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Authors: Greg Dinallo

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To his horror, Andrew realized it was McKendrick’s blood seeping into the grass that had caused him to slip, and that now covered him. Shaken by the sheer volume of the spill, he grasped the bottom of McKendrick’s pants leg and ripped the seam to the hip.

Gorodin’s second shot had ricocheted off the thigh bone, nicked the femoral artery, and lodged in the mass of muscle and tissue directly behind it.

Andrew pressed his palm over the pulsing fountain that splattered him, temporarily stemming the flow. It was obvious McKendrick needed immediate paramedic attention. But, equally obvious, he would bleed to death while Andrew was summoning them. He quickly removed his belt, wrapped it around McKendrick’s thigh above the wound, and pulled it tight. The blood kept coming. He pulled tighter, and tighter still, and pushed the prong of the buckle through one of the holes in the leather to hold the pressure.

The flow subsided slightly. But the highly developed muscles of McKendrick’s thigh, which was the size of Andrew’s waist, were preventing the artery from compressing. It wasn’t nearly enough. At this rate, McKendrick would bleed to death in three minutes instead of two.

The thought of McKendrick dying with him right there, helpless to do anything, plunged Andrew into momentary panic. He fought off the sensation and forced himself to think. McKendrick’s left hand was underneath his torso. Andrew pulled it free, bent up the thumb, and jammed it into the bullet hole in his flesh like a cork.

The bleeding stopped.

But within seconds, Andrew could feel pressure building behind it. Lubricated with blood, McKendrick’s thumb would pop out soon after he left to seek help. Andrew forced it as far into the wound as it would go, held it there with his knee, and removed his belt from McKendrick’s thigh. He rebuckled it around both thigh and wrist, securing the makeshift plug.

Then, Andrew ran like hell to the stables where there was a phone.

* * * * * *

Chapter Eighteen

After the funeral, Melanie had taken long walks through the New Hampshire countryside trying to sort things out, trying to cope with the knowledge that someone other than her father was her father—a man without a name, a name she sought desperately.

She spent hours in the cottage looking for it; she searched the attic, every room and closet, and she rummaged through boxes, trunks, suitcases, and drawers.

There had to be something, she thought—another letter, or a note, or a document—something that would provide a clue to the man’s identity and help her find him. Indeed, her mother’s death had made Melanie all the more aware of her own age. She was barely, but undeniably, on the wrong side of forty—bored with her work, afraid of emotional involvement, confused by her lack of direction, and she hoped that a relationship with her real father, getting to know what he was like, might give her a better understanding of herself and, perhaps, might also help explain her unstable relationships with men.

But Melanie’s obsessive search, and the various memorabilia it had unearthed, only drained and frustrated her. The name wasn’t there to be found.

The only other link to the past was in plain sight in her mother’s bedroom. Melanie was standing in the doorway looking at the desk by the window, imagining Sarah—young, vivacious, “glad to be alive”—
sitting there writing the letter, when she saw the WWII photograph. She correctly assumed that the attractive man, possessively hugging her mother’s waist, was her real father, and she sat at the dresser studying his face. Her initial excitement gave way to a strange hesitancy. A few uneasy moments passed before she overcame it and stole a sideways glance at the mirror. Then, looking straight into it, she began comparing her face to his. Slowly, tentatively, she brought her hands to her forehead and ran the tips of her fingers over her expressively arched brows, across the bridge of her nose, down along the sides of it, then, tracing the upward cant of her eyes to the delicately emerging lines at the corners, moved out onto her pronounced cheekbones and into the hollows beyond, almost as if examining each feature to prove that what she saw in the picture, and in the mirror, was actually there. Indeed, the resemblance was strong and undeniable. The planes of her face were unquestionably his.

