He had been sitting on the iron railing, encircling the lake. The lake was situated on the outskirts of the city. He had been in waiting there for over two hours now. He was waiting for the motorcade of the home minister Aaham to emerge from the street below.  The winter fog of the early morning had enveloped the road completely making it difficult for any one to see beyond a few yards.   That is why the members of the spotting party deployed just outside the Rajbhavan had been instructed to send a motorcyclist in advance to forewarn him as soon as the caravan carrying the home minister Aaham started its journey from there. He rubbed his palms to keep the winter chill away from his hands. The numbness in his fingers could prove fatal.  What if he failed to pull the trigger first, in that split second the security cover of the VIP will blow him into pieces. He recalled the training given to him by General Durjan when he was assigned the first job of killing the police officer in the Sanctum Sanctorum.  “It is either you or the target that loses the life.  The split second spent on dithering has caused many a sharp shooters to end up their missions by paying up with their lives. Once you have made up your mind to do away with the subject, you must do it with all precision and ruthlessness. Otherwise you must be ready to get your top chopped off instantly as there will not be a second chance for you to pull the trigger. The second shot always belong to the opponent”.

He could see vague specks of light in the distance travelling towards him. The motorcyclist came near him. He had thrown the orange peels on the road and sped away. He was giving him the necessary signal that the caravan was on its way and will be there in next two minutes. Ranjit took position behind the small mile stone on road.  It was an open jeep leading the pack of security cauldron followed by a fire brigade vehicle. He let both the automobiles pass through. He or his companions did nothing to disturb the smooth run of both the motors that were leading the motorcade.  “The home minister Aaham will be occupying the third white ambassador car; the first two cars will be used as a decoy. You must avoid them at any cost”, the informant had clear description of the seating arrangements of the cavalcade of the VIP.

He hid himself behind the thick hedge of wild foliage that had been growing on the side path of the road and pulled one of the bushes over his face as the first high intensity bomb ripped through the floor of the white ambassador car leading the pack.  The car flew to the right side of the road and fell into the ditch. There was a strong smell of human flesh burning into the air.  The occupants of this car would hardly have had an inkling of what had hit them as they were blown into smaller bits of burning balls in no time.

The deafening sound of the explosion deafened Ranjit’s ears for a while. The flash of the fire blinded the drivers of all vehicles of the cavalcade who were following the car that was blown into pieces.  The driver of the car that was there in the middle of the caravan could not apply the brakes in time and went over the rear fender of the car leading in the front that came off the vehicle hit by the bomb.

The driver of the automobile carrying the home minister Aaham avoided the clash with the car ahead of him. He steered his automobile to the left of the road. His grazing tires screeched as they turned at a very high speed missing the iron railing by the scrape of a hair. The driver wanted to take off from the scene of the explosion to save the home minister Aaham. He had also simultaneously shifted the gear into top speed when he saw his very important passenger’s life was in danger.

But Ranjit gave him not a chance to escape.  When the white ambassador car reached near him, Ranjit leapt over the railing and fired continuously on the occupants of the vehicle from a distance of three to four feet.  First volley of bullets hit the driver of the car and the security guard in their faces.  The car soared   through the iron railing on the road and it turned turtle. He fired the next round but the shots  sprayed out of the Kalashnikov  hit the door in the rear and the clinkering sound of bullets striking the iron could be heard all over the place. He had no time to see if any of the bullets fired by him had found their targets amongst the occupants sitting in the seat at the back of the vehicle. He had seen that the Home minister Aaham had ducked underneath the rear wall of the front seat.

But there was no time to wait and check the effects of the hundreds of   bullets that had materialized from his fire emitting gun. Ranjit fled towards the residential sector adjoining the lake road on foot and soon he would have been lost himself into the swallowing up fog.  But it appeared those security men who were leading the home minister Aaham’s caravan in their jeeps were too determined. They had come back after they saw the flashing fires of bullets and rising of the smoke towards the skies in their rearview mirror of their vehicles.

“There he goes”, someone had shouted in the dark. “You must take cover”, he had heard another voice from the same direction. “He may have another bomb”.   A bullet whizzed past Ranjit’s left ear without hitting him. He knew he had been dotted by the hawk’s eyes of the elite commandos who had been especially trained to provide security to the very important politicians of the country.

He was well aware that very soon all these security men will outrun him if he continued running in the open like this. He jumped over the first boundary wall that he came across and ran towards the back yard of the house. “I should find a way out from the other end” Ranjit thought aloud.  To his dismay the back yard of the house ran into a mesh of sharp edged wires that separated the two grounds falling into the middle of two adjoining bungalows. He knew he had been cornered and it was not possible to jump over the wired mesh.

“I wonder if it is the end of the world for me today” he told himself “I have hardly been able to savor the love of my newlywed for a few hours to go away like this.  She does not even know that I am not at home sleeping next to her.  She was in too deep a slumber after intense love making on her first blissfully wedding night”

He heard the human shouts were moving towards him and then a loud shriek of some one having been hit by a gun shot in the front of the house. “Who is it”, an authoritative voice boomed in the courtyard as the overhang lights came on. Ranjit fired towards the tube light shattering it into many small splinters.  The dweller inside the house put off all their lights.

