Lielā Konfrontācija

Chapter Ten:  Lietuvēns

I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Kapustins’s shoes for all the coffee in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Slapjums no longer served any meaningful purpose whatsoever.  The Prometheans knew they had captured somebody much better.  They had what is known in seafood restaurants around the world as The Catch of the Day.  That, of course, was Valērijs Kapustins.  They now held the key to the shadowy Deep State that lurked within the Republic of Latvia.  Of course the other oligarchs were keys, too.  But Kapustins was the master key.  He could open every lock.  How deliciously appropriate that he was about to meet his nemesis in the form of a locksmith called Kostya Rodionov!

As Alpha and Delta headed back to join Rodionov and the others, who were still guarding Slapjums, Alpha was ruminating over a way to remove Slapjums from the picture while he was still alive.  You see, Rodionov had not yet been told about the death of Epsilon.  Rodionov had known Epsilon for many years and they feared that he would murder Slapjums if he found out that money-grubbing slob’s security team had killed Epsilon.  As far as Rodionov knew, Epsilon was still tied up with another matter in Rīga.

Of course they would have to tell him eventually, but not until after Rodionov had done everything that he needed to do.

The Prometheans and Rodionov were unlikely bedfellows.  That a group of Latvian patriots would team up with a former Russian KGB agent would not be the usual thing in a place like Latvia.  But, let’s face it everybody, things were a little off-script at this point in history.  Some flexibility needed to be shown by all parties.  Despite his less than admirable past, the Prometheans had discovered a certain affection for Rodionov.  They felt that his past could be forgiven.  He had left the KGB many years ago.  He has never denied what he was.  He wasn’t proud of everything the KGB did.  But at least he was now able to claim some redemption by helping a group of Latvians unravel the web of deceit that was strangling Latvia.  Granted, he was motivated by only one thing:  he hated Kapustins and wanted revenge.  But even acting out of self-interest, he could still serve the common good.

Destroying the vultures who were bleeding Latvia by the throat was definitely serving the common good.

Beta, Eta, and Iota were a few kilometres behind Alpha and Delta.  They had stayed back to rip the registration plates from Kapustins’ limosines, after which they loaded the vehicles with explosives and blew them to pieces.

*

UNDISCLOSED BASEMENT, ten minutes after the historic “Jaunpils Ambush”.

“Excellent work, gentlemen.  I’m proud of every one of you” said Kostya Rodionov, who was on the phone to Alpha.

“Now, don’t ask him any questions or say anything else to him.  Leave that to me.  Slapjums is under lock and key in the other basement.  He won’t hear a thing.  When you arrive here, bring Kapustins straight to me and leave him alone in the room with me.  I can work some magic if there are only the two of us in the cellar.”

“Will do” replied Alpha.

“Very good.  I will see you gentlemen when you get here.  Maybe in a few hours?”

“It depends on the weather.  I can see some rain up ahead” said Alpha.

“There’s no rush.  We have all night to get the results we want from our visitor.”

Rodionov made his way over to the other basement where Slapjums was being held by Gamma, Zeta, and Theta.  Now that he knew Kapustins had been captured, he made friendly conversation with Slapjums.

“We’re going to release you soon, Mr Slapjums.  You’ve served your purpose well, and we have no further reason to inconvenience you.”

“When can I go?” asked Slapjums.

“Not just yet.  We need to wait until Kapustins has served his purpose, too.  Then you will be as free as a bird.  I’m sorry if we frightened you.  Mr Lipšitzs stipulated to us that he doesn’t want you harmed.  He only needs to get his hands on Kapustins.  That’s why he hired us to abduct you.”

As Ainārs Slapjums contemplated his freedom, his mind ticked like a clock as he thought about Aivars Lipšitzs.

*

Sanita stormed into the Armoury Bar for the usual Tuesday night meeting of the Jelgava Circle.

“Guys, I think it’s time we abandoned ship.  We’ve got the recordings we want and I had to spend over an hour last night trying to convince Kapustins that we have the backing of a group of Shaolin kung fu masters with superior fighting skills and access to nitrogycerine.”

“We what???” asked Tomas, with a voice that could have shattered a wine glass.

