Order Copy of American Messiah
Drawn to the hotel window by the sounds of the traffic below, Frank drew back the curtains. From the window, he could see columns of red and white car lights snaking around the hillside into suburbs of Maryland.
Squeaking wheels and clattering trays in the hall signaled the arrival of the dinner hour. Exotic smells filtered into the room. Frank picked up a menu from desk then tossed it on the bed. While he had no appetite, the coffee aroma reminded him that it been hours since his last cup. Hot, rich, freshly brewed Colombian coffee served black had always been a passion of Frank’s.
Just as he reached for the phone to dial room service, a knock sounded at the door suspending his arm in mid-air and wrenching his stomach into a knot. The second knock was more emphatic. He released himself from the grips of his uncertainties and temporarily subdued his feelings of panic.
Frank threw back his shoulders and moved vigorously toward the door. After pausing to collect a long breath, he opened the door and beckoned the two figures to enter. Neither man resembled the type of person that he was use to associating with, because Jerry usually handled the covert end of the business, if you could call it a business.
With a quick scan of the room, both men entered without a word or so much as an acknowledgment.
“Can I offer you gentlemen something from room service,” Frank asked, rubbing his hand across his knuckles.
“Nothing for us, but you go right ahead and order something for yourself.” Even then, it was clear who was in charge. The stranger’s tone was daunting yet oddly assuring. His eyes were dark and close set, and something cold and mysterious lurked within. The dapper stranger was clad in a walnut brown alpaca sweater, a mock neck shirt, casual slacks and soft Italian loafers. The only thing missing was a set of clubs, Frank joked to himself.
The second man, a hulk of a man, parked himself near the door never taking his eyes off of Frank except when he turned his head to better receive the noises emanating from the hall.
“A mutual friend thought that we should meet. This friend assured me that we would have much in common. Frank glanced at the door then dismissed the idea. Clearing his throat, Frank managed to gain a morsel of composure.
“And, just what would that be Mr.…?” Frank’s question went ignored as the stranger casually strolled about the room seeming to inspect the quality of the lodgings.
“Everyone calls me Victor or Vic,” he calmly declared with all the charm of a Porsche salesman. “History, Frank! I’m told that you are a student of history.” Frank stumbled as he foraged for an answer.
“He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future. Do you know who said that? George Orwell,” Vic responded without waiting for a response.
Frank did know the answer, in fact political philosophy was his minor in college and kind of a hobby. Nevertheless, he decided to play along partly out of fear but mostly because of his inexperience.
Vic seemed to take great pride in possessing that morsel of knowledge. A Machiavellian grin replaced the good neighbor next door smile as Vic leered at frank. But, just as quickly Vic was all smiles again. Frank felt the stiffness returning to his limbs. In an effort to overcome his growing anxiety, he decided to try to regain some measure of control back from his two callers.
“Our mutual friend was correct. I am something of a history buff, Vic. If history has taught us anything, it is that for all of man’s good intentions, in all affairs social, he is either a knave or he is a fool, a pawn or a king. Which are you, sir?”
The smile, which Victor used like the sting of a scorpion, remained frozen on his face. His eyes narrowed to tiny slits, as he studied Frank’s face. The hulk looked to his master for some cryptic instructions. Instead, Victor gave out a roaring laugh, walked over to Frank, and threw his arm around his neck like a father about to have a heart-to-heart with his young son about the facts of life.
“Frank, what would it take for you to trust me?”
Where was Jerry and what could have delayed his arrival, Frank wondered.Not even a message from him. There was just the one message from Eva. Just how much had he told these men?
“I could do with a cup of coffee about now. What about you two?” Victor’s smile only widened, amused by Frank’s dilatory tactics, and he repeated the question. Near the door, the huge figure stood with his legs spread apart, and hands clasped just below his ballooned girth. His dull, lifeless eyes trained on Frank. A word from his master, and he would lunge across the room, sink his teeth into Frank, and rip him to shreds.
The sun had abandoned the unusually warm November sky and retreated deep into the soft cushion of the velvety night. The sounds of the street had calmed to periodic surges of automobile engines and the precision cadence of the clicking traffic lights. Frank loosened his tie and poured his self a glass of water.
Frank longed for the sounds of his wife’s voice and the melodious screams of contentment from the children as they romped and tumbled in the yard with the family’s dog, Toby.
He wondered if he would ever see them again. Oddly, he began to dwell on the problems that he and Eva had been having in their marriage.
From the outside looking in, they had the perfect life. He had achieved the America dream, lucrative career, loving family and a model of health. Eva was both a strikingly beautiful and highly educated woman with a MBA from Harvard and a successful marketing executive on Madison Avenue. The idea of her existed in his mind long before she became a reality.
He loved Eva. Nonetheless, there was trouble in paradise. Working late at the office had replaced dinners with the family. Call conferencing and business jaunts had replaced family picnics and weekend bicycle rides on Nantucket. Private schools and nannies became substitutes for the love and attention they lavished upon their children in the lean years when they were just getting by. “
The disk will cost you ten million dollars,” Frank informed them, meeting Vic’s paralyzing stare head on. The sound of silence permeated the room. Frank prayed that his palpitating heart did not expose his wavering nerves.
“You met our asking price, Vic, otherwise this conversation is over and you and your associate can see yourselves out.” Frank, suddenly felt invigorated by his stance. He was enjoying himself. Although, he wondered his performance had been a little over the top. Validating Einstein’s theory of relativity, the seconds seemed like minute and the minutes seemed an eternity.
“If you have what was reported then we’ve got a deal.” Before Frank could say another word, Victor took out a piece of paper from his pocket, handed it to Frank and instructed him to dial the number on it. Frank glanced at the paper then back at Vic. Then he strolled around to the far side of the bed and sat down and began pressing buttons.
A number of possible scenarios rotated in his head, none of which seemed to make any sense. As the phone rang on the other end, Vic winked at Frank like he knew something that Frank did not.
“Ask for your friend Jerry,” Vic informed him. Before he could ask for his friend, Jerry was talking on the other end. Frank detected a note of excitement in his voice, but no signs of stress.
“Frank, I’m sorry but I thought that it would be best if I didn’t let you in on all the arrangements in case something went wrong. But I’ll explain all that later when I see you in New York. I have gone ahead and set up offshore accounts for each of us. You’re a rich man now, my friend. How does it feel to have all the money that you ever need? Your family will never want for anything.”