Keshav and Avanti rode in silence lost in their own stream of thoughts as they neared Chembur in their rented cab. Avanti kept looking at Keshav intermittently and though he tried to keep up a strong front she knew he was writhing in turmoil from within. He must have been extremely anxious having waited for so long. She just hoped and prayed to Lord Subramaniam… everything would fall in place. He had barely eaten much of their rushed breakfast and she had insisted on the glass of milk. She hoped he didn’t ruin his health in the zeal for research… however important it was.
Once they reached the bank, she looked up at the old building. She didn’t recall seeing it during her earlier visits to Natrang. Probably because the bank consisted of the ground floor and the first floor whereas the upper three floors were residential and nothing was striking about the bank, at least aesthetically. She walked into the bank and was welcomed by the step one customer service. She showed her ID, and the bank passbook the which only contained one entry that of the deposit made for the safe deposit vault… of a whooping two lakhs. She wondered which bank in these days had such a high locker deposit. Nonetheless, the executive gave them a top down and a form to fill in her details while she went to speak with the manager.
In about fifteen minutes each of which passed at an excruciatingly slow pace, the manager arrived personally to greet her. The man whose ID card mentioned Balaram Tyagi, was a middle-aged man, who was extremely cordial and directed them to the thick door at the back corner. Avanti wondered where he was taking them and gripped Keshav’s sweaty palm. The huge door moved with great difficulty and once they entered, he shut it again behind him. They were in another tiny room with biometric access and after typing in a number series Mr. Tyagi clicked open the lock and the door opened to a fleet of stairs. As they descended, he kept switching on the lights and a continuous stream of bright LEDs brightened up what looked like a cellar from an old fable. He walked towards the large boxes and stopped in front of one of them in the deep corner. He typed in a code on the attached number keyboard and turned towards them. “here…I have now unlocked it from our side. All you need to do is put in your code and the vault will open. I am sure you may be surprised but this section is different from our regular lockers upstairs and is safeguarded even from fire hazards, floods and blasts… hence the high security deposit. I will now leave you two here. Once you shut back the door of the vault it locks itself and you won’t be able to open it for next two days…it’s a superior security feature. So be careful. You have maximum twenty minutes after which the security team will cordon the area to escort you outside. So, make it quick…I just entered your time….” He turned back and left and as his footsteps faded Avanti gripped Keshav’s hand tightly.
“Avanti… darling… go ahead and put in the code… we don’t have much time…” Keshav spoke softly and she nodded, moving ahead and typing in the code with trembling hands. The lock opened with a buzzing sound and Avanti further opened the door. Keshav immediately shone his mobile light and Avanti finally could see and tears sprang a she saw a little black bound book, the only possession of the huge locker. She removed it and looked around but there as nothing else except a little piece of paper. She removed it and opened the fold. On it was her baba’s meticulous handwriting:
You ‘ve done it… I will now rest in peace…
Lots of blessings to you and Keshav for a long marital innings…
She blinked back tears and moved back shutting the door and immediately pocketed the little book in her handbag as Keshav held her hand and gently pulled her with him. They walked out and the manager greeted them again. “Uh… Ms. Avanti Rane…there is something I wanted to share with you. Please accompany me to the cabin…”
A surprised Avanti and Keshav followed Mr. Tyagi to his room and were further bewildered when he shut the door behind them and pulled the drapes too. He sat on his revolving chair and sighed. “Ms. Rane, I am sure you are wondering what all this is about… but I personally knew your father…Mr. Dnyaneshwar Rane. He was like an older brother to me… he was instrumental in me getting this job twenty years ago and we had remained friends ever since… When the vault was being built, I had mentioned to him in passing but never in my wildest dreams did I think he would one day come up with a strange request…”
Avanti blinked back her tears and tried to speak in a chocked voice. “…What… what request and when…?”
The manager rubbed a hand over his tired face and inhaled deeply. “I was surprised he had opened an account in this branch which was so far away from his work place and residence… but he had insisted… He also wanted you to be a joint holder instead of his wife… and then the account was dormant for over a year…I let it be on my risk…and would have continued till the time I was the manager here, but then a few months ago he suddenly arrived here…” He looked up at them and continued. “…He looked harried and tired… the Dnyaneshwar Rane I knew never did anything without reason and was extremely farsighted… so when he asked for the vault I didn’t question him at all and he specifically said that in the unfortunate event of his passing, his younger daughter and the joint holder of the account would come to access it and that I was to help out in every possible manner…I am sorry Avanti… that he is no more and I hope that you have received what you had come looking for…”
“…um…Did he say anything else…?” Avanti asked hopefully.
