20 December 2012

Kanzler's Shorts: The Defector

Background image retrieved from filmgabwithwerthandwise.blogspot.com

Note: The following short story is an entry in the 11th installment of PD.com's Epics & Legends Writing Battle competition, where it finished first out of ten entries. To view the original entry of the competition, click here.

All rights to this story are reserved to the author and owner of this blog.


24 July 1960
East of Kremlin, Moscow

A soft drizzle started to fall on the cobbled streets of Moscow. It was just a few hours after dusk, and people were rushing to get home. The weather in the capital city had been variable at best in the recent days and the people no longer waited for the rain to go away, or worsen. Inside a local restaurant, sitting just beside the windows, were two American college students. They had just finished dinner and were now enjoying coffee and desserts when they noticed the frantic people outside.

“Look, its just a mild shower and yet people are scurrying away as if the plague was coming,” said Andrew while he gazed outside.

His classmate, Mike, was sitting opposite him across the table and was reading a pocketbook on Tsarist Russian history. Without putting the book down, he said, “This isn’t Massachusetts, Drew. They have their own thing. Perhaps the Commies are afraid of water or something.”

Andrew shrugged and took a bite of his Pirozhok. With food still in his mouth, he garbled, “Yeah, seeing how cold it is here, even in the summer.”

Mike did not give a reply to his friend’s last comment. He instead flipped a page on his book and continued reading. Andrew knew then that the conversation was officially over. He turned his attention to his unfinished pie.

A flash of lightning flickered across the sky as Andrew took in the last piece of his pie. By now, the streets were drenched and deserted. Andrew decided they should take their leave as the rain might get worse.  “Let’s go, Mikey.”

Mike looked at his classmate, nodded, and put his pocketbook inside his duffel bag. The two then stood up, put on their overcoats and walked towards the counter while they reached for their wallets. “Let’s split the bill, Mike,” Andrew said, to which Mike silently agreed. They paid for their dinner and left the restaurant. Both didn’t bring umbrellas with them so they settled with just raising the collars of their overcoats to protect themselves from the rain.

“I shouldn’t have left my umbrella back at the hotel,” Mike muttered as they walked across the Moskovretsky bridge.

Andrew patted his friend on the back. “Hey, they said July was the hottest month of the summer here. Who’ve thought it’d rain like this, eh?”

Mike looked at his friend and shrugged.

As they continued their walk back to their hotel, Andrew noticed a bearded man wearing a black windbreaker coming towards them. Andrew looked at Mike, who appeared to be engrossed on the cobbled pavement as he walked. Andrew judged that his friend had not yet noticed the bearded man. Andrew made no fuss of it and continued walking. By then, the man was just roughly ten feet from them when he said, “You Americans?”

Both students stopped in their tracks. Mike quickly raised his head and looked at the man. He removed his glasses, wiped the moisture off them, then wore the glasses back on. Andrew was the first to respond. “Y-Yeah. And who are you?”

“Who I am does not matter. What matters is this,” The man replied while he held up a manila envelope covered in plastic for the students to see.

“W-what is that?” Andrew said.

“Something your government would love to have.”

The rain intensified as the students looked at each other, silently debating about whether to take the man’s package or not. The sound of gushing water towards the pavement ground was deafening. Their overcoats were now soaked and as a result, got heavier. In the end, seemingly in exasperation, Andrew nodded and told Mike to take the envelope. Mike reluctantly obliged.

The stranger nodded as the student took his package. He then reached inside his jacket and took out a pistol. The two students quickly raised their hands. Mike almost dropped the envelope he just received. The man said, “Do not, under any circumstances, open the envelope and peruse its contents.” He raised the pistol so that the business end of the gun now pointed straight towards Mike. “Do I make myself clear?” Mike frantically nodded. The man then pointed the gun towards Andrew, who responded as his classmate did.

From the dim light of the incandescent lamp posts, the students could make out a smile on the stranger’s face. “Good,” he said. Then, as inconspicuously as he approached the two young men earlier, he left.

