Fraudpocalypse: Chapter Two
CHAPTER TWO: THE GOVERNMENT CALLS
Monty decided to turn on the radio. He typically didn’t like silent drives home, wanting something to stimulate his mind apart from the driving itself. Changing the station a few times, he stopped to catch the end of a favorite song. The end of the song transitioned to a news correspondence, and he did not change the dial.
“The government, citing unprecedented amounts of fraud, has revealed that over one billion dollars has been diverted to fraud rings through the economy stimulation efforts,” started the reporter. A sound clip was added from a government official.
“We are exploring our options to get the money back. There will also be an investigation on how this occurred. What we know so far is that people got money who were not supposed to get money. On a positive note, I’m sure they will use that money to stimulate the economy. It is really a minor problem if you think about it that way. We should all think about it that way.”
One billion dollars? How could this be the case, James thought. It must have been a sophisticated attack to break through all the layers of protection that the government applied to distributing tax dollars. With the technology they had… the top secret [REFERENCE REMOVED] and the deadly [REFERENCE REMOVED]. And what about the spy [REFERENCE REMOVED]? Surely with the billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, they would have made fraud virtually impossible. It must have been a sophisticated attack, James thought to himself again.
“In other news, companies Enruin and WorldCon are being accused of corporate corruption and accounting fraud…”
Not wanting to hear any more for the time being he turned off the radio. The silence would have to do for the remainder of the fifteen-minute drive through the town and into the surrounding countryside where his house was located. But it wasn’t silent for long. An explosion two vehicles ahead jolted James’ truck.
A delivery truck rolled to a stop; the driver jumped out unharmed but scared. He ran away from the truck as fast as possible, turning at a safe range to check the damage. The back of the truck had blown open, shooting the contents out into the street and surrounding sidewalks. A ticket tape parade of paper fell from the sky and littered the ground.
Monty got a glimpse of the delivery vehicle company name; “Cheque Transports Corporation.” Transportation for checks, Monty thought. Great. A blank check fell on the truck’s windshield.
Within seconds people started to gather around the truck. At first James thought this was a noble thing; that they were helping the driver by securing the truck. Then, he noticed them start to run away. THEY WERE STEALING THE BLANK CHECKS! Had the world gone bananas? The driver of the delivery vehicle just stood there not knowing what to do.
Monty waited for the police to arrive. He gave them all the information he had, including a few scattered checks he had managed to secure. They thanked him and, not wanting to hold him up, allowed him on his way. The rest of the drive home he was completely distracted by what he had seen. First the question on Fraudpocalypse and then the couple arguing. Professor Braden and his apparent run in with a tech support scammer. And then this.
As he pulled in the drive, he noticed two black SUVs with tinted windows. A tall man in a black suit with sunglasses stood outside one of the vehicles, waiting for Monty. Now what, G-men?
“Dr. Harrison ‘Montana’ James!” said the G-man. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
“What gives coming to the house and not the school?” Montana asked. “You government people usually like to make an entrance, right?” James walked up and shook the man’s hand.
“We thought a subtle visit would be more ideal. Besides, how do you know we weren’t at the school? I’m Special Agent Neal Conner.” Another agent walked up; this one younger than Conner; Conner appearing to be in his mid-forties. “This is Agent John Underling.”
“Pleased to meet you Underling,” James said with sarcasm. “So, what can I do for you two?”
“It isn’t what you can do for the two of us,” started Conner. “It is what you can do for your country and the world!” This was clearly supposed to catch James’ attention, but he stood there looking nonplussed. In his mind he was curious on what he could do on a global scale. Before Conner could speak again Underling attempted to cut to the chase.
“Dr. James, the world is being overrun with fraud and we want you to---.”
“Agent Underling! That is not at all how we make an intro to get our ‘hero’ interested! You have to lead with something else before you actually say what you want. Start with a question.” He turned from the embarrassed agent to face James. “Dr. James, are you aware of the ancient myth of Fraudpocalypse?”
It became clear to James at this point that the interactions with Tess Bonhoeffer and the question from Neal Conner were not just coincidence. He ignored both Conner and Underling and began walking to the government vehicle farthest from him. Both agents gave each other puzzled glances and followed silently. James stood right next to the driver’s side door and tapped on the dark tinted glass. The electric motor from the window hummed as it went down, revealing the fake student from the classroom.
