The Enemy of My Enemy Is 'My Friend'
Under other conditions this would not have been a very enjoyable trip; but today everything was strictly for pleasure. I was seeing a friend for what was our nearly monthly meeting. I was learning chess from him and we both enjoyed the time away from the job. For him travel was not only expensive, but for someone in his position, education and previous history it was prohibited. He was the ranking Soviet aerospace physicist, who also happened to be a senior fellow at Moscow University in Mathematics. Getting one PHD was hard enough in Russia, getting two was near unheard of, but Victor was someone special. He had gained the trust and respect of not only Gregor Andropov when they were both KGB, but in many ways a reputation for honesty and integrity within those in the 'Tradecraft'.
When Andropov became a Minister, he remembered his 'old friends'. Not only within KGB, but there was an unwritten rule that even though 'agents', we(his 'old friends' he called us) were 'hands off' and this was returned with our understanding that he and Victor were also 'hands off'. Heaven help anyone who might 'break; that rule. It was a time that any of us, friend or foe would 'protect' Comrade Andropov no mater which side we were on.
We all saw things coming down the road that would require a unified effort. North Korea, China(more so to the Brits), The Middle East, some South American, or African Dictators were fast becoming 'Enemies' to all of us.
My name really does not matter. I just change them as often as I can. How Victor and I met was a story in itself.
One of the mercenary Bulgarians was hired by a Russian Minister who felt Gregor was not 'on his team', so to speak. Several of the 'Embassy' employees on Moscow got wind of a pending 'hit' on Andropov and started to watch out for it. When the Bulgarian tried, Victor was with Gregor playing chess on one of those ubiquitous street cafes. Four different people took out the assassin before he even got close to Gregor. He was then taken to the Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow Hotel, one of the better choices for a diplomat. The poor guy was 'prepped' and everyone wanted him ready to start singing when Gregor paid a visit.
It was not pretty, well it was pretty bloody and a lot of blood missed the plastic sheeting laid on the floor. Now I know why the 'Old Timers' taped the arms to hold them to the chairs. When fingers and nails are removed those arms fly all around.
A video was played back for Gregor when he arrived later that day. He did ask a few questions about the Modolva Respublika in Moscow; that was where the Bulgar was sent from, it was not the first that Moldova had drawn our attention, I guess now, there would be a few changes made there.
What seemed to impress Gregor was that four different non-Soviet agencies would join together to 'protect' a Russian, from another Soviet. We all had a laugh. 'What agency?' was the unanimous response. Actually, it was the individuals who had heard of the 'hit' and felt honour bound to stop it.
Gregor was quite amazed. He arranged a dinner with each of us privately to thank us and show his appreciation. When we had our time together, he asked me what he might do for me? My answer to that was easy. "I would like to learn how to play chess!" That was how Victor and I got together.
That led to my initial meeting with Victor. The stigma of 'East meets West' evaporated once it was known what we were doing was not 'business related' and has the endorsement of now Senior Minister Andropov. Although each of us never knew our schedule too far in advance, it was agreed that we would try to meet one weekend every month or two in Moscow.
The implications of that were considered, and the first few sessions were open to any viewers. The various non-Soviet Embassies even played host to these games and when they all were fairly bored and satisfied(sure) that nothing was going on, our meetings became a 'normal' event. Victor warned me about the KGB assigning several very attractive agents for me to 'accidently' bump into, but who was I to complain at some companionship during those 'cold' Russian winters.
Who knew back then that would probably end up saving my life.
I had an image of Russian woman in my mind. You know, an Olympic shot-putter. Well folks, what I was not expecting was Natasha and Katya. One just walked up and sat down at my dinner table, uninvited, but if I had my choices I would have sat her down anyway.
Her initial words were, "We are really hungry so Mr. Smith, would you mind ordering everything twice, I will leave between courses then my sister will take my place. One of us need to 'watch' over you while the other is with you."
"Tell me that I have not gone to Paradise and you are both not the first of my virgin rewards."
"Okay, I will not tell you that."
"Now that we have all these formalities over Ms. Jones, why don't you go back, get your sister over, and both of you join me."
She looked at me. "Both?"
"Yep, if I get killed, I will die a happy man.
How long will I get to have the 'pleasure of your company?"
"As long as you stay in Moscow. Unless you wish to take us with you?"
"If your sister looks anywhere like you, that is an easy choice to make. I must thank Gregor for this 'Protection'."
"Mr. Smith, she is not just like me, she is my twin sister, but I think I am a 40 D and she is a 40 DD, I hope you are not too disappointed?. I will tell Papa your acceptance of our services, I assume that 'all' our services are to be included?"
"Oh, I would never want to insult my host. Can I keep you both forever? Do you know what 'Love at first sight' means?"
"It means, I think, that given the choice of us or caviar, that selection would be easy for you, one is a meal for the night, the other, a gift that keeps on giving. The only thing we can promise you is that neither of us will 'use' you to any 'covert' means. Papa has asked you do the same. He also wants you to consider taking us home with you and finding a place for us in the USA. Papa thinks that the Russia that once was is changing and wants better for his daughters."
Honesty is not a thing often found in this business. Here was a girl who I knew nothing about; not her name, age or vital statistics, but I was 'smitten'. No, I was 'head over heels in love' with this girl. I just had to know if she was just acting or if she, and her sister really wanted a move.
"Get your sister over here love, they we can order our food and talk about all this, I guess I don't have to decide where to go tonight with you two 'protecting' my body."
"Nyet, we will do a very good job 'protecting' your body, but who will protect you from us?"
I learned that Russian women were not allowed in the restaurant unless there was a foreigner or registered guest of the hotel in attendance. At more than $500. per day, not too many locals frequented there. Their names were Natasha and Katya Andropov, yep, those were real names. Neither were with the KGB, and there had been a fight when Gregor had simply told his counterpart there that I was 'a friend' and under his protection, should there be any need for that to be understood, then it would be 'painful' for him. That he would have his own daughters accompany me was an action that even the KGB took note of. That I was being asked to have them accompany me all over was seen by many as more than a 'reward' for saving his life. It would soon turn ugly with many officials in the 'business', but that is another story in itself.
Events in Russia, Germany, Poland, in fact the entire USSR, made our comings and goings seem trivial all of a sudden. It was at this time 'we' started to travel. Yep, 'we', by now I felt like to go anywhere without my 'wives' was not possibly. Trust takes time, for both sides, but our future together afforded us many opportunities to garner it. One of the first 'consideration' was when Natasha, or was it Katya, suggested that Victor accompany us to the USA. Natasha has this small birthmark on her ... never mind, dressed it is often difficult to tell them apart.
I did not even know 'we' were going to the US, let alone Victor too. My 'masters' at Langley sent me a new set of 'assignments', 'to go home' was essentially the message. Gregor seemed to be well connected.