by Peter Bernhardt
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First Edition: 2015
For Agnes and Rolf
In Loving Memory
I want to express my gratitude to the members of the Sedona Writers Critique Group, the Internet Writing Workshop, and my beta reader for their constructive criticism and valuable feedback that improved this novel beyond measure.
I especially thank Marilyn for her keen insights that inspire me to do better, for being a thoughtful sounding board as each chapter was born, and for her unwavering support.
Sabine Maier, Agent, Federal Intelligence Service, West Germany.
Stefan Malik, East German journalist/writer, recruited as a Stasi Romeo. Cover: Günter Freund, writer for Gemeinschaft Unbegrenzt, a fictitious Vienna peace organization.
Werner Heinrich, Lieutenant General, Stasi spymaster.
Monika Fuchs, Executive Secretary to Chief of the West German Chancellery.
Horst Kögler, former intelligence agent turned computer consultant.
Helga Schröder, General Heinrich’s secretary.
Traude Malik, Stefan’s daughter.
Bernd Dorfmann, Sabine’s boss.
Gisela Sturm, Executive Secretary to the West German Foreign Minister.
Hans Mertens, Agent, Office for the Protection of the Constitution, West Germany.
STASI: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, East German Secret Police, East Berlin.
HVA: Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, Stasi Foreign Intelligence Service, East Berlin.
BND: Bundesnachrichtendienst, Federal Intelligence Service, West Germany, Pullach, Bavaria; reports to West German Chancellor.
BfV: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Cologne. West Germany’s domestic intelligence service that reports to the Bundestag (lower house of parliament).
ASBw: Amt für die Sicherheit der Bundeswehr, Office of Security, Federal Armed Forces, Cologne; 1956-1984. Since 1984: MAD: Militärischer Abschirmdienst, Military Counterintelligence Service, Cologne.
BKA: Bundeskriminalamt, Federal Criminal Investigation Bureau a/k/a Federal Criminal Police Agency, Wiesbaden, West Germany; reports to the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
RAF: Rote Armee Fraktion, Red Army Faction terrorist group.
GDR: German Democratic Republic; in German: DDR: Deutsche Demokratische Republik (official and euphemistic name for communist East Germany).
mole: 2. a spy who becomes part of and works from within the ranks of an enemy governmental staff or intelligence agency.
double agent: 1. a person who spies on a country while pretending to spy for it.
2. a spy in the service of two rival countries, companies, etc.
Rummelsburg Prison, East Berlin, Friday afternoon, 15 July 1977
The guard shoved Stefan Malik across the threshold and slammed the cell door. The scraping of the giant key sliding the deadbolt into place bore the sound of permanence. A stench from the toilet at the far wall, its splintered seat hanging off to one side, pervaded the damp cell, but the foul smell was the least of his problems. His apprehension turned to alarm at the sight of three prisoners staring him down. Two lurked behind a burly redhead, the obvious ruler of this space.
An ugly smirk spread across the stout man’s fleshy face, barely visible in the faint light spilling through a small, iron-barred window high on the wall. “What’s the matter, pretty boy, never smelled shit before?”
His two cellmates, leaning against one of the bunk beds, cackled—the forced laugh of subordinates at a superior’s bad joke.
The redhead asked, “What’s your name?”
“We are your new best friends. I’m Emil.” He turned to his left, “Anton,” then to his right, “Hans.”
Both gave slight nods at the mention of their names. But Stefan kept his eyes on Emil, who appeared to be listening to the sound of the guard’s boots striking the cement floor in the hall.
When the sound faded, Emil turned to his cellmates. “Don’t you think Stefan has a nice ass? What say, boys, we get better acquainted with him?” He leered at Stefan. “Lots better.”
Stefan took a step back. He’d heard about Rummelsburg housing homosexuals, branded social deviants by the state, and now perhaps he’d fallen in with three of them. Gays or not, they had rape on their minds. Before he could react, Hans and Anton had circled behind him. One twisted his right arm against his back while the other pushed him onto his knees. He struggled against excruciating pain. It felt as if his arm were coming out of its socket.
“Just relax, pretty boy.” Emil lowered the trousers of his striped prison uniform. “Do as you’re told and we’ll get along fine.”
Stefan stared at the bulge in the man’s gray boxer shorts. The next few seconds would determine his fate. Sweat popped onto his forehead. Raped in prison? If he succumbed now, there’d be no end to it. Yelling for the guards was pointless. Even if they heard, they probably wouldn’t care. He was on his own.
Stefan quit straining against the hold the two guys had on him. “You want a blow job?” He feigned a smile. “Why didn’t you just say so?”
Emil wasn’t so easily duped. “Anton, bring him over here. Hans, don’t let go.”
Stefan forced his eyes from the yellow stains on Emil’s shorts and made his body go limp. The ploy worked. When the grips loosened the slightest bit, Stefan jerked himself free. He jumped to his feet and thrust his right shoe into Emil’s groin, hard.
The bully stumbled backward. He snarled through clenched teeth, “You’ll pay for this. Grab him, guys!”
Stefan pivoted to face Emil’s minions, but not in time to fend off a violent kick to his right leg. He collapsed, scraping his knee on the cement floor. He tried to roll off to the side, but one of the convicts straddled him, keeping him pinned while the other pressed his face against the floor. He strained to breathe.
Emil’s angry voice rang in Stefan’s ears. “Big mistake, boy. I’ll show you who’s boss.”
Stefan winced at a violent jerk that forced his head back and upward at a sharp angle. His eyes transfixed by the boxer shorts moving toward him, Stefan fought panic. He would not give in. If he had to, he’d bite the brute’s cock off. But wait, why was Emil retreating?
The sound of the deadbolt sliding back provided the answer. Emil yanked his pants up from around his ankles. The cell door flew open and two guards rushed in.
One pulled Stefan to his feet. “Starting a fight on your first day?”
The guard yanked him from the cell. “Save your excuses for the boss.”
He pushed Stefan down the hall, while the other guard locked the cell. There was no point in trying to explain. The whole thing stank. The guards had appeared so fast, as if they’d expected the brawl.
When the police had picked him up at his apartment less than an hour ago, they’d told him it was just to clear something up. Of course, he hadn’t believed them. He’d heard of too many citizens being swept up in the dragnet of the secret police. The Stasi was the most feared institution in all of East Germany for a reason. To clear something up was a euphemism for harsh interrogation, torture, long prison sentences, or worse. Was his name about to be added to the growing list of missing East Germans?
During the ride in the unmarked van through the city streets, he’d mentally reviewed the article he’d submitted for publication earlier this week. Always careful to toe the party line, he couldn’t think of anything that could have gone against official doctrine. Still, one never knew when the winds in a totalitarian state might shift. Perhaps he’d unwittingly offended one of the party bosses.
The guard shuttled him through the cellblock gate toward the administrative offices. Stefan wondered what disciplinary action he’d face. The thought of being locked up with rapists was unbearable. He slowed when they reached the prison director’s office, but the guard pushed him past toward an unmarked door and knocked.
“Herein,” a deep voice bellowed.
The guard eased the door open and pushed Stefan onto the tattered linoleum floor of a small room. Flaking olive-green paint on bare walls made for a drab place. Behind a large imitation teak desk sat a man in gray uniform, black hair neatly parted. Dark eyes peered at Stefan through wire-rimmed glasses.
Gone was the guard’s officious attitude. He addressed the man, who looked to be in his fifties, in a deferential manner. “Generalleutnant, prisoner Stefan Malik.”
The officer leaned forward, affording Stefan a glimpse of the two-star insignia of a lieutenant general on his shoulder. “Guard, close the door behind you and wait in the hall.”
While the guard complied, the general pointed to an angular metal chair that proved to be as uncomfortable as it looked. But more important things occupied Stefan’s mind. This was no ordinary army general, but a Stasi officer. What could he possibly want from him? Whatever it was, nothing good ever came from run-ins with the secret police.
♫ ♫ ♫
Lieutenant General Werner Heinrich watched the prisoner take the chair. So far his plan was working. He liked what he saw. Malik appeared cautious, but not obsequious like the guard. The task he needed to recruit him for demanded boldness. It was not for the demure or faint of heart. Malik’s eyes spoke of intelligence, and most important, he was as handsome as his file had promised. Who could resist the open face that suggested sincerity, the black hair combed straight back, the athletic build?
