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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van

PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:11 pm

Chapter 18


As was her custom, Naomi went to breakfast at Marcie’s that Sunday morning. It didn’t take Marcie long to notice the prominent ring on her finger. Congratulatory hugs and a close inspection of the solitaire setting followed the predictable course of events.

When breakfast was finished and their regular weekly devotion was done, Marcie couldn’t contain herself any longer.

“If you want to we can check out the attic. I have the wedding dress your mother wore when she got married… You don’t have to wear it or anything, just have a look.” She added the latter when she saw uncertainty in Naomi’s face.

“No, I’d love to,” Naomi asserted.

It was more an upper bedroom on the third level, beneath the steeply pitched roof but Marcie had used it for storage, so it had become ‘the attic’. Everything drew Naomi’s attention. There were paintings, old maps, bookshelves full of books and numerous artefacts from her ex-husband’s Africa collection.

Locating a large trunk, Marcie had just opened it when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll leave you to it for a bit. I’ll go and see who that is. She dusted her hands off and returned downstairs while Naomi started burrowing into the trunk.

Beneath some formal gowns she found a beautiful white wedding dress wrapped in a plastic bag. It had a lace bodice and flared skirt portion with overlapping tulle hoops. She carefully withdrew the bag off the dress and held it against her. It seemed just her size. She desperately wanted to try it on. Placing the dress on the spread plastic, she searched in the trunk for a veil. She found it in a shoebox. It was attached to a delicate tiara. Having tried that on, Naomi placed the shoe box next to the dress and looked again in the trunk.


Below a cloth separating the wedding clothes she had removed, Naomi discovered some photo albums. Tantalised by the chance to look into her Aunt Marcie’s past, she started turning pages. Naomi almost dropped the book on the third page. There, as clear as could be, was a photograph of Marcie wearing the wedding dress. On her arm, dressed in a suit, was her father. She was sure he was the same person who was depicted in the few photos she had. What did that mean? Marcie had said ‘the wedding dress that your mother wore’! Was it her offhanded way of telling her?

Naomi was overcome by a stultifying paralysis. The implications ground into her psyche. Marcie, her mother; Daniel, her cousin! She finally gasped a breath to gain release from the choking stasis.

Grasping the album to her chest, Naomi fled downstairs; her mind was in turmoil. Secrets! How could there be so many secrets? How could she tell Daniel?

“Marcie! Marcie…” she wailed as she searched the hall and dining room. Her headlong rush into the lounge came to a sudden halt. Marcie was sitting in an armchair opposite Harrison, who had a handgun levelled at her.

“Come in, come in; the more the merrier.” He trained the gun in her direction and glared at her with an insidious, repugnant leer.

“Sit!” he commanded angrily. Naomi watchfully eased into another armchair, dropping the album onto the floor. A flood of emotions overcame her; a crescendo of pent up fears and insecurities overwhelmed her and she sat catatonic.

“Exactly what I need; another hostage. You have done me a favour… Naomi, isn’t it?” he pouted churlishly.

“Since your boyfriend has frustrated my plans by giving me garbage, it’s only right I get a little revenge and some money at the same time.”

He turned to Marcie. “You… will get a million dollars out of the bank tomorrow and give it to me. If you don’t cooperate, this pretty little thing will suffer… horribly.” There was something deranged about his mannerism. His jaw jutted and he momentarily froze with a wide eyed stare.

“You will both come with me now and tomorrow we will pick up the money. If you cooperate, I will leave you somewhere safe.”

“What happens if we refuse to go with you?” Marcie scowled.

A loud phut, tearing of the carpet between them and the pungent smell from the detonation told of his gunshot.

Both women jumped.

“The next bullet goes through the girl’s foot,” he threatened. “Now, you’re going into my van and we’re going to drive to somewhere safe. Tomorrow you’ll get my money and we’ll all be sweet. So move!”

He herded Marcie and Naomi who was still in a disconnected, automaton state, ahead of him out the front door. Harrison was waving the pistol erratically and Marcie tried to shield her young companion from further anguish with her arms around her. In the van he chained his hostages in the back and ensured that he removed their mobile phones.

The van was like a metal cocoon and Naomi withdrew into herself even further, recoiling from the real world. Marcie tried to talk to her but it was as though she were suspended in another dimension. Her shackled wrists attached to metal ribbing alongside her held her up like a marionette.





Harrison drove west through steady snowfall for almost two hours, navigating narrow roads west of Northampton till he turned off into a sizeable holiday house nestled in the woods. Unhitching the chain from the side wall of the vehicle, he pulled on the links binding their hands and roughly led them indoors.

