story of love in a world of violence
| THE SON. The Philosophy of War
The story was written during the war between Georgia and South Ossetia. The author was shocked by the number of victims among the civil population. It surpassed by a number of times the number of victims of the combating sides. The author thinks there is a slight difference between violence and crime. A person living in the world of violence risks to step over this difference imperceptibly.
All the events and characters of the story are fictitious. The author is not responsible for any resemblance to people, organizations and countries that exist in reality.
Boston, September 2008. A private hospital.
Professor Milington, a celebrated American psychiatrist, came out of the patient’s ward accompanied by two physicians and a nurse. He looked absolutely baffled. It was the first time in his long career that he was witness to such a phenomenon. The professor glanced at the color portrait of the patient once again. A fair-haired man in his prime smiled back at him.
The photo was taken about three months ago. And now in the space of a few days an absolutely strong and healthy person had turned into a completely gray-haired and feeble old man, unconscious most of the time who started talking about his son every time he came to.
Paul Winston - that was the patient’s name- was brought from Georgia in the Caucasus a fortnight ago. They said he was seriously shell-shocked after a Russian bomb attack and escaped capture by the Russian special assignment forces only by miracle.
The psychological shock was so bad that real and imaginary events became hopelessly confused in his mind. But the most amazing thing was the sudden aging of a practically healthy man. Judging by Paul Winston’s case history he was a healthy man.
He had launched on his career in the Landfall Seals, the most elite unit of the US Army. After a big squabble with the local authorities in one of the countries of Southeast Asia, he had to resign from the US Army to hush up a possible political scandal. Then he got a job of a private detective in the USA.
After an unhappy marriage and divorce he worked a number of years in Russia as a consultant in a large detective agency. In spite of all the different stresses that Paul had experienced due to his retirement and unhappy family life, the annual medical checkups he went through in the USA showed that he was in perfect physical form.
After the war broke out in Iraq he joined a private American detective firm which serviced American companies in Iraq and trained Iraqi policemen. None of the medical checkups that were obligatory for all employees of detective agencies in Iraq ever showed that Paul had any problems with his health.
Then suddenly after the brief war in Georgia, in which he allegedly took part, his health underwent drastic changes.
Professor Milington made inquiries and learned that Paul Winston never had a son and that all his talk about a son was just imagination that had developed out of the stress he had undergone in Georgia.
Now, how could it be that a man especially trained to cope with stress, a highly professional specialist on fighting against terrorism, should experience such stress? Why does he call his son, Richard, which was his father’s name?
Paul’s father occupied a very high post in the US Army and was a prominent figure in army circles. He died of heart failure many years ago. But how could the stress cause such a quick ageing of the son’s body? Milington simply couldn’t find an answer to that question. They even presumed Russians had done something to him, but numerous medical examinations of Paul’s physique did not show any signs of external interference.
It looked like Paul’s body had lived through several decades in a short period of time.
Once again he shook off his reverie and looked around him. His body, which was so strong before, was quite helpless now, his eyes were watery and he could hardly make out things around him. He couldn’t understand where he was and had no idea of the time.
Different episodes of his life cropped up in his mind but all of them ended with one and the same horrible happening. Again and again he tried to return into the past and change it but in vain. He was in the grip of a terrible strain that did not release him for a moment so that he could not understand what was real and what was not.
October, 1990, Naval Base SEAL (SEA-AIR-LAND) in Norfolk, Virginia.
An explosion near his barracks woke Paul Winston up. There was a hell of noise all around. The cadets jumped out of their beds and getting dressed on the go ran for their rifles. The explosions were deafening and the flashes of light were blinding. Paul ran out of the barrack together with the others.
It was the last stage of the Seals training,” the so-called “Hell Week”.
The company of cadets ran to the seashore in driving rain. It was a real storm, the sea was very rough and the landing craft could not make fast to the pier and anchored two miles out. The cadets had to get to the landing craft with the help of improvised means and deliver the necessary arms and ammunition. Enormous waves beat on the shore.
The men made small rafts out of the planks of old storehouses that stood on the shore and loaded the arms and ammunition on them. The most difficult part of the operation was launching the rickety rafts. The waves threw them back on the shore, men and all. With the greatest effort the cadets managed to put them out to sea and made for the landing craft that was hardly discernible in the dark.
The furious waves dashed over the frail rafts trying to wash the weapons overboard while the cadets did all they could to prevent it.
Halfway out to the landing craft there was a powerful underwater explosion which turned over one of the little rafts with the weapons. The cadets tried to salvage the weapons from the bottom of the sea.
Paul remembered how difficult it had been for him to pull up the heavy crates, it seemed to him that his lungs were bursting from want of air and his arms went numb with the strain. He exerted his last strength and pulled up a crate of ammunition and started pushing it upward. When he surfaced the storm grew stronger, the landing craft was nowhere to be seen.