First pleasantries, then pressure. “May I call you Stefan?” At the silent nod, Heinrich continued, “I’m Lieutenant General Heinrich. You may address me as General.”
Heinrich opened the large manila folder on the desk. “If you’re as smart as this says you are, you’ve figured out by now that I’m a Stasi officer.”
“But you don’t know why you’re here.”
Stefan shifted in his chair.
“It’s not your writing. Your articles are entertaining and stick to the party line or Neues Deutschland wouldn’t publish them.”
Heinrich looked for signs of anxiety or fear. If Stefan felt either, he hid it well. Perfect. A poker player mentality was ideal.
Almost time to start the recruitment, but first a little more praise. “You’re here because you’re good at something we can use.”
Stefan arched his eyebrows but said nothing.
Heinrich made a show of flipping through the folder on his desk. “You’re a regular Don Juan, aren’t you?” He looked up. Still no reaction. “We know of at least a dozen women who . . . to put this delicately . . . who’ve succumbed to your charms.”
“Having sex is not illegal, is it?” Stefan’s baritone rang measured but firm through the small office.
“Illegal? Not usually.” Heinrich paused for emphasis. “Except for a couple of things.” He stared at Stefan. “One, several of the women you seduced are married. Two, you bilked them out of money, because you can’t live on your writing. And three, our state does not look kindly on freeloaders who don’t contribute to society.”
“That’s why you had me thrown into a cell with a bunch of queers?”
“I’m asking the questions here.” Heinrich leaned forward. Time to apply pressure. “I hoped we could clear all this up with a friendly chat. Regrettably, you attacked your cellmates.”
“I didn’t start it.”
“So you say. Unfortunately for you, it’s your word against that of two guards and three prisoners.” After a pause to let his message sink in, Heinrich continued, “Well, there is a way to get yourself out of this. Put those charms of yours in service of the state.”
“An informer for the Stasi?”
“Something more important, more difficult, more challenging, and more fun.”
Heinrich relished the quizzical expression spreading across the prisoner’s face. “If you’re as good at seduction as this file indicates, you can get laid and serve your country. It pays well enough so you won’t have to hit up your lady friends for money.”
“Are you asking me to become a Stasi spy?”
“We call it ‘ficken fürs Vaterland.’ Fucking for your country is a nice privilege, don’t you agree? You’re uniquely qualified for the romance part, and we’ll teach you the tradecraft.”
“General, I have no interest in spying for you, fringe benefits or not.”
Heinrich shot up from his chair, moved around the desk, and towered over the seated prisoner. “Let me put this in plain language, Stefan. Either you join us and serve your country or you languish in this prison. You just got a taste of what that might be like. An easy choice, don’t you think?”
Stefan twitched in his chair, possibly weighing whether to challenge the accusation of starting the fight with his cellmates. But he held his tongue, clearly sharp enough to realize that protest was futile; the court would hand out whatever sentence the Stasi dictated. Heinrich returned to his chair, all the while keeping an eye on the prisoner.
Stefan met his gaze. “What do I have to do?”
“I knew you’d make the right decision,” Heinrich said, as if the prisoner ever had a real choice.
He rose, stepped around the desk and shook Stefan’s hand. “Willkommen. Report to me at Stasi headquarters at nine Monday morning. And not a word to anyone. Is that clear?”
“There’s a car waiting to take you to your apartment.”
Heinrich escorted Stefan into the hall and instructed the guard to have him discharged. Long after they had disappeared around a corner, the image of one of his most attractive recruits remained with Heinrich. Stefan Malik was handsome indeed. He would no doubt make a seductive Romeo.
Bundesnachrichtendienst [BND], Federal Intelligence Service, Pullach, West Germany, Friday afternoon, 15 July 1977
Sabine Maier drove her VW past the blue-lettered Bundesnachrichtendienst sign, anchored to the ground in front of a massive concrete wall engraved with an oversized depiction of the Federal Eagle—the emblem of all things official in West Germany like the national flag, banknotes and coins, and federal buildings. She waved at the young guard who stood by the open gate. He raised his hands in a questioning gesture, a not-so-subtle reminder of his repeated invitations for an after-hours drink.
For a moment, she thought about encouraging him. A few more years and she’d hit the big four-oh. How much longer would men find her attractive? Still, she cherished her independence too much to risk getting stuck in a ho-hum relationship. She shook her head and smiled sweetly. The guard grimaced and motioned her through.
She parked in her assigned slot and pulled the Beetle’s convertible top over her head just as the first raindrops fell from dark clouds. It had been muggy all day and now the skies opened up. She couldn’t decide whether to welcome the cooler temperatures or dread the prospect of another gray, rainy weekend. Whatever had possessed her to buy a convertible? German summer—an oxymoron.
She fastened the clamps securing the top, snatched her purse from the passenger seat, extricated herself from the cramped space, and locked the car. Careful to dodge deepening puddles, she made a dash for the building across the lot through the downpour.
After the security guard waved her through, she bypassed the elevator, climbing the staircase two steps at a time to the second floor. Breathing hard, she rushed down the hall past the secretary cubicles, rounded the corner to her office, and stopped. The door stood open, affording her a view of her boss sitting in a visitor’s chair.
The gray-haired fifty-something in a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie turned to face her. “Caught in the downpour?”
Self-conscious, Sabine dabbed at her damp auburn curls, tugged at her red blouse, which clung to her body, and smoothed her black skirt. Realizing the futility of attempting to make herself look more professional, she dropped the purse on the desk and sank into the leather swivel chair. “Sorry—”
Bernd Dorfmann cut short her apology with a wave of the hand. “Another rainy weekend. Perfect for working, don’t you think?”
She studied his face for signs he was kidding. He often joked, but not this time.
“You don’t have any plans that can’t be put off?” he said.
She shook her head at the rhetorical question, not volunteering she had promised to take her mother to the opera Saturday evening. No way would she miss Don Giovanni, sold out like most Munich Opera Festival performances. She hadn’t stood in line for hours to give up their seats now. Her opera evenings were sacred. If he made her work, she’d manage to squeeze it in, even if it meant pulling an all-nighter.
“Good.” Dorfmann leaned forward. “I’m giving you a new assignment.”
“I know I’m working you too hard, but that’s the price you pay for doing such a great job.”
“Except for finding the mole in our midst.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Frau Maier. If there is a mole, you will expose him.”
She knew if her boss had any qualms about her performance, he would tell her. Still, she couldn’t help searching his face for signs of insincerity.
He continued, “We need a change in direction.”
She sat up.
“What do you know about Rasterfahndung?” he asked.
“Not much. It’s used to create profiles of likely terrorists. A kind of dragnet investigation.”
“Right. It’s painstaking detail work that has paid off for the Bundeskriminalamt in catching Red Army Faction members.”
“You’re not assigning me to hunt down RAF terrorists?”
He made a dismissive gesture. “Heavens no. In five years, you’ve caught more spies than anybody. You make the BND proud. But in spite of all your arrests, we’re still being overrun by Stasi agents. We’re under pressure from the chancellor to use Rasterfahndung to stop this deluge.”
She hesitated, unsure whether to raise her concern. Since he’d always encouraged her to voice her opinions, she spoke up. “There’ve been rumblings about the legality of such a data-mining approach, profiling individuals through computer searches.”
Once again, he waved her off. “Never mind that. Until the constitutional court in Karlsruhe tells us otherwise, we’re not going to forgo using this method.”
Puzzled, she stared at him. “How does this relate to my spy-catching?”
“Good question. I want you to shift your focus. We thought the arrest of the chancellor’s right-hand man meant the end of Stasi spies infiltrating our ministries. Were we ever wrong!”
“Günter Guillaume,” Sabine said, her tone hushed, as she recalled how the unmasking of the chancellor’s trusted assistant as a long-time Stasi spy had caused Willy Brandt’s downfall three years ago.
“But now it’s pretty clear that the communists are still stealing our most guarded secrets. It’s as if they’re reading the ministers’ mail and sitting in on cabinet meetings.” Dorfmann clenched his fist. “I want you to put an end to this.”
