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The trip to Berlin had been pleasing, at least- and with the rise of commercial trans-atlantic airlines, had even been a moderately comfortable one. It was something of a novelty, even yet, and of course Alexander was rather excited about the prospect of it. It was intimidating to be over the sea in what seemed a rickety metal contraption, but that was part of the thrill of it all. The recent graduate of the intelligence program had been sent here on New Years eve- had neatly dodged most of the partying in the states. Travelling along the traditional route (New York to London, London to Berlin), most of his time had been spent musing over the nature of this assignment and wondering what Heather looked like now. Of course, of almost equal import, there was also the matter of what sort of food there would be to eat in Germany- and whether or not Heather could actually cook. He intended to spend some measure of time in her home, after all, provided the assignment- as ambiguous and shadowy as it was- allowed for it.
Unbeknownst to Alexander, the instant his feet touched the ground in Berlin was precisely 12:00:00 am, GMT- the partying having now faded slightly from Germany, and Alexander had neatly bypassed the transition to 1947 by the skin of his teeth, without any of the alcohol or general debauchery that might otherwise have accompanied the momentous occasion. It was a tragedy, really, and the young man smirked at the thought of the missed opportunities for hedonism. Not exactly the good kid that his father had expected or the spirited Lutheran that his mother might have enjoyed, were she still around, the military man had done his best to stay out of trouble, regardless. There were rules, now- and intoxication as an agent of espionage was likely a risk that would end up in a less than equitable state of affairs.
Presumably, of course, there'd be someone there to lead him to the base or wherever it was that his assignment would be taking place- or at least Alexander hoped so, considering how cold it would doubtless be, especially for a man used to West Point's less-than frigid clime. Stepping off the plane and runway, he moved forward confidently- with the familiar state of level-headed calmness that his training had provided him with forming the basis for his new arrival. Even though it was true that he was likely starting with something small, the intelligence agent was still excited about the prospect. It couldn't be so bad as an office job in Washington, D.C.- that would take something of a miracle to outdo. Sighing, Alexander Craft tucked his bag under one arm- not so many goods, did he possess- not really. The gun was worn on his person, as ever- treasured as the most valued of his possessions. It was loaded, too- and hopefully, for the sake of Berlin, the zealous graduate would not find cause to use it.
For now, though, he was patient and ran over the few simple German phrases that he knew, just in case the man who came to greet him had a special affinity for going to libraries- or in case he wanted to buy some yellow kittens. It was rather surprising to be sent to a foreign country with such a poor grasp of the local lingo, but that was the state in which Alexander- American in Europe- found himself. Tragic, really.
And there wasn't even any bacchanalia to go with the transition. What a shortchanging this was.
It was a civilian charter, so the lack of military presence was not exactly alarming. The CIG insisted on booking a civilian flight because according to the world, the only reason Craft was in Berlin was to visit his sister. His official assignment would not begin for three months where he was stationed as a checkpoint guard in the American Occupation Zone. Of course, he would never set foot in a checkpoint booth. That wasn't the real reason he was there.
The Berlin air bit him as he stepped off the plane onto the almost-frozen runway. There was fresh snow on the ground and an occasional flurry. The few meager passengers stepped off with him and dutifully went into the airport to collect their baggage. Able to bypass that tradition, Alexander found himself alone standing on a curb.
Just as he would naturally wonder where to go next, a black sedan pulled up with civilian plates. The driver, a black-haired, black-eyed, pale-skinned man wore a traditionally dark suit and driver's hat.
In perfect English he said, "Craft?" as he opened the back door of the sedan.
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
Of course the lack of military presence wasn't alarming- Craft, after all, had suspected it might be like this though he had vaguely wished that it would not. It was all so much more glamorous to imagine a full military presence- the strong sense of being important and guarded against the ravages of the new and foreign land. Instead, there was just the small bag containing all that he possessed, just now, and the rather boring puttering of civilians.
Even so, it made the young man felt more reassured to be a bit curious and perceptive of his surroundings. It made him feel more in control than naively trusting in the government to work it all out, for him. It was a distraction, as well, from the cold air- and he was glad for the lack of needing to pick up personal baggage. It made him feel more sleek and streamlined.
At the strange voice- the unexpected English- Alexander looked at the sedan that had pulled up- previously assuming it had just been an overzealous arrival. Mentioning his name, though, hardly seemed a coincidence. Without speaking a word, he understood- offering the briefest of nods as he entered the back seat of the automobile silently. Excitement pumped in his veins- so many things swirling through his mind that he could scarcely keep it all straight. There was the temptation to ask questions, but he assumed it would all be answered in due time.
