David J Doesser: A Very Important Message
Spy Novel
Published by Athena Press Ltd London, 2008
Paperback: 536 Pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1847482325
ISBN-13: 978-1847482325
Dimensions: 22.5x15.4x3.8 cm


The fall of the Berlin Wall and the transition to democracy took place over 15 years ago. Although much has been written about the Cold War and there is an extensive body of analytical literature dissecting the events leading up to the fall of the Wall, little has been said about the human element within the respective intelligence services as those events unfolded. Real people on both sides struggled to maintain their own systems and destroy, in one way or another, that of the other side.  Lifetimes were devoted to espionage, analysis, and activities that supported two opposing political views.  As the old order collapsed, it did so not only on a macro level, but on a micro level.  This story is based on real events and what happened to people on both sides who had manned those barricades.

The Story:

Ten years, a full decade after the fall of the Wall in 1989 and the collapse of communism, Andreas Uherson suddenly finds himself at the center of a Kafkaesque interrogation and judicial proceeding in his own intelligence service.  He has dedicated his whole life to his service and its work. A pragmatist and realist, he has made the transition from the old regime to the new and is eager to get on with the work of building alliances with new partners and carrying out operations against new targets.  There are new threats and new challenges, and Uherson is the consummate professional who loves his work. Instead, he is suddenly forced to defend himself against vague allegations and twisted facts, all of which seem designed to discredit him and force him out of his service.  Why?   

Colonel Nicholas Dadry, the head of the external intelligence service, has saved himself, his service and some of his most trusted staff from being purged as the transition of power to the democratic opposition was negotiated. Ambitious and determined to survive in power, he has convinced the new political establishment to keep the service intact and deploy it against new enemies, among them, the KGB, the country’s former ally. He himself has purged his own past by ridding himself of his Soviet wife, the daughter of a former high-ranking KGB general, divorcing her, and ostensibly disavowing his previous life as an ally of the KGB. He has used the transition to eliminate any potential opposition within his own service as well as anyone who could compromise him or his new career.  But the threat to his ambitions comes from an entirely unexpected quarter.  

Among those that Dadry helps to survive the purge of the service is Gideon Zmija, the product of a communist upbringing, but with little formal education. Despite many years in the service, he has not risen far, but he, too, is eager to survive the transition.  Devious and manipulative, he finally comes into his own as the willing henchman and hatchet-man for less decisive and ruthless bosses. The talents that have long remained hidden become apparent as he lays the ground work to rid the ranks of anyone who might threaten him.  In the post-communist Hungarian intelligence service, three protagonists, each with goals and ambitions and two with secrets that could threaten their existence, struggle with each other in the shadowy corridors of the intelligence services.  Enemies become allies, friends become enemies and only one of the three realizes where the truth lies. In the end, love plays a spoiler role that none of them has anticipated. 

About the Author

David J Doesser, former intelligence officer of the Hungarian external secret service was born in 1950. He studied law at the ELTE University in Budapest. He joined the Hungarian intelligence service in 1973. Later on he was assigned to Western Europe. When the old regime collapsed, he was instrumental in transforming the service into a democratic one and establishing successful cooperation with many major western services. He left the service in 2000.  He is married and has two children. He lives in the European Union.


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***Below you will find the outlines and selected chapters of the book***

  1. Andreas Uherson, an experienced Hungarian intelligence officer finds himself in the middle of an interrogation. In spite of having a discussion of his new tasks, the meeting turned into a disciplinary procedure in front of a ‘committee’ made up from his colleagues, among others his former subordinates. The committee wants to hear about his previous clandestine activities and his vital contacts without telling him the actual reason of the proceeding. Uherson looks back into his thirty-year clandestine career to get where he made a fatale mistake…

  1. End of the eighties. In the Agency Headquarters in Longley, the unit chiefs have a meeting to discuss the political situation in Central Europe and its reaction to the new circumstances. The communist system is at the edge of collapse. Andy Bender, a former high-ranking, retired senior officer, coming from behind the Iron Curtain in the fifties and expert of the region came up with surprisingly new idea how to approach the new constellation…
  1. The Agency accepts Bender’s idea, to contact one of the Central-European communist country’s – the Hungarian - intelligence services, which the Agency considers most liberal and Bender used to work against it, his native country’s service by the way. The first meeting takes place in Salzburg Austria. Leon Grante, a Hungarian clandestine officer who spent many years in the States in a cover position represents his service. After some distrustful start, the meeting negotiates its way to a clear success. But there are many questions to be settled in the future, among others the Hungarian agents operating in the States.

  1. Colonel Dadry, head of the Hungarian external intelligence service calls an extraordinary meeting to brief the service’s leadership about the new situation. The old communist regime intends to hand over the power to the opposition whose first step will be to eliminate the services forever. Dadry set up a devilishly simple plan to thwart this intention. He orders to burn all the compromising dossiers and documents. The shredder is working on highest speed…

  1. Tobias Zeller, an under cover agent in Bern Switzerland feels that things at home are going in bad direction. He wants to spend here five years but dark clouds are jeopardizing his plan. He meets with his contact from the American Embassy at a lunch. The diplomat informs Zeller about the changes in Hungary, the first touch between the Agency and Zeller’s service and he made an unexpected offer…
  1. Dadry starts to carry out his plan. His director of operations, Aron Temper organized a secret meeting with the friend of the would-be PM, with Richard Toros who seems to be the new minister responsible for the services. Toros is extremely distrustful but Dadry succeeded in convincing him not to destroy the external service but turn it against the KGB, the former ally that threatens the new democratic system. Toros bought the story but he insists to get rid the old Muscovites and commissars. It meets Dadry’s intention…

  1. Uherson’s interrogation continues. He establishes that he is accused of illegal distribution of fake bonds he received from one of his former contacts…

  1. The relationship between the two services starts expanding. Dadry receives the first official Agency delegation in the service’s Center. At a leisure program, it develops a tighter connection between him and John Monde, the head of the American delegation and Dadry asks John to say some positive words in favor of the service when Toros receives the delegation. Meanwhile Uherson has a conversation with Bender, also member of the group, about his fleeing of being in his native country again. This conversation inspires Bender to undertake an illegal private ‘operation’ during the visit…
  1. Tobias Zeller still in Berne got a new ambassador, a ‘democratic’ one. The ambassador who spent many years in the underground movement during the communist era hates the old-new service, so he hates Zeller as well and he ignores all efforts Zeller made to set his embassy (cover) work at a new track. One day he summons Zeller and tells him among humiliating circumstances that Tobias has to finish his career at the embassy within one week. Zeller gives a call to one of his contacts.

  1. Dadry summons Uherson to make a report about his conversation with Bender who will play a key role in Dadry’s plan…

  1. Gideon Zmija, a former communist party cadre, a spineless, unskillful intelligence officer, one of the few intimates of Dadry is in trouble. The new minister wants him to be sacked. Dadry sets up a plan again, how he could keep his friend…

  1. Egon Casimo is in the pipeline of an assignment. He will be a liaison officer in Washington. When he reads the files, he looks back into his clandestine career giving some explanation about the intelligence work. Dadry asks him to pay special attention to Bender…

  1. Uherson as new head of a unit (and successor of Leon Grante in this position) has new task. He has to integrate a group coming from the counter-intelligence service into his unit and set new directions after the new government reinforced the service. He remembers the old days when he starts work at the service, then was assigned to Berlin to create a fruitful cooperation with the Stasi, the East-German intelligence service. He mentions some war stories…

  1. The Agency invited Dadry to Washington crowning the cooperation just started several months ago. During the negotiations, he meets with his former contact, Bill Brown who was diplomat in Ankara Turkey with Dadry. The conversation between the two takes an entirely unexpected turn. Now Dadry has the biggest dilemma of his life…
  1. Egon Casimo starts work at the embassy in Washington with a new ambassador who wants to break the old-fashioned (communist) diplomatic life and open the doors of the embassy ignoring every financial and security regulations. His behavior generates conflicts in the embassy staff. Casimo is maneuvering cleverly in this mud and establishes a good relationship with the ambassador. He focuses on his liaison work, first of all on Bender as Dadry ordered and he prepares the way of an Agency delegation to his Center. Bender will be a member of it. Before leaving for the country, Casimo arranges a party for the delegation in which takes part a nice Agency woman, Maggie Edwards too…

