He'd never seen her before in his life.
Your part will be routine. Somewhere in the back of his mind echoed the
voice of the president's personal aide, the brisk young Muscovite who
had come to his dacha that snowy evening last October. We will take
care of any risks.
It had all been a lie. Every word. They must have known where he was
Then he spotted the two men approaching from opposite sides of the
square. The suits that didn't quite fit, the trudging gait. Why must
they always look like the stupid, brutal party hacks they are, he
thought bitterly. The incompetent bastards.
Who betrayed me? Was it Novosty? Did he do this, to get them off his
So be it. First I'll kill her, and then I kill him.
Seething, he pulled his body erect while his right hand plunged for the
snap on the holster at his belt. Simple. He'd just shoot her on the
spot, then make a run for it. Through the cafe, out the back. They
wouldn't dare start anything here, in the middle of Athens, that would
cause an international "incident." The snap was open. He thumbed up the
leather flap and realized the holster was empty.
The crash. It must have jarred loose. His new Walther automatic had
been incinerated, along with the Audi. His life began to flash before
his eyes. Make a run for it, he heard his mind saying, commandeer the
first taxi, any taxi. He shoved back from the table, sending his chair
clattering across the patched sidewalk.
She reached into her leather purse, now lying atop the table, next to
his coffee. He heard the click of a safety sliding off. "Don't be
impetuous, Viktor Fedorovich. You've been such a good boy this last
week, showing us the sights. The perfect tour guide. But now your
little vacation is over. We must talk."
She smiled. "Whatever you think we need to hear."
"I don't know anything." He could feel the cold sweat on his palms.
"Viktor Fedorovich." She brushed at her auburn hair as she continued in
Russian. "You have the most valuable commodity in the world, knowledge.
That makes you even richer than you think you are now."
They didn't try to kill me this morning, he suddenly realized. It was
Alex they were - Is he planning to double- cross everybody? No, that's
insane. He'd never get away with it. He has to deliver the payment.
KGB wants me alive, he thought with a wave of relief. They think I'm
the one who knows where it is.
His pulse raced. "What do you want?"
"We need you to answer certain questions. But not here. At a place
where it's quieter."
The two men were loitering closer now, only a few feet away, one on
each side of the table. The first was overweight, with bushy eyebrows
and pockmarked cheeks. He could be Ukrainian. The other was medium
height, wearing a cheap polyester suit, balding and sallow. Neither
looked as though he had smiled in the last decade.
"Where do you want to go?"
"We will take a stroll in the park." She gestured toward Amalias
Avenue. On the other side was Ethnikos Kipos, the National Garden. Then
she smiled again. "We thought you would like to take the morning air."
She rose, purse in hand, and tossed a wad of drachmas onto the wooden
table. The coffee drinkers around them did not look up from their
newspapers and tourist maps.
As they made their way past the Olympic Airways office on the corner
and across the avenue, she said nothing. Her silence is deliberate, he
told himself, part of a trick to unnerve me.
It was working. He was learning something about himself he'd never
before known. He was learning he was a coward.
That was the reality. He wouldn't hold out. He'd tell them everything
he knew, because they would hurt him badly. He couldn't bear pain; they
probably knew that. And then they'd kill him anyway because he couldn't
tell them the one thing they wanted to know. He didn't know it himself.
Viktor Fedorovich Volodin realized he was about to die. All the years
of pointless intrigue in the party, the fudging of production figures,
the father-in-law who'd made his existence wretched, it all added up to
a lifetime of nothing but misery, with the payoff a bullet. Rasstrel, a
They were entering the national garden, a mirage of green in the desert
of asphalt and cement that is central Athens. Its informal walkways
were shady lanes of quiet and cool that seemed miles away from the
smoke and glare and heat of the avenues.
Finally she spoke. "We're running out of time, and patience, Viktor
Fedorovich. Let's start with the money. Where have you deposited it?
Next, we want to know the names of everyone - "
"It - it's - I don't know where it is now."
"You're lying." She did not break her pace. "The time for that is
"But I don't have it. Someone else - " He heard himself blurting out the
truth. "He's in charge of everything."
