Everyone knows that sleeping with a client is not good for business but something about sex with Shahid felt natural or rather therapeutic. Each time they were together, she felt like she could be more like herself, the version of who she was before life found ways to break her.
Her business was moving quickly and growing faster than she had anticipated. The news of Shahid taking her on as a business partner spread and despite a lot of people knowing very little about him, they knew he was a big deal and trusted his foresight.
For a world he inherited, he managed it very well, keeping his family business afloat and keeping the illegal aspects well hidden. She knew that the new customers being sent her way was a gesture equivalent to receiving flowers.
The rapid growth meant a change in pace for her business and the thing with change is that it always brings more change. She knew she would not be able to handle the finances on her own anymore. Vanessa was great at managing the books but struggled with finding creative ways to circumvent the law and cover up consistent influxes of huge sums of money. She decided that the best way to hide the money without drawing too much attention or giving complex explanations was to no longer do it herself but to rather hire a professional, an accountant.
Initially, she had seven candidates. Each of them had to send in their CVs and cover letters. Of the seven, she managed to eliminate four of them during first screening. Anyone who made typos in their cover letter was not considered for the position and if they over advocated their interest in transparency Vanessa threw away their CV.
Vanessa valued loyalty and trustworthiness above all. A weak-willed person or one who valued transparency over loyalty could easily turn on her and hand her over to the police. She needed someone loyal, someone intelligent and someone who had no problem with breaking the law. All the candidates offered to meet her at a restaurant or somewhere public but she felt it would be best if she went to their homes and got to see them in their own environments. You can learn a lot about a person based on what they surround themselves with. The style of furniture one had most often reflected the person’s personality and art showcased their view of the world, she thought.
All three candidates were private bankers and meeting them at their homes would keep their association private until she was ready to open an account and formally accept one of their services. Vanessa cleared her schedule for the day to ensure that she would be able to focus on selecting the right candidate.
Emily Smit was the first candidate. She was a 37-year-old asset manager. Her services came highly recommended, Vanessa believed it was because she was already part of the ‘Underground’.
‘The Underground’ was the name given to the circuit of low level criminals, they were above petty theft but still not making enough money to draw police attention. She helped local small-time players avoid getting caught, advising them on where and how to hide their money. Malik had previously used her services and vouched for her. She was mostly known for using unorthodox methods to get clients, like telling them to change religions from Christianity to Islamic faith just so they could reap the tax benefits.
She lived in a quiet neighbourhood. The type where you heard dogs barking the moment you parked your car. She made sure her car was safely stationed on the side of the driveway and rang the bell. Vanessa could see the neighbours staring, a black woman driving an expensive car was sure to raise eyebrows.
Vanessa walked up to the door the moment the gate opened. As she was about to knock, the door swung open and Vanessa found herself staring at a young teenager she could tell was in a hurry.
“Hi, you must be Ms Costa.”
“Hi, yes. I’m Vanessa.”
“Perfect.”, he said while looking over Vanessa’s shoulder. “Mom said I couldn’t leave until you got here. So nice to meet. I’m leaving now.”
Before Vanessa could respond, he sped past her, making his way towards one of the cars in the yard and drove off. She stood in the doorway unsure of where to go until a little girl came to greet her.
“Hi, I’m Molly. Are you here to see mom?”
“Hi Molly, I’m Vanessa. Yes, I’d like to see your mother, is she available?”
Molly nodded excitedly and led Vanessa to the living room. Vanessa could tell that Molly was at least 10 years old. She was a cute girl with her hair tied in two ponytails and spoke with a lisp. The house was vibrant and well furnished, it felt very homely. Molly would randomly run out of the room and come back with something to offer Vanessa; at first it was a glass of juice and then a cookie. Vanessa was unsure what was going on until the helper came to explain that she was in the kitchen preparing meals because Emily had plans to host her friends over for lunch. Thomas was supposed be watching Molly until the meals were ready and then he could go on a date with his girlfriend.
Emily came rushing into the room and apologised to Vanessa for making her wait then led her to the study. As she entered the study, the first thing Vanessa noticed was how structured it felt compared to the rest of the house. The decorations were simple and limited, one could consider them almost missing. No pot plants or ornaments, nothing hung on the walls except for the dozens of pictures of Emily and her family. The family photos seemed to have her husband as the focal point. Emily was a petite red head, opinionated and probably as loud as a firecracker.
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