It is the end of May, two thousand and fifteen.
There is a man and a woman who are civil servants of Military Intelligence Five and Military Intelligence Six respectively. They are walking side by side along Vauxhall Bridge Road. They are on their way to the Houses of Parliament. It is about a twenty-five minute walk from the Special Intelligence Service building. They are walking over to the Houses of Parliament because there is an arranged meeting that was set up a couple of weeks ago. The man and woman that are walking there are Miles Stones and Mary Johnson.
Mary is wearing a light red dress that falls below her knees, with a pair of black six-inch heels and red soles. She is carrying a black clutch hand bag and a short umbrella. Miles is wearing a three-piece dark-grey suit, tailor fitted, and a black raincoat over it. He has a double cufflink shirt with a black tie to go with the suit. He is also carrying a short umbrella in his left hand and a black shoulder man bag on his right shoulder. He has a tablet and some stationery inside the man bag.
They are looking to set up a new agency that will not have an enforcement practice. The agency will be set up to gather information and evidence of companies supporting terrorism, so interested governments around the world, including the UK, can act upon the data. This means that the civil servants of the new agency will not be trained to fire guns or trained to fight in combat. However, the field agents they want to employ will have some form of training in defending themselves and how to evade being captured and how to escape. The civil servant field agents will be given numerous identification tags, so they can enter various business offices and manufacturing plants to gather photographic evidence and any soft copies on Universal Serial Bus, also known as USB sticks. They want the new agency to be set up inside the Special Intelligence Service building. The reason is because the size of the department will be small. The new agency does not have a name yet, but it is the least of Miles’ and Mary’s problems.
They take the route along Millbank so they can walk along the Thames. The road takes them directly to Parliament Square. The weather is cloudy with light grey skies and there is a chance of rain. They do not make small talk with each other during their walk, to the meeting with the foreign secretary.
The meeting is arranged for ten o’clock this morning. They were in the office till midnight last night. Then they were back in the office before eight o’clock this morning. It was to finalise the presentation and go over the content to make sure that the presentation flows.
After twenty minutes of walking, they finally reach the entrance to the Houses of Parliament. They have to show their identification card to the two security guards. They then have to put their belongings in a tray so it can be scanned through a machine that you normally see at airports. The entrance takes them to the lobby area with a black and white chequered floor and wooden wall interior. There, they have to walk down one of the corridors that branches off from the lobby, to get to the meeting room.
They eventually reach the committee room where the presentation will take place. They are ten minutes early and the first to arrive. Miles gets his tablet out of his shoulder man bag and his notes of what he wants to say as a part of the presentation. The committee room is rectangular in shape. It is very dated with tar-coloured walls, which would have been fashionable in the sixties. The floor is a dark solid wood, the sort that you would find in a primary school assembly hall. There are two double doors to the room, at each end. There are three double windows on one side, that allows you to see a garden and to let light in. The windows and doors are a mahogany-coloured wood.
The only furniture in the room is a slim oval-shape table in the centre and a projector facing the opposite wall to the windows. The table is in a dark brown solid wood. It can seat up to twelve people. The projector is modern and can be used to connect a laptop or tablet to present a PowerPoint slide show.
Eventually the foreign secretary and his assistant come through the other double doors that do not lead to the corridor. Miles and Mary sit at one end of the table to their entrance and the foreign secretary and his assistant sit at the opposite end.
Mary Johnson called for a meeting with the foreign secretary, to ask for new funding. This is for a new department, to deal with an old threat to the United Kingdom.
Mary wants the new department to run inside Military Intelligence Six, the Special Intelligence Service building. The reason why is because initially, the agency will be too small to stand alone and have its own office building.
Miles Stone highlighted the old threat to Mary, to ask her to persuade government to fund it.
Miles realised the old threat when he was requested by the prime minister to look into how a father and daughter were killed in Salisbury. They were originally from Russia. The media were blaming the Russian state government.