“And you think Rasterfahndung can accomplish that?”
“Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I have my doubts, but I’m under orders to determine whether it’s feasible.”
“You mean you’ll have me work on the weekend learning about something we both know won’t work?”
Dorfmann raised a hand. “Don’t jump to conclusions. I don’t know that and neither do you.”
“You do realize I just told you all I know about it.”
He tapped a thick folder lying on the desk she hadn’t noticed before. “Nothing like a rainy weekend to remedy that.” His stern gaze relaxed the slightest bit. “By next week, you’ll be the expert.”
She searched his face for a smile that wasn’t there. She sighed. “You’re serious. All right, tell me what I’m looking for. Stasi agents in general or something more specific?”
He shrugged. “I wish we had more to go on.”
“Which agencies do you suspect have been infiltrated?”
Dorfmann leaned back and studied her as if deciding what to reveal. After a long pause, he said, “We can’t rule out any. But the type of secrets that have made their way east point to the Federal Foreign Office, the Chancellery, and the intelligence services, even our own BND.”
“A big job for one person,” was all she could say.
“Look at the rewards. You break the Stasi spy network wide open, and I’ll see to it that you get a healthy raise.” Now he did smile. “High time you traded that Volkswagen for a car large enough to keep you from twisting yourself into a pretzel to get in.”
“A silver Mercedes or a red BMW would be nice.” She laughed. “That prospect really makes me want to work all weekend.”
“That’s the spirit.” He turned serious. “Study that file and get up to speed on Rasterfahndung. I hope you prove us both wrong. But if you do find that we can’t catch spies that way, give me solid reasons why not. And if that’s what you conclude, you need to think of an approach that will work. The chancellor doesn’t like to be told no.”
Dorfmann stood. “First thing Monday, I want to hear your brilliant ideas for putting these Stasi operatives out of business.” He strode to the door and stepped into the hall.
Sabine turned the file right side up. It looked every bit of five centimeters thick. Better get started if she hoped to spend Saturday evening at the opera and still be prepared by Monday morning.
Bonn, West Germany, Friday evening, 15 July 1977
With a burst of energy she hadn’t felt in months, Monika Fuchs climbed the steps of the Stadtbahn station escalator. She clutched her umbrella, ready to defend against the rain that had been pelting Bonn all afternoon. While most women might consider rain fitting for a day of divorce, she did not.
She emerged from the station to a balmy evening. The rain had stopped, as if the weather had decided to match her buoyant mood on this day she’d regained her freedom. She restrained her impulse to skip down the sidewalk, hopping over puddles instead. A few hundred meters and she stood in front of Café Diplomat. A silly name for a restaurant, which would be out of place in any town but this one. Its international cuisine catered to the plethora of diplomats assigned to West Germany’s capital.
Monika almost chided herself for not modifying “capital” with “temporary” or “provisional,” which any West German politician hoping to get reelected was obliged to recite at every opportunity. Neither her colleagues nor the higher-ups at the Chancellery really believed they’d see Germany united during their lifetime. Bonn, not Berlin, would remain the seat of West Germany’s government for a long time, perhaps forever.
But why think politics on this day of her rebirth? Determined to let nothing sour her mood, she pushed the door hard, almost knocking down an elderly gentleman. He exited before she could apologize.
If the hostess had noticed, she didn’t let on, asking Monika whether she had a reservation.
“It’s under ‘Sturm.’”
“Your party is already seated. This way, please.”
Monika followed red stiletto heels and a swinging bottom that stretched the teal miniskirt to its limits. The long-legged hostess pointed to a table in the far corner. Gisela rose. Reddish-brown hair in a pageboy cut framed her round face. They hugged.
“Congratulations. You’re finally rid of that brute.” After a kiss on each cheek, Gisela let go and they sat.
Monika pointed to the half-empty glass of red wine on the table. “Am I late?”
“No. I got off work early.”
“How did you manage that? I thought you told me the Foreign Office was a sweatshop.”
“Yeah, well. It usually is. But the minister left late afternoon, and I cleared out right after that. He works me hard enough when he’s there, I figured I deserve a break now and then.”
“Good rationalization.” Monika glanced at the wine glass. “What are you drinking?”
“Beaujolais. Your favorite.” She waved over the waiter hovering near the table. “One for my friend and another for me, please.”
After the waiter withdrew, Gisela said, “I can’t wait to hear how it went. Did Jochen make trouble?”
“I thought he might after all the haggling he and his lawyer did for weeks on end. But he was surprisingly civil.”
“You’re telling me the bastard behaved himself?”
“Hard to believe, I know. It was rather anticlimactic, if you ask me. A few perfunctory questions and the judge signed the divorce decree. You can’t believe how liberating this feels. Time to celebrate.”
As if on cue, the waiter set down their drinks. They clinked their glasses. Monika took a long, slow sip, reveling in the sensation of smooth French wine spreading relaxation into every cell.
They studied the menu. After the attentive waiter had taken their dinner orders, Gisela raised her glass. “Here’s to you and romantic adventures coming your way.”
During the toast, Monika studied her friend. Expertly applied makeup smoothing out wrinkles of forty-year-old skin, blouse and skirt accentuating her voluptuous figure while deemphasizing the few extra pounds Monika knew were there—in short, Gisela was not beautiful but reasonably attractive.
Monika set down her glass. “Romantic adventures? I’d take your sexy husband anytime you want to trade lives.”
Gisela laughed. “Not a chance. You keep your mitts off.”
Monika raised her hands, palms toward her friend. “Understood, of course, but Klaus is a great catch, and you must be very proud of your son.”
A frown passed over Gisela’s face. “Rainer is almost a teenager, and it shows. I’m not looking forward to the next few years.” The frown disappeared. “But let’s talk about you. Aren’t there any eligible bachelors at the Chancellery?”
Monika scoffed. “A choice between married fuddy-duddies, most of them bald with beer bellies, or overly ambitious climbers who’re in love with politics, certainly not women.”
“Yeah, it’s the same in the Foreign Office. Not that I’m looking.” Gisela reached across the table and squeezed Monika’s hand. “You’re young and attractive. With that great figure of yours you’ll have to fend off admirers. Just choose better next time.”
“You can count on that.” Monika returned the squeeze, then withdrew her hand as the waiter brought their meals and more wine.
Midway through her pasta dish, Gisela said, “Don’t tell me you’re going right back to the daily grind. You need some fun in your life.”
Monika swallowed a bite of salmon, washed it down with Beaujolais, and tried for her best mysterious smile. “Matter of fact, I do have plans.”
“I knew it.” Gisela pointed her fork, her eyes playful. “Do tell.”
“I’m on vacation for two weeks. Leaving tomorrow.”
“And . . . where are you going?”
“Viareggio. It’s on the Italian Riviera, close to Lucca and Florence. I can only lie on the beach so long and not get bored.”
“Sounds wonderful. Wish I could go with you. Watch out for those dark-haired gigolos pinching you. They do like blondes.”
“Maybe I’ll leave the bikini at home.”
“Don’t you dare! A holiday romance is what the doctor ordered.”
Monika shook her head. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”
“What’s the matter? You look disappointed.”
“You know me too well. I tried to get a ticket for Aïda at the Arena di Verona. It’s my favorite opera, and the open-air production on the giant stage is supposed to be spectacular. But it’s sold out.”
Gisela again squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry. Maybe someone will turn in their tickets.”
Monika sighed. “If not, I’ll go to the Puccini Summer Festival in Torre del Lago.”
“You haven’t told me the name of your hotel,” Gisela said. “Come on, don’t make me drag everything out of you.”
“Why do you want to know? Sending a good-looking bachelor my way?”
Gisela hesitated. “Right.” She laughed.
There was something in her laugh, the way she’d hesitated, that gave Monika pause. But Gisela was a friend. There was no harm in telling her. “Pensione Garibaldi.”
Gisela nodded. “Can’t wait to hear about your adventures when you get back.”
They finished their meal amidst more small talk.
As she descended the steps to the underground Stadtbahn station, Monika wondered once more why Gisela had expressed so much interest in her Italian sojourn. Maybe it was her way of being supportive, except she’d never been that curious before.
