Washington, DC – Monday, Feb. 24, 3:30 p.m. EST
Anna and Tanner reached the end of the Reflecting Pool and paused by the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Anna detected a twinkle in Tanner’s eye. “Is it about the Mirror article?” she asked.
“Yes, indeed,” Tanner said, nodding and pursing his lips again. “Turns out Steven Brown, Senator Caleb’s flack, admitted to planting the smear campaign about you. You’ll never guess who put him up to it.”
“I couldn’t say,” she replied.
“Sasha Bolokov,” he said.
“That too? How do you know?”
“Brown told me himself,” Tanner said, shrugging.
“He did?” she said. “Thank you.”
“Simple blackmail,” he continued. “Something to do with a certain high-priced call girl.”
“Why would he tell you that?”
“We go way back! He couldn’t help himself,” Tanner said. “Besides, my interrogation skills are top-notch.”
“Tanner,” she whispered.
“No, that’s not the reason,” Tanner continued, chuckling a bit. “Actually, the flack over at FBI media relations filled me in. I’ve known him for years.”
“My, my,” Anna interrupted. “After all that, you do trust a flack from time to time.”
Tanner smiled. “It’s great fun to mock them, you know, but some are worth their salt. This guy I’d even call clever. Anyway, the FBI held Brown’s feet to the fire, and Brown didn’t want to go to jail. Brown confessed, in order to avoid being an accessory to Bolokov’s crimes. Now, he’s a blackmail victim. Pathetic victim. But a victim all the same. The bank account where you were supposedly receiving payments from BEAT was trumped up by Bolokov and Ingrid Jonsson.”
“Wow,” she said. “Wow,” she repeated, staring at the sun a moment too long. Squinting, she returned her gaze to the trees by the reflecting pool. At first, she saw only black and white speckles. “Sasha Bolokov and Steven Brown. Both of them could have destroyed me. One of them I knew well, the other hardly at all. I don’t know which is worse. And for what? I mean, why did Brown do it?”
“To save himself,” Tanner said. “Self-preservation is a powerful motivator. What was that about the lack of moral fiber you were discussing the other day?”
“They make me sick,” she said, staring ahead. Geese paddled around in the Reflecting Pool. One of them flapped its wings, as if preparing to take off, and settled down again. “I feel like I should tell them off, but what can one even say?”
“The story is your victory, Jones. You know that. Just tell the story. You’ve got the evidence from Evy Poole’s phone,” he said, pointing his right forefinger. “Giovanni Salazar’s flash drive, interviews with Theo van Torenmaas and Charles de Jeanbourg,” he added, pointing more fingers. “Garcia’s recordings of Sasha Bolokov and Ingrid Jonsson, and the CIA statements, however lame they are,” he said, holding out his entire hand. “Plus statements from Jordan Green and Steven Brown. It’s time to crank this out.”
Anna’s phone vibrated, and she glanced at the screen. “It’s Raven,” she said with curiosity. “Raven, what’s up?” she answered, putting the phone on speaker. “I’m with Tanner.”
“Garcia!” Tanner bellowed good-naturedly. “Working 24/7 I see!”
“I’m glad I caught you guys,” Raven said anxiously. “Things have been crazy, but the spokesman for the Royal Thai Police finally got back to me.”
Tanner leaned down toward the mike. “And?”
“He confirmed that this guy Keng, who is the cousin of Ko Maung Mai, died when the military raided the compound—along with Sasha, Ingrid and 22 other people deemed terrorists,” Raven said. “They arrested a further 27 people and confiscated a huge weapons cache—he even gave me a detailed inventory. Said the cousins have been working together to arm the rebels, both here in Thailand and in Myanmar,” she continued. “It’s all on the record.”
“Terrific,” Tanner said. “And my my. China will love that.”
“But what about Ko?” Anna asked.
“They don’t know,” Raven added. “He was neither among the captured, nor among the dead,” she added. “And the military spokesman said that with Keng, the mastermind, gone, a power vacuum has opened, and they expect a scramble for leadership.”
“That’s some amazing work, Garcia,” Tanner said.
“That’s flattering,” Raven said. “But Ko is now at the top of the most-wanted list over here. The spokesman was more than happy to share this information. They’d like to see Ko behind bars, you know? In their effort to capture him, they’re plastering his picture all over the media.”
“Ko disappeared?” Anna asked.
“It must have been a close call,” Raven replied. “The spokesman said Thai authorities were poised to arrest him upon the arrival of a large shipment of weapons and ammunition in Bangkok this week. But it never arrived, and he was not where they expected him to be.”
“Crazy,” Anna said. “The World Bank spokesperson in DC told me yesterday that Ko will be back in a month.”
“That’s never going to happen,” Raven said.
Tanner interrupted. “Hey, both of you, listen! We can follow up on Ko later. It’s time to run the story on Channarong and Poole. It’s a go. Double byline. Got it?”
“Great, OK,” Raven said. “Anna, OK?”
“OK,” Anna confirmed. “I think we can pull this off. But what about my leave of absence? I’m not even supposed to be talking to you, Tanner.”
“I’m working on that, Jones,” Tanner said. “Just get the story done.”
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