Broken Pieces

A heart wrenching story of two lovers-turned-enemies, one of them is a drug lord and the other works for a secret organization.

Reading time: 26 minutes.


Previously - The End and the Beginning — The serial killer is back. He is out killing again and it's up to Roy to catch and stop him.

(See the full chronology)


Chapter One

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The night was singing a beautiful lullaby as if it was trying to make everyone go to a peaceful sleep, trying to make them drift away into a dreamy world, heaven without any worries of their busy lives or responsibilities. Everything was as quiet as it could be. The wind tip-toed above the lazy and sleepy city. It knew the people only had a few hours before they had to get back to the race.

Preeti circled the house one last time, checking everything. She was sure that she had locked every door and window but one can’t be too careful, she thought. The house was in complete dark, everything was at rest. Even the air seemed to have stopped. Preeti walked past the kitchen when she felt a breeze across her face. She stopped and looked at the kitchen window, it was wide open. Her heart dropped a beat or a few. She remembered clearly that she had shut that window because that’s the first thing she used to do after she was done cooking. Did I miss it? She wondered.

She shrugged and entered the kitchen to close the window and as she stepped in the kitchen, she knew it. Her feet landed, not on the smooth and clean marble floor but on the dried mud that spread across the floor. A thought popped into her head. Someone had walked through the kitchen with their shoes on. Shoes that had been wending in the mud somewhere, shoes that climbed the kitchen wall, entered through the open window and were now in the house, with her and with the person who was wearing them.

The night was still quiet and peaceful but for how long? Preeti stood silent, frozen with fear, unable to think what to do. Her instincts said, 'run for the door’, but she didn’t know where the intruder was hiding and didn’t want to risk running into him. Her next thought was to call the police but her smartphone was in the bedroom which was closer to the kitchen than the front door, yes, that was it, she thought but she only had taken the first step when she heard those shoes. The intruder was approaching her.

Her heart pounded out of her chest and her legs started shivering. She found it difficult to stand for a second. What she did next was totally impulsive, her instincts ordered her and she followed throwing her hand at the pan that laid on the kitchen counter and swinging it as hard as she could on the prompt of the voice that she heard. She didn’t even think, she couldn’t, and she definitely was in no condition to pay attention to the fact that the voice had said, “Preeti?” and was very familiar.

It was just lucky that the intruder had reflexes much faster than Preeti and was able to dodge the swing because the intruder was none other than-

“Roy?” asked Preeti recognising him even in the dark, maybe because of his voice.

Roy groaned, “Yeah, it’s me.” His voice was broken as if he was very tired.

Preeti looked at the slim dark figure with confusion. She thought he was dead and could not believe it so she turned to the switchboard on the wall behind her and flicked a switch. She had to make sure. She needed proof.

The bright light filled the kitchen. Roy squinted and immediately turned it back off. He stood there in silence for a second holding the switch as if he was afraid that it might turn on if he let go of it. “We can’t turn on the light, I don’t know if I’ve been followed or you’re being watched,” he said and marched into the hall.

Preeti was already very confused and Roy’s statement did not make it any clearer. She followed him swaying her nightgown that swept the dried mud of the kitchen floor with it.

“What is happening? Why am I being watched?”

“I didn’t say you are. I said I don’t know.” Roy now turned and was face to face with Preeti. His face was only inches away from hers. He grabbed her arms, looked directly into her eyes and pulled her even closer.

Preeti finally saw his face. His long face with sunken black eyes, swollen cheeks, a broken nose that still had a little dried blood on it, and a fat lip. He had been in a fight, she surmised, which was usual but he got beaten up which was not.

“Preeti, listen, we need to talk. I need your help.”

Preeti did not believe her ears. A few months ago she had joked about it. She was in Crime City visiting her cousin Sneha and on her first night there, she had run into him. He was on his usual routine, killing criminals, drug dealers and people of the mafia. He had saved her life and walked her home. She had met him once again the following night. They had become a sort of friends. She remembered she had joked about it, about being partners but she never actually believed that it could happen and yet there he was standing right in front of him wearing the same grey hoodie that he wore that night, he stood there asking for her help. Preeti thought that if it ever happened, it would be exciting but tonight when he showed up like this, beaten up and tired, it scared her.

