The Cannelloni

Chapter 1 ~ The Thunderstorm

The night was dark & the wind was fierce. It was raining real hard accompanied by Vicious thunderstorms. The City of Karachi had never witnessed such vehement from mother nature before. It was 2:00 am & most of the city was asleep. The activity seemed quite normal in the posh area of Clifton, but somewhere along the beachroad, Yousuf Altaf was running as hard as he could. He seemed determined to lose the tail. He was being chased by someone. Someone he knew, someone he thought he knew! Nevertheless he kept running away from him, until he reached the end of ‘Bagh Ibne Qasim’.

The ‘Bagh Ibne Qasim’ in the largest public Park in the city of Karachi; in fact it is the largest in Pakistan. Spread across 130acres of land, the park was built in Feb of 2007 under ‘Musharraf Era’. It runs alongside of the famous ‘Clifton Beach’ & over 10million people visit it per Year.

The Park is usually crowded with visitors but not today, at least not at this late hour, it was Empty. Yousuf came to a halt & was gasping to catch his breath, he was sure that he had lost his tail. He was panting hard; he looked up ahead. it was pitch black darkness. The Street lights were out. The city was facing a power breakdown; the heavy rainfall had disrupted the power supply to the major portion of the city. Yousuf looked to his right towards the road, hoping to find a taxi or even a rickshaw, but he clearly was not going to get one tonight.

He heard the Footsteps from behind, slowly approaching towards him. The sound of the footsteps kept on growing louder & louder & Yousuf’s heart started to pound faster. Every time he heard the footsteps his heart seemed to be thumping upwards. As if it were trying to request him to please let me out of this chest! The Footsteps came to halt…

Tired already?’ It was a heavy tone, voice of a Man. Yousuf Slowly turned to face his destiny. ‘Please don’t do it. I Promise I won’t tell anyone’ The man replied, ‘You should have thought of that before you decided to play jogging with me’ Yousuf was sweating profusely, for he was facing a 6ft tall figure, with broad shoulders & there was something about this man in particular that made people fear him, it was not his well toned physique or the heavy voice that he possessed, but rather it was this mysterious aura that people feared. Yousuf was now crying, begging for mercy begging for his life, but the man seemed to be made of a heart that felt no emotions.

The Man, wearing the grey overcoat, was clearly in control of the situation, he was holding a revolver made of expensive Ivory coating & the base of the gun was made of pure gold. There was a symbol encrusted in the gun, a curled up snake with its mouth projecting outwards from the center & 2 Diamonds were encrusted in the place forming the eyes of the snake. He leveled the gun to Yousuf’s chest. Yousuf knew his time had come & he closed his eyes tight shut bracing what was going to follow.

The gun was still raised at Yousuf & he raised it further & now the gun was aimed for Yousuf’s head. The gun was pointed exactly in between the eye brows just above the nose. He pulled the trigger & the Gun made an enormous roar, but fate was favouring the stranger, as the sound of the gunshot was completely drowned by the sound of the Thunderstorm.

Chapter 2 ~ The Perplexity

The alarm clock buzzed on his side table, it was 7:00am & Imran was getting late for work. He had only an hour left to report to for his duty; but here he lay sound asleep on his bed with absolutely no intention of waking up. He resembled a baby who had been put to sleep in his cradle. Last night was a Sunday night & Imran had returned home from a wild birthday party, hosted by one of his good friends Ali. Ali who was the son of a well known political figure; Kashif Kamran, had a reputation to maintain; after all it was his birthday & he wanted it to be a memorable one. The party was a great success, with Ali living up to his name & fame, & winning the appreciation of his guests; but now it was a Monday, which meant everyone had to be where they ought to be.

The alarm clock on the side table kept on buzzing & finally Imran flung his right arm over it, in an attempt to turn off the annoying clock & go back to his slumber; back to his Sweet Land of Dreams, back to his ‘Utopia’; but instead of switching it off, he accidentally knocked it over the carpet where it kept to its mischief & gave away the annoying buzzing sound. Frustrated by the pathetic situation, Imran was finally compelled to wake up. Now, out of his bed angry & agitated by the alarm clock, Imran picked it up with every intention of disposing it but seeing the time which was being displayed in the clock; he realised that this affair had to wait for he was seriously getting late.

