The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
“Are you sure?” Jon yelled into his phone.
“Of course I’m sure,” Doug’s little face snarled back.
Jon faced the floor-to-ceiling windows of his hotel room, looking down on the packed streets and shantytowns that marched in regular and irregular blocks towards the horizon. The single light in his room was just beginning to reflect off the mirror effect of glass facing the gathering gloom of dusk. The sky verged from pink to purple across the entire sweep of horizon.
He gently placed the phone on the little table, and paced restlessly.
“Uh, Jon.” The little voice came up spectrally from the phone’s speakers.
“I’m still here, Doug. I’ve got to think.”
“Oh. O.K.” Doug waited, looking up at the featureless ceiling from his office in Geneva.
As Jon wandered around the modern, air-conditioned room, he thought back to the one document his researches had uncovered at Government House that afternoon. He reconciled it with the sparse e-mail on his phone. When he had received it ten minutes ago, he was relieved to see it was from Doug. On opening it, however, he began to get really nervous. The e-mail was short, hardly filling one screen. What was worse, it had no attachments.
Jon came back to the phone, looking down at it and holding the edges of the little round table.
“You found nothing.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. “No press reports. No securities filings. No U.N. spacecraft registrations.”
“Yeah, Jon. Nothing. I looked on EDGAR, SEDAR, and ECSEFS. I covered the Moscow exchange, Japan, Australia, Johannesburg. This company had never filed a securities document in any major jurisdiction. They’ve never made the international press. I can’t speak to the local press, of course.”
Jon made a dismissive gesture. “I don’t care about that. And they’ve never registered a tug?”
“What about any claims stakes?”
“This may surprise you, but I already thought of that. Mining claims in the asteroids are handled from Ceres. I e-mailed them, but I haven’t got a reply yet.”
“When you do, call me. I don’t like the sound of this.”
“Neither did Chan. He’s trying to call the Indian Embassy, but it might have to wait until tomorrow. What did you find?”
“Well, the Orbital Heavy Metals Extraction Company actually exists, at least according to Indian law. They filed a certificate of incorporation about eight years ago.”
“That’s something. What else?”
Jon shook his head, a frown on his face. “There is nothing else. No company filings after the incorporation. No corporate tax return. Nothing.”
Doug gave a familiar whistle. “It’s a phantom company,” he said slowly.
“Yeah, well this phantom company is selling a hell of a lot of units, and everyone who buys in is getting more people to buy.”
Doug stated the obvious. “A pyramid scheme.”
Jon nodded. “The Indian government is going to go crazy over this.”
“Why do you think Chan has Mary trying to get the Indian ambassador’s home number?”
“Yah.” Jon was quiet for a moment, looking down at his friend’s little image on the table.
“What now?” Doug asked.
“I still want to know about any mining claims. Get Chan to get the Indians to grant me record access, all contact points.”
“Got it. What about you?”
“I’ve got one piece of good news. I got a director’s name and corporate office address off of the certificate of incorporation. I’m going down there tomorrow. In the meantime, I think we’d better get Interpol to put out a Red Bulletin on one Jim Nagra.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman