Augustus and Duncan briskly walked down a normally busy London street that was quiet and deserted at this hour of the night. The only movement they saw was their shadows following them, projected by the dim light of the streetlamps. There were no cars to be seen, and at this late hour not even the busses were running. Finally, Augustus came to an abrupt stop when he reached an ordinary looking red phone booth.
“Get inside,” he told Duncan as he held the door open.
Duncan looked back at him quizzically, but did as he was told, much too tired and confused to protest. Augustus then squeezed into the narrow booth after him, his body pushing Duncan against the wall as they struggled to fit into the enclosed space.
“Well I know my charms are irresistible, but aren’t you being a bit presumptuous? You could have at least bought me dinner first,” Duncan quipped.
Augustus rolled his eyes as he picked up the phone and dialed in a precise series of numbers. With a sudden jolt, they were sucked beneath the pavement, and reappeared in the atrium of the Minister of Magic. Augustus authoritatively flashed his identification badge at the night security guard, who quickly waved them through.
Duncan looked around in awe as their footsteps echoed through the empty atrium. He had seen many amazing and inexplicable things since he had met Dumbledore and been introduced to the magical world during the war, however, he certainly never realized the full extent of just how much structure there was to this magical community. They walked past a large fountain with several towering sculptures of magical creatures, and then walked down a corridor before entering a swiftly moving lift.
They finally reached the appropriate floor and briskly walked into the secure wing that housed the Auror offices. Augustus led the way into his corner office, slamming the door behind him after Duncan followed him inside. A young man with shoulder length hair and a very grim expression on is face was already sitting there, awaiting their arrival.
“Oh yes, I almost forgot. MacDonald, this is my young protégé who is going to be your new partner, Mr. Alastor Moody,” Augustus announced.
Moody suspiciously looked Duncan up and down before shaking his hand with a very tight grip. Duncan then took a seat next to Moody as Augustus sat behind his desk and prepared to brief them. The office, which was located in the corner of the Magical Law Enforcement wing, was very large and comfortable, but seemed very much secluded from the rest of the building. The moving photographs and newspaper clippings on the wall commemorated the many well publicized arrests of dark wizards and criminals that Augustus had made, and a large silk banner behind the desk depicted the green and silver snake emblem of Slytherin House.
“We can explain all of this later,” Augustus explained to Duncan, who was transfixed by his surroundings, “But right now I believe you’d like to find out more about this mission.”
When Duncan nodded in acknowledgement, he proceeded to explain, “I’m sure you are well aware of the dangerous tensions that exist between our country and the Soviet Union. Well, you might not be aware that similar tensions exist in the magical community. Since the end of the war, their Minister, Vladimir Komissarov, has been steadily infiltrating neighboring countries and amassing a magical empire. We don’t know where it’s going to stop, his web of shadows grows thicker every day, and his thirst for power knows no bounds.”
Duncan sank down in his chair, realizing that he was once again about to find himself in the middle of some sort of magical conflict he could have never imagined, with the fate of civilization seeming to hang in the balance. It was hardly just another day in the life of an ordinary pub owner from Glasgow.
Augustus elaborated further, “Until recently, we had no knowledge of what the Soviet Ministry was planning or what their operations were. They always seemed to be one step ahead of us, and we wouldn’t find out about their moves until it was too late. But now, the game has changed. With the help of MI6, we have learned a veritable treasure trove of information, including the location of their Intelligence Division’s secret headquarters.”
Augustus pulled a large envelope out of his desk, displaying several written documents, hand drawn maps, and black and white photographs enlarged from microfilm.
“We have learned valuable insights into their operational structure, particularly when it comes to communications. We have been attempting to intercept their communications for quite some time, but we have never succeeded in decoding their encryptions. Now, we have learned that they make use of something called a Kwikcodes machine which sends messages that can only be decoded by one who possesses another such machine.”
Duncan’s ears perked up with interest, wondering where Augustus was going with this.
“So this is where the two of you come in. You are going to sneak into this base, and steal the Kwikcodes machine.”
