Part 24: Religious Takeover
Chapter 24: Religious Takeover
Despite the feud with the New Peace Party taking up most of the time and resources of the Novistranan Coalition, the other factions continued to pose a problem the Coalition would have to deal with. The Red Mafiya in particular remained extraordinarily aggressive, seeking to expand their territory at the expense of the Coalition-NPP feud. Piotr Prokofiev made the decision to bring the Red Mafiya down permanently before dealing with Nasarov and his own party.
Because the Red Mafiya's finances were already damaged due to the warehouse seizures a week beforehand, taking out the Mafiya's network of smuggling businesses would ensure their collapse. This, however, would not remove the Red Mafiya's gang leaders itself. To move against the higher echelons, a weak link in the Red Mafiya would need to be found...
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Ninety-second Entry: 31/03/1996
It seems we've nipped Josef's party in the bud. With Churnyeav back on our side, it's only a matter of time before the NPP collapses and we regain the workers back to our side. I'm almost unwilling to do this to him, but if our movement is to survive, I've got to attack Josef with the facts and any lies we can come up with before he does the same to us. He's become very good at public criticism lately, but with any luck we'll be able to weather the worst effects of it by claiming it's defamatory in nature.
What we need to worry about more right now is the Red Mafiya. I won't let the information Antonov gave us go to waste: the week is up and the Red Mafiya must by now have heard of our warehouse seizures. Before they can plan anything more I need to take out their distribution network on the street level. Taking out their smuggling shops will paralyze them completely, and from there Ilyushin and his dogs will be defenseless. This will buy us time to deal with Josef, and then to find some way to take out the Red Mafiya altogether.
* * *
: Good, you're all here.
: So what are we gonna do, Prokofiev?
: I think it's time we took out the Red Mafiya once and for all. Churnyeav is right: Josef can't do much on his own, so we'll just take him out calmly while we deal with the Red Mafiya.
: All right, Mr. Prokofiev, if you think that's best...
: Of course it's best, Father. It's our finest tactic yet.
: Says the guy that thought joining union-man was a good idea...
: Are we gonna look into those shops now?
: It's too late today to change our plans and launch an investigation on these shops. What we need to do is take care of them tomorrow morning. Federov, I want to see how you can handle investigating and asking questions. You'll join me in the Aleksandrovsk Industrial Park and ask around for those smuggled goods, got it?
: Crystal clear, man. We'll get 'em with their pants down. Don't worry, I know what I'm doin', and I got some friends I can call to help me out.
: Good. We'll meet again to discuss all of this tomorrow afternoon.
*The others leave, but Baturin and Prokofiev remain behind.*
: Wait, Mr. Prokofiev, before you go.
: What is it, Father?
: I received this memo from Mr. Nasarov earlier today. I thought it was best to keep it a secret until you could read it alone.
: A memo... from Josef? Thank you, Father. I'll read it right away. Go.
* * *
Memos to Piotr Prokofiev - Josef Nasarov's Response to Churnyeav's Leave: 31/03/1996
I know exactly what's going on, Piotr. You think you can steal away my comrades with your calls of compassion and wealth? You give yourself far too much fucking credit! The New Peace Party will survive with or without that man's help, and I will not just stand here and let you destroy the voice of the worker so easily!
I'm sure you're going to put Father Oleg to work demonizing me, aren't you? I would've thought he would have at least some shame in this, but apparently I was wrong. How could you corrupt all of them like that? How is it that I'm the only one who sees where you're taking the Coalition? In the future, all of this compromise is going to be useless and we'll lose everything we've worked for.
Piotr, please, I beg you: let go of those who stand against us. Churbanov and Lavanov have both led you astray, and I can't bear to see Comrade Boris and Father Oleg both go down the same path. They're far too good to sell out their ideals. I thought you were, too, but how can I stand here and see you drive yourself to becoming the oppressor?
Give your support to the New Peace Party, or else make the Coalition be what it was again. Remove those endorsements from the charity, or open your hand free of Ekaterine's casino. There is still time.
The Novistranan National Archive - Memo to Josef Nasarov from Piotr Prokofiev: 31/03/1996
My friend Josef,
I've been busy trying to press on our shared goals of revolution by taking out the Red Mafiya. I apologize for what I've been doing to your support base and for taking back Churnyeav, but I cannot let anyone stand in my way of overthrowing Karasov.
It pains me to know that you think I've sold out my beliefs of a worker's paradise, or that I've somehow abandoned what we stand for. You broke my heart, Josef, but now you want me to break it myself. How can you tell me that I must abandon our progress? We have gained the compassion of Pugachev through the charity and we've ensnared the rich of Ekaterine to give us their money. While money certainly plays a role in our revolution, it is not what guides my hand.
That you think otherwise is an insult to me, but it is also an insult to the other men we've worked with so far. You talk of betrayal? You left us, Josef, and you don't seem to care at all. How can you not see that what you've done is putting all of us in danger?
I'm sorry. I cannot keep it touch with you while you are still considered an enemy of the Coalition. If you send me any more letters or memos, I'll rip them to pieces. Until your New Peace Party is removed and the Novistranan Coalition has regained its rightful supporters for the revolution, your word will mean nothing to me.
