Arnav stared at his phone dazed.
Was this girl for real? She was certifiably mad! What the hell was she saying? Crazy did not begin to describe it.
Khushiji jo bhi karti hai uski koi na koi wajah hoti hai out of the blue, Aakash’s statement echoed as did that that incident with the Sethi brothers.
She was saying something, she was passing a message, he knew with sudden cold certainty. With a gun pointed at his head, he had said I love you and she said I hate you… hamesha
All a message, clearly she did not have much faith in his deductive powers so she added that bit about the bachelor’s party.
She was in danger! His blood ran cold then anger flared in his breast. That Shyam was at the bottom of this he was sure. He was missing this morning. Kanahayia Lal, Murli Manohar yes Shyam for sure but he could not afford to lose his temper he could be putting Khushi’s life in danger.
He jumped and began dashing down the stairs, then stopped and came back and folded his hands, like he had seen Khushi do. Thank you. Keep her safe he mumbled awkwardly before dashing off again.
On the way he called his school buddy, Raman Shukla who also happened to be the Assistant Commissioner of Police. “Pick up the phone dammit,” He muttered through clenched teeth as he drove at breakneck speed. “Pick up the phone…” Thankfully he picked it up, still groggy from sleep, after all it was early morning. Arnav rushed to his house where he was waiting in the garden with the tea tray.
“RAMAN!” ASR came up at a run.
“Whoa ASR! Relax! What’s the emergency? Just yesterday you got married and already so hassled?” Raman ribbed him.
ASR shook his head, trying to catch his breath and control his jumping nerves. “Didn’t get married… couldn’t get married…”
“What? I was there last night…I even had dinner.” He licked his lips. “Lovely dinner it was too but of course I didn’t stay for the wedding, I was on duty,” he backed off at ASR’s expression. “Ok ok, begin from the beginning.” He invited.
“No time for the beginning!” Arnav snapped. “A very long story may be later. First things first, Khushi, my bride is missing. She called me just now I think she has been kidnapped.” He paced the lawns.
“Did she tell you that she had been kidnapped?”
“No,” Arnav shook his head, “but she was talking weird, about stuff that hasn’t happened. And she was clearly lying – she said she didn’t love me, didnt want to marry me….”
Raman coughed. “Buddy, maybe she doesn’t? Err I mean girls do change their minds, maybe she is not lying.”
“No dammit!” ASR burst out. There is no doubt! She was lying. We spoke just before the wedding everything was fine and now this.” He gave a ghost of a laugh. “Besides my Khushi would never do this on the phone. She would come and chew my head off in person.” He clicked his fingers, “And she spoke about being angry with me for my behavior at the bachelor’s party, me drinking and cavorting with girls….”
Raman shrugged and tugged his ear. “Well, again maybe, you did go over the top? And you didn’t invite me to your bachelor’s party?” he looked at him reproachfully
“Stop it Raman” ASR was really mad now, “This is serious. I didn’t invite you because there was no bachelor’s party. I just pretended to throw one, which Khushi gate crashed and she very well knows that I was not drinking and neither was I cavorting with any other girls. In fact she was the only girl there.” He ran a hand through his hair. “That is why I said she’s been kidnapped and she was forced to make that phone call and she was instructed to break off the marriage in such a manner so that I would be mad enough not to bother looking for her,” Arnav faltered, “And there were some family skeletons which could make it easy for me to believe the worst.”
Raman straightened asked crisply, “Since when has she been missing?”
“I am not sure, nobody has seen her since last night….”
“What!! Since last night and you are coming now? What about the wedding?”
“Don’t ask,” ASR waved a hand, “Some disturbing facts came to light, I…I was very upset I disappeared for the night, trying to sort out my thoughts.” Exhausted, he flopped down on a chair. “And everyone at home thought Khushi was with me while I thought she was at home so we just got to know that she is missing, and then I get this strange call from her; I mean stranger than her usual standards.”
“I will accept that she is missing, maybe even kidnapped,” Raman was all business now. “But what do you think is the motive? It’s clearly not ransom,” he mused. “Do you suspect anyone?
ASR clenched his hands and bit out, “Shyam Manohar Jha, my jijaji.”
“What!? Di’s husband? Are you out of your mind?”
“No Raman, actually a lot has happened over the last couple of months. I debated whether or not to discuss with you then decided against it as I thought to save my sister and my family the public glare.” He sighed. “Maybe it was a wrong decision. I should have got to the bottom of it. Some time ago I was kidnapped and an attempt was made to murder me. Khushi saved my life and even though there was no proof we know that Shyam was behind it all.”
“Kidnapped, attempt to murder!” Raman was all worked up, “and you didn’t bother telling me! What the hell were you thinking?”
“Yeah well,” ASR looked away, “I was a bit preoccupied.” He paused. “In clinching a deal.”
“ Clinching a deal!? You really take the cake ASR.” Raman was incredulous. “I mean is the deal worth more important than your life?”
ASR shrugged his shoulders, a half smile on his face and said softly, “Yeah you could say that.”
“Unbelievable Man,” Raman groaned but recovered swiftly. “I want all the details later but tell me – this Shyam may have plotted to kill you for your wealth, but why kidnap Khushi?”
“He….he has….he has a thing for Khushi.” ASR’s eyes were bleak. “He was two timing my sister and Khushi and even got engaged to her and when she got to know the truth, she broke off with him. But I don’t think he gave up hope…oh! Wait a minute,” he snapped his fingers, “Khushi said something…yes that she was going away with her paternal uncle Kanahiya Lal.” He pursed his lips. “Never heard of him before and that he would get her married this evening to his friend’s son Murli Manohar…”
ASR leaped up and started pacing up and down. “That Shyam,” He snarled, “I bet he was the one to instigate Dadi to create the mess with the photo and now he has kidnapped her and plans to marry Khushi by force,” he forcibly pulled Raman up yelling at him. “RAMAN! Don’t just sit there otherwise I swear I will kill that man.” ASR steadied. “In fact that is best idea I have had so far……”
“ASR, chill man chill” He said in soothing tones. “She said married in the evening right? Don’t worry there’s loads of time. You go off home and keep and eye on him. In the meanwhile I will send plainclothes men to tail him if he goes anywhere. Now give me the phone number from where the phone came and also Shyam’s number. I will get her location from the phone calls.” He smiled encouragingly and patted Arnav. “Dont worry, you go home and freshen up and let me do my job. Just DON’T let Shyam know that you are on to him,” he warned, “Otherwise Khushi’s brilliant message will all go for a waste and Khushi’s life would also be in danger.” Raman added for good measure to ensure ASR’s compliance with his instructions.
ASR nodded curtly and drove off after passing on the phone numbers. Just a little distance away, he stopped the car and called Raman. “I just remembered another thing Khushi had said. She said I am not lying, can you hear the temple bells, and I wouldn’t be lying in a temple would I? I think she was trying to say that there was a temple nearby, if that is of any help?”
“It may just be.” Raman signed off.
Click here for Chapter 6