This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
Chapter 1- Holiday Time
‘Ah! Now this is my idea of a holiday.’
Sophia and her cousin Nicole were basking in the sun on a glorious day at Colva beach. It was the Ganesh holidays and the two of them along with their other cousins and their parents and grandparents had escaped to the beach for a while.
‘What do you mean?’ asked Nicole.
Sophia replied ‘I mean- No running about solving any mysteries. After such a hectic term at school all I need is some good rest.’
Nicole laughed. She watched her brother Rahul who with Sophia’s brother Sean were flying kites along with their cousins, Ethan and his younger brother Zack. Just then a black figure bounded up from somewhere and landed on her tummy.
‘Ouch Duke.’ cried Nicole wincing with pain. ‘You know very well that you’re a fully grown dog now.’
The five of them (Nicole, Rahul, Ethan, Sophia and Sean) had formed a group called the ‘Five Cousins and dog’ along with Duke. Zack was only two years and could only say a few words.
Nicole turned back to her cousin and said ‘Well…you never know. There just might be a nice juicy mystery waiting for us here on the beach.’
Sophia snorted ‘Huh. As if. And speaking of “nice and juicy” you’ve reminded me that we’re late for lunch.’
‘Golly! So we are! Hey boys wrap up the kite business and come in for lunch.’
So after a lovely lunch and some rest the children went out for a swim while the adults strolled the beach. They went for dinner quite late to some shack and had crabs with lemonade.
‘Scrumptious.’ remarked Ethan as their made their way back to the hotel rooms. ‘See you tomorrow guys. Goodnight.’ They all separated and went their various ways.
They all slept well that night. The next morning grandpa had a surprise for them.
‘Well. I have signed you kids, all except Zack of course, up for a scuba diving course!’ he exclaimed. ‘You’re trainer will meet you in the lobby of the hotel at eleven today morning.’
Chapter 2-Scuba Diving, Here We Come!
The children were all excited. Only Ethan had been for scuba diving before but had been too young to enjoy himself.
They went to the lobby at eleven sharp. Their trainer was already there along with another sour faced man.
‘Good morning kids. I’m John your diving teacher. This is Peter. He’s another pupil.’ said the teacher cheerfully. ‘I hope all of you know how to swim very well?’
‘Yes.’ they chorused.
‘Great! Follow me to get your diving equipment. I’ll show you how to put it on and then we’ll go practice in the deep end of the pool.’
So after putting on a complicated wet suit and diving gear the group went to practice scuba diving. After two hours of tiring swimming John proclaimed them officially trained.
‘So tomorrow we can go scuba diving in the sea.’ cheered the children. After some lip-smacking dinner the kids fell asleep soon as they hit the beds.
The next day was Ganesh festival, a day of celebration for Hindus. The temple at the side of the hotel was filled with people and the children loved all the color around.
John, Peter and the children went scuba diving at twelve. A fishing smack took them out into the open sea and from there they dived in, after thoroughly checking their gear. The children were overwhelmed by the beauty of the ocean.
Chapter 3-The Beauty of the Ocean
Through sign language the children communicated, showing each other the coral and seaweed and the schools of fish. They soon resurfaced boarded the boat and sailed back to shore chattering about the sights they had just seen.
John announced ‘Now I want you all to make something to show me that you have really enjoyed your experience under the sea.’
Peter snorted ‘Humph. I am a 30 year old and I will not make anything.’ He walked away nose in the air.
The children rushed to Ethan’s room and started making things. Rahul made a pretty little octopus using a tiny coconut for the head and strands of seaweed for the tentacles. Sophia made a beautiful shell necklace while Ethan made a tub of floating fish out of neatly trimmed seaweed bladders.
Sean was making scuba divers out of some wet sand. After helping him shape the faces Nicole went back to the poem she was writing. Nicole had made a tiny turtle using a shell and some leaves she had found. She was also writing a poem. After they all finished she read it out. ‘I’m sure it’s not my best effort but I hope you like it.
Oh the sky and the lightning are grand,
But when I look at the sea
The noise that the waves make
It simply just awes me.
The way that the ships tumble
At the mercy of the terrific waves
Yet, below it’s beauty behold
The coral and the underwater caves.
Right down on the ocean floor
Where the oysters hold pearls
Float jellies and little plankton
Unfolding their pretty curls
The colorful fish float around
With turtles, octopi and eels
But many don’t know this beauty
For it the thrashing wave conceals.’
