Thomas’ phone rang for the third
time in a space of a few minutes that morning and he did what he’d been doing before
he ignored it and enjoyed his English breakfast. By now he was used to seeing
his face plastered on newspapers with headlines such as “wanted fugitive
armed and dangerous.” He was flattered that the reward had been doubled to one
million Rands “Finally they’re pulling up their socks” he mumbled to
himself. X was immersed in his computers as usual the only times he moved was
to use the bathroom check up on Miracle or get himself some food. The
warehouse was becoming more and more like a home to them. It was now fully
furnished had the appearance of a contemporary open-plan studio. X had
suggested that they paint the walls but Thomas didn’t want too many strangers
having an excuse to walk in and out of the warehouse. They were still the most
wanted fugitives and it was taking chances such as hiring painters that got
many fugitives caught. The phone rang for the fourth time and Thomas ignored it
“Please don’t tell me that’s the beautiful Katherine Knight. Trouble in paradise already?” X asked.
“Yes that is Katherine and no there’s no trouble in paradise. In fact things are going exactly how they should be going” Thomas replied as he paged through the newspaper. He could move around freely now that he had a new identity. The previous day he’d taken the leap of going to the stores and buying groceries. No one noticed anything he didn’t pick up any suspicious glances. He was now convinced that if he threaded carefully he could get away with everything and rebuild his life from scratch.
“Then why are you ignoring her?”
“Because it’s part of the game.”
X spun his chair and focused his attention on Thomas “I don’t understand.”
“You’re a smart kid X. At least try. Why am I doing all of this?”
“Ignoring calls from a rich hot chick?”
“Not just that everything. I just broke out of the most secure prison in Africa twice. I’m the most wanted man in the country. Why am I doing all of this instead of running away and starting a new life on an island that no one has ever heard of with no extradition laws?”
“I don’t know why?” X asked clearly lost.
“Think X think. Use that brain of yours.”
“Jeez dude I don’t know. Is it because you’re arrogant or greedy or vindictive?”
Thomas laughed at the boy’s poor observation skills “My dad was a carpenter plumber and electrician. He was very good with his hands. As a young boy I looked up to him because he was my dad you know. So one day on a very rare occasion he sat down with me and we had a chat. We never had that; he was very old fashioned. He believed that a man’s duty was to provide for his family and it ended there. Things about love helping with homework and spending quality time with his kids were foreign concepts to him. But anyways I digress. So this one day that he sat with me I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was hotter than hell we sat under this big guava tree that we had at our house and he had a jug of ice-cold Drink ‘O Pop in front of him orange flavoured his favourite. We must’ve been sitting there for an hour without saying a word to each other until he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Thomas’ phone rang for the fifth time. This time he put it on airplane mode. “I told him I wanted to be an electrician like him. He looked at me and told me to go and fetch a hammer and a packet of nails from his toolbox. I thought he was going to teach me something so I ran with excitement and I came back and gave them to him. He took out a nail held it in one hand and held the hammer in the other. He said “The job of the hammer is to hit the nail repeatedly until it is satisfied. The job of the nail is to get hit by the hammer until there is no more use for it. Life is like that son. There are two types of people; the nails who get pushed over knocked down and tossed when there’s no use for them. Then there’s the hammers who are always looking for nails to hit to push around so that they can feel good about themselves. If you work for someone you become a nail. You give people the power to tell you what to do to knock you down and toss you away when they’re done. But when you work for yourself you put the power in your hands and no one can knock you down. I work for people so choose wisely son.’” Thomas said and waited for X to weigh in on the moral of the story.
“Sounds like a cool story but I still don’t get what it has to do with you ignoring the call of Katherine Knight who just so happens to be beautiful and rich.”
“I didn’t get it too at the time. But two weeks after I had that conversation with my father he got a call from his boss while he was on sick leave to report to work. The doctor had made it clear to him to stay bed for a few days but his boss wouldn’t hear it. He had a stroke on duty that day and he was replaced a few days and forgotten like a used nail. From that day I told myself I’d never let anyone push me around. That was until Patrick came along” Thomas said as he rose from his chair “For what he did I’m going to teach him a lesson that is so brutal he’ll regret the day that he let me walk out of his sight.”
