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.