The First Deception
Written June 2002
Synopsis: Paul, a level four operative, finds himself at the mercy of a rookie named Madeline when they are paired together to retrieve stolen plutonium from a weapons dealer.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
“Come in, Paul. Have a seat.” Adrian puffed on her pipe, watching the man closely. Even though he had worked for her for eight years, he was still cautious in her presence. Understandably so; it was often her second-in-command, George, who made time for progress checks, not her. “How are you?”
Paul lowered himself into the soft-cushioned chair in her office and placed his hands in his lap. “I’m fine. Yourself?”
“I’m well.” She smiled easily. “You may smoke if you’d like.”
“No, thank you. I’m trying to quit.”
Her smile changed into a soft chuckle. “Still?”
Her hopes that Paul would take her place someday as leader of Section One had not changed. He was only level four, and there were other operatives with more experience in the organization, but Paul was different. Eight years was a long time to be a cold op and survive, but compared to Section’s lifetime, he was a baby. His service in the Vietnam War had proved to be invaluable; he was loyal, determined, intelligent, and strong. Perfect qualities for her protégé.
“Your numbers have been quite consistent since you’ve joined us. I’m very pleased with your work. In fact, you’re one of our top-ranking operatives.”
He stared at her, both surprised and pleased. Adrian made a mental note to discuss his visible expressions at a later date.
“In fact,” she continued, “I think you might be the perfect candidate for a team leader. With that comes a promotion to level five and increased responsibilities. Would you be interested?”
“Of course. I won’t let you down, ma’am.”
“I know you won’t, which is why I’ve chosen you to lead a solo mission.” She leaned back in her chair. “Yuri Mishka. Do you recognize the name?”
“Yuri Mishka,” he repeated. “He’s a small arms dealer in Odessa in the Ukrainian region of the Soviet Union. Provides weapons to terrorist groups. Smuggles them in from Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey via the Black Sea. Despite his line of work, he’s no threat to us.”
“Correction. He was no threat to us. We have an operative inside Mishka’s organization who reports that he has gotten his hands on a significant amount of weapons-grade plutonium. He intends on selling it to the highest bidder at some sort of auction on Friday night. Now we have borrowed the invited representative of the CF, so you will be bidding on their behalf. It is vital that you place the highest bid; Mishka will request that the winner stay at his home in Odessa until the sale is complete. That will give you time to coordinate with our operative.”
“What’s his name?”
Adrian grinned broadly. “All I can give you is our operative’s code name: H 21.”
“How long has he been working for Mishka?”
“Just over a year.”
“Does Mishka trust him?”
“Implicitly. That’s why I can only give you the code name; the cover must remain intact for the entire mission, should something go wrong.”
“Nothing will go wrong.”
She smiled once again.
“Name and organization?”
“Jean-Paul Arnoud, CF.” The door swung open, and Paul was allowed inside. Yuri Mishka’s palatial home was impressive, to say the least, and he admired it openly. No expense had been spared in its decoration. It didn’t fit the style of the 1980s; instead, it looked like a house out of Victorian England. The butler led him down the hall to the parlor, where three others were waiting.
Paul took a seat in one of the mahogany chairs and accepted a glass of brandy. Despite all of his training, being in a room with terrorists still made him nervous. Mishka had made certain that no one was carrying a firearm, which lessened the tension somewhat, but he was keenly aware of the several pairs of distrusting eyes on him.
Des communistes français, as the name suggested, was a large group of Paris-based terrorists interested in spreading Communism throughout Europe. They had substations in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. Mishka had been providing weapons for them for less than a year, but their unusually large amount of funds made them a favorite buyer.
The final two guests arrived, and Paul watched them with the same suspicion as the other men. Then they were left alone, the butler having closed the sliding door that led into the parlor. No one spoke; Paul wasn’t even sure if any of them breathed. Time seemed to crawl by, and he was beginning to wonder if Mishka was coming at all when a different door opened.
