The Bluff

Part One

London

“I’m not going to let my company be taken over!“said Adam.

“Be realistic. It is time to cut your losses. They’re offering fifteen million for a company that has not shown a profit for the past two years! You wouldn’t find a better offer anywhere! ”said John.

“The control of the company has stayed within my family for three generations, and I intend to keep up the tradition, ”retorted Adam.

“To hell with that.”

“You’re not a part of the family. You’ll never understand these things,” replied Adam. That was the alcohol talking.

“I’m only offering some friendly advice. Accept the offer, or you’ll be regretting it for the rest of your life.”

“Get the hell out of here. I’m sick of your pestering, you bastard.”The alcohol was in full flow.

John got up, and angrily replied,”Fine! Go bankrupt,for all I care.I’ll see you at Sotheby’s tomorrow. Don’t expect any mercy from me.”

“Ha!You’ll be the one begging for my forgiveness tomorrow!The painting is mine!”,shouted Adam.

John slammed the door behind him.

 

 

Part Two

 Established on 11th March 1744 in London, Sotheby’s is the fourth oldest auction house in the world, and is now a multinational corporation.It is the world’s largest art business. As John entered the auction house, his mind went back to the altercation he had had with Adam. Adam had taken control of his company two years ago, after his father had retired. When his father had stepped down,the company’s stocks were soaring high. Twelve months later, the stocks were at an all time low, mainly due to Adam’s inept management.

Adam and John had been on friendly terms since childhood, but as they grew up, so did their rivalry. Their most brutal battles had been fought at art auctions, as both of them were connoisseurs. Their rivalry had never impeded their relationship, until Adam had taken over the company. The frequent losses had turned him into a bitter man, and he had taken to the bottle. He ended up getting divorced and losing custody of his children. John had tried to talk some sense into him, but it fell on deaf ears.

The painting on auction that day was a van Gogh, who coincidentally, was their favourite artist. “I have an opening bid for six million pounds,” announced the auctioneer.

The final price was expected to be much higher. Adam had about fifteen million pounds in his bank account.He signalled to the auctioneer, who said,”I now have a bid for six million, five hundred thousand pounds.”

John accepted the challenge, and pitched a new bid.”I have a bid for seven million, ”said the auctioneer.

Adam wasn’t going to back down.”Seven million,five hundred thousand pounds.”

The bidding continued.A few others placed their bids, but by the time the price reached fifteen million, John and Adam were the only bidders left.

“Time to lay the bait ”,thought John. He made a bid for sixteen million pounds.

“He’s doesn’t know I’m bluffing ,” thought Adam. By the time the bidding had reached twelve million Adam had accepted that he painting was out of reach,if he wanted to stay solvent. His only purpose now was to make sure that John ended up paying much more than expected. He made a bid for sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds.

“And now we call the bluff,”thought John.

“The bid is at sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds.Are there any more bidders?”announced the auctioneer.”Then I’m offering the van Gogh at sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds for the second time.”Adam looked expectantly at John, who didn’t bid further.

”Then it’s sold for sixteen million,five hundred thousand pounds to Mr.Adam Hart.”

A broad smile graced John’s face, as Adam looked on in horror.

 

Part Three

The van Gogh adorned his conference room, as Adam signed over the documents that finalised the takeover of Hart Associates by the United Corporation. They had unexpectedly scaled down their offer to five million, but Adam had to accept in order to save face. Had word spread out that he couldn’t pay what he had bid for the van Gogh, his reputation would have take the plunge. However, he was unaware that United Corporation was only a front for a third party takeover, the owner of which was John Hart, his step brother.

The seeds of the hostile takeover had been planted long before Adam had taken over the company. Adam’s father ,Robert Hart, had lost his first wife to a long term illness. He had then married John’s mother, Tracy Stuart.Robert lavished Adam with gifts,while John was always treated as an outsider. Adam was a dunce at school, while John was always top of his class. John believed it would endear him to his step father, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. His mother was blinded by her love for Robert, and turned a deaf ear to his worries. He established a friendship with Adam, but the wall between them was impenetrable.

When Robert decided to hand over his company to Adam, John had decided that the time had come to take the game to the Harts. He was well aware of Adam’s business sense, and knew it was only a matter of time before the company went down. He was also aware of an upcoming auction of a priceless van Gogh. He kept on pestering him, as he liked to call it, to let the company be taken over, and delivered the punch the day before the auction, and the trap was set. He was well aware that Adam would not splurge on the painting if he went into overdraft, and make it his objective to drag John down and burn a hole in his pocket. All that was left was to call the bluff and deliver the knockout blow.

