Summit

She is the most dangerous person in the world — a powerful psychic used to turn loyal American operatives into KGB double agents. Beautiful Valentina, however, has one weakness — her infatuation with Daniel Fulton, the brilliant, enigmatic American pianist.  Valentina hopes her love for Fulton will free her from the KGB. Instead, it traps her into using her powers one final time. Success will change the course of history. Failure will doom the only person she loves. One woman controls the fate of America . . . at the Summit.

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Readers rave about Summit:

This is a well written, well -rounded, exciting book. I loved it and will be looking for all books by Mr Richard Bowker. I do NOT give five stars often or lightly, but I am impressed Summit. So if you like thrillers, this is a great one to read. And Mr Bowker, if you ever need a beta reader, I would be thrilled to do it.

The author has a way of bringing you right into the story; the characters are believable and flawed. The sprinkle of romance is fun and the Mr Bowker’s knowledge of classical music and the ability to identify the problems of a classical music prodigy are amazing.
Above all the plot twists and turns were extremely suspenseful.
I also appreciated the author not painting the Russians as all evil and U.S. as all good.

It was a great read. I loved it. It kept you on the edge of your seat with all its twist and turns.

The writing is sharp and lively, the characters are memorable, and the plot kept me going right to the end. I just reread this book after many years since first encountering it, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time. Yes, the Cold War is over now, but the novel makes it easy to slip right back into that old paranoid way of thinking. Good stuff.

Here is the first chapter of Summit:

**************

Dieter Schmidt was glad to be going home. He despised Russia and he despised Russians, and three years was long enough.

There was not a season here that did not make him miss Germany. It was spring now, and Russia was turning to mud. The people were starting to go outside hatless and coatless, and he was forced to see more of their doughy white skin, their thick, shapeless bodies, their ill-fitting suits and faded dresses. In the parks, he knew, the more adventurous of the women would be sunbathing in their underwear, a custom that almost made him sick with revulsion. Who could find these women attractive, with their steel teeth and their cheaply dyed hair and their square, sullen faces that looked middle-aged at thirty? Who could find this gray city attractive, with its absurdly outsized monuments and endless, dreary high-rise apartment buildings? Who would want to live through the fierce cold and the fierce heat, under the endless, impudent stares of people who wanted only to destroy your nation?

He hurried past an orange-vested babushka sweeping the sidewalk and thought of home, of bright blond frauleins and neon signs and restaurants that really had everything listed on the menu—of being able to write and speak without worrying about the enemy….

Not exactly, of course. He would still be in the fight. But he would be home, fighting an enemy for whom he had a little more understanding and sympathy. It could only be better.

Reasonably sure that no one was following him, he turned off Gorky Street toward the address that had been given him. He wasn’t home yet, unfortunately, and there was still business left here in Moscow.

* * *

“He’s on his way,” Yuri announced. He sat in a corner of the room, wearing headphones and smoking a Belomorkanal.

Colonel Rylev nodded and turned to Professor Trofimov. “Ready?” he asked.

“Of course, of course,” Trofimov replied, wiping his hands on his white lab coat.

They both turned to look at the woman.

* * *

She lies alone in darkness, waiting. Waiting to dream. Her mind is empty now except for one thing: terror.

Dreams can kill. And worse.

And the dream is about to begin.

* * *

Pavel Fedorchuk was waiting for the knock on the door. He was a small man, with jet black hair and eyes that were in constant motion. He was wearing a crisp new pair of Wrangler jeans and a sweatshirt that said Property of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary Swim Team. A Duran Duran album was playing on his stereo. He was smoking a Marlboro; the ashtray on the table in front of him was overflowing..There was a half-empty bottle of vodka and a loaf of black bread next to the ashtray.

When the knock came, he promptly stubbed out the cigarette and went to open the door. He walked with a slight limp, the result of a bullet wound received in an ambush outside Kabul. “Coming,” he muttered.

Dieter Schmidt was in the corridor, looking unhappy. He walked inside without a word, and Fedorchuk quickly closed the door behind him.

