Cold War, hot spies, y'all. Vincent and Kolya are back -- in the Deep South. They must protect a brilliant chemist and his family while the man completes the new formula he's promised to sell to T.H.R.U.S.T.
The assignment should have been a piece of pecan pie, but F.I.S.T. has its eye on the formula, and the local rednecks take exception to a bunch of Damn Yankees moving into their territory. Can the two spies keep the family safe? Will the doctor's two precocious children sabotage the whole assignment?
And what about Vincent and Kolya's new relationship? This is their first assignment since they made the decision to move in together. Can they cope with the strain of the job ... and the humidity? Or will their new romance be put on the back burner along with the grits and collard greens?
The Parrish Plate sat at the corner of Main Street and Pine Boulevard. Nikoloz pulled into the small parking lot. “It does not appear that there are many patrons of this restaurant,” he noted. Four cars besides their own sat in front of the building, and one of those might belong to the chemist, though he and Vincent had arrived before their appointed time.
“Too late for lunch and too early for dinner,” said his partner.
They entered the restaurant, and Nikoloz paused for a moment to analyze the situation -- and to enjoy the air conditioning. The place was a small neighborhood diner, with several booths by the windows and a few tables at the back. Three of the booths were occupied, but each contained more than one person, so were not likely to be Dr. Yarborough. A middle-aged woman approached them, holding several menus. A badge pinned to her dress read Millie.
“Hey, y’all,” she said. “Y’aunt a booth ‘er table?”
Nikoloz glanced at his partner. Vincent winced and pinched the bridge of his nose, but said nothing. Nikoloz took a guess at the woman’s meaning. “A table in the rear, please.”
They sat with their backs to the wall, facing the door. Millie handed them the menus. “Y’all want tea or Coke?”
Vincent elbowed Nikoloz. “Tea will be sweet. I’ll have a Coke, please, Millie.”
“What is ‘y’all’?” Nikoloz requested coffee, and studied the menu. “And why are there no healthy choices?”
“Welcome to the Deep South, partner. Everybody is ‘y’all’ or ‘honey,’ and everything’s deep fried or covered in sugar ... or both.”
Nikoloz raised an eyebrow. “Is anyone in the Deep South healthy?”
Millie returned with their drinks. “That’s a cute accent,” she said, handing Nikoloz a small pitcher of cream “Where was you born, honey?”
“Y’all are joshing me. That ain’t no Georgia accent.”
“Not this Georgia. It is in the Ukraine.”
She just stared blankly.
“In the Soviet Union.”
Millie took a step back. “Whoa. You’re a Commie?”
Vincent held up a hand. “We work for an international charity organization, Millie. He’s a good guy.”
The “international charity organization” was the agency’s cover. T.H.R.U.S.T., the Tactical Homeland Response Unit and Security Taskforce, worked behind the scenes to promote world peace and cooperation. They were billed publicly as The Humanitarian Rehabilitation Urban Support Team, which supposedly sponsored programs such as helping the homeless and reclaiming neighborhoods. Vincent and Nikoloz were only two of many such agents assigned to protect the innocent citizens of the earth. Vincent had been Nikoloz’s partner for several years now, though at first the idea of the American paired with a Soviet ex-KGB agent had raised Nikoloz’s eyebrows. They had meshed into one of the most effective teams in the organization, however. Vincent’s exuberant personality and “Damn the torpedoes” attitude was matched by Nikoloz’s reticence and logical analysis of a situation.
Now, Nikoloz was having trouble analyzing their waitress. Millie gave him a skeptical look, but she took their orders. Nikoloz decided on a steak with what was described as a green salad. Vincent had a burger and fries, of course, Nikoloz didn’t understand how the man stayed healthy with as much junk food as he consumed.
Once Millie had returned to the kitchen, Nikoloz leaned toward his partner. “What, exactly, is the connection between Communism and being a ‘good guy’?”
“Again, you’re in the Deep South, Kolya. Communists are the bad guys, along with Republicans and hippies.”
Only Vika was a close enough friend to use the diminutive of his name. “So I should lie?”
“Just ... withhold part of the truth, okay? You don’t have to go around telling everybody you’re a Russian.”
“I am Soviet, and I would think it obvious from my accent.”
“Trust me, partner. Most people down here won’t know where you’re from unless you tell them. And if you’re asked, just tell them you were born in Europe.”
Nikoloz opened his mouth to reply, but the door swung inward and a middle-aged man walked in. He glanced around, spotted Vincent and Nikoloz, and approached somewhat hesitantly.
“Cousin Vincent, is that you? I hardly recognized you without that mustache.”
As this was the code phrase they’d agreed upon, Nikoloz rose to extend his hand. “Dr. Yarborough, I am Nikoloz Donauri, at your service.”
The doctor joined them. Millie hurried over with a glass of tea. “The usual, doc?”
“Thank you, Millie.”
“Did I hear you say this is your cousin?”
“From San Francisco, yes.” Dr. Yarborough said with a smile.
Millie leaned over to whisper hoarsely in his ear. “The other fellow is a Rooskie. You’d better be careful.”
“I am Soviet,” Nikoloz said. “Also, I was born in Europe.”
Millie bustled away again. Dr. Yarborough fiddled with his napkin. He ran a hand through his thinning brown hair. He rearranged his silverware. He sipped his tea. “I suppose I should get to the point,” he finally said.
“We’re at your disposal,” Vincent said. “Take your time.”
“I’ve been contacted by what I think is your enemy organization. They’ve offered me a lot of money for my formula, even unfinished as it is.”
“Our organization will match whatever the opposition offers, of course. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping the world instead of helping F.I.S.T. overthrow it.”