The taxi ride from Geneva Airport to the Rue du Rhône would have been faster if he had walked.
The driver acted clueless to its location, but even Barney knew that any self-respecting cab driver would have known the street that the world-renowned Grisogno shop resided. It was one of the most revered in the entire world when it came to diamonds, and even more so for its founder’s avid interest in black diamonds.
The driver followed the Routes de l’Aéroport and de Pré-Bois, both of which ran alongside the airport, before turning off onto Louis-Casai Avenue. Moving closer to the Le Rhône, the car passed the Basilique Notre-Dame de Genève. Barney was amazed at the detail and style that went into such a structure, but the pale stone used made it seem cold to him. Ochre runs in one’s blood, he thought to himself as the river came into view.
Crossing the Pont du Mont-Blanc, to the left sat the imposing Lake Geneva. Under the bridge was the narrowing that marked the start of its exit into the Le Rhône. Such a beautiful mass of water so far inland amazed one used to looking at pure blue seas.
Pulling up to the intersection of the Rue du Rhône and du Port Place, Barney paid his fare and exited the vehicle with his luggage and his disguised container. As he looked around, he became aware of his underwhelming state of dress. The people walking around were all dressed fashionably, and Claudio had warned him that suitable attire would be required to even get in the door of his uncle’s shop.
The area seemed to be filled with clothing and apparel stores, so Barney continued his way down the road. It turned to the right, and continued on past restaurants and more boutiques. Unsure of obscure designer fashion, he looked left recognised an Emporio Armani shop. Feeling the eyes of other pedestrians on him, he quickly made his way to the store.
He bought an outfit as comfortably fashionable as he could muster. A polo shirt as close to ochre as he could find gave him a small reminder of home, joined by a pair of denim jeans and an olive green mid-length jacket. He completed his ensemble with a pair of brown loafers. After nearly falling over when the receipt came to over one thousand Euros, he paid the bill and exited the store.
Heading back towards the river, he turned left and found himself back on the Rue du Rhône. The Grisogno shop was around five hundred feet up the road, so he made his way along the busy street. He felt like he drew less notice with his new attire, but such an exotic face still caused passers-by to study him for a moment.
Crossing the road, he headed into the Grisogno shop. The abundance of diamond in the shop, in amongst other fine jewellery, did not instil him with awe. This fact seemed to unsettle the immaculately groomed attendant, who stepped from behind the counter and came to greet him.
“Welcome. Would I be able to help you today?”
Barney nodded as he took in the man’s formal appearance. A slight man, he wore a two piece suit with a thin black tie, and had his black hair slicked back. His bearing indicated he came from a life of wealth, with a slight tilt of his jaw showing his proudness.
“I would like to speak with Liban Grisogno. His cousin has requested I deliver a special package.”
The attendant looked at him more intensely. “You will need to be more specific. He has many cousins.”
Barney smiled. “But not many who are currently in Venusian orbit, I believe.”
The man stepped back in shock. “You know Claudio, then?”
“I do. He is the manager of my team on Colony Nine, and I am the team leader.”
“If you will give me just a moment, I shall check with Liban and see if he can see you.”
Barney nodded, and walked slowly around the shop’s display cabinets while his arrival was announced to the shop’s owner. The attendant hung up the phone and returned to Barney’s side, fawning over him as he explained that Liban would see him as soon as he completed his current meeting.
A door at the back of the shop opened ten minutes later, and a pair of men appeared. While one man was non-descript, the other stood out to Barney. The man bore a strong resemblance to Claudio, except for his three-piece suit and more fashionable thin-rimmed spectacles. The telling item identifying him as Liban Grisogno was his wedding ring, a large black diamond set in a platinum ring. He walked past Barney as he escorted his guest to the door of the store, warmly shaking his hand and waving farewell.
As the other man disappeared from view, Liban turned to Barney. The owner’s gaze ran over the unfamiliar man, taking in his clothing, his skin tone and the bags he carried over his back and in his hand.
“I am told you work with Claudio over on Venus.”
Barney nodded, trying not to feel uncomfortable under the man’s steely gaze. “I am. Our team found a particular material sample we have not seen before, and he believes you are the best person to ask for confirmation of our suspicions.”
Holding out the case he held in his hand, Liban took it with wariness. Cracking the seal of the case, he raised the lid slightly and peered inside. His eyes widened for a split second before he regained his composure. He smirked at Barney.
“I believe I may. Come join me in my office.” He looked to the shop attendant. “Would you be so kind as to turn the door sign? We will be closed for the rest of the afternoon.”
– X –