Coleman shrugged. “Maybe in his entourage, but the main guy is too young. He’s a thirty-six-year-old whiz kid. Peter Sidorov, you ever heard of him?”
“The name rings a bell.?
“He’s got a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge.”
“What does he do?”
“Uses all that brain power to run a hedge fund. He’s made billions the last couple of years. Mostly, and this could be a lot of jealousy talking, by manipulating commodity prices.”
“A Russian hedge fund manager, manipulating commodity prices,” Rapp said with feigned surprise. “I’m shocked.”
“I know . . . but you know how people are with success. Especially with this new crowd out of Russia. Everyone wants to believe they’re in bed with either the FSB or the mob.”
“There’s also a few of them who play it up so they can act like tough guys.”
Rapp was familiar with both types. His preference was clearly for the ones who were acting. “So which is it with this guy?”
“I don’t know. This isn’t my area. I never operated in that part of the world.”
“Well, I have, and I happen to know someone who is probably our top expert on the subject.”
“Irene?” Coleman asked, referring to Kennedy. “Yep, but I think I already know the answer.”
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Russians over the years it’s that rules and laws are nothing more than obstacles. For them, hiring a guy like Max Johnson to rig the game in their favor would be like us hiring an accountant to do our taxes.”
“So how does that tell you who they are?”
“If it was the Russian Mafia they’d try to hire someone like you or me. Besides, none of our intel says they’re in D.C. Los Angeles, Chicago . . . most of the big cities on the East Coast and a few in the Rust Belt, but not the capital. Irene says Putin doesn’t want them screwing things up things for the SVR.”
“So what . . . you think this is straight industrial espionage?”
“I don’t know, but whatever it is, Max Johnson has decided to hang out with the wrong crowd.”
MISSOURI, ARKANSAS BORDER
THEY agreed it was better to travel eleven more miles and cross into Arkansas rather than backtrack north from Branson to a less-populated area. It seemed to them that the more state lines they could put between themselves and the farmhouse, the better off they’d be. Hakim was not in disagreement that it was a good idea to get off the road for the night. He did, however, fear the unknown, and by unknown, he meant what Karim would do to the unfortunate occupants of the house they happened to choose.
Not far across the border, they found a few interesting prospects just off Highway 65 on Old Cricket Road. Karim carried the computer over to Hakim and showed him the two homes he’d zoomed in on. Hakim knew instantly which house they would be visiting. They were adjacent to each other, but more than a quarter mile of woods and pasture separated them. They shared a gravel driveway for several hundred feet and then it split off. To the left the drive led to a series of buildings that, even from space, did not look well cared for, and then a house. Hakim stared closely and identified eight vehicles that were parked randomly in clusters around the main portion of the property. A couple of them could have been farm equipment but it was too difficult to discern. The place had a disorganized feel to it. Hakim imagined a large extended family living on the property, people of all ages coming and going. Lots of dogs. Too many variables at play to go wandering into at this late hour, or any time, for that matter.
The other property was uncannily similar in layout and geography to the farm in Iowa. The gravel road ran for a thousand feet up the side of a gentle rise and then hooked around the top to dump into a gravel courtyard that was situated between the house and a large barn. A thick picket of trees encircled the house on three sides, and then beyond, as the hill fell away, there was pasture. It was precise, immaculately maintained, and by far the better choice.
Karim pointed at the screen and asked, “Does that remind you of anything?”
“The house in Iowa.”
“Yes. It is almost the exact same.”
Hakim kept his eyes on the screen searching for other clues. “I don’t know how old this image is, but there are no livestock trails in the pasture.”