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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 fiancé?” 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!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chapter 17 - On the brink

Dear Readers
I mentioned about my personal emergency in my last update. I will be taking off next week instead of this week due to some shift in plans. Perhaps one or two more updates before I take a break.

To my silent readers, if you took the trouble to come this far, please do drop a note, word or a simple hello to let me know you are there. 
To those who are afraid to comment, yes, afraid, because of reasons you and i know very well, I do understand, although I would like you to hold an independent opinion. 

Khushi sat on the chair and rested her head on the table. ASR stood over her, waiting for a response and regretting ever asking her about Shyam. The truth was obviously hurtful to her and he didn’t want to muddy the waters for them after their blissful night together. He cursed himself for feeling so possessive about her, she hadn’t exactly confessed undying love for him, leaving him fuddled why he felt entitled to know about Shyam and her. 

“Forget it, Khushi. Its alright, you don’t have to.” He patted her head, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She wanted him to know even though her past for reasons unexplained. His approval was beginning to matter to her. She raised her head and tried to smile.

“No, I have to ASR. You have a right to know.” This was as close to an admission of intimacy he thought he could expect from her. She was opening her inner secret chambers and suddenly, he felt like a man who’d won a thousand wars – ecstatic. He pulled a chair across her and sat down, holding her hands.

“Shyam and I….we….well…ours is a fake engagement.” She warred with thousand emotions before sharing the dirty truth. ASR nodded, he’d figured as much. A girl like Khushi could never willingly or happily accept a jerk like Shyam.

“I figured that. But why?” he prodded.

She looked away and appeared embarrassed. She bit her chapped lower lip, peeling a bit of the chaffed tissue. He felt her hands grow cold and clammy. He squeezed them.

“Khushi, I am an FBI agent, I’ve seen it and heard it all. Nothing you would say to me would surprise me. You can tell me anything.” His voice carried the softness of a true lover and Khushi sensed the warmth of his presence. She drew her breath in and began.

“When I joined Northwestern, Shyam was the chief ER surgeon – a rising star, ambitious and coveted by all the female residents and nurses. I will admit I was attracted to him in the beginning. What I didn’t know was that Shyam served on the Board of Directors of St. Mercy Hospital were Dad worked as a senior doctor.”
Her face was pained as she recounted the next part of the past.

“Dad is a brilliant doctor, but he is human. He was slated to be promoted to the position of Chief executive officer of the hospital, being one of the most experience and respected doctors. But, Dad was operating on the floors in round the shift schedules. He was overworked, tired and bound to make mistakes.”

She was convincing herself with her words, unable to accept the fallibility of her dad, who was her role model. “It happened around that time…” she paused, gathering her courage to continue. ASR squeezed her hand and nodded, giving her a physical cue of support.

“Dad misdiagnosed a condition on one of his patients, Mrs. Sevilla, who had a heart condition typical of Hispanics. He didn’t realize it until she was on the hospital operating table and died of cardiac arrest. The hospital came under severe scrutiny by the local Hispanic population because Mrs. Sevilla’s son was the local union leader with a lot of political clout and influence.”

ASR began to form a picture of the elderly Dr. Gupta, an affable, gentle natured man who probably blamed himself more than warranted for the death of his patient. He knew where the story was leading at this point but he wanted Khushi to tell him, to give her a chance to cleanse her mind of the past.

“Shyam knew who my dad was and what he was going through. One day, he summoned me to his office and asked me out. I was naïve enough to think that he was interested in me and of course, my colleagues went green with envy at my lucky catch. Things went so for a month, we dated, we dined, and we hung out together. Shyam was a pleasant company, always, a bit pretentious but very agreeable before……”she coughed as her throat went dry. ASR got up and got her a glass of water. She sipped and continued.

