Disclaimer #1: English is not my native language and this work is unbeta-d. I apologize in advance for any grammar mistakes.
Disclaimer #2: I love the country of Spain and the Spanish language, but I don't speak Spanish. If you see any inconsistencies or mistakes, I apologize for those as well. Let me know and I'll fix them right away.
I've never written for this fandom before, but I love Serquel so hopefully you guys will go easy on me. Enjoy!
Sergio Marquina woke up every morning precisely at 6.00 am seconds before his alarm.
At 6.30 am, he worked out at the fitness center located conveniently at his building. He brought with him a single white towel, a 750 ml water bottle, and a pair of headphones in case a neighbor was feeling particularly friendly that morning.
At 7.30 am, he came home to shower and put on the clothes he had selected from the night before. He trimmed his beard, brushed his teeth, and cleaned his ears thoroughly.
At 8 am, he had his breakfast. His meal consisted of a banana smoothie with a protein shake followed by a single apple. On days where he felt particularly chirpy, he allowed himself a strawberry smoothie.
At 8.30, he started his Mercedes and drove to work. He never complained about the traffic as it was the necessary evil to facilitate transportation. If a fellow driver dared to honk at him, he turned up the volume to his guided meditation.
At 9 am, he arrived at work, where he was the Chief Financial Officer of T.E.C.C. Industries. He exchanged the same pleasantries with the same people in the same combination. On Mondays, he asked his secretary Silene about her weekend. Tuesdays through Thursdays, he asked her about the weather. On Fridays, he asked her about her weekend plans. He did not look into her eyes more than necessary as not to encourage her into a conversation.
From 9 am to 12.30 pm, he worked hard. As the CFO of a multibillion-dollar company, he was responsible for all financial aspects of their operation. He presented and reported information to the company. He briefed the shareholders, met with the creditors, and he analyzed the various financial predictions. He did all of this with one single espresso keeping him company. He never went for seconds.
At 12.30 pm, he took lunch. He brought his food from home and ate that day's corresponding portion of the meal he prepared for the week on Sunday. This included lots of lean meats, fish, vegetables, and a healthy amount of carbs. He washed his color-coded Tupperware immediately after he finished.
At 1 pm, he returned to work. In the afternoons, he focused on the company's present condition. He made important decisions, determined where to invest the company's money, analyzed the capital structure, and reviewed internal financing. He conducted meetings with the other financial officers to identify the key areas of efficiency and capitalized on the findings. If the company was making profit, he issued dividends to shareholders.
At 6 pm, he went home, although this was the single time of the day where he was the most flexible. Sergio's work was his life, and as such, if he deemed it appropriate, he chose to stay in the office as long as necessary to complete his work.
At 7.30 pm, he started preparing dinner. He allowed himself a single glass of red wine -as it was good for the heart and ate his meal alone.
At 9 pm, he put on his pajama set, laid out his clothes for the next day, and read fifty pages from a novel.
At precisely 10.30 pm, he went to bed. He never had any trouble falling asleep. Ever.
Sergio Marquina woke up precisely at 6.00 am seconds before his alarm.
At 6.30 am, he went to the gym. He silenced his mind and worked out. At 8 am, he prepared himself a banana smoothie. He had a Granny's Smith apple.
At 9 am, he walked into the giant corporate building in downtown Madrid with a stoic expression. He gave Silene a well-rehearsed smile and was told that she enjoyed the warm weather, although rain was on the horizon. When she told him how romantic she thought the rain was, he nodded uncomfortably.
At 10.30 am, he reviewed that month's financial statements. His red marker branded every bullet point with a confident checkmark. He took a sip from his espresso. He turned the page.
He blinked a few times and adjusted his glasses. That was odd. He picked up the folder and held it to the window, letting the sunshine illuminate the pages. He squinted, brought the page close to his nose, then deciding that it was a bad idea, held it far away.
Unfortunately for Sergio, the numbers did not lie. The numbers were not sentient, and they did not care about sunlight.
He jumped from his seat. Clutching the folder tightly in his hand, he stormed out of his office.
Sergio did not storm out. He politely exited rooms with pleasant smiles and a few apologies to inanimate objects, which was why Silene practically yelped in surprise as she watched her boss march down the hallway.
