My telephone rings and I look over at the time clock next to my bed on my nightstand. It reads 3:40 a.m. and I pick up the receiver and place it to my ear.
The extension goes dead in my hand and my blood runs cold. I slam down the receiver and jump from my bed, running down to Nikolai’s room in a blind panic. I throw open his door to find him sleeping peacefully in his bed and once again, I am able to breathe. I rush over to his bed and take him in my arms and I place a kiss on his head but this does not rouse him. I have known my son to sleep through mild earthquakes and I know that it will require much more than this to waken him. I carry him down to my own bedroom and lay him in my bed and after that, I pull suitcases from my closet and begin to pack. When I am done packing my things, I hurry back down to Nikolai’s room and pack his things, all but one outfit, which I carry back to my bedroom and dress him in. I remove my sleeping gown and dress in the outfit, which I have discarded earlier in the evening and then I walk over to a locked cabinet in the corner of my bedroom and retrieve a key sitting atop this cabinet. I unlock the cabinet and remove several firearms and load them and place them in my suitcase. Once this task has been completed, I carry the suitcases outside and put them in the trunk of my vehicle. I return then pick up my slumbering son and carry him out to the vehicle and I lay him down on the rear seat. Still, it is dark outside but I am cautious as I drive the long, winding roads of the mountainside without headlights, that I shall not attract attention to myself.
It is an old Russian phrase but still, it is a very effective one. It translates into English to mean, The Wolf is Free or The Wolf is Loose and it simply means that you are being hunted or your persecutors are stalking you.
The voice on the other end of the extension was one that I did not recognize but still, I am grateful for this call, for it bought me some time to save the life of my son and find a safe place for him while I prepare to take on and hopefully, take down the wolf. I turn in my seat and look at Nikolai sleeping. He is the most precious thing in my life and I shall not lose him.
I have known for three years that this day would arrive and I have made preparations for it. KGB has at last, decided to strike out against me for not killing the Colonel Steve Austin three years previously and now the time has come for our final confrontation. I have maintained safe houses all over the world, any one of which I can retreat to while I prepare for battle. The only thing I have not prepared so well for is the care of my son. The life of an Agent of KGB means that you have no friends, few acquaintances and many enemies. Because of this, there is no one whom I can entrust the life of my son to while I go into battle. There is no one I would dare leave him with, for the strength of an exceptional Agent of KGB lies in his ability to camouflage himself, to make others believe he is something that he is not. Any good Agent of KGB is capable of this tactic and knowing this, I realize that I can not place my son in the hands of any of my comrades, for they themselves might be the wolf who stalks me. There is only one man whom I feel I can entrust the life of my son to and that man is his father, the Colonel Steve Austin. After three years of having no contact with the Colonel, I can not begin to imagine what he must think of me. I realize that he must think me selfish for leaving him as I did and that he shall not be willing to help me, and I do not seek his help in this, for this is my battle and I intend to fight it alone. But certainly, the Colonel would not deny his son his home and his protection while I go off to battle, would he? I wonder if the Colonel has married and fathered other children. Will he accept Nikolai into his home and into his heart as he does his other children? My wish is that the Colonel will accept his son, irrespective of what he feels for me. Nikolai is three years old now, and still, I have made no move to present him to his father. He is a very inquisitive boy and he has begun to ask me such questions as “Where is my papa? Why isn’t he here with us?” These questions break my heart in half but still, I answer them honestly.
“Your papa is far away from us. He lives in a place called America.”
“Can we go to merica and see him, mama?’'
“No son, we can not.”
“But why? I want to see my papa.”
And now, the time has come that I have no other recourse but to bring father and son together. The Colonel is the only person whom I feel I can entrust the life of my son to and hopefully, he will take care of my son in the event that I shall not return from this mission.
I drive to a small runway landing with which I am familiar. It usually is not used to transport passengers but to transport illegal drugs and items of the black market which are hard to get by customs. I tell the pilot of my destination and I hand over to him a large sum of money. He retrieves my bags from the car while I board the small plane with my son in my arms. The plane is uncomfortable but durable and it is small and capable of low flying for long distances. I make a small palette on the floor of the plane for Nikolai to sleep on and I sit back as the pilot starts the engines. Soon, we are ascending and on our way. I cry, not for what I am leaving behind, for my life back there is no more, but for what I am rushing towards. I know that I am rushing towards death and I pray that Nikolai’s father will raise him to be a man such as he, himself should I not return from this mission.
