Malan Mothers on Rehome
"Please explain what you mean by that, Esther."
"If you can cause problems for his family members – brothers, cousins, parents, children, that will certainly impact on his effectiveness with his criminal activities. For example, if his children were being accused of unacceptable activities at school, they might be threatened with expulsion. He would be under pressure then. If a brother or sister was accused of stealing from their church funds, that would be effective. If any of his family have political connections, rumours of their passing information to other parties would be harmful to them, especially if you can engineer some real information being passed in that way, with a touch of evidence of the name of the apparent informant.
Do you get my drift?"
"We do indeed. Undermine his family, such that he has to spend a lot of time counteracting such attacks. We like the concept. You humans can be very underhand in dealing with each other, can't you?"
"Yes, we excel at such nastiness. We have had millions of years of practice."
"We have just come up with a variant. Perhaps we could steal a lot of his money and make it seem to have been the activity of one of his relatives or close associates?"
Esther laughed, "You are becoming more human all the time, Personalia! Try to make it appear that his colleagues are stealing from him, and that will certainly impact on the organisation they run."
A day later, Victor Brandt was shocked to have his bank querying his recent transfers of cash.
"Mr Brandt, is there something we have done to upset you, that you are removing your assets from our bank?"
"Pardon? Removing assets? No, I am not doing that? What makes you say that?"
"All of your accounts with us have been closed, on your instructions, and the funds transferred to an offshore bank instead. We were quite surprised, and so concerned that someone in our organisation had caused you to be unwilling to continue banking with us. We are prepared to be quite cooperative with you should you wish to change your mind."
"Wait a minute! You said, "on your instructions." I have given no instructions of that nature!"
"Sir, your accounts were accessed using your password, and as we do not hold your password details, you are the only person who could have done this. We never challenge the right of a client to move funds at any time. Al we are concerned about is WHY?"
"This is crazy! I have not transferred any funds. This sounds like a scam, or simple theft. You guys are responsible for the safe custody of my cash."
"Correct, sir." One could almost hear the bank official changing gear. "WE are responsible for the safe custody of your funds while they remain with us, but when YOU transfer them elsewhere, they are no longer in our custody."
"This is ridiculous. You are accusing me of stealing my own funds, when I did NOT give any instructions for their move?"
No, sir. That is not the case. Your funds were moved using YOUR password, held by you and no-one else. Thus, no-one could access these funds without your authorisation, unless you allowed your password to be used by a family member or close colleague."
"You have not heard the last of this!" Brandt shouted, slamming shut his phone.
Once he had calmed down, he began to think. Offshore bank? He called his own accountant. "Geoffrey? Who among my business colleagues, or even members of my family, uses an offshore bank?"
"I don't know, sir. I don't hold that information. Do you wish me to ask around?"
"I don't care what you do, Geoffrey, as long as you get me this information today."
"Yes, sir. I will do what I can."
Brandt had no sooner closed his phone than it almost immediately started clamouring for his attention. He grabbed it and exclaimed, "What?"
"I beg your pardon? Is that Mr Victor Brandt?"
"It is. Who are you?"
"I am Thomas Berringer, principal of your son George's school. Please attend the school to remove the child. George was caught carrying an offensive weapon in his bag; an offense for which the school has a total exclusion policy. He will be reported to the school board for possible expulsion within the next 24 hours.
You have the right to provide the boy with legal representation at the board, but the school policy is clearly stated in our prospectus, and pupils are verbally informed of it at the start of each term, so there can be no excuse for not conforming to the policy. It is for the protection of all staff and pupils, and has been strictly applied for some years now. This is your formal notification, as required by our policy statement, and this call has also been recorded, for this purpose and this purpose only."
"I hear you, Mr Berringer. My son does not possess any weapons, so this charge cannot be correct. I shall send my lawyer to look into the matter, but I shall personally collect George, as soon as I can get there."
Victor was getting really upset at these impacts on his life. It did not help, then, when the minute he got back from collecting his son from school, his brother Joseph phoned him to say, "Victor, the church has accused me of embezzling church funds! It is just not true, but money is missing from a church bank account, and as Church Treasurer I am the primary user of the account, so I am getting the blame."
Then finally his brother-in-law Robin, his sister's husband – phoned to tell him that he had been accused of disclosing party information. "They say I revealed exclusive information to our opponents within the council, and possibly at state level as well."
