Marvin turned his eyes slightly so he could observe the door to the cafeteria in his peripheral vision and noted a man approaching. He resisted the temptation to turn and look at who was approaching, and his mind raced into action planning the next move. He enclosed the shut down remote in his fist so the approaching man would not notice it.
The man appeared in front of Marvin and he was wearing a security badge. Marvin recognized him as their most recently employed security team member. He quickly read the name tag and remembered reviewing documentation presented to him for final employment clearance. It was Sid Green.
“Just checking around the building sir, is everything OK here.”
A plan of action suggested itself in Marvin’s mind having noted the fear in Steph’s eyes. This must be the syndicate mole. He couldn’t be sure of that as it might be a coincidence he’d made this unexpected entry. Best to be sure though so he chose his words carefully.
“Well I’m not sure everything is OK until Miss Grace agrees to become one of our employees Sid. I’ve noticed how much empathy she has for the person she visits, and the other residents seem to warm to her. We are short staffed now. So far she has resisted the offer so perhaps you could convince her? Of course, we need to get all the documentation cleared before we can employ her, but I was trying to convince her to apply so we could begin that process.
Sid Green whose eyes had been boring into Steph’s relaxed and he smiled. “This is a great place to work Miss Green. They treat me well and I thoroughly recommend you apply and if the boss is asking you to apply I’d say you’d probably have the job.”
Thank you for that recommendation Sid. “You can feel free to continue your checking around the buildings now.”
Sid nodded and headed for the door. When he’d exited and they could hear him further down the corridor talking to people Steph spoke.
“Thank you Marvin that was brilliant, and you most likely saved my life. The report will go to the syndicate favourably, but you’ve painted your way into a corner trying to save me. If you don’t employ me after that conversation with Sid and if you act to get rid of him the syndicate will become suspicious and you’ll be on their hit list to protect themselves. Incidentally, that’s not his real name.” She laughed now relaxed. “So, what’s the game plan now you’re involved with me in this mess?”
“Steph I’m going to be upfront with you. I’ll not permit any of the residents under my charge to be ripped off. I’ll never be persuaded to engage in criminal activities. So, you must promise me something now. You’ll have to apply to work here so this syndicate of yours don’t get nervous after my conversation with Sid if it is reported to them whoever they are. You will slow down your activities in feeding information on any of our residents to your employers and you’ll cooperate when I find a way to get you out of this syndicate with your life intact. Do you promise me that?”
Steph sat looking at Marvin. He’d obviously come a long way in life, and she envied the fact he was engaged in activities that provided benefits to those in need rather than the selfish pursuits she’d allowed herself to be drawn into. They’d come out of the same childhood dysfunctional environment, so he’d understand her better than most others whose lives had commenced in a favoured way. For a moment resentment swept over her. Why hadn’t someone come to her rescue when she was a child like they had for Marvin? That was unfair! Maybe she could play along for the time being as there was no way for her to extricate herself from her bondage to the syndicate. Marvin was unrealistic imagining there could be a good outcome for her out of this.
“OK, I’ll apply for a position here at the retirement home.” She avoided the rest of Marvin’s conditions.
“Steph, don’t play games with me. I want to hear you agree with everything I just said to you.”
Steph shrugged. She’d play along with Marvin to put off the day when she had to make final decisions as to how to survive and who had the most power to protect her life. “OK brother, I agree. Just remember you’re playing around with my life and I’ll do anything necessary to preserve it.”
Marvin thought for a few minutes. He felt a vague kinship with this woman even though technically they were not really related. She’d appeared as the child of one of the men in his birth mother’s life and they’d suffered together in that environment until she took to the streets to escape violence. But he felt a keen responsibility for those under his charge in this institution and had a solid code of ethics. He’d not allow her to compromise any of these residents who were unable to protect themselves.
“Steph you can leave now. Come with me to the office to collect a work application. This will go to the head office and you will be thoroughly vetted by them not me. I assume your syndicate will see this fake Grace Willis has a very compelling resume just as they did with Sid Green’s application if he’s one of them. I don’t know how head office missed out on Sid as they are very thorough after all they are protecting rich members in the many institutions they own. I had to go through thorough testing and investigation before being chosen as the manager of this retirement village. You can still visit here occasionally while you wait for employment clearance, but I have your promise you will not seek to extract any information that can compromise a resident. You will have to figure out how to keep your syndicate people at bay and happy while I think about how this can all be resolved.”
Steph took up her life again as Grace Willis as she walked through the entrance door to the retirement complex clutching an application form. Sid was at the door and gave her a knowing wink as she passed him at the door. Outside she headed for the parking lot and pressed the key in her purse to open the door to her BMW. Because windows were tinted she did not notice the two men crouching in the back seat as she sat in the driver’s seat. She gasped in surprise as the doors locked without her touching anything. The men appeared in her rear vision mirror smiling at her shock.
“You never know who you may be entertaining and should be more careful with your safety Grace.” Both men laughed.
Grace’s voice shook with fear. “Who are you, what do you want and how did you get my keys?”
“Why are you worried Grace? We are your constant guardians ever watching to see you don’t come to any harm or make foolish decisions. That’s why we cloned your car key signal one day when you were locking your car at the supermarket.
You did an exceptionally good job in there. Obviously, the manager fancies you and we’re here to advise you to build this relationship. I think you know that when we advise you to do something that means you do it. After this morning we see possibilities of cleaning out many of those rich residents over time and you will be the key player in seeing that happens. You will pursue this man. You will use all your woman’s wiles to hook him and build his desire for you. In time you will put him in a compromising position in a place of our choosing and we will photograph this secretly and use these photos to blackmail him into facilitating our plan. Then we make our move, syphon of whatever we can get in a hurry and fold up our operations in this area leaving him to take responsibility for the loss of all that money.”
