“Careful,” Aponi said to Aarav as he used his thumbs to guide the drone.
Sarah, the British woman who had commissioned most of the work they did, watched eagerly over Aarav’s shoulder. The room they were in was all but dark save for the monitor that displayed the drone’s camera feed.
“Yes, do be careful, please,” Sarah said.
Her hot breath puffed against Aarav’s neck and he wished he could tell her to back off. Her breath was rarely pleasant, but being rude to the person funding virtually his entire life was a bad idea so he remained quiet.
Aarav was just an employee of the charity with Aponi, and though he knew the most about computers, and as such fixed any computer problems the charity had, he held no official title.
The drone flew quietly above the crowded slum. Most of the people were outside, as most people in the slum weren’t well enough off to own a television set.
“There!” Aponi yelled in his ear even though she was right next to his head.
Aarav spotted the teenager as well, and he flew the drone closer but stayed out of sight. Sarah straightened and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed the authorities.
They had the teenagers face now, and as he rummaged through the purse they recorded any evidence the authorities might need that this was indeed the culprit. Aarav squinted his eyes and recognized the spot the boy was resting.
“He’s still just around the corner,” Aarav said, moving the drone to check the surroundings a little more.
The British woman was still on the phone with the authorities and Aponi shared a look with Aarav. Seeing the daring in his brown eyes, she started to shake her head before he said a word. They looked back at the screen and saw the boy pulling out some rupees and stuffing them into his pocket.
“We can’t just let him get away,” Aarav said, looking over his shoulder and making sure his words had gone unheard by the British woman.
The fan buzzing in the corner of the room started clicking as it got stuck in one position again. As usual, it fixed itself and continued turning and pushing the hot air around the small room.
“I’m going out there,” he said, jumping up and heading to the door. “You know how to fly Old Bessie. Keep an eye on him and make sure nothing goes wrong.”
Aarav flung open the door and ignored Sarah’s questions of concern as he ran down the hallway. He reached the exit and flung open the door. Being inside all day had softened his eyes, and the blaring sun made him squint for a while as he adjusted.
Running down the sidewalk for a moment, he soon darted through the street and dodged the cycle rickshaws as he went. The hustle and bustle of the work day winding down pulled all the beggars out onto the street, hoping for some spare money from the more well off. On normal day he would give them a little of his day’s earnings, but on this day he sped past without a word.
Ducking down an alley he hopped down the steps at the end and turned around another building. He checked his surroundings and made his way down to the area with the overhang that the teenager had gone to search Sarah’s purse. He slapped his forehead as he realized it would have been much easier to find the kid if he had thought to bring the miniature view screen that came with the drone, but it was too late to turn back now.
He found the exact spot that the boy had been. Instead of finding the boy, he only found the purse with the non-valuable items still inside. He did a slow 360, looking for the culprit, throwing up his hands when he failed to find the boy in the growing crowd of people. The smell of some of the merchants firing up their grills to appease the after-work crowd, his mouth started to water and he wondered if the boy would be hungry.
Dodging a few people he maneuvered through the area until he reached the wall where all the merchants selling food were located. He looked around but still saw nothing. The soft buzz of the drone’s propellers pulled his attention upward and he saw the drone. It was hovering about three feet away.
Apon lowered the drone but did a 360, facing him again with the front and he lifted an eyebrow. He lifted up both hands to say he was unsure what she was trying to convey. The drone then zoomed toward his face, stopped, backed up, and repeated the motion.
“What does that mean?” Aarav said.
Something pushed him from behind and he hit the ground hard. He rolled over onto his back, angry at first to be shoved, but the anger morphed to a slight fear as he realized the teenager that had stolen the purse had pushed him.
“You want trouble? You want to die?” the teenager said, pulling out a knife he had constructed from a shard of long glass and strips of leather.
No one paid any attention to them, and adrenaline hammered into his veins. The boy stepped forward and the people all around them just continued walking. Aarav started breathing hard, scooting back and attempting to stand but freezing when the teenager mounted him and put the glass blade to his throat.
“I’m sorry. I’ll just leave,” Aarav said, beating himself up for being so foolish. “Don’t hurt me. That drone is recording everything.”
The teenager glanced at the drone and smirked: “I’ve killed many and have never been caught. You think the police care about catching people like me? As long as I don’t kill a white person I’m invisible down here.”
Aarav gulped, trying to use his eyes to plead with the teenager. The teenager continued grinning, and he cupped the back of Aarav’s head.
“I think I can get your whole head off,” the teenager said, smiling wide enough to reveal his browning teeth. “Maybe someone will—”
The boy’s sentence was cut short and the pressure of his body weight lifted from Aarav. He allowed himself to breathe again, scooting back a few more inches until he realized the authorities had found the boy and picked him up, putting plastic cuffs on his wrists and yelling at him. One of the officers slapped him on the back of the head a couple of times and the boy yelled back but was not strong enough to get away from their grip. They hauled him off and Aarav stood up.
The drone flew down and he rubbed the back of his neck. He knew Aponi and Sarah would give him an earful when he returned, but he was able to smile, happy to be alive despite his rashness.