Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 27

* * *
Valdez went for it.
There was only one tense moment, when Luna did in fact have to use the secret weapon. And it turned out to be more a bombshell for Valdez than either one of them anticipated.
The director had flipped to the second page of their form, and said, “You’re telling me that this new information comes from one informant?”
“Two informants,” Luna said. “Leandrou’s wife has given us more information, plus another informant.”
Elaine tensed up, but tried to remain poker-faced—she was going to let Luna do all the talking, if possible.
“Oh, I see that here,” Valdez murmured. “Who is this second informant, this Number Two?”
“It’s a person we’ve used before, sir.”
Valdez glanced up at Luna. “You’re not going to tell me...”
“We guaranteed the informant complete confidentiality, sir.”
“And what does this informant get in return?”
“Nothing. This information is from a friend of his who we’re pretty sure is in competition with Leandrou in some criminal field of activity. So it’s in his friend’s interest to see Leandrou go to jail. They’re scratching each other’s backs.”
“I see. And how reliable is this Informant Number Two, in your opinion?”
“I would rate him at ninety-nine percent reliable, sir.”
Valdez let out a skeptical chuckle. “That’s a bit hard to believe, Agent Faye.”
“As I said, we used the same informant before, sir, with excellent results.”
“Oh? On which case?”
“He’s the one who helped us take down Raj Malik, sir.”
Valdez opened his mouth to say something else, but nothing came out.
The look on the man’s face was priceless.

* * *
As soon as they were out of the meeting, they left Interpol headquarters and headed to Luna’s house for an all-nighter.
The undercover persona that Elaine would use to penetrate Leandrou’s operation was carefully constructed using all the information they had gleaned from Kathy the night before she returned to Greece.
One of the bits of background data Elaine and Luna both seized on was that Spyro Leandrou was a great admirer of all things military, and that he believed all young men should have some military training. According to Kathy, Spyro believed that a stint in the army instilled desirable qualities in men that were beneficial in all walks of life, such as self-discipline, order, and good conduct. As Spyro now had dual Greek-US citizenship, his son was automatically a Greek citizen. Like all healthy Greek males, he would be required to serve nine months in the army. Spyro apparently thought this was a very good thing.
Yet, despite all this, Spyro had never been in the military himself. According to Kathy, his knowledge was superficial at best. He didn’t even have any close friends who had been in the service. His interest in that field of activity was more a “boyish fascination,” Kathy said, and didn’t amount to much more than playing with toy soldiers, collecting army knick-knacks, and watching war movies on TV.
Based on these facts, Elaine and Luna decided that if the fictitious applicant for the governess job had a military background, it would be an attractive asset to Spyro. It would also explain many of Elaine’s actual skills that could be instrumental in having Spyro use her for more than just a governess—her martial arts training, ability to speak Russian, and her skill in handling firearms, etc. They had both agreed there was no point in Elaine simply applying for the job as governess unless she could assume extra duties that would gain her some knowledge of, and perhaps peripheral involvement in, his illegal activities.
Elaine suggested using “Patricia” as her first name for her cover identity. Although she did not tell Luna the reason for this choice, it was actually a tribute to her father, Patrick. After a lot of detailed discussion and planning with the Secret Service folks in Washington, she and Luna decided that Patricia would be the daughter of a real deceased military officer, a somewhat shy and aloof American woman, thirty years of age, who had grown up as an army brat, and moved around a lot with her father. Patricia had graduated from the prestigious West Point military academy, and double-majored in psychology and Russian. They chose to make her the daughter of deceased serviceman Captain William Carter who had been in the U.S. Army and would be difficult to check out due to the various security clearances he’d held. Patricia’s constant moving from one city to another and “army brat” upbringing would also make background checks more difficult. The Secret Service had enough connections within West Point to have a fake transcript created and put on file for the duration of the operation.
The decision to make Patricia Carter a conservative West Point grad did create one potential problem, however. To gain Leandrou’s trust enough for him to let her help him with anything outside of her governess role, she would have to convince him that whatever moral and ethical principles instilled in her military school were, well, “flexible,” as Luna put it.
Elaine wasn’t yet sure of exactly how she could pull that off, but she told herself she would find a way.