Stasi Headquarters, Berlin-Lichtenberg, Monday morning, 18 July 1977
Stefan exited the underground station and squinted against the morning sun. It took him a moment to orient himself. He knew the Stasi headquarters were on Normannenstraße, but he’d never gone near the state’s most feared institution. Now he had no choice. Once in the cross hairs of the secret police, there was no way out.
A man in his thirties hurried down the sidewalk. His gray uniform, his imitation-leather briefcase that spoke of government issue, and his purposeful stride surely meant he was headed for Stasi headquarters. Stefan fell in behind him. The uniform led the way down Normannenstraße toward a massive building complex.
To combat tiredness from the weekend’s insomnia, Stefan took deep breaths. He’d fretted endlessly over what he’d done to attract the general’s attention. What reason could there be, other than having published in the state’s official newspaper? That had to be it, unless—he’d sat straight up in bed when the thought formed—unless one of his lovers had tattled to the Stasi. But he hadn’t mistreated any of them. Matter of fact, they’d been all too happy to help a poor writer with expenses, hadn’t they? If those thoughts hadn’t been enough to keep him awake, worries about being returned to prison if he didn’t perform had kept him chasing elusive sleep the entire weekend.
The man ahead disappeared into a covered entryway jutting out from a brown-brick eight-story structure and Stefan followed him into the dreary building. The man flashed a picture ID at two armed guards sitting behind a metal table. They waved him through.
The shorter of the two guards rose and stepped in front of Stefan. “May we help you?”
“I’m here to report to Lieutenant General Heinrich.”
The guard held up a hand. “One moment.” He about-faced and entered an office behind the table.
Stefan could make out sounds of a rotary phone dial and a muffled voice. Within a minute, the guard reappeared. “Raise your arms.”
After a thorough pat-down, the guard said, “Wait here. Someone’s on the way to take you to HVA in Building 15.”
The guard shot him a quizzical look, no doubt astonished that anyone could not know. Whether he liked Stefan’s looks or was simply bored with standing around and waiting, he deigned to give an explanation. “Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung.” With that, he returned to his seat behind the table.
So Heinrich was a lieutenant general in the Stasi’s foreign intelligence service. He should have guessed.
A low voice interrupted Stefan’s thoughts. “Herr Malik?”
He turned to face a guard, who looked to be retirement-age. “Yes.”
With a pronounced limp, the guard led Stefan through a labyrinth of hallways, the pistol in his holster swinging with every step. The slow pace tested Stefan’s patience. He grew anxious at the sight of a wall clock that was a few ticks away from straight up nine. When the old man climbed a flight of stairs by dragging his bad leg up to his good one on each step, Stefan felt like running ahead. The general would not look kindly on his being late for their first appointment.
The clickety-clack of typewriter keys ceased when the guard lumbered to the top of the staircase. Stefan pulled up beside him, and they crossed the tile floor of a reception area.
A thirty-something woman sitting at a small desk regarded him, her eyes showing signs of curiosity. “Herr Malik?”
Stefan nodded while taking in her features—well endowed, short-cut brown hair, high cheekbones. As the guard withdrew, she spoke Stefan’s last name in a hushed tone into the receiver of a yellow desk telephone.
She terminated the call, got up and beckoned him to a door across the way, which he hadn’t noticed until now, its ochre shade almost indistinguishable from the surrounding drab wall paint. A plate at eye level displayed the general’s name and title in stark black lettering. She knocked, and at the sound of a deep voice, opened the door. Keeping an eye on Heinrich seated behind a large desk, Stefan took a few hesitant steps onto a thin carpet. As the door latch clicked into place, the general looked up and pointed to a small table with four chairs by a window. Stefan settled in a chair below the portraits of Socialist Party leader, Erich Honecker, and Stasi chief, Erich Mielke.
While the general shuffled papers on his desk, Stefan noted the absence of family portraits. Either Heinrich wasn’t married or he chose not to put his personal life on display. Stefan took a quick look around. Though larger and better furnished than the one at the prison, this office did not match Stefan’s image of a Stasi lieutenant general’s quarters. The blond imitation wood paneling clashed both with the dark-brown wooden desk and the olive-hued carpeting. A framed depiction of the Stasi emblem, a hand clutching a rifle with a bayonet, encircled by the words, Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, hung from the wall behind Heinrich. Large enough to hide a wall safe?
Stefan quit speculating when Heinrich grabbed a file off the desk and carried it to the table. He pulled out the chair across from Stefan, sat and placed the file on the glass tabletop.
He stared at Stefan. “I said nine o’clock.”
Stefan glanced at the clock above the door. Five minutes past the hour. “I didn’t know which building—”
“I didn’t ask you why you were late, comrade.” He slammed the file with his fist. “I will accept no excuses. You will always be on time. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” Stefan suppressed the urge to point out he’d been at the office for several minutes already.
“First lesson—disobey instructions or flout procedures and you’ll blow your cover. Never forget that.”
“Did you tell anyone about coming here?”
Surprised by the question, Stefan hesitated. “No, I . . . I didn’t.”
“That sounds like you had to think about it. You’re sure?”
“Yes.” Stefan held the general’s gaze.
“No one outside the agency is to know where you work. Is that clear?”
Heinrich pulled a paper from the file, slid it across the table, and handed him a pen from his coat pocket. “It’s spelled out in our standard contract.”
Stefan was scanning the first paragraph, when the general barked, “Turn it over and sign. You can read your copy later.”
This time, the general didn’t make any pretense of choice. Stefan complied and handed the signed original back. Heaven only knew what all he’d agreed to.
“During the next few weeks you’ll be learning tradecraft from the best in the business.” The general’s face gleamed with pride.
“Are you teaching—?”
“No. The training is in Golm. It’s west of Potsdam, about forty kilometers.”
“You don’t have a car, I know. A driver will pick you up at your apartment after lunch. Pack for a few weeks’ stay. It’s all arranged. Questions?”
Stefan shook his head.
“You’ll be trained in the essential tools of the spy trade. But that’s just the beginning. I’m going to teach you to be a Stasi Romeo.”
Heinrich flipped through the open file. “Here it is.” He stabbed a finger at a paper. “This will give you expert advice on how to approach West German secretaries, how to court them, how to establish a relationship, how to get them to trust you, how to get them to fall in love with you, how to persuade them to turn over state secrets.”
Stefan fought conflicting emotions. While he enjoyed romance and sex, he always picked attractive women for his flings. Sure, he’d borrowed money from some, but he never faked love to manipulate them. The general was grooming him for something entirely different. Could he woo a dumpy-looking secretary, sleep with her, and pretend to love her, all so she’d spy for the Stasi?
Heinrich resumed his instructions. “I’m just going to cover a few points this morning. Take this file with you and study it. When you come back from Golm, I’ll expect you to know every last detail.”
Heinrich regarded him for a long moment, then returned his gaze to the place in the file he’d marked with his thumb. “We’re interested in secretaries in the Chancellery, in government ministries, and other West German institutions for several reasons. They know more than you’d think, and many have access to sensitive, often secret, materials. Managers and ministers come and go. Secretaries stay. They are therefore an excellent investment for the long haul.” Heinrich looked up. “You’re with me so far?”
“We focus on secretaries who are single or divorced, which is not too difficult. Believe it or not, about thirty percent of the secretaries in Bonn who work for the government and the parties fall into those categories.” Heinrich sounded triumphant.
The man’s smugness grated on Stefan, but he managed to blurt, “That’s great, General.”
“I’d say fertile hunting ground for you.” Heinrich leaned forward. “The easiest targets are lonely women who have trouble making friends. And if they happen to be looking for a husband, so much the better.”
The general shut the file with a thump and slid it across the table. “That’s enough for today. You study the rest. Questions?”
Heinrich stood. “My secretary will take you downstairs to get your picture ID. Then go home and pack. Be ready at one o’clock sharp.”
“I will be, General.” Stefan picked up the file and walked to the door.
“Don’t forget. Tell no one what you’re doing, where you’re going, or who you work for.”
Stefan turned to face Heinrich. “I won’t.”
“And that includes Traude. You wouldn’t want to do anything to harm her, would you?”
“No, of course not.”
