Road To Portland: Part 8: Peering Through The Fog

The Analyst was having a bad day. He was out of Mountain Dew, the transmission on his SUV had crapped out, and the data… The data was completely vexing.

“You seem nervous.” It was the Cigarette Smoking man, who is totally for real. He had appeared silently and from behind. Creepy.

“You’re being creepy.” The Analyst muttered. He’d long ago made peace with the idea that he worked with not only a spook but a force of darkness. He hoped he would be allowed to retire in peace rather than wind up… wherever. The analyst went to great lengths to never find out where the Smoking Man’s “loose ends” went. In exchange the Smoking Man provided a great health plan (with dental!), two weeks paid vacation, and hadn’t yet killed him. Compared to most jobs open to a quantitative analyist, it was a supportive work environment.

It allowed the Analyst to focus on what was really important to him; teasing out patterns in what looks (to muggles who don’t know better) like random noise. He briefed the Smoking Man:

“OK so, ‘Operation Deplorable’ was a total failure. The guy’s just not for sale.”

His boss nodded. His way of saying “continue and don’t assume I’m an idiot like everyone else”.

“I ran it by the shrinks. They came up with a new approach. Seems to be working.”

Another nod.

“It’s called the ‘Leave Him The Hell Alone’ plan. I like their reasoning.”

“And he subject is accepting this?”

“From what we can tell, yes. Except…”

The Smoking Man had his doubts. Men who weren’t greedy were exceedingly rare. “This is where you tell me he’s wheedling for more bribes?”

“Nope, it looks like someone stole some of the checks from him. Several have been deposited in various accounts.”

“And the subject didn’t cash them?”

“Nope. He hasn’t left his compound for weeks. Apparently, he shot a large buck and then found his favorite bourbon on sale. Last transactions were a taxidermist and a liquor store. He seems to have attained some sort of peace. Returned to his dump of a house and hasn’t moved since.”

“Did he shift the money online?”

“Nope, we monitor all of his internet activities and…” He frowned.

“That weird?”

“You have no idea. One day he’s talking about a duck, the next day he’s bitching about politics, it’s just a total mess. The profilers assigned to him are miserable.”

“I can’t imagine someone stole the checks from him. We sent three agents to his compound and he identified and defeated them all.”

They both bent their heads in respect for the victims of this rural loon. There would be no more attempts at a clandestine operation of that sort. It was too risky.

The third and last attempt had been a promising young agent disguised as a Jehovah’s witness. He went missing two days before he was found in a chicken coop in adjacent state. He was unharmed, thank the Gods and Hoover, but he had been stripped naked, spray painted orange, and ‘leave me alone’ had been tattooed on his forehead. It had been done with a tattoo kit usually reserved for cattle ears!

This has been the inspiration for the shrink’s decision to re-orient “Operation Deplorable” into “Operation Leave Him Alone”. (The Analyst secretly believed the shrinks were so dense they wouldn’t have figured it out without having it literally written on an agent’s body. He wondered how people that dumb got through the day.)

The other two agents were similarly unharmed but both were shaken. The first was a judo master posing as a utility linesman. He was inexplicably overpowered and found in a grain bin in Wichita with ‘wolverines!’ painted on his chest. He had subsequently quit the force and was now a florist in Seattle.

The second posed as a surveyor. The Curmudgeon had surprised the ‘surveyor’ from behind and sent him packing with very little to report. An hour later his vehicle was attacked by unknown assailants. The vehicle was found at the bottom of a lake in Maine with ‘stay off my lawn’ scratched into the hood. The agent was found, drugged and unconscious but unharmed, on a Greyhound bus bound for Barstow.

From this, the Analyst surmised he was dealing with a combination of James Bond from the Sean Connery era and Animal from the Muppets.

“Obviously, nobody took the checks by force.” The Analyst agreed. “But somehow they got cashed. The lab thinks they spent some time lying in a snowbank before being re-inserted into the banking system… which makes no sense.” He sighed. “Also, the checks were deposited in the ‘Gynocentric Utopian World Order fund’ and there’s no indication that he knows about that organization. Most of the deposits are associated with…” He shuffled his papers “Professor Rothschild.”

“Is she in on it?’

“We think not. Several agents have interviewed her and the consensus is she’s not a likely white collar criminal. Reports say she’s too dumb and abrasive for anything more complex than hiding on a campus and bullying freshmen.”

“You’re sure of this?”

“Yes, of the four agents who’ve contacted her, in disguise of course, none have reported a lick of the cunning I’d associate with money laundering. She maced the first agent, sexually harassed the second, fled in terror from the third, and the fourth has been sued for discrimination… though on what grounds seems to be vague. She couldn’t have penetrated the Curmudgeon’s perimeter and probably can’t survive long off campus anyway. I doubt they’ve ever met. We suspect a third party is using her name.”

