Chapter 2 - A Mission that Can't Fail
Chapter 2 - A Mission that Can't Fail
Before I even accepted the mission to the East, I had been told by my boss that one of the spies, a certain Leroy Anderson, an American, had been in prison there for over six months. He was to be exchanged for one of the 'communist' spies that had worked for East German intelligence, who had been caught in New York. The exchange had already been agreed to in principle by both governments. It was an easy mission. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Of course I said yes.
Actually, I met Leroy Anderson only once in all that time, on the day he was released. Leroy had chosen to spend his first night as a free man in a West Berlin 'night club.' I remembered the rhythm and wild music there, and a stripper who greatly impressed him. I remarked to him, casually, that this particular stripper's act was the least boring. To him such a suggestion was sacrilegious. So I said nothing more. After all, he had just spent time in communist jails. Who was I to argue? And who was I anyway, compared to him? He was the hero, the spy whose life had been in a balance. I was only a civil servant, a technician who had worked out the detailed steps for his release. Anyone could have done that. Leroy had risked his life for his country. Diplomats don't get into tough spots like that. Still, I wondered if he knew how little he had asked for himself in return. There was nothing at that strip show for which I would have exchanged a single one of the bright moments that I had experienced in the process of gaining his release.
The 'Strip Palace,' as a neon sign bragged, was a pub off the main road going into Berlin. The hotel's captain, who obviously had never been there, had praised it. None of this, though, mattered to Leroy. He was the happiest man alive.
"Aren't they super!" he would say between bites of bratwurst or munching down sauerkraut, followed by stein after stein of that heavy German beer. "You should come to Pittsburgh," he would add, when he noticed that I wasn't too excited. "It is all right here, but in Pittsburgh, the girls there, I mean, they're absolutely terrific! They've got girls there, I tell you, better than anywhere."
I was glad he didn't know that I came from Pittsburgh, myself. There might have been arguments that would have spoiled his evening.
"In Berlin, Rome, Paris, things are all right," he said, "but not like in Pittsburgh!"
Leroy was a playboy, no doubt, and a person not too keenly aware of the deeper things. Still, in time I saw in him the very person that Heather had accused me of in her letter. Oh, I had thought that I was so much better than he was. Later I felt that the Foreign Service must have made the same mistake regarding me that the CIA had made in hiring him. We were a match in that respect. I wondered if he had realized that.
Ursula Fleischer, from the Internal Security Service in East Germany, had instantly figured him out, as she told me after we met. She had been my contact in the East. She had told me details about Leroy's personality that I'm sure he wasn't aware of himself. It's too bad, I had thought at the moment, that she worked for the opposite side. Fortunately for me, I had come under more honorable circumstances than Leroy had. She had told me that it was his insensitivity towards people's feelings that had caught her attention. She said that he had behaved as though he was still wearing his CIA badge pinned to his shirt. "I just knew," she said.
Negotiating for Leroy's release had been my first real foreign assignment. I was eager. Of course, I hadn't expected a mission of great importance. Still, the thought was a tremendously exiting one, to be sent alone behind the iron curtain. Nobody knew at this time that the curtain would soon fall. Nobody even dared to hope. It appeared to be cast in steel to remain forever.
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