A Gentleman and a Rogue

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Excerpt - From Destination: Berlin

The set up: Sharon and Dimitri meet on the duty train.
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East Germany,
July 1988

Chapter One

Spies. Espionage. Danger. The Berlin duty train hinted at it all, as it carried the four allies between the West and occupied Berlin. Corporal Sharon Cates was high on the potential thrill, but her military common sense kept her anchored to the fact that hints rarely ever gave way to facts.

She walked through the doors and into the duty train’s dining car, wearing her class “A” uniform. It was relatively empty. A lone concession window was open selling coffee and brötchen. She bought a cup and sat down next to a window. It was dark outside, and she couldn’t see much. Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was two o’clock. Sharon knew she should be asleep, but she was too excited. Soon she’d be in Berlin, and she was thrilled. Going to Berlin would be stepping into living history. She put her briefcase on the table and took out a guidebook to Berlin, thumbing through it as she drank her coffee.

A faint creak pierced the air. When Sharon looked up, she spied a Soviet soldier also buying a cup of coffee. A warm shiver slid down her spine. After all, she knew the Soviets also used the duty train; she just thought she’d never see one. He was tall and filled out his uniform well. From the markings on his uniform, she gathered he was a non-commissioned officer, but that was all. To her surprise, he approached her booth.

“Good morning, Corporal. I am Junior Sergeant Dimitri Nagory of the Soviet Army. May I join you?”

Sharon looked up. He was talking to her—in English! She motioned to him to have a seat.

Dimitri sat down and smiled. “If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your name, Corporal?”

“Sharon,” she answered, as distantly as possible. She never thought she’d meet a Soviet soldier on the Berlin Duty Train. This felt like a page out of a LeCarre spy novel. “Sharon Cates.”

“Is this your first time on the duty train?” he asked.

Sharon stared at him. Nosey Soviet. Cpt. Heathers had cautioned her about them during her security briefing.

“Because it is the first time I have seen you,” Dimitri continued, sipping his coffee.

“Ah, yes,” Sharon finally answered. Should she finally entertain those thoughts of espionage and secret spy scenarios? “It’s my first trip to Berlin,” she added.

“I see. Are you attending the Berlin Orientation Tour?”

“How did you know?”

“Most of the Americans I see on the train travel to Berlin for that purpose,” Dimitri explained, grinning.

“If you don’t mind my asking, why are you on the train?” Despite the desire to keep her composure, her lips curved into an inquisitive smile.

“I work in the Soviet embassy in London. My headquarters are in East Berlin. I travel between London and Berlin every two weeks,” he answered.

“And you can tell me that?” she asked, raising a surprised eyebrow.

“It’s common knowledge,” he added.

“Do you make it a habit to talk to Americans on the train?” Sharon asked.

“No, I don’t. I usually sleep in my train car, but I haven’t had much to eat today so they let me out to do that,” he replied.

“Touché,” she said curtly. “So, Jr. Sgt. Nagory, what do you do in your army?”

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