Adnan was furious not only at Basheer but also at his men.
“You scoundrels are a useless lot. Get lost from here and don’t show me your faces.” His men disappeared from his sight at once.
He was pacing the lounge in acute anger. There was an explosive silence in the lounge. He had checked the outskirts of the farmhouse with his men and couldn’t find a trace of Ilaaf or the car. He was sure that Ilaaf would have already taken Qandeel to her home. He couldn’t believe Ilaaf had the nerve to do such a thing. He was nearly driven to either beat his men to the pulp or throttle himself. It was long after dawn. He was chewing his tongue in anger when he heard a car outside. He resolved to put aside his friendship today. It was high time to confront Ilaaf for his actions. Escape of Qandeel when the case was about to be decided was catastrophic. If the court would decide in their favor, then there was a little chance for Qandeel and other’s to go to the High Court. But Ilaaf ruined it in last moment and took her to her home. He cursed this newfound obsession of Ilaaf. It was very exasperating. He was thinking all of this when the door opened and Ilaaf came inside. He kept on going ignoring Adnan. His gait appeared unusual to Adnan; like a gambler who has gambled away all of his assets and now has nothing to fall over at. The same defeat was visible in his manner. But Adnan didn’t want to think about anything.
“You have done your duty towards your love Ilaaf, but remember that now you will be responsible for whatever comes upon Qandeel. Neither me nor Uncle Qaiser can take the guarantee of Qandeel’s safety. He’ll shortly be reported of your endeavor while I was sleeping and you very well know what will ensue then.” Ilaaf stopped and without facing him, listened on. “I don’t think he’ll take the risk of turning over his prize when he’s so close to winning it. And you are aware of the lengths he can go to make sure he wins. If you could just keep your side of bargain then he too would have spared Qandeel. But now he wouldn’t do so.”
Ilaaf turned slowly towards Adnan. His eyes were devoid of any feeling. Ilaaf stared at Adnan for sometime and then spoke, his voice dripped off emptiness.
“Adnan Bhatti, nor you or my father, Qaisar Lashari are God. I will take care of Qandeel myself with the help of my Lord.” Adnan felt something unusual in his tone.
“I have been listening to you people all this time so that I could save Qandeel somewhat but what was the outcome. First she was defamed because of me, then her name was dragged through the news, she was kidnapped in broad daylight and finally she was orphaned.” Adnan couldn’t fathom the reason of this expressionless outburst. “Her father died. She is ruined.” Adnan was perplexed. “I couldn’t hold her back from seeing her father for the last time. I couldn’t become the part of the cruelties inflicted upon her, again and again, by you people anymore. Enough is enough.” His eyes were fearless like that of a soldier who is longing to embrace his fate, standing in the frontline.
“You and Qaiser Lashari can go on, keep on waging. I don’t have anything to lose now to make a puppet out of me.” Adnan was well alarmed now. Ilaaf’s fearlessness was ringing too loud to ignore. “Qandeel has rejected me, this world means nothing to me, I don’t give a damn about life, I would rather hold on to death. I will lay down my own life even if I wouldn’t be able to protect her.” He sounded like a suicide bomber who doesn’t care about anything but his objective. Qandeel was Ilaaf’s sole purpose and Adnan was sure he would take anybody’s life in order to fulfill it. “Keep that in mind and tell that to Qaiser Lashari as well.” He turned his back on Adnan and went to his room.
Adnan was flabbergasted. He was seeing Ilaaf like this for the first time and he was quite frightened with his new countenance.
He sat down on the sofa head in his hands. He was trying to think about the next strategy in these new circumstances. He felt sad for the sudden death of Qandeel’s father but he still held the same opinion that she was the sole responsible for the present state of affairs. Interfering into someone else’s business would result in the same manner as happened with her, he thought bitterly. But Ilaaf… He couldn’t deduce exactly what was becoming of him. It was as though the girl had bewitched him. Ilaaf was not the same as he used to be. He was no more able to see or understand things properly. If Adnan didn’t care enough about Ilaaf, he would have dealt with her long before. He had never been interested in this particular specie anyway. He had never given consideration or respect to any woman but Bay-Jee and Natasha nor had he ever learned to do so despite of being incessantly advised by Agha Jan. He never came around the fact that the woman could have the splendor in this world. He always took them for granted and expected them to remain silent and passive until ordered otherwise. He always strongly despised headstrong, stubborn, and arrogant women. In the case of Qandeel, he was propelled to shoot her or throw her to his dogs on mere sight. He was bearing her for the sake of Ilaaf only. He could get involved with an opposite gender in the passing but he was strongly against of giving them any freedom or heresy in any matter at all. It infuriated him whenever she would berate Ilaaf brutally. Though Ilaaf always responded to her with affection, it increased Adnan’s hate for Qandeel manifold.
He couldn’t decide on his own what he should do so he called Qaiser Lashari and told him about the recent events. He also cautioned him about Ilaaf’s condition. Qaiser uncle listened to him silently and then ordered him to keep an eye on Ilaaf.
Adnan was a little relieved now. He thought of checking on Ilaaf, just to see what he was up to now. He hurried over to Ilaaf’s room but he saw him coming out of it, his hands filled with his stuff. He was going back as there was no more reason to stay. He stopped at where he was. Ilaaf saw Adnan standing there but ignoring him called out to Rishi.
