They were a perfect match. Physically they both looked very fit. He was tall, hefty and had a pleasant look. She was of medium height with a slim figure. Nothing remarkable but she looked charming.
First time he saw her, he was attracted to her. She was seated two tables away from him. They both were attending a marriage reception. Something about her made Charles to pay attention towards her. Was it the way she smiled or the way she mingled easily with the other guests sharing the same table – he did not know. But he felt something different in that girl. The more he looked at her, the more he was convinced that she might be his perfect partner.
About one and half hour had past since the guests started sipping their drinks. The M.C.of the occasion was doing his job very professionally, keeping the guests well entertained with his jokes and phrases inserted at appropriate times. The guests had lost the counts of the bottles they had emptied while listening to the M.C. The couple who was sharing the same table with the girl came in with a bulging cellophane bag. They put it under the table. Charles assumed that they were carrying a present for the just married couple. He saw the girl’s legs slowly working on the bag while she was laughing together with the people. His interest towards the girl increased.
The introductions of the bride and groom were over. The M.C. quoted the degrees the groom had achieved from different universities. The geographic locations of the Universities were clearly cited. The younger generation guests who were present there benefited from the info provided about the different universities mentioned. They memorized the names to go and surf at the internet cafes when the time comes.
The family and clan introductions followed. By the time their names were mentioned, some of them could not even stand up to acknowledge, they were already high.
The particular girl’s legs were working hard on the bag. By the time the M.C announced people to queue for food, the cellophane bag had shifted its position.
It was the turn of the people seated along with the girl to stand up to join the queue. The man was already unstable. The wife or the lady who accompanied the man was trying to pump some disciplinary words in the ears of the man. She helped him to stand up. The girl also stood up and helped them by pushing the chairs here and there so that they could pass easily. They thanked her and started moving. The girl adjusted the chairs in place, picked up the cellophane bag and moved to the opposite direction away from the food queue. Many people saw her but nobody suspected. Only Charles noticed the odds. He stood up, followed the girl. She was going out approaching the gate. Charles caught up with her. The girl noticed Charles following her and she quickened her steps. He did not like to draw attention of the volunteers standing at the gate. He came up parallel to the girl and spoke loudly for the volunteers to hear-“Don’t worry Marina, everything is o.k. We will be in time” and hold her hand tightly.
After they had crossed a safe distance from the gate, the girl shook off Charles hand, was about to run. Charles caught her by the arm.
“I am not Marina. Remove your hand or else I will scream”.
Charles managed to smile at her. “You scream and I expose you to the crowd. I had been watching you all the time. The bag you are carrying is not yours; it belongs to the couple with the drunk man who were sitting on the same table with you. Choice is yours. Either you follow me quietly or face the consequences”
“What you want from me”
“Just follow me. We will discuss on the way.”
Charles stopped a Bajaj auto rickshaw, pulled the girl inside and asked the bajaj driver to drive to Central Hospital. At the hospital, they passed the reception counter, crossed the hot case casualty area and proceeded towards the cold case referral section. There were few people sitting, talking with low voices. Nobody paid attention towards them. Charles selected an empty corner of the waiting area, asked her to sit down.
“I told you I am not Marina.”
“Whatever your name is. Listen carefully. I had been watching you all the time. Your tactics impressed me. I think we can combine our forces together and work. We may hit fortunes”
Paulina started relaxing; the man did not look like a threat to her. But still she could not trust him. She remembered him walking near her table and taking photos. That meant he had the picture of her together with the owners of the bag in his camera. A clever move. She knew she had little choice but play quietly and with patience.
They introduced to each other. Charles talked and she listened.
Charles told her frankly that he needed a lady partner to work more efficiently. He told her about few tips of robbing people. He told her also how he was attracted to her the moment he spotted her. He told her also that even though she behaved sociable with her table mates, her mind was focused on the bag.
“So, what you want us to do”-Paulina asked.
While they were still discussing they heard the ambulance siren from far. Within minutes, the same ambulance arrived at the casualty. The paramedics wheeled the stretchers, were ready to receive the patients. Charles stood up and asked Paulina to observe him from far.
There were two patients, badly injured in motor accidents. The relatives who accompanied the patients were worried sick with the patients’ conditions. They were running alongside the stretchers, requesting the helpers to hurry. Charles joined them, was helping to push the stretchers with the left hand, the right hand quickly worked on the hind pocket of the relative. Within a fraction of a second, the wallet was stuck to the palm of Charles, pushed in his coat pocket and escorted the patient right to the room of the doctor on duty. The doctor asked everybody out while he was examining the patients.
Nobody noticed what Charles did except Paulina.
Charles signaled Paulina to join him and they walked out. Before even Charles said anything, Paulina said “I will be glad to be your partner”.
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