Imran took a quick shower of hardly 10mins & then dashed to the kitchen, satisfying himself with an apple jam sandwich, which he left only half eaten, for Imran in his entire career of Investigating Crime had never been late for work & he certainly showed no intention of being late today as well. Zooming in his Corolla, he reached his office premises, which was located on the main Shara – e – Faisal Road in Karachi; previously this area had reserved its office floors only to private organisations, but as time had passed, gradually a couple of government offices had also sprung up, like group of mushrooms in a thick & dense tropical forest.

Imran had hardly settled himself behind his large desk, when his assistant ‘Naila’, had come with a message from his superior Yasir. ‘The Boss wants to see you in 5mins’ she said. “Huh! Why?, is everything alright?’ asked Imran. ‘No idea, I am just a messenger’ & with this she left. Imran never really liked his superior, no one did, for Yasir was an old hag, he had never shown any feelings of sympathy towards his underlings & never appreciated their work. He always asked for results, he never really cared how hard his subordinates worked day & night, just to please him. They often worked late in night, worked their asses off just to please this one man, but this one man who hardly gestured to anyone was only concerned with results. On the other hand his subordinates hated him, they often spoke ill of their superior behind his back, Yaisr knew this well but he was never really bothered for he knew that his underlings had no option but to do his bidding because he paid them heavily for their work & he knew well that in this modern age & in this part of the world, where inflation kept on creeping, survival of the fittest had become an obligation for the working class & everyone longed to earn more & more Income.

Imran looked at the wall clock, it was 8:05am, he sighed heavily & made his way to office of his superior.

KNOCK KNOCK….

‘Come in’ said a heavy but a wavering voice. As Imran entered the room he was mystified as was everyone else by the majestic beauty that lay within. The room was a masterpiece of excellent architectural design. Made purely of Wooden Floor, which was polished & painted Green. On the wall to the left, was a large aquarium, hosting hundreds of different kinds of fish & on right hung paintings worth almost 140k each. Above was a large ceiling where affixed were the magnificent chandeliers & in the center, ahead of Imran, was  an elegant desk & behind the desk hung a well polished turtle shell which was very clearly more than 300k & there also stood the demon himself in the form of a mortal named ‘Yasir’.

‘Ah it’s you Imran, How have you been doing?’ Yasir asked. ‘Absolutely fine sir’ replied Imran. ‘I thought you would not show up today for work, but I am glad you did’. Imran thought to himself, who the hell informed him about Ali’s late night birthday party? Well may be Yasir heard it from someone, after all it’s Ali that we are talking about, the son of a prominent political figure Kashif Kamran. ‘Oh yea that sir, the party was really wild last night, but that didn’t keep me from reporting for my duty’ said Ali, with a bright smile on his face. ‘Party?! what Party are you speaking off? My boy you haven’t heard the word yet have you?’ replied his superior. Now Ali was confused, why would his superior call him to his office for a chit chat? ‘Word? No, Sir what’s going on?’ Ali asked. ‘You youngsters don’t read the newspapers these days, really irks me’ said Yasir in an annoying tone. Now Imran had started to feel the heat in the fully air conditioned room, his image had been tarnished, feeling embarrassed by his superior’s impression about him, Ali said ‘Is everything alright sir?’ ‘I wish it were, perhaps it’s best If I show you personally, accompany me to the morgue at 10am’ saying this Yasir dismissed Imran.

Imran headed back to his desk, as he headed back thoughts raced in his mind, all kinds of thoughts, ‘what could have gone wrong overnight? Why does Yasir want me to accompany him to morgue? What does any of it have to do with me?’

