Khushi looked out of the huge turret windows and found the fog to be so thick that there was a thin film on the glass making it opaque.
Where should she go? It was almost midnight. She didn’t have a clue at all!
She paced up and down and looked at the man sleeping on the bed. She walked to him and looked at him closely.
It was really amazing! He was absolutely a replica of her husband! She thought.
But he wasn’t. It was so odd that she could immediately recognize the imposter. She never knew that she drifted so close to her husband. After all, they had hardly met in a couple of encounters in the Valley, and then on their wedding day and after that briefly at the hospital and the hotel for the dinner. Most of the time they were preoccupied and also in the beginning, Arnav was mostly not seen by her.
She looked again at the man, and then it occurred to her. His identification! She slowly tried to turn him, but couldn’t as his weight was superior. This was one more difference. On closer inspection, she found the imposter to be heftier than Arnav in subtle ways. Arnav was very fit physically with no excess flab, but the imposter although was of same size, had flab, which she realized he camouflaged with clothing. She pushed her hand down the back pocket of his trouser and winced, as his entire weight crushed her slender wrist. She felt and found his wallet. But how was she going to get it out of his pocket. She sat down on the bed, with her hand still stuck in his pocket, and took a deep breath.
Khushi you must do it!
She patted herself mentally, and again tried. This time, she caught the edge of the purse and pulled it, but it wouldn’t budge. Her wrist started aching, and she withdrew her hand. She then hit up on an idea and took a pillow and started inserting it below his back, as if wedging his body away from the bed. After a few minutes of painful pushing, the pillow slowly inched a little further, and she somehow could find the edge and turn him on to his side.
As he turned, she pulled his wallet off his pocket and flipped it open only to gasp in shock.
It was Arnav’s wallet. Complete with his ID proof, driving license and his cards. Everything was there!
Khushi caught the wallet tightly, and hugged it flopping off on the bed.
What did they do to him! Oh God let him be safe somewhere.
Why did they do this? For a ransom? Then why did the imposter take his place? If it were for money, then they would make demands.
But it seemed most unlikely. There was much more to it! She took the purse and locked it in her case. first things first, she had to ensure that the imposter didn’t commit any crime feigning as her husband. She thought, zipping up the windcheater she wore on her night suit that she changed into. And as she thought, she froze at how her random thought could be the actual reason for the whole fiasco.
She was right! May be the imposter replaced her husband to commit a crime and frame him!
Sweat beaded on Khushi’s forehead at the thought.
Oh no! What if it were true? But what did the imposter want to do? It was obvious that he took Arnav’s place for a purpose. Property, or whatever weird thing that she thought of-to commit a crime, and frame Arnav into it! But how was he going to pull through all that? Even if her odd thought was true, how was he going to frame Arnav?
Khushi’s head ached in earnest as stress took a toll.
But she only had a few hours before the imposter woke up. What should she do?
She paced the room again, and suddenly she thought of Aron Sanders, Rose Sander’s husband. Rose was nursing her cousin, but Aron was very much there in town. She made up her mind and walked to the study, where she earlier noticed a register that Joel used to disburse salaries from. She checked for Rose’s address in it. She found it, and noted it and walked out into the fog to appeal to Aron to help her.
The Whisper Valley
“I tell you, this is not going to make any difference to our mission.” The stout man said to the other man sitting on a sofa.
“It has to be done” came the reply.
“What is it to us? Why are we wasting our time on all this crap? It’s not your fault. It’s entirely my fault that I agreed to help you out. And look where I am!” The stout man cribbed.
“Oh c’mon! Don’t you have so much of patience Freddy?” The other man susshed him.
“Listen, you are an outsider. You will fly tomorrow, and like nobody would know. I am from the Valley! Just understand my dear cousin, it’s going to be a mess!” The man called Freddy wailed in anguish.
“Its already a mess my dearest cousin! Believe me its worse than a mess!” The other man quipped.
“I tell you, just lets leave all this! It’s not worth it bro.” Freddy said.
“It is Freddy! Trust me, it is!” Alberto Rossini said, looking out of the window of his hotel into the thick fog.
The Whisper Valley
Khushi walked by the shadows of the house till the rose garden and from there, she intended to walk by the row of giant firs so that anyone looking out from the Casa wouldn’t be able to see her because of the shadows.
She took a deep breath, as she was going to leave the shadows of the Casa and trot a few meters to giant firs. She breathed and, she felt it! The Valley of the Willow! The scent. She looked around and found nothing in the thick fog.
Where was it wafting from? She wondered and shook her head. She needed to concentrate. She put a step forward, and she felt the wind whipping across and it grew into a whistle. Khushi felt a little apprehensive.
Would she be able to find Rose’s residence?
She closed her eyes and The Valley of the Willow grew in its scent, and she felt very odd suddenly. As if the valley was whispering to her. She put her foot forward again and froze, as she could distinctly hear the sound of the horse hoofs.
