Author : Anup Jeevan
Company : Alamy Images India Pvt. Ltd
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chosen Paths
I counted three, three bullets that hit me. One on my leg, one on my shoulder and the third one just below my ribs. The pain had subsided, everything was just numb. I was too tired to stand up; it was better this way sitting down with my back against the wall. It was all red around me; I was bleeding profusely. The sounds of the sirens were really loud now. To speak the truth I did not want them to hurry, they could take all the time they want. It did not matter now whether they reached me or not. The time for that had passed. Now all by myself I could contemplate what had happened during the last few months. These could very well be my last few breaths. Each second was precious now.
I think I should start from the very beginning. My name is Varun, born to a police commissioner and a teacher, life was not easy. From a young age I was taught to lead life with strict discipline and morale. My father ensured that I had embedded in me a strong set of principles. Looking back I guess my father was always molding me to carry on his baton. I was around 8 years old when my brother was born Kiran. Pressure is not the right word, but for me at that age that described what I felt. The need to always excel, excel in everything from studies to extra-curricular activities. That is what my father expected. I saw in front of my eyes my brother getting pampered. Being the younger one he was my mother’s boy. I saw him getting cuddled, pampered and what not. Everything that I wished I got from my parents.
Growing up in the household I was the obedient one and he was the naughty one. Oh how I wished it was the other way round. But I loved him, loved him more than anything in this world. Even now I can clearly recall the first time my father put him in my arms. The way he would try to hold my cheeks with his tiny fingers. The way he looked at me, I knew from that moment I would take care of him no matter what. Growing up I used to see him getting pampered. The only way I could vent was making sure that I was one step ahead of him in everything. He never noticed this as I was always his hero, his champion. Tears welled up in his eyes every time I won a prize or got top marks. Again for lack of a better word I would say this little sibling rivalry I had in my mind was my greatest push. This pushed me to winning everything that is there to be won while growing up. Made me what I am now, everything that I am now.
Just as my father wished, after completing my post-graduation I appeared for IPS examination. Like everything else in my life I topped this too. It was never a cake walk but it was not an unbearable trudge either. I passed out with flying colors. I remember the day my parents saw me in my uniform, how proud they felt. But more than that was the look in Kiran’s eyes. I was sure that I would be the happiest person in the world that day. Later I was lucky enough to be posted in my home city as its assistant commissioner. The months after that were a shock to us as my father passed away and soon after that my mother too. This left me and my brother to look after each other. He was still doing his studies; I took up the responsibility of taking care of him.
Joining the police force was my father’s dream which I made my own. It was not something that I had for myself. The first few months on the job were hard. I was looked upon as a young hot blooded officer who was having the enthusiasm of getting his new job. My seniors were sure that it would die down soon. I had made up my mind that if I would go for civil service it would be the IPS and I would only work for the crime branch. That is exactly what I achieved. I remember cracking my first case, it was a robbery. That day changed my life forever, bringing a criminal to justice, providing justice to a victim. I felt for the first time in my life that I had truly achieved something. Nothing that I had won earlier or the things that I had excelled in mattered. I had realized what my father had tried to teach me. Suddenly the dream my father saw, I had started to see.
Years flew by; my brother grew up. By now I had won myself the name of being one of the best officers in the force. I liked to keep a count for myself. The side which showed the number of cases that I couldn’t crack remained zero. One thing I couldn’t stand was failure. Each and every case which I was working on I would bring home. Because at home was my best partner, my brother. We loved discussing these cases as if they where games of chess. Almost every time he would provide me an insight in to the case that I hadn’t thought about. This went a long way in solving it. Once the case would close I would call Kiran and let him know how he had helped. This was actually my own way of trying to instill in him my dreams, just like how our father had done to me in his own way. I had begun to see a better me in him. The moments spent with him were my happiest in midst of all the pressure and tensions of life.
