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It Was Just One Small, Innocent, White Lie. Almost Every Climber Fibs Some Times, Right? He Almost Paid Dearly For It.

The author has a moment of remorse when he makes up a story with a big pay off.

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They say that truth is in the detail. Is it any wonder that’s where the Devil is to be found?

I was in the market square and walking past a stall, then stopped to try on a garment I liked. I had my rucksack with me and I put it down beside me where I could keep an eye on it. As I tried the garment on, a man came up to me on my left—the rucksack was on my right—and tried to sell me something, but I didn’t want it. He showed me another thing but I didn’t want it either and I said, “Go away.” He went away but when I looked around I saw my rucksack had gone, and when I looked up I could see it on someone’s back in the crowd, running away. I’m almost certain the person with them was the man who tried to sell me something. I tried to run after them, but they ducked into a side street and I lost them. Yes. That’s exactly how it was. Oh, then I looked at my watch. It was exactly five to three.

That sounds about right.

Kathmandu afternoons. I wasn’t sure if I liked or hated them. I lay on my back in the easy cool of my hotel room as outside another day raged by. The sounds of the streets came through the open window: the two-strokes, the markets, the shoe menders, the carpet sellers, the melon pushers, the tiger-balm hawkers. Too bored to read, I left my book open and face down at the usual page as my right hand gently tickled the spine.

It was that space between lunch and mid-afternoon snack and as I stared at the ceiling my mind occupied itself by running over the options for the snack: I could go to the Video Bar, where fuzzy showings of recent releases made up for the food and darkness; the Everest, whose main plus point was that it sold cornflakes in the afternoon; or the Himal, where the rooftop terrace and collection of fronds made me feel Colonial and where in my mind I referred to the waiter as Boy.

Footsteps in the corridor announced the approach of Jenny. Her key clawed sharp on the metal keyhole—I can’t remember why but we always locked it, even if one of us were in—and she came exhausted through the door carrying a plastic shopping bag and her other canvas bag. She closed the door, locked it, placed the bags on the floor and dropped onto her back on her single bed to my left. There we both lay, both looking, for all I knew, at the same fly doing its pointless polygon around the light fitting.

“Namaste,” I said, with limp irony.

She kicked off her sandals and I looked over to see her street-black toes. I heard her sigh, just to put the effort of the outside world behind her.

“Where you been?”

“Busy busy busy,” she replied after a pause. “I had to send a letter home and the queue in the post office was mental.”

Her words were coming out in slow sentences, unrushed and unmotivated. Perhaps she wanted to sleep, but I was feeling chatty. I asked her about the shopping bag.

“That? I got a present for my brother.”

“What did you get him?”

“One of those T-shirts with the eyes of Buddha on it. The one with Tin Tin on the back. Then I went and found out about busses out to the temple—we can get there by 12 if we leave by 10:30—and had something to eat in the Video Bar.”

“Oh.”

Earlier, I had been sure she said she would come back and get me first and we would go together. Like we always did. I thought about reminding her.

“Was it busy?” I asked to cover my disappointment.

“Usual. I was going to come and get you first but I didn’t think you’d like the film.”

“What was on?”

“Midnight Express.”

I was still watching one particular fly orbit the unlit light shade. I thought about standing up and trying to kill it. I’d like to see Midnight Express, I thought.

“What a film,” she said.

“Are you just coming from there now?”

“No. I was going to come on back but then decided I’d go down to the police station and get my certificate while I was on my feet, and get all my chores nailed today.”

“What certificate’s that?”

“For my insurance claim. You have to get something from the local police listing what was stolen from you.”

“What! You’ve been robbed?”

I sat up on my left elbow to hear what happened, but her eyes continued to look towards the ceiling.

“Well, no. I told you before, didn’t I? Not really. It’s for my insurance claim.”

“No, you didn’t tell me.” Did she tell me?

“You go to the cops, tell them you were robbed and get a certificate listing what you lost and how much it cost. They stamp it for you, then when you get home you make a claim.”

“You would do that?”

“I do every year. It’s just a way of paying for the trip. Really, it’s no problem.”

A quickening in her speech and a rise in tone told me she was getting agitated, whether with my probing or just because she was fatigued I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out about this.

“But—”

“Look, I’ve given them enough money over the years. I’m not going to shed any tears. Have you ever dealt with insurance companies? Well I do, every year, and I can tell you they’re a bunch of robbing bastards.”

“Do you think?”

