A GRAVE MISTAKE
I have used the MI6 spy James Bond 007 in my story. I don’t claim to have invented the character. I give full credit to Ian Flaming and the production company that makes the Bond Bond film series. I, as a fan, have used the name to write fan fiction.
Bond parked his cherry-red Aston Martin with a screech and stepped out. He looked dapper in his midnight blue tuxedo and a plain red tie.
As he sauntered into his office, his secretary gave him a flashing smile, indicated the closed doors, and said, “The chief wants to see you as soon as you are in.”
A dark Walnut bookcase lined an entire wall. M sat on the mahogany desk in front of it, looking glum. He did not return Bond’s jaunty grin.
“Bond, I want to know what your boys in Moscow think about ‘Igor Morozov’?”
“Chief Marshall Igor?” He lowered his voice and continued, “Is he looking to defect? I heard he’s an honest fellow, unhappy about the politburo blokes. But his wife, Volga, has been ailing for a long time, and he’s devoted to her.
M indicated the file in front of him. “Volga passed away ten minutes back. Igor’s best friend rushed to console him, and Igor is supposed to have remarked that there was nothing to hold him to Matushka Rossiya anymore.”
Bond leaned back in his chair, gave a long low whistle, and remarked, “If Igor defects, it will be a huge blow to the Soviets. It will be a big feather in our cap if we can poach him. You want me to bring him in?”
“Lighten up and listen. As Chief Marshall, Igor has full access to the plans of the nuclear-powered ballistic Missile they are building secretly. It will be a bonus if you can convince him to bring along the detailed plans. It will be strategically important if we can release the plans to our other allies.”
“I’ll get cracking then.”
“There’s an agent in Igor’s office, code-named Peacock. He’s the one who has been passing on intelligence about Igor. He’s valuable and trustworthy. You can take his help”
Bond rose from his seat.
M continued, “But don’t forget to watch out for your arch-enemy, Boris. I am sure he will be monitoring Igor. After all, the fact that Igor wanted to defect to the West, and Volga was the only reason he stayed, was never a big secret. If it comes to a showdown, I am sure Boris will kill Igor rather than let him defect.”
Bond’s blue-grey eyes glinted dangerously. “I have my score to settle with Boris. He is the one who got my best agent tortured to death last month.”
Bond sat huddled on a bench, wearing an Ushanka hat with earflaps. He unwrapped a Pirozhki and took bites, retaining the bun inside its paper cover.
Moscow city was reeling under a winter snowstorm. A fine dust of white covered the grass and trees. Very few people braved the weather to be out in the sub-zero climate. A few kids skated around, unmindful of the cold. A pretty, red-cheeked young lady was walking her dog, wearing a long fur coat.
A red-faced man, bundled up in a parka, walked towards the bench and sat on the other end. Peacock, the Russian spy, was rubbing his gloved hands to keep himself warm. Bond greeted him cheerily.
For any onlookers, they would look like two strangers exchanging pleasantries on a park bench.
Bond finished eating the snack, left the wrapper on the bench, and walked away.
Peacock looked at the wrapper in irritation and tried calling Bond back. With a helpless shrug, he picked it up and dropped it in the garbage can. As he struggled to open the bin, he expertly extracted a sealed envelope from inside the wrapper and thrust it deep into his jacket pocket.
Peacock had to contact Bond. Igor had insisted that he needed to talk to Bond before deciding on the defection.
As per instructions, Peacock hurried along the Red Square, dodging the people walking on the streets.
The colorful domes and the red brick structure of St. Basil’s Cathedral dominated the Plaza. Tourists stood admiring the ultimate symbol of Russia. Some of them were trying to get the whole building into the frame of their cameras.
Light snow was falling, but the crowd did not seem to care. The tourists flocked the roads and were jostling with the locals.
Peacock stopped near the Bronze statues of Minin and Pozharsky, took out a cigarette, lit it, and stood smoking near the Monument.
When he could see Bond walking toward him, he casually strolled along. Peacock smoothly slipped the envelope into Bond’s hand while crossing him.
Relieved that no one had approached him, Peacock whistled softly and strolled along. That’s when he saw her. Mila! He remembered vaguely that he had seen her at the office.
As a good agent, Peacock knew to identify people by their gait, not their dresses, age or looks. He was sure he had seen Mila at the park when he had met Bond last time. She had been walking her dog.
It could not be a fluke. In the spy game, there never were any coincidences.
Someone was on to him. Was it Boris? Was the girl his mole?
Peacock had heard about what had happened to the MI6 agent earlier. The papers had reported how mangled his body was. His stomach churned with fear. He had heard of the third-degree tortures that Boris inflicted on traitors.
Maybe he should retire after this assignment. He was already forty and would not be able to withstand any tortures.
Major Boris walked into his office at the NKVD headquarters of the Lubyanka building. The large ugly structure, the tallest in Moscow, was built of yellow bricks. A clock was centered on the band of the facade.
