Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)
Gumshoe: Nights Black Agents: Session 3
In the midst of the built up mass of suburbia Sergei watches through a monocular. Sweeping it up and down the well lit streets he sees nothing that alerts his well honed danger sense. The General Lennart is sleeping, drugged, and the moment to go is now. Sneak in, lift the laptop, replace it with a clone and get the hell out of there.
Hans is several blocks away, hunched within their magic van. The houses’ security is shut down, his wireless mini cameras are watching ever nook and cranny of the street. He has the team’s back, even as he does so he is running searches across the world wide web. There is something fishy about this mission, it all seems to tie back to the Black Sea Bank. A bank that exists pretty much as a front company for the Russian Government and Crime Syndicates, intertwined as they are, and is always afloat with grey area activity, and it is hard to sort the signal from the noise. Sweeping the phone number they are to contact after the op, it seems it is in frequent use. Not much more can be found out, the phone is based in Belgrade and the fully manual switchboards used there do not make for easy tracing. At least not with Han’s usual techniques. On Antipov’s request they have also broken open several sealed records from the meeting with their handler. They had placed several tempest van eck phreaking decides and Geiger counters in the meeting room. The information gained from them had been locked, but with chance of a double cross rising, the information is opened. The Geiger counter registers no activity, their handler had not been in contact with the dirty bomb they had retrieved previously. Anton Dopovioc’s activity since their meeting has not been overly suspicious. Yet.
While Hans does his work, Antipov huddles in the alleyway near the General’s room. A long haired wig hands down over his face, and loose jacket breaks his silhouette, raised soles on his shoes giving an illusion of extra height. If anyone seems him it should not be enough to provide an ID. So he waits for Sergei to give the all clear to approach.
In non descript brown overalls Sergei approaches through back alleys and past hedge lines. Close to, he switches out, pushing his overall into a duffel bag and revealing operation gear underneath. As he smears black shoe polish across his face he checks his standard gear one more time. Matt black knife, suppressed P90 he had assembled moments before, balaclava over his face. Looking up at a nearby camera he moves his hand in a Russian military sign. In the magic van Hans picks up the signal and communicates to Antipov “Hold fast”
Moments later the code is given to go and Antipov steps out onto the street, he has taken barely two steps when he hears Sergei’s voice over the headset “Hold there”. Continuing with what seems to be a natural walk, Antipov peels away from the house, eyes flickering to the mirrors of a nearby car. A reflected light gives away what has caused Sergei’s warning. A sniper high upon an opposite building. Controlling his breathing, Antipov walks on, just another figure in the night, not worth attention.
Night vision on the surveillance cameras reveal that the sniper is not the only danger, several figures armed with shotguns and baseball bats are sneaking into the general’s back garden. No formation, and no sign of any training marks them out as amateurs. Leg breakers. Most likely a mop up crew. “What’s the move?” Hans asks
“I’m going to engage” Sergei replies “I’ll try to take one alive for interrogation. We will meet back at the bike shed for extraction. Antipov, use the distraction as cover to lift the laptop”
“Wait for me on the interrogation” Antipov says, “It’s always useful to have a good cop as well as a bad cop”
“I’m not an amateur”
“You are, however, over enthusiastic”
“That is what I said. Listen, Hans, can you give me heads up when the sniper is distracted and I will make a run for it”
In the midst of moving the van to a new position Hans acknowledges, switching his attention to the security cameras set up near where the elusive sniper is huddled.
Meanwhile Sergei has flanked in, and is now just around the corner from where the bully boys await the go code. They are completely unaware of the trip wire linked claymore Segrei has just placed in the line of their ingress. Silently Sergei moves back into the house, setting a breech panel on the front door, looking up at Han’s watching camera he hold up his fingers in a three count, two, one.
The door detonates outwards
At Han’s alert Antipov sprints out through the smoke, ignoring the sound of a claymore detonation and the single suppressed crack of a gunshot. Car alarms shriek around him from the force of the blast. As he slides in behind the cover of the walls he can hear whimpering in the distance.
“You know” Sergei’s voice floats over the headset mics “In the wars between England and France, the French used to delight at cutting off the fingers of archers. So, do you want to know what we do to snipers?”