I stand at my window and observe as the rains come down hard, accompanied by bright flashes of lightening and loud thundering. My body shivers but not in response to the weather outside, nor because of the temperature inside the quarters I have rented. It is because of the inner struggle I am waging within myself.
I have taken up residence in a luxurious hotel in the center of the city of Washington, D.C. My quarters are approximately 6 kilometers from the home of the Colonel Steve Austin. I have been in Washington for two days now and still, I have not managed to summon the courage to contact him, nor have I told Nikolai where we are. If Nikolai were to find out that we are in America, he would insist upon seeing his papa and I can not take the chance that Steve might reject his son once he finds out about him. This would break Nikolai’s heart and I shall not subject him to this until I find out for certain that Steve will accept him and look after him while I am away. Many times in the last two days I have picked up the telephone and begun to dial Steve’s number before slamming down the receiver. I cannot understand why contacting him frightens me so. Is it because I fear what I shall see in his eyes once he discovers that I have deceived him about his child? Is it because my feelings for him are so strong that it frightens me that he may not feel the same way about me as I do about him? I have faced cold-hearted hitmen, killers, mass murderers, men with no conscience at all and still, none of them have frightened me as much as the prospect of seeing the Colonel’s reaction to his son frightens me. If he chooses not to help me and decides not to accept his son, I am not certain what I shall do next, for I have not thought that far ahead. My heart and my mind tell me that he will despise me for bearing his child and keeping his child away from him and still, who else can I entrust my child’s life to accept for him? My thoughts are suddenly interrupted by Nikolai.
“Can I go outside, mama?”
“No, Nikki. It is raining too hard.”
“But I like the rain.”
“I know you do, Love, but we must stay inside a little longer.”
“But I wanna play in the rain.”
I go to him and stoop down in front of him.
“Why don’t we play with your toy soldiers instead?”
He pouts and I know he is going to be difficult. He has not slept much since we have arrived in America and his temper with me is very short.
“Then why don’t we colour in your books, yes?”
“Don’t want to.”
He crosses his little arms over his chest and looks down at the floor. I have never witnessed such a stubborn child before. This is no doubt something that he has inherited from his papa.
“Then how about if mama reads you a story?”
“Don’t want no story. Wanna play in the rain.”
“I’ll tell you what Nikki, as soon as the rain stops, how about if mama takes you to a park where you can feed the ducks.”
His blue eyes widen and brighten in wonder.
I can not help but to smile at him.
“Of course you can, darling. But we must first wait until the rain stops.”
He hurries over to the window and looks up at the sky.
“Is it ‘bout ta stop mama?”
“No, Love, not just yet. In a little while.”
“I do not know this, Nikki. But it should not be much longer.”
“In a little while?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“And then I can feed the ducks?”
“Yes, and then you may feed the ducks.”
The rain continues on and on for hours and Nikolai again begins to pout and grow frustrated.
“You said I could feed the ducks.”
“I know I did, Love, but I thought the rain would have stopped by now.”
“But it didn’t.”
I sigh and prepare for the battle that I know is coming.
“When can I feed the ducks?”
“Nikki, I am sorry that the rain has not stopped, but we can not go outside just yet my darling. It is too dangerous for us.”
“What is dan ger ous mean, mama?”
“It means we might get hurt if we go outside right now.”
His curiosity is stronger than his anger and his inquisitive mind takes over.
If I lie to him now, it will be the first time and it will be the beginning of many more lies to come and lying to my son is a habit that I do not wish to pick up.
“Nikolai, come over here and sit beside mama on the sofa.”
He obeys me and looks up at me. I turn to him and take his small hands in mine.
“I do not want you to be frightened my darling. But there are some men somewhere out there who want to hurt us.”
“Yes, very bad men.”
“It is their job. It is what they do.”
He thinks this over for a moment.
“Can we shoot them, mama?”
