Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 32

Commissioner Bhardwaj was busy with some papers when a policeman came in and smartly saluted. He nodded at the new entrant and expectantly at the file in the man’s hands. It was sealed. The man handed over the file to him, saluted, turned around crisply and exited the room.

Bhardwaj unsealed the file and began reading. A frown appeared on his face, deepening as he continued reading. This was not good. About half an hour later, he had finished reading, and shut the file. Thinking deeply, he picked up the phone and hit the line for his secretary. ‘Get me Arnav Singh Raizada,’ he said, getting up to pace the floor.

Fifteen minutes later, his extension beeped. It was his secretary. ‘Sir, I’m afraid I can’t reach him, sir. His phone keeps going to voicemail. I tried his office, he’s not there either. I tried his home, but they said, he’d gone shopping for the wedding. I did leave him a voicemail to call you back, sir.’

Damn, thought Bhardwaj. He looked at the clock, almost lunchtime. Well, he would try Arnav again in a few hours. He should be back by then.


Back in Raizada Mansion, Anjali put down the phone and looked at her husband. ‘I don’t know why Chotey wouldn’t pick up his phone,’ she said, worriedly. ‘He’s never without it. He knows I call him and he always picks up.’

‘My sweet,’ her husband put his arm around her and said, ‘did you try his office?’

‘Of course! I’ll call Aman and see if he knows where Chotey is,’ she hurried back to pick up the phone. Dilip smirked. If he knew his brother-in-law, he’d done a wise thing keeping his phone away while he was out with his... girl friend? He didn’t know that Khushi was Arnav’s girl friend or anything like that. But he’d seen the look in his brother-in-law’s eyes when he’d looked at the girl, and it was definitely a look that he’d never seen on his face before. The man was in love. The million-dollar Question was: did he know it? He sighed. He wasn’t going to do anything about it. He also knew that if he told his wife about this, she’d probably be busy planning the wedding menu. No. Chotey always made his own decisions. This time too, he would take his time and if he asked for Dilip’s help, he would give it to him. He loved his wife, but he wished she would let her little brother do his own thing, without giving him unwanted advice all the time - especially the ones about love and life.

Anjali came back with a strange look on her face.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘Aman said Chotey was out shopping while he was in the office, but it sounded like he was outside, too. I asked him if he was helping Chotey and he said, no. Strange.’

He tried to keep a straight face. Knowing his brother-in-law, he’d probably handed the list to Aman and then taken off for some time with the girl. ‘Did you try calling Khushi to see if she reached safely?’ he asked innocently, just pushing his wife along the right train of thought. ‘Perhaps she might know something?’

‘Yes, of course,’ she brightened up. ‘Let me call her.’ Once again she hurried over to the phone. Two minutes later she was back. Dilip lay back in his chair, keeping his amusement to himself. ‘Chotey and she went shopping, her parents said,’ she looked at him, perplexed. He raised his brows. Really? Interesting. So his guess was right. His brother-in-law was out romancing his girl. Good for you, Chotey, he thought. Smart boy. A full day without his sister looking over his every action was probably what he needed. He loved his wife to death, but sometimes she could be a bit... dense, he thought. He leaned over and held her hand. ‘Let Chotey be. Come sit with me for a bit. Your pregnant and you shouldn’t be worrying yourself like this.’ He gently pulled her forward and seated her next to him, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her close with a kiss on her forehead. She smiled and relaxed, basking in the glow of his love. Mission accomplished, he thought. Her mind was completely diverted now.


Anna put down the phone and turned to look at Shashi. He looked at her questioningly. ‘It was Arnav’s sister,’ she said, with a worried look. ‘She wanted to know if Khushi had arrived safely. Evidently, Arnav was supposed to drop her off. I told her what Khushi had told us, but why didn’t he tell his family he was taking her shopping?’ She dialed Khushi’s number and it rang before going to voicemail. She looked at her husband and said, ‘she’s not picking up her phone.’

Her husband gave her an amused smile and said, ‘probably didn’t hear it in the din of the market or something. May have left it in the car, for all you know. She’s pretty scatterbrained sometimes.’ A thought struck him. 'What’d they say about Arnav’s phone?’

‘That he wasn’t picking up the calls either,’ her voice trailed off as realization dawned in her eyes. He smiled at her and she smiled right back. ‘Oh my god, you think the two of them decided to play hookey?’

‘Looks like,’ he chuckled.

‘Oh dear,’ she laughed. ‘The poor boy. Does he even know what he’s getting involved in?’

‘No, but at some point he’ll figure it out.’

‘Does she?’ Anna sobered suddenly. ‘Shashi. She’s not been in a relationship. Ever. To me Arnav has so many qualities that I would want in the man she chooses, but the thing is, does he want more from her than just some time running away from the world?’

‘I don’t know, Anna,’ Shashi had become serious too. ‘He’s a good man. I don’t think he would deliberately play with her. He doesn’t seem the type. But then.. I like him. So I might be biased,’ he said thoughtfully.

‘Ever since I heard about the calls, I’ve been worried sick,’ said Anna. She sat down next to him on the sofa. He placed his hand gently on hers.

‘Our daughter has a good man looking out for her. One that will not let her be harmed. I know he will keep her safe.’

‘For how long? Once we return to the States, she’ll get those calls again, and her life will fragment again.’

‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. At least we know that Shyam will not be able to touch her there. It’s a few thousand miles away.’

They sat in silence contemplating how they could keep their daughter safe once they had her back.


Aman had been running around all morning. He didn’t know where his boss was. He wasn’t answering his phone. The police had called looking for him, and he had no clue how to give his boss the message. They wanted him to call back. He tried the number again.. and again... nothing. It wasn’t like ASR to not call back or even pick up his phone. Aman was starting to get worried about his boss. But he knew one thing, if he didn’t finish this long list of chores, he was going to be in for it in the evening when his boss came back, and the tasks were not completed. With a sigh, he hitched the bags in his hands and went over to his car. He looked at the list, and got in the car. Next stop - Connaught Place.


His boss meanwhile, was contemplating the lovely figure of one Miss Khushi Kumari Gupta, just as she saw him and started walking over to him. As she came into the courtyard, she heard Uttam calling to him from the kitchen.

He turned around and walked over to the side door. She came into the courtyard and could smell the food cooking in the kitchen. She suddenly realized that she was very hungry. She stood in the courtyard, uncertain about where to go. He came out, saw her and veered towards her. ‘Khushi,’ he said in that tone that always made the hair stand on her arms. A little bit of a question, a little bit of statement, a whole lot of ownership in that one word uttered in that husky tone. She looked at him with a question in her eyes. ‘Come,’ he said. He led the way out of the back of the house towards a long, low building. As they came near, she could smell...horses?

He led the way into a dimly lit stable. She could see about five horses in the stall. He led her to a tall stallion who neighed as he came close. It was taller than him. A big beast with chocolate skin and a white blaze on its forehead.

‘What kind of horse is it?’ she asked.

He held out an apple for the horse and stroked its nose. ‘A mustang,’ he said with a lop sided smile.

Her head turned to him in surprise. ‘Yep,’ he nodded, ‘this is my mustang. I bought him after I got back from the US the last time.’

She looked at him - the implications of his words just starting to sink in.

‘His name is Shelby.’ She burst out laughing.

He grinned ruefully. ‘I know, bad joke, huh?’

She sputtered and nodded, then sobered down.

‘Come on,’ he said, ‘I want to show you one more.’ He led her to a stall with an equally tall horse in it. It was sleek, with pied coloring in grey and black and white. ‘This is Mirage.’ He looked at her.

‘Why Mirage?’

‘Most of my life has been a mirage. Running after things that don’t matter. And when the real deal is in front of you....’ he stopped abruptly, as a man walked in through the door. He was obviously a stablehand.

‘Do you know how to ride?’ he asked her instead.

She shook her head. ‘No. Never had the chance,’ she replied.

‘Saddle up Mirage,’ he told the stablehand, who nodded and got to work.

They came out into the bright sunshine. A few minutes later, the stablehand led the horse out, saddled and bridled. He took the reins from him and swung into the saddle. Leaning down, he held out a hand to her. She took it. ‘Put your foot in the stirrup, and swing the other over the back.’

She did as she was told, feeling his strong arm pull her up and behind him. ‘Hold me,’ he instructed. She put her arms around his waist. He kicked the horse and it moved out in a gentle canter. ‘You okay?’

‘Yes,’ she said.

He moved it into a trot and kept the pace slow, knowing she was not used to the rhythmic rise and fall of the beast’s back. They took off towards the distant hills. There was a peace in Arnav’s heart that hadn’t been there before. The sun behind him, the hills in front, her arms wrapped around his waist, the faint smell of her perfume in his nose, the wind lifting his hair and the feel of a horse under him. Arnav Singh Raizada was content with life.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 31

On August 27th, I was exchanging emails with a friend, and bouncing ideas off her. This is what I wrote in my email.

“ASR has to go for chores for the wedding or the fashion show or some such excuse. He drags Khushi along for the 'chores'. In reality he gives the chores to Aman and they take off for their farm house, total solitude, hills etc..Come back in the evening, everyone is going.. what happenswa to both your phonwas?”

I had no clue that we would get such a memorable farmhouse episode on 21st Sept. In any case, this is how my farmhouse chapter played out...

Chapter 31

She waited impatiently in her penthouse, pacing up and down wearing out the rug. Shyam was late, again. She wanted him here, now! Today she was dressed in a black trouser suit, a white shirt and a loose tie. Her hair was up in her signature pony tail, while a pair of blood red come-fuck-me Loubotins peeked from the bottom of her trousers. A blood red Swarovski crystal tear-drop brooch gave the final touch to her look. She looked at the clock on the wall again. There was a knock on the door. She opened it.

Shyam stood there, and for a moment his gaze went from the heels to the top of her sleek head. Desire flamed in his eyes matching hers. He pushed the door shut and locked it.

Picking her up by the waist, he sat her down on the desk, plunging his mouth down on hers. She pushed him away, and he slapped her hard across her face. Leaning in he licked the little drop of blood that appeared at the corner of her lips. Her hands reached down, but he held her wrists stopping her from reaching her goal. He bent her back at an impossible angle, her legs coming up around his waist. The zipper was opened in no time. He lifted her up a bit and pulled down her pants and thongs. Bending down, he put his mouth on her and heard her give a hoarse cry as his tongue plunged into her. He nipped, sucked and bit at her, drinking in her juices. Her hands pulled at his hair, adjusting his rhythm to her rocking hips. She was almost there, when he pulled away. He plunged a finger into her and another and then a third, slowing the rhythm down. Licking her at the same time. She buckled under him, a harsh cry coming from her throat as she came, He pulled out. His zipper was undone and he was hard and ready. He pushed into her in one go, in the middle of her orgasm. He fucked her. Hard, but slow, taking his time. Her pony whipped back and forth as her legs came up around his neck. Holding her hips he slowed her down some more until she was moaning with need. He speeded up, allowing her to come again and again, before he finally allowed himself release.

He lay half on top of her, his legs barely holding him up. For a few minutes they just lay there, breathing returning to normal. She pushed him away, getting up and adjusting her clothes.

