The Suspect

Qadri Inzamam

He tapped the ground between his feet with a bamboo stick and brooded morosely as he leaned by a wall along a deserted road. It was third day of curfew and above, the sun shone more intensely than yesterday. In his olive combat-uniform, he felt uneasy as he sweat. The protective gears he wore on knees, shin and elbows put him further into discomfit. His helmet, which he did not want to take off, fearing a stone, felt heavier as he slumped.

A little far on his left, he felt something moving. He lifted himself up and craned his neck to see clearly. A hundred meters away, behind a densely stretched bush, he felt someone wearing a blue cap was skulking. A gentle breeze passed, waving the bush slightly and revealing the cap a little more. As the cap moved at the same instant, he was assured that someone skulked there. He must be one of the stone-throwers, he thought. From the many stones and broken bricks that were strewn on the road, he picked up a small stone and threw it at the shadowy figure behind the bush, but his throw could not cross the half of the distance. The protective gears on elbows made his arms stretch lesser and thus slowing his throw.

He stepped forward slightly, took out a slingshot from his pocket, put a stone in the elastic and aimed at the head of the shadowy figure behind the bush. Just when he was about to release the stone, the breeze wafted and moved the bushed slightly, and with it moved the cap. He paused and took the aim again and shot the stone. It missed the target.

Agitated, he shouted at the suspect and hurled abuses. He warned him to come out of the bushes or he would shoot him right in the head. But nothing moved and no one came forward. He went back to his earlier position, took his gun and asked his colleagues to tag along to grab the suspect behind the bushes. An armoured jeep drove slowly behind as a group of olive-uniformed, fully geared men marched towards the bush to nab the suspect.

“If he does not come out on the count of three, shoot the bastard,” his senior, who himself got into the jeep, ordered him.

“Yes Sir,” he responded, with a blind obedience.

Once near the bush, he warned the cap-wearing suspect to show himself on by the count of three or he would be shot.

“One…Two…Three,” he finished the counting and shot straight at the middle of the cap.

The silence that prevailed all around rattled as he fired. A flock of birds took off with a swoosh of their wings. The cap landed a few meters from the bush. There was no cry or any other sound that could assure them that the suspect had been killed.

They mustered some courage and marched forward together to check where the body might have fallen. They fired a few more shots though the bushes to take away whatever little life might have remained there. With the barrels of their guns, they rummaged through the bushes. There was no body lying around.

Right behind the bushes, a stick stood fixed into the ground and little above its centre, another stick was horizontally nailed to it. The overall structure was draped in a sackcloth. This torso of a scarecrow stood upright like a decapitated man whose head, the bullet-hit blue cap, lay upside down few meters away, with its upper part peeled off.

All of them, with their fingers on the trigger, fixedly stared at the beheaded suspect.

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