Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)
Gumshoe: Nights Black Agents: Session 5
A train snakes through the landscape, away through open countryside and pine cone mountain valleys. Away from Serbia, and away from the revelations that took place there. It has been four days now. Four days since they set out, keeping themselves anonymous on public transport, weaving through Europe, over Italy and towards their destination. Towards Zurich.
It is twilight now, car headlights from the parallel motorways spilling out onto the shining silver double decker train that is their choice of transport for the final leg of their voyage. They have allowed themselves additional expense here, private carriages in continental comfort as they prepare for what comes ahead.
The opposition has shown itself to have fingers in many pies, from the military, to the criminal, to the financial. Beings of seemingly human form, but showing extraordinary resilience, and traits that are not entirely dissimilar to those of the mythological vampires. The agent’s talk has kept to the practical for now, capabilities and vulnerabilities. The heavier questions have been left looming and unsaid.
The most practical of questions has been how to strike back. The answer, always follow the money. The deceased Brigadier General’s laptop has given them a wealth of opportunity. In this case a bank in Zurich. The Black Sea Bank has been looking at acquiring it, and since it has been making a heavy loss for a long time now that makes no sense to the financial world. To the agents it looks like an opportunity. The Black Sea Bank is mired right at the centre of every lead they have on the opposition, and if they are interested, then so are the agents.
Hans, their German Tech Specialist, is in a separate carriage to them, happier with the hum of laptops and the data flowing down his smart-phone connections. Happier away from the noise of the other two.
Sergei, the Russian infiltration and ultraviolence agent sits in silence, stripping and reassembling his weapons, a cigarette burned down to the filter caught in his lip, and a rapidly emptying hip flask by his side.
Antipov, a British asset handler of cold war days, walks the corridors of the train. He has memorised the schedules of the staff, and keeps out of their way, so they do not realise he has acquired one of their uniforms to allow him to blend into the background. He watches for possible opposition agents on the journey. There are a few ex military, and a few muscle boys, but nothing that indicates active agents.
A ping at his hip tells him Hans has found something. Flicking open the smart phone he follows the link to a German newspaper, Der Spiegel. He scans down over details of a financial journalist by the name of “Diter Schmidt”. He is in Zurich shortly, covering the sale of the Koernes Bank to the Black Sea Bank. The very acquisition that has brought the three agents to Zurich. The journalist has been doing exposes on the dubious activities of the Black Sea Bank before, and has highlighted parallels to the activity of the Lisky Bratva criminal family. Below is a single line from Hans
“Could he be a target?”
“I’ll look into it” comes Antipov’s reply
With a sigh Antipov returns to his carriage, shuffling through his memories, and several browser tabs looking for background on this Diter Schmidt, anything to show if he is being leveraged, a ruse to draw them out of hiding, or any signs of the opposition investigating him for vanishing.
His career has been chequered, a prodigy from the University of Berlin, BA and Masters in financial economics. He went straight into journalism, and promptly put a few noses out of joint. He’s now in his mid thirties and has been shown the door from more than a number of reputable broadsheets. Schmidt’s web site is littered with articles never printed, with signs that the editors had been lent on to keep them that way.
A few questions in the right areas confirms his suspicions. There are signs that the German government has been keeping an eye on him, from stalking to straight up spying. He’s been warned off by his colleagues repeatedly, and his ex fiancé was detained with financial data she held in Britain under anti terrorism laws. A fairly blunt way of trying to impose leverage. Blunter still are a number of death threats to his person.
Sergei looks up from his P-90, irritated at his concentration being broken “What?”
“You have a way with our friends in blue don’t you? Wondered if you could chase up a lead here. Got death threats on a potential asset. Wondering if we can chase them up the chain to see who is pulling the strings. Wondered if you could get Interpol to bounce us the case details, Hans can set up a blind redirect so they can’t track it back”
“Maybe” Sergei says, pulling out a burner phone. In clean, accentless English he greets the Interpol receptionist. Even knowing the number is the first thing that will set them at ease, his proficient knowledge of cop lingo keeps the ruse up long enough for a conversation to start. Minutes pass, as Sergei carefully probes, asking testing questions and watching responses, seeing how well his front is holding. He weaves the tale of an investigation into Schmidt’s activities. When he names the number he needs them sent to the deal is sealed, the receptionist has no reason to distrust a recognised cop shop’s contact details, unaware that a relay has been set up from there to bounce them to the agents.