Chapter 3 ~ The Morgue

Imran tried to slack off work that day, he kept a keen eye on the clock, eager for the time to tick off quickly, but the more he seemed to take interest the less slowly the time seemed to have passed. ‘What is so important that Yasir wants me to see & that too at the Morgue?’ Never in his entire career had Imran been summoned like that to Yasir’s office & he never also had been asked to accompany his superior to any place at all. This was the first time that any of it had happened & that too for an old morgue.

It was 9:50am & Imran’s cellphone gave a beep. It was a text message from that read:

Parking Lot in 10mins. My Car…

Imran was further forced to ponder, what was so important that made Yasir type such a short message? Yasir was well known throughout his office as Mr. Formal, for he always preferred to type formal message. He didn’t care if they were long or time consuming, what he gave importance to was that the messages should be formal & complete in every sense.

Nevertheless, Imran made his way to the elevator. He was caught up in these mystery questions that he forgot to put away his paperwork & stationary in its place. He left the desk & rushed past a few of his colleagues, who by the way were too busy to notice any difference in Imran’s pace of movement. He reached for the elevator & pressed the button. The elevator was at 5th floor & Imran was waiting at the 3rd. When the elevator arrived & its door opened, it seemed that the elevator had no room for another passenger. Although the elevator was quite big for at least for six persons, but inside was Mrs. Junaid. a.k.a ‘Aunty 420’ & two other persons whom Imran barely knew.

Mrs. Junaid was a receptionist in the office. She was in her mid 40’s & had a flirtatious nature. This had earned her the nickname of ‘Aunty 420’, given to her by the young office employees such as Imran himself. Imran had adjusted himself in the corner, just behind Aunty 420. when the elevator reached at ground floor, Imran was truly relieved, for the smell of Mustard Oil from the hair of Mrs. Junaid, was killing Imran & he desperately wanted to get rid of her.

All the passengers, boarded off at the ground floor, except Imran. His destination was  two stories below the ground floor, into the basement at B2. The elevator reached B2 & Imran feasted his eyes as he saw a Blue BMW 750i waiting for him. Yasir was seated at the back seat reading the newspaper. When he noticed Imran, he summoned him inside.

Once Imran was settled in & relaxed, Yasir asked him, ‘Do you know Yousuf Altaf?’ ‘You Mean Yousuf Altaf the Son of Muhammad Altaf?’ asked Imran.  ‘Yes, well you see Imran, the thing is he is gone missing’. ‘Missing! How can someone like him go Missing? I mean, this guy moves around with 20 bodyguards, moreover he carries along with him at least 4 loaded handguns everywhere he goes & you say he is missing!’ ‘Apparantly Yes, he went missing last night, he was expected to arrive at the party of his good friend Ali Kashif but he never made it there & all of his guards were found dead not far from his from his house, but you seem to know him very well’, said Yasir  giving a quizzical look to Imran. ‘I had shared a class with him in college days, he was quite bit of an arrogant type, made a few friends, he  used to hang out with us. ‘Us?’ asked Yasir. ‘Yea Me & Ali Kashif Sir’ replied Imran. ‘You know Ali Kashif! said Yasir in a shocking manner. ‘Yea Why?’ asked Imran. ‘Nothing, nothing, it’s just not everyday that you meet with people who are best friends with a public figure’ replied Yasir.

They had arrived at the morgue, it was an old building, which was not quite properly maintained, mainly because of lack of funds & improper implementation of resources, nevertheless it was yet one of the best morgue services in the City. They entered the hall & at the reception Identified as Crime Scene Investigators. Government persons had a high authority in such cases. They could enter or leave any secure building provided that they had shown their positive IDs.

Chapter 4 ~ RooM 524

The staff led to them to the room where the body of Yousuf was kept. Inside Dr.Yaseen, an specialist from Yemen, who had settled in Pakistan for the past 5years, had examined the body & was ready to give a briefing about the autopsy report.

‘Ah Mr. Yasir, good to see you sir’ he greeted Yasir as if they were old friends. ‘Pleased to Meet You Dr. Yaseen, this is my Assistant, Mr. Imran’. ‘Quite a Young fellow you got there’ said Dr. Yaseen with a smile.

