When his wife, at his departure, asked him
what commands he had for her;
Leonidas, turning to her, said,
I command you to marry good men,
and bring them good children.
Dmitry Churylev actually worked in RussiaToday Agency — as managing editor, therefore he rarely left his office. But this time Dima’s luck was in: he went in quite cheerful trip for the presentation of a new brewery in Klin city. This enabled to use like a safe cover as the Churylev name, so the names of a dozen of metropolitan journalists, who gathered for the smell of beer. Misha Kravchenko took this explaination with some perplexity about Beta-men’s thoroughness, but he did not say anything: you have to be a journalist, so be a journalist. Whatever you call me, please don’t tempt me to write any articles.
Kravchenko received introductory instruction in Moscow: the order will come during two weeks or never. Misha did not understand why he was attached to a group of “Beta” –both he and Vitya Sementsov from Samara looked at the background of any of the six Muscovites as Chihuahua puppy near the wolfhound. Apparently the Department decided that the group needed a local representative. Kravchenko was not sure if Moscow believes Izhevsk and Samara are just the same towns as Kazan except for a plenty of mosques. It seems the organizers were afraid to completely trust local. Anyway, instructors especially warned Kravchenko and Sementsov to not connect with any of the possible Kazan relatives, friends and colleagues above all.
First Misha wanted to drive in Kazan by the car that recently bought for a penny (thanks to old associations on ‘Izhmash’ Autoplant) and dearly loved — despite galvanized body and an incredible obstinacy. Then he changed his mind. After Nurlat massacre Tatar cops probably made Mannerheim Line on the administrative border, mercilessly attacking any vehicles with non-Tatar registration plates. True license would cast the inspectors into acute thoughtfulness on the topic “Why the Udmurt FSB major would come to the neighbouring Republic during working hours?” Fake license produced more hazardous question: “Why anyone would come to Kazan by the Izhevsk car with letter of attorney from Udmurt FSB major?” Kravchenko pitied all the policemen through his life, he just was afraid to imagine the thoughtful policeman, so the car option was ditched along with the original licenses.
Misha eventually took a one-day leave at his own expense and early leaved office, sensibly spent the evening with his wife and daughter, then perfectly arrived to Kazan with the train, had time to take a nap, to shave, and even to clean his body from the waist up until the bathroom closing. Contrary to his expectation there were only twice as much policemen as usual number at the station, and they seemed to have more hunting not for Moscow saboteurs but for the local bums, who were not less than officers.
Misha quickly found the correct address on the Narimanov street, a consumptive looking house beside the station, sat for a while on a bench in the yard, exchanged a few words with the old man took a seat near him, and a couple minutes later entered in the first entrance. Steel door of the apartment 12 opened immediately. Overweight unkempt man silently dragged from the next room two black coffer, opened them in front of Misha and offered him to choose. Kravchenko twiddled the Škorpion and the Agram 2000, but he was afraid to use unfamiliar weapon and chose the Stechkin. The holster was found instantly and proved to be completely invisible under Misha’s jacket that a year ago sewed by Senya Levitin personally. The fat man forced a thick envelope into Misha’s hand and took coffers in the next room. The envelope contained the half-page instruction, the pile of Kazan Kremlin photos and area sketches, two passports in the names of Dmitry Churylev and Alexey Sergeev, a press pass in the name of Churylev, driver’s license in the name Sergeev (all the documents with Misha’s phiz), and little ready cash. The old man came back with aluminum basin, set it on the floor and looked at Misha. Misha leisurely completed a study of the envelope, put in his pockets the papers and cash, threw the rest of the paper in the basin and resolving gestured. Landlord, snuffling, sat down beside the basin, scorched the paper pile from all angles with lighter, waited a short time, quickly took the flaming container in the bathroom and lingered there. «The Olympian», keen-witted Kravchenko muttered, loudly said “Bye,” and went away.