“Damn that’s quite disturbing. Can you answer Katherine’s calls now?”
He shook his head “No I’ll call her later.”
“Why not call her now?”
“Because I’m in a meeting with an important client and I can’t pick up the phone. Secondly it’s human nature to be attracted to what we can’t have. The more I ignore her the more she’ll be curious to see me. Now have you uploaded pictures of me on Table Mountain?”
“Yeah and I must say I outdid myself. It’s the best photoshop work I’ve done to date” X said.
“Perfect.” Thomas said as he picked up his phone and dialed Kathrine’s number “Hey I just saw your missed calls. Sorry I couldn’t pick up I was in an important meeting with an international client. I’m sure by now you have plenty of experience in dealing with billionaires” he said smiling and nodding as Katherine spoke on the other end of the phone. “You want to meet today? Uhm can I check with my PA what my diary looks like today and get back to you in a few minutes? Perfect. Cheers.”
X was stunned and impressed at the same time “You have a billionaire client? A PA and a diary? Damn even I’m starting to believe that you have a secret company.”
“I just had an idea. Can you send an untraceable ransom demand to the Knight’s?”
“Yeah sure. But why? I thought you were only kidnaping Miracle to mess with Patrick.”
“Initially yes but there’s been a change of plan. We’re quickly running out of money and I need to keep up appearances with Kathrine. I think there’s more to gain here X. Much more. I’ll go upstairs to get ready for the date so long you work on that ransom demand” Thomas said as he headed upstairs to prepare himself.
McCarthy sat alone in the living room. She’d just finished preparing Jonathan for school and his transport had picked him up. This was the quietest time she usually had to herself before heading for work. She checked the time it was 6:30 she had about thirty minutes to disappear before Patrick woke up. They’d been avoiding each other since the weekend neither one ready to address the elephant in the room. She finished up her coffee and got up to go and take a shower.
“Hey stranger” Patrick said out of nowhere startling McCarthy.
“Patrick can you put something on please” she said brushing past him and rushing down the passage.
“Are we going to talk about what happened on Sunday night?”
“What happened on Sunday night?” James McCarthy said standing in the doorway. He was a tall gentleman. His hair already had streaks of silver suggesting that he was older than McCarthy. He was neither fat nor fit but clearly went to the gym every now and then.
“You must be James” Patrick said tightening the towel on his waist as he approached James to greet him. He extended his hand but James wasn’t interested.
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house half-naked?”
“Patrick!” McCarthy called out from the other room as the two men stared at each other.
“Can you please come and take your things from my room? You have your own room for crying out loud.”
“Now’s not a good time I think you should come here” Patrick replied. He turned to James “Well this is a bit awkward. Would you like some juice?”
“Are you serious right now? You’re offering me juice in my own house while you’re half naked?” James said he was clearly infuriated. “What I want is for you to tell me who the hell you are?”
“Patrick how many times…?” McCarthy looked like she was trapped in a car with a venomous snake. The last person she expected to see was her husband “James… Hi.”
“Hi? I come back to this and you tell me hi?”
Patrick turned to McCarthy “This is too awkward for me I think I should give you guys some privacy.” He turned around to look at James “Are you sure don’t want some juice James?”
“Patrick please –” McCarthy hadn’t finished speaking when James blasted a right punch at Patrick sending him stumbling to his knees. “James!” McCarthy knelt down next to a bleeding Patrick.
“How’s that? Oh I’m sorry. Would you like some juice asshole?” James barked at Patrick as he brushed past them. Before he disappeared he turned around and said “This is not over.”
“Why must you always piss people off when you meet them for the first time? Are you okay?” McCarthy asked.
“Why must you always piss people off when you meet them for the first time? Are you okay?” McCarthy asked.
“I’m fine trust me I’ve had worse introductions than that” Patrick said as he held his hand to his mouth flexing his jaw.
McCarthy smiled and shook her head “You did kind of deserve it a little bit.”
