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            There existed in Russia a small group of intelligence operatives left over from the KGB. They are known as Sputniks.

            From Wikipedia:

            "Sputnik was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on October  4th 1957, orbiting for three weeks before its batteries died, then silently for two more months, before falling back into the atmosphere."

            One can easily configure the human equivalent of Sputnik in the ark of a career in the Russian intelligence services. By mere speculative deduction, there is an excellent chance of identifying why these operatives are labeled Sputniks.

            In the United States intelligence service, they're called losers.

            Alexi Ronkowsivoch was lucky enough to have been one of Vladimir Putin's lifelong flunkies. Because of that, he was allowed to be absorbed into the newly formed FSB. This action was sanctioned due to his lack of any prior knowledge regarding the thwarted coup d'état that ended the KGB on November 6th, 1991. The KGB insurgents thought he was extremely stupid. They could not trust him so Alexi was given no role in their plans. But stupidity survived cunning in this case.

            It also didn't hurt his survival status that Alexi knew Vladimir.

            Alexi is a certified Sputnik. Now, in 1994, he has become totally useless. He has been constantly falling deeper into oblivion. Alexi is, now destined to cease to exist and burn, as Sputnik did in 1957. There's just so much a friend like Vlad can do.

            But things tend to change, even in Russia. There is a new and improved method of standardization in the FSB. It was instituted after the KGB went DOA. Alexi now has to meet certain requirements on a checklist generated by the westernized Human Resources Department of the FSB. But inept Alexi has failed more than a few times to complete any of the listed assignments successfully.

            The completion of at least one item on the checklist is now mandatory to avoid immediate expulsion from the FSB. Alexi has selected to perform an act that reaches the level of receiving the Medal for Merit in Intelligence. That one act will save him.

            That is the last item on the list he has not tried and failed to successfully complete. It is also the most involved. If he does not successfully complete this task, he will be forced to retire immediately. This retirement, without a pension, may include an unscheduled trip to Siberia as well. Or it could be two bullets behind Alexi's right ear.

            The decision will not be Alexi's choice.

            If Alexi can successfully complete this mission, he will receive his Medal for Merit in Intelligence. This Sputnik will be saved from oblivion and retired to live out his days on a meager pension. That's better than the alternative.

            The item Alexi has to complete is a tricky one. It is considered a cleaning up mission from the old KGB days. The job entails coming to the United States and terminating the existence of a former Russian KGB Sleeper agent who had gone dark many years ago.

            Alexi is given the following information on his target:


            Russian Name

            Adopted American Name (probably discarded by now)

            KGB Code Name


            It is up to Alexi to find this agent, interrogate him/her and then terminate the sleepers existence (assassinate.) The entire procedure is to be completed without creating any suspicion on the part of the Americans as to who the sleeper agent really was and what they were doing in the United States.


            It is late 1994, Alexi enters the United States as a Russian businessman through New York's JFK Airport. He immediately takes a taxi to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. This area has become a hub of Russian migration in the United States. It is known as Little Odessa.

            Alexi locates a former KGB pal, Kiev Trotskovich. He is now hooked up with the Russian Mob. Alexi needs assistance in finding the sleeper agent. They have a nice dinner at a Russian restaurant on Brighton Beach Avenue. Alexi gets some leads.

            Alexi is back at JFK by the end of the day and on a flight to Chicago. The trail now leads him to a town just outside Chicago: Downer's Grove, Illinois.  He understands his target works in the area at a retail establishment. Details and information are sketchy, but Alexi uses his skills of deduction to figure out who at the small store is actually his target.

            Alexi thinks a person named Leonard Lennon must have adapted his name from his former Russian name Sergei Lenoniski.


            This is the sum and substance of the information Alexi gathers after spending a week of observation on his target Leonard Lennon, as well as his target's associates:

            Leonard lives alone and within his modest means. He is the Head Sales Clerk at a small local Men's and Ladies clothing store. The business seems to be an anachronistic sales venue that stays successful in spite of the exodus of shoppers from Main Street to the surrounding malls.

            Leonard is a most regimented person and his activities seem to be run according to a specific time schedule. For example, he reaches the bus stop every morning exactly two minutes before its arrival and usually sits in the same seat. Conversely, his evening ride home mirrors his ride to work.

            He is a stickler for punctuality and the utmost professionalism in himself and his charges on the sales floor. He is fastidious about his supervisory duties and most of the staff respect him as a fair-minded individual.