Moments later the details spool down the Agent’s screens. Details of threatening phone calls and e-mail. Several cases of thugs door stepping the journalist with threats, telling him to drop investigations into the money from between Russia and German businesses. Antipov’s eyes light up as he sees a request from Schmidt asking for a security detail to meet him at Zurich station, a request that has been ignored.
“That train station would be a prime place for an ambush” Segrei mutters
“Wonder if we could get placed on his security detail. Would be a short cut to getting his trust. He has pissed on someone’s chips and there is no sign I can find of him being leveraged yet. Could be a good asset”
“It would be better than guarding a Saudi prince” Segrei says with a grumble.
“You know, you will have to let that go one day” Antipov says. Sergei just glares
“At least it isn’t the KGB as the opposition this time, they were just plain arseholes”
Sergei racks his P-90, not breaking his glare
“Anyway, so, usual rules Sergei? You are the heavy, I make contact, Hans watches the hind side? You may want to try to get some silver at some point, seems to be a danger to the opposition, may even put them down for good if you can craft some hand loads. Worse case scenario you have an expensive soft mushrooming shell. Best case, we have a way to fight back”
“Revolver then. I prefer the P90”
“You can still use the P90, hose their legs, arms, whatever. If they can’t move they can’t dodge the silver round you put in their skull
“You British waste your bullets. Throw them away”
“I’d rather waste bullets than my life. For all we know these things are backed by vampire werewolves with twelve inch cocks”
Segrei pauses, looking up and paying full attention for the first time “What?”
“What? Are you telling me that in Russia every mammal doesn’t have twelve inch cocks?”
“What are we even talking about?
“The apparent issue with undersized members in Russia from what I can tell”
As the backtalk continues, Hans sits, still alone, setting up an electronic back-story for their plan. Weaving a trail of names and companies that will list them as authentic security agents. Picking up another burner Antipov dials the reporter, speaking with the bored tone of a receptionist on just yet another thankless task
“Mr Schmidt? This is just to confirm that your requested security detail will be meeting you at Zurich Station in four hours.
“Security detail? You are finally giving me a detail? I’ve been asking about that for weeks now and…”
“I understand sir, there was a mix up on the file, it was marked as notification being sent. We are very sorry sir. If you need to contact us, I am sending the contact details of the group” Antipov reels off another of one of many memorised burner numbers.
The breathing on the other side of the phone seems more rapid, the situation finally sinking in. The danger seeming real. Antipov continues, trying to keep his tone calming “This is just as a matter of precaution, it would not to for us to be seen ignoring such a request. We have no reason to believe that there is any danger”
Signing off, Antipov turns to Sergei who is tucking away a Glock 22 and a steel baton, ready for the operation “Do you have any fast action tranquillisers?I could do with something non lethal and not loud in case things go wrong”
“Sure, you should really take a gun though” Sergei says, handing over three glass syringes.
“I don’t carry if I can avoid it. Raises the response level too quickly”
The view outside changes to that of Zurich, a clean and well ordered city. Clearly defined streets, and flotillas full of expensive yachts. Over three hundred thousand people live here, despite the expense. As the train comes into the station the moon is full overhead, reflected upon the lake’s water. Even at this time dignitaries and reporters bustle through the baroque station. The tannoys still relay information in numerous languages, and the shops lights still glare over their overpriced wares. The vast majority of travellers look tired, aged men in expensive German cut suits. People used to getting their own way.
The group disperses, Hans keeping back, riding shotgun over the connection supplied in a nearby internet café, weaponising it for his own purposes. Sergei walks the land, watching. There are a lot of assets in play already, younger men and women, suits not as expensive as the others. Agents, backed up by burly men in leather jackets who try to keep out of line of sight. All rotating around the expected arrival area of the train from Germany.
Antipov keeps his movements to as little as possible, letting his eyes do the work, looking for alternate routes out. There’s escalators to underground rail systems, main exits to taxi ranks, groups of people clumped together, natural camouflage, and a few discrete side routes. “What have we got for opposition?” Antipov asks over a throat mic.
“They have most of the major exists covered, moving in a shift pattern. I’ve clocked their rotation. You meet up with the principle, I’ll take out one when they rotate for the exit.”
