Team : Alphabet Soup
Read previous chapter here.
Tara felt better since Roohi was safe. But she wasn’t satisfied. She wouldn’t be, unless they leave Kerala.
“Jennifer, are you sure Roohi will be safe?”
They were sitting in the adjacent room of the temple office. Jennifer, in the pretext of having some fun time with Roohi had taken her to Cyrus and left her with him.
Shekhar was against it at first. He wasn’t willing to trust anyone. But Tara disagreed. If anyone was watching them, it would be easy for them to take Roohi away. Shekhar wasn’t much of a fighter. Finally, he agreed with her decision.
When Sudheeran enquired about Roohi, Tara simply said that she was safe. She felt she didn’t owe any explanation to anyone apart from Shekhar.
“Yes Tara. I know Cyrus. Even if it has been only a few days, I know him well.”
“Tara, I don’t know if you have felt this way. There are some people you meet and it seems like you already know them.”
Tara smiled a naughty smile, “Someone is crushing on someone.”
She said in a singsong manner. She felt all the tension leaving her. It has been so long since she smiled genuinely or cracked a joke.
“Meeting in the office. Immediately!”
Inspector Ravi called out from the office. Shekhar who was on the phone, followed Ravi.
Jennifer continued softly, “No. No. I’m not. Just hear me out. I don’t believe every relationship need to be defined. I’m not crushing on Cyrus. He is way younger than me. The point is, I just know it when he says something genuine. I know it when he tells a lie. I just feel the vibes. He won’t harm Roohi. I just know that.”
Tara got up, “Alright, Jayalakshmi! I trust you.” And she winked.
Sudheeran ushered them in, and asked everyone to take a seat. Towards the right of Sudheeran sat Ravi. The priest and his disciple sat on the left side. Next to Ravi were two constables. Followed by, Shekhar, Tara and Jennifer.
“Now that the child is safe,” he looked at Tara.
“We need to focus on finding the idol. I think the best way to begin is by understanding the temple architecture and history. What do think Namboothiri?”
The priest seemed startled. Jennifer noticed that he was sweating profusely.
“Yes! Yes! That is the best way.”
“I don’t get it. Why this hurry? The child is safe. That mad man just kidnapped her for his whims and for some attention. What if there is no one behind the idol? I mean the priest’s son must have hidden the idol. But he is long dead. Ever since, no one must have found the idol.”, Ravi said.
“Did you notice your statements? They are all ‘must haves and may haves’. We aren’t sure of anything. Besides, I know the mad man for quite some time now. He is never wrong. He talks and acts weird. But he has never told a lie. If he has said that someone is behind the idol, then brace yourselves. I believe his words.”
Jennifer thought, someone in the team. Now! With us. Among us.
She scanned the room. She hated the fact that everything looked normal. Everyone seemed innocent.
Ravi thought for a while, and then, “Well, in that case, we can’t afford to waste our time. Who else would know the temple better than memana namboothiri?”
He looked at the priest, “I think you should brief us.”
The priest seemed to be in a dilemma.
“I don’t think I know much. At least I would know as much as you do.”
Ravi sensed the priest’s unease, “Come on Namboothiri. Don’t get scared. You just have to let us know about the entrances and chambers in the temple. “
The priest made up his mind. He said, “As far as my knowledge goes, the temple has 11 chambers and a scripture room. Also, there are 5 passages into the temple apart from the main entrance. But…”.
He looked around apprehensively.
“I didn’t know whether to raise this point the other day. I did not know that there was a passage way through the side of the pond into the temple until the mad man told me.”
“Namboothiri, why didn’t you tell us then? I thought you knew about that path. That is why I didn’t question much.” Ravi said.
“I was unsure about it. I thought maybe he had made a mistake. I couldn’t believe the fact that there was such a path. Besides, I was also ashamed of myself. I have been working here for 14 years. Yet, I didn’t know about it.”
“Hang on! You mean to say there is no one among the temple officials who know about a passage into the temple?” Jennifer was inquisitive.
Sudheeran thought for a while and said, “Jayalakshmi, this might come as a surprise to you. But we are used to such revelations. Some stories and informations were passed down from generation to generation. Some of them just died with people. We grew up discovering new things about the temple everyday.”
He looked at the priest, “It is alright namboothiri. I’m glad that you managed to inform us at least now.”
Tara piped in, “So the priest’s knowledge is limited. How do we get the exact details?”
Jennifer interjected, “How did you learn about the existing passages and chambers?”
“I worked here as the old priest’s disciple before becoming the head priest. Some days, when he used to talk about Amma, he used to tell about the chambers and their significance. Sometimes, I used to see him coming from unusual directions and he used to show me the passages. That was how I knew about them.”
“In that case, another visit to the old priest’s is inevitable.” Tara said.
