The school bell rang loudly. Rahul’s car pulled up under the portico followed by a long line of cars. Waving at his friends, Rahul hopped into the backseat and dumped his bag beside him. The driver, Bansilal, was an old man. He had worked for Rahul’s father since Rahul had been a baby. He looked at Rahul in the rear-view mirror and flashed a smile at him.
The car soon veered off the main road onto a seldom-used lane. This was a shortcut to Rahul’s house. About halfway down the lane stood a parked car. A man was leaning over the vehicle’s open bonnet. He waved as he saw Rahul’s car approaching, shouting at Bansilal for help.
Bansilal dithered for a second. Rahul’s father would not be happy if his son arrived late from school. On the other hand, his ethics just wouldn’t let him drive past a man who was obviously in trouble. Bansilal pulled over and walked over to the driver. The duo bent over the engine, trying to locate the problem.
Suddenly, a black car zipped past Bansilal. It pulled up beside the car Rahul was sitting in. Two men quickly jumped out of the black vehicle and caught the boy, who seemed engrossed in the book he was reading, catching him unawares. They dragged Rahul out of his car, into their own.
Bansilal looked up and saw what had transpired. However, it was too late. He chased the car just as it zoomed off with the helpless Rahul. An envelope was all that remained in his place. Bansilal guessed it was a ransom note from Rahul’s kidnappers.
Rahul kept grappling with the kidnappers on the back seat. His hands and feet had been tied after he made a vain attempt at jumping out. He had also been gagged with a grimy rag after he had bitten the hand of one of his captors.
Soon, the car halted. It had gotten dark by then. Rahul couldn’t see much except a house, which seemed to be located on the corner of a street.
He was dragged into a room, which had just one small, barred window. There was a bed on one side and a bottle of water on the other. After the initial display of valor, fear had started kicking in. However, he knew better than to let those men sense his anxiety.
‘You’ll be sorry for this!’ he shouted out at them.
One of the men flung Rahul onto the bed. Another guy brought a platter of food. ‘Eat up!’ he ordered.
Rahul reluctantly began to eat. He was frightened, but he was not going to break down in front of those bullies.
Soon, the men left the room. Rahul rushed to try unlocking the door. To his dismay, it was locked. Rahul looked out the window, but it was too dark to see anything. He sat up on the dusty bed. He was fairly tired. It didn’t take him long to fall asleep.
Rahul took another look around the room. He had been in there for two days already. However, he could not afford to lose hope. He was still trying to think of a way he could get out of that hell. He was also aware that his parents would be dead worried about him. From his abductors, Rahul learned that they had sent his father a ransom note. They had demanded two lakh rupees for his release!
At around 8 P.M., one of the men brought Rahul his dinner. Just as he was about to eat, the lights flickered and went out. The men exclaimed in indignation. One of them brought Rahul a kerosene lamp. He ate his food silently in the dim light of the lamp.
‘Leave the lamp out for him,’ said one of the men. ‘It’s pretty dark right now.’
Rahul waited for two hours after the men left. The house was silent. He turned up the kerosene lamp’s wick. The flame began to burn brightly. He quickly tore up the sheets on his bed and dumped them on a huge pile of dry leaves outside the window. He flung the whole lamp onto the pile and waited.
The acrid smell of smoke teased Rahul’s nose. He could see the dancing flames if he looked out the tiny window. Soon he heard shouts. He could see some men scurrying about. There was a thud outside his door and suddenly one of the men barged in.
‘Out!’ he cried. ‘Quickly!’
Rahul rushed out of the room and down the stairs, but the man was too concerned about the fire to notice Rahul’s dash to liberty.
He couldn’t run out of the kitchen door for it was ablaze, so he chose to try the front door instead. As he neared the gate, he spotted the goons’ black car headed for him. He hastily crouched in between a tree and the fence. He hoped they wouldn’t notice.
The car stopped and the men stepped out. They were all shocked at the sight of the burning building. Before anyone could notice, Rahul had jumped over the gate. He ran as fast as he could, hoping to get as far as possible before they realized he wasn’t in the building. He kept running. His heart was thumping in his chest. He was gasping for breath.
Finally, he arrived at a little shop. A truck driver had stopped by to get some tea. Rahul ran over to the man, pleading for a lift. The driver agreed to drop him near the bus stop downtown.
On the way, Rahul narrated the whole story to the driver, who took Rahul straight to the police station. Rahul re-told the story to the Inspector, who gave him a ride home. Rahul’s parents were delighted to have him back. Bansilal had tears in his eyes. Rahul hugged the old driver and assured him that it wasn’t his fault.
The next day, Rahul and his father went to the police station to meet the inspector once again. Rahul told him everything he had been through. He couldn’t remember the way to the safe house where he had been held prisoner. However, he could recall hearing a train whistle every day. He also recollected hearing dynamite blasts every now and then.
‘Yes, they are extending the railway line to Krishnagadh,’ exclaimed the inspector. He assured them that he would find the house. Rahul also gave the inspector detailed descriptions of the men who had kidnapped him.
That evening, the inspector dropped by Rahul’s house to thank and congratulate him. It was, after all, his alertness and sharp observation skills that had led to the capture of the criminals.
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As fond of writing a good story as he is of reading one, Pravin is one of the most promising writers at Ameya. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.