“Maybe but that was the last time. If he lays his hands on me again I’ll damage him physically and emotionally. I’ll book myself into a bed and breakfast.”
Thomas walked into the offices of Knight Properties like he owned the building. Dressed in a grey Tom Ford suit a black turtleneck and a pair of brown leather brogues he felt like he owned the place. He approached the receptionist with unparalleled confidence and said “Good day I’m here to see Kathrine Knight.”
“Good day do you have an appointment?” the receptionist said as she typed on her laptop to answer her own question.
“No I don’t need one. She’s expecting me.”
“Uhm I don’t have anything on her diary today.”
“Call her and tell her Benjamin Leno is here” Thomas lifted his head to see Kathrine in her office “Never mind.”
“Sir you can’t just…” the receptionist chased after him but he was already gone.
“Kathrine” he said as he let himself into her office.
“Benjamin?” Kathrine said she looked surprised to see him “I thought you were busy with an international client and back to back meetings.” She had replaced the gown she adorned for the charity event with an elegant navy power suit. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail.
“I told my secretary to move everything meeting you is more important. Is this a bad time?” Thomas asked he decided to meet her halfway in case she was thinking about saying yes “I thought we could talk about Miracle. My guys are ready we just need a go ahead from you.”
“I’m afraid now is not a good time I have a meeting with my dad.” She took a glance at her wristwatch “He should be here by now which is odd because he’s never late. But can we reschedule for tomorrow?” She said to Thomas who was busy texting frantically on his phone. “Benjamin?”
He was texting X about the ransom message “Yeah?”
“Can we postpone for tomorrow?”
“I already moved today’s meetings to tomorrow. I won’t make it tomorrow or the day after that.”
“Okay we’ll talk then I guess” Kathrine said doing well to mask her disappointment. Her phone vibrated as Thomas turned around to walk out “Oh my God.”
“What is it?” Thomas asked the shock on his face worthy of an Oscar.
She handed the phone to Thomas and collapsed into her chair. “We’ve been so busy we thought the investigators have everything covered. Now this?”
“Two million twelve hours no cops or else she dies” Thomas read the message out loud “These bastards they even have an image of her. Are you sure this is not photoshopped? I can call my IT guy and see if he can’t trace it.”
“You’d do that?”
“Of course without a doubt.”
“Well aren’t you the hero” Richard Knight said as he walked into the office “You must be the Benjamin my daughter told me so little about.” He was tall and intimidating. Only his silver hair gave away how old he was. But his sense of style and his physical shape were that of a young CEO in his mid-thirties.
Thomas wasn’t looking forward to meeting Richard Knight anytime soon. He didn’t know why but there was something about the man’s presence that made him feel uneasy like he wasn’t in control. Richard Knight had this stoic look in his eyes that gave Thomas the feeling that he saw right through him. It would’ve been perfect to work on Katherine first gain her complete trust before meeting her old man. “Leno Benjamin Leno” He said extending his hand and shaking Richard’s. The man had an unsurprisingly firm grip too firm. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Richard.”
“A lot of men are usually eager to meet me and when they do they usually address me as Mr Knight. But not you Benjamin. You seem like a man who has his own way of doing things. Speaking of doing things what is it exactly that you do? My daughter mentioned something about accounting but she couldn’t explain it.”
Katherine interjected “Dad please not now. The kidnappers have made contact. Can we please focus on that?”
“Send it to the investigators they’ll focus on it.”
“Benjamin offered to help.”
“Oh did he now?” Richard asked not once breaking eye contact with Thomas “Why would you do that Benjamin? I’ve got world class investigators on this case I’m paying them millions to find my daughter. Are you undermining that?”
“Dad come on” Kathrine pleaded her face crimson with embarrassment.
“It’s okay Kat” Thomas said “I’m not undermining you Richard. If you feel that way I apologise and I’ll back off. I was simply offering a hand in this time of need.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m old fashioned or maybe I’ve been in this game for way too long but I have a problem with a stranger who appears out of nowhere and offers help. In my experience when there’s a drop of blood in the ocean it’s not the dolphins and jellyfish that come circling it’s the sharks. Are you a shark Benjamin? Are you using my families time of need as an opportunity to fulfil whatever agenda you have?” Richard said his eyes fixed on Thomas’. Studying him for any signs of deception.
