He tried to run away as fast as he could. But the pain from the gunshot in his right shoulder and right leg was excruciating. He was out of breath and now, the loss of blood was making him light headed and dizzy and his revolver was blank after firing six rounds of bullets.
He hadn't expected them to arrive at the pub and hence, he had decided to come empty handed, without any protection. The deal with Mr. Khanna was supposed to be a secret one. No one had known about it except Khalid Bhai, Aman and Shyam. Could it be Shyam? No, it couldn't be. Khalid Bhai trusted him. But he wasn't sure if he could trust him after all that had occurred between them a week ago.
Aman! He remembered his most trusted aide at this very crucial moment. He was the one who had pushed the revolver in his hands at the last minute.
"Bhai! I don't know why, but I feel that you will need this. Please take it with you. Today, Khalid Bhai strictly ordered me not to accompany you. If he hadn't, I would have come along with you. Somehow, my intuition says that something bad is going to happen." Aman had told him just before leaving the house.
"Don't worry. I'll be alright. I can fend for myself. And your intuition needn't be correct everytime." He had responded back with a chuckle patting the shoulders of Aman. He was no less than a brother to him, the closest thing to a family. Aman's intuition was always right, he sighed.
Snapping back to reality, he stopped for a while to catch his breath. His black trouser was now soaked wet with blood. His white shirt wasn't recognizable anymore. Blood dripping on one side and the dirt and grease marks covering the other side. His shoulder was hurting him and he let out a gasp as the muscle tightened and the nerve twitched, the pain throttling down his body.
He turned towards the dark corner at the end of the street. It was nearly 9:00 pm and most of the shopkeepers had closed their shops and retired for the day. At first, he seemed lost as this was the first time he had ventured out in this locality of Delhi. But it didn't mind where he went as long as he survived. He needed to be alive. That was his mission.
He painfully took a step ahead and started limping forward. He cursed himself under his breath for leaving his cell phone behind back in the pub. The assailants had launched themselves on him without any warnings and thus, he had forgotten to grab the mobile phone on the table.
He remembered seeing Mr. Khanna's face covered with absolute shock, diving under the table for cover. The firing had begun instantly and the pub was in utter chaos, as screams and gunshots were heard.
He had retrieved the revolver from his pant and shot at the assailants, dashing towards the door for escape. But he was too late. One of them had managed to shoot him in his shoulder and leg. Still, he hadn't stopped and nor was he going to now.
Tears were welling in his eyes due to the atrocious pain, his body was tortured upon. Sweat beads were rolling down his temples to his sides. He felt his chest constrict and breathlessness took over. Taking another step, he stumbled and collapsed to the ground landing on his chest. Was this his end? Was he going to die so soon? No, he couldn't and he wouldn't.
He tried to get up, but his body felt paralysed from his waist. He closed his eyes with helplessness as darkness engulfed him.
She hurried herself as she glanced at her watch. It was 9:00 pm already and cursed herself for being so late. Now she would have to listen from her Buaji. Her Buaji had warned her to return home before 8:30 pm. But after watching the movie at Lavanya's house, her best friend, she had completely forgotten about the time.
Hey Devi Maiyya, please save me from Buaji today! She muttered under her breath. As fright took over her, over the supposedly expected reactions from her aunt, she nervously clutched her bag. She pulled the white Dupatta over her arms, trying to shield herself from cold night. The cool breeze ruffled her long tresses, left open for it to claim. Irritated with that one strand of hair, that interfered with her eyes, she roughly tucked it behind her ear and turned to the dark street at the corner.
This was one street which she was apprehensive to travel about. It only had shops and at this hour of the night, it would be completely submerged with darkness except for that one single street light at the end. She chanted Devi Maiyya's name to ward off all evil that lay in the darkness ahead of her.
There was no sign of any living person on that street. A lone street dog whimpered in the corner, the only sign of life over there. She swiftly strode her way to the end of the dark street, when suddenly she found someone lying on the floor.
At first, the sight in front of her scared the wits out of her. She apprehensively observed the man lying on the floor. Was he dead? She closed her eyes and stepped away from him, not to be entangled in any mess. Her Buaji had clearly warned her not to involve in anything. She had read in newspapers about several murders that took place in the dark such as places like these. She mumbled a prayer under her breath for the soul of the dead man and walked past his body.
Suddenly, she heard a wince behind her. She quickly turned around to see the man squirming with pain. He was alive! She gasped as she instantly rushed towards him. She knelt down and bent her head over his to see his face. She saw him opening his eyes and mumbling something incomprehensible. Holding his head with her hands, she helped him to roll over on his back. She rested his head on her lap, wiping the sweat drenched face of the man with her pristine white Dupatta.
He opened his eyes to see the face of an angel rescuing him. Maybe he was dead. Maybe the angel had come to take him away. He remembered his mother saying to him that angels existed in heaven and only good people went to heaven. But he was the bad guy destined for hell. So why was the angel here?