This was my life until three months back. Talk of a new case was starting to make rounds then. Not a challenging case as far as I heard. The case went its usual rounds and finally landed in my hands. Three men team, their robberies. First three robberies were small shops. The police had connected these three cases together by their modus operandi. One person handled the technicality. Another, the muscle and the third person who from the description given by the witnesses was more laid back. This person was more in the shadows. I was sure that he was the leader of the pack, the brains behind. But by the fourth robbery this case had started to gain more prominence and media attention. It was a robbery on a jewelry store; they had shot down a security officer who tried to stop them thus causing a casualty for the first time.
I went through the usual procedures of investigation. I revisited each and every witness, went through all the evidence. Visiting the witnesses and all the time spent on the so called evidence were a waste of time. The criminals ensured that nothing that could lead to their identification were seen or heard. They were really careful, even used voice modulators in the mask they wore so no one could even identify their voice. They were brilliant enough to cover their tracks and had left no substantial evidence behind. All the collected evidence had turned out to be nothing more than a count to say to the media. One thing had become clear; I had to shut them down fast. If given more time the scale of their crimes was bound to go up.
But even before I had thought about my next move they had hit a fifth and then a sixth time. The gravity of the crimes had gone up not only in the amount stolen, but also in the casualty count. The sixth was a diamond showroom where they had taken out the entire security staff. They had taken down four men, four good men who did not deserve this. At the crime scene I had noticed that with the skill levels shown by these robbers there was no need for a gun fight. They could have gotten away with what they came for without any bloodshed. This was more of a murder; no this was more a show of power. Now I had really started to get worried.
As usual I took this case home. Had sat down with Kiran and we had quite a few productive discussions. He had more knowledge in latest technologies than me. He pointed out certain things that everyone had overlooked. He then taught me how these guys were getting into the security systems and shutting them down. The way they were going up the ladder I was pretty sure they were going for something bigger. It had to be something bigger than a diamond showroom. A bank came the answer in my mind.
For about a month they were silent, I knew they were planning. I had to plan too, but I had no idea where they would hit. There were a number of big banks in the city; I had placed surveillance on the biggest banks. My superiors had started to feel that maybe they had gone underground for good after their last job.
It was a bright Monday morning when the communication channels in the office started going haywire. There was an explosion near the gates of a major bank in the uptown area. I had already informed others to be ready for a move on any of the banks. As soon as the information arrived the entire force moved in on the bank. I knew I had to get there fast; I should be the one to take them down. While we were on the move something felt wrong. This was not the way they worked my gut had proclaimed. They were silent till they hit the place they wanted to rob. They came in fast, took what they wanted and left faster. This was not their style. The bomb had gone off outside the bank gates. It wasn’t even a major explosion; it didn’t serve any purpose at all.
One thing I had made sure before leaving office was that the guys on surveillance duty did not leave their positions. I asked the control room to get in touch with all of them and get their status. As the squad cars sped through the uptown streets in the traffic I waited with baited breath. My channel had come alive.
A voice said “Sir, all teams except one checked in. over”
My heart sank faster than an anchor.
I asked back “Which team did not respond. Over”
The voice said “The team watching the downtown bank. Over”
I had nothing more to hear. The bank that team was watching was at the other end of the city.
I shouted into the channel “All units turn back immediately. Over”
I had to make myself clear “All units turn back immediately. The explosion was just a distraction. Over”
Then I shouted out my instructions to the control room. Asked them to inform all units to move towards the downtown bank. Then I instructed the control room to get any units who were close by to that bank to move in and get them to keep extreme caution. While we were speeding back, in my mind I could see them hitting the bank and being business hours what damage they could cause. The sight that met me there was shocking. There were a number of bodies strewn around the road and the building. People were lying in pools of blood. Cries for help were ringing loud. This time they definitely had gone for grandeur. I was shaking with anger, I had to end this and end this I would.
