Authors: Greg Dinallo
“Where’d you get it?” he asked as he swung the Zhiguli into the busy square.
“Intourist, where else?” She replied smugly.
“What happens if the police check it out?”
“Nothing,” she replied suddenly serious.
“You really got it from Intourist, didn’t you?” he said, realizing she meant it.
She nodded, her face coming alive with delight. “Bureaucracies,” she said. “Somehow the copy to be filed with KGB has been—misplaced.”
“I won’t ask,” he said grinning.
The Zhiguli exited the parking lot, passing within twenty feet of Gorodin who was now watching from inside the gray panel truck that had parked across the street.
Raina pointed to the Yaroslavl Railway Station on the left side of Komosomol Square. “Pull in there,” she said. “You’re a friend dropping me at the train.”
Andrew angled toward the center lane, and pulled into a designated passenger unloading zone.
“Good luck,” Raina said. “Say hello to Mordechai for me.” She smiled, then got out and walked off in her long, confident stride.
Andrew watched her until she had disappeared into the crowds pouring into the station, then drove off.
The gray panel truck waited until the Zhiguli was moving into traffic, then followed.
* * * * * *
Melanie was sitting at a table in a little café in the Moskva Hotel, just off the park. Andrew’s departure had left her feeling blue. The cafeteria was crowded and lively, and being around people bolstered her. The Turkish coffee was strong and bracing; the
with honey and sugar were vaguely reminiscent of crepes, but much heavier, and she didn’t finish them.
Pasha had another glass of juice.
Melanie headed back through the park, thinking about how she would
spend the day, and made her way alongside the Historical Museum into Red Square.
The domes atop the patterned turrets of St. Basil’s Cathedral sent pointed shadows across the cobblestones toward her. A solemn queue of Muscovites started at Lenin’s Tomb and snaked the length of the Square to the east corner of the Kremlin Wall. The two uniformed sentries posted at the entrance had been joined by a contingent of Red Guard soldiers. The flinty-eyed, pale-skinned young men were stationed at intervals along barricades that paralleled the queue.
One of the stocky babushkas sweeping the cobblestones saw Melanie taking it all in. “Tourist?” she asked in a heavy accent.
“Yes, I’m an American,” Melanie said, not knowing what to expect.
“Ah, I saw you looking,” she said. “It is always a sad day when a Premier dies.”
“Oh—I didn’t know,” Melanie replied. “What’s going on over there?” She pointed to a cluster of VIP Chaikas next to the mausoleum that were ringed by a second contingent of Red Army sentries.
“Those are the Politburo’s cars,” the old woman said proudly. “They are paying their respects today.”
“The Politburo is in there right now?” Melanie asked, suddenly coming alive.
The woman found Melanie’s enthusiasm amusing, and broke into a gap-toothed smile. “Politburo, yes.”
“All the ministers are in there?”
“Yes. It is traditional. They comfort the Premier’s family from the noon hour to three.”
“So, if I got in line I could see them.”
“Yes. That’s what they’re all doing,” she said. “We mourn our beloved Dmitrievitch, but we queue to see the Politburo. On May Day they are but specks high above Lenin’s Tomb. Today they’ll be as close as he.” She inclined her head toward one of the Red Army guards who was standing nearby.
“Thanks,” Melanie replied brightly. She hurried off past the line of mourners, turned the corner, and stopped suddenly. The queue extended along the Kremlin Wall as far as she could see.
* * * * * *
The Moscow-Leningrad Highway is a two-lane blacktop that stretches 391 miles between Russia’s major cities. Andrew drove the Zhiguli onto the flat plains north of Moscow that fell into rolling valleys, then across the stilted causeway that spans the Volga, past endless miles of stunted flax, and through the dozens of drab towns that dotted the route—all
beneath the vigilant eyes of the state police, whose intimidating observation posts cropped up at precise thirty-mile intervals.
Andrew had made swift progress through the gamut of checkpoints where his passport and the documents Raina had provided received routine inspection. It was mid-afternoon when the Zhiguli left the low stucco buildings of Novogorod behind. Leningrad was seventy-five easy miles north. Andrew was thinking he’d be there before dark when he saw State Police Headquarters looming atop a rise up ahead. Dozens of garish yellow cars slashed with broad blue stripes were lined up outside the sprawling complex.
Andrew slowed as he approached a line of concrete-block-and-glass kiosks that paraded across the highway.
One of the jackbooted policemen manning the checkpoint waved his billy club, gesturing he pull over.
