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Nakusha stood in her kitchen arranging a tray of drinks and snacks. Thanks to the open space, she could watch and listen to her guests as she played the part of good hostess.
Baaji Rao, Tarak Bhatt, Maya Kadam, and Nisha Saxena currently filled up her couches alongside her husband, Dutta Patil. She smiled as she took a peek their way.
The men were having a blast ribbing each other. Each teasing the other or bringing up interesting memories of the times they'd worked together. They were all gathered in her suite to discuss a very serious matter but Naku was glad to see them deviate from the problems even if only for a few moments.
Naku's eyes glanced at the two other women in the room. They looked as far removed from the conversation as one could get. They both seemed tightly wound up. She could see it in their posture and eyes. Neither said
anything and she didn't think either really wanted to.
Could she blame them? No. Both women were currently trapped in a mess of cobwebs and not one of them knew what to do about it.
Naku felt an overwhelming need to help them out. Though she couldn't say she'd be good at the whole investigating thing she also couldn't just sit around and do nothing. They were her friends. Her colleagues. People she respected. People she cared about. People she considered like family. And they were both dealing with tough times.
Maya couldn't remember a single thing about her life having lost all her memories and Nisha was suffering from the exact opposite, her nightmarish memories and situations were torturing her.
Naku's heart went out to both of them. She considered them friends, though one didn't remember it and the other preferred to keep her distance.
Maya Kadam being the front desk receptionist had worked alongside Nakusha for a long time. Maya's job was what Nakusha had started off doing when she'd first come to work for Jagtap Mehta. It wasn't until Naku had been promoted to Reservation Manager Steward and Personal Assistant to CEO Jagtap Mehta that Maya Kadam had come into the picture. They had hired Maya to take her place and Naku had been the one to train her. They'd become good friends over that time. Unfortunately, Maya's recent attack had robbed her memories. Memories that would've told the woman that Naku had been a friend and her mentor' as the young woman had said more than once. Now she kept to herself, trusted no one, was overly cautious and wary. Naku couldn't fault her instincts. Not after seeing how brutally she'd been attacked. And especially not with the knowledge of a freely roaming assailant.
Then there's Nisha Saxena. Someone Naku had come to admire soon after meeting. Professionally, the woman was amazing. She was extremely intelligent, though Naku learned early that calling her on it or praising that intelligence was a sore point. The woman was punctual, organized, and always on top of her work. She's the best Manager anyone could ask for. But Naku had thought more than once that the woman needed to learn to unwind and take it easy. She was always working as if her life would be no more if she didn't.
Like Nakusha, Nisha was also considered a daughter to Jagtap Baba. And with that came the automatic familial feelings. Unfortunately, the feelings had been one-sided. Though Naku had been more than willing to get to know Nisha like a sister, the woman had always held back. Never allowed herself to get too close to anyone. She'd be cordial and professional but always managed to keep a personal and safe distance.
Naku had initially found it odd but had figured she'd have her reasons and had let it go. But the more she heard about the woman's life the more she could understand her need for distance.
Keeping people at a distance was her way of guarding her heart from getting hurt. Her heart clenched for the life the woman had lived.
Her intelligence should have been something people appreciated and applauded not something they put down and dismissed. It's really a shame to see how intimidated people would get and the extremes in which they went to fix that feeling.
Now, both these women were in need of help and Naku was determined to do whatever she could to help. Of course, having a husband who was in the business of security and investigation was extremely beneficial.
Her eyes landed on Dutta. She smiled. Her heart beat faster just at the thought of him. As if he sensed her gaze he angled his head and his eyes clashed with hers. Then he winked.
Naku looked away quickly and picked up the tray of drinks and snacks she'd arranged and headed over to join the group. Dutta stood to take the snack tray from her and placed it on the small coffee table as Naku served the drinks.
Once done, she sat beside her husband and picked up her own drink. She noted that the second she'd taken her seat the air changed and everyone's expressions turned grim.
Time to get down to business.
"Girish Sir called" Dutta announced referring to their Cop liaison.
"Did his Crime Scene Investigators find anything?" Tarak asked.
Dutta shook his head. "No. But he made a point to mention that either someone is awfully dedicated to cleaning that storage room thoroughly or that it's been wiped clean with a reason. He said his gut's telling him something is off. Since we all had that same reaction, I told him we share the feeling and plan to investigate. He assured me his team will do what they can to help."
"What you're saying is that there is nothing to prove what I've told you?" Nisha asked suddenly. She sounded miserable, as if the information was more than she could take. Everyone stared at her with concern but it was Baaji who turned to comfort her.
"The fact that there's absolutely nothing is more than you think. It may not give us solid evidence of what you've said but it does give it merit" he assured.
