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Odinson

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Ukrainian Ambassador Leonid Gurka's escort would have to take an annoyingly inconvenient route to get back to his embassy, which was not at all far from National Cathedral. The funeral of President Clinton was beautiful, and had lived up to the American standards of holding a grand, but at the same time republican, sending-off of a former leader of the United States. The Ambassador had seen leaders from across the world, and especially across the United States, in attendance at the funeral. Texas Governor Ann Richards, who had just managed to squeeze out a victory against Republican rival George W. Bush, was especially notable as the Secret Service could not at first verify that she was on the registered list of guests invited to the cathedral for the funeral. "Young man," she had reportedly told the Secret Service agent, "you find me on that damned list, I came all the way from Austin to pay my respects." The agent did, in fact, find her on that damned list. Other notable leaders included the Mayor of Washington D.C., the governors of New York and California, President Gore, and Senator Sinclair (the only surviving member of the congress) who was reportedly seen crying at one point during President Gore's speech. The journalist who saw this, decided not to write about it anywhere other than his personal journal.

Some of those guests greeted the Ambassador, along with some of the other international delegates sent from around the world to the President's funeral. However now, it was over. President Clinton's body was on its final journey home on Air Force One to Arkansas, and President Gore was in the White House, preparing to restore the American government. Ambassador Gurka likely had his own problems to worry about - or at least his interests back home in Ukraine. Since the recent fall of the Soviet Union, the former member-states (besides Russia) were seen as oddities, but most Americans assumed that they wanted to move past the brutal, philosophically evil, Soviet regime that had murdered so many of their countrymen. If Ambassador Gurka was able to read nothing else about President Gore, he would at least be able to tell that his interests lied first and foremost with the well-being of the United States, and that his interests in the rest of the world were limited for now.

Eventually, the Ambassador and his family arrived back home to the embassy. Because of the annoying detour they had to take, due to security reasons, it was now twilight. Soon, the light would be extinguished from the sky. Out front of the embassy were two men, in distinctly grey suits. One of them was a distinctly young man, while the other fulfilled some kind of American stereotype that the ambassador could not yet put his finger on. It was starting to snow outside, but it didn't seem to bother either of the men who were both wearing grey coats over their suits, and dark grey fedoras above their heads. The old man had a full grey beard (granted, it was neatly trimmed) while the younger man, probably in his late 30s, had a black moustache.

Once the ambassador got out of his vehicle, the two men would approach as the snow started to fall harder, and the wind started to pick up. "Ambassador Gurka," said the younger of the two men. He pulled out his credentials, which included a foldable piece of leather that contained his U.S.L.S. identification as well as a bronze badge. "I'm Special Agent Samuel Mason," he said, "and this is Special Agent Leonard Franklin," he noted, gesturing towards his older companion. "We're with the United States Lighthouse Service. Would you mind if we had a word, in private, with you?" he asked.
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“Do you think that many people would come to Ukraine if President Yushchenko died?” Pipped Ruslan as he buckled into his seat. “What about people like Gorbachev, do they get state funerals, too? Even if they’re communists?”

Ambassador Gurka’s responses were diplomatic—due to the presence of the Secret Service—and shorter than he would normally offer the boy. His uneasy gaze kept shifting between the Americans and the frost-glazed window. The car ride was taking more time than he expected.

“We still have quite a bit of laundry to do tonight…” Solomiya covered her mouth as she yawned. She would then say in pointed Russian, “I hope this drive doesn’t take much longer. It reminds me of the routs Stanisłav and Yelizaveta Kosier used to complain about. You remember them?”

They hadn’t ever met the couple, but he knew very well what the NKVD had done to the Kosiers. The diverted drive seemed all too familiar, but this was D.C. Not Moscow.

Ambassador Gurka would respond in his usual creole of Russian and Ukrainian, “this is the United States, my nightingale. Their roads were built very differently.” She would understand what he meant. Besides, they wouldn’t have been invited to the funeral if the Americans had any Cold War ill-will towards them. The Ambassador would switch back to unaccented English, “I’m sure this is quite the endeavor for you boys. So many dignitaries in one spot, and all the stress of a national tragedy on top of that… We greatly appreciate the security you’ve been providing.”

Yakov Osipenko opened the door of the red-brick embassy as their car came to a stop and Leonid helped his wife out of the vehicle. The young staffer opened his mouth to say something, but as he was about to do so a gust of wind and snow tossed Mrs. Gurka’s hat across the icy sidewalk. “I’ll get it,” he assured, dashing after it in his usual blue button down and—rather foolishly—no coat.

