Never trust a man without eyebrows, our man in the Crimea told me. During the Cold War, Gherakim Poliakov had been our eyes and ears on the Black Sea Fleet and in the 25 crazy years since, he had kept on monitoring the ever changing jostle for power over the peninsula.
I had set the meeting in a charming Sebastopol café to discuss the disappearance of Kateryna Komarova, a low-level European envoy, whom MI-6 couldn’t care less about were it not for the highly confidential papers in her briefcase. Word on the street was that the Russian PM was very keen on them.
But Poliakov was sure the Russians weren’t to blame this time. He suspected the Ukrainian government and its browless president, as intent on the papers as the Russians and equally skilled in double plays. They’d blame the disappearance on Mother Russia and ‘save’ the envoy from her nefarious clutches. The Europeans would be so grateful, they’d side with Ukraine when the inevitable Crimean vote for independence would happen.
The way he laid out his double-crossing theory, it was like listening to war stories on your grandfather’s lap. You might not always get the intricate history behind each delicate detail, but you were swept up in the scope of the tale.
As he shook my hand Poliakov pulled me closer.
“Tell MI-6 I got this. No need to worry.”
The odour of cheap horilka was momentarily surpassed by that of freshly applied glue, as I noticed that one of his brushy brows was no longer firmly affixed.
For me the truth was in the eye, not in the brow. But in this case the outcome was the same.
The FSB had turned another spy with dirty oligarch money.
And Kateryna Komarova was in all likelihood already dead.
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