WARNING: NEIL'S INTO COMPUTERS AND TYPOS...
“There,” the agent said with a little flourish. He pointed to the screen, and like moths to a flame, the bikers leaned in.
“Ten million dollars?” Big Burley said.
“Ten million?” another chimed in with something akin to a hoot.
“I’ll give you a cut if you help me get rid of the trash.”
Big Burley looked away from the screen. “The trash?” I’m not kidding when when I say like that the guy looked like he’d become a toddler again.
The agent pointed to the window. “The guys in the van?”
“Oh right.” Big Burley straightened up and gave a little cough to clear his throat. “But no cut.”
“No cut. We get all of it.”
Mr. DEA shook his head slowly. “Look, I know you’ve got all the power right now, but if I give you that money, it’s… well, I’m screwed.”
“You should’ve thought about that before dealing with trash. And you lied to us. You said the money was gone a couple minutes ago. And now this?!” the pointed a meaty finger at the screen. “I’d say ten mill pays for your lie.”
Mr. DEA didn’t look so DEA now.
“Fine. But it’s not like I can go to an ATM and pull out some cash.”
“I don’t care,” Big Burley said, poking Mr. DEA in the chest. “You’ve got five minutes. And don’t try any funny business.”
“I’m no comedian,” said Mr. DEA. I would’ve liked him if I wasn’t in such deep crap.
Big Burley and one of his companions stayed while the others filed downstairs.
Mr. DEA had only clicked a couple of buttons when a loud BOOM sounded from outside and the bikers went to the window. Mr. DEA kept clicking away, but looked my way and threw me a wink.
Your soon-to-be hermit,
WARNING: TYPOS AHEAD...
“I won’t ask again,” Big Burly said, clamping a hand around my neck, squeezing just enough that I rose onto my tiptoes.
“I’ve got the money,” my new “friend” said. All eyes went to the Russian-turned-DEA Agent.
“Where is it?”
“Upstairs.” He said it with perfect conviction. So much so that I believed him. Maybe it was the hand that suddenly released that helped nudge me into belief.
The DEA agent held up his bound hands. “I need them to get the money.”
“How much?” Big Burley asked, not moving an inch.
“Fifty grand in a safe. The rest, well, it may take —“
“You’re out of time, smart guy!”
“Right. You’re right, of course. It’ll take five minutes to put in the request. Maybe ten for the request to be confirmed and authenticated. The money’s in the Caymans.”
“Let’s go,” Big Burley said, grabbing my upper arm and dragging me towards the stairs. He did not untie the agent’s hands. “Go,” he barked.
The agent led the way, up the stairs, down a short hall and into a room with a single dainty desk that could’ve been on the set of _Bridgerton_.
“Wait,” Big Burley said, stepping into the room before our guide. He pulled me along as he searched thee near-empty closet and pulled out the single drawer of the desk which held no more than a yellow-lined legal pad and a pencil. “You’re playing games with—“
“If you’ll let me show you,” the agent said, stepping around the larger man. He went to the desk and did the most peculiar thing. He reach behind the back right corner, and must have pressed something, because something clicked and the top of the ancient wood rose half an inch.
The agent pulled the hidden compartment open slowly, probably for Big Burley’s benefit. He’d uncovered a hidden screen that was now booting up and in a second asked for a passcode.
“May I?” the agent asked.
He had Big Burley’s attention now. With a nod of his sweating head the agent went to work, and all I could think about was whether it was yet another bluff, and if it was, what the hell was I going to do next?
Back with more soon,
WARNING: NEIL'S GOT THE FEELS FOR TYPOS...
A DEA agent. The Russian who I’d spend all that time tracking, the one right under our noses in beautiful, sweet, serene Charlottesville, was actually a DEA agent?
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“You don’t have to believe me,” the possible-ex-Russian criminal said. I don’t know if it was my head, the stress, my paranoia or reality, but I could’ve sworn the guy was looking and sounding more and more red-blooded American as the seconds ticked by. “How mobile are you?” he asked, surprising me from my thoughts.
He pointed at my leg. “Unless I’m mistaken, you have a prosthetic. You don’t limp. You don’t seem to be in pain.”
I’d done A LOT of rehab to make my gait as normal as possible. Sometimes I still tripped, usually because I forgot to pick my fake foot up enough.
