Deep beneath the non-descript brick building of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is the other C.I.A.A. There is no meaning to the letters C.I.A.A, some bureaucrat simply decided calling our organisation the same abbreviation as the above building’s organisation would be less confusing. The C.I.A.A. was created by the Nepalese government as a completely autonomous private contractor, our only customer, the Nepal government. In a rented bunker, mined into a Himalayan mountainside is the home office. A receptionist of questionable gender, and even more questionable armours tastes, Pennymony, I know, right?, greets us, handing us ‘Visitor’ badges.
Jaxon heads straight for the bar. Capucine, giddy with excitement, stays close by. The home office is usually a rather quiet place. The clicking of computer keyboards and clinking of glasses at the company bar are the usual sounds that predominate. Sometimes breaking the din of the typical office hum is an occasional reverberation of munitions being tested in the quartermaster’s level, seven floors below. Not today.
The moment we walk into the facility we are bombarded with a cacophony of sounds. High pitched whines of high speed document shredders, the click whine click whine of photocopiers, phones ringing unanswered and the broken chatter of walkie-talkies. I see many new faces among the regular office drones; some are people I recognise, and I’m pretty sure shouldn’t be here.
Navigating my way through the throng of people pushing carts full of shredded paper in route to the furnace or file boxes branded “Tiě shānqū”, I climb the stairs to Jae’s glass walled office, the blinds are drawn; unusual. Entering, I see seated at Jae’s desk is not my boss, but Lora! After a hug and kiss I would never consider sharing with Jae, I query Lora if she is back in the game? Lora looks at Capucine, glances at the office door, then answers’ “no, it’s complicated, ask me later”.
As if on que, Jae enters the office. Lora, pointing to a stack of folders on the desk, reports, “Sorted and ready for destruction, just need your approval, Jae”. As Lora rises from the desk chair I cannot help but notice the Minox camera she palms from between her thighs, fluidly sliding it into the pocket of her charcoal coloured pleated business slacks. “Who is this creature?” Jae inquires rounding the corner of the desk and siting in the chair vacated by Lora.
Waiting for the door to close behind Lora, “Capucine”. Capucine announces, extending a hand in friendship. Good, she knows to keep everything on a first name basis, unless an offer is made, too much information volunteered will get you killed. “Capucine is equipped with a unique set of skills, some of which she learned from Marcie herself”, Marcie is highly regarded, innovating many of the techniques commonly used today in this business. Continuing, “Despite her young age, she has already many years of experience, I think she will be an asset to the company”, making my pitch. Jae ponders for a moment, then motioning to Capucine, “Wait outside, give Majes and me ten, no, fifteen minutes”.
The brief five seconds it takes for Capucine to open and close the door behind her fill the spacious office with the discordant sound of the activity outside. Before I can inquire of the inappropriate personnel I noticed on my way up, Jae tenders, “The Chinese government has declared eminent domain over Nepal. As such, they require full disclosure of all covert operations, the C.I.A.A. in particular”. Continuing, “Of course we will not disclose everything. There are operations even the Nepalese government doesn’t know about that could be very dangerous if the P.R.C. learned about. Anyway, we are sorting through each file, case by case; destroying what can never be known, archiving some things, and giving the Chinese enough to keep them happy”. “There is something else”, Jae adds, “a mole hunt”.
Mole hunts are never a pleasant undertaking, hunting the source of a leak within an organisation, anyone can be suspect. “If the Chinese find out that we have a mole, they will likely just execute us all”, laments Jae. In most organisations, the military, corporate espionage, and the like, a proper investigation is performed, followed by a mole trap. The informant is tried and sentenced according to the laws of the country. In the C.I.A.A., nearly everyone is suspect. A suspected traitor is sent on a suicide mission and like the witch hunts through the ages; surviving means you got inside information proving your guilt, if you die, then you probably weren’t the mole.
“You were supposed to die in that hotel in Switzerland. The fact you lived would ordinarily make you the mole, but the way you survived exculpates you. Congratulations”, Jae concludes. “And Montique, was he in on it?”, I demand. Granted I gave Monti the short end of the stick a few times and wouldn’t be surprised if he had it in for me. “No, he would have been just collateral damage, he was lucky”, Jae admits. Nice.
The next ten minutes consisted of mission debriefing. Jae didn’t ask what went haywire with Stacy, I didn’t tell. No point rehashing that embarrassing episode. “Lora has an assignment for you, send in that young girl you brought with you, dismissed”, Jae commands. In the forty feet between the stairs to Jae’s office and the company bar, I don’t see Lora. I sidle up to Jaxon and Monti and order a round from my private bottle of 20 year old Scotch.
Having had our fill of complementary watered down liquor, Jaxon and I head outside. The relative quiet of the barking street vendors is a welcome respite from the dissonance in the office. A few feet from the door is Lora; smoking a cigarette. “Don’t tell me smoking is prohibited inside, damn those pesky health nut Americans…”, I initiate. Lora confides, “No, I just need some air”. Turning her back to the security camera posted over the entranceway, “Everything is screwy, the assignments don’t make sense, they have yet to locate the mole, and so many agents are dead”. Lora continues, “They want you to recruit Clyde, he’s been reported as performing some wet work in South America”. “They, you mean Jae”, I correct. “No, Jae isn’t in charge anymore, just a figurehead at this point, the orders come from…”, Lora pauses when Trish walks out, lighting a cigarette. “What’s up?”, Trish enters the conversation brightly. Of course Trish is happy, what with all the intel the company is basically handing her, it’s a goldmine for her business. Whatever idiot hired her should be shot. Whatever, good for Trish. “Just catching up on old times in Mexico”, Lora replies. “Oh yea, I heard that was the caper where you bested Majes and Clyde.” Trish smirks. “Uh something like that”, Lora recounts, giving me a sly wink. Lora picked up thirty-five new protection contracts because of the Mexico City “caper” and the subsequent execution in his Falkland Island exile mansion. And, to Clyde’s credit, his connection to the caper was never made, hence this recruitment effort.
Trish was obviously hanging around to catch some juicy gossip, or as we call it in this industry, “intelligence”, Jaxon and I decide to move on. Goodbyes to the ladies, Lora gives me the ‘call me’ sign, then does Trish. Jaxon and I head to Winsel’s shop.
I knew something was amiss the moment I opened the door of Winsel’s store. Replacing the heady aroma of gunpowder and the stench of the fat green worms was the odour of fresh ground coffee and unwashed hippies. Behind a heavy glass wall, I spy the worm incubator. Along a wall, partially obscured by an espresso machine is the Lora shrine. Showcased are some of Winsel’s more unique munitions, the names of drinks in the store are based on these devices. Jaxon orders a frequency modulation copper latte, I content myself with a simple cup of joe.
Hopping around on his one good leg, the other cut off at the knee, the barista recounts, “Lost it in a failed summit attempt, we got caught in a squall, I barely made it out alive”, when I noticed the missing appendage. Abirad, according to his name tag, tells me Winsel retired, suddenly, selling his store to him for a pittance. “Moved to Belize, I think, that will be eight hundred and fifty three Rupees” Abirad concludes our conversation. Belize, huh? I have a sudden craving for Cashew wine.