Tag Archives: Cold War

238. You look thirsty, Pavel

“You look thirsty, Pavel. But as luck would have it I’ve had an exquisite – and expensive – Ardbeg smuggled in last week.”

Yakov had invited me over to his Budapest pad, overlooking the city from the east bank of the Donau. To ‘have a talk’.

“Tempting,” I said.

“Shall I?”

Yakov had already all but twisted the cork off.

“Don’t bother,” I replied. “I always bring my own.”

If Yakov’s eyes were alarm bells they’d be ringing now. Yet he did not say a word as my hand went into my pocket. He was too smart for that. He knew that if he let but slip a soupcon of anxiety, he’d no longer have the upper hand.

“Got more of those hidden pockets in that suit?” Yakov jested, pouring himself a 250 pound dram.

“A couple,” I bluffed, taking a sip from the small flask he had not found when he’d searched me five minutes ago.

“I know you’re onto me,” Yakov said.

So he did know.

“Have you been a naughty boy, Yakov?”

“Enough with the games, Pavel. Let’s get this out in the open. Nothing left to hide.”

He was calling my bluff.

“I’ve known for quite some time, yes. We all have.”

His golden ring tapped the tumbler.

“Define ‘some’ time.”

“1984.”

The tapping intensified. He was getting nervous. Unless it was a decoy. Somewhere in the room a gun was bound to be hidden.

“I take it you won’t be going quietly?” I asked.

Yakov shook his head.

“This has been a fun game of wits,” he replied. “These past ten years.”

I ducked the tumbler that suddenly came flying my way as we simultaneously reached for the gun taped under the salon table.

For one of us the witty days would soon be over.

 

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87. Anastasia twirled the cyanide pill

Anastasia twirled the cyanide pill. It kept on spinning for two minutes and never wavered more than half an inch from the middle of the table. A perfectly round red pill, was there a more elegant way to die in Moscow?

Anastasia hoped she didn’t have to take the cyanide. The temperature had crept up to minus seven. Spring was coming. Before long the buds in Gorky Park would be blossoming and her kids would once again be going on the Buran rides. Whether she’d be there beside them depended on who would walk through the door in the next five minutes. If it was Mischa, she’d live. Mikael, she’d die.

She had climbed the KGB ladder mostly on intuitive hunches. One day she knew she’d tumble down it again, much further down than she’d started. Today could be that day. The day she was exposed as a double-agent.

The front door squeaked. A pair of manly footsteps entered the hallway and started ascending the equally squeaky stairs. Anastasia had three floors to think on whether the danger had been worth it.

She’d done it for her kids in the first place. MI6 had promised them a house in the Lake District and a carefree life if she’d successfully complete the mission. That was eight years and five missions ago. There was no denying it. She loved her life as a spy. And by now the odds were stacked firmly against the Lake District ever happening.

The footsteps now took the form of a shadow peering from under the door, creeping closer, then going silent all together. There was a single knock.

“Come in!” Anastasia yelled.

The door flung open.

“Privet, Mischa.”

“Privet, Anastasia.”

His voice sounded more rugged than usual.

She bit, then swallowed.

 

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Did you enjoy this story? Then why not try the 101 stories in 300 words or less in YOU’RE GETTING SLEEPY, THE HYPNOTIST’S APPRENTICE YAWNED.

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71. Why not nuke Belgium?

Why not nuke Belgium?

Bouncing through the mind it seemed a preposterous proposition. But spoken aloud by the Chief of Staff at the height of the crisis there was some logic to it.

The war room debated the issue under duress. Armed warheads were flying across the Bering Strait as they were speaking, half of them towards the commies, the other half bound for the American mainland. Time to find a solution for the accidental stand-off was running out. And so the rank and file gave the option of Belgian annihilation due attention.

Would it persuade the Soviets to break off their counterattack? The answer, they all agreed on, would be a resounding yes. NATO had its headquarters in Brussels so the red party leader would be able to sell it as a great victory against the capitalist pigs.

But how would the West react? Would Belgium be considered an appropriate sacrifice for the American cock-up that had led to this conundrum? If we vaguely inform them of the circumstances the world will comprehend, the Secretary of State concluded. During international summits he had found that most of the world leaders didn’t even know Belgium existed. And those who did thought it was either part of France or found it to be an annoying little shithole. There would be some people’s protests, but they should be quelled by going to war with Vietnam, an operation that was in the pipeline anyway and this way would gain some much-needed legitimacy.

The President was the lone hold-out. He was an avid Tintin fan and feared the irreparable loss of cultural heritage. Then again, how much would be lost if both New York and Moscow were wiped out?

“Mister party leader,” he finally spoke into the red telephone. “I have a suggestion.”

 

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Did you enjoy this story? Then why not try the 101 stories in 300 words or less in YOU’RE GETTING SLEEPY, THE HYPNOTIST’S APPRENTICE YAWNED.

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