Who was onto whom; that was the question.
There was an accident. The bus driver drove into the rocky hill. The bus was empty except the driver and the conductor, only one of whom had survived. No injuries. Not even a crease on his forehead. The conductor got off the bus and contemplated setting the whole thing on fire. The road was empty. It was the road leading up to the Postal Colony. No one was going to be caught dead on that road. Except the driver, of course. He was going to be caught very dead.
The conductor hadn’t thought the whole thing through and before he could decide his next move, Zakir heard sharp whistles from around the corner. The sound cut through the foggy air and stabbed Zakir’s throat. The young man stood petrified, thinking he had been caught. Caught before the crime was even over. Zakir’s father would have had a good laugh.
Anjum was preoccupied. He was thinking of his victory tonight, the euphoria of it so strong it made him fearless. He could do anything in that moment. Even be the king of the world like Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. Anjum laughed, imagining himself holding his trophy, the young boy’s decapitated head, in his right hand and a microphone in his left hand. “Itni shidaat se main ne tumhe paane ki koshish ki hai, ke har zaare ne mujhe tumse milane ki” he paused and smiled, “saazish ki hai.” He shook his head, as if he realized how silly he was being, and looked up really focusing on the world around him. Under the single flickering street light, moved a shadow. Someone was hiding behind a bus that had hit the rocky hill.
The illusion of invulnerability was strong. It made Anjum cocky. Instead of minding his business and walking as far away from the scene as possible, he decided to play with the obviously scared prey. He darted towards the bus, purposefully clapping his chappal against the heel of his feet. Quick hard steps were meant to inspire fear of a confident predator, brave enough to venture-actually stroll-in the dark night on the scariest road in Chabhri.
Zakir entered the bus quickly, hiding behind one of the chairs. He wasn’t sure if the stranger had noticed him but he hoped the man would find the dead driver and run away out of fear instead of trying to probe further into the matter. He heard the approaching footsteps and wiped the cold sweat off his forehead.
Anjum sprung on the bus and let out a playful “aha!” He saw the driver with his head down in the front seat and before he took another step, he knew the man was dead. He could smell the blood. Anjum walked towards the dead body and took a closer look. Blood. Too much of it. An accident doesn’t cause that kind of blood loss. He grabbed the dead man’s shoulder and pulled him back. Blood sprouted out of his jugular and Anjum jumped back in time to avoid getting any of it on his kurta. Someone had cut the driver’s throat open. The accident was a set up.
Suddenly realizing that the shadow could not have been of the driver and that whoever it belonged to was likely the murderer, Anjum turned around. Spotting Zakir wasn’t hard. The young man was shaking too hard, all the while being visible from above the seat.
“Oye!” Anjum called to him. “Get out. I can see you.”
Used to following orders, Zakir got out immediately despite his fear. He had been caught. There was no use of fighting back. Anjum leapt towards Zakir and got a closer look.
“Look at me,” he said and Zakir looked up, still trembling. Anjum saw the blood splattered on Zakir’s face and almost laughed but controlled himself by biting his lip. Zakir saw the blood on Anjum’s teeth and the nail marks on his cheek as if someone had tried to push him away.
There were two murderers in the bus; Zakir, the eighteen year old bus conductor, and Anjum, the thirty one year old pedophile. Before the two could acknowledge their identical situations, they heard a car speed up to the bus.
It was a small Mehran with two giant men sitting in the front seats. The two popped out of the car to look into the bus. Sajid and Wahab were notorious robbers, always looking for buses to loot in the dark of the night. The second they walked into the bus, all four men’s fates were sealed.