Somewhere in India:
“Mr. Raj Gupta, I have the Intel you need,” a hoarse voice reported.
“Very well. What have you got?”
“A list of unusual events in the world. I looked through all the mysterious and strange events that happened in the past 2 months and investigated them all. And I could find a logical explanation for everyone, except one. Technically two incidents”
“Let’s hear it.”
“It was one of those you suspected. The Weinstein family issue. The murder of the Weinstein has still not been solved. In fact, it is now termed a natural death because there is no real evidence supporting murder, except the timing of his murder.”
“And what do you think?”
“It was murder. The younger brother, George Weinstein, fled the country on the same day. But it was before the murder took place. That puts him out of suspicion and there are absolutely no clues left behind. It was obviously the younger brother, but we don’t have physical evidence.”
“No, that is just the kind of news that I needed. So, where is this George Weinstein now?”
“Well, he is dead.”
“The day after he fled to Japan, he was involved in an accident and died on the spot.”
“Isn’t that convenient?”
“Yes, which leads to our second incident relating to him. The accident he was in involves a train hitting the barriers. The barriers did not open on time and the train hit them. As a result, the barrier broke and was sent flying. Weinstein happened to be on its path. They had unconventional door type barriers in the area.”
“Yes, I am familiar. We have a lot of those in India as well. But even they don’t close the path of the train. Anyways, carry on.”
“Yes, the train was 5 minutes late than usual, which is actually unheard of in Tokyo. But what’s weird is that the barriers are not autonomous or anything. They are properly manned and the operator was available at the time of the incident. So, there should have been no real reason for the barriers to not open.”
“I see. Anything else.”
“Yes, at the time this incident occurred, the bridge right beside the track collapsed. Some people say that it was because the barrier hit the bridge and it collapsed. But not only did the barrier go nowhere near the bridge, that bridge has a history of more than a century in that town.”
“I see, that is definitely strange. In fact it is much more interesting than I thought. (So, there was another wisher in Japan, eh.)”
“Your next orders, sir.”
“Look further into this bridge incident. What happened before and after it with Weinstein. I want every small detail.”
“As you wish.”
“And re-plan my schedule, I want to head to Japan as soon as possible.”
I had just put in my batch for mixing and then cooking. This process was automatic and normally, at this stage, I had nothing to do. But not today. I had my special register with me today. I already knew what batch would be needed and ordered next. So, I already started working on that batch. By the time my shift had ended, I had prepared three batches for cooking.
For the first time, I waited for the next shift worker to arrive before I ended my shift, just to see the expression on his face when he sees three times the usual amount of work done. And it was worth it. As soon as he came in, and went to the machine, his expression turned blank. Then came confusion and astonishment in succession.
Satisfied with those fascinating array of reactions , I went towards the changing room. I was looking forward to the next payday. This kind of efficient work was bound to get me at least a bonus. But was it enough to get the attention of the owner of the franchise, I would just have to wait and see. But payday came and went and nothing really happened.
“Look at you. You are finally looking like a responsible adult,” I was deep in thought when I heard Myra’s out of place compliment.
“What do you mean?” but in reply to my query she just giggled with her hand muffling her voice. Then I looked around the train. Any working person going back home had that same serious look on their face as if they were in deep thought. But did I really look like that? I always thought I looked like the most bored person in the world.
“(I don’t know anything either. You look the same to me.)” Dee had no advice to offer either.
Seeing that I was still confused, Myra decided to enlighten me, “Do you have any idea how bored and uninterested you always looked. Nowadays you look a lot serious and in thought.”
But honestly, that was not the case. I had not changed at all. The only reason I was thinking was because of the batch I had to prepare for tomorrow. Now hold your horses, I know what you are thinking. ‘Preparing a batch of chocolate is your job. So that makes your statement contradictory.”
Just know that there is no way I would go out of my way to think about work when I am not at work. As for what I was thinking about, why not wait and see.
“I am getting off at the next station,” I told Myra as the train approached the next station.
“I need to do some shopping.”
At my surprisingly tame reason, she just smiled and grinned. You did not have to have a high IQ to know what she was going to say. “Allow me to help you,” she said smiling.
“So, what do you need?” as soon as we got off the station, she was already sabotaging my shopping time.
“Nothing much. How about I tell you once we reach the store.”
“What’s the problem in telling me beforehand,” her eyes squinted, “unless it is something you don’t want to tell me.”
“(Yeah tell us. Her aside, you haven’t even told me,)” and then there was Dee who was just ‘bored’ and never stopped annoying me with his ‘boredom.’
To be honest, I did not really care whether she knew or not, but if it satisfied her then why not.
“I need to buy dish wash.”
“Huh?” he face turned into lines in confusion.
“What? Is it awkward that I buy dish wash?”
“But why? Don’t tell me you help in the kitchen.”
“I do.” I had never helped in the kitchen.
“I never thought,” she screened her mouth with her palm as if voicing her astonishment wasn’t enough.
We entered a large store. I was going for the best quality because if I bought it from a convenience store, then there would’ve been no point of this detour.
“(Do you really need dish wash?)” After Myra, Dee felt it was his turn to ask questions. Myra was busy selecting dishwashers because apparently they mattered.
“(Of course, I do.)”
“(Let me rephrase that. Do you need just dish wash?)”
“(Looks like you are finally starting to see how I work.)”
