Behind the Curtain
This story in a part of a series. If you haven't been following, the stories go in this order:
Supply and Demand
After the Wall
Brothers in Arms
Behind the Curtain
This story series will complete soon with 'Atlas'
Carmichael brushed a speck of ash off the perfectly pressed leg of his trousers and tapped his cigarette into a heavy glass ashtray. He picked up a china cup, savouring the jasmine scented steam before taking a sip. The winter sunlight shone cold upon his manicured garden, but his study was warm, the open fire crackling behind him. He turned over the page of the document he was reading then looked up as his secretary knocked on his half open door.
"Yes Julia, what is it?" He watched her walk across the room, admiring the curve of her legs.
"You asked me to notify you if anyone from Phoenix Foundation overlapped with any of your business engagements, Sir." Julia stopped in front of Carmichaels desk, trying not to breathe in the cloud of smoke around him.
"Ah yes," Carmichael sat back, setting his papers to one side.
"Representatives from Phoenix will be attending the Wellforce Remote Areas Vaccine Project launch party on Friday, Sir." Julia watched Carmichael grind out his cigarette into the overflowing ashtray. "Shall I confirm that you will not be attending?"
"Yes," Carmichael took off his reading glasses and polished them on his handkerchief, "I think remaining anonymous would be better… for now."
"No way," Seeley took the pin out of Freddie Hawkins photo and laid it on the desk, "If brains were dynamite, Hawkins couldn't blow his own nose."
"Harsh, but true," MacGyver frowned at the remaining photographs, "I've never seen him as the brains of the outfit either, who's next?"
"Gunter Schmidt," Seeley folded his arms and stared at the photo, "He's smart, has all the connections, and none of the morals."
"Except that he was trying to bring Atlas down." MacGyver took down Gunter's photo, placing it next to Hawkins.
"Or so he said…" Seeley frowned.
"It's not him," MacGyver shook his head, "And, like Hawkins, he's now dead and Atlas is carrying on just fine."
"True," Seeley indicated the next photo, "And our next contestant is?"
"Aloysius Caesar Jones, also known as Sundance." MacGyver chuckled, "You should have seen his face when me and Billy cornered him making the worst assassination attempt I've ever seen." He shook his head, "No, Sundance is strictly small time, and he's currently behind bars. He tried to scare me with a story about his bosses but so far as I know, we haven't been able to track who he's been working for."
"Hmm." Seeley took a swig of his coffee. "That bothers me, we should have been able to pick up on a greasy gangster's greasier boss with no trouble. Let's come back to him." He reached for a post-it note, wrote 'Sundance's bosses' on it and stuck it to the photo.
"OK. Next on the hit list are Wellforce's Dr Gregory and our very own Marcus Davidson, devotee of dirty money." MacGyver took a sip of his own drink, frowning at Davidson.
"Both pretty classy guys." Seeley rubbed his chin, "But Gregory's doing his time upstate, so he's no longer involved, Davidson on the other hand…" He shrugged.
"Let's leave him up too," MacGyver took down Gregory, leaving Davidson next to Sundance. "Who's left?"
"Steve's CO, Command Sergeant Major Wilkes and Camp Parks." Seeley raised his mug again, but found it empty. "I'm inclined to think they were used as pawns too, but we did find that name in the files." He frowned, "What was it again?"
"Carmichael." MacGyver wrote the name on a piece of paper and pinned it to the board. "Ring any bells for you?"
"Not so far." Seeley picked up his mug and headed for the break room. "But we can keep looking, right?"
"Right." Mac folded his arms and tried to work out what would link these people together.
"Have I mentioned how much I hate wearing a tie?" Mac pulled at his collar, more uncomfortable with the tie than with the heat in the room.
"Six times so far," Nikki murmured, smiling at a passing dignitary. "You look good, Mac."
"Thanks," MacGyver tweaked the tie once more and gave up. Catching sight of himself in the mirror, he decided that while the black suit and ponytail made him look and feel like an off-duty bouncer, Nikki looked stunning in her emerald green cocktail dress. He smiled politely at another diamond wearing matron, whose gaze lingered on him for just a little too long. "How much longer?"
"Just the final speeches." Nikki took a glass of sparkling wine off the nearest tray, "And the public thank you to our shyest benefactor."
"Yeah." Mac frowned. "Who would know who Wellforce's anonymous donation actually came from?"
"Wellforce directors, I guess," Nikki shrugged. "Maybe Pete, as a Phoenix director, but not necessarily."
"Unless he or she has contributed to other Phoenix projects…" Mac turned as Dr Ortega started her speech, deciding he would try to find out.
"Why are you so hung up on this?" Seeley looked at MacGyver around the monitor, looking at the untidy stacks of paper and half-finished gadgets on Mac's desk with distaste.
