He stood by the ba, waiting for mid-night; watching people come and leave. Getting drunk, spewing nonsense. He overheard their talks of sexual escapades and fraudulent business deals with disdain. His opinion about the good major had been all but confirmed. Then the door opened to admit the young Captain he had run into earlier. He looked calmer now. Much more at ease, with himself and the people around him. He shook hands with some of the people while his eyes scanned the crowd for someone.
Aamir watched him with rising interest. There was something about him that had struck him as being tumultuous. Almost as tumultuous as he himself felt. He watched him move quickly through the crowds always searching with his eyes, smiling and frowning at random. Then his eyes came to rest on Aamir. He lingered for a second, gave the hall one last probing glance and came towards him.
“Did you find him?” Shahnawaz asked stopping in front of him.
“Found who?” Aaamir replied leaning back against the counter.
“Ayaaz… Major Ayaz”. He seemed a little agitated now.
“Oh yes I did, thanks to you, even befriended him” He felt that the smile on his face was the cause of the agitation on the captain’s.
“Very well. Where is he?”
“You look like you want to kill him.”
“You don’t know anything, where is he… now?”
“Like you said, I don’t know anything.”
Shahnazwaz looked at him top to bottom ,with a look of such disgust that Aaamir felt himself repulsed.
Just as he made to leave, Aamir grabbed his arm “Look, I…could use your help. Can we talk?”
“Do you know where the Major is?”
“No… I don’t but…”
“Then get your fucking hands off my arm.” He shrugged free of Aamir’s grasp and stormed off.
Aamir never took his eyes off him. Just like Ayaz made him feel nauseated, Shahnawaz made him feel hopeful. He couldn’t help shake the feeling that his anger at the captain had something to do with Rida. He knew he could just be projecting. But he didn’t care. He had never been one to discount the integrity of his instincts and decided now was no time to start.
So when he saw the captain heading out the door leading out to the patio, he followed him.
He stood leaning against the railing. Aamir walked up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
He turned around slowly, wiping the tears from his eyes.
“What’s going on, Captain? What’s your problem with Ayaz?”
“I don’t know yet…”
“I can’t tell you anything. Okay. I can’t. I can’t trust you, I can’t trust anyone. This whole fucking place is his play ground. The entire country. And for all I know you are one of his playthings too. So go and squeal in his ear that there is someone who doesn’t like him and send him after me.”
“I don’t know him, Captain. I don’t know you. I don’t know this place… all I know is that you know something about this man that can help me close a chapter in my life and maybe let me move in. I’m not here for drinks or shady business ventures. I’m not here for anything besides some information, anything, about my wife.”
Stiff like a dead body, he stared at Aaamir with horror in his eyes. Inexplicable unexplainable horror.
“Yes I… but… what is it? Oh my god. Was she murdered… did he…kill her? But he wasn’t even here… I know he wasn’t, I was here… did he have her killed? Speak for god’s sake” he couldn’t keep the panic out of his voice, the fear, the anger… there was no need anymore he was on the verge of finding the answer… he knew… Shahnawaz knew.
His fingers trembling, he slowly stepped away, turned around to gaze into the void beyond the railing.
“She was married?” He murmured… and collapsed.
Aamir’s heart sank again as he saw the man slump down to the wooden floor. He hadn’t heard what he’d spoken as he fainted. But he understood that it was his questions…his disclosure that had somehow been the final straw that broke the captain’s resolve. He watched him lying motionless on the floor. Didn’t try to revive him. He was suddenly afraid. Very very afraid. All of a sudden he didn’t want to know. What ever was amiss here was so monumental that a man trained to stand up to a barrage of bullets without so much as blinking, lay defenseless at his feet.
He staggered back inside, leaving the captain out in the snow. Somehow managed to inform a waiter that a guest lay passed out on the patio. He looked for Ayaz… he was desperate now, he would threaten him, attack him, do whatever it would take to know what had happened.
The crowd had been cut in half. The clock came close to mid-night as more and more people began to wrap up the evening and leave.
Ayaz stood by the main door. He had taken of his jacket and loosened his tie. Finally he had had enough alcohol to defy the cold.
