It was a beautiful warm July evening, but it didn’t prevent a chill from shivering down Eloise’s spine. She waited on the patio of the restaurant for her blind date. A sports car slipped past and pulled into the parking lot. The driver who emerged looked like a Steve Jobs wannabe. He was also wearing a white rose.
Eloise took a deep breath and approached. “Are you Theo?” she asked.
“Yes. Eloise, hi,” he said. He pushed his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. “You, um, look great.”
Eloise smiled. “You, too.”
“So you’re, um, friends with Bethany,” said Theo.
“How do you know Beth?”
“She’s my sister-in-law’s best friend.”
“Interesting,” said Eloise. She sat down and took a sip of her drink.
The waiter came by for Theo’s drink order. “I’ll have whatever she’s having. It looks good,” he said.
“Shirley Temple it is. I’ll be right back,” said the waiter.
“So,” said Theo. He wore a nervous smirk.
“So, what do you do? I couldn’t help notice your car,” she said.
“Oh, uh, thanks. I’m in education.”
“No, actually. It’s more like, well, sales,” said Theo. He fidgeted with his fork.
“Sales. Like DeVry?”
“Uh, not exactly.”
Eloise nodded. “Tutoring.”
“It’s neither of those. I provide academic, like, tools for universities,” said Theo.
“You’re so mysterious. Don’t tell me your the guy who sells PhDs online,” laughed Eloise. Theo looked up. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. “Are you?”
“No, nothing like that. It’s just that, when people need papers and reports. Sometimes they can’t get ‘em done, but they really need ‘em. Know what I mean?”
“You sell papers? Isn’t that illegal?”
“Well, not really. I provide legitimate academic research. What people do with it is their business,” said Theo. He cracked a smile that bore a striking resemblance to pain.
Eloise leaned back and examined Theo carefully. He reminded her of a weasel in an Armani suit.
“So there’s good money in it?” she asked.
“Booming. Recessions drive people back to school. So,” said Theo
“What about plagiarism detectors and things like that?”
“Oh, well, I got this system. I scrub a paper through Babelfish. I wrote a program that translates it through five or six languages, then back to English. I run it through a grammar program and voilà. The same ideas in different words.”
“That’s brilliant,” said Eloise.
Eloise reached out and held his hand. Smart and rich. Two out of three was good enough.