PortalLeaks (Part 3)

Chapter 31

The Nutless Punk’s Growing Some Pills


No doubt Rusty Hicks had made the big time being invited with the colonel to Secretary of State Ron Berry’s mansion on Long Island. The drive sucked because Colonel Braithwaite was a man of few words but he had formulated a plan to deal with him. Rusty Hicks was no longer Hickory Stick. He was Dick Gryphon with his big-dicked Gryphon on his arm. Big-swinging dick. But he felt the danger all around him, his new personality chomping at the bit, his doppelgänger unable to wait to spread its eagle wings.

The meeting with the Ecuadorean Ambassador was better than it could’ve been but there was still some stress there. The guy was clearly an alcoholic by virtue of the amount of CCTV footage they had of him swigging from the endless supply of bottles hidden around his office. The guy ‘Guillermo’ who the guys called ‘Guy’ was pretty smooth as far as diplomats go but he reckoned the guy could crack at any minute.

“You’ve met him Ron,” said Colonel Braithwaite, now speaking with more gusto after a few Scotches as they sat back in the living room that opened to a neatly manicured lawn. “Do you think he can handle it?” He sat back and knew he was the senior officer in the group. The senior and the alpha, but this slippery nutless bag in front of him revolted his sense of duty and honor. He had heard the stories of Berry’s time in the corps. Those photos of him in the trawling boat on the Mekong were staged bullshit. Bullshit! The guy’ a follower. Period. Not colonel material.

“Hard to say colonel.” Braithwaite drank his Scotch. Nutless bag.

“Don’t give me that politician shit Ron. Tell me man-to-man. Does this Guy have the balls?” Braithwaite was thinking of the possible collateral damage of Paddy’s kidnapping getting out through a weak connection. And there it starts. There were protocols for solving these potential issues from becoming ‘potential.’

Rusty was feeling his Gryphon super-power and decided to roll up his sleeves. He did it in stages, slowly. He was focused on keeping Scotch-to-Scotch with the colonel – something he knew was being observed.

“No Francis, I don’t. He’s a bagless civi with no idea of the potential fallout. And he’s a drunk.”

“But he’s a functioning drunk,” said Rusty, voice firm. “Keep him drunk sir. If he can manage it then keep him drunk. Otherwise the guy will spill.” Some tentative nods from both Colonel Braithwaite and Secretary of State Ron Berry. The colonel glanced at his gryphon, his eyes hovering a moment focusing on the knee area, back at Hicks again and then back at Berry.

“The kid has a point. Keep him busy, well-nourished with vodka and minimize his workload.” Berry kept looking out the window in thought.

“Roger that colonel,” said Ron Berry.

“And let’s increase the Twitter presence to show Paddy Leith is still busy behind the scenes despite his lack of Internet connection.” Then Rusty Hicks did it, with both the colonel and the secretary of state looking at him; he lifted his right hand and touched his three-day-old ‘stache. He rubbed it and saw Secretary of State Ron Berry’s eyes dart to his tattoo. When he looked back in his eyes Rusty saw what he was thinking: Fuck, I wish I had ink.

Or was he thinking: Is that a wang?

“Your ideas are good. Let’s act of them. Colonel, keep me posted. For now I need to make a few phone calls.”

Hicks wondered if they were going to linger in the house, perhaps take a brandy into the study to study the latest satellite photos and recon data by the fireplace, but Braithwaite didn’t wait a second departing. Briskly they left the house at a robust speed, driving towards Fort Hood.

“Listen Hickory Stick, don’t fuck around with this. It’s the biggest hot potato we have going right now. Hear me?

“I do sir.” It didn’t matter that his ink was now covered because the colonel knew it was there. “And Bob, no more Hickory Stick. Call me Gryphon.” The colonel looked at his passenger for a moment and then nodded.

“Very well, son.” Hickory Stick Gryphon Dick. The nutless punk’s growing some pills.

Chapter 32

Into the Grey


Dusty had frozen during the night in his hostel. It must have gone down to three degrees Celsius. Having refused the blanket, thinking he was on the equator, the covers were paper thin. Plus he couldn’t breathe properly yet. He felt like he was breathing through a narrow hose, not quite getting enough air into his lungs. He tossed and turned and finally got up when it was still dark. He went down to the pantry in the courtyard, found a pot and boiled some water. He found a jar of tea bags and a mug and poured himself some hot tea. The lush sanctuary was exactly what he needed to regroup. Hummingbirds and an amazing assortment of colourful birds soon stirred in the dawn light, the sun coming up behind him, fierce in intensity and immediate in effect. He went from being bone-cold chilled to warm to hot in a matter of minutes. It was a long while before anyone stirred and another long while before he opened his laptop.

Dusty was fortunate to see a very attractive girl emerge from her room a few doors down. Still in her jammies, she descended to the pantry and returned a few minutes later with a mug of something hot. She nodded as a thank you for the hot water. Dusty was on his fifth cup of tea.

He half-hoped his HACKSUB would come walking through the courtyard and get his stuff but he knew he was gone. A Big Lebowski like him could merge like a chameleon in any crevasse in virtually any country where there are backpackers, which is everywhere. Dusty thought about what motivated a Big Lebowski, what his daily buzz was. If he could find out what niche he would choose, he could pare it down to a final few spots. Obviously, just by looking at him, he liked his drugs. Didn’t like stress. Preferred privacy from the trodden path of tourists. Beach area with lots of palm trees.

Dusty had several maps open. He focused on his map of the west coast from north to south. His initial thoughts were that the doper hacker would go north because so few tourists go up there. But then he would stick out up there, which would lead to people telling someone asking for a gringo where he was. No, south, he thought. Manta. South of Manta. Canoa?

He had started to follow a schedule of leaks so the PortalLeakers would get their fill. He looked at his half-empty mug of cold tea and thought he might barf. Another tea was impossible. And in his tea haze he realized that the best means of finding this needle in a haystack was on a motorcycle.

“Fucking expense account!” he said, making the sexy girl look in his direction. She had been on her laptop too on the floor above him. Then he had another idea. He packed up and went to his room but on the way spoke to the girl.

“Good morning.”

“You like your tea,” she said.

“Not right now,” he replied, happier with his wit than usual. “I might yack if I have another.” Yack?

“You’re funny.” Her teeth were perfect.

“I have a favor to ask,” he said, still breathless.

“Oh?” She looked sceptical for a moment.

“Oh sorry. I’m Nat McBean.” Her smile returned.


“Sally-Anne, can I ask a favor as your neighbor here at the Auberge.” He pronounced it with his French accent. Ooh, Nietzsche was right: the ear is the organ of fear.

“Yes you can Nat McBean.” Her nose crinkled when she said his name.

“My buddy didn’t come home last night. You know, he was with a girl and whatnot.”

“Yes, and whatnot.”

“And I need to go out for a few hours. If he comes in can you ask him to call me?” Her eyes glistened and there was that unmistakable energy of infatuation.

“I wouldn’t need your phone number then.”

“No, he has it in his phone.” He hadn’t thought this through. “Though there is always a chance he’s lost his phone and can’t really remember my exact digits.”

“Oh, what a relief.”

“And I happen to have it here. Or, you could give me your number and I can text you.” Dusty could see the thought processes going through the logical deductions behind the light eyes and translucent skin.

“I suppose so.” He did the honorable thing and texted her there. They heard the beep together.

“Are you going far on your travels today?” So relaxed. Sally-Anne didn’t look like she had ever known stress.


“And what’s your friend’s name?” It took him a moment to remember because he was distracted by an ad he saw in one of the newspapers and travel magazines by Sally-Anne’s foot.

“Gunther.” He couldn’t read the lettering in the ad but could make out the fuzzy shape of a motorcycle.


“Yes, Gunther?”

“Is he German?” He pointed at the ad and squinted more. “I can’t read that ad there, see it?” She looked. “Is that a motorcycle?”


“”I can’t read it. What does it say?”

“It says ‘Ecuador Bike Rental,’ but I think they mean motorcycle.” He smiled, revealing his extra-large teeth.

“What street is that on?” She read the address on Amazonas Avenue. He thanked her and was leaving when she said:


“Oh, no. He’s not German. He’s Canadian-educated Ecuadorean of Italian and Swiss heritage.”

“I will text you if I see him.” Perfect. He left the hostel and the lovely Sally-Anne for the Amazonas address of the motorcycle rental store. And once inside it didn’t take him long to find the best-fitting, most practical motorcycle for his size and ability. The Kawasaki KLR650 was a damn good-looking bike but the KTM and BMW were better looking. But the guy insisted the KLR was easier to ride.

“All the policia ride them señor,” said the motorcycle guy.

Dusty chose to leave them a 1000-dollar deposit instead of handing over his passport as collateral.

Fricking expense account. He went ahead and bought a jacket, gloves and eyewear. The helmet came with the motorcycle rental. He told them he might be a few days or a few weeks, but he had their number. The $25-per-day rate was a fair price though a lot of money in Ecuador.

Like a child on his first bicycle with training wheels, Dusty let loose on the Kawasaki, hammering the gears into place with a half-pulled clutch, grinding the gearbox and almost losing control a few times as he rode around the streets of Quito, north and south for a good half hour. Dusty and sweaty, he returned to his room. He checked out and left a note for Sally-Anne. It read:

Travels take me far on two wheels

Nat McBean

Text me

There were no cohesive thoughts in his mind for hours as he rode his Kawasaki KLR650, which fit his body type perfectly, hugging his crotch against the gas tank not too much with a well-balanced rise in the back of the seat. The massive front fender was a buzz to look at as he throttled his way across bridges from one mountainside to another all the way down the western slopes of the Andes Mountains. Far too steep to build anything, mile after mile the road snaked downwards, somehow the civil engineers finding a route down the sloping hills and tuffs of forest. Waterfalls gave off a spray of moisture that he breathed in as he passed them, igniting that flame that made him feel alive. The vibrations seemed to go right through his spine into his testicles and even his penis. He closed his legs and hugged the gas tank, feeling safer and less vulnerable. He didn’t have time to think of anything but enjoy the moment, the hue of green in his visual field having an almost palpable look, hugging his gas tank and descending mile after mile into warmer air. Tears of glee continually obstructed his vision, his eyewear tremendously subpar. Only when the steepness of the road had leveled out significantly did he shift up to top gear, which really let him ride. At 80km fifth gear was dangerous and tempting, and threw Dusty on the limits of his abilities, but he keep it efficient and simple, and guided his bike with balance downwards until the foothills appeared, with farms and high grass and streams. Banana trees were everywhere outside of the farming villages that soon were sprouting all around him. Soon with the road flat he could smell the salt water in the air, and then the rumbling darkness of the ocean on the horizon he could feel in his leg hairs – a beast that could swallow a man in one gulp.

When he pondered the sea he felt safer on his motorcycle.

Manta was disappointing. The sky was grey and the water was grey. All he saw was road construction, nothing quaint and no old town except for a tiny corner of motels shrouded by palm trees. His ass felt sore when he stepped off the bike, and his arm muscles still in the state of flex. He took the room with the balcony and sucked back a beer after a long shower. When he opened his laptop just as the sun was setting, he couldn’t believe what he found on the #WhereIsPaddy thread on Twitter. Nat Wierzbicki had retweeted a photo of a strip of buildings and a line of palm trees clearly on the beach. He magnified and sharpened the image and studied it.

“You hippie scallywag,” he said. My little HACKSUB is leaving me clues?

Dusty Pearce promptly opened another beer and then proceeded to open a new Twitter account under the name of Nat McBean.

Chapter 33

Twitter Tag


When they reached the coast, Gunther and Martin had watched the birds hover above the cliffs that were just behind the line of hostels that made up the boardwalk on the beach in Canoa. Gunther loved the au naturale vibe of Canoa but it was too touristy for him, instead preferring to be incognito in Bahia de Caraquez. So they drove the few miles to Bahia de Caraquez and he immediately felt at home in the Hemmingway’esque vibe, the architecture and the proximity of the river with the sea making it perfect respite for someone of Gunther’s special skills. And the bar was right out of Hemmingway’s Cuba days. It was more like a club. Buy a bottle and leave it there and drink it anytime. So civilized. But his problem was Martin. Get some cocaine in him and he becomes a madman.

Some people should never ingest the coca plant.

“Damn shame really,” he said as they crossed over the river on the bridge finally arriving on the peninsula, safe from the Feather Men.


“Some things are a damn shame Martin. A damn shame. Thank you for taking me to the coast.”

“You pay for the gas.”

“And I will pay for the beers tonight and your room.”

“And dinner?”

“Sure dude, and dinner.” This was more than enough to put Martin in a good mood for the rest of the night, and ensure he would be safe from Nat McBean.

Once settled in their separate rooms in the hostel overlooking the park, Gunther relaxed on his balcony overlooking the small park beside the beach on the mouth of the river. There was one ‘like’ on his tweet. The user was a ‘Nat McBean.’ Checking the account Gunther saw that the account was new. There was one tweet and he followed one person. When he checked Nat McBean’s profile he wasn’t surprised that there was a photo of ‘Nat Wierzbicki.’ Gunther laughed and then he clicked on his tweet button and wrote:

Mobility of purpose trumps the shadowy clouds of reefer.

Gunther rolled a doobie and waited for a response from Nat McBean. He was thankful the balcony was secure enough to puff a doobie without concern. Favorable river-based breeze helped immensely. When he refreshed his screen he saw the image of Nat McBean was now General Custer, the good portrait – the one with his long hair and moustaches long and flowing. The other image that filled the top of his profile was a photo of the view from Nat McBean’s balcony showing ocean and construction. Gunther knew immediately it was Manta and even knew the cluster of motels in the palm grove where Nat McBean was stationed.


He clicked on the tweet button and wrote the following tweet:

Shadowy clouds whispering

by the swift breeze of the estuary.

He posted the tweet and shut his computer. Martin was out of the shower and finally looking normal, except for this pee-hole-in-the-snow eyes.