Two days later
Langley, Virginia

Samuel Fischer sat on his worn-out chair inside his small office at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia. The huge pile of papers stacked haphazardly on his desk were making him sleepy and lazy. He rubbed his eyes as he struggled to keep himself awake.

Fischer had been busy the past three months. Being the agent-in-charge of the Office of Soviet Union and European Analysis (OSUEA) was not easy. He had ordered the charter of a reconnaissance flight mission over USSR three months ago. The mission failed. The U-2 plane was shot down and the pilot was captured. CIA chief Allen Dulles had been pressuring him since to produce better results when it came to intel coming in from the Soviets, as well as to find a way to retrieve the U-2 pilot and basically clean up the mess.

He was about to fetch himself his fourth cup of coffee when someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” Fischer shouted.

The door opened and one of the agents in his division, Lara Auburn, came in and dropped a plastic-covered manila envelope atop the stacks of paper on Fischer’s desk. “From Moscow.”

“And good morning to you, too, Lara. I see you still haven’t worked on your subtlety skills,” Fischer said as he eyed the woman’s choice of clothing for the day: a black, pinstripe blazer paired with slim-cut black slacks and black high-heels.

Ignoring Fischer’s barely audible remark, Auburn went to business. “That package,” She pointed to the manila envelope she brought in, “came to us from one of our field agents in Moscow this morning. Apparently, two students from Harvard were in Moscow for a field trip when a stranger came to them and gave them the envelope.” 

Without waiting for Fischer to respond, Lara continued, “When asked about the appearance of the man, the two students couldn’t give any specific details as it was night and raining when they saw the man, although they did give general descriptions. The stranger was roughly six feet tall, sported a thick beard and spoke in a distinct Russian accent.”

“Well that narrows the suspects list down,” Fischer quipped.

Auburn went on. “Initial testing on the package indicate that apart from our people, three people had handled it in the past days. Two sets of fingerprints were identified to be those of the students. Another set of prints were available, but they revealed wool marks, suggesting the man who gave this package to the student wore gloves when he handled the envelope. No testing was done inside the envelope as the agent decided this was to be labeled FYEO, for hierarchal reasons.”

Fischer’s eyes narrowed at the sound of ‘FYEO’. The ‘For Your Eyes Only’ label was never placed in a document for mere hierarchal reasons. Obviously, the agent in Moscow thought the package was from a possible Soviet defector. The OSUEA chief looked at Lara and said, “Okay, thanks. You can leave now.” This time, Sam’s voice was sober. Lara took the hint and quickly left.

Sam grabbed the package from his table and examined it. From what he saw at first glance, there were marks of condensation in the inside lining of the plastic cover. A few markings on the surface suggested the package had indeed been tested for fingerprints, as Lara said earlier. Sam cleared his throat while he opened a drawer in his desk. From it he took out a paper cutter and used it to slice the envelope along with its plastic cover open.

Inside the envelope was a thirty-page document which contained specifications on a number of Soviet rockets, armaments as well as aircrafts and tanks. While many of the information listed in the pages were already known to the CIA, some specifications were new to Sam and could prove to be vital. As Sam flipped through the pages, he stumbled upon combat and mission reports, as well as reconnaissance reports and even flight plans. These were originals. One had to be a very high-ranking official inside the USSR’s Armed Forces, GRU or KGB to get such documents.

As good as the documents were, Sam noticed there wasn’t a single name listed in the document. All data given were generalities, and while they could be put to good use, Sam needed intel on the people who worked or headed these missions so he could take them out. As Sam reached the last page, he noticed a single name scribbled on its bottom corner: Oleg Penkovsky.

Fischer rubbed his face with his right hand and let out a long sigh. The lack of names were suspicious and Sam was having trouble getting rid of his gut-feel on this, that these documents were too good to be true. Sam shrugged, placed the file back inside the manila envelope and got up. He exited the room and looked for Lara. He found her in her cubicle. She was reading some documents. Fischer tapped on Lara’s desk and said, “Get me MI6.”

