09:00 (06:00 GMT)
Blake used one of his burn phones and called a trusted friend who worked in the CIA’s Swiss field office in Zurich. Stuart Tuttle handled the financials for operations that there would never be a record of. He would move money from different slush funds or pseudo projects to be used to buy weapons, equipment, different assets or pay off informants. Whatever the need, he could supply the cash. It was from this fund that would pay for all of the things he purchased for Adriana in Minsk.
“Stuart, Blake MacKay. I need a favor.”
“What now? You buying a Lamborghini or something?”
“Not quite. This is a tall order—and I need it to be kept quiet.”
“Right. Aren’t they all?”
“I need to get access to an account in the Bank of Zurich.”
“Whoa, Dude. That place is locked up tighter than a snake’s asshole in ten feet of water. I can’t even get in there.”
“Just listen,” Blake said. “I’ve got an asset that is going to gain entry to the bank and try to open an account. Once my asset is in there, I will find a way to get into their system. But I need to have a convincing bank account set-up that will spark their interest. I need you to set-up an account in another bank that we can transfer money from.”
“Blake. You know their requirements, don’t you?”
“I do. That’s why I think two hundred and fifty million will get their attention.”
“Two hundred and…Blake, I don’t have access to that kind of money.”
“Can’t you set-up some kind of ghost account? I just need them to see that the money exists. We won’t actually transfer it. I just need something for them to verify it so my asset can get entry to the bank.”
There was a brief pause on the line.
“Did you just die on me?” Blake asked.
“No. I’m thinking.”
“Well, think faster.”
“Okay. I can set-up a ghost account. I can reroute any inquiry from them with your asset’s alias to a VM that will have the data. What bank do you need it in?”
“Any large bank in Columbia.”
“Okay. I can do that. But, I’ll make it for an odd amount; two hundred and fifty-six million, four hundred and ten thousand, three hundred and thirteen dollars and fifty-four cents. To be honest, a nice round number just isn’t realistic. This will make it more believable.”
“Well, since you can set-up a ghost account, add a two in front of that number.”
“Two billion?” Stuart asked, as he drew out the word.
“Yeah! Why not? I’ve got to make it as enticing for them as I can.”
“Okay. This should be interesting. Now, how do you plan on getting access to their system?”
“I was hoping you’d have a suggestion.”
Stuart sighed. “I do. I’ve got a device that can get access to their network. It’s wireless. However, you have to have it sitting on, or next to one of their machines that is wired to their network. If you don’t have it sitting directly on the computer, it’s got to be right next to it, I’m talking millimeters away.”
“Perfect. Do you have a drop point?”
“The main train terminal in Zurich. There are restrooms adjacent to the lockers on the main level. In the last stall, the cover over the flush button comes out of the wall. I’ll put it in there.”
“I need a piece too. Glock 23 if possible.”
“Perfect. Now, the next thing.”
“Fuck, there’s more?”
“Yeah. I need this done asap. As in, now.”
Another deep sigh emanated through Blake’s phone. “Okay. Give me an hour. Is that good?”
“Perfect. I owe you. Oh, and Stuart?”
“We never had this conversation.”
Blake disconnected the call, took the phone apart and threw it in the trash.
Two hours later, Blake and Adriana sat outside the bank in their rental car. It was located on Talstrasse in the banking district of Zurich. It was a less than impressive building, as were many of the buildings in this part of Zurich. Standing five stories tall, it curved around the block adjacent to the road. It was an off white color with plain looking windows, all with blinds in a varying state of opened or closed.
Blake handed Adriana the box that he picked up at the train station. It was about the size of a laptop hard drive.
“Here is the device I told you about. Once you get in, you’re going to need to get this right next to, or on one of their wired computers.”
She took the device from Blake and put it in her purse.
His thoughts drifted to their intimate time together as she smiled back.
“I know, you’ve explained all of this already.”
