Conducting “spy” business was straightforward. There was no other person in the apartment, relieving me of the apprehension I felt about an enticing female agent appearing at any moment leaving me in an awful predicament. I was warned about such measures in prior briefings with the Americans.
More than half way through my drink, I did not feel any sleepier, so I must not have been drugged. I heard about that also but couldn’t remember if that fact was from a novel. Alex was quite cordial and simply wanted me to understand the method of our future communication.
I was intrigued when he pulled out a peculiar looking pen, several pre-written letters in German, (international envelopes addressed from a German girl to another German girl in East Berlin), a book, and a set of instructions on a thin piece of microfilm. Sergi laid the materials down in front of me on a large coffee table. Then he explained what each item was and the proper procedure to use them. The whole idea was to send messages from the US on back of the pre-written letters between two college-aged girls in invisible ink! Are they serious, I wondered? I thought that this kind of stuff was only in novels and movies.
Alex and Sergi were quite serious. They had me practice writing with my hand resting on the hard cover book. In no way was I to touch any part of the paper. I jotted some words down, what they told me to, and Sergi then disappeared to another room for a few moments.
It was then that I nervously asked Alex if the three of us were alone and if I would be going back to West Berlin that evening. “Of course we are alone, and yes you will go back to your hotel, Alex answered. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. I did not know how to answer so I sheepishly asked, “These girls in the letters are not real, right?”
“No, we would not do anything like that to you!” Alex seemed hurt and puzzled by my question. Then I was further embarrassed when he added, “Trena is a good lady. You need to keep her.”
I quickly replied, “Yes! I am glad these girls are not real!”
Alex smiled and seemed satisfied with my reply. Before the conversation could go any further, Sergi returned and said something to Alex in Russian. Alex told me that I needed to write again but to press down harder with the pen. So I went through the process a second time and Sergi quickly disappeared to a back room where he had gone before.
Alex spoke first and laid out the plan for the next day in East Berlin. He talked excitedly about the museums we would visit and the restaurant he wanted to take me to afterwards for dinner. He wanted to, as he said, “enjoy our moment together, just like “old times.”
I remembered all the vodka he ordered during our first meeting in 1986. He had a shot as an appetizer and then one with his salad, his dinner, his dessert, and after-dessert coffee. He also needed an extra one to put into his coffee. Of course, I was to join him with each. That made for an interesting afternoon trying to get back into the West side through Checkpoint Charley.
Fortunately, two plainclothes young men in long overcoats directed me through the MP guard to a parking lot. While one of them looked through the front of my car, the other, a 5 ft. 11 man with short cropped blond hair, had me open my trunk and while briefly looking inside, said, “How did everything go?”
The reason for this visit, more than a year later and after I got out of the Army (the first time), was to reestablish contact and to begin this new communication method. Alex also wanted to check on my progress of becoming an officer in the military intelligence field. At the time, I could only tell him that I was successful in getting into a ROTC program, which was an officer training corps at the university level. He understood.
Sergi emerged again, this time with a smile, thumbs up and a “Да!” Alex smiled also.
“Okay, you are ready my friend. Let’s get you back to the train so you can go back to the hotel. You must be tired.”
“Yes, I am,” I answered.
The three of us left the apartment, entered the Lada Samara, and then sped off into the snowy night, back to the train station. Alex walked with me up the platform steps past the fewer Russian guards and waited for the S-Bhan train until it clattered to a halt. After reminding me of our same meeting place on Friedrichstraße and set time for the next morning, I boarded the rear car and headed back to the west, trying not to look too conspicuous. Mentally, I sensed the staring eyes from the other passengers as if I had an American flag sewn on my jacket, which of course I did not for the obvious reasons.
As the train rambled down the tracks, the song by Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” came to mind.
Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world
I stopped often on my way back to the hotel, acting like I was interested in my surroundings, like a tourist. Inside of me, I felt little paranoid so in reality, I was attempting to detect any particular individual who appeared to be watching or following me.
Sheer relief swept over me when I arrived back to the hotel without incident. The first time all night I could breathe normal. One more thing I needed to do before calling it a night. I prayed, thanking God, pulled out a brand new Bible that I brought over with me, and wrote some inspiring verses in the front blank portion. Then, I finally turned off the lights and fell right to sleep.
(To be continued)