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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Thriller/Suspense · #1862890
A CIA agent in East Berlin must rescue a Russian scientist.
Cold Winter.

By Joe Nelson.

December 1982 marked the one year anniversary of Dominic Greene’s posting to East Berlin. Even at the height of summer the city was a cold and unforgiving place but this far into winter the city seemed flat-out hostile.
         The prospect of waking up to a red dawn could not be so easily ignored as it could when Dom was Stateside and behind the Iron Curtain the constant feeling of fear and suspicion seemed to permeate the very walls around him.
         In the sinister eyes that watched constantly he could see his ever-present enemy, it was a fact that kept him both alert and alive.
         Dom could not afford mistakes in this place. He was a deep-cover CIA agent and even the slightest hint at his true identity would result in his capture and execution. The deception was a game he was used to playing. Some days he would wake up forgetting that he was the son of an Iowa banker, instead believing that he was Günter Klein; a poverty stricken taxi driver and avid supporter of the Communist party.
         His survival depended upon the strength of the lie.

Dominic considered these things as he stood concealed amidst the broken shadows of a derelict street waiting for his contact to call.
         He hated East Berlin and over the past few weeks his thoughts had increasingly turned to life in the US. Memories of Playboy magazine and ice-cold Coca-Cola played in his mind, evoking feelings of longing and regret and the desire to return home. It was the simple things he missed the most. What the hell do the Reds have against decent beer? he would often wonder.
         His dreams were shattered by the shrill noise of the pay phone across the street. Dominic scratched his stubbly chin before throwing down his cigarette and stamping it out with his foot. The coast seemed clear enough but the possibility of a Soviet trap was all too real.
         Silently he watched as the phone continued to call out to him. Its cacophonous ring echoing through the night like a Soviet alarm. Dom fingered his dark curly hair, it was a habit he picked up when he became nervous. He continued to wait in the shadows, trying to gauge the likelihood of a trap.

         Inhaling nervously, Dom stepped out of the dark and into the dull glow of the street lamps. The clacking of his shoes sounded in the emptiness as he made his way across the street towards the battered phone booth.

         Cautiously he reached out for the receiver. His mind swam with visions of a KGB assassin perched in a darkened window, watching him through the scope of a rifle.

         He was expecting a bullet in the back at any second. Gently his fingers brushed against the hard plastic of the receiver.

         Slowly he removed the phone from the hook. The screech of the phone died in his hands. He lifted it to his ear believing he would hear the mocking laughter of his killer before the whole world went black. Instead it was a grave, whiskey-burned voice that asked “How cold is it?”
         Dom recognised the words instantly and a swell of relief flooded through him as he spoke the correct words in response.
         “Not as cold as it was yesterday.”
         “Good to hear from you Dominic. How’ve you been?”
Dom smiled softly. It was his handler, Gus. Dom had served under Gus for nearly a decade and hearing his old friend’s voice on the other end of the line instantly put him at ease.
         “I’ve been better,” he answered.
         “We need to make this quick Dominic. The Stasi have ears everywhere. Listen closely. We’ve located the scientist, Sergei Brezhnev and he’s willing to go over the wall but he won’t go unless his daughter, Ana is with him.”
         “Damnit. Nothing is ever simple is it? Do we know where she is?”
         “We caught a break on that one, she’s in East Berlin staying with a friend of Sergei‘s. We need you to rendezvous with them in Stoya Park at noon tomorrow. It’s a few blocks east of your location in Friedrichshagen. Shouldn’t be too difficult to find.”
Dom nodded, confirming the details to himself. “Can we trust this friend?”
         “Unknown. You’ll be looking for a twelve year-old girl and a bald man with glasses. That’s Ana Brezhnev and her escort. His name is Richard. When you meet them he will ask you the same phrase I asked you at the start of this phone call. You will reply as I did. Do you understand this?”
         Dom nodded once more. “I remember. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
A conspicuous silence followed on the line. Dom knew there was something his mentor wasn’t telling him. After a few seconds of quiet Gus sighed and spoke again.
         “Dominic there’s something else. The damn Reds would rather see Brezhnev dead than lose him to us. They’ve sent an assassin after him.”
         Dom cursed under his breath. “Stasi? KGB? GRU?”
         “Worse; the Siberian Tiger.”
This time it was Dominic who went silent. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The ‘Siberian Tiger’ was the codename of the most prolific killer in the Soviet Union. Over the past two years the anonymous figure had been responsible for the deaths of over forty-eight CIA agents. Entire safehouses had been wiped out in a slaughter. The Tiger never left anyone alive and nobody had even the slightest clue as to who the Siberian Tiger really was or what organisation he worked for.
         “Dom? You still there?”
         “Yeah I’m here. You sure about this?”
         “Positive Dom. Be careful on this one ok? You know how important Brezhnev is and how dangerous the Tiger is. Don’t take any unnecessary risks ok?”
         “I got it. Thanks.”
         “After you rendezvous with the contact you need to make your way to 14 Munsterberg. That’s the safe house we have Brezhnev in. Once we get father and daughter reunited its over the wall. Stay safe Dom. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Before Dom could answer the sound of a dial tone was all that was left and with his contact gone he felt alone again.
         As he cast his eyes across the darkened street the images of an assassin returned. But this time Dom knew who was hunting him; the Siberian Tiger. The greatest killer of them all.