Inside, Harrison was quick to chain Marcie and Naomi together on two chairs.

“I know it’s lacking in originality chaining you up like this, but this way I can relax a bit.”

Marcie commented. “You know you’ll get caught. People don’t get away with kidnapping these days.”

He brooded silently. She continued, “If you give yourself up I’m sure they’ll be lenient on you.”

Harrison ground his teeth.

“You don’t get it do you? I’ve worked at three law firms now and none of those wealthy elite gave me anything but tedious contract drafting. No trials, no litigation and no financial recognition for what I do; just menial office work.”

His phone rang. He walked away and talked in subdued tones, at length, with his back turned.

When Harrison came back he sat at the table and gloated.

“This is going to work.”



Daniel arrived early at Naomi’s place. He waited a few minutes in the car before mounting the steps and ringing the doorbell. It was only five past ten so he waited patiently. Five minutes of the doorbell then translated into pounding on the door with his fist and calling Naomi’s name. He tried the door. It was locked.

Aunt Marcie’s was his next option. Even as he walked the driveway he convinced himself that Naomi had come across earlier and lost track of the time. When no one answered the door Daniel felt a hollow ache in his stomach. He turned the handle and the door sprang open. Several shouts and repeated dashing between rooms and upstairs to no avail made him panicky.

He wanted to call 911 immediately but checked out both garages first; their cars were still there. Daniel reconsidered his first impulse and rang Bennet’s number.

“Nev Bennet speaking.”

“Agent Bennet, This is Daniel Treloar…Naomi and my aunt have gone.”

“Okay, calm down. How do you know they’ve gone?”

“Their cars are still here—they live next to each other, Marcie and Naomi—but no one’s around.”

“Could they have gone for a walk?” The wearisome process of eliminating all the possibilities was exasperating Daniel.

“Bennet! I was meant to pick Naomi up at ten fifteen for church. I have been doing this for five or six weeks. No one answered the doors, their cars are still here and my Aunt Marcie’s door was unlocked! Someone has taken them!” Daniel felt himself shaking and realised he’d been yelling into the phone.

The FBI man assured him that they would send a car straight away.

Daniel went back inside and found the photo album lying on the floor in the lounge. He paged through the album hoping for some clue, but all he found were photos of Marcie’s past. Admittedly, he was perplexed by wedding photos of Marcie with an unidentified groom. It was like a record of some previous incarnation; a secret life she had lived long ago obscured by time.


Putting the book on the armchair, Daniel felt irritated by the incongruous placement of the seat. Dragging it back into an arc with the others he was distressed to see the bullet hole in the carpet. He was back on the phone in an instant.

“Bennet, it’s me again. Someone fired a shot here. There’s a bullet hole in the floor.”

Daniel listened as he was assured that Bennet was on his way and was told, ‘don’t touch anything’. There was little consolation for him as he paced about the house searching for some clue as to where Marcie and Naomi had gone; looking but not touching.

Several cars arrived. The FBI team swarmed over the building looking for any signs that might indicate what had taken place. Mobile phones were found outside in the shrubs. The photo album was being examined and forensic scientists were retrieving the bullet from the floor.

Daniel restated all he knew of their plans to go to church and then waited for Bennet and McKillen to outline some course of action.

“It’s Harrison; gotta be,” concluded McKillen as they conferred after half an hour of the investigation.

“You’re probably right,” replied Bennet less certain. “We’ll proceed on that assumption, anyway, until we learn more.”

“What does he want?” demanded Daniel.

“What he’s always wanted; money. And I guess we can expect some sort of ransom demand or even getting the old lady to get the money out herself,” the younger man predicted.

“What are we going to do?” Daniel fretted impatiently.

Bennet gave him a pinch faced stare. “We…” said with emphasis, “don’t do anything. You… will go about your business and Mack and I will set a trap for Harrison. He won’t touch any money without us knowing about it.” The FBI man paused for a second then continued, “It’s less likely, but he may contact you for the real process papers, though I doubt if his buyer is still on board.” Bennet made sure he had Daniel’s full attention, so he drew a little closer. “If he contacts you, let us know immediately. No heroics!” He left unsaid his knowledge about kidnappings.

Daniel looked agape at the FBI man. “But—”

“No buts; this is our job. If we need you we’ll call you.”