The Ambassador turned towards the grey coated men as they said his name. He was surprised he hadn’t noticed them as they pulled over. His eyes flicked across their badges and IDs. He hadn’t heard too much about the Lighthouse Service, but he could tell if these people wanted to talk to him they were going to. He glanced towards Solomiya and then back at Osipenko, still sliding around the ice. “I’ll be in shortly, dear. ...How can I help you gentlemen?”

Odinson
 

Odinson

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The ambassador would have maybe noted two of the Secret Service agents quietly exchanging jokes with each other, likely at the expense of the two Lighthouse Service agents. While it was unlikely Gurka was fully in-the-know of the inner-office politics between the different federal law enforcement branches of the American government, he probably had some sense of how different parts of governments would take others less seriously. Though, in defense of the Secret Service, it must have said a lot about the work-culture of the Lighthouse Service for their agents to be required to wear grey suits - as opposed to the normal federal black - and be allowed facial hair. Gurka was pretty sure that he briefly saw a silver pocket-watch chain on the younger agent. They looked like they should have been walking the streets in the 1960s.

The older of the two agents, Special Agent Franklin, spoke this time. "Ambassador," he said in a seaman's accent as he briefly removed some ice from his grey beard, "we're on a... the Lighthouse Service sometimes renders aid to other agencies in the Federal Government, especially in more.. unique cases. Right now, we're helping National Archives recover some items of exceptional historic value to America. We've just flown in from Baltimore, because we have some information telling us that what we're looking for is located in the Ukrainian Embassy, here in Washington," he said.

Then, the young agent, Mason, chimed in, "In fact, we're not even allowed to ask for your permission without authorization from the Department of Justice." He pulled out a piece of paper and briefly showed it to the ambassador.
"The Acting-Attorney General gave us permission to request to search your embassy, but it expires at midnight tonight, and I'm not sure if we'll be able to tric-.... convince him to sign it again. That's why we're coming so late. If it would make you feel better, you can accompany us for our search. It shouldn't take more than thirty minutes," the young man noted.

Agent Franklin had taken a step back to light a mini-cigar, which he took several powerful drags of, and then billowed the smoke out which was quickly blown away by the increasing, frigid wind.

GingeOrCringe
 

GingeOrCringe

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He wasn’t sure what to make of them. The quips the secret service agents were making—in combination with the supposed mission of the U.S.L.S. agents—made him feel rather stupid for being weary.

“Would you please put that out?” Gurka’s tone was sharper than he intended. Irritation knocked a dash of slavic-accent back into his speech. Like just about everyone else in Ukraine, he used to smoke. He found the toasty smell of the cigar to be a tempting distraction, but more importantly, “You know, second-hand smoke is very, very bad and my grandson lives here. You may not bring tobacco inside the embassy.”

He looked the men over once more, like a pair of used books he wasn’t quite set on purchasing. The Ukrainian government had procured the building only five years earlier. He understood it had belonged to William Marbury of the landmark Marbury v. Madison case, but otherwise knew very little about the building’s previous owners and tenants. There could be some lost relic of Americana dropped beneath the floorboards or stashed within one of the walls... but it seemed unlikely.

A childhood in the Soviet Union had turned Gurka into a cautious man—yet this was a request, a polite one, not an order. He appreciated that. He’d humor them for an hour. Osipenko could search the embassy for bugs later, or they could put a $1 bounty on them and have Ruslan do it.

Ambassador Gurka approached the embassy. His left arm remained stiff at his side as he walked. “You may come in, but I reserve the right to bar searches of specific rooms and areas. You will not be permitted to look through computers, filing cabinets, or documents.” He glanced over his shoulder as he opened the door. “I also reserve the right to expel you from the premises, but I think it would be considerate if we all tried our best to avoid an incident. Mr. Gore has enough to worry about.”

He began unbuttoning his overcoat as they stepped inside the 18th century building. At some point the interior had been restored to its original aesthetic—once again boasting polished hardwood flooring and pastel-blue, damask wallpaper. The first room held a desk, but it was empty at present. There were a few paintings as well, but they were Ukrainian prints, not American colonial.

“What exactly are you looking for?” He inquired, folding his wool coat neatly over his arm.

Odinson
 

Odinson

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Agent Franklin took a hefty breath of the mini-cigar, and then thoroughly put it out. "The smoke builds character in a sailor," the older man said with a slight smile.
The two men followed the ambassador, at a respectable distance, to the front door of the embassy. "We have no intention of searching through your private documents or computers," Agent Mason said, "thank you for allowing us inside." Agents Franklin and Mason both took off their hats and left them somewhere near the front door, if possible. Mason took out a notepad, and Franklin carefully took out a tan-colored piece of paper that was inside a plastic bag - it appeared to have late 18th century cursive written on it in black ink. He read over it again, and then the two men turned to the ambassador.

"In the late 1780s," said Agent Franklin as he stroked his white beard, as if he was trying to remember that decade in particular, "the United States was unable to properly govern and organize itself under our original constitution, called the 'Articles of Confederation'. Congress organized a constitutional convention, which included many of the Founding Fathers from America's recent Revolutionary War - George Washington was the President of the convention. A new constitution was written and ratified by several of the states. However, there was a faction of men who called themselves 'Anti-Federalists'. Some of them were opposed to the new constitution in its entirety, but most of them wanted special assurances in the new constitution so that the new federal government would not be become tyrannical over the states and the people. A compromise, called the 'Bill of Rights', included ten amendments to the constitution. These amendments recognized and guaranteed certain rights for the people, limited the federal government, and stated that all powers not given to the federal government belonged to the states or the people..."

Franklin nearly forgot where he was going with his short rap of history but then remembered when he looked down at the piece of paper he was holding. "Each of the states, or colonies that had not yet become states, were sent a physical written copy of the Bill of Rights from the constitutional convention. Today, most of the original thirteen states still have their copy. However some have been destroyed, stolen, or, in the case of Maryland, lost to time."

"But," Agent Franklin said as he squinted at the tan paper before him, "this letter was found in a... crypt, during another investigation. Some other things led to the National Archives, with our assistance, in finding it - but what matters is that we're here now."

Special Agent Franklin carefully showed the document to the ambassador. The cursive was indeed American, and 18th century. Today even most Americans would probably struggle to clearly read it, so the older agent would help the ambassador if he looked lost and read it.




To The Honorable Levin Winder, Governor of Maryland
June 15, 1816

Governor Winder,

My previous notices to the General Assembly have gone unanswered, so I feel an obligation to correspond with your honor directly. In August of 1814, the redcoats burned the Capitol Building as well as the Presidential Mansion. However, private residences including my own were largely spared from the damage. As the British regulars did their best to burn and destroy our capital, the most incredible thing happened. A powerful storm, perhaps sent by the Almighty himself to wash the filth from our city, engulfed Washington. A mighty whirl wind spawned on Constitution Avenue and carried two heavy cannons into the air! This storm caused more destruction, but put out the fires and ravaged the vessels in which the British arrived. The regulars retreated to their fleet, and left our city in peace.

As you know, another British force moved to take Baltimore in September, but Maryland's finest soldiers defended her from destruction. We owe the pride of our republic to you and the men who helped defend Baltimore. However, shortly before the Battle of Baltimore began, it seems that the General Assembly found it fit to evacuate certain parcels from the state's archives. I postulate that this was done in case the facilities of Maryland's government were raised, as they were in Washington. Some of these documents were brought to Washington, but because the institutions of our young republic were then in serious ruin, the couriers asked to store the documents at my home. I considered it my duty to do so. They were stored in my cellar, where they still remain. I imagine that the General Assembly needs these parcels, if for nothing else than public record.

I am willing to accept any dispatch at any time to remove these documents, for I feel it is wrong to keep them in my custody when they belong to the people. I would transport them under my own power, but I am not in a condition to travel. I urgently request further correspondence.

A Fellow Partiot,
William Marbury, Esquire




Agent Mason looked at the ambassador and said, "From what we've been able to gather, this letter is a copy that was Marbury made for his own records. We believe that Governor Winder never received the letter - his term in office ended in July of 1816 which is probably before the letter even arrived, so we believe the wax-sealed letter was probably never even opened. We have reason to believe that some of those documents are of exceptional historic value to the United States, and Maryland's original copy of the Bill of Rights may be among them. Can we have access to the basement?"

If he wanted to, Agent Franklin would let the ambassador hold the letter himself (with the plastic still over it). There would be no reason to believe that it was a forgery of any kind. It did, however, seem to be pretty fragile.
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GingeOrCringe

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More likely grows cancer. Gurka kept the thought to himself. The agents was polite enough to put it out, so he would say no more on the subject. Instead, he would motion to a coat-rack near the door as the agents removed their hats. The floorboards creaked as someone in the offices above them shuffled back and forth from their file cabinet to their desk.

