Edge of Apocalypse: pages 63-68 (Chapter Thirteen)
Having moved to Bucharest, Romania, we meet Atta Zimler. We’ll be seeing more of him throughout the book, but let’s find out about this man:
“Wrapped in a luxuriant hotel robe, Zimler sipped his Turkish espresso and contemplated the upcoming day’s events. He wiped his mouth with his napkin as he ran through the checklist in his head.”
I find this rather amusing, given that Left Behind has been criticized for trying to fit literature to a “checklist” laid out by LaHaye’s theory of the Rapture and Revelation.
But moving on.. 🙂
“He’d always been a careful man, organized, some might even say obsessively meticulous. He knew the outcome of each of his actions in advance, along with the potential reactions of those around him, and he planned for every possible scenario. He credited this preparation for his ongoing success in his chosen line of work–preparation, and a total lack of emotion. Had anyone else been in the room, they would not have been able to discern from his calm demeanor that he was in the process of formulating the minute details of the murder he would soon carry out.
Turning back to the room, he set his cup on the dining room table, removed his robe, and folded it neatly over the chair. Clad only in his undergarments, he lowered himself onto the Oriental rug and began his daily rapid-fire routine of fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups, and as many leg raises as he felt were needed. By the end of the workout he was breathing heavily, though not exhausted in the least.
For years he had trained his body far beyond the capacity of most human beings. He had mastered karate, judo, and aikido. His strength was not obvious, not like those American bodybuilders and football players. But that was what served him. He was stronger than most athletes, yet on the street, he looked like everyone else. He had accepted that most people were either too stupid or too self-involved even to notice him.”
This all pretty much shouts “secret agent of some kind”. Given his name and nationality we may fairly assume he’s to be the terrorist in this book. At least one of the ghostwritten Ludlum books had the imaginativeness to feature a Serb terrorist.
If there was any doubt as to his connection to the RTS-RGS system, it’s pretty much wiped away in this dialog:
“The phone rang. A male voice on the other end was direct and emotionless.
‘Is this the Algerian?’
‘Who is calling?’ Zimler countered while simultaneously fastening the last button on his shirt.
‘I am calling on behalf of someone who has a serious problem.’
‘His mail keeps getting returned…’
‘Sounds like he has a bad mailman.’
‘Yes,’ the voice responded. ‘A very bad mailman. The mailman needs to be eliminated.’
‘Is that what you are really after?’ Zimler asked. ‘The mailman?’
‘Well…the bigger problem lies in the delivery system.'”
Gotta say, this is way ahead of “the flowers are in the trash” for a coded message*. The conversation goes on to establish that whoever’s paying him wants the technology ASAP. We now see some cloak and dagger stuff:
“Twenty five minutes later, the Algerian rode the hotel’s mirrored elevator down two flights to the fourth floor. He waited until the hallways were clear before making his way to room 417, which he knew was unoccupied. From his right pants pocket he pulled out a pair of latex gloves and put them on. From his left pocket he took out a magnetic programming device, similar in size to a standard deck of playing cards. Zimler then extracted a blank hotel room card key from the magnetic box and inserted it into the room’s door lock.”
He slips into the room and waits. And who might he be waiting for, you ask?
“Yergi Banica was clearly nervous–and it wasn’t simply because he was running a few minutes late. Having already parked his car on the north side of the Piata Revolutiei as instructed, he quickly made his way across the square toward the hotel. His mind was on euros–ten thousand of them to be exact. His job, teaching political science at the Romanian University of Craiova, paid little, barely enough for him to get by in his small apartment with his much younger new wife. Personally, he didn’t mind the close quarters, but he knew Elena aspired to better things.”
And how might he have gotten into this situation?
Well, anyone who’s read any spy thrillers at all, or for that matter, read any books by former KGB agents (e.g. Oleg Kalugin, Stanislav Levchenko, etc) knows of variants on this acronym: MICE.
Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. Getting a sleeper agent (or a freelance agent, if you will) working for your intelligence agency usually involves one or more of the four things listed.
In this case, Mr. Banica wants money. I would suggest some ego involved too, as we’ll see below:
“A year earlier, Yergi had been approached by a Russian student in one of his political science classes. The student was friendly, bright, and engaged in his studies, but that was just a ruse. In reality, the young man wanted to know if the professor would be interested in earning a little extra money. All Yergi would have to do is slip him some details about the political persuasions of some of the more radical professors and wealthy students on campus. Yergi was old enough to have lived through the KGB and their successor, the secret Russian Federal Security Bureau. So he knew what they were asking of him; to be their informant. He really wouldn’t be hurting anyone, he rationalized, just passing along little innocent bits of information. Besides, the extra money would come in handy.”
If Banica is a Romanian, technically he “lived through the Securitate”, but he could have been Moldovan and moved over to Romania after 1989. They do speak the same language for all intents and purposes, so not unreasonable to assume, though hardly germane to the present discussion.
As an unintentional side effect, this new arrangement actually brought Yergi a newfound sense of confidence. Always trying to impress his wife’s younger friends, he’d let it slip a few times after several drinks that he was a man who knew things, a man with connections. He might have even jokingly referred to himself as a spy. Yes, he even privately entertained the idea he was an Eastern block [sic] equivalent of James Bond.”
Ok. That last paragraph right there? I’m wincing right now at this man’s stupidity. I’m no spy expert at all, but goodness gracious, why bring attention on yourself by being a braggart? Five’ll get you ten if the FSB ever heard about it they’d be shopping for a new information source posthaste.
And maybe eradicating the old one, just for insurance.
“Then he became more practical. The Algerian was offering twenty thousand euros for the information, half now, half upon delivery. It was more than enough money for him and Elena to move away and start a new life together somewhere else. So he turned to the young FSB agent he’d been working with and offered him a deal–to exchange half of his upfront payment for any information that could be found pertaining to the American, Joshua Jordan. But did the young FSB agent have access to that? He said he would see what he could turn up.
A week later Yergi received a copy of the FSB’s comprehensive dossier, which included pictures, biographies, personal data, and all manner of classified details on the American in question.
After all, the man had already paid ten thousand euros in advance, half of which was secure in Yergi’s small apartment near the university. And he was moments away from being handed another ten thousand. Yes, the transaction would go smoothly. He had exactly what the Algerian wanted.”
And we discover why this Mr. Banica fellow is here at all. But will the Algerian actually pay him off? We’ll see next chapter.
* Or “the fist is in the nostril”. 😛