For All Nails #241: Games Without Frontiers
by Mike Keating
CBI Chief Superintendent Kevin Fleming looked with disgust at the pile of newspaper clippings on his desk. The one currently on top was from Boston: "17 Dead in Consulate Riot." Others underneath were from New York and Michigan City. Smaller riots had broken out in the NC following the Boston one. It had come full circle three days ago when the Nats had a protest of their own outside the CNA office building in Philadelphia. This time it had been the army clubs who came uninvited. Fleming somehow knew that if he could break the army club case here in Black Rock, then this violence could be ended before it got too dangerous to handle. It was already bad enough that some in Boston were found to have died from head wounds after being hit with truncheons.
Was this where all that money Mercator had been supposedly funneling to the army clubs got delivered? It was possible. Fleming found it ironic that Mercator's plot didn't start to bear fruit until after the man was out of office. FN1 He shoved the thought aside. We don't even know for a fact that Mercator was involved, no matter how helpful Moctezuma has been. Idle speculation would get him nowhere.
As if his prayers had been answered, the telephone on his desk rang. He picked it up. "Yes, Deanna?"
His secretary told him, "Chief Superintendent Mitchell from Burlington on line one, sir."
"All right, thanks, Deanna." Fleming hit the button for line 1. He'd known Michael Mitchell for ten years, and thought well of him. "Mitch, how are you?" Fleming leaned back in his chair, glad to talk with an old friend.
"Good, Kevin, good. I got something here you may be interested in."
"Oh? Don't leave me wondering."
"Well, Kevin, it seems we picked someone up. He works at GC, and he's a USM spy. Or at least he used to be till last summer. And there seems to be a connection to your army clubs." That made Fleming sit up straight.
"Go on," Fleming said in a hushed, slightly stunned voice.
"Well," continued Mitch, "this worker at General Computing, name of Paul Arnott, turned himself in out of nowhere the day after the Michigan City riot. Said his brother was a bystander, not even there for the protest. The brother got caught up in the rioting and one of the jeffies broke his arm. After this Paul lost his appetite for the people he was connected to.
"Paul Arnott had access to blueprints on the GC machines. He decided to make a little extra cash by selling these plans to the Mexican War Department. His loke and his house are both a little more expensive than what he should've been able to afford. I'd guess Mercator was interested in building some computing machines of his own. Arnott tells us that the USM got the data well before the machines were commercially available. Some aren't on the market at all because they're secret. All I can say is it has something to do with getting the photos from our satellites."
"Sounds like you don't have much here, Mitch. A guy who turned himself in of his own volition when he was free and clear, and spying for somebody who's out of power and wanted on much more serious charges." Fleming thought for a second, then added, "Wait a minute. Mercator wanted to launch his own satellites for observation?"
"He may not have wanted this stuff for that purpose. He may have been hoping to decode our satellite signals to see what we had, or had something totally different in mind. We're not sure.
"As to your first point, I thought it might lead us to other stuff. We're looking at other places in Burlington now: Arthur Labs, Champlain. He's given us a description of the people he handed the information to ... not the same person every time; there were two different ones. One of them is a local who was identified as a body in the Boston riot. But the other bears a good likeness to one of the descriptions your undercover man got out before he was killed." FN2
"Now, Mitch, you definitely have my interest. I think I see what you're getting at. I'm pretty sure there was a Mercator agent within the Black Rock section of the movement. The boys in Boston almost had him once, but they nabbed the wrong man. Arnott must have been passing the data to the army clubs, who funneled it to Mexico from Black Rock."
Fleming realized he was biting the nails on his left hand and made himself stop. "Can you telecopy FN3 me all the stuff you get out of him? I want to start looking for any correlations with labs here in Black Rock." National Union had Edison Labs here; it occurred to him that this would be a likely place to spy on. If the army club members in Black Rock were involved, he thought it strange they'd help with spying in Burlington and not their hometown.
"Sure, Kevin, who knows? You may just find something you could use," Mitchell told him.
"Thanks, Mitch. I've got to start my own investigation, so I'll have to let you go. It's been good talking to you."
"Same here, Kevin." Fleming hung up the phone.
The odd thing was that the USM had been spending money to duplicate devices they could just as easily buy. But then Mercator would need to buy from CNA companies. Fleming knew that'd be almost as bad (almost, but not quite) as going to Kramer in the ex-Secretary's mind. Not only that, but he suddenly recalled something he'd seen in the business pages once: Kramerica had bought a minority stake in GC a couple of years ago. He remembered Mercator once calling Kramer "loathsome, offensive brutes." No, he wouldn't want to buy from GC. But to steal from them would please him immensely.
It'd also necessitate waiting until the devices came onto the market. If the War Department had some of these things before anyone else did... how much might Mercator's people have made off with when they became fugitives? Headquarters in Burgoyne would want to hear of this right away; Fleming should have asked Mitch if he'd called them yet.
The main problem was that any operation had been over for nearly a year and a half. There was no way to catch anyone in the act. The only thing to do was to see if anyone was living beyond their means. Bank records and recent purchases would need to be checked. After that, maybe some deeper investigation might be possible of specific individuals. Fleming picked up his phone, and gave instructions to Deanna to make the first of several calls that day.
Another spy ring?, he thought, recalling the one in Michigan City. And I'm in on the start of looking into it.
Forward to FAN #242: Brothers.
Forward to 26 December 1975: Sins of the Father.
Forward to Harold Pickett: A Farewell to Kings.
Return to For All Nails.