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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chapter 20 - Family Faux

Dear Readers

Thank you for being patient as I spent the last week with house guests and visits from "real" life wala friends. Hope you enjoy this installment.
You better leave those pictures alone or you die. You are nothing but a bastard and a piece of shit!

Shyam had barely finished texting the message to Khushi when his phone whirred into action.

Shit! The last thing I want is more drama tonite.

He cut the call and continued pacing his private suite in the club. The club security was alerted of the intruders and the bouncers were being questioned for the security breach. None of this was of any comfort to Shyam, who had lost any hope of ever becoming the next Surgeon General, if the stupid bitch revealed those photographs. 

His phone whirred once, indicating a text.

Leave me and my family alone. You will never hear from me.

He exhaled in relief. He knew Khushi like the back of his hands and banked on it. Now, he had the onerous task of finding a convenient trophy wife who would agree to be a wallflower and clear his path.This time his room phone rang and he picked up the call, assuming it was from the club managers, calling to apologize for the interruption to his “service”.

“You bastard! You are freaking enjoying Club Med while I am stewing here at home. Didn’t you promise to take me out tonite? Now that Khushi broke off the engagement, what’s stopping you?”

He grimaced at another annoyance that had grown from an irritating blister to a full blow gaping ulcer. He shouted back with equal fervor at the caller.

“Don’t you dare! You have no idea who I am and what I can do. So stay away from me. This thing that you and I have, let me tell you once and for all. Its over. Do you want me to spell it for you? Its O.V.E.R! Do you understand, bitch?” he slammed the phone down and pulled out the cable from the jack in fury.

He pushed his hair back to relieve the tension and drank a glass of water. It was in the coming for a long time and he was glad that both episodes were over. Now he just needed to find a willing and compliant ally who would neatly fit into his scheme of things while he went forth with his nomination.

Payal threw her phone with such force that it hit the wall and broke into smithereens.
“Argh! The bastard! Who does he think he is? For one freaking year, he strung me along. This is not the end Shyam, this is definitely not the end. Payal is not Khushi, Payal does not take things lying down. I will show you what you are dealing with here.”

Payal felt an insurmountable sense of anger and frustration build inside her. Since the day she had found out about Khushi’s ancestry, she knew she had to find a way to benefit from it. She had almost stumbled upon the mafia through her Russian boyfriend in college. On second thoughts, she figured the Russian guy had sought her out because she was Khushi’s sister. She needed money to splurge on her extravagant lifestyle, money that had nothing to do with Khushi’s kitty purse. Borrowing constantly from Khushi’s account had become a sore spot for her. The Russian boyfriend connected her to Noam.

This was much better. She could spend on anything she wanted and as long as she kept the stream of information to mafia, more money came her way. She was promised that Khushi’s life was not in any danger, the mafia just needed information on her.

At first she was scared of Noam. As she provided more and more information to them, they struck an uncomfortable truce of give and take. She gave information and she took money. The amount depended on the value of information. When she had been unable to reach Khushi during the protective custody, Noam had threatened her and then carried it out by killing Chameli, just for the heck of it. She knew she’d probably never feel much for Khushi but when Khushi was attacked in her apartment, it had scared the daylights out of her. She simply didn’t want to have anything to do with.

Payal needed the money but more than that she needed Shyam. In the months Khushi had been engaged to him, Payal had felt a strong attraction to him and he had encouraged it. Shyam had promised to break his engagement as soon as things settled for Khushi. She needed to speak to Shyam and find out where Khushi was. She needed money.

She kicked her dresser in frustration. She didn’t know what transpired in the last few days but the calls from Noam had stopped coming and so did the money. She wanted to rake through the mess and find something useful for money in return. She had hesitated asking Shyam for money because she cared for him in a sick and convoluted way, like she had never cared for anyone in her life. But that bastard was a victim of his own perversions. She had harbored a remote hope of making him like her and choose her over Khushi. She truly loved him in her wicked heart but now, he was driving her away. He needed to be taught a lesson, just like Khushi did.

She yanked the drawer of her dresser and fumbled under the drawer. A small secret compartment popped open. She pulled out another phone from the compartment and speed dialed number 1.

“Hello. This better be good.”
“She’t not here and and she’s not with Shyam. I tried her apartment and I don’t think she’s there either. You might want to try that FBI agent, Raizada. And by the way, I want Shyam destroyed.”
“Your revenge is not our priority. I thank you for the information but we are done here. Your last payment will be sent to the usual spot. We are through. Good night.” The accented voice was curt and to the point.

She felt the air sucked out of her. She was useless to them.


Khushi switched off her phone after the last text to Shyam. It felt good to wield power over him for a change, a change of equation she was relishing with flourish. ASR was pleasantly surprised at her buoyant mood and chirpiness all the way to his apartment.
“Khushi, we need to talk about your Swiss bank account.” He decided to cross off the next item on his to do list – NK.
“Oh! Not tonite, ASR! Let me savor my freedom. Do you know how good it feels? Oh man! I was such an idiot! I let that perverted son of a bitch do this to me for a full fucking year! But its good, it’s all good now” she shook her head in disbelief and sheer relief.

