Chapter Three (continued): Lietuvēns
Dita Kaķīte-Bezbikse strutted through the door, her Sophia Webster Evangeline white and rose gold leather sandals making a clopping sound across the Noir Belge marble tiles at the entry to the executive suite. As usual for any visit she made to the Lipšitzs lair, her dark charcoal Versace v-neck dress sleekly enwrapped her slender form, with a little too much of her bustline on display than her husband might normally appreciate, given she was meeting with a lecherous sloth like Lipšitzs. That was just the way the Latvian Finance Minister liked it. It certainly wasn’t a look that she would present before the media, but when meeting with Lipšitzs alone, she felt that dressing like an upmarket escort girl made her feel powerful in his presence.
The moonlight that shone through the window and bounced off her breasts dazzled Lipšitzs for a moment before he regained his composure.
“Ah, Dita! It’s so wonderful to see both of you again.”
Dita cast her eleven thousand Watt smile and jiggled her breasts from left to right for a fleeting moment, as if to revel in his lurid quip. She took a seat on a velure lounge settee, hiking her hemline above her knees and high on her thighs as she sexily crossed her legs like she was preparing to be photographed for Cosmopolitan magazine. Even from where I was secretly observing, I could tell she was wearing black, lacy underwear.
“What’s new, boss?”
“Dita, I had a call from Nils in Rīga earlier this afternoon. He wasn’t happy with your Ministry’s proposed changes to government acquisition policies. Frankly, I’m not too thrilled either. Get it changed for me, sweetie.”
“I’m assuming Sections 3 and 4 are the problematic areas?” quizzed Kaķīte-Bezbikse.
“I’m sure you understand, Dita. It’s just not expedient for me or the others to allow the Latvian Government to be experimenting with these anti-corruption measures. They pose such a severe risk of destabilising Latvia. You know very well that stability is the most important thing. I understand Latvia must try to give the impression that the government is combating corruption just to appease a few irritating individuals in London, Brussels, and Washington. Truly, I do understand the unfair pressures you’re under. But you don’t put on this kind of sideshow when it comes to government acquisitions. Do what’s best, Dita. Stick with what you know. The usual suppliers are best for Latvia and if you go opening up tenders to other companies, you could put your most loyal supporters out of business. If that happens, well, you know that some people could get hurt.”
“Aivars, you needn’t worry. We’ve already added a special clause in the appendix that empowers the Finance Minister to veto the requirements of Sections 3 and 4 if it is considered to be in the interests of national security to do so. I’ve got your back covered, honey. Now, please, stop being so tense. Let’s have a drink together.”
Lipšitzs poured two glasses of Benoit Serres Liqueur de Violette on ice. The ice was made from water secretly imported from Harald Molke Glacier in Greenland. Lipšitzs never consumed water from Latvia because he feared being poisoned.
“Dita, we’ve got a small problem. Nils is currently getting some heat from Vlad. Vlad’s not happy about the escalation of NATO troop numbers here and, honestly, it makes me uneasy too. I know we all have to create the outward impression that Latvia is a pro-NATO country. But I do agree we have to draw the line somewhere. If the United States keeps unloading heavy artillery pieces in Rīga, it makes Vlad look weak. It’s not nice for a small country to be humiliating a mother nation. It’s very impolite, especially when Vlad’s friends are such large contributors to our national banking system. We have to remember who puts the butter on our bread, don’t we?”
Dita smiled, accidentally spilling a droplet of her Liqueur de Violette on her left breast, and then gently stroking it off with one finger. As Lipšitzs eyed the circular motions of her index finger, he was momentarily distracted from his train of thought.
“Aivars, Defence is not my portfolio. I can’t actually order the Americans out of Latvia. The only thing I can really do is make a case for cutting back the Latvian defence expenditure. Maybe… maybe I can argue that we are low on available finances because we have to direct more money to your civil engineering company for the upgrade of the stevedore facilities at the port. That way, we can force NATO operations to be scaled down in Latvia and it means more money for your company.”
Lipšitzs interjected with a smug grin on his face, “Ahem… my civil engineering company? We all know that my son-in-law owns that company. I have nothing to do with it.”
Dita laughed as she twirled her dark hair with one finger. “Oh, Aivars! I’m so glad you’re the one thing in my life that never changes! Of course… your son-in-law’s company. You knew what I meant, though.”
“That’s what stability is all about, Dita. You keep it all among family and friends. Personally, I don’t like to be too greedy. It’s nice to see other people develop their businesses. Imagine if I owned absolutely everything. Where would the fun be in that?”
Dita cackled hysterically before taking another sip of her liqueur.
“You really are a very generous man, Aivars. That’s what people love about you. Are you giving away chocolates to the poor kids again this year?”