“Preeti, are you listening?”

“My help?”

“Yes, is there a place where we can sit? You have a lamp on your nightstand, don’t you?”

Preeti nodded.

"Okay," he said with relief and started walking towards the bedroom. "Can you get me a glass of water or a bottle? Thank you.”

Preeti noticed for the first time that he was limping. She went back into the kitchen to get a bottle of water. When she entered the bedroom she saw Roy sitting on a chair near the bed and dozing. He had turned on the lamp which illuminated that part of the bedroom. His head hung low like that of a puppet whose strings had just cut down.

“Are you okay?”

Roy jerked his head up. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired.”

Preeti advanced to the bed, sat on it, handing over the bottle to Roy. “I don’t understand. I thought you were dead,” she said.

Roy grabbed the bottle and emptied it in a single go. He only lowered it when he had poured all the water in his tired and dehydrated body then he looked at Preeti trying to select words to explain. “So I take it that she didn’t tell you. Hmm, that further confirms it, not that I needed the proof.”

“She? Sneha? She knew?”

“Yes, of course. I had survived the crash, barely though and I would’ve continued my mission but I was called back so I had to leave but I met her before leaving the city. I told her who I was. I thought she would share it with you.”

Preeti could understand why he would decide to tell Sneha. After all, she was his girlfriend but she couldn’t get why he would want to tell her. She didn't question it though. There were far more important questions to be asked. “What did you tell her? Who are you?”

“Well,” Roy stood up from the chair and started pacing around in the bedroom, still limping and leaving the last traces of dried mud from his sneakers to the floor. “I work for a secret organization, it’s called Shadows. A few months ago they sent me to get some strong leads on the drug mafia of Crime City where I met your cousin and later you.”

“Yeah, I figured that much. You appeared dressed as an assassin, hunting them down, killing them, I gathered you must be a government agent—”

“Wait, who said anything about government?”

“You just said— you were— oh my god!”

“Yeah,” Roy nodded.

“So it means Shadows is just another criminal organization. Are you a criminal?”

“Technically? Yeah, but we only go after other criminals. We erase them, acquire their assets and resources, use them to aid our own cause. Money and weapons go into operations, drugs and chemicals go to our front businesses.”

“You have front businesses?”

“Yeah, a lot. Don’t ask me which ones, I can’t tell you.”

“Why not? Because then you’d have to kill me?” Preeti might have been terrified at first but now her true self was revealing itself slowly.

“No, because I don’t know myself.” Roy looked at disbelief on Preeti’s face so he added, “It’s above my paygrade.”

“But I don’t get it. You are not a government organization so it’s not your responsibility so why do you do it?”

Roy laughed. Only Preeti could’ve asked that question, he thought. He took a deep breath and, “Why does anyone do anything? Why do criminals do what they do? Why do they sell drugs and weapons? Why do they kill people? It’s their business. They do it for money, for profit. So one day someone else somewhere thought if we are going to steal, why not steal from thieves? If we are going to kill, why not the other killers? If we are going to earn profit the wrong way, why not from the wrong people? It’s still illegal though, we can’t do it at the front so we do it from the shadows, thus the name.”

The night was silent as Preeti listened to him without blinking. She remembered his strikes on the mafia a few months ago when she was in Crime City. It was all over the news. The police could not establish a link between the dead bodies and drugs because they didn’t find any. Because Roy stole everything. It was clear now.

“You were not only killing them but also stealing from them.”

“Yes, but I was also trying to get to their boss so I could– anyway, even after weeks I could not get anything. I was going to pry until I did but as I said earlier, I was pulled back. We had intel about a man who used to work for the boss.” Roy jerked his head in Preeti's direction. “Do you remember the serial killer that went on a spree a few months ago about the same time? It was on the news."

“Yeah, it was. There were two of them, one of them had killed the other.”

“Yes, the one who survived was the man. Nadeem Mckee. He disappeared after that. I looked for him for months but couldn’t find him but about a month ago, I finally got him and stopped him.” Roy did not hesitate to state that he had killed a man. After all, it wasn't the first and it wouldn't be the last.

