Chapter 1 - Private Deals
The winds of a hot summer day blew relentlessly across the sands of the desert with the slow movement of camels led by desert nomads being the only things that was moving in any direction. However, this tranquility was interrupted by the sight of a jeep moving along at fairly high speeds down a paved road that seemed very much out of place in this picture.
"Let me get this straight. We're traveling all the way to this god forsaken country to meet this big oil company head for thirty minutes, turn around and head back to the US to do whatever he contracts us to do. Why doesn't he just call or email us and we can do all of this from company headquarters?" the redhead muttered as she held her right hand atop her broad brimmed hat to keep it from blowing away as they motored along.
"Gwen, you know that the client requested this meeting so that there wouldn't be any kind of paper trail that might lead back to him. Besides, if we did this type of business at HQ, you know what type of questions we'd have to answer from Tallacus and his bunch of 'obey the rules of the contract' bunch," Allan said as he brushed a bit of hair away from his darkened sunglasses with his free hand while keeping a hand on the jeep's steering wheel.
"Tallacus is nothing but an old goat! After that whole disaster at the party, he pushed for Opportunities to restrict our total number of contracts by 50 % of previous year's totals to keep the company further away from public notice. The Council voted by a one vote majority to go along with Tallacus' proposal after six months of debate. However, those in the minority think along the same lines as you and I do. They're tired of the Council's insisting that contracts being done as secretly as possible and can only be fulfilled to balance a prior act. That's why Brazlik and Sturgis talked to us privately before we left to meet this client," Gwen said as she tapped the edge of her door window nervously with her long fingernails that were painted bright red in color.
Allan arched hs left eyebrow in surprise at what he heard. "Are you sure that your feelings haven't been influenced by your past encounters with Tim?" the brown haired man asked while secretly knowing what kind of response his query would bring.
Gwen's face darkened and she unleashed a furious spiel of colorful expletives for ten or so seconds before calming down somewhat. "Tim will rue the day he crossed me in the near future! If the company goes in the new direction that people like you and I want, he'll be lucky if he's doing magic tricks for kids parties for a living. If I get my way, he won't even....... there it is!... .turn into the yard up ahead!" she shouted with gesturing with her right hand.
The jeep slowed down and turned into what looked like a parking lot for a fairly large operation on the nearby shoreline. After parking, Gwen and Allen got out and made their way towards a three story building nearest the site that appeared to have been built within the last two or three months. Walking inside, the two found themselves walking into a lobby that looked like any building you might see in a major metropolitan city. With expensive furnishings and a glass ceiling with retractable shades, it looked a little out of the place for such a remote location.
"We have an appointment to see Mr. Larson.... 2: 30.... under 'Coffee Break'......." Gwen intoned to the blonde secretary working at what looked like a reception area. The secretary looked up, glanced briefly at the two in front of her and started talking into the headset she was wearing.
"Follow me, please," the secretary said a minute or so later as she took off her headset and gestured towards the hallway behind her. The two Opportunities employees followed the secretary down an expensively decorated hallway with the door at the end seeming to be their destination. However, 3/4 of the way there, the secretary stopped and turned to face the blank wall on the right. Bending down, the secretary reached into her pocket and pulled out what looked like a key made of some sort of transparent material. The woman reached for what looked like an ordinary electrical outlet built into the wall and, to Gwen and Allen's surprise, flipped open the cover and inserted the key into the hole underneath.
Two or three seconds later, there was a barely audible grinding noise followed by a portion of the wall starting to recede backwards. After it pulled to one side, the secretary motioned the guests to follow her down a corridor which ended in a lavender red door. Depressing a button next to it, the door swung open to reveal a typical office setting though there was no windows or any other door leading out of it. The latter was particularly surprising as there was a heavyset, mid 50's man sitting behind a large oak desk talking energetically into a cell phone.