“No! I don’t ever want you to say such a thing!”
How do I answer this question without making a hypocrite of myself in my son’s eyes?
“Nikolai, there are other ways of doing things without hurting someone. You must always try to find a good way to do things and try never to hurt another person. Do you understand?”
“I saw a man on the television set last night and he shot the bad man.”
“Yes, but that is just television Nikki and it is not real.”
“But I saw it.”
“I know you did but…….Nikki, you remember when we saw the play, Hansel and Gretel in the village?”
“Well, television is like the play we saw. It is just something for you to observe but it isn’t real and should not be copied.”
He is disappointed to hear this but I must make him understand.
“There are some things on the television that are real and other things that are not. You must never do or say the bad things that you see and hear on the television. Do you understand?”
“Da, yes….I think so.”
“You must always try to find a good way of doing things so that no one gets hurt. Will you promise me this?”
His blue eyes capture mine and I realize I have never seen him this serious about anything before.
“Yes, mama. I promise.”
I take him in my arms and kiss him and hold him tightly as once again, I thank God for him. It amazes me always how much I have learned from one so young and so innocent.
“That mean we can’t feed the ducks, mama?”
I laugh out loud and Nikki looks up at me in confusion as I place more kisses on his face and head.
I pace nervously back and forth in my quarters. Nikolai and I have had our dinner earlier and I have put him down hours ago and now, he is sleeping soundly in his room. I reflect back on the words I have spoken to him earlier this evening. I told him always to try to find a good way of doing something and never to hurt another person and still, I have set out on this mission to kill the wolf, to do precisely the thing I have forbade Nikolai to do and I can not reconcile these actions within myself. But still, what if I do not have to kill the wolf? What if I can capture him instead and put him out of commission permanently without hurting him. Can this be done in such a way as to honor my words to Nikolai and also send a message to KGB that I will not be trifled with? There must be a way. Again, I look at the telephone and go over to it. I pick up the receiver and begin to dial Steve’s number for the hundredth time and this time, I dial it all the way through without slamming down the receiver. My heart is pounding and my hands are shaking as I listen to his telephone ringing on the other end.
My breath catches in my throat as finally, he picks up the receiver and answers. His voice is groggy and I realize that I have awakened him. I look over at the time clock and realize it is after two in the morning. My God, what was I thinking to have called him so late! What if his wife had answered? What if I have awoken his children?
My breathing is heavy and still, I can not find my voice.
I open my mouth to speak to him but find that I am unable to do so.
“Look, I know there’s somebody there, I can hear you breathing.”
“Yeah….who is this?”
“Hel….Hello Steve……it is I…….Anna…….Anna Akhanatova.”
I can hear the rustling of his covers as he sits up in bed. I hear him switch on the light and then I hear a “thump” as he drops the telephone. I can not help but smile as I hear him curse and retrieve the telephone.
“Anna? You still there? I dropped the phone.”
“Yes, Steve. I am here.”
“Where are you? Are you alright?”
“Yes Steve. I am fine. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Anna. I’m just darn glad to hear from you.”
This pleases me.
“Are you really Steve?”
“Of course I am. You left without even saying goodbye. I thought…..well I thought…..”
“I am sorry about the way that I left you Steve. It was wrong of me to do so.”
“Well where are you now? Can I see you?”
“Yes, I am here. I am in Washington, Steve.”
“When did you arrive?”
“Two days ago.”
“You’ve been here for two days and you didn’t call me?”
“I wanted to Steve. I tried so many times to call you but….I wasn’t sure what your reaction would be.”
He takes a deep breath and exhales shakily.
“I’ve missed you Anna. I’d like to see you.”
“I would like to see you also Steve, but…..”
“What will your wife think about this?”
He chuckles but without humour.
“I’m not married Anna.”
This surprises me.
“You are not?”
“No, I’m not.”
“But I thought…..”
“You thought what?”
“I thought that you would have a family by now. Why is this not so?”
He sighs and says, “Well I thought about settling down a while back. Thought I’d found the right girl too, but she ran out on me about three years ago. After that, I kinda stopped looking.”
His words take my breath away and again, my heart pounds in my chest.
“You must not tease me this way Steve.”
