Greenbelt, MD – Monday, Feb. 24, 7:00 a.m. EST
Anna shifted to face de Jeanbourg in the back seat. He looked smug. “OK, so what?” she asked.
“I’ll get straight to the point,” de Jeanbourg said. “It was Sasha.”
“That’s your big truth?” Anna said, squinting, jostling her head and pursing her lips in a what-are-you-talking-about way. “I already know that Sasha was full of crap, de Jeanbourg. In fact, he was a full-blown two-faced, deceptive, manipulative mother fucker.”
“Beautiful description, but did you know he used to be with us?”
“Why should I believe that?”
“I’ll lay it out for you as simply as I can, Jones,” he said. “Sasha was at the World Bank for close to a decade. We used to have a relationship with him. His international finance posts provided good cover. He could travel freely. He could access certain funds.” He paused. “So far, so good?”
“However. Sasha lost his way, let us say. And the agency cut him off.”
“The CIA fired him?” Anna asked.
“More or less. Exactly. We didn’t have a relationship with him at that point.”
“You’re saying he went rogue—he was a rogue CIA agent?”
“He worked for himself,” de Jeanbourg repeated. “Exactly.”
Anna caught de Jeanbourg baring his teeth, lips curled, like a dog about to growl. He snapped his mouth shut. Was he conscious of it? Would he stop repeating “exactly”?
Sitting straight up, de Jeanbourg continued: “Bolokov and his hacker girlfriend were playing games with Bank funds, and Bolokov financed container loads of arms to Keng, all in the name of the United States—except, it wasn’t.”
Glancing out over the steering wheel and back to de Jeanbourg, Anna crossed her arms over her chest. “But why? He was already wealthy,” Anna said. She was kicking herself. Why had she trusted Sasha? “Why would he steal money and deal arms? All he cares—cared—about was having a good time.”
“There’s where you’re wrong, Jones. Sasha kept his ideological fervor well-hidden beneath his English boarding school veneer. But he was an American patriot, down to the bone—his hatred for Communists ran deep—and it extended to China. He wanted China in a chokehold.”
“So, he sold arms to rebels on China’s border, just like that?”
“Of course not,” de Jeanbourg said. “Sasha’s connection to Keng goes back to when Sasha was on the CIA payroll. He’s been orchestrating arms imports, small and large—guns, tanks, rocket launchers, weapons systems, drones, software, what have you, for years.”
“And Sasha, Ko and Keng were working together?”
“Ko was working with Keng, yes. But old Ko was ignorant of certain dimensions—he didn’t know Sasha was dealing with Keng, and at first he didn’t know Sasha was with Ingrid either.”
“And Ingrid, a hacker? How did that work?”
“She was a cybersecurity expert. Ko gave the go-ahead to hire her in their division, but Ingrid was Sasha’s plant, and she was a strong partner—background in math and econ. She carried her own weight, possessed her own motivations. In fact, her father was once head of clandestine services at the Agency. Growing up, she witnessed China on the rise and Daddy on the decline—and she didn’t like it. She felt the CIA’s warnings weren’t being heeded, and America’s interests were threatened. She didn’t want to wait until it was too late—until China has the whole continent buttoned down.”
“You convey a lot of details, Jeanbourg, about an operation that the CIA knew nothing about,” Anna said.
De Jeanbourg puckered his lips.
“Let me guess,” Anna said. “The CIA turned a blind eye to Ko’s weapons deals, because it behooved the US to do so. Presiding over a key buffer area encompassing the old Burma Road, controlling the resources and trade routes, isn’t bad, is it? What a nice zone of American influence!”
“We are proud supporters of self-determination,” de Jeanbourg said. “At times.”
“Weren’t you worried about wrecking the Bank?”
“The Bank will be fine,” de Jeanbourg replied.
“It didn't bother you that you used Sasha? He was doing it for himself, and yet he wasn’t. You said yourself he was acting in the name of the United States. You knew. You let him. And you don’t care about him at all.”
“That makes us sound bad, Jones. He was under no delusions. He knew we cut him loose. He continued doing his thing, because he wanted to. He was unfettered. He was rich. We didn’t stop him. That’s all. Meanwhile, my agency is limited—we face hurdles. Things like Congress, the Constitution, international law. We can’t go around giving arms to rebels!”
