True blue, p.46
True Blue, p.46David Baldacci
Roy shoved through the crowd as Mona started making prepared remarks. Even as he pushed through the wall he was at risk of being hurled right back into the pit by the sheer weight of the media. That is, until a long arm came out of nowhere and snagged him, pulling him through a side door that slammed shut in the faces of the trailing reporters.
Beth let go of his arm and stepped back.
“I figured Mona would pull her usual crap. How’d it go in there?”
“You can leave through that hallway,” she said, pointing to her left.
“I know this is awkward for you, Chief.”
“I mean, technically you’re on Mona’s side. If we prove our case, she loses. In fact, she might look like an idiot in the process.”
Beth punched him lightly on the side of the arm. “Keep talking like that, Kingman, I might just grow to tolerate you.”
Roy thought he caught a glimpse of a smile as she strode off down the hall. Outside he was heading for his car when a lanky young man in a tweed blazer approached.
The man thrust a set of rolled documents into Roy’s hands. “Consider yourself served.” As the guy hurried off, Roy examined the papers.
Shilling & Murdoch was suing him.
SAM DONNELLY did not look particularly pleased as he left the White House in a small motorcade. He was a former Army two-star turned congressman who’d been elevated to the top spy slot based on political payback and his years of military duty, and also because of his membership on the House Intelligence Committee. He’d grown gray in service to his country and had a reputation as a no-nonsense administrator with a hands-on approach.
Jarvis Burns sat across from him in the limo, which had a soundproof wall separating the driver and a bodyguard from the rear seats. Burns had fought with Donnelly in the swamps of Vietnam before each had gone his own way in life after the military. Once they hooked back up, Donnelly’s faith in Burns had allowed him pretty much free rein to run one of the most important top-secret programs in America’s counterterrorism operations.
“Tough meeting?” Burns said.
“You can say that.”
“Wish I could have been there.”
“The DCI gets a burr up his butt from time to time. Just wants what he calls the big boys in the room. I’ll throw him the bone. It’s not like I can risk making him into an enemy. The DNI is only first among equals.”
“It’s an unwieldy structure we have. Most countries are far more streamlined on the intelligence side.”
“With so many ‘intelligence’ agencies all jockeying for turf and budget dollars it is pretty much guaranteed that nothing will ever be streamlined on this side of the Atlantic.”
“But the results speak for themselves.”
“Absolutely they do. There hasn’t been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. That is not by happenstance. What we’re doing is working. The president understands that. That is the most important thing.”
“And so does the public.”
“Well, if they knew some of the folks we were bankrolling it would not go over well.”
Burns nodded. “But a bag full of rials or dinars doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s a big business keeping this country safe. We have money and/or financial distribution channels and they don’t. They have things we need. It’s a simple business transaction.”
“It’s a deal with the devil, plain and simple.”
“But less of a devil than the ones we’re fighting.”
“How do you keep them straight, Jarv? They keep changing on us. We’re paying off the same bastards that just last year were shooting at us and blowing us up.”
“We’re fighting the good fight with the tools we have, sir. What’s the alternative?”
Donnelly gazed out the window as the famous monuments whirled by outside. “There’s no alternative, at least for now,” he groused.
“We all do what we have to do, sir. You’re a political appointee. I’m just a working man.”
Donnelly didn’t look pleased by this statement. “They can subpoena anybody, Jarv. Including you. Don’t ever forget that.”
“I’m sorry if I conveyed a different impression.”
“And everyone is expendable, including you.”
“I never thought otherwise,” said Burns in a deferential tone.
“We did what we needed to do to survive in Southeast Asia. I’m not proud of all of it, and maybe I’d do things differently today, but I’m not second-guessing anything with my country’s security at risk.”
“We’ll get through this, Director.”
“Will we? Well, just remember this, in my agency sacrifice starts from the bottom and works up. Don’t ever lose sight of that, Jarv. Don’t ever.” Donnelly gave the other man a prolonged stare and then looked away. “Money is as tight as I’ve ever seen it. And if we don’t keep paying the sons of bitches, we’re going to have a suitcase nuke go off somewhere where we don’t want it to. The ends do justify the means. When I was in Congress I would’ve launched an investigation of any agency head who uttered those words. Now that I’m in the hot seat I can definitely relate.”
