Seroje dreaded what she had to do as she tried to figure out who she could pretend to be, but her mind was blank.
Where do you want to meet?’, she texted back to Craig, having no other ideas other then she had to have dinner with him.
Jet, he texted. Seven pm.
Okay, you’re on this new assignment, she thought, trying to prepare herself mentally. Time to get equipped for the job. This meant she had to go home. She used extra precautions while she drove, making sure no one followed.
She took a fast shower and changed, then packed a bag. However, this wasn’t an overnight bag. Inside was a cache of money, her personal nine mm pistol with a couple of boxes of ammo, and some extra clothes, including some skin colored, very thin gloves. She checked the knife that slid into a close-fitting sheath that she wore, reachable via a fashionable slit in the leg of her jeans. She locked her house up, making sure her cameras and security system were working. The cameras were disguised to look like fancy corner moulding.
Seroje took the long way back to her storage unit, stashing her bag in the safe and leaving only armed with the knife and the gloves in a pocket. She spent a few extra minutes before she left for the airport, making sure there was nothing remaining in her car: no change, no trash, no personal items.
The time was six thirty-four pm.
Seroje pulled along side Craig’s car and parked. She took out all the fuses, so the car wouldn’t start, hiding them under the floor mat in the front seat. The car was going to sit there until she had everything figured out. She was now going into stealth mode. A psycho old boyfriend had unknowingly trained her well on how to do that.
There was a person waiting by the door, looking like airport security. The man opened the door for her and waved her toward the jet. Craig was already on board, but on a phone call. He was dressed in his dress pants and shirt, but no tie. She waited up by Pete who obliged by showing her the cockpit.
There were too many blinking lights and knobs, but she politely stared at things while Pete talked. The two seats for pilots looked comfortable.
“Thank you for the tour,” she said to him when he was finished. She returned to Craig. He was still on a call, but she didn’t leave. She remembered she had to change her tactics. She did need to listen to all his calls. However, this call provided her with no useful information since he talked about sales reports to someone.
A waiter appeared and set one of the tables up for dinner.
“You’re early,” Craig said to her, ending his call.
“Runs in the family,” she said, pretending they’d been a couple for a long time.
“Simple dinner here,” he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Does everyone know you live on your jet?” she said.
“Only my close friends,” he said.
“How does Pete have a life?” she said, thinking of OSLO and their requirements.
Craig smiled as he poured her a soda into a glass of ice.
“I have three pilots on staff. Always at least one on duty. Pete’s been on duty the last week. He’s off tomorrow for a week while Stan takes over. The other pilot is José, who fills in when needed. Pete and José do the international travel since I need two pilots if I make a puddle jump, such as going to Europe or Italy. Stan stays around in the continental United States.”
She nodded, accepting the glass, not fully understanding why he needed three pilots or what a puddle jump was.
“Usually, after ten years of service, a private pilot with my company can retire. Pete’s been with me twelve years and José eleven. Stan’s been around eight. Pete and José show no signs of retiring, and they do a great job. I hope they stay around a while.”
“I like Pete,” Seroje said. She sipped her soda, savoring the taste as the waiter appeared with covered plates.
“Simple steak dinner,” Craig said.
The waiter lifted the covers and left.
The jet shifted slightly as the man left the jet.
“We are now officially alone,” Craig said.
“In the pilot’s lounge, in the airport,” he said. “There’s a place to stay there. He’s quite comfy.”
She had a brief feeling of panic as Craig moved, but he merely waved her to her seat and he sat.
She had to admit she was hungry.
The fillet was tender, the garlic mash was buttery and savory, and the green beans were tender with more garlic and butter. Each dish had just enough salt and pepper.
“How is your steak? I had to guess how you’d like it,” he said.
“Medium rare is good,” she said. “Very tasty. I like garlic.”
“You seem to like umami types of food,” he said.
“New word, umami,” she said, keeping her eyes on her plate.
“Savory. Yum yum,” he said, licking his lips.
“Yes, this qualifies as yum yum,” she said, enjoying the fact that the servings were just right, leaving room for the thin sliver of chocolate cake that was for dessert.
“I have one duty for the night,” he said, once they were finished. “Anyone onboard must know how to operate the door in case of fire. This way.”
He led her up to the front, to the door where she’d entered the jet. The door was closed.
