This steamy sequel continues the adventures of CIA agent Madeline Spruce, certified CIA seductress and assassin. Madeline operates with her contact and lover Colonel Yuri Dubrovnik of the new Russian Federation intelligence organization to thwart a plot by Russia and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea to launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead. Working for the Deputy Director of Operations with her crack Agency team and traveling to exotic, forbidding locations like Ukraine and the DPRK, Madeline must make every orgasm count to perform her mission and return to the embrace of Daniel Porter, her long-time friend and lover.
Lights along the River Don
Ruggedly handsome Col. Yuri Dubrovnik, agent of the new Russian State Security Ministry, or MGB, walked up beside Madeline Spruce, his Agency contact and knocked his ring on the bar before he delivered his parole.
“I notice you are drinking a gin and tonic. Bah! Why don’t you let me buy you a real drink? Russian export vodka is best.”
“Only when it is drunk very cold, but without ice,” Madeline replied as she turned to look the man in the eyes. His pupils dilated as he appraised her. From her vantage, he clearly liked what he saw. She pushed her cocktail from the edge of the bar with two fingers while he ordered two double Stolis, cold and neat.
Madeline Spruce, certified CIA seductress and assassin, wore a vermillion gown to contrast her distinctive, deep brown eyes. Her fingernails and toenails were painted with matching crimson OLI polish. Scorching red had been selected as her signature color this evening for its link with carnality, her old friend. She was a living advertisement for human sensuality.
When the barkeep brought the drinks, Dubrovnik touched her glass with his and threw back his drink in the Russian fashion. She did the same. He ordered a bottle. When it came, he refreshed their glasses.
“Let’s take this bottle to my room to talk,” he said with a wink.
A smirk touched her lips. The two had played this game before, and both were bored with their required formulas. Yet they loved the interplay because of the chemistry between them.
She replied with a counterproposal. “Why don’t we finish the bottle and then jog around Donetsk by the river? For that, we’ll both need to change into something more appropriate.” She threw her new drink back with a gulp and looked straight into his eyes. Her glance was meant to imply an order, not a question.
Dubrovnik seemed a little startled at her abruptness. Did he seem much older and more care-worn all of a sudden? Or was there something menacing in the way he knit his brow?
He nodded. “I’ll change and meet you at your room.”
He had catalyzed the meeting. He had to play by the Agency’s rules, but he did not have to like it. Madeline felt she may have overplayed her hand. She needed him to be susceptible to her charm, not to be put off by her imperiousness. She cocked her head to the side and smiled, looking for a friendly response but finding none.
“Give me ten minutes. I’m in Room 337.” She looked down and left the bar. She felt his smoldering gaze follow her all the way out the door.
Madeline thought the five-star Donbass Palace Hotel in Donetsk, Ukraine, was an unlikely venue for the meeting of two spies, but Dubrovnik had named the time and place. The DDO had objected at the selection of this hotel on account of the difficulty for the Agency to provide its usual tight security wrap, but Madeline had persuaded her boss to grant permission anyway. Madeline had reflected that Dubrovnik would have good reasons for the choice. For one, it was the least likely option. For another, the current confusion and chaos in Ukraine allowed almost anything to happen without causing a fuss.
As she slipped out of her gown and into her track suit and her Adidas running shoes, Yuri’s signature knock sounded on her door—two knocks, then one knock, and finally three knocks. She took her time to answer the door so he would simmer simmer in anticipation. Outside she found her contact quietly fuming at her delay.
Yuri wore a track suit much like hers, only his sweatshirt had a bulge that indicated a large object concealed in his pouch. When he was safely inside her room with the door closed, he drew her close and kissed her. She fell into his strong arms and laid her head on his chest. He held her for a moment, and then he backed off and withdrew a large-caliber revolver from his sweatshirt’s pouch so she could see it. He pushed the gun back into its hiding place and strode to the window. He parted the heavy green curtains and looked down along the street.
“I don’t think we’ll be followed, but we can’t be sure. Will you be carrying a weapon?”
