Meetings of KGB Spetsbureau 13 took place in a well-appointed conference room on the fourth floor of the fortified Lubyanka building in central Moscow. The large conference table was always well-appointed with dossiers and information direct from the archives, as well as boxes of imported luxury cigarettes provided for the comfort of participants.

Colonel Shchusev, chairing the meeting, always brought his own smokes: a battered pack of Belomorkanals (“the strongest cigarette in the world” as he proudly called them). The Colonel had been smoking that brand since he had been a Young Pioneer, and he wasn’t about to give it up in favor of the effete European brands on the table. The meeting didn’t begin until Shchusev’s Belomorkanal was lit.

“In the dossier in front of you,” he said through a cloud of smoke and yesterday’s bottle, “is about one Katalin Kovácha, daughter of Lázár Kovách. That name ring any bells?”

“He’s the premier of the People’s Republic of Banat,” said Captain Osadchy across the table. “Took Dourai’s post in ’54 after having the old premier shot, wasn’t it?”

“The very same,” said Shchusev. “It seems that Premier Kovách is a doting father and widower that can deny his only child nothing. She’s never known anything but the sweet life of Banatian largesse, and Daddy has made her both his heir apparent and his acting minister for the arts.”

“Oh dear,” mumbled Major Gorelov at Shchusev’s right hand. “Another spoiled brat like Brezhneva?”

“Worse,” said Shchusev, tapping his copy of the dossier. “It’s not just parties and drinking and self-gratification. Look at these receipts and travel logs: using state funds to travel to an ashram in India for a month. Using state funds to travel to Mexico for a ‘spirit quest.’ Using state funds to bring Salvador Dali to Banat for an art show.”

“And she’s the one Kovách wants to take over Banat when those polyps in his colon finally kill him?” sighed Osadchy. “This is where we come in, I assume.”

“That is correct.” Shchusev expelled a cloud of noxious smoke. “Until recently it was an internal matter that we trusted the Banatians to handle as a family squabble. But it has recently become a matter of state concern. As your folders show, gentlemen, Katalin Kovácha will be announced as vice-premier on 1 November during Lázár Kovách’s annual Independence Day speech in Timisoara.”

Gorelov thumbed through his copy, grimacing. “Psychics, telepaths, gurus, New Age quacks, yoga…is there any psuedo-spiritual religious fad she hasn’t thrown herself and her father’s funds into? I agree with Colonal Shchusev. This woman cannot be allowed to wield political power in any form beyond staging art shows.”

“So, what’s it to be, then?” said Osadchy. “Scandal? Expose an affair? Manufacture one with a handmaiden? A preemptive beating?”

“Death,” said Shchusev gravely. “The order has been countersigned by the Chairman, who you all know has the confidence of the General Secretary. The task laid before us, gentlemen, is to dispose of Katalin Kovácha in a covert, wet operation before 1 November…and to make it look like an accident.”

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