‘So, Rani Sahiba’, he said, the sleek smile of a satisfied animal on his face. ‘Why did you call me here? I’m assuming its not just for this,’ tugging his shirt into his waistband. ‘Although, I’d like to think it was,’

‘No,’ she said. She walked across to the mirror checking her face for any signs of bruises. The slap had been hard, her lower lip was cut, but not bleeding any more. ‘It wasn’t.’ She turned around to face him. ‘The wedding is in two days. When will I get to meet Khushi again? She’ll leave for the US as soon as the wedding is over. Then what? You couldn’t even get me a phone number so I could talk to her.’

‘Rani Sahiba, looks like ASR has given her a phone that we can’t trace. I tried. God knows I tried. But.. its either a prepaid cell or under someone else’s name. She doesn’t show up at all.’

‘I want her here,’ she said. There was a stubborn predatory gleam in her eyes. ‘What have you found about out about the wedding?’

‘It’s taking place at the Raizada hotel. The rituals will be on the rooftop, since the muhurat is early evening. Then there’s the reception downstairs. The wedding is closed to family and close friends only. My guess is Raizada will have the elevators to the rooftop closed off.’

‘Where is she tonight?’

He shook his head. ‘Hard to say. She’s been staying at his home, but with all the rituals, she might have gone to the hotel. It’s hard for me to shadow her all the time, Rani Sahiba,’ he whined. ‘Besides my sources tell me there is heavy police protection at the wedding too.’

‘Hmmm... ‘ she nodded. A plan was beginning to form in her head. She stood still letting the ideas coalesce in her mind. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘I know what we can do.’

He looked at her - a little bit in exasperation. He knew what he could do. The ring that ASR had placed around her was tight, but he knew how to find the cracks in it. A wedding is a big thing. No one would miss her. There were too many people around. It had to be the night of the wedding itself. Besides, he wanted some alone time with Ms. Khushi Kumari Gupta before handing her over to Rani Sahiba. She owed him that much, at least.


Arnav woke up later than usual. He lay in bed, uncharacteristically for him, because the minute he was awake, he was out of it. In his mind, unbidden came a picture of Khushi as he’d last seen her, and a smile turned up the corner of his lips. The red dress, the beautiful face and the accusing eyes. Something didn’t feel right. There was almost like a hole inside him. He hadn’t seen her a whole day and it was harder than he thought it might be. The smile faded from his face. He wasn’t going to see her today either, he decided. The imp opened its eyes, rubbed them, and then looked disbelievingly at him, before turning its back on him.

Downstairs it was a little quiet. Although from the sounds in the kitchen, he knew Mami and Di were busy there. Dilip was sitting the lounge with Akash, discussing the news. Nani seemed to be in the temple. All in all, there were the normal sounds of a household just waking up. His breakfast was ready and he ate it before he walked over to the lounge to join the men. Suddenly he felt as if the wind was sucked out of his lungs. He turned around slowly. Khushi was walking down the corridor from the guest room, struggling with her purse and a bag.

He looked at her, unable to tear his gaze away, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Di stood there with a list in her hand.

‘Chotey,’ she said. ‘I need you to go out today. I have a list, these are the things I need. We have to have them before the evening. I know it’ll take you all over town, but I need these. Okay?’ She thrust the list under his nose. He raised his hand to take it, not really registering what she was saying, his eyes blank. She looked at him, frowned and said, ‘Chotey, are you even listening to what I am saying?’

‘Yeah, Di. Sure,’ he took the list from her, aware that Khushi had stopped for a bit and was walking towards them now.

He turned around and was almost at the door when he heard another ‘Chotey!’ from his sis. For a second, he closed his eyes in frustration. Then he turned around, ‘Yes, di?’

‘Chotey, can you drop Khushi off at the hotel?’ she said. Khushi was standing there looking like she wished the earth would swallow her up. She looked anywhere but at him.

Knowing how stubborn his sister might be, and the fact that he had absolutely no excuse to refuse her a ride, he just nodded. ‘Sure, I’ll drop her off.’

‘There’s no need,’ she snapped. ‘I can get a cab.’

‘You’re coming with me, Khushi. I’m dropping you at the hotel.’ There was finality in his tone.

Akash, Dilip and Di looked at the exchange with puzzlement on their faces. What was going on here? There definitely seemed to be a tension between these two. What had happened?

She pressed her lips together and gathered up her bags. He held the door open for her, but didn’t offer to help with the bags. Once outside, she turned to him and said, ‘You don’t have to, you know. I can easily cab it from here.’

He looked at her for a moment, his brows coming together in a scowl. ‘Just sit in the car, Khushi,’ he said, taking her bags from her, and dumping them into the trunk before slamming it shut.

She got in and slammed the door.

He got in and slammed the door.

He didn’t know why he was so mad.

He didn’t know why she was so mad.

But mad was good, at least that hollow feeling wasn’t there in his chest.

Back in the house, the trio were looking at each other.

‘Akash, did Chotey seem a little off today? D’you know what happened to him?’

‘No, Di.’ He seemed equally puzzled.

‘And you,’ she said, turning to her husband. ‘You went with him yesterday to the hotel. Did anything happen there?’

‘No,’ he shrugged. ‘We went there, sat for about ten minutes and left. Nothing happened. In fact, Khushi wasn’t even there!’

Anjali’s eyes widened. ‘She wasn’t there? Where was she? Did he call her?’

‘Nope. I don’t know where she was. But she definitely wasn’t there.’

‘And he didn’t make a phone call, did he?’ she was beginning to smile.

‘No,’ he smiled, too. Finally understanding where she was going with this one. The three of them burst out laughing. ‘Poor Chotey,’ said he. ‘He’s gonna get it this time.’

They all chuckled imagining what Khushi might have to say to Chotey.

In fact, Khushi wasn’t saying anything right then. He’d started the car savagely and taken off with a squeal of tires. She just looked straight ahead grimly. He glanced at her once, then kept his eyes on the road. ‘What was that for?’

‘What was what for?’

‘Wanting to take a cab.’

‘It’s obvious you didn’t want to give me a ride. So I thought I should take the cab.’

‘Dammit, Khushi. Do you have to be so difficult?’

‘Difficult? Me? ME?!’ her voice went up an octave.

He screeched to a halt. ‘Yes, you. Its just a simple ride. Why make an issue out of it?’

‘Maybe because I didn’t want to be sitting in the same small enclosed space as you,’ she bit back.

‘Oh really?’

‘Yes, really!’

They were leaning towards each other now, in each other’s faces. His eyes searched her face, seeing the flags of red on each cheek and the glitter of anger in her eyes. ‘In that case,’ he turned around and started the car. ‘You’re gonna be spending a lot more time with me in this small enclosed space.’



‘What d’you mean?’

He didn’t bother to answer her. Instead, he picked up the phone from the dashboard and raised it to his ear. ‘Call Aman’.

She opened her mouth and he held up a finger to her, silencing her, before bringing it back to the steering wheel. She sat seething while he put the phone down, his ever-present bluetooth now linked up to it.

‘Aman.’ Her head snapped around. ‘I need you to do some shopping for me. Write this down.’ With one hand he held the list that Anjali had given him. He dictated all the items on the list. ‘Yeah, Aman. I know. It’ll take you all over town. I need it done and delivered to the office. I’ll come by to pick it up.....Evening.... cancel those... yeah... and no calls... absolutely no calls... call Akash if you need to... Yeah.’ He hung up.

Her eyes had gotten rounder as he spoke.

‘Listen,’ she was more than a little scared now. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Call your parents,’ he said. ‘Tell them you’re out shopping with me.’


‘Just call them, Khushi,’ his voice brooked no questions.

With shaking hands, she called her parents and told them. She was more than a little frightened now. She had never before felt the full fury of Arnav Singh Raizada, and she was scared by it. What the heck was he up to?

She realized that now they were heading out of town. ‘Where are we going?’ He didn’t answer. But he seemed a little calmer now. She put a hand on his arm, feeling the muscles bunch under the full sleeve of his shirt as he changed gears. He glanced over at her. She tried reading his eyes, but all she saw was the remnants of the anger in him.

He looked at her again, before pulling his eyes back to the road. What the hell happened to him? He didn’t have a plan. All he knew was he’d said something because he was furious with her. All he knew was that he had her in the car, and now they had to go somewhere. Where? He thought it over and then picked up the phone again and dialed a number from memory.

The phone was picked up at the other end with a ‘Hello? Arnav?’

‘Yeah. I’m coming over now, and I have a guest with me.’

‘No problem, Arnav. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of it.’

‘Thanks.’ He hung up the phone.

She looked straight ahead, but the changing scenery had its calming effect. They drove in silence for what seemed like an hour. Neither wanted to be the first to break it. His jaws were still clenched and they were starting to hurt. Finally, he turned onto a dirt road. Before her, was a long driveway and she could make out some buildings at the end of it. He pulled up in front of the building - a sprawling bungalow with tiled roofs and a verandah that went all the way around. In front was a beautiful lawn, filled with lush flowers and green grass, a white and green table with six chairs set to one side.

He unbuckled his seat belt and took off his blue tooth. He reached out and picked up her phone lying on the dash in front of her, and his, put all three of them in the glove compartment. She watched him silently as he unbuckled her belt too. He got out and walked around to her side, holding the door open. She stepped out.

The sun was hot, and shimmering heat waves danced across the hills she could make out in the distance. She shaded her eyes and looked around. ‘Where are we?’

‘My farmhouse,’ he said.

Before he could say anything more, two Great Danes came careening around a corner. One was jet black, while the other was a chocolate brown. One jumped on him, while the other sniffed Khushi. She heard him chuckle and turned to look at him.

‘Hey, big guy,’ he was murmuring, rubbing its ears. ‘You’ve grown even taller now!’ trying to keep his face out of the way of a slobbering tongue. He crouched down so he could put his arms around both of them as they licked his face. One pounced on him and sent him flat on his back from his precarious perch. The two dogs proceeded to tackle him every time he tried to sit up. He was laughing and it was the best sound she’d ever heard.

She couldn’t help but smile at the picture they made.

‘Arnav!’ The call came from the verandah. An oldish man stood on the steps waving to him. He came down the stairs towards them. Arnav held out a hand for Khushi to help him up, and she took it, hauling him up straight. He brushed his hands on his trousers, now liberally streaked with dirt.

‘Arnav beta,’ the man laughed, ‘come on in. Who is this?’

‘Khushi,’ he said simply. ‘She’s Khushi. Khushi, this is Uttam. He looks after this place for me.’

‘Come on in, now.’

‘What are their names?’ Khushi asked looking at the two dogs that followed them up to the verandah but did not step inside.

‘Tom and Jerry’, said Arnav with a straight face. She cracked up! She couldn’t help it. He joined her, chuckling at her amusement.

‘Which one is which?’ she sputtered.

‘The brown one is Tom, the black is Jerry,’ he was still smiling at her. For a moment, they forgot their spat from this morning. Just smiling at each other. Uttam cleared his throat.

‘Arnav, would you like to change? You’re covered in dirt.’

‘Yah. Thanks. Can you please get these washed right away?’

‘No problem.’

‘Khushi, feel free to wander around. I’ll just freshen up and change out of these and be with you. Okay?’

