|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Of course, it was just the second day of his investigation and Samrat had not expected to get too far ahead with it. Yet the detective was disappointed as he had come up with a blank wall both at the college where Chanda was studying and the hostel she lived in.
The hostel was exclusively for women, but Samrat had found out that there was a separate building that housed male students and this was in the neighbouring compound. A thorough search of the list of students living there had brought up a blank. But then, all of them were either of Chanda’s age or younger, actually.
He had even managed to get a list of the male professors teaching at the college. He had run through their personal and professional data on the college’s website and found that none of them matched the criteria that he was looking for.
Samrat looked at his watch to see that it was almost 3 pm. It was time for lunch and his stomach growled as if on cue. He shut the laptop he was working on and decided to go for lunch. That only left one place for him to check. Chanda had been working as a temp at RS Software Pvt. Ltd. He had already verified that the company was placed in a twelve-storey commercial building. That could mean that there was a chance that Veerendra could be working in anyone of the umpteen companies that were placed there. Then again, he could be a businessman who transacted with any of the said companies. That could run into hundreds, to say the least. But then, Samrat never left anything to chance and he was an expert with lists. Then there was his gut instinct that was very strong. Not even for a minute did Samrat think that it might be a crazy idea to work on an astrologer’s forecast. He and astrologers went a long way. He had used a couple of them during some of his investigations. If the astrologer was of great repute, then the chances were that they gave accurate predictions.
Deciding to have lunch before going to check out Chanda’s temporary workplace, Samrat packed his backpack before stepping out of the college.
RAM AND LAKSHMAN REACHED TEN MINUTES BEFORE TIME FOR THEIR APPOINTMENT WITH RANVEER. Not having had any updates from Samrat, the duo had kind of become restless as they were both at a loose end. The moment they walked into the reception of RS Software, Lakshman took the initiative to walk up to Ruma as Ram watched on in amusement.
“Hi Ruma,” said Lakshman softly, a smile on his face.
Ruma looked up to see the handsome guy who was supposed to meet Ranveer that afternoon. She recalled that he was Lakshman Maheshwari even before he gave her his name. She lifted the intercom as she smiled and said, “Could you please take a seat, Mr. Maheshwari? You’re early. Let me check if someone’s free to see you.” She did not want to mention Ranveer’s name as that would be an outright lie.
Lakshman nodded his head before walking to the sofa where Ram was sitting back, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. Lakshman ignored the devilish glint in his brother’s eyes and went and sat quietly next to him. He did not respond to Ram’s furtive looks as he took a magazine and pretended to read it. Ram gave up after a couple of minutes and started reading the newspaper that was lying on the table next to him.
“Excuse me, gentlemen!” called out Ruma in just two minutes. Ram and Lakshman got up as one to go to her. “Mr. Ranveer Singh is rather busy at the moment. Mr. Ramsingh will see you immediately.” She had already instructed an office boy to lead the two of them to Ram’s cabin.
The two men followed the office boy and went to meet Ramsingh. Shikha looked up from her cabin and just happened to notice the two tall men as they walked into Ram’s office. She was furious. What the hell was happening? It was she who had given the appointment to Ram and Lakshman. What were they doing meeting Ram? She lifted the phone to ring Ram’s extension only to find it engaged. Expecting a call from her, Ram had left the phone off the hook. He had even taken the precaution to keep his cell phone on silent mode. He was quite confident that Shikha would not walk into his cabin as she would definitely not want to create a bad impression on the Maheshwaris.
Unable to yell at Ram for interfering in her affairs, Shikha got up and walked to the reception to give Ruma a piece of her mind. Ruma was just placing the phone receiver down when Shikha barged into the reception. She walked up to the younger woman and thrusting her face threateningly close to hers, snarled, “How dare you? Just how dare you? You knew very well that the Maheshwaris had an appointment with me today. Why the hell did you send them over to meet Ram?”
Ruma was not too flustered by the attack. She had been working in the office since two years and was quite sure of the line of authority. She also had the confidence of a sincere employee whose work was well appreciated by the management. This new secretary of Ranveer’s was full of hot air and Ruma was sure Shikha would not survive here in this company for long.
