The Take Over
A modern fairy tale
(with thanks to Pierre Paccaud for a few crucial suggestions)
To the people of Carambola
It was a beautiful job. A bleu leather cover that vaguely evoked a United Nations document, just a bit darker. Like a clear sky, washed by a tropical storm.
- Bravo said Luke. Bravo. Fantastic.
On the coffee table a pile of similar passports just waited to be used.
- Let Marco add the pictures, said the man they all called Doc.
Doc was the boss. The big boss of a huge financial empire. He was not yet forty when he discovered the joy off shores accounts and a way to siphon tons of money, not his own mind you, to far away islands where nobody cared about taxes nor the origin of funds. Doc put together a nice little network that provided dollars, euro and Swiss francs a safe passage from the fat pockets of some of the best financiers of Western and Eastern Europe to sunny places enjoying their newly acquired independence. These baby nations loved to play host to big bank accounts. For a price of course, but peanuts compared to the big chunks wanted by greedy tax men back home.
Money was going back and forth. Mostly forth.
- Doc, You should get number one, said Luke. You are the head of state, the chairman of the new board.
Luke was one of the early collaborators of Doc. Not that they were friends. Rather accomplices in the good things of life: money, fine wines and busty young women.
- We have to decide on titles, remarked Marco. We should go all the way, titles do impress, and impress we certainly want. Beside being a virtuoso stock market player, Marco had a designer eye for art pieces like fake passports. He was coordinating with delight the birth of a new nation and its future official documents.
Peter (also known as Petrov) was a man of few words. He gathered the passports, took a large sheet of paper and pointed his finger at to Doc: You want to be a prince?
- I’m not sure, replied Doc. You think that will go down OK, prince? Not old fashioned?
- Look, Prince makes it more authentic. Give credibility to the Principality of Stroganov. I think you should be prince. Does not cost a penny more and it always plays well in Asia. I bet you even the communists will be impressed.
- Peter is right, You should be prince. King is a bit too much to start with, but prince is perfect. And you can grant titles and medals that have more prestige than the trinkets given away by a lousy republic, said Marco. Plus there are still thousands of princes around the world…
- Fine, OK, prince it will be. I don’t really care but you are right, it could be useful.
- You’ll have to build a credible family tree, added Min.
From laundering money, Doc soon graduated to real estate. It was a way to legalize his own fortune. The collapse of the Soviet Empire gave him a big opening: he rushed to the Bulgarian coast, then bought what he could of Croatia and Bosnia, made friends in Macedonia and Montenegro often without waiting for the end of the various little wars that he considered as part if the normal pain of birth. Blood was literally running in the street when he arrived on the scene with cash. Everybody needed money, nobody was fussy about its color and Doc had deep pockets. He was generous, and kept making friends, or rather accomplices. He treated them well, they recognized he was a genius with finances. They were eager to hand him their money.
The little wars killed as many civilians as they could, ran out of steam and the time came for reconstruction. Soon tourists arrived. The first visitors were a bit on the adventurous side. Doc sold them a few cheap villas, never the best, or the occasional old farm in need of repair but so charming with their medieval surrounding. The best he kept for later.
Then came the real tourists; by plane, buses and cars. The people who make a living buying and selling properties all over the world emerged. He sold enough so that the word got around: see Doc if you want a good deal. He still kept the best. That would go later, to the nouveau riches from Russia, to the Albanian mafia and the European jet set, always in search of new horizons and décors for their sophisticate boredom.
Money again kept piling. From laundering and from selling. A lot of money. More than enough for instance to buy a village in the new country of Malakoff, born out of the split of a larger entity. It was truly a very old town, with a crumbling medieval church, narrow streets paved with cobblestones and a decrepit inn, which he promptly renovated. He told the few thousands inhabitants they could stay, and that there was no need to pay taxes anymore: he would do it for them. He brought the antique electric plant into the late 20th century. The villagers loved him.