“It was now or never”, he thought and ran towards the front gate spraying a volley of bullets from his Kalashnikov.  The security officer from the home minister Aaham’s entourage on his trail was taken by complete surprise. His still body behind the cover wall of outer boundary had been hit by the spray of bullets form Ranjit’s gun. It flew a few feet into the air and slumped back into the ground. Ranjit saw another figure slouched into the small plants of rose bushes.  One of his   companions had been done away with mercilessly by some of the security men. He did not stop by to look back who it was. It will be a while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom He sprinted   at frightening speed   till he had covered the distance of a few lanes taking him away from the house under the siege of the security personnel. He slowed down his pace after he noticed that he had come a long way away form the scene of the shootout.  He showed no hurry as he walked towards the main four lane road leading away from the residential rows of huge compounds. It appeared as if he had never missed his morning sun rise and today also he was out on a morning walk to take pleasure in looking at the sun coming out of the hidden blue skies behind the fogs that emanated skywards from out of the fresh airs of the lake waters.

“It will be a long  while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom. By that time I will be back with my beloved”, Ranjit told himself. He found his sweat shirt and the track suit including Nike joggers in the back seat of a car parked by one of the boys on the far end of the road.  He changed into the track suit and did not forget to tie the laces of the Nike joggers.  He told the boy to drop him a few paces ahead of the house on the opposite direction to the one from which he had been running away.

The falling drops of sweat on his brow could tell any one that he has had a long jog. But his ordeal was not over yet.

“Hey you, in the blue track suits”, he heard a voice from behind “what are you doing here on the road at such an early hour”.

It was a police inspector walking towards him. The inspector raised his baton he was carrying in his right hand and beckoned him to stop.

“Oh a running freak’, he pointed towards his track suit and joggers, “but you better be careful schmuck, winter is at its peak and you may catch cold”.

The inspector was observing him very carefully and closely. “Are you not the same guy who got married at the shrine yesterday? How can you leave your newly wed asleep in the bed alone? Do you come here for a morning run? Do you not know the times are bad for even an early morning run? There are prowlers on the road.  You could get killed. There has been an attempt on the life of the home minister Aaham, a few minutes ago. We shall have to haul you up for questioning”, the police inspector shifted his baton to his left hand and took out his revolver from the holster. He pointed it towards Ranjit. “You thank your stars that I am a disciple of the shrine and hence I am not firing at you.  Otherwise I have orders to shoot at any one found running on this road. Come let us get moving fast before any of my seniors pass through here”.

Ranjit behaved as if he was mortally scared to hear the news of attack on the home minister Aaham’s life. He spoke to the cop in a stammering tone, “oh my god! Do you mean sir they had tried to kill that minister who had come to the shrine to bless us on our wedding day? He is a very nice and gentle human being.  I sincerely hope and pray that nothing happened to him. How bad are the times .I did not want to break my routine of daily morning run. But how the hell would a common folk like me know what lies  in store for him on the roads .I thank my stars that I did not strayed too  much away from my home. I must get back home instantly.  I thank you for informing me that you are a member of the shrine. That means we are co brothers. Then we must have a similar bent of mind.  Will you please let me go? I must reach home early”. He folded his hands in a gesture of having been obliged.

“Thanks” Ranjit said. He started running in the direction leading towards his   home on the double.

The inspector fired a bullet shot close to Ranjit’s legs. Ranjit could smell the burning fire from the burnt cloth of his pajamas.  The heat of the fire was very close to his knees.  He by instinct knew that any further move by him to run away from this spot would mean his legs will be definitely broken by another pull on the trigger. He stood still and waited for the police man to come near him.

“If there are others of his fellow officers they should soon join him. Then the odds will be against one to too many. If I have to save my life then I must immediately take control of the situation.  As otherwise the entire struggle of the fight to freedom will come to a naught”.

The police man by now had come too close to his attacking vicinity. He pressed the muzzle of his revolver close to Ranjit’s head. “One more move by you and you will be dead. Just board the vehicle quickly and quietly”, the inspector shoved the gun into his left side lower earlobe. He pushed him towards the police jeep parked on the other side of the road.

“It is now or never “thought Ranjit and went straight for police inspector’s two eyes. He jabbed his fingers into the sockets of those eyes. The inspector shrieked in extreme agony. The revolver in inspector’s hands could not take the pressure of his finger on the trigger; a stray shot from the firearm hit the ground below. Ranjit gave one more chop hand blow on the officers’ neck again and with one strike he had broken his wind pipe. Blood started oozing from his victim’s nose and mouth.  The instant gush of fluid choked his nostrils making it extremely difficult for him to breathe.  The police inspector had fallen on the cold and damp earth below on both his knees. Ranjit snatched the firearm from his hand. He   put two bullets into his forehead creating two gaping holes.

Ranjit raised the revolver close to his lips and blew into the smoke coming out of the barrel. “Thanks for the souvenir but I do not need this”, Ranjit wiped off his fingerprints from the metal and put the revolver back into the holster hung onto the dead body of the police inspector. He kicked the corpse into the ditch dug up by the road building department onto the roadside.  Ranjit knew that soon it will be discovered by his fellow officers, when they would notice the lone vehicle parked on the road. He started his jog towards home blowing a whistle to the tune of latest film song. “The occasion calls for an early morning repeat of the fete performed by me last night along with my newlywed” he smiled to himself.

Ranjit slipped himself quietly into the small entrance to his home.  He picked up the bunch of garden pipes lying in the front of the green lawns and started spraying water on the plants, “the gardener should also be on his way to tend to them”.

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