The steward welcomed and directed him to his seat – against the window, a fat man, with strange eyeglasses like cups of coffee, and in the middle a pretty young woman with black curly hair, that looked very smart. He sat carefully, turned his head around to see the other passengers on board, and then took the daily newspaper from the front seat, and read the news, and main headlines on worldwide business. The most discussed nowadays theme about ‘Panama Papers’, outlined an ironic smile on his face and lots of thoughts embraced his mind.
Last time he met his executive director they argued about the strategy of investing the income, and that as an accountant he should propose a long-time plan and manage the bank accounts in the four other branches situated in China, USA, Russia and Greece.
Before departure to Australia, he had assembled the documents, and denied access to the ‘zero zero seven’ system of payments. Updates were completed back-ups performed and protective measures installed to save the system from virus attacks, and protect the archive from investigative groups or individuals.
Confident and complacent he caught a glimpse from the eyes of the girl next to him.
‘First time in Australia - maybe we have met before? You seem familiar to me,’ he said carefully staring at her sweet face that viewed him inquisitively.
‘I travel often to Australia due to business, and consultancy for the company I work for. I recall we travelled previously on the same flight, and you helped me carry my luggage,’ she answered, while holding her hand out and offering him some sweets she was eating. ‘Australians celebrate Sorry Day, today. Tell me, do you have anything to regret?’
He thought a while about this question, and looked for an answer deep inside… When the transactions of the company were declared to the tax authority and became subject to audit, he successfully explained the interest regarding loans and the income reinvestment in the company - circumventing taxation. His strategies and inventiveness were extraordinary.
The director ordered another transaction in the USA, and left the office with a ticket to Australia for him, and a few words ‘Have fun during your holidays, Ulysses.’ Watching his destiny on a piece of coloured paper, he had regretted not undertaking important decisions that would definitely change the course of his life.
‘It`s time to leave my job’, he said.
Anne smiled a while and looked at him mysteriously. ‘That’s good – and worth celebrating.’
Quiet and attentive to the conversation, the young couple were having, the fat man next to them, slid the food and a cup of juice on the tray in front of him away from his stomach and opened his mobile to play his favourite game. Fast and precise he pressed the buttons with his thick fingers, like small packs of sandwiches. Rigorously playing, and at the same time listening to their conversation. He stopped a while and raised his head up. It was his first trip to Australia and the purpose was for detecting, and investigating news of a ‘fiscal nature’. The publication he worked for, had for more than a year followed and investigated this company for fiscal evasion, and many important and famous people were involved. The publication prided itself on divulging considerable information and ‘breaking news’ that would shock the world. The journalist felt tremendous with his capacity, like an earthquake, able to change destiny, and to compete with powerful leaders. For, he was a leader too!
‘Thank you for choosing our company to travel with, and welcome to Sydney,’ the pilot announced at the end of the flight. All passengers were advised to prepare to disembark. Ulysses repeated his ‘gentlemanly actions’, and helped Anne with her luggage.
She was pretty and smart, and he could not resist to help her and to pay attention to what she said: “My friends organise an annual party, and we usually confess the regrets we have from the previous year. It is an occasion to reveal one’s inner-side.’
A keen and experienced Ulysses answered: ‘My dear, let`s discover ourselves by little drops of mystery. Mankind is an ocean of secrets, and mysticism balances its reason. Confession isn`t always the best choice.’
Anne took discomfort by the answer, and looked with confusion at her watch, while also thinking she would be late. After passing through Passport Control and customs they decided to take a taxicab to Sydney together.
- * * *
He woke up late in the morning, put on a white shirt, and opened the curtains to see the spectacular view of the sea, and sun kissing the horizon. The Sydney Tower Eye, stood glorious and proud in front of him, and sometimes it seemed to lean forward as if preparing to greet him with a “good morning” gesture. Calm and without thinking, he got ready to enjoy his favourite coffee on the balcony - white tablecloth, white dishes, white coffeepot, bright morning and delicious food.
Anne took care of everything as she always did. It was now seven years that they had lived together, and their relationship was passionate and intensive. She was perfect and beautiful, her hair and skin glowed under the sun. He found her irresistible. Ulysses had also gotten a stronger body, and was young and powerful - more than ever. His blonde long hair, attracted Anne from the first time they met at the airport all those years ago. Mysterious and cunning, the man she loved hadn`t changed over the years, but he still thought about his past life and job adventures, The memories of these events hovered like shadows that surrounded them and also at times threatened to appear between them.
He had received an email requesting a meeting today. It stirred up the past and a former executive life. He felt a little guilty about having fragmented the communication without giving an explanation. For seven years he had acted with cold and indifferent behaviour, the communication was superficial and the information he collected insufficient. Oops! Something was scratching his shoes and interrupting his thoughts. He watched Grey, the dog, playing at his feet and then the dog led him to the main portrait on the wall. Ulysses focused for a while on the portrait to capture a moment that never would live again. An artist’s skill - a phenomenon like a rainbow through a frame, creating, melding and disappearing into the works.
