“The pasta’s good,” Loco said.

Across the table, his partner nodded.

“I especially like the way they make it over here. One of the best places for Italian cuisine in Mumbai, this. But we’re wandering. We were discussing…”

“I know, I know. But you know what? Shit happens.”

“Shit does happen. But this easily gets classified as one of the top three weird things I’ve heard of till date.”

Loco said nothing.

“You know, for a minute, when the Boss told me you wanted to quit, I thought it was some elaborate joke. Then he told me why you were doing it, and somehow, I believed it. I mean, only you can quit doing something you’re best at for a girl,” his partner said.

“THE girl,” Loco corrected.

“What’s the difference?”

“It’s a bit complicated,” Loco said, sipping his drink. “But basically, A girl is just another girl, but THE girl is the one……well, the one you quit being a killer for, simply speaking.”

“Right, right,” his partner nodded.

A silence followed as both men focused on their food.

“There isn’t a chance, is there? For anything between you and her?” his partner finally asked.

Loco shook his head.

“However much I’d like to say otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be any chance.”

“Damn sad.”

“You believe in destiny?” Loco suddenly asked.

“Say what?”

“Destiny, fate, karma…that sort of thing? You know, stuff that says there’s a grand plan for all of us, and fighting it ain’t no use?”

“Not really. That would mean I’m taking my orders to kill people from the Almighty, not the Boss,” Loco’s partner chuckled. Loco didn’t laugh.

“It was almost like destiny,” Loco said pensively. “Almost like…you know, someone or something didn’t want me to change. As if this is what I’m supposed to be and the minute I try to stop being that, this fate-destiny thing intervenes…”

“Hey, Brooding Hitman, can it. You’re freaking me out,” Loco’s partner said uneasily. “Look, give it a rest, okay? Don’t think so much. You’re disturbed right now. But…”

“I was disturbed,” Loco said, pushing away his plate. His partner sat back and stared expressionlessly at the change that seemed to come over Loco in a moment. “I was thinking it’s damn unfair that after years of leaving nothing to hope or chance, the one thing that I sincerely hoped for could not happen.”

Loco paused, then went on.

“I spoke to the Boss in the evening.”

“And…?”

Loco sat back and locked eyes with his partner.

“Three men. Staying in Santacruz. Armed.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Deadline?” his partner asked then.

“24 hours. Boss says it’s a sensitive matter and they need to be eliminated quickly.”

“Hardware?”

“Two Berettas, loaded and silenced, in the trunk of my car. Two spare ammo clips. And I got a change of clothes and a mask for you.”

Loco’s partner gazed steadily for several seconds. Then he turned to a passing waiter.

“Buddy…can we have the check please?”

To be Continued…

Gautam Mengle