Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Weapon

The Weapon

I wish I’d been there earlier. It might have made all the difference. So all I can tell you is why he was murdered.

My father was a vindictive person. I don’t think there was any particular reason or history behind it. Some people are just that way. He hated the maids for not cleaning properly, he hated my mother for not cooking properly and he hated me for the reasons I presume fathers often hate their son. The 40 years of age that divided us, was a long distance between our views of world, politics, and governance. He had a heart trouble paired up with his short temper and yet he outlived my mother. I remember once he had a heart attack and my mother rushed him to the doctor and saved his life. I had mourned for a month about it. Yes, I hated him and for reasons beyond my understanding, my mother loved him. Like an ideal Indian wife, she never raised her voice against any of his atrocities. I remember how she would feign an understanding face every time he went on his “Business tours”, which clearly did not make any sense for his small printing press business, where he worked alone along with an office boy. There were rumors of ‘other women’ in his life, but my mother never brought up the topic while she was alive.
Once she was gone, father would take off for months at times.  I didn’t care much. It was much more peaceful without him. It was around this time, that he had given me permission to enter into his office, replacing his office boy with me. I would take his messages while he was away, serve him his coffee, and carry some documents to the lawyer. Nothing important, but yet I felt I was a part of something, like an acceptance of my existence in his life. It turned out to be one-sided sentiment. For him, I was just a stooge to be kicked around and be belittled for small mistakes. There was never any compassion from him. But there was very little that I could do about it. He was my father after all. So I started channeling my frustration into other things around me. I would sit around for hours observing him make important business decisions, making deals with important people. I started learning the tricks of our trade. I found I had a natural aptitude for this. I would study the market around us and come up with small business plans in my head to expand this small printing press into one of the biggest publication industry. It had become more than a mere distraction for me. It was something I found respect for myself which I never got from anyone.
After several years of research I finally had a viable business plan, to start publishing novels along with invitation cards and flyers that we used to print. It was nothing big or risky, just sell the normal stuff that works in the market. I presented the proposal to my father proudly, imagining him to look at me with a sudden shock of admiration. But he simply shredded it to pieces without giving a single look.
“If you think you can tell me how to do my business then you are dangerously mistaken” He narrowed his eyes into slits “Now get my coffee”.
 I wasn’t really deterred by this. It wasn’t the first time that he had demeaned me. It was always about money for my father. If I manage to get an investor for us, he might get onboard with my plan. So I visited many local publishers, contractors and even attended writers club to get hold of any new talent I could publish.
That’s when I met Asha; a desperate and a passionate writer, who was hogging every publisher to pitch her novel. We had met two or three times earlier. She would give me a cautious smile, assuming I was a fellow writer, probably with better contacts than hers. But after some time I think she guessed that I was just a struggler like her.
“So.. no luck with your book yet?” She asked one day when we met yet again at a publisher’s office.
“Oh , I am not a writer.. just a small-time publisher. Trying to collaborate” I tried to project my humble printing business as something of a publishing house. It was all about marketing anyway.
Her eyes suddenly lit with hope. She hastily opened up her torn out bag and handed me a fresh copy of her script.
“Just give it a try. I ask nothing more” She looked at me with hopeful eyes. I couldn’t refuse her; after all, we did share the common fate of having been rejected by the same number of publishers. So I gave her pitch a try. It was nothing brilliant, but it was good enough to be sold off in the local market.
So I proposed her this “If you are ready to share the cost of publication, I can pursue my father to invest into this idea”. Her brows furrowed in deep thought. I think it was the desperation that made her say yes in the end. It was a perfect proposal, a low-risk investment that could be a big break for our business! Only a fool would not see the value in this.  And as the odds turned out to be, I had to present it to a fool.
Father tore the proposal more furiously than before and looked at me threateningly “You try something like this again, and I will throw you out of the house for good.” He then gave me his sly smile “Just do what you are good at. Get me my coffee”
I clutched my fist and went away.  It was like he detested my ambition for this business more than me, like my desire to be part of his business almost offended him. I hated him, I truly hated this man and there was nothing I could do about it. I will always have to live under the thumb of a fool who was too egoistic to let my ambition breath. But still, even at that point, I haven’t thought about his death. I think it was because he was something of an immortal evil for me. If a heart attack could not kill him, nothing can.
I went on to meet Asha to deliver this bad news. “I am sorry… My father doesn’t think it's good business collaboration” I said pushing her script towards her.
“What do you think about it?” She asked somberly.
“Doesn’t matter, all that matters is what my father thinks about it” She looked at it me for a minute and then spoke thoughtfully “Did you read the script?”
“You don’t understand, my father… ”  I said but she cut me in between like she did not hear me at all.
“In the story, the daughter plots to kill her father, so that she can live life on her own terms. She knew she could never get what she wanted until his father was alive…neither his property nor her freedom…” She regarded me silently. Her analogy wasn’t subtle. I knew what she was insinuating. I hated this man, but never before had my hatred found a clear purpose. She was a stranger who believed that my devil was not immortal, but as vulnerable as a character in her novel .So I took my minute to absorb this new possibility and asked her inconspicuously.
“And how does she do that….”
“She gives him potassium chloride. For a patient with a heart condition, it acts as a poison. It induces a heart attack, and chemical goes undetected in any test.” She replied without a hitch.
There was something off about that plan, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Something about the nature of the weapon made me uncomfortable. I replied reluctantly “They say that poison is the weapon of a woman…”
She looked at me with a sly grin that for a moment reminded me of my father “It’s clean, it’s precise and it targets its victim in measured proportion. It’s perfect, much like a woman.” She got up “Give me a call when you are ready to sign the contract. I will be ready with my share of the money” and she walked away.
My heart was still racing at the ridiculous possibility I was considering. The more I was thinking about it, the more plausible it seemed to be. But there were several things to consider first. I had to verify if I was in my fathers will. So next day I went to our lawyer. He took a nominal ‘fee’ for his discreet service and responded “He does not have any will. By Hindu law, after his death, it will go to his legal offspring”
There it was. I was already heir to his property. Well, that also puts me on the top of the list of persons who would want him dead. The next step would be to build the cover of a perfect son, of a very sick father. So the grilling process of enduring my father with a smile started.
 I would cook his breakfast and tell maid how worried I was about his health. I would clean his car and discuss with driver how he slept uneasy last night. I would carry his files to contractors and express regret in the delay due to the decline in my father’s health. Soon people around had begun to ask about my father’s health and pass empathic smile every time they saw me carrying his things for him. My Father, on the other hand, had begun to eye me cautiously now. Never had we got along so well, with me bowing down to his every wish and taking care of his every need. Knowing that he could smell a trouble from a mile away, I toned down my good boy act in front of him but kept building the story in the background. I was still deliberating on the date of the ‘deed’ when something happened. Late at one night, when he had asked me to leave early, I saw him making a call to our lawyer.
“I think I would like to make a will…”

