THE GLINKOV EXTRACTION
IT WAS the kind of murder Siyana Antonova would have done free of charge. But she never killed anybody without getting paid.
She sat in the living room of a large mansion outside New York City, the property owned by a rich Russian couple who were hosting a small political fund-raiser. Ravil Zubarev was the guest of honor, a speaker sent from Moscow to bring back whatever donations he could obtain for one of the political parties that opposed Vladimir Putin. He started his speech with his background and rise in the People’s Freedom Party, which clashed often with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party. Everybody in the room had once called Russia home. They’d all left to make their fortunes in America, and Siyana held nothing but disdain for them bordering on pure hatred. By attending this meeting and giving money, they were conspiring with Zubarev to betray their country and overthrow Putin’s administration. Not by election, but by coup.
Traitors. All of them.
The coup was a recent discovery and Russian President Valdimir Putin needed to act quickly. The plotters thought they were good at keeping the secret, but Kremlin spies had identified and marked the leaders.
The group couldn’t raise money in Russia without risking the whole plan, so they sent Zubarev, their most vibrant speaker, to visit Russian nationals in the U.S. who were sympathetic to overthrowing Putin.
Zubarev finished his resume and paused a moment. Then he said, “I don’t like to talk about this next part, because it pains me to see our country under such strife. Kara-Murza and Boris Nemtsov have said that Putin has given us a one-party system, censorship, a puppet parliament. And it’s true.”
The audience grumbled. Several sipped drinks or munched on the snacks provided by uniformed wait staff. They sipped loudly and chewed loudly. Siyana shook her head. Russians couldn’t do anything quietly. They were all dressed well. Tuxedos for the men, various gowns for the women, and Siyana didn’t have any problem fitting in with her little red dress, very tightly fitted to her petite frame, though she wished the hem was long enough to cover her bony knees. Her elbows were equally bony. To her they were like ball points grossly jutting from a mutated freak. They were the only features on her body that made her self-conscious. Her skin was soft and, now that she had time to regularly visit Coney Island, tanned all over; she had thick black hair that fell in a wave down her back, and a bottom some idiot in a bar had once said was as plump as a ripe tomato. The minute he had said it, she’d thought,
“If you disagree with Putin,” Zubarev said, “you risk prison. Siberia. Exile. Threats to your life and family. If he really hates you, he’ll find a way to murder you even if you
The audience responded with a resounding no.
“Is this what we fought for after we kicked out the communists?”
Siyana folded her arms as Zubarev’s voice went up in volume, his gestures more animated.
The people sitting to her left started whispering, one nodding his head. The others listened with rapt attention.
“We try peaceful protests, and they beat us, arrest us. We try to engage him in the press, and we get shut down, harassed, vilified. We try to face him in parliament, but he has people in every corner that are ready to block anything that may loosen his grip. There is only one way to defeat this man and give Russia a true shot at freedom, but if we try to raise money in the Motherland, we risk prison. That’s why I’m here tonight. We need money to finance our next candidate’s run against a man who is wielding the axe of authoritarianism with an unrestricted hand. We deserve a true chance at democracy, not have it stolen from us while being told we still have it.” He paused, then: “Will you give to us tonight?”
Siyana wanted to stand up and say
Of course, Siyana knew, he wasn’t wrong about one thing. Putin
Siyana raised her head over the shoulders in front of her to look at Mrs. Zubarev, who rose from her chair holding a metal box. What was this, an American church? They were going to pass a collection plate? But that was apparently okay with the audience, as the room filled with more talking, drinks and snacks forgotten, as the sounds of pens scratching on checks and the counting of cash took over. Mrs. Zubarev went through the rows, smiling and saying thank you with each contribution. Siyana hated to do it, but she dropped a few bills into the pot as well. To refuse would draw unwanted attention and she didn’t need that. The
Her husband was also dressed for business, with a crew cut and a nose that seemed slightly larger than the rest of his head. They were both young, mid-30s. But soon they’d both be dead and it wouldn’t matter anymore. Siyana was the tip of the spear. Once the Zubarevs were dead, the machine in Moscow would spring into action and round up the rest of the traitors in one swift stroke.
ZUBAREV TWISTED off the cap of a bottle of Stoli and poured a splash into the bathroom glass.
“At least take off your coat first,” Valeriya said.
Zubarev exited the bathroom and placed the glass on the dresser. The hotel room was smaller than he would have liked, but at least it was comfortable. He removed his sport coat and hung it in the closet, loosened his tie, and picked up his glass again. He leaned against the dresser.
Val pulled her blouse out of the waistband of her skirt, sat on the edge of the bed and took off her heels.
“Why are you so tense?” she said.
“It wasn’t enough.”
“Of course, the money.” He took a long drink and topped off the glass, the bottle going
“It will take time. This is our first stop.”
They were working their way up the east coast. The Midwest was next, followed by a tour through California and north to Seattle.
Val peeled off her stockings, revealing pale white legs, narrow at the ankles but thicker at the thighs. He found himself staring.
“Litvinenko thought he had time. He’s part of the reason we have to act, and soon. We can’t waste time. They’ll crush us if we take too long.”
Zubarev downed the drink and reached for the bottle.
“No more,” she said, rising from the bed. Taking the glass, she set it on the dresser. She put her hands on his chest, her long fingernails a shiny pink. She had to look up to meet his eyes and he felt the heat of her body. He let out a breath. She was the calming force in his life. They had only been married for two years after meeting at a rally where he had been on the sidelines while the party boss gave a speech. She stood in the audience and they caught each other’s eyes. When she smiled at him, a switch flipped inside him, and he knew he had to meet her. He knew deep down that she was the woman he’d spend his life with. After dating for three years, he proposed, she said yes, and now they were working together to restore Russia to her proper glory. He wanted to raise their children in a free Russia, not a Russia controlled by a maniac.
“You need to relax. We have a long flight tomorrow.”
“I can’t relax.”
“What do I need to do to calm you down?”
“Promise the coup will be a success. That Russia will be free.”
“You’re still giving a speech,” she said. “Undress me and we’ll go to bed.”
SIYANA REMOVED the stethoscope from the wall.
The couple hadn’t talked much after their return, but apparently, the night’s work was successful enough that they were extra horny. Pathetic. A disgrace to Russia all around. The last thing she’d heard after a lot of muffled words and short grunts was Zubarev on the phone, asking for a seven a.m. wake-up call.
Siyana picked up the phone and asked for a six a.m. wake-up call. She occupied the neighboring hotel room, the little red dress draped over a chair, wearing a white bathrobe. The room had been arranged via a connection on the staff who was the nephew of one of her boss’s captains.
Siyana had been one of the top killers for the Bratva crime family in Moscow. A run-in with some Bulgarian gangsters ended with a price on her head. Siyana’s boss sent her to connections in New York City, under the control of Shishkin Pavlovitch, and she’d quickly cemented her reputation in the new land while waiting for the chronically lazy Bulgarian thugs to forget about her. Sometimes she found her gunsights on targets like Zubarev. Not crim ...