by Roger Fritz, 6-4-02
During the lunch rush, a man in a suit walked into a Mexican restaurant. He was young, and his black hair was slicked back. His name was Norman Stevens. The suit was fashionably baggy, and he walked with the grace of a sack of cement.
He threaded through the tables to a booth where an older man already sat, nursing coffee. "Okay, Smitty," he said, "I'm here."
The older man was bald, and was wearing a Pendleton shirt with 3 ballpoint pens in the pocket. "Don't call me Smitty," he said.
Steam fogged the window next to the booth. Stevens sat down. "Im here because 3 days ago you broke into my company offices. How'd you do it, by the way?"
"Do what?" Waitresses twirled past with piled plates like performers on the Ed Sullivan Show.
"You must have had pass cards, passwords. You must have known the layout of the surveilence system. Where'd you get that stuff?"
Smith shrugged. "From a guy."
Stevens laughed. "Right. Alright, we'll make it part of the price. I just want to know who the inside guy is." A waitress came for their order. Stevens ordered coffee, and he looked around to see if he could spot any of Smith's bodyguards. No one looked out of the ordinary. Stevens himself had 3 men inside and 2 more outside.
"What price?" Smith asked, when the waitress had left.
"Look, Smith. When you broke into our records you found out a fact I don't want publicly known, which is that we're broke."
Smith almost choked on his coffee. "You're broke! You guys are backed up so far you must be twenty million in the red. You've been lying to your stock-holders. You guys could go to jail for major fraud."
"Alright, so we're extremely broke. What I want is for you to diappear for awhile."
"You mean like move to parts unknown? Never heard from again?"
Stevens smoothed his eyebrows. "Right."
"So I take the rap? You're going to say I stole twenty million, I'm going to have to disappear really good. The price for that will come high."
"All I've got now is $200,000."
"Well, that's alright as a first payment on ten million. If we're going to do this, I get half."
Stevens shrugged. "I figured."
Stevens took an envelope out of his pocket and put it on the table. "Here's $40,000 now, and the rest we'll arrange through the same guys arranged this meeting."
"When I have the ten million, you get the name of the inside guy." Smith chuckled. "Why didn't you just kill me?"
Stevens smiled. "If this all falls down, I don't want to be facing a murder rap."
Smith pursed his lips. "Shows good sense." He picked up the envelope. "First time I ever got talked into blackmailing somebody.
Stevens looked pained. "Bet it's also the first time you ever got money from an empty safe."
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