“I still don’t get it. If it was a month ago then who did this to you? And you said you need my help.”

“Yeah, I’m getting there. In his final moments, Nadeem told me everything. He told me about the boss. I didn’t believe him at first so I went back to Crime City two days ago. They were prepared, not just for me, for anything. I guess, they would always be prepared for anything now. I barely made it out alive but I was able to confirm my doubts. Now I know who the big boss is. There’s a slight problem though, they know about me. I can’t just attack them, I need to get them from the inside, sent someone in who they trust, someone who can pass all the important information to us so the shadows could plan and attack them when they are most vulnerable and that is why," Roy came to a stop looking at Preeti just a foot away from her. "I need your help."

Preeti immediately opened her mouth to say something but she didn’t. A thought indwelled her mind and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t shake it off. It made sense to her why Roy had said everything that he said tonight. She now understood why he doubted that she might have been watched and she now knew why he was asking her, not anyone else but her for help. She didn’t even notice that she had stood up from the bed with her mouth still a bit open and she was staring away at nothing, blankly. The night was still deep and dark and quiet. The only thing she could muster up to say was one word and that one word was, “No.”

“I’m sorry.” Roy turned and looked away. “I’m sorry Preeti but the big boss, the central player of the whole cartel is none other than Sneha, your cousin”— he tasted bitterness in his words, he swallowed it and went on— “my girlfriend.”

The wind over the city was still calm but it had heard everything and now it danced it’s way down the silent alleys and the street lights that stood along in a lane with their heads bowed down in the honour of the silent night. Everyone was asleep, they haven’t come back from the trip to their dreamy worlds yet. It was still a few hours before they would have to get back up and join the race, before the dawn breaks, before it changes everything in Preeti’s life.

 

Chapter Two

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A month later and three hundred kilometres away, in Crime City, shiny and warm rays, burning and penetrating rays of sunlight were searing through the blanket of the night that covered the city. The criminals were finishing their jobs, getting rid of the bodies, hiding their weapons, stashing their money and other stuff. They were either returning to their day jobs, blending in with the innocents of the city or going into hiding, into their den until the night calls them again.

Everything in Sneha’s apartment was still quiet when the doorbell woke her up. The human brain works very mysteriously. It doesn’t remember the sound it wakes up to so Sneha laid in her bed, her eyes partially open with tiny webs of sleep still in them, confused as to what woke her up until the doorbell went again. She quickly got herself out of the bed and hurried towards the door, meanwhile the doorbell rang once more. Sneha peeked outside through the peephole and then immediately opened the door with an expression of surprise on her face when she went, “Preeti?”

“Hey Sister!” Preeti lunged at her cousin and hugged her tightly.

“Uh– can’t breathe,” Sneha struggled to say which prompted Preeti to let go of her.

“How are you?” Preeti asked and walked past her into the apartment.

“Um– sleepy a second ago, now surprised. What– what are you doing here? Why didn’t you call you were coming?”

"I came here to see you, I thought I'd surprise you.”

“And you did but still wh– I mean– you should hav– why didn’t you—"

“I’m sorry. Is this how you treat your guests? With questions? Man, last time was much better.”

“Sorry, sorry do you need someth—"

“I think YOU need some coffee. I'll make some for both of us.” Preeti had already marched into the kitchen.

“Um— okay, thanks. I better hit the shower.” Sneha stood there for a second thinking about something then she smiled and went ahead.

When the day was up when people in the city were busy and the traffic was at its peak Roy’s phone rang. He was sitting by a table of an open restaurant. The noises travelled to Preeti’s ear on the other end of the line.

“Hey, found anything?” Roy asked.

“No, not a thing,” Preeti replied. She was standing in the middle of a huge pile of stuff. “I told you that you got the wrong person.”

“No, she must’ve gotten rid of everything.”

“How? She didn’t know I was coming. I mean that was the whole point of coming unannounced.”

Roy wasn’t listening. He had no doubts. He was just thinking about another plan and he came up with one. “Her phone. Can you access her phone?”

“What? Yeah, she wouldn’t think twice to hand me her phone.”

“Yeah, because she doesn’t suspect you.”