Alexander's wish for answers was not granted as the black-eyed stranger drove the car down the narrow streets of Berlin. War-torn buildings passed by. Gaping holes in walls and craters in the streets. Some areas that were passed looked more like the ruins of an ancient society than a modern city. Military caravans still patrolled the streets. Humbled and beaten citizens watched their new life with dismal depression. At this late hour there wasn't much to see aside from snow-blown buildings and the recently homeless.
The twisting Berlin streets wound toward a broken skyline.
"You will greet your sister and in the morning we will meet," the driver said, fifteen minutes into their drive.
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
Alexander watched stoically the ravages of war. Tragic, perhaps, but vital to the continued advancement of mankind. Germany had proven itself a threat, and despite being chastised they had risen again underneath Hitler. Hopefully, the fighting spirit of the Germans had now been crushed- unless they would like another taste of Western bullets. If not, there were always the bombs that had been used on the Japs to deadly effect. America had the world in its pocket, and now was the time to force Europe to eat from their palms, really. The United States had earned this- this victory had been forged with American blood- and not even the sight of such sorrowful scenery could bring Craft to regret any of it. Even so, eventually his eyes would avert themselves. Despite his firm belief, he was not inhuman. Pity still existed, even in the most echoing abyss.
"Understood," was his simple reply- no emotion yet entering the countenance of the intelligence agent. He considered trying to determine more information but knew better than to challenge someone who was clearly in complete control of the situation- a relic of military education. As such, he simply contented himself with the hope that it would be something other than a desk job. He had come to learn of gunfights and cryptographs-- not finances and interviews. Perhaps it was the wrong attitude, but then Craft never did think inside the box.
"I assume you will pick me up, then. Can you give me a time?" It was only vaguely asked- almost cold in its delivery. "It would help improve the guise of meetings, rather than making it look like a chance encounter." No questions about the mission- that would be unprofessional. All would be revealed in good time.
He did not immediately respond. This was a technique Craft himself knew about. Answering questions means giving control to the inquiror. It is always best to stay silent, avoiding a transfer of power in the conversation. Even a statement unrelated to the question could be percieved as an answer. So the quesiton is met with silence.
And a long one.
In fact, it could be said the driver completely ignored the question all the way until he pulled up to the flat where Heather was staying. It was a non-descript pre-Nazi building, made of red brick and with very few concrete frills. Perhaps housing 15 military families, there were many cars parked in front of the three-story monolithic apartment complex.
As the driver pulled to the curb he said only, "In the morning you will receive instructions."
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
Of course, Craft was aware what was occuring, but- the way he saw it- the man was already in solid control of the situation. As such, it scarcely mattered whether or not the question was answered promptly or after a delay, as no real control would be exchanged. He expected silence, but was somewhat disappointed by it nonetheless. Again, no sign of his internal emotions showed on his face- always the introvert, he only studied the neighborhood, trying to get a feel of the path from the airport to Heather's home.
When they arrived, and at last the less-than-satisftory came, Craft did not respond, knowing full well that the exchange was done for. He simply gathered his things and stepped onto the curb, looking at the house with something akin to skittishness. It had been such a long time since he'd seen his sister, despite the fact that they had been in occasional contact, and there was apprehension- not that he would not meet to her approval, but rather that she would have become someone different from the young woman who had left to Germany in defiance of their father.
At least they had that in common. Alexander and Heather, ever the defiant upstarts.
He was surprised that so many were housed in the structure- he had supposed that Heather might have a place in a larger tenement, else she wouldn't let Alex stay with her, but supposed it didn't really matter. The agent doubted very much that he would be spending much time at home, anyway. He strode forward from the curb, not even acknowledging the driver's presence as the man likely sped away. He found his way to the appropriate doorway, breathed in just once, and pounded on the door a few times with bare hands, breathing into his fists to warm them against the cold.
This was it. The reunion that might make or break the entire affair. He'd have a cheerful "Hello!" prepared, for whomever might respond to his entreatment, presumably Heather unless she had guests... an unlikely occurance, considering the hour.
The lobby inside was dark, bearing only a dim pool of illumination from the reflective snow outside. On the mailboxes in the tiny lobby were the names of the tenants and Craft was one of them: 202. There was room enough in the lobby for an elevator a chair and plant.
