Oiorpata is really two novels in one, featuring 57-J, a woman raised from childhood to be a weapon for the State, and Ben Gordon, Moscow CIA Station Chief. It's an adventure of spies, secrets, conspiracies, power, deadly women, lovers, and great escapes. The overall plot, complex and sweeping, is a warning to the world today. Oiorpata is a fast-paced, suspenseful, action-packed thriller based on actual events.
See if you can spot Lee Harvey Oswald when you read it.
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Moscow CIA STation Chief Ben Gordon learns of a mole in the highest echelon of the CIA. The year is 1975. The Cold War is not only far from over, the Soviet Union is plotting to make Mexico a Soviet State with nuclear missiles and submarine bases. Ben's world turns upside-down. Believed by no one, betrayed by his fellow agents, he is hunted by both sides and must trust a woman who is programmed to kill him. Richard Ferguson weaves an intricate web of espionage and intrigue with laser accuracy.
On the way over, she said her name was Marina Tereshkova. Her eyes widened when he said he worked at the American Embassy. “American? But you speak Russian so well.”
The Yerevah Restaurant, operated by an Armenian family, had six tables in the one ground-floor room. The last lunch-crowd customers left as Ben and Marina entered.
Ben stopped at the cash register where a dark eyed, stout, middle-aged woman smiled in recognition. "Let’s get our order in now. I highly recommend the lamb soup," he said to Marina.
"Then that is what I’ll have."
Ben led her to a table in the back.
She sat the stuffed bear at a third chair she pulled up.
Forty-two and I'm acting like a teenager with a crush, Ben thought.
"You are the first American I’ve ever known. Tell me about yourself. Are you married? Do you have children? What do you do at the American Embassy?" She slowly turned the brandy glass in her hands to warm it.
"Divorced. One son who lives with his mother. And I’m the Assistant Protocol officer.”
“Protocol?” Eyebrow arched again above that bemused smile of hers, but something more. A seriousness. She leaned forward, rested her elbows on the table, cupping the glass in both hands while she tipped it and sipped. “Does that mean you make sure the ambassador doesn’t arrive at a party before his assistants?”
Ben chuckled. "Mmm. Very important. And you, Marina? Are you married?”
She shook her head.
“And what do you do?”
Her smile faded. “What do you think I do?"
Ben tilted his head back, pursed his lips, and narrowed his eyes. “Hmm. Could I see your hand?”
She reached across and placed her right hand in his.
Slender. Graceful. The fingers tapering to delicate tips. “My mother used to tell fortunes for a hobby. Your hand is firm . . . you exercise, but your skin is smooth as a baby’s. You aren’t an assembly line worker or farmer.”
A delighted laugh. “Can you only tell what I’m not from my hand?"
“You could be many things. An actress . . . a ballet dancer . . . a model . . .”
“Is that in my hand?”
Still grasping her palm, Ben shook his head. “Your diction tells me you’ve had training as a speaker, your clothes weren’t bought off the rack in GUM, and there’s something about the way you carry yourself that tells me you’ve had training as a dancer or a model or . . . ”
She tipped her head appreciatively. “I run three miles every morning, I studied ballet, and I am trained to be an interpreter. I made my own dress, though.”
“An interpreter? What do you interpret?”
“At the moment, I am only translating written documents.” She took her hand back to cradle the brandy for a sip, then extended it again. “What of my fortune? You have told me nothing of that.”
"Well, I don’t really believe in that part of it.” Avoiding my questions. Translating documents . . .
“Tell me anyway,” she coaxed. “Please . . . I won’t hold you to it.”
Ben took her hand again, turned it over. "Let it hang limp. You’re stubborn."
She giggled. "What tells you that?"
"See the gap between your index and middle fingers? That’s what that means." He turned her hand over and studied her palm. "The way your life line and heart line are broken and have white and blue dots on them means you had an unhappy childhood . . . especially bad when you were very young. Were you an orphan or did you have a bad illness where you almost died or something?" Ben looked up and saw the briefest hint of concern flit over her features.
She shook her head. "No, I had a very average, happy childhood, but tell me what else you see."
"I told you I didn’t believe in it," he protested as he leaned down to study her hand again. "You have a fairly balanced temperament although you sometimes feel depressed. Also, you tend to be . . . I’m not sure of the word for this in Russian . . . earthy," he said in English.
