Dmitry paced the fifteen feet of his fifth floor studio apartment, sat down, immediately got up and began pacing again. “Damn!”he muttered under his breath. “I should have never gotten involved in this to start with.”
Natasha knew better than to follow her instincts and try to comfort him. She knew from their decade together that Dmitry never liked to be comforted when he paced. Instead, she tried to reason with him. “Why are you so sure you’re in trouble? Maybe … “
“Because I know, dammit. How many times has Vlad called someone in for a “special meeting” and that person simply disappeared?”
Natasha nodded. “OK,” she admitted, “but this time may be different. Do you have any idea what it’s about?”
“Oh, hell yes. I know exactly what it’s about! The GRU took up my idea to morph the American political party known as GOP into a death cult. They double checked my computer modeling and eventually most everyone agreed it was worth a try, however absurd it seemed on the face of it. But in six months of work, we have yet to find anyone depraved enough to come on board. We’ve compromised quite a few GOP Senators, but none of them will go along with actually killing tens of thousands of their countrymen.”
Natasha frowned and said gently, “Should you be telling me this?”
“No, but what the hell. I’m going down anyway. We couldn’t find anyone that crooked. No-one.”
Natasha realized that if Dmitry really did get disappeared, she was in mortal danger as well. After all, her job was to ensure his success. And, if he really did fail big time, the axe would fall even harder on his handler. He knew damned well that he shouldn’t be saying anything about this to his ‘girlfriend’. Maybe she would report him. Maybe not. First things first. “Hey, what about a prominent actor or businessman? It doesn’t have to be a politician does it? Didn’t they have a popular President who was only a second rate actor?”
“You don’t think we thought of that? We tried … we got close with a few. They’re okay with stealing money, but actually killing people — so many wimpy Americans. For some weird reason, they draw the line at murder. We need someone who has no grasp of reality. On the edge of insanity. Most business successes — unless they just inherited all their wealth — and even then, they’ll just lose their inherited wealth if they can’t face reality so … and actors? Sure there are a lot on the edge. But not over the edge…well, none that would be popular enough. We’ve tried successful people in religion, business, show business…but no luck. There has to be something. But we haven’t found it. What are we missing?”
Natasha spoke quietly. “What about unsuccessful people, Dmitry?”
“What? What are you talking about? Why would we want someone unsuccessful?”
“OK, Dmitry, just hear me out. Someone who is actually successful has some sense of accomplishment. They are not going to be that easy to puppetize. On the other hand…if you could find someone who is actually a failure as a politician, or a failure as a businessperson or a failure as an actor….”
Dmitry stopped pacing and looked at Natasha. “Wait a moment! You might be onto something, Natasha! We have been baying at the moon all this time when we really should be baying at the streetlight!”
Natasha smiled, “Or, even a porch light. Or a picture of the moon.”
Dmitry frowned. “A porch light? What are you talking about? What picture?”
Natasha tilted her head and clucked her tongue. “He — or she — but probably he — he could be a complete failure. But someone who wants to be seen as successful. Someone who has lied about his success would be perfect.”
Dmitry began pacing again. “I see what you mean, but there’s one problem. Someone that inept would be too inept to carry out the assignment even though — I agree that they might be willing — how can they be inept and competent at the same time?”
Natasha thought for a moment. “Their ineptitude could actually be an asset, Dmitry. They could be saying and doing all sorts of random and idiotic things. But that would distract the American people from the real action. See what I mean? The more inept and stupid he is publicly, the more people will discount the effectiveness of our puppet — to the point where they won’t see our operations and plans at all.”
Dmitry walked over to the window and stared out at the harsh sodium lit streets of Moscow. He wondered why he hadn’t thought of this himself. Someone who was actually an abject failure but who liked to project the image of a success. Someone who was a complete sociopath, obviously, and so hungry for success, they would betray their country, their party, everything. But does such a person even exist, he wondered. He turned back toward Natasha.
“It might just work. If I could go in tomorrow with a few likely names, I might just turn this thing around. Can you start searching? I’m not sure how to find such a person, but it’s worth a try. I’m going to call — it’s late — but not too late. I’ll get a research team on it too. I can’t tell them why. I just need the names of some complete frauds, maybe even someone in legal trouble but not in jail. There has to be someone in a country of 370 million people.” For the first time in many days, Dmitry laughed. “Maybe we can put an ad in FORBES or FORTUNE. Wanted: Complete business failure. Must be vainglorious and divorced from reality. If only we could be that open about it!” He laughed again.
Natasha smiled. She wondered whether Dmitry would ever discover her own assignment. She liked Dmitry. She really did. She enjoyed their love-making sessions. How would he react to discover that their falling in love had been orchestrated by the GRU. All their so-called geniuses had to be overseen. After all, how else could the Kremlin ensure that people such as Dmitry didn’t become jaded, compromised, or even double agents? Maybe she could make him see that. But maybe not. When it came to mathematical modeling, not to mention chess, Dmitry really was a genius. But when it came to people, his career would have been minor indeed without Natasha taking care of the people side of things.
She had grown genuinely fond of him. It was sad to think that if she succeeded in helping Dmitry carry out his audacious plot, she herself would probably have to be the one to poison him. Maybe she could talk her superiors into making it a quick-acting one or even a fall from the balcony? She had to be careful though. Too much push in that direction would bring suspicion on her. Her handlers might think that she had “gone soft” — really fallen in love. She couldn’t let that happen. No, she’d carry out whatever plans they had. There was always an outside chance that the powers that be would not want to “tie up the loose ends.” After all, he did do excellent modeling. And, teamed up with her, they might even be rewarded with a bigger apartment and a higher salary. Natasha doubted it, but — one never knew.
First things first, she thought. She sat down at the keyboard. How the hell to find someone who is both a gigantic failure but also a con man who has always portrayed himself as a success? Rich. That’s where to start. Someone who inherited a lot of money but never actually accomplished much on their own. As for Dmitry…she really hoped the GRU decided to keep him on. It would be a pain to be assigned to someone else. Ah, well, she thought, such is life.
She typed: fraud loser business failure con man
She smiled and thought to herself: This may be easier than I thought.
Here are links to chapters subsequent to today’s blog.