Seroje drove the van to the parking garage near Craig’s building. It was still dark when she settled down in the alley behind the garbage bins to wait. No one had replaced the bulb in the light she’d broken. She set her phone on her lap just as it lit up with another text from Craig. His texts were getting more and more frantic and full of worry. He must have just gotten up.
The city woke around her and again no one noticed her there. The dog walkers must have chosen a different route since none of them passed. Only office workers, men in suits and women in skirts and heels, passed by.
The time was seven fifty-five.
Craig’s car passed and parked in front of the building. He looked just as perfect as usual.
She received one more text from him that just said “Good morning. I love you.”
At nine am, Seroje tensed; all her senses were focused, and her eyes were steady. Harold was walking down the sidewalk of Craig’s building. He looked around, allowing her to get a full view of his face, yet she’d know his ill fitting suits anywhere. He stopped by Craig’s car and waited, looking nervous. His fingers kept tapping against his leg.
The time was two after nine.
Craig stepped out of his building and walked right up to Harold.
“What the hell are you up to,” Craig’s lips said, although some of his voice reached her.
Harold was turned away and shrugged.
“I have OSLO employees following me,” Craig said. His face looked angry.
Craig knew about OSLO, she thought, feeling shocked.
Harold talked, but he was turned away from Seroje, although she thought she heard her name. Craig didn’t look happy. He looked pissed, fire coming out of his ears like that day on top of the helicopter pad.
Craig kept moving, showing his agitation, so she couldn’t catch all of his conversation. She had only caught a “stop” and “end this” before Craig went back into the building.
Harold turned back to the parking lot.
“Fucking asshole,” she caught Harold saying.
Saliva dripped onto her hand. She swallowed, having forgotten to. The shock was intense. Craig knew about OSLO and knew Harold. Her brain reeled and she almost shut down. But she mustn’t, not now.
Why would Craig know OSLO? She’d never told him who she’d worked for. Harold and Craig’s meeting here was not by chance. The familiar tone of a voice. Harold had called Craig on the jet that night, when Craig said she was with him to the person on the phone.
Her head spun. Her gut felt cramps. She had to concentrate hard.
This had to be the prearranged meeting that Craig made for Tuesday morning.
Perhaps, she thought, trying to calm herself, Craig, having had previous girlfriend issues, just like she’d had previous boyfriend issues, had hired OSLO to follow her. She had been secretive about her phone number and never told him where she lived. So maybe he got her phone number from OSLO, but would OSLO give out information on an employee to a customer? Even to someone as big as Craig?
But what did the three shooters in the restaurant have to do with this? The target that night had been Craig. Or had it? Could that have been staged? No, that didn’t make sense to her.
She opened up the app on her phone and got onto OSLO’s system. There was no reference to Craig anywhere. Not even a customer record for him. They were keeping his involvement on the quiet.
Her phone lit up with a text. Craig. She ignored it.
She sat there an hour before she could stand up, heading out the other end of the alley to circle around and get the van. The drive back to the motel room was hazy. She just made it to the bathroom where she threw up water, the only thing in her stomach, then lay spread eagle on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
Her mind shut down and she slept.
Someone was singing a poor rendition of an Elvis song. Something about a hound dog. The beat of the music coincided with the throbbing in her head. She needed to drink and drained the one bottle of water she had left.
The time was three forty-nine pm.
She cleaned up in the bathroom and checked out of the motel, without a clear idea of what to do, except to feed herself. A fast food place provided the food and a large soda.
She drove to Quiet Waters Park and sat hidden under a bush to eat, overlooking the water. Her phone lit up.
She did not respond to Craig’s text.
A dog not on a leash approached, sniffing in the bushes. The owner was on the path. Seroje did her best growl impression, causing the dog to stop dead, think about it, then turn tail back to its owner.
Seroje pretended to be a wild animal, daring anything to approach, but nothing else came near her, not a person, a bird, or even a squirrel. The mosquitoes found her, however, and she moved to a breezier location.
She stared at the ground as the sun set, listening to the city, the harbor, the insects, and the birds. Her heart tried to tell her that Craig was good, but she couldn’t hear it, intentionally wouldn’t hear it. She didn’t have enough information. Just because he showed he cared for her didn’t indicate he was good or bad. The evidence, however, was stacking against him.
She felt a cramp and had to pee, so she rose and with care, navigated the dark woods to the restroom facility, pausing to listen to make sure it was deserted. Once finished, she returned to her spot and spent the night thinking. She couldn’t tell if she slept or even if she kept her eyes open.
She rose when the sun appeared in the horizon, letting her blood circulate in her legs, before walking to use the restrooms one more time.