It was a warm Tuesday morning, unusual for winter. The office was full and particularly busy. People darted in and out of rooms, clients complained in the lobby, and the photocopy machine hummed quietly in the corner. None of it mattered to Sergio as he stomped down the hallway towards the biggest office in the building.
When he burst into the room without so much as a knock, he found Andres De Fonollosa lounging comfortably in his office chair with a giant Cuban cigar in his hand.
"What the hell is this?" He held up the folder in his hand as though it was self-explanatory.
"Good morning to you too," Andres smiled broadly and somehow managed to lean back further into the headrest.
"Are you purposefully trying to give me a panic attack?"
"I'm familiar with your panic attacks. I have the hospital on speed dial," he replied, speaking from memory. The cat on his lap meowed in agreement.
A cat. There was a cat on his lap.
"Explain these figures to me," Sergio spoke, unphased by the feline, which seemed to be some sort of a pure bread Persian. He walked to his desk and slammed the red folder right in front of him.
Andres's office was ostentatious. The floor-to-ceiling windows decorated the three corners of his office, and for a moment, Sergio wondered whether this much sunlight was even good for the brain. Andres seemed drunk on it, although there happened to be a glass of amber liquid on his desk, which looked equally culpable.
His hands, covered in gold rings, moved slowly as he reached over and dared to glance at the papers thrown in front of him. He asked from behind his desk, "What's all this?"
"These are the financial statements of this month," Sergio replied, bracing a hand on the mahogany table, which was wrestled away from a German businessman at an underground auction. "The income statement shows a negative cash flow."
"Hm, yes indeed, there seems to be a lot of numbers on this page," Andres tapped his cigar onto the ivory ashtray. A few speckles of ash blew onto the folder, and he swiped them away with the back of his hand, leaving long gray streaks at its wake.
Sergio tried very hard not to lose his mind.
"Listen," he began again, "if you look closely at the balance sheet-"
But he noticed that he had lost Andres's attention. The man's gaze drifted over to the tiny hand mirror on his desk.
Sergio snapped his fingers in impatience. "Hey, hey! Listen to me!" He pointed at the file. "Follow my finger, Andres. Our cash payments exceed the income. We have too many obligations to fulfill by the end of this week, and the last time I'd checked, we collected a cash receivable at the beginning of this month. Are you listening to me? Yet, it does not show up on this statement. How does it not show up on this statement?"
"Hm," Andres frowned, "Did you look closely? Maybe if we looked at it under proper light…" with that, he proceeded to hold the paper up to the window.
Sergio snatched the paper away from him in frustration. It nearly crumbled in his fist. "You are the CEO of this entire corporation, Andres. You need to explain to me where the money is."
"Exactly!" He exclaimed, standing up at once. The cat screeched and landed on the carpeted floor. "Like you said, I am the CEO of this company, Sergio. Let me deal with this kind of stuff."
"I am the one who's in charge of our finances. What do you think is going to happen when the creditors don't receive their money by the end of the week? Hell, even if I can fight off the creditors for a while, where the hell is the money? It can't just disappear. Numbers don't disappear."
Andres walked leisurely around the desk and put a comforting arm around Sergio's shoulders. The cigar smoke clouded the room, and Sergio suppressed the urge to cough up one of his lungs.
"Hey, hey, hey," Andres said, "calm down. Take a deep breath." He inhaled ceremoniously.
"I know how to breathe," Sergio snapped, then coughed.
"Look, there's no need to make such a big deal out of it. What you see there is a little discrepancy that will be fixed tomorrow. There's absolutely nothing to worry about it."
Sergio pushed his hand away. "This is not the first time I'm catching a little discrepancy in these figures. You're swimming in dangerous waters, Andres. Where the hell is the money?"
"Sergio, do you trust me?"
He didn't answer. The antique grandfather clock ticked calmly in the corner.
"I've known you since we were kids," Andres went on. "We started this beautiful company together. You're like a little brother to me. Don't you trust me?"
Sergio did trust him. He'd hate to admit it, but Andres was the person who'd taken risks on their behalf. He was the genius behind their success. He was the big philosopher. It was Andres who saved him from a life of excel spreadsheets and put him in charge of the biggest company in Spain. Despite the occasional crazy in his sharp brown eyes, he got the better of life at every step.
