Jeffrey Epstein may have been a prolific paedophile, but he wasn’t able to do it all by himself. British socialite (and close friend to the Duke of York) Ghislaine Maxwell is known to have been Epstein’s girlfriend, and suspected of having been his procurer of young girls, for many years. In the aftermath of his death, she disappeared, and hasn’t been seen since.

According to the New York Post, she is being protected to ensure that what she knows remains hidden from the rest of us:

Ghislaine Maxwell — the British socialite who’s long been accused of serving as Jeffrey Epstein’s madam — is hiding in a series of safe houses and is being “protected because of the information she has on the world’s most powerful people.”

Maxwell, 58, allegedly procured young women and groomed them to have sex with Epstein and his wealthy pals, but she has remained out of public view after the convicted sex offender’s re-arrest last year and his death in jail in August. She has always denied any wrongdoing.

On the heels of a Reuters report that Maxwell was the main focus of an investigation by the FBI into several “people who facilitated” the dead pedophile’s alleged sexual abuse, a source tells Page Six: “Ghislaine is protected. She and Jeffrey were assets of sorts for multiple foreign governments. They would trade information about the powerful people caught in his net — caught at Epstein’s house.”

The whole Epstein story is that rarest of things – a conspiracy theory that is perfectly plausible, and one where the main players are actually behaving as if the conspiracy theory is real.

Let us assume, for a moment, that Epstein was, as many have contended, above all a blackmailer. Somebody who lured wealthy and powerful men into his orbit, presented them with attractive young girls and women, and then promised to keep their indiscretions quiet in return for their generosity. There is no other plausible theory of his great wealth. For a billionaire fund manager, it seems that nobody can identify a single fund that he actually managed, for example.

*If* you were running such a scheme, someone like Maxwell would be of great benefit. Her connections, after all, were instrumental in connecting Epstein with at least one of his most high-profile friends, Prince Andrew. In addition, actually getting young women to come and live on a private sex island isn’t a skill set that many middle aged men have, where as a woman as glamorous as Maxwell was probably perfectly placed to sell a lifestyle to Epstein’s intended victims, even if that obviously was an enormous lie.

More pertinently, though, if Maxwell is what she was alleged to be, then she knows pretty much everything. So, why is she hiding? It makes no sense.

It makes no sense mainly because of the American justice system’s tendency to offer really good deals to those suspects who are willing to hand over high profile criminals. It is not hard to imagine a situation where Maxwell walks into a New York Prosecutors office and emerges with a plea deal in hand in return for naming and providing evidence of a whole list of powerful men who availed themselves of the, ahem, services she and Epstein provided. With the right PR team, she could probably make herself into a victim, as well. “I was caught in Jeffrey’s spell. I was afraid. As a woman in that situation you do what you can to survive. I tried to help the girls”. You know, the usual bullshit. You can be sure at least one Oprah-type character would lap it up.

So why isn’t she doing that, preferring a life on the run instead? There are three possible explanations. The first is the least plausible, that she simply doesn’t want to talk and is confident that nobody is going to turn her in. That relies on the idea that nobody in her circle is moral enough to think that she should face justice, and that nobody is immoral enough not to accept the rewards of turning her in. She’s undoubtedly wealthy, but crossing borders as one of the most infamous women in the world isn’t easy without help.

The second is that the very criminals she is protecting are, in turn, protecting her. Protecting is obviously a double edged word in this scenario, because those people have a vested interest in her not talking. *If* this was a movie, and *if* you were Maxwell, it would make a lot of sense to have some insurance policy in place – perhaps a file left in a trusted place, with a trusted person, to be opened only in the event of your sudden and unexpected death. That way, you could probably trust Jeffrey’s old pals to keep you safe and hidden, and in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.

But what about the third possibility? It’s been mooted by some that Epstein may well have been passing some of his compromised friends over for discussions with a state-run intelligence agency. Assuming for a moment that this is true, and he was working for the Russians, or the Israelis, or someone like that, Maxwell would still have considerable value to that state actor. As would the secrets that she holds. If you were the Russians, and you had dirt on a major American figure, you might prefer to keep them talking rather than to see them doing a perp walk on the evening news. Keeping Maxwell safe and hidden makes sense.

It’s a remarkable story, whatever way it plays out. It’s rare that you find an actual conspiracy, potentially involving all sorts of boogeymen that normally only pop up in fiction. But here we are.