One at a time. One thing at a time - one step at a time. One match at a time.
That's all we can ever do. That's all I'm doing right now. In order to get to where I want to get to, I've gotta take it one step at a time. I'm still in because of that.
It shocks me how many Russian expats and immigrants have taken up residence in one building in Miami if places. Then again, I can get it. Especially given the close proximity to Cuba. Communism, man. The Soviet Union and Cuba had a strong relationship during the Cold War simply because they shared not just communism in common, but the disdain of the United States. Nothing brings people together like being hated by the same people.
Cuba created a nice skipping stone for those fleeing the USSR or Russia, thanks to very loose and non-existent Visa requirements. Russians can hop on one of those little rafts and play the wet foot-dry foot game. Or just roll in under the cover of darkness and disappear into the masses.
Much like Russian operatives did all throughout the Cold War and after. Some still do it, sneak in under the cover of darkness on stealth ships or small, unassuming fishing vessels, meet contacts already established, and go about their sinister secret lives. Nowadays, though, a foriegn agent just flies in on a jet, completely known to the government, just not as an agent, and lives freely. That Butina chick proves it. It was so easy for her and for so many others to infiltrate and influence the government, organizations, and people all while feeding information back to their motherland.
For all I know, I could be standing amongst 10 of them right now, if not more. Everyone here could be an undisclosed, unknown, unregistered agent of a foreign entity. The Russians have had their people in this country since before the Cold War and they're still here. In increased numbers since Putin, a former KGB agent who worked undercover on multiple occasions in foreign operations, has taken command of the country.
A cacophony of conversations carry on around on me. Almost none of which I can understand or join in on. I don't understand Russian and I never have. Porshe has tried many times to teach me phrases and words, but my brain just can't get it.
The file for languages must be full.
Mac and his cohorts don't seem to get that. But, you know, right time and right place. This is the kind of shit I'm supposedly good at, or so they say. All that remains to be seen. Either way, they've entrusted me with a whole lot of goodies and a mission.
It doesn't matter that I can't understand or speak Russian, there's a small, flesh colored speaker hidden in my ear that talks to my phone and then talks to me. My fancy, suped up phone streams back to Mac and his tech team, letting them listen in, track me, and have access to the camera as needed.
Y'all thought Google was bad, well, lemme tell y'all.
There's a panic word, a panic button, and extraction team posing as maintenance workers on the next street over. Should my phone fail or I lose possession of it, they'll wipe it and I'll resort to other means. Ian Fleming wasn't too far off when he wrote about those gadgets and doohickies that M would create for Bond…
My cigarette lighter, in the style of a zippo, doubles as a powerful taser like device capable of incapacitating a full-grown man, there's a lockpick my left shoe and decoder in my right shoe, a garrote built into my ring, my earrings are diamond to cut glass, my necklace converts into a USB drive, handcuff key built into my shoelaces, my bra - and this is the best one - holds a long, sharp knife, and my watch has two acid capsules inside the back, a small hacksaw blade in the band, a GPS tracker, and a high-pitched siren that's more meant to scare than disable. Many of these tools are not meant for fighting, but escape and evasion.
These are also almost completely the same tools that an agent would have carried a century ago. Perhaps not the phone or taser or GPS, but everything else… Not much has changed in the basics of the spy game. The good old low tech tools never fall.
The best tool an agent carries is their mind.
It's the only tool they really need.
What I find even more mysterious is that everyone from this apartment building has gathered on the small patch of well-managed lawn in front of it and the parking spots. All ages, all genders, their lawn chairs spread out, small plastic tables here and there, coolers full of beer, wine, vodka, soda, juice… A manly man mans the grill as if it were his sworn duty and destiny to flip those burgers, spin those hot dogs, turn the sausages, and poke the kabobs.
I stand off to the side, watching, looking for faces from the files they had me read and memorize. In less than 72-hours I learned more than anyone should comfortably know about Russia spies and their organization, the Russian mob, and what all of them do and want in the United States.
We gonna find out if it's helpful.
Porshe steps up to me, hands me a beer. "Are you not having fun?"
I smile. "No, no. I'm having fun."
"Do not lie, AJ," she says. "You're not very good at it."
Oh, girl, if only you knew.
"I just don't know anyone here," I explain. "I don't speak Russian, either."
She chuckles. "Everyone here speaks English, too."
"I still don't know anyone," I say and sip my beer.
"Okay, so let me fix this," she says, turning to stand beside me. "That's Olga and Mickey," she says, pointing to an older couple settled into lawn chairs in the shade. "Mikhail is on the grill. Nic is telling Mikhail how to grill. Sergie…"
Her finger lands on a shirtless brute leaning up against a chain link fence, smoking a cigarette, half listening to the two men talk near him.
As I stare at him, my brain makes a sudden connection. His mugshot staring back at me, the details about him right next to it. I try very hard to recall the details. I have to sort through the muck and mud, bullshit details that are meaningless right now. Drunk and disorderly, possession of a controlled substance, known to participate in underground fight clubs, for hire tough guy… Not a spy.
"He's handsome, huh?" Porshe says.
I shrug, sip my beer to waste time. "If you're into that."
"Oh, I am," she says.
"Um, alright," I mutter.
Two little kids come rushing by, laughing and screaming, dripping wet from the sprinkler. They rush up to meet a late arrival. A long, thin blonde man comes up to curb. He's wearing a pair of shorts, a linen button-up, and brown penny loafers. Dark sunglasses hide most of his face. The children jump on him, knocking his sunglasses off and exposing his face.
Connection is made.
Now that's a suspected Russian agent living in the United States.
A hoopla erupts as people begin to see him. A popular fella, I see. He is cleaned, polished, put together well. A natural tan from the Florida sun. His clothes are designer. Icy blue eyes. Sharp features, high cheeks, all perfectly proportioned and symmetrical. A great smile, although his teeth aren't overly straight and bear the yellow stains of heavy smoking. His pictures serve him no justice. But what kind of justice can be served by black and white surveillance photos.
I clear my throat. "Who's that?"
A tiny smirk erupts on her face. "Roman." She cannot stop staring at him. Nobody can look away from him, actually. Including me. There is just something about him that lures you in and won't let go. I can sure as shit tell you that he gets his information using charn and good looks.
It's a method that works.
But it's a method that doesn't work on a lesbian that was raised in the South where every man had a bright smile and thought he was charming.
Come and get it big boy.
Like I said I was gonna do, I won. I kept myself alive and in it for one more week. This week won't be any different. Because kids, I'm on precarious footing. At least in my world. In my world, I can't afford another loss. One loss was more than enough for me. Any more and I might as well pack it in.
So, Mr. Nathan Paradine, you won't be beating me and helping me pack my gear. Nope, I'm riding this thing out until the end. I want that title shot. I want to win this. I'm not dragging my ass around the world for nothing. Maybe some of y'all are, because fuck, it's a free vacation and a chance to see the world, and all you gotta do is work for about a half-hour. But I've seen the world, I've come to wrestle and win.
Bitches better be ready.
Ha. Who am I kidding? Y'all's can't be ready for this.
One step, one match, one win at a time. Listen, Mr. Paradine, it ain't personal. I'm gonna win and go my own way. You're gonna lose and go away. It's how this shit works, buddy boy. Now, now, don't be sad and don't you dare roll over and die on me. I want a fight. If you ain't gonna give it your best then fuck it.
I won't tolerate nothing but the best from you. See, so when you I do defeat you, you can't say shit about not being at your best. I'm the better here, plain and simple.
So I'll see you there, Paradine.