The last 4 hours had been a nightmare. No one had imagined the evening would shape up that way. I wish it was a just a bad dream, only it wasn’t.
How it started:
It was a week ago when Jai, Yusuf, Trisha and I had come up with this plan. We told our folks about a field trip organized by the school and that attendance was compulsory. There was no trouble in seeking permission.
The four of us were what you can call a bunch of trouble makers at the St Xavier’s high school, Kolhapur. Our fellow 10th graders looked up to us and some were even envious.
Trisha was straight A student and the student body president. She was popular and outgoing. Yusuf was reserved, a man of less words, really matured and reliable. Jai was the humor house of the class. His slapstick one liners would take the teachers before they even realized.
I, Niah, was an above average student, who liked to mind her own business. It was the mid of July and the monsoon was lashing rains like wild fire. The much awaited weekend had finally come. A road trip to Goa and we’d be staying at a nice beach house that Yusuf had suggested.
We started at the break of dawn on 22nd July. Jai drove the Honda city and took us to our destination in less than 5 hours. That was a weary Saturday afternoon and we decided to hit the beach and just relax with bottle of buds. The four of us were in complete bliss enjoying the soothing sound of waves, feathery drizzle in the winds and a soft country music played in the breeze.
We definitely deserved this break after the stressing periodicals. A vacation without parents was like a dream. It was a result of meticulous planning. No blips or errors and everything went as planned.
“To getaways.” Trisha raised her bottle.
“Cheers.” All toasted and bottles clinked.
By the dawn it was unusually cold and windy. The tides had gotten high. I decided to head back to the villa. It was a 2 storey mansion, Portuguese in architecture and a spread out courtyard surrounded by a variety of trees. A huge crescent shaped balcony threw a majestic view of the ocean.
“I’ll stack us up with some more beer! You guys drink like a camel in desert!” mocked Jai.
“I’ll come along.” Yusuf got up retrieving from a long yawn and stretched arms.
They went to the nearby liquor store. Trisha said she’d join me in a bit and opened the last beer from the ice bucket.
It was a sticky weather so I decided to take a shower. The warm water washed away the sand from my hair and toe nails. It felt so fresh and new. After changing to my teal green tunic dress, I looked outside from the balcony. I could see the three of them laughing, hi fiving and probably talking about some stupid episode from school. A smile escaped and in a wandering second my gaze shifted to Yusuf. He was a great guy. I wish I didn’t have to hide what I felt for him.
There was a knock on the door and I went down to get it. As I opened the flip door I was greeted by a Pizza delivery guy. He was panting and trying to catch his breath. The shoulders of his red and blue uniform were wet as it had started raining.
“Why are you panting? Do you want some water?”I offered out of empathy.
“Nn.. Nn.. No Madam. I am f.. ff.. fine. Th.. tha… Thanks.” He stuttered.
“Are you sure? You seem like you walked out of a nightmare.” I said as he handed me 2 large boxes.
“We never deliver in this area. But they made me do it.” He muttered within his teeth.
“What? Why won’t you deliver here?” I demanded.
“That’d be 1150 Rupees Madam.” He retrieved to a professional delivery guy.
“Weird.” I went inside to fetch my wallet.
As I returned, He was gone. The pizza boxes were kept on the floor.
“And, he just vanished without even taking the money?” Trisha exclaimed with daze.
“Yes, can you believe it?”I narrated the entire incident to the three of them as we continued the party indoors.
This time we lied lazily around the coffee table. It was blanketed with food, beer bottles, ash trays with heaping grays, dead cell phones, and a few pizza slices in the carelessly opened boxes. Smoke filled the room.
We talked, laughed, hummed songs, danced and played truth and dare. While Trisha and Jai occasionally stole kisses, Yusuf and I pretended to ignore them. All were drunk and happy.
“Get a room you too.” I teased the couple.
“Oh, are you embarrassed? I am so sorry. But you know what, we actually will tonight and then…” Trisha slipped a bit from the couch and started giggling.
“She is gonna pass out. I’ll just tuck her in and be back.” Jai covered up.
Yusuf and I sat opposite to each other across the coffee table.
I looked at the clock with a blurry vision. The small hand appeared to be somewhere between 12 and 1. It was eerily quiet and occasionally filled by the sound of rumbling thunder.
I looked back at the table and saw Yusuf grabbing the last slice of the pizza.
“Good choice of food. I love pizza.”He praised me.
“Thanks! But I never ordered.” I smiled.
“I know. And neither did you pay the guy” He recalled.
“But he left before I even got back.” I defended myself.
“Maybe he’ll give you another chance.” He drew in closer as our eyes locked. I never expected him to be so forthcoming!
I liked it.
He playfully grabbed my hand and there was sudden noise of glass shattering and a car siren going off.
That woke me up from the nap.
“Someone’s trying to steal the car.” Yusuf said alarmingly.
We rushed outside to check on the car. It was pitch dark and continued to pour. The car stood intact with its parking lights blinking. A stray dog cooed and walked away from underneath it.
There was no damage to the car. But what was the glass shattering sound?
I looked around and my sight shifted up towards the balcony. A lightening chanced upon and it lit up incandescently for a split second. My tongue was in throat as I saw Trisha’s body hanging by a hook on the balcony.
“No! Trisha!” I screamed my guts out and turned to alert Yusuf. But he wasn’t there.
I ran inside and locked the door, too scared to go upstairs. Maybe I was just hallucinating. Where is everybody? I shouted their names, one by one, but only my echo returned followed by a thunder.
I decided to go up and figure out what’s going on. Are these people trying to pull a prank on me?