Who could it be! She crouched and let it fade. But it didn’t.
Wzzzzzz… Shh…wzzz… The wind whispered, making her hair stand on her nape. She closed her eyes and saw Arnav’s face swimming before her eyes.
No! Come what may she had to get help. And pretty quickly at that! She decided.
She got up and trotted to the Firs and stood panting.
Next step was to reach the gates. And there would be security there! How was she going to get out of the Casa! There must be some way! She thought.
The sound of the horse hoofs grew louder.
Was it the security? But mounted security was not being used anymore! She thought, but nevertheless she ran towards the duck pond away from the main gate, but parallel to the outer walls of the Casa.
As she reached one of the walls, she felt the sound of the hoofs following her. She panicked and started running along the wall. As she ran, she miscalculated her step and fell and rolled down suddenly, as the land dipped and she rolled and hit a mound. It must have been the gardeners that left it after digging the earth for compost pits she guessed. But what she saw next made her smile. The mound was not as high as the wall, but if she got on top of it she would be able to scale the wall with a little difficulty. She sighed and grew alert as the Valley of the Willow grew stronger.
Was it giving her a signal? She wondered coz whenever she was alone and wanted help, or was thinking aloud about the Valley, somehow the scent permeated her thoughts and if she was right, it grew in its strength and if she was wrong it got weaker. Khushi smiled. The entire situation was getting at her that’s all. Why was she imagining crazy things? She was going bonkers! She got up and climbed on to the mound and tried scaling the wall. It was a little higher for her, but she had to somehow scale the wall! She looked around for some kind of help in terms of a rope or a stick.
The Whisper Valley
“You need to be patient” Aron Sanders said to his wife, who was busy setting the kitchen. There was a knock, and he went to answer but found none strangely. It was foggy and none would venture out for even social visits at that time in the whisper Valley.
“All clear?” Rose asked sticking her face through the gap in the kitchen door.
“Yeah none there. Must be the wind.” He said.
“What were you saying?” Rose asked.
“I said be patient and …” he couldn’t finish yet when she spoke.
“What? More patience? Sorry! I am done! No more patience! I just can’t continue like this anymore. It’s so demeaning for me to work for that wretched woman, and keep saying yes ma’am no ma’am” she aped herself.
“Well you chose the path. I am telling you even now. Lets leave this place and go!” He said.
“Where to? To do what? You and me are filthy rich aren’t we? We cant even pay through our expenses in the Valley, so imagine what will happen if we move to a bigger place.” She sneered at him.
“Oh c’mon! We could get somewhere! I am a librarian, and you too can get into housekeeping and…” he paused as there was a crash of crystal.
Rose threw the crystal glass that she was holding and said, “Housekeeping? Never! I did that at the Casa, coz that is my home.”
“No Wan listen!” Aron said.
“Listen! That is not yours. You stop buiding castles in sand. Please! Lets quit and before this whole thing blows up in our faces, let’s leave and save ourselves.” He pleaded with her.
“Oh what do I do with this man! He cannot earn a penny, and if someone else is doing that he cant stand the thought of being relieved from poverty.” Rose wailed aloud.
“I tell you what Wan! It’s all coz of your mom. She lived and died pining for the Simha money, and now it’s you! What did she get in the end? Her selfishness costed her, her life. She suffered a dreadful disease. Fear the Lord, and just try to earn your living rather than eyeing someone else’s!” Aron said.
Rose caught him by his collar and said, “Don’t you dare talk about my mom! She fought for what was her right. And you better stay out of this!”
“I can’t anymore! And I am warning you. This won’t end the way you wish for!” Aron said, and stomped off into his room in a huff banging its door shut.
This game is between the Valley, and me and everybody is an outsider. Even the Simhas!” Rose said, and heard someone at the door and walked to the front door and frowned.
The door was open. How come! She locked it herself. But Aron said there was someone at the door, and opened it and later said he didn’t find anyone. May be the latch didn’t quite hold. She told him repeatedly about this problem and he wouldn’t get it repaired. She made a face and closed the door and secured it.
Khushi stared at nothing in particular.
Was it Rose sanders?
But she was nursing a sick cousin somewhere else!
Did she actually see Rose no what was her true name?
Yes! Wan? Wanda may be!
…and Aron Sanders. And what were they talking about? Property! The Casa Willows! She wiped sweat on her forehead, even though it was absolutely cold outside.
Was it true? What she saw at the Sander’s home?
Khushi distinctly recalled how she hid when after the first knock, Aron opened the door and she couldn’t recognize him, as it was a man not more than thirty.
When he left, the door didn’t quite close, coz of some malfunctioning of the latch.
She stepped in and stood just by the door to clear confusion. Was it Rose and Aron’s son? Coz it was too much of a similarity.
And when she heard voices, she waited by camouflaged by the drapes. It was then that she realized it was Aron alright. And that Rose was not a fiftish middle-aged lady but… an attractive young lady of may be not more than thirty five!