Robin was distraught at the accusation.
"Victor, this could destroy me, and I simply did not do what has been suggested. The party say the leaked information is marked as from my office, but everyone at the office is trustworthy, and has been with me for years."
By the end of the day, Victor was at his wit's end, with all the problems piling up at once. He was about to hand over the reins of The Team to his colleague Charles Freemantle, when he got a call back from his accountant.
"Sir, I have called in a few favours and got some checks done at various banks and accountants, and I can now say that the only relative or colleague with an account at the offshore bank you asked about is Charles Freemantle."
"Thank you, Geoffrey. You may now carefully forget about this for a while, unless I need to know more." He closed down the call.
"Damn, damn, damn!" said Victor out loud. Here he was, about to hand over control to Charles Freemantle, only to discover that he was in the frame for thieving Victor's funds.
He ended up trying to juggle all his difficulties at the one time in his head, and getting more and more frustrated. As he was about to go home for the night, his phone rang again.
"Mr Victor Brandt?"
"You have been having problems, Victor?"
"What? What is it to you?"
"Your problems could get worse and worse, Victor, unless you sever your connections to Congressman Travers – or any other politician that you think will dance to your tune."
"Eh? Are you threatening me, sir?"
"Of course we are, Victor. It is the name of the game, isn't it? Put pressure on a politician to put pressure on Army C.I.D. to stop their pressure on The Team. Only this time we are putting pressure on YOU, Victor. It could be made a lot worse, you know."
"Who are you?"
"Your nemesis, Victor. We are more powerful than any superhero; we can manipulate people, cause finances to disappear, cause colleagues to undermine you. Of course some of these may be genuine difficulties you face. Others are merely contrived to make life awkward for you, Victor.
We can probably demolish your crime organisation, too, but that is not our direct intention ... at the moment. We simply decided to remove the political pressure on the Army C.I.D., and this was our way of approaching the matter.
We can do a lot more, Victor. You would not like to discover all the things we can do to you and yours. This is your warning, Victor. What happens afterward is up to you.
For example, Mr Travers' summer home would be an excellent place to relieve you of more cash ... assuming you can lay hands on cash at this time of penury.
Goodbye for now, Mr Brandt." The call ended abruptly.
Brandt was stunned. He had to think about this, so he went off home, ignoring other members of The Team who wanted to speak to him. He thought all evening, then came to a decision.
In the morning, he rang Congressman Travers.
"Travers, this is Victor Brandt, one of the contributors to your campaign fund. I have to tell you, Mr Travers, there will be no more cash from this source, and any arrangements which we have made previously are now void.
Do you understand me, John?"
Travers did not know what to respond, so he prevaricated.
"Does this mean, Victor, that you will no longer be visiting me at my summer home?"
"You have got it in one, John. I also have no interest in anything to do with the Army, either; got it?"
"Oh. I see. So you no longer wish your son to join the army, then?"
"Exactly. He no longer has any interest in the army, and so I don't want any political interference in army recruitment matters. Let things remain unsullied, John."
"Very well, Victor. I shall lay off the Army, O.K.?"
"Fine. Let's leave it at that. By the way, I think that you ought to take a close look at your own staff, for a few funny things have been happening that might have come from a leak in your own office. Goodbye, Congressman."
Both men concluded the call. Travers got the message: Lay off the army CID, for the deal is off, and you won't get your money.
Brandt had also got the message, from his persecutors. He was acting in accordance with that warning. This was his way of ending his pressure on the Army C.I.D. The Team and the Army C.I.D. would now fight on a level playing field. It was a pity, but life does not always go the way you want it to.
An hour later, he got another phone call. It was the same subtly threatening voice.
"Well done, Victor. You have made a wise decision. You will find some of your recent difficulties sorting themselves out, but we have imposed a fine on you to recompense us for the trouble we have gone to in the matter. Your missing cash will remain missing. Goodbye."
Next he got a call from George's school principal.
"Mr Brandt, I have good news for you. The weapon that your son was accused of having in school seems to have disappeared, and so without the evidence we are unable to proceed with further constraints on George. He may return to his classes tomorrow. All I would ask is that you ensure that he never brings a weapon to school, full stop. Understood?"
"Understood, headmaster. Goodbye."
Then his brother Joseph was on the phone to him, relief in his voice.