He couldn’t make out what direction he had to head for. The storm had scattered the other cadets and he could see no one.
Paul got his bearings with the help of the compass on his wrist and started swimming towards the craft.
A few minutes later he heard an order over the wireless that was sewn into the waterproof collar of his jacket which said he was to dive and find an aqualung under the cliff twenty meters away from him and swim with the ammunition to the ship.
The sea was pretty deep in that area and it was clear to Paul that if he didn’t find the aqualung at the first attempt he would not have sufficient air to surface. Paul grasped the crate with the ammunition as tight as he could and dived into the turbulent water.
March, 1996, Washington, D.C.
Paul put the binoculars to his eyes and started to scrutinize the ship standing ten miles away from the shore. According to the information gained from a DEA agent, the ship was carrying a big consignment of drugs which the drug dealers were going to send to the USA.
The crew consisted of some ten men who had gone through special training in the camps of the Columbian guerillas. The ship plied in the frontier zone between Columbian and international waters, so the Columbian authorities had no right to seize the boat officially.
There was yet another reason why the DEA did not want to inform the Columbian authorities, they did not want to expose an important agent of theirs inside the drug ring. According to a US agent a plane was to touch down beside the ship to receive the cargo.
The DEA knew that the ship carrying drugs was equipped with the latest in electronic detection devices both on water and in the air. In case of danger they would immediately destroy all the drugs and, what was even more important, their systems of encrypted communication which were especially important for the DEA in order to expose the entire network.
Time was precious because the plane was to arrive in a few hours.
Paul put on his waterproof suit, and aqualung, checked the fastened arbalest, transmitter and daggers and dived. It was quite pleasant to swim in the warm water and Paul threw off the aqualung when he reached the ship.
He heard the loud sounds of music. There was no one on deck. Apparently, the crew was having a good time in the mess room in expectation of a successful operation. Paul took the arbalest out of the holster, aimed above the ship side and shot an elastic rope with a special anchor covered with noise-protection coating.
He made sure the anchor caught the ship side tight he deftly climbed onto the deck and hid under tarpaulin.
It was growing dark very quickly. He knew the plane would come the minute it grew completely dark. There wasn’t much time left. He walked up to the deck-house and saw a sailor at the steering-wheel.
The fellow must have felt something for he turned around and saw Paul. Without giving the fellow time to think, Paul raised his hand sharply and threw a knife at the sailor’s throat. The man fell dead by the steering-wheel without issuing a sound.
Paul walked up to the wheel and turned the ship sharply round. He heard curses coming up from the intercom and a sailor came into the deck-house. Seeing that the sailor was not at the steering-wheel he made an attempt to shout, but Paul grabbed him by the throat and broke his spine with a powerful twist of his hands.
Then he opened the door into the mess-room and throwing a powerful illuminating shell closed it again so that the flash would not blind him. When he opened the door again he saw seven men shocked by the blinding flash.
It took Paul only a few minutes to make short work of the dazed drug traffickers. There was only one of them left in the engine room. After he had finished with him he gave the prearranged signal and after a while a high speed launch with DEA agents on board came up to the ship.
They examined the cargo of drugs and the system of communications that the traffickers used. The agents worked fast. The drugs were given special markings to make it possible to trace their distribution among drug peddlers in the USA. The DEA agents put on the clothes of the dead sailors and started to wait for the plane. Paul jumped from the deck of the ship and swam slowly towards the shore.
June 1998, a country in Southeast Asia.
Paul was approaching one of the South Sea islands in a yacht. In his opinion, the operation was quite a simple one. He had to transmit ten million dollars to Lieutenant Anderson who had been his subordinate these past two years. In turn, the lieutenant had to meet one of the leaders of the political opposition in the country and pass the money on to him.
Paul worked out all the details of the operation and instructed Anderson. After the operation he planned to take a long-awaited vacation and go to Europe with his wife. However, when he returned to the USA, a terrible scandal developed in the Southeast: Anderson had been caught in the act of transferring the money.
More than that, the local press gave out the information officially. In the USA an official investigation about the misappropriation of five million dollars and treachery got underway in the military tribunal. Paul had to postpone his vacation.
February 1999. Washington D.C.
The US military tribunal pronounced Major Paul Winston guilty of bad organization and execution of a most important operation which undermined the international prestige of the US government. The tribunal had no personal reprimands against Major Winston whom all his commanders characterized as an exemplary serviceman.
However, considering the international scale of the unpleasant affair, the tribunal decided to discharge major Winston from the Army for negligence in the performance of important government assignments. As for Lieutenant Anderson he was sentenced to ten years in prison for embezzlement of state funds.
Everyone understood that Paul Winston had fallen victim to the displeasure of some people in the US State Department who were indignant about the frustration of their long-term plans in the region. It was convenient for them to put the responsibility for their failure on the military.