“Pull this handle. The door will swing up and out to open,” he said, demonstrating. The door opened and the airstairs lowered to the ground. “To shut the door when you leave, hit this button. The door will automatically close in sixty seconds.”
“How do you get back in?” she said.
“You’d have to have a key or the remote,” Craig said, pushing the button to shut the door.
“You are now officially trained to be aboard this jet,” he said with a smile.
His phone rang and he looked at it.
“Give me a moment,” he said, walking to the back of the jet. “Hello?”
The voice at the other end of the phone leaked into the room and had one familiar tone to it, but she’d not heard enough to place it.
She moved up to the dinner table and sipped the watery remains of her soda.
Craig’s voice was muffled, but understandable, especially when he said, “Yes, she’s here with me now.”
She stiffened, wishing he hadn’t said that, feeling that she couldn’t sleep here now even though she knew Craig expected her to stay since they’d started the intimacy pattern of the relationship. But the thought of someone knowing she was here caused her discomfort.
She knew she’d pissed off Hank by quitting, and that would send a ripple through OSLO. OSLO was a bother and becoming a bigger problem now that she knew the shooters and her tail were from there. She couldn’t be comfortable unless she was where no one knew where she was.
But how to leave? If she pretended to feel ill, he’d escort her out to her car and expect to watch her drive away. She was going to have to stay here, at least a while longer.
His call ended and he returned, moving the dinner dishes out of the way. She sat on one of the sofas that had a view out of the windows. He turned the lights out and sat beside her, looking out at the lights on the runway and the lights of planes landing or taking off.
“You can sleep with this roar?” she said as a plane took off.
“Airport winds down around ten pm. Never closes, but not much goes on after ten. After a while, you get used to it,” he said. “Best security around.”
He sought and found her hand, sitting there, looking comfortable. She thought he was probably giving her time, but she could not relax. Someone out there knew where she was.
Craig put his arm around her and leaned back. Fifteen minutes later, she could tell by his breathing that he was asleep, tired out from the day.
Seroje waited twenty minutes before rising, careful not to wake Craig. The door to the jet opened without a sound, then she hit the button for it to close and she stepped down the steps as quietly as she could. She had to go through the pilot’s lounge to get out to the area by her car, but no one was in there. She didn’t know where Pete was.
She called for a cab, waiting by one of the main buildings away from the cars. The cab arrived thirty-five minutes later. She gave him the address of Craig’s building, paying the cab driver with cash.
The time was eleven-fifteen pm.
Seroje walked the area, casing every nook and cranny, noting every camera. The only camera was at the entrance of his building. Across the way, at a diagonal, was an alley that contained garbage bins. There was one weak light over a doorway. She aimed a rock at it, and it blinked out. In the darkness, she slid down to sit beside a bin with a slit of a view of his building.
She sat there all night, not knowing why or what she was to expect. All she knew was that no one knew where she was, and that seemed important at the moment.
She hoped security aboard Craig’s jet was as good as he said. Getting in did seem more difficult than getting out as a card key or a security guard was required to get through the door. She hoped no one was going to try messing with the jet.
Her mind seemed to refuse to focus on what was happening. She stared at the bricks of the other building, analyzing every pock mark and color variation.
A truck rumbled by, causing her to hope it wasn’t garbage day in this area since she’d have to move, but nothing disturbed her. Daylight soon lit the area. People walked by, oblivious to her presence as they headed to work. Even the two dog walkers and their dogs didn’t seem to notice her.
She stiffened as Craig’s car passed by, parking in a space out in front of the building. He got out, dressed in his usual perfect business attire, pausing to stare at the alley as if expecting to see her. She wondered if he missed her and if he was wondering why her car was still at the airport.
Her phone lit up giving her the answer.
You okay?, the text from him read. He must have sent it from the elevator going up to his office.
Yes, she texted, feeling she needed to respond because she didn’t want him doing frantic texts and phone calls.
Yes, she texted back with no further explanation.
Yes, Sam’s, she texted, picking the location because she already knew the area.
See you at noon, he texted, setting the time.
She rose, waiting for the blood to circulate in her legs, before she left the alley to find a car to rent and a restroom. The walk to the rental place took her awhile. She used the restroom before going to the desk.
“I need something small until my car is fixed,” she said with a quick smile.
