1. Knocking on heaven’s door
I guess at that moment on September 16th, 2004, my brain rescued me from the situation I found myself in. I couldn’t see or hear anything around me. I didn’t see the grey ceiling above me, I saw something very different instead: Dmitry is looking out of the window, Katya is silently cutting bread at the table, Fidel is telling a joke and trying to take a stuffed boar’s head off the wall.
The door swings open and that cop walks in, accompanied by another four in civilian clothes… “Good evening…” That’s it… I’ve been re-playing that moment in my head over and over again, “Good evening…”
My name is Sergey Pavlovich. Online, a lot of people know me as PoliceDog, panther, Fallen Angel or diplomaticos.
We were in Lipen, a village 100 kilometers from Minsk. Our country house was the last one on the street. Right behind it was an endless forest with wild boars and foxes: the forest my grandfather looked after as a forester all his life. It was my girlfriend Katya’s house. By then we had already moved to the capital, but we still lived a lot of the time in Lipen. God, I loved that country house.
Two things seemed strange. Firstly, why did they have to arrest me after I left Minsk and turn it into a field operation? I wasn’t trying to hide. They could have come to my place in Minsk and handcuffed me. It would’ve been way easier. They may have wanted to arrest me while I was relaxed, drinking with friends. Then they should have acted sooner: two days earlier we had been celebrating the anniversary of DumpsMarket, my website. Serious carders had arrived from all over the former USSR. As the founder of DumpsMarket, I was the birthday boy. Alcohol was flowing like water, hookers were dancing on the tables. Had the cops attended that party, they would have been in for a nice surprise. However, they were uninterested in our criminal Sabbath. Which leads me to think that the information they had on me came very, very suddenly.
If only that police lieutenant who had stopped me for speeding knew that my phone was being tapped or that I was being watched, he might have reconsidered taking that $20. But it wasn’t about him anymore. Maybe someone had said the address over the phone after all, and the task force dashed to find us. Or had they actually been following us all the way from Minsk? Oh, to hell with it! Finding out my whereabouts was probably the easiest thing the cops had to do. It’s still strange, though.
Now to the guests. The heroes of my locked room detective story:
- Katya, my girlfriend.
- Dmitry Burak (Graph), we are actually cousins but I consider him my brother and my best friend. We’ve been through a lot. I grew up thinking of him as of my real brother, so that’s what I call him. I keep no secrets from him. He’s my right hand.
- Sergey Storchak, (Fidel). He came over all the way from his home in Odessa for the DumpsMarket anniversary and sort of just stayed here. I guess, he liked it. Fidel’s birthday is on September 17th. That’s what we were celebrating. Fidel is a key partner. I don’t trust him much, so Dmitry’s the one working with him.
- Ilya Saprykin, (Postal), a clever Jewish boy. He worked with us and was informed about a lot of what was going on. Postal could have sold me out. He had more than enough information to do that… And how could I forget he arrived separately from everyone else! He broke off at the last moment, said he had stuff to do in Minsk. We left for Lipen without him. And only two hours later, when the sauna and kebabs were ready and waiting, Ilya’s navy-blue BMW drove into the front yard.
- Katya, Saprykin’s girlfriend.
- Kirill Kalashnikov (Kaizer), just 17 years old. He worked with us, but he lived in Yekaterinburg, Russia. He arrived in Minsk for the anniversary and, just like Fidel, decided to stay for the party in Lipen.
I remember guys taking guns and going to the back yard to shoot cans. I was a better shot than others. It was really exciting. I was jumping on tires dug into the ground around the flower beds, and falling like an idiot. I guess I was high on fresh air. Dmitry fired a shot, and I pretended to be wounded. I toddled a few meters away and fell on the ground. My fingers found the place where the bullet went in and pressed the throbbing gush of blood. I could feel my heart beat even through the jacket. Clouds were floating high in the sky. The air was so transparent in the fall, it would be a shame to die under skies that beautiful. To lie on the golden yellow leaves and slowly turn cold.
