The Zalozhniy Quartet

This party is full of bankers

Free champagne is the perfect distraction

Katya, Patrick and Sergei secure invites to the Montavon family party later in the evening, Somerset and Malach tacitly agree to act as driver and backup respectively. We’ve got a few hours to kill before the tuxedos come out so it’s spent checking through the footage and photographs of the contents of our new favourite safety deposit box.

Shevlenko was sitting on a haul of correspondence and documents belonging to Kim Philby. Inside are a sheaf of black and white photographs of British spies and handlers, including Nicholas Elliot and Gertrude Bell. There’s also a photo of a young Shevlenko, looking sideways at the camera. Next there’s a passport and a copy of Kim by Rudyard Kipling, the titular character of which Philby was named after. Makes sense in a nostalgic way, but sits a little at odds with the rest of the inventory. We’ll need to make closer inspection if we ever get to the box contents.

Finally there’s a handful of unsent letters, written by Kim Philby. Mostly personal items, including one to St-John Philby and one to the National Museum of Iraq inquiring about a document written by Gertrude Bell.

A pattern appears to be emerging, but we’re working with fragments of evidence at the moment. There’s something that connects St-John Philby, Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence and Sir Leonard Woolley to Kim Philby. We learn that the Philby Sr., Bell and Lawrence may have met at Woolley’s archaeological dig site in Carchemish. Did they find something there, which was passed on to Kim Philby by his father, and in turn to Shevlenko, his KGB handler? And what implications does that have for MI5 and MI6?

The research takes us through to early evening and it’s time to get suited and booted before heading over to the Montavon estate.

Katya and Sergei are back in the guise of Herr and Frau Schmidt, professional spenders of unearned wealth. Patrick poses as an up and coming photographer, attached to the Schmidts. Security isn’t quite at the level as some of the soirées we’ve attended recently, but we’re not expecting direct action and have opted to tackle this one without body armour or weaponry, unless you count the ceramic knife and a dart gun packed with anti-coagulant. Can’t be too careful, after all.

Complementary champagne in hand, we work the party, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. An initial circuit of the ballroom reveals most of the Montavon family principles are in attendance. Julie Montavon is acting as gracious host, backed up by her brother Jean. Julie’s partner Johan Gallion is working the crowd and we spot Black Sea Bank’s own Victor Kozel too. Notable by their absence are Andreas, the patriarch, who is expected to make an appearance later, and his sister Clarique Montavon. A quick chat to another party goer and we learn that Clarique is very unlikely to attend. The rift in the Montavon family is evidently deeper than we first thought. Patrick, clearly bored by the shmoozing, ducks out through a back door, vanishing deeper into the private sections of the house.

The most interesting part of the party is a thinly disguised disagreement going on between Gallion and Kozel, and it seems a little late in the day to be thrashing out take-over contracts. Armed with drinks and broad smiles, Katya and Sergei attempt an intervention, but it appears neither man wants their heated debate to be extinguished, so we leave them to find a new corner to bicker in.

Patrick disappears into the house. Serving staff and security personnel are not overwhelming in number, but a significant threat and it’s going to be a protracted test of the Irishman’s sneaking skills. Beats canapés and small talk though.

Katya continues to sift through the crowd, encountering a striking woman, likely of North African descent. This must be our tail from the bank the previous day. She isn’t giving much away, but says her name is Eleanor Gabrielli, an Italian.

Ducking through a fresh set of doors, taking a left a right and another right up a set of stairs, Patrick loses the curious butler who had been pursuing the furtive noises from in the west wing.

Meanwhile, things in the ballroom have taken a sudden turn for the worse: Andreas has arrived and immediately embarks upon a protracted speech. Sergei’s medically-trained eye spots a few elements of unsteadiness in the patriarch’s speech and demeanour: likely an early sign of the onset of dementia. The speech is laborious and not desperately convincing in its attempted air of confidence. He’s under stress too.

Patrick slips silently into what is obviously the house’s main study cum office. Experienced eyes scan the room while nimble fingers rifle through cupboards and drawers. In mere moments he’s secured a key card and begins attaching it to a compact arrangement of circuitry and wires, all hooked into his mobile phone. Bingo. As the screen flashes an affirmation, regular footfalls from down the hall suggest it’s time to get back to the party.

In the absence of Andreas, Sergei and Katya decide to up the pressure on Julie, playing the age old game of good party guest, bad party guest. Sergei goes in hard with a series of tough questions about the change in bank security and irregularity of the vault situation. However, Julie sticks grimly to the official line in the face of this pair of outraged customers and it’s clear that she’ll be giving nothing away right now. The background music ups in both volume and tempo and Sergei turns to the dance floor in the hope that the upbeat mood might loosen a different Montavon’s tongue.

Lowering himself from a second floor balcony, Patrick drops into the chill gloom of an unlit terrace, distant sounds of music and revelry echo from the other side of the building. He’s almost out, but there’s still plenty of chance of stumbling into a situation that ‘I was only looking for the bathroom’ just won’t explain.

Katya and Sergei resort to eavesdropping on the Gallion-Kozel argument. Seems there’s a disagreement about the security arrangements for tomorrow’s money transfer. Kozel wants to bring in Overwatch security – an outfit we’ve caught wind of before and who sound like tough customers. Gallion is against the idea. If tomorrow’s transfer is intended to cover the theft of the deposit box, we’re running on a very short deadline.

Footsteps are closing fast on Patrick’s position as he finds himself facing a long corridor, devoid of hiding places. No doors, save the one he came through. One window, locked. Time is running out. Bracing his hands and feet against opposite walls, he slides backwards up the wall into a the shadowed recess above the door, just as it swings open. The guard proceeds cautiously forward, blissfully unaware, pauses, then heads back out of the corridor. Patrick slowly releases a long-held breath and drops silently to the floor.

Katya spots a figure by the bar, notable by his beverage of choice – mineral water – amidst the champagne-swilling throng. She slinks up and introduces herself. He’s Michael Baker and claims to be a minder for one of the guests. He raises an eyebrow at the ring on Katya’s finger and she turns on the bored trophy wife routine. He responds with bullish alpha male – a promising combination. Phone numbers are subtly exchanged, while Sergei finds Jean Montavon by the dance floor. Where stern questioning failed with Julie, perhaps affable drunkenness will get through to Jean, but the familiar line comes out again – security is difficult during these takeovers, extra precautions needed, it’s a temporary measure, your property is safe, etc. We’re being stonewalled.

Patrick ambles back into the ballroom as though he’d never left and starts heading toward the door. Just one more job for Katya and Sergei remain. Sergei heads towards Victor Kozel, slopping champagne and slurring. He begins an uninvited and only semi-coherent line of conversation about long term interest strategies before seemingly becoming distracted by a passing drinks tray. Off-balance, he spins round to intercept the waitress, colliding squarely with Kozel in the process. Katya steps in to steady the banker and apologise for her husband’s behaviour, expertly slipping a tracker bug into the man’s jacket.

The party’s coming to a close as Katya, Patrick and Sergei stride out to the waiting car. We’d been out in the midst of our enemy once more and somehow nothing had been mauled, murdered or exploded. We must be losing our touch.

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