Scorpion's Vengeance, 'Serkov'
Are all the Pieces there?
From the author
One of my best memories as a kid was when I got the chance to put a Jigsaw puzzle together, I used to love it. Patiently working out where each piece went, and slowly assembling each one until I had the complete picture.
Mum was also a 'Jigsaw addict' and whenever she saw one part done, she just couldn't leave it alone, it had to be finished, but she taught me a few tricks on how to make sure you 'do it right the first time'.
I just wonder if that's how a detective works, patiently putting together each piece of a puzzle until they've got enough of the picture and can work out what things are really telling them?
Are there still a few pieces missing in this puzzle?
Let's join the story and see, shall we?
Onward, "It's not London here"
“The cameras are monitored aren’t they?’ how come a team wasn’t dispatched to get them back online?” Billie asked.
“It’s not London here” Harris shot back, “we don’t have that kind of resources, they’d only gone down that morning, here they give themselves twenty-four hours to get them back online, as long as the team gets to them and gets ‘em working again within that time it’s not a problem normally.”
“Until something goes wrong” Jimmy added.
“Hindsight’s a wonderful thing?” Harris was getting a bit frustrated with the young copper, the tone gave it away.
“We’re not meaning to criticise” Billie was glaring at Jimmy, ‘back off’ her eyes were saying, “But it’s damn strange that the cameras were down when the hit was meant to take place, it can’t be a coincidence, can it?”
“Tell the truth” Harris’ tone softened slightly, but only slightly, “I’m convinced it wasn’t, and that’s what worries me, whether it was one of the spook agencies or someone with a man on the inside, the whole thing stinks to high heaven, and it has me worried!”
“Okay, what about the witness, you know, the one that made the phone call?”
“Disappeared into thin air” Harris replied, “Oh and one final thing, that really throws a spanner in the works”
“Go on” they waited eagerly anticipating what he was going to say.
“All the damage done, four cars riddled with bullet holes, windows smashed and all that” he went on, “the government were here later that afternoon, fixed everything up immediately and literally took the people whose cars got shot up down to a dealer to get a new one, all on one condition”
“Let me guess” Billie butted in, “that they say nothing about what went on, maybe even deny it took place, am I right?
“Give the girl a prize” Harris smiled, it was a sarcastic one, not that either was offended, “You got it in one”
Serkov's office was at the back of one of his nightclubs, he had three of them in London, all set up the same way, identical ‘offices’ in each one.
They had the latest gadgets in them, but all hidden away behind facades that looked like they came straight out of the Hermitage in his hometown, St Petersburg.
The clubs were the ‘in place’ in London, anyone wanting to be ‘seen’ went there, especially, Alex’s place as it was called in Knightsbridge, but that one was for ‘A’ listers only.
But they were only a front for where his real money was made, a way of ‘greasing the wheels’ to get things done, and moving ‘product’ without too many questions, after all, the ‘A’ list wasn’t just movie stars.
He’d accessed the security feed from Sasha’s building, saw the footage and cussed.
“Show me face” he screamed at the monitor as it showed the abduction for the fifth time, he was going through it almost frame by frame, and getting nothing. Not even the ‘doctor’ was turning to the camera, it was as if they knew they were being filmed, the movements seemed natural, but if they were, then he should have had a picture from at least one he could check against his facial recognition software, but nothing, he threw the pencil he’d been holding at the monitor screen, shoved his chair back forcibly and stood up. Ten paces and he wrenched open the ornate Oak door, it flew back hitting the stopper with a thud.
“SERGEI” he bellowed into the next room, the unfortunate man he was shouting to was nearly deafened as he was only five steps away, “Have you found anything yet?” It was more a command than a question.
“Niet” the unfortunate replied in Russian, “I been in contact with all our people going to Hospitals, none find anything” he was nervous, Alexei wasn’t the kind of boss you wanted to annoy, even if it wasn’t your fault.
“Agh” Serkov wheeled round, grabbing the door handle he slammed it shut so hard that the doorframe shook, he went back to the desk and slumped back down into the chair.
There was a half-full bottle of Russian Vodka on the desk, as the owner, he didn’t need to hide it, he was tempted, but today he needed a clear head, something was going down, he just didn’t know what?
‘Rule nothing out’ he remembered that from his days with the FSB or the ‘renamed’ KGB from the old days of the Soviet Union. it's the first thing they teach, ‘when the crap happens, rule nothing out, and eliminate the possibilities starting with the easiest’
He’d sent men to every hospital in London, they had security guards there, but they ‘don’t get paid enough’ to tangle with Serkov’s thugs, as long as his men weren’t causing trouble, they were left alone, but none had found Gromatski, and that was worrying.
“Who gains from this?” was the next question.
Gromatski had been kidnapped, that he was sure of, the question was why? and who gained by it. Every name he thought up just didn't make sense, they all had too much to lose, it just didn’t make any sense.
Here's the Reality.
- UK vs Russia: More Russian spies in London NOW than during Cold War | UK | News | Express.co.uk
RUSSIA now has more spies deployed in London than the Soviet Union did at the height of the Cold War, former British intelligence officials have said.
