Old Dog Knew Tricks and Wagged a Tale
The Old Dog Knew Tricks and Wagged a Tale
“Precisely how legitimate is this passport?” The programmer examined her document. “I’m not an expert but I think it should bear the mark of a border crossing. Maybe Russian citizens are also supposed to have a visa.”
“Mom had a good source of identifications.” Lyra regretted not paying attention to Jinder’s logistics. “I’ve crossed borders and taken flights.”
“Not in North America though. Here, frontier officials are especially obnoxious.” Tariq sighed. “Well, life has been wonderful while we lasted as an item, but now you need meet the infamously suave Don Juan Levy.”
“You suspect I’m fickle?” She was slightly unsure if he was kidding.
“I’ll find that out for certain.” Tariq handed the document back as he unlocked the car. “A test of your fidelity awaits.” He’s older than I am.
“If you’re unsure if he can be trusted,” Lyra’s tone registered concern over the Iranian’s seeming reluctance, “I can hold off on crossing borders.”
“I have confidence in his not betraying our information,” Tariq grinned guiltily—or was it teasingly, “but he and I also have thousands of years of bad blood between us: Sam might just cuckold me out of spite.”
“Are you trying to worry me,” the young woman threw her valise into the back seat before settling into the passenger side, “or intrigue me?”
The drive from Windsor to Toronto went swiftly on the 401 highway and they arrived at a small printing shop on a quiet commercial street.
“I assumed you were away plucking figs at an oasis.” The shopkeeper was careful saying the line, to ensure it sounded as harvesting fruit.
“Lyra, meet Sam Levy.” Tariq spoke if performing a distasteful duty. “If you feel a hand caressing your butt—check your wallet.”
“Lira.” The old man’s eyes locked onto her face and it took him a long moment to think of a snide retort. “Did the Arab steal you from Rome?” Before shaking her hand, he wiped his on his smudged printer’s smock.
“He called 1-800-4-A-Harum,” Lyra smiled at Sam’s futile gesture. His palm was likely cleaner before he wiped it on that grimy jacket.
“Ha!” The forger hooted. “The two of you came to gang up on me but I’m not worried. With him on your side, I’ve still got you outnumbered.”
“Did we catch you when you have some time to talk?” Tariq asked but truthfully, he couldn’t recall ever having seen another patron in this store.
“Lock the door and switch off the sign. Customers haven’t beat down my door today so why should I hold it open for them?” Sam took the girl’s elbow. “Now you and I have plenty of time to fool around while sand boy here, bumbles his way though those two overly complicated tasks.”
“Tariq didn’t forewarn me,” Lyra followed his lead into an adjoining living space, “of what a rakishly handsome devil you are.”
“Once upon a time I would’ve convinced myself you were flirting with me,” the wizened man looked askance knowingly, “but alas, a man’s life comes when he recalls chasing pretty girls—but he can’t remember why?”
“Stimulating the appropriate synapse could prod the memory banks.” Lyra hugged his frail arm and tickled a spot behind his ear. “It might be engrained in muscle memory—like riding a bicycle.”
“Busy your shapely butt making tea,” the two had arrived in the small kitchen area: Sam could hear Tariq’s footfalls from behind. “While we geriatrics watch— and undress you with our eyes.”
“I could easily save you from excessively straining your imagination.”
“1-800-show-off.” The Jewish man feigned exasperation. “You Arabs and your petroleum money! Your first wells were directionally drilled and targeted at sucking all the oil out from underneath Israel.”
“That nation already had plenty of crude on the surface.”
“Other than stirring up my long forgotten pot of envy,” the forger sat at a kitchen table, “what brings you two banging on my door?”
“For starters, Lyra needs reliable documentation.” Tariq then went on to discuss the specialized requirements of his plan.
“A camel is often called the ship of the desert,” Sam’s smirking face swung to the girl, “because they’re frequently filled with Arabic seamen.”
“On that dryly nautical note,” Tariq chuckled, “and as our business is done, I’ll take off. As we sand-sailors say—I’ll be back by about 8 bells.”
“If you’ll be returning at eight PM that would be 1-bell,” Sam offered offhandedly, “as it is the start time of the first shift in the 24 hour rotation.”
