“The very same mystery man.. Do you know him?” James asked, confirming her fears in the most simple words. Scarlett did not know how it mattered to her anyway. Still, she hoped it wouldn’t be true.
“No…. I don’t know him. Just read about his case recently. ”
“Yes, a lot of speculations are going on. Some say he is being kidnapped… Some say he is murdered. Some say he is in some de-addiction center… Some say he met with an accident and is paralyzed… There is no shortage of theories.” James went on adding information about her muse.
Kelly pitched in, “But five years is a long time for someone like him to disappear. Something really dangerous must have happened. But he was damn good at business. He had a knack to turn things over. His father is taking care of the business, but the tension over Tristan’s absence is taking a toll on him. ”
Scarlett was curious, “But he does not seem to be a good person. Its said that he had more enemies than friends. ”
James and Kelly both agreed to that. James said, “Yes. Nobody really liked him. But he was a force you could not avoid. He was detached and direct. He knew what he could do and allowed nothing to stop him. He did not care if people liked him or not. He was… How shall I say… Charismatic, but without charm. Handsome, without beauty. Rich, yet poor in so many ways.”
Wow. That was deep. Scarlett could not help but feel sorry for Tristan Chase. Successful, yet a failure.
Kelly added, ” On the other hand, it is good that he is not there now. He would never look twice in our way, with the history of this deal. He checks everything.”
“That’s right. But that does not make it any easier. Which brings us back to Mathew. Are you sure we need to give him one month time?” James steered the discussion back to the core issue.
Scarlett also had the same concern. Mathew was a revengeful person. He had access to a lot of confidential information and databases. Scarlett said, “Before we make another move we need to block his access to all corporate files and things and keep his involvement to the least. We don’t want him to make another damage and it also gives us time to watch his moves. I may be wrong. But there is something evil going on.”
“That’s a good point, Scarlett. I’ll get the IT team to get on to it immediately. And I will take him with me for consulting meetings. He is less likely to be damaging that way.”
Appreciation from James felt good. All in all, the meeting was a great success. There was a lot of work to do.
The next few days went in a blur. Scarlett worked on the deal to a perfection and used her contacts in Cosmos to learn the odds of getting that million dollar signature on the papers.
At home, Scarlett stopped talking to the painting, ie., Tristan. All she did was stare at the painting, trying to find any clue to what happened a few days back. Tristan squirmed under her eyes. He longed to hear her sound. She would stare at him till late night, only her eyes illuminated by the bedside lamp. Then she would take her pillow and a sheet and go to the next room. Scarlett was fast coming to a conclusion that the painting was possessed. But it was not an evil spirit. That much she was sure.
Sometimes she saw more of his face, sometimes less. It was an accepted reality, one that she didn’t dare to voice out. Also, she was afraid to speak the name. It was jinxed. It was ‘aaallllll’ in the name. There were nights when she wanted to talk very badly. On such nights, she slept on the couch. The supernatural human warmth she experienced that fateful night often crept into her hands, that too at odd times, giving her a jolt, blurring the lines of what was real and not.
Scarlett never stopped wondering about Tristan and how he moved. It was a constant thought, a feeling and a presence in her life now. She breathed, she worked and she thought about Tristan. Always.
The date for meeting with Cosmos was finalized. It took really crazy persuasion to get them to agree to the conditions and initial negotiations. Cyberatics had to bend a lot. Scarlett was prepping before going to the meeting when Mathew suddenly burst into her cabin.
“How dare you? You bitch… How dare you accuse me? Who are you to spy me?”
Shit. Mathew. This is very poor timing.
He was red with anger, his cheeks and hands shivering. Scarlett almost thought she had made a grave mistake by doubting Mathew, until she saw the green envy and hate shine in his eyes. The wicked gleam warned her, alerting her instincts that this man was capable of anything. Scarlett’s fingers moved to the emergency button.
“Mathew… mind your language…! This is not the way nor the time to talk. And don’t blame me for the consequences of your actions.”
Her fingers were hovering over the button. Still shivering in anger, Mathew moved closer to her table, his voice an eerie whisper. “Yes. You are right. The consequences of somebody’s action should not be blamed others. And you know what… You are not the victim here. I am. This chair, which seats your beautiful ass, it was supposed to be mine. You know that, don’t you?”
Mathew was now leaning over her, so close she coughed at the suffocating smell of cigarettes and mouth spray and chewing gum and god knows what not. Scarlett was pushed into her chair.
“You have no idea about what you have gotten yourself into Scarlett. This is huge. The money is huge. You cannot even fathom where all this leads. And now, you have messed it all. There is no way you can get out now. There is no way I will let you out.” His voice was lighter than a whisper, his eyes venomous slits.
” You spoiled everything. You fucking messing bitch…” Out of the blue, Mathew grabbed her throat and Scarlett pressed the emergency button on the side of the desk.