Bratt’s secret

Diavlos Publications, 1996 (Pages 80)

Fondas Ladis: Bratt’s Secret

A spy novella by Fondas Ladis, whose main characters are a Russian agent and a pocket computer – as well as Russian, Italian and English agents as secondary characters – which is being proposed for cinema adaptation.

It is an original story, full of mystery, humour and continuous unexpected twists in present day post -communist Russia. The scenes take place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rome, Israel and Libya.

A few words about the novella

Yuri Maximovic Komov – an ex-KGB agent – seeks to find work and a reason for living in an ever-changing world. Places, old and new friends, past and future become confused in an exhilarating present.

Char Nicolai II and the imperial wines “Livadia”, plutonium and Priam’s treasure, secret ghost towns of the former U.S.S.R. scientists and an exhibition of jewelry, smuggled out of the country during the Bolsevik revolution figure in the story with the stolen KGB files lurking in the background.

“Everything is like those wooden Russian dolls that fit inside each other, only inverted. Every secret conceals within it another larger one”, says Maurizio, Komov’s writer-friend.

Bratt is one of the main characters in this narrative. He is a microscopic, electronic computer, whose name means “brother” in Russian.

“Bratt’s secret” was first published in “Flash” magazine. Afterwards, it was circulated on the Internet and then immediately published by “Diavlos” publications. Its publication in English is in pipeline.

The story unfolds through Komov’s entries in Bratt, in the form of a personal journal. It is dense in structure as the book does not exceed 80 pages, but it contains a wealth of situations, which can easily provide material for more than one cinema adaptations. The writer has at his disposal additional firsthand information, concerning all the places mentioned in the novella.













Bratt’s Secret

(A summary)

By Fondas Ladis



March 1992 – Password: Bluebird

Yuri Maximovic Komov, a KGB agent under suspension, enters his stats in a small, palm computer he has named Bratt.


FIRST NAME: Yuri Maximovic

DATE OF BIRTH: March 3, 1952


HEIGHT: 1.78cm

EYES: Blue

HAIR: Brownish blonde


FOREIGN LANGUAGES: English, French, Italian, Arabic

MARITAL STATUS: Divorced. One daughter, Vera, 13 years.

HOBBIES: Chess, reading comic books

The palm computer is a gift from some British agents that Komov had helped out. He decides to use it to keep a journal.

He meets up with some old co-workers from the KGB and they make plans for their future occupations.

He meets his daughter in Liuzniki and they go ice-skating

He starts playing chess with Bratt.

Komov has an idea. He tells Arcady about it: copy the main KGB files and encode them and keep them saved in the event they need them.

In the meantime Komov, who has grown a beard and let his hair grow, decides to take a trip to Rome. He has been invited by his friend Maurizio, a well-known spy story writer.

A mutual friend, Oleg, makes an appointment to meet them in the evening in the courtyard of the Children’s Music Theatre in the Lenin Hills. When they arrive at the meeting point, they get into a fistfight with four unknown men, who are probably newly recruited agents at Liubianka (the square where KGB Headquarters are located). Oleg is badly hurt in the squabble.

Two days later Komov leaves for Rome using a fake passport. He stays in the San Michaele boarding house. He has taken Bratt along with him. He has saved the KGB files on a small optical fibre diskette. He only knows half the password for decoding the files. Oleg knows the other half. And what if he dies?





April, 1992, In the Lupo’s Mouth

Komov meets Maurizio. They talk about everything.

In the meanwhile some Italians who run into Komov by chance offer him a job in the Balkans. He copies the KGB files onto a ‘memory card’ and gives it to Maurizio, who, without knowing the content, puts it in a safety deposit box. In Porta Porteze Komov buys a beretta and three passports. He travels to Libya. There he stays at the Bab el Bahar Hotel. He meets up with Abdala. In his second meeting with him, he asks for information concerning the destination of Russian nuclear weapons and about the unemployed Russian scientists.

He returns to Rome. He contacts Arcady via Bratt. He finds out the Oleg is all right but that he has kept certain information from them.

Komov decides to co-operate with Lupo (= wolf in Italian), head of a team of Italian agents, whom he had met in Afghanistan. Lupo provides Komov with all the technical support to set up an “office” in Rome. At the same time, along with Larissa, an old friend now living in Milan, Komov and Arcady set up an information network for themselves.

