Fraudpocalypse: Chapter Five
CHAPTER FIVE: SHELLIE SHELLS SELLS SHELL AND SHELF COMPANIES BY THE SEASHORE
They arrived at the Jeep in time to see the facility explode in a brilliant but violent fire ball of destruction. Jumping behind it they were able to avoid the shrapnel as the heat engulfed them. They were out of breath but were not hurt. It had been a close call.
“Quick thinking on the passcode,” proclaimed James. “You saved us.”
“I just need to breathe. What does this mean?”
“It means that someone attached to the ‘security’ of this facility wants us dead.”
“It is internal? But if the attack is from someone in the government, does that mean that the fraud was too?”
“That would make sense,” James replied. Bonhoeffer was deep in thought. Her expression then changed and she appeared horror struck.
“The manuscript…it is gone…we didn’t get to review it all.”
“I’m sorry. I think we have a good start, especially since someone tipped us off.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean that prior to trying to blow us up we weren’t thinking along the lines of internal bad actors. They showed their hand.”
“What do we do now?”
“We go back and start looking at our only lead…DAFT. You said they were the ones behind that security that nearly blew us up. Can you contact Conner and have him coordinate our tickets back? Might want to let him know to handle it personally. I don’t want Underling screwing this up. Can we trust Conner?” She nodded and went for her phone. They got into the Jeep and both stared at the burning rubble.
“We could be in there,” observed Tess, thankful that they had got out with their lives. “Still don’t believe in Fraudpocalypse?”
“I’m starting to.”
They were quiet on the way back to town. Both agreed that returning as quickly as possible would be in the best interest to the situation. Closer to one of the island towns they began to lose power in the Jeep. They coasted to a stop on the side of the road. James was perplexed. The vehicle appeared to be brand new. As he thought this, a message popped up on the 4X4’s display screen.
“Pay $1,000 to access your vehicle. Failure to pay within five minutes will result in the ECU being fried.”
“What is this?!” Shouted Tess.
“Vehicle ransomware,” answered James. “Cars got too smart too quick. Time to get out and walk.”
“Because there is no guarantee that we will get access after we pay. And if they take control of the wheel, they could drive us off a cliff. We will just have to walk.”
To Monty’s surprise, Tess pulled an electronic device out of her purse and hit a few buttons. The machine beeped and Tess went pale.
“What is it?” he asked.
“The fraud is rising.”
“This is a Fraudometer,” she explained. “It tracks global fraud. Just a few weeks ago we were at 56%. Right now we are at 91%!”
“What happens at 100%?”
“We cease to be. Monty, we have to get back!” It was the first time she had called him by that name. I could get to like that, he thought, if we weren’t all going to be wiped out. They began walking.
Entering one of the small island towns, they went to the first business they saw, hoping to find something to eat or drink. Shellie Shells’ Shells appeared from the outside to be some kind of gift shop. They were surprised to see that it was an office. Sitting in a single desk in the middle of the office was an old woman who was typing on her computer.
“Welcome to Shellie Shells’,” she greeted them. “What can I do for you?”
“Do you have anything to drink?”
“Sure, let me go get you both some water. I’ll be right back.” She excused herself and walked to the other room. James looked around. The decorations were sparse and there were no shells anywhere. The woman came back in the room with two glasses of water. “Here you dears are.”
“What is this place?” asked Tess. “I don’t see any shells.”
“This is Shellie Shells’ Shell and Shelf Companies Company LLC. I’m Shellie Shells, owner and operator. I make shell companies. I sell some of the shell companies and age others into shelf companies. Are you interested in a fake business used for a wide range of crimes? Money laundering, tax evasion, terrorism, arms dealing, drugs…fraud?”
“What is the Fraudometer up to now?” asked James.
“Shellie, we aren’t interested in a shell or shelf company,” James said calmly (though internally he was seething at the bluntness of the fake business creator’s offer). “Could we pay you to take us to the airport? We have a flight coming up that we have to make.”
The drive back to the airport proved to be interesting and insightful. Shellie was obsessed with her business and kept feeding her two riders stories of fictitious businesses that she had helped to create.
“And that’s how I made a lemonade stand a front for that drug dealer…”
“Shellie, you seem like a nice person. Why do you create these fake businesses for criminals?” Tess asked.
“Simple honey. Money.” They opened their doors upon Shellie stopping at the front of the airport. “If you all ever find yourselves on the other side of the law and need a shell, call Shellie!”
“Um, thanks I guess,” said James. He handed her the money he had promised, and she smiled at him.
“Bye,” said Tess as Shellie put the car in drive and sped off.
The two were hurried in their trip through the airport to catch the plane that had been booked for them. The short-circuited Jeep had set them back, but their fake business creating contact had come through. Boarding the nearly full plane, they plopped down exhausted from the draining day. Even so, the excitement from the earlier drama stirred conversation in both of them, especially since they hadn’t discussed anything in the presence of Shell Company Shellie.
“Is there anything else you remember in reading through what you could?” James asked.
“I’m trying to remember. It’s been a blur.”
“A blur to say the least. I’m so tired. One thing I don’t understand is how we can stop it. Or if Fraudpocalypse can be stopped. Did that come up at all?”
“Grandpa!” she exclaimed. “Grandpa Bonhoeffer used to talk about it. There was a story he told me when I was young; it had to do with someone who had the power to prevent the event!”
“What did he say?” Tess had mentioned her grandfather briefly before. He seemed to be just as obsessed as the rest of the family.
“We need to talk to him. Grandpa Bonhoeffer told lots of stories.”
“Okay. When we land will you give him a call?”
“No, I think we should visit. His place isn’t too far. Just not sure how he will take the news of the document being blown to smithereens.” They settled into the long flight, fading in and out of sleep and catching up on some much-needed rest.