The time was six am on Tuesday. Seroje dialed Craig’s phone number. The phone rang almost to voice mail.
“Yeah,” he said, answering in a sleepy voice.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Where you been?” Craig said. “I can’t call you, remember. What’s your number?”
“I’m already calling you,” she said.
“I see,” he said, sounding like he was waking up more. “Want to meet for lunch? At Sam’s? Nice view. Nice food. It’s down by the water.”
The sound of him stretching reached over the phone.
“I know where it is. What time?” she said.
“Noon,” he said. “We can have a leisurely lunch and plan our elopement.”
She laughed her polite laugh, one she used when she wasn’t sure how she should respond when someone seemed to not be serious.
“Yes, that will be fine,” she said, staring at the wall of her unit. “I will see you then.”
She ended the call, continuing to stare at the wall while she passed the time. There was light coming from under the door and overhead on the eaves of the roof. She waited until ten to leave the unit and drive to an inexpensive department store, where she bought a new shirt and used their restroom to tidy up and change shirts.
Seroje parked her car at the far end of the marina. She knew the area since she’d walked there before, but had never eaten at the restaurant that was situated on the inside curve of the marina where the boats were moored. There was a boardwalk with benches that encircled the entire marina, creating a park-like atmosphere. High-end condos encircled the boardwalk.
Seroje put on sunglasses as she locked her car. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sun was very bright.
Sea gulls screamed overhead at an old lady who was throwing popcorn at them. The screaming was annoying to Seroje. The boat that floated past was more peaceful because it kept to a low speed, making little waves. The boat held two guys with fishing poles and coolers looking as if they were heading out to do some fishing. A man smelling of cigars and cherries strolled past her with a dog, watching the boat go out.
The breeze was just right; she caught the smell of butter and fried food from the restaurant, along with the smell of boat exhaust and cigarettes.
She wrinkled her nose.
A young woman jogged by without a bra. Two guys who were sitting on a bench and smoking followed the woman with their eyes. Seroje walked by them as if she was invisible since their attentions were on the jogger.
Craig’s car pulled into the lot. She stopped along the railing of the boardwalk. Craig got out, looking around the lot, probably looking for her car, she figured. He kept looking as he entered the restaurant.
Seroje remained where she was, unsure of her feelings. Was he as wonderful as she thought? What was going on? Why was she being followed? Was it him? Or her company? Or someone she didn’t know about? She didn’t like how her life no longer had a regular routine. Too many changes. Too much uncertainty. She hated that.
She’d had a few bad boyfriends that made her weary of every man, which was why she was so loath to give out her phone number. Once a man had it, he’d call constantly and then she’d have to change it.
Craig reappeared outside, being seated at a table. She continued along the boardwalk toward the restaurant, going through a gate to gain access to the restaurant’s outdoor seating. She sat beside him so they had the same view.
“Good afternoon, sweetheart,” he said with a smile. He leaned in, and she allowed a gentle kiss to her lips.
“Nice day,” she said.
“Walked here?” he said.
“Walked around a little. Was early,” she said. “I’m hungry.”
The waiter brought iced tea and menus.
She glanced at the menu and smiled.
“You’ve decided already?” he said.
“Cloak and Dagger,” she said. “Bottom, right.”
“Ah, corn beef sandwich on rye,” he said. “I like their fish and chips.”
“I don’t like fish,” she said, watching the water.
“We had fish in Tennessee,” he said, watching her as usual.
“Lobster bisque soup isn’t fish,” she said with a laugh. She sipped the tea and decided it needed sugar.
The waiter appeared to take their order.
“Cloak and Dagger and the fish and chips,” Craig said, ordering for them and handing the waiter the menus.
“So seafood isn’t fish?” he said once the waiter was gone.
“No. Shrimp, lobster and crab are not fish. I like those, preferring crab and shrimp over lobster,” she said, stirring sugar into her tea.
“So fish is the finny stuff with scales,” he said.
She nodded. “I think so.”
“So no salmon or tuna?”
“No,” she said, catching sight, out of the corner of her eye, of a man seated off to their left. He had a jacket that he didn’t remove despite being outside in the sun. He was the third shooter from the Italian restaurant.
Seroje felt panic sweep over her as her eyes focused on her iced tea. She was relieved that Craig took this time to be quiet as he sipped his tea and looked out over the marina, giving her time to think.
“Can I take a picture of us?” she said, fishing out her phone.
“I guess you can,” he said.
“Let’s have the water behind us,” she said, positioning him. She raised her phone, focusing the phone camera on the man. She used the backside camera of the phone, pretending to fumble with it, taking two pictures before getting the camera on the front of the phone working and taking a picture of them.