Duncan’s mouth dropped in shock while Moody continued to look as grim and determined as ever.
Augustus explained, “Due to the complex political sensitivities between our two countries, we cannot risk sending one of our own Aurors on this mission, because if anything were to happen, it could easily be traced back to us, and the Soviets would likely regard this type of interference in their affairs as an act of war. You see, Moody here had the misfortune of entering Auror training just as our force was being drawn down after the war. We did not have the budget to hire any new recruits, however, being the dedicated man that he is, he volunteered to complete the training and become available for missions without officially being on our payroll. And you, MacDonald, as a Muggle you obviously wouldn’t exist in any wizarding records to begin with. So, in effect, the two of you are untraceable. The Minister has given me authority to use my best discretion and not tell him any of the details. The name of the game is plausible deniability.”
“You mean we’re expendable?” Duncan asked with a nervous laugh
Augustus finally cracked a smile, “It sounds so awful when you put it like that.”
He then pulled out a photograph from the pile before handing it over to Moody and Duncan.
“We have thus far been unsuccessful in identifying the major Soviet operatives, but with one notable exception. The woman you see in the photograph is the infamous Anastasia Molotova, who we have been trying to locate for quite some time. As you already know, I must warn you that once you are in country, you are to trust no one you may meet, and I shouldn’t have to warn you of the dangers you may face. ”
Duncan closely examined the photograph, seemingly mesmerized by the appearance of the beautiful blonde.
“So what do you think, a magical assassin and a guy like me?”
“Not a chance, you’d be dead before you knew what hit you,” grumbled Moody.
“So he does speak! I was beginning to worry about you, Moody,” Duncan exclaimed.
Augustus let out a brief chuckle as he threw a handful of green Floo powder in the fireplace behind him, where a face that looked remarkably similar to his own soon appeared.
“Glad you could make it, Archie!” he said into flames, “This is Alastor Moody and Duncan MacDonald, soon to be heading your way.”
He then turned around, “Gents, this is Archibald Wellington of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, currently on station in Moscow.”
Augustus turned to address the whole group, “And now we must address the issue of your transportation to Russia. I’m sure you’ve never been there before, so apparition is out of the question.”
Archibald spoke up, “And the Russians have the Floo network monitored. The one in my office is off the grid obviously, but it’s probably not strong enough for transport, it was made for communications.”
“Maybe we could fly there? You know, on a plane?” Duncan suggested.
“The KGB has the airports watched, especially flights coming from Britain. It’s doable, but you would need a really strong cover,” Archibald explained.
Augustus contemplated the possibilities before having a sudden realization, “Wait a minute, when I was reviewing the members of Dumbledore’s old task force from the war, the one MacDonald here was part of, I remember there was an RAF pilot that’s flying for British Airways now. I have a crazy idea, but it just might work.”
The men proceeded to discuss the details of the plan before finally breaking up the meeting when morning was still approaching. Moody strode out of the room with his normal level of energy, helping to convince the others that he did not ever actually have to eat or sleep. Meanwhile, the very tired Duncan turned around on his way out the doorway to ask Augustus one last question.
“So I have to know, there were several soldiers in the squad with Dumbledore that you could have contacted. I know John Evans for one is teaching at a school right down the road from here. Why did you come for me in particular?”
Augustus smiled, “Because I read your psychological profile, I knew you were the only one crazy enough to go through with this.”
Anastasia hastily stuffed several folders of intelligence reports into her bag as she walked outside to make her rounds of the facility. While her workload was always large, it was especially so on days before a major mission, like the one she was about to undertake in Poland. As she inspected each building to ensure it was properly secured for the night, she noticed Antonin Dolohov hastily walking by, as is he was in a rush to get somewhere.
She called out to him, “Dolohov, I haven’t received your mission briefing yet, are you fully prepared? Do you have everything you need?”
He shrugged, “I’ll be ready by the time we leave.”
She looked at him sternly and incredulously, “Well you’d better be, you know were leaving for Warsaw tomorrow, right?”
