They grabbed her in the parking lot of her gym. It wasn’t difficult; they simply used a moving van to block the view of her car from the street. It was a well-practiced ploy, and the emigrant Russians from Bayside, Queens, New York, were experts at it. Ordinarily, they would be nabbing a recalcitrant shop owner who failed to pay his tribute to the Russian mob, or perhaps a drug dealer who wasn’t selling his quota. They more commonly used a lot more force, since their victims were going to be quite intentionally hurt; however, Casimir carefully instructed them to treat this Rosenbloom woman as if she was their own sister. One of the Russians laughed derisively and told Casimir that his own sister was a working girl, usually found hooking along the docks on the west side of Manhattan. Casimir feigned a hearty laugh with the other men, but inside was disgusted at the crudeness of the joke. Casimir never met these men, although he knew of them; Directorate 12 frequently supplied them with drugs, and took a piece of the profits in tribute. These men weren’t political or cultural refugees in America; they were criminals, plain and simple. It was easier for the authorities in Moscow to convince them that they would have greater criminal opportunities in New York than in Russia, while at the same time establishing a source of funds, via kickbacks on the drug business. From time to time, they could be called upon to do favors, although they certainly weren’t agents in the traditional sense.
Mimi had just opened the door of her car, and was in the process of throwing her gym bag into the back seat when she heard a male voice behind her. “Excuse me, miss, do you have a light?” the man asked. She turned and looked at him, in his 40’s, perhaps, thick ‘salt and pepper’ beard and fashionable leather jacket, gold chains exposed by an open shirt. The fact that his voice was heavily accented didn’t register with her, and she barely had time to begin to explain that she didn’t smoke, when the lights went out. A rough hand over her eyes, and stronger hands around her waist, dragged her into some vehicle that she heard screeching up to a halt beside her. More hands bound her ankles and wrists with cords, and a piece of tape was placed over her mouth before her head was covered with a black hood. Finally, she stopped struggling, and sat there, panting, terrorized, waiting. She could smell the leather jackets and the cigarette aroma lingering on these men.
Outside, Casimir stood around with the remaining men, who were lighting cigarettes and laughing. Casimir joked and kidded with them in the mother tongue, trying his best to be ‘one of the boys’, despite his seething resentment and hate for these men who were nothing but common criminals with an uncommon connection.
“Good work, comerades” Casimir complimented them.
“Who is the bitch?” a short, broad shouldered man asked.
Casimir thought quickly, devising a story even as he spoke. “Oh, just a secretary. We want some information on her boss. We’re going to convince her to cooperate. We’re good at convincing people like that,” Casimir replied, laughing.
“If she doesn’t cooperate, let me know,” one of the men told him. “My nephew runs a stable in the Bronx. The bitch would bring in a lot of money,” the man explained. “We can turn her into a whore easily,” he snickered.
Casimir nodded. “I’ll let you know, but I suspect I’ll be successful. OK, get over to the airport. The jet is waiting, and I should be along in a half hour or so. You guys did bring a change of clothes, didn’t you? The jackets are nice, but you’ll look out of place where we’re going,” Casimir told them disapprovingly. The men looked sheepishly at each other. “Never mind,” Casimir advised them, “just get over there and wait for me. I’ll see you shortly.”
The other men hopped into the moving van, and pulled out of the parking lot. Casimir turned and got into the limousine, sitting alongside a quivering and shaking Miss Rosenbloom. He spoke to Viktor in Russian, who was already in the driver’s seat, telling him to drive out towards Bethesda, Maryland. Casimir then pressed the button to raise the glass partition between Viktor and the rear compartment. He pulled out a woolen ski mask, placing it over his head carefully. Then he spoke to her in an assured voice, his practiced English bearing only a slight accent.
“Miss Rosenbloom, let me assure you, you are not going to be hurt in any way. I simply need to speak with you about an important matter. Please try to calm down. I know all of this is quite frightening, but I promise you’re completely safe,” Casimir told her. He could see that his words did a great deal to calm her, although her chest was still heaving, and her breath was still ragged.
“I’d like to remove the hood from your head, and the tape from your mouth. First, let me tell you that I’ve put on a ski mask so you won’t be able to identify me. I realize the mask looks a bit threatening, but I promise it’s meant only for anonymity and not for any sinister purpose. Do you understand?” Casimir waited. After a few moments, he said, “Please nod if you’ve understood what I said.”
Mimi nodded slowly. The fear was soaking through her, but for some strange reason, this man’s voice seemed somehow safe and reassuring. She was calming now; still frightened, but able to deal with the situation.
“All right, then. I’m going to remove the hood. You’re in a limousine, by the way, and we’re simply taking a ride down the highway so we can chat. After our chat, you’ll be dropped off at a safe place. The police will be called shortly, and no doubt they’ll pick you up. We want nothing to happen to you, Miss Rosenbloom, so you can feel safe,” Casimir continued, in calm tones.
Mimi felt the hood being lifted. She saw him, a tall man, trim, dressed in a business suit, but incongruously wearing a ski mask. She recognized the highway as being the road to Bethesda. She couldn’t see the driver; the glass partition was heavily smoked to preclude forward visibility. She was beginning to feel strangely calm now, reasoning that this would hardly be the behavior of someone with sinister intentions.
“Here, let me remove the tape from your mouth. I’ll try to be gentle,” Casimir assured her. He began to peel back the tape, and Mimi assisted by wetting the adhesive near her mouth with her tongue. Finally the tape was off, and Mimi could breathe easily.
