A Gentleman and a Rogue

Monday, August 3, 2009

Excerpt Monday - Destination: Berlin

This excerpt is from my novel, "Destination:Berlin." It's 1988 and Sharon has just discovered she carries top secret documents. She's in the middle of Communist East Germany.

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A million wild thoughts were racing through Sharon’s mind, but one thing worried her. She hoped Jr. Sgt. Nagory wasn’t returning with the KGB. As she walked toward the fire, her upper body felt stiff and sore with the slightest motion. Yet she was sure that if she used it a little, she could soothe some of the tightening of the muscles.

It’s only muscle pain, but it could have been me and the junior sergeant both burnt to a crisp in that inferno over there. I’m grateful we weren’t.

Was it like this for her father, too? He had been a first lieutenant in the infantry during Vietnam. Certainly he’d faced intense situations like this.

“Corporal?”Sharon stopped, realizing she hadn’t gone far.

“Over here, Jr. Sgt.”He approached and motioned for them to kneel against the bushes, then he looked hard at her. Sharon could sense a change in his demeanor and it unnerved her.

“Corporal,” he said seriously, “I need for you to be totally and completely honest with me right now. Can you do that?”

“Of course,” Sharon answered. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you a courier? Do you have classified government documents with you? Documents the Stasi want?” asked Dimitri.

Sharon shook her head. “No,” she said slowly. “I told you in the dining car. I’m going to Berlin to attend the Orientation Tour.”

Dimitri stared hard at her for a moment. In the darkness, Sharon was sure she could detect him softening, but he asked again, “You have no secret documents on you?”

“No,” she repeated firmly. “What’s going on?”

“What’s in your briefcase?”“My paperwork. Border crossing documentation.”“Let me see it,” he said firmly.

“Why?” she said, her voice sounding calmer than she felt. “What are you expecting to find? Secret government documents?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not lying to you, Jr. Sgt.”

Dimitri put his hand on hers and looked gently into her eyes. “I believe you. Please let me look. Our lives depend on it.”

“Look.” She gave him the briefcase, confident he would find nothing out of the ordinary.He opened the case and read her border crossing documents, squinting in the firelight. Satisfied, he removed the entire contents and jiggled the bottom of the case. It began to move and then separated altogether from the case.

“It’s got a false bottom,” Sharon remarked, keeping her voice even and firm. She hoped it hid the trepidation she felt.Dimitri extracted a folder. He recognized the top sheet, blue and with the word “Top Secret” printed on it. She was stunned. What was going on, she wondered, her heart racing? Where had that file come from? She didn’t put it there. How did it get there and how did Dimitri know about it?He looked at her harshly.

“Tell me again you’re not a courier.”

“I’m not,” Sharon said coolly. “I have no idea where that came from, but it’s classified. I can’t let you see any more of it.”

They faced off, her eyes looking for answers and trust. A minute ticked by as her heart pounded in her chest, entertaining the idea that he was lying. Just when she thought they’d hit a stalemate, he blinked first. His hands shook as he gave the folder back to her. As Sharon took it, both realized that a certain amount of trust had been exchanged between them when he handed her the folder.

“The Stasi are willing to kill you and take that folder from your dead body. I heard them making plans to do just such a thing. I think you need to know what it contains,” he explained.

“I agree.” She turned the page over and was aghast at what she read. “The launch codes,” she whispered, in muted shock.The documents contained the launch codes for the very nuclear weapons she guarded at the site in Osnabrueck. They could have only come from one place – the COMSEC vault.

“Corporal?”

Sharon closed the file and put it back in the briefcase. “You said they were willing to kill me for these documents? You’re right.”

“You said they were launch codes?” he asked.Sharon pursed her lips, trying to push her fear back so it wouldn’t show on her face.

“I’m a military police soldier who guards nuclear weapons. These are the launch codes to those weapons.”

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