فصل 06

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فصل 06

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
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Chapter six

I didn’t finish the third cup of coffee. I telephoned Selena immediately and asked her if I could go back to her house that day. I told her that I had an idea and that I needed to look at the house again. She said I could go whenever I wanted to. She also said that she had meetings to attend in two or three of her companies in the city. The security guards and the servants were already instructed to let me in any time I went there.

I thought for a moment before I left home. I decided to take a torch with me. It might be useful.

I arrived at Selena’s house at about two o’clock. I was let in and, firstly, I went through all the rooms on the first floor. I couldn’t find any secret cupboards or any possible space for a secret room. I went down to the ground floor and did the same, with the same result. I sat down in an armchair to think. I tried to recall my conversations with Selena. Perhaps there was a clue in them. Suddenly, I remembered that she told me that there was no basement or cellar. She also told me that she once saw the plans of the house, and no basement was shown. But secret spaces don’t appear in the plans of houses. I decided to look for a way into a possible secret room below the ground floor.

I went into all the rooms on the ground floor again, nothing. I had to start thinking again. Then I remembered that in films, secret hiding places are usually opened and closed by levers. I went through all the rooms on the ground floor again. I was looking for a lever, or somewhere to conceal a lever. Again, nothing. I sat back down in the armchair. I was feeling frustrated. My eyes were still moving around the living room, hopefully. They went back to the fireplace. Of course! What better place to hide a lever! I put my hand inside and began to grope from the bottom to the top of the left-hand side. Nothing but cold marble. I tried the right-hand side. The same. Then I moved my hand along inside the top part. Halfway along my hand touched a piece of metal. A lever?

I was feeling excited now. I tried to move the piece of metal to the right and to the left. But it didn’t move. I tried going up. Nothing. I placed my hand above the metal and began to push down. The piece of metal moved easily, three or four inches downwards. At the same time, a large panel on the wall next to the fireplace slid behind the panel on its other side to leave a space about the size of a doorway. It was pitch-black inside. I took my torch from one of the arms of the armchair and shone it into this new space. I saw three or four steps. I went down them. Then, there was a turn to the right, and three or four steps more. When I arrived at the bottom of these, I saw that I was in a small room. I shone the torch all around that room. In the centre was a long table. On top of this table there were three oil lamps. In one corner of the room there was a pile of large colorful cushions, the kind you see around the living room on chairs and sofas. Beside these, there was a smaller pile of the same cushions, but with the top surfaces cut open. I went to look at them. I put my hand inside one of the cuts. Nothing but feathers. Suddenly, I saw in another corner six or seven brown paper bags, with the tops folded. I unfolded one of them. It contained what looked at first sight to be a lot of little pieces of dirty coloured glass. I reached in and took out a handful. When I looked again, I knew immediately what I was looking at. Not pieces of glass but precious stones, dirty, uncut, unpolished and straight from the mines. Rubies and sapphires mainly, but some pearls as well.

It was now obvious what was happening. Gems were being smuggled into the country inside the cushions. These then somehow made their way to this little basement. Then the cushions were cut open and the stones were extracted, ready to be sold, I supposed, to dealers who didn’t ask questions about where the stones came from. They would then be cut and polished and used in the making of rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and so on.

I went upstairs, back to the living room. As I was leaving through the ‘doorway’, I saw another small lever at the top of the stairs. I took a risk and turned it upwards. The panel shut behind me. I didn’t like the feeling of being locked inside that secret basement with only my torch for company. I quickly pushed the level downwards. The panel sprang open again. Thank God, I thought. I went to the fireplace and pushed the lever upwards. The panel closed. How clever, I thought. A secret room with a lever outside to open and close it, and one inside as well.

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