Posted: 19 October 2005 at 9:12pm
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* * *
I think asking Prithvi for help is a great idea. I'm sure he'll be able to help you find out who the Man in the Mask is. Come over for dinner tonight and you can ask him yourself.
I can't believe he wrote to you; he's soooo romantic!
Kripa sat back in her chair, twirling her pen in her fingers. She was glad that Alliyah thought her idea was a good one – she had to get to the bottom of this.
She spent the previous night examining every word of the mysterious letter from the even more mysterious man. She could not find trace of any secret code or decryption, much to her dismay. She decided she was not qualified enough to make this kind of assumption and was glad that she had already called Alliyah to see about getting Prithvi's assistance.
Pleased that it was finally quitting time, Kripa gathered her things and made her way to her apartment. She needed to stop at her apartment for the letter before going to Alliyah's and thought it would be nice gesture to bring something to dinner as well.
She first went pastry shop and bought chocolate dipped croissants, Alliyah's favorite and quickly popped home for the letter. She paused for a moment to read the letter once more. With each line she read, a slight blush would creep upon her cheeks. She could not help but feel flattered for the more than friendly remarks but her mind was a slave to logic. She still did not know who this man was and could not rule out the possibility that it was rather large hoax and may even be a dangerous one, at that.
Her good sense gaining control, she folded the letter and placed it inside her pocket and then caught a taxi over to Alliyah's house.
"Kripa!" Alliyah asked as Kripa let herself into the apartment.
"Alliyah!" Kripa replied, removing her coat.
"Well hello Kripa," Prithvi greeted her warmly.
"Hey Prithvi, how was your day?" Kripa was always interested in Prithvi's profession. As an FBI officer, Prithvi was privy to many things of the confidential nature and Kripa was thus highly interested.
"You know, the usual," Prithvi replied casually. He never let anything slip which was greatly vexing to both Kripa and the equally curious Alliyah.
"Whatever, half the world could blow up and if your department was involved you'd still say the 'usual'," Alliyah said with a harrumph.
"I just like to get a rise out of you Alliyah," Prithvi laughed at his girlfriend.
The three friends then proceeded to have a very lovely dinner in which Alliyah nagged Prithvi about work, Prithvi badgered Kripa about rahul, and Kripa teased Alliyah about her poor memory.
"So Kripa, Alliyah tells me you have something to tell me . . . It wouldn't have anything to do with a certain someone named Rahul does it?" Prithvi said raising his eye brows up and down.
"Oh give it up Prithvi! That man is far to self absorbed to care about me or anyone else for that matter," Kripa said with a tone of finality in her voice that indicated to Prithvi that he better lay off.
"So what is it?"
Kripa commenced with her story from the night of the ball, shocked by how attentive Prithvi was to the matter. She then informed him of the letter she received at her apartment and retrieved it from her pocket.
Prithvi perused the letter, holding it up to the light, sniffing it, and even licking the corner. "Appears clean," he concluded.
"Well? Are you going to help her or not?" Alliyah said, her patience wearing thin.
"Of course! I wouldn't be too worried Kripa. It just looks like somebody has a crush on you. I don't think he's stalking you or anything."
"Do you think we have enough to go on to find out who it is?" Kripa asked, hoping that Prithvi could give a decisive 'yes' to her question.
"Not sure, I can look into it though. I'll get a guest list to the party and compare them to the description you gave me. Let me know if you get any more letters, though." Kripa was impressed with Prithvi's professionalism. He never jumped to conclusions and always had some sort of tentative plan.
"That reminds me, did you write him back?" asked Alliyah.
"I thought about it, but who would I send the owl to? Unless I used his owl when it delivered my letter, there's no way I could get one to him," Kripa said, wrinkling her brow in thought. "Come to think of it, I got the letter on my desk. No owl could have come into my laboratory to deliver it."
"Maybe he works at the ministry! I bet he does and I bet you know him!" Alliyah squealed in excitement. Kripa looked back at her friend, the sudden realization that she might know the person dawning on her face.
"Alliyah's got a point. He could have slipped it in there while you were on your lunch break," Prithvi added.