That was the way it always worked -- the “white collars” at the State Department liked to get the credit for work which had been done for them by others. In case of blunders and failures they preferred to accuse other organizations. It was clear to everyone that the local political leader on whom the US State Department had staked was playing a double game.
The political clamor was an asset for some of the neighboring countries who were interested in tension between the USA and that Southeastern country. Naturally, everyone understood the unpleasant role of Lieutenant Anderson, Major Winston’s subordinate. But since the case involved US servicemen, the law said that the commander was answerable for the actions of his subordinates.
Such a decision of the tribunal was a terrible blow to Paul. All his life he had dreamed of measuring up to the achievements of his father, to be worthy of his memory. At the most difficult moments of his life he was sustained by the thought that his father would have been proud of him had he been alive. He got dead drunk and came home only in the morning, something he had not done for years.
Diana, Paul’s wife, a young society woman of twenty-nine, was highly displeased with her husband’s discharge. She was a notable figure in the trade unions of the USA and Paul’s service in an elite unit of the Armed Forces did much to promote her career.
How was she to introduce her husband at the social gatherings that she attended regularly? The mere mention of Paul’s discharge from the Army of the United States could damage her career. More than that, how was she to pay off her debts for their luxurious apartment and new house in the outskirts of Washington.
Naturally, Paul did not get all the benefits that were due US servicemen on discharge. Besides, it would be difficult for him to get a good job with such a character reference.
August 1999. New York.
The New York district court granted Diana Winston’s request for divorce and gave her custody of their daughter, Ellen, whom Paul was allowed to see once a week. The court also decreed that the apartment in New York and the country house near Washington, which was actually their joint property, were to go to Diana since she was the one who would be bringing up their daughter. In addition, Paul was to pay Diana alimony to the tune of $120,000 a year.
Paul made no objections and signed all the necessary papers. After his discharge something had snapped in his heart and he took everything that was happening to him as of minor importance in comparison to his misfortune. The thought that he would seldom see his dearly beloved daughter was the only thing that gave him unbearable pain.
His little daughter was the apple of his eye and he used to bring her amusing gifts from all his trips and play with her all his free evenings. Certainly, he had always dreamed of a son whom he would train just as his father had trained him. Paul dreamed of how he would be present at the ceremony when his boy would take his oath of allegiance. But his love for his daughter did not diminish on account of that.
He took his divorce with Diana in stride because it had long been clear to him that her career and the admiration of society were the most important things in her life. Frankly, Paul had always been indifferent to her political ambitions. What attracted him most was the romance of service in the army full of risks and dangers.
But the question of alimony was very serious because in keeping with American law he could easily end up in jail if he failed to pay. With his ruined reputation it was not easy to find a well-paying job.
An old friend of his father’s who owned a detective agency came to his help. He advised Paul to go to Russia where there were fabulous sums of money in circulation.
He said he had signed an agreement with a detective agency in Moscow to check the solvency of clients and proposed that Paul handle the business. Of course, it was principally paper work but Russians paid well because they were afraid of the powerful Russian mafia.
In the beginning Paul did not accept the offer because he said he did not know Russian and the laws of the country well enough and it would be difficult for him to do the work well.
Though he had studied a bit of Russian in the army he did not know it well enough to check the trustworthiness of clients. In spite of his objections, his father’s friend insisted that he go to Moscow. As for the language problem, that could be solved with the help of a young Russian beauty, he promised. Interpreters were not paid much so that would help Paul while he was getting into the course of things.
June 2002. Moscow.
It was two years since Paul was working in Moscow. To his regret, he had not made a lot of money as his father’s friend had said he would. What he made was barely enough to pay alimony, the rent for his apartment, food and incurred expenses. After all, he had to keep up a respectable front because he had to rub shoulders with very rich clients.
The minute he arrived in Russia he came up against the silent opposition of colleagues from the numerous detective agencies many of which had previously worked for the KGB and had a natural distrust for, and even aversion to, Paul taking him for an agent of the American secret service as was its wont to do.
Paul was not given permission to open a detective agency of his own on grounds that it was against the law in Russia for foreigners to engage in that type of activity. If he worked for a Russian agency he would have to share with them a substantial part of his earnings.
Certainly, the agencies recommended by his father’s friend were interested in having an American detective on the staff. It would be easier for them to sign contracts with the numerous foreign firms who had their representatives in Moscow since they placed more trust in an American detective than a Russian.
But that did not have much influence on his pay and he was always pressed for money, and that seriously affected his emotional condition. In spite of that, he did not want to be drawn into any kind of dirty business that might have been lucrative but went against his moral principles.
In order to keep in good physical shape Paul went to a fitness center when he had a free evening. He chose a center where he could find a sparring partner for karate and kick-boxing. Paul noted the high physical fitness of the Russians many of whom, as he found out later, had served in the army or secret services.