“Of course they are. Excess this, depreciation that, receipts, proof. It’s institutionalized stealing. Anyway, when did you come over all moral, Mister stealing-books-from-the-hotel-library?”

Jenny had lifted the bottom of her T-shirt and unzipped the pouch of her canvas money belt. She took out a crinkly sheet of thin yellow paper and unfolded it.

“Is that your certificate?”

She hummed a yes.

“Don’t they interrogate you, the cops?”

“Are you kidding? It’s the Kathmandu police. They’re really sweet. And anyway, what do they care? Just tell them a few things, they write it down and stamp it. You just need the crime number. It’s a blank check.”

“What did you say you lost?”

“Those things,” she said, pointing the yellow page to the dresser. On it were her camera and lenses, some jewelry, a watch and a pair of sunglasses. I had seen her looking at them that morning after breakfast.

“I told them my bag was lifted when I was on the bus.”

“And you’ll get that money back when you go home?”

“Most of it. Haven’t you got travel insurance?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, you ought to do it, too.”

“But it must be risky, if the cops catch you out or something, isn’t it?”

“No, really, it’s no problem.”

“I’m not sure, Jenny. I mean, yeah, it’s a big company and all that, but still, in some way, it is stealing. And there’s always the risk of premeditated lying to the police. That’s First Degree lying, isn’t it? I think it might be. And not just the getting-caught thing but you know, morally. It’s wrong. Are you sure it really isn’t any problem?”

I looked at her for an answer but saw that her eyes were closed and a rhythmic breathing told me that she was fast asleep.

I turned back to the fly, but more absent-mindedly now. I had stopped thinking about afternoon snacks and thought instead about insurance. It would never have crossed my mind to try this. Lying to the police and this sort of premeditated stealing seemed a bit serious. But Jenny was not a criminal. She was normal. She phoned home every week.

She was nice.

I had met Jenny in the Himalaya the previous month. I was there to climb mountains. She “wanted to see how far I can get in three weeks.” We had walked together, gone our separate ways once or twice, and always managed to hook up again. I liked her because she was friendly to me yet seemed to dislike everyone else we met along the way. We had traveled around India for a bit then returned to Kathmandu near the end of our respective trips and got a hotel room together just off the main street. The question of double beds never came up, and we felt relaxed in the other’s company. I trusted her.

Perhaps, as she said, it just wasn’t a problem.

I decided to go for afternoon snack. I packed my light bag, unlocked, passed through, and relocked the door. I descended the gloom of the concrete stairway, with its clamped-down coolness, and stepped squinting into the explosion of Kathmandu.

It was hot. The full afternoon sun poured down onto me with all its heat and light. An unimaginable mixture of noises and smells swirled about. Petrol fumes, hammering, rotting vegetables, sweet perfumes, car horns, pots and pans, meatcooking, flybuzzing, foodchopping, dogbarking, marketstallshouting, beggingpleasepleaseplease. I had been here for 10 days, and I still marveled at it all. Steeling myself, I turned to dance between the oncoming throngs. For no reason I took four turns—left right left right—and went to the Everest Garden and ordered scrambled eggs and muffins and coffee.

As usual when I ate alone, I pulled out One Hundred Years of Solitude but looked at the page without reading. I weighed the moral rights and wrongs. I had heard of people doing this before, and had been told how no one really suffers. I hadn’t understood before but now Jenny had explained it I could see it wasn’t real stealing, was it?

A blank check, she had said. That would be nice. I’d like a blank check. And all I had to do for this is go to the police and say I had my bag stolen on the bus. But what could I say I lost? I pictured Jenny’s little spread of valuables. I had no valuables but I did have my mountaineering equipment, which was spewed over my side of the hotel room, a rattlebag of tattered nylon and blunt metal. That’s what I could say was stolen. Just out of curiosity I got a pen from my bag and made a list of it in a blank page near the back of my book: tent, mat, waterproofs, Swiss Army Knife, crampons, ice axes, plastic boots, ropes, carabiners. Was that worth much? Beside each object I now added their value. I had been given most of it by friends—obsolete or worn-out surplus taking up room in somebody’s cupboard, but I ascribed to each object the price I had seen for them in the shop when new. At the bottom I drew a line and wrote the word TOTAL.