  1. Bender, while the delegation is approaching the capital, remembers his clandestine job after he fled the country. He tells how he succeeded in surviving the difficulties and the way he thinks, he could help his native country. In the hotel room, he feels tired but there is no way to refuse the dinner with the COS of the Agency. Returning to the hotel, he suffers from a heart attack. He still has time to call his girlfriend, Maggie Edwards but after couple of seconds, he dies. Edwards reveals her relationship with Bender before Casimo’s wife. Egon wants to take part in the funeral but the Agency does not grant his request. Later they allowed him to visit the grave. Casimo is shocked by an unexpected surprise…

  1. Uherson’s interrogation continues. Andreas tries to put the puzzle pieces together when Colonel Derth, head of the ‘committee’ reveals some information they gathered about Uherson by applying several secrets methods like phone tapping, secret search in his office and surveillance. Derth presses him to confess the truth about the false bonds but Andreas denies any wrongdoing. It is a war of nerves…

  1. The Agency decides to send Maggie Edwards on an official tour to Dadry to divert her attention from her boyfriend’s death and reinforce the new cooperation. Dadry orders Uherson to treat Edwards during her visit. Andreas takes care of her while she opens up to Andreas gradually…

  1. Maggie and Andreas have a leisure program. They enjoy each other’s company very much. Andreas sends many little hints of his sympathy toward Maggie and she receives them with joy. It turns out that they were in Berlin on assignments at the same time but on different sides of course…

  1. They visit the cemetery where Bender’s parents were buried. Back to the city Andreas recognizes that they are not indifferent to each other. The woman is thinking the same thing. But can they suppress their lust…?

  1. It is time to leave for Maggie. They change contact details and Andreas promises her to force Dadry to arrange for him an English language course in Washington. It eases the farewell. General Dadry summons Uherson when he arrived from the airport. He makes his report about Maggie but remains silent about some details. Nevertheless, Dadry confronts Andreas with the facts…

  1. An Agency official arranges an UMP-meeting with his contact in Seefeld Austria in order to reestablish the regular meetings. The contact person who remains anonymous comes from Dadry’s Center. He brought a list of special, very sensitive documents and demands half a million dollar for the complete material…

  1. Uherson meets with Gideon Zmija in Zmija’s office. Zmija is jealous of Uherson’s success but Andreas is not aware of it. His counterpart tries to obtain as many information about Andreas as he can. He is a master of deciphering internal coded messages, one for all the wilderness of mirrors of office intrigue and tricks but Uherson is not…

  1. Zmija strives to persuade Dadry to eliminate Uherson’s unit using the information he gathered from the previous meeting with Uherson but the General is concerned with another pushing problems of the service. He needs to eliminate the Cold War product, the illegal section that could compromise the new cooperation…

  1. General Dadry tells Uherson that the Agency is ready to provide language training for the leadership and Andreas is the first candidate. Dadry prepares Uherson for a covered mission in the States…

  1. Uherson is on his way to Washington but before he left he has to hand over the work to his deputy. Samuel was assigned him by Dadry because the General did a favor to the minister. Andreas’ staff is not happy with the constellation. In order to thwart Samuel’s new position they reveal some of his financial and other tricks…

  1. Uherson arrives at the Dulles Airport Washington D.C. He meets Casimo, Edwards and his liaison officer. He starts his temporarily new life in the apartment close to the Arlington Cemetery. He is confronting with the first signs of the American lifestyle…        

  1. During Uherson’s interrogation, Colonel Derth inquires about the money Andreas received for the fake bonds. Uherson realizes that the eavesdropping on him was not perfect. Finally, the Colonel accuses Andreas of working for many foreign intelligence services because….

  1. After settling down, Uherson calls Maggie Edwards from his apartment in the D.C.  They have lunch…

  1. Gideon Zmija urges General Dadry again to dismiss Andreas’ unit after Uherson left for the States. Dadry refuses it. He asks Zmija to take the money the service earns by the cooperation with big western services carrying out operations abroad for them to an Austrian bank instead…

  1. The conversation between Maggie and Andreas continues at the restaurant. Maggie starts to get Andreas familiar with the American life.  Maggie invites him to her condo. The question is for Andreas whether it is a safe-house or it belongs to Maggie indeed…

  1. Uherson set up a nice everyday life in Washington and starts social networking. He has good and bad experience with the American life but he is generally satisfied. The relationship with Maggie is developing positively. Casimo meets with him and hands over a letter coming from the Center. There is bad news about his unit in it...

  1. Uherson spends nights in Maggie’s apartment. Everything is calm around him. He meets Agency guys as well. He picks up some information, which he shares with Maggie. While Maggie is gone to the Church Andreas explores the basement and finds two cardboards among Bender’s stuff. He opened them. He found something very interesting thing…

  1. The end of the language training is approaching. Maggie and Andreas are getting worried how they could continue their contact in the future. Andreas set up a plan…

  1. Casimo gives a farewell cocktail party in Andreas’ honor. It was a full success for Andreas but Casimo’s wife senses that the relationship between Maggie and Andreas should be more than…

  1. The day of the farewell arrives. Maggie and Andreas spent the night in Andreas’ apartment. He is ready to leave Washington. Both are very, very sad and depressed…  Casimo and his wife who take Andreas to the airport arrive earlier than planned. Maggie can escape the house but has no time to say ‘Good bye’ to Andreas… 

  1. On arriving at home, Uherson reports the result of his secret mission to Dadry. The General is extremely pleased with Uherson’s performance. Over his relationship with Maggie Andreas gathered some very sensitive information about a spy case within the Agency…

  1. Zmija happens to meet Andreas in the director of operations’ antechamber. Temper, the DO is the second candidate for the language training. Dadry appoints Zmija DO in charge. Andreas senses that Zmija is going to misuse his authority…

  1. The spy in the Agency was caught and the organization looks like a beehive. Everybody who contacted him is suspicious even Bender and Maggie as well. Maggie has to undergo a polygraph test… and Andreas is in trouble too…

  1. Uherson has to suffer a ‘disciplinary procedure’ the minister ordered. Does Uherson pass the proceedings…?

  1. After the scandal Dadry offers Uherson a liaison position in Prague Czech Republic...

  1. General Dadry visits the local KGB resident in his vault. Dadry involved in a political scandal and has to leave the service. He was appointed ambassador. But it is not only a farewell visit…

  1. Bruno Hemmler, Andreas’ successor and his wife Klotilda, the chief of the background investigation unit want to get Andreas’ liaison position before his mission ends up. Klotilda who has the same character as Zmija does, meets Casimo, Dadry’s successor every day. She intends to convince Casimo to revise the Edwards-Uherson case for security reasons hoping that she will find something that compromises Andreas and Casimo calls back Andreas to the Center…

  1. Casimo visits Prague and meets with Uherson, the liaison officer. On the conversation, Uherson realizes that someone slanders him and his family in the Center. Casimo comes up with distorted versions of many of Andreas’ former cases. Andreas decides to counterpunch…

  1. Bruno Hemmler tries to persuade Uherson to return to the Center because Casimo was sacked shortly after Dadry because of the government change. The old guys need Andreas’ help against the very young new director general and Zmija who was appointed his deputy…

  1. The new head and his deputy, Zmija start to clean house. The old officers’ career, so Uherson’s as well is in danger. Zmija feels his time to arrive. Are Uherson’s days numbered…?

  1. Daniel Holub, the new DO and Uherson’s friend tells Andreas that he, Andreas will not be appointed second DO when Uherson finishes his mission abroad. Zmija thwarted it with the assistance of…

  1. Uherson returns from his assignment. He finds a chilly working climate. Zmija tells him that he was not able to keep the DO position for Andreas but he found another one… Uherson has to undergo a polygraph test again. Even though he passes it, Zmija misuses its result.

Maggie Edwards is forced to leave the Agency and starts new life in Germany She looks for business contacts with Andreas’ help in Hungary. They meet in Budapest… Holub lets Andreas know that he is investigated. Andreas calls Maggie when he is abroad on a duty travel to find the two cardboards he opened in Washington. They content vital evidence for Andreas…

  1.  The investigation against Uherson is in the final phase. Zmija claims the evidence he gathered is enough to break Uherson’s career...

