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First pages

1

My name’s Rudy Baskin—short for Rudolph Baskin, which didn’t work well on tough New York City streets when I was a kid. I got my nose broken in a fistfight over the “Rudolph” part. Later, once I’d become a cop, I got my nose broken again over the “Rudolph” part. So, I became “Rudy” two years after graduating from NYPD’s police academy at the top of my class.

Now I’m fifty-one years old and you can still tell the nose was broken. I don’t care. I only had average looks when I was young. Now I’ve got average looks, forty more pounds around my middle, and thinning hair I dye brown, myself. I figure it’s only the dye that keeps me looking average. I could do worse.

My wife left me five years into my twenty-four-year police career, about three years after I’d been promoted into Internal Affairs. There were no kids and she took the cat. I spent the rest of my NYPD years with Internal Affairs until they threw me out. I was maybe the best they ever had at finding cops who’d turned crooked. I could even sniff out cops who were about to go bad. I mean, I was terrific. That’s mostly why they got rid of me.

My first day back at being a civilian, I got drunk—drunker than I’ve ever been. It was just me and a bottle. If you’re in Internal Affairs, you basically have no serious friends outside the IA department. Almost no regular cop will trust you. And in my case, I was left with no friends inside the department. When you leave IA the way I did, it’s like becoming nuclear waste. Nobody wants to be near you. So, I got drunk alone on my first day as a retiree.

I didn’t mind. I long ago got used to being alone. I kind of like it. I don’t even need a cat around. If I want human interaction, I can open my second-floor New York City walk-up apartment’s window. Then I get the street noise. Sometimes I hear the lady next door arguing with her worthless husband. Sometimes I hear the kid one floor up who sits on the fire escape rehearsing for auditions. He’s a lousy actor, but I’m too nice to tell him. He’ll go through life waiting on tables like he does now, I’d guess. He’s good with French words and wine pairings.

After a while I can close the window and feel content again with being alone. I go to my computer and then I enter cyberspace, where I’m Teddy Bear. Nobody there knows my age. Nobody there knows how I look. And only a few people know how I make my living.

I used to find bad guys to arrest them. Since I got thrown out of IA, I’ve kept right on finding bad guys. The difference is that I’ve started making the bad guys my business partners.

2

From an encrypted satellite phone conversation:

Gadsbury: I called to give you some free information.

Fixer: I like that. Is it about the guy Ashley’s trying to recruit?

Gadsbury: Indeed. His code name will be Teddy Bear. He’s on one of the FBI’s low priority lists of potentially dangerous hackers. I think that’s only because he has IT degrees, but no visible job. The FBI’s mainly guessing about him and thousands of others like him. That’s what my source inside the FBI says.

Fixer: I need a name and address for this Teddy Bear.

Gadsbury: Of course. Wait ten minutes and check your inbox for an encrypted email from me. It will tell you he’s Rudy Baskin—B-A-S-K-I-N—and he lives alone in an uninspiring part of New York City.

Fixer: Any ideas on when I can have his home bugged?

Gadsbury: He’s going to meet Ashley out of town this coming Wednesday. I estimate you’ll have no more than a three- or four-hour window, starting at one p.m. You’ll need to move fast.

Fixer: Not a problem. My electronics guy does the fast part very well.

Gadsbury: So my free information was useful? I’ve built some goodwill with you?

Fixer: You have. It’s very useful news. I need to make certain this guy’s not an FBI plant. Thanks, Gadsbury. My big client will be pleased.

3

I can almost live online. Amazon brings me just about whatever I need. Sometimes I go to the corner grocery store. Sometimes I go to the corner drugstore, which somehow got licensed to sell liquor. Otherwise, I’m mostly in cyberspace, where I belong.

Every few days or so, I check my apartment snail-mail box. It’ll have typical New York City clutter. Much of it’s little paper flyers for every service you can think of, many of which are immoral. The grocery store sends out coupons and the Bluezee Party asks for money. There’s not much else going into my mailbox. Even so, it fills up and has to be emptied.

