The car just wouldn’t start. It was the dead of the night, in the middle of a deserted highway. All that was required to complete the cliche was a broken down car. And they had it. They both looked at each other in disbelief. “Surely this cannot be happening” he said, in a tone that bordered on the ridiculously funny ironical. She stared back at him with the “I told you this trip was a mistake look” but said nothing. Almost simultaneously both looked at their mobile phones to see the network coverage. There was none.
“What are the chances of finding another vehicle in this desolate place”, he wondered. “Yeah a car which doesn’t have some psycho that is”, she responded, trying to make light of the situation they found themselves in. It had all started with a casual conversation a few days ago. She received a call from an old friend from college and she began to reminisce. He agreed with her when she lamented that they never went out on spontaneous short trips anymore. “We must do it again”, he admitted. “It’s just that I’ve got too much on my plate. I know sometimes I neglect you”. She looked at him with a mix of sadness and anger at his last statement, but didn’t say a word.
He decided to surprise her with a few days break from his work. “Let’s go off somewhere lonely. No people. No shops. Just nature and us. Let’s drive off like we used to before.”
And that’s how it started.
She checked her phone to see how much battery was left. Fortunately it was nearly full. At least something was right, she thought to herself, hoping that they’d be blessed with network coverage by some miracle. By now he’d opened the bonnet of the car trying to peer into the engine with his mobile phone torch. “I can’t seem to figure what’s wrong. We have a tank full of gas. We did a complete service last week. What could be wrong?” He peered into the car clueless. The crickets were chirping away merrily that moonless night.
“You remember David don’t you”, she asked him all of a sudden. “Who?”, he asked back, stretching his neck away from the bonnet looking at her seated in the car.
He was shocked at what he saw.
There sat, along with her, a middle-aged man with black streaks on his silver hair. He wore thin rimmed spectacles which covered his light blue eyes. His grin revealed a gold tooth amongst his regular ones. “Hi Mark,” he waved his right hand, towards the shocked husband.
Mark left the bonnet and came to the front door. Before he could open it, David opened it from inside striking him and throwing him off on the road. Before he could recover, he was kicked on his stomach and then face by David. “This is for high school. And for university. And for all those years Mark”. He kept on kicking incessantly. Mark threw up some blood from the constant kicking. He tried to get up after the sudden attack but the momentum was against him. David kept on pounding him with his feet till finally Mark’s body became lifeless. David bent down and took Mark’s wallet from his back pocket and also his watch. This had to look like a good fashioned mugging and robbery. As his still body lay slumped, David got into the car, reconnected the wire which Liza had cleverly disconnected and started the car. They drove off to the hotel which Mark had booked for Liza and himself. “Only now it’s going to be us”, Liza smiled as she held David’s arm on the steering wheel.
Liza was waiting in the motel room. Waiting for David to come to her arms. They had waited long enough for this. Fourteen years. For the right time. Right opportunity. And now it was all theirs. Mark’s wealth and a new life. As she lay waiting for him, he was in the bar finishing off his ale before he joined her in their room.
She heard the shots but at first couldn’t make out what they were. Then the screams from the bar confirmed that they were indeed gun shots. She put on a robe and rushed towards the bar to see what had happened. As she reached the bar she saw David lying in a pool of blood. His eyes and mouth were open indicating a sudden and close-range attack. She stood there transfixed not knowing what to do or who to turn to. “Was he with you lady”, the burly bartender asked her. As she nodded a shocked yes, he handed a white envelope to her. “This was given to me by the man in the black coat earlier in the evening. He told me, “When I am done, there will come a lady. Give her this envelope”.
Liza took the white envelope with trembling hands and opened it. Her name was written on top in a familiar handwriting.
“Liza my darling. I heard your conversation with David. All of it. If you wanted to leave me you should’ve told me. You know I’d never say no to anything you asked for. But this? Really? You actually thought that you and David could get the better of me? Well no my love. You can’t. I had told John this would happen. He was waiting here to see which man came with you this evening. If it was me he wouldn’t have to fire a single bullet from his handgun. But if it was the other man (yes my love I gave John my photograph) all he had to do was fire those two shots and disappear. If this letter is in your hands now, then that’s exactly what he’s done. See you in hell darling.”
PS: Hope you have a good night’s stay at the motel. Don’t worry, I’ve paid for it already sweetheart”.
Liza crumpled the letter and was about to throw it. Then she stopped and simply put in inside her robe. She sat down on one of the empty chairs of the bar and buried her face in her hands as the wailing police sirens became louder and closer.
Back in the deserted highway, the “battered body” stirred.
Copyright (c) Pratik Majumdar