Thirty
Daniel was intrigued by Rupinder Shurani. This was a man who had escaped a life of poverty in India. Born with nothing, his excellent academic skills had led to a scholarship at the local Catholic school; then he had studied at Oxford. Details were sketchy after that, but after graduation, he had apparently begun his adventure as a broker of valuable information.
Daniel and Reyes had carefully positioned themselves just close enough to casually overhear any conversation. The duo watched the older and distinguished Indian man who had appeared to be a professor peel away from his scowling wife and approach Rupinder.
Rupinder noticed him drawing near and his eyes lit up. He clasped the man’s hand with both of his own. “My friend. It is good that you could come. It has been a long time since we were boys in the mission school.”
“Congratulations to your nephew, Rupinder.”
Rupinder laughed. "Thank you," he replied, obviously proud to hear the slightly older man's praise.
"I hear he is nearly as smart as you."
Rupinder could hardly contain his happiness at this affirmation of his intellect from someone whose opinion moved him greatly. "That is what he thinks. That chap is far too political for his good. I've told him it would only get him into trouble.” His smile soured, and for the merest moment, the apparent joy slipped from his face like a mask, revealing a flash of grim anger beneath. “He wants to change the world."
Daniel marveled at how Rupinder’s countenance changed so quickly. Here he was, at a happy event, and Shurani seemed to be almost seething at his relative’s naiveté. There seemed to be a rift between uncle and nephew, one wrought of deep philosophical differences but held together by a belief in blood ties that was unassailable. This anger must be borne out of some deep life experience.
“Well, he is well on his way. I hear he is highly placed in the Emerson Corporation.”
“He is,” Rupinder replied with a hint of both trepidation and pride.
"I hear Emerson wanted you to work for him as well. Why not?"
Rupinder was taken aback. He regarded the man carefully, a new suspicion on his face.
"Here is a story and a philosophy that has served me well all my life, my friend," he began. "A rich man was lying in his bed when a mouse ran over the top of him. The man woke up screaming, and everybody in the house came to see what the matter was. When they found it was but a mouse, they scoffed at him as if he was a woman. But the rich man explained: I'm not at all concerned about the mouse. I’m worried about the snake that is coming to chase it.”
His lesson taught, Rupinder paused a moment to consider the professor’s visage and gauge whether his veiled point had been made. “My friend, I'm an old man now. So many wish to change the world, to fight. I'm not one of those. I made my fortune by never committing to anyone or anything and by lying low. It is the wisest path.”
The professor asked, “So, who is the snake, and who is the mouse?”
Rupinder laughed and wagged his finger. “That is the great question we must wait to discover. As for me, it makes no difference.”
Daniel stepped away from Rupinder, holding back from walking with his usual confident swagger. Making his way toward the buffet, Daniel again found his eye drawn to Adnan Schurani. In many ways, Rupinder’s nephew was just like the older man but not yet faded. He was naïve-looking and young, younger than Daniel could ever recall being. His fat face made it clear the man had never seen a day of manual labor in his life, but there was the very clear spark of intelligence in his eyes.
Daniel walked over to the buffet. Food bowed the tables spread out all around the courtyard. Complex spices floated, hitting his senses as he reached his destination.
Reyes looked at his neck and noticed he was starting to sweat.
“You’re not used to this, are you?” she asked.
“No.”
“You’re the type that likes going in loud. But sometimes it takes people like me.” She turned around to face him, her chest facing him, a slight smile on her face. She wiggled her hips just slightly, perhaps subconsciously, just enough to draw Daniel's attention.
“People like you?”
Reyes approached him and whispered seductively into his ear. “Time to get into position. If the 3t3s need assistance, that is.”

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