Edited by Jeffery Deaver
Edited by Raymond Benson
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The Cold War–a terrifying time when nuclear war between the world’s two superpowers was an ever-present threat, an all-too-real possibility that could be set off at the touch of a button–provides a chilling backdrop to this collection of all-new short stories from today’s most celebrated mystery writers.
Bestselling authors Jeffery Deaver and Raymond Benson–the only American writers to be commissioned to pen official James Bond novels–have joined forces to bring us twenty masterful tales of paranoia, espionage, and psychological drama. In Joseph Finder’s “Police Report,” the seemingly cut-and-dry case of a lunatic murderer in rural Massachusetts may have roots in Soviet-controlled Armenia. In “Miss Bianca” by Sara Paretsky, a young girl befriends a mouse in a biological warfare laboratory and finds herself unwittingly caught in an espionage drama. And Deaver’s “Comrade 35” offers a unique spin on the assassination of John F. Kennedy–with a signature twist.
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BY JEFFERY DEAVER AND RAYMOND BENSON
RAYMOND: Hey Jeffery, I'm really pleased to be coediting this MWA anthology with you. I think we've got some great authors and terrific stories that explore many aspects of what we commonly refer to as the "Cold War." The process has been great fun.
JEFFERY: Hi, Raymond. Yes, this project has been a big treat for me. And you've hit on one of the most compelling elements of the book—the many different takes our contributors have on that era. The stories range from classic espionage to subtle psychological drama of the decades that saw huge change in America… and the rest of the world.
RAYMOND: Seeing that we're both around the same age—meaning we're old farts—we can actually remember that tense period in the early 1960s when the Cold War was really causing some anxiety. I recall doing the "duck and cover" drills in elementary school and not totally understanding what they were for. I thought they were fun—you got to take time out from class to practice jumping underneath your desk a few times.
JEFFERY: And how reassuring to learn that six inches of fiberboard and metal could ward off the overhead blast and radiation from a thermonuclear bomb. Your comment brought back a very real memory of the Cuban Missile Crisis standoff. I was in middle school outside of Chicago and a teacher told my class to be particularly diligent in ducking and covering, since we were not far from Argonne National Laboratory in DuPage County—sure to be targeted by the Soviets. You're a Chicagoan, too; do you also remember the Nike missile sites in the area?
RAYMOND: I didn't come to Chicagoland until the early nineties; I grew up in West Texas, where everyone would have rather been dead than Red. But I'm sure my experience in the classroom was similar to yours at that time. And, yes, there is an old Nike missile site not far from my current home in Chicago's northwest suburbs. It looks like the remains of a forgotten World's Fair. Seriously, one of the structures resembles a broken-down amusement park ride. I think, though, my full realization and understanding of the Cold War came with my discovery of James Bond—first through the films, which really didn't address the Cold War much, and Ian Fleming's novels, which did.
JEFFERY: Apart from a few Twilight Zone TV series episodes, Bond was my first fiction exposure to the Cold War. I was more a fan of the books than the movies and so, yes, I had a real sense of how the Cold War could set the stage for a thriller. From Russia, With Love is the quintessential Cold War Bond novel for me. Of course, it's a bit ironic that you and I, as the only two American authors to write James Bond continuation novels, chose not to set our 007 tales during the Cold War. That's one of the reasons I was delighted to participate in this project, Ice Cold.
RAYMOND: I agree with you about From Russia, With Love. Actually, my directive from the Fleming people was to make my books "more like the current movies," which, at that time, were the Pierce Brosnan action extravaganzas. But back to America's reaction to the Cold War… You know, it seems to me that the U.S. was much more freaked out about it than other countries, even England. There were some serious overreactions to the situation. Senator Joe McCarthy's rhetoric in the fifties, and the Hollywood blacklisting in the late forties and all through the fifties, were terribly misguided. When you look at the list of Hollywood actors, writers, and directors who were blacklisted, your jaw drops. I actually played around with the idea of writing a blacklist story for this anthology, but ultimately rejected it because I couldn't shape it into a mystery or thriller—it was, simply, pure tragedy.
JEFFERY: Yes, that insanity ruined lives forever. I remember my disappointment at learning that some musicians and filmmakers whom I admired turned in their colleagues at Congressional hearings; I never looked at them the same—but since I wasn't in their shoes, it's easy to cast judgments, I suppose. It's curious how we think of the Cold War in terms of nuclear or conventional military confrontation, which was certainly true (just ask anyone in Eastern Europe or who lived within missile-range of Cuba), but the blacklist is a reminder that there were more subtle consequences, like paranoia, anxiety, and derailed or destroyed political and social movements. I think our authors tapped into these two sides of the Cold War era very well.
