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As she sliced her way through the water Elsa couldn’t believe she hadn’t taken advantage of this exhilaration earlier, resolving that the morning swim would become part of her routine as the soothing water worked every muscle of her body.
Heading for the final stretch of her last lap she saw Meg standing at the edge of the pool waiting for her, and when she reached the end removed her goggles and looked up to the woman she now envisioned drowning.
‘Mr. Fujimoto would like you to meet him in his office to start going over the project you two will be working on.’
‘Great, I’ve been looking forward to it,’ Elsa said while rising herself out of the pool and going for her towel.
It was now time for the sheep to pull the wool over the wolf’s eyes.
Josephine and Maria sat next to each other with their life-like baby dolls. They had chosen this specific spot in the class for a reason, Maria slipping her cellphone over to Josephine long enough for her to take a few undetected snapshots of the scene before it was handed back over to her to be concealed under her ever- growing baby bump.
Maria had joined the crusade.
Finally Elsa had a reason to wear her business attire, looking over Fujimoto’s mantle of keepsakes while she waited for him in his office. Above them, her eyes found a displayed samurai sword.
‘That katana has been in my family for over three hundred years.’
He was standing in the doorway and approached Elsa’s side to look up at it with her.
“Tatakai wo tomeru” he read from the engraving on the sheath before translating it for her.
“To put a stop to conflict.”
‘My ancestors used it against the ruling samurai who oppressed our people at the time.’
Fujimoto took his seat behind his desk, prompting Elsa to take hers across from him.
‘We are considering doing business with a new company out of Canada. Their goal is to develop cutting edge technology for the various cellular corporations.
‘The one thing they lack is capital, which is why they have approached our investment group. From the information our people have gathered so far the potential for a high return looks very likely indeed.’
‘How many shares are they offering?’ Elsa asked.
‘Do you mind if I look over the information we have so far?’
‘No,’ Fujimoto said, gesturing to his computer. ‘Please do.’
Upstairs, Vicki sat at her laptop, taking the photos they had accumulated so far and placing them in a hidden file before deleting the emails they were attached to.
A floor below and Elsa was at work on Fujimoto’s computer, clicking from one window to another and back again. From the data containing the potential venture that she had been given permission to look over to more sensitive information that was obviously not meant for her eyes. The origins to the mysterious account she had come upon with her previous work. It was an account set aside for Fujimoto’s scheme of raising future associates within the company. Detailed information on everything from recruiting the unsuspecting mothers-to-be to caring for the mother and child until the child’s eighteenth birthday, at which time the mother would be retired to her native country.
Movie night had turned into every night, Rhani, Vicki, Elsa and Noboo all cuddled up on Rhani’s bed in front of the high definition television.
‘Hey girls, look who fell asleep,’ Rhani said, looking down at Noboo on her lap.
‘I can’t help but see Mimi every time I look at her,’ Elsa commented. ‘So young.’
A sadness came over the three.
‘That night… It just seemed odd. I mean, I awoke to Mimi’s cries. But then all of a sudden there was this awful silence. And then the impact. But in that silence… I don’t know.’
Rhani and Vicki looked at each other.
‘What?’ Elsa could tell they were thinking something they weren’t comfortable thinking about.
‘I don’t think it was an accident,’ Vicki said. ‘From the way she landed, it just doesn’t seem the impact would have broken her neck in that way.’
‘And the thing with them conveniently finding a supposed long-lost aunt,’ Rhani added. ‘It just doesn’t add up.’
The girls just sat there, staring down at Noboo, remembering Mimi.
As the sun rose over Japan Maria, Josephine and the other pregnant women meditated to the classical music coming from their headphones, a dual set resting atop their bellies as mother and unborn child listened as one to the mentally-enhancing music.
The morning sun was most brilliant above the skyscrapers of Tokyo, reflecting from one glass building to another. Inside one of the tallest of them were Elsa and her boss, along with some of Fujimoto’s executives, all male, stealing glimpses of Elsa as they all rode an elevator to one of the top floors.
‘Do you trust me?’ Elsa asked of Fujimoto.
‘If we’re going to make this work, I’m going to need you to trust that I know what I’m doing.’
Although the executives were just as amused by her spunk as they were her curves they dared not let it show.
Minutes later inside a conference room Elsa held the attention of even more men, Fujimoto and his associates on one side of the table, the CEO and board of Directors of the cellular technology company on the other. Not a single woman among them, as all faced Elsa and her presentation boards.
