By six in the morning Vishnu was done with James, after dripping the blood he dissolved the body and other stuffs in hydrofluoric acid absconding everything from the scene. He was feeling good. The nemesis was satisfied and went back to his dark place, Leaving Vishnu alone.
By ten AM he was on a flight to Mumbai. He was going there to meet his friend Aman and to find that Shambhavi person. The expression of resentment on his face increased with each kilometer. He didn’t like lying to his Dadi. Of course he was not only lying, but hiding his other life and personality from her, the monster which lives in him. But that was completely other case.
On the other hand, finding Shambhavi and making her his fake love interest wasn’t a bad idea after all. The feeling of holding her in his arms made him uneasy. No other women ever had such an everlasting effect on him. He was sure it was nothing but a leftover effect of that night. She was disturbing his mind constantly. She is not going to be a mystery forever now, He thought. He’d offer her the role of his fiancé, but what if she said no. Any women could be bought for the right price, he thought.
* * *
“What you did to Vishnu baba was not sensible,” Shobha triwedi scolded. Knowing the old woman was onto something, shobha’d stayed in a corner during Vishnu’s visit. She knew Devi had allowed her to be in the room because her being there had made Devi seem even more ill.
Today, coming back from seeing Vishnu off, she approached Devi’s bed. Coming to a stop near it, fifty-five year old, short, chubby woman, her raven hair dulled by gray, stood with her arms on her waist. “I helped you raise that boy, first as his baby-sitter and after staying as your housekeeper. I know how much he cares about you. He must have made me promise hundreds of times to let him know if there was any change in your condition, and I’m to see to it that the doctor comes every day to keep an eye on you. He’s sad thinking his Granny is dying.”
Kashidevi nodded. “We’re all dying since the day we’re born. It’s a cycle of nature.”
The scowl on Shobha’s face deepened more. “But you are not in danger we both know you’re going to live for another thirty or god forbid forty years. You’re going mental about your great-grandchild.”
Kashidevi showed a great grin. “As for my grandson, it’s time he settled and makes a kid or two. And you know about the wrong choices Vishnu’s father had made, and its consequences.”
“Has it ever occurred to you that he hasn’t met the one?”
“No, you are wrong. He has met with her. The girl he described the other night is the one for him. In any case, this should light a bulb in his head. I’m going to enjoy meeting her.”
“Or maybe he’ll get in something you’ll both going to regret.” Shobha advised.
Kashidevi’s smile vanished. “I hadn’t thought about that. We’ll need to maintain a tight eye on Vishnu then.”
Shobha replied in a louder voice. “I’d find other work except you’d never find another housekeeper like me and someone has to stay and look after Vishnu baba.”
* * *
Vishnu entered Dayal memorial Hospital, it was named after Vishnu’s grandfather Mr. Dayal Morya. Who had donated a great amount of money to the trust of the hospital and Kashidevi was one of the board members of the trust. They have two more hospital’s one in Delhi and another in Kolkata.
He made his way to Aman Agrawal’s office.
“He’s expecting you,” Receptionist said.
“Thanks.” He replied.
He entered into Aman’s office and relieved himself in one of the chairs facing Aman’s desk.
“So what’s going on?” Aman asked.
“I’m looking for a woman.” Vishnu replied
Aman’s eyes flickered with amusement. “I’ve never thought you as a man who’d have trouble finding one.”
“Not just any woman. She was a guest at Mehta’s wedding at King’s. She left before I could get her number or her last name.”
“If a woman has stayed in your mind this long, it must be serious. Are you considering giving up your most eligible bachelor status?” Aman asked looking at Vishnu speculatively.
“No, like I’ve told you before I’m not ready for those things, so don’t even try. When I get ready to have a family, I”ll finds someone with all things in their proper places, cut a business deal with her to produce me a couple of heirs.”
“Not all women can be bought,” Aman warned.
Vishnu simply ignored him. “They all have their price. Love, Money, Security, Power. It's different with each one.
“You’re a skeptic.”
“I guess I’m a realist. Now how about helping me find this woman. She’s in her early or mid-twenties. Long black hairs, light blue eyes, around five feet-six inches tall, slender, pretty, and her name is Shambhavi.”
Aman glared and leaned in, his chair. “And why are you looking for this exact woman?”
