A punitive ring of the telephone jolted him from his slumber. ‘Again!’ he thought. With quivering hands, he lifted the receiver. The message, like always was unadorned, flawless and hauntingly mysterious. But today, the content was different. It was shorter today. The three words pierced into him like even a bullet wouldn’t have. Three simple yet petrifying words – ‘It is time’.
The man was Dan Aronofsky, a Russian multi-billionaire, now an American national, perhaps the wealthiest and the most influential person in Pasadena, where he resided, or more precisely, presided. And unquestionably, the entire city supported and was in awe of him…until that dark spot rose against him and his unblemished angelic career. After several accusations of his alleged connections with the underworld, specific witnesses of crime by him and his fellow cronies, Dan not only paid a fortune to clear all the charges but also with his dominant charge made sure that people against him were paid their dues – in kind. But, qualms still remained. Questions were asked and remained in people’s minds, unanswered and snowballing. And gradually, his portrait in the society diminished, his company deteriorated.
From a fine-looking young man, Dan had turned into a ghost, a monster, a clear contradiction of his previous poised, suave self. He became progressively irascible, distrustful and eventually, a chain-smoker with alcohol concerns. Except his innate prosperity, he had nothing left; no friends, no family but just a cluster of colleagues who remained with him more out of fright than of allegiance. He now had pudgy eyes – downfallen and shadowy -, a protuberant belly – bloated and formidable – and an intimidatingly rigid façade with an almost usual sinister look.
The phone was hanging off the hook now and a feeble disconnected tone was haunting, the only thing even vaguely perceived. A bead of sweat trickled down from Dan’s temple, moving, slowly down his beaten, unshaven cheek, finally breaking off his murky, dishevelled face onto the cold marble floor. He stood there, unyielding, alarmed, dazed. And he knew the truth – he had done a lot of unscrupulous, ruthless things to people under his saintly halo; and one of them was back with vengeance.
He had been receiving these menacing calls since a while ago now. When it first started, he thought it was a gag, a hoax to scare him off his mind. But then, it never stopped. By then, Dan using his fiscal command and paranoid self had already installed state-of-the art security devices in his mansion and men to intercept the call and if successful, the caller, but to no avail. It was always an unknown number from ambiguous parts of the world but it was always the same time, the same voice, the same fearless, confident tone. And this amount of concealment freaked Dan out.
He vigilantly walked out of his extravagant bedroom to check the monitoring tapes from his high-end security system, a luxury he possessed. Intact, as the gadgets were, he strode towards the monitoring room, taking a quick detour through the kitchen. He needed a beer, he needed a relaxant straightaway. The voice on the phone still contained his mind, slaughtering him slowly. He walked down the elaborately designed stairway, now murky and low-spirited, his silk night-suit swishing weakly in the dark night, his footsteps echoing down the corridor.
Meanwhile, at an obscure location on top of a tall building, a man, stealthy and cautious, clad in black watched intently as a man in a house below opened the refrigerator door and the light flickered on. He had his orders. He knew what to do. Down in the same house, the same man walked towards a room filled with televisions and monitoring equipment. Hoping to catch a breeze, Dan unbolted the window. And that was the opportunity the man in black was waiting for. A moment later, that man in the silk night-suit slumped in a pool of blood on the cold marble floor. The deed was done.