Nisha sat with her head down refusing to meet anyone's eyes. Naku watched as Baaji's hand landed over hers and squeezed. It took all of Naku's strength to bite back a grin. She'd noticed Baaji's interest in Nisha and she couldn't help but think if there was one person in this world who could break down that woman's walls, it would be Baaji.
She'd already witnessed the comfort and obvious chemistry the two shared. She had a feeling the two fit perfectly. Baaji would be the right person to create a sort of balance in Nisha's life. God knew she needed to find it. She'd been struggling alone to keep from tipping the scale. Maybe what she needed was someone to help maintain that balance.
"What about Ayesha Gupta?" Baaji asked bringing Naku out of her wandering thoughts. "Did you find anything that could help?" Baaji wanted to know.
Her husband filled in the group about their conversation with Ms. Gupta.
"To be honest, after talking to that woman something has been prickling my senses" Dutta said at the end.
"Hmm" Baaji said. "So she has an alibi in the form of her superior, Arjun Malhotra. And as far as anyone knows she's been up in the bar working and the one time she went down she'd gone with Mr. Malhotra and Mrs. Saxena, again giving her an alibi" Baaji stated.
"Yes" Dutta answered. "But the alibi for her being at the Bar the entire time isn't airtight. She could've slipped out" Dutta said and Naku could hear that his train of thought on that had already diverted.
"What are you thinking?" Baaji asked.
"You've worked out a possible theory" Tarak stated expectantly.
Dutta explained to the group how he'd felt something was off with the woman. She was curious enough to ask the right questions, presented behaviours of a bold woman but hadn't put up much of a fight.
"She'd been edgy, nervous, and irritated but it's almost as if she'd expected the questions. You know, come to think of it I think my senses were prickling because it almost felt like she put up an act." Dutta placed his beer bottle on the table. "Naku made a comment about how Ms. Gupta would've been the victim but there's another angle we can work on this. One I believe is more likely" he paused.
"You don't think she's a victim or a target" Baaji said. Naku stared a bit surprised. She knew the two were best friends and often understood the other without really speaking their minds but it never failed to amaze her.
"She's not a victim" Dutta clarified and the other two men nodded agreeing completely. Clearly they'd all come up with the same angle. Naku held back from rolling her eyes. There were three other people sitting her and by the looks of it the other two were just as clueless as her.
"She wasn't hurt" Tarak said as if he'd read Naku's mind. "Ms. Saxena's mention of the woman being dead is what paints the image of victim. But she hadn't been hurt. In fact, she'd looked happy, fit, and fine" Tarak added.
Naku noticed Maya's lips press tightly together at that comment. Interesting reaction, Naku thought. She knew it was a habit of Maya's whenever she'd get annoyed with something. Now if she could just figure out what exactly had annoyed her.
"Makes you wonder how and why, right?" Dutta asked.
"Yeah" Baaji answered, his expression lost in thought. "We've already decided something happened in that storage room. Nisha believes she saw Ayesha Gupta which means she's somehow connected. Her being alive is what throws a spanner in the middle. It's what throws this whole situation off. As much as I don't want to sound like a devil, the fact that the woman is well and oblivious to the situation certainly raises suspicion."
"What if I was wrong?" Nisha asked with a haunted expression on her face. She seemed thoroughly mortified at the prospect of putting suspicion on someone. "I've been under a lot of stress and with all the night..."she stopped mid-word and glanced around as if she'd almost said something she shouldn't have. "I could've mistaken the person's identity. I mean I was scared and wasn't thinking. My mind took me back seven years at the same time. I could be mistaken" she said, her voice was trembling.
"It's possible," Baaji admitted. "But that's where the investigation part comes in. We'll figure out how she ties in. She may be innocent, she may not. We'll know by the end of this. For now she's on the suspect list so I'd recommend caution when around her" he informed the group at large.
"This is all so crazy" Maya spoke up for the first time. "Random acts of crime, setting up a scene and scaring people. It's like a haunted house. Things springing out of nowhere"
"Setup" Tarak echoed then looked at Nisha. "You piss any one off seven years ago?" he asked curiously.
"If this thing is staged, which would make sense considering the fact that we had a replica of a scene from seven years ago, then this is directed at you" Naku said aloud, things seemingly making sense.
"But whoever did this couldn't have known I'd go down there today" Nisha said.
"And this was planned well," Dutta agreed yet added, "but that doesn't mean you weren't watched. Someone could've been waiting for you to go down there."
"You did say you've been sorting your paperwork for weeks. A number of people would've known you'd be going down there eventually" Baaji added.
