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The project’s codename was Black Cobra. The ZOPI Group tended to speak of this project first when they wished to advertise their company to new customers. A well-known bank had asked for the investigation of a large distribution company. The bank had owned most of the shares in the firm and wanted to know if their money was safe.
It had been John Clarke’s first project after coming to ZOPI, but to him, real battlefields, complete with guns and bombs, were easier than this. His rifle was a pen, his squad his workstation, and his air support was a team of forensic accountants. He hated it. Still, while he could manage to do the work somehow with the accountants ZOPI had assigned him, he could not endure what happened after he succeeded in completing the project.
While the accountants and the ZOPI group’s board members all praised him, John could not abide that he had saved billions of dollars for the company for the truly paltry and insulting remuneration of a few thousand dollars. He had used illegal and legal means to complete the project, and he sincerely regretted becoming a civilian investigator for Wall Street when private military firms had tried to recruit him.
He had been looking for a chance to go solo for the last two years or just give up and go into the private military sector if things did not get better. However, he had remained in Wall Street because of the billions of dollars that came with the requests here. While the money belonged to the clients, John Clarke often dreamed that he would be able to own such wealth someday.
Things had been like that when he had first met Ethan, who looked young like Asians tended to be. He introduced himself as having come from the Cayman Islands. He looked formidable like he had experienced both Wall Street and the battlefield. That was why John thought at first Ethan was the same as him and envied Ethan for working under a legit billionaire. What was more, Ethan’s firm was using billions to find a person, which enriched ZOPI and the companies ZOPI contracted to expand the search.
John did not believe that Ethan was looking for a trustee, but that was not important as long as it served as a reason. Money was, after all, money, and ZOPI backed John as much as it could. Things were looking up for the Back Alleys of Wall Street, and John Clarke was shocked that a single person had changed everything. (EN: Chapter 40. The Back Alleys of Wall Street refers to the “semi” legal firms that handled offshore tax-haven accounts and private investigators.)
That was why John did everything to the best he could, so he could show his capacity to Ethan’s boss. Rich people needed people like him. A good investigator like John would happily jump ship to become an employee for a billionaire. While he would be used as a dog, money was better than pride.
However, good fortune had finally come for him when he met Ethan again, and when John decided to take a chance.
“It ended up like that.”
John Clarke spoke to a muscular man having a drink with him, who now asked him a question.
“While I’m grateful for the money, will it be dangerous?”
“You know how that guy Smith died. Rich people treat us like we’re expendable, and disposable if we know too much.”
“Haven’t you listened to me?”
“I know that the pay will be a problem. We’re not first-rate, so how much?”
John Clarke smiled faintly, and the man knew something big was coming. He had served John Clarke in the Gulf War, and that smile meant something good.
“A blank check.”
“There’s a limit?”
“Come on, give me the restrictions.”
“Nothing, if we find the guy.”
The man was flabbergasted.
“What’s the guy made of? Diamonds?”
“I don’t know and don’t want to know. I don’t want to become like Smith.”
“Things won’t end there, right?”
“The ending is obvious, but who needs a reason when the money is this good?”
“How far will things go?”
“The same, as everyone, including the client, is pretending we’re searching for a trustee, but you know that’s not it.”
“The rich will be the rich. So, we’ll be the ones cleaning up afterward?” (EN: Yep, they figured out that this will end with the target’s death. But they don’t care, with the blank check. )
“Like always. So how about it?”
“The boy being young irks me.”
“We’ll be searching prisons, orphanages, and gangs first.”
“He’s a wild one?”
“I looked for a normal kid, but nada. Zip. The client told me that the boy will already be as big as us and that age will be only a number.”
“I cannot believe the money going into finding that boy. How did you stop yourself from asking questions?”
“Are you in?”
“What tattoos do I need this time?”
The man showed his arm, and the Marine Corps tattoo was covered with dirty scars.
“You’re the same as always.”
The man smiled at John Clarke’s response.
“Here’s a list of the other guys to recruit.”
John Clarke began to show documents to the man, who looked them over.
“I see those I miss and those I want to kill.”
“Call them all, and for the guys we can’t use, just give a few bucks to the ones who are junkies or invalids.”
“How about you?”
“I got this much just asking around as a private investigator.”
John Clarke showed the man a notebook with the list of corrupt government officials.
“They’ve got their hands outstretched for bribes, and we’ll start from here.”
John Clarke called me just before I was about to leave for Korea, and they had found who I had been looking for. Searching prisons and detention centers had paid off.
Four tough guys greeted me, and they all looked like they used steroids to maintain the muscles they needed for their jobs.
“I may have been able to find him before he got out if we searched ‘more efficiently’ sooner.”
“Hiring you ‘directly’ paid off. Do you know where he is?”
“He’s in Brooklyn, and my people are watching over him.”
John’s voice became low as he continued.
“We can get him if you say so now.”
His eyes turned to his cell phone.
“What was the charge?”
“First-degree murder. If it’s true, he’s dangerous and insane.”
However, he got out somehow, and John had court documents only the court and the police should see. I did not care.
“Ethan, six of my men are there, and we can get him now.”
“Tell them not to approach him at any cost.”
“We will go after ‘sanitizing’ and going in ‘clean’. No identification, or gear that can be used to trace us. Tell Brooklyn to do the same. Also.”
“Do you have a mask?”
I got into their car instead of Jonathan’s sedan, which I had been using in New York, and everyone else was silent except for John.
“Where in Brooklyn?”
It was southeast Brooklyn and one of the poorest New York districts.
“Can you make contact with the guys onsite?”
“I won’t repeat myself from now on, just answer my questions.”
My heart was racing, and my hands were shaking. My voice quivered as I spoke.
“If not, say so. I can call others.”
John Clarke looked at me, and his eyes grew indifferent as he opened his mouth.
John sent a look at the men in the back as I answered.
“Tell the force that they have to avoid detection and contact with the target at all costs. If they need funds to create a cover, send it.”
Edited by Userunfriendly