The first thing she discovered was that the beaming smiles he’d bestowed on her earlier were rare. Not that he wasn’t friendly, or kind or warmly disposed towards her. He was all of those things. But his default manner was definitely serious.
Tracy opened with the obvious question. “What are you doing in Geneva?”
Crewe had already explained how he knew about her. Greg Walton had called him a couple of days ago and suggested that they meet. But he hadn’t told her what he was doing here, in Switzerland.
“I’m here for the same reason you are, I imagine,” said Cameron. “Or a related reason anyway. Henry Cranston’s death has serious ramifications in our business. There are certain deals that Cranston Energy have pulled out of, where my company may step in. I flew here to meet with Henry’s partners and discuss terms.”
“No offense,” said Tracy, “but isn’t that a bit vulture-like? I mean, the man has just been murdered. What’s left of him is barely cold.”
Cameron Crewe shrugged, not callously, but in a matter-of-fact way. “It’s business. Henry and I weren’t personal friends. Although to be honest, even if we had been, I would want to move quickly on the Polish deal. Fracking is a very fast-moving sector. If we don’t get in there, believe me Exxon or the Chinese will.”
“It’s what got Henry Cranston killed,” Tracy observed.
Cameron sipped his wine. “Perhaps.”
“Doesn’t that make you nervous?”
“No. Not really. To be honest, Tracy, not many things make me nervous.”
They ordered and ate and talked. The food was exquisite—Tracy’s chicken dopiaza was the best she’d ever tasted, better even than in Delhi—but afterwards it was the conversation that she remembered.
Cameron Crewe was a fascinating man, and not at all what Tracy had expected. In Tracy’s experience, most billionaires were conceited and arrogant men, even the philanthropic ones. But Cameron was neither of those things. Instead he was controlled, a little serious and extremely polite. He could be warm—his smiles, when they came, were like sunlight bursting through clouds. But the main thing that struck Tracy about Cameron Crewe was the haunting sadness in his eyes.
It wasn’t as if he looked upset. Quite the opposite, in fact. He was clearly as engaged and interested in the conversation as Tracy was, especially when they began discussing Group 99, their involvement in Henry Cranston’s death and their apparently changing tactics. The sadness was simply there, a permanent fixture, like a black curtain at the back of a stage set. The actors might be singing or dancing or laughing. But behind them, always, the darkness remained.
Tracy had that same curtain. It had come down first when she lost her mother to suicide. Then again, years later, when she thought Jeff Stevens had betrayed her. With each loss it had turned just a shade darker. Nick’s death had turned it midnight black.
Was it his son’s death that lowered the curtain for Cameron?
Instinctively, Tracy felt a connection with him, a common bond.
The waiter started to pour more of the chilled Chablis, but Cameron politely put a hand on his arm.
“I can do it,” he said. “We need to talk privately.”
“Of course, Mr. Crewe.”
They know him here. Tracy was surprised. But perhaps he came to town often on business? It was the business of expensive restaurants to remember patrons as rich and powerful as Cameron Crewe.
“You asked my thoughts about Group 99,” Cameron said, refilling Tracy’s glass.
Tracy had changed for dinner into a simple black shirtdress and pumps. On another woman the outfit might have looked boring and staid, but on Tracy it was wonderfully elegant, emphasizing her slender arms and smooth, alabaster skin. Her chestnut hair was loose, and she wore a small emerald pendant at the neck that seemed to glow the same green as her eyes. Cameron realized with a start that he was powerfully attracted to her. It had been a long time since he’d felt that for any woman. Too long.
He must be careful.
“To tell you the truth, I’m fascinated by Group 99,” he told her. “In some ways they’re different from any terrorist threat we’ve seen before. Yet in other ways they’re as old as the hills.”
Tracy waited for him to elaborate.
“I mean, on the one hand, their ‘model,’ if you can call it that, is unique. There’s almost no bureaucracy. No official hierarchy or leadership. No barriers to entry. They took a simple idea, and they spread it around the globe. Very quickly and very effectively.”
“And the idea is?”