Hans chips in “They may be carrying secure devices, see if you can lift one and I should be able to break their communications”
“I’ll get you your toys”
Sergei has a suspect in sight, moving past a concealed archway. Faking attention to his smart-phone Sergei walks straight alongside him, and as soon as he is past the field of view his hand snaps back, extending his baton. The man crumples on impact into Sergei’s waiting arms, carrying the two into the shadows. A quick frisk of the fallen agent reveals a secure mobile phone – a blackberry and earpiece combo, a most likely fake ID and about twenty euros. Slipping on the earpiece Sergei notes a tattoo on the man’s arm. Swiss military from the look of it.
“I’ve got a black-berry, sending you the IMEI now Hans”
“Got it” Hans replies “Got a photo on there of a “Deite Schmit”, their target. They’ve got photos of us as well, but all disguised. Radio traffic has a primary co-ordinator asking if anyone has eyes on target”
“Understood” Sergei says “Antipov, I’ve cleared the south east exit. I expect they will notice a lack of response from there in the next five minutes. Will work on clearing a secondary exit”
He looks to two agents walking together, their route covering a fire escape into the service corridors. Switching to German he lets his route take him past them, rattling off business lingo into a blue-tooth headset to blend into the surroundings. As they pass him he flicks out the baton once more, a paralysing shot to the first agent’s neck, followed by his elbow smashing back into the other’s nose as he turns.
Blood pumping and adrenaline flowing he drags them into the service corridors, his voice mechanical and in the zone as he reports “Two more down. Exit two clear”
He stills for ten seconds, letting the calm demeanour flood over him again, then steps back out into the world.
Antipov sits, an open broadsheet newspaper up across his face as he watches the trains come in. As the train from Berlin rolls in he finally steps up, letting the trains entrance block his from sight of half the agents as he steps on against the exiting crowd.
“Mr Schmidt. Stay where you are. Security is coming” He texts as he pushes through the crowd.
As he passes through the train he takes advantage of the crowd to look out the windows, to check the location of the watching agents. They are good, keeping a tight pattern despite the hole Sergei tore. This is going to be interesting.
“Mr Schmidt?” The man looks up as Antipov approaches. He is youngish looking, floppy haired and gaunt. It shouldn’t be too hard to keep him under control “Come with me, and hand me your jacket”
Taking the man’s jacket Antipov turns to what looks to be a travelling student he had identified earlier “Listen. Can you help us out? We need twenty euros? Can you…No please. Listen I’ll trade you this jacket. It’s got to be worth at least…”Antipov lets a note of pleading enter his voice. Let the man think he has the upper hand as the exchange takes place. When the man walks out now he should act as a decoy for a few moments at least. That is all he needs. Rummaging though his bag he pulls out a new jacket, wig and glasses, shoving them onto Schmidt. “We are being watched. Follow my every move”
Slipping off the train he bundles them both into the middle of the crowd, moving with it until they can peel off for the cover of the shopping centre, walking briskly through the cover it provides. Just as they are stepping through an older lady trips, dragging her baggage cart loudly across the ground.
“Shit” Antipov curses as all eyes move to mere meters from where he is. “Keep moving, they’ll investigate here next”
The enemy agent’s headphones come to life, a message across the wire. “One of the exits are exposed. North side. We need backup to cover”
As agents peel off to cover the breech, Sergei smiles, he has diverted enough to give Antipov the room he needs. Taking the opportunity Antipov pushes deeper into the shopping centre, as soon as he breaks line of sight with the agents he starts pushing open every door he passes, then doubles back and heads through one already swinging. The following agents come through to see a hallway of possible exits and have to disperse their manpower to check each in turn. So much so they don’t see a hand reach out and grab a hat from a store display, then pulled down over his head as Antipov moves back out towards the exit. He glances up at his destination, there are still too many agents circling, its going to be tough going.
