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Dangerous Liaison
Part II

Short Story - By Khurshid Khoree

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Story so far: Daisy returns to work after a long illness and comes to know of the dismissal of Amit Khanna on charges of selling the company’s highly confidential drawings and research & development information to their competitor QAC Systems. Daisy is not able to come to terms with this news as she believes Amit was not capable of such a deceit. She had been secretly in love with him from the time he had joined the company. Troubled by her thoughts she decides to go window shopping during her lunch break, but lands up at the Bistro for a cup of coffee. She sees Amit sitting on the next table to hers angry and dejected. Her heart skips a beat on seeing him, and she invites him to join her at her table. She broaches the topic about the charges levied on him and informs him that she believes in his innocence and is certain he is being framed.

It was so frustrating sitting there unable to help him. “Isn’t there any way you could prove your innocence?” I vented out in anger.

Amit shook his head with dejection.

“But that’s not right! Can’t we do anything instead of just sitting helplessly?” I cried out almost in tears.

He sat there looking at me for a long time, as I wiped a tear that had escaped on to my left cheek. Suddenly he leaned forward and took my hands in his. “It means a lot to me that you believe me Daisy. I’m just beginning to realize what an idiot I was not to know you better when I had the chance.”

He hesitated, his warm eyes looking at me in a way that seemed to reflect my own feelings. He took a deep breath, “It’s….is it too late now for me?”

I could feel my hands shaking in his. My heart was hammering so fast and loud in my ears that I felt sure he must be hearing it too. As my heart beat slowed down a little I took the courage to say, “No Amit, it’s not too late. I’d really like us to be friends. We could together find out who is behind this and prove your innocence.” I suggested in excitement.

“I’m afraid it’s a bit too late for that Daisy,” he said dryly. “The damage has been done. But thanks all the same.”

I was floating on cloud nine as I sat there in front of Amit and I was still walking on air a few minutes later on my way to work. Amit had actually asked me out. Saturday we were going out to dinner to a little Mexican restaurant he knew where the Tacos and Mexicali Pepperoni, was out of this world.

Saturday was just two days away and I had nothing to wear, so I decided to go to the boutique I frequented to pick up something smart but trendy during the lunch break.

I pushed the heavy glass door and as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside, I found the boutique almost empty. I saw a girl standing near a counter wearing dark glasses and her head covered by a thick ugly scarf talking to someone hidden by the rack of clothes.

An unusual dressing for boutique shopping I thought. But then something about her stance caught my eye. There was something familiar about her I felt and looking at her a little more closely I pulled in my breadth, it was Norma!

To confirm my suspicion I kept my gaze on her deliberately staring at her openly.

I smiled at her as I passed and greeted her a bit loudly, ‘Hi Norma!’ Just then the man she was talking to moved forward and I saw him fleetingly, his face had turned deadly white.

Norma jumped startled, removing her glares she looked at me, and her expression turned to annoyance. It was obvious she didn’t like her little lunch break rendezvous to be discovered.

Sunil was right I thought to myself as I tried some dresses on and deciding on the one for Saturday’s date, Norma really was a sly stuck up cat.

Once on my seat at the office my boss called me in and gave me a file to be given to Norma. I was not too keen to talk to her so soon after the boutique incident. I looked around for Rhea hoping she’d run the errand for me. Unfortunately, she was busy in the Xerox room.

Reluctantly, I walked towards Norma’s room. The door to her office was slightly ajar and not very eager to talk to her I stopped before pushing it open. Looking through the gap I saw Norma sitting at her desk her body slightly turned away from the door. I could hear the rustle of paper; she was completely engrossed with the task at hand which was held just below the top level of her desk.

I pushed the door open without knocking and walked in. Taken unawares, she looked up and hurriedly thrust the papers into a drawer and slammed it shut.

“Don’t you know you have to knock before entering?” she shouted. “What do you want Daisy?” she demanded angrily.

“Mr. Murthy has sent this file.” I replied shortly, placing the file on her table, turned and walked out.

On my way out I couldn’t help myself from thinking whether the rumours I had heard about her and Amit’s relationship were really true. Not that it really worried me – Amit had made it pretty clear at lunch today that the only girl he was interested in right now was me.

