The meeting took place in a small, intimate restaurant where they habitually met for lunch or sometimes simply for a drink. On this occasion, a quiet corner was chosen since the subject matter called for an unusual amount of discretion.
They sat across from each other, one patiently waiting to receive information from the other. Their meetings were rarely without a purpose and the reason given for the get-together had been deliberately cryptic. They chatted inconsequentially about trivial matters until their lunches were set before them and the waiter had disappeared.
“We have a problem, a spoke in our wheel, if you will.”
The statement was delivered in a low, seemingly calm voice, but the listener had heard that tone many times before and knew the matter was indeed serious. No response was offered; no questions were asked. There was no need. The explanation would be forthcoming.
“It seems that Michael has a five-year-old daughter who has suddenly come to light.”
The blunt statement had the desired effect. The expected look of shock and disbelief flashed across the other person’s face.
“Five years old? How is that possible? He would have said something about it before now.”
‘He didn’t know of her existence until now.’
‘How could that be?’
‘The mother didn’t want him to know.’
“I don’t believe it. It has to be a scam.”
“That’s what I thought at first, but I had the woman followed. I have pictures of the child. She’s the image of him.”
The last word was delivered in a tone dripping with disdain.
“I can’t believe this is happening. I thought you said he wasn’t able to father children.”
“No, you misunderstood. All I said was that he would never have a child. There’s a difference.”
There was a moment of shocked hesitation while this information was absorbed.
“What… what are you saying?”
The speaker leaned forward, both to further emphasize the words and to ensure that they weren’t overheard.
“I’m saying that there will be no child interfering in our well-laid plans. I have another plan now, one that should take care of many birds with one stone. Maybe this bastard girl will be the catalyst that we’ve been looking for all along.”
“But she’s just a child. You can’t be considering…”
“You of all people know what’s at stake here. I, for one, will not allow this to happen. It’s gone on too long as it is. We can’t wait any longer.”
They lapsed into silence, one of them calmly enjoying the meticulously prepared food, while the other succeeded only in pushing it around on the plate.