A spate of thefts in school disturb everyone’s life, puzzling everyone. Do you know who could be stealing from the students?
One evening after dinner Aamir and Gopal were sitting in Aamir’s room studying.
“Hey Aamir, have you by any chance seen my Tab?”
Aamir looked up. It was Dheeraj from Class VIII-B.
“Yes, my brand new Tablet. My Dad gave it to me on my birthday when I went home for Dussehra holidays.”
“When did you last see it?” Aamir asked.
“I was working on it just before dinner. After that, as is my habit, I kept the Tab in my cupboard and went for dinner. When I returned and looked, it was missing.”
“Did you lock the cupboard?”
“Come on, Aamir! Does anyone lock his cupboard when he goes for dinner?”
Dheeraj was right, thought Aamir. The dining hall was in Kabir block and so no one bothered to lock the cupboard or the room. Only when they went for their classes did they take the trouble of locking up.
“Are you sure you kept it in the cupboard and not someplace else?” asked Aamir.
“I have looked everywhere. I have been asking around just in case I have given it to someone and forgotten about it.”
Aamir frowned. “This is really funny. Has this kind of thing ever happened before?” Aamir asked. Dheeraj had been in TPS since Class I.
“Not that I remember. But you know something, when I was asking around Shahid of 7C told me that his classmate Vineet had lost his imported Swiss watch and Danny of 9B his iPhone.
“Have these incidents been reported to Greg sir?” Aamir asked.
“I don’t think. At least I am not going to do it. Everyone will create a fuss and blame me for my carelessness.”
That night as they were getting ready to sleep Aamir told Sagar about his conversation with Dheeraj.
“I am not really surprised, Aamir.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you allow street urchins to roam around in the hostel at ten in the night such things are bound to happen.”
“What are you getting at?”
“You jolly well know what I am hinting at. That Gopal fellow… ”
“Don’t be stupid, Sagar,” shouted Aamir angrily. “How can you even say such a mean thing?”
“Listen Aamir, I know these kids far better than you do. In my father’s factory many youngsters like Gopal are employed. And most of them are either shirking work or perpetually trying to steal something or the other. People of this class can never be trusted. Dishonesty is in their blood.”
“For your kind information Sagar, in case you have forgotten, I too am from the same class. My father doesn’t own a factory, he works in one. He is a technician in a small scale industry. My mother stitches clothes in her spare time. Together, they somehow scrounge enough to send me to a good school. And I can assure you that none of us is untrustworthy. The virtues that run in our blood are sincerity, hard work and integrity. My dear Sagar, please don’t think that honesty is the exclusive prerogative of the rich. The poor too are as honest and in many cases more honest than the rich,” with these words Aamir turned around and walked away, his body shaking with rage.
Aamir was praying that the mystery of the missing stuff would not be reported to Greg sir. If that happened, Sagar or someone else might mislead him and Gopal’s entry into the hostel would be stopped. And Aamir didn’t want Gopal to suffer. He knew without his help Gopal would never be able to do well in the exams.
Things were a little strained between Sagar and Aamir for a day or two, but slowly returned to normal. However, they still seemed to have lesser time for each other as compared to the earlier days when they were literally living in each other’s pockets.
Few weeks later, one night Aamir woke up with a splitting headache. He switched on the table lamp and looked at his watch. It was 11:30 pm. He decided to wake up Sagar who always had a ready stock of medicines. He leaned towards Sagar’s bed which was close by and called his name. There was no response. He called again, a little louder. The result was still the same. “Looks like he is in deep sleep,” Aamir muttered to himself and got up. He walked to Sagar’s bed. He had covered himself completely with his quilt. Aamir put his hand on the quilt to shake him. It was then that he realised that Sagar wasn’t in bed. He yanked off the bed sheet to find the pillows neatly arranged to give the impression of someone sleeping comfortably.
Aamir was puzzled. At first he thought that Sagar had gone to Prabhat’s room in Nanak block. But, then, why would he indulge in this kind of deception? It was clear that he did not want anyone to know that he was not sleeping in his bed. But again, why? And, more importantly, where was he?
On an impulse, Aamir put on his slippers and walked out into the corridor and started pacing up and down. He decided that he would wait for Sagar and ask him the reasons for this strange behaviour.
Around ten minutes later he saw a figure scurrying towards the main gate of the school. Who could it be at this time of the night? Was it the thief who had been stealing the iPhones, watches and Tabs? Aamir decided to follow. He quickly ran down the corridor and the stairs out into the school grounds. Since the grounds were dotted with trees it was not very difficult for Aamir to keep track. The figure by this time had reached the school gate. Suryabhan, the watchman, who had been dozing in his outhouse, got up with a start and flashed his torch. The light fell on the figure’s face. Aamir let out an involuntary gasp. It was Sagar! He whispered something to the watchman and from his pocket he removed a few notes and pressed them into his hands. The watchman opened the gate and Sagar slipped through.
Read on to Chapter 18
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