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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:10 pm

The charming fashion boutique was one of a small chain in the UK that had gained a substantial foothold in the market. Marcie again explained her plan of selling the assets to set up a trust before distributing any funds. She would then evaluate people’s business acumen and their understanding of her most valuable possession. She also informed them that the remainder of the destinations were no longer on the mandatory itinerary. They were free to visit if they wished. A dossier of these foreign based businesses would be provided. It would be at a meeting back in the US where she would let them know her final decision.

Marcie then left them to their own devices. Heather and Naomi scouted the fashions and acquired a few trendy items each as they egged the other on with little appreciation for the solemnity of Heather’s family, who were busily estimating how this store compared with the other places they had seen.

Daniel had found an Italian café a short distance away, on an opposite corner, where he sat and read from his computer while sipping aromatic draughts of frothy cappuccino. He chatted briefly with Harold, who had been exploring while waiting for the return trip, and dropped in for ‘a cuppa’ himself.

Daniel eventually returned to the boutique and informed them he was leaving to go to his appointment with a Cambridge professor. The Quentins said they also had to leave as they had an early flight back to Edinburg. They would go home and meet at the castle in Ayrshire on the Monday. Naomi gave Heather a hug as they parted. Shopping together had obviously bonded them, thought Daniel.

Naomi glanced nervously at her feet before fortifying herself with a deep breath and looking up. “You don’t have to worry about me. I can catch a cab back to the hotel.”

“No, we’ll take Harold’s cab together and I can drop you off.” Daniel surprised himself with the realisation that he was starting to rely on her companionship and the relationship they had.

“You’re sure? Because I want you to feel free to make your connections without me tagging along; I think I can handle getting to Scotland. I mean you’ve been really great, but I don’t want to be a burden.”

“No, it’s fine. It’s good to have some company. And, I will go to Ayrshire, just because I’m curious.”

“You certainly are,” she said mischievously as she stepped toward the kerb. He didn’t say that Harold’s chat had alerted him to a possible threat. The mere suggestion that they were being followed had him in protective mode. He would feel less anxious if they were together.

 

Once the journey to the hotel had begun it occurred to Daniel that maybe a trek to Cambridge would let Naomi see a bit of England. His offer was eagerly accepted and it was apparent that she craved company as much as he did. The mutuality of their attraction was becoming more evident.

The M11 proved to be no boon for sightseers though, so it was a pleasant distraction that their conversation was animated, not least by Harold’s home country humour.

When their Cambridge destination had finally been attained, Harold and Naomi went for a walk around the University gardens while Daniel met with Professor Smith. He was an articulate and enthusiastic questioner. However, his responses to Daniel’s questions were guarded and vague. It became very clear to Daniel that the interaction was mostly one way. When he tried to tie the graphene researcher down to coating substrates and etching methods the responses were qualified by a blunt - ‘proprietary product restrictions prevent me from elaborating.’ Daniel tired quickly of the mental gymnastics required to get a straight answer, thanked the professor for his help and left.

On the return trip, Naomi drowsed and Daniel kept peering through the rear window.

“I don’t think we’re bein’ follered son. They know where you’ve been and where yer goin, so there’s no reason. But if I were you I’d keep my lookout,” Harold advised.

“You may be right Harold. I’d sure like to know what they’re planning.”

           

Upon their return to the hotel, Daniel booked Harold to take them to the airport later in the day.

 


Chapter 5

 

Daniel and Naomi had a late lunch at the hotel. With several hours to kill before they were to leave for the airport some exercise and fresh air seemed a good idea. They walked through Hyde Park, then through Green Park and on to Buckingham Palace and mingled with the throng of other sightseers.

All the while they talked. For the first time in his life Daniel was aware of how relaxed he was in the company of this very attractive girl. It wasn’t that he was shy, or that he was a misogynist, that had led to his previous discomfort with women he became close to. It was more that he had often been set up with incompatible personalities by well-meaning people. And because, in general, when it came to girls he was socially inept, he had usually just plain bumbled his way during interactions. Perhaps it was the facades put on to create an impression, just as he did with them that irked him. He wanted someone that was genuine and stood her ground.