She nodded and watched him take off down the verandah, Uttam following him. She wandered in taking in the clean, almost spartan lines of the house. It was built in a square, surrounding a courtyard, with a fountain on one side. The courtyard was flagstoned and edged with a flower border. The side on which the kitchen was, she presumed, there was a gazebo - with a barbecue and a bar! The entrance had a higher roof, and she just noticed the bell in the bell tower. The closest she could think of in architectural style would be the hacienda, she thought. Even the colors were adobe, the walls were stucco and the tiles were red. There was a real Spanish feel to it. At the opposite end of the courtyard was another smaller entrance. She figured it led out to the backyard and went across the courtyard. It opened out to a swimming pool. She smiled. He had to have a swimming pool everywhere, she thought. It was beautiful! Quiet and serene. Her jangled nerves from the last two days calmed down completely.

Arnav came out to the inner courtyard looking for her. He saw her standing by the pool, the inner entrance framing her as she stood there sideways, looking out. The slight breeze was lifting her hair as she stood one hand on her hip, a far away look on her face. He stood there just looking at her. Wondering how he ever thought he was going to let a day go by without seeing her. Two days! I must have been mad.

The imp gave a lop-sided smirk and wandered over to the bar.

She turned around just then and saw him, her face lighting up with that smile. She let her gaze take him in, the olive green tee, and jeans and a pair of comfortable kolhapuris, having ditched his designer shoes for something casual. She was glad that she was wearing jeans, too and a comfortable thin cotton top.

It was definitely hot here despite the cooling breeze.

SS - And Justice is Served

Detectives Nolan and White could see Detectives Terry and Ryder from the SVU waiting for them at the entrance as they drew up to the hospital.

‘Why do we all have to be here?’ asked Terry, shaking hands with the detectives from the Major Crimes unit.

‘It’s the Raizada family, that’s why,’ said White. ‘Big businessman, owner of AR Group of Companies. Self-made. Harvard Grad. It’s his sister who had the miscarriage. That’s why you guys are here.’

‘Let’s go find the doctor,’ said Terry, leading the way. ‘Why would we be called for a miscarriage?’

Dr. Prakash was in his room waiting for them. They settled down, White sat in the sole available chair in the room, while the men stood leaning against the walls. ‘Mrs. Jha was brought in about 8 p.m. by family members, apparently having fallen down the stairs in the hall. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy. She suffered a lot of bleeding and we had to make a quick decision on whose life to save. The mother’s okay, but we couldn’t save the baby.’

‘Sounds like an open-and-shut case to me, doc,’ said Ryder. ‘Why bring us in?’

‘She didn’t just fall down the stairs, Detective. There were cut marks on her feet. Mrs. Jha suffered from polio as a child. She cannot walk without braces. Evidently, not only has she been walking bare feet, she has been walking on glass pieces; we found a piece stuck between her toes. There was a burn mark on her left toe as well’, he marked an ‘x’ on a diagram of the human anatomy as he spoke. ‘We couldn’t figure it out till we found the other one. It was hidden under the henna she had on her hands. She’s also been electrocuted – a minor jolt, but one, nevertheless.’

‘Someone tried to kill Mrs. Jha,’ Nolan came up with the obvious connection.

‘Or someone wanted the baby dead,’ said Ryder.

‘Or both,’ concluded Terry.

‘Is any of the family here?’ asked White.

‘Well, the brother is here; as is her grandmother and I think the brother’s fiancée,‘ said the doctor. ‘He wants her discharged as soon as possible so he can take her home.’

‘So where’s the husband?’ said White as they all stepped outside.

The doctor led them to the patient’s room. Through the glass portholes they saw that only the patient and her grandmother were there. Detective White stepped in, followed by Terry. The patient lay with her eyes closed, apparently oblivious to the new entrants. The grandmother seemed like an imposing figure and she looked questioningly at the doctor.

‘Who are these people and why are they here?’ she asked.

‘Detectives, ma’am,’ said White. She held out her badge as did Terry. ‘We need to ask your granddaughter a few questions.’

The grandma held up a hand and gave both of them a disdainful look. ‘Can’t you see she’s resting?’

‘Yes ma’am. But it’s important that we talk to her as soon as possible,’ said Terry. If looks could kill, Terry would have been six feet under, but he’d seen worse and heard worse. She didn’t bother him.

‘We’ll let you know when you can talk to her,’ said Grandma.

‘No ma’am. Perhaps you didn’t understand what I said. We need to talk to her as soon as she wakes up. Detective White and I will be waiting right outside this door.’

He could see the smoke coming out of her nostrils as he opened the door for White. ‘Something’s weird with the old woman,’ he muttered under his breath to her. She nodded.

Ryder and Nolan in the meantime, had found the brother and the fiancée. They were a striking couple. He was tall, dark and handsome. She was tall, fair and slim to the point of thinness, although her dress revealed her smooth curves. Her fingers were curled around his brocade clad arm, the diamonds on her left hand glittering in the dim lights of the prayer room. Both seemed dressed in ceremonial clothes. Nolan quickly saw the real grief and anger in the brother’s eyes, while the wide-eyed gaze of the fiancée held a deep sorrow. These two were really grieving the loss of the baby.

They introduced themselves to the couple. Nolan noticed the protective arm he kept around his fiancée.

‘Can you tell us what happened, Mr. Raizada?’ Nolan asked.

‘Ms..?’ Ryder held out his hand to the fiancée.

‘Singh Raizada. Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada,’ she said, putting her small hand in his.

The detectives looked at each other. ‘Are you related to him?’ asked Ryder, gesturing to the brother.

‘She’s my wife,’ he said, ‘My name is Arnav Singh Raizada,’ he held out a hand. ‘Khushi is my wife.’

‘The doctor said she’s your fiancée?’ Ryder looked from one to the other. He saw the look they exchanged. This was a couple deeply in love, it was evident. He also noticed the slightly bruised look of Mr. Raizada’s knuckles.

‘Well, we had an unconventional marriage,’ Mr. Raizada explained. ‘The family wanted a traditional wedding, and today was the henna ceremony. So that’s why they thought she’s my fiancée.’

‘Ms. Raizada, would you mind coming with me?’ Ryder put on his best charming voice. She looked at her husband/fiancé.

Arnav nodded slightly. ‘Go with him, Khushi. It’s okay.’ She nodded and allowed herself to be led away.

Two hours later the detectives congregated at PS-1. They sat around a conference table putting all the information they had together, munching on a late snack of sandwiches and coffee. Captain Donald sat at the head of the table.

‘What do you have?’

‘The Raizadas were having a baby shower for the sister, Mrs. Jha, as well as the henna ceremony for the brother, Mr. Raizada,’ stated Ryder. ‘Evidently, during the henna ceremony, the lights went out for a couple of minutes. Then the sister for some reason went upstairs. The fiancée, Khushi, saw her go, but didn’t stop her. The next thing they know, she’s falling down the stairs.’

‘Where was the husband, Mr. Jha, in all of this?’ asked Donald.

‘That is something the family wasn’t too keen to talk about,’ said Nolan. ‘I’m wondering why she went upstairs, bare feet, when she couldn’t even walk without braces. What could have been so important?’

‘The husband is one Shyam Manohar Jha. Last known residence was the Raizada Mansion,’ added White, who was looking up his records.

‘Hm. Find out where this husband is, and why he was absent from the hospital when his wife is seven months pregnant. White, Terry, what did you get from the wife?’

‘Not much,’ said Terry. He took a bite of his sandwich and said, ‘She seems to be out of it. Kept asking for her husband. She didn’t seem to grieve the baby much. ‘

White looked up from her notes and added, ’the grandmother. There’s something strange about the woman. She looked at Khushi like she hated her. She also looked at me like I was dirt.’ The men looked at her questioningly. ‘It’s something I felt as soon as I walked in. She looked from me to Terry like we were nasty and then she gave the same look to the fiancée when she came in.’

‘Do we need to get Mak in for some help with Mrs. Jha?’ asked Donald.

‘Not yet,’ said Nolan. ‘There’s something odd about this family. I’d like to have a go at them.’

‘Do them tonight,’ said Donald. ‘What about CSU?’ (Crime Scene Unit).

‘We sent over a team to the house already. Waiting on them to get back.’

‘White, Terry – I’d like you both to work on the husband angle. Ryder, Nolan – get yourselves over to the Raizada Mansion tonight and start asking some questions.’

‘The fiancée/wife doesn’t stay at Raizada Mansion,’ said Ryder. ‘She’s staying with her parents as of now. Got an address in Queens.’

‘A Queen’s girl marrying into a Long Island mansion?’ Donald raised his eyebrows at that.

‘Who owns the AR Group of companies, no less,’ added White.

‘An ‘unconventional’ marriage, he said,’ added Ryder. The others looked at him. ‘Those two are in love, no doubt about it. You can see that a mile away. Evidently, they’d gotten married earlier, but the family wants a conventional marriage with all the rituals. So, hence, therefore, the henna ceremony, etc. ‘ He waved his hands around as he spoke, not having fully understood the nuances of a traditional North Indian wedding.


Detective Brown waited outside Raizada Mansion for Nolan and Ryder to show up along with Sgt. Indu Puri. Donald had called them to join in the questioning. Evidently there were a lot of women in the household, so a woman might be needed during this. They also needed someone who spoke Hindi – just in case; hence Sgt. Puri was assisting them today. She looked up at the imposing mansion, the long driveway and then bent her head to read the notes White had forwarded to her PDA.

Arnav Singh Raizada, 28, Harvard Grad, self-made millionaire by 26, CEO of AR Group of Companies. Married to Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada, 20, formerly an employee at AR Group. That explained the Queens/Long Island connection. According to Arnav, theirs was an ‘unconventional’ marriage. The marriage was registered on 14th Feb, 2012 at Queens Courthouse. So it was legal, but why did they need a traditional marriage after 6 months?

‘Probably because the family didn’t approve of the way the marriage took place,’ Indu said. ‘Indian families like their social wedding, so a legal wedding with no one present would be considered unconventional.’

Brown raised her eyebrows and read on.

Akash Singh Raizada, 26, Harvard Grad, works for AR Group of Companies. Married to one Payal Gupta Singh Raizada. Sisters? Thought Brown. Interesting!

She went through the list and stopped. White had said there were two grandmothers in the family, and a brother-in-law. There was little information on the brother-in-law, Shyam Manohar Jha.

Her discussion with Indu came to a halt as Ryder and Nolan drew up next to their car.

‘Follow me‘, Brown said, rolling down her window. Nolan, who was driving, nodded. The CSU truck was just headed down the driveway, as they drew up to the portals.

‘Nice digs,’ said Ryder, looking appreciatively at the large oak doors. They rang the bell and waited. The door was opened by someone that was obviously a servant. They flashed their badges and he waved them in.

Arnav and Akash Singh Raizada greeted them in the imposing hallway. ‘Detectives, how can we help you?’ Arnav said, shaking hands with each of them. Even in casual clothes, he cut an imposing figure. Nolan noticed the lack of an accent in his English – it was almost pure American – almost, but not quite.

‘We’d like to talk to everybody in your residence, Mr. Raizada. We did speak to you at the hospital, but we need to speak to the other members, too.’

He looked at them searchingly for a moment and said, ‘You know how much this has distressed my sister and our whole family. Besides, it’s quite late, can’t it wait till tomorrow?’

‘I’m afraid not, Mr. Raizada. The sooner we speak to everybody, the faster we can figure out what happened,’ from Brown.

‘Follow me,’ he said, leading them to the study, a large room, lined with books, a large screen TV and a six-seat conference table. A laptop was on the table, while a desktop stood at the hutch. A sleek printer sat next to the TV. Files were neatly stacked on the table. A file-drawer stood in one corner. He motioned the detectives to sit down. They sat down, but he remained standing.

