Authors: Lee McGeorge
Eventually there was silence. His arm still outstretched and pointed towards a bullet hole in the concrete.
He’d gotten drunk, crashed his car, fired his gun at his own reflection and destroyed the mirror. It wasn’t even eight o’clock. “Fuck it,” he said. “Fuck it all.”
At least he wouldn’t have to look at his face anymore.
----- X -----
“Buna. Cappuccino varog.” Ciprian Cojacaru ordered his coffee from the doorway. He stamped his feet to shake snow from his boots and brushed fresh flakes from his shoulders. His surname was fitting of the weather, Cojacaru was also the Romanian word for ‘winter coat’.
“How are things?” Cornel asked sipping whisky infused coffee. “Did anything come from London?”
Ciprian pulled out a chair. “Nothing but the same old, same old. What happened to your hand?”
“Oh, this?” Cornel said raising the dressed wound. “You know that big mirror I had in my bathroom?”
“I slipped in the shower, hit my hand against it and the whole thing fell off the wall.”
“Oh, no way.”
“It broke all over me.”
Ciprian grinned. “I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’ve only ever took a shit on your toilet once and I vowed to never do it again. It’s too freaky having to watch yourself.”
It was lunchtime. Friday. Their usual ritual.
Their coffee shop of choice was in Centrul Nou, opposite Europe Apartments.
“I have something to tell you,” Ciprian said. “It flagged low on Europol Open Search, a guy you did the background on many years ago, Bosnian guy called Safet Kodro.”
Cornel nodded, “He was a general… General Safet Kodro.”
“He was arrested in Spain a few days ago for war crimes that go way back. The word is he’s too small for The Hague, but he’s pinched, he’s outside of Bosnia and there are forces across the EU looking to get him for trafficking.”
Cornel was staring up to the ninth floor of the building opposite. “More residual shit,” he said.
“I thought you’d be happy. He was on your list.”
“He was. But it’s not my list anymore. I did the work, someone else gets the glory; and if it goes to trial I’ll get a summons to give evidence.” Cornel waved to the waitress, “A whisky, please.” he leaned in closer to Ciprian, “That part of my life is like shit on my shoe that I can’t get rid of, you know it just keeps needing to be scraped off.” He nudged Ciprian with his elbow and leaned closer. “Stay young and innocent. Don’t let them wrap you up in the filth.” The whisky was placed in front of him, he downed it whilst the waitress waited and handed the glass back to her. “Another, please.”
The waitress looked to Ciprian. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Good for you… You don’t want to end up like me do you?”
Ciprian smiled politely, “If I didn’t want to be like you, I wouldn’t meet you every week.”
Cornel smiled. The kid was one of those do-right kind of people who signed up because he believed in being a force for good, in upholding the law, in protecting the innocent. He had a regular beat in Noua and was there for the crime of the decade. Back then the kid was determined to crack the case like a TV detective and be the hero. McGovern was long gone and the powers-that-be wanted to forget about him, but Ciprian wouldn’t let it go. Once Cornel returned to Brasov with a face wrapped in bandages and a stab wound to his stomach Ciprian had sought him out. It was the one thing they had in common. Neither of them were prepared to let Paul McGovern be forgotten.
----- X -----
Cornel poured the last of the whisky into the glass and shook the bottle to get the last drops. It was six in the evening. This bottle had opened yesterday for breakfast which wasn’t bad. Since shooting the mirror he’d forced himself to moderate. He couldn’t allow himself to get that low again.
He sipped at the drink making a conscious effort to make it last as long as possible. He stared at the computer screen, reading news of General Safet Kodro. He tried to absorb the story but his brain wanted to skim through and find the nuggets of new data.
“Kodro, you fucker,” he slurred. “It all catches up with you in the end.”
Ethnic cleansing during the war, drug dealing to pay for it and prostitution to keep the men happy. Sex and drugs were always currency in a war zone but Kodro had carried it into the peace. He was a ruthless young man in his day but the report said he cried when they handcuffed him. The young Safet Kodro would have gone out in a gunfight. Sixty year old Kodro surrendered and cried.