‘We agree that the prospects are there,’ she said as she addressed them. ‘Apple, Samsung, Sony. Even Microsoft and their acquisition of Nokia. All have produced impressive figures over the past several quarters. But as the market nears saturation it’s going to be less about newer models and more about internal upgrades. Hence, your technology is arriving at the perfect time. So with that said, we want forty percent of the shares.’
Associates from both sides were shocked at Elsa’s proposal. Fujimoto’s executives looked to him, but his facial expression commanded that they remain silent.
‘Ms. Velasquez,’ said one of the board members of the tech company, ‘we realize this is a great opportunity for all parties involved, which is why we are offering twenty-five percent, as opposed to the standard twenty percent.’
‘I understand that,’ Elsa replied as she removed one presentation chart to display another. ‘But even in underdeveloped countries such as my own smartphones are the new norm, as is internet connection. With the technology you would be offering to the many different cellular corporations you’re looking at a profit of over five hundred percent in your first year alone. That is if you acquire the substantial funds it’s going to take to develop your current prototype into the solid product it needs to be before hitting the market. The last thing you want is to bring on an investor whose true assets are tied into an array of business dealings for the sole purpose of looking good on paper, because as we all know, oftentimes this does not translate to actual stability.’
Elsa looked into the eyes of the CEO.
‘For solid results you need a solid backer.
Everyone around the table was silent.
The CEO stood to his feet. He turned to Fujimoto and extended his hand.
‘We look forward to working with you.’
Fujimoto stood. The two shook hands.
‘As do we.’
The table came to life. Everyone was on their feet shaking hands with their new partners.
Elsa stood there, taking in the magic she had created.
Tokyo’s skyline had went from bright blue to hues of neon as night fell over the animated city, a whole floor of suites at a luxury hotel having been rented out by Fujimoto for he and his executives. He escorted Elsa to one of her own, after having her by his side for a day of meetings following her stellar performance. To observe, offer thoughts and make suggestions. Her feet were killing her, and all she wanted to do was get a good night’s sleep. But why was he still by her side as she slid the keycard into the door. Oh how she dreaded the thought that he may want to have his way with her now.
‘Would you like to meet for dinner in the restaurant later?’ he asked.
‘It’s been a long day. I’d prefer to just take a shower and go to bed.’
Fujimoto glanced into her room then looked back at her.
‘I’ll have them send you something up. Have a good evening.’
He bowed and left, leaving her quite surprised at the level of respect he hadn’t shown to her since they first met.
The warm shower with its multi-speed shower head had been heaven to Elsa, who exited the bathroom in comfy robe and towel wrapped around her head right in time to answer the knock coming from the suite door.
It was room service, the server bowing before wheeling in Elsa’s dinner and setting it up right before her eyes. He removed the silver cover off the main platter, revealing steak and lobster. He then brought forward a bottle of champagne, popped its cork and poured her a glass.
‘Yes, ma’am. At Mr. Fujimoto’s request.’
With everything properly set up the server readied to excuse himself.
‘Will there be anything else, ma’am?’
It then occurred to her that it would be of proper etiquette to offer him a tip so she went for her purse, but before she could withdraw any money he responded, ‘No need ma’am, it has already been taken care of.’
‘Have a pleasant evening, ma’am,’ and she was left alone to enjoy her dinner for one. Elsa took a seat, uncovered a few more dishes. A salad, vegetables, a slice of chocolate cake. Near the silverware, a freshly cut rose lay with a few droplets of water shining on its bright red petals. She picked it up, smelled its sweet fragrance and noticed a small card where it had been laying.
Elsa, what a wonderful job you have done today. Your future is indeed going to be a prosperous one.
‘You don’t know how right you are,’ she whispered, crumbling up the message in one hand, tossing the sweet rose laced in evil with the other.
She then started in on her five-star dinner.
The next morning and Elsa was back in her bedroom, a butler setting down her small pull-along suitcase as she removed the strap of her laptop case from her shoulder.
Vicki, Rhani and Noboo ran into the room and they all hugged.
‘So how did it go?’ Rhani asked. ‘Did you have them eating out of your hand?’
‘Let’s just say every time I see a cellphone for now on it’s gonna make me smile.’
They all got excited and hugged again, then Meg entered with a black dress draped in plastic.
‘Mr. Fujimoto would like you to accompany him to a corporate dinner he is having tonight. And he would like you to wear this.’