Likes to take control, thought Nolan.

Arnav looked at each of their faces before he said, ‘What is the police’s interest in what was merely an accident?’

‘It’s not an accident, Mr. Raizada,’ said Nolan, he raise himself to his impressive six-foot-four height, a good four inches taller than Raizada, who didn’t look in the least intimidated. Just raised an eyebrow at him as if to let him know that he was amused at this move.

‘Not an accident?’ asked Akash, who had missed the by-play between Nolan and his brother.

‘No.’ He kept his eyes on the older Raizada, who in turn narrowed his eyes.

‘What makes you say that?’ Arnav said.

‘She had lacerations on her feet, from cut glass. And burn marks on her fingers and toes. The kind of burn marks you get from electrocution,’ Nolan added. Shocking him might get something out of this man. He was right.

‘What?!’ Arnav looked at him, his eyes searching Nolan’. Then he seemed to remember something. He looked at his brother who was looking astonished as well. ‘Akash, get HP to get everybody downstairs. If the detectives want to question them, they can do so there.’ His gaze never left Nolan’. ‘Can I request you to keep the details of my sister’s injuries to yourselves?’ he asked. They nodded at him, starting to get out of their chairs. ‘Detective,’ he spoke to Nolan directly, ‘a moment, please’. Nolan nodded pleasantly and waited as the rest filed out of the room.

He seated himself and watched as the much younger man paced the room, almost like a caged tiger, he thought. There was something cat-like about him, waiting to pounce. Waiting to pounce on what? Whom? His right hand was opening and closing in fists, the jaws were clenched, classic signs of repressed anger. Who was he angry with?

‘I can’t believe it!’ Arnav finally muttered.

‘Sit down, Mr. Raizada’, Nolan murmured.

He looked at the detective and sat down on the edge of a chair, his elbows resting on his knees, the hands folded together. He was coiled tight as a spring.

‘You do realize that we are now investigating this as a homicide, Mr. Raizada.’ He watched him close his eyes, his head bent. ‘As well as an attempted homicide. The circumstances of your sister’s accident are hardly accidental.’ The detective watched him for a minute, and then asked the one question that had been bothering him, ‘where’s your brother-in-law, Mr. Raizada?’

Arnav’s head sprang around. There was fire in his eyes. ‘I threw him out of this house, detective,’ he chewed the words out. Nolan just raised his eyebrows, waiting patiently for him to spill some more. Raizada got up and began pacing again. ‘I threw him out of the house because of the way he hurt my sister,’ he said. ‘For years he conned me, and our family. All he wanted was to get his hands on my money… and….Khushi.’

The detective raised his eyebrows. Interesting! So the brother-in-law was a con-man and a man like Arnav Singh Raizada wouldn’t take kindly to being conned, he was sure. But there was more to this story. The last word – Khushi – his fiancée – what’d she have to do with the con? He mentally made a note to follow up with Ms. Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. His phone pinged. CSU. ‘Excuse me,’ he said and walked out of the room to take the call.

‘Detective Nolan,’ he identified himself.

‘We found glass shards on the doormat in the sister’s bedroom. There were bloody footprints in the room and the corridor. We also found the live wire on the banister. No prints on glass or the live wire.’

‘Thanks. I’ll hear the details when we get down there.’

He turned around to find the younger man staring at him. ‘What did he say?’ Arnav asked.

‘We can’t talk to you about the details of the investigation, Mr. Raizada,’ he said softly. ‘Suffice to say, as of now we can confirm that someone wanted to hurt your sister and her child.’

He watched him put his head in his hands. He couldn’t be sure but he thought the younger man was in tears. He put a hand on his shoulder and kept it there until Arnav raised blood shot eyes at him. ‘We really need to know about your brother-in-law,’ he said gently, lowering himself into a chair again.

Arnav seemed to think it over and then took a deep breath. ‘I was going to London. He ambushed me and kidnapped me on the way to the airport. Kept me a prisoner for fifteen days. My wife....’ he stopped, took another deep breath. ‘He threatened her. Told her he would kill me if she told anyone that I was missing. She went looking for me. All by herself. She finally found me and brought me back.’

Nichols kept his face blank, his mind churning through this information. Then he took a decision. ‘Can you come down to the station tomorrow, sir? We need a full statement from you and your.. wife.’ Arnav nodded. He took out his phone and texted Brown, ‘Let’s go’. He’d got enough material to work on tonight.

They gathered again at the police station, along with Donald.

‘Shyam Jha,’ said Nichols. Brown sat up straighter as did White. ‘What do we know about him?’

‘Not much,’ said White. ‘He arrived in the US about 5 years ago on a B-1 visa. He married Anjali Malik within 3 months of arriving and then got his Green Card based on her citizenship.’

‘Three months?’ mused Nichols. ‘A little soon for a wedding, surely?’

‘He moved into the Raizada mansion right after the wedding and has been staying there. He has no visible means of livelihood, but his lifestyle is extravagant. Likes his Rolex and his Hermes. All bankrolled by his wife.’

‘Who in turn is bankrolled by the brother,’ added Brown.

‘Nice life,’ said Ryder.

‘Yeah. So why would he go and kidnap the brother?’ mused Nichols.

‘Kidnap?’ Donald said. ‘A well-known businessman like ASR gets kidnapped and no one knows about it?’

Nichols nodded. ‘I don’t think he was lying, Captain. The man is a pretty straight shooter. But he was holding back a lot of anger, and a lot of grief. They’re coming in tomorrow - him and his wife, for official statements.’

‘I can confirm the kidnapping,’ said Brown. ‘The aunt. She mentioned something in Hindi and then shut up.’

‘So let’s see. The sister has a miscarriage - is the target of an attempted murder. The brother-in-law is MIA, thrown out of the house by the brother. The brother had been kidnapped and no one knows about it or they won’t talk about it. Evidently the brother-in-law did the kidnapping. The aunt knows something. The fiancee is actually the wife. The two brothers are married to the two sisters. The grandmother won’t talk to us. And the sister doesn’t regret losing the baby, but keeps asking for the husband.’ All of them were listening to Terry intently as he summarized the relationships. ‘This is one dysfunctional family, y’all!’ he concluded.

‘Agree,’ said Ryder sagely.

The next morning, Arnav and Khushi arrived at the precinct on the dot of 10. They were ushered into a conference room where Brown and Nolan joined them.

‘Sorry to have you come into the city on such short notice,’ began Nolan, laying out the paperwork in front of him.

Arnav just nodded. He was in an Armani suit today, grey silk, with a white shirt and a black cravat. Khushi wore a simple blue sari, the only adornment a chain on her neck with a diamond locket, and the diamond engagement ring. A diamond nose stud flashed every time she moved her head. She may be from Queens but she had a grace and dignity that couldn’t be denied. They looked like the perfect couple. But a perfectly tensed up couple as well.

‘We’d like to go over the circumstances of your kidnapping, Mr. Raizada,’ said Brown. She kept a close look on Khushi, noticing the nervous twisting of the end of the sari.

Arnav took a deep breath and started by telling them all about the ambush at the airport. the fifteen days of confinement, Khushi finding him the first time...It took him about an hour to tell them what he knew. As he spoke, Khushi’s head dipped lower and lower. Almost like she was trying to hide her face. Brown wondered why.

Then it was Khushi’s turn.

‘When Arnav went to London, I ...he sent me a text saying he reached London. Then I found out that he never reached London. Three days later, he called up,’ she stopped and looked at him. They held hands, and looked at each other. Their eyes spoke volumes.

Brown felt a catch in her throat as she looked at them. Young love!

Khushi swallowed and continued. ‘He called and said he was in Scotland. I knew something was ... wrong with him’. Her big doe-like eyes filled with tears as she remembered the crazy nights she’d spent wondering where he was. ‘I couldn’t tell anyone why I felt he was missing. Who would understand that all I had were feelings?’ She stopped and took a sip of water. ‘His aunt and I started calling up all the hotels there, but there were no bookings for him. That’s when we knew something was wrong. Then one day, I finally found the place they’d kept him. We escaped, but we couldn’t get far. We found a hut to spend the night in. But they found us there. He.. ,’ the tears were flowing freely now. ‘He hit me on the head so he could hide me, and gave himself up.’ His arm came around her holding her close, supporting her, cradling her head against his shoulder, hushing her as she clutched his lapel.

The detectives sat back watching this couple interact. They could see the incredible amount of love they had for each other. ‘Finally, when I got back the next day, I was going to tell the family. But the kidnapper phoned me, and threatened to kill him if I said anything.’

‘So the kidnapper knew who you were?’ asked Brown gently.

Khushi looked at her startled. ‘Yes!’ she said. Suddenly she seemed rejuvenated. ‘We, his aunt and I were threatened a couple of times, and finally we found out where he was hidden. We went there, and we saw them taking him out, unconscious. He looked like he’d been....beaten.’

Arnav looked at her. He’d never heard her full version before and his eyes never left her face. ‘I found blood on Sh.. his brother-in-law’s shoes. I took it in for testing. It tested positive for Arnav’s blood type. Then his cousin, NK came to visit and he found out about Arnav’s kidnapping. He helped me. I told him who I suspected. We started looking for clues. We found Arnav’s passport and boarding pass in Shyam’s things. We also found a pen drive which gave us access to his computer. We found his accounts, and where he’d been cashing out money.’

Nolan didn’t miss the way Arnav reacted at the mention of the pen-drive. The same clenched jaw and the same tension in his fists. There was more to this pen-drive story, but he let it pass for now.

‘But it didn’t bring us any closer to finding him. Then one day, we got a box of gifts. They were from him. But I knew it couldn’t be. It had to be the kidnapper. The gift that was for me had a receipt in it. A receipt from a restaurant. And on the back, he’d scribbled a note for me. NK and I followed the receipt and I finally found where they had hidden him. Shyam found me there. Arnav had also fought his way out. But Shyam dragged me away, tied me up and left me on the road to be run over. Arnav was able to find me. The men that he’d hired tried to kill us both, but we finally managed to escape.’ She finished in a rush.

Brown and Nolan sat back listening to this girl tell a detective story to them. She should have been one herself. Following the money indeed! No wonder ASR was in love with her!

‘So, you never saw the kidnapper?’ asked Nolan of Arnav.

‘No,’ he said.

‘Why would Shyam kidnap you?’ he asked.

‘My money. It was all willed to my sister. If he could get rid of me, it would all go to my sister and therefore to him.’

‘And now?’

‘Not any more,’ said Arnav firmly. ‘I’ve changed the terms of my will. Under no circumstances would he be able to touch a penny of my money.’

‘Did you ever suspect Shyam of being the person who kidnapped you?’

‘Yes. I had time to think while I was sitting there. It had to be an inside job.’

‘Why d’ you say that?’

‘They didn’t want to kill me. They needed me alive. For fifteen days. It was per the terms of my will. The boss wouldn’t show his face to me. He went to great lengths to keep it hidden. It had to be someone I knew. They knew I had diabetes, they had me take my medication every day - the same brand that I take. They sent gifts to my family, in front of me. So it had to be someone who was inside Raizada Mansion on a daily basis, who knew what the people there were thinking. So..there was only one person in Raizada Mansion who had a grudge against me.’

The two detectives looked at him with something like admiration. This guy indeed had a sharp mind. Very sharp.

