Moscow, Russian Federation
President Anatoly Popov may have been in his late fifties, but he projected an outward persona of phony youth. His head was shaved bald, but prominent on his face was a Van Dyke beard that had been died a black so deep and rich that it seemed out of place in such close proximity to the crow’s feet around his eyes. His frame was lean and muscular. His suit? The best his ill-gotten gains could buy.
In his private box that overlooked the Moscow Opera House, the president sat next to his mistress, a raven-haired beauty twenty-five years his junior. Together, they watched as an obese woman in a Viking helmet took to the stage and broke out into song. Her voice was elegant, like that of a songbird trapped in human form.
“Mother Russia! Mother Russia! You just got the 1980s action TV show last week. Jan Michael Vincent is…”
The proverbial fat lady stopped. She coughed to clear her throat, then started again. “Ahem. Jan Michael Vincent is…”
No, no one would have ever dared to mention to the president that his date for the evening was most definitely not Mrs. Popovich, nor would they ever rebuke the most powerful man in the nation for allowing his cell phone to disrupt such a rousing rendition of Mother Russia.
While most people would have felt embarrassed while fumbling for their phone’s off button, Popov simply raised his pointer finger, which brought the entire production to a halt. The fat lady, her supporting cast, and even the audience went dead silent as the president answered his phone.
“Mr. President,” came Carmichael’s voice on the other end of the line. “We have mission success.”
“Wonderful,” the president said. “Official story?”
“Not entirely false, Mr. President,” Carmichael said. “The traitor leaked much gas on his way out.”
“Ha,” Popov said. “Very well. Bring Ivan to Gadooba.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry?”
“I did not stutter,” Popov said.
“But Mr. President,” Carmichael said. “Ivan is so big already.”
“He must get bigger,” Popov said.
“Sir,” Carmichael said. “It’s just that…”
“I do not give orders twice,” Popov said.
Popov hanged up his phone. He waved his hand, a sign for the show to go on.
The fat lady picked up where she left off. “Jan Michael Vincent is the best! Anyone who disagrees is a freak!”