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Woo hoo, done!
Sorry for irregular-ness, guys...but I did warn you
Joined: 25 March 2008
Four - Veer
"The sketches and chip are there, and we have strong enough evidence to hold them."
The younger man shifted uncomfortably. "But Sir, if Soni Malhotra could identify him, the Malhotras would be cleared."
Veer had been aware of that and he spoke curtly. "Soni Malhotra recently married. She is Mrs Khurana now, and she is presently unavailable. Do you have the case file?"
He flicked through it to confirm, though he already knew what was in it. Soni would have to make a statement, but just not immediately – he could indulge his conscience this time.
"A week or two will make no difference, she will identify him when she returns." Veer nodded a dismissal and closed the file in front of him. Thank God that affair was over. If he hadn't caught Prem searching Soni's room and guessed, if Soni had still been in the house, vulnerable to whatever he had planned against her – it made him feel cold with dread. There had been too many close shaves lately, and although things were turning out well, Veer wondered how much of it was only luck.
He drummed his fingers on the desk, thinking, It had been a week since Soni and Jeet had left for their honeymoon, and he had spoken to them once to let them know that the terrorists had been arrested and Soni was in no danger, but nothing more. He hesitated, gaze hovering between the papers in front of him and the phone. He picked up and dialled.
Veer usually approached his drive home as nothing but that – he kept his hands on the steering wheel and mind firmly on the road. But as he paused before the traffic lights, he had to admit that keeping his mind focused was becoming a little more difficult that day.
He let himself recall the conversation from the morning. Soni had picked up, voice suffusing with delight as she recognised his voice. Then - Veer smiled aimlessly at a vehicle in front of him at the memory – Jeet had snatched the phone out of her hand and bellowed unceremoniously into his ear.
Hearing their voices had been like a breath of fresh life, after having to deal with a household that had, of late, become rather strained. It didn't surprise Veer that he missed Jeet – of course the house wouldn't be really complete without his little brother's laughter and playfulness – what surprised Veer was how much he missed Soni.
As a kind human being and his sister-in-law, Soni had always reserved a certain fondness with Veer, but he hadn't realised how quickly she had become a part of the Khuranas. She may be soft spoken and quiet, but her presence had seemed to be everywhere, whether playing with Simran in her room, preparing someone's favourite dish in the kitchen, or simply around the house, doing little jobs no one else would ever think needed doing. He needed them both back, soon.
As he entered the house Lovely bua came running into the hall.
"Veer!" she cried, relief on her face as she forced him onto the sofa. "Just sit right there. You know, I had tea ready for you this evening, but see how late you've returned," she pouted, "I had to throw it away. But as soon as I heard your car I went straight back to make some afresh."
"Bua-" he began, but she had already rushed back into the kitchen. Lovely Bua was always bright, always sparkling – full of vitality, like an oasis. He loved his family – each of them so different, so irreplaceable in his life.
He placed his things on the table in front of him and leaned back, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Lovely bua soon appeared bearing steaming tea on a tray and perched herself next to him.
"Thank you, bua…but won't you have some?"
She shrugged and smiled. "I already had my tea."
"I'm sorry, I had more work than usual," He took a sip of tea. "This is lovely. By the way, did you need something from me?"
She waved a hand. "No, not really. And you can hardly neglect work, can you? No, Veer, I was so bored all day! At least you come down here, you talk to me. Parjaeji has shut herself in her room since morning and Jyoti – I tell you, there's something wrong with that girl."
"Why, is she unwell?"
"Not at all! But trust me, there's more there than meets the eye. And my instincts are never wrong. Well, you had better go and rescue Simran." She sighed wistfully. "If only Soni and Jeet were here…"
When Veer told her he had spoken to them both earlier that day, she squealed.
"Oh, those lovebirds! They kept it secret for so long…" She clasped her hands together and sighed theatrically. "Hai! Just imagine, Veer – the fun they must be having – candlelit dinners, walks in the moonlight–"
"Oh, Lovely," Veer turned to see Mamma standing behind him, staring at Lovely bua with an expression of slight distaste. "You watch too many movies. What would you know of a honeymoon? Things are very different in real life."
Bua smiled extremely sweetly at her sister-in-law and Veer debated stepping into the conversation before Lovely bua managed to rile his mother.
"Parjaeji, I may not be married, but I know Jeet well enough. Besides, if you have any doubts then you can ask Veer. He knows all this from long ago – isn't that right, Veer?" She winked and nudged him.
