Chapter Nine: Lietuvēns
The Latvian media don’t normally write about Kapustins very much, but the incident with the obliterated alabaster gibbons was a little hard to ignore. The voracity of the attack and the extent of the damage well and truly eclipsed anything that had been seen in Ventspils. There were reports that police ballistics experts said none of the expended ammunition recovered from the site of the Kapustins villa matched ammunition seized from the Lipšitzs mansion. The ammunition found at the Lipšitzs mansion had been identified as 12.7x99mm NATO rounds, while 5.56x45mm NATO rounds had been found at Lipšitzs’ office. The ammunition found at the Kapustins villa were 7.62x51mm NATO rounds and the shrapnel located in the eastern wing was deemed to be consistent with the 84mm unguided anti-armour projectiles manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden. The tactics used in each attack had been completely different. They concluded it was unlikely to have been conducted by the same armed group. With this information dominating all news services in Latvia, the word on the street was very clear: Kapustins and Lipšitzs were trying to kill each other.
If that was the conclusion that had been reached by the average Latvian, who worked in a normal job and paid taxes to finance the austerities brought upon them by the financial crimes of Latvia’s oligarchs, they were not alone in thinking that Kapustins and Lipšitzs were trying to murder each other.
Kapustins believed it, too.
So did Lipšitzs.
If there had been any “Doubting Thomas’s” out there, I’m sure their doubts would have been put to rest two days later. Something shocking happened in Ventspils.
The Prometheans had been sitting in a pub in Rīga called Trīs Vīri Laivā at Avotu iela 35 at the time, playing a few friendly games of chess while partaking in the wonderful pub snacks on sale there. The kraukšķīgas kartupeļu daiviņas ar mērci they sell at that pub is a tasty treat, so the Prometheans had ordered four servings for the nine of them.
They weren’t really at that pub to play chess, though. They were all there to meet with our favourite retired locksmith and former KGB agent, Mr Kostya Rodionov, who was visiting Rīga at the time. He was about to blow his top.
Rodionov stormed into the pub and took a seat with the Prometheans.
“Please tell me what on Earth you guys were thinking? What was going through your heads? You could have killed Kapustins with an attack like that! I thought I told you people that we need to keep him alive. And we can only hope that ledger he keeps wasn’t in the eastern wing of his villa. That is the one document you gentlemen need to get your hands on if you are ever to achieve what you set out to do. For all we know, it’s now just a pile of confetti. Can somebody here explain to me what kind of stupid, idiotic ideas were circulating inside your skulls when you planned this crazy, psychotic attack in Jūrmala?”
“What ledger?” asked Zeta.
“Oh, that’s right. You weren’t there at the time. The others should have told you.” replied Rodionov.
He continued, “Kapustins keeps a ledger that details every bribe he has ever paid to the movers and shakers of Latvia. Everybody who has ever accepted a bribe from him knows that if anybody kills Kapustins, that ledger will become a publicly available document, compliments of his legal team. It’s what keeps Kapustins alive. In fact, it’s probably the only thing that keeps him alive. That ledger is the most feared document in Latvia. We can’t afford to have anything happen to that ledger until the right moment has arrived. And you don’t want Kapustins dead. He is going to be very useful to your cause… our cause… if he is kept alive. We can only be thankful that your bizarre cowboy act in Jūrmala didn’t completely destroy a much more sophisticated plan that is open to you. Anyway, I don’t want to be angry anymore. By the way, whose idea was it to destroy his alabaster gibbons? I must admit, the first time I heard about it, I laughed so much I almost peed myself!”
“Ummm… collateral damage, Kostya. We didn’t really know anything about his gibbon statues.” replied Alpha.
“Well, you can at least score a few points for that part of the attack. Dear Valērijs will be heartbroken that his gibbons are scattered for three blocks. I hear fragments of his gibbons are selling on ss.com! I was half thinking of buying one myself to put on my window sill as a memento.”
“Everybody thinks that Kapustins and Lipšitzs are trying to kill each other.” commented Delta.
“You are so right, my friend.” said Rodionov. “Did you hear what happened a short while ago?”
“What?” asked Delta.
“Bomb blast. Somebody detonated a diesel and fertiliser bomb at the Port of Ventspils a short while ago.”
“Wasn’t us”, said Delta.
“I know it wasn’t you. You’re all here in Rīga playing little games and munching on fried potato wedges. That bomb was planted by somebody who isn’t here in Rīga and who probably gets to drink some very expensive liquor whenever he meets with our friend in Jūrmala.”
“Is Lipšitzs dead?” asked Delta.
