Category Archives: VII. TO THE DACHA

Week 32

Putin joined the queue of schoolchildren and tourists, and smiled quizzically to himself.

It seemed an odd way to spend his day off when there was so much groundwork still to do, yet he had felt a strong desire to come here.

He found it relaxing to give in to his desires sometimes; most of his life was so regimented, so devoted to his plan and his rise to power.

The line moved slowly, and he thought about all that had happened in the past few months. Everything had fallen into place so easily.

As chief of the Presidential Property Management Department, he had only to approach the rich men, the oligarchs, and they came to his side.

They all believed that money was power. He chuckled: It would not be long until they discovered that *power* is power.

He looked up at the vast space, the magnificent architecture that surrounded him. It spoke of power, power as permanent as marble.

He realized that he needed such a structure for his own headquarters—magnificent, opulent, the headquarters of his animal agents.

Yet it should also be hidden, secret; he frowned. Well, once he had the oligarchs’ money, he would put it to good use.

There was a sudden flurry at the head of the line: A fat American tourist had fainted. The guards helped her up. Americans—so weak!

Did they even understand what they were seeing here? No. They came because their guidebook told them to. Weak, and ignorant! He grimaced.

The line moved slowly forward. He could have skipped the wait, flashed his credentials and gone ahead of them all, but that was not his way.

He did not like to call attention to himself; it was better when they underestimated him, when he struck with the element of surprise.

Finally, Putin reached the head of the line and stood looking down into the casket at the dead, waxen face of Vladimir Lenin.

He could barely hear the faint hum of the electric motor installed inside the body to keep the humidity level constant.

Putin gazed thoughtfully down at the architect of the Red Terror and considered his ruthless push to power: What a role model!

Of course, Putin admired Stalin even more. What a shame that they had removed Stalin’s body from its place at Lenin’s side!

After a few years in the mausoleum, it had been taken away quietly, almost secretly, and buried it in a modest spot near the Kremlin wall.

The new tomb had been covered with many layers of concrete. “Why concrete?” Putin wondered as he turned to leave.

After all, it wasn’t as if Uncle Joe were going to get up and walk away.

Week 33

The next day, Putin drove to his dacha. As the yellow Lada turned into the gravel drive, the crunching sound reminded him of bones breaking.

He disliked this official vehicle, with the seal of the Presidential Property Management Department so prominently displayed on its doors.

Such symbolism was for losers; soon enough everyone would know who he was, without any foolish signs of rank or position.

He parked the auto out of sight in back of an outbuilding, got out, stretched, and looked around with satisfaction. He saw no one.

A quick, shivering movement in a pile of dead leaves caught his attention. He moved silently toward it, as stealthy as a sabre-toothed deer.

Putin’s hand flashed down into the leaves and brought up a wriggling miniature Poodle as if he were scooping up salmon from a stream.

“C-4, you rascal!” he laughed. “What have I told you about remaining still when we do camouflage drills?”

But the little apricot-colored dog could not disguise her delight at seeing Putin again. She yapped and squirmed until Putin set her down.

A great admirer of Poodles, Putin himself had recruited C-4; he told himself her super-powered cuteness would be of use someday.

Gradually the others emerged from their hiding places: Snowy the War Bear, disguised in a ghillie suit, climbed slowly down from a tree.

Black-Ops, the Pygmy goat, crept silently out from the darkness beneath the dacha’s wooden porch and trotted forward.

He had been recruited by Murder Cat, who was out hunting dinner one night at a neighboring farm and was alarmed by the little goat’s eyes.

Never having seen a goat before, Murder Cat didn’t realize that ALL goats have weird eyes.

But Black Ops’ coal-black coat and strange features did give him a rather malevolent appearance, and he had taken well to his training.

The last to appear was Murder Cat himself, whose “disguise” had consisted of standing still next to patch of tall, dead grass.

The Siberian Tiger’s coloring gave him a natural advantage in outdoor settings, but he still had to work on disguising himself indoors.

Putin greeted them all as he took off his shirt and received Snowy’s report on the progress of their training. “Very good,” he smiled.

