The man looked at his watch again. She is late, he thought. He was dressed smartly in a navy suit, tie and immaculately polished shoes. A man of regulation and punctuality. He looked around for any sign of her. People hustled pass him for it was the office hour. Most carried suitcases probably containing vital documents or other things of use. Some looked like they were in a hurry with half eaten breakfast in their hands as they rushed passed him. He despised those people—people with no discipline.
A cab stopped by the pavement near him. A woman who appeared to be in her twenties came out. She was dressed elegantly but her hair was a total mess, tied loosely in a bun. Most were of the opinion that she was beautiful. She could definitely make heads turn. But he thought only one thing about her—bait.
“Hey there Mr. Stafford.” she greeted him, not going for any formalities and then turned to pay the cabbie. “You are late,” was his only response. She turned and smiled. A smile that had won many men’s affection, then said. “Only a few minutes.”
Only a few minutes? Every minute counts! Anger surged in him but he didn’t let it show. He couldn’t jeopardize the situation. Keeping his other thoughts to himself he simply said, “Sixteen minutes.”
“Hmm….” She looked amused. “Precisely.” She started to walk down the street, her heels making a clicking sound. He did not understand what she meant by that but he let it pass. He followed her thinking. We have more important matters at hand. No point in trying to decipher her banter.
She stopped by a coffee shop. “Mr. Stafford, do you mind if I get a coffee? I need caffeine to begin my day.”
More delays. But he told her that he did not mind. His superior had disclosed to him that she was the only key. The only loose end that could lead them to the package. He was commanded to please this woman, much to his disgust. He was to attain her trust.
“Mr. Stafford?” she called out from the counter. “Do you want something?” He motioned with his hands saying no and he sat by a window in the coffee house. People were still hurrying past.
While coming back from the counter towards him with her coffee, she slipped and spilled some of her coffee. “Oops!” she muttered.
Clumsy. This will be so easy.
She reached him and sat on the chair beside him overlooking the window. He was getting impatient. “Miss Clive—“he started but was cut off by her, “Please call me Barbara,” she said.
“Very well then,” he said forcing a smile. “Barbara, we better go. Our company would like to get the package today so that we can release it as soon as possible in the market. The world needs to know your role in it. Those old oafs you worked with will not give you much credit if we don’t persuade them. Our company guarantees your name will come first.” She seemed to be drinking in his each word. Good.
“Don’t worry Mr. Stafford—” she started.
“John then.” She took a sip of her coffee, face barely composing her excitement. “Don’t worry John, you will get it today. I have called my secretary and said her to arrange a meeting. My colleagues need to be persuaded. With your representation, we will be able to deliver the package easily today.” She took another sip.
You surely will.
It took her a few more minutes to finish her coffee. Then they set out towards the building where she worked. It was a huge building with glass doors. All the way from the coffee shop to the lobby in the eleventh floor of the building she talked about the various tactics she would apply to convince her colleagues and the things he was supposed to say. He did not pay much attention. He nodded at occasional moments and said a yes or two at times. He was busy working on his last pieces of the plan. She is eager all right. But I need her to take me to the package alone first before her ‘colleagues’ interfere. But till now it had been easy. He smirked. She is inexperienced and ambitious. It was easy to woo her into the deal as she has different views—the famous ‘new ways’ view. Her intelligence is beyond her years but she is yet young to the politics. She has no bearings of the real world. She would have done great things if she did not trust everybody so blindly.
A fool. Naïve.
Trust. Hah! It is something one should rarely depend on these days.
She went to talk to her secretary while he waited in the lobby. It was a bit strange. It was a late into the office hour but the lobby was deserted. Probably everyone was already busy with their work. Punctual. He liked that. Yet the reception desk was empty. She returned soon. “Do you want to wait in my office? The meeting will be arranged in an hour. They were a bit taken aback with the news.” She looked at him. His face was unreadable. She continued “Sorry for the inconvenience. I’ll go and talk to my secretary again. I will try to pre pone the meeting.” She said already starting to go.
“It’s all right.” He spoke up. This is my chance. “I will wait. There is no need to hurry. In fact I advise you to give them the time to ponder over the news. And we can talk about some more strategies.”
She was confused. “But you said it had to be done soon. We have to take them by surprise.” She remembers. Yes, intelligent. “Yes. I did but now I am thinking it would be best we let them figure it out a little bit. You stop worrying. We can talk a bit more about your credits now.” He flashed her a second smile.
The best approach, he thought.
“Alright then.” She looked a bit relived and also perked up a little at the mention of credits.
They were sitting in her comfortable office. Books piled high in every shelf. He kept her distracted, talking about how she was going to be renowned at such a young age. Then he got an opening to talk about the package. “Is there any possibility that I could see the package before the meeting?”
She hesitated, “Well…I could perhaps get you to see it. But I don’t think it will help our cause.”
“So you are saying that you can access it alone?”
She looked a bit troubled, “Umm…don’t mention it in the meeting that I told you this but yeah, all of us that worked in the project can access it. Kind of makes me important don’t it?”She gave a nervous laugh.
“Then let me take a look. It will definitely help our cause. I can better represent if I know it better. If I had the experience seeing it.”
“I don’t know…”
He looked at her expectantly.
“Alright then. Come with me.”
He had her!
This was easy. Too easy. He was starting to enjoy. The woman gave in to his every word.
She took him through a back door. It seemed that the office had a direct link to the lab. They reached a sealed glass door that led to a narrow corridor which led to the lab entrance. She first navigated through a series of codes in the glass door. They walked past the corridor. Its walls were bare painted in white and had a marble floor. She slipped a little. Looking embarrassed she put her had on to a wall for support. When they reached the lab entry she inserted a key card in a slot and typed the access code.
The lab was magnificent, apt with the latest technology. “Here it is.” She pointed. In the middle of the lab, was the gleaming silver cube enclosed in a glass case that he had been earning to see. It wasn’t much bigger than a Rubik cube but the secrets that lay within that box was worth killing for. That is why he was here. He knew he had to revel himself now. It was time he unveiled his mask. He will have to draw that gun enclosed in his suit and force her to give him the box. He readied himself. But to his utter surprise, she went ahead and opened the glass case. He had not been expecting that. There deal was only that he takes a look at the package. Nothing else. He was even more taken aback when she picked up the cube and placed there another one that exactly looked like the original.
“We can examine it properly in the office. Let’s go.”
“But the other one…”
“Oh don’t bother. It’s fake, one of the samples that I had. I just put it there cause if someone sees the case empty, they will panic. I will put it back before the meeting.” And she strode out of the lab. She moved quickly, efficiently, which should not have been possible with her clumsy self. Her heels clicked even louder in the corridor than it had in the pavement. He was finding it difficult to keep up with her in his confusion. She reached the glass door before him. She had left the lab door wide open. Before he could realize what was happening, she sealed the door shut behind him.
She smiled through the glass door. The same dazzling smile.
He was captured in that narrow corridor from which he could not escape. He shot some bullets at the door but it was fruitless. She just smiled on.
“I am leaving. Thank you so much for assisting me in stealing this.” She showed him the cube, the silver surface gleaming in the light. “Hope you have a nice time in prison. They will find you and the fake cube in precisely sixteen minutes.” And she turned and left.
Indeed. Trust. It is something one should rarely depend on these days.