"Yes, it's the very worst, I'm afraid. A double agent in our midst."
"But how? The careful screenings, the psychological exams, the polygraphs, the quarterly urine tests!"
"Yes, I know. Devil of a situation. Very hush hush. The Russians have intercepted almost every contact we've put out for the last year. And they damn near made good on their infiltration of the lunar substation! A good thing Blade was there. Of course, he won't do us much good for long if they get to him, too."
"What did you say?"
"Only that logically the Russians will want to use their agent to get to the best man on the force -"
"That's it! I have a plan. Get Blade on the phone."
"A spy? In the Bureau? Da, it cannot be!"
"It is true. All of our contacts in America have been compromised. We barely pulled out our agent in Rio before the assault team landed. And critical plans have been stolen, and printed in the London Times! Our diplomats have been very busy, denying it all, but they say their shoes are all worn out from the banging! Sorry. A bad joke, comrade. But the truth remains. There is only one way the enemy can know so much about our plans and personnel."
"We must root him out!"
"Perhaps we could enlist one of our female agents. They have been known to be very ... persuasive, in matters such as this."
"No! They are too willing to fall in love with the enemy. No, we will not settle for second-rate. We will have our best man put on the job. Get me Toretski!"
"Ahem. Sorry to interrupt, Blade. Duty calls."
Blade rolled over, still blinking his eyes at the sunlight creeping through the windowshades. The petite girl lying next to him stirred as he got out of bed, purring sleepily, "Come back to bed, John." Blade smiled apologetically at Whittier, who dourly turned and led the way to the living room.
"It doesn't look good, John. We may have a double agent in our ranks."
Blade frowned. "Double agent? That's not my line of work, Chief. Espionage, reconnaissance, saving the world,
that's my game."
"Oh, you'll have all of that another day, Blade. For now your country needs you as a decoy. It's a devilishly
clever plan, actually, if I do say so myself. We've arranged a little cash-for-arms deal with the Russians - five
million pounds for some of our new laser gun technology. The trade will take place in Rome, on the Spanish Steps, in
two weeks. Unless. We'll carelessly slip that you are going to be involved in the trade, but we won't divulge any
other information. The operative will simply have to ask the only person who knows where the meeting is going to be."
"Correct, Blade. So whenever the turncoat approaches you asking for more details about your trip, we'll have our
"And what about the deal? Obviously a fake, right?"
"Oh, um, yes, obvious," Darke stammered.
Blade laughed quietly and shook his head. "Come and get it!" the young lady shouted cheerily from the bedroom.
"I've interrupted you, Blade. Well then. That will be all. Good luck," Whitter finished, stepping out of the apartment.
"Luck in-deed," he muttered, heading back to his expectant houseguest ...
"Sergei Toretski, it's good to see you again."
"I would say the same, but I had to shorten my vacation in Cyprus by a week to be back here. This must be very
important, to warrant such action."
"It is of utmost importance, comrade. We have a bug in the system. A bug that must be crushed."
"I see. And what is my role in the bug's destruction?"
"The British have arranged to sell us some laser technology. We do not need the technology - we stole the very same
secrets from the Americans a year ago - but we do need to find the bug. You are to meet the man carrying the documents
in Rome, on the Spanish Steps. You will give him five million pounds. Only you will give him nothing. For we will
enlist our little bug in his own demise. You see, we have compiled a list of the possible bugs. We will set up several
false contacts in cities across Europe, using the bugs as bait. They will, unlike you, each carry five million pounds
- counterfeit, of course - but they will think that they are the real contact. We will send shadows to watch them
covertly - and whichever one abandons his job, is the bug. For only the bug will know that the real contact is in
Rome, and that the money he has is false."
"It sounds brilliant, comrade," Toretski agreed, trying hard not to roll his eyes. That's a decidedly
complicated plan. "But if this is a friendly deal, no trickery or espionage involved, why should the bug get
involved at all?"
"Ahh. Very good question. That is where you come in. We have unfortunately already leaked that you are going to be
our representative in Rome. And what good double agent would pass up a chance to kill our number one spy? He will even
think he has the perfect alibi, being in a totally different city, waiting for a deal that never came. only we will
know the truth, and the bug will ..."
"... Be exterminated?"
"Ha ha, yes, very good, Sergei. Exterminated, yes."
"Still nothing? Blade, it's been two weeks, and no one has asked you about your plans?"
