Skip to main content



The Bear and the Dragon

Read a Review

The White Mercedes

Going to work was the same everywhere, and the changeover from
Marxism-Leninism to Chaos-Capitalism hadn't changed matters
much-well, maybe things were now a little worse. Moscow, a city of
wide streets, was harder to drive in now that nearly anyone could
have a car, and the center lane down the wide boulevards was no
longer tended by militiamen for the Politburo and used by Central
Committee men who considered it a personal right of way, like
Czarist princes in their troika sleds. Now it was a left-turn lane
for anyone with a Zil or other private car. In the case of Sergey
Nikolay'ch Golovko, the car was a white Mercedes 600, the big one
with the S-class body and twelve cylinders of German power under
the hood. There weren't many of them in Moscow, and truly his was
an extravagance that ought to have embarrassed him . . . but
didn't. Maybe there were no more nomenklatura in this city, but
rank did have its privileges, and he was chairman of the SVR. His
apartment was also large, on the top floor of a high-rise building
on Kutusovskiy Prospekt, a structure relatively new and well-made,
down to the German appliances which were a long-standing luxury
accorded senior government officials.

He didn't drive himself. He had Anatoliy for that, a burly former
Spetsnaz special-operations soldier who carried a pistol under his
coat and who drove the car with ferocious aggression, while tending
it with loving care. The windows were coated with dark plastic,
which denied the casual onlooker the sight of the people inside,
and the windows were thick, made of polycarbonate and specced to
stop anything up to a 12.7-mm bullet, or so the company had told
Golovko's purchasing agents sixteen months before. The armor made
it nearly a ton heavier than was the norm for an S600 Benz, but the
power and the ride didn't seem to suffer from that. It was the
uneven streets that would ultimately destroy the car. Road-paving
was a skill that his country had not yet mastered, Golovko thought
as he turned the page in his morning paper. It was the American
International Herald Tribune, always a good source of news since it
was a joint venture of The Washington Post and The New York Times,
which were together two of the most skilled intelligence services
in the world, if a little too arrogant to be the true professionals
Sergey Nikolay'ch and his people were.

He'd joined the intelligence business when the agency had been
known as the KGB, the Committee for State Security, still, he
thought, the best such government department the world had ever
known, even if it had ultimately failed. Golovko sighed. Had the
USSR not fallen in the early 1990s, then his place as Chairman
would have put him as a full voting member of the Politburo, a man
of genuine power in one of the world's two superpowers, a man whose
mere gaze could make strong men tremble . . . but . . . no, what
was the use of that? he asked himself. It was all an illusion, an
odd thing for a man of supposed regard for objective truth to
value. That had always been the cruel dichotomy. KGB had always
been on the lookout for hard facts, but then reported those facts
to people besotted with a dream, who then bent the truth in the
service of that dream. When the truth had finally broken through,
the dream had suddenly evaporated like a cloud of steam in a high
wind, and reality had poured in like the flood following the
breakup of an icebound river in springtime. And then the Politburo,
those brilliant men who'd wagered their lives on the dream, had
found that their theories had been only the thinnest of reeds, and
reality was the swinging scythe, and the eminence bearing that tool
didn't deal in salvation.

But it was not so for Golovko. A dealer in facts, he'd been able to
continue his profession, for his government still needed them. In
fact, his authority was broader now than it would have been,
because as a man who well knew the surrounding world and some of
its more important personalities intimately, he was uniquely suited
to advising his president, and so he had a voice in foreign policy,
defense, and domestic matters. Of them, the third was the trickiest
lately, which had rarely been the case before. It was now also the
most dangerous. It was an odd thing. Previously, the mere spoken
(more often, shouted) phrase "State Security!" would freeze Soviet
citizens in their stride, for KGB had been the most feared organ of
the previous government, with power such as Reinhart Heydrich's
Sicherheitsdienst had only dreamed about, the power to arrest,
imprison, interrogate, and to kill any citizen it wished, with no
recourse at all. But that, too, was a thing of the past. Now KGB
was split, and the domestic-security branch was a shadow of its
former self, while the SVR-formerly the First Chief
Directorate-still gathered information, but lacked the immediate
strength that had come with being able to enforce the will, if not
quite the law, of the communist government. But his current duties
were still vast, Golovko told himself, folding the paper.

