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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:14 pm

Chapter 17

 

As far as new experiences go, church was one of the most nerve-wracking Daniel had endured. Of course Naomi was beautiful, the drive there bonding—they were a couple—and the weather was majestic for fall. What was daunting for him was meeting people. There were door welcomers, the pastor who had an eye for newcomers and the many friends who greeted Naomi with smiles, raised eyebrows and quiet asides. And that was just getting to their seats.

Daniel was comforted that Naomi was close alongside throughout the singing and preaching, both of which were a culture shock for an avowed atheist/agnostic, whatever he had been.

 Remarkably, he listened to the message attentively and it resonated with his limited reading and experiences. It related St Paul’s missionary journey and was titled, ‘it’s not easy being…’ The key points Daniel remembered were that the Christian life was real and purposeful, putting life into context; Christians have challenges and problems, particularly in terms of opposition to faith but also they are not spared from bad circumstances; and, that all things pale into insignificance compared to the excellent knowledge of God and His Son Jesus.

Daniel was thinking that he would read more of the life of Paul as the service ended. Post sermon greetings were even more painful as various friends gathered around them. He heard names—Tom, Jeff, Amy, Errol (call me EJ), Louise—answered questions about his job, where he lived and, in a more detailed conversation, the misfortunes of his trip to Somaliland.

Naomi rescued him with an arm hooked in his and took him for some coffee where he met interested stares and more questions from her circle of girlfriends.

 

On the way home Naomi explained that it was an unfortunate, but perhaps necessary, initiation for church attendance to run the gauntlet of introductions. At her suggestion they drove to his place and she offered to make him some lunch. His leftover Caesar salad was an unexpected bonus so she opted for a simple grilled cheese sandwich to complement what was an already tasty dish.

From his place they had a walk along the waterway, arm in arm, talking about how the trust could help refugees in northeast Africa, sharing thoughts about the morning’s sermon and whether the police would ever catch whoever it was that was trying to steal the fullerene technology.

Later, they drove back to her place and caught up with Marcie, letting her know that they wanted her on a board of trustees. She mentioned that she had given her lawyers the sack and wondered if Daniel would recommend his lawyers. Something Daniel was pleased to do. That was the cue for suggesting that Reuben might come on board as a trustee. Daniel promised to ask him first chance he got.

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

 

The next week went slowly. Routine tasks in the lab were only broken up by Arnold and Harrison coming around to write up the 3-D silicon layered chip extension contract for the west coast manufacturer. Following a short tour of the facility, Daniel answered some of Harrison’s questions. Since he had a science background his queries were cogent and pertinent to the contract, though Daniel informed him that a dossier of technical specifications was Erin’s realm and her responsibility. The contract need only offer a modified process, citing the research that had been done, referring to the improved performance data supplied by Erin’s team.

Harrison understood completely, however his intellectual curiosity prompted him to probe for information. Was this similar to the fullerene process for their quantum computer? What did they use to enhance conductivity? How were the structures controlled? Daniel remembers looking over his shoulder furtively, getting close to the lawyer, holding his fingers to his lips and whispering, “Top secret, can’t tell you a thing,” and Harrison shaking his head as if to say ‘and you run this company’?

Arnold promised that they would come regularly for a few weeks so they could create an appended patent to add to the original and include it in the contract outline.

 His social life suffered due to Naomi being rostered most evenings that week. There were some lengthy phone conversations during her breaks and it was clear (if anyone had been listening) that their greetings and quiet exchanges revealed a growing intimacy.

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

 

 The following weeks were much the same. A few nuggets of valuable time with Naomi; dates to the movies, a football game and a few meals. He was becoming a regular at church and one of the pastors had visited him in an effort to integrate and involve him in something more substantial. For the first time he was getting to know new friends outside of his occupation or university environments.

The grind and repetition of endless testing proved to be almost humdrum.  Only another visit from the FBI and regular visits from Arnold and Harrison provided any variation from the endless trials of attempts to link sandwiched graphene with carbon nanotubes.

