Operation Petrograd

Nick Carter


Operation Petrograd

Dedicated to the men of the Secret Services of the United States of America


This was a hectic day even by Tokyo standards. The American embassy was on emergency footing because of the impending visit by President Reagan. Paul Tibbet, presiding over the special security meeting in the screened room, fiddled with the note pad in front of him. The President's every move, from the moment he landed aboard Air Force One until he left three days later, had been planned in minute detail. Boring to Tibbet, who was the number-two man for CIA operations in Japan, but necessary nevertheless.

Bob Wilson, chief of security from Washington, passed around the President's itinerary. "I'll need your feedback within twenty-four hours," he said. "Anything doesn't jell, anything looks dangerous to you — anything at all — I want to know pronto."

"What about security in the Imperial Palace?" Hans Fosse, deputy chief of consular affairs, asked from across the table.

"Already taken care of," Wilson said. "We've got the man going in and coming out. Inside, the Japanese'll take care of him."

Tibbet winced. During his year in Japan he had come to know and respect the Japanese people. Because of his job, he lived on the economy so that he could more readily have access to the right people.

"Have you anything to add, Paul?" Wilson asked.

Tibbet shrugged. "As far as I can see, we're ready for him. And we still have six days. We'll go over the scenario a couple more times before then."

"That's it, then," Wilson said, satisfied.

The door opened and Tibbet's secretary entered the room. Everyone looked up.

"There's a phone call for you, sir."

"I asked not to be disturbed," Tibbet said, irritated.

"Sorry, sir. But this sounded urgent. I thought you'd want to handle it."

"Excuse me," Tibbet said to the others. He got up and followed his secretary out of the conference room, across the busy fourth-floor corridor, and into his own office.

"Couldn't this have waited?"

"He knows who you are. He asked for you by name. It's a Russian."

Tibbet's stomach lurched. Just now the Soviets were very active in Japan, stealing Japanese electronic technology. His job, in liaison with Japanese intelligence, was to stop them. He'd been working a cipher clerk out of the Soviet embassy for the past six months. This could very well be the break he had been waiting for.

"Put it on the recorder," he told his secretary as he went the rest of the way into his office.

He looked up at her through the open door as she punched the button to start the recorders, then he picked up the phone.


"Mr. Paul Tibbet?"

"Who's speaking?"

"You don't know me, but I have something of great importance for you."

The accent was obviously Russian, though the man spoke fair English. It sounded like some sort of trap to Tibbet.

"I think you might have the wrong party," Tibbet said — the standard response.

"Do you know what NATO calls the Petrograd-class submarine? I think you do."

Tibbet's stomach lurched again. He was a large man. He gripped the telephone so hard that his knuckles turned white. The Soviet navy's Petrograd-class submarine was brand-new. State of the art. Supposedly stealth-capable… virtually undetectable, while submerged by any known method of sonar or satellite surveillance. So far the U.S. hadn't managed to come up with anything technically worthwhile.

"Who are you?"

"Lieutenant Nikolai Feodor Lavrov. I'm a naval officer, but I am KGB. Until recently I was stationed at Svetlaya. You know this place?"

Tibbet did. The Soviets maintained a very large submarine base near the Siberian city north of Vladivostok. But that was about all that was known of the place; security there had always been extremely tight.

"Why tell me this? What do you want?"

"I have brought something with me, for you. I have it hidden… here in the city."

"In exchange for what?"

"I want to be taken to the United States. I want plastic surgery, I want a new identity, and I want one million dollars."

Tibbet laughed. "You know we don't pay for information… at least not that kind of money."

"I have the Petrogard's operations and maintenance manuals. On a computer chip. Everything."

Tibbet caught his breath, his thoughts suddenly in full gear, the President's visit totally forgotten.

"Where can we meet?"

"Ueno Park," the Russian said. "The zoological gardens. At noon. It gives you two hours."

"How will I know you?"

