Start from the beginning. Right.
“In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” Hehe.
It is funny because I’m currently in hospital with more tubes going in and out of me than the back of a refrigerator. The doctor showed me a chest X-ray that suggested breathing should feel like a bad move. But here I am, propped up against a stack of pillows, chuckling at this mad, mad world we live in.
Must be some pretty nice drugs they put me on.
Mandal just came by with this notepad and a half-chewed ballpoint pen. Or maybe I chewed through it myself.
Anyway. Mandal also came by a while back to tell me there’d be two armed constables posted outside the door at all times. I asked who they were trying to keep out.
“Jimmy.” he looked at me strangely. “You’ve been accused of murder. They’re here to keep you in.”
“Oh.” I attempted to scratch my chin but the nail on my left index appeared to be missing. “What day is it, again?”
Mandal Pandurang Doshi (MPD) is a cop himself, meaning people either call him MPD (to his face) or Pandu (way, way behind his back). He is currently investigating a ring that uses the marijuana legalization lobby/indie music scene/other-unspecified-young-upwardly-mobile-pursuit as a front for smuggling ‘hard’ drugs in and out of the National Capital Region.
He has been flitting in and out of the room ever since I came around. Makes keeping track of continuity a bitch.
The reason Mandal’s concerned with my well-being is: the guy I’m accused of killing had links with this racket. My insight could help crack a case that is cooling faster than a long-distance relationship.
I haven’t asked him if he thinks I dunnit.
“It is crucial that you try to remember as much as you can.”
“I’ve been zonked for nearly a week, Mandy. Makes articulation a bitch.”
“Well, you need to bloody well try. And stop calling me that.”
“My God, can you please stop harassing the patient for five minutes?”
He came back again after the nurse was no longer within yelling range.
“You used to be a writer, didn’t you?” He placed this spiral pad in my lap. “Maybe we need to switch tactics.”
So then. What is the last memory I have?
Street outside some party in the wee hours, high as a kite and having a cigarette with Bhardwaj, an old classmate from college.
No, wait. I was smoking alone. Bhardwaj was busy kicking the living shit out of me.
And I wasn’t hitting back. Why wasn’t I
Oh fuck. He had a gun. He pointed it at me in the end and I sat propped against a wall with three cracked ribs and I was smoking and thinking, didn’t Keanu Reeves already pull this whole shtick in some movie?
Just how high was I, exactly?
I said something to Bhardwaj in the end. What did I say?
“It was you, wasn’t it? It was you all along.”
Then there was a bang and I blacked out.
The doctor mentioned no bulletholes. Did Bhardwaj really miss at zero range? Or was he popped by someone else, like the ending to most thrillers after the writer runs out of ideas?
Constantine! The movie was called Constantine. Keanu Reeves chainsmokes and pops over to hell for a bit.
Maybe I died that night.
This would certainly correspond to my idea of hell: lying in a hospital room with just one window (curtained) and nothing to read, a bloody Thursday for all eternity.
MPD just came back and opened the curtains. The view outside is… a grey, featureless wall of concrete. Maybe the side of some overpass.
MPD says they found me bleeding in the parking lot of Hindurao Hospital (which is practically on campus) after an anonymous tip. Says there were no shell-casings or gunpowder residue at the street I mentioned.
Ditto signs of Bhardwaj.
“The party went from Tuesday to Wednesday,” he flipped through an identical spiral pad of his own, “at that particular venue. Would you have any idea what F.D.F.S. means?”
“Not in the slightest,” I lied. Mandy was still a narcotics guy, at the end of the day; I wasn’t sure he could take First Day, First Show in his stride. “Why do you ask?”
“We found the letters scrawled or spraypainted at a bunch of locations across campus. When did you get to this particular party?”
“Can’t recall. Wee hours of Wednesday, I think.” wee wee wee wee all the way home. “Been all over the place this week.”
“Hey bhagwan, Jimmy, what’s the point to all these binges?”
I said nothing.
“Let me put it differently: when were you last sober?”
So then. What is the last sober memory I have?
Sprawled in one of the old haunts at college, early afternoon, group of roughly twenty folk, having a smoke with Bhardwaj, an old classmate.
No, wait. Bhardwaj was smoking. I’d been clean as a sterilized needle for the better part of an year.
“Eight months in maximum security,” he was saying, “And those weren’t even my drugs, man.”
“Right.” Never a good idea to sound skeptical when an ex-con proclaims his innocence. “But you’re free and clear now, so that’s good, right?”
“It would be, except-” his fingers shook as he pulled on his cigarette, “I come back and Vrinda is gone.”
“Who?” One of the twenty folk lit two lighters while another held what looked like a large, flaming torch.
“Oh, right. This was after your time. Vrinda is my girlfriend of almost two years, man. We were living in a small flat off Malkaganj while she did some courses in German. There was no word from her in prison, and when I came back the flat was empty. Our landlady died a couple months ago, all the old crowd’s vanished in thin air, and I’m afraid something bad might’ve-”
He choked up and couldn’t go on. I put a hand on his shoulder.
Before I could speak there was a tap on my other knee. Up close the flaming torch resolved into a gigantic tulip joint, halfway done now but still longer than my forearm.
“You know the drill,” the dude to my left was saying.
I held the cardboard roach like a bugle, raised it to my face, and pulled until my lungs threatened to burst through my chest and make a run for it.
And thus in a gigantic pillar of sweet smoke my First Day, First Show was underway.