The tension in the room was enough to make even the toughest of the tough break out in a sweat. Guns were drawn and as my eyes roamed over those present before me I felt my pulse hammer waiting to see what would happen.
The room itself was a private dining room in a country mansion on an even more private estate in the countryside, several hours outside of New Delhi. From the outside the house had been fairly large but nothing flashy and attention-getting, but on the inside it was almost gilded, such was the glitter and gold and finery that covered every inch. In no room was this more apparent than here in the dining hall that was acting as the meeting room for this group of five of the most powerful underworld figures in all of South-East Asia.
Smack in the middle of classical art on walls, silken curtains that billowed lightly in the late summer breeze, pure gold fittings encrusted with rare gems and finest china and silverware stood the grand Victorian table – and at the head of this table was standing Pratabh Khambatta. He was arguably the most powerful man in India, his empire both legal and illegal spanned the country and had tendrils reaching beyond and his influence was undeniable from the darkest street to the most lofty and shadowy heights of power in the country. Such was his power that none dared to risk any move against him.
It was Khambatta who owned this place and it was he who had invited these others, his peers from nations nearby and even a known radical terrorist. Why? I was the chef, overseeing the grill nearby and it was not my place to know what was here, in fact all the staff here had been paid handsomely to serve and be deaf, dumb and blind the whole evening. Of course the fact that any one of the men here would not just have us killed (if not kill us outright themselves) but would systematically tear our lives apart and make our families and friends pay for any transgression, that was an added incentive.
Things had been going well and the meal and negotiations and conversations had seemed civil enough. They had been discussing the world we lived in, the politics, industry and doing so as if playing a game of chess – it had been chilling and I could see throughout the courses of food and drink we had served that all the staff was visibly shaken and terrified at the things they heard even more on top of the fear they already had at simply being present.
Around the table now however, all the men were on their feet. It had started with a simple message vibrating Khambatta’s phone and though I only made out snippets, his expression immediately darkened and he stood up. Before anyone realised what was happening, voices became raised, accusations of espionage and dishonesty roared across the table and the civility vanished like the thin veneer it had been all along as these vicious warlords of our modern age let more and more of their true selves show. Soon the individual guards they had brought slowly moved to each back up their respective employers. The tension level continued to rise and with the normally restrained Khambatta who was the most diplomatic of the lot in a rage, there seemed no one and nothing that could slow down this train. More accusations and protests and threats flew around and soon the table was divided, people were shifting and moving in their allegiances and even this was thin at best as suspicion was clearly aimed at each other.
Slowly I had moved away to behind one of the huge stone columns that lined the round room and tried my best to motion to the others to step away as well and those that looked toward me did the same. I didn’t know what would happen but self-preservation is the oldest instinct we possess.
Khambatta seethed at the idea that someone had come into his house and broken into his offices and hacked into his private data network from his office terminal here was unforgivable. We who worked for him were all vetted and the guests and their security were the only ones who were unknown quantities and would all stand to gain. Things might have quieted down, even as all this was going on but the radical at the table then did what came naturally to him and drew a weapon not aimed at anyone in particular and roared about his innocence in the eyes of his Gods and spat at any accusation on his character. That was somehow the spark that ignited a blaze as weapons came forth from all sides and between the guests and their backup, their was near a dozen men standing in a circle with weapons aimed in all direction. Not a single man on the table stood without at least one gun aimed right at him.
Why had they all carried weapons instead of leaving them outside this civilised meeting? Perhaps because being the kind of men they were and living the lives they did, it was not an option.
As I huddled with a young waitress behind the big stone column, I could see the standoff and the very room felt like it was silently pounding like an adrenalin charged heart. My right hand went inside my jacket and I felt the woman next to me squeeze my left and her nails dig into my skin and I felt her whole body quiver with fear.
Suddenly a loud BANG rang out and before I could focus on anything, a hail of shouts went up, bodies started to move and a cacophony of explosions and things breaking filled the hall. I huddled down held the waitress close to cover her and for several seconds that stretched on seemingly endlessly, gunfire echoed and expanded in the high ceilinged hall and I tried my best to keep low and behind my cover.
