Free Write Wednesdays! What is Harrigan doing in the USSR?


Moscow, USSR—Intourist Hotel

Steven Harrigan, an anchor at the popular cable news network, WNN, left his room and started for the restaurant. He had only managed a few hours of sleep as he prepared for his interview with Soviet President Leonid Baranov. Harrigan flew over at the invitation of the Soviet leader to discuss the addition of new nuclear missiles about to be placed in Western Europe as a deterrent to keep the Soviet Union from pressing the button. To say that Harrigan was displeased with his producer and to some degree, owner Theodore Warner would be an understatement. Harrigan knew the questions would be preapproved and Baranov’s answers would be carefully crafted to present the USSR as the hurtful victim. Harrigan only relented after three hours of heated discussion when Warner suggested that Harrigan include an interview with Jenkins as a counter-argument to what Baranov claimed. Before booking his last-minute flight, Harrigan had received the confirmation that Jenkins would meet with Harrigan. Jenkins saw the opportunity to discuss the need for nuclear weapons in a setting akin to the fireside chats that FDR had utilized. 

Harrigan wandered down the hall to the elevator that took him to the lobby. He was to meet his producer and production crew in the restaurant for breakfast. The Kremlin arranged for the filming of Baranov to occur in Baranov’s office at the Kremlin and instructed the WNN crew that an escort would meet them in the lobby of the Intourist Hotel promptly at 11:00 am. As Harrigan walked into the lobby, he was shocked to see Ambassador Barker entering the hotel. It was clear Barker was in a hurry, not looking up as he barreled his way past the hostess and into the restaurant. Harrigan quickened his step to see with whom Barker was meeting. He reached the hostess stand, scanning the room as he said, “I’m meeting some people, my crew…” His voice trailed off when his eyes found Barker. 

Barker was seated across from General Vladimir Valesky; someone Harrigan wanted desperately to avoid mainly because of Valesky’s reputation. Harrigan watched as Barker leaned forward, his face beginning to redden. It was clear that Barker was not happy with something Valesky had done. 

“Oh,” Harrigan said, giving a glance to the hostess. “I see my group. Thank you.” The hostess nodded as Harrigan pointed to his crew. Harrigan decided the long way around the room would allow him to greet Barker and perhaps eavesdrop on their conversation. He started in their direction. 

Valesky was sitting back in his chair, unimpressed by Barker’s emotion and words. He didn’t try to interrupt Barker. Harrigan’s movement toward the table caught Valesky’s eye. Frankly, Valesky could care less if Barker was caught in an embarrassing situation. He did not attempt to stop Barker from speaking.

“I’m telling you that Jenkins will make a fool out of—“ Barker was interrupted by Harrigan.

“Ambassador Barker,” Harrigan began. “Imagine running into you here.”

Barker closed his eyes for a brief second. He began to wonder how much Harrigan had heard. He quickly stood to greet Harrigan, extending his hand and forcing his familiar grin upon his lips. “Well, the same can be said of you, Mr. Harrigan.”

“No doubt your embassy was informed of our visit and the interview with President Baranov,” Harrigan said, accepting Barker’s handshake. “I am surprised to find you in the company of General Valesky, though.” 

Valesky remained seated, only giving one nod of his head at the mention of his name. Barker felt a need to explain his meeting. “I was explaining to the general that it is usually the custom for the American ambassador to be present during interviews granted to the United States press.”

“It is?” Harrigan questioned. “For what purpose?”

“You are in an adversary’s country. I would think you would welcome our involvement,” Barker retorted rather briskly. 

Harrigan smiled, almost chuckled. “We had no intention of having you present, Mr. Ambassador, but if the Kremlin thinks it is necessary, we won’t object.” Valesky looked at Harrigan, who added. “We are waiting for our escort—“ Harrigan looked at his watch—“to meet us here in about thirty minutes.” 

Valesky finally spoke. “Your escort is here already. Take your time and eat something. The food here is exquisite.” Harrigan didn’t show the angst he felt at Valesky’s comments. “We have plenty of time. I can get you to the Kremlin in twenty minutes and will show you where you can step up your equipment. Of course, we will be filming this meeting as well.”

The last statement confirmed to Harrigan that the intimidation that Valesky’s comments brought forth was intended. Harrigan was not surprised that the Soviets would also film, and subsequently edit, the interview to show as a contradiction to however Baranov was portrayed to the West. This was precisely the argument that he was trying to make to his producer and Warner. He smiled at Valesky and said, “While I would like to voice my displeasure with what you think is a need to film the interview as well, I have to say that it was expected and confirms my every suspicion.” Harrigan didn’t feel a need to explain himself. “Excuse me. I have some work to finish with my crew.”

“And don’t forget to get a bite to eat. We would not want you to feel badly or weak during the interview,” Valesky said with a cocky grin on his lips. 

“I ate in my room,” Harrigan informed him. “Good day, gentlemen.” Harrigan left for his table, meeting with the production crew that accompanied him on this trip. He watched the exchanges between Valesky and Barker. His gut told him that Barker was in cahoots with Valesky. Harrigan couldn’t figure out what they were planning or why Barker would confer with Valesky. He made a mental note to pass his suspicions on to Jenkins via the press secretary when he returned home. 

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