Seven Little Girls

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Chapter Twenty-four

Wednesday, Tori took off after the cameras at the airports. She and her crew could and did hack into about half the cameras in all four New York airports. With a twelve-year-old photo most disguises would defeat it, but if he didn’t know he’d been photographed, or discounted anyone in the West having any he wouldn’t bother. I started using the computer to isolate Volokh names through customs.

Volokh (Wallachian if you prefer) were Romanized Celts, speaking a romance language. They considered themselves the original Celts, and spread across Europe before the time of Christ. In Eastern Europe, as Moldavians, Wallachians, later Romanians, they stood a bit apart from the dominant Arab/Turk and Slavic peoples. In their own kingdoms, principalities, they were uncharacteristically sadistic and almost berserkers in battle, which, conjecturally was the key to their survival as a constant minority. Perhaps the most famous of them, at least in the rest of the World, was Vlad Teppes, immortalized as the anti-hero of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, a name he was called after his father Vlad Dracul; Dracula, son of Dracul, son of the Dragon.

In any case the egotism I’d noted in all those I had met drew me to the conclusion that he might use his real name and passport.

By lunch, I’d covered the two weeks prior to Jody’s murder with three candidates. Tori’s crew had come up empty. So, I took my three into them after lunch and had them search Kennedy and one who touched down at Islip from Gander through St. John’s in Newfoundland. He didn’t appear until four fifteen.

And then, there he was. Full face and almost unquestionably the face in our photos, aged, a bit jowly, with a mustache and fashionable Gucci aviator glasses. A handsome man with a spark of something frightening in his eyes.

Adrian Radu Popovichi, the one who came through the back door, Gander, St. John’s. Islip.

Serendipitously, it was about ten minutes later Milton Shaffer called to acknowledge the package we’d given the ‘spooks’ the night before.

““I believe I have Sariyah Sakosh. Came in twelve days ago, through Islip from Canada,” I said

“Okay Milton, your advice. You can’t do shit here and I need it done here. Sariyah Sakosh is Adrian Radu Popovichi. I have a full face taken twelve days ago, who gets it? I need my people safe, which includes Shane Silver and those around him.”

“Well Nick, the reason they are going after Silver is that he holds the key to a Russian defense system. The Scuds are Russian and he scrambled their programming in flight. Most of what the Silicon Valley group did they can work with, replicate and counter, Silver’s work, they can’t. So, Silver is his eventual target. What you’ve sent us gives us his strategy. He’s tightening a noose around Aaron. Of the people working on it your best bet is George Pappas and the NYPD. The FBI will do pretty much as his strategy dictates, spreading themselves thinner with each hit. They have two agents on the ballet company now. However, he is in New York and that is indicative of his going after either the company or Shane.”

“Why the ballet company? Jody was Shane’s only connection with them.”

“Not anymore. He’s moved in with three of them, near his school, as well as joined their orchestra. Seems they were short a violin and the conductor decided to try Shane’s viola in the fourth chair rather than a fourth violin.”

“So, we add an orchestra to watch and the protection thins out,” I said. “Apparently his strategy is effective. Why Pappas?”

“Because the NYPD isn’t guarding anything. They’re looking, watching, investigating, against this strategy, a good defense is an offense and that’s where he fits. Can I have a copy of the photo?”

“You have anything on Popovichi?” I asked.

“Copying about thirty pages as we speak. I can have it at your front door by the time you get home. Exchange?”

“Done.”

We met George and Schaffer’s spooks at our door. Since we knew Schaffer’s men by sight, the exchange was quick and they were gone just as quickly. Tori set up the CIA package in the copy machine to copy and collate three more packages, handing two to George and me, then taking the last, before setting the machine to spit out ten copies of the photo and filing the original.

Over the next half an hour we introduced ourselves to Adrian Radu Popovichi. His father was minor nobility, apparently a Mazil, a Boyar without a specific function in court, but landed aristocracy. Mazils tended toward military or diplomatic service, and were often addressed in international company as ‘Count’ or ‘Vicount’. Adrian’s father, Drogos, held the position of consul in Moscow at the time of Ion Antonescu’s coup. A communist sympathizer, Drogos was embraced in Soviet Russia and during the course of the war led a small contingent of Romanian dissidents within the Soviet army, actually serving in Stalingrad. Adrian had been born in Moscow in 1944, but was soon returned to the restored family estates in Moldavia as an infant.

Drogos, being a pretty hard line Communist by the war’s end, was a bit of a thorn in the side of the anti-Communist resistance. Romania had been an axis power, at the height of its involvement it had more troops in the field than the Italians, so anti-Communist/ anti-Russian feeling was high. Unlike the Slavic countries, the Romanians, basically Celtic Volokh, had little in common with the Russians and were therefore treated more harshly. Drogo’s commitment to the Communists was naturally treated as a collaboration, which led to his assassination in 1954 when Adrian was nine. Since the Soviets owed Drogos, Adrian, his mother and older brother were given a dacha outside of Odessa. Florin, the older brother, was trained as a diplomat, his title an asset to the Soviet foreign policy, and he remained in the Soviet foreign office through the cold war, and the Russian transition. Adrian was conscripted by the KGB and trained as a spy/assassin.

