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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:39 pm

Chapter 9

 

A call he made in the morning informed him that Naomi was already up. He hastened on the short five mile drive to her place from his Ten Hills’ unit. Her mood had warmed considerably from the previous night and she greeted him, carrying a small backpack and wearing a huge self-satisfied grin.

“So what happened?” was his opening line.

“And good morning to you too,” she teased. Her dimpled smile captivating him; not for the first time as he looked across to her.

“Well?”

“Well, you’ll have to be patient. I think you owe me a nice breakfast for penance.”

“I didn’t think you believed in penance.”

“Touché.”

The glint in her eyes piqued his curiosity but he resisted raising the subject again as Naomi gave him a tour guide’s version of the route back along the tree lined parkway, pointing out some of the notable houses. 

He drove on the west side of the lake, down the parkway, and followed it to a well-known Starbucks. She quizzed him about his headaches, which he insisted were easing. Her doubtful gaze suggested she wasn’t convinced.

Inside the café, Daniel chewed on his hot turkey and bacon sandwich watching Naomi delicately eat her oatmeal and fruit. He couldn’t help wondering what her explanation for the previous night would be.

Finally, when their coffees arrived, Naomi opened up the backpack and placed a small notebook computer on the table. Inexplicably she said, “I didn’t tell you that I’ve become quite friendly with Stacey Greene did I?”

Daniel furiously tried to associate the name. His baffled expression was apparent and so she expanded on the statement.

“Stacey is Garth Haversack’s personal assistant. She was at the first meeting we had and also at the meeting in the law firm’s conference room. She confided in me that the day she has finished her bar exam she’s leaving the firm. She doesn’t enjoy the work there at all. Anyway, I chatted to her about your concerns regarding Haversack and Reagan… that they were the source of information to whoever it is that’s been pursuing us.”

“Ohh!” he interrupted. “So she told Haversack I was after information. Did you tell her what I was planning to—” Before he could finish Naomi slid her hand onto his and her glowing brown eyes laughed at him. “You’re jumping to conclusions, again. Let me finish will you?”  There was glee in her tone that collaborated with her eyes.

Naomi carried on with her recount, “I asked her if she knew of any correspondence involving you. She said her access to the computer files meant she was quite familiar with most of the clients and the briefs. She had in fact spent some time transferring older files to the computer system. She had noticed a ‘Daniel Treloar’ file— a separate file designated ‘confidential’ titled with your name. It was strange because all the people involved in the quest were already mentioned in the ‘Marcie Dougall’ file; a file she had helped compile. To make a long story short; Stacey got a copy for us.” Naomi triumphantly held up a USB drive.

Daniel was transfixed by the memory stick, but his mind was still churning over thoughts.

“So why did the police turn up?”

“Well, because she couldn’t get into the office and check all the files till the others had left, Stacey was a bit flustered getting the information. And because, in her rush, she didn’t lock up properly, a security man set off the alarm. He was unaware he’d done it till the police turned up.”

“Did she tell you all this?”

“Uh, huh, well most of it—after she dropped this off to me—before she went home. Then Stacey called later to say the police had been called by their security company. She had to apologise to Haversack for not locking up properly. Apparently he gave her a bit of a roasting.”

“You could have told me all this last night.” Daniel had a quirky, lop sided smile.

“I could have…” she said softly.

Suddenly guilt ridden he lowered his voice. “Naomi, I am sincerely sorry for last night. I…” He left off trying to justify his actions and simply finished with, “I’m Sorry.”

Naomi pulled a forced smile in acknowledgement and he realised afresh that she had been hurt by his accusations. Sliding the memory stick in, she moved her chair nearer to Daniel. There was some controlled breathing as the USB drive booted up.

Quietly they read the ‘Daniel Treloar’ file noting the various sub-titles.  Looking at each document as they were opened up they gave the impression they were taking it in turns to read aloud key phrases.

“Look, this one’s like a professional profile,” observed Naomi. “Daniel Treloar is a fast rising, innovative microcircuit designer and engineer. His recently formed company, Wafer Chip Research has submitted some pivotal patent designs on their way to developing a high speed 3-D silicon chip…” She dug him in the ribs. “Wow, Mr High Flyer.”

The extract from an electronics periodical went on to provide bio information and an outline of the ramifications of the imminent breakthrough.

“Let’s get on to the other docs,” urged Daniel while Naomi was still engrossed in reading of the promise he showed during his academic research years.

“Oh, all right, I can always read it later.”

They opened a document with a Cyrillic letterhead.

