The idiot that dared to betray him knelt before Darion. Half of the unfortunate’s face oozed blood, but not enough. He delivered a well-aimed punch to his temple. The man’s head snapped back. Beyond screaming, he fell onto the pavement. Darion wiped his bloody glove on the man’s shirt.
“Where are they?” Darion asked, his voice calm as he moved away.
Two of Darion’s imported muscle flanked Batriti, his point man in India, and lifted him.
Batriti’s battered lips moved. “I told you. Bollyman took them.”
Darion laughed. “Can you stop with that Bolly-crap? You promised fifteen pieces of merchandise. Fifteen, Batriti. And what happened with last month’s quota?”
He kicked him just above the groin and turned away from the crumpled mess.
Shit! How hard can it be to pick up fifteen girls off the streets of Mumbai?
Darion and his men stood in a run-down, open courtyard. Clotheslines crisscrossed the upper stories of the ramshackle tenements surrounding the otherwise quiet space. Laundry snapped back and forth in the warm air rising off the pavement, cover from any prying eyes.
The stench of the city’s largest waste heap was never far away, but tonight, the air tasted clean. Light filtered into the courtyard from an adjacent parking structure.
This was where they finally caught up with Batriti — at his home. The idiot hadn’t even bothered to run. That upset Darion the most: Batriti showed no fear.
Darion spat into a dry, circular fountain that sat in the center of the courtyard. “Bolly-bullshit.”
“Do you doubt our gods, too, Darion?”
Darion looked up. Who the f–?
A man stood atop the far corner, third floor balcony. He wore dark trousers and a black, hooded sweat shirt, his face hidden in the shadows. He leaned against the metal railing, his thin frame silhouetted in the dim light.
Behind Darion, Batriti whispered, “Bollyman.”
Darion, not interested in small talk, commanded his men, “Take him out — quietly.”
Darion’s right hand man lifted his silenced glock, aimed and fired.
His target launched over the railing before the bullet reached him. He flipped and landed in a crouch three stories below, hidden by the dead fountain.
The music started when his feet hit the ground. As Darion’s men re-positioned to bring the leaper into range, water burst from the fountain. Strobe lights filled the courtyard and dozens of women, dressed in midriff-baring saris, danced into the courtyard, surrounding Bollyman. They pulsed in time with the rising club beat.
Darion barked a laugh and said to his men, “Holy Bollywood!” They stood around, transfixed by the scene before them, grins from ear to ear.
The music reached a body-thumping decibel level and Bollyman jumped up, now dressed in flowing white trousers and a matching silk shirt. It hung open, exposing perfect abs and a strong, wide chest. His dark hair flowed behind him in a wind that only he felt.
He belted out a remix version of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman’s opening lines. The dancers’ arms pumped into the air, their movements synchronized with Bollyman’s hip thrusts and steps.
Batriti lay motionless, unmoved by the spectacle. Darion and his men watched the show and, against their better judgment, started to sing along.
The dancers moved about Darion’s men, doling out caresses, and encouraging them all to join in. Heads bobbled to the dance beat, all the while Bollyman sung and danced on the wet fountain rim.
His gun in one hand, Darion grabbed one of the girls by the waist, bringing her close to him as he pressed his hips into hers. Light flashed on something in her hand and Darion felt a scratch on his arm. He looked down at a dark stain blooming on his shirt sleeve as his gun clattered to the ground.
Anger boiled within as he realized the dancer had cut him. He screamed as he slammed his right hand into her face and met no resistance. Stumbling forward, the music beat faster. Women swirled about him, eluding his grasp. It was then he noticed the women had knives. And they were using them. His thugs dropped like flies.
He ducked and picked up his Glock with his uninjured hand. Darion stood up just as Bollyman leapt from the fountain with two short-barrel rifles aimed at Darion’s chest. Bollyman flew through the air, his body horizontal.
As Darion tracked his flight, the strobe lights flashed, and the music surged. A spray of bullets tore apart his abdomen and peppered his chest.
Pain dulled eyes watched as Bollyman landed hard on his side, a grimace on his chiseled face. The music slowed, the volume lowered.
Darion lay with his head propped up against the courtyard wall. Taking ragged breaths, he stared as Bollyman’s clothes morphed back into pants and sweatshirt, and his body back into normal proportions. Dancers faded into the walls and thin air.
Panting, Bollyman walked over to Darion and crouched on his heels, looking down at the dying man. Shadows under his hooded sweatshirt blurred his features.
“Who — ” Blood filled Darion’s throat. He spat. “Who the hell are you?”
Bollyman leaned towards Darion, his face pushed out from under his cowl, cocked to one side.
Just another Mumbai street rat, Darion thought. No one special.
Darion focused on the rat’s left eye. Every imaginable color swirled, and then coalesced into an actinic hole that reached into infinity.
He gasped as his life replayed. In a split second, he knew that Bollyman knew. Knew Darion’s life, his sins, his contacts.
Reaching forward and placing his hand over Darion’s eyes, Bollyman closed them for the last time. As his eyelids descended, Darion glimpsed Batriti’s dead eyes, staring at his own crimes. Dying, Darion heard Bollyman’s footsteps tapping a soft beat against the ground as he left with the last fading notes of the music.
Nila E White thinks it could be worse.