*     *     *

19 September 1962
Westminster, London

Oleg tapped his feet repeatedly on the bare, wooden floor as he waited for his visitor to arrive. The ten-by-eight rental room he had stayed in for the past two days had no radio or television. In it were just a single bed, a small wooden table and a foldable steel chair he was now sitting on. 

Oleg looked at the sky outside through the only window in the room, which was about three paces from where he sat. He had grown wary of windows – after all, he was a spy, a Soviet GRU operative who had been passing classified information to the British MI6 for the past two years.

Oleg Penkovsky was, in every sense of the word, a defector.

The Russian looked through the windows again as he vaguely remembered that fateful day two years ago. His plan to contact the CIA had worked, the young Americans he approached at the Moskovretsky bridge that rainy night were too afraid not to oblige his ‘request’. Nevertheless, the CIA hadn’t trusted him from the get-go, and their suspicions were visible from their body language as they met in one of the cafes inside the Red Square. Thankfully, the British MI6 agent with them, Greville Wynne, believed in his story and the two had been in contact since, with Oleg feeding Greville sensitive information on the Soviet’s weapons plans, armament distribution networks and other classified data.

Someone knocked on the door. Oleg looked at it and waited for the man on the other side to knock again. Knock. Knock. Two knocks in quick succession. Same as the first one. Oleg waited again. Same two quick knocks. Oleg stood up and went towards the door. “Who is it?”

“Your manager,” came the reply from the other side.

After hearing the response, Oleg quickly turned the cylinder on the door’s deadbolt and unlocked the door knob. He then opened the door and ushered his visitor inside. “Come in, Greville, we need to be quick. I’ve been here too long.”

“No problem. Just give me the documents and I’ll give you the money to pay for this room, plus funds for you to get back to Moscow,” Greville Wynne, Oleg’s contact inside MI6, said.

Oleg did not wait for Greville to sit down. He immediately pointed towards the small table in the corner, where on top of it was a file folder. “They’re all there, everything I could get my hands on when it came to Cuba. Khruschev already has his MRBMs set up and will be using those as leverage as he comes in talks with Kennedy.”

Greville walked towards the table and examined the documents and images. The images were very clear, while the documents were comprehensive and complete. From what the MI6 agent saw on the document, the Soviet already have twenty-five medium-ranged ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads installed inside Cuba. “The Kremlin has been lying all along. They have indeed installed offensive missiles. That’s why Castro’s acting so smug in front of the press nowadays, the bloody prick,” Greville shook his head and looked at Oleg, “These are really good.”

“I’m a close friend of Serov, remember?”

Greville looked straight at Oleg’s eyes and said in a monotone, “Your superior may not be your friend anymore once he finds out about this.”

Oleg shrugged and did not give a reply, but the crunched forehead and frown on his face betrayed his anxiety.

“Well,” Greville said while he reached for something in his pants pocket. He took out a bundle of paper money and gave it to Oleg. “This should be enough to get you good food and a ride home. I know we don’t usually do this, it’s usually me meeting you in Moscow, but some things came up. When I learned you were here on a diplomatic trip, I had to arrange for you to meet me here instead.”

“I understand,” Oleg replied as he took the money Greville offered. “As you said, it was a matter of convenience for both of us.”

Greville nodded. “I’ll take my leave now. See you at our usual meeting place in Moscow.”

One week later
Washington, D. C.

Greville felt a soft breeze hit his cheeks as he looked at the monument of the famous Abraham Lincoln. From the corner of his eye, the Brit could see a few tourists around him. Those who could afford personal cameras took snapshots of the gigantic presidential memorial. A few posed wackily in front of the statue to get their pictures taken. Greville smiled slightly at the naiveté of it all. A man walked beside him, and with his camera, took a picture of Lincoln’s face. “A great man, Lincoln,” the man said to no one in particular, though to Greville, it seemed like the man was talking to him. They were beside each other, after all.

