The Accomplice

The Accomplice

Blinking his eyes furiously, he peered around, confused and disoriented. The harsh light and the strong stench of formaldehyde made him cringe. He tried sitting up, but the excruciating pain hammered his head that felt like it would explode any moment. He immediately fell back on the pillow. He felt the cold metal railings on the sides of the bed. His arm ached due to the intravenous drip that was running through his bulging veins.

“Relax,” a soothing voice spoke.

He saw a man in white coat with a gentle smile.

“I’m glad you woke up. How are you feeling?”

“Doctor… why am I here? What happened to me?”

“You were hit by a car five days ago. Because of severe head injury, you were unconscious till now. What is your name?”

“I’m… I’m…” he massaged his forehead, trying to find an answer. “What’s my name? Why can’t I remember?” He looked flustered. 

“Relax!” the doctor comforted him. “You are just out of a trauma. You should sleep for a while now.”

He injected a sedative.

“Doctor, when can I speak with him?” Inspector Harsh asked later in the evening.

“I don’t think the patient is in a condition to speak,” the doctor replied. “He seems disoriented and doesn’t remember many things including his own name!”

“What? Why is that so?”

“Looks like a case of retrograde amnesia. It’s seen in people post head injury where they lose a part of their memory.”

“Is it permanent?”

“Not always. Sometimes they take days to recover while it may take years too!”

“He was found meters away from the murder site. He may be an important eyewitness,” Harsh said. “We will put his picture in newspapers. Hope his family turns up.”

Just then, the patient woke up. “Where’s my umbrella?” he asked looking all around.

“It’s strange you remember your umbrella!” Harsh was bemused. “We found it near the accident site. But the strings are broken.”

“That’s alright. I’m an artisan. Fixing things won’t be a problem.” He paused for a while. “Doctor, I’m surprised that I remember an ordinary umbrella and my job, but not my name or address!”

“Certain portion of your memory has been fogged. You may remember a trivial thing, but not an important fact. Don’t worry, you will be alright soon.” The doctor reassured. 

The next day, seeing his picture in the newspaper, a friend identified him as Ajay.

“Ajay’s a good friend,” he said. “I had invited him for dinner that night. Perhaps he met with the accident after he left.”

Ajay was disheartened as he had failed to recognize his friend and the dinner they had together. He dropped Ajay home, where he lived alone. Ajay was exasperated. He felt as if he was caught up in an unknown land. How much ever he tried, he couldn’t remember his past.

Inspector Harsh asked him to call in case he recollected anything that happened that night. Ajay read about the murder in the newspaper. A famous lawyer, Kumar was murdered using a poisoned pin. His body was dropped from the window and then dragged to the bungalow’s gate and hung there.

Coincidentally, Ajay was having dinner with his friend close by. Unfortunately, he couldn’t recollect a thing. 

It was raining heavily. Angry rain drops pattered ominously against the window. Closing the curtains, he switched on the TV. A flash of lightning spurted a portion of his lost memory. On the screen, he saw a face. A strangely familiar face. The name Farooq was shown. Standing outside the high court, he was giving an interview. 

“It’s unfortunate to lose my lawyer, Kumar who was also a very dear friend,” he feigned a tear. “But my new lawyer has promised justice. Rest in peace, buddy!” He looked up and blew a kiss.
Ajay remembered seeing this face that night, as he lay in a muddy puddle after being hit by a car. Probably, he was checking if Ajay was alive or dead. It had been raining that night too. And a streak of lightning had revealed his face even in the stygian darkness. But instead of helping, he had abandoned Ajay and left hurriedly.

Immediately, he called up Inspector Harsh. Farooq was apprehended. It didn’t take long for him to spill the beans.

