Ram sat on a small little chair, frantically sweating from every pore of his already greasy skin. He tried focusing his attention on the flickering lights above. Memories came back to the all times he had viva voce and other such interviews. He figured this would feel close to that. Telling himself repeatedly that he had done it before was actually helping calm himself. ‘Can’t be worse than that right?’ A closed room, bright flickering fluorescent lights hovering over his head, and he knew they were looking past the wide one-way mirror right into him. He was vulnerable, guilty and lost.
A tall Malay person walked inside with a folder in one hand and a hot beverage in the other. He was dressed in casual clothing. He placed the mug over the table that laid before them separating significant inches just enough to draw the needed tension between parties. His tag read Inspector Malik.
‘So, first offense doctor?’ he started with a gurgle in the throat pushing a night’s worth of clogged up phlegm from his vocal cords.
‘I’m going to be honest and say, No! You have the old records there?’ Ram tried to remain smug.
‘Oh mean, all the DUI charges, speeding, and parking tickets,’
‘Yes, those things,’ Ram was not going to be intimidated.
‘Nobody messes with the doctors. Not unless you’re another doctor,’ the Inspector joked.
‘Sir, this is unusual even for me,’
‘Then I’m going to guess it’s personal. The residence you were breaking and entering was not just anyone’s. They are respectable members of the community. Their security alarm immediately called the police. Do you know the number of calls I had received before I walked in this room?’
Ram understood the officer’s motives. Painting the VIP as distinguished untouchable, a person you don’t want to mess with, and everything else to that affect was all to make Ram feel small, inadequate and out of his league.
Ram brought himself closer to the table, confident as if he knew how to level the playing field. ‘I don’t care about any of that. That man deserves to go down. The things he did, only I know and I will find the proof of exactly what sort of man he is.’
‘So it was the man you were after and not the wife. Good, that tallies with our hypothesis. What was the plan then? Record a sex-tape. Blackmail? They are a married couple. So what if it gets out?’
‘That lady was not his wife.’ Ram interjected.
‘So it was a blackmail.’ Inspector Malik smiled. Ram pulled back, and cursed, ‘shit’ under his breath. From every one of his response the officer was able to draw something from him and that meant Ram needed thread lightly. He immediately found a new level of respect for the man in front of him. Malik reached into his pocket, ‘Was this the woman?’
Ram peered closely at the cellular device the officer pushed toward him. The screen glared from the lights above until it was close enough for Ram to discern what he was seeing. As Malik swept through the image gallery, it was more obvious that the women in the photograph was the wife of Head of Department of Surgery and highly likely also the woman that was in Ram’s explicit recording. In fact, the pictures only proofed that she loved changing outfits, hairstyles and posed provocatively for many of her followers whether with or without her husband.
‘I would think you would stalk them in social media first. But you decided to go old-school?’ The inspector had a laugh to himself, ‘you learned espionage from the movies I guess?’
Ram tried to hide his embarrassment. ‘So what now?’ he was tired of talking.
‘Now, it depends on the complaint.’
‘What are they going to do?’
‘Ask him yourself,’ he tilted his head to the side and nodded as if signalling at the mirror.
The door opened and the Inspector quietly walked out, bringing his mug along.
A tall dark figure stepped in with confident swagger.
‘Mr Jamal?’ Ram’s body shuddered.
‘Hey Ram,’ he sat down trying to adjust himself on a tiny metal chair was clearly too small for him. ‘Did you see that movie? Loved that movie,’ making a reference that Ram pretended not to understand. He was more keen in stopping his from shaking again. His throat was getting heavy and his face was glistening with sweat.
‘We have had many opportunities to brawl before but here you are Ram, cuffed to a seat,’
‘I’m not cuffed Dr,’ his voice softened. He cleared his throat before continued, ‘Mr Jamal, I’m..’
‘Oh please don’t say you’re sorry,’ he continued with a boisterous tone. ‘You have been on my radar for a very long time. I have asked about from your previous departments, your friends and even called up your professors from your old medical school. You see Ram, you’re not like the other Indian boys I know. You’re a real one, aren’t you?’
‘What does that mean sir?’
‘It means you’re tough. Like in the movies,’
‘There are no real Indians in the movies sir,’
‘But it doesn’t stop you people from behaving like them. You can be doctors, lawyers, politicians, and celebrities but you always have that little thing where you behave like total idiots for a woman, a friend, or some street shit’
‘Why are you digging at my race sir? Just to provoke me?’ Ram smiled trying to prevent his fists from punching through the table from underneath.
‘Because I have never been proven wrong. I thought to myself, maybe you were different. I was scared you were. But then you did this.’
‘Don’t fucking interrupt me boy,’ Mr Jamal shouted banging his fist on the table. His rage burst from within, an explosive amount, none like anything Ram had ever seen before. Ram was startled and secretly hoped that someone would come through the door and drag this mad man away. ‘Did they actually leave him here? Was this even legal?’ he thought. It felt oddly suspicious that the police would just leave him there.
