Chapter 71 – Regicide
Mohammad was the most unlikely CIA operative. He was originally from Bangalore, India. He had emigrated to the United States with his new wife in 1984 and settled in Dallas, Texas. He was a sheik, wore a turban and was seriously overweight. His expanding waist line was the result of Senita’s superb cooking. Senita, his wife of 30 years, excelled in classic Indian cookery, published books and gave lessons.
He was sitting in his Chevrolet truck eating the lunch Senita had prepared for him. She provided linen napkins, and cutlery for each course. He savored each mouthful, knowing that when he got home Senita would question him on the meal. It was a game they played. She tried to catch him out with delicate flavours, specialist ingredients and subtle twists in the preparation.
His cell phone beeped, but he did not read the text message until he had enjoyed the last morsel of food. He carefully packed the dishes away, in the order that they were used. He wiped his mouth and hands for a final time on the napkin, before packing it neatly folded into the embroidered carrying bag that Senita had hand made for the purpose of her husband’s lunch.
He looked at the text message on his iPhone. As expected it was a single code ‘Dahl 2’. Sent from an unregistered number.
Dahl was one of his favourite dishes, but it was also his CIA code word. The number two, meant that two packages had arrived.
Mohammed worked at the huge UPS distribution centre at Dallas Fort Worth international Airport. He was an expert operative and forger. Every so often he would receive instructions to switch the contents of a package. He would receive the new contents through a rival delivery courier, Federal Express. An irony never lost on him.
His hobby was keeping reptiles. He kept snakes and iguanas that required a diet of fresh insects and mice, some dead, but mostly very much alive. He subscribed to a daily delivery service, which delivered a varied diet of reptile food to his home address. Senita wanted nothing to do with the gruesome deliveries, so it guaranteed that the packages were never tampered with. The operative who dispatched the live locusts, grubs, worms, frogs and rodents was another CIA operative. Occasionally she was instructed to dispatch a pre-wrapped package to Mohammed. This she did with efficiency. She made more from the CIA, than she did from most of her reptile meals.
Mohammed’s fees were paid into a discrete Bank Account he had opened before leaving India in the 1980’s. Payments came from a trust fund in the Seychelles, untraceable back to the CIA. Every year a firm of accountants in Delhi filed his accounts and filled out his tax returns. He paid taxes on his income as a US consultant in gourmet Indian cuisine.
Today his job was to open two packages, and replace the contents inside. One was an electronic circuit board, and the other a tin of quinces from New Zealand. His was not to ask the question why. Both items were sealed in removable plastic cling film, so he could remove it at the last minute, leaving no trace of finger prints.
He took the circuit board and canned quinces from a compartment behind the passenger seat and put the embroided lunch bag back in its place.
Printed on the outside of each outer plastic wrapping was a UPS bar code.
He went into the building and using a bar code scanner quickly located the secure bins where each target package was stored for onward shipment. He decided to replace the circuit board first. He unlocked the security door with his security key, found the pallet, then the package. It was a standard UPS shipping box about the size of a small pizza box, but about twice as thick.
He was already wearing gloves. This was not unusual in this warehouse, because it was dusty inside. He knelt behind the pallets where he was out of sight. The huge warehouse was a hive of activity, and no one would have given a second glance to a uniformed UPS employee kneeling next to a pallet of packages. It was a normal activity.
He was a big man, and he turned his back towards the open side of the cage, concealing his hand movements behind the bulk of his back. He carefully examined the package seal down two of the sides, and slipped them open with a small pen knife attached to his key ring. He removed the circuit board inside that was backed between layers of foam packaging and inside a plastic envelope. He removed the plastic envelope, and replaced the circuit board inside with the one delivered with yesterday’s reptile food. He then took a roll of thin tape from his pocket and stuck it carefully along the cut seal. He placed a magnifying glass over his right eye and examined the seal all the way along pressing the tape home in places. He then removed the tape and examined the seal again through the glass. The coloured resin set quickly and provided a perfect seal on the plastic outer packaging. For good measure he took two UPS Security Shipment stickers from a roll and stuck them at random angles over the replaced seal.
He put the box back on the pallet. Picked up the original circuit board now in the UPS box he had carried in. He put the tape residue in the box. Locked the cage door and threw the package in a large trash bin. Where it quickly sank out of site underneath a pile of lightweight packaging plastic and bubble wrap. For good measure he nudged the bin with his shoulder as he passed, settling the heavier contents in the lower part of the bin.
He repeated the replacement of tinned quinces in another storage area. The original tin went into another trash bin, with the outer plastic wrapper. This time he removed his gloves and threw them into the trash as well. The whole operation had taken less than 5 minutes.
Ensconced in the safe house in south west London, the King had become increasingly difficult in recent weeks. His drinking was out of control, and he had been violent to the hostesses on more than once occasion. He had become very particular with his food, demanding foodstuffs that he knew from the past. Roast swan, carp, pike and quinces.
When the new food delivery arrived he recognised the tin of quinces and demanded them served. The hostess opened the tin and was about to poor them into a serving bowl when the King grabbed the open can and using his finger began popping the quinces in his mouth. Ignoring the sharp edges of the opened can.
He was unshaved and the sugary juices dripped down his chin. He wiped them away with the sleeve of his shirt. A shirt she had recently washed and freshly ironed for him that morning. The hostess left the kitchen not wanting to watch the disgusting spectacle. It was not her place to reprimand this man on his manners, and frankly she had seen worse.
The King leant back against one of the work tops, and began drinking the quinces from the can. He chewed with pleasure, but before the tin was empty, he fell to the floor clutching his chest.
The security detail in the flat below watched the King slump to the floor. Unhurriedly the officer in charge called Charles.
The hostess already had a bag packed. She stepped over the body as she left, as if it wasn’t there. She was driven away in a waiting car.
Within hours the flat had been thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. All consumables removed. The clothes, sheets, towels, half eaten can of quinces and anything else that might contain traces of the King’s DNA or fingerprints were taken away and burnt in a high temperature incinerator.
The next day a Latvian mining engineer moved in to the flat in Fulham, and one of the hostesses returned.
The King’s body was taken back to the MI6 medical centre at Paddington Green and Dame Ann Brightwell conducted the post-mortem. Her findings would have told anthropologists much about the way human’s had developed in the last 1,000 years. But her findings were locked away at MI6 with a top security classification.
The King was cremated and his ashes scattered next to his cousin at Faversham. Charles thought that a nice touch. Milt thought it a waste of petrol.