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I hesitantly, but resolutely, forge ahead, past the mangy, decrepit canine lurking at the entrance to the woods. Once I trod out of the late afternoon sun, the dull lifeless colors of autumn, periodically slashed by startling hues of crimson and molton gold, settle around me like a shroud. Through the rotting pine and maple trees the wind groans out an incoherent plea. The furious creaking of the branches provides a frenzied, but equally unintelligible response. A sudden chill pervades the wooded area surrounding me, and I begin to shiver. The desolation and loneliness of this uninhabited patch of earth makes my steps falter and I almost turn back. Recalling all the anguish I have been through, my resolve returns; once again I am on my way.
Occasionally, I spy a squirrel scampering the length of a grey tree trunk. Raising my eyes, I glimpse the glittering sapphire sky, partially concealed by a veil of leaves. Without warning, I slip on the pine needles down a precipice. I lie on the ground, stunned but unhurt.
After glancing around, I notice an abandoned cottage. In some places the paint has chipped away to reveal rotting shingles. In others, one hinge is all that keeps a graying oak shutter from toppling to the ground. What were once windows and doors now appear as gaping wounds in the skeletal remains of the hovel. This is it! After so many years the wretchedness is finally going to end. Trembling with fear, I force myself to continue forward. Carefully, I pick my way up the stairs. The floor is like a labyrinth which must be navigated because of all the holes and loose floor boards. There is a putrid odor as I enter the musty cottage. Because countless animals have made this their home, I cautiously trek to the kitchen. Two ebony, battle-scarred cats regard my journey with scorn, their emerald eyes ablaze.
The dust of decades of disuse covers the kitchen counters. Spiders in their webs reside in the handles of the cabinets. Slowly, I open the third cupboard to the right of the refrigerator. A small, involuntary gasp escapes me as a mouse scuttles out. All else is soon forgotten, however, when I see a sliver of gray steel.
The box! A rectangular metal receptacle about the size of a shoebox lies on the shelf. The vessel seems as innocent as an Elizabethan maiden, knowing not the misery and agony it has caused. As I open it and remove the papers within, memories crowd in on me.
"Daddy, why is Mommy dead?"
"Daddy, are you a spy?"
"Daddy! Please don't leave me! Don't die, Daddy, please!"
"If we get those papers out of that house, we'll have the proof to expose your father for what he truly was - a Soviet spy."
"He lied to us. We had to terminate his life. Just like we terminated your mother's life."
"They were spies ...terminated your mother's life ...your life is a lie ...terminate his life ...a Soviet spy ..."
I shake my head and return to the present. I must destroy these papers, the only proof of my parents' last mission, the only proof of their liaison with the KGB. I grab the papers and dash outside, about to torch them.
Just as the glowing flame of my cigarette lighter begins to tease the stiff papers I hear them. The KGB. Somehow I knew they would follow me. Reaching inside my jacket, I pull out my .38 caliber Smith and Wesson, and I wait.
"Put the gun down," I hear one say.
"Put out the flame and give us those papers," the other says. Just as I am desperately trying to think of how to escape, the two cats begin to fight. In that split second the two agents are distracted, I fire my weapon. One shot. Two more shots. Good! My first shot misses, but the next two hit their marks. The two men lie on the ground.
I smell the acrid smoke of the papers burning on the ground where I had dropped them. The leaves and grass also begin to burn, and I realize that everything will soon become an inferno. I turn and start back, hastening out of the woods.
I leave, once again spotting that mutt waiting at the entrance. For whom he waits, I'll never know. I am finally free. My parents' honor has been retained, and I can begin to live my life free from thoughts of vengeance and betrayal. I am free. n