A Plague of Dissent — Re-write Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Several hours after Rosie’s death, Carl and Fred were in their office at The International’s HQ, or what used to be their office until recently. The office was hardly recognisable to what it had been only a week before. The four interconnecting rooms that made up the office space had been crammed with electronic monitoring equipment. It looked more like mission control for a space flight than a typical media office. Banks of flat screen computer monitors lined each workspace and a touch screen commanded the majority of most desks with more monitors hung from a metal lattice work attached to the ceiling.

There wasn’t a communication device, computer or data network in the UK, even those that didn’t officially exist, that couldn’t have been accessed from here. Now all that remained was the metal framework hanging from the ceiling, a few desks and hundreds of cables sprouting from every conceivable point or coiled upon the remaining desks.

A TV on in the corner of one of these rooms, the boss’s office, showed the Secretary of the Treasury getting out of his limo, outside No 10. The scene was a complete free for all; every TV crew in the western world seemed to be there, all jostling for best position to record the action. They had only one theme to their shouted questions

“Did he have any comments on the news stories that morning? Did he think the girl had committed suicide by running in front of the bus? And had he been summoned to No 10 to hand in his resignation?”

Carl, Fred and their boss Jonathan sat in his office watching the breaking news. Through the glazed wall at the rear of office in an adjacent suite of rooms, three others could be seen packing away the last of their delicate and expensive equipment. When the breaking news bulletin finished, Jonathan turned to Fred and angrily spat

“What the hell went wrong?”

“I sent the two of you to get the damn photos not to instigate this shit fest. What were you doing?”

He certainly hadn’t intended it to be all over the airways that day, if ever. Carl handed over the shots on the memory card to his boss. They were even better than expected the last few he’d taken captured the politician naked, the dropped towel at his feet, his hands attempting to cover his face, screaming at the top of his lungs.

“Look I’m sorry boss, the guy just wouldn’t shut up, he screamed louder than my teenage daughter does when I say No. I was no sooner out the damn door before every fucker on the floor was poking his head around the door to see what was going on. The security guys were there in seconds and I thought they worked for us. It’ll be one of those bastards that sold the story to that lot”

Carl explained whilst pointing at the TV, still on in the corner.

“They’ve all got it, every bloody one of them”, he added referring to the International’s competitor news networks.

This really did not please Jonathan; he had plans for the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Alex Great. Or more to the point, his private clients, Roseau and De Costa had plans and were willing to pay a great deal of money to ensure they came to fruition. The pair had approached him a little over a year ago, and, on the surface both seemed like successful businessmen. Although, they seemed prepared to do whatever it took to keep ahead of the competition.

Their business was that of contract services, and they now wished to acquire government contracts. Jonathan could easily help with that, with the right introductions and a little insider information. He had so far supplied everything they asked for and more, doing very well out of it. But there was something about them that worried him. It was nothing that he could really put his finger on, but he was now beginning to suspect they were involved in organised crime. Not that that bothered Jonathan, their money was as good as anyone else’s, but he would need to tread carefully with them.

It wasn’t so much the business with the Treasury Secretary; he could easily understand how they might fit him into their plans. But, there were two other pieces of information that he had supplied as requested, without considering what they were to be used for. One was on a company CEO involved in an insider trading scam. He had committed suicide by taking a swan dive from the roof of the bank where he was CEO into Canary Wharf within a week of this info being delivered. Another was the name of a gun-runner who was in the witness protection scheme. He was about to provide evidence on the people he worked for, and then, he just disappeared.

Considering the business he was in, Jonathan knew that it was wise to take precautions and had always done so. His insurance policy was a list of all those he had business transactions with, including names, dates, amounts of money paid and information supplied. And, as a consequence of his suspicions, he was also in the process of trying to discover more about these particular clients, both as further insurance and as a potential future revenue generator.

He would need to find another way of gaining the leverage Roseau and De Costa wanted. Jonathan prided himself on always delivering and this business with Alex Great would be no different. Fortunately he and his colleagues were the best in the business and Roseau and De Costa were well aware of it. He had demonstrated that with the information his informants had supplied about the gun-runner, information that could only have come from high up within the Metropolitan Police Force.

For over four years Jonathan had been running a project for Dandelion, the International’s owner. Their brief was to collect data, every conceivable piece of data they could, from every source open to them, legality notwithstanding. Initially this was limited to data that they could intercept electronically but was soon expanded to include information supplied by the police and public officials, at a hefty price.

Dubious methods of information gathering had always been employed within news organisations. They needed to obtain information for their stories from somewhere. Now, with the prevalence of electronic communications these days, that’s, where the bulk of information came from. But, Dandelion always wanting to be one step ahead of the game centralised those that knew how to get this and provided them with all the tools available to excel at it.

This created a very powerful information gathering machine. A tool Dandelion wanted total control of, hence the reason to run it from the International Building.

