Clutching the coffee cup almost as if it were going to protect her, Laney dashed into the project meeting two minutes and forty five seconds late. Her entire morning has been running late, totally against her natural super-organised nature. She had got stuck in traffic on the way into work and had then circled the car park three times before abandoning her car on the pavement beside the grassy embankment. A flashy orange sports car had been parked in front of her. Normally she wouldn’t have given it a second glance but the number plate caught her eye. It was a private plate. The sight of the letters, presumably the owner’s initials, sent an unexplained chill rattling through her… BIS 31.
Dismissing the thought, she had dashed across the car park and into the office building, calling out a hurried “hello” to the two security guards in the foyer. Quickly she ran up the stairs, conscious that she was tight for time. At the top of the stairs, she almost collided with an unfamiliar member of staff. He was talking animatedly on his phone but for a split second he glanced towards her and their eyes met. There was an instantaneous flash of recognition there and sub-consciously Laney smiled briefly as she scurried off towards her desk. For some bizarre reason, she could now smell spices, aromatic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sandalwood. She dismissed the thought, surmising that she must have caught a whiff of the man’s aftershave. In her heart, she knew these were scents to which she was overly sensitive.
Their paths had crossed for a second time when she had rushed into the staff restaurant to buy her morning caffeine fix before the meeting. He had been standing adding milk and sugar to his coffee as she had fetched hers from the machine. She was aware of his stare boring into her. Deep inside her soul something stirred and her sixth sense began to twitch.
As she reached for a plastic lid for her cup, her hand accidentally brushed his. Both of them had reached for the same lid at the same time.
Images of a Moroccan bazaar flooded her mind. The sounds. The screams. Again, her nose was tingling at the smell of spices. A sharp pain just below her left breast caught her breath.
The vision was gone as swiftly as it had appeared. However, the pain was real and her ribs were still throbbing as she detected the scent of sandalwood in the air.
As she paid for her coffee, she realised that the mystery pain was exactly at the point where she had a long thin scar-like birthmark. No one had ever been able to explain the mark. It looked purple and ragged. Her mother used to tease her that an angle with a shaky hand had drawn it on her when she was a baby.
Something about this stranger was un-nerving her. Deeply buried memories were stirring within her very soul.
“Get a grip, Laney,” she muttered to herself as she headed round to the conference room.
Her heart almost stopped as she entered the large room. Conscious that she was almost three minutes late, she apologised profusely as she took her seat. Seated directly across the table from her was the enigmatic stranger. His dark brown eyes were trained on her, drinking in everything about her as he sipped his coffee.
The birthmark along her ribs was on fire!
“Laney, I was just introducing the new project manager to everyone,” said her boss, his tone brusque and business-like. “You’ll probably be the one working closest with him as the design lead here. Allow me to introduce you to Benjamin Solomon.”
“It’s Ben, please,” said the stranger reaching across to shake her hand.
Swallowing down the wave of fear that was threatening to engulf her, Laney took his out stretched hand.
Immediately her blood ran cold. The birthmark hidden under her blouse almost sizzled.
Images of the bazaar returned, swarming through her mind. Fear. The pain in her lungs as she had run barefoot through the narrow paths between the spice sellers’ stalls. A glimpse back at her pursuer had told her he was carrying an ornate, unsheathed, koummya dagger in his hand.
“Pleasure,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand hurriedly.
“Likewise,” he replied with a nod.
Throughout the two hour meeting, Laney struggled to remain focussed, feeling Ben’s eyes constantly following her. At the end of the discussion, he proposed that the project team go out for lunch to “bond over a burger” as he put it. Before she could make a polite excuse to decline, Laney heard her boss accept on behalf of all of them. Her heart sank.
Fortunately, she was spared his company as her boss drove her and his assistant across town to the restaurant. Laney was also relieved when the waitress seated their group at the front of the restaurant in full view of everyone. Much as she preferred the secluded rear area of the restaurant, today she wanted to be surrounded by light and people.
Again, she found herself seated across from Ben Solomon; again, his dark eyes followed her every move. It was warm in the restaurant but she noted he declined to remove his well-cut suit jacket.
As he passed her a menu, their fingertips touched.
It took all of her strength not to jerk her hand away as fresh visions flashed before her.
This time she was in New York judging by the number of old fashioned yellow cabs around her. Again, she was running full pelt through crowds of passers-by, trying to stay one step ahead of her pursuer. In this vision, she was clutching her ribs, feeling her own blood hot and sticky on her trembling fingers. As she reached the entrance to Central Park, she risked a look back. He was closing on her, the blood-stained dagger still in his right hand.
Instinctively, Laney reached for her ribs, rubbing the spot where her birthmark was.
“Everything all right?” Ben asked, noticing her movement.
“Fine. Just a little muscle strain from the gym,” she fibbed, fighting to remain calm.
Their business discussion continued over lunch as they thrashed out plans for the initial design phase.
“There’s a generous travel allowance for research visits,” Ben explained. “The client wants to ensure that all their personal requirements are met here. They’re keen to draw on several influences from around the world. Laney, I hope your passport is up to date?”
Her blood ran cold at the thought of travelling anywhere with Ben Solomon.
“Oh, Laney loves to travel,” revealed her boss before she could stop him.
“Wonderful!” replied Ben enthusiastically. “So do I. I love Marrakech and I’ve soft spot for the bright lights of New York. Love a run through Central Park.”
“Excuse me a moment,” said Laney getting quickly to her feet.
Swiftly she made her way across the restaurant to the ladies room. A wave of nausea was threatening to swamp her. The birthmark at her side was still on fire. Her sixth sense was charged and crackling with electricity.
Who was this man? What was going on?
Leaning on the edge of the basin, Laney gazed into the mirror and tried to quieten her mind. As she took a long, slow, deep breath, a voice from her past echoed in her mind. It was her grandmother’s voice.
“Be careful, my dear,” she cautioned. “From the day you were born I told your mother that she needed to watch out for you. Told her you had an old soul. A twin soul. I’ve seen birthmarks like yours before. That mark was made by your twin soul in a past life. You might have had that birthmark through many lifetimes. It started out as a scar. A real scar. Your twin soul won’t rest until it’s free of you. It’ll hunt you down through your lifetimes till the job is done. Keep your wits about you, girl.”
The warning had been given to her in secret by her maternal grandmother on her sixteenth birthday and hadn’t made much sense to her at the time. She had barely given it a thought for almost twenty years…until now…..
Staring into the mirror, Laney “watched” the scenes from Marrakech and New York play out on its surface. Silently, she watch herself in previous lifetimes fleeing from an assailant with a dagger. One final scene from the New York vision caught her attention. It was a detail she had missed before. The assailant had the dagger’s scabbard in his left hand as he ran. It was brass with intricate silver inlays and there was a distinctive burnt orange cord tied to it that was wrapped round his wrist. The cord was woven in an entwined pattern with a forest green strand twisted through it.
Closing her eyes, Laney broke the vision’s spell.
What was she thinking? Her imagination was running riot with her emotions. Where had her usual pragmatic approach to life gone? What had happened to her common sense?
Taking a deep breath, she composed herself and returned to the table.
Almost an hour later, the waitress sat the small saucer with the bill on it, weighted down with mints, down on the table.
“My treat,” declared Ben loudly as he swiped the till docket from the plate. As he reached into his inside jacket pocket for his wallet, Laney stared in horror. The fabric of the jacket seemed stiff down his side as he wrestled his wallet free. Hanging down from his pocket was an antique looking burnt orange cord with a green thread woven through it, the ornate peacock tail pommel of the dagger just visible over the edge of the material.
(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)