Down the Pipe
Najwa accompanies Alexander to Sevastopol where he finalizes a deal to export Azerbaijani oil from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea using a defunct pipeline passing through Chechnya and Russia. Trying to advance on the writing of her sequel to AF's diary, she develops a thread relating to the origins of her main character's people when she devises a theory relating to a possible Mossad operation in the region.
On this quest to find the roots of her alter-ego, she is confronted to her own origins.
The body of a Russian Archaeologist is found floating in the Caspian Sea.
Alexander and Najwa get to Sevastopol separately. Najwa heads in first through a Dubai-Kiev commercial flight. As he's still wanted in Russia, Alexander flies in undetected jumping out of a plane during a touch and go landing on an abandoned strip near Sevastopol.
Alexander comes to the region to jump start the Baku Novorossiysk pipeline which has been running dry since 2007. He meets with Russian, Chechen and Azerbaijani facilitators.
Alexander had befriended Dzhokhar Dudayev Chechnya's first president when both were part of the Soviet military and based in Tallinn. These ties gave him credential with Chechen separatists.
As the accepted theory is that a Mossad crew was in Astrakhan to mark the site of a future Russian reactor in a "hot area", Najwa develops a theory which ramifications have deeper roots and could lead to destabilizing consequences in the Middle-East.
- The Caspian Sea Oil & Pipeline
- Russia's Energy sources
- The Cuban/Venezuelan Oil for Docs deal
- The Khazars' Jewish legacy
- Israel's dilemna towards the Khazarian off-spring
- AF's possible background for LVA
- Sevastopol, Dubai, Astrakhan, Montreal, Havana
- 1 VOLGA DELTA, ASTRAKHAN OBLAST, RUSSIA
- 2 STREET, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL, CRIMEA
- 3 APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
- 4 STRAIT OF KERCH, RUSSIA/UKRAINE BORDER
- 5 SAMOSDELKA EXCAVATION SITE, ASTRAKHAN OBLAST
- 6 CABIN OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
- 7 DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
- 8 CABIN OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
- 9 DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
- 10 PROFESSOR VASILY DMITRIEV'S OFFICE, ASTRAKHAN SATE UNIVERSITY
- 11 CAPE OF CHERSONES AIRFIELD, SEVASTOPOL CITY
- 12 COCKPIT, PRIVATE JET, OVER THE BLACK SEA
- 13 CAPE CHERSONES AIRFIELD, SEVASTOPOL CITY
- 14 ROOF DECK, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
- 15 BEDROOM, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
- 16 DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLACK SEA
- 17 ROOF DECK, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL, MORNING
- 18 DEPARTMENT OF ARCHEOLOGY, ASTRAKHAN STATE UNIVERSITY
- 19 BARKAS RESTAURANT, SEVASTOPOL
- 20 STREET, PORT OF SEVASTOPOL
- 21 BARKAS RESTAURANT, SEVASTOPOL
- 22 KEBAB STAND, PORT, SEVASTOPOL
- 23 ALEXANDER-NAJWA SCENE
- 24 ...
- 25 CORINTHIA HOTEL, TRIPOLI, LYBIA
- 26 144th FLOOR APARTMENT, BURJ KHALIFA, DUBAI, UAE
- 27 HEATHROW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
- 28 NAJWA'S BEDROOM, BURJ KHALIFA, DUBAI
VOLGA DELTA, ASTRAKHAN OBLAST, RUSSIA
A fishing boat sails up the a branch Volga Delta at dawn when the crew notices a body floating between thin patches of ice. A fisherman pulls the body towards the boat with a pole and flips it face up. The body is bloated and disfigured. The boat's captain kneels down and extends his hand to reach the body's jacket.
-Closer. Hold it there... Shit...
The captain lets go of the body to catch his breath.
-I can't take the smell... Okay, bring it closer.
The fisherman squeezes the body against the boat.
-Why don't we just tow it to the port.
The captain holds his breath and reaches the inside pocket of the body's jacket. He pulls a zippered wallet and opens it.
-VASILY DMITRIEV... ASTRAKHAN STATE UNIVERSITY
He sorts through number of other ID cards and pulls several thousand ruble notes.
-Let it go.
The fisherman looks at the captain in disbelief.
-What do you mean? We can't leave it here to rot.
