The night was broken only by the full moon above. Illuminated by its ghostly light was a deserted road, lined with houses. A man walked briskly and quietly down the road, glancing neither right nor left. As he crossed an intersection, a light breeze blew open the man’s tailored black trench coat and revealed a red dress shirt and a pair of silky slacks. He ran his hand through a full head of black hair as he scanned his surroundings with his cold and keen gray eyes. The man carried a briefcase in a grip of iron. Soon the houses gave way to rambling countryside. However, scenery was the last thing on the man’s mind, and he hurried on ahead. At last he stopped at the large metal gate of a majestic, yet intimidating mansion. Seeing that no one was in the security booth, he rang a buzzer and waited for someone to address him.
After a few moments, a security man walked into the booth and greeted him. “Excuse me, sir; is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes,” said the man. “I’m looking for Clint Huntsford.”
The guard looked at him suspiciously.
The man continued calmly. “My company, Jamison & Co., made an appointment last night.”
The man watched the guard pull out his phone to confirm. The security guard then walked through the gate and said, “Before going further, I’m going to have to ask you to submit to a security check, sir.” The man flashed an odd smile, and then silently pulled out a cell phone, a wallet, and a curious-looking small remote and handed them to the guard, turning out his pockets to show him that they were empty.
When the guard held up the remote questioningly, the man said, “Oh, that’s just my car key.” Despite his smile and easy-going tone of voice, the man’s eyes darted sharply from the guard’s face to the remote.
But the guard was apparently satisfied with the explanation, and he went on with the rest of his security check. After the possessions were returned, the man followed the still-curious guard through the gate, across the lavish garden and through the front door.
They continued down a hallway into a magnificent room featuring a large circular table flanked by marble walls and floor. The table had only two chairs, one facing the door the other facing its partner.
“Mr. Huntsford will be with you shortly,” said the guard exiting and leaving the man in silence. The guest sat in the closest chair and waited.
About five minutes later, a young man came into the room and sat in the unoccupied chair. He had sharp, blue eyes, close-cut dirty-blonde hair, and an overall intelligent face. He wore a tan suit, despite the late hour, and he produced a polite smile and said, “Welcome to my house. I’m Clint Huntsford. I understand you’re a representative from Jamison & Co., Mr., um, Owens, right?”
“Yes, Owens. Jack Owens.” A thin smile twitched curiously on his lips.
“Where have you come from, Mr. Owens?”
“That’s a long way from Danville,” mused Mr. Huntsford.
“Yes,” said Jack absentmindedly. “I wasn’t expecting a full-body pat down from a house guard.”
“Oh,” said Huntsford, suddenly more alert. “Sorry about that. I have him be extra careful with visitors after dark,” he added with an uneasy laugh. “You can never be too careful with security, nowadays.” Jack studied him closely, and after a minute Huntsford uncomfortably changed the subject. “Let’s talk about the business you came for. Your company indicated that there was something wrong with our product. Could you tell me more specifically what the problem is?”
Jack’s curious smile grew a little. “I’m actually not an employee of Jamison & Co. And I’ve come with quite a different mission than the one you were planning to deal with.”
Huntsford stared uncomprehendingly at Jack. “What do you mean?”
Jack pulled a file from his briefcase and placed it onto the table separating the two men.
Picking it up, Huntsford asked, “What’s this?”
Jack replied slowly, “You know what that is, Huntsford. It’s evidence… for a crime that you should be very familiar with.”
Huntsford’s smile vanished and his face grew deathly pale. He opened the file and stared at the contents in horror. “How…how did you-?”
“If this is leaked to the police you will be a ruined man forever,” Jack bluntly stated.
“Maybe…I’m sorry it had to come to this,” said Huntsford, all confusion clearing from his face. “The first time was an accident but… what has been done once can be done again.”
With that, Huntsford opened a drawer in the table, pulled out a black revolver, cocked it, and pointed it at Jack’s head.
Jack smiled cynically. “That’s a bad idea, Huntsford,” he said quietly. He seemed totally at ease, his face calm, even at the sight of the gun.
“Why?” Huntsford’s voice was tight with tension.
“Do you think I would come in here without insurance?” Jack took out the small remote from his inside coat pocket. Laughing, Jack held the remote up for Huntsford to see. “This remote is a detonator for a bomb. Before coming here, I had this bomb placed at the headquarters of Huntsford Industries. I have a man waiting in the city; and if I don’t contact him in—” he glanced at his watch. “Fifteen minutes, then he’ll set off the bomb, after which he will turn in the original tape.”
Huntsford grew very still. “Tell me why I should believe you.”
Jack’s smile grew. “You don’t have to. You’ll believe it well enough when your building goes up in smoke and you go to prison.”
Huntsford’s eyes widened and his hand shook so much he almost dropped the gun. His business contacts, his company files, his records… everything was in the building that Jack Owens had just mentioned.
“Today’s your lucky day, though. I don’t want to ruin you, however surprising that may seem. If you fill this briefcase with, say, two million dollars, I’ll destroy the evidence and leave. I will deactivate the bomb, and I’ll never return.”
Jack smiled inwardly. The animal was cornered, and it had to give in to his demands.
Still thinking furiously, Clint said, “How do I know that you won’t send the original tape in after you get your money? These are just stills from video footage, and I want insurance against that possibility.”
“Well, seeing that you have only ten minutes left to decide, I suggest you just trust me.”
At last, Huntsford said, “Ok. I’ll give you the money as long as you destroy this right in front of my eyes.”
Jack said, “Fine, but I get the money first.”
“If you will wait for a moment.” Huntsford stood up and exited the way he entered and returned with a metal case. Jack opened the box, checked the money, and then put it in his briefcase. Without saying anything, he took the pictures, tore them into sixteenths, and scattered them around the room.
Jack got up and started walking out of the room. He paused at the door, “Remember, if you try anything funny, my man blows up your company. Let me go unharmed, and nothing happens.” Then he left without glancing back.
Outside, he took out his phone and made a call.
“Well?” asked a voice.
“Well, mission accomplished,” murmured Jack.
“And the files?”
A cruel smile lit Jack’s face. “Release them.”