Estimated reading time: 10 minutes, 45 seconds

The Connected Agenda - Episode 9 - Timing

Kay Whatley enlisted the assistance of Norbert Klein who was a close friend and former colleague of her Mother Patsy. Norbert was a genius at unlocking backdoors to the largest and most sophisticated computer systems. Kay was in a race to save her friend Chip Mantooth from a foreign money laundering consortium that he unwittingly became involved with. Just over 13-hours remained before Jan Zabar, agent to Plushenko Devices would send men to eliminate Chip. Chip had skimmed money, but it was about more than the money. Chip had come to know too much and had to be eliminated. They were buying parts from US producers for the production of arms to be used in civil wars. The purchases made stock prices soar because the US market had been decimated by overseas production. Parts were bought using US money sent to Plushenko Devices which was a sham corporation.

"Are you there Jan; Emily Parker. You do remember who I am? We spoke earlier about my intention to invest $8.6 million in your products." Kay said. She tried to sound cool and confident when she was actually scared as hell and ready to shit her pants.

"Of course, I remember you, Emily. I'm sending an invoice your way now," Jan said. He was clearly distracted. Likely having to do with the Chip matter.

"That was the plan, Jan. I didn't see my invoice. We both know that important documents, like invoices can be sent immediately with the press of a button."

"Must have been an administrative error. I'll remedy that and you'll receive your invoice by the end of business today," Jan said. He seemed anxious to end the call with Emily but that was all about to change.

"While I was twiddling my thumbs, I decided to look into Plushenko Devices. I may have plenty of money for investment, and I trust my friend who referred me, but since you missed a strategic deadline I started to have a few doubts."


In fact, Kay had done much more than twiddle her fingers. She decided to make the most of her assets and put Mr. Zabar in a position he wasn't expecting. Earlier in the day Kay had a conversation with Norbert as she built a chatbot to lure Jan into making a wrong decision.

"Norbert, I need you to spoof a message from Plushenko's bank account to Zabar's phone." She said over coffee only a few hours before her call to Zabar.

"Sure, that's simple enough. But what do you expect to do once he gets it?"

"It should be a warning from the bank that someone is messing with his bank account asking him to call their security division immediately."

"He might fall for that, but he definitely won't call back any phone number we give him. He'll look up the number for the bank and call it directly."

"Exactly! And that's where your super-hacker needs to come in. I need you to monitor his phone. Should be easy enough since we have his number and redirect it to a special purpose bot that I'm setting up right now. I'm going to find out exactly who he is, where he is, and get him to incriminate himself."

"Shit! You're fucking dangerous, girl. I don't know how you intend to do this, but I'll definitely handle the phone stuff. When do you want me to start?"

"Give me a few minutes to get the bot set up. I'll give you a go when it's ready."

Kay's fingers flickered over her keyboard as she wrote the bot script and linked the variables. She had a library of hundreds of conditions and responses at her fingertips, but she had been dying to try out the dialect decoder that had been giving her problems only a couple days ago. She was sure it was spot on and was just the exact piece of the puzzle she needed to make this bot convincing.

On her phone call with Zabar she continued, "Oh, yes. As I told you, I have a relationship with Health Arena. They've been dealing with a Mr. Chip Mantooth."

"Chip is no longer in our employ," Jan said. He was more focused on speaking with Emily than before.

Kay smiled at Norbert who was watching out the window to see if Jan's henchman had arrived to take care of Chip. He shook his head, indicating they were not yet in sight.

"I'm the curious type. I read reports about all of those nasty civil wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The number of civilian casualties alarms me, and I wondered where the arms are coming from. I connected the dots and Boom – I realized my millions were to go towards funding those wars."

"Emily don't be naïve. You knew your money wasn't going towards baby formula and medicine for refugee camps. For the stock information you receive. It's well worth it."

Kay wished she were on a video call so she could see him sweat. "Back to Chip Mantooth, I realize he made a mistake, but I know you aren't solely concerned about the money. I am not naïve, and I know corporations like Plushenko and people like you eliminate people who cross you. You take out people who know too much."

Norbert had worked his contacts and found cases in the past where people who worked with Plushenko Devices died. They perished in unfortunate accidents that could be traced back to Plushenko. There wasn't solid evidence, but Kay decided to use it anyway. Kay gave Norbert the thumbs up to trigger the fake security message to Zabar's phone.

"I sense a threat, Emily."

"Vlad Platurski, plane crash; Shelia Nottingham, skiing accident; Johann Bertrand, overdose. Shall I continue?" Kay asked.

"Accidents happen Ms. Parker, if that is your real name. You and Chip should watch your backs because you never know what's around the corner. Let the chips fall and walk away from Chip Mantooth and Plushenko. I have the best minds working for me and you can be unmasked with a few keystrokes." Norbert had been able to find names of the people who were close by and were likely responsible for their mishaps. Norbert gave Kay five names that Zabar was sure to know, even though he wouldn't know if there was a clear trace back to him. She rattled them off in quick succession to a stunned Zabar.

