The Terrorist’s Game
“There’s no such thing as an aura of mystery anymore. It doesn’t exist. That’s a thing of the past.” -Scarlett Johansson
When the group returned to Eduard’s apartment, Cameron and Leonid were watching TV. The calm in the air concerned Talia. While dining at Hofnin The Harbour Restaurant, she had received a phone call from Ambassador Taheem Sarraf. He informed her of a report from his intelligence that they could find no records of a Cameron Walker from Seattle Washington. Talia couldn’t figure out why Taheem would not let the situation go, but she did wonder about Cameron’s past. He didn’t seem to have one in the known digital world, and in her experience, ghosts weren’t a good thing.
Talia excused herself and stepped outside the small rustic dockside restaurant to continue what had suddenly morphed into a classified conversation. “What do you mean, he has no record?”
“My dear, the man does not exist,” Taheem replied. “Qatar State Intelligence is thorough, and they found nothing. No employment records, no identification, no tax records, no property, and no credit history. In Seattle, as in the known world, he does not exist.”
“Good to know,” she replied. “I’ll handle it. He will not come near you again. Promise.”
“Can you guarantee that?” Taheem asked. “He makes me nervous. A man who wanders into my house and cannot be traced is of great concern to a man in my position. My peers will not appreciate the fact that I, by association, may be a security risk.”
“I can guarantee that he won’t come near you.”
“How can you be certain?”
“He’s out of the country working for me.”
“Be careful,” he warned. “There is something wrong about this man. I cannot say what at this time, but my gut tells me something is wrong.”
As Talia entered the apartment, Cameron rose and came to greet her. She handed him a container with a burger in it.
“How’s it going?” she asked. “Any breakthroughs?”
“Great.” He flashed her a huge grin and took the container. “Smells good. How was dinner?”
“How was dinner?” she snapped. “Who are you?”
Everyone else immediately left the room upon hearing the tone in her voice.
“What are you talking about?” Cameron asked.
“I got a call while I was at dinner. Do you remember Taheem Sarraf?”
“Of course I do. He has a great house in the Hamptons.”
“His people ran a background check on you.”
“They found nothing,” he scoffed.
“Correct. How did you know that?”
“In addition to tracking, as I said earlier, I also design programming that keeps investigators at bay. I use it. I don’t like to be monitored. Did they call Google?”
“I don’t know, why?”
“Look up the general number on your phone. Don’t take my word for anything. Give them a call. Ask for the security lab and to speak to Doctor Gene Markowski.”
Talia took out her iPhone 11 Pro and did as Cameron said. She reached Doctor Gene Markowski, inquired about Cameron and asked for a photo. She waited a minute and a photo arrived via text. The photo was Cameron beyond any reasonable doubt.
“Can we get on with things now?” he asked, as she put down her phone.
“He must be who he says he is,” she thought. “I looked up the number myself.”
“Yes,” she snapped. “Now, what the hell is going on? You’re watching TV. Did you locate Percival or not?”
“Not yet,” he replied as he swallowed a bite of the burger. “That’s good,” he said, indicating the burger.
“Did you give up?”
“Of course I didn’t give up. I’m waiting for something to be delivered, and once I set that up, we wait for him to contact us. When he calls, you will know his exact location. I swear.”
Talia couldn’t believe it. “You mean, we can track him?”
“Unless my analysis of his programming and make and model of phone is off,” Cameron said. “I looked at all the communications that I could find. The messaging is indicative of an older Moto; the G series. Basic stuff. I took the liberty of checking the satellite schedules against the timing of the communications. From the patterns that I could match, it’s likely he has the ability to monitor government satellites from the U.S. and maybe other countries. It is true that some of the satellites roaming the stratosphere can use their GPS to triangulate communications, so he’s wise to have access to schedules for intelligence satellites. His patterns of communication seem to coincide with the American spy satellites. Ironically, by only communicating when there aren’t any of these specific satellites in his area, we are gaining some insight into his location. When he contacts you, I’m hoping to zero in on the location, but I would guess he’s somewhere in Ukraine, Poland, or maybe Hungary or Romania. Somewhere in that region.”
“You determined this from time schedules?” Eduard asked, reentering the room. “How did you deduce that?”
“I read her books.” He motioned to Talia. “You noted that most of the terrorists go out of their way to avoid government satellites passing over their locations. You stated that it was part of a collective paranoia shared amongst terrorist groups. I checked the schedules, particularly for the U.S. Then I checked the times of his transmissions for the last several months. After I filtered all the information through an algorithm I created, I pinpointed an area as much as I could. I’m waiting for a military sat phone to be delivered. Once I set up the SIM card in the phone, when he calls, I can calculate his precise location.”
Talia was impressed. He had used her books to help him track the separatists. She wondered why Taheem Sarraf was so skeptical about him. She verified his background story herself. He was helping her, and he had no underlying reason for it that she could see. She needed the help, because she was far too close emotionally to the issue to be effective against the Alder Nation. She was determined to win this battle, irregardless of how close to it she was emotionally.