ASR parked the car on the street. Khushi got out laughing and hop skipping like a kid. She bent and took a handful of snow, made a ball of it and hurled it on him. The cold snow surprised him but he was close on heels returning the favor. The snow fight continued with laughter and merry as the dim dawn lights skimmed the borders of the sky. They reached the front door of his building.

ASR opened the door. Khushi stood at the entrance with a wide smile and gleaming eyes. ASR didn’t say a word. He scooped her into his arms and shut the door with his foot. She chuckled in anticipation.

“Hot chocolate?’ she asked innocently, knowing that was the last thing on his mind.
“I have a better idea.” He responded, his voice audibly more gruff.
“Alright then, do tell.” She asked, her lips trembling to break into a smile.
“I’d rather show than tell.” He was playing along the sexual banter.

He lowered her on the bedroom floor. She stood watching him take off her jacket and then his. The restrain was broken immediately, when she held his face and rose on her toes to kiss him.

He reacted with such force, it drove the wind out of her lungs. Their lips and tongues sought warmth, comfort and assurance, tangling and coupling in open lust. He pulled away to catch his breath and almost ripped her dress apart, as he lifted it over head. She matched it with her own desperate fingers unbuttoning his shirt and shoving them under the garment to feel his warm skin. They kissed again as hands grabbed more clothing off of each other. He laid a trail of kisses around her jaws and moved down to kiss her chest. She threw her head back, threading her fingers through his thick black hair.

He breathed into her valley, ready to devour her any second. He inhaled in her perfume deeply and peered into her eyes as he rose and stood up. He had to say it.

“Dr. Khushi Gupta, you have no fucking idea what you do to me. I want to love you and love you till night ends and day starts. I want to love you every day of my life, feel your strawberry perfume on my skin every morning. I want to protect you, feel your warmth and comfort.” He laughed nervously and then his caramel eyes turned dark. He pulled her closer to him and sniffed along her neck. 

Khushi found that erotic, reminding her of her obsession to Vampire lore. She clutched his shoulders, yielding and pliable, giving him access to her neck.

“ And this neck of yours, Khushi, its mine. I want all of it.” He was shocked at his own admission. He had done it. Without saying the actual precious little words ‘I love you’, he had told her how much she meant to him.

A few moments ticked by. Khushi closed her eyes, ready to feel her man, his raw sexuality and his forceful passion. Suddenly, the face of the dead man flashed before her eyes, followed by Shyam’s nakedness and gluttony in the club. The words “You’re a bastard, Khushi” whirred in her ears in a deafening echo. The day’s exhaustion and overload of information took its toll on her. Her knees weakened and she collapsed into his arms.

“Khushi!” he growled, and held her tight. He led her to the bed and laid her down. He got her a bottle of Gatorade and some crackers to get her empty stomach settled. When she was finally able to sit up, she knew she could not do this to him. She knew her destiny lay with those Sabres and until she found out everything there was to know about them, she would never be ready to give all of her herself to ASR.

“Arnav” she said in a small voice.

He got into the bed with her and pulled her to his chest. She curled up beside him, seeking his warmth.
“Yes, my love” he answered, caressing her hair.
She loved the echo of his baritone in his chest, its vibrations and authority. She sighed and continued.
“I need to know about the Sabres. I don’t know why, but I feel they are evil and I am linked to them. All those deaths of royals and their families cannot go unanswered. I need to know before…” she stopped herself short of saying before she could begin to love him. She didn’t need to say it. He understood.

“I understand. Tomorrow we will pay Kevin a visit and get the serial numbers of the Sabres. My cryptographer friends Akash and Avni should be able to help.”

“Will Kevin let you? You are off the case.” She asked.
“Kevin owes me a couple of favors, I am sure he will not be too hard on me, especially now that he has found a neat way to put a closure to the entire sordid deal.”

“Hmmm” she felt safe and after a few minutes shifting to fit close to him, they both fell asleep. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chapter 19 - Standard Deviants

Dear Readers

Warning - this chapter has disturbing content. Please use your discretion and do not read if explicit and deviant sexual acts bothers you.

“Khushi?” ASR spoke after several moments of relishing her in his arms.
“Mmmm” she mumbled against his goose pimpled skin as she snuggled closer, feeling his skin and smattering of hair on her cheek.

Comfort food, she thought.

She circled him and ran her fingers on his back, without noticing the effect it was having on him. He crushed her closer and she welcomed the tightness closing around her.

“Mmm, this feels good.” She noted satisfied. He kissed the top of her head and breathed in to steady his wildly beating pulse. It was impossible to keep his thoughts straight knowing he could simply lift her to his bed and ravage her, willingly, lovingly and eagerly.

“Khushi, I'm sorry.” 

"For what?" she asked looking into his eyes.

