(Continued from Part I)
The constant and loud knocking on the door irritated him, he covered his ears with the pillow and yet it did not leave. Reluctantly he got up from the bed and staggered in unsure steps towards the door. On opening it, the bright sunlight hit his face forcing him to close his eyes.
“Thank God you are alive!” Rajesh shouted. He hugged him tightly, pushed him aside and entered the room. Aman blinked and shut the door behind him.
“Entire night I have tried to contact you. You are just not picking up the phone, so I decided to drive good 100 miles at top speed with all sorts of stupid thoughts floating in my mind. Thank God again, you are alive,” Rajesh said and sat down on the sofa.
Aman sat next to him and held his hand. He could not stop his tears, nor his loud wail which erupted and filled the room. He kept on weeping until Rajesh hugged him tightly and rubbed his back with a soft hand.
“I know, I know, I feel the same. I too would be with you guys, had not my parents insisted that I spend the weekend with them. You all are very dear to me,” Rajesh said, with tears drowning eyes.
Aman got up and entered the toilet, closing the door behind him. Rajesh followed him and stood next to the door.
“What time is it?” Aman asked, as he washed his face.
“One o clock,” Rajesh replied.
“I have slept more than 12 hours!” Aman said and sighed.
“Tell me what happened. Tell me everything,” Rajesh told him.
“I will, let us go to the kitchen and prepare something to eat,” Aman said, coming out of the toilet.
They stood next to the kitchen island, with Rajesh chopping the onions and Aman waiting for the frying pan to heat up. Aman was considerably calm by now, he took out the eggs from the Frigidaire and poured a small quantity of olive oil in the pan. He kept talking and working. He started with leaving the restaurant to fetch the bracelet box and the experience from the blast that hit him.
“When I opened my eyes, God only knows for how long I had blacked out, I saw lights all over, cars, ambulances and persons, rushing and shouting. My mind was foggy and I sat looking at the scene in front of me. After a while, I realized that I had been hit by a bomb blast and with some difficulty got up. A box fell on the ground and opened up, a shining bracelet dropped from within it. In a flash I remembered the reason for my presence there. I picked up the box and placed the bracelet in it. The car door was open and I put the box on the rear seat,” Aman said and watched Rajesh, as he placed the cut onion pieces in the pan and move them with a wooden spoon.
“I was stopped by a paramedic, who took me to the hospital, treated me for shock and attended to the bruises on my head and face. I wanted to return to the restaurant but they informed me that the entire area was cordoned and no one was permitted near it. They sent me home in an ambulance. I felt tired and overwhelmed with grief, I slept,” Aman said, handing over the eggs to Rajesh,”I hope and pray that they have survived the blast!
“Let us eat and then we will find out!” Rajesh said.
“I have to collect my car,” Aman stated.
After consuming the toasts with omelette, drowned by hot coffee, they left the house and reached the restaurant car park. Aman started his car and followed Rajesh as they drove to the Police Station.
A separate information desk was positioned for visitor inquiries of the bomb blast. The list of those injured with the locations of the hospitals where they were treated was thoroughly scanned by both of them. The names of their friends were not in it.
“What about those who died? Where are their names?” Aman asked the desk sergeant.
“We have the names of those who have been identified,” she said, handing over the document to them.
They read the list and found, Asha, Edgar and Razia mentioned in it; Mohan’s name was missing.
“Where are those who are not recognized?” Aman asked, restraining himself with immense will power to keep the tears away.
“In the morgue. A policeman will escort you to it,” she said.
They thanked the sergeant and followed the designated policeman. After a few missed tries the morgue attendant opened the cupboard which had Mohan’s naked body. Aman swooned, was about to throw up when the attendant held him and ushered him into the toilet. For the next five minutes he kept vomiting and retching his guts out. The attendant helped him to clean and wash up. They left the morgue depressed and thoroughly anguished with pain and sorrow.
“I will stay with you for a few days. I have already called the Office and they have said that you should come only after you are normal,” Rajesh said, putting his mobile phone in his pocket.
“I will never be normal,” Aman hissed in a gruff voice, and opened the door of his house.
They kept sitting in the room, engrossed in their thoughts. After a while Rajesh switched on the television and selected a news channel. The anchor, a lady, was speaking to someone about terrorist attacks. Suddenly a ‘breaking news” caption flashed on the screen. The anchor read out from a paper, which was also captioned on the screen.
The suicide bombing was carried out by a youth of an organization. This was in retaliation to the bombings and drone attacks on their people. This would continue as long as the foreign forces do not withdraw from their country. The name of the organization to which the suicide bomber belonged was mentioned. A picture of the bomber was flashed on the screen with recitation of religious words praising him and wishing him his new and better life in the heavenly abode.
Aman sat up with a start! The boy was the same person whom he had observed moving his lips! He took out his mobile phone and searched the camera. The picture taken by the waitress was quite clear and sharp. It showed the boy’s face and also of the person sitting in front of him, across the table.
“See this is the boy! Oh my God! I wish I had acted on my intuition! I knew there was something wrong with him and yet I could not place it!” Aman said, showing the picture to Rajesh.
“Who is the man sitting in front of him?” Rajesh asked.
“I don’t know. Yes! It makes sense now! He is his handler! He was not with him when I left the restaurant,” Aman said, showing his excitement.