RAYMOND: There were also a bunch of "Red Scare" movies made in the late forties and the fifties… Ever seen I Married a Communist or Invasion USA? Today they're wonderful and unintentionally humorous relics of the era. But the ultimate Cold War movie—and one that puts everything in perspective today and which was amazingly ahead of its time (1964), is Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. It captures the paranoia, the insanity, and the absurdity of the Cold War long before intelligent and sensible people in this country accepted it as such. Alas, we don't have any black comedies in our collection, but we do have some exciting mysteries and thrillers that paint varied portraits of that significant time in world history. I'd like to thank Barry Zeman for the idea of bringing the two of us together to coedit the anthology, Larry Segriff at Tekno Books for initial copyediting, Lindsey Rose at Grand Central, Margery Flax, all of the MWA members who worked hard to submit stories—and I'm sorry we couldn't use everyone's—and all the authors who have contributed to the collection.
JEFFERY: Dr. Strangelove is my favorite Kubrick film (yes, even over 2001!). And take a look at the YouTube of Tom Lehrer, the comic songwriter (and mathematician), performing his "We Will All Go Together When We Go." It's further proof that irony and wit were alive and well during that dark time… Ah, Raymond, I think we could continue this dialogue forever but I suppose we better get on to some other projects. Let me add my heartfelt thanks to all of those you mention above—especially our contributors, whose stories truly bring to life a complex and edgy time in world history.
BY JEFFERY DEAVER
To be summoned to the highest floor of GRU headquarters in Moscow made you immediately question your future.
Several fates might await.
One was that you had been identified as a counter-revolutionary or a lackey of the bourgeoisie imperialists. In which case your next address would likely be a gulag, which were still highly fashionable, even now, in the early 1960s, despite First Secretary and Premier Khrushchev's enthusiastic denunciation of Comrade Stalin.
Another possibility was that you had been identified as a double agent, a mole within the GRU—not proven to be one, mind you, simply suspected of being one. Your fate in that situation was far simpler and quicker than a transcontinental train ride: a bullet in the back of the head, a means of execution the GRU had originated as a preferred form of execution, though the rival KGB had co-opted and taken credit for the technique.
With these troubling thoughts in mind and his army posture well in evidence, Major Mikhail Sergeyevich Kaverin strode toward the office to which he'd been summoned. The tall man was broad shouldered, columnar. He hulked, rather than walked. The Glavnoe Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenie was the spy wing of the Soviet Armed Forces; nearly every senior GRU agent, including Kaverin, had fought the Nazis one meter at a time on the western front, where illness and cold and the enemy had quickly taken the weak and the indecisive. Only the most resilient had survived.
Nothing culls like war.
Kaverin walked with a slight limp, courtesy of a piece of shrapnel or a fragment of bullet in his thigh. An intentional gift from a German or an inadvertent one from a fellow soldier. He neither knew nor cared.
The trek from his present office—at the British Desk, downstairs—was taking some time. GRU headquarters was massive, as befitted the largest spy organization in Russia and, rumors were, the world.
Kaverin stepped into the ante-office of his superior, nodded at the aide-de-camp, who said the general would see him in a minute. He sat and lit a cigarette. He saw his reflection in a nearby glass-covered poster of Lenin. The Communist Party founder's lean appearance was in marked contrast to Kaverin's: He thought himself a bit squat of face, a bit jowly. The comrade major's thick black hair was another difference, in sharp contrast to Lenin's shiny pate. And while the communist revolutionary and first Premier of the Soviet Union had a goatee that gave him—with those fierce eyes—a demonic appearance, Kaverin was clean shaven, and his eyes, under drooping lids, were the essence of calm.
A deep pull on the cigarette. The taste was sour and he absently swatted away glowing flecks of cheap tobacco that catapulted from the end. He longed for better, but couldn't spend the time to queue endlessly for the good Russian brands and he couldn't afford the Western smokes on the black market. When the cigarette was half smoked, he stubbed it out and wrapped the remainder in a handkerchief, then slipped that into his brown uniform jacket.
He thought of the executions he'd witnessed—and participated in. Often, a last cigarette for the prisoner. He wondered if he'd just had his.
Of course, there was yet another fate that might await, having been summoned to this lofty floor of headquarters. Perhaps he was being rewarded. The Comrade General, speaking for the Chairman of the GRU or even the Presidium itself—the all-powerful Politburo—could be recognizing him for furthering the ideals of communism and the glory of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In which case he would receive not a slug from a Makarov pistol, but a medal or commendation or perhaps a new rank (though not, of course, a raise in pay).