“The money will continue. The stakes are too high.”
“What’s being done with Reiger’s and Hope’s families?”
“As far as they’re concerned the two died while serving their country. They’ll be taken care of financially, of course.”
“I was deeply disappointed it came to this.”
“As was I.”
“You’ve got to have the stomach for this sort of thing. We had to deal with this shit in ’Nam. We worked with whoever we had to, to get the damn job done.”
“The younger generation just doesn’t seem to get it.”
“But Mary Bard is a hell of an asset to have.”
“Quite accommodating of our Russian friends.”
“Even Moscow is scared of the terrorism beast. They’ve got money now, and an economy worth protecting. They know they’re a target. So I snagged her from the FBI as soon as I heard she was in town. I’ve worked with her before actually. Steve Lanier, the AD, was not pleased, I can tell you that.”
“I’m sure. I’m looking forward to deploying her again.”
“Don’t overuse her. There are enough damn bodies floating around as it is.”
But one or two more won’t really matter, thought Burns.
I APPRECIATE you meeting with me, Cassie.”
Roy was walking along K Street with Cassie Benoit, who worked at DLT, the escrow agent Shilling & Murdoch used for its business transactions.
“No problem. I was heading out for a sandwich anyway. What’s up?”
“Just a document snafu, at least I think. You remember the Dixie Group purchase we closed two months ago?”
“A bunch of shopping malls in Alabama and Texas. Purchaser was a partnership in the U.A.E.”
“Good memory. That’s the one.”
“What’s the snafu? Money got there, I know that.”
“Seven hundred and seventy-five million plus assumption of debt.”
“I remember it was something like that. I can’t keep all the figures straight after a while. Too many deals.”
“Tell me about it.”
“But anyway, we only dealt with the cash, not the debt assumption, of course,” she said, biting into her tuna fish sandwich as they walked along.
“The cash got there, but two of the contingencies may not have been met.”
“One deed recordation might’ve had a problem. And there’s an outstanding issue with the anchor tenant in the Dallas–Fort Worth mall that was supposed to be resolved prior to the funds going out. There was supposed to be a release in the file but there’s no
“Shit, did we screw up?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure if we screwed up either. I wanted to come by your office and take a look at the records you have.”
“I’m swamped today, Roy. That’s why I’m eating my sandwich on the run.”
“How about after office hours?”
Cassie looked doubtful. “I had concert tickets at Constitution Hall.”
“I haven’t mentioned anything to the client. I was hoping to clean up the issue before anyone had to make those calls. And you know the U.A.E. guys. If there was a foul-up you and I might have to jump on a jet and go and apologize to the sheiks.”
The blood drained from Cassie’s face. “But I hate to fly.”
“Better we get it resolved on this side of the world, then.”
Cassie sighed and threw the rest of her sandwich into a trash bin. “How about seven tonight? Everybody will be gone but I can let you in.”
“That sounds perfect, Cassie, I really appreciate it.”
Roy left her, checked his watch, and called Mace. She filled him in on her meeting in Newark. She also told him she’d tried to catch an earlier train, but it was full. And the train she had just gotten on was delayed because a piece of equipment on a train in front of them had fallen off, been run over by the engine, and part of the power grid for the Northeast corridor might have been damaged.
“It’s going to be a while,” she’d said glumly. “Maybe tonight. Hell, I could probably walk there faster.”
“Let me know when you get in. By the way, I’m being sued by my old firm.”
“I looked at the complaint. It’s all bullshit.”
“Well, if I hear of a good lawyer I’ll let you know.”
A minute before seven, Roy appeared at the office of DLT. The firm shut down at six-thirty, which seemed early but DLT opened at six a.m. because of all its international work. After long days of crunching numbers, meeting strict deadlines, and authorizing the catapulting of electronic currency around the globe, most of the firm’s employees stampeded to the door right at closing.
Cassie answered his knock and let him in. She had taken her hair out of its usual bun and it swept around her shoulders. Her heels had been replaced with socks and tennis shoes.
“I pulled the docs that we have,” she said. “Come on back.”
“I went through everything but I couldn’t find what you were talking about. But then I’m not a lawyer.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out.”
He went over the records slowly, looking for an opening while Cassie hovered behind him in her small office. He noted the pack of cigarettes sticking out of her purse where it lay on her desk. He looked up and smiled. “This may take a while. You want to smoke ’em while you got ’em?” He tapped the protruding pack of cigarettes.