-We have a nearly one ton sturgeon carrying at least ten kilos of eggs aboard. You want to it trade for this dead man or bring them both in and go to jail. Let him go, there's nothing we can do for him.
STREET, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL, CRIMEA
Najwa walks the streets of a Sevastopol residential neighborhood carrying one of Alexander's waterproof duffel bag and following her phone's GPS to find her way. She ends up in front of a white house where a man is waiting for her.
The man addresses her in Russian.
-Are you Najwa?
Burian extend his hand to greet Najwa.
-Let me help you with the bag. Please.
They enter the house.
APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
Burian opens the door to the third floor apartment. Najwa enters first.
Inside, Burian shows Najwa how to operate various appliances.
-So it's only for 3 night right?
-Yes... If we want to extend, do I call you or book through the Airbnb site?
-Call me... Will someone be joining you?
-Yes... My boyfriend... He's on a separate flight.
Burian walks back to the door.
-Ok, so when you're done, just make sure nothing is missing or broken and leave the keys with the woman at the bakery downstairs.
-Ok... Thanks again.
-Have a nice stay in Sevastopol.
Burian closes the door leaving Najwa alone in the sparsely furnished apartment. She lets herself collapse on the bed, rests a few seconds staring at the ceiling, then gets back up to look around. After checking the empty fridge, she is surprised to find a half empty bottle of Vodka in the freezer. She gets to the winterized terrace overlooking the port of Sevastopol. Thought the dusk fog, she notices a moving flashing red light. A ship is leaving port.
Back inside she wraps herself in the white leather sofa, turns on her laptop, opens a new .txt document and types:
STRAIT OF KERCH, RUSSIA/UKRAINE BORDER
Robert, a part-time American filmmaker is at the helm of the sail-ship as he watches "Rachel", 27, desperately trying to tie a knot.
-Sure you've done this before...
-Not on this kind of boat...
-What kind of boat? A paddle boat?
Rachel turns towards Robert with a smile...
-As soon as the boys wake up, they'll make it up to you for my inexperience. Sorry, but we've had a long journey. We didn't expect to leave right away.
-Gotta sail when the wind is right!
-At least the wind seems to push us in the right direction... Within how many days should we reach Istanbul?
-500 nautical miles... Three to five days depending on winds and watches...
-I mean crews staying awake when others sleep...
-Like us, saids Rachel with a flirtatious smile.
-Like us, replies Robert returning the smile.
A moment passes as they sail through the Strait of Kerch. Rachel, looks a the Crimean peninsula.
-When are we going to be in Ukrainian territory.
-It's kinda murky around here. Don't know if they agreed on anything at sea yet. The Ruskies consider everything north of Turkey as theirs anyways... You've seen The Potemkin?
-No, what is it?
-An old Soviet film... A classic... Takes place in Odessa.
-Not big on old films. I prefer reading.
-You're not a video-game girl?
-No, the boys are though.
A sudden gush of wind engulfs the main sail. Robert looks at the sky as the ship leans sharply to its side.
-Unties those ropes, shouts Robert at Rachel.
-The white ones!
Rachel slacks the running rigging as the ship stabilizes.
-Right on mate.
-At that speed, we'll be crossing the Bosporus in 2 days...
-That'd be cool.
The Scarlett Queen sails on.
SAMOSDELKA EXCAVATION SITE, ASTRAKHAN OBLAST
Yama Zrodlo, a Canadian graduate students in her mid-twenties is being helped by her Russian boyfriend to gather tools and objects from an excavation site overlooking the west banks of the Volga. A thin layer of snow covers the ground.
-It's getting dark. Can we wrap it up soon? asks the boyfriend.
-Yeah I guess we got most of it... replies Yama as she clears some snow with her boots looking for tools.
-Why the fuck would they want to build a nuclear plant here anyways... saids the boyfriend.
-Don't know, replies Yama, I never heard about it until yesterday when the Dean met with us...
-That's weird. Was he from Moscow?
-Who, Dmitriev or the Dean?
-That's what he saids. Though we didn't know much about the man... I don't know if he had any other interests but his work.
-What about the American girl?
-Rachel... No... There's no way he would have scored with her.
-Well, she seemed to tag on to him.
-What, you wish she would have tagged-on to you... That's cause she needed something from him.
The boyfriend picks up a piece piece of rock, looking for a fossil, or an engravings.
-Well, if she was a gold digger, she came to the wrong spot... Does this means anything, showing marks on the rock.
