Washington, DC – Sunday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. EST
Disgusted at de Jeanbourg’s disappearing act, Anna was sitting on her couch, eating a piece of pizza and plotting her next move, when the phone rang. Caller ID showed who it was, but she didn’t answer. The phone warbled again. She took a bite of the pizza and looked at the phone. It rang the third time. She stared at the display. When it sang its little song for the fourth and last round, she grabbed it after all.
“Raven,” she said, putting the pizza down. “Hey.”
“Oh my God, Anna! Thank God! I’m so glad I caught you. Didn’t you get my messages?”
“No,” she said flatly. “I didn’t.”
“I need to tell you what’s been happening!”
Anna’s phone vibrated again. She had been expecting Mel. “Hold on a minute, Raven. I have to take this.”
“Wait!” Raven said.
Anna switched to the other call.
“Hi. I’m downstairs,” Mel said.
“See you in a minute.” Anna called the doorman and asked to let Mel in. Then she went back to Raven.
“Anna!” Raven yelled. “It’s urgent!”
“I had to let my friend Mel in, and…”
“Listen to me!” Raven interrupted. “I’m in Chiang Mai. With my uncle’s contact, remember? And that guy Sasha is here too. He and Ko are involved!”
“Where?” Anna said.
“Involved with what?”
“Evy’s death. Sasha and Ko.”
“Sasha who works at the Bank? What are you talking about? I just had lunch with him a couple days ago.”
“Well, he’s here now!”
Anna frowned. “Why should I listen to you anyway? You’ve been talking to Viktor behind my back!”
“Oh, forget that, Anna!” she implored. “The thing with Viktor was a long time ago.”
“A long time ago? Really?” Anna demanded. “You’ve been lying to me since I got to DC.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, Raven, you can stop the charade. It’s not just about Viktor. You and your uncle are up to something. I know there was no family funeral in Miami.”
“OK! You’re right. I lied!” Raven paused. “And I may have been a little jealous of your relationship with Viktor. And that may have made me a little—unwelcoming. But my uncle and I are not up to anything. Tanner sent me to follow you.”
Anna felt like she’d been slapped.
“Ask him about it!”
Anna’s stomach turned. Would Tanner do that? He might.
“He did it as back-up,” said Raven, reading Anna’s mind. “He thought the shock of Evy’s death, after your history—you know, the shootings in Moscow, Viktor and all—might stress you out. What if you have PTSD or something?”
“I don’t have PTSD, Raven. That’s absurd.”
“Well, I don’t know. He was protecting you, Anna!”
“More like he was protecting the paper,” Anna said as she heard a knock on the door. “Hang on a minute,” she said, putting Raven on hold, trying to grasp the implications of Raven’s assertions. She let Mel in and pointed at the fridge. “I’m back,” she told Raven, as Mel walked over to the refrigerator, took out a bottle of beer.
“Thank God,” Raven said. “I was afraid you would hang up. Please. Listen! It makes sense. Tanner has to protect the paper first.”
Anna hurried to assess Raven’s argument. Had she really been sent in as back-up? It was not so far-fetched. But what did that say about Torenmaas and the accident? And Raven? “I don’t have PTSD,” Anna said once more.
“OK. Fine. We can talk about the personal side later, but right now, please listen to me! I’m telling the truth. Tanner sent me here too, and now I have some pretty insane pieces of the puzzle. This is not about my uncle, and Sasha is not in DC! I need you to listen to me.”
Anna sighed hard. “OK, I’m listening.”
Raven explained everything that happened as she followed Sasha, Ingrid and Ko.
“Raven, this is surreal,” Anna replied. “Sasha and Ko are there? Sasha is with Ingrid? And Ko threatened to shoot you!? It’s really crazy.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to get through to you!”
“I’ve known Sasha for years, and he never mentioned Ingrid. It’s hard to get my head around it. Are Sasha and Ko in league with one another, or not?”
“Whatever went on before, seems like not anymore.”
Looking at Anna, Mel turned her hand in circles.
“Raven, I’m putting this call on speaker—my friend Mel is here,” Anna said. “I’ve known her forever, and she works on the Hill—she might lend some perspective, alright?”
“Sure,” Raven replied.
Mel nodded, continuing to nurse her beer, as she listened attentively.
“What did your uncle say?” Anna asked.
“My uncle?” Raven asked.
“Didn’t you ask him what Sasha and Ko are doing there?”
“Why? He wouldn’t know them. He’s just funding the project with Ice.”
“Rather a large coincidence that they are all there now, right after he sent you too, isn’t it?”
“Not really. I don’t know. Why would he tell us to come here and inspect his operation, if he had anything to hide? I thought you would have an answer. Does any of this fit with your Bank research?”
“Raven, you need to call your uncle.”
“Fine, I’ll call him. But he’s not going to know anything about Ko and Sasha. Now, can we move on?”
“If you agree to call him, and really press him on this, I’ll share what I found out.”
“Finally,” Raven said. “Deal.”
“I’ve been analyzing the information Evy left on her phone. Also, Tanner assigned a couple of people to help slice and dice the data, and he sent stringers to check out the projects on the ground. Putting it all together, I realized we were on to something.”
“But I thought you were persona non grata over there,” Mel interjected.
“Tanner is keeping me in the loop,” Anna said.
“That’s surprisingly cool,” Mel said.
“It’s not altruism,” Anna added. “He’s covering his own butt—he knows the editors in New York are wrong, and he doesn’t want the paper to lose the real story.”
“So what did you find out?” Raven said.
“A lot of the projects have been starved of financing,” Anna said.
“How starved?” Raven asked.
“None of them was running full capacity—far from it. Potemkin Villages. Millions and millions of US dollars are being diverted,” Anna said.
“The projects are fake?” Raven asked.
“Not fake,” Anna said. “But not exactly real, either. I think they’re fronts.”
“But what does this have to do with the dude Giovanni Salazar?” Mel asked. “And what Jeanbourg told you at Union Station?”
“What stuff?” Raven interrupted.
“Basically, Evy thought she had a side gig with the CIA through Salazar—to help expose some sort of corruption—but it seems he didn’t actually work there.”
“Whoa,” Raven whispered. “So who was he working for? And why would he care about exposing corruption at the Bank?”
“Yeah, why publicize it?” Mel added. “What could he gain from that?”
“I don’t know,” Anna said. “Also, I don’t see the link to Channarong. Or Sasha. Yet.”
“Maybe Salazar was blackmailing somebody,” Raven said. “Sasha, Channarong, somebody else? Like if they didn’t comply, he would have this information leaked?”
“Raven, maybe this is too dangerous for you,” Anna said.
“I’ll be fine. If I don’t keep up with Sasha, we’ll lose him, and besides, I want to help my uncle. It’ll be better for everybody, if we figure out what’s really going on here. Ice can help me, and I’ll keep you updated. Now, I’ve got to jump,” Raven said, hanging up.
Anna shook her head.
Mel walked over to the fridge and grabbed another beer. She raised her eyebrows at Anna. “Beer?”
“No thanks,” Anna said.
“We need to warn Sara,” said Anna, picking up her phone. “I can’t believe that man—having Raven shadow me.” She shook her head. “Speak of the devil. Check this out. He just sent a text, says to call him right away.”
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