“I intend to recruit two or three more agents soon, and then we will build our headquarters. But before that … Phase Two begins tomorrow!”

Tomorrow! The animal agents could not suppress their excitement at this announcement. Murder Cat smiled broadly and declared himself ready.

Putin nodded. “Let us go inside now. I will bring you up to date on events in Moscow while we eat.

“And after dinner, we will work together to make the necessary preparations for tomorrow—for the visit of President Yeltsin!”

Week 34

Putin had to admit he’d been a little surprised when the President of Russia accepted his invitation to visit him at his dacha.

Although, of course, it was only Yeltsin, but still … It was another indication of his seemingly unstoppable rise to power.

By midday, all was in readiness for the President’s “informal” visit. A samovar sat bubbling on the rustic sideboard—for appearances’ sake.

Nearby a bucket of ice holding several bottles of excellent vodka sat next to a large bowl of cold boiled potatoes and a plate of fish eggs.

His animal agents were in their places, silent and still—except for C-4, whose assignment was to gambol and frolic like a pet.

For a moment, Putin allowed himself a faint green glow of pleasure—and then he heard Yeltsin’s limo coming up the drive.

He walked outside, down the steps, and stood in front, smiling, as the massive stretch Lada navigated the narrow gravel track.

Small flags of the Russian Republic fluttered on the limo’s yellow fenders, and gigantic Presidential seals decorated its doors.

Putin gritted his teeth but kept smiling, and spread his arms in a welcoming gesture as the enormous Lada crawled forward, then stopped.

A tall, burly man jumped out and hustled to the rear to open the door for the President. Just one security man? That was good.

No doubt the driver was FSB as well, but he would remain in the car and be out of the way when the plan was implemented.

The security man stood at attention next to the open limo door. There was a pause. Nothing happened.

Finally, Yeltsin stumbled out and stood blinking in the dappled sunlight shining through the tall fir trees, waiting for his eyes to focus.

“Ah! Vladimir Vladimirovich!” he cried, staggering only slightly as he made his way across the gravel.

Still smiling, Putin hurried forward, ready to catch Yeltsin should he fall. “Mister President! Welcome to my humble retreat!”

“Not at all, not at all,” Yeltsin blustered. “Very nice, very rustic. Relaxing! Biggest insects I’ve ever seen, though.”

Hell! Putin thought, I hope he’s not going to have DTs here. That would complicate everything. “What do you mean, sir?” he asked.

“On the road, on the way here … mosquito the size of a Lada!” Putin shot a quick glance at the security man, whose face indicated nothing.

As long as no one else had seen it … “Well, there are no mosquitos inside,” Putin said reassuringly, as if Yeltsin were a small child.

And I have refreshments ready. Please, won’t you come in?” Putin carefully steered the President to the dacha’s wooden porch.

“Refreshments? Yes, good, let’s go!” Suddenly able to move under his own power, Yeltsin climbed the steps and walked through the front door.

Week 35

They paused inside the front door as the security man did
 a perfunctory walk-through, starting in the front room with its large fireplace.

There was a small bedroom, and a little kitchen that opened into a very basic bathroom—that was all. The furnishings were minimal and few.

It took only two minutes before the FSB man stationed himself out on the porch, facing the road and guarding the front door.

Putin felt a slight pang of disappointment: Not even a man on the kitchen door! And Yeltsin was already half-drunk. It would be too easy.

“Let’s drink!” the President cried, as he headed for the vodka. “Let’s drink to your rustic little dacha!” Putin hurried forward to pour.

Yeltsin downed a shot. “Good stuff!” he nodded, holding out his glass for more. Putin obliged, smiling, as Yeltsin looked around the room.

“You are an honest man, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Most heads of Property Management would enrich themselves. Their dachas would be palaces.

“But you live very simply; the only luxury I see is that tiger-skin rug in front of the fireplace.” “Rug, Sir?” Putin asked innocently.

Suddenly, as if in an episode of a new and very popular @AdultSwim TV program, the ”rug” came to life! It was a real Siberian tiger!