McKinley quietly empathised with the young engineer, saying, in a quiet aside, how he knew how he felt; something Daniel doubted. He went on to say confidentially (what Bennet had strategically avoided), while his senior partner was busy on the phone, that kidnappings generally didn’t end well because of the sort of desperate measures the offenders took. That’s why they had to know all the details.

Mack’s comment was counterproductive, however. Desperation now dominated his thoughts. His mind voided of all else, Daniel drove robot like, heedless of traffic about him.

Finding himself at his house without remembering the journey seemed miraculous. Impulsively, Daniel called Max and together they plotted their intervention strategy. Though not illegal, he’d been warned off by Bennet so their actions could be construed as obstructing the course of justice. Nevertheless they plotted.

A call to Arnold, suggesting he consider becoming a trustee and innocently expressing interest in the name of the bank in which the trust fund was deposited, provided some useful information.

Daniel and Max made some initial assumptions:

[list="list-style-type: lower-alpha; direction: ltr;"]
[*]The branch would need to be big enough to have sizeable cash reserves

[*]Marcie would be sent to withdraw the money

[*]From their knowledge of Harrison; there would be some clandestine exit strategy

[*]Naomi would probably remain unharmed until Harrison was sure he had the money
These assumptions were made after examining the possibilities. He would contact them and get a ransom, or the fullerene process data; a methodology fraught with risks and the added problem of transferring the money. Or he would get the money himself using Marcie.
The two plotters decided it was necessary to get their colleagues involved. It was important to stake out as many branches of the bank as possible. Everyone needed a phone and a picture of Aunt Marcie.
The rest of the Sunday was spent contacting friends and allocating bank branches to watch. Ground rules included the need to stay out of sight; especially from Harrison and any FBI agents who may be doing a similar thing, and being patient, as there were no guarantees that the withdrawal would be made on Monday.
Max organised a phone message group. He then ensured that the observation point Daniel and he chose was centrally placed and everyone knew that regular reports were to be made and sightings were to be communicated immediately.
It was an interminable evening and night for Daniel. He agonised over Marcie and Naomi’s plight and read and prayed alternately until fatigue drew him into sleep.
From early on Monday all their sentinels were relatively bright and focused with the exception of Daniel, who had a wretched night. There was a mood of optimism and expectation. The snow had melted and a glimmer of sunshine lightened a cool windy day.
As the day wore on, however, the group morale deteriorated. Was this a fool’s errand? What reason did they have to even suspect that Harrison planned to use Marcie, or even that Harrison was the culprit?
By lunch time most of the watchers had reckoned that the FBI weren’t present; and if they were they were remarkably well hidden. This provoked a margin of disquiet in the text messages. If the FBI didn’t think it was a valid tactic perhaps they were wasting their time.
At two fifteen a text appeared in bold capitals: ‘SHE’S HERE – STATE STREET’ Erin’.
Daniel rapidly replied, ‘don’t move, keep us informed we’ll be there soon-not far away’.
It was only minutes until Max and Daniel arrived on Max’s motor cycle. They pulled off the one way street into a side street and parked the bike there. Max stayed there ready to pursue if needed. Further up the road Erin was sheltering out of the wind in the doorway of another bank. Daniel approached still wearing the helmet he had on as a pillion passenger.
“She went in there about…” she checked her phone for the time, “…eight minutes ago. Since then those two cars turned up. I think they’re FBI.”
“Should’ve known,” commented Daniel, “They probably alerted the banks to contact them.”
“So what do we do when she comes out?” It was Erin trying to get a grasp of what her friend had in mind.
“We follow her. How did she arrive?”
“A van dropped her off and kept going up there.” She pointed directly ahead.
Daniel and Erin watched as a couple of agents got out of the cars. Then one reversed into a side street, facing the wrong way while the other headed down Court Street. No doubt the area was crawling with agents.
Daniel turned his back to one of the agents as the man scanned the area.
“This is going to be tricky. We’re going to have to stay behind the agents as they follow Marcie or we’ll be recognised.” He looked down at Erin. “Where’s your car?”
She indicated the road to the left. “Up there. Of course if you need it, I’ll have to drive the block. It’s one way.”
Daniel quickly typed a text into his phone.
“What are you doing?” Erin was trying to read it upside down.
“Just telling everyone to get into their cars; that way we’ll be able to cover a larger area when they’re back on the road.”
She smiled at him. “You’re getting good at this.” Her phone beeped as he sent it. As she registered what it was she paused and then read it anyway.
