Chapter 17 & 18
Meaghan leaned down, pushed her strappy sandals off her feet, wiggled her toes and sighed. It was Monday, and Cynthia had run her ragged all morning; a coworker called in sick, so she was doing the work of two.It was finally lunchtime, but she felt too tired to go get something to eat.She was contemplating a packet of crisps she found in her desk when she heard Cynthia’s high heels heading her way.
“Good, you’re still here.”Meaghan resisted the urge to give a snarky comment and swiveled to face her formidable boss.She was holding a couple sheets of paper in her elegant hand.“I have a request here from the National Security agency.They are looking to contract out for an analyst position on a special project.They need someone who reads English, French, and Chinese for a minimum of 90 days up to six months.If you are interested, you would still go through our payroll, but you would be working at an office in the industrial area.Interested?”
Meaghan thought for a moment, intrigued in spite of how tired she felt.“Would the pay be different?”Cynthia nodded.
“During that time, you pay would be significantly increased.Of course, we get to profit, too, as well as getting in a good word with the government!”Cynthia gave a laugh, and then gave her a pointed look.“I hope you agree.In fact,” she said smugly, “I’ve already submitted your name and credentials for their purview.”She took Meaghan’s silence for assent.“So, if they agree, you’d begin by next Monday.Make sure that you finish up any loose ends on your desk; Jules will be taking over your work until you return.”
Jules was one of the newest employees, but she was very capable and eager to help.Meaghan figured that her contacts would be in good hands.Making the decision, she stood up, and bowed to her manager.
“I’m honored, and I will do my best.”
Rickie was sampling Bourbon’s specialty today, tamarind balls, in the lounge area while waiting for Raine.He had received an intriguing phone call, asking for his assistance to create a think-tank regarding suspected Chinese movements along their southern coast.
He was finishing up his second Tiger Beer when his former supervisor showed up, sat down on the rattan sofa across from him and dropped a brown leather briefcase on top of the coffee table.Catching Bourbon’s eye, she held up two fingers.Bourbon nodded, and, giving the counter a final sweep, turned to a cooler behind the bar.In a matter of mere moments, two bottles, tiny bits of ice clinging to the neck, were on the table and expertly opened.Bourbon gave a wink to Rickie and sauntered away.
“So what are the details?” Rickie asked Raine, after nodding to the retreating bartender.
“Our agents are noticing an increase in both covert and overt movements towards the coastline.In addition, we noticed some strange anomalies in shipping records at their major terminals.We’re hoping that, with your analytical skills and some strong backup, we can ascertain what they are planning to do.We’ve already set up an office near your headquarters, and will have the wiring and the server in there by the end of the week.”Raine opened the briefcase and pulled out several manila folders.“Here are the curricula vitae of several potential contractors to round out the group.Just look them over; we need at least two from this group. My team will also be there.”
Rickie nodded, and Raine placed the folders back in the case, and closed it, pushing it towards him.He instinctively grabbed the bottle before the briefcase touched it, and Raine smirked.
“Glad to know your reflexes are still fast, especially when it’s important.”They continued to chat for a short while, and then amicably separated.
Walking from the bus stop, Meaghan nervously toyed with the plackets of her brown jacket, and then touched her hair to make sure it was still smoothly in its chignon. She wanted to make a good first impression with her new boss. The Bureau had sent over a packet of information, including her ID badge with directions and a map to the building, and the itinerary for the first week. Arriving 20 minutes early, she paused for a moment in front of the three storey glass-front building to look up at the façade.
Suddenly, with an ‘oomph’ someone struck her on the right side. Stumbling slightly, she looked over and saw a young woman balancing a taro bubble tea in one hand, with a brown leather bag on her shoulder. The woman glanced up at Meaghan and smiled, revealing even teeth with a slight overbite, and looked down at her feet, where a pretty blue sandal was haphazardly perched on her foot.
“I’m sorry about running into you. I was trying to adjust my new Jimmy Choo’s while walking, and I wasn’t paying attention. Are you okay?” She reached down and reset the strap across her ankle, then straightened up and ran her fingers through her short, light brown hair. “There, that’s better. Do you work here?” she asked as she opened the glass doors held for Meaghan.
“Today is my first day here,” Meaghan confessed as they walked into the vaulted lobby. The lobby was decorated with beige granite floors; several banners with stunning intricate designs reminiscent of linangkit textiles were hung on the stone pillars, adding a colorful accent to the monochrome interior. A grouping of white couches were located on either side on the lobby, and in the center of the space stood a fluid sculpture of metal strips that appeared to be two figures dancing with their arms outstretched. Lush tropical foliage completed the interior. They both stopped to admire the figures.
“That looks like a Yusof Ghani original,” the woman said, as the two of them walked towards the security desk, “It’s very beautiful, isn’t it.” Meaghan agreed, awed that she would be temporarily working in such a wonderful environment. She hoped that the job would be as good.
Meaghan greeted the security guard and gave him her ID card. He punched up the computer, and then said, “Your office is on the third floor. Use your card in the elevator to gain access.” Meaghan nodded to the guard, smiled at the young woman and walked towards the bank of elevators partially hidden by large palm trees.
She had pushed the button and was waiting for the elevator when she heard the woman’s voice getting louder as she argued with the guard.
“Look, I know I don’t work here, but my brother does. I just wanted to drop in and surprise him on his first day. Can’t you make an exception?” At the guard’s demurral she huffed and walked towards a couch, fumbling in her bag. Meaghan checked her watch, then approached the woman.
“Can I help you? He might be working in my office. Today is the first day for everyone, I think,” Meaghan offered. The girl looked up from her bag and asked, “Can I borrow your phone? I must have left mine back at the house.” Meaghan handed over her white cellphone; the other woman quickly dialed and put it to her ear.
“Abang? I wanted to surprise you, but security won’t let me in. Can you meet me in the lobby? Uh-huh. Kotohuadan. Love you!” She closed the phone with a snap and handed it back to Meaghan. “He should be right down. He says he’s on the third floor, so you’ll probably be working with him. I’m Sethe, by the way.”
“Hi, I’m Meaghan. What does your brother do?”
Sethe gave a little shrug. “He mostly works for our father, and does consulting work on the side. When I talked to him, he seemed pretty excited about his current job.”
Meaghan smiled. “I’m excited about it myself. I’ve never done any consulting work, but I was recommended by my supervisor for this position.” The sound of the elevator behind her alerted that it was finally down on the ground floor. Sethe looked over her shoulder and her bright blue eyes grew wide as a huge grin erupted on her face.
Meaghan gave a sudden start, her heart accelerating as she whirled around just in time to see the young woman throw herself into the arms of a familiar figure, one who had recently taken up space in her thoughts entirely too much.
As Rickie hugged his exuberant sister, he looked into the lobby and saw the one person he was waiting for, standing amongst the cool green foliage in the lobby, her beautiful eyes wide with surprise and apprehension.