“He had a proposition for me. He would fight the Board to drop all the charges on my Dad, get the Hispanic caucus off the back of the hospital, on one condition. I had to agree to get engaged to him as long as he wanted. He is so devious, he had everything figured out. We could stay engaged for a year and if the case on Dad did not disappear, then I had the choice to enter a fake marriage, should people raise questions about our prolonged engagement. He had pre-nuptials ready promising me a handsome alimony post our divorce. He had even planned the timeline of the divorce to not raise any suspicions.”

“I look back and it seems so shallow, like a joke. Gosh! What was I thinking! He threatened me and I couldn't say no.” she began sobbing, " I am such a loser,ain't I ?" she said more to herself than anyone.

ASR felt his chest constrict with rage and hatred for Shyam. He pulled her into a comforting hug and rubbed her back. The man was so cunning that he had figured out Khushi’s one weakness – her love for her family. He used that against her to get what he wanted. But what did he want? ASR didn’t think Shyam loved Khushi because the engagement was fake and so would the marriage be, if they ever went that far. What did Shyam want?

“Did he help your dad, as promised?” ASR decided his best bet was to peel the onion one layer at a time and break it down for Khushi, to help her see the irrationality of what she was doing.

“Well, sort of. He got the charges dropped, so Dad can continue to work at St. Mercy. The files have been sealed so it would never be used against him at the time of his review and promotion. But everytime I ask Shyam to break the engagement, he never fails to remind me that he can have the entire file reopened with the flick of a finger. You know like the sword of Damocles.”

ASR understood the reason for Shyam’s stronghold on Khushi. But it still did not explain why Shyam would want to remain engaged to Khushi and a fake one at that.

“Does he love you?” he asked the next question, on the off chance that Shyam was indeed motivated by a higher order of human emotions.

 “No!” Khushi snorted with incredulity. That settled it for him.

“Do you love him?” he continued, almost afraid to hear the answer, although after last night, he should’ve known Khushi’s answer would more than please him.

He struggled to keep an impassive face, his body tensing with anticipation. Khushi fought to keep a straight face as well, albeit for a totally different reason. She burst out laughing, despite the strange context of their conversation. ASR felt relief – like a man foolishly in love, he thanked his lucky stars for giving him Khushi – a thought his conscious mind did not register but his subconscious mind had accepted a long time ago.
He understood Khushi’s reasons. Now he needed to know Shyam’s.

He finished reading his emails and left NK a message confirming their meeting with Isaacson later in the day. He was about to take a shower when an alert popped up on his laptop. What he saw got his curiosity.
A $100,000 moved out of Khushi’s swiss account. This was interesting. Who could be moving money from her account? He called the office and set trace on the IP addresses from where the transaction was made and where the money was eventually deposited. He figured he had an hour before the information came back to him. He picked his towel and whistled into the bathroom.

When he returned, he found over twenty alerts on his laptop. Another $50,000 was transferred from her account and the traces led to a Western Union address in Tennessee. He read further and found the trace of the IP address from which the transactions were completed. It belonged to an IP address in the Chicago area…to a laptop belonging to Neil Kavanaugh! ASR’s face drained of color.

He dialed Kevin Calhoun.

“Hey Boss! Did you see the transactions?” ASR boomed frantically pacing the room.
“ASR, we need to talk.” Kevin seemed distant and tested ASR patience with his inability to understand the panic in ASR’s voice.
“You bet we do! Did you see the activity on Khushi’s Swiss account?” he thundered again, this time snapping a pencil in his hand into two.
“You need to stop, ASR. Right now! Come back to the office. We need to talk.” Kevin’s voice continued to be monotonous, missing any hint of surprise. ASR’s rage was beyond control at this point. He shouted with full might into the receiver.

“Listen you moron, you didn't hear me or have you lost your mind?” ASR shouted into the phone.
“ASR, watch your words. You need to come down to the office, NOW!” Kevin’s voice rose higher, responding to ASR with equally enraged measure.

