“We will be landing in Delhi in about an hour,” said a soft female voice. “May I offer you a glass of wine, madam?” she offered. “Or champagne?”
“Champagne,” the woman nodded in a pleasant husky voice.
The stewardess disappeared, returning almost immediately with a glass on a silver tray.
“Thank you,” the woman took the glass and sat back in her large comfortable seat, looking out of the small window at the lights of the city below.
It was impossible to tell her age, her smooth olive complexion free of any obvious wrinkles. Her face was oval with prominent chiseled cheekbones, her eyes, olive-green and cat-like, slanted upwards, her nose long and her lips full and luscious. Her light brown hair with natural glints of gold was short, prone to unruly curls, but mostly just wavy. It was only her manner that belied her age, the way she spoke with quiet authority, her gaze direct and confident that put her in her very late 40’s…or perhaps even 50.
When the plane came to a stop, she got up, slipped quickly into the perfectly-tailored white linen blazer the stewardess held out for her, casually threw a black chiffon scarf with tassels around her neck, placed big dark sunglasses on her eyes, picked up her Hermes bag and walked towards the entrance.
As she did, a man who’d been sitting in the seat in front of her, turned around to watch her exit the plane. Only then did he get up.
“Your jacket, sir,” the stewardess held out a navy-blue blazer.
“Thank you,” he said as she helped him put it on.
“Have a pleasant stay in Delhi.”
“Madam,” a young man wearing the airline uniform smiled as he greeted the woman just outside the plane’s door. “If you would come with me please,” his hands behind his back as he walked a couple of feet ahead of her. “We have arranged for you to go through passport control and customs privately.”
“Thank you,” she said. She followed the young man who showed her into the airline’s lounge where a passport officer was waiting for her in the entrance.
“Where are you coming from today?” he took her passport.
“Would you mind taking off your glasses, madam…Kumar?” he looked at the photo in the document. “Miss Sabine Kumar…” he frowned as though the name rang a bell.
“The purpose of your visit to India?”
“Catching up with some old friends….”
The man nodded. “When was the last time you were in India?”
“About 5 years.”
“A long time,” the officer reached for a rubber stamp, flicking through the pages of her passport, occasionally stopping at a visa.
“Yes,” she said. “It certainly has.”
“What were you doing in Azerbaijan?”
“I was there for some work.”
“Beirut, Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Amsterdam, Paris, London…interesting.
“What sort of work do you do?”
“I’m in the art world.”
“I see,” the officer stamped her passport. “We have a lot of beautiful art here in India.”
“Yes, I know,” the woman smiled and put her passport in her bag.
“Welcome to India.”
Just after she left, the man who’d been sitting in front of her on the plane came into the lounge, also accompanied by an airline representative who took him to the same immigration officer. He walked with a black walking stick with a silver swan on the tip.
“Mr. Singh,” the officer looked from the passport photo to the man.
“Your current residence is London?”
“What is the purpose of your trip to India?”
“I want to see some friends I have lost touch with.”
“Yes…” the immigration officer smiled knowingly. “Friends always seem to provide the best reasons for a visit.”
The officer stamped his passport.
“Miss Kumar, I am Mr. Vivek, the General Manager,” a small man wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a red and black striped tie, bowed low as Sabine, her jacket casually over her shoulders, walked into the main lobby of the Oberoi hotel. “Welcome to the Oberoi.”
“Hello Mr. Vivek,” she smiled as he remained bent over in reverence.
“May I extend my condolences on the passing of your father?” he said. “Such a tragic accident…lost control of the car…those small sports cars, just not sturdy enough…”
“Thank you,” Sabine said.
“And he was still so young…”
“He looked so much younger,” Mr. Vivek said. “It’s because his spirit was so youthful…
“Where did it happen?”
“South of France…”
“Oh!” Mr. Vivek exclaimed. “How he loved that part of the world…Cannes, Nice, Cap d’Antibes…” he trailed off, “…used to say there was nothing like it…but he always came back to Delhi.