"You are lying, again. You are the one who embezzled the funds." She
was walking by his side as they entered a secluded alleyway of hedges,
the other two trailed only inches behind. There was no escape. "The
criminal is you, Viktor Fedorovich."
"No, he - I - I don't know anything." How true was that? he asked himself.
He knew where the money was supposed to go, but he didn't know what it
was for, at least not specifically. That part had been classified. He
had the small picture but not the big one.
"If you know nothing, then telling us everything you do know should not
take very long." The calm, the assurance in her voice sent chills
through him. He knew he would talk and they knew it too. "However, the
more you have to say, the longer we can linger."
The early morning park, with its manicured footpaths and wandering
cats, was empty except for a few gardeners trimming hedges, watering
the grass, collecting loose papers. The sounds of the avenue were
rapidly receding. Now the two men had moved directly alongside, one by
each arm. He realized they were both taller than he was, and they
"Wait. I don't know where it's deposited now; I wasn't supposed to
know. But there's still time. I can help - "
They were entering a long arbor, a high trellis bright with obscuring
red flowers, when the first blow came into his left side, directly in
his kidney. He groaned and sagged, breath gone, while the man on the
right slipped an arm around and held him erect.
"Yes, Viktor Fedorovich," the woman continued tonelessly, "you will
help us, because you will want to die long before we let you. So, shall
we try again? Where is the money?"
"It's . . . I don't know, exactly. But - "
He gasped and sagged again as another blow came. Already he wasn't sure
how much more pain he could tolerate. How long before he would just
blurt out everything he knew?
A third blow, and his knees crumpled. He had never known the meaning of
pain, or fear, until this moment.
Why not just tell them? his frightened mind was pleading. Alex has
already set it up with the American.
"You are worse than a mere criminal," she went on, dark eyes filling
with anger. "You are a traitor. You will tell us every detail of your
involvement, from the very beginning."
How much did they really know? he wondered. Were they bluffing?
They were bluffing, he quickly concluded. Otherwise she wouldn't be
asking him things she should already know.
If you talk, you'll jeopardize everything. The most important thing now
is to keep KGB from discovering the scenario. If they do, they still
could stop it.
Of course they were alarmed. They should be. In the New Russia being
born, there was no place for them.
But I can't endure pain. I'll talk if there's pain.
He felt a surge of resolve. Whatever else happens, he told himself, I
won't be the one responsible for making it fail. I can't let them know
any more than they do now. I've -
Another blow struck him in the side and he felt his knees turn to
butter. None of the gardeners in the park seemed aware that a man was
about to be beaten to death. To them the four foreigners were merely
huddled together as they strolled, enjoying the dubious beauty of
Another blow came and he wheezed. "Please, let me just - "
He'd been gathering his strength for this moment. Now he lunged
forward, shutting out the stab of pain in his side, and wrenched at her
open purse. The two men reached for him but not before he had it in his
grasp. His hand plunged in as he rolled to the ground.
They were on top of him now, shoving his face against the loose pebbles
of the walkway, but they were too late. He felt the smooth metal of the
grip. It was what he wanted.
He recalled the triumphant words Fyodor Dostoyevski had uttered upon
being released from prison. "Freedom, new life, resurrection. . . .
What a glorious moment!"
_Ya nye boyuc za sebya!_ he thought with joy. I have no more fear. . .
He heard the shot, faintly, as the bullet ripped through
the back of his mouth and entered his brain. Viktor Fedorovich Volodin
died with serene final knowledge. Daedalus, whatever it was, was still
safe. And he was free.
Wednesday 3:29 P.M.
"Michael, you look marvelous. It's so good to see you again. I really
mean that. The years have treated you well." Eva Borodin leaned back
against the gray fabric of the Saab's headrest and appraised him.
"You don't look half bad yourself." Vance smiled to himself as he
returned the favor. Vintage Eva, ladling on the flattery. But she was
smashing, just as he remembered - the coal-black hair, the smoldering
eyes, the high Slavic cheekbones. Then, too, her every gesture was
spiked with the promise of Olympic sensuality; he remembered that as
well. Everything about her spoke of a time and place far away, where
there were no rules. Eva, the eternal Eva. With a Ph.D. "Everything's
just the same."
