Home > The Broker(9)

The Broker(9)
Author: John Grisham

For two sleepless days, the three peeked inside the satellites as they crossed Pakistan. The software was in English, and with Neptune's preoccupation with the Middle East, Asia, and China, it was easy to assume Neptune belonged to the United States, with Britain and Israel a distant second and third. Perhaps it was a joint U.S.-Israeli secret.

After two days of eavesdropping, they fled the apartment and reorganized their little cell in a friend's farmhouse ten miles outside of Karachi. The discovery was exciting enough, but they, and Safi in particular, wanted to go one step further. He was quite confident he could manipulate the system.

His first success was watching Fazal Sharif read a newspaper. To protect the identity of their location, Fazal took a bus into downtown Karachi, and wearing a green cap and sunglasses, he bought a newspaper and sat on a park bench near a certain intersection. With Farooq feeding commands through a ramped-up sat-phone, a Neptune satellite found Fazal, zoomed down close enough to pick off the headlines of his newspaper, and relayed it all back to the farmhouse where it was watched in muted disbelief.

The electro-optical imaging relays to Earth were of the highest resolution known to technology at that time, down to about four feet-equal to the sharpest images produced by US. military reconnaissance satellites and about twice as sharp as the best European and American commercial satellites.

For weeks and months, the three worked nonstop writing homebrewed software for their discovery. They discarded much of what they wrote, but as they fine-tuned the successful programs they became even more amazed at Neptune's possibilities.

Eighteen months after they first discovered Neptune, the three had, on four Jaz 2-gigabyte disks, a software program that not only increased the speed at which Neptune communicated with its numerous contacts on Earth but also allowed Neptune to jam many of the navigation, communications, and reconnaissance satellites already in orbit. For lack of a better code name, they called their program JAM.

Though the system they called Neptune belonged to someone else, the three conspirators were able to control it, to thoroughly manipulate it, and even to render it useless. A bitter fight erupted. Safi and Fazal got greedy and wanted to sell JAM to the highest bidder. Farooq saw nothing but trouble with their creation. He wanted to give it to the Pakistani military and wash his hands of the entire matter.

In September of 1998, Safi and Fazal traveled to Washington and spent a frustrating month trying to penetrate military intelligence through Pakistani contacts. Then a friend told them about Joel Back - man, the man who could open any door in Washington.

But getting in his door was a challenge. The broker was a very important man with important clients and lots of significant people demanding small segments of his time. His flat fee for a one-hour consultation with a new client was $5,000 and that was for those lucky enough to be looked upon with favor by the great man. Safi borrowed $2,000 from an uncle in Chicago and promised to pay Mr. Backman the rest in ninety days. Documents in court later revealed that their first meeting took place on October 24, 1998, in the offices of Backman, Pratt amp; Boiling. The meeting would eventually destroy the lives of everyone present.

Backman at first had seemed skeptical of JAM and its incredible capabilities. Or perhaps he'd grasped its potential immediately and chosen to play it sly with his new clients. Safi and Fazal dreamed of selling JAM to the Pentagon for a fortune, whatever Mr. Backman thought their product might fetch. And if anyone in Washington could get a fortune for JAM, it was Joel Backman.

Early on, he had called in Jacy Hubbard, his million-dollar mouthpiece who still played golf once a week with the President and went barhopping with big shots on Capitol Hill. He was colorful, flamboyant, combative, thrice-divorced, and quite fond of expensive whiskeys-especially when purchased by lobbyists. He had survived politically only because he was known as the dirtiest campaigner in the history of the US. Senate, no small feat. He was known to be anti - Semitic, and during the course of his career he developed close ties with the Saudis. Very close. One of many ethics investigations revealed a $1 million campaign contribution from a prince, the same one Hubbard went skiing with in Austria.

Initially, Hubbard and Backman argued over the best way to market JAM. Hubbard wanted to peddle it to the Saudis, who, he was convinced, would pay $1 billion for it. Backman had taken the rather provincial view that such a dangerous product should be kept at home. Hubbard was convinced he could cut a deal with the Saudis in which they would promise that JAM would never be used against the United States, their ostensible ally. Backman was afraid of the Israelis-their powerful friends in the United States, their military, and, most important, their secret spy services.

At that time Backman, Pratt amp; Boiling represented many foreign companies and governments. In fact, the firm was "the" address for anyone looking for instant clout in Washington. Pay their frightening fees, and you had yourself access. Its endless list of clients included the Japanese steel industry, the South Korean government, the Saudis, most of the Caribbean banking conspiracy, the current regime in Panama, a Bolivian farming cooperative that grew nothing but cocaine, and on and on. There were many legitimate clients, and many that were not so clean.

The rumor about JAM slowly leaked around their offices. It could potentially be the largest fee the firm had yet seen, and there had been some startling ones. As weeks passed, other partners in the firm presented varying scenarios for the marketing of JAM. The notion of patriotism was slowly forgotten-there was simply too much money out there! The firm represented a Dutch company that built avionics for the Chinese air force, and with that entree a lucrative deal could be struck with the Beijing government. The South Koreans would rest easier if they knew exactly what was happening to the north. The Syrians would hand over their national treasury for the ability to neutralize Israeli military communications. A certain drug cartel would pay billions for the ability to track DEA interdiction efforts.

Each day Joel Backman and his band of greedy lawyers grew richer. In the firm's largest offices, they talked of little else.

The doctor was rather brusque and appeared to have little time for his new patient. It was, after all, a military hospital. With scarcely a word he checked the pulse, heart, lungs, blood pressure, reflexes, and so on, then from out of the blue announced, "I think you're dehydrated."

"How's that?" Backman asked.

"Happens a lot with long nights. We'll start a drip. You'll be okay in twenty-four hours."

"You mean, like an IV?"

"That's it."

"I don't do IVs."

"Beg your pardon."

"I didn't stutter. I don't do needles."

"We took a sample of your blood."

"Yeah, that was blood going out, not something coming in. Forget it, Doc, I'm not doing an IV."

"But you're dehydrated."

"I don't feel dehydrated."

"I'm the doctor, and I say you're dehydrated."

"Then give me a glass of water."

Half an hour later, a nurse entered with a big smile and a handful of medications. Joel said no to the sleeping pills, and when she sort of waved a hypodermic he said, "What's that?"


"What the hell is Ryax?"

"It's a muscle relaxer."

"Well, it just so happens that my muscles are very relaxed right now. I haven't complained of unrelaxed muscles. I haven't been diagnosed with unrelaxed muscles. No one has asked me if my muscles are relaxed. So you can take that Ryax and stick it up your own ass and we'll both be relaxed and happier."

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology