Chapter Four — Call of the Faces
“Who were those people on the building?” asked General Jazlaan. He was sitting with the three Ali Brothers and Aazeen in the upper storey room. Saqib had gone to arrange for refreshments.
“Our army,” said Ali Hussain with a smile. Jazlaan and Aazeen looked at him with questioning looks. “Yes. They are our very staunch supporters. They keep track of us. We don’t order them around as such. But, when required we do tell them what we expect of them.”
“Do they have a leader? I mean, if they are not ordered by you, then they have someone else as leader,” said Aazeen. Mohammad looked at her again from the corner of his eye and then faced Ali Hussain.
“Omair is their leader. He leads them and trains them. All of them live here in a smaller building behind this one,” Ali Mohammad answered this one. “They are there for us in shifts. Morning shift, Afternoon shift, Evening shift and night shift.”
“Omair will meet us tomorrow. He is very curious as to why General Azlaan is here,” said Ali Hussain now, while getting up from his chair and heading towards the open window. “Actually, not just curious, there was a bit of anger too inside him. I told Omair to relax as it was Ali Mohammad who had allowed the General and Aazeen to come inside the building.” Ali Hasan also got up from his seat and went towards the window.
“Now tell us General Azlaan, why did you say that you don’t have the option to go back to your base, immediately after landing in our garden?” asked Ali Hussain. Mohammad now turned his gaze on the General. Even Aazeen was now looking at the General. Her first thought was: ‘Will the General really tell them? But he wasn’t supposed to?’
“If we don’t give proof that Ali Abbas has joined the Ali Brothers here, then both Aazeen and I will be arrested and thrown into jail. The Council has made this very clear to us. We have accepted this challenge,” said General Azlaan.
“What! The Council is also making decisions now?” said Saqib, as he entered the room carrying a tray of his famous tea and biscuits. “I don’t believe it. I was of the opinion that it was a puppet government in control of the supreme army headed by General Azlaan.” He poured the tea in cups and offered it to everyone. While placing a cup of tea in Mohammad’s hands, he looked him in the eye and quickly signaled that something was wrong in the General’s story. Mohammad nodded his head very slightly.
“Are you ready Akbar?” Ali Abbas was tightening a belt around the waist of his white robe. He had got up that morning with a sense of calm about him. He was not feeling hunted. Something has changed, he thought. The faces had not come in his dream last night. He had better sleep than earlier nights. Big reason for this was the presence of Ali Akbar around him.
“Yes Abbas. I am ready”. He too wore a white robe with a belt. Both of them had to wear this dress, as that was prevalent among some high-profile sections of the city. The dress made them look exalted, as that lady in the museum had pointed out. She had shown both he and Ali Abbas a painting with a regal-looking figure wearing that same dress. She thought both of them belonged to the highest class of the land. But had the truth been told to her, she would have been so shocked.
Both of them walked out of the house of an admirer of Ali Abbas. Wherever Abbas went, he was there playing his violin and announcing his arrival before them. He had offered his house to Ali Abbas and Ali Akbar to stay as long as they wanted. Both Ali Brothers were filled with gratitude for this gesture, but they hadn’t said so to the house-owner.
“The faces didn’t disturb you last night?” asked Ali Akbar.
“No. They did float in front of me, quietly looking at me, but they didn’t change shape or shout at me. I looked at them without fear and they started fading away one by one,” said a relieved Ali Abbas. The faces had started haunting him in his dreams, the day he saw the face of the boy lying on a lonely street. He was barely breathing, when Ali Abbas had picked him up and taken him to the hospital. But, when the doctor checked him, it was too late. The boy’s soul had left, only the body remained.
“I had pleaded with those grotesque faces in my dream to leave me alone, but they would only increase in number every night. They are bent on taking me somewhere. They are saying something to me in some language I don’t understand,” said Ali Abbas.
“Ever since you found me Ali Akbar, you have taken good care of me. I am in your debt. The intensity of the hatred in the faces in my dream also has come down now. I think it is because of you.”
Ali Akbar just smiled. “You don’t have to think like that. I had to find you. It was the only way that ring could be found. Only you know how to use the ring’s power. It fits in no one’s fingers. Ali Mohammad had tried to wear it in his index finger, but I think you already know what happened next?”
Ali Abbas remembered that evening well. There were all sitting near a bonfire that had been lit and were singing songs. For some reason, Ali Mohammad came to Ali Abbas, shook hands with him and went back to sit on his chair. Soon, everyone saw Ali Mohammad rising abruptly from his chair and falling to the ground clutching his right hand.
“The ring…” he had shouted. Ali Abbas looked at his hand, saw the ring missing from his own finger, and immediately reached out to check Mohammad’s hand. The ring was not there, but there was a burn mark now on his index finger. Ali Abbas looked around the place where Ali Mohammad had fallen. Sure enough, the ring was lying close to the waist of Mohammad. He took the ring and put it in a small velvet cloth.
“So what do you expect me to do when we get back to the ‘Hedusha’?” asked Ali Abbas. ‘Hedusha’ was the name of the building that was the headquarters of the Ali Brothers. The building itself was almost 150 years old, yet for some reason it didn’t look this old. There was no peeling whitewash coming off the walls, or cobwebs on the walls. ‘Hedusha’ had always given them a very good feeling of being in a home.
“You know the answer to this simple question. You have to protect Hedusha and also be an important member of Ali Brothers. And if you haven’t forgotten yet, there is someone called Jazlaan that you have to meet,” said Ali Akbar pointedly.
Ali Abbas began to feel anger entering his body when he heard the name of General Jazlaan. He had shouted to Jazlaan that night, as he lay on the ground: ‘Pass me the ring…pass me the ring, but Jazlaan had done nothing. He had just started walking back to his helicopter, while the ring remained in the blue box lying on the ground.’
It was time to drive some sense into Jazlaan and his army now, thought Ali Abbas, as he climbed his horse. Ali Akbar was already on his horse. The two horses started carrying them to their destination and the new destiny that awaited the Ali Brothers now.