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Flash Fiction

Missing Jewelry

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Kasi left his office for the bus stand to catch a bus to his native place. His father insisted that Kasi has to be there on the festival day of “UGADI” every year. It is about six to seven hours’ travel from the town. He tried to complete his office work early but could manage only to get into the last bus.

As Kasi settled in a window seat, he started grumbling for his father’s insistence that he should reach on the festival day to keep the family tradition. His parents, his grandparents have the custom to go to their village temple and pray on this festival day. Kasi collected a few sweets for his parents and a dress for his sister as he does every time.

The bus crawled onto the highway leaving behind the narrow streets of the town. The bus was full of passengers, each having their own purpose of travel. Kasi thought that some passengers might be joining their spouses, some might be traveling to enjoy holidays, and some might be traveling to condole someone’s death. Of all, Kasi felt conspicuous about a couple in the front row. The lady was around forty years of age and the man next to her looked too elderly to be a husband. They did not fit into the father and daughter relation. After a brief review of the surroundings, Kasi got distracted to the wild winds blowing from outside the bus. His mind continued to drift from one stream of thoughts to another.

Almost the entire bus slipped into slumber. Suddenly there was a wild swirl and the bus came to a dead halt in the dark with a thud. Kasi and all the passengers were brought to senses and then all could feel that the bus has tilted to one side and all the luggage and the people fell, one on to another like a heap. In a moment there was chaos and everyone started shouting and screaming. Kasi opened his eyes and found that he was bearing the weight of two people who slipped onto him. Kasi extricated himself from his seat and found that there was a lot of damage to the front portion of the bus. In minutes help started coming from both sides. The headlights from other vehicles were used to help and bring out the hurt and injured. All the passengers on the bus got one or other injury. There were loud cries and moans all around the bus.

When Kasi helped himself out, Kasi found only a bruise on his forehead. Kasi himself started helping the needed. He knew that traffic was held on both the sides of the road. The injured were kept on the side of the road. Kasi found the old man to be among the severely injured. He looked unconscious and a few people were giving first aid. The lady was looking helpless and frantic. She was at a loss, turned pale with fear in her eyes. Kasi looked at her, as she was desperate to get the attention of the people. She gestured and asked Kasi to arrange a separate vehicle for the old man to be taken to the City Hospital.

Meanwhile a little way was made for the stranded vehicles to pass. He found a taxi and Kasi volunteered to pay for the taxi. He and the lady gathered the luggage and got into the car. A few people helped the unconscious man into the vehicle. The lady was tensely looking at old man’s face and was crying. Kasi told her to control and to be cool. There was profuse sweating and there were some movements in the body of the old man. Somebody who helped to carry the old man said it might be a shock or a heart attack.

It took almost two hours to reach the city limits. It was early in the morning. Kasi could see the troubled face of the lady as they were carrying an unconcious man. They found a decent nursing home and asked for the casualty doctor. With the help of the doctor the old man was carried into the emergency room, narrated the details of the accident. It took a little while for the attendants to accept the case. The hospital staff told that there was life and the case is critical and they also told that they would put every effort to revive.

The lady did not come into Hospital. She signaled from a distance. She requested a favor.  She said that she was not in any way related to the old man . The old man was only a friend to her and he had a big family in the city with grown-up children. The lady belonged to the town from where they were traveling. She pleaded and requested to keep her role undisclosed. She added that the old man used to come to her town to manage his properties. She reorganized the bags. She took two pieces for herself.

She gave a leather bag to Kasi and said that it contained a lot of cash and she requested that it should be handed over to his family. That was the transaction money, the old man got in the town the previous evening. She again cried and said that she was depressed as she would not be able to be on his side at the critical time. She said her presence at that time would be scandalous for the old man. She requested Kasi to help her. She went, leaving the bag with cash and telephone numbers of the old man’s family.

