This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
, pushing his way through the crowd on the train platform. The way in which this operator of his almost undermined his self confidence during his last mission, floated vividly in his memory – and this man was supposed to encourage him, apart from bringing him news, letters and means… Couldn’t they send someone I could trust, instead of that…? He thought frustrated clearing his throat, dispersing vapour mist in front of him, as if he wished to smoke screen Sam; that was his operator current alias, and that was all he knew about his detested compatriot. ‘Hello John,’ smiled to him his moon faced operator. ‘Long time no see, eh?’ He added extending a right gloved hand. ‘Oh hello,’ Paul answered with a stern face, shaking his operator’s hand. ‘I stink,’ Sam declared smiling still, as if he was expressing his joy of being tailed by a group of counter intelligence agents. Why didn’t you postpone our meeting then? That angry question was on Paul’s tongue’s tip, but in a quick second thought he remembered where their meeting was taking place. His operator did not burn him, every foreigner was tailed in the Soviet Union, and in Moscow in particular. ’Do you know any foreigner that doesn’t stink in Moscow?’ He asked his operator with a faint smile. Trying his best to get in some terms, with the man he so much disliked. ‘You maybe, up to this very moment.’ Sam replied laughing cheerfully in Paul’s face. ‘Well it’s damn cold here, let’s find some warm place, the terminal restaurant, or you got a better idea?’ ‘Let’s take a cab to my hotel, lead them straight to where I stay, and thus play the innocents that have nothing to hide.’ ‘Sure, let’s get out of the terminal first.’ Sam answered with a grim face. The idea was right, but to hear it from someone who did not have his years of experience in the organization – was an insult. ‘Any news?’ Paul asked in a whisper, expecting a sign of life, from a dear soul which he left behind. ‘No letters lover boy!’ Sam declared cheerfully, sneaking a look at Paul’s face. They came out of the terminal, and boarded one of the empty cabs parked right in front of the terminal’s entrance. There were several more cabs awaiting commuters, most of the crowd that arrived with the last train took the underground. ‘Well how do you find life here? Sam asked as they were riding to Paul’s hotel. They did not look back to see whether they were followed, simply because they knew very well that they were covered rather closely. The driver could have been a KGB agent that speaks English, or he could record their conversation – thus the best option was to speak freely and say virtually nothing. ‘Well not bad, it’s a bit cold here though…’ ‘You’re well provided as far as I can see, a fine coat, gloves and a fur cap; you look like a real Ivan.’ Sam could not refrain from adding. ‘How is your hotel by the way?’ ‘Oh it’s a real plush hotel, excellent service, excellent food.’ Paul noted with feigned enthusiasm, the lavish compliments were intended for the driver’s ears. ‘I may board it but to rely on your taste, and your taste in women in particular…’ He added with a chuckle. My God, must he tear off the masks of our faces? I carry a diplomatic passport just like him, but I in spite of it might be bumped off in a staged accident, while he with his behavior serves them as if he were on their pay roll; he isn’t, I’m sure he isn’t, but why for God’s sake doesn’t he think before speaking? They’ll never touch him, he’s a gold mine as far as they’re concerned…The way he keeps blabbering, that’s all they need… Paul thought frustrated but didn’t say a word. It’s the second time that he teases me. What bothers him, or was he instructed to do it… To what purpose? He went on thinking but kept his mouth shut
tight. Getting out of the cab in front of the hotel Sam watched its dark facade with a scornful look; while Paul paid the cab driver and thanked him in hesitant Russian. Sam was watching the hotel’s surroundings with interest but he did not express his views yet, he took his time. As Paul joined him they went towards the broad entrance, and entered the lobby. ‘So that’s what you call a plush hotel.’ Sam remarked quite aloud, while they were passing next to the hotel’s reception counter. ‘I won’t join you in here, sorry pal, I’m used to a much higher levels.’ It was well timed and was the one and only of Sam’s remarks on that particular meeting, which Paul could be completely emphatic with. It served their ends according to the rules; though it didn’t serve them even a bit to beguile their pursuers, they were watched very closely.Sam chose a far corner table and they sat next to it gloomily, facing each other. ‘What will you have?’ Paul asked after a few seconds, that seemed to Paul a rather long pause. ‘Coffee just coffee I’m on a diet, and I haven’t much time I just stopped by to see you doing your parents a favor.’ Sam replied and made a short pause, letting his inferior get hold of the precarious situation. ‘Your parents are worried…’ He added and watched Paul with a long worried face. So they aren’t satisfied at Langley, who? Your boss the one who sent you, the one who dictates these bits of nonsense to you... Why, I’ll have to find it out and I’ll find it out so help me! A wave of fury was flooding Paul’s brain for a friction of a second. He filled his lungs with air in an effort to calm down, avoiding his operator’s face. He looked around the small lobby; as if he was looking for a waiter. If the place isn’t bugged there must be one or two of them behind the counter who could read lips, and in some languages not in Russian alone… So I’d better keep my mouth shut. ‘How are you getting along, found some business associates, who could sale the company’s goods?’ ‘Not yet, I looked around a bit, but I’ve to master their language first – it isn’t easy.’ To Paul’s relief a waiter was heading to their table.What in any other circumstances was an annoying moment, was to Paul the short break he needed so badly. He ordered with the few words in Russian which he had already mastered, and nodded his head as if he understood what the waiter had to say, before the waiter left their table. For all Paul cared the waiter could fetch them a bucket of borscht or a bottle of vodka. ‘Well, you aren’t doing bad at all.’ Sam remarked with a slight chuckle. ‘A short affair with a Russian female might work miracles for you, don’t you think?’ ‘I’ll have to change my taste first…’ Paul answered with a short laugh. Got you, haven’t I? You sly fox, if a woman would cast a look at you, that’s what I would call a miracle. The waiter returned with a platter and two cups of coffee to Paul’s relief. So he must have asked me if that’s was all… I must have been so upset at that moment…Did he get on my nerves my operator…Does he really think that I would make a pass at some KGB agent? With these thoughts Paul sipped his coffee, praying to god his operator would drink up and leave. A few more seconds of silence passed. Sam was looking around pondering, something was bothering him it seemed. He did not try to hide it. He raised his cup to his lips, watching Paul again. ‘I got to go!’ He announced right after having dried his cup. He seemed to be anxious to take his leave, all of a sudden Near the hotel entrance just before crossing its threshold, Sam with his back to the reception counter, swerved from side to side and squeezed his body between Paul and the entrance post, as if he was in a hurry for some reason – as he moved forward he pushed an envelop into Paul’s coat pocket. A cab was waiting already in front of the entrance. While he was shaking his
operator’s hand Paul asked him: ‘Shall I see you to the airport?’ It was the right move, they had to show their pursuers they have nothing to hide. ‘Thanks, I won’t get lost…’ Was Sam’s answer with much disdain, and he went straight away to the waiting cab. Well, what an encouraging meeting it was… Paul thought as he watched the cab driving a few seconds, trying to get a glimpse of a following car – but nothing, it looked as if his operator is riding without an escort. They know that he’s bound for the airport, they’re waiting there, to see him off; and the cab must be monitored in some way or another. He summed that little riddle up and turned about to walk on, without any idea where to. As he strolled on the broad pavement, he thought of reaching the Red Square as any other tourist would do; and he is some six weeks in this majestic capital already, and hasn’t seen it yet. He might check surveillance meanwhile. It might revive my spirits a bit, watching their difficulties in tailing stealthily an object matter on a huge empty square. ‘Sprechen zie Deutch? ‘No I don’t speak German.’ Paul answered surprised, watching the lovely features of the young woman that accosted him. He was accosted several times before already by good looking young women, who turned to him in hesitant English. This one except her original style of approach had an extremely captivating smile, exposing her even white teeth and a thin line above of dark red gum – and her exceptional full and red lips. He could not ignore her and walk on, as he treated her few colleagues, on previous occasions. ‘You’re a Frenchman then?’ ‘No I’m American.’ ‘I see, lost your group? I’m a tourist guide.’ She hastened to declare with that alluring smile of hers. ‘Natalie of the Red Square I presume, the one that certain French singer misses so much…’ Paul suggested laughing. ‘Oh I know and love this song.’ She answered with a sweet chuckle. ‘My name is Tania, I’ll be glad to show you around and help you find your way.’ Perfect English, perfect pronunciation of a skilled pro. She doesn’t try to hide it like her predecessors with pidgin English, they think I’m ripe for defection, well they’re dead wrong. Alright I’ll play your little game, according to my own rules. ‘Mine is John.’ He said and kept watching her smiling dark blue eyes. ‘Oh, nice to meet you John, is there a site that you’d like to see?’ ‘Well, I haven’t got the slightest idea yet, but we’ll have to sit somewhere and see.’ I’ve rejected some of those females already, and if I wish to play the dumb tourist that has nothing to hide, I must change tactics – even break the rules, up to a certain limit. He thought watching her exceptional beautiful features, unable to make up his mind whether its his desperate need to beguile his pursuers or the charms of that young woman that made him change his mind. ‘I know a very nice place not far from here, let’s go then.’ She added touching gently his arm and off they went side by side. She wasn’t tall, her head with her fur cap was hardly an inch above his shoulder; and she wore high heeled boots. An elegant black coat covered her body, it didn’t hide the good figure she surely has. He thought eying her curiously. She caught his look smiling with tight lips. ‘The best things come in small packages…’ She said beaming, as if she read his thoughts. I’ll be damned, I’ll be rather very careful, she must be the best specimen they have… He thought smiling back to her. ‘We turn here to the left.’ She said looking up to him with a curious smile, checking is reactions. Has he got so far from his hotel, Paul wondered. He was so buried in his thoughts. They turned left at the block’s corner, made a few more steps and reached a staircase before the second building, which led to a cellar. A broad sign in Russian was hanging above it, they passed under it just like crossing under an arch. Faint notes of sparkling music reached their ears, as they descended the
stairs down to the cellar. It reminded Paul the notes of a banjo. Tania squeezed the button at the closed door side; the husky that opened it right away, threw a short glance at Paul and let them in without a word. As soon as the husky turned to shut the entrance door, Paul turned to Tania feigning discomfort: ‘Ask him where’s the service rooms are’. She looked up at him with a quizzical look for a second, but turned to the husky in Russian. The latter led Paul right away to a small cabinet that serves the restaurant’s staff. As soon as he shut and locked the door behind him, Paul pulled the envelop from his coat’s pocket, opened it and counted the Ruble notes inside it. The usual amount that would last me a couple of weeks. He thought as he tucked the envelope in his jacket’s left inner breast pocket. He checked his coat’s pockets making sure nothing was left there, pulled the niagara cord, waited a few more seconds till the noise of the gushing water subsided and came out. The husky was scratching his left whisker looking down, as if he was watching his own shoes, Tania wasn’t there. As Paul walked on along the corridor he could hear a female’s voice singing a slow and sad tune in Russian, accompanied by balalaikas. A female attendant took the coat off his shoulders at the wardrobe and right after a few more steps he reached the restaurant’s hall. The music and the singer’s voice turned gradually into a stunning crescendo, as Paul watched the restaurant’s hall with it’s dancing square and the tables around it. Tania was seated next to the closest table about two yards away smiling to him, without her fur cap, attired in dark blue uniform that accentuated her beauty and matched so well her dark blue eyes. It took him a friction of a second to recognize her without her cap and coat, but as he was getting near her the singer and the three musicians that accompanied her ended up in a shattering climax; while the scars audience applauded the group enthusiastically. Sitting down opposite Tania, he turned his eyes back to the singer watching her. She was bowing to the few guests smiling and thanking them time and again. A dark featured buxom, middle aged woman, very good looking though. ‘She’s a gypsy and it’s a famous gypsy song, doesn’t it remind you something?’ Sure enough, love making that’s what that song reminds me so vividly, just in its rhythm; and how clever of you to insinuate it, and pretend at the same time as if you may have meant something else… Paul thought as he watched her beaming face. ‘A gypsy song you say, well yes it’s a lovely tune,’ He muttered clearing his throat. They know exactly in what state I’m and of that delicate matter in particular, it’s so obvious… Jesus Christ I miss Alicia so much, it’s six weeks now and I haven’t told her a thing. I’ve lost her for good, the fool that I’m. He took a long breath of air into his lungs and exhaled it slowly, watching Tanis lovely face. She must be thinking that I’m pondering what my next step is going to be, should I cross the Rubicon or… In other circumstances I would have laughed in her face. A waiter reached their table greeted them politely in Russian and handed Tania the menu, it was written in Russian of course. Tania raised her eyes to him with a mute but very clear question. ‘You choose and double it.’ Paul told her. ‘I’ll have just caviar, I’m on diet.’ She said with a cheerful laugh. ‘But go ahead tell me what you’d like to eat.’ ‘Oh, I’ll just have something to drink a double scotch or…’ ‘Let’s have champagne instead and celebrate our meeting.’ ‘Okay, it’s a good idea.’ He agreed and kept watching her. She’s sure I’m under her spell. No wonder, she’s a rare beauty and she’s the first one I didn’t reject. He thought somewhat worried, looking around him he noticed that the little group of musicians including the gypsy singer cleared the stage, and were not to be seen. A soft background music hardly audible reached his ears, some pianist played it in a far corner. Incredible, they’re taking pains not to disturb our ‘amorous chat.’ Paul kept thinking amused and worried at the same time. ‘Shall we draw an itinerary, your private itinerary, what would you like to see?’