Jesus Murphy,” he said involuntarily. Thinking he had revealed his thoughts, Gunther added: “Looking good dude. I have some BO stick here.” He rustled it out of his bag and threw it at him, cringing when he watched Martin run the uncorrupted end of his deodorant along the hairy armpit gaping at him. “Fuck,” he said, turning his head away from the ugly crop of hair.

Tourette’s syndrome was impossible to manage.

Martin didn’t care. He was in charge of his own baggy of cocaine and had been dipping into it liberally. The powder was too harsh on Gunther’s nose, and it ran constantly when he snorted, so he stayed with his much-loved pipe. His supply was still very solid, a key consideration in his back-up supply planning for this eventuality to ensure effective productivity during the crisis. What worried him was his supply of Valium. He needed them to sleep after smoking his pipe all day. Otherwise he would be up for days on end, the yellow powder acting like speed on both body and mind.

He shut his laptop and took his first deep breath since the Rockett Man incident.

“Fuck man.”

“Yeah,” said Martin, drinking his beer.

“You know the coast well?”


“Any favorite places?”

“Yes, a few.”

“I have a map.” He took out his best map. “We’re here in Bahia.” He saw that Martin had no idea of reading a map. “Here, on the coast. Here’s the Pacific Ocean.” Martin leaned over and looked closely, his bottom jaw open. “And Manta is here. Canoa is here.” Still, there was no expression of comprehension.

“Have you seen a map before?” Again he didn’t reply. “So the biggies are Quito up here and Guayaquil here. And Cuenca is here.” Still showing zero comprehension of the map, Martin asked:

“Where is Montanita?” Martin asked.

Gunther pointed it out on the map just south of Bahia de Caraquez. “Right there. See?” Still no recognition of location or signs of any understanding. It was if he couldn’t reply because he couldn’t lie. He couldn’t figure out what the map even was.

“How far? Maybe 200 miles?”

He nodded. “It’s 230 miles from here. I know because I own 29 acres there near Montanita.”

Gunther hadn’t expected that. He knew Martin had money but he was a pretty addicted partier and didn’t seem to have his shit together. But he reckoned that he was just going through a phase.

“Cool. Is there a house on the property?” Martin looked at him as if he were, in fact, a stoner.

“Yes Gunther.”

“Is someone living there?”

“Not in the main house. A caretaker lives in a separate cabin on the property. There are lots of fruit trees, bananas.” Gunther’s canvas of options had just taken on a new dimension. He flipped open his laptop and tweeted again:

What has 29 acres, nibbles on tourist boobs

And answers to an indigenous cokehead?

The third Tiddly seed…

Gunther, feeling every bit the international-man-of-action-sporting-some-cool-dude-technique, hit the Post button and the tweet landed on Nat McBeam’s Twitter feed. For a moment he wondered if that was wise, but then he looked over the river and wondered how on earth Nat McBean could ever find him from those few clues.

“Put that in your pipe and smoke it McBeam.” Martin’s interest was piqued.

“I can smoke your pipe?”

“No, no. You know pipes are a personal item, very precious, like a nipple or a mouthpiece for a clarinet.” That got Martin over his flirtation with his pipe.

No one was going to touch his pipe.

“I used to smoke that stuff. It made me crazy. Put me into a rehab ward. My fucking wife put me there. Fucking bitch.” Martin then unloaded his gunnysack, telling Gunther about the nine weeks he spent in a rehab institution somewhere in the mountains here he detoxed but then rebelled against the crappy food and the sexual abuse he was subject to by the guards.

“They tried to break me but I didn’t break, so they threw me into solitary for six weeks and beat me.” He stood up and showed him the scars, explaining each one and what caused it. Gunther could hardly look at him because he felt so sorry for him. “And my wife just had to sign the papers but she wouldn’t.” He told Gunther about a documentary that had been done about Ecuador’s terrible rehab clinics that uncovered an abusive system with countless atrocities and incidents of chronic abuse, which caused the government to close them. He shook his head slowly and cried, violently. Just turned into a waterfall but something about it was beautiful, the way he started laughing as he cried, and spoke and barfed up half-garbled words that needed to surface in order to heal. He cried himself out and rebounded nicely, much to Gunther’s comfort. He never liked consoling others by hugging.

Something about human touch that bothered him. 

He grabbed his pipe, packed it methodically so that the bed of tobacco had a topping of yellow base. He lit it and heard the powder boil into the tobacco creating a tasty resin that turned his mouth and gums numb. The sharp, bitter smell always had to be directed towards the road below.

“But you survived.”

“Yes. Yes, I survived. They never broke me. I held my power. They never took my power.” Gunther, whose favorite book was Papillion, thought of the similarities between Henri Charière and Martin, both suffering at the hands of brutal men with black hearts and no sense of fair play. Martin most definitely had some Papillion in him.

“Wow buddy, that’s a heavy story.”

“I’ve never told anyone about it before. Shit, I’ve been up for five days.” And with that, it was never brought up again. Instead, they went out to the Hemmingway bar, met some girls and went for separate night caps with new local girlfriends. At some time during the night he realized that he was no longer employed.

Chapter 34

Hanging in the Balance


Paddy Leith had resigned himself to his fate. He had put the mechanism in place for those with a social conscience to keep the keys safe and carry on publishing according to his schedule, but he hadn’t been able to know for sure if the Deadman’s Switch had secured the handover to those waiting in the wings like Higgy in Iceland and Gunther in Ecuador. The worst looked very bad indeed but the best of it was that he could plead innocence to knowing who the leaker was. But it didn’t matter because he had had his moment in history, like a shooting star, now on the wane, shimmering in its final fall. But in some way that was okay because he had left his mark. People knew his name and the world knew PortalLeaks. Even now, if he were to face his end he could be thankful for having had an impact on modern history. He had contributed a verse – a loud verse that had created ripples around the globe. For a moment he had held the world in his hand, so close had his moment been, especially with the Swedish delegation coming next week to question him about throwing the hotdog. Paddy kept awake by watching the clouds outside the window and watching the wing shake in the air as air currents bounced the plane.

The flex in that metal!

Paddy was disturbed by John Wayne, who walked down the empty aisle with swagger, bumping into a few headrests along the way.

“Yo Patrick! You nutless bag of acorns, fucking dickweed!” There was irony in his voice and in his eyes. He could tell John Wayne enjoyed the comradery of his friends.

“John Wayne. How’s it going mate?”

“I didn’t know you were so valuable, kid.” John Wayne was older only by a few years but much older in man-years.


“Well mate, you’re so scrawny. What do eat? Potato chips and Coke all day?”

“Pretty much. And lots of caffeine.”

“Yeah well I can understand the caffeine. But mate, you have no meat on your skeleton.” John Wayne leaned forward. “Let me tell you something. Get strong, because what could be in store for you might be a little different than you might have imagined.” It looked like John Wayne was about to keep talking when one of his mates yelled for him from down the aisle.


Momentarily startled, John Wayne changed his tone and pointed at Paddy Leith and said: “That’s Fuckbag. Guy’s a bit of a douche.” John Wayne left, leaving Paddy wondering what his fate could possibly be that he had not already thought of. There are only so many permutations. He considered his heaviest fears: torture, death, fire, dark dungeon, frozen cryogenically for future consideration. He had thought of them all after five years in the Ecuadorean embassy thank you very much. Or had he? Suddenly finding purchase in a whole new set of possibilities, Paddy Leith settled under his sullied blanket and pondered his destiny.

An hour later John Wayne and his mates came to cut his hair.

“Mate, resign yourself,” said John Wayne, winking at him. “There’s a purpose to everything we do.” John Wayne proceeded to cut Paddy’s distinctive white hair, leaving chunks fall into the aisle. Within a minute he was done.

“Hack job,” said one of his mates, laughing.

“We have the technology to fix that,” said John Wayne, “but for now it serves our purposes.” They bantered among themselves for a while before running out of whiskey and finally leaving Paddy alone, but not before instructing him to shave his beard but leave his moustache. They left him a razor and shaving cream as well as a small packet of black dye for his upper lip and what remained of his hair. When Paddy was done with his task, he took an instant dislike to his black moustache. For a moment that felt like an eternity, Paddy Leith experienced the full emotion of humiliation, the shadows casting it as an ugly little sucker undeserved of full presentation without the supporting beard.

Back at his seat and after some time had passed he began to take comfort in a glimmer of hope because he reckoned if they had cut his hair they were preparing him for a new identity. But why? To what end?

Chapter 35

The Post-Coup Ruckus


In the wake of Paddy Leith’s disappearance numerous new websites began to report with a new theme: inside information. Reports, and therefore headlines, capitalized on the fervor created by PortalLeaks and began to assume inside information was something not just PortalLeaks had. Shadowy sources and vague footnotes were becoming the norm, with these new reports multiplying so that the tenor and attention PortalLeaks had had begun to wane. At first these news sites reflected reports by PortalLeaks data, following the same format and formula as PortalLeaks tweets, but then new reports started reporting spin and propaganda, which just added confusion for the general Internet populace. For Dimitri it was already plain to see that the integrity of the Internet – all sites – were now compromised. And the shadows of this fact had darkened Dimitri’s spirit. Even the coffee by the lake under a thatched roof was not enough to take that darkness away. He had worked too long and studied for many years to become the computer user he was, after enduring 25 years of crappy connections, incompatible systems, pre-USB headaches of endless incompatibility, pre-mouse operating systems, and buggy new software that seldom worked. He was the one who played those crappy video games beginning with Pong and then evolving to Space Invaders and Defender and Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Pac Man. Dimitri was part of the generation that grew up when computer didn’t work, but now that the hardware had caught up to the software, he had become an expert of computer operation during those 25 years of trying to figure out how to operate a computer properly. Dimitri had gone down all those roads in the Control Panel and File Manager and explored every nook and cranny, before programmers even sold software that was not tweakable. But all that time the internet was free and uncensored. Dimitri had always been aware it was a golden era in the history of the Internet but that one day those in power would find enough good programmers and get the upper hand over the outlaw and purely inquisitive types, who both loved the freedom of the cyber seas.

Dimitri scanned the reports he saw, and soon began to feel limp. Knowing what he knew, he didn’t believe Paddy Leith was still in control of PortalLeaks and therefore someone else was, and this ‘someone else’ could now be creating a propaganda campaign to drown Paddy Leith’s voice and then ultimately push him out of the discussion so that he will almost be forgotten right around the time of the Ecuadorean election in early 2017. Dimitri could see it all unfold: a report is published saying Assange is ill and currently being treated for a hereditary kidney condition. Two days later a follow-up report will state that Assange passed away due to complications from medication and mal-nourishment and the general condition of his weakened immune system. There will be an uproar but due to the virulent reports asking for an investigation, one is undertaken with those in the know. The results is a watered-down report full of duplicitous language and vague half-facts that make the clear thinker tear his hair out and the enthusiastic quit their beef. In another month Paddy Leith will finally be past news and soon forgotten, and only spoken of by those who remembered the time he was big. Only those who truly followed the story will remember the facts as they are. Spin, propaganda and the victor’s ruckus will prevent the truth from ever being known.

And that was what made him sad.

Fishermen moved slowly over the water, the wooden boats not propelled with more than an oar. It was the last he saw of Tonlé Sap, the great inland lake of Cambodia as he rode farther and farther north into the heartland on his Honda CR250 motorcycle. He loved motorcycling in the countryside just north of Phnom Penh because it was such a sudden change from French colonial architecture to shanty-shacks that made up the circumference of the city, and then he was in the country – a landscape rich in hues and vibrant in energies. He could snap his fingers almost and he was out in rural Cambodia that had remained untouched for millennia. The open agrarian fields were only semi-attended with farmers with their Ox pulling the plow. But the countryside was lush with open sandy spots, which made the riding even better.

Getting away on his Honda was his way of getting some thinking time because the mechanical hum under him put him in a relaxed frame of mind yet with his mind working sharply in high gear, like the bike. He rode in third gear, the roads going from dirt to paved depending where he was on his ride. Some expats didn’t ride north due to the danger but he knew what to look for and stayed away from the northeast corner of the country, where there was a good chance of running into some old, embittered Khmer Rouge, which would not be wise. Dimitri kept riding northwest towards the extraordinary cluster of mountains that sprouted up from nowhere. They were his respite in this world, the cluster not even having a name. Dimitri called them the Illuminati Mountains because they illuminated him. He felt illuminated when he parked his bike just off the road and out of sight from passersby, and sat on the nearby rock with a great view. He took out his thermos and drank the semi-hot coffee, hanging on its thickness and punch.

The sun pummeled his exposed arms and cheeks, as if scratching his skin it was so hot. He reluctantly moved into the shade but had to sacrifice his view of the mountains. His illumination continued and he surveyed the landscape of his mind. A rat-tat-tat of events, facts and images from the Internet flashed through his mind in a long second, then focused on the last four days. The events that had transpired and the fact that Paddy Leith had still not stepped onto his Ecuadorean balcony since the day of the black vans pointed to one conclusion: that Dimitri was now the founder of the most important hashtag on Twitter, and therefore the world. And those who followed Paddy Leith were pretty smart so he had something before him: find Paddy Leith using the hashtag. He could find other threads and retweet them with the hashtag #WhereIsPaddy if it contributes to the story.

“Nice!” he said as he stood up, energized. He spontaneously decided to go for a small hike to the side of the mountain but after thirty feet he saw what he had feared most: the red, skull-and-crossbones marker that showed landmines were buried there. The image of the skull and crossbones jolted him so badly that he jumped back.

Jesus!” Gently he retraced his steps and returned to his motorcycle, security and safety all tied into one. Starting the engine, he throttled the bike south to Phnom Penh where he thought he could find a few other PortalLeakers to help him. The sun setting brought on an awesome onslaught of insects in the air. As he rode they bounced off his lips and sunglasses. It was a tricky time to ride because the insects were small but had body armor on, striking human flesh at high speed with a sting like a pin prick. The pressing practical issue was breathing because the insects would go up his nose and down his throat if he opened his mouth, so he dipped his head at an angle to protect his windpipe. But even this was a balancing act because he still had to protect his eyes, which if hit by one of the millions of flying insects in twilight flight could cut his cornea. It had already happened when he first started riding a motorcycle in Cambodia a few years earlier. But the bugs only lasted for a half hour and then dissipated, the grey haze of insects contrasting against the orange lit-up sky reflecting the sun.