Whether it was the past social clumsiness or more recently, the unfortunate experience he had with a female friend who interpreted their friendship in a far more personal and permanent way than he had envisioned; or even if it was the fact that he had once read an article in a women’s magazine about behaviours of females trying to ‘catch their man’, he didn’t know. Whatever it was, he had viewed the motivations of girls he had met recently with suspicion.

He supposed that he related with Naomi because she clearly disagreed with him in a number of areas and she let him know. To his thinking there was no ulterior motive with her either—no motive that stemmed from the perceived safety of dating a ‘solid professional’.  Given that she was likely to be very rich very soon, it was unlikely to apply to her. It even appeared, paradoxically, that she didn’t appear to covet or chase after that wealth at all—unless of course he was grossly mistaken.

“There are some things I like about you and there are some things I don’t like,” she candidly admitted as they strolled under some ancient English oaks. He grinned at her. There was an appealing quality about her ‘no pretence’ dialogue.

“What! There’s something about me not to like?” he feigned astonishment.

Not to be deterred she went on unfazed, “Despite your brusque manner, you’re compassionate. You are interested in your brother’s problems and you’ve helped me without any complaint about the inconvenience. Thinking of others without personal gain; I like that.”

“Haven’t you heard, I’m after your millions? At least that’s what Heather tells me is being rumoured around. And don’t you think I enjoy being seen with a beautiful girl. It’s great for my ego.”

“Mm,” she ignored his ribbing and spoke concisely. “What I don’t like is … the way you just discount Christianity, without examining its claims or evaluating the evidence. For a scientist it doesn’t seem very scientific.”

Daniel was jolted by the direction the exchange had taken. Why did everything revolve around beliefs?

Naomi turned to face him and recognised the angst showing in his expression. “Okay, I’m coming on too strong aren’t I? You know many atheists have become Christians; you could check out some of their stories and find out what motivated them.”

“What about Christians who became atheists?” he prodded wryly.

“Sure!” she countered, “In fact, why don’t you read the same number of each and compare them for rationality, prejudice and faith? I think you’ll be surprised.

“You sound pretty confident about that.”

“I should, because, to me, it’s a sure thing. It’s reality itself. Everything else is a construct of our own deluded imaginations … what we want to believe.” Her words emanated from deep within her. They were spoken eloquently and with conviction.

“You really believe that don’t you?”

She looked up at him nodding and smiled, “You could say I’m speaking from experience.”

“That’s not fair.”

“What?” she looked puzzled.

“You, smiling like that. I can’t resist it when you smile at me.”

Naomi gave him a light punch on the arm. “So you’ll do it.” She smiled again, a cheesy, exaggerated smile, right in his face. He placed a hand on her cheek. She turned away quickly as if distracted, “Come on, we’d better get back or Harold will give up waiting for us.”

Daniel was wondering what had happened. He had unexpectedly been stirred by her closeness. Now the metaphorical tinkling glass of that shattered moment was all that was left. Naomi was striding back in the direction they had come, moving away as if she had violated some sort of taboo.

                              ------------------------------------------

 

Back at the hotel, after a leisurely meal in the restaurant, Daniel decided to check them out of their rooms, being unsure how long the stay in Ayrshire would be. Some vital phone calls preceded their exit. Naomi waited patiently in the foyer unsure of Daniel’s preoccupation with the phone. It was eight pm when they emerged and Harold was waiting dutifully at the entrance to the hotel.

Daniel gazed about as if savouring the sights one last time while the bags were deposited in the trunk. Harold raised his eyebrows with an unspoken question and he responded with a slight negating shake of his head.

Setting off for Heathrow the mood was again subdued. Daniel spent some time emailing Gavin and the others informing them of his disappointment regarding the Cambridge meeting, updating them about his travels and generally posing a series of questions about their circuit trials and the police investigation.

