Scene 3 – Friendship Renewed
Stella and Calvin Campbell had been excited to reconnect with Naomi Renaldo and had invited Naomi and Kate for Thanksgiving celebration. With Thomas there and other close relatives on the Campbell side of the family that would fill their large home to the brim. In between Stella had made a trip to see Thomas while her husband Cal was on a business trip. But this time she stayed with Naomi and Kate in their studio. Kate had vacated her bedroom to sleep on a couch in the work room to accommodate both her mother and reintroduced adopted Aunt Stella. When the mothers got too animated Kate banished them to the Mall, so she and her fellow workers could work undisturbed.
The mothers didn’t mind being banished. They explored shop after shop and between times sat in various cafes and coffee shops reliving their time together long ago.
“We are sisters, right?” Naomi posed the question and Stella happily nodded her head as she sampled a donut.
“Then it’s only right our families should be united through marriage, your Tom to my Kate? That’s the way it works in our society.”
Stella’s head jerked up and she studied her friend’s face. She was obviously serious!
“Naomi that’s something our children have to work out for themselves. Of course, I’d be very happy if they chose to do that, but we should never push them into something not of their choosing. Let nature take its course.
Naomi sighed, “I know, but this fellow Kate is getting around with I have bad feelings about and Tom is so stable. Kate is headstrong like her mother, but she’d defer to Tom I just know that. They’d be so happy. I’d be so happy!”
Kate and Thomas had reconnected as if all those years apart had just been a day. Kate bossed him around and Thomas resisted but they enjoyed each other’s company. Stella watching it from a distance saw them more as brother and sister than partners for life. Naomi saw their frequent contacts as a hopeful sign.
Early in those contacts Thomas had noted the attention one of Kate’s associates gave her and their occasional dining out together. The guy’s given name was Manuel a Cuban of Spanish ancestry. More as a brother’s curiosity he asked Kate if there was a potential for a future marriage there. Kate had laughed and wanted to know if her mother had been talking to him about it. She confided that there was nothing in it from her side, but she delighted in letting her mother think so as she knew Naomi disliked him immensely. She only responded to his pleas to take her to dinner or a show when her Mom was around. Nevertheless, Thomas sized him up as a potentially dangerous character and told her so. Kate had smiled.
“Listen Tommy I know your work is pretty intense and so is mine, but I do like to get out of the studio now and then to unwind. If you’re prepared to accompany me when you can I’ll gladly refuse to go out with Manuel. He’s good at his work and I’ve learned a lot about the fashion business from him, but he can be a bit demanding outside of our work environment and it’s beginning to impact on our working relationship. I don’t know what to do about it. We had a good team but its beginning to be a bit dysfunctional.”
So, it was arranged Thomas and Kate would meet once a week for dinner or a show and he’d drop over when he could to hang out when there was not a deadline to meet. Sometimes Kate’s team would have to work through the night and they’d sleep on camper beds for a few hours before resuming work. Occasionally Thomas would have to work over at his company when there was a deadline to meet too. Frequently Kate would have to make a quick trip to Europe, particularly Rome where some of her work found its outlet. But it was soon apparent Thomas and Kate were spending the time together Manuel had enjoyed outside of their working relationship.
It came to a head three months after Naomi had discovered Thomas at the Mall as it became apparent to Manuel the Campbells and Renaldo’s had a very close bond between them that went back in history. He was disappointed at Kate’s constant refusals after periods of intensive work on projects when he asked her to accompany him to dinner or a show. He watched as he was replaced by Thomas at those cherished times. He was in a turmoil inside as he put that together with Naomi’s increasingly obvious dislike for him. It affected his male ego and he began to hate, and hate had to have an outlet.
Kate noticed the slowly developing discontent as they worked together, and other team members noticed it too. It was beginning to affect their work production together. Kate talked with Manuel to try and resolve the situation. She was taken back by Manuel’s response.