Vishnu read the defensive spark in his friend’s eyes. “You know her, don’t you?”
“See, I have no intensions of misusing her,” Vishnu assured him. “I just want to make her a business proposition.”
“To produce you a couple of offspring?”
“No.” Vishnu knew he had to tell Aman the whole story. “My grandmother’s dying. She wants me married, so I invented a fiancée. Turns out I found myself describing this Shambhavi. I want to hire her to play my fiancée to make my grandmother’s last days happy.”
Aman’s face remained serious. “Well, I do know someone whose name is Shambhavi and she matches that description, she could have been at the restaurant that night.”
“My grandmother is the only family I have. I’ll pay her well and behave like a gentleman at all time. You have to tell me, where I can find her. You have my words.”
“She’s just not your typical type.”
“Come on, this is important.” Vishnu said anxiously.
Aman took a moment, then said uncertainly, “Her name is Shambhavi Sharma. She was here, in the MRI room waiting a couple of minutes ago.”
A light of concern ran through Vishnu.” Is she alright? What’s wrong with her?”
“Nothing that I know. It’s her niece.”
“Yeah, maybe you………”
“Thanks.” Vishnu was on his way towards the door already.
He marched through stairs, he was too impatient to wait for the lift.
Reaching to the third floor, he made his way to the MRI waiting room. Through the window wall, he saw her. She was wearing a dark blue cotton Salwar, jeans and flat shoes. All of which he knew had come off the racks at the local discount shop or from street shopping. Her thick dark hairs were pulled into a pony, without any hint of makeup. The amount of stress she was suffering was noticeable on her posture.
Her hands were clasped in her laps, her eyes were closed impersonating she was praying.
This wasn’t the Shambhavi he’d supposed to find, nor the place he’d supposed to find her. He’d assumed she was a rich or a very successful businesswoman. Apparently she was neither. He’d imagined him meeting her at one of the finest restaurants in town. She’d come wearing something elegant, maybe in red, possibly, that showed off her figure. Her fine features would be gently appeared by the exact amount of makeup. Her thick hairs would tuck perfectly in a bun. Every man’s eyes would follow her crossed the room.
Rather, they were in a hospital, and she seemed exhausted. His plan to ask her, help him fool his grandmother looked abruptly shallow and stupid. He forced himself to leave the place, find an actress to play the role and forget about Shambhavi. But she looked so depressed, he couldn’t make himself leave her. He’d travelled to Mumbai in order to find her, practically annoyed a friend. He should least speak to her.
Sensing someone enter the room, Shambhavi prepared herself for the worst. Opening her eyes, she thought she was imagining. She closed her eyes and opened them again. Vishnuvardhan Morya was standing still in front of her. Today he was dressed in jeans and shirt. She figured his Italian loafers cost more than her entire wardrobe. She noticed even in his casual dress, he held a positive air that left no question in her brain that he never permitted himself to lose command of any position he found himself in. Basically, she had no idea that he had a vivid experience in that field. From his other life, of course.
“It looks like our roads have crossed again,” he said.
“Yes,” She said rebounding from her initial surprise of seeing him, in a pitiful voice she said “I hope the test goes well for whomever you’re here for.”
“I’m not here for that,” hiding the real reason, he included, “I was here to meet a friend Aman Agrawal, he is a doctor here. I saw you and you look like you could use a friend.”
She took a deep but shallow breath and looked through the windows towards the testing room. “It’s my niece Siya. She’s not well. Dr. Shetty ordered a brain scan.” She felt frightened saying that.
Siya is a lucky girl, He thought. Her masi genuinely cared if she lived or died. “Your niece is in safe hands,” he said, remembering Dr. Sanjay Shetty from a charity dinner to raise money for the hospital. He’d been fascinated by the tall, slender, white haired physician.
“I know, but that doesn’t make the waiting any simpler.” She replied, dropping her gaze onto her feet. She wanted him to leave.
The feeling to sit down by her side and put his arm around her shoulders was strong. Remembering the stormy night and how she’d bolted on him, he sat across from her.
She was surprised to see that he remained there, she looked in his eyes. “I’m sure you have more important things to do than sit with a nervous woman.”
He didn’t think he’d seen sadder eyes than her. “I’m not going anywhere, I’ve always wanted to sit beside a distress aunt.” He muttered in a mocking but funny tone. And amazed by how he wanted to stay there to comfort her.