When I opened my eyes, the sky was already gone. Katya’s face covered everything. Huge tender eyes. Their single look is enough to make your heart stop beating.
“Do you love me?”
No, Katya wouldn’t betray me. Although she had her reasons. I cheated on her, I didn’t love her, I… as if that wasn’t enough! When the men in uniform came, she was the only one that remained calm. Upon hearing “Good evening!” she went up to them.
“Hello. What’s the matter?”
“Police. Whose house is this?”
And for some reason she calmly repeated the address and her father’s full name. That calmed me down. It sounded like we thought they didn’t see the house number in the dark and knocked on a wrong door. As if they were actually going to the tractor driver who lived across the street or to our neighbor to buy some fresh milk. And we had neither milk nor alcohol. Have a good one, guys! But the cops weren’t going to leave.
“Were you shooting? The neighbors complained about some shooting,” the only officer that was wearing a uniform explained the reason of their visit. For some reason, he was holding a gun.
“We were shooting cans. With an air gun,” Katya began in the same relaxed reasonable tone, but Ilya interrupted.
“I can go to my car to show you the air guns. You know we don’t need a license for them, right?”
What a hysterical idiot! A kid would know you don’t need a license for a stupid air gun, I bet the cops would know it too. Meanwhile, the officers seemed to grow tired of putting up a performance. Before I could blink, one of the men in black walked up to me and handcuffed me. The others were told to remain in the room.
Dmitry looked frightened. He was sitting on the window sill and looking at me as if asking: what should we do now? I have always been the older brother, despite being three months younger.
Nah, Dmitry isn’t a traitor. He’d sooner cut off his own hand. Someone has sold us both out.
The officers expressed their desire to look around. Not to search it, but to look around, because you need the prosecutor’s permission for a proper search. Saprykin started swirling nervously around the room, acting like a liberal protester who was going to report oppression to the authorities. He could have been the snitch. And his behavior could have been an act. Later, he lost confidence and just sat there biting his nails. His girlfriend seemed to have more composure. Like a prostitute held by the police, she was watching everything with an air of confidence, and even a smile. Maybe, she was enjoying the show, understanding she was just a spectator. Jumping ahead, she’ll have her chance to be in our shoes. Andrey Malyshev, her step father, the director of several car dealerships, will be charged with failure to pay customs taxes, flee Belarus and be put on the international wanted list.
Fidel was smoking silently. It was hard to read his mind. He might have been thinking, “What a great present from my Belarusian friends…”
Kaizer was blinking with fear. In his face you could read, “I’ll tell you everything, just let me leave Belarus.”
I had thought about a possible arrest umpteen times to frighten myself. It’s the same as imagining your mum has died and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s nice to know you can pinch yourself at any time and make the nightmare go away. But that day everything was real. And I have to admit, I was afraid. I sat down and tried to imagine that it was all just a dream but the feeling of handcuffs on my wrists brought me straight back to reality. Katya was looking at me.
“Bunny, can you hear me? Listen. We don’t know what’s going to happen to you. The only thing you can do now is to eat. Because when will be the next time?” Katya’s eyes started to water.
That night I was almost force-fed rice with meat, kebabs and salad. Katya hid a piece of bread in my jacket pocket. I was watching her, surprised how quickly she took to the role of convict’s wife.
Do you want to know what’s it like to be in a pre-trial detention center for the first time?
First, you get to the holding cell. Then the general cell. Minsk pre-trial smells of sour cabbage. You won’t find a smell like that at any changing room at any gym. You’ll be willing to pay any money to get out of there.
I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. At night, I was delirious instead of dreaming. Even in my dreams I was looking for a way out, I tried to wrap my head around what’d happened. What should I tell the detectives? How can I pass a note with important directions to people outside? Five days went by like that. Eventually, I exhausted myself into falling asleep. I plunged into the darkness where there was no smell of cabbage, gray walls or numb despair…