I went to the local high school track with my stopwatch. After warming up and stretching to prevent any pulled muscles, I lined up at the starting line and took off at full speed after starting the watch. Flying around the first curve I changed to a more controlled, yet still fast pace. Coming around the second curve, I reverted to just gutting it out. Fifty meters from the finish line my legs froze up and I could hardly lift them. I seemed to be barely moving while gasping for air. It felt like an eternity before crossing the finish line and stopping the stopwatch. My body was so deprived of oxygen it wanted to collapse on the ground but my mind fought off that feeling and I stayed erect, taking in as much air as possible, utterly exhausted. Continuing to walk around the track to slowly cool down, I eventually looked at the stopwatch. I had run the quarter mile track in 56.8 seconds -- not bad for an old man of forty-one years of age. Very few people could lift their own weight over their head or run a quarter mile under sixty seconds. I could do both. I felt better after sprinting the lap, but regrettably, it hadn't killed me. That meant I still had to tell Sunny I was leaving for several weeks! I was sitting on the couch half-heartedly petting Rommel as she walked in from work. Upon seeing my face, she asked, "What's wrong?" Apparently I'm not very good at hiding my feelings. "We need to talk," I replied. "Then you're leaving." "For the last time then we'll be together forever when I return, I promise. I told you I'd have to make one last trip. My work is basically over, I just have to cleanup some loose ends." "Tell me the truth. Will you be in any danger?" After a pause, "I don't think so, but I honestly do not know." "Then you could be imprisoned?" "No. In my profession, prison is not usually an option." "When are you leaving?" she asked as she walked over and put her head on my shoulder. "I'll put it off for a couple of days so we can say good-bye." "No, that's a bad word. We're never to say good-bye to each other. It sounds too final. Maybe 'til we meet again', or simply 'I love you.'" Now she was starting to cry softly. "Promise me you'll return to me." "I promise you as long as I have a breath of life in my body, I'll use all my energy to get back to you. I may have to send for you. Will you come?" "I'll go anywhere in the world for you. Is there anyway I can go with you now?" "No, I must do this alone." Then I said something I probably should have left unsaid. "Wait for me six months. If I'm not back -- get on with your life without me." "No! I've been waiting for a hero to come along ever since I was a little girl. Now that you're here, I'll wait forever for your return. Never, ever talk like that again!" She called in sick the next two days. It was the first time she had ever missed a day of work due to 'illness.' We spent every moment in each other's arms or making passionate love. Once in a while I remember eating. It was the fastest two days of my life. Our last night together we walked out onto her small backyard balcony and admired the full moon through a pair of binoculars. I pointed out the large flat area called Mare Tranquillitatis as I said, "That's where I hoped to set foot on the moon." "You were in the space program?" She asked. "Yes." "What happened?" "I left the program voluntarily to serve a greater purpose, after being persuaded by a person I thought to be a great man." "What could be a greater purpose than the space program?" "I can't tell you now." "Did it really turn out to be a greater purpose?" she continued. "Very much so." "What happened to the great persuader?" "He's gone now. We accomplished some amazing projects together in the past, but that all changed. In many ways, he reminds me of the archangel Lucifer turning into Satan. He had to be stopped." Realizing I needed to change the subject, I said, "Let's make the Sea of Tranquillity our point in the universe. No matter where each of us are, we can look at the Sea of Tranquillity and know the other is looking also." That last night we never slept. I could sleep on the plane. Two days later I was back in Moscow. After taking my bags to my apartment, I immediately went to my communications drop box and found a note. It read as follows:
I went to the local high school track with my stopwatch. After warming up and stretching to prevent any pulled muscles, I lined up at the starting line and took off at full speed after starting the watch. Flying around the first curve I changed to a more controlled, yet still fast pace. Coming around the second curve, I reverted to just gutting it out. Fifty meters from the finish line my legs froze up and I could hardly lift them. I seemed to be barely moving while gasping for air. It felt like an eternity before crossing the finish line and stopping the stopwatch. My body was so deprived of oxygen it wanted to collapse on the ground but my mind fought off that feeling and I stayed erect, taking in as much air as possible, utterly exhausted. Continuing to walk around the track to slowly cool down, I eventually looked at the stopwatch. I had run the quarter mile track in 56.8 seconds -- not bad for an old man of forty-one years of age. Very few people could lift their own weight over their head or run a quarter mile under sixty seconds. I could do both.
