According to the Chinese-Indonesians, our home in Jakarta in 1972 was facing south and thus well placed — feng shui in Chinese. However, our home was at the top of a T intersection and looked down a street heading south. Most of the Chinese we knew stated that, even though we were facing south, such intersections were full of bad spirits. When I said that American black cats brought bad luck, they stated that Asian black cats brought good fortune. Evil spirits depend on their respective cultures.
The Japanese ambassador’s home was on the west corner; the Russian embassy workers’ sprawling complex was on the east corner. Sixty-five years earlier, the Japanese won the Russo-Japanese war that was fought in Manchuria and Korea; about thirty years later, the Americans defeated the Japanese. Given the past enmities and the ongoing cold war, I wondered if the three households would get along.
Five months after we arrived, I had worked until 7:30 that evening; Emily, my wife, was practicing madrigal songs with a British singing group that was rehearsing for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday celebration. As I was getting out of the car, a male voice with an odd British accent said, “Mr. Jordan, may I have a word?”
I approached the man standing at the driveway gate. In his sixties, he looked familiar and was tall, with light hair, blue eyes, and a friendly smile. He had a military bearing. I said, “Didn’t we meet at a reception at the American ambassador’s home? You were wearing a Russian lieutenant general’s dress uniform. Your first name is Andre; your surname is almost impossible for English speakers.”
He laughed, “My surname is difficult even for Russians; call me Andre. Working late this evening?”
“Yes, and my wife is practicing madrigal songs with a British group.”
“Part songs,” Andre said, “that came from the Western renaissance. They’re quite beautiful.”
“They are. It’s been a difficult day; I feel like a cocktail before the cold supper my wife left. Care to join me?”
“Do you have Scotch?”
“Yes. And vodka for the occasional Russian who drops in.”
Andre laughed, “I’m one of the few Russians who doesn’t care for vodka. I was told that Scotch is an acquired taste; after many years in London, I grew to like it.”
I was pouring the drinks when Andre said, “I understand that you went to Stanford University. That’s a good school?”
“I like to think so.”
His facial expression changed as he said, “I realize this may be somewhat unsettling.”
I paused and handed him his drink. “A couple of months ago, I was in Singapore and bought a telephoto lens. I was on the sundeck over the garage trying out the lens on my camera. I turned toward your compound and noticed a fellow looking at me through binoculars. I waved and turned away. I was not spying. About ten days ago, I passed two Russian ladies in the street pushing baby carriages. Fellow Caucasians, I wished them a good afternoon; they thanked me in English. I don’t work for the CIA. I’m a banker and develop dollar lending to the Indonesian state banks.”
“We know what you do,” Andre said. I didn’t ask how he knew.
“The camera incident was deemed harmless,” he said. “And the two women said that you were polite and friendly, like most Americans. Do you have a garbage collection service?”
“No, our garbage disappears. Just another Indonesian mystery, I guess.”
Andre nodded, “I know where your garbage goes. Your houseboy has become an active participant in the cold war.” Andre handed me a night photo of our houseboy, Endor, throwing garbage over the low fence surrounding the Russian compound. Andre continued, “Included in that garbage was a Stanford alumni magazine with your name on it.”
“I’m terribly sorry. I’ll tell Endor to stop.”
“Fine,” Andre said. “We have a service that collects our garbage; they come early on Monday mornings. Next Monday morning around 7:00, I’ll introduce you to them.”
“I’ll be there. And thank you. Care for another drink?” He nodded yes. On the way to refresh the drinks, I asked, “What were you doing in London for all those years?” That was a silly question to ask a Russian general.
“After university, my English was fluent; in 1937, I started as the junior army attaché. Later I became the attaché.”
“You were lucky to have avoided Stalin’s military purges during the late 1930s. Marshal Tukhachevsky, one of the best generals in Europe, fell afoul of Stalin’s insatiable paranoia and was shot.”
I sensed Andre was uncomfortable; he shrugged and said, “I stayed in London until 1955. After that, I was posted to Pakistan and later to India. In 1964 I was posted here.”
“That was just before the attempted coup against the army in 1965?” I didn’t mention that Indonesian communists instigated the coup.
“Sukarno was stupid and thought he was smart,” Andre said. “His political support was a three-legged stool: the army, conservative Muslims, and communists. They hated each other; after considerable bloodletting, the army prevailed.” After downing his drink, “I’ll see you Monday morning. Thanks for the hospitality and the whiskey.” We shook hands and he left.
A couple of weeks later, the American commercial attaché asked me to his office at the American embassy. He didn’t say why. In his office after introductions to John Fitzgerald and Bill Joyce, the attaché left. I recognized both men from embassy receptions; in those days, many CIA agents were Irishmen who had graduated from Catholic colleges. That day, I learned that Fitzgerald had graduated from Holy Cross and Joyce from Villanova.
Fitzgerald said, “Please tell me about your meeting with Andre Poskrebyshev.”
How they knew about the meeting, I would never know. “Our meeting was at my home,” I said. “I learned that our houseboy had been throwing our garbage on the Russian compound’s lawn. I invited Andre inside for a drink, and we settled the garbage issue. He told me he had been posted in London for about twenty years; then Pakistan, India, and here in 1964, a year before the attempted communist coup. I brought up Stalin’s purges during the 1930s. He seemed uncomfortable and changed the subject to Sukarno’s fragile political alliance.”
Fitzgerald said, “You were dealing with one of the KGB’s top men. In London he was one of the handlers of the Cambridge spies. You know about them?”
“Yes, Kim Philby, Donald MacLean and Guy Burgess became spies for the Soviets in the 1930s when they were at Cambridge. Much later they fled to Russia. Ah, have I done anything wrong?”
“Nope, nothing wrong,” Fitzgerald said. “We were just curious. Thanks for your time.”
Endor had withdrawn from the cold war, and our garbage was collected on Monday mornings. I thought about that meeting and figured that I had a one-page file with the CIA and perhaps with the KGB as well.
For several months afterwards, I introduced myself as “Jordan (a two beat pause) Stephen Jordan,” like Sean Connery introduced James Bond: “Bond, (two beats) James Bond.” I polished my British accent and extended the pause by tamping down a cigarette on a cigarette case, like Bond did in Doctor No. I was disappointed that few people understood my impersonation. Initially my wife thought it was funny; but after a few months, the act became tedious, then outright annoying.