(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)
Of course, nobody will admit to that now. Everyone’s hands
are clean, except those of us who had to do the actual dirty work.
At the mention of Banabash, the media people in the
spectator’s section all turn in unison to stare at me. This is what they’re
here for, after all – to tell everyone how the monster is at bay, and will pay
for what he did to all those poor people. They’d demanded TV coverage of the
trial, too, but the judges had refused.
It doesn’t really matter. The TV cameras are outside, just
beyond the line of security people, and hyperexcited news anchors must at this
very moment be yelling into microphones about how justice is about to be done,
or not done. Or something.
I wonder briefly what they’ll do in case I’m acquitted.
There is, of course, about as much chance of my acquittal as the sky falling –
someone has to be a scapegoat and it seems it’s going to be me – but just in
case I am, they’ll probably hound me afterwards as the Monster on the Loose as
long as I live, wherever I may go. I’d probably have to disappear.
The short judge is asking my lawyer something.
"My client pleads not guilty on all charges," Kanarian says.
The trial has begun.
first time I saw Banabash, the camp hadn’t even taken shape yet. Bulldozers
were scraping a series of deep trenches round the edges of the town, while men
with heavy gloves strung barbed wire rolls on posts across them. Soldiers with
guns stood guard, but none of them looked particularly concerned. In the middle
distance, several fires were burning desultorily.
"A couple of them were accidental," the man in charge, who
would become my deputy, said. He was a heavy-set career bureaucrat named Rajan
who was only too happy to sink back into a subordinate position. "Short-circuits
and upset kitchen stoves, things like that. The men set the others."
"Why?" I asked, looking out over the town from the window of
my new office. It was a maze of narrow dust-coloured alleys, bare brick-walled houses
and open sewers; a huge slum, not a town at all. I couldn’t see anyone on the
other side of the wire and trenches. "Just for fun?"
"No, no." Rajan flapped his thick hands. "Not fun, not at
all. The, uh..." He blinked a time or two. "The, um..."
"Inmates," I offered helpfully.
"Inmates, yes. The fires keep them away from where we’re
working. They don’t like the heat and smoke."
"And suppose the fires burn out of control?" I asked, not
really listening to the answer. The whole damn slum could go up in flames and
still not be much worse than it already was. Instead, I mapped out the walls
I’d build, the ones which would seal off the town from the outside world. They
wouldn’t need to be particularly high, but they would need to be smooth. I
didn’t want anyone inside climbing out. Nor did I want anyone digging out, so
they’d need to extend at least a couple of metres below ground level as well,
and be reinforced with steel.
I didn’t want anyone inside getting out in any way, at all.
"We’ll need gates," Rajan said, when I told him about the
"No gates," I began, and then had a thought. We’d need a way
to go in if necessary, and if we had to, to bring someone out. "We’ll have one
gate. A reinforced, heavily fortified gate. One that nobody can break through."
"We’ll have to decide where it ought to be."
"Right opposite here," I said, pointing through the window.
"We can keep an eye on it from here."
"How about, ah, arrangements for food supply," Rajan asked.
"We’re supposed to provide food, isn’t that so?"
"It’ll be supplied." What it would be I didn’t know.
Probably the market leftovers, vegetables gone off, stale bread, rotting fish
and meat, anything that nobody else will touch. It’s not my responsibility.
"Starting the day after tomorrow."
"And how do we deliver it? Through the gate?"
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