Alexander Shukhov stood restlessly outside the door of the Junkers, a soft wind blowing his hair back.

He ignored the remains of his comrades still trapped inside of their scorching vehicle. He had seen enough corpses to understand the price of victory.

Peter Nikolayevich stood motionlessly next to him, his pistol at his side while his other wary hand kept Alexander Shukhov near him.

A man approached them with a neutral look on his face, breathing heavily. “It is not good, comrade. I’ve checked the wreckage for survivors. We found only Sergei Tikhonovich alive. He’s wounded, but he should recover.”

“The rest?”

“Dead, comrade.”

“I see….and what of our two visitors?”

The man hesitated. “Sergei Tikhonovich was able to blow up a fuel truck that also destroyed the Americans’ car.”

“Then why do you have such a look as that on your face, comrade?” Peter Nikolayevich asked.

The man shifted weight from foot to foot as he spoke. “I inspected the destroyed car afterwards. I couldn’t really see inside because of the smoke and the flames, but from what I could tell, they didn’t appear to be in there.”

“That’s impossible! They could not have escaped. If they had, they would not have been far from the wreckage—”

Alexander Shukhov silenced Peter Nikolayevich with a small hand gesture, then spoke. “Did you actually see the car explode?”

“No, comrade. The explosion was quite blinding, but the Americans were very close to it when it happened.”

Alexander Shukhov paused for a moment before speaking. “It doesn’t matter now. If they survived, then they must be wounded and unable to follow us now, and we don’t have the time to search for them. Luckily, they also managed to destroy much of the evidence of our movements. We are leaving now. You get your men onto the next available train out of here. Meet us at the specified coordinates. You have three days. I would hate for you to be late.”

The man nodded his head and ran into the hanger, where a truck was stirring idly in place. Alexander Shukhov and Peter Nikolayevich stepped onto the plane. Nestled in his seat by the window, Alexander Shukhov watched as his men disappeared into the darkness, and then nodded to their pilot. Now allowed to proceed, the Junkers headed down the runway, picked up speed, and then took off, headed west into the blackened sky.

“They weren’t as foolish as I had thought,” Alexander Shukhov said.

Peter Nikolayevich shrugged. “They’re still dead.”


Alexander Shukhov and Peter Nikolayevich stepped out of the Model T inside another hanger in the middle of yet another airfield. It was extremely large, easily able to accommodate at least a dozen airplanes, though at the moment it only housed the Junkers at the northern end.

Alexander Shukhov felt exhausted from all the traveling. After flying to England, they had immediately exited their plane, promptly boarding a private yacht. His men had been on time, traveling through the railroads to make their way across Europe, the two groups merging in Liverpool with the item safely intact.

But the plan had been carried out flawlessly.

Less than a week later, the yacht had brought them to within twelve miles of the American coastline. There, a hired mercenary flying a Curtiss floating plane had landed near the boat, allowing them to stow the item on it. The pilot had then dropped the item off at the airfield for them to retrieve once they reached the coastline and entered the mainland.

Everything had been carried out with perfection. The secrecy of the operation remained. The location of their target had been secret; only Alexander Shukhov, Peter Nikolayevich, and the necessary lieutenants had been informed.

The two of them approached one of their sub-lieutenants who had brought the rest of his men over from Europe by sea. Behind him were about a dozen armed men, all dressed in U.S. Army “doughboy” uniforms.

“Are they ready for their moment of fame?” Alexander Shukhov asked.

“Yes, comrade,” the lieutenant answered.

“Then let’s not keep them waiting.”

Peter Nikolayevich waved to a group of men behind them. The men walked over to the middle of the hanger, where the container holding the explosive was, covered with a white sheet. They brought it over to Alexander Shukhov and placed it by his feet as he turned to the lieutenant. “Here is the star of your picture. You have five minutes with it. We shouldn’t need any more footage than that. At least for now.”

“Yes, comrade,” the lieutenant replied.

He pointed at two of his men, who ran over and picked up the container. Then the whole group headed into a separate room, with the last man holding a motion picture camera.

“What about the problem back at the hotel?” Alexander Shukhov asked a man.

“Everything is under control, comrade.”

“Da? And what of our other ‘friend?’”

“The problem there has been taken care of.”

Alexander Shukhov smiled, showing his smooth, white teeth. “Excellent.”

After 15 minutes, the group came back with the crate and the motion picture camera, feeling odd as they stood in a foreign nation’s military attire.

“I think that is all we will need,” the lieutenant answered.

“Very good, comrade,” Peter Nikolayevich answered.

Alexander Shukhov walked up to the crate and placed both his hands on it. “Call all the men in here. I have something to say.”