“No, because there isn’t anything on her phone. You’ll see. I’ll prove it to you and then this whole thing would be over.” She hung up the phone. Even though she was doing everything Roy had asked but she didn’t like it, spying on her own sister. The only reason she accepted to help was that she wanted to prove him wrong. She was sure as hell that Sneha couldn’t do anything like that and she was getting a little angry with Roy because he made her do things that she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself for.

The day went down pretty quickly. Sneha arrived early from work as she had promised so that she could spend some time with Preeti. They both went out to a restaurant for dinner. The calm evening didn’t have a clue to what horrible act of treachery was being committed. Sister spying on sister. Preeti struggled to keep up with herself. She had been trained for a month by Roy himself. She was laughing and joking just as usual but her mind was under a lot of stress.

“So we can go out after sunset now? I thought the night belonged to criminals,” Preeti asked as they entered the restaurant.

There were only a few people inside the restaurant. Some of them were already finished and were getting ready to leave.

“It does. But we’ll be okay up until eight-ish,” Sneha replied as they hurdled their way to an empty table.

"Hmm, so I take it that Roy did change a thing or two around here.”

That was the first time anybody had mentioned Roy. That was the only thing that was bugging Preeti. If she knew Roy was alive why didn’t she tell her? That question planted doubt in her mind and that was Roy's only argument. He didn’t tell her why he was so sure except the fact that a dying serial killer was shocked to see Sneha’s picture.

“Yeah, I guess. Come on." Sneha said in a way that finished the discussion even before it could start.

They both sat down, ordered and waited for their food to arrive. Sneha was looking out the window and Preeti was blabbering like usual browsing Instagram on her phone then suddenly–

“Oh, dang it, my phone’s dead,” Preeti said thumping her phone on the table.

Sneha looked at an upset Preeti. “Preeti, I think that’s machine abuse, you never put it down, even for a second. At least now it could take some rest.”

Preeti didn’t say anything for a moment and then she looked up at Sneha hopefully and asked, “Can I use yours? Just for a minute, there was this very beautiful dress, I need to take a screenshot.”

“Oh, come on Preeti,” Sneha blurted sliding her phone towards Preeti, “I thought we were here to spend some time with each other.”

“We ARE spending time with each other. What makes you think we are not?”

Sneha just shook her head and continued to look out the window. A minute later she got up and went to the restroom.

Preeti saw her going away and as soon as she was out of her sight–

“There’s nothing on the phone. I told you,” she said to Roy who was listening to their conversation on a call through Preeti’s phone which obviously wasn’t dead. “I am switching my phone off now. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

The next morning didn't bring any news about the upcoming tragedy. Maybe because it didn't have any clue of what was about to go down. Preeti had woken up early and now was waiting for Sneha to leave for work so she could call Roy. She was also thinking about coming clean with her sister.

Maybe she didn’t tell me about Roy being alive because she thought it was for the best, Preeti was thinking, I mean what good could’ve come out of that? He was an operative of a secret organization. It wasn't like we could all get together and hang out like normal people. She was lost in her thoughts trying to justify the only thing that had kept her awake most of the nights for the past month when suddenly Sneha’s phone started to ring.

Sneha was in the shower. She called out from there, “Preeti, can you grab my phone?”

“Yeah, hold on,” Preeti shouted and ran to grab the phone. The moment she laid eyes on the screen, her heartbeat sped up.

It said ‘Private Number’.

 

Chapter Three

The Explorer's Tales xtales.net

Preeti picked up the phone, walked to the bathroom, handed over the phone to Sneha but all absent-minded. She didn’t know what to think. Was Roy right? Could it be?

Then she shrugged the idea. So what if it’s a private number, she thought. A lot of people have private numbers. It doesn’t prove anything. Though it was good that Sneha was in the shower because that gave her an excuse to stand right outside the bathroom where she could listen to everything.

“Hmm– okay– yeah, sure,” Sneha was saying to whoever was on the other line. “Yeah, I’ll be there, just text me the address.” She hung up and gave the phone back to Preeti.

When Preeti put the phone back on the desk, she saw a text message had just appeared on the screen. She had to make sure, she had to find out. She put the address in Google Maps in her phone and it pointed to a large building which looked like a storage house on the other side of the city. This is far away from her office, she thought. The clouds of doubt had started to rumble in her head. She immediately texted the address to Roy but it made her feel even worse.