“I am going to home. Come with me so that you can bring the car back.” Rishi nodded and accompanied him. Adnan watched him silently. Then Ilaaf called Noori.
“Did you clean her room? Did she leave anything there?”
“Yes Sayien. Her clothes and…”
“And?” Adnan and Ilaaf both looked at her inquisitively.
“Bibi’s chain.” She extended it to Ilaaf. The chain had a pendant also. Ilaaf handled it like a sacred object and gazed at it. Meanwhile Noori brought her clothes in a shopping bag. Ilaaf put the chain in his pocket and handed the bag to Rishi. He came to where Adnan was standing. They both eyed each other.
“Before harming Qandeel keep in your mind that I will not take a moment to forget that you were my friend.” Adnan was least prepared for this blow. He gaped at Ilaaf who already headed for the exit.
That day he was like a wounded wolf in the farmhouse. The fact that he, Ilaaf’s oldest friend, was nothing as compared to that ordinary girl was very infuriating. He always loved Ilaaf and stood by him like his elder brother. And Ilaaf, in return wrote him off just like that. His hate for Qandeel proliferated some more.
Qaiser Lashari called in the evening.
“I have discussed it with Muazzam. Everything is in control so we don’t need to sweat over a single thing. I have already met with magistrate and requested him to decide the case in the next hearing, as there is no reason to drag it anymore. Qandeel is also tackled.” Adnan wondered inwardly what that tackling might be. “She is no more dangerous for us. Her four days absence and the accounts through Asghar and other newspaper persons about Qandeel in the last hearing will be enough to discard her as a witness. Saqib Hassan also couldn’t come up with a witness other than Qandeel so I am positive that the case will be decided in our favor. Even her presence in the court will prove to be futile.”
“But I am still concerned that Ilaaf may try to disrupt this chance. He’s not in his senses.” Adnan voiced his fears.
“I have thought it out too as well, Adnan.”
“What is it?” Curiosity and dread fought inside him.
“We will add sleeping pills in his glass of milk, that way he will not be able to wake up on time and attend the hearing. I also cannot afford to take any risks bringing him to the court. I want this case to be decided – and in our favor- once and for all.” Adnan pursed his lips but it was the only possible course left for them to avoid any more adversity.
Adnan’s tension mitigated now that he knew their next strategy. The thing that still bugged him was Ilaaf’s ever-increasing madness for Qandeel. He had no way to abate it even a degree. He was in the lawn after the dinner when Agha Jan called.
“When are you coming back to Lahore?” Agha Jan inquired at once.
“Soon Agha Jan. Why, is there any immediate matter?” He asked obediently.
“No. I heard you are co-operating with Qaiser Lashari in Ilaaf’s case so I wanted to caution you.” He was not the one to beat about the bush.
Adnan knew at once that he got his news from authentic source or else he wouldn’t have talked in this particular tone.
“I didn’t help in it except in court matters. And of course I had to be with Ilaaf in these difficult times.” He didn’t want to deny him directly.
“Still--- I don’t want you to get involve with wrong people. And I heard that the girl, who was a witness against Ilaaf, disappeared. Did Qaiser Lashari and Ilaaf kidnap her?” Adnan wanted to tell Agha Jan that this is the same girl who has made Ilaaf blind to whole world but he kept quiet because he also didn’t want to give him the impression that he is involved in her kidnap. Agha Jan would never have approved of his ‘activities’. He had never even known what was his ‘enterprise’ as of yet.
“I am not aware about any such thing, Agha Jan.” He replied innocently.
Agha Jan instructed him again to be good and behave himself, which he ignored like always then he disconnected the call.
Talking to Agha Jan made him speculate, yet again, how much different personalities they had. He was his only son yet he wasn’t a bit like him. Where Agha Jan was a levelheaded, compassionate, compromising, empathetic person, Adnan was aggressive, cruel, passionate and temperamental. Agha Jan always encouraged him to leave his ways and to be moderate but he ignored his advice and remained stuck to his old rash attitude.
He was always agitated, furious, and irritated. He never felt lofty, heart touching emotions in his life. It was as if he was born with a stone heart.
Then his thoughts steered to Ilaaf and the fact that how Qandeel came between them. He imagined Ilaaf’s reaction when he would find out that he had missed the session in the court and again he failed to do anything for Qandeel. Those two days were spent in thinking about the coming events. Then despite of himself, he visited Ilaaf on the day he was going to be drugged. Ilaaf was deep in thought when Adnan arrived at his place. Adnan was careful to keep to the light topics. They were silent most of the time. Ilaaf was same- desolate- as he was two days ago. Adnan’s heart went out for him.
Ilaaf insisted that Adnan stay for dinner, though neither of them made an attempt on conversation. Smokes loosened him a little and Adnan felt that Ilaaf might be coming around. It was getting late so Adnan was thinking of leaving when Fazal brought Ilaaf’s glass of milk. Adnan could clearly see Fazal is edgy when he put the glass on the side table. However, Ilaaf was very oblivious of it because he was not paying much attention to almost anything.
Adnan stood up to leave. Ilaaf shook hands with him. Adnan shirked, for a moment, at the image of Ilaaf drinking that glass but like a wave it passed quickly and he was at peace that now everything will go according to their plan.
(Special Thanks to Noor-e-Hira Shamim for translating this post)