They remained silent, absorbing the information that was with them. Aman was in two minds; whether to go to the police or not!
“I have to find this man! I have to deal with him personally. You may term it revenge, I can not remain peaceful and normal, unless I bring justice to my friends whom he has murdered,” Aman said.
“Give it to the police. They are efficient, and will deal with him appropriately,” Rajesh said.
“Yes they will, but he and his kind need to be exposed and dealt with differently,” Aman said, exhibiting desperation. Rajesh kept quiet, avoiding further discussions.
“I know a friend who can help to find him. He works in the motor vehicle license department. I will give him the picture to get the address. Let us go to meet him,” Aman said, getting up from the sofa.
It was fairly easy to obtain the address by matching the picture with that stored in the department’s computer. The person’s name was Abdul Wahab and he lived downtown, in a fairly crowded area.
“We will shadow him from now on. Let us see what we find,” Aman said.
The next day, they saw Wahab come out of the house, sit in his car and start it. They followed him, maintaining a discreet distance. He stopped in front of a building and parked his car on the road. They kept waiting in their car until after an hour or so he came out, sat in his car and drove off.
Aman got down from his car and entered the building. The room was fairly large and had various banners displayed on the walls. Though his Arabic was puerile, he could read the verses from the holy book woven on the banners. This was a religious Center where devotees assembled to pray and attend religious discourses. He approached a person sitting next to the pulpit and reading the Holy book.
“As Salaam Alaikum brother,” he greeted.
“Walekum Salam brother,” the person got up, held both his hands and shook them.
“Nice Center you have, Masha Allah,” he remarked.
“Alhamdul Illah,” the person replied.
“I came here to meet Abdul Wahab. It seems he has left,” Aman told him.
“Yes he just left. He is a busy person with so many responsibilities,” the person remarked.
“Really? What does he do?” Aman asked.
“Oh he does so many things. But his main interest is the Center, he is the president,” the person replied.
“Oh that’s great! I will come to meet him some other time,” Aman said.
“I will tell him that you want to meet him. What name should I say?” The person asked.
“Oh! Very sorry, I should have mentioned my name earlier. It is Nasarullah Zaid,” Aman said, giving the name of the bomber.
“Fine, I will tell him. You can meet him the day after tomorrow. All brothers and sisters are meeting here to pray and pay our condolence to all those who were killed in the bomb blast in the restaurant, Abdul Wahab is organizing it,” the person said.
“Sure, I will certainly come. Please excuse me, I have to go now. As Salam Alikum,” Aman said.
“Walekum Salam,” the person said and shook his hand.
Aman joined Rajesh who was waiting in the car.
“We have a lot of work to do for the next two days. Let us go to some of the stores, we have a lot to purchase,” Aman said and started the car.
They started with Wllmart where they got most of the stuff, the rest was procured from smaller stores.
It was Rajesh who cut and stitched the cloth to produce the three jackets similar to the one worn by the bomber. They filled the pockets of the jackets with nails, bolts and assorted metallic pieces.
“What about the explosives and the detonator?” Rajesh asked.
“I will get their suitable substitutes tomorrow. They are equally effective,” Aman replied.
Next day, Aman went out leaving Rajesh at home. He returned late in the afternoon with many boxes and bottles. From the powder and the liquid that were in them he made paste and spread it inside of the jackets cloth. Using cheap mobile phones he connected various colored wires to them and fixed them over one pocket of each jacket.
“You see this? It is the detonator,” he said, holding a shining metallic piece. He inserted these at the back of the jackets neck.
“We are ready now. Let us rehearse that we have to do when we meet him,” Aman said.
For the next hour or so Aman and Rajesh went through the words and actions many times over, until they were satisfied.
“Ok. Let us go out for dinner and retire to our beds after that. We have a very crucial day ahead,” Aman said.
They reached the Center, next day, at 10 am and waited for members to enter it. Within the next 15 minutes the arrivals had dwindled and satisfied that the likelihood of any more members entering the hall was minimal, Aman wore one jacket and carried the other two in a bag. He entered the hall with Rajesh following him.
They stood behind the congregation of the followers offering the prayers. Sensing that the prayers were about to end, Aman stepped sideways and moved towards the pulpit.
He saw the Maulana, a middle aged man with a fairly long beard, who wore a black robe that covered his body and a turban that adorned his head. The Maulana turned to face the devotees and raising his hand signaled them to sit down.
He stepped behind the rostrum and bent down to address the audience through the microphone.
“Salam Alaikum Maulana, before you pay condolences to the families of those who were killed in the bomb blast, please look ate me carefully,” Aman said, stepping forward and opening the jacket buttons to reveal the explosive’s paste.
The Maulana stood still in total shock, his voice choked and fear spread across his face.
Aman turned and faced the audience giving them a full view of the jacket and its contents. The gathering gasped with fear but remained seated. He saw Abdul Wahab get up after a while.
“Sit down Wahab and throw that pistol away immediately,” Aman shouted, holding a switch in his hand with his thumb over it.
“Throw the pistol away and sit down,” the Maulana cried out through the mike.
Wahab, looked at him, nodded and threw the pistol which landed in the ladies section of the gathering.
Aman stepped forward, stood next to the Maulana and spoke using the mike.
To be continued Part III