Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 32

“Ms. Sahi!” Yusuf greeted Dua enthusiastically. She sat in the chair across him and put her aviators on the table. “Is everything alright?”

“I don’t know Mr. Khan. I’m making enemies for no reason.” Yusuf frowned at her answer. “We should get to business. These things are petty and I hate wasting time. Xian!” He opened the file before Yusuf. “That’s what you get for working with me and I assure you, this is just the beginning.” Yusuf read through the file slowly and carefully. He couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing, especially the figure that belonged to him. Only him.

“I never doubted a word you said.” Yusuf replied in a dream like state. Dua scoffed inwardly at how easy his greed was satisfied. She threw a few pennies and he was already dancing to her beat.

“I stood by my word, it is time for you to do your part.” Yusuf looked at her expectantly. “What’s the hurry Mr. Khan?” Dua leaned in her chair leisurely. “Patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait.”

“Indeed it does” He looked at the file in his hand with twinkling eyes. Dua nodded and Xian opened another file before him. “What is this?”

“It’s the list of final board members for the branch in Florida.” Dua continued stirring spoon in her cup without looking up. “I know what you might be thinking Mr. Khan but I deserve to be entitled to choose the people I want.”

“But-”

“It’s alright for you to refuse me and then, it will be rightful of me to back out. I’m a woman of pride and dignity Mr. Khan.” Dua finally looked up and fixed him with pointed glare. “I don’t work with just anyone.”

“But- I already gave my word to those people I convinced. If I turned on my word, they will withdraw their money. How will-”

“Do you still need their charity for your deed?” Yusuf sealed his mouth. “My one investment in your current branch and you own seven times of your one investor. Choice is yours but last word will be mine.”

“I don’t need to think twice Ms. Sahi” Yusuf grabbed the pen and signed the papers. Dua smiled at how eagerly he signed his life away to her. “I’m a man of my word.”

“Of course” Xian took the file and checked each page carefully. “I assure you” Dua looked at her watch casually, “you won’t even get any chance to regret it.”

Yusuf couldn’t make anything of her words. He was not given the time because police were standing by their table in next moment.

“Mr. Yusuf Khan!” He looked at them perplexed. “You are under-arrest for the murder of Ismael Malik, Behroze Alvi and Jalal Sehgal.” He stood up abruptly with ghastly expressions. “You are prime suspect for the murder of Nawab Murtaza, the explosions at Marwa refineries, the smuggling and swiping of illegal weapon and drugs across the border. Your hotels will be sealed for further investigation of illegal trade meets and deals-”

“What nonsense!” Yusuf boomed. “I didn’t do any of that.” He looked at Dua. Her brow was arched a little in question towards him. “What proof do you have? This is bullshit. I’m going nowhe-”

“We have found their bodies at your farmhouse in Balakot. The remnants of explosives are identical to the one found in your shipment and we have live proof of your threat to Mr. Behroze for taking his life.” Yusuf paled. “Come with us or we will have to take you by force.”

“No!” Yusuf yelled in anger when he was handcuffed. “I didn’t do anything Ms. Sahi.” The police officer looked towards Dua. “I’m being manipulated. Believe me-”

“You are Ms. D. Almas Sahi? Wife of Asfandyar Sherzai?” Dua nodded. “Your husband filed a special investigation for your attempted assassination a week ago.”

“What?” Dua looked at Xian in question.

“We have found the culprit behind that attempt as well.” Dua looked towards Yusuf when the officer turned to him once again. “It was Mr. Yusuf Khan.”

“No” Yusuf bellowed in anger. “What the fuck? It’s nonsense. I didn’t do anything of the sort. I didn’t try to kill you Ms. Sahi.”

“Take him away.” The constables dragged his protesting form away. “You will need to come to the police station. We are trying to reach your husband but he is currently unavailable.”

“He is out of country for a business meeting.” The officer nodded. “I’ll let him know. Thank you for your cooperation.” The officer left her alone and the commotion died within few minutes.

“This is news” Dua sipped her coffee with a satisfactory hum. “Sit down Xian. We are not leaving anytime soon.” He sat across her with a raised brow. “There is no doubt about it.” Dua chuckled heartily. “They serve good coffee here.”

**********

Dua stopped by the foot of stairs upon seeing Safan and Ushna. Her brow raised skeptically at how they interacted. Safan was glaring at the poor girl who was clearly shying away upon bumping into him out of nowhere.

“Interesting” Dua leaned against the railing, amused. “Very interesting” she hummed to herself when Safan stormed away, leaving a daydreaming girl looking behind him. Her expressions gave away her feelings for the guy and his reaction was the pointer to his awareness.

Safan didn’t accompany Asfand to his trip to Dubai. He was left behind to look after certain important matters, one of which included his wife. Asfand left that day without saying or meeting Dua and haven’t returned yet. Dua knew he was keeping a lookout for things on his end.What surprised her was that he was also keeping a lookout of things around her.