Miles was given access to all forensic evidence found by the police. During Miles’ investigation, while the media were coming to their own conclusions, he saw that forensic evidence included a partial logo leading to a company in Wales. Miles also found that there were also four other companies that participated. Miles linked the five companies by financial transactions and contractual agreements, he retrieved himself. The five companies are trading on English soil, but owned by officers in Russia, America, Italy Australia and Morocco.
The company in Wales manufactured the product that killed the father and daughter. The prime minister wants to keep it out of the press. The components were imported from Europe and put together by the company.
This is what prompted Miles to set up a new department to tackle the companies funding terrorism from the United Kingdom.
The foreign secretary begins the meeting by saying, ‘You called the meeting. What do you want?’ with a fed-up look.
Mary responds with a calm voice, ‘I have called for this meeting to set up a new division. I feel—’
The foreign secretary cuts her short, ‘We do not have the funds. I keep telling you this. I thought this meeting was about making cutbacks. I have the PM breathing down my neck, what with Brexit and austerity.’
Mary stays calm, not pandering to him, ‘With the utmost respect, our enemies are evolving. Therefore the components of a bomb are being imported and exported through legitimate businesses. Then put together on arrival. So as separate components, they go undetected.’
The secretary asks, ‘How do you know all this?’
Mary replies, ‘We looked into a company’s activity in Wales. Even though it is out of the public eye, we have confirmed who created the Novichok nerve agent.’
The foreign secretary replies, ‘You could have looked too much into this. Trying to make the evidence fit in with the incident.’
Mary is starting to feel frustrated with him. ‘On the contrary, check with your boss. She has been briefed already. This will not be the last.’ She is referring to the prime minister.
The foreign secretary’s assistant looks at him and whispers in his ear to affirm Mary’s comment and the foreign secretary feels embarrassed not knowing.
The foreign secretary replies, ‘Why can’t you use current resources?’
Mary explains, ‘Our current resources are already stretched. Besides, we need specialised forensic accountants and specialised field agents. Miles has a short presentation to show.’
Miles Stone looks as if he is a deer caught in the headlights. He was engrossed in the conversation between the foreign secretary and Mary. He did not realise it was his time to shine.
Miles clears his throat to disguise his surprise, ‘Huh um. Let me first introduce myself. I have been working for Military Intelligence Five for over twenty years. Now I want to use this Welsh company as an example. The company manufactures pesticides to the farming community as well as nurseries and garden shops. Their products are sold worldwide. They imported the chemicals that make up the Novichok separately. They then mixed the chemicals together at their plant.’
Foreign secretary looks impressed, ‘Can you provide any other companies as an example?’
Miles only has slides on the Welsh company. ‘I have only this company. But this is an example for all them.’
Miles goes to his tablet that he has already connected to the overhead projector. He opens his PowerPoint application to bring up his presentation.
Miles has faced numerous confrontations in his career, both in board rooms and in the field. But for some reason he feels flustered and nervous having to justify, potentially asking for a couple of million pounds to fund the new agency.
Miles’ first slide shows the information on the company manufacturing chemicals.
Miles is calm and placid, ‘This slide, shows you the list of chemicals that the company manufactures. As you can see, it produces various chemicals. The chemical the company produces goes into industries such as car, furniture, moulds and the paint industry. But the components used also go into plastic explosives, volatile liquid bombs and nuclear weapons. Components hiding in plain view. Everyday items, that go into everyday products. But the components of the chemicals go into weapons. We cannot stop them because of current legislation and international laws. The intelligence community cannot stop them because no laws are being broken and there’s no evidence of misappropriation of funds.’
Miles is now relaxed, getting into his forte, feeling confident that his presentation will persuade government.
Miles continues, ‘The Novichok would not have been concocted, if this company did not have the resources to produce the chemical…’
After showing all the ten slides he had produced, he concludes his presentation by saying that there are five companies to investigate initially, starting with Geegore Industries first.
The foreign secretary looks like he has heard enough, ‘I get the picture. But remind me again why we can’t redeploy our existing staff?’