"For leaving your house like that. I wish I had explained everything." 

"Mmmm." she simply said without asking for further explanations.

"Khushi...we've got a lot to do."He hated the reminder.

“Yep, ok….” She withdrew and lowered her head in slight embarrassment of the naked expression of her need for him. He lifted her chin and smiled. She blinked and smiled back, reassured by the honesty on his face.

“Don’t you want to know why they pull off the security detail at your house?” he asked.

She nodded. He held her arm gently and took off her coat and hat. He made her comfortable in his living room and got himself a sweater before he froze to death. A pot of coffee later, the two snuggled in the living sofa and ASR recounted the events of the day. Khushi listened to every word with rapt attention.

He concluded, “The question, Khushi, is this – what is the motive? Why did the men chase the Sabres if all they wanted was to sell them in the black market? And the Sabres are not really antiques. Although they are worth some money, they definitely are not worth the number of murders laying in their wake. So what is the motive?”

Khushi took a sip of her coffee and her brows knitted thinking about the last 15 days that had turned her life upside down starting with the murder of the man in her apartment. She shuddered to think it was all over, it seemed too simple.
“What does Kevin think?” she asked

“Kevin believes the men were acting alone, kind of like a splinter group from the main brotherhood of mafia. Their confession all but absolves everyone but them. It’s hard for me to believe that the Jewish mafia would allow a splinter group to thrive and that the group will have the kind of reach these men had to all the royal families.” ASR exhaled and stretched on the sofa, his mind stormed with questions.

She wanted to reach out and caress his thick dark hair, to erase the worry lines creasing his forehead, to kiss him. But she knew there was no time to lose. Her entire existence lay in question and if indeed the case was cracked, it meant she was free.

“What now?” she asked, almost afraid, in an ironic sense, that it was all over.
“It’s not over.” He responded, as if in answer to her question, almost driving her to relief that they could still legitimately spend time together.
“You are off the case. They plan to close the case. What is left to do?” she needed further assurance.

“Well” he stood up and stretched, not a man to sit idle for long hours.
“For one, I need to find out what’s with Shyam. And then I need to have a conversation with NK. And then we meet Kevin and my cryptographer friends Avni and Akash in University of Chicago.” He made mental notes looking out of the window.

“Wow! Looks like we have our work cut out for us! Why Shyam?” she asked, standing up and placing her coffee on the table.

“Don’t you want to know why he got engaged to you? I understand your motives but I still don’t get his.” He turned to face her and cocked his head, curiosity writ on his face.
She folded her arms across her chest in defiance to the thoughts of Shyam and reacted, “I think he wanted to look good. A docile, pliable fiancĂ©e, an upcoming career that is sure to win him the Surgeon Generalship of the state of Illinois. He just wanted to look good.” She convinced herself of the truth of her conjecture.

“Wait…he is vying for the office of Surgeon General?” he asked.
“Yes, he was planning to put in his nomination papers. He has the complete support of the Northwestern community and he is connected with the local congressman and Senators. His confirmation is all but given.” She waved her hand as if it was a natural thing to happen.

“Bingo! That’s it then!” ASR began pacing his room in excited paces, “He is creating an image of perfection with you in it. I mean look at you, you come from a perfect family.”
Khushi sniggered and shook her head.

“No, no, think about it. No one knows about you being a princess.”
She snorted louder and held out her palms to stop, “Stop ASR, please don’t remind me of my princely status. Bastard is more like it.”

“Come on, Khushi. Stay with me for a minute. I mean Shyam wants to look perfect. He has everything going for him. He finds out about your dad and then he makes his move on you and uses blackmail to get engaged to you. Why would he do that? Why jeopardize his future with blackmailing you when he can simply not be engaged to you?” he paced a few more times while Khushi pulled her hair up and tied it in a pony tail, getting ready for some cerebral tasks.

“Unless…unless he has something bigger he needs to hide.” He stopped in his tracks and rubbed his chin, he asked again, “Was there anything about him that struck you as odd?”

Khushi shook her head. He looked disappointed.
“Wait a minute. Of course, how stupid of me.” She smacked her forehead.
“What? What is it?” he was dying of impatience.
“He never wanted to have sex with me.” She blurted out and instantly regretted her choice of words.

ASR’s face was awash in relief followed by incredulity.

“Now, that is odd.” He smirked.
“It is, isn’t it? We never crossed that far, even after our third date, even after he proposed to me, even before he blackmailed me. And during our early months every time I tried to get closer, he always had an excuse. And you know what, if I am not mistaken he never had a girl friend before me.” She was a fountain of information suddenly.
“Nah-uh. Never. He was sought after but never got into a relationship, not even a casual one. And now that I think about it, there were even rumors that he might be, you know..” she hesitated to continue.

“Impotent?” ASR raised his brow, attempting to help.
“No!” she exclaimed.
“Deviant? That begs further investigation.”

She was about to turn to the kitchen when he grabbed her arm and pulled her to him. She slammed to his chest and blurted out.

