The Terrorist’s Game
“Root for the girls who wear dresses and are intellectually very strong.”
Some days Talia thought that she should just take the subway. It was, after all, the most reliable mass transportation system in the country. United Nations Ambassador Taheem Sarraf of Qatar wished to meet with her for lunch. She knew it was going to be an uncomfortable situation for her, because the security that she had arranged at the man’s personal residence for an international cocktail party had been compromised. It was a first, and she had no definitive explanation for that situation. On top of that, he now requested that they have lunch in a perpetual construction zone which was impossible to navigate in a vehicle. Talia realized that today was not her day.
O’Hara’s Irish Pub was a well known spot locally. Located just yards from the original Twin Towers, O’Hara’s was one of the staging locations for the rescue workers during the 9/11 tragedy. Many a rescue worker ate and slept there, and it was probably the most stunning monument to everyone that worked during that effort in the entire city. The old style pub with its wooden bars and green string lights with dim lighting and working juke box was a monument within itself. There were patches from emergency units all over the world covering the walls, the ceilings and nearly every surface other than the tabletops in the pub. The food was amazing, and it was a favorite of anyone who had ever entered the establishment.
Talia had introduced Taheem to the pub years before, and as Michael was trying to find a way to drive her to the door of the building, she was thinking that she had made a mistake by turning Taheem on to the place. She sat in the front seat of the car with Michael as he failed to navigate that day’s construction zone in the area around the constantly evolving World Trade Center, tapping the handle on her door as though her impatience would make a difference.
“Why did I ever teach anyone about O’Hara’s?” Talia complained as she stared out her window. “I never should have started that.”
“Because you were sick of going to all the fancy places,” Michael replied. “You always say, fancy doesn’t necessarily mean good.”
“Sometimes I hate you identic memory,” she muttered. She actually liked his identic memory. It came in handy quite often around the office.
When she started as the Security Director for the UN, she had believed that she should take her clients to the world famous locations around Manhattan for lunch and dinner meetings. She spent a few years repeatedly dining at The Russian Tea Room, The Rainbow Room, and Les Halles. After a while, she wanted to have a more relaxed atmosphere, so she started to take her clients to more local spots, like O’Hara’s. The only problem that she had failed to see in the beginning, was that almost everyone loved O’Hara’s. The traffic issues in that neighborhood were unbearable, never-ending, and in no way a deterrent to her clients.
“What was I thinking?” she asked.
Michael smiled and didn’t comment. He finally made his way through the buses, taxis, cars, and utility vehicles to drop Talia at the corner where O’Hara’s was located. He had to stop between an off duty ambulance and a tour bus.
“See you in what, an hour?” he asked as she got out of the car.
“Better make it two,” she groaned. “I’ve got some explaining to do.”
As Talia approached the door, she noticed a man wearing a double breasted suit and a checkered ghutra with an iqal on his head standing outside the door. She assumed that Taheem was already inside waiting for her, and that this was one of his security team. Of course, due to the traffic issues, she was all of five minutes late; not that the ever punctual Ambassador would appreciate how she suffered in mid day traffic. With Taheem, there were few excuses for tardiness and even fewer for failure to live up to a promise, like keeping undesirables out of his cocktail parties.
She said a quick hello to the man in his native language, and he greeted her in English and opened the door so she could enter the pub. Once inside, a waiter approached her, but she waved him off as she saw Taheem seated at a table in back of the bar. She walked over and joined Taheem Sarraf, United Nations Ambassador from Qatar, who was dressed in a suit with a ghutra and iqal as well.
Taheem smiled as she took a seat. “I was afraid you had forgotten our meeting.”
“I would never forget a lunch with you,” she smiled. “I would like to forget the traffic in this neighborhood, however.”
“Ah, the one bad thing about O’Hara’s,” he replied.
The waiter instantly joined them from the back room where the other bar was located, and took their lunch orders. Taheem ordered the same meal every time they had lunch or dinner at O’Hara’s. He ordered Shepherd’s Pie and a Guinness. Talia had long since given up suggesting to him that he try anything else. It was his favorite, and it was the reason that he frequented the pub. His wife was not in favor of him eating such western food, because she believed that it was unhealthy, so he used business meetings as an excuse to indulge his food passions. Talia ordered the Spinach Salad, full well knowing that she was going to have a heavy dinner that evening in Little Italy. She wasn’t much for drinking alcohol, so she had an ice water with lemon rather than joining him in a beer.
While they waited for their order to come, the two discussed the weather, some comments that were recently made by the American President on the news, the latest trend in supercars (another of Taheem’s passions), and the ongoing construction in the area that was so loud outside the building that they could barely hear each other talk.