I felt better after sprinting the lap, but regrettably, it hadn't killed me. That meant I still had to tell Sunny I was leaving for several weeks!
I was sitting on the couch half-heartedly petting Rommel as she walked in from work. Upon seeing my face, she asked, "What's wrong?"
Apparently I'm not very good at hiding my feelings. "We need to talk," I replied.
"Then you're leaving."
"For the last time then we'll be together forever when I return, I promise. I told you I'd have to make one last trip. My work is basically over, I just have to cleanup some loose ends."
"Tell me the truth. Will you be in any danger?"
After a pause, "I don't think so, but I honestly do not know."
"Then you could be imprisoned?"
"No. In my profession, prison is not usually an option."
"When are you leaving?" she asked as she walked over and put her head on my shoulder.
"I'll put it off for a couple of days so we can say good-bye."
"No, that's a bad word. We're never to say good-bye to each other. It sounds too final. Maybe 'til we meet again', or simply 'I love you.'" Now she was starting to cry softly. "Promise me you'll return to me."
"I promise you as long as I have a breath of life in my body, I'll use all my energy to get back to you. I may have to send for you. Will you come?"
"I'll go anywhere in the world for you. Is there anyway I can go with you now?"
"No, I must do this alone." Then I said something I probably should have left unsaid. "Wait for me six months. If I'm not back -- get on with your life without me."
"No! I've been waiting for a hero to come along ever since I was a little girl. Now that you're here, I'll wait forever for your return. Never, ever talk like that again!"
She called in sick the next two days. It was the first time she had ever missed a day of work due to 'illness.' We spent every moment in each other's arms or making passionate love. Once in a while I remember eating. It was the fastest two days of my life.
Our last night together we walked out onto her small backyard balcony and admired the full moon through a pair of binoculars. I pointed out the large flat area called Mare Tranquillitatis as I said, "That's where I hoped to set foot on the moon."
"You were in the space program?" She asked.
"I left the program voluntarily to serve a greater purpose, after being persuaded by a person I thought to be a great man."
"What could be a greater purpose than the space program?"
"I can't tell you now."
"Did it really turn out to be a greater purpose?" she continued.
"Very much so."
"What happened to the great persuader?"
"He's gone now. We accomplished some amazing projects together in the past, but that all changed. In many ways, he reminds me of the archangel Lucifer turning into Satan. He had to be stopped."
Realizing I needed to change the subject, I said, "Let's make the Sea of Tranquillity our point in the universe. No matter where each of us are, we can look at the Sea of Tranquillity and know the other is looking also."
That last night we never slept. I could sleep on the plane.
Two days later I was back in Moscow. After taking my bags to my apartment, I immediately went to my communications drop box and found a note. It read as follows:
this Friday. Private plane will take us to
a mountain resort for celebration.
I suppose we were to assume the note was from Boss, but I knew that was impossible. It implied one plane would transport all the Doubles somewhere. Probably to be interrogated prior to being executed. Or, were we going to die in a plane crash? After all, executions might cause questions to be raised. Perhaps I should go down and investigate this plane. Since I stayed two days to be with Sunny it was already Thursday morning. That gave me only two days to check things out. I'd leave my transmitter in my apartment and carry along my fake KGB identification.
I drove down to the airport that afternoon at about 2 p.m. Using my KGB identification I easily passed through gate 102. It was a ground-level gate far off to one side of the airport, apparently to be used by private and military planes. All planes parked in the area now were government and military aircraft. The only aircraft present which made sense for a party of sixteen was an Antonov AN-26. The others were large transport planes. The AN-26 had been given a code name of "Curl" by NATO. It had a rear ramp for loading and unloading cargo. Some AN-26's had been adapted for carrying passengers. A work van was parked alongside this AN-26 and several men in zip up work suits were working on the plane.
Walking over to the group, I flashed my KGB badge to the first worker who approached me.
"Ah, KGB. You're here to check on the modifications?"
"Yes," I replied. "How's it going?"
"The receiver and antenna are already installed. Speed, rudder, and other controllers will be completed tomorrow and the transmitter to be used on the controlling plane is a portable unit."
Well that settled it -- they were preparing a drone to be flown into the ground or mountains. Now I needed to get out of here as soon as possible. I glanced around the inside of the aircraft quickly, then said, "Good work, I'll check back tomorrow." Then I quickly departed.