Mr. Tyagi looked around. “…I don’t know much but after a lot of prodding he got talking that day and I passing he did say his life was in danger or so he thought… because of something he was developing…he spoke something about the black sheep of some family who was an asshole out to destroy anything in his way…”
“…Did…he…” Keshav asked tentatively. “…Did he give any names…any hints…?”
“…No… he barely said that much… Dnyaneshwar Rane wasn’t someone who bothered others with his troubles…Avanti… I hope you protect his legacy…its something he gave up his life protecting”
Avanti sniffled tears and nodded and soon walked out, with Keshav holding her sideways close to him. She was thankful for that else she would have collapsed under the burden of emotions bombarding her from all sides. She shed silent tears all through their journey while Keshav held her close. They got back into the waiting rental and directly arrived in Vedshastra. Keshav didn’t want to waste any moment and had already called the core R and D team to be ready while they arrived. Avanti was on autopilot and gripped Keshav’s hand tightly even as the reality of the situation started to sink in. Her baba had planned everything to the t and she hoped they were now on the right track. Would Keshav get the drug made…?
Once they reached Vedshastra the core team comprising of their two main scientists who were with them right from the time her father had started the company, along with two scientists from Novo-supremo whom Keshav trusted the most, got together in their conference room and Keshav showed them the black book. Avanti could see the scientists look at the content of the book as if in a trance… The scientist whom she knew to be close to her father looked up at her and nodded with a smile and she knew they had hit the jackpot. All four of the scientists moved to the lab with the black book and Keshav locked the door from outside. Akshat had arranged for specially trained guards to keep watch at the door and Keshav and Avanti went back to his cabin.
“Avanti…the more this mystery unfolds the more I am in awe of your father… he knew the contents n the black book were important…classified and what a way to hide it and get you to find it… Avanti you are no less than a genius yourself….” He leaned back on his chair and looked at her, admiration shining in his beautiful browns.
Avanti blushed. “Keshav, its we together…as a team who could figure it out… now…what’s the next step…?”
Keshav opened a special app in his mobile and called her close. She was surprised to see the interior of the green house on their home terrace. “Avanti…” He pointed at a row of flower pots. “…these flowers will be in full bloom now in the upcoming two to three days… the timing couldn’t have bee more perfect…” He smiled looking up at her and at that moment he was a far cry from the successful entrepreneur that he was. He was a child who was proudly showing off his first ever trophy and waited for appreciation. She held his shoulder and bent over placing a kiss on his forehead. Before she could move away, he held her by her hips and pulled her close so she sat on his lap… oh how she had missed her favourite seat in the whole wide world! He held her close and with his free hand he pushed her unruly locks behind her ear. “…Avanti… I had never ever bothered much about this disease and its repercussions… I was ok with whatever it…gave me…I had prepared myself to face it… but then… you happened to me and then…I wanted to… overcome this…I became selfish Avanti… I wanted to spend a lifetime with you and not just few pathetic years…” Avanti fought back tears and held his face in her palms as he continued. “…Avanti…I …. I love you so much and… not being with you… the thought itself is terrifying in itself… I… I just… can’t believe that something good is happening now…”
Avanti kissed him before he could complete what he wanted to say. She didn’t care that they were in his cabin where any staff member could just walk in… but all that mattered to her at that moment was they needed each other…like a lamp and a wick. She poured her heart out into the kiss giving him all her support and love, mainly to assure him that he was the most important person in her life. He pulled her head closer as his tongue entered her soft concave and explored every little inch…their tongues met and tried to entwine into each other giving her a shudder passing throughout her body even as the initial tremors of an orgasm started to inflame right down between her legs…the moisture pooling there making her slick in hunger… hunger for him…all of him. He moved away and rested her forehead on his, rubbing her hair. “Avanti…” he whispered panting. “…as much as I long to take this ahead… I have to check on the lab…I have to check if the formula that your father had developed is now doable without his guidance…”
They chuckled as they moved away breathing heavily as they tried to compose themselves. She looked back at the app and said. “…Keshav…I always wondered how did these flowers feature in the larger frame of things in this formula…?”
