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Friday, February 15, 2013

Chapter 26 - Pictures that speak numbers

Dear Readers

Many of you asked if The Virgin with Daises is a real painting. It is not. It is only my imagination, however limited. If I have two inspiration to thank, they are Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Starry Nights. But Van Gogh will not appear from the dead to chop off my ears for plagiarism, for not even he, the great Van Gogh himself, owns the concepts of the color royal blue, and flowers.


Martha knocked on the door. Khushi wiped her tears and stood up. ASR signaled her to sit down and gave her a quick squeeze. She was thankful he was with her.

“Ah! Dinner is served. Why don’t you join us downstairs? Everyone’s here and wants to meet Sarah’s child.” Martha smiled drawing darkening her ruddy cheeks.

She stepped in to the room and inspected the open truck. “Well, I hope you got a chance to look through Sarah’s belongings. It was really heartbreaking. They loved each other you know. But he had to leave. And she never told him she was….you know…expecting you.”

Khushi labored to ask the one gnawing question she had, “How did Sarah die?”

Martha looked very uncomfortable. She smiled and tried to change the subject, “We will have time for all that later. First, you must eat something.” She injected a false cheer into the gloomy room.

Khushi reached out and held Martha’s hand. “Please Aunty Martha. I want to know.”

Martha exhaled and settled on the bed. She shook her head as if deciding the level of details she ought to tell the eager daughter. And then she nodded as if coming to a definitive conclusion. Her face was red when she looked up at Khushi.

“She died during childbirth.”

Khushi let out a small cry and sat next to Martha.

“I am sorry child, to be the one telling you this. My parents weren’t exactly thrilled about Sarah. She…she got to the hospital too late and there was internal hemorrhaging. I am sorry Khushi, I wish I could have done something for her but I was too young and na├»ve.” She begged for Khushi’s forgiveness but Khushi was sobbing hard to notice.

Sarah died young, lonely and without a chance to even hold her baby once. She wanted to know if her so called her dad was a soulless man, so she braved her next question, “What about Mahinder? Did he come back for her?”

“Oh Khushi, Mahinder was the best thing that happened to her. Sarah was so happy with him. But he had his own problems. He was married you know. And it was not right for him to fall in love with Sarah, but it happened. And when I wrote to him about Sarah, he was devastated. He was planning to take you with him to India, but something changed. I waited for him at the airport and in those days calling India was not easy. So I assumed he got cold feet. Later, your uncle, Sasi was here and I found out that Mahinder was dead, killed by someone. Sasi told me your life was in danger too and he had instructions from Mahinder to adopt you. I am glad they took you with them. I don’t know if I could have given you a happy life. It’s true.”

Martha’s honest confession didn’t do much to help Khushi. She was sad and furious at her parents. Mahinder and Sarah, young fools who fell in love with the wrong persons at the wrong time. Yet, they loved each other till their last breaths. How love could stand up to such demands escaped Khushi. But then again, those were innocent years, unaffected by the caprice and selfishness that eventually gulfed us as all. She wiped her tears.

“Child, you should not hold it against them. I urge you. They were far too much in love, they didn’t know what they were doing. They were stupid and lovely. They made you. Look at you! You got your mom’s eyes and nose and your dad’s thick glossy hair. You are a perfect reflection of all that was right about them.”

Martha pulled Khushi into a generous hug and rocked her till her breath evened. ASR sat by Khushi and held her hand as she found comfort with one person who knew her mother well. They were thankful for the silence in the room, a tribute to the dead from three souls connected to them in different ways. At that instant, Khushi knew she could not let things loiter for ever. She knew what she had to do.

She announced with renewed clarity in her voice, “I know what I have to do. Aunty Martha, I am sorry I will have to beg your leave and go back to Zurich in the first train tomorrow morning. I have some business to finish making sure my parents’ souls rests in peace.”

Martha looked puzzled, “Why? You must stay for Daniel’s wedding. He’d be disappointed.”