Soon the noise stopped and I lifted my head, waiting, listening, for anything at all. There was no more gunfire. I could make out moans and some cries of pain. I even heard what sounded like gurgling and my mind showed me pictures of a dying man drowning in his own blood. Slowly, tentatively I shifted and put a finger to the waitresses lips as she started to make a whimpering sound as I moved. I peeked around my hiding spot and saw a room covered in carnage and gore.
Blood and bullet-holes were everywhere. Bodies lay strewn around, some had fallen where they stood before the shooting began, others had obviously tried to move around but in the end it looked like not a single one had escaped intact. The dying had sprayed the whole hall with their blood and the whole floor seemed to have changed colour as they pools around each body kept growing.
I got up and as quietly as I could stepped out from behind the column and looked over the bodies. Everyone was either dead or soon to be so, everyone except the host, Pratabh Khambatta, it was he whose attempt at breathing I had heard earlier. He sat slumped in his chair, two gaping bullet holes in his torso, blood pouring from his lips but still stubbornly keeping himself upright and pressing down on his wounds. A few on the floor crawled, trying to get somewhere, anywhere but where they were I suppose.
“Everyone out! Get out now! Go home and remember, this never happened, you were never here!” I yelled out as I could make out in my scan of the room all the staff members who had hidden.
As they scrambled out, skirting the edges of the room to avoid the bodies and blood, I felt a tug at my chest. Many were physically unscathed but there were a few who had clearly frozen in place or not acted fast enough or hidden well and caught stray bullets, dying alongside these evil men. Soon the room was empty and I could hear the fading sound of running feet and soon the roar of minivan engines starting up from outside the kitchen.
I knelt down beside the man who had been the radical’s bodyguard, from his hand I took the semi-automatic pistol and saw that it had four bullets left in the magazine. The breeze still flowed in from outside but it was slight and the smells of the spilled food and wines mingled in the air with the metallic tang of blood.
Cautiously I started to make my way around the table and saw that five men, including Khambtta, were still alive and going to each one of the four on the floor in turn, I quickly and calmly put a single bullet right into each of their heads. Ejecting and reloading with a new magazine I had found on the dead mans holster, I approached Khambatta who weakly reached out to grab his gun from the floor, his bloody fingers grazing the weapon but the slickness making it hard to get a grip. Nonetheless I had no intention of letting him actually pick it up and so I put a bullet into the hand as I stepped closer and he screamed out a half scream, half gurgle and sat back on his now utterly blood-soaked chair.
“You…” he tried to speak, looking at me, perplexed at my actions. The light of life dimming in him as his heart worked against him and pumped out the blood he needed to live and his formidable mind tried to fill in the blanks.
“Yes. Me.” I said, reaching once again inside my jacket and pulling out a tiny data card.
“Spy… chef…” Comprehension dawned on his face even as he gasped for breath, followed by flickers of rage and then more desperation as if his mind were in conflict. For a moment I think I even saw a smile cross his lips.
“This was never meant to happen, it was just meant to be for some mostly harmless information – whats on this disc is probably worth little to you in reality. But now…” I said as I looked around, “I suppose in a way this couldn’t have gone any better. Things will go into flux and there will be damage, but the world probably a much better off place without all of you in it. Oh and I disabled your security system when I hacked into your system, it was running but the recorders were offline so no one will ever really know what happened here.”
Now his face was all rage and he started to pull himself up and started to speak. I raised my gun and fired two quick shots right into his forehead and between his eyes and his formerly formidable brains now coated the majestic antique chair he had so proudly sat in not long before, I’m sure he had a lot to say but I had no interest in hearing it.
My work done, I headed to the garage. I would need a ride and they had all come in some very impressive cars, not to mention Khambatta’s own sports car collection. After all this, I figured they wouldn’t mind and I might as well have an enjoyable drive home before I deliver the codes now back in my breast pocket.
I wrote this after seeing some writing prompts over at BeKindRewrite which included the phrase “Spy Chef” and decided to try and include that and others into my story but only managed to include two of them.
Hope you enjoyed this little story! See you around soon for more stuff and more short stories.