Candace knocked on the door and entered the room; the prime minister stood, and so did Josh.
“Prime Minister,” said Candace, holding the door open, “may I introduce Mr Nately.”
Through the door walked a squat man in a grey pinstripe suit. Though he smiled warmly at Candace and nodded in thanks, there was something threatening about him. It could have been the two long scars running across one side of his shaved head. Maybe it was the three large, square gold rings adorning his right hand—they did not seem ornamental.
“Mr Nately,” said Candace, “this is Mr Murray Denley, prime minister of Australia.”
The prime minister and Mr Nately approached each other and shook hands. “This is Josh Meadows,” said the prime minister, “our recently appointed minister for agriculture.”
“Agriculture,” said Mr Natley, with a wry smile. “Well, congratulations on your appointment.”
He and Josh shook hands; Josh held on a little too long.
“Please be seated,” said the prime minister.
Mr Nately placed his briefcase on the floor beside a chair and the three men sat around the table.
“Will there be anything else, sir?” asked Candace.
The prime minister gestured to Mr Nately. “Something to drink?”
Mr Nately shook his head. Josh turned to Candace. “Actually, I’d like—”
“That will be all for now, Candace,” interrupted the prime minister. As Candace left the room, he shot Josh a sidelong glare, which Josh failed to interpret.
The door clicked shut. The prime minister folded his hands. Mr Nately gave an unreadable look to Josh, and then to the prime minister. “Well,” began the prime minster, “thank you, Mr Nately, for seeing us today. After learning of your work with the Chinese government, I wanted to see what opportunities for development someone with your expertise could identify within our own systems. We all know China’s economy is booming, and I understand you were influential in bringing that about.”
Mr Nately chuckled. He leaned back and unbuttoned his jacket. “Yeah… economy.” He looked at the prime minister. “You’re paying me an exorbitant sum to be here—I assume with tax dollars, yes?” The prime minister stared at Mr Nately, tilting his head slightly, and drummed his fingers on the arm rest of his chair. Mr Nately grinned. “Yeah, I thought so. So, in the interest of getting the hard working tax payers their money’s worth, let’s cut the bullsh**. You have an election to win, yeah? Next year.”
The prime minister shifted in his seat.
“Listen, pal,” said Josh. “That’s the prime minister of Australia you’re talking to.”
The prime minister looked at Josh with obvious disapproval; Mr Nately looked at Josh with impatient bewilderment. Josh was oblivious to both men’s sentiments. Mr Nately turned to the prime minister and said, “I’m not as stupid as I may look. And I’m sure not as stupid as the people you surround yourself with—in fact, I’ll waive my fee if your protégé here turns out not to be a complete moron.”
Josh pointed to himself. “You mean me?”
Mr Nately smiled. “You have my details,” he said to the prime minister. I’ll expect payment in full within an hour of this meeting’s conclusion.”
The prime minister sighed. “All right,” he said. “Yes, I have an election to win. It’s ten months away, and right now the poll numbers suggest we haven’t got chance. You helped the Chinese government stay in power—what can you do for us?”
© 2019 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED