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March 27, 2023

Geistmann Redux: John Robinson Investigates, Chapter Four

By Ron Singer

Chapter Four
Cape Town, Friday, May 9, 2025.

Within minutes, Fred Neugeborn replied to Robinson's text requesting a meeting. But he suggested that it be a four-way meeting, which would take place at Dr. Mzamene's office, in one hour. After a stroll around campus, Robinson showed up twenty minutes early. While they were waiting for the others to arrive, RAM, who may have been chronophobic ("fearful of wasting time"), handed him a photocopy of a different manuscript fragment.

No sooner was the visitor immersed in trying to date this Tifinagh (i.e. Tamasheq) fragment than there were three raps at the door, which RAM had left unlocked. Robinson realized it must be Fred. Without turning around or standing up, RAM bade him enter.

Robinson noticed that Neugeborn looked pretty much the same as he had at the V & A (warm trousers, windbreaker, etc.). The person he had brought with him was a short, squat East-Asian woman whose clothing and demeanor proclaimed a "No Nonsense" attitude. The woman wore a lightweight gray wool pants suit that looked warm enough for the winter morning, a dark green shirt, and black pumps with square heels. Her eyes, neither slanted nor round, looked out on the world from above black-framed half-glasses. Her expression was quizzical.

Robinson's experience of East-Asian women was limited to fleeting interactions with servers and salespersons, in Hawaii and in New York's Chinatown. Aware that history rendered national traits particularly tricky in East Asia, he was unsure whether this woman was Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or something else. Sensitive to self-accusations of subtle racism, he momentarily suppressed the guessing impulse. Fred cleared the question right up.

"John Robinson, Radebe Mzamene, please say hello to Mitsuko Yamamoto." Ms. Yamamoto neither bowed nor offered her hand. Pedantic Robinson knew that her name meant "child of light who lives in the mountains." He guessed she was a scientist, possibly an astronomer or astrophysicist, but Fred quickly disabused him. "Ms. Yamamoto's title is 'Chief Investigator, FBI Cybercrimes Task Force.' Kindly tell Doctors Mzamene and Robinson exactly what you do, Missy."

Keeping a very straight face, Ms. Yamamoto obliged: "I follow the money." Then, before explaining, she allowed herself the thinnest of smiles. "In other words, I catch cyber-bank robbers. My particular areas of expertise are electronically kited checks, illicit fund transfers, and such." She left it at that.

Robinson had several immediate insights:

1. Fred had asked Bob Martinez, her direct boss, to release Ms. Yamamoto for this planned meeting, in order for her to lay out the technical details of Copy Cat's cyber-heists.

2. Having arranged for #1, Fred also thought Ms. Y. might be able to shed light on the block book forgery, again presumably the work of C.C.

3. Whatever she was doing here today, might Ms. Y. also, perhaps, be able to tell them anything useful about Harito Yurei, the yakuza who had been Geistmann's bitter enemy? (Did yakuza rob banks?)

As if he were a mind reader, Neugeborn immediately addressed Robinson's first two questions. "Ms. Yamamoto has already identified Copy Cat's 'fist' in the cyber-bank heists. Assuming the block book forgery was made on a three-D printer, she may be able to extrapolate, and confirm our guess that it's the same villain. Have I got that right, Missy?"

"Essentially. May I have a look, gentlemen?" Dr. Mzamene handed her the photostatted copy of the block book pages. She took only a few moments to examine it."Same guy, for sure," she announced. "He uses a late-model, S.O.A. 3-D printer."

RAM looked pleased. "Well, Ms. Yamamoto," he said. "Now we know." With that, Fred told Robinson he would call him later that day. The two FBI Agents said goodbye, and left.

"Is there any point in keeping up my cover story now?" Robinson asked Dr. Mzamene.

"You don't beat around the bush, do you, John?" The Director thought for a few seconds. "Well, of course, I can always use your expert help. I certainly welcome your company, and we do have space for you. But if you feel ... " He shrugged. Robinson thought of further reasons to keep wearing the TMP "beard."

"Actually, Dr. M., I'd prefer working here to some cubbyhole they might find for me in the basement of the Consulate. So, if it's true that you can still use me, why not? I mean, I don't want to spend all my time trying to help Fred ... " —he realized he was already tired of calling the new predator/prey "the Copy Cat"— " ... catch Geistmann Redux."

