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"It's been nice knowing you, Agent Bettmann."

Bettmann looked over at Korsakova, who sat in the driver's seat of Greg Cutler's borrowed vehicle, wearing a pair of borrowed sunglasses she had found in the glove compartment. "Yes, I suppose this is it, isn't it?"

Korsakova killed the engine of the vehicle parked in the dark cavern of an airport lot, making the still silence of their parking level complete. "Yes, I suppose it is," she repeated. "What will your friend say when I show up at his doorstep with the car that you borrowed?"

Bettmann undid his seatbelt and cracked open his door. "He won't ask a question, if that's what you're wondering. Just tell him 'Tora Bora's written off.'" Then he stepped out of the car, pulled the passenger seat forward, and reached for the set of carry-ons that Korsakova would wheel up to security as part of her cover.

Korsakova climbed out of the car herself and allowed the door to shut behind her. "That's quite a mysterious phrase." She rounded the trunk of the vehicle and grasped the handle of Bettmann's empty luggage.

Bettmann walked alongside her, in the direction of the elevator bank. "I saved his life in battle." He undid the top button of his shirt against the heat of a day that was not quite a quarter expired. "You know you can join me on this flight. Yob can alert the right people to the fact that your double's trying to get on the flight, and they'll arrest her along with my double--"

"I don't think I'm going to do that," Korsakova asserted as they neared the elevators. She tugged at the knotted blouse from the evening before which she still wore, and pulled to a stop as Bettmann pushed the "down" button for her. "What I am going to do, Agent, is drive your car back to Virginia, get on a flight to Moscow, and never get on another plane again once I'm home."

Bettmann's words raced against the approaching elevator car. "You know, Svetlana, if I make it out of this, I was hoping you and I could meet again some time. Perhaps in Moscow."

First Star by W.R. Hammons:

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