Though satisfying, the discovery only fueled her desire to know more, which made her angry. Angry at her mother. Angry that she hadn’t confided in her. Angry that she
couldn’t
! Angry at being denied the conversation that would have answered her questions. And finally, angry at herself on remembering the times her mother called wanting to chat, and she was too busy or uninterested and put her off; the times her mother urged her to come home for the weekend, and she had chosen to remain in the city. Maybe one of those times, she thought, maybe all of them, her mother had been searching for a way to utter that first sentence, after which the dam would have burst, and the rest would have come in a flood of unshared memories.

Melanie stared at her face in the stained mirror, watching her anger turn to regret. She removed the photograph from the frame and put it in her purse, along with the letter and envelope.

She spent the rest of the weekend in Dunbarton and, on Monday, took the afternoon train to Penn Station. It was 10:47
P.M.
when she got out of a cab in front of her building on Gramercy Park in New York City. The glow of streetlights crept around the edges of the trees, and sent shadows from the cast-iron fence stretching across the pavement. A cold, blustery wind was blowing, as it was the morning she left, and she found the continuity reassuring. She put a hip into the taxi’s door to close it, and hurried toward her apartment, still coping with the emotional upheaval caused by her mother’s death and incredible letter.

She was physically and emotionally exhausted when she entered her loft. The air had a chill, and the windows were rattling in their frames. She flipped on the lights, dropped her suitcase to the floor, and locked
the two deadbolts, affixing the safety chain automatically. The circular stair to the sleeping balcony seemed endless. She tossed her down-filled coat on the bed, kicked off her boots, and crossed toward the bathroom to shower.

The blinking red light on the answering machine, which indicated there were messages, caught her eye.

She stepped to the phone in her dancer’s duckwalk, rewound the tape, depressed the play button, and turned back toward the bathroom.

Her mother’s voice stopped her in her tracks like a gunshot. “Hello, hon, it’s me,” Sarah said from the answering machine in her feeble rasp. “I’m not feeling real well tonight. Actually, I’m feeling awful.”

Melanie was stunned. A chill ran through her, and for the briefest instant she reacted as if her mother were still alive, making a mental note to return the call. Then she realized that the morning the doctor called, she left for New Hampshire without checking messages from the previous night; the night she had spent with Tim? Tom? Whomever.

“I’m leaving you a letter honey,” Sarah’s voice went on. “You’ll be shocked when you read it. I apologize, and I hope you’ll forgive me.” The words came in hurried phrases separated by Sarah’s labored breathing. “Something else you should know,” she resumed. “Something that’s not in the letter. It won’t mean much to you now, but it will after you read it. There’s a lot more I want to say, but I’m very tired, Mel. So, just remember the name Deschin—Aleksei Deschin.” She repeated it, then spelled it out, adding, “And always remember I love you. Bye.”

Melanie’s heart pounded in her chest—pounded so hard she could hear it. She buzzed with elation. Then she thought to herself,
I
love you, too, Mother.

* * * * * *

Chapter Nineteen

More than a week had passed.

In Geneva, Switzerland, U.S. Disarmament Negotiator Philip Keating and his staff had taken up residence at Maison de Saussure, just off Route de Lausanne on Lake Geneva. The eighteenth-century mansion was designed by French architect Francoise Blondel who, in the early seventeen hundreds, designed the ancillary buildings of Versailles. The magnificent estate was a short drive from the United Nations Palace in Ariana Park in the north end of the city where the talks would be held.

Keating checked in twice daily with President Hilliard—the question of the Soviet
Heron
missile still unresolved.

Most of the fifteen NATO representatives, Gisela Pomerantz among them, and their retinues had arrived.

An international pool of media correspondents had followed. They were headquartered just off Avenue De Ferney in the International Conference Center, from where official briefings would be issued.

Soviet Negotiator Mikhail Pykonen had arrived from Moscow fresh from a meeting with Premier Kaparov and Minister of Culture Aleksei Deschin. Pykonen was secure in the knowledge that Theodor Churcher’s threat to inform the Americans about SLOW BURN, the secret missile base, had been thwarted. And he was fully confident of leaving Geneva with a world-dominating, first strike nuclear advantage for his country.