“What are you doing?” she asked and realized it was a stupid question. He was smiling a wicked grin and without further ado, he claimed her mouth. She welcomed it by snaking her arms around his neck and arching back to feel his entire muscled mass against her.

A few minutes passed as the kiss deepened and tongues explored anew. Breathless, both of them released each other and caught their breaths, resting their foreheads on each other.
“I….I am sorry, Khushi, I just couldn’t help…”he began.
“Shut up and kiss me again.” She ordered with a naughty smile. Another kiss followed as the two stood entwined in his living room, feeling each other and giving as much as taking comfort in each others’ arms.

He showered kisses on the tip of her nose, eyes and jawline before nuzzling her neck in sheer need to devour every inch of her. He pulled back by force.
“We need to stop. We have a lot to do.” He held her face in his palms and implored with earnestness.
She nodded and liked the sound of how he said “we” instead of “I”. They were a team.

The plan was set. They began with Shyam at Khushi’s behest. She wanted that chapter out and done before she could figure out what to do. ASR had a pattern of Shyam’s activities in his file and he figured, this being Christmas and the fact that Shyam was out of Khushi’s house, he must have other plans.

They two staked out in the street outside Shyam’s mansion for good hour. They spoke little, both were afraid of betraying the nervous energy and palpable attraction they felt, that could ruin their chase. An hour later, Shyam’s garage door opened.

ASR watched the man get out of the large mansion in his flamboyant car. Khushi cringed at the sight and squeezed ASRs hand that she was holding in a death grip. ASR put his car in gear and cruised behind Shyam's car. The travesty of a car was a misfit even in the plush neighborhood just as the man driving it.

The two cars went one after the other into the throng of friday traffic. To ASR's surprise, Shyam's car turned into the posh clubbing district of downtown, peppered with tony pubs, bars, and dance clubs. Khushi's eyes widened as she took in the hints of hedonistic pleasures of the night promised by the exclusive and secretive clubs of the area. ASR's heart went out to her at the obvious surprise in her face and he realized Khushi had no inkling that Shyam had a side to him.

His car pulled into an expansive entrance of a majestic club as a valet stood at service. Shyam got out of the car with all the elegance of a panther and dropped the key into the valet's waiting hands. As he entered the lobby a curvaceous figure of a woman emerged from the lobby waiting area and linked her arms into his. The two figures receded deep inside.

ASR knew the club was membership only and they had to find another way to get in. A few blocks way, they parked the car in metered parking. Khushi pulled her hat down in place and snuggled her scarf around her neck tighter. ASR held out his hands and she clasped it before the two walked towards the club.

Khushi was shivering with a mix of fear and excitement. Other than the inadvertent murder of a man, she had never done anything this covert and out of character activity in her life. ASR brought out the curious child in her and for that she was ever grateful to him. The two went to the back alley of the building where large dumpsters and heaps of black garbage bags littered the narrowed space. The two ducked behind one of the large dumpsters as the back door to the building opened and a harried looking janitor dumped few more bags onto the overflowing pile of bags. As the man left, the automatically locked back door began closing smoothly, buffered by the hydraulic hinge. ASR jack knived the opening with his foot and push it further open.

Khushi had a growing sense of foreboding. Shyam's secrets lay in this building. The question was how dirty was the secret. She was about to find out.


ASR and Khushi passed the large kitchen of the club, rousing some curious eyes among the kitchen staff. It was a busy evening and no one seemed to care enough to stop them. The two crossed into the main restaurant and passed on the edges to enter the service entrance. The pounding music filled the corridors and aisles of the club while plush carpet buffered their footsteps. They found a service elevator and got into it. The array of buttons on the elevator had them look at each other with curiosity. Lounge 7, Hedonism Bar, Floor Enigma, Voyeur’s Paradise and finally, B&G Arena. 

ASR and Khushi exchanged looks, unable to figure out which floor they should go. B&G Arena sounded weird enough to try and Khushi nodded a tacit agreement. It was lucky they had both changed to their finer duds, helping them evade undue attention. As the elevator rose up, so did Khushi’s anxiety. The club, its patrons, everything about it gave an aura of exclusivity to the point of exuding a sense of secrecy, a sinister presence sure to rock her foundation. But she felt ready for closure.

Each floor had more patrons exit than enter and finally only the two remained in the elevator. The door opened on the B&G floor to a quiet aisle with plush oriental carpet. The entrance lobby had aisle go around a circular central wall. ASR gestured to walk on side to find the entrance to the circular structure. Dull sounds of music pounded from behind the structure. Khushi clasped his hands tightly. Around the opposite end of the elevator was nondescript door.

ASR pushed the door lightly, and it opened without objection. As the two entered a very darkened room, it took their eyes a few moments to adjust. What they saw left them both gasping.

