The Cliff Edge
The Cliff Edge
Disclaimer:- All the characters in this story are fictitious and the event mentioned herein is also the work of imagination. There is no connection with real-life happenings.
We had gathered at the tea stall to enjoy a cup of our evening tea. It was a great time to pass for all our friends to wind up the day. Without this get together our day will not end. The numbers varied from just two to sometimes even more than a dozen. That day Atul came with an interesting story. Atul used to work as a travel and tour operator. He had been all around the country and had varied experience and he brought with him novel stories which we had rarely heard before. Joy was one of our friends who was a regular in this evening group. Joy worked with the postal department and he had a strange hobby of exploring mysterious places. Places that had reported paranormal activities and 'believe it or not' type events. He also was an excellent storyteller. So the story which Atul had brought that day had an immediate impact on Joy. From here I am narrating what Joy had shared with us.
The courage to experiment and the hunger to explore was always there with me. Atul had narrated a strange story of an event occurring near Darjeeling in the hills. That there was a cliff edge by the side of the hill cart road leading into the hill station there was a spot from where mysterious vanishing of people was being reported. I found this intriguing. I wanted to visit and know first hand of the happenings for myself
Very soon I was in the Darjeeling mail on my way to establish the truth for myself and share a new story among our friends. On the train, I tried to gather information by befriending some of my co-passengers but none had heard of any such thing of which Atul had narrated. The train reached New Jalpaiguri the next morning. From here I booked a cab to take me directly to the hotel on the mall in Darjeeling, a good four-hour journey. I started a conversation with the cab driver to overcome the monotony. Although as soon as the cab crossed the plains of Siliguri and was now climbing the hills the monotony changed to curiosity and wonder. Because the view of the hills was enchanting and fresh from a spell of rain the surroundings looked even more charming. I had been to Darjeeling many times before but every time I saw the hills it looked more beautiful than before.
'' Nothing definite is known, Sir, of what is happening. But the locals there in the hills are saying that they have seen strange things, '' the driver said after a long silence. He further continued, '' There have been reports that a man had vanished from a particular cliff edge one day. The police came to verify but nothing concrete has been found. The bottom of the cliff is very deep though and due to difficult terrain it has not been checked and no missing report has been lodged so the things have died down. ''
Very soon I was comfortable in my suite in the hotel in the mall. There was a wonderful view of the Kanchanjungha peak from the window. Enjoying a freshly brewed coffee I sat down reclining on the sofa to watch the Kanchanjungha which had just appeared from the clouds. It looked pristine and glorious in the late afternoon sun. The snow-covered peak was clearly discernible in the bright sun fresh after a quick drizzle. The beauty of the hills never fades and every time one gets to watch a new facet of the incredible natural creation.
The next morning I got up early and after a quick breakfast of eggs and toast, I felt encouraged to visit the spot. The sun was up in the sky and the chirping sounds of many birds from my window enthused me to pursue my objectives. I went down to deposit my room keys at the reception and asked the receptionist casually of what all was going around that was of interest. Because I had been to Darjeeling umpteenth of times so there was no spot not visited by me. Local sightseeing did not ring the same bell as when it was when I was into my initial trips here. Now nothing was new except of course for the hills which I never got tired of. The receptionist said the same story which the cab driver had told. But he added a new twist into the tale for which the Police were bewildered. The Police were at a loss of a sudden spurt in the cases of pickpockets. I did not give this piece of the story much of an importance and asked the location of the cliff edge.
Taking the cue of the direction from the receptionist, I briskly walked out of the hotel and stepped onto the mall. The mall was always a go-to place where all the well-heeled gentry of the town and the tourists gathered. It was the cynosure of all the tourist spots in Darjeeling. Our hotel is a chique one was located at one end of the mall and so it maintained it's privacy. Not far from our hotel the mall ended with roads branching out in different directions. One such road led out of the town down a slope into a village below. A few kilometers down this road had the cliff edge.
I reached the spot within half an hour. It was still bright and sunny. Although tufts of cloud were ambling by and the weather could change for the worse any time, the typical Darjeeling weather. As I had assumed a group of curious onlookers had gathered at the cliff edge. It was a steep cliff with the ground invisible many feet below covered in thick underbrush. I mingled amongst the crowd trying to gauge the reason for the gathering. The center of the crowd aroused my curiosity. A woman was crying out aloud saying that she had been cheated by her lover and in his anger, he had plunged himself from the cliff to the valley below and committed suicide. So everyone was leaning on the cliff edge trying to gauge the bottom of the pit trying to locate the body of the dead man.
I found something amiss and failed to be bought by the story. So I did not peek below. In fact, I distanced myself from the crowd and tried to observe the movement of the people minutely from a vantage point. What I found deeply intrigued me. Without hesitating a single moment beyond confirming my doubts, I went to the Police station. There, I told the officer on duty what I had observed.
The officer accompanied by another policeman followed me to the cliff edge. Therefrom a hideout they watched the movement of the people gathered there.
After the woman who was wailing out loudly, the crowd followed her movements and turned to bend and look downwards in the valley. Within this time taking advantage of the absent-mindedness of the crowd another young woman was busy picking the pockets of the crowded people.
Then getting all evidence just in front of them the officer and his assistant charged on the two women and caught them right in the act. There was a little pandemonium before everything was quiet. The women were ordered to bring out their previous booty collection of so many days.
Later it was learned that using this ploy and decoy of suicide the gullible public gathered there were being looted by these two women who were reportedly sisters. Few hundred pieces of men's wallets were found from their custody. The job was being done so perfectly that none from the crowd was reacting to being looted. Later on, they might have been knowing the absence of their possessions but they had no known cause of the source of their impoverishment nor it's the remedy. Some cases were being reported to the police but the force was clueless to the origin of the crime.
The disappearance of people was pure humbug and the picking of pockets was being done in such a masterly manner that the two events could not be related as one.
The department thanked me for my presence of mind and timely help. Being able to solve this problem and helping the police to nab the culprits gave me immense satisfaction.
Joy immediately narrated this weird tale to us on the day of his return from the hills. We all gathered at the tea stall to hear from him his achievement. After all, he had a wonderful way of narrating even ordinary tales that came out as extraordinary stories from him.