Mary sees that Miles is getting flustered and so she replies, ‘Current staff are already stretched with ISIS and cyber attacks. We need new additional staff to cope with finding these companies and gathering intelligence. We need forensic accountants to interpret their trading habits and their supply chain.’
The foreign secretary finishes off by saying, ‘To persuade the PM, I will need more than one company. You mentioned that this company was in cahoots with four other companies, from your slides. Can you provide the same data, for the other four entities.’
Mary concludes, ‘We need to cut the source. A one-man army cannot function if the funds are not there. For centuries businesses have been used to fight war. So I am asking you, foreign secretary to sanction the new proposal now.’
The foreign secretary feels like he is being rubbed up the wrong way, ‘Provide the other four case studies, linking them together.’
Miles jumps in, ‘This will take about six months. I will have to find forensic accountants to collate the data. Time we don’t have.’
The foreign secretary is firm when he says, ‘You have three months. Collate the data, present it and provide evidence.’
Mary reiterates the urgency, ‘I cannot stress this any more, we are harbouring companies in this country that can put a bomb in parliament at a day’s notice. Consider a vending machine. Supplied by a company that rents them out, turned into a detonator.’
The foreign secretary is getting fed up now, ‘Three months, Mary. Three months. This meeting is concluded.’
The meeting is adjourned, with Miles and Mary walking out together, one end of the room through the double doors, and the foreign secretary and his assistant out of the other end of the room through the double doors.
Miles and Mary head for the front entrance to walk back to the special intelligence service building. On the way there, Miles sees a work friend among the few traffic of people in the lobby area, by the entrance.
Miles gets Mary’s attention, ‘I will see you back there. I have someone to see.’
Mary nods her head and walks on. Miles slows down his walk and waits for his work friend to recognise him as he smiles, a few feet away. His friend is in a world of his own until he has a glimpse of Miles and shows a startled surprise look, but a nice surprising look. He walks over to Miles.
Miles’ friend makes conversation first, ‘What are you doing in our neck of the woods. It’s normally us coming to you.’
Miles is open with him, ‘Trying to get new funding. Had a meeting with the foreign secretary.’
His friend changes the subject, ‘Are you coming to our engagement party? We didn’t see a response.’
Miles has an expression of annoyance, ‘Oh mate. I have been distracted with work. Of course, yes. When is it again?’
He looks relieved that Miles is coming, ‘Two weeks this Saturday. Are you going to bring anyone?’
Miles has a blank look on his face, ‘I doubt it. I am not seeing anyone. So most likely I’ll come alone. How many are going, Steve.’
Steve is thinking about it, ‘I think about twenty. Anthea is sorting it out.’
Miles is wondering when the wedding is, ‘Have you set a date for the wedding?’
Steve thinks about it, smiling, ‘Next year in July. Again, Anthea is organising it.’
Miles feels he should get going, ‘Just before I go, will there be any single girls?’
Steve sighs, ‘They are not into five-minute flings. Besides they are all coupled up.’
Miles feels judged, ‘I am not into that. I want to meet someone serious. I am getting on now.’
Steve ponders, ’Suddenly remembered, there is a girl that is single. But I assume she is with someone now. She
is quite fit. But not your type.’
Miles questions him, ‘Ginger?’
Steve replies, ‘Blonde.’
Miles looks gutted, ‘Every blonde I have met is carefree. Useless when comes to being serious.’
Steve agrees with him, ‘To be fair, she always comes across as ditsy and is quirky. She thought my job was sitting behind a desk answering phone calls in reception. After I told her I assist the transport minister.’
Miles jokes, ‘What does she do for a living, model Barbie doll underwear?’
Steve laughs with him, ‘More like a check-out girl.’
Miles continues, ‘One of those on the tannoy promoting soap. Ha ha.’
They both continue laughing.
Steve is suddenly wondering about the time, ‘I better get going. See you in two weeks if I don’t see you beforehand.’
Miles says, ‘Yeah. Catch you later.’