Gurka listened intently to the mini-history lecture. When he first arrived in the US back in the '60s he had devoured a library's worth of books on American history. Back then it had been the alien quality that intrigued him--the satisfaction of reading literature which would have been censored in the Union. Now, after so much change at home, the idea of a colony breaking away from its oppressor and becoming one of the most powerful states in the world--a paragon of democratic virtue--that idea was one of intrest. Perhaps other states could duplicate the plucky nation's it's success today...

His eyes ran over the looped words as if he were reading them. He had no trouble with cursive--Cyrillic cursive that is. He handed it back to the older of the two agents, a mix of relief and embarrassment on his face as Franklin began reading it aloud.

"You stole from dead people?" Asked Ruslan as he popped his head out from around the hallway corner. The boy had a bad habit of eavesdropping. Still, Ambassador Gurka was less annoyed and more surprised he knew what the English word 'crypt' meant.

"Sorry about him, he's not quite a diplomat yet..." He mumbled. Still, his grandson had a point. Where had these two gotten the document from?


Odinson
 

Odinson

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The two agents noticed the boy. "Don't worry young man," Agent Mason said. "We are the police, we're good guys," he said in a friendly, non-threatening voice - not fully understanding how the police didn't have the best reputation in the former Soviet states. Seeing as the question was still lingering, Agent Mason looked at Agent Franklin and said, "The FBI was conducting an investigation into stolen property which was being stored in a number of... unique places, to say the least. One of them was a crypt in a graveyard. The National Archives managed to get their hands on this letter, but the FBI was uninterested in helping them, so that's why we're here now," he said. Agent Franklin checked his pocket watch and watched as time continued to creep closer to midnight.
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GingeOrCringe

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Ruslan raised an unimpressed eyebrow, as if they'd just invited him to watch Cheburashka or some other lame kids movie. They weren't as cool as the black-clad Secret Service Agents who had escorted them to the funeral. He wandered over to his grandfather's side and continued to look over the strangers. His eyes went from their hips to their shoulders as if he were looking for something.

"The basement is a bit cluttered," Ambassador Gurka confessed. "Our staff have been using it for the storage of personal items. I can give you permission to search any regular business areas, but we consider that to be more like an extension of the residency..."

"Do you get guns like Secret Service?" Asked Ruslan.

"The Secret Service," Gurka corrected. He tried to keep their attention away from the boy. "When we bought the building we planned to keep a small legal archive down there, but the conditions were not ideal. Damp air, minimal lighting..." So, the Embassy staff had willfully sacrificed some of their own closet spaces for the sake of international relations and government records.

Odinson
 

Odinson

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Both of the agents decided not to answer Ruslan's question about their weapons. They both seemed much more interested in getting into the basement. Both agents felt the weight of reality setting on their shoulders when they heard that the basement was damp - that would not be good for some 200 year-old paperwork. "Still, we would really appreciate it if you would let us take a look. You're more than welcome to come down with us," said the younger, Agent Mason. Both men waited for permission to be able to go downstairs and see if they could even find a hint as to what they were looking for. Even if it wasn't there, there might be a clue as to where they should look next.
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GingeOrCringe

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Gurka would oblige, leading them down a hallway to the basement door.

Ruslan followed as well, but mercifully cut short any further interrogation. He stared at the younger agent before deciding to speak up again. “The secret service men outside laughed at you,” he emphasized his use of the article this time. “In the X-Files they laugh at Scully and Mulder, too. I think you are interesting.”

A set of creaking wooden steps took them into a cool, brick cellar. Ambassador Gurka pulled a string and a single, bare light-bulb dimly lit up the room. Leaning against the wall on their right was the blue Aist bicycle Osipenko had insisted on shipping first-class from Podil to D.C.. In the middle of the room were several wire racks with cardboard and plastic boxes. Some had Cyrillic scrawled on in black marker, some penciled english, others had no label at all.

The floor was cobbled. An unwelcome tree root had loosened some of the stones at the base of the steps, but Gurka was used to stepping over them to avoid tripping. “I’m afraid there isn’t too much to search. That back wall was once used to shelve wine, I believe.” He then nodded to an arched passageway in the left corner, “That’s more or less an empty closet. It doesn’t go anywhere, but you are more than welcome to inspect it. I think it might have been for a coal-shoot." There was a shallow, eight point star chiseled into the keystone.

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