The mention of his daughter’s name and the threat it implied brought Stefan up short. He wanted nothing more than to charge the bastard and drag him across the huge desk. But he couldn’t, or he’d find himself back in prison. He grasped the door handle so hard that his fingers slipped. With his second attempt, he undid the latch and stepped out.
As he approached the secretary, he pondered Heinrich’s veiled threat. What would he do to Traude if her father didn’t do the general’s bidding?
Federal Intelligence Service [BND], Pullach, West Germany, Monday morning, 18 July 1977
Coffee cup in one hand, file in the other, Sabine was about to exit her office when her boss crossed the threshold. He too held a cup. “Stay put. We’ll talk here.”
She made a U-turn, almost spilling her coffee as she slid into her chair behind the desk.
Settled in a visitor’s chair, Dorfmann gave her a wry smile. “This weekend was your chance to make yourself the expert on Rasterfahndung, but you don’t look sleep deprived.”
“Very funny, boss.” She tapped the file. “I may not be an expert, but I know everything that’s in here and I can tell you this: when it comes to finding Stasi spies, Rasterfahndung is a dead end.”
His smile gone, Dorfmann leaned forward, putting his hands on the desktop. “Don’t tell me that.”
She shrugged. “It won’t work.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“The fact that it was designed to catch leftist terrorists, and even there, it’s proven successful only in a few instances.”
“Explain why you think it won’t help us catch spies.”
Sabine gazed at a spot high on the far wall, focusing on how best to support her opinion. Taking a deep breath, she returned her attention to Dorfmann. “For it to work, we must identify individuals who belong to a group of perpetrators so that we can establish certain characteristics common to its members. In other words, we create a profile. Then we run a computer search that compares this profile with data we’ve gathered from domicile registrations, police records, health insurance records, public utility payments, apartment rentals, telephone records, and so on.”
Dorfmann scooted to the edge of his chair. “Wait a minute. Are you telling me all that information is necessary?”
“That takes a lot of manpower. More than we have.”
“Even if we had the personnel, the method wouldn’t work for us.”
Dorfmann raised an eyebrow. “Because?”
“Because unlike leftist terrorists, Stasi agents don’t fit neatly into a certain profile. We simply don’t have the information to feed into a computer that would give us any meaningful results.” She set her jaw, holding her boss’s gaze. “You’ve heard what the Americans say?” She paused for effect. “Garbage in, garbage out.”
His stern demeanor softened. She could have sworn he suppressed a chuckle. Still looking her in the eye, he said, “All right. You’ve confirmed our doubts about Rasterfahndung. It won’t help us catch spies. But that doesn’t solve our problem, does it?”
“The chancellor is getting more impatient by the day. He wants us to put these Stasi spies out of business now. Did you come up with a new approach?”
She shook her head. “I’m afraid I spent the entire weekend trying to make Rasterfahndung work for us.” Suppressing thoughts of the opera evening, she said, “I ran out of time to consider anything else.”
An impish expression crossed his face.
“You’ve got something in mind, boss, and I have a feeling I won’t like it.”
“I expect to be summoned to Bonn any day now. And who better to explain to the chancellor why we’re not using Rasterfahndung than our new expert on the subject?”
In a mocking gesture, Sabine wagged a finger at him. “I’ve often suspected you have a mean streak.”
Dorfmann grinned. “Touché. But I’m serious about you accompanying me to Bonn. And we wouldn’t want to arrive without a proposal for a new method to catch Stasi spies. You’re creative. I know you’ll think of something that’ll work.”
Sabine held his gaze. He was counting on her, and she had to deliver. “Okay. I’ll think of nothing but Stasi spies during all my waking hours, and a few sleeping ones, too.”
Dorfmann stood and pointed at the file. “This goes back to Records.” He grabbed his cup and made for the door. Once there, he turned around. “Just keep thinking about that silver Mercedes.”
Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung [HVA], Foreign Intelligence Service, Stasi Headquarters, East Berlin, Monday morning, 18 July 1977
The way Stefan Malik had fumbled with the door handle at the mention of his daughter’s name left Heinrich with mixed feelings. Good that Malik had gotten the message his daughter would suffer if he screwed up; not so good that he’d let it show how much the threat had rattled him. Had he made a mistake in recruiting a novice? Maybe he’d let himself be swayed by Malik’s obvious attributes. Brushing away his doubts, he put the signed agreement in the file on his desk. Rome was not built in a day, nor did one morning session a spy make.
He swiveled in his chair toward the rear wall and reached with both hands for the bottom edge of the low-hanging Stasi emblem. A slight push upward dislodged the frame from its hook. He lowered the piece onto the carpet, exposing a small wall safe. Heinrich stood to spin the wheel with the numbers that filled him with pride and anticipation: 5-4-7-4. Pride over his promotion to lieutenant general on 5 April 1974, anticipation of the next big spy coup that would land him the rank of colonel general.
When the safe swung open, he added Malik’s file to the other Romeo spy folders he kept inside the compartment. Some might call him paranoid for not storing them in the secure records department downstairs, but he slept easier this way.
About to close the safe, he stopped at the sound of his secretary’s voice on the intercom. “Lieutenant Gruber just dropped off an envelope. He said it was urgent.”
“Bring it in.”
She entered and handed him a sealed envelope addressed to him and stamped TOP SECRET. Ignoring the letter opener in her outstretched hand, he ripped into the envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper. He unfolded it and read the short note. Blood rushed to his face. His patience was finally being rewarded.
He dropped the note and envelope on the desk. “Have Colonel Borst report to me immediately. And bring me the Monika Fuchs file from Records.”
She nodded and left. He stepped to the open safe and flipped through the stack of folders until he found the one labeled Uli Borst. He tossed it onto the desk, closed the safe, and replaced the framed Stasi emblem. Too excited to sit, he paced the office. Things were finally falling into place. He stopped in front of the portraits of Honecker and Mielke. They’d surely promote him to colonel general after he pulled this off. He resumed his trek back and forth over the threadbare carpet. Where in the devil was Borst? What was taking him so long?
A faint knock tore him from his thoughts. He strode to the door and pulled it open. As his eyes fell on Colonel Uli Borst, Heinrich wondered, as he had so many times before, what women saw in this man. Midthirties, no taller than one meter seventy-five, brown hair that showed signs of thinning, and the hint of a paunch the uniform couldn’t hide. But there was no arguing with the colonel’s success. One of their star Romeos, his romancing of lonely West German secretaries had yielded countless secrets over the years.
He motioned for Borst to take a chair. The colonel’s expression showed curiosity, but like a good Stasi subordinate, he knew better than to ask questions.
“Colonel, we can finally zero in on the target we’ve been watching all these months.”
“Yes. I just got word she’s on a two-week holiday in Italy after her divorce. That means you’re leaving for Viareggio tomorrow.”
Borst gave him a blank stare.
“A beach resort on the Riviera, near Florence. You’ve heard of Florence, Colonel?”
“Yes, of course, General.”
From the corner of the desk, Heinrich grabbed a pad and a pen, and wrote Pensione Garibaldi, Viareggio. He tore off the sheet and handed it to Borst. “Here is where she’s staying.”
His secretary knocked and entered. “The file you requested, sir.” She laid it on the desk.
When she had left the room, he turned to Borst. “Do you need to study the Fuchs file again to refresh your memory?”
“I don’t think so, sir.” The colonel hesitated. “Unless there’s new information since the last time I looked at it.”
“That was last week?”
“Nothing new. Any questions then, Colonel?”
Heinrich stood. “I’ll have my secretary make the travel arrangements. Go home and pack. Wait for her call.”
Borst rose and walked to the door, but turned around when Heinrich called after him.
“You do realize how extremely valuable Fuchs is to us?”
“You’ve done good work with the others, Colonel, but this is your most important assignment. You must succeed.”
“Yes, sir.” He drew the door closed behind him.
On his way to instruct his secretary, Heinrich assured himself he’d picked the best Romeo for this task—one who couldn’t fail.
Munich, Monday evening, 18 July 1977
Cradling a bursting grocery bag in one arm, Sabine Maier stabbed the key at the keyhole in her apartment door—a task made difficult by the dingy hallway lighting. Maybe she’d spend the extra money from the first paycheck after the promised raise not on a Mercedes but on a nicer apartment. What raise? She’d racked her brain all day at the office without coming up with even one idea for the new approach her boss demanded.
