BEEP, BEEEEP! In spite of the rain the asshole rolled down his window to shout, “Bloody Hell, outta the way you little twat.” Angrily accelerating tires doused Mei Ling’s moped with grimy spray. Her high wellies and long raincoat deflected the splash from a puddle of London rain. The large, rigid hood of her coat was especially appreciated since it kept her cigarette dry. Each drag illuminated her determined face as she drove through traffic to her post on this drizzly night. At the direction of her Father, Chin Lei Wei, she was to surveil the Ambassador Hotel.
As a Board member of Crepusculous, Chin Lei participated in the control of seventy five percent of the world’s economy. In partnership with three other men he was part of a select and secret group of billionaires who orchestrated the most significant economic influence on planet earth.
While bracing against the wet chill, Mei Ling thought her father’s need for her to be his eyes and ears in London was a blessing and a curse. She had more freedom than she would have had in China, but her assignments carried real danger. Trained in Kung Fu and Wushu, she was capable, not only of defending herself, but killing if an enemy persisted. Killing was not her mission tonight. Her father had assigned her to conduct espionage, observing activities at the Ambassador Hotel.
Mistrusting, Klaus Panzer, the most powerful member of the Crepusculous Board, Mr. Wei sent his daughter to report on the occurrences at the Ambassador. Trusting her, he relied on her ability to observe while remaining unseen and unrecognized as a child of Crepusculous. Unlike the privileged and indulged offspring of the world’s wealthiest people, she worked to preserve the empire, although this assignment felt like subterfuge.
The multi-paneled door of the hotel’s underground garage retracted. Through the opening a black Mercedes S550 slipped sinuously out into the rain. Following the sleek sedan a black panel van lurched onto the road, speeding off in the opposite direction. Mei Ling started her moped and followed the lithe, luxurious car.
Inside the panel van, David Diegert lay on the floor, unconscious. Remaining sedated from an injection forced upon him in the penthouse suite of the hotel, Diegert was at the center of all that was happening tonight. He was an assassin, one who was much better at the job than he ever wanted to be. He had been betrayed by his employer and therefore sought to interrupt the plan for which he had earlier been hired. Events in the penthouse led to both he and his mother trapped in the custody of Panzer’s henchmen. Denise, David’s mother, was belted into a passenger seat with her hands bound and her mouth covered in duct tape. For a brief moment David Diegert had achieved his goal of freeing his kidnapped Mother and stopping Klaus Panzer from unleashing a heinous act of terror. Panzer’s resources however were so vast that Diegert’s triumph was quickly up ended, landing him and his Mother in greater peril than ever.
Denise was conscious. She could see her son lying on the floor and knew they were in big trouble. She steeled herself not to cry, but her eyes defied her and she wept with despair. Her captors paid her no attention and rode in silence as the van sped the captives toward an unknown destination.
The Mercedes crawled with the traffic making it easy for Mei Ling to keep pace. The dark windows however, made it impossible for her to see inside the vehicle. Klaus Panzer sat comfortably in the soft leather seat. He adjusted his sleeves and smoothed his thick gray hair. From his breast pocket he extracted a satellite phone. With this single device he possessed the capacity to instigate a series of thermobaric bombs planted in a dozen US locations. The explosives, which combine heat and force, produce a super-hot, physically destructive impact which ignites oxygen in the air creating death through flaming asphyxiation. The chemistry of the bombs is extremely stable allowing them to lie in place for long periods of time, remaining undetected, yet capable of being activated by a remote signal. Each charge was strategically placed to disrupt a critical piece of infrastructure, disabling transportation, communication, banking, energy distribution, food and water supply and ultimately governmental authority. Panzer, through his private espionage wing of Crepusculous, had set up the unprecedented attack on America which was set to go off in triplets. Each cycle of bombing would destroy three facilities. Three hours later another three explosions would occur. Then again and again. Four sets of triplet explosions each three hours apart, all designed to cripple the American economy and way of life. The country would not be completely destroyed, but severely hampered for months. It was 9/11, times twelve all within twelve hours. From the back seat of the Mercedes, Panzer input the code which would set off the first triplet and initiate the entire cascade.
