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The Hashishin’s Lair!

September 9, 2011

This is a perfect evening,” the man thought to himself and stretched his muscles, kicking away his sandals.

Major Riyas Mohammad sat on the beachfront leading to the famous Calangute beach in Goa, nursing a cold beer in a thatched hut. The cool breeze that came in from the sea had a tinge of salt in it; and he could hear the sea from a distance. The waves did not just break on the sand, they drenched his heart as well and a feeling of bliss permeated throughout his entire body.

It was the holiday season and with just a few hours left for the New Year and the whole town had a festive cheer to it. A lot of tourists, both Indians and foreigners had come into Goa to usher in the New Year and party hard.Goa was such a place where people could live in the moment and not bring in any emotional baggage!

Major Riyas Mohammad was no different. He had also come in to do the same as well. He just had to get away from his life; his work and his troubled past for atleast sometime. Working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had been his dream, right from childhood but as he took another sip of the beer, he realized that it had also scarred him for life.

It was not the long work hours; it was not the time when he had been undercover; it was not the failed marriage. He considered all that to be a sacrifice for his country. But working for the RAW had sucked away his ability to empathize with anyone or anything. All that remained was a black heart, devoid of any emotions.

Which was precisely why, he had come over to Goa leaving all his emotional baggage behind! He almost looked like a hippie or a wandering monk; with his scraggy beard, dark brown hair which had been gelled back and those green eyes. He was dressed in a white kurta and his wiry frame was small but one could not mistake the fact that he was in great shape, thanks to years of training. His looks carried the genes of both his parents; his desi looks and his square jaw thanks to his Malayalee dad and his brown hair and those green eyes betrayed his mother’s Iranian heritage.

I really think that it is time for dinner now,” and thinking of the Goan fish curry made his mouth water.

He paid the bill and started walking to his hotel. There were drunken people all over the place, enjoying their moment with destiny; hoping that the New Year would bring in the cheer!

Just then, his phone rang. Not the normal phone, but the secure one reserved for work! He was dismayed! The last thing that he wanted now was a call from office but in his line of work, it could not be avoided. He was one of the best agents in the department.

Identity yourself,” said the caller on the other end.

Riyas Mohammad,” he replied knowing that it was his boss, the inscrutable Mr. Sameer Sharma and then proceeded to give his security code.

It is a chilly evening and I don’t want you to catch a cold. Why don’t you head out to your hotel room? We have arranged for some medicine for you.

And the call went dead! There was a sense of urgency to his boss’s tone and he knew that he had to get back fast.

Riyas walked back to his hotel room as fast as he could without drawing attention and slipped into his room after checking that there were no intruders inside. It was something that had become an involuntary habit; just the same way that he slept with a gun under his pillow. On the bed was a package marked “Burn after reading.”

Aliya, so it is the next mission. Why am I not surprised?” he thought to himself and opened the file, which had small tablet pc in it.

He hit the play button after entering his code and his boss’s voice crackled into life.

We have received information from the IB that at 11:30 PM tonight, a hit has been planned at “The Shack” night club in Calangute. We don’t know who the target is nor do we have any information on who is planning the hit. Over the last couple of years, we have been receiving reports of a shadowy group who specialize in high profile assassinations and we have reason to believe that they are in this as well. Find and negate the threat!

Perfect,” said Riyas as he lit a cigarette and contemplated on the implications of the message. No longer was it a perfect evening for him! He looked at the watch, and it was already 9 PM and he only had just over two hours before it would go down. He quickly shaved, showered and put on some decent clothes, cleaned his gun and drove down to “The Shack” situated near the Calangute beach. His fish curry would have to wait!

“The Shack” had a reputation for being one of the best nightclubs in town; catering to the rich and the famous. Built near the beach, the club had an airy feel to it with its large expansive windows and loud music. The party had already started by the time Riyas reached the place and there were a lot of people, both inside and outside. The police too, were out on the streets, which was a good sign.

He was stopped outside by a bouncer.

20,000 Rs, Sir for entry,” he said.

What? 20,000! This is day light robbery,” replied Riyas but he paid up grudgingly. As every good Indian, he carefully saved the receipt so that he could bill it on the department later.

The dance floor was crowded as expected. The neon lights flickered incessantly and there was little space to move around. There was chaos all around, and he knew that it would be difficult to figure things out inside. So he ordered a beer and walked to a corner of the hall, where there was a slightly elevated platform. From that position, he could watch the entire dance floor and the bar. The best that he could do in the current situation was to see if he could observe anything, which seemed out of place; anything which broke the ordinary pattern.

It was 11:00 already and he focused on the crowd; observing every single person and assessing them. Ten minutes passed; fifteen and Riyas got a gradual picture of the club. People came in; people left but he could identify the people. It took immense concentration on his part and a pattern emerged; people who were the jocks; people who were drunk; people who were rich and people who were cheating.

