There were Americans everywhere in Wiesbaden in 1952 and when they told me to meet him in front of the Art Museum, I wasn't sure that I would be able to make him out. But there he was standing next to The Fat Man's cream colored Audi. He was wearing shades and had his hair slicked back, and had on a pair of new loafers that somebody had to have sent him from the States. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he would have no trouble fitting in and doing what he needed to do to the Czech who was coming in that night on the 8:40 train from Prague....


 I went over and shook his hand.

"Nice ride, eh?" he smiled. "The Fat Man let me drive it today. Nothing like it back in Chicago."

He shook a cigarette out of a nearly empty pack and offered it to me. I was grateful. The Camels that he could buy at the air base BX were inferior to the Turkish cigs I'd smoked before the war, but were still better than anything I could get, especially now that I was spending so much time in the Soviet zone.

 We got in the car. I rode shotgun and sank into the upholstery, or rather, into the thick material that the Fat Man had lined the front seat with. This was the first comfortable Kraut car I had been in since I came back from the other side. The last one had been a big '38 Mercedes that still had the original bullet holes in the driver’s door

He hit the horn a few times to scatter the museum patrons and we roared out into the street.

"Gotta a make a stop first" he said.

Then he reached under his seat and took out an OD ammo bag. "Hold this for me, will ya?"

The bag was heavy and when it hit my knees I thought I was going to have to stand up.

"You're packing some metal here son. Mind if I take a look?" "Help yourself" he said. Inside was a revolver. A great big Model 1895M Nagant with bullets the size of doorknobs. The Reds used to use them as execution pistols. They were really, really loud (although the guy getting the slug in the back of the head never heard a thing).

"What the hell is this all about?" I thought.   "Maybe the kid doesn't know so much after all." I would have brought the Mauser C96. It has a smaller caliber but the high muzzle velocity gave it penetration aplenty. More than enough to go through the side of a train compartment. Add the bolt-on stock and it was the perfect tool for what needed to go down today. And what was this "make a stop" crap? The kid was driving about 90 up the Wilhelmstrasse directly away from the Bahnhof!

"Uh, where you headed in such a hurry, son?" I asked.

"Oh, that's the other bag in back. Grab that one too, will ya?"

I did and it was as light as the first was heavy. I opened it and inside was an Air Force blue Eisenhower jacket with those new, wing-shaped sergeants' stripes on each sleeve. "What the hell is this?" 

"It's my uni.  Gotta get it to my tailor before he closes. Needs to be taken in at the waist."

Tailor made uniform? Why not? On a sergeant's pay in Germany he could have hired a guy to carry him around on his back all day. "Ok, son" I said. "But make it fast. We've got lots of time, but we oughta case the station a few times first before our rendezvous with the Czecho."

Would this kid have the nerves to do what he needed to do? He came with good bona fides. Did some wet work in Paris a year ago.  Fast, although not exactly painless. He looked just like a young GI, maybe more Ames Brothers than Percy Faith. He took the turns hard and tight, but he just kept a calm smile on his face. Maybe he was all right.

 He took a few more turns and soon we pulled up in front of some nice old apartments that had more or less survived the war. They didn't look all cut up from the housing shortage and there were even some lawns to be seen on the street.

"Your tailor has some nice digs. He must be pretty good."

"Yeah. Pretty good." he replied.

 He took the bag with the pistol and the bag with the uniform and started to get out of the car.

"What are you taking the pistol for?"

"Oh, I brought it for the tailor. Private joke. Come up with me and meet him. You might need a tailor too sometime."

 I got out of the car and we went into the big lobby. It had one of those tiny European elevators that went right up the middle of it, but of course it was broken. So we walked up four winding flights of stairs and knocked on an old large door.

The man who opened it was younger than I expected. Stoop shouldered like an old man, but that could have happened in the war. He let us in to a cluttered old fashioned living room.

After he closed the door, my friend handed him the bag with the uniform.

"I need an inch and a half off the waist" he said.

The German tailor simply nodded and turned around and put the bag on a table.

When he turned back, my friend took out the Nagant and shot him in the face.

 "What the fu..." I started to say as he turned and pointed the gun at my heart.

"Sorry pal" he said. But we've only got a thousand words for this story." Then he pulled the trigger.


unagidon is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

Also by this author
© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.