Tag Archives: spies

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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221. Never trust a man without eyebrows

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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200. If a bar

If a bar counted me among its patrons, you could safely bet your house on three things.

One: the moonshine was cheap.

Two: sweaty jazz drowned out the barfly chatter.

And three: the girls were steaming hot.

 

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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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