Schmidt looked around. The apartment was in darkness, except for one bare light over the table where Fedorchuk had been sitting. “We shouldn’t meet,” Schmidt said in heavily accented Russian. “This is very dangerous.”

“Don’t worry,” Fedorchuk replied. “This is the last place anyone would expect you. Want some vodka?”

Schmidt shook his head, not attempting to hide his distaste as he saw the half-empty bottle. Fedorchuk shrugged and sat down at the table. Schmidt sat opposite him. Duran Duran howled in the background. “I don’t understand why you came to us instead of the Americans or the British,” Schmidt said.

“Why should it matter?” Fedorchuk asked, lighting up another Marlboro. “The glory will be yours instead of theirs.”

“If this is on the level. If we decide to take you.”

“Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about, right?”

“Of course. Let us begin, then.”

“Yes. Let’s begin.”

* * *

She lay strapped to a cot inside a large Plexiglas pyramid. Halved table-tennis balls were taped to her eyes, and headphones covered her ears. Sensors were attached to various other parts of her body; the wires ran to a console outside the pyramid. A white sheet was draped over her legs. She didn’t move. She looked like a mutant insect, an electronic corpse.

The people outside the pyramid heard Duran Duran scratchily through a speaker Yuri had turned on. “I despise that music,” Professor Trofimov muttered, and he turned away from the woman. Rylev glanced at him, then shrugged, and he too turned away.

Doctor Olga Chukova stood apart from them, in front of the console. Her eyes stayed on the console’s dials and digital readouts. She could not bear to look across the room at the woman about to dream.

* * *

“Let us begin, then.”

“Yes. Let’s begin.”

How does the dream start? She never tried to figure it out. Her mind is ready, and the machine is ready, and it starts. Why worry about it further? Out of the darkness the familiar scene appears. She can barely hear the distant voices through her earphones, but they don’t matter very much. What matters is the building in front of her.

It is too dark to see anything clearly, but the building appears to be made of some kind of white brick. Its door is open—a mouth waiting to swallow her. Above the door a light blinks in the darkness—red, red, red—like a bloodshot eye trying to see her more clearly. She has to enter this building.

She moves forward, her legs unsteady beneath her. She walks down a couple of steps, holding on to a black iron railing, and then she is in the open doorway. She takes a couple of breaths to control her terror, and she goes inside.

There is enough light to show that she is in a large, empty entrance hall. She has tried in the past to examine this hall—to see whose portrait hangs on the far wall, to read the papers on the bulletin board to the left, but she has never succeeded. All that is clear is a large grandfather clock, which stands like a sentinel in the middle of the marble floor, its hands always pointing to ten past nine.

A failure of imagination, perhaps, or perhaps that is simply the way this world is. She feels as if she is inside a photograph that is slightly out of focus at the edges, and no amount of squinting will make certain things come clear. At any rate, she does not even try this time; instead she walks slowly past the clock and up the steep staircase.

The second floor is her goal. It is an endless corridor, an endless gauntlet she must run, an endless nightmare to which she must now return. She closes her eyes for a moment, then starts down the corridor. She knows every door she passes and the secret that lies behind it; every secret is part of the nightmare. The doors are closed. She keeps walking until she reaches one that is open.

The distant voices babble on. She doesn’t want to go inside this room, but she has no choice. The room becomes brighter as she enters—as if it has been waiting just for her, as if her presence makes it come alive. The room is empty except for a four-poster bed. And on the bed is what she fears most in this world.

A baby, smiling up at her as if it has finally found its mother.

* * *

Nothing bad yet. Pulse rate slightly elevated, EEC normal, body temperature okay. But Doctor Chukova knew what was coming, and she prayed that her patient would be all right.

“It’s about time it started,” Colonel Rylev murmured.

In the Plexiglas pyramid, the woman started to sweat.

