The Morcos Connection - Frank Pilger Book 2

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Maybe Sewell was the later since he had fish on his screen saver. For my sake, I preferred to go after the control freaks. They are predictable and vulnerable. People who like and keep coloured fish probably think they are doing the fish a favour by keeping them from becoming fodder in the violent under-water food chain. The control freak would have flushed the fish so there would be no record of him at any tropical fish shop.

I hoped the fish were still alive and registered at some pleasant aquarium in the area where we could make a connection with Jerry Sewell. The meeting room was typical but a large painting caught my eye. It looked like a Remington - wild horses running on a western plain, an Apache on a galloping paint trying to lasso one on them. I had always liked Remington's depictions of the Wild West and walked over to take a closer look even though I knew it would only be a print.

It was not a Remington. It was a limited edition print, signed by the artist, one M. I stood back and examined the print more closely. This person could use a paint brush; there no doubt about the skills of the artist here. The colours were good although there was a little more yellow in the grasses than I would have liked. The sky had a unique blueness to it that was almost a chromatic. The horse, trying to dodge the thrown lasso, had a certain wildness in his eye that was revealed by the amount of white showing. The mountains in the background had a redness in them that you did not see at first glance, but on closer inspection added a depth of field that I would not expect from such a colour.

Not that I am so knowledgeable about painting, it is just an interest that I picked up from my first wife and her vocation. We should have them in a couple of days," Robbie replied. He never gave out the number. The secretary did not know the number. He had a car phone and we are checking that number as well. Or some other co-conspirator. He might also have registered the cell under a different name. And different billing address.

Nothing of interest yet. No telephone bills, no charge cards so far," she added, reading my thoughts. This girl might be new to CSIS, but she did know what she was doing when it came to an investigation. It might not be as hard to work with Buddy's greenhorn as I had feared. I followed Robbie's rental car across town to the Scarborough area and parked in the visitor's space outside a small, five-story apartment block. The building was new, about ten years old, and looked out over a ravine filled with maples and oaks, now bare except for a few clinging brown oak leaves that were waiting for the first warm days of spring when they would be blown onto someone's pristine lawn.

Jerry Sewell rented the penthouse suite on the top floor, a spacious and tastefully decorated apartment of over square feet of floor space. This guy had a taste for the finer things in life and treated himself to only the best. The furniture was all top quality, the electronic sound system was Sony and Bose with a inch Hitachi television set, the dining room set was rosewood, well oiled and rubbed to a fine gloss. He has a paper shredder here and we think he shredded everything before he left. The building superintendent says he remembers a couple of large green bags of shredded paper in the dumpster but that was picked up before we got here.

Are you listening? Sewell obviously planned his departure very well. Notice this painting? It looks like any one of a thousand of those seascapes you see in every art store. It looks like something you'd find at a starving artist sale in a park or mall," she laughed. Come and take a closer look. This is an original oil painting, not a copy like we saw at the office. And it is by the same artist - Morcos. The lines are too soft - women try to hide that side of themselves and try to make their art more male-like.

Sells better," she said. It would be too much of a coincidence to find this attractive young woman shared the same love of painting as my first wife, Karen. It is probably not right in this case. The only thing unusual about the bathroom was a surfing poster. Same bronzed guy from the office, riding a different green-water wave. We went back out to the living room and I poked around, trying to find something that I may have missed on the first pass through the room. I had a vague feeling that something was not right but I could not pinpoint it. She stood and looked around the room and then said, "Got it!

Would you place those paintings on the walls in those locations? It was out of balance. There were small nail holes, almost invisible with the white plaster spackling that had been hurriedly applied. The other wall had the same marks. Two paintings had been removed. They must have been small paintings, probably about 12 x 18 inches, allowing for frame size. Jerry Sewell took a couple of paintings with him.

They must have been originals, perhaps worth a little money," I mused. Because of its size? Good work, Robbie. I doubt if I would ever have noticed that those paintings were missing. She may have been right. I left Robbie with a list of little chores to follow up on. I told her that Nancy and I would be away for 10 days in San Diego and we would get back on the case when I returned.

