Home > Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash #2)(5)

Palace of Treason (Dominika Egorova & Nathaniel Nash #2)(5)
Author: Jason Matthews


“I want to propose an arrangement,” said Dominika. “A mutually beneficial arrangement.” She left her hand where it was. Jamshidi threw it off and turned for the door. Whatever this was, he wanted out. Dominika stepped smoothly in front of him and Jamshidi put his hand on her chest to push her aside. Slowly, almost tenderly, she trapped his hand tight against her breast with her elegant fingers, feeling his moist palm on her skin. She applied light downward pressure and stepped into him—Jamshidi’s face contorted in pain—forcing him nose-first onto the ratty bedspread. “I insist you let me tell you,” Dominika said, releasing his hand.

Jamshidi sat up on the bed with wide eyes. He knew all he needed to know. “You are from French Intelligence?” he asked, rubbing his wrist. When Dominika did not react he said, “CIA, the British?” Dominika stayed silent and Jamshidi shuddered at the worst thought, “You are Mossad?”

Dominika shook her head slightly.

“Then who are you?”

“We are your ally and friend. We alone stand with Iran against a global vendetta, sanctions, military threats. We support your work, Doctor, in every way.”

“Moscow?” said Jamshidi, laughing under his breath. “The KGB?”

“No longer KGB, Doctor, now Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, the SVR.”

Jamshidi shook his head and breathed easy; no Zionist action team, praise Allah. “And what do you want? What is this nonsense about a proposal?” he said, confidence back now, his yellow stronger.

Zhaba, you toad, thought Dominika. “Moscow would like to consult with you; we would like you to advise us on your program.” Dominika braced for the indignation.

“Consult? Advise? You want me to spy on my own country, on my program, to compromise our security?” Jamshidi the righteous, Jamshidi the patriot.

“There is no threat to Iran’s security,” said Dominika evenly. “Keeping Moscow informed will protect your country against its enemies.”

Jamshidi snorted. “You are ridiculous,” he said. “Let me up now; get out of my way.” Dominika did not move.

“I mentioned that my proposal would be mutually beneficial, Doctor. Wouldn’t you like to hear how?”

Jamshidi snorted again but stayed still.

“You live and work in Vienna, accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency. You travel frequently to Tehran. You are the leading expert in your country on centrifugal isotope separation, and for the last several years have directed the assembly of centrifuge cascades at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Correct so far?”

Jamshidi did not respond but looked at her as he kneaded his hand.

“A brilliant career, steady success in the program, in the favor of the Supreme Leader, and with allies in the Security Council. A wife and children in Tehran. But as a man of exceptional needs, a man who has earned the right to do as he pleases, you have made acquaintances—both in Vienna and during these occasional furtive and unauthorized weekends in Paris. You appreciate beautiful women, and they appreciate you.”

“May Shaitan take you,” said Jamshidi. “You are a liar.”

“How disappointed your friends would be to hear you disavow them,” said Dominika, reaching for her clutch. She took out the phone and held it loosely in her hand. Jamshidi stared at her. “Especially your friend Udranka. She has an apartment in Vienna on Langobardenstrasse, very near your IAEA office. You know it well.”

“You fucking Russians,” said Jamshidi.

“No, actually, you are fucking a Serb. A quite innocent girl, I might add. Udranka is from Belgrade. You’ve seen quite a lot of her.”

“Lies,” stuttered Jamshidi. “No proof.”

Dominika swiped a slim finger across the screen of her phone to start the streaming video and tilted it toward Jamshidi so he could see.

“Your most recent visit, August twenty-third,” narrated Dominika. “You brought candy—Sissi-Kugeln chocolates—and a bottle of Nussberg Sauvignon. She broiled a beefsteak. You sodomized her at twenty-one forty-five hours, and left fifteen minutes later.” Dominika tossed the phone onto the bedspread, watching the brutality of her words work on him as the tinny video continued. “Keep it, if you wish.” He looked once again at the screen and slid it away from him.

“No,” he said. The color around his head and shoulders was bleached out, barely visible. Dominika knew he had already calculated the unspoken threat. The mullahs would execute him if his twisted little habits were exposed, if his prurient misuse of official funds was revealed, but especially if his stupidity at being blackmailed was brought to light. “No,” he repeated.

Ran’she syadyesh, ran’she vydyesh, thought Dominika, the sooner you get in, the sooner you get out. She sat beside him and started talking softly, concealing her contempt. He was a beetle in a matchbox, with nowhere to move—Dominika didn’t let him protest or feign ignorance. Instead she firmly told him the rules: He would answer her questions, they would meet discreetly, she would give him “expense money,” she would protect him, and (with a subtle nod) he could continue taking his pleasure with Udranka. They would meet in Vienna, at Udranka’s apartment, in seven days’ time. He should reserve the entire evening. Dominika asked whether that was convenient, but got up before he could answer. He had no choice. She walked to the door, opened it a crack, and turned to look at him sitting small and quiet on the stained bedspread.

“I will take care of you, Doctor,” she said, “in all things. Are you coming?”

They left the room and descended the narrow staircase with peeling paper and creaking treads. The ubiytsa came from around the counter and stood at the bottom of the stairs. “Fifty euros,” he said, arms across his chest. “Entertainment tax.” A brown haze floated around his head: cruelty, violence, stupidity. Uncomprehending, Jamshidi tried to squeeze by him, but the man pinned him to the wall with a meaty forearm under the chin. His other hand brought up a cutthroat razor. “One hundred euros,” said the man, looking up at Dominika. “Prostitution tax.” Pinned by the neck, Jamshidi could only goggle as she stepped off the last stair and drew close.

Dominika was partially conscious of a faint annoyance at being interrupted, nettled at an outside interference. Her vision was acute and ice clear in the center, but hazy around the margins. She smelled the thug through his shirt, smelled the brown animal essence of him. Without a break in stride, Dominika pushed right up to him, through his brown cloud, and grasped the back of his greasy head softly, lovingly. Her other hand clamped onto the side of his face, her thumb at the hinge of his jaw. She pressed violently in and up—she felt the temporomandibular joint click under her thumb pad—and the brute’s head came up and he howled in pain, the razor falling from his fingers. In a cloud of funk and perfume, Dominika pulled his smelly hair and yanked his head back. An instant flashing thought: What would Bratok, big brother Gable, one of her CIA handlers, think about this temper of hers? Then, electrically, a second thought: What would all her Americans feel as they watched her in this reeking stairwell doing this— Her focus snapped back and she struck the bruiser once with the open web of her hand, very fast, in the windpipe. The man grunted once as Dominika pulled him violently backward, hitting his head against the wall to the sound of crunching plaster. He lay on the floor and didn’t move.

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