Leather straps hung from the ceiling in even rows and columns spaced out two feet apart. They swung lightly from the doors opening at the far end of the room, and my attention snapped over as I struggled against them. Greta paused her routine as we both looked up and saw Urcela standing in the open doorway.
“Sir-” she stopped.
“I know what this looks like,” I said, trying to spin myself so I wasn’t facing her in my-let’s just say I wasn’t wearing much, “You’ve caught me at a bad time. What do you need?”
“Alexander Dumont called, he’s demanding a meeting. He said he’s on his way,” she replied, not breaking eye contact with me.
“How far out is he?” I asked.
Urcela looked down at her tablet, “He’s coming through the lobby downstairs right now.”
“Shit. Okay, I’ll be right out. Stall for me. Get him some tea and some of those fancy cookies he likes. Do we have any left in the pantry?” I asked, struggling against my bonds. “Greta, take me down.”
“I’ll check,” Urcela replied, turning on heel as Greta unceremoniously pulled the release on the straps, dropping me to the floor with a loud bang on the steel floor.
“Thank you, Greta,” I said, rubbing my knees where I hit the floor.
“I’m not happy about this,” Greta said, returning her whip to the holster in her leather suit.
“Hey,” I said, rising to my feet, “You think this is ideal for me? I needed this today. It’s been a rough week for all of us.”
Greta frowned at me.
“Don’t be like that. We’ll get back to it as soon as this meeting is over. It shouldn’t take more than an hour,” I said, touching her cheek. “You can come up with some more fun things for us to do in the meantime, okay?”
“You’d better not be lying again,” Greta replied, drawing her cane and slapping in her palm.
“If I am, you can cane me twice the number that pops into your head-”
“Triple,” Greta replied, a smile peeking out of her mask.
“Triple it is!” I said, limping for the door.
I stepped into the closet just outside and put my best suit on. My mind refocused on the task at hand. Alexander Dumont was not a man that randomly showed up. If he were here, there would be trouble. I wasn’t sure why now, though.
I stepped out of the closet and began the walk down the short hall to the conference room on the left. It was a medium-sized room, larger than I would generally use for four clients and myself, but Alexander did not enjoy cramped spaces and enjoyed the view from the windows that overlooked the city.
Urcela was already there, setting out hot water, unique teas from china, and setting up a box of the cookies I had requested. I said a silent thank you to whoever was listening to my thoughts for my assistant. She always seemed to be on top of things, regardless of my level of distraction.
“Roger Smith, you had better have a good explanation for this,” Alexander said as his guards opened the double doors on the other side of the room, making a path for him.
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Dumont? I was only just made aware of your presence in the city a few minutes ago and haven’t had time to check with-”
“You know damn well,” Alexander said, scowling at me as he dropped a paper on the table.
The headline on the front page actually brought me to a loss of words.
SMITH INTERNATIONAL, A CRUMBLING EMPIRE! AN INVESTIGATIVE REPORT.
“I hadn’t seen that yet,” I said, turning from Alexander to Urcela. “Care to give me the details?”
“The story covers a handful of projects we had in the works in Europe and Asia. With everything going on, the projects have come to a standstill, the investors are angry, and stocks have taken an eight percent hit. People are getting worried,” Urcela said, scrolling on her tablet.
“I see,” I replied, turning back to Alexander, “So this is about a newspaper article? Alexander, you and I both know very well what happened three years ago. The papers tried to tell the world that I was taking billions from my company and cutting the throats of my clients and investors in the process. Do you recall what happened then?”
“I want out, Roger,” Alexander said. “I want out today.”
“Hold on,” I replied, sitting down and pulling a cup toward me. “Sit down, and we can discuss this.”
“This isn’t up for discussion, Roger. I gave you a hundred billion dollars to invest, and I want my money before the company tanks, taking my money with it,” Alexander said, slamming his fist into the table for emphasis.
“Alexander, we are poised to make record profits right now. I know what the paper and the stock markets look like, but you need to trust that I know what I’m doing,” I said as Urcela poured some tea and offered it to him.
“You take too many risks, Roger. I. Want. My. Money.” Alexander said.
“If you take it now, it’ll violate-”
“You’re not going to fuck me on this,” Alexander said as his attendant, who’s name I spaced at the moment, drew his gun. “I want the whole amount. Not a penny less.”
My eyes remained locked on Alexander, aware of, but ignoring the weapon.
“Alexander, you’re making a mistake,” I said, a warm smile spreading across my face. “I’ll keep to our contract. As I always have. You gave me a year to give you a return. It’s been four months. It’s impossible to cash out-”
Alexander’s attendant moved to raise his arm, but Urcela grabbed the weapon, twisted it, and broke the man’s wrist in a blink of an eye. The other two reached for their guns.
“I wouldn’t,” I said, holding up a hand to stop Urcela from proceeding. Alexander’s attendant hunched in pain, holding his arm as Urcela handed me his gun. I laid it flat in my hands and held it out to Alexander. “I’m not trying to fuck you. I’m trying to keep my promise. My company is the best investment firm in the world. We process amounts in a year that make your contribution look like loose change. There’s no reason for this to get sour.”
Alexander looked from me to his attendant, to Urcela.
“You have eight months,” Alexander said, his cheeks flushing. “If I don’t get back a return on my money, she won’t protect you.”
“I understand, my friend,” I said.
“You’re not my friend,” he replied.
“Urcela, will you please take what’s his name down to my private physician to get his wrist set?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” she said, extending a gentle arm out around the shoulders of Alexander’s attendant.
“Oh, and thank you for holding back, Urcela,” I called after her before looking back at Alexander. “Now why don’t you sit down, enjoy some of these very expensive teas, your favorite cookies, and have a conversation with me. We are both gentlemen, after all. Let me put your mind at ease, and we can remain friends after this.”