Sergio nodded cautiously, a reluctant gaze meeting his eyes. He did trust him, but he didn't have to be happy about it.
"That's what I'd like to see!" The older man chuckled, a low echo sharp enough to break glass. His face was sinister yet warm. "I just borrowed a little money for an urgent business I had, but I promise you the money will be there tomorrow. We'll repay our debts with interest!"
"This company is the cornerstone of the European stock market. The whole world has their eyes on us. Damn it, Andres, you get married, and our stock price goes up!"
"That's exactly why I got married five times."
Sergio ignored that remark. "You cannot screw this up. Whatever game you're playing, make sure that you come out on top, or else we're dust."
"Ah, you worry too much!" He exclaimed. The chill breeze in his tone battled against the tension in the room. He walked over to the bar cart and poured a glass of whiskey. The liquid sparkled like starlight in the morning sun. "It's not the first time I borrowed a little pocket money."
"That's my point," Sergio followed him, prying the expensive crystal away from his hand and slamming it on the nearest surface. Droplets of whiskey landed on his arm. "You are embezzling."
"Ouch, such a strong word for a few euros."
"I do trust you, I really do, but I will not keep covering for you."
Andres cocked his head to the side. "You wound me, brother."
Sergio walked back to the desk and attempted to grab the financial statements, which were currently serving as a throw pillow for the Persian cat. She meowed in protest.
"Your accomplice?" Sergio pulled the papers away from the desk and pointed at the cat. "What? The zoo was out of exotic animals?"
"That's okay, Sofia. He didn't mean that." Andres rushed to cradle the cat. He picked up the ball of fur and turned to him. "What are you, the animal control?"
"You very well know that my allergies-" he started but stopped himself midsentence, refusing to fall into this trap. Andres thrived on distraction, and he wasn't going to give him that satisfaction, not when their finances were on the brink of complete ruin. "Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," the older man confirmed.
"I want the money in the account by tomorrow."
With one last threatening look at Sofia, Sergio walked out of his office, and he almost collided with a shaking young man who was clearly about to knock on the door.
"E-Excuse me, sir, you can't be in there," the man trembled. "Not without an appointment.
"Who are you?"
"Anibal Cortez, sir. I a-am Mr. De Fonollosa's new secretary."
One look at the young man with his skinny tie and terrified expression; it was obvious that Anibal was fresh meat. Sergio winced, "He's going to eat you alive…"
"What was that?"
"Nothing, best of luck."
He left the tragedy behind to solve itself. He was so distracted that he didn't hear Silene's pleas to answer his phone. He forgot to flash his practiced smile to his coworkers. People stepped out of his way, and no one dared to even look in his direction.
He stabbed his salmon at lunch, demanded early results at his afternoon meeting, and almost forgot to lock his office on the way out. Nevertheless, he was out of the beacon of capitalism by 6 pm and arrived home to silence.
Deep breaths controlled his anxiety. He put on his apron and began preparing dinner under the bright lights of his kitchen. Cooking eased his mind, separated work from life. What Andres did was not the first time he walked the thin line between fraud and fidelity. Sergio knew that Andres was a good leader. He had founded their company from zero, handpicked every officer, and signed every contract. He came to work every day after 10 am and spend half an hour with a different employee each morning, chatting about football. In a way, Sergio admired him. The CEO was talented in a way that he wasn't, which was why he was the man on the magazine covers, and Sergio walked around with a calculator in hand.
The chicken hissed soundly in the pan. He began chopping the tomatoes, beautifully, methodically, as he'd learned in cooking class. Soft piano music echoed from the radio. He hummed quietly to himself.
He heard the door just as he started measuring the rice. He paused.
People did not visit Sergio Marquina. He was invisible. No one besides Andres knew where he lived. A fresh wave of anxiety overcame him. He took a deep breath, practiced, and controlled because technique mattered. Wiping his hands, he headed to the foyer.
Whoever it was, he was going to send him on their way and get back to his organic tomatoes.
However, what he saw through the peephole stopped his fragile heart.
"Mr. Marquina. It's the police. Open up!"
They banged on the door. Sergio jumped two steps back. He quickly ran through all the scenarios in his head; there was the parking ticket from two months ago that he disputed, the little skirmish with the Homeowner's Association from last week, and the fingerprints he forgot to renew at the police station. He carefully considered all the options.