Peter Nikolayevich repeated the order to the lieutenant, which was obeyed instantly. Within a full minute, 50 more bodies filled the hanger, all armed with a rifle. They were all dressed in various clothing, either the U.S. Army uniforms or in typical American working-class garb of blue overalls and flannel shirts.

Alexander Shukhov turned to face them, his fiery eyes moistening. “Comrades, we are on the brink of yet another great victory. We have overcome many hardships, gone through many dark days. There are even some of us who have not lived to see the fruits of our labor.”

He stepped closer to them, bringing his hands up. He clenched them. “First, our enemy was the Imperialist bastards of the Czar. They murdered our families, slaughtered our people, and destroyed our pride and dignity. Though we suffered greatly, we not only endured but conquered them. Now, we go to spread our way of life to others who are still held under the chains of oppression. Though we do this alone, history will reward our courage.”

Alexander Shukhov ripped the sheet from the crate and opened it up. All the men gathered around tried to move in closer to see. Inside, there was the explosive substance.

“I’ve got their deaths right here, at my fingertips!” Alexander Shukhov cried out. “The Revolution cannot be stopped. First Russia, today Europe, tomorrow America!”

A torrential wave of sentimental passion and cries swept through the hanger. Moved by their leader’s words, the men began to yell in unison. “Long live the Soviet Union! Long live the Revolution!”

Then a cry rose above the cheers, calling to Malchev from the back of the hanger. He could not see who was speaking, but he managed to make out an obscure figure in the crowd waving frantically. The cheers quickly faded as Alexander Shukhov and Peter Nikolayevich made way to the man. He had his weapon pointed into the side of the individual next to him, whose rifle was on the ground by his feet.

“What is this?” Alexander Shukhov said.

“I think this man is a spy, comrade!” he replied.

“What make you think so?” Peter Nikolayevich asked.

“The man doesn’t seem to know what is going on. He also doesn’t know who anyone here is, besides you two. I asked him who I was, and he couldn’t answer!”

“Oh really?” Alexander Shukhov asked. “Well, then let us see who he is actually is.”

He stepped up the man, getting closer so he could see his face. To the confusion of his comrades, he spoke in English, not Russian.

“How did you survive that explosion that destroyed your motorcar?” he asked.

The “spy” looked at him in amazement. He replied in English. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” Alexander Shukhov said. “I was seeing if you would call my bluff. I will repeat my question: How did you survive that explosion?”

“I jumped out before the fuel truck exploded, obviously.”

“And you got here by…?” Peter Nikolayevich asked.

“I’ve been following you ever since you left Switzerland and then England.”

Alexander Shukhov glanced at his bewildered men, then spoke in Russian. “He is an American spy sent here to assassinate me and maintain the capitalist regime.”

Everyone glared at the spy as they trained their weapons on him.

“I don’t have to kill you,” the spy replied in Russian. “You can always surrender while there’s still time.”

Alexander Shukhov laughed hard and put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “You speak excellent Russian. But what happened to your friend?”

The spy clenched his fists. “He wasn’t so lucky.”

Alexander Shukhov studied him for a moment, then stepped away and spoke quietly to Peter Nikolayevich. “Bind him. I don’t want him to cause any problems.”

“We should just kill him.”

“Not yet. I have a better idea of what to do with him, one that will further serve our purpose here.”

Peter Nikolayevich was intrigued, but kept his questions to himself as he had the spy tied up, brought near the explosive, and forced him on his knees. A former Cheka officer stood behind him, a Mosin Nagant rifle.

“Did the Politburo give this explosive to you, or did you actually steal this?” the spy asked.

Alexander Shukhov shook his head. “They had nothing to do with this. If nothing else, their willful lack of involvement and opposition to my plans will serve as a protection guarantee for our country.”

“I figured they must have been the ones who tipped you off.”

“No; your man in the hotel lobby played his part well, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know when I am being spied on. It was only after my other sources confirmed your arrival that I knew which government was after us.”

“So you had contacts in the police department?

“Of course.”

The spy narrowed his gaze. “And what of our police friend?”

“Haven’t heard from him since you left Europe? That makes sense. He won’t be talking to anyone again.”

Cocking his head, the spy formed a curious grin. “Then why keep me alive? Am I that good at conversation?”

Chuckling, Alexander Shukhov pointed at the explosive. “We’re keeping you alive until we’re ready to use this.” He then addressed the rest of the men. “You know what your orders are. Carry them out.”

His men grabbed the explosive and pulled it to the end of the hanger near the plane.

“May I ask what it is?” the spy said.

“It’s called Torpex, a highly explosive but stable material made of RDX, TNT, and powdered aluminum. The British and my country have been working on it since the last century.”

The spy was quiet for a moment. “Where are we?”

“Washington D.C., the heart of your black, capitalist soul.”