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

 

On the sixth week after he’d left hospital, Daniel made a monumental decision. He went to a jewellery store and showed them the dimensions of the ring he wanted—second knuckle, little finger. He selected a beautiful, moderately priced diamond setting.

 

Then he paid Marcie a visit and had a tête-à-tête about a delicate matter. He wished to propose to Naomi. Marcie cried and hugged, and cried and hugged. She was delighted. He was sure as he left he heard her say to herself, “and about time too.”

Three days later, on a Saturday, he picked up the ring. The weak winter sun filtered down through the high gossamer clouds and a chilly breeze whipped about him as he left the jewellery store.

He called Naomi and made a date for the evening. He’d booked a dinner cruise and for backup—if the weather was inclement—another restaurant not far from the Italian place they had nominated as their favourite for informal meals. The backup restaurant, on the end of a pier, had superb harbour views and was a bit more upmarket; but it would compare poorly with a romantic dinner cruise.

He hoped the cruise would provide the perfect setting for his proposal. Max, who had suggested the alternative, had given him the name of the manager. He had been instructed that he should ask for the manager and mention Max’s name and his restaurant friend would treat them to the best service and the best views.

“It’s who you know,” Max quipped with a silly face. Daniel asked him, cheekily, if he knew the maître d on the cruise. Amazingly he did and he gave both contact numbers to Daniel.

The problem was, Daniel had left the names on his desk in his office and neither Max nor Gavin, who were boating in Sandy Bay, were answering their phones.

After a quick lunch, he resigned himself to doing the drive north all the way to work. Leaving at about two pm he still had adequate time to drive the thirty mile return trip, relax a bit and then get to Naomi’s place by six.

Daniel wondered, as he drove, if anyone was in the laboratory. On occasions their expanded group of chemical and electronic engineers, some of whom had ties with government agencies, would come in on weekends to continue deposition processes or complete longitudinal performance studies. Because of that knowledge, Daniel wasn’t surprised to see a collection of cars in the car park when he arrived. Often, before he met Naomi, his car would have been one of them.

Although it was a Saturday, security was still mandatory for the research establishment. He showed his security pass as a matter of course. The guard at the gate waved him through with a familiar welcome and Daniel jogged into the building aware that if someone spotted him he’d probably be dragged away to consult on some results. He couldn’t afford to be delayed.

He snuck quickly into the office section. His door was the first on the right. As he opened the door Harrison jumped, startled by his sudden intrusion.

“What are you doing here today Harrison?” asked Daniel, mildly amused at the stunned look on his face.

“Um, just getting some data to support the claim to extend the contract parameters,” he stumbled as he shuffled a pile of printouts. One fell to the floor. Daniel bent down and picked it up. A quick scan had his pulse increasing. It was fullerene deposition specifications.

“Which contract do you thin—” he began to quiz him. But as he looked up he saw a pistol aimed at his chest.

“Just sit down and you may live to tell about this!” he demanded with a foreboding snarl.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Daniel grumbled. “I’ve been bashed and shot, and now one of my lawyers pulls a gun on me!” It quickly dawned on him what was going on.

“It was you all the time wasn’t it Harrison? You hired that guy, Will, to carry out your plans. You gave him Haversack and co to manipulate, and money to hire those goons.”

 

Harrison stared coldly at Daniel. “Sit down and keep quiet or, so help me, I’ll shoot you now. This thing won’t make a sound.” He waved the gun with the prominent silencer near his face.

“What do you hope to gain from this? You’ll get caught,” grated Daniel as he virtually collapsed into his seat.

Harrison gave an arrogant smile. “I will gain a cool two million; my client is waiting for delivery of this this afternoon.” He held up the sheaf of papers. “As for getting caught; I have a flawless exit strategy.” He shook the papers. “This means I can escape the mindless legal form-filling and endless regulations and details they paid me peanuts for.” He held up the gun as if to shoot Daniel. Daniel cringed into his seat.

“I will kill you if you give me any trouble,” the lawyer spoke without emotion as he pulled some data cable away from the wall. “Put your arms behind the chair,” he ordered. As Daniel complied Harrison hissed, “No, through the arm rests!”

