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He inadvertently took a sharp intake of breath, that’s all he needed to calm the nerves down. He was feeling on edge lately. He hadn’t done this is in a while, he hadn’t placed himself in a precarious situation like this. Sitting at the corner of a dimly lit cafe, he surveyed his surroundings. Watching life pass him by, but he was studying, studying his prey. He could feel it in the air, today was the day. He could feel a tingly sensation in the pit of his stomach, he had goose bumps, a sort of electricity fizzed in the air..all tell-tale signs of the excitement he was feeling.
He had learned the tricks of the trade from an old man who had introduced himself as his “Uncle”. He doubted it, doubted the old haggard man’s every move, his whole existence. But, he wasn’t a fool. he quickly learnt the ways of the swindler, the only way to walk on the wild side. By the time, he was a teenager he was quite well adjusted to a life on the run.
He had memorized his Uncle’s lines by heart, not a day would go by when he wouldn’t improvise according to the situation at hand. He’d surpassed the old techniques, his were more versatile, fool proof, edgy. He had developed a lust for the game, he fondly called them his “gigs”. One day he’d present himself as a Palmist, the next day he’d be a Tarot card reader, he’d often sell expired lottery tickets to the vulnerable, to the unsuspecting, rob them of their hard-earned money. He’d developed a knack, to him it was more like a gift, he could easily hone in on his victims. Never had he gotten caught, but for situations like that he was prepared. He knew how to deceive and how to escape from sticky scenarios, unscathed. He had mastered the art of deception.
“Raju baba, your chai is getting cold”, said the young street urchin meekly, who part-timed as a waiter. Raju swatted his hands harshly to let him know, that his presence was unwanted, he wanted him gone. The kid stumbled, hurried out of his sight and went directly to the back, in the direction of the dilapidated kitchen. Raju was jolted back out of his reverie, he reached for the brown ceramic cup of sweet, milky tea. Pretending to blow steam off his already cold tea, he planned on his next course of action.
As two girls walked in, giggling hysterically blissfully unaware of the dangerous world around them, unaware of the lecherous monster lurking nearby, Raju steadied himself. They clearly had bunked school, you could easily tell from the way they were dressed. Their slick hairstyles, their matching uniforms gave their occupations away quite easily. They settled themselves at the farthest corner of the dingy little cafe, hoping to get some privacy, probably waiting for their Romeos to join them for a clandestine meeting.
But that was not to be…he had other things in mind. Raju grabbed the edge of the dirt-ridden round table and rose up. He left a frayed, dirty five rupee note beside his untouched cup of beverage and walked away. As he strode purposefully towards the direction of the naive girls, a smirk crept up on his wicked face. “Prepare to part with your valuables”, he muttered under his breath. Repeating his mantra, he flashed a charming smile at them.