The Flemish Coil

The title of the next Nick Temple File is The Flemish Coil. Here's the first chapter just to get the ball rolling: CHAPTER 1: TWO DOWN

February, 1965

The Major peers through his binoculars at the Glienicke Bridge. So far, so good. It should be easy enough. Our guy for their guy. Our spy for their spy. Then why is he so nervous? Hell, it’s not like the world’s superpowers are going to start lobbing nukes at each other if some detail doesn’t go exactly according to the agreement. Besides, what could go wrong? It’s all a well-choreographed bit of theater. Even here in Berlin the Cold War seems to have thawed just a bit since the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of destruction.

“Relax,” he tells himself.

He sees the Soviet vehicles approach from the Potsdam side – three in all. Black Chaikas. The middle one should contain Thompson.

He shifts his focus to his right. The American vehicles are approaching from the east.

“An accident of geography,” he silently notes.

Three black Lincolns. As per the agreement, like Thompson, Smertov’s in the middle of the three. The Major personally saw to it less than 20 minutes ago.

Six black cars at midnight.

The two sets of cars halt at their respective approaches to the bridge. Lights on both sides of the bridge are reflected by the heavily waxed cars. Just beyond the bridge and its modest superstructure the darkness is complete.

The Major knows securing the entire perimeter was not possible, but OPSEC leading up to the exchange has been solid. No more than a handful of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain had any advanced knowledge of tonight’s swap. The drivers were given their instructions less than an hour ago. Once they were briefed they were held incommunicado at Brigade HQ until the mission began. The MPs from the 287th in each of the vehicles were selected for their high-level clearances. They have no information about who it is they’re delivering, who they’re picking up, and until a little over an hour ago, they had no idea when they’d be called on to act as body guards for a couple of complete strangers.

So much for the American side.

But the Major has no idea how tight security has been for the Soviets. As a matter of faith he assumes they’ve relied on their usual closed-society paranoia to restrict access to the greatest extent possible. It’s something they’re actually pretty good at; their number one export.

The Americans turn their headlights off; the Soviets immediately follow suit. Crunch time.

Twelve car doors open nearly simultaneously. Six armed guards and one prisoner exit from the limousines on each side of the bridge. The doors are closed. An American MP Staff Sergeant signals with his arm to move forward, for both sets of men to walk towards the center of the bridge: three armed guards in front, spy in the middle, three armed guards in back.

The two sets of seven men begin walking towards each other. When they are near the middle of the bridge and 20 meters apart they stop. Thompson separates himself from his armed escort as does Smertov. The spies walk slowly towards each other. They are now in the middle of the bridge. They stop.

“What the fuck are they doing?” the Major thinks to himself. “Keep walking, dammit. Keep walking!”

The two men simply shake hands before they resume walking across the bridge. The Major breathes a sigh of relief as the exchange is nearly complete.

“There’s got to be an easier way to do this,” he thinks for about the twentieth time since getting this assignment.

Both men are now no more than 3 meters from their countrymen, 3 meters from returning home, 3 meters from some measure of freedom.

The Major hears the faintest of noises from the wooded area north and east of the bridge, like an instant rush of compressed air, followed immediately by another.

Johnson and Smertov suddenly and simultaneously drop to the pavement, each mortally wounded by a sniper’s bullet to the skull.