The Frequent Flyer
by Frank Thomas Smith
(Last paragraphs of Chapter 11)
“Mr. Armstrong called again, Marvin,” Gabriela said when he walked in. “You okay?”
“Yes, if he calls again…just stall.” He opened the file cabinet in Gabriela’s office and took out the file marked “Admin-expenses”, knowing that she would check on which file he took and that one was as good as any. “Be back later.”
“Mrs. Albrecht also called – about ten minutes ago.” Jacks turned and stared at her. “She said she was in the Sheraton, room…” she looked at a note paper on her desk “…712, and that she’s expecting you.”
Jacks placed the file in his attaché case and left without acknowledging the message. He walked across the Plaza San Martin without looking at the huge iron statue of the Great Liberator pointing west on its pedestal. He walked through the hotel’s lobby, which could have been in any country in the world, to the elevators and pressed the button for the seventh floor.
I had it all rehearsed, what I was going to say to her, and how. All right, Annaliese, what’s this all about? For starters. I’d just stand there with my hands in my pockets, well one hand anyway, the other holding the attaché case, cold, cool, the offended party. But it didn’t work out that way. She opened the door to room 712 and stepped back. The blond wig was off and her black hair fell to her shoulders. One hand was on her right hip. At first she looked as though she’d rehearsed the same attitude I had. But it didn’t work that way. Her hand dropped from her hip, my hand left my pocket and the other dropped the attaché case. We stepped forward and fell into each other’s arms. I couldn’t help myself and I guess she couldn’t either, although I wasn’t sure of that. We stood that way for at least a minute, then I reached under the back of her legs and carried her to the bed. She had gained some weight but was still slight. More beautiful than ever. I laid her on the bed and lay down alongside her. She began to cry and I felt like doing the same. After a while she got up and went into the bathroom. I could hear the water running in the sink. When she came out she was naked. I gasped. She stood next to the bed that way while I was still fully dressed, with a jacket and tie. I stood up and started to undress, she helped. She didn’t rip my shirt open, just unbuttoned it carefully, smiling now, then she pulled down the bed cover and climbed under the sheet. We remembered the little flat years ago on Bockenheimer Landstrasse in
Frankfurt. I say “we” because she told me later that she was thinking of it as well.
Afterwards we both fell asleep, exhausted not only from the love-making, but also from the events of the past two days. The telephone woke us. I looked at my watch, it was after five. “Don’t answer it,” I told her. “It must be my secretary.” She went into the bathroom, turned on the shower, came out again and took my hand. We used to shower together in
Frankfurt, too. It was like returning to a previous life, the water pouring down on us as we soaped each other with caressing hands. She giggled when a half-hearted erection developed as she soaped my penis, then she mumbled something in German that I didn’t get, shook her head and let cold water run on it till it subsided.
We were dressed again, sitting across from each other in armchairs, sipping from a bottle of excellent Argentine wine from the minibar, both waiting for the other to begin the conversation we dreaded. I sighed: “Okay, Annamarie, or Frau Maria, what’s going on?” I tried to smile so it wouldn’t seem too much like an interrogation, but interrogators smile, too.
“Where do you want me to start, Marvin?”
“From the beginning, I guess.” I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t her revelation that she and her husband were East German spies posing as refugees when we first met in
Frankfurt. Actually, that part didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that she was telling me. She also said that during our affair both her husband and their handler knew about it and her mission was to get information from me and, if possible, to turn me, that is to recruit me as a double agent. She fell in love with me though – an occupational hazard, it seems – and didn’t know what to do until the situation resolved itself through instructions from Berlin to go to Hamburg with a new identity, identities that is, for her husband and herself. I interrupted to ask if her marriage was real or part of her cover. She said both, that it was cover, but had to be real in order to be convincing. But that she hadn’t even known Cornelius until the were ordered to marry. Her daughter was the fruit of the marriage but, she insisted, she still loved me and even the child had originally been part of the cover. She was in tears again now, so I waited for her to recover, or seem to, before asking how came into the picture. Argentina
“It was when Perón returned to
,” she said. “It was chaos here and they – Wolfe, the Stasi chief, I mean – wanted us to come and help the leftist groups, you know, the revolution. In Argentina , and Berlin too probably, they thought Moscow would be ripe, maybe because Che Guevara was Argentine – I don’t know.” Argentina
“Seems vague,” I said.
“We were also to establish an identity here and eventually emigrate to the
.” United States
“Ah, and it didn’t work?”
“It worked, but they wanted us back in
for something else, so we went and then returned to Germany three years ago.” Argentina
I was still wary, not sure why she was telling me all this, or even if it was the truth; but I wanted to believe her. If you can’t believe the one you love, you can’t believe anyone. “With the same identity?” I asked.