Chapter 34

By Wednesday afternoon, all the pieces were in place. Washington had now supplied all the Patricia Carter documents that Elaine needed—U.S. passport, driver’s license, credit cards, etc., and all the other arrangements had been made to “backstop” her new identity. The cover story for Patricia Carter’s work history was that she had been continuously employed as a governess since graduation from West Point. Her first hire was by a divorced American automotive engineer by the name of Nick LaGrange who lived in southern France and who had two children—Nick could backstop this himself when they called to check the reference. The second was her current employer, a single working mother in London who was a top corporate lawyer and had two children. This “lawyer” was actually an MI6 agent who owed the Secret Service a favor.
Once Elaine and Luna had triple-checked all the credit cards and other documents, they submitted the electronic application for the governess job to the search firm via a proxy server that made it appear that Patricia Carter was still living with the family in London, but looking for another governess job.

* * *
Within an hour, the search firm in London sent a response to Elaine saying that her application had been received and that they would be in touch soon if they felt there was a match between Ms. Carter and “their client’s requirements.”
Elaine was just finishing dinner at Luna’s house when she received the message—Walter was working late, and wasn’t home yet.
Elaine glanced at her watch and said, “Well, I guess I should fly back home now—there’s nothing we can do now but wait.”
Luna drove her to the airport.

Chapter 35

On Friday morning, Elaine was working from her office at the farmhouse, trying to get involved in her routine tasks again, when the MI6 agent phoned her secure line. The woman told Elaine that the search firm had just called to check the reference on Patricia Carter’s governess application, had asked lots of questions about her ability to deal with children and her character, integrity, honesty, etc.
A few minutes later, Tony answered a phone on the landline down in the kitchen.
Nick trotted up the stairs to Elaine’s office and picked up the upstairs extension, with Elaine sitting there beside him.
“Yes, this is Mr. LaGrange,” he said. Elaine could only faintly hear the sound of a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. And then, “Yes, that’s right, she worked for me a few years ago. I’m happy to give Patricia a reference.”
He listened for a minute, glancing at Elaine.
“Oh, absolutely, Patricia was a fantastic governess, top-notch.” He smiled at Elaine, listening for a moment and replied, “Well, the only reason I let her go was because I remarried and didn’t need a governess anymore. If I ever needed one again, I’d hire Patricia back in a heartbeat.” Nick smiled, and he gently reached over and squeezed Elaine’s thigh.
“Oh, definitely,” Nick gushed into the phone. “She’s intelligent, has a great sense of humor, is an excellent role model for children. To be honest, Patricia did a better job with my son than I could ever do myself. She’s much more patient than I am.” Nick smiled at Elaine again. “Yes, she’s absolutely honest, reliable, ethical, a pillar of integrity. Top notch person all the way across the board.”
He finally hung up, and he squeezed Elaine’s leg again. “And she’s a great piece of ass, too.”
Elaine slapped his hand away. “I’m glad you were able to get through that with a straight face. Do you think they’ll interview me?”
Nick shrugged. “Unless Mary Poppins herself applies for the job, I think you’ll blow all the other candidates away.”

* * *
Nick must have been right, because a few minutes later, Elaine received a phone call from a London cellphone number that the MI6 agent had set up for her that was forwarded to her burner phone. It was the search firm, wanting to organize a telephone interview “at the earliest possible time,” because their client was in a hurry to fill the position. Elaine told the woman that it was fine with her to have the interview on the spot. She grabbed the copy of the fake Patricia Carter résumé and spent about twenty minutes answering questions and explaining various aspects of her fictitious work history and education. All the questions were more or less routine, exactly what Elaine expected.
A few minutes later, she received a short email from the search firm.

Dear Ms Carter,

Congratulations! You have been shortlisted for the governess position for which you recently applied. Our client will conduct in-person interviews this coming Monday at 30 St Mary Axe, London, from 9.00 to 16.00. Please telephone me ASAP to confirm that you will interview.

Ms Bella Fotopoulos
Senior Employment Consultant
Vovus Recruitment Specialists

Elaine was a little disappointed. Seven hours of interviews? She wondered how many other candidates had been shortlisted.

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