The key finally found the hole. She entered, shoved the door shut with her heel, and set the bag on the kitchen counter. On her way to the bedroom, she unbuttoned her blouse and loosened her skirt. She dropped the clothes onto the bed, kicked off her pumps, and grabbed a T-shirt and jeans from the dresser. She slipped them on, half hoping the change in wardrobe would somehow wash away the day’s frustration.
A few barefoot steps along the short hallway carried her back to the small kitchen. Thoughts of the day’s travails again pushed to the forefront, but remembering what her mother had taught her many years ago when she’d fretted about difficult homework, she batted the thoughts away. The harder you try to think of a solution to a problem, the less likely you will find it. Relax, occupy your mind with other things, and sooner or later, inspiration will provide the answer. And what better way to distract herself than to prepare a nice pasta dinner while drinking some wine?
After putting a pot of water on the stove burner’s high gas flame, she took the half-full bottle of Spätburgunder from the counter and poured a generous portion of its contents into the crystal wineglass still standing on the drying rack by the sink. Not a wine snob, she found the red wine just as delicious as she had during her weekend study of the Rasterfahndung file.
Fifteen minutes later, fettuccine covered with marinara sauce and grated parmesan graced her dining room table. She poured the last of the wine into her glass and sat. About to dig in, she stopped. Something was missing. Of course, an Italian dinner demanded Italian music—a perfect opportunity to sample the Don Giovanni record she’d purchased at the opera shop during the intermission at Saturday evening’s performance.
All thoughts of the day’s frustration disappeared, erased by Mozart’s glorious music, the red wine, the pasta. Halfway through the sumptuous meal and with the wine glass verging on empty, one of Sabine’s favorite pieces filled the room. She leaned back to enjoy the catalogue aria, in which the servant, Leporello, recites the lengthy list of women seduced by the Don all over Europe. The baritone’s mocking song rang out, “Ma in Ispagna, son già mille et tre.” The tally of one-thousand-and-three conquests in Spain always made her chuckle.
She drained her glass. While she debated whether to uncork another bottle, inspiration hit: Don Giovanni, who seduced women with promise of marriage. The image of the Bonn secretary convicted of espionage this spring flashed into her mind. The woman had succumbed to the charms of an East German spy. Thanks to Mozart, she might have happened on the Stasi’s method of stealing West Germany’s secrets.
This called for opening another bottle. After finishing the now lukewarm fettuccine, she raised her glass, but set it down again. Understanding how the Stasi infiltrated the West German government was one thing, but tracing the operatives was quite another. Experts in tradecraft, they covered their tracks. Still, they had to leave a trail, however faint.
She took a swallow of Spätburgunder, then another, savoring the dry wine. As if it had been biding its time until her senses were occupied with something other than chasing spies, an idea stole into her mind. What if she focused not on the spies, but on their likely targets? This could be the new approach she’d been searching for: ferret out vulnerable women and watch them closely.
If she could put together a profile of women who had access to government secrets and examine their characteristics, she just might pick up some common factors that would put her on the scent of Stasi agents. What might these women have in common? They probably were single or divorced. While married women certainly weren’t immune to affairs, she’d rule them out for now. The Stasi spymaster, whose appearance was still unknown in the West, would be too smart to risk having one of his Romeos exposed by a jilted husband.
Surely, scores of women in government service were unmarried. There had to be a way to narrow it down, and not through Rasterfahndung. She swallowed the rest of her drink. Then she remembered the case of a secretary in Cologne who also fell for a Stasi spy. There must be others. No telling how many were copying documents to hand over to their lovers.
First thing in the morning, she’d dig up the information on women charged with espionage. There had to be a common thread.
Foreign Intelligence Service [HVA], Stasi Headquarters, East Berlin, Tuesday morning, 19 July 1977
Deep in thought about the mission he’d set in motion yesterday, Heinrich mumbled a hasty good morning to his secretary. Uli Borst would be boarding his flight to Milan about now.
“General.” There was an edge to her voice.
He spun around. “What is it, Frau Schröder?”
“General, I need to tell you—”
“What’s wrong? Out with it!”
“Colonel Borst was in an accident last night.”
“What?” He assumed the worst from her expression. “Is he—?”
“He didn’t die, but he’s in intensive care.”
“Verdammt!” He stared at her. “What kind of accident?”
“All I know is the police pulled him from his car at two thirty in the morning. He must have lost control and driven into a ditch.”
Heinrich recalled rumors of Borst’s drinking. He’d dismissed them since there’d been nothing to indicate it interfered with his work. Just one of the boys cutting loose once in a while after a job was done. Maybe he should have heeded the rumors. Angry at Borst and himself, Heinrich was about to curse again, but his secretary’s sad expression stopped him.
He asked, “What do the doctors say?”
“Well, you know how doctors are. They wouldn’t commit to anything other than it’s going to be a long recovery process.”
Heinrich stood there, thoughts swirling in his head. The Monika Fuchs mission all shot to hell. His secretary’s questioning gaze reminded him he needed to give instructions.
“As soon as the colonel is allowed visitors, take him flowers.” He turned to walk to his office, but stopped partway there. “And Frau Schröder, notify his relatives if the hospital hasn’t done so already. I only know of a brother in Leipzig.”
She nodded and picked up the telephone. Heinrich closed the office door behind him and stomped to his desk. “Son of a bitch,” he said over and over, not caring whether Schröder heard. He slumped into his chair. Damage control. He had to get a replacement and fast. At the thought, he sprang from his chair, removed the Stasi emblem from the wall, and opened the safe. He took out the stack of folders, piled them on the desk, and flipped through them at a feverish pace to find someone he could tap for the job on short notice. All his Romeos were on assignment in the West. Verdammte Scheiße! There had to be someone he could pry loose.
He went through the folders again, this time more methodically. Toward the bottom of the pile, he came upon Major Dietmar Kurz’s file. His latest report from Cologne promised success in wooing a secretary with access to NATO correspondence. He’d bedded her over the weekend. A few more weeks of romance, and he might be able to recruit her. Getting their hands on North Atlantic Alliance documents was tempting, but not as much of a coup as infiltrating the West German Chancellery through Monika Fuchs.
Heinrich gazed at the far wall, trying to focus. If there was even the smallest chance of gaining access to the chancellor’s mail, he had to take it. As much as he hated to abort a promising mission, he decided to pull Kurz off the job. Monika Fuchs took precedence. Her sojourn to Italy might be the only chance they had to make contact.
Determined not to miss this opportunity, Heinrich grabbed a notepad and pencil. After a moment’s thought, he wrote the prearranged message instructing the agent to return to headquarters immediately, “Heimat Sofort.”
He checked the file and muttered “Scheiße.” The message couldn’t go until the time of day he’d set for Major Kurz to receive transmissions—five in the afternoon.
Heinrich scribbled 17:00 Uhr on the paper and pressed the intercom. “Frau Schröder, please come in.”
When she entered, he ripped the sheet off the pad and gave it to her. “Take this to Radio Intelligence and have them transmit to Major Kurz at seventeen hundred hours sharp.”
“Right away, sir.”
When she was gone, Heinrich returned the folders to the safe. He tried to take solace in the fact that Borst’s accident would only cost them two days. Major Kurz would arrive tomorrow to receive his instructions and be on his way to Italy on Thursday. Still, he couldn’t suppress the niggling feeling that this might not be soon enough. He imagined an Italian beach populated by German blondes and Italian gigolos on the prowl. A freshly divorced Monika Fuchs might just be in the mood for a holiday fling with one of those dark-haired Casanovas, relegating Major Kurz to the role of a spectator. Much could happen in two days—none of it good.
He gazed at the portraits of party functionaries that hung on the wall. What would Mielke or Honecker do? He was sure of only one thing: if they found out he’d missed a chance to turn a Chancellery secretary with the highest access into a spy, they’d not only not promote him, but might very well demote him. The winds in a totalitarian state could shift in a heartbeat, and he needed to keep them at his back at all times.
