Monday, August 27, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 26

Raizada Mansion seemed quiet now that all the guests had left. Khushi had also left with them, as she would be spending the night with Payal.

The Guptas arrived at Raizada Hotel and headed up to their suites. Payal and Khushi entered their bedroom and Khushi dumped her bag on the bed. The girls changed into their pyjamas and settled down for a girlie heart-to-heart.

‘Jiji, I can’t tell you how excited I am about the wedding,’ Khushi exclaimed. ‘Are you?’

Payal nodded, grinning from ear-to-ear. ‘Akash is taking me out tomorrow,’ she said. ‘He wants to spend some time with me, he said.’

‘Aw, that is so sweet. You know, Jiji, I’ve been working with them for the last few weeks, and he’s an absolute sweetheart. He’s calm and confident.’ She stopped, grinned and continued, ‘Oh! but I don’t need to tell you that! You already know it.’

Payal smiled and said, ‘Yes, I do. Actually, we talked a lot since he got back. I was a little worried about how I might feel once I got here and saw him again. But.. now..’

‘Didn’t you guys skype? I mean, wouldn’t that have made you feel better about seeing him?’

‘Of course, we did. But still, it’s not the same as seeing someone in person, you know.’

‘So tell me, jiji,’ she began, but her phone rang just then. ‘Hold on a sec.’ She picked up the phone and hit ‘Answer’.

‘Sitting and talking to your sis?’ his voice was husky.

‘Mmmm hmmmm,’ she answered, turning her back to that same sis, so she wouldn’t see the faint blush on her cheeks.

Payal looked quizzically at her sister’s back. Whose call was it that Khushi had to turn away from her?

‘Just wanted to remind you, come into the office with Sergio tomorrow, okay? I’m going to be away for the most part tomorrow morning. But we’ll have lunch together.’

‘Okay,’ she said.

‘Good night,’ he whispered.

‘Good night.’

‘Who was it?’ Payal was waiting for her.

‘Arnav,’ she turned back, head down, busy turning her phone off.

‘What’d did he want?’

‘Ah, leave it, jiji. Just some work related stuff,’ she gave a half-truth.

Her sister wasn’t so convinced. There was something that little sister was hiding, but, she’d find out soon enough. There was time. In the meanwhile, there was shopping to be done. The two girls settled down once again to their chat, discussing all the sundry things that a girl in love discusses with her sister before her marriage.

A knock on the door interrupted them. Khushi frowned, and suddenly her heart began hammering. Being in the hotel brought back memories of the last time that she had been here. Payal opened the door to the suite. A hotel attendant stood there with a tray in his hands.

‘We didn’t order anything,’ Payal was puzzled.

‘Compliments of the management, ma’am,’ said the waiter. He came in and placed the tray on the table and walked out without asking them to sign any receipt.

Khushi and Payal stared stared at the tray, removing the napkin that covered its contents. A steaming pot of something along with two cups, a covered platter, and two dishes stood on it. Khushi lifted the lid on the platter. Jalebis! The pot contained hot tea.

‘So...’ said Payal, ‘The management knows you like jalebis and tea, hmm?’ She raised her eyebrows at her sister, who busied herself taking a couple of jalebis on a plate and wolfing them down.

‘I guess so,’ she mumbled, unable to suppress the small smile tugging at the corner of her lips. Arnav Singh Raizada, she thought, you know me too well!

****

Arnav arrived at the office of the Commissioner of Police, New Delhi right on time. He carried the files he had on both Shyam Manohar Jha and Khushi Kumari Gupta. Being a well-known businessman in town gave him certain perks, and this was one he determined to make use of. The commissioner was also an old family friend - but he wanted to go through the official channels, the personal one he would use later, if he needed to.

They shook hands and sat down. Commissioner of Police, Nikhil Bhardwaj, was in his fifties and his hair was liberally sprinkled with grey. Deep lines on his face emphasized the stress level of his job. He was known for his honesty and his hard-nosed approach to all activities criminal.

‘Arnav,’ he said. ‘It’s a pleasure to see you. Tell me, what is your interest in this case’.

Arnav had already briefed the commissioner on what he wanted to talk about when he’d asked for the appointment. He handed over the files he had. ‘I did some personal investigation into it.’

‘What’s your interest in this case?’ the commissioner asked again. ‘And what makes you want to open it up again?’

‘Miss Gupta is back in India on some work. She’s working with me. She had been receiving phone calls even while she was back in the US. The police there said it was out of their jurisdiction as the phone calls originated in India. But now that she is here, she has received those calls again. I couldn’t find anything going back six years on Shyam Manohar Jha. Which is why I am wondering if you can help.’

The commissioner thought for a moment, tapping his fingers on his desk.