“Look at this!” he said a little too loudly.  “As previously agreed, payment will be made on the acquisition of the research data developed by Daniel Treloar and his company, Wafer Chip Research.” The letter went on to say that it was important to stress the confidential nature of this agreement… and that the value of these new technologies shouldn’t be underestimated.

“What’s a quantum computer?” Naomi was reading a detailed list of documentation they required.

“A big mistake,” he uttered in a monotone with a hint of regret.

“So, Haversack and Reagan organised the attacks?” she looked at Daniel inquisitively.

“No, look,” he said indicating further down the page. “All we require is a schedule of Treloar’s whereabouts and we will do the rest. We must get the details as soon as possible as we already have an interested buyer.” He turned his eyes to her and her light, fruity, citrus perfume claimed his senses. “They’re feeding information to this company… and these, what do you think; Russians… probably hired some thugs to do their dirty work.”

 

“Haversack isn’t doing too badly either,” commented Naomi pointing to the bottom paragraph.

You will find a payment of $30 000 US dollars in your account as an incentive and to defray any costs.” Both were now close together, focussed on the screen, but also aware of the proximity of the other.

Attention shifted to another message. This time it was an email to ‘Yuri Novovich’.

Reading the text introduced a feeling of dread between them. Haversack had responded to a request for a list of personal acquaintances to Daniel; especially close relationships. As well as his colleagues at Wafer Chip Research, there was a list of relatives with asterisks. The asterisk was annotated underneath indicating close bonds to his brother in London and to his father, Rick Treloar, thought to be in Mogadishu doing humanitarian work with a charitable mission.

Underneath in italics with two asterisks were the words; ‘Naomi Stockton, newly observed attachment.’  Naomi’s face coloured as they faced each other.

“That’s the reason!” And his statement, accompanied by a thumping of the table, drew the gaze of other breakfasters. He lowered his voice. “This file shows they were working out ways to get at me through you. You’re not safe. You’re going to have to find somewhere to hide away. You can see what they’re trying to do?”  There was a touch of hysteria in his voice.

Her head moved minimally in a strained sort of trance. “What are you going to do?” Her eyes were filled with concern.

“I have to go and find my dad… warn him what he’s up against. At least if he knows, he can be prepared.”

“Would they go that far?”

“It’s probably the one place they could get away with just about anything that graft and corruption can achieve. Who would notice if another westerner went missing in Somalia?”

“So what can you do?” She appeared dismayed by the whole notion of this threat.

“Well I could try and arrange protection for him. I imagine I could hire a small militia there. Or, I could persuade him to come home with me where we could get the feds to do the job.”

Naomi paused pensively, “I could go with you. We could go with an aid organisation and my nursing qualification would help.”

“No, no… it’s too dangerous. If I’m by myself I won’t hesitate to do some risky things, but…” he left the rest unsaid.

He started on a different tack, “What about if you go to the Quentins in Scotland? You and Heather got on quite well didn’t you?”

“I can’t see that that’s safer than here.” She deliberately turned her face close to his, “Remember, Scotland… the car crash.” It was a pointed reminder. Naomi turned away to view the list again. “And if you’re by yourself, they’re just as likely to go after you.”

“I wondered about that. That would be like stirring up a hornets’ nest. Once our intelligence guys caught on they would be under a lot of pressure. No, I reckon they think that if they grab someone close to me I’ll cooperate and not tell the authorities. Besides they can’t guarantee that they could get anything out of me anyway.” He forced a tight smile, thinking how ludicrous he must have sounded—the timid chemical engineer full of bluster and heroics!

Over another coffee the two perused copies of their recent travel details and hotel bookings that had been passed on to their pursuers. There was some discussion, between the two, as to whether Haversack knew what he had been party to. At worst he had traded in government secrets and, at best, assisted in industrial espionage. They concluded that he probably chose to be ignorant of the specifics for the sake of ‘easy money’.

Back in the car Naomi watched him as he rubbed his temple. “Still getting headaches?”

His closed-mouth, strained smile was his only response.

“You should get it checked out.”

“They said I might get a few headaches. I’ll just take a couple of these and it will go.” He gulped down two tablets from the small bottle in his glove box.

She looked at the bottle he had shoved back in its place.

“These are quite strong—it’s codeine. You shouldn’t just take these when you feel like it. There are limited dosages.”

“Okay,” Daniel gave a pained sigh. “I’ll try to stick to the dose.”

“And rest up a bit… you shouldn’t be rushing around so much after a concussion.”