“No! It will be a waste of time if a couple of us go visit the priest. I’ll arrange that.” Saying so Jennifer left the room.
Sudheeran said, “She is right. How about we start searching the known chambers? By the time we are halfway through, we will know further details.”
Jennifer had called up Cyrus and asked him to check on the priest. She asked him to visit the priest on the pretext of learning about the temple’s architecture.
“How is my drawing?”, Roohi asked.
“Hey! A parrot. That is pretty.”
She sulked and walked away.
“Oh sorry princess! I was thinking of something else. That is a lovely love bird you have drawn.”
She looked at him with her puppy eyes.
“It’s a butterfly!”, she said sadly.
“Aww… Of course it is. I lost the game. Here is a chocolate.” Cyrus threw a dairymilk and she caught it swiftly with a huge smile.
His phone rang. Tara was calling to check on Roohi. After about fifteen minutes, Roohi returned his phone and went back to her coloring. He watched her for a while. He decided to give her lunch, put her to sleep and then go meet the priest.
His loyal translator was intently listening to the priest’s rasping voice and translating in his own version of English. “The temple is very old one. The architecture is done by an old famous Tantri (one who designs temple architecture) and he utilized his skills to make this temple unique. There are many secret entries, chambers, store rooms which are not known. I heard from my father that, in this temple, there are some secret store where gold coins and diamonds are saved securely by one of the king who rules here years back. Even now, we don’t know where the secret store is.”.
“And… ” Cyrus was all ears.
“There are 7 passages and 13 chambers”.
“But why are all these secret chambers and passages made?”
“Earlier, when the Kings ruled, they used the temple as a hideout. During wars, the children were all kept in the secret chambers to save them from the atrocities. Some bad rulers, kept their loot here. But with time, the knowledge about the temple’s secrets died with the kings. Someone wise decided that it was best forgotten.”
Tara said, “So there are more chambers than the present priest’s knowledge. Did you ask him how he knew about the passages?”
Jennifer says, “Yes, the priest before him, told him about some of them. He stumbled upon a few.”
Tara said, “Do you think there are more passages and chambers in the temple?”
The Memana Namboothiri said, “Now, I am not sure at all.”
Tara turned to Jennifer, “Can you find that out, please?”
Jennifer assures Tara saying, “I’ll try.”
Jennifer rang up Cyrus. He did not answer the call. She called twice and then decided to drop him a message.
Jennifer was initially happy about the fact that the idol wouldn’t have left the temple since only the chosen one can take the idol out. But now she was unsure whether to be happy or not. No one knew anything about the temple for sure. It was such an enigma. She was awed by the fact that even in this century, people had so many beliefs and faith that logic could not explain. So much so that, they didn’t know anything about the neighbouring temple. Sudheeran did not know about his own family temple! Or did he?
Now that the team was unsure of the number of chambers, they decided to start the search the next day. From the beginning. It was Ravi’s idea. He suggested that the search must be from wall to wall and from corner to corner.
The team dispersed for the day.
Jennifer had strictly forbidden Tara from meeting Roohi. If, as the madman said, someone was watching them, they would be leading him directly to Roohi. However, Tara never forgot to call up and speak to Roohi every few hours. That night before sleeping, she spoke to Roohi for about half an hour, thanked Cyrus and went to bed. She felt better when she knew that Roohi was enjoying her stay with Cyrus.
The next day, the team started the search very early. Sudheeran satiated the curiosity of the villagers by telling them that the temple was being cleaned and renovated slightly. The innocent villagers bought his version of the story.
Tara decided to call Roohi after breakfast since it was too early.
“Did you ask the priest about the possibility of more chambers?”, Tara whispered in Jennifer’s ears.
“Oh Sss… I forgot.” She had called up Cyrus the previous day but he hadn’t answered. Later, she had forgotten about it. She dialled his number. He didn’t pick up.
The team divided into two. One began the search from the left side of the entrance. The other, from the right. By noon, the teams had finished two chambers each. Tara decided to try calling Roohi another time. After breakfast when she had tried, Cyrus wasn’t picking the call.
The number you are calling is switched off.
She tried again.
“Did you talk to Roohi yesterday?” it was Jennifer.
“Yes. But today, Cyrus wasn’t picking the call. Now it is switched off.”
Tara was again beginning to lose her calm. She thought of informing Shekhar.
There won’t be any problem. I’m just over reacting. I’ll have lunch and try again.
Meanwhile, Jennifer’s phone played the old Nokia tune. She picked up the call. An emotionless voice spoke,
She looked at the screen. It was an unknown number.
“It’s Goodbye. Ask them to stop the search and go home. I’ll be gone long before you find the right chamber. It was nice meeting you Jennifer.”
Beep beep beep.
“Hello! Hello! Cyrus!”
She looked wide eyed at Tara.
“He- He cheated us!”
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