He paid good money for a small forest and even better money for the fields surrounding the village. Malakoff was too busy with political power games to pay much attention to this crazy foreigner. And Doc was so clever in the art of making friends, showering gifts on politicians without any discrimination; how could they resist him? Left or right you could count on Doc. He managed to buy some kind of special land deed from the state and before he knew it, found himself the owner of a nice little chunk of the country. It was at least as big a Monaco, completed with a forest, agricultural land and the old-fashioned village. At the entrance of the town he had a door built, a big stone door, Hollywood -style flanked by two towers. It was manned during the day by a few guards dressed in what could pass for a late renaissance accoutrement, complete with sword and feather.
Journalists noticed. Tourists started to come, the inn was friendly, the music local and the food typical. Soon another hostel appeared.
The visitors loved to have their picture taken with the guards or next to a generously endowed matron serving a pint of the acid little white wine from a nearby vineyard. Cyrillic characters added a touch of authenticity.
-When do you expect the book, the guide, the money, the stamps? asked Luke.
-They should be here next week. The lay out for the big book is ready said Marco. Min has gone over everything, and she believes it will be just perfect.
They were gathering in the large apartment that Doc used when in Hong Kong. They felt especially safe in the former colony. The British were gone but more than ever it was business as usual. Money talked here and Doc was a master of the language.
In a back street of Brussels old Ferdinand “Rubens” Devreed had designed wonderful bills of 10, 20 , 50 and 100 Czytars. Ferdinand, whose talents had served the resistance during World War 2, and less palatable clients later on was a discreet genius. He also created superb stamps representing a stylized Doc with a kind of crown, a regal mantle and a sword copied from Herge’s famous album King Ottokar’s Scepter.
For being a rich man, and maybe a bit of a crook, Doc still had a sense of humor.
A few sweet words had persuaded an excellent printer to produce the principality money, and a collection of stamps. Doc was convinced that his “country” needed all the trappings of statehood to be truly credible.
Three weeks later Peter, Luke and Min with their superb blue passports arrived in the southeast Asian country of Carambola they had targeted for the next phase of their operation. They liked the fact that the country was chaotic, run by a bunch of real crooks and that, in the words of one of their sources, everything, but absolutely everything was possible in Carambola if you were ready to pay. They also liked the fact that visas were on sale at arrival. As long as you had a valid passport, a crisp 20 dollar bill and a big smile, no one was ever going to refuse you entry. Because they carried diplomatic passports, they were even spared the 20 dollars. They went through the diplomatic channel and told the bored immigration officer that their country code was PXZ.
- Never seen a passport like this, said the officer. Very nice.
- Its old fashioned, said Peter. A bit like our country. He had the accent to go with the document.
- Welcome to Carambola, said the officer.
Once settled in their suites at the main palace of the capital, the advance party of the principality of Stroganov gathered at the bar. A Cuban lady was at the piano singing Siboney, the old Lecuona melody blending perfectly with the plush tropical décor.
Ok, said Luke, tomorrow morning we shall call this guy at the Ministry.
They found the name on the Internet. He was, according to the MFA web site, director for Europe.
- He knows we are here?
- If he received our email and faxes, he should, yes.
- I wonder what Doc is planning to do once our little Stroganov has been officially recognized, wondered Min.
She was wearing a simple, fairly strict dress of blue Thai silk. Elegant but discreet. In her early forties, she was a model of restrained dignity. She too had been with Doc a long time. She inspired confidence. She was money laundering with high society printed all over.
- Nothing like class, Doc always said.
A few days before coming to Carambola, she had been given the title of Deputy State Secretary.
- Remember that you are officials from the Foreign Service of Stroganov, Doc told them before they left Hong Kong. You are not a bunch of wild tourists in search of cheap young flesh…
- Doc is really taking this very seriously, noted Peter. You know at the beginning I thought he was joking, just creating a nice tourist trap, another one of his money machines.
- Never underestimate the need for recognition, said Luke.
And he ordered another round of fresh orange juice.
The MFA guy, His Excellency Paf Laphty called Luke the next morning.
- I’m very sorry I could not come to the airport to welcome you. I had to attend a funeral…
- nobody from your family I hope
- No, it was the mother of the Minister
- We are very sorry to hear this. We would like to express our deep regrets to the Minister.
- Thank you. If this is OK with you, I’ll send a car to the hotel to fetch you and we can meet at the ministry…
- That will be perfect.