“Got it, thanks,” she said as they scooted their chairs back into position.
The man ordered a drink.
Seroje decided he wasn’t going to pull any shooting at the moment since he was alone and in full public view. The lunch crowd was filling in around them.
She placed her phone under the table to prevent Craig from seeing while she sent the man’s photo to her boss with a message stating that this was the third shooter and asked him what was going on.
Their food came, and she’d still gotten no reply. The waiter knew Craig got the fish and chips, and she got the sandwich.
Craig was talking about boats and the water.
“Do you water ski?” he said.
“No. Never have,” she said. “Not had much of a chance to be on boats. They move around a lot. Except for your big one. I like standing still.”
She concentrated on her food since she hadn’t eaten for a while. He seemed to like his fish and chips.
“How do you taste them with all that catsup?” she said, watching him drown the fries with catsup.
“I like them this way.”
She sipped her tea.
“More tea?” the waiter said, stopping by the table.
“Yes,” Craig said.
If not for the gunman behind them, Seroje thought lunch would have been perfect. And instead of enjoying herself as she should have, she was planning what she was going to do, depending on who the gunman followed.
“I have to fly to New York tonight. Can I call you later?” he said.
She was prepared for the question.
“No, I will be working and no cell phones,” she said.
“As you wish. Call me if you like,” he said, watching her. “I’ll be back tomorrow. We can get together for dinner.”
“I will call you,” she said, putting certainty in her voice and adding a smile.
He smiled back.
The waiter came with the bill, but Craig already had a credit card ready and the waiter left with it.
“This was a nice lunch,” she said, knowing she beat him to saying it.
He laughed. “Yes, this was wonderful.”
The waiter returned with his credit card and the receipt. Craig signed it and rose.
“I have to be going,” he said. “I’ve been neglecting business because of a beautiful distraction.”
“I can walk you to your car,” she said. “I’ll walk some more. That was a big lunch.”
Seroje followed Craig to his car. He gave her a hug and a kiss before getting into his car. The third shooter appeared. Seroje watched Craig drive off and knew the man was going to follow her. She felt a little unprepared since the only weapon she had was a knife.
She headed back on the boardwalk by the marina, monitoring how far behind the man would be. He didn’t try to hide himself at all since there was no place to hide. However, trying to hide in plain sight wouldn’t work if your tailed target already knew you were there.
She passed the halfway point to her car, planning what she’d do, setting the stage. There was a section of the boardwalk that curved up where the marina wall down to the water was the highest.
Seroje knew what she had to do as she patted her pants and her shirt as if she’d lost something. She doubled back, almost running into the man on purpose.
“Did you see it?” she said with intense panic in her voice. “Down there.”
The man looked without thinking, leaning over the railing. Seroje used his momentum and flipped him over into the water.
She didn’t even wait for the splash as she jogged away toward her car. She drove off without seeing if he could swim, only thinking with a laugh that he’d have a wet gun after this.
She drove a long time, to the far edges of Annapolis, until she found a small park. Her phone still showed no response from her boss. She sat in her car, staring at her phone for two hours before nine kids with a football started a game. They were noisy in their fun and irritating.
Seroje drove back to her storage unit to think. The only new information she had was that Craig had not recognized the shooter or had chosen not to mention it. His body language, however, told her he’d not recognized the man. This made sense since Craig hadn’t been aware of the shooters in the restaurant because he’d been watching her that night.
There was still no response from her boss. She felt frustration because her company’s motto was that they’d always respond to any request as quickly as possible when someone was on assignment. She was on assignment, wasn’t she?
Seroje spent the night in the storage unit, thinking and rethinking about all that she knew. Still, nothing made sense.
The time was eight am on Wednesday when she sent the first text.
Need a meeting, Seroje texted her boss.
There was no response for forty-three minutes.
Fri 3pm, he texted back.
Today, she texted back.
There was no answer. She stared at her phone for an hour.
Need a meeting, she texted again.
Fri 3pm, he texted back.
She felt like shouting. He wasn’t following the rules.
TODAY, she texted back, using capital letters to shout at him.
Seroje stared at her phone for another hour. There was no answer.
She rose and left her storage unit, making sure it was locked. After driving for ten minutes, she stopped at a convenience store to buy a bottle of water and use the restroom. The bottle of water was empty by the time she parked down the street from OSLO. She watched and waited.
The time was a few minutes after twelve o’clock. Many people left for lunch but shared cars, so the parking lot didn’t empty out. She waited until everyone was back from lunch. That was the time when most people were sluggish and least aware.
She left her car and walked to the building, passing the security guard, who hardly registered her presence, and up to the second floor right into Hank’s office. He was alone, eating a sandwich. She shut the door.
