III. Still 25 years ago
At the time, Oz was employed by a very wealthy woman that happened to enjoy the anonymity her gender provided her. She played the socialite playgirl well. Despite her public persona she was very much involved in politics and power. Namely, it was her money that was used to buy the election of a small country that year. No one could link her to it though, her pockets ran deep enough to erase any trails that would lead back to her. Besides, who would have thought she would be involved in something so serious?
When she heard rumors of the pill she recognized it would be a game changer and she had to get her hands on it. That’s when she called in her most reliable cohort to do the job. It was always a risk to get him involved because he was a bit of a wild card. She never knew where his true allegiance lay so she always made it worth his while.
He didn’t disappoint.
A month after she hired him Oz sat in her bedroom waiting for her to come in.
When she at last entered and sat down at her dresser it was her that first spoke. “Back so soon?”
“Aye,” he said. He never could surprise her. At least, she never gave him the satisfaction of acting surprised.
“Did you get it?” she asked without turning around.
“A lot of ruckus for a pill.”
She shrugged her shoulders slowly. “Perhaps.”
They sat in silence neither one moving.
“Leave it on the nightstand. As usual, you will get the rest of your compensation as soon as you leave.”
There was that one exhilarating moment when she didn’t know what would happen next. Would he leave it? Would he kill her? It was that rush of anticipation that she loved so much in this game. To be honest, she would have accepted either action with the same approval. Life was all about the game and she played it with all she had.
Finally, she felt a breeze from the window. He had left out the window at some point. She turned around and saw the little box. Only the pill box with the pill inside. That was all she hired him for. She didn’t know about the disc or the leather bound journal with Henry’s notes.
Oz counted on one job, maybe two more paychecks. Not too shabby for one night’s work.
Three weeks later, Oz looked out of his hotel room window looking at the New York skyline. In less than an hour he planned to unload the disc to an anxious buyer. He padded his pocket and felt the disc inside. As he expected, it was fairly easy to find a buyer interested in its existence.
He looked down at the notebook on the desk and picked it up. The pages were filled with notes and diagrams that he didn’t understand but was sure someone else would. At that moment, he hadn’t let anyone know he had the book but based on the whispers and rumors he had heard through certain sources someone looked through the charred remains of the laboratory thoroughly. From what he heard someone was looking for something. He had to assume someone was looking for everything he currently had or did have in his possession. Oz hadn’t lived as long as he had in this business by being careless or acting dumb. He needed to unload everything he had but he wanted as much as he could get for the disc and the notebook. “Be smart, just be smart.” He said out loud and put the book in the room’s safe.
He tapped his fingers on the safe for a moment then opened it again and pulled the notebook out. Of course he had taken every precaution not to be followed but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. He opened his suitcase and pulled out a roll of duct tape and walked into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later he walked out of his motel room feeling a little more relaxed that the book was hidden in a less obvious place. There was no guarantee it wouldn’t be found if his room was ransacked but it would take some effort.
An hour later Oz sat in a bar nursing his amber colored drink slowly. He kept his eyes down on his glass but listened attentively to every sound. Without looking around he knew about the amorous couple in the corner. The two men talking at the end of the bar. The group of loud girlfriends sitting in a booth. And the lone drinker at the other end of the bar. None of whom was his contact. So he continued to slowly sip his drink. It was imperative he keep control of the situation. By the end of the night he would either be wealthy or dead. He preferred wealthy.
Finally a man in an expensive suit sat down beside him.
“Wish I had an umbrella,” the man said.
Oz cocked his eyebrows. “No chance of rain today, mate.”
“It’s best to be prepared than sorry.”
Oz took another drink and set the glass down. He pushed it away. “About time. Do you have my money?”
“Do you have the disc?”
Oz nodded his head once.
“Good. You are about to become a rich man.” The stranger knocked on the bar twice and woman came to Oz’s other side. She set a briefcase down between them and then walked off. Oz reached down and picked up the briefcase with his left hand. It felt heavy enough but there was no telling what was actually inside. He pulled out a disc and put it on the bar and slid it toward the stranger.
They both knew that either one could be pulling a double cross. The briefcase might be full of plain paper. The disc could be empty. In this business, either scenario or both could easily play out. It was a gamble. A thrill of the chase.
Oz pulled money out of his wallet and tossed it on the bar then walked out with the briefcase. The stranger ordered a drink and downed it in a couple of swallows.
The woman that had brought the briefcase to Oz walked in with the briefcase and sat down beside him. “We found a couple more discs in his room.” She said.
The stranger ran his tongue over his teeth and took another drink. He slammed the glass down hard on the disc cracking the cover. The bartender looked at him. “Toss this away, please?” he asked and pushed the disc over the bar. The bartender used his hands to sweep the pieces into the garbage.
The stranger put some money on the bar and stood up. “Anything else in the room?”
“Nothing else. Are you sure he grabbed the notebook and that it wasn’t burned in the fire?”
“He had the notebook. I guarantee it. Find it.”
She nodded even though she didn’t share the same confidence. “What if we can’t find it?”
“You will.” He said and walked out. She followed after him. He looked up at the night sky and collected his thoughts. “We need those discs. Unlike the one our friend sold us tonight they have the information we need. But we need that notebook. We will go and get it ourselves.”
As the two walked to Oz’s hotel room, a baby girl slept in a crib in an orphanage in California. The girl would be called Allison until she was old enough to choose her own name. The name she chose for herself was Al and Al fit her better than Allison. She would become the third leg to the tripod of team Cooper.
A look back…