Jerry Sewell had a wellplanned three-week lead on us anyway - a few more days would not make much difference. Until we had an idea of where the money had gone, we could not do much. It would take the banks another week to get the big money transactions to us and then some time to analyze the legitimate money movements. Always follow the money, was my credo. We had a spare interview room at the office so I installed Robbie there rather than have her working out of a hotel room. This case was going to take some time and resources so I wanted her nearby. I watched Nancy for any signs of jealousy when I introduced the two women but saw nothing.

Not that there should be any reason, for I had no thoughts about this very pretty young woman. No inappropriate thoughts. Her car had been tagged since March 3 because the parking ticket was not displayed. I doubted they would be using their own names, so I asked her to verify all female single passengers between March 1 and 3. It would take Robbie a week to track every single airline and all passenger lists, and follow up all women traveling alone during our search period. I gave her the telephone number of the Cove Suites in La Jolla where Nancy and I would be vacationing for the next week in case she came up with something important.

Chapter 3 First-time landings at San Diego are as scary as putting down on a short strip on a Caribbean island. If you have traveled to the sun-Meccas of the south, you know of those short, narrow asphalt runways that end near a beach, surrounded by shrubby thorn bushes, where only planes that have burned off their heavy loads of fuel even attempt to land - islands where you take off and then stop at a longer strip to take on enough fuel to make it to the mainland.

As we banked left on approach at San Diego, I could see from my window in front of the wing what appeared to be a freeway without cars, then I realized the pilot was lining up for this little stretch of black asphalt. We came in with lots of power and full flaps, touching down right on the button and braking hard with the wheels, reversed thrusters roaring. I would not like to abort a landing here because there were hills right in front of the landing strip.

I understood now why we were flying American Airlines and why Air Canada did not fly its largest airplanes into San Diego. As I found out later, the airport had been used during World War II as a fighter delivery strip for an aircraft manufacturer. When the company shut down the plant to move to quarters where they could deliver jet aircraft from a longer runway, they gave the property to the city. The city kept trying to stretch the single strip and at the same time build skyscrapers right in the approach path, the result being a major city without a proper airport.

Nancy had reserved a car for us and we were soon on our way to the San Diego suburb of La Jolla. It was only about a fifteen-minute drive up the freeway but then it took us fifteen minutes to find the hotel. The Cove Suites was tucked away just across the street from a park fronting on the ocean. The park was lined with tall palms and an island of Torrey Pines - those gnarled, misshapen pines that are unique to this one little place on the planet.

The park was obviously a favourite spot for families and young people. There was a group playing Frisbee football - we call it Ultimate Football in Canada and a female quarterback was throwing the Frisbee with the accuracy of a John Elway. There were a few trinket and Tee shirt sales tables but the sellers were not bothering the park visitors. Buskers were strumming their instruments in complete compliance with San Diego By-law They should apply that same bylaw to car stereos.

The four-storey Cove Suites was a cement block building that had been around for a while, but the rooms, although not fancy, were clean and quiet. The swimming pool and putting green were cut into the hillside behind the main structure. From the pool terrace, one could see the ocean just over the flat roof of the main building.

Our balcony gave us a perfect view and we sat out, enjoying a drink of scotch as the orange sun dropped quickly into the Pacific Ocean. Like all ocean sunsets, it was a brief display of orange and then dark. I often wondered how island people would adapt to our twilight evenings where darkness comes slowly, giving time to prepare for the night, time to complete tasks begun late in the day, time to sit and linger over a drink, summing the successes of the day.

Nancy and I quickly got into a vacation routine, catching up on our sex life, walking hand-in-hand along the beach paths, sharing little laughs as we people-watched from our balcony. It was good to be alone, away from the cares of the office. The first two nights we telephoned home to see how the children were but then we grew comfortable in their absence, knowing that Mary and Philip were very capable of caring for Marisa and Justin.

The intimacy that comes with an escape like this was good for us, giving us time to dedicate ourselves only to each other. No matter how much one tries to keep the romance kindled in a fast-paced working household, it slowly falls into the commonplace of routine.

