Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Excerpt - Destination: Berlin

THE SET UP: After sending the night in a farm house, Sharon asks Dimitri if she can see a doctor.


Through the cracks in the loft, she spotted Dimitri checking out the farmhouse. She wondered what he’d found. Again, she took another deep breath. How would she ever be up for a ninety kilometer hike to Berlin? If her ribs were okay, her lungs would feel better by now. Certainly she had more energy after her rest, but it still hurt to breathe. She wondered if her father ever had a night like this when he was in the military. He didn’t talk much about being in Vietnam, but when he had, he never told a disparaging story.

Dimitri climbed the ladder to the loft. “You’re up.”

“Yep. I’m up. What now?” she asked.

“I went and did a check of the area.”

“What did you find?” She was curious.

“There is a canal nearby. I think it’s the Havel-Elbe. The farmhouse is deserted for the moment. I believe it is market day and they have gone into town. The inside of the house contains photos of a couple in their youth, very old style clothing and hair. I believe the residents are an older couple.”

“Well, it’s about noon,” said Sharon, glancing at her watch. “I guess we should move on soon.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Not good,” she answered. “I was hoping to see a doctor.”

Dimitri frowned. “I can’t see how that would be possible. If we see a doctor, we’re opening ourselves up to be discovered.”

Sharon was quiet for a moment.

“I’m in pretty good shape,” she began, “but this injury is making it hard for me to keep up. The pain it’s causing is taking away my strength. Is there a chance we can just pop in somewhere for a minute – long enough to secure some painkillers?”

“You see,” he began, “in this part of the world, you cannot enter a town without an ausweise. If you want medical treatment, you must present the card. As you know, we have no such thing for you.”

She thought for a moment. “In America, we need insurance cards. If we don’t have them, doctors will accept payment directly. Is it possible that a German doctor would do the same?”

“But in your uniform, surely someone would notice you.”

She took off her awards and her shoulder boards. “Maybe it’ll look passable if I take these off,” she said optimistically. “After all, without my shoulder boards and awards, you don’t know for sure what I am.”

“I don’t know, let me think about it,” said Dimitri awkwardly.


He gestured for Sharon to follow him. They left the loft and Dimitri went into the farmhouse and gathered some food from the kitchen, bread and fruit. He also took some rope and a couple of rags. He put them in a duffle bag that he carried over his shoulder. They stuffed what they could in her briefcase. As they walked along the wood line, he removed his rank and insignia from his uniform, so it appeared he was just wearing a brown shirt and slacks.

“Here is your ausweise,” he said. “Today you are Gertha Braun. I am your husband, Wolfgang.”

“So…does this mean you thought about it? Are we going to see the doctor?” she asked with a smile.


“Maybe I should be the mute Gertha Braun?” Sharon suggested. “Gertha has a bit of a language barrier. About the only thing I can do is read a menu in German.”

“I thought of that,” Dimitri said. “It’s not so unusual that the women don’t speak for themselves. I’ll do the talking.”


“Hohenseeden is the next town we will come to and the Stasi will have alerted the Polizei, but not the general public of the train derailment. To the general public we will be strangers on market day. We’ll have to be careful to avoid the Polizei,” explained Dimitri.

“We have time on our side. The Stasi will be scrambling their resources to find us and they’ll be spread out,” added Sharon.

“Still, we cannot afford even one mistake,” Dimitri added. He directed them along a wooded path, which would lead to the next town. As they walked, it became silent between them, and Sharon discovered she didn’t like the silence. She wanted to know more about her accomplice, but she wasn’t quite sure where to start. They seemed to have nothing in common.

“You’re quiet all of a sudden,” said Dimitri.

“Sorry, I was just thinking about my family.”


“My father in particular. He was in the army, too – in Vietnam.”

“I see.”

“You remember when you asked me, back on the train, why I joined the army?”

“Yes. You said for the funding of your education.”

“I could have gone to college when I graduated high school. You see, my father was an infantry lieutenant and he volunteered to go to Vietnam. His career was cut short when a grenade exploded in his hand. He came home with a prosthetic hand. It was hard for him at first,” explained Sharon.

“I’m sorry. Was he distant?”

“Yeah. He thought we didn’t understand. I was five at the time. I remember missing him when he was gone. I was so happy to have him home, I didn’t care that he had a prosthetic hand,” she added. The sun beat down through the trees its heat adding to her nervousness.

“At least he came home,” Dimitri said.

5 Stars, Midwest Book Review
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