He makes contact with the Russian-Jew emigres in Rome. Seventy-year-old Abraham agrees to send him to Israel to dig up information on the sales of Russian nuclear systems.


May 1992 – The Sacrifice of Abraham

Komov and Maurizio travel to Israel. They stay at the Sheraton Hotel. Maurizio makes contacts with publishers and Komov strolls through Tel Aviv and plays chess with Bratt.

In Jerusalem Komov meets the moneychanger that Abraham had told him about. He sends Komov to Haifa to meet a nativ, (link with the Jews of the former USSR) called Josef.

Two days go by. Komov and the moneychanger take the bus to Haifa. They stay at a small hotel. After two more days Komov meets with the Israeli nativ at a stop of the Carmelite, the local funicular. He hands Komov a microscopic card. Komov agrees to deposit Josef’s fee in a Swiss Bank. At the hotel he saves the information on Bratt after doing a double encoding. He then destroys the card.

There is a scuffle with the Mossad agents in a Rumanian ship. Komov and Maurizio – who has closed a favourable deal for his upcoming book – return to Tel Aviv and from there they leave for Rome.

Komov reads over the data Josef has given him. It is very interesting. He gives a copy to Lupo.



He goes to Abraham’s apartment. There are four men there waiting for him. Abraham had been found shot through the head with a silencer the previous day. Komov is interrogated for two days.

June 1992 – Hawks and Parrots

Lupo mediates so that Komov is set free but pressures him to work with him in the Balkans. The office is set up on via Nazionale and is called Information Bank for International Policy. It is equipped with state-of-the-art espionage technology, including a computer with a storage capacity of many gigabytes. Komov, Misha – an unemployed cosmonaut – and Paola, one of Lupo’s employees, staff the office. Larissa will be working in Milan. In Moscow Arcady carries on recruiting associates.

Komov buys a sports car, a Spider.

He arrives unexpectedly in Rome. Oleg takes great precautions in meeting Komov. For security reasons, they do not talk out loud, but key their dialogue into Bratt. Oleg gives explanations for what went on the past. They try to decide what to do with the stolen KGB files.

Komov asks Maurizio to get the optical fibre diskette from the safety deposit box. Komov and Oleg hole themselves up in the office and go over the files. There is data on governments, political parties, upstanding citizens, scientists, secret services, terrorists and local Mafias of various countries. Background information, occupations, hobbies, idiosyncrasies, private life. The information contained in one category – the sixth – cannot be retrieved.

Komov meets up with Oleg again in an amusement park on the outskirts of Rome in Eur. Among other things they discuss district attorney Falcone who was assassinated by the Mafia and about the Mafia’s possible involvement in the Russian Secret Service. Komov suggests destroying the diskette. Oleg disagrees. They transfer the data to ordinary diskettes that Oleg takes with him when he leaves. They destroy the optical fibre diskette.

A man, approximately 40 years of age, has had the office on via Nazionale under surveillance for the last few days. Who is he? And why doesn’t he attempt to hide himself?

July 1992 – Escape to Capri

Vera comes to Rome on holiday. Komov shows her the sights. The young girl spends time with Paola.

One morning some unknown people notify Komov by phone to turn on Bratt and to hook it up to a modem and videophone. The phone rings again. The man who has had





Komov under surveillance appears on the screen. He knows about everything. He asks for the diskette with the files. Komov says it has been destroyed. The unknown man asks where Oleg is. He tells Komov that he will contact him in exactly the same way on July 20. Komov decides to temporarily erase his tracks. He takes Vera and they leave for Naples. They go to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri.

On the morning of July 20, while in Capri, Bratt’s screen goes on, without any prior telephone call. This time it is a woman. She asks about the diskette. Komov starts to believe that these people interested in the diskette are individuals that belong to the sixth category, the one whose data has been blocked by the KGB itself. The woman makes an appointment to meet Komov on the following day in Campi Flegri, the inactive volcanoes near Posiloppo.

Komov notifies Misha. He comes to Naples and picks up Vera. Komov goes to his appointment. The two people Komov has seen on Bratt approach him in the deserted wilderness. They give him 10 days to help them find the files. Komov returns to Rome. Vera goes back to Moscow.

