The Praetorian

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

August 12, 2007

Waziristan region, Pakistan

Yevegniy Turchin was a liar.

He had lied about his name every day for the past four years. His clients knew him as Denys Chernenko, an expatriate Ukrainian who had left a career in the Soviet GRU following certain events of December 1991. That history was also a lie, though diluted with truth. Turchin was a Russian who had spent ten years in the KGB.

He asked his clients no questions and assured them of absolute secrecy. This too was a lie. Everything he learned was immediately passed on to his superiors in Moscow. For him, 1991 had meant only a change in names and acronyms.

Denys Chernenko’s specialty was private intelligence. This was a not a lie. His services were both real and proven. Consequently, few people ever lied to him.

So here he was, unarmed, blindfolded, miles from any form of civilization, and being taken to one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.

Only the lack of binding reminded him that he had come by choice. He kept his still-free hands clasped submissively between his knees, listening to the chatter of hosts a step removed from captors. He knew some words of Pashtun but most of their speech was incomprehensible.

The jeep hit another bump. He resisted the urge to steady himself. The guard beside him smelled of goats and body odor – the national fragrance, it seemed. He’d been inhaling it for at least an hour.

They were slowing. Finally. The engine – he guessed its age in decades – wheezed a protest as the vehicle halted completely. Some more words in Pashtun. A gun barrel tapped his shoulder. He took the hint and stepped out.

Continued

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