IT IS raining on the morning he leaves Shillong. It has rained for the past three days, alternating between drizzle and downpour. He looks out of the bathroom window as he brushes his teeth—grey skies, rain, pine trees on the far hills, red tin roofs—and feels an indefinable sadness in his heart. He quickly bids farewell to his mother and brother and walks through the rain with his bag to the car where his father waits.
He is dropped off at Police Bazar where a long line of Guwahati-bound Tata Sumos wait for passengers, their engines idling. A swarm of young touts encircle him as he gets down from the car; he allows one of them to lead him to the second Sumo in the line. He clambers into the last row where there is just one person at the moment.
Author: Ankush Saikia
Ankush Saikia was born in Tezpur, Assam, in 1975. He grew up in Madison, Wisconsin; Assam; and Shillong, Meghalaya.
He is the author of four novels, Jet City Woman (2007), The Girl from Nongrim Hills (2013), Dead Meat (2015) and Red River, Blue Hills (2015), and the forthcoming detective novel Remember Death. He is currently based in Shillong and Tezpur.
On the train coming back to Guwahati I realised that the only certain fact was that 15 dead bodies, including that of the gunman, had been found in the marketplace that day. And yet, my writer’s mind couldn’t stop coming up with further scenarios. Had Islary still been undecided about carrying out an attack when he got down in the market? What if the AK he was carrying under his raincoat had been meant for protection only? Had he counted on the absence of a police outpost at Balajan Tiniali to keep him safe? Was he there to maybe collect money from someone? Or might he have wanted to give himself up? Had he been surprised by the security forces, or had there already been someone at the market waiting for him? One of the things I had kept hearing was the presence of two or three men dressed in black. Might have there been a crossfire? Or was there just a single gunman involved, as claimed by the police, looking to lessen the pressure on his group by a terror strike? And could that claim have then influenced the testimony of the eyewitnesses I had met?
Ankush Saikia, chronicler of Shillong’s dark secrets offers up a chapter from his latest Thriller – Laimu, Drugs, Women and a deal somewhere near Myanmar