Roy, on the other hand, was happy after reading the text. He smiled because his plan was now working.

That evening was just as quiet as the previous one. It was time for the criminals of Crime City to come out of their den or throw off their masks. Though for the innocents of the city, if there were any, was the time to go hide into their homes until the next morning.

Roy was fully prepared but still he had no idea what was about to happen when he stepped into the dark storage house. His footsteps echoed as he crossed a good length of the large hall. It was empty except–

Someone walked out from a dark corner pointing a gun at Roy who despite being confused and shocked raised his hands and looked at the person. It was Preeti.

“Preeti, what are you doing?”

Preeti was crying. Not aloud, but silently, her body was shaking with each sob and tears were rolling down her cheeks. "You liar! You lied to me. You turned me against my own sister."

As she said ‘sister’ Sneha walked out from another corner. She looked concerned. “Roy,” she said.

Preeti was now shaking with anger. She growled at Roy, “You never told her that you were alive. You lied to me and you used that lie to plant doubts in my mind.” Her hand was shaking. Anybody else would be scared that she had a gun pointed at him which might go off accidentally but Roy wasn’t worried at all.

“You think I’m a drug lord? Why would you think such things about me?” Sneha asked.

Roy was in no mood to play along. He cringed his face and said, “Drop the act.”

“YOU drop it,” Preeti bellowed wavering the gun. “Why are you doing this? What will you get out of this? Why did you lie?”

“I didn’t,” Roy replied instantly. “I would never lie, not to you. I did tell her, in fact, we met just a month ago. She is the one who's lying."

“I’m not lying. Why would I lie to my own sister? You are the killer here, the assassin. If there’s anyone who would do such things it’s you.”

Roy chuckled. “Oh, so you are not who I claim huh?” he said and subconsciously took a step forward.

“Don’t move!” Preeti warned him.

Roy took the step back. “My hand are up,” he quickly said. “So you are not the drug lord I’ve been hunting for months huh?” So you wouldn’t know anything about the cartel, their meetings and dealings, right?”

Though it was a rhetorical question, Sneha replied, “No, I don’t know anything.”

“So you probably wouldn’t know about the handoff of a truckload of drugs taking place right now at the docks.” Roy had an obvious grin on his face.

Sneha, on the other hand, was shocked. Her face changed so quickly that it looked like as if she had been possessed by someone else. Her eyebrows narrowed, vigilance gleamed in her eyes, her jaw clenched, and she looked straight at Roy with a deadly gaze. “How do you know about that?”

Roy’s smile broadened and Preeti got confused.

“What?” Preeti turned to Sneha on her right.

Sneha ignored Preeti as if she wasn’t there. She was still looking at Roy. “How do you know?” she asked again.

Roy just stood there. All three of them stood equidistant from each other forming an equilateral triangle. Roy and Sneha were looking at each other. Roy smiling, Sneha enraged and Preeti was looking back and forth at both of them. She was confused as hell. Nobody cared enough to clear her confusion. Tears rolled down her face. She was shaking even more violently.

“What is happening?” Preeti cried.

“Go on Sneha,” Roy said. He had stopped smiling now. “Tell her the truth. Tell her who you are.”

“Who are you?” Preeti asked looking at Sneha but her gun was still pointing at Roy which she then pointed at Sneha and barked, “ANSWER ME!”

“Oh come Preeti, that gun is either fake or empty,” said Roy calmly.

Preeti’s face fell. She began to pull the trigger to check if it was true but at the last second, she stopped, pointed the gun upwards and then pulled the trigger. Nothing. They heard a faint clicking of the empty gun.

Sneha then pulled a different gun and pointed straight at Roy. “Take your gun out, slowly, and put it down.”

“I’m not carrying any. I don’t need one, you know that.”