Holy cow, I thought, when I added it up and looked at this figure. That’s a lot of money. I checked my addition and I was right. I’d never had that amount of cash before.  That would be very useful when I got back home. I felt my face tingle looking at the figure and began to do a bit of mental shopping, suddenly feeling the thrill of what it must be like to have disposable money. A good stereo system? A small car? No more busses for me. A guitar? I could learn music. A really good computer system could help with my education.

The waiter brought my food and as he placed it on the table in front of me I noticed that I was in a tremendous mood. I pictured myself going to the police station, telling them about the robbery on the bus and getting my blank check. Coming back to the hotel and showing it to Jenny and going out to celebrate that night.

As I ate, I thought about my story. Jenny had already said she was robbed on the bus. Better think of something else. I’ll say I lost it in the market. I put it down to do something, walked away for a bit, then when I came back it was gone. Someone had taken it. Genius. To ensure I got it right in case I had to repeat it, I wrote it down on a page opposite my price list. But then I scored it out. Idiot. They probably don’t pay up if I just lose it through my own negligence. It had better be stolen. I thought again over sips of coffee and started writing again. This time I was coming home at night—last night—carrying my rucksack and all my equipment, and two men came up to me and one had a knife and said to give over my money and equipment. So I did. But hang on, that all sounds a bit too criminal. I don’t want to start some major investigation into knife robberies. That could get complicated. I scored it out. 

That’s when I came up with the story where I was in the market with my rucksack, and it was stolen as I tried something on. I would have to take my rucksack off for that. I thought long and hard, but the story seemed perfect. But why did I have everything with me? In case someone stole it from the hotel room. It was an innocent enough crime. Nobody got hurt, not too serious, one that must happen all the time. That’s exactly how it happened. I wrote it out, and it looked flawless. I smiled.

I remembered an episode of “Columbo” where the TV detective explained why he had suspected that the criminal’s alibi was untrue. It was too vague. When dreaming up the alibi, the liar had constructed a perfectly acceptable sequence of events. But in reality, things don’t happen like that. Odd things with no direct relevance happen. You’ll see something, remember some small, insignificant detail. Just to make sure my story aroused no suspicions, I noted an insignificant detail.

Just after the robbers disappeared I looked at my watch. It was exactly five to 3:00.

I finished up, paid and, feeling flush, left a five-rupee tip. I went down to the street and hailed a rickshaw toward the police headquarters.

A new camera, that’s what I’ll get, and some nice lenses. I’ve always wanted that. And a decent television. And I would give some to charity, I decided. Having paid the driver, I turned toward the police HQ. It was a fine, solid building, with large square steps radiating from heavy doors. Smartly dressed Nepali policemen left and entered the building. I admired their slender propriety, crisp blue shirts, navy trousers tucked reassuringly into white puttees. Exaggerated, starch-stiff kepis and gleaming leather boots. I was suddenly conscious of being scruffy so I tucked my T-shirt into the waist band of my shorts, pulled the laces of my trainers very tight and tied them in a big bow. I felt cocky as I approached the entrance. I said, “Namaste” to a policeman and, ever friendly, he returned the gesture. I took the steps two at a time and entered the building with a respectful swagger. I wanted to be sure I radiated decency and confidence, that I had nothing to hide.

At the front desk I said a polite hello and, with measured distress, told the clerk that I had been the victim of a robbery and wished to report it. Without returning the hello the clerk looked down and pulled a pad of pink paper toward himself. He tore off a sheet and without turning his eyes back toward me reached the sheet out for me to take.

“Please complete.”

I reached for it but as I took it the clerk didn’t release it right away and for a moment it was taut between our fingers. This took me by surprise. He looked up, only enough so his eyes could see mine, and then released his grip.

I found a chair in the corner and pulled a pen and my passport from my small bag. I inserted details of nationality, passport number, age, gender, local address. For nature of incident I wrote “Robbery of mountaineering equipment in local market.” I dated and signed it. I returned the filled-in page to the clerk, and once again was acknowledged only by a brief glance, which told me once again to resume my seat. He looked at the information and picked up his telephone and spoke a few brief words into it.

He’s not very polite, I thought. No wonder he’s only a desk clerk.

A few moments later another policeman entered the room from deeper within the building. His arrival was preceded by the sharp strikes of his military-style heels on the hard floor. The clerk didn’t stand up, but a rapid movement of his eyes toward the door revealed deference to the approaching policeman.

The clerk handed him my papers and spoke to the officer in Nepali. The officer looked across and down at me. I smiled back, and resisted the temptation to stand up and shake his hand. I couldn’t help saying namaste all the same. He turned from me without answer, swung on his heels and I heard their sharp clips receding down a corridor. A few moments later the clerk’s phone rang and I was instructed to follow down the hall to the last door on the right.