Daniel walked in at that moment with a huge smile, “Did I hear Cousin Khushi wants to leave? I can’t let that happen.”

Khushi stood up and reached for Daniels hands. “Daniel, I don’t have a brother, but if I did, he would look like you. I came to Zurich seeking answers and the sooner I find them, the better it would be for me. I need closure.”

Daniels’ hazel eyes softened with understanding. He squeezed her palms and assured her, “I understand.”

That night Khushi held ASR tight while neither slept a wink. The next day bore heavy on their minds. They had to be at the museum, figure out the painting and if everything went well, access the blood-tainted vaults.


A quick word and his unabashed charm were all that took ASR to convince the curator. The hapless old man granted permission to the duo to examine The Virgin with Daisies. There were strict orders that they were not to touch the painting or alter it from its hanging frame, but they were allowed to spend three hours to examine it after the museum closed for public. They were provided a museum magnifying glass and special flashlight that did not deteriorate the painting surface. The waiting hours passed achingly slow for Khushi.

The two took the tour of the museum to stay occupied. They ate a light dinner and loaded on espresso to notch up their alertness for the task ahead. All through the afternoon ASR made sure he did not let Khushi out of his sight, holding her hand tight and walking with her everywhere following her to the women’s bathroom. She gently shoved him out with disapproval.

Strangely, she felt calm and composed. The worst of the truths were out. The deeds of her ancestors, her great grandfather Maharaja Ratan Singh’s indirect yet lethal contribution to the miseries of millions of Jews, Jakub Schwab in particular, could never be forgiven. Mahinder tried to absolve it by compensating Sarah, but ended up hurting her more. Khushi suddenly shivered as she realized it was going to be her onus to right the wrongs of the past. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for it.

“Alright, Mr. Raizada, you have three hours to finish your job here. You should thank Field Museum officials, and that signed letter from Isaacson. How is he by the way?” The elderly curator stood and looked up to ASR who was a good foot and a half taller than the diminutive man.

ASR quickly changed the subject, as he didn’t wish the man to discover Isaacson’s death.

“Thank you!” he nudged ahead and pulled Khushi with him to the room that housed the painting.

“Now remember there are cameras in the room and the guards will be watching you, so please keep your promise.” The old man dropped a veiled warning before he left the two to their devices.

As soon as the old man left the room, ASR whipped out a piece of paper and read aloud.

“Coveted by fair maidens for purity
Peeking from window sills dusted country
Curvy paths seer through crimson virginity
Count me daisies in ones, fours, and fives and twenty
Blue vases caress your plentiful bounty
Ne’er shan’t we forget the ones in blue dainty
Oh lovely virgin with daisies, thee of eternal beauty” 

Khushi held the flashlight for closer examination, while ASR scanned the painting once over with the magnifying glass. He read the poem out again.

“Do you think these numbers in the poem mean anything? Count me daisies in ones, fours and fives and twenty”

As he scanned the painting, he began noticing a clear pattern. The rows of daisies on each side of the red soil path were symmetrical. Each row had one grouping of daisies consisting of single, four, five and twenty daisies each group. The grouping was then repeated through the row, like a stencil pattern. He then counted the number of such grouped stencils throughout the field of daisies to a total of 286 groups.

“286 groupings, each grouping has bunch of daises in 1,4,5, and 20 per bunch”

He read the poem again, “Blue vases caress your plentiful bounty, these Blue vases are also part of the mystery.”

Khushi added, “caress your plentiful bounty, what is the plentiful bounty? In the picture it’s the daisies because the blue vase holds the daisies…”

Before she finished, ASR blurted, “Could it be the vaults? Blue vases caressing the plentiful bounty, what is the bounty? why is the blue vase caressing it? It could be the vaults that hold the plentiful bounty, that is, the spoils and wealth of royals and Nazis. It is probably a symbol of a bank. I wonder if there are banks in the area that use a blue vase or a shape like a blue vase for its insignia.” 

