circumstances, I’d tell you that was privileged information, need-to-know only, and you’d have to accept that.’ Rokva shrugged. ‘But in this case you’re owed an explanation. Farmer was in Tallinn at the time of the attempt on the President’s life, using the identity Martin Hughes. This you already know.’
    How did he know I knew? Before Lenilko had time to reflect on it, Rokva went on.
    ‘Farmer, or Hughes, is former MI6. His real name is John Purkiss. He’s the man who brought down the Black Hawk. He prevented the assassination of our President.’
    Lenilko sat very still. Inwardly, he reeled.
    ‘Very few people know this. Me, the other directors. The President himself. And now you.’
    After a few seconds Rovka gave a short laugh. ‘Your face... An officer of your experience shouldn’t be surprised by anything any longer, Semyon Vladimirovich.’
    ‘Sir, I –’
    Rovka continued as if Lenilko hadn’t spoken. ‘The British leaked Purkiss’s identity to us soon after the attack. Their logic was admirable. They knew we wouldn’t publicly admit that the life of our President had been saved by a British agent. The political embarrassment would have been enormous. But they made it clear that we owed them a favour. It’s a favour they have yet to call in. At minimum, though, we can’t allow Purkiss to come to grief at the hands of one of our assets.’
    ‘Director Rokva. May I speak freely?’
    Rokva waved a hand.
    ‘This man is a foreign agent operating on Russian soil. He cannot simply have carte blanche –’
    ‘The matter’s not open to negotiation. Purkiss is untouchable. And he will remain so until Britain declares war on us, or until we come up with a bargaining chip to trump theirs. I rather hope the second circumstance will prevail.’
    Rokva rose, Lenilko following suit.
    ‘Something else?’ asked the director.
    ‘Do you know the nature of the operation I’m conducting at Yarkovsky Station, sir?’
    ‘Yes. Broadly.’
    ‘Then you’ll know it involves a great deal of uncertainty. I don’t yet know who the targets are, or what their agenda is. This man Purkiss may possess crucial information.’
    Rokva, half a head shorter than Lenilko, seemed to tower over him. His voice barely above a murmur, he said: ‘I have made my orders clear. There is a fine line, Semyon Vladimirovich, between assertiveness and insubordination. I trust I won’t have to repeat myself.’
    ‘Understood, sir.’
    Forcing himself to keep his breathing under control, Lenilko emerged from the office. The two men who’d escorted him upstairs were waiting, and he allowed them to walk him through the lobby and towards the elevators. When the doors opened, he said over his shoulder, his voice as neutral but as authoritative as he could fashion it: ‘I’ll make my own way from here.’
    Alone in the elevator, he let his self-control slip, permitted his face to contract in a grimace of fury.
    He had to call Wyatt. Had to break the rule, and initiate the contact, thereby potentially putting Wyatt at risk of discovery, because who knew who else would be in the room with him when the phone rang? Lenilko had to call him, right now, because if he didn’t and Wyatt happened to take action against Farmer - Purkiss - Lenilko’s career would be over. As would the future wellbeing of Natalya and the twins.
    Olga... He remembered with a twist of pain that he’d been on his way home to see her when Rokva’s men had accosted him. Lenilko looked at his watch. Five forty. If he continued downwards, reaching the ground floor and heading out the doors, he could be home by six. Half an hour with Olga, listening to her account of the ballet exam, showering her with praise and affection, and then he’d be back in the office by seven.
    The elevator stopped elegantly. The digital indicator above the doors read: fourth floor. The doors opened.
    Lenilko hesitated a second.
    He stepped out.

    T hey crowded into the room, one

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