In Moscow Paul made a number or Russian friends in the detective agencies. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about them. His new friends loved night clubs and casinos. Usually, outings with them ended in drinking bouts. Paul was astonished at how much the Russians could drink.
Often, the examination of cases took place in restaurants and if it proved successful it always ended with a big dinner and a lot of drink, strong drink usually. Most of the time Paul had a cracking headache after such bouts and he tried to avoid them whenever possible.
Immediately on his arrival in Moscow Paul noticed there were many very beautiful girls in the capital. Many of them spoke passable English. In the course of two years he got acquainted with several girls with whom he had cursory relations because they had no mutual interests and there was nothing that held them together but sex.
For Paul and for these girls, for that matter, these relations were simply passing adventures. After his divorce Paul believed that he was not made for family life because he found it difficult to understand a woman’s true intentions. Only genuine masculine friendship could be lasting, he believed.
Paul rented a cosy two-room apartment in Dayev Lane, practically in the center of Moscow. Sometimes he loved to take walks along the old streets, especially around the Boulevard ring road. One warm summer evening when he was strolling along the little paths around Chistiye Prudy he saw a girl of about twenty seated before an easel.
There was something unusual about her. She had aristocratic features, big blue eyes with gracefully curved dark eyebrows, a straight, slightly aquiline nose and a wealth of blue-black hair falling down to her chest. Paul was above middle height, the girl was only slightly shorter than him.
Paul noted with interest how gracefully she handled her paint-brush. He decided to take a look at what she was painting. On the canvas he saw high snow-covered mountains and in the valley below a small lake that was the color of her eyes.
The picture seemed to emanate a feeling of freedom, spaciousness and kindliness. It gave him a feeling that he would like to go there and forget all the anxieties and worries of the life that surrounded him.
The girl continued to paint without paying any attention to Paul. A sudden gust of wind upset the box of paints and the girl started to pick them up. Paul bent down and picking up a tube of paint handed it to her.
She glanced at Paul, thanked him and took the tube. For a split second Paul felt the tender velvet of her hand. Something he couldn’t explain took place in his heart. He understood it was stupid to stand near the girl in silence but he couldn’t find the necessary Russian words to start talking to her.
“Are you a foreigner?” she asked in good English.
Paul faltered – something that was quite unusual for him- and then he answered that he was an American detective working in Moscow.
“So you’re a real American Pinkerton?” she said with a laugh.
Her bright eyes were so kind and tender. For the first time in many years Paul felt embarrassed. Much to Paul’s surprise the girl had the unusual name of Jerassa. She was Ossetian and was born in the town of Tshinval in South Ossetia.
Her name meant “born of the dew”. She told him that she was studying at the Surikov Institute of Fine Arts and wanted to become a landscape painter and travel all over the world. Her father was a policeman in Tshinval and was very strict. He didn’t want to let her go to Moscow.
They began to date. Paul couldn’t understand why he felt so peaceful when he was with Jerassa. The oftener they met, the more he shed the inner tension which had been growing inside of him all the years after his retirement from the army.
Jerassa turned out to be a well-educated young lady and each time they met Paul learned something new and interesting. They could wander about Moscow for hours and she would speak about the architecture and the history of the buildings and streets with the greatest enthusiasm.
Through her he discovered many interesting new pages of Russian history he had never known before. Every meeting gave Paul the feeling that someone had carefully lifted another load off his heart. He told Jerassa of the countries that he had visited. She always asked him many questions about the people, the history, the architecture and painting that he had seen.
Paul was embarrassed that he knew so little about those countries and that surprised Jerassa. How was it possible to visit so many countries and know so little about their history and culture! Without that it is impossible to understand the people who live there, she said.
Jerassa loved to travel by car and she and Paul drove to all the towns near Moscow. Jerassa admired how well Paul drove a car. At first glance, it was difficult to understand what had brought such different people together. They were of a different age and different upbringing. Apparently, it was their discovery of a new and interesting world which materialized only when they were together.
Once Jerassa applied to Paul with an unusual request. She asked to help her friend Tatyana. Her husband left her when she was away visiting her mother together with her small daughter. He even managed to sell their flat and disappeared without leaving a trace.
A big real estate company learnt about the trickery but didn’t believe Tatyana. They charged her for the collusion with her husband: all legal documents were signed by a woman who looked like Tatyana.
Besides she had shown Tatyana’s passport.
The legal expertise examined the handwriting and confirmed it wasn’t hers, so the court took the decision to return her the illegally sold flat. The real estate company didn’t surrender, threatened
Tatyana and her child with violence and intended to make her sell the flat at a low price.
Jerassa read in newspapers about the company and its ties with the Russian mafia. It was described in a few articles how the company purchased flats illegally and elderly people were left homeless.
The company hadn’t been found guilty in court maybe due to the fact that the head of the company used to occupy a high post in the Russian law enforcement organizations.
Paul listened to Jerassa’s request attentively putting down all the details about Tatyana and the company.