Dolohov smiled and let out a weak laugh, “Relax, when have I ever let you down?”
Anastasia was forced to admit to herself that he was probably right. Since their days at Durmstrang together, she had a strong rapport with her former classmate, and they always seemed to work well as a team.
“And besides, you’re not going to want to miss Riddle’s meeting,” he added.
“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked, greatly taken off guard.
“Oh, Anastasia, I was just about to invite you of course,” came an unmistakable voice in reply, that had just snuck up behind her.
Anastasia turned around to face the smugly grinning Tom, “Let’s get one thing straight, Riddle, I don’t know what you’re trying to plan here, but this is my operation and nothing happens here without going through me first.”
Tom simply smiled at her in his typical condescending manner, “Well Anastasia, let’s just say then that outside the bounds of your organization, I have just happened to invite my colleagues to a drink at the local tavern, and I may or may not be giving a speech there.”
“Come on, Anastasia, everybody’s going,” Dolohov pleaded.
Anastasia rolled her eyes as she finally lamented, “Fine, I’ll stop by, but only for a little bit. “
“Excellent, a witch of your abilities is most definitely a welcome addition to our humble gathering,” Tom responded, arrogance seeming to drip from every word.
Together they walked outside the gates of the facility and towards a drab wooden building of that served as their tavern. The high level of secrecy involved in their professions had the effect of creating a very insular community, and it seemed that a good portion of their free time was usually spent in places like this, in very close proximity to their workplace.
They passed underneath the large icicles hanging over the doorway to enter the dimly lit building. The bar man, a retired operative who knew them all by name, simply nodded as they walked by, their footsteps creaking on the old wooden planks of the floor. They filed into the private room in the back of the tavern, where a burning fireplace provided the only warmth and light in the room, aside from a couple torches on the wall.
All eyes were on Riddle as he strode towards the front of the room, and the gathered wizards inched their seats closer and closer around him. Avery, Mulciber, Nott, and Lestrange, who seemed to follow him everywhere, had long ago staked out their seats in the front row. Many of the Russians were anxious to attend as well, and Igor Karkaroff in particular had aggressively pushed his way to the front. Riddle stood in front of the fireplace, and its faint light produced a very long shadow.
A very tense anticipation filled the room until Riddle finally began to speak, “My friends, first of all I want to thank you all for coming here on such a cold inhospitable day. I can see that you all enjoy my company that much.”
The wizards let out a brief laugh, and they already seemed to be hanging on his every word.
“Now some of you may wonder just who I am and why my associates and I have come here to your beautiful country. To begin, I am sure you are all familiar with the man responsible for my magical education, Mr. Albus Dumbledore.”
The wizards booed and hissed at the mention of Dumbledore’s name.
Tom smiled at their reaction as he continued, “While Dumbledore may be a powerful wizard, like far too many others he has fallen under the spell of the half breeds and mudbloods.”
Even more derisive booing and hissing commenced as Tom moved on with his point, “So, you see, with people like that calling the shots, my home country is no longer a safe place for our kind. However, what I see here, in this country, is encouraging. Vladimir Komissarov is a man who understands our power, and that it is a power that is only to be wielded by those of worthy blood.”
Riddle’s voice rose and he flapped his arms dramatically as his speech moved closer to a crescendo, “The magical Soviet Empire we are building is a great start, but it does not go far enough! If we work together, we can push the boundaries of magic further than they have ever been pushed before! We can claim our rightful place as the rulers of the world, crushing our inferior opposition, and all will know that it is we that wield the ultimate power!”
The wizards erupted in applause, greatly moved by the effortless charisma of his speech.
Riddle toned things down a notch as he concluded, “Will you settle for mediocrity, or will you follow me to excellence? The choice is yours.”
As he basked in the ensuing applause, Riddle had a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face. The wizards quickly pushed forward to gather closer around him, offering their congratulations and offers of support. In the midst of the commotion, Anastasia quietly slipped out the backdoor, trying to process what exactly just happened.
Write a Review Behind the Curtain: Plans in Motion