‘That was awesome Nick.’ cried Ethan and Sean ‘Maybe not your best effort but quite impossible for us.’
Nicole hugged them ‘That’s because I’m not as artistic as you are. Look at all this beauty. Almost as beautiful as the sea itself!’
Chapter 4- A storm and some Excitement
They ran off laughing for lunch. As they were wolfing down their lunch, Sigurd, Sophia and Sean’s father, pointed to a extremely polished looking man and said ‘Kids, you know who that is? He’s the famous author and comedian David Walliams. They say that he is taking home beautiful jewels for his wife. He carries them wherever he goes.’
The children looked interested and Sally, Sigurd’s wife, came and pulled him away. That evening the children went to give their pieces of art to John. He appreciated them and put them on show in a showcase in the lobby.
The children proudly went back to their rooms to get some rest. They were so tired with their swimming that they fell asleep and wouldn’t even wake up for dinner. So their parents left them to sleep.
There was a magnificent storm that night. It woke Sean up. His window was facing the temple. He went to the window to watch the storm when his sharp eyes caught some movement near the temple.
When he looked to see what it was, he couldn’t spot anything suspicious so he watched the storm for a while and then went back to sleep.
The next morning there was quite a bit of excitement around the hotel. The Jewels of David Walliams had been stolen!
Ethan burst into Nicole and Rahul’s room in the morning. They were brushing their teeth. Their mother Betty shot a look of disapproval to Ethan. He caught this look and backed out of the room muttering something about his pajamas.
They all met at breakfast and Ethan hissed his news to the others. Nicole was on the alert at once. ‘This is a matter for us to look into.’
Just then Sean remembered something. He told them about how he got up the previous night and saw some movement in the temple. Nicole said ‘Probably just some devotee come to pray.’
Rahul disagreed with her ‘A devotee? In the middle of the night while the wind was blowing up a gale? That person must have been bonkers!’
Sophia choked on her lemonade. Rahul sounded as if he thought Nicole had gone bonkers herself.
Ethan spoke ‘Today is the day of the immersion of Ganesh in the sea.’
Chapter 5- The Immersion
Sean looked baffled so Sophia explained to him. ‘On the day after Ganesh, Hindus immerse a statue of Ganesh into the sea, and Ethan wants to say that the temple will be packed and hence we can’t investigate.’
‘Maybe we can investigate when the priests are immersing the statue.’ said Sean pleased at being able to pronounce the new word so well.
‘According to this leaflet placed here for all Hindus, the immersion takes place at 4:00 in the afternoon.’ said Nicole who was reading a paper she had found on the table.
So at 4:00 sharp the girls and Ethan were at the temple. The other two had stayed to see if they found any clues at the immersion. The girls and Ethan searched the place thoroughly but other than a few astonished rats they didn’t find anything.
So they went to find the others. Rahul and Sean meanwhile had found something interesting. Peter was at the immersion ceremony! And he was a Christian. At first Rahul was not surprised but when he saw Peter taking hold of the statue he too was astonished.
He turned to a local to ask what was going on. The local replied ‘Usually on this day it is low tide. But because of the storm last night it is high tide. So the priests cannot place the statue at the usual deep spot. Also the statue is comparatively heavy than that of last year’s even though it is the same make.’
He watched Peter and the Hindu priests climb on board with the statue. They sailed off to a particular spot and lowered the statue there. Then they came back.
Rahul told all his cousins what he had gathered. ‘Something tells me that the secret lies in that statue.’ He said. ‘How about we borrow the diving gear and swim down to the statue tonight?’
‘Won’t it be dangerous?’ asked Nicole doubtfully. ‘you know that as the eldest in the group I’m in charge of you and…’
‘…If anything happens to you I’ll be blamed.’ finished Ethan ‘yes we know you’ve told us hundred times. Well…ninety-nine to be precise but you get the idea.’
‘Well, okay we’ll all go but please don’t make any noise and we’ll go during the night.’ said Nicole.
Sean spoke up meekly ‘I don’t think I’ll come. I’ve got a bit of a cold and I’m afraid of the dark.’
‘Okay. And if we don’t come back after an hour wake up our parents and for goodness sake don’t fall asleep.’ said Sophia, annoyed at her brother’s cowardice.
Chapter 6- Watch out!
So that night the gang slipped off at about midnight leaving Sean awake. They put of their diving gear and slipped off to the sea through the side door. They had waterproof torches and watches.
They swam on the surface till they reached the area the idol had been dropped in. From there they put in their masks and switched on their oxygen cylinders. They swam up to the idol and examined it.
Nicole signaled to the others saying ‘When underwater, things weigh only half of their actual weight.’
So they all went and putting all their muscle to it tried to lift the statue. But in vain. It was stuck fast. Then Rahul signaled frantically ‘Nicole, behind you!’
Nicole turned just in time to avoid getting hit by something. Then in panic she realized that it wasn’t a thing! It was someone! She signaled for them to swim away but the intruder blocked their path.
If they swum the other way they would only get deeper into the ocean and goodness knows what dangers lurked there.
Nicole caught hold of the stranger’s goggles and tried to yank them off. To her horror an enormous boil formed on his forehead, directly above his left eyebrow.
She let go of them and they snapped back onto his face. He frowned at her and pulled her to a stone. There he tied her up and went back for the others. He tied them all up to different stones with their hands behind their back.
All of them had dropped their torches and they couldn’t see what the stranger was doing. Sophia managed to see that he was fiddling with the idol but that’s all.
Just then they saw bright lights on the surface. The intruder stopped in surprise. Rahul managed to look at his watch. ‘Yes it’s 4:00 in the morning. How the time has flown or should I say swum.’
Someone dived in from what turned out to be a boat. He had a torch in hand. He saw the children and went up to them. With a clean swipe he cut off Nicole’s ropes using a knife. She rubbed her wrists and signaled to the rescuer that there was a danger behind the idol.
The man handed her the knife and went to the statue. He found the intruder and caught him. Meanwhile Nicole had freed her cousins. All the six people swam back to the boat.
They were soon at the shore. The childrens parents were there with Sean, Zack and Duke. They were all very worried. Grandma and grandpa were there too.
Chapter 7- We’ve solved the Mystery
The children emerged from the boat dripping wet. Though it was early in the day there were already a lot of people on the beach. Danny and Betty (Rahul’s parents) spotted the children first.
They rushed up to the children and began asking questions. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘You should have told us!’ Then Kenneth and Yasmin came up with Zack. ‘What is this all about?’
Nicole told them. ‘We were searching for clues to get the answer to who had stolen the jewels.’
Rahul chimed in ‘I found out that Peter a Christian was helping immerse the idol into the sea! I also found that the statue although the same type as last year was quite heavy.’
By this time a crowd had gathered to see what was going on. David Walliams was among the people.
Ethan continued ‘We had a hunch that the robbery was linked to the idol because on the night of the storm Sean saw some movement in the temple.’
‘Rahul suggested we go scuba diving to inspect the statue. Nicole disagreed but we coaxed her into it.’ said Sophia eagerly.
‘I had a cold so I didn’t go with them. They told me that if they didn’t come within an hour’s time to alert you all.’ said Sean.
‘So when we were under water this man attacked us and tied us up.’ remarked Nicole pointing to the intruder. ‘it’s time to unmask him!’
She went up to the man and pulled of his goggles and oxygen mask. Guess who it was. It was Peter!
Before anyone could say anything the rescuer who turned out to be John said ‘Why! It’s Peter. And to think I taught him to scuba dive.’
David spoke up ‘Peter indeed. He told me his name was George. He’s my security guard!’
Nicole whispered something to John. He went up to Peter and pulled of the skin of his face! Everyone gasped
‘Don’t worry.’ said Nicole ‘it’s only a tight fitting mask. In our struggle under the water I tried it yank off his goggles.
When I tried, his forehead got swollen and that made me realize that he was wearing something on top if of his own skin and when water entered it got swollen like a boil.’
Just then one of the priests stepped forward, pointed at Peter and said ‘Hey! I recognize you! You’re the one we purchased the idol from! But you said your name was Vijay.’
‘So that’s how he knew that the statue was hollow.’ exclaimed Nicole.
Everyone gasped again ‘Hollow?’ they cried in unison.
‘Yes. I spotted a hole at the bottom of the statue. I saw it just before Peter attacked.’
Then Sophia interrupted ‘By the way, what is his real name?’
‘Peter’ simply sulked and said nothing.
David cried ‘So…My jewels? Surely they’re not in that idol?’
‘Well, even I was smart enough to gather that.’ muttered Sean to Ethan. Ethan chuckled. The police were soon called and took away the man whose name turned out to be Alastair.
David took down notes and said ‘Hmmm, I can write a new book on this.’
The cousins heard this and looked at Nicole who smiled and said ‘Yeah, well we’ll see about that…’