His voice becomes very serious now.
“I’m not teasing you, Anna. I mean it.”
This pleases me very much and suddenly, I need to sit down, for my legs have grown weak and no longer wish to support me.
“Where are you staying Anna?”
“I am at the Jefferson Hotel.”
“I’m on my way.”
“Yeah? What’s the matter?”
“I….I….I will see you soon. I am using the name Laura Sanders.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“You won’t disappear on me again before I get there will you?”
My heart breaks but I smile as I say, “No Steve. I will not disappear this time.”
He breathes a sigh of relief.
“I’m on my way.”
He disconnects his telephone and I sit there trembling, holding the receiver in my hand. Have I made the right decision? Suddenly I panic and wish to flee but I shall not run. Not this time. Did he mean what he said earlier? Am I really the reason he has never married? I want desperately to believe this but still, I am not so sure. And what about Nikolai? What will he think when he sees his son? Will he still feel the same way about me then? My nerves are shattered and I walk over and pour myself a large, strong drink. I sip from it as I pace nervously back and forth and await Steve’s arrival.
I knew that my doorbell would ring. I have been expecting this and still, knowing that it would happen did not stop my heart from jumping and skipping several beats when finally, it did happen. I stand there transfixed, looking at the door to my quarters and for the first time, I understand what the deer caught in the headlights of my automobile feels like. I drink down the vodka in my glass, a very considerable amount by the way and ordinarily, the contents of this particularly strong brand of vodka would have burned my throat going down but this time, I do not feel it. I look over at the time clock hanging on the wall and it reads 3:05 a.m. I mentally will my legs to move over to the door but they will not obey me. It is with great effort that I am able to lift my feet from the floor and walk over to the door. I take a couple of deep breaths in a failed attempt to calm my nerves and then, I unlock the door and open it.
My breath catches in my throat as I look up into Steve’s beautiful blue eyes. He gazes down upon me, tall, handsome and every bit as desirable as I remember him. My eyes grow large and my heart pounds erratically in my chest but I do not breathe, for I can not. I try to speak but realize this ability too, has left me. He smiles at me and the most delicious shiver I have ever experienced runs slowly up and down my spine. My legs grow weak and butterflies take flight in my stomach as the palms of my hands suddenly become very damp. I have not felt these type of sensations since I was a school girl back in my village and I was experiencing my first crush, but this is no school girl crush. This is so much more. This is a powerful, all consuming, blinding emotion that will not be dissolved with time. No, this is no crush. This is the real thing. This is love.
I open my mouth to greet him but nothing happens. I clear my throat and try again, but all that I can manage is:
Again, his smile, and suddenly, I am in his arms, holding him, clinging to him desperately. I have told myself over and over that I would not do this thing and still, here I am, squeezing him so tightly that I am fearful that he may not be able to breathe and then, I feel his strong arms around me and he is holding me just as tightly as I am holding him. Tears stream down my face and I squeeze my eyes shut tightly to abate them but then, I realize that I can feel also, his tears upon my neck and I know then that it does not matter that I am crying. I know that it does not matter that I am showing him how happy I am to see him and it does not matter that he can feel how much I love him, for I can feel all these things from him as well.
“I missed you so much Anna. Oh God, I missed you so much.”
I try to tell him this too but I am sobbing too hard. All that I can do is hold him. Hold him so tightly that hopefully the words that I wish to speak to him will be conveyed in my actions instead.
“Don’t ever leave me again Anna. Don’t ever leave me again.”
I nod my head in agreement to this and still, I can not speak to him. I am too overcome with emotion to put to voice all the things that I wish to say to him. He pulls back slightly and suddenly, I feel his soft lips upon mine as he tastes my lips for the first time in three years. His kiss is gentle, exploratory, questioning and I open up to him as I respond to his kiss and answer his questions through this simple, loving gesture. His kiss grows deep and passionate and it takes my breath away as I continue to cling to him and my body melts into his. I can hear myself moaning passionately as he continues to devour me but I can not stop this, nor do I wish to. On the contrary. I want more of this, much, much more. Finally, Steve pulls his lips away from mine and I groan in frustration. I can now feel his lips upon my neck as he nibbles my throat and bites down softly upon it sending tingling sensations throughout my entire body.