“But of course, my lovely lady. We’re getting them cheaper this year. The supplier was going to raise the price due to inflation, and that kind of greed disgusts me. One of my men went to speak to the chief of their sales division and, shall we say, talked him into lowering the price.”
“Aivars, you didn’t, did you?”
“Dita, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s greed. That man deserved to have his ear cut off. I did it for the children. I have always understood the anger that greed invokes in people. He must have also had some other enemies who didn’t like his stingy attitude. Three days after my man severed his ear, one of his subordinates was found floating dead in the Daugava River. I don’t know who did that. But, whoever did it must have sent out a very strong message that greed is a bad thing.”
Dita went silent for a moment as she sipped her liqueur and pretended not to be just a little chilled to the bones.
“Dita, you do know I still have that security camera footage of you and the Duke when he made his official visit to Latvia.”
“Yes, Aivars. Aivars – please – you know I would never do anything to be disloyal to you. I promise you I would never, ever let you down. I swear I will do everything I can to get the American military presence in Latvia reduced. Your company will get a lot of money out of this. Aivars, please, I’m begging you, I always do everything I can to cooperate with you.”
“Dita… that’s my son-in-law’s company!”
“I’m sorry Mr Lipšitzs. That’s what I meant to say. I will get onto this problem right away.”
“Of course, Dita. And you know what to do. We need the money allocated to Latvia’s military dalliances with NATO pulled back and my son-in-law is the best contractor to do the upgrade at the port. I think another 200 million euros would be a fair cost for the upgrade.”
“Aivars, I will do whatever it takes.”
“That’s nice to hear, Mrs Kaķīte-Bezbikse. That’s very nice to hear. We don’t want to upset Vlad any further. His friends are important clients of mine. And I don’t want any more phone calls from Nils, either.”
Lipšitzs quicky checked that his office security cameras were functioning properly. Then he reached for a remote control and put on some music: Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s 1967 classic Je t’aime… moi non plus.
“Now, be a good girl. Take off that dress and dance for me like a dirty little whore.”
As the Jelgava Circle grabbed their coats and satchels to leave the Armoury Bar and head home after an evening of plotting the downfall of Lipšitzs, nobody in the entire world knew that 132 kilometres away in the small town of Skrunda, nine men with codenames were meeting secretly in a small barn on a little farm just outside the town centre.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, and Iota had just sworn a solemn oath to each other that they were going to eradicate the criminal oligarchs in Latvia if it was the last thing they did in life. Their first target: Aivars Lipšitzs.
ALPHA: “Men, we’re going to launch clandestine sniper attacks on the home of Aivars Lipšitzs. He’s guarded by a group of very hardcore security officers. They’re little more than hired thugs who know they are making their living protecting a gangster who robs Latvia. They’re just a bunch of self-interested pigs who have no patriotism for Latvia, no loyalty to anybody but themselves and they need to go.”
IOTA: “I’m not sure what you’re planning, Alpha. Are you saying we’re going to systematically kill all his security officers? That’s a hard line to take against married men who have children at home just because we don’t like their boss.”
ALPHA: “We’re not going to kill any of them… just yet. We’re going to make them want to resign their jobs. The object of our first few incursions will be to take well-aimed shots that miss the security officers by only a small margin. Nobody gets hurt, but everybody gets a big fright. We need to deliver about twenty rounds on our target and then withdraw rapidly. Then we turn up again another night and do exactly the same thing. We make it look like we tried to kill multiple security officers, but failed. But we keep coming back. Do you think these security officers are gambling men? Are they willing to lay a bet that we are going to keep missing them each time we attack? No! I’m guessing the Lipšitzs Brigade will resign their jobs in droves after a taste of a Promethean attack, or three. This is not what they signed up for. However, if anybody does remain gainfully employed with old Lipšitzs, then we are going to start killing them with well-aimed shots to the head. We will keep making surprise attacks on his house until we have killed every remaining security guard. Honestly, let’s not get too sentimental. They’ll be given enough chances to do the smart thing and leave their jobs while they’re still alive. Anybody who sticks around is a fair target for death at our hands because they’ve chosen that risk.”
IOTA: “Where does that lead us?”
ALPHA: “When all his security detail have resigned or been killed, who is going to be stupid enough to work for him? What salary can he pay somebody to guard his house if doing so is almost a guaranteed death sentence? Nobody is going to work for him. Mr Lipšitzs is going to find out that there are some things that even he cannot buy. Once he has no security detail working for him, he’s vulnerable. We are going to abduct him and take him to a clandestine location where we’re going to get him to tell us everything about his financial affairs. We will get the names of everybody he bribes, everybody he threatens, every offshore bank account where he keeps money, every shell company he owns, and full confessions. He’s going to tell us exactly how he has gotten away with everything he’s done for the past three decades. We’re going to record this on DVD.”