The day his painter friend Stanley painted the portrait, he painted a cunning and smart man, adventurous, powerful and most of all with a long life. Stanley, in his studio, with old coloured and torn clothes, had painted with special detail his cunning face and deep regard. Those beautiful blue eyes starred back at him, iconic, hiding the mystery of his life. The portrait never changed, nor the smile, and Grey often seemed to confuse the real one from the eternal. Perhaps the dog however did know which of them was the secret reality and the false one. Turning his tail around, Grey looked back at Ulysses and waited for his next movement.
- * * *
At eleven thirty Ulysses was at the meeting point. USB in his pocket, all the materials he archived for years that should have been delivered - but a copy of them he kept for security reasons. A hand on his shoulder made him turn around.
‘You look better than ever. I knew an Australian vacation was the best thing for you.’ There stood, a smiling, skinny and well-dressed man with a cap on, but with evilness in his eyes that burned deeply. ‘I missed you and your mind. My company needs you and awaits your return. After the increase of unjustified transactions, William could not manage the situation. He took too long to hide in time the income, and the dates did not match. Tell me, how could you think to live without the adrenaline of the financial world? You are the master and driver of our team and what’s more you don`t even need to leave Australia. We are here now! I have registered a new branch of the company to justify the current transactions, and the director of the project, who do you think that will be? My old little fox Ulysses, of course! No one can do it better than you,’ said Tom in between long puffs on his cigarette.
‘One eye on the past and one eye on the future will serve you the best,’ ended Tom.
Ulysses took a while to digest what he had said. He never forgot that Tom found the right words to put pressure on people and make them bend to his wishes. Eagerly and quickly he stood his ground, asserting his independence, ‘My friend once said - keep an eye on your boss and don`t let the duties overcome you,’ answered Ulysses.
If he accepted he would relive the excitement of the past, and revert to the old glorious times. He considered that no one more than he deserved ‘celebrity attention’. Ulysses knew it was time to finish his long vacation, and make his mark in history again. He raised his hand from his pocket and gave Tom a little toy horse that had been used as their symbol of agreement.
A few metres away, Edward, an investigative journalist was looking at the two men shaking hands and exchanging words, but was unable to capture anything. Since he arrived in Australia seven years ago, he had discovered the traces left behind by Tom`s companies, and had followed his worldwide transactions and dealings. The first time he had met Ulysses he had been fascinated by his point of view and ideas about the financial world. Strategic and experienced he had explained the functions of many transactions, and plans that ruled the dynamic world of business.
They had become friends, and the topics they discussed conveyed the meaning of life. Edward was surprised by Ulysses intelligence and tracked his movements with curiosity. He investigated Ulysses intensively, and connected the company Ulysses used to work for to the files he had studied, and analysed for years. Following Ulysses steps had brought him finally to this planned meeting. Maybe they had decided to cooperate again, and were planning new strategies. Edward would write the articles that shocked the business world, and be more and more famous for his investigations and revelations, in his own right. He would make a pact with Ulysses to exchange materials, and confess his life history. A book would be published at the end of their complicity. He opened the sandwich packed in his bag, and started eating his lunch while reading his own story and observing the men in conversation.
- * * *
The goldfish moved simultaneously in the aquarium in groups, and sometimes caught a little kelp, and seaweed. They would appear and disappear in amongst the rocks, and occasionally swim past the glass in front of Ulysses eyes. Ulysses usually swam in the deep waters of ‘Botany Bay’, and often encountered groups of gold and red fish, like sunset under water.
His muscles splashed in the waves and threw water around his body when he stood up. Mixed up between those two worlds, he thought. He returned to shore and lay on the sand, kissing Anne passionately. She smiled, took his hand, and then together they walked across the beach. Sea foam fell upon the Aphrodite, and glistened her feet. Her nymph and goddess like beauty radiated an etheric light. Anne was a rose in bloom. She felt embraced by happiness, and memorised every minute they spent on their holidays.
In the restaurant they sat near a table with a beach view. Looked at each other and waited for Edward. He would come in a few moments and bring a copy as promised. Finally the manuscript was ready to be edited and published.
- * * *
The accountant left the office with a flight ticket, and a question to answer: What is next? The company he now directed had increased the value of stocks, and gained interest from investors. His name was in the main business and economic magazines and exclusive newspaper articles were written about him. He was the most influential and powerful man in Australia, with an accumulative vertiginous fortune that continued growing. Ulysses always kept a vigilant eye on the company and all the developmental issues, and success followed him. A storm of thoughts gained territory in his brain. Time is not measured only by counting minutes, hours, years but memories and adventures that are a part of you. A smile, love and fantasy gives your life reflections of happiness.
He turned back to the office and looked at the walls, the space largely empty. A contrast between inner-side, and cold outer-side stopped him for a while. Suddenly he had a look at his portrait on the wall, which reflected a spirit of adventure and eternity. It conveyed a story to be told, and to be read for generations. His dog Grey was painted on the floor, his small head raised and staring into Ulysses’ deep oceanic eyes, that held a lifetime. The portrait archived his past and youth, he missed his loyal friend, Grey, but most importantly the island`s secrets.
- * * *
Ulysses closed the last page of the book, and an ironic smile crept onto his face. He left the book on the white warm sand, and climbed onto the rocks, removed his clothes and jumped into the water. He swam deep until the pressure created vibrations on his ears, and his secrets spread into the darkness of the ocean.