I have made the promise to myself that I would not speak the words until I have heard him say them first and still, I can hear myself breaking my promise as I hear myself say, “I love you Steve.”
He lifts his head and looks down at me with tears brimming in his eyes.
“I love you too Anna. More than anything in this world.”
I am at once, both elated and saddened by his words. Elated because these are the words that I have desired to hear from him for three years and saddened because I know that once he learns of my deception, his feelings for me will change. It is this sadness that he must have witnessed in my eyes.
“What’s the matter, Anna?”
I shake my head that there is nothing wrong and I try to remove myself from his embrace but still, he will not release me.
I look up at him, searching for the right words to say to him, but they elude me.
He turns slightly and closes and locks the door and then he accompanies me over to the sofa and sits down beside me, still holding me in his arms.
“Tell me what’s wrong Anna,”
His voice is soft and gentle and leads me to believe that he will be understanding in this matter but still, I am afraid to tell him what it is that is troubling me.
“Anna, I love you. Whatever it is that’s bothering you, tell me and we’ll get through it together. I promise you.”
I am too late to blink back the tears that begin to run down my face and Steve reaches up and gently brushes them away.
“Don’t cry, baby. I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you.”
I turn away from him.
“Oh Steve. If only I knew this to be true.”
He places his finger beneath my chin and gently turns my head so that I am now gazing up into his eyes.
“It’s true, Anna. If you never believe anything else, then always believe that I love you and I’ll always be there for you. I promise you that.”
I know not, how I ever doubted him. His eyes and my heart tell me that he speaks the truth. I realize now that I can confide in him but that does not mean that I can do this without a courage builder. I stand and go over and pour myself another drink. I gulp down the contents and this time, I can feel it as it burns a path down my throat. I look over at Steve and he sits there, grinning at me in amusement.
“Do not laugh Colonel, for you will need one too before this night is over.”
I turn and refill my glass and I pour Steve one as well. I go back over to him and place his glass in his hand.
“Thanks, but it’s a little early for this, don’t cha think?”
He is toying with me, but I do not mind. I prefer his mirth to his anger and disappointment.
I place my glass on the table and I turn to him on the sofa.
“Steve, there is something that I must tell you. Something very important.”
“Alright. I’m listening.”
He places his glass on the table beside my own.
Suddenly I can not look into his eyes and I look away from him as I begin to speak.
“When I……when I left you three years ago, I did not leave here alone.”
I look quickly over at him and I find him staring at me in confusion.
“When I left you Steve, I took another with me. Someone I had no right to take away from here, away from you.”
“I don’t understand, Anna. What are you talking about?”
I take a deep breath and stand. I reach for Steve’s hand and he places his hand in mine as he stands and then I slowly escort him from the living room and down the corridor. We pause in front of the closed door of the middle room and I place my other hand over my heart to keep it from pounding through my chest. It is at this time that I begin to feel like a spectator in this drama instead of a participant as I watch in what seems like slow motion as my hand reaches down and turns the knob of Nikolai’s bedroom door. My breath catches in my throat as I gently push the door open and switch on the light and step inside the room. Steve steps into the room beside me and looks around. His gaze stops and settles on the undisturbed bundle lying in the bed and he turns and looks down at me.
The coward in me again manifests itself and I wish to flee but Steve feels this and grips my hand tighter in his. His eyes compel me to look up at him and I do so, no longer able to turn away from his intense gaze. He needs not speak the words for me to know what he wants. The question in his eyes is enough for me to see and comprehend it. I force the words from my mouth even though I am terrified of his reaction.
“He…….he is your son, Steve.”
His face turns white and I witness shock in his eyes. He turns quickly and looks over at Nikolai in the bed. My hand drops from his as he walks over to the bed on wooden legs and looks down at Nikolai. He turns and looks back over at me.
Tears stream down my face now and I can not answer him. I can only nod my head, ‘yes’.
Steve sits down on the side of the bed and gently reaches out and touches Nikolai’s hair, hair that is the same shade of brown as his own. He takes Nikolai’s small hand in his own and caresses it as he studies each tiny finger. His voice is barely a whisper, but I can hear the awe and love in it as he says: “My son.”