* * *

“It’s a lot of things,” Fedorchuk was saying, “but mostly it’s a sense of failure. How many Soviet citizens are there in my line of work? Half a million? More? Nobody really knows. But the sheer immensity of the security organs is a measure of the failure. What do we spend our time doing, after all? Stealing technology from the Americans that our system is incapable of developing itself. Enforcing a loyalty in our own people that the Party cannot instill any other way. Where will it end? Logically, when we all work for the organs, all spying on each other and on the West, nobody doing anything real. That is a very depressing thought.”

“Aren’t things improving under Secretary Grigoriev?” Dieter Schmidt asked.

“Bah.” Fedorchuk swallowed some vodka and immediately bit off a hunk of black bread. “Window dressing,” he said when he had swallowed the bread. “And he isn’t going to last long, believe me. The organs don’t like to have their jobs threatened. He will find out soon enough who really has power in the Soviet Union.”

“What you want to do will be dangerous, of course,” Schmidt said.

“Everything I’ve ever done has been dangerous. Now it’s time to do something dangerous for myself.”

Schmidt nodded, but still didn’t seem convinced. Fedorchuk went to turn over the record. Awful music. But one must drown out those bugs, mustn’t one? He smiled. It was time.

* * *

She has to give the baby a name. She doesn’t know why, but it doesn’t work otherwise. The enemy must have a name.

“Hello, Dieter,” she whispers.

The baby smiles and reaches out a chubby hand to her. It is fat-cheeked and happy, as usual, with blue eyes and fuzzy brown hair. Helplessly, she feels maternal urges swelling in her. She longs to pick the baby up and press it to her breast, to sing it a lullaby, to pinch its cheeks and make it laugh.

But she will do none of these things.

She thinks about Dieter Schmidt. She knows a great deal about him.

Dieter Schmidt is head of the Moscow station of West German intelligence. He will soon return home, where he will be in charge of intelligence operations against East Germany. He is forty-four years old, married, with two children. He likes to cheat on his wife, but he can’t in the Soviet Union, where every good-looking woman he meets could be (and probably is) a KGB swallow. He is slightly overweight but muscular. He has a florid complexion and thin brown hair, which he combs over a bald spot. He often cuts himself shaving. He is smarter than he looks.

Dieter Schmidt’s father was an officer in the Fourth Panzer Group of the German army during the siege of Leningrad. He is now retired and lives in a little house in the Rhine valley. Schmidt himself has worked tirelessly against the Soviet Union during his career in the BND. He has never been able to disguise his loathing for the Russian people, and that has hampered his intelligence-gathering efforts in Moscow. His superiors understand this, and feel his talents will be better applied against people of his own nationality.

She knows all of this and much, much more.

“Hello, Dieter,” she repeats, a little louder this time.

The baby coos.

* * *

“Loyalty to one’s native land is basically absurd,” Fedorchuk said, lighting a Marlboro. “It’s so primitive, don’t you think? An accident of geography. I mean, are the Russians inherently so much better than the Germans or the Americans or the Afghans that I should risk my life for them and attempt to destroy the others?”

Schmidt shrugged. He wasn’t interested in having a philosophical discussion. “It’s like your ties to your parents, I suppose,” he said. “They nurtured you and instilled their values in you, so you give them your love.”

“But your parents only ask you to take care of them when they get old. They don’t ask you to march off to war at the age of eighteen and get your face blown off to further some obscure plot of a bunch of old criminals in the Politburo. Surely you Germans have seen the dangers of blind patriotism, even if you haven’t all learned the lesson.”

“People do not tire of pointing out the lesson to us,” Schmidt responded coldly. He glanced at his watch.

Fedorchuk smiled. “Loyalty to a cause, on the other hand, can be rational,” he observed. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some vodka?”

* * *

“Now,” Professor Trofimov murmured, gnawing a knuckle.

Rylev stared at the woman inside the pyramid. Doctor Chukova stared at the console.

* * *

She begins to hate the baby. It isn’t easy; there is nothing about the baby to hate. So she must find the hatred inside her, and then she must feel it. She must let it suck the life out of her, let it live instead of her. Only if the hatred lives can she triumph. Only if she triumphs can she hope to live again.

