The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
McGee had been having a lazy Sunday morning—reading the Times, sipping a nice café a lait made by his machine, and enjoying the little luxury of sitting around his uptown Manhattan apartment dressed only in his silk robe—until he got the phone call.
“Hello, McGee speaking.”
“McGee, do you recognize my voice?”
“Is this a secure line?”
“Good. I hope I didn’t disturb a nice quiet day, my friend. But, I have a problem.”
It was the problem lady, Sybil Norcroft, once a practicing neurosurgeon, but now—by a strange juxtaposition of events—the DCIA [Director of Central Intelligence], and a person who did not participate in idle chat.
“How can I help?”
“You are no doubt aware of Beelzebub, I presume?”
“I haven’t been to Sunday school for a while, but I do read the Times and the Washington Post. How is it that the Company is involved?”
“Touchy international issue. Maybe you can help. The Devil Himself has caused two lethal incidents which have both the Chinese and the Russians showing their fangs and claws… at each other instead of us, for a change. That’s why the Firm is involved.”
“Why involve McGee and Associates, Private Investigations, what with all of your assets?”
“Because the heavy hand of the US cannot be seen, or at least, recognized, to be involved in the inner struggles of those two nice countries. We have to tread very lightly, like a butterfly walking across a dew-drop.”
“Gotcha. Seriously, we are at something of a lull right now. We’ll be glad to help.”
Director Norcroft succinctly laid out the problem, her plan, and how the famous and effective investigation firm… the very private firm could contribute.
“We just happen to know a few interesting people who talk funny like the ones you mentioned. We’ll get right on it. We hope to have some info for you by late this afternoon and maybe to sow a few seeds about the innocence of our republic.”
“Thanks, McGee. I’ll be in your debt.”
“Yes,” McGee said laconically.
They both laughed.
They were close friends and had worked together on multiple occasions, but it was always Sybil and McGee. Everyone who knew the man well called him by his last name. The rest of his name was too difficult to work with, or even remember: Joseph Patrick Aloysius Michael John McGee. The moniker was something of a joke inflicted on him at birth by his mother because she happened to be Irish and something of a prankster. She got the name from an old ditty that went, “Everywhere an Irishman goes, he is sure to see, a Joseph Patrick Aloysius Michael John McGee.” There was some truth to that, and McGee could laugh at what his funny mother had done when he went out drinking with friends; but if you weren’t part of the in-crowd, heaven help you if you made fun of his name.
He hung up the phone and put in a conference call to Ivory White, and Caitlin O’Brian, his highly trusted associates and business partners.
At the moment, Ivory was not in Sunday school; he was shooting pool at his beer joint and pool parlor in Harlem, called “Ivory’s Beer and Pool Joint” on 125th Street when he was not doing what he was supposed to be doing, writing reports. Caitlin was just waking up and nursing a hangover after a particularly enjoyable night on the town.
“Hope I’m not disturbing anything important, my friends,” McGee greeted.
“Nothin’ that won’t keep,” said Ivory and sunk the yellow two ball in a particularly clever bank shot which finished the game and took the money from the uptown dude he had hustled.
“No problem, Boss, I can hold off throwing up until two if it’s important,” Caitlin managed.
“It is important and not something to discuss on the phone. Can you come by the office, say two-thirty latest; so, I can bring you up to speed?”
“Love to,” both Ivory and Caitlin said, working to keep the sarcasm out of their voices.
“Thanks. Get back to your Bible studies and have a bloody Mary with an egg in it. It’s a cure-all.”
His next call was to Stephen Huey at his chop suey place—”Chinatown’s Finest”–on Little Guang Dong [Chinatown’s] Bayard Street.
“Stephen, I have a little diversion to take you away from the fat fryer for a bit today. Can you come by the office, say two-thirty?”
“Sure, Sunday’s only my busiest day, but how could I ever refuse such an exciting invitation from one of the bearers of the “White-man’s burden,” Stephen said, and the two men laughed at their long-time private joke.
Stephen Huey was listed on Wikipedia as a “restaurateur and entrepreneur in New York’s Cantonese section.” He was, in fact, the American head of the Flying Dragons triad, a subsidiary of mainland PRC’s largest and wealthiest gang. He and McGee had a history of doing mutual favors for each other, which had always turned out to be lucrative.
The last telephone call was to his long-time Russian frenemy, Leonid Aleksandrovich Zaslavsky, the vory v zakone [syndicate boss and chief of the thieves-in-law] of the Solntsevskaya Bratva, russkaya mafiya [Russian mafia].
“Thank you for taking my call, Leonid,” McGee said in Russian. “I have a business proposition for you.”
“Don’t you always, McGee? But, I have to say that you have helped me a bit from time, and I almost always make some money; so, ‘it’s your nickel, shoot,’ as you say in Amerika.”
“I need your permission to have a chat with our mutual friend in Manhattan, Leonid. It is a big thing, but not much of a cost of time, money, or manpower.”
“Sounds too good to be true.”
“Have I ever lied to or cheated you?”
“I have to admit that the answer is ‘no,’ and I live in a world of liars and cheats. Make your ask.”
“Today, I need to talk to your godson, Mayki Zaslavskevich. We need to share information.”
“Not with coppers, I presume.”
“No, but with the Ice Queen on the seventh floor in Langley. And, incidentally, that is the answer to your question ‘what do I get out of it?’”
“Do I get to know what information?”
“Yes, but not on the phone. Let’s have Mayki be the intermediary.”
“Such fancy talk, McGee.”
“I went to night school, Leonid.”
They both laughed.
“I’ll call Michael.”
“Thanks, Leonid. In parting, how is your lovely wife, Christiane?”
“Doing very fine. And if I may ask, when is the world’s most eligible bachelor going to walk down the aisle.”
“Only when I think I can find a good catch? Know any nice Russian ladies?”
Leonid laughed, “I am not in the kind of business that I should get to know nice ladies.”
They both laughed; Leonid because he loved to make crude jokes, and McGee because he knew that the vory v zakone’s comment was no joke.
“Keep me posted,” Leonid said.
“Da, da, Ser.” [Aye, aye, Sir] McGee said, and they hung up.
McGee waited twenty minutes to allow time for the vory v zakone to get through to his godson before making his own call to the head of the Russian mafiya in New York.
“Hello, Makyi,” McGee said in Russian. “Are you expecting a call from me?”
“Da da, McGee, the boss just got off the line.”
McGee had connected with Makyi’s cell phone while the Russian boss was playing with his two sons—ages three and five—the future mafiya senior officers, who were running their toy trucks around on the plush carpeted floor of his ritzy SoHo apartment at the moment.
“This is not for a telephone conversation, Makyi; nothing digital is safe enough. Could you do me the great favor of meeting with some friends and me in my office on Bowery and Great Jones Streets at two-thirty? Do you know the area?”
“Of course, I do. I know the way to your office door. I will be there on time. I am busy today and would be appreciative if we made the meeting short and sweet, as you Americans are fond of saying.”
“I prefer that as well. It won’t be more than an hour.”
“I also hope it will be worth my while.”
“The vory v zakone thinks it is. Please report back to by your secure methods after the meeting.”
“See you at two-thirty.”
Makyi finished his playtime with his sons, put on a splendid afternoon suit, made a brief and relaxing stop at his pied a terre in the city and felt much better afterward, then drove his own car towards Bowery and Great Jones.
McGee called a caterer to provide wines and canapes, made sure his conference room was tidy, and went to his office to do paperwork until the meeting started.