3rd chapter of my novel: The Shadow. Few other chapters are there on my port.
|Chapter 3: |
After parking his car in the hotel's parking lot, he walked to the main entrance of the hotel. He passed through metal scanners and headed straight towards the dining hall. It was not as occupied as it would be at night. At night, people would try to arrive early to get a table. Otherwise, bribing some waiter would be the only option left.
He seated himself at a corner table, and gave the hall a surveying look. Some people were busy in eating, while others were looking at the beautiful singer on stage rather than listening to her song. His eyes were searching for Asad when he saw a man sitting in the other corner of the hall. The man was alone on his table. His beard and moustache were so shabbily over grown that it looked like as if a grizzly bear was sitting in Armani suit and ray ban sun glasses.
"Sir, what would you like to have" waiter's voice hit Farooq like a bolt of lightning, and he jumped in his seat, making the waiter jump too, who skillfully saved the tray from slipping out of his hand.
"Hey pal, don't ever scare me like that. I am a man of faint heart.If I die, there won't be any problem for me, but it is going to cost you your job " Farooq, clutching his chest, advised him. "Okay, just get me a glass of water"
Staring at him, the waiter left. He knew that arguing with this man meant inviting trouble. Most of the waiters knew Asad and Farooq as they were usual customers.
Farooq took out two small bags from his pocket. Then he took out a lemon. After finally producing a plastic spoon and folding knife from his pocket, he placed all these things on the table properly. People sitting on the surrounding tables were looking at his actions curiously.
The waiter returned shortly, with a glass of water. Farooq had placed his handkerchief on his chest as a napkin and was waiting for him with the knife in one hand and spoon in the other.
"Where have you been ? I could have made water by mixing hydrogen and oxygen by now" Farooq complained
Waiter was eyeing the stuff Farooq had placed on the table, "Sir, should I remove these things ?" he asked politely.
"Don't you dare. These things are mine, not hotel's. Go remove things that belong to your hotel. Now will you keep standing on my head ? Leave me alone or else I will report to the your manager"
Waiter's face turned red. But he controlled his anger and returned from the table. Casting pearls before swine is of no use, he thought.
Farooq opened one of the small bags and emptied salt from it in the glass of water. Then he opened the second bag and poured sugar from it into the glass. He then stirred for a while with the plastic spoon. After he had finished stirring, he placed the spoon back and picked up the knife. He placed the lemon in the center. Holding the knife, he raised his right arm head high, and like a butcher, brought his arm down with brute force, to cut the lemon. But he missed his aim slightly and the knife hit the lemon at such an angle that the lemon rocketed off his table towards the table of the bear-type man.
"Hey hey catch that lemon…" Farooq shouted and ran after the lemon which rolled on the floor and disappeared under the table of that bear-type man. Everybody's attention was now towards Farooq who was running like a mad man with knife in hand. The bearish man was also bewildered seeing Farooq running straight towards him. Defensively, he stood up from the table to avoid the attacker. But Farooq, upon reaching the table, ducked and disappeared under it. Everybody, including the bearish man, was now looking at the table cloth covering the sides of the table, in amusement. Clattering noises were coming from underneath the table.
After about 1 minute, lifting the table cloth, Farooq appeared and said to the bearish man, "Hey mister, it is not a good thing. Give me back my lemon"
"Which lemon are you talking about? " the bear type man asked with surprise. "I don't know about any lemon. You just came running madly and sneaked under my table"
"Oh great. Now you tell me that you haven't seen any lemon. Do you think I am a fool? I know that you have stolen that lemon and now you are trying to con me" Farooq argued angrily.
"Look man, seriously, I was having a good juicy lunch. And you spoiled it all. I don't know what your problem is or what you are up to. But I am in no mood to listen to your trumpet. To hell with your lemon fantasy. Leave me alone"
"But the lemon was there. Everybody saw it. You can't deny this fact mister" Farooq looked for support at the crowd which had gathered around them, and the people nodded their heads in agreement.
"Okay. So where is it now, then? the bear-ish man smirked.
"That's what I am asking." Farooq looked straight into his eyes.
"As I see it, first, you threw a lemon at me. And when it didn't work. you came, grabbed your lemon and hid it somewhere in your clothes, just to prove that I have stolen it. But believe me, it's a lame way to catch attention"
"Why would I steal my own lemon? It's a ridiculous allegation. And you know what? I can prove that you have stolen my lemon" Farooq said, his voice filled with determination.
"What is the matter? " the manager of the hotel, who had just arrived on scene after some waiter told him, intervened.
"Thank God you are here. I am Muhammad Asif, and I am staying in your hotel in room 402. This man first disturbed me while I was having lunch, and now he is creating a stupid fuss about some lemon. He claims that I have stolen his lemon. Believe me, I don't know what he is talking about. I think he is some clown who just wants to catch people's attention”
"Mr. manager, this man has stolen my lemon. There was a lemon and it rolled under his table. Everybody saw it. I can prove my point. Just check his clothes. I am sure he has hidden that lemon in somewhere inside." Farooq explained to the manager.
"Okay. Let's finish this. I will get you another lemon Sir" the manager offered to Farooq.