He was only a kilometer away from Dzerzhinskiy Square. That, too,
was no longer the same. The statue of Iron Feliks was gone. It had
always been a chilling sight to those who'd known who the man was
whose bronze image had stood alone in the square, but now it, too,
was a distant memory. The building behind it was the same, however.
Once the stately home office of the Rossiya Insurance Company, it
had later been known as the Lubyanka, a fearsome word even in the
fearsome land ruled by Iosef Vissarionovich Stalin, with its
basement full of cells and interrogation rooms. Most of those
functions had been transferred over the years to Lefortovo Prison
to the east, as the KGB bureaucracy had grown, as all such
bureaucracies grow, filling the vast building like an expanding
balloon, as it claimed every room and corner until secretaries and
file clerks occupied the (remodeled) spaces where Kamenev and
Ordzhonikidze had been tortured under the eyes of Yagoda and
Beriya. Golovko supposed that there hadn't been too many

Well, a new working day beckoned. A staff meeting at 8:45, then the
normal routine of briefings and discussions, lunch at 12:15, and
with luck he'd be back in the car and on his way back home soon
after six, before he had to change for the reception at the French
Embassy. He looked forward to the food and wine, if not the

Another car caught his eye. It was a twin to his own, another large
Mercedes S-class, iceberg white just like his own, complete down to
the American-made dark plastic on the windows. It was driving
purposefully in the bright morning, as Anatoliy slowed and pulled
behind a dump truck, one of the thousand such large ugly vehicles
that covered the streets of Moscow like a dominant life-form, this
one's load area cluttered with hand tools rather than filled with
earth. There was yet another truck a hundred meters beyond, driving
slowly as though its driver was unsure of his route. Golovko
stretched in his seat, barely able to see around the truck in front
of his Benz, wishing for the first cup of Sri Lankan tea at his
desk, in the same room that Beriya had once . . .  

. . . the distant dump truck. A man had been lying in the back. Now
he rose, and he was holding . . .

"Anatoliy!" Golovko said sharply, but his driver couldn't see
around the truck to his immediate front.

. . . it was an RPG, a slender pipe with a bulbous end. The
sighting bar was up, and as the distant truck was now stopped, the
man came up to one knee and turned, aiming his weapon at the other
white Benz--the other driver saw it and tried to swerve, but found
his way blocked by the morning traffic and--not much in the way of
a visual signature, just a thin puff of smoke from the rear of the
launcher-tube, but the bulbous part leapt off and streaked into the
hood of the other white Mercedes, and there it exploded.

It hit just short of the windshield. The explosion wasn't the
fireball so beloved of Western movies, just a muted flash and gray
smoke, but the sound roared across the square, and a wide, flat,
jagged hole blew out of the trunk of the car, and that meant that
anyone inside the vehicle would now be dead, Golovko knew without
pausing to think on it. Then the gasoline ignited, and the car
burned, along with a few square meters of asphalt. The Mercedes
stopped almost at once, its left-side tires shredded and flattened
by the explosion. The dump truck in front of Golovko's car
panic-stopped, and Anatoliy swerved right, his eyes narrowed by the
noise, but not yet-

"Govno!" Now Anatoliy saw what had happened and took action. He
kept moving right, accelerating hard and swerving back and forth as
his eyes picked holes in the traffic. The majority of the vehicles
in sight had stopped, and Golovko's driver sought out the holes and
darted through them, arriving at the vehicle entrance to Moscow
Center in less than a minute. The armed guards there were already
moving out into the square, along with the supplementary response
force from its shack just inside and out of sight. The commander of
the group, a senior lieutenant, saw Golovko's car and recognized
it, waved him inside and motioned to two of his men to accompany it
to the drop-off point. The arrival time was now the only normal
aspect of the young day. Golovko stepped out, and two young
soldiers formed up in physical contact with his heavy topcoat.
Anatoliy stepped out, too, his pistol in his hand and his coat
open, looking back through the gate with suddenly anxious eyes. His
head turned quickly.

"Get him inside!" And with that order, the two privates
strong-armed Golovko through the double bronze doors, where more
security troops were arriving.

"This way, Comrade Chairman," a uniformed captain said, taking
Sergey Nikolay'ch's arm and heading off to the executive elevator.
A minute later, he stumbled into his office, his brain only now
catching up with what it had seen just three minutes before. Of
course, he walked to the window to look down.

