Chapter 83

The project’s code name was Black Cobra, and the ZOPI Group often mentioned it when they advertised their company to new clients. One of their customers, a renowned bank, had requested them to investigate a large distribution firm. The bank was the greatest shareholder of the distribution company and wanted to confirm the safety of its assets. 

It was John Clark’s first case since joining the ZOPI Group, but to him, fighting against Iraqi soldiers in the Gulf War had been much easier. His rifle was now a pen. He managed to work with accountants that the company had somehow put in his team, but he couldn’t bear what happened after he succeeded in completing the project. 

Although the accountants and group executives praised his achievements, John couldn’t stand the fact that he saved billions of dollars for the company for the paltry, damning remuneration of a few thousand dollars. He was risking his career by using illegal methods, but the reward he got in return was too fucking little. He felt he had been fooled into becoming a civilian investigator for Wall Street while rejecting the private military firms’ offers for recruitment. 

From that day on, he had been waiting for a chance to go solo and was even going to consider trying to enter a private military firm as plan B. However, he had remained on Wall Street for over two years because of the billions of dollars that flew around between the clients. While the money belonged to them, he thought he would be able to earn such wealth one day. Yes, one day…

Two years later, John had met me. I looked young, like Asians tended to be, but I had a bulky physique. I had introduced myself as a trustee from the Cayman Islands. Despite my youthful appearance, I must have seemed formidable to him as I had experienced both Wall Street and the battlefield. That was why John had thought I was his kind at first and envied me. While John had barely managed to enter Wall Street by crawling into the back alley, I was working under a legit billionaire. My firm had spent tens of millions of dollars looking for a single person, which enriched not only the ZOPI Group but also their partner firms.

Of course, John didn’t believe that the child I was looking for was a trustee, but that wasn’t the point. As long as the reason was clear, the group would financially support John as much as it could. While half of Wall Street was dying day by day, the back alleys were having their life. John was shocked that a single person had changed everything. Therefore, he did everything to the best he could to show his capacity to my ‘boss.’ Rich people needed outstanding investigators like him. 

There were two reasons why elite private investigators who had experience in special forces or intelligence agencies would suddenly resign. Either they were hired by a private military firm and left for Africa or Arabia, or they got employed by billionaires like my company. He had to be loyal like a dog in both cases, but earning lots of money was better than keeping his pride. 

Good news had finally come when he met me again. John was determined to gamble and take the chance.

“That’s what happened,” John Clark said.

“I’m fucking grateful for the money, but wouldn’t it be too dangerous?” the muscular man having a drink with him asked. 

“Dangerous…” John mumbled.

The man replied, “You know how that moron Smith died. We’re just consumables to rich people. They dispose of us if we know too much.”

“Weren’t you listening to me?” John questioned.

“Haha, yes. The important thing is the amount. Our standards aren’t too high, so how much is it?” the man asked.

John smiled faintly, and the man knew something big was coming. John was once a squad leader who commanded his team, and, during the Gulf War, seeing him smile always meant something good.

“It’s a blank check,” John said.

The man questioned, “What’s the limit?”

“There’s no limit,” John replied.

“Come on, don’t be cruel and give me the restrictions.”

“Restrictions? It’s meaningless to them as long as we find the guy,” John answered.

The man was astonished. “Whoa! Are their bodies filled up with diamonds instead of protein?” 

John replied idly, “Probably something more expensive than that. I can’t think of anything or anyone that they would spend billions to find. Well, I don’t even want to know. I don’t want to die like Smith.”

“Anyway, there’s more than just looking for the guy, right?” the man asked.

“Yes for now, but the ending is obvious. A beneficiary? No way,” John responded.

“How far will things go?”

“The same as usual. Everyone including the client knows it. We’re pretending we’re searching for a trustee, but know that’s not it,” John said.

“Rich people…So we’ll have to clean up afterward?” the man questioned.

They always had to deal with the aftermath.

“Like always. So?” John answered.

The man comments, “The boy being a minor is the risk.”.

“We’ll start from juvenile prisons, orphanages and gangs,” John responded.

“Oh, he’s a wild one?” 

“He’s definitely not an ordinary one since we couldn’t find him from the other states. The client said the boy has an adult man’s body and that his age was only a number,” John explained.

“I can’t believe that. They splurged on just finding a little kid? How did you stop yourself from asking questions? I’m already so curious.”

John deftly changed the subject, “Are you going to join us?”

“To crawl between the crotch of the rich? What kind of tattoo should I get this time?” 

The man showed his arm, and the Marine Corps tattoo had turned into a dirty scar as if it had been burned.

“You’re still as sarcastic as ever.”

The man smirked at John’s reply.

“Here’s the list of the other guys to recruit.”

John pulled out the files.

“I miss some of them, but I want to kill some of the others,” the man mumbled.

“Call them all. If some have become addicts or seem useless, just give them a few pennies,” John said.

“What about you? No, what about you, sir?”

“I got this much just asking around as a private investigator.”

John took out a notebook with the list of corrupt government officials. He brought it instead of a list of successful elites on Wall Street.

“They've gotten their hands outstretched for bribes, and we’ll start from there,” John said while holding his notebook to his ear.

***

John Clark called me right before I went back to Korea, and told me they had found the First Evil. Searching prisons and detention centers actually worked.

“Hello.”

The four guys were muscular regardless of their size, and they all looked like they had injected steroids to maintain the muscles needed for their jobs. They had trained their physical strength and kept their skills up so that they could defeat people with their bare hands. 

“If we had searched a little earlier, I might have found him before he got out …”

John changed his words hastily as if he had realized his slip of the tongue.

“I was able to find him when he got out of the prison.”

“It’s a good thing that we hired you directly. Do you know where he is?” I asked.

“Brooklyn. My staff are watching him right now,” John replied.

Then, he lowered his voice.

“We can get him now if you say so.”

His eyes turned to his cell phone.

“What were the charges?” I questioned.

“First-degree murder. If the charge is true, he’s dangerous and insane.”

However, he was acquitted and released from custody. John had prepared documents that were only accessible to courts and case officials. I liked that.

“Again, we can get him right now, Ethan. Six of us are there,” John said.

“Tell them to stay away,” I said.

“...Okay.”

“We’ll throw away items that can identify us as individuals including license plates. There should not be a single piece of gear that can be traced back to us. Tell those in Brooklyn to do the same. Also…” 

“Yes,” John nodded.

“Do you have a mask?” I asked.

I boarded their vehicle instead of driving Jonathan’s sedan, which I had been using while I was in New York. Everyone other than John was silent as they sat in the backseat. 

“Where in Brooklyn?” I questioned.

“Brownsville,” John answered.

Brownsville was located southeast of Brooklyn where the African Americans primarily lived, and it was New York’s poorest district.

“Can you get in touch with the guys onsite? Those who can see me right away,” I asked.

“We can…”

“I won’t say it twice from now on. Just answer the question,” I said firmly.

Meanwhile, my heart was racing and my fists were shaking. My voice quivered as I spoke.

“Tell me if you don’t have one. I can call the others.”

John looked at me, and his eyes grew indifferent as he opened his mouth.

“We can.”

He quickly glanced at the men in the back seat. 

“Tell the force that they have to avoid detection and contact with the target at all costs. Give as much money as they want,” I said.

“...Of course,” John replied. 

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