“Gentlemen,” I said, “what have you got for me?”
Mohammed looked at Mahmood and, with raised eyebrows, lifted his head momentarily. Mahmood responded with a brief wobble of his head from side to side.
“Sir,” Mohammed began, “I contacted Jimmy by telephone and told him that I was a new buyer for Chandramurthy Construction. He immediately asked me if I was buying materials for the new bridge project. When I said I was, he said I must be taking over from Mr Sreedharan; a man he had enjoyed a good relationship with over a number of years. I agreed that I was. He then said he could continue to supply the same quality of materials for the same price as before, if I was in agreement.”
“And what were the quality and price?” I asked.
“I didn’t know, Sir. I agreed to meet with him for what he called a ‘working lunch’ at a restaurant. He said he would foot the bill.”
“And did you? Did you meet him?”
“I did, Sir.”
“With what result?”
“Firstly, he wouldn’t let me pay for my own food. He said he had a long-standing arrangement with the owner of the restaurant and enjoyed favourable prices. Anyway, Sir, he first offered to sell me cement for three hundred rupees per bag, but said he would invoice Chandramurthy four hundred, leaving me with a profit of one hundred rupees. He said this was the arrangement he had with my ‘predecessor’. He believed the bridge would need minimum two hundred bags, giving me a profit of twenty thousand. He said the company would never know, as the standard price for good quality cement in this place is four hundred to four hundred and twenty.”
“How did you react to that?”
“I told him that I was fearful of being caught out, and didn’t want to lose my job or even end up in prison.”
“And he said we could come to another arrangement where he could thank me properly for giving him our business.”
“Did he elaborate on that?”
“No, Sir, but his tone suggested that he would make me some kind of gift.”
“Well done, Mohammed. Keep on that; I want you now to talk to Chandramurthy; not their buyer, but one of the directors. Tell him what you just told me, and see if he will allow you to follow the investigation through, posing as his employee.”
“Acha; yes, Sir.”
I looked at Mahmood and momentarily dipped my head. He responded with the same wobble as before, and placed a photograph on my desk.
“What is this?” I asked.
“This is the bridge that Mr Mohammed was talking about, Sir. Look at the supports, near where the two men are working. Do they look safe to you? What these men are doing looks like breaking out what they had done before. Those supports are just temporary. I watched them for a while, and they are definitely doing remedial works before the bridge is even finished.”
“You have more photographs?”
“Many, Sir, and they all show the same problems.”
“Very good, Mahmood. Okay. What I want you to do now, is to go to Chandramurthy with Mohammed. I think between the two of you, you can set up a good sting operation, and we can nail Jimmy once and for all. Make sure the director agrees, and tell him to call me if he has any doubts. Crack this, and there may be two jobs available.”
“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir,” Mahmood said. The two prospective journalists left my office, promising to come back soon, with results.
To be continued…
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 100, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.