Search for the Stealth: 8 July, 1987 Part II

654476869876543

Sergeant Richard Lawson walked into the pub shortly after 1400. The short, stocky NCO stopped  and spoke to the bartender for a brief moment, and then exchanged greetings with a few of the older gentlemen at the bar. Prokofiev got the idea that they knew Lawson personally and were pumping him for news. On the other hand, perhaps they were homosexuals with entirely different motives. When Lawson leaned over to shake one of their hands, Prokofiev noticed the small manila folder in his free hand and winced. Amateurish move. But Lawson was not a professional and that had to be considered, a voice inside his head reasoned. This meeting was not a good idea, Prokofiev knew, but it was absolutely necessary. The risk was worthwhile, he hoped.

Lawson finished chatting with the bar flies and made his way to the booth in the rear of the pub where Prokofiev was sitting. The Russian stood up and embraced the Englishman in a tight hug and the small folder slipped surreptitiously from Lawson’s hand into Prokofiev’s suit jacket. They sat back down and made small talk as a waitress approached, took Lawson’s order and then came back with a pint.

“I only have a short time,” the NCO informed Prokofiev between sips. “The base is going to be sealed off later this afternoon. Only reason I was able to get out was because my senior owed me a favor. He snuck his wife’s sister on base last week and had a go at her.” Lawson smiled thinly.

“I do not feel comfortable in here,” Prokofiev revealed in a low voice.

“Don’t worry. For the next twenty minutes or so this is the safest pub in England,” Lawson assured him. Then it was time to get down to business.

“What do you have for me?”

Lawson leaned forward and lowered his tone. “The Yanks flew more planes in yesterday before dawn. They came in while it was dark and were taken to a secure part of the base under heavy guard. Nobody outside of the tower people, ground crew, or security personnel got a look and they’re not saying anything.”

“Go on.”

“Last night, a pal of mine on security told me the plane type is the new Yank stealth fighter. The one that can’t be seen on radar. He got me into one of the hangars to see it for just a minute and I snapped off a couple of photos. Told him they were for the London Times.” He smiled again.

Prokofiev felt his excitement rising. “Tell me about the plane.”

“At first glance, it doesn’t look airworthy. Strange looking bird. Almost demonic. Damn thing was built like I am. Boxy. Twin tail, painted all black.”

“How many planes are there?”

“Not sure but at least ten. Maybe fifteen.”

“ What are people saying about the planes?”

Lawson shook his head. “Not a thing since few people even know they’re here. I got lucky. But that’s it, mate. From here on in I don’t know you. If I get caught talking to you after this afternoon they’ll shoot my ass.”

Prokofiev nodded. He understood what Lawson was telling him and fully expected it to come to this. The man valued his neck.

“You will not hear from me again,” he promised him.  “I wish you luck.”

“I wish the same for you,” Lawson reached over and patted his shoulder. “Honestly. After seeing that plane I’m more convinced than ever that you blokes aren’t going to win if the shooting starts. Tell that to your superiors if there is time.”

“There isn’t,” Prokofiev predicted. In his mind he was working out a plan to get this information to someone who could make use of it. He wasn’t an air marshal but knew these planes tip the balance in NATO’s favor. The mere thought of American stealth jets flying over his home sent a shudder up his spine.

He rose from his seat, shook Lawson’s hand and left the pub. He climbed into his rental car in the crowded lot across the street. Lawson paid for his pint and walked out, stopping briefly to check the time. As he was about to cross the roadway, a Jaguar with two men inside came tearing out from a alleyway, almost clipping him as it sped west.

“Fucking asshole!” Lawson flashed them a lewd gesture and then crossed the street to his own car.

 

The rental BMW was found five hours later on the side of the road ten miles west of RAF Alconbury. A local police unit came upon it, thinking the vehicle had broken down. Or an accident perhaps. As the policemen approached, they took out their flashlights to inspect the interior. To their surprise and shock, a man was in the car, slumped over the steering wheel. When they opened the door and leaned him back, the senior officer noticed a neat bullet wound in the back of his head. There was no manila folder to be found.