She cocked her eyebrow. "Earthy? What does it mean?"
"Uh . . . natural. Not ashamed."
"Not ashamed? Not ashamed of what?"
Ben pointed to the base of her thumb. "This has something to do with it. See how large it is in proportion to your hand and all the little lines on it? That means you are very passionate."
She held her hand close to her eyes. "Mmm, and that has something to do with being earthy?" Her gaze was playfully accusing. "Are you sure you aren't just making this up?"
"Well, I told you I didn’t believe in it."
She held her hand out. "You haven’t told me the most important things. Will I fall in love? Will I marry? Will I have children? When will I die?"
Odd, Ben thought. Most people would ask, "How long will I live?" Not "When will I die?" He took her hand and squeezed her fingers and palm together. "According to your hand, you will never marry . . . but you will have many lovers.” He turned her hand and regarded it. "Even so, you will only love one man. You will have one child." He released her hand and took a drink of brandy, feeling it warm its way into his stomach.
She smiled and held her hand out in front of him still. "And my death? When will it be?"
Again, he wondered at her choice of words. Glancing down one last time, he replied, "Oh, I’d say you’ll probably live to be about a hundred or so," but his tone wasn’t convincing. He’d seen palms like hers before and always lied, except once to a German man he didn’t like on a freighter. Marina’s life line stopped short. Ben didn’t believe in palm reading, but he usually told it the way he’d learned it with this one exception.
"I can tell you aren’t saying what you really see," Marina said softly. "That is all right. I understand."
Ben was silent.
The waiter, a tall, thin man with black hair and a long drooping mustache and who looked as though he were perennially morose, brought them each a steaming, fragrant bowl of soup.
Her lips puckered when she tasted the soup. Full lips. Plump. Skin taut over rounded cheek bones. Face unlined, but mature.
Over twenty-five. No baby fat. But, from her lack of awkwardness that only comes with experience, over thirty.
The morose waiter approached with a bottle of wine and two narrow-stemmed glasses. “Genuine Armenian wine . . . compliments of the house,” he said grandly as he poured.
Is it that obvious? Ben saw the stout woman smiling dreamily at him. Well, what the hell. He grasped his glass by the stem and raised it toward Marina.
She tapped her glass to his and they drank as the delicate ring of the glasses resounded.
The combination of full stomach, brandy, and wine took effect, still . . . “Marina, you said you trained as an interpreter and you're working as a translator."
Brow furrowed. Lips taut. A nod.
“What languages do you know?”
A strained smile. "I am fluent in six . . . Russian of course, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and English although I didn’t know the meaning of earthy.”
“Where do you work?"
"I . . . I work in a government office.” Her eyes clouded and she looked away.
All western languages and she works in a government office? Ben had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach while the professional in him surged like a bass that’s seen a fly floating on the surface. "Do you have to work this afternoon?”
She shook her head but her expression remained clouded.
“How about if we go somewhere together . . . maybe the zoo?” Who’s talking, me or the professional? Or is there a difference?
She shook her head again but her eyes begged. Do better than that, they were saying. Make it something I can say yes to.
"How about . . . someplace in the country . . . a picnic?”
Her eyes said yes. “That’s a wonderful idea! I know the perfect place.”
"Good!” He glanced at his watch. “It’s two-thirty now. We’ll get some bread and cheese and things and pick up my car at the embassy.”
She frowned. "Oh . . . no, I have to stop off and see someone first. I’ll meet you.”
“All right, where?”
“Do you know of the Novodevichi?"
“The monastery by the river with the famous cemetery? Sure.”
“There’s a little park outside the grounds on the south side of the last curve in the road by the river before you get there. I’ll meet you on the top of the hill above the park. And I’ll bring the food.”
Ben nodded. “What time?”
She bit her lip and looked at her watch. “Four-thirty?”
"Good.” He raised his hand to call the waiter.
“Would you mind if I left now . . . . ahead of you? I . . . I would like to walk by myself . . . "
"No problem. I need to pay the check anyway, and I don’t want you to miss our date.”
“Thank you.” She leaned forward and rested her fingers lightly of the back of his hand. “And thank you for not asking questions.”
