I was awakened by the Tweedle Brothers from Scotland Yard, Lieutenant Entwhistle and his nameless sidekick.
"Gee, it's swell to see you guys," I said. "What time is it?"
"Eight a.m. Rise and shine," Lieutenant Entwhistle announced as he opened the curtains to allow sunlight to spill in. "You've got some explaining to do."
"Really. So early? What's the rush?"
"The hospital says you were kidnapped. We're here to investigate. Did you tell 'em it was the IRA?"
"Is that what brings you out so early? Yeah, it could have been. They didn't talk, so I never heard their voices, but I think it was the IRA."
"What makes you think so?" Entwhistle inquired.
"I was trying to write an article on the Harrods bombing. I wanted to interview the ones who did it."
"Sorry. What did you say?" Entwhistle fairly shouted, he was so incredulous.
"I said I wanted to interview the terrorists who did it, but somebody must have tipped them off that I was investigating where they got their weapons and explosives."
"This is incredible, " Entwhistle managed. "Who informed them?"
"I think it might have been that arms dealer I told you about, Edmund Price at Omni Arms, but that's a guess. Except I think I recognized his henchman, from his old days in the CIA, a bogus major named Charlie Stoat. You ever heard of him?"
"Stoat has been wanted by INTERPOL for years," Entwhistle said. "You mean to say that Stoat is here in England?"
"I think so. I've only seen his picture, but one of the men who attacked me and stuffed me in a van looked a whole lot like Stoat. A big, skinny guy with lank brown hair and a big handlebar mustache."
"That sounds like him. He's been on the run for a long time. What’s he doing here?"
"Like I said, he's Price's buddy."
"Tell us about the abduction," Entwhistle said, and his partner began to take notes.
I told them all about the adventures of the previous four days, purposely forgetting to mention Eoin Cogan's name and pub. I told the police that I was walking in the neighborhood and must have been followed. I would take care of Eoin myself.
"What were you doing contacting the IRA?" Entwhistle demanded.
"Well, I got blown up in the Harrods explosion, so I had a personal interest in the story. I thought it would be ironic for a victim of the bombing to interview the bombers. Of course, I wasn't going to tell them I got blown up. They might think I was holding a grudge."
"You think this is a joke?" Entwhistle shouted. "Do you know what happened?"
"Yeah. I was there."
"They placed a car bomb to go off at the height of the noonday rush. The blast ripped through four floors of the building, leaving five dead and ninety-one wounded. Thirty-six minutes before the blast, an IRA member phoned a suicide hotline about the bomb. We rushed to Harrods in time to leave a large number of policemen among the dead and wounded. So I don't see what's so amusing."
"I'm sorry about your men, but I thought I had a right to laugh when I almost got my own ass blown up. Do you want anything else? I'm getting tired."
"Who is your contact in the IRA?" Entwhistle asked.
"I don't have a contact. I just spread the word," I said and checked to see if my nose was growing.
"Nonsense. You know someone," Entwhistle pursued.
"Look, I don't know anyone, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you. I have to protect my sources."
"This isn't the States, you know. Shielding murderers is a crime. We can put you behind bars for that, or declare you unwelcome and send you home. You had better cooperate."
"I am cooperating. Besides I've got nothing more to say except that since you enjoy being so offensive, why don't you inform your government that if they'd get the troops out of the North, the Irish might be able to settle this themselves."
"Bloody hell. You're a sympathizer!" Entwhistle spat out.
"No. I'm just sane. Go away now," I suggested.
"How is the CIA involved in this?" Entwhistle asked, apparently not leaving.
"What?" I said.
"Your friend whose fingerprints were found in your flat, what is the CIA connection?"
"Beats me. Why don't you ask him?"
"What's his address?" the lieutenant asked.
"St. Katharine's Dock. He lives on a boat. Ring him up. In fact, why don't you take him in for questioning? I think that'd be a good idea," I said and smiled at the thought.
"Perhaps we will," Entwhistle said, getting ready to leave. "Let us know if you remember who connected you with the IRA."
"Since you're so busy with this," I countered, "why don't you interview my man Price at Omni Arms and see if you can find Stoat while you're at it."