“I had gone to meet Kumar,” he confessed shuddering with fear. “But I didn’t kill him!”
“Look, Farooq. Just speak the truth if you don’t want any tooth or bone broken in your skinny body,” Harsh thundered. “We know you are a compulsive gambler, shrouded in debts. Kumar was helping you out of the muck you were drowned in. And you killed him?”
“He wasn’t helping me!” Farooq cried. “He was a bloody leech. I thought being my college friend, he would help me genuinely since I was broke. But the rascal wanted to sleep with my sister. I was drunk that night. I wanted to spit on his ugly face. But when I reached there, he was already hanging dead on the gate! I panicked and drove away. Due to incessant rains, I couldn’t see that man. That’s when my car hit him inadvertently. I checked on him. Glad to see him alive, I drove away, not desiring to fall into trouble.”
“You want us to believe this rubbish?” Harsh sniggered. “You had a clear motive to murder him. And you tried to kill the sole eyewitness too. You are under arrest, mister!”

Harsh called up Ajay and thanked for leading him to the killer.

***

Ajay, still upset over his castaway memory, sat down to repair his umbrella, just to wade off his sullen mood. Sewing the canopy* to the broken rib*, he noticed a small button on the tip cup*. Curiously, he pressed it. To his bewilderment, a tiny vial containing some transparent liquid popped up from the opposite end. He pressed the bottom spring* that opened the umbrella instantly. A sharp pin ripped through the ferrule* and thrust into the sofa cushion across the room. Upon inspection, he found the ferrule to be loaded with several sharp steel head pins.

What the hell is this?

Like a thunderbolt, reality struck him. The lost memory gushed through the window of his soul like a tsunami wave. Mentally applauding his skilful craftsmanship, he re-packed the stuff back into his umbrella and scurried out to finish his incomplete job.

***

“Who are you?” Farooq asked.

“I heard you bailed out and got home. So, thought of reminiscing our good old days,” Ajay sneered.

“What do you mean? Get out right now!”

“You were snooty back then. And so are you now! Remember the boys hostel? Twenty years ago? The poor fresher whose life you ruined in the name of ragging?” Ajay growled, gritting his teeth.

“Wa… was that… you?” Farooq swallowed down a dart of fear.

“Yes. The same boy whom you and your rich, spoiled scum of a friend, Kumar forced to wash your underwear, lick and clean your shoes and humiliated at every given opportunity. Remember the night you both barged into my room, inebriated, and thrashed me till I collapsed? And you threw me out of the window. Fortunately, I came out unscathed from the fifteen feet fall. But that wasn’t enough for you beasts. You stripped me naked and tied me to the college gate.” Enraged, Ajay clenched his fist. 

“I can’t describe the humiliation I faced the next day, when the students saw me naked and laughed at my plight.” A lone tear rolled down his cheek as he shuddered furiously. “Just because I belonged to a poor, backward class, you tormented me to an extent that I quit studying and ended up in a psychiatric ward. And belonging to a rich, influential clan, no action was taken against you both. That’s why I sprung into action.” The frown changed to a menacing lopsided smile.

“Did you kill Kumar?” Farooq’s mouth dropped open wide in disbelief.

“Yes. That night your car hit me and clouded my mind for a while. But now my memory is crystal clear.” Ajay took out his umbrella. “It’s your turn to die.”

Farooq’s knees buckled in terror. He scrambled to his feet and darted for the door. Ajay pressed the bottom spring of his umbrella, and as it opened, the pin coated with poison from the vial took off like a missile, jabbing Farooq’s neck. He collapsed to the floor, life slowly ebbing out of him.

In a semi-conscious state, Farooq was pushed out of his window, just the way he threw Ajay decades ago. His head crashed to the ground, killing him instantly. Hanging him on the gate, Ajay bitterly remembered the horrific years he spent in the mental asylum where each breath had cried for revenge. Holding his accomplice- the umbrella intact, he evanesced into the dark alley.

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Glossary:

Canopy: the tent part of the umbrella.

Rib: it supports the canopy of the umbrella.

Tip cup: part of the handle, just above it.

Bottom spring: the spring above the handle that allows the umbrella to open and close.

Ferrule: the topmost part of the umbrella above the canopy.

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