The fat man rubbed his sweaty palms on his pristine Dhoti, hoping he didn’t leave a stain. Taking his eyes off the man in the suit, he quickly glanced at his legs, checking to see if any dirt had adhered to it. However, it remained spotlessly white, and the man straightened back up, looking reassured. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, wishing the man in the suit would hurry up.
But the man in the suit seemed to be in no haste however, taking his time as he assessed the ground where he stood; occasionally tapping it with the cane he carried. The fat man sighed and mopped his brow again, wanting nothing more than getting out of the blasted heat and sitting in his air-conditioned car. He had a job to do though, and his prey was just inches away from snapping the bait.
The fat man moved closer, rearranging his features into what he hoped was a neutral expression.
“You are satisfied, sir?” he asked, standing right behind the man in the suit. He took a whiff off the man’s perfume and nearly gagged.
“Mhmm, yes. It looks solid enough. The soil has been tested, yes?” he asked, still probing the ground with his cane. The fat man knew exactly why.
“Oh yes, sir. It’s the best in the locality. Cheapest price in the area, sir. You said you wanted to build an independent house, is it not?” he asked, knowing the answer beforehand.
“Mhmm, yes.” said the man in the suit again. He was being infuriating now. He had been deeply interested in the plot of land for sale not an hour ago, but now it looked like his interest was diminishing by the minute. The fat man began to sweat again, this time more because of the nervousness than the heat.
The land was cheap precisely for the reason that it nearly dead. A house would never last for more than a year. No crops would ever grow, and there was not a water source for miles around. It was right in between two thriving cities, miles apart from both. The fat man was under immense pressure to sell it, but the buyers were a clever lot these days.
In the early days, he only had to put in a little advertisement in the newspaper and buyer would come flocking. But today, with the internet and the media and whatnot, buyers were not as gullible. They asked more questions than the pesky government officials, and the fat man had spent enough money getting them off his back. So it was then that the fat man hit upon a rich idea. An idea to bring buyers to his land – the oldest trick in the book.
The man in the suit had completely stopped moving around now. The fat man peered at him, trying to figure out what the man was thinking behind his small head which was mostly covered by his enormous spectacles. He had a Bluetooth headset in his ear, through which he was probably listening to a song. The fat man felt annoyed again, looking at his prospective buyer’s complete inattentiveness.
It’s time for the bait, thought the fat man.
“There has been a rumour going around, you know,” he said silkily, almost whispering to the man in the suit.
The other man nodded, giving him a half-look. But there was a curious gleam in his eyes.
“I have had other buyers of course. They claim… well, they claim there’s buried gold over here somewhere.” said the fat man. He said it slowly, not too dramatically. He had been practising in front of the mirror, of course.
“Gold?” said the man in the suit, his eyes widening. The fat man worked hard to hide his grin.
“Oh, yes. Right over there, in fact.” He said, pointing to a spot near a tree in the middle of the land. The man followed his finger, his eyes looking greedily at the place he was pointing to. He fiddled with his headset, pressing a couple of keys, probably changing a song.
The man in the suit walked over to the spot, his cane waving wildly. He stopped and stood there for a minute, taking in the size of the tree next to him. He kept tapping the ground with his cane, a curious look on his face. Suddenly, he stopped.
The fat man almost burst into laughter. He cleared his throat and called out.
“Just a minute, sir. I have to take this call!” he said, holding out his cell-phone which was entirely blank and not ringing at all. Chuckling to himself, he turned around and pretended to speak into the cell. But in truth, he was looking secretly over his shoulder at the man in the suit.
The man had dropped to one knee now, and he was looking at something in the dirt. He picked up the object – a small thing the size of a pebble – and held it up to the sun. It glittered in the sunlight. It was a small gold piece. The man gasped audibly.
