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The rule of the people, p.14
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       The Rule Of The People, p.14

           Christopher Read

  * * *

  Jensen had read Flores’ initial report with mixed feelings, impressed by his ability to deal with everything in such a detached way, angry that he had let the opportunity to catch McDowell pass; there was outrage too that McDowell had felt the need to involve Flores’ wife. Nevertheless, while McDowell’s methods were unfortunate, his willingness to betray two of his fellow conspirators represented the breakthrough Jensen had been so desperate to achieve and for that at least he should be grateful – if not to McDowell, then perhaps Rachel Flores.

  Carter had duly received his formal guarantee, his preferred destination of Panama entirely dependent upon the authenticity of the two names; however, there was now little doubt that McDowell had been true to his word. In the end, the identity of his FBI contact had come as no real surprise, Special Agent Bill Yorke already near the top of a shortlist of just five, twenty-three years unblemished service now counting for nothing. Such easy confirmation had thus given added credence to McDowell’s second – and possibly more important – offering.

  David Solomon was a New York-based hedge fund manager, someone whose profile would never have singled him out as being worthy of a second look. His personal wealth was significant, several million at least, but it perhaps wasn’t enough for Solomon to have funded the conspiracy by himself; more likely he was simply an intermediary, his every financial transaction and those involving his clients now under intense scrutiny.

  Ritter, Yorke and Solomon – the minor players were gradually becoming known and a relieved Jensen finally felt they were making progress, the release of Jon Carter a worthwhile exchange in order to spur the investigation forward.

  Despite there being no definitive evidence as yet, it seemed certain that Neil Ritter was also some sort of go-between, meetings with Washington’s political elite – including Mayor Henry – a normal part of his weekly routine. Yet even if the task force could link him to Thorn and eventually McDowell, it still wouldn’t be enough to prove a McDowell-Thorn conspiracy: a score of other politicians had met with Ritter over the past month – were they all to be considered equally guilty?

  The investigation into Mayor Eugene Henry remained a futile search for something incriminating: no hint of any link to McDowell, phone and email records revealing nothing out of the ordinary. The Mayor’s security detail was provided by the D.C. police, a dozen officers for whom it was second-nature to check for signs of a tail; so far they had given no indication that they were aware the FBI were targeting Henry, but by their very nature the bodyguards’ standard precautions were hardly designed to give the surveillance team an easy ride.

  The pursuit of Dick Thorn was similarly turning into a morass of conjecture and paranoia, and virtually everyone on Thorn’s contact list had some degree of political or military influence. Jensen had been foolish to expect anything less, and the fact Thorn was on first-name terms with a general or two and popular with the public was hardly good reason to suspect him of planning something underhand. Few in the Intelligence Community really believed a full-scale military takeover could ever succeed, the American people not that easily pushed around, and while many might be dissatisfied with certain aspects of democracy, specifically Congress, it was too ingrained a principle to seriously contemplate change.

  Deangelo’s decisive actions against China had also been exactly what Thorn’s supporters had demanded and Jensen was now convinced his fears of an imminent coup were exaggerated, the joint task force investigation into Thorn needing to be more focused on past actions than any imaginary future concerns.

  It was just one of various revisions having to be made, Jensen particularly irritated by Flores’s reckless disregard for protocol and the fact that Anderson’s personal feud with McDowell now directly involved members of the FBI. Flores’ ability to remain detached was certainly open to question and, in retrospect, Jensen’s continued faith in him had been unwise – three times Flores had had McDowell within his grasp and each time he had managed to slip away.

  Jensen also had significant doubts about Anderson; his usefulness was increasingly debatable and the Englishman was becoming party to far too many secrets, the FBI’s ability to prevent any future revelations uncertain. And with Carter’s role finished, what purpose did Anderson – and indeed Terrill – actually serve? Anderson had clearly failed to anticipate McDowell’s next move and all he’d really achieved with Carter was to confirm that the campaign against Congress was primarily based on exaggeration and lies. Two government officials had been disciplined as a result but it was little enough to justify Anderson’s continued employment.

  Public frustration with Congress showed no signs of ending anytime soon, it resurfacing once it became clear that Dick Thorn would struggle to be confirmed as Secretary of Defence; there were no second chances and unless Deangelo could guarantee a majority vote in the Senate, he was unwilling to take the risk of Thorn being rejected. Ryan Burgess had met no such problems, the committee hearings routine, and he had been duly confirmed as Secretary of State on the Tuesday with barely a murmur of dissent.

  Jensen’s dossier of evidence as to a conspiracy against both President Cavanagh and Congress was growing steadily, virtually all of it circumstantial, and he was still undecided what he would do if the contents ever moved on from conjecture to become something rather more convincing; even now it seemed unlikely that they would ever find irrefutable proof, more a pattern of evidence that would merely indicate differing levels of guilt, with Thorn and Henry the prime movers alongside McDowell.

  But that didn’t seem to include Bob Deangelo. Flores and his team had so far found nothing to directly implicate Deangelo, other than the fact that – like most of his peers – he knew Neil Ritter; even his relationship with Thorn wasn’t considered to be that close. No rumours of clandestine meetings, no links with anyone on Jensen’s target list, no past record of manipulating his way into power – Deangelo’s involvement in the conspiracy was clearly unproven.

  Jensen had been surprised but also reassured, and he could hardly be accused of a cover-up if he simply chose to pass the dossier on to the President. Not that Deangelo would be left with any easy choices, the Administration somehow needing to maintain its veneer of stability while somehow ridding itself of Thorn.

  There was one other possibility that Jensen had never thought he would consider, it almost a cowardly response to the problems the dossier would unleash. He could simply bury it.

  The combination of Deangelo and Thorn was as yet unproven but at least it seemed to offer the chance of a robust and effective Administration, and one better able than its predecessor to stand up to China. Deangelo’s dilemma of justice or expediency was now equally relevant to Jensen, the consequences of the righteous approach far too complex to predict.

  For the moment it was nothing more than a tempting option and Jensen put the thought to one side, trusting that the decision would be obvious nearer the time. So far only two of those named in the dossier were in the military, both in Naval Intelligence, and Jensen’s greatest fear was that the number would increase; maybe even enough to suggest Dick Thorn had significant support within the military. Then it could well prove impossible to conceal America’s frailty, every future President needing to look over their shoulder, wary of whom they hired and fired.

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