*          *          *          *          *

The low winter sun did little to alleviate the icy chill Dominic felt as he sat on a bench in Stoya Park. To him the derelict playground was another example of the destructiveness of the Communist ethos; a place once full of happy children playing on jungle-gym’s was now nothing more than an empty shell ravaged by poverty and neglect. Constructs once used to bring joy to children stood like skeletal remains in the gloomy and sober light.

Across the park Dom caught sight of a man walking with a little girl. The bleak sunlight obscured his vision, turning them into silhouettes against the grey sky. Dom lifted his hand to block out the sun and realised the pair were walking towards him.
         The man was short and bald, he wore a faded blue tracksuit and his eyes were hidden behind thick, black-rimmed glasses. He matched Gus’ description perfectly.
         The girl walked next to him, her hand in his as though they were father and daughter. It was a convincing act and Dom found himself questioning whether they were really the pair he was expecting.
         His doubts were silenced when the man sat beside him on the bench and without so much as a glance in his direction, asked “How cold is it?” He spoke with a high-clippped German accent and Dom could tell that he was a national.
         “Not as cold as it was yesterday,” Dom whispered in response.
         “My name is Richard,” the man said.
Dominic doubted the truth of it. He’d never met a German named Richard before.
         “Dominic,” he replied.
Silence followed as they both considered this new information. Though both men were bound by the same goal they wondered if they could really trust each other. For all Dom knew Richard was the Siberian Tiger himself.

He watched the girl as she played amongst the pigeons in the park. She was the very picture of innocence; her dirty dress and short-cropped hair attested to a life lived in poverty but her pale skin and sweet smile told of an optimism that had yet to die.
         Dom wished that he could still see things so purely but he had experienced the cruelties of life too many times to be that naive. Being a spy did that to a person.
         “Ana?” he asked.
The girl turned and gave him a wide, gap-toothed smile.
         “My name is Dominic. We’re going to see your father.”
Ana turned her attention back to the birds and began to chase them around the park.
         “She doesn’t speak English,” Richard said. “So what’s the plan Dominic?”
         “14 Munsterberg. That‘s our next stop.”
         “Brezhnev is there?” the German asked.
Dom didn’t like the question. Why did he need to know where Brezhnev was? There was definitely something wrong with this guy and Dom was convinced he was working with the Stasi.
         Dom nodded, unsure whether he had done the right thing by giving away Brezhnev’s location.
         Richard stood to leave. “Sounds like a plan but we shouldn’t waste time. Let’s go.” He extended his hand to Ana and she skipped towards him and held it. Whoever Richard really was at least Ana seemed to trust him.
         Before Dom could stand to join them the sound of a gunshot burst through the air.
         Pigeons flew in all directions, their panicked fluttering adding to the sudden confusion.
         A second hung for an eternity before Richard’s lifeless body collapsed in a heap. His bloodstained glasses bouncing onto the grass, the left lens shot out.
         Dom reacted on instinct. His CIA training kicking in as he grabbed the screaming Ana and threw himself in front of her, shielding her from the shooter and the sight of Richard's shattered skull.
         With practiced skill he drew his Browning Hi-power pistol and aimed it in the direction the shot had come from.
         Nothing happened.
         Silence descended as the sound of flapping wings disappeared into the day. The only sound left was the muffled screams of Ana Brezhnev who had her face buried in Dom’s coat.
         Dom’s heartbeat drummed in his ears.
         His eyes scanned the distance, searching for possible places where the assassin could hide.
         There were too many windows. Too many alleyways. The Tiger could have been anywhere and Dom was in the open. He was a sitting duck.
         He needed to move but he couldn’t.
         Move! his mind screamed. But he stayed. His eyes flitting left and right hoping to glance the killer.
         Seconds passed like hours. Move! Now!
         Ana screamed louder, her shrieks snapping Dom out of his focus.
         He took one last look at Richard’s corpse; his old and worn tracksuit was saturated with blood and his crumpled body was completely still. He was definitely dead.
         Dom didn’t wait another second, he grabbed Ana and hauled her off as quickly as he could, moving with purpose towards the exit and away from danger. She stumbled and wept as Dom led her out of the park and towards his car.
         They had to get to the safe house. They had to get to Brezhnev before the assassin did. The Siberian Tiger had found them and he would be going for Sergei Brezhnev next.

