Who's The Fairest of Them All? -- Murder by Chatroullete IV
The ropes cut into her perfect skin. Hands that held the finest perfume and handbags were now lashed behind her back, her exquisitely oval face crushed against a rough, foul smelling surface. She had been photographed before in rough surroundings, carefully applied makeup to look like smears, but not like this. This was real and she was terrified. There was real pain from the ropes on her feet and hands and from lying cramped in the bottom of the boat. She could only see a tiny bit of sky through a hole in the heavy oil cloth that covered her. She was thirsty and scared and yet no tears came. She was beyond tears. She was going to die.
Murder by Chatroulette
If you missed the first episode, the origin of ISpooks, click on this link and then come back.
What Happens in Russia, Stays in Russia--Murder by Chatroulette If you missed the second episode, click on this link and if you get in trouble, I'll send Meg. =:)
If a Man Falls in a Rainforest -- Murder by Chatroulette III You may not save the rainforest, but you could get killed there.
Thirty Six Hours Before
The native was heavily tattooed and wore a traditional hunting garb. There was a wasp tattoo on his neck and a claw tattoo on his arm. "Hello Graham." Michael said.
Graham lowered his gun, questions racing through his mind. "You tried to kill me!" he finally said. Michael laughed, long and hard until he was bending over. "You know if I was trying to kill you, you would be lying here instead of me." Graham was still breathing hard and not buying it. "If I hadn't ducked that dart would have been in my neck!" he retorted. "Fair enough." Michael said. "Only thing is it wasn't poisoned. You'd have only had a little prick and that's what you are, by the way. These things hurt." Graham walked over to the tree, pulled out the dart and smelled it. Michael was right, it wasn't poisoned. "Can I move now?" Michael asked. "Yeah" Graham said, "but you have a lot of explaining to do."
A half hour later, escorted by a group of silent young warriors, they walked into a clearing encircled by enormous trees and vines. There were fires, some with kettles suspended above them and some with game turning on a spit. Children with bare breasted women tended the fires. As Graham watched, a few of the older children slid down ropes from tree houses incredibly high off the ground. "What is this place?" He asked. Michael waited a bit before replying. "You might say it is the place that saved my life." he answered. "When I left so many years ago, I was burned out--disillusioned and I knew if I didn't get out I was going to kill somebody. And I don't mean who I was supposed to kill. My plane lost an engine and was going down. I parachuted into the forest a few miles from here and got banged up pretty badly by the trees coming down. I was out for some time and when I awoke, I was here. There, actually." He pointed to a tree house at least fifty feet up from where we were standing. "Yaita nursed me back to life." He motioned for a very comely older woman who walked shyly over to us. "We were married a few months later and I've been here ever since."
"Oz you have to look at this." "What is it?" I asked
I looked at the giant monitor and saw part of a boat, bright, primary colors with a delicate hand dangling out from under an oil cloth. "What is this?" I asked.
"Our nasty little friend Bevil is at it again." Liese replied. "Where is his sign?" I asked. "Take a closer look at the side of the boat."
One of your fairest will be the deadest was lettered just above the water line. "This showed up a few minutes ago and I'm doing some digital forensics on it now." "Any chance of giving us a location?" I asked hopefully. "Not exactly, but unless that boat was moved to this location, there are only a few locations that have this type of paint design and construction. Some are in the Caribbean and the rest are in Europe."
"What about the hand, can you tell anything about the person?" Liese brought up the image and focused on a ring. "It's a female, and this ring, if it is the real thing, is priceless." Her voice became wistful as she said it--Liese has a weakness for all things beautiful. She brought up the image of the ring. "Like all images we get from him, there is minimal resolution. I have already enhanced this as much as my program allows and it's a lot like guessing."
"That a sapphire?" I asked. "Not just any sapphire Oz, it is a star sapphire with a cabochon cut to emphasize the star. The cage around it is diamonds in a platinum setting. I've only seen one like this made by Chaumet Paris. Whoever this girl is, she is either very rich or has someone around who is."
"Graham tells me he has the Rio Branco thing under control and that it is a dead end. We may as well head back and let Meg and Rosh help us work out what this 'Fairest will be deadest' means.
Meg would not admit that she missed me. Instead she kept asking me questions to embarrass me until she was over it. I thought it was sweet.
"Meg, what are our chances of Bevil referring to a beauty pageant and are there any coming up?" I asked. "It would be like him to capitalize on the publicity."
She wrinkled her nose at me as if to say "I'm already ten steps ahead of you." "There are many beauty pageants around the world, but there are three that are the most publicized--Miss Universe celebrated its 60th anniversary in São Paulo, Brazil on September 12, 2011. Miss Earth is most often held in the Philipines and Miss International is usually held in Japan. In addition, you might find this interesting. There is a 'Most Beautiful Woman in the World' private competition in Porto Cervo, the billionaires playground for the super-rich in Sardinia's Costa Smeralda. It was built in the 1960s by Prince Karim Aga Khan and it is the kind of target that Bevil would love to hit."
"Rosh, what do you know about this place?" I asked. He did not hesitate.
"They are very up front about their exclusivity. 'The Emerald Coast' was created just for the enjoyment of the heads of International fashion and high society with Porto Cervo as its heart. It is very easy to impress a date there since the shopping and boutiques rival Rodeo Drive and the five star hotels and luxury restaurants are some of the finest in the world. You remember Gita, we heard Leona Lewis at the Hotel Cala di Volpe."
"As I recall she left you waiting in the lobby while she went off with that drummer from Whitesnake." I said.
