Anyways, guilt trip aside...here is my contribution...
“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with E...”
“Isn’t it a bit early in the morning for games Ken? I haven’t even put the kettle on,” I said as I nodded towards the jug under the tap.
“It’s never too early for you to find out your next assignment.”
I turned off the tap in an instant. “Tell me.”
“This is going to be a big one Deb, we’re going to need all of your skills and all of your talent. There’s rumour of some big money floating around, no-one’s saying who’s holding but we suspect it’s one of the major players. We need you to get on the trail, chase down the sources. The end game is infiltration, and then we cash in from there.”
I was intrigued. I was part of a small team in a private agency, not affiliated with, or contracted by the government at all. Many people didn’t even know we existed until it was too late and we got we were after. I have a very special set of skills that can’t be taught in universities; only learnt in the school of life and this sounded right up my alley.
“Have you got a file for me?”
“It’s in your inbox. Get that kettle on and get moving, I don’t want to see you in this office again until it’s done.”
Ken was a good boss. He knew his stuff but tended to shy away from the field after an operation went sour a few years ago. I liked that he let me get on with things, and gave me the resources to get what we needed.
My fingers tapped a rhythm on the countertop while the jug boiled; my work could not begin until the Ethiopian/Java blend was pulsing through my veins. Tap, tap, tap... “Money for Nothing,” I realised half way through the chorus. Finally, the steaming cup in front of me, I opened up my inbox and downloaded the encrypted file Ken had sent.
It was juicy. The amount was millions, and it didn’t seem like many others had caught on to it. I knew we wouldn’t be the only interested party on this one, and it was up to me to make sure we got there first; the only way was to get there first. The reward we’d get for this would be one of the biggest wins we’d had in recent years. I scanned through page after page, looking for a way in. Bingo. Francois du Monde, 45 years old, recently divorced, handsome. This was going to be fun.
A few more pages and I had what I needed. A few mouse clicks and I had a ticket to Geneva, there was no time to lose. “See you in a day or two Ken,” I called as I headed for the door. “Confident are we?” “I spy with my little eye...espionage,” I called back with a laugh. “That’s my girl, go get ‘em!”
It was a short flight, but I used the time I had to learn more about Francois. Born and raised in Geneva but now based further north with regular trips back home, trained as a lawyer specialising in arms trade and money laundering, and a prime target for information. If anyone was going to know about this money floating around, he would. It would just be a matter of getting him to share that information with me. Ken’s file contained all sorts of juicy bit and pieces, but most importantly, the bar Francois preferred at the end of a hard day of lobbying in Geneva and the fact that there just so happened to be an arms trade meeting on this week. I hurried through the airport, dodging women with small yapping dogs in the arrivals area and dashed for a taxi. I had some time to kill, and figured there was no harm in a free lunch.
“Jackson,” I purred, “I’m in Geneva, are you around?” Of course he’d be around; he was such a good little bureaucrat. “Deb, how nice to hear from you. Yes, I’m at the office. Do you want to stop by for a late lunch?” “You read my mind; I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” “I’ll put your name at the door, you shouldn’t have any problems.” I didn’t bother saying goodbye, and directed the driver to the Palais. He stopped as close as he could get, and I waited for an eternity as he wrote out a receipt. In my line of work, no matter how large the payoff, every dollar, or franc has to be accounted for.
I checked my hair in his rear view mirror, fluffed it up and snatched the receipt. “Merci,” I called as I shut the door. I stepped into the revolving door and strode confidently to the security desk. “Deborah Carlton, to see Jackson James.” Such an American name, for such an American, I thought as I slid my I.D across the desk. The security officer handed me a lanyard and directed me to the seventh floor. No escort required. I found myself humming along to a muzak version of “Call me Maybe” and quickly stopped, disgusted at myself. The doors slid open and there he was, blonde and tanned and trying to be nonchalant.
“Deb, babe, you look great,” his Californian accent grated as he bent down to kiss me three times on the cheek. “Jackson, how are you?” “All the better for seeing you. I don’t have a lot of time, they need a briefing paper by 7, but I’ve cleared an hour.” “Well, let’s make the most of it then.” “I’m afraid the canteen will have to do,” he said as he headed for the lift.
“What’s the briefing paper on?” I asked, trying to sound as if I didn’t know. If only Jackson James worked on money laundering with Francois du Monde this would be a more useful hour. “Peacebuilding in Mindanao, it’s an island in the Philippines. We’re trying to get a big grant but it’s been really difficult.” “Oh I think I’ve heard of it,” I said casually. I wasn’t going to reveal to him that I’d spent time there trying to work around the MILF after Ken’s breakdown. “It sounds like a really interesting place, but there’s just not a lot of interest any more I wish I could go, but...” he trailed off, probably trying to avoid the reality that he was a desk jockey who would likely remain that way for a long time.
“But what about you, what are you doing here Deb?” “Oh just a few meetings, nothing interesting. Swiss banks aren’t as exciting as the movies tend to make out.” It was the story I usually used with people like Jackson, or the hairdresser at home. No-one ever wants to hear about banks. One of the many skills I’d developed in my line of work was being an excellent listener. I asked the right questions, and didn’t need to say more than a few words the entire hour. It was creeping closer and closer to the hour where I’d find Francois. “Sorry Deb, I’ve really got to get back.” “I understand, it was so nice to catch up.” “How long are you in town for, can I see you again?” “I’ve got a flight in the morning,” (lie), “and a load of meetings this evening,” (lie), but I’ll definitely give you more of a heads up next time so we can catch up properly,” (lie). He beamed at me, “promise?” “Promise.” (lie). He kissed me three times again, lingering on the last one. I smiled brightly and turned to leave. “Good luck with Mindanao,” I called over my shoulder, and strode out of the building.
At this time of the afternoon the traffic wouldn’t be too bad, I calculated that it would take me half an hour to walk to the bar, enough time to pick the perfect vantage point to intercept du Monde.
The evening passed in a blur, well it did for du Monde. Another one of my finely honed skills is holding my liquor, something Francois had yet to master. I’d gotten exactly what I needed, confirmation of the existence of the money and the source. I sent a text to Ken on the way to my hotel, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with S...” Moments later, his reply. “I knew you could do it, write it up and I’ll sign it off tomorrow.”
I pulled out my laptop and typed furiously.
Hand Relief International hereby applies to SIDA for $3 million for peacebuilding activities in Mindanao.