* * *
"All right, Federov, here's the plan," Prokofiev told the young activist in the early morning under the shadow of a massive warehouse. "You and I are going to go around asking people for any clues on where we can find Red Mafiya smuggling shops, but be subtle, got it?"
"Actually, Prokofiev, I have a much better idea," grinned Federov, eyes twinkling mischievously. "How's about we enter each place and ask the people at the counters for a 'Mr. Krasnaya'?"
"What are you talking about?" Prokofiev asked, puzzled.
"Man, didn't I tell you I knew some friends who could help?" Federov laughed. "Whatcha thinking, that students at the PIT who wanna make an impression with designer duds have a lotta money to spend? Hell no, man! They go and buy the real-looking knockoffs, ya get me?"
Comprehension dawned on Prokofiev, and the revolutionary shook his head with a chuckle. "I didn't expect it to be this easy!"
"We'll have your shops by lunchtime," nodded Federov smartly. "Just go into every place around, ask for Mr. Krasnaya, and if you get an overeager cook or shopkeeper, you thank 'em and get outta there!"
"Good plan," Prokofiev praised the activist, patting his back warmly. "Meet me back here in three hours. We should be done before noon."
* * *
The kid's bright, Prokofiev thought to himself as he exited the People's Cafe, writing it down as a future area to take over. I bet we've already found every last shop!
He ran over the small list of Red Mafiya smuggling shops he'd found, all of them cafeterias. A nearby Commissar Fried Chicken, the Babushka Broth Shop, and the People's Cafe he just exited all had a "Mr. Krasnaya" present, and at the Babushka Broth Shop, the hulking old lady who served the broth almost forced Prokofiev behind the counter to look at all of the goods the Red Mafiya had for sale. Prokofiev's cell phone rang a few minutes later while he waited near the meet-up point, and when he answered it, he heard Federov excitedly boast.
"I found one, I found one!" Federov said over the line. "The Common Cafeteria, just next door to where Father Baturin's sermonizin'!"
"Good, I found three," Prokofiev replied smugly, but with a jesting tone. "Is that all we've got, then? Four shops?"
"This ain't just one normal place, Prokofiev!" the breathless Federov continued. "Get this, I was just about to ask the cook for Mr. Krasnaya, and a businessman ahead of me asked first!"
"So what's so special about that?" interrupted Prokofiev. "It could've just been a random buyer."
"No, no," Federov said, and Prokofiev could tell Federov was shaking his head vigorously, "he was mentioning accounts, man, accounts! Then the nice suit and tie got whisked inside a Red Mafiya limo! I bet the dude's their's accountant!"
Prokofiev's breath caught in his chest. "Don't kid with me, Federov. You're not kidding, are you?"
"Hell no, man!" Federov replied, then lowered his voice conspiratorially. "If we can make the accountant spill the beans on the Mafiya, we can take them down the very next day!"
"Federov, hang up and call Father Baturin. Tell him to ask around his religious circles for any mention of a businessman confessing anything suspicious and then to call me," Prokofiev drilled off like a military officer, trying to contain his excitement. "I'll call Churnyeav and Lavanov and have them ask their own contacts. When you're done talking to Baturin, see if you can dig anything up at the university, then meet me at headquarters, understand?"
"Loud and clear, man," Federov answered, immediately hanging up afterward. Prokofiev began dialing Churnyeav's number, walking briskly back to his headquarters in the Udalsova Precinct.
* * *
: Tell me some good news, everyone.
: Couldn't find jack, sir. I'm sorry.
: Hahah, just like you, jarhead.
: Oh, and did you find something, maggot?
: Of course I didn't.
: Wha-? Then shut your mouth!
: No luck here either, man.
: Damn it! Don't tell me we're out of options.
: Robes isn't here. Maybe he's still looking.
: Oh come on, you really think he's going to find anything? According to Federov, the target is an accountant, not a cleric!
: If I couldn't pry news off of the rich and powerful, jarhead, then there wasn't anything to be found.
: You're still damned arrogant, aren't you? I thought you'd have chilled out a little.
: Well books, I see your accent still needs some work.
: Fuck you, man.
: Wait, guys, hold on!
*Prokofiev's cell phone is ringing. He answers it.*
: Prokofiev here.
: Mr. Prokofiev, it's me.
: Oh Father, please tell me that the grace of God has fallen upon you.
: I wouldn't say He visited me in person, but I believe I have been blessed...
: Out with it, man!
: Good news! Father Rodion Sukerov, leader of a local religious circle around here, approached me and wants to set up a meeting with you to talk about your mystery accountant.
: What? When? Where?
: This afternoon, one o'clock, on a bench at the concrete park of Ratushinskaya Fields.
: Someone, anyone, what's the time? Hurry!
: It's 12:45, sir.
: Damn! Okay, I have to hurry out of here. I know exactly where he's talking about. Thank you, Father, you just saved our skins.
: Only doing the Lord's work, Mr. Prokofiev.
*Prokofiev hangs up.*
: All right, we've got a lead. I have to go meet this Sukerov fellow. The rest of you, get to work right away. With any luck we'll be able to find this accountant and force him to talk!
