They contacted me to discuss illicit trading through the Eastern Mediterranean; they wanted to assess my knowledge of the smuggling bosses. I was intrigued, and investigated.
Their organisation was registered at Companies House (the official British register of UK-based businesses). That was a good start. Yet they had a “brass-plate” website: like the brass name-plate on a front door, their website’s single screen displayed their name, insignia and address, but nothing else, not the vaguest hint of its activities or services.
They told me their full names. That seemed open, helpful and reassuring. And they told me they were ‘really looking forward to meeting’ me. Yet that sounded somehow odd, maybe because it seemed over-eager; maybe because it used the collective voice, but the only one with whom I had had direct contact was the most junior one.
A more senior one had chosen not to communicate with me, or even show their face; and the existence of a yet more senior one had not even been acknowledged.
I could not find any significant information about the junior one. There were some, small, pieces of the puzzle; but even if they were the right pieces, they did not fit with the others I had; in fact, they broke up the outline I had drawn. And I could not find anything at all about the senior one.
I pointed out to the junior that I could not find out anything about them (and they had not given away anything of themselves). The junior simply laughed that her senior was ‘electronically undetectable’. That was not the most reassuring response I had ever received. However, it was true. I had been able to find out more about the most senior figure in the organisation. The unacknowledged director was a private ‘intelligence’, ‘security’ and ‘espionage’ professional.
We agreed to meet at Brighton Pier. I did not tell them that I knew about the director, and they did not tell me anything else at all. ‘You’ll meet us tomorrow so all will be revealed.’ It was a promise caught between professional discretion, sinister obfuscation and James Bond camp. But since the rain-bedraggled look does not suit any spy, our rendezvous was relocated to a restaurant. A very British drama…
Tomorrow has become today. Soon, all will be revealed.