            But above all, Leonard takes an inordinate amount of pride in wearing his non-traditional RED carnation to identify him as an authority on whatever is for sale in the department store. It seems to be his only way of expressing his own individuality.

            Alexi, the FSB Sputnik agent prides himself on his knowledge of Russian history. The assassin thinks this RED carnation thing is quite unusual and a dead give away.  He remembers the state had designated the RED carnation as a revolutionary flower of the proletariat. After the glorious events of February 1917, Moscow printers of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party of Bolsheviks were ordered to issue cardboard badges in the form of the RED carnation.

            RED is the operative word here. Alexi knows the standard in American retail is a White carnation.

            Old habits are probably hard to kick for Mr. Lennon, Alexi believes.

            Alexi still followed the party line, even though they wanted to shit can him to Siberia or feed him to the dogs if he fails. He thinks Stalin got a bad rap. A True Believer, yes he is.

            Alexi can't help but think that this Sergei Lenoniski studied American cinema. He is a dead ringer for the American actor Jimmy Stewart. His mannerisms, speech, everything is so wholesome Americana. It has to be an act. It's all too good to be true.


            There are two individuals with which Leonard has separate personality conflicts. It is a type of cold war that sometimes flares up between himself and each one of them individuality.

            Mr. Harper James: Mr. James is a salesman. Harper dresses with exquisite taste and carries his self with a sense of elitism bordering on foppishness. He caters to older women who are attracted by the non-threatening nature of his questionable sexuality.  Alexi remembers the proper expression from his KGB American Cultural Linguistic Training for these women: Fag Hags.

            This is why Mr. James is most successful selling high priced items to older women. The man ingratiates himself to these female customers by alluding to their alleged hidden sexuality. His not quite British accent seems to enthrall the older Midwestern American females that frequent the shop.

            Harper is attempting to circumvent the inevitable decision of the owner, Mr. Borsheck. He is about to retire and name a General Manager to run the store. Borsheck's plans include a well-deserved rest from 30 years of constant working. The plan is to finally take his wife to Florida during the cold Midwestern winters.


            That decision on whom to select seems to be leaning toward making Leonard the General Manager. Harper knows this from his relationship with Mrs. Borsheck. He continually asks her to push his name to the top of the two-man list.

            Alexi has also discovered Mrs. Borsheck is romantically seeing Harper James. They have a weekly tryst at Harper's modest apartment on his day off during the week. Mr. James is expert at covering both their tracks. He is obviously younger than Mrs. Borsheck and using her to advance his career.


            Miss Jane Thomas: Miss Thomas is a sales clerk.  She is an average looking woman and can pass for Leonard’s sister. For some unknown reason, Alexi deducts that Mr. Lennon and Miss Thomas have disliked each other since the first day they met. Otherwise, they would make a perfect couple. As long as she never discovers who Leonard really is:

            A true child of the revolution.

            Mr. Borsheck: Is the 65-year-old owner of the establishment where Mr. Lennon is employed. It seems he has no immediate inclination of his wife's activities or the interpersonal disputes between his employees. But he is still one sly ublyudok (motherfucker.) There might be a method to his madness.

            Mrs. Borsheck: Same age as her husband. She Dresses well and has expensive jewelry. Thinks and acts like a woman half her age. She is heavily made up and still looks 65. The ultimate Fag Hag.

            Alexi orchestrated an alleged serendipitous meeting with Johnny Johnston, the messenger boy at the store. Alexi has garnered all this information about the dynamics of the store by plying the young talkative boy with alcohol at the local pub.


            This is a strange situation. Alexi's interception of the mail of all involved shows that Mr. Lennon and Miss Thomas are unknowingly involved in an anonymous romantic relationship with each other. This is all arranged through a Pennysaver Newspaper Lonely Hearts section. It is conducted via the mail.

            The two lovebirds refer to each other using pseudonyms. But there is one slight, but a perverted twist. Leonard is pretending to be a woman and Jane is pretending to be a man. They are at the point in their relationship where they both want to meet each other. Alexi can't figure out why they are continuing this masquerade. Are they both homosexuals or just victims of the decadent capitalist devolution of social norms? He marvels at the effect the decedent American culture has had of Leonard.

            Their letters are forwarded to each of them by the newspaper. Alexi discovers the exchange has been ongoing since last year.  Both have saved each letter they have received. The letters have been found and read by Alexi.

