(Continued from Predators I)
“What do you think Albert will do eventually?” Humphrey asks Nancy as they sip coffee at a small café just around the corner. They have a perfect view of the street, so they are confident that Albert cannot ambush them here. This is where they came to hide the other day when he ambushed them in the office. It is a couple of weeks since Albert ambushed them at the office, and they are still playing cat and mouse with him. But they are growing tired of running.
“To us? Nothing. He can’t say anything because he is also in the same mess. It will be suicide for him.”
“Then why do we keep running away from him? I hate this business of creeping through fire exits like a rat. Why can’t we just tell him that we are unable to pay? Then he can go hang himself if he wants to.”
Nancy sips her coffee and stares outside vacantly outside the window. Part of her feels sorry for Albert. As a lover he was fantastic: loving, thoughtful, caring and everything nice she would want in a man. Had they met under different circumstances, she would have considered going steady with him, even though she knew he was married. She knew he wanted something long term with her. He said it to her several time.
On the other hand, however, Albert is a fool. She was not impressed by the fact that it was so easy to flatter him into opening up his bank’s resources to Tegeta. For a man who has been hailed as a corporate captain to watch, Nancy was disappointed that he rolled over so quickly. The sex helped, of course. But Nancy has come to learn that the corporate world has some very tough operators: men and women whose decision making capacity is not influenced by lust.
There is the question of the bribe. Five million shillings played a huge role in influencing Albert’s mind. But then again, the industry’s best know how to weigh their risks…and to mitigate them. Albert just grabbed the money like a fool without asking himself what the risks were. That is the reason why Nancy is finding it difficult to completely be sympathetic. She prefers strong, cunning men. Albert has proven himself to be weak and foolish.
“Albert is a weak man, Humphrey. But there is nothing as dangerous as a person who is cornered. If we tell him we are not going to pay, we will have placed him in a corner, and he will fight back…not because he is courageous or anything, but because it will be the only option he will have for survival. He will be sure he is sinking, and he will not want to sink alone. He will drag us down as he falls. That is what I am trying to avoid.”
Humphrey smiles at his friend. Nancy is a smart woman, but she sometimes can be very narrow minded. There is an obvious solution to this problem, but she is too fixated on survival that she cannot see it. Nonetheless, he cannot fault her because he has also been operating on survival mode up to this point. Besides, his association with her has minted him millions over the years. She is the one who has come up with almost every wicked scheme they have conjured up in the fifteen years they have been working together. They have worked together at Tegeta for five years now, and before that they worked at Basuda Manufacturers Limited. Humphrey was the Chief Operating Officer at Basuda, while Nancy was the Chief Accountant. When Humphrey was hired by Tegeta as the CEO, he brought in Nancy as the CFO.
Nancy not only knows how to cook up schemes, she also knows how to cook books to cover the schemes. During their time at Basuda, they pilfered millions of shillings from the company under the nose of the CEO, who happened to be the son of the company’s founder. Basuda is a giant, and it is still humming its way into profits running into hundreds of millions, so nobody has even noticed that a few millions were being pilfered every year. The only reason Humphrey and Nancy left was because they had a falling out with one of their partners-in-crime, a supplier, and the fool was threatening to expose them.
Tegeta is a different story altogether. When he took up the job, Humphrey knew that the company was on its knees. But that made it attractive for a different reason altogether. If he could pull the company from the brink, or appear to have pulled it from the brink, then he would become a legend, and few would doubt his decisions. That would create the perfect ground for him to start milking the company. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, and that is why he invited Nancy, who was only too willing to come. The situation at Basuda was threatening to explode on her as well.
In the past five years, they have rehabilitated the company from an insolvency case to what appears to be a going concern. In the process they have created partnerships that have benefitted them immensely. The company’s actual financials are still weak, but through clever accounting, the company has even been able to post profits for the last two years. To his credit, however, Humphrey has been able to attract enough business to make the cooking of accounts possible. They are able to pay salaries and overheads without a fuss…but the company’s liabilities have also ballooned.
“This is a very simple issue, Nancy. We should call that clown to a meeting and then agree to a payment plan that suits us. We can even restructure that loan to cover the default. And because he is desperate for a way out, I am sure will agree.”
Nancy bursts out laughing.
“Sometimes I am such an idiot. Why haven’t I thought about that before?”
She throws her arms around her boss and kisses him on the lips. The café is deserted at this hour, save for the attendant who has seen their PDA before. He will not say a word because these two are his bosses. Nancy and Humphrey own this place, and it is here that many deals are struck. Not that there are spouses to fear. Humphrey is divorced, while Nancy has never been married. While they have always been attracted to each other, they decided long ago that a relationship between them would be detrimental to their material success. But that does not stop them from sleeping with each other from time to time. They are “friends-with-benefits”.
