Vasili Grigoriy Konstantinov was, by any standard, a solitary man, a quiet man. In large part this was the main reason he had remained single, though if he was completely honest with himself there were others. His employer saw fit to have him travel the world conducting business.
Vasili was in fact the perfect company man. He had lived in several countries, spoke five languages, and took a personal interest in international affairs. He traveled the world and toiled in relative obscurity. Today he was in Kiev, a city he had been in before.
Kiev was alive with activity. Located on the Dnieper River, it was a majestic capital city, home to some three million people. One of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, it is adorned with Orthodox Cathedrals and palaces. Centuries old structures and modern architectural masterpieces dotted the cityscape as the old and new mixed naturally. Over the generations, for as long as anyone could remember, the city had changed national allegiances many times. At one point it belonged to Lithuania, Poland took it over for a while, and then Russia before the city and the entire Ukraine declared its independence after World War I. Since that time it was usurped by the Soviet Union after the Second World War then became independent again when the Soviet Union broke up. The last one hundred years had been an on again, off again relationship with its eastern neighbor.
The city itself was an important industrial, financial, and technology center. Many important businesses had offices in the city center. While those in business tried to maintain some sense of normalcy, the increasing animosity between the Pro-Russian and Pro-Ukraine factions was growing by the day. Fights were breaking out on the streets and even in homes. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion and was determined to voice that opinion on rejoining the Russian Federation or remaining independent.
Vasili had been living in a nondescript company provided flat in the Old Town section for the past month. No one ever noticed him or asked for his opinion.
The flat was sparsely decorated, a double bed, a simple wood desk with a single chair, a dresser with five drawers. The bare grey-green walls reminded him of the halls leading to his Uncle’s office. It was more of a staging area than a place to live. It suited Vasili’s purpose and allowed him to make his arrangements and conduct his affairs in quiet solitude.
Today had started like any other since he had arrived. Vasili got up early. He went downstairs and across the street to the diner and ordered breakfast. He sat quietly reading the morning paper as he waited for his order to be filled. The front page had an article on a fire the night before but the headline story was about the special session of Parliament that was to take place later that day. It seemed that the national leaders wanted to enter the debate that was welling up in the streets. Vasili couldn’t help but chuckle at the elegant prose the editorial staff had prepared outlining what steps the Parliament needed to take and in what order. Everything was laid out in such a logical fashion.
As he finished his breakfast, he eavesdropped on the conversations around him. The topics tended mostly to business, though some involved family matters. The man in the old brown coat sitting at the counter was flirting with the waitress trying for what seemed like the umpteenth time to get a phone number from her. She smiled sweetly when she noticed Vasili watching them flirt, then she moved on to pour some coffee for another customer and bring a piece of pie to the man two booths away. No one that morning seemed to be interested in the workings of the government, or in the meeting that was to take place that very morning. What the politicians thought meant nothing to their meager lives.
Today was to be his last day in Kiev. He was scheduled to leave town on another assignment. Always he was needed, here then there; nowhere could he call home anymore. He had lived out of a suitcase most of his life, so much so that he could hardly remember a time when he had a home.
After breakfast he took a paper cup of coffee with him as he walked out into the brisk morning air, pulling his wool coat tight against his neck, the wind blowing his dark hair wildly as it swirled in the cavernous corridor of buildings. He walked to his car and drove across town.
When he reached the office, he took the elevator to the twelfth floor and exited. He was alone at that early morning hour, only his cup of coffee for a friend. Vasili had only one appointment that morning and that was with Matviyko Sliva, the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament. Sliva was a hawk and was dead set against the Ukraine rejoining Russia. The meeting wasn’t for another hour and a half so Vasili would have plenty of time to get everything ready.
He sat by the window gazing out at clouds that were gathering. They were moving in a southeasterly direction about ten kilometers per hour he estimated. Not ideal conditions but not anything out of the ordinary, nothing he wasn’t prepared for. He combed his hair with his fingers trying to get it into some semblance of order after it had been tussled to and fro on the streets.
Vasili had taken off his coat and laid it across a chair in the corner of the office. The hot coffee was a guilty pleasure. He had never needed caffeine in the morning, especially on a day such as this, but he enjoyed the aroma, the taste on his lips, and the blackness of its color.
As the time for his meeting approached, he went over to his coat and began unzipping the compartments. He pulled out several white plastic pieces and when everything was laid on the floor in front of him he began assembling the Dragunov. When it was ready, he loaded the magazine with the three bullets he carried in his pocket. He only needed one but his Uncle Dmitri had always insisted that he carry two backup bullets as a contingency.
When the motorcade carrying Sliva stopped across the street, Vasili was already in position. Sliva was a large man with a healthy appetite. That meant that as he swung his legs out of the back seat of the black Mercedes limousine he would pause ever so slightly before lifting himself off the seat. In that momentary pause, the shot rang out. The reverberation of the noise in the canyon of buildings made it impossible to pinpoint the location.
Vasili knew it was a kill even before the security detail did. Never once did he think if the man had any family. He calmly withdrew the barrel from the window, closed it, disassembled the weapon, and slipped the pieces back into the zippered compartments of his coat.
As he rode down the elevator one hand in his pocket, the other holding the cup of coffee, none of the other passengers paid him any attention. They were all engrossed in their morning routine, rushing off to meetings, engaging in conversations with associates, sniffing the intoxicating sent of perfume wafting from the secretaries. No one seemed to know what had happened on the street outside and no one noticed the man in the dark coat who seemed in no particular hurry.
As Vasili walked out the building he had to purposely stop himself from looking down the street to where the motorcade had stopped. He wanted to admire his work but his training told him that was forbidden. He turned and then walked away from the action as if he hadn’t a care in the world. It would be up to others to deal with the repercussions.
The kill had been ordered by his Uncle. It was meant to send a message. Sliva was important enough that his assassination would garner worldwide attention, but not so important as to bring down any international sanctions. Besides, who would they sanction?
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