“I’m perfectly mobile.” My answer came out sounding like the cousin of a petulant child. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound defensive, it’s just that—“
“You’ve worked hard to rehab, to make it look like you’ve got still got two working legs.”
“Right.” There was some ruckus outside and we went quiet to listen but I couldn’t make out what was happening.
“You think they’ll kill ‘em?” my new companion asked. It didn’t sound like that concerned him much.
“Probably not. They’re thugs, not murderers.”
“That’s good. Dead Russians makes my reports harder to write.”
What a ridiculous situation, I thought. Time to reel it back in.
“Quick, you have to tell me where the money is. I have certain assets at my disposal that can—“
“There’s no money,” the agent said like he’d just told me we were out of jam.
“No money?! That’s impossible. I saw it.”
“You saw what we wanted the world to see. There’s no money.”
As if on cue, the entire motorcycle club marched back into the house.
“Your time is up,” Big Boy #1 said. “Where’s the money?”
Crap. Crap. Crap.
Neil, the big dumb idiot
WARNING: NEIL'S MIDDLE NAME IS TYPO
They seemed to have come to a consensus and were soon marching back to stand in front of me. One of them gave the Russian a kick in the leg, just for good measure.
I felt like telling them that only one of my legs was whole, but decided against it. Pity’s not my thing.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” said Big Boy #1. “You’re going to tell us what information we need, and then WE are going to beat it out of the guys in the van.”
Crap. More violence. I’d really hoped to do this without, but as they say about plans…
“Okay,” I said, thinking while I rattled off the information I would need. I honestly believed that there wasn’t a chance in hell that they could get it. Probably some high level gangster account held that info, but it was worth a try.
At least that made the bikers happy. They put on fresh grim faces and made for the door. Then Big Boy #1 turned to me. “Keep an eye on him,” he said to me, pointing at the Russian.
“Sure. I’ll take good care of him.”
Big Boy #1 laughed and that and then there we were, the pathetic schemer (me) and the pathetic target.
“Who are you?” the Russian asked.
I didn’t know what to tell him. Hell, I didn’t have to tell him anything. But I was nervous and sometimes when I’m nervous and don’t have a computer to tap on I need to talk.
“My name’s Neil.”
“My name is—“
“I know who you are.”
Instead of nodding, the Russian stared at me. Long and hard. Until finally, his eyes lit up.
“You brought them here.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“But you did,” he said.
What was I going to do, lie?
“You’re a criminal,” I said instead. “I figured I’d use you to get them off my back.”
Now he nodded, like he was working it all out in his head. I tried to remember the guy’s full dossier, but whether it was the nerves or a momentary disconnection in my brain, no details came.
“Okay,” he said. “You think I’m a criminal.”
“That’s what I said.”
“That’s good. That’s very good.” And then something very strange happened. The next time he spoke, any shred of an accent disappeared. “You look like someone I can trust, Neil, mostly because we’re in the crosshairs together. So tell me, did you know that I’m an undercover DEA agent?”
I did not. I did not at all.
Crap. Now what to do?
More soon, Diary,
Neil “stunned silent” Patel
WARNING: NEIL ONCE DATED A GIRL NAMED TYPO...
I held up my hands. “Okay. I see where this is going,” I said, grasping for some way to appease the rising tide of you know what heading in my direction.
Big Boy #1 walks up to me and bumps me with his gut. “I think you planned this.”
“Of course I planned this—“ then I understood where his mind was chugging. “Wait, no, I didn’t plan THIS. I planned us getting here, remember? I planned us taking care of this guy.” I pointed at the Russian who looked even more pathetic than I felt. Seriously, what I wouldn’t paid to have Top come and push Big Boy #1’s gut off of me.
“If you’re so smart, maybe YOU’ve got the crypto,” Big Boy #1 says.
“Yeah. He’s got it,” Middle Sized Guys chimes in.
Their solidarity was charming but did little to bolster my confidence.
I had options. Of course I had options! That’s what the guys are always saying, that options are limitless, that it just take a minute to sort them out in your head. Only I didn’t have a minute. At least it didn’t feel that way now that the rest of them were bumping up against me.
Pay them off? I could. I had plenty of money. But that didn’t seem like the right answer.
Dig into the Russian’s assertion that he was at a zero balance? Sure, that could work. Again, I didn’t feel like they’d give me that time.
So I rested on the only option that seemed viable at the time.