Heinrich leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. If only he could have Kurz there sooner. Maybe he should skip the orientation session here and send him from Cologne straight to Viareggio. Not ideal, since the major might not be experienced enough to improvise.
Pen poised above the notepad, Heinrich tried to formulate a message clear enough for Kurz to understand without alerting West German intelligence, which he knew monitored radio chatter from the East. Nothing came to him. Perhaps the radio intelligence guys could help. A note in a dead drop location would be the best, but there was no time for that.
Then he thought of something that might inoculate Fuchs against advances from the gigolos until Kurz got there. A simple solution. And he knew exactly the person who could make the arrangement. Heinrich buzzed his secretary, hoping she was back.
When she answered, he said, “Radio Intelligence all set for the transmission I gave you?”
“Yes, sir. It’ll go right at five.”
“Good. Now get Signore Amato Conti in Milan on the line.”
While he waited for the call to go through, Heinrich thought about what to tell their Milan contact. He could always depend on Conti to arrange whatever he wanted done in Italy. The generous payments from the Stasi guaranteed that.
Federal Intelligence Service [BND], Pullach, West Germany, Tuesday, 19 July 1977
Sabine Maier strode down the first-floor hallway, silently repeating the name that had come to her when she woke up this morning. She pushed open the glass door to the records department. At the sound of the buzzer, Heinz Riedel emerged from a narrow corridor between file racks. His wrinkled face broke out in a smile, causing his mustache to curl up.
“Guten Morgen, Frau Maier. What brings you to these lowly quarters so early?”
She returned his greeting, chuckling at his self-deprecating humor. His beige polyester suit, shiny at the elbows, and a narrow clip-on tie hanging askew from a limp, white collar smudged at the edges were typical of old German men who no longer cared for their appearance. Or could his mode of dress be a reflection of a meager salary, despite his having capably managed the records department—a crucial function of intelligence work—since the inception of the BND twenty-one years ago?
“Lowly? You’re the most important person here, Herr Riedel, and you know it.”
“Tell that to the higher-ups.” He wagged a finger at her. “You must want something out of the ordinary.”
“Actually, I was wondering whether you have a file on the Bonn secretary convicted this spring of spying for the East German government. I believe her last name is Vogel.”
“Yes, of course.” Riedel turned and hurried down an aisle. He was remarkably agile for a man who had to be approaching seventy.
He returned in less than a minute and slapped a file next to a thick book that lay open on the Formica counter. “Dagmar Vogel.”
He made an entry in the register and turned it toward her. She signed beside the file name and number.
Then she looked at him with the most innocent expression she could muster. “There is something else I need your help with.”
“Ah, here comes the reason for the flattery. Which regulations would you have me flout? Which rules would you have me break?”
“No, nothing like that. I just need to call on your institutional memory. If anyone would know, it’s you.”
“All right. Enough buttering up. What is it you’re looking for?”
“The name of the Cologne secretary convicted of spying a year or two ago. We should have something on her as well.”
Riedel stroked his chin. “Hmm. Offhand, I don’t recall the name, but if we have a file, I will find it for you. I’ll bring it to your office.”
When she didn’t leave, he said, “That’s not all you want, is it?”
“I was hoping you could locate records on other women who’ve been accused, convicted, or even suspected of spying for the Stasi over the years.”
“You want me to recall spies caught over the last twenty years? Not only that, but it’s got to be women?”
“This is really important, Herr Riedel. Would you please try?”
He mumbled something under his breath, then gazed at her. “If it were anyone else, I’d tell them to go to hell. But for you, Frau Maier, I’ll see what I can do.”
She grabbed the folder. “You’re a sweetheart.”
As the door swished closed behind her, she barely heard, “Ja, ja. I make no promises, Frau Maier.”
♫ ♫ ♫
Sabine leaned back in her chair and rubbed her weary eyes. Riedel had brought three additional folders, one about the Cologne secretary she’d asked him for and two concerning cases unfamiliar to her. From the materials, she’d compiled two lists. The first contained specific information about each woman; the second, their common traits.
A quick glance at the wall clock confirmed it was near quitting time. A full day of work hadn’t yielded much. Though she’d probably attain better results analyzing the data with fresh eyes in the morning, she’d give it one final push before leaving the office. Perhaps another look would reveal a connection she’d missed. If nothing else, cementing the details in her mind might lead to an insight while listening to Mozart at home this evening.
She studied what she’d scribbled on the sheets of paper.
Monika Fischer, 33, never married, secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Bonn, for seven years, convicted this spring of delivering state secrets to a Stasi agent, sentenced to five years in prison. She said she spied for love.
Brigitte Koch, 37, divorced, secretary at the Armed Forces Security Office, Cologne, for five years, mother of a five-year-old son. Last fall she was sentenced to a three-year prison term for handing copies of NATO teletypes to her lover, an East German posing as a Danish diplomat. She thought she was helping a NATO ally.
Dagmar Vogel, 27, single, secretary at the Ministry of Defense, Bonn, for three years, gave intelligence regarding West Germany’s military strategy to the East German government in exchange for a promise of leniency for her mother living in East Germany. She was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Ursula Klein, 29, divorced, secretary for six years at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Cologne, supplied secret documents from Germany’s domestic spy agency to a Stasi agent. She told the court she knew she was doing wrong, but was desperate to keep her lover from leaving her. She received a five-year prison term in 1972.
Sabine gazed at the second sheet of sparse notes. The common traits she’d identified so far: all four were secretaries, worked for the government, had access to sensitive information, were either single or divorced. Three spied for love, one to gain leniency for a relative in East Germany. One didn’t know the boyfriend was a Stasi agent, the others did.
Sabine gathered her thoughts. The files were woefully short of personal information about the women. She needed psychological profiles. Were they attractive or homely? Outgoing, or shy and introverted? Confident or insecure? What were their personal habits? Weaknesses and vices? Her questions were endless, and the agency’s records answered none of them. She’d have to order trial transcripts and scrutinize the prosecution files.
When the clock showed five, she locked the four files in a side desk drawer. Taking them home was against policy. Not so her notes, which she put in her briefcase. As she left the office, it dawned on her that she hadn’t seen her boss all day. She’d expected him to be camped out on her doorstep this morning, demanding a new approach to catching Stasi spies.
Before she could gain the staircase, Bernd Dorfmann stepped from the interrogation room at the end of the hall. “Glad I caught you, Frau Maier. I need to talk to you.”
Once they were seated in his office, door closed, he said, “I’ve been debriefing a Stasi defector most of the day. He’s Captain Manfred Ruhland. Forty-three, has been a Stasi officer for ten years. Crossed over to West Berlin last night with a fake ID.”
“Yes. He’s divorced, no children.”
“And he’s not worried about his ex?”
“No. Nasty divorce. He’d like nothing better than the Stasi putting the screws to her.”
She studied his expression for signs of skepticism about the defector’s assertions, but saw none. “Makes things less messy, if you believe him.”
“What he told us about three Stasi moles embedded in the West has checked out so far. He couldn’t give names, but from what he said, we’ve managed to identify two Stasi collaborators: a pastor in Bad Godesberg and a journalist in Hamburg.”
“And the third?” Sabine asked.
“That one is dating a secretary at one of the Cologne agencies. Ruhland doesn’t know which office, or the secretary’s name. I’m hoping you can help me zero in on them.”
“You want me to interrogate the defector?”
Dorfmann raised a hand. “Absolutely not. I don’t want him to see you.”
“You think he could be a plant?”
“No, I believe he’s legit, but I don’t want to take a chance on your name making the rounds, especially since we’ve gone to great lengths not to publicize the scores of arrests you’ve made.” He hesitated. “Of course, if the Stasi spymaster is as good as his reputation suggests, he may already know about you.”
She furrowed her brow. “A chilling thought.”
“Not to worry. So far, you’re probably flying under his radar. I want to keep it that way. The defector is not to lay eyes on you. Besides, I’m satisfied I got out of him all he knows about the third spy.”
She thought for a moment. “You said an agency in Cologne. That’s got to be either Domestic Intelligence or Armed Forces Security.”
He nodded. “I’ve got an idea which one it is, but I want you to come to your own conclusion after you hear what I have to tell you. If we agree, we’ll track down the secretary.”