“If I’m in the field on assignment and need a meeting, I mean now,” she said in a normal voice.
“Friday 3pm,” he said in a loud voice back at her.
“NOW,” she said with a shout, setting him back in his chair. This was the first time she’d ever raised her voice to him or anyone at OSLO.
She pulled out her phone and pulled up the picture of the third shooter.
“Who is that?” she said in a demanding voice, showing him, holding the phone in her left hand.
“What has that got to do with Craig Manor?” he said, leaning toward her, glaring from his chair.
“That’s the third shooter from the Italian restaurant,” she said.
“What do you know about it?” he said, staring at her phone.
“I was there, remember,” she said, wondering if he was crazed. “I saw all three shooters. This one got away.”
“How do you know he’s the right one?” he said.
She thought that was the stupidest of questions.
“I’m good at remembering,” she said. “Don’t you remember I’m good with details? Been fighting with your wife again?”
The comment caused him to flinch.
“Bah,” he said. “That shooter is not your assignment. Go back to watching Craig.”
“That shooter is my assignment when I find him following Craig,” she said, keeping her voice even.
“Your assignment isn’t about who follows Craig, but what Craig is doing. Now do your assignment or get the hell out of here,” he said with agitation.
He stared at her while she stared at his collar for five minutes as she continued to hold up the phone. Hank took a bite from his sandwich and glared at her for five more minutes while he chewed. His mistake. The time allowed her to think.
“I think I will get the hell out of here,” she said in an even voice, knowing what she wanted to do. “I resign.”
She turned as she said the words and left his office, but a short way down the hall there was an empty office and she stepped into it to wait.
Five minutes later a man passed by in a hurry, heading toward Hank’s office. She could hear the voices, but not pick out the words to understand the conversation. One minute later, the man left Hank’s office, passing where she hid, in just as much of a hurry, heading toward the stairs.
She was glad she’d parked her car down the street and walked up, figuring it’d take them awhile to figure that out, if they ever figured it out at all. Thirty minutes later, she left the empty office and took the stairs down to the basement. There was a maintenance closet and she stepped into it to wait.
The maintenance guy, who she knew as Byron, left at three and he was prompt. She had the patience to wait, staring at the wall until she heard his bulk huff up the steps and smelled his sweat. She waited ten more minutes before leaving the closet and picking open his office door. An easy pick. His computer screen wasn’t locked, and he was logged in.
A couple of times she’d helped the IT guy, Mark, and still had his username and password. There were rules requiring everyone to change their password every thirty days, but Mark had himself set up so he didn’t have to. He thought he was special. She had no problem getting into the HR database to look at the pictures of all the employees.
Each screen took her only a second to look at, long enough to take a picture in her mind. She’d looked at every single employee, all one hundred and nineteen. The three shooters were OSLO employees. So was her tail in the park.
The information confused her. She stared at the monitor while she processed the information in her head. Why were OSLO employees doing this?
The building creaked and the air conditioning kicked on, spurring her to act. Seroje installed a virtual private network connection app on her phone that would allow her to connect into OSLO remotely. She created a new username and password which would all her to connect into their information system whenever she wanted since her work username and password were probably locked out by now since she resigned. She didn’t want to continue using Mark’s credentials in case he did change his password.
She found the master keys for the building in the desk drawer and took one just in case, frowning at the security weakness. Employees were the biggest weakness in any firm.
Free for dinner?
The text startled her since it was from Craig. How’d he get her number? She’d kept her phone off most of the weekend and if it was on, it was locked.
Her mind whizzed through possibilities: he knew a hack or contacted her provider? Was everyone’s security that easy to bypass? Craig didn’t know where she worked because she’d never told him. Even if he did know where she worked, OSLO wouldn’t have divulged that information to him.
She didn’t want dinner with Craig. She didn’t want dinner at all. Her brain tried to walk through what was happening, but she didn’t have enough information. Everything she thought of was pure speculation.
You have a new assignment, she told herself. You need to get more information. That meant dinner with Craig. Allowing OSLO to follow her. Watching OSLO and watching Craig. That was a lot of watching for just one person. She already felt overwhelmed.
She logged out of the programs she’d been in, then logged into the main network switch and located the ports used by the security cameras and shut them down. This would allow her to leave the building unseen, and she did, out the back door.
Seroje walked around the block, approaching her car from a different side. She watched her car for twenty minutes before deciding no one was watching, and she drove off.
She drove a few miles away to a fast-food place to use their wi-fi and connected into OSLO’s network to check their tracking application. She wanted to make sure no one had found her car and was tracking it. There was nothing.