Andrew parked in the designated inspection lane, where other policemen leaned to the windows of vehicles, questioning the drivers.
The policeman’s dark blue greatcoat flowed behind him like a cape as he strutted toward the Zhiguli. He glowered at Andrew through the window, prompting him to lower it faster.
“Gdye vi vadeet mashinoo?”
“I’m going to Leningrad,” Andrew replied, realizing this was perhaps the tenth time he’d been stopped, and the tenth time a policeman asked exactly that question in exactly that tone, without a hello, or greeting of any kind. They were robots, he thought, knowing the next question would be in English, and would be—
“I’m a tourist.”
“Passport, driver’s license, and Intourist travel plan,” the policeman said. He noticed Andrew had the documents ready, and snatched them from his hand. He examined each methodically, more than did previous inspectors, Andrew noted. Then retaining them, the policeman circled the Zhiguli, sweeping his eyes over it, pausing briefly to study the license plate.
“This isn’t an Intourist car,” he said in an incriminating tone as he returned to Andrew.
“Yes, I know,” Andrew replied, trying to conceal his nervousness. “A friend loaned it to me. I have the ownership papers here.”
The policeman gave them a cursory inspection, and nodded, satisfied. “Do you know how far Leningrad is from Moscow?” he asked.
“Yes, about four hundred miles.”
“Six hundred and twenty-four kilometers.”
“Okay,” Andrew said, mollifying him.
“It is illegal for a tourist to drive more than five hundred kilometers in a single day,” the policeman noted pointedly.
“It is?” Andrew replied surprised, his mind quickly calculating. He’d already exceeded the limit—not by very much—but he had exceeded it.
“You’re not aware of this law?”
“No, no, I’m not, really.”
“Intourist Travel Service didn’t inform you of it when you picked up your itinerary?”
“No, they didn’t,” he said, concerned he would say something that would reveal he’d never been there.
“Here, as in your country, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. Get out of the car, please.”
Andrew was tempted to argue, but did as ordered.
The gray panel truck was approaching in the distance as the policeman led him inside the main building. He ushered Andrew to a win-dowless room—ten feet square, unpainted concrete block, a single chair, small table, and mirror—and left him there.
A few moments later, a large woman wearing a red arm band entered. She had short-cropped hair, a pig-eyed countenance, and stocky, hard-packed torso that strained the belts that girdled her black uniform.
Andrew took note of her abundant facial hair.
I’m going to the mat with an Olympic shot-putter,
“Do you have any drugs?” she asked suddenly, in a Kissinger-like rumble.
“No,” Andrew replied, annoyed with himself that she’d caught him off guard, and he sounded defensive.
“Of course not.”
She studied him for a moment, then dumped the contents of his shoulder bag onto the table, and sifted through them. She picked up his wallet and began peeking into the various pockets.
Andrew’s heart raced as she removed an assortment of receipts. The typed page that contained Stvinov’s name and address was concealed among them—just another piece of paper among many, he had reasoned. Now, it was literally in the hands of the enemy.
The policewoman paused, scrutinizing some of the receipts, but to Andrew’s relief she shuffled past the folded page, and returned the receipts to his wallet. “So, no gun,” she said with a disarming smile as she scooped everything back into the bag. “Don’t you believe your
government’s stories about the evil Soviet empire? Aren’t you afraid?” she asked, sounding as if she didn’t believe them either.
“No,” he replied, thinking her self-deprecating tone meant he was off the hook, and started to relax. “I find people here are very helpful and friendly.”
“Good. Remove your clothes,” she ordered.
He almost gulped out loud. “Pardon me?” he asked, his voice cracking. “I mean is that really—”
“Take them off,” she interrupted. She folded her arms and watched, like a stolid Buddha, until Andrew was standing in front of her barefoot, in his shorts.
She gestured brusquely that he was to remove them.
Andrew winced, stepped out of the shorts gingerly, and stood with his hands folded in front of him, feeling degraded and vulnerable as she intended.
“Turn, and spread your legs,” she said sharply.
Andrew shuffled his feet on the cold floor and separated them apprehensively. He was looking directly into the mirror now, and the humiliated face that stared back confirmed what he was feeling.
“More,” she said, slapping the inside of his legs until Andrew responded. Then she bent, and reached up between his thighs and grabbed his scrotum, handling it roughly as if looking for something concealed inside.