Nolan pounced on the one thing that Arnav had let slip. ‘A grudge against you? Why would that be, Mr. Raizada?’

He was taken aback. Khushi bent her head again. The detectives exchanged a look. Brown got up. ‘Mrs. Raizada? Would you like to come with me a moment please?’ she said. Khushi looked up at her questioningly and obediently got up to follow her out, looking back over her shoulder at her husband.

‘Now, Mr. Raizada would you like to tell me about Shyam and Khushi?’ asked Nolan not very gently.

He saw the anger come into the young man’s eyes. ‘Not really,’ was the answer he got.

He raised an eyebrow. ‘You have to tell me, Mr. Raizada. It’s not helping if you don’t tell us the whole story.’

‘Shyam... wanted ... Khushi,’ he ground out.

Nolan sat back. Something clicked in his head. ‘Hence the unconventional marriage?’ he asked. A nod. It was obviously a sore point, but the motive seemed to be clear, now. ‘Why didn’t you come to us about the kidnapping, Mr. Raizada?’

‘With what?’ He said. ‘I didn’t.. don’t have a single shred of proof that I can give to you.’

‘The pen drive?’

‘I don’t know where it is.’

Nolan thought for a moment and said, ‘Thank you for your co-operation, Mr. Raizada.’ He held out a hand. Arnav got up and shook his hand. Khushi and Brown returned as well. ‘If you think of anything else, please give us a call,’ he held out his card. Arnav took it and nodded.

They watched the couple leave and then turned towards each other and smiled. ‘What it is to be so young and so in love,’ said Brown.

‘So the charming Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada cast a spell on you, too?’ Nolan ribbed her.

She shook her head. ‘She’s a feisty one, though,’ she replied. ‘She took all those risks to save her man.’

‘Lucky him’, said Nolan. ‘But now we know what Shyam wants.’

She nodded. ‘I think so, but where is he?’

‘Follow the money,’ said Nolan and tapped his nose.

They gathered in the conference room again - Terry, Ryder, Brown, White and Nolan. Mak joined them for the conversation, listening intently to all they had to say. A profiler with the FBI, Mak had been brought in to see if he could shed some light on all the tangled threads.

Nolan and Brown briefed the others on what Arnav and Khushi had told them.

‘Why would Shyam Manohar Jha want to kill his wife?’ asked Brown. She frowned. ‘It makes no sense.’

‘Sure it does,’ said Nolan. ‘Shyam wants pretty little Mrs Arnav Singh Raizada for himself. And the money she now has.’ She raised her eyebrows. ‘Arnav Singh Raizada has changed his will. Who do you think is the big beneficiary?’

‘State Law. It’s Mrs. Arnav Singh Raizada.’

‘Yep and not his sister, who was the beneficiary till he got married.’ Ryder added.

‘But if the sister dies now, then?’

‘He is free to marry again. Kill Arnav and then Khushi is his,’ said Mak.

‘What?’ White looked at him. ‘How do you jump to that conclusion?’

‘There are two things he wants - Money and Khushi. Arnav told you that himself. I’d like to meet this guy before I can tell you anymore.’ Mak was really keen to meet Shyam Manohar Jha.

An officer walked into the room just them, and placed a couple of manila envelopes in front of White. She picked the first one up and opened it. It was the CSU report. It didn’t have much more than what they had already been told. But it was the second one that hit pay dirt. A forensic report on Anjali Jha’s finances, her bank accounts, credit cards. Brown had asked a forensic accountant to work on it overnight.

‘Listen up, people,’ said White. ‘Anjali Jha seems to have been bankrolling her husband continuously even after he was thrown out of the house. Her credit cards have thousands of dollars’ worth of electronic equipment charged to them, till they were canceled a few days ago. Surveillance equipment? Is the Raizada mansion under surveillance?’ All of them sat up straighter.

‘He wants in,’ said Mak. ‘He wants to get in that house so bad, he has equipment set up so he can monitor what’s going on.’

‘The wedding,’ Nolan eyes flared. ‘He wants to stop the wedding. I think he thinks if he stopped the wedding, he would get Khushi. Kill Anjali. Get her money. Stop the wedding. Get Khushi. Mission accomplished.’

‘But he doesn’t know that Arnav has changed his will,’ said Terry frowning.

‘Either that or he’s got another ace up his sleeve,’ said Nolan.

‘How do we get hold of him?’ said Ryder.

‘Who’s the one person he’ll listen to?’ said Mak.

The detectives looked at each other. Brown and White got up. ‘We’re going to Queens,’ they said.


The Raizada Mansion was in turmoil. Anjali had refused to eat anything all morning nor had she taken her meds. The family was running around like chicken with their heads cut off. Arnav and Akash had gone to a new specialist to consult on her state of mind, which seemed to vacillate from despair to happiness in a matter of hours. It was troubling Arnav a lot and he had wanted a fresh opinion.

They’d just come back from the doctor and saw the grandmothers and aunt standing in the hall discussing how frail Anjali seemed. She was evidently feeling much worse. Just then the door opened and Shyam walked in. Arnav could not believe his eyes. The blatant audacity of the man! How dare he just walk in like he owned the place? He was seeing red in front of his eyes. He didn’t realize he’d moved forward and grasped his collar. ‘How dare you?’ he whispered harshly. ‘Who let you in?’

‘I did,’ he heard the soft voice and turned around, stunned. His Khushi was standing there looking apprehensively at him.

‘You?!’ He dropped his hand, the blow of her betrayal clear on his face.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Please try to understand. Don’t you see how much your sister needs him?’

‘Khushi, you know-‘, he was interrupted by another knock at the door. Terry and Ryder stood there.

‘Mr. Shyam Manohar Jha?’ said Ryder, clapping a hand on his shoulder.

Shyam looked from one to the other. ‘Yes?’ He looked suitably puzzled.

‘Detective Ryder and Detective Terry,’ they held out their badges. ‘We’d like to ask you a few questions, if you’d care to accompany us downtown?’

‘Me? Regarding what?’

‘Sir, your wife had a bad accident, and we’re investigating. We’d like some time with you. Now, are you coming with us, or do you want to continue here?’

‘Shyamji!’ the call came from the head of the staircase. Anjali stood there. She was looking so much better all of a sudden. Arnav just stared at her. ‘Where are you taking him?’

‘It’s alright, Rani Sahiba,’ he seemed perfectly calm. ‘They just need to ask some questions. I’ll be back soon. Don’t worry.’ He left with the detectives.

Arnav was looking at Khushi. She nodded slightly. He breathed in deeply, a small smile in his eyes as he looked at her. Then his attention was diverted by his sister. ‘Chotey, please take me to him,’ she said, leaning on his shoulder. Detective Brown and White walked into the room.

‘Mr. Raizada, would you like to bring your sister to the precinct?’ White said.

‘Well, she does look better, but she needs to eat something before she can go,’ he looked at his sister as he said this.

‘Okay,’ said Anjali, almost eager to please. ‘I’ll eat.’


Half an hour later, Anjali sat in a room with a window through which she could see her Shyamji. Brown and White stood behind her, with folded arms. They kept a close eye on her.

Through the window they could see Shyam sitting at the bare table in the stark room. He looked around casually, and seemed perfectly calm, only his clenched fists on the table gave away any sign of tension.

Terry and Ryder entered the room. In the back room, they couldn’t hear anything what was being said. Brown had left the audio off purposely. Anjali was focused on the other room, trying to figure out what they were saying that she didn’t notice Mak and Nolan enter the room quietly and stand at the back.

‘Mr.Jha,’ Ryder began, ‘we are very sorry for your loss.’

He nodded, warily eyeing the two detectives who were sitting casually, leaning back in their chairs. Just a conversation between three men.

‘Can you tell us where you were at the time of this ceremony, Mr.Jha?’ said Terry.

‘My brother-in-law didn’t allow me to go to the ceremony, as you know,’ he said, palms out, offering himself honestly.

‘So where were you?’ asked Terry again.

‘I was at .. at home,’ he said. The little stutter did not escape the detectives although their faces did not show that they had heard it at all.

‘Was there anyone with you?’

‘No. I live alone. After all, my wife-’, but the detective interrupted again.

‘Mr.Jha, what exactly do you do for a living?’

‘I’m a lawyer,’ he said. Ryder raised an eyebrow.

‘Where did you go to school?’

‘Right here in New York,’ he replied.

‘So you studied law after you got married?’

‘Yes’, he assented eagerly. ‘I had a degree in India, but I took the BAR exams here again, so I could practice.’

‘Mr. Jha, can you tell us why you weren’t living with your wife at the time she had this tragedy?’ Ryder scratched his head with his left hand. White leaned down and turned on the audio. Anjali heard the question and her eyes filled with tears. Brown watched her closely.

Shyam wiped his mouth. Mak’s eyes narrowed. Classic sign of telling lies. Covering your mouth. Whatever comes out afterwards is a lie.

‘It’s all a big misunderstanding, detective,’ Shyam sighed. ‘Somehow my brother-in-law was under the impression that I had kidnapped him. Now why would I do that? Wouldn’t that hurt my wife?’

‘Why would your brother-in-law think that, Mr. Jha?’ this time Ryder leaned a little closer.

‘Look. I hate to say this. I mean, this is a private family matter...’ His voice trailed off.

‘Not any more, it isn’t,’ the detective leaned in a little closer.

‘Well, his wife. Khushi. She, I think, she likes me more than its respectable. I mean, I’m a married man and, it was very embarrassing, you know,’ he shifted in his seat. ‘She kept coming on to me, and well..’

‘And you never spoke of this to your brother-in-law?’

‘What could I tell him? He loves his wife and will do anything for her. I mean, he even believed her story that I had kidnapped him!’

‘Why would she tell him you’d kidnapped her husband, if she was coming on to you?’

‘I don’t know. Perhaps because I was resisting her advances.’

His eyes were jumpy now, trying to look away from the detectives. Brown watched the overtly sweet smile on Anjali’s face as she looked adoringly at her husband. This was strange! Here was the man openly saying that his brother-in-law’s wife was coming on to him, and she was happy about it? Something was wrong here. White met her eyes and nodded.

‘Mrs. Jha, please come with us,’ she put an arm under Anjali’s hand to help her up. Anjali looked confusedly at them.

‘Please, can’t I stay here? I know he’ll be done in a little while,’ she pleaded. ‘Then I can go home with him.’

‘Ma’am. Please come with us,’ Brown wasn’t taking no for an answer. She got up and allowed herself to be helped out of the room.

Ryder and Terry got up in the other room, too and excused themselves. They came into the annex and shut the door.

‘He’s lying,’ said Mak. The others stood quietly waiting for him to finish. ‘He’s telling you what he thinks you want to hear. His weakness is Khushi and the money. One of those will break him.’

‘But right now, we’ve got nothing.’

‘Use the Khushi angle. Ask him what he knows of his brother-in-law’s unconventional marriage,’ suggested Mak.

Terry and Ryder went back inside.

‘Look, how much longer do I have to be here? My wife-’

‘Is being well taken care of,’ said Ryder. ‘Mr. Jha, what do you know of your brother-in-law’s marriage?’ Mak leaned forward waiting to see the reaction of this surprise question.

‘Just that, they got married all of a sudden, on Akash and Payal’s wedding day. They came back in the middle of the night saying they had a temple marriage.’

‘And no one questioned it?’

‘You don’t know my brother-in-law, detective. When he doesn’t want to tell anything, he doesn’t tell anything!’