“Long story, silly ending!” replied Sanita.  “Valdis, thank you so much.  I think it’s time for you to head to Kharkiv to get the transmitter removed from your tooth and the root canal refilled.  You’ll be able to go back to eating solid food.  The rest of us, I think it’s time we took an extended holiday on the French Riviera.  I know somebody who can find jobs for all of us in the hospitality industry in Villefranche-sur-Mer.  We can share an apartment together in Nice.”

“Are you serious, Sanita?” asked Tomas.

“Deadly.  We’ve got to get out of Latvia and stay out for an indefinite period of time.  Then we can leak the audio files to the media.  Kapustins is a psycho.  His head is full of arson, poison, and shootings.  He even arranged for somebody to get their hand amputated with a ripsaw.  He’s not just corrupt.  He’s an extremely dangerous sociopath.”

“So, just like that?  We have to drop everything and head to France?” asked Metra.

“Yes.  I’m afraid so.  My uncle has a summer house in Saldus.  We’ll all go there and lie low for a short time.  I really am sorry, guys.  Resign your jobs.  Tell your employers you’ve got a better job in Norway, tell them your aunty Conchita in Mexico is sick… I don’t care.  We can’t stay here.  We all have to leave Latvia together, overland via Lithuania, and make our way to France.  No flight manifests.  We have to do this by buses and trains.  If we stick together, we can survive.  I saw on Facebook there’s going to be a big anti-corruption demonstration outside the Saeima building in two weeks from now.  I’m thinking we should leak the audio files to the media about three days before the demonstration.  That will really give some impetus to demonstrators.  The Saeima will have a nightmare on their hands.”

“Are you thinking the demonstration will turn into riots, like in January 2009?”

“Who knows?  But the news that Kapustins and Lipšitzs were both aiming to pass 15 million euro bribes to various government ministers so the Chinese can take over western Latvia, not to mention how certain they were that this wouldn’t be difficult for them to do… well… that’s going to raise a lot of questions among a lot of people.  I’d say those demonstrations are about to get a whole lot bigger!”

The Jelgava Circle had only wanted to save Latvia from the criminality of the oligarchs.  The did not do any of this to make money for themselves.  Now, the act of trying to serve their country as more than mere by-standers would lead to the loss of their careers.  They would have to join the many Latvians who abandoned Latvia on an annual basis to work in menial jobs in Western European countries because life in Latvia was no longer tenable for them.

“I’m so sorry, everybody” said Sanita.  “I never thought it would come to this.  Valdis, please, leave Rīga as soon as you can and go to Kharkiv.  We’ll see you in a week from now in France.  As for everybody else, go home, grab some essentials, and we’ll all meet at the Laima Clock near the Freedom Monument.  From there, we’ll head to Saldus.  I’ll see you all in three hours from now.”

*

Valērijs Kapustins had no idea where he was.  He only knew that he was deep underground in a very ugly place.  With his hands and legs tied to a wooden chair, he was blindfolded and gagged.  He had heard the sounds of his captors talking in Latvian earlier.  Nobody’s voice seemed familiar to him.  Now, the only sound he could hear was the sound of a dripping tap and a vaguely familiar voice speaking to him in Russian.

His interrogator removed his blindfold and gag.

Kapustins bones rattled like maracas has he gaped at the ominous man wearing a balaclava, a white lab coat and black leather gloves who stood before him.

“Don’t be scared, Valera.  It’s me.”

Kapustins stammered “I don’t know who are… I’m very sorry.”

The interrogator took off his balaclava and revealed his face to Kapustins.  It had been a very long time since Kapustins had laid eyes on this man who stood before him.  He was much younger the last time he had seen him.  Kapustins felt there was something familiar about his face.

“Do we know each other?” asked Kapustins with a croaking voice.

“Valera, I know it’s been a very long time.  Don’t you remember me?  In the late 1980s I was working for you while serving in Leningrad with the Soviet KGB.  I’m Kostya Rodionov.”

Kapustins stared in confused silence.  He was lost for words.

Rodionov continued.