Miles is back at the special intelligence building in his office. He is looking at his desk with scattered colour pictures of Vladimir and his business in Wales. The pictures are from a satellite showing a bird’s eye view of the site. Miles does not know the addresses of where his other businesses are in Russia, China and America. As far as Miles is concerned, it is only his Welsh business that is linked to terrorism. The Welsh company is a subsidiary of Vladimir’s empire that his father owns but on paper it is Vladimir’s business.
Miles also has pictures of his family. They are his father, mother, sister and an uncle. He has ruled out his uncle as a part of this. Vladimir has a long-term girlfriend that Miles has found out is an Olympic boxer. He picks up the picture of Vladimir, studying his face and visualising what he was thinking at the time of exposure. Mary walks in to see what he is doing. Miles looks up at her to his right and swivels his chair round.
Mary wants to discuss the meeting, ‘So how do you think the meeting went?’
Miles looks deflated, ‘I need this now. I feel there is something bigger going on, what with Brexit and the commotion of misleading information on whether to leave or stay. We have two idiots murdered, which you don’t get in other countries holding Russians.’
Mary sighs, ‘I agree. But because of previous issues such as mass destruction and oil wells, upcoming politicians blame us for the chaos. So they think we are on the merry-go-round.’
Miles agrees, ‘Which does not help my crusade.’
Mary pauses and asks, ‘What do you want to create?’
Miles knows exactly how he wants, his new department, ‘I do not want another Military Intelligence Five or Six. I want the agency to use the courts, domestic and international, to close those businesses down. I want field agents to gather meaningful financial data and non-monetary information such as contracts and assets owned. Build a communication network with our counterparts in Europe and the West. No guns or bombs to stop the enemies. Exchange information freely. Use the legal channels to prevent backlash.’
Mary thinks he is a idealist, ‘Miles, this will never be a perfect world. A utopia. I have been sold. It is time to shut down the supply chain. But, there will be bloodshed. These rogue officers of blue chip companies are just as ruthless as drug dealers. They will do anything to hold on to their power and wealth, their baby, their lifestyle.’
Miles leans back into his chair, ‘I know. But I do want my field agents to be gung-ho. Be diplomatic. Build up fresh contacts and help the agency build enough evidence for the relevant authorities to take over. I do not want them to be seen or heard. Just get in and out. I need a plain Jane, not a killer.’
Mary looks at her feet, ‘There are plenty of them around. It’s just the funding. Find him… her, gather the information, then shut down the company.’
Miles’ mind is blank, ‘That’s the problem. I need to find a forensic accountant. Hence new staff. I will find someone.’
Mary is intrigued with how he found Vladimir, ‘Who is your contact?’
Miles is hesitant, ‘Someone who works in finance.’
Mary pushes him, ‘How did you meet?’
Miles smiles, ’He whistle-blew. The call was put through to the police and then fraud department, eventually us. I arranged to meet him in Covent Garden.
The rest is history.’
Mary asks him one more question, ‘What is his name?’
Miles reluctantly says, ‘A man by the name of Ivor.’
Mary has a confused face, ‘A strange name. What nationality is he?’
Miles thought the same when he found out, ‘His family is Russian. He was sent here for an education. The education system sent him to a bank. Money and connections got him high up to spot some anomalies.’
Mary is satisfied with her curiosity. She walks out of his office to go back to work. Miles continues studying the pictures on his desk.
The next day, Miles focuses on finding fresh information on the other four companies that he linked with Geegore Industries. He tries to use his contact, Ivor, but his contact had no other information to provide. So he goes back to the drawing board, looking at reported terrorist attacks on the internal database sitting on the server. It takes him a day, in between his main work commitments.
Miles is looking for any descriptive names of material found or brand names that can be linked to any of the other four companies. The names of the other companies are Fitality Limited, High Tech Plc, Edwards Limited and Rogue Industries.
Miles linked the five companies via contract agreements and their company logos on the forensic evidence collated by the police. Miles was to use partial serial numbers that go back to the five companies. It is like a DNA to a business. Hence why it has been hard for Miles to find evidence of the links.
Miles’ next task is to find an accountant who he feels will be able to analyse financial reports. He wants the accountant to confirm his suspicions. Also to get an independent person to come to the same conclusion. He does not want to go to the nearest firm in the high street to avoid fees. He does not have the funds to pay an accountant the going rate. Ivor was an obvious choice but he does not want to risk being acknowledged as the whistle blower on the other four companies. So he is out of the question.
Miles and Mary are confident of getting funding, and so he starts looking at people to recruit. He looks both internally and externally for analysis, computer programme writers and support as well as field agents. He is hoping to recruit up to twenty personnel. He has come up with this number based on the probability of work involved now.
He has conservatively predicted that there are hundreds of businesses that fund terrorism. So the number of staff are needed to cope with the volume of investigation. These companies are around the world with a registered company in the United Kingdom. So the new agency can get round the problem of infringing on other countries territories.
Miles wants to have six analysis, six field agents, five computer supports and three reviewers. This will be sufficient to start the department initially.
Because the department is small, the office will be situated among the Military Intelligence Six personnel.
It is two weeks later since the meeting in Parliament. At the weekend, Miles had a chance encounter of meeting an accountant. He met her at his friend Steve’s engagement party. He has arranged to contact her by this Thursday coming.
It is the following Monday morning and Miles wants to have her checked out. Have knowledge of her background and to make sure she is not easy to persuade. He does not want to liaise with her, going in cold. There is pressure to get her cleared by Thursday which is when he had agreed to contact her. He does not want to risk his marker to let slip his real reason for analysing the five companies, including Geegore Industries.
He wants to use Geegore Industries to judge her ability to come to the same conclusion as him. The reason is because he wants to see if she can come to the same conclusion for the other four companies.
He is asking her to look into the companies from an investment point of few rather than a potential threat to national security. It normally takes up to three weeks, but he needs this within four days. He does not want to make his new marker think that he is not interested in meeting her again. He decides to go around the official channel and ask a work colleague, who is a whizz at gathering information, which is just as good as the security clearance.
Miles thinks that his new contact is a bit quirky and does not know if the person will be easy to work with or whether she will be annoying and come across as ditsy or fluffy round the edges. He is hoping the report will be professional and matter-of-fact and not opinionated.
Mary is leaving the new agency all up to Miles to prepare for the final meeting before receiving funding. She is more taken up with running Military Intelligence Six as the current boss of the department. She was around when the Manchester bombing took place and when London was attacked three times. She is fully behind Miles setting up the department. She feels that the supply chain should be dismantled, not just the end user. The end user is given the materials and funds to wreak havoc. If the end users do not have access to the material, then they cannot carry out the terrorist attacks. She has too much on her plate to also help Miles with the new funding. She is confident that government will supply the funds and that Vladimir will have his business closed down in Wales. Also hoping that government officials around the world will do the same with the evidence provided.
Mary is frustrated with having to clean up the mess rather than prevent it. She feels Miles has the capacity to run the department and make it happen with closing down the companies funding the end users.
Miles decides to meet up with Ivor for lunch at a pub in Soho, so not to draw attention to themselves. When he meets up with him, he mentions his new contact to say that he will not be getting him involved with the closing of Vladimir’s business. Ivor is relieved as he was worried that his employers would find out that he whistle-blew on one of their major clients. Miles asks for internal management accounts on Vladimir’s business in Wales for his new contact to see them. Ivor is happy to do that as it is in the public domain of the bank. So any senior person can access it.
Miles is concerned about the bank having clean management accounts on Vladimir’s business and so asks, ‘If the management accounts are in the public domain, won’t the figures look right? Too clean?’
Ivor is ahead of him, ‘There is a second server which is not meant to be hidden. So if I drag the data from both, my boss cannot say anything to me as the company has to be seen as transparent. You can then compare the two sets of data to look for anomalies.’
Miles is happy with a smile, ‘Excellent. Now I just need to do the same with four other companies. But I will worry about that next week. I have three months to get the evidence. You wouldn’t happen to have Fitality, High Tec, Edwards and Rogue Industries on your books? I won’t be asking you to analyse the information.’