Then, just as Dimitri was entering Phnom Penh he noticed some expats at one of the many French ‘country homes’ that could be found around the old French capital. What caught his eye were the guys that were there – his age or maybe older, but cool-looking, able-bodied with crew cuts. A dangerous and able animal. But what were they doing there? Maybe a new rifle range? There was a rifle range very close by where tourists could go shoot guns, including AK-47s. Dimitri had never gone to it though. It wasn’t his thing.

Chapter 36

Incognito One-Man Government


Massey Mathers was a man who knew a lot of things, not by study or serious effort but by inheritance. He knew the leaders of industry by virtue of his lineage. A pure fluke of birth but something he had gladly welcomed as a child, he made damn sure he knew as much as he needed to in order to manage his fortune with some degree of modest wisdom. He governed his one-man government as a philosopher-king, choosing to take absolutely no salary whatsoever for his efforts governing the Mather’s Foundation. But then again he was a man of many means and many interests, so much so that he used his time wisely enough to make the right kind of inquiries to find the few players now executing the long-waited-for operation to snag Paddy Leith from London.

“It was about bloody time,” the old man said, getting a kick out of his rusty moxie. He still had it. But just as soon as he started smiling his expression turned back to his normal stern brow, which was his trademark in his chateau in the French Mediterranean. Massey knew how to get things done and had the means to make what he wanted get done properly. He valued total vertical supply chain methodology whereby he controlled every aspect of the operation, a philosopher-king acting selflessly on behalf of humanity, taking action to safeguard a piece of history. He was a benevolent behind-the-scenes king.

Chapter 37

Scar Tissue


Rockett Man loved Southeast Asia. If John Wayne was a fan of the Duke then he was a fan of Vietnam films, particularly the director’s cut of Apocalypse Now. He had grown up watching heroics and mischief all in a land that looked so different than the West. When Rockett finally did step foot in Thailand and Cambodia he finally understood the stories in a deeper way because he could now see how the mischief and heroics could be achieved. It was a land full of forests and palm trees where people lived in wooden shacks on stilts to stay away from the bugs that crawled on the ground all around them.

It was far from Wyoming and Wales.

The vibe of Southeast Asia had an allure, especially knowing about the tunnels that lined the subterranean world for thousands of square kilometers, going as far as Vietnam and Laos. From the limited material available about tunnel rats, Rockett could only really say for certain that the tunnels existed. It was the major reason why the war was unwinnable. Rocket thought of the trauma of a tunnel rat’s career in the military and the serious psychological damage they suffered. Out of 300 tunnel rats, 150 made it back. But what of those 150?

Rockett had suffered from some trauma but was only vaguely aware of it. His mates were the ones who told him he had changed. His aggression and his increased use of profanity were two of the overt symptoms of PTSD. They told him he started to change noticeably after the op in Libya. He liked the Libyans a lot. They were a kind of ancestral brother for Rockett, so the events that had transpired there packed an emotional punch that had never left him – like a swelling of a joint that is never iced. The scar tissue remained in the injured location forever. Unfortunately for Rockett every time he felt emotion he felt the pain from that Libyan scar tissue. He always sensed its presence in his consciousness somewhere. What Rocket could agree to was that he laughed less, and when he did it was mean laughter. If was something he was working on.

There were a lot of things he was working on.

“Listen, we gotta get these two vehicles behind the house so people can’t see them from the road,” he said to Sully, a Greywater Man who didn’t care about anything except being alive. Sully was really fucked up. Never talked. Fucker.

Despite his scar tissue, Rockett Man had been chosen by the brotherhood of soldiers to represent Greywater in the negotiations for their HACKSUB. The men found Rockett had a knack with the likes of colonels and leaders of the Illuminati, and shared a no-nonsense penchant for clear language – a niche nomenclature that left no grey areas of understanding.

Rockett Man heard the distinct throaty cough of the CR250 so he glanced to see who in Cambodia would be rich enough to ride a spicy Honda250. Seeing a white guy on a motorcycle looking directly at their operation sent Rockett Man into DefCon5. He was cool with the growing expat community in Phnom Penh – that was one of the reasons they had selected this spot – but he needed to maintain a very non-expat front in order to remain under the radar to the lively expat pod. The only thing he was really worried about was the satellite dish that could only be partially hidden. It had just been installed.

“Fucking bullshit,” he said casually, belying his inner fury. Just when he was about chew out Sully his phone rang. He knew who it was.

“Greywater Private Contracting Services,” he said, knowing it was one of the most powerful men in the world. “This is Rockett.”

“Yes Mr. Rockett,” said the voice. “Do you know who this is?”

“It is Mr. Mathers, a rather powerful man interested in doing some business I would surmise.” Massey Mathers smiled into the phone. Who was he, being so sporting? However, the opening volley opened an unexpected door. “I am interested in your services. You may have a parcel I am interested in retrieving.”

“We do retrieval,” said Rockett, “bloody hell we do retrieval of parcels. You have the right number for retrieval service.”

“Said parcel, which my daughter is fond of, is scheduled to be dropped in Leith.”

“Good song that is, isn’t it, by those twins.” There was some laughing at the other end of the phone, so Rockett was emboldened and spoke thus: “So Mr. Mathers you wish to walk 500 miles for the Leith parcel?” Rockett laughed into the phone. “You know it too, don’tcha?” Massey Mathers had to concede.

“Yes. I do quite enjoy the twin voices overlaid.”

“Bloody right you do! Now, fee of course has yet to be settled. How would you like to proceed?” When Rockett thought of the dough, he softened. Finally he and his mates would have a little dough, after all the hell they’d been through. Bloody hell. “Whatever method is best for you, M.” Raising his chin, Massey Mathers focused.

“Fee to be deposited into your bank account upon completion of the retrieval. Petty cash will be available upon the end of this phone call.” Rockett Man gave him the info for the deposit.

“Damn right. Parcel to Leith now operative. Copy?” Again the enticement lured 80-year old Massey Mathers like a child with a pistol and a holster playing cowboys and Indians.


“Roger that. Over and out.” Rockett hung up the phone and relished. Good old entrepreneurial spirit was starting to pay off, but Operation Big Kitty was still in play, and extraction of the parcel was far from secure. The division between the armed forces and private security companies like Greywater was a line so blurry that even he didn’t know where the line was.

Chapter 38

An Ill-Advised Personal Side-Op


Rusty Hicks was on a roll. Not only had he scored his Gryphon and become a high-echelon player, he had gone out and bought a second-hand Triumph motorcycle. He just said no more waiting and bought one. And it was when he was riding his Triumph back to the base that he had an idea to initiate his own recce at the Ecuadorean embassy. He wanted to gather some of his own data, and if this boozer didn’t have the right stuff then perhaps an early incident might save his bosses the energy of even talking about Guy. Granted a personal-side-op might be ill-advised at this juncture, he thought it a brilliant Napoleonic move that could only please the brass. One less loose end etc. Solid defence if they turn sour. But he needed to gather info.

He would put his best recce in play.

“This is a highly unusual visit Lieutenant Hicks,” said Guillermo, who didn’t appear drunk. “Impromptu visits are not good form.”

“Yes, it could not be helped. I wanted to discuss Paddy with you.” Guillermo looked at him with new interest. He wondered if the solidity of his tone of voice had changed an octave. Hicks still spoke in the chord of ‘A’ but it was one lower on the fret board.

“Yes? Is he okay?” Guillermo was afraid, a genuine look Hicks had not seen for some time.

“He is having complications with his kidneys. Do you know if he has any medications that he left behind?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Hicks watched as Guillermo waited for more information about Paddy Leith. For a moment he felt for the man.

“Would you be open to me double-checking? We would hate it if he had something, perhaps even from his vitamin regimen, or drug stash, we could surmise why his kidneys have gone south.” The words hung there like the white elephant in the room. ‘Gone. South.’

“I see.” Guillermo didn’t find his tactics very smooth.

“Or perhaps you could look?” Now that was more sensible. It did give Guillermo a chance to finally have a look at the Paddy’s inner sanctum as he left it: semi-tampered with.

Guillermo didn’t like the lieutenant’s face or the fact he was younger than him so he didn’t even bother saying a thing, instead he found a key in his drawer and unlocked Paddy’s door. There inside was the operating epicenter of PortalLeaks. Almost every inch of wall space was covered with bookshelves stuffed with papers and disks and reference books. His desk, empty of any electronics after the Secretary of State Ron Berry visit five days before, but there was still an aura in the room, drapes closed and cat gone. Gloria had taken the cat when she signed the gag order but promised to bring the Embassy Kitty to any key events it was needed at the embassy.

They both stood in awe for several moments, each making feint efforts to look for medications or a drug stash.

“It looks like you already rifled through everything,” said Guillermo.

Hicks put his best scanning eye on his immediate mise-en-scene, looking for patterns or abnormalities or hiding places, anything a guy could conceive of using as a hiding place. He found two spots he wanted to investigate. Gently he went to the closet where he looked, seeing shoes and some opened boxes. Nothing. He loitered there until Guillermo couldn’t help going to look through some photographs of Paddy with celebrities, from movie stars like Jake Kusach and James Forrest to academics like Tony Nomski and that Eidleberg guy, to fluff like that drunk singer what’s-his-name and the big-boobed sandwich-spiker. For Guillermo the past five years were laid out pictorially, twinging his memory to recall the visual language made up of images he had ‘witnessed’ in that dream of Grey Aliens.

As Guillermo seemed enraptured by the color photographs around Paddy’s desk, Hicks moved to a picture frame that was very thick. He had known a picture framer once and new these guys had skills with hand-crafting. Hicks removed the picture, turned it over and found the tear in the fabric, which revealed a small key box glued inside the wood frame. He wanted to shake it but first he needed to snag it so he firmly gripped the box and using all the strength in his skinny fingers ripped the box free of the wood, put it in his pocket and then replaced the picture as it was. Slowly he approached Guillermo.

“I don’t like that Big Titty there,” said Rusty Hicks, rolling up his sleeves. “What’s her thing anyway? Acting or her boobs?” Guillermo glanced at the tattoo, fresh and perfectly lined, except for the eagle cock.

“Her boobs.” Finally, sharing a laugh, they closed the door and left the Paddy museum to the next investigation by God who knows who.

When they went back to Guillermo’s office Hicks could hear a distant rattle, and then felt the vibrations from a rattling piece of metal in the box. He tried to minimize it in his stride.

“You all right?”

“Sure,” replied Hicks. “An old injury acting up, that’s all.” But Guillermo’s sense alert was on high.

“What is it? What do you have?” Hicks knew he couldn’t make it to the door with the hollow rattling in his pocket.

“I found something in the closet I guess they missed. He removed it from his pocket.

“A key box?”

“I haven’t looked. Shall we?” He opened it before Guillermo could answer. The key was small, round key with a red plastic end for the fingers, which looked like it was for a locker at a train station or airport.

“I could bring it to Paddy. He’ll know what it is for sure.” The ambassador Guillermo Avellino sensed there was an offside happening but couldn’t object to the reasoning – that Paddy should have it. Just then Lieutenant Hicks lifted his tattooed arm in front of them both and slowly rubbed his moustache, two separate acts that acted as one, as if it had a hidden meaning. Guillermo, painfully aware that he was far from the military type and probably had no combat experience, had to respect Hick’s awkward swagger. Besides, the little pencil neck reports to Master Diplomat Berry, always a good move to stay in his good books.

“Can I help you with anything else then, Lieutenant?” Hicks thanked the ambassador for being so accommodating. “Now I can tell my boss I checked.” Guillermo offered his hand to shake so he could have another glance at that weird-looking eagle with a phallus.

Only when Hicks was exiting the embassy door did he unroll his sleeves.

Chapter 39

The UNIX Red Book Upper Hand


Even before he awoke Dusty was mentally pumped for the day. The sea air awakened a dormant sense he had lost living inland. It simmered in an ancient consciousness as if all organisms had come from the sea, and this saltwater awakening created a craving for that water. And this was what drove him up from his bed. He locked up his room and brought a towel in a bag and rode his motorcycle to the beach away from the construction. Parking his bike he stripped as he walked and dropped his bag and dove into the Pacific Ocean with tremendous gusto. The violence of the waves crushed against his head sounding off an ancient blast of inner noise he had thirsted for too long. Swirling white water and bursting salt bubbles created an effervescence as he stood between crashing waves. For a moment, that which had ailed him was now healed.

“God rewards initiative,” he said to Poseidon in reverence that shook his tiny body in the huge surf.

Back on his balcony, after skipping a shower to remove the salt water, Dusty Pearce read the tweets left for him by his HACKSUB.

“Indeed this is play,” he said aloud, finding it beneficial sometimes to speak to the fly on the wall. The hippie bastard was leaving him clues for crying out loud! But he knew precisely what to do with ’29 acres.’ He opened his .pdf of the UNIX Red Book and scanned some sections to refresh his memory of the commands he needed to find what he was looking for. He deduced the public real estate records were based in Quito, focusing his search network search for the real estate entity dealing in property deeds. Another makeshift search for 29 acres spewed up many results, but when included postal codes only on the coast, he found four properties only. Two were owned by expats and two by persons with Ecuadorean/Spanish surnames. Of these two, one was close to Montanita and the other was on the western point in Puerto de Cayo.

“Amazing,” he said to himself, wondering why more people don’t read the UNIX Red Book to learn how to navigate your way across the Internet and the backend channels and coded doorways and hidden gateways. It was all open source. We all owned it, well, perhaps some more than others.

He thought of those who believed all Internet users should pay an Internet tax for the free service, but he had always dismissed it. Why sully the waters?

Dusty surmised that since his HACKSUB had been in the passenger seat it was his driver who owned the car and who had a connection to the 29-acre property. He cross-referenced the names on the deeds and found them both to be elderly, over 65. From the black hair he had seen of the driver, he knew it was one of the Spanish surnames, so he would ride to Puerto de Cayo to check that one first since it was on the way to Montanita along the coastal highway. He packed up and was off on his motorcycle, smooth like a good op should be.