*          *          *          *          *

Dominic sat in the drivers seat of his crappy red Lada, his fingers playing with his curls. His eyes were fixed on the front of 14 Munsterberg; the safe house where Sergei Brezhnev had been hidden away by the CIA.
         After the incident in the park Dom was unsure if the safe house had been compromised. His eyes searched for signs of activity, some clue as to whether or not the Tiger had found Brezhnev.
         The squat building was unremarkable in every sense of the word. It radiated an aura of poverty and was designed to be completely unnoticeable. A bland and boring image created to deter watchful eyes.
         For all Dom knew he could be walking into another trap. If this was how it had to be he wasn’t going to take Ana with him. She was only a child and didn’t deserve to meet her end at the hands of a Soviet psychopath.
         At least she had seemed to calm down. She was no longer crying hysterically but silently contemplating the days events. Dom knew it must have been traumatic for her but he had no time to play the comforting guardian. Her safety and the safety of her father was the most important thing.
         There was no sign of movement in the house and for all Dom knew that meant it was safe. He didn’t really have much of a choice, Brezhnev was inside and he needed to get to him.
         “Stay here.” Dom said, pointing to the seat so that Ana would understand him. If she did she gave no sign, she just stared at him through swollen eyes. She made no effort to follow him as he made his way towards the house.

Dom drew his Browning and cautiously approached the front of the house, weaving his way through the small shrub garden as he made his way towards the door. 
         Nothing seemed out of place so Dom gently reached for the door handle and turned it as quietly as possible.
         To his surprise the door was unlocked. He was unsure if that meant the Tiger was already inside.
         Slowly he pushed the door open and pointed his gun into the dark interior.
         After taking a second to let his eyes adjust to the sudden change in light, Dom began moving through the house with his gun held out and ready for action.
         With a silent skill he moved through the rooms searching for any sign of his quarry. There were no signs of struggle that he could see.
         A sudden clash to his left caught his attention and he spun towards the sound, his finger poised on the trigger.
         He resisted the urge to call out to Sergei. If the Tiger was indeed here then Sergei was already dead and he would only alert the assassin to his presence.
         Dom moved quickly down a narrow hallway towards the room the sound came from. As he approached he could see it was the kitchen.
          Carefully he peered inside. Next to the stove stood a tall thin man with a greying beard and thick glasses. Dom breathed a sigh of relief as he recognised the sight of Sergei Brezhnev cooking eggs.
         Brezhnev jumped when he saw Dom in the doorway, fear written across his face.
         “I’m CIA. Your safe now.” Dom assured him.
Sergei slumped, the tension fleeing his body as Dom holstered his firearm.
         “Where is Ana?” he asked with sudden enthusiasm.
         “Safe. I have her outside in the car.”
Sergei smiled at the news and ran directly out to greet his daughter.
         Dom smiled. Sometimes the job had its upside and reuniting a father with his little girl was one of them. He searched around for a phone before finding one in the hallway. Allowing himself another smile he picked up the receiver and began to dial.
         “Gus it’s Dom. I’m at the Munsterberg safe house with Brezhnev.”
         “The Goddamn Tiger tried to hit us in the park. Richard’s dead…”
         “Dominic listen…”
         “I managed to get Ana Brezhnev out of there. Sergei’s with her now but we need extraction as soon as possible. I don’t know if the Tiger knows where…”
         “Dom, listen to me! Ana Brezhnev is dead.”
Gus’ words were alien to Dom. What the hell was he talking about? Surely he was mistaken, the girl was with him only minutes ago. There’s no way the Tiger could have gotten to her already.
         “Gus, what are you on? I just told you. I’ve secured Ana Brezhnev…”
         “Dom, Ana Brezhnev was fished out of the Spree a half hour ago. Whoever you're with is not the real Ana. Its…”
A sharp pain erupted between Dom’s shoulder blades and he fell forward, bouncing off the wall and landing on his back in the hallway.
         The agony was intense and through eyes filling with tears, he looked up to see the girl standing over him, the barrel of a silenced Heckler and Koch pointed directly at his face.
         She smiled sadistically. “Stupid American. You can’t even see your enemy when they are right in front of you,” she chided in a thick Russian accent.
         Dom struggled to comprehend the situation but when he caught sight of Sergei’s lifeless body lying on the stairs, he knew that he’d need a miracle to get out of this alive.
         It was a miracle that was never going to happen. Just before the bullet left the chamber Dom realised that he’d led the Tiger directly to her target. Then his whole world went black.


© Copyright 2012 Joe Nelson (joenelson at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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