A shout of pain grabs everyone’s attention. One of the agents stands, drenched head to toe in boiling coffee. Sergei stands in front of him, having engineered the collision as a distraction. Moments later the first punch is thrown and Segrei retaliates once more with his baton, sending the agent flying back as his colleagues, and transport police, dash in to assist. With a flurry of defensive close quarter shots Sergei keeps them back, trying to finish the job with an elbow strike, but his arm is caught by another agent piling in. Pushing them away Segrei plays the defensive game, waiting for one of the opponents to over reach and he hooks the baton in, dislocating the arm at the shoulder. Pushing the screaming agent away he puts another on the floor with a head shot then sprints through the opening
On the other side of the train station a man shouts loudly, then sprints in fear through the nearest exit. As the opposition have to split their attention again Antipov considers that it was worth the hundred Euro bribe he had given the man to make a distraction. There may not be another chance, grabbing Schmidt’s arm he sprints the last hundred meters, bundling them both into a waiting taxi.
Hans smiles from the front of the taxi where he waits, pulling the taxi out from the rank. The shatter of glass comes as the sound of gunshot fills the air.
“Fuck” Antipov shoves Schmidt down pressing him against the seat “Keep down” As he does so his fingers slip into the man’s jacket, lifting his smart phone for later checking
“Fuck. What the hell is going on?” Schmidt shouts, his whole body shaking
“Listen. Just do exactly what I say. We will keep you alive. Do what we say, no questions, and you will get through this”
The train station has become a nightmare of confusion, police drawing their weapons and closing on the agents who are filling the air with lead. As Sergei enfitrates away from the confusion he sees a glint from a raised surface on the rooftop. Leaping up the stairs, he draws his suppressed pistol as he closes on the sniper lining up a shot on the fleeing taxi.
The shout is enough to make the sniper turn, and then the bullet punches through his skull. The spent shell casing hangs in the air for a moment before Sergei snatches it and pockets it. No need to leave evidence. Calmly picked up the canvas carry case, he slips away the sniper’s rifle for his own later use then just walks straight out of the station.
An icy shiver runs down Sergei’s neck. Something is out of place. Slipping down the back alleys between the wood plated white frame buildings of the main street he glances back. A figure is there, outlined against the pitch black night sky, dropping down to where the sniper’s body lies. The outline of his body obscured by something halfway between a trench-coat and a burka. The figure kneels down, sniffing the air, before turning and staring across the distance, straight at Sergei. The figure seems to vanish, and it is only as he raises his eyes Sergei realises it has leapt straight up into the air, back onto the roof of the station in a seemingly impossible jump.
“What the fuck?” Sergei mouths, before turning and existing with all due haste.
He finds the others secreted away in one of Antipov’s old safe houses. A cellar beneath a night club. The sound above an effective deterrent from most surveillance, and the thick brick and steel a physical imposition. The cellar next door has been taken over as well and a hole broken through – an alternative exit in times of trouble. Fibre optic wires string through the pre existing cold war era electronics are a sign of Han’s upgrades, a new surveillance network of the outside world.
In the midst Antipov sits, sucking away at a hard boiled sweet liberated from an army ration pack, one of many stored here for emergencies.
“Schmidt is sleeping” Antipov says, pointing to an unconscious body on one of the old metal framed beds. “Emptied one of the tranks in his drink. Thought it would give us time to get a handle on what he knows before we do the interrogation” He waves at the lifted smart-phone and laptop that Hans is going over
“Add this to the pile” Sergei says, tosses down the burner phone he took off the sniper. Settling down Sergei pours a large measure of vodka, and starts field stripping his new rifle.”Well, that was a bit louder than expected”
“Just a tad, aye. Didn’t think they would shoot in a train station. They want him bad”
“Worse than that. They want him dead, otherwise they wouldn’t have shot”
Spinning the reporters laptop around Hans says “I think I know why they want him dead”
On the laptop’s screen is an image, a photo, black and white, the inside of a bank vault. Standing proudly in the centre of the photo is a group of men, garbed in SS uniforms, behind them is a stack of gold.
“The data indicates that the bank has ties to the Russian Mafia families, and to Nazi gold.”
“I hate fucking fascists” Sergei interjects
“The records show art, and treasure from Berlin. Items Himmler was interested in.”
“So, you are saying this is Nazis gold? What the fuck are these people into?”
Antipov frowns “The guy I spoke to, through the other guy. He spoke about hunting “Lesser” races. His term not mine. They could be genuine old school Nazis”
“If Black Sea bank goes ahead with the merger they get everything” Hans says “Everyone in that vault”
“Then we stop that “Sergei says, smiling “I think we have a bank to rob”