“Fuck you! Kevin! This could mean life or death; this could be the lead we’ve been waiting for. Fuck you, man!” ASR was drawing a blank, he simply couldn’t understand Kevin. “Fuck everything, if you don’t care, I will take this up and follow it till I find out which motherfucker is behind It.” He continued with unmasked anger.

“ASR!” Kevin’s voice was certainly many decibels higher this time, stopping ASR mid-sentence. “STOP! Stop everything you are doing right now. I am taking you off this case. You are no longer chasing the Sabres. Do you understand?”

ASR felt the blow of a billion wrecking balls on him at once. Take me off the case?

“What the fuck are you talking about? I am the best agent you have on this case. You can’t take me off the case. Stop fucking around Kevin, and follow the lead.” ASR’s mind refused to believe the words.
“No, you stop fucking around. You are off the case. If you want to talk, see me at the office.” Kevin disconnected the call.

ASR’s ears were burning. He was confused and disoriented for a second, and began pacing up and down the room trying to rerun Kevin’s words in his head.

 I am off the case, how the fuck did this happen, off the case? How?

He stopped. Shyam! The motherfucker had spilled the beans to Kevin. And Kevin had warned him about getting too personal with the case, he couldn't complain about it now. He had spent the night with Khushi and it was breach of protocol. And now he was off the case.

He raked his hair in desperation. He could not cool his heels waiting for the case to be solved by other FBI agents. He could not see Khushi suffer any more than she had to, and after their brief encounter and her admission to him about Shyam, he felt strangely responsible for her and her happiness. He could not let anything happen to her. She was not going to be another Lana in his life.

He started brainstorming his options. He could play the role of a consultant but that would keep him off any meaningful action. He could ask for leave and be with Khushi as a friend but he would be of no use to her. He cursed Kevin and Shyam and he couldn’t even call NK, after the strange transaction from his machine. He picked a glass vase and threw it on the floor in frustration. The vase bounced off the carpet and rolled under the bed, without breaking. Even the vase was mocking his helplessness.

He opened his laptop. He had to get the case files on his computer before his access was blocked. He began downloading the files, the contacts, the reports and everything that was available in the FBI online repository. As he began the last downloads, his screen froze, his access was denied and shut. He slammed his laptop shut and cursed. Kevin was serious this time.

Another hour passed, as ASR strategized his next steps. He had his travel bag ready, his passports on him, and enough cash to see him through the next couple of months. He had to figure out how to break the news to Khushi without disappointing her. The very thought of telling her about this new development tore him apart; he couldn’t bear to see more pain in her face. It was imperative her security continue with the FBI, while he was off the case. He stood in the middle of the room and looked out the window. An idea occurred to him and he knew what he had to do. He grinned.


Isaacson washed and prepared his best china. After his wife’s death, anyone rarely called for a house visit. The FBI agents should be here in a few hours and he couldn’t wait to tell them about the Sabre sculpture, its history and the strange encryptions he had found under the base of the statue in a hidden compartment. The combination of words and numbers hadn’t made any sense to him or his team of art historians but they were grateful to have the sculpture in their museum. He set the china on his cherry formal dining table.

The house in Oak Park was set in a handsome, architecturally rich neighborhood. Noam and David parked their car on the street several houses down and observed Isaacson’s house from a distance. The streets were full of parked cars but devoid of people, most of whom were probably huddled inside, preparing for Christmas Eve dinners. The dried ivy climbing the sides of Isaacson’s house hid a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie home, a style copied generously in this neighborhood.

“Do you think it’s an original?” David shifted in his seat and asked.

“What is original?” Noam had his eyes trained on the entrance to the house. He was waiting for the day to get darker before he paid the curator a visit.

“The house! Do you think its Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece? The prairie style windows, the thick columns and angular cuts…”

“What the fuck is wrong with you, you idiot? Are you completely insane? I am not here to admire the architecture. Let’s get this done as soon as possible, nimrod!”