"........and tell those god damned Yemenis that I'm not going one dollar lower on my labor estimates. If they want it cheaper, they can get some of those camel jockeys to drag the steel through the desert to the place they want their rig built! I don't give a shit about their 'other bidders' crap! They know that Murdock Construction can build an oil rig twice as fast as some second rate French or Canadian wahoo! Git on it, Jake, and let me know by Friday that they've signed off, ok? Talk to ya soon!" the man said in a boisterous manner before slapping his phone shut and turning his attention to his visitors.
"Ahh, you must be those two people from that Opportunity firm that I talked to. Come on in and put your feet up! Can I get either one of you a drink? I'm having a Canadian beer myself.... can't get a damned American one anywhere in this whole god forsaken area!" the construction man said as he bounced to his feet and walked over to what looked like a well stocked bar area to his right.
Gwen shook her head negatively while Allen requested a rum and coke. After pouring both his guests a drink, Mr. Larson opened a bottle of Budoors and settled behind his desk once again. "From what I've been told, you two can arrange it so your clients' problems disappear in a way that leaves no problems for anyone. Is that the gist of what you do?" the man said before taking a deep drink from his bottle.
Gwen coughed slightly and glanced briefly at Allan before focusing her attention on Mr. Larson once again. "I don't think I would put it quite that way. At Opportunities Inc., we look at our work as giving out clients what would be considered a fair and reasonable resolution of a matter that is troubling them," the red haired woman replied sternly in her typical 'no nonsense' attitude.
Larson chuckled softly and took another swig from his bottle before replacing it on his desk. "Look, you don't have to give me the sanitized version of what y'all do, ok? Let's get down to the brass tacks of what I want ya to do and so on. I want ya to make my wife Connie disappear, ok?" the businessman said in a matter of fact way as he handed a 8 x 10 photo to Allan.
"That shouldn't be a problem, Mr. Larson. Would it be possible for you tell us the reason behind this request?" Gwen said as she glanced at the photo and saw what looked like a brown haired woman in her early 30's wearing an evening gown that revealed an ample sized chest and a figure that most women dreamed about.
"Reason? Ya mean did I catch her sleeping with another man? Or do I plan on divorcing her and want to save money? Hell, no, nothing like that all. I'm just tired of her and want to move onto another woman without any baggage from a previous marriage. The only thing I ask is some small item that I can keep to remind me that things have been completed. Is there anything else you two might need to know?" the company head said with a wolfish smile.
"No, I don't think so. You've already sent our parent company all the needed information that we'll be needing for this assignment. If there's nothing else, we'll leave now and start taking care of this woman," Gwen replied as she started to rise out of her seat with Allen. However, they were quickly motioned to remain seated by a suddenly agitated Larson.
"Woman? No, no, you mean WOMEN! I don't know why you thought otherwise but I want two women taken care of ASAP. If it was just my wife that I wanted dealt with, hell, I could just arrange something on my own!" Larson said gesturing towards a stuffed rhino head mounted a nearby wall.
"Well, I'm sorry if we were misinformed about our assignment. I'll certainly look into the matter when we get back to our headquarters as to the source of the faulty data, " Gwen said in response while shooting a look of death in Allan's direction. "If you could tell us a little about the second woman you have in mind."
"Shucks, missy, that's easy. When you got here, you were escorted here by my personal secretary, Jackie. Well, she and I have been having quite the little fling over the past 18 months or so and I must say she's a fire in the sack, if ya catch my drift. However, if I want to move on with my personal life, I can't have someone like her wanting to shoehorn herself into my financial life after my wife goes poof. Hell, from what I know of Jackie, she'd probably insist on a ring for her finger with the threat of going to the cops about Connie being her way of getting it. That's why I need you fellers to get rid of them both with the provisals I mentioned before," Larson responded as he scribbled some notes on a piece of paper before handing it to Gwen.
"I'm sure we can accommodate this request, Mr. Larson. Knowing your request for no paper trail of this contract, we'll destroy all the notes that you have given us today. Is there anything else you want to tell us at this point?" Gwen said as she quickly scanned the paper handed to her before giving it to Allan.
