POUND OF FLESH (Westland, 2016)

POUND OF FLESH (Westland, 2016)

They were at her door when his mobile rang: an unidentified number. Too tired to even wonder who it was, Ravinder took the call.

“How many times did we try to warn you?” The voice was gentle, almost friendly. But there was no denying the steel in it.

“Who is this?” Ravinder felt a cold shiver trickle down his spine.

“Does it matter?” The same, almost paternal, tone. “We tried to warn you to lay off. Many times. But you just don’t seem to get the message, sardarji. Now see what you have forced us to do?”

“Who is this?” Louder. Ravinder’s agitation was peaking rapidly. Surprised by his tone, Jasmine stopped crying. Ravinder felt her gaze on him.

“This time,” the caller continued as though Ravinder had not spoken, “to drive home the message, we have taken your daughter’s friend.” Ravinder’s breath slammed out of him. “Next time, if you don't keep your nose out of our affairs, it will be your daughter.”

“Who the . . .” Ravinder felt his heartbeat accelerate, explosively. The pain in his temples was now acute.

“Don’t interrupt, Gill.” The voice on the phone turned steely. “This time your daughter’s friend has paid the price for your stupidity. Next time, it will be your daughter.”

What . . . why are you doing this?” Ravinder spluttered, anger and fear clashing wildly. “What has Rekha got to do with it?”

“Rekha. Was that her name?” Now the caller seemed mildly amused. “She had nothing to do with it. But you do. Why must you poke your nose in things that don’t concern you? Why can’t you lay off when you are told to?”

“Please let her go.” Ravinder was fighting to get the words out now. He saw Jasmine staring at him, terrified. “Please.

“A bit too late, sardarji.” The voice was bitingly cold now. “Apparently she had a weak heart. Stupid bitch died just when we were going to give her the fucking of her life.” A harsh laugh, the verbal equivalent of an angry finger being jabbed in his face. “Oh well, she’s still turned out to be a valuable pound of flesh. The eyes, kidneys, lungs, heart . . . so much of unlocked value. Or maybe not the heart . . . who the fuck wants a weak heart?” Another cruel laugh. “Lay off, Ravinder Gill. Keep your nose out of our business, or your brat dies next.”

Then the line went dead. Ravinder couldn’t breathe.

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