I did not stick around to hear more. I wasn’t surprised that he had finally caught on my intentions. I knew time had finally come. In the inky shades of that night, I walked down the alley to the people who would provide discrete services to desperate people for a “fee”. I took the poison and walked back to home. My heart was pounding so loud that I could have been incriminated just by that. The sudden rush of ‘second thoughts’ began to run wild in my slumber. But by morning I was determined that today would be last day of tyrant rule of my father. The first thing I did was to call up Asha. Somehow I needed her assurance.
“Let’s meet at the coffee house today. We will sign the contract” I could hear her smile. She did not ask any questions and kept the phone. Things were going around quietly that day. Father wasn’t cursing me much, which wasn’t helping with my resolve to kill him. We reached office and it was time for his coffee. I took out the poison and mixed it in his coffee, and even as I was doing it, there was this prickling feeling at the back of my head, that something was off about this whole plan. I kept wondering what was that I was missing there. I had drained his mobile battery and made sure we had no meetings for today. It was all set, but still, there was something I was not paying attention to.
 “Where is my coffee?” father called out rattling the cup in my hand. I took a deep breath and walked out with his coffee. He took the sip out of the deadly cup and I timed my clock. It was a matter of a few hours now.  I had to leave from there soon.
“I forgot to deliver these files, I will drop them off now to the lawyer” He was grunting at me but I was already out. I walked with hurried steps towards the restaurant I was supposed to meet Asha, but she was not there. After several minutes I decided to go deliver the files to the lawyer.
He greeted me with a bright smile which made me nervous. For a nominal ‘fee’ he was ready to tell me the reason of his sudden delight.
“Your father called up last night” I could feel my heart take a dip. He could not have possibly changed the will already? The lawyer said grinning at me “He gave a hint that he wanted to include you in his will”
I looked at him confused “But I am his heir anyway, why make a will?”
He looked at me hesitantly, so I handed him another billed note for the extra information.
“Your father was already married when he started an affair with your mother. So as per Hindu law, you are not his legal hire.”
For a minute I could not comprehend what he was saying and then the world started spinning around me. Every old memory came flooding back into my conscious. All those rumors about ‘another woman’ were about my mother. All that absent weekends of my father was to visit his ‘real family’. That’s why my mother never argued with him on this. Everything made sense now!
“Why so gloomy?” The lawyer asked looking at my panic-stricken face “Whatever you did, it worked! You will probably be in his will”
Reality dawned upon me. My father had fallen for my good son act! He finally wanted to reconcile with his illegitimate son! I could not have called an ambulance yet; I would be asked how I knew he had a heart attack. But I could still make it all right. I could still save him. I kept telling myself that, even as I raced towards the office against the ticking minutes.
I tore through the office door and saw my father lying on the floor, clutching onto his heart. I rushed him to the hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Doctors said a few minutes could have made all the difference.
I sat there wishing that I had reached their earlier, thinking how it would have made all the difference.
And in that shock of the reality, the words of Asha came back to me. ‘..She gives him potassium chloride. For a patient with a heart condition, it acts as a poison. It induces a heart attack, and chemical goes undetected in any test.’
Suddenly that prickling feeling at the back of my head took a shape of a curious question. How did Asha know, that my father had a heart condition? I had never mentioned it to her.
 I felt cold hands touch my arms. I looked back to find Asha standing there, smiling at me.
“Still haven’t figured it out .. have you, my brother?” She said, “Well technically.. half-brother”. I looked at her with my eyes wide in horror. She was my half-sister; the legal heir of my father. 
“It took me a while to track you down,” she said sitting next to me “Father had hidden his illegal family so well. He wouldn’t even allow me to enter his offices. But I tracked you down” She grinned.
I knew then that I had been played. The way we met, the way she placed a business opportunity and planted the seed of a plan to kill our father; it was all a pre-meditated plan.
“So you were after his property as well” I spoke spitefully.
 “Haven’t you been paying attention to my novel’s pitch?” she looked at me disappointed “In the story, the daughter plots to kill her father so that she can live life on her own terms..” She smiled fondly at me “You knew the father. He would have never let us live our own life”
“So why not poison him yourself…. after all, it was your perfect weapon” I taunted spitefully.  She leaned in closer and said, “poison was never my weapon, my weapon was YOU..

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