"There is something definitely odd about this." Arlan said frowning as he pointed at the thin file in his hands. Arlan was looking out of the tiny window from his office room – the A1 Detective Agency. Arlan ignored Reyansh Miran, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who was sitting across the table as he continued to gently drum his fingers on the table before him.
"I dragged myself all the way to your office so early in the morning, and this is the best comment you can make?" DCP Reyansh asked, pretending to look astounded at Arlan.
Arlan rolled his eyes as he did not bother gracing Reyansh's question with an answer.
"When did you come back from the capital?" Reyansh asked in a low, worried voice. Because though Reyansh pretended like he did not care, DCP Miran was one of the few persons who knew exactly how dangerous Arlan's work at the capital had been. In fact, it had been Reyansh who had come to Arlan to take on the case.
The reason Reyansh had chosen Arlan for the undercover work inside the police force, was fairly simple. Arlan was an outsider to the police force and was not known to anyone there. And more importantly, Arlan did not panic. And the case at the capital city required someone with a cool head, who could take care of himself in any situation and did not talk much.
Arlan satisfied all the three conditions.
The case mercifully came to an end before things went out of hand and Arlan had figured out real fast as to who was responsible for the theft of the ammunitions from the police depot.
Reyansh had been responsible for getting Arlan home, away from the capital, because Reyansh was sure that being there could have been downright unhealthy for Arlan.
And now that Reyansh was in Arlan's office, Reyansh was again impressed because even inside his own office, Arlan had just pretended that the case in the capital was a simple matter involving a missing person. Arlan had said nothing more and no one in his office knew enough to ask any more questions.
"Morning," Arlan said yawning for the fifth time, since he had started talking with Reyansh. "She is in custody right?" Arlan asked Reyansh conversationally, but Arlan's voice was suddenly sharp.
Reyansh nodded as Arlan said nothing more. And office of the chief of the A1 Detective Agency at Sthapan was silent for a few minutes.
"In this case you said there is no complaint from the parties!" Arlan said muttering to himself, as his fingers were drumming almost systematically on the table.
"Yes!" Reyansh said grinning. "I remember telling that to you, at least three times, since we started our conversation."
And suddenly, the drumming of the fingers stopped, as Arlan watched Reyansh and Arlan's brown eyes suddenly cleared.
"I am asking you for the fourth time." Arlan said, his eyes suddenly twinkling. "No police complaint of theft from the parties?"
Reyansh sighed, not bothering to reply. That was the biggest problem with Arlan. Other than the times that Arlan was not acting smart or having his brainwaves, Arlan was a confirmed loudmouth and could drive almost anyone up the wall, very effortlessly. Despite this, the reason Arlan still had a thriving business was that Arlan was one of the few loudmouths who could think.
Which was why, Reyansh had come to Arlan with a new case, so early in the morning.
The theft which Reyansh was so concerned with was the third case in the month. And the Commissioner had personally asked Reyansh to handle the case because the case had to be dealt with diplomacy and tact. The most important reason being that the victims, despite being the richest people in Sthapan, had not come forward with any complaint to the police, regarding the theft.
DCP Reyansh was usually very competent in solving cases like these. But right now, Reyansh had tried to think up of ideas and had failed. Which was why, Reyansh approached Arlan Karnik. For some time, the DCP considered involving the Handlers in the case, but Reyansh decided to talk to Arlan first.
Arlan was still not forthcoming with any explanations, which was why Reyansh told Arlan about the Handlers.
"I think an Elemental could be responsible for these thefts, Arlan," Reyansh said taking a deep breath.
Arlan was generally very good at telling his face how to react, which was why Reyansh did not know just how much Reyansh's comment had terrified Arlan. But Arlan's heart was beating real hard and Arlan wanted to completely drop the topic. Arlan never wanted to discuss the Handlers – not with this man. Not now, not ever.
"Let us just be reasonable, Rey," Arlan said hoping that Reyansh did not see that his smile was forced. "Because nowadays it is actually becoming fashionable to blame the Elementals for almost any crime in the city," Arlan continued.