She sat down on the sofa and looked away for a moment, to catch her breath. It seemed as though she had been running at a million miles a minute forever. This was the first time in years that she felt she could catch her breath, because she had made some headway in her situation. She hadn’t been able to focus on anything else for years. Then the photo on the wall caught her attention.
Her face turned white. “The house,” she realized as she gaped at the photo on Eduard’s wall.
Cameron noticed her face go pale and that she was looking at the photo. “Are you okay?” he asked, not wanting to acknowledge that he had also seen and connected the photo to her dream.
She shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about the photo. She needed to think about it before she discussed it with anyone. She suddenly believed that her dream was most likely just a dream based on the stupid picture that hung in Eduard’s living room in Iceland.
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
“You look like you just saw a ghost,” Cameron said. “Did I miss something?”
“No,” Talia said, desperately wanting to change the subject. “So, you can track him? Impressive. You said you’re waiting for a sat phone to be delivered?”
Cameron had been waiting for her to ask him about that. “I developed a sat phone with some programming in it that is ideal for this situation. We marketed it last year to certain military factions and government leaders, and it was a huge money maker. It can decipher most blocking software and it uses GPS to pinpoint the caller’s location to a quarter mile. Unless Percival has something that I haven’t dealt with before, the sat phone should track his every move.”
“Where did you order the phone from?” Eduard asked. “It will take quite some time if it is being shipped from the United States. That could take more time than we have.”
“I called my old boss, Gene, and got a list of exclusive customers,” Cameron replied. “You remember Gene, right Talia? Anyway, the phone wasn’t available retail ever. It was only offered as a specialty item to certain high end clients. Nina Friederichsdottir was one of the customers on that list.”
“Nina Friederichsdottir?” she asked.
“I thought you knew all the important people on Earth,” he snarked.
“Shut up!” she snapped. “I know who she is.”
Eduard smiled. “The President of Iceland.”
“Bingo,” Cameron said. “We’re in Iceland. She’s the only one in the whole country that has one of those phones. One of her people should deliver it any minute.”
“Why didn’t I know about this phone?” Talia asked.
“You don’t consult that department of Google,” Cameron snapped. “You call government contracted companies for this kind of thing. I was in the private sector, baby. Way more effective, and frankly decidedly less expensive. No $12,000 toilet seats in my world.”
“You’re a pain in my ass,” Talia snarked.
“Doesn’t make me wrong,” he chided.
There was a knock at the door. “That should be the phone,” Leonid announced.
Eduard opened the door. “Madame President. I did not realize that you made your own deliveries.”
A middle aged lady with a surprisingly smooth complexion, and dyed blonde hair, wearing a sensible off the rack brown pantsuit with a lovely floral scarf, stood in the doorway smiling at Eduard. “It is good to see you. How long has it been? Congratulations on your election. We should schedule a summit, so we can visit.”
He smiled. “So good to see you. I would like nothing more than to schedule a summit with you, but that will have to wait unfortunately. Currently, I have time sensitive extremely pressing business. Thank you for lending us your phone. You are wonderfully generous. Thank you so much.”
She handed it to him. “Of course, I am always happy to help. What is this about? The phone is fabulous. The inventor said he was here. I would like to meet him.” She walked to Cameron. “I would bet any amount of money that you are the genius that designed this phone.”
“You are right,” Cameron said. “It’s an honor to meet you, Madame President.”
“You have no idea how much I adore this phone. I use it to keep track of my sixteen year old granddaughter more than anything else, but it is genius. My granddaughter lied to me and blocked my GPS constantly until I bought this phone. What do you need it for?”
“It is top secret,” Eduard replied. “I am sorry, I hope you understand.”
“I respect that. I will have to settle for dinner with you instead, Mr. President. You can use that phone for as long as is necessary, but when you return it, I want you to deliver it yourself. Then, we can go to dinner. I will not take no for an answer.”
Eduard had known Nina for years; how long he wasn’t certain. She was attractive, especially for her age. He had been avoiding dating her because she lived in Iceland, and neither one of them could move because of their positions, but she was direct and not about to let him slip away indefinitely.
He smiled. “You have a deal. I look forward to that.”
Nina’s face lit up. “Finally, a dinner date with Eduard Sokolovsky.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Today is my lucky day. I will be waiting for your call. Ciao!” she said as she left.
Talia grinned at Eduard. “You old dog, you! I didn’t know you had a thing with the President of Iceland. You never said a word about her.”
“There are many things that I do not discuss with you.”
Cameron turned on the phone. He bypassed the phone’s security, then inserted a new SIM card and reprogrammed the sat phone as the cell phone that Eduard received Percival’s communications on.
“It’s ready. I transferred Eduard’s account to this phone. The phone’s programming will deactivate Percival’s blocking software and allow us track him. I designed it for this purpose. Madame President was right that it is useful in tracking teenagers. A lot of the time, teenagers are ahead of the technology curve. I made a fortune because of that.”
“What if he doesn’t call?” Talia asked, ignoring his comment about his formative years.
“He’ll call,” Cameron replied.
“What makes you so sure?” she asked. “He could take my daughter somewhere that I will never find her.
“Has he ever stopped calling?”
“Then why would he stop now?”