A special security team was arranged for her. They were stationed around the estate round the clock and they followed her everywhere at their own allotted distance. It irked Dua but she made no comment about it.

One, they were keeping their distance from her affairs and two, she didn’t want to confront Asfand about anything.

Her reason to return by his side were personal. It was a war between her and Haider regarding her stay in Pakistan. He was hell bent on taking her back. Haider knew how dangerous it was for Dua to live on her own among so many enemies. He couldn’t come to her aid every time and mishaps were bound to occur at every corner.

On her marriage, they agreed that Dua was to stick by Asfand until she was done with everything. Enemy or not, they knew Asfand was not going to let anyone come near her until his own motives were fulfilled. But what happened that night, proved otherwise.

Haider was not keen on the idea of leaving her with him anymore. It meant her return to America and she couldn’t do that for now. They fought bad but eventually Dua prevailed.

Haider knew better than pushing her into any decision. It could have led to serious problems and she was already in plenty danger. He was not keen on letting her go back by his side but there was no other option left. Xian was to leave occasionally and this left her open to every threat. Brave or not, strong or not, her life was in danger and Haider was not going to take any chance on her safety.

Sarim tried to reach Dua in his stay which proved to be his dumbest and biggest mistake. He was aiming to win her back but Haider proved it otherwise. If not for Xian, Haider would have shot that idiot in the head for getting her sister hurt in that way.

Haider thought Sarim was a good man but he was just another rich spoilt brat who wail and obsess on a toy they couldn’t get. He didn’t held himself from beating a clear warning in him and he didn’t hesitate in telling Dilawar Chaudhary about the wonderments of his grandson.

Sarim was a disgrace to their name in every way. Haider didn’t want the relation between Jahangir and Dilawar to strain over his stupidities. But that didn’t mean he was going to jeopardize Dua’s safety over it.

His warning was clearly perceived. Dua also made her choices and decision very clear towards Sarim. If he possessed any dignity, he won’t be coming back. If he still did, Dua was going to let Haider, Xian and Asfand deal with him however they pleased.

Haider left but Dua didn’t return to Asfand’s side as promised. She just couldn’t. Not after what he did to her. She just wanted to see if he was actually going to raise his hand on her and he didn’t disappoint her.

Except for that tiniest part that hoped he will not.

If not for Noor Bi, she wouldn’t be back in this place. Dua was not sure for how long she would be able to put up with this lie. She didn’t get any chance to confront Asfand. She returned a night before and he left next day. She has no idea how she was going to react once he was back.

Maybe, Noor Bi will leave soon. And I will as well.

“Sorry Bhabhi” Ushna stepped back startled when her path collided with Dua. “I wasn’t looking.” She looked up Dua in surprise and embarrassment.

What she was wearing, Ushna could never in ten lives and in her wildest dreams. She admired Dua for her straightforward and strong personality. But she could only admire. She was a bird of cage and Dua, of sky.

“Do you always apologize for every little thing?” Dua tucked her phone inside her pocket and looked at her with a raised brow. Ushna immediately lowered her gaze which made Dua laugh. “You can look at me Ushna. I don’t bite.”

“Are you going somewhere?” She looked at her attire once again. Dua was wearing black pants, a button-up shirt with a three buttoned waist-coat and ankle high diggers. Her hair were secured in a high-tail and her shades were fixed on top of her head. She was not wearing any make-up, just a simple lip color and sun-screen. But Ushna couldn’t stop being awed by how beautiful she looked. “I have seen Asfand Bhai dress similar to you when he goes for arm practice.”

“You know about guns?” Ushna followed Dua to the central hall. “I must say I’m surprised.”

“Not that I want to but when such things are discussed around you day and night, you ought to pick a few words.” Dua looked at her carefully. “Noor Bi is not home. I will-”

“Would you like to come with me?” Ushna blinked at Dua in surprise. “Noor Bi is not home and I’m sure you don’t have any plans to go out alone. Do you want to come with me or stay home and get bored over nothing?”

“I don’t want to disturb you Bhabhi” Dua couldn’t help but laugh at how naïve this girl was. She nodded at Xian and faced the girl once again.

“Trust me Ushna, you can’t.”

**********

Ushna covered her ears when Dua shot another round of bullets. Her reactions were amusing Dua to no extent. For being the daughter of that man, she sure was easily scared by everything.

“Why are you so scared?” Dua took off her shades and faced her. Ushna looked on the verge of passing out. “Have you never heard a gunshot before?” Dua reloaded her gun and aimed it to the target. “Times are changing Ushna. You ought to know how to wield a weapon. You can never know when the need arises.”

“I don’t like the sound of it” her voice shook slightly. “Even if I wanted to, my father and brother will never allow me.” Dua shot the target in the head and then, heart. “According to them, women are made to keep the men happy. They don’t need to worry about matters that doesn’t involve cooking, stitching and-” Another shot. “I’m sorry if I’m ruining it for you.” Dua turned the other way when her phone buzzed.