“Yeah, a national symbol for you Americans,” Greville muttered as he looked at Lincoln’s face, although the MI6 agent was already judging the man. He wore a blue parka and a Frank Sinatra t-shirt underneath. It was peculiarly partnered with a pair of gray slacks and white sneakers.

The man merely nodded at Greville’s reply. “What’s the national symbol for your country?”

“For me, our national symbol should be King Edward VI. But that’s a personal opinion.”

“Shouldn’t it be a shield and a laurel?”

Greville smiled at the man and replied, tongue-in-cheek, “Shouldn’t yours be an eagle with scrolls clutched in its talons?”

The man returned the smile and offered his hand. Greville shook it and said, “I take it you’re Samuel Fischer.”

The man nodded and replied, “And I take it you’re Greville Wynne.”

Greville also nodded.

Samuel zippered up his parka after a gust of wind blew past the two of them from the front of the Lincoln Memorial. “Do you have the package with you?”

“Its close by. Do you have what I want?” Greville replied succinctly.

“It’s close by as well,” Samuel answered.

“Good. I like the way you do business, Mr. Fischer,” the MI6 operative acknowledged. He reached for something inside his overcoat and took out a piece of folded paper. He showed it to Fischer. “In here are instructions to get Penkovsky’s file. It’s in a safety deposit box in a bank here in Washington.”

The OSUEA agent-in-charge stared at the paper Greville held in his right hand.  He licked his lips and said, “I assume you’d want our end of the deal to be accomplished first before you finish yours?”

Greville nodded. “Of course. This is Cuba we’re talking about, and after your failure at the Bay of Pigs, I’m sure your government won’t dream of failing again.”

“I see,” Fischer rubbed his chin. He then pressed something in his right ear and muttered a few words under his breath. Greville looked around as he waited. He noticed the flock of tourists inside the memorial were now gone. The sky outside was slowly turning orange. Greville looked at his watch. Just a few minutes before seven.

“Alright, Mr. Wynne,” Fischer finally said. “I have to leave now, but I will take that piece of paper with me. You, on the other hand, should wait here a few minutes. One of my agents will bring you the documents you want.”

Greville scratched his left cheek with his free left hand while he let Fischer’s words hang in the air for a moment. “Alright, Mr. Fischer, you have a deal. Oh, and before you leave, remember, this never happened.”

*     *     *

22 October 1962
Khodinka, Moscow

“Stop right here,” Oleg Penkovsky told the cab driver, to which the latter obliged. The cab made a full stop in front of the GRU headquarters along Khoroshevskoye shosse street in Moscow. Oleg checked his wristwatch, 03:07 AM, before he reached for his wallet, took out a few bills, and gave it to the driver. Oleg no longer waited for his change and got off the car. As the car sped away behind him, Oleg tightened his fur coat around him. It was a very chilly early morning - the weather bulletin Oleg read aboard the plane a few hours earlier got it right.

He walked towards the gate and showed his I. D. card to the two sentry guards. After his card checked out, Oleg was allowed to enter. A peculiar design of the GRU headquarters was that its front right corner, instead of the front side, faced the street. Oleg walked past this corner to get to the back entrance, where GRU spies like him opted to enter. There were no specific rules on this. The operatives simply liked to enter from the back entrance than the front – a non-spoken tradition.

Oleg was again told by another sentry to submit his I. D. card for verification. After that, he entered the building and walked straight to the elevator, the doors of which immediately faced and were just roughly twenty steps away from the back entrance. Oleg punched in the elevator call button and waited for the car to arrive.

The car arrived a few seconds later and Oleg got inside. He then pressed “5th” in the elevator’s control panel. This prompted the elevator doors to close. With a jerk, the elevator car moved upwards. Oleg got off the fifth floor and walked straight to his office, which was just two doors right of the elevator. Oleg reached for his keys and unlocked his office door. As he opened it, a voice from inside greeted him. “Welcome home to Rossiya, Colonel Penkovsky.”