 I didn’t tell anyone, not even Sunil about my meeting with Amit and our Saturday’s date. I would not like it if a rude or nasty remark was thrown at me about Amit. It would be no good defending him. I had to prove his innocence first. But how, I had no clue. I had absolutely no interaction with Amit’s chief suspect, Vishal Mody. I hadn’t the faintest idea how I was going to prove to others that Amit was not what they made him out to be.

When I informed Amit over dinner Saturday night that I was determined to clear his name, he tried to discourage me.

“Daisy, don’t worry about me. You may land in trouble too. Vishal can be very ruthless.”

But how could I just give up without even trying? Amit did not know how stubborn I could get when I wanted to do something. Nothing could deter or keep me away till I had accomplished what I had set out to do or achieve. 

I had lain awake every single night wondering how I could possibly find out who was responsible for wrecking his career.

“It may not be easy, but I am sure I’ll find another job sooner or later,” Amit assured me. He tried to bring cheer in his voice and sound convincing, but I could see the strain on his face and dark circles under his eyes.

“But surely you want to clear your name?” I asked.

“Of course I do, but I don’t want you to get involved,” Amit argued.

“I want to be involved Amit. I can’t bear the remarks made about you at work; I can barely keep myself from shouting at them.” I cried out in exasperation.

 There was a moments silence before he smiled at me and my heart skipped a beat.

“You do really care Daisy, I am touched,” he said softly. “I count myself lucky to have a friend like you.”

I felt deeply moved and flattered by his words. He took my hand in his and lightly kissed my fingers. My body was on fire at his touch and I realized how deeply I had fallen in love with him.

Just at that moment the waiter came to take our order. I knew I was blushing and I was glad of the interruption and calm my pounding heart. Amit could see the state I was in and to make me feel comfortable he began chatting about the holiday he had planned to get away from all the stress and tension he had gone through when he suddenly broke off and his expression altered.

“Oh hell, it’s Pranav Bajaj!” he muttered irritably. “I hope he has not seen me. He is the last person I want to talk to at the moment.”

I followed his gaze and saw a tall young man taking a seat at the adjoining table. There was something oddly familiar about this lean, hollow-cheeked man. But I could not remember where I had seen him before.

“Who is he?” I whispered.

“He works for QAC Systems – our rival, I mean, Trident Designs and Systems competitor” Amit replied, his voice grim.

I understood his concern. Amit’s disgrace must be hot news in the industry by now. I couldn’t help staring at Pranav Bajaj; I couldn’t drag my eyes away from his face. Where had I seen him before? I pondered over and over. Why couldn’t I remember?

As I looked on the waiter handed him the menu card and he pulled out heavy rimmed reading glasses from his shirt pocket. The moment he put them on recognition suddenly dawned.

He was the man I had seen Norma talking to at the boutique, or at least he looked incredibly like him. Though I had just a glimpse of him when he had moved forward, I had noticed the ugly glasses and his pale lean face.

Then I remembered something else----that Norma had been busy leafing through or counting something when I went to her office that same afternoon, and that she had been very nervous when I had entered. At that time I hadn’t given it a thought, but now…. I couldn’t help wondering whether it was money she was counting. What if it had been Norma selling company secrets to QAC Systems?

 “What’s the matter Daisy? Why are you looking so serious suddenly?” Amit asked concerned.

I swallowed, my mouth suddenly going dry. “Amit I have something to tell you.” I whispered urgently. I leaned across the table and told him about the incident at the boutique and Norma’s behaviour in her office and my suspicion.

At first he laughed it off amazed at my imagination, but then after a moment’s thought he admitted that Norma was one of the few who knew about the drawings and the documents and could have planted the photocopies and the cd in his briefcase.

“I can’t believe Norma would stoop to this level.” He protested, shaking his head. “Not Norma!”

 I was angry at him for being so naïve about Norma, and felt a sharp pang in my chest. Was it jealousy?

“Why can’t it be Norma?” I challenged fiercely. “Amit, I heard that you and Norma were in a relationship? Is that true?”

Amit looked at me for a long time. “Yes it is, I was…well, when I first came to TDS, she was the best thing that happened to me. I was with her major part of the day learning the ropes. She was friendly and very good company, outgoing and exciting.

 Continued here......