Preeti upon seeing this dropped her gun, put her hands on her mouth. “No, no, no, no!” She was slowly stepping backwards unable to believe what she saw. Her eyes were red and swollen. She looked miserable. Her cousin, her own sister, who took care of her, who played with her, who saved her from her parents every time she messed up something, her sister who stood right in front of her, pointing a gun at Roy, was a criminal. She prayed in her head. Please god, let this be a dream, please let this be a dream, a horrible dream, please god. But it wasn’t a dream. It was real. Whatever happening before her eyes, whatever they both were saying, whatever was about to take place was all real.

“Roy, I’m gonna ask you one last time, how do you know the real location?”

“Does it matter? Shadows are all over that place. Your biggest, the most important deal is in the water. Not literally though. We kinda need the money and everything but your men, we don’t need them. They are dead. They are all very much dead. But okay if you really wanna know, you sent me the address yourself.”

“No, I texted you a fake address, this one.”

“Yeah, from your other phone.”

Sneha looked like a kid who had been found in a game of Hide-and-seek.

“I have your number, I’ve been tracking you since I found out about you. Since Nadeem told me about you. You never leave your office. You stay at home all night. When I asked Preeti to look into your phone, she said you wouldn’t think twice to hand your phone over to her. That’s when I realized it’s not you, it’s your phone that never leaves the office and your home. I realized you must have another phone, a secret one. I would have asked Preeti to keep looking for that phone but you solved my problem just like that. You did something that you should never have done. You called your own number. The number which I've been tracking all along.”

“But that number is secure, no one, not even police can track that.”

"Yeah, we are not the police," Roy replied quickly in a tone that implied he felt insulted. “This morning when Preeti texted me this address, I knew it was a fake one. We already had everything we needed. I bet you didn’t even realize your phone was hacked into. I know you Sneha. I know you were trying to pull me on the opposite side of the city to keep me occupied. You think your men can handle everything else but me. You wanted me in front of your eyes until the deal was closed.”

"And that's why you played along because you wanted to keep ME occupied so your men could– clever. I knew I didn’t fall for you for nothing.”

“No, you didn’t,” Roy said with a flat face. “Though I didn’t expect that Preeti would break down.”

Preeti was standing a bit further, deforming the equilateral triangle. She was now a bit closer to Roy than Sneha. She wasn't looking at any of them. Instead, she was looking down at the floor. Still sobbing. Her life had turned upside down with a matter of days. She had no intention to look anywhere now but she only looked up when Roy said–

“I’m sorry Preeti. I never told you the whole truth. I should have. I should have told you my reason to be so sure about her. I met her two days before I came to your house.”

“The date,” said Sneha unknowingly.

“The date!” Roy went on, “I called her and said that I was coming to Crime City, not for my mission but to see her. We went out on a date. We spent the whole evening together. She knew about me, I had told her myself but she didn't know that I too knew about her so the minute I left, her men attacked me. I barely made it out alive even though I was ready for such a thing but I got what I came for. The proof.”

“But you are still missing the point,” Sneha replied. “You are here. I could end you right now.”

“Yes, you can, but it’s over. Your men are dead. It’s all over. But that’s not the reason I came here. I came here, unarmed, for a reason.”

“And what would that be?”

It was Preeti who spoke, “To help you.”

“What?” Sneha looked at Preeti with corners of her eyes. She didn’t want to take her eyes off Roy.

“The plan was never to catch you or kill you, Roy said only I could help him. He said you would only listen to your sister.”

“Yes, don’t you see Sneha?” Roy said, “I knew who you were, I knew where you lived, if I wanted to kill you I could’ve done it easily. But I didn’t. I involved Preeti in this, I came here to help you.”

“Help me? Help me how?” asked Sneha looking back and forth towards Roy and Preeti.

“Help you get out of this. You can still walk away. Nobody will know anything. Your men are dead. Shadows took care of everything else. You can go. You can live a different life, a normal life. I know it’s not possible for us to live together but you can live a free life.”

“What makes you think I wanna live a free life? What do you think of yourself? This IS my life!”

“Sneha, I only want to help you because I care ab—,” Roy began to step forward but–

Sneha fired at the floor near Roy’s advanced foot which he immediately took back. “DON’T! Don’t take a step. Why do you think I need your help?”

"Because I know about you. I know about your parents' death. Preeti told me everything.”

Sneha looked at Preeti nodded once.