Now what was I going to do? They were going to kill us all. If I failed to show up there would be arrest warrants issued for me. Ideally, if I could get my transmitter on board then leave, they might believe I was killed. There would not be a lot of time wasted on individual body identification. If they saw all of us get on board, and the Russian and United States Doubles monitoring computer systems verified sixteen Doubles' transmitters on board, that would be proof enough. The plane would probably be loaded with gas and explosives. But how could I arrange this miracle?
Returning to my apartment, I looked up the Antonov AN-26 in an aviation book. In addition to the ramp access, it had an emergency exit on the floor behind the cabin door which was 1.02 x 0.70 meters (or 2' 4 1/2" x 2' 3 1/2"). That was a possibility.
That same day in Washington D.C., Henry Kissinger buzzed his personal secretary and asked her to step into his office. Premier Brezhnev had informed President Ford that soon all of the Doubles' transmitters would be brought together and silenced simultaneously. As she entered and stood before his desk, he asked without looking up, "Can you contact Cliff?"
After a pause she replied, "Cliff who?"
"Clifford Irwin Anderson."
"No, I don't know him," she replied as she reached up to wipe a tear from her eye.
"It's okay," replied her boss, now standing and turning to look out his office window as Sunny turned to go.
"If you can, tell him to be careful. He'll know what I mean."
Meanwhile, I was preparing for my latest adventure. I couldn't be positive as to where we were headed but assumed it would be mountainous and very cold. A long, hard survival trip needed to be prepared for if my assumption about the purpose of the flight was correct. If wrong, then everyone could have a good laugh at my expense. I modified my heaviest fur coat which also had an attached fur hood, by punching holes in the inside lining then pulling short fifteen-centimeter (about six inch) pieces of string through each hole. Each string was then tied around two chocolate candy bars. The bars should hold under the impact of a parachute opening. The same procedure was performed on the sleeves. My old sport parachute and emergency backup chute were in a storage chest. The sport chute was too bulky to hide under my coat but the emergency backup chute was half as large, so it would be used.
I purchased three sets of wool underwear and socks, two cans of jelly type charcoal lighter, a hunting knife, a compass, two boxes of matches, a magnifying glass, two white ski masks, two plastic bags with string ties to put around my shoes, and some strong twine. Punching several holes in the left sleeve of my heavy coat, the twine was pulled through the holes and tied in a knot, leaving about a half-meter section hanging from the sleeve. My sky diving harness would be worn and my emergency chute would be secured to it. My coat would cover and conceal the chute. Immediately before exiting the plane, the coat would have to be quickly removed from over my parachute. The string attached to the coat's left sleeve would be tied to my left wrist so we would not be separated during the exiting of the plane and dropping to earth.
My 9mm pistol, silencer, and a box of ammunition would also be taken. And of course, I would have my transmitter which would be left aboard the plane. Going to several banks, my safe deposit boxes were cleaned out. My checking account was left open so as not to attract attention to myself. In the various boxes were roughly 80,000 American dollars; 5,000 German marks; 20,000 Russian rubles; 3,000 French francs, and sixty gold Krugerrands. Placing the money into numerous small plastic bags, I stitched them into the pants legs of one of the wool undergarments. My larger nest egg was stored in two separate Swiss bank accounts.
It occurred to me that a small suitcase could be carried aboard without raising suspicion. Decent city clothes would not be taken. All my efforts would be geared around survival. When arriving at a town appropriate clothes would be purchased to blend in with the local citizens. The small suitcase was crammed full with high caloric foodstuffs, more candy bars, and a shaving razor. A set of handcuffs would be worn around my right wrist. Before exiting the plane the handle of the suitcase would be handcuffed to my right wrist after removing my coat.
Most of the remaining time was spent trying to think of anything that had not been prepared for and hoping that my seldom used emergency chute would work. It was an emergency chute which meant it was smaller than a regular chute and the descent would be faster with a correspondingly harder landing!
I was the last double to board the plane Friday afternoon. We boarded via the rear ramp which was lowered onto the runway. As I boarded K22 jokingly said I looked like a Russian bear in my heavy coat and that she would like to "get under my fur." Everyone was in a happy, partying mood as they believed this was to be a celebration for a job well done. If I was correct it would be their last flight.