He didn’t experience any snags riding the wide-open and very windy coastal highway, the smashing waves always on his right moving south. So much of the coast had been battered over the millennia that it had become at edifice of cliffs in many parts, standing up to the wind-bully who coasted on top of the equatorial Humboldt Current all the way to the northern tip of Ecuador and downwards all the way to northern Chile where it turned around and went back where it came from. But the winds were part-and-parcel of the motorcycling experience and he let his hair go free without his helmet for fear of being regarded as a tourist. He had never been a backpacker but he locals didn’t wear helmets. The only immediate threat to his riding were the sandy parts that had blown up from the long stretches of beach that defined coastal Ecuador. The small villages and the wooden fishing boats with their oars were a regular sight in protected enclaves from the dangerous riptides that made swimming foolish in many areas. Dusty was extra careful over the sandy bits but couldn’t shake the fear in his solar plexus every time he heard the roar of surf splash onto shallow shore mile after mile, the turbulent dark waters just behind it full of sea creatures of all types.

Those dark waters spooked him to the core.

Dusty rode through El Aromo and San Lorenzo but then hit his stride through the stretch that took him due south to Puerto de Cayo. He stopped for a beer and hotdog and a quick consult of his maps, and refueling. Jotting down the address he left for Puerto de Cayo to find the suspected 29-acre hideout of his HACKSUB and wingman. Moving away from the Pacific Ocean, Dusty found the land just as he had envisioned it would be. He drove down the driveway rehearsing his story about interest as a real estate purchase, but when he saw the house, or what was left of it, he knew his target package were likely at the place near Montanita.

Fineburger. Dusty was still loving the thrill of the op. He gunned his throttle and continued south.

Chapter 40

The Key


Looking at it in his hand, there was no way he could decipher what the key was for. At the moment Rusty Hicks had absolutely no idea how he was going to find the home for the key he had found in Paddy Leith’s room. He was very confident in his skillset on a keyboard but what was he going to do with a key? The only known search parameter was that it was a train station locker key. The other possible variable in the equation that could be deduced was that it was most likely for a locker at an airport since Paddy Leith – before his self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorean embassy – was a jetsetter of unusual ilk, flying from Iceland to Holland to Berlin to Norway and many other countries to speak.

The guy was a rock star there for a while before we tried to pinch him.

Looking at his ink as he sat in his bland office on the base outside London, Hicks-now-Gryphon-with-a-Big-Swinging-Dick was himself becoming a rock star. His keyboard was his guitar and his magic playing chords stunned many. Wind blew into his sails and he thought of getting another tattoo. “Sailor Jerry tech,” he said, liking the sound of his new baritone. 

His moustache was now very trim and crisp.

He thought he could narrow down the airports by counting the number of flights and destinations from the flight logs associated with Paddy Leith’s travels, but instead of going through all the logs he thought he would wing it and take a step back to determine the most likely city. For this he had to leave the grey stuffiness of the army base. He didn’t really think about it when he rode off on his motorcycle after his cigarette when he turned towards the tattoo shop to see if fate would have Bernie’s schedule free. When he saw the bald-headed tattooer he had the time and inclination to do his other arm “for balance.”

“Yes, that’s what I was thinking.” Rusty Hicks knew what he wanted, and selected the clipper ship from the flash, handing it to Bernie and saying: “Exactly like this flash.” The nod and smile combo got Bernie going, prepping the stencil and his kit.  Hicks settled on the inner forearm on the left for reasons of symmetry.

“A good negative space piece, this one,” was the only thing Bernie said for four-and-a-half hours. When it was finished Hicks opened his eyes, looked in the mirror and was blown away by how big the ship looked on his left inner forearm. The negative space in the sails gave his white skin texture but with the shading in the sails he now had a Popeye left forearm!

Fuck,” he said. This met with the approval of Bernie.

“Looks sick. Classic style that. Can’t go wrong.”

“The color really pops.” His left arm looked almost twice as big as before the ink. “Amazing effect.”

“Now you have a gryphon with a dick and a clipper ship.” Bernie’s deadpan was well-delivered.

“The clipper is a keeper,” he said. He paid and left the shop having not thought about where the Paddy Leith key could be from.

As he sat on his motorcycle letting it warm up, he spoke out loud into his full-face helmet. “Fuck it. It’s either for London, Stockholm, Holland or Berlin. Or Oslo. But he probably snagged it before he left Stockholm. Most likely London. Heathrow it is.” He would eliminate London first before maybe hitting the German capital.

He rode to Heathrow and was pissed off to pay so much to park a motorcycle, but small distractions were small potatoes so he went forward with his key in hand, gaining in fervor and anticipation. Time seemed to slow down the closer he came to knowing, each locker number closer than the last, the mystery shrinking by the step. The extreme surveillance presence in the airport had to be ignored at all costs otherwise he was at risk of sticking out, but that raised something he had not considered. A disguise. He strongly doubted anyone knew about him but he could be sure, so he gladly purchased some sunglasses and a Tottenham Hotspur hat. Rusty Hicks was also very aware of the now four-day-old ‘stache on his upper lip, fully noticeable to all who saw him. He slouched and tried to close up as he approached Number 1066, and spoke thus:

“Battle of Hastings bullshit!” Rusty Hicks was gaining in mettle now with his clipper ship. He slipped the key in and it fit. The locker opened and there was a bag so he took it, closed the locker door and left. He kept walking to his motorcycle and then was truly tested with his patience leaving the airport. That was when he decided to RTB via a different route. Being a Special Projects Man now, he could make his own schedule, whether it was a tattoo or a hack or a side contract or a personal side-op. His skinny little twig of a left arm was now a powerhouse of ink designed to the curve of the inner forearm. The shading in place on the sails on certain corners gave his skin an added texture, which translated into a bigger-looking arm. His white skin in the sails looked almost fluffy. These sailors loved their Popeye forearms. His stock had gone up, and now he had solved the mystery of Paddy’s key by rebelling with ink and using that intense sense of permanence to cut to the chase and identify the location of highest likelihood.

Rusty Hicks-now-called-among-his-peers Dick Gryphon had too much trouble resisting a stop on the shoulder to have a peek at the contents, so he did just. In the bag he found two hard drives and several memory sticks and an old army knife. It had an insignia but it was worn out from sheer use. Old, the pocket knife was in the same style as his father’s favorite pocketknife. There, on the wide of the road with cars passing, Hicks saw the remaining estate of the PortalLeaks leader. This was his personal back-up data from the enterprise of his career as journalist, and perhaps back-ups of all the files PortalLeaks had ever published.

Back on his little Triumph he throttled back to the base with his plundered booty, data and ink.

Chapter 41



The ride down the coast to Puerto Lòpez was good for Dusty’s saltwater spirit, breathing in the ocean air and feeling the salt crystalize on his cheeks and forehead. The vistas of the coastline served to reinforce his philosophy that it was the execution of the op that was the ultimate destination: the smooth flow of executing quantifiable units until the sum has been reached. Dusty Pearce looked at his Twitter communication with the hippie HACKSUB to be that unexpected thing that could not be forecast, which would turn the case in his favour.

His HACKSUB’s weakness was hubris at thinking he could not be caught, or that he was not an important player in what was unfolding on the world stage, and this would lead to his downfall.

As Dusty rode his rented motorcycle, he thought it was a good idea to post a tweet to ask PortalLeaks’ supporters what media they wanted to be used to prove Paddy Leith was alive. PortalLeaks supporters wanted proof he was alive. The tweet was a way to address what had to be addressed, and to gain time. He would let the poll linger for three days minimum, during which time a heck of a lot of the variables would fall into place just like the code in The Matrix film. This guy was Neo, he thought as he rode, thinking it strange to have granted the traitor such a coveted title. But then again Paddy Leith had the same power as Neo: he possessed the raw facts behind our collective societal reality. Matrix. The poor guy was guilty of idealism. That’s it. He was an idealist who had the audacity to write a full-proof code for leakers to submit top secret info. Armed with this code the guy bought the domain name www.portalleaks.org and then built the submission platform with his code. Fucking random variable factor. No one can crack that submission platform pinging off 13 satellites in 13 countries! Brilliant! And all this happened over a decade ago. And since then he has merely managed his website.

Everything else is window dressing and misdirection as far as he saw it.

Dusty rode through Puerto Lòpez and Ayampe and then stopped by the sea and sat on the beach that extended for miles. He wrestled with his maps on the beach and for a moment felt like a tourist, which turned his cheeks beat red. Fuck! He folded his maps and was able to minimize it down to a few fluttering corners. Dusty-now-Nat-McBean-Special-Forces-madman-on-a-motorcycle-kicking-ass-in-South-America was able to find where he had marked the turn off at Olòn, just before the big beach resort town of Montanita. He wrote down the address and was ready but he didn’t move. He took a moment to equalize and calm down from the humming that still shook his torso, the motorcycle hum instilled in his system after nearly five hours of riding.

Sitting there he realized he required a change of look. He needed to go deep undercover while in his HACKSUB’S geography, so he decided to go into Montanita and buy some clothes and other gear, and found a modest hostel on a back street a few blocks from the beach where he felt it was private enough to remain unseen. There, Dusty spread out everything he had and started a new phase in the op. He started by undressing down to his underwear. Scanning and sequencing the items spread out, he picked up the shears that were still in the unopen box and went into the bathroom. His hair, thick and salty, came off in chunks that revealed a white scalp. Running his hand over it he realized he would need a day or two to sun his head.

Fuck!” He shaved the rest of his head and then had a shower, feeling very clean as he soaped. He decided not to shave it because it was so fresh and that scalp skin had never seen the light of day in all its intensity, especially on the equator. The 3mm of hair he left might act as a buffer against the first rays of sun, but otherwise, he sized himself up in the mirror and was shocked at the transformation. He never knew his head had such definition and that it stuck up so high. He always thought that was the barber who left more hair on top to add height. He rubbed his hand over the fresh, white virgin skin and felt the heat from his head, and his head the coldness of his hand. Next he trimmed his eyebrows down leaving some hair there two but minimizing the abruptness of his old eyebrows against the slab of white skin behind it. Because he had been clean shaven when he had met Gunther he decided to dye the three-day’s growth of his beard black to help contrast his previous clean-shaven look. He saw more white in his beard so dying it was a pleasure – and made a big difference. His fair beard hair color had always been light brown but now, with three or four days of stubble, he already showed a mean shadow. 

It made his scalp look even whiter though. Some emergency measures had to be taken. He dyed his head too, which was the final coup de grace, leaving him now looking like a black-haired-skinhead-bum. The final touches then took place, with Dusty now taking his new acting role with reverence and fervor. He pulled up his worked-in jeans and put on his worn navy long-sleeve t-shirt and his motorcycle jacket. His ensemble was complete. He had become a new man – a motorcyclist who was riding to Montanita for some fun. In fact Dusty Pearce-once-Nat-McBean-but-now-Hank-the-Biker who had had so much fun in Ecuador he was now looking for property to buy. He stroked his beard in the mirror but did not feel the joy of completion. He needed some sun time on his head to tan his extremely white scalp. Fine with him. There was no rush with the hippie. He just needed to stay out of site.

Dusty Pearce took a few photos of his surroundings and posted a tweet of the best one, posting it as Nat McBean. He wondered how good his HACKSUB’S geography was.

Then a strange thing happened. After a half hour he put some cream on his head and was amazed that a whole layer of dead skin cells came off with the cream, filling his hand with a sort of grey matter. As he rubbed more in more dead skin cells came off, taking his hands and his nails all over his head, scratching every inch until it was red and screaming clean for the first time ever.

Fuck,” he said, amazed at the reaction of the skin to air and vitamin E skin cream. It left his head feeling incredibly clean. He never knew the head had so much sensation, his skin now smiling for the first time under the afternoon sun. He walked to the beach a few blocks away and lay down for a moment’s rest. There, with his head enraptured in sensation, he fell asleep, dreaming he was riding his motorcycle across the foothills and then above the cliffs, flirting with the edge and feeling the wind lift his hair. The winds along the coastal cliff were so strong that his hair stretched out so that the birds soon were hovering just above his hair waving in the wind. The sun stung his hairline and the wind attacked his pores leaving his hair so caught in the wind that the follicles suddenly became lose and his hair fell away into the wind, leaving his hairline more exposed to the sun and wind. A red mark grew from the top of his forehead to the top of his head where the burning was most intense, as if his ninth chakra were free and yelling joy for the first time ever. Suddenly when he looked down he saw he was wearing the long flowing orange robes of the Buddhist monk, serene and wise, like a Shaolin warrior monk able to manipulate energy. He reached for the bird closest to his head because he thought it might scratch his burning scalp, missing the bird and causing him to lose control of his handlebars, his front wheel turning slightly at the high speed. He knew in that slow, infinite split second that he was going to crash, so he flung himself from his bike up with the birds and flew over the cliffs into the surf below, swallowed up by the welcoming arms of the sea. The swirl and the effervescence returned and bubbled up his nose, his scalp stinging in the saltwater. That was when he woke up, the sun now starting to set over the ocean.

Dusty looked around and saw an old woman filling her basket and went back to the warm surf in his dream, even for a few moments, but he could not recapture the magic he had just experienced. Instead Dusty Pearce felt the fresh sunburn on his scalp, now teeming with thousands of small needles scratching and poking it in the wind. His white scalp was indeed gone.

Chapter 42

Tumble Puppy


It was plain for Gunther to see that Martin had somehow found some degree of solace by putting his pain into words. For the first time he had a confessor and so found the words to represent the images in his mind’s eye and the hurt in his heart from of all the injustices he had suffered at the hands of those rehab guards. Even his cocaine intake had dwindled. He hadn’t seen him take a hit for hours. Something in his heart had quietened down. His hands were steadier. This meant for Gunther it was a good time hanging out in the guest chalet at Martin’s ranchos near Olòn, just north of Montanita. The problem was there was no WiFi but there was one spot in town, which was probably better. He let Martin visit with his aunt and uncle who operated the ranchos and two horses and bananas trees and took the car into town where he acted as a local and parked it crookedly in an illegal spot.