‘What about Khushi,’ said Ryder, purposely taking the more casual form of her name.‘Didn’t she say anything?

‘What would she say?’ the flare of anger in his eyes did not go unnoticed. ‘She’s much too scared of him.’

‘So why would she marry him?’

‘He forced her.’

‘So you DO know the reason why they married,’ Terry leaned back.

‘Of course I do. Khushi told me herself.’

Outside Nolan looked puzzled. ‘I could’ve sworn she’s in love with Raizada. So why would he need to force her to marry him?’

‘Why?’ echoed Terry inside the room.

‘That’s because I told him...’ he stopped.

‘Told him what, Mr. Jha?’ very softly from Ryder.

‘Nothing. What would I tell him?’

‘Why would she confide in you?’

‘Because...because she thought I was her friend.’

‘He’s dancing around now. I think its time you went in, Nolan’, said Mak.

Nolan knocked on the door and opened it. ‘Ryder, Terry, the captain wants a word with you,’ he said, looking from one to the other as he spoke. He dropped the papers he’d been carrying and said, ‘ah! sorry,’ staying out of sight until the two had left. He got up, shuffling the papers in his hand and gave Shyam a disarming smile. Taking one of the chairs facing Shyam, he pulled it around to sit next to him.

‘I ... ah... would you like something to drink?’ he asked, ‘coffee, soda?’

‘No thanks,’ said Shyam. Nolan looked at him through slitted eyes. His hands were on table, holding his hands together, his thumbs rubbing over each other. Nervous, he thought, watching the other man’s jumpy eyes.

‘So.. ,’ he kept his tone conversational. ‘Where did you first meet Khushi?’ He watched as Shyam’s head snapped up.

‘Why do you keep asking me about Khushi?’

‘Well, we want to get the whole picture of the family. I feel you can help me understand this relationship your brother-in-law has with Khushi. You did say she regarded you as a friend. Why a friend, Mr Jha?’

‘Well, because, ...’ he looked around, not finding the words to express himself.

‘A lawyer with a taste for the good life. A brother-in-law who has all that he wants, money, power and Khushi,’ Mak smiled. ‘I think we just got our motive, gentlemen’.

ADA Carrera had joined them in the little annex now.

‘But without proof, none of this is going to stand up in court. We need some tangible evidence.’

It was becoming clearer to the police that this man had covered his tracks pretty well. With interrogation he might be cracked, but without proof how could they get a conviction?

‘He’s slick,’ said Carerra. ‘Find something, and then let me do my work. Or else get a confession.’


Brown entered the small office, where Arnav, Khushi and Anjali were waiting. Khushi sat with her arm around her sister-in-law, who didn’t look too well. Arnav was pacing up and down. None of them were talking.

‘Khushi?’ Brown stood in front of her. ‘Can you please come with me?’

‘Why?’ said Arnav, putting an arm around her as she stood up.

‘It’s just some routine information, Mr.Raizada,’ she said calmly. ‘Please, Khushi, come with me.’

Anjali looked confused from one to the other. ‘Chotey, what is happening? Why are they taking Khushi? And why hasn’t Shyamji come out yet?’

‘He’ll be out in a bit, ma’am,’ said Brown, holding open the door for Khushi. Her large eyes were wide with apprehension, staring at her husband. He looked her full in the eyes. An unspoken message passed between them. She turned around and left the room. Brown watched this with narrowed eyes, surprised by the intensity of the moment.

She led Khushi to another little room, sat her down and offered her some water, which she refused. In a minute, Mak joined them. Brown introduced Mak as another police official. No need to tell her that he was a profiler, it would only confuse matters.

‘Khushi,’ she began. ‘We need to know how you met Shyam.’ She watched the pale cheeks turn suddenly rosy as Khushi swallowed. Her eyes were downcast, as she nervously twisted the ends of her sari. Mak sat quietly watching her not saying anything at this point.

‘I was walking down the street, some boys, some boys...they were teasing me. Took away my dupatta - the scarf. He came out of nowhere and beat them up, he saved me. Later my sister and I met him again in the market one day. Then we met him a few more times. I was looking for a job, and he got me one in AR Group, which is where I met Arnav.’ A faint blush once more colored her cheeks. ‘Shyam.. he started coming to our house, said he was looking for a place to stay. He rented our basement. At some point, my aunt started thinking he would be a good match for me. But ... but....I didn’t want to marry him.’ She stopped, the red in her face deepening.

‘Because of Arnav?’ Brown asked softly.

She nodded. ‘But we weren’t dating or anything. My family wanted me to get married to Shyam. We were almost engaged. But then.. ‘, she stopped, her eyes darkening with anger. ‘I found out he was married to Arnav’s sister. We threw him out of our house.’

She took a sip of water, then continued. ‘Then Arnav and I got married. It wasn’t until later that I found out that he ... married me to save his sister’s marriage. Then Arnav was kidnapped. You know the rest.’

Mak was quiet and then said, ‘Thank you, Ms..?’

‘Singh Raizada,’ she said, the pride evident in her tone at those two words. ‘Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.’

‘Why didn’t you tell Arnav about Shyam before you married him?’ he asked.

She raised her big doe-eyed gaze to his. ‘How could I? It would have killed Arnav to know his sister was married to a cheater,’ she said simply. ‘I couldn’t hurt him. His sister means the world to him.’

Mak nodded. Brown led her out of the room and showed her the way to the room where her husband/fiance and his sister waited. She came back into the room and sat across from Mak, a frown on her brows.

‘What do you think?’

‘She’s telling the truth. There is a lot she hasn’t said - she left out the months after she got married. I doubt that it could have been happy for her knowing what she did. She stayed in the same house as the man to whom she was once almost engaged to. He still wants her, and from the looks of it, I’d say, he would’ve at least made advances to her. Her reason for not telling her husband about Shyam, sounds strange to be honest.’

‘You have to see them together, Mak,’ she said. ‘It’s like they communicate on a wavelength their own.’

‘Soul-mates?’ he raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

‘If I have ever seen one,’ she responded.

They had to let Shyam go after a while. He’d only been brought in for questioning and nothing they said stuck to him. His story and Khushi’s were contradictory. Seeing Khushi with her husband, the detectives knew that he was lying. So how were they going to get a confession? And a confession to what? The cheating? The kidnapping? The baby’s death? Any one of those, and they could get him on the rest. They didn’t doubt that Arnav Singh Raizada was telling the truth as was his wife. But it was all circumstantial. They had nothing to hold him on.

They sat around a table in the conference room, pooling their thoughts together. What did they know?

Brown opened the conversation.’So according to Khushi, they met before she even knew Arnav. He rescued (air quotes) her from some street thugs, and then kept meeting her.’

‘Each time, he plays on her needs, clears out some obstacle in her way. Be it the thugs or a job. Shyam always has an answer to her needs. In the process, his need for her as the object of his attention is growing’, continued Mak. ‘So this is his modus operandi. He fulfills a need in someone and once he has their trust he makes his next move. I think he did the same with the entire Gupta family as well as the Raizadas.’

‘What need did he fill in the Raizadas?’ as Ryder. ‘They seem to have it all - money, power, a good life...’

‘The brother and sister. They’re orphans. Parents died 14 years ago in what looks like a double suicide. Coroner ruled it as suicide for both parents. Brought up by their grandma, Mrs. Raizada,’ said Terry. ‘Brother changed his last name to Raizada when he came to live there, about 13 years ago. The sister never changed her last name - she was an adult by the time the parents died. She stayed a Malik - that was their family name. Later when she got married, she took her husband’s last name.’ He was reading from the extensive research their CSU team had put together. They’d dug into the lives of the major players pretty deeply.

Nolan whistled. ‘This Raizada family is getting more and more interesting. A double suicide? That must have hurt the kids badly. But does it have any relevance to Shyam?’

‘Don’t think so,’ said Mak. ‘There’s no evidence that Shyam is related to their past. He seems to be a sociopath - that’s all. He played on Anjali’s handicap. He played on Arnav’s lack of a male role model in his life. He became the person she needed him to be - a loving boyfriend and then a doting husband, who didn’t mind being bankrolled by his brother-in-law’s money. A leech.’

He took a sip of coffee. ‘Khushi on the other hand, is a different ball game. As far as he can see, she doesn’t need him at all. He can’t make a dent in her life. So the attraction grows - because she’s unattainable.’

‘But what does he hope to get out of killing the wife and the baby?’

‘The same that he did when he kidnapped Arnav. Money and Khushi,’ said Mak. ‘Once he knew that Arnav forced Khushi into the marriage, he was happy. In his mind, Khushi was being kept from him by Arnav. Arnav became the obstacle in his way to Khushi. Hence the kidnapping.’

‘Makes sense. But would a jury buy it?’ said Donald.

‘There’s a lot here we don’t know,’ said Nolan.

‘The sister,’ said Brown. ‘She’s unnaturally attached to her husband. He was talking about Khushi, and all she was doing was smiling at him. Later, I saw her sitting with Khushi, like nothing had happened. It was odd, to say the least.’

Nolan looked at Brown, and then the others. ‘The sister, she holds the key,’ he said. ‘Wonder how she’ll do without the brother or the husband in the same room?’ he mused.


The next morning, Nolan, Mak and White presented themselves at the Raizada Mansion. The servant let them in and gestured for them to sit in one of the lounge areas, while he went off to look for the master of the house. A few minutes later, they watched Arnav and Akash walk down the stairs. They came over to the officers and shook hands.

‘What can we do for you?’ said Arnav.

‘We need to talk to your sister,’ said White. They’d agreed to let her do the questioning just to give the Raizadas a sense of comfort. They’d noticed how protective the entire family was of this thirty-something woman and had initially attributed it to the loss she’d sustained. Now, they weren’t so sure.

Arnav’s keen gaze went from one to the other. He turned to his brother, and was about to say something, when the doorbell rang again. The servant ran to open it. Khushi stood in the doorway with some bags which she handed to him before stepping into the hallway. She stopped in surprise to see the police there. Arnav walked over to her, and kissed her forehead and murmured something to her. He brought her over to where the little group still stood. ‘Akash?’ he turned to his brother.

‘No problem, bro. I’ll take care of the office. You stay,’ seemingly understanding exactly what his brother was going to say.

‘Thanks, bro,’ he clapped his younger brother on the shoulder, who left. ‘Please, come,’ he said to the officers. They followed the couple up the stairs, down a corridor to a closed door. ‘Just a minute,’ he said to them. He knocked on the door, waited a moment and pushed it open.

Shyam was sitting on the bed, evidently helping her eat breakfast. He stood up as they came in, a scowl coming over his face as he saw who it was. A nurse stood at a table, fiddling with some equipment on a table.

‘Di,’ said Arnav, ‘the officers want to ask you some questions.’

She looked bewildered from one face to the next. Mak kept his gaze on Shyam and noticed the almost involuntary twitch on his face, the slight narrowing of the eyes, the furtive wipe of the mouth. Nervous. Why? White noticed the body shift in Khushi, her back slightly turned to Shyam as she went around him to hold her sister-in-law’s hand.

‘Why?’ Anjali echoed Mak’s thought.

‘Ma’am,’ said White, ‘we need to understand exactly what happened that night. That’s why we need to talk to you.’

