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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:22 pm

Chapter 8

 

Evening had considerably advanced when Naomi was admitted into Daniel’s hospital room. A red haired girl was hovering over the bed giggling at some comment Daniel had made. Equivocating uncomfortably in the doorway, Naomi was about to withdraw when Daniel hailed her. “Naomi … come in … ooh, he clutched his face as pain stabbed the side where he had been struck. The girl spun around, surprised at her appearance. Naomi noted the cute upturned nose and the bright blue eyes.

Daniel continued speaking, but more circumspectly, with smaller mouth movements. “Naomi, this is Erin. Erin works with me developing micro circuits.” Erin gave a nervous little smile and a small, fluttering hand wave type greeting. Immediately Naomi noted the affection in her gaze as she looked at Daniel. She sensed that she was imposing in the awkwardness of Erin’s reaction.

“I should come back another time,” she demurred.

“No, no stay,” Daniel insisted.

“Yes, stay,” added Erin’s chirpy voice. Then less convincingly and with a hint of disappointment she went on, “I’m just visiting my boss in hospital … making sure he’s okay.” She gave a sunny smile tinged with regret. “I have to go now anyway.” She leaned over and gave Daniel a gentle peck on the cheek before turning to go. “Nice meeting you Naomi.” She waved to both of them at the doorway and then was gone.

“She’s lovely Dan … sort of sparkly personality,” observed Naomi quietly.

“Yeah, she’s a nice kid. As keen as mustard at the lab; always volunteering for extra tasks.”

“Mmm,” responded Naomi knowingly.

Daniel switched the subject of the conversation. “So how are you after your ordeal? Sorry I wasn’t much help.”

She approached the side of the bed and felt a strong yearning for him. Usually, he was in control, but now he looked vulnerable and in need. She wondered if it was her sympathetic nature or whether it was because she really did care for him. She touched his bruised face tenderly.

“They really whacked you didn’t they?”

He answered her comment with a strained smile that distorted into a grimace.

“You could say that.” He picked up her left hand and stroked the fingers as she lifted his sandy fringe with her right hand and exposed a bump on the right forehead.

“Oooh, that’s nasty.”

“It’s where I landed. Doctor said that’s what knocked me out; and, probably why I’m staying here overnight for observation.”

Shyly, Naomi withdrew the hand he had just started caressing. She indirectly justified her action with several combing flicks through her hair, training it behind her ear.

“The police believe the attackers wanted a ransom.” She had a far off look as if her mind were tracking an elusive phantom of an idea.

“What do you think?” Daniel prodded.

“It’s possible. Would you have paid it?” she asked candidly, with the beginnings of her appealing dimple forming in her cheek.

“It’s your money,” he teased.

“It’s not. It’s in a trust, or will be. We’re co trustees so we have to manage this together.”

“Yeah, well I’ll relinquish my trusteeship to you.”

“You can’t just give it up.”

“Why not? The last thing I want is to be in Marcie’s debt because she’s given me a packet of money.”

“You’re just too proud and stubborn aren’t you?” she retorted with increased aggravation.

He reflected for a moment before contributing a cynical self-evaluation. “That’s part of my problem.” He cut short from listing or elaborating on the growing guilt of his self-centred, materialistic existence.

Naomi tilted her head questioningly, expecting that he might go on. He mimicked her tilt. “You need to go home and get some rest. You look worn out.”

“Are we still on for a meeting tomorrow?”

He shook his head slowly. “They won’t tell me till tomorrow whether I’m going home. Apparently, I have to have a scan or something.”

“Maybe Thursday then?” she suggested.

“Maybe …” He was still dwelling on ‘proud and stubborn’.

“I’ve got some ideas about setting up a charitable foundation…”  She began as he closed his eyes from another jab of pain that seared behind his eyes.

“Dan, are you okay?” Concern flowed from her gaze as she leaned closer.

“Headache,” he groaned. Her hand went back to his face and gently rubbed the uninjured side. 

“I’ll come in tomorrow if you’re still here.” She planted a soft kiss on his lips and quickly fled as she cross examined herself. Where had that come from? She had never been impulsive; no one ever would describe her as ‘spontaneous’. Her actions were usually organised, premeditated, even clinical, but never random like this.

Daniel lay still, eyes closed, savouring that kiss. The light fragrance of her perfume lingered around him. He had glimpsed her departure and then luxuriated in the intimacy of that moment. Maybe there was hope after all.

Wednesday had him cleared of brain damage and warned about the ongoing side effects of concussion. Erin called in after lunch. She was delighted to hear he was being discharged and that she was able to drive him home.