Sitting on Oleg’s chair was the US spy Jack Dunlap, one of the CIA agents who talked to him at one of the cafes in Red Square two years ago.

“Sergeant Dunlap, what brings you here, inside of the GRU, of all places?” Oleg asked as he entered the room and removed his fur coat.

“I have a special job today, Oleg. One that would guarantee me a life of decadence for the next ten years.” Dunlap then tapped Oleg’s table twice and a group of NKVD officers stormed inside the office. Oleg did not have enough time to react. Before he could even turn around and face the armed men, one of them had already ran behind him and covered his head with a black bag. Another officer kicked Oleg straight in the gut and rendered him unconscious.

Four days later
Lubyanka Prison

Oleg woke up with a splitting headache. With his blurry vision, he tried to make out some of the things around him: A plain metal stool and a television set atop a nondescript wooden table. The television was turned on and was airing a press conference of some sort, judging from the sounds that came from it. Oleg rubbed his eyes and got up from the bed. He noticed he was still in his army uniform, albeit with blood stains and some holes. He looked around him. A single steel door, bare walls, bare flooring, nine-by-seven room. There was only one place like it – Lubyanka Prison.

As to how many days he’d been here, he was not sure. All he could remember was the endless torture he suffered as the NKVD officers electrocuted him, drowned him and did other painful stuff to him the past days. He had to give Greville’s name away so the pain would stop.

Oleg shook his head and with his one good eye, watched the television. US President Kennedy was on it.

“This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base--by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction--constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947,” The US president said, “the traditions of this Nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13. This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.”

So, my last package got safely through to Washington, Oleg thought while he nodded to himself.

“The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months. Yet only—”

The metal doors swung open and an NKVD officer entered. “Get up now. You have a visitor.” Before Oleg could fully stand up, the officer grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of the room into a hallway lighted only by a singular incandescent bulb at one end. Below the lighting fixture was a door, to which the officer was now taking him.

The officer opened the door and pushed Oleg inside. The room was fairly large. It had a wide mirror on one side and a broad metal table in the middle. There was also another door just to the left of the mirror.

It was an interrogation room.

Penkovsky heard the door behind him close shut. He turned around to see that the NKVD officer was already gone. Penkovsky sat in one of the two chairs around the table and waited for his visitor.

A few seconds later, the door beside the mirror opened. Penkovsky was surprised to see the man who entered. “Did you have a good rest, Colonel Penkovsky?”

Oleg, despite the pain in his legs, stood up and saluted the man. “Da, ser! General Serov, sir!”

Ivan Serov smiled. “No need to be too formal, Oleg. Please, sit down.”

Oleg did as he was told.

Serov leaned on the table, towering over Penkovsky, after he tossed a file folder on it. The general opened the folder and read some of the pages in it. “Espionage, eh? And look, treason! Pretty large accusations, my friend.”

Oleg did not reply.

“Premier Khrushchev already knows of your activities in London. He knows you have successfully given away sensitive information regarding our military capabilities and strategies to the British and Americans,” Serov paused as he eyed Oleg. “Unfortunately, despite your heroic efforts, you cannot be given any medals. This is a covert operation, after all, Colonel Penkovsky.”

Oleg’s eyebrows narrowed but did not say a word.

“The money, of course, will be delivered to you, in cash. Plus, you will be promoted, under the radar, of course, and be sent to a satellite state. Would China be suitable for you, Oleg?”

Oleg shook his head and asked, “Did we succeed? Did Anadyr succeed?”

Serov nodded.

“But I don’t understand. On the television inside my cell, Kennedy was talking about retaliating against us, of issuing some action against Cuba—”

Serov waved his hand repeatedly and said, “That, my friend, was a taped national address delivered four days ago.”

Oleg raised his eyebrows. “So the US government pulled out their missiles in Italy and Turkey?”

“Yes, those hostile missiles so near our home are gone,” replied Serov. “They had to. It was the only way Kennedy could convince us to remove our own missiles inside Cuba. After all, our missiles are all fully installed and ready to be fired. He had to bring a bargaining chip of his own to make us comply. It all went according to plan.”