"Victor, the missing money has reappeared in the church account. It appears to have been an accounting glitch. The bank says the money was transferred to another account in the same branch, so when this came to their notice, they transferred it back. I am SO glad things have worked out, Victor. Did you have anything to do with rectifying this affront?"
"Not directly, Joseph. All I can say is that as a result of some action I took, your problem has been resolved. Go with God, Joseph."
Then his brother-in-law, Robin, called with more good news.
"Victor, I have been exonerated. Another leak was sent, again with my ID attached, but it came from a computer terminal that I have no access to, and even the data involved is not within my purview, so I have been proved innocent. It feels great, Victor!"
"Glad to hear it, Robin. That should show you the value of circumspection in politics. Thanks for letting me know. 'Bye."
A call came in to Frederick Grierson at Army C.I.D. HQ in Quantico, Virginia, where he was reporting to his superiors, conveying information in confidence.
He picked up his phone and was surprised to hear a voice he recognised: The Personalia. "Hello again. What news from the Rialto?"
The Personalia voice gave a brief laugh. "Ah. Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. Sorry, this is different, and happier in tone. Your pressure problem has been resolved. You will find that Congressman John Travers no longer has any interest in your affairs; and additionally Victor Brandt, of The Team, has decided no longer to request such pressure. He has learned that such activity is not productive for him or The Team.
Your Department and The Team, may now resume your battle without interference. Glad that we were of some help in the matter. Farewell."
"Finished! There, Jeannette. Now you can't moan about my not completing the book."
"Thank you, darling. I knew you could be persuaded to get to the end. Now all we have to do is sort out all the errors in the text."
"Errors? In MY wonderful work?"
"Yes, Tom, your errors. Everybody makes errors when they are writing a book, that's why proof-readers have jobs, my man. Your own job, as editor of the newspaper, involves you correcting text that is sent in to you; correct?"
"Yes, but that is different. News is written quickly, and by the time the contributor re-writes it to suit the paper's style, there are more mistakes built in. Then I have to make it fit the available space in the paper, so it gets chopped and changed again. So that is a different matter entirely!"
"Yes, dear. This time all the errors are down to you, and you alone. It is a well-known fact that a writer seldom spots his own writing mistakes. I shall have to go over your text to ensure it is accurate in its language. Next, I will get some experts to review what you say about their area of expertise.
For example, Mary Kempe will want to see what you say about food on Rehome. I will get someone from the box company to have a look at the subject of boxes and kelp, and someone from the fertiliser company to have a look at the subject of fertilisers. That is just for starters, Tom. The Encyclopaedia of Rehome is going to be authoritative when it is published, so it can't reflect your personal viewpoints alone."
Tom sighed theatrically. "You are the boss, Jeannette, and I am just your author, so I have to put up with your demands. You know, I did consult quite a few people before writing about things they knew about, but I am happy for them to check that I didn't miss out anything. Of course, there may have been a few new developments since I interviewed them."
"Yes, that is so, Tom. Any statistics you have about the Colony will also need to be updated if you wrote them down more than a couple of months ago. How about the sea creatures? We still don't know much about them, do we?"
"Oh, I did my best on that, Jeannette. I asked The Personalia to ask the Braalians about those, as I expected that race had more information about them, for they probably encountered these creatures when laying down those heat pumps in the ocean shallows."
Tom looked at her in surprise. "No-one told you about this history of the planet before humans arrived?"
"Of course they did, Tom. Some alien race started to settle the planet, then got scared off."
"Well, that race was actually two races: The Braalians and the Lubarians. They were biological races like us, and they had friends we called the Machinations. They are similar to The Personalia. The Braalians were the technologists, and the Lubarians were the diplomats, in short. The Lubarians were the easily-scared race, and the Braalians tended to follow what the Lubarians wanted."
"I hadn't heard the details, Tom. I hope you have explained that in your text?"
"Certainly. It is in the introductory chapter, then each of these races has an entry in the encyclopaedia. I am not just a pretty face, Jeannette my darling." He grinned at his quip.
"O.K., Tom. I agree you are not just a pretty face; you are a lovely guy too."
"Why, thank you. You do make a pretty good wife, I have to say; as well as Enid, of course. As my boss, I am not so sure about you!"
"Right. Enough of the compliments, Tom. Back to work. You have to edit the text, to eliminate errors. Next, illustrations? How many images are in your text, as you have it?"