The clock struck 11. I was staring at the clock every 10 minutes, anxiously waiting for Rhea to return home. She was out for a road trip with five of her friends and this was her first out of the town outing with her friends. The group of six friends- three girls and three boys had promised to return by 10 p.m. but it was getting late. By every passing minute I was getting more and more impatient. They were around 19 years old so they were not kids anymore, but that worried me even more.
They are not kids anymore.
These words were constantly echoing in my mind not because I did not trust my sister but because I could not trust the world. After my parents had passed away two years back, I did every bit to take care of Rhea and keep her happy. She reciprocated it in the best way she could. She grew mature overnight and took care of me not like my younger sister but like my mother. Road trips scare me because I lost my parents in a car accident but being afraid is not the solution. I drive a car every day and even Rhea is not a kid that she could be kept in the cradle all the time. She deserves to be trusted and enjoy her life. Amidst all this chaos going on in my mind, I gave her the permission to enjoy for a day with her friends because their first year exams had ended and they needed a break after those days of hard work and sleepless nights.
Rhea had called me up around 8 p.m. saying they were returning back home and would take around 2 hours to reach. Her phone battery was about to end soon so I should call her friend Rohan if anything urgent was to be informed. I did not want to be called a fussy brother so I thought to wait silently and did not call Rohan to ask. I decided to pick up a novel and wait for her as I had nothing to do. I had already prepared and had the dinner, gave the food to our pet Scooby and prepared coffee to have it while reading novel to avoid dozing off. Waiting always gives me headache. To worsen my worry, it started raining heavily and I just wished for the kids to be fine and return home safely. Scooby, my golden Labrador, is scared of lightening and jumped into my lap when it started raining. I put my novel aside and cuddled Scooby to calm him down. It was 11:30 p.m. now.
It was getting late enough. Rain water had puddled under the lamp post. I heard a soft knock at the door. I turned back and saw Scooby jumping in excitement as if to ask me to quickly go down and open the door. We went down and as I opened the door, I saw Rohan and Rhea with pale faces standing with their heads covered by hands and waiting to come inside. I got worried seeing their faces but pulled them inside before questioning them. Scooby continuously wagged its tail in confusion and kept moving along us as we walked towards the living room. I rushed inside to my room, came back with two towels and handed it to them to let them dry up themselves.
Before I could ask anything, Rohan fell on his knees, held my legs and started crying. He was too scared to speak. Rhea hugged me and started crying loudly. I could not understand what was happening. I did not know how to console whom or what to ask them. I was partially numb. The only active person in the room was Scooby who had already sensed the tension and started licking the face of Rohan to calm him down. Scooby brought me back to senses by fiercely wagging its tail against my legs and I sat down on the sofa. I made Rhea sit down and lifted up Rohan to make him sit on the sofa. After almost 15 minutes of struggle and attempts made by Scooby and me, Rhea and Rohan finally stopped crying and were in a position of speaking something. My heart was almost in my throat for those minutes and my mind was full of almost every probable worst reason that could be behind their tears but the real reason was much different from what I had sensed.
Rohan was still sobbing and he told that after dropping the other friends when he was coming to drop Rhea, an accident happened on the way. When the car turned in the lane where Rhea’s home was situated, it ran over a man. Rhea started crying on realising this. Rohan got off the car to look at the man on whom the car ran over. He quickly got back into the car and told Rhea that the car’s tyres had ran over the face of the man and he was badly bleeding. It was almost impossible for the man to survive. He quickly drove the car to Rhea’s home before anybody would see them. He was scared as it was going to be a police case. He did not want to go to his home because of panic and fear. I am a lawyer and so he came to seek my help. Rohan is like my younger brother and he often came to me for tuitions when he used to study in school.
Rhea was still crying and I was numb on hearing all this. I was feeling that I was not a lawyer because I could not think of what to do. I had fought many cases but could not think of anything at that moment. However, I was determined to do something to save Rohan and Rhea. I was not afraid of consequences and wanted to do everything that I could. They were not drunk, it was an accident and why would they kill a stranger deliberately. I just had to prove these facts and prove them innocent if they are questioned ever.
I decided to remove the proofs from the accident site. I very well knew that it was a punishable offence but I was not afraid of consequences. Only smile and safety of Rhea mattered to me at that moment and I could go to any extent for it. I step out of the house to visit the accident site. None of the houses had lights open. It was 12:30 a.m. and that was safe enough to move out. I walked on the dark road and was guided by the street lights. It was still raining heavily. I walked closer to the accident site and found no one there. Only a few blood stains were seen on the road. Blood was vanishing from the road as it was being washed off by the rains. The body of the injured man was not seen anywhere. I started walking swiftly towards my home to inform this to Rhea and Rohan.
Rhea and Rohan were calm by them because of Scooby; a lovely pet can really make anyone smile. When I returned home they got scared seeing my pale face. I had never been so scared in my entire life. Seeing a dead body had never freaked me out but finding a dead body missing made me scared. I was even more scared because the case involved my dear sister Rhea. I told them that the body was missing and I was immediately bombarded with questions and reasons from both Rhea and Rohan:-
“Is the man still alive?”
“Someone must have seen the man and informed the police!”
“If the man is in a hospital then they must have informed the police!”
“Are the blood stains still there?”
“Has someone seen us committing a crime and has hidden the body to blackmail us?”
“How long will I have to stay in jail?”
“I hope I will not be sentenced to death for this?”
“My parents will never be able to forgive me!”
“Is there any way to prove innocence and reduce the punishment?”
“Will the law still punish me when this was a mistake?”
And so on…
I was too numb to react to all these questions. My head was aching badly and I could see everything blacking out. I could hear Rhea and Rohan calling out my name. I could not speak. I could feel my forehead burning and my hands and feet turning ice cold. I could feel my face getting wet because of sweat. I tried to move but failed in every attempt of it. I could feel my body turning heavier and heavier and gradually my eyes closed.
My eyes opened a few seconds later when I realised that Scooby was sitting on me and was licking my face. Rhea and Rohan could be heard calling my name from outside my house. They were loudly knocking at the door and Scooby was trying to wake me up so that I could go and open the door to let them in. I realized that I had taken a nap while reading the novel. The coffee mug was still lying beside me and apart from sweat; I was wet because of Scooby’s attempts of waking me up.
I quickly rushed down to open the door. Rhea entered home with a smile. Rohan hugged me to thank me for allowing Rhea and to say sorry for getting late home. I pushed him aside and ran outside to the corner of the lane which was the accident site in my horrible dream. There were no blood stains and I ran to my home with the biggest smile. I hugged Rhea and Rohan as if I got a life again. Rhea asked me the reason of being so pale and blank and I smiled and replied that I had slept while waiting for her and ran out to enjoy the rain. They were laughing at me and I smiled at my own silliness. Rohan waved at us as he started his car to drive back to his home. Rhea walked in while playing with the ever excited Scooby. While I was serving the dinner for her, I made a promise to myself- “I, Rihan Kapoor, will never read a Suspense Thriller novel or anything related to accidents when I am about to fall asleep!” I was madly laughing at the silly dream and silently wished that it never happens in reality.