One hour later, Luke, Min and Peter were sitting in a vast salon of the Foreign Ministry. The building was new, smelled of fresh paint and gave the impression it was empty. Tea and instant coffee was served by an aging lady in local dress.
- We are very grateful for this meeting, said Luke, in his role of the Special Envoy. His Highness Antonov -- Anthony had been the name of Doc’s father-- and the government of Stroganov would like to thank you and express our joy to be in your beautiful country.
H.E Laphty bowed his head, and smiled as if he was personally accepting this basket of compliments.
- As you know our Principality is very old, hundreds of years in fact, but it is only recently that it regained its full independence. If His Highness Antonov would like so much to visit personally your country it is because both our nations have suffered a lot from communism, so we feel a quasi fraternal affinity with you; and also because we believe that some of the richness of Stroganov could be used to help your valiant nation and its people. We are small, we are almost unknown but we are generous with our friends…
And Luke handed to the Director of Europe a thick file that contained the relevant documents proposing that both countries recognized each other. It was a necessary preliminary at the establishment of full diplomatic relations.
Paf Laphty smiled again. Maybe there is something for me here, he thought.
- We are well aware of the glorious history of Stroganov said Laphty who had never heard of the principality before he got the email from Luke. And we are in advance very grateful for everything the principality can do to help us overcome poverty. Our people will love you, he added.
- I’ll contact my minister this afternoon, added Laphty, and propose that we sign the preliminary documents within the next few days. We can then consult with our President to find a convenient date for the full ceremony of diplomatic credentials.
Min bowed with a graceful smile and said:
-I’ll report the good news to my ministry and His Highness.
- If you don’t mind, said Laphty, I would be honored to take you for dinner tonight.
- Wonderful, said Luke. We heard the food of your country is excellent…we shall be delighted to discover it in your company.
Great, thought Laphty. Local food is the cheapest. And he was already thinking how he could inflate the bill that he was planning to submit to his own protocol department.
Your Excellency, Min said with a charming smile, we brought some books and souvenirs from Stroganov. It a very humble present…
Laphty was beginning to entertain dreams about Min. He rarely met women of Min’s class. And she seemed to like him. She even touched his hand when she gave him the books.
-You got him by the balls, Peter told Min one hour later, as they met in Luke’s suite.
- Not that I take much pleasure in his attentions, replied Min. It was no mystery that men presented little attraction to her.
-I’ll send an encrypted message to Doc. He is going to enjoy all this, said Luke.
Five days later, after visiting palaces, temples, pagodas and other shrines, as well as an orphanage and a new town, gift of the Chinese government, the Stroganov delegation was ready to go back to Honk Kong to report to Doc.
As Laphty said good bye to them on the tarmac of the International Airport, Min took him aside, looked at him in the eyes and handed him discreetly a plain brown envelope.
-Your Excellency, she said, I cannot start to express how grateful Stroganov and our delegation is to you. You did a magnificent job, and in the name of all of us, I would like to offer this modest compensation for your time and efforts. I hope that we shall meet again soon.
Laphty took the envelope. In a second it had disappeared inside the interior pocket of his jacket. An expert, Min thought.
Inside the envelope was 2500 dollars in small old bills. Not too much but enough to make Laphty a solid allied of the Principality of Stroganov.
Two months later, His Highness Doc himself arrived at the airport in a chartered plane, along with Min, Luke and Peter and what looked like a early 20th century general.
A week earlier Doc had been informed that the President was ready to see him and establish formal diplomatic relations. This time they were met by an entire delegation of the Foreign Ministry. For the occasion Min had been promoted to Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
-Why not minister? Doc had asked Peter
- Minister, for a small principality, it’s a bit too much. Only Luxembourg has a foreign Minister, but then Luxembourg is a giant compared to us.
As for the military, Doc created it at the last minute. His name was Janos Kazack, known as Gunner by his friends. He had been an artillery Captain in the Hungarian army, and was a fervent reader of the Jane Defense Weekly. He possessed a collection of ancient weapons and loved to recreate battles on his computer. He was also a fitness freak. They made him a Colonel because it left a lot of room for further promotion.
