The story is starting to ramp up to a conclusion. The team has been assembled. It appears that Donovan has settled onto the side of the good guys through a bizarre double-agent type of scenario. Now it will be fun to hang on and see how this story concludes. As I continue writing this, I’m really enjoying bringing Brad Rafferty back as a character and having his team cross over with Jonesy from the Frank Rozzani novels. This serial may emerge as a follow-up novel to Blood Orange. I just haven’t decided yet. If you have thoughts on this, please let me know. Now, please enjoy the 27th installment of Road Kill.
Road Kill Part 27
I had worked with many computer forensics at The Mother Ship. The skills demonstrated by Clifford Jones and Maria Colluccio, however, were in a different league. Jones seemed to plug himself into the computer like some sort of cyborg. His concentration was phenomenal and his endurance was unmatched.
Maria Colluccio was one of the most intelligent people I had ever met. She was the antithesis of every female computer nerd. She was a tall, athletic blonde that actually had people skills. She and Jones fell into step quickly and, with my limited help, we were off and running.
As we made our way to our assigned space to begin our digging, Donovan caught up with us in the hallway.
“Listen, I hope there are no hard feelings in all of this,” he said to me. “After the incident on the plane, those loyal to me actually went above and beyond to protect you.”
I replied that I thought this was interesting since the last encounter with his people involved them searching the trailer in Jacksonville with guns drawn.
“That was because of Simpson,” Donovan said. “I had the feeling that he was going to move on you. The safe house was the place that we needed to get him out of the picture.”
I asked Donovan what would happen to my old shipmate, Ben Simpson.
“He’s gone off the deep end. He bought into this whole scheme and believed that the Secretary of State is doing the right thing. He had an idea that the United States was owed some type of compensation for getting involved in the Middle East. Though his thoughts might be considered patriotic, the methods in this plan are treasonous. He is likely going to face some difficult interrogation, but he will also be instrumental in helping us catch the bigger fish. His loyal years of service will not be disregarded.”
I was relieved to hear this, but also a bit miffed that I was basically used as bait in bringing him in. The apology appeared to be secondary, however. It appeared that Donovan had something else to say to us.
“Listen, I was in the loop on a lot of the high-level communication on this. Most of it was in the form of encrypted emails and memos. I saved most of it off to a secondary server.”
Donovan reached into his pocket.
“Here is a USB drive with the information that you need to access that server. It contains classified information. Just copying it to a secondary server is risky. Me giving you access to it pulls you into the mud as well.”
I took the drive. At this point, this was just another brick in the wall of questionable activity we had built. Donovan knew this, but felt the warning necessary. He was covering all of the bases as always.
“Communications continues and you might find some recent information that will give you a better idea on when and where this is happening.”
I nodded to Donovan still not sure what to say or how much to trust him. Jones, Colluccio and I headed to the small work room that was assigned to us.
“Do we trust this guy?” Jones asked once we were seated.
I just wasn’t sure. Donovan had switched sides at least three times since the unfortunate Mr. Channing was poisoned when he sat in my seat what seemed like a lifetime ago. I looked at the USB drive.
“We need to run an extensive anti-virus utility on that,” Maria said. “If Donovan has switched sides that many times, who’s to say that he didn’t give us something that would slow us down.”
“I’ve got a pretty rigorous utility we can run it through,” Jones said. “It’s like the government’s standard AV utility times one hundred. If there’s anything malicious on that drive, I’ll find it.”
I handed the drive over to Jones and he plugged it into his laptop and keyed in a command. Character began to flash by on the screen.
“It should be done in about three minutes,” he said. “In the meantime, where do we start?”
“I think we should split up what we need to do,” Maria said. “I have some information from Commander Rafferty that I can use to track the movements of the prisoners from GTMO that were recruited. I guess Donovan helped with that somewhat. If that drive comes up clean, then his information is worth pursuing.”
“I can start following the movement of assets within the government,” Jones said. “It will take equipment and money to back an effort like the one we’re digging into. I have some experience with monitoring how money moves off the radar.”