Nisha looked down and nodded. "I haven't exactly kept it a secret. I've mentioned in public more than once about all the old paperwork piling up and how I've been busy sorting it. I suppose anyone could've known that. And many know that our file storage is on the loading level" she stated frustrated.
Naku felt the same frustration. This was going off in directions on mere speculation and guesses. There was nothing concrete they could work with.
"Right" Dutta and Tarak said in unison.
"We don't have much to work with" Tarak said annoyed. "It's all speculation"
"I assume you start with what you know" Maya said with a shrug, then began to list what they had. "Nisha is connected. Ayesha Gupta is connected. You have surveillance to look at. And there's the fact that this is an incident that happened years ago"
"Actually I've been thinking of staying at Luxury Hotel" Baaji said casually. "Poke my nose in there and see what I can figure out about the incident seven years ago. Assuming what Nisha saw seven years ago also had some sort of foul play then there is a body we need to find and maybe that'll help this case" he shrugged. "It's definitely a place to start"
"You'll be looking for a body that's probably been dead for seven years. I don't think you'll find it" Tarak said dryly.
"That may be true, but if we can confirm there was a body that went missing then there are ways to try to figure out who it was" Dutta added.
"We should divide and conquer then" Tarak said.
Dutta nodded towards Tarak. "Since you're our expert research man, you take care of digging into Ms. Gupta's life. I'm sure your ability to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat will be useful. And then after that you can focus on Maya's case, since that's still at large"
"Well if Tarak's taking care of looking into Ayesha's story and Baaji's going back in time" Naku said with a smile, "then I guess that means you and I will be on surveillance?" Naku asked.
Baaji raise both eyebrows."Why don't I know that we've hired a new member?" he asked teasingly.
"We didn't" Dutta replied with the roll of his eyes. "She just thinks we did. She's delusional"
Baaji laughed "This should be interesting. Too bad I won't be around to see you work. You keep this one in line" Baaji said as he tilted his head in Dutta's direction. "He's trouble"
"Don't I know it" she told him with a grin. "Don't worry I'll keep my eyes on him during the investigation"
"Your eyes are always on him regardless" Tarak said with a smile. Naku felt herself blush and saw Dutta grinning at her.
"Uh..." Nisha said quietly as if not knowing how to interrupt. Everyone turned to look at her and her face heated in embarrassment. "Sorry...for interrupting" she said then looked at Tarak. "I was wondering if you could maybe...well...do me a favor while you're digging into people's history" she asked hesitantly.
The look on her face immediately afterwards told Naku that she regretted asking. She was contemplating something. Seemed to be having a battle in her mind.
"Sure thing, what do you need Ms. Saxena?" Tarak asked politely.
"Call me, Nisha" she said and then fell quiet for a moment. "You don't have to do this right away. Just whenever you get time. I would've done it myself but I don't have access to the databases to search. Of course I could hack them but then that's illegal. I just need to know. If I know then that'll be one thing off my mind" she said without pausing, effectively confusing everyone.
"Whoa, Smarty" Baaji said by putting his hand on her shoulder. "You need to back up a step and tell him what it is that you need him to do"
Nisha looked at Baaji. "I...well maybe this will just be a waste of time. I mean there really should be no reason to be concerned. And we have other things to focus on. Plus reasons have been left behind. Never mind" she said suddenly.
Naku blinked. The woman had practically had a conversation with herself. Whatever that battle taking place half in her mind and half out loud was about it seemed she decided not to pursue it further.
"Why don't you let us be the judge of whether or not what you need is a waste of time or not" Baaji said then urged her to tell them whatever she needed.
"It's just that..." she looked up at Baaji. "I've been wondering about two of our employees that quit"
Everyone looked a bit surprised. Naku certainly was especially with the jump in topic. It had nothing to do with their current problems but she did recall Nisha's annoyed and concerned reaction when Jagtap Baba had mentioned that two of their employees had quit within months of each other without much of a notice.
"Any particular reason why their quitting requires me digging into their lives?" Tarak asked puzzled.
"Yes, I...well let me just start at the beginning" she told them. "Renu Bakshi and Layla Malik, both quit within months of each other. They sent emails stating termination of their employment and reasons. When I received notice of Miss Bakshi having quit, I wasn't bothered. It happens, especially with the younger people, they get bored with their jobs or find a better one and just up and quit. I didn't really think much about it, even when my mother had mentioned she found Miss Bakshi's leave surprising. But when Layla Malik quit, I was surprised. She was the lifeguard for our indoor pool. Though I can't claim to be her friend, we did bump into each other at the restaurant enough times that we've shared meals at the same table. She had a very outgoing personality. Always talking. She'd sit there and tell me about her life. She'd mentioned more than once how she loved her job and that she wouldn't give it up for anything. She liked the location because it was both close to her apartment and University and it was convenient. The job was paying her living. So you can imagine when I got an email saying she was possibly terminating her employment that I was both surprised and concerned. Surprised because she was thinking of leaving a job she loved so much and concerned because she mentioned a family emergency. I gave it some time. Figured she'd eventually call and let us know her final decision. But she never did. I tried to put it behind me but the situation has been nagging at me" Nisha said on a sigh.