The hotel was old, Spanish-built and damp. The lounge with the large fireplace was where he sat and used the WiFi, feeling the chill of the massive rock mantelpiece. When the waitress came by he ordered a beer.

“Let’s not fuck this up,” he said to himself unexpectedly, trying to pump himself up for the new work before him but the waitress turned and looked at him sharply. He pointed at his computer. She might have heard it. He smiled at her and resumed his ritual of psyching up for making a new list. He was well aware that making lists was a very common trait of geniuses, who were known for making countless lists. Items on an agenda for a genius was a very big thing. In fact geniuses were known to make lists of lists, something Gunther had been guilty of during a particularly busy time in his professional career. He processed much data. A good directory promoted exceptional file management. The human mind was the same. It needed a well-organized directory for it files. Lists were his directories. His files were his knowledge. But the goal before him was to read the #WhereIsPaddy thread to see where things were at. He could see the cat was out of the bag with the latest tweet from PortalLeaks that it wanted to know if supporters preferred video proof, or audio or whatever, to prove Paddy was still alive.

“Such crap,” he said bitterly. The web was full of bogus articles from fake sites. It was bizarre. There was a media blackout on Paddy Leith. The freeze-out had started. By hacking into the cyber-grid the US shadow government could censor any upload with certain red-flagged words, like ‘Leith’ and ‘PortalLeaks.’ Gunther felt the censor’s finger on his device, a most unpleasant feeling.

No one had ever tampered with the contents of his screen before. 

“Nasty piece,” he said, unaware of his Tourette’s. Then looked for his dog but didn’t see her, another reflex that reminded him of how much his missed Chaucer. For a long moment he thought of his companion of the last four years. Fuck. Gunther was well aware he didn’t have the soldier esprit des corps that others were born with so it was with some remorse that found himself contemplating a trip back to Ibarra to pick up Chaucer.

“No, no, but…” But clearly he would benefit from the added security. Chaucer was world-class, and he was sure she missed him just as much or more than he missed her. He was her life.

He checked Nat McBean’s Twitter page and saw the most recent link to another trove of Plimpton private emails as well as a recent photo of the Pacific Ocean that looked like it could be very close by. This only made him want to reunite with Chaucer more. He was being hunted.

“This isn’t funny anymore,” he said. “If it involves my canine unit then I’m going to have to pull rank. No more Twitter Tag. Fuck.” But that was small potatoes compared to the only other option of transportation if Martin didn’t let him take his car, which he was pretty sure he wouldn’t. And asking him in front of his auntie and uncle wouldn’t be groovy so he would check out the Montanita motorcycle rental shops before they closed for the day so he drove down to Montanita just in time. And sure enough he found what he was looking for, despite the odds. He found a motorcycle with a side-car. Clearly though the bike had been dropped a number of times, the handlebars still not quite straight.

“Fricking perfect,” he said, enough for the Ecuadorean salesman to come over to him.

“Is this for sale or for rent?” The salesman’s eyes opened wider.

“For sale or for rent. Whatever you want. Good motorcycle. Safe. Muy Bueno. Muy. Muy.” Gunther could see he was hopped up on betel nut from his red teeth.

“Betel nut, nice one,” he said, casually. “Um, yeah. What? A few dollars per day rent?”

“No, no. Fifty dollars. Fifty.” The quick calculation for his undertaking came to over $400.

“That’s a lot for Ecuador.” Tourist prices. No sense to argue.

“Fifty dollars. Good motorcycle. Muy Bueno.”

“How much for sale?” The salesman looked back over his shoulder for a second and then said: “500 dollars.” For an extra hundred bucks I could own the motorcycle. He scratched his chin under his beard and then offered the salesman a cigarette. They stepped out to the front steps and smoked for a minute.

“Might want to use that petty cash before the shadow government snags it.” Again Gunther spoke involuntarily.


“Three hundred dollars.”

“No, no. 500 señor.”

“400 dollars? Por favor.” The salesman nodded. He bought the motorcycle with the sidecar, signed the paperwork and was waiting for the key when another expat walked into the shop.

Eww,” he said by accident. “Brand new jacket. Tough call.” The guy fortunately didn’t hear Gunther, instead walking to the motorcycle eyewear section. What caught his eye was the guy’s scalp. It was burnt to a crisp. And the black hair that covered it seemed to make the scalp angrier. The poor guy’s skin’s at that point of blistering. Something inside him propelled him to the guy’s aid. He couldn’t stand seeing people in pain.

“Dude, the best thing for that is butter. Trust me.” The guy had put on a cool pair of shades.

“Butter?” It sounded like he could hardly talk. He kept the eyewear on. He bent down and looked closely at the motorcycle, studying the exhaust pipe and chain area. Gunter was more interested in making sure he had all the required tools for riding, letting the man with the sunburned head study his newly purchased motorbike.

“Hey man, you might have sunstroke. That’s pretty serial Duddy. I mean you basically fried your egg in the sun, I mean your brain. On the frying pan.” There seemed to be a tear coming from under the sunglasses. “Worse than drugs. Might be a few blisters happening there dude.”

“Or just like drugs, no?” The try-to-be skinhead niblet was obviously green but he was showing some backbone riding the coastal road. For a moment Gunther felt an unexpected fear of riding the motorbike with the sidecar along the sea but then comforted himself with knowing he was riding inland up the mountains. He wouldn’t have to deal with the winds and the sketchy sand-patches.

Gunther watched the guy with the burned scalp leave in his new light-shaded sunglasses, giving him a motorcyclist-to-motorcyclist nod as he left. Just then Gunther was handed the key. He paid and left without a helmet to the front of the shop where the Kawasaki 400cc was parked with its well-worn sidecar, showing its history with muted pride. He looked at her for a moment feeling the love, then started it without getting on the seat. He listened to the smooth sound of the engine and smelled the exhaust that put fiber in his muscle. Before mounting his new bike he figured on a name.

Without thinking too much he said: “Tumble Puppy.”

Once on the bike he couldn’t help releasing the clutch and gently feeling the substantial steel-frame pull of the weighted sidecar. At first it was awkward but he realized quickly that with the sidecar the clear parameters of safety were on his side. Much more stable than a two-wheeler. It didn’t feel tippy, which had been his lingering fear. It was true he was a bit big for the 400cc but he would get used to it.

Total Big Lebowski,” he yelled, just at that moment noticing the guy in the sunglasses at an intersection buying what looked like a six-pack. The guy’s red scalp shined off the street lamp overhead. He throttled it to show off his new vehicle – the motorbike-sidecar-piece being a first in his long history of mechanical exploits. The engine has lots of pep.

Sidecar my ass!” Gunther yelled, momentarily caught up in his own glee. Just at that moment the skinhead seemed to lower his shoulder. Then he heard an impact of something metal hitting his bike. No. Must’ve been a rock.

Gunther shrugged it off and hit the open road with the sidecar keeping him well within the speed limit. The speed of his new-unit-now-christened-Tumble-Puppy suited his hippie style he thought to himself, as he rode at a constant hum all the way back to Martin’s ranchos for the night.

Chapter 43

Terra Firma


After a few beers John Wayne’s swagger had evolved into a new thing. It defined him to his mates because it manifested his work-hard, play-hard attitude to life. He could roll with the punches but always expected a punch back. The cheap Irish whiskey enlivened him to even speak with some John Wayne drawl, something the boys always liked to hear. He had been in fine form but had chosen to close his eyes for few hours close to the 9-hour mark in the flight, wisely sneaking in two hours of shut-eye as they crossed the International Date Line and lost a day. But what the boys didn’t like was the equally profound shift in personality when he was hungover. It was the pissed-off facial expression that revealed his inner misery. But John Wayne was a professional and a warrior down to the bone. He was The Duke, cowboy and shooter. On a good day he was known to recall scenes from the hundreds of westerns the real John Wayne had done in the 1930s. He had watched them all and could remember his facial expressions and body language and swagger and the way he rode his horse when he was in a serious rush, and when he wanted to charm the ladies. He had learned all his acting skills from the real John Wayne, so even in the hangover haze John Wayne was able to execute, albeit with a miserable facial expression.

The plane had begun to descend finally after more than 14 hours in the air. With the fuel tanks nearly empty in the big plane, the air currents coming off the sea shook the plane as it also slowed into the prevailing western winds. John Wayne was pushed around by the plane causing him to hit his head on the overhanging luggage door.

“God damn it!” The plane shook and he grabbed seats, until he could straighten up and re-double his posture. He wasn’t about to let a shaking airplane boss him around, at least not right now. Bile sat at the top of his stomach and seemed to edge farther towards the back of his throat. He thought how nicotine helped his hero so he retrieved a crumpled pack of smokes from his bicep pocket in his tunic. He hadn’t smoked from the pack for a few weeks. Once lit the smoke bellowed into a cloud into the absolutely still air. Paddy Leith looked at him with alarm. That was when he realized that a smoke alarm was about to go off.

Fuck!” He stubbed out his cigarette on the metal rung of the chair that was bolted to the floor, the heater crushed and fell into the fuzzy, all-purpose rug. When he stood the cloud of smoke obscured his visual of his HACKSUB. John Wayne waved his hand to disperse the cloud but he felt uncoordinated. He still had yet to fully get his balance after drinking so much whiskey.

“Listen wanker,” he said to Paddy, his breath foul. “If you fuck with me today I’m going to twist your thumb into a position that will cause you pain every time you use your hand for the next twenty years. Copy that?” Paddy’s throat double swallowed at the horrid pollution coming from the man’s mouth. The depth of threat matched the smell washing over him.

“I copy that, John Wayne.” Hearing his name said with such reverence and respect, like the name deserves, restored John Wayne’s sense of balance and poise. He straightened his posture, ran his tongue over the inside of his mouth, and pulled his tunic down neatly.

“Right pilgrim, first prep yourself. You’re about to move into your new digs, at least for now.” John Wayne’s legs shook just for a split second when he thought of the beach and serious R&R he would have on Guam until he received further word from Rockett.

“Um, where are we?”

“Now where does a smart guy like you think we are? I’m interested. I’m interested to hear your top-three guesses.”

Paddy had been working on that exact question the entire time they had been in the air. With the sheer number of classified documents he had read over the years he was aware of the US military’s partners around the globe, so only by seeing the terrain could he really know if he was in Africa, Asia or South America, but from the amount of ocean he had been seeing out the window he knew it was remote.

“You’re taking me to either a base in Japan, Guam or the Marshall Islands though I don’t think Marshall Islands is likely.” The gravity in his gravelly voice impressed John Wayne.

“Guam you boffer. Bloody toothpick-armed hacker gets his guess right. I’ll remember that. Worthy of note, prisoner. You have ten minutes to muster!” He threw Paddy some clothes to put on and a hat. After five John Wayne returned and handcuffed him but left them loose with a wink of the eye.

The plane landed at the Hamilton Air Force Base in the north of the island, private from the 160,000 population of this ‘Unincorporated Territory of the United States.’ A wave of heat rolled over Paddy Leith like a blanket. This is better, he thought. This is much better.

As he followed John Wayne into the hangar looking around for anyone, his senses came alive in the tropical heat for the first time in five years! The breeze, the whirl of perfumed air and the palm tree branches constantly moving was just like it was during his childhood in New Zealand. He had a personal moment where he made a pact with himself to finally and absolutely let go of PortalLeaks and his work because it was now done. Now he could heal. This is what he needed: fresh air, vitamin D and physical movement. Even though he would still be incarcerated he would have more sun and that unmistakable South Pacific air.

“Hacker!” John Wayne snapped his fingers and pointed to a very non-descript car with dents and rust. “Get in.” Paddy Leith was unrecognizable to any random servicemen that happened to be on the tarmac, in his baseball cap, black moustache and short hair.

John Wayne watched as Paddy obeyed orders and minimized his body English as he did what he was told, making him feel more at ease. He dealt with base admin and whisked away his prisoner to a special holding cell south of the main harbor inland near Santa Rita. When they drove into the old Spanish-built compound there was nothing outwardly different than the others in the area, except for a small sketch someone had left on the side of the garage, a small drawing of a dagger with writing under it. Paddy was able to read what it said: Semper Fidelis.

John Wayne escorted him to a room in the basement of the old casa, near where the wine was stored.

“Listen, there’s no way to get out of the basement. All the doors are bolted except one, and that one is locked, so don’t try. Anyway, you have a bathroom there,” he pointed, “and a small bed there.” Army cot. “Any questions?” Paddy wanted to ask him how he could make him wear a black moustache but he bit his lip. For a moment he thought John Wayne read his mind.

“Could I get an extra blanket?” he asked. “Just joking. But would there be any books lying around? I like to read.” He had to busy his mind with something. Five minutes later his wool blanket appeared just inside the basement door at the top of the stairs. He also found a novel and a little packet of dye that had “blonde” written on it. Suddenly all traces of humiliation left him. His terra firma dungeon became a basement room at a resort in Guam.

Chapter 44

The Blockchain and Mempool Piece


The FCCC was particularly beautiful with the perfectly lined palm trees that constantly wrestled with the north-south winds along the Mekong River. The patio was protected by some very wise landscaping likely done by the same planter of the palms along the Mekong during the French colonial occupation. Dimitri loved his postcard view. It was his visual Van Gogh background that enhanced the qualia of his daily experience, as were the sounds of trees in the breeze and the mild easy music around him and the friendly voices of the Cambodian women. And Cambodian women were ubiquitous in Phnom Pen because they handled all the commerce. Every time he had tried to hand a man money for something – paying for gas, buying food at a kiosk – they had never once even touched the money. Every time they pointed to their wives to take the money. Dimitri liked the FCCC women because they were frank and they were fair and direct, and they were friendly. They knew a good thing when they had it. And so did Dimitri.

The Australian Troy Martens had been bitching about the recent release of the Michael de la Torre video with Paddy in it as proof he was still alive. But Troy insisted that the video had been recorded in July.