The mic cuts out.
“Hans” Antipov says “Is the target still out? Did the explosion wake him?”
“Still out for the count” comes the reply.
“Right then”. Antipov runs up the stairs to where the general is sleeping, slipping the clone laptop into the place of the original, which he secludes under his arms. Turned he slips out a needle and injects a stimulant into the generals veins. With all the explosions it would be every usual if he did not wake at all. This should at least make him think it was the gunfire that woke him. Before leaving he takes out a carefully arranged pack of cards and slips them into the general’s pockets. An idea is forming in Antipov’s mind and it may come in handy.
As Antipov heads out of the burning wreck that is the house, Sergei is busy stuffing a hog tied sniper into the boot of a recently “acquired” car. Taking a separate route, Antipov continues walking, heading back over open ground an public transport. Prepping the magic van for clean up, Hans sets off a third route, ready to meet at where their exit vehicles are kept.
Slipping down a back alley, Antipov removes his disguise, ditching them into a waiting dumpster, covered in a sufficiently strong acid. Applying his next change of attire, and new distinctive features he is aware of what appears to several tails. They follow him through several bus changes, and miles of walking. Tiring of this Antipov heads down into the underground tube stations.
The rattle of the late night trains echoes around the graffitied concrete, a quick glance in a shut shop window confirms that his tail is still following. Whistling to himself, Antipov moves through to the toilets, shuffling in front of a urinal and miming removing his member for a good piss into the cracked yellowing bowl.
Seeing an opportunity the tail closes in, a fifty year old man in the midst of a piss should be an easy mark. Antipov sees him clearly for the first time, a skinhead in camouflage anorak and black cargo pants. His approach is cocksure, swaggered, and walks straight into Antipovs hammerfist into his groin. As the skinhead slumps, Antipov grabs his head, slamming it over his shoulder into the wall, then down twice into the side of the urinal.
Stunned and dazed the skinhead drops, his bodyweight sandbagging across the toilet. Patting through his pockets Antipov finds a mobile phone, knife, pistol, identity an travel card and a wallet with a union jack blazoned upon it. Dismantling the gun Antipov ditches it into the bowl and flushes, before holding the union jack in front of the skinhead. “Bit of a patriot are we?”
The skinhead spits blood, and swears in Serbian
“Listen mate” Antipov says in perfect Serbian “Curse all you want, I really don’t care about you. I don’t care if you leave here, I don’t care who you talk to. You can’t tell them anything I don’t want them to know. You just need to talk to me”
“I can’t. I’ll die”
“Why would I kill you?”
“No, he, he would kill me, and my mum, my family. Everyone”
“Listen” Antipov says, with a gentle smile “Best way out of this is just give me what I want, then I’m out of your hair and I won’t tell this fellow anything.. Or…” he pauses” or I can pick up this phone and start dialling. Start shouting a name. Let me guess. Ruddeck?”
The skin head goes pale “It thought so, so tell me everything or I start shouting to Ruddeck that you spilled the beans”
“He, he hired us to get the laptop. Hired us to take whatever you found. He figures he can use it. Trade it. For immortality. He wants to lie forever. If he lives forever my sister, my mother, they will never be safe. He is convinced he has found some way, he wanted to betray you, use it as a barraging chip”
Antipov smiles “That wasn’t so hard was it? Now remember, all I have to do is open my gob and your family is dead. So just get out of my sight and don’t give me any reason to remember you. Just disappear”
The skinhead freezes until Antipov steps out of his way and indicates to the door. Unable to believe his luck he scrabbles up and flees off into the night with his life.
Elsewhere Sergei drives under the flickering streetlamps of Sarajevo . From the rear of the car comes screaming and the sound of hammering on the inside of the boot.
“I don’t know what you are trying to do banging on the door” Sergei says “What would happen if it opened? You would just fall out. Now if I were you I would wait, see if I let my guard down and you could get the advantage. It is not going to happen but…”
“Anyway, so what do you think on Palestine then? Do we have any chance for peace? That local sports team?”