“Adriana, we can’t make any mistakes. Now, you have to get this next to the computer before he or she logs in. This has a keyboard logger as well and that’s the only way I can get a password. You’ll need to see someone as high up as you can.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“We’ve set up a dummy account at the Banco de la República. It’s got more than two billion in it. It’s in the name of your alias, Maria Sanchez.”
“I’ve got it,” she said confidently. She opened the door and stretched her shapely legs out of the car.
She wore a white, form fitting dress, similar to the one that she wore to the party in Minsk. Blake watched her butt as she walked away and thought to himself how amazing she was. Once she disappeared into the bank, Blake got out his laptop and waited to get a connection.
Adriana entered the bank after she was buzzed in and walked into a small waiting room. She was immediately greeted by a security guard behind a thick, bullet proof window. “Good morning Ma’am, can I see your membership card?” he said in German.
“I’m sorry, do you speak English?”
The guard repeated his request in English.
“I don’t currently have one,” she said.
“I’m sorry ma’am, this is a members only bank. You need to have a membership card in order to enter. Have a pleasant day.”
The lock on the door she entered buzzed.
She quirked an eyebrow. “I have a sizable amount I wanted to deposit. If the Bank of Zurich is not interested, I’m sure another bank will be interested.”
The buzzing stopped.
“I am sorry ma’am, but you can come back if you get an invitation.”
Blake had attached a small microphone into a broach that Adriana put on her dress and she wore a small receiver in her ear to take instructions if needed. She heard Blake whisper in her ear.
“Tell them how much money you’ve got to deposit.”
Adriana tossed her hair back and sneered, “Maria Sanchez doesn’t need invitations.” She flipped her head up and spun on her heel. You can kiss over two billion dollars goodbye.”
She pulled on the door. “Kindly buzz me out—now!”
The guard sighed. She turned to him and suspected, by his wandering gaze, he was digesting the number she told him.
“One moment, please.” The guard picked up the phone and dialed. She couldn’t hear what he said behind the glass. After thirty seconds or so, the guard hung up. “Please have a seat. Someone will see you in a moment.”
Two minutes later, a gentleman walked through the door and greeted her. He wore a tailored dark blue suit, a pink shirt with a white collar and cuffs. It was highlighted by a beautiful blue silk tie. The diamond cuff links caught the light, as did the rose gold watch as he extended his hand to her.
“Hello, I am Herr Schmidt. I manage this branch of the bank. I understand that you are interested in becoming a member?”
The edges of her lips curled up and parted to reveal a bright and welcoming smile. She had to put on as much charm as she could. “Yes, Herr Schmidt. I am interested in transferring all of my accounts to your bank. My business has grown quite large over the years and I’d like to keep as much of my money as I can. I’m sure you understand.”
He released his firm grip and smiled back. “Yes, Miss…?”
“Sanchez. Maria Sanchez.”
“Of course. Miss Sanchez, I am sure that you are aware, or perhaps not, that we only take on a certain clientele and are limited to just a few new customers each year. What was the amount again that you were looking to deposit?”
Adriana let the amount roll off her tongue, “Two point two billion dollars.”
Herr Schmidt didn’t blink or move a single facial muscle to give away what he thought. “Well, Miss Sanchez, come in and let’s talk. We might be able to work something out.” He motioned for the guard to buzz them in. He opened the door for her and he followed. She could almost feel his eyes focused on her rear, which was what she hoped for. He came abreast with her. “This way, please.”
As he listened through the microphone to Adriana, Blake called Stuart.
“Stuart. Is that ghost account set-up? I need it ten seconds ago.”
“Yeah, all done. Where do you want me to send the info?”
“Just read it to me for now.”
Blake jotted down the account information. He searched for a fax number on the banks website.
“I need you to send a fax to this number, confirming the account.”
Blake rattled off the banks fax and then immediately gave Adriana instructions through her earpiece.
“Herr Schmidt, I’d like to deposit the entire sum.”
The branch manager rang his hands and sat down at his computer. “Excellent. Can you give me your account information?”
Reaching in her purse, she retrieved one of the burn phones and pretended to be looking at something. “I have a message here that states all of my account information has been faxed to the bank here.”