“Auschwitz,” she says tentatively.

The baby smiles and waves its tiny arms, as if conducting a toy orchestra.

She will have to try harder. She doesn’t have to speak; hatred can work without words. So she thinks.

She thinks of the Great Patriotic War: twenty million dead, killed by the Fascists in flagrant violation of a solemn treaty.

Not specific enough. The numbers are too immense; her hatred cannot comprehend them.

The siege of Leningrad, then. His father was there, was part of it. Six hundred thousand dead of starvation and disease. Too immense once again, but she is getting closer.

Her countrymen, old men and women and little babies, eating bread made from flour-mill dust and cellulose sweepings, stripping wallpaper to gnaw on the paste, drinking soup made from carpenter’s glue… and meanwhile Lieutenant Schmidt sips his beer and laughs. Brave Komsomol girls are blown to bits as they attempt to defuse delayed action bombs. Exhausted survivors drag their dead through the city streets on sleds, abandoning the corpses when they no longer have the strength to pull them to the mass graveyards. Lieutenant Schmidt laughs and sips his beer. The motherland weeps; her people shake their fists at the Fascist hordes and swear vengeance. Lieutenant Schmidt laughs….

Yes. She stares at the baby, feeling the hatred course through her veins, then explode out of her and fill the room. Good.

She stares at the baby, and the baby starts to change.

* * *

“Communism is a cause one can die for,” Fedorchuk went on. “The inevitable triumph of the proletariat. The end of capitalist oppression. The withering away of the state. Don’t you think so?”

“You wear capitalist clothes, smoke capitalist cigarettes, listen to capitalist music,” Schmidt said, “and you talk to me about dying for communism?”

“No contradiction, Herr Schmidt. One can enjoy the fruits of a system while working for its destruction. Perhaps a little hypocritical, that’s all.”

“If you feel that way, why do you want to defect?”

Fedorchuk lit another cigarette. Duran Duran shouted unintelligible lyrics. Dieter Schmidt suddenly looked puzzled and ill at ease. He ran a hand through his thin brown hair.

“What would you say,” Fedorchuk inquired, “if I were to tell you that I have no intention of defecting?”

* * *

“Pulse rate one-forty,” Doctor Chukova said.

The woman inside the pyramid was sweating heavily now. Her hands clutched spasmodically at the sides of the cot.

* * *

The baby grows, fueled by the hatred that surrounds it. Before her eyes it turns into a boy, a teenager, a young man. Its hair starts to thin. It becomes overweight, its face becomes red.

It becomes a forty-four-year-old German who hates her as much as she hates him.

He looks at her with cold Aryan eyes, and she knows he is capable of turning Jews into lampshades, of killing millions of her countrymen to fulfill the dreams of a madman. He gets up from the bed. “Russian bitch,” he hisses.

She takes a step forward. “Fascist bastard,” she snarls.

He grabs her and throws her onto the bed. Of course he will try to rape her, just as he raped her country. But he underestimates her, just as Hitler underestimated the heroic resolve of the Russian people. He is wearing a stylish Western suit and tie. He straddles her and fumbles with his fly, already gloating over his conquest. She feels the startling solidity of his thighs, and she cannot contain her loathing. She lunges forward suddenly and punches him in the groin. He howls with pain and she pushes him off her.

The battle has begun.

* * *

“One-sixty,” Doctor Chukova said. “I think this is going to be a bad one.”

* * *

Dieter Schmidt did not move. Fedorchuk knew what Schmidt should have been thinking: it was what the German had feared—some kind of setup to discredit him before he left the country. He should never have agreed to come here. He should leave now, and hope it wasn’t too late. But Schmidt didn’t leave; he simply sat at the table, sweating under the bare light and staring at Fedorchuk.

And that meant it was working. How it worked, why it worked, Fedorchuk had no idea, and he knew enough not to ask. His job was simply to play the part. He smiled at Schmidt. “Let’s talk more about communism,” he said.