We even had sex after breakfast one morning, a spontaneous romp on the bed as we were about to change into our swimsuits. We promised each other that we would have to take a coffee break at home at least once a week when we returned to the office, each knowing this was only a fantasy to be cherished for a while. We planned to visit at least two art galleries per day during the week we were in La Jolla and on Wednesday we had worked our way through about a quarter of the shops on Prospect Street.

La Jolla is an up-scale village where everything is a little pricey, but still there is something for every taste. The stores were not unlike the better boutiques in our own Yorkville area, and I supposed from reading the tourism blurbs about La Jolla, the history paralleled that of Yorkville - from hippies to yuppies in a few strong economic years.

From the playground of the Hollywood set to the home of the rich and somewhat famous. Nancy and I were playing at buying paintings and jewellery, pretending to ourselves what pieces we would buy had we the money, but not carrying our charade to the extent of leading on the sales staff. To them we were typical tourists, I suppose. Something had caught my eye as we had walked past this shop before but as soon as I entered the shop, it hit me.

There were over twenty pictures reproductions and originals - in the place. Nancy sensed my excitement. I find them very interesting.

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I have seen one or two of these works before, but I never realized the extent of his work. I was attracting the attention of the sales clerk now. She had been busy doing some bookwork and had only briefly acknowledged us when we came in. We had just visited a gallery where the same sales technique had been tried on us. Yet I had to admit that Morcos' paintings did appear to have something just a little more to them than those we had been viewing the past few days.

He was very bold with his white, using the white as some painters would use bright reds or chromatic yellows to focus the attention. The collection of Maher's paintings was very eclectic, everything from western pastorals to seascapes to portraits. There were two security cameras in the office. Is there some significance in his topics? Morcos was born in the Middle East - he came to America as a child but he is now interested in his roots. He has been quite successful and now has enough income to be able to paint what he likes, if you know what I mean, and his focus has changed to his Egyptian heritage.

Maher wants to keep it for a couple of years in the gallery as part of his display but it may go out soon. I think he and the buyer are making some deal on the number of reproductions that he will make. And if you are interested in sculpture, I have this piece here," she said, indicating a rather fine jade work depicting a native on a horse. I thought from your accent that you might be New Englanders. What part of Canada are you from? We have a client in Toronto.

Our population belies the massive size of our geography. Nancy and I gave each other the knowing glance but continued to look at the paintings as the clerk went through her order book. Jerry Sewell - do you know him? Sewell has several works. I think he has three originals. They are smaller paintings, but it is a very nice start to a collection. He also has a couple of reproductions that he bought for his board room. Perhaps our Mr. Sewell was hooked on Morcos.

Maybe the bait to get him to surface was here in this store - or directly with Morcos. I would have to get a look at their books. Here, let me give you my card and this booklet on Maher. Perhaps you may change you mind and take something back to Canada with you," she smiled. We thanked her for her hospitality and headed for dinner. I had a grin from ear to ear and Nancy asked why.

Jerry Sewell and the Morcos paintings! This may be the connection that we need to find Sewell. Of course, it was not much of a clue, but that is how cases are built - the little things, using intuition - something women were supposed to be good at. The artist has a lot of technique and a good sense of how far he can push a colour - especially the whites.

And Jerry Sewell did take two of those paintings with him. The ones on display were perhaps a little gaudy, yet there was some link between the old men sitting at their games board and the ancient ruins in the background. Again the connection between the past and present - the stone sculpture showing its age and the young women feigning modesty, wrapped in modern fabrics. Maybe Maher had found his roots. Was Jerry Sewell looking for the same thing or was he investing in a collection that he thought would appreciate?

Money and art. Which was Sewell's greater love? I called Robbie Quick on Thursday to inquire if we had any new information but there was nothing. We had a meeting scheduled in Pittsburgh with the FBI on Wednesday next at which time we would exchange information with the Americans. Nancy and I spent the rest of Thursday visiting Balboa Park, seeing only enough to ensure that we would visit again.

