Arlan's heart was hammering hard as was afraid to talk as he was watching Mr. Joshi, struggling not to let anything show in his face. The blood rushing to his head was actually making it difficult for Arlan to focus. Taking a deep breath, Arlan watched Mr. Joshi, as he tried to change his face into a quizzical expression.
But Arlan knew that he had messed up real bad as Mr. Joshi instead gave him a knowing smile.
"I saw you face when you were talking about Elementals," Mr. Joshi continued, as Arlan stumbled into the seat opposite to Mr. Joshi afraid to speak.
The seat was warm, but Arlan was so terrified that he barely noticed anything. The pen, stationary and the other items on the panel before Mr. Joshi was shaking slightly as Arlan watched it horrified as he realized that he was doing that.
Luckily, Mr. Joshi had his back turned to the screen and had not noticed it.
Before Mr. Joshi could turn, Arlan made another herculean effort to control himself and was taking slow deep breaths.
A minute later, Arlan felt slightly in control of himself as he was watching Mr. Joshi a little fearfully as Mr. Joshi shook his head. "Relax son, Just to be make it clear that I have no problems against Elementals or people knowing Elementals," Mr. Joshi said shrugging, as he turned his attention to the panel before him.
Arlan was struggling trying to get his bearings right. He was just finding it difficult to breathe and was feeling terrified.
"Son, I will repeat it. Your secrets are your own and mine are my own," Mr. Joshi spread his hands pointing at the console before him. "Your job is to find the thief here. Find the thief and also find out how the thief walked out of the museum with the painting. After that, we shall have no further contact with each other," Mr. Joshi finished.
As he was speaking, Mr. Joshi pulled open the cabinet from the lower shelf of the desk panel. "These are the files on the people who work as the security guards in the museum."
Arlan watched the files as Mr. Joshi shrugged and continued. "A bit old fashioned in these things. Which is why I still have hard copies, instead of being tech savvy and have all these details in the computer."
Arlan watched Mr. Joshi and suddenly for the first time, though Arlan was scared, Arlan genuinely felt that the old man would not hurt him. And that confused Arlan because he had no idea, why he was feeling that way. As a rule he did not trust people. That is what kept him alive. But Arlan could not help but feel that he could trust the old man. And that was when Arlan realized why he trusted the old man.
"You know an elemental," Arlan said watching the old man. "And it is probably someone close to you," Arlan said nodding to himself.
The old man was in the process of putting the files from the bottom on the table, as he looked startled that Arlan had spoken. It took a few more seconds for the old man to realize what Arlan had spoken and the man's face suddenly looked dismayed. Suddenly Mr. Joshi's eyes stopped twinkling and he watched Arlan warily.
"As you said your secrets are your own and mine are mine," Arlan said deliberately upbeat, taking a deep breath, focusing around him.
"When did you enter this profession?" the old man asked him sullenly.
"When I was seventeen." Arlan said, making no move to elaborate.
Mr. Joshi grunted, bringing the rest of the files from under the cabinet and dumping it on the table.
And Arlan was studying the room around him. There were sixteen screens before Mr. Joshi and all showing different places in the museum. And there was something in this room. Arlan saw a photo of Mr. Joshi and a beautiful old long haired woman, and in the background of the photo, Arlan saw the famous arched gateway of Nirwalk. Arlan found his attention dragged to the woman in the photo, who despite her age looked beautiful. There were two other people in the photo – a curly haired formal looking man about Arlan's own age and a young girl, but Arlan could not focus much on it.
Arlan then turned his attention to the screens and saw that among all the cameras feeds from the various parts of the museum, the one on the right hand side was still blank. Right next to it, Arlan could see the parking lot outside the museum and he could even see his own car parked from the camera feed and a young girl was haphazardly walking away from the screen.
Mr. Joshi was glancing through the files of the security guards looking slightly worried as he offered Arlan the files. Arlan nodded but his mind was not in it. Arlan was trying to recollect what he remembered from the footage of the museum that he had seen a week back. The footage had shown a normal day at the museum. The guards, the sweepers, the secretary, Mr. Joshi and even Mr. Khurana were all walking around the museum. There were some few stray people, who had come to the museum to watch the exhibits. Arlan reminded himself to watch the footage again, to see whether he could identify any of the visitors to the museum. Because the camera of the room where the Queen in the Palanquin was kept was broken, they could not see what had happened there. At precisely five o clock, when the museum was about to be closed, there was a huge commotion and all the people were running towards the room. But by that time, the painting had already been stolen. The painting was no longer in the frame and no one knew where the painting had gone. So the thief knew how to remove the painting from the frame without activating the alarm of the glass case.
Arlan suddenly blinked.
"Mr. Khurana said that the painting was to be taken for repairing the next day," Arlan said.
Mr. Joshi frowned as he saw Arlan.
Arlan was however, watching the files in his hands. Arlan had kept aside three files of the security guards, as probable candidates – the three guards Raghav Srits, Kimark Lor and Sundar Shreyas had all recently joined the security office, within the past six months. Which was why, Arlan had felt that he had to study these files deeply to figure something out.
"And just for the record...." Arlan started and stopped immediately, forgetting what he was about to say.
"I just wasted 45 minutes of my time." Arlan whispered as he got up, frowning as he started pacing the room. Arlan realized almost immediately that it was impossible to pace the room because it really was a small basement room as he looked at Mr. Joshi, shaking his head, a small smile in his lips.
"I thought that the theft was committed by someone who was new to the museum." Arlan said. "That is impossible! You told me that you have worked here for a long time, and that was the reason, you knew the flaws in the system," Arlan smiled without meaning to. "So if you decide to commit a theft in this museum, there would be no record of it." Arlan said watching Mr. Joshi.
