The Silent Assassin
“He is one of the nicest guys I know. Such a gentleman. Rare breed you know. These days with all these uncouth fellows around.”
Nimmi was sipping her coffee as she was explaining to Sheyan what she thought of Ravi. Sheyhan was listening while stirring his hot chocolate and nodding. They were inside a café with an outdoor patio and the sky was rather overcast but still with enough light to see each other and the little vase with a cactus nestled inside.
Ravi was the quintessential gent – educated, well spoken, well dressed, well versed in the arts. He had a wicked sense of humour nourished by his fine tuned intellect. He was silent but an assassin nevertheless when it came to the ladies.
Nimmi had met Ravi in their school days through the Interact Club and subsequently through mutual friends and peers. In typical Colombo fashion of inter-breeding, Ravi was also distantly connected to Nimmi in some way. They had discovered this fact much later in life during one of those ‘bringing together the clan’ type family gatherings but it had only served to endear them to one another. Over the years they had a bond which they were both fond of.
Sheyhan had heard of Ravi through others as well and was listening to Nimmi because what she was saying was what he had heard, believed, sworn upon and swallowed hook, line and sinker. Till yesterday. When Sheyhan heard a rather disturbing story.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking Nimmi, coz you are the only one I can ask this from. Not like I can ask Ravi. It was a crazy story. Just insane. No way. But she would not have made it up. There’s no way that can happen either. It’s just insane”
Sheyhan had been chatting with their other friend Rina and had agreed to meet up with her as she had been down for a while and Sheyhan had put it down to Covid lockdown syndrome but realised it was not just that. Something else was really bugging her. Sheyhan was Rina’s childhood friend – they had been neighbours at one point and had each other’s backs in tough times. So when she said she wanted to meet and talk, Sheyhan had agreed and the two had gone out for dinner where Rina had seemed ok till the server had said “Madam, another glass of wine?” This seemed to have triggered something in her and she had choked a “No, thanks” and run to the washroom. Sheyhan had been baffled. He had never seen her like this. He could not exactly run into the ladies’ washroom after her so hovered near the entrance and called out to ask if she was ok.
“I am fine”, she answered after about 2 minutes in a muffled voice and emerged from the washroom with her eyes red and looking really sad.
“What’s going on Ri?? Tell me. This is not like you. What’s wrong?” Sheyhan gently steered her back to her seat and sat her down gently. He moved his chair closer and gently held her hand while she composed herself.
“You won’t believe me Shey. You won’t. No one will. But I can’t anymore, I just can’t keep it inside me. It’s killing me” she sobbed. Sheyhan gently held her hand and kept reassuring her that he would believe her and to please trust him.
After about 5 minutes of sniffling and wiping her nose and eyes, Rina slowly started talking.
“You remember I told you I was chatting to this guy I met at Nimmi’s party? The smart one who was really funny?” Sheyhan nodded and said, “Wasn’t this in 2018?” Rina nodded and continued,
“Well I found him really nice and funny and it was great coz he was not like the usual guys who try pick up lines on you. He was just cool and really interesting. Shey please don’t tell anyone, what I am telling you, please, you have to promise.” Rina interjected suddenly and Sheyhan again pacified her and asked her to continue. Sheyhan was having a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach but chose to ignore it as Rina started talking again.
“Well things got kind of, you know, more intense and then he was suggesting that we meet just to talk. There was no suggestion of any kind of physical intimacy but it was always there like an underlying current, you know? And he would pay me really nice compliments. Not like the usual ‘Oh you’re hot’. He would say things like “Madam you are akin to Venus guiding the weary into enlightenment” and things like that. Yes, I know it sounds rather grandiose but he said it well. And I” her voice broke, “I fell for it” she whispered. Sheyhan just kept stroking her arm because he could see that she was very upset.
“So I agreed to meet. And we did meet a few times at small coffee shops and places that were legit and above board. No dodgy hotels or bars or anything. And it was really nice, you know. He was such a gentleman” Rina’s voice was bitter when she said the word gentleman. “So I became very comfortable with him and we started texting rather, well, a bit explicit stuff and still he never said or did anything when we met. This went on for about 5 months. Then one day he said let’s meet for dinner. And I agreed. We went to Tintagel where we had wine and a lovely dinner. It was a really romantic setting. I was never really expecting anything to happen coz although we had this sexual tension between us, he did not seem to want to do anything about it and I was too scared to approach him coz he is so suave you know. So cool and confident.” Rina stopped and a few tears rolled down her cheeks. She looked into Shayhan’s eyes and he could see that there was genuine pain there. He gently gripped her hand and nudged her to continue while maintaining his eye contact with her.
“So he offered to drop me home. He had come driving and I thought a nice long drive to Maharagama would be nice. And so we started home and he was playing some Andrew Lloyd Webber music, it was from ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and it was ‘Past the Point of No Return’. Coz he started singing it and pretending to be the Phantom. He then started talking in a mock Phantom voice and calling me his Christine. At first I found it funny. But then he started sounding a bit menacing and I had goose bumps for some reason but he saw my expression and jokingly asked if I thought he was going to eat me?” He started laughing and so I relaxed a bit. Then when we were heading towards Maharagama and when we came close to my place, he turned down my lane and stopped at the top.”
Sheyhan’s eyes were as big as saucers. He knew Rina’s lane well coz that was next to his house. It was a long and dark lane and it was only their house at the end which was a good 200 metres from the main road.