‘I’ll stay with her,’ said Shyam, addressing his brother-in-law. Nolan smiled inwardly, noticing how the younger man’s hand fisted at this. He hated his brother-in-law. A memory flashed of those bruised knuckles the first time he’d met him. So Raizada wasn’t always that calm and collected, he thought.

‘No, sir,’ said White, very firmly. ‘You won’t. The nurse can wait outside the door. Mak here is also a doctor. So she’s in perfectly safe hands.’

Arnav gave a slight nod. He’d been told exactly who Mak was. ‘Khushi and I will be in the study if you need us,’ he told them, before leading his fiancee away. Shyam followed reluctantly, looking over his shoulder at the scene behind him. Nolan shut the door in his face.

‘Mrs. Jha,’ began Mak. ‘We’re very sorry about your loss.’

‘Thank you,’ she answered. ‘I lost my princess. My husband and I were looking forward to her, so much.’ She didn’t seem to be too broken up about the loss.

Nolan moved forward, drawing himself up to his intimidating height. ‘Then why’d your brother throw him out of the house?’ he asked, getting straight to the meat of the matter.

She sighed and looked down for a moment. ‘It was all a misunderstanding, you see.’

Mak leaned over and placed his hand on hers. ‘Tell us what happened,’ in a very soft avuncular voice.

She smiled at him, an almost childlike look on her face. ‘Chotey was supposed to go to London,’ she began.

‘Chotey?’ said Nolan

‘Arnav. We call him Chotey.’ He nodded, opening up his notebook and ostensibly making notes. ‘After he left, he called us from there, and said he was in Scotland, and then he even sent us gifts from there. But then, that day, Mami - my aunt - came to me and told me that my husband was planning to divorce me, and leave me for Khushi.’

Nolan’d became still. This was news indeed! Sweet Khushi had been keeping some very interesting facts from them!

‘I didn’t believe it, of course. Later, he came in, injured. He’d been in an accident. While I was tending to him, Khushi came in, and she looked like she’d been in an accident too. And then, my brother walked in, and he .. he was covered in mud and grime and blood. Then he said he’d been kidnapped, and Mami seemed to know about that. Khushi accused my husband of kidnapping Chotey and trying to kill him. In front of everybody! Why would she do that?’ she asked, as if expecting an answer from them. Tears pooled in her large eyes. Mak handed her the box of tissues, she took one and wiped her eyes.

‘I don’t quite remember what happened after that,’ she said. ‘Everyone was talking, him, Khushi, even Payal, and NK. Oh, it was so ugly. All I know is that Khushi and Payal and NK were accusing him of all kinds of things. And then Mami... Mami also asked him about the divorce papers. Khushi said something about a will. But he said he’d only signed the papers because he wanted to be rid of Khushi’s advances.’ There was a glint of something close to hate in her eyes as she spoke her sister-in-law’s name. ‘All I remember is that Chotey believed Khushi. He threw my husband out of the house.’

‘Did you connect with your husband after that?’ asked Nolan.

‘He called me. Explained to me it was all a misunderstanding and he would soon clear it. Of course, I couldn’t tell anything about this to Chotey. He would’ve been very angry about it. So, I had to meet him outside the house. He explained to me that Chotey was very much in love with Khushi, so we had to let him have this traditional wedding. But then, I lost the baby.’ She looked down and touched the flat tummy. ‘But Khushi brought him back into the house again,’ she smiled.

‘What were you doing upstairs that night? The night you lost the baby?’ asked Nolan softly.

‘He had come here, my husband. He wanted to be here for the baby shower.’ Nolan and White exchanged glances. Lie number one - finally! ‘So he came dressed as one of the musicians we’d hired. He wanted to be here with me. But he had to leave, and he called me. I went around the poolside and thought I saw someone in my room. So I came upstairs.’

‘Was he there?’ asked Mak.

‘No, he wasn’t. But there was glass on my doormat. I don’t know how it got there. Someone must have dropped a glass. I cut my foot and started going down the stairs. I don’t remember anything after that.’ She looked from one to the other.

‘Thank you, Mrs.Jha,’ said White. They took their leave of her, and left. As soon as they reached outside, Nolan took out his cellphone and called Terry.

‘We need a tail on Shyam, right away. He’s at the Raizada Mansion right now, but we need to keep an eye on him,’ said Nolan.

‘Looks like you got something on him,’ said Terry.

‘Yup, I think we finally did,’ smiled Nolan. They looked at each other and smiled. The pen drive, the will and the divorce papers. Evidence. They just needed to find it.

‘Wait,’ said White. ‘If Khushi initiated the divorce conversation, where are the papers?’ They looked at each other and headed back in. The servant looked startled as they appeared in the doorway.

‘Where’s Khushi?’ they asked.

‘In the study with Arnav Bhaiyya,’ he said pointing to the stairs. They went up the stairs and knocked on the study door.

‘Who is it?’ Arnav called.

‘It’s Nolan.’

Arnav opened the door. Khushi stood with her back to them in the middle of the room, nervously twiddling with her sari’s end.

‘We need to ask Khushi a few quick questions,’ Nolan shut the door as they all entered the room.

She turned around with a puzzled look on her face. ‘Yes?’ Arnav’s face echoed the same look.

‘Where is the will and where are the divorce papers you got Shyam to sign?’ asked Nolan. Don’t give them time to think. The unexpected question always draws out the truth.

She looked from one to the other for a second, and then locked her gaze on Arnav. Her eyes widened with understanding. ‘I don’t have the will papers, I lost them. I do have the divorce papers with me, but they’re in Queens,’ she said.

‘We need to talk to NK, too,’ said Nolan. Arnav nodded, picking up the house phone and asking the servant to bring NK to his study. He sensed the air of urgency in the detectives and responded accordingly. Two minutes later, NK was in the room. He shook hands with the detectives.

‘I’ll go with Khushi to Queens to pick up the papers. NK, you need to go down to the station with Nolan. We need some answers from you,’ White quickly decided.

‘About Shyam,’ said Arnav. ‘I’ll come down to the station, too,’ he stated. NK looked grim. He nodded.

The older Mrs.Raizada was in the hall, a plate of something in her hand. ‘Chotey? NK? Where are you off to in such a hurry?’

Arnav gently held her upper arms and said, ‘Nani, we need to go to the police station. We’ll be back soon. Don’t worry. Everything is fine,’ he said gently. ‘Everything is really fine.’

White took the police car with Khushi to Queens, while Arnav drove the rest to the station in his SUV.

They found a small conference room and sat down. Brown, Terry and Ryder joined them as well. Cups of coffee were brought in.

‘NK, tell us about the day Arnav threw Shyam out of the house,’ Nolan got straight to the point.

The brothers exchanged a look. Arnav gave a slight nod. ‘When I came in and saw Nannav,’ he stopped at the exasperated look from Arnav, ‘sorry, Arnav back, I was really happy. I knew he’d been kidnapped and I knew Jijaji, I mean Shyam was the one who had done it.’

‘What do you know about the divorce papers?’

NK looked surprised. ‘Khushi wanted Shyam to trust her. He’d forced her into getting Nannav to sign a will making everything out to Shyam.’ Arnav’s head stayed down. ‘She knew that’s why he had kidnapped Arnav. So she pretended to ...I’m sorry, Nannav,’ he said apologetically to his brother. ‘She pretended to hate Nannav, so that he trusted her. We found out that he’d had Nannav’s passport and boarding ticket, Nannav’s blood was on his shoes. We also found that he had a pen drive in a locket. We switched it and went through his computer.’ His jaws locked at some very unpleasant memory. No one missed Arnav’s hand slowly turning into a fist on the table, as he kept his gaze down. NK took a breath and went on. ‘When I told all this to the rest of the family, Shyam accused me.. ME! ... of being attracted to Khushi!’

‘Were you?’ cut in Mak. NK looked startled.

‘Yes, when I first met her. But she had eyes only for Nannav and he for her. It was obvious they were in love. So when they finally got married, I was more than happy for them. She’s one of my best friends,’ he said. His simple words and honest gaze were more than enough to let this topic go.

‘So tell us about this pen drive.Where is it?’

‘I don’t know,’ he shook his head. ‘Probably thrown away some where. He fooled us that day. Somehow he knew we knew about the pen drive.’ There was a look of disgust on his face.

So much for evidence. Pen drive - gone. Will - gone. Their only hope were the divorce papers. Nolan’s phone rang at that moment. ‘Nolan.’ He listened for a bit and a small smile came on his face. ‘Thanks,’ he said and hung up. ‘We have the divorce papers.’

Arnav lifted his head and a lop-sided smile lifted his lips. Brown and White widened their eyes. The man was gorgeous!

‘Mr.Raizada, we need to search your sister’s room. Thoroughly. We need your permission for that,’ said Ryder.

He nodded. ‘I’ll let them know. The sooner you clear this thing up, the faster we can get back to our lives,’ he said.


Terry and Ryder arrived with the CSU at the Raizada Mansion. Arnav led them to his sister’s room and waited outside. They looked around as they gloved up. A large bed. A cupboard. Deities in a nook. A dressing table. A cradle. Coffee table, chairs. It was a tastefully decorated room. A door in the far corner led off to the bathroom. They started going through each and every single surface, corner and inside of every single piece of furniture. Under the carpet. One of the CSU’s was on their hands and knees, looking under the bed. He shone his light under it and something glittered next to a box. He took a long stick and pulled the box out.

‘Detectives,’ he called. Terry and Ryder came over to him. He opened the box carefully. There were gloves in it. Latex gloves that you get in a super market. Something was rattling at the bottom. He reached in. A plastic bag full of glass shards came into view. The detectives smiled grimly.

‘Bag it,’ said Terry.

‘There’s a piece of glass under the bed, too,’ said the CSU. They nodded. The CSU dived under the bed again.

Terry’s phone pinged. ‘Terry,’ he said. He nodded at whatever the person on the other end was saying. ‘Good. Stay on it,’ and he hung up. ‘Shyam just arrived at a rooming house in Brooklyn,’ he said to Ryder. The other detective smiled.

‘Detectives,’ one of the other CSUs called them over. He was shining a flash on the underside of the cradle. ‘There’s something taped here. In a plastic bag.’ He reached for his camera and took a few shots of it. Terry and Ryder helped him overturn the heavy crib. Taped to the underside was a white plastic bag. Terry untaped it and reached inside. Papers. He unfolded the documents and wide grin spread over his face. A will. Arnav Singh Raizada’s will, signing over everything to Shyam Manohar Jha. Just as NK had said. Evidence. It was always all about money.


Shyam Manohar Jha hurriedly packed a bag. He’d already called a cab. The sudden search of Anjali’s room had unnerved him. He hadn’t had the time to clear the room out. Anjali was always there. And now he had to get away. How long before they found that will? He wiped his mouth nervously then ran his hand through his hair. The phone rang. It was the cab company. His cab was downstairs. He hurried down the stairs and jumped into the cab. ‘Union Station,’ he said.

The unmarked car followed at a safe distance. The men inside called up Terry. ‘He’s in a cab. Headed out.’ He gave Terry the cab company name and number.

Terry called the cab company. He needed to know where that cab was going.

The radio in the cab crackled on. ‘Cab 142, 4-10 please. Did you pick up the passenger yet? Over.’


‘What’s your destination? Over.’

‘Union Station, over.’

‘Thanks, 142. Out.’

Terry listened to the cab company relaying the message as he and Ryder ran out to their car. They turned on the sirens and headed towards Union Station.