No answer comes as Sergei continues talking to the air on everything and everything. As he approaches the meeting point there is the dull crump of explosives. A burning van rolls off the street in front of him, splashing into the river. Hans steps out, laptops under his arms, the magic van has been appropriately cleansed of potentially incriminating data. With his free hand Hans flicks open a mobile phone and say “We have the laptop”
Hours later the three agents roll up to a service station miles from the city. The sun births from the horizon, spilling gentle rays over them. As they take turns cleaning up and taking care of necessities in the service stations facilities Sergei continues to complain about the lack of conversational skills from their duck taped prisoner. He had opted to keep the acquisitioned car, a motorbike would not have the necessary boot space. A hearty breakfast later they depart the station once more, heading out into the forest.
In a clearing in the midst of the woods Sergei pops the boot, dragging the tired and terrified prisoner, pushing him up against a tree and a binding his arms around it. The man glances around looking for some aid, seeing only his captor and the elderly Antipov, sat watching meters away. The crew cut man has soiled his combat trouser, and the rips on his jacket arms reveal evident neo Nazi tattoos and swastikas.
Sergei takes the a swig from his hip flask, slowly flipping open his lighter and taking a drag from his cigarette. Taking his time, letting the fear stew and rise.
“Hmm, tell me, did you serve in any regiment?”
The young man shakes his head, tears in his eyes. “Nyet”
“Interesting. Normally people in far right groups like yourself are ex military”
“No, no, I was trained. I wanted to be a man. A soldier for my country.
Segrei takes another long drag “Really? So instead of joining the military you joined a group like this?”
“I do good work. I killed one for them. I stopped Muslims taking our women and children. On a train, we showed him what it meant to be a real Serbian. Kept the country pure”
“So, when you came after us, that was keeping your country pure?”
“I told you. You were outsiders!”
“Trust me, I have done more than enough to help in your country. I have toppled governments and you stand there looking high and mighty at me? No. Do you know who I am?”
“You would kill a man without knowing who he is?”
“Please. Please” The terrified man pleads “Please let me go, I will not say a word”
“I’m afraid not. This is the end of the road for you. It is very unlikely that you will walk out of this alive. We cannot afford for you to go around spilling the beans.
“I don’t know anything!”
“Really? tell me about the man who hired you”
“I can’t – he will take my family. Kill them”
“You think you can protect your family from me? You think that?”
“He’s going to live forever”
“I’m going to live forever” Sergei says with a smile
“No, no he is ..he is going to be… strigoi”
Sergei pauses. The term gets used a lot by gangs to refer to blood initiation rights. Used often by anti-Semitic groups. “Really? You know, you really are a scared little boy. If your family survives or not depends on what you tell me”
The man rolls back an forth, tears pouring down his cheeks “Rudeck sent us”
Finally Antipov looks up” We already know that. Tell us something we don’t know”
“We were meant to take the laptop to the graveyard. To Rudeck”
Antipov tilts his head, then beckons to Sergei with his finger. Whispering in accent less German he says
“Sergei. I have the urge to press the cloned laptop into his hands and shove him into the graveyard. They will most likely kill him and it will show us what forces they have”
Sergei thinks “Their plan was obvious, kill us, or kill him if he got it, but.. strigoi. That also means vampire you know? Not what I think he means though”
“I dunno” Antipov says with a smile” I’ve met enough people who claim to be vampires. In daylight though so I don’t give them credence”
“I knew a vampire one. A woman”
“Sergei, just because your ex was a bloodsucker doesn’t make her a vampire”
“Just because she isn’t talking to me doesn’t make her my ex”
“You know Sergei. I underestimated you. You aren’t doing bad at this”
“I am a Russian professional operative”
“That was what I as worried about”
“What, you thought I was going to flay flesh and cut his toes off? Of course not”
“I was worried you were going to do that and then piss vinegar on the wounds. Remember I was on the other side of the cold war to you, I’ve seen what your lot do”
“Yes, we caught a lot of yours didn’t we. Do you want to see our file on you?”
“You never caught me though did you?” Antipov answers
Turning back to their captive Sergei says “So, you, what is your name?”
