The Zalozhniy Quartet

Vodka and Madonna
A job offer for Kalina

Markan’s villa, near Zagreb Croatia

For the third evening in a row, they sat and drank vodka on the villa’s large deck. Zagreb glowed orange in the dark distance below. Nostalgia and alcohol washed through her, it had the feel of Chechnya, before it all changed. It was about to change again.

Markan’s son and his idiot friends were somewhere in the city, partying hard for his 21st birthday. The older guests, including her, stayed in Markan’s villa, drinking and reminiscing. She’d been invited to the week-long celebration as she and Markan had done business a few years before. He’d not screwed her, in any sense, and the people she’d screwed over in the deal were unknown to Markan, so they’’d stayed friends afterwards.

Well, business associates.

Markan was a useful criminal, and the invite came when she needed to get out of Germany for a week or two. Drinking and eating in the country sounded like a nice break.

“Kalina – more vodka!” Markan waved a vodka bottle at her from down the other end of the table.

Kalina wasn’t her real name, but they didn’t know that. Vodka was her real drink, but this Croatian brand tasted like shit. She threw back her dregs, and slid the glass down the table to Markan, who slopped it full again.

“How’s business, Kally? ” Markan chuckled sleazily at his own joke, and a couple of his business associates around the table sniggered along. He passed the glass back down the table.

Katya Lavrova, for that was her real name, smiled. “Excellent my friend, even rich people need love and the more special they think they are, the more special their desires.” She stared back at him, challenging him to ask more. He’d always had a grubby fascination for Kalina and her business. The idea of a specialist escort agency excited him, as Katya had planned when creating the cover. “Ah, Markan, I could tell you stories of what the really rich like that would leave you unable to sleep.”

There was a pause round the table, people watched Markan for his reaction.

“I like those stories! You must tell me more when no-one is listening!” He guffawed and the table relaxed, laughing too.

Late the next morning, Markan and his goons were blasting away with overpowered weapons in the woods. Katya stood well back, their aim had not improved with age or hangovers. Her phone was struggling to find a signal, and she was debating with herself how to find an excuse to leave, when one appeared.

“Hey Kalina, they’d told me you’d be out here.”

Georg Rudek heaved his solid frame up through the trees from the villa, smiling and waving at her. Georg had been ‘finding’ stuff for as long as she’d known him, if you needed something, somehow he always knew where it was, better than Amazon.

“Georg! I didn’t know you’d be coming? You’ve missed most of the party, but you’re looking well! Well-fed anyway.”

“I know, I know. If you’d ever visit me”, he paused to catch his breath, “I’d show you this great baklava shop near my office.” He patted his belly satisfied. “Work is too busy, which is why I come to you. I heard you were here, and wonder if you look for work?”

Nobody else was within earshot, but you never know, so Katya just nodded.

“I need a team for an operation nearby – and you might know people?”

“What sort of skills does the team need?”

“Simple taking of a laptop, from a secure target. But also quick, there is time limit.”

She relaxed slightly, no death, just theft, If this was being taped, he’d incriminated himself more than she had. “Fast always costs more, what’s your budget?”

“Not my budget, Kalina, but that is not problem. Above normal rates. But can you get people? I mean, in Dubrovnik, by Thursday?”

“Trust me Georg, of course I can. Though I need you to give me an excuse to leave this party, I need to start now.”

He smiled, “I know my customers. I brought a gift to ease Markan’s loss”, he flourished an envelope from an inner jacket pocket, “VIP tickets to Madonna”

She stared at him.

“Trust Georg! Markan loves Madonna, he has been hunting these for weeks, and Georg delivers! I’ll brief your team at the Dubrovnik Best Western, Thursday. OK? Say 1800?”

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Sobieski Reds

The dying woman looks up from the limp bundle in her arms. Her eyes are bloodshot, pupils wide as the abyss. Betrayal and hurt are written there in bold type, underlined in the dirty, tear-streaked cheeks. Her mouth swings open and I stumble back, shrinking away from the scream I’ve heard too many times.

A high, piercing warble brings the bare, grey walls of the apartment into blurry definition. My legs swing automatically out of the bed even as my hand fishes under the pillow for a pistol. The electronic shrill pierces the silence again and I see my phone handset lighting up across the room.

“Bliad’!” I drop the pistol on the cheap nightstand with a heavy clunk and replace it with a pack of cigarettes and a plastic lighter before stalking across to the phone. It’s an international call, which isn’t much of a surprise since I don’t know anyone in this miserable country. I shake my head to clear some of the fog of sleep, nightmares and all kinds of hangover. Croatia. That narrows it down a bit, hopefully for the better. I pick up the phone.

“Da.”

“Hello, Sergei. It’s Katya.” The familiar voice is soft but professional.

I run my fingers along one of cigarettes, trying to coax it into a straight line and place it between my lips.

“Katya, what a pleasant surprise. How can I help you?”

“I’m putting together a team.” Straight to business, but then she knows I never like to skirt around a subject when direct talk is needed. Leads to too many screw-ups. “Are you busy?”

“You know how it is,” I reply, then light the cigarette and suck deeply on the blue-grey smoke. Sobieskies – a local brand that kicks like the exhaust pipe on an oil tanker – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to find a pack made in the last six months. I send a stream of smoke upward into the cracked ceiling plaster. “But I can always make time for you.”

“Good. This won’t take long. Simple snatch op. One week maximum.” She talks details while somewhere in my brain, deeply-ingrained thought processes cycle through airports, identities, counter-surveillance routines. Grey clouds dissipate slowly across the apartment. I eye the four blue industrial bottles of bleach in the corner and sigh.

“Da. Okay, I’ll see you at the rendez-vous.”

Katya’s voice softens infinitesimally. “Sergei, you’re sure you’re still up to this?”

I let out a hollow laugh. “I’m sure. Don’t worry.” As far as I was concerned, I’d died 11 years ago but apparently someone hadn’t put through the paperwork to inform some alien part of me that was still carrying on, mindless, automatic. I shake my head again to chase away the morbid thought and light another cigarette. “So who else do we have?”

“Somerset, British, he’ll be running the hardware side of things. Cold fish, but efficient. The Source has also hooked us up with some muscle. We could use some tech expertise though; know anyone?”

“I know someone. Name is O’Neil. He’s young, but then so is everyone these days. I’ll give him a call.”

I hang up the phone and pull a small travel case from under the bed, standing it carefully by the door. Weeks-old fast food wrappers and soiled bed linen are next, stuffed into black plastic bags. Then I pull on a pair of industrial rubber gloves and knock the cap off the first blue bottle. Anyone comes looking for prints in here, well, good luck. I grind the stub of my last cigarette into the carpet and set to work.

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Exchange at the Cemetery

Somerset, Nate and Patrick drive to the cemetery, the location given for tomorrow’s exchange.

It’s a rough circle, with roadways crossing. There’s little cover, and one entrance and exit. Somerset and Nate exchange grim looks. Neither like the tactical situation.

“We need some surprise cards in our hand I think” says Nate. Somerset is squinting at two nearby rises. “I’ll be in sniper position on one of those, but both are good for sniping positions.”

Patrick smiles, “I can arrange a little surprise on the other then. You know like a boomy kind of surprise.”

They drive up to the other rise, and Patrick buries two IED’s at likely sniper spots on the overlooking hills.

The next morning the Jeep sets off from the village. Somerset had already left, before dawn, to hike across to the other hilltop. He’d been in place for over two hours – sighting down into the cemetery,

Nate drives the Jeep hard, screeching to a stop near the centre of the cemetery, dust and gravel flying. There’s no sign of Dedopovich yet.
Katya gets out of the passenger side, laptop case in her hands, pistol ready in the small of her back. She takes it out, and clicks off the safety, checks the magazine, and slides it back into place. Nate stands to the other side of the SUV, assault rifle casually slung over a shoulder.

Sergei is in the back of the Jeep, pistol ready. Patrick has his smartphone in hand, ready to send the detonation signal.

Katya looks around cautiously, trying to see Somerset without giving his position away. She can’t see him. Seconds turn into minutes. The cemetery is deathly quiet,

Distant engine sounds rapidly turn into another Jeep and a BMW roaring into the cemetery. They crunch to a stop 10 metres from Katya and Nate. Anton Dedopovich gets out, and so does five goons. All heavily armed.

“Let’s have it then” he shouts across.

“Let’s see the money” Katya shouts back. Anton reaches into the SUV and pulls out a briefcase. Awkwardly he opens it, and turns it around. In the breeze the banknotes flutter, held together by rubber bands.

Nate walks slowly forward, he takes the laptop from behind his back, it wasn’t in the laptop bag. Anton’s eyes narrow, but as Nate comes closer, he shuts the briefcase and hands it over. Nate gives him the laptop, and backs away.

Anton smiles “Nice doing business with you.”

Nate opens the briefcase, and flicks through a wad of notes. Most are newspaper.

“It’s fake!” he bellows “They’re tricking us!” He pulls a pistol and turns, firing quickly.

Everyone else opens up. Anton and his goons open fire with AK74’s, bullets chip chunks out of off gravestones. Nate grunts and falls to his knees, clutching his stomach. Somewhere on the hillside a gunshot echoes around.

Somerset hears the enemy sniper shots, as he’s shoots one of the goons.

“They’ve got someone up here too” he thinks and swings his scope over likely sniper spots.
In the Jeep, Sergei is winding his window down, and Patrick presses a red button on the screen of his phone. He looks up to the hillside, waiting to see the earth, smoke and hear the bang, but nothing happens. He presses the button again and again. Nothing.