-You are over qualified, said Min.
She had designed the uniform, deep green with gold ornaments and an impressive hat, copied from a 19th century magazine. By the time they land at the airport, Janos was already convinced he was a real colonel and was looking forward to meet his military colleagues.
Laphty had insisted on a red carpet. He gave 50 dollars to the chief of protocol and got it. He wanted to impress Min. He had been told of her promotion, and a prepared a huge bouquet of flower --another 25 dollars-- to be delivered in his name by a lady from protocol.
The welcoming committee was lead by the deputy Foreign Minister. So far in the history of the country, no head of state had come to preside over the establishment of diplomatic relations and the Protocol department was not sure who it should send to the airport.
In a cable to the Laphty, Min had explained Doc’s presence by the eagerness of His Highness to discover “the extraordinary beauty” of the capital and “show personally how much Stroganov valued its relations with your noble nation”.
The President had been notified of His Highness‘s decision to come with the delegation. He was pleased. He knew nothing about Stroganov, but had been informed by one of his trusted friends at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of a few important facts: Stroganov was a very old entity. It was small and picturesque, and from photographic documents received by the MFA, its women seemed to have large boobs. The principality was also rich and generous.
The president cared little about the rest of the world. But he loved women with big breasts and was not adverse to generosity, especially toward himself.
- I’ll offer a dinner to the delegation, he told his chief of protocol, a dry woman with desperately small breasts. At least she was somebody he could trust.
The Stroganov delegation flew from Hong Kong to Zurich. In Switzerland Doc chartered a plane from Captain Luis, an experienced former narco pilot, who knew most of the airports of the world, especially those not mentioned on normal maps. Stickers with the coat of arms of the principality had been paste to the plane.
A couple of days before they left Zurich Doc had invited his colonel to dinner.
- Look, Gunner, I want this to remain between you and me, at least for the time being.
Gunner was flattered. He was not only beginning to see himself as the Commander in Chief of Stroganov’s inexistent armed forces but also as the person responsible for security. It was normal for him to know secrets, and obviously Doc understood that.
- Once we are over there I want you to make some friends among their generals. I understand they have a lot of them..
- Exactly 1256 Generals. Including 25 four stars, 180 two stars and the rest one star…
- I see you already studied the subject. Very good. Ok find who matters in that mass of stars, organize a dinner, visit some barracks, make some reasonable promises and be generous with gifts for their wife and mistresses.
Doc handed a fat envelope to Gunner.
- If you need more money, let me know. I have a few medals with me, so if you believe it is useful to make somebody a Margrave of Stroganov, just tell me. But make sure the guy understands it is a tremendous honor…
After an early morning visit to the Foreign Minister, a small man with a wicked smile, the delegation was received with full military honors at the Presidential Palace. The credential ceremony went on without a glitch. Doc was superb in his gala outfit, also inspired by Tintin’s King Ottokar’s Scepter. It cried “old Europe“, shrouded in centuries of forgotten but glorious history. It was just a bit too warm for the climate.
Fortunately Min had remembered the need for a National Anthem.
A Chinese musician in Hong Kong, specialized in Martial art film music, composed the hymn in a week and was very proud, he told Peter, to contribute to history, even if his name had been given a middle European twist. The hymn in the style of an solemn church anthem was officially more than two hundred years old.
Carambola’s military band gave it an amazing rendition. It could indeed have been very old, prehistoric almost.
Doc informed the president of Stroganov’s intention to open an embassy as soon as a suitable building was found. He introduced Min and the others, and mentioned that the Colonel would probably be appointed as military attaché.
No one wondered what the military attaché of such a tiny country would do.
The President invited the whole lot to a special gala dinner for the next day, said how happy his country was, and thank you so much to Doc for the visit, the establishment of diplomatic links. He promised he would soon send an ambassador to Stroganov. He also mentioned that Carambola was poor, had suffered a lot from wars and revolutions and could not afford a large mission abroad. Doc insisted that Carambola’s ambassador and his people would be the guests of Stroganov, that an appropriate house and office would be made available free of charge and that he would take personal interest in the well being of the new mission. In fact he would take a very personal interest in the well being of the President’s beautiful nation…
They all raised their glass of Champagne to a bright future.