The thought of that outcome sent the men into peals of laughter. The man behind her reached over and put a knife against her neck. “You of course would want to cooperate and as usual receive continued gifts from your benefactors wouldn’t you Grace?”
There was another click as the doors unlocked and the men got out of the car. “Take care Grace, we’ll continue to watch out for your protection.”
Grace locked the car doors again and sat there shaking and crying for several minutes. Then she started the motor and exited the carpark her eyes darting between the road ahead and the side mirrors and rear vision mirror to see if anyone was following her. She was terrified. That was the first time a syndicate member had placed a knife to her neck, but she knew all their employees were expendable. Many had disappeared without a trace. Suddenly the BMW, her luxury apartment and up market lifestyle lost its attraction. She realized her every day existence was at the whim of people in a shadowy world she was unfamiliar with and this would lead her deeper and deeper into ruin. She wanted out, but there was no escape as the syndicate had tentacles everywhere. The only way to avoid that was death, but not the way the syndicate would choose for her. She’d need to choose her own death event and make sure it was permanent and there was no torture involved. The more she thought of that the better that solution seemed. She sped out to the freeway and pressed the gas pedal to the floor. Reaching a flyover interchange, she gunned the motor and headed for a guard rail. There was a violent impact, and she was airborne and floating momentarily before blackness enveloped her.
The men in the vehicle at a safe distance behind looked at each other in surprise then shrugged. The passenger in that following vehicle reached for his cell phone and punched in a number informing someone at the other end of the line what had just happened. Then they took the next exit and wound their way through streets below until they reached the approximate spot they estimated the vehicle would have crashed. As there was a large gathering crowd they found a parking spot some distance away and went on foot to move through the crowd and confirm Grace was dead. No one could possibly survive that fall. Two police cars had just arrived at the scene and were pushing the crowd back for the approaching ambulances. “Must be a few casualties!” One of the men muttered.
The car had gone through the roof of a mattress factory storage area. The syndicate men watched from behind the barrier erected by police and strained to try and identify Grace among those being loaded into ambulances for transportation to hospital. Some were walking and some were on stretchers. The syndicate men took photos on their cell phones which head office could digitally enhance to identify those coming out of the building and hopefully confirm if she’d died. They’d find out which hospital was to receive those hurt or killed and follow up there.
Next morning when Marvin arrived at work he talked with the security team planning the day schedule on his way to the office. Sid Green spoke. “That woman Grace you were talking to yesterday is in hospital emergency. Apparently there was an accident and it’s a miracle she wasn’t killed as she went over a bridge not far from here.”
Remembering the fears Steph had expressed a sudden fear gripped Marvin. Had the syndicate learned about their conversation somehow and was this man giving him a veiled warning something similar could happen to him should he get in the way of their plans? He expressed no emotion as he was unsure of whether Steph had been bluffing about this man’s involvement to get herself off the hook. Marvin nodded. “That’s too bad, she seemed like a good possible recruit for our staff here. We’re in need[IG1] of a program coordinator for recreation activities.”
He moved on quickly and began to check his messages and open mail before doing the rounds of the retirement complex with its separate units and assisted living areas. But he couldn’t get the fate of Steph out of his mind. In a way he viewed her as a stepsister even though they were not blood related in any way. He shuddered as thoughts of his childhood came to mind. He had been fortunate to be rescued and given a chance but what chance did she have with the kind of life he was now enjoying? Life was not fair!
That evening Marvin had reached a high stress level. It seemed this syndicate Steph told him about could be planning criminal activities in his institution and he didn’t know what to do. He thought of his adoptive Mother Maria Murphy now retired from the police force. His father was still employed but seemed to travel a lot now and Marvin was not clear just what his work was though knew it had something to do with policing. He decided to make the one-hour trip to where his adoptive parents lived and consult with them how to involve the police and phoned to see if they were home. Maria Murphy was overjoyed to hear from her son and assured him of a good home cooked meal when he got there.
Patrick Murphy had been out travelling the past two days, so he poured out his fears to Maria who happened to be alone. His two siblings had left home long ago. His sister was happily married, and brother worked for a software developer. He related the events of yesterday, his encounter with Steph who’d changed her name and the conversation he’d had with her in the cafeteria, the potential for a mole in the retirement complex and the accident which had placed Steph into ICU. Maria recalled Steph from the days when she used to specialize in court actions for endangered children even though it had been many years since she’d paid frequent visits to Marvin’s true mother’s dysfunctional home. When Marvin finished his story, Maria sighed.
“You could be in danger Marvin. I think we need to consult with your Pa. The branch he works in now deals with syndicated crime so he will know just how serious this is. He works undercover most of the time now. She picked up her cell phone and punched in a number then tapped a message. “Is it OK to talk?”
She waited patiently for a response. After ten minutes there was a notification noise and she looked at her cell phone. “No voice calls, are you OK?”
Maria typed a message. “Yes, OK but something urgent has come up at home can you take a break to come home.”
Another pause and then a notification noise. “Was going to return in the morning but will start for home now. See you in two hours.”
Maria nodded happily. “OK son I want you to get some sleep now. You can use one of the guest rooms and I’ll get you some of your Pa’s pyjamas to wear. Better you repeat what you’ve just told me to him, and we’ll see what advice he has for you. Your Pa will probably need some sleep when he arrives home so early tomorrow morning you will get to talk with him.
To be continued.
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