“Shite!”

Nate’s on one knee at the front, firing his rifle one handed, the other hand is pressed against his stomach, blood flowing freely between his fingers. Katya turned and ran, ducking between gravestones, firing her pistol.

Somerset zeroes in on the enemy sniper and takes him out with a clean headshot. 1000 yards to a camouflaged, low profile target.

In the cemetery bullets crack in all directions, but Nate, Katya and Sergei are cutting Dedopovichs men down. Somerset is in a sniper battle on the hill. Chaos reigns. Shooting skills and training give the team the advantage, the goons are dropping, Anton slips off into the gravestones, but Somerset sights him, and coolly picks him off. Last goon is blasted in the drivers seat of the BMW as he tries to get away.

Somerset runs down from his sniper nest. He finds Anton propped against a gravestone, pale and bleeding heavily.

Anton looks up at him, and with pained smile says “I was going to live forever….” and expires.

The BMW is spotted with bullet holes, undriveable. so Sergei and Somerset carry Nate onto the backseat of the Cherokee. He’s dipping blood everywhere.
“He needs a hospital fast” shouts Sergei across the graves, “I’ve done what I can, but I can’t stop the bleeding. Not in a field.”

Katya looks up from the last corpse. She’s collected their wallets and identifications. Patrick opens the boot of the BMW, expecting weapons.

“What the mother of god is this?” he says. In the boot is petals. Pink rose petals. He picks up a handful and sniffs them. “Roses for sure.”

“We have to go, he hasn’t got long!” Sergei calls angrily.
Somerset jumps behind the wheel of Anton’s SUV and Katya drives their Jeep. The heavy diesel engines roar into of the quiet country air. Patrick looks out of the back window at the battered car and the bodies scattered around the cemetery.

“Dead people in a cemetery. Saves money on the hearse” he says.

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A City Break

“Where can we take him?” Somerset asks. He’s driving the lead Jeep. Katya drives the other Jeep behind, just stolen from the cemetery. Its previous owners don’t need it anymore. Nate lies on the backseat, blood pouring from his stomach. Sergei balances over him, trying to staunch the flow and keep Nate breathing.
“He needs a good hospital, I can’t stop the bleeding, not here.” Sergei says

“There’s a hospital in Zvornik, it has an emergency room?” Patrick says.
“That’ll do, to start.” Sergei’s distracted, Nate’s blood is flowing over his hands as he works.

The emergency staff are competant, and give Sergei quick strange looks as carries Nate’s bloody body in. But they’ve seen gunshots before and don’t ask questions. That’s someone else’s job.

In a tiny room at Royal Drina hotel, Zvornik, the team meet after cleaning up. Sergei’s last to the room, it took a long time to wash the blood off.

“Why didn’t the IED’s work?” Somerset speaking quietly but dangerously.
“I don’t know, maybe they blocked the mobile signal. Or maybe since they had a sniper, they saw us do it?” Patrick’s angry. “My stuff never doesn’t work.”
“We’ve been double crossed and not fucking paid. We need to find someone and hurt them ’til we do get paid.”
“I need to talk to Rudek, Somerset, he should know why it went wrong. Rushing off killing people isn’t going to help.” Katya says.
“It always helps. And I’m coming with you to see Rudek. I don’t trust you.” says Somerset.
“Fine, I’m happy to have such a lovely companion.” she snaps back.

In the awkward silence, Sergei suggests, “I think some body armour might be a good idea, just in case people shoot us again.”

Katya rings Rudek’s office to book a visit, while Sergei and Patrick buy body armour online.
“He’s over in Beirut at the moment.” She reports,“We’ll need to visit him there to get answers, can’t have that conversation by phone.”
She looks pointedly at Somerset, “But let’s not sit together on the flight.”

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Blood in Beirut

The Turkish Airlines Airbus A319 flight from Antalya to Beirut via Istanbul was considerably more comfortable than the aging Boeing 737 out of Bosnia’s Tuzla airport, although David Somerset was hard-pressed to decide if the smell of boiled cabbage on the earlier flight was less offensive than the strange, sweaty-sock smell of the Airbus. Given that the Antalya to Istanbul leg had smelled the same, he supposed it must be from the airline’s preferred brand of industrial detergent, but that fact didn’t make his nose rebel any less. Four hours hanging around Ataturk Airport with nothing to do but read the Eric Ambler novel he’d picked up a few airports earlier hadn’t improved his temper either, even in the company of the striking Russian woman.

In a different life Katya Lavrova and he would have been enemies. Today, circumstance made them allies. Or at least like-minded individuals with a common purpose.

Somerset absent-mindedly rubbed the swollen graze on his own arm from Dedopovich’s wildly-fired shot and counted his blessings; luckier than Nate Jackson.

Somerset didn’t linger too long on the fact that the two Russians – was Andrei a Russian? – were the only two of the motley crew that he could put any trust in at all, simply because they were Russians, the opposition. Jackson and O’Neil – the American and the Ulsterman – worried him and he didn’t like being worried. Not that he trusted any of the four of them, really.

Not that he trusted anyone. Not since Prague.

To them he was an outsider, not one of Katya’s network, foisted on them by Georg Rudek, the man he and Lavrova were travelling to Beirut to question. ‘Question’ in this instance covered a wide variety of sins, although Lavrova had made it clear she didn’t want Rudek hurt unnecessarily; for Somerset, ‘unnecessarily’ was also open to fairly loose interpretation.

She and the fixer had some sort of long-standing relationship, whereas Somerset had no strong attachment to the man at all. In the past few years since Somerset had ‘gone freelance’, Rudek had found him a few jobs, none of them particularly lucrative or particularly interesting. One or two of them had even ended badly, although didn’t dwell on that fact for very long. How they ended had always been his choice, after all. No, Somerset was only interested in finding out why Dedopovich had cheated them and on who’s behalf, so that he could explain his disappointment to them.

A stewardess with badly pock-marked skin she was failing to hide under a thick layer of cheap foundation interrupted his thoughts by offering him a cup of orange juice and a packet of pistachios. He accepted with a thin, barely gracious smile before she walked on towards the rear of the plane, serving other passengers.

Katya Lavrova was sitting a few rows in front of him. He leaned slightly into the aisle, watching her brush her hair out slowly and rhythmically with her hand, no doubt pouring over some in-flight magazine, or watching a film on her tablet. He tried to decide if he found her attractive or not. She looked good in her black shift dress and opaque black tights, flouncing around Ataturk Airport wearing a belted, hooded raincoat in a startling shade of red that had attracted more than a few looks. Perhaps ‘flouncing’ was unfair. But she was in the business. and she was all business. Miss Ice, Andrei had called her. The moniker was appropriate.

Still undecided, Somerset leaned back, closing his eyes. It was already nearly 5:30; they’d be landing soon and he should get some sleep.

It was going to be a busy day.

Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport had been completely rebuilt through the 1990s, after years of strife with the Israelis, a civil war and ‘Palestinian problems’ had left the original terminal thoroughly inadequate to the job; the new centre-piece, the General Aviation Terminal, opened for business in the middle of the following decade. At 7 o’clock on this particular morning, however, the normally bustling hub was still largely deserted, with only the hundred or so people from the Turkish Airlines flight to flesh out the immigration queues. Somerset eyed the bored border official with a little trepidation. Border crossings could be so… unpredictable.

When his turn came, he handed over the Canadian passport and smiled gently when the young man looked up at him. No flicker of recognition, no glance at an alert sheet. The youth stifled a yawn, flicked to an unstamped page and hammered down with the entry Visa.

“Bienvenu en Beyrouth,” he muttered sleepily.

“Merci,” Somerset replied.

He glanced along the other lanes and saw that Katya had already passed through. He picked up the leather case he’d bought on his last trip to Florence with his left hand and buttoned his suit jacket with his right while he walked, calmly, through the still largely white décor of the baggage claim area and up the escalator to the small duty-free lounge just before the arrivals hall. Katya was already there, looking at sunglasses and wearing that red coat again. He brushed past her towards the spirits and selected a bottle of Russian Standard vodka. He glanced back at her, holding the bottle up a little. She shrugged noncommittally, moving on to a collection of silk headscarves.
He drifted around, wondering if there was anything better, but he’d picked up the taste for it in the bar of the Holiday Inn in Moscow’s Simonvsky district a few years before, having only really tried Smirnoff and Stolichnaya elsewhere. Settling on his first choice, he wandered to the checkout and paid with a US$20 bill; by the time he’d stuffed the bottle into his case, she had already exited to the main terminal building with her own purchases. He followed and, having lost sight of her, looked for the shuttle-bus terminal and strolled outside. He found her again, standing in the queue, looking unaffected by the heat and humidity that was already starting to build, comprehensively disinterested in his approach.

“You look ridiculous in that tie,” she muttered, speaking around the squat, fat Arab businessman in the gaudily checked Brioni suit that stood between them. He shrugged his eyebrows and rubbed the stubble on his chin. He was looking forward to a shower and a shave. He straightened the knot of his dark blue, knitted silk tie.

Katya was checking her phone.

“Takaya Suites Hotel, near the Waterfront,” she told him in quiet tones. He nodded silently, glancing to see if the Arab was paying any attention. Did he recognise him? Had he seen him before?

“Room number?”

“O’Neil doesn’t know and he is distracted by… other concerns.” Somerset grunted. The two large men with the car-boot full of military hardware; another problem waiting for them when they got back to the former Yugoslavia. His mood was not improving.

“I’m assuming you know where we’re checked in?” She nodded. “And your baklava? Did you pick some up?”

