at her with tears in his eyes and nodded. And then they all left.
The following day, when news of Mr. Deepu Jayarathan, a member of Lok Sabha leaked out, the press went wild, and there were ten times as many reporters outside the prospective chairman’s home. This was big news and they wanted the story.
The Times of India afternoon newspaper wrote in the headline “Mr. Deepu Jayarathan was found hanging dead from his balcony”…
Shortly after noon, all the radios and televisions did not stop talking about the unclear reason. Why did Mr. Deepu Jayarathan kill himself? Some people doubt his death was ruled a suicide. It was really a trending topic in the entire India, at this moment.
Even in the Parliament itself, some people assumed there might have any connection between the last meetings which was tobacco VS cancer. Rakesh Ziyaudeen. He was the only one who disagreed and denied the government policy.
It had been five days now that Stacy lived in the small dark and smelly. She kept thinking about Michael. Did they kill him? Oh babe, just hang in there. We will get married soon. Tears welled up in her eyes. All of a sudden, the door opened, someone was pushed over and fell.
“Okay, kid, you got the last chance to see your lover. And I’ll come back in five minutes!” Jack reminded Michael. “Michael!” Stacy stood up and turned on the light. She was shocked looking at his face. His eyes got bruised and swollen. Blood in his nose and mouth. “Oh Lord, who did this to you?” she asked tearfully and hugged him.
“Stacy, I have no time to explain. They will come back in five minutes”, Michael was trembling.
“There was something important that I would like you to follow what I say, okay? That night, I followed them to that house, remember?” I saw them killing one of the Parliament members, Deepu…something; I couldn’t catch his name clearly. I recorded for what happened and I kept my mobile here, in this small room. “Look! A big stone there?” He pointed and she nodded.
Behind that stone, there’s a small hole. And what I would like you to do, just try to run away from here and get the mobile with you. Can you do that? He touched her cheeks and kissed her.
Her tears kept rolling down her cheeks and she said “w-what are they going to do Michael?”
“I do not know, maybe they will kill me!” he managed to look strong. “Listen, babe, you got to be strong and please do as I say, okay? They will be coming in a minute. And Stacy, I love you…, I love you with all my heart. And I am so sorry that I did not listen to you to just stay in the car,” he said sadly.
“I love you too Michael, I am sure that we can be together!” she hugged and kissed him deeply as if she did not want to let him go.
The door opened. Jack and Rahul poked him to move out. Stacy was frozen. Oh, Michael, I love you. I will do what you want me to do. She was thinking hard how to get out of this place. She went to the small bathroom. She looked at the window and smiled wryly. I think I can get out of here.
It was thirty minutes before one o’clock in the morning. She could manage to get out through the bathroom’s window and saw one man standing and smoking; and the other one was lying on the grass drinking. Stacy ducked and tried not to make a noise. She walked towards the gate. Damn. It is locked. She looked around to find another way out. She walked towards the fence. Good. It is not that high and I can reach that. A minute later. Thank God, I am finally out of the hell. She ran down the path leading out into the street. She kept running and her mind was in Michael’s.
“There! Go and get that bitch!!!”, Jack pointed to her.
“Idiot! Why don’t we just kill her?” Rahul looked furious.
“Not yet! Let’s go!!!
Stacy looked at the back and her eyes wide with shock. She was in fear for a few moments. She broke into a run-tears rolling down her cheeks as her heart pounded in her chest, feeling as if it was going to explode as she panted for breath, as she kept running at full speed down the street but no idea where she was heading to. Wait, I think I knew where am I going to? I recognise this road. She stayed in the Samrat hotel in Chanakyapuri area which was near from where she was now, in Vasant Vihar. She looked around to find a taxi, but nothing.
“Come on, Rahul, faster and get the girl!”
“Wait, I am out of the breath!” he stopped and held his chest.
“Ah, come on! We cannot lose her; otherwise the boss is going to kill us! “Jack held him to stand up.
Stacy was exhausted but kept running. She was trying desperately hard not to panic. I have to survive. I do not want to die. It’s for Michael. She ran towards a small and narrow path leading to the park. And Rahul and Jack kept running and following her. She saw the stone bench near the bushes and decided to hide under the bench. She thought it would be safe for a moment. She was shivering to the bone and trying to manage her breath. She could see the hotel building from there.
“Where the hell is she?”
“I saw her running here”, Rahul said.
“Let’s search!” Jack said.
She waited until they moved further. She did not hear the footsteps and the talking between them. She came out and kept running towards the hotel.
“There!! That’s the girl! Go.Go.Go!!!! Come on Rahul, get her!
Stacy got a dreadful shock and thought that they were far from her hiding. She wanted to give up. Then she remembered what Michael told her. Be strong! She ran and thinking about Michael. She did not see the log lying across the street and she stumbled. She held her knees in pain. A big hand grabbed her from behind. She was terrified as if she looked at a ghost.
