They had told her the sidewalk outside Ustinov’s apartment was stained with the tears of his one-night stands.
Informally, he was a chistilshchik, a “mechanic,” an executioner of the Russian secret service. In the KGB years, this department was known variously as the Thirteenth Department or Line F, or simply as mokroye delo, “wet work.” During the height of the Cold War, Line F had managed kidnappings, interrogations, and assassinations, but in the new SVR such things were said not to be even remotely contemplated or condoned. Granted, fractious Russian journalists were found shot in Moscow elevators, or regime critics succumbed to high concentrations of radionuclide polonium in their livers, but that had nothing to do with the modern Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. The age of the “umbrella pokers” had passed.