Zhao Jin cast an appraising glance at Mohammad, who moved his food around on his plate and said, “He won’t be a senator for much longer.”

“No,” Zhao Jin answered. “He won’t.”

“He’ll be in the White House soon.”

“It would seem so.”

“He won’t take Lily Bao with him,” added Mohammad.

“Would Kennedy have become president if instead of Jackie he’d married a German? The daughter of Rommel or Guderian? The wounds of America’s last war remain open, and Shriver is too much of a coward to risk his political career for her. Also, there’s something else.”

“What’s that?” the elder James Mohammad asked impatiently.

Zhao Jin volleyed his gaze between them, as if he were weighing whether to share this last bit of information. “The sequence of code on Common Sense. In your reports, you mention concerns that it was stolen from an Okinawa-based researcher you’ve funded, a Dr. Yamamoto.”

“Yes,” said Mohammad. “That’s my concern.”

“Before Lily Bao set off on her own, she worked for the Tandava Group. I assume you’re familiar with them.”

Again, Mohammad nodded.

“Although they’ve divested themselves of the asset, they once had a significant investment in Neutronics, a biotech company. Lily Bao managed that account for the Tandava Group’s founder, Dr. Sandeep Chowdhury. At that time, Neutronics was doing cutting-edge work in nanorobotics, quantum computing, and bioengineering, including early-phase research of remote gene editing under the guidance of Dr. Ray Kurzweil. You’ve heard of him, of course.”

Both nephew and uncle nodded.

“He vanished some years ago after leaving Neutronics,” added Zhao Jin. “It seems the company wanted to turn a profit off his research, while he wanted to go further with it.”

“What does this have to do with my nephew and Lily Bao?” grumbled the elder James Mohammad.

“Truthers in America are agitating for a commission to investigate President Castro’s death,” said Zhao Jin. “Belief is spreading that there was foul play—an assassination. The sequence of code that allegedly killed Castro, the one released on Common Sense, what if that sequence of code wasn’t stolen from Dr. Yamamoto’s lab? What if it came from Neutronics?”

“Can you prove that?” asked Mohammad.

“Do I need to? If Shriver climbs a little higher, to the vice presidency or even higher still, his ties to Lily Bao and Neutronics are leverage we’ll have over him, a way to exercise control. That will give us an invaluable edge over the Americans.”

“So you want to blackmail Shriver?” asked Mohammad.

Zhao Jin scoffed. “That’s such an ugly term, and it won’t be necessary.” He asked if he might share a parable from his country. “Once there was a boy who was trying to figure out how to earn the money for a special toy that he wanted but couldn’t afford. On hearing his predicament, a friend of his at school explained that most adults had at least one deep, dark secret and that this made it very easy to get what you wanted from them by simply stating, ‘I know the whole truth,’ even if you don’t know anything. The boy thought this sounded like it might be a way to get the money he needed out of his parents. That day, when he came home from school, he decided to try out his scheme. He found his mother as she was preparing dinner in the kitchen and gave her a grave look, saying, ‘I know the whole truth!’ His mother quickly reached into her apron and handed him a 1,000-yuan note, saying, ‘Don’t tell your father.’ Pleased that his scheme seemed to work, he waited for his father to get home that evening. Greeting him at the door, the boy said, ‘I know the whole truth!’ His father, glancing from side to side, took out his wallet and pressed 2,000 yuan into the boy’s hand, saying, ‘Not a word to your mother!’ Even more pleased and closer to affording his new toy, the boy thought he would try this trick on a stranger. The next morning, on his way to school, he saw the mailman walking up his front path. He looked the mailman squarely in the eye and said, ‘I know the whole truth!’ The mailman quickly dropped his mailbag, fell to his knees, opened his arms, and exclaimed, ‘Son! Finally! Come give your daddy a hug!’”


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