No Way to Die
an unsolicited letter of intent from MST, we knew we needed to verify MST through the BIS. I’d already started the process of obtaining what’s referred to as a commodity classification from the BIS for Starfire—it’s the first step in any potential export. We knew that the BIS would have something to say if we found a buyer who was foreign, so we decided to start the registration process early. You have to register the product and then, depending on the commodity classification the product is assigned, its subsequent sale is restricted to approved, legitimate foreign buyers. I say ‘legitimate’ because there are a number of foreign buyers on the ‘denied persons list’ to whom you can’t sell, and also an even larger number on the ‘unverified’ list. You can’t sell certain items to those people, either.”
    He paused and sipped his coffee before continuing. “When the BIS found out that Starfire was a cryptology application, they got very prickly about allowing the company to export it to foreign countries. I think they gave us one of the most restrictive commodity classifications possible—right up there with centrifuges and other nuclear reactor components. We got this just before Christmas last year. Like I said, after we got their letter of intent, we submitted MST as a potential buyer for preliminary approval. The investigations staff at BIS must be very efficient because almost immediately they fired back that Nicholas Madoc was on their unverified list and that it could potentially take as long as a year to get him approved. They also included a friendly little warning reminding us that if we went ahead and sold Starfire to MST without official approval, we could be liable for some very hefty fines and some significant prison time. That made it an easy call. Thomas and I talked it over, and he decided that he didn’t want to sell to MST for two reasons—first, he didn’t want to wait months in the hope that Madoc could get approved; and second, he really didn’t want to sell to a foreign interest anyway. He wanted to sell the technology to a domestic interest—a major defense contractor or perhaps a major high-tech firm.
    “He had me type up a rejection letter to MST along with a copy of the order from BIS stating that we were prohibited from selling to them. I sent it off to MST in mid-January, and we never heard another word from them. One month later, Thomas was dead.” A very serious expression formed on his face. “Do you think this could be related?” he asked.
    I shrugged. “We don’t know. It’s still too early to tell,” I said. “We just started on the case yesterday.” I didn’t know where Ogden’s loyalties were or whom he was talking to, but I wasn’t inclined to open up and let him know everything we were thinking. “As of now, all the physical evidence points pretty conclusively toward the scenario in which Thomas took his own life.”
    He thought about this for a few seconds. “Boy,” he said, “I think that’s bizarre. I worked pretty closely with the guy for over four years, and I never once got the idea that there was any sort of mental instability at all. He seemed like a guy who knew where he was, knew where he wanted to go, and knew how to get there. Sure seems like he was on the way to reaching his goals.”
    “Along those lines,” I said, “you’re saying he never gave you any indication that he was depressed or disillusioned, no signs that he might be on the verge of breaking down?”
    “Not even a hint of that,” Ogden said. “Thomas Rasmussen was one of the most solid guys I ever had the pleasure of working with. I looked at him with a certain degree of envy. On top of his profession, successful business, beautiful wife—” he glanced at Toni here. She was taking notes and didn’t look up, but I could tell she noticed because she smiled when he said it. “—wonderful kids. I tell you—if someone like Thomas Rasmussen can commit

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