Reed Stern strode into the boardroom in his lucky Caraceni 3 piece. Two overhead lamps, bright as spotlights, illuminated seats at opposite ends of a long mahogany table. At the furthest end sat a white haired man with a bushy mustache. He was dressed in a grey military uniform that looked, to Reed, to be of an Eastern European style. The man, probably a general or his nation’s equivalent rank, regarded Reed with a languid gaze.
Dropping his Tom Ford briefcase beside the unoccupied chair, Reed folded himself into the seat. He adjusted his posture and flexed his toes within his Linians by Tanino Crisci. The heavy top-lighting reminded Reed of a Scorsese film and he fought the urge to laugh. For all their utilitarian efficiency, these military types sure liked to set the mood.
A silent stretch of three minutes passed, neither man wanting to be the first to speak. Luckily for Reed, he didn’t need anything from this old fart, the old fart needed something from him. Or, rather, from his client.
“Shall I begin?” the military man asked. He spoke with a thick Soviet accent, but not Russian.
Reed nodded his consent with the ghost of a smile on his lips.
“We require your client’s services in Niksic.”
Niksic meant travel to Montenegro. Not ideal. Reed calculated a bid as he stared at the uniformed man.
“Five hundred thousand, General” Reed said.
“Lieutenant General Krasniqi,” the man corrected. He removed a single cigarette and lighter from beneath the table. “Mind if I smoke?”
It was a ridiculous question because of the length of the table and the consequent distance between them.
Reed said, “Feel free.”
Krasniqi lit his cigarette and took a slow pull. The old man closed his eyes, savoring the surge of nicotine entering his bloodstream, before he said, “Three hundred.”
“Four hundred fifty,” Reed shot back, leaning forward in his chair.
The officer opened his eyes and exhaled. He studied the tendrils of smoke slowly rolling off the end of his cigarette.
Reed folded his hands on the table.
“Done,” Krasniqi said and lifted his own briefcase from the floor. He dialed a combination and opened the latch. He counted out eighteen bundles of hundred dollar bills and stacked them into three equal piles.
“Very good,” Reed replied and rose from his chair.
He walked the length of the table to Krasniqi. Reed gingerly placed the stacks, roughly ten pounds of cash, into his Tom Ford.
“Would you like to know the target?” Krasniqi asked.
Reed shrugged and said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m just the agent. You may contact my client with the details.”
He set a business card on the table. It reminded Krasniqi of the color of dried bone. Reed turned and left the boardroom.
Lieutenant General Krasniqi lifted the cigarette to his lips. It tasted like he was twenty again.
His eyes rolled up to the boardroom door. From beyond it came two low thuds, and then a third. In a half-whisper Krasniqi said, “You.”