That part wasn't entirely true. There had been some changes, probably
for the better. Instead of a plunging neckline and a fortune in gold
accessories, she was wearing a blue silk blouse, form-fitting designer
jeans with an eighty-dollar scarf for a belt, and lambskin boots. Far
more demure than the old Eva. What had happened to the dangling
turquoise earrings, enough musky perfume to obscure radar, at least one
endangered fur draped somewhere?
The years had definitely mellowed her. The Slavic passion seemed curbed
today, the same way her hair had been trimmed down to a pageboy. Maybe,
he thought, this was her new look: the Russian aristocrat of the
"No, Michael, I'm different now. Or I'm trying to be."
She laughed, flashed her come-on smile, and tried to toss her missing
Whoops, he thought. Sure, you've changed.
"Being formally promoted to director of SIGINT brings
responsibilities," she continued.
"It was two years ago."
"Well, congratulations anyway." He was beginning to wonder if she
really had mellowed. Back in the old days her Russianness was her way
of making a statement. An identity. How much could she change, want to
change? She'd always been a firebrand: throwing things was her
preferred mode of communication. Not to suggest she wasn't verbal: she
was always passionately happy to see him, passionately sad when bad
things happened, passionately angry when she didn't get her way.
Everything she said was flirtatious, carrying a sexual innuendo.
Sometimes he thought she made Jean Harlow sound like Jeane Kirkpatrick.
"Your call caught me a little off guard." He glanced over. "I never
expected to hear from you again after you disappeared into the
labyrinth of NSA." He knew she'd been with the National Security Agency
for eight years now, but he hadn't heard that she'd been promoted to
director of Soviet satellite intercepts. Of course, NSA didn't spend a
lot of money on press releases. Still it was no surprise. Eva knew her
stuff when it came to the Soviets, their satellites, their codes. "I
must say, though, this is a hell of a long way to come for a catch-up
"It's been way too many years since we've seen each other. I've missed
"Hope you mean that." Did she? he wondered. Even if she did, that
wasn't the real reason she'd come. He knew her too well.
"Guess you'll have to try and find out," she said, her voice holding an
instinctive, automatic invitation.
"Guess I will." Already it felt like the old days. How did she know so
precisely where all his buttons were? The only thing I'm sure of so far
today is that this morning's little accident was no accident." He'd
told her about seeing Novosty, but not what they'd talked about. Why
drag her into it? Besides, she'd known about Alex a lot longer than he
had. Just one more piece of the past that didn't need to be stirred up.
"Somebody got taken out. The question is, Who? We both know Novosty's a
survivor, old school, but . . ."
"I probably shouldn't say this, Michael, but I assume you're aware he's
KGB, part of T-Directorate." Her voice had grown serious. "That
executive VP slot he has with Techmashimport is just his cover. We've
had a file of intercepts on him for years."
"Of course I know about him. Good old Alex and I go back a while.
You're slightly out of date concerning my most recent fun and games."
"All right. I mean, I wouldn't even bring it up, but I think you should
be warned. KGB's in a big turmoil, looking for something . . ." She
paused. "Whenever this happens, there're plenty of stray arrows sure to
be flying. Just stay out of the crossfire. A word to the wise."
"I may already be in it. Thanks to Novosty's little 'welcome aboard'
breakfast." He remembered the letter Alex had given him. "But I'm
beginning to think I'd damn well better find out."
She looked around sharply. "What happened? Did he say something?"
"If you believe him, somebody in Moscow mislaid a few million dollars.
"It's better left alone, darling."
"I'm on vacation, remember?" He winked at her. "With better things to
"I should hope so." She leaned back again and studied his profile.
"Well, at long last it's happened. I finally have to admit I need you
for something." Her long, dark lashes fluttered. Warming me up, he
thought. Now we're getting down to business. "Which is why I wanted to
meet you here."
They were five minutes out of Iraklion, on an unpaved back road he
loved, headed for the palace at Knossos, and so far she'd done nothing
but hint about what was on her mind. Everything was still a puzzle. For
one thing, she never needed anybody. She was the stalwart Russian who'd
ended their affair eleven years earlier just as casually as she had
begun it. This afternoon, though, she seemed to be deliberately keeping
the lid on, holding back. Uncharacteristic.
