Maggies hunt, p.15

Maggie's Hunt, page 15

 

Maggie's Hunt
 


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  Or rather it would have been a perfect evening if they hadn’t been followed. Both Maggie and Hunt were a bit on edge by the surveillance. And neither of them had liked the fact that Hunt had earlier found freshly placed listening devices in the telephone as well as hidden in the lamps in her hotel suite.

  Maggie found herself depending more and more on Hunt. That fact alone made her uneasy. For all that she was coming to care more deeply about him, the prospect of being dependent on anyone, especially Hunt, made her cringe. The prospect of not having him in her life made her cringe. She wasn’t certain which of the prospects was worse. She had been alone before. Maggie knew that she could survive being alone again. She wasn’t at all sure that she would survive if ten years down the road, Hunt were to decide that he no longer wanted to be married to her. She knew that the pain of no longer having him in her life, after she had made him the center of her life, would be more than she could bear.

  Carrying on with the engagement would mean that she would eventually marry Hunt. Was that something that she was willing to risk? She had no answer to that question. Hunt had never been anything except kind to her. There was no denying the existence of the chemistry between them, but it was something they had neither one permitted to go out of control.

  Part of her, rather perversely, hoped that he would let himself lose control of himself so that she would have an excuse to loosen the reins herself. Yet, Hunt had remained fiercely in control of his desires, which had left her in the position of controlling where the relationship was going.

  Rationally, she had to admit that she knew that Hunt was taking this seriously. She knew, without a doubt, that marriage to Hunt would be a lifetime commitment. It was a commitment that would always come first to him. Nothing, nothing, would come before his wife and children.

  Now, where, she wondered, had the thought of children come from? But, she didn’t have to think too long or too hard about that. Children, in her mind, were irrevocably linked with marriage.

  Hunt was convinced they could, would, make a good marriage. He was simply waiting for her to make up her mind. It was unlike her to dither on anything. Yet, she couldn’t seem to bring herself to make up her mind about him.

  She wanted to believe in him. The stress of her job, juggling the myriad of managerial details involved in the creation and running of Faulks European operations, wore on her. Hunt had been right about how wearying that she found the job. Being with Hunt, just talking to him, laughing with him, walking with him, fixing or eating meals with him, relieved the tension of daily life.

  Maggie wondered if even considering marrying him was a sign that she had totally lost her mind. And conversely, she wondered if not having already accepted his proposal meant that she had totally lost her mind.

  Maggie called Hunt’s office. Over the last two months, especially, she had become friends with his secretary, Agnes McIntyre.

  “Hi, Aggie. This is Maggie. Is the man in?” she asked on one Tuesday afternoon in mid-March.

  “Sorry. He had to hop over to Brussels. He left me here to hold down the fort. He won’t be back until tomorrow evening.”

  “Figures. I’m supposed to be in Madrid tomorrow afternoon,” she said.

  “Aren’t two career romances fun?” Agnes replied with a laugh in her voice.

  “Something like that. Tell the man hello from me. I’ll be back in London on Thursday. What are his plans for Friday?”

  There was the sound of pages turning. “You and he have tickets for the opera.”

  “Oh, I forgot.”

  “More like he forgot to tell you. The tickets cost the earth. I hope that you have a dress to knock his eyes out.”

  “I think that something can be arranged,” Maggie said with a large smile.

  “Any other message for the man?”

  She laughed quietly. “Ah. None which won’t suffer in the translation. I’ll call him on Thursday evening when I return from Madrid.”

  “Have you two set a wedding date, yet?” Aggie asked in amusement.

  “Right now, we are having a difficult time enough just playing telephone tag,” she only half teased in reply. “Can you imagine the trouble that we would have trying to make a marriage work, just now?”

  Agnes laughed slightly. “Oh, Maggie, Hunt would easily leave the business in the hands of his employees, if you would only set a date.”

  “I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes, so I have to go. Give Hunt the message for me, okay?”

  “Sure thing.”

  Maggie sat back in her chair as she heard the disconnecting click at the other end of the wire. She smiled to herself as she realized that she had come to a decision. She would marry Hunt just as soon as they could arrange it. Now, all she had to do was to tell him. That was, if she could ever reach him. She couldn’t possibly miss him more than she did now. After they married, she would, at least, have more of his time than she did now. They might even have a baby. A large smile crossed her face as she thought about a baby who looked like Hunt.

  She was still smiling when the knock came at her office door. Her scheduled meeting had arrived.

  Hunt read the final report his people had compiled about the Brussels deal. The computer software firm Hunt had initially funded and supported was now capable of standing by itself. All of the debt to Hunt’s firm would be paid off in less than three months. There were only three other deals he hadn’t been able to bring to a close. But, each of those would be coming to a conclusion soon. Hunt wasn’t accepting any new contracts. Most of Hunt’s people had quietly found other jobs.

  Except, of course, for his security people. In spite of Maggie’s turning down his offer of additional security people, he had dispatched a crew of them to keep a watch on her.

