Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Conflict resolution'




When we last left our heroes, at least some of them, they were embroiled in conflict. There was conflict between Pete and his mother, whom he accused of infidelity -- with good reason. There was conflict between Pete and Lena, who accused him -- with good reason -- of being a liar and a user.


There was conflict between Pete and his lawyer, who thought -- with good reason -- that Pete was getting himself into ever more trouble. There was conflict between the lawyer and his ex-wife Tanya, because there is always good reason for conflict between former spouses.


How do we struggle out of a fight like that? Well, we could place our faith in disaster, natural or man-made. There could be a gas explosion and the building would collapse, burying all conflict. But, this being the Metropol, it would seem less than plausible. Or there could be a deadly hurricane that would cause all five to huddle together in sudden peace and love, but who's ever heard of a hurricane in Moscow? If we wanted to go for something drastic, Pete's father could burst into the hotel room, causing a surge of loving remorse in his philandering wife.


But that would be a bit too much.


What actually happened was that the door opened and in walked the man in the seersucker suit, the former Soviet ambassador to London and one of Pete's Viagra buyers. "I realized where I'd seen your face," he said to Pete. "I would like to speak with you." He gave Pete a meaningful look, then turned to the others with a mildly pleading look.


"I'm his lawyer," Mikhail Mikhaylovich responded immediately.


"I'm his manager," Tanya Mikhaylovich added.


"I'm his mother," Nancy Singer inserted.


"I'm his fiancee," stated Lena.


"We're not leaving," Tanya concluded.


"Well, glad to make your acquaintance," Mr. Seersucker smiled.


"I realized I'd seen your picture in connection with the spying story," Mr. Seersucker began. "The whole story is exceedingly clear to me."


Mikhail Mikhaylovich leaned forward. The attentive reader will remember that he long ago figured out how Pete must have ended up facing espionage charges. Pete, however, wanted none of it: He preferred to think the Russians decided to levy charges against him because he seemed to know too much, and this was simply thanks to his situation.


"Would you mind introducing yourself?" Nancy Singer interjected. "I mean, now that you've made our acquaintance?"


"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Mr. Seersucker. "My name is Andreis Vladimirovich Petrovsky. Retired ambassador. May I continue?"


"Go on," said the magnanimous Nancy Singer.


"Very well. Here is what happened, I believe. Peter, you were writing for an English-language edition of a Russian magazine, right?"


"Right."


"Well. That's a godsend to the people who prepare embassy press digests. Many of them don't have a very good command of Russian, but here they have the Russian media presenting its views in English."


"OK," Pete allowed. This was not yet very threatening.


"Russian counterintelligence loves these digests and all sorts of other documents that are produced by embassy analysts. They are easy to obtain, and they appear to give a glimpse of the embassy's views. So they start to collect these things."


"OK," Pete responded, somewhat less confidently this time.


"When your articles started appearing, they caused a bit of a stir. They were so outrageously naive and ill-informed, they made people think the author must know something they didn't"


"Oh," said Pete.


"They were passed around in counterintelligence circles, the counterintelligence community, as you Americans might say, and whatever is hot like that usually draws attention from the White House."


"The White House?" Pete squeaked incredulously.


"The Russian White House, Peter."


"Oh."


"And the Kremlin. And this is how you ended up inventing Prime Minister Kiriyenko. And becoming a 'spy.'"


"Oh."


"Listen, getting the FSB to drop a case is usually a lost cause. But I think I can talk to my friends at the Foreign Ministry and make them aware of what an embarrassing scandal this could become, especially on the eve of the summit, especially, if you forgive my saying so, in light of your close relationship to the United States ambassador."


And this was when Pete Singer's father suddenly burst into the room.


Just kidding. Actually, this is when Lena addressed the man in the seersucker suit: "Mr. Petrovsky, I have wanted to speak with you for a long time. Pete, I think that what this man has just proposed is the least he can do for our family. He owes us."