July 5, 1991
HE HAD HOPED to stand and face his executioner.
Konstantin Agapov nearly made a quick feint to the left, hoping speed and surprise would at least rid him of the cold, round, steel barrel of the silenced Makarov 9mm PB pressing against his sweaty bald head. If he was going to die at the hands of The Wolf, he wanted to do it like a man, face to face. Agapov was not a foolish man, but dire circumstance produced foolish thoughts.
He felt sickeningly foolish, standing at his own kitchen table in his own apartment, writing a letter his killer had dictated to him while holding a gun to his head. He felt foolish for never believing his government would send someone to “analyze” recently “obtained” American intelligence data concerning ships’ movements and strategic plans for the American Navy’s Pacific Fleet – data he had gathered himself, thanks to his cooperative network of Americans, especially a certain Navy communications officer on an admiral’s staff in Japan.
Everything had been going so well for so long that the unraveling went unnoticed. He enjoyed his anonymous life in this place called Gaithersburg, Maryland, a suburb of America’s capital city. He especially enjoyed his job at the National Institute of Health. Thin and stooped and more cerebral than cunning, educated as a biologist, his cover fit his intellectual mind so well he often thought of himself as the perfect American. That he had managed to survive the Americans’ background checks was not surprising, once he understood the nature of the American government bureaucracy.
Why he expected everything to keep on as normal with a revolution stirring in Moscow made him curse his mental flaccidity, his own easing into an American lifestyle that he should have guarded against. Now he was paying for such sloth. At one time his mild manners hid a feral instinct for survival. He should have known the state security apparatus would never be ambitious enough to want to review what he had done in America.
He should have known that only a man like The Wolf, a brigand and a renegade, would have been able to penetrate the idiotic Soviet intelligence community to the point where he could manufacture secret communiques, or slip into Washington, D.C., unnoticed, or sneak into his own home and press a gun to his head.
“Are you sure you have it all?” The Wolf asked, casually but firmly, watching Agapov complete the handwritten note he had been dictating.
“Yes, just as you said.”
The Wolf peered over the man’s shoulder, reading the note for himself. He had memorized the code the man was using. From his vantage point, standing over Agapov’s shoulder, peering down, firmly pressing the silencer to Agapov’s head, The Wolf carefully read the note through one last time, then said, “All right. Seal it and address the envelope as you normally would.”
Calming himself, waiting for his hands to steady, Agapov took a deep breath and asked, “No different than any other time?”
Agapov wrote the return address first, in the American custom, in the upper left-hand corner. Then in the center of the envelope he wrote
CWO4 Daryl Bennett, USN
Commander, Seventh Fleet
USS Blue Ridge LCC-19
FPO Seattle 96628
“That’s it,” Agapov replied.
“What is this Seattle?”
Agapov felt the gun press harder.
“It’s the Americans. They send their Navy mail to Seattle before sending it to Japan,” Agapov calmly explained despite the sweat rising from forehead. “I swear. FPO means Fleet Post Office. The letter will get to Tokyo. I swear.”
Agapov had been proud of his brainstorm, using this sailor’s regular navy address to send his coded messages. The Wolf reluctantly admired it, too. It was brilliant in its simplicity. Right under the Americans’ noses, every time. Not that there were many messages. This Bennett person knew what Agapov wanted and sent the material to him the same way, in duplicate, in case one parcel got lost. Regular mail, from a ship in the Pacific to Maryland USA.
“You always were a brilliant fuck,” The Wolf said, picking up the letter and tucking it into his shirt pocket.
“You’re going to need a stamp,” Agapov said, his logical mind still hoping to prolong the inevitable.
“You’re going to need more than a stamp,” The Wolf replied, walking around Agapov, the gun always an inch from Agapov’s head. Agapov wasn’t watching his assassin but the barrel of the silencer. A bullet from the Makarov smashed the bone above his right eye and traveled through his brain, exited, and lodged itself into a sofa ten feet away. The Wolf stood motionless as he watched Agapov collapse, his blood splattering inches from his clothes.
The Wolf enjoyed executing a worthless bureaucrat in the worthless espionage apparatus of a worthless politburo cracking apart. He was glad to be on the outside, watching the bureaucracy crumble, the nation falling apart, the traitor Gorbachev too stupid to acknowledge the forces he had unleashed.
Yes, The Wolf was glad to be on the outside, with his own regime. He could watch fools like Gorbachev and Yeltsin and know he had real power, real influence. But he needed the intelligence the traitorous American naval officer had been providing the Kremlin all these years. It had been somewhat difficult to find the traitor’s handler. But he had. That it was Agapov was a small, sweet bonus.
The Wolf retrieved the slug that had passed through the bookish little man’s head and lodged into the decadent plush leather sofa. He picked up the spent shell casing while avoiding the brain and blood and bone and quietly left the small apartment, stopping only to tug his wallet from his jacket pocket to make sure he did indeed have an American stamp for the letter to the traitor Bennett.
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