Publish Novellas 29 May 2022
EPISODE 5 – CONTACT
A woman in an undisclosed location requires assistance to maintain her cover.
Did you skip prior episode?
One day Matthew receives the coded text message:
Syl$. This is the signal that Kathlyn, living under the alias Sylvia, is in need of cash to maintain her cover. When he gets to a private location with a secure phone, he contacts Sylvia.
Keeping his comments terse, he says, “Sylvia, what amount?”
“Hi Matthew, this is Sylvia. Sorry to bother you but after getting the…”
Cutting her off, Matthew cautions, “Strictly essential information.”
“Right. Ten… ten thousand, please.”
“I need your text message to resemble a phone number. Put the first three digits of your routing number within parenthesis followed by the next three digits. Tell me the remaining digits verbally now.”
“End the formatting of the phone number with the last four digits of the account number. Tell me the digits preceding it.”
“Perfect. When I hang up, text me the phone number only. Now, acknowledge if the procedure earlier discussed is complete.”
To obfuscate the money transfer, Matthew will divert a series of smaller amounts from the Abernathy project to combine with funds that he will send from a personal bank account.
The small expenditures signal Matthew’s boss. “I noticed some payment activity on the Abernathy project. Are you getting closer?” asks Arnold.
“I am actively pursuing her by paying informants to keep their eyes open. So far no sightings.”
“How do you think she has remained off the radar for so long? Could she have changed her appearance?”
“There are several reasons. She could be dead, she may be in a low-tech city, or she may be wearing a mask in public. If she is in a country where a hijab is common, she will be difficult to locate.”
“Those are all good points. She may eventually let her guard down. Don’t give up,” Arnold urges.
“I won’t sir.”
After a total of seven months, Matthew receives a new
Syl$ text message. When he gets to a secure location, he is surprised by the conversation.
“Amount?” he asks.
“Matthew, I’m here, in New York,” Sylvia replies.
“I figured the best place to hide is in my enemy’s backyard. Besides, I want you to see the results. I am a totally different person.”
“I shouldn’t have contact with you. Are you still keeping your head concealed?”
“Yes, I am. That’s why I want to see you. Tell me if it is no longer necessary to hide my face. Can you meet me in a coffee shop or something? You name the place, pleeease. It has been months since I have seen or spoken to anyone up close.”
“Against my better judgment, I’ll text you the address to a coffee shop. Meet me there at 4 PM. Order an herbal iced tea and drape a black scarf from the table to your lap. If I am not there by 4:30, leave.”
“Thanks, I’ll be waiting.”
Matthew sits across the table of the woman with the black scarf without saying a word.
“Matthew?” she acknowledges.
“Wow, the work is amazing. You remind me of someone I knew in college?”
“A girlfriend perhaps?” she probes.
“Yes. I rather not talk about it.”
“Was she attractive?”
“Of course. But she had other qualities.”
“Then I’ll take your reaction as a compliment. What happened to her?”
“I said I do not want to talk about it,” as he dries his eyes with a napkin.
“I’m so sorry. You lost her. Is that why you got into your line of work?”
“I’m not here for you to probe into my personal life. Why are you here?”
“I need a place to stay.”
“I could have wired you some money. There’s no need to meet face-to-face,” Matthew replies.
“No, I need a real place to stay for good, not on the run. Perhaps I can get a job or start a family.”
“Place an ad on Craigslist.”
“Matthew, do you have a spare room?” she asks.
“That’s nuts. Are you trying to get us both killed?”
“No, hear me out. I’m quite sure people expect you to have a love life. They may be suspicious if you don’t,” she reasons.
“Now you want me to parade you around as my girlfriend?”
“Since I resemble your former crush, we already have somewhat of a history. I’m not asking to go to work with you and sit in your office. If someone asks you about your weekend activities, just mention you are seeing someone.”
“And that someone is…?” asks Matthew.
“I go by Rosalyn now. You said yourself that I no longer resemble Sylvia.”
Feeling defeated, Matthew asks, “Of all the men in the world, why pick me?”
“You must have some feelings for me. Otherwise you wouldn’t have helped me to get to where I am today. Since my appearance now matches your taste in women, we seem like a perfect match.”
“One thing you would need to do is learn to alter your voice,” Matthew suggests.
“I’ve done every other thing you suggested. Just coach me and I’ll be whoever you want me to be.”
“You’re very persuasive, in a bad way. I’m not attracted to this much danger.”
“I can be quiet in a spare room and keep your place clean,” Rosalyn promises, “I just need need a friend to talk to.”
Matthew cannot tell if his racing heartbeat is because of Rosalyn’s resemblance to a past love or a fear of being caught by a murderous husband. One thing he does know is that he wants to get out of this public coffee shop.