“Good morning, Mr. Ludwig,” said the receptionist.
“Morning,” said Mr. Ludwig.
He was in a hurry, rushing to his office. He was the head of America’s great stock company, the Investment co. The date was 1972, the time when the petrol prices started to rise; thus the stocks had lost some of their value.
Mr. Ludwig arrived at the elevator, which he entered. His office was at the top of the 26-floor building. The lift went up two floors and stopped. A man all in black from top to bottom, in a black cap and dark sunglasses, entered the lift; he did not say a word but just stood there. This was very disturbing for the principal.
Have I seen this man before? he asked himself. Maybe he is the new security guard, but I did not ask anyone to bring one. Interesting.
The man in the black suit pulled a small box out of his black coat and opened it up. No doubt about it, it was a beautiful, well-detailed, elegant cigar box . He opened it and put it in front of our principal, without a word. Mr. Ludwig was a heavy smoker, so he took out one and said:
“Thank you.” He got no answer, not a word. Then the lift stopped at the 21st floor where the mysterious man left the lift and went on. Mr. Ludwig looked at his hands and started to analyse the cigar, which was from Habana.
How could this guy get a hand on such a high-quality cigar, from the salary of a security guard? An illegal brand, no less? he thought himself. Only then did he realise that he had arrived at his office on the 26th floor. He stared at his handwatch, realising that he would have a meeting in two minutes. He quickly ran into his office, where the meeting took place.
It was 12:32 when it came to an end. After everyone had left the office, he closed the door and asked his assistant for a cup of coffee and a copy of the daily newspaper. While he was waiting, he looked out the window, down onto the busy midday streets of downtown. While he was gazing at the people down there wandering a bit at the marketplace, while he was watching all the people walking in a tight alley, he saw a man in black clothes, in sunglasses, standing and staring at his window. He almost felt that they were making eye contact, even though he couldn’t see his eyes. Mr. Ludwig quickly went to the shutter and closed it. He was filled with a very weird feeling. By the time his assistant, Mrs. Susan, arrived, Mr. Ludwig was browsing through papers about the rise of the petrol prices.
“Why did you close the shutter?” she asked.
“No reason,” he answered.
“Let me open it for you, it is a really nice, sunny day,” she said, while he put down the coffee on the mahagony table.
“There’s no need for tha…” said Mr. Ludwig, but the shutter was already open. He looked down at the street with great curiosity, but he couldn’t find that man in the crowd of people anymore. He sat up, stretched his back, and sat back to have his coffee, but then his telephone rang. He put down the cup and answered the call.
“Yes. Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon Mr. Ludwig,” said Ludwig’s manager. “I have bad news for you, sir.”
“What is it?”
“Tomorrow you will have a meeting with the Californian stock expert.”
“And what’s the bad news, then?”
“That it will be at 6:30 a.m.”
“Okay, thank you, but that’s quite early.”
“Yes, but no need to thank me.”
He hung up the phone. Mr. Ludwig wasn’t happy to hear this, but for his luck, today he could go home earlier, at 3 p.m instead of 6.
From now on, nothing interesting happened, a short announcement, that was all.
At 2:56 he called for his private driver, Antony. Antony was a typical southern Italian at first glance. He was quite hairy, had black hair and a well-shaved face, and had that sunkissed brown skin all year round. He was very polite but not talkative. Antony wasn’t the best driver; sometimes, like this morning, he arrived late at the house of the principal. But Mr. Ludwig liked him very much, for no reason, and that’s why he did not search for another driver.
Mr. Ludwig then went to the lift and pushed the button with the number 1 on it. The lift stopped at the 13th floor, where six workers rushed into the lift, which became so jam-packed that a fly could barely fit in. Through the crowd the principal could only see another man in black and in sunglasses, who was staring at the lift, but his hair was just like Antony’s. When the door started closing, Mr. Ludwig could see that the man said something into a handphone and walked away.
Weird, he thought. Who are these people. They are so suspicious. Is someone trying to find out information about me? No. Why would anyone do that? But I’m quite important.
By and by, the lift arrived at the bottom. Mr. Ludwig stepped out and approached the door.
“Have a nice day, sir,” said the receptionist.
He entered the street. In front of his building, his car was waiting for him. A beautiful cherry-red 1971 Cadillac, with the latest V8 6L engine under the hood.
What a nice car, he thought.
Antony stepped out and opened the door for him.
“Good afternoon, sir,” Antony said.
“Good afternoon to you,” said Mr. Ludwig.
