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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:31 pm

Chapter 7

           

Escaping the hotel early, Daniel fled for the airport and caught one of the first flights back to the States. By doing so, he reasoned, he avoided the distress of having to make polite conversation with Naomi and pretending that nothing had happened. This way he had put a full stop to a chapter in his life. He would start again.

A gnawing feeling inside him left him restless. Comparing graph results emailed to him on his computer distracted him briefly but images of Naomi’s smiling face as they swam in the sea or walked on a beach kept appearing in his mind like some video replay—a cruel reminder of his shattered dreams.

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

 

Later that morning, as the rest of the group were checking out of the hotel, Marcie handed Naomi a note. It read, ‘Have taken an earlier flight – Daniel’. There was no apology, no explanation, just a curt note saying he was gone.

“It’s my fault,” murmured Naomi. “I’ve hurt him. I was too busy enjoying his friendship to realise that the very thing I had to tell him would aggravate an old wound.”

Marcie raised her eyebrows but said nothing. It wasn’t the time or place for some maternal advice. She stored, for later, some comments that came to mind. Not that she wanted to interfere with a noble calling; it was just that she wanted to ensure that Naomi wasn’t going to chase after a course of action—some personal crusade—just because of misplaced loyalty to her father. If, on the other hand, she genuinely was drawn to the mission field, Marcie would support her whole heartedly.

Naomi spent the return trip blankly staring out at the blue Pacific, chiding herself for her emotional entanglement. She desperately tried to assure herself that the churning feeling she was experiencing was an expected trial; it was part of the price of a life of devotion. Was this going to be her weakness? Her aunt had said bluntly, ‘don’t brood, get on with life.’ Perhaps the stern words Marcie had dealt out were magnifying the pain she felt.

She hoped that when things settled down she wouldn’t have that sense of loss that she had now. Her eyes blurred with tears. She closed them, took a deep breath and pretended to sleep.

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

           

Daniel visited the circuit manufacturers on his way back to Boston. Max was the only one still there as only a few issues had arisen. He brought Daniel up to date and declared confidently that ‘things were cool’; which was his way of telling his boss to go home and rest up.

Back at Wafer Chip Research, the crew quizzed Daniel about his holiday and struggled to extract more than a couple of sentences about each destination.  It took Erin’s feminine perceptiveness to discern the storm that raged beneath the calm veneer affected by Daniel. She brought a coffee to his office and caringly placed her hand on his.

“Are you okay? Anything you want to talk about?” She looked into his face and detected a slight clench before he replied.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Mm …” Erin was unconvinced. “Well if you want to talk, I’m here.”

Daniel forced a smile and glanced up at the pretty red head. He was quite fond of Erin and the tousled, wispy new hairstyle framing her face made her look cute.

“I’ll remember that,” he managed, just as a vision of Naomi flooded his thoughts. He closed his eyes and sighed. Erin tapped his hand and started to leave. Stopping at the door she turned to meet his upturned gaze. “You should call her,” she advised.

He looked at the phone as the door closed. ‘Probably not,’ he thought. There was nothing to say. She had been honest with him from the beginning. He had just assumed that things had changed.

The phone rang and he jolted upright. Vacillating as to whether to answer the phone or let it ring out to the recorded message, he finally succumbed to its demands.

“Hello, Daniel Treloar speaking.” As he spoke Marnie peaked through the door, wondering about the phone, and mouthed ‘okay’? He held up a hand and nodded and she retreated quietly.

“Daniel, it’s Marcie. We’re meeting at the lawyers’ office; Haversack and Neesham, this afternoon to conclude the quest. I’d like you to be there.”

“I won’t be there,” Daniel answered flatly.

“Daniel, don’t be unreasonable. Everyone will be expecting you.”

“I’m not going Marcie. I’ve wasted enough time swanning about. I don’t need your money.”

“I know … I heard you’re financially independent. You don’t need anyone.” The words were laced with sarcasm. “What about Earl though. Not willing to represent him?”

“Is this some kind of blackmail?”

“Maybe, but I think you owe Naomi an apology anyway … leaving like that without a word.”