Five minutes passed and Daniel sent another text letting everyone know that they were still waiting. He justified it to Erin saying that he’d want to know what was going on if he were out there. There was a sudden jab in his ribs.
“Look!” she exclaimed.
Daniel turned to see Aunt Marcie wearing a large floppy hat, emerge through the swinging doors of the bank. She was hefting a large briefcase with some difficulty. Marcie turned right down the road away from them. Careful scrutiny revealed several agents mobilising. A woman dragging a suitcase on wheels, a man with a backpack and another using a cell phone, all began to shuffle off at the same time in a similar direction.
Casually, Daniel and Erin wandered behind Bennet’s team. The busy city sidewalks meant that the additional migration behind Marcie was not conspicuous. It was obvious Daniel’s aunt was struggling with the briefcase of money. She waddled for about a hundred yards along the right side of the street and around the corner. All the followers increased their pace to keep her in sight.
Marcie entered a coffee shop and disappeared from view. The agent with the phone quickly trailed her in. Daniel worried when nothing happened for the next few minutes. He had just decided to make a move when she reappeared. Immediately the hackles on the back of his neck informed him there was something wrong.
“They’ve made a switch!” he hissed.
“What! How do you know?” Erin whispered as they crouched behind a car opposite the café.
“She’s carrying the bag much easier.” He turned to see her blue eyes looking up at him. “And Marcie never wears a hat; they’re concealing her face.” With an intense look on his face he spoke, “You follow her.”
Without another word Daniel sent a text to all explaining his suspicions and saying he was checking the café while Erin was following the money.
As Erin left he called Bennet. Surprisingly he answered straight away.
“Keep out of this Treloar, I know you’re trailing your aunt.” His tone was firm.
“Listen Bennet, I think Marcie is still in Starbucks. They’ve made a switch.” Daniel abruptly ended the call not wanting to waste time justifying his statement.
He quickly jogged across the road and went inside. Daniel swept the café with his eyes but saw no sign of Marcie or Harrison. His gazed fixed on the rest room. If there was a quick change required that would be the place. Max and Gavin came in just as he was heading toward the rest room.
“What are you doing?” asked Gavin.
“If they made a switch it would be in the restroom.”
“And you’re just going to walk in? What if Harrison’s in there with a gun?” Gavin was beside himself, incredulous at Daniel’s risky attitude.
“What do you suggest?” He said it as if there was no other way.
“We wait and jump him when he comes out… if he’s there.” He thought briefly, and then added, “If no one comes out after five minutes we rush in together.”
The plan actually seemed good to Daniel, so they stationed themselves between the two restroom doors.
They had hardly set up when McKillen burst into the hallway and waved them out. Obediently the three re-entered the café area and saw it was being evacuated. Numerous agents were positioned either side of the door to the restrooms.
McKillen hauled them out to the street where Bennet was waiting, hands on hips and a scowl on his face.
“You don’t give up do you?” A slight smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Well you were right. We have a woman in custody who was impersonating your aunt…working with Harrison obviously.”
Two gun shots rang out, shattering the relative calm.
“Stay here!” yelled Bennet as he ran into the building clasping his gun. Minutes went by before an ambulance screamed onto the scene.
After a few more minutes, a bedraggled Aunt Marcie, draped in a table cloth was helped into the ambulance where she was examined and then lightly sedated.
Daniel had run over to the ambulance but was restrained by police who had cordoned off the area. He was eventually allowed to speak with her after McKillen had interviewed her.
She was distraught. “I couldn’t help Dan. I don’t know where he took us.” Tears filled her eyes and she trembled from shock. Daniel attempted to pacify her with little success.
The paramedics, considering the trauma she had been through, insisted on taking her to hospital for observation. 
Daniel was stranded there on the sidewalk wondering what had happened as the ambulance drove off.
Bennet came out. “He’s dead.” He said it with a resigned, tight lipped face.
Daniel stared incomprehensively at him.
The agent enlarged on his report. “Harrison is dead. He pulled a gun as he came out…they had no choice.”
“So where’s Naomi!” demanded Daniel.
“We’re tracking the calls from his cell phone now. We should know in a few minutes. Your aunt had been tied with tape in the rest room, but I think she’s okay. What about you? You should sit down and take a deep breath.” The FBI man was attempting to soothe the highly agitated scientist with his steady, modulating voice.
“Why don’t we take you guys down to the office while we locate Miss Stockton?”
Daniel expected them to get into cars and drive them but the Boston office was just a short walk down the main thoroughfare.
Inside they were given coffees and donuts while McKillen debriefed them about their knowledge of the location of the bank and what they proposed to do had they been confronted with the armed Harrison.