Seroje needed to approach this like a job to find out what was going on, to try and stop it, and to get back to a normal life. This was the only way to handle her emotions—to pretend she was on a job.
She repeated that like a mantra in her head while she sat on a bench waiting for the sun to be full up, almost feeling normal when she heard the dogs. There were two large German shepherds, straining on leashes, coming right at her. The two men holding them were OSLO employees. The men bent down at the same time to unhook the dogs from their leashes as Seroje slipped her hand into her purse. She didn’t even take her hand out, firing twice through the purse. Both dogs dropped and the men pulled out guns out from under baggy shirts, but she fired two more shots and they dropped.
She didn’t even wait for her brain to register what had happened as she moved as fast as she could, running into the trees, stepping behind bushes, but there was no one around as she came up to the parking lot from the other side. Seroje drove out of the park before anyone noticed the bodies.
She stopped and parked the car in another park. Her whole body shook, shocked by the blatant attempt on her life. She couldn’t even see straight because her eyes jittered so much as she stared at the steering wheel of the car.
Her phone lit up.
Morning. I love you, Craig texted.
The words had no meaning to her other than being annoying and making her angry.
I’m working. Quiet, she texted back, unable to see the keyboard and typing by feel.
She did have work to do, but she needed more than just her phone. The phone was connection was slow, and she needed to do a lot of work, a lot of work at OSLO. The time had come to go back under their noses, not only to see if she could find out more information, but to see how they were tracking the ring. There was more to OSLO than she was seeing. She’d been thinking only within the confines of the OSLO building. Seroje had to step out of those confines. And she had to stay out of Quiet Waters Park where they kept finding her.
OSLO was now a bad four-letter word in her mind. What sort of company sent people out to kill? Self-defense and being a bodyguard were one thing, but this was an outright murder attempt. She decided OSLO had to be a front for something.
Sirens startled her, bringing her back to the present and where she was. OSLO couldn’t continue to operate without getting police involvement at some time. She’d just killed two people at the park. Two people at the restaurant. Two dogs.
She reloaded the gun, dumping the used shells in the garbage of the park. That was the good thing about the revolver. A revolver didn’t eject the shells once the bullet was fired. Therefore, she left no shells. The bad was the limit of five shots before a reload. Good thing there’d not been three dogs and men.
She received no more texts from Craig while she drove to a hospital a few miles from the OSLO building. The hospital facility was busy twenty-four hours a day and she hid the car in the middle of the parking lot where it would remain inconspicuous for days if need be.
She packed supplies she needed into her purse and set off on the walk, timing things so she’d arrived during the lunch hour. A block away, she stopped to use her phone to log into OSLO. The smallness of the keyboard slowed her down while she logged into the main switch to check on the cameras. They’d gotten the cameras working by putting them in different ports in the switch.
Mark hadn’t figured out the ports were shut down. He was more of a programmer than a networking guy and didn’t understand the switches. She wished she knew which one was the back camera, so she could only switch that one off, but she’d need access to that system in order to figure that out, which she couldn’t do over the phone. That was something she could work on once she was in OSLO for the future.
She left her phone connected and approached the back of the building, outside of the camera range.
The time was twelve twenty-five pm.
She shut down the ports for the cameras, held the button to turn her phone off, then put on a glove and ran to the door ready with the key. The door wasn’t even locked, and she slipped inside, down the stairs and into the maintenance closet in the basement.
She put her phone in her purse and put her other glove on, knowing that being in the closet wasn’t enough of a hiding spot. There was a narrow hallway whereby placing her feet on one wall and pushing her back and hands against the other, she “walked” up between the walls and into the basement ceiling that was at least twelve feet above the floor. There were grid supports onto which she could move out of sight of the closet.
She found a good perch over a cement wall, comfortably sitting with her feet against a support grid. The only way someone could see her was if they got up there with her.
Ultra stealth mode, she thought, just as the closet door opened.
“Search the whole fucking building inch by inch,” Hank’s voice said. “Where’s the goddamn maintenance guy? Where’s Byron. Where’s Mark? I’ll fire that programmer’s ass as well. He said we could track her. Well, where the hell is she? Wish I knew about that goddamn ring sooner. Fucking Craig. I forgot he tracked all his women since that one who was still married.”
“We’re securing the building now, killing all the remote access and resetting all the passwords and rekeying the locks,” a new voice said.
“I want this building to be like Fort Knox and better,” Hank said with a hiss. “This has gone too far.”
“Gotta admit, she’s good,” the voice said.
“The goddamn best we have. Goddamn Craig. I know he picked her out to do this. Knew we’d have problems with him. Is this goddamn closet bugged?”