David bit his tongue. He had borne the brunt of Noam’s anger and frustration for far too long. Many times he had been tempted to take that gun of his and shoot it point blank at the bastard. The man was getting increasingly rabid with every passing day that the Sabres remained unattainable. David was afraid if they didn't get to the bottom of the last Sabre, Noam might do something so harsh, the two of them would not live to see the light of next day. David said a short prayer and dropped the conversation.

Dusk arrived sooner than usual, not yet helped by the passing of winter solstice. Noam geared up by opening the metallic box which hugged the sophisticated 9mm gun in its velvet compartments. He screwed on the Osprey silencer tip and inserted the magazine, clicking it in place. David took out his less expensive weapon, feeling less of a man and gangster.

“Let’s go.” Noam ordered as he checked the street for traffic. He got out and locked the door. His dark fedora and upturned coat collar played shadows on his face, hiding his gruff ugly looks. David followed in quick steps, keeping up with the determinedly striding Noam.

He ran up the short flight of steps to the entrance of the house and rang the bell.

Isaacson checked his watch. 3:30 pm.

He wasn’t expecting them so soon but he figured the men must have change of plans. He quickly cleaned the living room of scattered papers and notes. He checked the file folder of papers on the Sabre sculpture in his armoire and took it out. He set the folder on the piano next to the armoire and as he turned to lock the armoire, his shirt sleeve pushed the file behind the piano. He failed to notice it.

Isaacson opened the door with a smile but was shocked to see unfamiliar faces. Noam pushed Isaacson in as the old man stumbled to the floor. Noam pulled his gun out and shot two rounds. One went through the old man’s forehead leaving a hole, and the other pierced his heart. The old man convulsed for a few seconds as blood rushed out of his heart and oozed behind his head where the bullet had exited. Noam watched the man with perverse satisfaction.

When Isaacson stopped flailing and jerking about, Noam put his gun away.

“Get moving, look for the papers. We don’t have much time.”

Two hours later, the men left, with the house turned upside down but empty handed. Unknown to them, the file slipped further down the back wall of the upright piano, waiting to be discovered by the rightful owner. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapter 16 - Hot air, cold draft

Dear Readers

I will be taking a few days off from updates owing to a personal emergency. No, no, not pulling a Sobti on you, i will not quit. Please continue reading and enjoying while I am away. I will be back as soon as I can, God Willing!
This chapter dedicated to my very own chamelis. i can't express in words what you guys mean to me. for all the love you've showered on me, unconditionally. you guys make me want to be a better version of myself.

(play the music for mood)

“Khushi….” He hesitated. He couldn't deny that his body had declared a bloody revolt against his rational mind. She was breathtakingly beautiful, perfection in every curve, smoothness that could tempt men of strongest will to sin. He wanted her more than anything. She had come to him willingly but he was afraid she was still under shock, leading her to this absurdity.

He gently held her arms, feeling her warm skin under his hands jump at his touch.

“Are you sure?” he labored to ask her. As for him, he was sure, he was more than sure and he could not think of anything more but take her in ways a man takes a woman, intimate, carnal and primal.He had to be sure she was ready for it because he could not bear to see any regret or even rejection in her eyes.

Khushi saw the trepidation contract ASR’s caramel pupils. She was never more determined or sure of what she wanted. She had given of her to everyone besides her - to her family, to her friends, to Shyam, to her work and never once paused to question what she had wanted. This was her assertion into a new territory where she had two simple objectives, revenge and self preservation.

She felt the heat from his body. She felt beautiful blanketed by the warmth of his glowing eyes and she felt, strangely, exposed and under scrutiny of his seering detective eyes. Her body was demanding his touch and her mind was for once in agreement with her body. This was not an act of a vulnerable woman seeking warmth of a man in time of her need. This was an act of a woman who knew more than ever what she wanted and she wanted him.