It was a symbol of post War Berlin. A housing development that likely belonged to a middle class group, now gone, perhaps dead and taken over by the United States military to house the many needed people involved in the recovery effort. It was clear this was not exactly a military installation, per se, since there was no guard to greet him, but even civilians worked for the military here.
The elevator took Craft to the second floor and two doors down was the room he was looking for. The lights were off inside and the stale cigarette smoke setting in the hallway suggested no one had been in the hall for many hours.
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
He had been expecting his sister to at least stay up for him, but perhaps that was much to expect- and the fact that she wasn't didn't especially bother Craft. He had gone too long without strong familiar contact with Heather to really expect her to surrender her precious sleep time to him. Perhaps she had an early day at the office- the young man had no real way of knowing, and despite his expectations he did not exactly feel disappointed in the state of affairs. It was late, and the plane ride had left him feeling rather lagged and tired. Perhaps sleep would not be such a terrible fate.
There was always the morning, and the mysterious meeting that there waited.
Striding toward the door that was his destination, he first checked to see if Heather had done him the courtesy of leaving the portal unlocked- jiggling the handle first to one side and then the other. Were it unlocked, the young man would slide in, get his bearings, and then look for a place to set his belongings and set himself to sleep, trying to make as little noise as was possible.
If, however, the door were locked, he would rap urgently and loudly, not more than a few times. Just enough to wake anyone within up without making unnecessary embellishments or trying to inspire melodies with his entreatment. That was a thing best left to civilians- and at the moment Craft didn't feel especially civilian.
The door was neither locked nor unlocked, but slightly ajar. Darkness fell from behind with a silent thud. It was quiet, somewhat stale, and without evidence of any living soul. Inside, one's eyes adjusted slowly from the remaining streetlight-reflecting snow outside the apartment window.
The place was terrorized, not from thieves, but from a struggle. A once-neat room was victim to overturned plants, lamps, and a smashed glass coffee table. The radio was knocked backward and file folders were kicked onto the floor from an overturned chair at the desk.
Both bedrooms and the bath were left untouched and no one, certainly not his sister, was inside.
Aside from the struggle, the apartment was neat and clean. Landscape paintings hung on the wall, the dressers were dusted and the clutter strategically arranged. The desk alone saw the wrath of epicenter of the struggle and the only evidence remaining was a simple note written in English that was placed by the telephone.
"Call only 547-5568. If another number is called or you step foot from the apartment, your sister dies."
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
Ajar doors that ought to be in one of two binary states were always an odd condition- and ordinarily, the young man's interest might have been piqued- but at the moment he just assumed that Heather had left the door open for him, and was so tired from his flight and content that, yes, he was rather inattentive to details. As he slid within, he shut the door silently behind him, removing his jacket as he entered, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the blackness, yawning as he scratched at his head.
And then he saw it- the signs of the struggle- and immediately his spy-mind kicked in, the analytical attention to detail he'd been taught. What had happened? His first instinct was that it was some kind of simple quarrel, and that Heather had simply not bothered to clean it up. That made sense on one hand- after all, Heather was hardly a homemaker- but on the other it felt off, somehow. She'd certainly have tidied up before her brother came home...
The deliberation was called off, though, as soon as the note was found- and Craft offered a very frustrated string of whispered American epithets- and some ones from other languages that he'd found particularly amusing, at the time. Hands ran through his hair as he paced a few times, deciding it would be better to deal with this affair sooner, rather than later. Even so, it unnerved him.
Surely this couldn't be happening- he was just a soldier, for all intensive purposes, and he wasn't even especially important in the grand scheme of things. Who knew... this might all just be an elaborate prank, however doubtful that scenario might seem. Craft extended a hand to the phone, dialed the number, and waited- eyes closed in anticipation for a voice at the other end.
The phone rang for an unusual amount of time. Distant buzzing into the distance like an irritated bird. At the point the average person would have likely hung up, a soft click sounded from the other end.
"You will find a taxi to take you to Cafe du Monde in the French zone where you will be approached by a man in a white suit. You tell no one and go nowhere else. I will give you one question to ask me now and another to ask the man in the white suit. Any other unprompted conversation will earn you a single finger from your sister's right hand."
The voice was calm. Cold. Business-like. Certainly not French, not American. He could be Eastern European, but was most likely Russian. The manner of his tone was one of a professional. This was not an emotional operation, it was simply part of the job.
A silence on the other indicated that the kidnapper was awaiting the single question he allotted Craft.