‘Please, come with me.’ he said. Yasir & Imran followed the 6foot tall, slender & tanned figure in front of them. They walked across the hallway, which was moderately white washed recently, some masonry work was underway up ahead. They kept walking for a few minutes until they finally reached a door that read ‘Room 524’.

‘It is said to be the largest morgue in the country’, Dr. Yaseen said with a hint of pride in his voice. ‘WoW, talk about being a freak’ Imran thought to himself. Dr.Yaseen put the hand to his pocket & produced forth a key chain, which contained several shiny silver keys, after analysing them with one quick glance, he selected the key to the ‘Room 524’.

‘Why have they kept this room locked anyway?’ thought Imran, but then Yasir Spoke. ‘Ah this room must be your most cherished one, isn’t it Doctor?’ Dr. Yaseen, didn’t quite seem to get the sarcasm in his voice & questioned back ‘& why is that so?’

‘Well why else would you keep this room locked up, provided that there are bunch of dead bodies & corpses in it?’ said Yasir.

Dr.Yaseen smiled back, keeping his calm & replied with dignity, ‘You are well aware of the unemployment rate that has been constantly creeping in the country, poverty sees no limits & it brings out the Devil Residing within us. These are such times, where people would sell off organs of the dead just to earn their living, Kidney Thefts are on the rise these days & most people suspect NGOs like us for playing a key role in helping these criminals. This is just a precautionary measure on our side to curb this evil practice.’

CLICK’

..Came the sound from the door that just unlocked. Imran had felt a surge of excitement & tried to imagine what a morgue looked like, for he had never been to one before in his entire life, although he knew what lay inside, or at least that’s what he imagined, nevertheless; as the Doctor turned the latchkey of the door, the moments seemed to have been passing in a slow motion for Imran, the seconds had seemed to freeze & although it hardly took  two seconds to swing open the door, but those 2seconds were being engraved in Imran’s head as one of the most memorable moments. For they were a beginning to a whole new exciting drama in his entire career.

The ‘Room 524’, was dark & it gave a look of the deepest blackest pit of a dry well. The Doctor switched on the lights, & the room lit & changed the atmosphere. It was a huge & humongous room with Cabinets on either sides & a single stretcher  in the middle. A body was placed on it. At a first glance, Imran was reminded of his childhood nightmare, The Frankenstein Monster, which brought a smile to his face.

Chapter 5 ~  The Mark

As the three men closed in on to the location of where the stretcher was placed, Imran was slowly starting to get the creeps by every step they took; inch by inch they came closer and then Dr. Yaseen spoke in his Yemeni accent. ‘You see Yasir, I headed the examination of this body and amazingly what we found two things particularly to be strange. Firstly it is this mark’. Dr. Yaseen handed the photograph to Yasir and continued to further explain and to Imran, he seemed like a lecturer who was tutoring a student as if Yasir was about to give his written exam tomorrow. Dr. Yaseen carried on, ‘You see; this mark resembles a curled up snake with its mouth projecting outwards from the center. We found it amusingly strange that the killer has branded him like he was some sort of Mule or an Ass’.

‘And what is the Second?’ asked Imran. Dr. Yaseen continue, the bullet we found was no ordinary bullet it was a customized bullet specially designed to kill in a single shot, leaving no chances of survival. you see the bullet was filled with Mercury; the killer wanted to ensure that his victim does not survive. Since Mercury is known for its poisonous reaction as soon as it touches the victims bloodstream, this ensures that whoever wanted to kill him made sure that he didn’t survive.’

‘And what’s this on his forehead?’ asked Yasir, Dr. Yaseen said,’this is where the victim was shot. Right between the eyebrows & when we were examining the body, we discovered that it was precisely centered in between his eyebrows; perhaps he had enough time to kill the victim’. Thank ‘You Very Much Doctor’ said Yasir. ‘I would like a copy of these files on the earliest possible’. ‘I will have Malik send them over to you, by tomorrow’ replied the Doctor.

Imran kept on wondering about the strange mark and asked himself questions such as, what did the mark meant? why would anyone brand a person in such a manner? & now he started to feel giddy, the more he thought he felt as if his blood from the feet was suddenly being drenched, for the mark was deeply embedded in the skin tarnishing several layers of the victim. What a cruel man he was to do such a thing indeed.

Now Imran’s thoughts raced to Mr. Muhammad Altaf, the father of Yousuf Altaf. M. Altaf was a Feudal Lord of Sindh, having his roots being traced to Balochi Descent. Given his influence within the government & his financial muscle, M. Altaf could easily get his hands on such classified documents. As Imran kept pondering, he was assured that M. Altaf had not yet received the news of the demise of his only son & Imran knew, had he known about the news; M. Altaf would surely go do the depths of the deepest ocean bottom just to avenge the death of his son. For it was a Popular Culture of the Balochi People, who followed the law ‘An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth’.

All of Imran’s thoughts were broken when he Yasir ordering  the Doctor, ‘Under any circumstance these files should Not be leaked out Muhammad Altaf. I will also ask Jacob to take extra precautionary measures & report him missing not until we find the person who is responsible for all of this mess’.

As Imran & Yasir headed back to their vehicle; Imran asked Yasir,”Who is this Jacob?’ Yasir did not reply, not until they were inside the car. After a  brief silence Yasir spoke, ‘Jacob is head of the Police Department; been in service for 30years & finally got promoted 2years back. An honest man that Jacob is’. Now Imran asked in amazement, ‘You have the rights to dictate the Police Chief?!” ‘Yes, and I also possess the right fire you’. Imran understood that Yasir was in no mood to answer anymore questions & therefore he kept quite for the rest of drive.

Chapter 6 – The Phone Call

Meanwhile Yasir & Imran were heading back to work; Muhmmad Altaf was resting in his posh Haveli (Pvt Mansion) located in the Desert area of Sibi, Balochistan. The history of the town goes back to 13th century & it is the hottest place within the country is 52.6 °C (126.7 °F). Sibi is known for many things, the deadly heatwave & the game that it provides for the hunters entertainment. The scorching heat could easily kill anyone within two days if he’d run out of water & food supplies, but there very things were loved by Muhammad Altaf; provided the riches at his disposal if he willed he could have easily spent a luxurious life in a luxurious villa in Islamabad.No one really knew why he loved to be in his Haveli in the middle of nowhere, except for his deceased wife, who had once questioned him the same question. To which replied, ‘Iam Baloch, born to this soil & I shall return to this soil. Therefore I must be accustomed to this land for when I get buried; I do not want to be thought of as a traitor of this land.’

Today he was sitting in his Haveli, reclining to against a takiya and smoking his from his hukka, thinknig about his beloved wife who was no more in this world. He was relishing her memories, living each one of them devouring each and every moment; when a servant walked in carrying the cordless phone and said, ‘Saeen, it is for you’. ‘Not now Jameel, I am not in the mood, whoever it is tell him to call back later’. The servant did was told, but the stranger said, ‘It is about Yousuf Altaf, son of your Saeen.’ ‘Saeen; he says it is about Yousuf Saeen’ said Jameel. M. Altaf ordered him to turn on the speaker & said ‘What is it?’, the heavy voice on the phone laughed & said so ‘your son means so much to you?’ ‘Do not was my time; I am not in the mood for Prank Calls’ said the Baloch. ‘Muhammad Altaf, if you don’t talk to me right now, consider your life to be over’ said the stranger. ‘You really are brave by calling me by my full name & also threatening my to death, but since I am in a good mood. I will spare your life; if you end this call right now’