Aamir stopped at the bar, got a drink to sort out his nerves. He knew it would take cunning to get what he wanted from Ayaz. He knew that a part of why Shahnawaz had fainted was fear. He swallowed the glass full of scotch in one gulp and immediately felt better. More in control. At least of his emotions. The fiery liquid burnt its way down to his stomach and brought his mind out of its jumbled confusion. He focused on his target, and strode forward, resolute.
“You’re not leaving” Ayaz said as soon as Aamir came into hearing distance.
“Of course not, we have a date”
“To which we shall attend shortly.” He said burping, forgetting all pretense of etiquette with the intoxication playing havoc with his senses. He staggered as he stood.
Aamir stood with him, watching the people leave… everyone uttering drunken congratulations, laughing needlessly, winking at the host, thumping him on the back. Until Ayaz slammed the door on the backs of the last group to leave. He placed an arm around Aamir’s shoulders; half out of scotch induced camaraderie, half for support and lead him towards a door leading out of the hall.
A very small number of people were still left standing there. Mostly men in uniform. And some women that they stood talking to, handing them drink after drink after drink. Aamir knew the ritual… he was just surprised that it existed this far away from civilization.
They went into a smaller room. Artfully decorated with antique furniture. A few paintings hanging on the walls. A book shelf in one corner and a smaller bar-like cabinet in another.
He poured drinks for the two of them and slumped into a chair.
“So, back to business?.” He said between consecutive sips. “What’s your poison then?”
“Scotch” Aamir responded, confused since ayaz himself had poured the drink for him
“No No” He shook his head, seeming agitated. “What Bhatti sent you for, what you came looking for?”
“Well… vices… you know.” He could feel himself losing grip on whatever hold he had managed with his earlier lies.
“Don’t be shy, brother… you’re in like company. What will it be then… booze? Drugs? Or pussy?” He replied smirking
It took a while for it to sink in. With one sentence everything sort of made sense.
He knew what he had to say to get the answers he wanted
“Pussy” he replied. Staring straight into Ayaz’s eyes.
“Ah.. ofcourse… had enough of the Philipino juices I see?” he winked
Aamir had forgotten almost what he had told him earlier, but drunk almost half out of his mind, Ayaz still remembered. He was a shrewd man, you don’t let any details slip by and you never forget.
“Yeah… you know… nothing like the… Desi stuff” Aamir replied, settling into the role he knew he had to play. He had known people like him enough to know well how they acted, how they talked…. He leaned back into the chair he was sitting in.
“Yeah… that’s what I always say… nothing like the Desi stuff. So then… what are you in the mood for? How much dough are you looking to spend?”
“Well… what are my options?”
“hmmm… there’s the local stuff… cheap… easy come, easy go… nothing ventured, nothing gained… just like jacking off…only you get someone to talk to.” He paused to laugh in a loud guffaw, snorting and sobbing with self invoked joy. “Or you can go for the educated few here… the nurses and such… still cheap… but a better fuck. They know how to fake an orgasm.”
Aamir didn’t feel shock… yet. He just felt like he had been proven right. So Captain Ayaz is a glorified pimp… yes.. Falling for such a man would definitely have driven Rida to kill herself. He felt like he knew the answer. He felt almost relieved.
But Ayaz continued. “Or, if you have the big money, I can hook you up… with what I like to call… High Caliber Pussy”
He didn’t have to be a genius to know who he meant by that. It was obvious. HCP. The term Captain Ayaz had coined for the brave young women rendering their services for the benefit of the local populace. Now the shock set in. Along with dread.
“What... what do you mean?”
“Oh that’s right you haven’t been around. Well it’s a long story… just know this, that it doesn’t get better than an HCP. Fresh meat out of the big cities. Well versed in the art of pleasing a man. Willing or made willing by any means necessary… not a thing to worry about just enjoy the best fuck you’ll ever have.”
He was careful in choosing his words. He could feel the blood coursing through his body. He could feel the bile rising up to his throat but he knew he had to dig deeper. He had to know. He had to hear him say… her name.
“How… made willing?”
“Ah you know, the usual stuff… some get knocked off with a lot of booze, but those are sluts anyway… I even charge less for those. Why cheat the customer right?” another burst of laughter that made Aamir want to rip out his own ears. “The others, the spic and span, mama’s girls, the oh-I-wanna-save-the-world-with-my-ideas-and-my-tender-touch… are the ones who make the whole shebang worthwhile. They usually require rohypnol. But don’t worry, we get plenty thanks to the hospital farce we got going on here…one dose, and they don’t know day from night…but there aren’t any of those here yet… the last one stepped out unexpectedly” Laughter again.