“She told me,” Roy went on. “How you lost your parents at a very young age, how Preeti’s parents raised you. She told me why you always wanted to come back to Crime City. I know what you have been through.”

Sneha couldn’t control it. A stream of hot, salty water had started to dribble down her face. “Well knowing it, is different from having lived it, doesn’t it? You don’t know the first thing about me. I didn’t choose this life. This life was my heritage.”

Both Roy and Preeti were shocked to hear that. Obviously, they didn't know that.

“My grandfather was one of the founding members of Crime City. Our family was one of the many who first settled their businesses here. My parents were killed in a gang war. When I grew up, they literally crowned me as their boss. I never had a choice. It was my destiny.”

“No, Sneha, you are wrong. You do have a choice, a very clear one.” Roy didn’t notice but he had again started to walk towards Sneha.

“I SAID DO NOT MOVE,” Sneha was enraged. “You claim that you care about me, that you love me and yet you hurt me in the worst way possible, by killing my men and my business.” She was terribly shaking with anger. Her lips were quivering and her eyes were wide open and were fixed on Roy. “I will hurt you the same. I will hurt you in the worst way possible. Not by killing you but by killing your hope, your ego that makes you think you can change people the way you want." And with that she moved her gun-wielding hand towards Preeti, still looking straight at Roy without blinking.

Roy raised his hands. He was terrified for the first time since he had entered the storage house. "No, Sneha you don’t have to do this.”

Preeti however wasn’t worried at all. “Sneha, he’s right. You can still walk away from all of this.”

“Shut up,” said Sneha without looking at Preeti.

“Come on, we all here know that you are not gonna kill your own sist—”

A shot echoed through the silent storage house which cut off Preeti’s sentence and was followed by a loud thud which shook the floor and Roy’s entire body.

Roy began to palpitate. His entire body was shaking and none of the three of them had cried tonight as he did. A continuous stream emerged from his eyes blurring his vision but he didn’t care. What was there to see? His worst nightmare had just appeared in front of him. This was the second time he had lost someone who put all their blind faith in Roy. Who believed that Roy would never let anything happen to them.

“Now before I kill you too, I have to ask you one last thing,” Sneha was struggling too. She had just shot her cousin.

“No,” said Roy. He closed his eyes that cleared the tears a bit and then he opened them again and looked at Sneha. “You are not gonna kill me. You wanted me to suffer and you know that killing me would end this suffering but the answer to your question is ‘Yes’.”

Sneha took a second before, “I uh– I haven’t even asked—”

“YES,” Roy interrupted. “YES, IT WAS ALL REAL. I DID LOVE YOU.”

For a few seconds that followed there was nothing but staring as if it was a staring game but the stakes were higher. Whoever blinked would be deemed a liar. None of them did.

“It was all real. I didn’t know who you were. You know what, It still wouldn’t matter. I did not fall for you for what you do, I fell for you for who you are. Broken, just like me. Our broken pieces fit together so perfectly that I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love with you. And nothing you do or say would change it. I know you wouldn’t kill me because you feel the same about me. Yes. I know and yes, I love you. You don’t have to keep asking me this question. Today, I promise you two things Sneha.”

Sneha stared at him. She felt like she was standing on her head and couldn’t bring herself on her feet, no matter how hard she tried. She listened to Roy, grief-stricken but determined, crying but holding strong, enraged but calm. She listened to him when he said–

“I promise you two things, first, I will never stop loving you and second,” —he clenched his jaw and gathered all his strength— “I will kill you.”

Sneha looked at him with tear-filled eyes. She slowly, very softly let out a few words, “I know. I hope you do because—” She found it difficult to make it to the end but she did. “Because that’s the only way you could help me.”

She took a few steps backwards and disappeared in the darkness.

Roy heard her footsteps fading away and when the calm night screamed into his ears when it screamed what had just happened, when the silence became unbearable, he fell to his knees and buried his head in the floor.

The night would go on without stopping. The day would come, the sun would rise. Everything would go as usual. The world would not stop. It had not stopped for millions who died before that night, it wouldn’t for anyone else who died that night and it certainly wouldn’t stop for one petty human who laid dead on the floor of that storage house or for the one who was right next to her, devastated, whimpering and lost.


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