Communism, goal of the Soviet state, hope and dream of oppressed peoples everywhere. Fedorchuk began speaking about it in a low, urgent voice. Surely you understand, Herr Schmidt, that your way of life is doomed by historical necessity. You are a walking anachronism; your institutions are crumbling under the weight of their own sins; your side cannot win, no matter how hard it fights and how much money it spends. It is only a matter of time.

The persuasive voice kept on talking. The words were unimportant, or so Colonel Rylev had told Fedorchuk, but they had to be said. They provided the intellectual basis for what was happening, a form of rationalization that the victim’s mind demanded in order to make sense of it.

So Fedorchuk talked—about the glory of communism, the evil of capitalism, the need to make a choice. The record finished, and he didn’t bother to put on another one. Schmidt now looked frightened. He wrung his hands; his gaze darted into the darkened corners of the apartment. “I don’t understand,” he interrupted finally. “Why did you bring me here, if you’re not going to defect?”

“I just want to talk. Don’t you want to listen?”

Schmidt hesitated. “I don’t see… I don’t… all right. Yes.”

* * *

It does not take him long to recover. He gets back to his feet and glares at her. “Now you’re in for it,” he mutters. But she can detect the wariness behind the words. The bully does not expect the victim to strike back. He steps toward her and swings. She ducks, grabs his arm, and pulls him down onto the bed. She twists around, and now she is on top, her knees pinning his arms.

She sees fear in his eyes. But he hasn’t lost the battle yet. He wriggles an arm free and strikes her on the cheek. The pain makes her hatred flow more strongly. She punches his chin, and her knuckles ache from the impact. And then he pushes her off him, and they are both on the floor, flailing at each other, wallowing in the hatred, oblivious of their own pain, wanting only to hurt, to destroy.

* * *

The pulse was erratic and far too high now. The EEG was showing the expected bizarre patterns. In the pyramid, the woman pushed against her restraints and screamed obscenities. Rylev watched impassively, Trofimov nervously.

Doctor Chukova wanted to scream her own obscenities at both of them. Monsters! They were killing her patient. She wanted to rush into the pyramid and rip the earphones and the stupid table-tennis balls off, to bring the poor woman back to reality and to sanity.

But she said nothing and she did nothing. There was no other way to survive. “One-ninety,” she murmured. “This is worse than it’s ever been.”

Rylev made no response.

* * *

After a while Schmidt rallied and tried to argue with him. “Communism is a hideous delusion,” he insisted. “More crimes have been committed in its name than in any other, and what has it achieved? The Soviet Union’s economy is a mess. Its people are drunk half the time and standing in line the other. They don’t revolt only because they’re used to being oppressed. They enjoy their suffering. What kind of hope and dream is that?”

Fedorchuk smiled. Argue all you want, he thought, as long as you don’t leave. And he argued back—the old, old arguments that had once turned people into revolutionaries, but more often nowadays were met with a cynical shrug. Fedorchuk had heard them—and spoken them—so often that he hadn’t the slightest idea whether he believed them anymore. They were simply part of the way his mind worked.

But the arguments mattered to Schmidt. He fought them as if his life depended on the outcome. He pounded the table; he shook his finger at Fedorchuk; he got up and paced through the dark apartment. But he didn’t leave. And eventually he started to weaken.

* * *

Someday she will lose. But for now she has the strength, born of terror and that awful hatred, to defeat this creature. That, really, is not the hardest part.

He is beneath her again. His face is bloody; his arms have lost the strength to hold her off. His eyes are frightened. She can rummage at will through his mind, and she finds much more there to feed her hatred. He beats his wife and enjoys it. He collects pornography. He thinks Hitler has been greatly misunderstood.

It doesn’t matter now.

She is through hitting him. It doesn’t express her hatred well enough. Only one thing can do that. She puts her hands around his neck. She squeezes.

His red face turns redder. His eyes bulge. His body thrashes beneath her. His hands clutch at her. But there is nothing left. He is hers.