It wasn’t long before the food arrived. The waiter made sure that they had everything they needed to enjoy their meal and went about his work.
“The food looks delicious,” Taheem said.
“They make wonderful food here,” Talia replied.
“You know why I requested we meet,” he said.
She sighed and flung her red curly hair out of her way. “I do. You must know that this is not a typical circumstance regarding my private security services.”
“I have worked with you for years, and this has never happened before,” he agreed. “What did happen, and should I be concerned in any way about future incidents? The caliber of guest at any of my parties leaves me pressured to have the best security in the world. Up until last night, I was confident that you provided the very best.”
“There is nothing as far as I can tell that you should be concerned about. This was an extremely isolated incident. I wish I had a full analysis of the situation,” she said. “I’m still investigating the incident. It should be fully examined by the end of the day. I should have a full report available to you soon. I will verify my suspicions and have a solution in place quickly, and we will never encounter this issue again. My services are indeed, the best.”
“And your suspicions are?” he asked.
“My suspicions are that Mr. Walker must have entered directly from the beach. He may have walked from the National Seashore all the way to your house. In reality, it’s not a long walk.”
“You know who the intruder was?”
“Yes, he was taken to a location where I debriefed him on his activities, and made certain that he did not take any actions that were harmful to you in any way. What I have not verified yet, is how he made his way into the party undetected. I’m fairly certain of the beach, but I am still investigating that. The man is harmless. He genuinely does not seem to have any particular interest in you or anyone that was invited to the party. He has no international connections that would lead me to believe that there was anything other than superficial reasons for him crashing the party.”
“And who is this intruder? How do you know he has no political or malicious objectives?”
“His name is Cameron Walker. He seems harmless enough. He’s a security systems designer himself. He used to work for Google I think. He’s recently retired, and apparently had aspirations of becoming a tabloid site reporter. I’m certain that won’t work out for him. Especially not after Tyrell picked him up and carried him out of the party by his pants.”
Taheem took a gulp of his Guinness. “That seems like quite a leap, as you would say. Do you believe him? Could he be covering up a covert operation of some kind?”
“I don’t know,” she groaned. “I don’t trust anyone. You know that about me. I am investigating him thoroughly. I’ll know more soon. I don’t want to make a rushed judgment on something like this. I want all the information I can get, and then I can decide exactly who and what this man is. I did make sure that he had no pictures or recordings of anything from the party. There will be no repercussions or embarrassments for anyone at the party. The details of motive and means I will investigate further, and then I will deal with Mr. Walker.”
“Did he claim a motive?” he asked.
“He says he wished to meet me,” she replied. “That was the closest he came to charming.”
Taheem smiled at her. “I have never seen this side of your personality.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You are nervous, yes? That is the term, correct?”
“I am not. I am frustrated that someone managed to breach my security. It’s a matter of pride. This has never happened, and I promise you it will never happen again.”
“Is Cameron Walker an attractive man?” he asked, smiling. “I only saw a tweed jacket and Mr. Smith’s back last night.”
“I hadn’t noticed, why?” she asked. “Does it matter?”
“You are a single woman,” he mentioned. “Is he a single man?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she scoffed. “I merely want to find out how he got into the party, so I can make certain it never happens again. He seems harmless, but I want to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I don’t know him, and I certainly don’t trust him. I’ve only had a couple of short conversations with him, and he is nothing but frustrating. And, as I’ve mentioned, he crashed your party. That makes him a criminal. I still could press trespassing charges.”
“Is he smart?” Taheem asked.
“I guess so. He almost has to have a certain level of intelligence to breach my security. Why does that matter?”
“A man who frustrates a woman as much as this,” Taheem gestured at Talia. “He must be intelligent to have a woman like you so flustered. A stupid man would not interest you in the slightest, but he seems to challenge you.”
“Eat your lunch,” she ordered him. “I have no romantic interest in anyone, particularly a computer geek with lacking social skills. It’s an investigation into the character of a man who trespassed at your home during an international event against all the odds and my personal security. Nothing more.”
“And you are not eating for lunch. You are not a dainty eater,” he noticed. “Where are you going with this Mr. Walker for dinner?”
“Casa Bella’s,” she said without thinking first. “It’s only because I’m investigating. I thought it would help if I could have a full conversation with him, uninterrupted. Like when I meet here with you. I could have a better chance at finding out his real motive in a social setting with fewer phone calls getting in the way.”
“I am certain that is true,” he said, smiling. “It’s good to hear that your motives are purely professional.”