"Maa mentioned Miss Bakshi had expressed her desire to work here for a while. And I had the same impression with Layla. It seemed neither woman wanted to quit. At least not in the near future, yet both did. Also, Layla was one to talk to one face-to-face or at least call. She was not the type to send an email. But then it could just be that her family situation prevented either option." Nisha shrugged but Naku could see the woman was concerned.
"I don't know if there is anything to this. It could be nothing, but if I could know they're fine
"Sounds like an interesting puzzle" Tarak said. "I'll look into it for you, no problem" he smiled. "Should be simple enough to locate them"
"Thank you" Nisha said quietly.
"Alright" Baaji said after a moment. "Sounds like we have a plan then. Seems like you" he said at Tarak, "have your plate full". Tarak simply shrugged it off.
"Okay, I'm heading over to Luxury Hotel soon. Keep me informed guys, I'd like to know what you discover" with that Baaji stood.
"Yes, sir" Tarak said.
"Alright" Dutta said at the same time.
"Good. I better go pack" Baaji smiled and then turned. "Curly Locks, I'm leaving" Baaji shouted and within a flash Naku saw her daughter open the door and run out, Blitz on her heels.
Naku held smiled as she saw Nisha lift her legs up onto the couch and stare at the dog with wary eyes.
"Byeee Baaji!" Srishti said as she launched into his arms and hugged around the neck and pecked his cheek. Blitz was pawing at Baaji's shoes.
"Bye, Curly Locks" he kissed her cheek. "I'll be gone for a while. Will miss our duels" he grinned, "But when I come back we'll have a match" he winked as Shrishti excitedly clapped and nodded. Naku watched as he put her down and her daughter ran and climbed onto her father's lap.
Baaji then lifted up Blitz and held him face-to-face. "Alright little guy, see you later" he said and laughed as the dog licked him.
Baaji's eyes suddenly glittered with mischief as he looked towards Nisha. "Don't you want to say bye Nisha?" he asked as he walked towards her, dog in hand.
The poor woman looked ready to faint. She shot off the couch and backed towards the door as she glared at Baaji.
"N-no" she began while backing away, "I'm good" she replied tightly. Baaji, of course, merely grinned and sped up towards her. When her back hit the door, Naku along with everyone else watched amused as Baaji held Blitz in front of her.
"C'mon, Smarty. You now know you want to say goodbye. Remember more exposure lessens your fear" he told her.
Nisha looked hesitantly at the dog then at Baaji, she pet the dog. Probably knew Baaji wouldn't leave her alone until she did.
"Good girl" he told her with a grin then set Blitz down. Nisha grabbed his arm in fear but Blitz ran towards the newer guests, Tarak and Maya who both seemed to be enjoying its presence.
"We're off" Baaji called from the door. Nisha quietly bid goodbye and Baaji followed suit before they both disappeared.
Tarak let Maya take the pup as his thoughts went to his boss, the one who'd just left. If he'd any doubts about his boss' feelings for Ms. Saxena, he didn't have them now he thought with amusement.
On the surface they seem like an unlikely pair but Tarak had a hunch that was far from the truth.
Refocusing his attention, Tarak looked towards his other boss.
"I should get to work also. Seems I've got lots of digging to do." He suggested with every intention of leaving.
He glanced towards Maya and was more than slightly surprised to see her cuddling the pup and looking every bit comfortable in the seat that she'd seemed more than ready to vacant mere minutes ago.
Well, at least she wasn't wary of the dog.
"You staying here?" Dutta asked.
Tarak turned his attention back towards him. "As convenient as that'd be, I don't have my equipment, files, laptop, or a room for that matter" he said dryly, then added as an afterthought, "Of course that might have something to do with the fact that my plans this evening included attending your party then going home"
"I could arrange a room for you easily" Nakusha Patil offered.
"I don't doubt it" he smiled at her. "Actually, if I can get access to an office that's not in use at the moment, one with a computer and access to employee information, I can improvise"
Nakusha Patil beamed. "Done. I'm sure Nisha won't mind use of her office or computer. That desktop of hers is rigged to access, archive, and backup so much information that I'm surprised she hasn't been able to find what she needs herself" she remarked in slight bemusement.