Kasi had a lot of confusion and surprise. He could feel the delicate situation of the lady exposing a trusted man. Kasi had too much information to absorb and conceal. He called the son of the family to inform the condition of the old man. Doctors came and asked to fill out some forms. Meanwhile the family of the old man arrived. They thanked Kasi and inquired about the details of the accident.

Kasi narrated everything avoiding any reference to the lady. The elder son remembered that there should be cash belonging to the old man. Kasi gave the leather bag. Eagerly they opened the bag and they found the cash. Meanwhile, the doctors announced the death of the old man. It was a case of a heart attack and all the family grieved. They managed to avoid a police case and postmortem. Most of the doubts were hushed up and no voice was raised about the accident and how the body reached the hospital etc. All appreciated Kasi for his efforts. They wanted to reimburse the taxi fare and other expenses. Kasi took that money not to entertain any doubts. They also took the phone number from Kasi and later they informed about the venue and time of the last rites.

Kasi spent a week with his family and relations to the satisfaction of his parents. Before he took a bus back to his workplace, he paid a visit to the old man’s family. The cremation was over and most of the relations and friends left the place. As Kasi sat for condoling people, the elder son casually mentioned that there should be another bag with Jewels and said that was missing. He also said that the old man hinted that he would be getting back the Jewels. He also said that he might go for a police complaint.

It was a shock to Kasi. He did not know what to say. He was feeling bad about hiding the role of the lady and getting into this awkward situation. He decided that he would talk to her, back in her town.

After a few days, he went to her place. There he saw the old man’s photo, garlanded. She was silent for a few moments and gave her story in brief. She lost her husband some time back. She had two children. She was staying with her mother and was working as a lecturer in a college. Old man was her mother’s cousin.   Until a few years back the old man and wife stayed in the same compound. The old man owned a lot of properties. They shifted from her place about five years back and settled with their sons and grandchildren in the other town. Since then every now and then the old man visits her place and settles his property accounts. He usually carries back a good amount of cash every time.

The old man started to have a relationship with her. The old man promised a good share of wealth for the lady. The promise had been almost four years old. The lady was observing that man was diluting piece by piece of his property. He was shifting the proceedings of property sale to his place. He was reporting to the lady, the details of his activity. The lady observed that earlier in the week he had cleared his local locker and packed off almost all his accounts. He did not mention any share to the lady. Finally, the lady asked the old man if he was planning something for her. The old man gave a small amount and the lady was disappointed. The lady not only served the old man, she also managed his local transactions very loyally.

The lady accepted that but she grudged and planned internally to expose the old man at his place before his family. She innocently pleaded with the old man to follow him and she would go to her other relatives’ house. He accepted. Both of them bought separate tickets on the bus. But the accident made her job easy. In the hospital, while collecting the luggage, she skillfully separated the bag with ornaments and shifted to her own luggage in the Hospital.

She finally said that she genuinely deserved that share of his wealth and also said that the old man was not fair. She added that she trusted Kasi. She assured that the sons of the old man would not complain to the police, as the family had too much to hide. She requested Kasi to give his judgment and she would obey the same.

Kasi inadvertently became part of a big mystery. Immediately he could not decide which was right. He was not the right person to decide which was correct. But he decided that he would answer if a police inquiry comes up. He walked out silently.

No police complaint was filed till now…


Image by Hannah Alkadi from Pixabay

Vallinath Mangalampalli

The author is from Telengana and has had a few stories published in Telegu.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    A complicated ethical dilemma for Kasi.
    Should he believe in the lady’s story?
    Has the old man really cheated her?
    Was she right in stealing the jewelery as a compensation for the services rendered by her to the old man and perhaps towards her pension.
    Even if the old man has cheated her, I don’t know whether she was right in her theft. The answer depends on the exact list of services rendered by her to the old man. It is possible to estimate the fee that was due to her for the property management she did, but it is not possible to monetize the “relationship”. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the story.

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