“That the world is unfair,” Cameron said. “That a system that allows one percent of the population to control well over fifty percent of the world’s wealth and resources is inherently a broken system. It’s tough to argue with that.”
Yes, Tracy thought. It is.
“Group 99 told people that they, the ninety-nine percent, didn’t have to sit back and take it. That people could do something about the injustice. All they needed was a computer screen and a little ingenuity and to stick together. That’s a compelling message. And it worked.”
“And that’s what’s new about them?” Tracy clarified.
Cameron nodded. “That and the technologies. I mean think about it. With a computer these days, the possibilities are just about limitless. Anything with a computerized element can be hacked. Anything. Intelligence agencies. Nuclear weapons systems. Banks. Governments. Armies. Disease control facilities. There are satellites out there, not just predicting weather but affecting it, that are vulnerable to attack. Imagine that.” His eyes lit up. “Being able to control the weather, to harness natural disasters, say, or control the flow of water. What if terrorists could unleash floods or tsunamis? Or spread bubonic plague?”
Tracy frowned. “Come on. That’s a bit sci-fi, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” Cameron raised an eyebrow. “Ask Greg Walton about the CIA’s program on weather terrorism. I’m serious, Tracy. And we aren’t the only ones looking into this. Everyone’s thinking about terrorism 2.0. It was Group 99 that brought that agenda forward, pretty much single-handedly.”
“OK,” Tracy said, nibbling thoughtfully on her poppadum. “So let’s say you’re right. Let’s say all of that is possible, at least theoretically, and Group 99 were on the front lines of that change. Why go back to the old-school stuff? Kidnap. Execution. Car bombings. I mean, if they have all this potential power at their fingertips, isn’t that a retrograde step? Not to mention a major PR blunder. They’ve gone from heroes to villains overnight.”
“Exactly!” Cameron slammed his fist down on the table. The smile was back. “And that’s the paradox. Group 99 are new and different, but they’re also not new at all. Forget tactics for a moment—although that’s important—but let’s look at their motivations. Strip away the Robin Hood, social good, eco-warrior façade and what have you really got? I’ll tell you what. You’ve got envy. And you’ve got anger. And you’ve got testosterone. Young, impotent, dispossessed males, spoiling for a fight.”
“There are plenty of women in Group 99,” Tracy countered. “Just look at Althea.”
Cameron waved a hand dismissively. “She’s one. The only senior woman, as far as we know, in that group. And senior in the loosest sense as they have no central leadership.”
“Even so . . .”
“Even so nothing.” Cameron was firm. “That’s like pointing at Benazir Bhutto and saying ‘Wow, a woman president. Pakistan must be a great place for women’s rights!’ Make no mistake, Tracy. Group 99 is all about men. It’s the same phenomenon you’ll see in just about all terrorism of the last hundred years. Maybe thousand years. Think about it. The Islamists, the IRA, the Basque Separatists, even the Black Panthers. They all hide behind some ideology or other—religious, nationalist, racial, it doesn’t matter. With Group 99 it’s economic. Not important. What they really are, in all these cases, is a bunch of young men at the bottom of the economic ladder. Men who feel powerless and angry. Men who feel they have no future. Maybe they can’t get a job. Maybe they can’t get laid. Doesn’t matter. They aren’t fighting for a cause. Fighting is their cause. They turn to violence because it makes them feel good. Simple as that. I call them the Lost Boys.”
Tracy listened intently, taking all this in.
“If Group 99 were smart they’d play their advantage and stick to cyberattacks. But they aren’t smart. Or at least, the smart elements are having their voices drowned out by the Lost Boys. You know they started in Greece, right?”
“I know,” said Tracy. She was a little surprised by how much Cameron knew. Then again, he was a CIA asset/advisor, just like her. Maybe they’d read the same files?
Does he know about Hunter Drexel, running from his American rescuers? Tracy wondered. Greg Walton had stressed to her that this was top-secret information. She mustn’t assume anything. Still, she wished she knew more about just how close Cameron Crewe and the CIA really were.