Rascal – Short Story
By: Saahil Acharya
I asked him why he did it. He couldn’t explain very well. “Its what I’m good at.”, he kept repeating. “Its what I do.” “Its what I was meant to do.” Pointless repetitions to reassure himself. He was very distraught, and kept fingering the vase, or his jacket buttons. He leaned back and pleaded to be allowed to smoke. I resolutely pointed to the sticker on the glass door. “No Smoking”, it said.
He didn’t seem the kind of person who would choose such a profession. Sure, he had big, muscular arms, and was tall and well built. But he wasn’t that kind of man. Not really. No ruthless air about him. His eyes betrayed what he felt. Fidgety and scared. Maybe this was because he was sitting in front of me.
He leaned forward suddenly and took out a thick envelope from his jacket pocket and placed it on the glass top of the table. It seemed he had finally won an internal struggle. I opened the cover, and tilted it face down. A stack of photographs spilled out.
A blood covered woman struggled against the ropes binding her wrists and ankles. Her face was hazy, probably because she had been moving too fast.
A child lay in a pool of blood on the floor, a neat bullet hole on his forehead.
A man sat on a chair, his head bowed down. His face was a pale blue against the black frosted windows behind him.
An old balding man leaned on a door, foaming at the mouth.
I put back the pictures without looking at the rest, and pushed the envelope towards him. He glanced at me, and smiled wryly. I fished out my packet of Marlboros, and slid one out. It took me three tries to light it with my antique lighter. I leaned back and threw packet and lighter on the table. His smile widened as he lighted one. He seemed more relaxed now. We puffed away for a minute in silence, and the air-conditioner hummed, as if in complaint. I looked up at the smoke detectors on the ceiling, and crushed my cigarette under my boot. He dragged a long puff, and then did the same.
I asked him why he didn’t quit. He must have enough money by now. “Its not about the money. Its something else.” He frowned. The intent look convinced me he was being honest. Brutally honest. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself otherwise.” I asked him if he had ever told anyone all this. He shook his head, eyeing the Marlboros wistfully. His family? Old mother. No one else. Girlfriends? None. He liked sex, and didn’t want anything more. Then I asked that one question which had been bothering me ever since he had introduced himself. “Why did you come to ME?” He said he knew I wrote on blogs. He wanted me to write about him. I couldn’t understand his desire, but promised him all the same. He picked up the envelope and stuffed it back inside his jacket. Before he left he asked me what name I would give him, since I obviously didn’t know his real identity. “Bloody rascal”, I said. He smiled.