“What are you going to do? Blow up the White House and start a war?”

Alexander Shukhov laughed heartily. “My friend, you are closer to the truth than you probably want to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“The part about setting off the explosive is correct. That much is true. Except in my version, it will be your government who will set it off on the Capitol building. I won’t have to even get inside; I just have to place it by the exterior wall and—well—you know the rest.”

Alexander Shukhov then held up a roll of film. “Footage of my men dressed as American soldiers handling the Torpex before it is placed by the Capitol. I will later then film them placing it by the Capitol and blowing it up. Of course, you will be next to it when it goes off. It will be the evidence to confirm the theory I have just laid out.”

He paused, watching the spy become anxious. “After the explosion occurs and the initial government statements are released, a hand-picked man will take the film to one of the largest newspapers. As he delivers it, he will be targeted by my men for assassination, but ‘somehow’ survive. Convinced that the film is genuine, the press will circulate it. The faith of ordinary Americans in their corrupt government will be forever destroyed.”

The spy grinned.

“You think my plan is foolish?” Alexander Shukhov said.

“No. Just doomed.”

Gunfire erupted outside of the hanger. Obscenities flew in the air, screams uttered in Russian. The gunfire intensified. Alexander Shukhov felt a deadly chill fill his heart as he watched one of the hanger doors explode in a spectacular fashion. Before the smoke had even cleared, dozens of black Lincoln automobiles poured in. Men covered in overcoats and fedoras jumped out, blazing down the hanger floor with Tommy guns.

A voice in a loudspeaker screamed menacingly. “Federal agents! Drop your weapons!”

The Russian militants, unable to understand English, began firing. The federal agents didn’t give them a second chance to rethink their position.

“Let ‘em have it, boys!”

A rain of bullets fell on the Russians, sending them running for cover in a panic.

The former secret police agent tasked with guarding Marlon tried to discharge his rifle at one of the federal agents. He froze, his eyes bulging as blood trickled down his chest. He fell, revealing Marlon standing behind him with a small blade in his hand.


Marlon was grabbing a gun from the outstretched hand of a dead Russian when John ran over to him, throwing off his overcoat. He smiled with a subtle nod.

“Where’s Malchev?” John inquired.

“Not sure. He ran off.”

“We have to track him down and eliminate him.”

They both turned to the end of the hanger. A Junkers was moving out the other side of the hanger, where the NPSU was still entrenched.

“Damn it!” John exclaimed. “We have to break through and get to that plane! I’m going to need some cover fire. Have them give me a small path along the left flank. Pin down anyone you see there. I’m going to get to the plane and secure it.”

“Alright,” Marlon said. “Good luck.”

“Make sure they’re accurate.”

John ran to the corner, where there were five hostiles. They spotted him and started shooting. He ducked quickly behind a stack of propellers and paused to let them shoot. When they reloaded, he jumped up and fired controlled bursts.

The four Russians were brought down by a volley of bullets coming from the Lincolns, lined up like a barricade. Marlon was in the middle, issuing commands.

John leapt to his feet and sprinted along the wall. Two NPSU members tried to shoot him, but selective shots by Marlon’s meticulous aim sent them to the ground. The rest of Malchev’s men didn’t notice him. They were slowly being cornered, huddled around the remains of a rusted biplane for cover. The fight was dying down.

Out of the hanger, John sprinted after the Junkers as it turned onto the runway. His legs were exhausted, his body fatigued. He hadn’t slept in days. His eyelids were barely open. But he wouldn’t quit.

Finding a last reserve of strength, he jumped into the air and reached for door handle. His right hand missed it, but his left hand managed to grasp it. He held onto it desperately as the rest of his body dangled like a rag doll, his feet skidding against the ground for a moment before the Junkers picked up speed and gained flight.


For the first time since he had been tossed out of the NKVD, Alexander Shukhov was in grief beyond words. All that went through his mind was that he had been duped by the American spy into talking long enough for help to arrive.

Beside him was Peter Nikolayevich. All others were either dead or would spend the rest of their lives rotting in some secret prison.

“What should we do?” Peter Nikolayevich asked.

Alexander Shukhov glanced back into the plane where he had left the Torpex. During the chaos and confusion that had ensued during the fighting, he had managed to grab it before the Americans had overwhelmed their position.

“We finish the job,” Alexander Shukhov said.

“How? Without the film…”

“Now all I want is to see the Capitol go up in flames.”

He heard a loud clamor from the back of the plane. More rumbling in the cabin. An intruder.

Alexander Shukhov was brief as he eyed his friend. “Whoever it is, kill him.”


For all installments from The Shadow Men, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1: Excerpt 1
  2. Part 1: Excerpt 2
  3. Part 1: Excerpt 3
  4. Part 1: Excerpt 4