"The truth is," she went on, "I've been thinking about us, the old
times, and the palace."
She'd called him in Nassau four days earlier, wanting to get together.
It was the old Eva, darling this and darling that. When he said he was
going to Crete, she'd grown strangely silent. Then she'd said - in a
curious, tiny, voice - "Why don't I just meet you there? In fact, that's
sort of why I rang. . . ."
"So why's the palace suddenly so important to you?" He examined her,
still trying to read her mood. "I need to go back out today. Try and
brush up a bit. But that place was part of our problem back when, not
part of the solution."
She didn't answer. Instead she shifted the conversation sideways.
"Speaking of the palace, I suppose I should congratulate you on finally
being proved right. Did the Stuttgart team really ask you to look in on
"Call it the ultimate capitulation," he grinned. "Remember, they were
the ones who led the critical fusillade when the book first came out.
That makes it doubly sweet."
"Right. I also remember that book of yours caused such a stink that no
serious university would consider hiring you. Which, I assume, is why
you ended up a part-time spook. Probably it was the only job you could
"You're closer to the truth than you know." He laughed, wondering for
the ten-thousandth time if he should have stuck out the academic slings
and arrows. No, the secret truth was he was bored with the university
regimen. He yearned for the real world. He knew it then and he knew it
"Then the next thing I heard, you were down in the Bahamas, goofing off
and renovating some old yacht." She looked him over once more, shaking
her head. "What did you end up christening it? The Fuck Everybody?"
"Crossed my mind. But then I chickened out and called her the
_Ulysses_." He leaned back and reflected momentarily on the forty-four-
foot Bristol racing sloop he'd restored, having picked it up for a song
at a customs-house sale on Bay Street. Formerly the possession of a
Colombian in the export business, it had a hull of one and three-
quarter inch planked cedar, with a trim beam, did an easy fifteen knots
in a decent breeze. He loved her. He'd installed a fortune in
electronics, including a Micrologic Commander LORAN and a Navstar
satellite navigation system. "It started out as a hobby, and three
boats and a mortgage later it ended up a business."
"And what do you do down there all day? Just sit around and drink
"Sure. About once a month." He reached up and adjusted the open top of
the car. "Hate to admit it, but on a typical day I'm usually out of bed
by sunrise. Check the weather, then maybe take a short swim to get the
oxygen flowing. After that I go to work. The 'office' is up forward in
the _Ulysses_. My main discovery is that chartering is pretty much like
any other business. Mostly problems."
It was. There were always tourists who came to Nassau thinking they
wanted more than the standard hotels, topless shows, and casinos on
Paradise Island and Cable Beach. They wanted a taste of what it was
like sailing through the Family Islands, away from the glitz, a feeling
for the real Caribbean. Or so they thought. That was until they
discovered the hard way that the real thing included broiling sun,
jellyfish stings, nosy sharks, hangovers, seasickness, close-quarters
quarrels with spouses and significant others, snapped fishing lines,
generator failures, unexpected weather . . .
"And you manage to do okay, right?"
"Nobody ever got rich in the charter business, at least the kind I'm
in. If you're not running high-priced South American produce, you have
to do it for love, not money."
His real livelihood, which he didn't bother to mention, came from
elsewhere. In between managing Bahamian skippers and crews he also kept
a hand in another occupation. In years past he'd served as a financial
consultant for the CIA, helping monitor the flow of illicit drug and
terrorist money passing through the banking laundries of Geneva and the
Caribbean. When the Company finally formed its own section to handle
that work, he'd moved on and hired out his expertise to a free-lance
organization called ARM, the Association of Retired Mercenaries. They
were retired, all right, but only from the antiterrorist units of a
half dozen European nations. They still saw plenty of covert action,
squelching those terrorist activities European governments wanted dealt
with outside official channels. He was their money man and they paid
him well, which was how he kept his three vessels shipshape and lived a
yachtsman's life of "ease."
"So after all these years, you ended up doing exactly what you wanted."
She looked at him admiringly. "A lot of people would probably envy you
"I like taking my own risks, if that's what you mean."