Then, however, his busy mind, his spy's mind, came up with another negative possibility: The KGB had orchestrated a transgression to get him demoted or even ousted.
The soviet civilian spy outfit and the GRU hated each other—the KGB referred to their military counterparts contemptuously as "Boots," because of the uniforms they wore in their official capacity. The GRU looked at the KGB as a group of effete elitists, who trolled for turncoats among the Western intelligentsia, men who could quote Marx from their days at Harvard or Cambridge but who never lived up to their promise of delivering nuclear secrets or rocket fuel formulas.
Since neither the KGB nor the GRU had exclusive jurisdiction in foreign countries, poaching was common. On several occasions in the past year Kaverin had run operations in England and the Balkans right under the nose of the KGB and turned an agent or assassinated a traitor before the civilian spies even knew he was in country.
Had the pricks from Lubyanka Square somehow put together a scandal to disgrace him?
But then, just as he grew tired of speculation, the door before him opened and he was ushered into the office of the man who was about to bestow one of several fates.
A train trip, a bullet, a medal, or—another endearing possibility in the Soviet Union—perhaps something wholly unexpected.
"You may smoke," said the general.
Kaverin withdrew a new cigarette and lit it, marshaling more escaping sparks. "Thank you, sir."
"Comrade Major, we have a situation that has arisen. It needs immediate attention." The general was fat, ruddy and balding. The rumors were that, once, he had set down his rifle and chosen to strangle, rather than shoot, a Nazi who came at him with a bayonet on the outskirts of Berlin in 1945. One look at his hands and you could easily believe that.
"Yes, sir, whatever I might do."
So far, this did not seem like a death sentence.
"Did you know Comrade Major Rasnakov? Vladimir Rasnakov?"
"Yes, I heard he suffered a heart attack. Died almost instantly."
"It should be a lesson to us all!" The general pointed his cigarette at Kaverin. "Take the baths, exercise. Drink less vodka, eat less pork."
The man's rasping voice continued, "Comrade Rasnakov was on a very sensitive, very important assignment. His demise has come at a particularly inconvenient time, Comrade Major. From reading your dossier, you seem like a perfect replacement for him. You can drive, correct?"
"And speak English fluently."
This was growing more intriguing by the moment.
The general fixed him with a fierce gaze of appraisal. Kaverin held the man's eyes easily. "Now, let me explain. Comrade Rasnakov had a job that was vital to the cause of communist supremacy. He was in charge of protecting the lives of certain people within the United States—people who we have deemed indispensable to our interests."
Because they were all trained soldiers, GRU agents often served as undercover bodyguards for valuable double-agents in enemy countries.
"I will gladly take over his tasks, sir."
The vodka bottle thudded onto the middle of the desk. Glasses were poured and the men drank. Kaverin was moderate with alcohol—which put him in the minority of men in Russia. But, just like not uttering certain thoughts aloud, you never declined the offer to share a drink with a superior officer. Besides this was real vodka, good vodka. Made from corn. Although as a soldier and a member of the GRU, Kaverin had some privileges, that meant simply potatoes without frostbite, meat once a week instead of every other, and vodka that, while it didn't poison you, came in a corked bottle with curious flecks afloat. (Unlike the KGB, whose agents, even those in the field, had the best liquor and food and never had to queue.)
The general's voice diminished nearly to a whisper. "Intelligence was received from a trusted source in America about a forthcoming occurrence there. It is necessary that the man behind this event remains alive, at least until he completes what he intends."
"Who is this person? An agent of ours? Of another service?"
The general stubbed out his cigarette and lit another. Kaverin noted he left a good inch and a half unsmoked. The ashtray was filled with such butts. Together they must have made up a full pack.
"No…" His voice was even softer now. And—astonishing—the comrade generally actually seemed uneasy. He tapped the top secret file before him. "As you'll see in here, this man—Comrade Thirty-five, the code name we've given him—is not motivated by any overt desire to help the Soviet Union but that's exactly what the effect of his actions will be—if he succeeds in his mission." The general's eyes were far more intense than his whispered voice as he said, "And it is up to you to make sure that he remains alive to do so."
"Now, Comrade Rasnakov learned that there are two men who intend to take the life of our American comrade by week's end. That cannot happen. Now, read this file, Comrade Major. Study it. But make sure it does not leave the building. It is for your eyes only. It is perhaps the most sensitive document you will ever come in contact with."
"Learn all you can about Comrade Thirty-five and the two men who wish to harm him. Then make plans to leave immediately for America. You'll meet with Comrade Colonel Nikolai Spesky, one of our GRU agents in place. He can provide weapons and updated intelligence."