“Negative. Lipšitzs lives on, like the immortal man that he is. Seven of his people were killed, though. It was a small gesture by Kapustins. He could have done much worse. Kapustins is just playing with him for now. The next bomb might not be so playful. The word is on the street that this might be a fight between the two over some little backpacker’s hostel that’s going to be built north of Ventspils.”
“Backpackers hostel?” asked Delta.
“Yes. Some backpacker’s hostel that a foreign company is going to build for Chinese people. It just so happens that little hostel is going to cost nine billion euros to build. The company that’s going to build it is registered in Belize. Let me tell you, if it’s a Belizean registered company, I would not be surprised if one of their former KGB friends is behind this investment. You never see things like this being built in Latvia by honest gentlemen whose company is registered in Denmark. But, I speculate, of course.”
“What do you suggest we do, Kostya?” asked Delta.
“Well, I already told you men what to do. But you’ve blown it now. How are you going to abduct Kapustins? Can you imagine the security provisions he has in place right now? You would have more chance of taking the gold at Fort Knox in Kentucky. That’s what I think you should do. You men should go to Fort Knox and try to take the gold. Become oligarchs. Buy the Latvian Government and then buy Kapustins’ incarceration. Your chances of getting your hands on Kapustins are now far less.”
“Seriously, what can we do, Kostya?” asked Delta again.
“There is going to be a civil war between Kapustins and Lipšitzs. Kapustins will have to find a new place to live. I don’t think he will stay in Jūrmala. Maybe he will go to Russia, but I’m not so sure. I think he will stay here in Latvia to oversee operations to get Lipšitzs murdered. He will try to kill his family, too. Naturally, Lipšitzs will try to kill Kapustins first. Both men will need to hide from each other. You can’t abduct either man if you don’t know where they’re living anymore. Well done, my friends. Slow clap!”
“Look, what’s done is done, Kostya. There’s no need to needle us about this. We get it. Can you give us any idea how we might find out where Kapustins will be hiding?” said Alpha.
“That’s easy. You need to abduct one of his oligarch friends. Friends are not such good friends when they are being waterboarded. They become unreliable. My suggestion would be for you to get your hands on Andris Šķiņķis, or Ainārs Slapjums, or maybe even his longtime business partner, Viktors Sadovskijs. They will tell you everything you need to know. There are very few true friends in business, and there are no friends at all when you are strapped to a waterboard.”
“Supposing we decided to abduct, say, Slapjums. What do you think we should do?” asked Alpha.
“Create a very large diversion. Set off a large explosion near Slapjums’ mansion. No need to destroy any alabaster gibbons this time. Make the explosion happen near Slapjums’s mansion but not big enough or close enough to harm him. Please, no Swedish shrapnel this time, either. Some explosives wrapped in paper should be good enough. A bomb blast will send his security team into Red Alert. They’ll be pouring out onto the street to engage the perpetrators. Start a big shootout near the site of the explosion. Draw his gung-ho security officers into the action. It will be very dangerous, of course. But then it would only take about three of you to enter Slapjums’ mansion and grab him, because his GI Joe Team will be out on the street playing Rambo. His security detail will be too busy reacting to loud noise and shooting. Once you’ve got Slapjums, he will be very useful to you. But act quickly. Get Slapjums, get him out of Rīga, and find out where Kapustins is living as quickly as possible. Then, you will need to get your team to where Kapustins is hiding as a matter of urgency and find a way to abduct him, too. That will be the hard part.”
Alpha looked at Delta. “I think I need more scotch.”
I don’t know what made me think of this, but I remember overhearing a little parable that a Latvian called Jānis Akenfelds once told his family. Jānis was a man who was born in Skrundas pagasts during the 1920s, not far from where Kostya Rodionov’s little cottage was located. He was an intelligent and hard-working gentleman who had a brilliant future lying ahead of him. Sadly, in 1944, Jānis had to flee with his sister and mother to escape a wretched evil that was infesting Latvia: the illegal Soviet occupation regime. He knew that nothing good would come from Stalin’s overlordship of Latvia, so he did the smart thing and got out. It was good that he did, because despite living in the very humble conditions of a Latvian Displaced Persons Camp in Germany for quite some time, he eventually migrated to Australia were he lived out the rest of his life in a place that seemed to him like a paradise.
Jānis liked to tell an apocryphal story about a man called Ainārs who had decided his family’s old grandfather was too old and sick to live much longer and he was becoming too much of a burden on the family. So, one day, Ainārs put old granddad on a sled and asked his children to help him take the old man deep into a nearby forest.