“How about the guys we tied up outside?” I asked. “Maybe we should see what THEY did with the money.”
Luckily, and to my great relief, they chewed on that, taking their conversation to the other side of the room as the Russian and I exchanged our own glances.
Damn. Why did I ever have to buy a motorcycle?
Be back with more soon,
Neil “cornered like a rat” Patel
WARNING: NEIL IS INTO TYPOS...
Our merry gang of bikers charged, immediately getting the attention of the four guys dragging the Russians.
If it hadn’t been so serious, I might’ve laughed. They actually roared as they charged. Then, the slug out began.
Fists smashed, boots stomped and men bellowed in rage and pain. I really expected the four visitors to pull guns at some point, but they didn’t, and got properly throttled because of it.
Soon all four were moaning on the ground and being hogtied with an assortment of laces, leather cut from chaps and a rope someone had stashed in a pocket.
“There. That wasn’t so bad,” the biggest biker said. Then he looked over at the Russian who was quivering next to a rose bush. “You. You’re the one we came for.” He walked over and hoisted the scrawny man to his feet.
“You can have anything you want,” the Russian said, his native accent nearly imperceptible.
“Put those four in the van,” the big man said and immediately the others went to their task.
“Hey, there’s guns in here!” the first to open a van’s door said. That answered that question.
I walked over and looked inside. Three handguns, a stack of shotguns and a couple rifles. A decent arsenal.
“And there’s a bunch of dough in this one!” someone else called out from the other van.
Guns and money. Who were these guys? More Russians?
“Let’s get inside,” I suggested.
While the guests and the vans were being taken care of, some ten of us went inside, the homeowner leading.
The inside was mostly tasteful. A tad too much gold and shiny for me, but not awful.
“I can pay you, for saving me,” the Russian was saying.
“Oh you’ll pay us,” big man said, one hand still on his prize. “We want all the crypto you’ve got. Now.”
The Russian’s face scrunched in confusion.
“Crypto, as in cryptocurrency?”
“Do you call it something else, you filthy Roosky?”
“What? No. It’s just that, well, I recently liquidated my entire portfolio. I paid off, well, I thought I paid off those men out there.” He pointed to the vans outside.
That’s when the inevitable happened. All eyes turned on me. Crap.
More soon, Dear Diary,
WARNING: NEIL 🤓 TYPOS
It’s an understatement to say that I riled up a bunch of bikers. I’m pretty sure some of them were slathering at the mouth as we drove off in search of the target.
Of course, I knew where we were going, but I made a real show of it. Why? Because I was trying to come up with a plan!
It took a little over an hour of meandering before I put up my hand and motioned for the bikers to pull off on the side of the road.
“Did you find him?” big and burly asked, again, his mouth watering.
I tapped on my phone like I was really interested. To be honest, I was just trying to keep my hands from shaking.
There were so many what ifs. What if we were caught? What if there was a shoot up? What if Cal found out?
Mr. Beer Belly Over His Toes answered the question for me.
“Let’s go,” he said, not unkindly, just ready.
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound sure of myself. “It’s just around the corner. Three minutes tops.”
I had a plan of sorts. Stash the bikes a couple blocks away and then head in on foot. Luckily, the house sat on the back of ten acres. No neighbors. Fingers crossed the target wasn’t armed. Everything I knew about him said he preferred solitude to weapons.
As with any half-baked plan, ours went to crap almost immediately.
First, the spot I’d picked to stash the bikes was perfect for concealment but the treeline I’d planned on using as a route in was dense and full of vegetation that snagged on every piece of clothing we had.
Second, these bikers weren’t meant to be on foot. Sure there were a couple outliers, but the rest were huffing before we got halfway there.
Third, and probably most dispiriting, was the fact that when we finally got to within striking distance of the modest home, there were two black vans sitting in the driveway.
“What do we do now?” one of my companions asked.
“Go in, what else, stupid?” another answered.
“Ask the geek squad. What do you think?”
By geek squad they meant me, of course.
I didn’t get a chance to offer my honest take, that maybe they should try later, when four men came out of the house dragging a fifth man by the heels.
Not usually my problem except that the guy getting dragged was our target, and the bikers didn’t like that one bit.
So, much to my chagrin, they did what any red-blooded American might do with the smell of money in their noses: they charged.
I’ll let you in on the next part soon,
WARNING: MUST LOVE TYPOS...
