... is a matter of the heart, Don Luis.  Kostamo is very protective of this Lana Radley.  Is she a threat to us?  Her connection to the affair is that the roommate hired her services as a private investigator.  The blonde bimbo, Don Luis mutters.  There has been no contact between the snatched cop and Ms. Radley – not even a thank you call.  Don’t you find that odd, sir?  What has the redhead done since?  She’s moved out of her apartment, and has put in for a transfer to NYC.  Where is she now?  She and Kostamo are at Coco Beach in Belize.  Don Luis raises his eyebrows at this. How did he manage that feat?  He’s Kostamo, Raul says.

What has this private investigator done since?  She handles home security for a reclusive rockstar.  And I’ve been informed that she’s working on an assignment for Senator Johns now.  Her personal life?  She’s moved in with the blonde bimbo, and is dating another rockstar, from the same band as the one she does security for.  Don Luis hears these details with evident distaste.  She’s quality, Don Luis, not dissolute like the redhead.  You would approve of her.  And she is taking night school to better herself.

Don Luis looks at his protégé steadily (computer monitor).  So she would be easy to snatch.  Raul winces at this.  I hope that is not necessary, Don Luis.

What is your recommendation, Raul?  We accept Kostamo’s offered restitution.  His proposal to fund black accounts linked to all the undercover cops in our organization is ingenious.  There will be a huge scandal when it breaks, and they will be too busy looking inward to hinder our operations.  And the seeds of suspicion and mistrust will linger for a decade.

That redhead would have been head of the task force in ten years, and in our pocket, Don Luis says angrily.  He cut her loose on his own initiative, without consulting The Syndicate, and for A WOMAN.

The more I think about it, Don Luis, the more I question his “friend of Lana Radley” explanation, Raul says.  It may be a red herring.  He could be behind her transfer to NYC.  If I’m correct, then his inability to separate business from pleasure is a demonstrated weakness that we can exploit in the future.

When the redhead is family?  Don Luis angrily retorts.  You know the rules, Raul.

His proposal is to our advantage.  If we scorch the earth and execute all the undercover cops, will it serve as a deterrent?  You know it will make them just that much more determined.

Kostamo is playing me for a fool, Don Luis shouts.  “If I had known that she was a friend of Lana Radley, I would have never undertaken this”.  He wishes me to move against an innocent, and lose my standing with the others.  Such manipulation cannot be tolerated.  Such deviousness must be punished.

But The Syndicate?  I’ve already broached the subject with some of the other principals.  His opium smuggling network can be parceled out among them; it would be unseemly for our organization to be seen to benefit from his removal. Their primary concern is that the pipeline will dry up without his military contacts, and we’ll be forced to go back to The Jew in Amsterdam for our needs.  He pauses and thinks for a minute.  It all leads back to NYC.  I see his plan now - setting the redhead on his competition.

He won’t be an easy target, Don Luis.  His people are really good.  Call a meeting, and handle it personally, Raul.

A week later

Raul’s security escorts Kostamo down the stairs to his office in the club.  He’s clean, one of them grunts.  Raul gestures for him to have a seat.  What did Don Luis decide?  He wants you dead and your network piecemealed out to the other members of The Syndicate.  Kostamo doesn’t look surprised, and says nothing.

I respect that you came alone, Kostamo.  Personally, I think your offer made much more sense than the original plan.  The redhead would have likely cracked under the strain - not moved up the hierarchy.  But it’s not my call.

Why did you call this meeting, Raul?  Lana Radley.  Kostamo nods.  Yes, I will go quietly if you agree that she lives a charmed life from here on out.  I’m invoking the family rule of The Syndicate.  It will be as you wish, Raul says.  Why her?  Kostamo shrugs.  My reasons are my own.  Raul frowns at him.  I do not like this; I’m missing something here.  I’m used to executing men who are greedy, disrespectful, and undisciplined.  You are none of these.  So what is Lana Radley to you?  Kostamo says nothing, and the men look at each other.

Let’s go back to that night.  She stops by the club with a male companion and shows around a picture…and I found myself liking her and wanting to help her.  Very understated in her approach.  It’s nice to see a beautiful woman with long hair, who doesn’t dress provocatively…and she not only avoided the trap of cocaine in the car, but she also didn’t return to her apartment that night, where I had a team waiting for her.

Then you call, and say that the redhead is released and out of play, and that you never would have taken the assignment if you had known she was a friend of Lana Radley.  That you will answer to The Syndicate for your actions.  And that Lana and her friends are under your protection until judgment is rendered.

