The selection below is the second half of what is currently chapter 18. It's got it all: a Russian snitch, two CIA operatives, a Berlin beer garden, and a sniper! Enjoy . . .
The beer garden at Loretta’s enjoys one of the best views in Berlin: west and north across the Wannsee, one of a series of lakes and waterways along the southwestern edge of the city. April rarely provides any decent weather for the citizens of Berlin, but that does little to dampen their appreciation for sitting in the fresh air working a liter of pilsner at the end of a work day. And although the beer garden is far from full, the small crowd will give Nick, Arnie, and their new contact plenty of cover for at least an hour. They sit and wait, meanwhile simply enjoying the soothing effect of a frothy glass of German pilsner in the late afternoon.
Less than five minutes after Nick and Arnie’s arrival, a man in a black, well-worn heavy overcoat, a grey turtleneck sweater, and a woolen watch cap furtively and nervously takes a seat at the table to their right. A waiter approaches.
“Berliner Kindl, bitte,” the man quickly orders.
“Sofort,” is the waiter’s response.
Nick and Arnie both detect German with a Russian accent. Arnie confirms with a nod to Nick that the voice is the same as the man who called him two days ago.
“April? Is still winter in Moscow,” their new neighbor remarks while looking out across the Wannsee. The Russian accent is unmistakable in the simple English phrase.
“Another fucking amateur,” Nick thinks to himself.
Arnie decides on the direct route.
“It’s your dime. Start talking,” he says without looking at the Russian.
The waiter approaches the Russian’s table. He sets down a coaster and a half-liter glass of Berliner Kindl. The Russian hands the waiter a two-mark coin. As the waiter digs in his apron pocket for change the Russian waves him off as a way of saying, “Keep the change.”
“Danke,” the waiter says with a slight nod.
The waiter departs. The Russian lifts the glass of beer, admires it for a moment, and takes a large gulp.
“Any time, pal,” Nick says with impatience.
The Russian pulls a half-empty pack of Gauloises from his jacket pocket. He taps the pack, removes a cigarette, and puts the pack back. He pulls a zippo lighter out of the same pocket. Nick sees the lighter and notices the same gold emblem of a coiled rope emblazoned on the lighter as that of the annoying infantry officer back at Dulles. The coincidence, perhaps due to jet lag, doesn’t register.
“We’re allies,” is the Russian’s response.
“Us? Never, asshole,” Arnie chuckles.
Nick stirs in his seat as if he’s about to leave.
“Can the fucking games. You’ve got something to say, say it.”
“Okay. Well, group of Americans wants to start ground war in Europe. How’s that for starters, as you Americans like to say.”
Nick and Arnie betray no immediate reaction to the startling assertion. After more than a minute, Arnie breaks the silence.
“You’re out of your mind, and we’re out of here.”
He begins to stand up. Nick grabs his forearm to stop him.
“How about some details?” Nick asks.
“Glienicke Bridge was their operation. But it didn’t have desired effect.”
“Tell me something you didn’t read in that commie rag Neues Deutschland.”
Arnie’s reference to the official organ of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany seems to agitate the Russian.
“I wouldn’t bother reading that garbage.”
“Either way, you’re going to have to do better.”
“I know assassin. He’s from Wiesbaden originally. He was supposed to disappear. Buenos Aires. But he’s back on continent. Maybe for next phase, but I think he was hired only for Glienicke Bridge operation.”
“And who the hell are you?”
The Russian turns to Nick to answer. As he begins to speak, before he can utter another sound, a 7.62mm round from a Russian Mosin/Nagant Ma891/30 slams into his right temple and exits through the left side of his exploding skull.
His death is instantaneous and obvious. Rather than checking on the victim, an act both know would be futile, Nick and Arnie look for a moment across the Wannsee. From this distance and with only seconds to scan they can detect nothing of any use. They stand nearly simultaneously and stride for the restaurant’s parking lot off Kronprinzessinweg. Another round rips past Nick and lands with a thud in a planter box at the base of the restaurant’s main building.
Nick and Arnie, aware they too are targets, pick up the pace. The lack of a report from the rifle tells them the assailant is using a silencer. The distance the first round had to travel and the accuracy of the shot tell them the assailant is a pro.
As they reach Arnie’s car, partly obscured by a shoulder high hedgerow, the spectacle of the Russian’s violent, yet nearly silent death is just beginning to pierce the collective consciousness of the others at the café.
“I was beginning to think he was trying to throw us off the trail,” Arnie offers as he slides into the driver’s seat.
“I wasn’t convinced there was a trail until his head exploded. We need to get the hell out of here.”
A round tears into the roof of Arnie Miller’s Mercedes Benz and lodges in the car’s upholstered back seat. Nick slams his door. Arnie starts the car, puts it in reverse, and steps on the gas. The tires spin wildly before catching in the loose gravel parking lot. Arnie slams on the brakes, shifts into first, turns the wheel and again hits the accelerator. The Benz careens out of the lot and onto Kronprinzessinweg putting some much needed distance between themselves and another victim of the Cold War.
By the time the beer garden’s patrons begin to react to the carnage in their midst Arnie and Nick are nearly a kilometer away. And the Russian’s secrets remain for the moment buried in the few identifiable bits of brain still clinging to what remains of his shattered, lifeless skull.