“A woman?” asked the richly dressed man from behind an opulent desk.
Owen Lancaster glared out the window at the bone white skyscrapers. In the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge gleamed dully in the afternoon sun. He still couldn’t believe this was happening. He moved his eyes to his valued assistant with an incredulous stare and continued.
“The Perfect Lady is stolen from my private collection by the most notorious terrorists known to man—not to mention the most ruthless. And you’re telling me that to retrieve it from God knows where—protected by these heartless killers and the best technology available—” he paused, as if finding his own words hard to utter, “your highest recommendation is a woman? A WOMAN? Just—one—woman?”
Owen thought such a proposal perfectly outrageous.
Even though he held the highest respect for women and felt they were amazing creatures who deserved the world s devotion —nonetheless—he was dumbfounded.
As one of the wealthiest men in the world, he did not get here by being a fool. He could not fathom the man before him—whom he trusted entirely—told him he should believe—not just believe, but stake his life—that the priceless Perfect Lady, could be safely recovered by just one woman?
Owen Lancaster knew this particular group of terrorists. Known simply as The Sutra, in Hinduism sutra denotes sacred scripture, or more literally, a thread that binds things together; the This group, the Sutra, though deeply rooted in Indian history were far removed from peaceful Hindu practices. Believed to be an ancient branch of Hinduism thought to be destroyed by primordial Gods—the violent sect had resurfaced in force in the last ten years.
Much worse than common thieves and murders, they were relentless killers, hell-bent on worldwide destruction, believing the world “infested with faithless vermin unworthy to walk the planet.”
The most chilling part of their mission was they considered themselves only slightly above the rest of the vermin and would happily destroy themselves when they’d accomplished their duty of cleansing the Earth, preparing it for a higher race. Theirs would be the thread that sewed the destiny of the world.
The Sutra believed serving their God’s plan in this way ensured reincarnation as a higher race after Earth had been purified for their existence.
Though she knew that Owen Lancaster was bigger than the average “bigwig” Avlyn Shaylee still calmly rode the elevator to his office—op floor of course. Even though he was one of the biggest bigwigs that was not what mattered to Avlyn.
He was known as quite a philanthropist. Amazingly, it seemed no matter how much money the man raised or gave away, he always managed to have much more in reserve. A calculating businessman with formidable cunning—cutthroat tactics notwithstanding—he climbed his way to unimaginable wealth, never once forgetting about the unfortunate.
Owen Lancaster was the ultimate example of giving with an open heart, and then receiving the same back multiplied beyond reason. The man—literally—had more money than he knew what to do with. He kept giving it away only to find his accounts inexplicably enhanced.
Getting off the elevator on his private floor, Avlyn could see he’d done his best to spend quite a chunk of it on his office. But when the world’s most precision-cut diamond the size of a golf ball is just one priceless rarity in your collection, who cares about spending millions on luxurious adornments? What did it matter to toss down cash loads for walls lined with Monet paintings, ancient marble sculptures and priceless Tiffany lamps?
Despite Mr. Lancaster’s grand reputation, Avlyn never considered working for someone unworthy of her skills and integrity.
She would know for sure the moment she saw him.
Considering time a precious commodity, she hated waiting. Knowing she arrived at precisely the right moment, she barely slowed her stride at the secretary’s desk. Avlyn gave the woman a quick look as Owen’s voice came over the intercom.
“He’s expecting me.”
“Sir, Ms.Avlyn Shaylee comes highly recommended.”
Simon had been Owen’s impeccable top advocate for over a decade. Though only 35, he had proven himself time and again. He continually solved formidable challenges with mysterious ingenuity and grace, and with an approach that seemed to Owen—beyond logic.
Owen never understood how he did it; he only knew he trusted this man as much as he trusted himself. Perhaps even more.
“There must be more to this Ms. Shaylee,” Owen said, “I just cannot possibly imagine what.” He poured himself a glass of water from a crystal pitcher on his desk and took a deep contemplative drink.
“She has some very unique skills that have proven to be quite extraordinary.” Simon said, “Sir—she is in fact, on her way now to give you a demonstration. I assure you, you will not be disappointed.”
In a moment of perfect synchronization, the secretary buzzed to announce Shaylee’s arrival.
Owen’s mind stumbled at the uncanny timing. He gave his assistant a quick pointed look that was returned with only a calm and knowing demeanor.
Simon had a similar ability of eerie timing that Owen never quite got used to—no matter how many times Simon appeared just as need arose. Part of Owen knew this Avlyn Shaylee would really impress him, but his mind still held considerable doubt she had any chance against the enormous resources and unsurpassed cruelty of the Sutra.
With a twinkle of anticipation in his eye, Owen mumbled to himself, “this should be interesting.”
He always liked surprises.
He pushed the button on the intercom,
“Doris, Please show Ms. Shaylee in.”
Avlyn walked through the large ornate double doors into a grand office splashed with tapestries, statues and historical artifacts befitting a museum.
With only her keen awareness, she knew this office had electronic surveillance in all corners and a fisheye camera in the center. Temperature sensors tracked body movement down to the tiniest pinky toe and motion sensors crisscrossed every item of any value. She knew weight sensors triggered an alarm if anything was moved even a millimeter.
Avlyn mused to herself the cleaning service must have a masters in art restoration to even dust in here. These peripheral observations took only a moment, but her main focus was the man sitting behind the grand, ornately carved desk.
She noted his salt and pepper hair gave him a distinguished, yet trusting look, his face radiated a relaxed confidence and his eyes were strong, but kind. An impeccably tailored suit and a robust body displayed flawless grooming & care.
None of these observations were of any real importance to Avlyn. What struck her immediately was the brilliant light he emanated—something that could not be hidden from Avlyn—as it radiated from his true being.