She had to accept he was looking like a man, a woman could lean on. But she was in no mood for any temporary pity, offering man, who would bore after a while and regret. “I’ll be fine,” she tried to convince him.
He noticed the honor in her eyes. A tough soul, however, he didn’t feel comfortable leaving her entirely. “I’ll wait till the test results anyway.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“It’s not like I have anything else to go or do. You need someone with you in this situation.” He knew she was telling him to get out of there, but he ignored it anyway.
She tried to divert her mind towards Siya but her efforts failed. She knew Vishnu was being so polite because he was studying her. She wondered he could tell by her attire that she wasn’t one of the town’s elite. Maybe he’s wondering how I ended up in a reception like that with those famous and rich folks, she thought and felt her muscles tightened. “Just so you know, I didn’t invade the reception,” she babbled. “I was working as a waitress, but when the party cancelled and the lights went out we were told to join the guests and partake the food and drinks. They actually pushed us to join.”
“But you left,” he corrected her.
“As you can see I have other responsibilities,” She said and looked towards the testing room.
Motherly natured, he speculated. That was one of the top most qualities he had on his list of an heir producing woman.
Anyways, he wasn’t looking for someone at that moment. He was looking for somebody to accompany him in fooling his grandmother. “What does Dr. Shetty thinks might be the case with Siya?”
“A brain tumor.” Every time she thought or said those words a light of terror ran through her body. She looked at her hands, which were squeezed in her lap. “She is only four. She's too young for this. It’s not fair.”
He felt a sting of pain in her voice. “She is going to be fine,” He said and thought, who he is to comfort her like that? His mind criticized him. But he failed to stay mute. The itch to comfort her had been powerful.
She forgot her embarrassing reception incident, and smiled appreciatively. “You can’t actually make that happen, but thanks for those words. I wanted to hear it from someone else other than me. I’m still thinking if I repeat it, perhaps it’ll come true.”
She started walking in the room nervously. It was getting hard for her to sit in one place. “I know it’s stupid, a person can’t change the future by saying something.”
“I know,” he added, and was surprised by her heartfelt small talk. “Positivity is vital for survival.”
She nodded her head and continued her march. “My grandma used to tell me, Heart needs hope and positivity to stay healthy.” She scolded herself to stop talking, but she’d been holding way too much inside. She stopped in front of the glass window from where they’d taken Siya, while fighting to hold her tears. “I’d prayed for days hoping my parents and sister would survive their accident injuries, but they didn’t. I guess hoping is useless when it come to my position.”
He said “I’m sorry,” in a tender tone.
Remembering her parents and sister's death, she turned towards Vishnu with anger in her eyes. “The drunk driver who causes that accident didn’t even get a scratch? He was found guilty, but got the bail. Maybe he’ll kill some other family this time.”
“Maybe,” He added.
She took a deep breath, and moved her mind towards her niece. Siya’s face came into her mind. She turned her back to Vishnu and brushed a tear which came in her eye. She hated anyone to watch her like that, especially a stranger like Vishnu. “I’ve to stay positive, this time my prayers will be accepted.” She said with stiff jaw.
He felt her unbending spirit. It wasn’t fair, to lose the parents, a sister and her only niece, he thought.
Dr. Shetty came in the room. “Siya is still dizzy from sedatives.” Dr. said with motivating eyes. “I told the nurse to be with her so I could speak with you alone.”
She sensed something is not right, “its bad news.” Said Shambhavi with shivering voice.
Vishnu was standing in the corner.
“Maybe we should sit.” Said Dr. Shetty in a fatherly tone, Taking her hand and guiding her to a chair nearby.
Vishnu remained in the corner, Doctor had the situation under control. Shambhavi’s wait was over and Vishnu was free to leave, but he didn’t like leaving her with the bad news for which the doctor was preparing her. He wasn’t busy anyway, he might as well stay. He decided and sat in a chair.
“Siya does have a tumor,” Dr. told her.
“Is she going to be alright?” Shambhavi asked with terrified eyes.
“I can’t say until the tumor is removed and the lab can examine it.” He replied with hearten smile.
“But I have a good news, I had Dr. Kapoor, a very capable neurologist, come in and study the scan, we believe it’s operable.”