He didn’t promise anything but just said everything had to be checked thoroughly. As for Tatyana, she should move to some other place for the time being.
A month later Paul told Jerassa that Tatyana could return home with her child and live in peace there. The real estate company would never bother her with their demands.
Paul didn’t explain how he did it, but Jerassa realized there was a real man by her side who wasn’t afraid to face the danger for the sake of another person. The women of her proud nation had always valued manhood very high.
Paul had to hunt a bear together with his client during one of his business trips. He wasn’t fond of hunting but the client was so grateful to him for the job Paul had done made up his mind to surprise Paul with the Russian exoticism.
Maybe it was his client’s fault or the huntsman’s - the wounded bear rushed to the people. He could have torn them all to pieces if it weren’t for Paul. He managed to drive his hunting knife into the bear’s heart. The bear hit Paul with its paw so hard that it wounded his shoulder.
Paul was brought to Moscow and he had to stay in hospital for as few weeks to cure the wounded arm. Jerassa visited him every day, treated him with delicious food she had cooked herself. When he stayed at home after the hospital she was busy about the house making his bachelor flat cosy.
Paul realized for the first time in his life that Jerassa was the woman who would never leave him, no matter what could happen to him … On no account should he lose that wonderful world he lived in. There’ll never be another chance. Without a hesitation he asked Jerassa to be his wife and they called her strict father …
September, 2004, Moscow
The week passed by in pleasant and sweet bustle. None of them had relatives in Moscow so they had to do everything themselves. But Paul wouldn’t have let anybody even a part of his wedding cares. The severe “sea seal” forgot all his business and felt quite comfortable as a dress and ceremony consultant.
But his job treated him like an angry, insidious and jealous woman.
Paul had to fulfill delicate missions checking clients’ reliability, tracking their contacts, movements, trade and financial operations and fund validity.
It was a difficult job to do, sometimes it was even disgusting but clients trusted only Paul, his experience, professionalism, independence and resolution. It was risky and unusual because in rough outrage it was impossible to evaluate the extent of danger, information value and the cost of life.
Business in Russia mainly resembled an iceberg. Something was on the surface. It was deliberately noticeable and shining. The largest part and the most profitable one was deep down in the shadow, in the twilight where strangers weren’t admitted.
It so happened that Paul had to go to the USA because his mother had fallen seriously ill. When he arrived he was arrested because he was behind in paying alimony and his wife had filed a suit against him.
Paul spent many hours of humiliation in a prison cell until his father’s friend bailed him out. It was absolutely clear to him that if he did not solve his financial problems as soon as possible he would not be able to come to the United States.
At the same time special services caught red-handed a Moscow-Caucasus drug baron Paul had already encountered with.
A reliable source informed it wasn’t just a coincidence. Paul who had betrayed their boss was condemned to death. Paul knew right from the start that wasn’t a joke. At first he noticed a tail, someone stood on duty at the front door of his house.
When he was driving in the country a motorcyclist caught up with his car. His shot didn’t reach the target because Paul slammed the breaks on, turned the wheel round and hit the rider with his jip bumper.
It wasn’t only him who could suffer.
He packed his things at once, moved to another flat in the suburbs of Moscow, changed the car, called Jerassa and set up an appointment.
His brain worked quickly and confidently. Losing Moscow he was losing a reliable source of money.
He needed it for his future life with Jerassa and to pay the alimony. How could he live without money? The amount he had to send his former wife was rather considerable. Where could he get it? He dismissed all the variants.
One head is good but two are better. It wasn’t without the reason that his father’s friend had given him a special mobile phone as a present.
It was a secure phone and he could discuss anything over it without a fear that someone tapped him. That’s when it came in handy!
He spent a whole evening discussing the problem with his father’s friend and they decided that the best chance for him to make good money was to work as security chief in an American firm somewhere in Iraq.
The price for oil was skyrocketing and American oil companies were paying well for the organization of security for their employees. Paul’s unique experience in the area would enable him to arrange the necessary system of security. Of course, there was a certain risk involved.
Everyone knew about the Moslems who organized acts of terrorism in Iraq without a thought for their lives. Well, Paul had also chosen quite a risky profession. The friend arranged a meeting with the management of an American oil company and Paul signed a three-year contract which would give him $400,000 annually, plus various substantial bonuses. Now Paul was sure that he would be able to cope with his financial problems.
October 2004. Moscow.
Paul returned to Moscow to complete whatever he had left unfinished. What worried him most of all was his forthcoming conversation with Jerassa. In the two years that they had known each other they had grown so attached to each other that he could not imagine his existence without her.
On the other hand, as a professional he clearly understood how dangerous his life would be in Iraq. He couldn’t even dream of taking Jerassa with him. The contract he had signed definitely indicated that he was to go alone. A hasty marriage with a Russian would give rise to endless questions in the USA.
They were forced to part for three years and, after that, when he returned with the money he had earned they would be able to get officially married.
Jerassa heard him out in silence, only suddenly her eyes stopped shining and she became listless and indifferent like a bright autumn flower toughed with a sudden blow of a frosty wind.
She wished Paul luck in his new job and, most of all, she told him to take care of himself. Paul was disturbed and his first impulse was to give up everything and remain with her, but he realized that he could not live anywhere but in the USA which was impossible if he did not get a highly-paying job. Their parting was inevitable if they wanted to live well in the future. It wasn’t even the matter of money! He was ready to do anything to be with her.
He could provide absolute security for Jerassa only in the USA. But they couldn’t go there yet because not all the alimony was paid off in full. He couldn’t stay in Russia because of the Russian mafia and the risk his fair one’s life was in danger.
That made it more difficult for him to explain her everything. It was for the first time that he realized – Jerassa didn’t understand him. He couldn’t find the appropriate words to explain her everything. The words mixed up in his head. Happiness was so near – and in a moment everything began to ruin.
Paul felt he was losing Jerassa and set about explaining her with ardour that they had to wait for a while and they would be always together.
He explained all that to Jerassa most earnestly, she didn’t contradict, just nodded silently and agreed with everything he said. It was the first time that Paul couldn’t understand her.
He would have felt better if she had contradicted, made suggestions or demands. But she was meekly resigned and that’s what Paul couldn’t understand at all.
The last evening before his departure Paul took Jerassa to the French restaurant ‘Nostalgia”. As they walked to the restaurant many passers-by turned around to admire the handsome couple.
It was a very romantic evening. The soft, melodious music harmonized perfectly with the surroundings. Jerassa was dressed in a long black dress which clung to her lovely figure. They kept silent practically the whole evening. Both tried to say something very important but could not.
Towards the end of the evening Jerassa took out a small box which contained an old locket of unusual shape.
“This is our family relic. Family legend says that it saved the lives of my ancestors who fought in wars,” said Jerassa.
“You count me a member of your family?” said Paul in surprise.
“Yes, I started to at a certain point.”
An expression of deep suffering which he had never seen before appeared in her eyes.
His thoughts grew confused. Most of all he wanted to stay with Jerassa forever. For him she was the dearest creature in the world. He cursed himself for being unable to give her an engagement ring there and then and forget about everything except her.
November 2007. Baghdad, Iraq.
Three years in Iraq gave Paul a thorough knowledge of many features of the Arab world. His efforts to provide security for his company brought the losses caused by terrorist acts to a minimum and the management thought very highly of his professionalism. Paul had prevented several terrorist acts that were planned to disrupt the process of oil extraction.
That required a great deal of effort and sometimes he had to work round the clock. He took several short leaves which he spent in the Emirates and each time he tried to call Jerassa. He succeeded a couple of times but the conversation was short and came in snatches.
The last time he called, рук mobile telephone was switched off. It was a terrible disappointment. But he was determined to find Jerassa no matter what and marry her. Only in Iraq did Paul fully realize how dear Jerassa was to him and how much he needed her.
He dreamed of having a son to whom he would pass on all his knowledge and skill and who would eventually become an exemplary soldier like his father. He wanted to name his son Richard in honour of his father.
Back in Iraq, Paul was once again immersed in the dangerous game with death where a wrong step could cost him his life. The supply of the company with everything necessary involved great risk. The caravans of trucks carrying technical equipment for drilling oil often came under terrorist fire.
Any stop in the movement of the trucks spelled inevitable death. The terrorists had invented the most cunning methods to stop the production of oil, blocking the channels of delivery was one of them. Many Americans, both company employees and detectives who were their bodyguards, were killed in the numerous clashes with the terrorists.
But Paul’s company did not suffer such losses because he had studied their methods and planned his actions accordingly and, most important of all, gave his subordinates detailed instructions and saw to it that they were carried out. Thanks to his know-how he was known to the top brass of the US army in Iraq, let alone the numerous detectives who, like him, provided security for many of the companies who worked in Iraq.
One day he was summoned to the US Army Headquarters in Baghdad. Among the men sitting in the office he recognized Lenston, his former commander when he was with the “Seals”. Paul was surprised by the task that Lenston set before him. His former commander informed him that there were Georgian units in Iraq and he was to be responsible for their special training in conditions closely simulating real combat.
But his principal mission was to control their actions during sallies to liberate Georgian territory occupied by South Ossetia and Abkhasia.
The participation of official army and secret service personnel in the operation was undesirable because Russia would be able to accuse the USA of assisting Georgia.
Therefore, the US was knocking together a team of reliable men with special training. The team was to support the Georgian army during its operation to free Georgian territory of Russian occupation.
The men were to receive wartime pay and in case the operation was a success, they would get a bonus of $1,000,000.
“More than that,” - added Lenston, “the Seals command will then be able to apply for the return of all the benefits that are due to a man after discharge from military service. We’ll try to do everything in our power to forget your unfortunate mishaps. But remember, if you fall into the hands of the Russians we’ll renounce you. You won’t have a single document that will confirm your American citizenship.”
Paul nodded in silence. It wasn’t the first time he was setting out on such a mission. It was a rare chance to regain his reputation which was important to him after so many years in the army, and it was most important for him not to discredit his father’s memory.
August 7, 2008, on the Border with South Ossetia in Georgia
Paul was sitting in a Hummer which provided electronic reconnaissance during the buildup for the special operation to liberate Georgian territory. The vehicle was crammed with all kinds of electronic monitoring systems for control over the Georgian commandoes who were to be the first to step on Ossetian territory.
In six months he was able to train a special group of Georgian commandoes for action in the enemy rear. The time was too limited so there was no comparison between their training and that of the Seals. But in that short period he tried to teach the Georgians the basic methods of speedy and soundless annihilation of the enemy. He put special stress on sniper rifles and cold steel.
From the very start Paul was amazed at the difference between Americans who tried to become real Seals and the Georgian commandoes. For an American, serving in an elite unit of the American army was a privilege, a means of becoming a real he-man, an American hero. For the Georgians the most important thing was that they were serving in an elite unit.
Later it gave them the opportunity to be employed as bodyguards to wealthy businessmen. Paul was astonished that most of the men saw no prospects for their future in Georgia and were more interested in the USA and Europe.
“Then why are they fighting for the territorial integrity of Georgia if they want to leave the country?” thought Paul.
In any case, Paul managed to train the Georgians to fulfill moderately complicated tasks under his supervision.
Paul required monitoring devices and means of communication for that purpose, including satellite telecommunications, so that if anything unforeseen should occur, he could quickly correct their movement and help them in a difficult situation.
With the help of special GSM telephone interception devices Paul introduced the monitoring of telephone conversations between the leaders of South Ossetia including the police, security service and border guards. A special system monitored their location and if the need arose it could block or even obtrude false information through voice imitation over mobile phones.
Such information was of utmost importance for locating the leaders of South Ossetia in order to be able to annihilate them and cause panic among the defenders.
The commandoes’’ principal duty was to put out of action as many leaders of South Ossetia as possible.
An Ossetian interpreter sat next to Paul and translated the conversations that came in Ossetian over the phone. Paul didn’t forget Russian and when a conversation was in Russian he listened himself and tried to guess the mood of the speakers by their intonation. As a professional he wanted to understand beforehand the character of the men he would have to fight with.
Suddenly he heard Jerassa’s familiar voice. She was talking to some Alexei Petrovich in Moscow. At first Paul could not believe his ears, it was all so unexpected. When he calmed down he understood that they were talking about some medicine for Jerassa’s three-year-old child.
A pang went through his heart – he didn’t know that she was married. Jerassa was asking Alexei Petrovich to give the medicine to her father who was in Moscow at the moment. Then she hung up. Soon there was another call to Moscow. This time the conversation was in Ossetian. Paul switched on the recording device and asked the interpreter for his help. The interpreter listened attentively and then said:
“”Nothing serious, an Ossetian woman asked her father to bring her son, Richard, some medicine from Dr. Alexei Petrovich. The father grumbled that he had to do it. He said it was the father’s duty to take care of his son but since she was not married the responsibility had fallen on the grandfather’s shoulders.
“How did she call her child?” asked Paul to make sure.
“I think it was Richard.”
“It can’t be!” Paul exclaimed. The interpreter looked at the American in surprise. He had never seen him in such a state. Always calm and self-asssured, strong and independent, he aroused the admiration of the Georgian military.
And he changed so drastically after he’d heard a meaningless exchange of words between an Ossetian woman and her father.
The name “Richard” kept drumming in Paul’s head. That was his father’s name and no one in Russia knew it except Jerassa.
“Perhaps, it’s my son?” thought Paul suddenly. It couldn’t be. Paul tried to drive the thought out of his mind. But then, the boy was three years old. The time coincided with his departure.
“Perhaps, that was why she was so listless when she said goodbye to me?”recalled Paul. “It’s my son!”
The thought dawned on him that it was his son whom he wanted so much from the only woman he loved in the world.
Paul knew that Tshinval was going to be shelled heavily in the next few hours. Swinging round in his chair he quickly found the spot on the monitor from where Jerassa had phoned him.
The next minute he was calling Jerassa over the mobile phone and heard his son’s voice for the first time. Jerassa was saying something to him in Ossetian while the boy was squealing happily.
He hectically dialed the targets in Tshinval that were about to be destroyed. To his horror the computer showed the co-ordinates of Jerassa’s phone and those of the house they were to shell, coincided. He also discovered that the area in Tshinval which was marked as the zone where the commandoes he had trained were to go into action was the place where Jerassa lived.
In a few hours Jerassa and his son would be killed! Could he save them, Paul wondered. Scores of plans raced through his head but were all swept aside. He could phone Jerassa and warn her of the danger, but would she believe him? Naturally, his call would be immediately tracked down by the Russians, the Georgians and Americans.
He could wreck a most important operation which had cost no end of money. No one would forgive him such treachery. He would also have to say goodbye to all the money he had made, to a wonderful future and, most important of all, the respect of his comrades, his fellow servicemen. He would never be able to return to the United States.
Paul had never been a traitor - he had always been a good soldier. It was the first time in his life that he felt utterly helpless. He was the man who had nerves of steel everyone said, but he could not even save his own son!
The decision came to him in a flash. He should go and save his son no matter what. There was no time to lose. Not saying a word to anyone he jumped out of his Hummer and ran to the garage where three jeeps were parked.
His mate who was sitting beside him in the Hummer, puzzled at what was going on, he wanted to stop Paul, but he knocked him down with a sharp blow. There was only one thing he wanted and that was to save his son. Nobody could bar the way!
Paul got into the jeep and checking the location of Jerassa’s house on the map stepped on the gas. It was growing dark. The jeep moved slowly along the narrow path. He was stopped by Georgian patrols who let him pass the minute they saw his special pass. Paul saw that everything was ready for the attack – tanks, armoured cars and men. There was not much time left.
He knew perfectly well that they would not let him cross the South Ossetian border. When he was two kilometers from the border he got out of his jeep and ran towards it. When he reached the border he heard the powerful roar of cannon. The attack on Ossetia started punctually as planned. He had to find a vehicle that would take him to Tsinval as quickly as possible.
He heard the roar of passing tanks and the hurricane of fire overhead. He was shot at several times, he couldn’t make out whether it was the Georgian or Ossetian special service. He didn’t care, he had to hurry. Returning to the road he saw an abandoned Zhiguli car. He started up the motor with difficulty and dashed towards the town.
The car was fired on from all sides. He survived by a miracle, or perhaps it was Jerassa’s locket that was protecting him? Suddenly the car started swinging from side to side and slid into a ditch. The firing grew more intense. Paul pulled himself together and dashed for the nearby bushes.
One bullet scratched his arm and another got his leg. But he paid no attention. He tried to crash through the Georgian positions but the fire made him retreat. Paul saw Ossetian villages completely smashed by tanks, the corpses of men, women and children. He knew that the same fate awaited his son.
With titanic effort he managed to reach Tshinval. The town was completely destroyed by artillery and tanks. It was hard to say who was friend and who was foe, there was shooting on all sides. When he ran out on the street where Jerassa’s house was supposed to be located, he discovered that it had been reduced to a pile of rubble. He grew numb with horror.
Suddenly a little white dog jumped out of a basement and ran along the street. It was followed by a fair-haired little boy. He was calling to the dog to come back. A tall, slim woman ran out after the boy.
Paul immediately recognized Jerassa. She stopped suddenly as if she had received a blow and started to sink slowly to the ground stretching out her arms towards the boy trying to stop him. Paul rushed to her.
The boy saw his mother fall and tried to help her rise. He did not understand what had happened to her. Suddenly a bullet hit the boy in the head and threw him back. When Paul ran up to them both Jerassa and his son were dead. They were shot with professional from a sniper’s rifle, just the way he had taught the Georgian commandoes to shoot.
They were shot in the head between their eyebrows. Paul fell on his knees beside the dead bodies of Jerassa and his son.
Otare, a Georgian commando, lowered his rifle and turned to his partner in puzzlement:
“I’ve just shot an Ossetian woman and her son and suddenly an old man with disheveled white hair appeared near them. I wanted to shoot him too, but I saw a golden locket round his neck. It was exactly like the one that our American instructor had. I took a good look at the old man and recognized Paul, but he had aged unbelievably.
He was dressed just the same way Paul had been dressed when we last saw him. He stood on his knees beside the bodies and seemed frozen stiff. Maybe he was seriously wounded or shell-shocked and couldn’t move?”
His mate lifted the sight of his rifle.
“You’re right, he looks very much like Paul and the locket is his. I asked him all about that locket myself. It’s a very nice piece of antique jewelry. Our commanding officers ordered that we should not let American instructors fall into Russian hands alive. We have to shoot him quick.”
“What if they find some documents on him?” asked Otare.
“You’re right,” agreed his mate. “We’ll have to take a risk. Americans are usually loaded with all kinds of electronic devices. Perhaps they’re tracking him with the help of a satellite, and us too. If we don’t drag him out of the rut, we may be shot. I’ll go to pull him out and you cover me.”
An hour later he brought Paul in on his back. There were no serious wounds on his body except for a few small scratches from bullets and shell fragments. He was alive but he was in his dead silence doctors call “a coma”.