Saturday, March 11, 2006

Confessions of a dangerous mind - I

At age twenty-four years eleven months, I was languishing in an 8X11 foot cell in solitary confinement in an obscure prison in Central Siberia. The outside temperature was minus forty-five degrees and from my underground dungeon sunlight trickled in only for a few minutes a day. I had been here for two weeks perhaps. Snow covered the ground, for two feet and even from the windowless rabbit hole where I was kept, the chill and the dampness pricked my bones. I surveyed my room for the millionth time, trying to find a way to escape. It was a bare room with no furnishing; the only objects were a fur quilt, a sleeping bag and a pot at the end of the room. Nothing much that I could use. Twice I had escaped this place and this time round, they were not going to take any chances. The government wanted me for questioning and they wanted me alive. After all, I was just a minnow in the large smuggling syndicate that had managed to steal Van Gough paintings from the Pushkin Art Gallery in Moscow in the past. Two weeks ago, I had failed to get away with a Monet, and Interpol saw this as their big chance.

Leaning against the wall, I started to think. Memories flooded me. Those years of poverty, living as an orphan in a ghetto in Rio de Janeiro. How, at the age of fifteen, Pierre caught me trying to steal his wallet and instead of handing me to the police took me home, and how it changed my life forever. Pierre it is perhaps then; my story begins with Pierre’s wallet. Michael is my name and Pierre fondly called me Mike. Hunger had turned me into a pickpocket and I was the slickest hand in our ghetto. At the end of the day, when we counted our Reals, I always had the most. I had an undisputed talent for stealing anything, without anyone ever noticing. I quite liked this arrangement and thought life could not be any better than living on people’s money. Then one day, I tried to pick Pierre’s wallet. He had turned his head to his left and was looking his wristwatch, and I had almost succeeded in drawing the black faux leather Gucci wallet from the right side of his trousers. Then I crossed the road and was about to rush to hoard my earnings, when a hand gripped my shoulders. “Nice work kid! You have good technique!!!” said Pierre smiling. I was astounded. It was the first time, I was caught and I started wondering where I went wrong. “Where is your Daddy?” “I don’t have one,” I said. ‘And where is your Mommy?” “I don’t have a Mommy either”. “Then I am your Daddy from today,” said Pierre and that was the turning point of my life.

Back home, Pierre gave me food, clothes, a bed to sleep and a house to call my own. He lived all by himself in an opulent mansion in downtown Rio and when I peeped out of the window, I could see a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a Ford Mustang in his large stable of cars. Of course, I learnt the names much later. Along with that, I also learnt how to dress well, speak language of the gentry, and most importantly, Pierre gave me my first important lessons on theft and deception. For Pierre was the leader of the largest smuggling syndicate of Rio and he had just adopted me as his protégée.

Three years later, at the age of eighteen, I had learnt five languages, could drive any car, could fire a .44 Magnum, .45 Long Colt, .38 Special and a Colt Single Action Army from point blank range and was a dashing, handsome six-foot tall boy quickly learning that he was irresistible to women. A charm, that would come much handy later. At eighteen Pierre decided that I was ready for my first kill. An antique statue of Buddha, in a museum in Malaysia, which our client wanted for his private collection. Sadly, the Buddha was not for sale, so I had to step in.

To be continued.....

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