“A laundering operation?”

“Yes, perhaps combined with an identity theft gambit? Actually, it’s a good gambit to utilize those two personalities. I don’t know how they got documents past the Curmudgeon but a guy who communicates directly with satellites by stomping swampgrass isn’t likely to interact with staff at a university. On the other side of things, a professor of grievance studies probably can’t do anything on-line more complex than Facebook so she’s not going to notice accounts appearing and disappearing.”

“Ok, so someone has retrieved the money in obscure ways. What are they doing with it?” The cigarette smoking man knew it wasn’t the theft that gave hints, it was the spending of the funds. What was the money going toward? Guns? Donations to churches? Yachts? Hookers and cocaine? A Teletubby suit? (He involuntarily shivered at the memory of the Teletubby Massacre of 1993. He’d never forget that poor bastard with the… He shook his head. Best to keep that memory suppressed.)

“Pizzas. An unusual Uber ride.”

“No guns? Nothing illicit?”

More paper shuffling. “Several unlocked iPhones. A large bag of dogfood. Six 10 ounce bars of silver.”

“Silver?”

“We intercepted the order but couldn’t get there before the materials were delivered. We have no idea who picked it up.”

“Amazon!” It was a constant complaint in the spycraft world that Amazon delivered so quickly that agents couldn’t interfere with deliveries to their own ends. Not like the good old postal service that helpfully delayed everyone’s mail a few days as part of Hoover’s Directive 029-349-REDACTED-REDACTED.

“Well we did get tracking properties inserted to two of the iPhones so that may provide information in the future.” The Analyst reached for his Mountain Dew and remembered he was out. “Other purchases were season tickets to an MMA arena and flowers delivered to a transvestite fighter. Before you ask, we’ve got no idea but we’ve got people looking into it. Also,” The analyst frowned. “200 gallons of diesel and… Oh My God!”

The Smoking Man had been reading the list. Both of them were paranoid geniuses and they both reached the same conclusion at the same time.

The Analyst kept reading, slowly, as if to deny the obvious. “Six boxed sets of Abba and a UHaul rental.”

The Smoking Man read the destination on the rental agreement (Detroit) and immediately dialed a cell phone. (The Analyst noticed the phone, one of several the Smoking Man carried, had been secreted in a Faraday cage envelope before the call.) The Analyst heard only half the conversation.

“I need a team. Authorization code 27/b. Yes. Yes. Lesbian Squirrels. I know that. You missed, you’re incompetent, and you’ve got this one chance to rectify it. Shut up! Target? Detroit. Yes, I’m sure. Possibly an ANFO device in a UHaul. We don’t know. You’ll receive the vehicle identification information shortly.”

While he was speaking, the Analyst assembled the information and activated a secure communication protocol. The Smoking Man nodded. The Analyst clicked ‘send’.

The Smoking Man finished his call and pressed a specific key combination. Hastily he put the phone back in its Faraday cage envelope which scarcely contained the exothermic reaction occurring within. They waited. In a few seconds the reaction was complete. The Smoking Man tossed the cooling plastic mass in the trash. Must be a Samsung.

“Anything else?” The Analyst asked.

“I wouldn’t go to Detroit this weekend.”

They exchanged a glance. The city might be leveled.

The Analyst thought of his recently out of warranty Buick and its broken transmission. He smiled. It couldn’t happen to a better city.


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About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.

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8 Responses to Road To Portland: Part 8: Peering Through The Fog

  1. Joat says:

    The only problem with getting the story early is now I have nothing new to read when I should be working.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Yes but you accelerated your procrastination allowing you to do less stuff more rapidly. I’m all about efficiency.

      Plus you’re in a club that includes my dog. You can’t put a price on that sort of exclusivity.

  2. Phil B says:

    I thought this was supposed to be funny? It is way too rational and believable for that. Stomping swampgrass to communicate with spy satellites is the kind of low tech idea that only a highly trained master “take over the world and have bourbon on tap” genius would dream up.

    Incidentally, what DO you know about the 1993 Teletubby massacre? This is HIGHLY suspicious since it was only released for the first time on 31st March 1997 … Whoever did the dastardly deed delayed the teletubbies by a full three years minimum.

    No wonder they are trying to assassinate you!

  3. Tennessee Budd says:

    “…a combination of James Bond from the Sean Connery era and Animal from the Muppets…”
    I really can’t think of a greater compliment to any man than to be thus characterized. Hell, I want it on my tombstone. I just have to figure the proper placement vs. “He died as he lived–free and stupid!”

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