Mei Ling saw the blinker illuminating the right side of the black sedan, the car was moving onto the expressway ramp. She leaned her moped to the right, gunning it along the shoulder passing all the cars including Panzer’s.
Even though Panzer’s original plan had someone else inputting the code, he had the sequence of numbers and letters memorized. Now that David Diegert had confounded the original plan it was going to have to be Panzer himself who ignited the hellacious destruction he had planned for America. “464748DAZ,” Panzer typed on the phone’s keyboard. He waited for confirmation that the signal had been received by his private satellite orbiting five hundred miles above the earth. The green word; ACTIVATED did not appear.
Mei Ling arrived at the base of the expressway ramp to see two black vans swerve into position. The first cut in front of Panzer’s car, while the second moved in behind trapping the Mercedes. From the vans, black clad operators with helmets and submachine guns, swarmed Panzer’s vehicle.
Panzer re-entered the activation code, with no response. His driver asked, “How should I proceed?” In a moment of silence Panzer was uncharacteristically flustered, yet he had the clarity of mind to realize that Diegert must have re-programmed the satellite phone so it would not accept the activation code. His plans were foiled and now a London SWAT team surrounded his vehicle. Panzer initiated the phone’s failsafe mechanism sending a self-destructive charge through the phone’s circuitry destroying all the data. A thick plume of acrid smoke rose from the disabled device. Panzer opened the car’s roof allowing the smoke to escape and the rain to enter. The SWAT team braced as the belch of smoke exited the car’s roof. As he closed the roof and brushed the rain from his suit, Panzer instructed his chauffer, “See what they want.” As the chauffer stepped out of the car, electrodes pierced his legs and torso. The jolting charge of a tazer sent the man crashing back against the car, striking his head as he crumpled to the rain soaked pavement. Through the passenger window, Panzer peered directly into the barrel point of an H&K MP5. The jacked up operator’s face was obscured by his black goggles but his intent was clear. In spite of the threat Panzer opened the door, stepping out into the rain, he rose to his six foot, four inch height. Droplets beaded up and rolled off the expensive fabric of his custom tailored suit. The armed operators kept their guns trained upon him but they did not subdue him. Klaus Panzer’s regal bearing commanded respect from the most authoritative of men even under extremely tense conditions.
A pair of detectives, exited their car and approached Panzer’s looking at each other with restrained concern. The first wore a beige rain coat and a beat up fedora. The taller of the two, wore a green rain coat with a belt sashed tightly around his waist. His umbrella was black. They stepped past the armed operators and were immediately addressed by Panzer. “Unless you insist, I do not believe handcuffs are necessary.”
“Shut up and put’em out,” said the detective in the beige coat. Snapping the cuffs on Panzer’s wrists, he allowed the distinguished man’s arms to remain in front of him.
Mei Ling watched as Panzer was led to the detective’s car and placed in the back seat. Two officers loaded the unconscious chauffer into the back of the limousine before climbing in, one behind the wheel. The first van pulled forward on to the ramp, then the Mercedes, followed by the detective’s car with Panzer. The second van took up the rear position as the four vehicle armada streaked up the entrance ramp, merged into the high speed traffic and disappeared from the young lady’s spying eyes. Fortunately Mei Ling captured the event, which occupied less than three minutes, on her cellphone.
The panel van, with David and Denise Diegert, entered London Polytechnic University through the South entrance, crossed campus on Academic Drive and pulled up to a garage door on the backside of Culhane Hall. The van sat quietly for a few moments before the garage door opened and the van drove into the building. Once inside, the doors closed behind the van.
London Polytechnic University or LPU, as most people refereed to it, is a major technical university serving London since 1945. The University, built as part of the reconstruction following World War II, offers degrees in engineering, computer science, communications, medicine and nursing as well psychology, business and finance. The basic sciences are represented by Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Biotechnology specializing in nanotechnology. The University was founded by the Panzer family. The fact that the school was being built with “German” money was kept quiet in the late 40’s when the planning and initial construction occurred.