“Or embezzling funds designated for the world’s poor. So that’s it?” Anna asked. “Sasha and Ingrid conspired to embezzle funds and sell arms to rebels, and now they’re dead, and that’s that?”
“Don’t you think there are a few missing pieces left, de Jeanbourg?”
“Like why are Nou Channarong and Evy Poole dead, and why is someone trying to kill me and Viktor?”
“Oh, come on Jones. You’re smart. Isn’t it obvious now?”
“Spell it out for me, de Jeanbourg.”
“Until now, Sasha hadn’t gotten caught for a reason. He was cunning, and he and Ingrid—and even Ko—were fastidious. They had tracking and surveillance and security in place to protect themselves. Therefore, when Evy was fishing around and talking to Sara about it, Sasha and Ingrid detected something was up. They pursued it and realized she was planning to leak the scheme.”
“What are you saying?” Anna asked.
“I repeat: It was Sasha. Sasha had Evy eliminated. He hired someone to shut her up.”
“How could you know that?”
“American intelligence isn’t completely useless, Ms. Jones,” de Jeanbourg said. “It’s not all turf wars, you know. The US intelligence community includes 16 agencies, or 17, if you include the ODNI, which oversees them. And here’s a news flash: We do cooperate. The MPD is playing its part too,” he said, indignantly.
“Isn’t that impressive.”
“Journalists don’t care for sharing information with the police. You think it’s a conflict of interest. But you people aren’t the only ones investigating these deaths.”
“Hold on,” Anna said, raising her hands in protest. “There’s a reason why journalists and members of law enforcement and the military don’t intertwine their work.”
“Spare me,” de Jeanbourg said. “Save the ethical discussion for another day.”
“How do I know it wasn’t you?”
“Maybe the CIA had her killed.”
“We didn’t,” he said.
“But how do I know? I mean, for sure?” she asked. “It seems to me that you would have had just as much motivation to kill her as Sasha. And maybe you’re glad she’s dead too.”
“We didn’t have her killed, and I’m not glad she’s dead,” de Jeanbourg said. “Sasha went off the rails. He took things too far.”
“I don’t know.” Anna rolled her eyes. “Why are you even telling me this?”
“I told you why—because I want you to know that none of this has anything to do with the CIA. The truth will set us free, remember? The CIA is not involved.”
“So you’re saying you can’t be seen supporting rebel groups on the Chinese border, and you don’t want to have anything to do with embezzlement and money laundering at the World Bank.”
Anna frowned. “And, you want me to write this story and say you have nothing to do with it.”
“Again, we don’t have anything to do with it.”
“But what about Channarong? What really happened to him? And why would Evy snoop around?”
“Sorry, Jones,” de Jeanbourg said. “You’ll have to do some of the work on your own.”
Anna was about to tell him off, but Charles’ phone beeped.
“Excellent!” he announced. “I received clearance from public affairs for you to use a few nuggets on the record. When you write the story, you can say this: ‘World Bank employee Sasha Bolokov was not affiliated with the CIA. The CIA has no involvement in the trafficking of arms to the rebels in Myanmar, or the embezzlement or misuse of World Bank funds, according to a spokesperson for the Agency’.”
“Great, de Jeanbourg. Great. I’ll write that down,” Anna said, shaking her head in disgust.
De Jeanbourg further stared at his phone. “There’s more,” he said. “You may also state:
‘The CIA acknowledges with regret that Bolokov claimed to be a CIA officer. The Agency, however, cannot be held responsible for individuals with mental health challenges who experience delusions of grandeur or conjure up notions of working in the intelligence community.’”
“Or embezzle millions from the World Bank or conduct illegal arms deals on behalf of the CIA?” Anna replied.
“Jones,” de Jeanbourg said. “I’m forwarding these quotes to you via email,” de Jeanbourg said.
“I want you to have them word-for-word.”
“Very generous of you,” Anna said facetiously.
“Also, a caveat,” he said as he stepped out of the car. “After Bolokov put a contract out on Evy Poole, he added you and Sara Reedman to the list.” Before the door slammed shut, he added, “But don’t worry. We’re in touch with the FBI. An investigation is ongoing. And we’ve got your backs.”
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 email@example.com. 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.