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A Mafia murder in Washington, D.C., is unusual enough, but when the corpse is a Russian diplomat, fear ripples around the world. Nail-biting, authentic forensic detail, the sleazy atmosphere of Moscow's underworld, a web of tangled political motives, and two of the most charismatic investigators created in years make this a thriller you won't want to put down.
It settled into routine, like it always did, men hardened to violent death encountering it yet again, going through the procedures but thinking of other things, like a ball game or a bar or being in bed with someone other than their wives. It had stopped raining, which was something.
There were three patrol cars strewn haphazardly, their roof-bar lights still bouncing reds and whites off the puddled ground. The tinned voice of the dispatcher echoed unheard from inside the empty cabs. The crews and uniformed patrolmen were trying to move the curious on, saying there was nothing to see and that it was all over, which was a verbal part of the routine. There was the gore-splattered body to see, so it wasn't all over, and none of the onlookers moved. The yellow tapes, sometimes looped around the disused girders of the old overhead railway, marked off where it lay. The scene-of-crime technicians were inside the cordon under emergency arc-lights, each going through their preliminaries, forensic brushing and sifting, the examining coroner taking body temperatures and looking at the injuries.
'The Mafia comes to Washington DC,' declared Rafferty. There was a lot of blood and they couldn't make out all the wounds, but the most obvious was where the bullet had been fired directly into the mouth.
'They're everywhere else: why leave us out?' said his partner, Eric Johannsen.
'Wonder what he did wrong?' Michael Rafferty was a short, red-haired Irishman, with freckles and the hard-shell cynicism of a ten-year veteran of the homicide division. He and Johannsen had been counting down the minutes to the end of their shift when the call had come, and Rafferty was still angry at missing the Orioles game.
'We'll never know,' said Johannsen philosophically. He was a big man, thick bodied as well as tall and with the white-blond hair of a proud Scandinavian ancestry.
The moment they'd seen the trademark mouth wound they'd recognised just how routine it was going to be. By now the professional hitman would be on his way to Alaska or New Mexico or California or Timbuctoo, the unmarked weapon already disposed of, the contract money already deposited and earning interest. All they could do was go through the motions, write up the reports, enjoy a little unofficial time off on supposed inquiries and commit the whole file to the 'unsolved' cabinet along with all the rest. And it wouldn't even reflect badly on their record, because no-one was expected to solve Mafia murders. That wasn't the way things worked. Ever.
The coroner stood, stretched and ducked under the tape. 'Want a closer look?'
'It's a body,' said Rafferty, with practised boredom.
'We've seen one before,' said Johannsen. 'Lots.'
The medical examiner, whose name was Brierly, was the odd one out in the murder team: after only three years he had some enthusiasm. 'White Caucasian. Male. Death was due to gunshot wounds.'
'You sure about that?' asked Rafferty.
Brierly ignored the sarcasm. 'Two to the body, one through the heart. Slugs were either hollow nosed or dum-dummed, flattening on impact. Took away most of his back on exit. There's some bone and flesh debris' – the man turned and pointed – 'about five yards from where the body is. I guess he was standing when he was first hit. No burn marks, so I'd say from about five or six feet.'
'What about the mouth?' asked Rafferty.
'That came later,' judged the medical expert. 'The lips are bruised but it's after-death damage. And externally it's comparatively slight. The barrel was pushed right inside before it was fired. Most of the back of the head's blown away: forensic will get the bullet from somewhere in the mess.'
'It'll be useless,' dismissed Johannsen, in a been-there-seen-it-before voice. 'The flattening destroys barrel marking.'
Rafferty gave his partner a what-does-it-matter frown. 'How long?' he asked.
Brierly shrugged. 'Two, three hours. The rain didn't start until around ten: we were driving home from the Kennedy Centre when it began. It stopped around ten-thirty. The ground under him is dry.'
'Age?' asked Johannsen, going through the list.
'Forty-five?' guessed Brierly.
'Anything more than the gunshot wounds?' pressed Rafferty. 'Beating? Torture? Stuff like that?'
'Nothing obvious,' said the coroner. 'I'll know after the proper autopsy.'
It began to spit with rain again.
'Guess that's all then,' said Rafferty, anxious to get somewhere dry. He'd had covered seats for the Orioles game.
Brierly looked back to the body. 'You think it's a Mafia killing?'
'We're running a book on it,' said Rafferty.
'Don't,' called one of the scene-of-crime technicians. He straighted from the body, holding already filled exhibit bags; separating one from the rest, he offered it to the two detectives.
The DC driving permit carried a picture of a plump, serious-faced man. The name was Petr Aleksandrovich Serov; the address listed – 1123, 16th Street – was that of the Russian embassy.
'Holy shit!' exclaimed Rafferty, the cynicism slipping.
'What's the captain going to do about that!' demanded Johannsen.