Entwhistle ignored this comment and asked me where I had been held. I described the location as best I could. Entwhistle said, "We'll take a look to see if anyone shows up to make sure you're dead."
"Thanks," I said.
Lieutenant Entwhistle and his twin, who hadn't uttered a word, strode out without answering. I rolled over and went back to sleep. Along about eleven that morning I woke up to find a distressed-looking Zorn standing over me.
"Did you sic those guys from Scotland Yard on me?" Zorn shouted.
"Can you turn down the volume?” I put my fingers in my ears. “Yeah, it was me."
"I was feeling sorry for you. I was even going to come over here a couple of hours ago. Until they showed up."
"Did you have a nice talk?" I asked.
"I didn't enjoy it. What did you tell them?" Zorn asked.
"What do you think? I told them you're in the CIA. No, actually they told me."
"What do you mean?"
"Scotland Yard found your fingerprints at my place, but when they ran a check, they found that the CIA had put a limited access tag on you in the international data bank computer. So they asked me."
"I'm not in the CIA," Zorn insisted.
"You think you're on to something," Zorn said. "You think I've betrayed you in some way. In fact you're gleeful to have your paranoid vision of the universe confirmed. But I didn't sell you out."
"No. You just lied."
"I tell you I'm not in the CIA," Zorn reiterated.
"I may be paranoid, Zorn, but I'm not stupid. What's your deal?"
"I can't tell you."
"You can't tell me. You show up on Iona by total chance. You offer to help with this thing with Price and Omni Arms out of the kindness of your heart. And you just happen to omit the information that you're important enough to the CIA that they won't give Scotland Yard access to your data file. Give me a break."
"It's all true. More or less."
"Get it straight, or get out," I said. "I was kidnapped and almost killed, and I need to know who I can trust. What's your connection to the CIA?"
Zorn spoke in a low voice, "I built their supercomputer."
"You did what?"
"I built the main computer for the CIA."
"Jesus, Zorn. You really built the CIA computer?"
"Yep. The Zorn-XMP."
"And the CIA doesn't want anybody talking to you about it," I said.
"They don't really want anybody to know about it--for my safety and their security."
"I'll keep it to myself."
"Still, how did you just happen to be sailing off the coast of Iona? Was that really a coincidence?"
"No. That is, I was up there sailing, and my contact got hold of me to ask if I'd take an assignment for the Company. They had a man tailing you the whole time. They told me about your visit to Teller to find out about the death of the man with the rose tattoo."
"Right. They know about Fick's being in Libya working for Qaddafi. They wanted to find out what you knew."
"I think Fick was working for them. My guess is he was part of an attempt to discover what some people inside the CIA were doing in Libya with Qaddafi for all those years."
"So what made you sign on?"
"The reasons I gave you before were true," Zorn said. "The people who asked me to help you want to gain information about the ones tied to the CIA who were working illegally with Qaddafi. They thought you would need some help."
"You mean I was supposed to be the bait," I concluded.
"Maybe so. You do have a way of making things happen," Zorn observed.
"That's what Torsky says."
"Well?" Zorn agreed.
"I don't like being a pawn. But now I know more of what's going on than I did." Then I thought some more and said, "Well, Zorn, looks like I stunk up your boat for nothing."
"I thought you were tormenting me on purpose. I couldn't figure out what I'd done," Zorn laughed, and his farseeing eye went wide.
"So now what?"
"We still friends?" Zorn asked.
"How about if we try the Omni Arms computer?"
"Sounds good. Is that guy still hanging around your boat?"
"No. I think Scotland Yard scared him off."
"Let's give it a try as soon as I get out of here."
After Zorn left, a nurse stuck something in my i.v. that made me sleep. It was dark when I woke up. I thought about Angelique's coming on duty that night. Did I want to see her? For some reason, it was an important question. Yes, I thought, I want to see her.
I tried to stay awake, but I could not.
When she touched my cheek, I woke up.
"This feels like deja vu," I said and smiled.
"Why do you laugh?" Angelique asked.
"Nothing. You look terrific."