Perhaps in a couple of years, when the children were older and could enjoy the San Diego Zoo, we would return and spend more time in the Park. Friday we whale-watched aboard the Hornblower, an older harbour tub that seemed to be on horn-tooting acquaintance with every naval boat in the huge San Diego dockyards.

We saw three whales that seemed to know the Hornblower and did not mind us taking their pictures. We dined outdoors that night in Old Town, the historic part of San Diego that proudly shows the Spanish heritage of the coast. The tall margaritas, guitar-strumming troubadours and laughter everywhere were a perfect ending to our brief holiday.

I was rested and ready to return to work. Our luggage enjoyed the holiday even more than we did as it stayed away for an extra four days. I knew I would soon be back in La Jolla.

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Chapter 4 Flying into Pittsburgh was as uninviting as our arrival in Toronto three days before. The same cold, damp, drizzly conditions had most of the eastern part of the continent in its grip, yet I had hoped that because Pittsburgh was a little further south, we might not need our winter coats. My fall and spring London Fog trench coat was not warm enough. Robbie had the good sense to wear a wool car coat. It has been my observation that most younger women tend to under-dress for the weather, wearing too little clothing. Older women carry umbrellas at the slightest mention of possible showers, wear ear muffs when the temperature is only low enough to tingle your ears and cover their feet in gear that always expects the worse weather.

I mentioned this to Robbie on the flight down but the only accounting for her wardrobe was that she had watched the weather forecast for Pittsburgh. I had not. The Captain said it was a mild 30 degrees in Pittsburgh and it took me a moment to remember that he was not talking Celsius. It was snowing lightly when we landed. The FBI driver was close-lipped and we found out nothing from him other than the Penguins were a better hockey team than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

How could I argue with that? Robbie tried to get in a few good words about her hometown Senators but the driver ignored her as being just another woman who thinks she knows something about the games men play. The FBI offices were in a modest six-story building that was well secured with newly installed cement pylons designed to stop car bombers. We were scanned and brushed with a wand in all the appropriate places then escorted to the fourth floor, announced by the receptionist and offered coffee while we waited to meet the American investigators. The coffee was only lukewarm and had that bitter taste of sitting too long on a burner.

Americans make terrible tea and this coffee was not much better. I missed my morning cup of Tim Horton's coffee although I was not addicted, as Nancy scolded me about my daily habit. After a twenty minute wait we were delivered to the boardroom. Haram Jarez looked at our identification and compared our photo identification to a scanned photo he had obtained from somewhere.

There were five other men in the room and we were introduced around the table, Jarez saying we were from CSIS and were there to help them with their investigation into the security scam that had cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States. Pilger, I wonder if you would mind asking your secretary to leave the room while we go over a few details that will set the scope and relationship of our joint investigation? Jarez, except that I don't have a secretary with me. If you are mistakenly referring to my partner, Ms Quick, she stays. So who is charge - you or Ms Quick?

Ms Quick has the same security clearance as I - I'm sure you already know that. Any information you have is for both of us. Just as we will share our information with you and all your team. You will contact me personally with any new information and I will decide what is passed on to my team. You on the other hand, may feel free to contact either of us.

Pilger, not the junior officer. Jarez, I think we'd better get this straight, once and for all. I am certainly qualified to handle this work. I have degrees in electronics and accounting, three years of prior service with the RCMP - and that was in the field, not in an office, and two years with CSIS. I am an excellent shot with both side arms and rifles and teach black belt karate. So while I am no doubt the youngest person in the room, I suggest that you treat me with the same respect you would any other qualified officer!

Jarez paused for a moment and then said, "All right. Perhaps you can leave us with a telephone number and I will pass along information to whoever answers the phone. I presume you will have a secure line? I think we both have the same information at this point, in any case. Both Attward and Sewell have disappeared without trace and their whereabouts are unknown. There is a connection to the Middle East - Saudi Arabia - but we haven't found the name of the parties so far.

We are tracking money transfers right now and we will trace the money.

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And in this case, we will insist. We think he used a false passport to leave the country. There were snickers around the table from the other Americans. Just because the Israelis had used a Canadian passport instead of an American one for one of their agents said something different to me than it evidently did to the Americans, but I let it pass for now. We have nothing positive yet, but we are following up on some leads.

