to another, from one country to another. This is done by our own team of investment bankers, using computers and what are called electronic keys, which are similar to the numbers you are assigned for your savings and checking accounts at your bank. One must be authorized to make such a transfer between accounts, of course, but it is not unusual for any large corporation to have a dozen or more investment bankers, working under close supervision, authorized to make such transfers.'

'But we're not talking cash here.'

'Precisely. We are talking only about numbers, like the listed value of a stock, essentially symbols of value that can only be used when converted into some currency. The actual conversion of credits into currency is done by the recipient of the grant, be it the International Red Cross or some enterprising scientist, after the organization or individual receives it. The credit, if you want to call it that, is transferred to the recipient's account by means of a special electronic key created for that single transaction. Such a key cannot be created without the signed authorization of three individuals-our chief financial officer, one member of the board of directors, and myself. To create a special electronic key, transfer credits to the new account, and then be able to actually convert the credits into cash without any sort of authorization along the way is theoretically impossible.'

'So much for theory. John Sinclair made it happen.'

Emmet P. Neuberger's pumpkin-shaped face took on an extremely soulful look, as if he were getting ready to cry. 'Yes. Essentially, what he did was to open up his own personal checking account with ten million dollars of our money, and then empty it. To accomplish that, he had to defeat the most sophisticated electronic security system in the world.'

'Maybe you'd better have a heart-to-heart talk with your people in Zurich.'

'Oh, the police and Interpol have interviewed all our staff people over there thoroughly, although I could have told them they were wasting their time. Hyatt Pomeroy is the executive in charge of our western European operations, but he couldn't possibly have been involved in the crime.'

'Why not?'

'He doesn't have the authorization to transfer funds, and I doubt he even understands the complex procedures involved.'

'Just what is it Pomeroy does?'

'He administers our Zurich office. He has access to some funds, of course, but only to run the office, pay staff, that sort of thing. We maintain offices around the world to take applications and interview potential recipients of grants.'

'But he must have talked with Sinclair, even if he didn't know it was Sinclair.'

'Presumably,' Neuberger said in a slightly absent tone. 'The money this man took was funds marked for emergency famine relief in the Sudan. In a very real sense, the Interpol inspector isn't the only person Sinclair has murdered. Untold numbers of men, women, and children may now starve to death because the relief funds that would have been provided will not now be forthcoming.'

I grunted, inclined my head slightly, and stared at Neuberger, who stared anxiously back at me. Finally, I said, 'Just what is it you want me to do, Emmet?'

He blinked rapidly, seemingly surprised. 'I thought I'd made that clear. I'd like you to go to Zurich.'

'You've told me where you want me to go, not what you expect me to do once I get there. My P.I. license is no good in Europe. I have no franchise to operate as an investigator over there, and I really don't think either Interpol or the Zurich police would be too eager to even buy a glass of zinferdal for a private citizen they'd have to perceive as a smart-ass American who'd arrived on the scene to look over their shoulders and second-guess them.'

'You're internationally known and respected, Mongo. They'd talk to you.'

'About what? I wouldn't know what questions to ask. I don't have the financial or computer expertise to even begin to get a fix on how Sinclair did what he did. You certainly know more about your own operations than I ever will. You already have a city and international police force, not to mention the Swiss Army, working on your behalf. I really don't fancy wasting my time or Cornucopia's money.'

'I will be paying you personally, Mongo,' Neuberger said quickly, leaning forward in his chair. 'None of the people you mentioned work for me; they don't report to me, and all of the information I get is secondhand. All I want is a report on what has happened and the progress of events from someone who has Cornucopia's interests in mind. A report, Mongo; that's all I want. And if you can't find out anything more than I already know, that's all right. All I'm asking is that you go over as soon as possible and take a look at things. Please. I can't tell you how important this is to me.'

'I can see that,' I said, suppressing a sigh. 'Look, Garth is in Brussels taking care of some business for another client. He'll be finished in a day or two, and I'll have him swing through Zurich on his way-'

'No, no, Mongo!' he said sharply, almost plaintively. When I looked at him, somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of his reaction, he continued quickly, 'Garth isn't you, Mongo. I mean, he doesn't have your tact. He can be quite abrasive with certain people, as I know you're aware. I'm not sure he could get the job done.'

'Damn it, Emmet, that's an insult to Garth. He's a professional, and he's every bit as well known and respected as I am. Besides that, he's an ex-cop; the Zurich police and Interpol could be a lot more impressed by him than by me, and they might extend him professional courtesies they would deny me. Garth may stand a better chance of getting the job done than I would, and he's already in Europe. It will not only save you money, Emmet, but it makes more sense.'

Neuberger leaned forward even farther in his chair, clasped his hands in his lap, and bowed his head, allowing me the privilege of studying his bald spot and pronounced dandruff. He made a strange, muffled sound deep in his throat, and when he looked up, I was startled to see that his pale green eyes were misted with tears that puddled in his puffy lids, then rolled down his round cheeks. 'But Garth doesn't like me, Mongo. You know that. Not many people do. You may not care much for me, but at least you treat me with courtesy and respect.'

'I like you just fine, Emmet,' I said lamely, looking away in embarrassment.

'Even as a child, I was never able to make many friends, no matter how hard I tried. Having a lot of money wasn't enough; it just led people to try to take advantage of me. I wanted to do something, to be somebody. Cornucopia has given me the chance to make my life meaningful. The foundation is my life. This may sound odd to you, Mongo, but what John Sinclair did to Cornucopia makes me feel personally violated. I just want to feel as if I have some measure of control, or at least that I'm being kept properly informed about events concerning my. . child. Having you personally go to Zurich to prepare this report would give me a great measure of relief. Please, Mongo. As a personal favor, would you do it for me?'

'Emmet,' I said quietly, hoping my exasperation didn't show in my tone, 'I have personal reasons for not being able to go over to Europe right now. I have a lady friend whom I haven't seen in a long time coming into town, and-'

'Miss Rhys-Whitney,' he said, smiling broadly. 'The snake woman. Such a lovely lady. I met her at the Museum of Natural History benefit, remember?'

'Harper and I were planning on spending some time together, Emmet. We've been looking forward to it.'

'Then spend it together in Switzerland! She can meet you there. I'll pick up all expenses, so you can think of this as a paid vacation if you like. It shouldn't take you long to meet with the people you'll want to talk to. You can fax me your report, and then the two of you can be on your way.'

Actually, the thought of a European vacation with Harper was not unappealing; we had talked about going off somewhere for a couple of weeks, but hadn't decided where it was we wanted to go. 'I don't accept paid vacations from clients, Emmet. But I'll go over to Zurich and poke around a bit, if you insist you want to spend your money that way.'

Emmet P. Neuberger positively beamed. 'I can't tell you how much I appreciate this, Mongo. Just tell me when Miss Rhys-Whitney is scheduled to fly in, and I'll make all the arrangements to have her flown on to Zurich.'

'Don't worry about it, Emmet. You let me take care of Harper. I'll bill you for what I think is fair. I'll do the best I can to provide you with a clear picture of what's happening, but I want it clearly understood that, no matter how much of my time and your money I spend, it's unlikely that I'm going to find out much more than you knew before you walked in here.'

Вы читаете Dark Chant In A Crimson Key
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