"Thank you. You know that I like it when you laugh. You feel better now," she stated.
"Yes. I'll be fine.
"Physically you will be fine," she said, "but inside I think you are insane."
"When are you going to start living your life?"
"What do you mean? I haven't felt so alive since I was in Vietnam."
I hadn't known this was true until I said it, and having said it, I wasn't sure I liked the implications.
"You are wasting your life, chasing after a nightmare."
"Those guys who kidnapped me were real enough," I countered.
She put a thermometer under my tongue to shut me up. Angelique took my wrist and checked my pulse. "You are going to get yourself killed," she told me. I tried to reply. "Be quiet. I am taking your temperature. It is not your job to hunt terrorists. You are playing a stupid game." She took the thermometer from my mouth and held it to the light.
"Is my temperature normal?" I asked.
"You have not been listening."
"I was hoping to distract you."
"You are impossible, Jacques. Will you never grown up?"
"I hope not."
"This is insane."
"Sanity is overrated," I said."
"It's time for a change of mind. You go round and round and keep ending up in the same place."
"I've made progress."
"Then why are you here?" she asked, looking down at me.
"Good point," I conceded, looking at the room, the bed, and the i.v.
"I must go now," she said.
"You mustn't go yet. We're having so much fun," I said and smiled.
"Why do we fight this way?" she asked.
"I think it's because we're in love."
Angelique's face turned red. I had never seen her embarrassed before.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I spoke out of turn."
"It is all right. I did not realize. It is ironic," she said. Then she changed the subject. "They will take out the i.v. tube tomorrow. Soon you can go home."
I touched her hand. "I'll try to think about what you've been saying."
"Thank you," she said. "I must go."
She leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. Her breasts touched my chest, and I could smell her skin.
I woke up feeling good. It wasn't long before I decided I had to get out of the hospital.
They took the i.v. out after a doctor looked at me. I had missed breakfast by then, and I badgered the doctor to order me a big lunch and to let me out in the afternoon. The doctor said yes to lunch but no to leaving. By three in the afternoon I was stalking the halls wrapped in a sheet like a toga over my hospital gown, and by suppertime they were eager to get rid of me.
At eleven o'clock that night I was sitting up in bed anticipating Angelique's arrival. It turned out that Thursday night was her night off. There was nothing to be done. I lay there thinking about her. When I wasn't thinking about her, I was writing a story in my mind about Price and all the ways illegal C-4 had killed people.
Now that I was feeling better, I found that lack of exercise from being in the hospital had made me too wired to sleep. Sometime after three a.m. I finally nodded off, but I was awake again at dawn. My only clothes were the too-small ones Zorn had lent me, the sweatshirt and sweatpants. I didn't care. After breakfast I put them on and went downstairs to check out of the hospital for the second time in a little over two weeks.
Because of National Health I owed next to nothing, but since I didn't have any money at all, I had to talk them into letting me go home with a bill for the amount I owed and a promise. I took a cab and went to Barclay's Bank where, despite some very odd looks, I got cash out of my account and requested a new VISA card. From the bank the taxi, which I had asked to wait, drove me home.
After paying the cabbie, I realized that the spare key to my apartment was in my desk drawer. So, I stopped off at the first floor flat to ask my landlady, Mrs. Gardiner, to let me in upstairs. She wasn't really the landlady, in that she didn't own the building. She was actually the superintendent. The place, along with most of the rest of the neighborhood, was owned by the Commissioners of the Church of England. How this came to pass I don’t know, but I liked the idea because, during a decline in the fortunes of Little Venice in the 1930s, the church had been the landlord to prostitutes, until the Commissioners decided to relieve their consciences by kicking the ladies out.
Mrs. Gardiner came to the door in answer to my knock.
"I'm locked out, Mrs. G.," I said.
Mrs. Gardiner looked me up and down.
"Have you been running, young man?"
"No. It's a long story."
"You mustn't put your clothes in those commercial clothes dryers. They'll shrink tonothing," she admonished.
"I've been keeping an eye out for you. You've not picked up your mail all this week. Have you been sick again after that terrible explosion?"
