Manohar Patel was very pleased with himself. He had arrived in Mumbai, as a scrawny fourteen year old, who couldn’t speak a word of English. Now, thirty five years later, he still couldn’t speak too many words in English, but, he had made his mark on the city, he thought, rubbing his round tummy.

He was a fixer for the who’s who of Mumbai. He had made a career out of creating a strong network, and maintaining excellent relations. Whether you wanted to buy a building or bury a body, Manu Bhai always knew a guy.

His clients could call him at any time, with any request, and he would say, “Don’t worry, I know a guy who can help you with that.” Your problem would be solved discreetly, for Manu Bhai had the tightest lips in the business. There was no danger of your “problem” flashing on the front page of any newspaper.

He was of course paid adequately for his “help”, but, his main currency was favours. That was what helped him build his network.

The thing about people like Manu Bhai is that, no amount of money or property can make them feel big. Their real sense of power comes from just one sentence, “I owe you.”
To hear rich and powerful people admit that they owed you for your help, and knowing that you held their future in the palm of your hand, was the best drug in the world to them.

None of his clients had ever let Manu Bhai down, till date. He dealt with their most sensitive issues, yet, not once did any politico or actor or business mogul ever turn their back on Manu Bhai and freeze him out after their job was done. They couldn’t take the risk. For, Manu Bhai maintained meticulous records, in his own peculiar shorthand, in red Chopdis. He had a special safe constructed, to store these ledgers safely, and they were organised alphabetically, according to year.

Manu Bhai recalled all this, as he touched the latest problem in his life….a big, shiny iMac.

He sighed, as he thought about his pride and joy, his son, Chetan. He had insisted on buying the computer.
Pappa! I refuse to spend my life stuck in these red Chopdis! You need to move with the times.”
Manu Bhai had to give in. After all, the boy was the future of his business, and the truth was, that for all his skills with the computer, Chetan was not very smart. He still hadn’t learned their secret shorthand properly, even after so many years. If something happened to Manu Bhai, he would surely sink the business within a year. So, the ledgers were pulled out of storage, and the records were digitised.

For the first time, eyes other than the Patel duo, had access to those records, because digitising so many ledgers required professional help. Now, the tongues that accompanied those eyes, went around whispering in interested ears.
Soon, those whispers reached important, official ears. This was pure gold. The Intelligence Bureau wanted a copy of those records.

Getting a copy was no problem. The guy doing the data entry was tapped, and he just had to send a single e-mail, at the end of each day. He also had to download a tiny untraceable virus that would track all updates made to the records. Easy peasy.

What was not easy, was breaking the code to Manu Bhai’s shorthand. All the data was unreadable without that. For months, IB’s best codebreakers did their best. But, Manu Bhai’s shorthand was uncrackable.

That’s when Col. Singh’s Blackbirds were called in. They did their best too. Debbie, their resident genius took it really hard when even she couldn’t crack the code. There was no choice. They had to do this the hard way.

Chetan was huffing and puffing on the treadmill. Every time he slowed down, his trainer would yell at him. He cursed the doctor who had called him obese. Now, his Pappa made him go to the gym every single day.

He finally got off the treadmill, and fumbled around for his bottle of water. Strange, it had been right next to him.

“Want a sip?”

It was the hot chick who had been running on the treadmill next to his. She was offering him water from her bottle. How sweet!

He drained half the bottle at one go.

“Finish it off, if you like,” she said.

So, he did.

He thanked her and got on with his workout. He was doing some toe touches, when he suddenly started feeling dizzy. His trainer told him to go home and rest. He stumbled near his car and would have fallen, if someone hadn’t caught him.

He felt a prick in his arm, and the world went fuzzy.

Two girls pushed Chetan into a van, equipped with a bed, and a medical team. They quickly set up an IV line in Chetan’s arm.

The doctor started tapping the side of his face.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes,” mumbled Chetan.

“What’s your name?”

“Chetan Patel.”

“How old are you?”

And so it began. Under the influence of Sodium Pentothal, the truth serum, Chetan gave the Blackbirds the key to Manu Bhai’s secret shorthand. The IB now had all the information that it needed.

As for Chetan, he had no memory of the incident. When he came to his senses, he was at home, being coddled by his family. He only remembered feeling dizzy in the gym. His family was eternally grateful to the girls who had brought him home, after they found him stumbling around the car park.

And as for Manu Bhai, he was pleasantly surprised to find that Chetan had become quite an expert at the secret shorthand.

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge
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