Payback Time (SawSan) Episode 10


I saw the waitress give a quick sideways glance at me, curious perhaps as to why the quiet young man was currently sitting with the two well-dressed adults. Then she went back to the counter.

“They’re Here,” Abhijeet said looking outside.

A man and a woman in their late thirties got out of a black Mercedes SUV , and walked into the diner. These were my new parents, but I hadn’t expected them to look so much like a true married couple. If Abhijeet hadn’t said anything, I might have thought they really were Mr. and Mrs. Kundra stopping for coffee while driving to visit their elderly parents.

The man was stocky, with the beginnings of a beer gut, and what looked like a constant five o’clock shadow on his chin. The woman was fair, slim, and would have been attractive, if she hadn’t been dressed in a momsy way, which made her look plain. They were both around the same age as Daya and Abhijeet – or so I guessed, but I’m not much good at these things. I can better guess passwords than guessing age of someone.

Immediately, Daya and Abhijeet started talking with them as if they were old buddies. Abhijeet’s sullen intensity vanished, and he became chatty, acknowledging the woman and talking to the man. Introductions were made. The man was named Durgaprasad, and the woman was Annapurna. They were, as Daya said, the Kundras. I noticed that Daya was keeping his voice low. We were seated away from the other people, but he kept looking around, as if to make sure that nobody was paying undue attention to us.

“This is your son, Sanky Kundra,” Daya said.

“Hi, Dad, Mom,” I said somewhat pointedly.

Daya gave a little shrug, as if to say ‘get used to that,’ Durgaprasad nodded a silent acknowledgement, but Annapurna smiled cheerfully.

“Are you ready to go?” Daya asked

“Yeah,” Durgaprasad said. “But let me finish my coffee first.”

He looked at Annapurna, who nodded her agreement, and then walked over to the counter. “Can i get two regular coffees to go?” he asked loudly to the waitress, who was at the other end of the counter. Daya paid for pour cofferes, and he and Abhijeet left a tip for the waitress. I left her the eighty-seven rupees that had been sitting unused in an envelope with my other possessions for over half an year. When the coffees arrived, we went outside, and got into the two cars and drove away.

Within five minutes, we had arrived at a nondescript motel. We went into a cabin, Abhijeet carrying a case. There were only two chairs in the room, so Durgaprasad and Annapurna stood, and I sat on the bed. Abhijeet opened his case, and took out various cards and passes, and gave them to Daya.

“Down to business,” Daya said. “This is your new identity.”

He handed me the cards.

“You’re Sanky Kundra, a fifteen-year-old student at (lets say) Blue Bells,New Delhi. Your father, Durgaprasad, works as a security consultant. Your mother Annapurna is a homemaker, who works part-time in real estate.” Daya updated me with all the info.

I nodded, looking at the ID cards. I had put together a few ID cards in my time, just out of interest, but these were perfect fakes.

“You’re transferring in from your old school in Gurgaon. No need to lie about that. We have already prepped the relevant staff. They won’t ask any stupid questions.” I listened as Daya continued.

I noticed then that Annapurna had also brought in a case, a heavy travel bag. That was probably filled with my new identity. One of the things that had constantly amazed me when I had first started hacking and sneaking into computer networks was how important appearance is to laypeople. They often judge a person based on how well he’s dressed. That suited me fine, since it had made my job of convincing people a hell of a lot easier.

I remember one time when I was standing in the bathroom at home, in an expensive suit that I had rented. I needed to imitate an office worker on a hack that required me to take a field trip to a local office, to get some server details. I was checking out my new hairstyle when my mother walked in. She looked startled, as if her home had been invaded by a well-dressed burglar. I could see her eyes working, trying to figure it out. Then she realized who I was. She didn’t ask, but I felt that I should volunteer an explanation.So I made up some lie about a job interview, and she seemed to accept it. Later the next day, I took that field trip and managed to get the server information I needed, and on the way home, took the suit back to the shop.

But I kept the idea that people sometimes judge a hacker by their appearance.

“On to the subject’s history,” Daya said.

He reached over to Abhijeet’s briefcase, and started shuffling through a bunch of photos.

“You know Mallik,” he said, spreading put the photos- ones i had not seen before. The he placed another photograph on the table, of a high school boy, thin and unkempt.

“This is Arnav Raizada. He is fifteen, and happens to be in yopur computer class at Blue Bells.”

I studied the photo. If the photo of Mallik i had seen in njail looked harmless, the Arnav was even ore so. He was a stereotypical nerd He looked like he would have the most fashionable gadgets, but not a fashionable girlfriend ( Just like me actually). I raised an eyebrow, which was getting to my favourite expression. Daya picked up my doubt.

I put down Arnav’s pic and asked Daya,”He’s my contact?”

“That’s right. With your overdeveloped computer skills, you should soon attract his attention. Just do your stuff.”

“Do you have anything in mind?” I said.

“What do you mean?” Daya said. He sounded genuinely surprised at my question.

“Hacking is all about stealth, about not being seen. Now I’m supposed to get caught?”

I wasn’t really concerned. Hackers are like any other group. They find each other by animal radar or something like that. But I didn’t want to undersell my task. I needed some breathing space, and like any businessman going into a deal, I wanted to put the worst light on things.

“For a man with your talents for improvisation,”Daya said a little testily, “it should be simple. Like I said, these people have their eyes out for any prospects. They’ll find you.”

I nodded, without speaking.

But now Daya was spooked. “Are you sure you can handle this?” he said. It was as if he had taken my concerns seriously. Whether he doubted my ability, or was prodding my hacking ego to see if I doubted my ability, I couldn’t tell. Either way, I let some of my natural arrogance back into my voice, and I smiled.

“No problem.” I decided to change the subject.

“What about my equipment? I need a phone, a notebook computer, and some money.”

………….To Be Continued

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