Khushi felt so proud of him that she pulled his head down and kissed him, "I love you, I love you, oh Arnav, I love you." she gushed. They forgot for a second why they were there  in the room as he bent his head to kiss her some more. She cleared her throat and signaled him to the cameras. He smiled and diverted his attention back to the painting.

His head was suddenly muddled as he noticed two things, Khushi had said "I love you" albeit flippantly and two, she called him Arnav whenever she felt close to him. He could burst with joy on the museum floor. He began his inspection with renewed inspiration. 

Khushi took out her IPad and furious typed many combinations of search words she thought would work.

“Blue the color of royalty, banks with blue logos, banks with blue vase logos, banks with blue objects as logos, bluebells, banks named after royalty, Suisse banks” she mumble her search words as she accepted and rejected many search results.

“Bingo!” she almost fell off the bench she was sitting on at her discovery.

“Listen to this, Arnav, Bank Herzog Deutschland Private! Herzog is the title for a Duke in German, dukes and other nobilities revere the color royal blue, and the logo for the bank is a blue vase. What are the odds?” she looked at him.

“It can’t be coincidence, when was this bank established?”

“Right before the war ended, in the late 1940. I think they chose the symbol after Jakub’s painting to connect the codes in the Sabres to the bank’s creation. And look at this!” she turned the IPad to him.

He read out the news item she pointed.

“The bank was recently in some controversy as its owner was murdered under mysterious circumstances. Police investigation found that there were numerous attempts at unauthorized access to purportedly secret vaults in the bank right before the owner was murdered. The police are looking for Mr. Herzog’s secretary, Ms. Becker who has been missing since the death of the banker.”

“Can’t be a coincidence.” ASR repeated.

“Now what?” Khushi asked checking her watch quickly and realizing they had very little time left.

“Lets examine the painting, I have a feeling these numbers lead us to the vault. If so…” he didn’t complete the sentence as it was too much for them to digest in one evening.

“Ne’er shan’t we forget the ones in blue dainty
Oh lovely virgin with daisies, thee of eternal beauty” 

ASR read the words as he scanned the vases closely. Suddenly he froze. There in the vase was another three grouping of 1,4,5 and 20 flowers.

“289, 1,4,5,20”

He took a deep breath and straightened his back, feeling the tension drain out of it. His action caught Khushi’s attention before she got up and rubbed his neck.

“I think we have it.”

“What!” Khushi let out a gasp.

“I think we have the account number to the vault in Bank Herzog." he somberly noted.

"It’s a combination lock with numbers 289 1 4 5 20”


  1. You are seriously writing heavy stuff... even I was only partial to starry nights by Van Gogh..
    Reminds me of Dan brown kind of books.. All the best Smriti..

  2. this is so exciting like one of those john grisham novels.

  3. Thrilling journey.....good work lols.

  4. SJ...cant stop admiring....the painting and secrets tht was mind blowing work.

    Its thrilling ride.
    And thanks for fast updates.

  5. Khushi suddenly shivered as she realized it was going to be her onus to right the wrongs of the past. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for it.
    - By having some like Arnav who is standing by his woman to complete the task of righting the wrongs, I think she has found the one to finally trust. I must say SJ, you are creating a mystery in the pars of Da Vince Code. My heart races everytime these two characters solve a piece of the puzzle :)

  6. I never stalked anything like I stalk ur blog SJ.....loved it....thanks for early update...

  7. Thank you, SJ..for the speedy frazzled nerves have easened out a tad bit...
    It was nerve wrecking to read about Khushi coming to know about the details regarding her mother's death... I loved Khushi's resolve to visit the museum,and, Daniel was benevolent to understand her predicament..
    Ingenious Arnav finally deciphered the worried about the cameras in the museum.. though....have a feeling that A&K are under the radar of the is a white knuckler once again...
    I laud you for penning down such a beautiful poem, and I cannot agree more when you say that Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Starry nights,were the inspiration...they are praiseworthy..


  8. In a previous comment someone stated that this type of writing us similar to Dan Brown. The clever combination of history and mystery.
    It's very interesting! I''m excited for more!

