The wheels of the plane touching the tarmac at the Denver Airport snapped Ryan out of his musing. Netanya Kalb sat glancing sideways at him, a puzzled look on her face, as he turned toward her from the plane window.
“You were talking to yourself. I thought I might have to call for assistance to calm you down,” Netanya joked while unbuckling her seatbelt before standing to join the other departing passengers.
Ryan and Agent Kalb walked down the ramp into the arrival area at the Denver International Airport. The terminal looked even more desolate than it did a couple of months ago when he had flown out of the country. The recent years of oil cutbacks and increasing unemployment had catastrophic effects on luxury items like air travel.
Ryan looked around as he walked thru the quiet terminal toward the baggage carousel. Ticket counters that once bustled now boarded tight kiosks closed and several restaurants shut down. With Agent Kalb at his side, he crossed the long wing of the airport from where they deplaned, in silence. Astonishment struck the FBI agent at the quickly decaying plight of air travel. Obviously, with the growing gas shortage and the escalating fare prices, travel by plane was now only affordable by the wealthy. The distraction was short. His mind swung back to focus on how the death of the once prominent member of the People Of The Earth Foundation would advance his investigation.
For the past several weeks Ryan had mulled over the ramifications concerning the one time Professor. At first, he was certain that the body of the late environmentalist at the refinery site in Venezuela was proof that the P.O.T.E. Foundation was behind the worldwide sabotage of the oil and gas industry. But with the exchange of numerous e-mails and several long distance conference calls back to the States he now found himself full of doubts.
Reviewing the facts in his head, he started with what he knew and what was speculation. Anthony Ender was an environmental crusader, a man who had made a lucrative living traveling the world, spouting the destruction of the earth’s climate by fossil fuels. Ender was the man responsible for finding Lucas Pensworth the 3rd and bringing him into the fold. Lucas’ popularity soon outgrew the Professor and the small green movement that Ender began.
Lucas’ rise in popularity brought forth the alliance of the myriad of loosely scattered independent environmental societies into a much bigger, better-organized People Of The Earth Foundation. As the P.O.T.E. Foundation grew so too did the escalation of industrial sabotage aimed at the energy industry.
Until the explosion and shooting of the eco-terrorists at the Lake Maracaibo refinery, the saboteurs had gone about their actions without leaving a single clue behind. At Maracaibo, the professor’s body lay among the men who had infiltrated and were thought responsible for the refinery explosion. Upon the discovery of Ender, Ryan was positive he now had an inside into the terrorists.
Here within lay the problem. After all his research, Ryan had little to no evidence that the professor was still affiliated with the P.O.T.E. Resources back in America swore that the Anthony Ender had parted company with Lucas and his Foundation months before the attack in Venezuela. The evidence was conclusive to Ender leaving the Foundation, but Ryan’s instincts balked at the idea.
On the flight back to the States he had convinced himself that the only way to be certain was to drive from Colorado to Seattle where the P.O.T.E. Foundation headquarters sat and confront the man behind it all, Lucas Pensworth. And as long as he was entertaining conspiracy theory, maybe inquire about the act of war supposedly initiated by the Russian government.
The discovery of the dead Russian soldiers in the Ukraine appeared too convenient. Russian Special Forces sneak into enemy territory and after blowing up the largest gas distributor that side of the Ocean the highly trained operatives perish in a freak fire at their hideout.
Tinfoil hat or not, SA Charles Ryan found so many aspects of that scenario flawed.
Retrieving the luggage, the agents left in search of a bar or restaurant that offered Internet service. Ryan had little trust for the marvels of the twenty-first century but had found it helpful in the research for this investigation. Netanya pointed to a sign advertising free Wi-Fi and tugged his arm leading him inside a sports bar. The pair had little trouble finding a seat. Only one other table sat occupied. A bartender with a haggard beard and his short hair pulled in a bun stepped from behind the counter and carried menus over to their table.
“Does the Wi-Fi work?” Netanya inquired.
The bartender glanced down at her. “It may. The feed has been getting more and more sporadic. Something to drink?” the man asked in a bored voice.
Netanya pulled her tablet out of her carry bag and set it on the table. Typing in the bars Internet password, she sighed as the feed crawled across the tiny computer. The bartender returned with drinks on a bar tray, fished a pair of paper coasters out of his apron, and placed them on the table before taking their food order.
Netanya sipped her drink; her eyes glued to the slow moving bar at the top of her tablet mentally trying to speed the connection.
“Bingo,” she announced when the connection finished. “I am going to log into the Foundations website. They should have an itinerary for your mysterious robed friend,” she winked at Ryan. Her fingers picked at the tablet keys. Ryan nursed his drink watching the Israeli agent. He smiled inwardly. At least his lack of success investigating the eco-terrorism had one small bright spot. If he had solved the case earlier, he never would have met the head turning Shabak agent Netanya Kalb.
