53

Cindy brought Madison a cup of hot tea, as had become their custom on these visits. “Thank you. You’re so sweet to me,” Madison said.

“It’s nothing. So what are we doing today?” Cindy asked.

“I want to dig into that company CLP Holdings a little deeper. You said you thought they were private. Does that mean we can’t find anything out about them?” Madison asked.

“Let’s find out,” Cindy said, lacing her fingers together and stretching her hands in front of her. She started tapping away at the keyboard.

“Why Delaware?” Madison asked, noticing the logo in the corner of the first website they landed on.

“Pretty much every corporation registers in Delaware. I don’t know why, but it’s a thing,” Cindy explained. “Yup, there it is.”

“How do you know all these things?” Madison asked.

Cindy shrugged. “I pay attention and I have a good memory, I guess? Anyway, I found them, but this looks like a dead end. For ten bucks we can get the state to tell us if they are up to date on their taxes.”

“Why would we want to know that?”

“We wouldn’t. But that’s the only thing we can find here,” Cindy said.

“What’s a registered agent?” Madison asked, reading the information on the screen.

Cindy searched for the term. “A business or individual designated to receive service of process,” she read. “Oh, I get it! They’re a firewall!”

“Huh?”

“Like a privacy firewall,” she continued. “The registered agent knows who actually owns the company, so if you need to serve them papers, like for a lawsuit, you contact the agent and they forward them. They are in the middle of the transaction, like a firewall.”

“It’s cute how you think I know what you’re talking about,” Madison said. “Using an analogy from computers doesn’t make things any clearer to me.”

Cindy laughed. “Well anyway, the state only knows who the registered agent is. You have to go through the agent to find the real owners.” Then she added, “I guess it’s more like a proxy server than a firewall, actually.”

Madison shook her head. “Anyway. Okay, so I’ll just call the registered agent. That’s their phone number, right?”

“Sure is,” Cindy said. “Good luck with that.”

Madison dialed the number on her screen. A woman answered on the third ring. “Corporate Service Corporation, how may I direct your call?”

“I’m not sure,” Madison said. “I want to get some information on a company, and I see that you are the registered agent.”

“You need our address to serve papers?” the woman asked.

“No, no. I have that. I was wondering if you could tell me anything about a company you serve. Where the headquarters are, or who owns it. That kind of thing?”

Madison’s request was met with silence. Madison looked at her phone to make sure the call was still connected. It was. “Hello?”

“Do you understand what a registered agent is?” the woman asked.

“Well, yeah. I think so,” Madison said, looking at Cindy and making a face. Cindy giggled.

“The whole point of a registered agent is to keep that information confidential. If I just told you that… I… I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

The phone beeped, and Madison realized the woman had hung up on her. “Rude,” she said.

Cindy laughed. “I could have told you that would happen.”

“Why?” Madison asked.

“Proxy server? Firewall? Oh never mind. Anyway, this is a dead end. I’ll try a web search.”

Madison watched as Cindy searched for CLP Holdings, Consolidated Logistics Partners, and various combinations of those and other keywords. She was impressed with the number of things Cindy thought to search for, despite the endeavor proving entirely fruitless. All they turned up were some property records and zoning hearings, which ultimately led to more warehouses.

“Damn,” Madison said.

“They’re good at keeping a low profile, that’s for sure,” Cindy said. “I am completely out of ideas. Wanna play a game? Kill some bad guys? Or some good guys?” She giggled again.

“Oh, I can’t. Thanks, though. I have to get to the store for my shift. It’s crazy this time of year. Thanks a lot for helping me, though.”

“I wish I had been able to find something,” Cindy said.

“We did learn something,” Madison said. “Two things, actually. No, three.”

Cindy looked at her, puzzled.

“One—CLP are really sneaky bastards. Two—we learned what a registered agent is. And three—we learned that the lady at corporate corporation incorporated is a total bitch.”

Cindy laughed. “Corporate Corporation Incorporated!” she repeated.

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