Suddenly he spotted a man, who was standing in a corner, totally oblivious to the music and the crowd. He was a handsome man dressed in a suede leather jacket and tight jeans. The jet black hair was gelled back and he looked composed, which seemed totally out of place in the club. There was also something about the man, which interested Riyas. Confidence such as this could only stem from military training. He stood with natural elegance and a comfortable ease, which very few people possessed.

Riyas had nothing else to go on but that man. He was not sure but it was the best lead that had under the circumstances. Riyas also kept looking around desperate for any other lead but he could find anything.

It was 11:30 PM and the man started walking to the centre of the dance floor and from his jacket, took out a syringe and hid it in his right hand! Riyas knew that he had to move fast but without alarming the guy and so, he blended into the crowd and moved, discreetly towards the man.

He still did not know who the target was!

They had both reached the centre and Riyas was within an arm’s distance away from the man, when the man made his move. He took his syringe and was about to inject the person in front of him and Riyas had to move fast. As fast as he could, he reached out and grabbed the man’s right hand just in the nick of time!

The frenzied crowd around had no inkling of what was happening as they danced around the two stationary men, who both stood rooted to the spot. The assassin looked at Riyas in confusion but recovered instantaneously. With his free left hand, he lashed out at Riyas and got him square in the jaw. Any other man in Riyas’s position would have fainted at that moment but not Riyas who had taken many such blows in his life. He reeled back but never left his grip on the assassin’s right hand.

Fighting a conventional fight was out of the question in the crowded club and maybe, the man thought that Riyas had backup and so, he dropped the syringe and pushed Riyas away before fleeing to the door. Riyas at once followed, literally pushing people away as he chased after the assassin. There was supreme chaos as they both made their way to the door but finally they were out and the man started running towards the beach and Riyas followed.

The man was quick, but Riyas was not a slowcoach either. As he pursued the man, Riyas also called in for backup and asked the police to cordon off the club. As soon as the assassin reached the water, he stopped running; turned back and Riyas stood about 10 feet away from him.

Riyas had to say his usual line. “Dude, I am with the government. Drop your knife and surrender. Then it might work in the interest of both of us.

The assassin, looked at Riyas in the eye, and shouted out aloud in Arabic, “I, descendent of Hassan-i-Sabbah, having pledge my life to the ancient order, will kill you.

Man, this is getting crazy. Arabic here in India,” Riyas thought to himself. He had a working knowledge of that language.

The assassin then took out a mean looking knife from his jacket and the hilt of the knife was made of solid gold. With a war cry, he charged at Riyas. Riyas could have ended the contest with his gun in a matter of seconds but he wanted to bring in the man alive.

The man slashed right across Riyas but he was a second too late, because Riyas had ducked under the blow and aimed a punch to the man’s stomach. It was a perfect blow, one which would have stopped many in their tracks but not the man. He clearly was trained. And so, they fought on. Both were equally matched and skilled but the man had the upper advantage with his knife while Riyas was unarmed. Riyas, with his quick feet was just able to stay out of reach from the man’s knife. They were both testing out one another in a bout of strength and they both knew that only one would survive.

The next time the assassin charged, Riyas sidestepped to the left after feigning to the right, and he had a clear advantage, which he used to grab the man’s right wrist and jumped up, and landed a powerful round house kick to the man’s jaw. He knew at once that he had connected properly as he could hear a crunching sound as the assassin’s jaw broke. The man lost his grip on the knife, staggered back, and rolled over.  With blood oozing down his chin, the assassin took one quick look at the knife on the sand and then looked at Riyas again, but this time, it was different. There was fear in those eyes and Riyas knew that he had to do something before the man did something foolish.

As Riyas started running towards the man, the man took out a pill from his jacket and swallowed it. He was dead in a matter of seconds.

Shit! I should have stopped him.” Suddenly fire works filled the sky and he looked at his watch!

The New Year had started, literally with a bang for Riyas. With the adrenalin racing through his veins, he was in no mood to celebrate the New Year. He placed a call to his boss on the secure line and explained to him what had happened.

Sameer listened in rapt attention to what had happened and said immediately, “Just wait there, I will send someone to pick you up. I will have a plane waiting for you at the Goa Air base.”

Riyas asked, “What about the body?”

“Bring it along with you.”

Just before Riyas cut the call, he added, “One more thing. Find out who Hassan-i Sabbah was.

The Indian defense forces were not known to be efficient but Riyas was surprised to find himself in Mumbai at 2 AM, just two hours after the call with his boss. He knew that his boss must have pulled many strings for this to happen. Sameer was in office when Riyas got in, and asked Riyas to relax while they did a postmortem of the body. And Riyas poured himself a cup of coffee and waited in Sameer’s office.

After about 15 minutes, Sameer walked in, “We have reason to believe that the assassin belongs to secret clan, which operate within India.”

Did you find any evidence on the body?” asked Riyas.

This is what we found tattooed on the body near his hip bone. It was really miniscule, but we have enlarged it”. Sameer took out a file from his bag and showed Riyas a photograph.

Riyas had no idea what it was. “What the hell is this building?”