            This inevitable meeting should be quite interesting. 


            Alexi now has to plan his method of terminating the existence of Mr. Lennon. His mandate is to utilize a manner which will not arouse suspicion of the local authorities about Leonard's past as a Russian sleeper agent. Alexi has many ways of doing this in the bag of tricks he smuggled into the United States.

            For maximum creativity, Alexi is considering setting up an elaborate plan that would make one of the two other employees at the shop a suspect in the murder of Mr. Lennon. Quite a challenge in the art of manipulation. The sexually perverted US postal relationship will only enhance the plan. Miss Thomas will make either a good patsy or a good corpse in an orchestrated  murder or even better, a double/suicide or murder/suicide pact.

            But Alexi is torn. He believes he should plan to have Leonard slowly die a painful and prolonged death. Leonard deserves it because he went dark during the height of the Cold War.                                Leonard is nothing more than a Trotsky Proxski (Trotsky Proxy.) 

            Having a perverted American blamed for killing Leonard would be the ultimate of satisfaction to defile the western capitalists. A slow torturous murder-suicide would be difficult, but not impossible to stage.

            Of course, this involved scenario would require permission from Moscow. BUT, Alexi feels that if he acts without permission, it would show he has the initiative to move on up the food chain instead of being put out to pasture.

            He believes the Americans call it being a self-directed professional.

            The FSB may promote Alexi to a higher level in the arcane world of the Russian espionage establishment. This, in lieu of shit canning him to retirement. But there was also the risk they could remove him for disobeying the original plan. This failure to comply would lead to skipping a normal retirement and either joining the work camps in Siberia or immediate death by two shots behind his right ear.

            Alexi decides to take the risk.

            Alexi will orchestrate the entire event to make the murder look not so gory and sensational, but have somewhat of a prolonged agony. Though moderating it to be a bit original, it is now not as involved as he would have desired it to be. He's walking that thin line with FSB.


            Alexi intercepts more mail and sets up a meeting at a lonely area at The Morton Arboretum. Both accept cross invitations and the initial stage is set. Alexi has everything planned for a murder/suicide.

            Jane and Leonard will both be found hanging from a tree Alexi has selected. It will be a homosexual murder-suicide prompted by each victims discovery of the others true sex. After the hanging, Alexi will make sure their original letters are placed where the police can find them in both apartments.


            Leonard and Jane show up and are shocked to see each other. Alexi steps out of the shadows of the dark moonless night to greet them. He is holding an AK-47 and speaks in Russian to the couple, pointing the AK-47 directly at Leonard.

            Tovarishch, ty dumal, chto my zabudem o tebe?

            (Comrade, did you think we'd forget about you?)

            Leonard starts his Jimmy Stewart babbling:

            Gee, Whizz!..  Ah,.. What are you..  Ah,.. saying and .. Ah,.. what do you want? I - I - I ..only have twenty dollars.. - Ah ..TWENTY DOLLARS on me, Gee.. you can have it .. Ah.. all, ah.. HERE IT IS!

            Jane speaks up and says:

            Shumk, ty dumayesh', chto etot idiot - KGB?

            (Schumck, You think this idiot is KGB?)

            Alexi is totally confused. He slowly lowers his AK-47 as  Leonard says:

            Now, Ah, Just a minute here,..Ah.. You..You..two are speaking Po..Po.. POLISH? I, Ah, I, Ah mean.. what's this all

            Leonard makes a traditional Jimmy Stewart body language move with his hands on his hips and then rubbing his head. But before he can finish Jane quickly produces a sharp object and cuts his throat. Leonard falls and the gurgling sound of his choking on his own blood is breaking the silence in the Arboretum.

            He sounds like a kosher chicken being beheaded.

            A startled Alexi completely lowering his AK-47 speaking  English and says:

            He is Sergei Lenoniski, Enemy of The State!  But, who are you?

            "I am Sergei Lenoniski,”  Jane shouts with pride.

            Jane immediately responds as she produces a gun from out of nowhere a places one shot in the center of Alexi's forehead. The shot echoes for what seems to be forever as it segue-ways into Leonards cackling as Jane whispers:

            Der'mo Oni vsegda budut pytat'sya ubit' menya.

            (Shit, they're always going to try to kill me.)


            Jane runs to her car parked about a quarter mile down the access road to retrieve a shovel she has in her trunk. She has decided to temporarily bury the bodies until she can return to either cut them up and scatter the remains throughout the Midwest or dump them somewhere else. She also has to get rid of Leonard's car.