When Daniel reinserted his hands they were tied tightly together, cinching the skin and making him wince at the burning, constricting, plastic binding. Harrison then bound his feet together with a whole roll of adhesive tape. Cutting the blind cord with a pair of desk scissors he securely trussed Daniel’s feet to the chair stem.

“Taking no chances hey,” Daniel murmured from his ungainly position. His captor rose from the floor and grabbed his gun from the table. He had a steely, psychotic stare. Placing the barrel against Daniel’s forehead Harrison clicked with his tongue and smiled malevolently as his victim instinctively recoiled.

There was something else. Daniel watched him looking around the room. Finally Harrison came to a decision. He cut some more cord and then he lifted Daniel’s pullover and started stuffing it into his mouth. With as much woolly material rammed in as he could he used the cord to tie between Daniel’s jaws and around his head.

A shove from his foot sent the hapless, serial victim toppling over onto his side. For good measure Harrison propelled the chair and bound body under the desk causing Daniel to strike his head on the back panel.

Groggy, head thumping and inordinately bundled into confined discomfort, Daniel heard his persecutor hastily make his escape. That gave him impetus to strain at the painful tethers that restricted his movement. There was little give in the bindings compressing his feet and mouth but Daniel was sure he could manoeuvre the data cables digging into his wrists and stretch by constant twisting of his hands.

Each twist of his hands served only to cut off his circulation and worsen the hurt. He attempted to use his tongue to push aside the woollen material jammed in his mouth but it refused to budge. By writhing with his body Daniel managed to make some scraping sounds and dull thuds though it wasn’t sufficient to draw the attention of those in the lab, in the other wing of the building.

Daniel felt helpless and miserable. He had been powerless to stop Harrison from stealing secrets. The whole saga had come to this futile end. Yet again he had been subjugated and humiliated. His clogged mouth drooled saliva; his tucked calves were cramping and his head was pounding from the impact with the panel and the inverted position he was in.

Almost as an afterthought he prayed. Daniel prayed for deliverance. He prayed for justice, for patience and for faith.

Nevertheless, he was having doubts. What good was faith if there were no benefits? How real was a God who let you suffer? Then he remembered Paul and all he endured. It wasn’t about God serving us; it was about us serving God. He didn’t obey us; we should obey Him. The whole story of faith was about transcending the physical ‘shadow’ to apprehend the eternal reality.

Maybe it was the blood rushing to his head that gave him clarity of thought, or maybe it was just a revelation; but Daniel thought he got it. It was like that initial text that revisited him. ‘What good is it…’ no he preferred Naomi’s version, ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul…’

 

Feeling a little more content mentally—maybe even spiritually—Daniel, all the same, kept struggling with his bindings.

Arching his back to place tension on the tape constraining his legs and tugging and twisting his hands trying to loosen the data cable, Daniel persisted and, initially, was hopeful of escaping his bindings.

After an hour, he believed that he was getting somewhere. After two hours, he wasn’t so sure. After three hours, Daniel hung from the chair; his energy spent, totally despondent and wondering how long it would be till he was missed. His wrists were raw and his tongue was swollen from his efforts and nothing to show for them.

The phone in his pocket rang. It rang out once and no message. The second instance he heard a text tone. He imagined its contents: “Daniel, it’s Naomi; where are you?”

It occurred to him then that had they shared mutual locations on their phones she wouldn’t have to ask that question. He waited. The office phone rang several times, then nothing. The phone didn’t ring again.

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

 

Fifteen minutes later the door burst open.

“There he is!” sounded the authoritative shout.

Hefty hands dragged him unceremoniously out from under the desk. A knife expertly severed the tape around his feet and his gag bindings.

Finally free of the sodden wool out of his mouth, he exercised his aching jaw. Daniel viewed a gathering of suited men in his office. “Are you all right?” one called as if he was deaf. The others watched as one of them hacked determinedly at the cable binding him to the chair. Daniel nodded.

Eventually he was freed from the vice like constriction of the cable. Several arms hoisted him upright and then quickly lowered his swooning body into the righted chair.