What a fool, thought the fat man. He had planted the small gold nugget in the sand himself, hoping that one of his buyers would notice it and buy the land. So far, he had been unlucky. But today…
The man in the suit looked furtively around him and put the gold nugget into his pocket. Then he poked around the ground with his cane again, no doubt looking for more. The fat man sniggered derisively. The prey had taken the bait. The next part was tricky.
The fat man made a big show of putting his mobile into his pocket and walked up to the man in the suit. He pretended not to notice the man patting his pocket in a satisfied manner.
“What’ll it be, sir? I’ve just had a call from another buyer. They’re coming in an hour, and I’d like to know what you’re going to do.” He said.
The man in the suit was as good an actor as he was. He put on quite an air of stroking his chin and rubbing his head, while his eyes were still greedily fixed on the ground. He pulled out a silk handkerchief and wiped his palms, and the fat man cursed the oppressive heat again.
“Fine. I’ll take it,” he said slowly, his eyes never leaving the ground.
The fat man almost whooped in joy. Finally, after months and months! He tried to keep his face impassive.
“Really? A mighty fine decision, sir. I assure you –“
“There’s a catch,” said the man in the suit. The fat man stopped mid-sentence, watching him nervously.
Has he found out? He thought.
“I need the entire contract signed today. I’ll be out of town for a few months, and I can’t risk it being sold to someone else. Sell me the land today, and I’ll buy it. I’ll even throw in a couple of lakhs extra, as a show of good faith.”
The fat man almost jumped in glee. The gullible little chap was scared his golden nest would be raided, and he wanted it over with. Struggling to contain his grin, the fat man agreed. As they walked back, the fat man was already planning his long vacation.
Four hours later, the papers were signed and the man in the suit kept them in a black briefcase. The fat man shook his hand, grinning, and noticed he still had his headset on.
He must really like songs, the fat man mused.
After a couple of formalities, they parted. The man in the suit waved a hand goodbye, and walked down the dusty road, his briefcase in his hands. The fat man felt a slight pang of guilt, but he didn’t dwell on it. After all, the man in the suit was an unexpected find.
The man in the suit walked to the bus stop slowly, taking short, measured sides. He hoped he didn’t look like he was running, which he was trying not to do. He looked back once or twice, checking to see he wasn’t followed. He doubled his pace, only relaxing when he took in the big roof of the bus stop and sighing when he spotted his bus.
He got in and found his seat, mopping his brow as he sat down. Then, he grinned. He pulled out the Bluetooth headset in his ear and put it in his pocket. Then, he pulled on his cane, withdrawing from it a long, thin wire, one end of which was attached to the head of the cane. The other end was attached to a small black box which was nestled in his pocket. He pulled out the black box and checked its readings.
He grinned again, liking what he saw.
Fingers trembling slightly, he pulled out his cell-phone and dialled a number. It rang twice and a man picked up.
“Good news?” he asked quietly.
“The best,” said the man. There was a long sigh at the other end.
“You mean it was actually there?” said the other man, excitement in his voice.
“Absolutely. It’s all there, buried in the ground. My detector found it right away. The readings are off the charts! Atleast 50 kilos of uncut diamonds, just lying there below the dirt.” said the man in the suit, checking to see if he was being overheard.
The other man whooped appreciatively.
“That’ll go for a billion overseas, easy!” he said, unable to keep the joy out of his voice.
“Yes, it will. I’ll get my share, yes?” the man in the suit asked quietly.
“Of course, of course. Twenty crores. Once you come back and show me the readings, I’ll transfer it within the hour. Deal?”
The man in the suit grinned. “Deal,” he said.
He switched his phone off and pressed the briefcase close to his chest. He felt a small pain in his chest as a hard object pressed against it. He reached into the pocket and produced the gold nugget.
He gave a short laugh, examining the tiny ball of gold. Then he flicked it out of the bus window, watching it bounce and settle amongst the grime and dust of the village grounds.
He didn’t need it. It was an unexpected find, anyway.