- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
- 24 Feb - 02 Mar, 2018
"I work as a senior manager at a bank. Look, ma’am, I’m here to inquire about Hina Khan and her husband.”
“What do you want to know?”
“I need to know their address.”
“… you said you are a senior manager at some bank,” she said after a brief pause.
“That’s right, ma’am.”
“Ok, give me a minute,” e gate. She was a slightly dark-skinned woman and had curly, dark brown hair.
“Yes what do you need to know?” she asked.
“Hello, I’m sure you know about Hina Khan and her husband.”
“Hina? The woman whose face was burnt with acid?”
“Yes, that’s exactly who I’m talking about.” I got a bit excited. “Do you know where she is?”
“First tell me, do you want to know about Hina or her husband?”
“Actually, her husband, but I also need to make sure if she’s alright.”
“You need her husband’s address?”
“Yes, do you have it?” I asked eagerly.
“Yes I do… but first, I need to know what you’re up to.”
“Her husband was the one who attacked her with acid, isn’t that right?” I questioned.
“That’s right,” she said folding her arms.
I read the name plate outside her gate and asked, “Are you Tanya Sharma?”
“That’s me. Anyway, you’re right. It was Hina’s husband who threw acid on her. And if you’re a friend of hers then I have some sad news for you.”
I remained silent but listened impatiently.
“Your friend, Hina Khan…” she took a small pause, “Is not alive anymore. She’s dead”
I was stunned. Her words hit me like a thunderbolt. I was struck with misery. My eyes were losing vision. I was overcome by grief and didn’t have the strength to respond to her. The truth was that my heart was broken. However, I knew I had to pull myself together and so I asked her, “What happened to her?”
“She committed suicide. After the incident, she was so heartbroken. Her husband had divorced her so she felt like she had no reason to live.”
“So she decided to kill herself?” I said, trying to control my tears.
“I’m really sorry about all of this,” she said, realising how disturbed I was. “Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked kindly.
I didn’t answer for a while but then finally managed to say something, “Can you please tell me more about what happened?”
“Sure, come in, please.”
She invited me in and asked me to sit down. As I began to settle myself, she brought me a glass of water.
“Thank you,” I said taking the glass.
“If you don’t mind, may I know how you knew Hina?”
I didn’t pay attention to her question and directly asked, “Why did her husband do this to her?”
“Mr. Adeel Khan...,” she answered taking a deep breath, “Is a very hot-tempered and impulsive person. And anyway, he belonged to a very strong and influential family so spilling acid or destroying somebody’s life is not something difficult for him.”
“But why her? What did he have against her?”
“He had accused her of being unfaithful.”
“Oh God,” I instantly became tense. “She would never do such a thing. I knew her… she hardly used her phone while she was on the balcony.”
“I agree… it’s all very tragic.”
“Do you have any photos of her?” I asked eagerly.
“Yes, do you want pictures of her from before the incident or after?”
“After,” but I quickly changed by mind, “I’d like both.”
“Give me a second.”
She went through some pictures on her cellphone’s gallery and handed it to me. On the screen, I could see the face of some woman. Her face was completely bandaged except for her eyes. I recognised it was Hina from her hair. Suddenly, my heart felt heavy.
She switched to more recent pictures of her. In those pictures, Hina’s burned face was visible. Several parts of her face appeared wounded, though one could still recognise it was her if they paid close attention.
“After the attack,” Tanya said, “Adeel divorced her and left the city. She sold her house to me.”
“What happened after that?”
“I received this news a couple of days after I had settled in my new home. She had committed suicide out of misery.”
I couldn’t take it anymore as tears started falling from my eyes.
“Can we continue our meeting tomorrow?” she asked politely. “I need to leave right now.”
“Of course,” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes before standing up.
Before leaving, I asked for her cell number and immediately left the place. It seemed awkward to spend more time with her. Tanya, however seemed like a kind woman who gave me some hope. My plan was to retrieve Adeel’s address and hurt him the same way he had hurt Hina, or perhaps even worse.
That night, I was looking at some images of Hina Khan. Those pictures were taken after the acid incident. Deep down, I could feel hatred starting to engulf my heart unconsciously. Tanya had sent these pictures to me via Bluetooth. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off one particular photo. It was a selfie of Hina and Tanya before the acid attack. Hina looked ravishing as usual but I couldn’t enjoy her beauty because I knew it didn’t exist anymore. Longing for her beautiful face would only increase my pain and torment. Oh God…, I thought sadly, this hurts so much!
Hina Khan’s death was just as unexpected as the acid accident. She died from her own misery but her husband was responsible. At least, in my eyes he was. Tanya had yet to give me the man’s address. So far, she had only revealed that he lived out of Punjab.
I didn’t care about how strong or influential he was, my mission now was to take revenge. Even if it’s the last thing I do. I knew I probably wouldn’t survive after this but I didn’t care. Hina’s death deserves some justice.
I sat on the couch and switched on the TV. The first thing that appeared on the screen was,
Don’t be fooled by beauty that lies on the surface.
Another quotation followed, Real beauty lies within the person.
Perhaps I didn’t agree with this statement because I immediately switched to another channel. I suddenly felt uneasy and decided to text Tanya, I asked, Can I come tomorrow?
After several minutes, she replied, Yes anytime during the afternoon.
Satisfied, I replied to her text, Thanks, I’ll come after 2 p.m.
Next morning, I woke up excited because I knew I was going to get the address of Adeel Khan’s residence and then have my revenge. But of course, everything has a price. Tanya Sharma was definitely not what she appeared to be. She was incredibly demanding.
