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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Wed Aug 23, 2017 5:22 pm

Chapter 16

 

Daniel was discharged from hospital two weeks after being admitted. With the week in Washington, he’d been out of circulation for three weeks. During that time numerous visitors had turned up. He’d contacted Earl to find out how things were with Ginny. Earl had communicated with their father and had lots of questions for Daniel, which were asked before he had a chance to ask about their well-being. News of his escapade had been bandied about so Daniel set straight a few details. He wasn’t a spy. They weren’t kidnapped by pirates. He and Naomi weren’t married, but, yes, he had been shot.

Earl informed him that Ginny had an operation which had removed a non-malignant cyst and a full recovery was expected. They were ‘on top of the moon’. Daniel suggested that the idiom was ‘over the moon’ but his brother didn’t care. Earl spoke of their delight to hear of his conversion, explaining that Naomi and Ginny had regular electronic communications.

Earl was saying; how was it that he hadn’t proposed to Naomi yet, at the exact time she had walked in for one of her several visits. He remembered looking at her as he was on the phone, trying to greet her with a lump in his throat and a keen desire to formulate an irresistible proposal.

Of course the moment passed but the thought lingered on in his mind. Somehow he would find the courage to ask Naomi to be his wife.

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

 

Back at work, life regained some level of normalcy. As the carbon lattice processes developed, so did government intervention. The whole complex was now fenced off and provided with a security gatehouse. They now occupied both levels of the building. Only people with a pass could enter.

Erin was still in charge of a group modifying the 3-D chip with layered silicon circuits, and her investigations were looking very promising. Daniel suggested that since this was the only commercially viable new development they were doing, perhaps a few more resources needed to be directed toward Erin’s investigations.

Max complained to Daniel that Gavin had put passwords on all the files and was more manic than ever about security. He said he didn’t trust the government scientists and was sectoring access to drives and keeping backups in a safe. Daniel just laughed. He commented that they wouldn’t get wind of the new developments with Gavin on the job.

The conversation did cause Daniel to review their agreement. Although the licensing of their nanotube matrices was now government property, they were still developing and extending the processes. Daniel spoke with Arnold to find out if they could get a government contract on the advancements since the original compensation wouldn’t continue to cover development of the process. Otherwise they may as well transfer the research to a government facility.

Arnold agreed. Proprietary control of the process was one thing and they had been generously paid for that, but it made no sense to be expected to continue to spend time and energy without monetary return. He admitted there had been some flaws in their thinking to accept the compensation package without question.

Arnold mentioned that Harrison was keen to draft a patent for the process after being involved with the last one. Daniel reminded him that now that the Government had acquired it there was no point. They could patent it, but they wouldn’t because it was secret. Arnold grunted at his own lapse in clear thinking.

“Harrison should have known that. He’s our science law expert. Oh well, maybe I’ll involve him in the contract drafting for research done on this carbon nanotube circuit extension to the 3 D chip.”

“Fine, come around sometime next week when I’ve got back into the swing of things.”

  Daniel passed the call onto Marnie who was keeping his appointments schedule; a change recently instigated because of the success of their circuit processes and the number of industry inquiries that had generated.

 

Thursday, his second day back, had him wondering how long he’d stick to his job. Was it all or nothing or was there some middle ground. He wished he could talk with his father about the pros and cons of becoming a volunteer for humanitarian causes.

After a hard day, Daniel realised that it would be the first night he would be eating at home since he came out of hospital. He’d had take-out two nights and he was thinking about doing some grocery shopping when Gavin called. Gavin and Ruthie invited him to dinner for that night. He accepted.

It was his first chance of getting to know Ruthie, apart from the casual passing ‘hi’ or giving a wave. Ruthie said the discussions around the meal table would be restricted to non-work topics, so Gavin and Daniel struggled for some time. Ruthie raised the subject of his recent travels and they had convivial, sometimes spirited, discussions about third world countries, foreign aid, charity workers and church missions. Although he confessed that he knew little about it, in general, Daniel maintained that what he had witnessed was invaluable, lifesaving and the provision of hope. Near the end of the evening he astonished himself by admitting to Christian leanings. A stance that didn’t bring the ridicule he expected.

 On the third day of his return the two FBI men appeared in his office.

“Welcome to Wafer Chip Research gentlemen,” began Daniel when Marnie showed them in, “What can I do for you?”