I entered a room with a wooden table and two chairs. The officer was there and he asked me to sit down. I did and on the table in front of me was my signed paper.

“There has been a crime, sir.”

“Yes, there was. A robbery. I was robbed.”

“I see.”

He pulled a stack of blank papers from a drawer in the table and slid them toward me.

“Do you have a pen?”

“I do.”

“Would you please write a description of this robbery here together with a description of what was stolen from you?”

I nodded and pulled the papers toward me. My blank check.

The officer left the room by another door. I wrote out the description of my robbery, minus a few details that I would give if he questioned me. Then I filled in the list of objects and values. Finished, I sat back in my chair and awaited the officer’s return. Over 15 minutes passed and I began to wonder why he was taking so long. It would be time to eat again soon. Would it be rude of me to knock on the door? In order to show that I was not worried, was innocent, I took my book from my bag and opened it. I didn’t read, but it felt nice to be doing something. Finally, he returned. I placed my book on the table and said hello again. This time he smiled. He sat down opposite me, turned the statement and scanned it.

“Well?” the officer asked without looking up.

“You mean what happened?”

“Yes.” He looked up.

“Well, I was in the market square in Kathmandu. I had my rucksack with me with all my mountaineering equipment in it and I was walking past a stall, then stopped to try on a garment. So I had to put my rucksack down. Beside me where I could see.”

“What was in this bag?”

“What it says on the list.”

“Indeed, but please, just tell me, sir.”

I listed the objects.

“This is indeed a lot of things to be carrying around on such a hot day and indeed I would not wish to be carrying it myself. It must weigh a lot. Have you no hotel you could leave it in?”

“Yes, but just to be safe, you know.”

“Safe? Safe from what?”

“I didn’t trust the maid with it.”

“The maid is a thief?”

“I don’t know, you just hear stories.”

“No. What stories?”

“Well, just, that some people … I don’t know, steal stuff.”

“They do?”

I was silent. I felt myself blush, and decided I better talk.

“So I put my bag down.”

I recounted the story of my bag being stolen, the street peddler, the man running off, the alley.

“Oh yes.” I almost forgot. “Then I looked at my watch. It was … ”

“Now,” he interrupted. “Would you list the value of these objects?” He prodded the list with his fingertip. I was perturbed at not having a chance to give my little bit of detail but once again picked up my pen.

I was starting to feel a little more conscious of the seriousness of the situation. I was surprised that I was not enjoying the regard that, as a Westerner, I usually felt in this country.

Still, I persevered, and listed their values.

“And the total, here.”

I wrote, “£1,000.”

I sat low in the chair. The officer sat opposite me, upright. He turned the sheet of paper round, looked at it, and rotated it again toward me.

“Signature and date.”

I signed.

He looked at me.

A long silence.

“Do you think you will catch them?” I asked with a dry mouth.

Catch them?” the officer asked, smiling.

I was starting not to enjoy this. I’m sure Jenny would have mentioned if they went through this process. Just relax, I told myself. They’re not being threatening. It is routine. Remember, it’s no problem, really. What do they care?

“One thousand pounds. What is this in dollars?”

“I don’t know, about two thousand.”

“Two thousand dollars. Do you know how many rupees this is?”

“No.”

“Sir, this is almost sixty-five thousand rupees. Sixty-five thousand! This is a lot of money. Are you a rich man?”

“Me, no. I’m very poor.” I forced a laugh.

“But this is such a loss for you, no?”

“Yes.”

“I am a police officer. This is a good job. Still, this would take me five years to earn. This much. This is a terrible loss for you.”

“Terrible.”

“Perhaps you have insurance?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

The officer grinned. “Then this is very fortunate for you, sir.”

He leaned back on the chair. I looked at him yet avoided his eyes. I hadn’t noticed before, but he was wearing a handgun. It sat inside a thick black leather holster with thick heavy stitches. The holster had a matte-black finish. The black gunmetal shone dark and heavy within.

“Tell me again what happened, sir.”

I again recounted the story, and this time managed to get it in: “Then I looked at my watch. It was exactly five to three.”

“What was?”

“The time. That it happened. Just after it happened. Just as it stopped happening.”

“Sir, I did not ask you what time it stopped happening.”

“No.”

