Seeking a Deal
“How bad is this going to be,” I asked Charles as he joined us in the back of our Excursion. The three vehicles we had brought down were filled with warriors, and those with carry permits were carrying. They would only go as far as the building security checkpoint; Charles and Sven would be the only ones going in with me.
“You’re going to stir up a lot, but the videos and your story should help,” he said. “I’ve got an appointment with the FBI Agent-in-Charge of the investigation and the Assistant US Attorney. Yuri Zubkov is the most-wanted man in the world right now after what he did in St. Petersburg.” We had seen the news reports, tens of millions of dollars in damages from an EMP device that was buried in his headquarters. “In that context, and given the amount of money at stake, saying you employed Hollywood special effects to play dead is a smart play.”
“And I don’t know who to trust.”
“Exactly. You couldn’t use law enforcement, the reward and the reach of the Mob is too great.” Alpha Sven took my hand, then he opened the door and led me out. My security surrounded us, I couldn’t even see anyone else as we entered the skyway and walked over the street to the Federal building.
The detail opened the door, then held back as the three of us approached the checkpoint. Charles took the lead. “We are here to see Agent Brian Johnson, we have a three-fifteen appointment,” he said as he handed our identifications over to the deputy. I put my coat and purse into the bin, then stepped through the X-ray machine after I got my driver’s license back. We were gathering our stuff when the Deputy told us to move to a set of chairs on the side. It was only a minute before security and FBI agents surrounded us.
“It is her, she’s fine,” one of the uniformed officers said into her radio.
We were sent through and surrounded by security until the elevator opened and a man in his forties, grey hair at the temple and an FBI badge on his belt, came forward to take charge. He shook Charles’ hand first. “Charles, when you said you needed to see me, I had no idea you would bring her.”
“I know. I could not risk her life, as far as people know the bounty on her head is still active, Brian. Can we get out of the open?”
“Of course.” He led us to the elevator, with the other FBI men joining us. “How?”
“It’s a long story, best told over coffee,” I said as the floors clicked up. “The Reader’s Digest version is that my friends helped me fake my death and keep me alive thus far.”
“I see.” The door opened at the seventh floor, and the lobby had the FBI emblem. People were staring at me as we walked by, heading for a conference room where we met AUSA Debbie Andrews and FBI Field Office Senior Agent-In-Charge Lawrence Coffey. The SAIC had invited himself after being notified of who just arrived; the higher the rank, the more political they were. This was about to be front-page news.
After introductions and receiving my cup of coffee, Charles took charge. “My client, Jessica Donato, is the only child of deceased Russian Mob boss Yevgheny Zubkov. Until a few months ago, she did not know she was adopted, much less her heritage.” He provided copies of my birth and adoption certificates, as well as the letter from Father Kempechny that told of my mother’s death. “When he found out his rape had resulted in a child, Yevgheny killed her mother, and sent people to kill Jessie as a baby. The Father sent her to America, safe from him, at least he thought.”
“It was a shock to me to find out I was adopted after my parents had both passed,” I said. “Yevgheny was dead, and I went to Russia to find out the rest of the story. While I was there, I saw a lawyer and filed papers to be recognized as his daughter. His brother Yuri, who was thought to be heir to his fortune, somehow found out who I was and that was the first time he tried to kill me.” Charles handed over English-language articles of the bombing. “I had friends who hid me while I recovered and got me out of the country. He tried again when I was hiding in Grand Marais. Mobsters our of St. Paul this time, attracted by the reward that was offered.” Charles handed over a copy of the reward offer. “After that failed, he raised the offer to twenty-five million, US. There was no place I was going to be safe with that kind of money out for my death. I had fled to Sven, he’s a friend of a friend, and together we came up with a plan to both punish Yuri and secure my safety.”
“If I may,” Charles said as he pulled the flash drive out of his pocket. “Play file one on the screen.” One of the men played the file, it was the conversation between Yuri and Sven where he showed he had me in his jail and negotiated a $300 million bounty.
“That’s a ballsy play,” Agent Johnson said.
“We wanted to hurt him bad,” Sven replied. “So using some Hollywood wizardry, we came up with the video number two. In this version, you see the feed being sent to Yuri, not the one that was released to the general public later on.” The second one was played, this one showing the two-way feed to Yuri in Moscow as I was being ‘executed’.
“Wait, that man on the ground behind her, he wasn’t in the Youtube video,” the AUSA said.
“True, we used a phone to record that video at a different angle,” Sven said.
“That man, that’s John Pearson… isn’t he the one who attacked you in the Mall of America? He got deported after his release,” Agent Brian said.
“He’s my fiance’, and he didn’t know what was happening was all a fake,” I said. “It was important that his reaction be believable, so they would not look as closely at the special effects we used to simulate my death.”