"I kill the Bastard myself"
“If I find the bastard,” he said to himself, “I kill them” he sat back in his office chair. He stopped to think things through. Too many things had gone wrong, first, the money going missing from accounts, bosses wanting answers and getting nowhere. Then an old ‘friend’ as he liked to think of them, caught years ago by the FSB in a ‘honey trap’ finally decided to earn his keep and came through with information, but this time “for a price”.
The ‘honey trap’ is one of the oldest and most effective ways spies, and criminals use, but for Serkov, it wasn’t about money, sure they’d made billions, but for them, it was about control! Controlling the supply often meant you needed to control those trying to hinder the supply, paying off those you needed to, and using ‘other means’ was the way to go about it. The ‘honey trap’ is one very effective way, all you need is a girl willing to sell her soul and a camera, and often the girl doesn’t have to be a willing partner, one trapped in poverty lured by the promise of bright lights and freedom in the West is enough.
That was the promise, the reality was little more than slavery, and he was good at that business.
The girls were attractive, that meant men would pay for a night with them. Some, those not rich or powerful got an hour or so, but those with influence, they got what they wanted, and he got photos or recordings ‘for future use’ and it was amazing how compliant people became when it became known you had these things, those who didn’t, well that’s where Gromatski came in, and he was good.
That was the issue, Gromatski knew too much! He knew who was on the ‘payroll’ and who knew to turn a blind eye. Whoever took him could cripple Serkov’s operation overnight, he had to be found, and fast!
He’d even put ‘feelers out’ through his contacts, quietly a manhunt was going on, but nothing turned up.
It was a comment on a Facebook post, it just didn't look right, something about it, something about ‘Blueberry picking’ at the ‘old firm’ just didn’t look right, he nearly threw the machine out, but the more he looked at it the more he began to realise what it really was, he threw his chair back, reached into the top right hand drawer of the desk, took out his Sig Saur, it was in a shoulder holster, he slipped the holster on before putting his jacket on, then headed for the door bellowing for Sergei and whoever else was around.
Guns are strictly controlled in Britain, every owner has to have a firearms licence, they have to be kept in a registered armoury, and are never allowed to be carried in public, Serkov broke those three laws on a daily basis and he didn’t give a damn about them, after all, with so many Judges and Lawyers as ‘partakers’ of the delights he provided, he never had a problem with petty things like the law.
Would you really?
Sorting out the pieces
“Package delivered” Jacko’s voice came over the phone, “we’re on our way back”.
“Cheers for that” Sandy responded back, they were trying to make things sound more conversational, more like what friends would sound like than what they really were, “when you get back I should have some updates for you” she clicked the phone off.
Joey was in the other room making a cup of tea, “Mum’s cure for all ills” he’d told Sandy a couple of times already, and that was just that day, she could tell he was stressed, but trying not to show it, they all were, but they weren’t the kind to buckle under pressure, “When the going gets tough” she’d heard him say, “the tough get going” was a creed they all lived by.
“Here you are” he brought a steaming mug of tea in, “Milk, no sugar” he assured her, “though without the sweet stuff, it tastes horrible!” he wrinkled his nose slightly.
“Thank you” she replied with a smile, “But I’m sweet enough” he didn’t dare argue with that comment, it just wasn’t safe.
“Whatcha got?” he asked looking at the phone she had in front of her, it was connected to one of her devices, one he had only the vaguest idea what it did.
“I’m cloning the phone first” she replied matter of factly, “ that way even if we screw things up, we’ve got a backup with all the settings in place, and I can play with the clone first, just in case there’s encryption software on there.”
“How long ya reckon?” Joey asked as he put the tea down in front of her, he headed back to the kitchen, a few seconds later he reappeared with a plate of chocolate biscuits.
“About ten minutes” she replied, “that’s if we’ve got everything right.”
Cloning the phone only took a couple of minutes, setting everything else up took the rest of the time. She’d used the laptop to run the cloning programme, as soon as it was finished she disconnected the original phone, turned it off and put into a Ziploc bag.
The laptop had software to override Gromatski’s device, effectively turning it into a ‘slave’ that would do anything it was ordered to, the software told the phone to copy all its files onto the hard drive of the new device, and it gave access to all the passwords, nothing was secure.
“Is it password protected?” Joey stared at the screen as Sandy worked.
“With this software” she tapped the laptop, “It won’t matter, we go round the passwords, not through them” she clicked the mouse, a fresh screen came up, the message on the screen said that ‘Poseidon’ the decryption software was ready to run.
Sandy hit a few keys, it didn’t matter which one she hit, the password was already programmed in, she just ‘executed’ the command to open the files. Within seconds the computer had dismantled the security software of the phone, they were ready to begin
“How long is this going to take?” Joey asked, he sat down beside her and looked at the screen, he was genuinely interested in learning the process, but couldn’t help a mischievous dig at her.