Without a moment’s hesitation, Putin lunged between the tiger and Yeltsin. Hearing the noise, the FSB man ran in, gun drawn.

An apricot blur streaked out of nowhere and attached itself to the leg of the security man’s pants. It was C-4! “Awwww!” the FSB man cooed.

Stunned by C-4’s cuteness, he dropped his gun as the little Poodle tugged and play-growled. “’What a wittle cutesy-wootsy!” he exclaimed.

Meanwhile, the tiger was crouching, staring hungrily at the Russian President, who took a quick swig of vodka straight from the bottle.

The tiger sprang! In an incredible display of judo skill, Putin tossed the beast past the Russian President and into the kitchen.

Before Putin could pursue it, the tiger escaped out the kitchen door, which seemed to have been left ajar.

Yeltsin propped himself against the sideboard, breathing heavily. “Vladimir Vladimirovich! You saved my life!” he exclaimed.

Putin smiled modestly. “It was nothing, Sir.” He glanced at the FSB man, who was holding C-4 and giggling as the little dog licked his face.

The President followed his gaze. “You are a hero of Russia!” Yeltsin declared. “You deserve better than the Property Management Department!

“I hereby name you head of the FSB!”

Putin nodded graciously. “It will be my great honor to protect you and to serve my country.” He glanced again at the FSB agent.

The man was an idiot, but at least he appreciated Poodles. Perhaps he would arrange a quick, and relatively painless, demise for him.

Week 36

Yeltsin and his entourage left as soon as the vodka ran out. With their visitors gone, the animals returned from their hiding places.

Murder Cat was the last to appear, padding back in through the kitchen door, barely able to contain his delight.

Seeing the big cat’s grin, Putin chuckled. “Few pleasures in life compare to toying with a fat rat, eh, Murder Cat?”

Realizing this was intended as humor, all the animals laughed. It was indeed a glorious day—no doubt the first of many victories to come.

“That old pickle barrel is good for something, though,” Putin mused. “His comment about the modesty of our dacha made me change my mind.

“Our headquarters, our fortress, is too important to delay construction until we recruit more members.

“I’ve chosen the site for our new home, and we shall begin work immediately. Snowy, Murder Cat, Black Ops, we’ll travel north at once.”

The three loyal beasts saluted, and Putin began to remove his shirt for the journey. Suddenly, however, he felt a tugging on his pant leg.

It was C-4! The little dog nipped excitedly at Putin’s ankles, eager to be included. “All right, silly pup, you can come, too,” Putin said.

Putin gently scooped up the yapping toy Poodle and walked outside. The animals followed and watched as he walked toward a large shrub.

Approaching the bush, Putin announced over his shoulder, “I have a surprise for you all. Our days of squeezing into my old car are over!

I’ve acquired a proper troop transport for us. It was the largest one at the dealership.” As he spoke, Putin grabbed a handful of branches.

Snowy and Murder Cat exchanged a look of relief. Then, with a quick jerk, Putin collapsed the shrub, revealing that it was simply a blind.

Their new vehicle was revealed, and the animals’ hearts sank. “A new Lada wagon!” Putin said grandly.

“Six cubic vershoks larger than the base model. That’s an extra three potato sacks! Custom sun-yellow paint job! Chrome door handles!”

Tiger and bear sighed heavily. Black Ops simply looked on with his weird goat eyes, and apricot-colored C-4, as always, yipped blithely.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Get in!” Putin slid behind the wheel, setting tiny C-4 on the passenger seat next to him.

While Putin fiddled with the radio, Murder Cat and Black Ops struggled to shove Snowy through the rear hatch.

After much growling and grunting, the team finally squeezed inside, and Putin set off down the dacha’s gravel drive.

As he drove, Putin described his plans for their new home. It would be as luxurious as the Summer Palace, as impenetrable as a winter storm.

“And where will this opulent fortress be?” asked Snowy. Putin paused, lost in thought, then smiled. “Beneath the Kara Sea.”