Naturally, your interest in her sparked my curiosity.  Obviously I’m aware of her past.  And I see no intersect with yours.  Her major source of income is from a rockstar named Rolf Asgaard.  Around two thousand dollars a week for the past month, all checks made out to her LLC.  No cash or expensive gifts with receipts attached were found in her apartment or car, so I’m assuming this arrangement is for legitimate work, he says, giving Kostamo a probing look.  Who nods slightly in confirmation.  She’s taking an evening class at the law school several nights a week, and another online.  No social calendar.  Caller ID was just her parents and telemarketers.

Her male companion that night was also a rockstar in the same band.  It must be hip now to dress like a dock worker.  Uninterested in her investigation.  He was silent, and let her do the talking.  Something of a clown on the dance floor.  He made her laugh.  She’s very beautiful when she laughs.  We had her up on the big screen.  I’d like to see that footage.  Raul motions him over to his desktop, and they watch as Lana laughs and smiles at Jax as she dances, until he points at the big screen, and then she gets embarrassed and covers her face with her hands, and they walk off the floor together.

Kostamo returns to his seat.  You don’t view him as a rival, Raul notes.  But you do.  It’s why you planted the coke in his car.  The prosecutor throws away the charges if he goes to a lock-in rehab, and he comes out twenty-eight days later, only to find that Lana is seeing that club owner.  But he’s not just a club owner.  He’s a former Jesuit priest, who was defrocked for killing in the house of God.  A good shepherd looks after his flock, Raul comments.  That you picked up the fallen gun of Don Luis, and executed the men who were after him is something that she would learn eventually?  Of course.

I like the guy; she brought him along to the Senator’s fundraiser.  Let him be a part of her charmed life.  That will be entirely up to him, if he can resist temptation.  Kostamo gives a dry chuckle to this, before he gets serious again.

Perhaps Don Luis is testing you, Raul.  Can you follow a directive, even when you would rather this cup pass from you?

It was you or her, Kostamo.  I told Don Luis the truth as I saw it up front.  That it was a matter of the heart.  He couldn’t fathom that, and saw her as a threat to be eliminated.  So I speculated that she might be a red herring.  Perhaps the compromised cop put in for a transfer to NYC so that you could wield her against The Jew in Amsterdam.  And he was apoplectic that you would put forward an innocent for him to slay, and thus lose his standing in The Syndicate.  So your life for Lana Radley’s.  That’s a trade I’m willing to make, Raul declares. Now how do you want to die?  I’d rather not see it coming.  A sniper’s bullet in my left eye.  That is not an easy shot to make on a moving target.  I made it once, Kostamo replies, a long time ago.

I was one of the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9-11.  My unit had eyes on UBL as he fled to Tora Bora.  Twelve of us pursuing him and seventy of his diehards, and they were running scared.  We were ordered to halt, and not enter the cave complex.  The powers that be were afraid of excessive casualties, and would get the job done from the air.  And so he got away.  Think of the thousands of ruined lives and the needless war we would have prevented.  It grates on me still.

My next rotation, I had eyes on Mullah Omar.  But we were ordered to stand down because this was in Pakistan, and during a meeting with some of their senior people.  So we couldn’t call in the airstrike, because of the fallout with our nominal allies.  I put a bullet through his left eye anyway, as he came out of the mosque.  And they covered it up somehow.  Anyway, when we finally made it back across the border, my team was court marshaled and given the choice of either Leavenworth or do covert renditions for the CIA.  Easy choice.  Only we wised up and brought other things back to Gitmo along with our prisoners.

So you see Ms. Radley as someone who also did what needed to be done, regardless of the cost to her.  My reasons are my own, Raul.  It is enough that I know you to be a man of your word.  Are we done here?  Raul nods.  And they each get up and shake hands.

========================================================

YOU LET HIM GO, a voice shouts into the phone.  I warned him so he could get his house in order, Don Luis.  He will flee and go to ground.  My life for his if I am wrong in this, Don Luis.  All I had to do was mention Lana Radley, and he said that he would go quietly.  Don Luis breathes heavily into the phone, as Raul continues.  I’ve sent for the Russian.  I wanted you to handle this personally, Raul.  And I have, Don Luis.  But I will not have innocent blood on my hands.  His motives are pure; he invoked the family rule of The Syndicate.  She is to live a charmed life; I gave him my word.  He played you, Don Luis declares coldly.  Consider the most likely outcomes.  Either you will be rid of an incompetent subordinate, or your standing will greatly increase in the eyes of The Syndicate because of the deliberate and straightforward way that you’ve handled this matter.  You will set a precedent, either way.

Don Luis says nothing for a long time.  Raul, mirror-image thinking is a cognitive trap.  It’s your blindspot.  You see others acting and thinking as you do, as an honorable man.

I will not be around to protect you forever, Don Luis says with a sigh.  Keep me informed, my wayward son.