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
Craft's eyes closed as he forced himself to control his frustration. This was all the fault of someone who had failed to keep their mouths shut. Someone on his side of things-- perhaps even one of the high-hats over at the agency. That litany of swear words rang within his mind over and over as he listened to the man's instructions... but it would not do to reveal anything, just yet. After all- Craft had no reason to tell anything, just yet. He hadn't even received his mission, which was perhaps fortunate. It was easier to avoid telling secrets when one did not have any to keep. It didn't really matter that he was an agent here in Berlin- there was nothing useful he possessed.
After only a moment's contemplation- though it seemed to stretch days- he responded, fear choking his voice along with perhaps with the sound of distant tears (nobody said that agents couldn't act, at least). "What is it that you want with me and my sister, man? We ain't done nothin' to you." Hard to tell whether the best deceptions were those that were up front about their treachery, but in this case the question would gauge two real things.
First, it would determine whether the man really knew who Craft was- for if he bought the ignorant act, it was a likely indicator that the young spy was only a misguided target. Secondly, it would let him know why exactly they wanted him, which was a decidedly good thing. In this case, it didn't matter why they wanted Heather- he really doubted her to be significant to the entire plot (perhaps his chauvanism was showing, again).
Awaiting his answer, the young man idly stretched out a hand for a piece of paper on which to write the exact transcription-- it might be useful, later on. No piece of evidence was meaningless, in his experience.
There was no pause on the other end.
"You have wasted your question. I've already told you what I want. Now I suggest you leave now. You would not want to miss the taxi."
A cold dial tone emanated from the receiver.
The taxi in question was indeed waiting outside and a nondescript man wearing a simple black cabby uniform and hat stood patiently resting against the car. Even with the vantage from the apartment, it was pretty clear this driver was not carrying a weapon and was likely a civilian.
--Laveaux 09:01, 9 December 2005 (CST)
If the game was going to be played like this, with claims of answers where none were truly given, then Craft suspected that this was going to be considerably less fun than even he had anticipated. The man had most certainly not answered the question-- not with any sort of completeness-- but there were more important things to worry about than personal irritation at someone's unwillingness to play by the rules.
A sigh from Alexander's lips as he assessed the situation, making sure everything was in place before moving out the way he had come in, the whole time running through his training and trying his best to remain calm. This was not a time for outbursts, but it was certainly a time for inner turmoil.
How had he been so easily found out? It didn't make sense-- the agency couldn't have slipped up that easily, could it have? In all seriousness, it didn't make any lick of sense. There had been no warning, only this sudden fluctuation in the mission- and the only thing that Craft could bring himself to feel was numbness. It was perhaps shocking to find that he didn't really care about Heather's absence or what had happened to her-- he was more irritated at his own apparent failure.
He'd get into the cab silently, expressionless, quite certain that everything had already been arranged and that any input of his could do no good. It was awkward, the sensation of being just another wheel in a massive machine. But so help him, if the young man discovered who was responsible for the leak, there would be hell to pay.
The taxi driver didn't say anything to Craft, presumably because he assumed they spoke different languages. Humming a German folk song softly under his lips he drove the opposite direction from which Alexander had come. The buildings around, although bruised from battle was in far better shape then by the airport.
The taxi pulled up into a check station with French soldiers. After examining the man's papers the guards allowed them through. Almost as if a sheet was lifted from the the prior skyline, this area seemed to still be in its prime. Even at the late hour there were French and American soldiers frequenting several pubs and clubs. It was retribution, it seemed, for France's role in the war.
Skirting alongside a still medeival cobblestone street, narrowed underneath arches and smoothed over by snow, the car pulled over to a sidewalk cafe, surprisingly open. A dim orange glow hummed from inside presenting a sparse but active clientele. A couple soldiers, but mostly well-dressed men sipping wine. The once-German tavern had been converted to the likes of Paris. A freshly painted sign out front indicated this place was "Cafe du Monde".
The cabbie did not request payment, simply waving Craft on. Arrangements were already made. Inside, pipe smoke danced with cigarette smoke. Balding waiters opened fine Parisan wines and stuffy old men, accompanied by young overdressed women obliged.
As informed, a man in a white suit approached Craft. He would have been mistaken for a waiter save for his white fedora and black necktie. He was aged and wore heavy spectacles. Walking with a limp he quickly approached craft and extended a black gloved hand.
"Alexander Craft, I presume?" His accent was distinctly British, "Please, sit."
He offered a seat in the corner where a small cocktail table allowed room for two to sit facing out against the wall.
Offering a cigarette he said, "I am permitted to allow you another question."
--Laveaux 09:02, 9 December 2005 (CST)