Inside the Russian Embassy in London a KGB colonel puffed a cigarette as he read the handwritten note for the third time. There was no need for the writer to express regret, he though. Correcting this problem would be easy. He would do that in a moment. The thought of it caused a grim smile to appear and joy to his heart. But he pushed away those thoughts and turned his attention to a framed photograph on his desk. His wife was beautiful, he told himself as he remembered the day they were married. That was forty-three years ago, and it had been the proudest and happiest day of his life.
What had happened to all that time? Why had it passed so quickly, and why hadn’t he spent more of it with her? Why hadn’t he held her close and told her more often that he loved her? He cursed himself as a tear came from the corner of his eye, ran down his cheek, then dropped onto the note. He stiffened and wiped his face with the back of his hand. There was no need for remorse or regret, he told himself. In a few moments he would join her and at that time would express his undying love and devotion.
After setting the note ablaze he dropped it into an ashtray and watched it burn. For a time the names cast moving shadows on the walls of the darkened room, then they nickered and died out. The colonel dropped the cigarette to the floor and ground it out with his heel, then clutched the photograph to his breast, removed a pistol from his pocket, placed the barrel in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In the ashtray a small portion of the note remained. Where it had been wetted by his tear it had failed to bum, and on that scrap of paper were the words “died yesterday.”