It was a Saturday. The one day in the week when I actually liked the idea of no school! (By Sunday, Jacko became such a bore that I wanted to go to school…)
So there I was, in mid-air, with a five-inch smile, my hair out of their place, (or in their place given that they were sooo often ‘out of place), and frozen. I’m not yet Superman so the screen-roll moment ended and I dropped back on my bed. With a THUD. Thank God for the fat mattress. Or Thank Jacko, who had recently decided he didn’t want it.
“Yay Jacko! Yay Jacko! Jay Yackoooo!” I laughed. This crazy chant had been going on for the last half hour, alongside me jumping on my fat-mattress-bed, and Jacko sitting near it- far enough to be out of danger. Jacko was doing his homework. As always. And trying to ignore the fun I was having, despite the sniggers he had let out in between. “Come on Jacko. Don’t be a DUDDD! Come on, it’s fun!”
But however much I tried to entice him to the free jumping session, Jacko still managed to control. He said he had to finish the work. I knew it wasn’t the work that was concerning him. Since morning, Jacko had been glancing up, down, sideways, and trying to pass his own room. Behind the door, daddy was sleeping. Yesterday, daddy had come home very late in the night, and mommy had sent Jacko to my room to sleep. Daddy had slept in Jacko’s room, mummy in her’s and Jacko and I in mine. Which meant I got to hold his arm all night long. I wished daddy would be late every day.
Jacko was peeking again. I don’t know what he expected to see.
“Hey Jacko, what do ya think of Mr.Matthew?”
“Jenny, I am doing my work.”
“No, you aren’t. You’re looking at your bedroom.”
“He isn’t bad… but he won’t stay long.”
“He said he hoped to.”
“He told you guys he hoped to stay?” Jacko made a face. I felt I had to defend Mr. Matthew.
“He didn’t exactly tell… us. I kind of heard him say that to Miss Abigail…”
“Jenny don’t listen at doors. And that Winston woman is on him, huh? Conformation he won’t last long. ”
Sometimes Jacko said some very confusing things. I think it’s because he’s older. He says it’s because he is more ed-u-cat-ed.
“Jacko, what do you mean?”
“Later Jen. Got to do something right now.” Jacko got up and left. He had been ‘doing something’ since morning.
I went back to free jumping. “Wooooooooooooo!” It WAS fun.
Then I heard the crash. My first impulse was to look around my own room, what did I break? Alarm clock intact, toys not in reach, pillows- can’t break. That was pretty much it. I was clear. Then who?
Half slipping, half getting off my bed, I ran out on the landing, just missing stepping on Jacko’s open assignment. There he was. the culprit. Jacko.
Under a rubble of photo-frames, Happy Meal toys, Jacko’s football, and baseball bat, was Jacko himself. Shit.
He looked at me. I stared back. We were right outside his bedroom door. Mummy was running up the stairs. Jacko was in serious trouble.
A grunt came from inside. If daddy had woken, Jacko wasn’t in trouble anymore. He was dead.
Mommy seemed to realise the same. She moved forward quickly and collected as many toys as she could, and ran to my room. I took the hint. Both Jacko and I picked the remaining, and leaped down to my room, flung the things on my bed, Jacko just managing it in time.
Daddy had come out. He grunted at the bedroom door.
“Jackooo! Come out here!” screamed daddy. It was a wonder how he could have seen through the door, when he was asleep. Mommy told me to keep quiet, nodded at Jacko and went out closing the door behind her.
Sometimes, everyone in my house does very confusing things. I still think it’s because they are older. And anyway, mommy isn’t very educated.
“Jacko what are we going to DO?” I pleaded him to hide. He just kept silent and covered my mouth with his hands tightly.
We could her mommy and daddy talking… or some kind of conversation, it was difficult to make out just what through the closed door. I made a mental note to hate closed doors when I was older. I made another to not forget the first.
Jacko gasped. He ran to the door and put his ear to it. I followed.
“Jacko! Don’t listen at doors!” He gave me a very angry frown and I shut up. Lord, what was I supposed to understand in this house?
I pressed my ear too. But I couldn’t hear anything. Then I realised no one was speaking.
“Old bitch.” said daddy. Then a door slammed.
Jacko pulled the door open a crack. I slipped in under him. Daddy had gone back in Jacko’s room. Mommy was lying near the staircase. Jacko opened the door full.
He pushed me back, in my room. “Oh come on Jacko!”
“Jenny. Not this time.”
“But Jacko, I can help!”
“Jenny Jackson, I am pleading you to stay inside for the next fifteen minutes. I want to know I can trust you.”
I stopped pushing. It was necessary to keep Jacko’s trust. “Fifteen.”
Jacko closed the door hurriedly and left me. I turned to stare at the clock.
Jacko Jackson had some explaining to do.
Karan was alive. At least till then.
Fifteen minutes had passed, and his hands were now going numb. The belt was digging into his wrists, and his eyes were hurting. Blind, literally and metaphorically. He really couldn’t hear anything the shooter was saying. Just random words- “sell” among them. Sell? What the hell did the shooter want sold?! And right now?
Things were not okay. The shooter was up to something really evil. Karan wasn’t sure how long he would live.
Think Jem, think!
It was hard to fill two meters distance with a successful escape route, especially when his thoughts kept flickering to Karan… and his fate.
What if I defied…? What if I said NO? But Karan….
Jeremy turned away. He was now a meter away from the blue-shirt man. He took out the cell phone. He would call the shooter and-
His thoughts were interrupted by the phone vibrating. It was the shooter. Of course, he was looking.
“I want to hear Karan’s voice. Before I do anything else.”
“You surprise me, Jeremy! That was smart. Here you go…”
There was some ruffle, it seemed that the shooter was pulling Karan.
“Speak to your girlfriend, fussy.” He heard the shooter say.
Jeremy waited for Karan’s voice. “How long Jem?”
His heart fell. Karan’s voice- so low, so tired. Sitting right under the sun, on a slim edge, blind, and bound…. seemed less dangerous than it was. Had it not been for their past training in the Army, Karan would long have been unconscious.
“Hold in there, Karan. I’ll get us out of this-”
“How sweet. Nothing beats two love birds, specially in a cage. Time’s running Jeremy. I’m beginning to think I won’t have to shoot Karan after all. I’ll just leave him to the sun. Poor guy… anyway, you do the trade, I might ease things for him, fair deal?” The phone clicked.
Jeremy turned and walked towards the blue shirt. Use those drama skills. Sell him the packages. Just sell it.
Once again in native Hindi, “Sir? ‘Scuse me, sir?”
The man turned. Jeremy almost fainted. It was Officer Yadav.
It made complete sense! The flurry in which he had come to Mrs. Virmani’s house in the morning, was obviously because of something serious. It was only natural that he would want to stay around… He was in plain clothes… he might be on guard… or gathering information.
But there was trouble. It was Officer Yadav, and he had recognised Jeremy.