Damn it, thought Peter, watching the proceedings with interest. This guy is really beginning to think he is the head of state of a real principality.
Peter was to be the first ambassador of Stroganov ever. The salary and fringe benefits were most attractive, but what the f…was he going to do here the whole day. Well he could always play chess with Gunner.
And Hong Kong was not far away.
In Stroganov, workers were already busy building a whole new quarter, for the administration of the principality, the ministries or whatever they wanted to call them, and a proper residence for Doc and his newly invented Council of the Crown.
- It must look like we are really serious, Doc insisted. And in a way, we are very serious, he added after a pause.
The day following the establishment of diplomatic relations Doc and his retinue paid a courtesy visit to the Charge d’Affaires of Malakoff. He was a jovial man, with plenty of free times and a solid appetite for life, good food and local women. Doc invited him for dinner.
- You know, he told the Charge, you must consider us like brothers. Like family. If there is anything we can do, let us know. They drank a lot, exchanged numerous toasts and by the end of the evening, had become the best of friends.
Once again the zealous Laphty offered to help them in the search of an embassy and a couple of residences.
- How kind of you to do this, said Min. She knew Laphty would get some big commissions from whoever was the owner of the future embassy.
On the third day they hit the jackpot. A nice modern office overlooking a garden, and a couple of large but discreet villas in an even bigger garden. Perfect for garden parties, thought Peter. But we shall need to install big fans, it is too hot here. Gunner was beaming with anticipation.
Doc later explained to Laphty that they were going to send a team from home to perfect the residence of the ambassador and that of the Military attaché. Earlier Gunner had insisted that security required that all interior decoration be done under his watchful eyes.
- It is a matter of security. We don’t want to discover secrets microphones in our walls. Remember what happened to the American embassy in Moscow…
Min was amazed to see Gunner’s transformation.
- Good point, colonel, said Doc.
A few months later Peter was a fixture of Carambola’s limited diplomatic life. His sense of humor and a large repertoire of risqué stories, all welcome in a dreary place like Carambola made him popular. As for Gunner, he was admired by local military and policemen. His generosity certainly had something to do with it. But they were also convinced he was a real pro. Reading Jane’s weekly and replaying the main campaigns of WW2 on the computer gave him indeed a knowledge few of the local generals could match. He understood quickly that the main activities of Carambola’s numerous top brass were conducted on golf courses, bars and restaurants, especially those with pretty waitresses. And that most of them could barely tell a Stinger from a Mousqueton. Many had been promoted from corporal to general in a few months. It was all political.
Four months after the opening of the embassy General Phlok Gutt called Gunner.
- Colonel, I need to talk to you.
- Of course. Please come to my office around 5 PM. We shall proceed from there…
General Gutt was a four star general. Rumor was that he was close to the President. He had married the pretty daughter of an obscure colonel. He was a mediocre but determined golf player. He had received his military training in the old Soviet Union, making him one of Carambola’s few generals with military experience. No one seemed to know much about his past.
- My dear Gunner, how nice to see me so promptly.
- General, it is always a pleasure.
- Can we talk in confidence?
- Yes but let’s go to my house, it will be more comfortable.
The two men crossed the big garden, sat in Gunner imposing salon, were served a single malt scotch by one of gunner’s servants.
-Leave the bottle and the ice, and you may take the evening off, said Gunner.
Gutt was dressed in an Armani suit. He sipped his drink, expressed proper admiration for what he knew was a very expensive drink and said:
-Gunner, you know I’m a serious man. You know that unlike most of my colleagues I’m not a rich man.
True. By Carambola’s standards he was almost a saint. He had never been linked to drug trafficking nor timber logging. He was not poor, no Carambola’s general was poor. But he was not rich either. This was maybe the reason he enjoyed some prestige among soldiers.
- Gunner, you are a true military man. You are lucky to come from a rich country, where people seem to enjoy a good life. I think you could do a lot of good for us.