“Christoff, well I have been speaking to my friend. This laptop you see, well, I don’t know if it bad intelligence or just bad luck but, well it seems it doesn’t have what we need on it. Now I don’t know why Ruddeck sent you to kill us, but it is hassle we don’t need right now. So I am going to make you an offer.” As he says that he proffers a cigarette, cutting one arm of the captive free. Christoff takes one in shaking hands
“You see Christoff, we don’t have what we want, you don’t have what you want. A lot of your people have died, and well, you know what happens to you if you don’t deliver. So, we put you on a bus. Give you this laptop. You deliver it as promised. Ruddeck has no reason to mess with us, and we never see or hear of you again”
“You, you said they owe you, do you want me to collect the money?”
“No, no, that is fine, we will handle that part ourselves”
“You are going to let me go?”
“Consider it this way. You are a pawn. You have been given orders way above your station. You want to protect your family, yes?”
Christoff nods, trying not to let hope creep onto his face
“You do what we say and everyone walks way happy. You don’t…well they won’t find your body”
Broken and terrified Christoff sobs again, sinking down against the remaining restraints.
“Now I will go arrange the details with my colleague” Sergei says, before walking back to Antipov
“It is done” Sergei says “I don’t know what your plans are, but I suggest we plug him later”
“I’m as big an opponent of fascists as the best of them” Antipov starts
“Ah hatred of Nazis, it joins us together”
“I just dislike leaving bodies when I can avoid it. It is messy an leaves too much of a trail”
Sergei salutes “Since I salute you he will consider you a higher authority. I have to obey you, that means he has to. It is how they think”
Slowly standing Antipov walks over and cuts the man loose “Such fuss, over a blown lead” he sighs “Such is the way of our business. Now, my boy, We are professionals, you return the laptop and the past is forgiven. It is all part of the great game. As long as you get the job done, well, then I have no reason to unleash our polite monster here do I? So, be a good boy and we have no reason to see you ever again do we? There’s a good boy”
Sergei walks over to where Hans is meticulously copying details from the real laptop to its clone. Serial numbers altered on the inside of the case – motherboard details brought in line. Labels and scratches mimicked exactly
“We need the laptop Hans”
Hans frowns, as it stands now the laptop would only survive several hours of interrogation by the most paranoid maniac on the planet. he would prefer more precision. However he slips on a few more internal labels, concealing a tracking device and reluctantly hands it over.
By public transport it should take Christoff about eight hours to get to the meeting point. By car it should take about four. In their stolen vehicle the three agents start off, to gain what jump they can from their double cross.
Flipping open a burner phone Anipov dials the burner he had concealed in the Brigadier Generals office when he was there. There should have been enough time for him to stew in his juices by now.
“Who is this?” comes a confused voice
“Your day has been pretty bad so far. It is going to get worse, you know that already” Antipov says
“Who are you?”
“Listen, your laptop, someone is out to get you with it. Incriminating data has been put on there, and when they find that you are going to be in a lot of trouble. Someone is out to get you, good odds are that you know more about them than me, though you may not realise it yet. When you realise I’m telling the truth contact me. There’s a set of cards in your jacket. I’m about to detail how they can be used for encryption roughly equivalent to a one time pad. When you trust me, use it. If you are caught, shuffle or burn it”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“If I was out to get you I wouldn’t be warning you. The information on the laptop is enough to bury you. Career ending level”
“Who are you?”
“I can’t say” Antipov pauses, remembering what he knows of the general. His mentor passed away a short while back “I’m a friend of Tony Mathews. Hopefully that is enough. Call me back when you have decided. Don’t wait too long, things are moving fast”
Flipping the phone closed, Antipov leans back. Nothing he can do now but wait. Sergeri continues driving on leaving the car to the meeting point at Gostilj. Quiet villages and hamlets pass by them, making little impact apart from the lack of evident threats. Vineyards spring up and diminish away, Antipov taking over the driving so Sergei and Hans can get some sleep. Everyone has been burning the candle at both ends for the past few days and they need their senses sharp for what comes next.
“You know there is going to be a gunfight. You should carry a gun” Sergei mutters
“I don’t get in gunfights” Antipov replies
“Sure you do. We just get you out of them”
The car continues on into the mountains that surround the sheltered Gostilj. Forest breaks near all lines of sight on the approach in the valley, though they would still be vulnerable to snipers from the high grounds. The tiny village is cut off from everything, it would take at least a day for emergency services to get here. Mobile signal bars go empty and wireless internet is unheard of. The meeting point is a cemetery on the edge of the few buildings that make up the village. At least exfiltration should be easier, heading out east to the Serbian border. Pulling up 5 KM out to avoid alerting any guards the three are roused and ready.
