Tuesday, we hit the office early and without a war, were pretty much alone for almost an hour. The State Department list seemed to have a better handle on the activities of the charities than the FBI. By noon I had identified three groups, one in Queens, two in Brooklyn, that sent money to Iraqi groups on the terrorist watch lists. Tori had much better financial contacts than I did and by the time we headed out to lunch she had my three and two more.
After lunch, we both got onto the State Department. I did it overtly going through the press liaison officers Confidential had assigned us. Tori, a bit more covertly, went to her contacts. Lauren Hyland went to State directly from Tori’s team at Confidential. While she couldn’t expect secrets, she would get more than I would, along with a few hints as to where to look next.
As nearly as we could break it down, the overtly Iraqi groups were keeping a very low profile, as might be expected. And also, they would be watched. Any terror cell or even single assassin would be observed contacting them. This left only the Yemeni group near our loft, which Tori had chased through both Crédit Lyonnais and Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG all the way to Mosul. As soon as we reached this conclusion Tori, who was across my desk at the time, grabbed my office line and called George.
Unfortunately, the FBI hadn’t tumbled to the connection, so George hadn’t even watched the brownstone on Henry Street. He put it under surveillance, and we could hope, even though we didn’t know quite what to look for as yet. Tori also called back Lauren with the discovery as a bit of a payback. It was the second call that paid dividends. At ten to five, I got a call.
“Mr. Carlson,” said a voice I had never heard before, “my name is Milton Schaffer, I work for the CIA. Earlier this afternoon your magazine passed along what is actually top-secret information to the State Department. Naturally we would like to know from whom you got that information, of course I am enough of a hand at this that I know I’m not going to get your source, but is there anything you can tell us that will settle the powers that be here?”
“I would assume Mr. Schaffer,” I said, “that if we both have the same information, we both acquired it from different sources or you wouldn’t be asking. You are spies, so you wait to be told. We are reporters we ask. I won’t tell you the ins and outs of researching financial conduits, especially through people who are notoriously close mouthed about their clients.”
“So, it was your wife or your publisher?”
“If you know that, then you know the answer to your initial question. If you are calling to research a leak from your office, or your contacts, I think I’ve answered you. Is there anything else?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Schaffer, “there is. Have you heard the name Sariyah Sakosh?”
“I have.” I answered. “A known assassin, the name is a pseudonym, it means the hammer behind the evening clouds. Basically, one of those who get up close and personal with their hits, lots of blood, a classical hashshashin, terror first.”
“He is in the country.”
“That’s troubling, why tell me?”
“Because you are apparently tied in. You can ask your son, Ted, who Aaron Silver is. You know his son. From there you can draw your own conclusions. You can expect a visit from two of our people this evening. They will only check in. You were on the foreign desk long enough to know we are doing things we shouldn’t. However, we don’t want you shooting them.”
“So, Shane is being watched by the NYPD, the FBI and you?”
“It would seem so.”
We exchanged ‘Thanks’ and I hung up and called Tori.
I explained it to Tori, she just said that she hoped it didn’t put Lauren in a bad spot.
I punched the speaker and called Teddy.
“You guarded?” I asked.
“Yeh, two gentlemen. They really enjoy Angie’s workouts. They’re in your old living room and our guestroom.”
“So, do you know Aaron Silver?”
“He’s one of us. Back in Kansas now, but we are all guarded. He was the primary guy for the jamming signals that scrambled the scuds. Why?”
“His son is here in the city, goes to the High School of Performing Arts.”
“Violinist, his Dad brags.”
“Well, his son’s girlfriend was assassinated. Very showy, very bloody. Is the K Krew being watched?”
“Eight of us send kids to their school, it’s like Fort Knox.”
“In any case, his girlfriend was a dancer with Inner City.”
“Doesn’t bode well for him. You’re going to catch him, right?”
“Been there, heard that. Anything I can do?”
“How are you and your friends at hacking?”
“Oh lord, that’s illegal, but since most of us wrote the software we can check on the effectiveness of those that are in use. That’s not hacking, that’s ‘customer service.’ What do you need Nick?”
“A photo of a man known as ‘Sariyah Sakosh’, it may not be possible as even the CIA doesn’t know what he looks like or what his real name is.”
“So, we know what exactly?”
Tori, who had run back into her office for a file that contained him answered: “He appears to be freelance…”
“Hi Mom,” said Teddy.
“Damn it, pay attention Teddy!”
“It’s recorded, by me, the FBI and God knows who else, go ahead.”
“He’s a freelance assassin, apparently enamored of the original cult. Gun, knife, whatever, all up close and bloody. Seems to be a bit solicitous of women. Slices their femoral artery with the first knife blow, so they die quickly, with the shock don’t feel much. Works mostly for Islamic clients but has worked for the Russians. His name means…”
“Hammer,” interrupted Ted.
“Stop interrupting and how did you know that?”