"Hmm, well that narrows the search down quite a bit, doesn't it? Compare the guest list to ministry employees, and we'll find out who loves you, Kripa!" Alliyah said, clapping her hands together like a child at Christmas.
Kripa merely stared on at her friends. She was already thinking of every man she knew at the ministry. She shuddered when she thought about the stranger being the odd boy from the mail room who sent her sterile crackers on occasion.
"Come by tomorrow afternoon, Kripa, and hopefully I'll have something to show you," Prithvi said, snapping Kripa's mind out of her brief lapse.
"Sounds great, thank you so much Prithvi. This means a lot to me," Kripa said with a tone of sincerity that caught Prithvi by surprise.
"Of course, Kripa. Hey, if this guy is really in love with you, I've got to know who he is anyways. Nobody can just be in love with you without my approval," Prithvi said and gave Kripa a brotherly hug.
* * *
Walking down an unfamiliar corridor, Kripa stepped quickly on her way to see Prithvi. She had not been to his new office and hoped she would not get lost trying to find it. She breathed a sigh of relief when she found a door labeled 'FBI Headquarters.'
She walked into the office expecting to see the hustle and bustle of officers at work and was surprised to find not a soul in sight except for a gray tabby cat she assumed was the office pet. She glanced around and noticed one of the office doors was open. She walked over and peaked her head inside, smiling as she realized she had found Prithvi's office.
"Knock knock," she said as she walked into the office. She noticed right away that there were two desks instead of one, and reasoned that Prithvi, although a great officer, was not special enough to have his own office.
"Kripa! Come in, have a seat, please excuse the mess," he pointed towards the empty chair behind the opposite desk and Kripa sat herself in the comfortable desk chair.
She observed that Prithvi's desk was awfully cluttered with papers strewn haphazardly about, miscellaneous objects acting as paper weights, and random snack wrappers on the desk instead of the rubbish bin. On his walls also hung random papers tacked in an un-orderly fashion as well as various pictures of Alliyah, Josh, and Kripa.
In sharp contrast, the desk in which Kripa was sitting behind was quite organized. No stray papers were out of place nor were there any items of personal nature. There were no pictures on the walls save for a single picture of the grounds outside of their school.
"Listen, Kripa, I've got good news and I've got bad news. Which one do you want first?" Prithvi asked.
"Let's go with the bad news."
"I was put on an assignment that's taking me to the states for two weeks, so I'm not going to be able to do that research for you."
"And the good news is?" Kripa said a little down trodden. She had hoped to get to the bottom of this matter quickly.
"I've found a replacement who is willing to help you out . . ." Prithvi said slowly.
"And you say that carefully, why?" Kripa said, suspicious of Prithvi's behavior.
"Because the replacement is . . . Angad," Prithvi said with care.
Kripa tried not to let the surprise show on her face. She had not spoken to Angad Khanna since they were at school, and even then the words were few and far between. She wondered why he was so ready to help her.
"I know what you're thinking, why Angad? He just finished a really big assignment and wanted to take a break. Your case is pretty simple, should be a piece of cake for him."
"Well, okay, I suppose. Did you tell him the details already?" Kripa said. She wasn't sure she wanted Angad knowing the intimate details of the situation. The thought alone brought a flush of embarrassment to her cheeks.
"Don't worry, I just said you had a secret admirer and wanted to know who it was."
Prithvi and Kripa both turned to who had just cleared their throat. Prithvi treated the matter like it was no big deal but Kripa blushed terribly and couldn't find any appropriate words.
"Hey Angad, just told Kripa you were going to help her out," Prithvi said.
"Er, uh, yeah. Um, thanks, uh Angad," Kripa stuttered.
"Sure. Since I'm helping you out, mind doing me a favor?"
"Mind getting out of my chair? I have work to do." Angad said. Kripa expected his trademark smirk to accompany his comment but was secretly shocked to see he neither smirked, smiled, nor frowned.
Kripa quickly rose from his chair and made for the exit.
"Uh, Ms. Sharma," she heard his deep voice drawl behind her.
"Yes, Mr. Khanna?" she asked, turning slowly, still red in the face.
"Prithvi gave me the lists he had found from the ball. I'm going to cross reference them tonight and I'll call you tomorrow with any possible candidates," Angad said in a detached tone of professionalism.