While the man put together the paper work, she watched an older woman walk in, carrying a large purse. The woman reminded her of Amy, and she wished she had Amy’s little revolver. Maybe she needed to buy a purse and carry her pistol, but her pistol was a little large and heavy to lug around all the time. Maybe she needed to buy something smaller.
“Here you go Ms. Mur,” the man said, and Seroje walked out to a little blue car.
The blue was intense, making her wish she’d gotten another color, but no one knew she had this car. She’d not stand out, but she had a hard time feeling that way as she drove to a convenience store for a bottle of water. Then she headed to a gun shop as far from OSLO as she could go. She had an idea of what she wanted.
“Can I help you?” the man said. His nametag read Jack. His hair was in a pony tail. His jeans and t-shirt, featuring a heavy metal band, were clean. His sneakers squeaked.
“Hi, Jack. What do you have in a nine mm revolver?” she said, keeping her eyes down at the counter as if she was looking at the guns.
“You want the Ruger. Small. Feel it,” he said, pulling the gun out of a case from under the counter.
The revolver was light and fit her hand well. She pushed the release for the chambers. Five shots. There was no external firing pin to pinch her if her hand wasn’t in the right place. The trigger pulled easily. She’d not need a very large purse for this one. And it took the same ammo as her nine mm pistol.
“Sold,” she said, handing him her driver’s license.
“Let me look you up,” he said, taking the license. He only took twenty-five minutes to complete her background check and approve the purchase.
She handed him a credit card.
“Need any ammo?” he said. “I’ve got some boxes on sale.”
“One box will do,” she said, thinking that way, she’d not have to go back to her storage unit.
He rang up the sale and put everything in a bag.
“Here you go. Enjoy,” he said with a smile. He was missing a few back teeth.
“Thank you,” she said, leaving the store, thinking of her next purchase.
She drove around, wondering where she could buy a purse. For some reason her mind blanked out about how to purchase an item such as this and she ended up at the same department store where she bought her shirt. She bought another shirt as well as a blue jean styled purse. The purse almost matched the blue jeans she was wearing.
Seroje changed her shirt in the car out in the parking lot, then loaded the revolver and put it in the purse with the box of ammo. She drove to another convenience store for more water, buying three bottles this time, and throwing her old shirt, the receipt and the case for the revolver in their trash. The clutter was distracting in the car.
She felt a lot different carrying a gun when she went to the marina. This time she parked on the other side. The condos were quiet since everyone was at work. There was no one walking on this side. She noted the two guys smoking who’d been there the day before on the other side of the marina and wondered if they lived in one of the condos. There was no boat traffic.
She was early and decided to sit on a bench outside the restaurant, watching the parking lot. There was a steady stream of traffic and people as the lunch crowd descended on the restaurant.
Craig’s car pulled in two minutes after noon. He parked almost at the far end of the parking lot since the lot was now filled with the lunch crowd. Another car pulled up into the lot behind Craig as he walked up to the restaurant. She recognized another OSLO employee. The car drove through the lot, then parked as far away as possible.
“Good afternoon, sweetheart. Sorry I’m a few minutes late. A meeting ran over,” Craig said. “Can’t set a bad example by running out of a meeting, especially when I’m the one that set it up.”
She smiled, giving him a quick kiss.
“No problem,” she said. “It’s another nice day.”
The waiter sat them at the same table and left without taking a drink order or giving them menus. Another waiter rushed in with iced teas.
“They know you,” she said, noting that there were people waiting for tables, but they’d not had to wait.
“I own the restaurant,” he said. “But I pay just like any other customer. Keeps the books clean and my expenses straight.”
“If you say so,” she said. “I don’t know business stuff.”
“Tomorrow is Friday. Would you like to go to the beach? We can get an earlier start,” he said.
“Yes, we can do that,” she said, thinking getting away from this area would be good.
“So what’s up with your car?” he said.
She expected that question sooner, and she had the answer.
“A fuse goes out. There’s a short. I’ll get a new one and get it fixed. I’m borrowing a friend’s car at the moment,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind it sitting at the airport.”
“No, not at all. I can have my mechanic take a look at it for you if you want,” he said.
She shook her head. “That’s okay. You can pick me up on the way to the airport.”
“I can do that,” he said.
The waiter came to take their order.
“Soup and the half sandwich. Cream of crab for the soup,” she said.
“Fish and chips,” Craig said.
Seroje wasn’t expecting the OSLO employee to appear since he had to wait to get a table. She expected he was probably waiting outside.