Fingering his visitor pass McKillen opened with, “This place is like getting into Fort Knox.” Before Daniel could respond with more than a grin at the irony, agent Bennet spoke, “We thought we might bring you up to date and find out if you can tell us anything new.”

“Okay, I’ll try and help if I can, but honestly, apart from what I gave you, I haven’t seen or heard anything new. Remember, I’ve just come out of hospital a few days ago.”

The two pulled up some seats from the wall at Daniel’s invitation and drew them near his desk.

“Agent McKillen will tell you what we’ve achieved so far.”

Daniel switched focus to the other agent, who had previously been referred to as Mick, and decided that maybe he was in training and this briefing exercise was part of his accumulating experience.

Mick, using a note book, commenced his spiel, “Using data from the USB stick, we had enough material to raid the premises. Upon questioning, and confronted with the evidence, both lawyers claimed they were only fulfilling a client’s request for information. Their case has gone to the law ethical review board, since it can’t be established that they committed a crime, but they did disseminate details about one client to another client.

We alleged that they also received moneys purportedly to assist criminal elements to gain secret information by coercion. Haversack and Neesham denied the allegation and said they would defend it in court. We put it to them that if they cooperated with us it might not get to court.

Bennet watched patiently as his partner continued the tedious recount of events.

“When asked, Garth Haversack said they had no knowledge about the origin of the emails that sought their assistance. The pre-payment of thirty thousand dollars showed the client’s good faith and reliability. It was only after the kidnapping right in front of their offices that they realised the client had criminal tendencies.

Joel Reagan, a junior solicitor for the firm, said they didn’t link the previous two attacks to the details they provided until the kidnapping.”

Bennet interjected at that point. “It all sounds ridiculous and incompetent doesn’t it? And yet being incompetent is not a crime. Of course we suspect they hoped they’d get more money before things got out of hand. Go on Mick.” He gestured to the younger man to proceed.

 

“To avoid answering charges in court, Haversack and Neesham gave permission to track communications between their contact and themselves. This led to the capture of a criminal middleman, one known to provide muscle for hire. Going by the alias ‘Will’, by his own admission, this man hired all the offenders involved in abductions and attempted abductions in Boston, Somaliland and Ayr in Scotland (those men have not been found yet).”

The senior FBI man smiled, “As you can see we’ve been busy.”

Bennet continued, “To wrap it up, this ‘Will’—a well-known ‘fixer’ to police—was told to create the impression he represented Russian clients, but in fact he was on the payroll of someone else. Whoever instructed Will was very careful. Typed instructions and cash payments delivered by US Mail. Whoever it is may still be after that process for microscopic circuits.”

Daniel smiled. They had been very meticulous with their investigation. “I’m not sure if I can help you. So you think there’s someone else?”

“We’re certain,” replied Bennet. “Our analysts tell us that all indications are that someone is being funded by a large corporation to commit industrial espionage. So what we’re—” he broke off mid-sentence as Erin came in. She was almost skipping. She looked around, “Sorry, I didn’t realise you had… people in...” She ended the sentence clumsily and then proceeded to share her news. “Dan, the series of NT transistors have been going for an hour now; no problems!”

“Congratulations Erin, er, Erin these are FBI agents Bennet and McKillen.” She nodded a half-hearted hello having her excitement doused by the presence of strangers. Daniel tried to mend the situation. “I’ll be there in a few minutes, but that’s great news; well done.”

The door closed after Erin left and while Mick was still staring at the door his thoughts miles away, Bennet regrouped. “We want to know if anyone has requested access to your data, or this facility or has approached any of your scientists.”

Daniel shook his head. “Not that I know of; as you have seen, security is pretty tight.”

Following a few leading questions about the integrity of his team—which Daniel lambasted as illogical and irrelevant, given that at any time all of them could have sold off the data they were now so protective of—Bennet gave him a contact number and they went their way.

Daniel spent the rest of the afternoon with Erin and her team reading the data, checking the readouts and celebrating the progress they had made. He was excited for them but inside he felt hollow, as if compared to the sacrificial life his father had in Somaliland—changing lives—this work was trivial.

Prior to leaving for home, Daniel called Reuben for some advice. Next he called Naomi and asked her out that night. She, unhappily, declined the invitation.

“I’m sorry Dan. I’m temping till late tonight, and even if I was home now I’m so tired I’d be no company at all.”