“I am sure, more than ever, Arnav. Love me tonite. I won’t hold it against you tomorrow.” She answered with unwavering and calm voice. “ I am not asking you for anything more. Just this one night, make me feel who I am. No promises, no strings attached.”

He watched her face carefully. There was no weakness or question in them. There was only a naked burning fire in them that wanted him. He shivered with anticipation. He had dreamt of this, had wanted it with her from the he had set his eyes on her. She was his redemption, his salvation from his hurt and here she was in his room, asking him to do what any man would be insane to refuse.

“I’m sorry Khushi. It just seems too soon. You…you need time to think through this.”

He bent down and lifted the blanket robe from the floor and handed it to her. She stood motionless watching his face. Was she wrong? Didn’t he feel attracted to her? Perhaps, he was right, perhaps it was too soon. The hot air vent suddenly shut down, bringing a back draft of cold air from the ceiling. She covered her chest as goose bumps formed on her forearms.She took the robe from him and lowered her head in disappointment.

He felt like a fool. She stood in front of him like a sex goddess, holding her robe close to her chest, wanting, desiring everything he had to offer to make her pain go away. An exquisite, exhilarating way to heal that he knew he could only enjoy with her ever in life, a gut instinct of an astute man who had found the love of his life once and was now offered a second coming. Yet, he was foolish enough to reject it, for what? For propriety? For duty? For whom?

“Fuck it! Come here!” he pulled her by her waist and bunched her hair in his right hand pulling her head back and forcing her lips to part. She closed her eyes in anticipation.

“I don’t know what I am doing, but I know it will be mind-fuckingly awesome.” With that he captured her mouth and shoved his tongue deep into her. She was waiting, expecting and even ready for him. She countered with her own tongue as the two mated in a frenzied dance. Her legs buckled but he adeptly held her by her waist, gently lifting her off the floor as she arched her back and felt his hardness on her pelvis. She moaned.

He let go of her mouth and greedily licked the length of her neck. A lick on one side followed by another slower and luxurious lick on the other.

“You have no idea how erotic your neck is Khushi. May I?” he nuzzled in the crook of her neck breathing hot and moist air on her skin. She wasn't sure what he was waiting for but whatever it was she wanted it.

“Do it.” She exhaled, clawing his hair for balance and support.

He wet a small part of the skin on the curve of her neck where her clavicle started by running his tongue in a circle. And then he sank his teeth, greedily, hungrily and crazily. Khushi gasped at the first flush of pain and she relaxed feeling his powerful mouth suckle and nibble the bite.

“Oh, that….that was…” She couldn't find the words as her mind shut down and her body felt weightless. He had flung her over his shoulder and carried her to the bed. He lowered her gently and lay her on the bed, treating her like a delicate work of art. She stretched her arms over her head and smiled.

“Aw, fuck! You’re gonna kill me Khushi.” He growled and untied his plaid Pajama.

Khushi’s heart began erratic thumps as she watched him undo his bottom. Her breath quickened as her inner thighs felt wet with desire, oozing her need in copious amounts. When his erection came in full sight, Khushi watched it with admiration.

“Ahem!” he cleared his throat with an amused look as he watched her assess him with her incredibly passionate grey green eyes. Her eyes were hooded and drugged, no doubt, but her approval of him was not missed on him.

He knelt beside her and watched her, starting from the top of her head to every inch following that, not failing to note every mole, dot, curve and plane.

God, she is exotic.

Her pink pert nipples stood up demanding his attention and scrunched with need. Her narrow waist with its artfully flared hips would put collective artists of Renaissance to shame. Her thighs were firm and lightly muscled, indicating a runner in her, and strangely he had never noticed. His heart jumped to his mouth when he noticed the small triangular gap that dotted the meeting spot of her thighs and pubic area. That was a sinful triangle and now he was going to claim it. He stroked her curls and moved slowly up in a sinuous pattern, feeling his own arousal jump. He languished around her breasts as she jerked with surprise.