“Geez, finally we got you, young lady!” Jack laughed out loud. You gave us a hard time, you know?”
“You almost kill me! I have asthma, bitch!” Rahul gasped and yelled at her.
“Hey, why do you keep running, Stacy?” Jack asked.
“H-how you know my name?” Stacy asked with hesitance in her voice almost not wanting to know the answer.
“Well, I asked your dead boyfriend!” Jack laughed.
“W-what did you say?” her voice was trembling and tears welled up. Michael is dead?
“You do not want to know, eh, well Jack, I think we should move on, bring the girl to our boss!”
“Great, but wait, I want to pee, watch her, will you?” Jack asked.
Stacy could not stop crying but she did not want to let them kill her too. She grabbed the log quickly and hit Rahul’s head whilst he was managing her breath. He collapsed. She made sure that he did not move and ran as fast as she could. She did not dare to look back again. Her mind was turning around and trying to remember which way to reach the hotel.
And only a few steps, she would step into Samrat hotel. Her sight was blurring. She was sweating. She saw a man standing in front of her and grabbed her. She collapsed.
The next morning, in Delhi Police, headquarters, Stacy was talking with Detective Joseph. He brought her to his office. The room was quite large with the nature colours. The sacred symbol of the Lord Ganesh statue standing upright between two beautiful crème sofas. The fragrance of Sandalwood was spreading throughout the room. Several awards and medals placed neatly in the glass cabinet. She felt comfortable and safe. Joseph had been a detective for fifteen years. He was tall, dark hair and good looking.
“Have a seat, Miss Hamilton”.
“Stacy…sir, just call me Stacy. Um… How did you know my name?
“Kumar, the hotel’s security saw you looked confused and suddenly you collapsed. And he brought you to the hotel and apparently you were one of their guests. He called here… and fortunately I picked up the phone directly. Now, Stacy, please tell me what happened?” Joseph asked, looking concerned.
After twenty minutes, she handed over the mobile phone which Michael recorded the incident.
“Thank you, Stacy. And I will ask the officers to take you to the hotel and watch you there until we finish the investigation. Would that be fine for you?” he asked politely.
“Okay, but please make sure, the officers are there”
Joseph hugged and said warmly “Yes, of course, we won’t let them harm you. You are in the right hand”.
She nodded and said “Thank you”
Detective Joseph took Michael’s mobile phone and brought to the investigation room and transferred it to the computer. “Come here, quick!” he signaled his partner, Detective Jasmine, to come along with him. “Look at this recorded from Stacy”.
That was a fifty-second recorded. They were sitting and looking at the computer screen.
“Run it again,” Jasmine said reasonably. “And bring it up the sound.”
Detective Joseph replayed the fifty-second recorded.
“Shit, shit, shit!” it was Deepu Jayarathan!. He was killed! Jasmine said loudly.
“You know this guy, Jasmine?” Joseph pointed to the big man with a knitted black ski mask covering his face.
“Zoom in, please?”…
And after a while.”I had no idea; I could not see his face!” Jasmine looked disappointed.
“Wait, he took it off”, Joseph pointed to the screen.
Jasmine came closer and said “I knew this guy! He is Boris Yakov. He is a son of Vladimir Yakov, a very successful businessman in India. And one of his largest businesses at this moment is a cigarette. A new product named is “VY Gold”.
“I got it!” Joseph pulled out the chair and sat in front of Jasmine.
“After Deepu Jayarathan died, we had heard that there was a speculation that he might have been killed. And they had mentioned one of other Lok Sabha members involved. We investigated some people who had a meeting with Deepu Jayarathan. They said there was a hot discussion with regards to tobacco VS cancer. Raskan Ziyaudeen was a man who argued and disagreed about Deepu’s decision to move forward with the government policy to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products. We brought him here to investigate as we assumed he was behind Deepu’s death. And now, I got it! Deepu Jayarathan was killed by Vladimir Yakov who tried to stop government policy as he knew that he would be the next chairman in Lok Sabha. Yakov might have a thought; the policy would ruin his cigarette business”
“Problem solved!” Jasmine stood up and smiled.
“No! Not yet! We have to catch him! Let’s go!
Two weeks later, Stacy walked towards Michael’s grave. She sat on the side, looking at the tombstones written RIP “Michael Bradford”, 1993-2015. She wiped the tears and started to pray. She was thinking how lovely her relationship with him. She was excited imagining, how happy her life would be? Now, all had gone. She was alone. That’s the last word; he wanted her to do “Be Strong”!
There are things in live we don’t want to happen, but have to accept; things we don’t want to know, but have to learn, and people we can’t live without, but have to let go!” Goodbye, my love…