The Americans believed that some Saudi Arabian had fronted the operation with enough money to set up the phony software businesses in the Far East and to seed the market by purchasing the original shares. Attward and Sewell had promoted the shares, keeping the portfolios separate from their legitimate work in their respective brokerage houses until they went public with the Wardwell firm.

At a planned time, they liquidated everything and disappeared with 2. Jarez backed off a little and let his team do most of the talking until it came time to sum up the meeting. He dismissed class by saying he had a luncheon appointment with the senior area director and that one of his people, John Withers, the CPA on his team, would take us to lunch.

Withers was a decent enough fellow and took us to one of the better restaurants in the downtown area. He told us that Jarez was considered an asshole by most of the people in the district office, and that he had trampled everyone on his way up the ladder, so most people were happy just to let him have his way, hoping that he would soon be transferred to Washington where he would fit in nicely with that crowd of bureaucratic bunglers.

I asked him what background they had on Attward. This man has training as a lawyer and as an accountant. He practiced law for ten years before he got into the brokerage business and from what records we did find in his office, he was very, very thorough. There was nothing anywhere to suggest anything illegal in his operations. All the money was openly moved around in some different bank accounts and held in trust as it should have been. Until the last month, then the money and the trails just disappear. The Saudi connection was through the Saudi Bank, but don't tell Jarez where you got this information.

I think it was a member of the royal family. Robbie, do you think anyone in Ottawa knew about this connection? Buddy Olsen did seem to know more than he was telling me. I sensed he was holding back. I wonder if he had been told to. There seemed to be some reluctance by Jarez's boss.

Maybe the Saudis are too important an ally to go after. I can see that for you Americans, but what does Canada have to lose? It was true, we did import some light crude from Saudi Arabia. Now I was beginning to question why Buddy had called Pilger and Associates - was it because this was too politically hot for his office to handle?

Was that why he has sent young Robbie to work with me? Seems one of our fine Senators lost some money and won't keep quiet about it. Maybe he knows something. I will check on him and see if he does know more than he is telling the media. It was a small pension plan in Canada that got this going back home not any one of the big banks - and I know the banks lost a bundle.

He said to use his cell phone number between a.

Severe Drought Reduces Water Supplies in the Southwest

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It was harder for anyone to eavesdrop, he said. Air Canada was right on time for a change leaving Pittsburgh and its damp drizzle behind us. I was chilled from the walk into the terminal so I ordered a scotch from the cabin steward. Robbie joined me and we chatted about our backgrounds and family life. I wanted to find out more about my new partner and I told her that I was surprised to hear she had field experience with the RCMP.

She laughed, "Yes, I had three interesting years with them. I spent my first year in the Edmonton recruiting office and the next two years on the Musical Ride! You actually rode a horse for two years? I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan and rode quite a lot. I can shoot. I topped my class every time. And I am a black belt.

You can handle a gun, I presume? I did not like to talk about one of the last times I had fired a gun. It is never easy to get over killing anyone and I did not want to open up any old memories - especially memories that had a pretty young face, not unlike the beautiful young lady sitting beside me. The flaps growled down as the power came off the engines. I tossed back the last of my second scotch and tightened the seat belt as we made our approach to Lester Pearson International.

It was still snowing in Toronto. Chapter 5 Spring arrived in the Toronto area on Saturday morning. Under clear skies, a south-westerly wind wound through the city and suburbs, sublimating the skiff of snow that had fallen the previous day. By noon, tee shirts replaced jackets and by late day, joggers were in their shorts. The robins that had arrived a couple of weeks earlier, finally began their singing and nest-building sites were being inspected by the female birds as the males worked like real estate agents, pushing the fixer-up locations.

A small flock of starlings was doing a clean up on the front lawn, getting the first bugs that were slowly coming out of a long winter's sleep. Nancy was in the backyard, poking around her daffodils and tulips, trying to encourage them to open their buds. Marisa had me up in the crawl space over the garage looking for the swing set so she and Justin could have their long-awaited first ride of the year. The whole community was coming alive with the assurance that this was the real spring and summer was not far behind. Spring is the shortest season here in the upper latitudes, sometimes only lasting three weeks before it turns into glorious summer.