"No way. I want to catch the criminal red handed. And I want my lemon, not just any other lemon. Why don't you just check him. Even the people would agree with me "
The crowd, by this time, was very much involved. People seldom saw such a high quality reality show. Their interest level was at peak. When Farooq asked for their vote, they concurred, "Yes, there is no harm in checking. Both of them should be checked"
The manager looked at the crowd. He really wanted to finish this issue. But feeling the interest and willingness of the crowd, he finally nodded his head "Okay, we will start with him" he pointed at Farooq.
Farooq stepped forward and raised his hand above his head, as if he was having a security check at border. Some girls laughed at the foolish yet innocent gesture of this handsome man.
The manager started fishing in his pockets. One after another, things came out - pen, pencil, sharpener, safety pins, needle and thread, a bottle of gypsy amazing cream, a deflated balloon etc etc. Atleast 2 dozen things were lying on the table after the manager finished checking him. The lemon was not present in that pile of stuff.
People were looking at that heap with amusement. There was an expression of victory on Farooq's face. Apparently, he was not doing any drama for catching attention. Now everybody was looking at Muhammad Asif, whose eyes were still searching for lemon in the stuff on table.
"Mr. Asif, I hope you won't mind " the manager stepped towards him
Asif took a deep breath, and nodded; the manager started checking him.
Apart from a wallet and a few ordinary things, no lemon came out of his pockets. After a thorough round of searching, the manager declared "Mr. Asif doesn't have the lemon. I think now the issue has been resolved and everybody is satisfied..."
"No Mister" Farooq refuted, "The matter is not finished yet. It was my lemon and I am not settling down without it"
"Now see Sir, everybody must agree that the lemon has not been found. We should get over with this debate. Or if you have any more bright ideas, I would be more than willing to hear" the manager said in a heated tone…
"You want bright ideas? Well I think you are supporting this guy because he's staying in your hotel…and I bet you have shifted that lemon to your pocket while you checked him. How's that for an idea" Farooq countered sarcastically
"This is outrageous. That's it. I cannot let you spoil this day anymore. Call the guards" manager, fuming with rage, ordered the waiter.
"Hold on partner. I can prove my point. If I can produce that lemon out of your pocket, then I can have my lemon back. If I fail, I am ready to bear any kind of penalty" Farooq offered, looking at the crowd as if requesting for their approval.
The manager looked from Farooq to the crowd. The crowd clearly wanted the show to run longer. The manager sighed. Looking into Farooq's eyes, with his face stern, he said "Okay Mister, now you better produce that lemon out of my pocket. Otherwise you are in deep trouble !!”
Farooq , with a wicked smile on his face, reached closer and put his hand in manager's pocket. Within a couple of seconds, he pulled out, his fingers holding something. He raised his hand for everyone to see what he was holding. And then everybody saw it. There, clutched in Farooq's fingers, was the controversial lemon.
It was a mixed reaction from the crowd. Some youngsters clapped. Some laughed exuberantly. While some were swearing and shaking their heads in utter disgust.
The manager was speechless. Drops of sweat were visible on his forehead. He was shaking with anger and shame.
But there was more to come. Waiting for only a few seconds until everybody was able to see the lemon, Farooq ran towards his table. He placed the lemon on it, and slashed it half with the knife. After juicing out the lemon into the glass of water, he stirred, and then gulped the lemonade in one breath.
After wiping the lemonade off his lips with his hankie, he gave a confused look to the people staring at him in utter amusement, as if he didn't know why they were surprised.
He picked his things up, and walked quietly towards the exit. He came straight to his beetle. Once he was seated, he checked if anybody was watching. After making sure that nobody was looking, he pulled out a box from under his seat. This box would always be there in his car. After examining its contents for a while, he picked out a wig and a fake moustache. He adjusted the wig and moustache on his face looking in the mirror at the backside of the box's cover, then took off his jacket and wore it inside out. In the end, he wore his sun glasses. He was now looking a different man and it was very hard to recognize him. Once again he was striding towards the hotel entrance.
This time he walked straight to the lift. "Room number 402", Farooq recalled in his mind.
The corridor of the 4th floor was deserted. He slowly walked till he reached room 402. After making sure that he was not being noticed, he knocked.
"Who's there ?" the voice was of Muhammad Asif.
"Room service Sir" Farooq replied. But his voice was totally different than usual.
Muhammad Asif took some time to unlock the door. But as he started opening the door, Farooq pushed the door and slipped inside the room without giving Asif a chance to stop him. He locked the door as he entered.
Asif, who had received the push through the door, had staggered a few steps back. He looked at Farooq ferociously, "Who the hell are you? How dare you...? His hand had reached the revolver in his holster.
"Hey Hey. It's me, Muhammad Basit" This time Farooq spoke in his original voice.
The expression on Muhammad Asif's face changed, first to confusion, then to sudden elation.
With a loud groan, he jumped and hugged Farooq.
"I can't breath. Let me go" Farooq, while trying to get out of the hug, said.
Muhammad asif let him go immediately. Farooq was clutching the stitch in his chest.
"How many times have I told not to watch national geographic all the time. Now see how much you have been influenced. Even the make up you have done is that of a grizzly bear"
And Muhammad Asif, laughing, started pulling off his fake beard and mustache. Moments later, Major Asad was standing in front of Farooq.