Arcady sends Komov a fax with article cutting from a Russian paper. It is about the ghost towns of the former Soviet Union, where tens of millions ‘top secret citizens’ live. They are towns with nuclear plants and secret research centres. “I know two of these ‘top secret citizens’,” Komov thinks to himself.

August 1992 – Bratt’s secret

Arcady proposes they hold a secret meeting in Rome. Present are Arcady, Komov, Misha, Larissa, Olia and Slava. Maurizio lets them use his apartment for the meeting. On the first day Komov brings the others up to date on what has happened so far. When night falls they take turns standing watch.

Everyone believes that the people looking for the stolen KGB files are the ‘top secret citizens’ living in the secret nuclear ghost towns in the former USSR.

In the afternoon Oleg suddenly makes his appearance. He had made as if he had left but in fact he had been tailing the 40-year-old man looking for the diskette. The latter had involuntarily led Oleg to the meeting of the six in Maurizio’s apartment.

The 40-year-old man tells them that his name is Aliosha and that he is a mathematician. Oleg knows a little more about him. Aliosha was born in the secret ghost town Azarmas-23 and belongs to an organisation based in Dubna. He is an expert on a nuclear space programme. This organisation has members scattered in all of the ghost towns and seeks world dominance.

Komov and the other deactivate Aliosha’s electronic devices he has with him and they hold him in solitary confinement.

Komov fetches Bratt from the hotel. Via Aliosha, they contact Dubna. A man with cropped white hair appears on Bratt’s screen. Behind him stand two other men. All




three men wear matching uniforms. The white-haired man asks about the diskette. Oleg tells him it is for sale, but not to lunatics.

Larissa, Olia, Slava and Arcady leave. Oleg remains in Rome, holding Aliosha hostage. Komov tries to draw a connection between the Dubna organisation and Abraham’s murder. He suspects that Aliosha allowed himself to be captured by Komov and his associates. Komov and Oleg contact Dubna again. The white-haired man tells them his organisation has been divided into factions. The main faction, of which he is the leader, has in its possession the plans for the space programmes Buran and Proton II, while another faction, co-operating with the British, possesses the plans to a laser weapon system. When these systems are perfected, he warns, it will be too late for everyone. The diskette contains incriminating evidence against the members of this faction. At Komov’s urging, Oleg decides to sell the diskette to the white-haired man.

They hold Aliosha hostage. Oleg leaves for Dubna. Aliosha asks Komov how he came into possession of Bratt. Komov tells him about his association with the British. Aliosha carefully examines the device. Oleg sends message to Komov that everything is in order and Komov frees Aliosha, who tells him, however, “It’s too late now. We wanted the diskette so that it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the British. But through Bratt they have been able to download all the files. They know everything. Even what we are saying to each other this very moment.”

September 1992 – Moscow nights

Aliosha leaves for Russia. He asks Komov if they can continue their co-operation. Komov, who believes that Bratt has betrayed him, wants to throw it into the Tiber River. Maurizio calms him down and reminds him that it is nothing but a machine. “Life always has a flipside, my friend,” he tells him. “Behind every secret there is yet a bigger one. Coalitions always change.” Komov makes a present of Bratt to Maurizio.

When Komov invites Paola to accompany him on his secret trip to Moscow, she reveals to him that in fact she is a Russian-Italian. Her father was not an emigre, as Lupo had thought. He was an agent in the notorious Section 12 of the KGB, the Department for International Affairs.

Paola brings a friend to fill in for her at the office in her absence. To the others there they say they are going on business to Libya. Komov disguises himself as an Italian shaving his beard and leaving only his moustache. They travel posing as a couple flying the Russian Aeroflot airline. In Moscow they stay at the Cosmos Hotel. On the following day Komov hires a car, a Gigouli, similar to a Lada, and he drives to his daughter’s school watching her from afar as she exits the building. That night Komov and Paola make love. He reveals all that has gone on to her in addition to his immediate plans. In Moscow, the weather is beautiful: an Indian summer. As Paola goes sightseeing in the city, Komov goes to a secret hiding place on the outskirts of Moscow and supplies himself with an arsenal of guns. That night he breaks into the office of his associates and bugs it. Then he and Paola hole themselves up in the hotel



for two days and listen in on the conversations in the office. On the third day they hear Arcady making an appointment with some people at a hotel called Main House of the Tourist, located on the southwestern side of the city, near the Liumuba University.