And this is the hardest part. To stop while the hatred is still strong, to keep your hands from twisting the last breath out of his wretched body. It is like holding back from an orgasm. But it must be done. She has no power over him if he is dead. And the power is all that matters.

So she forces her hands to pull back from the neck, just enough to let him gasp and cough and realize how close he is to death. And now she sees something beyond fear in those eyes—the dull acceptance of the enslaved. It is what this battle has been about. “All right,” she whispers.

She hears the sound of distant voices.

* * *

Something was happening to him, Dieter Schmidt realized. He should have left long ago, but he hadn’t. And now part of him wanted to keep arguing, to make this KGB flunky see reason—but that part seemed to be shriveling inside him, like a tumor that had been miraculously cured. He fought against the cure, but he finally realized that this was perverse. Why fight against health, against reason? Finally there was no strength left to fight; there was only a kind of exhausted understanding. He has experienced something brutal. He has experienced something wonderful.

He is a new man.

* * *

Fedorchuk gazed at Dieter Schmidt. His face was bathed in sweat, and his eyes were dull. “This is not what I expected,” Schmidt whispered.

“I know,” Fedorchuk replied, almost gently. “But what you expected would not have been a good idea. Don’t you agree?”

Schmidt seemed to consider. “I agree,” he said at last. “What now?”

“Now? Nothing. Your life goes on as before. Return to Germany, take up your new job. If we need your help, we will be in touch. This has been enough for one day.”

“Yes,” Schmidt said. “Shall I go, then?”

Fedorchuk poured some vodka into the glasses on the table. “Have a drink first. A toast to your new life.”

Schmidt took his glass and swallowed the vodka, gasping at its strength.

He’ll get used to it, Fedorchuk thought. He’ll get used to a lot of things. He’ll have to. “You can go now,” Fedorchuk said.

The German put his glass down, then got up and walked heavily out of the dim apartment. Fedorchuk watched him leave, then poured himself another drink.

* * *

She leaves him, lying motionless on the bed. She stares at him from the doorway for a long moment, then closes the door on him and on the hatred. Only then does she feel the exhaustion, the pain, the horror. It is time to get out.

Time to walk back along the endless corridor, past the doors that hide so many other secret horrors. She thinks about each door as she passes it, feels the aching aftermath of every battle she has fought and won. She wonders if the door will open and the battle will begin again. None does—this time.

She staggers down the staircase to the entrance hall, then across it to the front door. She puts her hand on the knob and twists. The door is locked.

She had known it would be. She closes her eyes. This is the most terrifying part. She knows how to make this world exist, she knows how to walk down the corridor, find her enemy, and defeat him; but she does not know how to get out. The door is locked; there is no other, and there is no key. The windows, she knows, are barred. The only escape is through her mind, but by now her mind is barely functioning.

She must try. She cannot stay here, because then the horror would go on forever; then her enemies would surely rise from their beds and come out from behind the closed doors and attack her. Then she would surely wish for a death that surely would not come.

She leans against the door, her forehead touching the cold wood, and she tries to will this door, this world, out of existence. Time passes, but nothing happens—this world will always be there, around her, inside her, her triumph and her torture. There is no escape, there will never be any escape, and at last there is nothing to do but scream and scream and scream.

* * *

It took two shots of the tranquilizer to stop the screaming. And even then she writhed on the cot as if possessed (as she certainly was), her hands clutching at Doctor Chukova’s lab coat as if it were her only hope of escape. Each time was worse for her, and Doctor Chukova didn’t know what to do about it.

They had rolled the cot outside the pyramid. The earphones and the table-tennis balls and the sensors had been removed. The job was done. As the orderlies rushed the woman off to the clinic, Chukova found some courage and went up to Colonel Rylev. “If you put her through this again, she will die,” she said.

Rylev considered her statement for a moment, then turned away, apparently deciding that it wasn’t worth a reply. Doctor Chukova stared at him with hatred for the same amount of time, then hurried after her patient.

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