The circumstances of the April 26, 1986, explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine raises questions about its classification as "accidental." This is quickly clarified when one of the plants' lead operators leaves the country with a "More to come" message. Ed Crowe, part-time travel agent and part-time consultant with Britain's secret intelligence service (MI6), is on his way from Oakville, Canada, to England. His plans to serve as best man for his friends' wedding are interrupted by a call from Lord Stonebridge, head of MI6. Ed and his fellow operatives must find the man responsible for the explosion; the man who knows when the next nuclear disaster will occur. He is from Chechnya, a Soviet republic that has been historically repressed by Russia. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev has asked MI6 to find the man before rogue members of the KGB find him in order to destabilize Gorbachev and his reforms. The search leads to Istanbul, Turkey; a brief Mediterranean cruise; and KGB agents in Canada. Personal relationships are complicated when Ed's ex-girlfriend is asked to work with him along with Carolyn Andrews, daughter of the head of MI6, who Ed is planning to ask for her hand in marriage following their friend's wedding.
Lord Stonebridge waved him on with a knowledgeable smile. " President Gorbachev and his close advisors are now sure the ‘accident' was in fact not an accident. For that matter, no-one in the Soviet nuclear power regime believe it was an accident. The problem they face now is they cannot trust anyone in their own operation to search out the obvious culprit – more on him later. Gorbachev initially considered asking the US to do the investigation, but the huge mistrust of the US by the KGB makes that impossible. Further, Gorbachev fears an internal up-rising if he went the US route and that would be an international disaster. Australia, always the good guy, said ‘no thanks'. They don't want to annoy their new friend China. So Canada was suggested by President Reagan, and Gorbachev agreed. Interestingly the Canada/Ukraine connection made it a fully acceptable solution. There are more Canadians of Ukrainian descent than in any other western country, a fact I was not aware of." "So why are we not meeting in Ottawa?" Ed asked. Pat answered quickly. "That meeting was held this morning by phone. Prime Minister Mulroney spoke with Mrs. Thatcher and Lord Stonebridge. The Canadian nuclear power authorities are sending one of their nuclear experts to see the Chernobyl disaster as we speak. He will visit briefly and obviously under full nuclear fall-out protection. But he cannot be involved in finding and confronting the man that pressed the button so to speak. That is my job." She turned to Ed with a smile. "And yours." "Whoa," Ed groaned loudly, "you're getting married in four days for heaven's sake. That makes no sense. And I'm the best man!" Lord Stonebridge raised his hands to slow things down. "Let the General finish his up-date before we raise some very serious matters surrounding this challenge, except let me stress that we must have this resolved in less than four days. If it isn't," he emphasized, "there is a concern there will be a second ‘accident'." The room went silent. Pat shrugged, with a nod of thanks to Ed. The General continued. "So once again, Eddie, your Canadian passport is part of the solution. Let us hope we can use it, along with Pat's of course, to address this major concern." He turned to Ed. "To address the question you raised earlier Miss Andrews is currently on her way to Istanbul. She is headed to Istanbul because Mr. Alexi Umarov is also on his way to Istanbul. He, of course, is the man we think – are almost positive – created the explosion and the resulting melt-down at Chernobyl. He is Chechen, I'll get into that later, and his activity since the explosion convinces one and all that he is our man. He is not trying hard to hide. He flew to Istanbul only hours before the explosion. He left a note which translated from Russian into English means ‘More to come'. He has not hidden the fact that he has booked a seven day cruise from Istanbul to Rome, in fact he has made it obvious what he is doing. It's the message that worries us all. We could catch him in a matter of hours, but we know that even the KGB, especially the KGB, could not make him talk. Like many Chechens he despises Russia and everything they stand for. Like almost all Chechens he is a Muslim – not what you would call devout, but Muslim nevertheless. And Islam is a, no ‘the', major difference between Chechnya and most other republics of the USSR." "What is the plan?" Ed asked enthusiastically, now intrigued by the background. "In simple terms," the General continued, "it is to meet and get to know Mr. Alexi Umarov and convince him to explain his ‘More to come' comment. By ‘convince' I mean persuade, influence, and win-over even. It is not our plan to beat him into submission." He looked at Pat and Ed. "Obviously you wouldn't be here if the goal included beatings. The fact is he's a very intelligent man, and not what we would normally think of as a terrorist. In addition to being educated as a nuclear physicist, he speaks fluent English, Chechen, Ukrainian, and Russian. He is single, was born in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, thirty-four years ago. He, like many Muslims, drinks alcohol occasionally and is a dedicated cigar smoker. He imports many high-quality cigars - if that is not a contradiction in terms – mostly from Cuba, where he has visited several times." Lord Stonebridge's phone rang, and he held up his hand indicating he had to take the call. He listened intently, nodding his head from time to time. His only words were ‘thank you,' and he hung up. "Good news," he smiled, "Miss Andrews is now an employee of Princess Cruise Lines, and her first role is Senior Activities Officer on the Sun Princess cruise ship that leaves tomorrow from Istanbul to Rome. The stage is set, but we must act fast. The ship pulls up anchor tomorrow at 6pm."
Born in London, England, shortly after the Second World War, Ed Nickerson received his education in London. He moved to Canada in 1964 for two years and has lived there ever since. After working for thirty-five years in the life insurance industry, he wrote his first novel, First Flight of the Crowe. His interest in history and politics led him to write fiction based on actual events. This is his sixth novel in the Ed Crowe series. He lives in Burlington, Ontario, with his wife Judy and their two cats Stanley and Sparkle. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.