Again, Ben felt himself light up in response both to her touch and to the simple act of looking into her eyes. He picked up the stuffed bear and hurried to the cash register as soon as she was out of sight. He put a twenty ruble note on the counter and set the bear beside the register. “Watch this for me for a while, please."
“But wait!” the stout woman at the cash register called as he headed for the door. “Your change . . . this is too much."
"It was worth ten times that,” he said over his shoulder as he stepped out. He squinted in the bright sunlight, saw the green dress a half block away. It would be easy to follow, especially since there weren’t many people on the street at this time. His mind leapt ahead, projecting the direction she'd taken.
Why follow her? Why do this?
And the answer came back, I have to. I can’t trust anyone.
His heart sank as she turned onto another street. With each step, each turn, each building she passed, the odds increased she was headed for . . . he didn’t want to think it.
She turned left onto Ulitza Dzerzhinskogo. Ben stopped at the corner, turned right, stopped again twenty yards farther and kneeled to retie his shoelace. Glancing back, he saw her going up the stairway into the gray stone building occupying the entire block.
He stood and walked briskly away. He had to evaluate what had happened unemotionally. He didn’t believe in coincidences, but he wanted today to be a coincidence.
First, the young Soviet Ben had targeted to be turned just happened to be chosen by the Director of the KGB as a protégé, one of the bright young men who would be groomed as a leader in the Soviet intelligence community. Then, the building Marina had entered was Number 2 Ulitza
Dzerzninskogo, KGB Headquarters.
What to make of it? Even the rankest amateur wouldn’t start by saying she was an “interpreter in a government office.” And then "I’d like to walk by myself,” and “Thank you for not asking questions?” Even though he hated himself for doing it, he'd had to follow her after she’d waved so many red flags.
Did she know Markov? Had she seen Ben with him and recognized him? Was she reporting on him now? Had Ben blown the chance to have a mole at the top of the KGB?
No. Impossible. If she’d suspected anything, she wouldn’t have spoken to Ben. It must have been a coincidence.
And an opportunity.
Ben circled the block, taking a different route back to the restaurant where he picked up the stuffed bear. One other thing bothered him. It was something he never spoke of, but he believed in it himself. A sixth sense that told him when something was wrong. Many times, he had aborted a meeting at the last second even though he couldn’t detect anything out of the ordinary. Most times, he couldn’t prove whether he had been right or not, but on one occasion his contact had been cut in two by a hail of bullets thirty seconds after Ben was to arrive.
It was a suddenly heightened awareness. He didn’t think of it as anything supernatural. Probably just a change in ordinary conditions too subtle to consciously identity. Maybe a telephone repairman within his field of vision wasn’t acting exactly the way telephone repairmen normally act, or maybe it was something even less obvious, maybe just a different level of noise or activity on a street. How can you identify the unidentifiable? Nevertheless, it set off an alarm in his mind, and he trusted the alarm. Now, he was bothered because he hadn’t felt the alarm.
Kneeling in front of the glowing logs, Katya held Nadia in front of her, lifted and wiggled the threadbare, faded cloth doll so that, to Katya, it walked on the sheepskin rug.
Papa towered beside her. He was so very big. Even when Katya stood up, the top of her head only came to his knee. He had stopped carrying boxes to the sleigh and read from the bible, his deep voice filled the room while the words puffed out of his thick black beard and mustache in wisps of white steam. It was a very good book, he always said, although she mustn’t tell anyone he read from it. Or that he had one. She wasn’t to say anything about it at all.
Papa was a very smart man. Everyone said so. But sometimes they used a funny tone of voice when they said it. Too, Katya had heard a man in town say, “Gregori Latyinin is too smart for his own good.”
Katya watched Mama lay the kitchen utensils on a blanket, then carefully roll it up.
Usually, Mama liked to sit in a chair by the lantern and read poetry when she wasn’t knitting or sewing in the evening. Or, when the wind howled like wolves, she’d pull handfuls of cotton from a large burlap sack, wad them into balls, then stuff the cracks around the windows and doors. To stop the cold. Sometimes Katya helped, pulling off gobs of cotton and poking it into crevices. “The cold is worse than the Germans,” Mama would say. “It always comes back."
Katya felt Papa’s calloused hand on her head. "Are you listening, Katrina?”
She nodded, grasping Nadia’s head and bobbing it up and down so Nadia nodded too. For a moment, Katya really did listen.