Manuel accused Kate’s mother Naomi of driving a wedge between them and threatened if she continued to interfere she’d suffer consequences. He had friends who knew how to deal with that. Then he told Kate he’d decided they should get married. It was in the interests of the business which he’d take charge of from her. He felt his experience in the industry demanded that. She’d profited by his advice up to this point but from now on it would be a partnership not an employee relationship. It was not proper for her to be the one in charge in their culture and Kate should understand that.
Kate was livid with anger and made it obvious there would be no marriage and most certainly no partnership with him in charge. She’d continue to be thankful for his advice and expertise, but it was her investment, it was her father’s money invested in the state-of-the-art equipment and she in her own right had developed solid contacts in the industry now. Manuel knew this was true and calmed down. The relationship between the two was strained but controlled from that point on.
Then Kate began to find the designs she was working on or very close copies suddenly turning up on the Rome fashion circuit under other name brands before she was able to sell her work to the fashion houses. She was accused of copyright infringement and the shock of this put her into depression. She phoned her mother for advice and Naomi quickly travelled from her home on the coast. Next, she phoned Thomas and asked him to give her advice too. Kate temporarily asked her mother to be there as the team worked on new designs while she solved this problem.
Kate made a quick trip to Rome fashion houses to try and find a solution. The designs had reached there from another source before she’d sent her work, but it was obvious it was her work. She returned frustrated and angry.
Thomas took some accumulated leave to help calm Kate and her mother. He thought about the problem. If the designs were from Kate’s team but arrived through another source in Rome how could that be? While he was reviewing possibilities in his mind he decided to tap the mind of his friend in their shared apartment. He headed back to his apartment to find his friend but was unaware his every move was being watched.
His friend was settling in for an evening watching sports on TV when Thomas burst in. Ki listened politely then sat up triumphantly. “She’s been hacked! I’ve seen it done before. We better check out that apartment.”
He went to his room and returned with some equipment. “I love this detective stuff can we go over and check out a few things now? Seen it before. Been there, done that!” He chuckled.
Half an hour later they were back in the apartment and Naomi and Kate eyeing the equipment began to ask what they were doing. Ki held his fingers up to his lips and indicated they were not to make any conversation.
Ki slowly scanned the rooms pointing now and then to an object. He’d stop and remove a device then move on. Next, he repeated his room to room inspection. He beckoned to Kate and whispered. She bought him a pencil and paper and some duct tape. Ki carefully placed tape over tiny spots and moved on. There were three rooms taped this way, the roof over the work room, Kate’s bedroom and bathroom. Then he moved to the computers motioning to Thomas to check each computer’s firewalls and virus programs while he payed attention to the flat screen work station. When Kate or Naomi wanted to ask questions he’d raise a finger to his lips. He made notes and worked his way through the programs skilfully. He’d been an IT specialist and was relishing getting back into it again.
Thomas pursed his lips as he examined each computer with the aid of a disk Ki had given him. Signals flashed on screens as the disk worked its way through the systems. He motioned to Kate to check each computer to make sure nothing was missing after a long investigation of each computer. Messages were communicated by paper and pencil. Ki raised his fingers in the victory sign as he worked his way through the flat screen work design computer. Then wrote asking for access to the back up storage. He methodically worked his way through the system. It was 11 pm by the time they were finished.
Then Ki spoke, “what did you find Tom?”
“Intrusion but should be cleared on all of them now!”
“Kate you’ve been hacked. Don’t know what information has been compromised and retrieved, or where it went but I’ve got you well firewalled now and vulnerabilities have been cared for. Unfortunately, it’s more than a hack. The devices I pulled from each place were bugs. Every conversation has been listened to. Even worse there were miniature cameras in your bedroom, bathroom and work area. Let’s hope you’ve been a good girl because everything that has happened in this place is on video tape file somewhere. How did you let this happen? My advice is for you to go to the police. There are four of us as witnesses to what we found this evening. I’m going home now but you need to deal with this tomorrow and I’ll be happy to have the police interview me.”