Thomas was uncomfortable. Richard Knight had just dissected his game plan and he needed to sway his suspicions now or everything would fall apart “I can assure you that is not the case. I am only here because your daughter asked me to be here.”
Richard Knight pulled out a chair took off his watch and tossed it on the table “Do you know what that is?”
Thomas picked it up “It’s a Patek Philippe.”
“But it’s not just any Patek Philippe it’s a Nautilus cost me seven million Rands. Do you know why it costs that much?”
“Dad come on this is unnecessary.”
“You will speak when spoken to Katherine. Right now I am speaking with your friend. I asked you a question Benjamin. Do you know why this watch costs that much?”
In a different place at a different time and under different circumstances Thomas would have given Richard a piece of his mind and demanded his respect. It was in moments like these that he was disgusted by how far down the food chain he’d fallen. It was in these moments that he was reminded how much McCarthy took from him. “Not really” Thomas said not getting where this was going.
“Not really? I’ll tell you; name value tradition and reputation. That’s what separates a seven million Rand Patek Phillipe from being just another watch that anyone can afford. But there are counterfeits out there so it takes a skilled eye to know the difference between the real deal and the fake.” Richard said. “I hired those investigators because they’re the real deal. They have value history and reputation. My skilled eye can see that. What do you have Benjamin? How are you not just a cheap imitation of the real thing? Excuse me if I sound harsh but I don’t sugarcoat my words.”
Thomas had never felt so disrespected in his entire life. Even when he was in prison and the wardens treated him like scum there was a fear in them. They knew who he was and what he was capable of even when he was in handcuffs. Richard Knight was the type of man who feared nothing. He got to where he was because he was feared by those around him. The way he spoke and carried himself was so dignified he earned the respect of those around him without saying a word. His reputation preceded him and Thomas was aware that that was something he didn’t have. As far as Richard Knight was concerned Benjamin was just another charlatan looking to worm his way into his family. “I have contacts” Thomas said.
Richard smirked sarcastically “Everybody has contacts. I have contacts. Even my gardener has contacts.”
“Do you have underground contacts? Can those international investigators find your daughter if she’s tied up in a shack in the townships? I know rich men unlike you. Men who spend their entire lives running away from the law. Men who shake hands with the type of men who kidnap rich girls. I know those men I’ve dealt with them all my life. All you know are your billionaire friends and politicians hidden behind your high walls and gated communities with your spoilt brats and trophy wives. But we’re not negotiating a business deal here so they’re all useless when it comes to finding someone underground. I have those contacts. I’m your best bet. I don’t have to be here if you think you can do this without me then roll the dice.” Thomas had put all his eggs in one basket. If Richard didn’t buy his story now then all would be lost.
“These contacts that you speak of how did you get them?”
“That’s none of your business. Excuse me if I sound harsh but I don’t sugarcoat my words.”
“You’ve got big balls Benjamin I’ll give you that. Name your price.”
“Zero. I don’t want anything in return.”
“Bullshit every man has a price.”
“Fire all those useless investigators and watch me find your daughter without expecting anything in return. The kidnappers have already asked for two million Rands. They’re just testing the waters they’ll demand more than that you must be ready to give it to them. All I ask is that you don’t involve the police. Let me handle this and I’ll bring your daughter back.”
Richard turned to his daughter for the first time since he walked in and said “Call those investigators and tell them they’re all fired.” He turned to Thomas “I don’t usually trust someone this easily with anything let alone with my daughter’s life. Now you may not want anything in return but if you don’t bring my daughter back alive she won’t be the only one missing. Do I make myself clear?” Richard said extending his hand to Thomas.
“Crystal” Thomas replied smiling inside and thinking to himself about how unaware Richard was about who he was dealing with. He had now successfully infiltrated the richest family in Loneville and he was going to milk them for every cent they could spare. This was the first day of the rest of his life.