Week 74

With great difficulty, Mila controlled her rage and gave Putin a tight smile. “I worked under cover for many years, both here and abroad.

“Of course, my primary assignment for the past 30 years has been to portray your wife.” “What?” Putin said. She decided to twist the knife.

“When they brought you to Moscow, after your time in the White Room, they had to build an identity for you. I was assigned to be your wife.”

Putin blinked again, and Mila was pleased to see a faint green tinge rise from his collar and spread over his face.

“You were assigned …” he said. “Of course,” she replied. “The Commander always chose me, his top agent, for the most difficult jobs.

“To live under cover for years, watching you, looking for any sign that you might be recovering your memory—this was my work.

“Officially, I’m retired now. I have my secret pension, my meritorious service medal …” “Meritorious service …” Putin repeated, staring.

“Yes,” Mila nodded, “but sometimes I miss the work. Not playing your wife, but the real work. So when the Commander reached out to me …

“I agreed to help him for old time’s sake. I assumed it was official. But in the hospital, I realized he could not be working for the FSB.

“I should have asked more questions. I should have found out who he was working for now.” With a sigh, Mila bent to tie up the bin liner.

“How much do you know?” Putin asked. “How much about what happened to me?” “Only as much as I was allowed to know,” Mila replied bitterly.

“I alerted them when I thought you might be recovering your memory. That’s when they sent you to Chernobyl, for another ‘treatment.’ ”

Putin stood, silently watching his wife pack the remains of his former boss into garbage bags. She was quite efficient, he noted.

“And so,” he said at last, “our marriage was an assignment.” “Right.” “Then … you … you never …” Mila shot a sharp glance at the President.

No, he didn’t care about her, he only cared about whether or not she had ever cared about him. At that moment she hated him more than ever.

“Do you think I enjoyed what you made me do … in the marriage bed?” she asked cruelly. Putin’s cheeks began to glow a bright green.

“I did not understand myself then. As you say, I had received ‘treatment’ at Chernobyl. But I know myself better now.” He paused.

“We should divorce,” he said. “Fine,” Mila replied. “Triple my pension.” “Apparently you killed my former boss when he came to visit me.”

“Double it, then.” “Done.” Putin watched as Mila carefully stripped off the bloody plastic poncho and stuffed it into a fresh bin liner.

“You should burn that garbage in the building incinerator,” he said as he turned to go. “Of course,” his soon-to-be-ex-wife replied.

That afternoon the street was full of the hungry homeless, all drawn by the delicious odor of roasted meat wafting down the block.

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