            This unfortunate situation is a major snafu in Jane's plan to escape into nowhere. How fucked up is it that she didn't know Leonard was actually communicating her? She was looking for a woman as a travel companion (while returning to her manly appearance.) She would then kill her overseas and assume her identity.

            She had no idea what was up with Leonard pretending to be a woman. She'll now have to show up at work and make up some story that Leonard called her this evening. He eloped to Las Vegas and won't be back for two weeks? That would work until she figured out some other story.

            And to add to it all, who the fuck is this Russian asshole? FSB or KGB?  She then relents: Kto dayet der’mo?  (Who gives a shit, anyway?)

            On second thought, she thinks, how did he stumble on her? Jane’s reassignment surgery was conducted in Colombia, years ago. Is her trail still warm? 

            Jane finishes hiding the two bodies and returns to her apartment by 10:30 PM. Luckily it is Friday evening and she has time to properly dispose of the bodies. She decides to take a quick shower and walk back to the Arboretum to retrieve Leonard's car.

            Jane has no idea how the Russian got to the Arboretum. Probably he took a taxi because she saw no other cars in the area. When she returns on foot she decides to disposes of the bodies and the car immediately in a junkyard that compacts autos. She has smashed up the windows and dented the car to look like it should be disposed of. It is at least 10 years old and looked like shit anyway.

            Jane gets home and is beat. She turns on the lights. Johnny Johnston is hiding behind the bedroom closet door. He watches her undress and starts to indulge in self-abuse. Johnny accidentally lets out a moan.

            Jane jumps up and quickly opens the closet door to see Johnny with his pants down and in a full state of arousal using her expensive body lotion.

            Jane then grabs Johnny and throws him over her shoulder. He lands on the bed in a state of shock. Jane then says:

            Johnny, what the fuck is this? You scared the shit out of me!

            Johnny looks up and has a frightened look on his face and then screams.

            Before she could react, Mr. Borsheck is behind her and sticks a long, sharp awl into the stem of Jane's brain. She gasps and says:

            Trakhat' Revolyutsiyu!

(Fuck the REVOLUTION!)

            Johnny looks up and is shocked. He is at a loss for words. He can't figure what's going on. Mr. Borsheck looks down and starts to cry. He sobs:

            Johnny, I've been watching you for a year now just undressing Jane with your eyes at work every day. It drove me crazy. I followed you here and I couldn't stand to think she could have you and I never will.

            He removes a .357 Caliber revolver from his overcoat and kills Johnny. He then places the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. His brains splatter all over the neat and tidy bedroom.




            Leonard’s car is never found. The suspicious missing Leonard is now the main suspect in the double murder. The police believe he set up the murder scene as part of a sexual perversion ring the victims were all involved in. It is sensational copy for the Chicago newspapers.

            The story is that Mr. Borsheck was about to embark on an affair with Jane when he found out she was a transexual. He showed up at her apartment when Jane was entertaining Johnny (He was found in bed with his pants down.) Leonard must have interrupted the party and killed them all because he thought Jane was three-timing him.  He must have loved Jane.

            Jane, classic take on The Kinks 1972 Album Lola.

            Bottom line: The cops believed Jane was a tranny ho.

            The FSB never hears from Alexi and is sending another Sputnik to find not only Alexi, but the elusive Sergei Lenoniski as well.  This Sputnik supposedly has a better chance to be successful because of the trail left by Alexi.

            This time the FSB selected a Sputnik with a wife and three children as insurance.

            Mrs. Borsheck is devastated (for public consumption.)  She soon marries Harper James. He now runs the Borsheck's small store for her. They vacation in Florida during the cold Chicago winters. She never realizes that Mr. Borsheck's plans for wintering in Florida were to include Johnny and not her. But she suspects something along those lines.

            On a bright and sunny afternoon, a large man enters the store. He is wearing a RED carnation and has an ominous look about him. He is Kiev Trotskovich, Alexi's pal from Brighton Beach.

            Harper, now in charge wears a RED carnation just to spite the memory of Leonard.  He approaches the man and asks if there is anything special he is looking for. The man keeps his stoic expression as he eyes Harper’s RED carnation and just murmurs:


            A chill runs up and down Harper's spine.  His RED carnation begins to wilt.

            Stephen A. Murray ’s first novel about  NYPD The Way Things Were is available on



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