“In Ararat, while you were reading,” she smiled thinly. “The Herald Tribune, no less. Such an international traveller, Mr. Somerset.”

“Always interested in what’s going on at home. It’s not as if you can trust Fox News.”

“And yet you travel on a Canadian passport.”

“We’re practically the same nation. Sisters.”

“But speak with English accent.” He looked pointedly at her, wondering what her next observation might be, but she was waiting for him to say something. He turned away sharply.

“I think this is our bus,” he said, bluntly changing the subject. She studied him curiously, but he wasn’t giving anything else away.

The heat of early afternoon was beginning to assert itself, but Somerset had swapped the heavy navy worsted wool suit he’d worn from Bosnia for a lightweight merino sharkskin in a medium grey shade, a white Sea Island cotton shirt and a pair of black monk-strap shoes, hiding from the sun under a Kronenbourg-branded blue and white parasol in a quayside café, nursing a double espresso served in a plain white cup. He’d left his tie in the room as a concession to the climate while the cool shower and promised shave had done him the world of good. He felt awake and refreshed. The thin black wire of a handsfree ran from his left ear, leaving him free to stretch out while he gazed over the landscape of yachts in the marina.

“Found him?” he asked.

“He is definitely here,” Katya replied, “but I do not know in which room. Yet.”

“Use your womanly charms on the desk clerk,” he advised, smiling to himself, picturing her tossing her hair indignantly. Then again, she was wearing the headscarf she’d bought at the airport. Maybe she flared her nostrils when she was annoyed if she couldn’t toss her hair.

“How did the shopping trip go?” she asked. She was, she claimed, sitting in a street café across from the reception and main lobby of the Takaya Suites, no doubt nursing a mint tea and pretending to read the local edition of Vogue or something.

“Very well. The Ace Hardware in Joubieh had just about everything except a hold-all. I’ll pick one up somewhere near here.”

“Are you on waterfront?” she asked.

“Enjoying the view,” he confirmed.

“Ogling young women in swimming costumes, yes?” she chided.

“Actually, I’m not sure that some of them qualify as ‘costumes’, " he commented. “Dental floss, perhaps…”

She snorted, either derisively or to stifle a laugh. He still couldn’t decide if he found her attractive or not. Not that it mattered, it just felt important to be certain about some things.

“What did you buy?” she asked after a pause.

“Two very nice shirts from a Thomas Pink I didn’t expect to find,” he said brightly.

She sighed. “I am sure that they will be very useful.”

“I managed to get a pair of overalls, along with various other items of cutlery, assorted tools, lengths of lead pipe….”

“… sharp stones, pointed sticks…”

He paused to watch a tanned, toned, twenty-something brunette in a dark green bikini dive off the edge of a 40-foot Sunseeker yacht into the turquoise waters, her motion a graceful arc as she slipped under the surface. He lifted the espresso cup between forefinger and thumb, sighing.

“Hello?” she asked after a moment.

“Sorry, distracted. Anyway, two new shirts. It’s almost impossible to get sizeable quantities of blood out of cotton, so since I might have to throw a shirt, I took the chance to get something of decent quality to replace it. Seeing that we’re here anyway.”

“It is important to have priorities,” she muttered, a little bewildered. “How did your meeting with the gentleman from Baqaa work out?”

“Oh, you’ll be pleased. A couple of ex-Syrian Army PSMs re-chambered for 7.65mm. Nice and concealable, I’m sure it’ll be second nature in your experienced grip.”

“Not quite a Walther PPK, though, Mr. Somerset-David-Somerset.”

“Please stop. You’re cracking me up,” he said drily. They were both silent for a long moment.

“So assuming we know where to pick him up,” he asked, “when do you advise it?”

“Always liked talking to people at 3:30am, they are rarely at full ability at that time,” she said, suddenly the complete professional. “My babushka called it the ‘hour of the wolf’.”

“She sounds like a wonderful role model. Can we wait that long?” he asked.

“Probably no,” she conceded.

“So what’s your plan?”

“Most likely will ring the hotel from a payphone, under a made-up name, ask to be put through to our friend before visiting in person. Our friend will recognise me, so if he answers I hang up; if no answer I hang up anyway. But better if I can get the room number before visiting the hotel. Then Kalina shall visit the hotel, and if necessary will flirt with the no doubt handsome young man at reception to find out what our friend’s current status is.”
Somerset took a moment to digest all of this.

“And where do I fit in, again?” he eventually asked.

“Kalina should introduce herself to our friend first,” she carried on. “You might panic him with your bag of home improvement tools and expensive English gentleman’s clothing.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want that,” he admitted. “And then I show up to convince him it’s in his interests to be…?”

“Co-operative,” she finished. “We have a saying: ‘Tell us or we jab your eye with a burning stick is a question you can only ask twice’. Try to remember that please.” He barked a laugh at her, genuinely amused.

“We have a saying too – ten fingers, ten toes, more than enough for Twenty Questions,” he replied.

“Well try to resist the urge to play ‘ten pink fingers hanging from a wall,’ Somerset. Georg is a friend.”

“Fair enough. I’m going back to my room, to sort out my gym bag, and then maybe go for a swim,” he told her.

“I am very jealous,” she sighed deeply and stereotypically Russian. “I brought my costume all this way. I do enjoy roof-top pools in exotic cities.” She paused a beat, before telling him: “No talking to scantily-clad young socialites, Somerset.”

“I’ll save you a lounger,” he retorted, and hung up.

In the end it took him an hour to get back to the hotel room after he’d bought a cheap Adidas sports bag. He spent half an hour wandering around the waterfront boutiques, lingering at shop-windows, watching the reflections of milling throngs of tourists and socialites. As he passed a boutique selling Hermes, he popped inside, glancing out the window to see if anyone was waiting for him, or had doubled back. No-one did. He wandered around and, spotting a headscarf that he thought she might like, bought it for her, partly because it legitimised his reason for being here and partly because he wanted to.

When he finally decided to leave, he took a bus heading away from the city centre towards the Syrian city of Homs. He counted stops and got off at the seventh, crossed the road and walked back one stop. He took the next bus back into town, getting off two stops before his original point of departure and walked for 15 minutes to another route, repeating the process towards the south of the city, before eventually picking up an airport shuttle bus to the hotel he and Lavrova were staying in.

Back in his room, he removed all the packaging from his purchases – a Stanley knife, about 10m of 2-core copper flex, two six-inch iron nails, three insulated screwdrivers, a 2m x 2m plastic sheet, a small butane torch, duct tape, cable ties, a tow-rope and a packet of latex gloves, before wrapping the heavier objects in the hand-towels from the bathroom, stuffed the whole lot in the Adidas bag and dropped it at the end of the bed. He laid out a clean shirt, then stripped, hanging his suit on the back of the bathroom door. He revelled for a moment in being naked, a catharsis from the masks he wore in public. He considered a cool shower but instead pulled a couple of innocuous looking items from his case and slipped them into his inner jacket pocket, humming a long-forgotten tune to himself as he did so. Then, he stepped into his swim shorts and a pair of canvas shoes, grabbed his phone and his room key and headed for the pool to wait for Lavrova’s summons.

Katya could slip into Kalina as easily as she could the cream-coloured DKNY safari jumpsuit and three-inch flesh-toned heels she had selected as her outfit du jour. It was as if Kalina was the outfit, right down to the pulled-marginally-too-low asymmetric zip and the one-too-many chunky bangles on her wrist. The head-scarf she’d bought at the airport was Kalina’s only concession to the Muslim sensitivities of the city, a concession very few other European women seemed to care about. The bare skin of her lower legs and forearms would definitely have brought her trouble in some of the neighbouring states.

She leaned over the desk towards the neatly dressed, trim young man in the dark-framed heavy spectacles, showing just a hint of cleavage and smiling generously. He seemed quite pleased with the attention, to the point of being incredibly disappointed when Room 513 didn’t answer the call he’d put through. He turned to her, apologies already written across his handsome young face.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Rudek, but your husband is not answering his phone,” he told her. She smiled graciously. She already knew the room number, charming it out of the same young man over the phone half an hour before, posing as a Georg’s suspicious wife trying to catch him in the act of cheating. The young man had been sympathetic and co-operative, particularly after she implied that she might be seeking solace from a new friend afterwards. She glanced at his badge to remind herself of his name, which he’d already taken pains to tell her. Twice.

“Do you know if he’s in his room, Mahmoud?” she asked. “Has he gone out, picked up any messages?” Mahmoud made an examination of his screen, already shaking his head.

“I’m afraid not, Mrs. Rudek,” he said. He coughed discretely into his hand. “Mr. Rudek did come back very late last night, so he may not wish to be disturbed.” She frowned.

“I see. Well, thank you Mahmoud. I think I’ll wait a while and see if he comes downstairs,” she replied. “Would it be OK if I sat in the bar?” she asked, throwing a glance towards it.

“Of course, Mrs. Rudek,” Mahmoud spluttered, eager to be of assistance. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“A pot of mint tea and some nibbles,” she smiled. “And charge them to my husband’s room.” She wandered over to the bar, conscious of Mahmoud’s eyes on her back. She thumbed the touchscreen of the phone, leaving Somerset a message in the drafts folder of the free email account they’d set up for this trip.

“Room 513. Come immediately.”