“Yes,” Mr. Vivek nodded. “He could always be found in the private Club Room with a glass of whiskey at 6 o’clock, sharp.
“I can still see him walking through those glass doors,” he reminisced. “Perfect grey suit, white shirt, striped tie, a crisp white handkerchief in his breast pocket, his hair slicked back, a twinkle in his eye and a smile and a kind word for everyone, no matter who you were…from the doorman to the general manager.”
“He loved this hotel, ”Sabine nodded, quickly covering her eyes with the dark sunglasses that were on top of her head holding back her unruly hair.
“Such a perfect gentleman,” he sighed. “An elegant, sophisticated man…a dying breed, I’m sad to say.”
“Well…” Sabine began.
“And a Maharajah if ever I’ve seen one,” Vivek interrupted. “Such a pity the government revoked their titles in 1971.
“But of course, they’d already lost so much by then,” he continued. “Bit by bit, they broke the power of the aristocracy
“Such a pity…” he repeated, shaking his head.
“Mr. Vivek…” Sabine tried again.
“Thousands of years of Maharajahs and then in one fell swoop…poof! They’re gone…
“What about your lovely mother?” Mr. Vivek put his hands together reverently. “We only saw her once, but so beautiful…like a movie star…she was French, was she not?”
“I wonder we only saw her that one time…?”
“Mr. Vivek,” Sabine smiled tightly. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve just come off an airplane from Rome…”
“Of course! I’m so sorry, Miss Kumar,” Mr. Vivek apologized. “You must be exhausted and here I am going on and on like a broken record.
“You will be staying in the Eastern Star suite, where your father liked to stay,” he clicked his fingers and a bellman appeared immediately with her suitcase. “He said he enjoyed seeing the sun rise over his beloved city.
“It is perfect for you, princess,” he bowed.
“Thank you, but I do not have the title.”
“If I were in charge, you would.”
“Shall I send the butler up in a few minutes to help you unpack?”
“You are very kind.”
“Will you be with us long?”
“I’m not sure…there are a few things I have to take care of.”
“Consider this your home,” he pressed the button to the elevator.
“The hotel is looking as beautiful as ever,” she gazed around the bright, shiny marble lobby and it’s black and white checkered floor.
“Thank you, Miss Kumar,” he bowed again.
“When were you last in our fair city?”
“About five years.”
“Please call me directly if you need anything at all, any time, day or night,” he bowed and handed her his card. “May I accompany you to the suite?”
“I think I can find my way,” she smiled and pressed the button of the penthouse floor.
Downstairs in the lobby, the man with the black walking stick with the silver swan tip, walked to the reception desk.
“I am Mr. Singh,” he said, his voice deep and sultry. “I believe I have a reservation.”
“Yes,” the young woman smiled. “We have been expecting you, sir. I hope you had a good journey.”
The man nodded.
“The bellman will accompany you to the Western Star suite as you requested.”
As he walked away, Mr. Vivek stared at him until he reached the lift. When he disappeared inside, he went to the reception desk.
“Who was that man who just checked in?” he asked the young woman.
“The man with the cane.”
“That is…” she looked down at her computer screen, “Mr. Raminder Singh.”
“Where did he come from?”
“He arrived on a British Airways flight…from London, via Rome.”
“Raminder Singh…” Mr. Vivek nodded.
“Is there something wrong, sir?”
“He looks familiar,” Mr. Vivek reached for his cellphone in his inner breast pocket and put the name into Google. Before he could investigate further,
“Mr. Vivek, please sir…a problem with the air conditioning in the restaurant,” someone called to him and he put away his phone and walked back into the lobby.
Sabine walked off the elevator and headed down the hall where the bellman was waiting for her with her luggage.
As she did, she heard the second set of elevator doors open. She glanced behind her to see a man walking to the other end of the hallway.