On the way back to her place Naomi kept at him, gently cajoling, but nagging in her persistence, till he  promised to go home and go to bed for the rest of the day.

However, when he arrived at his unit, Daniel wanted to get straight onto the task of contacting his father. And he would have, but because his head still ached and he wanted to be true to his commitment, he reluctantly went to bed.

Surprisingly, Daniel slept deeply all afternoon.

He woke with disturbing thoughts and an urgent concern for his dad. The longer he did nothing the more time his antagonists had to get at his father. He rang Reuben. Was it possible to get to Mogadishu soon? The lawyer calmed him down. Why did he want to travel there? Was he aware that the place had been wracked by civil war for more than twenty years? Only last week a car bomb exploded with at least one fatality.

Daniel pictured Reuben furiously Googling for information while he tried to explain that his father may be in danger from the people who had been pursuing both he and Naomi.

Reuben spoke with a rich baritone voice, and even on the phone it had a soothing quality. He asked some strategic questions. How did he know his father might be at risk? Who was his father working for? Had he forwarded any information to the authorities?

The conversation became complicated when Daniel revealed that information had been garnered in a manner that was something less than ethical; he mentioned no names. He cited the NGO his father had enlisted with and explained that his last whereabouts, to the best of his knowledge, was Mogadishu. And no, no one had been contacted.

After some background side chatter his legal adviser addressed him soberly.

“Daniel, first of all, I wish we didn’t have this conversation. If I have to defend you it needed to be without any involvement in subterfuge. Should that be the case then Arnold will get the brief.

Secondly, my secretary informs me that the relief agency you mentioned was only in Mogadishu for a few weeks before being evacuated; it was just too dangerous. Most of them went to Somaliland or Ethiopia.

Gracie is checking the location of your father with the agency now. His name’s Richard Treloar,” Daniel heard him say it louder, and he imagined the distant response of Reuben’s secretary relaying the information. “That’s correct isn’t it Daniel?” he said seeking confirmation.

“Yes, that’s right.”

There was some further communication in the background before he heard the lawyer thank his secretary for her ‘invaluable service’.

“I don’t know what I’d do without Gracie; she’s just so efficient.” He provided the aside for context to his next remark. “It seems, Daniel, as though your father is attached to a—for want of a better word—field hospital in Hargeisa.”

“Where is that?” Daniel readily displayed his geographical ignorance in a trade-off for quick information.

“Somaliland, the northern part of what used to be Somalia… It’s sort of the capital of the separated republic.”

“So, how do I get there?” Daniel grabbed a pen and was prepared to write some notes.

The lawyer paused briefly and then answered, “Look, leave it with us and I’ll get back to you later.”

Once he’d hung up, Daniel’s inquisitiveness had him searching the internet for information about Hargeisa. He gathered data about flights and the route from the port city of Berbera to Hargeisa which was about ninety miles inland at a considerably higher elevation.

By all accounts the civil war had left that area many years previously. It was now relatively safe, although a quite bland place for tourists if they were looking for western luxury or entertainment.

He read on and was appalled to learn that there were over a million displaced persons inside the country as well as refugees from Ethiopia. He found out that children were not only the victims of poverty, but also of violence and brutality.

Once again Daniel was confronted with this conflict within him. A conflict between the material possessions, ease and comfort on one side, in opposition to compassion, relational purpose and, dare he think it, spiritual purpose on the other. He wrestled with his conscience as he weighed up the values that were important in his life.

The spiritual dimension of everything impinged on his thoughts. Daniel reconsidered how a life ‘ought’ to be lived, which previously had been devoid of meaning. He began to read Lewis again and found himself challenged by the concept of ‘forgiveness’. It was detestable to think that he should forgive these ‘propagators of evil’ that wrought such misery in Somalia. And yet, it was not about condoning their atrocities, it was about recognising their humanity. Lewis argued that the same motivation that caused one to hate their own behaviour and seek betterment should be applied to others; in that way he would follow the imperative of ‘you will be forgiven as you forgive others’.

Daniel prickled at the realisation that his anger with his father had been an ongoing contention for a number of years. If he held on to a grudge so tenaciously with someone he, purportedly, loved how could he forgive his enemies? Even these thugs, who were a threat to the safety of his friends and whose actions were repugnant, fell into the category—that of the lost—and that he found difficult to stomach.

The Christian life was all tied to the idea that we should love everyone; not with feelings or emotional affections but with acts of kindness; ergo his father’s amazing transformation from a bitter and resentful man to someone who cared for others. That was his conversion. It had not been a nominal Christianity that had typified much of middle class western society. It was more the radical, countercultural life, in the steps of its founder, Jesus Christ.