For Klaus Panzer and Crepusculous, the University was the perfect place to hide in plain sight. Panzer’s Father designed the structures so there were unseen parts of campus from which clandestine operations could be conducted. Deep underground, in a labyrinth of secured facilities, Panzer maintained a vast network of labs, training facilities and barracks where specialized personnel could be housed and prepared for missions to support the Board of Crepusculous. It was a private paramilitary, functioning right below a bucolic campus dedicated to the open mind, the freedom of thought and the betterment of humanity. Panzer loved the contradiction and was proud of the seen and unseen capabilities of LPU.
Denise was taken from the van and released into comfortable, but secure, quarters. Her binds were removed and she was allowed to shower and get into clean clothes before being served a fresh meal. David was slid out of the van onto a gurney, taken to medical, placed in a hospital bed and restrained. He remained unconscious but his medical care was now being monitored by Dr. Clarissa Zeidler.
Panzer eyed the two detectives as the car made its way onto the expressway. He opened with, “Introductions please?” The detective in the beige coat turned and said, “Fuck you. Shut the fuck up and don’t say anything more.” The man in the green coat, who was driving, said, “I’m Agent Theodore Jackson with MI5. People call me Ted.” Reluctantly the other said, “I’m Detective Robert Morrow of the London Criminal Investigation Division. You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defense if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you say may be given as evidence.”
“May I place my one phone call,” asked Panzer?
“But of course,” oozed the sarcastic reply of Detective Morrow.
Panzer placed a text to the head of his legal team instructing them to track his GPS and meet him at the resulting police station. Choosing to exercise his right to remain silent, Panzer said nothing more. Looking through the rain streaked windows he found himself fuming at the clever actions of David Diegert.
Diegert lay in a medical bed, twitching like a dog dreaming of chasing tennis balls, only Diegert’s dream was much more threatening. He felt himself naked, lying on his back, strapped to a block of ice floating in a tumultuous sea. He was buffeted by blasts of cold wind, torrents of icy air from a dark foreboding sky. The ice chunk rocked about as massive waves splashed frigid water over him. Snow fell in windswept sheets, the cold sting of each flake torturing Diegert’s bare skin. Twisting and turning, his restraints tightened, preventing him from curling into a heat preserving ball. He shivered with violent spasms as his body desperately attempted to generate warmth. Shaking uncontrollably, and hit by yet another wet wave, he looked up to see the clouds converging into a funnel. Was he in a snow bound tornado? The funnel cloud descended, coming right at him. Helplessness radiated from his gut as the cold power of the sky hit him with full force. From the dark center of the funnel, a face emerged. A cold gray face of a man with sharp cheek bones, icy hair and judgmental piercing blue eyes. The voice of Klaus Panzer chilled Diegert with an icy blast. The words, icicle daggers penetrating his heart. “Now I will show you a Father’s love.”
The phrase was a threat, which intensified Diegert’s shivering as the cold reality of the icy grip of this powerful man clamped on to his soul. The gray face rose above him, yet the cold blue eyes remained locked on his. Thunder boomed and lighting crackled across the sky as cold wind preceded Panzer’s next words. “You are my one true son. You will now see what that means to me.” The words entered Diegert’s ears like ice picks, with a meaning as obscure as the sun in the dark gray sky. As the funnel pulled back up into the clouds, Diegert awoke when one last clap of snow thunder rolled across the expanse of his chilling nightmare.