“Welcome to the Eastern Star Suite, Miss Kumar,” the bellman said as she walked past him into the large living room with its bay window that overlooked the Delhi Golf Course and the lights of the old city twinkling in the distance. Candles had been lit, lamps turned on to their dimmest settings, vases were filled with white flowers of all kinds and the sultry notes of a saxophone reached her ears. She touched the velvet petals of a tuberose and put her nose to it, inhaling the heavy scent.
“Shall I unpack for you, madam?” said a voice behind her.
“Actually, can you come back later?”
“Of course,” the voice melted away into the shadows.
She walked over to the drinks cabinet near the window and picked out a bottle of champagne from the fridge and opened it, pouring herself a glass. She threw off her linen jacket and flopped down on the sofa, putting her feet up on the large, low square coffee table as she reached for the remote to the large screen television and turned it on.
“And next,” said the presenter, “it is being touted as the party of the decade…Celebrity Art collector, JJ Singh is said to be mounting a reception worthy of a Maharajah’s darbar for Bollywood couple Priya Chopra and Randy Singh who recently eloped and got married in Italy.
“The party will be held at an as yet undisclosed location about a month from now, but ‘Entertain India’s’ informants have been told that it will probably be at Mr. Singh’s home in Chattarpur and will be the hottest invitation in India.
“Let me turn to my colleague in the fashion world for a moment…” the camera focused on a young man, dressed flamboyantly in a red paisley brocade jacket that looked like a Victorian dressing gown. “Who do you think will be designing Priya’s outfit?”
The man smiled. “She usually goes with Tarun Tahliani or Sabyasachi, so I would bet that it will be one of them. But frankly, it’s anyone’s game at this point…”
“Whoever it is, she will look spectacular,” the female presenter said.
“As she always does.”
“Thank you very much and keep us posted.”
Sabine smiled, staring at the television before looking at her cell phone. 6am. Much too early to call. But perhaps a text. ‘Call me when you see this,’ she typed. She put her phone down but reached for it again.
‘Thanks for the painless arrival. It was nice not to have to wait in the immigration line.’
‘My pleasure,’ came the response. ‘Good to know I still have some pull in this country.’
‘I suppose a drink is out of the question.’
‘A drink would be unwise…especially at this hour. We are, after all, in India.’
She nodded and put the phone down next to her. Seconds later, it buzzed.
‘You sure you want to do this?’ said the message.
‘Why? Have you changed your mind?’
‘No, I never go back on my word.’
‘That’s what my father used to say about you,’ she replied.
‘But sometimes, my dear, just knowing a job will work is enough.’
‘You don’t want me to do this, do you?’
‘You are your father’s daughter and will do what you want to do.’
‘The necklace was on Dad’s list. It was the jewel in the crown.’
‘I know it was, but you don’t have to do it.’
‘It meant something to him and it means something to me.’
‘To him, it was a job, Sabine, like so many others…to you, it’s something else.’
‘I’ll be in touch,’ she replied, staring at the text message thread for a few moments.
She took her glass of champagne and walked around the suite, opening cupboards and drawers. Besides the living room, there was a study and a bedroom with a small sitting area and a bathroom that was almost as big as the bedroom with a bathtub in the middle of it, next to a floor-to-ceiling window with views of the tops of the trees on the golf course and the Emperor Humayun’s Tomb.
She ran herself a bath, lit some candles and got in, sinking into the soapy, bubbly, rose-scented water, and lay her head on the carved headrest to watch the sun as it rose. She drained her glass of champagne, placed it on the ledge and slipped into the water.
“Namaste, Indi bibi,” a slight woman wearing a pink and white sari drew the curtains drenching the bedroom in bright morning light.
“Namaste Laxmi,” a woman emerged from under a quilt.
Laxmi came over to the bed and plumped up the pillows. “Thank you, Laxmi,’ the woman sat up and reached for the cellphone that was at the edge of the night table.
“Well, well,” she said as she read a message.
