Lorenzo and Robert huddle at the computer displaying a windy country road rushing towards them.
“Hey, slow it down Amanda,” Lorenzo shouts but the next corner comes fast as the speaker screams “Woo-hoo!” The mini-camera hidden inside Amanda’s barrette has better resolution and sound than they had expected.
It took a little convincing on the part of Amanda for Lorenzo to OK the wire tap, but Robert made a good point. The worst that could happen is that they confiscate the gadget because they would no doubt realize that the trip to the mansion and inside it would certainly be documented. Mr. Oxley does not need a scandal over and above the one already brewing on the Columbus asteroid mining vessels. It’s a gamble, but one which Amanda is no stranger to.
The Oxley Estate gates are in view and soon a suspiciously muscular butler invites Amanda into the foyer where Angela, Robert’s mother, is seated quietly wearing a stunning emerald-green fishtail gown.
“I believe you two are acquainted,” a voice echoes form the top of the spiral staircase. Mr. Oxley descends into the marble foyer and offers each lady one of his arms.
Lorenzo’s heart races. Robert’s breath becomes shallow. They watch on as a hand-carved mahogany door opens into an overly ornate empty ballroom.
“Are we early?” Amanda asks with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Mr. Oxley snaps his fingers and a young man arrives with a drink tray. He offers one to each of the ladies and takes one himself. He chugs it down and places the empty martini glass back on the tray. “I’m not much of a gambler.”
Amanda watches her host intently for a few moments before she takes a small sip of her drink. Angela finishes hers in one shot and grabs a second one which she proceeds to hoover up as well.
“Mom!” Robert frowns as the camera Amanda is wearing captures the scene. Mr. Oxley’s distinguished face comes into view.
“I’ve been watching you for quite a while, Amanda and—”
“—Mr. Oxley, with all due respect, what are you trying to buy from me?” It is this direct and blunt approach about his beautiful guest in the red sequin dress that excites the multi-billionaire. Coincidentally, it is this same quality which captured Lorenzo’s heart when they first met as well.
“Please, call me William,” he smiles. He snaps his fingers once more and the room fills with the sound of a Viennese Orchestra. Amanda’s hand finds a resting place on William’s shoulder and the dance begins. His fingers float towards the camera lens.
The screen becomes a blur of bright lights followed by a plop and an underwater seascape. A coy swims by.
“Crap!” Lorenzo shouts. He grabs his cell phone and is just about to dial 911 when Robert stops him.
“And what are you going to tell them? That your girlfriend is having a private party with multi-billionaire heart throb Sir William Oxley? Sure. That’ll go over well.” He pulls a memory stick from his shirt pocket. “We wait here until she gets back.” He plugs the stick into the computer. “I did some digging through my manager’s files. Let Amanda do her thing and let’s find the evidence to bury the bastard.”
They split the screen and work on separate folders.
Robert’s manager filters the assignments to his staff as they come in from the FDA. Contrary to what Robert had previously thought, not all the requests for nutritional analyses get delegated. For the past year, ever since the Columbus mine went on-line, some of the Oxley Corporation’s mining division safety checks have been held up the command chain. Specifically, no food samples gathered from the Columbus space station have made it across Robert’s or any of his co-worker’s testing stations.
The files reveal anomalies in the nutrient content of all meals prepared on board the mining station. When Robert drills further into the data he finds a nutrient listed as Vitamin J which consistently appears in the animal protein dishes. Lorenzo’s data covers the analysis of daily urine samples for all extraction operators. It maps out the concentrations of the same undefined vitamin J. Superimposing the graphical versions of the two sets of data shows a linear relationship between the amount of vitamin J in food dishes consumed 24 hours prior to the urinary analyses.
“What do you make of it?” asks Lorenzo.
“Well, whatever vitamin J is, more of it is going in than coming out,” Robert replies, which does less than meet Lorenzo’s expectations. “I can only assume that it’s not something inherently natural or nutritious.” He zeroes in on one particular individual’s urine history. “Take this Alfonso Ramirez for example. For the past year even though his Vitamin J levels have steadily increased he is still…A year? That’s impossible!”
Robert fishes through the data files and finds bone mineral density test results. They appear normal. In fact he is impressed at how they are monitored so closely since by law only monthly measurements are required.
Lorenzo leans back in his chair and sighs heavily. He is worried about Amanda even though he knows she is well equipped to hold her own against pretty much anything.
A thud behind him pulls Lorenzo away from his thoughts. He swivels towards the entrance to see a thick legal sized vanilla envelope on the floor beneath the mail slot. He then swivels back around and flips to the surveillance channel just in time to see a man disappear across the street. He rewinds the footage in the hope of getting lucky and…
“Yes! Now let’s see who you are.” Lorenzo zooms in and enhances the man’s face inadvertently caught by the hidden camera.
It’s the man with the cell phone at the courthouse.
…to be continued The Oxley Plan Unveiled.