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Live and Let Die

When you've got a job to do

By Lori LamothePublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 16 min read
Live and Let Die
Photo by Andrea Maschio on Unsplash

Paris, 1982

Angela stepped into the roomy walk-in closet and glanced over her shoulder. She hadn’t gone through Hayden’s jacket pockets in weeks and wanted to get it over with before they flew out that night. His suitcase sat next to bedroom door and she wondered if opening it was worth the risk. She doubted he’d pack anything incriminating and anyway, he’d realize she’d been through it in about a millisecond.

As she methodically searched his things, she thought about how much easier it would be to surveil a cheating husband. There would be all the usual sloppy oversights: a crumpled phone number, the lingering scent of unfamiliar perfume, a smudge of lipstick on a collar.

O how she longed for a collar stained pink! But Hayden never made that kind of mistake.

That he ran around on her, she had no doubt. It was, after all, part of what he did. He diligently told her about his conquests after a scotch or two or three. He was discreet, more because of his consummate professionalism than any sense of chivalry, but not with her. They were partners, after all. She responded in kind.

Whenever they had those conversations, she prided herself on how adult she was being. She waited for him to show the slightest sign of jealousy. But he never did. She was the jealous one. Trust didn't come easily to her.

Still, she couldn't explain why the intervals between searches had grown increasingly longer. When had she last gone through his things? Was it two months ago? Three? As if to prove due diligence, she forced herself to keep going until she'd reached the last jacket. She slipped her hand into the final pocket.

Her fingertips brushed against something small and round and flat. A coin. And yet . . . not.

Angela stared at the kopek in her palm. It was lighter than a regular kopek and there was a pinprick hole in the first C in the world CCCR. Not a coin at all. At least not a real one.

She wanted to put it back where she'd found it. To pretend she hadn't found it.

Because in spite of everything—her intensive training, her inordinate caution—she had finally gone and done it. She had fallen in love, real love, at the ripe old age of 40.

Was it good or a bad that her cover was that very thing: a woman so much in love she abandoned everything for the man of her dreams? Her attentive, trustworthy husband. Her twin girls, who were still in high school. Her pampered life as the wife of a diplomat in the nation’s capital.

Hayden saw through her, at least as far as the love went. He knew the pretext that allowed them to travel together across Europe was the real thing. At least for her. But did he suspect the rest?

She didn't think so.

That she was surveilling the Hayden Winslow in the first place was odd, though. Or maybe not. Jim was paranoid bordering on schizophrenic. He saw KGB moles everywhere, to the point that it had actually gotten a little out of control. He’d never been the same since Lou Bagshawe defected to Moscow.

It would be nice to believe Lou was the cause of all Langley's problems. But things had only gotten worse since he'd turned up in the USSR courtesy of the KGB.

To be fair to Jim, there had to be another mole. Because there had been more deaths since Bagshawe was exposed as a double agent. One after the other until more half a dozen of their best assets were gone. First, a couple of heart attacks. Then a one-vehicle car crash followed by an overdose, a fall from a window and a suicide. All within five years. Taken alone, each incident could be explained away. Together, they painted a damning picture.

All of them had known Hayden—had considered him a friend. Angela pushed the thought away. Every one of those men would have called her a friend too. Or more.

She pulled a safety pin from her dresser and used it to open the coin. A tiny piece of slick material lay inside. Microfilm. She didn’t need to lift it out of its container to know what it contained. Numbers, miniature rows of them. An encrypted code using the Cyrillic alphabet. Did Hayden know what was on it?

Of course he did.

But why did he have the coin at all? Why leave it at the back of the closet in his suitcoat? Had he forgotten it was there? It seemed remarkably out of character for him. Most importantly, who did he plan on giving the microfilm to? That was the question.

The door to the apartment opened and shut. Her heart started thudding in her chest.

Hayden’s keys clanged into the porcelain bowl next to the entryway as he slid the locks into place, one by one. She should have locked them earlier and made him ring the bell. Then again, she hadn't really expected to find anything on his side of the closet.

The click of expensive shoes on linoleum echoed across the high-ceilinged apartment.

Angela slid the fake kopek shut and shoved it into her dress pocket. If she rushed into the bedroom from the closet it would look bad. On the other hand, she couldn't risk putting the kopek back in his suitcoat. She needed it somewhere he couldn't get at it. That microfilm couldn't get to the wrong people.

She slipped off her dress and pushed it toward the bottom of the hamper. She would have liked to keep the coin on her but it was too risky. Hayden never could keep his hands to himself.

By the time Hayden filled the doorway Angela was standing in her underwear, holding up two silk blouses. One black, one white. “What do you think?” she asked brightly.

He gently removed the hangers from her grasp and returned them to their places on the rack. “I think we have three hours to kill before we leave for Peshawar,” he said, nuzzling her neck.

Even after a year of living together, first in Spain, now in Paris, he still drove her mad with desire. With his dark eyes and wild, curly hair, he looked more like a poet than a spy. Except for his washboard stomach, that is.

But the image of the kopek niggled at her brain. She laid her hands on his shoulders and gave him a playful push. “I’ve still got to pack.”


