The Fall of Moscow Station

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To those foreign agents betrayed by traitors like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen,

men and women with dreams of liberty cut short; and to those who tried to save them


U.S. Embassy

Santiago de León de Caracas

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

“Operator.” Alden Maines gripped the phone tight, his eyes closed, his teeth grinding hard together. This line was reserved for one purpose only and he had only one case officer on the street tonight. There were twenty people standing around him, all silent, watching him. They'd come the moment the phone had called for their deputy chief's attention.

“GRANITE . . . site MANGO.” It was Kyra, he was sure, but her voice was slurred.

“GRANITE, report your status,” the deputy chief of station ordered. There was no reply. He repeated the order and heard nothing but silence, the line still open. Maines cursed under his breath and cut the connection to stop the locals from tracing the call to either end.

“Abrams! Raguskus!” he called out. Two members of the circle jerked hearing their names. “Get down to the garage and fire up the van. Search and rescue—”

“Don't move, any of you!”

Maines looked over at the man who had countermanded his order, fury drawn on his face. Sam Rigdon, chief of Caracas Station, came into the room, wrestling his way through the line of bodies surrounding his deputy. “Was that Stryker? If she's in trouble, she can sit and wait it out. She probably screwed up the op and led the SEBIN right to Carreño. I'm not going to throw any more bodies at Chávez's people. She can get herself home. You keep your butt in that chair.”


“Excuse me?” Rigdon replied, surprised.

“I said no,” Maines told him again. He turned back to Raguskus and Abrams. “Go get the van ready,” he ordered again.

“If anyone moves, I'll send 'em back to Langley—” Rigdon started to threaten.

“Then you'll send us all back!” Maines yelled. “You know that Stryker didn't lead anyone to Carreño! He used you to lead her to them! Everyone here but you knew that Carreño's a double, but you didn't want to believe it. But you were worried enough that we might be right that you decided not to go find out for yourself, so you fed Kyra to the lions instead. You're a coward, Sam. You've run this station into the ground, you've put everyone here at risk, and now the most junior officer we've got might be bleeding out in a safe house because you didn't have the stones to go out and man up to your own dumb mistakes. So we're done taking orders from you. You want us to follow you? Then get behind the wheel of the van and help us get Stryker home. Otherwise get out of the way.”

“This is insubordination!” Rigdon yelled.

“I prefer the word ‘mutiny,' ” Maines told him. “But yeah, ‘insubordination' works for me.”

“You leave this room and I'll be on the phone with the director of national intelligence before you—”

Maines's fist drove itself deep into Rigdon's stomach, bending the station chief over and driving the air out of his lungs in a hard, gasping wheeze. The deputy pulled his fist back and pulled it upward, slamming into his superior's nose. Maines's knuckles made an audible crack as the bones fractured against Rigdon's skull. The station chief's head snapped up, the blood already flowing from both nostrils as he fell onto his back, the carpet doing little to cushion his hard landing.

“I'll dial the number for you,” Maines told him, shaking his hand. “Feel free to tell him I did that, and let him know that if he tells me to stand down and abandon Stryker to the SEBIN, he'll be telling Congress why. And if you get in our way again before we bring Kyra out of the safe house, you'll end up in the infirmary before she does, you got me?”

Rigdon couldn't answer for the blood rolling down his face. “Anyone else on his side?” Maines asked.

“Screw 'im,” someone from the back said. “We ought to trade him to Carreño for Kyra.” Murmurs of assent and open curses erupted from the group.

“Thought not,” Maines said. “Raguskus, call the infirmary and have some of the people standing by. Sounds like she's hurt. I don't know how bad, but she was unresponsive. Then get a trauma kit down to the van,” Maines ordered. “Kain, you line us up some transportation out of the country. If she's seriously wounded, we won't be able to get her out on a commercial flight, so you'll have to get creative.”

“I'll figure something out, boss,” the woman said. She pushed her way past the two men behind her and ran for her desk.

“Good,” Maines said. “Winegar, get a group together and start monitoring the local police bands and any of the SEBIN frequencies that NSA has cracked open. If they're getting anywhere near MANGO, I want to know about it . . . and we might need some help avoiding their people on the way in and back out again.”

“Will do,” a tall, older man replied. “Raguskus, Pitkin, you're with me.” The group of four marched out of the room.

“Good . . . and if he”—Maines pointed at the bleeding senior officer on the floor—“if he tries to get up, someone feel free to drag him out to the street and out him to the first policeman you can find. They probably already know who he works for, just let 'em know that we don't want him anymore.”

“Long as you don't care what shape he's in when they get him!” somebody called out.

“Doesn't matter to me. If we're getting charged with mutiny, let's make it a story they'll tell at the Farm for the next hundred years,” Maines ordered. “We roll out of here in ten.”