  Hunt dug the report from his brief case. As soon as Hunt’s men had identified one of the men following Maggie, that man had disappeared, only to be replaced with another. The only thing that the men had in common were that they all had been dishonorably discharged from the US military.

  After the third man had been replaced, the ex-GI’s had stopped following her so obviously. Instead, their surveillance techniques had become much more sophisticated.

  Hunt didn’t like this, at all. Maggie would be in Madrid on the following day. He decided that he would pop in and surprise her.

  Chapter 8

  The British Airways jet left Heathrow airport exactly on time. The flight, as usual, was without incident. Maggie, however, had a feeling of something being terribly wrong. Try as she might, there was no shaking the physical and emotional feeling of unease, even after the plane descended safely in Madrid.

  As usual, the driver from Faulks, Luis Machado, was there to meet her, after she cleared customs. Since Luis was the same driver who had met her on her first visit here, and each subsequent one, she relaxed marginally, telling herself that she was over reacting to some indefinable stimulus.

  Catching a glance of herself in the glass as she walked into the lobby of Faulks Spanish headquarters that Wednesday afternoon, she knew that she still looked good. Her deep navy dress with the navy and green tweed blazer made a very professional, yet feminine in an understated way, appearance. Being aware of her very polished appearance gave her a little more confidence. Yet, not even this added confidence was able to banish the feeling of impending doom.

  Not even the familiarity of the places and people was able to calm the nagging feeling of something being terribly wrong. She was met by the same security guard who had greeted her on her previous visits. The staff in the offices were all the same. As was her habit, she made the rounds of the various offices, speaking to all of the senior people, and many of the junior people as well. She listened to everyone’s opinions and inputs, not promising anything except to listen and to consider. Everything was seemingly all right here. All plans were proceeding smoothly. There were no major hitches. So, why did she continue to feel uneasy?

  Going into her office, she saw that her Spanis
h secretary had placed Hunt’s, almost ritual, white rose in a bud vase at the corner of her desk. She read the card. As usual, it read, ‘Thinking of you. Hunt.”

  Consuelo de San Luiz, her slender, middle aged, quite elegant, Spanish secretary, escorted the people in for her scheduled meeting. Three hours later, all the business discussed, debated, dissected, and decided, the meeting broke up.

  Maggie stood, stretched slightly, and rubbed her neck. She hated long meetings. There were two more scheduled for the next day. There were times that she wondered how she got through them.

  “Headache?” Consuelo asked quietly in perfect English. Consuelo was the perfect bilingual secretary, fluent in both English and Spanish. Maggie felt very lucky to have her. Many of her other secretaries could not speak anything except their native languages.

  “Tension.”

  “Shall I arrange for a masseur to come to your hotel?”

  “A hot bath will do wonders, thank you, Consuelo.”

  “You should spoil yourself more, Margarita,” Consuelo replied with a concerned smile. “You work far too hard.”

  Maggie smiled and laughed quietly. “Hard work never hurt anyone.”

  “Not true,” Consuelo replied firmly, but with a smile. “The Japanese have a word which translates ‘worked to death’. It is a major concept in their culture.”

  Maggie rubbed her neck wearily. “I’m not Japanese,” she replied. “Thank God.”

  The older Spanish woman smiled at her boss. “Are you ready to handle the stack of correspondence that you have to deal with?”

  Maggie pulled a face and sighed. “Sure. Let’s get it over with.”

  The time had just gone past five. She was nearly finished dealing with dictating replies to the correspondence when the telephone rang. Consuelo answered it. She smiled at her boss as she covered the receiver with her hand. “It’s your fiancee.”

  Maggie took the receiver from Consuelo with a large smile. “Hunt?”

  “Maggie mine, I thought that I would catch you hard at work. Do you have a minute?”

  “For you, always.”

  “Good. I’m in Madrid. What would you say to an invitation to go tasca crawling around the Puerta del Sol and around the Plaza Santa Ana tonight like real Madrilenos? I’ll even take you into Cerveceria Alemana, where Hemingway used to hang out.”

  “Yeah, right, Hunt. Like real Madrilenos, you want to spend part of the evening at a bar that has probably become a tourist trap. Get real, Hunt.”

  Hunt laughed at the dryness of her tone.

  “After ten, there is usually good jazz at Cafe Central,” Hunt offered. “You like jazz, don’t you?”

  “Sounds good to me. I could use some down time.”

  “You sound like you could use an early night. Are you tired?”

  “Very.”

  “Then we’ll hit the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ana, then I’ll take you back to your hotel.”

  Maggie laughed. “Getting cheap in your old age, are you? Decided that feeding me is too expensive, so you are taking me bar hopping for inexpensive food.”

  “Have some respect for your elders, child,” he teased mercilessly.

  “Yeah, right.”

  “If you would rather, we could go anywhere else,” he offered.

  “Anything that you have in mind would be fine, Hunt. I’m surprised to find you here. I thought that you were in Brussels or London.”

  “An unpleasant surprise?” he asked.

  “Don’t fish for compliments, Hunt,” she warned mischievously. She could almost see his smile.