"No. Well, yes. You see I. . ."
"You don't take care of yourself. A man tends to neglect his health. My late husband Charles was the same way. You just wait here. I'll get the key. And your mail."
She disappeared into her flat and reemerged with the mail neatly wrapped in a red grosgrain ribbon and the key, tagged with my flat number on it.
Mrs. Gardiner was the widow of an Anglican minister who had died in the line of duty, as it were. According to a long story she told me in detail once, and alluded to often, her husband had been a truly pious, godly man who gave his life to his flock until his efforts killed him. In compensation the Church allowed her to live in the first floor flat as manager, to augment a not too ample pension. After fifty years as a minister's wife, she was in the habit of looking in on other people to make sure they were all right. Taking care of people came second only to tending her garden. I hoped she wouldn't dig too deep. She might find my cat.
Mrs. Gardiner preceded me up the stairs. "Those detectives from Scotland Yard called again," she said.
"They found me. Thanks," I said.
We rounded the landing and started up the next flight. She turned and looked me in the eye, three steps below.
"Someone else has been asking about you as well," she said. She looked at me in a way that reminded me of my grandmother. "Are you in trouble?"
"I don't think so. Who was it?"
"I'm not sure. He wouldn't say."
"Was it an American?" I asked. I was thinking it might have been Zorn.
"He was Irish. Do you know who it might have been?" she asked.
"Not offhand. Was there a problem?"
She looked perplexed. "No. It's just that the man looked to be quite upset."
"What did he want?"
"He asked if I'd seen you."
"What day was this?"
"It was Sunday, about one in the afternoon," she said. "I had just returned from church. He said he had tried to reach you by telephone. I explained to him that the nature of your work often requires you to be away."
"Did he leave a note?" I said, looking at the sheaf of letters surrounded by the red ribbon.
"No, I'm afraid not."
She turned and climbed the stairs to my flat.
As we walked up, I asked, "What did the man look like?"
Over her shoulder she said, "He wasn't tall, but broad, with thin ginger-colored hair and a red face." She inserted the key in the lock.
It had to be Eoin Cogan, I thought. As the door opened, I was able to look past her and was relieved to see that it hadn't been trashed again. "Thanks for for letting me in," I said.
"You're welcome, young man. I hope you're not in a bind. If I can do anything to help, please tell me."
"I will. Thanks again, Mrs. G.," I said, smiling at her.
I closed the door and turned to look at the little flat. It was good to be home. It was good to be alive. I walked to the window and looked out at the canal, beautiful in the late morning sun. I looked down to see that my geranium needed watering. I went to the kitchen and filled a jar with water and returned to give the plant a drink. At that moment I missed the big orange cat.
I put the jar back on the sill and then sat down at my desk. I untied the ribbon and examined my mail. There were the usual bills. I looked for an envelope with a check in it. Yes, I said to myself and opened the envelope. It was not a great sum, but it would pay the bills. Thank you, Horticulture Magazine, I thought.
Then I noticed the child's handwriting on a letter under an advertisement. It's from Mike, I realized, tearing the letter open.
I'm fine. I got your post card from Scotland. Thanks alot.
My dog Sandy ran away so I got a new dog with my own money.
It's a Springer spaniel. It's a boy. I named him Happy because he
always runs around. Do you ever read Calvin and Hobbes in England?
I have three of their books.
I read it twice and then put it down on the desk. I took a deep breath. Then I got up and went over to the bed. I took off the too-small sweat clothes and threw them on the bed. I decided to take a shower. As the water in the metal shower stall ran down on my head, I heard a voice inside my head that sounded like Angelique's. It said, You can't keep living like this, and I knew the voice was right. I stood under the water for a long time.
When I got out of the shower, the phone was ringing.
"Yeah," I said into the receiver, my voice sounding flat in my own ears.
"Mac?" Zorn said.
"You okay?" Zorn asked.
"I'm all right," I said, getting myself together. "What's up?"
"I thought you might be home from the hospital. Do you want to try out what we said?"
"Is it a good time, during business hours? I thought a weekend when everything was quiet would be a better time."