"It could be a matter of crossing legal boundaries. Ms. Saxena doesn't seem like the type to cross or even blur those lines even if she holds the skill set to do them" he said with a shrug. Accessing personal files of an employee through their server with reasons pertaining to the job was one thing but trying to find personal information on a person who is no longer on board would be considered invasion of privacy and misuse of power.
"Won't Ms. Saxena need her office?" he asked. He didn't want to intrude or invade her private work space.
"Actually, Jagtap Baba's going to suggest that she take an extended uh...break for a few weeks. Maybe more, depends" Nakusha shrugged. "I'll be taking over for her but I'll be using the small office space adjoined to Jagtap Baba's room. So hers office will be free. I'll call him and ask him to let Nisha know immediately and we can sort out your access" she told him.
"Alright" he said. He didn't really care where he worked as long as he could get work done. He turned to Maya. "Did you want me to drop you at your apartment first?" he asked since he'd been the one to drive her.
She was still in the process of healing. Had a bandage on her head and the fading bruises to show for it. And though he knew she had a driver's license neither of them were ready to have her sit behind the wheel. Anyway he was her temporary protector. It was his job to keep an eye on her and keep her safe ergo his continued presence in all things concerning her.
"Since they have to sort this with Ms. Saxena, I can drop you and then return" he told her but then thought better of the idea. Maybe he'd better keep her where he could see her?
"Actually, I'd like to stay with you." Yes, maybe it would be better this way. "I'm not sure I want to return to my lonesome apartment and jump at every shadow" she answered as a way of explaining.
She'd told him before that when he'd drop her home or left her alone, that every little thing kept her on edge. She was paranoid, of course with good reason. But he knew that her place was safe. He also knew that she was never really alone. He took temporary residence in apartment below hers. He had every access point to her apartment under surveillance. She didn't know this little detail. He didn't think she needed to. He was just doing his job.
He'd drop her off at her apartment then leave to park his car a block away. Then he'd return in the darkness, hiding his presence. If someone planned to finish what they started he had every intention of catching them. Remaining unknown was important. Alright, so maybe he was a little paranoid on her behalf, but her assailant remains unknown and is still at large. Yes, keeping her with him was beginning to seem like the better idea.
He nodded curtly, implying his agreement to the suggestion. She smiled gratefully. He simply displayed his usual blank unreadable expression. He didn't like when she smiled at him like that. Like he was her saviour or a guardian angel sent from above. He wasn't. He was just doing his job. He hoped to hell that his cool indifference and professional distance took that point home. He glanced at her again and didn't think it was working with this woman.
Back to work, he reminded himself silently.
"The sooner you can get me in that office the sooner I can have everything you need" he said.
Nakusha was already standing and reaching for her phone as he said the words. Within seconds she had Mr. Jagtap Mehta on the phone relaying what they needed.
"Book a room for him" Tarak heard his boss say. Nakusha nodded that she heard and went about relaying that as well.
"It'll probably be easier to work from here" Dutta said and Tarak nodded at his boss. Made sense. Made things convenient too.
"You have the surveillance footage already?" Tarak asked
"No, Mr. Vikas Arora is pulling it all still. He should be bringing it to me shortly" he answered.
Tarak nodded, he didn't pin his hopes on those tapes. He had a gut feeling they would find nothing useful on them.
Nakusha returned before him. "Jagtap Baba will visit Nisha shortly and let her know of his decision and our request. As for a room, we don't have any available for tonight but I can get you both adjoining rooms from tomorrow" she told him.
"Tonight, of course, you are more than welcome to stay here" his boss said without thought or a moment of hesitation. As nice as the offer was, he'd sooner sleep on the street then intrude in the home of newlyweds.
"Thank you, but I think I'll work for a few hours or so and then head home. We'll both need to pack anyway. We can head back here in the morning." He told them and with that he stood.
He watched as his boss stood and lifted his daughter, who had clearly fallen asleep either in exhaustion or boredom, more comfortably in his arms. Then he outstretched his free hand.
Tarak shook it with a nod and said a good night and another congratulations. Then he turned to Maya. He caught her kissing the puppy on the head and the smiling widely when the dog licked her. She said a goodnight to the little pup and then set him down before turning to his boss and the man's wife. She bid them goodnight and also wished them again before they both left.
Baaji walked Nisha to her suite and waited as she looked for her key card.
She'd been quiet since they'd left Naku's place. He'd let her figuring she'd need time to organize her thoughts but the minute she was in her room he was going to ask her what was going on in that pretty little head of hers.
Nisha opened the door and both of them found her mother pacing not very far from the door. Mrs. Shobha Saxena jerked their way. She still sported her apron over her cotton salwar kameez.