 

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The Trial

The court of the local magistrate of that little town was seldom as crowded as it was that day. However, this rare occurrence was justified, seeing as the trial scheduled to take place that morning revolved around cold blooded murder.

His Honour Judge Karan Singhania was presiding over the case. He was ambitious, and probably one of the youngest judges in the state .He was quickly gaining a reputation as a man with a no- nonsense brand of justice. His hearings were quick, and to the point. The son of the former Governor of the state, he was tipped by several of his peers to join the High Court. The accused was Mr. Nitin Sutaria, who had chosen Advocate Nikhil Arora to represent him , while the state was represented by Advocate Anuj Mehta. Mr. Sutaria had pled not guilty.

 

The trial had begun. The opening statements were made by the lawyers. Mr. Rohan Khanna was the first person to be summoned to the witness box. Advocate Anuj Mehta began,”Mr.Khanna, where were you between 8 and 9 P.M. on the 30th of September?”

“I was at a friend’s place, for my weekly game of poker.”

His alibi was confirmed, and his questioning resumed.

Advocate Mehta asked,”At what time did you leave?”

“Around 8:45”

“Could you describe the sequence of events that occurred after you left? ”

“As I was walking towards my car, I saw a man emerge from the bungalow across the street. I recognized him as Abhishek Sharma, the anti-corruption crusader who has been in the news for his protest rallies. He is a friend of mine, and he must have been out for his post-dinner walk. The moment he stepped out, I saw a car start up from the far end of the street. The car was moving in our direction, and was accelerating quickly. Before I could realise what was going on, the car was upon us. It was headed toward Mr. Sharma, and it made contact with him, sending him flying through 20 feet ,and he landed with a sickening crunch. The car sped by, and I rushed toward my friend, and took him to the hospital. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t take down the license plate number of the car, as I worried about him.”

“Were you able to get a clear look at the driver of the car?”

“Yes,sir. As the car sped by, the light from a nearby lamp post hit him in the face. I recognized him as Mr. Sutaria, the dean of the local  medical college, who is also the accused in this case.”

Murmurs broke through the crowd. As far as they were concerned,this case was all but over. However, the defense lawyer, Advocate Arora was unperturbed, as he still had his trump card to play. He refused to question the witness,taking everyone by surprise. and the next witness ,Mrs. Indira Singh was summoned .

Mr. Anuj Mehta began,”What can you tell us, Mrs. Singh?”

She said, ”Sir, I am a lecturer at the local medical college.A few days before the accident, I was waiting outside the dean’s office for a meeting, when I saw Abhishek Sharma barge into his office. They were arguing, and the argument was a heated one. From what I could make out, Mr. Sharma was accusing the dean of accepting bribes in exchange for admissions. He left after a while, and the dean emerged from his office, looking flustered, and uttered some disgusting cuss words.”

Advocate Arora again refused to question the witness, and was looking unquestionably calm.

Advocate Mehta addressed the judge,” Your Honour, after hearing the testimonies of these two witnesses, it is fair to say that this is a clear case of premeditated murder. Mr .Sutaria, fearing prosecution and a loss of reputation at the hands of Mr. Sharma, chose to take his life.”

Everybody in the court was whispering among themselves,and the judge was nodding. Finally, it was time to call upon the last witness, Mrs. Anjali Sutaria, the wife of the accused. Advocate Arora had been waiting for this moment. The day before, Mrs. Sutaria had agreed to testify that her husband was at home with her at the time of the murder.  Her testimony would bring the case to a standstill, and the court would be adjourned. The case would be added to the enormous backlog, and would soon fade from public memory.

Mrs. Sutaria was summoned, and took her place in the witness box.

Advocate Mehta asked,”Mrs. Sutaria , was your husband with you at the time of the murder?”

The crowd held its breath, and Mr. Sutaria leaned forward in anticipation.

“No, he wasn’t”.

 

The sentencing was quick. Mr. Sutaria was sentenced to a life term, and was dragged away from court, all the time screaming,” She’s lying! I’m innocent!”The lawyers shook hands, both utterly perplexed at the turn of events.

 

Later that day, the first witness, Rohan Khanna was on the phone with someone.

“Didn’t I say we could pull this off?”,Khanna said.

“I was scared, man. Though you did great. I have wired the money to your account. Poor Sutaria, sentenced to life imprisonment.Can’t feel too sorry for him, though. It was my career on the line.Sharma had found evidence that I rigged judgements in exchange for bribes.  It was necessary to kill Sharma, for the headline”Judge Karan Singhania convicted of bribery” wasn’t particularly enticing.”

Khanna  said,” Just one question. How did you get his wife to change her testimony at the last moment?”

“Well, my friends don’t call me ‘The Tiger’ for nothing, you know.”