“Here’s your breakfast, bibi,” Laxmi brought over a tray, and placed it on the bed in front of her. “Toast, marmalade and a pot of tea.”
“Thank you, Laxmi.”
“Good news this morning?” Laxmi asked.
“I don’t know, but it seems as if Sabine is back in town.
“She texted me at 6 am.”
“Sabine bibi? She has been away for a long time.”
“She certainly has,” the woman nodded as she dialed a number. “Voicemail,” she shook her head. “I’ll try her later.”
“It’ll be good to have her back in town,” Laxmi went around picking up clothes and tidying up.
“Hmmm,” the woman said and bit into a piece of toast. “I don’t know Laxmi…I’m too old to get into trouble anymore.”
The elevator doors opened and Sabine, wearing a slim black dress, high-heeled sandals, a white silk trench-style coat, her hair waving around her and her big dark glasses shielding her eyes, struck quite a figure, striding quickly through the lobby towards the entrance.
“Ah…Miss Kumar,” Mr. Vivek appeared seemingly out of nowhere by her side, walking quickly to keep up with her. “How is the suite?”
“Lovely, thank you.”
“How is your stay so far?” he asked.
“I’ve only been here 12 hours.”
“Yes, yes,” he laughed
“What may I get you this evening?”
“I need a car and driver.”
“Of course,” he bowed slightly. “Let me tell the doorman…” They walked together to the front door.
“Call Shiv,” he instructed the uniformed man at the door. “And tell him to bring the white Mercedes for Miss Kumar.
“Nothing but the best for you,” he turned to Sabine.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You are very welcome, Miss. Kumar,” he opened the door of the car that pulled up. “I wish you a very pleasant evening.”
“Where shall I take you, Madam?” Shiv the driver doffed his cap.
“The Singh Gallery in Vasant Vihar,” she said, settling into the back seat.
As they sped through Delhi, Sabine looked out the window. In a way, it was good to be back, I wonder if I could live here again, she thought.
Her phone beeped with an incoming message. ‘Tried calling. Your phone was off. See you tonight?’
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘Have something to do first. Your Address?’
‘Same. West End A-7.’
“Here we are, Madam,” the driver said as they pulled up to a very modern building on a side street in one of Delhi’s poshest neighbourhoods. A red carpet stretched from the edge of the pavement to the large glass doors, with black ropes on either side holding back the paparazzi and fans holding out pieces of paper and pens for autographs from arriving celebrities.
A large man wearing a black suit and an earpiece opened the car door.
“Who is that?” Sabine heard several of the photographers ask one another.
“Don’t know…but take her photo…you never know.”
“She looks famous.”
“This way please, miss,” several of them shouted, but Sabine didn’t stop, walking straight up to the front door.
“Your name, please,” a young woman holding a clipboard said as she entered.
“Miss. Kumar,” the woman went down her list. “I’m afraid I don’t have your name here.”
“I’m sure it’s a clerical error,” Sabine said. “Please check again.”
“Your name is not on the list, Miss Kumar.”
“Perhaps my assistant forgot to rsvp,” Sabine smiled.
“Just one moment,” the young woman said and while she went behind the desk, Sabine grabbed a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter and walked in.
“Hey!” the woman cried out. “Wait! You can’t go in there…you’re not on the list. Security…!” she said into the mike attached to her earpiece, “we have a problem. A crasher.”
Sabine walked through the large front room of the gallery, disappearing into the crowd. Modern works graced the walls and stone sculptures of nude Indian Goddesses on plinths were scattered in the corners.
She saw two security men come in and talk to the assistant who was looking around frantically over the heads of people trying to find her. She took off her white coat and threw it over her arm, putting down her empty glass of champagne and helping herself to another.
She walked into the back room and suddenly there he was, leaning against a column. Tall and still handsome, JJ Singh was wearing a black suit, white shirt and a black turban with a diamond and emerald pin in the front of it. He had a glass of champagne in his hand and was smiling down at a young woman wearing a tight orange dress, high heels, and too much makeup, giggling and batting her eyelashes at him.