Moscow police-called militiamen-were racing to the scene, three of
them on foot. Then a police car appeared, cutting through the
stopped traffic. Three motorists had left their vehicles and
approached the burning car, perhaps hoping to render assistance.
Brave of them, Golovko thought, but an entirely useless effort. He
could see better now, even at a distance of three hundred meters.
The top had bulged up. The windshield was gone, and he looked into
a smoking hole, which had minutes before been a hugely expensive
vehicle, and which had been destroyed by one of the cheapest
weapons the Red Army had ever mass-produced. Whoever had been
inside had been shredded instantly by metal fragments traveling at
nearly ten thousand meters per second. Had they even known what had
happened? Probably not. Perhaps the driver had had time to look and
wonder, but the owner of the car in the back had probably been
reading his morning paper, before his life had ended without

That was when Golovko's knees went weak. That could have been him .
. . suddenly learning if there were an afterlife after all, one of
the great mysteries of life, but not one which had occupied his
thoughts very often . . .

But whoever had done the killing, who had been his target? As
Chairman of the SVR, Golovko was not a man to believe in
coincidences, and there were not all that many white Benz S600s in
Moscow, were there?

"Comrade Chairman?" It was Anatoliy at the office door.

"Yes, Anatoliy Ivan'ch?"

"Are you well?"

"Better than he," Golovko replied, stepping away from the window.
He needed to sit now. He tried to move to his swivel chair without
staggering, for his legs were suddenly weak indeed. He sat and
found the surface of his desk with both his hands, and looked down
at the oaken surface with its piles of papers to be read-the
routine sight of a day which was not now routine at all. He looked

Anatoliy Ivan'ch Shelepin was not a man to show fear. He'd served
in Spetsnaz through his captaincy, before being spotted by a KGB
talent scout for a place in the 8th "Guards" Directorate, which
he'd accepted just in time for KGB to be broken apart. But Anatoliy
had been Golovko's driver and bodyguard for years now, part of his
official family, like an elder son, and Shelepin was devoted to his
boss. He was a tall, bright man of thirty-three years, with blond
hair and blue eyes that were now far larger than usual, because
though Anatoliy had trained for much of his life to deal with and
in violence, this was the first time he'd actually been there to
see it when it happened. Anatoliy had often wondered what it might
be like to take a life, but never once in his career had he
contemplated losing his own, certainly not to an ambush, and most
certainly not to an ambush within shouting distance of his place of
work. At his desk outside Golovko's office, he acted like a
personal secretary more than anything else. Like all such men, he'd
grown casual in the routine of protecting someone whom no one would
dare attack, but now his comfortable world had been sundered as
completely and surely as that of his boss.

Oddly, but predictably, it was Golovko's brain that made it back to
reality first.


"Yes, Chairman?"

"We need to find out who died out there, and then find out if it
was supposed to be us instead. Call militia headquarters, and see
what they are doing."

"At once." The handsome young face disappeared from the

Golovko took a deep breath and rose, taking another look out the
window as he did so. There was a fire engine there now, and
firefighters were spraying the wrecked car to extinguish the
lingering flames. An ambulance was standing by as well, but that
was a waste of manpower and equipment, Sergey Nikolay'ch knew. The
first order of business was to get the license-plate number from
the car and identify its owner, and from that knowledge determine
if the unfortunate had died in Golovko's place, or perhaps had
possessed enemies of his own. Rage had not yet supplanted the shock
of the event. Perhaps that would come later, Golovko thought, as he
took a step toward his private washroom, for suddenly his bladder
was weak. It seemed a horrid display of frailty, but Golovko had
never known immediate fear in his life, and, like many, thought in
terms of the movies. The actors there were bold and resolute, never
mind that their words were scripted and their reactions rehearsed,
and none of it was anything like what happened when explosives
arrived in the air without warning.

Who wants me dead? he wondered, after flushing the

Excerpted from THE BEAR AND THE DRAGON © Copyright 2002 by
Tom Clancy. Reprinted with permission by Berkley Publishing Group.
All rights reserved.


The Bear and the Dragon
by by Tom Clancy

  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425180964
  • ISBN-13: 9780425180969