“I have my research team working on this as we speak. I also did my reading up on Hassan-i Sabbah. Here is the interesting thing. Hassan-i Sabbah was an ancient warrior in the Middle East; leader of a group called the Hashishins; a band of ruthless mercenaries who killed for money. The English word ‘assassin’ originated from them. They lived in their base Alamut from 1092 AD to 1265 AD until the Mongol invasion. It is further said that the Hashishins then moved into South Asia to escape from the Mongols. Isn’t it fascinating to think of the possibility that the descendents of that man started their business here in the subcontinent as well?

Here is another fascinating thing. They were Shiites; and as we know, they are a minority here in India, so finding that building should not be difficult.” 

Who was the target at Goa? I never got a chance to follow up on that,” asked Riyas.

We have that covered as well. It was Industrialist John Mathai’s son there. The assassin probably had the contract to kill him, but we also need to figure out who gave the contract.

Just then, Nilay walked into the room. A short man with a pudgy frame; he was one of the best researchers in the entire department. Riyas had often relied on him for information.

He said, “I have reason to believe that this is an obscure Imambara in Lucknow. I ran this building against all the Shiite architecture in India and this came up immediately. This mosque has been in disuse for the last 100 years.

Riyas looked at Sameer and with a broad grin said, “What are we waiting for? All I need is an NSG (national security guard) team waiting for me in Lucknow.”

Now this was something that he really liked!

By 6 AM, Riyas found himself with his NSG team in their headquarters in Lucknow. They went over the blueprint of the building and also discussed their plan of action.

Gentlemen, this is how it’s going to work. We will barrage our way in and hope to shock the enemy into submission even before they realize it. We will take them all in for questioning but if they fight back, you go in for the kill,” said Riyas.

By 6:30 AM, they had reached the decrepit Imambara. There was not a soul in sight and the building had a ghastly look to it as the morning mist had just started to clear.

The chief commander of the NSG squad came up to Riyas and said, “Our heat sensors have picked up activity inside the building and we have secured all the exit points. Let’s roll.

And they stormed the building. The team split into subgroups as soon as they entered the building, and made their way in. Riyas always preferred to work alone and climbed the expansive stair and made his way up, with his gun ready in hand. His nerves were on edge, ready for the slightest intuition of threat.

He could hear the staccato of gunfire from below and realized that his team had engaged the enemy. Cautiously, he made his way up, and just then, a middle aged man, burst out from one of the rooms. He had also heard the gunfire.

Freeze,” Riyas shouted.

The man stopped in his tracks and looked at Riyas. There was not an iota of fear in his persona, and that really troubled Riyas.

Riyas had to say his usual line and wondered why he always had to keep up this futile charade. “Dude, I am with the government. Surrender now. Then it might work in the interest of both of us.

The man smiled and said in Arabic, “I, descendent of Hassan-i-Sabbah, have pledged my life to the ancient order. Surrender is not an option.

And he switched to Hindi, “I don’t know how you guys found us. Our order has survived the Mongol invasion in the Middle East, has survived the Mughals, the Marathas and the British in India. We both know that it does not end here.

And then he charged like a crazy elephant, directly for Riyas!

Riyas had no other option but to pump bullets into the man! At that moment, the chief commander of the NSG squad came running up the stairs with his group.

He said, “We have secured the building. The enemy forces would not go down without a fight but we have captured a few alive whom we can question.

And then, he ran down again to rejoin his team.

Riyas then became acutely aware of an overpowering silence that had filled the room and he then slowly walked up to the dead man.

Enemies will rise and enemies will fall. Heroes will rise and heroes will fall. If there is one thing I know, it is that it never ends! Not for people protecting this country; not for people who walk in the path of dharma!

PS: This is a work of fiction and the third in the series which involves Major Riyas Mohammad. The previous two are “The Roman Hoard”, “The Lost Rihla”.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Cocktail Party permalink
    September 16, 2011 7:50 pm

    Woa! I felt like watching a James Bond film except that It sounded more like mallu version of the original plot…But I must say good imagination…:)
    OG: hey Thanks! for reading thru the entire post 😛 !

  2. Rajani Ram permalink
    September 22, 2011 7:03 pm

    I like it…. waiting for more of Riyas Mohammmad … keep writing…
    OG: Thanks dude!

  3. September 26, 2011 6:15 pm

    Awesome stuff! I got around to reading this only now. You could start a proper set of series with this dude!!
    OG: thanks! that is kinda the plan!
    P.S.: You got a fan following now. The one who commented above is my sister-in-law 😀
    OG: athu sheri!

    • September 26, 2011 6:16 pm

      Phew! That was one helluva long read 🙄
      But totally worth it! 🙂
      OG: yeah, I am trying to write longer stuff!

  4. October 22, 2011 10:49 am

    OHG.. now I is this parts from the book that you have always wanted to write… you have a wild imagination… … I felt I was in a movie sequence…. waiting for more… keep it going… Night Shyamlan in the making…

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