There was a knock in door to his office as Arlan stopped talking and the door to his office opened.
An involuntary smile lit up Arlan's face as he saw Kira Lorn, come inside the room. Kira's curly hair and gray stormy eyes, looked perfect in her oval face, as she looked surprised to see Reyansh in Arlan's office.
"Morning, Reyansh!" Kira said, as a warm smile lit up her face watching the DCP.
Arlan was feeling a little weird and after a few seconds, Arlan was actually horrified to realize that he, Arlan Karnik, was jealous.
And this realization nearly mortified Arlan.
But Arlan just could not help himself. Every time he was within visible distance of Kira, Arlan felt a weird tap-tap in his heart and an impossibly silly smile lit up his face.
And that just depressed Arlan further.
Because Arlan had told himself a hundred times that Kira was beyond him and that he could never tell her about himself. And with something like his secret, hanging around his neck, Arlan honestly did not expect Kira to accept him. But with all this, Arlan's heart just refused to listen to him and acted up every time, he saw Kira.
"Look Arlan," Reyansh said as he looked like he had already made up his mind to call the Handlers on this one. "This is the third theft in the past two months," Arlan saw Kira study Reyansh very seriously, as Reyansh continued his monologue. "These thefts have been meticulously planned. The thieves entered the houses of these rich people, pretending to be police officers. They accused the persons of dealing with contraband goods and when the people panicked, the thieves made off with all the cash in the safe of the people." Reyansh shook his head. "That is all ok. What I cannot accept is why none of the people would come forward and file a police complaint. These people are the filthy rich of Sthapan. Hell, one of the industrialist who was robbed, is a personal friend of the Commissioner. Why would none of them even file a police complaint?" Reyansh demanded from Arlan.
Arlan was about to open his mouth, when Kira spoke suddenly. "If none of the robbed victims filed a complaint, how did the cops know about it?" she asked and Arlan saw a strange expression on her face.
Reyansh smiled shaking his head. "As I have already told you Kira, these victims are very rich people. The people working for them start gossiping and the news passed on and eventually the news made its way to the cops.
"Can you act without the complaint from the parties?" Kira asked immediately.
Reyansh watched Kira slightly curiously. "We don't need to do that, Kira," Reyansh said with a knowing grin on his face. "The very fact that there was no complaint could mean that these were not natural circumstances. So we just need to call in the Handlers."
Kira watched Reyansh and said nothing and looked like she was badly shocked and was thinking of something.
"Drag the Handlers into this, all you would have is a solid ground to prove that you are an ass." Arlan said with a sudden smile, as he looked unimaginably proud of himself.
Arlan pushed the file towards Reyansh, as he had his "case-closed" look. Both Kira and Reyansh looked surprised at Arlan. "And just for the record, Rey, if I were you, I would forget this case and bother about real criminals." Arlan was already getting up, as he speaking and he walked towards his office door.
"Wait!" Reyansh said looking annoyed as Kira was looking slightly surprised and worried. "You cannot walk out like that." Reyansh whined.
"Oh I can!" Arlan told Reyansh, nodding his head fervently. "I run this office and I have some very important responsibilities first thing in the morning," Arlan said in the same serious tone.
Kira was looking like she was struggling with her face expressions, as Reyansh watched Kira and then Arlan slightly curiously.
"Reva, I need a cup of coffee, Please!" Arlan hollered from the door of his office, as he spotted his sweet and plump manager sitting in her cubicle just outside his own office.
"Get it yourself," Revathi Sone, Arlan's classmate in night-college and subsequent employee, said, rolling her eyes. "I run your office, mister. And I did not join your office to fetch you coffee," she said.
"You can leave it there in the pantry. I will pick it up!" Arlan said trying to look very pathetic and all that he managed to do was look more stupid than necessary. But then Arlan did not know that he looked stupid and even if he did, Arlan was not too bothered about it. Because according to Arlan, Revathi's coffee was worth it and it was something that only the really fortunate people in the world could have. Revathi claimed that she brewed the dicoction, out of some secret recipe which her mother had taught her.
