Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
She must have said it out loud, because Tess,
who was wash ing
her hands at the next sink, said, “Who’s on your mind ?
John ? He is handsome, isn’t he?”
sidelong at her. “Of course, since he’s your secretary , you
get first dibs.”
Then Vickie smiled. “Don’t tell me you’ve got a crush on him?”
, something Vickie had never seen
do before. “`
Crush.’ What an adolescent term
, Vickie. Of course I
don’t have a crush on him.” She grinned ruefully and
cast a sidelong glance at her
Vickie could sympathize with that. Only for Cliff, the right time was never. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to stand in
way. John’s all yours. Although, as long as I’ve known you, Tess, you’ve
never been afraid of coming straight to the point. What’s gotten into you?”
has all those women around
all the time. I guess I’ll just wait until he’s old and ugly ,
and needs me.”
“Tess, don’t be ridiculous. You’re a wonderful person
in your own right.
If John can’t see that, well, then, he doesn’t deserve you.”
“Yeah, that’s what my mother always said, too. I don’t
know, Vickie. If I’m so
wonderful, how come John
crawling all over me?”
Vickie shook her head. This was too near
she felt about Cliff for her to
offer any constructive suggestions to her friend.
They left the bathroom together, each sunk deep in her own thoughts.
got home that evening,
the phone was ringing. Vickie went to pick it up.
? Is anyone…”
“Who is this
…” she began again when the same voice interrupted.
“May I speak with Victoria Johnston, please?”
“Vickie? Vickie, don’t say
anything, especially not my name. I am
visiting your area soon, and I’d like to stop by. What days will you be home
Prince Kulinahr. Cautious old buzzard, not mentioning his name, or pinning down when he’d be in. Or where he was calling from, although it certainly wasn’t
“I’ll be home every night this week.”
Another pause, although shorter this time. “Excellent. I will see you.” The click on the line told her he had hung up. She wondered how good tracking equipment was these days. He certainly had made it a short call.
Kulinahr appeared at her door
two nights later, in
the company of the same two men she had met in .
She was almost surprised they hadn’t tried to hustle the Prince in through a
“Vickie. I’m so glad to see you again.”
shook her hand with warmth.
“Me, too.” She indicated that he should sit, and brought out some oolong tea and cookies she’d bought at the Chewy‑Good Cookie Store on the way home. She’d done that last night, too, so they’d be fresh
, and was mightily glad for her waistline he had arrived early in the week.
Vickie sat down opposite him, ignoring the security men. Even though she enjoyed seeing Kulinahr, she knew she hadn’t be come best
with a Middle‑East Prince overnight. She wondered why he was here.
Kulinahr picked up one of the cookies, then sighed and sat back with his tea. “Thank you for
me to come,
Vickie. I’m afraid
it is not the best of times for me.”
I did not get the best of responses
from my letters.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
not surprised. A lot of
people thought business
“Isn’t anyone helping?”
Kulinahr brightened a bit. “Yes, there is. One person.”
, however, scowled.
“One person? How much can one
“Quite a bit, actually, if they are smart. Which, tangentially, is why I’ve come to see you.”
“You are acquainted with security technology? Computer controlled?”
“That is wonderful. I was hoping, with your computer
that you could provide for me a small computer with the capability of producing
numbers. Ah, seven‑place numbers.”
“You mean all possible combinations of seven‑digit numbers? Piece of cake. How fast do you need them, and what kind of output do you want?”
“Pardon?” The sheikh looked puzzled.
blushed. Had she been away from users that long? “I mean, do you want it on a report,
or do you need the numbers on tape[MH3] , or some other way?”
“Yes, I see. I need the numbers to feed into an electronic lock. Rather like dialing all possible phone numbers.”
got up and paced, thoughtful. “I’ll
have to check with some of my people. I’m not sure if there’s a
standard interface with electronic locks or not.”
“How soon do you think I could have it?”
“Of course.” Kulinahr looked relieved. “Thank you very much Vickie. I will not forget your friendship.” After a few more rushed pleasantries, Kulinahr and his party left.
She had no
opportunity to ask the
questions this sub‑rosa visit had raised.
The men were at her office at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. She politely shooed them out of her way until 9:30, which was the fastest she could find a free HCC 200 and put in a quick
program. She didn’t feel too guilty about giving away one of Cliff’s machines. In
her opinion, he sort of owed it to Kulinahr.
phone rang requesting her input at an emergency meeting, and Vickie grabbed up her
and forgot all about it.
[MH1]A specific action in the lavatory is more immediate and easier to picture than generic "finishing up".