“Valera, now listen to me very carefully.  You must do as I say.  It’s your only chance of survival.  These Latvians here… especially the one who uses the codename Delta… well, they want to torture you and kill you.  If you do as I say, I can get you out of here and back to safety and we should be able to get every last one of these men put in prison for the rest of their lives.”

“Kostya!  What are you doing with these men?  Why are you with them?”

“Valera, please listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you.  That attack on your villa in Jūrmala was not done by Aivars Lipšitzs.  He had nothing to do with that.  And I know you were not responsible for the attacks on Lipšitzs, either.”

Kapustins interjected, “A Russian security firm called ‘Nemesis Security’ was behind that attack on Lipšitzs.  They even sent me a letter trying to extort money out of me.  They’re from Saint Petersburg.  Do you know anything about them?”

“Valera!  Just let me finish, okay?  I know about everything that’s been going on, and you need to know about it.  There isn’t any Russian company called Nemesis Security and the people who attacked you and Lipšitzs are not from Saint Petersburg.  All three attacks were done by this group of Latvians I’m with.  They also did that bombing outside Slapjums’ house in Rīga.”

“Were they the ones who bombed my office on Jēkaba iela, too?”

“No.  I suspect Lipšitzs was actually behind that one, but only because he thinks you’re trying to kill him.  I take it you organised that bombing at the Port of Ventspils?”

Kapustins nodded silently.

“Valera, I’ve been monitoring this group for a long time.  I’ve managed to infiltrate them, win their trust, and join them.  They think I’m on their side.  Right now, they think I’m getting ready to start torturing you.  I managed to convince them to stay out of here while I talk to you.  They’re very good with grenades and automatic weapons, but they’re not very smart when it comes to issues of counter-intelligence.”

“Why have you done this, Kostya?”

“I’m still working with Russian intelligence.  Part-time, of course. When I notified Moscow about what these Latvians were planning to do, I was ordered to protect you from inside their circle.  I was told I had a duty to make sure their plan for you would fail.  It wasn’t easy getting inside their lives. They didn’t trust me in the beginning.  They know I was once a KGB agent but they think I left the intelligence game back in 1991.  After a while, I eventually won their trust and respect.  They listen to me now.”

“Can you really help me, Kostya?  If you try to let me go, they’ll shoot the both of us, I’m sure.”

“Please don’t worry, Valera.  I have a plan.  One of their objectives is to raid the place where you live and find anything that they can use against you to get you prosecuted in the Latvian courts.  I had to psychologically torture Slapjums to get your current address.  There was no way out of that, because they were all watching me.  Do you still have that ledger that details monetary gifts that you made to people whose voluntary cooperation you needed?”

“The ledger?  Yes, I had that removed from the villa in Jūrmala.  I moved it to the place where I’m staying now.  It’s inside a digitally-protected strongroom.  It’s safe.”

“No, it’s not, Valera.  It’s not in the least bit safe.  They have every intention of getting their hands on it.  They’re planning to trick everybody into thinking that you’re dead so that your lawyers will make the ledger a publicly available document.  Then, once all hell breaks loose, they want to abandon you on a roadside to be picked up by the police.  If they can’t convince the outside world that you’re dead, then they will be tempted to actually kill you, decapitate you, preserve your head in formaldehyde, and deliver it to your lawyer inside a big, glass jar.  I can’t get you released just yet, but for the moment I’ve managed to convince them that they mustn’t kill you under any circumstances and that I am the only person who should interrogate you and that I must do that in private with you.  That’s the only thing that keeps you safe, my friend.  But we’ve got to move that ledger to another location where they won’t find it, and where your lawyers won’t find it, either, just in case they think you’re dead.  That has to be done as the highest priority.  That’s where I can be the most help to you.  I can act on your behalf.  I can go around to the house where you’ve been staying and recover the ledger and move it to a place where they will never, ever find it.  Then, I can tell them that you lied to me and the ledger wasn’t there.  After pretending to torture you some more, you can eventually confess to me that the ledger was destroyed along with your alabaster gibbons.  If I can make a phone available to you, can you tell your security that I’m coming and request their total cooperation with me?”

“Yes.  I can do that.”

