Putin pulled the yellow Lada into the drive next to the dacha and cut the engine. He sprang out, grabbed his bag, and hurried to the door.
He stepped inside just long enough to drop his things and tear off his shirt; he couldn’t wait to go fishing again.
As he hurried down the forest trail to the nearby brook, the sight of the mighty trees towering around him filled him with joy.
He reached the bank of the fast-moving stream and waded in without even slowing down. The icy water came almost to his waist.
Putin stood in the rushing water, staring down intently. Suddenly his hand pierced the surface and reappeared clutching a wriggling salmon.
A slight smile crossed his lips as he waded to shore with his prize. He gripped the fish in his teeth as he clambered up the slippery rocks.
Completely alone in the wilderness, the half-naked KGB chief sat down on a log and bit into the gasping salmon. This was true happiness!
Two perfect days passed quickly; Putin was blissfully content, unaware that this was the last time he would ever spend at the dacha.
He arrived back in Moscow late at night. Luckily, Mila had already gone to bed and was snoring heavily when he crept in.
He decided it would be better not to wake her, so he lay down on the sofa with his pet poodle, C4, and slept there until morning.
When Mila awoke, Putin was already packing a suitcase. “Where are you going now?” she asked sourly. “You just got home.”
“An assignment,” he replied. “They’re sending me to northern Ukraine, to assist with an interrogation.” He could see she wasn’t pleased.
Mila couldn’t believe the Commander would send Putin on assignment after her report on his fragile state. “But why?” she asked.
“You know I can’t tell you the details of my work,” he began, but Mila interrupted. “I mean, why you? Why not someone else?” she demanded.
Putin looked surprised at her vehemence. “I … I worry about your safety, my Husband,” Mila stammered unconvincingly.
Putin raised one eyebrow; he realized that he didn’t believe her. “Nonsense,” he replied. “Nowhere is safer than Pryp’yat.”
Putin steeled himself as he approached her. He closed his eyes and thought of a flopping wet salmon as he touched his lips to hers.
“Goodbye, Husband,” she called as he hurried away down the stairs. She pushed C4 back inside with her foot and shut the door.
Furious, Mila rushed to take the encrypted cell phone from its hiding place beneath the potatoes. She punched in the number and waited.
The phone rang many times. There was no answer.