At the center of the circular structure was a grotesque sight of a man and a woman bound and gagged while three others performed heinous sexual acts on them using obscene paraphernalia. Khushi’s hand shot to cover her mouth in an effort to stop her from keeling over. ASR steadied her and whispered in to her ears muffled by the loud trance music, “Steady Khushi. We need to find Shyam.”

She took a few quick breaths to hold herself steady as the two walked among the throng gathered around the central dais where the deviants enacted a scene. Khushi averted her eyes, unable to bear the loud screams and pained cries of the actors. ASR jerked her to a stop when he spotted Shyam enter a small private booth, one among the many peppered around the stage. No one noticed the couple as the act got louder and frantic, diverting the attention of all and sundry to the stage.

ASR led the way until they reached the booth, he nudged the door open softly, leading into a small boudoir with a plush bed and more paraphernalia littered all around. Shyam was on the bed surrounded by three women engaged in various sexual acts. Khushi gasped at the sight when she noticed a saran wrap on Shyam's face, asphyxiating him as he was on the cusp of his release.

It all made sense to her now. The year of engagement with this wretched man had torn her inside, leaving her unable to have a healthy relationships until ASR came along. She wanted to make sure Shyam never returned to her life or hurt her family in any shape or form. In that moment, she found extraordinary courage, driven by self preservation and sense of righteousness. She knew what she had to do.

Khush whipped out her phone and began clicking pictures.

“Hey, who are you?” screamed a girl as the other two girls squealed and ran for cover. Shyam forgot he was almost ready to come when he sat up and stared straight into Khushi’s camera. Khushi smiled.

“That’s a really good pose. Dr. Shyam Jha!” she clicked a few more as the girls raised ruckus and Shyam scrambled from the bed. ASR pushed him back while the loud noises brought the attention of the bouncers who blocked the door to the booth.

Khushi quickly hid her phone in her purse without the notice of the bouncers. One of the large black man caught ASR by the collar and threw him out of the booth. The other clasped Khushi around her waist and lifted her off the floor and walked out.

The noise had caused enough furor on the floor that the act was stopped the other patrons covered their faces to avoid detection by intruders. Few minutes later ASR and Khushi found themselves thrown out of the building, literally, landing on their derrieres in the same alley they had used to get in. As the bouncers began to rough handle them further, ASR connected his knee to his attacker's nuts while Khushi used her fingers to poke the eyes of her attacker. It bought them enough time to get on their feet and run out into the crowded side streets, rife with Christmas revelers.

They waded through the crowds as fast as they could until they found their parked car.
“Change?” Khushi asked, hoping to feed the parking meter that had overrun its hour.

ASR laughed breathless, “Are you kidding me? Let’s go!” he pulled the car out and blended into the traffic. He checked the rear view mirror for a tense few minutes before he was assured that no one was following them.

“Well, that was interesting!” he panted.

“Holy fucking mother of shit! What the hell was that?” Khushi gushed breathlessly and began laughing hysterically.

ASR shot her a curious look, astonished at her incredible composure after the disturbing sights. He had seen it all in his line of work but her? 

Of course, she is a doctor, an ER doctor, she has seen eough gore, tough girl. 

“I can’t believe it. Shyam fucking Jha, literally fucking Jha likes asphyxiation. Look at this!!” she screamed and showed him the picture she had shot of Shyam, “Can you believe that? He is not freaking hurting me and my family ever! Bastard, the motherfucking son of a bitch!” she was half hysterical, half laughing and mostly jubilant.

“You want to save some cuss words for later?” He chuckled, enamored by her potty mouth, which he found strangely endearing.

“Fuck No! I am free, Arnav. Can’t you see that? I am free, finally! I have nothing to fear.” She threw her head back and laughed a good belly laugh before she leaned towards him and kissed him on his cheek.

“Careful missy, I am driving.” He laughed.

She sat back and breathed in many times, calming her nerves. She didn't have to feel guilty breaking her engagement to Shyam. He could never hurt her again.

“Arnav.” She turned her head and looked at him, “I am free.”

He liked the sound of it and Christmas was still not over.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 18 - United we stand

The scene was uncannily stoic. Garima and Sasi wore somber looks while Shyam sported evil satisfaction, none of which was lost on ASR. The room hung heavy with melancholy as the denizens of the house occupied different corners of the large family room. ASR looked around, ignoring the others but Khushi was nowhere to be found. He was hoping to get a word in with her before he left the premises and went forward with the plan he had in mind. He concluded the family will have to be dealt with first before he got on his way. 

Something in their collective staring eyes told him he was no longer welcome under the Gupta roof. He had inkling why.

Sasi got up from his couch and headed in his direction. Not to miss a beat, Shyam followed, causing ASR to back to the door due to a quick flash of guilt and exit the front the door without explanations, even to Khushi. Sasi’s glare stopped him.

“Agent Raizada!” Sasi said grimly.

Uh Oh, he knows.

“We treat our guests with respect and hospitality but we expect them to follow our house rules. What you did is….” Sasi hesitated to form words, utterly disgusted by the conduct of the agent and his daughter, “ unacceptable” he settled on a milder reprimand.