“Now, be aware that I will have to ask one of the Latvians if I can use their phone.  You can bet that they will insist on standing here while you make the call.  We have to make it look like I have tortured you into doing it, and that I’m going to your house alone to recover the ledger on their behalf because your security have been ordered to trust me.”

“Got it” replied Kapustins.

With that, Kostya Rodionov formed a fist and laid a concrete-hard punch right into Kapustins’ face.  Kapustins squealed like a piglet with a fractured knee, and he saw stars before his eyes as his nose started bleeding and his upper lip split in the middle.

“I’m so sorry, my old friend, but this has to look real or they will become suspicious of me.”

Tears trickled down Kapustins’ cheeks as he moaned in pain. Blood dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt.  Rodionov called Alpha into the chamber and explained what was going to happen.  Alpha handed a mobile phone to Kapustins who immediately phoned his security personnel at his temporary residence on a farm outside of Bauska as Rodionov theatrically held a .4 calibre Glock to Kapustins’ head.

Kapustins called his senior security advisor and told him he was in a meeting with Ainārs Slapjums in Jaunpils.  The advisor had already heard preliminary media reports about a series of explosions near Jaunpils but Kapustins played dumb and said that he knew nothing about that at all.  Kapustins advised his senior officer that one of his most trusted former KGB colleagues would be coming to collect some documents from the storage room.

Kostya Rodionov discretely winked at Kapustins as he left the room to go get the ledger.  Kapustins was filled with gratitude for Rodionov.  He had been a very loyal agent back in the days when they both worked in the KGB together and he could see that undying loyalty to friends of the Kremlin shining through his eyes at that very moment that he turned around to leave the basement and go to recover the most crucial document in Latvia.  He admired Rodionov’s superior intellect and he was already giving some thought to the rewards he would bestow on Rodionov once he was free of his captors.

Kapustins was also vowing to make sure that Rodionov was awarded high Russian state honours for his work and he was mentally preparing his recommendation that Rodionov be given a generous retirement in Saint Petersburg.

Kostya Rodionov arrived a few hours later at Kapustins’ farm near Bauska and was greeted by his security officers.  They lead him inside and showed him to a storage room.  Rodionov typed in the digital security code that Kapustins had given him before he left.

As Rodionov pushed the door open, and entered a room packed with financial documents, there before him, in all its splendour, was the Kapustins Ledger.  It was a list of every bribe he had ever paid to anybody who had assisted him to flout the law with impunity.  Rodionov wasn’t just looking at a single, leather-bound book. He was looking at sixty-two volumes, spanning almost 7,000 pages.

Rodionov was in that storage room for quite a long time, sifting through records, making sure he not only had the ledger, but he made sure he had all supporting documents, as well.  He had to use a trolley to move everything from the room, and it took three trips to and from the storage room to move everything to the minivan that was waiting outside.

“Got everything, Kostya?” asked Alpha.

“I think so!” replied Rodionov.

“How did you get Kapustins to organise this for you so easily?” asked Alpha.

“Simple, my friend” replied Rodionov.  “Kapustins thinks I’m on his side.  I told him that I infiltrated you so I could protect him.  He thinks I’m still working for the Kremlin.  Right now, as far as he knows, I’m moving this ledger to a safe location so you won’t get your hands on it.  He thinks you men will never see my face again.”

Alpha laughed out loud as they drove off.  Alpha phoned Delta and told him to make sure he’s standing next to Kapustins to see the look on his face when Alpha finally returns with the sixty-two volume ledger.  He wanted to make sure Delta was in that room when he broke the sad news to Kapustins that he caught Rodionov trying to hide the ledger and now Rodionov is dead.  Alpha wanted to make sure Delta took a “selfie” with Kapustins in it when he found out!

Alpha shook Rodionov’s hand.

“Kostya, I was never a great fan of former KGB agents, but I want you to know that me and the rest of the guys are indebted to you for all your help and advice.  We couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Ah, don’t get all sentimental!  It was fun, don’t you think?”

“Sort of” replied Alpha.  “Gamma is going to take you somewhere far away from here so you can lie low for a while.  Kostya, I have some very bad news for you.  Before I tell you what I’m about to say, I just want you to know from all of us that we realise that sometimes ‘thank-you’ can never be enough.”