  1. Colonel Derth shows Andreas the rest of evidence and he forced Uherson to sign the retirement papers…

  1. Andreas escapes the surveillance and meets with Maggie who brought the content of the cardboard... The puzzle is solved. Andreas calls Leon Grante on his way home. He cannot reach him but leaves a message for him, a very important message…       

 Selected chapters: 


David J. Doesser

A Very Important Message

 (Encoded cable derived from an OTP)

 65432 21007 47309 45118 29484 74512 18658 71560 58585 52960

26594 11191 10473 54115 42746 91955 31880 09962 21289 70580

33794 44207 13610 83671 11889 44489 66991 93254 11380 06342

37921 51402 78301 56237 44718 18238 22462 47491 98651 23357

10440 28044 86493 09149 78241 73721 98667 74012 56078 66745

23529 10152 46992 21918 69998 96908 40304 65223 72391 66401

09543 29419 12015 96668 61994 39093 23205 60290 07154 15268

45274 33750 53519 45609 85942 00077 18413 72596 54055 56667

99642 82294 63933 15528 95464 35905 98508 00603 97008 94964

78870 38496 73760 49273 22409 46389 93282 25435 32275 26652

60199 28348 99279 89266 11524 65371 48244 42034 81100 76076

52869 66655 88028 67062 62195 33643 07024 03061 53438 77943

13223 25251 80780 47861 97534 97429 73641 85368 51874 82141

26861 83383 85112 93883 43315 77398 13321 63378 33654 48771

85870 38907 74955 09152 21322 71152 91218 26530 32336 52575

16482 34046 38473 56737 33470 30227 97930 62328 47028 14726

95732 15328 13969 23362 28637 95485 99704 74737 40039 66335

25229 16032 46895 00523 56538 29622 31637 61132 87916 11017

54830 39443 22355 40366 25581 43331 63689 29582 55323 53956

21662 30953 52662 75166 77072 63618 49503 71313 62498 38395

48550 92039 31517 63278 41696 36664 96608 11093 71894 71555

56569 93666 07942 74997 50438 03454 22618 01310 84898 59945

00429 34294 82163 30763 07377 20399 81431 03813 15486 62273

05323 13914 35497 67774 20758 77033 15743 05702 34451 79786

56787 58576 56008 77736 24265 53001 01796 84478 45160 82997

97205 40046 61443 31850 31280 85900 43609 72384 22256 19566

64755 40060 71571 05033 97581 12230 46429 55104 50364 54549

33444 26675 84486 80890 12351 70628 83045 92840 92948 94603

10093 20925 38393 19290 00206 48219 75011 98195 37939 03538

45871 86982 84796 79803 19862 66628 76291 96066 26221 60281

34782 40734 35607 07404 40735 00988 47090 62941 41659 13026

30730 61321 71840 59265 88500 78343 05931 77845 98583 75964

65377 97622 72638 27695 18261 71643 08902 31282 17138 13565

86828 35042 48146 43550 84189 72145 08153 37060 69701 60327

52893 67552 09525 23503 03254 28578 06717 32582 26672 99317

36993 19038 06583 77296 08052 99712 92346 69477 72344 51736

61065 93945 52852 51417 82003 50550 34572 57920 92140 46577



Gr. 371       


 This is a work of fiction.

’Guns don’t kill spies, love does.’

 To H.T., who inspired me to write this book…



“The game is up Andreas; you’re through.” Andreas’ heart was pounding. As he entered the office, it was a feeling of déjà vu. There were three people sitting at the wide, long polished conference table. Their heads and upper bodies were reflected grotesquely in the smooth, shiny surface of the conference table, duplicating them in some sense as they sat around the table. It was early on a cloudy September morning; the fine mist had just evaporated, but the sun bombarded the blanket of clouds to no avail. The grayness outside crept into the room and settled over the office like fine Saharan dust.

Andreas wracked his brain.  ‘What could I have done?’ Nothing came to  mind though. ‘Just calm down; stay calm,’ he repeated to himself over and over again. ‘The important thing is to stay calm.  I haven‘t done anything and sooner or later the truth will out,’ he thought. He had already confronted them all only a few days ago when they had told him that they would recall him to the CENTER from his external position. Yes, the CENTER, always in capital letters. The CENTER was always right, even when it wasn’t. The CENTER that presided over life and death. The ‘brain’ that knew no clemency. There was no forgiveness and no pardon. The only thing that mattered was the methodical execution of the task, that narrow path on which no one could maneuver.

Andreas noticed then that Gideon Zmija was missing. Zmija was the deputy head of the service. He had announced the ‘happy news’ about Andreas’ new position in the CENTER to the group that now faced him, but today Zmija was not there. Andreas’ brain was racing. ‘Of course he is missing; he always has someone else do the dirty work. He doesn’t dare look you in the eye,’ he thought. ‘What a coward. Sad. We joined the service together; we worked together for decades in operations, only  interrupted by two foreign assignments. We knew each other’s every thought and helped each other whenever we could. Gideon has changed dramatically since he was nominated to the second highest position in the service and became a colonel. He had started at the very bottom of the ladder, in the service’s copy section, where he worked as a junior clerk – more like a copy slave,‘ he mused. ‘But today he is not present, although he can still hear me. They think I don’t know that they’re secretly recording every single word I say without my consent. God! How many times I have done that myself, recorded conversations during my field operations and meetings with agents, and now I’m being subjected to the same thing. One more reason why you have to keep calm,’ the voice crackled in his head.

“The game is over, Major Uherson.”  Colonel Derth spat the cold sentence into Andreas’ face.  Instead of taking seats in the corner where their conversations usually took place, and that indicated a comfortable, collegial discussion, Derth had seated himself at the conference table, flanked by two of the three other officers, such that Andreas was forced to sit opposite him, facing the light, as he tried to see the Colonel’s face.   The seating at the conference table alone signaled that the meeting was not destined to be a collegial chat. Derth was a chain smoker and lit one cigarette after the other. His fingers and nails were shiny and yellow from the nicotine of his preferred brand, the French Gitanes. Derth’s voice had become raw over the decades; the wrinkled skin on his face looked as coarse and dull as parchment paper. Cigarette smoke permeated his office furniture; it gave the otherwise grayish office a bluish, semi-dark tone, like a cheap, dingy cafe.  Although Derth tried to appear formal – which was to be expected, given that they were recording the conversation – his voice was cracked and uncertain, betraying his nervousness.

 Andreas knew Derth very well. He had joined the service many years before Andreas, but they had gotten to know each other better when they were assigned to the NATO department. Although their work was quite different, they had tried to cooperate actively with each other in order to ensure success for their service.  Later on – after two foreign postings to Bonn and Vienna, and nearing retirement age – they nominated him to be head of the administration division. In this position, he was responsible for the execution of disciplinary measures and conveyed the decisions and verdicts to the personnel. Behind his back he was known as ‘Derth the Smiling Hangman’ because he even delivered the news of sackings and punishments with a smile.

Yesterday, they had parted with the understanding that Andreas would come to his office the next day at nine o’clock. Derth said not to worry, it was just to discuss the new tasks that Andreas’ new position would entail.  He had been appointed to Derth’s division and would serve under Derth.

 Andreas stepped into Derth’s outer office two minutes before nine. He asked the chubby, young, blonde, secretary the boss’s whereabouts.  The secretary, he noted, was dressed in a too-tight cotton blouse with a short, tight skirt that showed every bulge.  

 “The Head of Division is in and asks that you take a seat until he calls you,” the secretary said in an unusually icy and officious tone, without looking up at Andreas from her tower of documents. Andreas tried to lighten the atmosphere by asking jokingly about the boss’s mood. “The usual,” said the secretary, continuing to look down at her folders.