That left me to look at Donovan’s server. It would be an interesting exercise that would hopefully give us some information on when and how this attack was going to take place. Just as I was pondering my game plan for this, an alert came up on Jones’s laptop and we all turned toward him.
“Well, that’s interesting,” Jones said. “I guess, for the moment, we can trust Donovan. The drive came up clean. I’m sure you know that is only part of the story. He could have all kinds of trap doors on that server. I’m going to copy my utility onto the drive for you so you can check every file you open or download.”
Jones dragged his utility into the folder that designated the drive and then ejected it and handed it to me. I plugged it into the laptop I had been given. It was hardwired to the servers in the warehouse and then securely connected to the Internet.
As I looked at the contents of the drive, I chuckled to myself. Donovan had set up a server. The plot championed by the Secretary of State was called Project OSCAR. Donovan’s server was called FELIX. Apparently the guy had some kind of sense of humor. FELIX was going to be used to clean up OSCAR’s mess.
I began carefully and methodically looking through the contents on the server. There were many emails that were flagged with the highest level of classification. I could go to jail for years just for looking at any one of them. I ran the first batch through Jones’s utility and began opening them.
The first few were familiar. They were similar to the emails we had hacked from the State Department’s server. Then I cam across a batch from a sender called Wonder Woman. Could the Secretary of State be that deluded that she referred to herself as a super hero?
I opened the first one. The subject line was “INVITATION TO THE PARTY”. It had been sent within the past eight hours.
It read like an e-vite you might receive to a birthday party or baby shower:
Are you coming?
Come and join us. No presents necessary, just your presence. The festivities will begin on August 24th, 2016. Just R.S.V.P. and you’ll be told where to come.
Hope to see you there,
It was bizarre. The date coincided with the third and final day of the U.S.-Israeli soccer tournament. It would likely be the most attended of the three days. I rushed out to find Donovan.
Donovan, Rafferty and Admiral Baker were in the large open space of the warehouse. They were standing in the midst of a semi-circle of some of the most impressive physical specimens I had ever seen. They were taking turns giving instructions. When Rafferty saw me, he motioned for me to come over and left the semi-circle to meet me.
“Did you find out something?” he asked. The intensity on his face spoke volumes about the anxiety he felt. “We need something concrete.”
I told him what I found and he caught Donovan’s eye and motioned for him to join us. I told Donovan what I had found and asked him if he knew about it.
“I haven’t been on the server at all today,” Donovan said. “I haven’t seen that invitation before, but it sounds like they have arrived on a date.”
I asked him if his cover had been blown with the Secretary.
“As far as I know, she still thinks I’m sympathetic to her cause. There’s one way to find out,” Donovan said. “Let’s go R.S.V.P.”
Donovan walked with me back to the conference room. Maria and Jones instinctively tensed as he entered the room. He sat at my laptop and read the invitation. He clicked on reply. As I looked over his shoulder, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the handle that was assigned to his email address. He was ‘Dead Pool’ to the secretary’s Wonder Woman. It was painfully appropriate that he would identify with the one superhero that straddled the fence in terms of what side he was on. Donovan keyed in his response.
Looking forward to the festivities. Let me know if I can bring anything.
See you soon,
He clicked the send button and the email reply was sent.
“Now we wait. If she responds with more details, we will be a step further,” Donovan said. “If she doesn’t respond, or if the response seems suspicious, then she’s on to me.”
Donovan left the room and I went back to looking through other, less recent communications. Much of it was related to logistics. There were some cryptic references to the GTMO prisoners referring to them as ‘Santa’s Helpers.’ After about 30 minutes of digging through these emails, a response from Wonder Woman popped into the inbox. I hurriedly scanned the response for malicious content and it came up clean. I double clicked on it and a series of numbers came up.
25.8576° N, 80.2781° W,16237,1800
I looked at this and scratched my head. The first series appeared to obviously be the longitude and latitude for a location. The other numbers’ significance was not readily apparent.
What was this?