Thomas spoke. “Thanks Ki I appreciate your help this evening. I’m going to sleep over tonight just to keep an eye on the women. They’re pretty distressed.”
Fifteen minutes after Ki’s departure there was a voice on the studio front door monitor. “This is Ki, please let me in and call an ambulance!”
Kate opened the door electronically and Naomi punched in the emergency number calling an ambulance to the address. Thomas raced down the corridor to the elevator and activated the down button. At the bottom he found his friend slumped on the floor with blood oozing from a knife wound.
“Rough neighbourhood!” Ki muttered as he slumped into unconsciousness.
Thomas seeing the flashing lights through the front door pressed a button to open it. The medics went into emergency treatment mode and asked if anyone else was hurt, one of them notified the police who were soon there with sirens blasting. The ambulance sped off leaving Thomas to answer rapid fire questions. He learned that they’d have him on their priority suspect list as the one found closest to the scene. Thomas was frisked, and more questions asked.
Then the whole story of their night activity came out in a torrent as Thomas saw cuffs being produced. The police looked at each other. A likely story, but they’d need to check it out anyway. He was cuffed to one of the police and told to lead the way to this claimed studio apartment. To their surprise Thomas punched in a number.
But while this drama had been unfolding at street level someone else punched in the number of the apartment and entered before them. Naomi was comforting Kate when she turned around expecting Thomas had returned with Ki.
“Expecting someone else?” It was Manuel and it was apparent from his face someone had alerted him to what had been going on in the studio apartment. He was angry.
“Do you think I was going to stand by and see you blow me off after all the investment in time I’ve put into this business. Maybe you had the money, but it was my genius that developed this fashion design business. You’re not going to sideline me. My connections have already dealt with one of you. Your new fancy boy will be next to be visited unless you have him back off and let me take over. There will be no police report and you will tell them what I tell you to say in the event there is some interest in what happened to that interfering low life we found outside the front door.”
“How did you get in if you didn’t see Thomas at the door? Naomi stood between her daughter and Manuel. “You’ll never get away with this!”
“I have my ways, learned the fine arts in Miami.” He chuckled unpleasantly motioning to Namoi to get out of the way. “Now, you say fancy boy was down at the front door. if he’s on the way home that his good luck, if he’s coming back up here then perhaps I need to make a call to my friend downstairs in the maintenance room and he knows how to get people to cooperate.” The knife in his hand glistened under the light. He reached for his cell phone.
Then to everyone’s further surprise the door opened and they all turned to look. Standing there were two police officers with Thomas cuffed to one of them. The police took in the scene and noted the knife.
“Put your hands behind your head and kneel on the floor,” barked one of the officers.
Manuel hesitated for a moment then rushed to Naomi pinning her arms behind her back with a knife to her throat. He faced the police with Naomi between them.
“You wouldn’t want this nice lady to be hurt would you? This is the deal. Go back to your patrol car and take this murderer with you you’ve rightly cuffed. Me and the lady will take a walk and you’ll keep your distance. When I’m clear of this building and safe she gets to come back here.” His voice betrayed his concern.
One of the police spoke calmly. “If you want to exit the building like this it seems you have something to be concerned about. Why would you fear police if you’ve done nothing wrong? Put your knife away and we’ll all talk sensibly. Why do you think we have this man cuffed for murder, perhaps we have other reasons to detain him?
Naomi let out a torrent of abuse in Spanish and Manuel pricked her neck with the knife. “Behave now!” He cautioned.
But that was the last sound he uttered as a chair swung by Kate knocked him to the floor where he lay dazed.
The Police pointed to Thomas. “Do you know this man?”
“Yes,” said Kate as she rushed to his side and hung on to him. “He and the other man Ki who got hurt were here to protect us.” The story came out again in a torrent.
The Police looked at each other. “Same story, we can release him, so we can take a detailed statement.”
Naomi punched numbers into her cell phone. “What are you doing lady?” One of the police went over to take her phone but then paused to listen to the conversation.
“Manuel said to phone you to come up. We will do whatever he says.”
