Chisinau, Moldova. Friday, June 13, 2025.
Instead of returning to his room, or immediately contacting Fedoruk, Robinson decided he needed some "emotion recollected in tranquility." So he Uber-ed back to Valea Morilor Park, and sat down on the bench next to the lake where he had sat that morning. This warm, sunny day was beginning to feel like it might last forever. His head was spinning.
When he had calmed down, Robinson began making a mental list of questions that had crossed his mind during the conversation with Gabriela Morari at the Q bar:
—Was it really true that Andrei Rusu, and not Geistmann, was Iosub Ceban's biological father? (Probably.)
—If so, what did this imply about the roles of Iosub and Ramesh Subramanian in the plots against him, Robinson? (That one, again!)
—Why did Rusu apparently want to meet him? (Hmm.)
He had gotten this far when, once again, his phone buzzed. The new text came from firstname.lastname@example.org. The message was brief:
John, Call me asap, from a secure device. Urgent!
Gathering what wits he could, Robinson decided to walk to the nearby Embassy, to ask for help in making the secure phone call. But before he could take a step, what sounded like a high-speed projectile screamed past his head.
As he dove under the bench, he recalled that he and Fedoruk had discussed assassination-via-drone in Yerevan, in 2018. No sooner had he remembered this than he heard a second projectile. This one flew into a clump of bushes about thirty feet from the bench. He heard a scream of pain, and then, like a genie, Fedoruk materialized.
"This is getting serious, John," he said, helping Robinson to his feet, and dusting him off. "Shall we go take a look?"
He led him to the bushes, where they found three men in camouflage outfits. Two lay motionless on the ground; the third sat hunched over, holding his bloodied face in his hands.
"Well, well, the Rusu brothers. The corpse on the left is —was—Andrei, the man I suggested you meet." Fedoruk's face expressed embarrassment for the mistake.
"How did this happen, Diodur?" asked a still-shaken Robinson.
"Well, John, I'm afraid the park is a well-known venue for mob violence. I should have warned you not to come here." Fedoruk showed Robinson a map on his phone. "This building, here ... " He zoomed in on a pink three-story, cut-stone-block building on the south side of the park, perpendicular to the lake " ... is where they launched their explosive drone, probably from the roof. Ours, targeted from the roof of the Embassy by infrared sensors, was aimed at these bushes, where the sensors detected warmth from three moving bodies, the Rusu brothers. They were presumably here to make sure you were dead, and to cart away the forensic evidence."
As Fedoruk was speaking, Robinson had grown more and more faint until, just as the speech concluded, he slumped to the ground. Twenty minutes later, he woke up on a leather couch in a dark, quiet room in what was, presumably, the Embassy. His first thought was that he needed to make a phone call, but he could not remember to whom. Fedoruk knelt beside him, holding a glass of water.
Sitting up, Robinson took a sip, then explained his need to make a phone call. Fedoruk consulted the register on Robinson's phone, and then, using his own presumably secure Smart Phone, he dialled the main CCTF number in Cape Town, and punched in an extension. When he heard a voice, he handed the phone to Robinson, and whispered, "Here's Yamamoto, John."
"Hello? Ms. Yamamoto?" Robinson's voice was shaky.
"Good to heard your voice, John," she said. "I was afraid my message had reached you too late."
"It almost was too late," he replied, and summarized the incident in the park.
"Whew!" She immediately segued into a summary of the CCTF's latest findings, all of which had come from electronic interceptions. Robinson could have guessed what had been discovered, but he let Ms. Yamamoto tell it. What it amounted to was that they now understood that Ramesh Subramanian had definitely been the brains behind the plot that drew Robinson to Cape Town, and the subsequent bombing of his office.
Yamamoto paused to let that much sink in, giving him a chance to reply. When he remained silent, she said, "John? Are you there?" He grunted an affirmative, and she continued. "We also discovered that the purpose of the double-bomb was to warn you off, rather than to kill you. The bombs were a threat, but if you ignored it, they were prepared to carry the threat out —which is what they apparently just tried to do."