The notion that he was loved and was expected to love; that he was forgiven and was expected to forgive had him wavering between inadequacy and guilt on one hand, and antipathetic self-righteousness on the other.

Daniel felt queasy when the next chapter told him that his problem was pride. He was conceited and self-obsessed. Had he done anything that wasn’t for the cause of Daniel Treloar? Compared to his father, who Daniel had always judged based on his own ego centricity, he now felt petty. He loathed the fact that the things he had been so critical about in others were truer about him. He was self-interested, self-promoting and proud. 

Discontented and dejected about this new perception of him, Daniel took a few seconds to realise that his phone was ringing.

“Hello…”

“Daniel, Reuben here… look we’ve—that’s Arnold, Gracie and I—made some enquiries about travel to Somalia, and… well, to put it succinctly, the State Department will make it difficult for you to travel to such a dangerous place given your security status and recent events.”

“Did you explain that it’s sort of a family emergency?” Daniel’s voice became louder as he spoke.

“Yes, but I don’t think that helped your cause. However, after some research there may be a more circuitous route to get what you want. There were a couple of relief agencies who were after people with particular skills. But you didn’t fit the requirements. Perhaps if you enlisted the services of a doctor or a nurse and went as a travelling companion, you could travel under the auspices on one of these agencies… sort of sponsor an aide worker.”

Immediately Daniel made the implied connection. “How soon could the trip be arranged?”

“Well I could get Gracie onto it. She’s quite adept at finagling these things. Of course I imaging you would require some shots.”

“Of course,” his slight apprehension betrayed his aversion to needles.

“Maybe four weeks,” Reuben summed up.

A moment’s gathering of his thoughts preceded Daniel’s response.

“It’s got to be much sooner than that.”

“Your shots won’t have time to take effect.”

“I’ll take that risk, and Reuben, offer them a healthy donation if they expedite my travel.”

“So, who will you take?” The question was more mischievous than genuine. The lawyer had a knack for deducing the obvious.

“I’ll let you know,” he uttered distractedly.

His next phone call wasn’t easy. It took several dial tones before Naomi answered. She and Marcie were at a church function so Naomi asked him to wait while she found a quiet space.

He began by explaining the efforts Reuben’s office (namely Arnold and Gracie) had made to find a viable way to Somaliland. There had been constraints applied to his travels so that he was unable to travel alone to ‘less secure’ destinations. It was possible, however, if he was part of a delegation or representing an official organisation.

Once he’d described the opportunity that had been provided by a particular humanitarian group, he added that there was a hitch.

“Go on,” encouraged Naomi warily.

“Well, I guess I need you to go, as one of the requirements is someone with medical skills.

“Did I hear you correctly? Did you say you needed me?” She was making mileage out of his much vaunted independence.  “This is Daniel Treloar… Mr ‘I Don’t Need Anyone’s Help’?”

He sighed, stung by her sarcasm, “Okay, so I’ve been a bit of a big head. I’m sorry. It’s still going to be dangerous, but we can support each other.”

There was a silent prelude before her next comment; “I’m sorry too Daniel. That was a bit harsh,” she ruefully admitted.

“I’d be happy to help. I’ll have to let a few people know. If you give me the details I can let the Bible College know. They may make some concession for my starting date.”

“Listen, if this is going to put you out too much I can come up with something else.”

“No, no… If I can help in a genuine relief operation and get you to your father at the same time… well it seems a real solution, doesn’t it?”

“I really appreciate it Naomi. I’ll get you the details as soon as I can. Oh… you might have to get some shots.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m up to date on mine. I have to for work.”

“What? You still doing nursing?”

“Sure, I temp all the time. You don’t think I sit around here all day with Aunt Marcie do you?”

Daniel remained tight lipped. That was one more misapprehension that he had about her and he was in no mood to own up to it given his present form.  

 

After further mundane arrangements about a possible time-line and the route that Reuben suggested, Daniel thanked her again and hung up. Immediately he speed dialled his lawyer to pass on the news.

With his plans in motion and a degree of anxiety that he’d be too late, Daniel made every effort to warn his father of possible dangers. The NGO he was sent by explained that communication to central Somaliland was haphazard at the best of times, but added to that difficulty, his group had a habit of travelling to remote sectors to treat refugees unable to transport themselves. They assured him that the messages would eventually find him, but there were no guarantees regarding timing.
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The Profit Prophet
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