Someone down the street even had a lawnmower sputtering to life but it sounded as if it needed a new spark plug. My cell phone rang and I squirmed around to reach my belt clip, knocking over a can of miscellaneous nuts, bolts and washers. The lid came off and pieces of threaded metal rolled across the boards and down through the cracks, bouncing off my car hood below. Did I catch you at a bad time? What's up? I want to cut over to the new server and it will likely take me four or five hours.

Did you check with Philip? Uh, is it okay if Robbie comes in to watch? She seems pretty interested in computers and I thought I could show her how the new server will work. I thought she was going to Ottawa this weekend. She said she wanted to go to the electronics trade show this afternoon so I'm going with her. There's supposed to be some new stuff on cellular phones that we should check out.

Scotty never had time for women before as far as I knew - the computers were his only interest, it seemed. It might do him a world of good to open his eyes and find out what the rest of us considered a life. Scotty did not fit the stereotype of a computer geek - he was over six feet tall, muscular and sported a short brush cut.

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He did not consume gallons of coffee but was never far from his plastic bottle of Pepsi. I once noticed a squash racquet in the back seat of his Dodge pickup truck, but he never left early for squash games so I did not know how often he played. He always seemed to be at work, which was good for me, but maybe not for him. I did not know much about Robbie Quick's private life but somehow she did not strike me as being so wrapped up in her job that she would not have the time for a boyfriend.

It was spring and maybe that is all it was. The cellular telephone security problem was one that we had been focusing on recently. As part of our Forensic Security services we often advised our clients on how to keep their information out of the hands of their competitors.

Telephone eavesdropping was a concern and we had been watching the development of scanners that could be used to listen in on cellular calls. As fast as the scanners were coming onto the market, the telecommunication companies were building in scramblers to thwart the scanners.

Our job was to keep up with both sides of the competition. This reminded me of the comments of the FBI agent who used his moving car to add security to his cellular conversations. Scanners have a limited range and it would be difficult to monitor a moving car. Unless one had a bug on the car. Of course, an FBI employee would have his vehicle routinely checked for bugs.

If I were trying to listen in on a cellular call, I would try to bug the telephone. It would have to be a very compact device because of the size of cell phones. On Monday, a Len MacDonald arrived at my office without an appointment. MacDonald was the owner of CanPak, a supplier of packaging and shipping products whose warehouse was just off Lakeshore Drive. Len was a member of the bowling league, and although I had never talked to him, I did recognize him.

He was a big, heavy man who looked like he would not be able to reach down to pick up a bowling ball if it were not on the raised return rack. But he could bowl. He said that he had talked to Stu Carlson about a problem he had at work and Stu had sent him to me. MacDonald thought that he was losing money due to fraud or theft at his plant but his own auditors had been unable to find anything unusual. Could Pilger and Associates do a forensic audit? In the meantime, could you get your auditor to give us their working papers for the past 5 years? Do not mention anything to anyone on your staff, not even your most trusted employee.

Al Rogers and Julie Cantin will arrive at your plant on a Friday evening to do a surprise inventory. Al will likely drop around a couple of days before, saying he is an insurance man. You can give him a complete tour of your operations at that time. He may want to shut you down for one day - it depends on what patterns we find from your auditor's working papers.

It will find any areas of variance from the normal operations of your business or from a business similar to yours. We have a large database of many kinds of businesses and the computer should be able to tell us whether your business has any costs that are slightly out of line. We then focus on those areas and normally we can find out what is different in your operation as compared to others. Sometimes it is just a management thing, other times we find leaks where money is being drained off. Is there anyone in your operation who you have any doubts about? Maybe there's nothing wrong at all, but I'm not making the money I was two years ago even though my sales have increased.

Besides, he could always write it off as an expense on his taxes. I introduced him to Al and Julie who were both working in the office that day.

The Morcos Connection (Frank Pilger #2) by W.W. Walton

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