•  •  •

He was on foot now. The SEBIN cordon was enormous, at least twelve blocks square, which meant there were holes everywhere. The deputy station chief had worked his way inside easily enough, but Raguskus and Abrams were still probing for some way to get through in the van. The rain had picked up in the last hour, the drizzle turning into a drenching gush from the dark gray heavens and cutting visibility down to a half block in any direction.

The safe house was on the fourth floor of a high-rise apartment complex ahead. It was inside the SEBIN search radius from what Winegar had been able to discern from the radio calls, but Maines wondered if the Venezuelans were either patient or organized enough to search every domicile in the area. He doubted it. The real question was whether Kyra Stryker was in stable condition and could survive in place long enough for the security services to give up the search.

He looked at his watch. It had been an hour since Kyra's emergency call.
This could all be moot
, Maines told himself.

A police car roared by him, siren screaming out, the tires spraying him with a heavy wall of water. He ignored the discomfort. Maines was soaked through already.

He turned north up the alleyway off the Avenida Urdaneta. The service entrance was ahead on his left, a few dozen feet. He pulled his spare key, unlocked the entry, and slipped inside. The rain resumed pounding on the metal door, like the angry fists of the locals trying to batter their way into the building.

Maines shook the water out of his hair, took a few steps ahead, and stopped, looking down. Spatters of blood made a dotted line across the dirty tile floor to the hallway. He cursed. The rain had erased whatever blood trail Kyra had left on her way to the building, but any idiot could follow the line inside.

He ran out into the hall, walking along the red trail himself, praying it didn't lead to the safe-house door. The lighting was dim, and the blood was hard to see on the grubby floor. That was cause for hope. He stepped around it, tracing the line to the stairs, then up and ending at the fourth floor. There was no question in his mind now.

Maines ran down the hallway, still looking down until the blood stopped in front of one of the apartments. The number matched the one in his memory and the station chief cursed again. He pulled his key, unlocked the door, and let himself inside.

“Stryker?” he called out. There was no answer. The lights were on and the red line led into the bedroom. Maines pushed the door open.

Stryker was on the bed, not moving. He ran over, saw her eyes were closed. “Stryker!” he repeated. She didn't answer.

Her leather jacket was on the floor alongside one of her shirtsleeves, crumpled in a bloody red heap. A crude bandage was wrapped around her upper right arm. He checked the rest of her limp form for wounds and found none, then exhaled the deep breath he hadn't realized that he was holding.
Flesh wound
, he thought. She won't bleed out. He searched around, found the empty QuikClot package and morphine syringe in the bathroom.
Good girl
, he thought. Kyra had packed her own wound with the coagulant, then dosed herself to kill the pain. She'd probably ingested too much morphine, but she would survive that if it hadn't killed her by now. Her breathing was still regular, her pulse thready and fast, but not enough to scare him.

Could move her
, he thought,
if Rags and Pitkin can get the van here
. The blood trail in the hall was still a problem
. . . or an opportunity
, he thought.

He dug through the trauma kit in the bathroom and extracted a ziplock bag and a pair of the latex gloves inside. He donned the gloves, then retrieved Stryker's blood-soaked sleeve from the floor and stuffed it into the plastic bag.

Maines ran back out into the hall, then down the stairs to the first floor. He pulled open the bag, pulled out the shirt, and began to squeeze the cloth gently onto the floor, extending the woman's blood trail away from the stairs.
Hate to do this to some poor sap, but better them than us
, he thought. He dripped the blood down the hallway another thirty feet, then curved the line to a random apartment door. The bloody sleeve went back into the bag along with the latex gloves. Maines stuffed the gory package into his coat pocket and sprinted back to the service entrance. A janitor's closet was nearby, locked, and he kicked the door in. A mop and bucket were sitting inside. He lifted the bucket into the utility sink, filled it a quarter up with water, and hauled it and the mop back to the stairs. It took him less than ten minutes to run the wet implement across the forty stairs to the fourth floor, erasing the bloody line that led to the door. Another thirty seconds cleaned up the tile leading to the safe house, and then he was inside again, the evidence of Kyra's run wiped away. The Venezuelans would still be able to find the trail on the stairwell using luminal and a UV light, but he prayed they wouldn't be so thorough once they found the second trail he'd created.

Maines touched his earpiece. “This is MALLET,” he called out, the broadcast encrypted by the radio clipped onto his belt behind his waist. “I've located GRANITE, condition stable. Site MANGO is not secure, repeat, not secure. What's your status?”

“Still looking for a hole,” Raguskus called back. “Bad guys are everywhere. We're parked five hundred meters from your position, engine cold, lights out at the moment.”

“Hold your position,” Maines ordered. “Will advise . . . wait.” The sirens, which had been rising and fading since he'd dismounted from the van, had gotten close now. He moved to the window, split the blinds a hair, and looked down.

At least five cars, some unmarked, had stopped on the street. Men in tactical uniforms were spreading out along the sidewalk, some senior officer directing his subordinates down the side streets. “Hostiles at my position,” he reported. “They'll be coming in the building.”

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