“How many?” Mr. Carson swatted a mosquito once it settled on his wrist. He hated Miami. Almost as much as he hated these daylight exchanges. It was bustling, and he and the man across from him were dressed anonymously, but he hated them nonetheless. He waited for the man to reply.
“Four,” answered Joseph, as he pushed his sunglasses back up the bridge of his nose.
Carson replied first with a chuckle, “Four? Are you serious?” although he knew the answer, he continued, “there’s no way this is worth four. I was willing to give you two, but you haven’t given me enough yet.”
“Well that’s all I have,” said Joseph.
“Sorry kid, but if that’s the case, then two is all you get. Them’s the breaks.”
Joseph pressed again, “Matthews said I would get four for what I gave you. He said that’s what you wanted, and then some.”
Carson glared at Joseph, “Watch your tone or you can take your business elsewhere. And you can tell Matthews he doesn’t know me as well as he thought. If he wants four, he can negotiate himself.”
Then Joseph sighed and looked around the busy cafe, making sure no one was watching before he produced another file. It was too busy for anyone to notice. This file, he kept out of arm’s reach. Carson’s eyes lit up on sight of the folder, not even sure what the contents of the paper sheaf were. Old school. He asked Joseph, “What’s that?”
“It’s a dossier.”
“Don’t be coy. About what? I haven’t seen a dossier like that in years.”
“About an op called Byzantine.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” said Carson feigning derision.
Joseph didn’t say anything, he just stared at Carson with a smug look on his face, watching the man change his mind all on his own.
“Alright, you can have all four prisoners,” but Carson didn’t get a reply, and he was annoyed to be failing one of his own negotiation tactics.
“Fine. What do you want for it?”
“I’ll take back the other files… and your fee.”
“No, Matthews promised…”
“So you spoke with Matthews already? Listen, you reneged on the deal, and that’s gonna cost you.” Joseph held out his other hand under the table, and reluctantly Carson handed back over the thumb drive Joseph and Matthews had promised him, and the ‘keys’ to the prisoners.
“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Carson,” said Joseph as he stood up and put on his grey jacket, “you can keep the deposit. How does that sound?” Joseph took his turn to smile.
“Great. Thanks,” said Carson, sitting with a defeated look on his face, even though Joseph was handing over a blood diamond of top secret files.
“Them’s the breaks. A warning though: if you try to sell that to anyone, do a little background first.”
“Sure just what I need. A caveat to go with this. How’d you learn to do that, you snide little con?”
“Never mind,” Carson moaned, waving his hand as if to dismiss Joseph, which Joseph took to heart.
Carson had already begun to peruse the details of the file he was given, when he called out, “Hold on a second!” Carson stopped Joseph as he was about to walk away, “what were you implying when you said do a little background?”
Joseph returned, a jaunt in his step to make those around him feel inferior.
“I meant that everyone who has ever asked about Byzantine, has wound up dead.”
“But not you guys? You’re too careful; too suave for that.”
Joseph gave Carson a sinister grin before responding, “Can you keep a secret?”
“… Well then, I suppose you have nothing to worry about.”
With that, Joseph disappeared into the crowd, and the brightness of a Florida sun.
Carson looked back at the folder in his hands, a folder that looked more and more like a hornet’s nest the longer he held it. He looked over his shoulder.