She asked. The waiter has not returned yet, and Paul ignored her right forearm laid invitingly on the table at easy reach. She had to be cautious yet. ‘I was on my way to the Red Square, as for other sites well…’ ‘You’ll have to rely on me then.’ The waiter was back at their table unloading his platter, before Paul managed to answer her. Smiling politely to each one of them in his turn, the waiter pulled the champagne bottle from the ice bucket, released the cork with its cheerful pop noise, and poured its liquid into their glasses. Having put the bottle back in the bucket, he made a courteous small bow and left. ‘Well nazdrovie’ Tania declared raising her champagne tumbler. ‘So be it, nazdrovie’, Paul echoed after her, raised his own tumbler and clinked it with hers. Bottled tap water that’s what it is… He thought with scorn as he put down his tumbler on the table. Without wasting anymore time he pulled out his wallet laid before Tania’s dumbfounded eyes a one hundred ruble note on the table. ‘Sorry I’ve got to meet someone, I’ve almost forgotten.’ He told her rather briskly, got to his feet and left. At the wardrobe a few steps from Tania the attendant had trouble it seemed to find his coat. He could have a look at Tania’s pale face, if he would have turned back, but he did not. Nevertheless, he had to wait some five minutes till the attendant finished fumbling in frenzy, and came at last with his coat. They’re desperate it seems, they hope I’ll change my mind…It could have been real fun if I won’t have to pay dearly for it – they were sure no doubt that I’ve given in, they’ll be after my hide now… The husky at the entrance did not seem hostile or threatening to Paul, on the contrary he stared at him with a puzzled look as if he was wondering “He’d such a chance and he gave it up?” Once outside in the cold early afternoon, Paul felt much better. He did not bother to check surveillance, he knew they were behind and in front of him; two crews at least plus a car or two. He had a short minute of elation of having won the game, he did not succumb to temptation, to beastly urges, out of fear or self pity. It did encourage him a bit his small victory, but it was not over yet. His days in this hostile capital were numbered. He did not think they will bother to bump him off, he was not that important and he was ‘burned’ from the very beginning, he did not manage to harm any of their interests yet. It seems as if they were informed of my arrival long before I’ve boarded the plane that flew me here, though it’s just an assumption – a wild one. He brooded turning thoughts in his mind, as he was walking among the few pedestrians on the broad pavement. After some twenty minutes of a slow pace stroll, he reached the Red Square with the Kremlin towering far off at its end. In comparison to its huge dimensions, it could be termed as empty, he could see a few dots of individuals or specks of tiny groups here and there – the gaps were that broad, it made him smile with satisfaction; he was right they will have to stay behind – far behind. He went with a quick step up to the square’s heart, and turned around in every direction, a shade of a smile lingered on his face. Come on, get your binoculars, your telescopes, your electronic gadgets, you miserable devils! He almost shouted with delight. In other circumstance, in close range it would have been a stupid mistake, but they may conclude from that far range that I’m impressed by those rare sights. So I’d better recall where I’m and be rather cautious. He reminded himelf in a second thought. He roamed there a few more moments, got closer to the Kremlin wall, walked along it and watched the impressive towers; but as it grew darker under the clouded sky, Paul decided to return to his hoted – he had enough for one day. He noticed two of his pursuers as he left the square, they must have lost their patience – or have they suspected that he might meet someone under their noses… He had to bite his lower lip not to laugh in their faces. But just fifteen minutes later while he tried in vain to hail a cab, he was not hilarious anymore. The several empty cabs that passed him without stopping were a bad omen, he was left