Misha wanted fervently to spend remaining hours scouting Kremlin territory. Instead he had an hour to wander along the main pedestrian Bauman street. For some reason, most local cafes would only open at 10.00, even so, Kravchenko passed McDonald`s contemptuously. He snacked standing by hawker woman, in student-like style, with the hot-dog and coffee from a paper cup. Kravchenko washed his hands in the fountain stream that spited from thick bronze frog mouth and dried them with his handkerchief sprinkled lavish with the “Fahrenheit” cologne his wife gave him. Discipline above all else.
Moscow immediately and categorically ordered not to betray themselves and not to do any move until the operation beginning. Misha’s mission was reduced to a minimum: he should have been fooling real reporters and after the start of the operation not to admit any of them, and anyone at all, to the Magdiev residence. Kravchenko did so, and the first five minutes everithing was well: while he diverted the first coming journalists’ attention, Beta-men instantly neutralized both policemen, pushed them into a sentry-box and leaked into the palace ground. Misha escorted them to the lobby, that Muscovites slipped without stopping. Kravchenko stood for a time in the doorway, trying to discern with his not accustomed to the dimness eyes what was sticking out from under the solid table with monitors. First his brain stalled, then Misha realized that it was just a stretched light sleeve elbow. There was no sound from the second floor.
Already at the gate Kravchenko remembered than he forgot to insert earphone, corrected his mistake and calmed down a bit. It was normal job, the guys chilly said: “Jeff, on the right,” “I see. Done”, “Everybody OK? Forward. Third floor, then through the gallery”, sometimes obscure silent tremors did not vibrated, but dull pressed eardrums — narrowly focused microphones did not take the sounds that came from more than twenty centimeters. Remarks became jerky, they was heard the chug interrupting by interjections and indistinct murmur: “Here, b-bitch… H-here! Hush-hush-hush, that all… Die.” And a moment later: “Bitch, Dron is a miner, headshot. Pick up?” “No. After all. Forward, forward.” They puffed again, someone said loudly: “Fuck, where is he?” “Back,” commanded Zhenya, “Jeff”, which Misha already distinguished by his voice, “It is small hall on the second floor, go, everyone by his way.” At this time Kravchenko was distracted by a conversation with reporters and with his first companion, the blonde jester coming to the gate. But everything went off smoothly. The background in the meantime has become quite confusing. “Jeff, here, we got a steppen here,” someone said. Zhenya barked deafening: “Force with him, why so girlish?”
Perturbed acoustic system droped the volume level, so for half a minute Misha didn’t hear nothing but the delicate elven whisper. Then all was silent. Kravchenko started to check the connectors of Walkie-Talkie disguised as a music player, but at this moment a rolling thunder beated inside his ear — probably the folds of clothing brushed on the one of wolfhounds microphone. Misha winced and raised his hand to his head to pull the earpiece out. Vitya Sementsov barked as if an uncutting fingernail pocked on the brain: “Chink! Mishkan! It’s a wrong building!” Misha turned to the gate and saw the group jumped from two doors of the palace out at once. Vitya, Zhenya and one more Beta-man rushed to the gate, everyone with pistols in his hand. Sementsov shouted something as soon as noticed Kravchenko, and pointed somewhere to the right with the Beretta barrel. Misha was deafened by the earpiece again while his left ear simply yielded up to the rattling background. Kravchenko understood everything nevertheless, he paralyzed with ice horror and it seems, that he sat down straight on the asphalt. But apparently it only seems that way, because in the next second Misha found himself covered half of the fifty-meter distance to the new palace gate, which was located uncomfortable, at an obtuse angle to the old palace, just up the hill and facing to the opposite direction. Misha found too that a guy in civilian clothes runs towards him out from the same сop sentry-box, and that Misha pulls his Stechkin and shoots directly from his chest.
The guy’s blue tie jerked as if a small balloon bursted under it. The owner of a tie, stumbled, fell obliquely down to the ground, shaking awkwardly his hand with the barrel towards Kravchenko. Misha noticed something flashing in front of his left eye, however he decided to ignore the trifles, instead jumped slightly to don’t stumble over the twitching guard legs. But Misha could not jump because he died.
I knew that I could overtake him if he started running,
I had no doubts about that, and if it came to hand-to-hand fighting,
I should most likely get the better of him.
If it came to a shoot-out though I had to get in first…
“Olezhek, are you watching it?” asked Vasily Efimovich gently.
“Yes”, said Pridorogin. “Where are you?”
Pridorogin wanted something else to say and even moved his lips, but said nothing and pressed the End Call key. Obraschikov went to the office in ten minutes — Pridorogin ordered to bring him in immediately. The President stood right up against the screen, with the phone in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching the news show that was broadcasted on the third circle, now in slow motion, how Eugene Kasatkin rushes out from the black openwork lattice gate like a smeared shadow, stretches both hands with the guns out and, aloof looking ahead, fires in opposite directions. The cameraman failed to fix the effectiveness of the shots, because he fully focused on Zhenya — and rightly so. Instant death by a gunshot wound showed up on TV many times, but the real “swing of the pendulum” was never caught for the screen till now. However, even in rapid shooting it was hard to discern that Zhenya did: the camera simply couldn’t keep up his movements, constantly losing sight of Kasatkin. When the cameraman, finding the bearings, zoomed out, it turned out that Zhenya indistinctly, like a moth, danced in motion, jerking his head slightly, pulling his shoulders and legs, and rarely shot.
When the video totally blurred, Pridorogin asked in low voice: “Are they completely crazy to show Beta’s job to whole world?”
Obraschikov sighed and said: “Olezhek, they are really showing next to nothing. And promising to wait one hour more. They can wait no longer. Try CNN.”
The President pressed the button on the remote and frozed. The Americans also played the record over and over again — but, unlike scared to dead Russian colleagues they used all eight minutes shooting duration. Obraschikov had time to learn the story by heart, so that he looked at Pridorogin, rather than the screen. Pridorogin’s face became black — despite the fact that the President hasn’t ever seen the main part.
On the screen the Udmurt boy Misha, who was almost invisible behind the legs in jeans and mini-skirts (the shooting point was about on a half-meter height) suddenly turned and ran away, pushing the people aside. Video shaked, drifted out and immediately became clear — the TV-operator took the camera on his shoulder and continued filming firmly and clearly. He took the overall plan with Misha and the bull ejected him towards, caught the Misha’s shot and the return shot of fallen guard (built-in Betacam microphone, as usual, distorted sound, made it tiny one). Cameraman even managed to grab a little fountain that gushed from the back of Misha’s head, before Udmurt fell, spread out like an overturned stool, and the gunslingers spliced in indiscriminate bush of arms and legs.
Next it was followed the montage of shooting from three points: obviously, by that time other cameramen came their senses. One of them caught the ceremonial exit of Zhenya, whom followed Shura and Vitya from Samara. Zhenya immediately opened fire on the group, popping up behind the fallen guard. Two Tatars was dumped, the rest scattered. Cameras lost Shurik — he rushed down the slope, obviously pulling the fire itself. Vitya stood for a moment at the gate, moved his barrel around, then dashed to the blond guy, tourist or reporter, who stared at him, backing and not stopping to speak something fearfully into a cell. Vitya, unintelligible growling, hit straight off to the phone with the gun. The guy fell, a girl in a white pantsuit rushed to him. Vitya turned away from them, noticed the Udmurt boy Misha, ran to him and grabbed by the shoulders, turned, saw the purple-glazed clot instead of the eye, and immediately left hold him. At this moment the Samara man slipped his foot, sat down on the asphalt, tried to get up and got the shot in the face.
Pridorogin cursed shortly and made a motion to turn off the TV. Obraschikov gently touched his sleeve. Nobody had neither the strength nor the inclination to speak. Pridorogin glanced at Vasily Efimovich and stared at the screen again.