“You are beautiful Khushi.” She shifted and turned to face him, bending her elbow to prop her head on her hand.

She stroked his chest and ran her fingers delicately on the taut skin over his abs, in a slow trace until she reached the point just above his private hair. She hovered there for a few seconds and smiled when his hardness jerked in response.

“And look who is talking.” She was sincere and he knew it. He hadn't been admired by a woman openly as Khushi did at this moment. Ever. And he liked it.

He stroked the rise of her hips, over her butt and down to her thighs, feeling the silky smoothness of her bare flesh. Her dark pubic curls were in bare contrast to her complexion, an exotic blend of Indian and german shade. Not quite tan yet not quite white. Sexy!

He lied down next to her, letting the length of his body caress hers. She felt the smattering of his fine chest hair on her smooth skin and in a strangely erotic way, his coarse hair down there on her thigh. He kissed her again and this time, she pushed her entire body against him, feeling his masculine and hard planes mold her to his shape. He circled her and pulled her to him, leaving nothing and no one between them.

They stroked, pressed and squeezed each other as they explored each other for the first time. He discovered that she screamed in ecstasy when he suckled on the curve of her neck, a treat for him just as much as a treat for her. She discovered that the sensitive skin right under his armpits was his erogenous zone. And when she momentary took him in her mouth, he had grunted like a rutting animal. She smiled at his vulnerability. ASR – for all she cared, he was her knight in shining armor, in its clichéd, boring and done to death iterations. He was beyond thinking at this point. He couldn’t wait.

“Game over, Khushi. “ he warned her and before she could react, he spread her legs and lifted her thighs on his forearm and entered her. She was wet, and heavenly.

She threw her head back and grabbed the iron rods of the head board of support. His largeness and swiftness both surprised her and drove her insane. He rested her legs on his shoulders and braced himself on either side of her finding his traction to drive her crazy.

“Is this good?” he asked her wanting to give her his best, make her feel loved, give her the carnal pleasures like she had never had with another man.

She bit her lips and squeezed shut her eyes. “More than good.”
He began slowly, lazily thrusting in and pulling out, and thrusting back in. She was pooling around his privates and the sheets. But she was beyond caring. Every thrust brought a fresh moan from her, giving him the signal that she was in it as much as he was. He ramped up his speed as her breasts bounced under his rhythmic ministrations.

And then without warning, he scooped her up and changed position. He set her on his lap as he sat up and gently lowered her to him. She held his shoulder and arched back as his renewed hardness stretched her beyond she ever thought she could.

“Ohhhh, Arnav, is this what they mean?”

He grinned with pride. She was enjoying him as much as he was enjoying her, and if this meant giving her a part of him, even if it was for just a night, it was all worth it.

He nuzzled between her breasts and cupped her bottom, rocking her to match his movements. The two moved their hips in tandem, reading each other’s cues like this was the most natural thing for them to do.

Yes, this is what they were made for, to love, to lust, to please, to explore, to be one with each other. She smiled as she felt the first spasms of her come.

“Bite me” she pleaded as she raised herself higher and thrust against him.

He was losing himself fast and nothing seemed coherent. He mumbled something as he suckled on her left breast. She dug her nails on his shoulder and began her frantic thrusts, urging him to keep up.

“Bite me” she repeated. This time he knew she was asking for it and he knew she was ready.

He left her breast and trailed back to bite on her neck, a hickey that was demanding round two. He clamped on it again and delivered a gentler bite. She screamed with abandon as the combination of his bite, his harder thrusts and her cravings came to fruition. She buckled and bumped against him, feeling the ebb and flow of sensations starting from her center, spreading outwards and tingling every extremity of her body. She squealed as she crested once more this time stronger than the last, and he smiled as he felt her contract and spasm around him.

“Come baby, come hard for me.” He prompted her as she screamed again for another bout of frantic orgasm.
"Aaah!" she exhaled, and panted heavily, while resting her forehead on his shoulder. Beads of sweat flowed down her back as he stroked her lightly. Then she laughed at the madness. He pulled her closer and whispered against her body.

