Publish Novellas 25 May 2022
EPISODE 4 – IDENTITY
Account executive attempts to end the search for a match after bad result.
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The next day, an alert goes off. Candidate F has been assassinated. Mr. Abernathy phones Matthew’s boss to tell him that the blood type does not match. “It’s not her. I paid you to find Kathlyn,” he warns before abruptly hanging up.
Arnold Fischer calls Matthew into his office. “You concluded the agreement with Mr. Abernathy prematurely.”
“It was at his request, sir.”
“He was under the impression that you found her!” says Arnold.
After an awkward pause, Matthew asks, “How could that be if she is dead?”
“Regardless, I’m reactivating his contract. We need to find a closer match to Kathlyn.”
Matthew leaves his boss’s office with the impression that Arnold knows Mr. Abernathy’s motives. So he phones Sylvia (AKA Kathlyn) on the burner phone. “Sylvia, are you all right?”
“That seems like an odd question to hear from you. I’ve been shaken since you abducted me. But your men released me as you promised.”
“I’ve had opportunity to confirm your story. Franklin has put on a ruse to utilize our technology in order to find you. He suspects you are alive and intends to kill you.”
“Are your men going to take me to him?” Sylvia inquires.
“No, listen. Nearly every city has surveillance cameras. It’s how we were able to locate you. Tha’is why I advised you to wear scarves, hats, and glasses. Since there is already footage of you there, you need to do two things for your safety.”
“What’s that? Do I need to write this down?”
“No, don’t write anything down. Do a thorough cleaning of your flat to remove any fingerprints, hair or other evidence of your existence. Wear latex gloves.”
“Okay, then what?” asks Sylvia.
“Go to another country. Choose Italy, Russia, France, South America, or somewhere else. I don’t want to know where it is. When you get there, keep your face concealed. Find a good plastic surgeon to alter your appearance. You may like the way you look now, but the alteration cannot be subtle. Do you have enough money for that?”
“I don’t think so. I have a little less than $7,000.”
“You can’t travel with more than $10,000 internationally. Your plane ticket might be around $1,000 on short notice. I’ll have my men drop off another $4,000 to you. It may take up to six months for your face to heal completely. My advice would then be to get new identification and travel somewhere else.”
“Wow, thanks, I appreciate it. So you think I should go right away?”
“Tomorrow, if possible. You will have the funds later today,” Matthew promises.
“After paying the surgeon, I will not have enough money to last six months,” confesses Sylvia.
“You’ll need to be frugal and smart. For plausible deniability, I prefer not to know your whereabouts. But if you run into financial problems, text me something cryptic like
Syl$. I’ll get back to you if and when I can.”
“That’s very generous of you. I’ll follow all of your advice. Thank you.”
“I wish you the best and will do what I can on this end to keep him off your trail,” Matthew concludes.
Matthew sends tearful Judith Karacas back to her country. The men drop off the money to Sylvia as she completes her scrub down of her flat. He then deletes the references to Sylvia’s 100 percent match. But not before his boss, Arnold, discovers it.
Arnold phones Mr. Abernathy. “Franklin, I think we have located your wife. She is not in America. I’ll send you what we have on her location.”
“Thanks, Arnold. I’ll take care of it.”
By the time Mr. Abernathy’s men arrive, Sylvia is no longer in England. The men are able to confirm from the landlord that she lived there until recently.
Franklin Abernathy phones Arnold back. “Someone tipped her off. She’s in the wind! Find out what happened.” He then hangs up without time for a reply.
Arnold pulls Matthew into his office. “Tell me what’s going on with this Sylvia Rollins. First she was in the search results. Now she’s not.”
“Well, she appeared to be a false positive. All the background information defaulted to Kathlyn Abernathy, who is deceased.”
“I see. Where is she now?” asks the boss.
“I really don’t know, sir.”
“So if I check the company phone records, I won’t discover any conversations between you two?”
“No sir,” Matthew replies without hesitation.
“We have some private detectives over there. Can I trust you to find her for a closer look.”
“Certainly. I’ll reach out to them right away,” Matthew assures.
“Thank you, Matthew. And, don’t let me down,” his boss says in a threatening tone.
“No sir. I’ll find out whatever I can.”
Matthew phones his private detectives. He warns that all activities related to Sylvia Rollins up until this point are confidential and should not be shared with anyone else in the company. “Now, go to her flat and see if she has left. Then report back to me.”
As expected, she is gone. Matthew reports her absence to his boss, who is unhappy with the news.
“We have the most sophisticated image recognition search platform in the world. Don’t tell me where she’s not. Tell me where she is.”
Hoping that Sylvia followed his advice about shielding herself from cameras, Matthew uses the company system to search for her with Arnold hovering over his shoulder. The most recent facial match is a few days ago.
“That’s odd. Why would she fall off the grid just before we close in on her?”
“I attempted to contact her to confirm the match. While identifying myself, she hung up. When I called back, she blocked the number. She appears to have been spooked for whatever reason.
“Oh, that puts things in context. Disregard these 60 to 80 percent matches. Focus on Sylvia Rollins. Let me know when and where she shows up in public.”
Over the next few months, Matthew handles other cases with periodic interruptions from his boss on the status of Sylvia. He routinely replies, “No word yet.”