In his town house she fussed and mothered him and then strangely, to him, promptly excused herself when he contacted Naomi.

They had to get together. He suggested going somewhere to eat for lunch. It was a bit of a drive. Naomi sounded less decisive about what to do.

“You know we’re going to have to discuss the trust at some stage, don’t you?” he declared.

“Yes, I know. But at the moment I’m really confused about us … and I don’t want to give you the wrong impression.”

Daniel thought briefly. There must be a way to do this and make her realise that they were still in danger. Whoever it was, had now tried three times so they were determined and desperate.

“How about I pick you up at ten tomorrow and I tell you what I’m thinking. If you have any issues I’ll turn around and drive you home.”

“Okay, Daniel …and Daniel, I’m sorry …” The words conveyed so much meaning in the way she said them. He sensed the torment in her. “Forget it …” he was a bit terse, because he couldn’t forget.

“See you at ten then.” Her tone registered some pain at his reaction.

He made a call to Max. Max was a fixer. Somehow he had a way of knowing someone who knew someone who could do a favour. The call was a hypothetical. ‘What were the chances’, type of question, if they wanted to do something irregular. After some to-ing and froing with some details, Max said to leave it with him. There was a heightened excitement in his voice.

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

 

The warm, early autumn weather was ideal for the pleasant drive to Rockport. Daniel held the car door open and looked approvingly at Naomi as she came over. Her first sight was his injured face. Mottled blue and yellow discolouration blotched the area where he had been struck.

“How’s your head?” she looked up with concern in her eyes.

“It’s a bit tender.” He felt the raised flesh on the side of his head. Naomi lifted his fringe to check the lump where he made contact with the pavement.

“Well, I think you’re a quick healer. It doesn’t look too bad.”

“That’s good,” he replied, not admitting to the recurring, almost chronic, headaches he was experiencing.

The leisurely, normally sixty minute, drive was punctuated by a stop off at a fruit stall, and then Daniel was talked into a walk along Good Harbour Beach in Gloucester. The fifteen minute wade through the shallows gave Naomi a chance to quiz him.

“Have you read ‘Mere Christianity’ yet?”

Daniel pulled a face. “I thought this … ‘stretching my legs’ had ulterior motives.”

She grinned, “Have you?”

“I’ve started.”

“Well, what are your thoughts?”

Daniel reflected a moment. “I guess I’m still standing outside looking into the hallway.”

She presumed he was referring to the idea of faith. In a way he was, but in truth he was specifically rephrasing Lewis’ stated aim to draw others into the hallway so that they could then choose which doorway or ‘communion’ to enter; a reference to the denominations that clung to the periphery of Christendom, and were secondary to Lewis’ way of thinking.

“I don’t actually remember that part.”

“It’s just in his preface. I’ve read his argument about good and evil … the idea of right, a natural law, being evidence for the existence of a higher order. It’s a fairly compelling case, but ultimately, as he says, it comes down to what you choose to believe.”

Turning in front of him to block his progress she asked, “So, you’ve just started then?” She had a self-satisfied, almost cheeky, dimpled grin that charmed him.

“Uh huh.” His appreciation of his slender companion with the rolled up jeans and sneakers over her shoulder restricted his breathing. Her angled gaze into his face seemed to harmonise with his own gaze and flagged their mutual attraction and increasing closeness.

Suddenly aware that her guard was down, Daniel clasped her hand. “Come on, we need to go.” They walked back along the hardened sand and through shallow, cool water hand in hand. Naomi was strangely aware that she was enjoying the thing that she had purposely avoided—the strengthening of their relationship. Rinsing the sand off their feet at the car park they walked barefoot to the yellow Porsche before putting socks and shoes back on.

At the car he threw a couple of headache tablets, dry, down his throat. In reply to her curious glance, he assured her that he was fine.

           

The drive along Thatcher Road into South Street accessing the main street of Rockport took only a few minutes. Daniel filled her in on some of his boating experiences with Gavin, who kept his yacht moored in Rockport. Pulling onto a promontory surrounded by small harbours and having numerous restaurants, knick-knack shops and studios, they entered a restaurant with a harbour view and a tantalising variety of seafood dishes.

It wasn’t long before Daniel outlined his plan.

“Why do you think it’s them?” Naomi’s brow furrowed.

“They’re the common factor. They had our itinerary. They went out of their way to accommodate Aunt Marcy; something most law firms would only do if they were free to bill their time, not constrained by a fixed quote. And Reagan said something about my business as if he knew more than just having a passing interest.”

“So, what do you hope to find in their offices?”