"Thank you for this opportunity, Comrade General." Kaverin rose and saluted. The general saluted in return then said, "One more thing, Comrade Major."
"Here." The man handed him a packet of French cigarettes. "You must learn to smoke something that will not set fire to the carpet of your superior officers."
Kaverin returned to his own small office, which offered a partial view of the airport; he would sometimes sit and look at airplanes on final approach. He found this relaxing.
He opened the file and began to read. He got no more than halfway through the first paragraph, however, then sat up with a start, electrified as he read what the mission would entail and who was involved.
Oh, my God…
Kaverin lit a cigarette—one of the new ones—and noted that for the first time in years his thick fingers were actually shaking.
But then, soldier that he was, he put aside his emotions at the momentous consequences of the assignment and got to work.
The flights were carefully planned to arouse the fewest suspicions of the enemy intelligence services.
For the trip Kaverin was dressed Western—a black fedora, a fake bespoke suit and white shirt and narrow black tie, like a funeral director, he thought. Which in a macabre way seemed appropriate. His route took him from Moscow to Paris on an Aeroflot TU-124, then to Heathrow. He connected there to a Trans-Canada Air Lines DC-8 bound for Montreal. Finally he flew from Canada into the United States, first port of call, Idlewild Airport in New York City.
Four hours later he disembarked in Miami.
Whereas New York had seemed hard as steel, edged and unyielding, the Floridian metropolis was soft, pastel, soothed by balmy breeze.
Kaverin walked from the airport terminal, inhaling deeply the fragrant air, and hailed a taxi.
The car—a huge Mercury—bounded into the street. As they drove, Kaverin stared at the palm trees, the bougainvillea and plants he'd never seen. He blinked to observe a flamingo in the front yard of a small bungalow. He'd seen the birds in Africa and believed they were water dwellers. He laughed when he realized the creature was a plastic decoration.
He regretted that dusk was arriving quickly, and soon there was nothing to see but lights.
In a half hour he was at the address he sought, a small, one-story office building, squatting in a sandy lot filled with unruly green groundcover. On the front window was a sign.
East Coast Transportation Associates.
Nick Spencer, Prop.
As good a cover as any for a spy operation, he reflected. After all, the company did do some transporting: stolen secrets and occasional bodies. And the proprietor's pseudonym was a reasonable tinkering with the real name of the GRU agent who worked out of the facility.
Kaverin found the door locked and knocked. A moment later it flew open and there stood a round, broad-shouldered man in a short-sleeved beige shirt—with black vertical stripes of a chain design—and powder blue slacks. His shoes were white.
"Ah, Comrade!" Nikolai Spesky cried, warmly pumping his hand.
Kaverin frowned at the word, looking around at the other office buildings nearby.
Ushering him inside and locking the door behind them, Spesky laughed, and wrinkles rippled in his tanned face. "What are you worried about, Comrade? Microphones? It's a different world here."
"I suppose I am."
"No, no, no. See here, to eavesdrop, the government must get the courts to approve it."
"Which they surely do."
"Ah, Comrade, not necessarily. You'd be surprised. And, what's more, the CIA has no jurisdiction here."
Kaverin shrugged. He took off his heavy jacket—the temperature was about 75 degrees.
"Sit!" Spesky said jovially.
The men lit cigarettes. Spesky seemed delighted Kaverin was the agent chosen to take over for Comrade Rasnakov. "You are quite famous," Spesky said, though without the awe that would have made his comment awkward. "The vile traitor Penkovsky… The people owe you quite a debt, Comrade."
Penkovsky was a GRU agent who spied for the British and Americans, his most valued contribution being providing information that helped Kennedy stand up to the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He was, as Kaverin had learned, less motivated by ideology than by a desire to lead a decadent life in the West. Which he had—until caught by the Soviets and executed.
"I was merely one of a number of people who found the traitor."
"Modest, modest… a good trait for a spy. We must remain unseen, anonymous, subtle. Only in that way can the exultant cause of Mother Russia and the ideology of Herren Marx and Engels, as espoused by our noble progenitor Comrade Lenin, be furthered for the glory of our cause and the people!"
Kaverin remained silent at this pronouncement. But then, as if he could not control himself, Spesky exploded with laughter. "I do a very good impersonation of the Premier, do I not?"
Khrushchev was notorious for his bombastic speeches, but Kaverin wouldn't think of answering the question affirmatively, though Spesky was in fact spot on.
The man scoffed good-naturedly. "Ah, relax, relax, Comrade! We are field agents. The rules don't apply to us." His smile faded. "It's a dangerous job we do and we are to be entitled to some indulgence, including poking fun at the people and the institutions taken far too seriously at home." He patted his large belly. To Kaverin it resounded like a timpani. "I missed my lunch today, Comrade. I must eat something." Squinting at his guest, the man asked, "Now, do you know of CARE packages?"
