Kiev, January – February 1858
Stockholm had, in many ways, seen the powers of Europe hanker after a lost past. It was an attempt to insist that the events of 1848-50 had not happened, that Britain, France, the Ottomans, Austria and Russia had not been at war. That Prussia had not attacked Sweden.
It was an attempt to assert that Treaty of Vienna, its politics and international norms, still held.
Peacemaking in Kiev was different, pragmatic and realistic.
The Sultan had lost the war, Russian troops again occupied his capital. The Greeks had overrun his European provinces. So he begged the Russians for peace.
The Tsar was prepared to accept.
But, even so, there were things to resolve. Also the Greeks wanted some reward too and were suspicious of their Russian allies.
Even if the Sultan had no allies, other powers had their own interests in the settlement of the conflict. So the diplomats met in Kiev – and not just those of the warring powers. And with diplomats came journalists, civil servants and, of course, spies. Thus Kiev again was too full, but this time the visitors were rich, not penniless refugees fleeing war.
So the inhabitants set about making money.
And the Droshky
drivers perhaps made more than most. Though not all of them lived to collect their earnings.
Maria Bogdanava shivered as she kept watch on the house. Sooner or later the British spy would make his move and she intended to follow him, find his contacts, and, of course, ensure he never returned to his homeland.
To her surprise, she found herself missing Aden. The cold of winter was unwelcome after the year round heat of the newest corner of the Russian empire.
Shifting a little, she almost gave herself away but the man was clearly in too much of a hurry to notice a shadow in a doorway. Stepping out into the street he hailed a droshky
. Maria quickly ran back to the busy square and stepped into a cab. The driver leaned against the window.
'Where to? ... my pretty one'
Maria hissed. 'Fool, I am not here for your amusement but on the business of the Tsar'. To reinforce this she raised a pistol to the window even as she pressed a coin into his hand. 'Follow that droshky  ... but keep your distance'.
If the driver was minded to argue, the combination of gold and threat was enough to gain his agreement.
The other droshky
had almost disappeared but it was a quiet night. Cold and snowless.
Initially it was easy to follow at a distance but slowly the houses thined out as they reached the Zamkova district. Here the city's rich had their homes, many now occupied by this or that temporary embassy. Maria urged the driver to move closer, despite the risks, she could not afford to lose the Englishman. At the least she needed to know which house he had entered.
Suddenly, the other droshky
disappeared from view. As it slipped out of sight, the sound of a pistol shot and a crash could be heard.
Maria shouted at her driver 'Svollich
, if we do not find them you will find this has been an expensive journey'
Picking up the reins he urged the horse to new speed, and. as they came across the crest of the hill, he had to pull on the reins. The other droshky
lay across the narrow road. Maria stepped down and walked cautiously forward. There were no buildings nearby so this must have been an ambush, or the passenger had decided to kill the driver?
Reaching the droshky
it was clear the driver was dead. Laid across his box seat, still holding the reins.
But the passenger was missing.
Maria looked down at the snow. Boot prints headed into a nearby wood. And next to each footstep was a bloodstain.
It seemed as if someone else wished to kill this particular Englishman.
Maria moved quickly into the woods and soon came across the second corpse. To her surprise she recognised the spy. Maron, who Vladimir had arrested in Jerusalem and who had escaped when the British captured Sevastopol.
If not quite the last person she expected to see dead in a wood on the edge of Kiev, then still a shock.
As she stood, she heard a twig break and twisted around. Facing her was a small slim woman ... in her hand was a pistol.
'Do you like my handiwork?'
Maria, cautiously, nodded.
'And I have saved you much effort?'
'No ... now I will not be able to find out who the British are funding in the Ukraine'.
The other woman shrugged. 'I had more pressing business ... now' at this she raised the pistol .. 'don't try to stop me leaving'.
Maria in turn shrugged. Whoever she was, the night had been wasted. As she reached the road, she realised it had got worse. The Svollich
had left her and gone back to the city. Well she would find him tomorrow and settle with him on her own terms.
The other woman, she would find too. Somehow. She had a Moscow accent, so she would be found somewhere in Russia.
 Better terms than I could demand. Van is not immediately useful but with a fort, depot and rail will give me even more control over Anatolia. Dobrudja clears the last barrier to any army marching down the western Black Sea. Again with a rail and a fortress, it becomes both a defensive bastion and a springboard for any future attacks.
 The Greeks actually carried on the war till late 1858. Possibly not the best gain when they might have captured Thessaloniki?
 I know, but I really had to use the phrase?