Thirty minutes later Somerset arrived. He walked straight through the lobby, hold-all in hand, neither acknowledging her nor looking in her direction. He noted the cameras in the lobby and kept his head bowed, keeping his Wayfarer sunglasses on. He reached the bank of lifts and pressed the call button; an elderly couple – Germans, he guessed – were already waiting. He smiled at them, hearing the click of Katya’s heels on the marble floor behind them. The lift arrived with a chime and the four of them got in and turned to face the door, Somerset and Katya still ignoring each other. The German pensioners got off on the third floor, shuffling politely past Katya, all smiles and pleasant nods. She barely acknowledged them, stepping back but not looking at Somerset as the lift set off again.

“You look naked without your tie, Somerset,” she admonished him; he was already pulling the second of the squat black PSMs and a spare magazine from the hold-all; she quickly secreted them into the pockets of the safari suit. He turned back to face the door again when the lift chimed for the fifth floor.

“You wish,” he said without smiling. He followed her out, sending the lift to the seventh floor as he did so.

They found 513 a few metres from the lobby, an anonymous door with an electronic lock and a spy-hole. The “Do Not Disturb” sign hung from the handle.

“Oh, well,” she began sardonically, “time to go back to Bosnia. Georg does not want to be disturbed.”

She knocked. No response. She knocked again, harder this time.

Still no response. Third time harder still.

Nothing stirred.

She turned to Somerset for some encouragement, only to see him fishing inside his jacket for a white-barrelled dry-board marker pen.

“Are you planning on leaving him a note, Somerset?”

He gave her a withering look as he thumbed the lid and, feeling the underside of the lock mechanism, jammed the nib into a small recess. She frowned, puzzled, until the indicator light flashed green and the lock popped with a click. He pulled the handle down quietly. If she was impressed, she didn’t show it.

“Ladies first,” he indicated. She sighed and pushed the door open, stepping inside.

“Georg? Georg are you there?” she called softly. “It’s Kalina.” Somerset reached behind him to his waistband and thumbed the safety on his own PSM to the ‘off’ position.

She flicked the switch and the softly diffuse illumination from the room’s two standard lamps came on, revealing the sitting-room of a small suite; Katya took a few steps into the room, before waving urgently for Somerset to follow her in. Suddenly all tense energy and swift movement, he dropped the bag inside the doorway and pushed the suite door carefully and quietly closed with the edge of his shoe, bringing his pistol to a Weaver stance to slip past her into the centre of the room. The curtains were drawn, blocking out most of the bright daylight behind them, only a little leaking into the room around the edges. On the coffee table he could see an empty bottle of Taittinger Blanc de Blancs upturned in an ice bucket, two used glasses next to it. White powder was scattered across the glass surface, the remains of an unused line betraying its nature. There was an odd smell in the room, a sweet, coppery tang that he immediately recognised and which must have triggered her alarm, as through the half-opened bedroom door, he saw a familiar yet somehow wrong shape hanging in the middle of the room.He forced himself to ignore it, scanning the living room from behind his PSM, before moving to the bedroom door, following Katya’s hand gestures. He noted the pair of brown Italian men’s loafers by the coffee table, covering the space as she moved as silently as him to the bathroom.

He pushed the bedroom door open further with the muzzle of his pistol and peered inside.

A naked body hung from the cross-bar of a four-poster bed, ankles tied together, so that it was trussed and suspended by its folded knees. A slight breeze from the seafront stirred the net curtain, diffusing the strong sunlight except where a long strip had been cut from it; Somerset saw it tied around the dead man’s ankles. Otherwise he was hanging limply, arms below the head, the loose muscle and belly fat slipping down into his chest, penis pointing flaccidly towards his chin, the dark pubic hair in stark contrast to the almost alabaster skin. The face was obscured by dark, dried blood and the bed was coated liberally with it.

The corpse of Georg Rudek swayed gently in the breeze from the open window.

Somerset took the whole thing in coolly and analytically. He had seen things like this before; hell, he had left scenes like this before.

But still, something nagged at the back of his mind…

Behind him, Katya stifled a scream. He spun to look, gun-hand coming up reflexively, but she was alone, staring at the abattoir that the bedroom had become. The colour had drained from her face, and she looked like her knees were about to give out. He grabbed her upper arm roughly, quickly steering her into a sofa, then raided the fridge for two miniatures of Absolut vodka, dumped them in a glass with some ice and forced her to drink it.

As she sipped from the glass, shivering, he slipped on a pair of the disposable latex gloves to cut Georg’s ties; struggling to support the dead weight, he lowered the corpse onto the bed, before covering him with the blood-stained duvet. A quick scan of the room revealed nothing more than a few personal effects. He walked back into the living room.

She looked a little steadier as he pulled the bottle of Russian Standard from the Adidas sports bag and took a long swig directly from the neck. He offered her a top-up, but she shook her head.

“Spasibo, Somerset,” she murmured. “I have seen death before, even messy death. But Georg? He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’d sell a flyswatter and DDT to you, but at the same time be trading plane tickets to the fly.” Somerset said nothing, hovering. She drained the glass, looked around the room. He could see her retreat behind a wall of professionalism as she started to issue orders again.

“We need to be careful, Somerset. We must remove our fingerprints here. And find out what killed him,” the last few words catching in her throat. Somerset nodded and wandered into the bathroom, dropping the vodka bottle into the hold-all as he went. A moment later he stepped out, a packet of moist wipes in his hand.

“Fingerprints.” He tossed the packet to her and pointed to the light-switch and the minibar, while he wandered into the bedroom, careful to close the door behind him.

He pulled away the duvet and examined the body of the dead fixer. There, on the neck, a small slash about two, maybe three inches long. Not fatal on its own, but hung upside down it would bleed him out in thirty minutes, maybe forty-five. A slow, lingering death, yes, but then again he probably went into shock fairly quickly. He tossed the duvet back over the corpse and looked around the room more carefully. On the bedside table was an unopened condom. Georg’s suitcase and briefcase in the wardrobe, unmolested, unlocked. Somerset rifled the contents, pulling out his passport, the only form of physical ID there. Nothing else of interest. He pocketed the passport and returned the case to its original place.

Somerset walked out the bedroom window onto the balcony. He looked down to four identical balconies beneath him and three above. It was certainly a viable escape route, if not an easy one. The whole set-up was bothering him, badly. An awful lot of effort for a simple kill. He couldn’t place it yet, but there was definitely a familiar feeling about this tableau. What was it?
Back in the living room, Katya held up the mangled remains of an iPhone. He looked at it curiously: the glass on both sides had shattered and fractured, but the metal frame holding it together was bent nearly in half. He gave her a quizzical look.

“I found this in the toilet,” she told him, not bothering to explain why she was looking in the toilet. “And there is lipstick on one of the champagne glasses.” She pointed at the coffee table.

“Georg’s?” he asked. She scowled at him. “You knew him better than me,” he said, shrugging. “Far be it from me to judge anyone.”

She shook her head at him as she slipped them into separate sanitary bags and added them to the contents of the hold-all.

“Fingerprints,” she intoned. “We may pick up a few from the glass or the phone.”

He pointed at the two empty miniatures bottles and the glass Katya had used.

“Best take those as well, then,” he said. “So no-one picks up ours.” He looked around the room again before sighing heavily.

“Ok,” he breathed. “Time to leave.”

They slipped silently out of the room and Katya pointed down the corridor away from the lifts.

“Service staircase,” she informed him. “Let’s avoid the lobby this time.” They clattered down the metal staircase and through a fire exit on the ground floor, which led into an access road, little more than a gap between the hotel and its neighbouring building. The sun was too bright, the humidity far too oppressive. She took a moment to adjust her sunglasses while he put his on. He retrieved the Hermes scarf from the bag, still folded in the orange gift box.

“A little present,” he said. She looked at him with an expression he’d never seen on her before, a look both grief-stricken and grateful at the same time, but she quickly dipped her head to stare at the ground, slipping on her aviators to hide her eyes before she swapped scarves.

“I think I want to get drunk now, Somerset. Really drunk,” she confirmed. He nodded.

“I know just the ticket,” he said softly.

The shutter of professionalism came down over her again.

“We need to see the CCTV footage, see who Rudek came back with last night,” she stammered. Rudek now, not Georg any more. Another ghost. “The boy on reception thinks I’m his wife, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“If you’re sure,” he cautioned her. “But. You’re bringing a lot of attention to a man who’s going to be found dead in a few hours. ‘Do Not Disturb’ won’t hold back the hordes forever.”

“Yes, but they will be looking for his wife, who wears a headscarf and large sunglasses on security cameras. And all Mahmoud will remember of me are these,” she growled, pulling the zip back down angrily to reveal her cleavage again. His expression was skeptical, but he kept his eyes on his own dim reflection in her sunglasses.

She looked thoughtful for a moment, before saying “It is not a good idea is it?”

“No,” he said, evenly. If she really wanted to do it, he’d help her; revenge was something he understood. But she shook her head.

“Let’s get back to the others.” He nodded agreement.

He hooked his arm and she slipped hers through it, walking back out onto the street, just another happy tourist couple.

Somerset, though, had remembered what seemed so familiar about the way Georg Rudek had died. Somerset was not a happy man.

View
Hospitals are Dangerous

Tubes and wires loop from Nate’s body to the clinical, white machines behind his bed. The automated care is tracked by soft beeps and the occasional shunt of clear liquid down a tube into his arm. He’s on the mend. On his bedside table are a vase of daffodils and a laptop.

Sergei enters the ward wearing a doctors coat. The medical care at JZU bolnica Zvornik was good, better than the administration. Sergei had appeared at the hospital three days ago, pretending to be a locum doctor, Dr. Ivanovich, transferred in from Sarajevo, and the hospital admin people were still in knots trying to find the paperwork. Until someone worked out there was no paperwork, he had access and no responsibilities, apart from one. Watching over Nate.

