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13 – Elevated Conversation

Rais Karim was waiting for them in the lobby of the hotel when they returned. Oliver spotted him through the wide, tinted glass windows, sitting in one of the comfortable chairs and obviously pretending to read a magazine.   

He threw down the magazine and accosted Oliver as he and Diana pushed through the revolving door. “We need to speak. In private.”

Oliver motioned for Rais to follow them and they stepped into the elevator together. 

Oliver intentionally moved in front of the control panel after pressing the button for the top floor. He didn’t expect that Rais Karim would try to stop the elevator, didn’t even know if that actually worked outside of movies, but figured it was worth avoiding the issue. He kept one hand close to the panel, ready to press the button for the next floor if he and Diana needed to make a quick exit. 

Diana moved to stand beside Oliver and slipped her arm around behind his back as if they were lovers. Her fingers slipped around the grip of the gun in his waistband.

“The meeting did not go as planned,” Rais said, his tone cold.

“This should not come as a surprise to a man with your history,” Oliver replied.

“Not an hour ago I was sitting in my favorite café enjoying a cup of coffee and my morning newspaper, hoping to hear that you had secured the scroll for your rich American client and gotten it out of the hands of those mercenary bastards. Then I got a call. It was from one of those very same bastards. He said that your expert,” he spared a vitriolic glance for Diana before looking back to Oliver and continuing, “called the scroll a forgery and advised you not to purchase it.”

“What are those clowns planning to do?” Oliver asked, affecting a disinterested tone.

“I do not know. Given the sort of man Kyle is, I imagine he might have already torn the scroll to bits or set it on fire in a rage.”

“Good. Then your secrets are safe.”

Rais Karim appeared to be gathering himself for a scream, or possibly even to throw a punch, when the elevator dinged to a stop and the doors opened. A young woman dressed in exercise clothes stepped aboard. Oliver stepped aside to allow her access to the elevator controls. She tapped the already glowing button for the roof and leaned against the wall beside Diana, tapping a tennis racket against her knee. 

Oliver looked back to Rais and said, his voice as calm as if they were discussing an everyday business deal, “I highly doubt that the supplier is going to act on any of the documents in his possession, assuming they haven’t been shredded already. That was your goal, wasn’t it? To ensure that your business assets remained guarded?”

Rais scowled at Oliver, but managed to engage with his charade. “You are not entirely wrong, but I would have preferred that the documents be preserved intact. I did not seek their destruction.”

“Business can be unpredictable. The deal would have fallen through anyway. My client balked at the share price.”

Karim glowered at Oliver, breathing slowly and deeply.

Oliver wondered if the old spy was about to attack him, despite the presence of a witness.

Rais muttered something unintelligible and stepped forward to press the button for the next floor. The elevator dinged to a stop almost immediately and he stepped off.

Before the doors closed he turned back and said, “I hope this brings our business to a close, Mr. Lucas. If I have anything to say about it, you will never again attempt to purchase stock on the Egyptian market.”

“Fortunate for me you are no longer involved with that business, isn’t it?”

Rais Karim glared at Oliver and was opening his mouth to spit back some invective when the doors slid closed. 

“Bad business deal?” the woman asked, speaking in softly accented English.

“You could say that,” Diana replied. 

The woman nodded and said, “I’ve been there.” 

Oliver smiled wistfully, but did not say anything. The three of them rode in silence until they reached the rooftop tennis courts. The woman waved to several friends and set off at an easy jog to join them on the court while Oliver and Diana settled in at the rooftop bar and ordered drinks.

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The Staff of Moses © 2022, Andrew Linke