Madeline extracted her pistol from her sweatshirt and chambered a round. “Yuri, this is not our first rodeo. Are your people covering our meeting, or not?”
The MGB colonel shook his head. “I chose this place because we’d be alone together. My superiors know I’m meeting a primary contact from the West, but they don’t know which contact. They’ll never know the substance of this meeting.”
The admission appalled her since Dubrovnik had never mentioned hiding information from his bosses before. Her fear showed.
Dubrovnik’s expression softened to put her at her ease. “I had this room swept by two different teams before you arrived. We can speak freely here. We’ll be somewhat vulnerable during our walk by the river, but the reward will outweigh the risk. Are you ready to jog?”
The pair departed separately from the hotel and met jogging by the River Don ten minutes later. It was almost evening. The buildings and foliage cast long shadows over the flat surface of the water in the fading light.
“From the point of view of an outsider, our meeting will seem a chance encounter building on our earlier meeting in the hotel bar.” Yuri said. “I brought you a thumb drive with details in an encrypted file. The password for the file is ecurps. Take it and put it in your pouch.”
Madeline did as he told her.
He nodded approvingly and continued giving his instructions as he jogged. “I’ll give you a second thumb drive with the decryption program before you leave. Reverse the password to open the file on that one.”
Madeline chuckled at his using her last name for both passwords. Its total lack of subtlety was its genius.
As the couple jogged along the river, Yuri told Madeline why he had crashed their unscheduled meeting. He spoke evenly, but she could tell he was worried from the crow’s feet around his eyes and the furrow in his brow.
“On the thumb drive, you’ll find that I’ve been party to three linked meetings during the last three weeks. One was a meeting of our expert missile people discussing the feasibility of early integration of a weapon with a ballistic missile. I assumed the content of the meeting was routine until I attended the second meeting. In that one, our nuclear experts discussed the feasibility of mounting a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile by the fastest available means. This peaked my interest since nothing involving nuclear weapons integration ever proceeds fast in Russia.”
Her eyes widened in surprise as she waited for him to continue.
Yuri pressed his lips together in a line. He had something much more important to tell her, but he was trying to formulate his thoughts before he engaged his mouth, so she remained silent to give him all the time he needed. Meanwhile, she watched the black surface of the swollen river in the afternoon light and kept her jogging pace in time with his.
After a few minutes, Yuri spoke. “The third meeting was between our Russian operational teams and a team of experts from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Held in Vladivostok, it was a planning meeting under code word Tchaikovsky. The objective of this meeting was to solidify a schedule for the integration of a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile platform in a secret underground factory outside Pyongyang so it can be fired at a designated target within two months. The target was not specified. Nevertheless, I called for this meeting at once to give you the status.” Urgency filled his dark eyes.
She nodded. “I’m glad you did. Yuri, what do you think is happening? Could it be a barium meal?”
Dubrovnik kept up his pace. He scanned the environs for watchers. “I think plans are afoot for my government to assist the DPRK to launch a weapon against one of its many enemies. I understand your question about its being disinformation. You are not wrong. It could be a barium meal meant to test my loyalty. That’s why I don’t want the specifics of the contents on the files I gave you to be disseminated widely in your Agency.”
“The decrypted file will only be seen by me and my immediate boss, I can assure you of that. How soon can you find out the target and schedule for the launch?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m taking steps to determine the details. I’ll need your Agency’s help since our North Korean clients have a peculiar mindlessness of their own. As soon as they’ve integrated the weapon and the platform, they can do whatever they wish with it.”
Madeline was well aware of the whimsy of the Kim regime. The fact that they might be serious about launching a nuclear weapon gave her goose bumps. “What’s your plan?”
Dubrovnik was a risk taker, but he was also a Russian patriot.
“I’ve only given you the intelligence about the nuclear weapon because I feel my country is going to be assuming a tremendous risk by giving the DPRK the capability. No one will believe the North Koreans have the capability of developing the weapon using only their own resources. Eventually, we Russians would be seen as the enablers. That could be a systemic problem for Russia.”