Aamir left his senses then. He became what he was pretending to be. It was easier that way. Easier to listen and understand the fate his wife had suffered.
“Really? That’s a shame… what happened to her?”
“Man… don’t ask… you know most of the time, after they get the love they cry a lot and ask me stupid question like why I did it and what they were supposed to do now, but I ignore them for a while and then promise them a cut of the shares… they make so much money giving it up to sheikhs and other dignitaries that they shut up… then they go back home and then who knows what happens. They never say a word because hey, who wants to marry a used cunt right? Those who make too much noise, I ship off to some rich friends in the
He cringed at his touch. The only thing he could think of was ripping this man’s head off his shoulders but instead he laughed.
He laughed so hard that tears started rolling from his eyes. And Ayaz joined him. They both laughed till their jaws hurt and then they slumped back into their chairs and sat in silence for a while.
Aamir couldn’t move, he felt paralyzed. Broken. He could feel pieces of himself flying out of his mouth with the laughter. He sat stunned. Unable to grasp what he had just heard.
Ayaz spoke again: “So you know, no HCP for now, but if you stick around for a week or so… we’ll have a new one delivered ready to be discovered… I usually take a little time in cultivating them, but hey it makes no difference. Sooner or later, they end up getting stuffed. In the meanwhile, feel free to explore whatever we have on display here… local stuff, nurses, tourists… you know anything goes. Just the matter of how much you willing to pay and a little rohypnol.”
Aamir slowly got up, unsure of his feet’s ability to hold him up.
He couldn’t look at the man lying slumped in this ornate wooden chair.
“Right… I’ll be on the look out t…will let you know” He said heading for the door.
“Hey, come by tomorrow… I don’t get many people who understand me you know… these army pricks are no fun to talk to.”
“Yeah... I’ll be seeing you.” He replied stepping out into the hall.
He found the hall empty. Every one had either left or retired to which ever room they had found available to practice their perversion in. He ran out the main door, down the steps and to his car parked outside the boundary wall.
As he ran the reality struck him and the bile he had been keeping trapped inside rushed up to his mouth. He clenched his teeth and ran as fast as he could in the snow.
Once by his car, he let go.
First vomit poured out. Yellow and slimy, spaying all over the snow covered ground.
Then the tears.
He got in. Shivering. Trembling so hard that he felt he would shake to pieces. His voice broke as he wept and began to vomit again.
Ayaz’s drunken confession still reverberating in his mind. Rohypnol. Duct tape. He didn’t want to see it, but he couldn’t stop the image from forming and invading his senses. Rida lying motionless on some obscure bed tied to the bed-post, half dazed from the drug, feeding a monster’s lust unable to defend herself. He saw her bleeding. He knew she had bled.
He sat in the car, his head resting against the steering wheel. Too stunned to cry, to shocked to react in any way. He was numb. Trembling with the chill seeping into the car through the glass.
Vomit in his lap, on his mouth… but all he could taste was Rida’s skin. And now he knew that another man knew what she tasted like. There was no point in putting himself through the agony of reliving the horror in his imagination. So he sat motionless in the car, trying to force his mind to think instead of the past he himself had shared with her. Of happy day, cheerful moments… nights of mutual passion. Memories coated in her laughter instead of her screams. He lost himself in the past, remembering the way she looked when she smiled… when she cried… anything and everything he had ever known about her. The strength of her character, the passion of her soul. All the things he loved about her. Even the things he hated… and through it all his head throbbed. An incessant knocking in the back somewhere. As if some one trying to drive a nail into a coffin. But he couldn’t be bothered about allegorical musings of his tortured mind and continued traveling backwards through his memories, recalling the college days spent in trying to convince her father. When a voice joined the knocking, calling out to him…Hello it went wake up… and the god forsaken knocking.
He finally lifted his head from the steering to see a silhouette in the dark standing outside his door, peering in on him. He had no idea how long he had been sitting out there. Still dazed and confused, he opened the door and fell out into the arms of the captain he had left lying on the patio earlier.