“And they’re posting it like it’s settled the question. What gives?” When he did play it Dimitri concurred that it had been edited in several crucial places. And Paddy Leith doesn’t refer to any recent events or recent releases to verify the time of filming.

Dimitri had read a recent report on the #WhereIsPaddy Twitter thread but he was reluctant to share it with Troy because he was volatile and it could wreck his nice flow he had going so far in the day. He took a lot of pride in a good flow. But regardless of his concerns about his flow, he chose to tell him.

“I don’t know a lot about hacking and programming code and stuff but there’s a report on Twitter that’s saying there’s been a strange incident on 4chan.” Troy placed his drink down and sat quietly, eyes expectant.

“What happened?”

“The report says ‘PortalLeaks supporters successfully decoded the first message in its ‘blockchain’ but threads were instantly flooded by ‘shills,’ but they say it isn’t worth looking into.’ Weird, I know. Then it says: ‘The blockchain was blocked by fees and unconfirmed transactions that overwhelm the mempool.’”

“This blockchain mempool piece sounds scary man.”

“Sounds like someone is trying to prevent the elite PortalLeaker hackers from verifying the released hashtag back-up files to the archive.”

“Well, I don’t know what a blockchain is.” Troy sensed a conspiracy.

“I checked the online dictionary and it’s not there. It’s another new computer term. But one thing is for sure, there’s an active agent deflecting pursuers of truth before everything can be firewalled and deleted or moved. Whoever has taken over PortalLeaks is cleaning house.”

They both sat at the table leaning far back in their chairs, surveying their surroundings deep in thought about what had occurred. Dimitri again felt a profound sense of loss of his much-valued Internet freedom he had always known. Looking at Troy, young and just a kid, he thought he would never really know the full freedom his generation had enjoyed from about the mid-nineties onwards. Twenty years of Internet freedom, now gone. For a while there one could go anywhere, even the CIA database if they had the UNIX Red Book. He knew that much. But there was another, much greater issue now in play, and that was that now he had no leader, no visionary to follow. Without Paddy Leith there wasn’t a movement. And now with his Neo kidnapped, there was nothing they could do but speculate.

Impotent speculation.

“So where is everyone going to go?” he asked, quite unexpectedly.

They both thought about the question and both remained silent because there was no answer. The Internet was vast and there would be other movements but now even those could be comprised by the Shadow Government if it blipped on their online radar.

“Using keywords to scan the content of red-flagged websites and all new content coming online they could monitor the vast majority of data entering the world library of accessible information.”

“That’s what the Internet has been and that’s what it will remain except now with ghost-rulers who operate in the cyber-clouds.”

“So then they’re all locked out,” said Troy.

“Not only that. They realize that now any movements they make online will be tracked because they have been identified as supporters.”

“Yeah mate, they’re shitting themselves. Why read PortalLeaks tweets now when we all know they were from a tainted source published by the hand that interfered?”

“And they don’t really have any place to go online. Only these posts in Twitter to the archive for now, but these will end soon once the election is over. Must be one of our guys posting the links. I reckon it’s our guy in Ecuador at the PortalLeaks’ home base there that was where Paddy was going to stay.”

Again to himself Dimitri wondered where an entire generation will go who have been exposed to ten years of uninterrupted PortalLeaks revelations. For those who took the time to see that the free and accessible classified information on the PortalLeaks’ website was a finite situation, and for those who actually spent the time and read the information, they will have to slip out of mainstream society and hunker down out of sight from The Man. But where? Where would these online outlaws go?

Chapter 45

Tapping the Petty Cash


Gunther had never liked sleepovers or being a guest at anyone’s house. It made him very uncomfortable to stay in someone else’s personal space. It had always been that way, even into his adulthood. He hardly slept a wink despite taking two Valiums. His stress came from the fact he was so close to Martin’s aunt and uncle’s bedroom, as well as their friends who had been there last night. He couldn’t explain this discomfort and it had resulted in many missed opportunities in his life when others had extended a sincere invitation only to be politely refused. He always looked at it as doing them a favor because every time he had gone for a visit at a cottage he had drank too much in order to get to sleep because of his anxieties sleeping so close to others’ personal space. Gunther knew from a young age he preferred to operate alone. He was more productive and less bothered and therefore happier when he operated alone. He had accepted that, but one of the conditions of him ‘going solo’ was having a dog. And that was where Chaucer came in. Of course the nobility of Gunther’s quest was not lost on him, something he pondered during the five hours through the mountains to Ibarra where he found Gloria’s house.

Chaucer ran out to him, recognizing him immediately.

“Chaucer! Gooood Dooooggy!” All of the dog’s 75 pounds hit Gunther against the chest when she leaped into the air and hugged him, pushing him backwards for a split second. There, in a balance of forces, Gloria watched as dog and man came together in unison.

“Ah,” she said. “She miss you very much. She cry for you every night.” The words were enough for Gunther to let his heart well-up and tears fall from his eyelids.

“Good doggy Chaucer. I missed you too.” And then the dog stopped and stayed still as Chaucer hugged her with both arms like a human being. Gloria had never seen such a large mass of human and dog before. Chaucer’s tail was like a weapon it wagged so much. Then Chaucer retrieved her ball as a way of telling him she was well enough to play. The smile on the German shepherd’s face melted his heart. Gunther was careful to keep repeating her name and using words she understood, like ‘okay’ and ‘good doggy.’ He knew all was well for Chaucer now, which in turn made him feel important and needed. Everything will be okay now.

“Listen Gloria,” he said, I cannot stay because I am in a rush. But thank you.” She hugged him and he smelled her heavy musk.

He desperately wanted Gloria to go back into her house and not witness the first moments of Chaucer on the funny three-wheeled motorcycle-sidecar combo. Chaucer, much too excited to sit, was impossible to govern, instead very happy to run with her own happy tune of reuniting with her master after four unexplained days. Her happiness even exceeded her happiness for biscuits at the moment, which was worthy of note. The happiness of a dog can heal a sick man’s heart. He knew this to be true. Gunther wasn’t sick but he was missing his vices and his routine and his man-cave safety but he knew his house was under surveillance and it was just too easy for them to take him out if he caused them further worry. But for Gunther’s special circumstances and unique set of character traits, the baddies couldn’t categorize him and therefore regarded him as a threat. The bottom line was that he didn’t trust them to keep their word. He had seen it in a hundred films, those loose ends being eliminated on some Tuesday afternoon while driving on some country road with no traffic around, suddenly swerves off the road and dies. Coroner report is inconclusive due to odd factors such as a cardiac arrest and unusual chemicals in the victim’s system. Foul play would be suspected but no further investigation is warranted.

How many loose ends in modern history had met their end this way?

No, he preferred to be an outlaw like he was before, sort of, and still have a life with Chaucer and his pipe and the beauty of Ecuador. The others in the Council of Nine were adjusting to life offline or were dead, or living on a fishing boat off the coast of Tahiti. He wasn’t a visionary willing to sacrifice his life for the greater good. Not worth it. He would have to sit on any damaging data he had. He would keep his hand to himself, knowing he had four aces.

Or three aces and a king.

He asked Gloria to pack some very specific things from his apartment so he could walk Chaucer along the road for a couple of hours to use up her energy. He needed to bring Chaucer to a point where she could sit and relax for the ride back to Martin’s, but as he walked his dog he realized that he didn’t want to return to Martin’s, nor did he have to. Martin would understand. He had had a bit of a freebie so he’ll be happy. Bummer about the cost of gas for the way back but maybe something good will become of him at the 29-acre ranch.

Gunther stopped walking on the road and said: “Fuck man, I can go anywhere I want now. I can post links to the archive from anywhere I want.” Therein started a new, robust inner discussion amongst the many different selves that made up his inner government. He debated where the safest place was that still had a high fun factor for his hippie-hacker ways. He was a guy who loved maps so there was no shortage of places he knew of. He went through his favorites – places like the Cusco in Peru or somewhere in the mountains in Argentina like Cordoba or San Carlos de Bariloche, but these faded quickly because he knew leaving Ecuador would be foolish.

“Ibarra is now Ghandi,” he said to Chaucer, who was ahead of him. Cuenca or Guayaquil were the likely candidates because he had never been there before and there was a large expat crowd in both cities. He loved the coast but he had heard stories of foreigners getting dengue fever so he preferred the safety and the thin air of the Andes, and because there were hardly any bugs in the mountains. He felt safest in Quito and knew the city well enough where he could hide out. Ideas were coming to him rapid fire because his heart was full of love. Whatever he did and wherever he went, he and Chaucer would survive no matter what. Chaucer was his security and wingman and trained enough to behave in the city. And because of that he knew he needed to return to el Mercado Negro for another laptop. He knew now these military operatives were serious. For a moment he realized that all this had been due to meeting a guy at the Dutch Pub who happened to be named ‘Nat,’ but it wasn’t entirely true because of the look he had seen in the guy’s eyes – recognition that the way he had said the name sounded false. His gut told him something was there and that by saying ‘Nat’ had given him a message that they were there and watching him. Yes, Nat McBean was that guy and he was telling him to stop fooling around with the gag order.

Priding himself on his reasoning skills and acumen to prioritize and identify the right sequence of steps to secure his safety, he ran with Chaucer for a few meters before he stopped, tired out from the effort. When Gunther bent over and breathed heavily, his hands on his knees, Chaucer came up to him and gave him her paw.

“I’m okay. I’m okay. Good doggy. Gooood doggy.”

He returned to the house to find Gloria had yet again proven her competence and had gathered his essentials.

“I will call you, okay? I promise. Gracias ma amiga. I love you Gloria.” He endured a hug but was happy to be free of it and went swiftly to start Tumble Puppy. Chaucer barked and started nipping at the front tire. Making sure Chaucer watched him, Gunther slowly and purposely sat on the motorcycle and then patted the seat. Chaucer immediately hopped inside the sidecar and leaned over and licked her master’s face.

“Well that was easier than I thought.” He waved at Gloria and then let out the clutch, beginning his journey to Quito where he would find another computer and while he was downtown maybe risk withdrawing monies from PortalLeaks petty cash account before they took it. The decision had been looming for some time now yet he had tried not to make a decision, but for his survival and his severance pay for services rendered after seven years working at PortalLeaks as Paddy’s admin assistant, “It’s entirely justifiable.” Gunther spoke loudly into the wind as he rode his motorcycle, completely forgetting about Chaucer for several miles. When he looked she was sitting upright and tense, crying as soon as he looked at her. She moved to his right arm, causing the power to stop, the bike slowing drastically, the dog thrown against the front metal bar.

“No Chaucer!” He carefully pulled in the clutch and then gently found her left arm and moved it back into the sidecar. “Stay Chaucer. Stay!” He resumed the throttle and the dog licked her lips nervously, looking guilty at causing the mishap. “Good doggy Chaucer. It’s okay.” This had the immediate effect of calming her. He didn’t look at her again for at least ten minutes, and when he did he found her settled and smiling into the wind.

Good, now she’s learned.

Gunther didn’t mind the impatient vehicles behind him. He continued to take the corners with the precision of a stoner who was completely enthralled with the game of motorcycling as a real-life video game, where a wipeout could kill you instead of being painless. He found the real-life motorcycling video game much more intense than the purely digital experience. He was aware that he was one of the very few would had bridged the gap between cyber-experience and empirical-experience, a crucial difference many computer geniuses all around the globe lacked. He didn’t blame them really. Their generation was beset with crime and laws that hindered freedom and innocent play. Too much suspicion had driven many to crime and drugs and a complicated driving record. It was one big paperwork headache. And it had also created a repressive atmosphere to those who liked the innocence of recreational play, like kids playing around on their bikes. Now neighbors suspected drug use and crime in an atmosphere of suspicion, and the streets were lined with muggers or drug dealers, and the bike trails had been destroyed by a new mall or gas station. Youngsters today had to take that step away from the inertia of their lives to ensure they were making their own path according to sound first principles. And in order to create solid first principles on which to stand, one needed empirical experience to test philosophies and hypotheses that yielded answers that could then be used in their new push forward.

Gunther found the real-life motorcycling video game the best to engage in philosophy-testing. For him it was how the wind flowed through his beard and moustaches that made motorcycling the best. And because of that he understood for the first time why bikers grew beards: because of this beautiful subtle-yet-tactile phenomenon. The winds were robust enough to penetrate deep into the thick parts of his beard like a cool hair-dryer. When he took corners the side winds took his goatee to the side – that was the best.

His hair wild in the breeze and his sleeves fluttering like wings, almost every driver that passed waved at the sight of the black-faced purebred German shepherd and the long-haired foreigner on the motorbike with a sidecar. If he didn’t see a wave he heard a chirpy beep of a horn. Keeping his balance and his intense concentration on the real-life video game left him with only response: a nod.

His chin was the only appendage not in use.

Gunther soon looked for a possible turn off to let the vehicles pass and to have a smoke. Soon one materialized and he took it into the bush several meters. As soon as he stopped Chaucer jumped out and ran up to him from his left.

“Okay puppy dog. Okay. Okay.” He let her paw his left arm, keeping his hand around the clutch, and slipped it into neutral and killed the engine. He hugged Chaucer and let her whine until she stopped and broke free. Then she was fine. She had completed her first ride in the sidecar. They walked into the brush far enough away from the road where he found a rock where he sat and rolled a joint. He had his kit handy and it was all in order. The spot was selected because it had no wind. Once rolled he lit it and felt better instantly. He became more aware of his surroundings, thinking that anyone could be around. His recce had been minimal due to his thirst to smoke, but Chaucer hadn’t barked so he went with Chaucer’s recce.

He reviewed his game-plan:

One: full laptop snaggage. Two: tap the petty cash at the bank near that after-hours bar. Three: snag some Valium. Four: possible base supply fortification. Five: Dutch bar. Touch base with the boys, er, wait.” Chaucer was still busy sniffing around but remained in ear-shot of her master. Then he thought of Nat McBean. “And No More Twitter. This is serious shit,” he said, listening to the words as if said by a caring brother or a concerned father. This silenced him. He fell into a serious frame of mind and grieved for the first time for his predicament. So he hiked for ten minutes to work it out but nothing happened by the time he was back at his motorcycle.

