By Steven M. Lerner
During the Cold War, when the Soviet
Union and the United States were grappling for global dominance and the future
of mankind, I was an interrogator for the CIA. During my tenure, many means of
gaining advantage in the spy game were at my disposal. Our scientists were
brilliant and tireless. What one side invented was soon counteracted by
something the other side invented. We had a microphone that could record a
conversation a mile away. The Russians came up with a soundwave blaster their
agents could carry while discussing top secret plans so that all we’d get was
static. We’d pump Sodium Pentothal into interrogation subjects to loosen their
lips. The Russians countered with a drug called Alarin that field agents could
sprinkle on their scrambled eggs in the morning, rendering Sodium Pentothal
useless outside of a dentist’s office.
Then we invented Radon 171.
I tried it once, so I’d know what my
subjects were experiencing. A fellow agent asked me questions. Who is your
supervisor? What is your passcode? What are the names of operatives you know
personally? Et cetera.
I listened to a recording of the session. I was spitting out
classified information like a Vegas slot machine spitting out coins.
Using Radon 171, I obtained classified
information regarding military weapons in development, intragovernmental
squabbles, names and locations of operatives living under false identities in
the States, and more.
All this success resulted in an
increase in funds shelled out to our beloved Department of Foreign
Intelligence. I got a raise. I bought a Ferrari. I showed up at work in
custom-tailored suits. April and I moved from the suburbs into a house the size
of the Pentagon. We had a wine cellar and a tennis court and a big lawn for our
kids and their friends and our purebred English bulldog to play on.
But there was a price. Between prepping, conducting
interrogations, and various bureaucratic functions, I was putting in
fourteen-hour days, often seven days a week. April complained at first, but
some part of me wondered if she was complaining enough. She should have been
livid, demanded I spend more time at home. I kept waiting for an ultimatum, but
it never came.
I had no reason to suspect April of any extramarital activity,
but I didn’t understand how she could be so complacent about how rare our time
together had become. And now I had the Radon 171, in the grips of which no
person could conceal a secret. And, to boot, they wouldn’t even remember
I told myself I’d be doing it for both of us, that if I offered
her the opportunity, she would jump at the chance to prove the faithfulness of
her heart. As I would do for her. But in spite of my rationalizing, I could
not, at first, bring myself to do it. I went about my work, trying to put the
idea out of my mind. But the Radon 171 beckoned daily like a devil on my
shoulder. I began to hate Radon 171.
One day I returned home early from work to find my wife engaged
in rapt conversation with the pool man. I flushed with anger, though April had
shown no signs of subterfuge. She greeted me warmly and explained that the pool
man had witnessed Terry, our English bulldog, urinating in the pool. She found
it amusing that he felt guilty about snitching on the dog. I feigned amusement,
but the image of this man and my wife giggling together played in my mind
repeatedly over the next several days, taunting me. I told myself again and
again that she was not a cheater, that she was a good woman who loves me. But the
Radon 171 beckoned with increasing vigor until, finally, I relented. I’ll do it
for us, I told myself. I’ll do it because I am a paranoid fool who needs to be
shamed by unassailable proof of his wife’s virtue.
A week later— it was a Sunday night— I
made use of one of the many drugs at my disposal and dosed April’s after-dinner
glass of wine. She was fast asleep within thirty seconds. The kids were out
somewhere, and I could conduct my interrogation in privacy.
My face burned with self-loathing as I
took syringe in hand and looked at my beautiful April, asleep to the world,
asleep to the conniving, suspicious nature of her husband. I injected the Radon
Two minutes later, I began asking the
series of questions designed to elicit proof of her virtue.
“April,” I said.
“Yes?” They answered always in
monotone, without the slightest awareness of what was happening.
“When was the last time you had sexual
“Three nights ago,” she said.
That was me.
“Who is the last man other than your
husband you’ve had sexual intercourse with?”
I froze. “Billy Larkin?”
“When was this?”
“After the Homecoming Dance, my senior
year of high school.”
I suppressed a cry of relief and
“Who, other than your husband, do you
have sexual fantasies about?”
“No one,” she said.
A tear or two trickled down my face. I embraced her. She put her
arms around me. I told her repeatedly how much I loved her.
“I guess we can wrap this up,” I said,
sniffling and wiping my tears. “We both have better things to do.”
“Yes,” she said. “My weekly report to
“Who the hell is Rifkin?”
“My handler at Russian Intelligence.”
M. Lerner works in closed captioning
and has a B.A. in music composition. His first publication was “Jury Pool” in
Issue # 57 of Yellow Mama.
Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of
visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your
peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as
life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color
and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory.
Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.
Digital arts mastery provides what Darren
wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His
evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the
expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to
View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch)
works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart,
YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio,
DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma
and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author
intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion -
SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.