As if to confirm this, again, he turns to me and asks: “He’s my son?”
Again, I nod. “Yes, Steve. He is your son.”
He is no more successful now in stopping the tears from running down his face than I was earlier.
“How old is he?”
“He is three years old.”
His voice catches in his throat, “What’s……what’s his name?”
“His name is Steven Nikolai Austin.”
He fights back a sob as he leans over and places a kiss on Nikolai’s brow. He stands and walks over to me and I am compelled to take a step backward. For his eyes are determined and his jaw is clenched. This I fear, is the moment I have long dreaded. He stands before me and gazes down upon me as he reaches out and takes my hands in his and then he speaks words to me which I never expected to hear from him.
“Marry me Anna.”
My shock prohibits me from doing anything more than staring up at him, dumbfounded. Finally, I am able to find my voice with great effort.
“I….I can not, Steve.”
Now, it is he who is shocked.
“It is too…..complicated, Steve. I can not make this kind of commitment to you at this time.”
“Why not? I love you Anna and I know that you love me. I want us to be a family. I want us to raise our son together as husband and wife.”
My voice is desperate and it speaks the truth.
“I want these things too Steve, so very much. But alas, they can not be.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have come back here for a reason Steve.”
He looks down upon me, urging me to continue.
I take a deep breath and do so.
“I have come back here to ask you…….if you would look after our son while I am away.”
“Away? Away where?”
“This, I can not say. But there is something that I must do and if I…..when I return, we can talk then of marriage and of being a family, yes?”
“What do you mean, ‘if’ you return?”
“Please do not question me Steve. Just promise me that you will take care of Nikolai upon my absence. I shall be able to go and settle the business that I need to settle as long as I know he is safe with you.”
“What business are you talking about, Anna? You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.”
This is a most impossible and stubborn man and I can see clearly from whom my son has inherited his character traits.
We glare at each other, neither of us willing to back down and finally, I sigh in defeat, realizing that I have no other recourse but to confide in him.
“Alright, Steve. Come with me into the other room and I will tell you what it is that I must do and what I need of you while I am away.”
He starts to follow me out of the room but then he turns and looks lovingly at his sleeping son. I have to urge him strongly to come away from Nikolai and to come down the corridor with me and into the other room. Once we are settled, I begin to tell him of the mission I must go on and why it is imperative that he stay behind and keep our child safe from danger while I am away. I can only hope that he will agree to this and will not fight me on this matter.
I am correct of course, in assuming that Steve will need a drink before this night was over. After I confide in him the circumstances of Nikolai’s birth and why I chose not to contact him, I then tell him of the inner workings of KGB and of the wolf who stalks me. Steve not only empties the glass of vodka which I had presented to him earlier, but he also found it necessary to rise from the sofa and pour for himself another drink as well. This one however, he sips slowly as he turns and stands before me.
“How much time do you have?”
“Not a lot, Steve. KGB moves quickly and decisively and because I have disappeared from my villa, they realize now that I know of their intentions to silence me once and for all. It will not be long before they strike out against me.”
“Do they know that you’re here?”
“I have been very careful, but for saftey’s sake, I must assume that they are aware of my presence here in America or they soon will be.”
“Then we’ll have to take precautions so that we’ll be ready for them whenever they decide to make their move.”
His words unsettle me and I rise from the sofa and walk over to him.
“No Steve. You must not involve yourself in this. You are Nikolai’s only protection and you must promise me that you will remain behind and take care of him.”
“I’m afraid that’s a promise I can’t make Anna. I can’t let you go up against the KGB alone. I’m gonna be right there beside you when they come for you and I’m not letting you out of my sight until we take them down. But I can promise you that Nikolai will be safe in the meantime.”
“How can you promise me this if you are not with him?”
“You remember Oscar Goldman?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“We’re going to leave Nikolai with Oscar. He’ll see to his safety and all his needs while we’re away.”
“I am reluctant to call upon him Steve. I remember him as being a good man, but still, I do not know him so very well. Certainly not well enough to entrust to him the life of our son.”