Jonathan and his five colleagues supplied phone intercepts, text messages, voice mail, e-mails and computer files as well as the human intelligence to reporters and TV crews of the International group on anybody of interest. From Prime Ministers to murder victims, if it was in an electronic form or on the airwaves and they wanted it, they had had everything they needed at their disposal right here in these rooms to gather it. For several years, they built this capability with state of the art equipment and employed the best in the business to run it.

That was, until public scrutiny began to examine how media organisations, particularly the International Group obtained their information.

The scrutiny their methods were now receiving made it necessary for Dandelion to be able to deny all knowledge of his enterprise. Therefore, as of two years ago, to all intents and purposes Jonathan and the group were no longer employed by the International Group, although in reality they continued with their work from the same office space, just as they had done before. The costs of the project including all the wages had gone down in the Internationals budget as entertainment, which, in some sense of the word it was, it certainly entertained the general public every day.

Really, they had been too good at their job and the International Group was now under intense investigation. For years the Internationals editions published story after story, exposing which footballer had yet again been caught with his pants down, which public official had been taking bribes, which pop star had been caught taking drugs or caught soliciting for sex in public toilets or which actress had confided intimate sexual details to a friend. Many complained about the International’s tactics, but all too often, these complaints fell on deaf ears.

Then two years ago official complaints were made by Buckingham Palace. It was claimed stories containing private conversations between Prince William and his girlfriend and between him and his brother Prince Harry had been published by the International. The content of these conversations could only have been known through the interception of their texts. The police had no choice but to investigate these claims. So far only one reporter had been charged and convicted but that was about to change.

The police investigations revealed the editor at the royal desk had intercepted these messages with the help of a private investigator; both were prosecuted and eventually jailed. Or that was the official story. In truth, the information had been supplied by Jonathan and his group. The private investigator had been implicated by Jonathan hacking into his computer and planting incriminating evidence for the police to find. Both the editor and the investigator were paid handsomely by Dandelion for their silence.

For a year or so with the help of certain police officers that ruse had held. But politicians, footballers and show business celebrities began to make claims that they had been targeted by eavesdroppers. That their phones were being bugged and their texts intercepted, as stories appeared about them in the International’s papers and news channels. The police investigation resumed, and a government appointed committee had been formed to investigate the claims.

Jonathan was aware of the investigations and that the committee appointed by the Prime Minister would soon be calling the owner of the International Group, Dandelion, or Dandy as they all called him behind his back, to testify. Naturally, Dandelion also was aware and decided it would be wise to cover the tracks.

The Surveillance Group, as he called them, and all their equipment needed to be removed from the International Building. He instructed the only two others that actually knew of the project, his two vice presidents; print and electronic media, who had disseminated the information throughout his news network to get the Surveillance Group dismantled and covered up.

Although many at the International knew information from texts and e-mails were being collected, none knew the specific details or the extent of it, other than nine of them. Those were the six members of the Surveillance Group, Carl and Fred, who looked after the physical surveillance, the eyes on stuff and the three electronics experts, Jonathan and Dandelion of course along with his two VPs.

The members of the Surveillance Group where given very generous bonuses, told their services were no longer required and they had two weeks to get out of the building. That was nearly two weeks ago and today they were packing up the last of their equipment.

The fact that Dandelion wanted to distance himself from their operation came as no surprise to Jonathan. He had always suspected that there was a finite time limit on how long they could remain secreted away within a news group before drawing attention to themselves. But more importantly, he had for some time wanted to expand their enterprise and herein came the opportunity.  Thus far whilst based at the International he had unable to do that, other than his single very private group of clients, and this was the perfect opportunity. He had already acquired the premises that they needed, all their equipment was being packed away ready to be moved through a series of cut-outs, so it couldn’t be traced. It would be installed not five miles away from the present location.

Once the installation was complete, in about a week, he would ready to begin again but this time their endeavours would be far more profitable. Blackmail and corporate espionage paid much better than news stories. Perhaps his last voyage into that field hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but he had got the girl into the Treasury Secretary’s bed and he had got the photos he wanted. If the stupid man hadn’t screamed the place down it all would have gone as planned. He would have kept the evidence to himself and his clients. It was a shame about Rosie, but now she couldn’t say anything to incriminate him and there were plenty more around like her.

…….

As Jonathan and his team packed away the remainder of their equipment, the rest of the International Media Group were experiencing a very busy news day. On top of the drama occurring around Alex Great, another demonstration had erupted. This one, an impromptu affair, was likely to have the same side effects as the other demonstrations earlier in the year.

Certain groups were hijacking the demonstrations to further their own ends their goals had not been revealed but their methods were clear. Small bands were using the peaceful demonstrations to conduct riots and lootings in several large cities around the UK, whilst the police were distracted at the demonstrations.

It was also the first day of the committee hearing, with Dandelion the first to be brought before them. With this flurry of activity in the news rooms, nobody would notice what was going on in their remote corner of the International building.

Before Jonathan got his team up and running in their new offices he had two problems to deal with. His private clients wouldn’t be happy with the way the business with the Secretary of the Treasury had turned out. He had received an e-mail from them saying that they would be back in London in a few days and wanted to have a meeting. Then there was a problem of a more private nature to deal with: his wife.

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