Dr. Mzamene smiled. Had he grasped the import of the signature, after all? "Good name, John. Just in case, I've already set you up in your old room, 237, right down the hall. Bob Martinez said he'd send someone over asap to encrypt the landline and desktop computer. " RAM held out the Tifinagh fragment he had shown Robinson while they were waiting for the Agents. "Here. When you're finished with this one, I have more."

Robinson took the sheet. "Hold onto the false block book, will you, Dr. M., until Fred, Dr. Yamamoto, and I figure out what to do with it. As for the phone and computer lines in my office, until Bob gets here, maybe I'll use them to feed Redux misinformation." RAM raised an eyebrow.

Shouldering his backpack, Robinson exited the TMP Director's office, walked down the hall to the third door on the left, and entered Room 237. As advertised, atop the formica desk sat a late-model desktop computer (same brand as the CPT airport monitors) and a landline. He was glad to note that the desk chair and two straight-backs were all ergonomic. In the top-right desk drawer, he found labeled keys to 237 and to the main entrance of the library. Putting his own N.Y. keys in the drawer, he added the library keys to the ones he had been given for the dorm. Then, unpacking his laptop, instead of starting on the Tifinagh job, he sat down and googled "copy-cat crimes." He wondered if Redux would hack his machine, and discover that he was on the trail. If so, good!

Two hours later, Fred had still not called, and Robinson was still reading. The gist of what he had learned implied that Redux might be an interesting amalgam of Geistmann and of the typical copy-cat criminal. Whereas many copycats mimicked successful crimes that they read about, or saw on TV and in movies, media only seemed to influence those who were pre-disposed to commit the terrible acts they saw or read about. Note: Watch for signs that Redux models his pranks/crimes not on media, but on those of the Original! Since Geistmann's bank robbery in Florence, in February 2019, had itself been closely modeled on the exploits of one of his heroes, Willie Sutton, and since that robbery had been carried out IRL, Robinson knew that any close parallels would have to wait until he learned more about Redux's cyber-thefts, presumably from Bob Martinez or Mitsuko Yamamoto (whom he could not bring himself to think of as "Missy"). Their expertise might provide a basis for learning more about the relationship between Redux and Geistmann.

Another conclusion from his preliminary research was that it was too soon to draw conclusions. Until Redux branched out from cyber-heists and block books, and demonstrated more clearly that he had the Original in mind, his pursuers would lack useful clues to his identity. (Or "hers," of course, since he assumed that cyber-heists and forged incunabula need not be gender-specific.) Again, Robinson warned himself to throttle back his curiosity until it had more to feed upon. Hoping to be interrupted by a message from Fred, he returned to the Tifinagh document.

Neugeborn's message finally arrived in mid-afternoon, just when Robinson was completing RAM's task. Fred suggested that they meet at the Consulate at 0900 the next day. Teasingly, he indicated that their meeting would again involve a foursome, but minus Dr. Mzamene, leaving Robinson to guess that the replacement might be Ms. Yamamoto's boss, Bob Martinez.

Robinson googled the U.S. Consulate to make sure it was in the Steenberg estate; it was. With his usual thoroughness, he also googled the route and travel time from the University. He was glad he did this, because the route turned out to involve a long train ride and a medium-long walk (unless he could get an Uber from the Westlake train station). Even if he would be reimbursed, wanting to be frugal with TMP or FBI, funds, he would not Uber all the way from campus. This meant he must leave campus by seven-thirty a.m. (0730 hours). He made a note in his mental datebook.

Having planned this much, Robinson took a late lunch break, solo, because he guessed RAM might be at a meeting with the brass. "Budgetary," he further guessed, since he had seen the print-outs on RAM's desk, and assumed the UCT fiscal year ended in July, the same month as Columbia's.

Since his perks presumably still included admission to the UCT Club, as they had in 2013, Robinson strolled across campus and walked up the circular staircase to the panelled dining room. He decided to forego the buffet ("eat as much as you like") in favour of the "Salad Valley" option. After his steak the previous night, he was feeling abstemious, as well as penitential toward Dietary Pontiff Amy Wolfe-Robinson.

Article © Ron Singer. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-11-28
Image(s) are public domain.
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