Andrew flinched at the squeek and snap of surgical rubber behind him, and hesitated. His heart pounded in his chest. “Look, I don’t know what you think I—”
“Bend!” she shouted. She grabbed the back of his neck and forced him to bend at the waist, then crouched behind him. She grasped his buttocks with her thick fingers, and spread them wide, hard, hurting him.
“You have drugs?”
“No. I told you before that I—” he yelped as she stabbed a gloved forefinger up inside him.
In the adjacent room, Gorodin turned away from the one-way mirror. “You think he’s convinced?” he asked the policeman who had flagged Andrew down.
“I can’t imagine he’ll think he’s having too easy a time of it after that,” the policeman snickered.
“If he does,” Gorodin said slyly, “I’m sure the notion will be dispelled by morning.” He glanced back to the one-way mirror.
Andrew was dressing—in record time. When he finished, the pig-eyed policewoman grasped his arm tightly, led him from the room, and down a corridor lined with detention cells.
He wanted to protest that his rights were being violated, and demand to talk to someone at the U.S. Embassy; but he knew that would end his mission.
She opened one of the solid steel doors and shoved him through it. He stumbled forward into the cell, kept his balance, and turned to the door as it clanged shut, shouting, “Hey?! Hey, how long am I going to be in this—” He let the sentence trail off when he saw the other prisoner—a slight young man with matted hair, and pale, gaunt face—huddled in a corner, trying to keep warm.
His forehead and right cheek were badly bruised; he had a cut across the bridge of his prominent nose; and one of his eyeglass lenses had been shattered.
Andrew saw the fear in his eyes—then he felt his own.
* * * * * *
Lieutenant Jon Lowell stood at the
’s rail with the bottle of slivovitz, staring blankly into the dark sea, envisioning Arnsbarger drowning. The incident had traumatized Lowell, and he was frozen to the spot. The crewmen who had joined him on deck were shouting “Men overboard! Men overboard!” in Russian, and were dashing to life preservers and searchlights.
Rublyov arrived on the run, joining the group at the rail. “What has happened here?” he demanded.
Lowell stared at him blankly for a long moment, then held up the half-empty bottle, and blurted, “One of your men brought this to our cabin—wanted to share it. He and Arnsbarger got into it pretty good—got into politics—into an argument—I tried to stop them—shoved me aside—went outside to settle it. They went over just as I got here. I tried, I—” He groaned, and threw up his hands in frustration.
Though the story was a fabrication, the emotions were real, and Lowell knew they gave it veracity.
Rublyov nodded pensively, examining the bottle. He knew seamen kept their private stock concealed, which meant the only way Lowell could have acquired it was as he said. He glanced to the others solicitously.
“He was trying to help them back up when we got here,” one replied in Russian.
“They fell before we could do anything,” said another. The rest nodded in silent confirmation.
Lowell had no idea what they were saying. His eyes flicked between them apprehensively. He concealed his relief when Rublyov said, “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. These things happen.”
circled the area for more than an hour, her crew sweeping the powerful searchlights over the choppy waters.
Finally, Rublyov ordered, “Abandon search, resume course.”
“What do you mean?” Lowell replied. “They’ve got to be out there somewhere.” He protested because he thought it was expected. But all along he knew they wouldn’t be found. He knew Arnsbarger would never let that Russian seaman get to the surface to be rescued.
* * * * * *
Thirty-six hours had passed since the
contacted ASW Pensacola, and confirmed the
’s destination as the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the
USS Carl Vinson
, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, was in the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, 530 miles southwest of the sub’s position in the Yucatan Channel. Under ASW direction, the carrier changed course and steamed north toward the Gulf at thirty knots—more than ten knots faster than the
’s top speed—and was now 175 miles off the supertanker’s stern.
had maintained its heading for Gulf oil fields, and was 615 miles southwest of Pensacola, as expected—well out of range for land-based helicopter rendezvous, hence the need for carrier interface.
One of the
’s radar operators was tracking the
on the SPS-10/surface system. The other had the long-range SPS-48/air locked on to a U.S. Navy F-14A Tomcat. The Grumman swing wing fighter had taken off from Pensacola forty-seven minutes earlier, at exactly 5:00
and now was eighty miles starboard of the carrier, streaking through the darkness at 910 mph.
“Five-thirty to touchdown,” the flight officer announced.