At the end of visiting hours, Sergei performs his rounds again. He walks the corridors, head bent over a medical chart. No-one interrupts a busy doctor. He strides the ground floor corridors, upstairs main routes and cafeteria. All clear. Sergei pushes open the swing door on Nates ward
just as a solid, suited man exits roughly.
“Watch it, doc” the suited man grunts, with an accent.

Sergei runs to Nate’s bed, he’s still there, still breathing. The machines hum contentedly. “That man was looking for me, I think” Nate whispers.

Sergei presses the tacnet in his ear, “Patrick, someone was here at the hospital. Looking for Nate.”

At the flat, Patrick spins in his chair, Somerset’s preparing eggs in the open plan kitchen, talking to Katya in the dining room.
“We’ve got to go now!” he shouts, “Someone’s traced Nate to the hospital!”
They pile into the Jeep parked on the street and speed through rush hour traffic, Somerset driving, Patrick riding shotgun.
“They’re in a blue BMW, plate is ZV-22 something, I did not get rest.” Sergei’s peering through blinds at a hospital window. The suited man left quickly.

Somerset drives fast through the quiet roads of Zvornik, and easily finds the BMW, heading out of town. Two men in the front, and a green Europcar sticker on the back window.

“Hire car” says Patrick. He concentrates on his large mobile for a minute. “Hired at Tuzla airport this morning. There’s few flights landing at that time, at any time actually, but let us assume they got through passport control in say 20 to 30 minutes, so probably they landed on the flight from, ooh, Zagreb. Now that’s intriguing.”
“Someone’s trying to get the laptop back?” Katya asks, but no-one can answer that.

Somerset stays two cars back, but the BMW driver takes no anti-tailing precautions, and drives straight to a cheap motel on the northen side of Zvornik. Somerset swings the Jeep around the motel, and stops at the side, out of sight. They watch the two suited men get out and enter the motel.
No-one speaks, just watching, waiting. Five minutes tick slowly by, then Patrick breaks the silence.
“Sod this, I’m going to audio-enable their car.”
He slips out, and walks confidently towards the BMW. Seemingly without pause, he’s got the drivers door open, no alarm, and is leaning in.
“How long’s this going to take?” Katya asks, worried. As she finishes, Patricks stands up and shuts the drivers door. He looks over to the Jeep and smiles.
“Get back here.” Katya whispers under her breath, Somerset looks at her, but says nothing, expression unreadable.
Patrick walks towards the Jeep, round the back of the car, then stops, leans over and opens the boot of the BMW. He stands for a moment looking in. In the Jeep they see him purse his lips, then slam the boot.

“You took some risks” says Katya when he sits back in the Jeep.
“Crossing the road is risky,” says Patrick, unconcerned. “Though those gentlemen have a lot of armaments in their boot. I don’t think they came with the car.”
“How far can we listen in?” Somerset asks.
“A good fair way, maybe 1500 metres, bit less in a city. We can listen in from the comfort of our flat for sure.” He smiles.

That evening, Nate and Patrick are hacking through the data off the Lennart laptop, conversing over Skype. The fragments and topics of their conversation attract the others, to listen and make sense of what it is they’ve stolen.

Nate whispers, his face large in the video window. He’s whispering so the nurse doesn’t tell him off again. “There’s lots of odd stuff on here, the files are all over the place. He was investigating financial and criminal conspiracy. Ukrainian banks, connections with Iraq and some mob outfit called the Lisky Bratva.”

“Lisky Bratva are not some mob.” Katya looks up, “they are a powerful Ukrainian mafia.”
“Hey, listen to Henchmen FM..” Patrick pulls a cable out and plugs it in to his laptop, and the flat is filled with the hiss of a sensitive mic in a moving car. There are two male voices, speaking Bosnian.

“They BS a lot of stuff about Croatian racial superiority” Patrick speaks over them, then fast forwards, the voices squeeking. “Some stuff about Eastern spiritual mumbo-jumbo, then the good stuff. The are picking up someone called Sigrun from the airport.”
The audio is now clearly from an airport, plane sounds low overhead. A door opens and someone gets in the car. She speaks Serbo-croat, the two male voices are prompt to respond. She’s authority.
Then she says something about Nathanial. Katya turns looking concerned to Patrick, who smiles “That was my reaction too.”
“What did she say about me? What reaction” Nate asks from the laptop screen, “I don’t speak their thing.”
“She asks them if they’ve found Nathanial and the laptop yet.” says Patrick.


The next afternoon they get him.

Sergei comes back to Nate’s ward from a quick perimeter check. An orderly is wheeling a patient through the exit doors at the end of the corridor. Two nurses quietly chat at the ward desk. A visitor sits beside an occupied bed at the far end of the ward. Instinct tells him something’s not right.

Nate’s bed is empty. The orderly has the same short, military haircut as the suited man the other day. Sergei sprints down the corrider, he’s kidnapped Nate. Through the door, Sergei scans left and right, attracting curious looks. Nowhere to be seen. A couple of visitors are walking from the lifts, Sergei runs there, coat swinging wildly. The LED display shows the lift descending, to the ground floor.

Sergei crashes through the stairs doors, and takes them four at a time, gasping for breath.
“Scramble! They’ve got Nate!” he manages to get out as he bursts through reception, into the carpark. The orderly is getting into the passenger seat of a white van, too far to catch.
“Shit! He’s in a white van, a Ford I think..”

Both Jeeps scour the city for a frustrating hour, before Sergei spots the van parked on a patch of wasteground north of the city. A collection of abandoned factory buildings stand nearby, the hustle of the city distant.
Somerset crouches, studying the ground. Katya turns slowly around, taking in the place, and then stares at the broken windows and grafitti.
“He’s not here. This place doesn’t feel right.” she says eventually.
“That’s some top-notch CSI shit.” says Patrick, from his Jeep.

“She’s possibly right, though. There’s no obvious trail here, they transferred to another car.” Somerset kicks a piece of rusted metal away.
“The BMW is currently out of the city, moving in middle of nowhere. Heading towards a main road. Is that where he is?” Patrick looks up from his large mobile screen.
“Can you listen in to them? Is he in the car?” Katya asks him.
“Too far away for audio. The car was stopped at some point, but is now moving. That’s all I can tell.”

“We should check the buildings, just in case. We are-” Sergei is cut off by Katya.
“We don’t have time, he’s not here. That nowhere location feels right.” She looks at Somerset for support.
“There’s no trail to the buildings. This was a transfer point. There’s two sets of tyre tracks here.” he says.

With Patrick navigating, they drive the Jeeps out of the city.
“The car came from this next road on the left,” Patrick says. They all look, there’s a dirt track heading into the forest. Somerset pulls into it. It’s one car wide, two tyre tracks through the green, but it heads down as far as they can see.
Slowly Somerset drives down the track first, headlights on as the leaves block the low sun. The track twists and turns to avoid rocks and trees.
“Uh-oh, I’ve got the trace coming back behind us. The Beemer is coming back this way.” says Patrick, zooming in on the GPS tracker app.
“There’s a house ahead, I bet that’s where they’re keeping him.” says Somerset squinting down the track. “There’s lights on.”

“Let’s take one out, halve our opponents.” Sergei suggests over tacnet.
“It’s a perfect place for a block and sideram.” Katya says.
Somerset hadn’t been thinking of that, but now she’s suggested it, it is a perfect place. “If Nate’s in the car, then he might get hurt.”
“What, they’re driving him around to see the sights? Let’s do it.” asks Patrick.

The BMW drives slowly down the track. Its suspension was not designed for cross-country and there’s a couple of spots where it grounds out, annoying the driver.
The driver turns left round a blind corner, halfway along the track and not far from the next rock. His headlights glint off something ahead on the track. He’s trying to make it out, when its full-beam blasts on, making his eyes water. Automatically he brakes, unable to see.
“What’s happening?” the woman in the back asks. She’s answered by the roar of a big diesel engine and fullbeam lights from their right. They both just have a second to react before a second Jeep rams hard, at speed, into the side of the BMW. It’s pushed off the track into undergrowth and small trees. Airbags burst, windows shatter and the forest is filled with sounds of screaming metal and over-revving engines.
Somerset reverese the Jeep back and kills the engine.

Katya and Patrick cover Somerset and Sergei as they approach the ruined BMW. It lies at an angle, still creaking.
Somerset approaches the passenger side, the window is smashed. Across the front he can see the driver sat at the wheel covered in blood. Not moving.
Sergei opens the rear doors, pistol pointed in. There’s a woman lead on the backseat, covered in glass and blood. She groans.
“Got one alive here” he calls. She’s 30-something, long brown hair. The blood hides her face, but Sergei thinks she’s attractive. Not that he cares these days.
“Drivers’ dead.” Somerset confirms.

Sergei cable ties the woman, she’s alive, but badly injured.
“She is probably the Sigrun, yes?” he suggests. Katya’s found her Blackberry and is scrolling through messages and last numbers.
“They’re not tourists, that’s for sure” Somerset says, looking at the bootfull of weapons.

“Take what we need, get the car off the track.” Katya orders.
She redials the last number.
It rings twice and then is answered. “Who is this?”
“We have Sigrun. We want Nathanial and our money. Call you again in 30” she hangs up.
“Let’s get out of here and find somewhere for a prisoner exchange” she says.

Somerset remembers a location, three miles back towards Zvornik. “There’s a metalwork bridge over a river gorge, a natural chokepoint. We can take one side, they’ll come from the other. Exchange in the middle.”