  “I practically have to. You aren’t exactly known for giving them freely,” he complained lightly.

  Maggie colored slightly. Then she spoke to him in fluid German, “I didn’t think that I had to drown you in compliments. You surely must know how I feel about you.”

  Hunt was silent for a long moment. “I hope that I do,” he replied in English. “Why don’t you tell me?”

  “We’ll talk tonight. I’m dictating replies to a stack of the most inane correspondence ever to grace the face of the earth. I think that poor Consuelo handles all the interesting stuff, and leaves the dross for me,” she replied in English.

  Consuelo laughed as Maggie winked at her.

  Hunt laughed boldly. “Are you going to be at Villa Magna tonight?”

  “As long as my expense account holds up,” she replied, “I will stay at only the best.”

  “A woman after my own heart.”

  “Too true. All too true. Do you have one?”

  Hunt was silent for a moment. “No. I lost it the first moment that I saw you. I love you, Maggie mine.”

  Maggie smiled broadly, savoring the words. She had heard them before, but now, having finally decided, the words sounded so much sweeter. “Umm . . . .” she said lowly, reverting to the German, for privacy, “I like the sound of that, Hunter Alexander. We need to talk, Hunt.”

  “Margaret Mary, my love . . . .” he said.

  “We’ll talk more later,” she said gently in German. “Until tonight.”

  “I’ll pick you up in an hour and a half at your office. Finish up quickly.”

  Maggie laughed, then said quietly, in English, “I can’t possibly be ready in an hour and a half. There’s just too much work for that. Try two hours.”

  “I’ll be there. I’ve got some plans of my own to make. You’ve got two hours.”

  “How gracious,” she teased just before Hunt rang off.

  Consuelo looked at her young boss after she hung up the telephone. Maggie’s smile was bright enough to light the darkest of nights.

  “We had better put a move on, if we are going to finish this work before Hunt gets here.”

  “You should marry that man,” Consuelo stated gently.

  “That is the general idea.”

  Maggie was signing the last letter when Hunt walked into her office unannounced.

  “Are you ready to go?”

  “Just about,” she remarked as she signed the last letter. Then she looked up at him. He looked magnificent, as usual.

  Hunt walked over to her desk.

  Maggie handed the stack of letters to Consuelo. “This should be all for now. Thank you,” she said in rapid Spanish.

  When the secretary had left the room, Hunt gently pulled her Maggie out of her chair so that she came to stand before him.

  “Hello,” she said.

  “Hello, yourself,” he told her quietly. “It feels like forever since I’ve seen you.”

  “I know that feeling,” she replied easily.

  “What are your plans for the next two days?”

  “I have two meetings tomorrow, then I was planning to fly back to London tomorrow afternoon.”

  “Can you fly back with me on Friday morning, instead?”

  Maggie nodded positively. “That could be arranged.”

  “Good. Because I happen to find Madrid one of the most interesting cities in Europe. I know that you probably haven’t seen much of it. There’s far too much to see to cram it all into an evening, or even two. But, I’d like to show you some of my favorite places.”

  Maggie smiled. “I’d like that.”

  “Let’s go.”

  “Do you want to go back to your hotel to change?”

  “No. I have a hard time getting used to Madrid hours. My stomach is already protesting that it is almost dinner time.” She looked at her watch. “It’s already past seven o’clock. Many Madrilenos won’t even eat dinner until nine thirty, ten, or ten thirty.”

  Hunt smiled at her. “You poor provincial,” he teased.

  “I know. I’m terribly gauche and naive,” she agreed dryly.

  Hunt laughed. “Right. And I am going to be the next President of the United States.”

  “Michael might contest that assertion,” Maggie said quietly, with laughter in her voice.

  “Come on, Maggie mine, let’s get out of here.”

  Hunt and Maggie walked thro
ugh the narrow streets between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa Ann, dropping in on one tapa bar, then another as the mood struck them. Maggie’s normal bodyguards and the extra men whom Hunt had assigned to her followed them at a workable distance.

  The tapa bars were a surprise to Maggie. Small portions of delicious food were washed down with equally small glasses of sherry, as they worked their way from bar to bar. In one bar, Maggie had to laugh at the large hams that hung with braids of garlic from the ceiling. In another, they were greeted with piano music. Still another met them with soft, mellow jazz.

  Periodically, she caught sight of the same man throughout the evening. He was of medium height, dark, and slightly menacing. She told herself that she was being unduly paranoid in thinking that he was following her. After all, there was no reason why this man couldn’t have been out on the town the same way that they were.

  “What’s wrong?” Hunt asked quietly.

  “Probably nothing. I just can’t really shake this feeling that something is very wrong, or about to go very wrong.”

  Hunt looked at her questioningly. “You’ve had those feelings before?”

  “Once or twice. Usually just before something very bad happens.”

  “Tell me about it,” he said gently.

  “I’m not saying that the feelings have any meaning, Hunt. As my statistics professors used to say, correlation does not equal causation. But, I haven’t had this incredibly nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach since just before Jarod died.”

 
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