“I have a great plan,” Leon said. “I’ll cause a huge commotion up front, draw all their attention and you’ll sneak behind them and get inside. Where you’ll quickly access their files and find out what they did with the husband and kid. Then we scarper.”
“Two things,” Kat replied. “First off,there are two kids. Secondly, that’s a terrible plan. You’ll get yourself shot for certain.”
“I can take a few blasts,” Leon stated. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“And you’ve almost died more than once,” Kat reminded him. “No. We’ll use a more subtle approach.”
“Meaning?” Leon asked.
Kat sighed. “Lucy and I will doctor up some fake identities. We’ll go in posing as prospective clients from some major company that they have to deal with at the highest level and leave a bug with a localised stealth field in the head honcho’s office. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to overhear something useful before they find it. Simultaneously, Lucy and Grace will work on breaking into their files remotely.”
“And how is that better than my idea?” Leon asked.
“Because, you Stubborn, Ridiculous man, it stands a chance of working,” Kat explained. “Come on, let’s get to it.”
“Our security is the best in this galaxy,” the representative explained. He was a chatty young man with half his face oddly covered by his hair. “I’m sure you’ll find it perfect for your company, Miss Smith.”
“Please, call me Sarah,” Kat said. “You don’t have to try so hard to pitch your company to us. Everyone who’s anyone knows Watchful Falcon.”
“Still, I’m surprised to see you here,” he continued. “I thought your lot owned the Vigilant Gryphon.”
“We do,” Kat stated. “But you’ve seen the latest standings. The Gryphon’s lost a lot of ground. We used to be at te height of security. Now…” Kat took a pause and sighed. “Now we can scarcely even be called number five. And we’re still losing our share of the market.” She beckoned for him to move closer and looked around, as though checking for people listening. “I have something of an ulterior motive for my visit. We’re planning on shutting down the Gryphon and renewing our focus on textiles and manufacturing. I was hoping to talk with Madeline about a buyout.”
He looked around carefully. “Of course, I’ll go talk with her. I’m sure she’ll want to see you right away.”
He hurried off. Kat gave Leon a smug look.
“I still say my idea was just as valid,” Leon whispered.
The rep quickly returned. “Miss Masters will see you both,” he hurried them into the office.
“Sarah, so pleased to see you,” Madeline Masters greeted them, taking Kat’s hand. “So sorry to hear about the Gryphon. Charles, you may go.” Their escort bowed and hurried out.
“Nature of the business,” Kat said. “We’re still number one in manufacturing.”
“Of course,” Madeline said. “But that can always change later. I’m delighted that you came to do business in person. E-mails are just so impersonal.”
“I make it my business to meet with major business partners, even prospective ones, in person,” Kat said.
“Yes, I had heard the rumour,” Madeline said. “And, you want the buyout to make for a better announcement?”
“Naturally,” Kat said. “A buyout sounds so much better than an announcement of simply closing our doors.”
“And you could hardly be blamed for selling a subsidiary to the largest in the field,” Madeline said. “I trust you have the contracts?”
Kat held out her hand held. “Right here. I believe you’ll find them eminently fair.”
Leon waited until she was engrossed in the paperwork and quietly attached the bug to the inside of a lampshade. Not that anyone was paying attention to him. Masters hadn’t even looked at him once. Which suited him fine, he couldn’t passably talk business. He could barely feign interest while they were doing it.
“The terms look completely acceptable,” Madeline said. Kat noted that she was beaming. “I’ll have my lawyers go through everything and we’ll contact your people in a week, maximum.”
“And we’ll reply just as swiftly,” Kat said. The two shook hands.
“I do hope to see you at some social events, Sarah,” Madeline said.
“Certainly,” Kat responded.
After some pleasantries, Kat and Leon took their leave. They quickly returned to the Cerberus.
“So, we have about a week before they catch us, right?” Leon asked.
“A little more than that,” Kat said. “A week is how long it’ll take before we cause a panic at Abico’s corporate headquarters and they start frantically trying to get a hold of the people at the top. But, at that time, Miss Smith will be t a very important conference and won’t be able to answer them quickly.”
“So, you planned around that?” Leon asked.
“No, just fortunate timing,” Kat answered. “Frankly, I hope we don’t need that much time. The sooner we find out what’s going on with Mrs Wright’s family, the faster we can get this job over with.”
“Doesn’t sit well with me either,” Leon muttered. “Helping a scumbag so we can use her against bigger scumbags.”
“If it makes you feel better her family might be innocent,” Kat said.
“They’re probably assholes too,” Leon scoffed.
In spite of trying to hold it back, Kat chuckled.