The Meaning of the Code
Ooh! Karalibabu’s such a dangerous man! He had tried to trick Thakurda, but couldn’t quite manage it. But he still hadn’t given up hope in all these years. I now realized that Karalibabu had landed up at home just to learn where the skull was kept. The thief had come at night with the sole objective of stealing the skull, there was no doubt about it. Thank goodness I had chucked it into the ditch next to our house!
What should I do now? The key to the treasure was right here on this skull, but I couldn’t make head or tail of it even after going over it many times. I flipped through every page of the pocket-book, Thakurda had left no clues there either. I was very annoyed with Thakurda. There was no way to understand the actual message.
Then I thought, what would have been the point of understanding the message anyway? I am seventeen years old. Studying in my second year. Never stepped out side Calcutta in my life. And there were the Khasi Hills, who knows in what corner and somewhere in them the ‘Roopnath caves’ – just finding out all this was impossible for me. To top it all, that dense forest, where wild animals roam freely in broad daylight! And finally some Buddhist monastery, where there is a yaksha’s treasure – yet another spooky thing! What if I lost my life, like Alibaba’s brother Qasim, in my lust for wealth? Just thinking about all this made my heart flutter.
Suddenly I thought of Bimal. Bimal is my closest friend, from our neighborhood. He is three odd years older than I am, appearing for his B.A. this year. I haven’t met a cleverer person than Bimal. And he’s as strong as an ox, he wrestles every day – does three hundred bench presses daily. To top it all, he has travelled widely even in this young age – why, just last year he had been to Assam. I never hid anything from Bimal. I decided, whether I go or not, let me just show Bimal the skull once.
That afternoon when I landed up at Bimal’s place, he was sitting and cleaning his gun. Seeing me, he said, ‘Kumar, I see! What brings you here?’
I said, ‘A puzzle has put me in a complete spot, my friend.’
Bimal said, ‘Which puzzle?’
I took out the skull and said, ‘This one.’
Bimal stared at the skull for a while in surprise. Then he said, ‘What’s this?’
I pushed the pocket-book towards him and said,’My grandfather’s pocket-book. Read it and you’ll understand everything.’
Bimal said, ‘Fine, hang on. Let me quickly finish cleaning the gun. I’d gone hunting for birds yesterday. The gun’s collected a lot of dirt.’
Having cleaned the gun, Bimal washed his hands and said, ‘What’s the matter, Kumar? Are you interning with some tantric? Why do you have a skull in your hand?’
I said, ‘Why don’t you read the pocket-book first?’
‘Fine,’ said Bimal and started reading. Some time later, I saw his expression change from one of resignation to wonder and curiosity.
As soon as he finished reading, Bimal quickly picked up the skull and scrutinised it, turning it over several times. Then he sighed and said, ‘How astonishing!’
I asked, ‘Could you make any sense of the sums?’
Bimal said, ‘No.’
‘Neither could I.’
‘But I’m not letting go this easily. You go home now, Kumar. Let the skull remain with me for now. I am determined to learn its secret! Come back tomorrow morning.’
I said, ‘But be careful.’
Bimal asked, ‘Why?’
I said, ‘Because Karali Mukherjee had sent a man to steal the skull from me last night.’
Bimal said, ‘Karali? None of his henchmen will have the guts to stick their necks in my home.’
‘I know that. Still, it never hurts to be careful,’ saying which, I came back home.