Driving back to my little apartment, I tried to calm my nerves and prepare myself for the biggest opportunity of a lifetime. I cleaned my rooms from top to bottom, re-read all of the notes I’d acquired about Mr. Romani, and still, I couldn’t sleep. Knowing that travel would be a part of the job, I began to think of all the places I’d get to see working for the man. At least I hoped I got to see them. That is when it hit me; what exactly is a personal journalist? Firing up my laptop and Googled it, and nothing, well nothing but a song called “Personal Journalist” by someone named Sage Francais. I have no idea what I am supposed to do. I found one article on a personal journalist and it was more of a theory than it was an actual job description. It said “The personal journalist does what journalists do best: keep their eyes open.” Well I can do that. The media already loved Augostino Romani, even if he had a playboy repertoire. Feeling more confident than before, I decided to wear a simple pair black pants and an azure blue top that reminded me of August’s eyes. Man, I had to stop thinking about him like that. He was to be admired and adore, not studied. I should probably tattoo that on the back of my hand. Settling down into my comforter, I prepared myself for the next step in my life.
It was exactly 7:59 AM when I knocked on the door to Mr. Romani’s office. I knew he’d appreciate my punctuality, but I frowned at myself for trying to impress him once again. Being punctual was one thing, but expecting Augustino Romani to give me a pat on the back was just plain foolish. I wasn’t in high school trying to get the school jock to notice me, this was my job. I cleared my throat, and listened for Mr. Romani’s notorious yell. There was not an immediate answer, but his assistant motioned for me to go right in. Don’t ask me why, but I actually walked in. I wished that I hadn’t.
“What do you mean!” I heard Augostino yelling into the speaker. The fact I hadn’t heard him yelling let me know his office was sound proof. No wonder he didn’t hear my knock. I was about to turn around and leave him to whoever he was castrating, but he pointed his index finger at me and then pointed at the huge leather chair sitting in front of his large cherry wood desk.
“I mean that it has been compromised, meaning that someone from the inside is leaking information.” Said the voice from the speaker, whose voice sounded similar to Augostino’s.
“You are the detective Adriano; find out who it is…”
“If you weren’t my younger brother, I’d kick your ass for speaking to me like that…”
“You should be used to it by now.” And then an amazing thing happened, Augostino Romani smiled. The man had the most white and even teeth I’d ever seen in person. He sat down and still was smiling when he finally told his brother they weren’t alone. “Adriano, my new journalist is here. Her name is…” he paused, cocked his head to the side, and raised that eyebrow at me again “What shall you be called by when you write my biography?”
At least he asked, but I had assumed that because he did not like my pen name, I would use my real name.
“Yvonne Mason. Pleased to hear you Adriano.” I chuckled. That was the oddest introduction I had ever seen, but this whole situation is odd to me.
“What’s this deal about her name?” said the baritone voice from the speaker.
Augostino sat in his own huge leather chair and leaned back, lacing his fingers and placing them on the back of his head. He looked at the speaker as if his brother can actually see what he was doing. “Her current pen name is Savannah Martin.” Augostino said and paused.
“Oh, you,” said the voice, and I think I heard the man chuckle. “I have read some of your stuff,” said Adriano. I quirked an eyebrow and stared at the speakerphone.
“Granted, we haven’t met Mr. Romani, but why would you be scouring the tech mags?”
“Work related, which is all I am going to tell you, but your stuff is good, all facts, not that over enthused dribble that most write. It has helped me on a few cases.” Adriano Romani was all business, his voice was crisp, but deep and to the point. Even on the phone I could tell he was no-nonsense. Picturing him as a detective made all the sense in the world.
“Well thank you, Detective Romani, I try to stay away from fluff pieces.” I said, smiling. I looked up at Augostino’s face. What I saw made the smile on my face run for the hills. It was cold, and he was staring at me as if I committed some sin. I frowned at him and raised one eyebrow, I learned that trick from him at our interview.
“You will have to save your flirting with Yvonne, brother, for later.” Flirting? I know he didn’t think that was flirting? “There are some things I have to get done before my morning meeting.”
He was already reaching for the end call button. I could hear Adriano’s chuckle and felt it vibrate through the dark wood of the desk.
“Flirting, hardly. Ciao August, see you soon.”
What did he mean by that? The line went dead and Augostino was regarding me with an eyebrow raised and a question on his lips. I already knew what it was.
“I was not flirting, I wouldn’t flirt with anyone, but especially your brother.”
“That is not what I was concerned with. Although, I am relieved to hear it.” That made me jump. So what was he concerned with? “What I am concerned with is that you heard there was a leak.” Understanding just kicked me in my gut. Yes, there was a leak in his powerful company, and I nodded at him. Of course that would be a great article about leaks and security at one of the more powerful software development companies, if I had more than a partially overheard conversation.
“I don’t report on something unless I have all the facts, and what I heard amounts to a needle in a haystack. There isn’t much to go on and it would be hearsay, hell, just plain gossip. As your brother said, I am about facts.”