“Unacceptable?” Shyam said in sheer frustration, “It is downright reprehensible! Sleeping with my fiancĂ©?” Shyam spilled it, drawing gasps of horror from everyone around the room.

Sasi piped in, “Enough Shyam. The less we know about it, the better. I realize my daughter wronged you. You are welcome to break the engagement.” He turned to face a paper white Shyam. Shyam knew he had been cornered and if he did not steer carefully, he’d lose his precious cover called Khushi.

“Well. Errr… its certainly not her fault, you don’t say!” he stuttered and decided to shut up when he saw the smirk on ASR’s face. Shyam knew at that instant, his little bargain with Khushi was not a secret with ASR and he chose to seal his lips, too afraid to find out what else ASR knew.

ASR was relieved the man decided to shut up and not drag Khushi into the conversation. What he had shared with Khushi was not a night of lust, he knew that in his heart. It was more than that. It was a sanctimonious union that defied a name at this instant but given time, it could evolve into something beautiful. ASR wanted that chance with her and no Shyam would ever come in the way.
Khushi stood in the hallway stunned at the ongoing exchange. She strode in indignantly and slapped Shyam. “How dare you bring this up with my family?” she trembled in anger. Shyam held his cheek rendered warm by the sudden rush of blood where her hand connected with his cheek. He knew he was losing grip of the situation, suddenly the tables were turned on him.

“How dare I? I should be asking you that question?” He spat back, taking a step forward and towering over her, trying to intimidate her with his sheer size. She didn’t back down. ASR wanted to reach out and kiss her, in front of everyone. That would be rubbing salt into the wounds, he chuckled inside. He was beginning to find the entire situation quite hilarious. He decided it was time to bid adieu before things got out of hand but he wanted to make sure Khushi would be ok amongst this band of lunatics.

“Khushi, Dr. Gupta, and others. I just wanted to let you know that I am off the case. You don’t have anything to worry from me, anymore.” He laid it out simply for them.
All eyes in the room landed on him.
“No longer on the case? What do you mean?” Sasi exclaimed.
“Oh no! What about the Sabres and my connection to them?” Khushi quizzed more with worry of losing his company than the distant worry of Sabres.
Shyam laughed sarcastically, still holding his cheek.

“Well, Dr. Gupta, I am sorry for what happened. I cannot begin to explain. Khushi is a wonderful woman and she is not to be blamed. This accounts for conflict of interest, so FBI will find a replacement for me.” He explained to the gathering that had moved around him in the hallway. Then he paused and looked straight at Khushi, “I will be there for you, always, should you have any questions. I can offer you my informal advice and moral support, just no details about the case.” Their eyes spoke a million things as the room waited for ASR to continue. He didn’t have much to add.

“Good bye everyone.” He picked his bag and left through the front door. Khushi was sucker punched at the suddenness of his departure. The cold air from the front door as ASR exited brought a chill to her core. She was afraid she had lost the single best thing that had happened to her ever since the unfortunate series of events began hounding her. She had to be with him.


FBI cars cruised quietly, following the black sedan. Noam was getting impatient as he couldn’t lose the tail. He was dying to be with Mariam to enjoy a quiet evening with her famous pot roast and a glass of Kosher sweet red wine, even though they did not celebrate Christmas. David kept checking the rear view mirror and glanced furtively at Noam, unsure of his partner’s plan.

Noam pressed the accelerator at a clear stretch of the road and zoomed past a red light. Not to be left behind, the FBI car set a flashing light atop the car and follow them without losing pace.

“Shit!” he cursed, “Didn’t see them in the premises at Isaacson’s. Shit! If they catch us now, we are doomed.” He gnashed his teeth.

For the first time in his twenty years of working with Noam, David saw a crack in the armor.
“Why not toss the weapon?” He suggested.

“No, I can’t. They are on to us and I think our game’s up. They must have seen us on the scene.” Noam’s mind raced working out different scenarios and conclusions to the current conundrum. He didn’t wish to call the boss, if the lines were tapped, they’d find out who he was talking to. He had to make up his mind fast. The flashing lights and sirens began chasing them as two more FBI cars joined the fray. It was time to do the unthinkable, the much dreaded ending he had always feared.

“David, do you have the confession letter?”

David nodded, his hands trembling at the sudden realization of what Noam suggested. He opened the glove compartment and took out the letter. A fresh letter every day, dated to match the day and time, a handwritten note signed and sealed by them both, a ritual they performed every morning to keep the letter current with detailed account of their activities thus far. A confession letter that absolved everyone in their Jewish mafia brotherhood, prepared just for such occasion when they found themselves in a cul-de-sac.

Noam called Mariam, “Hi Honey, Its me. Its time.” He whispered choking on his words. The voice on the other side wailed a deathly holler as Noam disconnected the call.