"Probably it would be better during the business week when things are hopping. You want to try this afternoon?"
"Sounds good," I said. "What time?"
"How about one?" Zorn suggested.
"Okay. At the same place?"
"I'll be there," I said.
"See you then."
It was twenty of one that afternoon when I arrived at St. Katharine's Dock. I didn't go right to Zorn's boat. Instead I went to the buildings above the dock and found a spot in the alcove of a shop, a place where I could observe the whole area. For the next fifteen minutes I watched the comings and goings around the boats and buildings, looking for someone else watching.
I saw nothing unusual. Just before one o'clock, I walked down to the boat. Zorn was in the cabin, already playing with his desktop computer.
"How're you doing, Mac? You look better than the last time I saw you."
"I smell better too," I assured him. "What are you up to?"
Zorn was typing in commands at a rapid rate. "Do you really want to know?" Zorn asked.
"Only in a general sort of way. My knowledge of computers extends only as far as word processing."
Zorn went on typing as he answered, "Well, in a general way what I'm doing is looking for a way into the Omni Arms computer."
"Are you talking to it yet?"
The screen read, "Access Denied."
"It's not really a conversation. It wants to know who I am. I'm supposed to enter a codebefore it will talk to me. That code is designed by whoever created the program for this particular computer."
Zorn stopped typing. I watched the screen as data appeared in response to Zorn's command. I couldn't make anything of what it said. Then Zorn typed something else in.
Finally, Zorn spoke again. "But there's also the person who designed and built the whole system, the basic computer hardware." Zorn stopped and waited for a response to appear on the screen.
"What were you going to say?" I asked, trying to fathom Zorn's thoughts.
"Oh, yeah. I was saying that somebody designed the whole system, you know? It's probably not an off-the-shelf computer. Somebody custom-designed it."
"And?" I asked.
"So, if it’s custom-made, the system will reflect the mind and personality of the designer. It's like a signature."
"If you know or can guess who designed it, you have a clue as to how to get in. Bypass the codes and you get in through the backdoor. Theoretically."
"So who designed this one?"
"That's what I'm figuring out now. I'll know in about a minute."
Zorn typed in another set of commands.
"There it is."
"You found something?" I asked.
"So who designed their computer?"
"You designed it?"
"I think so.”
"What is this?" I demanded. "You mean to tell me you broke into their computer, and it just so happens that you designed it? That's a little hard to believe."
Zorn typed in another command and sat back.
"Don't get all paranoid on me again, Mac. It's not exactly a coincidence. I had an idea the computer they use is mine. That's the main reason I got into this in the first place."
"So what you told me was a lie."
"No. What I told you is true. I'm in this to help you find out about Price and Omni Arms. It's just that you're not the only one who's interested."
"Oh great. The CIA again," I sighed.
Zorn stared at the screen.
“What kind of game are you playing, Zorn?"
"It's no game. You want to find out about Price and illegal arms, and I'm helping you."
"You think I’m a fool. Fuck."
Zorn turned away from the computer screen and looked at me. "Take it easy now. I don't really know any more about this than I've told you," Zorn said. "It's just that both of us are useful to them. I know computers, and you're a writer who's gained credibility writing about terrorism. You went looking for Price, and people took notice."
"I don't like this," I said.
"You want out?" Zorn asked.
"Good. Because I think there are some people in the CIA who feel the same way you do about Price," Zorn said. "But from what I gather, the Agency can't or won't go after these guys."
"The people I talk to don't tell me much," Zorn said. "But the attitude at the top is generally to protect the CIA's reputation and to turn a blind eye to the sins of their own people, especially when those people are useful, someTimes even crucial, to ongoing CIA operations."
"So who's going after Price?"
"I can't tell you," Zorn said.
I took a swat at the air.
"Come on, Zorn. What kind of shit is that?"
"All I can say is that some people on the inside are upset at what Price has been doing, and they want it to go public so the Justice Department in the United States will have to go after him. Is that clear enough?"
"Well, it's all I can give you," Zorn said.
"I don't know," Zorn replied.
"You don't know. Right."
I laughed in disgust.