“Something that gives us a clue as to who their clients are; maybe something of their plans, so that we can be prepared …”

“I don’t understand. What do you want me to do?” She was still perplexed.

“Explain to Haversack that I’ve offered to set up the trust fund. Just ask them for advice. I’m sure they’ll suggest that you show them the paperwork before you sign anything.”

“How will that help you?”

“You’ll be wearing a tiny camera that will have infra-red detection. It will help locate CCTV points and give me an idea of the layout of the offices.”

Naomi was wide eyed. “You’re going to break in?”

Daniel nodded.

“Well, I won’t be any part of that. You’re crazy! And it’s illegal!” she was affronted. “Is this what you wanted to tell me?”

“Yes but …” Daniel struggled to justify his approach.

Even though she was only halfway through her meal Naomi stood.  “I think you should take me home.”

“Naomi!” he called as she walked toward the door.  Many pairs of eyes from other customers glanced up, and many whispered comments followed. Daniel set off after her. He diverted his course to go to the counter. He quickly paid enough to cover the bill while casting glances in her direction as she went outside.

He jogged toward her. When he caught up he matched her pace. She briskly continued walking to the car as he tried to explain.

“Naomi, these are people who kidnapped you, had gunmen shoot at you; you don’t want them to get away with that do you?”

“You don’t know that for sure. And just because they do the wrong thing doesn’t mean we should.”

“What! So we do nothing! These people are lawyers. Unless we have some facts we won’t be able to touch them.”

She had arrived at the car and her turn toward him appeared quite hostile.

 “So you want to involve me in this scheme in the hope that you’ll get some facts.”

Daniel remained silent for a few seconds, looking at her sparking eyes. “Forget it,” he said. “I’m sorry I suggested it.” He opened the door for her and then went to his own side.

The drive back was tense with muted offerings from both sides. His thoughts examined his own value system. He had always been one for action and dealt with any opposition head on. He saw it as one of his strengths to not take a backward step and be largely self-reliant. Now, for the first time, he was questioning himself. Could he be more passive? How could he just let things happen to him without reacting?

After he left Naomi at her place and had taken a couple more pain killers, he turned back north again to Peabody. Daniel dropped in at work amidst protests that he should take the rest of the week off.  

He sought out Max, who was a gadget guru, especially when it came to modern electronics. Daniel was aware that what he was about to do was patently illegal so he had ensured that Max was on board in terms of confidentiality. 

“Have you got the camera and infra-red detector?”

Max grinned, “Yep, and that’s not all. I managed to get some schematics for the building.” In response to Daniel’s raised eyebrows he explained, “… when you know the right people … Anyway, I figure it’ll be safer just to shut down the power. Go in with some night glasses …” He held up some goggles. “And just use the light when you’re checking the files.”

“What about battery powered cameras?”

“Well, there’s always that. I suggest you wear dark clothing, cover your face … and be discreet.” Max had a mischievous smile. “Seriously, I might tag along to help you with the technical stuff.”

Daniel made a face.

“Okay, you could probably handle it, but an extra pair of hands is always handy.” He chuckled at his pun. “And why should you have all the fun?”

“Because I’m the one who’ll get in trouble if I’m caught.”

“Oh, come on Dan … it’ll be a lot easier and safer if you have some help.”

A quiet stare examined his colleague. “Okay,” conceded Daniel. “You can keep watch. But get out of there the moment there’s any sign of trouble.”

Max beamed. This would be a great story to tell … sometime in the distant future.

Suddenly his face brightened even more. “There may be some other things I can help you with.” He got up and disappeared out the door. Daniel opened an internet map of the business district that showed the building in which ‘Haversack & Neesham’ offices were located. He mapped out routes of approach and escape. Meticulously, he studied the building plans. Once inside he would have to move quickly and hope he found what he was looking for. He made a mental note of his procedure. Check desk and any notebooks first, then filing cabinet second. He wouldn’t waste time on any computer as that was too risky and required expertise, and probably passwords, that he didn’t have. The fact that Max had planned on shutting down the power hadn’t really registered.

About half an hour later, Max arrived back in his office. His smirking face begged the question.

“What have you got?” Daniel asked suspiciously.

Max opened a large, black plastic garbage bag. “Cleaner’s overalls … They actually belong to the company that cleans that building.”

“How did you—”

Max cut him off, “Well you might ask … remember I told you it’s who you know?”

“Yeah.”

“Well my brother in law owns the cleaning business.” As if anticipating how the conversation had arisen he went on, “I had just mentioned to him I was doing some research on business premises in the city for someone. Did he know of Telnet Offices? And voila, he tells me it’s one of their clients.”