If the box gets full, the post office tells the landlord, who tells me. Sometimes the ugly woman who delivers the mail yells at me personally. That’s always fun. I apologize obsequiously and offer her some of my immoral services coupons. We could go together, I say. That makes her mad. By now, she thinks I’m a pervert, or maybe an axe murderer. She’s careful to stand halfway out the apartment building door while shouting at me.

Yesterday, I found in my mailbox a thick envelope. It held two thousand dollars in hundred-dollar bills. A note with the money said to rent myself a car. If I drove alone to a Catskill Mountains mansion about two hours away on Wednesday, the note said, I could make another five thousand. The letter was signed by Lucinda Ashley. There was an email address I could use to RSVP.

I Googled the name and decided Lucinda Ashley was a vice president in Gadsbury, Maxwell, and Ashley, a tiny Washington, D.C. public relations firm. The firm had three pictures of her on its web site. Good marketing on their part, I’d say. Lucinda had blond hair, blue eyes, flashy jewelry, an extraordinary figure, and a no-nonsense smile. She was about my age, too. I emailed that I’d show up alone and on time.

The next day was Wednesday. I drove the two hours to her Catskill mansion. The last half mile was on the serpentine private driveway up Lucinda’s mountain to Lucinda’s castle. At the top, the four goons acting as her bodyguards met me. To be fair, these were gentlemen goons: three piece suits, buzz-cut hair, and practiced frowns. Two of them coordinated their gum chews.

They frisked me, found my empty holster, and asked where my gun was. I told them it was locked in my car. They said they’d keep it while I was on their mountain. I told them I’d keep it, so they wouldn’t shoot themselves. The gun, I said, was loaded.

The young goon speaking rolled his shoulders, puffed out his massive chest, and gave me his death stare. I’ve drawn far better death stares from corrupt cops. Besides, I already knew these bodyguard guys were junior varsity—police academy dropouts, I’d guess. Nobody even had his hand on a gun yet. I could have shot them all when I drove up.

“You’ve got sixty seconds,” I said, looking right back at Death Eyes. “Take me to see Lucinda Ashley or I’m driving away.” Then I added the big, synthetic smile I used for my ugly letter carrier. That angered Death Eyes.

He started to say something nasty, but the eldest of the four waved his hand. “Take this man to see Ms. Ashley,” the adult among them said. He turned his back and muttered at the radio microphone inside his sleeve. A wrought iron pedestrian gate swung open. A pair of the lesser goons stepped forward, both death staring at me. That meant I was to follow them into the mansion.

4

The two lesser goons led me to a big, opulent living room. You might find entire Upstate New York furniture stores displaying fewer very expensive pieces than that living room held. Lucinda Ashley sat at one end of a long, ornate dinner table. She rose, smiled, and gestured for me to take the chair beside her.

She was easily the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen up close and in person. Her firm’s web site must have played down her looks so she’d seem more businesslike. Lucinda Ashley was a stunner, for sure. It’s not every day an average-looking, fat guy like me gets to sit by a stunner. I smiled as best I could and walked to the table. We sat down together.

Almost immediately, the matching set of goons moved in close. One stood beside her. One stood beside me. Three feet closer and they’d have looked like bookends. Each goon clasped his hands in front of him, just below the belt. Each seemed to await Lucinda’s command to pee.

She might have read my mind because she almost laughed. “Thank you, gentlemen. Please leave me and Mr. Baskin alone now.”

The goons looked at each other in bewilderment. They looked at Lucinda, who was smiling happily. One goon shrugged and both goons left.

She watched the door shut behind them before removing an earpiece from beneath her perfectly sculpted blonde hair. “I didn’t think they’d leave so easily,” she said. “I’ve been following a very interesting radio conversation among my bodyguards.” She glanced toward the earpiece and looked at me, eyes a-twinkle.

“Let me guess. They think I’m dangerous.”

She nodded. “And they think you’re a flaming asshole, to use their term. Most people would have been afraid of these bodyguards, Mr. Baskin. You weren’t.” Clearly she was interested in what I would say next.

“Yeah. Well, most people are smarter than I am.”