“My turn.”

He laid her on the bed once more and entered her. Her insides were still sensitive and burning with need only he could satisfy No words were spoken as he began with renewed energy, feeling like a man on top of the world for getting the girl of his dreams. He kissed her and thrust his tongue in and out, matching the harmony of his thrusts in the nether regions. She circled her legs around his waist, pulling him into her further. It didn't take long and soon she was primed for another round of pleasure. A few more thrusts and the two crashed in yet another shattering round of peaks.

Soon the panting subsided, the breaths steadied and a peaceful calm descended their bodies. Neither knew where it would go from here, but where ever the roads went, they were grateful for the night together.


Christmas eve shone an unusually bright sun that morning. A loud knock woke him up. ASR sat up and shook Khushi frantically.

“Khushi, there's someone at the door. You need to hide.” He whispered as she stretched her lithe body barely awake or aware of the danger outside the door. She smiled at him, memory of their carnal night sending a delightful cheer in her and then she heard the knock.

“Oh shit, shit, shit! What time is it?” she got up and frantically looked for her robe.

“10 am!” he noted and realized the entire house must have missed both of them. She found her robe and grabbed it before rushing to the bathroom. Her shocked face was a sight to watch as she comically gestured to him that she will hide in the bathroom and put her finger to her lip in an exaggerated sign language to indicate that he should keep quiet about her whereabouts. He nodded and rolled his eyes at her dramatics. He waved her in as he pulled on his PJs and headed to open the door.

He readjusted his expression to look sleepy. He opened the door with a smile, which died the instant he found Shyam staring back at him.

Shyam didn't waste a second and pushed himself through the narrow crack in the door. ASR tried to hold him back but the man had obviously been more resolute than ASR who was caught off guard.

“Where is she?” Shyam asked walking into the room. A rush of panic rose and ebbed in ASR and his quick instincts told him to react fast

“Where is who?” he asked standing akimbo.

“Don’t act the fool with me, Agent Raizada. I will have your badge off and send you to streets if I find out you've been fucking around with your precious charge. A misappropriation, I’d think.” Shyam’s eyes spoke volumes with hatred and venom squirting out of every nasty pore of his tasteless face.

ASR rushed forward and caught the man by his throat. Shyam coughed as he tried to find his foothold.

“Don’t you threaten me, you rotten son of a bitch. I know you are hiding something and when I find out, you will be sorry you ever met me.” He squeezed a little harder drawing the last of air from Shyam's throat. His eyes bulged as his hands clawed at ASR’s for release. ASR let him go.

Shyam lost his balance and bent over holding his throat. He coughed as he filled his lungs with air. He pointed his finger at ASR and with his fingers popped an imaginary gun. ASR knew what it meant but he couldn't care. The man was a retch and the sooner he got out of the equation the faster ASR could go about solving the case and making Khushi his.

Shyam left the room and ASR locked it after him. He turned around and saw Khushi gingerly walk out of the bathroom. She looked both petrified and amused at once.

“What did he want?” she asked softly.

He was mad as hell. He folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes at her.

“You tell me, Khushi. What does he want?” he asked with a note of irritation.

Her shoulders slumped and she sighed. She knew it was a matter of time before Shyam and her truth would be revealed to the world. ASR had a right to know, especially after last night.

Last night? She felt a flutter of excitement at the thought of last night but she dismissed it with her convoluted reasoning. It was a onetime thing. It does not mean anything to him or to me. Don’t make it bigger than it is.

“Well? I am waiting.” He asked again, standing his ground with every intention of getting to the bottom of this puzzle. What was Shyam’s hold on Khushi? He had a right to know, especially after last night.

Last night? You know it probably meant nothing for her. She was hurt, and needed someone to take that hurt away. Not ever, not again, he reminded himself.