“How do you come by such eclectic information?” The programmer laughed as he stood. “But asking why you keep such inane trivia stored in memory, is possibly the better question.”
“An old man’s memories are a fickle bitch. I can’t remember what was in my food dish three hours ago and the last time I humped a lady’s leg has faded to a dim recollection,” Sam sighed, “but I have a doggone good recall of times before this whelp was a gleam in her dad’s mangy eye.”
“I could freshen up the one,” the girl winked lasciviously, “and set you barking to the ringing of more than seven bells.”
“I do have to go.” The Iranian-Canadian stood. “Can I trust you two alone together while I’m gone?”
“No.” Two voices emphatically spoke together.
“I didn’t think so.” He left anyways.
“Come sit with me on the couch.” Sam Levy tottered to his feet. “Talk of memories and mongrels has helped me to decide what I have to do.”
“You want to get started right away?”
“I know more about you than you think I do.” His face was serious. “From just your eyes, I knew you the instant you walked in the door and I already know your passport is fine because I made it.” Sam turned as she had stopped still in the hallway. “Come and sit before you fall down.” He chuckled at her mouth’s fly-catching expression. “I’ve watched you grow up in identification photos.”
“You knew my mother?” She dropped boneless on the over-soft sofa.
“And your father too: your dad was my lifelong best friend.”
“I’ve received news he recently passed away.” The forger retrieved a wooden cigar box from an antique cabinet drawer. “I won’t show some things in this collection but here are a few of your family photos.”
“I’ll settle for seeing anything you will allow me.” Tears had filled her eyes and they threatened to spill down her cheeks. In my full lifetime, I’ve never seen my father and out of nowhere— I’ve met his close confidant!
“Here is a picture of him when he was very young.” Sam handed her a yellowed photo. It depicted a boy who was barely into his teens.
“You knew him for that long?” This boy is oddly recognizable to me.
“From even before this was taken. Throughout, our lives have bumped continuously. One day you’ll know the full saga, but not today.”
“He was handsome,” the girl commented on a second picture, “and I do have his eyes.” Another similar face popped into her mind, but she sent it away as being an irrelevant thought or just a random coincidence.
“That one was taken when he only a few years older than you are now.” The man sifted through his stash for more images he could safely present.
“Mom said,” the girl studied the image, “he never allowed pictures.” This is peculiar: my mind’s eye always envisions him looking like this.
“He was leery around cameras,” Sam cleared his throat on the touchy topic, “especially when he wasn’t sure who would see the images.”
“My mother’s drug use made her untrustworthy.” It wasn’t a first time that heroin had caused her disappointment. “Here mom and dad together.” The uncomfortable subject passed as quickly as it had come: she compared the photo beside her face. “I can see my taste for older men is inherited.”
“That was my exact thought when you came in with that Iranian cradle-robber.” Sam next dealt out a series of small full-face images. “I’ve saved copies of your pictures from every passport I’ve ever made for you.”
“You kept my mother supplied with our living expenses.” The young woman noted that for every two pictures she saw, the man was tucking one away unseen. I’ll figure out a way to wheedle those out of him too.
“I was just doling out your father’s resources as per his instructions.”
“I’m almost certain she is also dead.” Lyra looked up from her perusal.
“I thought I lost you both in the Tsunami.” Sam put the unviewed material back into his memento box. “I even went to Thailand for a look.”
“You’re kinda like my godfather.”
“No, I’m exactly as your godfather because I do have that distinction.” Sam’s eyes misted over as if he recalled the event. “We didn’t adhere with legal protocols. It was a solemn pact between men who were as brothers.”
“Why didn’t he contact me?” She spread the photos like a bridge hand. “A picture’s worth a thousand words but these spark that many questions.”
“That’s complex and I’m honor bound not to reveal it yet.”
“I don’t understand why you can’t just tell me.” I’ll work my feminine wiles. She pouted slightly and lowered her eyes to appear dejected. A tiny whimper would fit but that may be overdoing it. “You told me he’s dead.”
“I’ve had too many dealings with your family,” Sam chortled, “not to see right through what you’re adroitly attempting.”
The old Jewish man was on the couch with the girl beside when Tariq returned. Her feet were curled up under her body and she was pressed into the old man’s shoulder, while listening to some of his many war stories.