Sabine raised an eyebrow. “And the secretary will lead us to her beau.”
Dorfmann leafed through a spiral notebook. “Ruhland couldn’t give me much on the secretary.” He stabbed a finger at a page. “His information is sketchy, but I’m hoping it’s enough.”
She squirmed in her seat, fighting the urge to tell her boss to get on with it. As if to make sure she was paying attention, Dorfmann looked at her. Patience was not one of her virtues, but she did manage to hold her tongue.
Finally, he read from his notes. “As a captain, he didn’t have access to top-secret spy reports.”
Sabine interjected, “Does that sound right to you?”
Dorfmann shrugged. “I don’t really know, but I can’t see any reason for him to lie about it. The better the goods he delivers, the better his chances for a comfortable setup here in the West. He did pass the polygraph, and the intelligence he gave did lead us to the two Stasi collaborators.”
“So what did he say about the spy in Cologne?”
“He overheard two colleagues at a birthday party for one of the generals. Off to the side, they were cutting up, gossiping about one of their own ‘ficken fürs Vaterland.’ Ruhland couldn’t make out the spy’s name. Only what I already told you: the man was dating a secretary in an agency in Cologne.”
“That’s it?” Sabine couldn’t hide her disappointment. How in the world was she supposed to identify a mole from that?
“Not quite. They were talking about how lucky the guy was. Screwing a hot divorcee.”
“A divorced secretary. Well, that narrows it down.”
“Don’t give up. I saved the best for last. The two Stasi officers were boasting they’d soon be reading Harold Brown’s mail.”
She scooted to the edge of her chair. “You mean—”
“The U.S. Secretary of Defense. None other.” Dorfmann gazed at her. “Does that give you a clue as to where our secretary is working?”
“Armed Forces Security Office,” Sabine blurted. “She’s got access to NATO correspondence.”
“Exactly.” He closed the notebook. “First thing in the morning you leave for Cologne. Check out every divorced secretary with potential access, and be quick about it. You’ll have a day at most to find the spy. The Stasi won’t take any chances. If they suspect the defector knows about their man in Cologne, they’ll pull him back to East Germany in a flash.”
Foreign Intelligence Service [HVA], Stasi Headquarters, East Berlin, Wednesday, 20 July 1977
“Major Kurz reporting for duty.”
Heinrich’s spirits rose at the sight of the young officer he’d chosen to replace the injured Borst. The gray uniform fit his trim figure as though custom-made. His good looks made up for what he lacked in experience. Blue eyes, high cheekbones dominating a broad face, and thick, dark hair were sure to melt even the coldest female heart. Yes, indeed, he would do as a substitute for Borst.
“Good morning, Major. Have a seat. Any trouble making it home?”
“No, sir.” Kurz slid his long frame into the closest chair. “I got your message just in time to catch the night train to Berlin.”
“Well done, Major.” When Kurz blinked hard several times, Heinrich said, “You’ve not had much sleep. Coffee?”
“No thank you, General. I had half a pot at home already.”
“Very well.” Eager to implement the next phase of the plan to ensnare Monika Fuchs, Heinrich continued, “I’m assigning you the most important task of your career. The success of this mission is crucial. I can’t have you nodding off. You tell me if you need more caffeine. Understood?”
Kurz straightened. “Yes, General.”
Heinrich slid the file in front of him across the desk. “This contains the profile of your next conquest: Monika Fuchs. Secretary in the West German Chancellery with security clearance. She’s on holiday in Italy, where you will make contact.”
“You’re on a morning flight to Milan. Rental car and hotel have all been arranged.”
Impatient, Heinrich raised a hand. “Frau Schröder will give you the travel papers. Now take this folder to your office, learn the material and return in an hour. I will give you further instructions then.”
Kurz grabbed the file and left the office. Heinrich reached for his cup, but put it down hard at Frau Schröder’s excited voice on the intercom. “General, Lieutenant Gruber is here with an urgent message.”
“Send him in.”
Without knocking, the stocky Gruber charged into the room. “General, I have some bad news.”
“Just what I need.”
Gruber remained standing. “We suspect Captain Ruhland has defected.”
“Rubbish.” Heinrich leapt to his feet. “You’d better have some evidence.”
“He didn’t report for work yesterday. His secretary is on vacation, so no one thought to check on him. I wasn’t notified of his absence until early this morning.”
“Verdammt nochmal! Is everyone sleepwalking around here?”
Gruber shifted from one leg to the other. “I immediately called his home phone. When he didn’t answer, I sent Sergeant Beck to his apartment.”
“He just called me from there. The janitor let him in. The place is a mess. Clothes strewn over the bed. Suits in the closet pushed to one side. Cupboards open. No suitcase anywhere.”
“Son of a bitch! Do we have any idea when he might have left?”
“The janitor saw him come home from work on Monday. I assume Ruhland absconded later that evening.”
Heinrich slumped into his chair. “How long has Ruhland been with us?”
“About ten years.”
“How much does he know about our assets in the West?”
“At his rank, he shouldn’t—”
Heinrich slammed his fist on the desk. “No guesswork. I must know for sure—”
He broke off when Frau Schröder ran into the office. “Excuse me, General, but I was told to give this to you right away.”
He snatched a sealed envelope from her outstretched hand and tore into it, obliterating the top secret stamp. In disbelief, he read the message, then flung the paper and envelope onto the desk. “Here is our answer. Two of our top West German informants were arrested last night. That traitor must have fingered them.”
Heinrich motioned for his secretary to leave. When the door closed behind her, he turned to Gruber. “Tell me about Ruhland’s family. Is he married? Children?”
“Divorced. No children.”
“What about parents, brothers, sisters, other relatives?”
“I’ll have to check his file, General.”
“Do that now.” He waved his hand at Gruber. “Go.” Before the lieutenant could slip out the door, Heinrich called after him, “And bring in his ex. I want to have a talk with her.”
Once alone, Heinrich leaned back in his chair and stared at the far wall. Two veteran Stasi informants exposed by the deserter. As a captain, Ruhland shouldn’t have had access to information about the Stasi spy network in the West, but that didn’t guarantee the man hadn’t picked up intelligence he wasn’t entitled to see or hear. Losing informants was bad enough, but could the snitch also have compromised Stasi spies embedded in West Germany? At the thought, Heinrich buzzed his secretary. “Have Major Kurz come to my office immediately.”
Folder in hand, Kurz entered a few minutes later. “I’m sorry, General, but I’ve not finished reading—”
Heinrich waved him off. “Never mind that. Give me the file.”
Kurz laid the file on the desk. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re off the assignment, Major. We have a defector, and he may have blown your cover.”
“Just be glad you left last night, Major. I’ll have something else for you in a few days.”
“But what about Monika Fuchs? I’m willing to chance it, General.”
Heinrich made a sweeping hand gesture. “Out of the question. Return to your office and wait for my instructions. As for Fuchs, I’ll think of something.”
While Major Kurz let himself out, Heinrich leaned forward on the desktop. Yesterday he’d lost Borst, today Kurz. Two Romeos out of commission in as many days. Monika Fuchs was about to slip from his grasp. He could not let that happen.
As he sat back in his chair, an idea came. What if he . . . ? No, too risky. He hadn’t gotten to be head of Stasi’s Foreign Intelligence Service by taking unnecessary chances. Still, he’d run out of options, and Monika Fuchs was a prize worth taking a risk for.
He reached for the telephone.
Amt für die Sicherheit der Bundeswehr [ASBw], Office of Security, Federal Armed Forces, Cologne, West Germany, Wednesday, 20 July 1977
By the time Ingrid Müller left the visitor’s office, Sabine had crossed the brunette off the list of the dozen divorcees who had access to sensitive documents at the Federal Armed Forces Office of Security. On the rebound from an unhappy marriage, Müller had consoled herself with a boyfriend who had moved in with her at the beginning of the year. She kicked him out last month after she caught him two-timing her.
Sabine pecked her pencil on the desk. Since the Stasi spy had been actively wooing his victim as recently as a few days ago—if the defector had told it straight—she could eliminate Müller’s boyfriend. Besides, she couldn’t
Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Text: Peter Bernhardt
Publication Date: 03-07-2018
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