Preeti squinted at the light streaming in form a tiny corner of the tiled roof. Otherwise it was all dark. She had recognised the place the moment they had taken a turn in the alley. She could never forget the place. Her heart had started racing. She had been rendered unconscious but the quantity of whatever they used in that rag that had covered her mouth back in the café must have been less. She was lying on the floor wide awake. She was shocked to see Yash staring at her with hate in his eyes.
She couldn’t speak as her mouth was covered and hand and feet were bound. Why was he doing it she had thought with tears welling up. It was like the whole world had changed in Alwar in the last six years. She didn’t know who she could trust and whom she couldn’t. First Rewa didi with her apologies and now Yash… Anyone else left? She had thought rolling her eyes.
She shook her head as a fresh wave of nausea had hit her. What the hell had they put on that rag? She had eaten her breakfast long ago…but she felt like taking it all out now…. She thought about Gautam…where was he? He would have been so worried by now. Poor Bhim Singh. She hoped he wouldn’t be at the receiving end of Gautam’s ire. She didn’t know what was happening…but strangely she had a sense of peace when she visualised Gautam…her Gautam…her husband… her masked man… her hero.
They had dragged her out of the vehicle and dumped her in this room…If she remembered right it was the same room where that monster… But it was empty of furniture… there was no cot…thank God. They were three of them including Yash. What the hell did they want? Her limbs were bound but her mouth had been released of the dirty bind. She still felt like heaving. She shook her head to rid of the feeling but a wave of dizziness hit her hard… and she fell back on the hard floor.
She heard the footsteps in a while and blinked as they switched on the sole light bulb in the room. Yash took a chair and sat on it in front of her. His cronies kept a watch on the door guns drawn out and Yash kept a rifle besides him…what? Yash with a rifle? She looked at him only to see him sneer at her.
“Why Yash Bhaisa…?” She spoke in a hoarse voice. Her voice was getting affected because of her acidity which was at an all-time high.
“What do you want to know Princess…?” He said stressing on the last word as if it were a cuss word. She was taken aback. He chuckled at her expression.
“What did you think Preeti? You would get everything? After you took away everything from me?”
“What…what did I take from you Bhaisa?” she asked every word taking an effort to speak.
“You took away my respect at home… you took away the rights to the fort and most important of all…you took away the only good thing in my wretched life twelve years ago…my Vikram…” He cried out his voice grading up in volume as he finished the statement.
She couldn’t digest his revelation. Was he on something? She thought. His eyes were stoically blank…they were emotionless as he stared at the wall behind her.
“I…don’t understand… Bhai…bhaisa..”
“…DON’T YOU DARE PRETEND BITCH…” he yelled startling her. She had never heard him raise his voice in all the years she had known him. He was barely a year older to her.
He must have seen her clueless expression. He stood up dropping the rifle to the floor. Did…did he shoot her? She wondered.
He sneered as he helped her sit straight against the wall. Dizziness hit her in waves and she dry heaved. He moved away from her as if she was diseased.
He must have seen her staring at the rifle.
“What? Did you think I couldn’t handle a rifle? That I was as useless as my father and chachaji thought I was? That I wasn’t as good as their prodigal daughter?”
“Are you sure you are talking about ME Bhaisa?”
He paced the room as he spoke. “Everyone in Sengar household thought highly about you Preeti…especially after you left home. You became a rare occurrence. The household which only prided on their sons suddenly turned to be your fans. Of course familiarity breeds contempt. They anyway had a problem with me. I… just hated to study…hated their business… hated to shoot… what was my fault Preeti? What could I do if I wanted to dress in lehenga choli or salwar kameez or sarees? I even cross dressed and once Chachaji caught me…”
Preeti gasped as she heard him. She wondered why she hadn’t seen him do… all that. He was lost in his own world as he continued. “…Bapu and chachaji had only one goal in life…to make me into what I was not… Why Preeti? WHY?” He turned towards her tears flowing from his eyes. “…was it wrong if I didn’t like what we Rajput boys were supposed to do? Even the other day when you got married they only kept talking about how their ideal daughter saved the day for them…. Don’t look at me like that Preeti…I knew what you and Gautam were upto….”
Her father and uncle spoke so highly about her? Preeti was shocked to know.
“Bhaisa…how did you know about Gautam…?”
Yash gave her a side smile and snorted. “Preeti…you guys are not the only ones awake at night. I saw that night when he had come into your room… that bastard thought he was stealth enough but he couldn’t escape my eyes….that bloody killer…” Preeti looked up suddenly when he said it.
“…He is a bloody killer… He killed the love of my life…the only person who loved me and accepted me for what I was… Bapu used to say I was a piece of crap…a burden on them. Why? Just because I liked guys? I couldn’t help it Preeti. I made a mistake of admitting it before Bapu once. He… he flogged me that day… I was only sixteen. Chachaji taunted me… saying I was immoral. But what was he doing with that Sita? Was that moral…?” He must have seen Preeti’s shocked look. “… I knew everything people were upto. Everyone hated me. But VIkram…he was the light in my dark life…a ray of hope. We …we were to elope after I turned eighteen…”
What the hell was he talking about? “Bhaisa…Vikram is not who you think… He was heterosexual. He also had relations with Rewa didi…”
“…I know about that…in fact that’s how we met. I once caught him jumping across the wall in the dead of the night when he had come to meet Rewa didi. I fell for him…his enigmatic blue eyes caught me in their web…Preeti…it was love at first sight. …”
Preeti was staring at him wide eyed.