 

Search for the Stealth: 8 July, 1987 Part I

RAF_Alconbury_-_Front_Gate

His diplomatic immunity was no longer valid, Sergei Prokofiev reminded himself. The British government had declared a large number of Soviet diplomats in the United Kingdom persona non grata. In effect, they were no longer welcomed here and the Brits officially kicked them out of the country. The move had been announced three days ago and a list of the affected personnel was given to the Soviet ambassador in London. They would leave the country in twenty four hours. Most of the names on the list were possible, or known KGB officers suspected to be working undercover in the UK. They operated under the guises of midlevel diplomats at the Soviet embassy or consulates around the country. Prokofiev had been one of the names on the list, though he was confident the Brits were not entirely sure that he was KGB.

Officially, the thirty-two year old was a cultural attache. He had the proper papers and diplomatic background for the role. In reality, Prokofiev was a KGB captain who ran a handful of operatives in the UK. All were relatively low level civilian employees in the MoD, as well as one RAF non-commissioned officer. Moscow Center had ordered him to remain behind. So, two hours after receiving the news about his being PNGed, Prokofiev slipped past the British surveillance teams monitoring the embassy and immediately went to ground. Following the departure of his comrades, where his absence was immediately noticed, he had played a cat and mouse game with MI-5 and -6 officers. Prokofiev was successful in evading them so far, thanks to preparations he made long beforehand. He had a British ID, spoke the language fluently with a slight cockney accent, could call upon any of three safehouses, and had one hundred thousand pounds at his disposal.

The rising tensions made his job almost impossible. Contact with his operatives was limited, and in some cases entirely cut off. Dead drop boxes remained empty and untouched. Prokofiev had depressingly little information to pass along to his superiors. To his surprise, he’d found them to be sympathetic to his plight. He was ordered to make contact with his RAF man and try to find out about the arrival of warplanes from the US at RAF Alconbury. Specifically, Moscow wanted information on a new type of aircraft that might already be in the UK. Prokofiev had gotten in touch with his operative and relayed the instructions.

Now, he was awaiting the man’s arrival at a pub in Huntingdon, a stone’s throw away from the US airbase at Alconbury. Following this meeting, Prokofiev was to make his way west across Britain to Wales where he would be met and escorted to Ireland. Looking around from the booth he sat in, the Russian was surprised to see the pub so crowded. A wide variety of young, middle-aged, and older patrons sat and drank. Conversations were low, there was no music playing, and the atmosphere was less than lively to say the least. Prokofiev was not surprised by the number of people here. In times of crisis people went where they were comfortable to escape. Brits and their pubs shared a storied history. Even at the height of the Nazi blitz, many pubs around England still did a smash up business. The Russian quietly hoped it would be the same in this conflict.

The man Prokofiev was here to meet was a thirty-three year old RAF NCO who conveniently was stationed at Alconbury. His name was Richard Lawson and he had been coopted two years ago. Lawson’s motivation for selling information to the Soviets was purely financial. He was divorced and had two children to support. Ideologically, he was neither pro-Communism, or anti-liberal democracy. Lawson had been reliable and some of his information proved to be quite good according to Moscow, so Prokofiev thought it would be useful to have one final meeting and see if the Brit could answer some of Center’s questions.

Meeting at this pub in the late afternoon was not as chancy as it might seem. It was known to some of the locals as place frequented by homosexuals from time to time. Two men sitting near each other in a cramped booth would not seem out of the ordinary. Had that not been the case, Prokofiev would still have pushed for the meeting here. Lawson had few opportunities to get off base and the Russian was growing eager to leave this country once and for all.

As he sat there sipping his bitter and waiting, Prokofiev wondered idly about the new type of aircraft that Center was looking for information on. Apparently, from what he was told, the Americans had a jet that could not be seen on radar. It was supposed to be only an experimental model, but some people in Moscow believed it was either on its way to Europe or here already. Moving it from the US to base in the UK instead of West Germany made sense. For one reason or another, Moscow suspected RAF Alconbury to be the base that the aircraft was likely at.

He was not a pilot, and knew very little about aerodynamics. For these reasons the concept of an aircraft that couldn’t be seen was very difficult for Prokofiev to visualize or accept. It did not take much imagination to understand why such an aircraft filled his superiors with concern. One invisible jet armed with a nuclear weapon could turn Moscow to dust in the blink of an eye, essentially decapitating the Soviet Union in one swift act.

If that aircraft was here, Prokofiev hoped Lawson could confirm it so the KGB officer could get on with leaving the UK before the fighting began. He had no inside information about when the war would start, however, Prokofiev did not think it would be much longer.