Read The Night Run Online

Authors: Bali Rai

The Night Run (6 page)

BOOK: The Night Run
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‘Oh, he's safe. He is back with his family.'

‘But why did you help him?'

Heera blew on her tea before replying. ‘He is an innocent, just like your father.'

‘And you saved him?'

Heera shook her head. ‘I just did what people like me do,' she said, confusing me.

‘What are you?' I asked. ‘A witch?'

Again, she shook her head. ‘No – I'm not a witch,' she said, smiling. ‘Though many people call me such names.'

‘So what then?'

She put down her cup and looked into my eyes. ‘I watch over people in this city,' she explained. ‘That is all.'

‘Like a guardian angel?'

This time she laughed out loud. ‘I have no wings. But something like that.'

‘You never answer a question properly. Why?'

‘Why not?' she told me. ‘Besides, you need to listen.'

I raised an eyebrow. ‘Listen to what?'

Heera picked up her cup and took a sip.

‘Your family must leave Amritsar,' she said. ‘You know this, don't you?'

I nodded. ‘The bandits and the police will come for us.'

‘The British too,' she added. ‘It's unfair but that is the way of Life sometimes.'

‘Where will we go?'

Heera found a pencil and a scrap of paper. ‘Do you know exactly where your father's ancestral village is?'

I shook my head. She began to draw a map, marking out various places. When she was done, she gave it to me. ‘You will follow this and leave the city, as soon as we get back to your mother.'

‘But…'

She shook her head. ‘In two days' time many people will die here. Hundreds of people. In the confusion, people will think you died too.'

‘Why?' I asked, my eyes wide.

‘It doesn't matter why,' she replied. ‘It cannot be stopped.'

‘How can you predict such things?'

Heera put a hand on my face. It felt smooth and cold.

‘I can't say,' she said. ‘All that matters is that you take your mother and your new friend to safety. That is your task, Arjan. Are you ready for it?'

I nodded.

‘Good,' she said. ‘This journey is almost over, my son. Now you start a new one. You must be brave and strong, Arjan. Your family will need it.'

We spoke some more and then my father opened his eyes. Heera explained what was happening and he nodded in sadness. I watched Shanti sleeping with her hair splayed out behind her, and wondered what Heera had meant. Why would I need to be strong for my family?

‘Wake her,' Heera said to me. ‘We must be at your house by sunrise.'

Chapter Fifteen
The Next Journey

S
o here I am. Packing with my mother. My father's injuries are worse than we thought. He is too ill to come with us. Heera is watching over him. When he's better, she will bring him to us.

Mr and Mrs Khan are sobbing now, and my mother is too. The sun is close to rising, and all around us people are preparing for work. It feels like any other day but it isn't.

Eventually, we set off. My mother sits next to me, wrapped in a blanket, as I guide the bullock and cart eastwards, away from the city and from the life we
had. Shanti is hidden beneath more blankets in the back. The bandits will look for her. We cannot risk her being seen.

Heera has warned me that our journey will be dangerous. It will take many days and we will be travelling through open country. There will be more bandits and army patrols – more danger. She has told me to be brave – to be a man. I don't understand why, but I trust her. My heart is heavy and my stomach churns but I can't let my fears stop me. With my father so sick, I have to stand up. I must get my family to safety.

The night run is over. It is time for the next journey to begin.

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First published 2014 by
A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP
www.bloomsbury.com
Bloomsbury is a registered trademark of Bloomsbury Publishing plc

This electronic edition published in 2014 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Copyright © 2014 A & C Black
Text copyright © Bali Rai 2014

The right of Bali Rai to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved
You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (including without limitation electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue for this book is available from the British Library.

eISBN: 978-1-4729-0437-9

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