He felt deflated for a second then regrouped, “What about tomorrow night; that restaurant at the docks?”

“Won’t Saturday be too busy?”

He was stymied for another moment. Saturday; he’d lost track what day it was. But he was desperate. “I’ll book a table there, or … somewhere.”

He listened for a response. She cleared her throat slightly, “Is it formal or casual?”

Daniel laughed, “Boy, you ask the tough ones, don’t you. What about same as last time. I’ll try and dress up a bit.”

“It’s a deal,” she said, and there was amusement in her voice.

Naomi sorted out the time and then cut short the call claiming that she had to get back to work.

Daniel experienced a warm, fuzzy feeling as he pocketed his phone. Everything was right with the world. As he walked to his car he wanted to whistle or sing a Disney tune. Maybe he should skip or dance with the first person he met. ‘So this is what it’s like,’ he thought.

On the drive to his home Daniel remembered that, he could no longer procrastinate, shopping was a definite necessity. He had no food to speak of so he couldn’t postpone it.

Shopping was usually a drudge, but his heart was lightened by the recurring thoughts of Naomi, so that the mundane chore passed quickly. His cheerful mood had him buying things at a whim and he arrived home with far more than was normal or practical for a single man who regularly ate out.

The evening was spent eating and reading. His eating involved preparing a chicken Caesar salad, consuming about a third of it and storing the remainder in the refrigerator; the reading was Marcie’s Lewis book and Romans. Daniel wondered at the tiredness he endured that night. He put it down to his first few days out of hospital. Of course, he was out of condition! He resolved to get up early and go for a run.

But resolutions come and go. He slept in. Daniel opted for a lazy breakfast and then substituted a quiet walk up alongside the river for the run. He mulled over the big questions. How and when would he ask for Naomi’s hand in marriage? He plotted several schemes before he decided on one. He was particularly pleased with himself. It would be romantic and memorable.

As dates go, Saturday night had all the ingredients for a spectacular success. Though not the big night, it was an important lead up. It was a mild night; almost a full moon and he was dressed in new cargo pants and neat shirt and jacket. Nervously greeting Naomi, in her flared black dress, he took her hand and walked her to his Porsche. The Italian restaurant had been successfully booked and he had secured a table next to the windows with a bay view.

It was a busy night in the dock district and they parked a little distance away. Getting there was dreamlike for Daniel, strolling along the harbour walk, hand in hand, admiring the boats and the lights.

Inside the restaurant they were led to their seats.

“I didn’t do this very well last time,” Daniel said huskily.

“Neither of us did.” She gave her hair a nervous twirl. “But we’ve been through a lot together since then.”

He nodded, gathered his courage, and plunged on, “I should have said how beautiful you looked—just as you look now.”

She put her hand on his. “Don’t Daniel. No regrets; let’s just enjoy the night…” she added coyly, “…and you did compliment me if I remember.”

Daniel picked up her left hand and intertwined his fingers with hers. Then he slowly brought her fingers to his lips, all the while he was comparing the diameter of her ring finger with his. He smiled after kissing her hand. ‘Second knuckle of my little finger,’ he concluded to himself and filed it away for future reference.

The meal was a banquet of small portions of pasta treats and they chatted about where things were heading now that they were back. Daniel suggested that they form a board of trustees to use people who had more experience with financing charitable causes. Naomi agreed wholeheartedly, saying that she felt entirely unqualified for the task. And it had to be addressed soon as Marcie had already ‘liquidated some of her assets’ she quoted the old woman’s words miming the quotation marks with her fingers.

They brainstormed names of possible board members, but both struggled to go beyond Marcie and a church acquaintance of Naomi who was already involved with an international charity.

When that topic evaporated, Daniel mentioned the visit by the FBI.

“They came to my place too!” enthused Naomi. “You wouldn’t believe it; they asked questions as if you were involved!” A few diners turned to look after hearing her excited squeal.

“Oops,” she giggled attractively.

“For goodness sake,” Daniel couldn’t believe his ears. “I got shot; and what about all the other things that happened to me!” More diners peered at them after his louder than intended outburst.

 

Naomi giggled again. “We had better be careful or they’ll kick us out.” Then she sniggered, “I can understand it of course, you seem to me to be very suspicious.”

Daniel grinned. “Do you want to hear something funny?”

