Operation: Black Phoenix

Operation: Black Phoenix 2.2

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

   2100 – Alexei, Tony and I left Srebrenica to drive back to rendezvous point at monument east of Gostilj. Watkin and Wilhelm, meanwhile, already stationed at rendezvous point, observed two vehicles arrive – a BMW, which hid behind a building, and a black Jeep Cherokee. We arrived, at 2200. When I was about to exchange the hard drive for the money, I went to take a closer look at the money. Just then a muffled shot went off behind us and a gun fight broke out. When it was over, six of the opposition’s men were dead and one had surrendered. Among the dead were the mercenary leader known as Slobodan, his sniper Vladek, and the man they all worked for, Anton Dedopovic. I was hit a few times, but thanks to a vest, I merely suffered a few nasty bruises.

   Dedopovic was clearly in bad health, which makes me wonder about the nature of his visits to clinics and hospitals in Switzerland. Alexei has taken a blood sample from him for analysis. In the suitcase, we only found a few € notes covering stacks of newspaper. So we are out the €250k owed to us. One unexplained oddity – in the back seats of both vehicles, we found bundles of wild roses. Tony and Alexei interrogated our prisoner. Tony and the prisoner spoke in Romanian, so there was a bit of a language barrier. Much of what the prisoner said we could not make sense of. But he said something about the roses keeping someone away, and that Dedopovic apparently wanted to trade the hard drive for ‘”the blood, for eternal life”, because he was dying. He gave us a name – Danilo Brigovic, and said something about “eyes burning” and “they’re the devil". He threatened us, saying the master would find us and hunt us down. Sounds to me like he’s seen a few too many horror movies.

   After Alexei patched me up a bit, we saw headlights coming up the hill towards us and suspected the police were on the way. We threw the bodies into the Jeep, knocked our prisoner out cold, and speed off in all three vehicles. We kept our lights off and used night vision to drive. Watkin and I led the way in the BMW, followed by Wilhelm and Alexei, with the prisoner in the back of our Jeep. Tony took up the rear with all the bodies. We headed north up the isolated mountain road towards the Bosnian border. After a few miles, we ditched the Jeep with the bodies and the prisoner, off a side road and into the woods. When we resumed, we saw headlights approaching again. Still suspecting the police were behind us, we continued on and appeared to have eluded them. We think we got away without the police getting a good look at us, as we had no difficulty passing through Bratunac and making it across the border. We ditched the BMW in Krupanj, concerned it could be ID’d in Belgrade. Made it to Belgrade and checked into the Holiday Inn Express at about 0300. After some rest, I spent some time using Dedopovic’s cell phone to track down info on Danilo Brigovic.

Monday, March 13th

   Update on Brigovic: Owns a business in western edge of Surcin, a western suburb of Belgrade – on the surface, a large warehouse dealing in farming equipment, including a villa adjacent to the warehouse, all of which takes up the entire block. Below the surface, word on the street says he has a lucrative cigarette smuggling business and is a “person of interest” in a number of missing person cases and suspected mafia killings. Owns a party barge called the Red Eagle where he spends most of his weekend nights. Watkins, using lost pet notices as a disguise, has placed a few video bugs around the property. Will continue to observe and investigate.

Wednesday, March 15th

   Update on Brigovic: Word is that he smuggles weapons in addition to cigarettes and is protected by Serbian government. His warehouse and villa are heavily monitored. Has close to 2 dozen, well-trained, well-armed men guarding the place 24 -7. Has an armored limo and never goes anywhere without half a dozen goons. So we are looking into getting to him where he is probably most vulnerable – on his party barge. Alexei is using a cover of his, Santiago Vega, a drug lord from Columbia, to try and get an invite to the barge through an entertainment website. As part of the cover, we are also renting rooms at the Excelsior Hotel.

Friday, March 17th

   Alexei got an invite for the party barge for tonight. Late last night, we saw someone being forcefully taken from a car and into Brigovic’s warehouse with a hood on his head. As of yet it does not appear that this person has emerged from the warehouse. A possible abduction/murder?

Saturday, March 18th

   Arrived at Brigovic’s party barge at about 2100. Barge had already disembarked, so we had to take a shuttle boat out to the barge. We posed as bodyguards for Alexei using his cover as Santiago Vega. Alexei eventually got to speak with Brigovic while some of us cased out the barge. Brigovic is a very confident, egomaniac commanding an odd mixture of fear and respect from a lot of men and women alike. He pulled some stunt on Alexei, having one of his goons put a gun to Alexei’s head, probably hoping him to break cover. But Alexei played it impossibly cool and appeared to win Brigovic’s respect.

   Later on, Brigovic took some girl into a back room presumably to have sex. But Wilhelm did some eves dropping from outside the room’s window and heard the girl give a short scream and then a sudden thump as if a piece of furniture was thrust against the wall. Things went quiet after that. A short while later, Brigovic emerged from the room without the girl. Watkin saw him appear to wipe blood from his mouth, so we assumed he either bit his lip or got punched in the mouth. Alexei took another girl into the same room immediately afterwards but did not see any sign of the first girl. Alexei managed to interest Brigovic with a business deal before the night’s end and he was told to come by Brigovic’s warehouse today at 1600.

   After resting late into the day and then having rented a car, again for the cover, we arrived at the warehouse at 1600. We were given a brief tour of the warehouse and shown some weapons. There was a curious, canvas-covered, circular object about 8’ in diameter and 2’ high at the center of the warehouse – much like a well or a pit; though with the canvas, there was no way to tell how deep it was. We got a good look at the personnel and security system guarding the place. When we got inside the office, Alexei was able to distract Brigovic long enough to allow Watkin to pop into his computer a micro USB with a Trojan code that I wrote which will allow us access to his computer.

   When we left, we drove the rented car back to the Excelsior and swept it for bugs. As we half expected, there was a GPS tracker on the car. We left it there to keep up the ruse, then returned to the Holiday Inn. When we got back, there was a letter waiting for us at the front desk. We were concerned that someone knew of us and where to find us. Back in one of our rooms, we looked at the letter.

   It said we were in danger and that the writer could help. It told us to meet him at a café in Skadarska at 2000 and to make sure we weren’t followed. We did as instructed and arrived at the café at about 1930. Alexei and I sat at the café while the others positioned themselves nearby. At 2000, a man in his fifties, dressed in a tan trench coat approached and sat at a table with his back to Alexei and me. He said that the Conspiracy was on to us and that they would stop at nothing to get the hard drive. He said that if we hack into the hard drive they would be onto us and they would hunt us down. He warned us, saying that we had stumbled onto something that goes well beyond what we may have expected, and that if we went any further there would be no turning back. But should we wish to continue, he worked for a secretive organization that could help us. This organization’s goal, he said, was to work in the shadows and to thwart the Conspiracy’s agenda.

   As soon as he said this, Wilhelm spotted an assassin down the street and called out a warning. But it was too late. Our would-be ally took a slug to the back of his head and did a face plant into the table. Tony, Watkin and Wilhelm chased after him, while Alexei and I did a quick search on the dead man’s body amidst frightened nearby witnesses. Alexei pretended to try and assist the man as we grabbed his wallet, a passport and a manila envelope tucked inside his coat. We then went after the others. By the time we found them, Watkin had shot the man a couple of times and Tony had tackled him. But before they could question him, the assassin swallowed a cyanide capsule. Clearly some kind of fanatic. Watkin spotted the edge of a tattoo on his neck, which did not appear to have any significance. But, going on a hunch, Watkin ripped open the assassin’s coat and shirt and found another tattoo – this one showing the heads of a goat, a lion, and a snake.

   Tony recognized the tattoo. This assassin was a member of the Chimeria, the secret organization that killed Tony’s fiancé. Perhaps this was what the would-be ally meant by the Conspiracy, or perhaps there is some other connection. The assassin had no ID, but we took his gun and fled the scene. Realizing that at least one person had been able to track us down, we rented rooms at a small, three-star boutique hotel a few blocks away from the Holiday Inn called the Hotel Tash.

   There we took a look at what we had. The wallet and passport ID’d the man as Malcolm Seward from London. Further investigation revealed him to be a former agent of MI6 who went MIA four years ago and was presumed dead – though why he was presumed dead was not explained. He seems to have specialized in statistical anomalies; i.e., cases of the occult and paranormal.

   Inside the envelope were three newspaper articles: The first is about a Nikola Radosavljevic who shot 12 people (killing 9) looking for “magicians” in 2014 in the border town of Jabukovac. He is currently being held in the mental ward of the Belgrade County Jail. The second is about an Obraz splinter cell who had been killing gays and goths, believing the gays were also vampires based on popular fiction and TV shows. The third article is about the 15th century Regent-Governor of Hungary, John Hunyadi. He is known to have defeated a siege of the Ottoman Turks in Belgrade and a few weeks later, he died of a plague. It is also known that he was a supporter of Vlad Dracula and assisted the Prince in reclaiming the throne of Wallachia. According to this article, a newly discovered chronicle suggests that Vlad Dracula was in Belgrade during the siege and indicates that he may have left something important behind. 

   It appears we may be dealing with some kind of well-connected cult that believes in vampires. The wild roses we found would support this theory as, according to local folklore, they are supposed to keep vampires at bay or prevent them from entering a room. In fact, looking back on the entire mission so far, it seems that all the unexplained clues appear to be pointing towards some kind of strange vampire-worshiping cult. Whether the cult is a scam or a growing organization of delusional fanatics, or a mixture of both, it is hard say at this point. But a few things that do seem pretty clear are that there a lot of criminal activities going on that are related to it, and that these activities are being conducted by an organization whose roots run deep and whose reach is broad.

   Unsure of where to go from here, we have decided to look into three areas: 1) We’d like to take a closer look at Brigovic’s party barge and see if we can determine what happened to the girl. We have not heard any missing person reports yet that fit her description. But there have been a large number of missing persons in Belgrade over the years. Plus, Watkin has been advocating a more direct approach, as usual. So we are going to let him plant a series of remotely operated flash bangs on the barge, if he can manage it, so that we might nab Brigovic for some interrogation. 2) I’m going to see if I can make contact with the Obraz splinter cell. Perhaps we can make some use of them. 3) Alexei also wants to talk to Nikola Radosavljevic and see if he can get anything useful out of him.

Monday, March 20th

   I have made contact with the leader of the Obraz splinter cell online. But since we’re not sure just yet how they can be of any help to us, I have only hinted that we might be able to assist them.

   Alexei paid a visit to the county jail and spoke with Nikola. He appeared paranoid and suspicious at first. But Alexei got him to talk. He confirmed the report that he used to work at the Nikola Tesla Museum here in Belgrade and said he knows of a secret vault there and how to get into it. He talks of books and documents in the vault that we are interested in seeing – books and documents that were once in the possession of Nikola Tesla, and if certain far-fetched claims can be believed, may also have been in the possession of Adolf Hitler. He believes, however, that certain overseers of the museum are connected to the so-called “magicians” he tried to kill and that if anything is discovered missing from the vault, they will come after him. Therefore, he will not reveal to us how to find or access the vault unless we spring him from jail. So we are devising a plan. Could these “magicians”, I wonder, be a part of the vampire cult, aka the Conspiracy? Whatever the case, we have decided to hold off on looking at Brigovic’s barge until we can get a look at what’s inside the vault.

Tuesday, March 21st

   Alexei paid another visit to the jail and was able to slip him a pill that would make him appear to be seriously ill. He was told to take it precisely at 2100. Meanwhile, I was able to hack into the jail’s communication system allowing me to intercept a phone call to the hospital. When the call came in, I told him an ambulance was on the way. Shortly before this, Tony and Alexei made off with an ambulance at the dispatch center. So, just a few minutes after the call from the jail, Tony and Alexei showed up with the ambulance and took Nikola away. One of the jail’s guards came along, but Alexei was able to stick him with a needle and put him to sleep for a while. They ditched the ambulance a few blocks away where we picked them up.

Wednesday, March 22nd

   At about 1530 we visited the Nikola Tesla Museum and wandered about the exhibits. While doing so, we made sure to keep our tour guide busy with questions and quite distracted, allowing Watkin the opportunity to pick the lock on the door leading to a storage room. He then hid inside the storage room and waited. The museum closed at 1800 while the last of the employees left at 1900. Once they were gone, Watkin disabled the security system, allowing him to move about freely and giving me and Alexei the greenlight to sneak in through a roof access from an adjacent building, while Tony and Wilhelm kept a lookout outside. Following a diagram and instructions given to us by Nikola Radosavljevic, we were able to locate and enter the secret vault in the basement. We then loaded a couple of duffle bags up with books and documents and made our way out through the roof.

