Miami – Monday, Feb. 24, 12:30 a.m. EST
Jimmy Lin drove to Torenmaas’ place—he owed him that now. When Lin arrived at the security booth, he gave his name, made his case, and waited for the guards to check with the boss. Lin stared at a lizard hopping up, swirling around the trunk of a palm tree in the beam of a floodlight. He wasn’t sure what Torenmaas’ reaction to his late-night visit would be. Perhaps he would still be pissed and not want to meet. Or perhaps the post-midnight time would trigger his curiosity.
The gates lurched open and the guard waved him through. No more discussion. Satisfied, Lin parked and walked up the path. Hendrik, waiting at the front door as if it were noon, showed him in. They filed past the vase on the antique Javanese table to a windowless office off the center hallway.
A portrait of Torenmaas’ late wife hung on the wall. An antique clock ticked. Lin barely had a chance to get a good look at the painting, before Torenmaas popped in.
“Jimmy. Unusual timing.”
“True,” Lin said with a nod. “True.”
“Make yourself comfortable,” Torenmaas said. “I suppose this is important?”
Lin sat down in a leather arm chair. “Look. I owe you an apology.”
“Is that so?” Torenmaas said, sitting across from him.
“I thought you were being overcautious. Maybe age was causing cold feet. But after Raven had the accident, I did what you said. I asked my people to dig around. And it seems your hunches were right.”
“Go on,” Torenmaas said.
“Our seller, Jesse Martin, is as clever as they come. The man can navigate the most treacherous waters, and he bothers to spend on the best legal counsel. You know his reputation is rock solid, both as an arms dealer and a manufacturer. There’s nothing new there. So I moved on. The lead buyer is Martin’s childhood friend, this guy Ko, the economist at the World Bank. Nerdy professor type. Remember, they grew up in the same village—Martin was a missionary kid. Martin’s choice to get into gunmaking is intriguing, given his Christian upbringing, but that’s another topic.”
“And Ko works with his cousin Keng, as you know. While Ko is the globe-trotting front man, Keng is the military commander—the stereotypical rebel leader. Ko and Keng were partners, and I’d heard Keng wanted to work with us. Still, not complicated. We too have a reputation—and he wanted the best. All the financials reflect this—as I’ve shown you,” Lin said.
“So?” Torenmaas said.
“So here’s the problem: Keng is also working with a guy named Sasha Bolokov. It seems he is the one who pushed for me—and you. And Bolokov works at the World Bank.”
A wave of concern passed over Torenmaas’ face. “The missing piece. A whole new factor. This Sasha guy.”
“Yes, it’s the first I hear of his involvement. In fact, I’d never heard of him at all. I thought we were working with the rebel cousin duo, Ko and Keng, and I thought they knew my name through Jesse. If I had known Mr. Bolokov was hovering in the background, I might not have been involved.”
Torenmaas harrumphed. “Fuck. I told you something was off. If he is the source of the mystery money, whose coffers is he pillaging? And what else is he doing?”
“I have the same questions. Look, we could have guessed rebels placed these orders—if we thought about it. Not that we did. But now that we’re probing, I’m hearing talk of unusual activity both at the port in Bangkok and north of Chiang Mai—all kinds of ‘chatter’ about action in Kachin and Shan states near Yunnan—you know along the border of Myanmar and China. Some are even reporting unusual patrols along the Mekong down toward Laos.”
“I don’t give a shit about their border disputes, Jimmy. And I don’t care who buys arms and weapons systems from or through Jesse Martin. I just care if they pay me for my services, and if I remain undetected. I need to keep my profile low, and now we don’t even know who our business partners really are. This is a God-damned cluster fuck!” Torenmaas shouted, punching his fist in the air.
“I hate to say it,” Lin replied. “But you were right. The buyer’s financing was suspect. There are players we don’t understand. And they are not protecting our interests.”
“You are apologizing.”
“Listen. There’s something else too. Raven’s journalist friend thought you were behind their accident, right? And you thought it was me. But I knew it wasn’t either of us, so I hired an investigator to look into the truck.”
“The truck that hit them. My investigator knows a guy over at the precinct, right? So we got the police report. Raven and her friend called in information about the plate, vehicle color and markings. The police got tied up in red tape, but my friend was less restrained by legal requirements. He didn’t need more than five minutes to track down the registered owner.”
“What did the owner say?”
“I went over to see this joker myself, and I asked him who hired him. You also won’t be surprised to know that he would not tell me—at first. But I did a little convincing, you know, and he changed his mind pretty quickly. He realized how badly he wanted to help me after all, you know? Right?” Lin said. “Now guess what name he gave me?”
“Tell me, Jimmy.”
“Bolokov,” Lin said.
“Huh,” Torenmaas puffed. “Looks like I owe you an apology too, Jimmy.”
“Consider us even. What do you want to do?”
“Extract ourselves immediately,” Torenmaas said.
“Agreed. Abort the deal. I’ll set that in motion as soon as we’re done here.”
“Fine. Do it as quickly as you can—and by the way, where is this asshole right now?”
“In Chiang Mai, with Keng and Ko. Why?”
“Fuck!” Torenmaas said. “Raven is there. She’s meeting with the artist I’m promoting. She doesn’t know anything about our work with Ko and Jesse—nor does he—and I wanted to keep it that way.”
“How about this?” Lin said. “I’ll have a chat with one of my friends in the Thai military.”
“Good idea, Jimmy, my old friend,” Torenmaas said, his eyes twinkling. “They might like to hear about Mr. Bolokov’s activities.”
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