Dusk was about to break.
I implored him, “Where have you hidden the ring?”
Desperate I nudged him and demanded the answer. He ran towards the broken window and jumped out a split second before I could figure out his act and leash him.
As the looming danger assailed my mind, I shoved the broken glass together and dumped it in the dustbin.
“The ring”, it struck to me, “I must find it soon”.
A pat on the door.
“Sofia! Is it you?” I enquired
“Who else? Open up”.
“Are you alive to Jeff’s prank? He has crossed limits this time.”
“So he continues to be himself. What has he done? I assume something worse than before”.
“The ring, the engagement ring, he has either stolen it or hidden it. You persuade him to spill the beans before it’s too late to set things right.”
“Jeff’s incorrigible. I am on my way”.
As Sophia swings out of the room, Mom enters.
“I bumped into your sister on the staircase. She looked distraught. I find something upside down here.”
“No, mom. She’s just fine. Nothing of that kind I assure you.”
“Very well! Where is the engagement ring anyway?”
“It’s in my care. I showed you last night. Why you want to see it again?”
“When did you begin telling untruths? Sophia has confided into me all about Jeff’s trick. He’s your
friend, fetch me the ring before midnight. Oh! Lord you call it a prank…it’s a theft.”
“Mom, I am at my wit’s end. I was alarmed when he broke into my room through that window. Even on persistent asking, he wouldn’t open up. I am afraid he’s clueless about the ring…may be has no hand in it.”
“Clueless! In the first place, is that the only route to enter your room? Is he insane? Listen girl, I notice something downright bad going on here. I want the details now.”
“Mom, the previous night after you gave me the ring back, I kept it in my vanity box. Nobody in this world knows about it barring me and my sister, Sophia.”
“Now, don’t you spin a story like this? You intend to say that Sophia stole her own ring…”
Mom’s old beta noire, our neighbor Mrs. Jones enters…
“I find a tempest simmering here. Is all not right Mrs. Ben?’
“You, as usual, scent trouble in my house, Mrs. Jones. Life is in a full swing. Ah! For you it may spell trouble.”
‘I admire your tact of concealing your dirty linens. Still haven’t lost all your marbles”.
“Mrs. Jones, don’t be a bloody spoilsport here. I am having a merry conversation with my daughter. Mind if you leave us alone.”
“Umm I might be a spoilsport for you but going by your daughter’s looks, she seems to have welcomed my entrance.”
“Your so irreverent, Mrs. Jones. Leave us in peace.”
“Take care of your temper. Pray what might happen next? Panicky woman.”
“Mom, what does she imply? Is she somehow alert to our problem?”
“Yes, she is, she is the wretched thief! Get Jeff on the phone. That prankster has to speak out in any case.”
“Jeff! It’s me. Sophia’s mom”.
“Oh! Hello How are…”
“Enough of these everyday pleasantries. I’ll have none of it tonight. You have put us in disarray. What have you done to the ring?”
“The ring! Mam, you and your daughters are driving me nuts. Just a moment ago, Sophia rang and droned on at length about some engagement ring of hers that incredibly I have stolen.”
“Fine. If you haven’t then why in the world you broke my window and…”
“Hasn’t Mrs. Jones disclosed anything yet?”
We both echoed, “Mrs. Jones”.
“Yes! Her little son broke your window with a terrific six though he had fashioned for a four. It happens in cricket…”
“Jeff! Next what?”
“Mrs. Jones pleaded me to get the ball back without letting anybody know of it and then would personally lay bare the accident. I climbed your house, entered your daughters’ room and took the ball. When I was about to turn, your daughter slipped in. Before I could say anything, she glanced at the opened vanity box which I swear I was unaware of. She found something amiss and blurted out, “Where is the ring Mr. Jeff….you have stolen it, isn’t it”. I was consumed with indignation. I tried to tell her what I knew but she had got it lodged in her mind that I stole it. I explained everything to Mrs. Jones and she assured me of meeting you in time to settle the matter right. It’s odd …”
“Mr. Jeff, it’s very unbecoming of you to trust a lady like her. Thank you.”
Mom hung the phone.
“I need to settle some scores with my rival. I can’t believe she’s behind all this. She’s a sadist…it’s confirmed”.
“Mom, it will unfounded to blame her. She didn’t come to my room at all. It was Jeff who did. His story ain’t conclusive enough to set her down as a thief. And Mom don’t let your dislike for her blind you’re commonsense. She might have tried to uncover the accident but seeing us already in trouble, she didn’t find it practical to aggravate our worries.”
“When have you begun to sing her praises? I somewhat agree with you…but the unsettled problem is the ring. Oh! God…my poor heart.”
“Mom, Jeff says he didn’t see the box let alone stealing from it but Sophia…”
‘Listen girl. It’s absurd to believe her pinching her own ring. And her engagement is due tomorrow…”
Mrs. Jones enters.
“Mrs. Jones it’s appalling. You didn’t tell us about the accident. You feared paying for the window. That’s beyond the pale.”
“Hold your tongue, Mrs. Ben. What will become of you? And what accident you’re alluding to? A window….I too pay for it! Good lord…when are you sober?”
“Mrs. Jones for once, I pray, don’t use your artifices on me. The ring is lost or may be stolen and tomorrow the engagement is scheduled. For the love of mike …bring back my ring.”
I put in
“Mrs. Jones. Did your little son break the window at sundown?”
“Did you have any conversation with Jeff any time by now?”
“Well, no. I don’t talk to familiar strangers without any purpose.”
“She’s a brute liar. She has stolen the ring to pay her mushrooming debts. I snooped at your phone bill in the late afternoon, Mrs. Jones…you need the money and, and you steal my ring. You thug…”
“Mrs. Ben! Your allegations are surreal. You are acting so chary…a new dimension to your character, I assume. And by the bye I came to inform you, your better half is waiting downstairs in the living room. Why don’t confide in him about the swiped ring of yours?”
Sophia enters followed by Jeff
“Sophia, step aside from him. He’s a wicked burglar. Mr. Jeff, curtains have fallen on your
game. I am no fool, I can see through your ploy. Hand over the ring or face the police.”
“Mam, if I could smash the window, I can smash your necks to boot. The ring is mine…my precious ring, my precious ring.”
Jeff sprints downstairs towards the living room.
“Catch the thief….Go! Go! Go!”
All dash en route for the room. Everybody finds him reposing next to dad on the couch.
“Beware Dad! Jeff has stolen the engagement ring. He’s a thief…a demented thief.”
“My ladies… now don’t trounce this lovable boy. I think there is some mix-up.”
“Dad he’s a con thief…the ring …he broke into the house and robbed it.”
“I see. Jeff, you and your pranks. I shouldn’t have told you alone that I was taking the ring for last tunings. Here it is”
The jigsaw puzzle was half worked out …
I enquired, “Only I and Sophia knew of the ring’s hideout…my vanity box, then how come?”
Jeff summed up, “Sophia was my stanch accomplice. While playing cricket, I broke the window. I came to inform you but on my way I bumped into Sophia. She had to hand over the ring to dad. As dad took it away, this joke struck me and I carried it out …just for a giggle….”
At this Mom muttered, “Just for a giggle…”
Yeah just for a giggle!
Dusk was about to break.