with two options the underground or walk back. Take care my boy, open your eyes! He told himself with growing apprehension. They’re after your hide don’t you forget it. He went on thinking quite perturbed. He prefared to walk on the wide pavement, feeling much safer among the few pedestrians, than descend the bad lighted underground stairs and passages, and push his way in a dense crowd – where anyone could stab him with a syringe needle or some pointed and poisonous umbrella end. After he crossed several blocks and nothing happened, he relaxed a bit. Go straight ahead, he told himself. Don’t tie your shoe laces, don’t watch shops’ window panes to have a glimpse what’s behind you – no surveillance checking not even out of curiosity or out of habit – no tricks. When he reached the hotel at last, he went straight to the bar. He needed a drink badly. He hardly crossed the bar’s threshold when a waiter dropped his empty platter on the counter with a sharp noise. It resounded well all over the entire small hall. What a well timed welcome… Paul thought sardonically. If they didn’t bump me off outside I’m safe. I don’t think the bartender doesn’t know who I’m, they’re trying to get on my nerves. Some ordinary guests watched him with curiosity. He ordered a double scotch paid and went right afterward to the hotel’s restaurant, he was terribly hungry. What a sombre country, what fear ridden citizens… What do they know at Langley about the mentality, the fears of the average Russian, that perceives right away every move every sign without any clandastine training? Paul thought gloomily while having his supper. The moment that waiter gave the sign, almost everyone there watched me, all those who had nothing to do with it, but knew very well that I’m the current prey – what a ghoulish feeling it was…Why was I sent here? He went on thinking munching his food, hardly noticing what he was eating. Do they think those high and mighty back home, that I’ll work some miracle, form a net or get them a source or two – in this spider web country? Or is it a premeditated failure, in which I play the blind tool that can be disposed of – a sacrifice for someone’s egotistical ambitions…? With these gruesome thoughts Paul went up to his room. He did not feel like going out and mingle with some strangers in some bar or a night club, as he did almost every night before. He was exhausted mentally and physically. Back in his room he sat a short while before the TV screen, zapped the few foreign channels absent mindedly; tried the local ones to catch up a few more words in Russian in vain. He simply could not concentrate. The early meeting with Sam troubled him, while having met Tania or whatever her name is, later on, augmented his frustration. He did not make any foolish mistake and left her right in time, but he could not rid himself from a certain feeling, which he could not even define yet – the inkling of having missed a rare opportunity. As soon as he realized it he switched of the TV, and sat pondering over it. I wonder if I would have had the guts to leave her behind, get up and go if I would have met her again… He thought smiling, as if he admitted to himself his own weaknesses. But Tania is the last straw that broke the camel’s back… It’s Sam the herald of those who didn’t like my relation with Alicia, a waitress and a Puerto Rican on top of it… But that has nothing to do with that dubious mission of mine, there must be something else, something that must have been brewing a long time; and my relationship with Alicia have made me the appropriate and handy scapegoat. It was one of several possible explanations to this bizarre mission of his. The way he was summoned with such urgency, the haphazard briefing… All he had to do as he was told in a few words, was to spend sometime in this country, and wait till a certain agent would get in contact with him. Sure, I’ve been burned the moment I landed in this damn country, and if there’s such type that waits for the right time to get in touch with me, he’s lying low if he exists at all…There was talk on equipment and means, and I am supposed to persuade him to expand, to recruit some more hands and turn into a net, and here comes that operator of mine and tells me that he stinks…
