The following is Chapter 2 of the Original Short Story “Miranda” featured on BoxOfficeBoredom.com. If you haven’t read chapter 01, click here to check it out.
Audio Chapter also available on our YouTube channel
2 days earlier.
Lauren Deneveau had never met Orson Escott in person until today. They had communicated via email for the last few weeks until they planned to meet. At first it had seemed so easy, but now as she sat at the small café waiting for him to appear it made her worry all the more. What if everyone found out about them? What if someone was already on to them? Her mind was racing but on the outside she looked cool, calm and collect. She was wearing the red dress and blue jean jacket that she told Orson she’d wear so he could spot her upon arrival. She was sure to keep her oversized sunglasses on thinking it would help make her more non-discreet to other café guests. The waitress had brought her a glass of sweet tea and she sat outside on the street side seating, sipping it. She was pretending to be reading a copy of the latest Dan Brown novel. She was far too nervous to read, but Orson suggested it so she blended in even more.
Orson Escott spotted Lauren immediately. He approached her from behind, looking over his shoulder a few times and surveying the area. He felt certain that he was not followed but you can never be too careful in his business. He leaned over and touched Lauren on the shoulder as he approached the table. Lauren jumped, nearly spilling her tea all over her red sundress.
“Ms. Deneveau, you are more beautiful in person than I imagined.” said Orson as he sat down next to her.
“You must be Orson,” smiled Lauren. “Nice to finally meet you in person.” She squirmed in her seat a bit. Orson Escott looked a bit older than she had expected. He was tall, slender and had dark brown hair that was starting to become speckled with grey hairs. He was wearing a black suit jacket with a blue button down shirt. It looked as though he was trying his hardest to be casual even though you could tell his lack of tie made him feel uncomfortable. It made sense though, he was after all a billionaire.
“Lauren, just so we start off on the same page, I am a man who conducts business with people I can trust in every aspect. If you betray me, I walk and I make sure things are messy for everyone involved but me. Are we clear?” asked Escott.
“Of Course.” Said Lauren as she uncomfortably fidgeted in her chair hoping no one was looking at them; although it felt a million set of eyeballs were on her as they spoke.
“Great,” said Escott. “As we have discussed a few weeks ago a computer science student who works as an administrative assistant to your husband was working on a special project. This type of project is something your husband was not aware of but could benefit us both a great deal if it ends up in the right hands. This project is worth a lot of money—but only if my team is the only one to have it. “ Escott’s eyes almost pierced Lauren as he starred her down. His hands were calm, collected and moved with very deliberate movements to add emphasis to key words. Escott was no stranger to a business deal, no stranger to being the smartest man in the room, and as far as Lauren could tell he was very used to getting what he wanted.
“That’s where you come in Lauren. You see your husband has a program that keeps backups of all student projects on a shared drive. Unfortunately we have been unable to connect to the drive and remove any residual code, or perhaps even the full program off his backup drive.”
“Why can’t you just contact him directly and ask him yourself?” said Lauren as she nervously took a sip of tea.
“Because Lauren, that wouldn’t be in MY best interest now would it? Let’s say hypothetically I had access to a program that could get me control of more power than you could ever imagine, and have more influencing power over anyone I wanted but standing in the way of it was a university know it all that had access to it—and potentially the ability to hack my own program and shut it down. Do you honestly think I want him to know what I am up to or even know who I am? Of course not. It would be naïve of you to think so.”
“So why tell me? How do you know that I won’t run home and tell him?” asked Lauren. Her hands were now shaking a bit as she tried to squeeze them together tightly on her lap.
“Simple…” smiled Escott. “Because if you do as you are told I will award you 500,000 dollars that is completely untraceable and your husband will think you just won the lottery or whatever else you want to tell him. All it takes is you inserting this thumb drive into his home computer and we do the rest.”
“And what if I don’t agree to this—not saying that I won’t but…” stammered Lauren.
“That Lauren is even simpler. First off, I will send my men to do it FOR you at gunpoint. Afterwards, I have them kill you and leave you there for poor Jake to find you when he arrives home. And that’s when things get worse.”
How can they get worse thought Lauren.
“The program we put on Jake’s computer won’t just delete the remnants of the program like yours will. Instead it will activate it on his computer. My people will make everything look like it was Jake behind creating and using the program. The Feds will be all over him in no time. We’ll have gotten what we wanted, Jake will be our scapegoat and he’ll be put away without parole for murder and terrorism. Nifty plan isn’t it?” scoffed Escott as he stared down a mortified Lauren Deneveau.
“Now, I would like to think this plan has a great outcome for us all, but you could say no. Look over your right shoulder. See those two men drinking coffee and reading the paper? Well one of them has a gun, the other has the program and neither of them have any qualms about breaking and entering when you least expect it if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t have much choice….I’m in.” said Lauren sheepishly as she picked up the thumb drive that Escott has placed on the table. “How do I know that I have done it correctly?” she asked again scared of the answer.
“Simple, just plug it in and execute the only file on it and you will be fine. My men will bring you a letter with the key to a safe deposit box. Inside that box will be information on how to claim your money. If you give me any reason not to trust you- such as you go to the police, tell your husband or anyone else, plan B immediately goes into action. Neither you nor I want that to happen. Have I made myself clear?”
“That’s it? I plug in the jump drive, I get the info and the money and no one gets hurt?” asked Lauren almost relieved at the simplicity of the plan.
“I promise, you and Jake will be fine. However, I wouldn’t suggest that you and Jake take a little vacation this weekend to New York City. You wouldn’t want to be there if things were to be “shaken up” a bit if you follow me.”
“I thought you said no one would get hurt.” Said Lauren.
“No, I said you and Jake wouldn’t get hurt. New York might be a whole different story unless your elected officials see things my way” laughed Orson Escott as he got up and turned to walk away.
Lauren was still reeling from it all and trying to understand how a housewife from Kansas got involved in a terrorist plot. Was Escott even his real name? Maybe it was time to get Jake involved. She hated hiding it from him. For now, just stick with the plan and their lives would carry on. Yes…stick with the plan she thought.
“By the way Ms. Deneveau,” said Escott as he turned back around. “If you are having second thoughts, I would do it soon. You have 12 hours to do as I ask or else you stop nothing and plan B goes into effect. Thank you for your cooperation.” And with that Escott was gone and once again Lauren Deneveau was alone at the café again, this time staring at a flash drive that was a ticking timebomb.
As she drove home her heart was racing. She kept looking in the rearview mirror and trying to decipher if she had been followed by Escott’s men. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there.
As she walked in the front door and set the keys down on the counter, she started to get light headed. Could she actually go through with this she thought? She had to or else everything she and Jake had would be over in a flash. She walked into Jake’s office and clumsily inserted the jump drive. The computer came to life and opened the contents of the flash drive. Lauren took a deep breath, and used the mouse to click the file on the jump drive. She then began to panic. “What am I doing?” she cried as she watched the computer starting to load the program. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach. She vomited in the nearby garbage can and cried again asking herself what she had done. Meanwhile the computer screen had finished loading the program. A black command prompt was now up on the screen with a simple white text that said:
“Now Loading Project Miranda…”