The Alternate Link of Steele 5/?
Date: Monday, July 17, 2000
Adriana <>

Hi all,

here goes a new part. Many thanks again to my beta readers Debra and Jacqui, whose help is preceless.

The Alternate Link of Steele 5

By Adriana

Police HQ. The following Morning. 7.23 AM

Bulbakov pushed a handcuffed Steele through the heavy wooden doors that opened to the main lounge of the Saint Petersburg Police Head Quarters. He was in civilian clothes, his old fashioned wardrobe highly noticeable, his pipe leaving a thick trace of smoke behind him.

Steele grunted in pain as Bulbakov pulled on his hands and rushed them forwards, avoiding a young agent who had come up to stop them.

"Komitet!" Bulbakov yelled, flashing his KGB badge with his free hand.

Instantly the officer stepped back and stood in attention.

 Bulbakov opened the door to one of the interrogations rooms. Once inside he relaxed a bit, looking at Steele with amusement.

"Have you had enough fun, or would you like to see me in a line up, too?" Steele said without rancor.

Bulbakov laughed and proceeded to free Steele from his painful bindings.

"I’m sorry, Misha. You know it had to be done this way to avoid suspicion."

"And the way you barked ‘Komite’ at that bugger wasn’t suspicious? You scared the living daylights out of him," Steele replied.

"It would have been suspicious if I hadn’t barked, old friend," Bulbakov said with a smile.

Steele nodded and remained silent for a few seconds, lost in thought. It had taken him forever to get in touch with Bulbakov the day before. Even when he finally reached him by phone, the man had evaded all of his questions about the whereabouts of Laura, implying the line wasn’t secure. At least Bulbakov had said the three Americans were fine.  Still, Steele felt uneasy. He knew he couldn’t trust the man as far as he could throw him.

New paragraph: But he had to trust him; he simply didn’t have any other choice.

"Well?"  Bulbakov asked.

"Sorry, Kira; I didn’t hear you. What was that?" Steele asked, suddenly alert.

"I’ll be back in fifteen minutes. You sit tight and wait for me," Bulvakov said as he moved towards the door. "Don’t go anywhere!"

Steele heard the door being locked from the outside and instantly began searching for his lock picks, but found it next to impossible with his hands cuffed.

"There’s nothing you can do, mate. Just sit tight and wait," Steele said quietly.

His eyes scanned the room, automatically looking for a possible escape route. There was one locked door and one glass-paneled window that overlooked a bigger room.  Steele supposed that must be the actual interrogation room, since the one he was in had a loud speaker, obviously devised to enable them to hear whatever happened in the adjacent one.  However, there were no microphones to be seen anywhere.

He stood up and walked towards the window, where he could see a table and three chairs. On the opposite wall, there was another mirrored window. *Another listening chamber?* he wondered, finally deciding the questions were probably asked from the other room.

Suddenly a door opened in the interrogation room and Bulbakov walked in, alone. He checked the place carefully and then looked up in Steele’s direction, smiling knowingly.   He knew he was being watched.

Steele remembered the day after they had met in Warsaw, when Kira had admitted that Daniel had instructed him to fetch him back to London.

"Why?" he had asked the young Russian.

"He has a job for us," Kira had said.

"Us?" Steele had asked suspiciously.

Kira had smiled smugly, but refused to explain further.  And it was the same smile that Steele had just seen seconds earlier… The smile Bulbakov always had on his face when he was onto something others didn’t know.

Ten years earlier, Bulbakov had managed to get Steele back to Daniel’s side, but London had been a disaster. Daniel’s plan had been far too risky, far too ambitious-- and far too dangerous for his liking.  But what had scared him the most, though, was that the plan was too long ranged. It would have taken years and would have meant total commitment.

"It is perfect, Harry," Daniel had said. "Come on, m’ boy. You’re the only piece that’s missing."

"I won’t do it, Daniel. Sorry, but I can’t," he had replied firmly.

Daniel’s plan was brilliant. He had made the necessary connections to place three men in the intelligence services of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom. They would be trained as KGB, CIA, and MI6 agents, but secretly they would be working for Daniel if an appropriate con appeared, providing him with priceless information and contacts. If that time never came, however, they’d simply be regular agents for their respective governments.

"I couldn’t work for MI6 any more that you could, Daniel!" Steele had exploded.

"But, Harry, it’d be perfectly safe. It’d be like a regular job with steady pay… and from time to time, you’d be doing me a small service or two…"

"You don’t get it, do you, Daniel?" he had shouted, completely beside himself. "I don’t want a bloody steady job. Not now; not ever!" Then having said that, he had stormed out.

Steele remembered later asking Daniel who else had been involved beside him and Kira, but his mentor had refused to tell him. That had been the first time Daniel had implied he couldn’t trust Harry with a plan, and that had hurt.

The sound of the door opening brought Steele back from his reverie.  He looked up and saw Bulbakov looking at him with curiosity.

"What?" Steele asked.

"Where were you, Misha?"

Steele smiled, saying, "Far away… far away."

Bulbakov nodded in understanding and slowly moved towards the mirrored window, his face suddenly dark and grim and his eyes sad. *I’m sorry, Misha. But I have to do this, before you get too involved.* Then he watched as the door of the interrogation room opened and Laura Holt was led inside.

Steele stood up as if he had been struck by lightning, demanding, "What the hell...?"

"Silence!" Bulbakov warned him.

Steele lunged forward to grab Bulbakov, but the door bolted open and an armed man walked in. He was also in civilian clothes--KGB, no doubt.

"Stoi!"  he told Steele.

Steele heard the safety catch go off and the gun cock. He froze just in time; the KGB man wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot him. Steele looked up at Bulbakov and met the man’s icy stare.

Bulbakov merely motioned for Steele to sit down and look out the window. Steele obeyed, hating his old friend with all his heart. Then in spite of himself, he stood up and walked toward the window, as if drawn by an intangible magnetic force.

Laura walked in, wearing a Russian vatnik even though it was summer. She was pale and seemed thinner. She sat in one of the chairs. Then after looking around briefly, she glared at both mirrored windows with distrust.

Steele could almost feel her eyes boring into him. But it was a blind look, for even if Laura knew there were people on the other side, she wouldn’t have know exactly where.

"She’s a brave woman, Misha," Bulbakov said.

Steele didn’t reply. Laura did, indeed, look confident, but her external appearance didn’t fool him for one minute. He knew she must be terrified. He’d be terrified if he were in her place. *You put her in that place, mate,* he told himself. *It’s all your fault.*

A police officer then came into the room.

"That’s sergeant Grechko, Soviet Police," Bulbakov provided.

Steele saw Laura focus all her attention in the man in front of her.

"Why the police?" Steele asked.

"They found out your former associate and her friend were involved in that hideous episode in Spain," Bulbakov said simply.

"You told them! Damn you Bulbakov, why?" Steele almost cried.

"You, yourself, said she is dangerous," Bulbakov replied darkly.

Steele’s heart sank with the realization that he had put Laura in more danger that he had ever dreamed possible. He also knew there was not much he could do to help her right then, so he tried to put his terror aside and focus on what was being said.

Inside the room, Grechko was interrogating Laura for Bulbakov and Steele’s benefit. If the truth be told, he hated being under Bulbakov’s orders. As far as he was concerned, the KGB were nothing but trouble.

Grechko looked at the woman in front of him. He had heard her tale from the other man, Michaels, and he had known both of them were lying. Still, he didn’t care; not really. For Grechko, the games the KGB and their western counterparts were nothing but that: games.  He had to face day-to-day crimes and filthy murders committed over a few crumbs or a glass of vodka. He had seen violent fights break out if someone merely broke into a line in front of someone who had been waiting patiently for hours.  The narod  - the Russian masses ? were always discontent, always grim, always dreaming of a better life.  There was nothing fancy about being a cop in Russia; absolutely nothing.

He nodded at something Laura was saying without even concentrating on the English. He was tired of listening to English already, but was something about the woman. She seemed highly intelligent and determined, and at the same time unafraid and confident.

She seemed to be trouble. *Damn!*

"You are after the wrong people. The man you’re looking for is the same man I am looking for. Don’t you understand?" Laura asked.

Grechko nodded his head, saying, "Oh, really?"

"The name he’s using is Harry Chalmers.  It’s an alias, but I’m positive that’s the name he used to get into Russia," Laura blurted out, instantly regretting the words that had come out of her mouth. Had she just handed Mr. Steele over to the Soviet Police?  "Or maybe it’s not. I’m not sure," she tried to amend.

Laura saw the policeman look at the window and wished she knew who else was listening. Then he saw Grechko get up and walk towards the exit.

"Grechko!" she called out.

The man stopped and turned towards her, asking, "Yes, Miss Holt?"

She signaled towards the window with her head. "Tell them I want to speak with whoever’s in charge. And I demand to have the American Consulate know we are being held."  She stared at him, unafraid.

"I am in charge here!"  Grechko suddenly barked at her. "And as you probably know, your consulate is not able to aid his nationals if they are criminals.  And that is for us to determine!"  he finished, his face red and his forehead pulsating.

"We haven’t committed any crimes, Sergeant Grechko-- not in Spain and certainly not in Russia.  I ask you please to let the Consulate know we are here," she said, her tone placating him.

Grechko stood paralyzed for a minute. The courage of the woman was outstanding.

"Your consulate will be informed in due time, Miss Holt; rest assured," he said as he disappeared behind the door.

Once alone in the room, Laura stared at the window again.

On the other side of the glass, Steele was looking at her, mesmerized by her strength and her beauty. *Dear God, Laura. How do you do it?* he wondered.

Seeing Grechko leave the room, Bulbakov stood up and went out. The sentry outside the door locked it securely.

Oblivious to all this, Steele walked towards the glass and stood there, willing Laura to come closer. And almost as if his thoughts had commanded her to move, he saw Laura approach the window, peering out into her own reflection. Within seconds, they were in front of each other.

Laura put out her hand and felt the glass, testing its strength.  On the other side, Steele unwillingly reached out and placed his hand opposite her smaller one. *Oh, God, she’s so close and yet so far,* he thought sadly.

As Steele looked again into Laura’s dark, frightened eyes, he felt his own burning with unshed tears. But he bottled his feelings up as he had done for so long and tore his hand away from the cold, lifeless glass. Yet, something in the back of him mind made him silently swear he’d make things right, for once and for all.

Laura walked away to the center of the room as the door opened and Grechko re-entered. Without restraining  her with handcuffs, the sergeant motioned for her to follow him, and they both walked out.

Steele stood motionless for a few more minutes, lost in the vastness of his grief.

A slight sound behind his back instantly sharpened his senses. He twirled around, waiting for a blow to come; instead, he met the cold, ruthless eyes of Kira Bulbakov.

End Part 5
To Part 6