Daniel was at a loss to understand how they knew where to find him.

“How did you know…” he crackled to a familiar face. McKillen, signalled to an agent near the door to get a drink of water from the cooler outside the office. He then interpreted the question for the stricken scientist. “How did we know you were here?” Daniel nodded as he whispered a thankyou and grasped the offered drink. He gulped a few mouthfuls into his parched throat almost choking in his haste.

“We received a call from Miss Stockdale saying you were late for an appointment and you weren’t answering your phone. We tracked your phone and here we are.”

Bennet came in. He was putting his phone away. “Just letting your girlfriend know that you’re all right,” he explained. “Now, you need to tell us what happened. Who did this?”

“Harrison Neills.” His voice was still scratchy.

“Who’s he?”

“He’s one of our lawyers! Can you believe it?” A trace of bitterness was evident in his expression as he recalled the way he had been treated.

“Any idea where he’s gone?”

His head move laterally, slowly. “I imagine he’s delivered the process documents and is long gone by now. It’s not a secret anymore.”

Phone calls ensued. The Bureau and the Police Department were given Neills’ details to try and intercept him.

Minutes later Naomi rushed in and as he rose to meet her she crushed him in a wordless, relieved embrace. Daniel was relishing the tenderness of her hug when Gavin and Max tumbled through the doorway.

“The guys in the lab rang us and told us what happened,” blurted Max. “Are you okay?”

Naomi leaned back enough to await his response.

“A bit humiliated, but I’m not hurt.” Even as he said it he had a quick look at his abraded wrists, red raw from the constant rubbing. He didn’t mention the headache and the numbness he felt around his ankles.

Naomi called for a first aid kit. Gavin retrieved one almost immediately. Sitting him down, she started dressing the abrasions with ointment and bandages. Gavin grilled him.

“So, it was Neills all the time?”

 “Yeah.”

“He tied you up?” he asked in disbelief.

“He had a gun.”

“What did he get?”

“Everything.” An air of defeatism was conveyed by his glum tone.

“What; everything on that computer?” Gavin pointed to the offending machine.

“Yeah.”

Gavin, sitting on the desk, leaned back, tilted his head and grinned. “I know you guys say I’m paranoid, but sometimes it pays off.”

“What?” Daniel was intent on Gavin’s account.

“I… sort of… fabricated a false data file on there.” His eyebrows were raised and his smile broadened. “The real stuff is on a data drive in the safe.” He was so pleased with himself he smacked a fist into his other hand elated by the success of his ploy.

“Will his buyer notice?” Max interjected.

“If they know anything at all about fullerenes and micro circuitry they will. I altered it completely… changed the inserted metallic… and the vacuum arc conditions are a fantasy.”

 

“So instead of a rich boy on the run, he’ll be a poor boy on the run,” Daniel observed sardonically.

“He won’t be popular with his buyer, given how much they’ve already spent,” Max contributed.

“What do you think Max?” began Daniel, “You once used the word ‘manic’ about Gavin. Now that he’s been vindicated, he’ll be impossible.” He indicated toward Gavin with his thumb.

Gavin exuded his exhilaration, absolutely beaming. “Vindicated, I like that word.”

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

 

Eight thirty was too late for the cruise— they had missed it. It was late to be heading off to the restaurant from his place as well, but a phone call to the manager prepared the way for a delayed evening meal.

Earlier Daniel had been adamant that they keep their date, contrary to Naomi’s medical opinion. So they had left his office at seven thirty and driven separate cars to his place. He had showered, dressed and readied himself. He reassured her over and over that he was well enough to go out.

 

They got to the venue despite Daniel blinking away a dizzy spell and trying to ignore his aching head.

A superb meal together was augmented by exquisite harbour views through the huge windows that flanked their table. They were still eating while most of the clientele were listening to a quartet. Daniel felt better as the night progressed and they conversed continuously.

To begin with, Naomi had the whole story about Harrison reprised by Daniel. The smattering of details she had extracted from the FBI men was supplemented by his retelling of some of what he’d gone through. Harrison’s involvement instigating all the attacks led her to label the whole episode ‘Harrissment’.