Halfway along the M4 Harold cleared his throat and alerted Daniel with eyes agog that their unwanted companions had joined them on the motorway. Discretely, the young scientist twisted around to examine the traffic. There, about three cars back, was a blue BMW, visible under the strong motorway lighting. So long as they remained at that distance Daniel wasn’t too concerned, but he wrestled with the problem of the reason for the surveillance. If it was the same crowd who stole his bogus notes then they knew he wouldn’t carry valuable information with him. So, what were they after? Determined and effective at dogging his steps, they were now tracking them to the airport. Would they get on the plane or just phone ahead to Edinburg?

In short time they had turned south to the airport. Once disembarked from the cab, Daniel almost dragged Naomi with their luggage on a trolley through the departures. Without hesitating, he continued past, down to arrivals and out the doors.

“What are you doing?” panted Naomi, totally flummoxed.

“Just trust me. We’ve been followed here. I want to shake them so I’ve made alternative plans.”

“Alternative plans?” was all Naomi could manage before she was bundled into another cab Daniel had hailed. He dumped their bags and slammed the trunk before the taxi driver could get out and help. Apologetically he justified his rush, “Eustace Station please; we’re in a bit of a hurry.”

“Certainly sir,” the cabby answered in a monotone ‘I’ve seen it all before’ voice.

Daniel leapt in the back seat beside her and sank down low. Naomi’s head was spinning, “Station?” she said questioningly.

“I’ll explain it all later. Do me a favour and just keep low for a bit.”

With seat belts fastened and the return trip well under way the cabby, Cyril—his name as determined from his identification tag—became sociable. “Got a train to catch have we?”

Daniel’s replies were those of an exhausted traveller. His reticence was an effort to minimise chit chat social niceties. Though his responses were not quite terse, Cyril soon realised his passengers were caught up in some sort of urgency and wished for a quiet ride.

                                                ----------------------------------

           

Having spent almost three hours in taxis it was a relief for the two of them to bustle through the concourse of the station, collect their tickets and make their way to the overnight sleeper to Edinburg. Anyone watching their progress would presume that a young couple was departing for holidays. Daniel was shepherding Naomi into the carriage his arm loosely around her waist as she stepped through the doorway. Upon showing their tickets, they were ushered to their respective adjacent first class cabins. The décor of blue and white with a mock wood panel door gave an ultra-modern setting to the functional, economic use of space.

A knock on the door seconds after he deposited his bags made Daniel jump.

He opened the door slightly, identified Naomi, and let her in. “Nice cabins hey?”

“Uh huh,” she scanned the room as if she hadn’t really seen hers. “All right, what’s this all about?” her hands went to her hips. He corralled her back through the doorway.

“Come on, let’s go to the lounge carriage; we’ll talk and have a coffee there.”

In the lounge car, soon after the wheel began to roll and the carriage rocked gently, Daniel opened up. “Okay,” he started hesitantly.  We’ve been followed for the last couple of days. So it’s better if we’re unpredictable. If they’re expecting us at the airport they’ll be disappointed.” 

“Who’s they?” There was a quiet insistence in the way she said it.

“I wish I knew. But I’ll guarantee it’s the same people that attacked us last time.”

“Why are they after us? What have you done?” Anxiety had crept into her voice.

“It’s a long story.” Daniel leaned forward. He suddenly felt drawn to her as if nothing else mattered than that she understood. “They want a technical breakthrough that Wafer Chip Research has made. It has cryptanalysis ramifications,” he paused then clarified as he saw her brow knit.

“Intelligence organisations see code breaking possibilities for it. Not what we had in mind when we were developing it but fast chips will always have military uses.”

“I don’t understand. Can’t they just buy it when it comes on the market?”

“The government has instigated compulsory acquisition. So the only way they can get it is steal it.”

“So, are you carrying it with you?” she rasped harshly with a lowered, breathy voice as she suddenly seemed appalled.

“No.” It was a quiet response; almost as if he knew what was coming next.

“Why—” He cut her off, knowing what was coming.