Herr Schmidt cocked his head. “Really?”
Adriana enjoyed the look of surprise on the banker’s face. She allowed a meager smile to grace her lips and decided to stroke the man’s ego. “As I told your guard up front, I don’t need an invitation. I was quite confident, being the successful banker that you are, that you’d accept my deposit.”
Schmidt straightened himself in his chair and played with his cuff links. “Miss Sanchez, can you tell me the number where it was faxed?”
She gave out the number as Blake whispered it into her earpiece.
“Very well, that is on the second floor, I will call up there and have someone bring it down.”
Adriana needed to get him out of the room. An idea popped into her head. “Herr Schmidt. As you can imagine, I like to keep my matters as private as possible. I don’t want too many prying eyes looking at my business. As a professional banker of your caliber, I am sure that you understand. I would feel better if you would retrieve the fax yourself.”
“Yes, Miss Sanchez, I understand. I would like you to know however, that we are very discreet here and keep everything completely confidential and...”
“Excuse me, Herr Schmidt, but I insist.”
He smiled and said, “But of course, I will go and retrieve it personally.”
“Thank you, Herr Schmidt. And could you please bring me a bottled water? I’m parched.”
After a moment of hesitation, Herr Schmidt smiled again and said, “Certainly, Miss Sanchez, I will be right back.”
As soon as he left, Adriana went around his desk. She removed the small box from her purse and searched for the base of his computer. It sat under his desk on the floor. It was toward the back and she couldn’t reach it by just kneeling down. She got on her knees and reached back and placed the device at the rear of the box, out-of-sight.
Unbeknownst to her, Herr Schmidt had already returned to his office.
“What are you doing Miss. Sanchez?”
Blake heard the question, held his breath and waited for her response to see how this played out.
Startled, Adriana backed out and immediately put her hands up to the back of her left ear.
“I am so sorry, I bet that looked strange. My earring fell off and rolled under your desk. It was dark and a little hard to find, but I managed to find it.” She held out one of the ruby and diamond earrings Blake bought for her in Minsk. “These were given to me by someone very special. I would have hated to lose it.”
Herr Schmidt said nothing. Just a slight, tight grin.
Adriana slid by Herr Schmidt, purposefully allowing her breasts to brush against the man’s chest.
The banker pulled out his chair and sat. “I’ve retrieved your account information and here is your water. Now let’s get started.”
Blake let out a huge sigh and said out loud, “Yes, let’s get started.”
Blake focused on his laptop and started typing. He bounced from proxy to proxy as often as he could, because as soon as he got on the Internet, he knew that someone back at the CIA would track him and try to determine his location. Blake connected to the Bank’s network and waited on Herr Schmidt to enter a password. After the key logger captured the password, Blake entered into the banks system. He first entered one of the two account numbers he got from General Vasquez’s journal.
The first account belonged to al Hamwi, no surprise. Blake could understand why al Hamwi was dealing weapons as his account had fallen well below the one hundred million dollar minimum balance that “The B” required for its depositors. The account had been flagged for closure for at least thirty days. It was at twenty-two million dollars and at least twenty million was the initial deposit Prime Minister Shorets made to al Hamwi for the weapons.
Blake entered the second number and the name on the account that came up was Hedrick von Schumacher.
Hedrick von Schumacher. Why does that name sound familiar to me?
Blake continued to flip through the files in the back of his mind to try and remember where he heard that name. He picked up and scanned through the prime minister’s notebook. Next to that account were the initials “HVS”. Blake couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d heard that name before, but he just couldn’t pull from where he’d heard it.
It was one of those things that if you thought about it, it would never come to you, but sooner or later it would flash into your mind instantly. He dug deeper into von Schumacher’s account and found multiple transactions where money had been moved to and from the account. He noticed a deposit from Butterfield Bank, in the Cayman Islands.
Butterfield Bank was located on Fort Street, Grand Cayman. It was a bank Blake had hacked into when researching Adriana’s father. He typed in the user name and password he’d set up hoping the bank hadn’t changed firewall settings.