The week had been filled with formal dinners, inaugural ceremonies, and an official meeting of the two superpower negotiators.

The trading off of nuclear hardware, the bargaining of warhead for warhead, the retreat from Armageddon, or so Phil Keating thought, was about to begin.

* * * * * *

Six days ago, after the meeting in the Oval Office during which the President had caught him unprepared on the status of the Soviet
Heron
missile, Jake Boulton had gone directly to Langley. His hide was still smarting from the President’s lashing when he met with his DDO and DDI and other top members of his staff in the French Room, his private conference area, and did some lashing of his own. Soon after he had finished, the agency issued a KIQ directive which when decoded read:

Z152726ZFEB

TOP SECRET KUBARK

FR: DCI

TO: CONCERNED AGENCIES

INFO: KIQ FLASH PRIORITY

STATUE SOVIET SS16-A MISSILE SYSTEM CODE-NAMED HERON

UNRESOLVED. IMPERATIVE GENERATE HARD EVIDENCE SYSTEM DEPLOYED OR SCRAPED. DEPLOYMENT ASSUMES

SEAGOING BASE. REPORT ANY SUSPECT SOVIET NAVAL ACTIVITY, RELATED SHIP MOVEMENT, OR UNEXPLAINED

OCEANOGRAPHIC PHENOMENA LANGLEY IMMED. PERTINENCE

AT DISCRETION OF DCI NOT INVESTIGATOR.

* * * * * *

In Pensacola, Florida, Navy Lieutenant Jon Lowell, along with all other ASW personnel with top secret security clearances, had signed off on the KIQ directive within twelve hours of it being issued. But none had any reason to think it significant.

Lowell spent his off-duty hours in K building’s TSZ organizing a data search for the tanker he had spotted on the sat-pix. The one that always appeared in Cienfuegos harbor a week after he and Arnsbarger tracked the Soviet Foxtrot in their Viking.

From the photos, Lowell established at what hour the ship had arrived
in port, then worked backwards to determine approximately when it had sailed through the network of hydrophones ringing the Soviet Naval Base. This narrowed the search to eleven hydrophone tapes that covered the one-hour-forty-eight-minute window he had established.

Now he faced the task of determining which of the many acoustic signatures on the tapes was the target ship. He had no idea that the one he was after belonged to a tanker of Liberian registry named—the
Kira
.

* * * * * *

In New York City, there was not a single Deschin, Aleksei or otherwise, listed in the massive telephone directory which was the first place Melanie Winslow had gone after hearing her mother’s voice on the answering machine.

She took the rest of the week off, and spent the time on the telephone and in the library.

In the Genealogy Department at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street she learned that the name
Deschin
probably had Eastern European roots. And that it was most likely an amalgamation of two other names which might have been “Desznev” and “Chinova.”

Her numerous calls to the Pentagon in search of information about a World War II special operative in Italy, code-named
Gillette Blue
, were met with paranoid evasiveness, bureaucratic buck-passing, and wisecracks. Even the name Aleksei Deschin elicited uncomprehending silences. Indeed, there are ninety members on the Soviet Council of Ministers and four hundred on the Central Committee. Their names are not the sort of information Pentagon clerks assigned to WWII archives commit to memory. Nor from the information Melanie supplied did the clerks have any reason to connect the name to the Soviet Union, or the upper echelons of its government. Indeed, as one said, “I’d love to help you lady, but for all I know Aleksei Deschin’s jockeying a cab in Newark.”

Driven by an inborn human force, an unquenchable need to know herself, to know those people who had given her life, the need that has seen fortunes and lifetimes spent searching, Melanie became determined to find her real father if at all possible.

Her only solid lead—that Aleksei Deschin had attended the University of Rome prior to the war—came from her mother’s letter.