Madeline continued jogging, lost in thought about the prospect of a nuclear engagement. Was the target to be the United States? China? Japan? Any of those would hurl the world into uncharted territory.
Yuri continued. “I’ve been assigned to the group that will infiltrate the team of experts to advise the North Koreans on the weapon integration. I may not be able to relay intelligence to anyone once I cross over into the DPRK. Any attempt I might make could result in my swift execution. Of course, I’m not sure but my entire Russian team may be exterminated once we’ve done what Kim directs. That would assure that no one who knew the truth would remain alive to tell the tale. If I were in his shoes and had his mindset, that would be my plan.”
Madeline weighed this option for a moment before she responded. “I’m not happy about your being ordered to do something dangerous. I might never see you again.” She paused to gauge his expression, which remained tensely focused on what lay ahead on their path. She changed her tactic. “What’s your best guess about the DPRK’s target right now?”
Yuri nodded but did not answer her right away. He looked ahead through the evening shadows along the road beside the river. Madeline followed his gaze and just made out the shapes of three men loafing in the grassy area leading down to the slow-moving water.
Yuri gestured at the three men. “We may have trouble ahead. Prepare for action. I’m going to speed up to discover whether those three men are a reception committee for us. You continue at your current pace and be ready for anything.”
Dubrovnik sped ahead. Madeline watched as he closed on the men. The men fanned out to block his path and intercept him. What happened next took only a few seconds. Dubrovnik drew his gun and shot the man in the middle first as he seemed to be the leader. Then he killed the other two men with two quick head shots. He closed on them to search their bodies.
By the time Madeline reached him, Dubrovnik was looking around for anyone who might have witnessed his three assassinations. Seeing no one, he went straight to the river and thrust his revolver into the mud on edge of the riverbank. He rinsed his hands in the water and dried them on the outside of his sweatshirt. He waved to Madeline to follow him at speed. He remained silent. His eyes flashed, and his gaze swept the area ahead as they ran.
Three blocks later, Yuri gestured to turn west to follow the gridded roads back toward the hotel. The first words he said were, “Those three men carried no identification. They looked Russian, and all were armed. I don’t know who sent them to kill us or why. In any case, they were probably programmed to report to someone after they dealt with us. Since they’re all dead, we have no time to lose.”
“What do you plan to do?” Madeline said.
“I’m going to run ahead and check out of the hotel as soon as I arrive. Jog at a slow pace so you arrive well after I enter the place. You’ll have to check out as soon as possible afterward. I’ve left an envelope addressed to you with the concierge. Its contents are for your eyes only.”
“Will you have time for some nocturnal play before you leave? My blood is flowing now, and I’m afraid this might be our last meeting, ever.” Madeline was surprised by what came gushing out of her mouth. She was a professional spy, but she had gained affection for the man. It was true that at any time she might be required to take his life, yet she angled to reassure him of her continued sexual availability.
“Madeline, I’m very sorry we won’t have time to make love this time. I look forward to that more than I care to admit. Will you take a rain check?”
He smiled with regret as he uttered the American slang. Yuri was one of the best lovers she had encountered in her line of business as a CIA seductress. She sensed from his former reactions to her ministrations in bed that he felt the same way about her. He had just admitted what she needed most to hear. Now she had to confirm his offer.
Madeline smiled. “You know how I cherish all our meetings, Yuri. Of course, you have a rain check to use at any time. Take care of yourself until we meet again.” She thought for a moment. “If the Ukrainian authorities ask about what happened this afternoon by the river, what should we say?”
A shadow of seriousness fell over Yuri’s features. “We’ll tell them we turned early to get back to the hotel after we met by the river. They’ll be glad to assume we planned to have sex as soon as possible. In any case, we’ll say we never saw the three men I killed. We never heard the shots. Totally absorbed in our future encounter with each other, we were oblivious to everything around us.”
“If only that were true.”