|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Both Meera and Mohan had taken astrologer Vidyasagar at his word and were very sure that Veerendra would be in Delhi. Ram and Lakhan somehow convinced their parents that they would go to Delhi and do their best to locate Chanda’s long lost husband. They did not mention Ranveer to them. The duo’s trip to Delhi had two purposes – to look for Veerendra and also to meet Ranveer.
They flew to Delhi on Monday and checked into a hotel. They decided to give Ranveer a surprise visit first thing on Tuesday morning. In the meanwhile, they contacted Samrat, the private detective highly recommended by the twins’ friend. Ram thought that a name like Samrat sounded quite fraudulent, but Bharat’s friend had insisted that the man was a genius.
Both the brothers were rather skeptical when Samrat agreed to meet them immediately. From what they knew about the man, he worked on his own and sometimes hired a couple of guys as freelancers. How could he be free the moment they contacted him? Not left with much of a choice, they invited the detective over to their hotel at 7 pm.
Samrat arrived a few minutes before time and the receptionist called their room at five minutes to seven to announce his arrival. Lakshman looked at Ram askance before requesting the receptionist to send their guest up.
The man who entered their room appeared nothing like a sleuth. Their idea of one was that he would be tall and muscular, strong and fit enough to combat bad guys. But this man standing in front of them was thin and nondescript. Would he be suited for the kind of work they had in mind for him? Well, procrastinating will get them nowhere, decided Ram before offering their guest a seat. Well manners prompted Lakshman to provide Samrat with a glass of water before they spoke to him.
After the introductions, Ram said, “Actually Mr. Samrat, this case might be a bit complicated as it’s being opened after fourteen years. By the way, is Samrat your first name or last?” he asked, not able to control himself.
A twinkle appeared in the detective’s eyes, catching the attention of the brothers. So far, Samrat had appeared like a simpleton. Suddenly, his eyes shone with intelligence that seemed to light up his dark face. He grinned, his teeth glowing white. His whole personality changed right there in front of their eyes. Ram stared at Samrat, amazed at the transformation while he waited for his reply. He eyed his brother, wondering whether he had noticed the change too. Of course Lakshman had. He too waited silently. The brothers always worked this way on any project. While Ram asked the questions, Lakshman watched silently, observing things cleverly.
“It’s neither, Mr. Maheshwari. The name my parents gave me is Rajesh and my surname is Khanna. Can you imagine anyone taking me seriously if I announce myself as Rajesh Khanna? The first couple of ventures that I tried to pick up fell apart just because of this. That’s when I coined this name for myself. Samrat seems to work well with everyone.” The visitor’s face was serious once again.
By now, both Ram and Lakshman were convinced that they had got the right man for the job and explained everything to him. They briefed him on Chanda’s marriage, Veerendra’s subsequent disappearance and the information they had gathered from the astrologer. They also handed over a faded wedding photograph of Chanda and Veerendra and another close shot of Veerendra given to them by his father.
Samrat told them that he would need a full week, all expenses paid with separate fees for the complete project. He quoted figures and took an advance. Just as he got up to leave, he was surprised to hear Lakshman speak. Samrat had laid a bet with himself that the younger one would not open his mouth that evening. Of course he did not mind losing it as he heard the question, “What do you think are the chances of locating Veerendra? I know it’s quite early yet. But you must’ve an idea as you obviously come with a rich experience in this line.”
Samrat rubbed his unshaven jaw, thinking hard. It was not that he was confused – only how much to tell the client. Both the Maheshwaris seemed quite smart and that’s why he decided to give them the full truth. “Well, presuming that Veerendra is alive and has not left the country, it should not be too difficult to trace him. I can probably do that in 3-4 days if he’s definitely in Delhi. I’ll search here first as your astrologer is so sure about it. If otherwise…” he shrugged, “only time will tell. Either way, I’ll give you my answer latest within a week.”
Lakshman nodded his head, quite confident now that the search was in capable hands. He smiled one of his rare smiles before saying, “Would you like to dine with us?”
Samrat shook his head, a polite smile on his face. “Thank you, but no. As my life’s going to be quite hectic over the next week, I’d rather spend today evening with my wife and kids,” he said before taking his leave.
Ram and Lakshman agreed that Samrat was probably the best guy for finding Veerendra and went down to dinner, satisfied that they had done the right thing.
THE NEXT MORNING FOUND SAMRAT at Chanda’s college and later at her hostel. He was out to check all the people that she associated with. He had decided to go on the astrologer’s hunch that Chanda spent a lot of time in probably the same premises as her errant husband. He knew that the search was not going to be easy as the chances were bright that Veerendra Singh Choudhry had changed his name as well as his surname. Then there was this problem of not knowing how he looked. A grin spread over Samrat’s face as he was thrilled to note that this was probably the most intriguing case he had had to solve in the 15 years of his detective career. He so enjoyed a challenge.
RAM AND LAKSHMAN REACHED CHANDA’S TEMPORARY OFFICE. RS Software Pvt. Ltd. was on the seventh floor of the building. They waited at the reception after giving their names. They had told the receptionist Ruma that they were there to meet Ranveer Singh and also that they did not have an appointment. Since Ranveer was quite informal and did not mind meeting people who popped up at his office some times, the receptionist called his room. It was 9.30 am and Ruma was confident that her boss must already be in his office. The phone rang and rang and no one picked up. With a small frown on her face, Ruma had an office boy bring tea to the two men waiting to meet Ranveer.