“Oh shut up!” replied Rodionov with a smirk.  “You Latvians.  Always so mushy.  It’s your downfall.”

Alpha pulled over the minivan on the side of the road where Gamma was waiting with another car.  Alpha broke the news to Kostya Rodionov that his friend Anšlavs Karulis, known as “Epsilon”, had been killed in the exchange of gunfire outside Ainārs Slapjums’ house.

There were tears.

*

Back at the basement, Kapustins sat silently alone in captivity in the murky chamber, hoping that this would not be the last place he ever sees.

He heard a large metal door creak open behind himself, and the shadow of a man being cast across the floor in front of him by a dim light affixed to a wall behind his chair.  The sound of footsteps approaching him sent shivers of excitement down his spine as he anticipated the joy he would feel upon seeing the uniform of a Latvian police officer, who’d come to rescue him from this macabre crypt.

As Kapustins shed tears of joy, calling out “Thank you officer!  Thank you for coming to save me!” his heart sank again as he looked up to see a man wearing a Danish M84 camouflage uniform and a black balaclava, with a .4 calibre Glock semi-automatic holstered by his side.

Delta took off his balaclava to reveal his face, and looked directly into Kapustins’ eyes.

“At last we meet, Mr Valērijs Kapustins.  I’ve been waiting over ten years for this moment.”

Kapustins nervously and awkwardly replied “It’s a pleasure to meet you, too, sir.”

“Do you know who I am, Kapustins?”

“No, I don’t, I’m sorry.”

“You don’t know me, Mr Kapustins?  Maybe I should introduce myself a bit better.  I’m who the Devil sends to collect people like you.  Do you know the story of Dr Faust, Mr Kapustins?”

“I’ve… I’ve heard of it… I think…”

“There’s many stories about Faust, but this is the one I like the best.  Apparently Faust was a man much like yourself… educated, intelligent, and he lived a good life.  But he was never satisfied with that.  So, the Devil sent his messenger, Mephistopheles, to tempt him.  Mephistopheles offered to give him 24 years of worldly pleasure in return for his soul.  For 24 years, Faust lived in unparalleled luxury.  He had magical powers, unlimited knowledge, and he could have anything he desired.  He lived better than a king.  But, that time passed quicker than he expected and one day Mephistopheles arrived to tell him that his time was over.  Faust never deserved any the things he had in life.  He didn’t earn any of them.  He only got them because he made a deal with the Devil.  When the time came for the Devil to collect on his side of the bargain, Faust pleaded for mercy.  That mercy was not forthcoming, and as the 24 year period reached its culmination, Faust, who faced the eternal damnation of burning in flames, was dragged screaming through the Gates of Hell.  You can call me ‘Mephistopheles’ if you like, Mr Kapustins.”

“What have I ever done wrong?” snivelled Kapustins, his eyes becoming red with tears.  In his heart, he knew he was about to die.

“I’ve been a good person.  I’ve created many jobs.  I’ve helped to build Latvia.  I’ve never done anything to harm you!”

“You’re right.  You have never done anything to harm me.  But you stole my parents house in Ziedciems, you took away my mother’s only job, you threatened my father, you destroyed my family, you took my sister’s life, and you murdered my brother.  Then, you turned me into a dangerous contract killer for a foreign government.  You did all of that, Mr Kapustins.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I don’t know anything about what you’re saying.”

“You stole Latvia’s assets.  You corrupted democracy in this country.  You reduced people to poverty.  You tore families apart.  You made people want to leave Latvia.  You blackmailed people.  You tortured and murdered your opponents and your critics, all just to fill your life with frivolous luxuries… luxuries purchased by money stolen from the Latvian people through your network of ex-Soviet gangsters.  People like you don’t deserve to live, Kapustins.”

Kapustins laughed nervously.  “Huh!  You’re going to kill me are you?  Well, right now your friend, Kostya Rodionov, is going to the authorities to send police around here to arrest all of you!  You’ll go down on murder.  You’ll spend the rest of your life in prison.  And my family will make sure you live a terrible life behind bars.  We can get the prison wardens to make a real mess of your pitiful existence inside some Latvian hellhole.  Maybe you might want to consider keeping me alive?  If you do, I might be able to put in a good word for you when you go before the judge.”