“I’ve been dying for one since lunch. But it’s a no-smoking building and I’ve had no time to sneak out.”
“The sidewalk is an option right now.”
Cassie’s fingers curled and uncurled slowly as she eyed her pack of Winstons. “Okay, I give. I won’t be gone that long. I might actually need two cigs.”
“And isn’t there an Au Bon Pain across the street?”
“Yeah, I love their stuff. Our coffee sucks.”
“Then go smoke and when you’re done go get us some java.” He gave her some money. “Take your time. Looks like we’re going to be here a while. No room for error with the Middle East guys,” he added ominously.
As soon as she was gone, Roy started clicking keys on her computer. Luckily he didn’t need her password as he was already in the database. He wasn’t familiar with their electronic filing system, but he figured searching the names of clients would be sufficient. And he was right. He quickly skimmed half a dozen transactions that he and Diane had worked on over the last eighteen months. Now he understood why Cassie had been confused about the dollar amount earlier. The escrow instruction letters that Diane and Roy had prepared for these deals, which basically told DLT how much money would be sent and on what conditions it could released, did not match up with the DLT records in one critical respect.
From his own records Roy had jotted down various facts for each of the six transactions he wanted to compare with DLT’s records. The Dixie Group shopping center deal had been for $775 million plus debt assumption. That’s what Roy had written down from the Shilling & Murdoch instruction letter they’d sent DLT. DLT had scanned all the instruction letters into their computer system. But the instruction letter Roy was looking at, which appeared to be on Shilling letterhead, had the cash purchase price at $795 million, a $20 million discrepancy. At her level, Cassie would not have caught this because she just followed the instruction letter. And if the funds coming in matched the amount stated in the letter, there would be no red flag. And apparently the incoming funds hadmatched.
Roy sat back. Why would his client in the U.A.E. have sent extra money? No purchaser paid more than the contract price. Or had the client even sent the extra money? He clicked a few computer keys and looked at the confirmation slips on the wire transfers for some of the deals. Money wires coming in from overseas were dealt with a bit differently from wires between U.S. banks, particularly after 9/11. Roy knew there was a list of sensitive countries and American authorities kept a close watch on monies flowing from these places into the United States in case they were being used to fund terrorist activities.
All bank wires, whether domestic or foreign, still ended up moving through the Federal Reserve System in some fashion and with varying levels of scrutiny. But it was still an arena that was fraught with the potential for abuse. Roy glanced at the date of the instruction letter he was looking at on the screen and then looked at the cheat sheet he’d prepared from his own records. The date on the screen was two days after the one from Roy’s records. He knew that instruction letters were updated all the time as conditions changed. But conditions hadn’t changed in this instance. Roy’s date was for the absolute final instruction letter. Someone else had later changed it, and had added $20 million in the process.
He remembered the string of extra numbers that he’d seen on the computerized records he and Mace had looked at over dinner at Altman’s guest house. He inputted the name of that client and looked at the instruction letter for that deal. Roy knew that the purchase amount had been $990 million for the manufacturing facilities. But on the instruction sheet another $25 million had been tacked on and the date on the letter again was after the latest date Roy had. And on a confirmation sheet it showed the $990 million going to the seller’s bank in New York. But where did the other monies go? To another bank? And who’d sent it? Again, Roy didn’t think his client had thrown in an extra $25 million out of the goodness of their heart.
Roy sat straight up as the answer hit him.
This was a classic piggyback scheme.
You open the financial tunnel with a legitimate transaction coming from a country in the Middle East not on the sensitive list. The purchase price goes out, but added to it are funds from another source. The legit dollars run interference for the illegitimate dollars and, when they reach the U.S. pipeline, the purchase-price dollars go to where they’re supposed to, and the other dollars go somewhere else. But if the instruction letter has the overall correct amount and delivery accounts for the monies, no one would be the wiser. And if an audit was done later the facts might be so muddled that no one could figure it out. There was so much electronic money flying around the world that it was like trying to track down a particular molecule of air.
Roy knew what this was. This was a way around the Patriot Act, which obviously was very concerned about suspicious transfers of money. The extra funds could have come from anywhere, including enemies of the United States.
True Blue by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes