Bangkok – Thursday, Feb. 20, 11:00 a.m. local time (11:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 19)
Overlooking the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows of his suite, Giovanni was arranging Evy’s trip to Bangkok when the news caught his attention. Something deep in his brain alerted him that the chatter in the background should supersede the conversation in his ear. He put his call on hold and shifted focus. The anchorwoman on the British World News broadcast had announced something about “the mysterious deaths of two World Bank employees in Washington, DC.”
Grabbing the remote, he turned up the volume and walked toward the flatscreen.
The anchorwoman continued, "Nou Channarong, an Executive Director, was found dead in his office at the global headquarters of the renowned international financial institution. The cause of death was suicide, according to police reports. Later in the day, an assistant in the same division, Evy Poole, was shot at a restaurant in a drive-by."
Giovanni crumpled and knelt down on the Persian carpet, gaping at the TV.
"Authorities say the incidents are unrelated. At least one local expert, however, is questioning the official line," she reported.
The broadcast panned to a man who, according to the caption, was an expert on South East Asia at the Potowmack Endowment. "A coincidence, probably not. Same division. Violent ends. High-security, low-crime areas of DC," he said.
The clip ended, and the anchorwoman switched to news about record-breaking heat around the globe.
It took Giovanni a minute to think straight. Luckily, he was in his own place, and not at a hotel or in some rental for one of Mr. Gold’s missions. He darted to his antique teak desk and opened the hidden compartment where he kept his extra sim cards and phones. Grabbing two of each, he took his wallet and keys, put his loafers on, and left the building via the back staircase.
After riding in two separate tuk tuks, backtracking and powerwalking down a deserted lane, he emerged at the Temple of the Golden Mount. Luxury buses, taxis and tuk tuks filled the parking lot, while their drivers milled about waiting for their tourists. Giovanni stood against a wall, installed a sim card into one of the burner phones and called Mr. Gold.
“What the hell is going on?” Giovanni yelled when Mr. Gold picked up.
“Remain calm,” Mr. Gold said.
“What did you do to her?”
“This was not my doing.”
“We had a plan. I protected the asset and bought her a ticket. She would have been fine!”
“You misunderstand. I am not responsible.”
“When did you give the order? Before or after we had that bull-shit conversation about bringing her here for a romantic getaway!”
“I was not behind her death.”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Why would I want her dead?” Mr. Gold asked. “For our own sake, we need to know who targeted her, and what they knew, or thought they knew. Who would go to such lengths? It’s imperative that we determine the truth before anyone else.”
Pacing, Giovanni let the conversation pause.
“Be professional. There is no logic for me to want her dead,” Mr. Gold reiterated.
“Then who killed her?” Giovanni said. “Don’t you know?!”
“An investigation has been opened.”
“An investigation?! This never should have happened! You told me she wouldn’t be in any danger!”
“I will handle the investigation. Now, you must take one of your usual trips to the States and salvage the operation. Get one of the other girls to replace her.”
“No. It’s not. You can, and you will. You must convince one of the other office girls to take her place.”
“She can’t be easily replaced, not just like that. She’s been preparing for a long time,” Giovanni argued. “And not just anyone could do this job.”
“You can convince another one of the office girls to help you,” Mr. Gold insisted. “Use your outstanding ‘powers of persuasion’—and the money.”
“Even if that were possible, they will be scared by what happened. Not one of them would agree to it. I should do it myself.”
“No. Someone at the Bank needs to do it. They are the most credible. ‘Bullet-proof,’ as they say. Start with her best friend. You can recruit her now. Tell her that continuing the work and exposing the corruption is the only way to honor the dead. Say once the bad actors are caught, the girls will be free. Tell her the groundwork has all been completed and this will be over soon. Go.”
Giovanni didn’t reply, but he didn’t hang up either.
“You have no choice,” Mr. Gold added. “You must salvage the operation. She started this job, and it needs to be finished. She would want you to do that. Contact me when you get back to DC, but until then, keep your mouth closed.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.