Several vacant seats were up front behind the pilot's cabin near the floorboard emergency escape hatch which exited out the bottom of the Antonov AN-26. Turning sideways to enter my seat, I quickly attempted to turn the doorknob on the narrow door separating the passengers from the cockpit. It was locked as expected. A small, 15x20 centimeter eye level window had been painted over with black paint. However, the fools had painted it on the passenger side. If it wasn't painted on the pilot's side I could scrape some paint off with my pocket knife and peek through later.
Upon my entry, the rear ramp had been raised shut. All Doubles aboard one plane which probably does not have a pilot. Soon afterwards a pleasant voice requested us to fasten our seat belts in preparation for departure. A nice touch, I thought. The two propeller engines came to life and we were soon taxiing toward the runway. Reaching the end of the runway we turned and came to a stop. As the engines revved up and we started down the runway, another propeller driven plane could be seen taking off moments after we departed along a parallel runway a hundred meters away.
It was late afternoon as we lifted off the airfield and there was a possibility I might be spotted dropping from the plane. I strained to look out the passenger window and spot the other plane, but to no avail. Hopefully he was well above us. If he was directly behind us they would surely spot me.
We had at least a two and a half hour flight before reaching the foothills of the Ural Mountains. For the first ninety minutes we were in a slow climb to gain altitude over an oncoming storm. This altitude would be relatively safe until we reached the vicinity of the mountains. We finally broke out above the storm and the flight became smoother. I unbuttoned my seat belt two hours into the flight and fetched my pocket knife, pulling out the small blade.
Thirty minutes later I stood up and cupping my left hand to the small cabin window, quickly scratched a small peephole in the freshly dried paint. Looking through the hole there was no sign of a pilot or copilot. Moreover, the control stick between the two seats was making small movements by itself! That confirmed my suspicions, we were doomed! Looking through the cockpit and out the front windows of the plane the snow covered Ural Mountains could be seen in the distance. Better get down to business. I pulled my transmitter out of my pocket and jammed it down between the cushioned seats. So long D88!
Surely they're going to slam us into the mountains. What if they just dove us into the ground? Should I jump now? At least get ready. I unbuttoned my heavy fur coat and pulled my arms out of the sleeves leaving the coat draped over my shoulders so as not to expose the chute. Now that my coat was off, I handcuffed the carry-on suitcase to my right wrist. All I had to do was unlatch that door on the floor and jump into the short metal shaft. My weight would force the outside hatch open and I would fall out of their sight and be free.
Suddenly someone was talking to me. "Hi handsome, I'm not going to be so easy to get rid of this time."
It was K22 and she was standing on the escape hatch door. I didn't need this distraction. I replied with a pleasant smile, "We'll spend the night together, I promise." I stood up and looked through the peephole while holding my coat around me with the suitcase in my right hand. We were almost there -- perhaps a minute until impact.
"You won't believe what the pilot and copilot are doing," as I stepped aside, smiled, and pointed to the peephole. As she advanced two steps forward and peered into the peephole I immediately went down with my left hand and unsnapped the three latches which held the emergency escape door shut. Raising the door I dropped my legs into the exposed metal shaft and sat on the airplane's floor, holding my suitcase in my lap. Naturally this attracted a lot of attention and generated commotion among the other agents.
K22 turned around and grabbed for me as I slid off the floor and dropped feet first into the short shaft. A thud was felt as I dropped through the outside hatch. My coat and I instantly separated but the pull on my left wrist indicated we were still attached. The cold Siberian wind instantly sent shivers through every cell in my body. It was nearly nightfall but in every direction I could see only white! I couldn't judge my height! In panic I tried to pull the rip cord but wind catching the suitcase made it difficult to raise my right arm. Finally, I found and pulled the cord and soon afterwards felt the reassuring jolt as the opened chute suddenly stopped my uncontrolled fall.
The howling winds whipped me back and forth and around and around as I dangled helplessly from the parachute. When I was finally tossed around in the direction of the plane, I could see a fireball on the mountainside where our airplane had impacted and a second plane circling the crash site. Need to get down soon so as not to be seen, I thought.
It was nearly dark and I had difficulty judging my distance to the onrushing ground as everything was covered with snow. Suddenly my legs and body were crashing through snow covered tree limbs followed by a sudden jolt as my chute snagged on the trees and left my legs dangling in a snow bank.