“Patience is a virtue you know!” Sandy replied back smiling, “it’ll take as long as it takes” she tapped a few more keys, “we won’t get the phone conversations, but we’ll have a good idea who called, and hopefully by matching it to the contact list in the phone we’ll get some idea of who was talking to whom, as for the rest, we can give them to Sir Mike to make a decision on whether he wants to listen in to their conversations”
One thing that the phone companies never tell their clients is that every phone conversation is actually recorded! It’s usually deleted within a few hours of the recording taking place, but for an experienced operator, it’s very easy to get them back from the servers they were recorded on.
Every conversation is recorded by the servers the company uses, and not just one, but every server in the chain the conversation goes along gets a full copy, that means the server that the first phone connects to, then the servers at each junction on the way (the exchange, then the relay stations, then the satellites and finally the server of the phone receiving the call, and finally the destination phone itself). When the servers get full, all that happens is an electronic marker that ‘tells’ the server where the conversation is gets removed so that the space can be used to record a fresh conversation, but the first one is still there, and all it takes is someone with the right equipment to go looking for it, and it will be found, the question is always time, who has the time to go sifting through all the data necessary?
Normally that’s where GCHQ in Britain would come in, or the NSA in the United States, their computers can sort through the information they need to within seconds, and they do it on a regular basis looking for terrorists.
Sandy had a list of phone numbers, some of whom she knew who they were, others she didn’t, they got the priority.
Falling into place
It took a while, but things started to come together. Serkhov’s number was the one called the most, there were a few calls from Sasha, all to be expected, but there were a few weren’t in the contact lists.
“Burners?” Joey pointed at the list she’d made, the ones they couldn't identify.
“Maybe” she replied, “I should still be able to get a location though, getting the record of the conversation might take a while, and tip our ‘friend’ off, but we can if we need to”
“If there's a chance of tipping that swine off” Joey almost spat the words out, “then don’t go there”
“No intention of” Sandy replied defensively frustrated that it seemed Joey thought she would, “I just meant it's there as an option if we need it”
“Duly noted” Joey was seemingly oblivious to her frustration, she was about to say something when a light started flashing in the screen, it was an alarm wired to the house security system.
“Someone just opened the front gate” she said as she tapped the keyboard, the screen came alive with the view from one of the outside cameras, Joey reached for the Browning in his shoulder holster, checking that the safety was on he cocked the weapon and went towards the front door, he propped himself up, back against the wall, both hands gripping the gun.
“It’s okay” Sandy didn't shout, but was loud enough for Joey to hear in the lobby, “It's Jacko and Mac” he relaxed slightly, but not much, they still didn't want to give anything away, especially not how many they were at the house, he waited for one of them to open the door.
It was Jacko came through the door first, he didn’t even glance in Joey’s direction. He went straight in, Mac was right behind him, he took one last look down the street, then closed the door. Making sure the door was closed he turned to Joey, “Ya can stand down now”
“What have we got?” Jacko fired the question off in Sandy’s general direction. He headed for the kitchen knowing that like all good soldiers Joey would have a kettle boiling, he wasn’t disappointed.
The kettle was just over half full, and still hot from the drinks Joey had made, he reached into the cupboard above the bench the kettle was on, took out two cups, plopped two teabags from the jar next to the kettle into them, two sugars in each cup, a splash of milk, then add the water and they had ‘NATO standard’ as soldiers liked to call a steaming cup of hot sweet tea.
“How's your Russian?” Sandy asked with a smile on her face, she knew full well none of them spoke it. She swivelled the computer screen so that they could see what was there, “I'm into Gromatski’s texts, this one was from a number I've traced to Serkov, and before you ask” she saw he was about to ask something, she would lay money on knowing the question, “it's got Cyrillic script, from a Russian, doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out its in Russian, that and I used Google translate!”
They all chuckled, “you DID ask!” Sandy was laughing, “It just seemed the obvious thing to try, not perfect, but good enough”
“What's that?” Jacko pointed to a piece of text on the screen, it looked strange, it had numbers in the midst, “looks like an”
“An address” Sandy replied, “and if he wasn’t on his way to some unpleasant place, it would sign his death warrant, its the address we picked the hacker up from.”
“And you say,” Mac asked, “this text came from Serkov?”
“Along with the time we said we'd be picking him up, ” she replied, “they were expecting a soft target, you should see the texts after, he may work for Serkov, but he ‘lets fly’ with his opinion” she turned back to the screen, “by the way, heard from Smithy at the O.P?”
An ‘O.P.’ is a military term for an observation post, a concealed hiding place snipers use to watch the enemy and report back what's going on. Smithy had insisted they needed to set one up across from Serkov's nightclub, “sound tactical move” he'd said, no one had argued. “He took the nifty fifty that Joey commandeered from the idiot lookout” Mac went on, “Just in case something happens”
Right at that moment, their phones buzzed, a message was coming in, it was from Smithy, it simply said, “Serkov on the move, am following” Jacko looked up at Mac, “Time to roll,” he turned to Sandy and carried on, “send us what we need, the rest, you know what to do with.”
Okay, this is way over the recommended 1,200 words that HP says makes a Good hub, but I had to put this much in, it was just too good to leave out. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
Hope you enjoyed this episode.