"Uh, thanks . . . Well, bye Prithvi, have a great trip," Kripa said quickly. She left the office in a hurry and didn't stop to catch her breath until she reached her own office.
To say she was a little flustered would be an understatement. Kripa took the next five minutes calming her self down so she could think straight. She was embarrassed for acting silly in front of Angad. She was thoroughly embarrassed at the idea of Angad finding out who was in love with her. And most of all, she was embarrassed that the first thought that crossed her mind was that he was even more handsome than he was at school.
She had not realized that Angad shared the same office as Prithvi, although she knew they were the only two people in their year from school became FBI officers. She realized that Angad and Prithvi got along fairly well, too. She could not sense any tension in the room other than between herself and Angad.
Resolved to the idea of Angad helping her, Kripa went back to her own research. Today she would not be in the laboratory but going over some theoretical experiments in her office. The afternoon passed slowly but Kripa was not disturbed from her work until she received a note from Angad.
She unfolded the paper airplane and read what he had to say:
I found all possible matches between the guest list and ministry employees. Meet me tomorrow afternoon in my office and we can discuss your options. If you receive any more notes, please bring them. Also, if the stranger makes any indication to meet you, consult me immediately.
Kripa stared at the paper before her although her thoughts were elsewhere. The thought of meeting the stranger had never occurred to her. She figured she'd get the occasional letter and nothing more. She didn't think that the stranger would try and meet her.
Kripa found it hard to concentrate after reading Angad's note. She decided to take the afternoon off so she could think about what was going on in her life. Up until two and a half weeks ago, she lived a very simple but meaningful life.
She had been promoted to her new position. She had great friends whom she cared about deeply. She had a great apartment and a great roommate. She really could not have asked for more. The only thing she thought was missing was a man to share it all with. She figured she would eventually find that man and would date him and when the timing was right, get married. She didn't think that something like this would happen.
She had a secret admirer when she was eight years old and still in grade school. He gave her his left over candy in her cubby box and would leave notes with messages like "ur pretty." Even at the age of eight, she was embarrassed from the unknown and unwanted attention. Now at twenty three, she still felt the same.
When she arrived at home, Kripa went straight to the bathroom to draw herself a bath. She needed to relax and take her mind off of things. She turned on some soothing music and soon relaxed into the bath tub.
Some time later, Kripa emerged feeling refreshed. She loved taking a nice long hot bath to calm her nerves. She wrapped her body in her bath robe and put on her fluffy slippers. She walked into the living room of her apartment towards the window. She and Anitha had a great view of a lovely park and she liked to watch the kids play their games.
As she approached the window, she stopped suddenly. There was a letter sitting upon the window sill.
She picked the letter up carefully, her heart beating quicker than usual. She knew who it was from.
Realizing the concern you must have, I thought I would relieve you of your fears. Although I have chosen secrecy for now, I would like to reveal myself to you if you are willing. Come to the theatre on 5th and Lexington this Friday evening and retrieve your ticket from the all call box; there I will be waiting.
Man in the Mask
For the second time that day, Kripa found herself at a loss for words and blushing brightly. She did not think that the stranger would attempt to meet her so soon. The she realized it had been two weeks since they first met.
She knew she could not meet the stranger without having someone come with her. She knew there was a potential for danger. She would have asked Prithvi to accompany her, or Alliyah. But Alliyah was going with Prithvi to the states and Kripa was left with only one option – Angad would have to come with her.
Kripa then realized that she had to notify Angad immediately about the newest development. She cringed at the fact that Angad knew some of her private business and would soon learn even more.
She wrote a hasty note and sent it off to Angad as the mailman came by, and since Anitha wouldn't get off of the phone that was her only choice. She returned to the bathroom and drew another bath. The effects of the first one had worn off and she needed a heavy dose of comfort.
She slid into the tub with a hand full of chocolate and a glass of wine.
* * *
A note from the ME:
No tricks here, just telling a story. Wonderful irony, isn't it? Angad is playing detective for Kripa and he's the culprit . . . and she has no clue. Isn't it great?
Thanks for all the support! I love you all! You make me feel so good about myself . . . Thank you for reading and commenting
Edited by simplyconfused - 20 October 2005 at 4:51pm
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