“Sex fiend.” She wrinkled her nose. “Anyway, you need a shower.”

He conceded her point with a kiss. “Care to join me?”

“I’ll think about it.”

He grinned and started unbuttoning his shirt. He walked over to the hamper and lifted the lid. For a moment, he stared down at its contents without saying anything.

The kopek was still in her dress pocket, which was buried under all the other clothes. She was sure of it. So what was he staring at? Or maybe something was on his mind?

She sprang into action the moment he disappeared into the bathroom. Their flight left in three hours. There wouldn't be any way to contact Langley once they were in the air. And no opportunities in Peshawar, never mind the Khyber Pass. It was now or never.

She dressed quickly, choosing the white blouse and a pencil skirt. Angela needed to boot up the computer in the bedroom and send Jim an encrypted telex to tell him Hayden had what looked like a list of CIA assets written in Russian. Hidden in a hollow kopek. She had no choice--but she didn't want to. Still, she had to protect herself. Did she have time before he got out of the shower? If he walked out and saw her on the computer. . .could she explain that away?

Her dress lay at the bottom of the hamper. She pulled the coin out of the pocket and closed her fist around it. From where she stood, she could hear the shower running. She couldn't leave it behind in the apartment. She couldn't carry it on her person. Could she slip it into her luggage? Her purse? That might work. As long as Hayden didn't look inside.

She realized someone was knocking on the door. Pounding on the door.

They’d only just gotten back from Pamplona, which they had ostensibly visited to see the running of the bulls. In reality, they'd been arranging for the Saudis to send a shipment of AK-47s to the Afghan border. The negotiations had fallen through but that was the least of their problems. The entire trip had been a disaster. Hayden had come down with some mysterious food-borne illness and had lain in bed for days, leaving everything to her. Then there was the heat, the crowds, the hotel.

Nobody knew they were back in Paris. For that matter, nobody in Paris knew them at all, at least not under their real names. Angela wondered if she should get Hayden but no, she needed time to send Jim the telex.

The knocking persisted.

She grabbed her Glock off the nightstand and headed for the door. “Who’s there?” she called out.

“Safi.” The familiar voice sounded more strained than usual, which was saying something.

Angela peered through the peephole and saw Safi’s thin, tunban clad form. The rest of the hallway looked empty. He was alone.

The Afghan ex-pat had never visited them there. Had never even suggested it. They’d all agreed it would be safer to meet only in public places where they wouldn't draw attention to themselves.

“What do you want?” she asked through the door.

“Can I come in, please?”

She undid the locks and pulled him inside. “Only for a minute," she said in a rush. “What’s going on? You know our flight leaves at 7.”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“Is there a problem?”

“Yes,” he said. “A very big problem. Very serious problem.”

The shower stopped. Hayden wouldn’t be pleased to see Safi in their living room but it couldn’t be avoided. The kopek was still in her hand. Her heart felt as if it would explode.

“Tell me.” She fingered the coin absent-mindedly then realized what she was doing. What was she thinking? When Safi walked over to the couch, she let it drop into the potted palm beside the door. “But make it fast. Don’t get comfortable.”

“You can’t go,” he said simply.

Angela joined him in the living room. She set down her Glock on an end table and took a seat in the chair opposite him. The bathroom door opened and Hayden appeared in a cloud of steam, a towel wrapped around his waist. Safi averted his eyes but Hayden seemed unfazed.

“What do you mean we can’t go? he asked. “It's all been arranged. We must go.”

“I’m sorry. Very, very sorry. But Younos can no longer guarantee your safety. He has withdrawn his generous offer of hospitality. Regretfully.”

He didn’t say armed protection but that’s what he meant. Younos had pledged to smuggle them through the Khyber Pass, to the rebel camps. To meet with Kabrak. Hayden might be all right without Younos's blessing, but not her. Not an American woman traveling in such dangerous territory. Hayden could conceivably go without her, but then there would be no one to pump the wives for intel. And, truth be told, Hayden's Dari sucked.

“What’s happened?” Angela asked. The trip had taken months to pull off, dozens of meetings with cousins, royalists and clerics.

“Kabrak’s dead.”

Silence fell over the room. Kabrak was Langley’s greatest asset, its golden boy. Hayden sat down heavily in the chair closest to Safi. “How?”

“Car bomb.” Safi held his palms out in supplication, as if to say, What else?

Hayden nodded, his face expressionless. “Another one bites the dust.”

From her perch on the end of the couch, Angela remained silent. She couldn’t trust her voice. The others had been significant losses but Kabrak’s death would set Langley back years. Or longer. He was a natural-born leader, a brilliant strategist and a courageous fighter. Without him, there might not be a rebel army.

“Under the circumstances—” Safi began.

“No need to explain,” Hayden said. “If it’s off, it’s off. Nothing you—or I—or Younos can do about it. We’ll have to move in a different direction is all.”

Relief broke out across Safi’s face. Angela willed herself not to look at the potted plant, where the kopek shone dully on top of the dirt.

