Lauren La Rue was thirty minutes into her morning spin class when her iPhone started to vibrate, interrupting her playlist. A quick glance at the screen and she knew this was a call she had to take. With perspiration rolling down her face, she slowed her cadence and pressed the microphone button on her earbuds.
“Yes,” answered Lauren.
Dispensing with any sort of greeting, the voice on the other end of the line asked, “Is everything in order?”
Lauren La Rue, the managing director of Oasis LLC, based in Dubai, responded, “Everything is in order, but the payments have not been made yet.”
Dismounting from the exercise bike, she made her way to the patio that overlooked the modern skyline of Dubai’s business district, where La Rue’s offices were located.
The voice on the other end of the line was that of La Rue’s boss, a Saudi billionaire, Sheik Abdul Er Rahman. In addition, and unbeknownst to La Rue, although she did have her suspicions, the sheik was also the anonymous leader of the Islamic Front, the largest benafactor of Al Qaeda. The sheik, who was based in Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ran much of his empire via companies based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). His style was notoriously abrupt and demanding of the people who “served him,” which was the term the sheik used, rather than “worked for him.” His calls were to be returned within minutes, if not seconds. He didn’t care if it was the middle of the night. This was especially the case where women were concerned.
The sheik would often say, “Women’s role is to serve men. It is their highest calling.” That was a commonly held belief in the male-dominated world of the Middle East. But La Rue, his banker and the person in charge of his business affairs, was a smart professional, and as a result he treated her with a modicum of respect. Respect La Rue had worked hard to earn.
“Make sure everything is ready and there are no slipups,” the sheik barked.
La Rue had cooled down enough to be able to speak more clearly.
“The teams have arrived and our friends are also in place. The only thing left is to make the payments—and I want to talk to you about that.”
The sheik replied, “We will discuss that later” and abruptly hung up.
La Rue returned to her workout, but her heart wasn’t in it. Instead of her legs going a mile a minute, now it was her mind. She was going over in her head the steps that had gotten her to this point. She was exceedingly bright and extremely competent, for which she was splendidly compensated, but she knew for the first time that she was crossing a line that would change her life forever. Why she was willing to go this far, she wasn’t exactly sure.
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