Then Daniel reminisced with Naomi about the past five months. They talked about first impressions, about past animosities and, Daniel with some reluctance, on their faith journeys. 

“It’s sort of weird though.”

“What is?” Naomi was leaning close as they sipped coffee.

“The thing I resisted most, the faith my father and brother have, has infected me. And, in a sense, you’re largely to blame.” Daniel touched her hand. “You made me try and disprove a belief system, which now seems more rational to me than any alternative.”

She shook her head. “You were searching for truth.”

“I guess so.”

“Well, those who seek will find. It’s all about God’s Grace really.”

“Mm,” he mused as he looked earnestly into Naomi’s eyes. Daniel felt himself melting as he tried to recite his eloquent, poetic proposal. His thoughts atrophied. He dwelt on her doe-like gaze and the resulting request was far from lyrical.

“Naomi will you marry me?” Daniel quavered.

Naomi’s blanched, and then she flushed red and smiled shyly.

“Yes.” It was a quietly spoken word but her look conveyed a certitude that couldn’t be mistaken.

Daniel leaned closer and kissed her lightly on the lips. The loving moment dissolved at his realisation that there was something he’d omitted to do and he sat back.

“Whoops,” he remarked quirkily as he fumbled in his pocket. Extracting a black velvet ring box, he opened it and held it out to Naomi.

“For you.”

Naomi’s eyes glistened with emotion as she stared at the beautiful engagement ring. Daniel removed it from the box and slid it onto her finger. A small sigh of relief escaped his mouth as the ring nestled neatly in its place.

“It fits perfectly,” she said with a measure of surprise.

He placed his little finger next to her ring finger. “It wasn’t a fluke. I had a reference digit.”

An early, unseasonal, light frozen flurry foreshortened a romantic harbour side ramble. The careful homeward drive through the gathering snowfall was occupied with suggestions for the wedding timeline and the ramifications for their future plans.

They were also excited with ideas for the trust. They could visit needy third world groups, including Daniel’s father in Somaliland. They would emphasise self-help programs, promoting autonomous communities. They would facilitate medical work and education.

The whole enterprise fired them up with excitement. When they drew up to Naomi’s door she suggested they pray and commit the trust and their future into the Lord’s hand. After Naomi asked for wisdom and fulfilment in their relationship, Daniel followed her lead and asked that the trust would be effective in relieving poverty and suffering. He finished by thanking God for bringing them together. Daniel’s amen prompted a fervent goodbye kiss from Naomi and a lingering caress as he brushed his hand on the side of her face.

 

A melancholic look swept across her face. “Is it over Dan? I don’t know if I could cope with any more drama.”

“I don’t know. I suppose until they catch Harrison it won’t be over.”

“I’ve been having nightmares,” she admitted tremulously.

He pulled her head into his shoulder. “Is there someone you can talk to at church? Maybe a psychologist or counsellor who will give you a chance to debrief?”

Naomi looked up at him with dewy eyes. “I don’t know. I’ll ask Mal,” she said referring to the pastor. Maybe we should both get some counselling.”

“Mm…” He knew his inner being had been mauled by the external physical beatings and mental tortures that threats of violence produced.

“I should go,” she breathed as she snuggled into his neck. Then gathering herself, Naomi sat back and forced a smile. He affectionately ran a finger down her nose and touched her lips.

She hastened their protracted parting by stipulating a reunion. “See you at ten fifteen tomorrow,” she glimpsed her watch, ‘Ooh, today.”

“Right, church,” he made a clenched grin realising ‘the engagement’ might attract some attention from friends and the congregation in general.

She smiled aware of his reservations, “It won’t be so bad.” She kissed him once more softly and opened the car door. Daniel leapt out to see her up to the porch.

“I’m fine,” she said as she waved him off. “No point in us both freezing.” This time he wasn't to be deterred. He quickly escorted her to the door. She responded with a more fervent kiss, opened the door, waved her fingers and disappeared inside.
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