“Well, we’ve made some headway,” Doug Tama sighed as he finished winding the extension cord.
“Smoother than I expected,”
“You goin’ bowling tonight?” Tama asked.
“No, more house hunting.”
“Well, if you ever need a butler, let me know.”
“What’d ya think?”
Carol sighed. “I don’t know. It had some good points.” She snapped on her seat belt, and left her hands in her lap.
“That was nice.”
“And the dining room was a good size. You could have one of those tea parties in there, like you’re always spendin’ time at.”
“You mean the Lutheran women’s group? It would be nice. I can’t volunteer our trailer. And we’d be close too. Maybe I could drag you down there once in a while.
“Let’s not get into that again,”
“Oh, the bathrooms didn’t look too bad.”
“Well, neither of the bedrooms were very big, and three would be better…”
“For your folks”
“And yours. You know they’ll be coming.”
“Yah, but I figured a tent in the back yard.”
Carol flashed a sarcastic look, then turned away and stared out at the newly green grass in the front yard. “Your turn. Plusses and minuses.”
“Well, location’s good. Price is good. House is in okay shape. But I think the garage is too small. Backyard too. Not much room for your garden.”
“And no place for my fishin’ boat.”
“And still fit in a pool table.”
“At least you’d have something to do in the winter.”
“I got pretty good in the service. It’s fun. Relaxing.”
“As long as it’s not too expensive.”
Carol put the truck in gear. “I know. So we try again tomorrow.”
There it is. Vitaly spotted the round white barn up ahead as he drove along the country lane a mile east of Fairview Station. Beyond it came a small patch of woods and an intersection, and then he was in the open again, a field of freshly planted crops on one side of his brown Chevy, an empty pasture on the other. There were no buildings in sight. Slowing his car to a crawl, Vitaly stared up through the windshield. The power lines passed overhead, three of them, stacked one above the other. He glanced over into the meadow at the nearby tower, then tapped on the accelerator and coasted on to a grove of trees. There. A track extended into the woods.
Satisfied, Vitaly headed for the plant to begin his three to eleven shift. His work schedule was ideal, and the ground was drying out, with no rain in the forecast. May 10 was just two days away. It was a Saturday. Conditions would be perfect.
“My Dearest Love,
I hope you have not been worried about me because of the trip I took with Mama and Papa to Irpen. Everything is fine. I assume you know about the accident at the atomic power plant in Pripyat. We were not very close to it at all, and we left for home on the 29th, a few days after it happened. Since I have come back I have been to the doctor, and she says everything is just right. We are going to have a healthy baby! So do not be concerned.
Mama and Papa really enjoyed their visit. Do you remember Aunt Ivana? She wanted me to tell you . . . “
Vitaly read the letter twice more. It was wonderful to hear from Yelena herself -- to be told that all was well. Before destroying the night's work, he re-examined the rest of the message. Expecting his mission would be discussed, he had found there was only one sentence on the topic: “Instructions of May 3 still apply.” The brevity was a little odd, but his orders were clear. The plan would go through. And then someday, soon, he would return home to his wife and child.
The squad room of the FBI Field Office was bustling with activity as Friday wound down. Liz checked the clock on the far wall and began gathering up the files from
One of the other female agents walked by on her way out. “What you up to this weekend, Liz?”
“Oh, Stan and I are going out tonight and tomorrow. He's got the weekend off.”
“Tonight and tomorrow? Sounds serious,” her colleague said, smiling.
“It's fun,” Liz answered. Certainly it was the best relationship she'd had since
“I remember how it was before Josh and I got married,” the other agent said. “It gets better, too,” she added mischievously, before turning away.
Liz smiled to herself, thinking of the weekend ahead. She looked at the pile of records on her desk. Gde bi ti he bil ya nayou tebya, she said to herself. If you're in there, I'm going to find you. She picked up the files. Ne seychas. But not today.
The printer in the corner had ceased its chattering, and the night clerk tore off the printout and scanned the top. The dispatch was from the New York Field Office, and was addressed to Special Agent Elizabeth Rezhnitsky, CI Coordinator,
Part Three: The Event
Vitaly pushed up the glove and checked his watch in the harsh light of his unfinished basement. 12:35 a.m. It was now Saturday, May 10, 1996. He had been home from work about an hour, and used the small tank from the Center to fill seven balloons. There were just a few left, lying flat atop the old desk against the wall.
More and more in the proceeding days, Vitaly had come to understand the wisdom of his superiors. The accident at
Finished with another balloon, Vitaly added it to the shiny cluster pressed against the ceiling. In the corner, a rustling sound inside a pet carrier was followed by a cat's howl. He connected another balloon to the tank. If there was no message from the Center in the morning, he would take the next step in the plan. Then it would all really begin.
