“You can’t go beyond this point, there’s been an accident,” Rooh overheard the policeman caution the driver in the car ahead. Thwarted, he took a U-turn.
He cursed under his breath while glancing at his wrist watch. The rendezvous was at 5 pm and it’s a quarter to five. He’d started his trip excited, to meet Avinash, after almost five years.
He found himself elated with the news of Avinash’s settling in India after a long stay abroad. It was Avinash who’d planned for their meeting at once and Rooh promptly agreed to the proposal. Their late night drinks together, bunking classes, the flings and affairs- A content smile crossed his face while reminiscing the halcyon days. But what now? Was it not time to reunite with his college buddy yet?
He stopped his car a meter away at a side road to take stock of the situation. A knock at the window startled him.
“Avinash? How did you reach here? How are you? I mean…” Rooh stared through the window bewildered.
“Hold on man! You ask too many questions. Just like earlier times.” Said a bright-faced Avinash and they both guffawed.
“Old habits die hard. C’mon buddy.” Rooh opened the lock, and Avinash took the passenger seat and slammed the door shut.
“So, where to?” Rooh started the ignition with a practiced twist to the car key.
“We couldn’t make it to our old den, so what? We’ve our old hang out spot.” suggested Avinash with an anticipating grin.
“Yeah why not? I have missed that cliff badly. With you gone and Rahul all tied up with work, I hardly gathered the will to visit that place.”
“Oh! How is Rahul?”
“He is doing quite good. Took up his father’s business. We talk once in a while. I told him about you. He was very excited. He said he will meet you, but couldn’t make it today.” Rooh’s eyes twinkled with the same excitement.
“Those were the days. The four of us. Birds of the same flock.” Avinash’s chest thumped with a sigh as he stared at the distant road.
“Poor Vipin! I miss him yaar. His suicide note still haunts me.”
“I feel sorry too, Rooh. But with an alcoholic mother and a philanderer of a father, it was his own flesh and blood who were to be blamed.” Avinash’s jaws tightened.
“Wherever he is I wish he is better now.” Prayed Rooh while checking through his dashboard mirror.
“I am certain. He is much better now.”
“By the way, how is Neelakshi?”
“She is good. Still mad at you.”
“Hah! Why?” Rooh gave a clueless grin. “I enjoyed the rumours in college that we two are struggling to get the queen in a love triangle. Had they known that it was me who set her up for you, their gossips would have got spoiled.” Winked Rooh before turning to look at the road ahead.
Avinash laughed, “Yeah it was fun. She still accuses me of stealing her best friend from her though.” He punched Rooh’s arm.
“Blue eyes… baby’s got blue eyes… C’mon man, I had to help you out. All your sleepless nights singing odes for her would have gone in vain without my intervention.”
“Little did I know those once beautiful blue eyes, could be so intimidating some years later…” they both broke into laughter.
“…and what’s this doley sholey? And is that wing peeking from under your sleeves a part of, what I guess, an eagle tattoo?” Avinash said screening Rooh’s arm.
Rooh rolled up his sleeves further up to bare the full eagle, “yeah it’s a new tattoo. How is it?”
“But, what happened to our college hero?” Rooh teased, looking at the beginnings of paunch at Avinash’s midriff.
“Neelakshi again. You know she makes excellent biryani.”
“Ah! I remember.”
“You should drop in as we are here now. She misses you. I am sure she wanted to invite you. She has been calling a while ago. Blame it on the poor network in this part of the city. Calls don’t get connected.”
Rooh smiled and checked his watch again.
“What’s up man?”
“I am expecting a call too. Higher authority.”
“I know right. When they want, you have to go.” Avinash gave a rueful grin and turned to look at the road blankly.
Then he added after a minute, “listen, stop at the next fuel station. I will grab something from the SUPER store there. And I need to take a leak too.”
Their chats continued for another ten minutes until they slowed down at a petrol pump. Rooh waited in the car, while Avinash got down. He walked past the fuel booths and disappeared from Rooh’s sight behind the store.
Eight cars arrived, stopped, filled their tanks and trundled past as Rooh watched leisurely. He checked his watch again and a fear gripped him. Twenty minutes had passed, what’s taking Avinash so long? Then his eyes fell on the television set at the booth.
The news that flashed next had his throat dry up like firewood-
HEAD-ON COLLISION OF AN SUV AND A TRUCK AT HIGHWAY NO.45. THE CAR OCCUPANT, SUPPOSEDLY A MALE IN HIS 30s DIED ON SPOT.
Suddenly, Rooh was blinded by whiteness all round and he felt getting drifted into an unknown hollow space.
A few minutes later.
Avinash tried to locate Rooh’s SUV as he came out of the SUPER store with a carton full of beer and snacks. The guy at the fuel booth when asked, acted surprised. And confirmed repeatedly, he had not seen any SUV waiting there matching Avinash’s description in the last two hours of his duty.
He stood rooted to the spot once his eyes fell on the television, which now played in loop- the mangled SUV, a body getting carried out, a lifeless arm with an eagle tattoo dangling from it-
THE VICTIM HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS ROOH QURESHI, AGE 30.
Photo Credits: Unsplash
This is an entry for the event #Supernatural #UniK-7 being held at Writers Room | Room8.
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