“Rodionov?  He’s going to do all that?  Sorry, Kapustins.  Rodionov is already dead.  We were onto him from the very beginning.  We knew he was going to try to recover that ledger you have.  We made sure he wouldn’t get very far.  He served his purpose well, though.  I believe his deceased body is going to be dissolved in sulphuric acid at the bottom of a one metre deep trench and then covered with mud.  Your friend Rodionov is going to be exactly where he belongs.  Burn in Hell, Kostya Rodionov.  Do you have anything else to say before I finish you off, Mr Kapustins?”

Delta lifted up his loaded .4 calibre Glock and pointed it between Kapustins eyes.

“Do you know why I am going to kill you, Kapustins?  You probably think it’s because I’m angry at you.  No, no, no, no, no!!!  I’m not killing you because I’m angry.  I’m going to kill you so that your lawyer releases that ledger you keep… that ledger that details all the bribes you have paid over the years.  We want to see every corrupt politician, judge, senior police officer, civil service chief, and all the other Lords and Barons that you keep in your realm come crashing to the ground when the Latvian public hear what you’ve been getting away with for over three decades.  You see, that’s what’s important in Latvia.  We need to capture the kings and queens on this big chessboard.  You, Kapustins, are just a pawn.  We are happy to sacrifice you early in the game.”

Kapustins looked at Delta in horror.  “You don’t know who you’re dealing with, you piece of shit!”

“Yes, I do!” retorted Delta.  “I’m a man armed with a .4 caliber handgun who is dealing with a man who is strapped to a chair in the middle of a basement.  Do you know who you’re dealing with, Kapustins?  You don’t even know my name.”

Kapustins had no answer.

“This day was always coming, Kapustins.  You must have realised that.  You made your choices.  You want to know something interesting?  They say that wherever we are at any point in time in our lives is the net sum of every choice we have ever made in life since we were born.  Look where you are now!”

“I did nothing wrong!”

“You have done many things wrong, Kapustins.  When Latvians gained their freedom from the illegal Soviet occupation regime, they had their first chance in over five decades to rebuild their country and make their lives better, with greater freedom and prosperity.  Even you could have prospered in a fully democratic, free market Latvia, that had been unleashed from the binds of Communist repression.  You could have contributed positively to the rebirth of Latvia.  Instead, you and your kind, acting like unruly teenagers, formed yourself into gangs.  You battled for control of Rīga.  You used every mafioso connivance you could to enrich yourselves at the expense of poor people who were unable to defend themselves.  This disgraceful behaviour turned you into a very rich man.  Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

“Yes, I’m a rich man.  Since when was that an illegal thing in this free market paradise you seem to admire?  Yes, I found ways and means to accumulate great wealth after the fall of the Soviet Union.  So did the others, like Šķiņķis and Slapjums, and Lipšitzs.  We all did.  But we did good things for Latvia, too.  Behind the scenes, we were the leaders that Latvia needed to have.  If Latvia had been left to the devices of this stupid democratic parliament they formed, the country would have fallen apart in no time at all while men dressed in cheap suits argued with each other about what the penalties should be for anybody who sings the Latvian national song the wrong way.  A country needs stability before it can even begin to think about prospering.  We gave Latvia its stability and that was the one thing that Latvia needed during those uncertain times.  Yes, it’s true that maybe we gained ownership of a lot of Latvian assets during the post-Soviet privatisations, and yes, we forced the Latvian Government to do all its procurement through our companies, but that also lead to stability.  Our companies became experienced in serving the government’s needs.  You Latvians did not have to suffer having all kinds of unknown people supplying the government via this ‘free market’ you seem to admire so much.  We kept the foreign companies out.  Think about when Latvia left the USSR and the new Latvian government started to privatize state assets.  Tell me which Latvian had the money to buy those assets from the government?  Nobody!  Could you imagine what would have happened if we had not moved quickly to take those assets into our care?  They would have eventually been sold off to foreign investors, like they did in Estonia, and then Latvia would be suffering under the foot of foreign corporations.  We had to protect Latvians from those outsiders.  We kept ownership of those assets in the hands of domestic companies inside Latvia.  Somebody had to do it, so we did.  That made Latvia a very stable place.  And you also keep forgetting that we were leaders.  Real leaders.  Leaders who took initiatives and made great things happen.  Your elected politicians are not leaders.  If they were natural leaders, they’d be rich men, too!”

