Looking… not sharp. Arthur Griffen was looking at himself in the mirror. He opened his right eye wide as he got closer to his reflection, then held his chin and cheeks in his left hand as he rubbed the fingers up and down. Prickly. Not good. Should I have shaved for this meeting? He opened his mouth and inspected his teeth and smiled. He was glad that those never disappointed. He took out one of those little toothpick brush things from a pocket in his jeans and took the cap off. There was no food between his teeth to dislodge, but it felt good to rub between the teeth and gums. This was also a new one and it had a nice, refreshing minty taste that gave him that little extra energy he felt like he needed. It wasn’t enough though, so he took a little container out, took the cap off, and dropped a little bit of the liquid on his mouth. He exhaled a powerful blast of minty breath. He could easily smell it, even if it came from his own mouth.
He rinsed the toothpick brush thing and placed the cap back on it, then back to the pocket it went. He also replaced the cap on the small container and also placed it in a pocket. He looked at the mirror again and shrugged. This is about as good as it gets right now. He grabbed a piece of sanitary paper from the dispenser and grabbed the washroom’s door handle with it, grunting as he pulled it open. It felt heavier than usual. He placed his brown leather shoe in front of him to hold the door open and threw the paper into the wastebasket as he left the washroom. His brown shoes weren’t as shiny as the black ones he wore the other day.
He pulled his smartphone from his pocket and opened his trading application. The market hadn’t opened yet and he felt anxious about several option contracts he had bought right when the market closed. According to the futures, I should make a killing but what if we have a bad open? I promised myself not to get into any new trades, why couldn’t I control myself?
Arthur’s feet felt heavy and uncooperative as he went through the hallway, past several closed doors, and turned left. He extended the proximity card held in a loop close to his belt and placed it next to the terminal outside the large office. With the sound of a click, the double glass doors opened and he stepped inside. He noticed that the magnet sounded heavier than usual. Odd. The young receptionist stood up from behind the marble desk, smiled, and nodded at him. It took him a moment, but he regained his composure and smiled back at her. “Have our guests arrived?” he asked.
“Not yet,” she replied. “Mr. Ramos is waiting for you in the Victory Conference Room. He’s been setting things up for a while now.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” he said as he shrugged at her. “I’ll go get my things and join him,” he added without his usual enthusiasm as he went into the offices. She covered her mouth as she chuckled and sat back in her chair. She looked at the monitor to her right and noticed a group of people getting into the elevator in the lobby from the security footage. She pressed a button on her desk phone and talked into it.
“Mr. Ramos, the AXIS entourage just got into the elevator. They should be here shortly,” she said and then let go of the button.
“Great. Please keep them occupied in the reception until I tell you,” she heard a slightly metallic voice say back from the speaker. “It won’t take long,” she heard, and then a small amount of static as the feed cut off. She narrowed her eyes as she looked to her right and at Mr. Ramos through the glass wall that separated the conference room from the reception area. She crossed her arms and sighed, then heard the door to the inner office, and by the time she turned her head, Arthur opened the door into the conference room and she flinched as he slammed it shut.
“I knew he wasn’t in his best mood today, but I wasn’t expecting that,” she said under her breath, then straightened out her hair and took a deep breath. “Inhale peace, exhale stress,” she added right before she heard the doorbell. She turned to the left and noticed a group of six people at the door, the same group that she had noticed on the security camera. She quickly got up and held her hand under the desk, pressing the button to unlock the door. The tallest man in the group, dressed in a gray business suit, held the door open for the rest. They all settled a few steps from the reception desk, waiting for the same man who held the door open to come in while she remained smiling at them.
“Hi, I’m Robert Santana, AXIS Group CEO,” the man said as he extended his hand. She was taken by surprise, blinked three times quickly, and promptly extended her hand as well, shaking his.
“Right,” she said as she felt the heat in her face. “Mr. Griffen is expecting you. Well, you and your associates,” she added as she looked to her right and noticed Arthur waving his arms at Victor. Victor turned, noticed that the AXIS group had arrived, and immediately started to turn the blinds on so it wouldn’t be possible to see inside the conference room. She was glad that Arthur never raised his voice much, even while arguing. “I need you all to sign here,” she said as she produced a large, leather-bound notebook and opened it up on a fresh spread that had the date, March 9, 2018, written in large calligraphic pen strokes at the top. He promptly took out a large, transparent fountain pen with a thick silver nib and signed his name on the line for it, and added his company and phone number on the lines provided for it. He paused, then smiled as he saw noticed the elegant handwriting for the date.
“That’s a lovely uncial calligraphic script. Is that your handiwork?” he asked. She nodded while keeping a smile that spanned from ear to ear. “Great job. Keep it up!” he exclaimed as he motioned for his companions to join him at signing the visitor’s log. One by one, they all signed in with their information as requested.
“Feel free to take a seat,” she said as she heard the door to the conference room open and she saw Arthur barging out, taking really quick, heavy steps. She produced a quick smile along with a chuckle, unsure of how to proceed. She saw Victor open the door and wave at her, then he opened and closed his hand quickly when he got her attention. That open and close motion from his hand, she thought to herself. Does he want me to keep them talking? To buy time? “Are any of you interested in coffee?” she asked as she looked at them with an awkward smile and wide-opened eyes. Robert looked at her with an odd grin and looked at his watch.
“Coffee would be great. Come on guys, give me a show of hands. How many of you’d like some coffee?” he asked as he turned to face his companions. “One, two, three. Ok, that’s four in total. One of them black, the other three with milk,” he said. “And don’t worry, I’m aware that we’re a little early,” he added, and then he leaned towards her. “And that Arthur can be a bit of a sore loser,” he added with a wink and a laugh.
“Yes,” she said as she swallowed. “Feel free to take a seat while I grab your coffees.” She turned around and went through a door behind the reception desk. The heavy hydraulic hinge closed the door behind her and she burst out laughing as soon as she got away from the reception desk.