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Authors: Michael Beres

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Traffyck

BOOK: Traffyck
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

chapter 1

chapter 2

chapter 3

chapter 4

chapter 5

chapter 6

chapter 7

chapter 8

chapter 9

chapter 10

chapter 11

chapter 12

chapter 13

chapter 14

chapter 15

chapter 16

chapter 17

chapter 18

chapter 19

chapter 20

chapter 21

chapter 22

chapter 23

chapter 24

chapter 25

chapter 26

chapter 27

chapter 28

chapter 29

chapter 30

chapter 31

chapter 32

chapter 33

chapter 34

“As chilling as Kiev in winter,
TRAFFYCK
is a thrilling tale of crime and geopolitics, leaping from Ukraine to the U.S. and back again. Populated with complex and appealing—or terrifying—characters, the story offers up a glimpse of life in a ruthless but little-known underworld, in which specters from the past—among them Chernobyl—arise at every turn.”

—Jeffery Deaver, Worldwide Best-Selling Author of
The Bone Collector

“The twin tragedies of human trafficking and Chernobyl are the compelling backdrops of Michael Beres’ fascinating novel. Caught within the bleak and toxic environment of a Chernobyl village, the characters reveal the moral decisions that will either free or enslave their souls.
TRAFFYCK
is a great story with a captivating style that realistically illuminates dark forces tempered by the persistence of humanity.”

—Irene Zabytko, Author of
The Sky Unwashed

“TRAFFYCK
pulls the reader into a bleak but fascinating world. The people and events ring true cover to cover and make us care. Author Beres takes us on a tour through the darkness, and makes us glad we came along.”

—John Lutz, Shamus and Edgar Award-winner

“TRAFFYCK is
a great novel with compelling characters and an in-your-face story that never lets up. This book exposes a world heretofore unknown to most of us, one that Michael Beres makes frighteningly real.”

—Harry Hunsicker, Shamus Award-nominated author of the
Lee Henry Oswald
thriller series and former executive vice president of the
Mystery Writers of America

DEDICATION

To those held captive—may you escape to a peaceful world

Published 2009 by Medallion Press, Inc.

The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO
is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 by Michael Beres
Cover Design by Adam Mock

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Printed in the United States of America
Typeset in Minion Pro

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Beres, Michael.
   Traffyck / Michael Beres.
        p. cm.
   ISBN 978-1-60542-105-6
   1. Human trafficking–Fiction. 2. Private investigators–Fiction. 3. Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, Chornobyl’, Ukraine, 1986 Fiction. 4. Ukraine–Fiction. 5. Chicago (Ill.)–Fiction. 6. Carpathian Mountains–Fiction. I. Title.
     PS3602.E7516T73 2009
     813’.6--dc22

2009022829

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Research for this novel introduced me to the terror of victims and their families, and also to the compassion of brave rescuers. Unfortunately, my research also introduced me to brutal barbarians who enslave others. Mere words cannot express the level of my sorrow for the victims, my anger at the victimizers, and my regard for the rescuers. Organizations such as the International Organization for Migration, La Strada, and Immigration Customs Enforcement are especially important in fighting this violation of human beings.

CHAPTER
ONE

“Because we two Gypsies live on separate continents, security wolves data-mine our conversations. Yet only aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews decipher our thoughts.”

Janos Nagy, private investigator

“The young soul denies death, performing pinball ricochets in search of sanctuary. Before resting in peace, he creates stratagems of vengeance.”

Ilonka Horvath, professor of mathematics

Lazlo Horvath’s old legs began to cramp as he paced the threadbare pathway worn into his living room carpet, reading and rereading the two quotes in his spiral notebook. Finally, he held the notebook at his side, walked to the window, and stared down from his third-floor apartment at Chicago’s Humboldt Park Ukrainian neighborhood. Afternoon traffic was frenetic with delivery vans, cars, buses, and even a passing motorcycle gang. That morning he had driven a similar obstacle course with his niece Ilonka to O’Hare Airport for her return flight to Kiev.

Ilonka had come for the funeral of her sister, Tamara, who lived with Lazlo and died of what Ukrainians, even here in Chicago a quarter century later, called Chernobyl disease. Ilonka gave the eulogy using a portable voice amplifier she brought with her from Kiev, the same one she used for university lectures.

Ilonka’s voice was permanently whisper quiet as a result of complications from having her thyroid removed. To Lazlo, her voice was a violin bow barely touching strings.

“When I was a little girl before Chernobyl, you shared puzzles, beginning with the simplest … ‘A girl stands at the bank of the Pripyat River with a three-liter bucket and a five-liter bucket. Somehow she must bring home exactly four liters …’ This is life, Uncle: a personal puzzle to solve. For one to give up in the midst of his puzzle degrades the lives of those still at work on their puzzles.”

Lazlo leaned forward to watch the rumbling motorcycles disappear up the street. If only he had been an irreverent young man in 1986, he might have done more to prevent tragedy: his brother Mihaly, an engineer at Chernobyl, dying shortly after the explosion; Mihaly’s wife, Nina, and her daughters, Anna and Ilonka, all treated for cancer over the years; Lazlo’s wife, Juli, who carried Mihaly’s child in her womb out of the Chernobyl Zone, dying here in Chicago during the celebration of the 2000 New Year; and now Tamara, his stepdaughter and niece, dead because of the radiation that penetrated Juli’s womb as they fled Ukraine without the aid of motorcycles.