As her father walked away from the fire, his breath poured farther from his mouth like smoke. "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not . . . "
It was hard to listen very long to the things her father read, but sometimes a scene caught Katya’s interest, like Samson pushing down the temple on the bad people.
Mama was the most beautiful woman in the world. Katya knew because she’d heard Papa say it many times. He’d hold Katya on his knee, touch the dimple on her cheek and say, “Mama’s the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world and when you grow up, you’re going to be just as pretty.”
Everyone said Katya looked just like her Mama.
Just this morning, Papa and Mama had bundled her in tights with her yellow dress on top, mittens, boots and cap, then let her ride with them on the sleigh. She’d snuggled under the eiderdown cover because the cold wind bit so badly.
Still, she liked to peep out at Karolina, the old white mare, or at the ice-covered trees glinting in the sun like spun glass and the ribbons of smoke rising from log houses dotting the great white expanse.
Standing close to the huge wood-burning stove in the government store while her father purchased food, the babushkas and bearded grandfathers exclaimed over her. “She’s a little doll. A little golden doll,” they said.
But Katya heard Papa speaking with the other men and she recognized the concern in his voice.
On the ride home, she listened from under the cloud-soft eiderdown.
“Anna,” Papa said, “another family disappeared.”
"Pyotr Chavdarov, Olga and their little girl, Fanya.”
“Fanya Chavdarova? She was such a beautiful little thing . . . "
Katya peeped out and saw Papa nod grimly.
"Yes, and so was Revekka Volkonskaya. The men say they’ve heard rumors of girls and their families disappearing in other districts as well. They say they all went to the special camp for bright students last summer.”
“The one Katya attended?” Mama asked with a rising note of fear.
Papa nodded again.
"Gregori . . . Katya is the only one left here . . . "
Why, Papa looked frightened. Katya hadn’t thought anything could frighten Papa.
“Do you think we should leave?” Mama asked, her voice trembling.
“Yes,” Papa replied sadly.
“Where will we go?”
“To the north, away from cities.”
“If they hadn’t taken your father’s land . . . what will we do?"
“I don’t know, but we can’t wait until they come.”
Mama suddenly grabbed Katya and crushed her to her breast. Katya felt warm tears when Mama kissed her.
There was a loud knock at the door. Katya saw Papa's eyes widen as he looked to Mama. Mama's eyes screamed fear above the hand she flung to her mouth. Papa quickly closed the bible and strode to the flour tin, opened it and thrust the book in, then brushed his hands together to get the flour off. He held a finger to his lips, motioned for Mama to take Katya into the back and close the door. Katya heard someone pound on the door and shout as Mama carried her into the bedroom.
“Don’t say a word. Be quiet as a mouse,” Katya heard Mama whisper in the dark. Katya clung to Mama and Nadia, wanting to cry but afraid to. She heard a man’s voice, demanding, threatening, and Papa, calm, persuasive.
“You’re lying!” Katya heard the menacing voice shout. Then Papa yelled and there were loud crashes right outside the door, followed by footsteps and light flooding in as the door opened. Mama screamed and her grip forced Katya's breath out.
Rough hands grabbed Katya's legs. She was stretched like a tug-of-war rope. A thud and Katya swung upside down. She screamed at a glimpse of Mama on the floor with hair stained crimson, then a horsehair blanket enclosed Katya. She pushed the edge aside and saw a man standing over Papa who lay so still on the floor by the door.
They took her to a sleigh, a big black one with two horses pulling it. Katya saw Karolina stamping and tugging at her tethered reins in the moonlight. It was a nightmare. She’d wake up and Mama would pat her and say it was all right.
Then it was over and Katya rode between two big men with the bone-biting cold rushing at her. “No! No! I want to go home! I want my Mama and Papa," she screamed again and again. She turned and clawed at the man on her left, then cowered when he shouted. Cold, so cold. She burrowed under the blanket but the stiff material let the chilling wind in. Sobbing, she hugged Nadia, who she had clung to throughout. "I want to go home, Nadia,” she moaned over and over.
It was past bedtime, and her eyelids were heavy. Tomorrow, Mama and Papa would come get her and everything would be all right. But for now, only Nadia felt of home, of Papa reading and Mama hugging.