She shook her head. “Ahh! Don’t play that humble pie trick with me, Rudolph Baskin.”

“It’s Rudy, ma’am. Just Rudy.”

“Then, Rudy it is. And I’m Lucinda. Anyway, I know a lot about you, Rudy. More than you might ever suspect. It’s why my firm and I are so interested in you.”

“For example?” I prompted.

“Well, let me turn on my little magic box first.” She fished a two-inch black cube out of her designer purse. The purse went on the floor. The cube and her hands went onto the table. She leaned forward and asked, “Do you know what that is?”

Now, I’m a Schenectady Valley Institute techie sort of guy, so of course I knew. “It’s a Receptor Nanoscanner. Costs more than my rental car, assuming you can even find one to buy. The world’s spook agencies all drool when they think about it. Governments buy up most of them. Satisfied?”

“Oh, very good.” She leaned back in the big chair. I could hear the whisper of expensive fabric as her legs crossed under the table. It made me envy the nearest table leg, which must have had a terrific view. “There are two lights on the top. You push the outer one to have the box check its battery and its circuits. Then you press the inner one to turn on the device. As long as it doesn’t flash, we are safe from any electronic eavesdropping ... though I never did understand why.” She smiled. I took it as my cue to show off.

“The box scans the entire radio spectrum, doing so in very small increments and with astonishing speed. It will find any radio beam being transmitted at us. It will find any electronic message being transmitted out of the room, even if it leaves as a frequency-hopping microburst. Half the time, this box picks up any laser splash on windows. Carry it around the room, and you can pinpoint ultra-tiny signal leakage from nearby electrical devices like my runner’s watch or your cell phone ... Do I win dinner for two?” I’d have settled for a look at her legs, but a good negotiator starts high.

She laughed. I guess she liked ordinary-looking fat guys trying to pick her up. “How about if we start with what I know about you?”

“Okay. If you’re mostly correct, you can be the one to win dinner for two.”

She gave me a noncommittal smile. That was okay. I knew she was thinking over my offer in her subconscious. She began telling me about me as she did so. “Let’s just hit the highlights. You spent about twenty-one years in NYPD Internal Affairs. I am reliably told you were the best they ever had when it came to finding corrupt police officers. Indeed, I’m told there’s been nobody with even half your talents since you left.”

“Thank you. But perhaps you also know I was forced to retire?” I thought this might save us both some time.

“Yes! And much to your credit. You realized the deputy police commissioner had taken bribes. The scandal would have been huge, but somebody in the department destroyed critical evidence. Your case collapsed. Before very long, your marvelous career also collapsed. Am I right so far?”

“Sadly, you are.”

She nodded. “But things got better. You enrolled in the legendary Schenectady Valley Institute and began taking computer courses. And SVI is a very, very hard school. Three years later, you had two master’s degrees. And here’s my first question: Why IT?”

“Maybe I just like working by myself. You can do that in IT. I’m basically an anti-social loner accustomed to loud neckties and garlic-stuffed olives.”

She tipped her head, looking amused. “Hmm. I’d bet that’s no more than partly right. Want to hear more of the story I’ve been told?”

“Sure.”

“You learned IT to find your way around the Dark Web—the global network of internet web sites which are mostly hidden. Usually, the governments of the world do not even know many of the sites exist. You became an ex-cop who could hack with the best—somebody uniquely, and perfectly equipped, to navigate the most advanced crime environment ever known. The Dark Web is abundantly populated with tech-savvy criminals.”

“It’s an interesting place.”

“Yes! And you drew upon the instincts, skills, and tenacity that made you a phenomenon within Internal Affairs. You began finding bad guys again. This time, you looked only for bad guys with special skills or with special access. Then, instead of arresting them, you made them your allies. You now have an amazing personal network of reliable criminals. Right again?”

“You’re not some undercover cop planning to testify against me, are you?”

“Of course not!” She smiled and awaited my response.

I took about two heartbeats to think. I decided to sound both firm and confident. It was about maintaining control, I told myself. In other words, it was a guy thing. “It wouldn’t work if you were a cop,” I said. “I’m an ex-cop. I know better than to admit to anything illegal. And if you were to propose I do something illegal, it would be entrapment.”