Mr. Joshi looked like he was having difficulty following Arlan, but Arlan was excited as he was watching all the camera screens again."This theft was also committed by someone who knew the flaws in the system and also knew how to bypass it and was in need for money," Arlan smiled.
Mr. Joshi frowned watching Arlan. "I thought you agreed that it was not me. In fact..."
Arlan nodded as he interrupted Mr. Joshi. "It was not you. None of the guards could have done it. If it was any guard who had taken it, then by default, the guard alone could not have done it. That guard needed to have someone else helping him. But the crime was too ingeniously simple. It had to have just one person," Arlan stopped talking as he was watching the blank wall before him.
Arlan suddenly turned to Mr. Joshi frowning. "Get some of your guards to watch the curator's office to make sure no one leaves the museum." Arlan smiled watching Mr. Joshi. "And how often you do clean the dust bins which are kept outside the rooms?" Arlan asked.
"WHAT?" Mr. Joshi had probably reached his limit of weirdness for the day. He just could not believe the number of irrelevant things Arlan could talk in a single conversation.
"Come," Arlan said getting up as Mr. Joshi just called up his men and asked them to stay outside the curator's office. "And switch off the feed from the various cameras!" Arlan said getting up.
Mr. Joshi was watching Arlan as he rapidly switched off the various cameras as Arlan got up and was already walking towards the staircase.
Mr. Joshi stared at Arlan for a few seconds and then followed the young man.
"The dustbins are cleared about once a week. Why?" Mr. Joshi demanded. "Unless there is an exhibition and lot of people come to the museum," Mr. Joshi continued.
Arlan nodded as he whipped out his cell phone and he was taking into his cell phone as Mr. Joshi was almost panting as he reached up to Arlan.
"Yes!" Arlan was saying nodding into the cell phone by the time Mr. Joshi reached the top stairs to join Arlan. Arlan continued walking towards the corridors of the museum. And Mr. Joshi was gasping as he tried to match Arlan's long strides. Mr. Joshi saw Arlan give a passing glance at the curator's room, as Arlan ignored it and reached the last room from which the painting was stolen. Mr. Joshi nodded at Kiral Mern, as two guards were standing outside the curator's office as the two men walked inside.
Arlan reached the last room of the left most corridor, where the painting had been kept and without any warning, he picked up the dustbin and overturned it and dumped all the contents on the floor.
"Hey!" Mr. Joshi shouted as Arlan bent down and was examining the rubbish. A few plastic cups, papers, an slightly crushed cloth envelop, many straws and lots of drink packs popped out as Mr. Joshi was watching Arlan incredulously.
Mr. Joshi was looking like he had just realized that Arlan was completely off his head. Even words failed Mr. Joshi, as Arlan picked up the envelope and handed it to him.
Mr. Joshi looked disgusted at Arlan as he saw the envelope. "What do you expect me to do with this?" Mr. Joshi demanded angrily.
"Frame it." Arlan said dryly as Mr. Joshi was spluttering for words.
Arlan sighed as he opened the envelop and a beautiful smile lit up his face. Arlan pointed inside the envelop for Mr. Joshi to see.
Mr. Joshi's eyes nearly popped out of his eyeballs as he saw the painting slightly crushed inside the envelope.
"Who....?" Mr. Joshi asked as he took the envelop with almost trembling hands, reverently.
"As I said, it was not you, and it was not the curator and it was not the guards. Then there is only one person," Arlan said with a small smile.
"Jayanthi!" Mr. Joshi said breathing heavily as Arlan nodded.
"The process of elimination!" Arlan continued pedantically. He felt that after finding the painting, the least he could do was brag about it. "And the fact that her ring was missing." Arlan watched Mr. Joshi. "I just talked to some people at Jayanthi's bank. There has been heavy cash outflow from her account recently. I think she needs money desperately."
And then Arlan saw the mess he had created outside the room, as he looked at Mr. Joshi, looking a little sheepish. "And I am sorry for the mess!" Arlan made a weird face. "Got carried away slightly!"
Mr. Joshi watched Arlan still not finding words.
Arlan watched Mr. Joshi, slowly nodding to himself. "I think when you informed Jayanthi about the broken camera, she immediately saw an opportunity for more getting more cash." Arlan said in a low voice, as the two were walking towards the curator's office. Arlan saw that Jayanthi was still inside her office and she probably did not know. "She took the painting and put it in the dustbin, because she knew that she could not carry it out of the museum. All she had to do was wait for you to empty the trash. Take the painting from there."
Mr. Joshi slowly nodded and that was when Arlan's cell phone rang. Arlan saw that it was the office and was sure that Revathi would be happy that he had solved this case.
He was wrong as usual.
"You really forgot all about Vortex didn't you?" Revathi asked aghast, without any preamble.
"What is the time, Reva?" Arlan asked, almost panicking. Arlan then sighed in relief as he realized he still had an hour to go. Arlan hoped the meeting at Vortex was at twelve, because Arlan had honestly forgotten all about it. And Arlan knew that he could never tell that to Revathi and Arlan also knew that if he missed this meeting with Talin, Revathi would probably crucify him for the next twenty years.
"I am leaving for Vortex now," Arlan said, as he cut the call.
"Do you want my help....?" Arlan asked Mr. Joshi.
"No. Leave." Mr. Joshi said waving his hands. "Thanks for your discretion. I think I know how to handle this from here."
Arlan really did not want to know what that meant as he was already walking out of the museum, giving Kiral Mern a cheeky wink as he walked out.