‘Strange,’ Andreas thought. ‘She doesn’t even look at me. Although he knew her only fleetingly, she had been friendly if not warm, in the past. She always let everyone know that she was the division chief’s secretary. Nevertheless, she did smile at funny comments or remarks, at least now and then. But today she was reserved and somber,’ Andreas brooded. ‘Maybe it’s a bad hair day,’ he thought to himself. ‘She must have returned from her summer holidays quite recently and they probably didn’t pan out the way she had hoped. In the future, we have to work together since we’ll be in the same division and so much depends on the secretaries, the way they present things, matters and requests to their bosses. We’re going to get used to each other,’ he concluded. ‘Interesting – secretaries come to resemble their bosses. They take on their habits, tones and gestures. Even their clothing reflects that of their bosses.  If the boss doesn’t care much about his appearance then the secretary will look quite dowdy as well. On the other hand, if the boss is quite debonair, the secretary will usually look glamorous. They had one thing in common though; every secretary guarded her boss’s door like a sphinx and the majority of cases were decided then and there—by the secretary.’ Andreas mind turned to the changes in the secretaries’ clothing since the communist era. Back in those days, wearing jeans would have been inconceivable. The uniform was a Chanel-like black suit with white blouse and flat, black or brown shoes. Anything else was a no-no. His thoughts were interrupted by the secretary’s cold voice.

 “The Head of Division requests that you go in,” she said. Andreas put his hand on the large, shiny, brass door handle and pressed down. 

“Major Uherson, start enumerating your contacts,” Derth snapped in his husky voice. Usually, he would have addressed him as Andreas.  It was common throughout the service to call each other by the Christian name. People addressed each other by their first names regardless of their rank, division or age, thereby giving the appearance of collegiality and equality. The custom had its roots in the 50’s, and since then it had become an entrenched tradition. Nothing could eradicate it, not even the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 The other two people in the room looked down at their documents lying on the table before them, uneasy and clearly embarrassed. Maurice Vincent, the person sitting on Andreas’s right, had once been his subordinate. He had been transferred from counter-intelligence to Andreas’s operations section and learned the intelligence job under his supervision. Andreas liked this energetic man who knew no boundaries. For him, everything was possible. They were roughly the same age. Maurice spoke fluent German. In fact, he was bilingual. He had grown up in Berlin, where his parents were posted, and absorbed the language like a sponge. Andreas had even attended Maurice’s language exam at the service to see for himself how well this man spoke the foreign language. He helped Maurice whenever he could, sometimes even risking his own position. He even persuaded the heads to nominate Maurice for a foreign assignment, selecting him ahead of many other eligible candidates. When the post was closed after the Wall fell, Andreas made sure that Maurice would be transferred to another one right after, which meant more years abroad and more money in Maurice’s pockets. Maurice could be very obstinate at times. He had the “my way or the highway” kind of attitude and was embroiled in many conflicts with other members of staff, principally the cable man, with whom he had repeated encounters. At the CENTER, Andreas always took Maurice’s side even when he knew that he wasn’t right.

“Exactly which contacts are you thinking of?” Andreas replied also using his official tone. After all, he had been in service for over 30 years, a decade of that time abroad. He had had many hundreds, even thousands, of foreign contacts. Some were fleeting, others had been more personal. To start enumerating these contacts now seemed absurd. He rewound his memory tape feverishly and fast-forwarded over the years. He tried to make sense of the whole situation, tried to remember the small, unavoidable transgressions and bending of the rules in his career. How many times had he deviated from the set procedures, sometimes from the strict security rules?  He couldn’t remember. The result was what was important. For him, the end had justified the means. There was too much money and time involved in any operation.  Failure was therefore out of the question. The CENTER could not tolerate a lack of success. If something went pear-shaped, the bosses’ stock verdict was: ‘Bad preparation produces bad results’. As a result, he invariably took on the additional risks certain operations produced.

He vividly remembered a specific operation as if it had happened yesterday. He had been ordered to meet an agent, who worked against a very sensitive target, in a third country to debrief him.  He had been waiting on the agreed date and at the agreed time in the foreign capital, but the agent hadn’t turned up. The next day, at the alternate time and place, the meeting point was deserted. Andreas relived the anxiety he had felt back then. The boss had been reluctant to permit the operation at all, so he could not afford to fail and return home empty-handed. Andreas would be severely reprimanded. He wasn’t the only one participating in this operation; there were many other people involved and hence a lot of the money would have been wasted on travel, accommodation and the other usual expenses for such an operation. Returning without information and just opening his arms and saying, “Sorry boss, you were right…” No way. As head of the operation, he had had a meeting with his team. They decided to pay the agent a visit in his own country, at his home, in total violation of all operational rules. They weighed the pros and cons. The security risk was very high, but the source was proven and reliable. Andreas decided to go ahead.

He divided the group into two teams, and the next day the group cancelled the hotel rooms where the original meeting was to have taken place and took off. They entered the country in the small hours via different checkpoints and joined up again near the capital. They arrived well before eight thirty, the time the agent should usually leave the house – the investigation report said. The groups took positions close to the agent’s house and waited. It was a fine, crisp summer morning, he recalled. He had no love of this city; it lacked any resemblance to what he considered a European quality of life; the streets were dirty, full of dingy restaurants, and a population that looked downtrodden and hopeless, in short, no atmosphere.

 Andreas was waiting in the tram station. He had watched what seemed to be an endless series of streetcars go by when – what a relief! – the agent suddenly appeared around the corner. When he caught Andreas’s eye, he turned pale. But Andreas gave him the pilot’s O.K. sign with his right thumb and left the stop. The agent followed him from a distance, while the group checked their route for surveillance. Finally, Andreas got the thumbs up from the group, the all-clear signal, and turned back waiting for the agent to come up to him.

 They returned with sensitive information from this operation but in their paper work, they made no reference to the ‘small deviation’ in planning. ‘The risk was worth it,’ Andreas thought; after all, nobody wants to know from the winner how he won. To call him to account for those wrongdoings seemed to be stupid at this late date.

 Suddenly he was jolted back into the present. What on earth, could they want from him?  His mind was racing frantically. He couldn’t think of anything, any specific contact. In any event, he had already been punished for his past ‘bigger’ mistakes. The fact that he was not nominated for higher rank or a salary raise, didn’t bother him at all. He loved his job; that was what mattered to him most, and he knew his job inside out, all the tricks of the trade. He hated the office, hated the paperwork and files. He loved to be out there in the field. To plan, prepare and implement the operations was his strength. The cooling down period, the chilling out inevitably followed the close of a successful operation because the adrenaline rush at the height of the operation was almost unbearable. As the operation is in process, there is no such thing as a calm intelligence officer; he might seem calm, but inside his whole body was working at full tilt. His heart raced, his blood pressure rose and his palms and sometimes his forehead beaded up with sweat as if he were in a sauna. He was fully occupied observing the surroundings, the people, everything around him. It was as though he was suddenly equipped with thousands of super-sensitive antennae feeding him a steady stream of vibrations that could signal danger and potential disaster.  He had to be vigilant to reach that stage, very vigilant indeed. In this heightened state of alert, everything seemed suspicious. The old woman on the second floor, who was looking out of the window, her arms resting on the window ledge, looking at you because you are the only person in the street; or the post-man, who was making his usual daily rounds and who looked at you fleetingly because he knows all the people in the neighborhood, everyone except you.  Or the young mother who was taking a stroll with her small child. Her gaze met yours and she gave you a smile. Wasn’t that smile a bit cynical?! As if she knew something, you didn’t? And her motion, it looked so strange or did it? You had done a surveillance detection route (SDR) for more than three hours, but you saw nothing suspicious. Now, everybody looked suspicious here. The old woman, the young mother with the baby, the postman…Counter-intelligence was capable of anything, every trick. Was your agent a traitor? You began to question everything. It is a series of nightmares. Be calm! Don’t panic! Keep moving! Then, you start to compose yourself; you clear your mind and start to focus. Calm descends on you once again and you tell yourself that these things are only in your head, that nobody is observing you, you were just imagining things. Just put one foot after the other and focus on the result. Later on in your career, it will become routine, but the rush of adrenaline will always be there.

 “Are you thinking of Jan, the Czech lawyer,” asked Andreas with a slight uncertainty in his voice? Jan and he had become good friends during his assignment in Prague. Andreas didn’t think it was necessary to report every single meeting with Jan to the CENTER. Jan always had good ideas, had always provided Andreas with useful information. ‘Has something perhaps happened to Jan and now they have information that I should have reported?’ The question suddenly popped into Andreas’ mind. He admitted to himself that this was unlikely. Derth didn’t reply. He only shook his head.

“In that case, I haven’t got the foggiest who could be that important to you,” replied Andreas, opening his arms in a gesture of surrender. He raised his voice slightly even as he felt his stomach churn a bit and a lump form in his throat. He sensed something ominous, some bad news about to descend on him. He switched into the defense mode.

“Let’s get one thing straight here.  I see you are getting ready to accuse me of something with your judicial, inquisitive manner.” His voice was now even; his mouth had become dry and his heart pounded faster. Maurice stared at the file folders with his body bent slightly forward; he couldn’t bring himself to look at Andreas. Andreas looked at the third person present in the room. A blank stare looked back at him.

He wasn’t unknown to him either: Gøreny, the new Director of Operations. He had taken up his new post a couple of months ago after returning from a long foreign assignment. Although the station had been among the most important ones, he had not carried out any intelligence activity there. Gøreny spoke the language fluently (he had studied there before joining the service). ‘What a prick.’ – Andreas thought – ‘Never really liked him; he was full of himself and thought he was indispensable. Always walks with a swagger and has a supercilious manner.’

The Head of Station hadn’t liked him either; in fact he despised him. Because of his language knowledge, Gøreny could cut corners by gathering information from local newspapers and the media, after which it was child’s play to write up his reports. He also had the skills to extract the information he knew would be needed as he had worked for many years in the intelligence division back home and, therefore, knew how to compile ‘intelligence’ and write up a first class report that was what the CENTER, but foremost, what the government, wanted to hear. As a result, the head of station described Gøreny’s activities in his performance report as insufficient, not knowing that he was shooting himself in the foot.  Now Gøreny was sitting in front of Andreas, responsible for overseeing field operations, for hiring operations officers and guiding their extensive training--and for barking orders at them. Andreas always thought that some people should remain in their old positions and not be nominated for certain jobs. Gøreny was one of them. He was terrific at his old info-fabrication job, Andreas was sure about that, but when he started his new job he just didn’t know two fucks about being a Director of Operations, he mused. Andreas’s and Gøreny’s gaze remained locked for a long time.

“Well, in that case, let me refresh your memory, Andreas. I’m not thinking about Jan. I’m thinking more of someone named Vaclav,” Derth said, calling Andreas by his first name. It was as if someone had shoved pins into his ears. The name resounded sharply in his mind. Vaclav! He suddenly felt very weak.  Of course he knew him, he knew him very well indeed.


It was Monday morning, a few minutes before ten o’clock. The staff was still in weekend mode and was reluctant to dive back into the workaday world of the office again. The division and directorate chiefs slowly gathered on the seventh floor at the Agency’s Langley Headquarters. Coffee with real cups had been strategically placed next to the entrance of the conference room and everyone poured himself a cup as they stood around and chatted. The usual morning departmental meetings were behind them by the time they entered the conference room. They had also read the priority cables that had arrived from the Agency’s foreign posts over the weekend. Despite the easy morning chatter among the attendees, there was a palpable tension in the air. The DCI directive, summoning them to the Monday morning meeting, had landed on their desks last week. The DCI rarely called such an all-hands meeting, so the chiefs knew that there was something of very high importance to be discuss and the rumor mill had worked overtime speculating on the content.  

At exactly ten o’clock, the Director of Central Intelligence and his deputy entered the conference room.  The conversation immediately ceased and there was a rustling as the chiefs seated themselves at the long, polished conference table. 

“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,” he greeted them in a cultured and subdued tone.  The Director commanded instant attention wherever he went, due to his rank, but staff did not necessarily think he looked like what he was, the head of the most powerful secret service of the world. The lights of the room danced on his bald head and his oversized glasses emphasized the frail character of his face. A small man, he did not project the booming power of a Casey nor the suave, man-of-the-world ease of a Webster. He nevertheless looked fresh and content. Today, in particular, he looked focused and composed, dressed in his DCI uniform of expensive, gray, wool trousers, and a blue-striped shirt accented by a simple, but clearly expensive silk tie.  He might not have looked the part of a DCI to his staff, but he certainly dressed it.   

 “Gentlemen, as I stressed in my letter last week, we are here to discuss an important topic, one that will affect the future activities of the Agency for years to come.  There are a number of very important decisions that we must agree on very quickly. They will affect all of you and will bring about drastic changes in your work. I want you to know that the President has given his personal go-ahead and support to the implementation and execution of what we agree on today.” He tilted his head towards his deputy. “I will now ask Ben to outline the meeting objectives to you.”

 “Gentlemen,” Ben began, “Eastern Europe is again in ferment; the attempted reforms have ended in disaster and the attempts at cosmetic surgery cover-ups have failed completely. The hardline leaders have wasted their power and are now too weak to exercise what is left. Dissatisfaction is on the rise and the democratic opposition is gaining power steadily. The Soviet Union is creaking and cracking in its joints and is losing its control over its satellite states. The hardliners are unwilling to adopt the new ideas and thinking patterns of the Secretary General. In Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary there is real ferment, but there are also hints of dissent and unrest in Romania as well. Although Honecker’s regime is still in power in East Germany, there is evidence that the cart is rapidly rolling downhill and there is no going back.” He paused for a brief moment and engaged each chief individually, it seemed, with his eyes, pausing to allow his comments to sink in.  

 “Such events are not new.  We have seen them before. We are receiving dozens of reports from around the region reporting rumblings and changes that reflect a turn in events. Like so many times in the history of our Agency, we have again come to a crossroads. Our dilemma is once again how to read the tea leaves and what, if anything, we can do to accelerate the process and exploit the situation for our own purposes.”

 The Director again took the floor.  “Thanks, Ben.  I now want to open the floor and to hear your opinions on what Ben has just said.” Sounds of movement filled the air as the chiefs shifted slightly in their chairs and murmured comments to their colleagues to the right and left. They tried to read each other’s expressions, to establish eye contact. The silence hung in the air as the chiefs contemplated what each of them could bring to the table.  The struggle of the titans was about to begin.

 After a few minutes of deliberation, James, the DDO, raised his pen, cleared his throat briefly indicating his intention to speak. He took a sip of his coffee and began to speak in a deep, rumbling baritone.

 “As you are already aware, SE division has been following the current situation in Eastern Europe closely. We have given our agents operating in the region updated requirements directly related to this, and instructed them to report any signs of unrest, dissidence or unusual activity to us. We’ve gone back to defectors, even those who have been out for several years, to help us analyze what we are seeing. Our officers in the field are on high alert, fully engaged in monitoring every shift in attitude and activity, from government changes to movements of military units and dissident publications.  As a result, we are being inundated with information from them about a full range of events taking place in the region. New, even tighter security measures have been implemented for meetings with our agents.  We have requested that NSA focus on a number of key elements in the intercepts. Who knows whether or not they will really do it… One of our major concerns is to follow the activities of the local surveillance services.” James took another sip from his cup of coffee and looked down at his notebook continuing to talk.

 “The fermentation process has also reached the government machinery.  We have begun to see a split in particular in East Germany between the party, that is reluctant to pursue the dissidents, and the Stasi, that is taking an ever harder line in an attempt to control opposition to the government.  By contrast in Hungary, information gathering seems to be easier with the opposition from the local intelligence services becoming weaker and less consistent. Our agents are more easily able to maintain their relationships with the members of the ‘opposition’ and report what can be described as indifference on the part of the domestic intelligence services. We are getting surveillance, but the aggressiveness is no longer there.” James looked around the table with satisfaction. His gaze rested on the corner where Bob, his deputy, sat. Bob nodded slowly, indicating his agreement with the comments.  

James stared back at his notes.

“Chaos and confusion are also evident among the Eastern European diplomats and intelligence officers abroad. The atmosphere at their foreign posts is tense to say the least and effective intelligence gathering has virtually ceased at many foreign stations. The centers only tend to receive general information from the posts and the staff is reluctant to say anything that might indicate support for a particular political view. The ambassadors, in contrast to the past, phone their centers or party headquarters more often to attempt to obtain reliable information and keep abreast of the rapidly changing situation. According to our sources, there is also a certain amount of chaos at communist party headquarters. The hardliners are pushing for military intervention to safeguard their position, but they are in the minority.” 