“Leaderships is one thing, acquisition of money is another, Kapustins.” replied Delta.

“Great leaders arise in all walks of society, Kapustins.  In war, there have been great leaders.  In scientific research, there have been great leaders.  There have even been some natural born leaders in the Boy Scouts.  Not all of them own mansions by the seaside.  What makes you think that a man has only proven himself as a leader if he has built an expensive house on illegally acquired land and then put some alabaster gibbons inside it?”

“I can’t believe I have to answer that!  It’s natural that a man wants to be rich and if a man is a leader he can make himself rich.  Followers just do the work that they are told to do by leaders.  They never have much money.  Being a leader is hard work.  No man chooses to be a leader unless the task is well-remunerated.  If a man has not been able to make himself into an oligarch, then he is obviously not a real leader.  Being an oligarch is the natural order for men who have the ability to rise to power.  Do you really want Latvia to be ruled by 100 people who have no leadership ability?  Do you really think that would lead to Latvia becoming a great nation?  You must be mad!  Latvians should be grateful that men like us controlled your stupid Saeima from behind closed doors.  We made sure strong leadership governed Latvia and we protected everybody from those 100 idiots you call Deputies of the Saeima who have done nothing more than win a popularity contest that comes up every four years.  Do you call that leadership?  There’s not a true leader among them.  And if there was, then why do they do what we tell them to do?  Why aren’t they all rich?  Rule by a democratic parliament that has been elected by the unenlightened riff-raff can only ever lead to mediocrity for a nation, unless there are better men who can control that parliament from behind the scenes.  We have been doing that for over three decades and, I guarantee to you, as much as you think that’s a bad thing, we are Latvia’s aristocracy and you will miss us when we’re gone!”

Delta put his handgun back into his holster.

“You’re delusional, Kapustins.  All that expensive liquor you drink has messed with your head.  You didn’t do any of that to save us Latvians from foreign investors, Kapustins.  You have no interest in Latvia’s stability or Latvia’s future, and you never have.  You did all of it because you, and your KGB mates are just thieves… nothing more, and nothing less.  You wanted to have it all, so you stole it at a time when Latvia was vulnerable.  You are exactly like a big, ugly street thug who bashes and robs a little old lady so you can take her pension away from her.  You are not a leader, Kapustins, and you didn’t protect Latvians from a foreign curse.  Do you know what happened when Estonia allowed foreign companies to buy their assets during their post-Soviet privatisation?  It brought a lot of foreign capital into their country.  That capital was badly needed after five decades of your Communist mates running the country with total incompetence.  But it didn’t just bring in a lot of money, it also brought in new technologies and better business methods.  Estonia benefited from that, and now they have a country that is moving forward in leaps and bounds.  The only thing you did for Latvia was to throw a big yoke over the country.  You reduced it to being a mere draft horse working to fuel your insatiable lust for unearned money, and you made hundreds of thousands of Latvians want to leave.”

Kapustins glared at Delta insolently.

“I know I have nothing to lose now.  You’re going to kill me anyway, so maybe I should tell you just how stupid you sound.  Comparing me to a man who mugs an old lady only shows me how unsophisticated you are.  Do you realise how much money I give to charitable causes each year?  How much have you given to charities?  How much do those elected clowns in your Saeima give to poor people?  We have done more to further the redistribution of wealth than you, the Latvian people, and their Saeima put together.  Look up my name in Wikipedia!  In the very first sentence you read, you will see the word ‘philanthropist’.  I’ll bet you don’t see that word anywhere in a Wikipedia article about those popularity contest winners in Vecrīga that you adore so much.  Look up the other oligarchs, too.  We are very well known for our philanthropy.  How many of those street thugs that you compare with me are known for their charitable works?  I’m not expecting you’ll have much of an answer to that!”