Initially, she couldn't see his face clearly due to the darkness. But as her eyes adjusted themselves, she noticed his face and body with the help of the street light at the corner. She cried out in shock seeing the gunshot wounds on his shoulder and leg. His right side was completely drenched with blood. Some of it had dried, but the wound was still bleeding. Hey Devi Maiyya, he's hurt but still alive. He needs help. I must help him. She thought to herself.
She looked around her for anything that would help. But she couldn't find anything. There wasn't any single person around them whom she could call for help.
She carefully observed the wounds once again. They were gunshots. Her heart skipped a beat as she remembered her Buaji warning her not to involve herself in any mess.
But somehow she felt a very strong urge to help the person lying on her lap. It was as if he was solely relying on her. She held him closer to her chest, checking his rapid breathing, scared that it would cease if she let him go. "Don't worry. I'm there. I'll help you." She whispered into his ears, trying to ease away his fears. But it was easier said than done. She had no clue as to how she could help him out.
"I'll call the ambulance." She said as an idea flashed to her mind.
He heard her soft sweet voice, no less than a melodious song to his ears. Maybe it was an angel afterall, he thought to himself. He felt her fingers on the sides of his face and he immediately raised his uninjured hand, summoning all his remaining strength and held them tightly.
She was stunned to find him holding her hand. The grip was too weak. She knew he was losing this battle real fast.
"NO!" he cried out. It would involve the police and that was the last thing they wanted.
Feeling her skin under his touch, he felt a ray of hope emanate within him. He knew she was his last source for survival. He had to do it, even if it would cause him unimaginable pain. He took her hand and placed it on his shoulder. He could feel the bullet brushing against his hard shoulder blade. "Can you remove it?" he whispered with a low voice. He held her fingers softly, pleading with his eyes to redeem him from that pain.
She stared at him with shock, hearing his request.
"Remove it!" he cried out causing her to shudder with fear.
"I don't know, how to... remove it... the bullet..." she stuttered confusedly.
He ushered her fingers to unbutton his shirt. Shivering with fright, she undid the buttons and slid his shirt down the shoulder to reveal the gruesome wound.
He examined the wound to locate the bullet. When he finally found it, he grabbed her finger and placed it on that exact location so that she too could feel it. She couldn't see the wound clearly. She had to only rely on her tactile skills.
"Pull it out!" he ordered her in a low voice.
She didn't know how she could pull it out. As she continued to feel the bullet inside his hard muscle, she suddenly felt her fingers being thrust into that wound.
"Pull it out!" he screamed out with pain.
She squirmed with disgust as she found her fingers thrust inside the wound. But when she heard him scream, she instantly pulled out the hard metal in one swift go and threw it aside. He buried his face into her chest to muffle his screams.
Tears rolled down her eyes seeing him yelp out with pain. But she felt helpless. All she wanted to do was end his pain.
After what seemed like eternity, he felt his shoulder go numb with the sudden rush of blood from the wound. But atleast, the bullet was out, he thought to himself. He could now move his right arm without the bullet brushing against his bone. The bullet in his leg could wait. All he had to do now was call Aman.
"Do you have your cell phone?" he enquired in a hoarse voice after calming down.
"Yes." She said rummaging through her bag for the phone.
He grabbed the phone from her hand and managed to dial a number with his thumb. "Aman! It's Arnav here." He let out a huge sigh as he felt his lungs constrict themselves. He found his voice failing him as he tried to tell him his location. But he himself had no idea where he was.
She understood that he was finding it difficult to talk. So she grabbed the phone from his hand and spoke into it. "Your friend is lying here wounded. He needs help quickly." She said explaining to him their location. She instantly heard the phone disconnect at the other end.
Once again, Arnav grabbed the phone from her hand and carefully deleted the last dialled number and handed it back to her. He didn't want to leave behind any trace of him. He held her arms for support as he straightened himself to a seated position. He tried to get up but failed miserably, until he felt her holding his arm.
She helped him stand up but found him lose his balance, the minute he straightened himself. He found himself leaning on her for support, but few seconds later, he pushed himself back on the wall behind him.
"You can leave!" he ordered as he staggered forward with the support of the wall. He ran his hand over the wetness of the blood threatening to ruin the ground beneath him.
"Wait!" she gasped out as an idea flashed her mind.
She took the white Dupatta covering her and rolled it together firmly and started wrapping it around his shoulder tightly to stop the bleeding. He winced out with pain feeling the tightness of the cloth against his wound.
He looked into those glistening eyes to find concern written all over it. He hadn't seen that concern before in anyone's eyes, except his mother's and that was last seen 16 years ago.
"You need to leave right now." He said with a softened tone. He didn't want her to get into any trouble if those assailants found him once again. He pushed her away and limped forward towards the main road, a hundred metres away from him.
She stared at his retreating figure dumbfounded, as he disappeared into the dark. She turned around to leave, when she felt something hard under her sandals. She moved her leg to reveal the same bullet removed by her minutes earlier. She picked it up with her blood covered fingers and held it in her palm, as she walked towards her destination, her home.
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