Opening his eyes, Diegert was relieved to find he was not strapped to an iceberg, but lay in a bed. Scanning the room, Diegert could see he was in some kind of a medical facility. The room was light aqua green with installations on the wall for gas ports and lights that would flash in case of emergency. The bed had sturdy rails on both sides. Diegert was covered in a white sheet and one thin blue blanket. He laid there without attendants, other patients or the noises one would expect in a busy hospital. When he attempted to lift his hand the restraints which bound him to the bed became apparent. Both wrists and ankles were encircled in soft lamb’s wool with a solid brass buckle holding together the two ends of strong leather binds. There was a glowing red button next to his right hand which he pressed. He received no feedback and pressed it a few more times. His patience was practically worn out when a person finally appeared through the curtain draping the entrance to his room. Lifting his head, Diegert saw a young woman whose unsmiling face brought no cheer to the room. She looked at him, not with concern, but responsibility. Her glasses were round and rimmed in flat black, her brown hair pulled back into an efficient ponytail. Over aqua blue scrubs she wore a thin white cardigan which she drew closed while wrapping her arms around her midsection, minimizing her breasts. From what Diegert could see, she needn’t bother with such modesty.
“How can I help you,” she asked?
“Where am I?”
“I’m responsible for your medical care. I can’t provide you with information.”
She turned and pulled back the curtain to exit.
“Hey wait…come back here.”
With her body already on the other side of the curtain, she moved the fabric from in front of her face.
“I can see on my monitor that your fluid level is within normal limits. Your IV is providing all the water your body needs.”
Diegert followed her eyes to the tube which was inserted in his arm.
“Well fuck that, my throat’s dry.”
The rudeness of Diegert’s reply deepened the frown on her face. “I’ll turn up the volume of your IV fluid from my computer.” She snapped the fabric of the curtain closed disappearing from view.
“Hey come on, don’t get all pissed off. I just want a drink of water. Hey! Come back.”
She did not come back. Diegert watched the drips of his IV and sure enough the rate of flow did increase. He spent time trying to move as much as his four point restraints would allow. His immobility brought back recollections of the past few hours when he had confronted Klaus Panzer in order to rescue his kidnapped mother. He had succeeded, he and his Mom were exiting the Penthouse, leaving Panzer locked in the bathroom. As the elevator opened, Diegert’s surprise to see a trusted friend caused him to hesitate long enough to be tazed and drugged. His Mom, cuffed and gagged. Now again he had no idea where she was and what was happening to her.
Inside the Police Station the detectives questioned Panzer.
“Are you involved with any terrorist organizations,” asked Detective Morrow with contempt?
“What makes you think that,” replied Panzer?
“Just answer the question,” shouted Morrow.
Detective Jackson interjected, “We’ve received intelligence implicating you in a terrorist plot. Can you tell us why such an accusation would be directed at you?”
“I believe it has to do with certain business rivals who feel they will gain advantage by smearing me. I’m sorry such outrageous behavior ensnared you gentlemen.”
“Will you identify these business rivals for us,” asked agent Jackson while holding Panzer’s eye contact?
Panzer blinked and turned away, saying, “I prefer to handle my own business issues. These rivals need to learn how to conduct themselves. That is a lesson I can share with them without inconveniencing you.”
“It’s our job to make sure people operate within the law.”
“Interesting…,” said Panzer. “I think of your job as beginning when someone breaks the law.”
Morrow grunted, “Our job gets interesting, when someone breaks the law.” He held up the disabled satellite phone. “We found this in your limousine.”
Panzer gazed at the charred remains. “That device has been destroyed. A very unfortunate occurrence given the valuable contact data it possessed.”
“What kind of data,” pushed Morrow?
“Business contacts, for people with whom I conduct commerce. However it did contain proprietary data which exists nowhere else, now gone forever.”
Leaning forward, Morrow said, “Yeah… that’s the kind of stuff we’re looking for.”
“Well I hate to disappoint you,” said Panzer as he pointed at the melted mass, “but I’m afraid you’ll find nothing useful on that lump of plastic.”
Panzer’s lawyers, arrived at the Police Station dressed in Kiton suits with dramatic red ties. He smiled when he saw determination on their faces. The detectives saw their legal representatives, in low budget rack wear, casting disappointed frowns.
