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"Little brother..." Trishanu murmured sleepily, "it's five in the morning, really EARLY!"
"Yes, I know," replied Trishul, "listen, are you busy today, like meetings and stuff?"
"Uh, no..." he replied, stifling a yawn.
"I'm starting for Mumbai now, and should be there around tenish," Trishul said, "could you come over to the house?"
"Little brother, what's the idea?"
"Tell you when we meet," answered Trishul, "I'm leaving for Zurich later tonight."
"Wo!" Trishanu exclaimed, now fully awake, scrambling out of bed, "What going on?"
"Be there by ten," Trishul repeated, "and I'll tell you then."
"Trishul," exclaimed Trishanu, "why Zurich, what's happening, what do..."
But Trishul didn't allow him to finish, impatiently cutting in, "Be there!" and then disconnected the call.
Trishanu was already there when Trishul reached his city home.
"Thanks for coming," he said as he got out of the car, asking the housekeeper for coffee.
"Didn't sleep all night, right?" Trishanu asked.
Trishul shook his head as they entered the den.
"Reading that report?"
"Yes," Trishul answered, "but didn't get to read about Amit..."
"Why Zurich?" asked Trishanu, sitting down opposite Trishul, "Planning to go to Interlaken?"
Trishul stared back at him in silence, not sure what to say... how to say it.
"I'm waiting..." Trishanu said after a while.
"He called this morning..." Trishul finally stated.
"Who called?" Trishanu asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Damn it," Trishanu exploded, "he's Amit, and I've already read the section on him, he's bloody as evil as the whole lot - his father, grandfather and great-grandfather!" And then quickly calming down added, "Little brother, he was after something, why can't you see that?!"
"Rachit is not Amit!" Trishul interrupted, firm, surprising Trishanu.
Trishanu began to speak but fell silent as the housekeeper walked in with their coffee.
"Are you crazy?" he asked once the lady had left, eyeing him curiously, the tone incredulous..
"Rachit is NOT Amit!" Trishul repeated.
"Trishul, please, tell me what happened... who called... what did he say? What makes you claim that Amit isn't the man you met and took home? And why Zurich?"
"I didn't tell you earlier, you know, Monday, the day before yesterday..." Trishul began, "but after I saw him at the hotel, I somehow am sure that that man, Amit, isn't the person I took home from the woods..."
Trishanu let out an exasperated groan, but Trishul waved an impatient hand, silencing him.
"There is something... something that I can't just put my fingers on, but know in the depth of my heart, they can't be the same person...
"And then, yesterday, or rather, early this morning, I had just finished reading about Ranjeet when the call came... he just said my name and then there was the sound of a scuffle and it went dead...
"I kept calling back, but the line seemed to be constantly engaged... or probably disconnected..."
"How do you know the call was from Zurich?" Trishanu asked.
Trishul let out an irritable sigh, "I saw the telephone number, knew it was an international call, and so I checked the country code on the internet, it's a Swiss number... the call was made from Interlaken."
"Listen, little brother, give me a day, just one day," Trishanu reached out and took Trishul's hand, "and I'll find out if Amit went back to Dubai, or Switzerland. If he's trying to play some new game... after he saw you at the hotel and realised that you've found out about him..."
"No," Trishul interrupted, shaking his head, "I've already booked the ticket, and I'm leaving later tonight."
"What about visa?"
"I was in Lausanne and Vaud last year, my Swiss visa is still valid..."
He had been to Europe for his annual visit - touring vineyards and wineries, meeting old friends and associates. And as usual, had ended the trip with a visit to Vienna, visiting Kurt... spending a week with them - Kurt and Lorenz; and together they had gone to Salzburg, for the Festival - Trishul's second visit to the famous musical event.
"But I don't have one," Trishanu stated, "and it'll take me at least forty-eight hours to get the visa even if we..."
"You don't need to come," Trishul interrupted, "I don't need a chaperon."
"You can't go alone, I can't let you go alone!"
"I can take care of myself!"
"Yea, sure, like you did when he fooled you for two weeks and then walked away with God knows what documents and secrets!" Trishanu blurted, before falling silent as Trishul gave him a fierce look, the eyes blazing. "Sorry, I really am..." he apologised, and then asked, "Have you called Kurt?"
"No," Trishul shook his head.
"Then how can I let you go alone, little brother?" Trishanu questioned, squeezing Trishul's hand.
"I need to go, need to know why he called... Rachit could be in some sort of trouble, I need to find him!"
