Sakharov the Bear


Book 5 of the Michael Gresham Series

Xiang and Petrov have been ordered by the CIA to eliminate Nurayov. They follow Nurayov home. They attack his home; his guards respond, leading to the arrest of Xiang and Petrov.

Xiang happens to be the son of Henry Xiang, whose college roommate is Michael Gresham. When his son is arrested in Moscow, Xiang Sr. talks Michael into defending his son in Moscow. 

A trial takes place. Michael, who has been desperately missing his wife, who was murdered, learns that his client's mother is coming to testify. Michael once spent the night with the woman and has never forgotten her. He is excited she is coming from China to testify; he is excited to see her again. A trial takes place in Moscow City Court where Michael's clients are charged with murder and with stealing state secrets. But the deck is stacked–it is Russia, after all. Will our heavily talented American lawyer manage to mount a defense that exonerates his clients? Or will he end up in jail with them, cited for his contempt of court?

This is a book rich with drama and rich with the feelings of its characters, people who jump off the page because of their inner lives. The inner lives that touch us all in their sincerity and life-likeness.

Sure to please all of John Ellsworth's fans, this book will gratify all readers who love a good thriller, especially thrillers with a legal slant. 


Read an Excerpt

Russell Xiang

We're bouncing around Red Square on Christmas Eve. The Kremlin is off to our right, spread beneath stars that have exploded into the cloudless night sky. Beneath the wheels of our Lada, the frozen snow is rutted where the trucks have it channeled. The bouncing traffic's endless points of light sweep across the sky, buildings and abutments and burnout oncoming eyes. Drivers confuse headlights with after-effects whereupon they over-steer and glide sideways along the roadway. Putin could charge admission.

Outside the windows of our little car the air is freezing while up ahead the red taillights of our quarry's Volvo send Morse Code signals through their rusted wiring. We can see the lone occupant frantically wiping his windshield with a white cloth. His name is Henrik Nurayov and my guess is that his breath has glazed the windshield because the defroster in his car is shorting out just like his taillights. They are victims of the Russian rust that eventually causes everything to quit working, including the people. We would hate to lose poor Henrik to a violent motor vehicle accident, blinded as he appears to be. If anybody gets to kill him tonight, it should be us. But on the other hand, it would get us home in time for nightcaps were he to crash. At last, Henrik creates enough of a porthole to continue his journey without veering into a car loaded with angels.

Henrik is a British subject in the employ of MI6. Never mind MI6's loyalty oaths and all that, says Henrik. Instead, he collects Russian rubles in exchange for the wiring schematics of Her Majesty's aircraft carriers the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales, currently under construction. Or perhaps he’ll receive payment for a flash drive loaded with the Prime Minister's nuclear codes to deliver a preemptive strike on Moscow. If it can be downloaded, Henrik has it for sale.

Tonight Henrik is a little off his usual route home. We know because we have been following him for a week waiting for him to make a move. He heads for the parking lots serving St. Basil's Cathedral, where he will pick up a succulent treat: a ten-year-old refugee boy from Syria.

Our job tonight—my driver and I—is to infiltrate Henrik's home and steal back all manner of computers, laptops, drives, gadgetry, and papers that could possibly have some value to Her Majesty's enemies. Henrik believes in free enterprise except when it shouldn't be free, which is when it should be paid for, which is always. It is around that syllogism that he has amassed a fortune, money which Henrik stores in the First World banks of Third World countries like the Caymans. Henrik never saw a bank sitting in the middle of banana trees that he wouldn't stuff with money from his traitorous ways. He was very democratic that way, giving all nations a chance to bid on Her Majesty's secrets.

And why are we from Moscow Station assisting our UK friends? Because we've been ordered to. CIA orders are never questioned. We're more like the military than the military.

Henrik's Volvo jostles across the washboard to the parking lot alongside St. Basil's. The brake lights flare and hazard lights take over. Children are everywhere along the block wall, standing in ones and twos and threes, some in cheery laughter and games, some blank-faced and despondent; others shiver, coatless, against the cold that would turn us all into statuary tonight. It is one of these—a coatless one—that Henrik waves at, indicating the child should come and speak into Henrik's lowered window. The chosen one points to himself, Henrik nods violently, and the child rushes around to Henrik's side. We can see the boy wipe a long smear of snot from his upper lip with the sleeve of his cotton shirt. Henrik ignores this, reaching outside his window without hesitation to inspect the child's testicles. Gently he weighs the sac in his palm, decides the boy is suitably pre-pubescent, whereupon Henrik, ever the consumer, smiles as if at a waiter tendering the sweetest lamb in all of Athens. The boy, whose nuts have just been jiggled, moves a step nearer the car. Suddenly he bends down and kisses Henrik squarely on the mouth. As he does this, two children rap on my driver's window—we are pulled up behind Henrik as if we, too, are shopping for the holiday—and Petrov, my driver, shoos them away. They kick the trunk of our Lada Vesta as they pass behind us onto the sidewalk. We don't notice.

The coatless chosen passes proudly around to the passenger door of Henrik's Volvo and slides inside. His head instantly disappears from view as the Volvo's hazard lights vanish and it crunches away from the curb, bored with the sidewalk chum. We follow behind but then, just as Petrov thinks Henrik has made us, she swings around him and moves us ahead with the traffic in the fast lane. There is no need to follow our man at this point: we know he is headed home because he has nowhere else to exercise his sexual hunger on the chosen except at his home.

We angle off through the traffic for a good twenty minutes. At last we leave behind the city limits and more of the sky comes into view.

Home is a crouching, single-family dwelling along a dark, sharply crowned road north of Moscow. Along its edges are irrigation ditches, and the look on Petrov's face tells me that if we were to slide off the road into one of those we would likely freeze to death after we have run out of gasoline, still undiscovered in this lonely place. So while Petrov takes care, her eyes glued to the road, my own eyes search out Henrik's surrounding acreage. I'm looking for any vehicle or form comprising a new addition to the property since our spy satellite beamed down its pictures late this afternoon. It is a difficult task, mine, because the pictures were an overhead view while mine is a view of the elevation. Still, somehow the mind makes the translation of the one to the other, and I'm happily satisfied to see there is nothing new under the sky. At least nothing on the outside; what or who might be lurking inside, that is anyone's guess. Which is why Petrov and I carry PSS Silent Pistols, the proud sidearm of the Spetsnaz. With our firepower we will overwhelm any person bent upon keeping us from Henrik. We will have our man and be done with it tonight. Make no mistake about that, I think to myself, and the phrase becomes a refrain in my mind. In my state of exhaustion—we have been up three days—my mind produces images of Russian dancers in a line gliding gracefully to the lyric Make no mistake. The tune is Russian, I imagine, and I'm suddenly cognizant that I might be imagining this whole entire moment. I suck in a lungful of air and swallow it hard down inside my chest, where it creates a bubble that asserts itself against my diaphragm. Yes, I have hallucinated oftentimes tonight; it must all stop now before I shoot someone who isn't there and hit someone who is. My greatest fear.