"He was just helping her with her car and besides, we were just friends." Rosh added. "The most luxurious yachts in the Mediterranean dock at the Yacht Club there. In fact, one of ours competed in the Sardinia Cup race. We weren't dead last, but we were not even in the top ten."
I looked at Rosh, who was now trying to downplay his family's wealth and decided to not let him off the hook. "I suppose your grandmother has a villa there too?" I asked jokingly. Rosh answered immediately. "No, of course not."
He looked down as he said it and then added: "She has a hotel." It was what we needed. Liese, Meg and I began laughing so hard we had to hold each other. Rosh pretended to be offended, but he couldn't keep it up and joined us. "The family has to keep up appearances, it's not even five stars!" he said, not too convincingly, sending us into another spasm of laughter.
When we all got back to some semblance of normalcy, everyone was quieter than usual. We knew we had a potential tragedy on our hands. Bevil's last fatality, admittedly a scumbag as well as a criminal, was something we tried to head off and failed, but this time he is after someone whose only crime is to be beautiful and own more than one Louis Vitton hand bag. None of us were going to let this happen.
Liese, always the deep thinking one said. "I'm beginning to think the motive here is not as ideological as he would like us to believe." I agreed with her: "Bevil is really starting to piss me off. He knows that the world's publicity hacks will have a field day with this. He may be going after Google, but sometimes I think he get's off on all this. You know that homeland would like nothing better than to use a high profile killing as an excuse to shut us down for good.
Is there anything in the photo that can narrow our focus? What about the boats or the ring?" I asked.
"They may be Italian." Meg volunteered, "They are similar to boats found in the Caribbean, but my best guess is they would be close to the competition and the markings are similar to Sardinian fishing boats." she added.
"See if you can find any other details that will make it certain, we don't have time to be wrong on this. Liese, what have you found out about the ring?"
"I called the main office of Chaumet in Paris and got a lot of waffling despite their verifying my credentials. Apparently some of the higher purchases are subject to a high level of secrecy at the request of the client. Some of these billionaires like to give gifts to women other than their wives."
"We could lean on them, but they could stall us too long, can you get the information some other way?" I asked, knowing Liese would already have done it.
"I was able to get past their fire walls without detection and it appears three of those were custom made for three separate clients." "None with real names I suppose?" I asked.
"You are once again correct." she twinkled at me. If it had been Meg, she would already be crowing about the rest of the details. Liese takes a little coaxing. "So give!" I said.
"One of the rings was purchased by a limited holding company incorporated in Switzerland, but based in the Eastern Block. I've traced a chain of companies back to our old friend Sergi Borof. Another ring was actually made for someone on the board of Chaumet and the details were simply either not ever there or have been deleted from their files. The third ring was bought by another puppet company which I traced eventually to the royal family of Abu Dhabi."
"If you want to talk to Sergi, he is in New York this weekend for an auction of Russian Art at Christies." Meg interrupted. "He has been seen with at least three of the contenders for the competition, all of them beautiful enough to win and it is likely one of them has the ring." Meg offered. "He invited me and I was going to say I was busy, but if you go with me I'll go." she said. I never asked her what happened in Russia, but I gathered she wasn't fond of him. "It'll be fun, let's go." I said.
I nodded for Liese to go on. "The Al Nahyan family rules Abu Dhabi and a cousin of the Crown Prince, Hussain Al Baktar, bought the second ring. I haven't found the board member of Chaumet, but I have the list and I'm checking it against the attendees of the pageant. Not only is Hussain and his entourage attending, but half the board members are as well."
I let out a sigh of relief. "Then it's decided. Porto Cervo is the target. Keep working on the board members, Liese, you and Rosh find out what you can about this Hussain guy."
Rosh suddenly looked eager. I think the prospect of concentrating on someone vastly more wealthy than his family was a welcome opportunity.
"You know Sergi is starting to be my favorite for being our elusive Bevil." Meg said as we rode the cab to Rockefeller Center. "He owns a good part of the computer and software industry and has freaking good techs that could hide and still get through any defenses. Plus, he would gain if Google is diminished." She added.
"Yeah, his connections in Brazil make me a little suspicious too--and he is just a little too swarmy for my taste." I replied. "The trouble is, he just doesn't strike me as having a crusading bone in his body and Bevil comes off as someone with an axe to grind. I would like him for our target a little better if I knew he had some connection to Porto Cervo."
Meg went silent for a while and I knew she was online. She subvocalizes commands so sometimes she's carrying on extremely complex searches while smiling to someone in conversation. She's the only one I know who's ventriloquist dummy is a computer.
"He is a member of the Yacht Club there, but most billionaires are. He has a favorite suite in the Cala di Volpe hotel and it is reserved during the times of the beauty competition.
"So what do we know about this royal bad boy?" Rosh asked no one in particular. Liese offered: "He was educated at Oxford, although 'educated' might be too strong a word. He spent more time in night spots than he did studying and rumor has it that it was only after a substantial contribution to their new library wing that he was allowed to graduate."
"That doesn't sound like the kind of focus needed to pull off Bevil's stunts." Rosh added. "No, but his roommate, Kyle Thornton was president of the computer club and has a few patents in his name--all in software or technical hardware. What interests me is that he was called in for questioning during that computer prank that shut down Oxford two years ago, but was released for lack of evidence." Rosh was quiet for a while, digesting this. Finally he spoke up: "Where is this Kyle fellow now?"
Liese took a while before answering. "You might find this hard to believe--he is in Sardinia. His credit cards registered purchases in Porto Cervo and most interestingly, in the Hotel Cala di Volpe." Rosh nodded approval, "Grandmother will be disappointed we didn't stay in her hotel." He said with just the hint of a smile.