"Yes, indeed. They were a propaganda tool created by the West after the War for the purpose of exploiting the unfortunate and winning them to the cause of capitalism and imperialism."
Spesky waved his hand impatiently. "You must learn, Comrade Major, that in this country not every comment is an invitation to a political statement. I was merely inquiring if you know the concept. Because I have received a CARE package, of sorts—from my wife in Moscow, and I have been waiting for your arrival to indulge." He lifted onto his desk a large cardboard carton, labeled "Accounting forms," and, with a locking-blade knife, sliced open the lid. He removed a bottle of good vodka—Stolichnaya—and tins of paté, smoked fish and oysters. He unwrapped a loaf of dark bread and smelled it. "Not bad. Not too moldy yet."
They drank the vodka and ate the bread and paté, both of which were excellent. The bread didn't taste the least moldy to Kaverin, and he had quite some intimate knowledge of bread in its final stages.
Tossing down a third small glass of vodka, Spesky said, "I will tell you the details of this assignment." His face clouded over. "Now, our Comrade Thirty-five, the man you are to protect, is not a particularly likable fellow."
"So I have read."
"He acts impulsively, he speaks out when he should listen. Frankly I believe he is a cruel man and may be unstable. Accordingly he has made enemies."
"The Comrade General told me there are two men who present an immediate threat."
"Yes, that's correct. They are U.S. citizens, though of Latin American extraction. Comrade Rasnakov learned that they plan to kill him sometime on Friday." He slid a slim file across the battered desk. "Your job is to intercept them. Then communicate with them."
"Yes, exactly. With one of these." Spesky removed two pistols from his desk, along with two boxes of ammunition.
"You're familiar with these?"
One was a Colt Woodsman, a small caliber, .22, but very accurate, thanks to the long barrel. The other was a large 1911-style Colt .45. "And you will need a car, Comrade," Spesky told him. "I understand you can drive?"
"Good. In the file you will find an address, an abandoned house. There's a garage behind it, off an alley—'garage' they say here to mean not a repair station but a separate place to keep your car in, like a stable."
"I'm aware of that."
"In the garage is a Chevrolet Bel Air. The keys are hidden up under the front seat… Ah, I see you know not only guns but automobiles too, Comrade."
Spesky had apparently noticed that Kaverin was smiling at the mention of the Bel Air.
"Now these are your targets." Spesky opened the file and tapped the documents.
Kaverin read through the file carefully, noting facts about the two men whose mission was to kill Comrade 35—Luis Suarez and Carlos Barquín, both in their mid-thirties. Dangerous men, who were former prisoners. They had murdered before. Their round faces—both bisected with thick mustaches—looked sullen, and Barquín gave the impression of being stupid.
Kaverin, though, knew it was a mistake to underestimate your enemy; he'd seen too many soldiers and agents die because they had done just that. So he read carefully, learning every fact he might about the men.
According to Rasnakov's sources, the two were presently traveling—whereabouts unknown—but would arrive in Texas day after tomorrow. The plan was to kill Comrade 35 that day. Spesky explained that Rasnakov had planned to lie in wait and kill them when they arrived at the boarding house. This would be Kaverin's job now. He pushed the file back and placed the guns and ammunition in his attaché case.
Spesky then handed him an envelope. It contained one thousand dollars U.S. and another airline ticket. "Your flight's tomorrow morning. You'll stay at a hotel near the airport tonight."
After calling for a taxi, Spesky poured more vodka and they ate the rest of the paté and some smoked oysters. Spesky asked about life back in Moscow and what were the latest developments at GRU headquarters. There was gossip about who had become nonpersons and an affair at a very high level, though Kaverin was careful not to mention any names. Spesky was delighted nonetheless.
Neither man, however, had any hesitation in sharing stories about the latest KGB cock-ups and scandals.
When the taxi arrived, Spesky shook Kaverin's hand. Suddenly the brash spy seemed wistful, almost sad. "You will enjoy certain aspects of life here, Comrade. The weather, the food, the plenty, the women, and—not the least—the absence of spies and informers dogging you everywhere. Yet you will also find such freedom comes at a price. You will be alone much, and you will feel the consequences of that solitude in your soul. There is no one to look out for you, no one above to care for you. In the end, you will long to return home to Mother Russia. I know this for a fact, Comrade. I have eight months left here and yet already I am counting the days until I can fly back to her bosom."
- On Sale
- Apr 1, 2014
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing