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Crossroads excerpts (book available in Ebook and paperback formats. Can be ordered Online or from bookstores. Also, directly from www.snedelton.com).
The chase car is still flashing red. A large Mongol with a flat yellow face and shovel-like incisors is holding his passport and visa. The guard’s Russian is hard to understand; his English is impossible. “My car stalled, I’m a tourist,” he is explaining in his bad Russian to the Mongol. The guard laughs, shows off his incisors, then pokes him in the chest with his gloved forefinger. “You play poker. You, you–capitalist spy,” he says in his best English.
The relative bliss lasted for two years...and then the unexpected happened. During his trip to Niece, Monsieur had an accident. A rather thorough subsequent police investigation of the car wreck yielded no clues. The Trade Department became suspicious.
“Just one of those damned accidents?” Boris queried Sokolov.
“As far as we know. Unfortunately, we are the losers.”
“Could it be that they found out something and liquidated him?” Boris wanted a better answer.
“I’ll find out. I’m not happy with the story. The man did not drink. We know that for sure. She would have known it, right? She says that he was always extra cautious in everything he did. Yet, he got himself killed. In the middle of the day. Just doesn’t look like him. Very hard to swallow,” Sokolov said.
Two long months passed and Sokolov got not one step further. The only comforting news was that the new manager would be Monsieur’s former right hand, and that he, too, had an immediate interest in Mme Benoit. That’s what she’d told Sokolov, in any case. And as far as they were concerned, they were floating in the Dead Sea. Very salty and not much hope.
Benoit’s situation became very difficult after her boss’s death, but she didn’t dare tell Sokolov. And for a very good reason. Right after her lover’s death—or perhaps his murder—she was summoned to the office of the new chief.
“Madame Benoit, I’d like to inform you that you will continue as my aide, the same position you held before,” the new manager advised her, “and of course, I’ll continue with your...friendship...wherever it happened to stop. Believe me, it will be much easier on you because I am not married, and I’m much younger.” He smiled mischievously, as if he was telling her a really funny joke.
She wanted to ask him what ‘friendship’ he was referring to, though, obviously, it wouldn’t have made much sense. But he must have read her mind.
“Believe me, I’m quite familiar with all your arrangements and, in fact, I have a few new ones for you...along your lines of expertise—I hope,” he said, still smiling that all-knowing smile.
Almost instantly, she began to hate him. And fear him, too.
She thought: What does he know? How much? Is there a leak at the Embassy? Who told him about me?
She didn’t know and couldn’t even guess. There was a shred of hope, however. They weren’t about to prosecute her. At least not at that ungodly moment. She still had time. Time to run for her life. But she needed to talk to her control before she made any move. Benoit bravely sat there, looking the fiend in the eye.
“I sense that you like adventure, correct me if I’m wrong,” he said and paused, still watching her like a hawk. Gauging her reaction? Looking for fear? No doubt. “In fact, you’ve been highly recommended to me. So, now I have a fresh new assignment for you. Here it is, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the game. Now, listen well. You’re to contact the Russian Embassy and offer your services—in secret of course. Find any simple reason. Remember, a simple one—you hate your new boss, lousy salary, some disgruntled employee bit. We screwed you bad, lied to you about your promotion, demoted you instead—after all these years. The bottom line—you want us dead. You’re sick of everything. Of course, you shall command the top value. And when they contact you—it’ll take them a while—you shall ask for a large compensation. You’ve got no experience—right? Something crazy high or no deal, comrades. Remember, top spies don’t work for free. So, you’ll haggle with them. The more you haggle, the more they’ll trust you. You must make sure they take you seriously. Then, we sit and wait. As long as it takes. Eventually, they’ll come back to you. All right? We will feed you with the information and you shall make sure that they get it. Is that clear?”
He said it all quite conspiratorially, as if he didn’t know a thing about her.
Throughout his long monologue she observed him, never taking her eyes off his face, as if mesmerized. She could hardly feel her heart pumping while the most horrifying thoughts raced through her mind.
They pretend they don’t know a thing about me.
If they knew, would they let me get away with…?
Perhaps, no. Perhaps, yes.
At this point I am expendable, on both ends.
Someone has blown my cover.
Assume that it has happened—somehow.
That assumption is always the safest one. And most often true.
Then, they have two options, she thought. One, to open her up, prosecute her; or two, to force her to become a double and eliminate her when she became of no use to them. It seemed to her, though she wasn’t certain, that they had selected the second option.