The officer slid toward me again, his hands out with his fingers together on the desk in front of him, now quite far over onto my side of the table. I could feel myself sweating, my armpits and the small of my back feeling deathly hot. This had started to feel more like an interrogation. On the desk before me were the lies, signed and dated by me. I hoped dearly I was hiding my panic. But I told myself not to worry. They were just police officers taking my details. Jenny had done this today already. They are just getting details before they give me my certificate and crime number. It’s really no problem.

“My name is Bikram,” he said.

“Namaste, Bikram.” I nodded my head in overdone respect.

He smiled and nodded, only slightly at an angle. He opened up the lattice of his fingers, and made their tips touch, forming a cage shape.

“Sir, I am afraid that I do not believe you.”

“What?”

“Sir, I am afraid that I do not believe you. I believe that you have made this story up in order to steal this money. These two thousand dollars.”

“No. No. It’s … ”

I felt an avalanche of cold blood crash down through my body, taking all my internal organs down to the floor. My ears and hair tingled with electricity. My rectum warmed and slackened, felt like warm milk. I looked at Bikram as best I could and tried to un-hear what he had just said.

“This is really not a problem. This kind of thing happens all the time. I know, perhaps you have not much money, and you need this? I understand.”

“No, Bikram. It’s all true, honest.”

“But you see, it would be best if we were not trying to look for a criminal, if there is no criminal.”

“It’s all true.” I put my elbows on the table and turned the palms of my hands outwards. “It’s all true.”

“Because if there is no criminal, it would be a waste of our time, of police time, to be looking for one, you see?”

“No, sir. It happened, really.”

“Do not worry, we are not going to do anything about this, it is just better for us, for you, that we know. So why don’t you just tell us, it is really not a problem.”

“No. I was in the market … ”

He raised a finger to silence me and I was silenced.

I couldn’t speak. Why had I done this? My mind immediately pictured a poster I had seen on the wall of the Himal restaurant the previous day. It had read, “ENGLISH! I am an Englishman being held prisoner in Kathmandu prison. Please find it in your heart to come and visit me. I am most grateful for any visits, no matter how short. Please. John Harris.”

Prison. Was I going to go to prison? I was. I imagined grabbing the papers off the table and running, or swallowing them. They were the only evidence. Or should I just admit it? No, that was a terrible idea.

Bikram picked my book up from the table. One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“I, too, love books,” he said.

Keeping my page marked with his thumb he flicked through, and stopped to read a section. If my blood had turned cold before, now it turned to ice. A page just inside the back cover fell loosely open and on it I could see blue ink and my handwriting. I saw the edge of my list of “lost” items, prices, and below that, the series of jotted and scored versions of events. Bikram again started flicking, toward the end of the book. I was not breathing. My life had stopped.

“Stories are such wonderful things, don’t you agree?” He looked at me. Could I grab the book?

I nodded. He replaced the book on the table, carefully open as he had found it.

“I like best crime stories. Perhaps because I am a policeman. Does that sound plausible?”

“Yes, Bikram.”

“Especially the Sherlock Holmes stories. Such a logical mind he has. And what is his phrase?”

“Elementary.”

“Elementary, that is it. And because this is so much money you have lost, we may have to do an investigation, you see? Procedures.”

“Yes.”

“Would this be a good idea?”

Yes,” I creaked out. I must stick to the story. They cannot prove I am a liar.

“But I believe you should tell us the truth, really.”

“Bikram, I told you what happened.”

“Of course. Because, you see, what we will do first is check your hotel room. We have done this before. And when we have, we were very surprised to find that the stolen things were there all along. Most surprising, no?”

“I suppose.”

“And above all disappointing, to have been lied to. And you do not mind if we do first this one routine check?”

“Not at all, sir, no.”

I pictured myself being taken in from the blazing street, into and up the dim stairs, down the dark hall. I would put my key in the keyhole and turn the lock. I would open the door and there would be my stuff. But there too would be Jenny, and there too would be Jenny’s stuff. ENGLISH! We are English being held prisoner in the Kathmandu prison!

Inside, I was sobbing. It had all gone wrong. Why had I done such a stupid thing?

“Because, if you insist that we do this, we will now go to the chief of police on the third floor. The chief is a very important and busy man, who does not like his time to be wasted. He will authorize the search of your room. And if he does, what will we find there?”

“Nothing, Bikram.”

“Nothing?”

“Well, things, but not the stolen things.”

