“To our health,” exclaimed Charles.

“He’s here,” announced Tiffany Belkin, as she clinked champagne glasses with her dinner companion, took a sip of the sparkling wine, and leaned toward Charles for a quick kiss. Sitting in a dark corner of the restaurant on a busy Saturday night, they were indistinguishable from a number of other young couples, enjoying a romantic dinner on a pleasant spring evening.

A block away, Tiffany’s words caused the personnel in the van to go on high alert.

A short distance from Tiffany and Charles, their quarry was perusing the menu.

“What would you recommend?” he asked the man sitting across from him.

“What a silly question, dear Marcel. The prime rib, but of course.”

Marcel smiled at Boris’s characteristic response. Each time they met to do business, Boris selected prime rib.

“Don’t you ever tire of the prime rib, Boris? Perhaps a rib eye, veal parmigiana, or even a nice Caesar salad?”

“Salad? Salad? We are carnivores. Carnivores. Man rose not to the top of the food chain with the eating of lettuce.”

“You keep talking that way and people are going to mistake you for an American.”

“Good, good,” said Boris with a smile. “That would suit my needs very well.”

Charles winked at Tiffany as Boris uttered these words. Confirmation that Boris was a foreign national on U.S. soil for the sole purpose of espionage. Tiffany returned his wink and placed a hand on his thigh. Undercover work had its advantages, he mused.

Marcel opted for shrimp, while Boris remanded dedicated to his prime rib. As they waited for their meals to arrive, the conversation shifted toward business.

“I have a package for you,” announced Boris.

“And I for you,” responded Marcel.

“You have the real deal, yes? I’ve encountered some problems with some of your comrades. In a few cases, outright forgeries.”

“Oh no,” replied Marcel with a soothing smile. “I’ve got the bona fide stuff – intellectual property of the U.S. government.”

“Yes, I believe you do. My people have a great deal of trust in you.”

Tiffany leaned over and whispered into Charles’s ear. “BUSTED. We got ’em! This is so exciting.”

Charles kissed her gently on the lips while speaking softly to her. “We still need to wait for the transfer.”

Tiffany nodded in response and gulped the rest of her champagne with a giggle. Charles could see the impact the adrenaline was having on her – transforming her from merely pretty into an extremely seductive woman. He could feel himself being drawn into her web … but the time for such thoughts was later. They needed to focus on the task at hand.

An hour later, as Marcel crossed the street carrying the package from Boris, he was apprehended by federal agents. Inside the restaurant, Boris smiled as the attractive women from a nearby table sat down across from him. He had noticed her earlier. He smiled with anticipation. American women were so bold.

Then her male companion slide in beside her, and Boris frowned. “What is the meaning of this?”

“Federal agents,” explained Tiffany, flashing her badge.

“We’re busted your little spy ring, commie,” explained Charles.

“Spy?”

“Give us the package.”

Boris slowly handed the packaged to Charles, who ripped it open. He stared at the contents for a long moment, trying to make sense of it.

“Stamps?”

“Stamps,” replied Boris. “I am a collector, as is Marcel. We trade.”

“We heard you discussing forgeries, and documents that were the intellectual property of the U.S. government,” pressed Tiffany.

“Of course they are the intellectual property of your government. They are the ones who commission the artwork for the stamps. And forgeries … ah, this is the scourge of the hobby. You can never be sure until you place them under a magnifier, but Marcel comes to me well recommended.”

In the van, a similar scene was unfolding. A half hour later, the agents were drowning their sorrows in a nearby bar. Marcel Ackerman of the State Department was not a spy after all. Once again, bad information had led them astray, and they had harassed innocent people. Sometimes this job sucked.

In a hotel across town, Boris Korovin was using an Xacto knife to split the cover of a stamp album into two pieces. He pulled out the document encased between the halves, placed the album to the side, and began work on the next one in the pile.

Note: this fiction story is based very loosely on an interaction between alleged U.S. spy Felix Bloch (a State Department employee) and a Soviet agent whom Bloch knew as Pierre Bart.  You can read more about Bloch on Wikipedia. 

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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