Hayden rose, still holding the towel. “We can discuss all this when I’m fully clothed," he said lightly. "I won’t keep you. No doubt you have much to do.”

Angela ushered Safi to the door. She imagined she felt Hayden’s eyes on her back. If he knew what she’d found. . .

“Well, at least I didn’t waste time packing—like some people.” She’d been aiming for flirtatious but Hayden's face told her all she needed to know. Well, that and her Glock in his right hand, which was aimed straight at her heart.

He knelt down next to the palm and lifted the kopek out of the dirt with his free hand. He inspected it then dropped it into the porcelain bowl beside his keys. “When did you find it?”

“Just today,” she said. “Right before you got home. How long has it been there? Why was it there?”

He ignored her. “I assume the microfilm’s still inside?”

“I was actually putting it back,” she lied. "Do you know what's on it?"

“Yes," he said. "As a matter of fact, I do. Now. Took me three days to break the code."

Hayden's Dari might suck but he was still the best codebreaker she'd ever met. She nodded. "So what's on it?" she asked again.

For a long moment, he studied her face. "I think you already know that," he said at last. "Don't you?"

Her breath was coming fast now. “If you shoot me there’s going to be a mess. Not to mention a police inquiry.”

“I have no intention of shooting you.”

He grinned and for a second it was as if none of it had happened. As if they’d rewound their lives to the night she first met him at Jim’s lavish Christmas party in Alexandria. Though she’d known from the very beginning that it wouldn’t end well.

With the gun still pointing in her direction, Hayden pulled open a desk drawer with his free hand and removed a syringe filled with clear liquid. They always kept one in the apartment, for emergencies. Succinylcholine.

“Even after I found the kopek in your purse in Pamplona," he said, "I didn't want to believe it. Even after I decoded it and saw the names of the few--the very few--reliable assets we've got left."

Angela kicked out her leg and knocked the Glock from his hand, then thrust her knee where it could do the most damage and wrestled the syringe from his grasp.

She plunged it into his shoulder and retrieved her gun. It wouldn’t be long before hyperkalemia set in. Completely untraceable, other than an abnormally high potassium reading. So no messy questions from the Parisian gendarmes.

“I’ll be passing that microfilm along to Jim.” Angela’s voice was raspy but she didn’t cry. She never cried. “Well, not that microfilm. Moscow Centre wouldn't be too happy about that. But what I do give Langley should keep Jim and the rest of counterintel busy for a good, long time. Nothing but pure nonsense but by the time they figure that out--”

“He’s onto you.”

"He's onto everyone." Her voice was a little better now. "Or thinks he is." And God, had his rampant suspicions worked in her favor. For nearly a decade, every misstep she'd made had been dismissed by the higher ups. Jim had been right all along. They had been infiltrated at the highest level. But he was the spy who cried mole one too many times.

"Even Kabrak," he said. "Do you know what his death will mean, not just for the country but for the world?"

"As a matter of fact," she said, "I know exactly what it will mean. Kabrak's no freedom fighter, he's an extremist. Did you forget about his first wife, the one whose face he threw acid on for daring to walk the streets of Kabul without her burqa? And that's the least of it. Once the rebels take hold of the country, every terrorist in the world will flock to Afghanistan. Only a matter of time."

"Not your call," he said. "We follow orders. And if you think the Soviets are any better, you're more of a fool than I took you for."

She smiled at that. He was the one dying at her feet.

"You think we met by accident," Hayden groaned. "At that party?"

So Jim had played it both ways. No surprise there. That had been the night he approached her about his theory that Hayden was a double agent. The night he begged for her help. What better protection for herself and her girls than to be able to pass off her own stuff as Hayden's? If anyone searched the apartment, she had the perfect patsy.

But she had loved him. That much was true. Stupid to have left the coin in her purse for so many days after she'd written out the list and photographed it in Pamplona after she'd gotten the final name. Stupid not to have noticed it was gone until she found it in his jacket. She should've handed it off to Gennadi as soon as she'd prepared the microfilm and set it inside the kopek. She'd let her guard down with him but, fortunately, not for long.

“No,” she said, lowering the gun as he fell to the floor and rolled onto his side. “I know we didn't. Because he'd already hired me to spy on you. And as it turns out, he was absolutely right to suspect you. Because you’re going to be the mole he’s been tracking for 15 years. He'll be vindicated, which is all he cares about these days. And I’ll be the fearless operative who stopped—”

The bullet ripped through her brain before she could finish the sentence. Hayden stood up and removed the silencer from the gun he’d hidden under the couch. He extricated the tape recorder from its spot on the bookshelf and lifted the empty syringe off the floor. It had been filled with water. It would have been easier to kill her that way but he couldn't let her off that easily. Anyway, he needed the recording. Not so much for what it said but for the sound of her voice.

“All clear?” Safi asked from the other side of the door.

"All clear." A pool of blood framed Angela's pale, beautiful face. He made himself look away. “When do we leave?”


About the Creator

Lori Lamothe

Poet, Writer, Mom. Owner of two rescue huskies. Former baker who writes on books, true crime, culture and fiction.

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