She rang a couple of times more and not getting through, Ruma called Shikha’s cabin with reluctance. She did her best to keep out of Ranveer’s secretary’s way. The older woman had a lashing tongue and Ruma was not one who was keen to be at the receiving end. Shikha picked up the phone immediately and barked, “Yes?”
“Hi Shikha, there are two guys waiting at the reception – Ram and Lakshman Maheshwari – to meet Ranveer. They don’t have an appointment, it seems. Should I…”
“Young or old?” barked Shikha again while she frowned at her computer screen.
“Huh?” said Ruma, not sure that she had heard Shikha right.
“Are you dumb or what? I asked you whether the guys you’re talking about are young in age or they are old,” drawled Shikha, sarcasm dripping in her voice as she dragged out the syllables as if she was talking to a retarded child.
Ruma blanched. With great difficulty, she kept her face straight as she replied, “Why don’t you get your butt out here and find out for yourself?” before disconnecting the line. While she had been tempted to bang the phone down, she did not want to create a bad impression on the hunks who sat waiting to meet her boss. She gave them a sweet smile as she said, “Ranveer’s secretary should be here to meet you soon.”
Shikha dropped everything and got up to go meet the two men who had arrived without an appointment. She arrived at the reception and ignored Ruma royally and looked directly at the sofa. Realising that she must be Ranveer’s secretary, both Ram and Lakshman got up to their feet. Shikha had a difficult time keeping her jaw from dropping as she eyed the tall, dark and handsome specimens in front of her. Two of them, for crying out loud! They were young and they were dressed in expensive gear – designer jeans and branded shirts. Had her luck changed for the better, after all? She conveniently did not consider the fact that they must be younger than her.
“Hello!” cooed Shikha, setting Ruma’s nerves on edge. She ignored the threesome as she sat down and fed in some phone numbers into her computer. Shikha shook hands with the two men, fluttering her lashes at both of them. She invited them to sit on the sofa before sitting on the adjacent one herself. Crossing her legs to show them the best view of their length, she asked sweetly, “Was it something urgent that you needed to see Ranveer about? I’m afraid that he’s out today.” She did not want to tell them that he probably would not be there the whole week. If they came again tomorrow, she would get another chance to meet them. In fact, she would be better prepared and dressed to suit the occasion. Today, she had not bothered as she had had no one to impress, or so she had thought.
“Should I give you an appointment for tomorrow?” When Ram Maheshwari agreed, she told them to come over the next day at 12.30 pm, pretending to check her cell phone for Ranveer’s appointment list.
Disappointed that they could not meet Ranveer, the brothers gave Shikha a vague smile and turned to leave. As they moved towards the lift, Lakshman suddenly walked over to the receptionist and said softly, “Bye Ruma! We’ll see you tomorrow.” Ruma looked at the handsome man in front of her in surprise. Did she hear right? Ranveer was not there the whole week. She had just received a mail from Ramsingh that said so. The mail had been sent to everyone in the office. Then how come Shikha had given them an appointment? Ruma decided that it would not be right on her part to say anything. She nodded to Lakshman, who waved before leaving. Ram watched on in astonishment. His silent brother appeared to have fallen for the receptionist. But knowing Lakshman the way he did, Ram decided not to say anything right then.
After the men left and Shikha had gone back inside, Ruma called Ramsingh’s extension. She knew that he was the man in charge when Ranveer was not in the office. She explained to him about Ram and Lakshman’s visit and how Shikha had given them an appointment to meet Ranveer the next day. “Did you say Maheshwari?” asked Ram, his brain going into overdrive. While the whole office worked on a first-name basis, Ram tended to remember people by their whole names. Maheshwari had struck a bell. When Ruma answered in the affirmative, Ram gave her a couple of instructions before disconnecting the call.
Where had he heard the surname before? More like he had read it somewhere. It took Ram exactly three minutes to arrive at an answer. Chanda’s surname was Maheshwari. Ram’s photographic memory recalled her bio-data. Under family background, she had mentioned that she had four elder brothers. The chances were high that the two guys who had visited their office to meet Ranveer without an appointment, were her brothers. Ram put two and two together and arrived at an exact four.
But then, Chanda had taken leave this week citing a family emergency. If there was one, then what were two members of the same family doing here in Delhi while she had been retained at home? Ram left his work alone and sat down to think, his logical brain going over the situation, bit by bit. One conclusion he arrived at immediately. Things were not as they should be. Something was definitely not fitting in. He decided to meet the Maheshwari brothers the next day when they arrived. No sense in hitting the panic button by trying to get in touch with them by phone today itself. Yeah, that would have been possible as all visitors had to leave their names, phone numbers and contact addresses.
He called Ruma and told her to inform him the moment they arrived the next day. As an afterthought, he asked, “Did they leave a contact address?” Ruma checked the visitor’s book and told him, “Yeah, of course. They are staying at Hotel Jewel Palace.”
Ram thanked Ruma before disconnecting the call. It looked like his guess had been bang on. He sincerely hoped for Ranveer’s sake that there was no trouble afoot. Ranveer must have left that morning to go to his village. Ram decided to find out all details before contacting his friend and boss. No sense in bothering him just now. Ramsingh went back to work realizing that there was nothing to it but to wait till the next day when the Maheshwari brothers came back for their appointment.