Once they had arrived at a glade in the middle of the forest, he planned to abandon old granddad on his sled to suffer his fate at the merciless terrors of the winter elements.
However, upon arriving at the glade, the children wanted to take old granddad off the sled and leave him lying in the snow so they could take the sled back home with them. Ainārs told the children that they would not be taking the sled back home. He explained to the children that they were just going to leave granddad lying on the sled where he was and then they’d all walk back home without granddad or the sled.
The children kept insisting that they had to take the sled back home, but Ainārs kept insisting that the sled should stay where is was, with old granddad lying on it.
Finally, when Ainārs became tired of arguing about it with this children, he asked them why it was so important to take the sled back home.
The children replied to Ainārs, “We need to take the sled home so that when you get too old for us to look after, we can put you on it, too.”
Ainārs turned that sled around and took granddad straight back home.
It’s a lovely story, don’t you think?
Of course, this little parable can be interpreted in many ways, but I like to think of it as an example if what happens when we put a bad system in place. If we have power and we abuse that power to install a system that selfishly serves our own purposes instead of serving the common good, we face the risk that one day we, too, might become victims of that very same system that we once created to serve our own self-indulgent desires.
I wonder if the KGB oligarchs in Latvia ever gave any thought to that when those un-Latvian lice-infested rodents decided to establish a status quo in Latvia that serves themselves instead of allowing a system to emerge in Latvia that serves the common good?
Somehow, I don’t think so.
“I am Peter Furneaux, foreign correspondent reporting in the Art Nouveau district of central Rīga, Latvia, for Reuters World News”
“A little over two hours ago, a thunderous explosion shook the historical Art Nouveau district, an area normally known to locals as the “Quiet Centre” of Rīga. The shockwave from the blast was large enough to shatter windows on several buildings within a 100 metre radius of the blast site and residents as far away as Skanste and even Grīziņkalns said they felt the vibrations of the explosion.”
“A staff member at the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, stated that he was nearby at the time of the explosion. He reported seeing armed gunmen engaged in a brief fire fight with a group of security officers who are now believed to be employees of the well-known Latvian oligarch, Ainārs Slapjums.”
“Ainārs Slapjums was a former Latvian government Minister who gained notoriety when the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, infamously granted him immunity from being searched by police after he was accused by investigators of stealing tens of millions of euros from a state-owned company.”
“At this point in time, miraculously, police have advised that there are no known deaths due to this blast which precipitated chaotic scenes here in the Quiet Centre at around 03:17 am this morning. However, paramedics have reported that several security officers working nearby have been injured by gun fire.”
“For now, there are concerns for the safety of Slapjums, who has not been seen since the detonation took place. Police have appealed for Ainārs Slapjums to contact them as soon as possible.”
“I am Peter Furneaux for Reuters World News, in Rīga, Latvia.”
ALPHA: “Acropolis calling Team 1, over.”
DELTA: “Acropolis this is Team 1, go ahead.”
ALPHA: “Team 1, requesting SITREP, over.”
DELTA: “Team 1 proceeding to rendezvous point. The old man is on the sled, over.”
ALPHA: “Team 1 this is Acropolis, received old man on sled, more to follow, over…”
DELTA: “Standing by…”
ALPHA: “Team 1 this is Acropolis, Epsilon is down.”
DELTA: “Team 1 requesting confirmation Epsilon down, over.”
ALPHA: “Affirmative. Acropolis confirming Epsilon down. Expect delays to rendezvous, over.”
ALPHA: “Acropolis over and out.”
ALPHA: “Acropolis calling Team 2, over.”
THETA: “Acropolis this is Team 2, over.”
ALPHA: “Request condition of Epsilon, over.”
THETA: “Epsilon unconscious, breathing, heavy bleeding.”
ALPHA: “Received Team 2. Acropolis proceeding to your location. ETA 5 minutes.”
THETA: “Received your proceeding.”
ALPHA: “Acropolis over and out.”
For those of you out there who didn’t understand what all that was about, I’ll make it simple for you. During the fire fight that took place between the Prometheans and Slapjums’ security detail, Epsilon took a few hits. He was shot in three places. The six Prometheans who were involved in the gun battle outside the Slapjums residence evacuated him to a safe place where they could assist him. Of course, they couldn’t take him to a hospital. Could you imaging trying to explain what happened to the triage nurse on duty? I’d give them about seven minutes before they’d all be sitting in the back of police cars on their way to prison.
But there was one bit of good news: they caught Slapjums.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes for all the coffee in Brazil.
(to be continued Sunday 16th September, 2018)