“So, he gives you the overalls?” Daniel sounded astounded.

Max replied with a sneaky grin, “Not exactly. I sort of just dropped by and picked them up.”

           

“So, what happened to dark clothing and shutting down the power?” Daniel was amused by Max’s fertile mind.

“That’s plan B. This way everything seems normal. I’ll tell them Bernard sent us to help out, watch them and learn on the job then we’ll have clear access to the office. You’ve been there before haven’t you?”

“Just their conference room.” He pointed to the diagram in front of him. “These are the offices. I’m not sure which one’s Haversack’s, but he’s my prime suspect.”

Further conversation was about photographing any documents they would find, wearing gloves and keeping option B, of shutting down the power, in mind if things proved a bit dodgy.

“Oh, and I’ll drive my dad’s blue Nissan. That Porsche of yours will attract too much attention.”

“Okay,” Daniel had no arguments there, “Can you pick me up at ten?”

“No problems, and don’t forget your dark clothes; you know, plan B.”

So it was all set. After wandering around in the laboratory, nosing through some of the research results, and again being scolded for being on the premises, Daniel left to rest a bit at home and ease another developing headache.

A text arrived from Naomi. It said; ‘Don’t do anything unorthodox … can’t talk now … will meet tomorrow.’

Daniel grinned at her avoidance of the word ‘illegal’ and replied; ‘Too late, everything is in the works … will let you know how it goes.’

He felt too nervous to eat a meal so he snacked on some fruit and crisps. His attempt to make some headway mapping out his nanotube research was unproductive because his mind strayed to his ethics, or lack of them, and his overall moral condition.  The words of Lewis about a morality based on Christian principles and how it was futile without it being enacted as part of the Christian life, chafed at his conscience. That was his issue now. He had chosen to be pragmatic instead of principled.

Even while he was justifying his actions another text arrived from Naomi. It just said; ‘Don’t.’

When he didn’t respond his phone started ringing. It was Naomi. He turned his phone off. He was in no mood to be preached at. He was trying to save their lives for goodness sake! The end justified the means, didn’t it?

The evening dragged on. He tried reading more of his book and wondered at the author’s careful use of words. The way he likened Christian charity to the left of politics but refrained from saying a Christian’s respect of authority was like the right; and Daniel surmised it was because the British were in a fierce war with the Nazi regime at the time.

He picked up the bible he had been given and tried to reconcile some of the words he read in Hebrews with what he knew from the other passages he had read.

Daniel meditated on the idea that ‘God was mindful of him …’ that, somehow it all hinged on Jesus Christ. Irrespective of what flavour of Christianity you adhered to; it seemed that Christ did what had to be done in his crucifixion to remedy the malady that beset man. As the God man he bridged the gap. It was much the same as what CS Lewis had written.

He felt less certain now about the proposed actions for that night. Maybe there was some other way. He growled at himself. It was unlike him to equivocate, to second guess himself to the point where any decisive action was jeopardised. No, he and Max would uncover the truth about Haversack and Neesham’s involvement, even if it took all night. Besides, Max would be disappointed if he pulled the plug after all their preparations.

They would just look around.

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

 

When Max arrived, Daniel noticed his nervous grin. Both were on edge. A quick review of what they would say and do was a precursor to a cross examination of each other; did you remember such and such … what about …?

“Should you even be out tonight?” growled Max as Daniel squeezed his eyes in reaction to a stab of pain. Max made a gritted teeth smile empathetically at his friend’s noticeable reaction to the pain.

“I’ll be okay,” he managed as he grimaced at another wave of throbbing ache. Deftly he palmed some tablets and threw them into his mouth, swallowing them with a gulp. He then checked his diminishing supply.

Finally, they set off for the city address. Having stopped a short distance away from their destination, they both put on a pair of cleaner’s overalls.

The Nissan was just pulling away from the curb when a police car darted past. Max deviated erratically for a second, clearly spooked by the sudden appearance of the law. Nearing the office building they saw that another squad car was positioned diagonally opposite.

“Keep going and we’ll come back from the opposite direction,” suggested Daniel anxiously.

“What if they’re looking for suspicious characters? These overalls will be hard to explain.”

As they drove past a policeman emerged from the building and glanced at their slow moving vehicle.

“Just keep driving,” hissed Daniel. “I think they’ve been tipped off.”

Max’s grip tightened on the wheel as he imagined the eyes of the officer staring at him, perhaps recording his registration.

At the next main intersection he swung right, accelerated and then right turned again to retrace their course parallel to the first.

