Good evening, gentlemen. Mei Ling. Or should I say good morning? I'm afraid the last few hours here at the Department For Special Acquisitions And Liquidations have been rather, well, active. I apologize for calling you to Operations at such a wretched hour, but if this report from the Transitional Branch in Seville is accurate, then we have some important decisions to make. We must either act quickly to eliminate a threat to this Department, or we must take steps to remove me from my position as Department Head. You see, I fear that my estranged but brilliant half-brother may have been instrumental to the execution of the horrible debacle we experienced in Barcelona.
MacNeill, I was kept in the dark regarding Paladiev, as well. Like you, for many years, I had no need to know of my half-brother. It would have done more harm than good for me, as a young boy, to hear that my father, his identity exposed to the NKVD and his file preemptively erased by the OSS, had found comfort in a smoky yurt and the welcoming arms of a comely young shepherdess.
Ultimately, my father's narrow escape to Toulon—and my pregnant mother—was interpreted by the shepherdess as a political and personal betrayal. She used her enmity toward my father as a spur to her ambition. By the time Paladiev was 3, the shepherdess was a colonel of Soviet intelligence. How quickly she learned the sly and shameful rules of the Great Game, and how eagerly she drilled them into her son.
Paladiev was an able student. He is a most formidable enemy. He is clever, but do not assume that he is only that. He plans and he schemes throughout his waking hours. Cunning as he is tactically, he is brilliant strategically. Do not underestimate him. If the Department had not done so...
In any case: Barcelona. You are all familiar with the events of the Barcelona debacle. But I'm sure you have wondered just how the chessboard was manipulated, how the pawns were set up and made to fall just so. Through one of our post-compromised double operatives, Transitional Branch has learned that it was Paladiev who met with the undersecretary on that stormy Barcelona afternoon. It was Paladiev who cut the support beam of the North Bridge, creating a perfect distraction but killing hundreds. And it was Paladiev who poisoned the lipstick of the Swedish ambassador's mistress, and so killed the three—the ambassador, his wife, and his lover.
The technician who installed our low-frequency network in Barcelona has been romantically linked to Paladiev; her body has yet to be found. Most damning of all, the Transitional Branch has identified a man, seen only in profile through an extreme-telephoto lens, who activated a detonator, spoke into a headset, and turned to fire a rifle. Yes, Paladiev was the mysterious Third Window Washer.
I don't know how he acquired the means to execute so elaborate a maneuver. That is unimportant. We could spend months and millions of dollars tracing him—to the forger in Singapore, the plastic surgeon in Dallas, a certain neuroanatomist in Zurich, and a shadowy gunsmith in Tel Aviv. But what good would it do to follow these leads? By the time we reached their ends, the men and women in question would either be dead or so thoroughly missing as to be thought mere legends. A genius like Paladiev bends the world to his will.
Do not waste time and energy asking after Paladiev. He acts and reacts with adaptability, flexibility, and efficiency. His artful erasure of his ways and means should not be surprising to trained professionals like yourselves. Boris, can you give me the address of the man who built your fascinating prosthetic arm? Pierre, could you tell me exactly who first synthesized your versatile collection of poisons? I thought not. Who is the architect who built these headquarters, after all?
I'm sorry, Mei Ling. I do not know Paladiev's motives. His reasons for his life's work are his own. I have only speculation. Perhaps he blames me for his mother's tragic death during the engineered eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in Luzon. I do not know.
I do know, however, what actions my team will take. We are going into full hermetic lockdown this instant. Everyone, including Department heads, is to begin prep for staff-wide, deep-muscle-tissue-biopsy DNA testing. I would not put it past Paladiev to endure bone-marrow and lymphatic replacement to dupe a routine blood test. Before we make this announcement staff-wide, we must deep-radar every room in the facility for...anything. For anything is exactly what Paladiev is capable of.
Paladiev, Paladiev, my long-lost half-brother. What game are you playing?