West Berlin, 1982
The roulette wheel spun with a dizzying rapidity as the ball clicked and clacked between the blurred numbers of red and black. As wheel slowed, it was clear to see that the ball had landed on 56 black. It was a solid win for, Louis Weber, the portly man in the tux on the other end of the table, with his blonde left arm, Mila, and his brunette right arm, Sophia. He gave a low and drunken laugh that the two ladies followed with bubbly giggles. Louis’ gut crested the table, almost busting a button, as leaned in to gather his small mountain chips. That’s what happened when you bet big, you’d win big, and you’d lose big, but this wasn’t one of those many moments Louis had grown accustomed to over the years. Though for him the money was but a drop in the bucket, a win was still a win, and it felt good. Louis stood back up, with two handfuls of chips for each lady,
That’s exactly what Mila and Sophia had been doing, making Louis feel good. They had been doing it all night; rolling his dice, fetching his drinks, laughing at his shitty jokes, trying to ignore the mole on his double chin or the dragon breath that rolled out between his yellowing teeth as they kissed him. To them, it didn’t really matter if he won or lost at the tables because he had money behind him, a lot of money, oil money. However, that didn’t mean they weren’t betting women. Any win for Louis was a win for them, and another week’s rent in their pockets. When the good times rolled, so did the cash. That was their philosophy for every Tom, Dick, Harry, and, especially tonight, Louis that came through West Berlin.
The bubbly giggles of the girls were tuned to full laughs that matched Louis’ as they poured the chips into their purses. Their laughter was carried on the smoke of Louis’ cigar as it mixed with the smoke of the other Louis’ out with their Milas and Sophias that were scattered out across the hotel’s casino floor. The smoke made its way to the bar where an observer sat, surveying the room. He cast his cobalt eyes across the room with rays of judgment. But he really couldn’t judge, because he was one of them, possibly even worse.
Fryderyk Skora was a Polish businessman that dealt in medical supplies. He had grown up a doctor’s son, but after the war, he understood the value of resources. With the world having divided itself right down main street Berlin, he found two sides in a war over those resources. There weren’t bombs, but with deals, mostly those made in a backroom. Berlin came easy to him as the local businesses were accustomed to dealing with tall, strong, stern blonde men. Deals were made, resources exchanged, and fortunes made. What a crock of shit.
Yuri Petrikov rolled the story over and over in his head as he nursed the scotch in his hand. The cover he had been given was utter bullshit in his eyes, and yet he had to believe it as if it were his own life. He had to live it, and there is nothing he hated more. Though, the alcohol did help, if only the slightest bit. Vodka was fine, sure, but Yuri found the West had some interesting liquors of its own. He found scotch to be pleasant; a memory of the Cuban cigar had given him the day he left for the army. It was far better than the cheap smoke that filled the casino, and the whisky he drank at the bar reminded him more of cigarette that was hand rolled by a coal miner.
Yuri took another sip, of what he was slowly beginning to decide tasted like ashtray runoff, as he scanned the crowd of coddled men. Through the hall of clinging smoke, his eyes latched on the far entranceway that is blurred by the haze. He made out a figure, highlighted by the burning end of a cigarette which hung to its side after a supposed drag. The physique didn’t fit anywhere amongst the bloated gamblers as this man’s shape was lean with broad imposing shoulders and commanding height, but a posture that was anything but. He leaned against the door frame and the only muscles that were tense held his cigarette and nothing more.
Yuri’s vision narrowed as he looked for the man’s profile, but he was only able to make out his ears, which means he must have been looking at the crowd as well. Then that feeling set in; that feeling of frozen electricity at the base of his spine working its way up his back. The cigar smoke had a momentary lapse as a gust of wind, almost as if someone waved at it, cut right through it. That’s when Yuri found that the stranger’s eyes were locked on to him. That electrical feeling in his spine reached his skull and he knew he had been made. The stranger knew exactly who he was looking at, and why, as did Yuri. That is when the stranger stood up straight, put his cigarette out, and left. Yuri, stood up, dropped five dollars on the counter and walked across the casino floor, cutting through the cigar smoke. He passed Louis his hand was slapped by Mila for copping a feel.
Entering the hallway, Yuri could only catch a glimpse as the stranger’s heel disappeared into a corridor on the right. Following, he almost missed the rear exit door closing. Rushing down the hall, without moving his hand, he felt his pistol in his jacket. Blowing through the exit, he drew his pistol, ready to fire. There was nothing. The lot behind the hotel was completely empty except for two dumpsters and a beat up jalopy. Looking around for any sign of the stranger, Yuri found none. There was no question, this man was real, but how could Yuri find him? Giving himself a moment to think, he holstered the pistol, and opened the door to go back inside. He is immediately greeted by the stranger, and his own pistol, who moves him back outside.