Saturday, May 10
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Moving through the reactor building, Vitaly felt only a calm determination. There had been no order to halt the preparations. His superiors had one last opportunity this evening. Otherwise, by tomorrow it would all be over -- and Vitaly Fedorovich Kruchinkin would have served his country well.
Heading down the stairs toward the STurDI-2 room, Vitaly paused and listened, peering above and below through the metal grating. He did not expect to see another worker on a Saturday afternoon, but he must be sure. Confident he was alone, he reached into a pocket of his jeans and withdrew two plastic vials.
Time: 8:07 p.m.
In his cubbyhole within the
But first there was work to do. The researcher opened the packet from the Moscow Embassy. Usually these were examined on the day shift by senior personnel, so tonight's late arrival represented a rare opportunity -- but likely a tedious one as well. The analyst knew most embassy dispatches from behind the Iron Curtain were filled only with low-level gossip to be catalogued. He read through the message. Apparently a memo from the KGB's First Directorate had been intercepted, discussing a plan to be implemented in May or June by a “Blue Raven.” A dead drop might be involved. It was probably nothing, the analyst thought, but there were some things he could check, so he turned to his terminal and activated the search program, beginning with “Blue Raven.” A list of files appeared and he examined each in turn. Blue Raven was the KGB code name for a Soviet illegal operating in the
Other words and phrases turned up no hits. Perhaps, the analyst thought, he'd been right to assume the dispatch was of limited value. It would serve only to provide a few more bits of information on Blue Raven. But the message also referenced “C393-492” as another possible code name, and the researcher punched it in, tapping his pen until the screen came back to life. C393-492 was also an illegal, he found, and the Agency had taken action recently based on this spy's possible activities.
Intrigued, the analyst read the full dispatch again, then made a list:
If Blue Raven = C393-492:
Experts - meeting.
Cessation if detected.
Setting his pen aside, the researcher studied the items.
“Oh, my God,” he whispered.
The analyst perched on the chair while his boss studied the paperwork. “So Blue Raven seems to be operating in the Midwest, huh?” the older man finally said.
“Yes, sir, it looks that way. We know
“And he's up to something, maybe starting tomorrow?”
“Yes, sir, according to a source.”
“What's the source's rating?”
“The Blue Raven and C393 sources are rated as excellent. They're top classified.”
The man behind the desk returned to the report, his eyes betraying nothing. “Something to do with nuclear power, huh?”
“Yes.” The analyst shifted in his seat. “Directorate T -- that's the high technology group, of course. And the Doctor Berdyayev could be a nuclear physicist in the Soviet power program.” He tossed a newspaper photograph onto the desk -- an image of a distinguished-looking man with black hair and a goatee -- and watched his supervisor for a reaction. There was none, as the senior man gave the snapshot a glance and then continued studying the report. “One of C393's Directorate T meetings was in
The supervisor turned his gaze back to the young subordinate. “Did anything turn up?”
“Not so far. There was no location fix, and the
“But now we're told C393-492 may be Blue Raven.”
“Yes, sir. That gives us an illegal at a nuclear facility in the Midwest.”
“Who may be thinking sabotage.” The older man grimaced.
“There's a real chance. And
“So,” the supervisor mused, “the Soviets are taking a lot of shit for their mess, and they decide to take the heat off.”
“It's certainly possible.”
“Possible yes, but goddamn risky. What if they got caught?”
“They must be confident they won't.”
The room grew quiet as the supervisor again studied the report. Finally, he looked to the analyst. “Let's take this upstairs.”
Time: 8:15 p.m.
There. Vitaly slithered from beneath emergency diesel generator #1. He was relieved to be done. It was one of the more dangerous elements of his plan. John Donner went many places on rounds, but he was not responsible for checking the diesels. Fortunately, curiosity about the repairs at unit #2 gave him an excuse to be in the area – and having to disable only one of the generators also made his plan much simpler.
It was now time to head back into the reactor building to continue his rounds. Among other duties, he still needed to go into the torus area and inspect the outside of the huge tank. And while John Donner was there, Vitaly Kruchinkin would make a few temporary adjustments.
Time: 9:11 p.m.
Liz Rezhnitsky flopped on her boyfriend's couch as the bathroom door swung closed. She stretched her arms above her head, the sleeves of her sky-blue sweatshirt sliding down. It had been a full Saturday, and a pleasant one. She glanced at the clock. She should check her machine. It had been awhile. Even when off-duty, the Bureau expected its agents to stay in touch. Liz pulled the phone off the end table and punched in her home number. There were no messages. She smiled. Nothing to ruin a nice day.
End Post 21
TEASER FROM NEXT POST:
Oh, God. Active measures. For real.