"Maybe there is more to it," Zorn said after a minute. "Maybe we'll find it in the Omni Arms computer. You want to take a look? Or do you want to go home?"
"Yeah, I want to take a look," I replied. "You're bending my mind way out of shape, Zorn. I think we're friends. Then I think you've sold me out. Then I think you're being straight with me. Now I don't know again. Who the hell are you anyway?"
"I'm just who I said I was," Zorn said. "If I haven't told you everything, it's just that I've been asked not to say more than I have to. I haven't lied to you."
"You're just stingy with the truth."
"Right," Zorn agreed and laughed, one eye going wide in its farseeing stare. "So do you
want to take a peek inside Omni Arms' computer?"
"Yeah, peel that sucker wide open."
Zorn turned back to the screen and typed in "HELLO BOB. THIS IS RAY" and hit ENTER. Immediately the screen lit up with a message: "HELLO, RAY. BOB HERE. HOW ARE YOU TODAY?"
"Bob and Ray? You're kidding. The computer's name is Bob?"
"Yep. All my computers are named Bob. Don't tell anybody, okay?" Zorn said and laughed.
"You mean I could call up the CIA and ask for Bob, and I could get any information I want?"
"Well, it's not quite that simple, but if you could get to the point where you could ask for Bob, sure. You could ask for anything Bob knows."
"Bob and Ray would be proud," I said.
"There's one more layer to peel away," Zorn said. "Do you mind turning your back for a minute while I type this in?"
"Sure, I'd hate to know all your secrets."
While I turned away from the computer screen, Zorn typed in one final code.
"Thanks, Mac. All set."
I turned back around.
"So, how'd you decide on Bob and Ray?" I asked.
"It's just one of those things. I was building a computer for someone else. I was thinking of a code for the quick way into the computer for maintenance purposes. Bob and Ray just came to me. I listened to them on the radio when I was a kid." Zorn looked at the screen again and said, "Bob's ready when you are. What do you want to know?"
"I guess it depends how much time we have. Is it likely we can do this without being caught?"
“Not for long."
"So they could find out who we are and where we are?"
"Sure," Zorn said. "But I've got an automatic disconnect programmed into my computer that will cut off the conversation before someone can trace the call."
"Move and countermove."
"Right. But we won't know how long we can rummage around in Omni Arms' files until the plug gets pulled. You want to just survey the territory first?"
"Let's look." Zorn typed in a command and up came the menu. We both examined the offerings.
“I supposed it was too much to expect that they would have a file marked 'Illegal Arms Sales.'"
"Probably so," Zorn agreed. "How about if we try this one."
Zorn types in SALES. Then BUYER.
When the file came up, Zorn asked, "What country do you want to know about?"
"Try Libya," I said.
Zorn typed it in. "What year?" Zorn asked.
"Put in 1990."
We watched the screen and waited. The computer indicated NO ACTIVITY for 1990.
"Try '89," I said.
We waited. The screen came up NO ACTIVITY. We tried the previous ten years. Nothing.
"What now?" Zorn asked.
We checked on Iran as a buyer back through the eighties. It read NO ACTIVITY all the way back to '84. From '83 on back the record burgeoned to page after page of transactions.
"It was in early '84 that the U.S. figured out it was Iran behind the truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport. In January of '84 Iran was put on the list of countries supporting terrorism," I said. "Okay. Let's try a legal customer. Try Iraq for 1990."
Data lit up the screen. Zorn rolled the record of transactions with Iraq back to '82. Before that, nothing.
"Look at that," Zorn said.
"Yeah. Every arms manufacturer in the world has been selling to Iraq ever since Iraq was taken off the blacklist of countries supporting terrorists."
"And Omni Arms brokered weapons from all of them to Iraq," Zorn said.
"Yeah. And Omni Arms is only the biggest."
"Looks like Iraq kept the arms manufacturers in business in the Eighties," Zorn said.
"Look at that. Mirage jets and Exocet missiles from France, artillery and secondhand Soviet tanks from Egypt, radar from the United Kingdom, and all this stuff from the U.S.A. Mines from Italy, more mines from Taiwan, and look at this deal for SCUD-B missiles from North Korea. Is that legal?"
"Maybe," Zorn said. "Everything else in this file seems to be legal."
"So where's the illegal stuff?"
Zorn frowned. "There's something here we're missing. You said Omni Arms is organized around independent contractors who work on commission. Where are their files?"
"Plug in Price's name, and see what happens."
The computer responded to PRICE by asking for an access code.
"We need a password.”
"Let's see," Zorn said and typed in a command to Bob.
BYPASS THIS CODE PLEASE, BOB.
SURE, RAY. BE GLAD TO.
"Bob's an obliging fellow, Zorn."
The screen said, YOU'RE ALL SET, RAY. WRITE IF YOU GET WORK.
Zorn typed in, THANKS, BOB. HANG BY YOUR THUMBS.
"We're in," Zorn said.
"What was that all about?"
"It's an old routine that works as a code between the computer and me."
"So where are we?"
Zorn stared at the screen and talked as he typed in commands. "The Achilles heel of any organization is information," Zorn said. "To do business you have to keep records. Unless you've got a business manager who can keep all the records in his head, you have to keep books. In most ways the computer age has made organizations more vulnerable to scrutiny rather than less. Members of a business organization have to have access to inventory and orders instantaneously. If you put your financial records on computer rather than keeping account books in a safe, somebody who goes looking will eventually find them."
"Yeah. The books. Keep that thought," I said. "Let's look at Price's records."
"Just tell me who, where, and when."
"For buyer, plug in Libya. Work your way back from 1990 to 1980."
Zorn typed in the commands. The screen lit up with information, none of which they could decipher.
"Oh crap. It's in code," I moaned.
"Not entirely surprising, I guess," Zorn said. "They're his records. Maybe he's the only one who needs to be able to read them."
"Try Iran," I said.
Again data lit up the board, but none of it made any sense.
Same thing. Lots of gibberish.
"Well, at least we know one thing," Zorn offered. "Price has been busy working with countries on the forbidden list."
"Yeah, but what good does it do us," I said. "It's all in code."
"Whatever somebody encrypts, somebody else can decrypt," Zorn said. "I'll tell you what I'll do. Later on, probably sometime after midnight, I'll call up their computer and get back into Price's file. I can pull all this data and record it on my mainframe in California."
"What good will that do?"
"None, unless I get my computer to talk to a computer that is good at breaking codes," Zorn said.
"And we know where that would be, don't we," I said. "Do you really have access to the CIA computer at Langley?"
"I told you, I built it," Zorn replied. "It's not as easy as saying Hello, Bob. I have to ask permission, but there shouldn't be any problem."
"It’ll probably take a couple of days. Do you want to look for anything else while we're in here?"
"How about if we examine the Omni Arms books."
Zorn typed in the commands, and Omni Arms' accounts for 1990 appeared on the screen.
"What country's account do you want?" Zorn asked.
"Check on Iraq."
The spread sheet lit up as Zorn punched ENTER.
"See anything interesting?" Zorn asked.
"Who's paying the bills?" I asked, as the entries scrolled upward.
"Not too many payments drawn directly on the Iraqi treasury," Zorn commented.
"A lot of them seem to have the notation IBIC on them," I commented. "Isn't their headquarters here in London? International Bank of Investment and Credit. I think it's owned by a bunch of Saudi oil sheiks."
"Maybe the Saudis bankrolled Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War," Zorn suggested.
"It's true. They did," I said. "The Saudis gave money to Iraq during the war to balance the strength of Iran and Iraq. It was to offset the American buildup of Iran in the Sixties and Seventies. When the Ayatollah took over, Iran was suddenly our enemy, even though we trained all their officers, and all their weapons came from the United States. By default Iraq was suddenly our friend, sort of, because Iraq was fighting Iran."
"Do you want to examine any other accounts?"
"Sure. What other accounts are legal? How about Israel?"
Zorn pulled up the account. We didn't find anything that looked unusual.
"Try a Latin American country like Brazil or Argentina."
Zorn typed in ARGENTINA, and we examined the account for the previous ten years.
"What do you see?"
"A lot of arms sales to Argentina seem to have been bankrolled by this IBIC outfit," Zorn concluded.
"Who are these guys?" I wondered.
"Maybe you ought to check it out," Zorn suggested. “I think we better cut this short before they notice what we’re doing. I’ll try again tonight. And I'll see if I can get Price's records decoded."
"Thanks, Zorn," I said. Then I yawned and stretched again. "You want to go and grab a beer?"
"I'd like to," Zorn said. "But I've got work to do. How about a raincheck?"
"Sounds good," I said. "I'll call you tomorrow morning."
"Good," Zorn said. "And listen, Mac. Be careful. Those goons are going to come looking for you as soon as they find out you're not dead."
"Sure. I'll watch out," I said and climbed the ladder to the deck.
It was late afternoon when I left Zorn's boat. I looked all around as I walked up the dock but didn't see any sign of watchers. I stayed alert, but gradually my mind shifted to what I would do next. I knew I had to settle the score with Eoin Cogan. That had to be done soon. I wanted to call Angelique, but she would be working tonight. Tomorrow was Saturday. I’ll call her in the morning, I thought. Tonight I’ll write the story as far as it goes.
In the meantime I decided that on the way home I would make a detour to the American Embassy. It made me nervous not to have a passport, and it was time I filed an application to have it replaced.
I took the Central Line to Victoria Station and switched to the Victoria Line to Green Park. I enjoyed the walk through Mayfair and composed the story on the arms trade in my head as I went. I approached Grosvenor Square from the east, by the Japanese Embassy. I could see the U.S. Embassy in front of me, taking up a whole block of one of the finest neighborhoods in London. I made a sour face as I examined my country's personal statement to the motherland. The neighbors must love it. Above a façade of fake gold panels, it featured an eagle with a 35-foot wingspan and the head of a lizard. Why didn't they just put up a giant McDonalds?
In the embassy my plan to get a new passport hit a snag. In the passport office, the secretary who had just typed my name into the computer was frowning. She looked up at me with a scowl.
"There seems to be a problem," she answered. "A red flag has been placed on your file."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know, but before I can process your request for a new document, the red flag must be removed."
"So who do I have to talk to about getting your red flag off my passport?"
"Just a minute," she said. "Could you wait over there?"
The secretary made a call and hung up. Nothing happened. After fifteen minutes I got up and went over to her desk.
"Can you tell me what's going on? All I want to do is get a duplicate passport."
"Someone will be with you shortly," she said with bland bureaucratic patience.
I sat down, glum with poorly suppressed hostility. Eventually, a tan suit and rep tie came out of an office door to greet me.
"We seem to have a problem here," the youngish foreign service man said in his best supercilious tone. "Would you step into my office?"
I stood up, towering over the little turd, and followed him into the office.
"It seems that someone has used your passport in an illegal operation."
"It was stolen. Where did they use it?"
"Why didn't you report it missing?"
"I did," I said. I was sure I had, but a shadow of doubt crept into my mind. "I know I did because the woman I talked to told me I had to come down here to fill out a form to get a duplicate."
"In any case," the man said, "there's no record of your having reported it lost."
"Or stolen. And the British government has inquired as to whether you might be in league with the IRA."
"That's ridiculous. I told the detectives from Scotland Yard what happened."
"Nonetheless, they made an inquiry, and if there is anything found in their investigation, at the very least your continued presence in England may be in jeopardy."
"That's terrific. So what about my passport?"
"The British government has asked that we withhold reissue for the time being, until they finish their investigation."
"And you're going along with this? That's great. I'm a writer. I may have to travel. I need a passport. This is the American Embassy. Can't you help straighten things out?"
"I'm sorry," the man said and smiled. "You'll have to take this up with the British government."
"Yeah, I can tell how sorry you are. Thanks a lot," I said.
I considered telling the twerp to stick it up his official ass. I got up and started to leave but paused at the door and turned. "So who am I supposed to talk to? The British government is a pretty broad category."
The bureaucrat looked at me and said, "I wouldn't worry about that. I'm sure someone will be in touch with you shortly."
"Great," I said and left, shaking my head.