Antonio was shown to his table at Joël Robuchon, one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas. It was pricey but Johnny had taught him that extravagance did have its rewards. The establishment reminded him of his favorite restaurant in Paris. After studying the selections, he settled on the 1er Service tasting menu consisting of cannelloni of avocado and Scottish salmon with delicate cream, Maine lobster in a thinly sliced turnip with sweet and sour dressing, and beetroot and apple alongside young shoots of herbs and green mustard sorbet. He paired the meal with a Chablis.
A waiter appeared at the table within a minute of him putting down the menu. After the waiter walked away, Antonio reached into his jacket pocket for his phone. He entered the country code for Wales and the phone number for Jack Sullivan.
The only indication that he had connected with a person on the other end was a curt, “Yes?”
“I trust you had a good day,” he said, as if he was speaking to an old friend.
“Almost perfect. The deal went through even though the minor partner pulled out.”
“You’re absolutely sure he won’t reconsider?”
“I’m afraid his decision was final.”
Antonio paused before asking the next question.
“That’s too bad. Will it affect the bottom line?”
“It shouldn’t. His participation was marginal at best.
“Do I have your assurance that my investment is safe?”
“Completely. You should begin to see positive returns on your investment in the near future.”
“Then I will look forward to hearing from you. Goodbye.”
“We will talk soon. Goodbye.”
Antonio put the phone back into his pocket. Although he had kept his voice low, the call would have sounded like an ordinary business call to any nearby diners who might have overheard it. In point of fact, it was anything but ordinary.
Sullivan and Antonio had developed a cryptic way of speaking to each other. The deal went through meant that the operation had been a success. He hadn’t checked the news because, quite frankly, he didn’t care about anything that didn’t affect him.
Antonio wasn’t a permanent citizen of any country and if things went bad in the country in which he happened to be residing at the moment, he would just go somewhere else. He had been living this way for so long, even he had trouble remembering all his aliases. His mastery of dialects meant that he always sounded as if he belonged wherever he was. None of the people he met in his travels knew the real Antonio or Carlos or Alex. They only knew the person that he wanted them to know. He was a ghost.
Antonio was only concerned about his payment and Sullivan had assured him that his “investment” would be paying off soon. He was confident Sullivan understood that lying to him about such matters could be fatal. What bothered him was the part of the conversation about the minor partner. The statement that the partner’s non-participation was permanent meant that the person involved had been terminated. Antonio handled all job terminations and he had not received any orders from Sullivan since the cleanup on aisle 5. Sullivan being personally aware of the situation made no sense, because the minor partner was the writer! How could Sullivan believe the writer was dead when he had proof that the writer was very much alive and kicking, halfway around the world, less than an hour ago?
He decided not to tell Sullivan about the eavesdropping he had conducted earlier that evening. If he was right, what he learned could become very valuable information in the near future. Antonio took the phone back out of his pocket. Opening the browser, he navigated to the NASA.gov website. Clicking on the NASA TV tab and then HD ISS Views, he viewed a live video feed from the station. From this moment on, he was going to make it his business to find out whatever the writer and his girlfriend knew about the day’s events.