 James turned the page in his notebook and continued, “The majority of the so-called reformers acknowledge that the exercise of power in its current form has failed. The time is ripe, in their view, for a peaceful transition to a democratic regime. In some of the Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary, some of the leading reformers have already been in touch secretly with the less radical dissidents. I must point out, of course, that the dissidents are disagreeing among themselves about how the power should be exercised and distributed in the future.” He raised his voice a bit, emphasizing his next remark. “One thing is clear, though, the current regime must be abolished and a new western democratic one created, through elections. This is the only way forward.

 James glanced briefly at his watch, before continuing. „In this situation, the Agency’s role, in our view, is far beyond the task of simply following the developments.   We must also, and more importantly, exploit the opportunities that lie in this current mayhem. We are proposing the following:

 1. We propose to accelerate the recruitment of agents, whom we have already identified and are now vetting.  The majority are virtually certain to be key officials in the new democratic regimes.  

 2. Take full advantage of the current uncertainty by making offers to the people in prominent government positions with whom we already have a relationship based on our cover positions.     

 3.  We propose to treat the foreign diplomats and the military and political intelligence officers whom we have already identified as such, as a separate category. We will make them offers designed to secure their future livelihood to persuade as many of them as possible to work with us in the future.

 4. We know that as soon as the democratic political direction is clear, the secret services will begin—they may have already started--the destruction of thousands of secret documents that would be invaluable to us. Our objective—and we have already begun alerting our agents to this issue—is to take steps to obtain as many original documents as possible, and secure them for transport to the US.

 5. Last but not least, we are working closely with the FBI on a plan to locate the Eastern European spy networks operating within the US.

 If you have any comments or any holes to shoot in this list, let’s hear        them.” As he took his seat, he realized that his speech had taken far longer than he had anticipated it would.  The DCI took the floor again.

 “Thanks, James.  As you have all now heard, we have entered a new phase. I want to avoid the pitfalls as much as possible and not repeat history, while at the same time maintaining the offensive abroad. At the same time, I want to avoid the slightest appearance that the US is actively interfering with current affairs. I would like to turn this into a brainstorming session, and as such, I ask you to bring all the ideas that you have to the table for discussion.” 

Nearly two hours had elapsed, interrupted only by a short coffee break. The chiefs discussed the operational steps their divisions were taking, their plans and other, in their view, relevant proposals. John Monde, head of the Counter-intelligence Center, looked quizzically at Andy Bender, sitting quietly and unobtrusively at the other end of the table. Andy had been retired for a while now, after almost forty years in operations. He spoke two of the local languages fluently, due to the fact that his parents were originally from the region. He was a fragile-looking person and couldn’t have weighed more than 138 pounds. His gaunt face had a yellowish tinge, due to his chain smoking.  The Agency had reactivated him because they needed his regional expertise.  Calm and thoughtful, Bender was always the strategic thinker, acting as the brake, the voice of reason when the discussions went too far off the track.  Possessed of an old-world charm and style, a polished gentleman to the core, he was accepted and trusted by subordinates and the hierarchy, alike.

  Andy noticed that John was looking at him and indicated to him, with a slight nod, that he intended to join the discussi“Gentlemen,” Andy began, taking a deep breath, his slight accent emphasizing a bit of a quiver in his voice. He detested speaking in public and avoided it whenever possible. Even after all his years in the US, and having perfected his command of grammar and writing and living more comfortably in English than his native language,  he had not managed to eliminate a tinge of accent. But more than the accent, he disliked large groups of people and being on display.  He preferred the role of ‘king maker’ to that of being king.  “The current Eastern European state of affairs is fundamentally different from all that we have known up to now.  The previous internal conflicts always suggested the possibility of an armed uprising, but these were brutally thwarted by the communist regimes, with the help of the Soviets, as we all know. The current circumstances are very different. The current communist leaders want to avoid such a bloody conflict at all costs. Moreover, the leaders of the police and military are also unwilling to turn the barrel of their guns against their own people. This is not 1956 or 1968.

I do support Jim’s proposals, but in addition, I would like to suggest we use an even bolder and more radical tactic. I propose that we select a carefully chosen counterpart, a resident of senior rank and influence, from among the intelligence services that we know are experiencing especially severe turmoil and uncertainty.  An Agency team of equal or higher rank will approach them with an offer of official cooperation.”  

There was a small rumbling throughout the conference room. The DCI tapped his note pad thoughtfully with the tip of his pencil. He was totally focused on Andy’s words. Andy continued.

“The worst that can happen is that we will be refused, so we’ve got nothing to lose. On the other hand, if, and I am certain that this will be the case, our proposal is accepted, the relationship with an opposition service could open the door to a vast new area of cooperation. The Agency would be in a position not only to observe the transformation process, but more importantly, to influence its outcome to the benefit of the US.”


       John Monde laid back in his chair smiling to himself.



On that early March day of 1990, Leon Grante glanced at his Seiko watch. The Japanese automatic chronograph indicated 9.40. He had bought his devoted travelling companion in the early seventies on an assignment in the Far East. He had arrived wearing his reliable, vintage Russian ‘Poljot’ watch, bought with money from his first salary payment when he started working after graduation, but by the time he reached his hotel, the old one had given up the ghost. The almost 100 percent humidity of the climate had killed it. Its mechanism still worked, but the second hand moved a tiny, shiny water bubble on the inner surface of the glass as it swept around, gradually slowing until it finally stopped completely. Leon decided on the spur of the moment to buy the Seiko automatic.  It had never failed him.

Leon left the hotel room in Salzburg and walked quietly toward the elevator. As he passed, he glanced quickly into the Venetian mirror hanging on the wall beside the lift and noted with satisfaction that his clothing fit him perfectly. He had put on his dark grey, almost black, single-breasted suit, a plain white shirt and a wine red necktie. He had combed his hair, turning a silver-gray, carefully. He had a clean-shaven face and a well-trimmed mustache. The thick carpet absorbed the creaking of his shiny black shoes. He entered the elevator and hit the ‘E’ button for the ground floor.

He liked this family-owned hotel. He had spent many nights in it in the past ten years. Salzburg was an ideal place for secret meetings with his agents operating in Germany. There were still visa requirements for West Germany and the Germans were much stricter than the Austrians. Therefore, in the years of the Cold War and in the following period of ‘détente’ Austria became the meeting point for spies and special agents.

The intelligence officers coming from the East almost never reserved a hotel room when they came to carry out an operation. They selected it on the spot. They hated credit cards and preferred cash. They also disliked having to check in, with the requirement to produce a passport. Leon liked this hotel because there was no need to check-in. There was no need for concern about such formalities this time; he was not preparing for a secret meeting with his agent. He was happy not to have to do an SDR for hours, although the area around Salzburg was ideal for it. The many sightseeing possibilities in summer and the winter ski paradise attracted people and offered endless possibilities for establishing a legend for the SDR. But today he did not need to pour over a map and concoct a route to be able to identify his ‘shadows.’

He left the elevator on the ground floor at precisely 9:43. He addressed the concierge with a loud ‘Guten Morgen’ stressing the „r”. (He had picked up few German words during the years, what he needed in hotels or restaurants, but the harsh, abrupt language had never attracted him). His colleague, who was from the domestic counter-intelligence service and in the West for the first time in his life, was already waiting for him. Leon noticed that the guy was pacing up and down nervously. The two shook hands.

„Did you sleep well?” Leon asked.

„Well, it was not my idea of heavenly sleep, you know.” The man scratched his forehead. “I woke up many times during the night and thought about how we are going to recognize these people we are going to meet today. We have no signal, no newspaper in the right hand like in the movies.” He wrinkled his forehead with obvious concern.

„We don’t need any. Spooks can recognize each other from a mile away. Only agents require signals. Don’t worry, we won’t miss them. But let’s see how we stand with the time? We timed the route from here to the meeting point yesterday evening. It took twelve minutes if we strolled. It’s now 9:47, time to start.”