'He's going to get the fuck out of it, that's what he's going to do!' predicted Rafferty.
Just across the Potomac a man within a thread of being flashily dressed, which he should not have been, left the anonymous grey Ford at the far end of the National Airport car parking lot, hurrying to reach the New York shuttle terminal before the rain got heavy. The clothes were new and he didn't want to get them wet. He'd already assured himself there were no blood splashes. He'd enjoyed America. He wished he didn't have to go back so soon.CHAPTER 2
The alarms were sounded overnight, and by early morning the meetings were arranged at timed intervals in the Secretary of State's seventh floor office at Foggy Bottom.
The FBI was obviously first. Henry Hartz cupped the Bureau Director's elbow to guide him away from office formality to the dining annexe, where breakfast was laid.
'So what the hell have we got here?' demanded Hartz. 'A Russian diplomat, killed Mafia-style!'
'I wish to God I knew.' Leonard Ross was a carelessly fat, carelessly dressed man who had been a senior judge on the New York bench before accepting the appointment as FBI Director. After two years of Washington politics he regretted it, and promised himself he'd quit one day soon. Hartz was one of the professionals he got on with better than most.
'The Bureau will naturally handle everything,' declared Hartz.
Ross refused the covered food dishes, but poured himself coffee. 'You know Russia's got its own Mafia?'
'That's where I want it to stay. I don't even want to think what the media are going to make of this.' Hartz crumbled a Danish, mostly missing his plate and making a mess.
'Have the Russians said anything?'
'The ambassador is due at noon. What do we know about Serov?'
Ross made a doubtful face. 'Senior cultural attaché. Married. No children: not with him in this country, anyway. We never marked him as anything but a genuine diplomat ...' He sipped his coffee. 'Only intriguing thing is his length of service. Seven years here. There have been two visa extensions ...' Ross smiled. 'Both of which your people approved, without reference to us.'
'How big a task force will you put on it?' The early sunlight reflected oddly off Hartz's spectacles, making him look sightless.
'Depends how it develops,' said Ross, refilling his cup. Too much coffee was something else he intended to give up. 'I'm not having an army, running around and getting in each other's way.'
'You going to appoint Cowley supervisor?' asked Hartz, expectantly.
'Head of the Russian Division at the Bureau is an administrative position,' reminded Ross.
'Horses for courses,' clichéd Hartz. Very occasionally the German birth and education that had ceased at the age of ten, when his family had come to America, still sounded in some word; it was evident now.
'I guess it's got to be him,' agreed Ross. 'The media will make a lot of comparisons about that, too.' He wondered if the contacts William Cowley had made in Moscow the previous year, on a combined Russian-American investigation ironically into the murder of an American diplomat at the US embassy there, would be of use this time.
'I've told the President,' disclosed Hartz. 'He doesn't like the Mafia connotation one little bit.'
'You think I do!'
'If we've got an organised crime connection in the middle of the Russian embassy, we've got ourselves one great big can of worms.'
'That's going to be the speculation,' predicted Ross.
'That's why I want the control to be between the two of us, to prevent it becoming a media circus.'
'How are the DC guys going to feel about that?'
'Maybe they'll be glad to get rid of it,' suggested Hartz.
The local police were, but the mayor was not so enthusiastic when, on their arrival, the Secretary of State announced the responsibility for the investigation would legally be that of the FBI.
'We'll cooperate in every possible way,' guaranteed John Brine, the police chief, with obvious relief. 'I'm sure we're going to work just fine together.'
'This is going to bring a lot of heat,' intruded the mayor, Elliott Jones. 'Washington, the murder capital of the World: that sort of nonsense.' Jones was a second term civic leader, with ambitions for national office. In several interviews he'd admitted a willingness to be considered for the first black Vice President. He was still waiting for an approach from the Democrats.
'What's known so far?' demanded Ross.
'Not much,' admitted the homicide captain. Mort Halpern looked the detective he was, a big man in a blue suit shining from wear. 'It wasn't a mugging. There was still $76 in his pockets, and his watch and ring were untouched.'
'What about the mouth wound?' said Ross.
'Inflicted after death, according to the early medical examination,' said Halpern. 'Accepted Mafia trademark in the elimination of a stool-pigeon, of course. Every indication of it being a professional hit, too. The bullets were hollow nosed or scored to caused maximum damage. Nothing left for ballistics to work on ...' He paused, looking at the Director.
'Everything is being bagged up for you already.'
'The scene of crime still secure?' asked Ross. 'I'd like to send some of my people to take a look – with your officers too, of course.'
'It's down between the canal and the river, in Georgetown,' said Halpern. 'Practically underneath the Whitehurst Freeway. Pretty easy to seal off completely. It was raining off and on last night: I had a canopy put over the whole area to prevent as much water damage as possible ...'