“Pistol,” the stranger put out his empty hand.
Yuri handed it over.
“Anything else?” the stranger tucked Yuri’s gun into his waistband.
“No,” Yuri put his hands behind his head.
The stranger went digging in Yuri’s pockets only to turn out a wallet with a fake I.D., a flip lighter, and one picture. It was of a woman, young, about Yuri’s age.
“Who’s this?” the stranger held the picture up to Yuri.
“Fuck off,” he refused to look.
“Yvette. Isn’t it?” the stranger turned to look at the picture.
Yuri looks up and gets a look at this stranger. He is tall, probably has three inches on him. He has a strong jawline with some stubble. His dark hair is slicked back and his hazel eyes keep scanning the picture. Yuri tries to snatch at the picture, but the stranger pulls away.
“We need to talk,” the stranger turned his attention back to Yuri.
“No, we don’t,” Yuri reached for the photo again.
“Yes we do. For her sake,” The stranger waved the photo.
Yuri took a step back, having to accept the shitty situation he is in.
“Fifteen minutes. Room 215,” the stranger turned back to the door.
Yuri was left outside, taking a deep breath. How did they know who Yvette is? Did they know where she lives, how to get to her? Better question is why were we carrying a photo of her with us? That was stupid. Really stupid.
Yuri’s mind just ran through every possible worst case scenario as he found himself outside Room 215. The door was pulled open by the stranger before he could even knock, further pushing Yuri’s unease. The room was on lit by the lamp on the end table beside the king sized bed. There were two chairs in the room’s center. The stranger took a seat in one of the chairs as he asked Yuri to pour them both a drink. Yuri walked over to the dresser which had a bottle of scotch, a good one, and two glasses. As Yuri was pouring the drinks, he slipped a vile of cyanide into one, which he gave to the stranger. Before sitting down, Yuri saw his pistol on the end table behind his chair.
“So,” the stranger began, “How’s Ivanov?
“How…” Yuri began, but…
“It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him last.”
Yuri recomposes himself, taken aback by the stranger’s knowledge, “How do you know him.”
“Well, through work or at least mutual acquaintance. So, I see he is a better spy than a teacher,” the stranger takes a sip of his whisky.
Yuri takes notice and loosens up a bit. The stranger continues, “You’re constantly squirming, you don’t blend in at all, and you are carrying personal affects with you. What happened to you guys, you used to be formidable.”
Yuri responds, watching the stranger take another sip, “You weren’t subtle yourself. You were staring me down across an entire casino hall.”
The stranger takes yet another sip, “That was because I needed to speak with you. Did you know about Ivanov’s other pupils?”
“Yeah, but how do you know so much?” Yuri takes a sip and puts his glass beside his chair. He leans in intently.
“There was one before he got out of the field, an apprentice,” the stranger leans in to match, “I killed him.”
Yuri leans back in his chair slowly, taking it all in, “And you’re trying to send him a message? Who do I tell him that it’s from?”
The stranger keeps his lean, “My name is Davis. And the message isn’t for him, it’s for you. Get out, and get out now.”
Yuri’s brow furrows, “I thought you people only wanted scientists or those with something to offer.” He feels a twinge of regret for the cyanide.
“Look kid, there is a way out. The whole thing is coming down and it’s coming down soon. Do you want to be in a burning house or one with a white picket fence? Think about Yvette.”
Yuri began to recollect, “Ivanov never mentioned you, but if there is something I know about the man, he is not one to let something like that go. He would’ve killed you.”
Davis finished the scotch, “As a matter of fact he did. Cyanide was a nice touch. It’s good to know he is teaching the classics. It’s how he got me.”
All that went through Yuri’s head as he goes for the gun behind him was he knows about the poison. Yuri grabbed the pistol, with the silencer attached, and fired three rounds into Davis. Nothing. Davis stood up from the chair, and before Yuri could think that he had been tricked with a gun full of blanks, he saw three holes. There was one in the wall and two in the chair.
Davis walked up to him, “Look kid. You’re no spy; you’re a soldier. There is a way out I suggest you take it.”
Yuri could only gawk, “W-What are you?”
“A dead man walking. Take the ticket, kid,” he held out a card with a phone number on it, “Call that number, it’s your extraction. It’s a favor from an old friend so don’t give him shit. You’ll be in the states tomorrow. After that, We should be able to get your girl, Yvette,” Davis walked towards the door.
Yuri looks at the card and back to him, “Why me?”
Davis looks back, “I’m just saving myself by fixing a fuck up. And you… you’re dumb, but not that dumb. Call the number.” Davis then walked through the door and out of Yuri’s life.
Yuri just looked at the card, and grabbed the phone.
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