She waited two heartbeats, although I doubt she needed to. She could handle a guy thing when she saw it. Since it made no difference to her, she let me have my four seconds of being in control. It’s a standard savvy female trick. My ex-wife even knew it.

“Rudy,” Lucinda said, “maybe we can improve our conversation. Let’s discuss hypothetically something that unenlightened others might think criminally wrong. We won’t talk about what will happen. We will only talk about what might happen. You know the game?”

“I know the game. Do we switch to hypotheticals now?” I found myself a little annoyed that she had handled the moment better than I had. I expected her to rustle her legs under the table to punish me, but she didn’t. I felt better.

“Yes, Rudy, let’s do that. We begin by assuming, for the sake of entertaining speculation only, that you can learn things on the Dark Web. The FBI has at its disposal some enormously expensive law enforcement and national security databases. But you have your Dark Web network, which once in a while might do, say, ten percent of what the FBI databases can do. Hypothetically.” She looked as though awaiting confirmation.

I leaned forward. I guess I thought I’d be more credible. “I’ll play along. Let’s pretend you’re correct—except let’s pretend my Dark Web resources can find out more than 50 percent of what the Feebees can find. It would be more like 80 percent if I had enough time. To the extent the Feebees’ IT folks have an advantage over me, it’s mostly just that they get access quicker. My contractors—of course, we’re still pretending here—sometimes have to go out and steal stuff first.”

She seemed very pleased. “Rudy, I was right about you! You can make a small fortune working with my firm. More than a small fortune, even.”

“I don’t get it. Sorry.”

“Suppose that, from time to time, my firm were asked to provide useful information on some important person. Often, we’d have to tell our client if the person could be trusted to, say, take a bribe and deliver value for the money paid.”

“It’s like you reference check the guy, maybe?”

“No. Well, sort of no. We might go through the motions of doing that. But we’d never rely on it. We’d only do reference checking so we could claim, if we had to, that we got our information legitimately. Reference checking is very unreliable for high-stakes evaluations of people. And it’s always better to use fewer sources than more sources. Less chance of discovery that way.”

“Okay. Maybe you use those pencil-and-paper psychological tests? Interviews with a trusted shrink? Lie detector tests, even?” I was being serious.

She still laughed gently. “Oh, you have been watching too much cable TV! You see, all those techniques can be learned. That’s how the evaluators acquire the techniques. They learn them. Once you know how to perform these various tricks, you know how to beat them.”

I thought a minute. “You’re saying that some august psychologists somewhere specialize in teaching people to trick psychological evaluations?”

She looked so pleased, I felt like I’d just been given a gold star. “Yes! And there are at least a dozen such training sites worldwide.”

“And how would you evaluate what people told you, when the usual ways didn’t work?”

“We’d use our network. We informally contact individuals with useful information—often, secret information. We’d ask them to confidentially share it with us. We always discover more from secret information than the psychological approaches could tell us. Psychologists seem so phenomenally overconfident in their work. I assume it helps market them.”

I thought about that and decided to be blunt. “You provide illegally obtained confidential information?”

“We do. Hypothetically speaking, of course. We do it often and we do it well. Our clients sometimes pay us vast sums for this insight.”

“And you think my insight complements your insight?”

“Indeed. We access secrets often and well, but neither often enough nor well enough.”

“And I would be asked to add to what you know?”

“Yes.”

She slid an envelope toward me and waited for me to count its contents. It was the five thousand dollars she’d promised. “Okay,” I said. “I’d want to be an independent contractor. I’m a loner, remember.”

“Of course! My firm is safer if there’s no evidence you ever worked for us. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. Not a problem. Just tell me what you’d like me to do first.”

She gave me this happy, almost dreamy look. That look almost made me forget I was, to her, a nobody—just a fat guy living in a second-floor walk-up. I hoped my shower-stall hair dye job still looked okay.

She told me we’d meet again soon so she could give me my first assignment. I left her castle feeling happy.

