The Maltese Cat is officially a business consultant. In actuality, he has been involved in corporate espionage for most of his career. He targets corrupt businessmen and politicians and makes a handsome living out of correcting their inequities.
“Escheatment”, Book 1 in the Maltese Cat Book Series continues with new adventures. Enjoy:
Chapters 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10, Chapter 11,
Chapters 12 & 13, 14-16, 17, 18, Chapters 19 & 20,
Chapter 21, 22 & 23, 24, 25, 26, Chapters 27-29
Chapter 30, 31-32, 33-34, chapters 35 & 36,
Chapters 37-39, 40-41, chapters 42-43, 44-45, chapters 46-47
Chapters 48-49, 50-51, chapters 52-53, 54.
Turks & Caicos Island Visit
The group disembarked from the Intrepid. They had not planned on staying at a hotel, but instead they wanted to stay on the yacht. This part of the trip was strictly business related, so the boys and their companions separated at the dock. The women would go into town later with the crew. The boys headed eagerly to their bank. With written instructions on his smartphone, James navigated the small streets until he came upon an unlikely looking building. No signs adorned the front of the building and, at first, James thought that he had made a mistake. This was supposed to be the bank where he had stored all the money that the boys had accumulated over the past two years? He rang the doorbell. After a moment, the intercom came on and asked, “Yes?”
James spoke authoritatively. “James Van Houten.”
Another pause, and then a buzzer on the door allowed James and his party to open the door, simply by pressing against the immovable door handle that was surrounded by an escutcheon.
When they entered, James surveyed the room. It looked more like a travel bureau office than a bank. Two desks were conjoined in an L-shape. Both had computers and telephones on them. One seat was empty. A middle age man occupied the other seat. He looked up and asked, “Mr. Van Houten?”
James addressed him. “Yes, and these are my associates.”
“What can I do for you today?” asked the man.
“We are here to check our account.” James handed him a slip of paper with the account number on it. The man typed something into the computer and looked back at James with a blank stare.
“What would you like to check?”
James smiled, looking back at his friends, who were all eagerly smiling as well. He looked back at the man and said, “We can start with the balance.”
The man said aridly, “The balance is zero.”
James smiled again. “There must be a mistake.”
The man said, “There is no mistake.”
James complexion turned sanguine but he was anything but cheerful.
“How can that be?” James yelled. “I want to speak to the head officer of this bank.”
“You are speaking to him,” answered the man.
“Where is my money?!” demanded James. He could not hear the anxious rustling of his friends behind him.
“As authorized, the entire amount was withdrawn five days ago.”
“What do you mean ‘As authorized’? Nobody authorized anything!”
“I was here when it happened.”
“How can that be possible?! There was more than a hundred and forty million dollars in that account!”
“Mr. Azawi arranged for a transfer of the entire amount, as planned prior.”
“What are you talking about? Who is Mr. Azawi?”
“He had the requisite papers and everything was pre-arranged by Bern.”
“What did he look like, this Azawi man?”
“Average height, Middle Eastern in appearance, beard, perhaps in his sixties.”
James noticed a surveillance camera.
“Show me your video of him.”
“That is not possible.”
James threatened him, with the backing of his four angry friends.
The man showed James a video of a man who fit the officer’s description, taken 5 days ago. It was the same man who appeared in Bernard Egli’s office in Bern.
“Where did you transfer the money to?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“If you value your life, you will tell me,” threatened James.
James finally got the information. It was another Turks and Caicos location.
The boys found the address only three blocks away. The building was empty. James let out a catena of invectives loud enough to be heard all the way back to the yacht.
The rest of the trip was a failure. The boys were no longer in the mood for recreation. The women noticed the mood change and became increasingly cantankerous to the point that Ashton considered acting out the Mutiny on the Bounty scenario and setting the women out to drift on the ocean in a life raft. The boys argued back and forth among themselves, trying to understand how a fortune could have so easily disappeared. James decried both the ineptitude of offshore banking systems as well as that of the sacred Swiss banks, but admitted no guilt or responsibility on his part. This latter point was not lost on the others, who had entrusted all their funds to him.
The coup de grâce was when they refueled in Nassau and none of their credit cards were accepted. They almost asked the women for their credit cards, but instead they pooled what little cash they had remaining between them and were able to pay the bill for the diesel. James would have had no qualms about using the women’s credit cards, since he had not invited them, nor did he have the pleasure of enjoying them. The long awaited Caribbean trip was an unmitigated disaster. But it just served to augur things to come.
Chief Agent Traywick was in his office, studying the Swiss account problem. When they first got wind of this, it seemed like a foreign problem, within the purview of the National Security Agency, but nothing to do with his work. That’s what he thought then. The NSA made a good case for why any terrorist organization could be a threat to national security. The world was smaller these days. No one incident was disconnected to others. Every terrorist threat or attack in the world was pertinent to US security. That is what he was told in a briefing by the NSA. And it all made perfect sense. When his office discovered that the money that a Swiss account was receiving for the Taliban was coming from the US, this confirmed the hypothesis. Now it fell on his shoulders to ferret out the source of this money.
“We’ve been reviewing the Riverside bank’s records,” said Special Agent Johnson as he addressed Chief Agent Traywick. “At first they weren´t very cooperative but when our agents threatened them with national security, and aiding and abetting foreign terrorists, they changed their tune fast.”
“Drug money, right?”
“That’s the surprise. Not drug money at all. In fact, it comes from somewhere nobody would have thought.”
Traywick showed interest.
“The State of California,” said Johnson.
“What do you mean?”
“The deposits into the Riverside bank come directly from the government. That’s a state government, not the federal government.”
“How can that be?” asked Traywick, thinking about what Simone Turner had told him. “It has got to be a mistake.”
“That’s what our records show. We have been in contact with the State Controller and he has been very cooperative. He was just as incredulous as you are. But we insisted and he is taking this seriously.”
Traywick speculated about this new development. Could it mean that there was a terrorist element working inside the government? California had a budget of over $100 Billion. Even these amounts of funds which were heading off to Switzerland could be hidden and not noticed if cleverly disguised. With his smartphone calculator, he tapped out some figures. At this level, the amounts going to the Swiss account worked out to perhaps 1/5th of 1% of the state budget. What seemed like such a large amount paled compared to the state’s annual budget. Is this the world that we live in now? When a fortune can become a needle in a haystack and never even be noticed? As a civil servant himself, Traywick started to realize that the government, in general, had become some behemoth where there was no accountability. He put aside that thought for later. Right now he had to focus on how to find the mole in the State of California government.