“(I have been with you for quite some time now, I am at least starting to see something. Though you are still beyond my understanding most of the times.)”
“Here, this one should be the best one,” Myra finally finished with her audition of every possible dishwashing soap and liquid, finally came up with a winner.
Adding that to our little basket, I went to retrieve the next item.
“There are other items?” Of course I only told her one item but I never said it was the only one. I picked up some mosquito repellant, bug spray. And I did ot fast because we weren’t getting home before midnight if I let Myra start a brand war again.
“What are you planning to do, live in the wild?,” she silently watched me pick weird items before she couldn’t contain it.
“I have my reasons.”
“No highschooler should have a reason to just randomly buy these things.”
“Like I said, I have my reasons. We just need rat poison and-”
“Whoa, slow down. Now you need rat poison after mosquito repellant and bug spray. What is happening?”
I sighed before looking at her seriously and replying, “Actually I have a rat problem. And I just want to deal with it.”
“Well that much is apparent. What else would you need rat poison for? But why not just buy some rat poison. Why the other things?” I didn’t answer her, just stared at her forcing her to come up with a reason herself. “Ah,” she hit upon something, “Is it because you are afraid of rats or something?” she asked hesitantly.
All I wanted was for her to come up with an excuse for me herself, so all I did was turn my head away in response.
“No way. I never would’ve guessed,” her tone went from surprised to sympathetic, “You should have told me if that was the case. There wouldn’t have been the need for those extensive lists of poisons. Just rat poison should be enough.”
But I just proceeded to check out after putting in some rat poison as if I didn’t care about her advice. To her I looked like a person afraid of rats clearly going overboard with the extermination process. But only Dee sensed whatever sinister plans I may have had as he just giggled like a kid in expectation to see the results of my shopping adventure.
The night was coming to an end. The Sun was getting ready to rise. At the Mithaas factory, the trucks had just unloaded the supplies of materials. And I was already here before even my shift started, with a plastic bag in hand with all those things I bought yesterday. I approached the factory register, opened it and marked today’s batch, ‘A6’. I wanted to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t help grinning. There were hardly any workers inside the factory right now. Only masons working with the unloading. But workers would start coming in soon. I had to work fast. I started getting the batch ready on one hand, while I took out the things I had brought yesterday along with the mortar and pestle I took from home.
“(Today’s batch cooking is going to be so much fun.)” Dee commented.
“(Indeed.)” I consented.
I took a deep breath as I entered the break room after my shift at the factory. I made sure to put away the things I brought in my locker in the changing room without anyone seeing them. And I was finally done with the first part. I heaved a sigh of relief.
“Oh Hoshino. You are early today. There are still ten minutes until the cafe opens,” to my surprise, Mr.Fuji was already there in his uniform, taking puffs of a cigarette he had just lit.
“Shouldn’t I be the one saying that? It is awfully early for you to be here.”
“Na. I come here at the same time everyday. Have a smoke and then go to the kitchen just on time. But since you are here, we could start up a bit early,” with that he pressed the butt against the ashtray before walking out of the break room. And here I wanted to rest a bit. Considering that my work was only half done. I had to complete the rest of it during the evening shift when making the choco-cubes for my plan to work at all.
As I got out to get to the kitchen, “Hoshino. My office. Now,” Mr.Tsumihara called me instead.
“(Now that I think about it. Today is payday.)” But he hadn’t called me or even mentioned anything about me during the previous paydays, I did not have my hopes up.
I walked into his office and took a seat in front of him.
“You look a bit tense. Relax,” he said that although I was pretty sure I was the same as always. Means that he was deliberately trying to keep the mood light. The calm before the storm.
“So, what do you need from me?” I breathed deeply before saying that just to show him that I was obeying him.
“I want to send you away,” he dropped a bombshell pretty simply but elaborated on it immediately, “I don’t mean anything bad by it. In fact it is a good thing. Let me be a bit more clear. What I mean when I say that I want to send you away is that I mean to send you to work someplace else. It is still work for Mithaas. Just not here.” At this point it was pretty clear that he was avoiding a direct way of explaining and choosing the roundabout way on purpose.
“Mr.Tsumihara. No matter what you assign me, I will have no objections at all. So, please be clear with me.”
“Is that so. Very well,” he coughed once to regain his composure, “Ahem. You see, I just received the email. Mr.Shakkar Raj Gupta, the founder of Mithaas will be coming to Japan in August,” as he said those words, my adrenaline level shot up. I could barely control my smile. “Now he will be staying at his mansion but he has quite the sweet tooth. And only eats the sweets and desserts from his own company because that is the taste that he inspired. So, during that time our own chefs from the Tokyo branch will be sent over to the mansion.”
“I see. But why are you telling me. I am just an assistant. Mr.Fujita is the real chef and patissier.”
“Because the chefs would be there temporarily. But I want you to be on duty there permanently. Instead of coming here, for the whole week he is in Japan, I want you to be at his mansion.”
“(Could this get any better,)” was what I wanted to say but kept it confined in my head. “I still don’t understand why I need to be there full time.”
“Don’t worry. You will be in the kitchen duties only. But the reason I want to send you is because….. I want to send in my best employee to make a lasting impression. Considering that you are by far the most efficient worker I have, I don’t think it should be anyone but you.” And there it was the cherry on top. My actions were now bearing fruit. And by this point, I thought it would be alright for me to openly smile.
“Thank you. I will gladly accept it.”