It was a mess on the screen: journalists and tourists, who fell as soon as the shooting started, now rose and tried to run somewhere, screaming and crying. From all sides the guards and young policemen fled. They gathered the audience in a line along the lattice with hysterical screaming and almost with gun butts beating. Turmoil raised with the chopper that turned on flew over the place — on a small height, judge by crushing rattle. For some reason the cameramen had been left alone. At this moment the image split in two: on the right one the camera, flying in the panoramic view, passed the smeared white spot and immediately returned to it. The spot turned out to be a girl in a white suit who bustled around a guy who was fell by Vitya-fool. The right side of the screen showed the move that was shooted by the cameraman behind the girl — apparently they both worked for one channel. Fallen guy was sitting on the pavement, suspended his left hand and grinned to calm the girl clearly. His ear and cheekbone had visibly swollen but bled a little. The girl verified that there was no problem, and decided, not removing her hand with a handkerchief from the victim face, to draw attention to what is happening around them. She looked around in cold blood, then turned to her cameraman and motioned him to shoot the young policemen, gently dragged the corpses to the fence. The left camera almost was lost interest in touching group, but it returned again when the girl called: “Lyoshik! Come here, I said!”
Left TV-operator took aim at Lyoshik, who turned to the onlookers, crowding along the lattice, put his object-glass in Beta-man Valera Dementyev. Valera had to watch the hopeless comrades’ battle through the bars of the first palace. Obraschikov from the outset did not want to include Valera in the group, because held him to be an unpredictable man. According to psychologists, Dementyev was a perfect machine of destruction, which can perform any load command, even if he lose his arms, legs and head. But strange impression did not leave Obraschikov, that Dementyev acts deliberately slightly, as if playing for the audience. It wasn’t a hindrance for Valera in Chechnya, Georgia and Afghanistan, but Vasily Efimovich debared him from participation in internal operations until quite recently. Unfortunately, Obrashikov promised to give Zhenya a blank check. So Zhenya, a mule, demanded the participation for all of the main five.
However, Valera’s idea was not bad: apparently, he expected to complete the action, keeping for the initial legend. It was likely to to blend in with the journalists and other crowd and to wait for the start of the press conference – now Magdiev as a winner should have held a massive event . In this case there would be no difference, whether the journalists would be allowed close enough to the hero of the occasion (extraordinary situation gives hope for it) or not. In any case Valerik had in addition to a pair of very skillful hands, like all Beta-men, plastic pistol “Tick”, that’s never been detected by control devices. Only the most careful body search, highly unlikely in the circumstances, could have enabled guards to find this weapon. So almost destroyed operation has a chance for successful completion. This chance was stolen by the bitch in white suit.
Valerik was sitting among the crowd of obvious foreigners, hiding his face in his trembling hands. He noticed the camera was recording him and slightly turned away from it. Lyoshik took Dementyev a close-up upon the order of white suit bitch. The girl slowly got to her feet, staring at Valera. Without looking away she pulled out of the bag a big microphone, unwound the cord and handed the plug to Lyoshik. The right picture, where Valera still sitting in a frightened crowd with his face in the palm of his hand, swayed slightly. The girl walked to Dementyev, speaking into the microphone with a quietly, but loud voice — to cover the rumble of the helicopter.
“Here we are reporting from the Kazan Kremlin, where a group of armed persons just tried to capture and possibly to kill the President of Tatarstan Tanbulat Magdiev. During a fierce firefight that erupted in front of the dozen journalists several members of the security service of the President were killed, the same as almost all of the attackers. However, one of them stayed away from the battlefield and is now trying to blend in with the unwitting witnesses of these sensational events. Let’s ask him what kind of organization or structure he represents and what was the purpose …”
Valerik sprang to his feet with the elusive movement and slid to the bitch. Right picture, barely filling with focused Dementyev face, jerked and striped, but on the left side of screen could see everything very well: Beta-man, rushed at the journalist, took her by the face and shoved off, than back kicked a camera to smash, knocked bearded Lyoshik down. The policemen and Magdiev’s guards, who ignored the white suit girl’s exercises, started to turn around to the noise. Valera stood for a moment, glanced over the machine-guns, swiveling in his direction, dashed to the tourists, among which he sat two seconds ago, picked up a closest lady of forty under the chin and dragged her to the gate of the second palace. Dementyev shielded himself from the main group of guards with the German lady, who murmured something in horror. It became a short light gun in Valera’s left hand. He moved gun from side to side and barked: “Freeze you all! I kill her!
”Well, we’re fucked up for sure”, said Pridorogin.