Suspicious Minds

From the Story Arc: The Death of CCCP

Previous Story in the Arc: Viva, CCCP! by Red Saviour (Tuesday, March 01, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Little Sister, Don’t You Do What Your Big Sister Done by Red Saviour (Monday, March 14, 2005)

(posted Thursday, March 10, 2005)

Lieutenant Cestimir Romanov was strikingly tall, with narrow, bent shoulders that gave Natalya the impression he'd been ducking through doorways all his adult life. He did that now, entering the Honeymoon Suite and shaking Mosca's hand.

"Zadrastvuitye, kollega," he said. Mosca smiled in response.

"He doesn't speak Russian, comrade Romanov," Natalya said. "Let us speak in English, da?"

"Privyet," Mosca said with a wink. "I pick up quite a bit…but most of my Russian mustn't be repeated outside the bedroom. Although we are in the Honeymoon Suite."

"Shush, darlink. Comrade, did you bring our presents?"

Romanov spread his hands out. "Firebombs? How can I provide you these things? And why should I? Surely, you are superheroes, you can throw the punch, nyet?"

Mosca paled. "Surely." His fingers twitched. Natalya recognized the signals at once.

"Darlink is very skilled with demolition and fire, comrade. Is how he confronts fascists in streets. No exceptions can be made?"

"Comrade Spasitel, please!" Romanov looked pained. "I cannot allow arsonist to run loose on street, even if he is your arsonist!" He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a pistol. "Here. Will this serve? Registration is to PD, and I file the paperwork to make it street legal."

He handed the pistol to Mosca butt first. Mosca took it, checked the breach, and nodded. "This gun, it is a good weapon. Balanced. I will make due, my friend. A punch or two, a wave of the gun, problem is solved." He winked at Natalya.

"Horosho." Romanov produced a list. "Here is most recent list of casinos reporting losses so. Once we had half-dozen managers in precinct station, swearing they didn't remember taking any money, all in two days, we knew there was fishiness afoot." He chuckled, a dry sound. "Fortunately, I know specialists, da?"

The list resembled the maps they'd seen of Las Vegas Boulevard. "They have nyet avoided big houses. I am finding remarkable."

"You see a pattern?"

"Da. Rob casino, walk down street, repeat."

"Spasibo," Romanov drawled. "Anything else to justify cost of flying you here?"
Red Saviour smirked at him. "Is very telling. Normal criminals cannot be so brazen in technique, and hardly in broad daylight. Your criminals are using high technology, or magic, and they are laughing at you as they do so."

"That is why I brought in you big guns."

"Nyet," she said, wagging a finger at him. "Keep us underwrapped. Say we are special crimes unit, or some such thing. Let them stay overconfident."

"As you wish," he said, shrugging.



The rest of the day was spent in a whirlwind tour of casinos. Romanov had clearly visited before; the managers quailed in his presence. They knew they were under suspicion, and scrambled for a way to prove their innocence. The tenseness around their eyes, and the helpless flailing of their hands, told Natalya and Santiago that these men were hiding nothing. She remarked on it as they left the floor of Aladdin.

"These men, they are frightened children, as if at Catholic school," Santiago said in agreement. "These are not hardened criminals. They could be under coercion…perhaps extortion?"

"Nyet. Darlink, remember the security tapes we watched." The tapes had shown the manager take the elevator to the basement vault, chat convivially with the guards, and then walk back to the elevators. He never stepped within twenty feet of the vault. Yet a million dollars in cash and diamonds had floated out of the casino as if it had never existed.

Mosca ran an idle hand along the slot machines. "They were no different than the others. The manager goes, makes with the small talk, and leaves. Theft occurs while vault is closed." He tugged on a passing slot machine handle. "I am guessing it is a teleporter."

"Again with nyet. Teleporters need visual of landing zone. Plus, in documents, testing was made for residue of teleport. If you read them, instead of talking about comrade Elvis, you would know this."

