My dress shoes were uncomfortable and so I wore funky old sneakers. This may seem like an irrelevant detail but stick with me. My plan was to visit the Russian consulate and then go to the Mystery Writers of America dinner crosstown. The visit was part of my research for my spy novel, The Borzoi Control.
At the Russian consulate I gathered a bunch of handouts and managed to offend the stern-looking blonde working the desk. Being a big believer in “speaking the language,” I tried out the “hello” I had learned. “Previet” was easier than the longer more cumbersome greetings. But she glared and I asked what was wrong. “Is not polite enough,” she said. I apologized, tried and failed to make chit chat, and headed out.
I had heard that the consulate was under 24/7 FBI surveillance and decided to test it. I walked in one door at the giant toy store FAO Schwartz, doubled back and exited another. Then I went into Central Park and dig a zig zaggy surveillance detection route. Nothing. I took out my tight black dress shoes, threw my comfortable but worn sneakers in the garbage, and headed off to the Mystery Writers of America dinner. It was pleasant but uneventful, schmoozing with fellow authors and fans. I think I was too gushy with Elmore Leonard.
A month later I got a call from the secretary at MWA. “The FBI called and was asking about you.” Of course, I thought she was kidding but she reassured me she wasn’t and gave me the agent’s name. Cervantes. Again I thought she was kidding as my first book had been described as “Don Quixote in a trench coat.” I called the main FBI number and asked for Cervantes.
It was actually a pleasant call-clearly just checking the boxes. He asked about my business at the Russian Consulate and I told him. I joked that the FBI should be sure to buy multiple copies of my book.
Remember the sneakers? I imagine that some poor FBI agent had to retrieve them from the garbage and dissect them. It was an unusual enough behavior that it could have been a dead drop, a way of passing information. The other takeaway is that a smartass amateur doing a surveillance detection route is no match for a professional group of watchers.
Years later, I did an FOIA on myself.
I had fun with some of the other pages: