Dakkaran, Marinado, January 5th
“Effective immediately! All cab and livery service vehicles in the city of Dakkaran are suspended. A national emergency is declared!”
A man’s voice sounded the announcement from news broadcasts throughout the country of Marinado. Sirens blared. Cell phone alerts went off. Panic and terror ensued. Attentive ears around the country, and then the world, listened in over the first five minutes of the broadcasts.
Amina Ngo steadied herself, then began to speak. “The state alarm has been issued in response to a thwarted terrorist attack in the city of Dakkaran in the state of Zeni, in Marinado. All cab services, including jitney cabs and livery service vehicles, are suspended and all cab licenses are being reviewed. One hundred people have been arrested in a plot to detonate fifty suicide bombs in cabs, in an attempt to shut down the capital and immobilize the country.”
Photos of the drivers flashed across screens. It was an international mix of brown faces. All pawns. Not the masterminds.
Dakkaran Presidential Palace, two hours before the declared state emergency
In a high clearance briefing at the Presidential Palace, President Kofi Patori called in his top advisors. Only hours before, he received a call on his secured line from Jeffrey Ben Ivan of Ivan Research Corporation that exposed the plot. It was followed by a text with a link to videos. President Patori showed a series of videos of the plotters to those assembled. One showed three men in a meeting. One very nervously chain-smoked. Another man grinned as he accepted an envelope of US dollars. The third kept his head down so it was hard to see his face, but he wore an identifiable uniform with a K.D. Cab logo. There was knock at the door and the three men almost jumped to attention.
A short, stocky man entered and, in a voice very higher than expected, stated, “Tuesday by 9 a.m., your crews are to be in place, at their stations. No exceptions.”
President Patori and everyone in his meeting recognized the face of the stocky man. He was a commander in the Marinado Navy. Commander Eman Nguvanu was seldom seen except in certain circles. This usurper had made his way up the ranks through skillful alliances.
President Patori, barely holding back his anger, seethed. “Why is it that I must learn of this plot against my capital city, a citywide attack, from Ivan Research Corporation? A global tech firm? With a fleet of dogs! Why must we be a step behind our enemies?”
The Ivan Research Corporation (IRC) was an African-American global tech company. Their clients included governments, non-governmental organizations and wealthy individuals. Unique to IRC was a corps of specially bred and trained dogs, strategically placed around the globe. The network of intelligence personnel and satellite resources, aligned with the dogs’ “assessments,” allowed IRC to access information in real time. It was an organization that worked with those who moved in shadows and plain sight. IRC was effective and impactful.
“My source at IRC says that Dakkaran was a test! So, now we have shown the world that we are keener than global pawns. Each of you must check your staffs, your down lines! Every agency! Top to bottom! Bottom to top! Purge whatever, WHOEVER, hints at being wrong! The devil you know and the devil you don’t! We will not be fighting from behind!” President Patori’s dark face was almost purple with rage. He lifted his index finger into the air in a prophetic point to heaven. His eyes narrowed into slits like a Yoruba mask of his ancestors.
When the city of Dakkaran suddenly suspended all cab services, it was primarily based on intelligence from the Ivan Dogs. A cadre of cabbies was on a suicide mission across the city. Patori thought that the Ivan Dogs hit on the smell of explosives around the city. He figured that the pattern from the smells made it evident that the cabs were linked. He was unaware that the dogs were also the source of most of the audio and video intel. Jeff had intercepted and cracked communications codes that allowed Patori to keep tabs on foes and friends alike.
Back at his office in Accra, Jeff watched earlier events play out on an encrypted screen. President Patori’s elite guard broke down doors. The doomed operatives were caught before they ever got into place. Most were killed on the spot. But key leaders were kept alive. In a few hours, they would wish for the mercy of a gunshot.
All remaining terrorists and a few generals were executed after quick trials. Commander Eman Nguvanu fled the country. A month later, his dismembered body was found in a shipping container in Jamaica. One of Nguvanu’s ears was missing. It was a signature of some of President Patori’s bodyguards to take an ear as proof of life, or as a death trophy in this case.
IRC tied in to all the cameras on the streetlights that President Patori installed. The same K.D. logos were popping up around town. Ivan Dogs were dispatched to a few places that the cabbies frequented. Video showed that men with two or three dark green backpacks entered and exited particular restaurants. The Ivan Dogs got hits on explosives in various restaurants. A location that seemed to hold the mother lode was a former St. Lucian embassy safe house frequented by Commander Nguvanu.
Jeff called his brother Jim. “The decision had to be made in real time. We had to pull the trigger on it twelve hours prior to the plot’s execution. We need to find out whose alliances are in that St. Lucian property. We do not want the wrong folks caught up in this net. It’s got to get back to the right people in the right ways.”
Jim interrupted Jeff. “The bigger picture is that President Patori is more interested in technology and space than many older world leaders. Nigeria and Marinado now have the most formidable space exploration alliance on the Continent. Patori respects having a seat at the table. That is another reason why he couldn’t allow terrorists, real or imagined, to thrive in his country. Geopolitical moves have dictated his power base to date. He seems ripe for the United Nations Chairmanship. Good and bad things happen to folks with Ivan Dogs.” Jim leaned back in his chair.
Paris, France, two weeks later
The evening was pleasantly cold. Tourists filled the streets during the day, but this evening, this part of town overflowed with locals. Businessmen, politicians, and facilitators seeking discretion peppered inside café tables. Secrets and intercession were the currency.
“I can’t seem to get used to the wine, you know. I never used to let my brain get foggy. These days, I almost don’t care. But this is such a crazy time that I’ve gotta be careful. No need putting myself at risk. These fools tryin’ to blow up the planet. I’m trying to save it. A few of us are trying to save it, anyway.” Jeffrey Ben Ivan smiled more and more as he spoke. He knew he was getting drunk. He didn’t care at the moment.
Aliza Nemitts-Alasco sat across the table from Jeff. She ordered a steak. Rare. He ordered seafood. She liked Cuban cigars and preferred dark liquor to wine. But this was a celebration of sorts. So, she ordered the wine. She was quite the connoisseur, since her international finance networks deemed that she be comfortable in a variety of company.
“What brings you to Paris, again?” Aliza asked. She made small talk even though she usually was quite direct. The barter of confidential information was her forte.
Jeff focused his gaze on Aliza’s face. “I was a presenter at a seminar. Not much new accomplished. Glad this project is over. I did get to present some new theories based on my research. I’ll write it all up soon and publish what I can. Whatever survives the security-clearance edits. After it’s redacted, the remainder is pretty simple and can be included in my next book.”
“Well, everyone who knows you knows how thorough you are. How utterly meticulous. But you...” Aliza paused and glanced subtly, with just her eyes, around the room.
Aliza was polite and familiar as she motioned to the waiter. “Sinclaire, who is the gentlemen at the bar in the grey Armani? He seems to be interested in my table.”
“Madame, I believe that he is a Swiss.” The waiter spoke clearly and confidentially close to her face as he handed her a dessert menu as a semi shield to their conversation. Sinclaire was the head waiter at Moreno Gato. The owner, Manuel Elizondo, was Basque, like part of Aliza’s family. That connection afforded Aliza certain favors with him and his staff. The patronage of his restaurant by her wealthy friends, and recommendations for executive parties and private catering for their soirees, also secured his loyalty. Elizondo greatly respected the exclusive circles Aliza was in. Aliza affectionately called him Tio.
Aliza nodded towards Jeff. “Swiss.”
“Swiss? I would think that he would be less obviously trying to eavesdrop. He is taking this tete-a-tete more seriously than we are. Let’s get some dessert, then head out.” Jeff laughed.
As Jeff and Aliza walked over to the jazz club, he spotted the Swiss man again. “Maybe he’s following us? Let’s see what his next move is. I may have to kung fu fight him!” Jeff waved his arms like he had nun chucks. He realized that the wine was having more than its usual effect. Whenever he was in Paris, he drank too much. But now he was becoming a little suspicious of Liza, Tio, and that Swiss guy.
Jeff loved his trips to Paris. The blues and jazz in Paris were American. It was truly still one of the few places that these musicians could earn a good living. In the States, they got to play but were not really paid well or treated as musical royalty. Overseas, the greats got their just due, and the damn good at least got recognition. The folks in Paris knew Black folks’ music better than most African Americans. Jeff loved jazz more than math. Codes and coda. But he always said that Music was math.
As they walked from Moreno Gato, Jeff and Aliza ran into Tyler Patterson, an old friend of Jeff’s from Georgetown University and the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A). Jeff had been in D.I.A. Special Operations. Tyler was known to train African special ops and militias. Jeff wasn’t sure if Aliza knew much about him. He and Tyler had last crossed paths in Dakkaran at a party hosted by President Patori.
Tyler ran over to meet them. “Jeff! Jeff! Hey! Good to see you, man. My brother! Nice to see you, lovely lady.” Tyler kissed Aliza on the cheek in a too-familiar way. She seemed very comfortable with him.
Jeff thought, Something is up with these two. Some history. Good thing I’m not too invested. He smiled at Tyler, shook his hand, and pulled him close. “Hello, brother! We’re going to Paul’s Jazz Club. Join us! I am sure we’ll be able to get a great table near the band.”
The trio crossed the street and entered the club. Paul greeted them personally, showing them to a table. As they sat through the first set, Aliza didn’t seem into the music.
“This must be what they call avant-garde or something. It’s the ‘something’ I seem to be missing. Is this experimental or…” She sipped her drink.
“It was a lean-in moment rather than a lean-back moment. We had to listen in to be sure of what was being said by the music, not relax to it. With some music, you’ve got to pay attention,” Jeff explained in his professorial tone.
“Well, then. It’s next-level stuff. But tonight, I am not ready to go to the next level. I’m out.” Aliza smiled.
“I’ll get you a cab,” Tyler jumped in. Again, too familiar.
Tyler and Jeff gave each other a thumbs-up as the couple departed. Jeff appreciated the time alone to collect his thoughts. He didn’t always know when he and Tyler were working on the same side. The thwarted terror attack in Dakkaran was one time when he was sure of Tyler’s alliances. His expertise in training Patori’s elite forces helped prevent an all-out descent into hell for Marinado. Jeff had a few more drinks. This time, Cuban rum in a nod to Aliza. He had no idea until months later that the rum cut the potency of the poison from the wine. Jeff looked at his watch. He was ready to get back to the States.
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