There are some names you can’t Google. Like Girtolto Wagner. Try it. Google will return zero results. But don’t be fooled into believing that not being able to Google someone means they don’t exist. There are some names that are just unspoken. Names of mythical creatures who live only in murky worlds the rest of us were never meant to know about. People so comprehensively evil, so incredibly powerful, and so deeply connected that their real identities are forever erased from the public record, allowing them to lead the lives they choose—on their terms, under the laws they craft, and answering only to no one.
Take my new friend, Girtolto Wagner, who’s right across from me as I write this. He’s a few weeks shy of turning fifty-two, but only I and the two people he trusts in this world know this. Everyone else, including the most powerful governments in the world simply have no record of there ever being a Girtolto Wagner who came to life out of a woman’s womb. Once-upon-a-time Girtolto had a birth certificate, school and immunization records, a passport, a driver’s license, and even a marriage certificate, although the remains of his first wife were never found.
When Girtolto’s parents sat him down when he turned sixteen to let him in on a dark family secret, there was every chance he would have been sick to the stomach to learn that both his grandfathers where senior officials in the Young Turks movement, who played a direct part in the extermination of fifty percent of the Armenian population and seventy five percent of the Assyrian population living under the Ottoman empire. But every so often, this sort of history is not perceived as shameful by those who hail from it, but rather, a heritage to be proud of. Unlike his three older brothers, only Girtolto reacted in the most unexpected way when he was told his family’s wealth and good fortune came tainted with a lot of blood. On that day when he came to realize the devil was in his DNA, Girtolto felt reborn. Like he had known it all along, but needed a sign from his maker.
For the rest of his teens until his mid twenties, Girtolto went from bad to worse, incrementally committing unspeakable crimes, from which his family’s’ untold wealth, spiraling global connections and litany of lawyers always successfully untangled him. Sexual harassment, rape, manslaughter, and a string of brazen international financial crimes that only had one consistent logic: Girtolto was dress rehearsing for what would come later.
When he finally got his act together by his early thirties, Girtolto emerged as a blood thirsty arms dealer who specialized in instigating incendiary unrest in fragile and volatile societies, to profiteer from the predictable demand for deadly weapons that would emerge from the carnage he created. Like his grandfathers before him, Girtolto’s hand was mired in some of the most repulsive episodes of war and genocide in contemporary history. From Rwanda to Sudan, and Bosnia to Iraq, his invisible war machine was always in the background clamoring for more brutality, more destruction, and more trampling on the most basic things that define our humanity. And he did it all as a ghost. You see, there is a reason why you can’t Google a Girtolto Wagner today—he faked his death in a plane crash over the Alps at the age of thirty five, then proceeded to erase that he had ever existed. Keyser Söze my ass, Mr. Wagner would have proudly said when he was done dismantling his previous life.
If you are reading this with a news cast in the background of yet another horrific act of terrorism in the Middle East, committed by the rising tyranny of Islamic fundamentalism, know that you are tuning in to Girtolto’s masterpiece and the crowning achievement of his career as a mass murderer.
Which brings me to the question I know you’ve been dying to ask: Who am I and how is that I am sitting right across from a ghost? First, I give you a more accurate visual: I am sitting in a comfortable arm chair sipping on Japanese green tea with brown rice. Girtolto on the other hand is dangling from his ankles, naked as the devil created him. When the drugs wear off, he’ll wake up, most likely puke a lot, then stare at me and the world upside down, until a question of his own will start burning in his consciousness like the nuclear headache in his head. Which one of the two people he trusted the most sold him out: his daughter, or his only surviving brother?
I’ll never tell him of course. I’ll just let him make his way to hell, forever damned, forever deprived of peace or closure. He’s just a filthy rat caught in a trap, about to pay for his sins. He isn’t my first and certainly won’t be my last catch. This is what I do.
Now back to your question.
Who the devil, am I?
Isn’t it entirely obvious?
If Girtolto is a ghost, then it takes one to find one. You just need a little bit of deception. Terminal deception.