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“Are you the Messenger?” the client asked, he puffed out smoke from the Gurkha Black Dragon cigar he had been smoking and tapped the burnt end over the glass ash tray.

The Messenger was on a black suit and donned a black hat. He had been facing the wall-sized window ever since his new Saudi client walked in

He admired the beautiful city of Paris spread out below and radiated in all its glory, it was all electrifying lights from the Champ de Mars, Maine Montparnasse tower to the distant Eiffel tower, many other significant structures stood out. Night time was the best period for one to experience the beauty of the magnificent city, little wonder it is called the ‘City of Lights’.

“This is ridiculous, while coming to Paris to meet you, I never expected an internationally wanted criminal to have an office in the heart of such a populous city,” the Saudi kept on smoking off the expensive cigar while watching the Messenger surreptitiously. His voice didn’t match his surprise at all, he just wanted to study this mysterious man and at least get an idea of how he thinks. He even doubted if the averagely built man before him was really the famed ‘Messenger’ who had many high profile assassinations and criminal activities to his name.

“I’ve read your application,” the Messengers said in his scratchy voice and paused, he transferred the leather bound contract folder to his right hand and used the other to rub his itchy neck, the organic synthetic face mask he applied for the day was beginning to thaw out from the back of his neck; he had to keep avoiding the sun because of his condition.

“Do you know why they call me The Messenger?” he asked his back still turned on his client. The Saudi had a good English accent for a man from the Middle East but he rested his doubts after he had looked him up and confirmed his claims of affiliations with the governments of various powerful countries.

“Since you wanted me to know, you might as well go ahead and tell me. I’m curious,” the client scoffed and puffed a smoke ring into the air,

“It’s simple, I’m a messenger and I run errands and deliver messages. You see, as simple as that,” he said and looked up as an airplane flew past; it’s underneath lights blinking insistently against the dark sky.

For a moment he had mistaken it for a drone, he had been seeing a lot of them of recent; for one thing, he knew that the CIA would never let him off the hook and using flying drones to scout for him would not be an exclusion from their tracking methods.

A chuckle escaped from the Saudi’s lips, “I’ve heard about that, you say it to your victims before their last breath but there’s more to this contract than meets the eye,”

“You don’t happen to be referring to mine?” The Messenger asked, a cold viciousness came with his question and for a moment the Saudi felt a cold shill run down his spine.

“Um, not at all, I assume you have your sources but this is utterly different, this is bigger than life itself,”

“I don’t have time and I am not a petty thief that steals artifacts let alone ones that might not even exist like the one you propose,” he said in a tone of finality but he remained at the window.

“I am one hundred percent sure. This tube is safely locked somewhere in the Iron Mountain situated in the United States. I’ll provide all the help I can. I do not need remind you that there are others like you, not excluding better high rated agencies that can do the job,”

“Then you shouldn’t have come at all; go ahead contact them, I don’t do this type of job,”

“I did not come all the way from Dubai to Paris just to be turned down. This artifact is priceless and almost a myth but I did purchase it under the name of my corporation, its security and responsibility still depends on them until it is transported safely to Dubai; let’s say there’s a scenario whereby the artifact goes missing, I get double refund as per our agreement, you get thirty percent and everyone goes home happy,” the Saudi explained with the cigar still in his mouth.

The office was dead silent for a couple of seconds; the only sound was the silent hum of the air-conditioner standing in a corner.

“What do you say? We have a deal?”

“You know what?” The Messenger asked,

“What?” the Saudi asked, he was swerving the plush office chair side to side and kept his eyes fixated on the Messenger.

He had heard lots of rumors about the Messenger to know that he had to be careful while dealing with him. He knew that he could be dangerous at times especially when pissed off.

“My sources were right,” The Messenger scratched the skin on his neck and stuck his hand in his left pocket.

“About what?” his hairs stood on edge but he tried his best to keep his voice steady, he dragged deeply on the cigar to make the silence less troubling for him.

“About you being one of the brightest brains the Middle East and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could produce,” he turned and walked round to the desk where his client was sitting and pulled out a leather-bound book from the book shelf.

“Oh, your compliments are heart-warming Messenger. I’m honored,” the Saudi said with a nod of his head. He pulled out the cigar from his mouth and laughed heartily.

“Sign here, here and here,” the Messenger commanded, the Arabian client couldn’t make out his face in the dim lighting of the office as the Messenger had always kept to the shadows.

“My lawyer…”

“No lawyers signore, I don’t have time. Do you want me to do the deal or not,” he said in his scratchy voice.

The Saudi read up the one page agreement appending his signature in the lines provided. The Messenger closed the thin leather-bound page and depressed the center of the cover and a cut-out square separated itself from the rest of the leather to reveal a glass panel on the cover of the book.

“Right thumb, left index,” the Messenger ordered and the Saudi quickly complied. He pressed his right thumb and left index fingers on the glass panel which lit up with a brief flash of red that blinked and quickly died away.

“Who would be used as the doe?” he asked. The Saudi looked at him confused,

“I don’t understand,”

“One of the reason why I have never been arrested or seen by the law is just because I give my clients the choice to select someone who would take the fall for the crime, I prefer to call them ‘a doe’. In most cases I choose by myself but my clients whom I choose for normally don’t appreciate my choice.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I usually end up using an uncle or their sons, whoever suits the need at the time,”

“No no no, I think I’d better choose,” the Saudi picked up his half burnt cigar from the ash tray and smoked, “Derek Oscar, Nigerian,”

“His name rings a bell (he pauses and tries to remember) Oh, I know that guy, the dude helped to take down one of my major clients, the Malibu mafia, some two years back. Well, it’s about time for pay back. You mess with my client, you mess with me,”

The client smiled broadly with the big cigar still in his mouth, the Messenger leant on the table and faced him squarely, and the hat still covered most of his face,

“You should be afraid of me, those who try to betray me do not always have a beautiful ending, and I don’t even like the families having a body to bury. They just disappear like this… puff,” he makes a sign with his hands like that of an exploding bomb. The client could see the outline of a grin on his face,

“Always, I’ll sure keep those lines in mind, might be useful someday,” the Saudi said while puffing out smoke rings up in the air,

“You bet. This meeting is over signore,”

“How long? The world leaders I work for don’t happen to be a patient breed,”

“Three days,”

The client stood up, “Too bad you didn’t even serve me a drink but there’s something I’ll also like you to keep in mind Mr. Messenger. This is how I handle those who try to double-cross me,” the Saudi dropped what was left of the cigar on the marble floor; he kept his eyes fixed on the Messenger before crushing it with the heel of his black loafers.

“I drop them and I crush them. I just want you to know that if anything goes wrong or happens to me, my people would come after you and you’ll be sorry,”

“Are you threatening me?”

“It’s not a threat, just a promise,” the client added and winked.

He could see the glittering eyes watching him closely from under the hat and another chill ran up his spine, he wondered how well he could trust this ghost of a man to carry out the assignment without any complication but from what he had heard of him, he was the right man for the job and he had never failed an assignment – if he was to go by what his sources told him.

“Three days it is,” the Arabian said sharply and made for the exit. He could feel the piercing gaze of the mysterious assassin on his back; he kept his cool and headed for the elevator without looking back and for a fleeting moment, he felt like this mysterious man would shoot him at the back and no one but the hired chauffeur waiting downstairs would know where he was.

Nothing happened and he was glad to finally leave the eerie hotel room; experience had taught him that it was no use being soft on a hired henchman and by any luck, his toughness would give that guy something to think about whenever some silly ideas crosses his mind.

He grinned and went down the front stairs under the moonlight and got in the back seat of the waiting Bentley Bentayga.

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