Nov 2, 2010

The Gangster

Q. Write the opening chapter of a novel titled “The Gangster”, where you will introduce two characters who do not know each other but will do so later.

By Zainab Akhtar

The world was gray and deserted on this cold, bleak day in December. The sky was dull and mist shrouded the lofty buildings of Drewbury Street. From afar, the deep rumbling of thunder was heard, followed by the distinct screeching of a cat. Oblivious to the ungodly hour, or his clammy surroundings, the tall, dark and enigmatic stranger walked briskly; undeterred by the discomfiture any one would have felt while strolling in such a place. He was of an immaculate appearance, clad in a remarkably fine, black suit and wearing a matching and beribboned hat with the initials “J.G.” threaded in gold.

Upon reaching a slate gray stoned structure, the man suddenly halted and dropped suspiciously to his knees beside the entrance. He was not detained for any more than a moment and was soon on his way again; the only difference an observer would have noticed was the slim, intriguing package which was now tightly gripped in his hands. A sharp clap of thunder resounded through the empty street followed by a torrent of rain.The wind, which had begun to whip mischievously, blew the stranger’s expensive hat off his head, causing him to quicken his stride. The hat blew straight into a murky alley way and the stranger, huffing and panting with the exertion of chasing his belonging, proceeded into the narrow alley way without wavering or pausing to see his reflection in the grimy puddles that were fast appearing on the ground, his eyes being fixed determinedly on his hat.

But perhaps through an ironic twist of fate, his hat landed abruptly at another person’s feet. Startled at seeing another human being appear almost magically, he stopped, one hand frozen in the act of reaching for his hat. The howling of the wind, the pitter patter of the rain and the deafening crash of thunder were all suddenly mute as an eerie silence filled this lone alley way. After what seemed like forever, the gentlemen in the suede coat bent with deliberate slowness and retrieved the stranger’s precious hat which he silently accepted and firmly put on his head again. The two men eyed each other solemnly as several minutes passed by in unnatural tension. Both men had the same questions running through their minds: “Who is this grand stranger?” “Is he on the same arduous journey as myself?” and most importantly, “Can I trust him?” Finally, the gentleman in the crisp suede coat cleared his throat and said in a gruff voice, “It’s raining quite ferociously and if my predictions are accurate, it will continue to do so for a fortnight, by which time, I believe this entire street will be quite thoroughly flooded.” Not liking his dry and irksome tone or his self confidence, the man with the hat curtly nodded and remained silent. “Look,” said the other with a note of impatience in his voice, “I cannot stand here all day staring at you. I have important activities to engage in but far be it from me, to shun my duty as a human and leave my fellow brother stranded in this confounded alley way! Allow me to introduce myself, Darvey Farnham, at your service. If you would willingly accept my offer to escort you to your destination, it will greatly ease my conscience.”

Charity, however, was the last adjective that could be attributed to Mr. Farnham for he was renowned in his native country to be the greatest fraud and swindler of all time. His long hair which continually flopped onto his forehead, the close set of his eyes, the straight bridge of his nose and the ruthless slash of his mouth, all contributed towards an image of a highly disagreeable sort of person. However, what he lacked in looks, he
amply made up for in brains for he had the marvelous gift of shrewdly assessing any situation at hand and acting accordingly. Lying his way smoothly through any hitch in his plans, he had always managed to escape the police. Gazing now with deceptive innocence at the loathsome man before him, a hundred options whirled through his mind as he contemplated the possibility of the stranger’s identity and his involvement in what was to be the greatest crime ever recorded in history. A grisly, gruesome crime of violence and bloodshed which Farnham’s close accomplice in France had organized with his help, a plan that would lead either to their deaths, or successfully make them millionaires. “No,” he thought now in alarm, “I can’t take any chances. After all, my friend was arranging for a man in black clothing to meet me here in this alleyway. A man whose name was to be John Gregory. J.G.” Dubiously glancing at the man once more, he raised his eyes quizzically and enquired in a charming voice, “Your name good sir?”

Harry Farlow had always been taught, ever since childhood, not to give his name to a stranger. Through adolescence and his twenties, that habit had stuck with him and now in his thirties, as he met Mr. Farnham’s inquisitive gaze, he quickly recited the first two names that popped into his head, remembering in time that the hat perched on his head which he had found by chance discarded outside an inconspicuous cottage near his house in Turnbridge County, read “J.G.”, “Ha-John Gregory sir. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Farnham grinned in delighted alacrity, as he silently congratulated himself in finding John Gregory with such ease while his French friend had been so doubtful of this venture. “That’ll show him never to underestimate me again!” he sneered triumphantly to himself. He repeated his offer to give Harry a lift which Harry accepted after a slight hesitation. Leading the way to his Volvo, neatly wedged between two other cars, Farnham got in after Harry and victoriously turning on the ignition, sped off into the forbidding rain.

Back in Turnbridge county, the shabby, inconspicuous cottage lay abandoned except for the horrific, mangled and bloody corpse of the real John Gregory, which was sprawled across the wooden floor and warm with the tell tale signs of a murder just committed and a crime which had barely begun…


Lynette said...

wow! i love the way you used lang! It got me hooked on from the start and now i seriously want to know the end of the story!

Sana Riwzan said...

The last line is so sexy.

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