“Am I back too soon?” The Iranian had admitted himself with a key. “Or already too late to prevent the immoralities of an infidel?”
“We got off to a promising start,” Sam boasted, “but given my age, we had to make an appointment for her to be here when I’m about to finish.”
“We could stay here,” the programmer gave the girl her first look at his studio apartment, “or continue sleeping at Sam’s place.” His short absence from the forger’s place and a few subsequent ones had been to set this up.
“Is there a bed?” Lyra could see the sofa that would doubtlessly fold out but wanted him to prove it. As had been the case in Seattle, the living space was geared towards making computers the most comfortable.
“I don’t trust Sam’s floorboards.” He pulled out a hide-a-bed. “Some exuberance on this won’t find us unexpectedly touring Levy’s basement.”
“What have we got running?” Her attention turned to the computer.
“I’m monitoring activities at Wall Soft, as usual.” The Iranian grabbed the bed and was about to fold it up but with a wink, she stayed his hand. “I also have some major work in sifting through all Omani Corp’s lost files.” The hacker had downloaded all Jericho’s protected information, before destroying it at the source. He nodded at a bank of two servers: the LED pegs blinked faster than Christmas tree bulbs on meth-amphetamines. “Those are still busy downloading data from my Bell Town address.”
“Is that workstation for me?” Lyra pointed to a corner unit.
“Of course.” He hadn’t set it up for her: he often used an extra. Tariq cracked his knuckles over a keyboard. “I guess we should get busy then.”
“My exact thoughts.” The girl’s eyes fell wantonly on the foldout bed.
“I’m glad you’ve chosen a newer profession than the oldest,” he joked at her seeming insatiability, “or you would quickly cost me my fortune.”
“Only the first was free. Now, I’m charging it to your credit account.”
In Kiev, an overweight man was nursing a self-inflicted wound: his hangover was exacerbated by the inactions of a thin man. The table stakes Sergey had placed on his golden scheme were now more than he could afford to loose and the glitter showed as just a foil over plain plaster.
“~That self-serving rich bastard cheated me!” Sergey Yanderiev took a nearly empty vodka bottle from his desk: he swallowed the dregs. His eyes fell onto his monitor again and anger was as a match touched to the alcohol in his belly. “~I got the promised link alright—but only on the Ukraine regional sub-unit of his international web portal.”
The money off that would be fractions of pennies compared to a banner displayed on the international network. The furious mobster tried dousing an unquenchable internal fire with a chaser drink of grapefruit juice. Those flames were further stoked as he recalled his brother’s unexpected visit.
‘~The videotaped disciplining has angered Max’s powerful kinsman.’ Georgey had noted with an oily smirk. ‘~Your best henchman can’t help you because he was killed along with our cousin Boris.’
‘~That was an insignificant setback in my overall plans.’ The Obshina downplayed the devastating loss but it sounded hollow: because it was. He wondered who the spy was: his brother gained his accurate information awfully fast. Sergey watched as his elder sibling ambled to the wet bar.
Georgey’s hairline had receded already past his crown but he made no attempt to hide it. Instead, he had grown the remaining fringe long enough to form a ponytail in the back. His grey moustache was similarly long and the tips were waxed into curled handlebars.
‘~Hitler suffered such tiny annoyances on his Eastern front,’ the older brother recalled the invasion of Russia as an appropriate analogy, ‘~and so in the finish, he lacked the sufficient resources take Moscow.’
‘~Bob Wall has bowled lucky balls up my alley,’ the mob kingpin was as a headpin, wobbling alone with the fallen in disarray around, ‘~but I still own his gutters and that will pay me for all.’
‘~You can’t survive to collect your benefactor’s reward unless I protect your operation from Groznyy.’ Georgey’s larger frame made him seem as a Kodiak hugging a Grizzly bear as he put a furry arm around Sergey’s shoulder. ‘~Brothers may squabble but behind the fists—they are still kin.’
‘~State your terms Georgey.’ The pronunciation was as gay-orgy.
‘~I’ll take over your girls and business in Kiev, until you’ve recovered the strength to hold it. After your American patron makes good,’ Georgey poured a shot from a fresh bottle, ‘~you can buy your interests back.’