Boris was a ferret-faced man of average build and looked harmless until you noticed his eyes. Almost colorless, they were dull, glassy, and full of evil. The brutality that haunted his eyes marked him as a pure sadist!
Mila looked at him, her heart constricting with fear. She knew she had information that was going to please him, yet she could not stop the shivers that ran down her spine.
In Moscow, everyone had moles everywhere. Especially a high-risk person like Igor. Even though Peacock was low in the hierarchy, there were some apprehensions about his integrity.
Mila was assigned to let the police know if Peacock behaved differently.
Boris looked as if he were smiling at her, but his eyes pervaded deep into her soul.
“This man, a clerk in Igor’s office, took permission to attend to a chore. I did not think much of it. I had taken my dog for a walk in the park. I noticed that he sat on a bench there, doing nothing. Another person was sitting at the other end. But they only greeted each other. I saw the clerk pick up some trash and throw it into the bin after the other person left- Nothing to set the alarm. But I wondered why he needed to claim that he had a chore to attend to and then idle at the park. The next time he left the office, I followed him. I noticed that he again wasted time smoking. But my doubts were confirmed when I saw the same man who sat at the park bench with him cross him in the crowd. They were near enough to have exchanged something. It was too much of a coincidence.”
Boris’s eyes flashed with crafty cunning.
He dismissed her and sent his men urgently to bring in the clerk. His chair creaked as he leaned back and closed his eyes.
He was delighted with the developments.
At NKVD, there was extremely fierce competition for promotions. His last exploit was the killing of the British spy. Aaah! He had enjoyed that so much. But nothing after that. None of the reports of his spies had resulted in any arrests. He badly needed a spectacular case to rise in the force.
When the clerk would be brought in, he would take him into the interrogation room and apply third-degree.
His mind dwelt pleasurably on what he would do to him there.
There was a screech of tyres. Boris looked out of the window to see his men spilling out of the car. The clerk was with them.
But there was something wrong.
Usually, the men who were hauled into the NKVD office showed alarm and shuddered with fear. A few of them would even be crying and begging. But the clerk seemed calm and collected. He drifted into the room after exchanging brief, friendly words with the policemen.
He saluted Boris, extended his hand forward, and said, “Lieutenant Vladimir.”
After presenting his credentials, he explained, “I have been working undercover, looking at the possibility of Igor being poached. Yes. The famed Bond Bond is in town, interacting with me. In short, Igor has expressed interest in crossing over now that his wife Volga is no more. But he is wary too. The MI6 have asked him to hand over the plans of Akula, the missile submarine, before arranging for his defection. Igor is worried they may not keep their word once he gives it to them. This evening, in another hour, Bond has scheduled a meeting with Igor at Strelka, the bar that the British and the Americans patronize. Which means a Russian cannot go in there without an invitation.”
Boris’s smile never reached his eyes. “Tell me more about Bond. Is he as good as they say?”
“Hmm. He sure has a lot of charm. Also, he is crafty and cunning. My professional verdict? He is better than what they say.”
His eyes spewing hatred, his voice a menacing whisper; Boris said, “One day! One day, I will kill him with my bare hands.”
Vladimir, aka Peacock, extended his hand for a final handshake and got up.
Boris asked, “Comrade, do you want to join me when I arrest Igor, the traitor?”
Vladimir shook his head and said, “Already on another assignment. Need to go.”
Snowflakes fell lazily from the sky. The street lamps threw faint lights that did not reach the pavements.
Boris sat in his car, tightening his jacket’s buttons to keep himself warm. They were parked in a shadowy part of the street, where the Strelka Bar was located. Yuri, his trusted aide, was with him. A young Russian girl in a white apron stood in the darkness, speaking to them.
Yuri asked her, “Do you understand English?”
“I do Russian-English translations for my livelihood. But no one at the bar knows this. I pretend to understand only Russian. Otherwise, they would never give me a job at Strelka.”
Yuri showed her a photograph of Igor and asked, “Can you spot him in the bar when he comes?”
She peered at the photo under the car’s dome lights. Her eyes widened in surprise. She exclaimed, “He is already at the bar. He came in with a young British gentleman. They have booked a cubicle. So, I cannot linger around them constantly. But I can go to the table between drinks and dinner, pretending to be cleaning the table and listening to their conversation.”
“Your compensation will depend upon how much information you can give. So the more you hear, the better for you.”
Her eyes gleamed with greed, and she ran back to the bar.
Boris and Yuri never took their eyes off the entrance despite the snow falling in continuous drifts. Almost two hours later, the British Embassy car with the white-capped driver left the parking lot. They could see Bond sitting on the passenger seat.
Yuri asked hesitantly, “Should we follow Bond?”
“No. Today the quarry is Igor, and our focus is on him. Let us reserve the pleasure of meeting Bond for another day.”
They could see the young girl from the bar hurrying towards them.
She took a few slow breaths to calm herself and spoke.
