Bangkok – Thursday, Feb. 20, 11:30 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 19)
After Mr. Gold shut down their conversation, Giovanni took off on foot. When he reached a canal, he removed the sim card from the burner phone and chucked both pieces into the water. Consumed by anger and disgust, sadness and self-hatred, he kept walking. The rich colors, sounds and scents of Bangkok’s crowded streets failed to register.
Floating in a stupor, Giovanni recalled the first time he had approached Evy at the embassy—back when she was in town to evaluate Bank projects in the region. He envisioned her laughing. He saw her walking down the dark alley that night toward the Three Dragons. Then he pictured her in DC. She was in her apartment in Columbia Heights, lounging around in her favorite prairie skirt. He remembered her body, intertwined with his on Karon Beach in Phuket. He saw her reading the newspaper, the printed kind. She was preparing French food for him in her tiny kitchen. Then she was riding her bike in Bangkok. She was lying naked in bed after they had made love, asking him about his childhood. He heard her explaining her future working in international development, having kids someday.
Bringing her on board had seemed a stroke of genius, and not only for their operation. He hadn’t known his personal life could be that good.
“How did it come to this? How could I allow her to be killed?” he muttered.
When Giovanni finally got home, he went straight to his liquor cabinet and filled a tumbler with vodka, dispensing with the ice and lime. Then, he connected his laptop to the flatscreen, sat on the couch and downed half the glass. He scrolled through the files, and when he located the videos he had taken for Mr. Gold, he clicked play on the one when Evy had started to soften.
Her face came up on the screen—unknowingly, she had been looking straight into the camera—and a specter of his former life filled the suite:
“My project fits with your principles,” he said. “Charles told me you were brilliant, and that you care about the truth. This is exactly what we need.”
“I remain dubious,” she said, raising her right eyebrow.
“This is sensitive information, Evy. Do not divulge it to anyone else.”
“Or what? You’ll eliminate me?” she said, laughing. “Giovanni, do you think you’re in one of those spy movies I watched as a kid?”
Giovanni remembered the sound of her laughter as she joked about the spy movies. The fact that she didn’t take him seriously had confused him.
“There would be consequences, Evy, if you jeopardized national security,” he told her.
“You mean, I wouldn’t get to enjoy these extravagant dinners?”
“Evy,” Giovanni said. “We can stop talking about this right now if you want to. But I think you should hear me out. Remember, I am offering to erase your student debt if you complete the contract. That’s almost $100,000.”
“It’s creepy that you know how much debt I have. Also, I’m not sure I want to know what I have to do. For that much money, are you planning a hit?”
“I told you it was important, and it is.”
“Shouldn’t I be top secret or something to talk to you about this?”
“Eventually, yes. If you choose to proceed, we will set all that in motion.”
“So, if I listen to you, and you tell me what exactly you have in mind, I still don’t have to do what you want, if I don’t want to? You will let me go, if I say no—as long as I keep quiet about what you asked?”
“I can say no?”
“You can say no.”
“I should probably walk out right now,” she said, darting her eyes at him sideways. “I’m pretty sure you’re full of crap. But I guess I can listen to your ask. I am not necessarily saying yes.”
Giovanni remembered that flirtatious glance well. He recalled sitting back and placing his hands on the table in an attempt to show gravitas.
“Got it,” he said. “Good. We need you to pose as a whistleblower.”
“What?” She gaped. “Where?”
“At the World Bank.”
“But I have nothing to expose.”
“You would take evidence to a particular journalist, someone we have in mind.”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“Let me finish.”
She cut him off: “You want me to be a whistleblower or pose as one?”
“We don’t need you to gather the evidence. We already did that—mostly. You'll obtain certain documents and electronic files, but we'll tell you where and what to extract. From the vantage point of the journalist, you will be the whistleblower.”
“I would lose my job, maybe worse,” she said.
“No, you won’t. You'll demand that the journalist does not reveal your identity—you may have to tell the editors at the newspaper, but they'll agree to protect you. That's how it’s done. Your name won't get into the press unless you authorize it. The Bank won't know it's you, and your reputation won't be at risk.”
“What am I supposedly exposing?”
“A little vague, wouldn’t you say?”
“We’ll get there.”
“Why not expose it yourself?”
“Indeed. It might seem easier—at first. But if the CIA comes out and says that the World Bank is doing something untoward, it’s not the same. We need the whistleblower to make it authentic.”
“You could deliver the evidence anonymously,” she added.
“It’s a thought. But the journalist needs a known source, and that source is you. Otherwise, he—or she—is less likely to believe the story is true,” Giovanni said.
“Maybe it isn’t.”
“But it is. It is true,” he said. “And you will be convincing.”
“How do you know I’ll be convincing? You can’t be sure of that. You are willing to pay me $100,000 to pick up a few documents and tell people about it? Sounds too good to be true. So—you know how the saying goes—it probably is.”
“You don’t have to believe me. You will see for yourself, once I show you where to find the details. You might have done this without a payment, but we didn’t want to take any chances.”
“That you would refuse. This needs to be done right, and it needs to be done by a credible person. That person is you.”
“You can’t believe I would do this without knowing more about the so-called wrong-doing?”
“I am prepared to tell you.”
Evy stared at him.
It felt like she was present. She was right there!
“Someone is skimming off millions for their own purposes,” he said.
“It relates to the Golden Triangle.”
“The Golden Triangle!?”
“Northern Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, west and southwest of the Chinese border. At least 135 ethnicities and distinct languages.”
“I was expressing amazement, not ignorance,” she said. “I work in that division. I know the region. It’s famous for its natural resources, gems and textiles—but also opium, heroin and meth.”
“Precisely,” he said.
“You name it. Water filtration, rural roads, telecoms, education, fisheries, women’s health initiatives. Projects all over South East Asia—Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam—are supposedly getting this aid. In reality, they never see it. Most of it, that is—enough financing trickles through to ensure the projects don’t die.”
“That’s awful,” she said.
With that, the recording ended. Giovanni remembered wondering if she possessed a photographic memory. Ebullient, brilliant Evy!
Giovanni’s nostrils flared. Crying out in agony, he grabbed the tumbler and hurled it at a print on the wall. Shards rained onto the floor—broken crystal mixed with picture frame glass. The base of the tumbler landed with a thud. His head pounded. He crouched on the floor and sobbed.
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