“Yes, we still had our National Identity Cards, which never expire.”
“And the same mission?”
“Essentially yes, but now I know that the revolution cannot succeed here, so I at least help people who are wanted by the police and armed forces escape, get out of the country.”
She foraged in her handbag and came up with a crumpled package of local cigarettes, black tobacco. I foraged in my pocket for a lighter, but couldn’t find it. She found a box of matches in the bag, offered me a cig, which I declined, and lit up. She held the cigarette as she always had, between her thumb and index finger, like a dubious insect.
“You mean the ERP people?” ERP meant Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, a Marxist group which had started by hijacking trucks carrying food and clothing, and distributing it to the poor. Then they decided they needed money, so robbed banks and kidnapped people like me for ransom. They also killed some generals, which was definitely a no-no. After the military coup the generals began a campaign to wipe out all resistance. They didn’t bother with concentration camps, they just murdered everyone even suspected of having a connection with the insurgents. This finally caused a reverse migration to Europe, mostly to Spain and Italy, not only of insurgents and their friends, but also journalists, scientists, teachers, psychologists, even some Catholic priests after six of their colleagues were murdered and they realized that the Church hierarchy not only would do nothing to defend them, but acquiesced in the state terror. As Analiese and I sat talking in the Sheraton, that cleansing “proceso”, as they called it, was in full swing.
“For example, yes,” she said.
“That’s very dangerous, Ana…er..what is your name, by the way?”
“Call me Marie so you won’t slip when someone is around. And I know it’s dangerous, yes, I know.”
“But your real name?”
“Rachel. Rachel Baumgartner.”
“Oh.” A long pause while I searched in my briefcase for my pipe and tobacco and tried to think of what to say next. She beat me too it.
“What about you, Marvin? You are Marvin, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes I am.” I used her matches to light up.
“No..well, legally yes, still, but it’s over, she’s in
“No, Argentine, it’s a long story.”
She sighed as if relieved by one complication less. Then: “We’re quite safe though. My husband’s name is Vladimiro now, a native Argentine who emigrated to
as a very young child, and has now returned with his German bride. Very romantic, but all in order, papers and everything – and it explains his accent. He even learned to be a cook. Germany
“You’re not as safe as you think, Rachel.” I used her name consciously; we had to have something real. She didn’t object.
“What do you mean?”
“Yesterday…no, back in
FrankfurtI was also spying on you. They suspected you, at least one sergeant did, so I was assigned to accidentally meet you off duty and try to find out.” I thought she’d be shocked, but she only blew a smoke ring and said, smiling, “I know.”
Now I was shocked. “You mean you guessed,” I sputtered.
“In this game guessing is as good as knowing, darling. You were very obvious.”
“But I really fell in love with you,” I protested.
“I know that, too. Give me your hand.” Did she intend to read my palm? No, she held it in both of hers and kissed it. “I fell in love with you, too, Marvin, And I’ve never loved anyone else.” Our knees were touching and she kissed my hand again. Tears came to my eyes, but I held them back. I didn’t know what to do, or even to believe her, that was the worst part. I stood up.
“No,” she said, “sit down and go on.”
“I didn’t tell them about the room on Bockenheimer Landstrasse though…but then you disappeared.”
“Yes, we were ordered to
to support the Rote Armee Faktion, but I don’t want to talk about that. I couldn’t tell you I was a spy, it was impossible, but I was so sorry.” At that moment I made up my mind to believe her, a leap of faith, nothing more. Hamburg
“Okay, anyway a guy from the CIA contacted me yesterday.” Her eyes opened wider, very attentive now. “They suspect you, Rachel.”
“Freddy Hussein, they seem to know a lot about him and they’ve been following him. They saw me go with him to your restaurant the other day and they know he’s been there often…”
“Verdammt Mal, I knew that guy was trouble, a complete idiot.”
“Yeah, well, that’s why they talked to me, want me to find out what he – and you – are up to. It’s dangerous, Rachel, all they have to do is tip off the Argentine S.I.D.E., who know how to get everything you know from you, and then ‘disappear’ you afterwards.”
She sat there staring at her hands which rested between her legs. Finally, “I know,” she said. “but I don’t know what to do.”
“I’ve been thinking about it, and I see only two possibilities.”
Her eyes asked me what they were.
Go over to the CIA, ask for protection in exchange for information. I could arrange that.” She didn’t say anything, waiting for the second choice.
“Or,” I said, “leave the country, escape.”
She smiled. “They both sound so easy, Marvin, but I don’t think they are.”
Continued in the next SCR