Delta move in so close to Kapustins that his nose almost touched Kapustins’ face.

“Philanthropy?  Is that what you call it when you bash an old lady in the street, steal her purse, buy yourself a sumptuous meal, and then donate ten cents to a family who has suffered under your regime of graft and corruption?  I remember a time several years ago when some unknown hooligan attacked a disabled lady in Ēbelmuižas parks in Ziepniekkalns.  He stole her pension but he took out two euros and left it on her unconscious body before he ran away to hide.  He did that so the old dear would have enough money to catch a bus back home.  There were actually people who praised that criminal for his ‘humanity’ and spoke about how ‘decent’ he was for doing that.  That mindset explains to me why your friend Lipšitzs is so popular in Ventspils.  Personally, I’d like to see the Wikipedia article about the subject of ‘philantrophy’ reviewed.  I certainly don’t know how any of you monsters can be called philanthropists because you kindly donate about 0.01% of the money you stole every year.  That would be like telling the average working class Latvian that he is a philanthropist if he donates ninety cents to starving children in Africa every twelve months.  Besides, Kapustins, your biggest donations have not been to poor people.  They’ve been to the people who you bribe.  The people who protect you.  The people who keep you out of prison.  The people who we pay taxes to.  The people we pay to get rid of people like you, not protect you.  You care about them far more than you care about the welfare of ordinary Latvian citizens, don’t you?”

Kapustins remained silent.

“Kapustins, you’re not a lot different to those people who you ridicule.  You only donate money because you want to win that big, cosmic popularity contest, too.  Am I right?  Nothing you do is motivated by any desire to serve the greater good.  Everything you do is motivated by a desire to fill your fridge with expensive champagne, to furnish your villas with extravagant items, to travel in the finest cars, to fly to the most exclusive resorts, to dine like an imperial monarch, and to put that most pathetic pecker of yours into the most sexually nubile prostitutes you can hire.  To do that, you have presided over a regime of corruption that is so venomous that Latvia’s economic future has been retarded and hundreds of thousand of innocent people have suffered.  You have scared away potential investors, investors who could have created legal and worthwhile things in Latvia… companies that could have provided many well-paid jobs, that would have lifted Latvia to new levels of efficiency, new levels of productivity, and that would have raised the standard of living in this part of the world.  Latvians would not be leaving Latvia, they would be returning if this country was allowed to move on without people like you obstructing everything with your big, fat wallet full of stolen pensions, and your violence towards anybody who dares to challenge you.  Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t send you to your grave right now?”

“If you’re going to do it, then why don’t you just do it!” sobbed Kapustins with tears rolling down his cheeks.

“No.  I don’t think I will.  That would be too easy.  Death isn’t really a punishment.  Once you’re dead, you’re not around to feel any pain.  You’re not around to pay for the consequences of your crimes.  I’ve never really understood the death penalty, myself.  I’m going to let you live, Kapustins.  Do you want to know why?  Because I want you to face up to everything you’ve done in a Latvian courtroom.  I want the Latvian public to hear all about Valērijs Kapustins.  I want you to be sitting in a chair in handcuffs as a Latvian judge finds you guilty on all charges.  I want you to hear that judge’s voice as he reads out the length of your prison sentence.  I want Latvians to see that something righteous has happened in their country… that the time has come when criminal oligarchs can no longer obstruct Latvians from reaching their full potential.  I want you to be dragged through the gates of that prison and hear them clang as they slam shut behind you.  I want you to feel your own heart drop as you see your prison cell for the first time.  I want you to dine on prison food for the first time in your life.  Valērijs Kapustins, you are a murderer, a rapist, an arsonist, a liar, and a thief.  The time has come for you to have your day in Court, you stinking rat.  When the world sees that Latvia is now a land of justice where corruption can no longer thrive, Latvia will start to prosper like no other country in Europe. And after you’ve had your day in Court, as you commence your new life of squalid misery in a small concrete room, I want you to spend the rest of your life knowing that I didn’t put you there, Kapustins.  Justice did.”

(to be continued Sunday 30th September, 2018)

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