It was so cold I could barely move my fingers but I somehow managed to pull the hunting knife from my shoe and cut myself from the chute. I fell a few feet into the snow bank and quickly put on the fur coat and buttoned every button, then pulled out the two ski masks and pulled them over my head, followed by the fur head cover of the coat. It seemed like an eternity before some body heat was generated inside the coat. Somehow I managed to get enough energy to pull the chute from the trees and wrap it over me. Being white, it would provide good camouflage with the newly fallen snow in the morning, as "rescue teams" would certainly be helicoptered in.
A spot which somewhat shielded me from the howling wind was found between two trees. Placing my back against the tree trunks in a sitting position covered by my fur coat and parachute, I tried to sleep to conserve energy. Sleep was difficult to come by that night.
It would have been great to put more distance between me and the crash site but that was impractical. I might not even survive the night by staying put.
That thought filled my mind with a new panic. What about Sunny? Tears began to fill my eyes. Snap out of it, I thought. Stay positive, do everything you can to get back to Sunny. That's my goal. I tried to explain things to her before leaving. Perhaps I should have told her more. She was always so insecure. Always thinking I would someday leave her. Now it had happened!
It suddenly occurred to me that I was a changed man. I had never been afraid of death. In fact, reviewing my life I seemed to have been seeking an early end, tempting death on many occasions. However, I had never even suffered a serious injury. Now I was totally different, wanting desperately to stay alive. I had a reason to live. Her name was Sunny! It didn't matter how much suffering or misery I had to endure -- as long as I survived to see her again.
I began to dwell on the fact that coming back had been a big mistake. Boss didn't come back. They would have to take the word of the United States that he was dead. However, the KGB might forever be on the lookout for him. I couldn't do that to Sunny. We needed a completely new start. They saw me get on the plane, they saw the plane crash and burn, and my transmitter is in the small remaining heap of rubble. If they did not see me jump and if I can safely get out of Russia, then it's the perfect situation. In any event it's a done deal, I'm here now. Although totally miserable I somehow managed to slowly fall into a state of sleep, hoping I would awake alive in the morning.
Hours later the sound of the howling wind was joined by the sound of choppers flying overhead. How can that be? It's still dark. Then I realized I was covered by the parachute and enough snow to block out the sunlight. The storm front which had been moving through had covered me with a foot of snow.
I managed to pull out a chocolate bar and tried to eat it. However, the energy required to eat the frozen bar was greater than the energy received from it.
The best plan for me that day was to remain under the snow. There would probably be no overland search crew unless they had seen me exit the plane. If I went traveling about they could easily see my tracks from the air. If they saw any signs of life they would surely investigate as no sane person would be on the side of this mountain in this winter storm. I would stay put until at least nightfall and then perhaps try to negotiate my way down the mountain side.
My plan was to head toward Gorkiy on the Volga River. Gorkiy was approximately 320 kilometers east. Under normal circumstances that trip could be made leisurely on foot in seven or eight days. But now a blizzard was raging and it was rapidly worsening. The trip to Gorkiy needed to be made without anyone helping or seeing me. If a stranger was reported in the area the crash site might be investigated more carefully. I settled down to another long, cold, boring day. By late afternoon all sounds of planes and helicopters had disappeared. Hopefully, they had convinced themselves that there were no survivors.
I could not know it at the time but that is exactly what was being reported on the hot line that day to President Gerald Ford. He summoned Secretary of State Kissinger into his office and told him the news. Henry asked specifically about me and was informed I had been onboard the plane. In addition, his Doubles tracking system had seen all sixteen surviving Doubles come together at the airport in Moscow, then move towards the Ural Mountains at high speed, when simultaneously all transmitters stopped transmitting their signals. Henry had suspected the worst even before being called into the oval office.
Henry dejectedly returned to his office and pondered whether or not to inform Sunny regarding the bad news. Finally he pressed down on the intercom button and asked her to step into his office.
He couldn't face her. He was standing looking out his office window as she entered. "Yes sir?" she questioned.
After a hesitation he began slowly, "We've had a report of a plane ... There's an unconfirmed report of a plane crashing in the Ural Mountains during a blizzard. Initial reports are that there are no survivors." Now he paused again and took a deep breath.
"Yes?" Sunny asked softly.
"We have reason to believe Cliff was one of the passengers."
"No," she responded as moisture started to fill her eyes. "He promised he would return to me. No, it isn't possible." Now she was supporting herself with her hands on his desk and sobbing. Henry turned and walked the few steps toward her. He placed his hand over hers.