David watched the man driving the car crumble right before his eyes. His heart went out to his partner and his wife and for a fleeting moment, he felt sorry for Noam. As for him, he had no one waiting for him anywhere in the world, a loner who had nothing to lose or gain except the sheer thrill of being part of a brotherhood that had become his proxy family. And that family demanded loyalty until the last drop of blood had drained out of his body. It was indeed the time.

Noam shot another look at the rear view mirror. He glanced at David and nodded. The two men each took out a small vial hanging from their gold necklaces around their necks and simultaneously pried opened the lid of the vials. A pause first, they nodded at each other, and emptied the contents of the vials into their mouths.
“Holy Shit!” Kevin hit the brakes hard as the car in front of them swerved out of control hitting the embankment of a flyover bridge and flew over the rails into the traffic on the freeway underneath. The FBI cars screeched all at once, fish tailing to gain control over the slick snow, finally coming to a halt on the side shoulders. Kevin and NK got out of the car and rushed to the bridge to discover the fleeing car, lay overturned in the middle of the highway below the bridge, struck by a few passing cars in a massive accident. Smoke and burnt rubber filled the air as minor explosions in the upturned car set it ablaze.

Kevin radioed the emergency dispatch as he made way down to the highway to contain the damage and stop the other vehicles. He ran as fast his feet would take him to the site on the grassy slopes connecting the flyover to the highway. He covered his nostrils with his shirt sleeve to keep the fumes from his lungs and bent to check the upturned car through thick smoke and flames. Two quickly charring bodies lay upside down, their heads hung precariously over the asphalt held by seat belts and buffered by inflated air bags. The passenger was holding a letter crumpled in his hand. Kevin pulled out the letter, burning his hand but successfully retrieving it from the accident site.

The sirens filled the expanse of the highway. More police cars joined with ambulances, quickly going about the business of restoring order. The half charred bodies were retrieved along with more evidence from the trunk of the car. Kevin and NK methodically collected the evidence for safe keep. The two were back at headquarters in the early morning hours of Christmas.


Khushi spent Christmas Eve sulking in her room. She was livid at Shyam and her family for tooling around her life at a time she needed a kind ear, a gentle embrace, a loving word….an ASR. An involuntary smile crept up her lips as she thought of their intimate night together. It had been beautiful and even though, neither had confessed any true feelings, she could not get rid herself of the loving tenderness he had showered on her. She had the strong need to find out if there was more to it.

Christmas morning dawned without the usual cheer at the Gupta mansion. Khushi had kept herself to her room. Sasi and Garima had tried to talk to her but she asked for some space and time alone. Her parents understood, her parentage, ASR leaving abruptly and her own reactions were enough to topple any applecart. She needed time to assimilate everything into her system

“Khushi, we need to talk.” A knock at the door brought her thoughts back to the unpleasantness called Shyam.
“Really?” she stood up, refusing to feel intimidated by the recalcitrant fool. She crossed her arms across her chest and ambled up to him in deliberate steps, “Is there anything left to talk?”

Shyam hid his surprise well. He hadn’t expected her to turn things around on him. He needed this engagement, now more than ever or else the carefully cultivated life would crumble faster than a house of cards.

“Look, it’s a deal for us, you know that and I know that. So let’s cut through the crap and get down to it. Stay engaged to me for another year and then we forget any of this ever happened.” He cocked his head trying hard to put a lid on his rising anger mixed with fear.

“Stay engaged! To you! You are nuts, Shyam!” She shook her head in derision and looked away.
“Need I remind you, you need this as much if not more than I.” He knew he’d have to remind her of the strong bargaining chip he held over her. She glared at him and clenched her jaw, metaphorically grinding his balls between her teeth.

“At this point, Shyam” she began, unfolding her arms and locking them behind her, and walking up to him she poke her index finger into his chest, “You need it more than I do. I have nothing to lose. I am a bastard child of a royal father and Jewish mother, did you know that? I am fucking adopted and I don’t even know my real parents. My life stands upside down and I am under death threat. The last ray of hope I had of getting to the bottom of this, you got rid of him. So, no Dr. Shyam Jha, I have nothing to lose. So go on right ahead” she poked him again with her index finger, “Do what you have to do. This engagement is officially and unequivocally, OVER” she poked again and lowered her voice,” Do…you…understand?”

She spoke through clenched teeth with anger dripping through every word she spoke. Shyam coiled back, never having seen her this way.  He was dumbstruck for a few moments but recovered fast. A classic evil smile descended on his face before he left her with his parting words, “You will regret this, Khushi. Watch me ruin you and your family.”

She held her head high till he was out of sight. She exhaled and drew in a few quick breaths to regain her composure when he left. It took the wind out of her, but she had done it. She had broken her sham of an engagement and suddenly she felt liberated. She needed to get some fresh air and she needed her own space.
Khushi had packed her bags and loaded her mini cooper in the attached 5 car garage. She paused contemplating whether to say bye to Sasi and Garima, her parents for all intents and purposes but she needed more time. She flicked the garage switch and the singleton door creaked open fighting the weight of fresh snow outside. She trudged out with a mini shovel to clear a small part of the driveway. She noticed that there were no FBI agents in sight.