His mood soured as he thought back to the years he had wasted chasing the terrorists. How much longer would the bureau allow him to spend money and resources before they tired of the lack of progress? He supposed it all depended on how they viewed the results or lack thereof, not any other agency involved had shown any signs of flushing out the culprits.
Netanya spun the tablet around; her finger pointed at a schedule from the P.O.T.E. homepage. A bold headline announced an upcoming summit at the Foundation building on the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle. The main attraction was none other than the Climate Prophet.
“Seems like we have a few days to unwind before we’re back on the case,” Ryan said raising his glass. “Have you ever been to Seattle?”
Three days before the Puget Sound Summit, FBI agent Charles Ryan, and Netanya Kalb were packing for an unofficial trip north of Denver to the Pacific coast state of Seattle. Ryan’s phone pinged. He paused while quickly glancing at the phone's screen. The e-mail icon was highlighted announcing a new message. Debating whether to stop and read the message or continue getting ready for the road trip, Ryan let his curiosity win as he swiped open his phone to retrieve the communication. A few words in, Ryan wandered over to his sagging couch and sat down to read and reread the message.
“Holy shit,” he mumbled drawing Netanya’s attention.
“What’s up?” she questioned. Ryan remained focused on the small screen before handing off the phone for Netanya to read. He watched the Israeli agent as she perched on the couch’s arm and studied the email.
“This is incredible,” she remarked. “Do you know the person who sent this information?”
“No. All the header reads is an Internet pen name, one unfamiliar to meh. ” Ryan springs off the couch pacing back and forth around the luggage and furniture. “Let me fire up the printer and print off the attached file. We will need to verify the information.” He said as he reclaimed his phone. “Give me one second.” Leaving the living room with his phone, Ryan slips into the spare bedroom. The silence in the apartment soon interrupted by the whirring sound of the remote printer running through its start-up process.
Fraught with curiosity, Netanya wanders over to the room and leans against the doorjamb, Charles Ryan's back is to her as he waits hunched over the remote printer. Sheets of paper began to slide onto the protruding tray on the front of the small black machine. She watches as Ryan snatches one of the sheets.
Straightening up, he quickly scanned the printed surface. A soft whistle passes his lips. “That son of a bitch,” Ryan commented. “This hypocrite stands in front of the world all high and mighty preaching of impending doom from the continued use of fossil fuels and behind everyone’s back his foundation secretly buys up struggling oil companies. I’ll be damned.” He shakes his head in wonder and passes on the paper.
Netanya read the names and numbers printed on the sheet. “So, as it stands, we don't know if any of this message is true? Someone could be setting you up?”
His enthusiasm curbed momentarily; a grin crept back onto Ryan's face. “But…what if it is true. This information would mean that our beloved Climate Prophet is using this whole “the earth is dying” scam to devalue the energy industry and scoop up corporations for pennies on the dollar.” Ryan fell silent, his brain leaping to conclusions before continuing. “Jeez. I wonder how many unsuspecting companies worldwide the Foundation could have been purchased in these conditions? Our friend Lucas has been busy playing both ends of the energy game, clean energy, and fossil fuels.”
"If the information is correct." Netanya reminded.
Ryan turned back to the printer. The staccato beat of the machine shakes the small table underneath it. More names of secretly acquired energy companies along with dates of acquisitions and the names of board members rolled out in black ink. Several sheets later, another startling discovery, the names of the foundation's subsidiaries and dollar amounts spent on political campaigns from a score of different countries involving politicians of all levels of government.
“How in the hell was he able to keep this secret. The man has influenced the elections in countless countries, ours included. How?”
“Your friend, the Climate Prophet has unquestionably become very powerful,” Netanya admitted. “Maybe too powerful.”
“But how was this possible?" Ryan said as he waved a handful of freshly printed papers in the air. "Why hasn’t any of this come out before?”
“I suppose by misdirection,” she mused. “Lucas convinces the world he is out to save us, and while people are busy applauding his efforts, the Foundation moves in the shadows and builds an empire.” Netanya took a breath. “Don’t you think we are getting ahead of ourselves? This information could be completely bogus.”
“How about your associate's at Shabak? They should be far enough removed from this situation to allow for some discreet digging.” Ryan asked. The printer stopped. Instinctively, he rebooted the email attachment deciding to print a second set of copies. Grabbing a couple of vanilla envelopes he carefully divided the pile of papers into separate packets. One he passed to Netanya. The second bundle he took and rushing out of his apartment explained he would return shortly.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.