It’s completely dark when the park the Jeeps’ on the far side of the bridge in a viewing spot. The front of one Jeep is badly damaged from ramming the BMW.

Katya calls the number again, “We’re at the bridge at Caparde. Bring one car, bring Nathanial, bring the money. Now.”

Somerset assembles his sniper rifle, and starts climbing up into the dark metal struts of the bridge.
“I could put some charges on the bridge supports?” suggests Patrick.
Katya looks at Sergei, he nods.
“Please do Patrick, I hope we don’t get to that point, but if we do.. let’s hope they work.” she says.

Thirty minutes later a headlights approach. They stop at the other side of the bridge, and two men get out. One of pulls Nate out of the back, handcuffed and still in a hospital gown, but alive.
Sergei is handling Sigrun, he manhandles her out of the Jeep. Both prisoners are walked towards the centre of the bridge.

“Where’s the money?” Katya shouts.
“We have no money, Danilo Brigovic is the one you want, he has your money in Belgrade.”
Nate shouts out in Arabic “They drank blood, and killed a French guy. They are neo-nazis and really strong!” His guard hits him.
Katya’s understood Nate, she’s not sure who else in the team speaks Arabic, and she’s not sure she heard Nate correctly.
“Do the exchange!” she shouts.

Sergei and Nate’s guard cautiously slowly, pass their prisoners across, then back away back across the bridge.

“They’re getting in and driving off” Somerset reports over tacnet, invisible in the darkness.
Sergei helps Nate into the backseat and cuts his cuffs off. Somerset stays hidden until he’s sure they taken Sigrun and gone away.
“Christ, thank you all” Nate says, “They were weird.”
Sergei empties the damaged Jeep and rolls it into the river gorge.

Everyone is talking at once in the Jeep, they’re hyped up, keen to hear Nate’s story and recount the stuff they’ve done.
“But we’ve still not got our money.” says Somerset, frustrated, as he drives towards Belgrade.

Eventually Nate manages to tell his story.

“I don’t remember what happened in the hospital, I came round in a room, strung up. There were several thugs, and I noticed they all seemed to have tattoos’. Most had a flaming bomb in a U, and some had a black sun.”

“The Black Sun is a neo-nazi sigil” says Somerset.

“Yes, they also talked about the Ustasa, like they were members of it.” Nate looks uncomfortable.

“Then they killed the Frenchman, in front of me. He was pleading, but they hung him up above this bowl. His legs were already streaming with blood. One of them had this fingerless glove, with a knife blade fixed to it. They used that to cut his throat, and let him drain his blood into the bowl. Which they drank.”

The Jeep is silent for a long time after that.

View
War Stories

It’s late evening on the 9th May. Nate’s asleep on the sofa, drugged up with Sergei’s cocktail of painkillers. In the sitting room, three days’ worth of dirty plates still lie abandoned on every available surface, cigarette butts and ash, Sergei’s brand, mix with mouldering food. Four open bottles of wine and all the glasses are on the dining table. Patrick, Somerset, Sergei and Katya are quietly playing poker.

Somerset has the deck and has dealt the flop –seven of spades, four of spades and the three of spades. Amazingly, no-one’s folded; Katya likes her hole cards with a possible trip sevens looming, but thinks Sergei’s likely got her beat over the rest of the hand, given the probabilities. She eyes the last of her chips and looks around the table, judging, thinking.

They’re almost at the point of beginning to trust each other.

Well, maybe not Somerset. But the past couple of weeks have shown off everyone’s skills and Katya’s enjoyed being back as part of a crew, having someone else watching her back for a change. She can’t trust them, of course, but still, it would be good to be able to relax a bit.

She looks at the table again. Maybe she can bluff Sergei and open up the group a bit. Somerset she can’t read and Patrick is playing the numbers and the odds, betting hard when he has a good hand and folding early when he’s weak, but the others are learning this habit. Which might be part of a longer game.

“All in,” she says calmly, pushing her stack into the middle of table. Somerset cocks his head. It’s the biggest reaction she’s seen from him all night.

Sergei snorts. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“You’ve maybe got an ace, possibly only a king, and the most the flop gave you was a low pair.”

“You really so sure of that?”

“Yes, and you’re out of money anyway,” Sergei spreads his hands across his pile of chips, easily three times the size of Katya’s dwindling stack. “You lose this hand, you’re out of the game.”

“Fine then, let’s make it more interesting – stake me a further IOU. Shall we say five thousand?” Katya’s clearly irritated by the smug Bulgarian.

“Just play the game,” Somerset mutters; he’s not even looking at his hole cards, more intent on the other players.

“Look, let’s wait until we get paid before we start writing cheques,” Sergei says. “But if you want to keep raising, how about this … If I win, you tell us why you left your employer?”.

“Okay, fine then,” Katya gives Sergei a sickly sweet smile. “But when I win, you tell me why you joined this world? Why didn’t you become a doctor or a chemist?"

“Deal.”

Across the table, Somerset sighs and counts out his chips, adding to the pile. “Call,” he announces.

Patrick throws his cards in and sits back. Somerset burns the top card and deals the turn – the Queen of spades.

“Hmm,” Sergei says. “Check.”

“Check,” Somerset replies, then flips the river card. Ace of spades. With the ace, queen, seven, four and three of spades all on the table, it’s down to whoever scrapes the highest spade from their own hand. Sergei and Somerset check in quick succession.

“Well, what do you have?” Katya asks.

“Just what’s on the table,” Sergei admits, revealing his hand: four of diamonds and a three of hearts.

Somerset flicks his cards into the centre – three and ten of clubs. No spades.

Katya turns her cards over to show the others. Ace of hearts and seven of diamonds.

“So who wins?” she asks uncertainly.

“Split pot,” Somerset replies. “You can take your money back.” His tone has taken on the faintest edge of annoyance, or as though he’s speaking to a child.

“Well that’s stupid,” Katya lashes back. “Said we should have played Durak.”

“Some Russian agent you must have been if you don’t even know how to play poker,” Somerset replies icily. Katya realises this is the first outward indication he’s given of being in any way annoyed by their present, cramped conditions. But the cramped conditions, the constant adrenalin of the mission before that. Her temper’s short, she knows it but she’s too riled up to care.

“Listen, you sinister f–,“ she begins, voice rising.

Sergei clears his throat. “It was a woman…”

“What?” Katya turns to him, anger flashing in her blue eyes.

“Why I joined the service. It was because of a woman.”

“Your mother? James Fucking Bond here?” She waves at Somerset, “And you, you fucking…” She sits back, unable to find the words to describe Sergei.

Somerset is already shuffling the deck together before he passes the deal to Sergei.

“Must have been a honey trap. You,” he says, turning to Katya, his tone thoroughly condescending, “are now what we call the ‘small blind’.” She glares evilly at him. She’s pissed that neither of her outbursts have hit their mark. If anything, he seems amused; she can see a definite twinkle in his eyes for the first time since he wandered back to them in the graveyard with Dedopovich’s blood on his hands. She turns away from him in disgust.

“Who was she then Sergei?” she demands, draining her wine glass.

“Her name was Ulyana. She was a handler… KGB of course. I met her when I was 21 years old – still wet behind the ears, thinking a head full of second-hand political theory made me some kind of Socialist hero. She was six years older than me, mature, smart, beautiful, trained by Moscow’s finest. We hated each other at first.”

“The KGB are not Moscow’s finest” Katya says emphatically.

Sergei pulls a cigarette from inside the long coat draped on the back of his chair, reflexively running his fingers along the smooth cylinder as if to straighten it. He lights it and draws deeply, eyes fixed on some point in the ceiling, the ember glow emphasising the age lines in his sallow face. Katya looks at him impatiently as he breathes a long plume of dark smoke across the dining table.

“My first op was supposed to be a one off. A clever little plot cooked up by KDS to silence a defector – some pathetic excuse for a writer who’d fled Sofia for the glamour of Great Britain and was happily shooting his mouth off about the perils of Communism and the corruption of the state to all the Western media,” Sergei snorts in bitter merriment at this, twin jets of tobacco smoke venting from his nostrils.

“He was probably right too,” he chuckles. “But I couldn’t see it back then, and I was at university studying chemistry and making a fool of myself in the debating society, ranting about the corrupting influence of capitalist decadence. Long story short, my political leanings were clear, and I was blessed with above average marks in my coursework. So I was approached, I agreed – probably thought it would make a good story to get girls into bed with me – and six weeks later, Ulyana dropped into my life.”

“The KGB had already botched a couple of hits on this guy, Markov, so when they agreed to the KDS plan, it became Ulyana’s responsibility to knock some common sense into me and give me a crash course in tradecraft. I think we had two months, then I was put on a plane to London.”

“I told you it was a honey trap,” Somerset mutters. His forehead wrinkles momentarily. “Markov. The bridge and the brolly?” Sergei simply smiles as Somerset shakes his head in good-humoured disbelief.

Katya gives Sergei a shrewd glance. “So you slept with her then?”

The ghost of smile plays across Sergei’s face, wrinkling the corners of his eyes. “Yes, well, not ‘til years later. But we grew closer, before the mission. Once I’d had all that youthful arrogance beaten out of me at a couple of bootcamps, we got on a lot better. I preferred her teaching method to the alternative, at least. And what she taught me, it saved my life.”

“The mission was a fucking disaster, to no one’s surprise but my own. I barely got out alive, although in the end we somehow made the hit. Thanks to that, Moscow was pleased and I agreed to stay on with KDS. I studied medicine when I finished my first degree, thought it would be useful. Ulyana and I were teamed up again a couple of years later. And yes, one night, we found each other.“

Sergei caresses another cigarette between his long fingers, then lights up.