-No, just scratches!
The boyfriend helps Yama climbing up the steep icy slope towards the plain level. The two load their gear into a beat up UAZ-452 van.
-Did you look in his office, asks the boyfriend as he starts the engine.
-No, answers Yama.
-You have access?
-Yes, she saids, hesitantly... It's adjacent to our classroom.
-Well... Maybe he left a note...
CABIN OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
The two other hands, Joey and Etan, are on deck as the Scarlet Queen smoothly sails through the cold Black Sea night. Inside the cabin, Robert looks at Rachel lying on a berth through the kitchen/bathroom mirror as he brushes his teeth. The sound of waves hitting the hull is loud and constant. Robert rinses his mouth and removes his shirt as Rachel lowers the book she's reading.
-Sorry about the proximity... saids Robert.
-It's okay, I've seen a man's chest before, replies Rachel.
-Shit it's cold in here... You were right, those guys are pros.
-How are you all connected?
-We're not. Well, I'm not. I just met them. I was an exchange student at a university near Volgograd and I hooked up with them on my way back.
-Well they're pretty smooth sailors...
Multiple footsteps and shouting suddenly resonate from the deck. The roaring sound of an approaching boat gets louder, a Russian voice announces through a loudspeaker.
-ATTENTION. THIS IS THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION NAVY. WE ORDER YOU TO STABILIZE YOUR SHIP AND FOLD YOUR SAILS IMMEDIATELY. ATTENTION...
Robert wears his shirt in a hurry.
-What the fuck.
Rachel garbs him.
-Stop... Let them handle it...
DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
Six Russian Naval Spetsnaz are now on deck securing their speed boats' grappling hooks on both sides of the sailboat. A Russian Navy Corvette sailing by a few meters away, throws a blinding beam of light onto the deck of the Scarlet Queen.
Joey, who's at the bow shouts in Hebrew.
-חרה (Shit)... !
Etan who's at the stern is pinned down by the commandos.
CABIN OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
Rachel still holds Robert's arm as two of the Spetsnaz storm down into the cabin pointing PP-2000 submachine guns at them and shouting orders in Russian. She whispers to Robert's hear.
-Tell them I'm your girlfriend...
Robert looks perplex as they are separated and their hands are tie-wrapped.
Another commando, who appears to be in charge, enters and addresses them in English as the two others secure the cabin.
-Yes that's me, answers Robert. What's going on?
-Lieutenant, Grigory Antonov, Military-Maritime Fleet of the Russian Federation. I'm calling a search of your ship under The Black Sea Naval Force command.
Grigory orders his men to release Robert as he addresses Rachel.
-What's your name and nationality?
-American. Rachel Bowie.
-I need both your passports, orders Grigory as he signals his men to also untie Rachel.
Rachel and Robert both look into their bags for their passports and hand them to Grigory.
-What were you doing in Taman? Asks Grigory.
Rachel replies before Robert could find an answer.
-We're touring the Mediterranean, the Back Sea and the Azov Sea before heading out to the Indian Ocean.
-How do you know the two others?
-I placed an ad on-line looking for hands as I do every-time I need a crew, answers Robert.
Grigory addresses Rachel.
-You speak Russian?
-No, very little.
Grigory climbs back on deck as his men stay behind with Rachel and Robert.
Robert looks at the two remaining commandos then at Rachel.
-Can you tell me what's going on?
-I guess it's about the guys.
Robert stares at Rachel not wanting to confront her further in front of the two Russians.
Grigory walks back into the cabin.
-Which ones are their bags.
Rachel points at two small backpacks in the corner near the berth where she was lying earlier.
-That's it? Asks Grigory.
-Yes. What's going on? Asks Robert.
Grigory order his men to grab the bags.
-Nothing... Just follow you're route and stay out of trouble.
The three men exit the cabin.
DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, 50 NAUTICAL MILES SOUTH OF YALTA, BLACK SEA
Robert and Rachel climb back on the deserted deck as the Corvette sails away into the night. The ship's untied sails flap into the wind. As the Navy ship disappears, they hear the engine of a low flying jet over their heads.
PROFESSOR VASILY DMITRIEV'S OFFICE, ASTRAKHAN SATE UNIVERSITY
Yama and her boyfriend use their phones screens to illuminate the professor's office adjacent to the graduate archeology lab. They search through stacks of articles, books, and ancient Khazarian artifacts. Yama pulls a document from the professor's desk.