"Dead air, sir."
"Blast! That can only mean one thing. The double agent must intend to accost you personally to take the information. You'll have to go to Rome, I'm afraid."
"An unintended consequence, I'm sure."
The director seemed ruffled at the comment. "Yes, yes, very bad for the agency, we'll need you in other places, you're not expendable, John, be very careful .."
"Thank you, sir. I'll be at the airport at 0600. Have the jet waiting, will you? Oh, and chief ..."
"After this, perhaps a little more vacation time. I'm only human, you know."
As Sergei sat through yet another "intelligence briefing" with a decoy money handler (the eighth one today!), his mind was far way, on the shores of Cyprus. The sandy beach was lovely this time of year. And the native girls! ...
"Toretski, what do you know about Prague?"
"The last time I was there, I was chased by Slavic mobsters clear to the Aral Sea. They have a real possessive quality about their women, it seems. Luckily, I had planted an ejection seat module in their car before my escape. It was the first Czech I ever bounced." A muted groan from the audience. "Still, hardly friendly for your typical underground agent."
"Very good, Sergei. Do you understand, Comrade Sankoff?"
The bright-eyed young comrade nodded agreeably. He stood up, took the small Tokarev and the heavy briefcase from the desk, saluted, and walked out.
"What do you think, Sergei?"
Sergei shrugged. "Whichever one is the double agent is playing his part very well. No facial tics, no verbal suggestions, nothing. The real test will come soon enough."
"You are right. Here is your suitcase with the money. We will have your helicopter waiting at the square at 0300 to take you to Berlin, where you will catch a train to the border. There, you will -"
"If it's all the same to you, I'll make my own travel arrangements. You bureaucrats always seem to find a way to skimp on that account, so I will save you the trouble."
"Very good, Sergei. Remember: your British contact is the man in the black suit with the white carnation on his lapel."
Toretski saluted, and exited, his mind still lost in the endless Mediterranean ...
"It's been nearly two hours since the dropoff occurred. Why the devil hasn't he called? Something must have gone wrong."
"Sir, I'm sure it's nothing. Blade is probably still on the lookout for the double agent. Maybe even leading him into a trap. Remember the affair in Montreal?"
"Brilliant work. Still, I've had enough. Call our contact in the KGB."
"Sir, shouldn't we wait?"
"Damn it, man, this is John Blade we're talking about! We need as much information as we can get. Get him on the line."
The deputy director picked up the secure phone in the corner and dialed through. He spoke in terse but succinct Russian.
"This is the Leningrad kremlin. Clearance code AD229T. Get me Toretski."
"Comrade, we have received word from all of our shadow operatives in the field. No one has abandoned their post. The operative in Cairo is asleep in the library! Our plan is a failure, and now we will lose five million pounds!"
"All is not lost, dear Ygevny. We must call upon our secret weapon. Perhaps he will be able to straighten out what is going on." The chief administrator pushed a button behind his desk. "Amarov? Connect me with John Blade."
As the speedboat raced away from the Italian coast, headed indiscriminately east, he took a sweet savoring moment to remove the white carnation and take one final whiff before tossing it into the vast sea.
Of course, his real name wasn't John Blade or Sergei Toretski. He had abandoned his real identity a long time ago - it hadn't been particularly valuable at the time - and had forged a new one, working foreign relations at the Russian embassy in Sweden, perfecting his Cyrilic and his accent. When the opportunity had arisen, he had taken the entrance exam at MI6, worked hard, moving to the top ranks. At around the same time, he became a celebrated field agent at the KGB by "thwarting" a chemical weapons facility sabotage attempt by the British.
When he had "defected" to the other side, he was even savvy enough to have Blade lead the negotiations for Toretski at a secluded location - and, of course, Toretski's powers of persuasion were particularly convincing for the misguided capitalist slave Blade. But now it was time to quit: the lunar substation mission had been a risky one. In Monaco, his Russian commander had missed bumping into his British one by only mere minutes! Too close for comfort, and besides, he had only gotten into it all for the adventure.
Those silly men, he thought as the carnation drifted away, and the million-dollar documents sank into unknown waters. If they keep hiring people like me to the payroll, they'll never win this Cold War. Maybe one day I'll write a book about the whole ordeal ... He smiled as again the sandy beaches of Cyprus crept into his mind, and suddenly the world seemed a lot smaller to the man in the black suit.