Almost everyone who was supposed to be in the Moscow courtroom that day was present.
Anna Chapman, known as the “sexy spy” since her turn on the cover of a Russian men’s magazine holding a gun while in lingerie in October, was there. Life had not been so bad since 10 people in her espionage ring were betrayed by Alexander Poteyev. A weekly television show and venture capital firm hadn’t hurt.
Marina Poteyev, the wife of the accused — who had previously stayed out of the limelight — showed up, too.
But where was Poteyev himself, the long-serving officer in Russia’s foreign intelligence service who had become a double agent?
He was not there to receive his verdict: Guilty of high treason and desertion. He was not there to hear his sentence: 25 years in a penal colony. Nor was he there to get his military title stripped away.
His whereabouts, the court said, were unknown.
But Chapman, Marina Poteyev, and the courtroom all listened to the last words he had said, in a text message to his wife:
“Mari, try to take this calmly. I’m not going away for a while, I’m going away forever. I did not want to, but I had to. I will start a new life. I’ll try to help the children.”
(With inspiration from all great spy novels.)
The early chapters:
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