5

From an encrypted chat conversation between Lucinda Ashley and Dempsey Gadsbury, who was her peer in Wilbur Maxwell’s PR firm:

Ashley: Baskin drove off ten minutes ago. No problem. He’ll work for us.

Gadsbury: That’s nice. Did you tell him what we want him to do?

Ashley: Let’s say I’m bringing him along one step at a time. Maybe one or two assignments before we give him the big job of yours that matters.

Gadsbury: We aren’t going to have that long. The client wants to move in weeks, not months.

Ashley: That’s just splendid. Did you tell your great, big client that we still don’t know if Baskin is as good as my sources suspect he might be?

Gadsbury: I’ll manage my clients, Lucinda. You just manage Baskin.

Ashley: Oh? And who still can’t manage the FBI? You’re little bloodsucking fed buddy keeps asking for ridiculously bigger bribes. We pay or he interferes. You were supposed to fix that, Dempsey! What are you going to do if the FBI gets seriously interested in Baskin before this project ends?

Gadsbury: That’s too many words for chat. You’re overwrought again. I suggest Prozac.

Ashley: No! I’m not overwrought. I’m using voice recognition and dictating into my satellite phone. I talk faster than your wart-encrusted thumbs type.

Gadsbury: Prozac, Lucinda. Try thinking of it as a vitamin. I sense you’re under stress.

Ashley: Stress? Of course I’m under stress! One-to-three months is way too close for comfort. I want a bigger cut on this one, Dempsey. You think about that.

Gadsbury: We can talk about it when you return to D.C. For now, concentrate on Prozac.

6

About a half-hour south of Castle Lucinda, I left the interstate, drove seven miles, and got to Sawblade, New York. It’s a little bedroom community with a mountain on either side. People here mostly commute to New York City by train. There’s a convenience store, Millie’s Diner, and not much else.

Millie died years ago. Her diner is now run by Big Fred, her son. The place is clean and Fred makes a great pastrami sandwich. It’s also a quarter mile away from a major cell phone tower. You get five bars and then some if you pretend to be working for the tower’s owner. Calls never get dropped that way. I stop here every couple of months, either for the pastrami or the bandwidth.

Today it was both. I liked Lucinda Ashley, but I didn’t trust her. In my life, not trusting anyone works pretty well. I don’t even trust Big Fred. So, I got out my cell phone, had it tell the tower I was one of the tower owner’s employees, and connected to the hidden surveillance cameras in my apartment. They’re not top-of-the-line, but close. I put them in myself once junkies moved into an apartment building across the street. I’ve got some high-end computer stuff. Anybody stealing it would very quickly get a nasty visit from me. I still know how to break legs with the best of them.

Somebody had shown up to bug my apartment while I was gone. He was good. He had to be to pick his way through my Swiss-made door locks. One bug went inside a ceiling lamp that hung above and behind my computer workstation. I usually have both big screens running when I’m working at my computer. I’d guess the bug could read one of them. If I moved my keyboard eighteen inches to the left, though, my body would mostly mask the screen from the bug. There are benefits to carrying around some extra weight.

The other bug went into a wall outlet beside the big, comfy chair I sit in to read. It was an easy guess that the second bug only grabbed audio. They probably thought I’d make secret cell phone calls from the chair. Smart guys. I’d do exactly that, if I didn’t know about the bug.

I disconnected from my phony cell tower employee account. Big Fred brought the pastrami and we both faked friendly smiles. I didn’t bother thinking about who put in those bugs until halfway through the sandwich. It might be a competitor, though the chances were remote. It could be the Feebees, though I simply could not give them that much credit. It might have been Lucinda’s firm—but if it was, why? I didn’t have an answer to the last one.

However, it didn’t matter because I didn’t really have a problem. The bugs worked off the building’s electrical system, which meant no batteries to change. The unknown techie wouldn’t return unless I ripped out the bugs.

No point in doing that. Once you find somebody’s bug, it becomes a very cool way to send that somebody misinformation. They’ll tend to believe every bit of it.

7

I guess this is where I should tell you how the Dark Web works. Don’t worry. I used to testify in court a lot. I’m good at explaining weird stuff.