DCI Jake Boulton throttled back the Tomcat’s twin turbofans. The computerized flight control system automatically adjusted the wing sweep to cruise mode. Boulton radioed the
, and got an immediate CTL from Primary Flight Control. He lowered the F-14A’s flaps, and minutes later he had the “meatball” in the center lens, and the nose on the line of blue chasers strobing in the darkness far below, and the Tomcat was in the groove. The screaming fighter came over the fantail at a steep angle, lights flaring in the mist, and slammed into the carrier’s deck at 140 mph. The tail hook caught the second arrester cable, and the
Tomcat jerked to a dead stop, 1.3 seconds after her wheels first ticked the rubber-streaked armor.
The air boss nodded, impressed. “Whoever’s on that stick knows his stuff.”
Only three people aboard the
knew the pilot’s identity, and why the carrier had been redeployed: the captain; the communications officer, who received the ASW directive with Langley’s cryptonym KUBARK; and, as the directive specified, the “best chopper pilot aboard.”
The time was 6:07
when Boulton popped the Tomcat’s canopy.
“Nice flying, sir,” the flight officer said.
“Thanks. Like to keep my hand in,” Boulton replied, snapping off a salute. He climbed down the ladder that the green-sweatered handling crew had just hooked onto the cockpit, and sprinted across the flight deck to a waiting helicopter.
The rotors of the Navy Sikorsky SH-3H
were already whirling as Boulton went up the steps. A crewman pulled the door closed after him. The
accelerated to a crisp
The twenty-thousand-pound chopper lifted her tail, then rose at a sideways angle into the first rays of daylight.
An hour and seventeen minutes later, the sun had crept over the horizon, and the
was starboard of the
, and closing fast.
“Target dead ahead, sir,” the pilot reported.
“Captain said you were his top gun,” Boulton said.
“Captain never lies, sir,” the pilot said, smiling.
“Let’s find out.”
The pilot put the
into a sweeping turn and came astern of the tanker, making his approach from behind and above the broad superstructure. This put the expanse of deck, and one-hundred-eighty degrees of unencumbered sky in front of the chopper should an abort be necessary. Then, hovering forward of the bridge, the pilot picked a spot on the cluttered deck and started the precarious descent.
One of the
’s crewmen ran toward the area. He guided the pilot between the hose booms that cantilevered above the deck, and made certain the landing gear avoided the array of pumps and fittings below.
Rublyov and Lowell stood below the bridge, watching. The latter had returned the borrowed clothing and was wearing his Navy flight suit now. The instant the
touched down, Lowell shook Rublyov’s hand, shouted a farewell over the
of the rotors, and dashed in a
crouch toward the chopper, carrying a duffel bag that contained Arnsbarger’s flight gear.
Rublyov winced as he watched Lowell go. He’d been up half the night searching for a way to keep the American from leaving the
The first officer suggested they simply throw him overboard; but the US Navy had already been notified that
men had been safely plucked from Gulf waters. Arnsbarger’s death would be a delicate enough matter to handle. Rublyov also considered charging Lowell with the murder of the Russian seaman, locking him in the
’s brig, and refusing to release him to American personnel when they arrived. But such action would firmly focus global attention on the
, threatening her mission, and if that happened, Rublyov faced the possibility of disgrace and disciplinary action. He decided letting Lowell go was the lesser of all evils, and took it.
Boulton swung a baffled look to Lowell as he climbed aboard. “Scenario indicated two men,” he said.
Lowell shook his head from side to side, grimly.
Boulton stared at him for a long moment, nodded to the pilot, and the chopper lifted off.
When airborne, Lowell briefed the DCI in detail on his discovery of the
missile and clean room in the
’s bow, the events that led to Arnsbarger’s death, and the tense, uncertain moments that followed. “I still can’t believe it, sir,” Lowell concluded. “We were home free. I should’ve ditched that damn slicker. Amsbarger’d be alive if I had. I blew it.”
“And he’d confirm that?” Boulton asked flatly already knowing the answer.
Lowell let out a long breath. “Probably not.”
Boulton put a compassionate hand on Lowell’s shoulder, and the two of them sat listening to the whomp of the chopper’s rotors for a long moment.
“Man’s a hero,” Boulton said finally.
“Candidate for a CMH—” Boulton went on, letting Lowell nod, before adding “—save for covert scenario.”
Lowell sensed Boulton’s thrust, now. “What
go on his record, sir?” he asked.
“What you and Captain Rublyov report.”
Lowell nodded thoughtfully. “The Captain’s already written his, sir. Did it all by the book. Covered his ass right away.” Lowell took a folded, pale green form out of a pocket in his flight suit. “International
Maritime Certificate of Death at Sea—Next of Kin Copy,” he said. He caught Boulton’s eye, and added, “It says Captain Arnsbarger died in a drunken brawl with a Russian seaman.”