‘You want to come at me for giving you a hard time you do so. I only do that with you because you are an arrogant son of a bitch. You talk loud and you don’t act your place. But you come after my family?’
Ram knew Mr Jamal didn’t only see one woman in his life. He had photographic evidence of countless women coming over to the bungalow and spending nights but he decided to withhold that information. He didn’t want to be brash, in fact he might need that for leverage. The police would have gone through his phone by now but they wouldn’t have found anything because it was all safely stored in Ram’s cloud.
Ram decided to cut his losses. It was ‘Poker Night’, and the smart thing to do now would be to fold. So instead, he decided to let the man just talk.
‘I really didn’t have hopes that you would become a great doctor someday but I’m considering if you even should become one at all,’
‘Are you threatening my job sir?’ Ram looked up straight thinking of how it might all come to end. In frightened him a little but it also surprised him because a small part of him wished for it to happen. Was he sabotaging himself? Did he actually want to get caught? Ram froze ruminating the thought for a moment. Was he using the death of his friend as an excuse to self-destruct?
‘You wanted me to quit since I started. Because I was confident. Because what? Indians are not supposed to be confident? Or just not as confident as everybody else. We are just supposed to be the black faced clowns who degrade themselves in your television, movies and comics for your pleasure,’
‘There is nothing wrong with confidence. My old teachers were all Indians and they were fantastic, and they taught me the value of respect. You just seem to act like everybody else is beneath you,’
‘So the millennial argument?’
‘You’re doing it right now. You think anyone else would have dared pull a stunt like you did?’
‘I see that as a strength.’ Ram exploded, finally feeling more like himself in the past year. He finally felt like the rebel who organized street protests back in Russia during his college years and the memory jolted some youthful vigour back into him.
‘Of course you would see it that way,’ Mr Jamal retorted. ‘That brash idiocy is the reason you need to be taught your lesson,’
‘So you’re going to get me fired?’
‘For what? So you could go back to whatever welfare flat you came from and make rap songs about me?’
Ram’s head was pounding and his fists tightening. If only he had a recording device, if only this whole thing didn’t feel like it was rigged again. Adding ‘assault’ to his charges would only proof the man right.
Mr Jamal sat back to breathe a little while the flushing of his face faded away. He stared at the young house officer, and calmly continued to speak, ‘I’m impressed. You didn’t flinch. You didn’t strike me like fucking idiot. So you really want to play this game Ram? You really want to bring me down for all that I did to you? The things I put you through? Things that only made you stronger?’
‘It’s not about the viva sir. It’s not about the constant deprecation. It’s not even about the remarks you put in my permanent records that has given everyone preconceived notions about me. It’s about Sheila. It’s about her. It’s about what you did,’
Mr Jamal froze. His face suddenly changed and he moved back.
‘I did nothing to that girl.’ He uttered clear and loud.
They glanced hard at each other. Some small part of Ram believed that Mr Jamal was telling the truth but the bigger, angrier part of him refused to acknowledge it.
‘I promise you on my dead daughter’s grave (God bless her soul), I did nothing to that girl.’
‘Let’s just say I don’t believe you,’ Ram noticed Mr Jamal shake just a little. He had done it. For the first time, he had penetrated the King’s defences and the feeling was magnanimous. ‘And I will find out,’ Ram ended. He noticed his leg finally stopped shaking.
‘Boy,’ Mr Jamal glance got ever fierce. ‘You are making a huge mistake. Here is what’s going to happen. We are going to act as if this night never happened. Both your phone and your camera are going to be in the fire as soon as I walk out of that door and tomorrow you are going to work as per usual.’
Ram expanded his chest, flaring his nostrils while he breathed loud. He was unsure if he was to be happy about this because he sensed more was coming.
‘By the end of two weeks, you will get your transfer letter and a very “well” written recommendation from me to your next boss. Nobody will fire you, but you will be in hell, and you WILL quit and join the rest of the fucking whankers out there not knowing what to do with their medical degrees; opening bakeries, teaching pre-schoolers, or loosing all their parents’ hard earn cash on failing stocks. That way you will never forget.’
Ram sat quietly, defeated. Poker night was over and he was out of chips, now he owed money & lots of it.
The door opened just slightly. Mr Jamal took the hint. He got up and starred down at the cowering house officer, his head looking down at the shadow of King under the lights. As he walked away, Ram re-adjusted his posture still trying to calm his leg once.
All the paperwork was complete and as Ram feared, he did not get his phone nor camera back. In just three hours, he would be going back to the hospital to review patients. His colleagues over in Orthopaedics knew nothing of this but things were going to blow up soon. It was only a matter of time before the Head of Department would ask to see him in the office to figure out why a mysterious letter of transfer would suddenly appear on his desk for a particular house officer. For now though, all Ram could do was go back to work and continue to slog and slave all the same. He would attend to his patients, caring for them any way he could only for the next 14 days before life as he knew now would now have to change again once more.