Within minutes two rough looking men appeared at the door and banged on it to be let in. The door opened, and they faced two police with drawn guns. “Down on the floor with your hands above your head!” The two squatted quickly with their hands above their heads and cuffs were fastened quickly.
“Well, well look who we have here! Been looking for you guys for a while now”
One of the police phoned for backup and turned to Thomas. “Want to meet the police at the door for us?”
“No,” said Thomas with conviction.
“No,” said Kate glaring at the police.
The police slapped their sides with laughter. “It’s been a great haul tonight and a bit of amusement to the side.”
The women glared at them.
“OK folk let’s get down to business, we need to get this down on paper so its going to be a long night for all of us.
The backup police arrived and were electronically let in. Before taking the suspects away though they checked out the maintenance office where they found the guy on duty tied up and frightened. He confessed he owed money to the criminal syndicate and had allowed them access to the apartment when it was empty several times. He too was taken into custody and lawyers acting for the corporate body did a quick search for replacement maintenance staff.
When it was all over as the sun was rising Naomi settled exhausted into her room and Thomas headed for the couch. He was almost asleep when he felt a nudge. “I’m still frightened, can I sleep here too?”
Thomas was too tired to argue. Next morning the staff arrived and were shocked to see their boss asleep on the couch wrapped around the guy who they’d seen visit now and then. They looked at each other and smiled.
“The little secret is out now,” one whispered to another as they quietly began their work. They wondered why Manuel hadn’t arrived yet.
Thomas awoke with a start to feel Kate wrapped around him sleeping. He looked around and saw workers pretending not to see them. He tried to get up without disturbing Kate, but she hung on and wouldn’t be budged. He shrugged, after all he’d taken time off to protect her and it was nice to have her hanging on to him. He whispered in her ear.
“Your staff are here and have started work.”
“Don’t care, I want to sleep, and I don’t want you to move.”
Naomi emerged from her room combing her hair after a shower. She headed for the work room and saw Kate locked onto Thomas on the couch. She went over and shook them.
“Thomas I’m surprised at you, its not nice of you to take advantage of my daughter this way, and specially not in front of the staff. Now you’ll bring shame on both of our families if you don’t marry Kate.
Thomas saw the twinkle in Naomi’s eye. He thought quickly. It had felt nice to have her with him this way. He’d known her in their early years and wonderful thoughts of their childhood experiences came to mind. He felt protective and now he thought of it he’d been a bit jealous of Manuel and was glad he was out of the way. He did want to have a life with her.
He looked at Naomi. Do I have your permission …
Kate sat up rubbing her eyes hair normally immaculate dishevelled. “Yes, my mother gives permission for you to marry me!”
Naomi suppressed a snort of laughter and nodded her head.
Kate got up ignoring the staff and went to her bedroom returning with a piece of bent copper wire in a circle. It had followed her around since childhood and even a break into their luggage in Rio hadn’t taken it from her.
She held out her finger. “Put it on again, remember I’m your child bride, or had you forgotten?”
Thomas looked at the bent copper wire and the scene came back to him. Tommy the man in the play wedding had been unhappy at putting that ring on then. Now he took it reverently and placed it on Kate’s finger enthusiastically while the office staff cheered. He’d have to buy something more substantial later that day as an engagement ring he thought to himself.
Kate lay down and pulled at his sleeve, “I’m tired and want to sleep, come back to bed.”
But Thomas was on his feet and being kissed on both cheeks by Naomi. “My son in law!” she shouted proudly to the staff.
“I guess I won’t be able to call you Aunt Naomi, anymore will I?”
“I have to tell my folk the good news, I suspect they’ve been hoping for this since our families were reconnected after that meeting with you in the Mall.”
But Naomi was already phoning Stella. A tired voice answered at the other end of the line. Naomi thrust the phone into Thomas hand. “Tell them!”
Thomas smiled and broke the news to his parents who gave a shout of joy audible to all. “Congratulations, tell Kate we love her.” They shouted in unison.
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