Kay heard the chime of an incoming text message half way around the globe followed by a brief pause as Zabar looked at it.

"As pleasant as this conversation is, Emily, I need to attend to some pressing business. I'll call you back and we can finish what-ever you think you might be able to tell me that I don't already know."

The line went dead. Kay was watching and listening to her bot as Zabar called into the bank's fake security service.

Kay had tweaked the dialect decoder so that it only needed 5 syllables to detect not only the language but its locality and respond exactly as if the conversation were their next door neighbor.

Kay's bot answered the call, "Thank you for making contact with Gazprombank. How can we help you today?"

"I was alerted to unusual activity on one of my bank accounts. What's going on there?”

"I will be happy to assist you with that. Would you please first provide me with some basic information to verify your identity? What is your full name and address, and the account number you are calling about?"

Zabar was confident he was talking with the bank since he initiated the call to the number he already had in his contact list. He couldn't have known that Norbert had linked into the cell tower Zabar's phone was connecting to and routed his inbound call to Kay's bot.

"Oleg Kravnovick, Chapaeveskyi Lane, Moscow. The account number is 884 324 28476."

"Thank you for that information Mr. Kravnovick. We've recently upgraded our security system and I just need one more piece of information from you. Please get a copy of today's local newspaper and then turn on your camera so that we can record your face and the newspaper for verification."

"That's absurd! I've never heard of anything like that."

"I apologize for the inconvenience Mr. Kravnovick. If you would rather send a picture of yourself with your birth certificate to us through the post, we can verify your identity that way."

"Arrrgh. Hold on while I get the paper."

Zabar / Kravnovick went to his living room and picked up the paper, returning to his study. He initiated video conference mode on his phone, switched to the front camera and held the newspaper to his chest.

"Is this enough identification for you?"

"Thank you for your participation in our enhanced security procedures Mr. Kravnovick. One moment while I connect you with our security team with whom you can discuss the cancellation of your accounts."

"Wait! I don't want to cancel my accounts!"

The line clicked then went dead as Zabar fumed and stormed around his luxury high rise apartment. His phone rang in his hand and expected the bank's security team to be on the other end of the call.

"Check-mate, Mr. Zabar. I have a better mind and I can unmask you with one keystroke. A blast will be sent to the SEC, Interpol, the FBI and dozens of other interested parties, which details the players and your illegal money laundering operation and their current GPS coordinates. And just in case you decide you'll just put your attack off for a while, I have a dead-man switch on the email that will automatically send out the information if I don't reset the timer each time it's about to expire. Your web will collapse in 5, 4, 3..."

"Wait, you crazy bitch. You don't know how many enemies your making. Do you realize who I am?"

"I know exactly who you are, and I own you, Mr. Oleg Kravnovick. I have your address and even a nice photo of you that I've verified with my handy facial recognition database. I love your apartment by the way. I didn't realize rental apartments could be so luxurious in Moscow. But for $50,000 a month I guess you would expect it. It's nice to know that even a scumbag like you has a wife and two small children. Tell Yula, Ilya, and Gavri that I wish them a happy and healthy life, and that hopefully they will be able to spend it with their father. But first, call off the goons that you have sent to kidnap Chip Mantooth. A simple task for you Jan. We'll see how you handle that and then we can move on." Kay said.

"I can see, I have no choice in the matter."

"Then my demands have been met, Kraynovick"

"Yes, for now we say goodbye."

Norbert looked up from his computer. "I think you’re good Kay but you are going to have to greet our friends at the front door. Bring your phone and have their boss tell them that the mission has been aborted. You just managed to save Chip Mantooth's life." Did I buy you enough time to figure out who's in charge of this operation?"

"Your Mother and I learned that success can be achieved by following the money. I'm just about there and then we'll know the identity of the puppet master. At this point, I'm sure Jan Zabar is creating a new identity with several different passports. We won't hear from him again." Nobert turned his screen towards Kay. "I put a tracker on all Zabar's lines of communication. His customer contacts are no more and getting them back will be impossible. Look at them closing down in rapid succession."

Norbert turned back to the window overlooking the street below to make sure Zabar’s men had retreated. “Shit! Didn’t you tell Chip to stay in the next room? That fool is walking down the street and Zabar’s men have spotted him. Either they’re ignoring their boss’ instructions of he decided to go ahead with his plans as revenge.”

Kay looked out the window just in time to see Chip being dragged into a nondescript black old school sedan and see it pull away. “That idiot! He said he needed some air, but I thought he meant on the balcony, not out on the street. I don’t think this is going to end well.” Kay clenched her fists and beat the wall with them, something uncharacteristic for her. Norbert walked over to comfort her but without any success. “There’s not much we can do at this point,” he said. “Chip may have taken his last breath of fresh air. Neither of us are the physical pursuit types and I have no idea what kind of weapons those guys are carrying.”

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