Just hearing her name stirred an ache within him. Of course he wanted to see her again, but what was the use? With the phone back in its cradle, he contemplated what lay ahead. Ultimately, he caved in with the rationale that he was going for Earl.

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

 

Pulling up in his Porsche in the angle parking, he walked the remaining fifty yards to the glass fronted office building. The whole fourth floor was taken up by the law firm. Inside, the others were already gathered in a conference room. They had collected on the right side where there were window views.

His searching eyes quickly located Naomi’s demure figure sitting next to the female paralegal. Casual in blue jeans, white long sleeve shirt and knitted vest, she still looked elegant. Her conversation was diverted by a comment from the PA. She glanced sidelong in his direction and forced a brave smile. He steeled himself with a steadying breath and focussed on Garth, who was getting everyone’s attention. By the time Daniel had distractedly dawdled to the conference table Garth was already reprising the criteria of the quest.

He wound up. “Everyone who responded to the question; ‘What is Marcie’s most valuable asset?’ qualifies for the bequest. Marcie has the responses and she will now bring her decision.” The lawyer made a slight theatrical flourish as Marcie walked to the fore of the assembly.

“Thank you everyone for coming. I have some interesting answers to my challenge; and I’ve decided to reward everyone for just joining in on the quest. I believe it my prerogative to make such a choice.” She eyed Haversack for confirmation, and he gave a little nod.

“Firstly,” she went on, “two people have made no response.” Her gaze found Naomi.

“Naomi, have you any comment about my most valuable asset?”

With all staring in her direction, the girl gave an agitated shake of the head.

“I’m not getting involved Aunt Marcie,” she said hoarsely. “You know where I’m heading.”

Daniel shrivelled inside. Did he come just to be reminded that something that was becoming more than a friendship, a relationship that seemed so real, was now disintegrating just because of religion. He heard disjointed voices and nearby muttering as he fixated on the idea that people’s faith had so intruded on his life.

Daniel!” The name had been repeated twice now, and it was his turn to be the centre of attention.

“Yes Aunt Marcie,” The words came out with some bitterness.

“What do you think I value most?”

“Your precious faith of course,” The rancour was still evident in his voice. “My mother, my father … you drew them in …” he struggled for words. “Anyway, you’re giving your wealth away, so it’s not valuable to you anymore.”

There was a nervous hush as whispers conspired together and agreed that it was the end of any chance Daniel had of profiting from this meeting. But Marcie thought otherwise.

“All right, thank you Daniel. That’s probably the most accurate assessment I’ve had.” Marcie gained their attention. “So … I’ve made my decision. When everyone has travelled so far to get to this point, I don’t have the heart to not provide some … er compensation. So, upon the sale of assets and the settling of my business matters; the Greers, the Scottish Quentins and Earl Treloar will all receive one million dollars.”

An abrupt clamour of exclamations and questions was allowed to settle before Marcie continued. “The remaining funds will be placed in a Trust Fund. Naomi Stockton and Daniel Treloar will be nominated trustees to deal with the funds for charitable purposes, as they see fit. I would think their disinterest in personal wealth qualifies them to administer the trust.”

The Greers, their children not present, were surprisingly agreeable to the outcome; no ranting or stomping out. It was as if the last month or so of travelling together as a couple, rather than their whole family, had somehow nurtured a relationship that was now more substantial than monetary reward. The sharing of stories and experiences had enriched their lives in a way that their scrabbling to better themselves never could.

Donald, who had joined Morna for the meeting, just hugged his wife. Naomi and Daniel were bewildered by it all. Heather grabbed Naomi’s hand and led her to Daniel. They regarded each other numbly.

Well, you two are going to have to talk now. No good keeping this little spat going on when you’ve got twenty million dollars to look after. Oh, that Marcie is a canny one,” she almost giggled. She patted Daniel on the shoulder and then left to talk with Marcie.

           

“I don’t want the money Dan,” Naomi said throatily. Her hand touched his. He recoiled visibly, not sure of his bruised emotions.

“What? You think I do? As far as I’m concerned you can have it all.”

Naomi was viewing her feet, deep in thought. Raising her head she met his eyes with a tight lipped smile. “Maybe we can meet tomorrow and settle on some charitable trust.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Daniel granted reluctantly.