Four identically-dressed people that he didn’t recognize entered the room, followed by two men that he did: Ivan Iznosko and Yuri Mishka. Now we’re getting somewhere. He straightened in his chair, placing his glass of brandy on the table beside him and folding his hands in his lap.
Yuri Mishka was a short, squat man who looked relatively harmless. He had a dome-shaped, bald head that reflected so much light that it appeared shiny at times and a neatly-styled brown moustache that curled at the ends into a little circle. His constant smile was disturbing, like he knew something that no one else did. Standing beside him was his right-hand man, Ivan Iznosko. The two men were complete opposites in appearance. Ivan was tall and thin, had thick black hair, and looked as dangerous as he was. He never smiled either. Paul didn’t know which one he should watch more closely.
Mishka and Iznosko had been in business together for ten years, so Paul turned his attention to the four bodyguards. One of them had to be his Section contact. Chances are he wouldn’t be able to tell which one just by their looks, but he studied them anyway. The first one was auburn-haired with a matching goatee. The second man’s mouth was curved into a permanent snarl. The third was–
Paul raised an eyebrow. The third wasn’t a man at all; it was a woman. Her coppery hair was pulled back in a French braid with the tail tucked underneath it. He hadn’t noticed her sex before; it was as if she was doing her best to look as masculine as her counterparts. She was standing between Mishka and Iznosko, like she was protecting both of them at the same time.
On the other side of Iznosko was the fourth guard, whose size was comparable to that of an American football player. Paul wondered if that was his contact. He wasn’t carrying a weapon like the other three, unless it was concealed. Perhaps his size was intimidating enough. And undercover Section operatives often went through an in-depth hand-to-hand combat course involving tai chi and street fighting. This guy seemed like the perfect candidate.
After what felt like an eternity, Mishka began to speak, his English heavily accented with Russian, making him difficult to understand. “Greetings, comrades. I’m sure you’re all wondering why I brought you here. First, we all speak and understand English, which cuts the cost of hiring interpreters.”
No one laughed at his comment, and Paul did his best not to smile. An arms dealer making jokes in a room full of terrorists was amusing in and of itself.
“Second,” Mishka continued, undaunted, “you are all relatively new members of your organizations, and if your superiors trust you enough to meet their weapons supplier, then I know I can trust you as well. And third, the organizations you represent are among my favorites, those who buy the most weapons and spend the most money. Consider this my way of saying ‘thank you.'” He pressed each of his fingertips against their twins and regarded his guests seriously. “You are here tonight for a very special auction. The item? Two kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium to use however you see fit. And the price? I thought I’d let you decide. You know your organization’s budget; you know how much you can afford to spend.”
The Chinese terrorist jumped to his feet, shouting out an obscenity in his native language. “You promised that plutonium to my organization!”
The man shrugged. “I changed my mind.”
He lunged at Mishka, who barely flinched as his female bodyguard stepped protectively in front of him.
“I wouldn’t advise that,” she growled, adopting an offensive position. Paul leaned forward in his chair, eyes wide. She should’ve been on the defense, not the offense. Was she going to attack him?
The man laughed, glancing at the other people in the room before turning back to her. “I don’t need some woman telling me what to do.” He sneered at Mishka. “And I certainly don’t need one to protect me.” He made another move forward, and the woman thrust one knuckle onto the midline of his sternum. There had hardly been any force, yet the man began to cough, bending over forward and staggering a little. With one hand holding him steady, she struck him at the hairline above his ear. Like a puppet with its strings suddenly cut, he collapsed.
“Is he dead?” someone asked, watching two of the guards lift his body onto the couch.
“No,” Mishka chuckled, “although she could have killed him just as easily as she rendered him unconscious. I’m surprised your superiors didn’t warn you beforehand.”
Paul was surprised as well, though for a different reason. Why hadn’t Adrian told him that H 21 was a woman?
End of part 1