: That's the way to do it, sir!
* * *
Novistranan Coalition Dossier - Rodion Sukerov: Priest
Sukerov is a public-minded and moralistic individual with a very good nature. Almost everyone that meets him thinks he is one of the nicest people they have ever met.
* * *
"That must be him," muttered Prokofiev under his breath, catching sight of a robed priest sitting on a bench in the corner of the park. He glanced at his watch. One o'clock on the dot. "Glad taxi drivers around here don't give a damn about traffic laws."
As Prokofiev approached, the priest got up. He was a balding man with a small moustache neatly trimmed on the bridge of his nose, actually quite similar-looking to Anton Kamensky. He wore a brick-red cloak with simple gray set of robes and a faded blue shirt beneath them. It was a conspicious dress, but then again, the man was a priest.
"Are you Piotr Prokofiev?" asked the priest, not moving to meet Prokofiev.
"I am," answered the revolutionary. "Father Sukerov?"
"That is I," Father Sukerov replied, raising his hand in a subtle greeting. He looked over his shoulder. "Are you alone?"
"As far as I know, yes."
"Good," Sukerov sighed in relief, inviting Prokofiev to sit down and then shaking his hand when he did so. "I was afraid I was being watched."
"By the Red Mafiya?" asked Prokofiev in a low voice, making sure they were alone. As far as he could tell, there was nobody around within earshot.
"Yes," the priest nodded. "I've come to talk to you about this man you seek."
"Then we'd better be quick about it," Prokofiev replied. "What can you tell me about the accountant?"
"God forgive me for breaking the confidence of holy confession, but I must protect my flock from the evil that confronts them each day," Sukerov shook his head sadly, apologetic for the meeting. "For a few years now, a member of the Red Mafiya has been coming to confession at least twice a month. A few days ago he mentioned how the Mafiya were under threat, and that a single accountant could be their downfall."
"What did this anonymous gangster want with you?" asked Prokofiev, hungry for a lead.
"He asked me to absolve him for forcibly taking the man from his family and keeping him at a secret location," Sukerov answered, horrified at breaking his confessional rule and for repeating the gangster's dark secret.
"But that's kidnapping!" Prokofiev said, surprised at how the Red Mafiya worked and wondering how they maintained loyalty with such conditions behind their most important businessman. "Why didn't you go to the police?"
"And trust them to do anything of significance?" Sukerov replied bitterly, yet with a sad, small smile on his face. "I know that you were behind the dismantling of the Mafiya's smuggling operation, so I decided to come to you with this information."
"What else can you tell me about the accountant?" pressed Prokofiev.
Father Sukerov hesitated, clearly uncomfortable. "I... I'm not sure I can reveal any more. I've already broken enough of my vows talking to you."
"Father, please," begged Prokofiev, "you're the only one with knowledge of where this accountant could be. Who knows what kind of conditions he lives in? Who knows what they make him do? He very likely has information that could destroy the entire Red Mafiya!"
"But their smuggling operations are gone, surely they'll disappear!" Sukerov replied, a sort of pleading desperation in his voice.
"Not while they have a man who can set their businesses up again either here or elsewhere," countered Prokofiev. "Father, think about it. The Red Mafiya still causes evil in the city of Pugachev, and it's evil that we can't remove unless we do so at every possible angle. I need to know."
"But my vows!" protested Sukerov weakly, raising a hand up. "I can't continue to break my role as a priest this way!"
"Father Sukerov, you've met Father Baturin, have you not?" Prokofiev soothed, his voice calm. "He is a good comrade of mine, and a man of utmost virtue, mercy, and patience. If you must confess the sin of breaking confessional confidence, then go to him. He will help you."
Sukerov hesitated a few moments more, his eyes darting slightly as he held a wavering gaze at Prokofiev. Then he seemed to slump a little, and continued.
"According to my confessor, there are three Red Mafiya safe houses in Pugachev," Sukerov said, looking down at the ground. "I don't know which one the accountant is in, because they move him every three days. The safe houses are in the Soloviev Estate, Potemkin Plaza, and Natanson Town."
"Anything else? There could be dozens of places he could be hiding in," Prokofiev pressed.
"Y-yes... I seem to remember hearing that all the safe houses are rented rooms above shops. He should be in one such room."
Prokofiev got up and helped Sukerov to his feet. The man was still looking down, but Prokofiev gave him a quick peck on the cheek and hugged him anyway.
"You're a good man, Father Sukerov," Prokofiev asserted, patting the man on the shoulder appreciatively. "Rest assured your sin had good intentions behind it, and will help many people in Pugachev survive evil with a little more ease."
"I... thank you, Mr. Prokofiev," Sukerov replied, looking up. "I suppose we must all sacrifice a little of ourselves for the good of Novistrana."
"You sacrificed only a few hours of your time," smiled Prokofiev. "Get in touch with Father Baturin. He'll hear you out, believe me."
"Thank you again, then," Sukerov said, feeling better. "I'll do that."
With that, the two parted ways, and Prokofiev was already planning out his next move to deal with the Red Mafiya.