Then Antony closed the door and sat back behind the steering wheel. He started the engine and drove away. On there way home, they had to stop at a red light. There was no one on the road, only a few pedestrians, as it was a very quiet part of the city. Then out of nowhere, a black Cadillac, just like his, stopped next to them. It windows were as black as the sky on a moonless night. Then another car, just like this one, stopped behind them. Mr. Ludwig looked in the rearview mirror, which reflected the windshield of the car, and behind it, two men in black, wearing sunglasses. He could also hear bits of Italian music from the cars, from the same radio station. It was a bit loud.
“Isn’t this suspicious to you?”
“These black Cadillacs.”
“No, sir. Quite a few people own such cars in this neighbourhood. It is not a rare sight around here.”
“How is it, then, that I haven’t seen any Cadillacs around here other than mine?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
The conversation ended, and the light turned green, so they went on. The car next to them turned right, but the one behind them kept following them, until they arrived at Mr. Ludwig’s house. There the car overtook them and went on.
“See, sir, there is nothing to worry about. This car just happened to go in the same direction as we did. It was just a weird coincidence. Anyway, tomorrow I will come as always, at 9 a.m., right?”
“Not quite, Antony. Tomorrow I have a very early meeting, at 6:30 a.m. . So please, come at 6 a.m., not 8:45 a.m. as you always do. And be sharp. This meeting is very important.”
“Alright, sir. Good bye,” Antony said and opened the door for the principal. Mr. Ludwig stepped out and approached his door, while looking at Antony driving away in the car. When he turned around, he saw that the black Cadillac from the light was parking next to his house, lights on, engine running. He quickly entered the house. He only heard the engine rev and the car slowly disappear in the neighbourhood.
“Hi, honey,” his wife said to him.
“Hi, my dear.”
“What’s the matter? You look distracted.”
“It’s nothing. I’m just tired.” He lied to his wife about the events, concealing the fact that people in black, wearing sunglasses, were following him, because she was very paranoid and would get so afraid, that she wouldn’t be able to sleep for days.
“Tomorrow I have a meeting at 6:30 a.m., that’s the only thing that bothers me.”
“Okay, then,” she answered.
The day went on eventless from that point. They lived on the outskirts of the city, in a quiet, peaceful neighbourhood. No crimes had happened there for years, so we can consider it very safe as well.
The next morning, Mr. Ludwig woke up at 5 a.m. and did what everyone does after they wake up: brushed his teeth, put on his most elegant clothes, had breakfast. By the time he finished, it was 5:47. He turned on the radio, at a low volume, so as not to wake up his wife.
“Morning economic news in one minute. The petrol prices keep rising as the Cold War situation won’t quiet down, meaning that the dollar probably will start investing also due to the conflict be…” The radio lost the frequency, only static noise could be heard.
He stood up from the table and started thinking. What should he do to prevent his company from getting bankrupt? All sorts of things were coming to his mind when the heard his ride arrive. He went out and greeted Antony, and they drove away.
The meeting ended at 8:40. He had no work for that day, meaning that he could leave now and arrive home at 9 a.m. On the ride home between the city and the outskirts, there was a blank area of about one 1 mile, surrounded with forest. Antony asked him:
“How was your meeting, sir?”
“Thanks for asking,” said Mr. Ludwig while he lit his cigar. “Everything went fine…”
His car exploded with a huge magnitude, blowing into hundreds of pieces, only leaving the chassis burning in the middle of the road. There was no one out there who could witness this misfortune-filled event. Except for two black Cadillacs and a cherry-red 1971 6L, just like poor Mr. Ludwig’s, waiting in the forest. There were 9 people, all in black suit, in sunglasses, one of them holding a portable rocket launcher, whose end was aimed to hit Mr. Ludwig’s car.
“Target is eliminated, we can continue the work. Go to Mr. Ludwig’s house, take him up, and drive him to the Boss, where we can overhear him, as the plan says,” said one of them with an Italian accent.
“Okay,” said the man in the cherry-red car.
The Cadillac drove out of the woods and started to continue on the path to Mr. Ludwig’s house. The car arrived at the house at 9 a.m. sharp. The driver sat there for ten minutes or so, waiting for Mr. Ludwig to come out, but he did not. The driver then went to the door of the house and rang the bell. Ludwig’s wife opened the door.
“Good morning, Antony? Where is my husband?” said Mr. Ludwig’s wife, with doubt in her tone. “You are… as if you were different today…”
“I came for your husband,” said the mafia member.
“This must be a joke, right? You took him to work earlier today; he should have come home with you.”’ At that point, the mafia member grasped the truth: that they had eliminated not only the driver, but their target to be kidnapped and offered up with a ransom on his head.