“Chaucer, come!” She came at once and he hugged her. He had no one but Chaucer. He had lost his brother and his father and now Paddy, his only friend. Once he had the money and the computer he was confident he could disappear in the Ecuadorean background like he had done before.

“But I do need the cake.” Chaucer licked his face, focusing on the hair on his chin. What Gunther couldn’t see because of the tongue licking his face was the small metal device that was stuck on the chrome on his exhaust pipe that transmitted a GPS signal to a military satellite that orbited 167 miles above earth. Even when Chaucer had pushed him over and kept licking his face, he didn’t see the tiny dart that was only a few feet away sticking out of Tumble Puppy. Gunther was too excited about starting his new life.

Chapter 46

The 4Chan Comment from Icelandic Higgy


Dimitri for so long had had his computer at the center of his universe, literally a portal to anything he ever wanted to know, but now that infiltration and censorship had taken an upper hand, he felt rudderless. His center-point had come unhinged. Standing on the bridge over the Mekong he watched the water flow under him, overwhelmed by an unsettling remorse. He couldn’t help himself but he took out his mobile phone and went to the 4Chan chatroom and went to the #WhereIsPaddy thread and read the most recent report made by one of the real guys who ran PortalLeaks – some guy name Higgy from Iceland. He read:

We received these leaks from several sources including the NSA, FBI, NYPD, France’s DGSI, Interpol, Scotland Yard, and the Switzerland MND. Our email dumps were automated and they decided to let them continue because they knew the contents and did not deem them a threat to national security, and they wanted to keep up the charade that PortalLeaks was still operational. Phase 3, the Plimpton Foundation emails, were also automated; however, they shut these leaks down due to national security.

Several prominent people, including leaders of foreign government (France, Italy, China) are implicated in the ring of corruption. If this information is released, entire governments will collapse bringing the world economy crashing down with it. The destruction of PortalLeaks was an unprecedented global effort.

There is a silent war that’s been raging in the US since 2001 between various intelligence agencies. Edwin Bowden’s leaks were intended as a ‘nuclear bomb’ by the CIA to discredit the NSA and have them dismantle their online spying due to public outrage.

The CIA is at war with the NSA due to an exponential rise in technology and surveillance capabilities. The NSA became aware of the CIA’s global government manipulation, especially the manipulation of the US and UK governments, and their global blackmail networks. The CIA and the people they protect are the old power structure.

The NSA became the new power structure and a competitor because technology and the information they can harvest. The NSA is under the control of technocratic trans-humanist types. Edwin Bowden’s revelations did not harm the NSA.

Phase 3 the Plimpton Foundation emails would have dealt a huge blow to the old power structure which is why they prevented the release of the emails at all costs. If there was any question about Paddy’s safety he would immediately appear at the balcony window to the public. He would not want the reputation and credibility of PortalLeaks to be in question.

Again, I want to stress that we are no longer in control of PortalLeaks. I advise whistleblowers to NOT SUBMIT LEAKS since we are not in control of our infrastructure. The people in control of our infrastructure WILL use it to IDENTIFY AND PROSECUTE whistleblowers.

Dimitri looked out beyond the water at the line of colonial buildings along the river’s edge and regaled at its unsung beauty, taking a momentary respite.

“That’s it then,” he said to the flow all around him and below him. “My instinct had been right.” But it was little solace for his injured center-piece. He would have to find where his PortalLeaks’ peeps went. But why would they gather again? To be arrested? And that was when he realized that the real core of his pain was a loss of brotherhood with PortalLeakers and the discussion of intelligent people who thrived on being informed with a trusted source of information.

Dimitri walked to his home on Tonlé Lake, found Annalore and sought solace, finding a warm, beating heart still unsullied by the whirlwinds all around him.

Chapter 47

Little Dickie


Hicks read the post on the Twitter feed written by some Icelandic Viking lunatic, but the entry was legitimate. Someone had cut-and-paste a comment from a thread on 4chan from the directory portalleaks/VUaDxRwfG. From what he could see, this guy had just signed his own death warrant. Who were these guys? Why did they always think they were above the law? So many hackers had hacked just to prove they could do it knowing full well that their trail left traces to a smart systems-analyst. There was always a log and they knew that, unless they were after fame.

Rusty Hicks enjoyed wearing his t-shirt because he could now see under his eye both tattoos that had a pleasant balance to their placement.

“Gryphon, what is your analysis of its authenticity?” Colonel Braithwaite’s use of his new call-name reinforced his belief that he had been accepted by the big boys and well on his way to serious promotion within the ranks.

“Legit colonel. From Higgy in Iceland. Gag order didn’t work.”

“This is a very bad thing.”

“Couldn’t be helped. 4chan is still a haven for those guys. They culminate there sir.”

“Well then I think he needs culminating, don’t you think soldier?” Some people don’t see opportunities that could change a life forever but Rusty Hicks saw it plain as day, the words ringing down a corridor of a distant Valhalla he thought he could faintly hear.

“Damn right colonel. Operation Culmination in play upon your word.”

“Well then consider the word granted Dickie.” Hicks was fazed for a moment, not sure of what the colonel had said.

“Yes sir.” His doubt came through in his reply.

“Just make sure I don’t hear anything else about it, understand Little Dickie?” And just like that Rusty-Hicks-once-Gryphon-now-Little-Dickie had a somewhat muted celebration. He glanced at the growing red area on his griffin tattoo right where Martin had touched the open skin the day after he got his ink, right near the unplanned elongated knee.

Chapter 48

A Chicken Crossing the Road


Dusty watched the little red dot move from near Ibarra towards Quito, like a video game based on live GPS. His only fear was that the little magnetic transponder that he had attached at the motorcycle-sidecar would stick. They could easily be knocked by a loose leg, especially with a dog passenger. He enlarged the satellite imagery of Quito and now saw the motorcycle parked close to the big cathedral in the old town at a place labeled el Mercado negro. His Spanish was good enough to translate and he knew what his HACKSUB was up to. And he now knew the source of where his HACKSUB had found his laptop. Poor bloody tourists. When will they ever learn? He rubbed his raw scalp, the blisters still weeping, at times dripping into his ear. Fuck. He was going incognito again. He checked the Twitter feed and there was nothing posted from Nat Wierzbiki’s Twitter account. Fuck. What he was noticing was that he had developed a bit of a respect for his HACKSUB’S dedication to his canine unit. It was admirable from many perspectives. For Dusty Pearce it was the loyalty he was showing. Exceptional. This without a doubt was from the respect he had for the hippie for having the testes to find a motorcycle and sidecar and pick up his dog. Clever initiative. And to think he rode all that way in his Birkenstock sandals! That was one I had to report to the boys. They’ll dig that.

Dusty Pearce saw that it was a wise move to reconsider the value of the op if the hippie was going to play ball in this manner. He granted him a fresh mulligan and that was it. He closed his laptop and rode to Quito, hitting the road and opening up his mind to his possible next move. He debated thus: With this latest report from 4chan, this guy’s busted. But with HACKSUB’s new mulligan, only the Icelandic dickweed is in play. International coalition’s use of Greywater alleviates any one country of blame. Deal almost done? Fuck, Rockett is a loose God Damn canon. Is he up for it or has he pissed off the Bilderberg peeps? Fuck. Monitoring of 4chan successful. They know but what the fuck are they gonna do?

Let the flies get caught in the web.

His tires hugged the pavement, the waterfalls more and more throwing mist onto his lenses, the traffic light and the speed now a nice flow. Then he felt some hate come into his heart. He hated that he would have to end this op, the ride and the vibe in South America. Much cooler op than Venezuela, he thought, shaking his head and then shivering. He stopped for a beat to get his breath, the mountains always pushing against him on his motorcycle, his lungs searching for oxygen that was thinning more and more.

He checked his mobile phone and found a text message from Sally-Anne:

Haven’t seen your friend yet. Wanted to let you know.

Where are you?

Dusty Pearce felt a tremendous reboot to his system, fueled by thoughts of newfound love. He replied thus:

On the road right now. Coming to Quito.

Dinner? My treat?

The Sally-Anne text buoyed his spirits and broke his heart open to the love of the road once again, and the pure joy from freedom. He throttled a little faster, not seeing the cart that was at the intersection behind a roadside shack. One of the chickens in the cart flew off and onto the road, causing Dusty Pearce to swerve. He ran over the chicken bringing his front tire off the pavement. When Dusty landed on the road he thought he would bounce but there was no give and he felt the crack of his elbow upon full force against the road, a strange numb sensation piercing from his elbow down. Then, just when he thought he had skidded to a stop he hit something that caused his head to snap back and strike the cement. He felt the same strange sensation of numbness creep up the back of his skull, the skin against the concrete making a dull thud sound. Lying there he felt sick to his stomach and threw up his breakfast. Dazed and not sure where he was for a moment, he heard the sound of chickens and a voice speaking Spanish.

When he woke up Dusty was in the American hospital in Quito and had no recollection of how he got there. There was no one by his beside but knowing he was on a gurney was enough for Dusty Pearce to relax and let the doctors mend his busted-up body. “Sew me up,” he said but the words were barely audible. He had busted something in his jaw. Or something.

Chapter 49

The End of an Era


The US election was in full stride with many expecting the Democrat Cindy Plimpton to beat Republican Ronald Sumpt. The media was going crazy, which meant there was very little attention given to Paddy Leith’s possible disappearance. Mainstream media had not picked up on anything from 4chan or any conspiracy theories unproven and speculative, which was good for Guillermo, a man working in a fishbowl. Inwardly he was torn apart and resentful for being used as a pawn without being invited in on it, instead leaving him on the sidelines to wait for something that would never come. He would never see Paddy Leith again. The celebrities would stop coming by and the spotlight would wane quickly, drowned out with other new stories and the continued PortalLeaks releases of new emails. Someone was posting links to the PortalLeaks’ archive full of Cindy Plimpton emails still today – every four hours! – since the Deadman’s Switch had been released. This could bring about one of the biggest upsets in world politics: Plimpton might not win this election. And the rebel Ronald Sumpt might get into power.

This would change the course of history without a doubt.

On the outside Paddy was just offline. He had nothing to do but maintain a low profile and let the outside world see his finesse as a diplomat. Guillermo’s new goal was to secure a new job in the new administration after President Rivera’s second term ended in the New Year. This would be the point when the Paddy Leith issue will come to a close. All he needed to do was to keep his mouth shut and keep to the script, being careful to employ his very effective two-word-combo ‘I prefer’ to get him out of tight jams if they arose. Otherwise, his new reliance on Lorazepam to ease his anxiety was working wonders. Gone were his emotional triggers that spurred him on to crack open the bottle to give him that warm blanket he craved, like a small child looking to the cookie jar for comfort and respite. The pill once in the morning and one after lunch got him through his surreal office life, still operating as if the leader of PortalLeaks was still living in the old-converted ladies washroom.

Well, we did everything we could for him. It’s on them to come up with the final act. He swivelled his chair around and marveled at the rare sight of blue sky over London. He was scared of Hicks but he couldn’t help feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel despite an end to an era. He had not strayed from plot thus far. He would land on his feet. He had mastered the art of finesse.

Chapter 50

A Good Little Soldier


Rusty Hicks/Little Dickie spared no cost when he was outfitting his kit for Operation Culmination. Part of him would love just to take an ax and slice the guy open for Valhalla considerations and out of respect for this Icelandic Viking Hacker Higgy, but the practicality of getting his hands on a sword might prove complicated, though it was true it might be easier than other countries in Iceland. Gryphon in Iceland with a battle axe. He researched enough for his purposes and stressed the simplicity of the op. A dart gun was his best option, so the toughest part of it was to smuggle it into the country. For this he purchased a top-end model that could be dismantled, with each part finding a little home in various parts throughout his luggage. He used common items like his shaving cream can to hide the darts. Once through customs and undetected, Hicks reserved a ticket on the next flight to Berlin, where he was sure he could disappear for a few days.

And maybe get some more ink.

In his hotel room he saw that his VIKINGHACKSUB was online at his apartment near a food mart and a park. He followed everything Higgy typed but it was mostly sexual in content. He was constantly amazed at the lewd material on some chat-sites. His headphones remained quiet until the unexpected happened: his VIKINGHACKSUB ordered a pizza.

Great stroke of luck, he thought, knowing immediately this was providence and the right time to act. He pared down to his essential kit, packed everything else away in his bag and left on foot for the apartment, timing his walk to get him there within 30 minutes.

Outside the early season snow was slushy. Most of the sidewalk had been shoveled except for those rebellious few. It took less than five minutes to have two thoroughly wet feet, so he spent the next ten minutes cursing himself for not outfitting proper footwear for the op. Serious shortcoming. He should have worn his black, army-issue military Gortex waterproof numbers. That woulda done it.

Then he was at the address. Glancing at his watch he only had a few minutes left before the pizza would arrive. He rang his number inside and was buzzed up without needing to say anything. Upstairs he had his dart pistol ready, slightly behind his right thigh. A quick knock and then “Pizza!” ushered in the moment of truth. When he heard the lock unlocking he stepped back and raised his arm. One chance. When he swung the door open his saw he had plenty of neck to shoot at. The photos of this Higgy had all been of a wimpy little kid but this guy had been packing on the pounds with pizza. It was the same guy – same stupid eyeglasses – and he felt a slight hint of humor when the dart suddenly appeared on Higgy’s neck, the tail red and fluffy. The VIKINGHACKSUB started to speak but the dose he had put in the dart had been designed to kill aggressively. He stood there for a moment, his hand now covering the little dart, pushing it deeper into the fat of his neck, his jowls now protruding more as he recoiled in reflex.

“Gag order,” he said, thinking it was polite for the Viking to know why his ticket was up. “Valhalla,” he then said, pointing upwards with his finger. He watched Higgy crumple into a heap, the dart still intact and only bleeding slightly. Hicks removed it, wiped the blood away from the entry wound and then left the scene swiftly, feeling an elation he had never felt before.