Oleg went silent as he took all this in.

“By the way, Oleg, you’d have to be placed on trial. It’s a hassle, but we have to put on a show for our friends in the West.”

Oleg nodded.

*     *     *

21 August 1961
The Kremlin, Moscow

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was reading the morning newspaper while he sat on his antique leather chair inside the Office of the Premier. The sun shone brightly through the tall, paneled windows behind him, which helped warm the cold and heavy Soviet air inside the room. As the USSR leader was browsing through the International News section, the intercom on his large, ornate wooden table rang. Khrushchev set down the newspaper on his table, then reached forward slightly and pressed the button on the intercom. “Yes, Natasha. Speak.”

“Mr. Premier, General Serov and Minister Dobrynin are here to see you.”

“Let them in.”

Khrushchev leaned back on his chair while the light of the early morning sun beamed down on his face. He closed his eyes and remained motionless. For a brief while, he was in another place, away from the stresses of politics and the threat of war.

His relaxation was cut short – Someone knocked on the door. Before Khruschev could fully recompose himself, his secretary had already opened the door slightly and peered her head inside. “Your visitors are here.”

Khruschev nodded while he rubbed his eyes with his right thumb and index finger. “Fine. Send them in.”

His secretary quickly disappeared and shortly after, the Soviet leader’s visitors entered the room. “Dobroe Utro, Premier Khruschev,” both said.

Khrushchev spread out his arms and pointed to the two wooden chairs located in front of the outer corners of his table. “Gentlemen. Sit.”

The visitors did as they were told.

The Premier swiveled his chair so that he was now facing the window. He closed his eyes again as he took in the warmth of the sun. He was not ready to speak with these people yet. It was too early in the morning for his taste. The visitors would wait.

Serov and Dobrynin stayed silent. They were used to their leader’s ritual and was fine to get some reality-escaping of their own as they tried to gather their thoughts. The two men raised their heads up at the sound of Khruschev’s voice, whose back was still facing them. “What’s the agenda for today?”

General Serov spoke first. “Kennedy. United States.”

“What about him?”

Serov opened the file folder he had with him and briefly looked at a few of his notes. “He believes we are currently leading the nuclear arms race.”

“And you, Dobrynin, any confirmation of this news in Washington?”

“Yes, Premier Khrushchev. Reports from our sources inside the White House state their alarm over the release of Sputnik,” Dobrynin replied.

Khrushchev chuckled. “Come on. Sputnik 4 was released seven months ago. Surely, your sources got this wrong, yes?”

Dobrynin cleared his throat. “Apparently, the new US president is being anxious. After we shot down their U-2 reconnaissance plane, there hasn’t been any more intel on our progress, and Kennedy is starting to get jittery.”

The Soviet Premier finally turned around and faced his subordinates. His face was expressionless, as his face always was when in deep thought. Dobrynin and Serov waited for him to speak.

Khruschev rubbed his chin and looked at Serov. “How about our own intel? Are we indeed winning the arms race, as Kennedy believes?”

Serov looked at the papers inside his file folder for a few seconds before looking at Khruschev and said, “No.”

The USSR chief executive’s face remained blank. “How much is their lead?”

“Almost three to one.”

“And I assume you both came here with a solution? Or did you just come here to ruin my morning?”

“We do have a solution, Mr. Khruschev,” said Dobrynin.

Khrushchev looked at his North American Affairs Minister and asked, “And what is that solution?”

“Sources from Washington indicate Kennedy has no plans to rescind Eisenhower’s last order to invade Cuba, following Castro’s successful takeover. With Kennedy also fearing our supposed firepower, we could then use Cuba to our advantage.” 

Khruschev raised his eyebrows. “What are you proposing?”

Serov passed a thin stack of papers to his superior and said, “This would take a while, probably a year or two, but I assure you it would be worth it.”

The USSR leader looked at the front page of the document. The title on it read “Operation: Anadyr”.

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