“Why are they here? …because if they get me they get the information—one way or the other.”

“Oh …” Naomi was lost for words. Their situation took on a whole new complexion for her. The regular beat of the wheels on the track was amplified by their silence.

Later that night Daniel was on his computer in his sleeper cabin. Connected to the train Wi-Fi, he was researching atheists and Christians. Though wanting to associate with the arguments presented by rational atheists, Daniel was surprised how lame they were. Pathetic allusions to discrediting the life of Christ by citing perceived inconsistencies. One said ‘Jesus sinned because He defended his disciples eating grain gathered on a Sabbath’. This atheist thought that Christians considered Jesus as just love and he was at pains to point out that Christ was angry and judgemental. It left Daniel wondering whether atheists were more religious than Christians. To him a multidimensional Jesus with strong emotions was more believable than an insipid person who avoided controversy.

As he read the Gospel of John from an on-line bible it depicted Jesus as Truth. That meant revealing the hypocrisy of the religious and talking about sin and death and judgement. Other atheists were in the sport of bagging Christian hypocrites. This was incredibly easy as, by Jesus’ own reckoning, those who come to Him are sinners.

Daniel tried to find some claim that Christians were better or more moral than other people but the passages he read just had the Christian writers urging followers to be like that, to be good like Jesus; which surely was laudable.

In contrast the stories about atheists converting were by and large cogent, philosophically sound and unambiguously filled with hope. Daniel felt that maybe he should pen a few lines in defence of rational free-thinkers. His problem was that he admired the value system inherent in what Jesus taught, and he liked the ethics of the people he knew to be Christians.

So what could he write to dispel this adherence to an invisible God? It was difficult. He couldn’t complain about the lack of proof or the fact no one had seen God, as this God wanted his followers to have faith; to trust Him. He was invisible after all. He could complain about the ruthless violence of the Old Testament. How did that disprove God? All it did was describe the cruelty of ancient peoples and the actions of a deity to disobedience. You could detest what happened but that wouldn’t mean it didn’t happen. You could choose to say I won’t follow a god like that, but did that diminish its truth?

He looked back at one of the converted atheists. There were ten points that this person listed that convinced him. Many of these ideas related to the concerted opposition that was applied by secular governments, including the US government, over history. Despite all that, the writer noted, Christianity had flourished.

After two hours of grappling with the stories and arguments of Atheists and Christians, Daniel came to a conclusion; both positions couldn’t be proven, they both required faith. What was clear was the choice. There was a choice between a meaningless, random existence and a purposeful, divinely planned life; choosing between a morality based on pragmatism and socially defined mores, and a way of life based on the values of an eternal, loving, all-knowing Power. One proponent described it as a choice between a materialistic, hopeless, finite and a spiritual, hope filled, infinite.

 

He went to sleep mesmerised by the rhythmic thrum of the wheels, wondering if becoming a Christian was just wishful thinking or if it was based on real evidence.

Breakfast was delivered at six the next morning. Having hardly slept three hours, it was all too soon for Daniel. Naomi, still in pyjamas, followed the steward in to his cabin carrying her tray with toast, spreads and coffee. She waited for the steward to leave before addressing Daniel.

“Hope you don’t mind. I ordered breakfast for us before I went to bed last night.”

He looked at his cereal and coffee. “No, it’s perfect … just a little early.” He sat up and as they ate they discussed what lay in store. Daniel tried to allay her fears. They should be safe amongst crowds and especially in a foreign country. He couldn’t believe how fresh and perky she looked; it was the opposite of how he felt.

“What’s the plan for today?” She was sitting cross legged on the end of the bed and grinning girlishly.

“Get dressed and, when the train stops, we’ll change at Edinburg for Ayr. I checked the net and we can take our time as there are plenty of trains leaving, maybe the eight fifteen or eight thirty. Then hire a car to drive to the castle.”

“Do you think we’ll avoid those people who’ve been trying to follow you?”

“For a while, but the sooner we’re back in the States the happier I’ll be.”

                                   
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