  9. Oh man what a revelation, things are unraveling faster than couples reaching their climax on Valentine's day. Yup I give awkward references. What u gonna do?

    Mahinder and Sarah were reckless and in love, no wonder our Khushi here is just a reflection of that. I love you bhi bol diya. What fun to go about solving headless mysteries with a hot man.

    Inspite of so many details, which granted you're a master at, why do Khushi and Arnav combust my laptop screen with their hotness. Thank you for throwing in that kissy. I blush. I am no tharki. Normal person che..

    Acha too much bak bak.. You're on a roll missy update pe update pe update. Gitu khush hui! :*

  10. Back to back updates...!!!
    My head is spinning with the new findings...
    This is just brilliant!

  11. wow,, what a imagination u hav got...... they are a very good team,,,, LOL
    she says ILU to him and also called Arnav....
    u r a one hell great writer..... love it
    Neag (india-forums)

  12. Kudos to u SJ...u r brilliant not only with the writing but with the master mind...
    You know im quit tube light for all this hidden words....
    Anyway I loved it.... Is Arnav finally started to thinking about their relationship?

  13. Woah!!

    how do u manage to come up with such imaginative stuffs and yet manage to appear as real as possible?
    This truly shows u r one gifted one!!

    wonderful update SJ!!

    this is getting as interesting as the Da vinci code! i remember feeling the same way when i read it 1st...
    way to go SJ..

    bring it on .. will want to see how this goes!!


  14. Don't know how I missed out on reading the last two updates. I check your ff everyday but missed out this time.
    loved the updates as usual. Wish you could get your work published. I read your filigreed sun atleast once every fortnight.
    This story has all the ongredients, thrill, romance, intrigue, hate, envy. I am loving the ride. The painting and its connection to the vaults is a masterstroke. The story has become so interesting that one keeps wondering all day long trying to solve the mystery. Bravo! You deserve all the praise you are getting.


  15. Am I allowed to say wow again.
    Loved your A/N. Thank god colours, flowers are out of the purview of plagiarism allegations
    And I will have to read this a couple of times more to completely understand this :-)

  16. Oh wow! so much happening here, I'm too nervous, can't stop biting my nails.. Brilliant SJ, eager for more..

  17. OMG! ur mind is something else, to think up such a method to hide the combination, make a verse to represent a painting.. u must wrk for the intelligence agency ;)

  18. Oh my god !!! Frankly speaking i need to read it again to understand but my first reaction is that this is full on Big Screen Movie Material !!!

  19. Oh My Freaking God !! Frankly i need to read this again to process all the information but my immediate reaction is that this is Fabulous Big Screen Movie Material !!!!

  20. Loved the updates SJ,
    You should publish ur work, they are great x

  21. Loved the updates SJ, edge of the seat feeling every time something new is revealed. Love ur creativeness.
    Thanks x

  22. Wow! Brilliant, this is like watching a kickass action thriller. And our ArShi are quite the team naa? Such cosmically bright brains crack codes and poems, and then my laptop explodes with the hotness that follows. Boom!

    IF - vgedin

  23. just read chapters 25 and 26... very intense... painful reading about the past, especially about how how one set of khushi's ancestors was indirectly responsible for the annihilation of another set... a young sarah had to suffer the consequences and now khushi is doing the same... the whole riddle-solving scenario was very well etched, including the kiss that inspired arnav to solve the puzzle... the whole thing about the cameras for the paintings' safety makes me wonder if the mafia goons or informers are secretly watching arnav and khushi, which means they are alsp privy to what arnav and khushi have found out! the story is at a very interesting place... eagerly awaiting what comes next!

  24. poor sarah=/
    and arnav is cleverr!=]

  25. Wow this was too exciting. Feel so sad for kushi.
    Very intense update.

  26. wow!! feels like I am reading a mystery novel!! loved the update!!!

    I read all the chapters in one go!
    I just love this one...thank u so much got your pm SJ!!


