I am writing fiction after a long, long break and ‘Love in Times of Terror’ is a short story that I have decided to publish in 4 parts over the next few days. I hope you’ll like it and do leave comments and feedback J
You can read the previous chapter here- Part 2
Rana was getting impatient and nervous. He was pacing the parking area with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Four hours had passed since they started the search but they couldn’t find the bomb. The parking area had few cars and bikes that were parked from yesterday. Employees were allowed to park their vehicles for 24 hours after which there would be a fine to be paid.
His men had checked the vehicles, the underground drainage sewers, the over-head pipes but they couldn’t locate the bomb. Rana knew that time was running out on him. He had to take a decision to vacate the IT Park soon. If the alert was a genuine one and his men failed to locate the bomb then he would not be responsible for the consequences. He had argued with his seniors that this was a risk he was not ready to take.
Shaken by the threat in his voice, his seniors had decided that if Rana’s men couldn’t locate the bomb by 1 PM, the IT Park would be vacated and the situation would be made public.
Rana looked around him. It was a huge empty space and he wondered why anyone would choose it to plant a bomb. He answered his own question by guessing that this place was least secured and completely free of any electronic surveillance. There were two guards posted at the entrance and exit who were now looking at the proceedings with curiosity. There were small guard posts at the entrance and exit where the guards could rest during the night.
The nondescript structure was so small that only one person could sit at a time. Rana was about to throw the cigarette butt on the ground when he was struck by a thought. He ran to the guard post at the entrance. His men had completely ignored searching this cramped place. The small one room was filled with empty plastic cups, some clothes belonging to the guard, few keys, a torch light and a couple of registers.
Rana started rummaging through the litter piled in the tiny room. But he didn’t find what he was looking for. The security man came running when he saw the officer messing up his den.
“Sahib, what are you doing? Do you need something?” cried the man clearly ruffled.
“The room at the exit, is it same like this one?”
Rana ran to the other side of the parking lot, hoping and praying fervently that his hunch be true. When Rana reached the exit post, his eyes immediately fell on the box kept at the corner of the room. He called the guard assigned at the exit, and asked him to open the box.
“Sahib, this is just a tool box. It has not been opened from a long time”
“Just open the damn box, you idiot”, Rana swore some more as the terrified man forced open the rusty box.
Inside there was contraption with wires entangled together and a small red digital clock ticking away furiously.
Rana heaved a sigh of relief just as the bomb detonating squad reached the spot.
Rakesh rode his bike silently with Shirin sitting behind him. Her head rested on his shoulders even as her hands clutched his waist.
“Isn’t the multiplex the other way”, Shirin asked, noticing that Rakesh was driving in the wrong direction.
“I have a surprise for you. You do trust me, right?” Rakesh spoke with the wind blowing past his face.
Shirin tilted her head to hear him and replied, “I would trust you with my life, Rakesh”.
Rakesh had a grin on his face as he continued to drive. After an hour of riding, he stopped and Shirin saw that they had left behind the hustle of city.
“Where are we?” she asked Rakesh.
Rakesh took her hand and guided her to a place where a tall rocky mountain stood smugly as if daring the visitors to scale it and conquer. Rakesh started climbing it deftly. Shirin had no difficulty in following Rakesh’s cue. Shirin reached to the top of the mountain first, panting and gasping for breath.
As she looked around, she was struck by the absolute splendor of the beauty around her. Her eyes could only see vast greenery covered in thick foliage. It was calm and serene. She sat down gazing at the open sky. Rakesh joined her and their eyes locked. Rakesh spoke, his voice sounding low and faint.
“Shirin, I know about your involvement with Azad Kashmir extremist group.”
Shirin was suddenly as still as a statue.
“I heard you speaking on the phone yesterday night about the bomb that you had planted”, he spoke, but his tone was not accusatory.
Shirin remembered the call she had got from the private number.
“Is it done?” was all he had asked her.
“Yes, I have planted the bomb in the parking lot of our office and it’s set to explode at 3 PM tomorrow. Rashid Bhai, I still have my doubts if I have done the right thing. The bomb will kill thousands of innocent men and women. Is this the mission of Azad Kashmir? Will Allah forgive us for that?” Shirin had talked in a whisper so that she wouldn’t wake up Rakesh, who she thought to be sleeping soundly.
“Shirin, for any cause there are sacrifices that one cannot avoid. When the Indian Army bombed your house in Kashmir and killed your parents and your little brother, just to extricate a few Pakistani militants, did they think about the innocent civilian causalities? Weren’t your parents and brother innocent too? Why did they die when it was not their battle?”
“Yes Rashid Bhai, my family was killed for no reason. I still remember that night when I hugged my brother’s little body as he bled to death in my arms. I was scared to come out, even though I knew that my brother was dying. In front of me, I saw my parents dead with their eyes still open and their mouths frozen in a scream. I’ll never forget that horrible night. Allah saved me for a reason and that reason is revenge. To avenge the death of my family.” replied Shirin, her voice shaking from fury.
“We have to teach the Indians a lesson or two. Kashmir is ours, it’s a paradise that belongs to us rightfully and they cannot take it away from us. You have assured yourself a place in heaven because you have done His bidding, my daughter. Tomorrow will be a new dawn for us”, commended Rashid Ali, the mastermind behind Azad Kashmir.
Rakesh who woke up to have a glass of water couldn’t believe his ears. How could his Shirin be a terrorist? He went back to sleep to think things over. When he was sure that Shirin had fallen asleep next to him, he went out, his mind a whirl of thoughts. He came back only during the wee hours of morning.
When Shirin was showering, he called the police and informed them about the impending bomb attack. He just hoped that the police would act upon the threat and not take it as a prank call.
He also decided that if the police were unable to find the bomb, he would force Shirin to come clean with the police. He would not sacrifice the life of thousands of men and women for the sake of his love.
But when he saw the flurry of activity involving the bomb squad near the parking facility, he was relieved. He had let out a sigh of relief realizing that the police were successful in detonating the bomb. All he had to do now was to convince Shirin to surrender to police. But knowing Shirin’s past, Rakesh fathomed that it would not be an easy task.