After a few minutes of passing through firewalls and various password protected systems, Blake was in. He looked up the deposit date and time and saw that it was a deposit that was made at the bank, in person.
In person, huh? Well, let’s just see if your camera system is any good.
The video surveillance archives were easy to get into. The logs were organized by date, so he chose the date that he needed and the video from multiple cameras came up. He focused on the main door and fast forwarded to about twenty minutes before the deposit was made.
He saw people coming and going and there was nobody that either looked suspicious or that he recognized. A car went by and honked its horn. Blake looked up for a moment to see what, if anything interesting was going on. When he glanced back down he thought he saw something.
“Whoa. Hold on there. What was that?”
He reversed the video and hit play again. His heart felt as if it had stopped.
It can’t be.
He brought up the multiple screens and looked for the person he thought he recognized to appear in another screen. The person was wearing glasses and a hat, so he needed to see if there was a better angle. One of the frames displayed the subject greet someone and then remove his hat.
Blake froze the frame and zoomed in. Blake confirmed his suspicions and felt as if he’d been hit by a freight train. The memory of where Blake heard the name slammed into his brain and came to a screeching halt.
“Mike! You son-of-a-bitch!”
Adriana heard Blake though her earpiece and desperately wanted to find out what was going on. She glanced down at her phone.
“Herr Schmidt. I apologize, but I just received an important text. I need to step out to make a call.”
“That is fine Miss. Sanchez. I still have some forms I need to fill out. Take your time.”
Adriana stood up and left the office. She placed the phone to her ear as if she was on the phone and spoke into her mic.
“Blake, what is it?”
“I found out what I needed to know. Get out here as soon as you can. We have to get out of here.”
Adriana went back into Herr Schmidt’s office and said, “I am so sorry Herr Schmidt, this is somewhat of an emergency. Can we set up an appointment for tomorrow morning?”
Herr Schmidt raised his head up from his computer and said, “I am so sorry Miss Sanchez. Is something the matter? Can I help in any way?”
Adriana shook her head. “No, thank you. I am afraid it is something that I must deal with back home.”
Herr Schmidt flipped through his calendar and said, “Ten in the morning. Will that work for you?”
Adriana didn’t care what the time was. “Yes, that is fine. I will see you tomorrow.”
“I will need to escort you out.” Herr Schmidt stood up from his desk and gestured for her to step out of his office first. He escorted her down to the main door and presented his card to her and said, “Until tomorrow then.”
Once outside the bank, she started for Blake’s car, pulling the ear piece that had annoyed her from her ear.
Relief swept through Blake when Adriana exited the bank. The first thing on his mind now was going home to handle the situation that he’d just been dealt. The amount of trouble he was in for disobeying orders would be greatly overshadowed by the information he just ascertained. When they said truth was stranger than fiction, that had never before been more true than now.
The roar of a motorcycle rumbling to a stop pulled his gaze to the side mirror.
The broad shouldered Ducati’s driver was clad in black leathers and helmet. He unzipped the jacket and put his hand inside.
He glanced up at Adriana as she walked toward him. Back in the mirror, he saw a weapon.
“Oh shit! Adriana, get down!”
She continued toward Blake, unaware of what was developing. The man on the bike gunned the throttle and burst down the street. I don’t think so. Blake placed his hand on the door handle.
“Adriana! You have to get down! The biker at your two o’clock!”
Blake shot his eyes back at her. His plea’s fell on deaf ears.
“Can you hear me?”
The engine of the bike wailed as it got closer. Blake cracked the door open and laid down across the center console, placing his feet against the door. The helmet of the biker came into view. A swift kick opened the door. The biker slammed into the door and nearly ripped it off the car. He flew through the window and onto the pavement. Blake popped up. The biker’s weapon skittered across the pavement.
Blake leaped from the car and ran toward the man lying on the pavement. He turned his head and saw Adriana slide out between two parked cars with wide eyes.