“I know what I’ll say if they contact me.”

“What?” There was tension in Daniel’s reply.

“That I knew my brother in law’s company cleaned that building so I slowed down to look.”

“And where were you going at that hour of the night?” questioned Daniel taking on the role of devil’s advocate.

“Good question … mm,” Max concentrated hard.

“I think you’d better hope that looking suspicious is not a big enough crime for them to investigate.” He breathed in deeply to relieve the tension. “Come on take me home and I’ll make us a coffee.”

“What do we do if they do ask?” It was still gnawing at Max.

What started off as a little adventure was now having some scary ramifications.

“The truth … well, some of it. I’ll tell them that some crazy things had happened to me and I was suspicious of the lawyers. We were driving past to check out their offices when we saw the police cars.”

“Well, it’s sort of true,” admitted Max.

“I have a feeling that’s all we need to say. If they press the point we’ll just ask Arnold to join us. They’d be struggling to get us on loitering with intent.”

“You’re a sneaky character aren’t you?” observed his workmate.

Daniel mumbled some sort of denial, but he didn’t feel proud of himself.

Back in his unit the coffee machine had produced two fragrant brews to their liking. Max related what was on his mind. “So, who do you think set us up? That’s what you think isn’t it?”

Daniel didn’t have to speculate. He was quite sure. “I’m afraid I suggested to Naomi Stockton what I was planning to do. She told me not to… and I guess when that didn’t have any effect she made sure we didn’t.” The last was stressed through clenched teeth.

“I take it you’re not too happy about it.” Max was beginning to see a humorous side to this battle of wills.

“She doesn’t seem to understand the serious danger she is in.”

In his mind he resolved; ‘Tomorrow I’m going to give her a piece of my mind.’ Then reflectively he added, “If we’d been caught it could have been… well, embarrassing to say the least.”

His complaints went on. Not only had she informed on them, he still rued the missed opportunity of establishing whether Haversack was driving the attacks or colluding with someone else.

By midnight he had worked himself up into a lather.

“You sure you want to call her, it’s…” he checked his watch, “It’s after midnight.” Max had a wry grin. He was sure Daniel’s aggravation, even aggression, was more a symptom of his affection for someone who had got under his skin. Daniel’s distorted facial expression told of another bout of cranial agony. He quickly downed some more analgesics.

“They’re not candy you know,” objected Max. “You should go back to the docs, or at least take it a bit easier.”

“Yes Mum,” he retorted dryly.

Daniel punched in the numbers. He waited. His eyes wandered around the minimalist white tiled kitchen. It rang through to a recorded message. He hung up and redialled. Eventually there was a tired response; “Hello…”

“Naomi, it’s Daniel,” while Daniel spoke, Max scrunched up his face, discomfited by his friend’s brash attitude.

“Daniel, what’s wrong?” a touch of anxiety crept into her query.

“You rang the police!”

“What?”

“They were waiting for us at Haversack’s office building.”

“Daniel, you didn’t go… I tried to contact you telling you not to.”

“Is that why you tipped them off?”

“Is that what you think?” Irritation and hurt trembled through her reply.

He backed off a little. “You were the only one who knew I was planning to search his office.”

“So, what… I rang the police hoping you’d get caught, thrown into prison for not listening to me?” There was a touch of venom in her speech.

Daniel squirmed within as it dawned on him what his accusation implied.

He regrouped. “No, no… I’m sorry for how that sounded. It’s just that, well… we were almost caught. There were police all over the place.”

Naomi was silent for a few seconds.

“Naomi, are you there?”

Her next words were conveyed with a measure of coolness. “Well, I didn’t call them. I do know what happened though.  You can take me out to breakfast tomorrow and I’ll fill you in. Good night Daniel.” And she was gone. If it hadn’t been for the proposal for breakfast that ‘goodnight’ would have sounded like ‘goodbye’, end of story.

He looked askance at Max who seemed to have gotten the gist of the conversation. Max shrugged and then excused himself, complaining that ‘tomorrow was a work day’ for him. Daniel spent a sleepless hour speculating how Naomi could have information about the police presence and still claim the high moral ground.

He read the first chapter of Romans and felt even more depressed. Was it really all about his choice? The evidence was out there, it said. He had no excuse.

 

In a dream that night he was at Wafer Chip solving some intangible problem when he bumped into Naomi. She just smiled at him knowingly, as though she understood him completely; she knew his deep emotions and all his faults. He was filled with shame. Then it was someone else looking at him. In his dream, mystically, identities morphed. The other eluded him; an unknowable entity.

Then he felt very vulnerable.
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