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Chapter Two of The 24th Name, Part II

Chapter One of the new book has spoilers for Part I (if you haven't read The 24th Name, Part I it's a free download today, so you can start there).

So instead of Chapter One of The 24th Name, Part II, here's Chapter Two:


My fifth name was for a nuclear bombmaker.

It was a brand-new name, so the CIA told me to choose it.

When the CIA tells you to choose a new name, they tell you to choose a name unconnected to you, which isn’t easy.

Our minds are built on connections. Our memories are linked to other memories. Our thoughts are connected to other thoughts. Our minds thrive on connections.

Our minds make connections in three ways, according to David Hume:

1. Through resemblance 2. By contiguity in time or place, and 3. Due to cause and effect.

Which is useful, most of the time.

It’s useful to find things that resemble each other, because things that resemble each other usually act the same. If two balls look alike and we see one bounce, chances are the other one will bounce the same way.

It’s useful to find contiguity, so we know what to expect next in time or place. If something happens just before something else, the first thing may have caused the second thing. If something sits next to something else, chances are those two things are connected in some way.

Then, there are causes and effects. Causes and effects and the connections between them are what our minds are always trying to figure out.

Resemblance, contiguity and cause and effect help us make predictions about what happens next.

Which is a problem when you’re a spy.

When you’re a spy, you don’t want to be connected as a cause to the effects that are happening. You don’t want contiguity of time or place to bombs going off or sources being recruited or cryptography being stolen. And you don’t want a resemblance to how people think of spies. You don’t want anything connecting you to being a spy.

One way to break those connections is to use a new name. A name unconnected to you. A name unconnected to the CIA. A name that breaks the connection between you and the espionage that’s about to happen.

But that’s hard. It’s hard to come up with something that doesn’t resemble you and isn’t contiguous to you and isn’t connected to you via cause or effect.

To create something unconnected, a new data source helps.

Like a book.

Books take you out of your connections and experience. They introduce you to things that don’t resemble what you’ve seen before. They move you out of the contiguity of time and place. They show you new causes and effects. The best books connect you to a whole new way of thinking.

But I didn’t need a new way of thinking. I just needed a new name.

So I went to a different data source: Baseball rosters.

I went to the sports page of the local newspaper and chose the last name of a player from the night before. He was a relief pitcher who threw one inning, got one strikeout, gave up two hits and didn’t allow any earned runs. More importantly, he had an ordinary last name that wasn’t too common: Middleton.

Then I went to the opposing team and chose the first name of the second baseman. He went two for four that day with a double. More importantly, his first name was also ordinary but not too common: Zach.

I went to the online white pages and searched for Zach Middleton. Nationwide, there were 81 Zach Middletons in a country of 300-plus million. Eighty-one was a good number. It was too many to be able to call each one up and see if they were me. And it was too few to make it likely someone in a foreign country would be already connected to a Zach Middleton. Eighty-one was a good number for a brand-new name.

I gave the name to the people who create the paperwork. They did their check for whether Zach Middleton was connected to the CIA in the past.

The answer was no.

Zach Middleton was not connected to the CIA.

And Zach Middleton was not connected to me.

I became the eighty-second Zach Middleton registered in the United States at that time and got ready to use the name with a nuclear bombmaker.

The bombmaker had expertise in the early stages of building a nuclear weapon. He traveled throughout the Middle East. He knew who was doing what in other nuclear programs. Which meant he was useful to us.

He was young and, from his emails, a little naïve.

I floated an opportunity for him, and he agreed to meet me in Abu Dhabi.

When the paperwork was done and my fifth name was ready, I as Zach Middleton went to meet the nuclear bombmaker.


Here's the cover of The 24th Name, Part II:

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