"I can't tell you what he did, but he was the greatest man I've ever known!"
"I know," she said. "He's still a great man."
"Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for a friend. And even more so if he does it anonymously," Henry continued. "Cliff saved millions of lives while asking nothing in return." Now she was sobbing with her head on his chest and his arms around her. He whispered into her ear, "Take the rest of the week off."
After she composed herself somewhat she responded, "No, I have work to do. Everything will be fine. As long as he has one breath in his body he'll use it to come for me. I know it. I'll be fine," as she headed for the door.
Reaching the door, she paused, turned and asked, "If we're so powerful why can't we help him? Why can't you do something to help him?"
Henry walked over to the coat rack and reached for his overcoat. Coming back to Sunny he replied, "I could if he was an American citizen." He noticed the puzzled look which came across her face. "I thought you knew. I'm sorry."
After a pause he continued, "Cancel my appointments for this afternoon. I'm too upset to work." Then he slowly left the office.
Just before dark I judged it sufficiently safe to come out of my snow cocoon. Except for the howling wind not a sound had been heard for hours. The weather seemed to be quickly worsening so I needed to get started. Removing the parachute and snow from my face I could see it was snowing heavily. The swirling, howling wind made the snow travel parallel to the ground at times.
The severe cold immediately seized my body as I departed the snugness of my two protective tree trunks. My entire body was stiff from sitting still all day under the cold snow. This will be a challenge!
I did not realize the scope of the challenge until three or four hours later as I was about to loose consciousness. The weather had continued to worsen and I was experiencing hypothermia. Soon I would have to rest but if I sat down I might never get up again. The area I was presently stumbling around in was a relatively flat area with a few scattered remnants of trees. Quickly I came to another of the many sudden drops which led down to another small rocky flat area. It was extremely difficult to see because of the darkness and the storm clouds hiding the light from the moon. This steep sloping area would provide limited shelter from the storm.
Discovering what appeared to be some type of indentation in the snow covered slope, I fell into the indentation backwards and spread the chute over my front to be covered quickly with snow. I would soon be somewhat protected from the wind but I was still slowly freezing.
A few hours later I could no longer feel my feet. My mind tried to wiggle my toes but they would not move. There's no way I'm going to survive this night. That realization brought a new serenity to me. But that serenity was short lived as I thought about Sunny and my promise to return. My pain would be over by morning but Sunny's would continue the rest of her life. I couldn't even see our Sea of Tranquillity due to the storm. All I wanted at that moment was to see our spot in the universe once again before dying. That's all I asked. But who was I kidding? This blizzard would last for days and perhaps even weeks.
I could not let Sunny believe she had been abandoned again. She still felt guilty about being taken advantage of in two previous relationships. Damn it, I would not be her third strike, even if I had to crawl out of this damn wilderness on frost bitten feet! But although I was mentally prepared to suffer any consequences, the physics for survival simply were not present. Everything around me was below freezing and it was sucking the heat from my body faster than it could be replaced. I needed outside intervention, it was out of my hands. There was nothing I could do!
Throughout my life I had never met one obstacle which I thought was insurmountable. Now that time had come. It was over for me -- out of my hands. And being raised in an atheistic nation, I had no higher authority I could call on for help. I could only go as far as my abilities allowed. My present situation was simply beyond my ability to survive. That was a fact!
Moving in and out of consciousness, my mind recalled my pledge made to Sunny that "her God would be my God." In desperation, I had a short talk with her God in my head. I didn't ask much, and I certainly did not ask anything for me personally. After all, would He even know me? The number of times I had prayed during my entire life could be counted on a few fingers of one hand. I asked for the one item most important to me. "Dear God, send someone to protect and watch over Sunny. Someone who will love her as much as I do. She's a wonderful person and she loves you. Let her know I love her with all my heart and I tried to return to her." Having done everything within my power, I was content to die.
I felt totally at peace as I closed my eyes tightly and saw a small brilliant white circle slowly becoming larger. As curious and anxious as I was to go through the tunnel of white, some autonomous portion of my brain sensed a muffled rumble. The white circle receded as my brain differentiated that the sound wasn't the wind. Is the mountain moving? Am I hallucinating? The white tunnel of light was returning as I heard the rumbling again. This time I was convinced it originated behind me. Reaching my nearly frozen left arm around I pushed into the snow behind me. After a few feet I didn't have to push anymore. My frozen fingers and hand felt no more resistance! There was an air pocket behind me. As quickly as possible in my condition, I pulled snow away or pushed it into the air pocket until I fell through the opening. The indentation in the snow was covering the opening to a cave!