Alice watches the time with growing anxiety. It is 12.43, about 17 minutes to her enforced date with that man Albert. She tries to look around desperately for an excuse not to meet with the man, but none is forthcoming. She has talked to her boyfriend Joab, but he did not have any ideas either. At 12.59, Albert calls her to ask whether she is ready.
“I am not feeling too good. I think I will pass for today,” she replies, trying to sound as physically weak as she can.
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that,” he replies gently. “Then I have to take you to the hospital right away. You cannot continue to work while in pain.”
“Thanks for the offer sir, but I have already gone to the hospital.”
“But I can see you at your desk,” Albert responds. Alice quickly glances at the door, and is surprised to see him standing just inside the open office where the majority of the staff work. Her heart sinks.
“Yes, I am at my desk,” she replies on the phone, hoping he will not decide to come to her desk. “I have been treated and given medication. I will be fine, but I just don’t have the energy to go out today.”
“If you don’t have the energy to go out, then you most definitely don’t have the energy to work. Come, let me drive you home…or should I come over and pick you. I can carry you to the car if you are feeling too weak to walk.”
“No, that will not be necessary,” Alice says without hiding her irritation. Her colleagues are already shifting glances between her and the financier at the door, and Alice hates that kind of attention. “Wait for me at the reception. I will be out in five minutes.”
“Okay, but if you don’t come in five minutes, I will assume you have been unable to walk and I will come to pick you up.”
Alice does not reply; she simply hangs up and watches as he walks out. She has already made up her mind. She is not going to get entangled with this man. She will escape through the fire exit, the same one Nancy and Humphrey used to flee the other day. She puts her laptop on sleep mode, picks her handbag and prepares to exit.
Thanks to a guard that he bribed, Albert now knows about the fire exit. He also knows that that is how Nancy and Humphrey managed to escape from him the other day. Today the guard has made sure that that fire exit is locked, so Alice cannot use it to escape. Today she has no option but to go out with him. But he will give her time to try and make her escape. There is nothing that Albert finds more thrilling that pursuing a woman who doesn’t want him. There are not many, because most of the girls he pursues quite literally throw themselves at him when they realize that he is a CEO of a bank…or when they see his car. That is what makes women like Alice special. When he finally conquers her and takes her to bed, the victory will be sweet.
He is still standing at the reception when Nancy and Humphrey enter through the front door. At first Albert thinks he has caught them unawares, but he quickly realizes that the meeting is choreographed. They knew he was in the building before they entered. Which can only mean that they have something up their sleeve.
“Ah, just the man we have been looking for,” Humphrey says with a broad smile. “Albert, Nancy has actually told me that she wanted to call you. I think she misses you.”
There is no one at the reception; the receptionists have gone out for lunch. Still, Humphrey keeps his voice low so that he cannot be overheard. Humphrey winks at the banker, and this irritates Albert. But he keeps his cool.
“How can she miss me when she has been ignoring my calls?”
“I am sorry sweetheart. I have been under a lot of pressure lately, but I promise I will make it up to you. Forgive me baby, please?”
She pouts like a teenager.
“You decided to ignore me and I replaced you with your assistant. But I still need you to pay my money.”
“That is what I have been hustling for, my brother,” Humphrey says. “Nancy and I have a plan on how we can get out of this hole. Why don’t we go to my office and discuss it?”
“I will come at 2PM, and I had better find you here. For now, go in there and tell Alice that she has kept me waiting for too long.”
Nancy feels a wave of jealousy briefly overwhelm her, even though she is the one who brutally ended things with Albert. This man was once her lover, and now he is going out with her much younger assistant. She knows she is the one who pushed Alice in this direction, but it was meant to distract Albert, not to ferment into a relationship.
Alice is frustrated, having found the fire exit closed. She desperately needs a way out of this mess she is finding herself in. Her hopes rise when Nancy calls her to her office. Alice did not even see her boss enter the office. She looks pissed off, and Alice hopes there is some work she did badly and which she will be forced to repeat over lunch hour.
There is no such luck.
“Your boyfriend is waiting at the reception, and he is saying you have kept waiting for too long,” Nancy says curtly, without looking at Alice. Alice is confused for a moment, wondering how Nancy came to know that Joab is her boyfriend. But she quickly realizes that Nancy is talking about Albert.
“He is not my boyfriend…”
“I am not interested in your sexual life, Alice. Go and deal with your man, and quickly. The CEO doesn’t want to see him hovering around the reception. Go and give him what he wants, quickly.”
Alice wonders why the CFO is so furious. But she doesn’t have the luxury of time to dwell on her boss’ anger. It is now obvious that she has to go for lunch with that fool Albert, and that is what is occupying her mind.
She wishes the earth could swallow her, literally.
Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay:
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