Here we go again. Back to crypto + biker + mission.
“Who is this guy?” one of the bikers asked, meaning the bad guy who I imagined they were imagining having millions in coin.
“He’s Russian. Or at least part Russian.”
“I hate Russians,” someone said.
“Hey! My grandmother was Russian,” another said.
I snapped my fingers to get their attention. A couple gave me dirty looks for that but at least they were staring at me again.
“Like I was saying, this guy, he funnels a lot of money to the Russian mafia bosses.”
There was murmuring now.
“You mean like here, in the good ‘ol U. S. of A?” someone said in a bellow.
Good to know that they’re at least patriots. Ride that, Neil.
“Yeah. They’re into everything. Slave trade. Drug trade. Organ trade.”
More than a couple of the bikers made disgusted faces.
One biker, who’s belly stuck out so far it nudged me when he got close said, “So you’re telling me that if we pay this guy a visit, we not only stick it to the Russians, sorry Carl,” he said to his pal with the Russian grandma, “but we could make some coin too?”
“Okay smart guy,” Mr. Belly said. “Since it’s your idea, you can come with us, to show us how.”
Great. Just great.
More next time, Dear Diary,
WARNING: TYPOS AHEAD...
I’m back and maybe I’ll get the rest of the biker-crypto story out in this entry.
Reminder: me + bikers + crypto chat = ???
The gauntlet was thrown. They wanted to know how I used cryptocurrency.
But how to answer that? I couldn’t tell them what I do for a living, that I funnel money all over the world to support not just SSI and Jefferson Group operations, but anything we deem necessary to help the president, our allies, the Council of Patriots, you name it!
So I threw them a bone. I could see these bikers were their own brand of entrepreneur. They could smell the money and wanted to know how to get it.
My wheels were spinning. Spin, spin, spin.
“What if I told you that security is going to a HUGE issue?” I asked the gathered.
“What do you mean?” one of them asked.
“This stuff,” I tapped on the phone screen. “It’s all digital. It’s secure, sure. But it’s not in some bank vault. If you know the password—“
“You mean the seed phrase?” someone offered, correctly me thanks to my schooling.
“Right. If you know the seed phrase, have access to the wallet address, there’s a lot you can do.” I saw them trading looks, their wheels spinning. “But it’s not always that easy.” They looked momentarily deflated.
Then someone asked, “You say not ALWAYS.”
A plan had formed in my head. Something that would not only help my own cause, but give these guys some easy, and lucrative, sport.
“What if I told you that there’s a bad guy, like a bad guy’s money guy, who lives not twenty miles from here, who could be ‘convinced’ to let you have his most recent crypto payments?”
I had their attention now.
More next time, Dear Diary,
WARNING: NEIL ❤️ TYPOS
I’m back. Where was I? <flipping back through pages>
Right! Crypto and the bikers.
Well, so there we were, outside a gas station, them full of beer and sandwiches and me full of excitement that I had a captive audience and that I might not be their captive. Phew.
I spent the first half hour showing them the different website where cryptocurrency could be obtained. The next half hour was spent answering questions, of which there were many. Questions like:
- “Can the government see what I’m buying?”
- “Is there a limit to how much I can buy?”
- “Can I leave to my kids if I die?”
Really just normal run-of-the-mill stuff. At least that’s what I was hoping.
Some of the bikers had to leave and those remaining said goodbye with back slaps and rumbling belches. Classy but all in the name of brotherly love, Dear Diary.
So we’re into the second our of crypto instruction and they’re getting it. Like really getting it. Their questions keep getting deeper, more nuanced. So I dive deeper into an explanation of how the whole system works, how blockchain and protocols keep things locked down tight. And they get it.
I’m ashamed to say that I’d judged them by their appearance. I’ll try not to beat myself up too bad. They were acting more than a touch intimidating and they did filch me for food and booze.
But the way their minds worked, taking a subject that was Mars foreign to most people on the planet and applying it to their everyday lives. Let’s just say I was a convert and made a mental note not to judge a book by its cover.
Then the knife came out, plucked from a sheath and thrown, blade first, into the dirt in the middle of my feet.
“Okay, smart guy,” the biggest of them said. “Now show us how YOU use this stuff.”
I gulped and tried to gather my thoughts. This would take some quick thinking.
But that’s the next story.
Stay tuned, Dear Diary.