Baaji could see clearly where Nisha got her looks from. There was a striking resemblance. The only difference between the women as far as he could see were their ages and the way they dressed. Nisha's mother sported more traditional wear, and though he could easily picture Nisha in such clothes, he had a feeling they wouldn't be as colorful or as bold. Mrs. Shobha Saxena seemingly liked bright colors.
"Nisha!" the woman's near hysterical voice broke through Baaji's momentary distraction.
"Maa" Nisha whispered seeming both relieved and nervous.
"I've been so worried. I've been trying to call you. Jagtap told me about what happened. Oh, honey" she hugged her daughter. "I'm so sorry this is happening. I wish I could stop it for you" she sounded fiercely protective, worried, and...exhausted?
"Maa, I...I'm okay" Baaji didn't find the words convincing. She sounded as exhausted as her mother. And a hint of defeat was evident too.
"We're going to figure out this mess, M'aam" Baaji put in as reassurance. Mrs. Shobha Saxena suddenly looked at him as if noticing him for the first time.
"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't see you there" she told him as she stepped back and smiled through watery eyes.
Baaji didn't take it personally, he nodded his understanding and smiled.
"I'm Baaji Rao, Mrs. Saxena" he said putting his hand forward and introducing himself.
"Friend of Dutta Patil, yes?" she asked and shook his hand.
"Yes, friend and partner in crime" he winked. "Or maybe justice is the better word"
That got a smile out of her. Then she looked from him to Nisha and back. And had this look of puzzlement as to why he was here...with her daughter.
"He's just a friend" Nisha put in hastily. "Here to help" she added and grimaced.
"I think I've just been promoted" Baaji grinned.
Mrs. Shobha Saxena raised an eyebrow at him as Nisha looked at him with questioning eyes.
"I wasn't aware we'd moved from business acquaintances to friends just yet" his eyes gleaming he shrugged. "But I'm not complaining at all" he winked at Nisha who suddenly found the ground very interesting. Mrs. Shobha Saxena took one look at her daughter and laughed. Then turned to him.
"I think I'm going to like you" she said and waved him in. "C'mon in"
He smiled at the welcome and offer but shook his head in no'.
"Actually, I was going to head out. Just wanted to make sure she was okay before I left. I'm sure she'll fill you in on what's going on but I'd appreciate it if it doesn't leave this room" he said.
"Of course" Nisha's mother replied with a nod.
He turned to Nisha and placed his hand on her shoulder. "You gonna be okay?" he asked, his voice laced with concern. He noticed that Nisha's mother definitely noticed the tone and touch. He didn't care. He liked her, he cared for her and he wasn't going to waste time trying to hide it.
She didn't reply, she simply stared at him as if weighing her options about god only knew what.
He was about to urge her to say whatever it was on her mind but a knock at the door interrupted them. Since he was closest to the door he went ahead to open it as Mrs. Saxena joined him at the door.
Mr. Mehta was standing there.
"Hello Mr. Rao, Shobha" he greeted them. "I'd like to talk to Nisha"
Mrs. Saxena gestured him in, turned around, and walked. Mr. Mehta followed her and Baaji followed him deeper into the room where Nisha had apparently moved.
"Nisha" Mr. Mehta went up to her and put his arm around her shoulder and hugged her gently. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"I'm fine" she answered a little defensively but she seemed comfortable in Mr. Mehta's presence. He nodded and released her. After a few moments of silence, where everyone was looking at him warily, the man decided to get to the point of his visit.
He told Nisha that he'd like her to take a few weeks off. Baaji stood back and listened to the conversation. Nisha's mother seemed to agree and approve thoroughly. For that matter so did Baaji. She needed rest and she needed it bad. But he also knew working was her distraction.
She'd used that exact point to argue her position. Tried to convince Mr. Mehta that she was fine to work. And though the sympathy was obvious in the man's eyes, he merely looked at her apologetically and held his stand. He stated his thoughts more firmly. He didn't want her to over work herself, he was worried for her. Then he told her that he wasn't requesting or suggesting but was ordering her as her boss to take time off and rest.
Baaji noted the moment she'd recognized the finality and authority issued in his words for a lost fight. She didn't bother to try to convince him after that. She merely nodded but she bit her bottom lip and stared at her toes. He could tell she was already thinking how she would manage without her work. He could see her trembling slightly. He wanted to go to her and assure her it'll be okay but he stood where he was as Mr. Mehta continued to talk.
He further informed her that her office is going to be used by Tarak Bhatt and that he'd appreciate it if she could meet him there and give him the key and access to the files on her computer. She nodded. She hadn't uttered a word and was still staring at the ground.