Veer could not help but smile, and when his mother scowled, hurriedly stepped in. "Mamma – isn't Papaji back yet?"
He needn't have worried. Lovely bua stood up so suddenly he almost overturned his cup, and he quickly placed it on the table. "I was half way through making dinner -!" She scurried back to the kitchen and his mother sat down in her place, disapproval clearly displayed on her face.
"If only she'd hired a proper cook, this day would never have come." She muttered darkly. Veer raised his eyebrows, but otherwise gave no sign that he had heard.
"Has Papaji spoken to Jeet yet?" He continued.
"Oh, puttar, what can I say to your father?" Mamma began in anguish, apparently forgetting Lovely bua. "He says he will soon, but I know he hasn't phoned him yet. Really, I should just do it myself."
"Well, actually…I thought that perhaps I could take charge instead of Jeet." Veer prepared himself for Mamma's reaction.
There was a pause.
"Veer?" His mother stared at him in horrified disbelief. "What are you saying? You just got your position back, puttar. And Jeet – Jeet is more than capable. You saw how well he handled the factories."
"No, mamma, that's not what I meant," He tried to put his thoughts into words without betraying some of the guilt he felt inside. "Jeet and Soni have just been married. And if we do this, Jeet will become so busy –"
"No busier than you, or your father!" She replied indignantly. "Haven't they been away for over a week? Does he need to stick to Soni's side day and night when they return as well?"
Veer looked up, a little shocked by his mother's increasingly scornful tone. She caught his stare and smiled in a pacifying manner.
"My meaning is, you father and I have already arranged for Jeet to take care of everything. And how can we deprive the police force of their best inspector?" She placed a hand beneath his chin and smiled at him, and he realised she was decided on this.
However, he was far from reassured. Try as he might, he still could not forget his mother's expression when Jeet appeared at Soni's wedding; the fact that she had arranged everything and not told Jeet…suspicion swarmed his thoughts against his will and Veer wondered how he could be free from it.
Veer knocked as he entered Jyoti's room and was greeted by the sight of Jyoti hastily shoving some papers into her dresser drawer.
"Veer!" She complained, both reproachful and guilty. "Can't anyone in this house allow me some privacy?" She pounced on a file lying on her bed and stowed it out of sight.
"Alright," She breathed, smoothing down the front of her dress. "Simran isn't quite asleep yet. You can take her."
"Jyoti?" It was a question in itself, and although he thought he was too tired to be remotely intimidating, Jyoti still looked nervous. Simran stirred at the sound of his voice and her rattle jingled. "You hardly ate anything at dinner just now, and – hush, Simran." He scooped up the baby and held her close.
He frowned at Jyoti. "What were you doing?"
"Nothing. Look, Veer, don't start your police interrogation with me, ok?"
Veer resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. "Has Simran been fed?"
"Er…" Jyothi nodded distractedly.
Veer rolled his eyes. "Goodnight, Jyoti."
As Veer went into his room he straightened the photo of Rajji on the table by the side and gently laid Simran down on the bed. As he sat down next to her, her fingers closed over his thumb and he smiled down at her.
"You know, Simran, you probably give me less trouble than this whole house put together."
She yawned in reply, her perfect face scrunching up like petals of a bud. He softly touched the little hair she had, and rhythmically smoothed it back over and over again, watching her eyelids grow heavy.
"You must be missing Soni," he said quietly after a while. "I know you would never complain, but isn't the same when someone you love leaves you. When you're so used to being loved by them."
She didn't stir. Veer arranged pillows, one on either side of her and went over to the photo of his wife. Rajji stood, stilled forever in all her youth and beauty, face lit up like sunshine, laughing at something he could not see, and never would. Where was she now, he wondered? In fields of heaven, happy – without him?
"I wouldn't blame you." He said aloud. "I've let you down in so many ways. But I asked you, Rajji. I asked you before, so many times, if I was doing the right thing." There was silence, as ever. "Are people's hearts so hidden, Rajji? Or is the fault mine – so unable to recognise the feelings of those I love? But this time, perhaps I have a second chance. I promise you that Soni and Jeet will always be happy."
He placed the photo back down but didn't move.
"I need them back, but…I need you more."
Okay non viewers, Prem was their cook, he was actually one of the terrorists who killed the Malhotras but in disguise - there to finish off Soni who had caught a glimpse of him, I think.
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