Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

She arranged to meet him at a seven thirty. He was fifteen minutes late, but she sat at the bar and watched him settle into the table and check his watch obsessively until almost eight before she walked over and seated herself.

He didn’t get up. “You’re late, I didn’t think you were coming.” Unapologetic. Strike one. He pulled his sleeve up to check his watch, even though he’d just checked his phone and knew exactly what time it was, just to make a point. Arrogant. Strike two.

“I was actually sitting at the bar, you said from my profile picture that I’d be the ‘most compelling beauty in any room’, I was curious as to whether you’d spot me.”

He laughed, reached across the table and placed his hand on hers. “You are, unmistakably, the most beautiful woman I’ve known.”

She withdrew her hand to reach for her water glass, took a sip and smiled. “But you don’t know me, do you?”

He waved to catch the eye of a nearby waiter before snapping his fingers and pointing to the table. “Yes, well, you don’t me either.” The waiter arrived, masking his distaste with commendable professionalism.

“I’m so sorry for the wait, would you like a cocktail, or perhaps some wine? Your waiter will—”

He was cut off abruptly. “Whisky rocks for me, and the lady will have a white wine—”

“I’ll have a gin martini, straight up, three olives.”  She smiled at the waiter and ignored the angry confusion on the man’s face.

The waiter risked a slight smile, “Right away madam”, before slipping away.

“I wasn’t sure if I would have to cancel,” the man started talking, “I’m in the middle of this massive deal–”

“It’s good that you didn’t.” She cut him off again.

He opened and closed his mouth before picking up where he left off. “I can’t talk about it, but we’re in a unique position where–”

“Why are businessmen so self absorbed?” She spoke over him effortlessly, silencing him in mid sentence without raising her voice.

He sat back in his seat, visibly annoyed.

“What are you–?”

“Maxwell Grenderson, thirty seven, born in Saint Paul, Minnesota before moving to New York at twenty two. Fast tracked to partner by way of taking photographs of the owner’s son screwing Julia Wells, the owner’s girlfriend, obtained ironically enough by hiding in her closet after almost getting caught screwing her yourself.”

Maxwell closed his mouth.

“Do you remember what I do for a living?” She steepled her fingers, watching him over well manicured nails.

“You said something about the water works.” No denials. Strike three.

“If you only listened as well as you talked.” She paused as the waiter returned, noiselessly sliding the drinks into vacant spaces on the table, and slipping away just as effortlessly. She picked up her glass and removed an olive from its skewer with her teeth, chewing it slowly as she watched him.

“You see Max, I have gigabytes of data on you, your friends, your family. I know everything you have read, researched, every minute of pornography that you’ve sat through. I know every dollar that’s travelled into or out of your accounts, and what you’ve done with it.”

She paused again, bit off a second olive and held it between her teeth, smiling around it as she held eye contact, then bit it neatly in two.

“The thing about people’s personalities when observed simply as bits, is you really don’t get a feel for them. You can know everything about someone and still not really know them. For that you have to spend time with them.”

She took another sip and placed the glass on the table, then placed her hands in her lap and leaned forward.

“What I said, Max, was that I was in wetwork. And if you had proved to be a better human being than your electronic signature suggested, then perhaps this would have ended differently. But…”

There were six swift whispers, barely audible above the ambient chatter as her weapon discharged under the table. His muscles tensed fully and completely before he could even gasp.

Pushing back from the table she rose to leave, and as she passed him she bent down, face to face. “The most beautiful woman in the room?” For a moment her face flickered and changed, and Julia Wells breathed through a smile. “None of you ever knew me,” and the face was gone, different now from that of his dinner date too. A moment later they both made their exit, each in their own way.

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