“How did you get in here?”
“How I arrived here is not important. I could explain it, but it gets kind of technical and you’d probably get bored. Besides, we don't have that much time. So let's get down to business, shall we?”
“Why don't I have my security detail listen to your explanation. They don't bore as easily as I do.” Putin said, as he started to reach for the phone.
“Victoria, I need you to immobilize this guy.”
Putin's arm froze in midair.
“While you're at it, can you mute him?”
“It will make conversation difficult.”
“That's okay. Small talk bores me.”
“Go ahead, summon help. Press a button on your phone.”
Putin tried to reach forward, but his arm wouldn't move.
“You could try yelling for your security detail. They're right on the other side of that door.” I said, as I shifted in my chair and gestured behind me.
Putin opened his mouth and yelled, but nothing came out. It was as if he was shouting in a vacuum. He remembered an old movie line about how in space, no one can hear you scream. It’s possible he was having a stroke. But who was this stranger sitting across from him? Maybe you hallucinate when you’re having a stroke, he thought.
“Victoria, does Putin have a gun anywhere in his desk?”
“Yes. It is a Pistolet Samozaryadny Malogabaritny. It is in the top, right drawer.”
“That is the Russian name for the weapon, also known as a PSM. The literal translation is a compact, self-loading pistol.”
“You could’ve just said yes.”
“I will keep that in mind if the subject matter reemerges.”
Sometimes, it was easy to forget that I was communicating with the living embodiment of the Internet.
“Is he left or right-handed?”
“A scan of his muscle mass indicates that he is right-handed.”
“Perfect. On my cue, have him pull the gun out and put it to his right temple”
“You're looking a little tense, Mr. President. Let's play a game. It may help you to relax. You're going to like this game. It's named after Mother Russia.”
Putin sat there, unable to move. The stranger was mocking him. Hallucination or not, he despised being mocked.
“Open your top, right desk drawer.”
Putin reached down and opened the drawer. He didn't want to, but he couldn't stop his right arm from obeying. This stranger was playing with him as if he was a puppet on a string.
“Take out the PSM.”
His hand grasped the gun and slowly moved it up to his right temple.
“Now then, I assume you're familiar with a little game known as Russian Roulette. If that rings a bell, flick off the safety, Mr. President.”
Using his thumb, Putin involuntarily flipped the safety to the off position.
“Silly me. I just realized you can't play Russian Roulette with a gun that isn't a revolver.”
Putin breathed a sigh of relief even though the fully loaded pistol was still planted firmly against his head. If only he could move his arm, he thought, the stranger's game would be over.
“Now that I have your full attention, Mr. President, I think it's time for us to talk. Actually, I'm going to talk and you're going to listen. I suggest you listen to every word. If I sense that you’re not, you might accidentally pull the trigger. Blink once if you understand, twice if you don't.”
Putin paused, then blinked once as beads of sweat started forming on his forehead. He would meet this stranger again. He would make it his mission in life.
“So, let's talk about your invasion of Ukraine. Whoops, sorry, special military operation.”
Putin glared at the smirking stranger seated across from him. He didn't look Ukrainian. Perhaps he was an agent of the West. But that didn't explain his inability to move. Had this stranger somehow drugged or hypnotized him?
“I've taken up enough of your time, so I'm just going to cut to the chase. You're going to end your personal war, and you're going to end it immediately. Blink once if you understand. Remember, you're only a twitch away from eternity.”
Putin blinked once. He just wanted this nightmare to end.
“Good boy. I'm glad we could come to an understanding.”
Putin wondered what this smug son of a bitch’s next move would be. He didn't have to wait long.
“Your security forces are going to come through your office door in about fifteen seconds. If I were you, I wouldn't tell them about me. It might make you seem a little crazy. You wouldn't want people calling you that crazy old Putin, would you?”
I could tell from the look on his face, he didn't get the humor in my question.
“Before I go, I'd like you to do one last thing for me. Point your gun at the urn on the stand to the right of the bookcase. Now don’t forget, do what I've asked you to do about your war, or I'll be back to finish our game.”
Putin's hand pulled away from his head as his outstretched arm aimed at the urn, situated ten feet to his left. His head turned as his gaze locked onto the ceramic artifact.
“I’ve gotta fly, Mr. President, but I'll leave you with this. Ready, aim, fire!”
The urn exploded into pieces as the gun dropped from his hand and Putin’s security forces burst through the door. He turned to look at the stranger. The chair was empty.
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