Chisinau, Moldova. Sunday, June 15- Monday, June 16, 2025
"Those dirty fuckers!" screamed Ionut Donduceni."They'll pay for this!" He was referring to what had befallen the Brothers Ruso in the park on Friday.
"Calm down, Ion!" advised his co-chief, Ramesh Subramanian. "You'll have a coronary."
Subramanian's greatest concern was not the two dead Ruso's, but the surviving one, who could not be counted on to withstand Diodur Fedoruk's brutal interrogation tactics. Subramanian sometimes thought of Fedoruk as "The Adversary," anther name for Satan (although Ramesh was still enough of a Hindu to scoff at such nonsense).
In mentioning heart attacks, Subramanian knew whereof he spoke. Donduceni was grossly overweight and, even when calm (for him), and even with maximal medication, his blood pressure and cholesterol (both the LDL and overall numbers) were off the charts. Nor did the Indian cybermeister want his co-CEO to die, since the succession issue was sure to be fraught with uncertainty.
"But ... but ... but," Donduceni spluttered.
"Don't worry, Ion," Subramanian said, attempting to reassure his co-Capo. "Those guys will be taken care of. I mean, they were lucky twice now, at the restaurant, and in their plan to get me with that stupid cemetery trick. Just leave it to Rami!"
Donduceni exhaled, and patted his partner's left cheek. Subramanian hated the Moldovan's racist condescension so bitterly that, one of these days, he might just let the bastard implode, so he could dance on his corpse. But not yet. Once again, "Rami" put on his "Indian lackey" face. Soon, he planned to return to Africa., but first he would set in motion a lethal revenge plan. He anticipated that, within a month, Diodur Fedoruk and John Robinson would both be dead.
Meanwhile, Subramanian's enemies were making their own plans. The Director of the FBI's VICAP division, Fred Neugeborn, was point man. On Saturday afternoon, June 14th, Neugeborn flew out of CPT, and after a stopover at AMS (Schipol), in Amsterdam, he landed at IAD (Dulles), at noon on Sunday. In an unmarked SUV, he was driven forty miles south to the FBI Training Center, in Quantico, Virginia. There, he spent the rest of the day swimming laps and lifting weights, eating and resting, studying the briefing materials Martinez and Yamamoto had prepared for him, and putting together his presentation for the next morning's meeting. Like his friend and colleague, John Robinson, Neugeborn was a planner.
The momentous meeting convened in a large conference room at Bureau HQ, in downtown D.C., at exactly 0900 hours on Monday, June 16th, 2025. (FBI Director, Admiral J.J. McCarty's, furious tirades against latecomers were notorious.) Besides Neugeborn and the Director, present at the meeting were the Secretary of Homeland Security, an Assistant Secretary of State, and the President's Chief of Staff. As meetings inside the Beltway went, the group assembled for this one was small.
After roll call, cafeinization, and one or two brief opening remarks, the Admiral turned the meeting over to Neugeborn. Referring to the graphs and charts that Martinez and Yamamoto had prepared, the VICAP Director spoke for about thirty minutes. Before the meeting, the Admiral had warned him that the attendees should not be kept for more than an hour, and that they would have many questions, not to mention speeches designed to ensure backside coverage. As these directives implied, McCarty's opinion was that Fred's proposal would be grudgingly accepted.
The gist of Neugeborn's presentation was an appeal for the ad- hoc group to authorize the extraordinary use of the Pegasus/Phantom system in Moldova and several African countries. His argument mentioned, in passing, that Ukraine had been denied use of P/Phantom. He carefully avoided the question of whether the system was already in operation against Putin or other dictators. Nor did he so much as mention the name of Ramesh Subramanian, or the vendetta that he had been directing at John Robinson.
Instead, Neugeborn's presentation emphasized the need to bolster NATO's ongoing mission to protect Ukraine, "without putting boots on the ground." An ancillary argument was that P/Phantom could legitimately be used to fight Moldovan criminal cartels that were, with Russian backing, violating the human rights of refugees, disrupting Moldova's fragile economy, and providing funds to support the Russian war machine.
Fred's final point was, "And finally, as I'm sure everyone at this table knows, both in designing the Pegasus/Phantom system, and in licensing the system to us — the FBI — the Israelis stipulated that the system was intended not to suppress dissidents, but to fight crime." He did not add, "or terrorism."