"Nope, I think just about everything has been covered. One thing, though, before you leave: Screw this up in any way and you don't know me when the tough questions get asked, if ya know what I mean. Heck, though, that'll probably never happen, right?" Larson replied, with his eyes narrowing to tiny slits that indicated he only wanted to hear one answer.
"We won't have any problem with this at all, sir. Thank you and we'll contact you via the intermediary when the contract has been fulfilled!" Gwen answered confidently as she stood and shook the man's hand. She and Allan turned and left the office the same way they entered pausing to shred the documents in a paper shredder out in the hallway.
Once they were back in their car and headed back down the road, Gwen turned to Allan even as the vehicle around them started to shimmer and lose depth and shape. "I'll take the wife... you take the mistress....... and if any us screws this up, here's what we'll do......." Gwen started to say before her voice, as well as the car and its occupants, faded away like a desert mirage.
Elsewhere......at roughly the same time.............
A dark-haired man with white hair at the temples limped slowly to his kitchen's sink where he poured himself a glass of tap water. Looking out a nearby window, he saw that it was a typical morning for the suburban neighborhood he lived in with most of his neighbors doing chores on this early summer morning. From the Jacksons, a retired couple who prided themselves on maintaining numerous plants and shrubs on their front lawn, to the widower Sanders, who obsessed with the large number of parakeets she had outdoors in her aviary, and even the young Barnes couple, who always seemed to be talking on their cell phones while jogging down the street, it looked like any other morning for people living in the area. As far as the neighbors knew, the man staring out was Mr. Tim Smith, a man who worked in some sort of import/export business. A quiet person, he was often seen coming and going with items that were unusual in appearance.
As Tim, wearing a dark blue and black jogging suit, stepped outside to retrieve the morning mail, he happened to glance over at the area of his lawn where he kept his assortment of lawn ornaments in all shapes and sizes. The neighbors regarded the items as an extension of Tim's work but the truth about the objects and Tim was far different than what was perceived.
The truth was that Tim worked for a company named Opportunities, Inc. that was not listed in any business directory locally or anywhere in the world. Known by relatively few people, it was a firm that dealt exclusively with balancing out past transgressions at the request of its clients. It did so by transforming the transgressor into an inanimate object of variable size, weight, etc. The agents for Opportunities were nearly immortal yet could be harmed/killed in a few ways that were fairly basic in nature. When interacting with the firm's clients, agents such as Tim always kept a low profile to maintain the secrecy of their work and not bring unwanted attention.
However, in the last few months, this attitude had been sharply compromised by incidents that were very troubling to Tim. In one occurrence, the city of Verona, Italy had reported in the city's newspapers of an unusual occurrence on a recent Friday night near the city's bustling nightclubs. Gina Loletteri, a famous blonde haired model who was rumored to have fallen out of favor with influential industry executives due to a drug habit, had been seen by several onlookers running down an side street frantically. According to the witnesses, she had stumbled into an area where several fountains were displayed for tourists to throw coins into before taking trips on one of many gondolas that traveled the city's waterways.
The police, who arrived several minutes after the incident was first reported, had seen Gina transform before their eyes from a living, breathing woman to what appeared to be the front of one of the gondolas. Her body seemed to merge with the ship as it became wooden in nature with her face frozen in a look of eternal longing and lust. The model's clothes changed as well to resemble a common harlot from Europe of the 1800's with these garments also becoming part of the wooden female masthead.
When the transformation completed, the stunned police saw a man looking to be in his mid 30's trying to slip away from the scene unnoticed. The police chased after the stranger on foot but reported 'the man disappeared in what seemed like a ball of silver and yellow energy'. From what Tim read, he recognized the wanted man as Giuseppe, an Opportunities agent that had operated on the European continent since 1890 or so.