An unpleasant, chilly wind, chasing heavy dark clouds from the Salzach River buffeted the two men as they left the hotel.  Although it was already March, there was no hint of spring. As they walked toward the pedestrian bridge and across the river, Leon considered the possible alternatives again. The new head of the intelligence service had given him no concrete instructions about how to negotiate.  His comments were to „Listen to the Yankees but don’t obligate yourself for anything. Let’s evaluate the situation later,” the new boss had said uncertainly. „Whatever happens, report it only to me.”

Less than one month had gone by since the CIA station chief in Vienna had walked over to the resident of the service and forwarded his headquarters’ request for a semi-official meeting between the two services on neutral territory. The resident was more than surprised, he was speechless and barely managed to respond to the COS; but he didn’t outright refuse the request – even though he also didn’t rule out the possibility of a provocation. Within two weeks, he had the reply from the CENTER, a clear ‘yes’.  The events sped up and took on their own momentum. Finding the right place and time had been a piece of cake.

The CENTER weighed the pros and cons and then chose Leon as their representative. He headed the counter-intelligence section of the service, and therefore, had all the necessary experience, particularly when it came to foreign intelligence. Also, he spoke fluent English and had served abroad many times, last but not least in the States with Foreign Office cover. It wouldn’t be his first encounter with American intelligence.

Many pictures flashed through Leon’s mind; the number of times he had attended diplomatic receptions; the hundreds of conversations with foreign diplomats, and the number of times he had succeeded in identifying an intelligence officer masquerading as a diplomat. God knows whether it was his intuition that told him or what, but he recognized the ‘colleagues’ instantly. Intelligence officers put their questions in a completely different way than career diplomats.

They crossed the river and made a left on the street toward the huge white ‘Hotel Sacher’ that dominated the bank of the river.  An old hotel, the Sacher retained the patina of its elegant and distinguished past, the preserve of the well-to-do and aristocracy. 

„Listen, Leon…” the guy started up again, “… and what will happen if it does turn out to be a provocation?  What if it appears in the headlines tomorrow that we were in secret contact with the Americans?”

„No way, don’t worry. Despite all our work against each other for all these years, the intelligence honor system has always worked,” Leon reassured his companion. “When an intelligence officer gave his word of honor, you could rely on it. I know a lot of examples.  I even had some experiences myself when I was assigned to the Far East. We described them as ‘boogey men’ – and they said the same about us – but they are people, just like you and me.”

They were almost in front of the hotel – three to ten.  As Leon slowed his pace, so did his counterpart. He wanted to enter the hotel bang at ten.On entering the lobby, they found themselves in the middle of chaos as a Japanese group was trying to check out. The members were listening to their guide in a disciplined way. But Leon was doing his best to dodge the mountains of baggage, some of them bigger than their owners. He shook his head in astonishment. ‘How can they carry them?’  Leon headed resolutely toward an older gray-haired and wrinkle-faced man who stood in front of the reception desk. The man saw Leon and walked toward him. They met in the middle of the lobby. Leon stretched out his hand as the older man addressed him in Leon’s mother tongue.

“Good day, my name is Andy.” The greeting in his native language took Leon by surprise. He had expected English. „Leon. Nice to see you,” he reacted instinctively in English.

„Follow me, please. My colleagues are already waiting for you,” Andy said as he, too, turned to English.

As they waited for the elevator, Leon turned to Andy.  „You addressed me in my native language. May I ask you, how it is that you speak it, and without any accent?”

„Long story. Hopefully I can answer your question later in the day,” Andy replied as he deftly dodged the inquiry. The elevator stopped at the fourth floor. Andy left first and showed the way to the room. He stopped at Room 402 and knocked lightly twice.‘Good choice,’ Leon thought. ‘The old-style hotel is expensive enough not to be frequented by Bloc intelligence officers or businessmen. The Agency, by contrast, prefers the expensive hotels, restaurants or cafés for secret meetings with their agents. They feel secure here and they are right; people from behind the Bloc would not be comfortable here.’

In response to Andy’s knock, a man about fifty-five, medium tall and a bit chubby, with thick silver hair, and a big nose, - opened the door. Andy let the two newcomers in.

„John” he said as he introduced himself, flashing a smile toward the two men. „Leon,” he said and the two men looked into each other’s eyes as they shook hands. „Nice to meet you, sir.” Leon felt almost giddy. This was an historic moment, a solemn event that took place as they shook hands. Nothing had actually happened, but he sensed that the long decades of enmity were indeed approaching an end.

„Meet my colleague from the FBI.” John pointed to a blond, balding man about fifty. Leon gazed deeply into the man’s eyes and murmured his name. ‘Well, we are now face to face with the American counter-intelligence,’ Leon thought to himself. He and his colleagues often came to recognize their ‘shadows’ or ‘tails’ during their posting in the States. Some of the surveillants were regulars and they addressed them as they would acquaintances, if the situation permitted. Naturally, it was not wise to provoke them, but it never hurt to create some semblance of cooperation with the surveillance guys. For example, around lunchtime, it was almost a habit to enter a fast food restaurant and wait until the surveillants had finished their meal. There were occasionally some funny and embarrassing situations with the teams, but those under surveillance generally tried to avoid such situations. For the Bloc diplomats, there was no free movement outside a 50 mile radius of their post. Any travel had to be approved by the State Department, in advance.

By contrast, at diplomatic events abroad, there was regular and animated contact with the Agency officers serving under various kinds of cover. Both sides had to play the clandestine game. It was more like hunting, a process of ferreting each other out and uncovering the intelligence officer posing as a ‘diplomat’ and then pursuing the quarry in an attempt to get information that would feed the always hungry bureaucrat maw.Leon knew that the FBI representative would attend the first meeting, but he was not happy about it.  The preliminary conditions had made it clear that he would be there and that was the reason for bringing along a guy from their own domestic counterintelligence service. As an experienced officer, he knew very well that the intelligence and counter-intelligence services had different interests despite their joint responsibility for the security of the country. The counterespionage service wanted to catch the spy and put him in jail, whereas the intelligence service’s aim was rather to turn him around and penetrate the opposition using the spy against his own service. It caused tension between the external and internal services. It was the same everywhere; why should be the States be an exception?

The room had been set up like a small conference room with a big rectangular table in the middle, and glasses and mineral water set out at intervals, within easy reach of those who sat at the table.

 „Some coffee?” John inquired.

„With pleasure. A strong espresso would be good,” Leon replied. “It will be stronger than the American black coffee,“ he muttered from to his counterintelligence companion out of the corner of his mouth. Andy picked up the phone and called room service to order. John pointed at the chairs around the big table. He took a place in the middle, with the FBI man on his right and Andy on his left. Leon sat down across from John.

„When we arranged the meeting, we suggested English as the working language, but we can also use your native language, if you prefer. My colleague, Andy, speaks it fluently. It is up to you.”

’We will accept the offer,’ Leon decided. ‘My colleague’s English is not very good and it will give me a chance to think over the answer while Andy is translating.’

„We accept your offer with pleasure.” Meanwhile the coffee had arrived. The waiter put the cups down and left.  Andy apologized, and asked if the group would mind if he smoked.  A chain smoker, he could not drink a coffee without lighting a cigarette.

 ‘This is the second good sign,’ in Leon’s opinion.  He, too, was a chain smoker. He agreed immediately and pulled out his silver cigarette case to offer one of his domestic brands to Andy across the table.

„The last time I saw such a cigarette case was thirty five years ago,” Andy said as he handed his lighter across to Leon.

 „I inherited it from my father,” Leon responded. Andy walked into the other room and brought an ashtray. It was always easier for smokers to find common ground. The shared habit makes them fellow sufferers, relieves the tension and reinforces the trust. As if on a well-beaten path, they can move ahead more easily.

 „Gentlemen…” John began, as the two men inhaled the smoke deeply “…we have reached an epoch-making moment. On behalf of the leadership of the Central Intelligence Agency, I’d like to express our gratitude for your acceptance of our invitation. I had a strange but pleasant feeling this morning as I thought about the agenda for our meeting. After decades of opposition and enmity, the hour has come to move toward partnership and cooperation. Naturally, there are many obstacles to be overcome and a need to develop mutual trust, first. I firmly believe that we will be able to find many areas of mutual interest in the future. The best way to eliminate the distrust is through close cooperation.