Erin came in as they brought the woman who impersonated Marcie through to an interview room. She had heard that she was a law secretary at Haversack and Neesham. Apparently the law office was Harrison’s previous employer and is the reason he knew about them and their clientele.
Daniel, Max, Gavin and Erin had been at the FBI office for an hour when they were informed that two units had been sent to just this side of Pittsfield. Bennet didn’t mention the ambulance which was being sent as a precaution. The three friends whiled the time away trying to placate Daniel who grumbled and sighed and paced disagreeably at the endless wait.
It was after five when the call finally came through.  Bennet spoke for some time to the agents on the scene. When he finished he came across to Daniel.
“They’ve found Miss Stockton. She was found in the basement. I’m afraid—”
“What… she isn’t—”
“No… no, she’s alive. They’ve taken her to hospital. She’s suffering severe shock. Other than that she was unharmed.”
“What hospital?” Daniel was relieved and anxious at the same time.
“Same place as your aunt … Massachusetts General…”
Daniel had fled through the door before Bennet had finished. Not even waiting for his friends, he set off on foot the half mile or so, along the city lit streets, to the hospital.
He still arrived before the ambulance. He paced about at reception, then he hovered annoyingly around the emergency desk and eventually he watched with others who gawked through the window at the busy ambulance admissions station.
The ambulance that eventually arrived with her on board was in no hurry at all. Carefully, the paramedics transferred her from the ambulance and wheeled her slowly away from view.
There was some altercation with the nurse at the desk who assured him that once his friend had been admitted and properly examined, he would be allowed to visit.
Max found him harassing the staff and dragged him off to a cafeteria in another building. Quelling his irritated friend with the rationale that the hospital staff sought Naomi’s best interests; so shouldn’t he do the same? The logic irked Daniel—of course he cared desperately— but he conceded to the idea forming in his mind that once again it was self-interest that dominated his thoughts. He wanted to be present, not for how he could assist, but for his own peace of mind; to be reassured that she was alive and well.
The coffee and the company did little to mollify his affliction, that of his helplessness. To divert his concern over Naomi’s condition, Erin suggested they visit Marcie.
It took a little while to locate her and when they did they filed into her room, unsure of what to expect.
Marcie was sitting up, indomitable as usual. “They want me to stay overnight Daniel. Tell them I’m fine. I’m as strong as an ox.”
Daniel wanted to add, ‘as stubborn as a mule’ to maintain the animal simile theme, but just consoled. “I’m sure they want what’s best for you Aunt.”
“But I’m fine,” she protested.” All I have is a few rashes from that awful tape.” She showed her arms. She shook her head slowly, reflectively. “He wasn’t quite right, was he?”
“Who Aunt?” Daniel asked unthinkingly, still preoccupied with Naomi.
“That Harrison, of course… there was a madness in his eyes… as if money could solve his problems.”
Daniel didn’t know what to say. Erin chimed in with queries about how they were treated and how they had coped.
Marcie gave a brief account of their nightmarish experience. She then addressed Daniel.
“Naomi is very fragile. She’s been through more than any person should ever have to deal with. She’ll need time to get over this.” The way she looked at him, it was clear what was unsaid was more significant that what was said.
“I need to go and check to see how she is.” His voice was broken and husky.
In her room a doctor was just finishing up when Daniel entered. She introduced herself as a psychiatric specialist. Explaining to Daniel that people who endured severe traumatic events sometimes withdrew into themselves for a time. She would need familiar faces and rest, and probably regular counselling to come to terms with her experiences.
“At the moment she’s not responsive to the external environment—there’s too much going on inside her head. Talk to her,” she advised as she touched his arm encouragingly, “it may help.” She left them alone then.
“Naomi…” His soft words had no reaction. A blank stare was all she offered. It was like she was in a coma and awake at the same time. He touched her arm, “Naomi…” She barely flinched at his touch.
Daniel spoke a few more words. He declared his affection for her, he held her hand, brushed her arm, touched her face, all to no avail. It was like that for an hour. Max and Erin joined him; Gavin had returned to work.
Once the futility of communicating with her was apparent, both coaxed him to go home and rest. He would be able to visit again.
A chasm had formed which he couldn’t span.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” he informed them. Alone with her, his hopes and imagination spurred him to a soft gentle kiss on her lips. There was no ‘sleeping beauty’ response, no miraculous awakening. Fears welled up inside. Would she stagnate in this limbo? He breathed a prayer as he left, turning one last time to see her glazed eyes, unseeing, unfeeling.  

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