Rina was shaking again as she continued her tale,
“He then turned to me and said in his Phantom voice that he was going to taste of me like a starved animal who has been offered a morsel of carrion. I had no idea what to do but he suddenly grabbed me across the seat and started kissing me. I was shocked but I did respond. And then he got very aggressive, and was pulling my top down and his hands were all over me and I just wanted it to stop” she sobbed as she said this and started shaking. Sheyhan just held her hands and he was shaking himself.
“But he wouldn’t stop and I kept telling him to and he wouldn’t” she broke down and sobbed into Sheyhan’s arms who by now was cradling her head and making comforting sounds coz he was too shocked to say anything.
“He then tore away my dress and and he, he forced himself on me” she was crying now openly and hugging Shayhan like a wounded animal. “I couldn’t do anything, he was too strong and he kept saying that he knew this was what I wanted. I never wanted this!!!” She was sobbing now and Sheyhan just held onto her as he felt her pain and his own anger at what had happened.
“It’s ok Ri, It’s ok.” He was stroking her hair and holding onto her as she sobbed and sobbed.
“Then I was just crying and he said ‘I know you enjoyed it. You came like an arc of ambrosia gushing out of the fountains of Trevi.’ “He was smirking now and I just pushed the car door open and just ran down the lane and into the house. No one was around coz it was late so I just ran to my room and I threw my dress into the bin and had a wash and just cried in bed”.
Sheyhan was now angry. The bastard , he thought. What kind of animal was this man?? How dare he hurt Ri??
“Ri, this is Ravi right? He’s the guy?” She nodded vehemently and broke down again. Sheyhan hugged her but he couldn’t believe it. Ravi was everyone’s favourite gentleman. The guy everyone could trust. Good family, lovely parents, happy home and all that jazz. All the ladies loved him. He was who you would posit as a role model. And yet, here was a story from hell.
Sheyhan was trying to wrap his head around this.
“When did this happen Ri?” he asked and she said, “2 years ago. I just shut it out of my memory and just got on with life coz I did not want to face it. He tried contacting me afterwards but I just blocked him from everything. I just did not want to have anything to do with him.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone Ri? Why did you wait all this time?” Sheyhan was distraught.
“Who would believe me Shey?? Who??! I am the journalist remember? I don’t do a ‘proper job’ and my parents are not from the Colombo society’s elite. Who would believe me??” She sobbed in anguish and Sheyhan understood what she said. Ravi was a star. A star in the Colombo elite circles. Progeny of a long line of ‘respectable’ people. Who would believe Rina, journalist and daughter of middle class normalcy?
Sheyhan just held Rina and hugged her. He was glad that they had chosen this restaurant in Attidiya to talk coz they had the private room to themselves.
“What are you going to do now Ri? You can’t just let this go” he said.
“I can’t Shey. I can’t do anything. It was too long ago. I can’t go to the police, they will ruin me and my parents” her voice broke, “they will be so upset. I can’t. I just can’t.” and she dissolved into tears again.
Sheyhan was not convinced that this was wise. It was clearly affecting her and he felt maybe the lockdown and the isolation had forced Rina to face the demons which she had been keeping locked up for so long. Like Pandora’s box they were now spilling forth in rivulets and it was wreaking havoc on her sanity.
“You have to talk to someone Ri. Not just me but a professional, someone who can help you. Please”
She was shaking her head and saying “No, no I can’t. I just can’t Shey”. So he did not push her but held her.
Sheyhan had decided to speak to Nimmi after this. He did not want to let this go. He still couldn’t believe it was Ravi but he knew Rina would not lie. She was not someone who was dramatic and sought attention. Not like this.
“Nimmi, how? How have you been? Sorry I have not been in touch. You know been busy, with working from home and the usual lockdown madness.”
“No worries Sheyhan. I totally understand. I have been going crazy with work and online school for these two.”
“Nimmi, I have something I would like to discuss with you, do you mind meeting for coffee one of these days?”
Sheyhan was now listening to Nimmi’s description of Ravi and the kind of person he was. He had asked her what her impressions of Ravi were before he told her the story. She was naturally shocked.
“What?! Are you sure??! Ravi?? No way! No way Sheyhan! Are you sure? Is Rina sure??”
Sheyhan proceeded to explain the whole story to Nimmi who listened in disbelief. She knew Ravi. She knew Sheyhan and she knew that Sheyhan knew Rina well enough to know it was not a lie. But she just could not bring herself to believe it.
“Why didn’t she tell anyone before this? Why wait all this time?” Nimmi asked.
“She just blocked it out Nimmi. She didn’t want to deal with it. I think the lockdown and being stuck alone at home brought this to the fore. She’s a real mess . And she would not lie”.
“I just don’t know Sheyhan. I just can’t even imagine it. Ravi is such a nice guy. Why would he have to do that?”
Sheyhan had no idea what made men like Ravi do what they did. Maybe he was a control freak. Maybe he was a pervert or some psychopath.
“I don’t know Nimmi. Maybe he has some issues we don’t know of. Maybe he was abused as a child. I don’t know”
The sky outside had suddenly turned into a steel gray and the clouds were becoming more prominent. The wind had picked up and was slowly whistling through the windows of the café and lifting the edges of the white tissues that were weighed down with a knife.
They both sat in silence. One sipping coffee and the other sipping hot chocolate. They were both lost in their own worlds for a few moments. Sheyhan kept remembering Rina’s sobs as she told him about what Ravi did. Nimmi was digesting the possibility that her friend, relative and person she had known for so long was possibly a rapist.