"Well, all the same I suspect you're secretly very pleased with the
fact you've been invited back to Crete. I always thought you'd return
to archaeology sooner or later. If I know you, you couldn't stay away
Was she right? Even now he didn't know. "One thing's for sure. Crete's
a world apart."
That was an understatement. As he glanced back at the road, it was now
blocked entirely by a herd of sheep, their shaggy brown fleeces
suspended above dark, spindly legs. Around them the silence of the
Cretan countryside was rent by bleats and the jangle of bells. The
flock milled and darted about their rented Saab, but failed to move on
down the road. Why bother? The shepherd, in dark hat and coat, lounged
sidesaddle on his burro, oblivious, while his black-shawled wife
trudged in his dusty wake, bringing up the rear. Strangers came, gazed
upon the wonders of his land, then departed; he, possessor of donkey,
sheep, and wife, would remain. And prevail. His weathered face
contained all the worthwhile knowledge in the world. The parched hills
and verdant valleys of Crete belonged to him alone. Now and forever.
"Okay," he went on, "you're here, I'm here. Now how about telling me
what's going on?"
"That's just it. I don't know for sure. Everybody at NSA claims I'm
starting to see things." She paused to examine a long red fingernail.
"So don't you say it too. I need some moral support."
"Maybe I'd better hear this first."
"Michael, I . . . I don't want to talk about it yet. It's just - "
"Well, give me a hint at least."
"A few days back I decoded part of a transmission . . ." She leaned
over and started to turn on the radio, then changed her mind and
straightened. "Look, I just need you to help me get my thoughts
"Is that why you came all the way here? To organize your thoughts?
You'll forgive me if I'd hoped for a little more." In spite of himself,
he felt mildly annoyed. The truth was, he'd been looking forward to a
reunion that wasn't about business. "You know, I sort of had the idea
you wanted to . . . well, maybe try and piece things back together." He
looked her over. "Being with you wasn't exactly the worst experience of
She sighed wistfully and smoothed back her hair. "Fixing Humpty Dumpty
is tough work, darling. We both know that. It's been a long time.
Life's never that simple."
"Maybe not for you. But it seems very simple to me. We just lose the
past. Pretend it never existed." He felt his pique growing. "Or then
again, screw it. What are we doing here anyway?"
Could it really work a second time around? he asked himself. Why not?
Through all those years after things fell apart, he'd never once
stopped remembering her. Her mind, her body, her excitement.
Those memories dogged him now as they drove down the road he knew so
well, had traveled so many times in his long-ago life. At times the
ancient palace here on Crete had seemed almost a second home. After the
publication of his book about it, Realm of the Spirit - to universal de-
nunciations - he even began to dream about it. He thought he'd never come
back, and now here he was with Eva. Life took strange turns sometimes.
Eleven years ago in New Haven when he'd decided to work for himself,
he'd actually been saying good-bye to this world and all it stood for.
Back then it had seemed a golden moment to give academia the bird.
Had it all come full circle now? Fortunately he'd kept up with the
journals when he had the chance, tried to stay on top of what was
happening. With any luck he'd have the pleasure of watching a lot of
academics eat crow. All he had to do was just deal with whatever was
bugging Eva and then get on down to Phaistos. He hoped the Stuttgart
crew wouldn't realize he was over a decade out of date.
"You know," she was searching in her purse, then stopped herself and
looked up, "I always remember the palace when I think of you. It sort
of tied us together."
"Best I remember, it's what finally drove us apart. It turned into our
'irreconcilable difference.' "
"Maybe you're right, and it was dumb of me. Given the lousy luck I've
had with men, you're probably the best thing that ever came along.
After that flap over your book, I let you get away."
"Hold on a second. You announced you had to live your own life, and I
was getting too emotionally involved in my work and it would be better
all around if we just shook hands and called it quits. No hard
"It wasn't quite like that." She laughed her alluring laugh, the one he
remembered so well.
"Okay, maybe it was a little like that." Out came the sunglasses. The
old Eva again. "But I was changing, Michael, more every day. It was
time to try and make it on my own."
That was definitely what she'd decided to do. He'd always thought she
broke things off because she was obsessed with finishing her own Ph.D.
Self-centered and self-indulgent, that's what he'd called her at the