It had been years since she had taken a vacation, and almost five since she had lived in Paris with the French journalist who had been her second husband. Obtaining a month’s leave from the dance company,
she fetched her passport from a safety deposit box, turned a chunk of her savings into traveler’s checks, and started packing.

* * * * * *

In Glen Cove, New York, a seaside community on Long Island’s North Shore about twenty-five miles east of Manhattan, Valery Gorodin had spent the week at the Soviet estate on Dosoris Lane.

The forty-nine-room Georgian-style mansion sits on thirty-six heavily treed and fenced acres. Built in 1912 by George Pratt—son of the founder of Pratt Institute, the world-famous art school—“Killenworth” was purchased in 1948 by the Soviets as a weekend retreat for their United Nations personnel.

But located dead center between the commercial and financial centers of Manhattan and the aerospace defense industries on Long Island, Killenworth quickly became a prime Soviet COMINT installation. The acronym stands for communications intelligence, and the space beneath the mansion’s slate roof that once quartered servants now concealed electronic surveillance gear and personnel dedicated to intercepting the high volume of sensitive, and often top secret, transmissions that traverse the corridor.

Upon arrival, Gorodin gave the package of
Kira
drawings to a waiting courier for immediate transfer via diplomatic pouch to Deschin in Moscow. Debriefing sessions followed, after which Gorodin swam and played
gorodky
, a popular Soviet club sport which colleagues teased bore his name. Many offered congratulations on his success in Houston. Nevertheless, between sets of gorodky, one GRU colleague who had been involved in the debriefing probed at a nerve he had sensed was exposed.

“Dangerous to leave a live witness, Valery,” he remarked.

“It was dark. They were struggling,” Gorodin replied nonchalantly, repeating the litany he had recited earlier. “I couldn’t get a clear shot.”

“Never known you to do that before,” the fellow said. He turned from Gorodin before he could reply, and began positioning the gorodkys—wooden cylinders the size of bowling pins—within a white outlined square. The object of the game is to clear the square of cylinders with a single throw of the
bita
, a striped stick the length of a cane. The colleague finished, handed the bita to Gorodin, and nodded challengingly.

Gorodin saw that the cylinders stood in a nearly impossible pattern. He sensed he had to clear them with one throw to end discussion of leaving a live witness. The throw-line was thirty feet from the “city,” as the square is called. He positioned his toe against it, reared back, and hurled the bita toward the cylinders.

It whistled through the air like a boomerang, the stripes blurring in concentric rings, and slammed into the three cylinders on the left. Then it kicked across clearing the center and headed for the wall beyond, leaving one standing. But, as Gorodin had intended, his throw had such force, the striped bita ricocheted off the wall and came back through the city, taking out the last cylinder with a loud thwack.

He swung a victorious steely-eyed look to his colleague. Despite the run-in with McKendrick which blemished the purity of it, Gorodin immensely enjoyed operating in the field again. He was eager for more, and wanted to remove any suspicion that he was unfit.

His evenings had been spent with young Russian women who staff Soviet installations around the world for such purposes. The Kremlin’s spymasters encouraged these liaisons to eliminate incidental social contacts. This lessened the chance that an agent might fall into a honey trap—a sexual relationship set by a rival intelligence group which then blackmails the target to do its bidding.

Gorodin found the State-supplied trysts to be sexually extreme, and satisfying. But they left him emotionally empty.

While at Killenworth, he speculated he would be posted to Moscow or perhaps his home city of Kazan, approximately eight hundred kilometers east of the capital on the Volga. He was pleasantly surprised by the nature of his next assignment. He’d never been to Rome, and looked forward to using his Italian.

* * * * * *

In a Quonset hut in southeastern Louisiana, Theodor Churcher lay on his back in the dark. He had no idea where he was. For a moment, he thought he was dead. But the pain that wracked his body insisted otherwise. The fingers of his left hand tingled and itched incessantly, but he had no left hand. He stared panic-stricken at the bandaged stump, trying to reconcile the discrepancy, and prayed what he saw was part of an enduring nightmare.

