Episode 2 : The Master – Another day at the office

“I can understand the position you are in Mishraji and I sympathize with you. Truly I know how hard it is for a man with a large family such as yours to vacate your home. You had told me three weeks ago that you were searching for new establishments and I accepted that it would be a week or ten days to find one. But you haven’t been returning my calls Mishraji and that puts me in a difficult position. I don’t like sending a man over to your house at this hour to remind you. What is it? You have found one, good! I’m happy that you have finally found a new place to settle down. I feel that I must repay your favour for letting me know by helping you move into your new house. No, No I insist on bearing the movers charges. What are a few rupees between friends eh! Alright I’ll send my boys over to help you move your furniture tomorrow. Good night and sleep well Mishraji. And please tell Yusuf that he can go home.”

The phone clicked and the hand withdrew to its place on the armrest. The fingers drummed rhythmically while its owner meditated. Smoke from a crushed cigarette trailed lazily from a nearby ashtray and danced to that sultry tune. The lamp light glinted off the ruby and diamond rings adorning those hands. Another phone was picked up by them and a number was dialled from heart.

“Send your boys over to Saketh Mishra’s house at 201 Nehru Borough 2 tomorrow at 9 am. He needs help moving his furniture to his new home. Yes, he’ll let you know that address. Once you have done the job give him the first month’s rent and break his youngest child’s leg. That should be lesson for him and he would think twice before playing with the Services.”

So saying, the Master replaced the receiver and leaned back into his leather armchair. Such trivial matters were normally dealt by his supervisors, but he liked to involve himself now and then to keep himself sharp in the game. It was good to know that his old habits hadn’t dulled at all. As the chairman of the Rottarpur Personnel Services, it was his job to see that the good citizens of the city were allotted proper and comfortable housing facilities. The State had declared that every family in every city was to have a roof above their head. Of course, the kind of roof didn’t matter, be it tin or concrete, as long as they had one. And it fell to the Personnel Services of each city to ensure that the rule was enforced. The Master was an old hand at all kinds of enforcement. He had spent his early years in the vicious streets of Bodi Borough, in the aftermath of the Great Purge of ’35 and grew up to establish one of the most lucrative and most feared construction companies in the City. So it was natural that he was elected Chairman of the RPS and in a matter of months, established an efficient and well-oiled machinery that regularly moved the citizens around the city like pawn pieces on the Rottarpur board. The game he played was a dangerous one, but he revelled in it and also became immensely rich in the process. He made sure the major players were in his pockets and were regularly fed bits and bytes to keep them happy and satiated, while his grip over the city grew tighter every day.

A knock on the door brought him back from his reverie. “Sir, your car has arrived. Do you want to take the leather or snake-skin suitcase with you to the airport?” asked his secretary.

“I’ll be taking the leather with me and give the snake skin to Yusuf when he comes in tomorrow morning,” said the Master. “Tell the guards that I need only one of them tonight. The rest need not come with me.”

“Yes Sir.”

The Master heaved himself off the armchair, straightened his rolled sleeves and smoothed his kurta front. “Hold my calls for tomorrow morning. If anyone comes tell them that I won’t be available till the day after. Got it? Good. Now go home, it’s late enough,” he commanded.

“Yes Sir. Thank you Sir,” stammered his secretary. “Have a safe flight Sir”.

The Master looked at her for a long minute. Nothing was ever safe for him or from him. But the earlier call and the prospects of administering a beating to another soul had buoyed his mood and he let the comment pass. She was after all a novice the Administration had hired last month and had yet to learn many things about her Master. With a last glance around the room, he walked out. As he was leaving the Services building, the City Time Keeper struck 1. A muffled explosion was heard in a distance. Another riot had commenced at the witching hour and the Master stopped for a few seconds searching for the distant glow of fire and rising smoke.

“Sir,” said the burly body guard by his side.

“Yes, yes let’s go,” said the Master tearing his eyes away and climbing into the car. Let these animals have their play tonight. If everything went right in the meeting tomorrow then by evening the rioters and any dissenting voices would be broken and he would stand tall over them, their shepherd, their father, their Master.

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