"But why now? Why here, in Chisinau?" he asked, still trying to clear his head.
"That's the last piece of the puzzle we've put together, John —or, I should say, Patsy Santos-Oliveira put together, since she did most of the heavy lifting. Ramesh Subramanian is currently the chief money mover for the Moldovan mob. In fact, he and the third Donduceni brother, Ionut ... " (Robinson's brain made the usual associational joke: sounds like 'Donut.') " ... are co-Capos. One more thing, John! Fred and Bob both said to tell you that, since you're now officially on the team, all of your expenses in Moldova — Bangor, too, the airfares, per diems, the whole works— could possibly wind up being on Uncle's dime. But you know how things are these days, so ... "
With that, she signed off. Robinson drank the rest of his water, then gestured to a place on the couch beside him. Fedoruk sat down. Robinson's immediate reaction to the reimbursement news, assuming it was true, was that it might save his marriage. But that could be considered later.
Holding the empty glass in his hand, Robinson said to Fedoruk, speaking very deliberately, "I don't know if you heard that, Diodur. Ms. Yamamoto said you and I are officially partners now." Fedoruk looked as if he might welcome the news. "So ... full disclosure, right?" Fedoruk nodded. "Tell me that you didn't know Andrei Rusu was Iosub Ceban's biological father."
Fedoruk looked shocked, but Robinson knew him well enough to wonder if he were pretending. "Well, actually ... " said the Ukrainian, speaking so slowly that Robinson anticipated being told a lie. " ... over the years, I've heard rumors that there was a rape. And I also wondered if Geist ... —if Armande— could really have acted as Elica's husband. I always assumed his, er, sexuality was complex, complex and troubled. But his serving as the boy's stepfather, out of gratitude to Elica, the mother, seemed more in character —to me, at least."
Since that view of Geistmann had also been Robinson's, he decided to take Fedoruk's statement at face value. Anyway, they had more urgent business than to start plumbing the depths of their shared hero/villain's sexuality.
"Well, then," he said, finally feeling free of the cobwebs, "did you hear what Yamamoto said about Iosub's partner, Ramesh Subramanian?"
"She said he was the mob's CFO, and full partner with Ionut Donduceni."
"Ha! I guessed the arrangement might be something like that. When mobs prosper the way this one has, the money men always seem to become leading players." He thought for a moment. "But what does that imply about the plot against you, John?
"It must have been Subramanian's idea. Since Iosub was not Geistmann's biological son ... " He paused to consider another angle. "But, of course, the question is whether Iosub knows who his real father is, or was. If he does know, his own animus against me might be less. But who would have told him? Certainly not his mother."
Fedoruk chimed in. "And since he's too thick to guess the truth, we have to assume that, even now, he thinks Geistmann was his father." He paused for a moment. "But what difference would it really make? Iosub's animus against you could be because you killed his kind and generous step-father."
"And, of course, Subramanian would hardly have dispelled the illusion that Geistmann was Iosub's biological father. Hmm! But why did Ramesh even bother with a slob like Iosub?"
Fedoruk scratched his chin, the picture of thoughtfulness.
"Who knows? Cover? A fall guy, if he ever needs one? But never mind, John! Our line of action is clear now. If we can find and destroy Ramesh Subramanian, it will take a lot of heat off both of us. Your life will be safe —safer— and my fight against the mob may be easier."
Was Robinson sure, even now, that Fedoruk was dealing from the top of the deck? As usual, he would have to wait and see. "Anyway, Diodur, thank you very much for saving my life again, and congratulations for taking out the Rusus."
"You're very welcome, John." Fedoruk looked at his phone. "But it's time for a little celebration. As usual, I know the best place. Dinner and drinks?" He thought for a moment. "But we'd better take the Tank. Especially today."
"Agreed." Robinson knew he was referring to the armored Jeep Wrangler Hybrid Electric SUV.
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