Swara pulled on her blue jeans, a pink tee-shirt, and black shoes with sparkles. Turning around, she said, “I’m ready!”
Ragini was wearing a dark-blue superman costume with long cape. It looked like it was about five sizes too small for her. The pant legs ended just below her knees, and she was struggling to breathe since it was so tight. Kavya was dressed all in black. Black sweat pants, black sweatshirt, black knit cap, black wool mittens, and a heavy black scarf wrapped around her face hiding everything but her eyes.
Swara stared at them. “What are you two doing?”
Ragini, who was trying to pull the sleeves down over her elbows, looked up. “What?”
“Umpf?” Kavya said. Her voice was muffled by the heavy scarf.
“Why are you guys dressed that way?” Swara asked.
“Ohhh,” Ragini said. “We want to be in costume so no one will know who we are, right? In case someone sees us.” Kavya mumbled something and nodded her head.
“I suppose,” Swara said. “But why are you dressed like superman?”
“This is all I could find,” Ragini said. “It’s my little brother’s Halloween costume from last year.”
“Ohhh,” Swara turned to Kavya. “It’s 80 degrees out, and you are wearing that?”
“Uf es bak,” Kavya said.
“I can see they are black, but don’t you think you will be a little too warm?” Swara said.
“Arf b umkay,” Kavya said. A bead of sweat rolled down the exposed part of her forehead. “Un da ur bak!”
“Yes, they are very black,” Swara said. “OK then, let’s get going.”
The girls crawled out of Swara’s bedroom window and headed in the direction of the town. They stayed off the roads and stuck to the fields and alleys as they made their way through the darkened neighbourhoods towards the town’s museum. Ragini took the lead, her superman cloak waved from her shoulders as she dodged down an alley using the garbage cans as cover. She ducked behind one can and startled a cat that jumped from the garbage and scampered off. Kavya was next. She dived and ducked behind the garbage cans and street signs as they made their way through town. When Ragini startled the alley cat, Kavya dove for a shadow and executed an impressive Ninja roll. Swara brought up the rear and whistled a tune as she walked, rolling her eyes at her friend’s antics.
When they entered the alley behind the museum, the girls stayed close to the museum wall and approached the back door. Ragini glanced up and down the alley to make sure no one was around and walked up to the door. Her hand slid down the front of her leg and she got a funny look on her face.
“What’s the matter?” Swara asked.
“I just realized I don’t have any pockets in my tights,” Ragini said. She looked embarrassed. “I forgot the key.”
what?” Kavya said. She wiped sweat off her forehead with her glove.
Swara reached into her jeans pocket. “I know. I got the key from your bag.” She handed it to Ragini who unlocked the door. Ragini turned the handle and opened the door just enough to poke her head inside. She looked around for a moment then gave Swara and Kavya a thumbs-up. Ragini stepped through the door followed by Swara and Kavya. Before entering, Kavya peeked up and down the alley then closed the door behind them.
The back room of the museum was dark and crowded with stacks of boxes forming a narrow passage through the room and forcing the girls to walk in single file. Ragini led the way through the maze until they reached a door at the far end. She placed her hand on the door knob and turned to Swara and Kavya.
“We have to be extra quiet now,” she whispered. “Ramu kaka will be at the front door and we don’t want him to hear us.” Swara and Kavya nodded. Ragini pulled the door inward. There was a scraping noise, a thumping, and then a clatter.
Swara squealed and clapped her hands over her mouth.
“Muuuaaahhhh!” Kavya said.
Ragini fell back and landed on the floor next to a mop. Someone had left the mop leaning against the door, and when Ragini opened it, the mop fell and wacked her on the head. Swara stood with her hands tightly clasped over her mouth, Kavya dripped sweat, and Ragini rubbed her forehead. They waited for sirens to wail and men with guns to jump out and arrest them. When this didn’t happen, they relaxed. Swara helped Ragini to her feet and they proceeded into the darkened museum. Ragini led the way to the glass case that held the peace pipe. Swara gazed up at the painting of Chief Floating Cloud receiving the pipe from her hands. The Chief’s eyes appeared to follow her in the eerie darkness of the museum.
“I’ll unlock the case and get the pipe,” Ragini whispered. “You two keep watch and make sure no one comes.”
Swara and Kavya stationed themselves to either side of the glass display case. Kavya crouched low and tried her best to look “Ninja-like” even though she was sweating profusely. Swara folded her arms and grumbled under her breath about how she should be the one with the key.
Ragini unlocked the case and carefully removed the peace pipe. The pipe was long and inserted into a leather case that was decorated with feathers and a painting of a white buffalo. She closed and relocked the case. She circled to the front of the case gazing in awe at the pipe in her hands.
“Well that was easy,” Swara said.
“Yeah,” Ragini said.
“Yumpf,” Kavya said. “Wef but rut do how.”
“Yes,” Swara said. “We better get going.”
The girls started towards the door, tip-toeing their way across the polished floor of the museum. Suddenly, there was a loud snarling noise that rose in volume and resonated through the museum. The girls stopped in their tracks in front of a stuffed grizzly bear. The bear stood over eight feet tall and had three inch claws that glowed white in the darkness of the museum. Its mouth was fixed in a snarl with long, sharp teeth. The snarling sound started again, low pitched at first, but quickly rose to a sharp popping sound that rattled the glass doors of a nearby display case. Swara clamped her hands over her mouth to keep from screaming, Ragini froze in her tracks, the pipe in her hands, and gazed wide-eyed up at the fierce bear. Kavya dove to the floor and Ninja rolled under a display case. The bear growled one more time, smacked its lips, then it became silent again.
Swara, her hands still clamped over her mouth, stepped away from the bear. Ragini was still frozen with fear. The display case under which Kavya hid shook. Swara stepped into a door way as the bear uttered another snarl and smacked its lips. Swara stopped and gazed at something on the other side of the door. Suddenly, she started to giggle.
Ragini peeked sideways at Swara, and Kavya looked up from under the display case. The bear snarled and blew out a long breath. Holding one hand over her mouth, Swara pointed through the door with her other hand. Ragini leaned towards Swara and looked through the door and had to place a hand over her own mouth to stifle a laugh. Curious, Syndi slipped out from under the case and stepped over to them.
In the room on the other side of the doorway, the night watchman sat in a chair with his feet up on his desk. His hands were folded across his large belly, and his hat was pulled down over his face. He was fast asleep and the sound of his snoring echoed through the museum.
Kavya turned and dashed through the door to the back room of the museum. Ragini was close behind her followed by Swara. The three girls exited the museum through the back door, shut it, and ran down the alley towards the street. Kavya kept running until she reached a grassy park where she stopped and fell on the grass. Pulling the scarf from her face, she rolled on the ground, laughing. Ragini and Swara fell next to her laughing hysterically. It was several minutes before they recovered.
“We better head back to the house before we get caught out here after dark,” Swara said. The girls jumped up from the grass and made their way back to the house.