“You turned into a fucking pussy,” Cornel said to the grainy images on screen. On the left was a fierce man with a gun, wearing combat fatigues, a cap with two gold stars and rockstar sunglasses; on the right was a police mugshot of a balding man with a rabbit in the headlights expression.
Cornel looked at the image for a while, sipping his drink and soaking up a mild sense of satisfaction. The photograph had an element of justice to it. He liked it. Kodro was finished.
“Who else are they going to find? Who else will get taken down?”
For old time’s sake he typed the names of Dushkov and Savarov of the Ukraine into a search engine. They were known for luring Russian country girls with the promise of dancing jobs only to dump them in continental brothels. The search returned a few pictures from newspapers and praised their philanthropy. “Fuck you,” he said spitting the words.
Another name, Maria Argesealla, the number one woman on his lists had sold almost a thousand young girls into prostitution through fear and violence. She was known to collect fine wines and sports cars. There were a lot of entries due to her marrying a pretty boy film star called Jonny Anestin; she had become a C-list celebrity in her own right. “You fucking bitch,” was all Cornel could say. “Fucking bitch, fucking bitch, fucking cunt bitch in your Prada dress and… fuck you Argesealla.”
He downed the drink. Maria Argesealla should fucking die.
Who else had he spent time tracking? The Gjokeja brothers of Albania who were known for...
“Oh… My… God…” Cornel said out loud.
He was reading the list of headlines.
“What in the living fuck?”
His mouth hung open in disbelief. Three brothers and their banker were attacked. Three of them were killed, one of the brothers survived. They had been tricked into collecting hard currency… the attacker was a single man with a knife…
“You have got to be fucking with me?”
Cornel read another article, translating online from Albanian to Romanian. Three men dead, one survivor, the attacker was a single white man, average height, dark hair, mid-twenties… He took on men armed with guns using a sword and a karambit.
He stole hundreds of thousands of Euros.
A single white man used a knife to attack three men with guns? Impossible.
Cornel could feel the name in his throat but even with conscious effort he couldn’t say it out loud. Could it be?
In London, McGovern had stolen his laptop that contained all the information of these people. McGovern had this data. He knew who these criminals were, he knew where they lived, he knew how they operated, he even knew when they had hard cash and currency. Paul McGovern had taken all of the data on the networks. Could it have been him? Could he have analysed the information and found a weak spot? Would he really kill three men and walk away with the money to buy Ildico Popescu’s home?
Of course, it could have been anyone, but any other criminal would have used guns and many men to ambush the Gjokejas. According to the survivor they were ambushed by one man with a knife.
The survivor… Aldo Gjokeja… Run through with a sword that skewered his left lung and passed out through his back. Paralysed.
Cornel traced his finger across the screen as he read the line that set his heart pounding. Twenty nine shots were fired, but they were unable to shoot their attacker.
He got out of his chair and paced the room. Someone attacked the Gjokeja’s with a knife. They fired twenty nine bullets but couldn’t hit their assailant. Whoever attacked them had knowledge of their finances and was able to trick them into bringing money. Whoever it was walked away with a mountain of money.
Cornel went back and checked the date of the attack.
He cross referenced the proof of ownership on Ildico Popescu’s home. She took possession three months after the attack. He checked the realtor documents to see when the purchase began. The Swiss lawyer began dealing with buying the home only five weeks after the attack.
“Holy shit… Jesus, holy fucked a goat… You fucker. You mother fucker, you robbed them. You stole hundreds of thousands and bought her a home.”
Cornel pulled himself together as best he could. His heart was racing, he began to sweat profusely, his hands shook as he took his telephone and tried to make a call.
“Ciprian… Ciprian, it’s Cornel… I’ve got something. Holy fuck, I think I’ve got something. I need you to get information from Europol.”
----- X -----
In Bucharest, Doctor Lucian Noica carried two huge laundry bags that overflowed with presents, all wrapped in shiny paper, ribbons and bows. His suit was tailored, the tie set to perfection, the hair perfectly brushed and set. He entered the basement garage of his city retreat and carried the bags to his Mercedes.
There was a motorcycle in the space next to his car.
It was in his space.
His property included two parking spots. It didn’t matter that he only had one vehicle, nor did it matter that he was only here on weekends, those spaces were his and somebody had parked a motorcycle in one. He would have to check on this. He would have to ask the concierge if there was a new tenant and make sure they understood the rules.
