Chapter 6 (continued)
As soon as I let go of the branch, I landed with a soft thud on the terrace. Bimal slapped my back and said, ‘Well done!’
But I was just not easy in my mind. We’d entered someone else’s house like thieves and were sure to be handcuffed like thieves if we were caught. Then there was the other worry – how shall we escape? We had entered by leaping on to the terrace, but we couldn’t very well leap up to that high branch to leave. I told Bimal my concerns.
Bimal said, ‘We had to enter via the tree because the front door is shut from the inside. When we escape, we’ll just leave the through the front door.’
‘But the house has a guard!’
‘We’ll fix him when the time comes. Now, let’s check out where the stairs are. Remember to tiptoe.’
We found the stairs at the west corner of the terrace. Bimal led the way down, I followed behind. There was a room immediately after the stairs ended. Bimal put his ear on the door and told me in a quiet voice, ‘Someone’s sleeping in this room – and snoring.’
We made our way to the main corridor using the darkened lantern’s narrow beam to guide us. Three rooms on one side – all shut from the inside. Bimal stood in silence and considered this conundrum. As for myself, I lost all hope. Such a huge mansion, we knew nothing of the layout inside, somewhere in this maze lay hidden a small skull, how on earth were we supposed to sniff it out? Bimal was such a lunatic! All this hassle, all for nothing!
All at once, Bimal said, ‘There’s a bit of light visible through one of the doors on the other side of the corridor. Let’s go there.’
Bimal tiptoed over to the door of that room. The door gave way to the slightest push. Bimal peeped through the gap for a while, then turned to whisper into my ear, ‘Look!’
What I saw through the gap in the door made my heart dance with joy! Karali, snoring with his head resting on the table, and close to his head – what we’d come looking for – the skull! Karali must have been trying to understand the cipher, then had nodded off, exhausted. Then he really was the thief!
Very gingerly, Bimal opened the door a little wider and tiptoed into the room. Then, standing behind a sleeping Karali, he picked up the skull from the table. Then, grinning, he stepped out of the room. I had never imagined that we’d succeed so easily.
Now for the escape. Once we were outside we were home free!
We climbed down to the ground floor. The front door was just across the courtyard. But here’s the rub – the beam of the lantern showed a burly man spreadeagled in blissful sleep right in front of the front door!
However, Bimal didn’t hesitate for a moment, he just stepped over the guard very softly and started unbolting the front door. My heart thumped in fear against my chest – the slightest sound and we were ruined.
Bimal was such a hero! He opened the door so carefully that not a single sound was made. But a bug played spoilsport – it suddenly rushed into my nose and I let out a great big sneeze right away.
The guard woke up! He let out a terrific roar – ‘Who’s there?’
The lantern was in my hand at the time. In its light I saw Bimal turn around at lightning speed, then leap on the guard like a tiger, holding his neck in a death grip. The guard let out a few moans and soon fell in a dead faint.
What’s left to say? We ran for our lives! No racehorse could have caught up with us then – we sprinted back home in one stretch and then breathed again freely.