Twenty-two Years Ago
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Veer watched as his daughter mumbled incoherent words in her sleep on the motel bed, tightly hugging her stuffed brown bear to her chest. He ran his rough hand through her soft locks, smiling when she moved closer to him. Everything about her she had inherited from her father: black hair, chocolate eyes, feisty attitude, and a sharp intelligence that stood out at a young age. Or so, Veer told himself.
"Is it done, Mark?" Veer questioned, his brown eyes fixed on the sight of his little girl while he talked with his employee.
Mark nodded, bowing his head in respect as he clutched an orange envelope in his stubby hands. "Yes, Mr. Malik. The work has been completed."
Veer’s eyes finally turned to Mark before lowering to the envelope. Mark hurried to follow his boss’ command, even before an order was given, and handed the envelope over. He knew better than to anger the intimidating man in front of him.
Veer opened the envelope, pulling out the legal piece of paper that lay inside. His finger ran over the name of the U.S. citizen on the birth certificate and he smiled in satisfaction.
"No one will know of what truly happened to her," Mark explained with confidence, looking to please his boss as though he were a mere child, harboring a secreted desire to see someone proud of him.
Veer’s piercing eyes snapped towards Mark, a glare etched on his square face. "On God, I will have your body processed through a dispenser if anyone finds out about her true identity."
Mark’s eyes widened slightly before his gaze turned downwards, his hands clasped in front of him. "I apologize, Mr. Malik. I won’t speak about it again."
Veer stood up from the bed, placing the envelope down. With a sickly smile on his face, he moved towards Mark, pulling out a dagger from the waistband of his dark jeans. Shakily, Mark moved backwards, his eyes darting towards the knife in fear.
"You’ve done well, Mark, but, you are someone who knows my secret. And for my secret to forever be safe, you can no longer exist," Veer stated, gripping Mark’s black blazer to hold him in place as he plunged the knife deep into his stomach.
Mark stumbled backwards, gripping his wound through his buttoned white shirt, all the while never removing his wide-eyes gaze from Veer. He was not given a chance to recover. Veer raised the bloody dagger to Mark’s throat.
"Goodbye," Veer whispered, slitting Mark’s throat open in a swift movement. Mark fell onto his knees, collapsing to the floor with closed eyes, lips agape in shock. Veer wiped his face of the freshly spewed blood, ceaselessly grinning at Mark’s limp body.
"Papa?" a small voice called, and Veer’s eyes turned towards his daughter. He dropped the bloodied knife from his hands and rushed to the little angel. Without a care of his stained clothes, he pulled her onto his lap.
"Yes, princess?" he asked, placing her head on his shoulder. While patting her back, he left an imprint of blood on her white nightgown.
The six-year-old pulled away, a frown slipping onto her lips as she glanced at the blood on her father’s face.
"What happened, Papa? Are you hurt?" she questioned in Hindi, tilting her head to the side.
Her papa smiled sincerely, shaking his head, as he kissed her forehead. "No, princess, I am not hurt. And from now on, there will be no one who can hurt us."
Veer pulled her in for a hug, holding on to her as if she were his medicine to the sickness poisoning his mind and heart. His eyes skated to the birth certificate next to them, settling on the name he had chosen for his daughter: Riya Malik.