Naomi studied his tortured features. She wanted to tell him she cared, that her heart flipped in his presence, but it was more complicated than that. How could she do what she must do if she wasn’t single minded?

“I’ll give you a call tomorrow, okay?” she said quietly.

“Okay,” he responded barely audibly. He stood there reflecting. Did he secretly want the money? Was that why he had stayed involved? He had considerable funds and the promise of more, but Marcie’s wealth would get him so much more. Maybe his protestations were just pride and concealed his underlying greed.

Daniel looked around the room at his jubilant relatives. Did they get what they wanted? What did he want? What was he trying to gain from all this? His gaze fixed on Naomi who was talking with Heather. At least she seemed to know what she wanted.

A short time later Naomi excused herself from the animated conversations. The sight of her spurning an offered cup of coffee with upheld hand resonated with Daniel as a depiction of her response to him, the smile … the ‘no thanks’… the polite escape, all so emblematic of her courteous rebuff of him. He almost wished there had been an explosive argument with raging denunciations so he could feel some enmity toward her. Instead, he knew, as he examined her graceful exit, that he still loved her.

The admission stunned him. He had to do something. Immobilised, staring blankly at the door she had gone through, a sound pierced his consciousness. Words; someone was speaking. “Are you all right?”

It was Heather. He looked at her and without acknowledging her query, strode off in the direction of the door.

“Oh that Marcie is a canny one all right,” she said softly.

Outside the offices, he saw Naomi walking toward her repaired, paint spattered, blue Toyota. Daniel ran to her, “Naomi,” he called. She looked up. A perplexed expression appeared as she saw him running. He slowed down as he suddenly wondered what he would say. Naomi looked at him expectantly as he drew near. Three words hovered at the back of his mind; three life changing words. Would he say them? Could he say them knowing that everything would change.

“I … I …” was all Daniel managed before hulking forms appeared beside him. He was knocked to the ground and punched viciously on the side of the head.

Vaguely he sensed someone grabbing Naomi. She was screaming. Was that his name? Coarse threatening commands, slamming doors and a roar of a car engine penetrated the kaleidoscopic dance of colours across his vision.  All faded to black momentarily before he regained consciousness, becoming hazily aware of shouts and the slapping of feet on the pavement. Dazed, he felt arms turning him face up.

It seemed to take ages for him to understand what was being said. The warbling, garbled tones finally distilled into meaningful words.

“Are you all right?”

“I saw it all.” From a high pitched voice. “Three men … knocked him down and kidnapped the girl.”

“Call the police,” growled a deeper voice.”

 

He couldn’t see! His eyes wouldn’t open. Either his eyes were refusing to open, or he was blind. Daniel squeezed his eyes and squinted. Shadows surrounded him. Hands were supporting his head.

Soon after, faces and bodies became joined to the reaching hands. While he was attempting to focus, the group parted to the insistent clamour of an authoritarian voice. It was Marcie.

“Stand back. Give him some air. Daniel, are you all right?”

He tried to nod but a jabbing pain lanced across his jaw and, instead, a loud moan blurted out. Daniel touched the growing welt on his face. He tried to sit up but everything spun, he swayed and arms had to support him to lie down again.

Police cars screeched to a halt alongside the curb and double parked next to Naomi’s car. An ambulance arrived simultaneously and the attendants asserted the right to examine Daniel as a priority. Concerned by his disorientation, and despite his protestations, he was put in the ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.

The police spent half an hour questioning witnesses while calling in an ‘all-points bulletin’ on a dark sedan with some plate numbers loosely suggested by various onlookers.

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

 

Naomi was terrified. She screamed out Daniel’s name as he collapsed under the savage assault of one hefty brute and a wiry accomplice. A third assailant pinned her arms to her side in a crushing bear hug and hoisted her bodily around in an arc into the open door of a dark sedan. He tumbled in on top of her, restraining her flailing arms as the door was slammed behind him.

She screamed again as the other two piled in the front and started the engine. A squeal of tyres prefaced a rapid acceleration, and a harsh voice yelled, “Shut her up Squint.”