There are three ways to be on the Dark Web. First, you can hide your identity so nobody knows who you are. There are special web sites that can change your IP address so you can’t be tracked. You also can get software to strip identifying header and footer information from your messages. And you can always pretend to be somebody else. Me? I’ve got five false web identities I can use. The last one I made up was for Lulabelle Greenflake, a college sophomore who agonizes late at night about not having hugged enough trees last semester. She’s a real airhead, but I gave her a size D bra cup. Three Ivory Pod University seniors are now trying to seduce her online.

The second way to be on the Dark Web is to hang out at mysterious web sites. These are the ones the Feebees usually don’t know about. The site operators simply sneak onto the web using IT techie tricks and never bother to register their web sites with the authorities. Only persons the site operators invite know about the site. This approach works better if you use encryption and require a password only your buddies have.

I ran a site like this while I was at Schenectady Valley Institute. I used their equipment, some forbidden software I downloaded, and half the IT techie tricks SVI taught me. Mostly I did it the easy way, just using encrypted email with identifiers removed. For each of three textbook instructor manuals, I sold the test question answers to SVI undergrads. Once I figured out how to make the payments to me untraceable, it was like a partial scholarship. It paid for my books, my meals, and my beer.

The third way to be on the Dark Web is the best way. It’s the way I do it: You both disguise your identity and then go to sites that only Dark Web cognoscenti know. For a few years now, I have run just such a Dark Web site for people smart enough to stay anonymous. It provides an essential service for nice crooks, but I’ll get to that.

So, there are three ways to be on the Dark Web. My way is best, but there are still two other ways you could use.

Next topic: Who will be on the Dark Web with you? Regardless of how you go onto the Dark Web, there will be lowlife scum there. Lots of lowlife scum, in fact. Some of them swap child pornography. Some sell dangerous, mind-altering drugs like meth. Some are wacko fascist types trying to start violence. Other sicko creeps show up on the Dark Web, but you get the idea.

Then there’s my part of the Dark Web. It’s where the information brokers—the nice crooks like me—do business. You see, at least a billion computer files will get hacked and stolen this year. Some of the files are not worth much. Nobody cares about Mrs. Murphy’s second grade class roster. Credit card data can be worth some serious money, though, if it’s recent. Far better still is information that some rich group considers vitally important. Then you’re talking about my kind of Dark Web crime.

Personally, I prefer selling industrial secrets. As long as you stay away from the defense industry, the punishments are close to nothing if you get caught. You can make truly obscene profits from industrial secrets. I’ve done that repeatedly, which is one reason I keep living in a second floor walk-up. I don’t want the IRS or the Feebees figuring out that I’m almost filthy rich. I keep about twenty grand in the Common Folks’ Credit Union, which is where my NYPD pension check goes. My serious money is all stashed offshore in three numbered accounts.

Once, I sold a European oil company plans for a proprietary catalyst that increased its refinery’s capacity 15 percent. That was big savings to them. I also sold the entire digital movie file for an anti-American spy movie made in Sweden. It was a pretty good story and the Swedish actresses showed lots of skin. The black market downloads began days before the film opened, and we bad guys earned a truckload’s worth of krona.

I’ve sold insider stock trading information half a dozen times. I mostly stick with European companies these days. The EU, I think, has long been coming apart in regard to law enforcement. You can see it if you’ve been a cop and know what to look for. Each year, Interpol looks less effective than it once was, at least within Europe. Each year, I get harder for the EU to catch. I therefore like Europe. I might even retire there, if they keep unraveling.

Now, if you’ve been reading between my lines, you’ve realized my part of the Dark Web is essentially a business. We have business problems. Buyers and sellers, for example, need an invisible way to get paid. Two guys I know a little, but trust a lot, solved that problem years ago. They set up legitimate offshore companies. Suppose you want to move, say, a million dollars to somebody who sold you plans for an artificial hip joint that will enhance a male user’s erections. You’d find a computer that’s untraceable to you and have it make ten thousand little transactions buying an unrelated product from Offshore Company A.