-He was supposed to have signed my visa extension request. Check if you find it while we're at it. It's due to expire in a few days.
Yama's boyfriend grabs a stone on which a Star of David if engraved.
-Was he Jewish?
-No, not that I know... We found this at the site last Spring?
The boyfriend finds a laptop under a pile of papers
-What about the computer, you want me to check it?
-I don't know... It's kind of pushing it.
-Well, while we're at it as you said. Maybe he kept notes... a schedule...
The boyfriend powers on the laptop.
-Window NT... Wow.
-An OS from the last century.
-Well, in our field of research, that's not that much ... Can you figure it out?
-Of course... I'm an engineer.
The boyfriend shuffles through applications and files.
-Looks like his email account has been wiped out!
-Seriously! What about a schedule...
-Don't really know where he would keep one in this, but let me look at his last entries....
The boyfriend opens a terminal window.
-There... Meet R at S2 20121214 1600. What's S2?
-That's Samosdelka 2, the site where we were today.
-So he hooked up there with her on Friday afternoon...
-I know she wanted to film an interview with him.
-At 4... In December... It's a little dark, no...
CAPE OF CHERSONES AIRFIELD, SEVASTOPOL CITY
The night is cold and foggy. Najwa and Evgeniy turn their car around as they reach the end of the runaway and stop the engine. Evgeniy pops a cigarette out of his pack and offers one to Najwa who answers in Russian.
-Sorry... I didn't know...
-It doesn't bother me. I just don't smoke.
Evgeniy hesitates, then looks at Najwa.
-Are you allowed to smoke?
-Allowed! replies Najwa with a smile.
-I mean, because of this, saids Evgeniy pointing to her hijab.
-Of course. It's got nothing to do with it. I just never started.
Najwa's phone beeps. She checks the SMS.
She shows the phone to Evgeniy who turn on the head beams.
-10 Nautical Miles South. They should be here in 2 minutes.
Najwa smiles anxiously and steps out of the car leaving the door open. A light breeze from the sea blows her hijab to the side as she holds it in place. Evgeniy starts flashing the car's head beams in the fog.
COCKPIT, PRIVATE JET, OVER THE BLACK SEA
Alexander points to the faded flashing lights as the pilot watches a night vision monitor displaying the landing strip ahead.
-You want to go over once?
-No...Too many eyes on us in the area. It'll look suspicious. I'll drop you in the middle of the runaway and take off right away. No one will notice we even stopped.
The pilot stops talking to concentrate on his instruments as he lands the 4 seater plane in the pitch black night.
CAPE CHERSONES AIRFIELD, SEVASTOPOL CITY
While the plane is still in motion, Alexander unbuckles his belt, pads the pilot on the shoulder, grabs his backpack and exits through a side door behind the pilot.
-Thanks for the ride.
The engine roars back at full steam. Alexander remains in the middle of the strip as the plane takes off.
A few hundred meters further, Najwa bends as she hears the jet flying right over her head. She starts walking towards the middle of the runaway. Evgeniy shuts the car's head beams leaving the airfield pitch black.
-Alex... Alex... Najwa utters as she continues walking in the dark.
She suddenly feels a hand gently grabbing her from the side.
-My little Matryoshka.
Alexander passes his hand under Najwa's hijab and starts kissing her until Evgeniy pulls up besides them.
-Lieutenant! Saids Evgeniy in Russian.
Alexander peeps inside the car and discovers Evgeniy's face as he puffs on a cigarette.
-No, no... Captain, replies Evgeniy with a grin. Hop in.
Alexander opens the back door to let Najwa in then sits in front as the car disappears into the Crimean night.
ROOF DECK, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
Najwa slides the door open leading Alexander and Evgeniy to the winterized roof deck overlooking the port. She undoes her hijab revealing her dark blond hair. Alexander turns to Evgeniy.
-Wow. Feels good to be home. Evgeniy... Thank you.
-Boats sail, shores remain...
-What can I serve you guys? I noticed we have vodka in the freezer.
Evgeniy smiles as Alexander continues.
-Najwa follows a particular branch of Islam. Seems to follow the sea currents. A holistic approach...
-Lovely wife Sasha.
-Thank you. We're not married... yet. What about you?
-Yes... Many years ago. Two daughters. 13 and 12.