IOTA: “Are we going to kill him, too?”
ALPHA: “Nope. We’ll let him live. Once we’ve got what we want, we’ll leave him naked, bound and gagged somewhere on the E22 into Ventspils and notify one of Latvia’s more deserving photojournalists about his location. Let’s give a young, aspiring anti-corruption writer a chance to get some great, award winning photos and the biggest story of his life.”
IOTA: “Do you really think he’s going to tell us much? For example, if we ask him how he managed to steal 200 million euros from the Latvian Government three years ago, do you really think we’re going to find a way to get that out of him? I think he’ll just deny everything.”
ALPHA: “He will tell us exactly how he stole 200 million euros from the Latvian Government. Otherwise, we’ll strap him to a chair. We’ll insert a hypodermic syringe into his left eyeball. Then we’ll inject it with petrol. Does that answer your question? However, something makes me think he will tell us everything we need to know before it even gets to that point. The beautiful thing is, the choice will be entirely his. If he gives us what we want, we won’t harm him. Don’t lose sight of the fact that we are only asking a criminal to confess to his crimes. That’s the right thing for a criminal to do, and if he does the right thing, we won’t inflict one second of pain on him.”
IOTA: “I’m not trying to be a naysayer, but what if he’s stronger than we think? What if we are forced to inject the petrol into his eyeballs. Is that how we’re going to leave him on the E22? Permanently blinded by petrol?”
ALPHA: “All will not be lost. Remember, we’re videoing the whole thing. We’ll shoot him, then throw his body down a makeshift grave deep inside one of the forests, dissolve his body with sulphuric acid, neutralise any leftover acid with sodium bicarbonate, and then bury him. He’ll be gone forever. Then, when we go after that Kapustins character… when we get him into our hands… we’re going to show him that video. He’ll cry like a little baby. We might even get a video of him howling and begging, and hand out copies to all his victims.”
IOTA: “Boss, sorry about this, but we have one very big problem on our hands. We don’t have any weapons or ammunition. We have hardly any money to finance this war against the oligarchs.”
GAMMA: “I’ve got that base covered. Here’s the basic outline of how we’re going to get the money to finance our weapons, ammunition, and supplies for the next six months. I think you’re all going to like this plan. We can have a bit of fun with it.”
Gamma pulled out a whiteboard and detailed his plan that would finance the Prometheans.
Gamma had once been a corrupt police officer in Daugavpils. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy that a corrupt cop has joined a squad of anti-corruption vigilantes, but Gamma actually hated the fact that he was a corrupt officer. Corruption, being the Devil that it is, has an amazing talent for engendering corruption even among decent people who never wanted to be corrupt in the first place.
Gamma, like Delta, came from a decent family. He joined Latvijas Valsts Policija because he wanted to serve the community. It wasn’t long before he knew too much about certain things and he was bullied into doing illegal things on behalf of one of his superiors. He was young at the time and, as they say, you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. In hindsight, he should have left his job with the police. But he stayed because he didn’t have another job to go to. Rent had to be paid, and his mother was sick and he needed to be able to pay for her medical bills. By acceding to his commanding officer’s nefarious wishes, he got to keep his job and he even made some money on the side. It wasn’t easy for a young man to walk away from that sad, sad situation.
Eventually, his mother passed away. Then, when an internal investigation blew open the scam he was involved in with his superior officer, as well as fifteen other senior officers and several local politicians, it became very apparent that none of the kingpins of the scam were going to be prosecuted. Certainly his commanding officer was off the hook. But the anti-corruption investigators were going right after Gamma. He was going to take the full brunt of the law for this scandal that had been going on in Daugavpils.
As usual, the politicians behind the scandal weren’t even listed as suspects. However, the deputy mayor of Daugavpils at that time, who had no involvement in the police scam at all, was going to write an Op Ed piece about it in a popular newspaper but he ended up being shot dead in a cafe on Lāčplēša iela near the University of Daugavpils. That crime remains unsolved to this day.
Gamma abandoned his job and went into hiding before catching up with his old friend, Alpha, who took him in for a while. He worked on a farm owned by Alpha’s family for many years, receiving his wages on a cash-in-hand basis, before joining Alpha’s Prometheans.
Gamma had a brilliant plan to get the money for their weapons and ammunition and he knew exactly who he was going to get it from. By the time Gamma had explained the scheme, the Prometheans were in fits of laughter.
DELTA: “I just want to say that I’m so glad I’ve met all you guys and I’m so glad I’m going to be a part of this. Guys… what can I say? Let’s do this thing!”
(to be continued Friday 6th July, 2018)