Shyam sat nervously looking out of the window. He could vanish very quickly. Besides he still had Rani Sahiba’s bank account to fall back on. He could always talk his way out of anything with her. He smiled. The cab driver glanced in the rear view mirror and caught the smile of a predator. He shuddered. He hoped this man wasn’t thinking of anything to do with him. They pulled up in front of Union Station and all of a sudden three police cars blocked them in - all with sirens flashing.

Terry got out of one of the cars. He strolled over to the cab door and opened it, ‘Going somewhere, Mr. Shyam Manohar Jha?’ he asked pleasantly.

Ryder came over and pulled Shyam out of the cab. Turned him around and slapped handcuffs on him. ‘Mr. Shyam Manohar Jha, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of Arnav Singh Raizada, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada, Anjali Jha and the murder of Baby Jha. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law....’


A week later. Brown shook open the newspaper and saw the photos. ‘Guys,’ she called out to Terry and Ryder. They came over and she laid the paper out so they could get a good look at it.

Arnav Singh Raizada and his wife, Khushi Kumari Gupta had made the news. They looked like royalty in their gorgeous wedding finery, smiling at each other in what was an unguarded moment. In the next picture, he had his arm around her, kissing her forehead, her left hand was on his chest. They had finally tied the knot.

‘And they lived happily ever after,’ said Ryder.

‘Amen to that,’ said Brown.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 30

Arnav looked at himself in the bathroom mirror as he slapped some Givenchy Pi onto his cheeks. His eyes looked bleary from the late night that he had had. Actually, it wasn’t even a late night. He hadn’t slept all night. There were dark circles under his eyes. The imp looked at him and said, Since when did you look at your dark circles? air quotes!

He shook his head. At least the shower had cleared his head up. He stepped out of the bathroom. He hadn’t seen how clenched his jaws were, or the vein throbbing at his temple. He dragged on his clothes and headed out the door.

Downstairs all was quiet. The house had an empty feel to it.

‘Hari!’ he called.

The servant came running from the kitchen. ‘Yes, Arnav Bhaiyya?’ he asked.

‘Hari, where’s everybody?’

‘All have gone to the temple,’ he said.

‘Did Khushi go with them?’

‘She left early this morning for the hotel, sir,’ was the reply.

Dammit! He thought. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Please get my breakfast ready.’

He swallowed his morning dose of medicine washing it down with a drink of water while he waited for Hari to get his breakfast. Memories of the night before brought a slow thumping headache to his temple. He’d not been able to enjoy the evening as much as he’d expected. Jaime’s words had rung in his ears. He’d avoided Khushi after that. At some point, he’d noticed that she’d been absent from the room, for a very long time. He’d started to get worried when he’d seen her come back with Payal. From the other side of the room, he could see the look in her eyes as she’d mingled with everyone else. She was laughing and talking, but every once in a while, he’d caught the look she’d sent his way. Somewhere in his chest, he felt a stab when he met her eyes. They looked almost accusingly at him.

Hari interrupted his thoughts, placing his breakfast before him. Soon, the rest of the family arrived back from the temple, and the house started to fill with the noise of people all getting ready for the day.

‘Chotey,’ his Di was standing in front of him. ‘You know that today is haldi, right? I need you to do something for me.’

‘Tell me,’ he said. He could never refuse her anything.

‘Once the haldi is over, you have to take the haldi water over to the hotel. You and your jijaji will have to go.’

‘Why me, di? I can get the driver to drop jijaji at the hotel!’ he protested.

‘Chotey, you are Akash’s brother. These are rituals that the brother has to do,’ she scolded.

‘Fine,’ he said. He didn’t feel like arguing with his sister. As it is, the headache was pounding again. He really needed to take something for it. ‘Just let me know. I’ll be in my room.’

She smiled at him, knowing he would never deny her anything. She often took advantage of it, but in the nicest way possible. However, she’d been a bit surprised at his lack of enthusiasm for going to the hotel. After all, Khushi was there, so it was a little worrying. What was going on in her Chotey’s mind? She’d been too busy last night to notice anything.

Arnav sat in his room staring at his laptop not really seeing anything. Soon, he pulled himself together. This was not going to do. AR Group wasn’t going to run itself. He popped another pill for the headache and focused back on the tasks at hand. Very soon he was successful in banishing a pair of grey-green eyes from his mind.


Khushi had woken up early to come to the hotel. She’d told Naniji and Hari where she was going. The haldi (Turmeric ceremony) was to be at the hotel itself, a ritual that took place in both the bride’s and groom’s house. Now she was with her sister and her mother in the living room of her parent’s suite greeting the guests who had arrived. It had been transformed overnight into a hall with white sheets covering the flooring for the ceremony. The Guptas had connected with their old friends and family and many were coming for the wedding. The doorbell rang again, and she went to open it.

To her immense surprise, it was Debs and Annie, along with their mothers!

With squeals of pleasure the three girls hugged.

‘Oh, my God!’ Khushi was delighted. ‘What on earth? How did you guys know?’

‘Khushi,’ pouted Debs, ‘you didn’t tell us you were in India, but we got to know. Plus you’re parents invited us. They thought you’d be glad to see us.’

‘Oh, I’m so glad you came,’ she said, tearing up.

‘Besides,’ added Annie, ‘we’re invited from the groom’s side as well, you know.’ She smiled mischievously.

She looked at Annie inquiringly.

‘Arnav invited us. After all Rajeev and he are good friends.’

She couldn’t help the faint blush that crept up her cheeks. He remembered, she thought. ‘Come on in,’ she said to cover up her flustered feelings. ‘Mom,’ she called Anna. ‘Do you mind if I take Debs and Annie to our room? We wanna catch up,’ she explained.

‘Sure,’ said Anna. ‘We’ll call you when we’re ready to start.

‘Come on, guys. Let’s go to my room,’ she grabbed her friends’ hands and led them out the door.

Settling down in the other suite, she excused herself for a minute and went into the bedroom. She looked at the phone in her hand. No missed calls. She thought for a second, before she dialed his number. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And went to voicemail. ‘Hi. This is Arnav Singh Raizada...’, she hit the disconnect button. Maybe he wasn’t near his phone, she thought, before going out to join the other girls.


He’s seen the caller id flash her name. He picked up the phone, and then decided to let it go to voice mail. He closed his eyes wondering what the hell was going on with him. But before he could start figuring it out, he heard a knock on the door. Hari had come to inform him that his di wanted him downstairs. He shut down his laptop and headed downstairs. His brother-in-law stood there smiling at something his sister had just said. ‘Yes, di?’ he asked.

‘Chotey,’ she handed him a small metal vessel. ‘This needs to go to the hotel. Your jijaji has the rest of the stuff.’

‘Sure,’ he said as they headed out the door.

They knocked on the suite door, and it was opened by Anna. ‘Ah! come in, come in,’ she exclaimed, smiling at them.

Arnav’s eyes searched the room, but he couldn’t see her anywhere. Payal chose just that moment to join them and his attention was diverted. She invited them in as well.

They sat for about fifteen minutes, while Arnav’s hands itched to get to his phone. Where was she? She wasn’t in the room, this much he was sure of. Finally, Dilip and he said their goodbyes and left. Irritated now, are we? said the imp, raising an eyebrow at him. He just snorted.


The girls were still exchanging notes when the phone rang. Khushi picked it up. ‘Come to our room, Khushi,’ it was her mother. ‘The haldi-water has arrived and we’re starting now.’

‘Sure, Mom,’ she said, before hanging up. ‘Come on, girls. The haldi is starting. We need to go to the other room.’

Back in the room, the ladies were settling down for the ceremony.

‘There you are!’ said her mother. ‘You just missed Arnav and Dilip. They’d come with the haldi water.’

‘Oh,’ she said. She was stumped. He hadn’t returned her calls. He had come to the hotel and left without even speaking to her! What was going on? ‘Be right back, Mom. I need to use the bathroom.’

She went into the bathroom and locked the door. Looking at the phone in her hand, she checked and saw that she had no new calls. Again. She called him.

Dilip looked at the phone buzzing in on the dashboard. ‘Arnav, you have a call.’

Arnav picked it up with his left hand and saw Khushi’s name on it. He set it down and said, ‘It’s not important. I’ll call back later, or they can leave a vm,’ he said as nonchalantly as he could.

Khushi hung up as soon as she heard the outgoing message again. She wasn’t going to leave a message. He could call her when he wanted to! Two red flags were painted on her cheeks. She threw her phone on the counter top and marched out of the bathroom. Debs and Annie looked at her cheeks and their eyebrows raised in question. She just shook her head at them and walked over to her sister.


The haldi was over, and almost everyone had gone home except Debs, Annie and their mothers.

Payal was in the bedroom talking to Akash on the phone, and the three girls settled down for some more chatting in the living room of Payal’s suite. Debs had recently got engaged and they wanted to know more about her fiance. Right in the middle of some juicy gossip, Khushi’s phone rang.

‘Gimme a sec,’ she said, moving over to the window. Arnav. Now he calls, she thought. She hit Answer.

‘You called?’ he said without preamble - typical.


‘Did you need something?’

She looked at the phone wondering what the heck had happened to him.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I just...Do you have a minute?’

‘I’m really busy right now, Khushi,’ he said. ‘Can I call you back later?’

‘Sure,’ she said and hung up.

He hung up the phone, and thought, this was for the best. The imp gave him a disgusted look and walked away.

Why call me if you are busy? she thought.

It wasn’t until later, much later, that she realized he hadn’t called her back. Payal was still in her parent’s suite. She sat alone in the living room of their suite, curled up on the sofa, wondering if she should call him. Maybe he really was busy, she thought. After all, a wedding is a lot of work, and every family member had to pitch in. It didn’t matter if you had an army of servants to do the job. Someone had to manage them.

He had been sitting by the pool wondering if he should call. He’d avoided her all day and the restlessness inside was eating him up. He’d realized she wouldn’t be coming home at dinner time, when Anjali had casually mentioned it. Why couldn’t she have told him that? His jaws clenched as his anger grew in him. He picked up his phone and dialed.

Her phone vibrated in her hands and she smiled. Arnav. ‘Hi,’ she said, much more huskily than she had intended, the smile evident in her voice.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t coming home tonight?’ he said, his senses stirring at the sound of her voice.

She was baffled. ‘I, well, I thought you knew. I mean, Di did.’

He breathed in deeply, controlling himself. ‘It’s okay. I just wanted to make sure you’re fine staying at the hotel tonight.’

‘I am, Arnav.’


‘Why didn’t you call me when you came here today?’

‘I .. Jijaji was with me, so ...’

Pause. She frowned. Since when did it matter to him what people thought?

‘What are you doing?’


‘Just busy with some work.’

‘You need to relax a bit,’ she said.

‘Company doesn’t run itself, you know,’ he said.

This conversation was getting more and more awkward. He couldn’t bring himself to say what he wanted to.

‘I should be going,’ he finally said, at the same time as she said, ‘I missed you.’

He closed his eyes. ‘Good night, Khushi’.

‘Good night,’ she said. She hung up the phone, and went over the conversation in her head. What was wrong with him? Something was wrong. He was treating her differently. It was almost like he didn’t want to talk to her. Tears filled her eyes and spilled over.

He lay looking up at the stars. Somewhere inside him, he felt a pain. A sharp, indescribable pain. She was hurting. He knew that. But it was for the best. Better now than later. But the pain wouldn’t go away.