Cynthia and Adam
Harvard was harder than Radcliffe to approach. Most boys didn't have phones, or weren't there to answer them, and Cynthia couldn't just barge into their houses and dormitories. But there was a little cafe much patronized by the foreign students. She would set up shop there, and would eventually reach her people.
The first in was Adam Yeremenko, a Ukrainian in his middle twenties who was a gifted painist, but who was now enrolled as a graduate student in history. Sitting down at her table, he said, "You remind me of my first lover in Kiev, a beautiful woman with green eyes."
Compliments always flowed from Adam, a dark-eyed man who might have been handsome and dashing with just a little cosmetic surgery. Cynthia classified her eyes as gray rather than green, and she doubted that she looked very much like any Ukrainian woman. But she was used to this sort of thing.
All it took was a smile, the right gestures with her hands, and an implicit admission of the truth of his comments. Adam prided himself on being with beautiful women, and the last thing he wanted was for the current object of his attention to deny being beautiful.
There was also the vague suggestion that a woman who looked like a previous lover might become a future lover. That, however, was not part of Cynthia's rather elaborate plan for him. What she needed was not a lover, but a genuine Soviet agent. One whom she could use to form a supposed pipeline from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the KGB.
While looking for Soviet agents in any ordinary population would confront hopelessly long odds, refugee student status was such a common legend for an agent that the odds were greatly shortened. Moreover, the IRSA was intentionally set up in such a way as to be particularly vulnerable to penetration. Indeed, there had always been some skepticism about Adam's story of his escape from the Soviet Union through Bulgaria and Turkey.
The first object was to discover how forthcoming he was about his past. Was there, for example, a gap of a year or two in which he might have been trained as a penetration agent?
As he talked about his musical career, Cynthia listened closely. Having heard him play the piano, there was no doubt about his ability. That gave her a base line. Knowing how he sounded when he was being truthful, she could judge whether his manner changed when he talked of other things.
At one point, Adam said, "Of course, my musical career was compromised when I was placed in an unfortunate political category."
"What category was that?"
"Enemy of the people."
It was a surprise to meet an enemy of the people who was still alive and seemingly unmarked, but it was possible. Probably there were different grades of enemies, only the first being taken to the Lubyanka. She probed a little, and Adam explained, "It was only because my father had been sent to Siberia for three years."
That checked out. Adam would have been born in 1930, and most of the deportations had been in the middle and late thirties. She asked, "How old were you when he was sent away?"
"About six. He came back when I was nine."
"So they figured that a child that age would be hostile, and would grow up to be an enemy of the people?"
"Yes. Of course, they also valued my musical ability. They like to win international competitions."
Cynthia asked, partly in jest, "Is it possible to be both a Hero of the Soviet Union and an Enemy of the People?"
"Well, these things are decided by separate organizations that don't necessarily communicate."
That also seemed to be a bit of a joke, but, when they spoke of his parents, Adam became more serious. It was pretty clear that, agent or not, he did still communicate with them.
Cynthia was tempted to ask whether letters to his parents would get them into trouble, but forebore for the moment. Adam himself volunteered, “Our letters are read by other people, of course, but we manage. My folks aren't in very good health."
Cynthia didn't usually encourage people to talk about their illnesses, much less those of their parents, but she sensed something important on this occasion.
Adam's father was diabetic, had had a heart attack, and had prostrate problems. His mother was almost crippled with arthritis, and had chronic bronchitis. Adam said, "They're actually getting quite good medical care, probably better than anything I could get for them here."
"Is Soviet medical care really better than American?"
"American might be better if you can pay for the best doctors. But, if my parents managed to get here, they'd be penniless refugees."
Cynthia was ticking off items in her mental notebook.
1. Adam's tone was quite bitter when he made the connection between money and health care. Genuine refugees didn't usually hate capitalism.
2. Would Russians who had been in Siberia get such good health care?
3. Could Adam be acting as a spy in return for good treatment of his parents? She hadn't heard that one, but it was worth exploring.
As she was thinking, Adam went on, "However, I can here get information about their conditions which might be used in treating them back in Kiev. I go almost daily to the medical school library."
Cynthia's brain clicked yet again. Adam could help his parents even more by taking his new-found medical knowledge back to Kiev and consulting with their doctors. After a little more medical discussion, she changed the subject, "How do you like the American girls?"
Adam the flirt returned. There were lots of girls, all suspiciously beautiful. They included blondes, brunettes, and redheads. As his account degenerated into outright boasting of his sexual prowess,
Cynthia was reminded of her first encounters with Americans in Europe. It had amazed her that well educated people could become such buffoons so quickly, and, now, this wasn’t the first time that she had seen a talented Russian degenerate into similar buffoonery in America. She quickly put a stop to it by asking Adam about this studies.
There were some complaints about the Harvard historians. They didn't understand Russia. Western concepts of freedom had no application in a country only fifty years removed from serfdom. Cynthia agreed with some things and found Adam, on the whole, to be reasonable. After all, he was certainly intelligent.
The switches from infantile sexual fantasies to adult conversation in a man of genuine accomplishment were a little disconcerting, but, again, not so unusual in a Russian man. British and American counter-intelligence agents tended to simply dismiss such people as harmless fools. But, some of those same agents had run Klaus Fuchs as he was stealing atomic secrets.
Then, in what truly surprised Cynthia, they were back to medicine. Adam had apparently been thinking about it all along, and he now burst out, "The real trouble with my father is that the drugs he takes for one condition have unknown interactions with the other drugs that he takes."
She had heard that one before, but realized how much research he must have done. There was then a lot more detail, most of which she didn't understand. It was, however, clear that most of Adam's research and concern was for his father rather than his mother. When Cynthia asked about her, Adam replied, "She also has serious problems. Then, if she should die, I can't imagine who'd care for my father."
"Perhaps you could go back and care for him."
Adam started to reply, but then put his hands to his head. Cynthia's tentative conclusion was that she had come upon something which, as far as she knew, was a first in the history of espionage: A man who had indeed become a spy in order to get good health care for his father.