‘Arnav,’ he said. ‘The case is four years old. But if, as you say, she has been receiving calls since she has been in India, then yes, we can reopen the case. It does present a clear and present danger to her.’ He paused. ‘We don’t have some of the resources I need, but I’ll see if the CBI can be roped in as well. This is after all a kidnapping case, and they are better equipped to handle it.’

This had the potential of becoming a high-profile case, he knew. The complexity of the case had been increased because the first time, Ms. Gupta had evidently been keeping some things back. Some things that she would not or could not talk about. This had hampered their investigation to an extent. And that is why Shyam Manohar Jha was out there somewhere. But where? They had also been unable to establish the identity of this ‘Rani Sahiba’. Who was she? She was obviously related to Shyam, but how? Like Arnav, their investigation had turned up nothing. If this time, the investigation had to go back further than six years, then he definitely needed to bring in the CBI. And to top it all, a high-profile businessman’s sister-in-law-to-be was the abductee’s sister. It just got a whole lot more complicated.

Arnav stood up, realizing that this meeting was done, but he trusted Bhardwaj and knew that he would follow up on it. They shook hands, and he turned to go.

‘Arnav,’ he looked back as Bhardwaj called him, ‘I will be in touch with you. We need to discuss security for the wedding.’

He nodded. ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said quietly and walked out.

*** 

It was almost eleven when Arnav finally walked into the office. Aman followed him in, briefing him quickly on the most important stuff.

‘Aman,’ he stopped the narrative. ‘Can you make reservations for lunch, please? For two. And, Aman, make it Mexican, please.’

Aman hopped to it like a good bunny. He got reservations at a Mexican restaurant and confirmed it with Arnav.

Khushi was busy working in Lavanya’s room. A meeting reminder popped up. From Arnav Singh Raizada. Lunch. 12:00 pm. Meet me in the reception. Don’t be late. A. She clicked on accept and edited the reply. I wouldn’t dare. K. Send.

At five minutes past twelve, Arnav was still waiting in the reception, starting to fume at her when he noticed her coming into the hall. His eyes widened as he saw her come around the corner, she was wearing a saree! The simple single-colored pale mauve chiffon that clung to her curves, revealing nothing and hiding nothing. Pale mauve lipstick on her lips and her hair tied in the usual ponytail, swinging with her walk. She looked professional and yet sexy, all at the same time!

‘Sorry, I’m late,’ she said coming to a halt in front of him.

He didn’t say anything for a heartbeat, and then said, ‘Let’s go!’ He turned around and started walking towards the exit; she followed him out. Both of them were completely oblivious to the open-mouthed stares from Lavanya and Akash who had just then come out of a conference room. They looked at each other in amazement.

Lavanya dragged him back into the room and shut the door. ‘Akash!’ she said. ‘You’ve got to tell me...Please, what the hell is going on with him and her?’ waving her arm in the general direction of the door. Her eyes were full of suppressed laughter and the dimples were out in full force.

‘Really, Lavanya, I don’t know,’ he protested. ‘You know how Bhai is, completely closed. But what I’ve seen of him with her, I’d say yes. There does seem to be something going on.’ He really couldn’t deny it any more to her. He’d seen the look in Bhai’s eyes, the completely besotted look of a man in love. But would Bhai understand what was happening to him? He very much doubted it. The man didn’t know what being in love was all about. Now he on the other hand... his face took on a dreamy look.

Lavanya looked at him in exasperation. ‘Oh God! Are we in Payal land again?’

He just smiled at her. ‘Lavanya, you must meet her,’ he said.

‘I will, Akash,’ she patted his shoulder. ‘We’re going shopping this afternoon with Anjali.’

She was just as excited about the wedding as any good friend would be. Akash was a cutie-pie and he deserved a loving wife. Someone sweet and kind and calm and loving. From what she’d heard, Payal definitely fitted the bill. Not like Khushi, she thought. Now there was a girl with a fire inside her, and Arnav Singh Raizada seemed to be stoking it. She pushed down the small feeling of jealousy that raised itself in her mind. She wasn’t going to ruin a good life by being petty, she had already decided that a long time ago, and she was going to stick by it.

‘Let’s go, Akash,’ she said, ‘and take Sergio out for some lunch as well.’

3 comments:

  1. Madhu u r truly on a roll .. whats the secret behind the rocking inspiration today .. but personally cant thank u enuf .. u made my sunday ..
    hmm bitwa stunned .. gud gud .. nice one again

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Are we in Payal land again"?... Oh God, that was so so funny...

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  3. I hope the commissioner gets some info on Shysm and Rani Sahiba. Preferably before the wedding. I do feel that Arnav should also put security detail around the girls, especially if they are going shoping etc;
    I would love to see why she has chosen to wear a sari... in fact id like to know what the imp thinks ;)

    ReplyDelete

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