Arlan had tried learning the thing so many times and failed all the times and in the end Arlan had reached one inevitable conclusion – Revathi's coffee was always Revathi's coffee.
Arlan ignored the two people inside his room as he walked towards Revathi. Revathi gave Arlan a smug grin as Arlan continued to give her a pathetic look. "Please! I had to live for a week without this," Arlan said.
Laughing, Revathi pushed her chair back, as she picked up her newspaper which was lying in her desk as she was walking towards the pantry, in the far side of their office.
Arlan followed her, looking unimaginably happy.
And as Arlan navigated through the office, even without meaning to, he was noticing the people in his office. Ganesh was not in his post – which either meant that the man was on leave again, or that Ganesh was on a case. The second thing, Arlan was sure was not good news at all. Ganesh was a plodder and focused so much on the details that Ganesh never seemed to get the full picture right.
Gayatri was just entering the office and judging from her annoyed face she looked like she had had another fight with her husband.
Arlan sighed, because Arlan really did not want to hear that story for the n+1th time.
Revathi's hands were moving swiftly as she was pouring out the coffee powder in the filter. After making sure that Revathi was not paying any attention to him, Arlan turned to the other cupboard beside him, as he pulled the chocolate energy bar from there and pocketed it, still making sure that Revathi did not see him.
Because if Revathi knew, Arlan knew that she was going to keep yelling at him for the whole day, about how Arlan was destroying his teeth, eating so many chocolates. And Arlan honestly felt that he could pass one day without having that conversation with Revathi. Arlan turned hurriedly, watching Revathi who had almost finished with the coffee.
And that was when the fresh aroma of coffee from the pantry hit Arlan hard, making him almost dizzy and exhilarated at the same time.
"Here you go!" Revathi said with a smile as Arlan breathed in the fresh coffee and Arlan realized that when he worked on night cases or went to other cities, he really missed this.
And then Revathi's face pouted.
Arlan sighed as he realized that the chocolate bar was innocently peeking out of his shirt pocket.
"I am going to throw this away," Revathi said taking the coffee towards the sink.
Arlan blanched as he reached Revathi with his long strides and pulled the coffee from Revathi's hands and kept it on the other side of the table, least anything happen to that divine drink.
"The Gods of Coffee would poke your eyes or do something like that, if you throw away good coffee." Arlan said in a flabbergasted tone.
Revathi said something which honestly Arlan could not follow and judging from Revathi's expression, Arlan was more than sure that he should be glad that he could not follow it. Knowing what Revathi had said was going to do absolutely nothing useful, other than increase his already rich vocabulary of words which never made it to any known dictionary.
"You should not eat so many chocolates, you ass," Revathi fumed.
"I like chocolates." Arlan said proudly, taking care to stay away from Revathi. Revathi looked demure and dressed docilely and all that, but she packed a real mean punch, which she used liberally, especially with him.
This time, Arlan did follow what Revathi was cussing as she angrily watched him, sipping her own coffee.
Deciding that it was prudent to finish his coffee before something bad happened to it, Arlan picked up his own coffee.
"When are you going to get married?" Revathi demanded, as Arlan was sitting on the pantry table with the coffee cup in his hands.
Arlan blinked for a few seconds. The question took a few seconds for him to understand because it was something that he really had not expected. "How did we reach this point in our conversation? We were not even talking," Arlan said frowning and shaking his head trying to clear his head, wondering whether they were talking about this and he had dozed off.
"Well, somebody's got to talk about that." Revathi snapped "And you don't seem to be doing it, so I thought I would bring it up. And the sooner you marry, the sooner I am relieved from making coffee for you," Revathi said finally.
Arlan breathed noisily through his mouth, sighing. "Point Number one, Revathi Sone, you married Parikh Sone and broke my heart." Arlan grinned, as Revathi looked at Arlan with slight mirth. "Who else am I going to find here to marry poor Arlan Karnik?" Arlan demanded, spreading his hands around pointing the entire office.