With such thoughts and worries it is hard to find some self composure, and thus Paul did not fall asleep before two forty five am. Almost. He managed to have a last worried look on his wrist watch, a few seconds before his anxious brain gave in to the demands of his exhausted body. He woke up at about eleven am the next morning, he was not under any kind of pressure – there was nothing he could do except have breakfast, lunch, dinner and keep on waiting in vain; knowing there is not the slightest chance that any would be agent, spy or dissident would try to contact him. At about eleven thirty he was downstairs in the lobby on his way out. As he came out he realized that some drastic change has taken place, his pursuers changed tactics – it was open surveillance from now on, and there is just one meaning to it: “get the hell out, leave our country, or…” ‘Bless them all, foes and friends back home alike…’ Paul mumbled with impatience, meaning the opposite. I can’t leave without a confirmation to do it. Well it’s a nasty upgrade, but I shall have to live on with it… He thought a bit perturbed though. At the first pedestrian crossing he stopped, ignoring the one that walked about a yard before him and the second one that was just one step behind. People might think they’re my bodyguards. He thought amused while crossing the road. The poor devils must be mad at me, having waited since the early morning hours… Paul thought while having a late breakfast in the nearest restaurant. He sat over his black coffee with a drop of rum for quite a while, there was no need to rush or to leave and face his ‘bodyguards’ too soon. After having paid his bill he went to restroom and shut himself in one the cabinets. As he let the water gush out and opened up the door, two big men pushed inside rudely as if he did not exist. He had to squeeze himself out between their sturdy muscular bodies. They’re not after remnants of documents that I supposedly tried to get rid of, it’s simply part of the harsh treatment that I’ll have to live with from now on… He concluded gloomily as he went out. On the pavement before the restaurant he met Tania again. She did not smile this time. ‘You’d better leave!’ She said watching him with a stern gaze. ‘That’s an advice from someone that likes you.’ She added and off she went. Twenty four hours later Paul landed at about midnight in JFK airport, where Earl a colored member of the department waited for him at the terminal’s entrance. It was the same type that usually met him when he returned home from a certain mission. He looked just like one of the airport’s porters, he took Paul’s brief case and led him to a secluded ante room to wait for his luggage. During the previous few times that Paul met him, he was cheerful and chatty. He was much older than Paul, but friendly with a good sense of humor. They used to pass the twenty minutes or more chatting and joking, this time Paul sat opposite Earl’s bowed head. ‘Is anything wrong? You’ve got some bad news I guess…’ ‘Well if you’ve already guessed I won’t keep it from you.’ Earl replied raising his head and facing Paul’s weary and worried features. ‘Your big and mighty boss is out, and there’s going to be a KGB style purge, just like in soviet Russia – you’re included in that mess.’ After a long and silent ride Earl dropped him near his Manhattan lodgings, and Paul thanked him and clambered upstairs to his apartment carrying his belongings. Once inside he switched on the lights, left his luggage near the front door and sat in his living to think things over. He had no intention to call his parents, his relatives or friends, nor the department – he had just one crucial thing on his mind. The next day Paul flew to Miami and took a cab from the airport straight to the ‘Mango tropical café’, hoping he’ll find her in mid work. She was not there but he did find out that she is supposed to be on tomorrow’s night shift. He booked a night in the nearest hotel and roamed about town to pass his time. At about four pm the next day he went over on foot. As he was getting near he saw
her serving a client in front of the entrance, on the pavement with her back to him. He went inside and sat next to one of the tables. She came back in saw him but went on, as if he was another client, a total stranger. A waiter which she surely sent came to his table. Paul pulled out his wallet and offered the waiter a one hundred dollar bill. ‘Tell her I must see her, just a few words…’ Paul added in Spanish nodding his head in her direction. He did not have to explain, they knew him well enough over there. He dated her during his three months stay in Miami, interrogating Cuban refugees – just before he flew to Moscow. Alicia moved to his table with a very resolute step, and a mien that worried him. She stood before Paul watching him with a pale face and tight lips. ‘I was sent on a mission that failed, I’ll be fired next week, and be a free man. It’s a sure thing, I won’t need to hide anything anymore from you.’ ‘What will you have sir?’ She asked with much effort and a heaving bosom. Merciful god, thank you, thank you… he thought exhilarated and mutterd relieved, ‘Anything, no matter whar, just anything.’
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.