The weeks after that incident were torturous. There was a move to take me of the case and bring in someone else from another force. I knew it was only a matter of the time before that happened. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. At home Kiran sat beside me
He asked me “Still no idea on where they would hit next huh? Are you sure they are going to hit again?”
My reply was ready “Of course they will and it will bigger.”
He didn’t say anything so I continued “What could be bigger than a bank? Where? When?”
These questions were raging in me for a few days by then. Kiran sat there silently thinking.
He answered “There is only one place bigger than a bank.”
I sat up I knew he had the answer. He continued “The Blitz casino. From what I have heard on weekends and special days a lot of cash flows through there. Also a large crowd comes in.”
That was it. That was the answer I was searching for.
I urgently called up a meeting with the team. I informed them of my idea about where they would hit next. I asked the team to pull up the casino’s events and find out when their next big day was. The answer delighted me, there was going to be a special game night the coming Saturday. They would hit then I could bet my life on it.
The next days I had done my own surveys of the casino, I was a man on mission. I had to keep it low key so I acted alone. By now I had a good idea about how they would move. I had made my plan on how to strike. I called up my team told them about my plan. We wouldn’t have the entire force acting on the trap. It was decided that a few of my trusted officers and I would only take up positions. I told them since we had no idea who they were we had to wait till they made their move. My plan was simple. We would let the tech guy shut down the building first. Then make our move as soon as the other two moved in to act.
I told my team about probable locations from where the tech guy would try to access the system. I instructed them to keep their distance and give him space till he had done his job. In no case should he know that we had got the area under surveillance. By the time he completes his job we would be able to pinpoint his location and then we had to move in quick take him down. I would wait in the casino for the other two to make their move. We had to take them down before they could do something drastic.
And finally the day arrived. Morning I left my home determined. I knew today I would be closing this case. I went through the plan again and again with the team till it had become etched in our minds. The sun had set and the party moved to its full swing. I waited knowing it was only a matter of time. I kept checking whether everyone were in their positions. I ensured that through the control room channel only normal communication would take place. Nothing about our operation was said through them, this was to cover up if the robbers were listening into our channels.
Around eight the power suddenly went out. The backup generators kicked in. The head of security at the casino informed us that the security systems were going offline. I knew this was it, I asked the teams to sweep the locations for the tech guy. At that same moment the entire team inside were on full alert surveying the area for other two. From among the crowd I saw the second man emerging. He was taking out something from his bag. Even in the darkness I could make out the shape of a gun. I had to bring him down before he opened fire; one of the members from my squad was faster than me. I heard the sound of a shot being fired and down went the second guy. I nodded to my team mate. In our private channel I could hear our teams zeroing in on the location of the tech brain. But my eyes were searching for the man I wanted the most, the actual brain behind their team. With the shot fired the crowd was running hither-tither, it was tough to make out anything. Then on the first floor I saw him, he had his mask on. He saw me and moved slowly back into the crowd. I couldn’t let him escape, I ran behind him. My team must have tried to follow me but must have lost me in the crowd. They weren’t there when I exited the building. The guys I posted at the exits were not there too. Either they would have disobeyed my order of holding positions and moved in to help us when the shots were fired or our main man could have taken them out. For now I could only hope it was the former. I saw him run through the alley and I gave chase. In the radio I heard the tech guy being taken down, now only the leader was left and he was mine.
I couldn’t make out through where or how long we ran. He was fast; it was hard to keep up. Finally he entered a building. I informed my team of my position and moved in. He was standing there not hiding, waiting. I ordered him to drop his weapon, take off the mask and put his hands up. I was ready for any sudden moves, but he did nothing such. Slowly threw away his gun and took his mask off. My blood went cold, every cell in my body died. Under the mask was my brother, Kiran.
This was not possible. He had a maniacal smile on his face. His face was not of the sweet boy I knew. This was someone else. I put my gun down, couldn’t speak, no words came out, I was dead inside. He was the one who spoke, his voice different.