“…Avanti…your father was a great believer in nature’s healing process… he always felt illnesses took place when something went against the rule of nature and the treatment too rested in the bed of nature… so when he first heard of my disease, he made me research the plants… here let me show you…” Keshav opened up his laptop and after a few clicks he opened a folder with some plant pictures on it. “…actually, Avanti plants continuously evolve as species and adapt to their surroundings at a faster rate than us…they have numerous symbiotic associations… for instance there is this variety of tree in the African jungles which gets easily infested by an organism just like termites which eats up the wood resulting in the tree to die. Eventually these trees started to release sap from their barks that attracted wild ants which feasted on those parasitic organisms. As a result those tress have now survived over the years… just to make things simple for you some of these plants in the process of surviving have developed certain enzymes in them which is in par with the allopathic medicinal properties and they are huge immune boosters….so…I had begun my research in them years ago…according to your father, these enzymes when added to that formula will be able to create the magical compound and hence he called it Ved-Adbhut…”
“…Wow… I didn’t know that…” Avanti was amazed.
“…the only issue in this was…these plants took a long time to evolve… so I tried the green house method to speed the process… fortunately years of my research has shown results and the flowers will be in full bloom any time now…”
Avanti hugged him tightly and then moved away. As she stood straightening her clothes she said. “… Keshav…I will leave it to you and as you said…Akshat will be soon arriving to take a look around and will be staying back… so I will get going now. I want to visit my music school and catch up on some data…”
“…ok Avanti… and let me know when you are done…I will send the driver… to take you home and you know the alarm codes right…?” When she nodded he said. “…ok don’t forget to set them back…”
Soon Avanti visited her music school and in the excitement of meeting with her teachers and other students of her group she lost track of time. It was 5PM already when she left and called Keshav on his cell phone… However, there was no answer and no one answered the cabin landline phone either. The lab phone was disconnected recently due to confidentiality issues and by now the regular employees would have left the office. She decided to take a cab back home and start the dinner preparations. She wanted to cook something special to celebrate the special occasion today. She texted Keshav that she was off to their home and would meet him there. As she sat in the cab, she called Kamya and excitedly told her about finding the formula for her brother. Kamya squealed in joy and decided to take the flight next morning after a morning workshop, back to Mumbai along with Sahil. She promised to join them for dinner tomorrow.
Well, that was fixed and Avanti happily looked forward to fitting every piece of the puzzle… somehow, she seemed to get the pieces correctly this time into the right slot. She couldn’t wait to get home to start dinner preparations. What a fruitful day it was and finally after months of holding back Avanti smiled happily to her hearts content…
Something was up in Vedshastra today… his mole had told him. there was some buzz about the lab being totally cordoned off after the arrival of Keshav and Avanti. And the security was tight. He was right…Keshav had finally got hold of the formula he was sure…but then how could he lay his hands on it…? He had been wondering about it when his contact informed him that Avanti had left Vedshastra, all alone. Since then he had hurried and got into the house here. Piece of cake…those morons thought sweeping the place for bugs and placing cameras and round the clock guards outside the building would hinder him…? those morons stood right down while he had made his royal entry five floors above. Picking locks was like a child’s play for him…he had good practise with his father’s safe right from childhood. Stealth was his second name… how else could he loot the women he slept with. They wouldn’t know if a few bundles of notes would go missing from their cupboards and what would they tell their husbands…? That the guy they were sleeping behind their husbands’ backs stole money from them…? HE laughed at the irony of their situation. Those betraying bitches deserved it. Well those experiences had proved to be a blessing these few weeks here… he was no longer young and his agility was getting compromised every single day.
He scratched away the bead of sweat as it trickled down his chest and caused the itching along its path. It was so humid today and he had been waiting in the dark for hours now. Where the hell was Avanti…? Was she returning with Keshav…? Then it would get risky… no… the last he heard Keshav was still in the lab. Avanti had to know something… and he as going to extract the information from her today at any cost… He looked at the glowing clock handles…it was 6PM already… Where on earth was, she…? He would wait for a while and then go back before it got risky and before it got further dark. The outside camera was replaced and he couldn’t take a chance there… his signal jammer too wouldn’t last more than an hour now. And he had to leave before the cameras came live again.
He tried calling his insider eye in Vedshastra… but the bastard disconnected. The old man was getting slacker day by day, he thought. That contact wouldn’t hold much now…he had started to talk back. The man’s bargaining chip wasn’t entirely fool proof…. In fact, it never had much value anyway. He scratched his chest yet again but this time he chuckled. It wouldn’t be long before his mole found out that his sorry excuse of a nephew Prantik was long dead…
And right then…the front door clicked open…
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