Jameel knew that his master was not joking & meant every word of it as he spoke. Jameel had been by his master’s side ever since he was a child. Jameel knew all about his master. Now the stranger spoke again ‘Do you love sheesha?’ ‘M. Altaf chuckled and said ‘why do you ask?’ and the very next moment a gun shot was heard & the sheesha container lay shattered. Jameel was clearly perplexed & shocked but M. Altaf was unfazed by the shooter’s heroics for he had witnessed a lot of bloodshed in his entire life. He had even participated in tribal wars of Balochistan when was young. Now M. Altaf said, ‘You threaten a Baloch like me with your toys like the 25MM Pneumatic Sniper Rifle?’Now the stranger was perplexed & confused & wondered in amazement; how the hell did he know which gun was he operating? Nevertheless after a brief silence, M. Altaf said, ‘If you have nothing important to say, then I will disconnect the call’ After which the stranger spoke and said, I have killed your only son, Yousuf Altaf; last night and as a proof, I have placed the photographs in your drawer’.

M. Altaf, motioned Jameel & Jameel immediately understood what his master wanted him to do, he approached the drawer & opened it, picked up the envelope of the size of an A4 paper format & handed it over to his master. ‘Go on open it, don’t be shy’ said the stranger in his heavy demonic tone. M. Altaf followed the instructions like an obidient child listening to his parents, & to his horror, he saw the images of his beloved son, shot at point blank, branded like an Ass with a strange logo. ‘I assure you, these images are authentic & as a proof I have I also enclosed a copy of the autopsy report in the envelope as well. ‘Before you leave, I would like to know why did you murder my son?’ said M. Altaf. The stranger laughed & said, Yousuf was planning to enter into politics & given his character, I did a favour to a nation of 180million people. ‘Whoever you are, By Lord,  I will trace you & I am going kill you if that’s the last thing I would do’ said M. Altaf. ‘Well Good Luck’ replied the stranger & the call was disconnected. ‘Connect me to Ijaz Bhatti’ said M. Altaf in a stern voice to Jameel.

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My Top10 List of Annoyers!

Here is My list of Top 10 Annoyers:

10. The VIP movements here in Pakistan, are a real hassle, for it not only causes prolonged traffic jams but also wastes your precious time & to top it all, people that are behind you, keep honking their vehicle’s horn; Knowing fully well that this is a traffic JAM & there is No Where to go! – Welcome to Pakistan.

9. When You are asleep & in the middle of a wonderful dream, suddenly your alarm buzzes off & You Realise that, it was all in your head!

8. When You know that you haven’t studied throughout the year & tomorrow is Your Paper, the Day when YOUR fate would be decided. You Try your utmost to study & whenever you do, something is bound to happen, either some unexpected guests arrive or the electricity goes out! – Load-shedding is a Common feature of the Karachi Metropolis, so just Bear it!

7. When People ask you all the Obvious & STUPID Questions like, Oh You’re here already?… – Umm…NO, I suppose I am still on my way. Hello! Can’t You See I am here right in Front of You! or should I bring You a pair of Eye Glasses to WEAR!

6. When Your Teacher asks a question in the class & no one else wishes to answer & the teacher is forced to pick someone out, why does it always have to be YOU!

5. When friends try to interfere into your personal matters! – Excuse Me I need some PrivacY!

4. When You & your friends meet on weekly gatherings after Friday Sermons; & 4/5 of them only talk about Warcraft DOTA! – Argh…C’mon Grow up People!

3. When it Rains & You feel like going out for a Drive, but You CANNOT! Why? Because, all the roads are flooded & you are not sure which one has potholes & which ones don’t & mind you those that have potholes in them, they are of the size of a fully grown Walrus! – So You simply sit back at Home & enjoy the rest of your Day in Your bed like a Sick old Patient who can expire at any moment.

2. While Playing Chess, when You feel that You have cornered your opponent  & the Game Looks Pretty much over, Suddenly your Opponent Moves his Pawn Forward & there you have it! ‘THE ONLY MOVE THAT YOU FORGOT TO CALCULATE’ – Damn, this always happens when you plan a checkmate & overestimate your Opponent’s intelligence

1. When Your sms is simply ignored. Damn! That really pisses me Off!

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