-Wow. Trouble at sea, saids Najwa as she pours three shots on the deck's ping pong table.
The two men raise their glasses to Najwa as Evgeniy continues.
-To women of the Earth.
Najwa smiles at both men.
-Wise words for seamen.
Alexander gently pulls Najwa by her waist.
-Evgeniy and I visited many foreign ports together.
-You're husband... I mean Sasha is very modest. If it wasn't for him. I wouldn't be here today.
-I had to pull him out of trouble when he was like nineteen... twenty max, continues Alexander with a grin.
-Luanda, Christmas 1989, replies Alexander as he pours another set of shots. Let's say that for an eighteen year old Rusky boy straight out of his mommy's home, Angola was like Sodom and Gomorrah.
-To African women! concludes Evgeniy before continuing on another subject... By the way, I have arranged for your pilot to stay at a hotel by Belbek Airport. Although the touch and go seemed quite effective, we still have some pretty dedicated comrades around. Better not to communicate with him during your stay. He's could still be trailed.
-FSB? Asks Alexander.
-No, GRU. We're "abroad"! Sevastopol has become the Prague of the new era. Besides the Ukrainians and our boys, every agency on earth has a man in this town. There is a Spetznaz op underway at this moment a few miles out on a sailboat en route to Turkey. They've been tracking two foreigners marking the site of a future nuclear plant near Astrakhan.
-New era but same old game, replies Alexander.
-A nuclear plant? asks Najwa.
Evgeniy looks at Najwa then back at Alexander, not feeling that comfortable about expanding on the subject with a hijab wearing foreigner.
-People are kind of on edge about everything nuclear in the area.
-Not only in the area,... replies Najwa. We had the Chernobyl cloud looming over our heads for weeks when I was kid in Budapest.
-That's when she turned a little funny, saids Alexander, winking at Evgeniy , trying to smooth things out.
-Well I'm sure you boys have lots to talk about.
Najwa stands and extends her hand to Evgeniy who hand-kisses it in return.
-It was a great pleasure to meet you.
-Same here and thanks for the ride.
She kisses Alexander in the neck and leave the terrace.
BEDROOM, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL
Najwa lies in bed reading overhearing Alexander and Evgeniy getting drunk and talking about black girls.
NEW NUCLEAR PLANT ON THE VOLGA A GO
Najwa reads an article on the online version of Pravda.
ATOMENERGOPROM ANNOUNCED TODAY THAT ALL PRELIMINARY STUDIES HAVE NOW BEEN COMPLETED SO THAT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NUCLEAR PLANT COULD START AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK, IN TIME TO COMPLETE DIGGING BEFORE THE GROUND FREEZES. AUTHORITIES WERE WAITING FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL SEARCHES BY AN ASTRAKHAN UNIVERSITY TEAM TO BE COMPLETED. PROFESSOR VASILY DMITRIEV, WHO WAS UNAVAILABLE FOR COMMENTS, HAD BEEN LEADING THE SEARCHES BY A GROUP OF ARCHAEOLOGISTS AND ANTHROPOLOGISTS ON THE SITE FOR THE PAST DECADE. THE YET TO BE PUBLISHED STUDY ARGUES THAT THE TEAM HAD RECENTLY DISCOVERED THE REMAINS OF ATIL, THE ANCIENT CAPITAL OF THE KHAZAR KINGDOM, A TURKIC TRIBE WHICH IS BELIEVED TO HAVE ADOPTED JUDAISM IN THE TENTH CENTURY BEFORE DISAPPEARING FROM THE REGION.
She googles Khazars and starts reading about their odyssey.
Alexander enters the room and walks towards Najwa who look up at him.
-Yes... He owes me one, answers Alexander as lies next to Najwa. Still working?
-Just procrastinating online, instead of writing, as usual... Did you know that they were building this nuclear plant on top of an archaeological site?
-Which nuclear plant? asks Alexander, still tipsy.
-The one your friend mentioned.
-The one near Volgograd. Don't worry about it baby... It's Stalingrad! Didn't they teach you history back in Hungary, continues Alexander obviously drunk. If the Krauts did get through then,I don't think there going to let the Arabs near it... Besides, they'd have to cross the Caucasus.
-You always come up with military strategies, saids Najwa continuing to read.
-Besides, there are no Arabs in that region...
-You know what I mean.
Alexander moves closer to kiss Najwa.