Doctor Phan and Dinh’s family observed Churcher’s survival with trepidation, concerned he might make trouble for them upon recovering.

But even in his weakened state, once Churcher’s mind started working again, it started calculating, and he quickly dispelled their fears. He was pleased the authorities hadn’t been notified. The world, and more importantly the Russians, thought he was dead, and he’d keep it that way for now.

“You keep my secret,” Churcher said to Dinh, “and I’ll keep yours—under one condition. Soon as I’m well enough to leave here, I want you to go to Houston and fetch somebody for me.”

* * * * * *

In Houston, Ed McKendrick had been barely alive when the paramedics arrived at the Churcher estate that night. But they had started pumping plasma into him immediately, and six hours of surgery later, his heart was still beating powerfully and his brain waves were peaking evenly; he had survived.

He had spent most of the time in intensive care at the city’s renowned Medical Center.

Andrew had been to see him a number of times, but today was the first day McKendrick felt strong enough to carry on a conversation of any duration. He was staring blankly at the television over his bed when Andrew entered.

“Hey, Drew,” he said, brightening. His face was bruised, fist encased in plaster, shoulder and thigh heavily bandaged; an IV stabbed into his forearm.

“Come to stick your thumb up my ass again?”

“That was
your
thumb,” Andrew replied. “You’re too big an asshole for mine.”

McKendrick laughed heartily.

Andrew was pleased that McKendrick was his raunchy self again.

“They’re torturing me, son,” he rumbled, gesturing to the TV. “That thing’s on twenty-four-hours-a-day. Christ, I’ve been sentenced to death by Phil Donahue.” McKendrick took the remote control and clicked off the television. “Thanks, kid,” he said, suddenly stone-faced serious. “Thanks a lot for what you did.”

Andrew nodded, and smiled self-consciously. Compliments and expressions of gratitude always embarrassed him. He never knew how to respond.

“I’ve been watching the boob tube all week,” McKendrick said. “Nothing new on your old man.”

Andrew nodded. “Coughlan called the other night,” Andrew said. “He told me some debris from the chopper had washed up east of Gal-veston. The FAA’s running tests. It sounds like it busted up pretty good. He had nothing new on my father either.”

Andrew’s eyes saddened and fell, momentarily.

“Bastards got away with the package,” McKendrick said, purposely breaking the silence.

Andrew nodded grimly, and said, “I looked for it.”

“But you didn’t—” McKendrick prompted, letting it die out when he saw Andrew understood.

“Not a word to anyone,” Andrew replied crisply. “If I’d found it, I would’ve sent it to Boulton.”

“Way to go,” McKendrick said.

“I told Coughlan the truth—we came back to the estate, spotted intruders on the grounds, and idiots that we were, we chased them,” Andrew explained. “I didn’t mention the museum. Couldn’t. I didn’t know about the break-in until I went looking for the package. Nobody’s been down there since that night but me.”

McKendrick pursed his lips, impressed. “Got it figured out yet?” he asked, teasing.

“Partly,” Andrew replied.

His tone left no doubt he was serious. McKendrick’s brows raised in curiosity. He inclined his head toward the door. Andrew reached back and closed it quietly.

“Talk to me,” McKendrick said.

“Well, I spent some time poking around the museum,” Andrew began. “Sure are a hell of a lot of paintings down there. The rest of the world thinks about half of them are in Russian museums,” he added suspiciously.

“No shit?” McKendrick snorted, intrigued.

“Yeah. Gauguin’s ‘Are You Jealous?’ was the tip-off,” he said. “It’s a beaut. Strong patterns, bright colors, two Tahitian girls, naked of course. Your kind of stuff. I saw it at the Pushkin when I was in Moscow with my father. A few hours of research in our library is all it took to confirm the rest were from there or the Hermitage. Any idea how he got hold of them?”

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