Ruma moved away from Shikha’s threatening face and sat down coolly on her swivel chair. “Well, I was not aware that the Maheshwaris had an appointment with you, Shikha. Believing that they were to meet Ranveer and considering that the boss is not in the office, I sent them over to meet his second-in-command,” she said, her voice matter-of-fact. Her body language was a different ballgame altogether. Shikha caught the stance that just told her to ‘go to hell’.
Shikha trembled with the temper that shook her up. She had so looked forward to an afternoon of entertainment, maybe it would have got carried forward into the evening. All that was lost now thanks to this stupid bitch who thought no end of herself. “You just wait, you bitch. Let Ranveer get back to work and we’ll see what he has to say about your behavior. You don’t think you can insult me like this and get away with it, do you?” She shouted.
“Do that. I really look forward to what Ranveer has to say about this too,” said Ruma before turning towards her computer terminal. She had better things to do than to cross swords with Ranveer’s secretary who did not do much other than paint her nails most of the day, it seemed.
Realising that it was of no use talking to the young receptionist, Shikha walked back to her cabin in a huff, cursing Ranveer and all things that had to do with him. She fumed as she sat there plotting horrible ways to kill both Ranveer and his executive assistant.
RAMSINGH GOT UP TO GREET THE MAHESHWARI BROTHERS. The office boy left them at the door after taking an order for three cups of tea. Ramsingh shook hands with both Ram and Lakshman while his keen eyes studied the two men in front of him. They were both confident and did not in any way resemble Chanda, unless you looked at their eyes. Both the men’s eyes were a shining black with a smile permanently in them – just like their sister’s.
Ramsingh smiled at each of them in turn before saying, “Am I right in thinking that you both are related to Chanda? Probably her brothers?”
Ram grinned widely while Lakshman smiled softly. “Is that so obvious?” asked Ram, the talkative one.
Ramsingh shook his head before replying, “Not exactly. The main clue was your surname. But of course, there’s a resemblance that becomes obvious once you realize that you may be related to Chanda. So tell me, what brings you both here? You must be aware that Chanda’s on leave and the reason she gave her team leader is that she’s held up due to a family emergency.” His eyebrows went up in query. “What are two members of her family doing here under the circumstances?” he asked. Ramsingh sounded tough, but then that’s how he was. He had dealt with a number of fraudsters in his time and had learned to handle them firmly. Not that he thought that Chanda’s brothers were frauds. But he was keen to get to the bottom of the truth as soon as he could.
Ram shrugged broad shoulders as he looked at Ramsingh. Funny that they both had the same name. “Actually, it was Ranveer that we wanted to meet,” he said.
“Is that anything to do with this family problem that was mentioned? Will Chanda not be working with us anymore? Or…”
Lakshman spoke for the first time and Ramsingh turned to look at him in surprise as he had almost forgotten that there was another man in the room. “Look here Mr. Ramsingh. There has been a problem and Chanda is unable to get back to work just now. She’ll return next week as promised. Our meeting Ranveer is something else altogether. It’s on a personal level, actually.”
Ramsingh nodded his head wisely. He had thought as much. But it was strange that they should come here escaping the emergency that Chanda was undergoing with the rest of the family. Somehow, he could not quite swallow that. But then, there was only so much he could interfere on Ranveer’s behalf.
“Actually, Ranveer’s not in town this week. He’s expected to return to work only next Monday,” he told them the truth.
“What?” said Ram, absolutely disappointed. He had been so keen on meeting the man who had captured Chanda’s heart. A small frown gathered on his forehead as he looked at Lakshman, silently asking him the next plan of action.
Just then the office boy walked in with a tray containing three cups of tea and placed it in the centre of Ramsingh’s desk.
Ramsingh waited for the boy to leave the cabin before answering Ram. “Yeah, Ranveer has gone to Jaswantpura. He should be back in Delhi by Sunday,” he said before picking up his cup of tea.
While Ram sipped at his tea, Lakshman asked quietly, “Did you say Jaswantpura?”
A dazed Ram placed his tea cup on the table to avoid spilling the hot liquid as his hand shook with shock. This was just too much of a coincidence.