An exclusive excerpt from The First Life of Vikram Roy, the latest in ‘The Ruby Iyer Series’ by Mumbai-born, London-based author Laxmi Hariharan.
I hear the staccato of shots being fired, followed by yells and howls of pain. Then, the sound of something being smashed and everything goes quiet. The TV no longer chatters.
I look to the open door. The recreation room is down at the end of the corridor. The sounds of shots get closer.
Without giving myself a chance to think I make a run for the door, slam it shut, lock it and it’s as if that’s a signal to the rest of the men to jump to their feet. Without a word, the ten of us scram to our bunks, pull on trousers and shoes.
We get our hands on whatever weapon we can find. No guns, none of us have guns. So I grab my cricket bat. (As if that’s going to make a difference?).
Around me the others too are grabbing cricket bats and hockey sticks. Neil grabs an iron rod. An iron rod? Where did he get that from? We drop to the floor, crouch and wait.
Should I hide under the bed? Nope, no way. Like, that is going to help.
And then a crash as the door is broken down, hacked by what looks like an axe till it’s in pieces on the floor and through it step through two men.
One holding a machine gun, the other wielding an axe which he drops to the floor and instead grabs the the gun slung over his back.
They are both wearing balaclavas, so we can’t see their features. Of medium height, they are muscular and dressed all in black: Black jeans and sweatshirts, their hair covered by the hoods.
Their backs are to the door.
They point their guns at us, signalling to us to put our hands up. I hesitate, not looking around but sense that the others too are not sure what to do.
The first gunman points his gun at the nearest recruit … a boy just out of his teens and shoots him in the head.
There is a collective gasp from the room. A chill runs through me. Who are they? How did they break through the security measures of the force base?
And then they are foolish enough to barge right into the heart of the training facilities of the force and shoot its cadets? Why? Why would they do that?
The gunmen gesture to us and this time we follow their orders. We walk to the wall at the back of the bunkhouse and line up, hands on our heads, staring ahead.
An alarm rings out then.
Finally! It’s been almost ten minutes since the shooting started. Still, the reinforcements should be here soon.
Now all we need to do is keep these gunmen distracted enough so they don’t kill us. As if reading my mind, the guy who’d shot the young recruit moves forward, his gun trained on us. I draw in a breath and hold it.
The sweat trickles down my back. My heart is racing so fast I am sure if I look down I can see it leaping out of my chest. The gunman passes me, walks to the end of the line; then back to the middle where I am.
“You have no idea what this is about do you?” He asks.
He sounds young, as if he is barely a man himself. And something in his voice … muffled as it is, it sounds familiar.
A faint recollection grabs at the edge of my mind, and then I forget everything because he leans close to Neil who is next to me, and smashes the butt of his gun into his stomach.
Neil falls to the ground, moaning, holding his middle. I firm up my stomach muscles. I know I am next, I must be. I want to squeeze my eyes shut, but don’t. The gunman leans to the other side, and shoots another man in the head.
This chap collapses without a cry.
What the fuck? I want to jump him right then, but that would be really stupid of me. I am not going to help anyone if I get killed will I? There are six of us left in the room now. One of the younger recruits lets out a sob, at which gunman no 2 holds his gun at him, so he shuts up immediately.
The gunman asks me, “Where are the plans?’
“What are you talking about?” I reply, trying to stay calm, struggling not to show how scared I am inside.
He only grins and in response, and without taking his eyes off me, holds his gun up and I know what he is going to do and I scream.
“No!” But it’s too late. This time he’s shot two more guys in succession. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. These guys are desperate, or crazy or both.
Besides me Neil stirs on the ground.
The gunman takes a deep breathe, as if trying to calm himself and says, “Don’t pretend to be dumb. If you don’t get me the blue prints of the security arrangements being planned by the force for Bombay; the one that you and your team mates are being trained for, then all the rest of you die too.”
Only six of us left now.
Four young lives, gone just like that. I feel sick. What the fuck are these guys upto? And … and how do they know about the plans? This is top secret. The only reason I know about it, is because I’ve overheard the training officer speaking with the ACP about it on the phone last week.
And only because I happened to be waiting outside his room then. And how does this gunman even know that I know the details?
Want to find out what happens next? Click here.
About The First Life of Vikram Roy.
His family is being held to ransom by a deadly mastermind. Vikram never should have left his family, but when Vikram’s father brings his half-brother Vishal home, life will never be the same. Vikram thinks things will be better now that he’s gone. He’s met the love of his life, his future looks bright and then everything is shattered. Now, his family’s life is hanging in the balance, and only Vikram can do what needs to be done to save them.
The First Life of Vikram Roy goes live Friday, Sep 25.
All this month all books in the RUBY IYER SERIES are on sale at 99p/c with proceeds going to Save the Children (Syrian Child Refugees).