That there were few questions, Fred thought, had two principal causes: the effectiveness of Bob and Patsy's brief, and the participants' wish still to be able to cover their backsides, — and those of their masters — should the Bureau's plan fail, or be exposed.
Perhaps the most trenchant comment was made by the Assistant Secretary of State, a Republican lawyer from Alabama. It was a peroration, of sorts: "Frankly," he said, with a preliminary chortle, "I don't see how we can turn down Director Neugeborn's fine proposal, except to say that, if his plan doesn't pan out, the folks in this room will be scrambling for cover — with a lot of egg on our faces!" Neugeborn thought that, if John Robinson had been present, he would have enjoyed the Alabaman's folksy mixed metaphor.
At that moment, 1723 hours local (Moldovan) time, Robinson had just finished chatting with Diodur Fedoruk over a late lunch at a modest cafe a few blocks from the Embassy. Robinson's friend and colleague had summarized Fred Neugeborn's proposal in D.C. that morning, and guessed that it would be accepted. When they had finished eating, Fedoruk signalled to their server, a young woman, to bring the check. After he had signed for it, and she had left them, he arrived at a somewhat surprising peroration to their conversation.
"So, my friend, I'm sure you understand what this means. You shouldn't feel obliged to stick around until the bitter end — the end for the Donduceni's, and for friend Subramanian, we hope. Neither should you feel obliged to return to Africa. No, once we put Pegasus into operation against the PAC and the Donduceni mob, all that should remain is a massive clean-up and P.R. operation."
Apparently aware that Robinson looked a bit crestfallen — didn't the Bureau need him, anymore? — Fedoruk added, "Go home to your family, John, and to your real job. Not that we — I — don't appreciate all your work for us, but maybe it's time."
If not for two developments, Robinson might have felt more disappointed to have been shown the door like this. The first was his cuddle with Patsy. Not only had she closed the door on any further involvement, the cuddle had inspired him. He wanted to be home again, so he could cuddle with George and Amy before they reached the ages when parental displays of affection embarrassed them. And who could say? After a period of conjugal abstinence, Judy, too, might welcome an occasional (non-sexual) cuddle. And who knew where that could lead?
The second reason Robinson did not feel more disappointed to be shown the FBI door was that, just before lunch, his post-cuddle happiness had been reenforced by the receipt of an exciting new manuscript from Dr. Mzamene. It had been sent as an attachment to an email. The subject line read:
safe to open, not another forgery. Please attempt to date, and return.
The attachment contained a facsimile copy of yet another Tamasheq document, which, like the first one, looked to be a trade treaty. But what was amazing to Robinson, at least at first glance, was that both the style of the document and the terms of the treaty suggested that the Malian empire had not yet become Islamicized.
Robinson could hardly wait to further examine this startling document. The prospect gave him a second reason for wanting to go straight home, where he would have access to the Columbia Library's search engines and reference books, their copious collection of incunabular catalogues, texts about hand-finishing and decoration, and SOA lab facilities for analysis of paper, calligraphy, etc. If this project panned out, Ian Bostridge might give birth to kittens or, at least, offer Robinson a named professorship.
As he and Fedoruk walked towards his building, he was determined to moderate his reaction to the marching orders. "I'm all right with that, Diodur, with retiring from the Bureau. After all, I'm sixty-five now, which is seven years above your official retirement age. And, since Columbia has no age stipulations, I'll still have my work at the Library."
Fedoruk looked relieved. They shook hands warmly, and Robinson promised to come by the next morning to "clean up the odds and ends."
Looking even more relieved, Fedoruk said, "Of course, John, Uncle will pay for your trip home. And, oh, I forgot to tell you this, but the bean counters in D.C. have said that, if you can produce the chits, all of your expenses from here, as well as from Bangor and CT, will definitely be covered."
Robinson thanked him. He knew exactly where the chits were. Except for the pre-bombing ones from CT, they were all upstairs, in the front pocket of his backpack. Even those that had been destroyed would appear on his credit-card bills, which were presumably waiting in New York.
"A bientôt," Fedoruk said.
"Ciao, amico mio," replied Robinson.
The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.