"You won't, Mr. Tibbet. But I will know you." The Russian broke the connection.

Tibbet crashed down the receiver. "Did you get all that?" he asked his secretary.

"Yes, sir."

"Have the ambassador call me. Then get hold of Bernholtz — he may still be at home. And get me a secure circuit with Langley."

"Should I call Major Rishiri?"

Tibbet thought about that for a moment. The major was his contact with the Japanese CIA. "No," he said.

While his secretary was making her calls, Tibbet telephoned down to Archives in the basement for something on the Russian. They promised to call back within five minutes if they came up with anything. Next he telephoned upstairs to his boss, CIA Chief of Station Arnold Scott, who listened without interruption while Tibbet explained what was happening.

"A disinformation plot, Paul?" Scott asked.

"Perhaps. But we have plenty of time to set him up."

Tibbet could almost hear the older man thinking. They had worked together in Japan for a year, but five years ago they had done a stint together in Chile. They had a lot of mutual respect.

"Do it. But keep me posted, and don't put your ass too far out on the line. It sounds like a setup to me."

"It's worth the try."

"Good hunting."

* * *

The American embassy was housed in a modern structure in Kojimachi-ku, a district in the southwestern side of Tokyo. Ueno Park, one of Tokyo's largest, was in the northwest of the vast, sprawling city. Traffic was heavy, as it usually was, and it took Tibbet the better part of an hour to drive to the park.

Ambassador Zimmerman had been nervous about the project, but he had given Tibbet his tacit blessing. He had been somewhat disturbed, however, that the Japanese CIA had not been informed. Charlie Bernholtz, the number-one legman in the hemisphere, had gone ahead with his people to make the setup, and just before Tibbet had left the embassy, Archives had called up with what little information they had on Lieutenant Nikolai "Lavrov. The man was who he claimed to be: a naval officer with the rank of lieutenant who also held a captaincy in the KGB. The register of Soviet officers listed him as Political Security Officer in Naval Research at the Svetlaya submarine base. Archives didn't have much else on him of interest.

Tibbet parked his car half a block from the park entrance and went the rest of the way on foot. It was late October, and already there was a chill in the air. It promised to be a very cold winter.

Thousands of people were inside the park. The huge, ornate Imperial Library was located there, along with the Imperial Museum and zoological gardens. A lot of schoolchildren on field trips wandered around in groups with their teachers.

Tibbet spotted Bernholtz's men just within the main gates and at several good locations within the park itself.

The sky was clear, only a light breeze rustling the tree branches. There were people everywhere. It reminded Tibbet of his youth at state fairs in Iowa.

He passed the bear cages just within the zoo entrance, and fifty yards farther he stopped in front of a large natural pool in which a dozen seals were playing in the water. Children bought fish and held them out over the fence for the seals who would leap high into the air, snatch the fish from the tiny hands, and dive with a huge splash, the children squealing in delight each time.

Tibbet lingered a moment at the fence and lit a cigarette. A seal jumped for a piece of fish, when a short, intense-looking young man stopped and leaned over the fence. Tibbet glanced at him.

"The children's laughter is good to hear," the man said in a Russian accent.

"Lieutenant Lavrov?" Tibbet asked.

Lavrov nodded. His smile was sad. "You know, I am married. I have two children of my own whom I will never see again."

"You have the computer chip?"

"Not with me. First we will talk…"

The Russian's skull erupted in a bright red geyser of blood, his body flipping over the fence. Tibbet stepped back at the same moment he heard the crack of a high-powered rifle.

Children and their teachers or mothers were turning around. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.

Out of the corner of his eye Tibbet could see Bernholtz himself racing up the broad path, his handgun drawn. Tibbet started to raise his hand, when something terribly hot and strong slammed into his head, and he felt himself being lifted over the fence.

He never heard the shot that killed him…


At 10,000 feet, downtown Washington, D.C., twelve miles to the southwest, looked like an elaborate architect's model of t ...

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