He popped the boot and loaded the bags into the back. There were two more bags on the back seat already.
He looked back at the bike as he closed the boot. A helmet was on the seat, unsecured. The bike was grimy and worn, with orange plastic mud flaps. It looked like something for off-road use and was splashed with dirt. Quite unbecoming for this building.
Lucian opened his car door and was climbing into the driver’s seat when a force hit him in the back that packed the punch of a wrecking ball. He fell sideways, his arms splaying out as someone hit him again and pushed him into the cabin of the car.
Noica would have screamed if he had any air in his lungs. Hands grabbed at him, wrestled him, pulled him over and turned him face up as a man climbed on top. Lucian Noica saw the knife first, the curved, blackened blade held to his face. Then he saw the man wielding it and knew he had seconds to live… seconds… possibly less.
Paul McGovern just happened.
“Doctor Noica…” growled the vampire. “It’s time you and I talked.”
----- X -----
It was almost midnight. Cornel had fought the temptation of opening another bottle of whisky. “Do you want a drink?” he asked Ciprian.
“Jesus, yes,” the kid replied. Problem solved, the bottle was opened.
“I almost can’t believe it… almost.” Ciprian slumped into the dusty armchair and took a deep hit of the scotch. “Three armed men taken down with a knife?”
“Did they find any DNA from the attacker?” Cornel was carefully reading through the printed Europol report.
“Yes… but it’s Albania, there was no reason for them to try and match it to anything collected on McGovern. They matched the assailant's DNA to the banker’s boyfriend, linking the two crime scenes.” He handed over a second police file. Cornel skimmed the pictures. A man face down in his own blood on a kitchen floor. A close-up of the dead man’s face with breakfast cereal still in his mouth and stuck to his lips. “There’s a match on the murder weapon. It’s unique, a knife with a curved blade, double edged.”
“He did some damage,” Cornel said as he flipped through the pictures.
“The chain of evidence suggests a single attacker went to this guy, Alek Dukanovic’s home, killed the boyfriend by severing an artery in his armpit. Kidnapped Dukanovic, then somehow convinced the Gjokeja’s to empty their safety deposit boxes. They took everything back to their home where the same attacker killed two of the brothers and their banker?”
“I always felt,” Cornel said, “if we could trace the money used to buy Popescu’s home we would find him. So many times I’ve wondered how he could buy her that apartment. This would do it. And he did it using data on the laptop he stole from me. The son of a fuck used my networking data.”
Ciprian leaned forward in the chair, his elbows resting on his knees. “I know you said he was dangerous… but Jesus. He had to be insane to try this.”
Cornel continued reading the report carefully, every detail painting a clearer and clearer image. “He is insane. More than that, he’s fearless.” He put the paperwork down.
“So do we report this for info share? Link it between us, Albania and London?”
Cornel screwed his face as he contemplated options. “No, not yet. I don’t believe Lupescu would have genuine interest in this. He wouldn’t action anything. At least not yet, so I don’t want to tell anyone about McGovern until I get back from Albania.”
“You’re going to Albania?”
“There’s a survivor,” Cornel said. “I need to speak with him.”
----- X -----
The plane landed in Montenegro on the morning of Christmas Eve. The seventy five kilometre taxi ride to Skhodra should have cost sixty Euros, the taxi driver demanded one hundred and fifty. Cornel didn’t care about cost. He was more worried about who he was meeting.
He walked into Skhodra central police station. “Do you speak English?” He asked the desk clerk.
“I’d like to meet with Aldo Gjokeja.” He moved towards a seating area without elaborating.
“What makes you think I can arrange that?”
Cornel took his seat. “I know who murdered his brothers.”
A taxi arrived within minutes.
----- X -----
The taxi stopped on a hillside outside a gated home. There were occasional strong gusts of wind and a garish security light shining from the top of the wall. The place looked like a prison camp. A huge man with thick black hair and a beard beckoned Cornel forward. He motioned him to open out his arms. The man had his hands under his jacket and around his back, checking the shoulder folds and pockets. The guard’s fingers went around the belt, up and down the legs. He even correctly searched Cornel’s balls and ass crack without the usual gay flinching of less professional security.