“~But the sneaky geek has reneged.” Back in the present moment, the lack of good search engine results for the Soviet Sluts website clearly showed a blatant snub. The alcohol and juice in Sergey’s belly lurched, as if the drinks were vinegar and soda water that sent sour bile into his throat. “~A verbal agreement is only worth the paper it is written on and since it wasn’t signed in ink, the Yankee may have to honor it with his blood.”
“Your old ID is still good as a spare but the name could’ve led to some obvious complications.” Sam added a sales pitch. “Just like soiled socks, it’s a good idea to change out the old moniker periodically anyways.”
“Katya Kharkov.” The girl thumbed through the new passport that held a few frontier stamps and the appropriate visas. “Katya means purity.”
“That was a poor choice,” Sam thoughtfully stroked the white stubble on his chin, “given the reprobate you’ve hooked up with.”
“How real is my identity?” Lyra claimed the name, and Katya went on from there. “I never thought about the ones mom gave me.”
“This set is as good as a counterfeiter can generally do.” The man was a master and justifiably proud of his work. “It’ll suffice for practically all usage but I don’t recommend filing income tax with it. To be fair to the name’s co-owner, don’t take out any big loans you don’t intend to repay.”
“Throw it to me.” The programmer was on the other side of a shelving unit and casually browsing: he caught her toss.
“You didn’t print that,” she glanced at the obsolete copy machines Sam had on display, “on any of these.” In answer, Sam simply put a hushing finger to his lips and grinned enigmatically.
“What first put you in this line of work?” Oblivious to the exchange, the Arabic Canadian continued snooping through the shop’s inventory.
“I’ve forged documents for nearly as long as paper has been around.”
“Probably not as long as this papyrus.” Tariq held up a sheaf of paper that had yellowed with age: Levy still had it up for sale—at a dear price.
“I’ve seen a number of bad governments,” Sam ignored the slur to give the girl a better answer, “and worked for some too. The last line of defense people have is a thriving sub-culture and I support that in my own way.”
“Do you ever feel guilty,” the Iranian asked, “when something heinous is committed with the assistance of your work?”
“Far worse is often done in support of law,” the counterfeiter observed, “than any criminal acts against the law.”
“Law as a slavery principle in action.” Katya fiddled with the point-of-sale tools. “I was held in captivity and Bob thought of me as his slave—but my mind and soul weren’t owned. His keeping me was against the law, but his wealth made him immune to it. Now that I’m free—I am truly at liberty. I won’t bow to law as my master either.”
“Am I the only law-abiding citizen here?” Tariq bemusedly asked.
“Appropriately,” the girl accidently hit the ‘no-sale’ key on Sam’s old-fashioned register and the cash drawer opened, “one definition of the word ‘abiding’ is putting up with something distasteful.”
“Be careful of what you’re messing with,” Tariq paused: he was about to finish his sentence with, ‘law is in place to protect people,’ but he was leery of saying it. I’m not sure I could win that argument if it comes under debate. He chickened out and nodded at the cash register, “you’ll confuse Sam’s accountant into wrongly thinking some inventory actually moved.”
The programmer was relieved when the conversation ended. The topic was oddly disturbing to him—but in a way he couldn’t mentally nail down.
[If you paddle deeper your oars might actually hit some water.]
“What’re you working on?” Katya took a break from her computer.
“Ghazi’s morass of companies loop into each other in an endless maze and I need to sift through to find out which ones he uses for dirty work.”
“What do you think about,” she spun her chair around, “judgment?’
[I’m interested in hearing this too.]
“Death threw nine innings of curveballs into my afterlife’s game plan.” His first instinct was throwing out a quip but he knew that would float as far as cast-iron life jacket. “Before 9/11, I was a staunch atheist but my opinion was wavering even before my death experience.”
“While Dmitri and I wandered the tsunami’s path,” the female scooted her casters over, “I imagined the souls ascending—like in my death dream. I saw the Thai spirit houses and a part of my vision could almost detect the wisps inhabiting them. The funny thing was, I seemed almost able to see an essence in the living too—and mine somehow communicated with it.”
Tariq’s immediate thought was a remembrance of his trying to send her comfort through the keyboard—but he didn’t mention it.