The general lowered his voice
- I’m sure you are aware of the true situation in Carambola…
What Gunner knew was that Carambola was in the predatory hands of a few people. They were usually related, had little tolerance for external scrutiny, did care mostly about their own well being and their not so secret foreign bank accounts. In other words they tended to treat Carambola and its natural richness as their private property.
- I’m no great politician, Gunner. But I’m not stupid. Nor blind. I travel around the country, I talk to my men, and believe me, it does not look good.
- Yes, I know what you mean, General. But not everything is bleak, some progress are made…
Gunner was careful. He liked Gutt, but he was also well aware that one had to be careful. Was Gutt trying to provoke him?
- I know what you are thinking, Gunner. You wonder, can I trust this man? Is he trying to trick me? No. I decided to confide in you because unlike most of my local colleagues, you are a true military man. You understand discipline, honor, duty to the country.
- Yes I do. I consider it a privilege to be able to serve my country and an honor to know people like you.
- Now, please, promise me that what I’ll tell you, you won’t repeat to anyone here. No one. OK?
- Well if most of the generals here are clowns, there are quite a few younger and better trained officers who are as fed up as I am. We watch the country going down the drain, and we believe it is time to do something.
- A coup said Gunner?
- No. At least not yet.
What I have in mind, is first of all to build a small elite force. You know in a country like this it does not take many people to make a difference. A few hundred well armed, well disciplined soldiers is all it would take to control the capital. And once you control the capital that ‘s it.
- Do you have that kind of soldiers? Gunner was beginning to see the interest of the situation. Stroganov could become a super power in the new Carambola.
- I have the men, to a point. They are badly paid, when they are paid. They need some extra training. With a bit of money I can turn the 11th regiment, which is under my direct command, into a fighting force.
- What kind of money are we talking about. And can it be done discreetly? After all with all due respect, soldiers rarely train here.
- Yes. I can divide my men in small groups. Under reliable officers. You know that the 11th is base in a distant province anyway. Nobody goes there. I mean from the government. It is a poor province, there is no money to be made there, no fancy restaurants, no pretty women to rape…
- OK said Gunner. I need to contact my ministry. I can’t promise anything but I’m deeply touched by your trust. I need to know a little more about your future plans though, because Stroganov cannot be seen as interfering into the political life of a friendly nation.
- Of course, I understand that. No one knows I came to see you to talk about military matters…I have an idea, why don’t Stroganov and the Glorious Army of Carambola organize a golf tournament? It could take place in six months; that should give me a chance to train my men, to refine our plans and gives us a perfect reason to meet frequently.
- General, you are smart. That deserves another drink. Then, if you are free, I’ll take you to dinner.
A few days later, Gunner called the general. He wanted to be sure that whoever was listening to their conversation could hear what he had to say.
- My dear Gutt, we think that the idea of a Golf tournament is superb. I’ll be away for a couple of weeks and as soon as I come back I’ll call you and we can start to prepare for this great event. My country suggests that the benefits go to invalids and poor families of dead soldiers.
Two days later Doc and Gunner met in Hong Kong. Doc was delighted.
- Gunner, I knew I could count on you. You see, if your general is the man, and he manages to take over, then Stroganov should enjoy a few special privileges in Carambola. We could do pretty much what we want. As long as it looks legal, it will be fine. My business needs a stronger base than Stroganov. We could built a sweet little bank in Carambola far from the praying eyes of the Americans. And we could do some good too. After all Carambola and its people deserve better than that bunch of Mafiosi. A bank, a few schools, help foot a few bills for education, whatever.
- Doc I don’t want you to get too excited about the positive aspects of a political change. But at least Gutt is fairly decent, and we can hope that power will not corrupt him completely, or right away.
Back in Carambola, with more dollars than ever, Gunner and his general met frequently.
-You understand, said Gutt, that we are going to have a big golf tournament. We should maybe invited a couple of foreign golfers. Names. It will make it look very professional. The 11th will provide the guard of honor, and some less obvious personnel. Of course we shall invite the government, the ruling party, the top brass. They will all be there, a few kilometers away from the capital. It will be easy to arrest them, take over the radios and TV station, the office of the President, the prime minister and the HQ of the party. If anyone wonders or try to resist, we shall tell them we are acting on the President ‘s order. All we need to do is seize everybody’s mobile phone at the golf course. We shall immediately free al political prisoners. And announce a modest increase of salaries.