Another, and far more serious incident, involved the wife of the vice chancellor of Madagascar, a small island country off the coast of South Africa. The woman, Lolita Marconi Sarazen, had her husband's ear when it came affairs of the state and she was a popular figure as far as the residents of the island were concerned. However, these facts were at odds with some high ranking military officials and certain government officials' plans. This group had been involved in a covert plan to overthrow the ruling chancellor, with the backing of the military, and install a new leader more receptive to their goals. Unfortunately for them, the vice chancellor, who they had privately chosen to lead the new regime, had refused to have anything to do with the coup on the advice of his wife. Realizing that they had only a little time to act before word of their plan leaked out into the general population, the coup leaders made arrangements to remove the biggest obstacle to their machinations.
A day or so later, Lolita was speaking at the opening of a new athletic gymnasium and training center that would serve as the base for training the nation's athletes for competition. The elegantly dressed woman was just finishing her speech when she suddenly stopped talking in mid sentence and her whole body seemed to be surrounded by a faint glow. Before her bodyguards could react, with the gathered audience looking on in stunned silence, Lolita's body started to change form rapidly. She rapidly shrank in size and soon couldn't be seen except for the people closest to her on the stage.
When the bright glow finally faded, it appeared that Lolita had vanished altogether leaving her clothes behind in a heap behind the podium she formerly was behind. However, this thought quickly changed when one of the bodyguards tentatively picked up one of the garments and found what looked like an unusual microphone sitting in the middle of the clothes. When the microphone was examined closer, it was found to be unlike the regular types found at speaking functions. The top of the device closely resembled Lolita's mane of red hair with her face, frozen in a look of shock of horror, visible just below it. Her breasts seemed to have the words ON and OFF written above them and when the bodyguard gently tapped the ON one, the entire mic seemed to slightly squirm as if it was alive on some level. As unlikely as it seemed, the woman had been changed into an inanimate microphone by someone or something.
However, while all this was going on and chaos was seemingly everywhere, the reason for this bizarre incident was speeding away in a high powered sports car followed closely by local police and government security officials. When the pursuing police radioed to their superiors that the suspect's car was starting to shimmer and lose shape, their superiors ordered the police to intercept and stop the suspect right away by any means necessary. Ninety or so seconds later, the suspect's car, as a result of ten to twenty gunshots fired at it and two police vehicles slamming into it from behind, veered off the highway and crashed into a deep ditch.
When the police made their way down to the wreckage, they expected to find their suspect as well as some evidence how he or she managed to do this bizarre act. To their surprise, they found the car was completely empty with no sign of the driver anywhere. The only clue the police had was a rather odd looking fountain pen that appeared to have been made of crystal but was melted by heat into two pieces. The fact that the car hadn't caught on fire and the crime lab workers determined that the pen's structure appeared to have been exposed to temperatures exceeding 400 Kelvin. Needles to say, the police on Madagascar were investigating the incident with all their resources available and had invited law enforcement agencies to aid in the investigation.
With the two public incidents, Opportunities Inc. found the veil of semi secrecy it had operated under for a long time was close to being ripped away forever. It was against this backdrop that Tim started his day by retrieving his newspaper from the mailbox at the front of his house. With his dark blue bathrobe wrapped around his body, he gazed out into the neighborhood and mentally wondered if he was strong enough for the oncoming chaos that was going to engulf him and everyone at Opportunities.
Glancing sideways, Tim saw the various types of ornaments he used for his front lawn. Among the ornaments he had bought at stores in various cities and countries, there was one in particular that his attention was focused on. Appearing to be an ordinary lawn gnome as far as the mailman or visitor was concerned, it was, in fact, the transformed shape of a woman named Jennifer Saunders. Since his first encounter with the woman, Tim had found himself privately amused by her attitude towards him and his job. At first, it had been an encounter contracted by Jennifer's former husband that had resulted in Tim's changing the woman into a love doll. After that, it had been several other changes before her current form as a plastic figurine with a yellow hat and blue suspenders.