“What do you want from me?” she asked, in a quavering voice.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” Casimir replied. “I’m an official of another government. It ought to be obvious which government that is, based on the accents of my comrades. While I certainly can’t reveal my real name, you can call me Uncle Jonas, practically everyone in our business does,” Casimir explained.
“What do you want with me?” Mimi protested in a thin voice. “I’m just a statistician. I work for the State Department. I don’t know anything,” she protested, unconvincingly mouthing the cover story she had been given at Langley. An instant later, she realized that it had been foolish to blurt out her cover story before she was even asked.
“Miss Rosenbloom, this will be a very long drive if we insist on maintaining such foolish pretenses. I confess I don’t know precisely what you are, and you could indeed be a statistician, although you work for the NSA, not the State Department, and there would be very little point in denying it. Can we drop this posturing and move on?” Casimir was chiding her, sensing that she was bright enough to understand when, in American parlance, ‘the jig was up’.
“All right, I won’t obsess about who my employer is, but I’m not admitting anything. I told you the truth when I said I don’t know anything,” she maintained.
Casimir sighed. “All right, then, perhaps you might just listen for a moment. I think I can prove that I’m aware of whom you work for, and that we share a common interest. That interest happens to be related to an unsolved murder in southern California, in the desert. A place called Euston. A dead man, and a radar gun. A defective radar gun. I can see by your eyes that you understand what I’m talking about.”
Mimi was truly frightened now. How could anyone know about her interest in this mystery? Had she gone and done something incredibly stupid and naïve, by pressing her investigation without getting permission from Corbin?
“Well,” Casimir continued, “it so happens that I have an interest in this case, too. I know very little about it. However, I have other information. Profound information. Are you listening?”
Mimi nodded slowly.
“All right. I hope that you share this information with your superiors. I believe that a small radical group is going to commit an act of terrorism against the United States. It will be a very serious act of terrorism. There’s a relationship between this terrorist act, and the incident in California. Don’t bother to deny it; I know you’ve been investigating the Euston Borehole incident. But I doubt you know anything about the terrorist act.”
Mim was stunned by this revelation. Not knowing just what to do, she decided to play along. “All right, suppose this is true,” she replied. “Suppose I have been investigating some incident. What is this terrorist act? Tell me and we’ll put a stop to it.”
“Ah, there’s the problem,” Casimir countered. “For reasons I will not reveal, I can’t tell you anything more about it. In fact, I don’t expect your organization to be able to stop it, and I don’t even want you to try. My organization will stop this terrorist act, before it happens. But we will need your help. You have access to information. Powerful computers.” Mimi cringed as he said the word computer, wondering if this stranger had any inkling whatsoever about the Inference Engine. “You can give us the information to defuse the situation.”
“How can we possibly help, if you won’t tell us what the situation is all about,” Mimi asked. “I doubt my superiors are going to blindly supply some unknown individual any information, just on his word…”
“There’s nothing more I can say. After you’re released, you’ll undoubtedly tell your superiors what happened to you, and you’ll relay my plea. They’ll have to decide if it’s worth taking the risk or not,” Casimir told her.
“Why do you want to help?” Mimi asked. “What do you care if a terrorist act is committed in the United States?”
Casimir sighed heavily, and responded softly. “It is in no one’s interest to see such a thing happen. It took us nearly 40 years to get past the animosity and suspicions of the Cold War. No one can benefit by another holocaust. I wish that I could tell you everything, and make it easier to intercept this potential disaster, but I can’t. As incredible and unlikely as it seems, your organization will have to trust us. We’re trying to help you and save lives. Many lives. More than you can possibly imagine.”
Mimi was confused. “What am I supposed to tell them?”
“Tell them that they need to investigate. There’s a radical right wing group, possibly called ‘The Sons of Paul Revere’, and located in Montana. They’re indirectly involved. There’s an Arab who has recently been in Montreal, by the name of Mahmoud Al-Najjar. He’s involved. You need to find out who else is involved. And tell us. Give us the names. Tell us where they are.”
Mimi ‘s mind was working frantically, trying to memorize the slivers of information being handed her, while at the same time trying to remember the details of this stranger’s appearance, in hopes it might help to identify him.
“How will I get in touch with you?” she asked him.
“You won’t. I’ll call you,” he responded. “At your home, or on your cellular phone. In a day or so. Please go to your superiors immediately. Tell them what I’ve told you. It could possibly be a matter of days, so we need to act fast, very fast.”
Casimir tapped on the glass partition, and in a moment, the car slowed and pulled into a strip mall alongside the highway. “Do you see the pay phone at the end of the building?” he asked her. “If you wait there, the local police will be by for you shortly. I suggest you tell them nothing, other than that you are lost and need a lift home. Don’t bother to look at the license plate of this car, it’s a stolen vehicle and we’re going to abandon it shortly anyhow. Trust me, neither the car nor I will be traceable. We’re professionals, I’m sure you realize by now.”
Casimir took out a pocketknife and cut the cords binding Mimi’s wrists and ankles. He took the woman’s hand in his own, giving it a firm and warm squeeze, which Mimi found strangely reassuring. “We’re on the same side in this effort, Miriam. You haven’t the slightest reason to believe me or trust me, except by reason of intuition. I hope that intuition convinces you of my sincerity. God knows we must succeed. Good bye.”
Casimir opened the door. She stepped out quickly, and the limo sped away.