- The money?
- Well, I figure that you could help us with the immediate expenses of the coup. About one million dollar will do. The money for the salaries, we shall find in the banks, here and abroad. Money from the present leaders. It is all stolen from the country anyway.
Yes, thought Gunner. It could work. Timing will be important.
Later in the year big posters appeared in the major cities of Carambola announcing the first real International sport events of the country. The people barely noticed, because few of them knew exactly what golf was. This was a sport for the elite. The rich and powerful, the foreign diplomats, the cream of the drug traffickers. Everybody who was anybody received a beautiful invitation, designed by Marco, gold letters on pale green background. Peter, the ambassador of Stroganov delivered a few by hand. He had never been so active.
A few weeks before the event workers were busy beautifying the old state golf course, some twenty kilometers from the Capital.
Gutt and Gunner had decided that no one should be told of their plan in advance. The best of the 11th would be informed only on the morning of the tournament that they would be involved in a change of power. Gutt was optimistic. His soldiers, delighted to be treated like human beings, and to receive a nice pay, were more faithful to him than ever. The families of the men were equally enthusiastic. They finally had enough to eat.
Since General Gutt had been instrumental in organizing the tournament, the President agreed that the 11th could form the guard of honor, and provide the marching band and a rock group.
Gutt did not bring any tank to the Capital. Too visible, too noisy. On the eve of the tournament he informed his most trusted officers of the next day’s events, and told them where to find armored vehicle in the capital.
- It will be a Sunday, the barracks will be almost empty. Take what you need. You’ll have passes signed by the President, nobody is going to ask any question.
It was a beautiful day. No too hot, and with a gentle breeze. A perfect day for golf.
By seven in the morning guests arrived. In their best outfits, in their most expensive dresses. Gutt was in civilian clothes. A nice touch thought Gunner.
The 200 members of the guard of honor looked impressive in smart and freshly pressed uniform.
The band start playing. The President was the last to arrive, with a few of his own bodyguards. Gunner had provided plenty of Champagne and some ministers were already a bit tipsy.
Before the president delivered his speech, the guests had been seated. The guard of honor circled the area. Impeccable.
-Ils ont belle allure, remarked the French ambassador to his British colleague.
The president spoke. Of the beauty of golf, of the need to keep a sane mind in a sane body. On what this glorious tournament was doing for the fame of Carambola. And thank you Stroganov, a small but generous nation, for your assistance. Hardly anyone was listening. When he finished, a young girl came to offer him a huge bouquet of flower, gift of the Stroganov embassy.
Gutt raised his hand gun, and shot in the air. It was the signal. In a few second the guests, president included were surrounded by polite but firm soldiers. The body guards were disarmed. One of the few who resisted was shot in the foot. He was to be the only victim of the coup.
In the capital dozens of jeeps and a few armored vehicles were rushing to strategic targets. There was no resistance. These soldiers after all had marching orders from the President.
Back in the golf course, most local guests were directed to military barracks, given a bottle of water, a blanket and told to take it easy. Things would be sort out in no time.
Excited diplomats and representatives of International organizations were puzzled. What was going on?
The same afternoon they were invited to go to the main radio and TV station. Gutt himself welcomed them.
- Is this a coup? asked the American Ambassador
- No Sir, certainly not. This is just a reshuffle of the government. Like in any democracy.
In his address to the Nation Gutt explained the need for action against those who were pilfering the country. People understood. He promised a raise in salary for the next month, and asked everybody to be calm and enjoy a peaceful evening.
Six months later Doc himself came to Carambola to inaugurate the brand new Carambola-Stroganov Friendship hospital. A few journalists asked him if there was any truth in the rumors that Stroganov had been instrumental in the coup.
- A coup? Well as far as I know there was no coup. Just a change of government. Like all decent countries Stroganov would never get involved in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Our only involvement is humanitarian. Only humanitarian.
The following day, Doc did not attend the opening of the no less brand new Carambola-Friendship Bank, on the main boulevard. He and Gunner were busy playing golf with general Gutt.