Revathi pretended to retch. "Seriously, Arlan, you can do better," She said heavily. "And now I am not so sure I want to know point number two."
"Well, you did start the topic." Arlan said looking at Revathi with a wicked smile. "In the unlikely event, that some girl actually likes me and marries me, I am not going to bring my wife to office, Reva." Arlan said in a deadpan voice.
"Rest assured, you are going to be making coffee for me, in office for the rest of my life." Arlan said in a tone which might have announced the end of the world.
"About that," Revathi said, as she watched Arlan's office nodding towards it, "....seems good and smart as you. Should be ok for you," Revathi said with all knowing smirk.
Arlan blanched as he realized that Revathi knew. He did not exactly hope to keep it a secret from Revathi. But still, Arlan wished, Revathi was not so good at reading him. And Arlan was more worried about exactly how many people in the office she had passed on that gossip to.
"I am not marrying Reyansh. I am really not into that kind of thing." Arlan declared in a solemn voice, trying not to show Revathi that he was actually blushing. "And he is not all that smart." Arlan added subsequently.
It was Revathi's turn to blanch as she hit Arlan on the arm, almost angry. "Ass!" she scolded him. "I am talking about the girl, in your office." Revathi said looking disgusted.
"Probably, she cannot make coffee." Arlan said, trying to look worried. And that was when Arlan realized that he knew very little about Kira. He knew that she used to work in the neighbouring city of Nirwalk and that she was very smart and that a security agency there vouched for her. Other than that, Arlan only knew what he observed while working with her, which was pitifully less.
"You don't know that," Revathi said looking at Arlan annoyed.
"What are you reading?" Arlan asked he came forward to read the article that Revathi was reading in the newspaper.
"That is not how you change the topic, when someone is talking about something important," Revathi said rolling her eyes.
"I will learn all the other ways of changing topics later on. Drop this topic," Arlan said fervently. "What happened to these Elementals?" Arlan asked worried as he watched the picture of two people being handcuffed by the Handlers.
"Yesterday, at night," Revathi said sighing. "These two Elementals were found near the beach. They were on the run and did not remember anything about themselves." Revathi looked at Arlan looking shocked. "It seems one of the Elementals tried to Mind Attack the Handlers themselves," Revathi said. "Horrible freaks!" Revathi muttered. Arlan pretended he did not hear it but he was getting depressed, as the coffee in his hands suddenly seemed uninviting, almost chocking him.
Revathi watched Arlan angrily. "These Elementals are horrible, Arlan. I have heard that some Elementals can read other people's minds," Revathi said almost shuddering. "Our mind is our own. People who do these things cannot be normal, Arlan. They...."
"They didn't ask for this, Revathi." Arlan said. "In fact I have heard that in some cases, the Government is trying to make normal people into Elementals...." Arlan continued.
"LIES!" Revathi yelled, her eyes flashing with anger, interrupting Arlan. "No one can make Elementals," Revathi said angrily. "These Elementals are mistakes of nature. Such people need to be kept behind bars for the rest of their lives," Revathi finished still looking furiously angry.
"Revathi," Arlan said watching Revathi, holding her shoulders, a small smile on his face. He had gotten really good at faking this smile for Revathi. So much so, that she could now no longer tell whether his smile was genuine or fake. "Relax," Arlan said gently.
"I am sorry," Revathi said as her plump cheeks flushed red, as she watched Arlan, a little embarrassed. "I didn't mean to take it out on you. Got just a little carried away," Revathi said as she placed the coffee cup on the edge of the table, as she turned to the sink on the other side of the pantry.
The coffee cup fell down and was about to be shattered on the floor, as Arlan stared at it waving his hands quietly. The coffee cup went up the table and rested itself inside the table as Revathi turned to watch Arlan.
"Ok, Loverboy!" Revathi said watching Arlan with a genuine smile. "Let us see whether today can knock some sense into you and you finally decide to talk to Kira about yourself," Revathi said as the two of them walked away from the pantry car with the unbroken coffee cup, lying on the pantry table.