"Elvis is the essence of all things good about America, mi corazon. To know him is to know heartland."

"Pfft."

"Did you not learn anything from the videotape of 'Blue Hawaii'? He is a revolutionary, a leader of the…where are you going?"

"Videotape!" Natalya called back at him, as she jogged back to the office of the manager.

The manager sat at his desk, mopping sweat off his brow. This had been a very bad week for him, and the return of the harsh female Russian investigator was not welcome. Natalya pushed through the door, trailed by Romanov and Mosca.

"Comrade…Stivvik, was it? Da. I am having more questions, after all."

"As I said, I have nothing to hide, ma'am." He gestured at the chairs facing his desk.

"Nyet. Get up, you are taking me to your surveillance station again. Also, I am wishing to speak to guards on your tape."

He tapped at a button on his phone. His secretary's distorted voice piped through the phone speaker.

"Christy, get McMahon and Ellison right now, and send them to the surveillance room. Make it snappy." Without waiting for a reply, he hung up.

"Please, follow me," he said. They filed along behind him. Natalya winked at Mosca.

Monitors lined the walls of the surveillance room, watched by a dozen technicians. Mr. Stivvik pulled one aside and whispered brusque instructions. The man nodded and began to search through a file cabinet for the tapes in question.

Natalya stood, silent, watching the man look irate. "Can you hurry up?" he said to the technician. "It was in there five minutes ago."

The guards arrived, looking worried. "Over here," Stivvik commanded them, making room by the playback machine.

"Yes, sir," the taller one, Ellison, said. Natalya nodded to herself. They dutifully lined up behind their boss, who waited for the tapes to be found, his mouth a grim line.

The tapes were discovered under a memo to keep them easily accessible for investigators. The technician noted the cue points and fast forwarded to them. "Here we go," he said.

Again they watched the scene, of Stivvik joking with the guards at length, then returning to the elevator.

"Can you remember what you discussed?" Red Saviour asked him.

"No, of course not. It was idle chatter. Baseball scores, probably."

She arched a brow at the guards. "And you?"

They squirmed under her gaze. Stivvik snapped at them: "Answer her!"

"N-no ma'am, I can't remember much," Ellison said. "Baseball scores sounds about right." Next to him, McMahon nodded.

"Hmm. Please to try to remember details of discussion, and contact Lt. Romanov when you do." Without another word, she strode out of the office. Mosca followed.

"Natya," he began, but she shushed him until they reached the lobby. "Natya, please…you saw something."

"Da, da, darlink! Did you see how he treated those men?"

"He seemed angry with them."

"Angry, da. But when friends who chat about baseball are angry, and all in trouble, is certain level of support given to each other. The guards acted like children being scolded. They are terrified of their boss."

"Such is way of capitalists. I am not following you."

"What we saw on cameras was staged, and imprinted on videotape while theft was being made. That man would never lower himself to chat idly for five minutes with underlings. Nor can they explain why they were talking. If had ready explanation, I would suspect conspiracy."

Mosca smiled. "Ah, Commissarina, you are again very wise. I see now what you are suggesting. Hypnosis."

"Mass hypnosis, in order to get so much money past guards and employees, and for them to forget incident." She sighed. "We are dealing with a mind controller, a very powerful one."

"And so…what do we do? We cannot stake out every casino, waiting for a psychic who could look like anyone. And we cannot count on witnesses, either. This person makes himself socially invisible."

"I make calls," she said. "If it is Russian mob, is odds to be Russian psychic. Comrade Prokofiev keeps files, and answer may lie there."

"Still, how to catch someone who can control your mind at will? Without element of surprise, we are helpless. We should call Soviette, or my sister Gato."

"And spoil vacation? Bah. Is trick to these things, darlink. You leave it to me." Natalya kissed him on the ear. "And when we are done," she whispered, "is time for comrade Elvis."