1: Startled Hares
I woke hungry. The grease from last night’s meagre meal still lined my mouth. The cold of the bare concrete floor had seeped into my bones. Shivering made the wound in my leg ache. It was a nasty purple colour now. I looked around. Mum, Dad and my little brother, James, were still asleep. Through the bars of our cell I could see that the skies were slowly starting to lighten. Morning had arrived at long last. The weak dawn light picked out streaks of grey mould on the once-whitewashed walls, and there were patterns of green stuff where monsoon rains seeped through cracks in the plaster; it almost looked like a map. The team of ants that found a gecko’s tail on the floor last night had managed to pull it half way up to the ceiling. I was so hungry I almost envied their feast to come.
I heard footsteps and jangling keys. Suddenly everyone was awake.
“This was earlier than I expected,” Dad whispered. “You’ve got to really focus, Alex. No day-dreaming. Don’t forget the plan.” I gave him a dirty look but he didn’t notice. He went on, “Get away, and get word to the Embassy – then we might have some chance of rescue, and of clearing up this big ugly misunderstanding. Once we’re out, we must separate straight away. You boys, go straight to the Irrigation office. Ask Dinesh if he’ll let you phone Kathmandu. We can trust him. Tell him what’s going on. Mum and I’ll head for the main Post Office and try to phone from there. If there’s no Maoist reception committee, we’ll meet at the Post Office and take a tanga to the ferry at Kothiyaghat and then the bus for Kathmandu.”
Keys rattled in the lock. A junior policeman we hadn’t seen before opened the door of our cell. His uniform was all scrumpled, as if he’d slept in it. He looked tired. Maybe he hadn’t slept. He waved the four of us into the gloomy corridor. Wordlessly he indicated we should just go.
Dad said quietly, “Head straight for Dinesh’s house. As soon as you can boys, just run!”