Home > Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash #2)(4)

Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash #2)(4)
Author: Jason Matthews

Her selection did accomplish one thing. The palpable weight of the FSB counterintelligence reinvestigation was lifted. All the games stopped: The tinted-window Peugeot was no longer parked outside her apartment on Kastanaevskaya Ulitsa in the mornings and evenings; the periodic jovial interviews with the counterespionage staff trailed off; and Sistema workouts with the toothsome Daniil ended. Dominika now knew she had been cleared—certainly Putin’s impatient orders had hastened the process, but she was through. She savored the irony that President Putin himself had just put her, the fox, in the henhouse. But the savored irony soon turned into a thin white line of anger in her stomach.

Things moved rather quickly after that, including her assignment to Line KR, the counterintelligence staff. Alexei Zyuganov summoned her and without emotion informed her that the decision had come down from the fourth floor that she was to manage the operation against Jamshidi from Line KR. His demeanor was sour, his voice contemptuous, his gaze indirect. And beneath the façade, in the few seconds of direct eye contact, she saw demented paranoia. He sat in a swirl of black as he spoke. He droned that the resources of his department were to be used to ensure that her planning was sound, and that there would be no flaps—none whatsoever would be tolerated. Zyuganov’s deputy, Yevgeny, in his thirties, scowling, stout, and broad, dour as an Orthodox deacon and impossibly dark, from thatched hair to woolly eyebrows to orangutan forearms, leaned against the office doorjamb behind Dominika, listening, while appraising the curve of her buttocks under her smooth skirt.

The truth was that Zyuganov was furious at being publically overruled regarding the recruitment of the Persian. The poisonous and diminutive Zyuganov—he was just over five feet tall—was doubly stung by the case being handed to Dominika Egorova and not to him, was trebly stung by the fact that the president of the Russian Federation knew of and had an eye on a mere captain, his new subordinate. Zyuganov appraised this shlyukha, this trained whore, from the sodden duck blind of his mind.

She was the rare, ridiculous female operupolnomochenny, operations officer, in the Service, but with a pedigree and an unassailable reputation. He had heard the stories, read the restricted reports. Among other accomplishments in her young career, she acquired the information that led to the arrest of one of the most damaging penetrations of SVR, veteran Lieutenant General Vladimir Korchnoi—a traitor run for a decade and a half by the Americans—ending a mole hunt that had lasted years. Zyuganov had managed part of the search to unmask Korchnoi, and had not succeeded where this bint had. Then she had been wounded, captured, and held briefly by CIA, returned from the West in triumph to Yasenevo, given a meritorious promotion to junior captain, and now, peremptorily, was assigned to Line KR to work a director’s dossier case.

Zyuganov, who started his own venomous career during the precursor KGB years as an interrogator in the Lubyanka cellars, could not oppose her personnel assignment. He dismissed Egorova and watched her go—she was forced to squeeze by an unmoving, smirking Yevgeny in the doorway. The operation against the Persian was too important to scuttle, but Zyuganov’s Lubyanka instincts stirred in another direction. He could take control and earn high-profile credit for bagging the Persian if Captain Egorova were out of the picture. He sat back in his swivel chair thinking, his little feet dangling, and looked at the dark-browed Yevgeny, daring him with a gassy stare to say anything. Vilami na vode pisano, the future is written with a pitchfork on flowing water. No one knows what’s going to happen.


Outside the club, Dominika led Jamshidi by a clammy hand through the thick haze of nighttime traffic, dashing across Place Blanche and then more slowly downhill a half block to the little Hotel Belgique with its blue-striped canopy over the door. A bored ubiytsa behind the counter, a bruiser with big arms in a dirty T-shirt, threw Dominika a key and a towel.

The door opened a foot before it hit the metal frame of the bed as Dominika pushed into the room. They had to squeeze past the cracked dresser. The screened toilet in the corner of the room was ringed in rust stains, and a large mirror, spotted and smoky, hung over the headboard by a dangerously frayed velvet rope. Jamshidi walked to the toilet to relieve himself. “Take off your clothes,” he said over his shoulder, splashing liberally outside the porcelain. Dominika sat at the foot of the bed with her legs crossed, bouncing her foot. For five kopeks she would put her lipstick tube against his forehead and push the plunger. Jamshidi zipped and turned toward her.

“What are you waiting for? Strip and get on your stomach,” he said, slipping out of his suit coat. He hung it on a nail on the back of the door. “Don’t worry, I have your money. You can send it to your momma in Kiev—that is if she’s not working next door.”

Dominika leaned back and chuckled. “Good evening, Dr. Jamshidi,” she said. “I am not from Ukraine.”

Jamshidi’s head came up at the mention of his name and he scanned her face. Any Iranian nuclear scientist violating sharia and furtively tomcatting in Montmartre quickly sniffs danger. He didn’t ask her how she knew him.

“I don’t care where you’re from,” he said.

So educated, thought Dominika, and still so stupid. “I need a few minutes of your time,” said Dominika. “I assure you it will be of interest to you.”

Jamshidi searched her face. Who was this tart with the Mona Lisa smile? “I told you to get undressed,” he said, stepping toward her, but unsure about what was happening. His ardor was running out of him like the sand in a broken hourglass. He snatched at her wrist and pulled her to her feet. He stuck his face close to hers, drinking in the scent of Vent Vert, searching her eyes behind those incongruous glasses. “A poil,” strip, he said. He squeezed her wrist and watched her face. He got nothing. Dominika looked him in the eyes as she put a thumbnail between his first and second knuckle and pressed. Jamshidi jumped with the pain and jerked his hand away.

“Just a few minutes,” Dominika said, with a little lead in her voice, to give him a hint, a taste. She spoke casually, as if she had not just lit up the median nerve of his right hand.

“Who are you?” said Jamshidi sliding away from her. “What do you want?”

Dominika put her hand on his sleeve, pushing the limits, the man-woman Islam thing. Not so big a problem with this educated Persian who lived in Europe, this whoreson with a taste for redheads.

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