Sabine rolled her eyes and walked straight towards him.
JJ looked shocked.
“Hey…what’s going on?” the woman said.
“Excuse us,” Sabine dismissed her.
“Sabine…darling!” he said, smiling as people turned to stare at them. “How are you? It’s so good to see you…I’ve been thinking about you…and meaning to call you. It’s just the days just slip away.”
“1,825 days have slipped away,” she said softly.
“Time flies, darling,” he laughed. “But you look…you look…great!”
“Really…you look amazing.”
“You know, JJ,” she stood very close to him. “I wouldn’t be too happy to see me, if I were you.”
“Did you really think you were going to get away with it?”
“Karma can be a real bitch, JJ,” Sabine got closer to him.“ Do you know that old saying?” her mouth was inches away from his. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
“Don’t get too close, Sabine,” he murmured.
“Yeah?” she said. “Or what?”
“You’ll call the police?”
“Uh…yes…” he stammered. “I’ll call the police.”
“Is everything alright, sir?” the two security guards came running up.
“Yes, yes,” JJ smiled, putting his arm around Sabine’s waist. “Sabine and I are old friends,” he said loud enough for people to hear. “We were just catching up.”
“Sir,” one of the security men whispered to JJ, “her name was not on the list.”
“It’s no matter,” he laughed. “I’m sure it was a mistake in the office.”
“Very well, sir,” the man melted away, whispering something into the mike in his sleeve.
“Let’s have lunch,” JJ said to her, a fake smile pasted on his face. “I’ll call you.”
“I don’t have lunch with traitors,” she murmured, tracing his jawline with her finger.
“What do you mean ‘traitor?’ he said. “I was the one who drove you to the airport and put you on the plane so you didn’t have to go to jail here.”
“You’re the one who gave me up to the police when they questioned you about the Indore diamonds,” Sabine said. “You told them you knew nothing about the sale or the robbery…that you were completely innocent…”
“I did not…”
“You told them I had brought you the diamonds, and asked you to organize the sale…”
“The diamonds were yours and you asked me to pose as the seller, remember?” Sabine said quietly. “And we…you and me…we organized the robbery…”
“I…” JJ started.
“You told the CBI that you felt defrauded and would testify against me…”
“They were breathing down my neck…” JJ looked away.
“Hi JJ!” someone passing by said.
“You bastard…” Sabine shook her head. “You decided to save yourself…”
“I saved you from a jail cell at the Delhi Jail…can you imagine five years in a cell?”
“Sending me to Europe was you assuaging your conscience. But I still had to live looking over my shoulder.
“It was your plan, JJ…not mine,” Sabine said. “And we were partners.
“You don’t give up your partner, no matter what.”
“I had no choice.”
“Yes,” Sabine’s eyes bore into him, “you did.”
JJ held her gaze but only for a moment.
“You know what happens to traitors, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?” he said nervously.
In response, she ran her finger gently across his throat.
Sabine walked away, stopped and turned.
“It was good to see you, JJ,” she said and smiled flirtatiously.
JJ opened the top button of his collar and put his hand on his neck, taking long deep breaths.
“Rusty!” he called to a man standing close by.
“The woman who just walked away…”
“Keep your wits about you with her…”
“Is she likely to come back tonight, sir?”
“No…but I want you to remember her face.”
“I will, sir,” Rusty said. “I will get a photo of her off the gallery cameras.”
“And stay close to me,” JJ cleared his throat.
“JJ! Kya yaar! How are you?” a man approached JJ.
Rusty went to stand in front of his boss.
“It’s fine,” JJ whispered. “I know him.
“Arun Singh!” JJ shook his hand . “Glad you could make it to my little opening.”
Arun Singh was of medium height and a slim build with a protruding middle-age tummy. He had grey hair that had thinned and he teased it before combing it back and sprayed it with a hairspray. He was wearing grey pants, a white shirt with a blue paisley ascot tie and a blue blazer.