“Yes?” She listened quietly. “Yes, okay. No need to act beforehand. Let me see first.” She disconnected the call and faced Ushna once again. “Looks like our kitty meet will have to end for now. I have some work to tend to. I will drop you home.” Ushna nodded and followed Dua quietly.

“You don’t look like you go out that much. Do you have friends?” Ushna shook her head in negative. “Have you been home-schooled?”

“Baba said it works the same way. I have completed my studies from home, even my graduation. I wanted to study further but baba said there was no need.” Dua didn’t reply. “His life is complicated and he thinks by letting me move around freely, he will invite unwanted trouble for himself.”

“So, your baba thinks that a woman is nothing more than a breeding mare for men?” Ushna didn’t answer. “That means your safety totally depends on him, your brother and the man he will choose to marry you with?” Ushna nodded with bowed head.

“You were getting engaged to Wasiq Baig? Did you know what kind of guy he was? Or was it also a decision imposed on you by your father? Did your baba believe the man who ruined many girls can protect his own wife?” Ushna didn’t miss the acid in her voice. “The men in your family possess quite an interesting thinking.”

“It doesn’t matter Bhabhi, what I say or feel.” Her voice was laced with sadness. “If baba wanted to marry me off to that guy who was nothing but an animal in human disguise, he would have. It didn’t matter to him. What matters to my father is his reputation and status in society. Nothing more, nothing less. But” Ushna looked at Dua hopefully once they were inside the car.

“Asfand Bhai is nothing like that. You already know that, don’t you? This is why I admire Asfand Bhai the most, more than my own brother. I just wish my husband possess at least one attribute like his.”

“Your Asfand Bhai didn’t stop your baba from ruining your life Ushna. It was luck that helped you escape that pit.” Dua looked away from her and the rest of the ride was in silence. And you will run out of it soon.

Xian heard everything the little girl said. He was looking at Dua who was looking out. He just hoped she didn’t end up doing something she shouldn’t.

**********

Dua looked around the damp environment as she made her way to the deepest part of the prison. The prisoners hooted and leered at her as she walked past their confinements but none of it was enough to scare her off.

“We cannot let you alone with him. It’s for safety protocol Ms. Sahi. I hope you understand.” She nodded and entered the cell with two officers behind her. As expected, Yusuf was sitting in the exact same position she has imagined.

“You have visitor” Yusuf looked up and his eyes widened in shock. He tried to get up but the police pushed him back and restraint his further movements.

“I didn’t do anything. I didn’t try to kill you. I am being framed.” Dua pulled out the chair and sat down, on the opposite side of the table.

“If it’s not much officer, I would like to have a word with him. Alone.” She looked at all of them. “He is incapacitated. If you please” The three officers looked at each other and stepped out without another word. They knew of her connection with IGP and they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Once the door closed to his cell, Dua faced Yusuf calmly.

“I didn’t do any of that Ms. Sahi. I’m being framed. I didn’t try to kill you. Someone is setting me up.”

“I know” Dua crossed one leg over the other and clasped her hands over her knee. “Is that what you want me to say to you Mr. Khan? Unfortunately, I won’t. I put my trust in your ideas and this is how you repaid my generosity.”

“Please! Give me a chance. I’m innocent. I can prove that it was not me. I know who tried to kill you.” Dua raised one skeptic brow at him. “They are the same people who framed me Ms. Sahi and I know them very well. Just give me one chance. I will prove everything.”

“Who are these people?” Yusuf was hesitating in saying the name. “Your actions speak otherwise Mr. Khan. Just how a guilty behaves.”

“Azfar” the name was out in a heartbeat. “Azfar tried to kill you that night. He thinks you are related to someone he knew from past. An enemy.” Dua scoffed inwardly at his lame attempt to twist a tale. “I tried talking him out but he is a puppet to someone else. He didn’t attack you on his own but at the commands of someone else.”

“One chance” Dua got up to leave. “You have one chance to set things right for yourself Mr. Khan.” She walked towards the door that opened upon her brief knock. “Don’t disappoint me.” She walked out without hearing to his reply.

“Keep a good eye for the things around this man officer. I don’t want anything happen to him while he is here. I hope you know what I’m talking about.”

“You don’t have to worry Ms. Sahi. Only a handful of people can enter his cell. Those are trustworthy people of IGP. You have nothing to worry about.” Dua nodded and turned to the officer once she was by her car.

“I appreciate your help regarding the case my husband filed but I would like to take it back.” The police officer was taken aback by her request. “Don’t worry, I will handle my husband. Kindly withdraw the charges against Mr. Yusuf Khan.”

The officer was reluctant but he was in no position to decline D. Sahi.

“Thank you.” She got in the car once the officer nodded. “Xian will be dealing you on this matter from here on. Have a good day officer.” The officer nodded again and her driver closed the door. She put on her shades once her car drove out of the premises of Jail.

“I’m looking forward to another interesting disguise on your hands.” The driver looked back at her through the rear-view mirror. Dua gazed out with a smile on her lips.

“Make the remaining days of his life a memory and lesson in every way…Aya.”

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