Then he decided that the culprit was the tall gentleman with a mustache who lived downstairs. The weekly building meetings were sacred to Sergio, and he didn't always see eye to eye with his neighbor. It was only natural that he'd sue him.
He fixed his hair and adjusted his glasses. Mentally reciting the terms of his lease, he opened the door.
"I did not mean to throw that bucket at his head," he said confidently, skipping all the necessary introductions. "It was entirely self-defense."
"You threw a what?" The police officer, chubby with glasses, asked in shock.
"Well, technically, it was more of an empty trash can, but he had it coming."
"Fine, fine, fine!" He threw his hand up in the air in exasperation. "It wasn't empty. Is that what you want to hear?"
"Mr. Marquina, we're not here for… the trashcan," the other officer spoke. "My name is Alfonso Prieto. This is my colleague Angel Rubio. We need your help."
Sergio frowned. Then he noticed the man's suit; it was impeccably ironed. The other guy who was introduced as Angel was also devoid of any uniform. He looked behind them to spot five other police officers with full gear. Their radio muffled quietly in the background, the unintelligible words echoing softly in the hallway.
"I'm not under arrest?" He dared to ask, growing more confused by the second.
"Not if you cooperate," Prieto said. "May we come in?"
Sergio watched dumbfounded as everything he knew about Andres got shattered into pieces by the Spanish police force.
Angel paced around his living room, his muddy shoes leaving vulgar prints on the fresh hardwood floor. "The main charge is embezzlement, of course, then there's the fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, misappropriation, tax evasion…"
"Tax evasion?!" Sergio looked up from the bulky file they had handed to him on Andres De Fonollosa. It included years and years of investigation, police reports, photographs, and bank statements meticulous beyond Sergio's wild OCD-induced dreams. "You can't be serious!"
"…and insider trading," Angel concluded with a sigh.
"No," Sergio tossed the file onto the coffee table and brought his hands to his face. "Not the company stocks, anything but the company stocks…"
"Andres is the king of underground financial crime," Prieto spoke from where he was sitting on the couch. "We've been after him for years, but we can never gather enough evidence. He always seems to be one step ahead of us."
Angel nodded. "We've tried private investigations, witness statements, we even managed to bring him down to the station a few times, but we never had enough proof to keep him there."
Two police officers waited inside with the detectives. The other three stood guard by the door. Sergio's house had never hosted this many people at once. The walls creaked in protest; the pipes objected to the crowd.
"I didn't know… I had no idea…"
"We're aware of that, Mr. Marquina," Prieto leaned forward. "It seems that Fonollosa used two separate books for his financial activities. You were in charge of the legitimate side of your business. The illegitimate side was never shared with you."
Sergio thought back on all the little side glances he shared with Andres, all the little comments, the winks, the sneaking around. The things he thought were his personality now resurfaced under a different light. He noticed his absence from company functions, his presence at the unimportant routine meetings. Andres had a habit of popping up out of nowhere and disappearing without a trace. The inconsistent behavior rendered him an eccentric businessman. No one suspected him, especially Sergio.
Sure, there were the occasional sins. The missing money from that morning, a few euros every now and then, and sporadic payments to nameless entities Sergio did not recognize. It happens, he'd thought to himself. The money was returned within twenty-four hours, and Andres came back with a bright smile and a new bottle of whiskey from an exotic country.
"So, you're starting a new investigation now?" He dared to ask after a beat, not knowing how else to react. He thought about the future of the company, and his meditation practice flew out the window.
"It will be different this time," Angel said from where he was standing. "It seems that Fonollosa finally got involved with an organization that is known to be armed and dangerous. He owed them a considerable amount of money. That's why we have to take a more… indirect approach."
"We can't risk harming the public, as you understand," the older man said.
"God…" Sergio put his head in between his hands again, elbows resting on his knees. It felt as though if he kept his eyes closed long enough, he would wake up in the comfort of his bed, ready to go to the gym, play his classical music, fight with the neighbors. The comfort was gone. His career was about to come crashing down like quarterly expense reports. "What am I going to do?"
"If you're worried about where your company will end up, we might be able to help."
