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Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th...

Mesdames et Messieurs! (And now, having shot the bolt on my French, I switch smartly back to English... clever, eh? Wise, certainly. Laughing) As you might have noticed--being really smart--I am here after a pretty while, some twenty days. Plenty has happened in the meanwhile, and being tuned to accepting a few roughs with the many smooths, I will dwell on none of them. {That took you by surprise, now admit it!}

Instead, let us talk of something entirely not connected to any roughs or smooths. Let me take you, gentle reader, to an alternate world. Peopled with people like you and me but making a much more electric passage through the ether of life...
Curvetting swiftly between the rifling bullets, he sprang on to the staircase over the bent and twisted bannister and sprinted up the steps to the first landing, bending low; the last bullet had barely missed his pumping right arm during the last second of that sprint up the steps.

The light was hardly enough to make out the sparse furniture in the room. And what were there were broken. The firing had stopped... for now. He quickly--he was always quick--patted his pockets, muttering, "Where's the torch..." before he spotted the shape at the belt above his left hip.

The beam of light that struck out then revealed the sordid state of affairs within the room, well, more of a dilapidated hall than a room really. He kept his head low and a very keenly wary eye out for any of Cantor's henchmen.

He thumbed the well worn hammer of his pistol yet again, the prick on the fingertip reassuring. As he planned his next action, the room suddenly lit up brightly and a loud--in that surcharged quietness reminding one of the calm before the storm broke, it did seem unnaturally loud--click reverberated. Immediately, a voice sounded tinnily, as if from small speakers set at full volume cracking at the edges, straightaway recognizible as Cantor's, playing over a recording device. Old Cantor up to his old tricks, he thought, in this case, never speaking himself but letting his pocket recorder do that for him.

Why on earth would such a powerful criminal always avoid speaking himself even though putting in an appearance himself? Did he have a high, squeaky voice that he did not want to advertise, he, being an astute--at times, certainly--investigator, thought... but his mind was dragged away from this rather engaging line of thought as the tinnily announced words registered on his blazing mind...

"Mr Nine," for he was only known by that name alone--even his own mother sometimes addressed him thus against her better judgement--and Cantor too was none the wiser. "Mr Nine, you will refrain from firing your gun any more for my men have you covered!"

Nine--yes, gentle reader, I am sworn to protect his identity as well and alas! as his chronicler, I take that oath seriously enough since I do believe he fetches me my meals more or less regularly--immediately ruled out the first six options that struck him as outlandish for he noticed that eight men had peeled off the walls now, with menacing guns in their hands. He had failed to notice them earlier since Cantor had, with fiendish cunning, dressed them in off-white coveralls, right down to gloves, enabling them thus to blend perfectly with the dirtyish off-white walls to which they had been facing till now.

Only the seventh option struck Nine as perfect for this occasion. A perspicacious young man, he knew the limitations of his admittedly amazing skills at extricating himself from perfectly impossible situations. This new idea filled him with confidence and zeal, which, after all, are the only things that make a difference to anything.

"Okay, Cantor," he spoke lazily, his voice betraying no tremor, "you can have my gun. Ask your seven beauties to stop shivering in fright..." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Nine is a tremendous believer in the psychology of the individual, and he knew Cantor would immediately notice the mistaken number he had mentioned: seven instead of the actual eight henchmen.

"Okay Mr Nine," the tinny voice now spoke, "I give up.." This was rudely interrupted by the click of a button and a muttered expletive sounded before another click caused a new sound now, a whirring of tiny wheels: Cantor was hurriedly fast forwarding his speech tape after that rather embarrassing faux pas to a more appropriate set speech.

While Nine was striving to make sense of that, Cantor's speech stand-in spoke up again: "Mr Nine, that is wise. Now, you keep where you are while two of my men will go up to disarm and bind you. Keep still and be wise..."

Despite the unintentional humour, Nine knew he was in desperate danger. He worked alone never trusting any potential assistant to remain unscathed; he did not want to be saddled with the need to rescue such bumbling assistants... though at times like these he did feel the need for some external help. But he trusted his innate good fortune--that managed every time to extricate him from fairly hairy situations regularly, in fact so regularly that he sometimes thought of getting protective insurance against odds catching up with his run of such good luck--to again come to his aid.

All this while, with one eye, he noted two of the eight heavies stepping up to the edge of the staircase gingerly. Seven and eight... what advantage could he take of that bit of disinformation that he had so casually chucked at Cantor... Nine thought furiously but nothing worthwhile struck him yet. Just to spice things up a bit and play upon the psychology of the individual, to wit, Cantor, Esq., he said, "Oh Cantor! Look at your boys! They're stepping as though on broken pieces of glass! What're they terrified of? Here's my gun, held between my forefinger and thumb... come and get it, boys!" The mockery in his voice was not lost on Cantor who thumbed a button yet again on his recorder, quite clearly searching for an appropriate response.

"The Swiss banks are safe as houses, Mr Nine..." the tinny voice broke out before being slammed shut yet again along with a violent but muttered expletive. Another whirring was heard while the two overall-ed henchmen stepped up the stairs perhaps a mite quicker and then a tinnily roared voice was heard: "Go, you oafs!" Apparently Cantor had found an appropriate response after all.

The two henchmen presently reached near the top of the landing where Nine crouched. While one remained on a step below the landing, the other came up closer. Just then, Nine flicked his powerful flashlight straight into the eyes of the closer man to dazzle him. And caught him on his chest: the man was immensely tall and Nine's clever and audacious plan to dazzle and scramble (D&S, type 1, as he had noted it in his Ops Manual) crumbled to dust.

