The Hidden Package...!
The Hidden Package...!
I don't know why I am here in the first place. It was a small dirty lane, might be a service lane behind and between the two rows of houses facing the main streets. The lane was squalid. The people from the two rows of houses might have thrown garbages over the lane. I was assaulted by the scents of rotting trash, feline as well as human urine, gasoline, and vomit. I stepped into a puddle and cold, slimy water bathed my feet. I didn't know whether it was a puddle of urine or sewage water. The lane was deserted at that time. It was six in the evening. Rakesh instructed me that evening six would be an ideal time to roam in that area, since, everybody would be watching TV in the safety of their houses. He was right. He might have thought everything. Smart guy. We both are working at the TV channel called 'REVELATIONS' we are at investigative journalism. I have to take the pictures of some documents which would reveal the world a biggest scam by a local political leader. The preparatory investigation was done by Rakesh and the field work was assigned to me. That's why I am here in this foul smelling alley.
Suddenly, a drunkard appeared from nowhere and stopped in front of me. He reeked alcohol. My heart started beating fast. Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead. Again I thought 'Why the hell I am here?'
The man stared at me for a couple of minutes which sent a shiver through my spine. I took a surreptitious glance to notice whether any other people saw me. "Are you drunk?", The man slurred and swayed and went away with a sarcastic lazy laugh. Oh my God, I felt relieved. I searched the houses one by one. Rakesh told me that a peacock drawing would be on the compound wall. I searched for it. I noticed the drawing on the compound wall of the seventh house in the row.
There was a small gate which was locked inside. A tall hedge and overgrown shrubs gave the backyard a neglected appearance. Once again I made sure that nobody was watching me, I just jumped over the wall. My left foot slipped slightly and landed in an angle. I felt a sudden sharp pain. I was not able to move. I just sat there for a while. Suddenly, I noticed that two eyes were watching me angrily. My heart was beating in my throat. That was a dog. It's eyes wide, ears flat and I sensed a vibrating growl deep in its chest.
It walked towards me upright and stiffly. Its head slightly raised, the tail was held erect and the eyes had a fixed stare on me. As it prepared to spring with a savage growl with the canine teeth uncovered and the ears pressed back close the head, when I was frantically searching for an option to avoid it's attack with my injured leg, suddenly, an another dog leapt forward with a harsh growl to take the challenge. I let out a sigh of relief and sneaked to the backdoor of the house.
I saw a man appearing unexpectedly from the house nearby and barked at the barking dogs,"shut up", and threw a stone towards them. I desperately tucked behind the tree hoping the tree and it's shadow would keep me from being exposed. My heart was fluttering fast as if it would come through my chest. Sudden appearance of sweat all over my body drenched my dress. The man threw a glance at the lane and retreated murmuring,"why the hell these damn dogs were barking"
I stood there behind the tree for a while and made sure that the man had gone inside. I took a bunch of keys from my pocket and tried one by one at the lock at the backdoor, nervously looking for unexpected popping heads from the houses nearby. The lock was opened in the seventh try. I opened the door, sneaked inside, locked the door behind me and put the keys in my pocket. I switched on my cellphone torch. I was standing in a narrow passage.
A rat scurried past in a flash. I was transfixed bolt upright. My system was flooded with adrenaline. I got goosebumps with extreme fear, watching it disappearing into a hole in the wall. I stood still for a couple of minutes to calm myself down and scrutinized the passage which ended in a hall. I surreptitiously walked through the passage and entered into the hall. All the things in the hall cast shadows behind like ghosts when the light was thrown on them.
On my left side, near the wall, I saw a staircase which might be a leading to the first floor. Rakesh told me that the documents were kept in a locker which would be in a room in the first floor. I climbed the stairs without making any sound. My right ankle was aching like hell. I might have torn a ligament. I put my right hand on the rail for support and kept the the cellphone in the left hand. Suddenly, I stumbled on a step, since its height was a little bit less and my left foot fell beneath where I was expecting it to land. I immediately felt a brief piercing spasm of pain in my right ankle which supported and prevented my fall. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. Somehow I reached the first floor.
There were three rooms in the first floor. My target was the room on my right side. All the rooms were locked. I took the keys from my pocket and tried one by one at the lock. It was opened by the third key. I gently opened the door without making any noise. The pain in my right ankle seemed aggravated by each movement. But, I didn't mind it. I have to finish the job I have come for. I threw the light beam on the walls searching for the portrait of Monaliza. Rakesh informed me that the locker was hidden behind a portrait of Monaliza. I found the portrait was hung on the wall on my left side. I eagerly limped towards the portrait, but, failed to notice a table on my way. The edge hit at my groin which sent a huge pain to my lower abdomen that went high along my spine. There were sudden appearance of sweat all over my body and I felt a little dizzy. I put my hands on the table for support and took mutiple deep breaths to ease myself. What a goddamned job! I used my remaining energy to reach the portrait. I removed it carefully and I put it on the table. Now, I have to deal with the locker.
I took a piece of paper from my trouser pocket and read the numbers scribbled on it to open the locker.
It read,'press four, two, eight, five... turn the wheel anticlockwise for three clicks...then press six, five, two, seven... was it seven or one?... turn the wheel clockwise for five clicks. If I press a wrong button, the alarm will go off. My God! What to do now? I have to call Rakesh for confirmation. I called him and told the problem. He said he didn't know about the number. He just handed over the details his source had given to him.I again scrutinized the number closer. It looked as seven only. I followed the instructions written in the paper. Oh my God, finally the locker was opened without the alarm going off. There was a package inside the locker. I gingerly took it out. I searched the entrance of the house through the window in the room. Nobody was there. I started opening the package.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of opening doors and people's voices. The house flooded with light. I started shivering. My heart was pumping erratically at my throat. My mouth became dry and I frantically need some water not to faint. I was frozen on my track.
First, Rakesh entered into the room. Then other colleges, singing 'happy birthday'. I slapped Rakesh over his back.
"You idiot! Is this the way to celebrate a party?", I got irritated and said, "I almost had a heart attack.
"Did you take that package. Open it. That's our gift to you!"
"Hell with the gift. I broke my ankle because of this nonsense", I yelled with pain.
"Hey, come on, you are a field man. You should have jumped properly. That's your mistake!"
"It was my mistake! Hell with your goddamned play"
"Come on man, cheer up! Your ankle will heal within a couple of days. Open the gift package"
I reluctantly opened the package. There was a beautiful diamond ring perched inside a beautiful box. I was mesmerized in its beauty.
Rakesh opened the champagne bottle and a chorus started
"Happy birthday to you!"