Your funds to pay for the hip joint plans are now in the system. Company A makes ten thousand little transactions, buying the unrelated products of Offshore Company B. That gets your money into Company B, which will give most of it to the plans’ seller.

Meanwhile, Company B places fictitious orders with some of the other offshore companies in the scam and racks up a million dollars in losses. If necessary, the losses will explain why the million dollars sent from Company A never stayed in Company B’s treasury. Cool, huh? It works even better than it sounds if you bribe the authorities in the offshore countries. Nobody ever checks the Company B treasury then.

Now, we’re finally at the place I come in. One Dark Web entrepreneur needs to send money, and another one must reciprocate by sending an industrial secret. I just showed you how the money gets sent. But how does the buyer know it can trust the seller to send the secret? Since this is the Dark Web, you can be sure they’ve never met.

In the real-life, legitimate business world, they have the same problem. Suppose you’re an eBay buyer who does not know the eBay seller. To help you along, eBay provides a rating that indicates how reliable the seller has been. Amazon does something similar for those selling products through its site. And you can always find buyer guides for big-ticket items like cars or TVs.

The Dark Web for industrial secrets has none of that. Instead, it has me.

8

From New York City’s leading newspaper, The Manhattan SomeTimes:

Sen. Lucifer Platt (R-IL) and Senator Priscilla Winkle (B-IL) held separate press conferences today addressing the same Army Corps of Engineer plan to survey certain parts of northern Illinois. About three hundred square miles are involved, the two senators said. Both groundwater and subterranean rock structure are to be assessed.

The two senators also continued their rancorous public debate. It was a tiny microcosm of the bitterly hostile dialog between virtually all Redzee and Bluezee politicians.

Senator Platt again denied Senator Winkle’s repeated allegations that this study is part of a nefarious Redzee administration plan to create a new nuclear waste disposal site underneath what is now mostly northern Illinois farmland.

Senator Winkle strongly reiterated her charges, claiming that all the waste that was supposed to end up in Yucca Mountain would instead be stored in Illinois. It would, she said, be an environmental catastrophe. Also, since south-side Chicago would be only fifty miles away, the administration’s proposal was clearly a racist effort aimed almost entirely at Chicago’s poorest residents. She called for an immediate halt to the survey and for an investigation into the disgusting racial impetus undoubtedly behind it.

Senator Platt agreed with Senator Winkle about banning nuclear waste from Illinois. However, he loudly protested that he saw no racial animosity at work. He suggested that, while it was still too soon to know, the Russians might be involved. They had, he said, been closely connected with purchases of American uranium in years past and uranium can become nuclear waste.

The White House press secretary, Bannister Laswell, later responded that the Administration was proactively working to meet America’s energy needs. The Corps of Engineers study, he said, would be made with the greatest of care. He was sure the study would find no danger to Chicago. Bannister speculated that construction and operation of any future radioactive waste site in the survey area would have a strong, healthy effect on the Chicago-area economy. Indeed, he said, this issue was about jobs as much as about energy.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Randall Jarmon’s had his share of elite military training. Accounts of ordnance, tactics, and martial arts are sound. He’s worked in a world-class manufacturing setting and a world-class R&D center. Expect a story’s technology to be credible, even for scientists and engineers. He has a Ph.D. in Management, and easily explains complex organization of human effort. Look for good plots clearly set forth. Dr. Jarmon, his wife, and their golden retriever divide their time between Arizona and Texas.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
The main character, Rudy Baskin, kept surprising me, which is to say he kept growing up during the story. I had to recast the plot around his unexpected evolution from middle-aged slob to polished gentleman. It was all the heroine’s fault. She exerted far too good an influence on him.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The story goes its own distinctive way, but was inspired by turmoil following Donald Trump’s election. FROM US can be seen as either mainstream or right of center. You choose. Apolitical Rudy Baskin slings his barbs both left and the right.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I have an Amazon author page and an ordinary Facebook page. I might still have a Goodreads page. None of these locations, however, has as much material about me as www.randalljarmon.com. That's my fault. It is so much easier for me, personally, to work in WordPress that I mostly use it these days.

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