The System (Part II)

Chapter Six:  Lietuvēns

Kostya Rodionov was a relaxed and affable man in the autumn of his years.  There was very little about him that would betray his many years of service as a ruthless frontline agent of the Soviet KGB.  Nowadays, he preferred to divide his time between fishing and reading and other pursuits befitting a retired gentleman.  As he sat comfortably in his well-worn armchair, the four members of the Prometheans who had come to visit him stared at him with morbid skepticism.  Rodionov could see the distrust in their eyes.  He was not perturbed.

“Would you gentlemen like something to drink?  I always like a little vodka in the evenings.  I know, it’s a stereotype to be a old Russian who drinks vodka.  The more urbane Russians now drink scotch.  Good luck to them.  Myself, I’m a little old-fashioned.  Old habits die hard.”

The Prometheans declined his offer.

Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta had no idea how their Russian host had found out about their team.  The only thing they knew was that Epsilon had known him for a very long time.  Indeed, it was Epsilon who broke the news to the rest of the Prometheans that Rodionov wanted to call a meeting with the team’s leadership.  It was then that Epsilon mentioned to Alpha that Rodionov was a known former KGB agent.

Epsilon had known Rodionov for a long time.  He used to go around to his house to play chess with the old locksmith.  He knew that Rodionov had contempt for the oligarchs and he especially hated Valērijs Kapustins, but Epsilon never really knew why.  He had always assumed that it was simply natural that any normal person would hate the oligarchs.  Let’s face it, to most sane people who don’t have their heads buried in the sand, the average oligarch is about as likeable as a multi-millionaire setting fire to 500 euro notes outside an orphanage.  After Epsilon’s father was murdered, he used to tell Rodionov all about his dreams to one day seek armed revenge against the oligarchs.  Rodionov had known for a long time that this was one of the motivating factors for Epsilon seeking military training by joining the Latvian Army.  All the same, Rodionov had always assumed that Epsilon’s expressed dreams of inflicting armed attacks on the criminal elite in Latvia was nothing but hot air coming from the mouth of an angry young man.  He never really expected that Epsilon would go ahead with such a plan.

Then, that night when Rodionov inadvertently witnessed Epsilon and his colleagues stowing weapons, ammunition, and explosives inside one of the sheds on Epsilon’s farm, as well as overhearing parts of their conversation, he began to suspect that Epsilon’s project was genuinely going ahead.  Once the first armed attack on the Lipšitzs mansion in Ventspils had hit the news, Rodionov knew for certain that Epsilon was behind it.  Of course, he was right.  You see, Alpha may have been the leader of the Prometheans, but it was Epsilon who inspired the formation of the group in the first place.

When Epsilon broke the news to Alpha that a ex-KGB agent called Kostya Rodionov somehow knew about their team and wanted to call a meeting with them, Alpha and the other members of the Prometheans just about lost the contents of their stomachs.  When Epsilon was unable to explain how Rodionov got into the picture, panic swept through the group.  Beta wanted to go around to Rodionov’s house and kill him.  He felt it was too dangerous to allow an outsider like him to know who they were and what they were doing.  Alpha gave serious consideration to Beta’s suggestion for a short while but, in the end, Gamma suggested it would be the better part of valour if they attended that meeting to find out what Rodionov wanted.  Failure to do so could have unforeseen repercussions for them.

Only Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta went to Rodionov’s house that fateful evening.  Epsilon was told in no uncertain terms to stay at home, while the others were told to act as fast as they could to move all the weapons and equipment to another location.

As the four Prometheans sat inside their host’s humble rural cottage, Kostya Rodionov took a sip of vodka, then put down his glass.

“So I understand you men have big plans for Valerijs Kapustins?  First you want to murder his bodyguards.  Then you want to kidnap him.  And then you want to torture him to obtain details of his financial arrangements so you can expose him to the Latvian public… let them see how naughty he has been.  It all sounds a little unsophisticated to me.”

“Unsophisticated?  Do you think we should wear bow ties and patent leather shoes when we do it?” asked Alpha

Rodionov continued, “I think you should realise that Kapustins is not your worst enemy.  Do you think such a man would have been allowed to carry on the way he has in a country like Denmark?  Or would they have jailed him many years ago?  What do you think would happen if Kapustins had chosen the same lifestyle in the land of your beloved friends and allies, the United States of America?  Would he be getting a tan on the beach in Miami, or would he be living in a small cell under fluorescent light in San Quentin?  You need to realise that it’s the people who have allowed men like Lipšitzs and Kapustins to exist in the first place who are your true enemies.”

The Prometheans remained stolidly silent.

“Kapustins was always a very cautious man.  He liked to have certain ‘insurance policies’.  When you’re working in his industy, it would be natural that somebody might want to cause you harm some day.  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why nobody has murdered that bastard yet?  I know why.  He keeps a hidden ledger, carefully detailing every bribe he has ever paid to Latvian politicians, judges, corruption investigators, police, and senior civil servants.  Along with that ledger there is also a lot of supporting documentation that verifies the authenticity of that ledger.  It is widely known among those who have been on his payroll that if anything ever happens to him, his lawyer has been instructed to make that ledger the most publicly available document in all of Latvia.  Can you imagine the consequences for the powerbrokers of this country if anything bad ever happened to Kapustins?  You can take my word that they will do anything to keep him alive.”

Alpha interjected, “So are you saying we should just leave Kapustins alone, and let him continue destroying people’s lives?”

Rodionov continued, “Not at all.  I’m saying by all means that you should try to abduct Kapustins, but don’t kill him or torture him.  Keep him alive.  You will need him in good condition later on.  What you do need to do is convince everybody else that you have murdered him, that he is dead, two metres beneath a field filled with sunflowers, and you need to communicate that to his lawyer.”

Alpha could barely refrain from rolling his eyes.

“And you think that his lawyer will just release the ledger to the media, the corrupt Latvian Deep State will fall like a house of cards, and our work here will be done?  What if his lawyer shows restraint and decides to refrain from putting the ledger out there until he has more proof of Kapustins’ death?  Then what?”, asked Alpha.

Rodionov took a sip of vodka and thought deeply for a moment.

“Who cares whether he publishes the ledger or not?  The only important thing is, nobody will be 100% certain whether Kapustins is dead or alive, and nobody will be 100% certain what his lawyer will do.  That sure makes for one very, very nervous network of corrupt politicians, judges, senior officials, and police.  Would you be surprised if a whole bunch of politicians and state officials started packing their bags to leave Europe before any arrest warrants are issued?  The honest ones would stay, though.”

If Rodionov hadn’t captured Alpha’s attention before, he had it now.  Alpha’s attention was completely undivided.

Delta was a little less taken by Rodionov.

“So you just kindly asked us to drop by so you can help us achieve justice for Latvia, KGB Agent Kostya Rodionov?”

“Justice?  I have little interest in that idea.  Does justice even exist?  My interest is vengeance, my friends.  Mr Kapustins and I go back a long way.  But what can an old man like me do that couldn’t be done better by group of strong, angry men, such as yourselves?  I think it might be time for me to tell you what happened in Leningrad back in 1989.”

(to be continued Saturday 4th August, 2018)

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