Adrian worked for the most part in the Middle East where his hostility for Moslems was first noted. I skimmed the details of the six missions the CIA had catalogued arriving at his seeming disappearance in 1977. Of course, with what we discovered it was obvious that in 1977 he went freelance and Sariyah Sakosh was born.

By the time I opened the slow cooker, trisected the cordon bleu and plated it, George and Tori had finished. I opened a bottle of Barbera, as the meal was a bit delicate for Pinot and served us all on the bar.

“A thoroughly nasty fellow,” said Tori. “Did anyone get any clues?”

“He’s a blitz attacker. Knife or pistol, it’s in and out quickly,” I said. “If he doesn’t have a driver ready, he’ll attack near a subway entrance.”

“His disguises are minimal, he’s more of a chameleon, fitting in rather than trying to throw people off his identity,” observed George.

“Despite what looks like a berserker attack,” added Tori, “he’s very tightly controlled. The fact that he spares women pain, while inflicting as much as possible on men is telling. There’s something Freudian going on there. Much as I hate to say it, I think our assassin is a Mama’s boy.”

“And focus a bit on a getaway,” I said. “He has to wear a pretty loose and long coat to take most of the blood, so when he ditches it he doesn’t stand out.”

“Well,” said George,” I should distribute those photos.”

“How many?” asked Tori.

“The task force is twelve, eight patrol officers in this area, nine near the theater and two precincts.”

“I’ll make twenty-five, with the ten in the machine that’s thirty-five, a few extra won’t hurt.”

Tori and I sat with the dregs of the Barbera. “How can somebody like this exist, for so long? It seems he’d have to be awfully lucky,” said Tori.

“Not really,” I answered. “He is one five billionth of the World’s population. He doesn’t have a base of operations, and, as a general rule, no one looks for him until he’s gone. New York averages four or five homicides a day. Even now, he has the World’s largest police force in the FBI, the third largest police force with the NYPD, with the demise of the KGB, the World’s largest secret police organization in the CIA, and given the research group you and Gwen built, perhaps the best research team in journalism all on his ass; and if we didn’t know Teddy and Teddy didn’t know a Polack whose hobby was hacking Russian databases what would we know? Squat. You’re too used to knowing secrets my love.”

“Is that it?”

“Also, consider he may not be anywhere near here. Surely Aaron Silver has other friends and relatives who would serve his strategy as well as Shane. We could be going nuts looking for him in New York City while he’s stalking Aunt Mildred in Sioux Falls.”

“That’s a new idea,” said Tori thoughtfully. “I guess tomorrow I’ll have to get on that. Identify Aaron Silver’s degrees and focus on people that open up large groups to be protected.”

“In any case, Murray had a cassette of a new release on his desk, so I swiped it.”

“What is it?” Asked Tori.

“It’s called The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins and Jody Foster.”

“We’re due to decompress,” said Tori. “I’ll pop, you melt.”

While Tori and her team were expanding what we knew of Aaron Silver’s connections to the rest of civilization, I tackled the backlog that I developed while chasing Mr. Popovichi. After all, I basically had a magazine to run. Despite what some people might believe, publishing a magazine when nothing is going on is a lot harder than when the World is coming apart at the seams. For well over two months, running Confidential required almost no news judgement. All the lead stories covered the run up to a war and that war itself. All the human-interest stories involved that. In the collective breath taking that followed, there was very little, if anything at all, that seemed important. The week before we’d covered the Rodney King beating in L.A. and there was not a lot left to say there. Harold wanted to chase the police brutality story, but when I looked up the statistics I found that it would take a lot to make it a civil rights or racist issue. Reporting that police brutality wasn’t all that common and that people of every color experienced it was rather a dog bites man type of story. I finally went with Rick and Candi and the withdrawal from the Gulf, Rick’s title hooked me I guess. “After They’ve Seen Riyadh.”

Issam Called to thank me for Teddy, who had managed to get a shipment of thirty computers delivered to Kuwait City. He told me that by the beginning of next week he’d be sending me his distribution in the U.S. I said I see about expanding it for him, in concert with Confidential.

There was one job on my plate that I had put off, after lunch I sucked it up and called John Russo.

“What can I do for you Nick?” he asked.

“Sell me the cable contracts for your bars and those of your friends on Long Island, Jersey and Philly.”

“You might be in luck there Nick. You being married to the granddaughter of Matteo Rosselli has been a pretty big topic of conversation lately.”

“He’s that big a noise?”

“Almost mythic. And your Tori taking out a button man, following in his footsteps so to speak, is adding to the story. So, if the price is right and Tori shows when we sign, I’ll put it across. How much?”

“Two million five for the whole package.”

“More than it’s worth, should fly.”

“Another quarter of a million for you, if you give me Joey D and Gio Liebowitz to run it.”

“We don’t lose the boxes?”

“Don’t want them, just the contract to fill them. The business plan I have will expand the service nationally, in concert with the cable.”

“Always knew Joey would make something of himself.”

So, John and I set our attorneys on it, and I set up an appointment with Joey and Gio.

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