The strong exhaust note of a diesel engine pulled his attention from searching the biker. A white van came from the opposite direction. He jerked his head up, but it was too late.
The van screeched to a halt next to Adriana as its rear doors flew open. Two men in ski masks rushed Adriana and threw her in the back. The van sped past Blake, and accelerated as it rushed around the corner. Its tires squealed against the unforgiving pavement.
Blake ran back, picked up the weapon and jumped into his car and started it. He slammed it into gear and floored the accelerator. He ran over the rear tire of the bike as he did a one-eighty and took off in pursuit of the van.
When he rounded the corner, the van was five car lengths ahead. It leaned to the left as it sped onto a street to the right. The engine in his car whined as he eyed the corner up ahead. People jumped back as he sped through a red light and screeched around the corner. He drew his Glock and placed it on his lap as he gained on the van. Just a few hundred feet and he would catch up.
The van weaved around cars before making an abrupt left turn at the next corner. It sideswiped a taxi and nearly flipped over. Blake negotiated the corner with better skill and missed the cab. He stuck his arm out the window and fired two rounds at the vans tires, but the van moved from left to right and made it impossible for him to get off a good shot.
Blake put his weapon back in his lap and grabbed the wheel with both hands. He accelerated and tried to ram the back of the vehicle, but the van sped up just as he got close. He turned the wheel to the right and tried to go around. A parked car blocked him and he jerked the wheel back, missing the car by a paper width.
He went left and floored it. A quick jerk to the right slammed the rear left quarter of the van with his front right. The van lurched right and smashed into a street vendor’s cart. Pretzels and drinks flew through the air.
The van strayed toward him. Oh shit! Blake dodged. He sped up and tried to get even with the window. A man of middle-eastern decent glared at him. Blake fired two shots toward the widow and shattered it.
The barrel of a machine gun protruded out of the front window and opened fire. Blake braked hard. A line of bullet holes stitched the hood before dancing up the windshield. The van dodged to the right and made a hard turn at the next corner. Blake slammed on his brakes, turned the wheel and pursued.
He mashed the gas pedal and caught back up. Blake rammed the back of the van and accelerated. He pushed the vehicle into a small compact car in front of it. The driver of the van hit the brakes. Blake’s car smashed into the back of the van and deployed his air bag. The Van accelerated.
Stunned by the airbags concussion, Blake watched as they pulled away, pushing the tiny compact out of the way. “Son of a bitch!”
Blake pulled out a knife, punctured the airbag and continued his pursuit. A block later, Blake had caught back up to the van as it approached a large intersection. It raced through the red light and slammed into a sedan on the cross street. The sedan spun to the side of the road. Blake weaved through the intersection as horns blared.
His mind was racing. Who were these people? Why did they want Adriana? What were they going to do to her? His fear and anger flowed through him and renewed his intensity to catch up and find out.
Blake dodged left as another car came from the opposite direction. The rear of his car clipped the other and Blake spun out and died sitting crosswise in the street. Tires screeched as oncoming cars attempted to avoid a collision. Horns honked. Drivers gestured and yelled.
When Blake managed to get his car restarted, he sped around the pile-up on the sidewalk. A small car blocked his way.
“Get the fuck outta the way!” Blake waved his arms in a motion for the driver of the other car to back up. “Fuck it!” Blake mashed the pedal and slammed into the smaller car and pushed it out of the way as the van finally got through the other side of the intersection.
As they approached the next intersection, once again the light turned yellow. This time the van slowed down. What the hell are they doing? Just as the light turned red, the van accelerated and went through the intersection. Half way through, the side doors slid open and Adriana flew out of the van and rolled across the pavement.
“Oh, God! No!” Blake’s heart was in his throat.
He stared helpless as she tried to get up.
An oncoming car slammed on its brakes, but its inertia was too great. It hit her as it slid through the intersection.
“No!” Blake slammed on the brakes, busted open the door and ran to her. When he reached her she was still alive. She was coughing up blood. Blood ran from her ears and mouth. Her legs were in unnatural positions.
