The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
James and Jason had a serious talk when they both had time to calm down and reacclimate to their usual lives. Both brothers knew they were getting into their project very deeply, and it was high time that they began to plan better, take more precautions; and, most of all–in Jason’s opinion–they had to distance themselves from McGee and Associates Private Investigators. James proffered the idea, that perhaps they could even begin to make a little money from their growing enterprise.
“Look, good Bro, we have blood on our hands. We cannot deal with McGee or even the feds anymore. They are too good at finding people and doing their investigations. Having said that, do you want to keep on looking for Elle?”
“Absolutely. You and I both love that girl completely and would give up our lives to save hers. I am not willing to believe that a young adult woman as beautiful as she is would simply be killed for the fun of it. We have never heard a ransom request; so, this is not a common kidnapping as evil as that would be. I refuse to think that this is just the work of some anonymous sadist who has moved on. My first ten options as to cause are: kidnapping by a well-functioning ongoing criminal conspiracy to sell our lovely little sister into some sort of unthinkable slavery. Period. I will go on by myself if you want out, but I will know the truth; and along the way, I am going to eliminate every single trafficker I encounter. I need your help, but I can probably fumble along by myself if you want out.
“I dealt with a Royal Thai detective who was willing to do what I am doing, and I think there are others all around the world who will supply us with information once we gain their trust. I think we should cultivate as many of them as we can.”
“Feel better, Jason?”
“As a matter of fact, I do, thanks for asking. Really, thanks for putting up with my rant; but I did mean every word.”
“Good, now it’s time for me to present a proposal.
“We have been depending sort of on luck—whether we will get information to find traffickers who could possibly have Elle. Whether McGee and his associates will get good leads. Whether we can have an arrangement where one of us can get into the scene of the crime while the other establishes the alibi. Have you put any thought into maybe cops would like to get things done but are hamstrung by the rules, and are being watched too carefully to get justice for real?”
“I have, but we don’t get to talk long enough to anybody to get the info we need without becoming perps in some cop’s eyes. How do we get around that?”
“Brother Jason, I have a weird idea. Hear me out before you cut me off. I have done some snooping on the dark web. I can tell you this; that’s where the traffickers–especially the kidnappers for ransom–do their hunting. What I suggest is that we find areas around the country where there are recent abductions, and the cops seem to be stumped.
“Then we put a cleverly worked ad offering help… for a price. We arrange a go-between and guarantee success or no money changes hands. We require as much information about the traffickers and their location as anyone has to get us started. We never see the clients in person, nor talk to them other than to use burner phones and voice scramblers. What do you think?”
“One thing I think, James, is that we need to do something different, and this seems like a good and different idea. We will have to learn as we go along, and we will have to get some tutelage from people we despise, I’m afraid.”
“All right; so, let’s whip up an ad, and find a safe site.”
Jason was the better writer of the two; so, he came up with a careful ad in a matter of minutes and offered it to James for his approval. James already knew the site, and it took nearly fifteen different searches and inventive passwords to get to the working Dark Web. He learned from a shady friend of his to play everything safe and to use a secure premium VPN [Virtual Private Network], and Tor [the Onion Router of volunteer-run servers] to hide their IP, internet activity, and real location. That way, other Dark Web users—possibly not so nice as Jason—couldn’t trace him or James and their ISP; and the government could not find out what they were doing online.
As the twins wanted in all their extra-curricular activities, they paid enough money and spent adequate investigative time to keep them anonymous online by encrypting their data and routing through the secure system. Jason looked into the issues further and found out that the new browser did not prevent their ISP [Internet Service Provider Service] from recognizing that the two of them were using Tor itself.
Although using the Tor browser is legal, its association to the Dark Web and illegal activities was enough for their on-the-level provider to view their online activities as suspicious. This would be highly likely to bring them to the attention of authorities who they preferred not to know of their existence. At a minimum, that could lead to a termination with their legitimate ISP or—much worse–a friendly visit from their local relevant government authority for a friendly investigation–something that was anathema to Jason and James.
They settled on using a premium VPN which kept their Tor anonymous. Jason used a fake name and credentials to purchase ExpressVPN using AES-256, which was an advanced encryption standard used by governments and experts all around the world with a zero-logs policy and RAM-based servers which did not store their data. In fact, their new server deleted all data with every re-boot.
Their final choice—ExpressVPN–employed an advanced encryption standard used by governments and experts across the world to secure and protect classified data. ExpressVPN is one of the only VPN providers still able to bypass China’s firewall, proving its commitment for providing secure and anonymous access to all, and power enough to go on the offensive.
The ad written by Jason was the essence of simplicity: “Anonymous company of in-the-lab and on-the-ground experts can help when loved ones are taken. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave a message, and we will find you. Do not leave the message more than once.”
They hired a Chinese expert who had fled from the PRC—or so he said—having worked in the latest iteration of the nefarious APT41 from within the Chengdu 404 Network Technology. Physically it was located in a 12-story white office tower on Datong Road in a rundown neighborhood on the outskirts of Shanghai, known by everyone in the business as the headquarters of Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army and the PLA base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors. Jason’s shady friend had found the expert while working in Shanghai as a representative of Boeing and moonlighting as an exporter of fine wines.
After two weeks of time-and-a-half working hours, the twins and their cyber expert, Yang Duc Lee, were ready to launch their new—and hopefully profitable—business enterprise.