It was Wednesday, October 12, 1965 when Nikolay Ogidin received a death letter with a fixed date, hour and place.
He packed nothing. From a stack of fake passports he chose one with the name of Gregory Almond, age 55, address W. 85th St, Manhattan, New York. The others he made sure no one will ever find.
He took enough money with him, the letter, few document papers and one rusty key on a chain.
He made a call from the phone booth two blocks away from his apartment and booked a plane ticket to Moscow. Mr. Gregory Almond’s strongly ill condition by medical record and immediate need of treatment in a Moscow hospital by recommendation assured him a flight late this evening.
Truth be told, Nikolay found himself back in the Mother country sooner than he, or the ones above him had planned. Only one person knew about his arrival and that was the man who had sent him an invitation to his own death.
October 13th; Belorussky Station; 20:30
Nikolay was going to be there at the exact time. He knew who had come for him after 26 years. A part of him expected it to happen, even this late. He understood the motives of his possible assassin. The other one hoped it would never come to this moment, mostly because he would never allow himself to get killed.
He would kill instead.
He walked over to a clothes shop and bought himself a nice black Trapper hat made of mouton sheepskin, a pair of gloves and a long black coat. He changed in the dressing room. His old clothing were put in a bag and given to him.
This year the winter had struck mercilessly upon the Russian nation and Moscow was already frozen and silent. Once his head was protected from the cold Nikolay allowed himself one more detour. He walked, just like he had once, two decades ago, or maybe more, and stopped in the chilling night to glance over at the Red Square. Saint Basil’s Cathedral erected before him, its bonfire flames rising into the sky touching it with shapes and colors unlike any in other Russian architecture. He took a few more steps. If Nikolay had time right now he would have visited Kremlin, or pass under the gates of Kitai-gorod. But he didn’t have any. He paid his long forgotten tributes and spat once on the square that wasn’t red. Once he had painted it so.
Nikolay tucked himself in his long, black coat and set his mind in motion to carry out what may turn out to be, his last mission.
He disposed of Gregory Almond, watching the face in the photo writhing in the fire and then became Ogidin again, fully and only Ogidin. He was so used to being someone else that he had forgotten what it feels to him. He dumped his old American clothing. Now Ogidin was a greying old wolf, hungry for a hunt in the night.
Nikolay quickened his pace down the slippery sidewalks. Somewhere in the distance the train was thundering. He reached his inner pocket and took out the rusty key, holding it tight in his gloved palm. His breath came out in raspy, thirsty for cold air gasps. He was starting to really feel the weight of his age.
The alleys, as he had learned over in the USA, were where he could disappear, staying out of the police watch’s eyes and away from the unwanted attention of late citizens.
The narrow back streets took him to a mangled indoor storage at a small local factory that had ceased manufacturing years before he left Moscow. He unlocked one of the containers owned by a long dead man.
It was dark inside but he didn’t need light to find what he was looking for.
He knelt and picked up something large and heavy wrapped in leather. Next to it he found a smaller but long package. Nikolay hid them both underneath his coat and proceeded.
His watch was showing 20:10. He chose the path through the park. Only then and there he removed the leather to reveal a large crossbow, and there did he unwrap the other package showing three silvery quarrels. Ogidin proudly held the weapon in his hands. Nasq had been taking good care of his deadly toy.
He took one quarrel and loaded it carefully. He touched the tip and felt sharp pain. Blooded dot started forming on his finger. Was he really going to carry this one out? Was he really going to kill the man that was once that little frightened blond boy sent alone on a long travel to London after his father was murdered?
Nikolay had no choice but to remove him. No one that seeks vengeance truly succeeds. And no one who walks away from the program really stays alive.
As he walked in large paces Nikolay remembered the departing train in 1939 and how Pyotr was screaming his name from the window. His voice was so fragile that the wind had taken it away. Nikolay wondered for the first time what had the boy been saying.
Could it have been “I will find you and make you pay?”
20:20. Nikolay arrived at Belorussky Station
* * *
Pyotr Andreev now Peter Ordway was smoking a cigarette at the roof of the train station. His sniper rifle rested next to him. 20:25. Ogidin was probably here, lurking somewhere, looking for a small boy with daddy issues. Peter had found him, after all these years of searching. He had gone through a great deal of dead man telling stories to find his Manhattan address and sent him a letter. He knew Ogidin would figure out who was the sender.
A bounty hunt was probably set on his head from the British Intelligence, but he didn’t care. After this he would disappear so deep underground their best spies won’t be able find him.
Now he needed rest. He needed vengeance on the man who murdered his father in cold blood and took him away from his sister telling her little Pyotr is dead.
The arrows on his watch aligned with the death hour of Nikolay “Chyronoy Voron*” Ogidin.
Peter took position. “There you are”
* * *
Nikolay Ogidin stepped in the light. The train station was empty this night, except for the lone figure of a tall blond man standing with his back to Nikolay.
“Пётр, я рад видеть тебе снова, и на русской земле. Скажи мне, почему ты хочешь мою смерть?**
The man turned around, an unfamilir face, a smoke smoldering between his gloved fingers, the little orange flame burning in the night. He spoke in a deep voice with a London accent.
“Peter sends his best…Nikolay Ogidin”
Nikolay backed but the fire was charged and it echoed loud. Split seconds from it a quarrel escaped with a ping, revealing its flying body in the lights of the train station. The two met somewhere, before a gasp of surprise escaped someone’s mouth into the Moscow night.
“не слышны в саду…. даже шорох…..все здесь замерло до утра,
если б знали вы, как мне дороги……Подмосковные вечера…..”***
** Pyotr, I’m glad to see you again, and on Russian soil. Tell me, why do you want my death?”
***Not even a whisper is to be heard in the garden,
Everything has calmed down until dawn.
If you only knew how dear they are to me,
The evenings near Moscow!
from Moscow Nights by Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi and Mikhail Matusovsky; 1955