“That’s it?” Shambhavi asked with a doubtful tone.
He took her hand in his. “The operation will be delicate. But Dr. Kapoor said we don’t have any other option, the tumor is growing fast and need to be removed before it can result in any damage.”
Her eyes dabbed with fear consuming tears. “Damage?”
“I know how you feel, trust me I do. And I will do everything in my power to save her.”
Shambhavi was unable to speak. Fear of her niece’s life was too overpowering on her voice.
“I’m going to consult with some other colleagues. I doubt their diagnosis will be different, but I want to be sure. You will have to come here tomorrow.” He said and squeezed her hands with assurance. “Now, we should go and get Siya!”
“I…I don’t have much money, I have been out of work since the flood,” She said firmly. “I need some time to arrange it, I want Siya to have the best care possible.”
Dr. patted on her hand. “We’ll see about that, don’t worry. You just think about your niece.”
Shambhavi nodded and forced her legs to bear her weight as she rose.
Vishnu watched Shambhavi and Dr. Shetty cross the corridor. He told himself for the second time to leave the place but he stayed. He decided that he is staying just out of simple curiosity. After a few minutes Shambhavi came with a young girl. She looks like her aunt, he thought. He felt a jealousy for not having a sibling.
The girl stumbled, and Shambhavi grabbed her in her arms. Vishnu shook his head in disapproval. She herself looked too tired to carry her niece. The next moment he got on his feet and went towards them.
“You’ve had a pretty bad day. How about if I carry your niece?”
“I can carry her.” She told him and hold on to her niece tightly. She thought as long as Siya was in her hands, maybe she could keep her safe.
Vishnu saw the intensity of defensiveness in Shambhavi’s eyes. “Then I’ll walk beside you, just to keep an eye on you both.”
By the time they came to Shambhavi’s old looking Maruti 800. Siya was sleeping and she shifted Siya’s weight to a hip so she could hold her with one arm. Standing slightly tilted, she slid her hand in her pocket for the car keys.
Vishnu was staring her in amazement while thinking some women carry independence too far. “I’m not stealing her.” He assured Shambhavi and lifted Siya in his own hands. “I didn’t want you to pull a muscle or drop her.”
“Thanks,” she replied and released a gasp of air.
Siya woke up and lifted her head, seeing Vishnu, fear spread across her already pale face. “Masi,” she called, attempting to get out of his hands.
“You’re all right, dear.” Vishnu increased his clasp firmly avoiding her from falling.
“Just a Sec,” Shambhavi said, turning the key and opening the door.
Siya looked over Vishnu’s shoulder towards her Aunt and stopped struggling. But still continued to examine Vishnu. Making certain that the man was safe.
Vishnu had dealt with many rugged, single minded business clients and his demon hunting night time victims. He considered him the toughest and most single minded, but that child had a way different intensity in her eyes. It discomforted him. Yes, a serial killer feeling discomfort caused by a kid. Seems moronic, He chuckled to himself.
“I’m Vishnu,” He initiated by introducing himself.
Siya rolled her eyes, and he realized that she was not alert at that time due to her condition. She was groggy because of the drugs and exhausted by the hospital environment. He gave her a cheerful smile.
She just remained in his arms, still confused whether he is a friend or foe. She was in no condition to wrestle.
“I’ll take her now,” said Shambhavi.
“Let me allow,” Vishnu insisted and laid Siya on the back seat of Shambhavi’s car.
“Thank you,” said Shambhavi.
“You’re welcome.” He replied, as he straightened and closed the door. Time to get the shit together, he told himself.
Driving away, she looked in the rearview mirror to see him getting back into the hospital building. That’s when she realized all the time they spent, he was somewhat remote from her, as if he was learning about some new species but didn’t bother to get too close. She wondered, why he’d give her his precious time? “We must have been his charity work of the day,” she uttered.
Brain surgery! The idea itself shook her. “We’re strong and we’ll get through this,” She told herself with confidence.
* * *
Vishnu told himself to start finding someone else who’ll play his fiancée’s part. But all of the sudden Shambhavi and Siya’s face came into his mind. She looked desperate.
He had his own problems, his grandmother and many more bad people to hunt. How can he forget? Dadi was on her death bed expecting him to get a wife.
He came to the receptionist's desk with a tensed face and asked her to call Dr. Shetty.