“A guy who works with us is East Indian, ‘Hammer’ is what he calls a Filipino rock group but the album cover says ‘Sakosh’. So no, you aren’t rubbing off on me.”
“So, Sariyah means Evening Cloud. And that’s about it.”
“I have an idea, anywhere there where it says who he worked for in Russia?”
“Wait a minute,” said Tori, ruffling back to the sources notes. “Apparently our old friend Andrei Volkov.”
“You going back to the loft?”
“I’ll need a couple hours if I’m right,” said Teddy. I’ll fax it all there.”
“Well,” said Tori, “I guess we know who we’re chasing now.”
“Even though he’s pretty much a ghost,” I answered.
“It makes me wonder what else we know and have filed away. If we’d have cross referenced this folder and put it in the computer we’d’ve known almost immediately who the culprit was.”
“For all the good it’s doing us,” I said. “Basically, we’ve attached a name to a bunch of air. Let’s hope Teddy comes through.”
We got home about six, Hetty had made a cordon bleu in the crock pot with black forest ham and jarlesburg in a béarnaise, obviously just for us, we knew the dancers wouldn’t touch it.
Teddy was as good as his word, Faxing us a little after seven. The first page told the story.
To make a long story medium size, Paul Kaminski is Polish (duh). He is a radar expert and part of the Raytheon team. He has a real mad on for the Russians so he has a rather interesting hobby. Apart from distributing a lot of Samizdat material, he develops more of it by hacking (naturally this is private) Russian databases and drilling hard disks. That’s where this comes from. I’ve included it all, eighteen pages plus three photos. How much is publishable I don’t know, there isn’t a chance in Hell that you can get even one outside source here.
This is from a restricted section of the Russian National Historical Library at the Rumiantsev Museum. When the Communists fell a lot of material from the old regime was collected there to be hidden as embarrassing to the new Russian state. a great deal of it is KGD related, as you might imagine. One, extremely embarrassing, book is the memoirs of your friend Andrei Volkov. You’re going to have to tell me about him someday, apparently, he is, or hopefully was, a thoroughly nasty character.
This chapter details the work of a freelance assassin Volkov hired to eliminate three Syrian politicians who were blocking a closer Ba’athist/Russian connection. As you will see, Volkov identifies him as Moldavian, which doesn’t seem to match up with what you told me.
Take note of the technique. In a nutshell (Volkov went into greater detail), this assassin who went by several names, Sariyah Sakosh being one, worked what he called the rumal solution. Named after a Thugee strangling cloth, the technique is basically to attack a guarded subject by attacking the closest associates immediately outside the circle of protection, eventually spreading it thinly enough to slip through. I think that’s what you’re facing.
In any case there are three photos of Sakosh obviously taken at Koslov’s dacha. They are about twelve years old, so take that into consideration.
Tori took the bundle of papers to the copy machine, set it for four collated copies and pushed the button. They were about half done when the bell rang. I looked in the monitor to see a CIA ID with a finger across the name. I buzzed them in.
When they stepped off the elevator, I said: “I understand plausible deniability, I won’t ask you to speak, so please listen. You aren’t supposed to be operating here, I know that. I see you, I won’t shoot you. However, I have just come into some information you need. I can’t verify it, so I can’t really justify publishing it. Part of it is the modus operandi of the terrorist you know as Sariyah Sakosh. The rest is three twelve-year-old photos of the man himself. It was obtained through illegal methods, so it is not legal proof of a damned thing. Please give it to Mr. Schaffer.”
Tori handed one of the collations, less Teddy’s intro, to the taller agent. He nodded a thanks and the two of them took the elevator down.
’Well,” said Tori, “we stepped in that with both eyes open going straight ahead.”
“Didn’t we though?”
“Let’s finish reading this, I have the feeling that the answer is in here somewhere.”
“Get a copy to George first.”
Tori licked her finger and figuratively gave me a point.
When we finished, Tori looked over at me. “Moldavian?” she said. “Doesn’t seem to mesh. I find it hard to swallow a Moldavian working for any Moslem.”
“Why?” I answered. “What do we really know about him? He kills Moslems. Brutally, face to face, how else would you expect a hereditary enemy to act? Being paid to do that, especially by other Moslems, probably adds some spice. And look at the fact he uses an epithet that a Moslem probably wouldn’t.”
“Jody was Jewish.”
“And Antonescu was directly responsible for over a quarter of a million Jewish deaths during the holocaust, as well as exporting any Jews he could find to the death camps. Romania lost six or seven hundred thousand Jews to the holocaust one way or another. Just because he hates Moslems doesn’t mean he likes Jews. Remember Moldavia, Wallachia and parts of Bessarabia all have some pretty strong prejudices, even against Slavs. Volokhs are about as xenophobic as Europeans get.”
“An equal opportunity assassin?”
“I don’t think so. From what you’ve got and what we’ve seen, he’s a man with a lot of anger, rage, misanthropy doesn’t go that far.