July, the third
The day was fresh like a splinter in his mind. It is always painful eye to eye when you both know that only one is going to make it. Captain Hari Singh and Colonel Mohit Chawla were inseparable since they were first assigned together on the Russian-built Ilyushin II-78 MKI R Cargo Plane by the Indian Air Force. During a routine transport mission in the Kashmir region, the aircraft suffered a catastrophic engine malfunction and their plane was headed on a collision course with the Himalayas. The major was
ready to sacrifice himself for the colonel but the man saved Singh instead. Singh’s anger knew no bounds but that was only momentary. Only a torn piece of Mohit’s sleeve that came off during the struggle was with the retired pilot.
“That bastard.” A faint smirk appeared on his face. Major Singh took voluntary retirement from the military soon after. A soldier at the prime of his career, Singh had tremendous potential, everyone saw that, and he was vehement opposed for that. In the end, he retired and settled up in his hometown of Puri. His house was located at the famous beachfront, along the Marine Drive owing to the fact that his family had lived there for generations. He was taking one of his usual walks in the sands.
He was taking one of his usual walks in the sands. He returned home later that night after a final visit to the market. He and his wife were quietly watching the television when they heard a knock on the door. It was well after midnight and they seldom had any guests. He sent his wife upstairs.
Cautiously he approached the front door and opened the gate. No one was there. Only an envelope and some white lilies lay on the floor. It was all strange to him because the white flowers meant something. And that was not possible.
He quickly opened the envelope and to his expectation, he found a white piece of paper with nothing written on it. Inside the mysterious envelope, there was another object. Singh’s body trembled with fear as he saw the piece of uniform. He rushed to his study and produced a bottle of potassium ferricyanide and spilled its contents on the paper.
The white lilies were for his wife. Mohit had a habit of sending flowers to Singh’s wife whenever he would send them something. At first, it seemed like a sick prank by someone who knew both of them but the other item piece of cloth cleared all doubts. It was from Chawla’s uniform.
Singh trembled at the thought. ‘How could it be?’ He had already conceived of all possibilities. What did he miss?
Slowly, the letters started appearing as the cobalt chloride slowly developed. In under an hour, the letter was mostly legible.
Café Pipa, 11:00 IST. Third table from the entrance. Phone.
It was still a risk. Anyone could have perpetrated Chawla. The flowers could have been sent by anyone. But the piece of uniform meant something big.
He sent his wife away the first thing in the morning. He explained her everything and she left in complete understanding. There was a special kind of honesty between the two and that had always kept them strong through the years.
Café Pipa was a well-known pub in town. Opened fairly recently, it was a popular place for youngsters and middle-aged folks alike. The place was always creowded but only after noon. Lots of open spaces and had a very outdoorsy feel to it. Perfect for a hitman.
There were only two possibilities: either the letter was sent by Chawla himself or Chawla might have been captured and the enemy managed to break him and finally manage to get to his co-pilot. Singh knew the risks. The .380 strapped to his left ankle was a testament to that.
Fortunately, this was not a bait. Singh entered the Cafe minutes before 11. Third table from the entrance. The empty table was visible right from the entrance. There was a black phone placed on top of an envelope. But he never eyed that. After surveilling the area, Singh was convinced enough and took his seat. Before he could open the envelope, the phone rang. Singh took the call.
“The crash was not an accident. They’ve got to you.”
The line cut abruptly. The call lasted for less than seven seconds. Too short to be traceable.
It was followed by a text,
Flight AI-78 | 10:15 | GAU
Singh was on his feet. The phone was already in pieces on a secluded side of the highway.
The voice was unidentifiable. There was too much static. Singh didn’t care. He only knew one thing: that he had to reach Assam by next day. He was always suspicious about what happened on their last mission. Sabotage? Now he was sure.
It was time for revenge.
This short story is a sequel to Crash