“Miss Bonhoeffer, who would have guessed?”
“Dr. James.” He stepped back a few feet to allow her to open the door and get out of the Chevy.
“Can we cut to the chase on this?” James asked Conner.
“We believe that there is no ‘myth’ of Fraudpocalypse,” restarted special agent Conner. “That is to say that the government now believes in Fraudpocalypse…in full.”
“What?! That is insane. You all lose one billion dollars in taxpayer money, and you are willing to believe a fable?” Conner looked uneasy at this comment.
“James, you seem like the kind of guy that can be trusted. The thing is…it wasn’t just one billion dollars.”
“How much are we talking here? What, two billion?” The senior agent shook his head. “Three billion?”
“Forty quadrillion dollars,” Conner said with a straight face.
“How is that even possible? There isn’t that much money on the planet.”
“Yes, I know. We thought the same thing. But here we are. So now does that put it into perspective about what we are believing in this ‘fable’?” It was ludicrous, thought James to himself.
“So, what do you want with me?”
“We want you to save the world from this end of days!”
“Why me? Even if this thing were real, which it isn’t, what could I do?” Conner gazed at him for a moment at this, and then opened a file he had taken from agent Underling.
“Who stopped the Martian Lottery scam in British Columbia?”
“That was different,” retorted James.
“Who singlehandedly caught the Romance scammer who accidently fell in love with and scammed himself?”
“He was posting it all on social media. That was easy…and slightly disturbing.” Underling had been silent for too long and tried to add to what Conner was attempting to convey.
“Who has friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, speaks a dozen languages, knows every custom, and can blend in?” He asked with animated enthusiasm.
“That wasn’t me,” said James.
“Oh…must have been Marcus…” Underling was deflated for being wrong.
“No, not Marcus,” Conner corrected his agent. “Marcus once got lost in his own museum. Regardless, Dr. James, you are the man we need for this. Your country needs you…the world needs you.”
“So, what can I do?”
Special Agent Conner spent the next fifteen minutes relaying to course of recent events to James. While it did not give James a full understanding, he was able to piece together certain things from the news. Tess Bonhoeffer remained silent for most of Conner’s retelling. Then she spoke.
“Dr. James, my great grandfather you mentioned earlier was a firm believer in Fraudpocalypse. While he made books warning the world of it, he also made some discoveries which were kept quiet within the family. Writings that provided clues on the end of the world through fraud, and ways to stop it.”
“Okay, where do I fit in to all of this?” questioned James. Tess answered.
“We need you, Doctor, to help us decipher my great grandfather’s writings and work against the fraud! He was a smart man, but it was a different time.”
“Where are these writings?”
“They are now being stored in a top-secret vault on an island in the Pacific,” Conner said. “We can have you and Miss Bonhoeffer on a plane in an hour to go there.” James noticed Underling messing on his phone. He turned back to Conner.
“And my students?”
“James, if we are right about this, before long you won’t have any students to teach. We will have an excuse made up for the university. And you’ll be back to teaching in no time.”
“Weird,” said Underling. “My bank just sent me a message that said my account was closed. I just need to click this link to get back into my internet banking…”
“Don’t click the link!” shouted James. Underling wasn’t listening, talking while he typed.
“Oh, that got me right to my login page. I just need to enter in my username and password.”
“Don’t do that,” cautioned Tess. “Montana told you not to.”
“And ‘login!’ That was easy…wait…something doesn’t seem right. A bank shouldn’t have asked me to do this!”
“Underling,” began Conner. “I think you need to wait in the car son. You’ve been defrauded. Go get a juice box.”
“Noooo,” shrieked defrauded agent John Underling. “How could this happen? Why me?” He trudged to the vehicle and got in the passenger seat. James could see the mess of an agent get an apple juice box out to sip on.
“James…Bonhoeffer…go now. Go before anyone else gets defrauded. I will take care of Underling. Safe travels and good luck!” Bonhoeffer walked to the empty government SUV while Conner made for the one with the inconsolable victim of phishing. James went into his house to pack for the trip.