He died beneath the Statue of Freedom, clutching a 9-mm pistol in his hand. But as dawn rose, the politician would die again--in a hail of rumor and character assassination.
Now one man suspects the shattering truth: that the congressman's suicide was a carefully planned murder. In the heart of the free world, a furious struggle begins: to reclaim a man's innocence, expose a woman's lie, and stop a chilling conspiracy of murder that reaches halfway around the world. . . .
About the Author
She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Clifton Daniel, distinguished journalist, author, and editor. They have four sons and two grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
It was a sour morning.
Yvgeny Fodorov, naked, looked through his crusted apartment window to the British Embassy across Ulitsa Solyanka, near where Moscow’s infamous Khitrov meat market had once festered.
He tasted bile; his eyes, open only a few minutes, itched. His fingers went to them, rubbing. A headache pounded at his temples, causing him to place his fingertips against them as though it would help.
A trim young woman dressed in a navy suit and red high heels entered the embassy. He’d seen her before, an employee, certainly British. She showed her pass to the guard and disappeared inside.
The kettle whistled from the pullman kitchen at the other end of the long, narrow room that had been his home for six months. He made tea, sliced two pieces from a loaf of black bread bought the day before at his local khleb, one of a chain of recently privatized bread stores, and made a sandwich of tongue and tomato.
After slipping into a pair of stained white gym shorts and eating his sandwich, he returned to the window, teacup in hand. The sun was rising like a hot orange; the city’s pollution, now visible in daylight, blanketed everything, gauze over the lens through which Yvgeny observed the city of his birth that morning.
People came and went on the street below his window. He sat on a rickety wooden chair and watched them impassively, the raising of the cup to his thin lips his only motion. But his thoughts were on last night. Not pleasant thoughts.
Considering the importance of this day, he was stupid to have stayed out half the night. Too much vodka. The incessant beat and blare of the rock music, so loud it hurt. And then the argument with Sofia to top off the night. He’d wanted to be alone with her, discuss things, bring her back to his apartment to make love.
But she wanted to be with her friends, damn them. How he detested their arrogant, trendy ways, so influenced by the rush of Western values and styles since the collapse of the Soviet Union, vapid creatures whose only interests were clothes and dancing and drugs. He’d put up with them for most of the evening at Night Flight, one of Moscow’s many discos.
At two in the morning—or was it three?—he’d tried to convince Sofia to leave with him. She’d just laughed, and continued gyrating on the dance floor. The others laughed, too. “The night is just starting,” one said.
He hadn’t planned to hit her. But the rage had been building inside all night as she and her friends taunted him. “Don’t be such an old man,” one had said. “Loosen up, Yvgeny. Smile. You look like you sucked on a lemon.” More laughter. And then Sofia came to where he stood at the edge of the dance floor, tossed a hip in his direction, held her face inches from his, and said, mirth in her voice, “What are you, Yvgeny? An apparatchik? B-o-r-i-n-g!”
He’d lashed out with his fist, bloodying her lip and knocking her to the floor. She’d scrambled away from him on all fours, screaming, cursing so loud her voice was heard above the music, dancers tripping over her.
Fearing an attack from Sofia’s male friends, Yvgeny ran from the club and went home, where he sat shaking and finishing what was left of a bottle of vodka, hearing their jibes over and over: “Apparatchik?” Yes, and proud to be. What were their loyalties? To decadence. Softness. Wasted, narcissistic lives.
His continued commitment to the Communism that had been pushed aside by Yeltsin and other so-called reformers was a source of pride. It had been since he was a teenager, enthusiastically joining Komsomol, the youth movement of the Communist Party, in which the drinking of large amounts of vodka proved one’s comradeship, and by extension political unity. That wasn’t long ago; Yvgeny was only twenty-two.
Yvgeny Fodorov had volunteered in Gennady Zyuganov’s campaign for president, and shared with his fellow believers the bitter disappointment of losing to the fat fool, Yeltsin.
“There will be another day for us,” Zyuganov had said to a rally of campaign workers following his defeat. And he repeated what he had written in his book, Beyond the Horizon, which Yvgeny had read so many times he’d virtually committed it to memory: “Capitalism does not fit the flesh and blood, the customs of the psychology of our society. Once already it caused a civil war. It is not taking root now, and it will never take root.”
Yvgeny was determined that Zyuganov’s words would hold true. Communism had made the Soviet Union a great power. Capitalism had destroyed it, turned it into an impotent Third World nation adrift without moral compass or dedication to a common, shining goal.