She held up the dress.
In Meg’s other hand, a black velvet box holding a pearl necklace. The young ladies looked with wide eyes as Meg placed the two high-quality items atop Elsa’s bed.
‘Wow,’ Rhani cracked. ‘They must have been scarfing out of your hand!’
‘For the rest of you ladies,’ Meg went on, cold as ever, ‘dinner will be served at its usual time.’
They paid her no attention and let her leave in silence, determined to be happy for Elsa in her shining moment.
The evening was perfect, its soft breeze lightly blowing over Elsa in her new black dress and pearl necklace. She stood in front of the mansion with Meg, who was also dressed to impress, while a servant waited nearby to open the door to an approaching black limousine.
Elsa got in and took a seat beside Fujimoto, but when Meg tried to do the same he stopped her.
‘What are you doing? This is a corporate dinner.’
Losing face Meg could do nothing but turn away, embarrassed not only for the shame brought upon her but also the fact that he had spoken to her in English, making sure Elsa understood all that had occurred.
The door was shut, the luxury vehicle pulling away to leave Meg standing there alone with the servant.
‘Ma’am,’ he said as he waited for her to go ahead of him and back into the mansion.
Infuriated, she dug her heels into the cement below her feet one step at a time, knowing full well that all would be laughing the evening away at her expense.
The room was full of actual legitimate Fujimoto associates, Elsa seated beside her boss at a table occupied by the high-level executives she had been in the meetings with the previous day, the other seat beside Fujimoto vacant.
‘So, Ms. Velasquez,’ one asked. ‘Besides being born in the Philippines did you attend college there as well?’
‘Yes. Actually, before I joined The Fujimoto Corporation I had never been outside of my country,’
‘Has the adjustment been hard for you?’
Elsa and Fujimoto glanced at each other.
‘It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well.’
Before the executive could ask her to elaborate Mrs. Fujimoto approached the table, everyone standing to their feet and bowing.
‘Please, please,’ she said. ‘Take your seats.’
A server helped her into the vacant seat beside her son.
‘Mother, you remember Elsa.’
‘Good evening, ma’am,’ Elsa said to the old woman, her greeting met with an insincere smile.
Dinner was served.
Halfway through the meal and everyone was engrossed in conversation, Fujimoto and his mother quietly engaged in their own exchange in their native tongue.
‘What were you thinking bringing her here?!’
‘Oh mother, calm down. She just made us an additional one hundred million dollars.’
‘She should be pregnant by now. Don’t be foolish. You’re going to let her ruin you.’
‘I’m not my father.’
She shot a look back at him that if lethal would have sent him toppling over to his death.
Meanwhile the executives were picking Elsa’s brain.
‘Ms. Velasquez, would you be so kind as to share with us your strategy?’
Mother and son returned their attention to the group, once again playing up the part of sincere hosts.
‘How did you know they would cave in to forty percent,’ another executive asked.
‘Well, it was really about the numbers,’ Elsa enlightened them. ‘When you have truth on your side like that, they know they have no choice but to throw in the towel.’
Vicki made her goodnight rounds starting with Rhani, who was already in bed.
Elsa’s bedroom was next, who’s door she tapped on before peering in.
‘Goodnight, biz whiz!’
‘Goodnight,’ Elsa laughed.
Noboo’s bedroom, which was once Mimi’s, was the last.
It was then that she noticed Meg and a maid closing in on Noboo with a miniature paper cup and a glass of water.
‘Goodnight, Vicki,’ Noboo said, unable to see her now that the two women were at her bedside. She looked into the cup she was given. ‘I thought we take the vitamins in the mornings.’
‘Yes, that’s true. This is just something to help you rest,’ Meg said, handing over the cup of water.
As Noboo took the pill Vicki left the bedroom.
The bathroom door was cracked open, Vicki inside peering out from its darkness and watching as Fujimoto passed and walked towards Noboo’s closed bedroom door.
Wearing a sexy lingerie she quietly stepped out of the bathroom. Right before Fujimoto reached Noboo’s door she deliberately made a noise with the bathroom’s doorknob, getting Fujimoto to turn around.
Knowing she now had his attention she acted as though she were just now going in, shutting the bathroom door behind her.
Two minutes later and Vicki exited, looking towards Noboo’s closed door as she went back to her own bedroom. She closed the door, walked over to her bed and sat down on the edge of it.
Fujimoto stepped forward from out of the shadows.
Chapter 9 posted shortly.