“Anna, if there’s one man we can trust with Nikolai’s safety, it’s Oscar Goldman. And with Rudy helping him out, you won’t have to worry about anything. Trust me.”
“The last time I trusted you Steve, you gave to me a son.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
“No, Steve. It is a good thing. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
He leans down and kisses me all too briefly and then he turns and picks up the telephone as he dials the number of Oscar Goldman. Steve tells him nothing of what is happening, only that he wishes to meet with him here in this hotel room and that he should ask for the suite of Laura Sanders.
“He is a very trusting man to agree to come here so early in the morning with so little information, no?”
“He’s my friend, Anna. I trust him with my life and he trusts me with his.”
“This must be a glorious thing to have: trust.”
“You should know that better than anyone Anna.”
“No Steve. Trust is a luxury which I can ill afford.”
“And yet, you trusted me enough to come back here. To place our son’s life in my hands.”
“This was an act of desperation, Steve.”
He smiles at me.
“No Anna. This was an act of trust. And an act of love.”
I can not argue with him, for I know his words to be true.
“Steve, if anything should happen to you, I shall never be able to forgive myself.”
He comes to me and places his hands on my shoulders.
“Nothing’s gonna happen to me Anna, or to you. We’re gonna settle this once and for all and then we’ll never have to worry about the KGB again.”
He takes me in his arms and holds me, comforts me, and I am grateful for this, but still, I am skeptical. For I know well, the methods of KGB and I know how the wolf agent hunts and how relentless he will be. For I was once a wolf agent for KGB myself, and I know that a wolf agent will not stop until he brings down his quarry.
Both, Steve and I freeze as Nikolai calls me from his bedroom. I look up into Steve’s eyes and I see excitement there, mingled with fear. His eyes tell me that he wants desperately to meet his son but also that he is afraid of being rejected by him. I take Steve’s trembling hand in mine and lead him down the hall. When we reach Nikolai’s room, I switch on the light and walk over to Nikolai’s bed where he is sitting up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with his little fists. I take him in my arms and place a kiss on his head. He wraps his little arms around me and buries his face in my chest.
Still, he is not sleeping well and his voice is groggy with exhaustion.
“I had a dream mama.”
“Oh? A bad dream?”
“No. I dreamed about the ducks.”
“Ahh, a good dream then, yes?”
“Da. They let me feed them, mama.”
I chuckle as he nestles closer against me.
“Nikki, do you remember when I told you of your papa?”
“Da. He’s in ‘Merica, mama.”
“Yes, love, he is. And so are we.”
He raises his head and looks up at me.
“We’re in ‘Merica too mama?”
“Da. Yes we are, my son.”
“Then I can see my papa?”
“Yes, Nikki. You may see him.”
Suddenly, he is wide awake and he stands and jumps up and down on the bed.
“When! When! When!”
“He is here now Nikki, and he wants very much to meet you.”
I point over to the door and Nikolai’s wide, blue eyes follow my finger. Suddenly, he goes totally still as he stares open mouthed at Steve.
“Hello Nikolai. It sure is nice to finally meet cha.”
“You…..you’re my papa?”
“Yes, I am.”
They stare at each other, tears in Steve’s eyes and wonder in Nikolai’s as he studies the handsome face of his papa.
“I look like that too.”
Both Steve and I laugh at this, but Steve remains where he is, for he does not wish to frighten his son by making a move to advance upon him until he is invited to do so. Nikolai turns and looks at me.
“He’s my papa, mama? For real?”
“Yes, for real, Nikolai. He is your papa.”
Suddenly he climbs down from the bed and runs over to Steve.
“Papa! Papa! Papa!”
Steve bends down and scoops him up in his arms and holds him tightly as a flood of tears stream down his face. Nikolai wraps his little arms around Steve’s neck and holds him tightly.
“I found you papa! Mama said you was far away! She said you was in ‘Merica and I couldn’t come see you but I found you didn’t I papa! I found you!”
“Yes you did, son. You found me.”
A sob prevents Steve from saying more as he holds his son tightly with tears streaming down his face. I too have tears running down my face as I observe them together. For there is no greater gift that I can ask for than the gift of this moment and I shall treasure it always.