She nodded and leaned closer. “They suspected you too… told me all the trouble started after I met you.” He laughed heartily when he saw her mock scandalised reaction.

She leaned forward and shushed him as she silently shook with laughter at the amused expressions of those about them.

Daniel picked up her hand affectionately. Naomi gained control and wiped away a tear with the back of her other wrist as she tried to rationalise how she could possibly have kidnapped herself.

“Don’t overthink it,” Daniel advised, still smiling, they suspect everyone and assume everyone is guilty.”

“They said that they had found one of the main organisers,” she proffered.

“Uh,huh, though apparently he was just a middle man. The brains, or the boss, behind the whole thing is still out there somewhere.”

“The men they caught didn’t tell them anything? She looked quizzically at him.

“Agent Bennet seems to think they didn’t know. And there were no Russians. That was just a hoax to confound any investigation. Whoever is doing all this probably already has a buyer who is bankrolling his attempt to steal the process.”

The evening was almost spent. Most of the patrons were leaving since the live music show had finished. They had talked about many things—his work, her work, their recent encounters with danger, what Daniel had understood about faith—and all the while they had gravitated closer together, both emotionally and physically. During the show they had sat next to each other sipping coffees and sharing opinions about the music.

“We should go,” Naomi suddenly announced as she saw the owner standing at the door farewelling guests.

Daniel took her hand and they sauntered out, answering the owner’s enquiry with a comment that they had a lovely night.

In the cool night air the couple paused and looked toward the boats.

The harbour was particularly picturesque in the moonlight and they wandered hand in hand the long way, along a pavement bordering the water.

“Would you take me to church tomorrow?” Naomi turned and looked at him inquisitively.

Taken by her lovely upturned face framed by her blonde locks, and a glistening in her eyes, his reply was husky. “Love to.” His arms enveloped her and they drew together in a soft, tender kiss.

“Love you,” he whispered as they parted. She embraced him firmly and rested her head on his shoulder as they looked over the water.

A parting brush of her lips against his signalled her intentions. “Come on, I won’t get up for church if we don’t leave soon.” She led him by the hand as he reluctantly let the intimate mood pass.

The journey to her place was a blur. He had declared his love twice now. He was planning to ask her to wed; and she was yet to reciprocate any verbal heartfelt affections. He started having doubts. Was it too soon?

They’d turned off at Medford for Naomi’s place when she spoke. “Are you okay?”

“Um, yeah… fine, why?”

“It’s just… you haven’t said a thing since we left the city.”

He was trying to fabricate an excuse when it occurred to him that neither of them had spoken.

“Nor have you.”

“No, I guess not. I was thinking.”

“What about?”

She hesitated, “There’s something weird about us being linked to Marcie. You know I learnt from my great uncle that she knew my dad. I knew she was friends with my mom but… ” She petered out as if other ideas had materialised.

“I never did ask how your meeting went, did I?” he observed.

“No,” she answered vaguely. “He said some things that I didn’t quite get; as though there was a secret.” Her train of thought switched unpredictably.

“What were you thinking?”

He took a deep breath. This was dangerous territory. How honest should a relationship be?

“I was thinking about you and… how much I like you.” He’d talked himself into a cul-de-sac. Was he now going to ask how she felt about him? Was he that needy? He left it at that.

The words repeated in his head, an embarrassing refrain. Every wordless second was excruciating.

Naomi broke the stalemate. “I think about you too...” She touched his cheek with the back of her hand, “…probably too much.” She took her hand away. Her breath quickened. “I really care about you, but… let’s not rush things.” Daniel felt an ache; anticipating some exit excuse. Naomi spoke slowly choosing her words judiciously. “Our… relationship has been anything but normal. Maybe you could court me a little bit. See if you can cope with boring me instead of ‘kidnapped me’, ‘travelling me’ or ‘holidaying me’.”

A warm inner glow spread through Daniel as he drove up her driveway. He didn’t have to panic. She wasn’t dumping him. He pulled up and gave her a cheesy grin, “Naomi, will you go out with me?” She gave him a punch on the arm, then a gentle kiss.

“If you pick me up at ten fifteen we should make the eleven o’clock service easily.” She opened the car door and he moved to walk her up the porch. “Stay there,” she instructed cheerily,

“It’s late.” He watched her let herself in, gave a wave and drove home.
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