Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit
It is 1972, and the Soviet Union has succeeded in planting a mole in the top echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. Three years earlier, CIA officer Chris Holbeck took part in a failed mission to engineer the defection of a Soviet KGB officer who may know the mole’s identity. His name is Sasha Plotkin. When they were both stationed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969, Chris and Sasha connected on a personal level. Chris was excited to find a KGB officer interested in changing sides. Then, on the day of the Soviet agent’s defection, Sasha was a no-show. Chris would soon discover the full extent of Sasha Plotkin’s deceit. Now Sasha has resurfaced and wishes to make another attempt to defect. To Chris’ dismay, he is the only CIA officer the man will consent to deal with, even though their once close relationship is now riddled with mistrust. Chris’s wife, Lisa, has sworn to leave him if he abandons her and the family for one more perilous mission. His alluring young colleague Bisan seems determined to seduce him. Despite the risk to his life and his marriage, Chris answers the call of duty. If Chris succeeds in transporting Sasha to the United States–come hell or high water–will the Soviet agent reveal the true identity of the mole? One thing is certain: the lives of the two men will be forever changed.
Friday dawned much like the day of his last meeting with Plotkin, cold and clear with new snow. Such a pretty day that this time he resolved not to return to the Embassy after signaling Plotkin at NK that the meeting was on. After the safety signal at ten o’clock, he’d go directly home, maybe have a chance to chat with Lisa before lunch. Upon leaving the Embassy, he noted that the sun hadn’t warmed the air at all. The squeaking snow under his feet confirmed how cold it was as he walked toward his car. The shadows from the trees along Strandvägen weren’t quite as long as they had been last week at this time. Stockholm was on the downhill ride toward spring. In the scant hour he’d been at the Embassy the car had cooled off completely. He let it warm up before driving downtown to wait the few minutes at NK for Plotkin’s safety signal. No policeman this time, and no Plotkin visible in the park. But then he hadn’t seen Plotkin last time, either. Next he headed west from the city, toward home. Chris enjoyed the drive and was feeling good as he slid to a stop in front of his house. Lisa didn’t reply to his cheery “Hello” when he let himself in through the front door. Now what? Her actions were so strange these days he was afraid she might have taken off without preparing the lunch for Plotkin. A walk through the dining room to the kitchen put his mind at ease. The table was set, and soup was simmering on the stove. She must have walked down to the shopping square for some last minute items. It wasn’t yet ten thirty, and she had no reason to expect him. He went back to the front windows to look down the street, on the chance that he might see her walking back. No Lisa, only a skier heading toward Drottningholm. This castle was located not much more than a mile from their home across Drottningholm Bridge. It was a favorite residence of the royal family and surrounded by a park open to the public. He and Lisa had skied there several times with the children during the Christmas holidays. An idea struck. Chris went quickly to his bedroom to change into long johns and ski pants, then to the front hall for his ski parka, hat and mittens. Next he went to the garage for his skis. He’d ski down to the square to pick up Lisa and come back with her. Outside the garage door, he slapped his skis down on the new snow and fastened the cable bindings. Out on the street Chris looked in the direction of the square. Still no Lisa. Nobody, in fact, on the street. In the other direction the skier had long since disappeared. An hour skiing at Drottningholm would probably do him more good than trying to talk with Lisa. Few people were outdoors on this work and school day. It was terribly cold, but the atmosphere brought some needed peace to Chris. He felt good. The children in their neighborhood were on skis most every afternoon. As he used his poles to push himself along and keep his balance, he thought about how Missy and her friends skied merrily along with no poles. Ah, to be young again! There was a knoll off the beaten path in the park where somebody had built a small ski jump, maybe a couple of feet high. Probably some of the older boys who lived nearby. Chris thought about trying it. He’d do it. Climbing the knoll took more out of him than he’d expected. Wheezing at the top, he made his weekly resolve to start an exercise program. The knoll wasn’t high, but looking down the run to the jump, it appeared a lot more impressive than from the bottom. Well, he had been a pretty good skier during college days. There wasn’t anybody in sight to embarrass him if he botched the little jump. He poled hard and headed downhill. Two things surprised Chris. First, his skis were much faster than expected. When he started out he almost lost his balance backwards. Then, when he dug in the poles and launched himself on the jump, he went much higher than he thought he would. In the few seconds he was in the air he realized that he had overcompensated for the first mistake. Now he was leaning too far forward. He tried to bring up the tips of his skis and failed, hitting the snow with the tip of one ski. He somersaulted, bounced on his shoulders, made a half-roll and came to a stop with his right ski buried in the snow. His leg must be badly twisted, he thought. He moved to untangle himself and came close to fainting. It was more than a twist, for sure. The pain was awful when he tried to move. Chris lay back, chilled, and felt the panic start. Nobody was in sight.
About The Author:
Vaughn Sherman’s career as a fisheries biologist was cut short when he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. He served long assignments in the Far East and Europe before doing a short tour in Vietnam. After taking early retirement Vaughn joined in numerous community activities, most involving the governance of non-profit agencies and community colleges. In addition to Sasha’s Plotkin’s Deceit, he has written the memoir of a northwest mariner titled An Uncommon Life (1988). He has also published three books dealing with the management of non-profits.