Both Muthukaruppan and Munisamy came to the burial ground. They were stunned to see that wreaths, garlands and flowers were strewn around on the spot. They had earlier fixed the spot for hiding their stolen article. In fact, they had dug a small pit and buried their valuable stuff underneath. But what they found now was that the very same spot was used by somebody who had buried their dead relative. The flowers and garlands bore testimony for that. Before the dead body could be lowered, the burial ground must have been prepared. At that time, the men at work must have noticed the hidden parcel. Surely, they must have usurped the booty.
Munisamy, younger of the two, was a coward. He was now afraid of being exposed. Earlier, in an artificial build-up of boldness under heavy booze, he joined hands with Muthukaruppan. He was inducted into this trade very recently and this was the first time he did something big. In the past crimes, he was used as a mere helper.
Naturally, he was trembling and in a shaky voice, he whispered.
”What will happen to us now? Our theft is exposed. How do we face our Agent Arora? The advance amount given by him is already used up. I warned you in the beginning itself! – not to play mischief with godly things. Sinners are punished and never blessed by Him. See now! We both are trapped. Anytime, the Police will come.” He was blabbering more and more in his own nasty way. Muthukaruppan was already irritated. His plan got foiled by that unknown idiot who laid hands on the same spot where he had buried his precious booty. All he wanted to know was, what he did with it and where did he take it to. Adding fuel to fire, this stooge was pouring out his non-stop oracles. He could not stop yelling at him. ”Will you stop your holy sermons? If given a chance you will yourself go and invite the hell upon us.”
He calmed a bit in a while. “Let us think for a while and look for some way out.”
The previous day both Muthukaruppan and Munisamy were required to go to the less popular temple of Venugopalaswamy temple in the suburb of the city. Once for keeping their crowbar, spade and other implements in a secret corner and again for removing the original idol and replacing it by a fake one. Thanks to the darkness of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Agent Arora wanted the original idol and had arranged for a fake one in replacement of the original idol. Panchaloha idols were much in demand in foreign countries. Both Muthukaruppan and Munisamy were successful in completing the first part --- keeping their tools inside the temple. Now when they took the fake idol and were on their way to the temple, a suspicious policeman was staring at them. So, to avoid further complications they simply entered into the graveyard and buried the fake idol in a spot. They fixed some marks to the spot for identification. Some chalk powder on the spot and Fifty steps from the tree. Having done this much they went home hoping to complete the rest of the job the very next day.
What they could not do yesterday, they wanted to complete the task today. They were happy that they set out at night on a new moon day. How could they choose a broad daylight or a full moon day for their nefarious activity? They were to take the buried idol and head for the temple, finish their job there and then proceed straight to Agent Arora, collect their payment and spend the rest of the night in the best possible way. That was the original plan. But alas! They were now stuck up in the graveyard and their hidden treasure was not traceable. They had to locate the new spot. Muthukaruppan was very sure that the idol they had buried in the original spot must have been removed and buried elsewhere in the same grave yard.
But this stupid fellow Munisamy, with his shaky legs and trembling voice would not allow him to go around the grave and look for. His non-stop muttering was more annoying. “No. No. The evil spirits from the freshly buried dead body is sure to hound us. We are going to be dead. Let us run away from here. I don’t want to be strangled by devils. They are dancing here with their mystic special effects at dark nights. Don’t you hear their steps? Any time they will pounce on us. Let us go immediately from here.”
He said sometimes he heard whistling sounds, sometimes loud thundering and hooting. Any amount of convincing him that the whistling sound was due to winds swaying and rattling the trees and loud thunderous hooting was due to clouds clashing with each other in the sky, did not pacify him. Even the freak lightnings, he imagined them to be heinous smiles of the devils. If he was left alone, he would simply scream and unnecessarily invite attention of anybody nearby. Otherwise, Muthukaruppan would have gone around the graveyard and looked for any other freshly dug area --- may be a smaller one just enough to bury their treasury. It was wrapped in his turban cloth. Even if that cloth could be found he would get a clue from it. But Munisamy was holding his wrist very tight so that he could hide his fears under the tight grip.
Not withstanding all these windy whistles and dancing steps, they both saw a thin smoky white sheet swaying gently in the air and clearly approaching towards them. Not only Munisamy, even Muthukaruppan was a bit scared. He was trying to look at the faint image with his deeper and sharper eyesight. But in darkness, nothing was visible distinctly. He told Munisamy.
“Not one. Looks like two devils are coming towards us. One for you and one for me.”
The minute he said so, Munisamy screamed and fainted. Muthukaruppan had to murmur “Oh! What a nuisance! I have to dig one extra grave for this fellow now. That is why destiny brought me here.” Just then he heard a distinct voice instructing him. “Not one. Make it two including one for yourself.”
