The tall, lean man walked out the entrance of the United Nations
building in Manhattan and paused at the top of the main staircase
to extract a cigarette from a metal case. He wore a dark gray suit
of an expensive cut and a deep blue silk tie. Over that he wore a
well-tailored wool coat. He lit his cigarette, snapped the lighter
shut, and descended the staircase.
He joined the throngs on the sidewalk and walked purposefully,
taking no more note of his fellow pedestrians than any other New
Yorker. He turned westward on East Forty-sixth Street, which was
one-way eastbound and choked with traffic, as usual. Striding along
with the pace of a man who has a destination but is not late, he
crossed Second, Third, Lexington and Park Avenues, and turned north
On Forty-eighth, he turned west again. Crossing Fifth Avenue, he
took no notice of the crowds or people in front of the plaza at
Rockefeller Center, but walked steadily through them, ditched his
cigarette at the door of the NBC building-he was on his third by
then-and went inside. Seven minutes later he was on the Rockefeller
Center subway platform. He stepped aboard a southbound F train just
before the doors closed and grabbed a bar near the door. The train
got under way immediately.
As the train roared through darkness, the tall man casually
examined the faces of his fellow passengers, then stood at ease
holding the metal bar. He watched with no apparent interest as
people got on and off the train at each stop.
In Brooklyn he exited the train, climbed to the street and
immediately went back down into the subway station. In minutes he
was aboard another F train heading north, back into
This time he exited the train at Grand Street in Little Italy. Up
on the sidewalk, he began walking south. An hour later the tall man
passed the entrance of the Staten Island Ferry and walked into
Battery Park. Several times he checked his watch.
Once he stopped and lit another cigarette, then sat on a bench
overlooking New York Harbor. After fifteen minutes of this, he went
back toward the ferry pier and began walking north on Broadway.
Three blocks later he caught a northbound taxi.
"Seventy-ninth and Riverside Drive, please."
Broadway was a crawl. The taxi driver, a man from the Middle East,
mouthed common obscenities at every stoplight. North of Times
Square the cab made better time.
After he left the taxi, the tall man walked toward the Hudson
River. Soon he was strolling the River Walk. He turned onto the
pedestrian pier that jutted into the river and walked behind
several dozen people standing against the railing facing south.
Many had cameras and were shooting pictures of the skyline to the
south where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had
At the end of the pier were several benches, all empty save one.
Four men, two of them policemen in uniform, were turning strollers
and tourists away from the bench area, but the tall man walked by
them without a word. The middle-aged man seated on the bench was
wearing jeans, tennis shoes, a faded ski jacket, and wraparound
sunglasses that hid his eyes. He had a rolled-up newspaper in his
hand. He glanced at the tall man as he approached.
"Good morning, Jake," the tall man said.
"I'm clean, I presume."
"Ever since the Rockefeller Center subway station."
The tall man nodded. His name was Janos Ilin, and he was a senior
officer in the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki), the Russian Foreign
Intelligence Service, which was the bureaucratic successor to the
foreign intelligence arm-the First Chief Directorate-of the
Soviet-era KGB. The man in jeans was Rear Admiral Jake Grafton of
the United States Navy. He appeared to be in his late forties, had
short, thinning hair combed straight back, and a nose that was a
size too large for his face. He looked reasonably fit, with a
fading tan that suggested he spent time in the sun on a regular
"Poor tradecraft, meeting in the open like this," Jake said. Ilin
had picked the meeting place.
Ilin grinned. "Sometimes the best places are in plain
Excerpted from LIBERTY © Copyright 2002 by Stephen Coonts.
Reprinted with permission by St. Martin's Press. All rights