10 Minutes to Live
She didn’t know it, but she had only 10 minutes to live. She’d always known it would end like this. Sudden. Bloody. Not quite the who or the when, but always the how. That had been clear to her. Right from when her father had sat her down and explained to her that she would be taking over the family business. Her dad had fought, connived, cajoled and even arranged to have killed (some said) his opponents, so that he could build himself his empire. It wasn’t the cleanest way to do business, but she had come to learn that there really was no clean way to do business. Not in this world. Not here. She had initially been in awe of her father, the manner in which he had created this massive, heaving beast of an empire. He had beat out the competition, smiled at, swore at and even serenaded the ones in power before him, till he got his way. He had done what was required to be done, he used to tell her. And then, he told her all that he had done. She had been in shock. The great man her father was supposed to be, the great morals he was to have upheld, all turned out to be fake. All an image. Behind it all, he was a snake. A cold, conniving, snake. And yet, when he explained to her his plans for her, she understood them. She saw the bigger picture. She understood, that for all his faults, he really did have an excellent plan for the business to always remain within the family. She saw the brilliance of the plan. Despite her reservations and the shock of the revelations of her father’s proclivities, she understood that he had done what it took to get the job done. She knew that she would too. After all, her father’s blood ran in her veins. When she reflected back on all that her father had revealed to her, she laughed. They had published his “letters” to her, supposedly to teach her about the world. All part of the image. If only they had published his real teachings to her, now that would have made for some excellent reading!
Now she had 5 minutes to live. It had been a good life. She didn’t have much to complain about really. As her father had predicted, she had taken over the reins admirably from him. She was a natural at it. She had apprenticed under his rein and learnt the ropes, and on his death, waited for the opportune moment to move in and take over. Charming with the “goras” and ruthless with her detractors, she had carved out a niche for herself. When her largest enemy caused a problem, she ruthlessly led her firm to a bloody war that won her accolades across the board. She had taken what her father had created and grown it into a major player in the region. When her position was threatened, she had done the unthinkable and declared a total clampdown on all activities unless approved by her or her favorite son. He was every bit the bastard her father was, coupled with the rebelliousness that came from her husband. He would have been the perfect heir but fate had other plans. She had taught him everything, just like her father had taught her. Showed him how he would take over from her when the time came, and he took to it like a fish to water. Soon, he was advising her, just as she had her father. Unfortunately, he was taken away from her well before his time and she had no choice but to go to her first son. He was a reluctant study, with his head in the clouds and his love for his Italian wife, he clearly didn’t have the stomach for the fight it would take to maintain their family business. But she had to try. She had promised her father she would. And when the time came, he would be ready. Rajiv would be ready. The time was coming, of that she was sure. It would be someone close, someone who had access. It would be stupidly obvious once it was over, but she was completely oblivious to it now.
As she walked down the steps to the interview she had to give, she thought about who it could be. She had taken the country to war and won. She had declared an emergency, lost an election and then come back into power. All great achievements, but could she cheat death? Especially after Blue Star? Every permutation and combination ran through her head as she passed by the wicket gate and absentmindedly nodded at one of her longest serving guards, and then, in that instant she knew…