4 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: Sagittarius

Continued from Part 3: The Monk

Muse 4: Sleep Deprived in Sagittarius

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The cabin lights in the Business Class cabin dimmed as the Boeing 747 winged its way back to New York. Edmond Chase pressed the button on his arm rest and reclined his seat, hoping the drone of the engines would lull him to sleep. Ever since Phil Brin was killed, sleep was often thwarted by the twists and turns of Nemesis’ investigation of the suspected terrorist’s true identity. He suspected that it would be no different that night, engine thrum notwithstanding, as he mulled over the information he’d just received about Brin, and his killer.


Many of Nemesis’ assumptions about Phil Brin had proven to be false. Yes, it was true that he had been born in Brooklyn; that he was a member of the NYPD; that he was a serial husband; and that he was a heavy drinker. But as they now knew, Phil Brin had no connections to any of the usual suspects involved in terrorism. Apparently he did have a secret life, but it was rooted in an organization far from the Middle East.  

A few weeks after Brin’s death, Chase received an unexpected telephone call from a counterpart in the Russian government.

“Mr. Chase, this is Boris Rogosin. I am Deputy Second Chief of Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, known as the SVR. I think I may be of some assistance to you,” the heavily accented voice said. “Might I impose upon you to pay me a visit in Moscow?  I would come to you, but recent surgery has confined me to a wheelchair temporarily, and travel is difficult.”

“May I know what this is in regard to?” Chase asked.

“Certainly. I have information that I am sure will be helpful to you in your investigation of a man you knew as Phil Brin. Given the nature of this information, I do not think it prudent to wait until I have recovered sufficiently to leave my chair. It is in both our best interests to talk now rather than later.”

A man you knew as Phil Brin… Intrigued, Edmond Chase had readily agreed to travel to Moscow the following day.


“Phil Brin’s real name was Grigori Karpov?” Chase couldn’t keep the astonishment from his voice. “How could we have missed that?”

Rogosin smiled gently and said, “Grigori was very skilled at his job, Mr. Chase. He had to be, or he would not have survived as long as he had.”

“Please, call me Ed. May I call you Boris?” Chase asked. 

When Rogosin nodded, he continued. “And just what was Karpov’s job? We thought he was a cop.”

“Oh, yes, he was that,” the man in the wheelchair responded. “And by all reports, he was a good one. But he was much more than that.”

For the next several hours, through “lunch” and afternoon tea, Rogosin held Chase’s attention captive as he described “Phil Brin’s” real job.

“We are certainly familiar with the activities of the Russian mafia in Brooklyn. Certainly extortion, drug trafficking and the sex trade are bad enough. But I’ve never heard of any terrorist activity,” Chase said as he pushed away from the table, leaving his plate half full.

Lunch, or obed, as Rogosin had called it, had been a bit overwhelming to a man accustomed to a tuna sandwich with a chip or two. He’d enjoyed the zakuska, a first course of salad topped with poached fish, and the Borscht that followed. But when the entrée, or vtoroe blyudo, of roast beef with sides (a cheese dumpling and roasted vegetables) arrived, he suspected he was in trouble. His suspicion was confirmed when the server, a friendly over-stuffed dumpling herself, set the glass of vodka down at his place. Knowing he’d have trouble staying awake if he partook, Chase reluctantly passed on many of the delicious offerings. Including the vodka.

“Unlike their Middle Eastern counterparts, there are no ideological passions driving these people. It’s pure greed. Al Qaeda pays them handsomely.” 

Rogosin wheeled his chair away from the table. “Come, let us return to my office and take our tea there. You will be more comfortable there.”

Chase followed his host back to the office and settled onto the couch in the sitting area. After The Dumpling served tea, smiling shyly at Chase as she did so, he picked up the conversation.

“Pays them to do what?” 

“Infiltrate the New York Police Department, among other things,” Rogosin replied.

“Are you saying that Phil Brin -- sorry, Grigori Karpov – was a Russian mobster who’d infiltrated the NYPD?” Chase asked.

“Not quite.” Rogosin poured a bit of tea into his saucer and blew on it, then drank it. “That is what the Russian mafia thought. Including those already in the NYPD.”

Chase shook his head. This was getting weirder and weirder. 

“Go on.”

“Several years ago, we learned that there was a Russian criminal element within the NYPD. It started with one unscrupulous cop in a position to sidestep the… the… what do you call them? Inside Oversight?”

“Internal Affairs?”

“Yes, yes, Internal Affairs. From that point forward, one by one, more New York members of the Russian underworld were brought into the Force. They call themselves ‘Zodiac,’ and they are very well hidden. Indeed, a few died doing their jobs during Nine-Eleven, and were posthumously decorated as heroes.”

“But why? What purpose does that serve?” Chase asked.

“You are a smart man, Ed, and far from naïve. Think about it. The informational value alone is staggering.” Rogosin paused to sip his tea, now cool enough to drink from the surprisingly ornate teacup containing it.

“But consider this, my American friend. Like any police force anywhere, I suspect, the New York Police Department has its share of dirty cops. Imagine if those people were in the service of terrorists…”

“Wait. You said Karpov wasn’t really one of them?” 

“Ah, no, he was not,” Rogosin responded. “Not really, though they thought he was. Grigori Karpov was ours.”

“Yours? He was an American citizen, born in Brooklyn.”

“Yes, of course. But his history is firmly – could not be much firmer, in fact -- rooted here in Russia. 

As Chase listened, eyes growing wider by the minute, Rogosin laid out Grigori Karpov’s family tree.

“You have got to be fucking – sorry -- kidding! I thought…”

“Yes, most people do,” Rogosin said. “Karpov discovered the truth himself. Family papers, photographs and the like. And then he came to us.”

“Unbelievable.”  Chase considered himself fairly sophisticated and beyond surprise. But truth be told, he was blown away by what he’d just heard. 

“Now, I should tell you the reason I asked you to come. What I am about to share with you is top secret, and I know I can trust you to treat it as such.”

“Of course,” Chase assured his host. “Nemesis has the highest security clearance.”

“As I have said, Grigori Karpov was our agent, working undercover in the NYPD. In the course of his investigation of Zodiac, he uncovered the identity of one member of Zodiac. It was a discovery that would lead to his death.”


Realizing that sleep was hopeless, Chase reached up to press the call button. After the flight attendant delivered his scotch, he lifted the window shade and looked out at the star-filled sky, his head filled with thoughts of Sagittarius. That constellation was visible only in the southern sky, far from the flight path of the 747, but it wasn’t the constellation Edmond Chase was thinking about. It was the member of the Zodiac group called Sagittarius.

 The one who was also a killer known as The Monk.


  1. "he suspected he in trouble." At lunch? I think there's a missing word there.

    This is a really well crafted story. To my mind, this is some of your best writing yet.

  2. i would def agree with lou...this is such a fun piece to read patti...and loving the progression of it...

  3. Honestly, I love that you went dialog-heavy, but I kinda missed your description. Hah!


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.