“So, what, is that all?” Katya asks.

“No. In the end, we got married. We had a daughter, Anisya,” Sergei pauses for a long time, silence gathering in the smoky air. “They are both dead now.”

“Sergei, that’s… I’m sorry-“ Katya says, angry with herself. To lose a family, that knotted her stomach.

“Don’t be. It was a long time ago,” Sergei says quickly. He forces a smile. “And here I am now.” He gestures round the cramped room. “Probably should have stayed in academia, eh?”

“Losing family, losing your wife and daughter. This world really takes its blood money. We go on ” Katya turns to Somerset. “And what about you? How do the English breed… people… like you?”

Somerset riffles his chips thoughtfully.

“Oh, you can leave me out of this little group therapy session,” he smiles. “I’ve no need to have my psyche dissected along Marxist dialectic.” He leans back and gazes into his empty wine glass. “Anyone want a proper drink?” he asks nonchalantly, pushing his chair out to walk over to the kitchen counter.

“What is it with you?” her frustration clear. “Do you get a kick out of being an unfeeling mandavoshka? Do you think it makes you frightening?”

He takes the lid off a vodka bottle and swigs from it.

“No,” he replies evenly. “I’m British. We’re famed for keeping our emotions bottled up. Stiff upper lip, etc. etc. Cold showers and cross-country runs. Severe beatings at school. Team spirit above individual achievement. Lashings of ginger beer and fagging for the head boy.” He toasts the table with the bottle. “And all that jazz.”

“Bullshit,” blurts Patrick.

Katya holds her empty wineglass up towards Somerset.

“Vodka, Lord King Somerset. I know what bottling up does to the desires of British men. I’ve used it many times. So strong in public, so weak at home.” Her tone is mocking.

Somerset slops vodka into her glass. “Anywhere I hang my hat.” he says with a smirk.

She drinks, then sighs, tired of trying. “No you don’t have a home, none of us have homes. I went back, to my home, and it destroyed me. That, Sergei,” she toasts her glass to him “is why I got out, to live this pointless half-life as a street dog.”

She stops speaking, focused inwards. Seconds pass, Somerset raises an eyebrow at Sergei. He’s about to speak, when Katya continues.

“I’ve killed but I’m not a killer. I’m not clever like Patrick or Sergei. I find people’s weaknesses and leverage them; love, power, fear, whatever. I become the key to their secret desires. That’s better than a gun or a bomb.

“But to play someone else you have to see the world through their eyes. I was hunting a chemist, a bit like you Sergei, but older, ill. I was proud to show off my skills. ‘Hello, remember little orphan Katya, well here she is now, powerful and dangerous.’ See the people from my childhood be afraid or impressed…”

She shakes her head and knocks half the glass of vodka back.

“People warned me about Chechnya, but… I became one of the rebels. I mixed with them and learnt their secrets. They were amateurs, peasants. We should have crushed them in a week. But we’d given them their own Stalin. I was helping drug dealers? FSB fucks. Agents who turned their torture victims’ bodies into wall trophies. They even nerve gassed civilians to keep them in fear—” She catches Sergei’s eye.

“I mean deliberately gas innocents not, you know what I mean…”

She looks around the others at the table, her cheeks reddening.

“I discovered the rebels’ secret. It wasn’t their plan or location. Their secret was that we were worse than they ever were. So I did what I they trained me to do, I destroyed our enemies. Our real enemies. And the chemist. And my life.”

She knocks the rest of the glass back and holds it out to Somerset again.

“More vodka, Jeeves.”

Somerset slops more vodka into her glass, into his own. No-one says anything for a while, and Sergei starts dealing cards again. Muted, subdued, they look at their hole cards as the flop turns up the ace of hearts, the two of clubs and the eight of spades. There’s a brief, but unenthusiastic round of betting. Somerset watches Katya and Sergei avoid eye contact, but notices her stealing glances at him when she thinks he isn’t watching.

Nothing improves the mood when Sergei deals the eight of clubs on the river. Patrick folds again, everyone else checks. The turn produces the seven of diamonds. Katya folds. She looks drained, her heart not in it anymore. Sergei bets hard. All eyes turn to Somerset. He stares hard at the pile of chips. There’s the briefest moment of hardness in him before his shoulders sag a fraction.

“So what?” he asks. “You want to know why I do this? I didn’t sign up for a higher purpose. They fooled you both, with politics, sex and ego. We’re grubby little people leading grubby little lives, fooling each other that because we don’t climb on the 7:39 to Waterloo every morning to sit in an office, we’re glamorous, important. Dangerous and sexy. Woo.

“But I know the kind of people we work with, the people we are, the people we make. I doubt Anton Dedopovich was going to win any awards for his social conscience. My job was to deal with people like that, but I always knew the guy in my sights one week would be riding in the back of the car the next. It’s all bullshit. We wallow in the sewage of civilisation.”

“I assume you’re getting to a point?” Sergei asks, mildly sarcastic. Somerset’s face turns cruel, cold.

“The point? Rudek once hired me to mind an Omani businessman on a trip to Shanghai. Within a week it was obvious the man was being was being watched and it took me two more days to figure out by the CIA. So I burned them. The whole cell. One phone call to Chinese State Security. I watched them get picked up and carted off. No idea what happened to them. Don’t really care either. If they’re lining the bottom of a rice paddy somewhere, then good riddance. Fucking CIA. I didn’t need to do it – I knew they were a grab team, not a hit team, ultimately the little shit would have wound up richer and safer if I’d walked away and left him to them. But I don’t like the CIA.”

He props himself on the table by his elbows, hands folded together over his cards.

“I called an old friend in Vauxhall Bridge afterwards – yes, I still have a couple – and asked why a CIA cell was tailing the smelly little Arab hobbit. I mean, Rudek never dealt in anything that interesting. Turns out one of the little shit’s side-lines was fundraising for… well, let’s call them Islamic Study Groups. One of these took his client’s donations and suicide-bombed a British Army checkpoint in Kandahar. One of the squaddies was left with extensive, debilitating brain damage; he had a four-month old daughter and all she’ll ever know of her father is a wreck in a wheelchair who can’t stop his own drool staining his t-shirt. The rest got off with losing the odd foot or limb, so, you know, nothing major. The bomber was a 13-year old boy; they found one of his feet still in its trainer two hundred yards from the blast crater. Reeboks, apparently. The CIA wanted to recruit this bastard, use his talents and networks for their own ends. And Six offered to wipe my slate if I grabbed him for them. That’s the world I signed up for, and I knew it when I did it. And at that moment, I had a way back in if I’d wanted it. To go wallow in the sewage again.”

He leans back in the chair and knocks back the vodka, before pouring himself another shot.

“I need a decent fucking martini,” he states. “Three drinks in one glass. Perfection.” Katya and Sergei exchange unreadable looks. Patrick’s face turns red, but from what, Katya can’t tell. Somerset leans forward on his elbows again, staring into the middle-distance. Suddenly, he thrusts his pile of chips into the middle of the table.

“When I got back to his hotel room, Mr Banker had two hookers with him. Caucasian girls; I think one of them might even have been Russian. The two girls… that complicated matters. I’ve nothing against hookers, you understand; a couple of the nicest people I know are working girls. You always know where you are with a whore, as my granny used to say.” He watches the alcohol slithering around the inside of the bulb of the glass as he rocks the glass.

“Eventually I got the fat little runt into his own suitcase, after I’d emptied it and I’d, well… well, it’s a lot easier to break arms and legs post-mortem. No struggling, for one thing. So him I could drop off at the airport. That would buy me some time to get out of the country. The hookers were a tougher problem. It was going to be hard to make it look like they’d OD’d on the runt’s stash given I’d shot them both in the face. That was careless, really. Unnecessary. Sloppy. Maybe even hypocritical in hindsight. Still, no neat story for the Shanghai police. No handy chemicals to dissolve the bodies in the bath. No network of contacts to vanish them into the night.” He turns and looks directly at Katya.

“Do you think people like us would be happy working for an insurance company? Don’t kid yourself there’s any reason we do this other than that. You don’t have to like it, but don’t kid yourself. If it wasn’t true, why the hell are you sitting here today?"

He drains the glass of the remaining vodka. No-one says anything for a full minute, afraid even to breathe. The silence hovers over them, expectant and heavy.

“What did you do?” blurts Patrick, his voice like a shotgun blast.

Somerset doesn’t reply. Without looking down he turns his cards over; the two black aces. A full house, aces over eights. There’s no pleasure on his face and he doesn’t reach for the pot.

“Are we playing poker,” he growls, “or are we done?"

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Belgrade House Party

(Rough notes)

As we near the Serbian border, we dump the Cherokee and Somerset steals another one. If nothing else we are boosting Jeep’s profits. Katya considers buying shares.

Patrick does some clever computer stuff to get us data on Danilo. He probably just Googles him, but types fast and makes it look all complicated.

Danilo’s a well-known cigarette smuggler and member of the Nasa Stvar – another mafia link. He’s being investigated for several missing person cases and is protected by the Serbian government. So this isn’t going to be easy.

Since the gunfight at the OK Cemetery, kidnapping and other assorted anti-social behaviour we suspect that the police might want to have a long chat with us, so we plan to cross the border somewhere guarded only by sheep. Sergei has some business to attend to, and he gets dropped off.
Nate’s still bleeding a bit, so he calls a contact and we hole up again in a shabby flat. What happened to the nice hotels and room service?