“I seemed to understand people better than I did before. I could read Dmitri’s intentions like a comic book. Yes, he was painfully obvious, but it went further than that and my john at the Bangkok pool was a clincher. Though he was subtle, I knew precisely what he wanted and I understood his character before talking to him.” Katya didn’t elaborate on the details.
“You judged him?” The programmer’s mind flew to the moment in his death experience when he felt his life adjudicated.
“I did and that swayed my actions. He needed something from me.”
“He wanted sex,” Tariq discounted, “and he bought it.”
“He only got a little before—,” Katya paused seeking a description.
“The temple of his wakefulness collapsed, leaving one pillar standing.”
“I assessed my mother harshly,” she smiled at his humorous metaphor, “because of her prostitution and vowed I would never go the same route—then suddenly, I approached a strange man and offered myself for money. Retrospectively, I didn’t do it for either the sex or the cash.”
“You were at a crossroads.”
“I suspect he was too and that we assisted each other in ways neither of us knew. Openly going with him enabled me to stay with Dmitri. Perhaps my John needed punishment was I granting him an opportunity of a grossly expensive and failure with what he deemed an ideal female. I didn’t just quietly leave: I humiliated him by tying my panties to his member. Might I have provided him with the impetus for a positive life change?”
[Judge not, lest thou be judged.] Loki nudged the conversation back.
“We both believe our souls exist.” He saw her nod. “Most organized religions concur and include judgment in one form or another. For the Christians and Islam, God is the ultimate judge: Buddhists and other Asians have kismet or karma assigning punishments in a next incarnation. You suggest individuals judge on a soul level and I can buy that theory. I’ve sometimes felt a decision of mine—was greater than just my own.”
[Will you tell her about the woman in the tower’s elevator?]
I haven’t even discussed that incident with you.
“The conscience allows people to judge and individually dish out the appropriate rewards and punishments,” where her fingers had been stroking his leg—she pinched, “because we are ultimately accountable for our acts.”
“I suspect I’m not going to like where this talk is now headed.”
“Where the concept fails dismally though,” as he predicted, she shifted topics, “is at the intermediate level. An impersonal law system has neither the soul’s intuition nor its accountability. When courts fail to bring justice or cause wrongful harm, law holds itself as immune to any recrimination.”
“Law is better than vigilantism.” Tariq wasn’t sure if he even held that as true anymore. “Sam will blow his head’s gasket,” he took a burned data disk from the slot, “when his source material isn’t on carved stone tablets.”
“I suspect,” Katya recalled the forger’s hushing finger, “the old coot is more technologically advanced than he lets on,” she traced a fingertip up Tariq’s neck to his ear lob as if checking for a fluid leak, “but seemingly you’re more worried about the lubricant pressure in your own brain pan.”
“Justice in the U.S. is non-existent.” Katya read the heading line from a printed sheet. “Your griddle seems to have flipped a fast waffle.”
“It’s an article published in the Islamic Jihad Journal.” The Iranian’s feet were up on his desk and his hands behind his neck. “Read the rest.”
‘American justice system,’ the girl read quietly, ‘is anything but just.’
“One can’t blame just the U.S. for the sham that law globally is.”
“I wrote it,” Tariq grinned, “and got it published.”
“Are we going to talk about this?”
“Digest it first, and we’ll debate it for dessert.”
‘Examine any decadent American courthouse: a lonely accused sits on the one side, with the entire weight of the state arrayed against him. The fact he is there means one of two things: he didn’t pay police to bollocks up the investigation or his attorney’s ulterior plan is maximizing his fees.’
“~What is this?” In Damascus, the editor-in-chief of the Islamic Jihad Journal was scanning the same article. “~I didn’t approve this.”
“~The source is,” the technical manager had investigated, “~uh, solid.”
“~I’ll be the judge of that.” Bijan Kiani read some more.
‘Both barristers present an opposed set of paid off expert witnesses. To replace precluded television watching, a jury’s entertainment is watching how a trivial piece of evidence manipulated to show a slant for one side or the other. Really though, that is all it is—a staged performance of a farce.’
“~The piece was inserted directly into our working file.”
“~We were hacked into then.”
“~I checked that.” Sanjar Ali Abbas showed a tech printout. “~The article and emails the owner sends come from the same IP number.”