The DCI nodded crisply.
Lowell’s eyes widened in protest.
“Your report must coincide, Lieutenant,” Boulton said pointedly. “Must. You understand?”
Lowell tightened his lips and nodded glumly.
* * * * * *
President Hilliard stood next to the window in the oval office reading a letter that was typed on Kremlin stationery and bore the chairman’s seal. It had been delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow following the official announcement of Kaparov’s death, and forwarded immediately by diplomatic courier to the White House.
The President finished reading, and handed it to Keating who was sitting on the edge of the desk. “You’re not going to like it,” he said.
The intercom buzzed.
Hilliard scooped up the phone. It was Boulton calling from the carrier in the Gulf.
“Jake?” he said, dropping into his desk chair.
“Morning,” the President echoed. “I don’t believe I heard the modifier I was hoping for—”
“Not applicable, sir,” Boulton replied grimly. He and Lowell were in a secure compartment adjacent to the
main communication’s room. “Reconnaissance confirms Heron missile aboard
,” the DCI went on.
“Damn—” Hilliard replied, taking a few seconds to digest it. “One?”
“Deployed for launch?”
“Negative. Missile in assembly, not launch, mode.
“There’s a Soviet missile base there and we missed it? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“Affirmative. Potential exists.”
“How? They take up baseball?!” Hilliard exploded.
“I don’t know sir.”
“Do they know that we know?”
“Negative. Cover was threatened but maintained.”
“Good. Now we need verification. Something solid that Phil can present in Geneva. And I don’t care what it takes to get it, Ferrets, SR-71s, clandestine recon, bribery, torture. Just get it fast.”
“Flash priority, sir.”
“Faster than that, Jake,” the President said sharply. “The Kremlin’s just turned up the heat.” He swiveled to Keating and held out a hand.
Keating put Deschin’s letter in it and made an expression to let the President know it concerned him.
“Give me a rundown on their minister of culture,” the President asked, turning back to the phone.
“Aleksei Deschin—Politburo member since 1973, very close to Ka-parpov, wields unusual power for non-strategic minister due to said relationship, war hero, educated in the West, shrewd, cunning, sharp as they come,” Boulton recited, adding, “Evaluation is first hand. Subject served as DCI’s key OSS/partisan contact in European Theater WWII.”
“You think he’s in line for the top job?”
“Negative. Per our evaluation, candidates are: Tikhonov, Dobrynin, and Yeletsev, who’s a long shot.”
“Tikhonov, now. Yeletsev later.”
“Then why the hell is
the one sending me cables urging that in memory of dear departed Dmitri, and out of respect for our mutual goal of disarmament, we accelerate the pace of the talks?!”
“Don’t know, sir. His involvement creates heightened suspicion of duplicity.”
“Great. This is very frustrating, Jake. The guy is pushing for an immediate blanket endorsement of the Pykonen Proposal. He’s giving me exactly what I want and I can’t take it because we don’t have a fix on this damned Heron. We can’t tread water forever, Jake.”
“Agreed. Experience suggests Kremlin will media-leak Deschin’s letter to create pressure.”
“The question is, how do I stall without appearing to be placing obstacles in the way of disarmament? Without losing what I want?! They’ve got
on the ‘qui vive,’ when it should be the other way around! I mean—” He noticed Keating signaling him and paused. “Hold on a sec? Phil’s waving at me like a matador.” He covered the phone and glanced to Keating. “Shoot.”
“I have an idea that’ll buy us some time.”
“Can’t entrap another spy, Phil,” the President warned. “We used that excuse last time. And we sure as hell can’t clean house at the U.N. again.”
Keating shook no. “None of the above, but I know it’ll work.”
“Hang onto it,” Hilliard replied brightening, and turned back to the phone. “Jake? We’ll carry the ball in Geneva. Nicaragua’s all yours. Oh—please convey my admiration and thanks to those two brave men.”
“To one, sir. Second was lost at sea. I’m sorry.”
The President sagged. “So am I, Jake,” he said solemnly. “Thanks.” He hung up, stood and looked out the window taking a moment to collect himself, then turned to Keating.
“I hope you have a brainstorm for me, Phil.”
“What am I bid for ‘
potential stumbling block to the smooth progression of the talks’?”
Hilliard brightened, sensing where he was headed. “The one with a slight German accent?”
Keating nodded and grinned.
* * * * * *