Hanging back, Antipov watches as Hans and Sergei moves forwards through the woods. Hans, moves slower, assembling his sniper rifle and carefully checking the scope. Discretely taking a vantage point Sergei looks down upon the graveyard, his eyes pause, flickering back to where they had just passed. A patch where the lay of the land breaks, the only sign of what he presumes to be a ghillie suit sniper. A second later a small movement confirms it, the sniper is watching over the road and the main entrance through the woods
“Contact” Sergei reports over the headsets “Shouldn’t take long”
Knife ready, Sergei approaches from the blind side, keeping low and slow. Leaping the last few feet, Sergei bring the knife around and up, aiming for the throat, at the last moment the sniper reacts, seeing the movement. The blade instead digs deep into his shoulder. He grimaces, but the thick layers of clothing soak any outpour of blood.
Dropping the sniper rifle he crouches back defensively, knife springing ready to hand. He fakes in with the knife, but the blow lands from a spinning back kick as his foot bounces off Sergei’s skull.
Growingly, Sergei halts his stumble back, bracing and pushing himself forwards shoulder first, taking the both to the ground where Sergei’s knife stabs down repeatedly into his assailants chest. The final blow down goes for the throat. Blood now spraying the sniper tries to pull himself away, clutching for his side arm, but a quick slit across the throat then up ends his struggle.
Recovering his breath, Sergei pats the recent corpse down, finding a stab proof vest that has done little to aid the still body and a satellite phone, as well as some sort of tablet. Setting himself down to watch from the snipers position Sergei muses “They will expect check ins shortly. There should be some way I can pretend to be him to keep them from being suspicious”. Down in the graveyard two people patrol
“Hans” Sergei says over the headset “We have two targets here, ex Spetsnaz at a guess. I have a toy for you as well. Some sort of tablet you could take a look at”
He looks down again
“There’s only two of them. You know I could take both out easily right now…eanie. meany. Miney….”
“Just two you say?” Antipov interrupts” Darn, I was hoping there was more. That would have given me a chance to infiltrate more anonymously. One guard looks like any other from a distance. Can’t pull that with just two”
Moving up to rendezvous with Sergei, Hans take the satellite phone and starts adjusting the settings, breaking up the signal. If they do get phoned then the static should be bad enough to prevent easy identification. Then all there is to do is wait, long hours passing as shadows stretch across the valley. Finally as night sets in there is contact, a black range rover coming up the valley. Antipov pulls himself deeper into the bushes where he is huddled, as the vehicle passes bare meters from him.
There is a figure in the back, hood over his head, silver plated, or maybe solid silver cuffs glimmering at his wrist. He is only visible for a moment but Antipov could swear that the cuffs seemed to be burning him where they touch. Then his is gone, down road towards the cemetery.
Watching from above, Sergei sees as the vehicle arrives, three guys step out of the car, flanking the handcuffed man as they frog march him out of the car. As he struggles against him they pull out asp batons, bringing them down just below the base of his neck. The fight out of him, he slumps as they drag him through to the sepulchre. Turning his attention from that ceasing struggle Sergei spies the final occupant of the car. A gaunt looking man, thin and sickly seeming. Ruddeck. Running his hands through slick back hair, the man pauses then pulls out a satellite phone, punching the keys. Moments later the phone they had taken off the sniper springs to life.
Flicking it on Sergei hears several Russian words come down the line. The names of colours, then the word Alabaster. He pauses, unsure of how to respond to what is obviously a call and response identity confirmation procedure. As he hesitates Antipov’s voice comes over the headset.
“I recognise the code. It’s old military codes we broke about 20 years back. Just repeat after me”
Sergei listens, repeating the words Antipov feeds to him. When he finishes the line stills for a moment
“Vaddick?” The man says “What the fuck is wrong with your satellite phone. You sound garbled”
“Had to lie low in a wet area. Puddle water got into the electronics. Can you hear me?” Segrei says
“You had trouble?”