-So what's this raising your glass to "African Women", asks Najwa as she pulls back to look at Alexander's eyes.
-Which African woman?
-Don't play dumb.
-My little Ishtar... concludes Alexander before collapsing.
Najwa pulls the blanket over him and continues her reading.
DECK OF THE SCARLET QUEEN, SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLACK SEA
The sun has risen on the Black Sea. Robert steers the ship alone as Rachel is cooking in the cabin. She climbs on deck carrying two plates with eggs and toasts.
-Here you go Captain!
Robert looks at her inquisitively as he accepts a plate.
She sits next to him.
-Yes. Quieter than last night.
-Sorry for bringing these guys with me...
-Wasn't it the other way around?
-What do you mean?
-Well that they brought you along.... Initially, I was in contact Etan and he mentioned it was going to be him and his "brother". Then you came along...
-Okay, you're right... Still, I'm sorry.
-Anything else you want to say.
-No... Except that it's a beautiful day and that I enjoy the ride, and you...
-Yes thanks I enjoy it very much.
-No. I meant, I enjoy you...
Rachel approaches Robert and kisses him. He keeps one hand on the wheel and holds her with the other.
ROOF DECK, RENTED APARTMENT, LENIN RAION, SEVASTOPOL, MORNING
The rising sun illuminates the masts and antennas of docked Russian Navy cruisers across the bay. Najwa, who's online treads about the Khazars have lead her to Arthur Koesler's Thirteen's Tribe, continues reading on the terrace. Alexander walks out with two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and sits next to Najwa.
-Wow, thank you. How is your headache?
-Will be better after this, replies Alexander as he sips his juice.
-Did you know that the people living in that area converted to Judaism and that's what this archaeologist was working on.
-You're still on his case?
Alexander looks at the Russian Navy cruisers across the bay.
-Did you sail on one of these? asks Najwa.
-No... I served mostly on a destroyer. Bigger ship... In the Baltic.
-And ships from the Baltic don't sail in the Black Sea?
-No... Not the same fleet, answers Alexander painfully.
-Baby... You can't keep up with your Russian mates...
Alexander stretches his arms and stands to walk around the deck. Najwa continues her reading.
-Remember that man on the train to Venice?
-He was from Mossad, no?
-You've heard from him since that trip.
-Didn't you tell me he was after this Swiss girl who was on your case.
-Carla Xanthis, yes. But I fixed that.
-How, did you charmed her?
-No, never met her, answers Alexander bluntly.
-That's right, you prefer black girls!
-Wow, what's wrong with you this morning...
-Sorry I couldn't help but hear you guys bragging about your African sex escapades last night...
-Man I don't even remember. Evgneniy was a kid and I got him out of trouble from some brothel.
Najwa continues reading on her laptop as Alexander sits back looking a little better.
-Anyways, I was thinking about these Mossad agents roaming around the world, taking people out for reasons that are not clear to the rest of us.
-They definitely brought this chess game to another dimension.
-But they don't even have a king, saids Najwa.
-Nor do they have a kingdom!
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHEOLOGY, ASTRAKHAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The university's internal mail delivery service delivers a thick envelope in the professor's slot.
The secretary of the department brings it to the Dean who reads the attached note.
I FOUND THIS ON A BODY FLOATING IN THE RIVER ABOUT 2 KM FROM THE SEA. COULDN'T CARRY IT BACK TO PORT. SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS.
BARKAS RESTAURANT, SEVASTOPOL
Barkas is a popular seafood restaurant located in the port. The place is quiet in the middle afternoon with only a handful of customers finishing their lunches. Alexander and his guests are sitting in the corner by windows overlooking the Sevastopol bay. Two mean looking Azeri bodyguards block the section checking the waiter's trays. Present are an Azeri oilman; a Russian Transneft executive; a Novorossiysk port official and Alexander.
Since 2008, the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline has been running dry due to a trade dispute between Azerbaijan and Russia. Alexander, who needs to deliver oil to Cuba (which deal with Venezuela is jeopardized), needs to access the cheap oil from landlocked Azerbaijan.
-The Russian route is cheaper. Why go through Georgia or Turkey when we can use a perfectly good and unused infrastructure? argues Alexander.
-First because we have to run below the radar, and second because we have would have to go through disputed territories, replies the Azeri.
-That's where Shamil comes in.
-Well, so far it's only us talking...
At the same moment a young Muslim man is being frisked by Azeri bodyguards before being escorted to the table. The young man scouts the sitting party to identify Alexander who cuts him short.
-Where's Shamil? asks Alexander who guesses that the young man might be one of Shamil's proxy.
The three other men look at each other. The Young Chechen pulls a walkie talkie from his pocket and hands it over to Alexander who pressed the talk button.
Shamil surprises everyone by addressing Alexander in English.
-I'm not going to meet with you there.
-What do you mean, we're all here waiting for you.
-I'll meet with you alone.
-Now... Keep the radio with you and walk outside.
Alexander hesitates a few seconds, looking at his guests around the table...
-Ok. Just a minute. I'll get right back to you.
Alexander addresses the three others in Russian.
-I have to talk to Shamil... separately.
The Transneft man objects.
-That's not going to work for us. We're putting our infrastructure at risk here. We need guaranties.
-And our oil, interjects the Ziyad, the Azeri. I want to see the man face to face.
-Our oil! replies Alexander. As far understand, we pay you in full as soon as you plug in.
-I don't care where, how and through who this oil will get to us. The deal stays the same, says the Novorossiysk port official, but I need all here to agree, otherwise we won't plug you at our end.
-Ok. First, let me talk to him. Give me an hour... concludes Alexander.
STREET, PORT OF SEVASTOPOL
Alexander walks out of the restaurant along with the messenger who leaves on a waiting motorbike.
-Walk North towards the water... directs Shamil through the walkie talkie.
Alexander is trying to be discreet as he talks into the walkie talkie. Walking towards the port, he passes trough a cloud of smoke coming from a kebab stand. Shamil switches the conversation to Russian.
-You smell the meat?
Alexander slows downs, discreetly turns around and notices a walkie talkie in the hand of the bearded man behind the grill. He approaches the kebab stand.
-What can I get you, asks the man, who Alexander guesses to be Shamil.
-Give me two sticks, replies Alexander.
Shamil, puts two lamb brochettes on the grill.
-Dzhokhar told me we could trust you.
-I don't know. He didn't tell me anything about you.
-That's because he's no longer here... Because he trusted men like you... Russians...
-Well. Trust goes beyond borders.
-You believe in God, Alexander?
-I believe in deals.
-Deals... I heard you have a Muslim wife.
-I don't know...
-If you have a Muslim wife, then you should be Muslim, no?
-I don't know... You only trust Muslim?
-No. I trust no-one. Especially those who claim to be Muslim.
Shamil flips the brochettes as Alexander gages the meaning of these last words.
-Like this Azeri man you brought, continues Shamil.
-What about him?
-He claims to be a good Muslim, but he'll betray his brothers. He's gotta go.
-But he's our supplier.
-The supplier is just the messenger. What's important is the supply... And the money at the other end.
-Which is not a problem as long as the supply gets through safe.
-I'm sure we'll understand each other, replies Shamil as he hands the brochettes to Alexander.
-I've never doubted that, saids Alexander as he accepts the brochettes.
-Neither did I.
Shamil looks straight at Alexander and preses on the talk button of his walkie. His order feeds back in Arabic into Alexanders receiver.
A huge blast resonates throughout the Sevastopol bay.
BARKAS RESTAURANT, SEVASTOPOL
Smokes rises from a pile of debris in a corner of the restaurant as costumers walk away from the scene.
KEBAB STAND, PORT, SEVASTOPOL
Alexander looks bewilderedly at Shamil as smoke continues to rise in the background.
-Now it's just the supply, the way, and the money, saids Shamil as he shuts down the grill.
-The way! you just blew it... How do you think we'll get to use the pipeline now?
-That's just money my friend... I wouldn't stick around too long if I were you. Your Russian friends will be here shortly.
Shamil hands the grill tongs to another bearded man who was standing by.
-And don't worry about your oil... We'll take good care of it, concludes Shamil as he walks away.
Najwa continues her research about the missing archaeologist and the Khazars... Alexander relates his misadventure and that he must cut the trip short and should even avoid the touch and go boarding. Najwa compares the Black Sea - Caspian pipeline to the Khazarian Way, the Volga trade route used in antiquity by merchants and armies to reach the Caspian Sea.
-It's funny, how everything is connected. How people need to interact. Sell things to each other, fight each other, love each other... Now you're trying to pull oil out of the Caspian Sea, when a thousand years ago merchants from the West were doing all they could to find a way to reach it by boat...
CORINTHIA HOTEL, TRIPOLI, LYBIA
Alexander is watching RT News on his laptop. He stumbles upon a video report about Vasily Dmitriev.
TITLE: MISSING ARCHAEOLOGIST PRESUMED DEAD.
-THE WALLET BELONGING TO ASTRAKHAN STATE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR VASILY DMITRIEV WAS MAILED TO HIS OFFICE BY AN ANONYMOUS SENDER ALONG WITH AN UNSIGNED NOTE CLAIMING THAT IT HAD BEEN FOUND ON A LIFELESS BODY FLOATING ON THE VOLGA LAST WEEK... THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE WHERE THE PROFESSOR AND HIS TEAM HAD BEEN DIGGING FOR NEARLY TEN YEARS IS PART A PARCEL WHICH HAS BEEN ACQUIRED BY THE RUSSIAN NUCLEAR AGENCY ATOMENERGOPROM FOR THE PURPOSE OF BUILDING A FUTURE POWER PLANT. NO COMMENTS WERE ISSUED BY THE UNIVERSITY OR ATOMENERGOPROM. THE ASTRAKHAN OBLAST POLICE IS INVESTIGATING THE CASE. SUICIDE HAS NOT BEEN RULED OUT.
Alexander forwards the link to Najwa.
-THE PLOT THICKENS...
144th FLOOR APARTMENT, BURJ KHALIFA, DUBAI, UAE
Najwa views the linked video on her laptop then stumbles upon an on-line discussion tread about the case. She identifies one of the users as Yama Zrodlo... She finds a matching Skype user.
HEATHROW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
-HI... SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. I'M TRYING TO LOCATE AN ARCHEOLOGY STUDENT FROM RUSSIA NAMED YAMA ZRODLO. WOULD THAT BE YOU?
Yama hesitates before replying.
-YES... KIND OF... WHO ARE YOU?
-GREAT, MY NAME IS NAJWA AND I WANTED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PROFESSOR'S DMITRIEV'S DISAPPEARANCE... IS THIS A GOOD TIME TO TALK?
-HMMM... NOT SURE IF I COULD BE OF MUCH HELP... I'M IN AN AIRPORT WAITING FOR A FLIGHT... DID YOU KNOW HIM?
-NO. I WAS TRAVELING IN CRIMEA EARLIER THIS WEEK WHEN I READ ABOUT IT. THIS WHOLE STORY SEEMS BIZARRE.
-ARE YOU A JOURNALIST?
-OH... BTW, I'M NOT AN ARCHEOLOGY STUDENT, I'M COMPLETING A MASTER'S IN LINGUISTIC...
-ВЫ ГОВОРИТЕ РОССИЯ?
-ARE YOU RUSSIAN?
-NO. MY BF IS, AND I LEARNED IT IN SCHOOL.
-WHAT KIND OF WRITER?
-YES... SO, THE WHOLE STORY AROUND DMITRIEV'S DISAPPEARANCE IS SUSPICIOUS. I DIDN'T KNOW HIM THAT WELL THOUGH. HE WAS MY THESIS SUPERVISOR. RUSSIA IS A PRETTY REMOTE PLACE, AND ASTRAKHAN IS AT THE END OF IT.
A voice announces the last boarding call for BA flight 94.
-MY FLIGHT IS ABOUT TO LEAVE. I'M IN LONDON GOING BACK HOME.
-OK. HAVE A SAFE FLIGHT. WHERE IS HOME BY THE WAY?
Najwa is taken aback by Yama's answer and doesn't reply...
-SO LET'S RESUME THIS TOMORROW OR SO...
-OK THANKS. I'D LOVE TO.
-SAME HERE... BFN.
NAJWA'S BEDROOM, BURJ KHALIFA, DUBAI
Najwa reads her father's note to her mother on the first page of a French translation of Anne Frank's Diary. She then scrolls through online pictures of Montreal - a mid-sized harbor-front city with colorful leaves... Although she's always felt a void left by her unknown father, she's never tried to track him down. But she knows that Montreal would be her best bet.
She gets a IM from Alexander.
LANDED. HERE'S YOUR TIX. DXB-MAD-HAV. GET TO T3 by 0630. CU IN HAVANA. BABY.
She falls asleep holding the worn out book, dropping her iPad revealing an image of a snowy street.