Justified killing, he thought. Isn’t this called warfare?

But just as he said this, feeling macho, for some reason – perhaps excess swagger – Rusty Hicks ran his finger over the top of the dart to see if it was still wet. For a millisecond the tip of the dart went into his thumb where the skin was supposed to be thick. But Rusty’s fingers were not calloused at all.

Outside he walked briskly, not feeling his wet feet or the chill going down his back. The sweat turned cold quickly in the sudden darkness of an early sunset. He tried to enjoy the moment but he was too worried about the carelessness of how he had picked up the very sharp dart that he was sure was still oozing poison. He still carried it in his fingers not wanting to throw it out too close to the scene of the crime, but Iceland was so clean and there were no nooks or crannies to throw the dart that Hicks became alarmed at the thought the poison could still be in play. He had been too focused on leaving no trace behind. The evidence was now a potential risk for the op.

“Thank God for leather gloves,” he said, but interrupted his stride when he remembered he was wearing his new gloves that had small divots in the leather for better breathability. He instantly flung the dart on the road and crushed it with his heel. He then picked it up but using his utility bandana he brought with him. Just then a woman walked by on the sidewalk watching him.

“It’s okay,” he said, causing him to pick it up with his fingertips and place in his pocket. He waved and continued.

Great, a witness.

But as Hicks walked his feet grew colder and his chill became deeper until he looked at his fingers and saw that they were turning white. His throat was swelling up and was forced to sit down on the curb. He loosened his collar and wiped the sweat from his brow.

There’s no fucking way.

These the last words that went through his mind. He was found five minutes later by a passing car. The report of his death in Iceland went through the proper channels and was never released to the public due to expected troubleshooting from Braithwaite’s back-up team. When the colonel heard of Little Gryphon Dick’s death, he thought to himself that he had been right: the guy hadn’t had the grit and poise required in the world of shadowed extremism. But Braithwaite gave the soldier a nod of respect. He was a good little soldier.

Chapter 51

Tweaking the Matrix


The US military was understandably worried about being caught holding the hot potato so now that they had ensured his under-the-radar extraction they were eager to offload him to some trusted men in the private sector who were trained for prisoner maintenance and re-identification. Rockett Man understood how the game worked. All he needed was the word and the Leith package could be delivered. Despite logistical challenges, the solution ended up being rather simple, and he credited it with the laidback methods of the soldiers at Greywater. Character dictated their policies. And it worked. The best way to illustrate that was its drug policy: it was up to the individual. End of discussion, based on the Dutch philosophy of their Amsterdam red-light district.

Very civilized.

The news of Dusty’s spill was upsetting for Rockett Man and his men because head injuries could be tricky. A few of the boys had spoken of it, saying things were still up in the air. A skull fracture was a major casualty. The boys were pretty chuffed to hear a certain ‘Sally-Anne’ had appeared at Dusty’s bedside in Quito. A lot of brownie points. Dusty was one of the many ex-servicemen who worked closely with US military officials and private contractors, liaising closely and sharing information. Very much unlike PortalLeaks, Greywater needed to be partial and secretive, which made it the ideal target for Paddy Leith and his gang of hackers. He knew that with the revenue of young Greywater, Rockett, John Wayne and Dusty – the seniors in Greywater – could get out of the danger racket full time. Rockett saw himself on his boat, spending his days fishing in the Gulf of Siam. But Rockett Man still felt unease because anything could go wrong. Diligence was required of his team and so he and Sully had flown to Guam to make sure.

He was finishing his perimeter check of the Greywater safe house near Santa Rita when his phone rang.

“Yes. Greywater here.” There was a wryness Massey Mathers liked to hear.

“Calling to determine fate of said Leith package,” he said, grinning into the phone. The 80-year old had a tumbler of his best single malt open for the occasion.

“Said Leith package available upon request. Status positive and in play. I repeat: in play.” The words seem scripted but both of the men were impelled to follow the script for fear of complicating the immensity of the transaction. “Just waiting for the word for phase two, the second and final phase.”

“The word is given.” And Massey Mathers hung up. One more thing off his list. Pesky little bugger. But the Greys say he gets a pass so I oblige. Everyone has a boss.

Captain Rockett entered the old house and spoke to John Wayne.

“Duke, it’s time.” John Wayne eyes began to twinkle. He saw the dollar bills in them. “Parcel set to leave for Leith. We strike now. No reason to delay. Let’s do this cleanly. Everyone into position. Time to muster!”

John Wayne led Sully into the room where Paddy Leith was having a nap. They woke him.

“Time to put on that hat. Now, what did I say to you when I first met you?” Paddy Leith was groggy with sleep and not happy about being woken up.

“Forgive me John Wayne but I cannot remember what you said,” but then he raised his finger. “Yes, you said to stay cool.”

“That’s right dickweed. It’s time to stay cool again. Get your gear and muster. You have one minute.” Sully secured the room and made sure nothing was left behind. Packed and wearing the hat that covered his butchered hair, Paddy Leith piled into the car with a stiff upper lip thinking the worst. His imagination had been over-active and his sleeplessness was killing him. They drove down to the docks at Apra Harbor where they found a tucked-away parking spot by the marina.

“Follow me and be cool. We’re going to a boat. Take a deep breath and chill.” And then they opened the doors into the heat of Guam, Rockett and John Wayne leading the way followed by Paddy and Sully. They both watched how John Wayne was really walking like the real John Wayne. He even wore the cowboy boots.

The sailboat was over forty feet long and was all prepped to go. A man with sandy hair was waiting for them when they boarded.

“Those boots will not do. Please adjust,” he said to John Wayne, but allowed him to board his boat: The Due Hicky. He scowled at Paddy and Sully, who returned the glare to the captain.

“Sully, you behave now. My boat. My rules.”

“Yes captain!”

“Smart Alec. And you,” he said, grabbing Paddy Leith by the shoulder.


“You do what I tell you now. Everyone on this ship is under my authority. Roger that son?” He squinted and showed a gold tooth.

“Yes captain.”

“Good, now your bunk is the one on the right. Just try to relax and not cause trouble.” And as Paddy Leith was putting his bag on his bunk he felt the boat moving. He stopped what he was doing for a moment and felt the unmistakable pull of the sail take flight above the hum of the little outboard motor.

“Where could we possibly be going?” he said allowed.

“That’s the final question, isn’t it?” said John Wayne behind him.

Startled, Paddy apologized for talking to himself.

“No, no. I think people do it a lot more than they think.”

“Well, I’m still cool and don’t have a problem with remaining cool so you can strike that from your worry list.” John Wayne smiled at his skinny little hacker punk-ass.

“Okay HACKSUB, this is what has unfolded. You are too hot a potato for the US or UK Armed Forces to keep – or any country per se – so you’ve been handed off to us: Greywater, a private security company. So now you are our package we’re delivering you to a destination in Cambodia where we will then release you back into the wild. This I think has been done because someone very powerful with deep pockets thinks you’re more valuable alive than dead. Why kill a butterfly? But you’re not out of the woods yet. First we begin with plastic surgery during our three-month voyage that you have 100-percent control over. Understood? But your new face must reach a level of unrecognizability that cannot be undone.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, this is all serious shit, you dig? Surgery or death – up to you.” John Wayne suddenly took pity on the guy, who was slouched over and defeated. “What? No, don’t look at it that way. You’re free and I’m sure in store for some under-the-radar consulting. And fuck Paddy, you get to design your new face. Lighten up.” And that’s how it was for PortalLeaks founder and undisputed leader, hero to a generation and the bane of many powerful countries for nearly a decade. Now he would re-invent himself after redesigning his own hardware and signing a gag order. He had one mulligan, and if he screwed with that he might get the dreaded red dart.


Paddy Leith endured three months of sailing and very dubious surgeries on water at the hand of the captain, who was also a semi-trained ‘surgeon.’ Paddy opted for a pointy, elongated nose with a more pronounced bridge that he coupled with several very painful skin grafts of his hair planted onto his upper lip. He had his eyelids raised too, which left the most bizarre look on his face. Disgruntled he was now forced to make one final choice regarding his chin. Here there was no doubt he was not going to have any taken off. Perhaps as a reaction to his sense of personal violation and his strong dislike for the captain, he chose to go for the extra-large chin implant despite what could be regarded as a warning by John Wayne. The captain then proceeded to put everything but the kitchen sink on that chin implant, leaving Paddy Leith absolutely and without a doubt unrecognizable. In this new permanent guise he became Crawford Stiles, citizen of Canada with permanent citizenship in Cambodia, where he chose to live after he was released by the Greywater staff. Crawford Stiles hung out with Dimitri regularly but he never knew his true identity. The end of the Paddy Leith’s ‘proof-of-life’ campaign was ultimately quelled when Paddy gave an interview with FCM17 Beirut over the phone on November 26th, 2016, where Paddy was heard referring to Fidel Castro’s recent death. PortalLeaks went on publishing as more or less a mainstream source of trusted information. Paddy Leith/Crawford Stiles still spends time online, usually not hacking. He elected to keep his bushy moustache dyed blonde.

Dusty Pearce recovered sufficiently to resume normal functionality but his right arm never worked again without the pain of torn tendons and the scar tissue that it left. His blow to the head left him with headaches of unbelievable intensity but his mind soon regained its unique flavor with Dusty Pearce now rich from a successful Greywater year of business that he chose to go into semi-retirement in Bahia de Caraquez in the same apartment that Gunther the hippie had stayed when he was there. He was never again able to ride a motorcycle, but he and Sally-Anne made a wonderful life for themselves on the coast. Neither of them ever got dengue fever.

Guillermo was retained in the new government and was posted to South Africa where he now has a serious marijuana addiction. He eventually was taken by Grey aliens for more tests during which time he was convinced he saw several part-human, part-alien offspring on the spaceship that looked almost identical to himself.

John Wayne still operated from the Greywater headquarters, turning the ranch into his own personal domain. He became the sole owner of Greywater and is still said to have the final say despite operating from the sidelines. He still keeps tabs on his HACKSUB, and has never once gone fishing.

Rockett Man fell victim to malaria and then an infection in his toe. He lost the bottom half of his right leg but it had no impact on his spirit. He swears more than ever. He occasionally dropped by to visit Gunther the hippie in South America because he still had respect for the Greywater man. And Rockett Man could use his motorcycle and sidecar any time he wanted.

Gunther remained diligent keeping away from trouble and never again tweeting another Nat Wierzbicki tweet to Nat McBean. His Twitter posts of links to the PortalLeaks’ archive to Cindy Plimpton’s stash of private emails led directly to her defeat to the new President Ronald Sumpt. He never saw Paddy Leith/Crawford Stiles ever again. Gunther remained in South America, eventually settling in Florianopolis southern Brazil where he found a woman and married only weeks after his beloved Chaucer passed away from old age.

Chaucer, who was 18 years old when she died, went blind at age 10, spending the next eight years right beside her master’s side. Throughout these 18 years Gunther was visited by Rockett Man, wherever he happened to be living.

Tori Finger was last heard from while digging for a PortalLeaks news story in Cambodia. After some months of searching, they never found her body. Many suspected active Khmer Rouge elements still active in the northeast.

Martin quit coke and sold his 29-acre estate to start his own tattoo shop in Quito. Gunther was one of his first clients.

Dimitri stayed on in Cambodia, never realizing that those PortalLeakers he wondered about would go to Cambodia and other countries in Southeast Asia to get off the grid and stay under the radar, and out of reach of those who operate in the shadows. Dimitri married Annalore and Paddy Leith/Crawford Stiles was the best man.

Editor’s Note

*** Many more events and incidents unfolded over the next four-to-six weeks that further suggested Paddy Leith had been kidnapped. In the first week following this above account, Paddy Leith was reported to have sat down with Swedish prosecutors who asked questions regarding his case of throwing the hot dog. This interview was done without Paddy Leith’s lawyer present, and reports immediately said there were “irregularities” with the meeting. “Transcripts” of the meeting were to be sent to Sweden. This is still the current state of play at the time of this Editor’s Note (December 12, 2016). A few weeks after the visit with prosecutors, Twitter, for the first time ever, suspended Twitter accounts of anyone they considered tweeting offensive content. The well-known actor @TheRealJamesHoods retired from his very robust Twitter career in protest. He is still offline at the time of this writing as well.

Many dozens of new websites have appeared over the last two months since the coup on October 15th, all rehashing and re-wording old reports about Paddy Leith. The effect of this has been that Paddy remained in the news but with nothing new added to the discussion. Some reports had recent quotations but the wording was clearly not in the same unique tongue of Paddy Leith. In this flurry of misdirection and cloudiness, PortalLeaks tweets have continued to have a mainstream feel to them, the account now acting as if they are an authoritative voice in today’s alt-mainstream news media.

No serious damaging leaks have come since October 15th.

Paddy Leith has not been seen since then too; only his kitty has appeared in the window. Republican candidate Ronald Sumpt won the US election, with many believing PortalLeaks’ publishing activities negatively affected Cindy Plimpton’s campaign. The #WhereIsPaddy thread in Twitter was deleted about ten days ago. Also, old damaging tweets with links to the PortalLeaks active archive have been slowly and incrementally removed. Edwin Bowden saw the shadow players moving into position in August so they are in position to monitor metadata. Most of the summaries and minute details of what happened during the last two months has already been erased, as the author predicted. So the editor publishes this work with concern over his safety.

How many more will be removed from the equation who only seek the truth?

Editor’s Note (Addendum)

In July of 2022, Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell alleged that “140 million times information didn’t reach the American people” because of 172 acts of censorship alone that the organization confirmed during the first three months of 2022.” This new age of information censorship began with the events described above.


Thank you for taking the time to read my novel PortalLeaks. Further to this work is the fictional memoir The Leaking Hourglass. I hope there is some inspiration gained from the words uttered here.

About the Author

Peter Higgins was born in Vancouver but grew up in Toronto, graduating from Queen’s University in 1990 and then with a master’s degree from the University of Hong Kong in 2004. Mr. Higgins worked as a professional writer in Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong for ten years before he returned to Canada to write. He currently lives with his family on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada.