Director of Intelligence
Joined: 3 Dec 2005
SAK owned: Camper&Swissbit
Season: season 5
Jacket: Brown bomber
House: House boat
Chapter Six: A Tail Or Two
I was a little alarmed when I looked at the clock. I hadn’t realized how much time I’d spent in the sauna. Just as Pete had said, nobody had attempted to contact me—nobody with secret information to trade, anyway.
Practicing diplomacy off the cuff—without any cuffs on—I managed to escape from the sauna, if not with virtue intact, at least as much as I had when I’d arrived. Thank goodness that the Finn regard sauna as sacrosanct—not a place for picking up dates or romantic encounters—the staff was sympathetic and let me leave by the back door.
As I walked through the deliciously cool air, heading back in the direction of the hotel, I had to remind myself that it was going on evening. Sunlight lingered beyond the reach of hours. My stomach confirmed what my wristwatch said: it was definitely late.
I heard footsteps behind me, then… softly pattering along the pavement. I turned a corner and slipped into the first open shop I came to, mustering interest in the array of charm jewelry nestled in boxes of black velvet. I could see clearly out the shop window. Whoever was following me would be in sight in a few seconds…
Natalya hurried back to the hotel, cursing herself softly for losing track of time while visiting with her comrades. She was afraid that the man she had met—that she had impulsively asked to dinner—would think that she had stood him up. Seeing him at the Sauna Club had been a shock; the girls had teased her mercilessly when they noticed the flush on her cheeks as they’d watched him walk past. Karin wanted to follow him into the steam, but Natalya had put her foot down. She’d seen him first, and while a good Soviet believed in equality in all things—when it came to matters of the heart, one could be selfish.
She was about halfway back to the hotel when she noticed the strange man. She was waiting for the traffic to pause, and had kneeled down to re-lace her running shoes when she saw, down the street the way she had already come, a man wearing a coat and hat that were out-of-season. She wouldn’t have thought twice about him, except she realized that she had seen him earlier—near the entrance of the Sauna Bar. He had been lounging outside, as if waiting for someone.
Wishing now that she’d stayed with the safety of the group, instead of running off on her own, Natalya continued on her way. She saw him again at the next traffic stop, closer this time. His hands were in his pockets, and she could see the sweat dripping down his jaw from the effort of keeping up with her on a warm evening.
Nerves gave way to pique; who did this man think he was, following her? Clenching her fists, she looked around for a policeman. She saw the man stop, turning as if to examine something in a shop window. A pale face reflected in the glass, and Natalya saw him clearly—and he saw her.
She broke into a flat run, burning up the pavement. Running was one of the things she did—and if the Trials had been held that night in the streets of Helsinki, Natalya Leonevka Vistkaya would have taken home the gold medal.
MacGyver saw her run by from his vantage inside the curio shop. He recognized her as she sped past, and feeling foolish for his paranoia, he stepped out of the shop to call her back. He hesitated, realizing he still didn’t know her name. “Dang it,” Mac muttered softly. He turned—and collided with a man in a trench coat.
“Excuse me—” MacGyver said, catching the man by the arms before they both spilled to the ground. The man’s hat came off; blond hair spilled out, damp with sweat. Through the fabric of the coat, Mac felt an irregular heavy shape, right about the place where a shoulder holster might rest.
The man shook off Mac’s hands, muttering something guttural and indistinct. He bolted into the street, dodging cars as he cut across in his haste. MacGyver stared after him until he saw him turn down an alley and disappear.
The man’s hat had fallen to the pavement. MacGyver picked it up and turned it over in his hands, thoughtfully. Was he following me, or the girl?
The Games hadn’t officially begun yet, and the stakes were already getting higher.
The man in the trench coat ran down the alley and along another street before slowing to a walk to avoid drawing attention to himself. He continued for several blocks, then ducked into an empty side street and slipped into a deep doorway. He was certain that MacGyver hadn’t followed him, but he had to be sure that no-one else was tailing him. The American might not be working alone.
This was a man who cultivated his paranoia carefully, and that was how things had to be. In his line of work, people who weren’t carefully paranoid weren’t in business for very long—they became rapidly dead. By appearances, he hadn’t been followed after all, so perhaps the intelligence he had on this MacGyver was correct—but he still waited for nearly an hour before he left his hiding place.
As he waited, his mind continued to churn. There wasn’t supposed to be any contact on this meeting. But why had MacGyver slipped out the back way from the sauna bar? How did he know someone would be outside? And how did he manage to intercept him in the street? It was the girl, he thought ruefully. He must have been watching the girl…
Clever of MacGyver, the man thought, to get the girl involved. He couldn’t have been in country for more than a few hours, and already he had recruited assistance. It didn’t jibe with what he knew of the man, to endanger an innocent woman in all this intrigue. If she was innocent, that is.
Now that he thought about it, she might be the arm of yet another net cast to try to close in on the elusive Gorodisch. Perhaps she was using MacGyver—and it was he who was the innocent pawn in this game.
They’d seen his face, so he would have to do something about that. The next encounter was scheduled for the next day, but he didn’t want to wait that long. He wanted his eyes on this suspicious pair—to see what they were really about, and who was working with them—or against.
Regardless, it was time to get out of the street and on to the next facet of the plan. The days here seemed to last forever, but time never sat still. He slipped out of the doorway, shedding his coat like a snake abandoning a useless skin.