“Good. That is why I chose you to be my personal journalist. You will be around me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no exceptions. With a leak on the loose, that means that you will be in danger. People will want to know if you have more information than others. The project we are working on is a government funded project with direct connections to the Department of Defense. That information puts you in danger. Are you ok with that?”
I had to shut my mouth. I knew it was gaped open trying to absorb what Augostino just said. Who said anything about 24/7? Was he serious? From the look on his face, I could only assume that he was. There wasn’t much I could do about it now, and, somewhere deep down, I didn’t want to, although I was sure I could negotiate 18 hours a day and 6 days a week. There was a small hint of excitement bubbling inside of me. Clearing my throat and crossing my long legs, I placed my hand folded into my lap and thought about the defense contracts. That would be another great article. As I thought of all the articles I could possibly write, it occurred to me that as private as Augustino Romani was, he just let slip two very damning pieces of evidence. Staring at him fully, having forgone the glasses today, I didn’t have the buffer of lenses to protect me from his penetrating gaze, but the need to fully comprehend what was really going on overrode his intimidating eyes.
“Let me get my mind around this, you” I pointed at him with my pen “want me to follow you all day, every day, and put myself in danger for your biography? You’ve also told me information that I could use in a different article and expose your company. What makes you trust someone you just met yesterday?” He didn’t respond, but merely stood up and went to the side cupboard in his office and poured himself a cup of coffee. Then I saw him take a second cup and pour another one with two cubes of sugar and a healthy dose of cream. How did he know the way that he took my coffee?
He placed the steaming cup in front of me and sat down again in his high backed chair. When I still didn’t speak, he pulled out a manila envelope from his desk drawer and slid it across to me.
I opened it and my jaw dropped. It was a file on me. There were pictures of me taking my daily trip to the neighborhood coffee shop, leaving my mother’s home, various articles that I wrote, and other things about me. I didn’t know what to say, I’d never been checked out before.
“At least I know how you knew how I like my coffee.” I murmured, taking a sip of the hot coffee and flipping through the file. I saw a photo of myself digging in a dumpster. I chuckled to myself. I remembered that day clearly and one pissed off interviewee had thrown my lucky pen out the window of his apartment.
“You don’t seem concerned.” He said, and I think his eyes were sparkling with admiration.
“Look, Mr. Romani,”
“Augostino, or you may call me August” His voice dropped to a husky, indescribable tone that sent chills down to my toes.
“August,” I said somewhat breathlessly, setting the coffee cup down on his desk. “Apparently, given the world you live in, asking someone to be around you twenty-four hours means you need to check them out. That is small potatoes. What I want to know is did you have this before or after the interview?”
“Before,” he said simply, without a hesitation or flinch. That was as I thought. It made sense on why he would ask me what my real name was when no one I met had ever questioned what my name was. My guess is that he wondered if I would tell him honestly or not. It also explains why he would offer me a job after having only meeting me for thirty minutes.
I nodded my head and looked at the rest of the file. In the back of the file was the record of my scholarship by his foundation, including my essay that landed me the scholarship. It was a quirky insightful essay about my love affair with coffee. I am not ashamed to admit it, I love coffee, in every which way, ice cream, frappe, iced, hot, you name it, and I have had it. I closed the file and handed it back to him. His fingertips touched mine and I felt and electric shock up my arm. I pulled my fingers back quickly as if I had been burned. I had to get control of myself, even though everything about the man sitting across from me made me jittery.
“Ok, so you checked me out, anything else I should know?” I asked, trying to stay calm and professional about this.
“Yes that I found your essay funny and real. Any one that can honestly speak of themselves as being an addict of anything…” his voice trailed off and his eyes focused on something above me. Deeply bothered by his sudden sense of melancholy, I sat back in the chair and stared at him a few moments before I spoke.
“Thanks, Mr., sorry, August. I am still trying to figure out why in the world that you would want me to be the one to write your biography, regardless of the extensive background search you did on me.”
“Because I want to leave a legacy. I thought you, following me as intently as you have, would be the perfect candidate. Now, as far as you following me twenty-four hours, well I think you should know from our interview that I am a spur of the moment person; also, I prefer to have things at my beck and call. That includes you.” If I were anyone else, that would sound improper but nothing shocked me much anymore when it came out of his mouth. As I stared at the azure eyes studying me to see if I would twitch, bitch or faint, I smiled. I don’t run from a challenge.
“If that is supposed to make me turn tail August, you got me pegged all wrong. Beck and call journalist, sure I can deal with that. I do have a condition on my own.”
“What would that be, Yvonne?” Why did he have to say my name like that, all sexy and seductive?
“That you lay your cards on the table all the time. I don’t like being kept in the dark, and if this working relationship is going to work, I expect stark honesty from you, not some cat and mouse game.”
“That is a steep price. What about a need to know basis?”
“Yeah, like I need to know if I am going to need a gun, or a Doberman?” That I had to ask that question should have made me run and the fact that all he did was laugh should have made me weary. It was a good throaty laugh, which told me I would need both.