“A farmer. He has been dealt with”
“Very well. I’ve brought the insurance package. The kid is on his way. If he comes with others, deal with them. Take care of whoever looks most effective first. We take the laptop, give him the fake money and the deal is done. Have you heard anything more about the assets we hired?” Ruddeck asks
“I haven’t heard a thing”
“It doesn’t matter, when we are done, kill their handler. No one must find out about this. If the strigoi find out about this, we will be next. Everything rests on this, you understand. Just remember, if we execute this, we will live forever and you will be a rich man. Ruddeck out””
Chambering his P90 Sergei speaks over the headset “Can I go to work now?”
“Give me a moment” Antipov says “It’s dark. If I keep my head down I should be able to mock up like the kid they are expecting long enough to get close. When I get close enough then we go”
As they prepare Hans runs up into position, setting up his sniper rifle and sighting down, adjusting for range and wind. Moments later he sees a figure staggering down the road, the guards approach weapons up as what appears to be the young man collapses meters away from them clutching a wounded knee. At this cue Sergei starts moving down the hill towards the combat zone, P90 up and ready.
As the guard lowers to lift the fallen man they realise their mistake as they see an elderly fifty year old man rather than the boy the expected. By that point it is too late. Grabbing the first guard’s knee, Antipov slams his elbow into it. As the guard drops he catches his weight, shielding behind it and slamming a hammerfist into his throat to end it.
The second guard’s weapon is nearly up when a burst of P90 fire takes his head from behind ending his existence. Sergei has entered the conflict, turning a second burst into the confused guards before they can get a coherent response. Another falls with a three round burst through his skull.
As the last guard in the open falls back towards cover he drops, a single sniper shot dropping him. Two more guards come from the sepulchre AK 47s raised and ready to use. Antipov’ sprint for cover is broken as he runs into them coming the other way. Reacting quickly he grabs the nearest rifle slamming it back into its owners throat, then bundling them both to the ground. 7.76mm rounds spray from the companions rifle, whistling close over their collapsing forms. Controlling the fall Antipov lands on top, and he snaps the mans neck before he can rise. Looking up he sees the final guard, the barrel of the rifle lowering once more, aligned straight at his face.
Hans is out of position, running down the hill firing suppressive shots. The guard’s finger closes on the trigger. Sergei lands behind him, crouching into a three point stance, sight up and a short burst turns the mans head into fine mist, the barrel dropping harmlessly as Antipov lets out a held breath. “Thanks”
The two run up to either side of the sepulchre entrance. Hans runs down from the hill, parkour jumping from wall to wall, moving effortless across the buildings surfaces until he lands on the rooftop, sighting down across the cleared graveyard. Pulling the pin, Antipov tosses a flashbang inside the building and as blinding light and concussive sound emanates out Sergei turns the corner into the room.
As the light clears Sergei spots the first remaining individual. The captive. Hissing and baring his teeth he struggles against the chain he is chained to. Moving his aim he sees Ruddeck, staggering and with blood smeared across his beard, blindly firing his glock into the air.
Sergei puts out a burst that should end things, but somehow Ruddeck is collapsing out of the way, and the round just grazes him. Going by sound and impact alone Ruddeck manages to triangulate the position of his attacker and a single glock shot slams into Sergei, punching through dead centre of mass. As Sergei collapses, eyes rolling back into his head Antipov is stepping into the breech to face the pistol. Slapping the weapon away he steps in to try and head butt Ruddeck, but the weapon comes back too fast and fires again. A rib gives way under impact and Antipov staggers back, leaving an opening which Ruddeck takes.
Trampling over Sergei’s fallen form Ruddeck runs out into the open air and freedom. He has just enough time to take in the carnage of the graveyard when Hans leaps down onto him from above. Locking Ruddeck’s arm while still in mid air Hans controls their fall, slamming them both to the ground. By the time they hit the ground he has popped the slide off the glock, rolling with the momentum he puts all the force into throwing Ruddeck. Rolling back to his feet Hans sees as Ruddeck smashes full force into broken concrete walls and the lights go out behind his eyes. Hans watches a few moments longer to make sure he isn’t faking it then allows a thin lipped smile. Mission accomplished