He carried Aamir to the passenger side, stuffed him through the door, got behind the wheel dripping wet with his vomit and drove away.
Shahnawaz carried Aamir inside his cabin, lit a fire in the hearth casting their shadows on the wall behind. Sat him down in front of the fire, brought him some water and a clean shirt. Wiped the vomit of his face, and sat down beside him. He couldn’t look him in the eyes.
“You’re not drunk, are you?” Sahahnazwaz asked finally, playing with his shoe laces like a remorseful child.
“No” Aamir croaked, his throat aching from throwing up so much.
“You’ve been crying” He continued, more acknowledging his state than inquiring about it.
“Yes” He replied clearing his throat.
“So am I”
“You can kill me if you want…. I won’t resist.” He finally looked up at him from his shoes and met his gaze, as if to assure him of his sincerity. And found confusion staring back at him
“Kill you? Why would I…you?”
“Oh… he didn’t tell you… everything?”
“What? There’s more? More than my wife being drugged and tied up and fucked till she couldn’t even fight back anymore? What more could there possibly be?” He shouted, standing up. Letting the anger come in spasms, fueling the inferno blazing inside him.
“He’s a sick man... Major Ayaz. He’s a monster, a demon. He’s evil. He …. He… I tried to say no. I swear I tried. But he threatened me. He said that it would cost me my job, that he would have me court-martialed, that he would blame the rape on me… he… he is too powerful… you know… knows too many people, too many tricks… I know, he’s done it before… blamed his sins on other people, ruined lives… I swear I tried to say no.... he said he’d strip me of my rank… humiliate my family. I didn’t know what I could do. I just didn’t know. I’m so sorry… Please. I swear, you can kill me right now… and and I won’t stop you… just do it… set me on fire, shoot me, I have a gun in the car. Just please. I don’t know what else to do.” He broke out into sobs and sweat.
Aamir looked down on him, unable to comprehend what he was blabbering on about. His first thought was that Ayaz had made him record the whole thing on film. His second, snatched the floor from beneath his feet. He slumped back down. Grabbed Shahnawaz by his shoulder and asked:
“What did you do? What did he make you do?”
He wouldn’t reply, he just sat there sobbing, helpless, listless.
“Kill me please. End this. I can’t live with the guilt anymore”
Aamir shook him harder “What did you do. WHAT DID YOU DO?” He screamed.
“He made me fuck her.” Shahnawaz replied in a monotone whisper…
Aamir let go off him. This was more than he could bear. He had hardly come to terms with what Ayaz had told him he had done, and now this. Multiple assaults. On his Rida. His fragile sweet Rida. He tried to block it out, the insanity of it all. The brutal reality. He had read of such things in papers, gang rapes… date rapes… but it had never struck him as a reality. Something that someone else suffered. It doesn’t happen in our reality he had thought. And now it had. And it felt like someone else’s life. A story in a news paper. A sad story that ruined his appetite. Invoked a heated debate about the inherently evil nature of human beings. And Rida saying, there are always good people too. And him always saying you are a naïve little girl, darling. I hope that never changes. And now she was dead Date rape, gang rape… with Rida as the victim, his precious Rida. He had never stopped to think how the people who cared about the victim had felt. He knew now that they felt nothing at all. Just like they had been ripped open and hollowed out. Like a desecrated corpse. Like an empty grave.
“Why…” He finally managed to say, realizing that Shahnawaz was still sitting there. He couldn’t understand what could drive a man to be this cruel, this perverted… “Wasn’t it enough? What he did to her? Wasn’t he enough…. He had to get his spineless pet dog to have a go too? Why the fuck would he do that?”
“He’s a monster” Shahnawaz began, his voice hollow and cryptic, as if coming from a tomb somewhere deep inside his bowels,”He likes to watch”
His head swimming in a maelstrom of conflicting emotions, Aamir collapsed. Writhing on the floor before the fire a new fear grasped his heart. And as if more damage could be done, he went looking for it…
“How many others?” he exhaled. Almost afraid to know the answer. Testing the extent of one man’s dementia and one woman’s suffering.
“Seven” Shahanwaz whimpered. .
The twilight of the dawn seeped through the windows and wiped their shadows off the wall.