I pace nervously back and forth in the living room of my quarters as I await Oscar Goldman’s arrival. Steve of course remains in the middle room with Nikolai and has not left his side even though Nikolai has finally succumbed to sleep fifteen minutes ago. I have never before believed in the American expression: “Love at first sight”, but after observing Steve and Nikolai together, I know now that it is a statement of truth. For, the love that I observed in their eyes as they looked upon each other and talked and got to know one another was quite evident. They talked until finally, Nikolai fell asleep in Steve’s arms and still, Steve has refused to release him and lay him in his bed. Just watching him with his son, I know that he will be a superb father and this pleases me more than I can say and it puts my mind at ease.
I think now, of Oscar Goldman and I wonder how he will react upon seeing me again. He was once very taken with me and I wonder how he will feel knowing that Steve and I have together, borne a son. Steve says to me that he can trust Oscar Goldman with his and his son’s lives and I can only pray that this is true.
My mind wanders still, to the doctor, Rudolph Wells and as ever, I am wistful for what might have been. What a triumph for the Soviet Union had I been successful in bringing the doctor over to us, but these things are, and must remain in the past. For I have severed all ties with the Soviet Union and with KGB and must now find citizenship elsewhere.
Finally at 5:35 a.m., the doorbell rings and I am both, relieved and regretful. Relieved because despite my misgivings, I find that I do trust Steve when he says to me that Oscar Goldman will see to Nikolai’s safety and yet, I am regretful because if this is indeed the truth, then this will give Steve the perfect excuse that he needs to come with me in my hunt to bring down the wolf and I find that I fear for Steve’s safety even more than I fear for my own. I have brought trouble to his door and if he should come to harm while trying to help me, then I shall have to find a way to live with this thing for the rest of my life.
I hurry over to the door and unlock it. I am nervous but I find it within myself to offer up a smile to Oscar Goldman as I pull open the door.
Too late, I realize my mistake as I see the black muzzle of a Luger 9mm handgun pointed at my chest. I look up at the masked gunman pointing the gun at me and instantly, I recognize his eyes as he twice pulls the trigger and then quickly turns and flees. Two bullets slam into my chest, propelling me backwards across the room and I land heavily on the floor, dazed and bleeding profusely. I lay there, looking up at the ceiling but seeing nothing as my vision blurs and white hot pain grips my chest and takes my breath away. I hear footsteps running but I can not ascertain if they are moving towards me or away from me. I hear Nikolai crying and calling for me and I try to call out to him but my mouth is filled with my own warm blood as I can do no more than lay there and gurgle. My vision clears momentarily and Steve is there. He takes me in his arms, talking softly to me as tears fall from his eyes. I cannot understand his words and his image begins to fade away from me. I am suddenly frightened, not at the prospect of death, for every KGB Agent knows that this day is our destiny when we accept our oath of servitude to KGB. What frightens me is knowing that never again will I see Steve’s beautiful blue eyes gazing upon me, nor will I ever again know the pleasure of his touch. I am frightened also because I shall never be able to hold my son in my arms again or kiss him and tell him how much I love him. I will not have the opportunity to see him grow up and become a good, kind, loving man like his father. I will miss out upon Nikolai’s entire childhood and his journey into manhood and suddenly, I am angry to have been cheated out of this rare gift. These are the things that I wanted most to experience and to be a part of and these are the things that I shall miss most as I lay in Steve’s arms trying desperately to tell him how much I love him and that he must protect Nikolai at all costs. Steve holds me close and begs me not to leave him. I try to tell him that I shall not, for I shall walk beside him always as he and Nikolai come together and finally get to know and accept one another. Just knowing this much fills my heart with love and suddenly, I am ready. There is a loud commotion and more voices fill the room but still, I cannot recognize them as I now find it more and more difficult to breathe and my vision grows fuzzy. There is only quiet now and I am calm and accepting, as everything turns black. I can feel myself floating away and I am happy because I know that Steve and Nikolai will take care of one another. I know that they will be happy together and that I need not worry about them. I know that I shall remember them always and I shall always love them and suddenly, there is only a soft, bright light all around me and I feel tears running down my face as I head towards it.