Sergio peered at them, suspicious. His corporation was too precious to be discussed like the single child of a divorced couple. "I don't see how this can end well for the company."
"Listen," Prieto said. "No matter what happens, you can't go on like this. Your business is built on a lie, and your king is sitting on a wobbly throne. We know that neither you nor your employees want to lose your jobs."
"So, we'll arrange an acquisition."
"A takeover?!" Sergio almost went for his trashcan.
"A merger," Prieto soothed him. "An amicable merger. Your company won't dissolve, everyone will keep their jobs, and you will even keep your position as CFO."
Sergio looked around suspiciously. Prieto looked serious, Angel was eyeing his chicken dinner, and the two police officers stood like statutes behind the couch. "That's a generous offer. I'm assuming that you want something in return."
"Only your cooperation."
"And what does that entail?"
Prieto leaned back with a sigh. He crossed his legs. "We'll infiltrate your company by placing someone undercover to gather evidence without arousing suspicion. You will help us by collaborating with the undercover officer."
"I can't do that," he was quick to reply. "Andres is like a brother to me. I can't lie to his face."
"You can't, or you won't?" Angel chimed in.
"I can't. I really can't. I'm a bad liar. He'll see right through me!"
"We don't want you to lie. The undercover agent will lie on your behalf." Prieto answered. "We just need your help in placing her in a strategic position. She will be close enough to Andres to gather intelligence, but far enough that he won't be suspicious."
A panic attack was creeping up. Calming thoughts, he told himself. He had just bought a new set of striped pajamas that matched his bedsheets. Life was looking up. This was just a little nuisance he had to overcome. The sooner he sent the officers away, the sooner he could bury himself under his blanket and hopefully never come out again.
"Look, I really appreciate that you came to me with this; I really do, but I can't do it. I simply cannot do it."
"Mr. Marquina," Prieto stopped him. There was a subtle shift in his voice. "I don't think I made myself clear. This is not a request. You will help us."
"You don't think you'd be off the hook just because Fonollosa kept two separate books, do you? You are the CFO of this billion-dollar corporation. I'm sure there was something you noticed, something that was off in the books that you questioned. I don't know what it is now, but make no mistake, unless you help us, we will link you to his crimes."
Sergio panicked. He imagined himself in prison. No striped pajamas, no cooking classes, no yoga. Somehow, he doubted that he'd be able to trade in cigarettes for moisturizer. Another panic attack crawled up his leg. He steadied his breathing. "You… you wouldn't."
"Oh yes, we would," Angel said.
"So, what do you want from me?" He swallowed hard.
"We don't have to rush into anything," Prieto seemed to have the better temper out of the two detectives. "We have our agent here, downstairs. For now, you can just meet her, and we'll ease you into this."
His dinner was forgotten on the kitchen counter. The organic chicken, only half cooked, had grown soggy in the olive oil. His career was on the brink of collapse. The work was his life, and Sergio didn't know what he'd do without it. He was married to his job, and it was a beautiful union. The thought of losing it was unimaginable. Utterly impossible.
Reluctantly, he nodded.
Prieto grabbed his own radio and murmured into the device, "send her up." He turned to Sergio. "You have nothing to worry about. She's one of the best officers in the force."
It wasn't a matter of excellence, Sergio thought to himself. It was a matter of principle. By doing this, he'd be throwing himself to the wolves. He'd have to say goodbye to life as he knew it and begin a game of lies and deceit, something he'd never been good at. On the contrary, Andres was the fox. He could sniff trickery from a mile away. Sergio was absolutely screwed. He was going to blink the wrong way, and their entire operation was going to unravel. He knew it, he just knew it.
Seconds later, he heard footsteps. He stood up to greet the intruder. One of the police officers opened the door, and in came a woman in a leather jacket.
Sergio blinked. He looked at the woman, and she looked back at him. Something shifted in the room. The world went silent.
"Mr. Marquina, meet Raquel Murillo."
The woman gave him a brief nod of acknowledgment, stern but professional. The heart he'd never felt in his chest actually skipped a beat.
"We want you to introduce her as your girlfriend."
I have a lot of things planned for this story, but it really depends on if it's being read or not. If you like it or wanna see more of it, drop a review/favorite/follow below. Thanks for reading!