The hallways of the factory’s office wing were sunlit and bustling during the daylight hours. Now the same hallways were deserted and dark, with practically no light, save the ambient light that filtered in through the windows. Jane could hear every step she took echo on the concrete floors.
Once again, she felt that someone was watching her, and she knew that the feeling was completely ridiculous.
The factory ran a night shift, Jane knew, and there would still be people and activities in the plant area. That was on the far side of the building, though. She was alone for all intents and purposes. She believed that she remembered the way back to the security guard area, where she would find friendly if uncomprehending faces. Jane did not want to get lost in these hallways—mostly because it was late and she was tired, but also because she was more than a little spooked.
The doll…little Lawan.
Jane turned a corner and nearly collided with a stern Asian male face, that of a man a little bit taller than her. Several seconds elapsed before she recognized Ram, Khajee’s boss.
“Oh, Ram,” Jane said, catching her breath.
Ram didn’t smile. He didn’t say hello, either. Ram gave Jane only a grunt and a nod. This was the only greeting she was going to get, apparently.
“Miss Hughes,” Ram said finally, staring at her with barely subdued annoyance. What was he doing here, so late at night? If Ram had not yet gone home for the evening, then he must have known that she and Khajee were working late. Yet he had deliberately chosen not to join them, nor even to look in on them.
Ram might have known, somehow, that she had just left Khajee’s office. Maybe he had even instructed Khajee to notify him when she was done meeting with the American. This ostensibly chance encounter might have been planned.
Jane had been involved in many corporate political battles before. She was taken aback but not intimidated.
“Hello, Ram. Khajee and I went through all the quality data for the new supplier’s components. Everything looks very good, you’ll be glad to hear.”
Jane said this matter-of-factly, resisting the temptation to infuse her words with obvious sarcasm. Ram would pick up on the subtext, though.
“So I have heard. Your new supplier in Vietnam.”
“The new supplier’s plant is the same distance as the previous one.” This was true, even though the components did have to be transported across the narrow neck of Laos.
“Vietnam is America’s enemy,” Ram said, as if this were his final argument against making the supplier switch.
“That was a long time ago,” Jane replied. “Before I was even born. Vietnam isn’t our enemy anymore.”
Ram replied with a grunt. He stepped to the side, and walked past Jane without saying another word.