“Still, he wasn’t supposed to be in the country,” the prosecutor said.
“That’s a detail I’m asking you to overlook for the greater good here,” Charles said. “The fake death protected Jessie and John, who were hidden in a remote cabin after this. It also caused Yuri to drain his accounts, selling properties and taking loans in order to raise the money. He had banked on gaining Yevgheny’s fortune, but without a death certificate, he couldn’t get that either. He had borrowed heavily from the Sicilian Mafia, and when he was weak, everything fell apart.”
Phones started going off, and Agent Johnson looked at his with wide eyes. “Change that over to the news,” he said. The television went to Fox News, which was showing a feed live from Russian television as Yuri Zubkov was being led away from a tunnel in handcuffs, surrounded by security men. “WANTED MOB BOSS CAPTURED IN ST. PETERSBURG,” the crawl said. I smiled, looking over at Sven, knowing it was over now.
“About time,” Charles said. When we realized there was nothing else to learn, the television was muted. “While Jessie and John were in hiding, her friends were still active. Her good friend Patrick Clarke went to Moscow and helped to keep her safe. When she was sent back here, he remained and worked with others to uncover Yuri’s efforts to take over the Moscow Mob. He provided information to the Moscow FBI office and Russian Police that was key to the takedown of Mob operations in Russian AND the United States. That would not have been possible without Jessie’s involvement and monetary support of the cause.”
“You can verify his involvement if you wish, he turned over information that was key to taking down an international sex slavery operation,” I said.
“So why are you here,” the AUSA asked.
“It was important that we come out directly to law enforcement so there is no misunderstanding of what went on. We apologize for the need to fake her death, and we will reimburse you the cost of the search for her. However,” Charles said, “We also don’t want to end up in legal trouble for our actions. I’m sure AUSA Andrews has already started a list.”
“I have,” she said as she looked up from her notes. “Parole and immigration violations for John Pearson. For Mr. Hirkkel, extortion and conspiracy to commit murder. For Ms. Donato, conspiracy to commit murder, even though it was of herself.”
“Yet we are here,” I said, “And Yuri is now in handcuffs. His operations bankrupted, most of his men dead or in custody, his operations in tatters. We have given you information that has freed hundreds of women from slavery and broken up gambling, smuggling and drug rings.”
“And what we want is immunity from prosecution related to the fake death for the people involved, and we want to keep the money paid to us by Yuri in exchange for her death. It is all in offshore accounts,” Charles said, “And of course we would pay taxes to bring it into the country.”
“We can make this work in all our favor,” Sven said. “The FBI investigation into Jessie’s death was a cover for the international investigation into the Russian Mob. Patrick won’t say anything to contradict this, and we don’t need to be specific on timing. Simply put, Jessie comes across information during her first visit to Russia that was given to your Agency, and she cooperated with you.”
“That could work,” Agent Brian said.
Charles turned to the senior FBI agent. “I am asking you to write a letter to the Governor of Minnesota, expressing your gratitude for Jessie Donato, Patrick Clarke and John Pearson’s assistance in the take down of the Russian Mob operations. We will be petitioning him for a pardon of John’s conviction, allowing him to enter the United States legally.”
“We want to live here, get married here, raise a family here,” I said. “When I receive my estate, I want to be with my husband. Right now, I can only go to Scotland or Russia since I am also a citizen there. I prefer to stay in the state I love, though.”
“When are you leaving for Russia,” the prosecutor asked.
“Two days,” I said. “I have notified my lawyer already, the probate hearing is in three days.”
She put her notes in her briefcase. “I have to run this past my boss, but I think the interests of justice are best served by your plan,” she said. “I’m sure the FBI and local law enforcement will be happy to present you with a bill for the search. The immigration thing, is he out of the country now?” I nodded my head yes. “Not much I can do about that now without catching him here. As far as Yuri’s money goes, I’m glad you have it now instead. Do something good with it,” she said. “We’re done here.”
We all stood and shook hands. After the AUSA left, the FBI head stayed. “You did a lot of good for the country,” he said to me. “We shut down a human trafficking ring in St. Paul based on the information that your friend Patrick gave to our office in Moscow, and we aren’t the only office. I’m going to draft a letter for you right now, if you can wait a minute.”
“Of course,” I said. “I appreciate your help. I really need John to get pardoned before I end up on some windswept Scottish hillside.” He laughed, but I was remembering the castle I’d stayed in briefly. It wouldn’t be too bad, but it wasn’t home. My closest friends were here in Minnesota.
The Senior Agent-In-Charge returned with a letter for me. “Thank you again, and good luck in Russia,” he said.“Thank you.” I was just walking out when I happened to glance at the television screen. Alpha Yuri was being removed from the van when a shot blew through his chest. My hand went to my face, I was frozen watching as my uncle bled out on the floor of the police van.