"Whoever it is, they've bankrolled the project that we can link to Atlas." MacGyver dumped an oscilloscope and a length of cable on his desk and pulled a wad of folders out of the drawer. "If they bankrolled Wellforce for this, they've got the money to fund other projects."
"Ask Pete?" Seeley caught a sliding stack of papers before they could spill over on to his desk.
"I did." MacGyver pulled out the Wellforce report, shoving the rest of the folders haphazardly back into the drawer. "He said he didn't know, but he'd try to find out."
"Ok," Seeley pushed the papers back, steadying the heap. He turned around, seeing that MacGyver had added a piece of paper with a question mark to the notice board in the middle of the photo.
"MacGyver?" Come in a minute, would you?" Pete heard MacGyver pause outside his office, turn and walk in through his door.
"Pete, I'll never know how you do that!" The light in the room brightened again as MacGyver sat down and Pete smiled at the blurred outline of the man before him.
"Wouldn't do to tell you all my secrets, would it?" Pete heard MacGyver chuckle.
"I guess not. What can I do for you Pete?" MacGyver watched Pete fold his hands on his desk, looking down.
"I was able to find out the name of Wellforce's anonymous benefactor, but he's really very serious about staying out of the limelight." Pete unlaced his fingers and looked up. "If I tell you who he is, and his name gets out, it would seriously jeopardise our relationship with him. What do you need his name for?"
"Ok." MacGyver leaned back in his chair, hooked his foot over his knee and drummed his fingers on the side of his sneaker. "That's kind of complicated. I'm trying to work out who might be running Atlas, and I can't follow the link back from Wellforce without knowing who was involved."
"Ah." Pete nodded. "Of course, but I can't imagine this man being involved in anything bad, let alone anything as evil at Atlas." He shook his head. "This is a truly good man, MacGyver, he's inherited a fortune and built several more with skill and hard work, and then ploughed most of it back into worthy causes. Of all the people I can think of who'd have the money to fund something like Atlas, this man is the last one I'd consider."
"Ok, Pete." MacGyver held up his hands." He's one of the good guys, I get it. Could you tell me his name anyway, if only so I can rule him out?"
"You won't tell anyone else?" Pete frowned. "I trust Seeley as much as I trust you, but there is absolute need for secrecy here."
"Understood." Mac nodded. "We won't tell anyone."
"Wellforce's benefactor is Mr Carmichael." Pete frowned as he heard Mac's started movement. "What is it?"
"Uh, Pete?" MacGyver ran his hand through his hair, "We may have a problem."
"So, how'd he take it?" Seeley put down the report he'd been holding and looked across at MacGyver.
"About as well as you'd expect," MacGyver sat back in his chair, "But once he'd calmed down, he did say that if we could find some evidence of wrongdoing, he'd be prepared to listen."
"Uh huh," Seeley drummed his fingers on the desk, "Any idea what he'd consider valid evidence?"
"We'll pretty much need the smoking gun!" Mac shook his head, "He's got a lot of respect for Carmichael. Also, he said to tread carefully, we're poking around in a political minefield here."
"I'll bring my velvet gloves…" Seeley waggled his fingers and returned to his report.
MacGyver frowned at the noticeboard, deciding that he should probably take Carmichael's name down before Pete's spider sense told him it was up there. He replaced it with a note that just read 'C', putting it in the middle and arranging the other photos around it. Then he shuffled through the papers on his desk, pulling out Wellforce's Dr Gregory and pinning him back to the board. He sat down again, trying to work out how the others would be linked to the mysterious benefactor.
"Seeley, do you still have friends in the FBI?" MacGyver scratched his head. "I'm struggling for a place to start here and I wondered if you know anyone who could do a little digging?"
"Maybe." Seeley took out his phone. "What do you want to know?"
"Just if the name Carmichael flags up anything." MacGyver shrugged, watching Seeley nod.
"Ok, I'll see what I can do." He pointed the phone at MacGyver, "I'm not guaranteeing the information will come for free, favour for favour is how it works, you ok with that?"
"I'll chance it," Mac nodded.
"Ok then." Seeley rose and went outside, typing a number and putting the phone to his ear.
The late afternoon sunlight slanted through MacGyvers office window, warming his back. He rubbed his eyes, tired after searching all day, stretching the kinks out of his back. Seeley had gone home, his FBI contact having assured him she would get back to him tomorrow with any information she could find. At first glance, Carmichael seemed to be an outstanding philanthropist. He'd contributed generously to humanitarian efforts and medical research in both the USA and abroad. Famine relief, education, disaster aid and medicines for a number of notable diseases had all benefitted from his largesse and he seemed to have a particular interest in vaccines and the prevention of epidemics. Deciding he was too tired to make sense of it today, Mac shut down his computer and left for home.