Chapter 41 – Press Conference

Press Conference – New York City, NYC

The director had been quiet after the exchange of information about the code, but I had been very economic with the truth and my sixth sense was telling me that he knew that I was holding back. He said that the agency would use every resource to fulfil my request and would call again after the Press Conference which was due to be broadcast from a media facility in Downtown New York with links to the Mayor’s Office.

New York was waking up after the Christmas Day festivities, but the clock was ticking, and it was almost 07:00am and there was frantic activity around the conference area which had an air of excited anticipation. Something big was going down judging by the number of powerful people attending, together with the unusual number of law enforcement agencies, senior politicians and news hounds. The media networks were ready to both record and broadcast the proceedings and a hush descended as several stony-faced individuals appeared from a side entrance.

We watched the start of Press Conference in the control room across several news channels on different screens, which enabled us to get a real flavour of what was going on and just sometimes we could get little bits of information on one of the channels that was missed on another. We all watched with professional diligence as the show started and the drama enfolded because, we had to know for certain if we, that we of course being the agency, had been implicated in any way with what had happened in Los Angeles and anything else that had happened since then.

A senior figure dressed in the official Government uniform of black suit, black tie and white shirt emerged from the front of the group and stood commandingly at the podium and raised his hands, palms facing the audience, into the air above the regulation cropped hair and sour face expression and calmly asked for some quiet and with a flick of the left forefinger, he turned the mic on.

He addressed the audience and introduced himself as Cormack Walsh, head of the International Liaison Agency, and welcomed all those attending and wished them all a very happy Christmas. He carried on in a very sombre tone and indicated that this was both a very stressful and fearful time for family members, friends and colleagues of the young girls and that audience members should both respect their privacy and address their concerns and any possible information towards the appropriate personnel scattered around the auditorium.

He continued in the same sombre tone and told the audience that there were serious concerns as to the whereabouts and safety of the 4 young women who were in the USA on a winter break to attend a Science Fair in Los Angeles, CA. It was a specialist science fair, dedicated to attract some of the brightest minds on the planet and as such attendance to the event was strictly by invitation only, it was indeed a very unique and exclusive event. There were company representatives and recruitment specialists from around the world and included came from the top international Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Corporations, together with expert Military and Government Agencies.

He had the attention of the audience and no-one spoke or interrupted him as he continued his briefing. He spoke with authority and with an air of someone who did not tolerate fools lightly, a thoroughbred professional. Cormack was also a family man who had been in charge of many unfortunate incidents in the past. That wealth of experience and his compassionate management style gave him an air of invincibility that enabled him to command the most delicate of situations and that authority was needed now more than ever, it was critical to the well-being of the nation. The USA could ill afford the dire consequences of anything happening to these individuals on American soil. It was the day after Christmas and America did not want to wake up to this news because the world was watching, and that world usually wanted America to fail and to fail big time. Cormack was not all prepared to allow that to happen, today, tomorrow, or ever at all. He would stake his life on it. The cameras followed his movements, the media top brass said nothing, America watched with bated breath as the story unfolded:

He talked briefly about each of the young women as images of them appeared on a giant screen behind the podium:

  • Jessica Hyde-Carrington: From Richmond, England, a wealthy family whose interests included industrial machinery and robotic systems. Studying Psychology and Mathematics.
  • Isabella Fiorentini: From Oxford, England, family originated from Bologna the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy, a wealthy family of Industrialists and Scientists. Studying Artificial Intelligence and Biology.
  • Sakura Kuranosuke: From Kyoto, Japan, a wealthy family of Industrialists who controlled major corporations in electronics and computers. Studying Computational Evolution and Psychology.
  • Madison Sanders: From Boston, MA, a wealthy and powerful family of Industrialists and Politicians controlling major corporations in manufacturing and energy. Studying Chaos Theory and Computational Relativity.

He gave an insight into a world where money was a doorway to power, but the young still needed to be individuals, fight authority and be themselves and explained why Jessica and Isabella had been staying in a modest hotel in Downtown L.A. He did not explain further that they were in fact staying at a sleep-pod hostel and shared a large dormitory styled room with other women visitors from around the world. The girls had the wits, the balls and the inbuilt lust for life to do what every other kid in the world wanted to do and defy their parental control and do some living kid-style!

The appropriate agencies had been very fortunate to acquire access to CCTV footage within a mile radius of Downtown L.A. and were hoping to get access to footage along the I-110. Every available agent from every known law enforcement agency across the state had been called in, America simply could not fuck this up, not today or tomorrow or anytime soon!

The audience was building an empathy with both Cormack and the young girls as more images flashed across the screens around the Press Auditorium. There were images from Wendy’s which showed the girls having fun in a typical American burger house, with them ordering the famous American meal combo which included an S’Awesome Bacon Cheeseburger and a Dave’s Double, both with large fries, a large Peach Lemonade and a large Fanta and of course, and then on further with the girls having fun with some of the locals and just doing some fun selfies. The images showed 3 women in the restaurant and every effort was being made to identify the other woman who would be shown again in the next location.