Lazlo turned back to his notebook, where the two quotes rebuked him. The first was from a phone conversation with Janos (pronounced yah-nosh), who was on holiday, which really meant incognito because of a hornet’s nest. There were plenty of hornets’ nests buzzing in Ukraine, and Janos made a habit of poking them.

Because we two Gypsies live on separate continents, security wolves data-mine our conversations. Yet only aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews decipher our thoughts
.

In 1985, Janos was Lazlo’s apprentice, the only other Hungarian in Kiev’s militia office—thus, the “we two Gypsies” reference. In 1986, after Chernobyl, KGB operatives forced Lazlo to flee. Lazlo last saw Janos in 2008 when he visited independent Ukraine. At Kiev’s Casino Budapest, they danced with an energetic pair of women from the La Strada organization who said they were looking into human trafficking. Perhaps one of these women had led Janos to the hornet’s nest.

The second quote was a paraphrase from Lazlo’s niece Ilonka.

The young soul denies death, performing pinball ricochets in search of sanctuary. Before resting in peace, he creates stratagems of vengeance
.

She’d made the comment yesterday, after witnessing the tragic death of Jermaine, an eight-year-old boy from Lazlo’s building. A delivery van crushed Jermaine as he ran for a fluorescent orange Frisbee.

Lazlo did not tell Ilonka the Frisbee was his gift to Jermaine. Nor did he tell her about Jermaine deciding he would be called Gypsy in his neighborhood gang. The reason for not revealing these things boiled down to Lazlo having once killed another boy named Gypsy years earlier on the Romanian border and then relating the story to Jermaine to frighten him.

“Do you not see, Jermaine? I was no older than your gang leader. I was in Soviet Army, but we were still boys. I am sent to arrest another boy. But when gun meets gun, at least one is likely to die. Gangs create never-ending vengeance. Gangs are boys killing boys.”
“Was the one you shot black like me?”

“No, he was not black. His skin was what we call olive-colored.”

“He had green skin?”

“Not green … but darker than white.”

“That’s me, Gypsy. Darker than white … so dark none of this ethnic cleansing crap they do over there can wash it off.”

“Another time you and I will discuss ethnic cleansing.”

“Yeah, ethnic cleansing …”

Lazlo dropped the notebook containing the quotes from Janos and Ilonka to the floor and stood closer to his window. Perhaps a sniper would shoot him and the police would make a chalk outline of him on his threadbare carpet. He spoke aloud to the imaginary sniper: “Take aim, sniper. With Ilonka back to Kiev, and both Tamara and Jermaine dead, nothing remains for me. I tell the boy about the Gypsy as a warning to avoid street gangs, and street traffic kills him. I should run into traffic where Jermaine died. Eventually, my blood stain will wear away and traffic will take me wherever old souls go.”

But Lazlo knew he could not betray Ilonka, the brave Chernobyl survivor. And there was Janos, another Gypsy counting on him. Janos Nagy, who poked his nose into the human trafficker hornet’s nest. The same traffickers who sent “merchandise” to so-called “employment” offices in Chicago, offices Lazlo visited when his FBI or ICE contacts needed his services.

Lazlo considered how odd human language was. The noun
traffic
, innocent-sounding until it became the verb in its conjugated forms
trafficked
and
trafficking
, the added
k
reminding Lazlo of the leading letter of
KGB
, as well as the leading letter of the KGB officer who tried to destroy his family—
Komarov
. If only, just as destruction finally came to Komarov, Lazlo could reach out and bring destruction to an obvious enemy to avenge Jermaine’s death. If only life were as simple as letters:
FBI
for Federal Bureau of Investigation,
ICE
for Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
KGB
for Russian words meaning Special Department of the Soviet Committee of State Security,
SBU
for Ukrainian words meaning Security Service of Ukraine—and
DON’T WALK
, the warning at the intersection Jermaine might have heeded if he had used the crosswalk.

As Lazlo stood at the window, he realized his fists were clenched and he had held his breath since speaking aloud. Sounds of heavy traffic vibrated the window glass, but there were no gunshots and he turned from the window, took a deep breath, and retrieved his notebook from the floor. Perhaps someday soon there would be something he could do to even his score with God.

Whereas afternoon traffic was heavy in Chicago, it was almost nonexistent several time zones away in the Carpathian Mountains. A light breeze blew, the sun was low on the horizon, and all was silent on the mountain road in northeastern Romania near the Ukrainian and Moldavian borders. Not a soul in sight, whether Chernobyl or Cossack souls or the souls of Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs who once wandered here.

But suddenly, several deer feeding at the side of the road stood still, ears erect and open. A green Mercedes van appeared around the bend and the deer leapt into the shelter of the beech and pine forest as the van sped past, followed by a tan Zhiguli station wagon. Although the road curved back and forth as it climbed into the mountain pass, the station wagon passed the van; then the van passed the station wagon. Tempting the odds of there being no other vehicles on the desolate road, they continued passing one another as they sped up the mountain.

BOOK: Traffyck
13.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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