A bottle was extracted from his pocket. She shoved and scratched at the balaclava clad mass squashing her. Forced down into the far corner of the back seat, she gagged as cotton cloth soaked with the sickly sweet, sharp smell of ether was jammed against her nose and mouth. Instantaneously aware of the hazard of inhaling, Naomi stopped her breathing. She vigorously resisted for five long seconds then gradually relaxed completely.

She indistinctly heard, “Ohh … did you have to do that in the car? You’ll put us all under. Put her in the trunk.”

The car screeched to a halt as, in desperation for oxygen, she inhaled the noxious fumes. Almost unconscious now, Naomi felt herself bundled like a rag doll into the trunk. The ether soaked cloth was thrown in her direction and landed near her face. Hardly registering the thudding trunk and overcome by the rapidly evaporating fumes, she sank into a stupor.

Minutes later, in a gloomy alley, the car skidded to a stop. All three kidnappers tumbled out and hastily transferred her to the trunk of a waiting sedan. All the time they were taking deep breaths to try and clear their lungs. The cloth, nearly dry now, was thrown on her face again.

Heading off in the second vehicle at a much more sedate pace the front passenger remarked, “That wasn’t too difficult was it Reg?”

“We still have to get her to Wills’ place.”
“What then?”


“Then I’ll let him know we got her. He can contact the scientist and let him know we’ve got his girl.”

Squint spoke for the first time. “When do we get the money?”  The throaty gravel sound told of his heavy smoking.

“Be patient Squint. When Will gets the stuff, we’ll get our money.”

“What do we do with the girl?” It was the passenger again.

“Dump her … she hasn’t seen us so she can’t hurt us.”

           

Naomi was slowly coming to. A nauseating fog clogged her mind and a dry unpleasant aftertaste stung her throat. She tried to think. What was happening? The dark space, the cloying smells; it all took a while to process. Muted sounds of rough speech droned in audio relief to the growling hum of tyres on tarmac.

As lucidity returned an essential idea formed. It was crucial to get away; if that was not possible, then to leave a message. A message! Her phone … she felt in her pocket. She still had her phone! Fumbling, she eased it out. Before she could get it open she dry retched violently.

Convulsions of stomach contractions wracked her body, but all her empty stomach gave up was a sour slug of gastric fluid. Shaking and wiping her mouth with her sleeve, Naomi dialled 911.

After a harrowing interlude the operator answered; “What is your emergency?”

To Naomi it seemed to shriek aloud. She cupped her hands about the cell phone and tried to whisper, “I’m being abducted.” Her mouth wasn’t cooperating and it came out as a muffled moan.

“I’m sorry, could you speak up please?” came the reply.

Concentrating and trying to reword her urgent situation Naomi spoke in short syllables.

“I’m … trapped … in … a … car.” It was still mumbled, but clearer this time.

“Where are you now?” The tone indicated an increased appreciation of danger.

“I … don’t … know.”

At this point, amazingly, the synchronicity of police department procedures came to the fore. Alerted that an abduction had just recently occurred, a supervisor monitoring calls quickly made the correlation. Immediately, technicians were instructed to trace the source of the mobile signal and the operator was given specific advice.

“Don’t talk … just keep the line open,” she instructed, adhering strictly to the advice.

    Reports were flooding in. The kidnap car had been located. Everyone waited as a squad of officers approached it. The technicians were already informing them that the call was coming from some distance away from the initially identified stolen car.

A senior officer commented, “They’ve switched cars.”

At the same time news arrived that the car was abandoned in an alley and there was no trace of the girl.

“Did you give her enough chloroform?” Reg turned and asked Squint.

“I couldn’t get chloroform. It’s ether … works just as well though.”

The big man, the nameless accomplice, responded for Squint. “She should be out to it. I’m still woozy and I didn’t have it stuffed in my mouth like she did.”

“Should I give her some more?” growled Squint zealously; his enjoyment of applying the dope very apparent.

“Nah! Any more of that stuff in the car and I’ll lose it. Just keep an ear out for her. If you hear anything let me know.” He kept swinging the car through suburban streets north of the river.

“Where are you head’n?” It was the big man again.