Patrick digs some more weird but interesting stuff out of the laptop data. God knows what Lennart was doing, but clearly there’s some bad stuff happening around here. We check on Lennart to see if he’s raised a hue and cry about his laptop, but he died in a plane crash in Canada.
Patrick installs some sneaky software into the Lennart laptop that allows him to remotely see what the laptop camera sees, as well as track its location. Katya makes a mental note to check all her laptops.

A name comes off the laptop, Arkady Shevlenko. Ex KGB, now protected by FSB.

Before we get stir-crazy, we’re back into action. Sneak cross-country across the border and drive to Belgrade. Check into another cheap hotel and start scouting.
Katya finds out that Danilo is a local celebrity, he has a house in a nice area, warehouses and a party barge, the Red Eagle. Being cooped up so long together means tension is running high, and we argue about the best approach.
In the end, Nate takes the warehouse, Somerset & Katya take the barge and Patrick scouts the house.

Patrick reports that it’s a fortified villa, high walls, razorwire & muscle.
Nate says similar about the warehouse, but obvious LMG’s and body armour. Somerset & I party and drink. Somerset tries to get an invite onto the barge, but instead gets pointed to a Hannibal Labas in a nearby bar. He arranges a meet the next night.

We’re not so stupid anymore, so everyone takes positions in or around the bar the next evening, ready for trouble. Somerset meets Hannibal, but then gets driven away alone, out of radio contact, to meet Danilo. Maybe we are still stupid.

Somerset disappears into Danilo’s villa, and the rest wait nervously outside, expecting to never see him again, outside of plastic evidence bags.

However, Somerset appears an hour later, apparently Danilo apologised, offered the remaining money for the laptop as long as we get out of Serbia. None of us is taken with the friendly natives and local cuisine, so we rapidly accept. Another exchange, this time at a cafe in the Belgrade main railway station goes without a hitch, and very kindly the Serbian mafia escort us onto a plane to Valetta. With 250k in our hands.

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Friends and Families
If it's Tuesday, it must be Vienna

(rough notes)

From Malta everyone books their own tickets elsewhere. We agree to all meet in Odessa in 2 weeks time. Odessa is where the money is coming from, and where the Lisky Bratva are based.

Katya zigs through Milan, Italian security is still woeful, and picking up a message flies to Munich to spend time not being shot at.
She’s barely there when her agent at Snovi calls Kalina to say there was a message for her, someone mysterious wants to meet. Katya contacts and agrees to meet in Zurich, and immediately calls Somerset and Sergei for backup.
She spends a couple of days with Yasha, arguing about Putin and capitalism and then making up. He knows of Arkady, and that he’s due to speak at a trade conference in Vienna in a couple of weeks. He’s a high-ranking diplomat these days. But then aren’t all FSB now, under Putin?

Sergei and Somerset meet Katya in Zurich. The arrangement is to be at a Zurich park at 8pm, near the bandstand. No-one appears, when we go to leave Sergei brings over a letter addressed to Katya he found at the bandstand. Katya reads it, decides it’s rubbish and we head our separate ways again.

Patrick pings us all to say there’s two videos he’s got from the laptop, which is apparently in downtown Odessa now.

The first shows a large oil painting in the background, Serbian musak is playing and Brigovich is talking in Russian about whether some people can be trusted. He’s discussing with a new face heavily scarred and tatooed, with hooded eyes.

The second shows new face again, this time he’s using the laptop for some time, then calls someone. Talks about thinking they’ve got it, making sure there’s no loose ends, Vienna. The asset will be there on time. And Arkady.

We arrive in Odessa, as arranged. Sergei knows of a store of weapons, and we arm up. With body-armour. And a big Merc.

We find the first video was from a Serbian restaurant downtown, the Golden Calf. We identify new face as Sergei Rachov, a Lisky Bratva member. His house is in the suburbs, can’t pinpoint exactly which one, but all have the usual high walls and criminal-fascist-chic.

Frustrated, we replan and decide a tradeshow sounds interesting, so we land in Vienna.

Vienna is tense, it seems “Commerce in a multi-polar world” is interesting to many people, there are lots of VIP’s from all sides attending.

Somerset disappears off to catch up with some old friends, but not before finding an old lock-up with some handy weapons. Yasha sends Katya a ticket to the show, apparently they are expensive and hard to get. Arkady is in town, but staying at the Russian embassy, with some FSB colleagues. Somehow we have to get close to him, he’s connected, but we’re not sure how.

On the grapevine we learn that Stefan Werner is the local Lisky Bratva head, but Vienna is a neutral city.

Katya mingles with the delegates getting drunk in bars around the city, but only gets sordid offers, and nothing useful or interesting.

Trying to get into the show the next morning, Sergei and Somerset get pulled by the police for not having a weapons certificate. They’re released, but obviously marked now.

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Champers and Shooters
We meet movers and shakers.

The first morning of the show and Shevlenko is speaking in the main auditorium, “Geology and Politics for Central Asian Mining”. He’s also on the agenda hosting a De Beers session at the Russian embassy in two days time, and apparently attending the closing ceremony, a Wagner opera. Classy.

Patrick’s brought an Israeli contact over, Malach to assist, and while we brief him, Patrick prints out a handful of show tickets from a cheap colour printer and has built a tiny bug overnight too.

Everyone goes to the show, and Sergei and Katya get into the main auditorium to listen to Shevlenko’s talk. He’s there already, and Katya heads up to try and speak to him. His assistant, called Popov, is obstructive, and there’s a few other minders and assistants standing around him. Shevlenko is speaking Arabic to a jellibah’d sheik.
Sergei distracts Popov, Katya drops the bug into his jacket pocket, but then it’s time for the talk. Shevlenko gives a good speech, and Katya manages to get to speak to him briefly afterwards, requesting a meeting on behalf of ‘her boss’. Shevlenko is gracious and invites her to the opening reception party at Hotel Europe, and agrees a meeting at the embasssy tomorrow. He may be nearly 90, but there’s still a twinkle in his eye.

Hotel Europa is a 5* luxury hotel estate on the edge of Vienna.
Somerset has somewhere else to be tonight, though not happily it seems. Patrick sneaks into the hotel and gets access to the to CCTV. He also makes out from the bug in Popov’s pocket that Shevlenko has three aides, Zhenia, a medic, Sevastian Popov, his stressed assistant and Kaminsky, a 6’5" bodyguard.

They also talk about Shevlenko’s heart problems and his visit earlier that day to Dr. Ingolf for treatments and more tests.

Katya and Malach get dressed up to attend. Sergei and Patrick are going to be nearby in the van, Somerset’s off somewhere, and Nate’s resting up.

The reception is for the power players at the show, CEO’s, oligarchs and politicians and assorted ultra-rich are mixing and mingling. Katya’s not been this happy for a while, and leaves Malach at the bar while she mixes and mingles. She comes across Sergei Rachov there, and makes chit-chat with him. He’s drinking thick, red wine, but seems friendly enough, and they exchange business cards.
Malach notices a suspicious youngster at the party, but apparently he’s Simon Thaler from Innsbruck, who’s got a couple of start-ups.

Somerset suddenly pipes up over the earpieces, he’s somewhere nearby and has found out that the CIA are going to snatch Shevlenko at the party.
Malach and Katya meet up by a canape table, see Shevlenko heading into the rear gardens, they follow out. Suddenly the earpiece screeches – something’s jamming it.

At the rear, Shevlenko is not well, Zhenia has called for the hotel paramedic, his aides help him towards a converted stable block, Malach follows and Sergei heads in, something is clearly about to go down.

An ambulance arrives quickly, and then Simon Thaler is there, dressed in a hotel uniform. It gets very confused, oddly so. Simon moves phenomenally fast, and punches Malach before he can react. Have we been drugged?

Malach shoots Simon, but barely scratches him and then struggles to concentrate, something’s affecting his mind. Zhenia and Tara come out of the stable block, and Sergei and Katya get there and instantly get headaches

There’s gunfire and shouts, and Katya decides to bravely run away, behind the stables.

There she sees the ambulance, and hears a heavy thud as someone throws what sounds like a body into the back. She slips off her heels and creeps closer for a look. There’s Russian voices and Simon Thaler again, speaking German. She watches silently for a moment, but Simon stands back, looking straight at her, a baseball bat hanging in one hand. He couldn’t have seen her, she thinks.

Katya considers dashing into the ambulance cab and taking the keys, that’ll scupper their plans. Suddenly Thaler is there in front of her, he just appeared without seeming to cover the distance.

He swings the bat, and she just has time to block it with her shoulder, not her head. That hurt.

“Stop I want to help you” she shouts.
“Do I look like I need help?”.

She drops, rolls and sprints towards the stableblock. The baseball bat swings through the air behind her, and she jumps up, and flips up athletically onto the stableblock roof.

Catching her breath, she sees Simon crawl up the wall like a lizard, his hands sticking to the stone. Frightened, Katya backs towards a skylight window as he effortlessly reaches the roof.

Police sirens are approaching now, Simon looks annoyed, stares at Katya for a second, then swears, and drops back off the roof.

Katya pauses, and inches to the edge to see if he’s gone. She can see him throwing more bodies into the ambulance, but she is not going down, her gun is back at the hotel. This was supposed to be a nice party.

Police and FSB agents swarm around, and they appear at the skylight, shouting and pointing guns.
WEGA (SWAT) teams arrive. Katya complies with their commands, she’s done nothing wrong.
The police disagree, they have witnesses who say she and her associates were trying to kidnap Shevlenko. Katya’s arrested and taken into custody.

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