The lawyers went right to work addressing the allegations and making arrangements. No charges were filed and a receipt was issued for the burned out satellite phone. As he exited the building Panzer stopped to speak with Morrow and Jackson. “Thank you for your service, I appreciate your professionalism.” Morrow replied, through gritted teeth, “Next time you’re spending the night in jail.” Jackson, with a calmer tone, said, “When dealing with your business rivals, remember that enforcing the law is our job.” He handed Panzer his business card.
Examining the card, Panzer said, “I will see to it that the police benevolent society receives a donation.”
“Don’t bother,” said Morrow.
“We always appreciate the public’s support,” replied Jackson.
With his driver sufficiently recovered, Panzer was back in the Limousine and on route to his townhouse. He called Javier Perez, connecting to the playboy’s voice mail.
“Meet me at my townhouse as soon as you get this message. Zip up your pants and report to me immediately.”
Javier saw the name on his screen and was not at all surprised by such a brusque demand. Being the son of Julio Perez, the man who represented one fourth of Crepusculous, came with responsibilities. Javier judiciously avoided responsibilities his whole adult life, preferring to enjoy the wealth, easily seducing women with his handsome face. That face however, currently was battered and bruised from a violent encounter with David Diegert. Javier had possessed the satellite phone detonation device, but lost it to Diegert in a vicious fight. In spite of being an accomplished martial artist and doing some damage to Diegert, Javier’s blackened eye, split cheek and fat lip revealed the outcome of his battle with the world’s best assassin.
Along with his father, the other members of Crepusculous included Chin Lei Wei, the Englishmen Dean Kellerman, and Klaus Panzer, who was arguably the most influential of the four. Javier knew he would have to comply with Panzer’s demand, so he dismissed a curvaceous Czech exchange student from his room and contemplated how he would manage the undoubtedly intense interaction that awaited him.
Javier, at first, paid little attention to the plan Klaus Panzer had devised to destroy the value of the US dollar. When he discovered the action included bombing a dozen US cities, he realized Panzer was going too far. Javier knew he wasn’t well respected within the Crepusculous Board, but he also knew that successful economic warfare need not be fought with guns, bombs and mass destruction. He knew he must tell Klaus Panzer to use a more effective tool to devalue the dollar. He was going to have to show the world’s most powerful man that he could learn something from the world’s most successful playboy.
Mei Ling sent her video of Panzer’s limousine being stopped by the police to her father through a secure link. Her note said: It took me a while to get to the police station on my moped. Panzer was not there long as I saw him leaving just as I arrived.
Her father wrote back: Was there any resistance to his arrest? Everything in the video looks peaceful.
Mei Ling replied: There was no resistance, Panzer complied with his arrest.
Chin Lei replied: Anything else to report?
Mei Ling: A van also left the hotel at the same time as Panzer. It traveled in the opposite direction. I could not follow it, but the license tag was: VS52 CZS.
Chin Lei: Very well, stay prepared for additional instructions.
Mei ling was ticked. That was it? No thank you, just an expectation to do more.
The Wei family was one of the richest in China. Her Father’s wealth granted him his membership on the Crepusculous Board. His position with Crepusculous was unknown to Me Ling, or at least that’s what Chin Lei believed. In fact keeping her in London so she could spy on Panzer was something that Chin Lei did because he had so little trust in anyone outside the family. Expecting her not to learn about the Board when she was tasked with spying on the presumptive leader of the organization, was something only a near sighted father would believe.
Mei Ling had two brothers, Quiang her older brother and Shing the younger. Both of them were granted great privileges, especially the older who was heir to the Wei Empire. Living in China, the two boys enjoyed fast cars and county clubs. Like the other sons of Crepusculous the boys lived like royals. Catered to and privileged, they were shown no reason to delay gratification. Mei Ling was given a subservient role even though she was smarter, more determined and for more capable then either of the boys. She was glad to be in London and not under the direct eye of her father and his traditional beliefs. The servants in her townhouse would have to cover for her once again as she blew off her curfew and drove her moped to the Rupert Street Bar in Soho for a night of making friends over drinks.