“… The next night I helped him through the gate… And before he left he came into my room. The pleasure he gave me…words can’t even describe it… He was my God from then on. I started to love my life…” Then with anger contorting his face he looked back at Preeti. “…And then Rewa didi broke up with him… She found out about our secret rendezvous… what was the problem with her? Why couldn’t she share Vikram? I wasn’t going to step in anywhere…I just…just wanted those few moments of pleasure and she couldn’t even bear to see that? She stopped seeing him and threatened to tell Bapu about it all…”
Preeti’s head was reeling and the feel of the nausea was rapidly raising its head. She didn’t know how much more she would last. She was shocked beyond capacity with all that she was hearing.
Yash was oblivious to her. “You know Preeti… Vikram stopped coming over…JUST STOPPED… I started to crave him… my life had lost its meaning totally… and then one day he called me… He said he wanted the details of the locker and the map for the Gagorn fort. Apparently Rewa didi had told him about it. Do you know, Preeti…? There is a treasure buried under one of the standing pillars….I read about it in the archives available in our library at that time. I spoke to Maasa indirectly and she vindicated the information….Vikram promised to be with me forever if I could get him the details. But then who would give them to me? I then overheard Bapu saying… the Gagorn fort would be inherited by Rewa didi or you. He added that he didn’t trust Rewa didi enough so I knew eventually it would be inherited by you. Chachaji said you were aware of it all…”
What? “No bhaisa…I had never even heard of the fort till I was told about the signatures…”
“…DON’T LIE TO ME…. I saw the deed and other information Chachaji had in a brass box. He had hidden them in your room for safekeeping…”
“…I. Really don’t know about any brass box Bhaisa…” Preeti pleaded amidst bile rising up her throat.
But Yash pretended as if she wasn’t present. “… I promised Vikram I would get him the brass box. But I could never enter your room and search… I couldn’t even ask Rewa didi…she would have caught me. So…when I told this to Vikram he made a plan… to kidnap you and get the information out of you… then I would go to your room and directly take the brass box from its hidden place. So I told Sukhi uncle to collect a package for bapu from this place. That Dumb Sukhi didn’t even check with Bapu and drove here. I was told only you were going to school that day. I hadn’t anticipated Rohit to be in the car as well…..” Yash was sobbing. “…Vikram shot Sukhi and the impact of the car killed Rohit… Now that wasn’t my fault…”
He looked at Preeti. “…But you…You refused to give him any information… Preeti I was right there…I was praying you would tell him so that he would release you and we could get what we wanted…. But you refused. Even when he was…and then that bastard Gautam came along and I made a lucky escape while he hit them all. I saw him take you to the hospital…”
Preeti was crying with pain…her heart breaking into pieces knowing her cousin was the one responsible for all her misery.
“…I rushed in here to see Vikram badly injured. I revived him and told him you were in the hospital. He managed to get himself up and going. He was so brave… I drove him to the hospital. He knew you would be there… But that Gautam…he was there too. He murdered my Vikram with his bare hands…”
Yash paused in front of her. “…Preeti…I promised myself I would avenge Vikram’s death. But Gautam disappeared…everything changed after that day… everybody mourned for Rohit…pitied you…eventually when business fell they pitied Rewa didi… she then met Suyash…you escaped to Mumbai. But what about ME? NO one thought about me…. I met other guys but no one could match up to Vikram. I decided the only way to get attention was to become what Bapu wanted. So I tried. I learnt shooting… my shot was good right?” He mockingly pointed at her bandaged arm. “..I then put my energy into business and they were happy. When Rewa didi was seeing Suyash I was happy that she would be out of the way soon. I had planned to get the documents to Mumbai and make you sign them off to me. I would then become the sole owner of the Gagorn fort. But that Gautam came in again…. I recognised that asshole right away. He wanted to marry Rewa didi for the fort… I knew she was already married to Suyash so didn’t bother much but then…on the wedding day…you stepped in. the prodigal daughter saved the family honour and now… now you are all set to transfer the deeds in Gautam’s name?”
“Bhaisa… I am sorry…I didn’t know anything….”
“You know… you can still do things right…I have got the papers here. Sign it off in Gautam’s name and he will in turn transfer it to me instead of that Romila Devi…” he stood getting a bunch of papers.
He looked at the surprised Preeti and said, “Oh, By the way your dear husband is on his way. Once he signs this over…I will kill him in the same way he killed my beloved Vikram…”
“IN YOUR DREAMS ASSHOLE…” a voice boomed and Preeti’s heart soared. Gautam was here…
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