She clasped the band around her thin wrist. “It’s way too big for me. I’ll never be able to wear it.”
She angled her arm downward. The watch slid off and fell to the couch. She sniffled.
I picked it up. I didn’t know anything about watches, but it sure looked nice. Diamonds denoted each hour on the face except the 12. That had an emerald.
“Rudy has the guy who did it,” I said.
“He’ll rot in a Norwegian jail for life. Or be executed in Russia.”
“Won’t bring Dad or Irina back,” she said.
I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I sighed, just to fill the awkward silence. “Look, Lene, I don’t know how much Trond told you about his business dealings…”
“He was a crook,” she said. “I know. I don’t care. He was my dad.”
“The people who killed him own Sanchez Aluminum.”
“O Palácio,” she said. “Rudy told me. I never even heard of them before yesterday.”
She put her face in her hands. I expected a crying jag—she was entitled to one. But it didn’t come. Instead, she turned to me and wiped her eyes. “Did you trash Sanchez’s harvesters? Did Dad put you up to it?”
“Why?” she asked.
“He wanted to take over the aluminum industry—well, the silicon industry, actually. Interrupting Sanchez’s production would let him get a city contract he needed to make that happen.”
Lene stared ahead blankly, then slowly nodded. “Sounds like him. Always working an angle.”
“Look, I have an idea,” I said. “But I need your help.”
“You need a crippled orphan?”
“A crippled orphan billionaire, yeah.” I pulled my legs up onto the couch so I could face her girl-to-girl. “I’m going to follow through with Trond’s plan. I’m going to stop Sanchez’s oxygen production. I need you to be ready to take over the contract. Once you do, O Palácio will be willing to sell you Sanchez Aluminum.”
“Why would they sell to me?”
“Because if they don’t, you’ll make your own company, undercut their prices with your free power, and bankrupt them. They’re mobsters, but they’re also businessmen. You’ll be offering them a big payoff to walk away when their alternative is watching the company collapse. They’ll take the deal. You own all of Trond’s holdings, right?”
“Not yet,” she said. “It’s billions of euros, dollars, yen, and every other currency under the sun. Plus entire companies, stock portfolios…God knows what else. I’m on a trust until I’m eighteen. The probate’s going to take months, maybe years.”
“Not for his Artemisian slugs,” I said. “Our lack of regulation works in your favor. His accounts became yours the instant Doc Roussel declared him dead. And I hear he converted a fuckton of money into slugs to prep for the Sanchez purchase. You have the money to make this happen.”
She stared into the distance.
“It’s not the money,” she said. “It’s me. I can’t do this. I’m not Dad. He was a master of this stuff. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
I turned the watch over in my hands. The platinum back had Norwegian text engraved on it. I held it in front of her. “Huh…what’s that say?”
She glanced over. “Himmelen er ikke grensen. It means ‘The sky is not the limit.’?”
“He was a confident man,” I said.
“Got him killed.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Swiss Army knife. With the help of its tweezers, I detached the set pins from the metal watchband. I removed three links and put the pins back in.
I took Lene’s hand and slid the watch onto her wrist. She gave me a confused look but offered no resistance. I snapped the clasp shut. “There. Now it fits.”
She shook her arm and the watch remained in place. “It’s heavy.”
“You’ll get used to it.”
She looked at the watch face for a long time. She wiped a mote of dust from the glass. “I guess I’ll have to.”
“So…?” I prompted.
“Okay, I’ll do it.” She stared straight ahead. “Take the fuckers down.”
I’d never noticed before, but she had her father’s eyes.
Thanks for helping me earlier. I was in deep shit. Now I’m in slightly shallower shit. Basically, I’m at war with a company called Sanchez Aluminum. I’ll give you the full story later. For now, I need another favor.
Sanchez Aluminum’s smelting facility is in a mini-bubble near the reactors. The reactor/smelter complex is a kilometer from town.
I did some research and found a twenty-year-old article about the “negotiations” between Sanchez and KSC. KSC got really hands-on in the smelter’s design process and Sanchez didn’t like it. They almost went to litigation in Kenyan court.
Sanchez’s argument was “It’s our smelter. We don’t need approval from anyone. Fuck off.”