“Just wanted to make sure we aren’t tailed,” sneered Reg, satisfied with how things were turning out.

“It should be safe to double back now. There are no cops anywhere.”

The wiry driver with angular, rat like features had a smug expression. He said nothing as he deviated down another side street and followed the light traffic until he approached the sought after intersection. Veering right he drove onto a main thoroughfare in a different direction.

Clarity infiltrated the numbness in Naomi’s head as it pounded with the after effects of the anaesthesia. The vibration of the wheels exaggerated the pressure on her temples. Where were the police? What were they doing?

“Are you still there?” she whispered forcefully into the phone.

An unexpected, softer, mellow, male voice replied, “We’re still here. Just sit tight. We’re tracking the car at this moment.”

Just sit tight! She wanted to scream. What else could she do? The new emergency incident handler kept his calm. His even control hadn’t informed her of the flurry of activity and flustered shouting of commands flying through the headsets.

“They’ve changed direction. We need cars three, five and seventeen to set up an intercept on Broadway at Eastern … that’s right they’re now on West Broadway going north. Units seven and fourteen get onto West Broadway… leave a buffer till they near the intercept. Jack, could you come South from Bennett?”

Units that were just monitoring the alert were suddenly thrust into the action and police farther south that had been readying a road block, noticeably slumped at the release of tension.

Jerking forward and back for traffic light stoppages, Naomi shone her phone light around the dark capsule. From the wheel well she retrieved a wheel brace … ‘Sufficient to do some damage,’ she thought uncharacteristically.

All at once sirens were wailing, brakes were screeching, thugs were yelling and cursing and the car crunched into some immoveable object, flinging her against the back seat. More yelling, thumping on car panels and suddenly the late afternoon setting sun painfully blinding her as the trunk was flung open. With a hand shielding the sun, Naomi gripped one extension of the brace and held it up threateningly. 

Contrary to his training, the heavily vested policeman blustered with a raucous laugh as he saw the attractive girl unconvincingly poised to strike.

“Give her a hand Mac.” The silhouetted outline of another policeman spoke. The first officer didn’t approach though.

“You’re safe Ma’am. You can put the tyre lever down now.” Naomi hesitated, unsure who was speaking.

Her eyes gradually adjusted to the glare and she saw a group of uniformed men gathering around, a little too cheerful for her liking. She placed the brace down and extended her hand to the outstretched arm. Seeing that Naomi was trembling with delayed shock, a policewoman wrapped her in a blanket and sat her in a squad car.

Now the focus of caring and concerned inquiries, Naomi crumbled into tears. The more she tried to stifle her gasps the more she sobbed. It took a few minutes for the wave of emotion to subside. Then another bout of retching and her head began to clear.

“What’s your name?” the policewoman asked, more to establish her condition than determine her identity. Naomi looked up at her. She had kindly grey eyes and a spray of freckles across her nose. “Naomi … Naomi Stockton,” she responded.

“I’m Officer Gomes. I’ll just get the sergeant to come and talk to you.”

Naomi nodded.

What ensued was a preliminary information collection session. Did she know who the abductors were? Did she know why they had taken her? Did she know where they were taking her? Had they beaten her? Naomi repeatedly shook her head and offered a diminutive ‘no’ to each question.

“So there’s no reason for someone to kidnap you? Are you wealthy, or do you have wealthy relatives?” The sergeant was just winding up.

“Well, I suppose it could have been for ransom.” She looked up a bit bewildered. “I’ve just been made a co-trustee of a twenty million dollar estate.”

The sergeant stood stock still gazing at the pretty girl with the grimy face as she gave an apologetic smile. He wondered how such a fact could occur to her as an afterthought.

“Twenty million dollars,” he said appreciatively. He called in his findings only to discover that investigators from uptown had already established from the other victim that a considerable amount of money was involved. They had interviewed him in hospital.

A cry from the car drew his attention. He turned. Gomes called out, “She wants to know if the other victim, Daniel Treloar, is all right.”

After a few more words on the radio, the sergeant assured Naomi that Daniel was just knocked about a bit, but was well and resting in hospital. He promised to take her there after getting her formal statement at the station.  
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