“~If he wanted me to print something,” the editor’s nose caught a phantom wisp of something fishy, “~all he needed to do was ask.”
‘The truth is a 50% certainty of a coin flip is as statistically accurate as the adversarial trial system is able to achieve. Why don’t they just toss the coin at the outset and save time and money? Why indeed, the answer is simple. Cash saved would’ve been shaved from the legal bill.’
“~What do we do about it? It’s too late to reprint the issue.”
“~It’s not overly well-written and I’m not certain this is what we want to say.” The editor had a minor epiphany. “~Unless, the owner has a new idea.” If he rocked the refitted boat, they may look for a different skipper.
‘Whether the jury returns with guilty or not: the true result is always a loss for justice. If the accused was innocent, what difference does it make? His savings were wiped out to pay his defense and witnesses. His reputation has been muckraked and his family is in shambles.’
‘The Americans use a female statue to represent their legal system. In one hand, she holds a scale to show that gold must be weighed before the sword in her other swings—at anyone not shielded by money. Lady Justice wears a blindfold to mask her shame—she is an embarrassment.’
“This Tariq Muhammad character does have tongue-in-cheeky charm,” Katya finished the article, “but why and how was it accomplished?”
“The how was ridiculously easy.” His Trojan had put digital welcome mats in front of millions of network doors. “I hacked the Journal to find who owned it. After uploading my article to that corporation’s computers, I inserted it with tracks seemingly having trickled down the money trail.”
“Clever, but my other question was why.”
“I’m establishing credentials as a jihad sympathetic journalist.”
“The anti-American sounding rhetoric,” the girl noted, “is doubtlessly a red herring for a militant Islamic publication.” She shook the page. “But this isn’t exactly what I believe about public order-keeping.
“I’m not precisely sure what I think of law or government anymore—your controversial notions have screwed up what I previously thought I knew.” Tariq took the paper back. “It’s not even just you either. When I saw my life judged, it was much different than I remembered occurrences. It changed my opinions in ways that I haven’t fully sorted out yet.”
“Me too,” she chuckled, “and here I’m even a couple of years older.”
“Have you ever done a child’s maze,” he changed the subject, “where you have to draw a line to connect the entrance with a goal at the exit?”
“Did you help the bomber to find the embassy in the puzzle section?”
“Those are designed to be difficult only in the one direction. Starting at the end and working back is always easier.”
“Is you’re machete is cutting through the Omani jungle from the edge?”
“Twisted vines are an apt depiction of the Sheik’s corporate structure.” He went to take a sip of coffee but found his cup empty.
“I’ll fix you another one.”
That instant crap actually tastes better when she makes it.
[She doesn’t put in four taste-bud-ravaging spoonfuls.]
“There are unexplained cash transfers,” the programmer took a tiny sip: he barely noticed the flavor, “going back to well before 9/11.”
“Where money flows,” Katya observed, “so floats political agendas.”
“I’ve seen enough to confirm my suspicions.” The programmer pushed his chair back to enjoy his coffee. “Tariq Muhammad might wish to gain first-hand experience before writing his definitive exposé.”
‘American Law is serfdom—cleverly cloaked in a sham of freedom that allows an unscrupulous few to retain power over the utterly-duped many.’
Bijan hadn’t any contact from the paper’s owner when the second insertion came in, but then he operated with nearly a full autonomy.
“~Mr. Kiani,” Tariq spoke in Farsi, “~I’m pleased that you printed my first article and I trust you will similarly publish the next too.”
“~Are you Tariq Muhammad?”
“~As yourself,” the programmer had studied all he could find out about the editor, “~I am the second generation product of American meddling. My family left Iran in fear of the Shah’s SAVAK secret police.”
“~To what do I owe the honor of this call?” Bijan wondered, but his first guess would be to arrange where the author fees should be sent.
“~I’m planning a dissertation on the front lines of the Islamic Jihad.”
“~Mr. Muhammad,” stuck in the quandary of offering his pre-approval or withholding it, Editor Kiani noted the private line the call had come in on: very few people knew it, “I’m sure we can print whatever you write.”
“~That’s wonderful,” Tariq sprung the trap, “~but that’s not what I’ve called about.” He went on to discuss the details.