Rogue Paths

I wake up to find myself handcuffed to the hospital bed. The drug they injected me with to tame me seems to be wearing off. Ugh! This again. Better to get it over with, I guess. I drag my free hand into my bun and retrieve a small blade. As usual the dumb police never bothered to check in there thinking a man’s bun would just be a fashion statement. I twist to my side and turn the blade in the keyhole clockwise. My hand comes free. I learnt to pick locks when I was young, one of my many talents. I shake my hand hard to get rid of the stiffness and get up from the bed. 

I stride confidently straight towards the door, not in the sneaky kind like a criminal would. As expected, a police officer stands at guard. His lips are on the verge of screaming when I silence him by waving a hundred bucks in front of his eyes. He raises his eyebrows at me and I throw in another four hundred to satisfy his thirst. That ought to shut him up. Money! The most deadly weapon and beautiful thing anyone can ever have. 

Outside the hospital waits Beth. She teaches German in Crawford High. Well, it would be safe to say she taught me the art of viciousness. If angels can house demons, there isn’t any harm in a teacher being an evil mastermind. 

“They shot you pretty bad in that leg, huh?” she says as I limp on one good leg. She gives me a look that is overflowing with pity. How I hate that!

“Enough with the puppy eyes already!” I snap. My right leg was hurting real bad and I would have stayed in the hospital until they mended it and made my grand escape later but I won’t want to deprive the world of its foul folks. Besides, I have business to finish.

“I must say, I didn’t expect you to be in the hospital,” Beth says unlocking her car and we sit in. 

“They shot my leg in the encounter at the bank and I was losing blood by the second. Couldn’t get much out of me while I was thrashing in pain,” I explain. 

“Did you find anything at the bank?” Beth asks, raising an eyebrow at me as she drives the car out of the parking lot. 

“I was close to. The property papers were in my hands before the cops caught up with me. Couldn’t read a word.”

“So, what are you going to do? Got anything up your sleeves?”

“Well, I do. I am going to my father’s house this Wednesday?” I say coolly. 

“You do know that’s two days away, don’t you?”

“I have thought it through. You’ll see,” I say grinning. 

Beth shakes her head. “Just remember I need my share of the money, Carl.”

“We talked about this a million times, Beth. You’ll get your forty percent,” I say casually leaning into the passenger’s seat.

My dad abandoned me when I was a teen. He is the owner of a multinational electronic company my late grandpa founded. Beth was the assistant manager. She was a frequent visitor in the house and shared a fine bond with dad until one day, she was fired when my dad accused her of a theft she never committed or so she told me. 

When I was old enough, I tracked her down and discovered that she craved revenge with dad for all the wrongs done to her. She wanted to blow the lid off and reveal all the dark secrets behind dad’s firm. In a way, our common want of vengeance united us. 

My dad is stinking rich whereas I was left in some community home and survived off donations. This is why I despise pity; I have lived with it all my life. I have my rightful place in the company and the fortune my grandpa left behind. But I need the official documents and my one chance of getting them from the bank slipped away. That’s where the part of infiltrating his house comes in. Ah! It’s been such a long while since I did something of this kind. Infiltrating seems such a gorgeous word now. 

“So, how are we doing it?” asks Beth pouring two glasses of red wine for the both of us. She drove us to her house for it’s probably the safest place to be. 

“He is hosting a success party on Wednesday and there’s bound to be security. My idea is to go through as delivery persons. The rest will follow. You will tiptoe to the computer room while I put up some distraction. I will catch up with you soon enough. Till then, find the papers,” I instruct taking a swig from my glass.

“It won’t be that simple, you know,” she says with a smirk.

“I was thinking you need that forty percent,” I say with mock seriousness. 

“Fine!” she says exasperated. How I love when I am obeyed. 

We are wheeling the cart that supposedly holds the cake but instead I just stuffed it with a wad of cotton. I ring the bell of the grand house with Beth beside me. The housekeeper, a woman probably in her thirties, opens the door. She gestures to where the cake should be kept. I look around at the magnificence of the place and its each and every adornment and decoration, from the mahogany coffee table to the velvet curtains and even the intricate designs on the glass vases, conveyed royalty. I feel a rush of hatred inside me. My father enjoyed all the money at his disposal and lived in comfort with rugs beneath his feet whereas I tossed and turned with unease in my bed every night wondering if my parents would ever make their way back to me. At least my mother passed away before she witnessed the return of her abandoned son.

“You know what to do,” I whisper in Beth’s ear. She nodded. I take my blade out and make a shallow cut in the back of my hand oozing out blood. That blade is indeed a good partner. I pocket it as swiftly as I took it out.

“Oh, I am bleeding. I am bleeding,” I say dramatically and hold my hand out purposefully for everyone to see the scarlet covering it.

“Oh dear, God. I will fetch you some ice from the kitchens,” the housekeeper says and disappears into a corridor. That’s the thing about kind people; they are easy prey. 

I signal to Beth and she sets off in a half-walk and half-run up the stairs. She knows the way to the computer room from all those years of coming to dinners and teas in the house. As she turns into the corner, I rush behind her too, wiping the blood on my pants. 

I catch up with her soon enough as she looks straight ahead navigating through the rich corridor filled with a few guests. I walk behind her, maintaining a safe distance; we can’t afford to attract any attention.

We walk into a long deserted hallway. I am sure the computer room is here and so does Beth, I suppose, as she carefully notices each door. She comes to an abrupt stop in front of the door at the far end of the hallway and opens it without a glance at me. In the middle of the room sits a computer that would be the cause of my dad’s doom. Beth turns it on and gets to work as I stand at the door occasionally peaking in. I was afraid it might have a password but it didn’t. Arrogance! Father must be sure no one could evade his computer. Well, I guess history is being made today. 

“Do it quick!” I hiss.

“Does it look like I am not trying?” she says, making an irritated face at me. 

We are silent for five minutes or so when Beth says, “Carl, I found them!”

A smirk creeps across my face. “Transfer it to me. All of it,” I say in an excited whisper. 

Beth turns back to the computer and presses send. The next few moments go by as quickly as the blink of an eye. I lock Beth in the computer room and somewhere a safety alarm triggers deafening my ears. I hear her muffled screams calling out to me echoing in the hallway but without looking back I descend the two flights of stairs.

I bump into the security on a landing and adopting my best worried voice I say, “A woman in the computer room. Upstairs.” The words barely escape my mouth and they run upstairs to find the trespasser while I walk out of the mansion with satisfaction.

Indeed, Beth taught me too much than she should have. Call me selfish but that’s what the world made me. I couldn’t have let Beth have forty per cent. After all, what would she do with it in jail? As for my father, this episode would definitely motivate him to set a computer password. I whistle walking on the road thinking of the colour my bungalow would be. 

// This fictional story has been penned by 13-year-old Srishti Chawla and has been chosen for publication on our platform from the weekly submissions //

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