He finished his tea and lifted weights, observing his efforts in a mirror. He’d always been ashamed of his thin, pale, undefined body and the thick glasses he was forced to wear. But since beginning his exercise regimen four months ago, there had been a discernible hardening of his arms and stomach. At least it looked that way to him in the glass. The stale hot air in the apartment caused sweat to run freely down his face, chest, and back. He added an extra weight to each side of the dumbbell, resumed his prone position on the bench, and struggled to lift it. He managed to do it once, lowered it into its stand, got up breathing hard, and posed for the mirror, the way bodybuilders posture during their competitions. He knew he would look funny to others. But in his eyes, his efforts were succeeding. He was readying himself for the great tests he’d been called upon to face.
An hour later, after a bath, and dressed in his favorite outfit—black suit, pearl-gray shirt, black tie and shoes—Yvgeny Fodorov walked to where he’d parked his battered Lada around the corner, on Ulitsa Varvarka. He settled in the driver’s seat, pulled a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol from the waistband of his trousers, and placed it on top of a large wrapped package in a thick red shopping bag. Reflecting sunglasses were taken from the glove box and placed on his small nose, the positioning of them carefully checked in the rearview mirror.
The engine came to life with a series of coughs. Yvgeny pulled from the curb, cutting off a Mercedes speeding down Ulitsa Varvarka. Its driver, who was speaking on the car phone, leaned on his horn and cursed loudly out the window. Yvgeny placed his right hand on the revolver and smiled. “Go ahead. Make my day,” he muttered in English. He’d learned the words from the American actor Clint Eastwood, who’d spoken them in a Dirty Harry movie Yvgeny had seen with Sofia. His aversion to all things American didn’t extend to the imported gangster and cop movies proliferating in Moscow theaters.
He’d managed to displace his anger of the previous evening by focusing on the day ahead. But as he drove through Moscow, swerving to avoid gaping potholes or to give way to large red-and-white buses, it returned, as it did with regularity these days. Everything he saw caused his belly to churn and his throat to burn. Gone was the Soviet red flag with hammer and sickle, which had once flown proudly over the city, replaced by the Russian red, white, and blue tricolor.
He passed American fast-food outlets with long lines of customers, gaudy billboards touting American products and services, men on every corner holding cell phones to their ears. A traffic light stopped him in front of G.U.M., the department store, which had recently extended its hours to accommodate more of the fashionably dressed women passing through its doors. At another corner, a knot of teenagers, ears pierced, hair colored purple and orange and green, stood in defiant postures, openly smoking marijuana and making fun of passersby.
Yvgeny’s anger elevated to fury; he wanted to get out with his gun and blow them away.
As he reached Moscow’s northern outskirts and the Yaroslavl Highway, the city’s oppressive, humid heat was gradually replaced by cooler air coming through the Lada’s open windows. Traffic thinned. His anger abated, replaced by a growing anxiety that caused him to roll his fingertips on the steering wheel, and to hum the melody of an old Stalin-era song, “My Motherland Spreads Far and Wide,” over and over.
He’d been driving more than an hour when the cathedral domes of Zagorsk, also known by its pre-revolutionary name of Sergiev, told him he was close to his destination. Once the center of Russian Orthodoxy, Zagorsk still drew thousands of the faithful each year, bearing bottles to fill with holy water.
Yvgeny slowed as he passed a procession of black-shrouded women shuffling slowly along the highway’s shoulder. Old fools, he thought. That was the problem with the Communist Party. There were too many old people at its core, feeble, ineffective old people. That was why Yvgeny knew he was important to the party. It needed dedicated youth like him, willing to do whatever was needed to set the nation back on the right track.
He turned onto a crumbling asphalt road and slowed to spare his aging car’s shocks and tires. Ten minutes later he left that road to take a narrow dirt lane running through farmland until ending at a river. He stopped beneath a clump of trees and turned off the engine, lit a cigarette, and fixed his eyes on a small cottage at the river’s edge. The air was cool and moist. The sound of singing birds merged with the gentle rippling of the water.
He sat there for five minutes, finishing two cigarettes, which he tossed through the open window. If she was watching, she’d probably criticize him for littering the land near her house. If not for that, for something else.
He exited the Lada and stretched against a dull ache in his back. The Lada was no fun to drive for long periods. But that would soon end. He’d been promised. Hopefully a Zhiguli. Red, if he had his say.
After a few deep breaths, Yvgeny opened the passenger door and removed the shopping bag. His back to the cottage, he slipped the weapon into his waistband, secured his jacket over it, and slowly walked to the front door. He peered through the screen, saw no one. He knocked on the door frame. “Zdrastvuitye? Mother? Hello?”
He saw her shadow before she came into view. She opened the door, stood back, hand on hip, head cocked, small smile on her lips: “Well, well, look who’s here.”
“Hello, Mother. I said I was coming.”
“That’s right. You did. Sorry. Come in. You’ll have to excuse the mess. I was working all night. This morning, too.” She stepped back to allow him entry.