“I found out that on the black market they give you five or six rubles for a dollar. I went out for a walk yesterday and some Russian guy I happened to meet offered to exchange three hundred dollars for me, but he didn’t have enough rubles on him and offered to take me to a place where he could exchange any amount, completely unrestricted. I said no, of course, because I got scared. But when I saw the official exchange rate, I regretted not doing it.”

Jerry grabbed his arm, looked him straight in the eye and scolded him:

“Man, you’re either nuts or just really dumb! Don’t even think about it! You hear me? Don’t ever exchange money on the black market. Sure, offering you exchange rates five or six times higher than the official one might sound tempting, but you could get compromised by the Soviet secret service and, best case scenario, get deported.”

Gary gulped and mumbled back:

“Fine, okay, I won’t! But it’s a pity! If that’s the case, life here is going to get pretty expensive… How do you manage?”

Jerry looked him from the head to his toes and, patting his back, calmly replied:

“Look, Gary, just go get some rest in your room. Be patient! We’ll talk later this evening. I’ll introduce you to a friend. It’s all going to be okay.”

Jerry interrupted him in a stark, sudden manner. He wasn’t in a good mood that evening, to begin with. He hadn’t had a sip of whisky. He stared at the others frowningly and whispered:

“Things ain’t so simple! We’re saving a building that’s basically an eight-story microphone, rigged to the KGB!”

After what Jerry said, the others fell silent. They glanced at each other and gazed at the ground. Not waiting for them to utter a word, Jerry continued, ever so confidentially:

“Guys, this whole thing is so naïve! The CIA let the Soviets build it, then kicked some of them out too late and brought us in to spend months looking for and deactivating those goddamned bugs. But nobody realized there would be enough to even reconsider the existence of the entire construction.”

Mike got to his feet and went to check what was happening in the living room. He carefully peaked inside, and his jaw dropped. Right there, in Zhenya’s living room, a full-blown sexual orgy, the likes of which he had never seen even in the wildest porn films was well underway. Stark naked, Kuratov’s guests were all over the floor, their bodies winding, intertwining in all sorts of shapes and configurations. Two couples had huddled on the table and on the chair near them a young woman was grinding on top of some thin black-haired boy, screaming in ectasy like crazy. On the other side, in the corner next to the stereo, he noticed Lena, down on her knees in front of some bearded guy, sucking on his genital appendage, swaying along with some other gentleman who was grasping her shoulders from behind and moaning hoarsely. For a second, Mike thought he saw Zhenya’s head nestled in between the legs of a chubby brunette lying on the ground, her hands high up, screaming in complete rapture. Mike was dumbstruck. The picture resembled a fragment of the Kingdom of Satan and made even him, a ladies’ man and lover of sexual pleasures, feel uncomfortable.

Mike knew very well he was taking on an unusual activity, bearing huge risks with it. Selling empty videotapes, TV sets, video devices, that was one thing. But spreading video information banned by Soviet authorities, was a completely different thing. That automatically turned him into an enemy of the Soviet State. The big money he was expecting meant a huge responsibility he had never before burdened himself with. To be the King of Video was a tempting idea, as long as you didn’t end up like the French king Louis XVI or the Russian Emperor Nicholas II.