“I do not understand why you do not just tell me the truth. It will be much simpler. I really do not care. It is of no difference to me. But if we do find these things … ” he picked up and held the list and values before my eyes. “Then the chief will be very angry.”

With that, he pointed a long finger toward the roof. I looked at his finger, followed its line upward. I saw a cracked ceiling, with flaked paint. Some flies. Oh god, I so wanted to tell the truth. To end this. Tell him.

An attempt at speaking ground to a halt in my dust-dry throat.

“OK. Then we will do this search. I am most disappointed by this. Collect your things. Follow me.”

It felt that I had long since abandoned control over my destiny. I stood up, put my book in my bag and followed. Bikram marched swiftly down a corridor to a set of stairs and sped up them. I almost had to run to keep up. After two flights, we moved down a corridor and to an open door.

“Wait.”

I stood at the door and looked in. Policemen bustled about. Bikram took three strides across the floor holding the pieces of paper with my signed lies and approached a man behind a large desk. He stamped out a loud, sharp salute. The man nodded an acknowledgement. His large brimmed kepi was ringed with many colors. His lapels were braided with blues and reds. Multi-colored ribbons crested his left breast pocket. It had all now gone too far. I had no chance.

But one.

Oh God, I muttered. Oh please, God. Oh God almighty I am deeply penitent for what I have done. What have I done? As I watched Bikram explain the situation to the chief, showing the papers, cementing my doom, I imagined myself in the middle of a field among the mountains. I was on my knees, dressed in white, looking toward the sky. Oh, God. I smiled plaintively heavenwards, my hands clasped meekly. Please God, let me get away with this. I am ready to pledge myself to thee oh Lord and all your works. Please God, I swear I will never again do wrong.

I had a vision of Christ on his cross and I recalled the two thieves who were crucified by his side. One refused to beg forgiveness for his sins while the other was penitent and Christ smiled upon him. I thought of Jenny and myself. Oh Lord, I cried inwardly, can thou not see that I am the penitent one. Spare me. I have been tempted into doing this by Jenny. This is not my way. Please, God, have mercy this one time.

I was almost ready to collapse, would have been happy had the earth opened up and swallowed me. My heart hammered in erratic gasping starts. Across the floor, 10 feet away, I heard Bikram explain all, upright, official, cold.

Lord!

Suddenly the chief stood up. He was shouting at Bikram, roaring. He pointed to a portrait above his desk. The King of Nepal. He then pointed at a rifle beside his desk, and then at the window with a sweeping movement. All the while Bikram stood upright, unflinching. The chief slammed the desk with his palms.

Bikram saluted and stamped again, wheeled round and marched toward the door.

“Come.”

I hurried behind Bikram, stepping rapidly down the stairs and along the corridor to our original room.

“Wait.”

He went through the other door, to emerge moments later with a sheet of yellow paper.

“This is your police report. Now go.” He put it on the table and left the room.

I slung my bag, took the paper and walked out of the room and up the corridor, past the clerk, his eyes still cast downward, and out from the official gloom into the cooler early evening light. I walked to the edge of the police steps. I stood there, gasping. What had happened in that room? I had understood nothing, and yet here I was, in the open air. Free. I was supposed to be going to prison. How had this happened?

I looked out at the new beautiful world. People bustled by. A boy pushed a tire. A stall sold watermelons, one chopped open to reveal the rude red inners. Beside it a woman sat behind two enormous baskets of orange chilies. A holy man in gorgeous ocher robes stood near a short wooden pole holding a basket of flowers. The warm but gentle breeze was laden with scents. A thick sun was starting to set over the temple. I was free. This felt like the first moment of my life again.

I was still damp from sweat, my clammy hands clenching the crumpled paper in a fist. The report. Was it real?  Just at that moment a large Enfield motorcycle rasped just in front of me, driven by a well-dressed Nepali in a silver helmet. I suddenly remembered a dream I had once had as a teenager.

That’s it, damn. That’s what I’ll get. To hell with the car, I’ll get myself a motorbike.

I skipped down the police steps into the magical streets below, folding the report up and putting it safe in my bag. A tall, happy-looking policeman was walking toward the station, and as we passed, in a mood of barely containable joy, I looked him in the eye, pressed my palms together and greeted him.

Niall Grimes would like to point out that he thinks insurance fraud is morally wrong, as are most things. He grew up in Derry in Northern Ireland and is currently living the high life snorting Coca-Cola off a supermodel’s back. His nose is a bit hurty.