“Are you kidding, yaar?” he smiled, showing a very large set of teeth. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“That’s nice of you to say.”
“I’ve been trying to get in touch with you.”
“Have you? I am sorry, it’s been very busy.”
“JJ, I wanted to talk to you…”
“I don’t want to discuss it here…”
“Listen Arun,” JJ rubbed his forehead. “Is this about lending you more money?”
“Well…it’s just that I have these projects,” Arun cleared his throat. “And I just need a little help to get them over the hump and back in the running…”
“Arun…” JJ raised his hand. “I’ve lent you a lot of money and I’m still waiting for you to pay it back…”
“I just need a little more and these projects will be off to the races.”
“How much are you talking?”
“About $50 million.”
“50 million!” JJ said shocked. “I don’t have that…” he looked around. “Not even close to that.”
“It was good of you to come,” JJ said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Wait here for me,” Sabine said to her driver when he opened the door for her. She walked up a cobblestoned path through a garden towards large teak wood double doors. She was about to ring the bell when the doors opened.
“Well, well, well,” a woman wearing loose beige linen pants and a man’s style navy blue linen shirt smiled broadly. “Am I glad to see you.”
Sabine stood for a moment before crossing the threshold.
“I’d have you know that it’s evening,” the woman said. “You don’t need the sunglasses.”
Sabine took off her glasses and walked in. “It’s good to see you, Indi.”
Indi threw her arms around Sabine hugging her warmly.
“Alright, alright,” Sabine extricated herself from the embrace.
“I’m really happy to see you.”
“Yeah well, no need to choke me,” Sabine said. “This is a nice place,” she walked into a round foyer looking around at the modern bamboo furnishings and artwork on the walls. “When did you move in?”
“Just after you left,” she said.
“The cook has the night off so I ordered in Chinese,” she said as they walked arm-in-arm down a hallway. “Do you want a drink? Still drink Billecart-Salmon?”
“Did you really just ask me that?”
Indi pulled a bottle of Billecart-Salmon from an ice bucket.
Indi was really Indira Indiana Kumar, two first names because her parents had been unable to agree on which one when she was born in Bloomington, Indiana where her Indian father was a professor of Computing and Engineering at the University of Indiana and her American mother, an ex-model and perfect homemaker. Her Indian father wanted to name her Indira and her American mother Indiana. They finally settled on both and began calling her Indi.
She also shared her surname with Sabine. They were not related even though having the same name had served them on occasion in the past.
After her father retired from academia, the family moved back to Delhi, but life in the East was not for Indi’s mother who insisted they return to the States, leaving the house in Delhi to Indi who by then, had gone into the world of fashion.
Indi had often wondered why her parents had named her after the state where she was born and not the city, but as Sabine often reminded her, ‘Bloomington’ was a bit of a mouthful.
At 5’9”, Indi was just slightly taller than Sabine, darker in complexion but with finer features, a small nose, an alluring mouth, large brown eyes and short curly hair that took years off of her 50. A one-time model, she had a boyish figure and was still trim, occasionally doing shoots here and there for magazines and television.
“I brought you a present,” Sabine delved into her bag and pulled out a red velvet pouch.
“Oooh!” Indi exclaimed, showing the perfect bright smile that lit up her whole face and had launched her modeling career.
She loosened the knot and pulled out a delicate necklace with a large diamond pendant in the shape of a pear that hung from a chain of smaller diamonds.
“Shit…” Indi raised her eyebrows.
“A little token of my friendship.”
“Real?” Indi asked.
“Don’t tell me you’re still in the business…” Indi whipped around.
“What business?” Sabine shrugged again.
“Did you do this?” she pointed to the pendant. “Why?” she shook her head.
“Because it’s what I’m good at,” she said.
“And that’s why you’re back, right?” Indi said. “You’ve got your eye on something.”