As my nose began to thaw a horrible odor could be smelled, which my nose eventually became accustomed to. In any event, I was not going to leave this shelter. I wiggled my hands and fingers until some dexterity returned, then fumbled around in my pockets until my small pocket flashlight was located. Switching it on, I discovered I was indeed in the entrance to a small cave. Cautiously creeping forward the cave abruptly came to an end about twenty feet into the mountain, and there lying asleep was a large hibernating bear! That explained the noise I had heard. I quickly switched off the flashlight and fumbled around for my 9mm pistol. My first thought was to quickly put four or five rounds into his head before he awoke and killed me, then lay around his body and absorb some of his heat.
I'm glad I had second thoughts. If he were dead he would eventually get cold. If he stayed alive he would continue to generate heat from his fat reserve. Since he's hibernating he's not likely to wake up for awhile. I was certainly going to die outside! Why not risk snuggling up to this bear? At least I wouldn't freeze to death. I took the handcuffs from my right wrist and set the suitcase near the snow covered cave entrance. Then feeling my way along the floor, I crawled back into the cave until the thick fur of the bear could be felt. Ever so slowly I snuggled up to the bear, my right hand clutching my 9mm. But the pistol was never to be needed. Aside from a few groans and moans, he made a perfect roommate. That bear was to save my life. Soon I was sufficiently comfortable and fell asleep.
In the morning I discovered that day could be distinguished from night because a faint glow would appear at the cave entrance from the small amount of sunlight which penetrated the storm clouds and the snow door. Having decided to remain in the safety of the cave until the storm passed, I decided to count the days. I set a bullet on a small ledge each time we changed from the total darkness of night to the near darkness of day. My appetite now returned and I ate chocolate bars regularly. Not wanting any human evidence remaining behind, the wrapping papers were wadded up and pushed into my pockets.
It seemed like an eternity but finally one morning the light coming from the snow covered cave entrance was much brighter than usual. The storm had ended! I went over to the door and dug a small fist sized hole through the snow. Through the hole could be seen bright sunlight and blue sky! I was so excited I could have turned a back flip. Six bullets had been placed on the ledge by this time. It had been six days. I fetched my belongings and prepared to leave, but remained in the warmth of the cave until the sun had time to warm the cold outside air. At midday I dug a hole through the door and stepped out into a brisk but beautiful day. It was cold but definitely survivable. I filled the door back up with snow. I owed that to my new friend.
The storm had moved through and left a beautiful, cold, totally calm day. That night as the moon appeared in the clear night sky I looked up and there it was, our spot in the universe! Eight days later I was on the outskirts of Gorkiy. I checked into a cheap hotel, had a large hot meal, and collapsed into bed.
The next step of my plan was to make my way to Leningrad on the Baltic Sea. There I hoped to bribe my way aboard a ship bound for Cuba. Russians could still come and go fairly freely in Cuba. From Cuba it was easy to get to Mexico. I would contact Sunny from Mexico and have her join me.
In the meantime I cleaned up my appearance, purchased new clothes and an overcoat, and trashed my survival clothes. The next day with my upgraded appearance I changed to a nicer hotel.
Leningrad was a little over six hundred kilometers north of Gorkiy. Instead of flying I decided to take slower but more common travel modes. Flying was still for the upper middle class and above, and I did not want to draw attention to myself. By riverboats on the Volga river and by train I made my way through the small towns of Dzerzhinsk, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Andropov, and Tikhvin before reaching Leningrad.
I hung around the docks and bought many a captain and first mate drinks at bars around the waterfront area before finally making a deal. They weren't interested in the paper money, but when a gold Krugerrand was flashed on the table their drunken eyes lit up. Our deal ended up being sixty Krugerrands. Thirty when I came aboard and thirty which I claimed to have stored in a bank safe deposit box in Havana. That way the urge to rob me and throw me overboard was somewhat diminished. They had an incentive to get me to Havana. At Havana, they would accompany me to the bank.
