‘QUIT’ said the message.
Dev couldn’t believe it. It seemed to have come right from the ‘Boss’. He stared at the piece of paper that had come to him, through a known messenger, sealed tightly. He read it again carefully, though there wasn’t much to read.
Well done Dev. Mission successful. Now QUIT before death. Else, death awaits in an hour. -Boss (12.15)
Why would his Boss do this? Ask him to quit when he has just achieved his position in the brotherhood? Something was amiss. He was completely shaken. He really hadn’t expected anything of this kind to happen. The message was already old by three-quarters of an hour. He read the message again. Was this a code to a new mission? Didn't seem like that. What should he do now? He had two choices. One, to go and quit from the brotherhood, like what the message asked him to do. Two, wait and see till the end of the hour, hoping that the message has a side meaning or some clue for him.
Conveniently, Dev chose to do the second. He just couldn't fathom being thrown away like that after all that he had worked. The last quarter was passed with tense silence and repetitive reading of that single-lined text. The clock ticked away till 01.15. Dev breathed a sigh of relief allowing a snug smile tug at his lips. Just then, the doorbell rang. Dev’s heart leapt at the unexpected ringing. Fear gripped him again. He opened the door slowly. To his extreme relief, the face of whom-he-thought-a-friend peered at him with a grin.
“Thank God! It’s you! Come on in, I have the most bizzare-” said Dev opening the door wide.
The next thing that Dev knew was a hard jab on his face, and a punch landing on his gut. He fell to the floor writhing in pain. The man stepped in deftly, leaving the door half closed.
“You should have gone after the warning message from the Boss!” said the man, with a derisive, ridiculing look that spelled you-aren't-good-enough.
“Yash? You are not here to kill me! I am your friend- we are like family!” said Dev, panic rising and his voice quavering, as he clutched his abdomen and managed himself on to the feet.
“Anything to please the boss, buddy. He is family. Not you, not anyone,” laughed the man.
“Yash, Yash, no! You will not do it!” pleaded Dev. A blow on his nose again sent Dev doubling on the floor holding a bloody nose. But this time, the door was on his side. “Yash, Yash, stop!” he cried.
Yash slowly took out from his pocket a dagger. Realization crashed on Dev. It couldn’t be, but it was. Dev searched his adversary's eyes for a non-existent sign of hope that he wouldn't do it. Yash wouldn’t hesitate a moment to stab him dead. Yash advanced, ruthlessly, slowly and steadily, eyeing his target and not wavering for even a fraction of a moment.
“Yash! This will not help you. Where will you go after you kill me? You will be dead! Boss will do away with you, too. I just realized that, he doesn't care. Don’t-for both our lives! Just stop, and we can set things right. We have a chance, Yash, listen to me,” whispered Dev, as fear wouldn’t allow him to be any louder.
Dev, didn’t know what to do. His breathing was becoming heavier. Yash was near, advancing closer. Suddenly, with a spurt of courage from an undefined source, he pushed open the door near him, and sprinted down the alley with all his energy to God-knows-where. Behind him, he heard his attacker’s footsteps for what seemed a long time. Then it suddenly died. But, Dev continued running, on and on and on, until he crashed down on the street, unable to move any more. Exhaustion took over as the world went black for the young man.
After many hours, he woke up with a start, to find himself on the hard tar road. A few moments of confusion was followed by a hard-hitting recount of everything that happened, and it felt to him like a hard punch on the gut that leaving him in writhing pain. He realized fully well what his position was.
No home. No job. No money. But, an opportunity to set things right.
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