********* To read the Prologue and Chapter One, click here
*********To read Chapter Two, click here
It’s Heather. Reading the press release issued by the White House by ESS’ assignment gave me pause. It made our transition from a run-of-the-mill company to an asset that the president was relying on real. And, I was a part of that.
The White House
Press Secretary Wilson entered the briefing room as a reporter took the last seat in the back of the room. As he mounted the platform, taking the three steps in one, he looked out at the assembly. Even after two years, his stomach did flips when he saw the correspondents from the national press and other major outlets. In his hand was a folder identical to the one that would be given out to the group at the conclusion of his remarks. No questions would be taken. The press would not like that but it was the president’s order. In a week, at the State Dinner, Early would speak more on this.
Laying the folder on the podium, beside the tablet already there, he lowered the microphone and began to speak.
“Today at 4:21 pm,” Wilson glanced at the high definition screen behind him, “President Early signed executive order ESS421B.”
He turned sideways so he could see the screen that was flanked by navy blue curtains and the presidential seal in the middle of them. On the screen was the video that had been shot minutes earlier recording the president signing the order. He watched as the president lifted the pen, held it up to the camera. Imprinted on the pen was ESS421B. The president rolled the pen around so that the other side faced the camera. ESS’ name and logo were on there. Early briefly read the three paragraph order and then signed his name on the blank provided. Wilson saw himself approach the president, who handed him the pen. The president rose as his chief of staff retrieved the order. Together, the chief of staff behind the president exited the oval office by way of the door that led to the Rose Garden. At that point, the tape ended.
He turned back to the group.
“That order authorized the immediate transfer of the Art and Gem Thefts Investigative Unit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Emerging Security Services.” Wilson swiped the screen of the tablet, and continued. “ESS is a private investigative firm that locates and retrieves of stolen art, gems, and antiquities. Specializing in Asian art, ESS has connections with heads of states in Asia, including the Koreas.”
A sharp intake of breath issued from the middle of the room. Glancing up, he saw it was correspondent from the Economic Advisory Group Magazine’s Asian desk. A one-time lover of Angeline Bowman, the correspondent understood the significance of the president’s actions.
“The firm is headed by William Bowman, III, Brandon Brumby, III, Angeline Bowman, and Thomas Coke, Jr.”
The reporter from the newspaper The Washingtonian read the press release into the phone:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2014
4:21 PM EDT
“PRESIDENT CRACKS DOWN ON ART THEFTS”
Responding to a recent surge in Asian antiquities thefts centering around drawings from museums around the nation, President Randolph Early today announced emergency measures to dramatically boost investigation and enforcement efforts. Early said the Department of Justice will partner with Emerging Security Services (ESS), a private corporation. ESS will take control of the elite Art and Gem Thefts Investigative Unit formerly housed within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Located in the FBI Headquarters in Washington, the Art and Gem Thefts Investigative Unit was responsible for worldwide monitoring and investigation of crimes involving humanity’s cultural resources. Fourteen FBI special agents were assigned to handle art thefts in particular global regions.
Sources inside the State Department indicate that two of the missing art works mysteriously appeared in a recent cultural exhibit in Pyongyang, hosted by Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. These sources indicate also that these and other antiquities were in possession of South Korean nationals when they were captured by North Korea’s military last week. Pyongyang has previously issued a statement that the trawler was seized after it strayed passed the Northern Limit Line into territory claimed by North Korea. That line demarcates the southernmost territory in the Yellow Sea claimed by North Korea.
Park Geun-hye, recently democratically-elected President of South Korea, has told Early that South Korea vigorously disputes the assertions of Kim Jong-un. Sources close to Geun-hye allege that the seizure was yet another flagrant attempt by Kim to violated the United Nations’ embargo of North Korea. The embargo aims at banning trade with Pyongyang in art, antiquities, and luxury goods desire by North Korea’s elite. She called the actions of North Korea thievery.
“South Korea will not rest until the objects are returned to their rightful homes,” President Park Geun-hye said. “I welcome ESS’ help.”
“The partnership with ESS offers us a chance to immediately put experienced investigators on the trail of art thieves around the world,” said President Early. “I want the people behind these art thefts to understand that the United States is going to track them down.”
ESS staffers are on the job currently. No details were released as to the number of contract agents or their particular assignments.