Ilze Berzins

Chapter 36

It could just as well have been Sammy “The Bull” sitting in the living room of Juris’ house, drinking vodka and saying, “ You shoot him in the head. I’ll get rid of the body.” And, just as casually, Sammy would pull a cigarette from his pack of Camels, rip off the filter, light up and smile through the smoke as if he hadn’t said what he had just said. It was simply routine business.

The beautiful old house in Jurmala had surely been intended for a large happy family. How ironic then that at present it was occupied by a Mafia boss and his goons. From the outside, the house looked peaceful enough, which could prove that places don’t absorb the evil waves that vibrate off the people who live there. This faded beauty was Juris Lapins’ mini mansion. Yet there was no evil poltergeist going crazy in the rooms just because Juris and his friends congregated there to plot criminal activities which included bumping some people off.

At the moment all eyes were on Svetlana. Juris had sent her to deliver a package to Vika who, in turn, was to take it back to Bernie in New York. This is how international criminals had organized. Not trusting regular couriers and certainly not using conventional means of communication. Top secret documents were handled personally. And by a very select number of mules.

“Dima, how’s that girlfriend of yours doing?”

A couple of the henchmen guffawed at Juris’ question. Dima was toying with a cigarette he couldn’t decide to smoke. He shrugged. He had had a lot of practice being evasive.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her and I haven’t heard from her.”

Juris barked out a laugh. “But you must miss her. I know, I do. It’s time for us all to see her again. I gave her a very important job to do. I need to know how it went.”

Dima nodded his head and looked glum. He had heard that someone (someone, but who?) had run over Svetlana, tried to kill her. She had been taken to a hospital in Riga but after that there had been no sightings.

Juris threw Dima a meaningful look. “So, off you go. You won’t find her in Jurmala.”

Dima mumbled something as he got up. He knew that defying his boss would get him a choice site in a cemetery.

* * *

Driving back to Riga, it took Dima only a few minutes to notice that someone was following him. He didn’t recognize the car. Juris was too smart to send someone Dima knew. He took this calmly. He was going home to Pardaugava where he had been living with Svetlana for the past three years. Nothing for anyone to see. Where he’d go next would take some figuring out.

Their apartment was tiny but cozy. Everything in it reminded Dima of Svetlana. She was the decorator and homemaker. The best feature was the window which looked out on a pretty park where Svetlana liked to take their cat out on a harness. She adored that cat and Murka had been sulking ever since Svetlana had left. Dima himself had mixed feelings. He cared for Svetlana but hoped that she had found a way out of the criminal sphere in which he had entangled her.

Murka had refused to eat after Svetlana vanished. To Dima’s astonishment, the cat had just leaped up to his feeding station above the fridge and was gobbling from his dish like crazy. What was that? A sign? Dima was superstitious. The stars must be aligned, Dima said to himself as he lit up a Marlboro and observed the cat.

Just then his cell pinged. He almost dropped his cig as he rushed to answer. Moments later, his mouth went dry; he couldn’t speak.

Murka installed himself in Dima’s lap, purring like mad.

“My God! Is that my Murka? Speak to me, Dima!”

“Hello,” Dima croaked.

“Aren’t you glad to hear from me?”

“Sveta. Listen. It’s not safe for you to contact me. Juris is looking for you.”

“I know all that. I have something very important to tell you.”

“Do you have the package Juris told you to deliver?”

“No. This is more important. I just—”

Dima interrupted. “I’ll meet you in the café we often go to. You know the place. In one hour. Now hang up. It’s not safe.”

He ended the call, poured himself a generous measure of vodka and tossed it back, neat. What has she to tell me? Has she been set up by rivals to entrap me?

* * *

Dima had his own twelve–step program. Admit to being helpless in the face of Juris and his Mafia family. Only God could help him. And his own wits. He left the apartment via a broken window in the basement and proceeded down a back alley.

He recited childhood prayers as he made his way to the café where he and Svetlana often had drinks or a quick something to eat. Juris had his assassins. Dima knew he could be followed, so he dipped in and out of side streets keeping a wary eye to make sure no one was trailing him.

Arriving at the café, Dima didn’t go in. He scanned the surroundings. Waited. A few minutes later, he saw a taxi pull up outside the café. The door opened. A girl stepped out. Svetlana? He paused for a moment, staring at her. Who else could it be?

In a few quick steps he reached the taxi, signaled for it to wait, grabbed the girl and shoved her back into the cab. Jumping inside himself, he asked the driver to take them to a house in Maskavas Forstate where his mother lived.  They would be safe there—at least for a little while. He instructed the driver to take a roundabout route to throw off anyone following.

Svetlana was ecstatic. She threw her arms around him. “How I’ve missed you! I have so much to tell you.”

“Wait! Don’t say anything now,” Dima ordered.

He had the taxi drop them off on a back street where he knew the short cut. During their walk to the apartment Svetlana gave him the good news.

* * *

“Matushka, we have to act fast! I have got to pick up the suitcase I’ve stored with you. I’ll explain everything.”

“Yes, Dima, may God help us. Svetlana! What happened? You look so different. Have you both eaten? I’ll warm up some soup.”

“No, no. There’s no time. Just a quick cup of coffee. Svetlana has news for us both.”

Svetlana started to cry. “Matushka, I’m having a baby. I’m happy but scared too. We have to get away. The boss is angry with us and could have us killed.”

Dima’s mother clapped her hands, her eyes filled with tears. “A baby! A grandchild! You can’t leave now!”

Her son put an arm around his mother’s trembling shoulders. “It will be alright. I’ll send for you. Trust me. We’ll be together. Soon.”

Dima had been the brightest in the bunch Juris had selected to be in his inner circle. Dima was expert and meticulous at so many things he could easily forge money or passports. Little did Juris know that, even back then, Dima was looking for a way out. He had also produced two excellent passport forgeries: one for himself; one for Svetlana. His get-away suitcase at his mother’s home was packed with money and valuables. He knew the day would come.

“We’re not taking a taxi to the airport. I’ll just hot-wire some old jalopy and we’ll be off.”

“The airport! My God, Dima! Where are you going?”


“Minutes ago I got a call telling me that I must immediately call the boss if I see you or Svetlana. And I’m not to tell you that he called.”

“Good. You tell them that I’ve gone to Kaliningrad to stay with my cousin Vadim who has a car repair shop.”  Dima smiled, knowing as did his mother, that his cousin was actually in Liverpool.

Svetlana took her mother-in-law’s hands. “Please Mamushka. Look after my cat for me. Take all the good things from our apartment and keep them. And one final favor. Please try to get this message to Simone for me and tell them I’m OK. But please don’t mention England.”

Mamushka gave a brief snort of laughter. “What’s wrong with you, Svetlana? Didn’t you just say Kaliningrad? And you’re taking the bus, aren’t you?”