Their ship was a bulk sugar hauler. On its trip to Cuba it would take various merchandise. It would return full of bulk raw Cuban sugar for which Russia paid several times the current world market price. This was our way of propping up the Cuban economy following the United States boycott of Cuba.
I would dress and act like one of the merchant marine sailors handling the ship. Generally, I just maintained a low profile. Our trip required about sixteen days.
After safely getting off the ship we took a taxi downtown. I opened the small suitcase wide enough for the captain and first mate to see the 9mm pistol and attached silencer. Reaching in with my left hand I retrieved the remaining thirty gold Krugerrands and handed them to the captain. "Thanks for a pleasant trip," I said, as they were dropped off at a bar and the taxi driver proceeded to take me to a hotel.
My various forged ID's and substantial money was all I needed to get a flight into Mexico City the next day. I did not risk bringing the 9mm and silencer. Each was placed into separate trash bins in Havana.
Arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, I immediately stopped at the Aeromexico ticket counter and purchased three tickets for Sunny Holiday from Washington D.C. to Cozumel, Mexico. The tickets were for separate flights on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings. The ticket agent also confirmed reservations for her at the El Presidente Hotel.
I addressed three envelopes to Sunny. They were all air mail special delivery. That way, as soon as they arrived at the Washington D.C. post office they would have to make an attempt to deliver each letter. One was mailed immediately, and the others were mailed at five-hour intervals. That way they would be placed on different airplanes, and require three trips by the post office in Washington D.C. Surely one of them would safely reach her. Each envelope contained an airline ticket, hotel reservation, and a simple printed note reading:
I'M SENDING FOR YOU !!
After mailing the three envelopes I asked a taxi driver to take me to one of Mexico City's better jewelry stores, where I shopped for an engagement ring and wedding band, eventually choosing a yellow gold ring with a solitary 1.75 carat diamond. The matching double banded wedding ring served as a ring guard, with the engagement ring resting between the two bands. It reminded me of Sunny; uncomplicated, yet exquisite and beautiful.
Having completed my business in Mexico City, I made arrangements to fly to the beautiful gulf island paradise of Cozumel. Upon arrival, I rented a Volkswagen bug and drove to the El Presidente Hotel.
I bought a colorful cap, sunglasses, and local clothes at the San Miguel town square and checked each flight arriving from the United States in case she might have changed to an earlier flight.
I should have given more credit to the postal service as all three envelopes were delivered. When the first postal truck stopped in front of her townhouse with its safety lights blinking it was 6 p.m. She was surprised, but signed for the special delivery. Upon opening it she fell on her knees near the couch thanking God for answering her prayers. She felt faint she was so happy. As she lay on the floor looking up at the ceiling in disbelief, Rommel came over and began licking her face. She grabbed him and they started rolling on the floor kissing each other.
She was shouting, "He's back! He's back! He's back!" and Rommel was barking. Three hours later the second envelope arrived and the third was delivered the next morning.
The next day at work she could not restrain her joy. In the weeks following the plane crash she had not been the happy, joyful, beautiful creature everyone was accustomed to seeing. Her coworkers noticed the sudden change in her disposition this morning. Finally, Secretary Kissinger rang and asked her to step into his office.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes sir. I'm great, but I may need to take next week off. I've been under a lot of stress lately. I'm ready for a vacation." Her usual pretty smile was back as well as that constant sparkle in her eyes.
Henry said nothing but continued staring at her.
Finally, she broke the stalemate by asking, "Will that create any problems?"
"No," followed by more silence.
Secretary Kissinger slowly rose from his desk chair and said, "My God, he's back! Cliff's back. He has to be."
"Cliff died in a plane crash," she responded with a smile which reached from ear to ear while tears welled up in her eyes.
Henry couldn't restrain himself any longer. He hurried around the desk and gave her a big bear hug. "Thank God," he said again. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"I can't breathe," Sunny replied.
Henry turned around and quickly scribbled down the emergency twenty-four hour computer controlled phone number he had set up for Cliff to use. It had not as yet been disconnected. He also wrote down a name.
"Here, call me at this number if you have any problems in Mexico. He will recognize the number. Ask for this man at the American Embassy in Mexico City. I'll have everything taken care of. Now that he's in our neighborhood, I can help him. Call me before you go to the embassy to make sure everything is in order."
"How do you know I'm going to Mexico?"
"Just a hunch."
Proceed to Chapter Eighteen. Table of Contents. Questions or comments?