"Well, Jennifer, I see your time is up as of one o'clock this afternoon so why don't I take you inside for now? If I left you outside when you're restored, it would make for a scene my neighbors aren't likely to forget for some time," Tim said softly as he descended down the front steps and retrieved the ornament in question. Holding it close to him, he waved briefly to Carla Ferguson, his neighbors two houses down, who was out for her morning jog. Tim let himself gaze upon the woman's ass, covered in tight fitting lycra, as Carla moved past his house and briefly wondered to himself if he should retire and settle into a normal life of living in the suburbs.
"Nice idea, Tim, but there's a few people who might want to even a few scores if you left the company now. Ah well...." the veteran company employee thought to himself before turning and heading inside his house. Figuring that Jennifer might appreciate privacy when she reverted back to her human form, Tim carried the lawn gnome into a spare bedroom of his house and laid it gently on the bed. He was going to leave the room at that point but paused when he got the doorway as a thought crossed his mind.
Walking over to the room's closet, Tim opened the closet door and started pushing aside hangers carrying spare suits of clothing for his trips to Europe and the Far East. Pushing those to the right, he came to the items he kept around for women he entertained at home for any length of time. Unlike many of the items he kept in his office, most of the things in Tim's office were just ordinary items in every way. For a few, however, there were a few that he kept around for sentimental reasons as well as to remind him why he went to work day after day after all this time.
In the case of the baby blue housecoat Tim retrieved from the closet, the story was fairly short and simple unlike many of his exploits. There was a woman, Marla Hollister, who owned a large number of clothing manufacturing companies that, upon an unforeseen downturn in her company's fortunes, resorted to torching a select number of her own warehouses. Collecting the insurance money, Marla was able to prop up her financial bottom line even while police struggled to find out who was responsible for the fires.
However, when Marla arranged for the cops to find evidence implicating an executive in the arsons, a relative of the accused man contacted Opportunities Inc. to see what they could do. The company, after signing the contract with the relative, assigned Tim to the task and he resolved it rather easily upon discovering Marla about to torch a warehouse that bordered on a large residential area. Realizing that the fire would have easily spread to the nearby homes and resulted in considerable loss of private property and probably lives, Tim invoked the P clause of the contract and dealt with Marla accordingly.
Before the ruthless woman, standing outside the warehouse in question, knew what was happening to her, she was transformed into the robe that Tim was now holding in his hands. After placing an anonymous phone call to the police so they could find the incriminating evidence concerning Marla's guilt, he left the scene as quietly as he had entered it.
"It didn't take much paperwork at all to let me hang on to this souvenir. Ah, those were the days......." Tim thought as he draped the coat over the gnome before heading back to the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. Sitting down at at the dining room table, he glanced at a clock on a nearby wall and saw that there was roughly thirty minutes or so until Jennifer returned to human form. Figuring he had nothing better to do, the salesman leafed through a few magazines while idly surfing the internet on his notebook computer.
After a short while, Tim swallowed the last of his coffee and was about to get another cup when he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun's trigger hammer being cocked coming from the other side of the kitchen. Glancing in that direction, he saw Jennifer, clad in the blue house coat, pointing a gun in his direction. Tim recognized the gun as one he had confiscated from a contract completion a few years earlier.
"Before you fire that gun and put an end to the person you probably blame for a lot of your misfortune recently, I should tell you that Gwen is once again an active agent for Opportunities, Inc. and I may be the only person that stands between you and her for the foreseeable future, " Tim said simply and not showing the least bit of what he faced.
Jennifer's face, a mask of intense anger, quickly softened as she absorbed what she heard. "Gwen? I, I thought she was taken care of by you a while back. Geez, what the hell do I do now?" she wailed as she lowered her gun in despair.
"Look, take a seat Jennifer, and I'll tell you all about Opportunities, Inc. I figure that's the least I can do at this point. By the way, do you take cream in your coffee?" Tim said, motioning her towards a nearby chair before heading to the nearby coffee machine.
To be continued.............