Laxmi's Crime by Kodavatiganti Kutumbara
Telugu original by Kodavatiganti Kutumbarao, in Yuva, November 1976. Translated and posted with permission by Ananda Kishore.
All of a sudden, Abhirama became stinking rich. Demolishing his hut, the parvenu built a palatial mansion. He bought an iron chest and filled it with gold. He started living more lavishly than the king himself.
What could be the reason? The king convened his ministers to discuss this. Did he find a treasure? Did he find the Philosopher's Stone? Or did he waylay people? Whatever the reason was, it was now upto the King to investigate this. Abhirama was flustered by the king's visit to his house. He wouldn't know if he was to express surprise, was to be happy, or was to feel threatened.
"Show me your iron chest," commanded the king.
In it were gold coins, all from the royal mint.
"These are stolen coins," said the king.
"No, your Majesty! This is a divine gift from the goddess Laxmi. I prayed her for a year and obtained her blessings!"
"Then the thief was the goddess herself. But you seem to be able to apprehend her. Till then you must stay imprisoned," said the king.