Komov and Paola book a room in this hotel. In the evening they go to the hotel restaurant. Arcady, Oleg, Aliosha and the white-haired man arrive one at a time. Komov sits far away and they don’t see him. After they have eaten, they exit the hotel and make their way to the small forest opposite.

Komov drives around the forest and enters through the back entrance, behind the Pushkin Institute. He proceeds into the forest. He arrives at a clearing. There are two izbas (= huts) there. He cocks his gun. He enters the first: nothing. In the second izba he finds the body of a middle-aged man. He has been killed with a gun with a silencer. Komov returns to the hotel and picks up Paola. They go back to the Cosmos Hotel where they had been staying.

October 1992 – The Return of the Czars

One more week goes by. Komov tries to solve the mystery of the body in the izba. Paola prepares to return to Rome. That night they go out on the town. In a Russian newspaper there is an interview with a former Brezhnev bodyguard, who reveals the existence of an escape tunnel under the Kremlin. (“Big deal!” thinks Komov. “Now if they found out about the existence of the secret ghost towns, that would be news!”)

One morning Komov starts trailing Arcady when he emerges from his office. He takes the underground and after changing trains numerous times, he gets out at the Kropotkinskaya station. He enters a building. When Arcady finally leaves the building, Komov approaches and reads the sign: “Union of Russian Nobility Descendants”. Komov goes in. He asks for information in broken Russian, posing as an Italian journalist. He bribes the young employee, whose name is Andrei, and learns that the Union numbers 3000 members. Andrei shows him the archives. Amongst the members’ photos, Komov spots one of the white-haired man – his name is Guriev – and one of Aliosha. And he also sees a recent application for membership. It belongs to Arcady.

Komov and Andrei entertain themselves at the Cosmos Hotel. Andrei invites him to his one-room apartment in a low-class neighbourhood. The young man removes a bottle of wine from a secret hiding place. The label reads “Livadia, 1850”. They toast Nikolai II. Andrei tells Komov about the imperial wines. Three such bottles were sold at Sotheby’s for $20,000 a piece. The Bolsheviks hadn’t touched them. Stalin had hidden them from Hitler. Now where were the rest?

Andrei aids Komov in listening in on an assembly of the Union, where Guriev is elected the new chairman. A protest follows. One of the demands is that the bones of Nikolai II be buried in Kremlin and that the imperial wines be handed over to the Union.



From Andrei’s description, Komov realises the former chairman of the Union, Tabulov, who has disappeared, is the man he found murdered in the izba. Andrei also tells him that according to a note from Tabulov he had found, the wines – two million bottles – have been stored in the Goom Department Store with fake labels of a Georgian wine called Cinzmarauli stuck on them. They are now being gradually transferred to an unknown place.

They drive through the snow-covered streets of Moscow following a lorry from the Goom department store to the Lenin Hills, near the University. It stops at a deserted church. About half the crates are unloaded. Komov and Andrei continue following the lorry, but they lose it in the end. They return to the church. The crates have disappeared. Andrei makes the sign of the cross again and again in disbelief.

November 1992 – The Eggs of the Seagull

Komov thinks over all that has happened. Is this whole story and all this intrigue about the imperial wines? And how did the crates of wine disappear from the churchyard so quickly?

The following day, as Komov is about to get into his car, he is hit over the head. He comes to in a small windowless room. Before him is a tray of food and a bottle of wine. He hears snatches of conversation. “St. Petersburg… Diamonds… The Eggs of the Seagull….”

Three days go by. He is brought food twice a day. The label on the bottle of wine reads Cinzmarauli. He tastes the wine. The taste is familiar. Komov bribes his guard. The latter blindfolds Komov, takes him through a maze of corridors and stairways. They finally emerge into the city. The guard puts Komov in a car. Komov realises it is his hired car. The guard drives. After a while he removes the blindfold. They arrive at the Cosmos Hotel.

After giving the guard $500, Komov goes to stay with Andrei. He asks the young man if the phrase “Eggs of the Seagull” means anything to him. Andrei explains that it is a reference to the sapphires in the tiara that the Grand Duchess Vladmira wore on New Year’s Eve of 1910. It now belongs to Queen Elisabeth.

