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She parked the sleek, deep blue Ford Explorer on a crowded parking lot and strode across a busy street towards an all-glass skyscraper that was better known as the Imperial Tower. She was smartly dressed in a chic, dull gray trouser suit that blended in comfortably with her aura of stiff professionalism. A black leather attaché case, firmly held in her right hand, completed the look. She moved at a brisk pace, her heels clicking rhythmically on the pavement. A quick glance at the silver wrist watch gleaming on her left hand told her she would barely make it for that very important business meeting... damn the traffic jam.
She was young, successful and on her way up the corporate ladder... the managing director of Vulcan International Telco, a multinational telecommunications organization. She was a woman of considerable executive ability, a high-flier who was more than determined to get to the very top. She was unattached and moneyed, with nothing to hold her back... absolutely nothing.
In the corporate circle, she was simply known as Miss Dora Mikaly. The Miss Dora Mikaly; it was the well-known name of a respectable young woman who had success knocking at her door.
She glanced at her watch again and tried to walk faster at the expense of the unethically expensive black heels. All of a sudden, she skewed to a sharp halt, momentarily losing her balance.
He stood right in front of her, blocking her... a midget. He was hardly taller than her seven-year-old son. He must have been in his early forties, but even age had been unable to rid him of the long overdue adolescent pimples that stuck out of his well-rounded cheeks like thumbtacks. His swarthy skin gleamed in the early morning sunshine.
Miss Dora Mikaly awkwardly regained her footing, looked down at him with a kind of passing irritation and tried to side step him. He deftly countered her move by purposely obstructing her.
"Excuse me!" her irritation turned into annoyance.
"I need to talk to you," he responded amiably.
"Do I know you?" she asked impatiently. She wondered why the tiny idiot had to pick that morning, of all mornings, to get in her way. She was running late as it was and he was making it worse.
"No, Miss Mikaly, we have not met before but..."
"Save it then, and make an appointment with my secretary," she pushed past him.
Normally, she would have walked on without giving it a second thought, but his last words caught her by surprise.
"Fine! But send my regards to Brian."
And the way he said it...
She swiveled around surprised that he knew her son's name. But the midget was gone, swallowed by the early morning mass of teeming humanity. He had vanished just as suddenly as he had appeared. Miss Mikaly shrugged it off and made a beeline for the boardroom. She hoped it would be the last she saw of the peculiar dwarf-like fellow.
The enigmatic grin on the midget's face as he went his way, told otherwise...
The posh school had long, endless corridors spanned by glassy doorways. Corridors in which children from affluent backgrounds mingled and played, sometimes idling about in between class hours.
Miss Dora Mikaly strode along with her seven-year-old son Brian, mildly paying attention to his excited chatter. School was over for the day and the corridors were jammed with stray parents, family drivers... all trying to find their children. Miss Mikaly stopped every once in a while to greet those she knew, sometimes just a nod. She acknowledged the familiar glances thrown her way with a smile. It was a routine she played out every day.
She and her son walked into the warm evening sun together, hand in hand, headed for her luxurious car. The dull gleam of the navy blue Ford Explorer shone before them. And there he was, casually leaning against her car door... the dwarf.
Miss Mikaly stepped back in alarm, "You!"
"Yes Miss Mikaly, we meet again," he grinned at her as if sharing a secret joke. He had an odd air of friendliness about him and the simplicity of a country bumpkin.
Miss Mikaly recalled her first, puzzling encounter with him. It had been quite a while ago, three months at least, and she had forgotten all about him, passing him off for a jackass out to irritate her.
Brian looked at the short fellow curiously, "Mommy who is that?"
The dwarf seemed to notice him for the first time. He stretched a grubby hand towards the seven-year-old. "Aha! And this must be Brian, may have the pleasure?"
Miss Mikaly responded to his question by hurriedly bundling a surprised Brian into the front seat of the car and securely shutting the car door behind him. She turned back to the intruder, a myriad of questions running through her mind.
"Who are you?" She moved closer. It was a wrong move. An awful smell hit her nostrils, it reminded her of the stale cabbages in her grandmother's store way back when she was much younger, a simple country girl.
"Look here, why don't you take me for a ride in this here fine car, just drive around town, you know?" he asked in a smiley way, stroking the deep blue Ford Explorer possessively.
"What do you want from me?" she hissed.
"Fine, then let's get down to business Miss Mikaly, can I call you Dora?"
He shifted his weight to the other leg, never dropping the goofy smile; "I've been watching you for a long time. You and I go back a long way, even before that strategic meeting outside Imperial Tower."
"Well, what do you want?" Miss Mikaly prodded him on impatiently. She unsuccessfully tried to overcome her physical repugnance of him.
"I know about Brian."
"What about my son? What do you want with my son?"
"Let's cut the drama, Miss Mikaly. We both know he is not your son."
She struggled to maintain a calm demeanor, "Don't be ridiculous!"
"I can prove it," he added softly. So softly she barely heard him. The four words chilled her spine.
The midget went on, "I know all about the botched up abortion that left you sterile when you were sixteen." His voice dropped to a confidential tone, "And ten years later when you stole a newborn from its unsuspecting and rather naïve mother outside a maternity ward." He chuckled softly. "The great and mighty Miss Mikaly... a baby thief."
Memories flooded across Miss Mikaly's mind - secrets that she had kept buried for close to twenty years. Nothing about that incident had ever been mentioned. Not until now, by the short fool standing before her, grinning from ear to ear. Deep down, she knew he was much cleverer than he was letting on; dangerous. He had calculated every move, had probably watched her for seven years, biding his time. Maybe he had been in that maternity ward, a sweeper? A cleaner? Visiting relative? She could not tell for sure.
At that moment she hated him so much that she mentally toyed with the idea of strangling him to death; he was small enough. But no, he was definitely too dangerous and knew too much, instead she said, "Nobody will believe you."
"I don't need anyone to believe me. I just need to create a doubt. Bring in the real mother and the suspicion... you're sunk."
Miss Mikaly got a sinking feeling in her stomach. He was right; he was threatening to bring to light a past she had worked tirelessly to forget. It would destroy her. Everything she had strived to build would come crashing down. Her position at Vulcan International, the scandal it would cause. And Brian... the thought of losing him froze her blood. He was after all her son, whichever way one chose to look at it. She was the only mother he had ever known.
"Checkmate," the midget said softly.
"Name your price," Miss Mikaly offered. "If it's money..."
"You," was the simple reply.
For a moment, Miss Mikaly was perplexed, and then it hit her. A mixture of disgust, repulsion, and of course hate, welled up inside her. She battled an overwhelming urge to vomit. She was absolutely revolted by the idea but she was a bright woman and knew defeat when she saw it. The midget had won.
"Just one night," he added most pleasantly.
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