Mr. Mehta looked at her concerned and then his eyes fell on Mrs. Shobha Saxena who was also looking at her daughter with concern. The room grew quiet.
"I'll take her down to meet Tarak myself" Baaji said hoping to end this conversation.
Mr. Mehta nodded. Bid his goodbye to both woman then left. Mrs. Saxena saw him to the door but Baaji stood staring at Nisha.
He walked up to her and tilted her chin up. Her eyes were watery. His heart squeezed. "What's wrong, Smarty?" he asked her.
"I...I need to work, Baaji. I can't not work. If I have spare time then I end up thinking about everything and then I start getting overwhelming headaches. I can't take a break, what am I supposed to do?" she asked, so broken, so scared, so very vulnerable it made Baaji want to hold her close and take it all away.
"You need to rest" this came from her mother. "I'm glad you're getting the break. Quite frankly you need it. Honey, I'm sorry to say this but you look like hell. Use it to sleep. Recuperate. You're tired and exhausted and working is only making it worst" she insisted
"But you know that the nightmares won't let me sleep" Nisha said in dismay. "You know that when I'm awake and not doing anything my mind finds its way to explore all my problems again and again until it tortures my mind and frustrates me. I need to work, I need to stay distracted. I need to keep busy" Nisha insisted right back.
"Your mother is right, Smarty" he said as those striking emotion filled eyes locked with his. "You need the rest. Find something to distract you. Clean, watch movies, read a book. Anything. But you need to take the time off and rest." He told her and then traced his thumb under one eye. "This tired look doesn't suit you" he told her conveying his concern.
She stepped back a step from him. "None of those distractions' you've mentioned will work. I've tried them" she told him in no uncertain terms. "I need to work" she added with a determined tilt to her chin.
Stubborn woman! He shook her head and then a thought struck.
"You know, I could always get you a puppy" he suggested then grinned at her horrified expression. "I think that'll be a perfect distraction" he told her and knew it for a great idea.
"If you do Baaji, so help me God!" she threatened. It was the first time she'd done that. At least that he knew of. Her eyes flashed red in anger. He grinned. He liked the look. He knew it wasn't directed at him, not really. It was directed at the situation but damn he liked the fire he was seeing in her eyes. She wanted to fight with him. She wanted it so she could get the frustration out of her system. It was a definite change from the woman he'd expect to run into isolation and try to deal all alone. He liked that she was turning to him.
Mrs. Saxena laughed suddenly making both Baaji and Nisha look at her.
"You know if I didn't know my daughter well, I'd think you two were together" she said suggestively and shook her head with a smile. "I'd say the dog idea was good but knowing Nisha she'd probably just find the nearest exit and flee" she told Baaji.
Baaji grinned knowing that she was absolutely right. Nisha would flee. He looked at her and she was looking all defeated again. He stifled a sigh. This woman was hard to figure out. One minute she's ready to spit fire and the next she looks ready to give up. The only consistent look was that of exhaustion.
"I need to work" she repeated on a whisper, her voice edging on desperation.
He stared at her. He knew she did but he wanted her to rest. The question was, would she get any rest? No matter how much he and her mother wanted it, would she actually get it simply because they left her with no choice but to try?
He didn't think it would be that simple. She needed a distraction. Something to keep her mind occupied while she did get her much needed rest. But what? Baaji thought on it for a while. He stared her sagging posture. Damn, he wanted to just take her and hold her. But that'd probably be highly inappropriate, what with her mother standing right there beside them.
Nisha's eyes suddenly looked up at him with new resolve. He looked at her wary. Why was she giving him that look? A look of someone who knew exactly what to do. A look that warned Baaji that he wasn't going to like it. Damn it, what was she thinking of doing?
"I can accompany you" she said just when he was about to ask. He stared surprised.
"Accompany him to where?" Nisha's mother asked. Nisha's expression went guarded and cautious as she looked at her mother.
A very good question, thought Baaji. He hoped to hell her mother strongly opposed the idea when he told her.
"Luxury Hotel" he replied and watched her mother's expression turn grim. She definitely didn't like the idea.
"Absolutely not" her mother said firmly as if to echo his thoughts.
"I can help him" Nisha argued weakly. "I know the place, I know what happened seven years ago, I know who worked there, how the place ran, I know where to look. I can help" her voice decidedly got more confident of herself. She turned her gaze on him. "I can help. Let me go with you. Please. If I have to take a break, then let me do this" she pleaded with those gorgeous dark eyes. Damn it to hell.
"No" he said and was surprised to find how hard it was to actually say the word. "The point of the break is to rest, not work" Baaji told her sternly.