Komov reveals to Andrei that he is Russian. Andrei responds that he knew. They agree to go together to St. Petersburg. There they stay at a hotel on the bank of the River Neva.

Komov contacts Ivan, an old acquaintance working for the local Mafia. He tells Komov about the activities of the various Mafias operating in Russia and how they have divided up the fields of activity amongst themselves. He recommends a man called Wolkov who is a diamond expert. This man tells Komov about the Yakutia diamonds that have created a stir in the international gem market. Komov wonders if all this, the KGB files, the secret ghost towns, the imperial wines (a smokescreen perhaps?) , the two murders (Abraham’s and Tabulov’s) are all tied in with the diamonds. He decides to take action. He drops the Italiano disguise and notifies



everyone: Misha, Natasha and Olga, even Maurizio, if he wants, to come to St. Petersburg for the grand finale, with the whole cast.

Wolkov has news. At Christmas there will be an exhibition of the Romanov jewels at the Hotel Europaiski, which are now out of the country. Included in the jewels will also be Alexandra’s tiara set with 488 diamonds and of the course the eggs of the seagull as well. First the real jewels will be brought in – no knows how – and then there will be a fake delivery of imitation jewels with armoured cars from the Finland train station.

Komov’s associates arrive from Italy. Maurizio brings Bratt with him. Komov keys in, “Hello there old friend!” and then adds, “If anyone is monitoring this, I invite him to the Europaiski tomorrow at 10.”

The following day, shortly after 10:00, in the lobby of the Europaiski Hotel one of the most celebrated of British spies, ‘Sir’, makes his appearance. He advises Komov to stay out of this whole affair.

December 1992 – In the Shadow of the Englishman

Ivan provides Komov with a Volvo and weapons. While waiting for something to happen, Maurizio and Andrei watch the comings and goings at the hotel where ‘Sir’ is staying. The sixth floor is being prepared for the exhibition. Paola, who has also been initiated into the wonders of Bratt, spends her days wandering through the city and her nights in the hotel room with Komov.

One morning, one of the men who had captured Komov in Moscow appears at the hotel. Komov gets him alone in the lift and threatens him with a Stenkin. Maurizio brings the Volvo round and the unknown man directs them out of the city, to the Northwest on the way to Viborg. They walk through the snow and arrive at a dacha. Through the window Komov can make out Arcady, Olia and another man. But someone creeps up behind them and immobilises the uninvited guests. They are held there overnight. The next day Arcady tries to explain to Komov. He says that the double bluff started after they had all met in Rome. They had left him out – he said – because they knew he wouldn’t want to in on the deal. Before freeing them Arcady tells Komov, “Keep away from the jewels. It’s in your best interest.”

While Komov tries yet again to figure out what is behind this whole story, Wolkov notifies him that the jewels are to arrive in three days, (which means that the real ones have already arrived.)

On the day in question Komov and his associates, with the exception of Maurizio, divide up into two groups and go to Finland Station. Police security is very tight in the area. There Komov spots Arcady’s two associates and ‘Sir’.

As soon as the train arrives, five men in civilian clothes, each with a suitcase chained to their right hands and under the protection of attack dogs, get into an armoured car and head for the hotel.





At midday a fire breaks out on the top floor of the hotel. Through the smoke Komov makes out Arcady carrying a crate from the sixth to the fifth floor and one of his bodyguards dead in the stairwell. The official story released to the press was that smoke bombs were thrown, but the jewels were not stolen.

‘Sir’ invites Komov to meet him. He reveals that it was his idea to have Bratt given to him. He invites Komov to work with him.

Komov turns him down. He says the Arcady and the others are still his friends. ‘Sir’ tells him, “The eggs you are looking for are hen and swan eggs, not a seagull’s. In fact there are 57. Some of them you will see in the exhibition.”

Wolkov explains to Komov on that same day that ‘Sir’ was referring to the Czar’s celebrated Faberge eggs. They all had a secret mechanism to open them and they had something inside.

Komov enters this information into Bratt and asks its opinion. The computer responds by saying that Arcady may have switched some of the jewels – which may have been copies anyway – and placed something valuable inside them. “What?” asks Komov. “Think,” answers Bratt.

Komov’s mind goes to plutonium, which is extremely dense and heavy and costs $875,000 a kilo.