With a fork in my hand, I carefully climbed the stairs and advanced towards the balcony. My feet were shaking but I continued to walk. I slowly pushed the door open and got relieved when found nothing. There was a sound of car engine starting, so I took a few steps ahead to look down. Someone was in our car and was stealing it away! Wait, is that Jai? What’s going on?
“And what exactly are you planning to do with that fork?” A familiar voice said from behind.
I turned around, ran and hugged Yusuf with relief.
“Where were you? Do you know what I saw? It was Trisha, she… ” I shrugged with confusion and stopped.
“Trisha got sick. Food poisoning I think. Jai took her to the hospital. But there’s no need to worry. Get some sleep. I will be up till they return.” He filled the gaps calmly.
“You are right, I am practically hallucinating. I need to rest.” I walked back to my room with unsolved doubts in my mind.
We all ate the same pizza, then how come she got sick and we didn’t? Why did nobody inform me? And where did the glass shattering sound come from? Why is Yusuf so calm about it?
I couldn’t sleep. My mind was at unrest. I quietly got out of my room and looked around. I entered Trisha’s room. It was in total ruins. The beer bottles lay broken on the floor, carpet was wet with alcohol, the mattress was tipping on the floor, pillows lay everywhere in the room, curtains were torn and coming off. It seemed as if the room had witnessed a lot of struggle. That certainly didn’t appear like a food poisoning case to me. As I took another step I got knocked over by a carpet roll and it unfurled itself.
It was stuffed with… with her body. Trisha’s gray faced body was laying a foot away on the floor. Her neck was red with blood and had piercings from a pointy object. I leaned in to close her frightened eyes and then it moved.
I had a panic attack, couldn’t scream or utter a word for help. I just ran back to my room and took shelter in a corner. She is alive! Trisha is not dead! I should get help. But how?
Yusuf and Jai had escaped the villa. They left us here. How can they do this? I was crying and panicking. I took my make do weapon and dialed 102 from a landline. Thankfully it was working.
“We have had an intrusion and my friend is badly injured. Please send an ambulance. We are at the Roxanne villa, at the Tiger Beach, South Goa.”
A male cop took down my details and said they’d be sending help very soon. I then rushed back to Trisha and made her drink some water. She was struggling to breathe and was hesitant to drink. Poor girl was tormented so bad that she failed to acknowledge me. I only wished if she could tell me what had happened.
These last 4 hours hadn’t been easy. No one had thought the evening would shape up this way. It was a series of unpredictable events and a point of no return.
It was getting late enough to be worried. I once again steeped into the balcony and looked down. Except for a drenched street dog that was lying miserably near the gate, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Rain water had puddle under the lamp post. A breeze ruffled the mango tree in the courtyard and a few twigs fell down and broke. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Did I hear a soft knock at the door? I turned back, closed my eyes and thanked the heavens.
I quickly climbed down the stairs and ran across the hall way and slowly opened the door.
I was in total aghast to see him again greeting me with a confident smile.
“Good evening Madam, here’s your order for two pizzas.” His hands outstretched with 2 boxes.
“Bu.. But… I… I never ord… ordered any. It must be a wrong address” I struggled to compose.
“I’m most certain it is the right address. After all, I have been delivering here every night. I hate it when they don’t pay me. But then I make sure they don’t repeat it.”
I stood still.
“That’d be 1150 Rupees Madam.” He requested courteously.
I didn’t move an inch and froze.
“Madam, are you alright?” He rumbled and I faded to black.
When I returned to senses, I was lying on a bed. Jai, Trisha and Yusuf were sitting next to me and murmuring.
“What happened to you Niah? Did the delivery guy make you swoon?” Jai joked.
“Shut up Jai. She needs to rest. But Niah, what did you say that scared the poor guy away!” Trisha continued the joke.
Yusuf didn’t say anything. He just laughed with those two.
“Did you pay him for the order?” I asked them.
“How are we supposed to know? When we got back from the beach you were lying unconscious on the floor with your beloved pizzas.” Jai said.
“Oh Shit!” I got off the bed and ran outside to find him. He mustn’t have gotten far. It takes a ferry to get here. He came all the way just for a wrong delivery? This is unbelievable.
“I think this will ease up with your confusion” Yusuf held an ID card as he approached.
It was the same face. Yes, it was him. The delivery guy had dropped his ID card.
“We must call him up and pay back. He came a long way and we didn’t return the order.”
Yusuf smiled and said, “Yes, he came a long way but he didn’t make it.”
“What? You know him?” I was surprised.
“I did. He was also a student at our school, a bright boy with big dreams from a family of little means. But he was called back by his father to contribute and support his family here. He took up a meagerly food delivery job. One day he was sent to deliver here, some 8 years ago and he never returned. Those rich kids who had booked this villa never paid him for the delivery. They used him for their entertainment, made him to strip when they were high on cocaine. When the poor guy tried to run away, they crushed him under the car and threw him in the water.”
“This is disturbing and scaring! I don’t believe you. If this is true why didn’t you tell us before? We should have never come here?” I said dismissively.
Jai and Trisha had also come outside now. I showed them his ID.
She examined the card and said, “We don’t know this guy. There’s nothing we can do really.”
I proposed them to track this person down and return it to him at least.
“But Niah, this card has expired. Look, it dates to 8 years back.” Jai noticed.
I took the card from him and looked again. He was right. It was an old card. I never read the name which said it belonged to a Yusuf Kazi.
Yusuf came near and whispered in my ear, “They don’t see me, but I am glad that you do. And keep the door open so I won’t have to break the window tonight.”