Trishanu felt the rage bubble and rise... he wanted to scream: 'You bloody said the same thing and went to meet him at the hotel. What happened? He once more walked out on you, without even acknowledging you!' Drum some sense into that thick skull. But quickly controlling it, for he knew anger wouldn't help, would only aggravate the situation... besides, he could never really be angry with Trishul, asked instead, "Why did you want to talk to me, how can I help?"
"Um..." Trishul hesitated for a moment, "I wanted to tell you... inform you... and... um, I may be gone for a couple of days, maybe a week... and... er..."
"And you don't want dad or mom, or Uncle Pranay and aunt to know the real reason for your sudden departure," Trishanu completed the unfinished sentence, "or about Amit?"
"And you want me to create an interesting tale about some vintner's conference in Zurich and drop it over some business discussion, or the dinner table in an offhand manner, because you can't tell them about the trip yourself, since you simply can't fib, huh?"
Trishul remained silent, his eyes pleading.
"Fine," Trishanu finally said, "but only on one condition."
"I'll join you as soon as I get my visa, and till that time, you'll call me each morning and evening!"
Trishul looked surprised, and then slowly nodded.
"Now, let's have some food," smiled Trishanu, "and then you get some sleep, you have a long journey ahead!"
The flight landed exactly at six in the morning, local time, and collecting his single valise Trishul headed straight for the Flughafen (the airport train station) - he wanted to get to Interlaken, as soon as possible, and taking the train was more sensible than going into town and renting a car.
But alas, the first direct train to Interlaken Ost only left at 9:30 - that was too long a wait, a total waste of time!
Trishul quickly decided on the InterCity instead - it would take him to Bern and he'd have to change train there. Clutching the ticket in his hand he ran for track 3 - the train was ready and would leave at 7:13... he barely had a minute.
As he settled down in the relatively empty carriage and the train pulled out, for the first time in twenty-four hours, since that early morning call, he was alone with his thoughts... and he began to wonder...
The report, whatever he had read of it, suddenly seemed to explain a lot... those small, insignificant things that he had chosen to overlook or ignore, and which Sanjeev had observed and commented on - Rachit's... um, Amit's language, his accent... and his appearance. His hemming and hawings... his reluctance and his palterings. His obvious lack of knowledge of the Himalayan country - his so-called home 'up-north'. His ignorance of the geography of the places he claimed he was visiting. Everything made sense!
But what still eluded Trishul was the purpose of the whole exercise - his sudden appearance, and then his equally sudden departure - what was that all about? What did Amit, or Rachit, want?
And those injurious? Those had been real... very real, and also severe! What about them? Were they self-inflicted? But why?!
And why call?! Was it guilt? Did he want to apologise?
After that aborted call, and after his repeated attempt at calling back, he had spent over an hour trying to figure out things - had checked online for the country and city code, had discovered that the call had originated in Interlaken... and that simply couldn't be a mere coincidence!
But the number was unlisted, and he had no idea how he could find out who it belonged to...
Frustrated, he had simply booked his ticket right then - he'd go to Interlaken, personally, and then figure out things!
Now, in Switzerland, headed for Interlaken... he still had no clue how he would trace the number, or Rachit... and suddenly he wasn't sure anymore...
He had some vague ideas... about approaching the relevant authorities for the information, but then, he was a foreigner, would they give it to him?
Yes, he knew people in Europe... though not in Switzerland... but what would he ask them? How could he ask them to trace an unlisted number? The request would seem so terribly awkward!
That brought his mind back to Trishanu's question - Had he called Kurt?
No, he hadn't. He didn't want to... Kurt was now a busy banker... surely had his hands full, and he just couldn't call him away from his work. Besides, what would he tell him? How would he explain all the events, and his wild goose chase halfway across the globe? Amit or Rachit, he didn't even know for sure... and if Rachit, then he didn't have a last name, and wasn't sure about the first either!
And the thought of Kurt in turn brought back a flood of fond memories... memories of his first time in Zurich...
Then on to Lucerne... taking the cogwheel train up Mt. Pilatus, and down by cable car.
Back in Zurich, that last evening, Kurt had taken him to the most incredible restaurant he'd ever been to - Blinde Kuh - the first of its kind in the world (and still unmatched). He hadn't even heard of it, but Kurt knew, and wow, the experience had been simply amazing!
It had been one fabulous week, and they had been back again, a year later, on their way to St. Moritz. But come to think of it, they had never visited Interlaken!
Lost in recollection, Trishul hadn't notice the passage of time - but the hour and fifteen minutes were up - and the train was pulling in at Bern...
Trishul got out and looked around - he was on track 5, and needed to get to track 3 to continue his journey. And as he hurried down the platform, he heard the excited cry: "tree-Shool !", instinctively turning back to look...
... to be continued
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