   Back at the hotel, we got a better look at what we had taken. It will take some time to go through it all, but several things stand out: 1) Tesla’s research on his so-called “death ray”; 2) A number of books on demonology, folk lore and other unusual topics; 3) A very old book written in Latin about two very old bloodlines referred to as the lion and the goat and said to be infernal. This is obviously connected to the Chimeria, although the organization’s name does not appear to be mentioned anywhere. I cannot help but wonder if this book is the object supposedly left behind by Vlad Dracula during the siege of Belgrade; 4) A book, written in French, detailing the history of the Chimeria. According to it, Dracula may have begun the third bloodline – that of the serpent. It also claims that Richard I, King of England, aka Richard the Lionhearted, was a member of the lion bloodline.

   Once again, we have found more evidence that points to this bizarre vampire cult. No doubt, this cult, the Chimeria, the Conspiracy and Nikola’s “magicians” are all connected if not one and the same. I must say I find it amazing that so many people in this day and age can still believe in such things as vampires. Surely it is a sign that our world is flooded with too much such fiction and movies.

Thursday, March 23rd

   Alexei finally got word today from his lab contact. The blood sample he sent to him, taken from Anton Dedopovic, showed that he was likely suffering from a fatal kidney disease. So it appears he was dying after all. Perhaps he too had fallen for the ruse and was desperate enough to try and trade the hard drive for vampire blood.

   At about 2300, Watkin and Alexei snuck aboard the Red Eagle as planned. Alexei found a hatch leading to the barge’s hold below deck, where the missing girl was obviously taken. But other than a few drops of blood and a few strands of hair, he found no sign of her. Watkin, meanwhile, was able to rig and conceal the flash bangs. Alexei has also gotten another invite to the barge. So, assuming nothing goes wrong before then, we will try to nab Brigovic tomorrow night.

Saturday, March 24th

   0300 – We have witnessed something tonight that I cannot explain – though surely there must be some plausible explanation. I will begin with our arrival at Brigovic’s party barge. Unlike the first time, only Watkin and I accompanied Alexei as he used his Santiago Vega cover, while Tony and Wilhelm waited nearby in a rented boat. As before, we arrived at the docks at about 2300, after the barge had disembarked, and had to take a boat out to the barge. From there, the night proceeded much as it did the first time.

   Eventually, Brigovic selected another girl to take into one of the private rooms; same as before. This time however, shortly after Brigovic and the girl disappeared behind the door, we moved away from the front of the boat and Watkin set off the flash bangs. There was, of course, a lot of screaming, but the flash bangs did what they were supposed to and stunned Brigovic’s bodyguards. We rushed through the panic and confusion and busted open the door. Alexei then jammed him with a needle, pumping enough sedative into him to knock him flat out. But, much to our surprise, it seemed to have no effect on him! Instead of rolling onto the floor, he got off of the girl who lay prone underneath him, stood up and turned towards us. So Watkin shot him in the chest. Once again, Brigovic did not go down. In fact, he seemed to smile as the bullet hole in his chest appeared to close up! He then back-handed Alexei and sent him flying across the room and into a wall!

   We were all stunned momentarily. What we had just witnessed was simply not possible. Watkin shot him again, this time in the head and this time he went down. Now, somewhat in anger and in shock, we emptied a few more rounds into his head to make sure he stayed down. We then noticed some of the bodyguards coming to. Still in a bit of a daze, Alexei scooped up some of Brigovic’s blood and brains into an empty glass and we brushed past the bodyguards and into the boat where Tony and Wilhelm were waiting with confused looks on their faces. Realizing there was no time to spare, Tony floored the throttle and we sped off into the night as bullets whizzed past our heads.

   Looking back now, the rational half of my brain is telling me there had to be some trick involved – after all, I’ve seen stage and street magicians do some pretty amazing things. Take David Blain, for example – he does a lot of mind-blowing shit and we know it’s not really magic. Then again, maybe Brigovic was just hopped up on PCP or something and that’s why the sedative didn’t affect him, and that’s how he was able to bitch-slap Alexei across the room like some kind of rag doll. And maybe it just looked like that hole in his chest suddenly closed up.

   But then there’s the other half of my brain, telling me – screaming at me, saying that Brigovic is no street magician. He did not know we were coming for him. He could not have been ready for us. Nor does it seem likely that drugs could explain what we saw. Like it or not, there is a part of me that is beginning to question what I thought I knew – a part of me that dares to think the unthinkable. Is it possible? Could there be some truth to it? Are vampires real?

   I gaze over at Alexei and I see the same questions in his eyes – the same blank, uncomprehending expression. Whatever the truth is, we must seek it out. We must know what lies in the darkness and expose it to the light. But for now, we simply run.

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arkhemedes

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