“Tomorrow is the old man’s wife’s birthday. Early in the morning, he plans to take some flowers to the grave at the cemetery next to his house. He is planning to hide something important inside the bouquet. He is supposed to leave it at the grave and return. The younger man assured him that someone would pick it up later, and if everything went well, people from MI6 would contact him by the evening.”
She looked into the open wallet hungrily as Yuri doled out a few roubles. But when she saw the look in Boris’s eyes, she refrained from asking for more.
Yuri pointed towards the entrance when he saw Igor come tottering out. Boris’ eyes stayed focused on the old man staggering along the road, huddled against the snow. Igor stopped to zip the coat up to his chin and adjust his ear flaps before continuing. He limped along the pavement and reached home while the car followed him slowly, from afar.
Boris decided it was a risk to let Igor out of sight. What if there was a change of plan and he was whisked away by Bond in the middle of the night? His career depended on Igor’s arrest.
They parked at the end of the street, from where they had a clear view of the house. The snow had stopped, but the cold winds swept the street.
It was a miserable night to spend inside the car. They had taken turns to stay awake.
Boris’ muscles ached and became numb because of the uncomfortable position he had slept in.
He felt a nudge and opened his bleary eyes to see Yuri pointing at Igor’s house. A dull yellow light had lit up one of the windows.
Boris took a look at the clock on the dashboard. It was 5 AM. He hurriedly took a sip of water, poured some into his palm, and wet his face.
Boris instructed Yuri, his edgy voice betraying his nervousness. “You take the car through the back streets immediately and check if any MI6 agents are keeping a watch around the house or at the graveyard. I will follow Igor on foot. If something is wrong, meet me before I follow him into the cemetery. If everything is clear, park somewhere and wait for me to emerge with the old man. I want to go alone and catch him red-handed with the submarine plans, look him in the eye, and call him a traitor.”
After Boris got off, the car silently left the street.
Boris stood hidden, shivering in the cold. He did not have to wait long. Within ten minutes, Igor emerged in the same ensemble as he had gone in.
He was carrying a bunch of fresh lilies set in a bouquet.
The snow fell in silent flakes. Igor shuffled and swayed as he walked. Boris noticed with satisfaction that the plastic wrapping the base of the lily bouquet seemed bulkier than required.
They reached the cemetery gates, one behind the other. From far away, Yuri signaled that all was good and hid in the bushes next to the entrance.
As Igor walked deep into the cemetery, Boris silently followed him. It was pretty easy because the tombstones and the bushes afforded good cover.
He saw the old man standing before a new tomb, lovingly holding the lilies in his hand. His shoulders shook. It looked like he was crying.
He thought he would startle Igor when he was unguarded, snatch the bouquet, extract the submarine plans and expose him. He would call him a traitor, push him to the ground and hold him down. Then he would yell for Yuri to come. That way, he could claim that he had arrested him single-handedly.
Boris crept up to him, unmindful of the snow. His voice echoed loudly in the silence, “Are these for me?”
His hands automatically reached for the bouquet.
Suddenly, there were warning bells in Boris’ mind. He realized that the hands holding the flowers were not that of an old man. They looked younger and stronger.
Even before Boris could react, the right hand grabbed a gun from the bouquet, and the lily flowers flew up in a dramatic arc.
Bond held it pointed, unwaveringly at Boris’ heart. But in a cunning move, Boris bent down, head-butted Bond, and tried to snatch the gun. His mouth opened to call out for Yuri.
Bond, who had been anticipating this, first clamped his left hand tight on his mouth, and his right hand tightly gripped the gun and brought it up to Boris’ forehead. His bluish-grey eyes blazed with anger, and he shot him point blank with his silencer gun.
He could see the pain and anguish in Boris’ eyes. He waited till the body slackened, and the light went out of his eyes. Then pushed him roughly onto the ground.
In a voice suppressed with fury, he said, “From Britain, with love.”
As the flight crossed the Russian airspace on its way to London, Igor relaxed and told Bond, “That was a brilliant plan to switch personalities at the bar. While I changed into your clothes and went to the Embassy in the car, you wore mine, pretended to be me, and returned to my house. Thanks a lot for helping me to defect.”
Peacock sat in between Igor and Bond. He spoke in a reflective voice, “Do you know how scared I was when I had to pretend to be an undercover agent in Boris’ office? I was actually implementing a triple cross. That was the most challenging moment of my whole career. Even though I sounded confident, even cocky, my heart was going like a machine gun. Bond, Thanks for taking me out of the USSR.”
Bond wasn’t listening to him. He had eyes only for the beautiful young Hollywood actress who sat on the other aisle. She saw him looking at her, smiled flirtatiously, extended her hand for a shake, and said, “I am Sylvia.”
Bond took her hand in his and said, “I am Bond. James Bond.”
Matushka Rossiya: Mother Russia
Ushanka: A type of Russian hat with earflaps.
MI6: The British Secret Service Agency.
M: Known only by the alphabet, he/she is Bond’s Boss.
NKVD: The Soviet’s Secret Police Agency.
Lubyanka Building: A structure that houses all police offices. in the USSR