Friday, March 17, 2006

Confessions of a dangerous mind - III

Alone in the cell, I sat back and sighed! Six years ago I began an extraordinary journey in the world of stolen antiques and today whatever I was, was because of Pierre. Vincent our butler called him “Master” and loved him like a Master. I called him Pierre but loved him like the father I never met. His associates feared him, but loved him. Pierre- the Master was respected for his meticulous planning and perfect implementation. His reflexes never slackened and his mind never gathered rust.

My thoughts wandered off again. Twice I had been caught, but Pierre came to my rescue each time. This was the longest I had ever spent in prison. This time things looked different. This time perhaps, I would have to plan my own escape, without Pierre, without anybody. I started thinking again and after five hours I still had not come up with any idea. The prison was an impregnable fortress. Searchlights scanned the length of the territory and black hounds roaming the premises were let loose at the slightest sound of alarm. The barbed wires were electrically charged and nobody ever left this place without being searched. No human habitat could be found within two miles of the place. Amidst all this, I was shunted in an underground dungeon, with a small window that was snow-laden, where sunlight seldom found a chance to enter. I looked at the snow again and again and suddenly it stuck me!

I looked at the criss-crossed bars in the window and sure enough there were small pores at regular intervals along the grid. In cold climates, pipes often burst when water froze into ice. The pores were there to prevent water from accumulating in the pipes. I looked at the pores and found my escape route. For the next three days, I tore threads from my sleeping bag and tightly wound the grid, leaving only a pore at the top. For three days, I did not drink water given to me during lunch. Instead I poured the water into the grid, crossed my fingers and waited. On the third day my job was done. Outside, night was approaching and temperatures were falling. Then close to midnight, the water froze in the bars, turned into ice and expanded in volume. The ice pushed against the bars and suddenly with a huge explosion, the bars burst and the window cracked open.

I had no time to waste. Even though, I was in an underground cell, I was sure the noise would have been heard somewhere. I pushed myself against the window, which was quite weak by now and gave way. Pulling myself up, I stumbled into a tunnel that went to the left and right. Both sides were dark and I did not know where to go. I picked up a pebble nearby and threw it to the left. It did not go very far. Then I threw another pebble to the right. This time it carried to a distance. So the wind was blowing from the left side of the tunnel. I followed the left side and sure enough, found myself looking at streaming water, gushing all over. I dived into the water and upon rising found myself in the middle of a wide water-body. I realized that I had accidentally discovered the sewer line and it emptied into a river. Looking around me, I realized that I would have to make my escape in sub-zero temperatures. They had heard the explosion and the hounds were being let loose, I was shivering and my footprints would leave a permanent mark in the snow. I decided to take the warmer water route.

I do not know for how long I swam, but that night all of Siberia would be searched for me and I did not want to take any chances. Pulling myself to the bank, I saw an old fortress with lights. I made a cautious approach lest that it should turn out to be another government head quarter. There were no guards and so I knocked at the door. It was answered by a nun.

The sisters of the order of St.Dmitri are forbidden from any contact with men. They are not permitted to talk to anyone from the outside world and at the end of the day; they whip themselves with lashes in penitence. They lead a Spartan existence. Though stoic they may be heartless they are not. When a young, virile male of twenty-four years collapsed at their entrance door that cold winter evening, they were at a loss. After much consultation, they carried him to a room, gave him a bed and let him lay there. Meanwhile, the police looked everywhere for the escaped prisoner, but when they came to the convent, they passed it.

I stepped out next morning from the convent and called up Vincent. Vincent informed me that Pierre had been missing for the past three weeks, looking for a way to free me. I told Vincent an address where I could be found in Moscow, and asked him to inform Pierre. Unknown to me, our phone at home was being tapped by the police. So, when I hitched a wagon and reached Moscow, the police was waiting for me. I went into the house and found Pierre in deep conversation with his contacts. They were still looking for a way to get me out of prison. I still remember the look of astonishment mixed with joy on his face, as he saw me free.

Suddenly Interpol barged into the room and asked us to surrender. Pierre pulled his gun and gunshots were heard all over the place. I lost no time, to escape from the place. From there I hitched my way back home to Rio, informing nobody and taking no risks. Once in Rio, the only thing left for me to do was to wait for Pierre. There was no fear from the police in our homeland, because Pierre always made sure that we did not undertake any assignments in Brazil.

A month later, I received the news of Pierre’s death. It took three men to shoot him six times in the chest. We never recovered his body, so we held a memorial service for him. It was a gloomy Wednesday morning and I was coming back home from the service, wondering what the future held in store for me. The door bell rang and Vincent answered it. “A visitor for you Master”, he said. “Coming”, said I.


1 comment:

Akash said...

A little disappointed as nothing happened between 'he' and the 'girls' in the monastery.