A black Mercedes sped through the Dhaula Kuan flyover, making full use of its aerodynamic shape.
“Hit the pedal harder, asshole! We are only 2 pegs down and even the cops must be sleeping at this hour of the night,” said Neel.
The adrenaline level rose in the veins of Akash, partly because his friend was being a pain in the ass and partly due to the steadily rising speedometer level in front of his eyes.
“Who gives a shit about the scams man, at least the roads are sexier after the Commonwealth Games,” commented Neel, feeling the cool breeze against his face.
“To the Commonwealth, haha!” toasted Akash with his half empty glass of whiskey.
Like a panther in the night, the speeding car was camouflaged in the dimly lit highway. However, a small spotlight above the number plate made 0001 noticeable through a distance, like a medal of honour.
“Hey, who’s that?” asked Neel while pointing ahead. A silhouette of a man was visible at a distance through the tinted windscreen, as if he was waiting for the car to come closer.
“Fuck! Hide the glasses and the bottle. These assholes are everywhere!” exclaimed Akash, suspecting a cop waiting to pounce on his dad’s money.
As the car grew closer, the silhouette of that man changed into that of a woman. Clutching her purse tightly, the woman was standing on the pavement. Her face visible now, she seemed scared and desperate at the same time. Her fading makeup spoke about the time she was in before the current situation.
“Wow!” bursted Neel, his eyes looking like that of a 12-year-old visiting Disneyland.
The car came to a halt. “Any problem, madam?” asked Akash as he lowered the windows, pouring a touch of concern in his voice. The woman stood there for two seconds, not uttering a word. “C-Can you help me out?” she asked finally, still not moving from where she was.
“Yeah sure. Do you want a lift?” suggested Akash.
“I live in Janakpuri. Its 10 minutes from this place. Can you drop me there?” she asked, fully aware of the knife in her purse in case she had to use it.
“No problem, get in!” said Akash, as he opened the car locks.
The woman opened the door and slid past the back seat. She held her purse as though it contained her second heart. The car jolted forward, pushing through the darkness ahead.
“So what’s your name?” asked a curious Neel.
“Shefali” the woman said.
“That’s a nice name, my ex-girlfriend’s name was ‘Shefali’ too!” said Neel.
Shefali gave a wry smile. The excitement was visible on the face of both men. They hadn’t anticipated that they would be joining by a companion on their excursion, and that too a woman.
-Excuse me Miss, kis kis kis kiss se tu bhaage gi Hun bach bach ke, tenu rab ne husn ditta rajj rajj ke..-
The music player was alive. Neel mouthed the exact words coming out of the speaker, his fingers bouncing in sync of the rhythm. But Shefali was in no mood; rather she was feeling uncomfortable. It’s alright, your home is quite near she patronised herself.
“How did you get into this situation?” asked Akash.
“Oh, that’s a long story” she said, trying to avoid any conversation while being polite at the same time.
“You know you look pretty in this dress, Shefali” commented Neel with a mischievous smile on his face. Akash looked at her in the rear mirror but she didn’t pay heed to it, ignoring Neel completely. The car was catching speed.
“We were going to a friend’s house for a party, want to come with us?” asked Neel, stressing on the double-meaning word while looking at Shefali in the eyes from the front seat. Akash giggled.
“No it’s fine. You can stop the car now my house has arrived. I’ll walk from here. Thank you for the lift” she lied, her hands sweating.
But the needle of the speedometer didn’t bulge. The car was going faster than a bullet. Both the men didn’t pay any attention to what Shefali said. She sensed the situation but didn’t know how to react. She was frozen, by the horror as well as the panic.
“You go to the back. I will watch out for cops. Don’t take long.” said Akash in a monotonous tone.
“Huh?” asked a confused Shefali.
But the message wasn’t for her; it was for Neel, and he knew exactly what he had to do. He removed his seat belt and started making a move.
“AIE!” exclaimed Shefali, pulling out the weapon she had been carrying. “I’LL CUT YOUR THROAT I SWEAR, STOP THE DAMN CAR!”
Neel caught her as she swung her armed hand, grasped the knife and threw it in the back of the car.
“NOOOO!” shouted Shefali.
Akash could feel the rush in his blood; he couldn’t wait for his turn. His eyes were on the road but his mind was on the back seat. And then it happened; every single light and sound on the road went off. The street lights, the music player, lights in the mobile phones, the screaming. Total darkness.
“NEEL?!” said a panic stricken Akash.
No response; no sound, only the sound of his own breathing. He felt as if he was in a black hole, not able to see a single object around.
“What the fuck is going on?!” exclaimed Akash.
He tried opening the doors of the car, but in vain. Fear spread over his mind.
A soft, seductive voice whispered in his ear:
You should not roam around at nights. Bad things can happen to you, extremely bad. There exist more evil things than you, darker than you. You made a grave mistake today, one that will torture you in your dreams.
The lights came back and so were the sounds. Akash was still in the front seat. At the back, lied the body of Neel with his chest stabbed by the knife. He lay still, facing upwards, eyes wide open while blood pouring through the knife’s edges.
The woman had vanished. No clue remaining to tell that she even existed. Akash dug his hands deep into his hair while dangling on the threshold of insanity. The black Mercedes stood parked in the police station of Dhaula Kuan.