'I went there last night, too,' said Brine, anxious for his participation to be known. 'I put uniformed officers on duty throughout the night. There are others there today. No unauthorised person has touched anything.'
'The two homicide detectives who initially responded are on standby,' added Halpern. 'I guessed you'd want them to liaise. And for them to remain part of whatever squad you set up.'
They were glad for someone else to carry the can, thought Ross. 'That's fine.'
'So what's the feeling?' said the mayor briskly. 'Is this a Mafia assassination of a Russian diplomat?' He smiled. 'That's pretty sensational, isn't it?'
'Too sensational,' said the Secretary of State, guardedly. 'There's going to be enough speculation, without our contributing to it. At the moment we don't have an official view of Mafia involvement. That understood by everyone?'
Elliott Jones frowned. 'I think we need to get some things clear. My office have already had a lot of media requests for a statement. Naturally I've held off until now, but I've obviously got to say something.' He was always immaculately dressed, usually in waistcoated suits and with a lot of jewellery. He looked good on television and knew it: his secretary had standing orders to video every appearance.
Hartz thought the handbook could be called Public Participation Without Political Problems: maybe he should write it himself. 'I'd like you to confine yourself to regret at the killing and your understanding that everything possible is being done to apprehend the murderer.'
'Is that all?' protested Jones, disappointed. 'I've got a lot of people who expect me to be up front with them.'
'I'm not telling you what to say: I know I can't do that,' sighed Hartz. 'I'm asking. And that applies to off-the-record briefings or conversations with particular media friends. That, perhaps, most of all. I want to keep as tight a lid on this as possible. By which I mean all statements that could be regarded as political coming from here, at State ...' he nodded sideways, to Ross '... and anything about the investigation coming from the Bureau.'
'I see,' said the mayor, stiffly.
Hartz smiled a professional diplomat's smile. 'For my part, I would be quite happy publicly to link your name with anything from here. And I would naturally expect you to participate in any press conference.'
Recognising his cue, Ross said: 'I don't consider the Bureau to be taking over lock, stock and barrel. We will need your homicide people on the team. And that'll be made clear in anything we say, from the very beginning.'
'I'm happy enough with that,' accepted Brine.
'I think I can go along with it, too,' accepted Jones. There was still reluctance in his voice.
'I'm grateful,' said Hartz.
'But we will keep in touch?' persisted Jones. 'I'll know what's going to be issued before it's announced? I don't want to be caught out on something I don't know anything about.'
'My personal guarantee,' assured the Secretary of State.
After the city official had left, Ross said: 'The only way to keep the mayor quiet would be to shoot him in the mouth, too.'
'I'm not sure what's going to be more difficult,' said Hartz. 'The investigation. Or the politics.'
'I am,' said the Bureau Director, with feeling. 'It'll be the investigation. It's going to be a bastard.' Very briefly, he wished he hadn't waited this long before resigning.
The overnight rain had cleared the thunder. The day was already hot, and was going to get hotter, as it does in Washington in high summer. There was no overhead shade at the far end of the parking lot where the grey Ford had been left, and by ten o'clock it was already beginning to cook.
Just over 5,000 miles away Mikhail Pavlovich Antipov, the man who had abandoned it there, walked across the concourse of another airport, conscious of the looks his new clothes were getting. He saw Maksim Zimin waiting for him before Zimin noticed him, and waved to attract the man's attention.
The waiting BMW was in a prohibited parking area, but there was no penalty ticket. BMWs were the favourite of the Chechen Family, who considered Sheremet'yevo their undisputed territory: no police or airport official would be stupid enough to interfere with an obvious Mafia vehicle.
'Did you get the documents?' demanded Zimin, the moment they were in the security of the car.
'There was nothing in Russian or Ukrainian. He said he'd left it in Switzerland; that there was no reason to carry it to Washington. I brought back some things I couldn't read: French or German, I think. They might be it.'
'You frighten him enough, so that he would have handed it over if he'd had it?'
'I made him watch me kill Serov! How much more frightened could he have been!'
'So what's he going to do?'
Antipov frowned sideways. 'Do? He's not going to do anything. I killed him too.'
'He was a witness to murder!'
'Which didn't achieve anything,' dismissed Zimin. It had all gone badly wrong. And it was going to reflect upon him, because he was supposed to have organised it.
'You said there had to be warnings,' reminded Antipov, defensively. He'd taken his jacket off and laid it in the back of the car, to prevent it creasing as he sat. He'd done the same in the Ford, with the man jibbering in fear beside him.
'We needed the documents!'
'Isn't there any other way?'
'I don't know,' admitted Zimin. He was going to look very stupid. He couldn't think of any way of avoiding the responsibility, either.
Excerpted from No Time for Heroes by Brian Freemantle. Copyright © 1994 Brian Freemantle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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