"I...I...I need to do something" she stuttered. "Please Baaji, this whole issue revolves around my sanity. It's on the line here, please don't leave me here to deal with it. I can't. I need to do something. I need to figure this out. I am going to Luxury Hotel" he didn't like that he was softening and readying to agree, he didn't like that her tone and desperation was getting to him, he definitely didn't like that she seemed determined to accompany him. But it seemed it didn't matter that he didn't like the idea. She looked at him, straight at him and tilted her head back. He saw some of that fire in her eyes again but this time he didn't like it there.
"I am going there. Take me with you or I can find my own way" she gave him the ultimatum.
Crap! He looked to Mrs. Shobha Saxena for help but the older woman not only look stunned but also amused and proud. Not good.
"Maybe this will be good for her" she said regarding Baaji. "She needs closure from that place and whatever happened. Maybe going there will help. Maybe figuring out what on earth is going on will help."
"She doesn't have to go there to get the answers" Baaji insisted then added. "What if it only makes everything worse?"
Mrs. Shobha Saxena stared at her daughter in thought and concern.
"I'll deal with it" she told them stubbornly. "Let me deal with it. I always do"
Baaji saw the determination in her eyes and stance. She wasn't going to back down no matter what reasoning he provided. He sighed and accepted defeat but there was one thing he wanted to clear up.
He looked in her eyes and said "whatever happens there, we'll deal with it" he corrected. Then with a lot of reluctance he told her "Get packed" she smiled slightly and nodded.
Baaji had just hung up with making reservations when Nisha came out bag in hand followed by her mother.
"We were in luck" he told them. "I was able to reserve a room with two bedrooms for us." She hesitated on that bit of information. He had a feeling he knew why. He stood and took her bag as he explained. "They had enough vacant rooms that we could've each had our own rooms," he admitted but went on, "however we'll need to share a room for our cover."
"Our cover?" she asked curiously.
"I can't just barge in there, Smarty, and ask questions on a seven year old mystery that as far as anyone is concerned didn't happen" he shrugged. "I'd be stirring a hornet's nest if I did that" he said and watched her nod in agreement and understand but her eyes still held a question.
Right, their cover.
"I did some quick research on my phone about the Hotel. It operates in part like a resort and has many attractions. One of which is hosting occasions. Like weddings" he said and paused. She stared. He could tell the information wasn't new to her but she was curious as to why he was talking about it.
"I was thinking we should go in as an engaged couple looking for a place to hold our upcoming wedding" he told her and watched her surprised expression surface. He glanced at her mother who looked awfully amused. He'd expected to have to launch into some sort of argument with the two.
"This will give us cover when we ask questions about the place and look around. It gives us a reason to want to know about Luxury Hotel and its staff. We also have to remember you'll be known to many. Or at the very least the owner and manager" he saw her flinch and her whole being went on guard. Interesting. Something about the owner and manager he'd need to ask about. Later. "You showing up at that hotel for just a visit or break is highly unlikely. They would know it. So we play it differently. We make them think the decision was mine, you were against it, they'll want to make business with a wedding and will try to please us and we'll remain indecisive. I haven't worked out all the details yet but we can sort it at my place while I pack"
"Uh...okay" was all she managed to say. She was clearly ready to do whatever it took to get this behind her. He'd be sure to make sure she got her rest in all of this.
"Let's go meet Tarak and then head off" he told her.
"You take care of her Mr. Rao. Or else I'll hunt you down and make you sorry you didn't" Mrs. Shobha Saxena threatened. She was smiling but he had no doubt that she meant every word.
"Yes, M'aam. You have my word." He said and knew for some strange reason the older woman believed him without reservation. Maybe it had to do with the fact that she knew Dutta and Nakusha and that he was a good friend of theirs? He didn't know. Maybe he'd ask one day, but right now they should be leaving.
They did exactly that.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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26th Dec Update(Naku safe)
Author: daffodil81 Replies: 9 Views: 1572
|daffodil81||9||1572||27 December 2011 at 8:57am by _Eternity_|
Dutta - Shirt= (fill in the blank)/ Dutta+Shirt=?
Author: LoveStruck21 Replies: 21 Views: 4286
|LoveStruck21||21||4286||07 March 2011 at 7:42am by jagrutid|
****With Ur arms around me I FEEL SAFE****
Author: Princess_Priya1 Replies: 3 Views: 933
|Princess_Priya1||3||933||13 February 2011 at 8:18am by _Eternity_|
naku is safe
Author: reachruby88 Replies: 0 Views: 461
|reachruby88||0||461||10 August 2010 at 10:42am by reachruby88|
New Promo 1: TaSha safe~video linkz...
Author: shonapinky Replies: 64 Views: 6414
|shonapinky||64||6414||11 July 2010 at 3:22pm by -Madzy-|
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