“Of course not. We gotta have some clean spot to talk,” the man said.
“Let’s get this done. We’re losing employees and money,” Hank said. “Harold wanted to get the takeover finished by the end of last month. Didn’t happen. We can’t do that with Craig still around. We need him out of the picture.”
“Continue to offer nothing to the police?”
“Dom, I don’t care about the police just yet. We got the moonlighting detective who’s helping out. With her car at the airport, we know she’s probably renting a car. He’s already checking out the rental places.”
There was the sound of Byron huffing down the stairs.
The closet door opened and shut. There was intense silence below her.
“Wha’d I do,” Byron said at last.
“We’re rekeying all the locks,” Hank said. “We have a rogue employee. Glad to see at least your office is locked.”
“I keep everything locked,” Byron said in his defense.
“Good, keep it that way,” Hank said. “And get this closet door locked.”
The sounds of people going up the stairs reached her while the huffs of Byron faded toward his office.
Who was Dom?
Seroje wanted to turn her phone back on so she could log back in and turn the cameras on so she could possibly see when Dom left the building, but she thought better of it after hearing they were trying to track her. The only thing left to track was her phone and if they had someone on the police force working for them, then they’d have some clout going to her phone provider.
Byron huffed back and seemed to be working on something in the closet. Then the door shut and she heard him jiggle the handle. She knew he’d changed the handle to one that could be locked.
The building creaked and the air conditioner turned on. People came stomping down the stairs.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Byron said from his office.
“Searching the building.”
Doors opened and closed while the men searched all the rooms. Lights flickered on and off, projecting up into the ceiling area, showing Seroje that she could get into any room in the basement by dropping down from the ceiling. However, getting back up could be a problem, which is probably why they didn’t consider the ceiling space in their search.
The time was one-ten in the afternoon.
The men left the basement.
“Basement is secured. Keep that door locked,” someone said as the basement door closed and the voices became muffled.
The fox is already in the chicken shed, Seroje said to herself, slinging her purse over her head and shoulder. She crawled, moving one slow step at a time, pausing after each move, along the cement wall. All the doorways were openings in the walls, making the top of the walls one complete path through the whole basement.
She reached an intersection of walls that made up one corner of Byron’s office. He sat there with his back to her, staring at his computer screen, looking like he was reading emails. His phone was on DND, do not disturb.
She slouched down on her hands and feet like a cat and waited.
The time was three pm.
Byron turned off his monitor.
“There, fucking idiots. My computer is off,” he said as he rose, grabbing his car keys off his desk. He shut off the light, locked his office door and huffed up the stairs.
“Am I getting a key?” she heard him say, realizing that there was a guard standing outside the basement door. The door shut and the voices became muffled.
She remained where she was until the time showed five thirty on the clock on Byron’s wall. Her hope was that the building would clear out and she’d get some undisturbed time on his computer.
Seroje stretched, listening hard for more footsteps overhead. She moved slowly, along the wall towards the back of Byron’s office. There was a tall cabinet she figured she could use to get down from the ceiling as well as get back up.
The basement door opened. She froze. Two men came down, opening Byron’s office door and turning on the light. If they looked up and searched, she’d be seen.
The men pulled all the cables out of Byron’s computer and left with it, shutting lights off as they went.
Seroje didn’t rue the loss of her easy access, but switched her mind to another target, the only computer they’d not turn off. The system that ran the place. She pivoted on the wall, aiming for the computer room.
The computer room was on the first floor, but all the cabling ran underneath it, down to the demarc, the demarcation point, where all the telephone lines and internet fiber converged inside the building, right down in the basement, where she was at. The room, where all the cabling converged, had access openings. If a person could fit through a two foot by two foot square, minus a couple of inches because of the cabling, that person could get up under the raised floor of the computer room and pop up through the floor anywhere where there was a tile that didn’t have anything standing on it. However, to get to the access opening, you needed a ladder, unless you were already up in the ceiling.
Seroje reached the room, pausing to collect herself. There were lots of blinking lights below her from the equipment. There were footsteps over her head. She’d have to wait, so she slouched down again with her eyes closed to block out the lights and to allow her ears to hear what they could.
There was the constant hum of the computer equipment. Footsteps crossed the floor as if someone was pacing. A chair rolled over the floor. There were muffled voices. The air conditioner kicked on for twenty minutes and then turned off. Those sounds continued for the next few hours. The only one that was regular was the air conditioner turning on and off.
“Alright, guys,” a loud muffled voice said. “Let’s clear the room. We’re shutting this place down for the night.”
She wondered if that meant they were going to shut all the systems down or just leave the building.
Footsteps sounded overhead, then were gone. The computer equipment in the room above her head continued to hum.