An urgent voice spoke; it was the second man on the step below the landing. "B!" "B? Bee? Be? Bea? B.." as Nine processed this new byte of data to no avail, his mind a whirling hourglass, he realised that that was addressed to the immense man towering above him. "Ah, code names!" Nine concluded with satisfaction.  "B! I will cover the *unprintable* with my gun while you knock him cold!" the man on the step below said.

"Well done, R!" commended the tinny voice from below. Cantor was a fair man and gave his henchmen credit where due and deserving.

"How on earth can they remember who's which letter..?" wondered Nine as B leant low with an arm raised into the inky blackness above. "Wait!" Nine screamed. "I can't see your other arm!"

Inspiration had come late but come nonetheless to Nine.

B paused, his mind clearly as big as his body but with an amazingly small alertness component rattling inside, warning him not as well as it should have. "Eh?" Clearly, B was a man of few words and waited patiently and expectantly to be explained further.

An oath emanated from the throat of R, equally clearly the man with better sense than his giant companion. "B! On your guard! Nine is a dangerous customer!" Cantor's response at this stage was only a furious whirring of his tapes.

This praise for his abilities pleased Nine oddly. But thrusting aside that rather feel-warm thought, he pursued his opening gambit with B. "Let me shine the light on your arm so that I can see it, okay, Mr B?" Only a grunt emerged from the gentle giant's puzzled throat. Nine swivelled the light into the black inkiness, judging from the trunk-like arm's base where it was possibly up further... while R let loose a series of expletives, not quite clear addressed at whom. Cantor whirred still in the background below.

Nine swung the light to the top of that leg-of-a-young-calf-like arm and then quickly, savagely, swung it back and into B's bewildered eyes. As B's eyes flew open and then shut from that shining light, Nine struck out with his left foot, aiming at B's trunk-like legs, aiming to sweep him off his feet, admittedly an ambitious task to be attempted on a man of such generous dimensions. And R leapt right up, growling murderously. Cantor's whirring meanwhile had stopped; apparently he had run to the end of his tape on this side and he would have to switch to the other side before becoming able to lend himself to his rather odd form of speech again.

Nine's well-shod foot hit B's right ankle thickly; he felt he had kicked a stone column. But nonetheless, R's leap up had caused him to attempt to occupy the same space then occupied by B and the laws of physics being unimpeachable and impeccable, he failed in the attempt in a rather telling manner. As both B and R would learn to their detriment in their annual performance appraisal with Cantor later, this was a rather signal failure. Nonetheless, tearing ourselves off from this rather interesting peep into B and Rs' futures, let us see for ourselves how the present was panning out for these worthies of Cantor, who had, in the mean time, managed to change sides of his tape on his recorder and was again plunged, literally and figuratively, in searching for a suitable remark.

R crashed into the broad back of B, wide as 747's hangar doors, while Nine's kicking foot thudded now into B's left calf, though with lesser force having spent much its energy against the tree-trunk right leg. A combination of the two caused B's centre of gravity to alter somewhat and he toppled rather impressively upon Nine, with R on his back and tangling with his legs. The immediate agony that Nine felt was akin to nothing that he could compare with. The air whooshed out of his lungs and his body felt crushed under a barn that had suddenly crumbled upon him. Apparently R too was pretty winded. Only B seemed bewildered by the turn of the events. Below, Cantor had finally found what he thought was the response he had been desperately groping for, "A-to-Z, go get 'em!", though there was a complete mismatch between the tone and the situation on the ground: the tone conveyed joy and satisfaction while the situation at hand demanded bafflement and revenge. At this encouragement however, two more of his hitherto struck-in-wonder henchmen started up the staircase.

Meanwhile, B raised himself up bearing R upon his back from the crushed-below Nine, and with a very gentlemanly "'msorr'" muttered gruffly.

"Thank you," said Nine--for the niceties need to be observed even during conflicts--and slid out with alacrity from the lumberingly rising B, still with R stuck upon his back. "And now, I go!" With that he was out and once again racing up the stairs towards the first floor, while you could hear the screams of outrage from the outfought R and the grunts of the belabouring B and the thuds of the steps of the other two henchmen climbing up swiftly, melding nicely with the fleeter sounds of Nine's racing feet. Cantor below had found the most apt expression to the situation: "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" he went in shrill rage.
Gentle reader, this is fiction of course. Genuine, original and unadulterated, and meaning to offer no lessons, no Morals but just plain entertainment. If you would be so kind enough to leave your comments below--if you have managed to read this through, that is, I would be much obliged!

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About Indranil

Indranil Mukherjee is an aspiring author of fiction but a long-time amateur writer, who has taken a break from his software career to give expression to his main passion: Writing. And if provided with timely sustenance to keep body and soul together, he loves to read. Besides these, he digs driving, travelling to all corners of the world, sampling all variety of food, meeting people, learning new stuff, listening to music, and about a couple of hundred other things. Curious about life, and armed with 25 years’ worth of experience observing people from all over the world while working with them, he fancies he has stories to tell. Rather nifty ones.

Besides completing this collection of short stories based on an Indian Railways officer’s real-life experiences--he already has a novelette eBook selling on Amazon titled "Re-Kill: when an assassin's professional pride is hurt..."--he has several works underway that comprise sci-fi, fantasy-humour-adventure, thriller, and has a maelstrom of other plots whirling in his head that occasionally meld nicely to create interesting dreams. And yes, a spot of scripting too.

Indranil is married to Sanghamitra, and they live in Delhi, along with their mother. Their son, Ayoush, lives in the US, big into data.

He can be found right here where his blog lives, awaiting updates on life, the universe, and everything.

You can contact him directly on this mail ID: 

The most important communication between readers and the writer is the former's feedback... it's lifeblood! Request you to tell me things which you believe need to be told! The good, the not so good, and the downright bad! Thank you already! Smile