Wednesday 13 February 2013
Having received a call from Carlo Lucciano, Eden Gross had set up a five o’clock meeting with the man and his devastated wife. With some gentle persuasion from Aileen, the elderly waddling waitress who had served Eden at Clay’s Pigeon Diner that morning, the Luccianos invited her to their home to talk in private and away from prying eyes. Eden wasn’t particularly impressed with the venue, preferring somewhere neutral not only for her comfort but for the safety of the Luccianos. Terence Blackwood was a man who’d go to any length to protect his precious company and she already had evidence of that.
With more than three hours to wait, Eden sat down to explore the flash drive again. The discovery of the drive and its contents had come at the perfect moment, almost like a miracle, and in her profession, Eden knew if something seemed too good to be true it usually was.
‘There has to be a catch to this,’ she said to herself as she contemplated the information she’d managed to remember from the previous exploration of the drive.
She scanned the document names in the menu and was struck by a thought.
‘Make a copy of this, you fool. That should have been the first thing you did. What the hell were you thinking?’
Not pausing after chastising herself, Eden emptied the contents of her laptop bag on the hotel bed and searched for her own flash drives. Carrying spare drives was a routine that she stuck to; finding them, on the other hand, was a different story. They were never in the same place as the main drive she used, and they were always separate from each other, a trick that she’d learnt from a well respected Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who happened to be her good friend and mentor. In the event of something happening, like a disgruntled head of a corrupt corporation putting out a hit on a lowly journalist who is exposing that corruption, it was good practice, should the corporation’s goons visit and request any files that the journalist has regarding that corrupt corporation, to have multiple copies of files, including at least one copy that has been sent via post to either oneself or an independent party, such as a law firm or larger media group.
Unable to put her hands on the spare drives, Eden sat on the bed frustrated by what she deemed as her ineptitude and stupidity.
‘Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shitty, shit, shit. Where did I put them?’
Her cell phone rang before she could answer her own question. She put her hands on that device immediately and tapped the answer button.
The male voice on the other end of the line wasn’t unfamiliar but Eden wasn’t sure where she’d heard it before. He wasted no time on pleasantries and small talk, getting straight to the point of his call.
‘I trust you’ve had sufficient time to look through the files on the drive.’
‘Yes. There’s some very interesting information in those files. But before we go any further I’d really like to know who I’m talking to. I mean, I assume you’re the one who delivered the drive to my hotel last night,’ she replied not really expecting an answer to her question. He laughed, the first indication to Eden that he might actually be a normal human being.
‘Come on, Eden, you know I’m not going to tell you my name. Not yet anyway –’
‘Ah, so there is hope for me to learn who you are,’ she interrupted and he laughed again.
‘Like I said, not yet. You bring down Blackwood, the man and the corporation, and then I’ll consider revealing my identity to you. Is that amenable to you?’
‘Sounds like a deal to me. I guess for now I’ll call you Frank, you know, just so that I don’t have to keep calling you the whistleblower.’
He directed her back to the drive and its contents.
‘There’s enough on that drive to bring down an empire, and put Blackwood away for the rest of his life. Do something with it, please. I’ve risked my life to get that to someone who can make sense of it.’
‘What can you tell me about the disaster the other day? What was being produced at Facility Five? Anything lethal or that I should be worried about?’ she asked with Vincenzo Lucciano in mind.
‘There was an explosion in one of the labs, and that set off secondary explosions in another area of the facility. That’s all I know at the moment. What was being produced? There’s a file on the drive that covers that. Was it lethal? Yes. Should you be worried? Absolutely. The whole country, Jesus, the whole world should be worried by what Blackwood is messing around with.’
She jumped at the opportunity to bring Vinnie into the conversation.
‘A young boy died yesterday as a result of touching debris that rained down in his friend’s yard. He cut himself on a piece of glass debris. Within minutes he was suffering from a blood nose and then fatal convulsions. Am I on the right track here?’
There was silence. Eden wondered if her contact had disconnected the call, but then she heard what she thought sounded like crying.
‘Frank? Are you there?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ he held back the sobs, ‘what was his name? The boy?’
‘Vincenzo Lucciano,’ she replied, ‘I’ve set up a meeting with his parents, Carlo and Anna, for later this afternoon. I need to know if I’m heading down the right path in thinking that Blackwood is responsible for his death, Frank.’
Again, more silence.
‘Yes, you are. Would you mind giving Carlo and Anna a message for me?’ His voice was breaking and that made it difficult for Eden to hear him clearly.
‘Sure,’ she replied.
‘Tell them . . . tell them that not everyone working at Facility Five was complicit in Vinnie’s death. Most of the employees were good people with families of their own, and had they known what they were developing, what they were researching, I doubt that many, if any of them, would have continued their employment with Blackwood.’
Before Eden could respond, her contact had disconnected the call. She put the cell phone on the bed next to her and returned to the search for the elusive spare flash drives.
* * * * *
‘Mr. Portland. Ms. Flynn. I’ve detected some unusual activity,’ called Drew Best, notebook computer in hand as he strode towards the leaders of the upper management team.
‘What is it, Best?’ Verity Flynn replied. She was annoyed at being interrupted by a junior while she was focussing on the details of contingency plan A seven.
‘A scan of all of the cell phone calls within a ten mile radius has picked up some key words relating to the situation. We’ve had mention of Blackwood and Facility Five,’ he turned the computer towards Flynn and Portland so that they could easily see the screen displaying flashing concentric circles on a map of the area.
‘What does that mean?’ asked Gus Portland.
‘We’ve got a leak,’ replied Verity, ‘and one of the cell phones is at a local hotel. Get a team on it, Gus. Seems we need to eliminate a problem.’
* * * * *
After finally locating the two spare drives as well as the main flash drive that contained all of the previous information that she’d discovered, Eden made three copies of the Blackwood drive and packaged one into an envelope addressed to a pseudonym she had for such occasions. Strapping her notebook computer and hard copy notes about the Blackwood story into her computer bag, she grabbed the envelope from the table and headed out to post it, leaving the hotel only eight minutes prior to Gus Portland, Hilary Thoms and two other members of the upper management team arriving at the same location.
‘Thoms, what have you got?’ Portland enquired of Blackwood’s niece. She examined the GPS programme on her tablet and shook her head.
‘Nothing. Nothing at all. Our mark seems to have left the location.’
Portland breathed a sigh of relief that he hoped none of the other team picked up.
‘You two,’ he motioned to the other two team members, ‘scout around the rooms. See if you can find anything suspicious, but do not engage anyone. You see anything, you report back immediately, but you observe only.’
They disappeared to the far side of the hotel car park to start their investigation.
‘Now what have you really got, Hilary?’ Portland asked. She handed him the tablet. A flashing red dot moved across the screen, away from the hotel.
‘What do you think, Gus?’
‘I think you should delete it. If Verity says anything, there was a glitch with your tablet, and that made the data unreliable. I really don’t want to kill anyone today, Thoms,’ he replied.
. . . To be continued . . .