He asked “Shocked? Can’t believe that, finally the person to beat you is your own brother? Mind you, you wouldn’t have found us if I hadn’t told you about this plan myself.”
When I said nothing he continued “I knew your plans. I could have escaped. But that is not what I wanted. I knew that soon they would move you of this case. But before that I wanted you to find out that it was me who defeated you.” Then he started to laugh, a sound still ringing in my ears.
I was in tears now; all I could mouth was “why?”
“Why? Why you ask. As if you didn’t know. From our childhood you were the one Mom and Dad loved. I was the weakling who needed care. You were the strong one the excellent one. I hated that. All I ever wanted was to beat you. But every time I was left to walk in your trail, in your shadows. Nobody even saw my tears.” He said
“I thought I was your hero” I said.
“You were never my hero, you were always my Villain” he shouted.
“All these years I prepared myself only for one thing, to beat you. Each case you discussed with me I noticed one thing, solving a crime that was your pride, your everything. That’s when I decided that was where I would beat you. Beat you at what you think you are best at” he said
“I found these two guys, lured them with promise of money and rush. Money was not what I was after, beating you was my aim. I had to up the scale of each crime till the case came to you. From then onwards it was just playing with you. I was having my fun but when you said you may be moved from the case after the bank incident I knew I had to confront you. And for that was this plan made, I had to sacrifice the other two for your officer’s distraction because I wanted you here alone. I wanted you here to finish what started years ago” he shouted
I was getting my senses back. I knew the backup was nearby; I had to bring him in without hurting him.
“I didn’t know you were hurting inside Kiran” I said.
“How could you? When you were bathing in your glory” his replied.
Time was running out I had to do something. I pleaded with him to surrender.
“We will talk this out Kiran. I won’t let anything happened to you.” I told him
“Give in. Never. You will only help me if you walk out of here alive Varun. Only one of us gets to walk out of here” He said.
“I can’t hurt you brother. You can kill me but the backup is on its way they will take you in.” I told him.
He was smiling “You know something Varun. During these robberies I found something else that I love. Killing people, during the incidents the casualties all of them were caused by me. The others didn’t do a thing. The first time I killed, the rush I got, it has become a drug for me now. I will put it in perspective, if you don’t stop me I will kill you and your backup won’t be able stop me. I will then find a new team and continue finding my drug elsewhere.” His answer was clear, too clear.
I knew he was speaking his mind, he intended to do what he was saying. I was the only one who could stop him. If I were to let him go, more lives would be lost. I had to make a choice, my brother my world or all the other innocent lives. I could choose to be selfish or selfless. The answer was simple. I threw down my gun and took him fist on. He was strong, fast and shrewd. I had never met a match in combat, but here he was, my own brother. I wished this was under better circumstances. Don’t know how long the fight went on, but I was tiring fast and I knew he was too. Then we both heard it the sound of the sirens, backup was nearby. I prayed to all the Gods that they arrived fast. Then it happened, for a moment I saw his eyes dart towards his gun on the floor and I knew what that meant. As soon as he jumped for his I did for mine. He was faster than me; he had fired three shots when I could do only one. All three hit me but I knew the one I fired had deadly precision and had found its mark perfectly. In front my eye Kiran slumped and didn’t move again.
I fell to the wall bleeding and now here I am. The physical wounds don’t hurt because my mind just got pierced through. The sibling rivalry that I thought pushed me to excel also pushed him, pushed him over to a dark side. The tears that I took in his eyes for joy were actually of pain. I thought he saw me with the admiration towards a hero while it was actually hate towards a villain. Maybe it was the principles that my father instilled in me that made me make the decision that I did. I do not know, but I know that I did the right thing. This was for the greater good. Hope my parents forgive me for this. I don’t wish to walk out of here. All my hopes and dreams lie in front of me shattered. I don’t care for anything anymore.
The lights are getting darker, the sounds fainter…..