‘Sir’ informs Komov that Arcady’s bodyguard did not die, but is wounded and heavily guarded. Komov manages to sneak in and see him. He tells Komov that indeed the British, with whom they are working, managed to hand over to them five of the Faberge eggs. They filled them with plutonium at the dacha. There was a leak and two people were contaminated. Because it was extremely difficult to put them back unseen, Arcady was force to use the smoke bombs.

January 1993 – Dead Cities


Komov informs the others. They go to the dacha where they had seen Arcady but it is locked up.

The opening of the exhibition takes place. ‘Sir’ shows the Faberge eggs to Komov and says, “Nine masterpieces,” Komov answers, “But the hen is keeping only five of them warm.”

Arcady’s bodyguard is released from the hospital and leads Komov and his five associates to the Karelian Isthmus. After passing through Razliff, Sestroresk, Repino and Zelenogorsk, they stop in a deserted area near a settlement. They watch it through binoculars. ‘Sir’ passes by them in an armoured car but doesn’t see them. Aliosha guards the entrance to the settlement. He talks to ‘Sir’. Oleg and Olia appear.



‘Sir’ opens a bag and gives Olia 20 wads of money, which she puts in another bag. Oleg and ‘Sir’ argue. Four men emerge from the car. There is a scuffle. Komov and Arcady’s bodyguard also shoot at the British agent. Olia and Arcady, who suddenly appears, are killed.

Guriev, Slava, Aliosha Oleg and Arcady’s second bodyguards just barely manage to escape in two helicopters, while Arcady takes his dying breath in Komov’s arms mumbling something about Tabulov, the wines and a gallery.

‘Sir’ disappears. Komov returns to Moscow and spends the holidays with his daughter. Paola and Maurizio are with him. Komov closes up the Moscow office.

Which gallery did Arcady mean? Andrei thinks that he meant the old galleries, which have stood in Moscow since the time of Ivan the Terrible, and which lead to the Pushkin Museum. That is where the Soviets kept Priam’s treasure – three crates filled with jewels – when they got it from the Germans in 1945. Andrei thinks that Tabulov’s murder has to do with the blueprints of these galleries and the treasure that is still there.

“And what about the plutonium?” Komov wonders

Paola has cracked Bratt’s code. They locate ‘Sir’ and send him a message. He is in Moscow. They converse by typing into the computer. Komov asks why ‘Sir’ killed Arcady and Olia. And what he wanted from Tabulov.

On the screen appear the blueprints for a four-storey underground complex, two by two kilometres in area and 50 meters high. They make an appointment to meet he following day and the Mezdunarodnaya Hotel.

When they meet, ‘Sir’ explains the these were the blueprints of a secret underground city, built right under Moscow, with entertainment centres, shops, gymnasiums, streets and a secret underground line leading straight to the airport at Vnukovo. This city has a capacity of 30,000 people and was built during Brezhnev’s office for the nomenclature. “The entrances have been recently closed off,” adds ‘Sir’. “The blueprints had been lost. Tabulov found them. They were going to kill him at the izba but I got to him first. I got the blueprints.” “And what do you want from me?” asks Komov. “I don’t know the exact location,” responds ‘Sir’. “You can find it.”

Komov picks up Paola and they drive to the Pamenki area, to the church where the wines had disappeared. Not a soul in sight. Komov shovels some snow and finds a lid. He opens it. They descend a staircase. He switches on his torch. He sees the door to a lift. He realises that this is where the thugs who had hit him brought him.

He presses the button to the lift and the door opens. It is huge. Next to the buttons in the lift it says: SURFACE, FIRST LEVEL, SECOND LEVEL, THIRD LEVEL. As the lift descends, Komov wonders if this is the hidden underground city. Who has control of it now? The Mafia? The Communists? Fanatic scientists? What are they hiding and where does the lift go?

Komov cocks the Stenkin. When the lift arrives at the second level, he looks at Paola.




They press the button for the surface level again.

(Komov journal ends with the following phrases)

I asked to meet with ‘Sir’. Let him find the place on his own. He’s not answering.

Paola: should we blow up the entrance?


Rome awaits us. Non c’e male. (Not that bad!) And Misha is there and so is Maurizio. And Vera?

Yes, that’s a problem!

Andrei, farewell!

The End