New York, NY. & Washington, D.C., Tuesday, March 5th, 2019.
"John? Scott Peters here."
"Scott. How are you?"
Robinson was back at his desk in the bowels of Butler, Columbia University's main library. As punishment for his long leave, he had drawn telephone reference duty. Between trying to put the finishing touches on the Introduction to his Selected Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian, which was due at the publisher's on April 8th, and looking up references that Columbia's graduate students, or even undergraduates, should have been able to look up themselves, Robinson was feeling harassed. The last thing he needed was to be asked to help Scott Peters, the subject of whose call was easy to guess.
"Not too bad. Yourself? How are Joan and the kids?"
Robinson did not bother to correct him. Instead, he struck pre-emptively. "We're fine, thanks. But no, I'm not in touch with him. If anything changes, I'll get back to you. Since I just returned to work, I'm sure you'll understand that I'm very busy. So goodbye for now, Scott." And he unceremoniously closed the call.
"Damn!" Peters was still clutching his phone, incredulous that Robinson had been so rude.
"Close your mouth, Scott," a passing newbie suggested, "you'll swallow a bug." Peters made a mental note to punish the newbie.
But when it rains ... No sooner had Robinson returned his attention to the English grad student (syntactic ambiguity), who had called for help with an allusion that was, indeed, obscure, and that was proving difficult to track down, than his phone signalled a new text. Knowing that, if he ignored it, he would be unable to concentrate on the students' question, Robinson opened the text. It was from Fred, who had copied Bob Martinez, John Rocker, and Hank Yazzie. Translated, it read:
He's in the wind again. After we lost him at LAX last week, he surfaced in Chicago yesterday, where he seems to have garotted the bodyguard of a Japanese kingpin. Motive unclear -- no note -- but POTUS is apparently furious, because said kingpin was helping him block the unionization of two of his resort properties, in Kyoto and Tokyo. (You'll probably hear from Scott about this, too. Never mind him, he's no longer relevant.)
We're still in G's corner, John, but it gets harder every day to decide whether his victims are good or bad guys. Not to mention that he recently knocked off an Italian bank, just when that country's centrist government is threatened by weakness in the financial sector. Why do I bother you with all these details? Because, once again, WE NEED YOUR HELP, JOHN!
Robinson worked on, again multi-tasking, trying simultaneously to trace the allusion, which sounded as if it might be from one of the Florentine Platonists, Vico, Pico, or some other "-ico," and to wrap his mind around Fred's latest cry for help. He reasoned that, since Geistmann might well have understood that Hank Yazzie's presence at LAX meant Robinson had tipped off the Feebs, it would take some fancy footwork to re-establish contact with the madman. Then, just as he finally located the reference, Robinson thought he saw what might be a chain of logic: LAX, O'Hare ... Geistmann was heading east. Given his attraction to risk, maybe he would turn up in NY.
Accessing his 2008 exchange of profiling data with Pablo Markowitz, Robinson recalled a key detail: malignant narcissists were not psychotic, they did not hallucinate. But he wondered whether this applied to aging psychopaths. Or, like all of us, did the boundaries become more porous? He made a mental note to keep the question in mind, since the answer might provide clues to Geistmann's itinerary. For instance, if he still did not hallucinate, he would more likely to be driven by predation or real danger than by some paranoid fantasy.
Once again, Robinson punched in the line for the grad student. "Sorry to keep you waiting, but I've finally located your reference: Vico, Giovan Battista, Scienza Nuova, Element CXIV, §326, p.94. You can access this passage in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Use the 2018 version, which includes substantive revisions. Have you got all that?"
After allowing the student a few expressions of profuse thanks, Robinson ended the call. He knew he was being irrational, but locating the Vico reference made him more sanguine about being able to help Fred locate Geistmann. But he also wondered whether Fred's motives were shifting. If so, should that make him, Robinson, a less willing helper?
After being "dissed" by John Robinson, Scott Peters took a few moments to "get over it." Then, he texted Bob Martinez. His idea was to see if the Bureau could help him hack Robinson's texts and/or emails, as a backchannel to Geistmann. Martinez's automatic response further infuriated Peters:
Access denied, 12C-14
When he looked up "12C-14" in the Bureau's Security Manual (print), he thought he might have a heart attack. (His blood pressure was already elevated, even with medication.) 12C-14 stated: "Requires higher security clearance category."
Peters lapsed into default mode, pacing back and forth across his small office uttering imprecations. Ten minutes of this "therapy" produced an idea. When he googled "New York City Educational NGO's," the first listing was for an outfit called "New York City Foundation for Better Schools."
Dialing the listed number, he followed the menu to the alphabetical list of employees. "Judith" produced three options, one of whom was "Judith Wolfe-Robinson." Bingo! Punching in the extension, he got Ms. W-R's administrative asistant (i.e. gate-keeper). He glanced at the time on his desktop.
"Good morning," he said. "May I speak to Ms. Wolfe-Robinson, please."
"May I ask who's calling?" replied a young male voice.
"Yes, of course. This is Jason Rocker, Deputy Director for Eastern States, Federal Bureau of Investigation."
"One moment, please." After two agonizing minutes of Bach keyboard music (was it a hopsy-chord or a whatchamacallit, a clavicle?), he was finally connected.
"This is Judy. How may I help you?"
Peters restated his false name and title, which he had jotted down so that, in case the assistant conveyed it to Ms. W-R., he would not forget it.
"Yesss?" She sounded suspicious, but Peters guessed she might just have been expressing lingering negativity over her husband's dangerous history with the Bureau.
"Sorry to bother you, Ma'am. Actually, I just got off the line with John -- your husband -- who suggested I call you." He realized he had to hurry before she got on another line to call John, and discovered that the pretext was untrue. "Actually, I'm trying to reach a woman named Elica Amrouche, whose life we have reason to believe is in imminent danger. I've been authorized to offer Ms. Amrouche emergency enrollment in our temporary WAP -- that's Witness Asylum Protection -- program. Do you happen to have her contact information?"
"Well, no, actually, I can't help you." There was a pause -- not good. "Would you please repeat your name and title? And if you'll give me your contact information, I can either ... "
Peters closed the call, and went on to Plan B (or was it C)?
Five minutes later, Robinson received another text, this one from Bob Martinez. Fred Neugeborn, John Rocker, Diodur Fedoruk, and Hank Yazzie had all been cc'd, as had John's namesake, Wesley Robinson. In 2014, he had learned from Neugeborn, Wes had transferred from the Marshal's Service to the Bureau, where he soon became FBI Director, Mid-Atlantic States. Sometime after Scott Peters' fall from grace, Wes had seen which way the wind was blowing, and switched over to the Fred faction.
Martinez's text was laconic. Translated, it read:
POTUS alert, everyone, SP sniffing around. (John, we tapped yr. call from him this a.m. Well done!)
If readers are interested in Reading Geistmann, it is available as a free PDF from the author. Please visit www.ronsinger.net for contact information.
And Geistmann in Africa (Geistman II):