 Our intentions are straightforward and sincere. Mr. Grante, I know you well and you know me although we have never met before. (‘That’s right, John. I checked the file and found both you and your FBI companion, but not Andy.’) Nevertheless, I think a formal introduction is in order. On my right is Tim Fraser, from the East European section of counterespionage and on my left, Andy Bender, a senior adviser to the Soviet-East European Division of the Agency. My name is John Monde, head of the Counterintelligence Center.” Leon introduced his colleague as head of the section responsible for anti-terrorism activities for domestic counterintelligence and himself as head of the external counter-espionage and security section of the foreign intelligence service. He noted with relief that Andy had translated fluently, accurately and without a mistake. Leon was impressed with Andy’s ability.

 „We have assessed the situation and reviewed the possible areas of future cooperation. It is a general overview and relates to the countries behind the Iron Curtain.” ‘Iron Curtain’, the word echoed in Leon’s ears. He had heard that negative, disdainful term many times. It hardly suited the present occasion, but then, the Americans had never had a feeling for nuance. (‘Thank you, Andy,’ he thought to himself, ‘for having the grace to translate it as ‘behind the ‘Fences’). “I am authorized…,” John went on, “…to tell you that we are seeking cooperation in the areas of anti-terrorism, proliferation of nuclear materials, illegal migration, drug trafficking and cooperation in crisis areas. We are ready to share our experience with you in those issues. Our experts are at your disposal to answer any questions and discuss any problem you may have.”

Leon was taking notes. For this occasion, he had deliberately taken along his Mont Blanc fountain pen that his wife had given him during his assignment in the US.  He had kept it safely locked in the drawer of his desk at home for many years, reluctant to actually use it.

 It was almost noon. The back and forth of the translation and clarification of technical terms had slowed the tempo of the meeting. Tim, the FBI man, who had sat quietly throughout the long exchange, raised his hand.

„The FBI is also obliged to you for the future cooperation. So, please, don’t take me wrong.  I am sorry to have to raise the issue at the very first meeting, but there are two important questions that we can’t dodge. First, the status of your agents operating on the territory of the US; second, the violation of the embargo restrictions, that is the COCOM list.”  As Andy translated the sentence, Leon focused his gaze directly on John. John raised his eyebrows, indicating that he, too, had been caught off-guard. Leon was aware of the significance of the question for the Americans, but he hadn’t expected it to be raised so soon. Coming up with it so early on struck him as rude, if not downright pushy.

Leon replied coolly to the implied request. „I will inform the CENTER about your request.”

„Of course, Tim…” John turned to his FBI counterpart, fully aware of the tension in the air.  “…I can understand your need to address the issue, and Mr. Grante expected it, I suppose.  Certainly it is a question that will have to be resolved, and I am convinced we will find a way to do so that will satisfy both sides.”

’Does this mean that the FBI didn’t discussed the issue with the Agency before, or is it just a well-coordinated negotiation tactic?’  Leon brooded. ‘We will see. Nevertheless, we have to expect the Bureau to push its agenda.’ He wrote the word ’pushy’ in the margin of his notes, put an exclamation mark at the end and underlined it twice with such force that the tip of the pen tore the paper.

“Anything else you want to raise?” John asked icily.

“Nothing at the moment,” Tim responded shooting a look at Leon.

„Gentlemen, the day is getting on. It is past twelve. How about a nice lunch?” John suggested.

„We won’t resist,” Leon said and re-capped his pen.

 „May I recommend walking over to a typical Austrian pub we discovered yesterday evening?  What is German for ‘cozy’, Andy?”


„Oh, yes, gemutlick,” John repeated the word.

 On the way to the restaurant, John and Leon led the group, with the other three men following a bit behind them.

„Mr. Grant, don’t be offended by my FBI colleague’s head-on approach. This is the first time Tim has taken part in a meeting with a Bloc service and his superiors are a bit impatient. Believe me; we have our difficulties with them as well.  We just have different approaches.  For example, they want to put the corner junky drug dealer in jail. We, on the other hand, want to use him to catch the drug baron. It’s just that Tim would like to come back with something in his hand.”

„No problem,” Leon answered. „But, you realize that any discussion of agents is highly sensitive and it takes time. We are not averse to a discussion of the question but strictly on the basis of reciprocity.”

John replied thoughtfully, “Then, if I understand you correctly it would mean that you want to include the cases of our agents as well.”

 „That’s right. But it is still too early to begin discussing such questions. As you mentioned in your introduction, we need to begin by establishing a basis for cooperation on the issues you outlined.  The other problems will then solve themselves in time. I suggest that we deal with this issue as ‘off the record’ business.” Leon understood only too well that it was unlikely that they would be able to hold out long or successfully against a superpower like the United States.

 The waiter in the restaurant showed them to a round table with a reserved sign on it.  The shape of the table allowed them to choose their seating as they pleased. Leon took a seat on Andy’s right with John on his left. Leon’s fellow countryman seated himself between Andy and Tim. The spontaneous seating order pleased Leon very much. They buried themselves in the menus. After choosing the food, John asked Leon to select an appropriate wine. Leon turned the pages in the extensive wine list, finally suggesting a dry sherry for the aperitif and a light 1983 east Austrian rosé to complement the main course.

 „We could have ordered vodka martinis in keeping with the occasion,” John quipped as he held the glass of sherry. The group smiled. „But, joking apart, gentlemen, may I suggest raising our glasses to this historic moment and our future cooperation. We are grateful to our respective governments for supporting this meeting. To our health and success.” The company clinked glasses and took a sip. The warmth spread throughout Leon’s body. He turned to John. „I am convinced we will be able to dismantle the psychological barriers soon. I am going to propose to my bosses in my report that we broaden the relationship.” He cleared his throat. “And…call me Leon, please.”

„Okay, Leon, and you should call me John.” They lifted their glasses.

The main course had arrived. Leon kept one eye on the American ‘colleagues’ (as he had already come to think of them) to observe how they cut their meat with the knife and fork. Finished cutting, they placed the knife on the plate, changed the fork to the right hand and started eating. Leon did the same, mimicking the Americans.  But not Andy. He ate like a European, knife in his right hand and fork in his left.

 Leon watched him unobserved with interest.  He certainly did not grow up in the States. He spoke Leon’s native language as though it was his mother tongue and still had a slight accent when he spoke English. He had noticed Leon’s cigarette case and his remark about ‘thirty five years ago’ was not an accident. He ate with ease, in the continental manner and even his chain smoking reinforced Leon’s feeling about him. His name revealed nothing, but it could be an alias. Leon summarized what he knew about Andy. He might have been born in our country and if he had calculated correctly, he would have left in the mid 1950’s. Because of his language knowledge Andy had clearly played a major role in the work against them, he was sure. He would have run agents. Even though he is appears to be less important here, he is nevertheless a key person.

 „Leon, …may I call you Leon?” Andy turned to Leon. „Of course, Andy” and they were smiled. „You asked me at the elevator about my language. Well, it is my mother tongue but I was born in the States.” Andy looked down at his glass.”

“I see.” Leon glanced at the man next to him. Somehow, Andy’s comment had not sounded convincing.   “But it is time to speak English. John might misunderstand,” Andy said. They lifted their wine glasses.

„Leon, you are a professional not only on the job but also when it comes to wine,” John complimented him as he put his glass on the table.

By the time the waiter brought the coffee it was three o’clock. Andy and Leon lit cigarettes and leaned back in their chairs.

„Leon…,” John said „…please remember us to your Vienna resident. He did us a good service. We also approached another East European resident in Vienna with our offer, but he misunderstood our good intentions and regarded our approach as a provocation. My colleagues left empty-handed. Off the record, your service is the first in the region with which we have any contact.”

The group walked back to the hotel and said good-bye in front of the main entrance.

„Then, here again in three weeks,” Leon said confirming the date. The revolving door swallowed the three Americans.

 Leon and his escort headed off toward their hotel.

“It was easier than I thought,” the counter-intelligence man said with relief.

„Let’s wait until we reach the end. The honeymoon is always the nicest period in the marriage. In the end, a lot depends on personal contact, and we have taken the first step on that uneven road today. Tomorrow morning I am going to do something I have never done before in Austria; I’m going to reserve a room for the next meeting in three weeks,” Leon said, and pulled out his silver cigarette case.







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