“If you don’t like the pendant, then you’re not going to like what I’ve got my eye on.”
“Sabine…” Indi sounded exasperated.
“Let’s go eat!” Sabine changed the topic. “I’m starving…and Chinese food and champagne is my favourite thing in the world, even in India.”
Indi stared at her questioningly, but Sabine took her by the arm. “Come on!”
“So where were you earlier this evening?” the two women sat at an Indonesian teak table that was off to the side in a large space that served as living, dining and den space.
“I went to see him.”
“Him?” Indi frowned. “Him who?”
“There’s only one ‘him.’”
“Oh my god!” Indi sat back, chopsticks in hand. “You mean ‘him.’”
“‘Him,’” Sabine nodded, smiling.
“Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know…” Sabine said. “I wanted to look him in the eye and have him know that I knew what he’d done.”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing, really,” Sabine said. “But he got the idea.”
“So why are you really back? Last I heard from you, you were in Paris…or Amsterdam.”
“I wanted to see you, couple of other people.”
“And…there’s a party I think we should go to.”
“Oh yeah,” Indi asked. “Which one?”
“A party for Priya Chopra and Randy Singh.”
“The Bollywood couple?”
Sabine nodded. “JJ’s hosting it at his house.”
“You’ve got something up your sleeve, Sabine,” Indi pushed her plate back and crossed her arms over her chest. “What is it?”
“I just thought it would be fun to see everyone,” Sabine said.
“See everyone?” she said sarcastically. “Who do we know in Bollywood?
“Sabine…? What are you planning?”
Sabine took a long sip of her drink.
“Besides, that guest list is going to be so tightly controlled by JJ,” Indi added. “How are we going to get in?”
“We’ll come up with something,” Sabine said confidently. “We always do.”
“What’s he got?”
“Ah! So now you’re interested?”
“I don’t know.
“Be careful, Sabine,” Indi warned. “JJ’s become a very big deal over the past few years…much more than he was and a very rich man who pays off all the right people.”
“I know,” Sabine said. “I’ve been following the news.”
“He’s not who he used to be when you and he were…partners.”
“I am worried,” Indi said. “I just don’t want you to do anything stupid.”
“I’m not…I really just came back because I missed you.”
“As I said before, ‘Bull…’”
“It’s jewels,” Sabine interrupted.
“Of course, it is,” Indi shook her head. “But they’ve got to be something special if you came back to India.”
“They are…big beautiful diamonds, emeralds…”
Indi shook her head.
“Indi…” Sabine poured them both some more champagne. “This can set us all up for life.
“What are you going to do when you’re 60?” she added. “Do you still want to be cheating at bridge or the bingo at the Gymkhana Club, never mind fixing hard drives?”
Indi looked away.
“You still look fantastic…but will you get any more modeling gigs at 60?”
“What do you have in mind?”
Sabine took a small newspaper cutting out of her pocket and slid it across the table.
“You’re kidding,” Indi exclaimed. “The Barodan necklace?”
“But no one knows where it is,” Indi said. “It disappeared before partition…”
“I know where it is.”
“In a safe.”
“And how do you propose to get it out?”
“They’ll bring it out,” Sabine said confidently.
“They? Who’s ‘they?’ Whose safe?”
“By the way, I need some cash,” Sabine ignored the question.
“What for?” Indi said, still staring at the cutting.
“I’m going to need to buy a few things.”
“I don’t know…clothes…maybe a painting…”
“Why can’t you just tell me?”
“By the way…” Indi helped herself to some more chili chicken. “Why are you staying at the Oberoi?” Indi asked. “You could stay here.”
“Because he is going to look me up… and living well is the best revenge.”
“How much you going to need?”
“That’s a lot…”
“What do we still have?”
“The ruby is all that’s left.”
“Let’s sell it.” Sabine refilled her glass. “Is Gema still around?”
Indi smiled and nodded. “Of course, she’s still around. Where’s she going to go?”