A flash-fiction challenge.
The businessman walked into the office to see the man there. It was a nondescript office building in Manhattan. Both the building and the neighborhood had seen better days. It was the sort of building in which one would have found a `40s hard-boiled PI’s office. Judging by the very expensive suit he was wearing, one wouldn’t expect the businessman to have been caught dead in that building.
The man he was seeing looked similarly nondescript. Oh, he was dressed well enough, but he was instantly forgettable. He waved the businessman to a seat. “What can I do for you?”
“I have heard that you can arrange for people to do things that they may not have been inclined to do,” the businessman ventured.
“I have been known to do that. What is it that you wish someone to do?”
“I want my partner to sell his share of our business. So far, he has refused.”
The man nodded. “Do you want he should sell it, or sell it to you?”
“What’s the difference, practically speaking?”
“It will cost..” he named a mid-five figure amount “...to get him in a frame of mind to sell. It will cost four times that amount to get him in a frame of mind to sell only to you.”
“How will you accomplish this?”
“I will need you to get me within fifty feet of him for ten minutes before I can begin my work. Can you do that?”
“Yes, I can do that. He has a standing reservation for dinner every Tuesday at Daniel on East 65th at eight. I will arrange to join him in two weeks. I’ll have someone who he doesn’t know call you and invite you to dine with that person at the same place and time.”
“All right. But mail a photograph regardless, in case there are more than two of you at the table. And now, my terms: From the day I see the target until sixty days afterwards, if he does as you ask, you are to pay me. Whatever reason he gives you for his actions, you may trust that it is by my influence. Do you understand this?”
“Do you want him to be persuaded to sell, or to sell to you?”
“To sell. I’ll ensure that he knows that I wish to buy.”
“You understand that if he sells to anyone else, my fee will be due?”
“Very well. Arrange the dinner and I will be in touch.” The man behind the desk bent his head down and began working on some papers. The businessman was nonplused, but he showed himself out of the office.
The nondescript man had the dinner, a younger man picked him up in a Town Car and took him to the restaurant. The kid talked through most of the meal, which was fine with the man. He concentrated on the target and soon had what he needed. There was no check to be paid, the waiter assured them that the bill “had been taken care of, including the gratuity.”
He went to work. It wasn’t a difficult task. The target was already thinking of selling out and retiring. All he needed was a gentle push. Easy-peasy.
Six weeks later, the man read in the papers that the target had sold his interest in the business to his partner. The man sent the businessman an invoice “for services rendered.” The invoice was returned with this written on it: “You must be joking. You did nothing.”
The man sighed. Why must they always do it the hard way?
The businessman began having dreams of fire, of burning alive. He couldn’t get any sleep. He took sleeping pills, but they didn’t help. When his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep, the fires came, the pain was ghastly. After several nights, the businessman began to see a human form behind the flames, The form was directing the flames. They burned, ever more painfully. Then he saw the face of the man directing the flames– it was the man in the office. No, it couldn’t be true! The man in his nightmare assured him that it was.
A bike messenger brought an envelope to the businessman the following morning. Inside was an invoice and a mini-CD. The invoice was from the man, with a $20,000 collection fee added. At the bottom of the invoice was scrawled the words: “It’s true.” The mini-CD had one file, a music file. The businessman played it; he recognized it as a `70s song: “Dream Weaver.”
Three hours later, a different messenger handed a package to the man in his nondescript office. The package weighed a few pounds; it held an expensive leather briefcase. Inside the briefcase was ninety-two thousand dollars, in cash.
The man sighed. Cash was always a problem, he’d have been happy to take a check, Dream weaving wasn’t illegal.
It was, however, very lucrative.