  27. wow what a story ? full of suspense ? amazing waiting for next update

  28. oh dear!!!!!! that was brilliant....
    after reading such a fab update, m totally speechless...
    if smartgirl9009

  29. The story becoming more and more interesting!


  30. Its so evident the thought and hard work you put into each update....and wohooo their closer than ever to all mysttery now:D
    Great update:)

  31. What a kick ass update. This is such a well written mystery- very professional and well researched. To figure out so many complex elements right in the beginning and to lay it out so beautifully and yet so clearly all the while keeping the mystery quotient high, is no mean feat. This is one of the best written FF work and the best part of its is that the story is engaging and intriguing even if you remove A&K out of the equation.


  32. wow.... how do u come up with such stuff. ...???? its amazing.... ur attention to detail is just mind blowing.... cant wait for the next update....I think they are close to solving the mystery behind the sabres. ..

  33. Your story is very well-written. I especially liked how you hid the clue for the vault locks in the painting, along with the clue for the bank. I literally felt an adrenaline rush when he said the numbers out loud. Bravo!

  34. Hats off to you SJ ... what a fabulous story ...
    such a roller-coaster ride ...
    can imgine the kind of research and effort that must have gone
    towards this story ...
    The Poem is so cute and well written ...
    The suspense and mystery only deepens with each update ...

  35. hahaha the note.. I just read it again!!

  36. I just caught up and wow this just keeps getting more and more interesting :)

  37. The museum part was interesting
    overall its GREAT yar :)
    IF - sally2651

  38. An amazing update ...loved kushi outburst hope they get to the bank safe and sound...loving the story...continue soon...








    WID LUV,


  40. Loved this update SJ..!! :D Totally engrossed in your story now.. Its SO gripping.. :)

    Keep writing.. <3 And God Bless you.. <3

  41. i love the suspense, the clues and the past's connection with today. must convert this into a book

  42. Hi, not commented for a while as uni has finally got the better of me, but I'd just like to say AMAZING!!

    I have read the last 6 updates in one go and wow you have some awesome imagination!

    You should honestly publish this stuff, I would definitely buy it!

    Seriously awesome stuff

    P x

  43. I am tired of stalking your Blog, can you update already... HEHE joke tha.. but seriously woman UPDATE NOW!

  44. madamosielle, you can anyday give a tough competition to Dan Brown.

  45. Hope all is well at your end ........ been a month .....

  46. Hi Sj....where r u nowadays..
    we r missing u

  47. It'sbeen amonth since you updated. Waiting here.

  48. Hi SJ,
    Hope all is okay. Haven't heard from you in a long while.
    Warm Regards,

  49. well what do i say
    u r a an hell of a writer . i assure u that if u r ever going to convert this into a novel,there will be a huge line waiting to buy it,
    and u r to blame for letting me post my comments
    i was so intrigued and weaved in the story i wasnt even able to stop my self to comment,
    i just very recently discovered it and felt it a sin to stop reading and comment, but i also felt it as a sin to not to be able to comment on such beautiful work and appreciate it
    the details ,the trill, the emotions and well your connections .........and so on
    lets just say that u update the next work andi leave a sring of comments for u to read

    if name dpriyad

  50. awesome update.

    this is getting very exciting...all the suspense is killing me.


  51. It's been ver long.. Are u all right..

  52. It's been so long smriti are u all right

  53. Aah I have been stalking the blog every single day! Please, please update soon?

    IF - vgedin

  54. accidentely came across this master piece and got so hitched to read all parts in on go
    cont soon


  55. Wow brilliant & very much in the style of Dan Brown, loved it!!!

    Oh no just one chapter before I am all caught up & then on the edge of a cliff waiting for each update!!!

  56. oh my god, you are freakin awesome.. this is like the Da vinci code like some one said above. I just hope no body is following them... I'm biting my nails, it's 11:23 pm, have to retire to bed but I probably won't get any sleep until I finish reading the next 2 chapters!!