The audience was transfixed and concentrating on the screens as more images flashed up from a popular Downtown Tequila Bar that was simply bursting with music both inside and outside and bouncing with well-dressed locals who were out for a good time Saturday night. The images showed 2 other young women who were not known to the law enforcement or other agencies who were buying what appeared to be rounds of drinks and showed the English girls drinking several shots of what appeared to be Tequila.

At this point Cormack, again addressed the spellbound audience with further facts and speculation as the next set of images showed a limo stopping and waiting beneath a canopy that was reserved for entrance for the Spire 73 which had an open air sky high rooftop bar on the 73rd story of the Intercontinental Hotel and specialized in craft cocktails. The next few images were difficult for the audience to follow as the cameras that were monitoring the street level entrance of Spire 73 were blurred, but it was still possible to watch the most important aspects, as there were clearly 4 people who got out of the limo and then only a few minutes later 6 people got in it.

Cormack explained further that those images were the last visual contact of the limo which they suspected at this point to be heading towards the I-110.

He then introduced the CEO of CT Manufacturing Systems whose corporation was paying the bursaries and private tuition fees of these young women and had made generous grants to establish a first class world leading faculty attached to MIT to facilitate the expansion and development of innovative AI Programs.

He expanded further by saying that the young women had been selected along with other exceptional young minds to work with an exclusive group of scientists and academics over the Christmas period. This may have seen unusual and very demanding on the young women, but it was unfortunately the only window that was available for both the young women and the necessary world experts to work together on the same highly secretive project at the same time.

The project would involve creating an innovative learning program that would collaborate with specialist Universities in the fields of Psychology and Robotics that the USA had to develop to not only maintain the ability to manufacture world class consumer products but to enable the defence industry to ensure the status of the U.S. military as being the most dominant global force and would ensure the security of the USA for generations to come.

Cormack moved aside to allow the CEO to take the podium and address the silent, respectful and captivated audience. He did not say a whole lot to those enquiring minds but expanded on the fact that the young women were some of the brightest minds and that the corporation had been proud to offer the resources that guaranteed them very expensive specialist and dedicated learning programs. Furthermore, and in hindsight he could not see what possible measures the corporation could have taken to guarantee their safety and security 24hrs a day. They were in America which was supposedly the land of the free and neither the Government nor U.S. Corporations could or should chaperone the nation’s brightest minds for their entire lives.

He continued by saying that the corporation had no intention of washing their hands of any responsibility, far from it, they would endeavour to make available any of their vast resources that could facilitate the best possible chance of their safe return. They could not however make guarantees on their return because life did not work that way, but the corporation would make available every possible resource that could assist Mr Walsh and his colleagues. At that point he made an important announcement that his corporation would offer a reward of $1m for information that could lead to the safe return of these women. That reward would of course be conducted under the supervision of Mr Walsh and the appropriate agencies. He thanked the audience for listening and gave control of the press conference back to Cormack.

Cormack then proceeded to thank the CEO on behalf of the unfortunate families and made the usual formal announcements before closing the conference. He did not allow any time for questions or otherwise and headed for the meeting room where the families and their legal delegations were waiting.

We were silent in the control room as the news channels turned their attention to other major headlines. The guys ordered drinks and snacks online while I stood outside the vehicle. I desperately needed the comfort of a cigarette and time to contemplate and reflect on what we had just witnessed. We had until now only limited knowledge about the type of women we were tracking and the scale of the people who would be chasing them.

I closed my eyes and sucked long and hard on the cigarette and allowed the chemicals to do their worst, when a thought hit me and I nearly chocked as I coughed and spluttered getting my breath back. I was then quickly in-front of the news screen, telling a perplexed Alex to rewind the ending of the press conference and that meant immediately. A few seconds later I was concentrating on Cormack as he thanked the CEO of CT Manufacturing Systems and told Alex to hold it there and magnify the image. At the time I had wondered why Cormack had not mentioned the CEO by name and my brain had acted accordingly.

It was the name tag that was hanging from his neck over the lapels of his suit that a little corner of my highly and expensively trained brain had focussed on. Above the photograph was the name and my heart missed a beat. I, just like most of my associates did not believe in coincidences, and now today I was seriously hoping that a door was opening somewhere because that name was a very unusual name, and one that I was never expecting to see or hear of again.

I called the director who was already on the case with my last request and he seemed a little bewildered and concerned that we were stretching the agency resources a little too thinly. But I told him that I had a couple of points that were personal and very relevant to the predicament the agency now found itself knee deep in, and they both demanded immediate and serious attention.

 The first point was, what had the director meant by his comment about finding the paper on my person when they found me? The second point was at that moment an operational priority, and that a request for an immediate and thorough research trawl on Claude Tremblay who had only just appeared on the news channels.

There had been only one other occasion during my time with the agency that I had requested an operational priority and that had not only saved the life of the hostage, but saved the agency from a serious lapse of professionalism and I knew that the director would take the appropriate action.

Could there possibly be a link between Claude Tremblay and Ms Christine Tremblay who had disappeared all those years ago while she had been a teacher at a private boarding school which had been located a few miles outside of Augusta, the capital city of the State of Maine?