The Russian Oligarch Affair, Chapter One (Part three)


Andromeda’s neck ached, tension mostly. The old lady who had just left might once have been an informal baby-sitter for her Uncle and her Mother, while there had been a discreet meeting of those who happened to be parents, but there was no way that she could ever be just an old friend of the family.
It must, she reflected, be bad enough if you were part of that family, whatever else you were able to do. Olympic equestrian, or flying a rescue helicopter, however much it depended on you own ability, people would see you as part of that family. Well, she had her own version of that, but enough of her family had reputations built on what they had done, rather than what they had inherited, that she could cope with it. She rubbed at her neck again.
Her Uncle looked tired as he came up the staircase towards her. He looked at her, and smiled slightly. “It seems almost too simple. Simple ideas always have complicated details, even when they work.”
She nodded back. “I think we have to be involved in some of the dodgy stuff.”
“It would be hard not to be, but Hugh is right. The logistics needed to handle that amount of money would be insane. Your young man should go far.”
“My young man?”
The smile turned into a grin. “He is his own man, of course, just like your father. And he wouldn’t be where he was if he was a neer-do-well.” Her Uncle looked back down the stairs. “It’s an uncomfortable thought, that somebody you have known for so long is resorting to a conspiracy theory. Remember to get your phone sanitised.”
Andromeda nodded. “My father used to put a fresh magazine in his pistol every morning, give the feed spring a chance to rest.” She chuckled. “I can’t legally carry a gun, but |I make sure my iPhone is loaded with clean code, and that’s maybe just as illegal. I wouldn’t call myself a hacker.”
“You grew up with computers. I did not.” He shrugged. “But I am not stupid. Don’t write off us old folks.”
He seemed to be walking a little bit more easily as she watched him go up the next flight of stairs. He had insisted the house had elevators when it was built. He had only used them the year he had broken his leg.
Her neck was feeling a little better now. She headed for her room.

Breakfast was traditional, and would not have been out of place a century before. Maybe the modern servings were smaller. Most people didn’t need the energy, no longer walking so much and having central heating. Andromeda was not so idle. Neither was Hugh, and he could be so energetic.
He was far better groomed when he entered than he had been when Andromeda had last seen him, and his scent was rather different too. You could hardly say anything was secret, but she didn’t really care. The household staff liked him, even without her obvious, and enthusiastic, approval. He managed to fit in and, oh boy, didn’t he fit in well.
“You young people should remember to get some sleep.”
Nobody replied. Dakin set down the coffee pot and enquired if Mr. Powell desired his usual breakfast. Mr. Powell indicated that an extra rasher of bacon would be appreciated.
Andromeda buttered another round of toast. “Hugh, I do not believe that story about the planeload of money at Sheremetyevo.”
He nodded. “It sounds like a plot for a cheap movie. I remember at Sandhurst…” He reached for the coffee pot and launched into a long story about a fellow cadet who had obviously been watching the wrong movie on the night before an exercise. Andromeda listened carefully: she had been trained by the Army Union, and then selected for the Landing Force, and the style was different. But not so different where it mattered. “…but I was the one who got the bollocking even though my plan worked. I wasn’t in control, they said.”
It was a new story to her. “That’s a fair point,” she murmured. “Do you think your platoon could make it work?”
He grinned. “The last time I was on exercise, I sat down in the middle of my briefing, told them a sniper had just blown my brains out, they should get on with things, and then I started reading a book.” He shrugged. “They did OK. The book wasn’t so good.”
“Sheremetyevo,” prompted Gonville Bellman.
“A plane left twenty billion Euro there, in cash, and the consignee has never turned up to collect. You know what you can buy with that much money, or what you need to sell. I figured around two hundred million tons of crude oil.”
“That’s a lot.”
“Yes,” agreed Gonville. “Very rough figures, but call it six hundred tanker movements. Or about 40% of total annual oil tanker shipments.”
“I expect the con game is looking for a mark too dumb to add up the figures.” Andromeda murmured her thanks to Dakin and attacked her breakfast. “I wonder what we will not be looking at while we hunt a money laundering operation big enough to own a government.”