“Adriana! Adriana! I’m here. Somebody call an ambulance! Help! Please call an ambulance now!” Blake reached down gently and held her in his arms. Blood was gurgling out of the corners of her mouth. Oh dear God!
“Just sit tight baby, help is on the way!” Blake said. A crowd started to gather around as voices in multiple languages surrounded them. Blake pleaded, “Stay with me!”
Blake shot a glance at the crowd and yelled for an ambulance again. Someone in the crowd told him that one had been called and was on its way. Blake easily put them out of his mind and concentrated on Adriana. She was trying to talk but Blake dismissed it. “Don’t talk baby, just sit tight.” Oh my God, please don’t die. Please don’t die.
A gentleman from Blake’s right handed him a rolled up blanket and then assisted in putting it under her head. She still tried to talk. Blake leaned down to hear her say, “I’m sorry.”
Blake looked at her and said, “No, don’t you be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. You were perfect. It’s entirely my fault. Just stay with me baby. Help is coming. It will be here any moment. Just stay with me. You’re going to be okay.”
Adriana tried to speak again. He leaned down and she mumbled a few words. Blake sat up and looked at her with a frown. “Brother? Who’s Brother?” The sounds of sirens now filled the air from the distance. Her fading eyes stared up at Blake as she again struggled to tell him something.
He bent down and put his ear to Adriana’s mouth and made out two words. “al Hamwi.”
Blake sat back up and stared down at her, “It was al Hamwi’s brother?” Adriana’s eyes stared up at him and gave him a slight nod. She started to convulse.
“No, no, no! Stay with me sweetheart! Help is coming! Stay with me!”
The sounds of the sirens grew closer and Blake assured her that she would be just fine, and to just hang on a little longer. Adriana’s convulsions stopped. She looked up at Blake, smiled and put her bloody hand on his cheek. As he stared down at her, he could read her lips. “I…love…you.”
Her hand dropped from Blake’s cheek and left a blood stained trail. Her eyes, void of life, were fixed on nothing. Her head turned and she was gone. Just then, the sirens stopped a few feet behind Blake. Oh dear God, no!
The EMT’s knelt next to Adriana and checked her pulse. Blake stood up feeling nothing. Hearing nothing. Blood covered his shirt and pants. His body was numb. He thought he might vomit. Something he’d never experienced when losing others.
He slowly walked back to his car as more EMT’s arrived and ran over to Adriana. Police were now converging on the scene as were more and more bystanders. There were people pointing in different directions, all speaking of their accounts of the events that just unfolded in front of them.
Blake leaned against the car and put his hands over his face. For the first time in years, he felt absolute pain and heartbreak. Sure he’d lost friends and other people he’d cared about, but nothing like this. This was a woman Blake was truly falling in love with and he was actually allowing it to happen. He welcomed it, and now she was gone and the only person to blame was himself. He started going through the typical “What if’s” and “I should of done...”.
Sure, that all sounded great in class when he went through this part of his training, but until now, he hadn’t understood the power that grief had over the human soul.
Blake turned his head over in the direction of Adriana as the EMT’s draped a sheet over her. The police would approach him at any moment to take a statement. Something he couldn’t allow. He knew field agents in the area and he would send instructions to get in touch with the coroner and claim her body. They of course would be asking for Maria Sanchez.
Blake grabbed his bag from out of the back of the car and slipped away when no one was looking. He went around a corner, removed his shirt and threw it in a trash bin. His undershirt was covered in blood as well, but not as much. Blake went by a men’s clothier that had racks outside and he grabbed the first shirt that looked like it would fit him.
Stumbling from the pain and shock, he went into an alley and pulled out one of the burner phones. He called Randy, his pilot, and told him where he was and asked that they come and get him as fast as possible. Once he ended the call, he knew that he needed to get to the airport but his feet just wouldn’t move. The power of his emotions finally took him over. He leaned his back against a wall, slid down to a sitting position, put his face in his hands and started to weep.