For a second, he too got fooled by the distinct voice and thought it was the devil dictating him to carry out the orders. He pinched himself to stay conscious. A sharp lightning struck and a flash of light whisked around followed by heavy showers. The light of lightning was enough to reveal the two devils as two men wrapped themselves in their blankets. They only told him about digging graves for themselves. Muthukaruppan now fully cleared of his allaying fears understood that they were the men who stole their buried idol. They must be hiding and waiting elsewhere and looking for these two thugs to come. Muthukaruppan immediately clenched his fists and gave a strong punch on one of them and demanded the treasure to be handed over to him. Munisamy too was fully cleared of his mystic fears. He was not sure of who they were and why they were attacking. He only concluded that the graveyard was full of mysteries.
The rain gained momentum and lashed heavily. Thunders and lightning added extra strength to its severity. Neither Muthukaruppan nor his opponents could attack each other ferociously. Munisamy tried his best to strike them but he skidded and fell down in the murky slippery poodles. He got up again and fell again. That helped one of his opponents to stamp upon him with his bootleg. He dragged him to a nearby place and shouted. “Now I kick you into your grave.” Munisamy fell into a small pond with a great thud sound splashing heavily the muddy water around. It was still raining cats and dogs. His loud cries of ‘Aiyo-Aiyo’ could not be heard. Muthukaruppan attacked his opponent stiffly and seriously with repeated punches and kicks and was about to overpower him. But the other fellow who finished kicking Munisamy into a pool came running to rescue his colleague and started blowing left and right. It was two-against-one.
With the rain scoring the background music and lightning adding special effects to their long struggle, the night was becoming a nightmare for all of them. To cut the story short, Muthukaruppan fell apart and his opponents took the upper hand. Now they demanded details of what-why-where of their deal. Muthukaruppan just surrendered. He did not reveal that it was a fake idol which was on its way to the temple. If they believed the idol to be a real one, so be it. It was none of his problem. He made a cock and bull story stating that he stole the idol from an antique shop and wanted to sell it to a rich man called Agent Arora. They noted down the address of Agent Arora. Before leaving the spot, they rained some more blows on him and left him crying and groaning in pain.
They rushed to their specified spot where they had hidden the idol after lifting it from the grave they dug in the morning. The original place was marked with chalk powder and fifty feet away from the tree. They had changed the hiding place of idol and it was in the extreme corner directly opposite to its original place. The turban cloth was removed then itself and idol was placed inside a nylon cover. The new parcel packet was then buried in a pit specially dug for the purpose. For easy convenience and in order to remove it faster, they did not dig a deep trench. After all, it had to remain there for a few hours only.
When they came there, to their utter amazement, they found the hidden spot being washed away and just a small pool of water and mud gathered there. They looked for the idol and the cover here and there. It was pitch dark with the nonstop rain adding chaos to the grim situation. The silliest mistake they committed was that they neither had a cell phone nor a torch. They avoided the phone as it might send signals or make sound on notifications. Torch light they avoided as they were well aware of their graveyard inch by inch. Their aim was to remain hidden and then strike suddenly on the idol thieves. They were least prepared for the sudden twist. Groping in the darkness for a stolen idol was a mockery. But what could be done?
They suddenly heard a heavy screaming sound from Munisamy. He thought a snake had bit him. It was a nylon cover that touched him. For him, his fear alone was sufficient to finish him. The graveyard diggers did not pay attention to him. They did not notice that it was the nylon cover in which the idol was kept, got separated and started floating and flowing with the force of water. The idol too got moved away from its position and was drifting in the direction of flow of water. They both were thoroughly drenched in the heavy downpour. It was still pouring with choppy winds blowing stronger and chiller. They were shivering due to chillness and devoid of shelter. They were almost exhausted and were about to give up.
Suddenly they heard a huge metallic thud sound. It came from the nearby corner of the graveyard where a drainage was entering into the Adyar canal. It was the sound of the idol falling into the canal by hitting the walls of the canal. Both the diggers banged their heads in dismay. All efforts to grab a fortune through the idol, had gone down the drain. Truly into the drain. What a terrible waste of their best efforts. One of them said, “May be, God wanted us to remain sane. He did not want us to be criminals. Thank our stars and this treacherous rain. We are spared. Let us be good and now let us go home.”
The other guy also agreed. “Yes. You seem to be right. We are not born to become rich through shortcuts.”
It was still raining. It washed out all that was coming on its way. Including the evil thoughts surfing in the minds of criminals.
Devils may abound in the graveyard. But at times they turn some people to remain good and stay firm and steadfast.
Afterall, not all devils are bad. It is proved once again.