The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
Professional crime lords–unlike political or entertainment big-shots–were very punctual about meeting times and frugal with the time spent in meetings, or with being confined to any particular space–for security reasons. Mayki Zaslavskevich and Stephen Huey arrived within two minutes of each other and were swiftly escorted into McGee’s office separately by Ivory and Caitlin respectively to avoid accidentally meeting each other in a hallway or the anteroom.
McGee was standing in order to greet each criminal chieftain separately and to escort him to a widely separated seat. The arrangements were severely social distancing as if they were trying to do business during a pandemic, just the way the principles wanted it. McGee politely, but firmly, had everyone in the room patted down and removed any weaponry his staff discovered; no guns allowed by anyone. And, to compound the security, he ordered all bodyguards out and to be accommodated in rooms separate from each other and from the main conference room.
His last requirement raised the most disgruntlement: no booze, no drugs, no smoking, and no lunch or snacks. This was to be a strictly business meeting, right to the point—no more, no less—and no distractions. He had his secretary place a single small bottle of Evian water, a pen, and yellow legal pad, on the table in front of each attendee. All was ready when the first man entered. Ivory and Caitlin came in last, closed and locked the doors.
McGee handed each of the two crime lords a new—still in the package—T-9 Specialty Bug Detector capable of identifying hidden wireless cameras and microphones and of detecting sonic frequencies between 50-MHz-6GHz, and—as an added feature–had the audio-assist feature to speed up searching.
“Gratis from McGee and Associates Investigations; keep it, on the house.”
Everyone took his or her seat and glared begrudgingly at the plain rust-your-pipes water, but everyone recognized the wisdom of the rules. Better to go home intact than a well fed and hydrated corpse.
“Now that you are satisfied that the place is not bugged, we can get down to business. Everyone here and every place else has heard of this Beelzebub character—whoever he, she, or they, may be. People are so afraid of this lunatic that it is bad for business. More than that, the Chinese and the Russians have each had attacks against them, and the most obvious evidence is that one of them started it, and the other retaliated. War is coming.”
“Russians started the whole thing; they’re the loonies. What do you have to gain, Michael?” demanded Stephen.
Mayki grimaced and showed his teeth, “Other way around you…”
“Don’t finish that sentence, Mayki. Besides, you are both wrong. I have that on good authority. It was just another of this Beelzebub’s terrible plots. Listen up. The world cannot afford another World War II or worse… with nucs. We have a job to do; maybe a small part, but necessary. Stephen, you get on the horn with your contacts in the MSS and the People’s Army and convince them about Beelzebub and get them to share information we can all use against this monster. Same thing with you Mayki. Get the Solntsevskaya Bratva involved with President Afonasii Glebovich Tikhondnko’s people—even the oligarchs, if necessary–and get out the same message. We need answers PDQ, all right? Don’t fight each other on any level, capiche?
Everyone nodded. McGee was right about the “bad-for-business” argument. At least, they could all agree on that.
For the rest of the day, US intelligence service heads communicated with their counterparts in the FSB and MSS, the secretary of state with the foreign ministers, presidents with presidents, and mobsters with mobsters. Cooler heads began to prevail, and fingers eased away from nuclear triggers… temporarily. At least, Sybil and the CIA had some breathing room to conduct a thorough but clandestine investigation.
Stephen learned that everything was business-as-usual among the triads and other criminals in Asia. They had not heard of any plans for a Chinese attack before the Russians were hit. Mayki found out much the same thing from his contacts in the ySolntsevskaya Bratva. In sum, all was quiet on the eastern front.
Beelzebub set off another set of bombs; this time in the Slavic Republic and Thailand. It appeared to be a strategic error on the part of Beelzebub since the new and apparently unrelated atrocities indicated a worldwide offensive rather than Russian v. Chinese acts of war against each other. Presidents Xi of China and Tikhondnko of Russia agreed with President Willets of the US to take a breath and to pull back. Those new acts set Sybil to thinking about motive, and her first thought was “follow the money.”
Caitlin O’Brian was McGee’s best cyber detective (and hacker), and McGee set her to work exclusively to monitor crime world chatter. He was on the phone regularly with Ivory White, his best on-the-ground partner because he did things he did not feel like reporting and almost always got the job done. He was presently in his familiar haunts in Harlem. She was in London coordinating with DARPA [US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] and NCSC [The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ– Government Communications Headquarters]. Sybil and McGee believed that if anyone could find the elusive Beelzebub, the current ongoing searches could.
DCIA Sybil Norcroft summed up the first day’s work: “Whatever drives this Beelzebub, it is not likely to be mental illness, or even ideology, despite his alt-right rantings. Whatever resources we have, you all are welcome to; but you know that I cannot get the Company involved in strictly domestic affairs, especially when it appears that we are dealing with an American, and a citizen at that.”
McGee had his doubts about the American national angle—not enough evidence—but he trusted Sybil and her acumen, instincts, and resources, enough to start again the next day concentrating on possible US leads. He was too tired, and so were Ivory and Caitlin to do any more today. “The evil of the day is sufficient thereof,” he thought.