She dropped the shovel and trudged to the small guest house. She knocked on the door but the place looked abandoned. No one.

She walked around the back. “Hellooooo, any body there?” she called out hoping to see some agent standing guard in the woods behind the guest house. Nothing.

She hurried back to the other side of the mansion and noticed the security cameras were gone, the FBI cars were gone, and there were no agents in sight. She felt a rush of panic upon the realization that there were no agents guarding the house or her family. She took off her glove and dialed ASR’s number.

His husky baritone voice mail cracked on the phone, This is Agent Arnav Singh Raizada. Sorry I can get to the phone right now, please leave a message, I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Shit, ASR! Where are you?

She texted him and called him many times. Nothing.

She did not have Kevin or NK’s number. She kicked the snow in frustration. “Aaargh!” She had to find ASR. She was afraid this was the end of her and her family.


ASR threw his bag on the bed and slumped on the springy mattress.
I will miss Khushi. But…first things first.
He dialed NK’s number. No answer.
He texted him to call him back.

He texted his sister Anjali,wishing her and family a Merry Christmas. This was not his idea of Christmas Eve but he had sent his gifts to his two lovely nieces and had gotten their pictures as a screen saver on his laptop. He smiled at them as he rebooted his laptop. He took off his clothes and crashed on his bed. He hadn’t slept like that in years.

Christmas began quietly outside the Lincoln Park neighborhood. A thin layer of snow had covered the sidewalks and the road. ASR got up lazily and checked his phone.

Khushi had left him many texts and voicemails. He sat up and called her.

“ASR! I don’t know what to do. There is no security detail here. I wasn’t sure who to call. What happened?” her panic stricken voice broke his heart. He wanted to be there for her and felt guilty leaving her alone.
“Khushi, calm down. I am sure there is a good reason for it. I will call Kevin and find out. Where are you right now?”

“Well, I am driving to my apartment. I couldn’t stand to be in the house with anyone.”
“Don’t go to your apartment, it’s not safe. Tell you what. Stop by my place till I figure this out. It will be safer here and no one would know.”  He rattled off his address to her and immediately called Kevin.
“Ah! Agent, I was about to call you. We got a breakthrough in the Sabre case!” Kevin sounded decidedly ecstatic and happy. ASR almost dropped his phone at the announcement.

“What do you mean?”
“We got the entire mother lode of evidence. The Mafioso, the culprits, lock stock and barrel, even the Sabres have been confiscated. Can you believe it? They were sitting discarded in a warehouse in the outskirts of Zurich.”
“I don’t understand. Slow down and explain to me.”
ASR sat down with a pencil and began taking notes.

The two men chasing Khushi for the Sabres were Noam Lasky and David Scholle, members of the jewish mafia with rap sheets as long as the Great Wall of China. They had murdered Isaacson and since FBI was scheduled to meet Isaacson, NK had caught tail of the two fleeing men. The men had died in a road accident but the cause of death was ingestion of cyanide capsules – a suicide mechanism common among organized crime. FBI had obtained a confession letter in which the men confessed to the crimes on royal families. FBI also impounded a black book with details on the murders of royal families and listing of all the Sabres stolen from those families. Each Sabre had a serial numbers associated with it. The numbers didn’t make much sense to the FBI and the FBI cryptographers believed them to be a factory order number common in World War 2 era. The Sabres were found locked in a warehouse, with nothing but a padlock protecting them.

ASR didn’t wish to kill the joy evident in Kevin’s voice but something didn’t add up. It was all too convenient and too clean. Mafia was famous for using fall guys and to ASR the dead men seemed like a convenient foil used by the real brains behind the entire operation. This was perfectly convenient for him. Now he could run his private investigation unfettered by protocols and secrecy surrounding an ongoing investigation.

He had about an hour before Khushi arrived. He changed into his running gear and decided to give himself a much deserved work out to clear his brain to think of his next steps. A half hour later he was back in his apartment and realized the sorry state it was in. He cleaned up the space, and quickly dashed into the shower. He’d barely finished when the doorbell rang.

He pulled on a sweat pant and rushed to the front door, hair and torso still sopping wet from the fresh shower.

“I’m coming!” he shouted as he sprinted to the door and opened it.

Khushi looked fresh as a bright Christmas light lighting up his doorway. She had been away from him for less than a day and she’d forgotten how handsome he looked. She stood outside the door, her mouth hanging open at the sight. His own mouth hung open at the dewy freshness he left behind. A gust of Chicago wind hit him, reminding him of his nakedness.

“Hi!” he greeted her cheerfully, “Come on in, before I turn into the iceman!” he grabbed her forearm and pulled her in, shutting the door behind her. She turned around and threw herself on him, enveloping him in a tight hug.

“I missed you!” her hot breath fanned on his wet chest as he looked on with complete surprise at the most genuine and loving gesture he had ever felt in a long time!