Damien chose a seat in a shaded corner. “Vodka or Coffee?”
“Tea,” Shelby responded, slinging the strap of her purse over the chair.
“Vodka and a tea for the lady!” Damien called to the waitress, signaling two with his fingers. He lit a cigarette and slouched in his seat, admiring the waitress’ derriere as she walked away. He realized Shelby caught him ogling the woman. “Sorry. I find Ukrainian women very beautiful.”
“No doubt,” she replied bothered.
“You know they were settled by the Vikings. The first Czar was of Scandinavian descent. Combine that and the sultry mysteriousness of the Slovaks, you get a very good looking people.” The waitress returned with their drinks. He winked at her. “Thanks.”
“My father told me he had his best men looking for Amelia.”
“Got it.” He raised his glass and toasted Shelby. “Za Zdorovie!”
She raised her tea cup. “To my daughter’s health.” She sipped her drink and eased into her seat. “So who are you Damien Krause?”
He puffed thoughtfully on his cigarette. “I work for Krause Detective Agency.”
“The Krause Agency,” she repeated with a laugh.
“Yes. I am, as you would say, self-employed.” He leaned forward on the table. “It’s not that I don’t have qualifications. I worked for BPOL for seven years in the GSG 9 counter-terrorism unit. I was recruited by Interpol where I worked for five years. Boring! I had high hopes for Interpol, but ended up behind a desk for all those years. It’s not what they make up in the movies. So, I decided to take it on my own.” He dragged on his cigarette and scanned the café, picking up all the faces. “I am highly qualified for your case, and I have connections those in BPOL and Interpol could only dream of having. Your father wouldn’t have hired me if I wasn’t.”
She studied his face. “Curious my father would hire a man who looks exactly like my dead husband.”
“You’re a doll maker aren’t you?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“You’re an expert on faces. I’m sure no other person would make the connection, but you see resemblances everywhere.”
Shelby reclined back in her seat and questioned herself. His facial features were near exact, as if created from the same mold, yet the differences in appearance were vast. Damien’s hair longer. His blue eyes were shiftier and his lips had a mischievous curl. They were the same, but different. “What kind of work do you do for people, other than my father?”
“Here’s the deal. There are several forces working the world. You have the police forces that are on the street monitoring everyday crime. This is what people see. Then you have Interpol, which is a crime data and analyzation organization. But it is people like me, independent investigators who are in the thick of it, often in touch with the true criminals of the world. In order to catch the bad guys you have to look like them, think like them, and sometimes act like them. We are the people the world never sees.”
“Unsung heroes,” Shelby mused.
“Something like that. Here’s one such story. One family contacted me to find their sixteen-year-old daughter who was reported missing. I find her doing porn in Budapest. I tell her, I’m there to rescue and take her home. She tells me, if I’m going to be abused sexually, I might as well be paid for it.”
“What did you do?”
“I told the parents and reported it to Budapest police. It was my job. After that, I have no idea. It was her life. There are many stories like that. Sex trafficking rings are big in this part of the world. I have my contacts in BPOL, in Interpol and even Scotland Yard, but I also know people in the underworld. Here in Ukraine, especially Odessa being on the coast, it is a hotbed for those who live life below the surface. Here, there is weapons trafficking, drug trafficking and even sex trafficking. Just off the coast there are many former Soviet tunnels that were once submarine stations and nuclear armories, now they belong to the mob.”
Shelby shuttered. “My daughter was abducting by a sex trafficking ring?”
“No. I don’t believe so.” He casually dropped ashes in the ashtray and admired Shelby. She was a beautiful woman with her Ukrainian features, yet she had a softness and innocence many here did not. Southeast Europe had always been a hard place for women, if it wasn’t hard labor, fighting invading armies, it was maintaining a sense of power from those who wanted to take advantage of them. “Have you heard of Dr. Apostol Khmelnytsky, or sometimes referred to as Father Apostol, or Apostol’s Apostles?”
“Yes. I spoke to him briefly at my father’s symposium a month ago,” she responded surprised. “What are Apostol’s Apostles?”
He dragged on his cigarette and took a gulp of vodka before continuing. “He’s an infamous character here in Ukraine. He’s the head of the Zaporozhian Cossacks clan—anti-society, anti-corporate, anti-government anarchists. During the Odessa riots in 2014, it was rumored Apostol’s Apostles fought all sides—Euromaidan, pro-Russian protesters and the anti-maidan, who supported the government. They even suggest some fought as Neo Nazis. These Apostol Apostles are on the right and the wrong side of every conflict,” he said with a chuckle, which Shelby didn’t find funny.
“What’s the point?” Shelby questioned.
“Annihilation. When everyone loses, Apostol wins.”
“What does this have to do with Amelia? She’s just a little girl, besides Apostol is a man of science.”
“Science is a bit like detective work. There is always a bit of personal perspective and agenda at play. Some scientist focus on the practical and progressive, while others have a specific aim.” His eyes followed an attractive woman entering the café. “During his university years, Apostol demonstrated his anarchist ideology. His agenda is to disrupt Western societies, governments and corporations, but he doesn’t engage in public terrorism. He associates with questionable personalities in the region.” He studied Shelby’s pensive expression. “You remember the son of a Texan oil tycoon that drowned of the coast of Bulgaria?” When she nodded he continued, “They found Polonium-210 in his system. When they searched the boat, they found a Barbie doll on the table between two glasses of champagne. One of the glasses, the one with Caulfield’s fingerprints was laced with the poison. Rumors suggested he was murdered by his girlfriend, Oxsanna Shkuro.”
“Oxsanna Shkuro the supermodel?” Shelby questioned. “I heard it was ruled an accident.”
“Yes indeed. Some believe Shkuro to be one of Apostol’s Apostles. You see powerful men don’t die of accidents; they’re murdered.”
“Do you think Apostol wants to breed Amelia for terrorism…to be an assassin?”
Damien shrugged and lit another cigarette. “I dunno. Who knows Apostol’s reasoning?”
Shelby stared at her tea cup. This was her predicament—run home to Morehead and play the grieving wife and mother, or continue her search for her daughter. She gazed into familiar blue eyes that expressed a darker soul than her husband’s. “I remember him questioning Kyle at the symposium, challenging him on his research. But why would he want to upset progress? Kyle was finding ways to feed the starving population. And what does this have to do with Amelia?”
“Again, I don’t know his motive. We don’t know much about him, only that his clan has been on the terror watch lists for the past couple years. What he wants with you, or Amelia, I don’t know yet. That is what I’m trying to figure out. Now tell me, what bought you to Odessa?