Ivor cannot think at first, ‘I can check but they don’t ring a bell.’
Miles is not bothered, ‘Don’t worry. I will get my guy to look into them.’
Ivor is curious about his new additional contact, ‘Who is this guy?’
Miles is happy to tell him, ‘I met someone at a party. They are an accountant. They have the skills to interpret the accounts to help us where to concentrate our efforts.’
Ivor looks relieved, ‘So this will be our final meeting?’
Miles reassures him, ‘Yeah. But if we need further information, I will send a field agent with appropriate banking credentials.’
Miles does not want Ivor to know that it is a woman he has found as his new contact. Ivor went to a private school and his mentality is that women are secondary. After an hour with Ivor, Miles goes back to the office to now work on who he wants to recruit.
He makes a list of the type of people he wants recruited. He recites his thoughts, the number of people he needs to start the agency. He wants the analysers to be logical and think outside the box. He wants the field agents to act as diplomats and build allies. Finally, he wants the review team to ensure the reports are free from being subjective before they are put in front of the committee. He wants the computer support team to provide fake IDs and bespoke equipment, to allow his field agents to get into secured buildings and ascertain information without being seen. Also to be able to escape if they get into trouble.
He has plans to hang around after office hours to speak to his friend and work colleague who is a computer analyser. He is also one of Miles’ future recruitments. Miles knows that he works late on a Monday. He wants him to speed up the security check on his new contact, as his work friend is efficient and will be quicker than the normal checks.
It is half past seven in the evening and the only person left in the office is him, a couple of other senior staff and his friend who he wants to check out his new contact. He sees him before he heads home for the night. His friend is called Barney.
When Miles gets back to his apartment, he takes a long shower. He stands with his back against the tiled wall beneath the water shower. He is just soaking his body under the wide metal shower head that extends from the shower unit. While standing against the wall, his mind recaps on today’s events. He is pondering on the meeting he had with Ivor and the conversation he had with Barney. Then panic settles in, wondering how good his new contact may be on analysing the five different companies. He has the knowledge of the existence of terrorist funding, but finding the evidence is harder.
It is still playing on his mind how quick it will be to get the analyses done with two and half weeks left to go.
A woman appears at the shower door giving him a smile through the condensation on the glass, before walking in with him. Miles is suddenly distracted from his worries as she kisses him passionately. She is no stranger to him as they have been seeing each other for almost two years. They met when he was in Persia on assignment with Military Intelligence Six. She was working as a concierge at a lavish hotel. She risked her life, helping him to get close to an important person staying at the hotel. He managed to get her a visa to move to England for her safety.
He is open with his work to his girlfriend, but leaves out the details due to security. They are both happily living together in a relationship. They went through a lot together in Persia which made them close.
His colleagues at work do not know anything about his personal life outside of work. They assume he is single and having numerous dates. Miles does not want his private life to intertwine with his work life.
His girlfriend works shifts at a hotel in central London doing the same role. She gets on with him because their jobs are similar hours and she knows what he does for a living. He gave up his field work when he had his girlfriend Natalia come over to live and work in England.
To get a desk job, his manager transferred him to Military Intelligence Five. He found it hard at first, going from an active role to pushing paper. To take the boredom away, he would try to find links between the London bombings, Manchester bombings and the attack on the London bridge not far from Parliament Square. After a couple of months of looking into companies, using forensic reports extracted from police and Military Intelligence Six mainframe servers, Miles had picked up a correlation between terrorists and where their funding came from. To make sure this was not a coincidence, he looked at other bombings around the world and asked his friend Barney to extract data from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Intelligence mainframe server to help prove his theory. This was a few months ago.
He documented the data and started to draw a time line of funds being moved around from company to end user, through movements around the world. Before he knew it, he built up a map of the key attacks. It was then that he went to Mary to show his findings. It then took a further two months to put the findings in a logical presentation and solely basing it on attacks in the United Kingdom. Both Mary and Miles chose not to share Miles’ findings until they got approved funding to set up the new agency.