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Chavez, Caruso, and Linus Sabonis met in a room at the Kempinski Hotel in Cathedral Square. Sabonis had a dozen armed men watching over him, so Chavez and Caruso were surprised when they were not searched, wanded, or run through any sort of security before finding themselves sitting in front of the nation’s top intelligence officer. They just simply entered the room, shook hands with a few men, and sat down.

“My friend Peter Branyon told me what you did.” Sabonis shrugged. “Not so much who you are, though, other than the fact you are not current employees of his organization.”

The Americans did not respond.

Sabonis said, “I thank you for what you have done for my country already, but I would like to ask something more of you.”

Chavez said, “We’d be happy to help in any way we can.”

“We know of over one hundred Russian assets or agents here… I am speaking of Vilnius, not even the whole of the nation. FSB men and their informants, working in the city. They have a good operation to monitor SSD employees like myself, as well as CIA, MI6, and other agents friendly to our cause. It is truly their main role in the nation, neutralizing their opposition. Keeping our eyes down and our ears tuned in to the countersurveillance mission.”

Dom said, “You are saying there is an intelligence stalemate here, which works to their advantage, because they can just wait for an invasion, at which point they can simply round the intelligence opposition up.”

“That’s right,” Sabonis said. “Except there is an interesting wrinkle in the status quo. Another group of opposition here in the city. My men have tried to pin down who they are and what they are doing. Clearly they are on the side of the Russians, but they are not Russian, not from any of the other embassies here.”

“How do you know about them?”

“We’ve heard rumblings, both out in the border towns and now here in Vilnius. These are not the Little Green Men who are actually Russian military. No, this is a foreign proxy force of some kind.”

Dom said, “Like the guys who we came in contact with last night?”

“Exactly like those men you speak of,” said Linus Sabonis. “I am thinking you two men might be the only people on our side of things who have actually encountered them.”

“Any idea what they are doing here?” Dom asked.

“My feeling is they were brought in because the FSB is aware that they are known to us. This other force is being kept here in the city, ready to act in some way in support of the invasion. In what capacity, I do not know.”

Ding said, “They were damn well trained. I was sure they were some sort of Spetsnaz force until Branyon insisted they weren’t even Russian. I’ve got to assume they are here to disrupt any defense. Political assassinations, deniable actions. Obviously they are trained in kidnapping as well. You’ve got problems, Mr. Director.”

“Which is why I wanted to talk to you. I’d like you to attempt to draw these men out in some way. Just enough to find out who they are. If we can identify another actor here in country, we can reveal this to the international media. Perhaps pressure whatever country these forces come from to withdraw them.”

Chavez said, “I get it. You want to use us as bait.”

Sabonis shrugged. “There is a benefit around here to not being known by the opposition. My first thought was to do this without asking your permission. Since I am known to the Russians, just walking up to you in a café and sitting down would put the eyes of the FSB upon you. At that point you would be marked by the opposition.”

Dom didn’t like the thought of this guy forcing them into playing bait like that. He said, “And the only reason you didn’t was because you didn’t know if that would just get the FSB you already know to tail us, as opposed to the other guys.”

“Frankly, yes. These are desperate times for my nation, as you can imagine. My intentions are in the best interests of Lithuania.” He leaned forward. “But now that I have told you how I want to use you, it might interest you to know I have a plan how you can attract the interest of the correct unit. Just to draw them out.”

“How?” Chavez asked.

“Since the shootout at the border, a group of men has been outside the apartment of Peter Branyon, conducting surveillance on the building. We received a report of this from a local, who was adamant these men were speaking some language other than Russian. I can only assume they found Branyon’s home address when they kidnapped him. A key, a receipt, a laundry ticket, something on his person. They are not FSB, we are certain of that, because they are not in interaction with anyone we know here in the city, and we have the FSB in a stalemate.

“Our first thought was to get the local police to pick them up and check their documents, and to perhaps interview them, but it occurs to me they wouldn’t be here without good cover stories and good-looking credentials. No, we need to catch them in the act of doing something… something where we will have some leverage over them.”

Caruso said, “Again, you want to use us as a way to entrap them.”

Sabonis nodded. “If the two of you went to Branyon’s apartment and entered it, made it clear somehow that you had an objective of an intelligence collection or operations nature, then perhaps you would be recognized as the two men involved in the gunfight at the border. At that point, I can only assume you would be followed by the proxy force. They will want to know who you are. Their lack of knowledge about your existence the other day led to the deaths of five of them, after all.”

Dom said, “And when these guys start following us, your men will swoop in and take them down.”

Director Sabonis lit a cigarette. The Campus men had yet to encounter a soul in Lithuania who did not smoke. He said, “If it were that easy we would do just that. But my entire staff is being followed, as I said. If my men come to your aid, you will also draw the attention of the FSB.”

Now Dom really didn’t like where this was going. “So you want the two of us to reveal ourselves to some malevolent group we haven’t identified, and then… what? We take them down ourselves?”

Sabonis shook his head. “No, of course not. You two are the carrot. You simply use other men from your organization to serve as the stick.”

Dom had been sitting forward on the sofa, but now he rocked back, looked away in frustration.

Chavez just smiled. “For all intents and purposes, Director Sabonis, the two guys sitting in front of you represent the entire operational capacity of our organization.”

The Lithuanian intelligence chief just sighed. He conferred with one of his men for a moment, speaking Lithuanian, of course, then returned his attention to the Americans. “If you can get the men to follow you, we can arrange for a police roadblock. The FSB isn’t watching our individual policemen here in the city.”

Caruso looked to Chavez. “Those guys we shot it out with at the border. They had skills. They were utterly ruthless… They would chew up a police roadblock in nothing flat.”

Chavez nodded. “You’re right. They had no compunction about killing, and they have been trained to do it well.”

Sabonis waved his hand in the air. “I am not talking about the men who write the traffic tickets here. I can get a unit of ARAS, our Interior Ministry counterterrorism police. They are no good for surveillance duties, so we can’t help with that, but they are serious gunmen. If you lead these mysterious interlopers to them, they will be able to arrest them… or do whatever they need to do to remove the threat.”

Chavez nodded. “I don’t know what choice we have, or what choice Lithuania has. Whatever this force’s mission is here, taking some or all of them off the table is worth the risk.”

Now Dom Caruso said, “If we do this for you, I think it’s only fair you supply us with weapons.”



2011 - 2018