When I went to visit her again, I noticed that she seemed more formal than usual. She asked me to sit and got straight to the point.
“Look Mr Shahid, I’m aware of your intentions and I know what you want. I understand your concerns but I’m not going to give away valuable information for free.”
“Ok, I agree. You want to make a deal?”
“I know you will never agree to my demands but let me make this clear once and for all. I’m not interested in negotiating my terms and won’t give you the address unless you do what I want.”
“What is it, ma’am?” I asked politely. “If it’s money you want, I’ll give you whatever amount you ask for.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, uncertainly.
“I think so.”
“I think you should give it another thought. Think again and answer me when you are one hundred per cent confident.”
It suddenly occurred to me that she would ask for an amount that could go beyond my budget. But I was sure I could work it out.
“Please just tell me what you want from me,” I said, breaking the silence. “Then I’ll see if I can afford it.”
“Alright, I’ll tell you. But I’m not open to negotiation, just keep that in mind.”
“Remember, I asked you about what branch you worked in?”
I remembered our conversation. “Yes, I remember. What about it?”
“I went to visit the very same bank after you had left yesterday.”
“Why would you go there?”
“I saw a vault in there. And I know there’s a lot of money inside that vault.”
I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say so I just sat and listened to her.
“Now here’s what I want from you…,” she continued, “I need your help in conducting a heist. A bank heist.”
“You mean a bank robbery?”
“For the bank I work for?”
“I’d never do that!” I said standing up. “Do you actually think I would help you rob the bank I work for?”
“This is quite the reaction I was expecting,” she commented.
“Look, I’m not going to do this. Do you understand?” I said in a stern voice.
“I understand,” she said cleverly, “But then, you should also understand that I won’t be helping you take revenge.”
I got annoyed and tried to explain, “Look what you’re asking for is simply not right. It’s unethical and disgraceful.”
“And what you’re asking for is moral and graceful?” she slapped me with a tougher question.
I had no answer so I tried to explain, “Look, go ahead and ask for anything else. But this is simply… impossible.”
“Impossible? No, it’s not.”
I didn’t know how to respond but I certainly knew I was desperate to find out about Hina’s husband.
She stood up and said, “I’ll give you 30 minutes to think. You can stay here till then and tell me your final decision. In the meantime, I’m in the kitchen.” She left the room, leaving me all alone.
I felt trapped. I had no other option but to agree to a bank heist. On one hand, I was determined to have my revenge against Adeel Khan and on the other hand, aiding the robbery of the bank I worked for seemed extremely unethical. What should I do now?
I spent the next 30 minutes thinking and then finally made my decision. Tanya returned from the kitchen and asked, “So, have you made up your mind yet?”
“My answer is yes,” I said boldly.
“You’ll help me with the robbery?”
“I will,” I said confidently.
There was a moment of silence and then I finally spoke, “What I have to do?”
“I’ll tell you that afterwards. Right now, you must leave.”
“No, I won’t. First, you’ll have to tell what role I’ll be playing in this robbery.”
“Have patience, my partner. We’ll meet here again. Tomorrow.”
“I can’t wait until tomorrow. I need to know what my part is in all this drama.”
“You’ll be playing the most important part but I can’t reveal the details right now. Look Mr Shahid, if you really want the address of Hina’s husband, you’ll have to follow my rules.”
This made me very angry but I decided to control my temper. Before finally stepping out of the gate, I turned around and asked her, “I just need to know one thing. And I want you to answer me honestly.”
She raised her eyebrows and looked at me skeptically.
“What kind of a woman are you?”
“To answer your question, I’m a criminal.”
“I’m glad you were honest,” I said in sheer sarcasm.
“But I’m a criminal who keeps her word,” she said smiling.
I proceeded outside, leaving her alone at the gate.
That night, I was feeling quite stressed at home.
I can’t believe I’m helping a criminal steal from the bank that I work for. I thought.
When the doorbell rang, I knew it was my neighbour. I didn’t want to talk to her and ignored the doorbell.
What will Tanya ask me to do? I uttered to myself, thinking what will happen the next day.
If Tanya is a criminal minded woman, she will do anything. I wonder if she was involved with Hina’s husband or she might back out after the deal. Anything is possible.
Next morning, while walking towards Tanya’s house I saw a black Prado standing outside. I didn’t pay attention to it and rang the door bell. The vehicle started honking suddenly, so I walked towards it thinking that the person inside the vehicle is calling me. After the vehicle’s door opened, I peeked inside to find Tanya sitting on the driver’s seat. She was wearing a dark pair of shades and her face was hardly recognisable.
“Come on in,” she said looking at me.
I stepped inside and asked her, “Is this your car?”
“Shut the door,” she ordered me.
I shut the door and waited for her to speak but she never did so I spoke instead.
“Well I’m here… now, would you please break the suspense.”
“But before you do, I need to make one thing clear. You won’t back out from your commitment of the deal. What guarantee do I have regarding this?”
“You don’t have any other option but to trust me.”
She was right. I couldn’t argue on that.
“Don’t worry, you can trust me,” she added. But I can’t trust this woman.
“Shall we begin?” she asked.
“I don’t see any reason why not,” I rudely responded.
“So, your part in this…”
I wasn’t really listening while she spoke because I was distracted looking at the balcony. It reminded me of the woman who was dead. This thought was really breaking my heart until Tanya raised her voice:
“Shahid! Are you listening?”
“Sorry, I wasn’t… so you were saying... my part in this robbery was?”
“Your part in this robbery is of…”
to be continued...