Fiction Friday: Into the Cold

This week is the chapter fiction which opens In the Cold, a Demon: The Descent-focused chapter for Chronicles of Darkness: Dark Eras.

Hans turned away from the window and put on his greatcoat. The snow and darkness would increase his chances of success. The snow crunched under his boots in rhythm with his breathing. Soon he was only a few blocks away from Checkpoint Charlie. One of his colleagues exchanged information with the West at that checkpoint, but Hans hadn’t heard from her in weeks. Perhaps she had merely gone to ground.

Hans wouldn’t cross at Checkpoint Charlie, though. Too much traffic. Too many soldiers. Too much risk of being seen. False identities he had, but not the luxury of multiple passports.

A figure emerged from the snow, and only Hans’ self-control kept him from leaping in surprise.

“Sir, your papers?” the figure asked.

“Good evening, comrade,” Hans said, withdrawing his identification from his left pocket and holding it out. His other hand remained firmly planted in the pocket. “Urgent house call.”

The figure stepped into the pool of light from the streetlamp above. He was a young man dressed in the uniform of the Volkspolizei — the regular police. The VoPo gave the papers a preemptory glance and returned them to Hans. He smiled. “Seems to be in good order, doctor.”

Hans murmured a response and continued walking, fighting down the urge to look over his shoulder.

Hans entered an apartment building and ascended the stairs. The third apartment on the second floor was unlocked and empty. Hans went to the window. The nearer barbed wire fence stood directly underneath. He leapt from the window to the ground below. He picked himself up from the snow and watched the sweeping beams of the searchlights for a few minutes. Once he was satisfied he had identified the pattern, Hans ran through the snow toward the Wall on the far side.

Ten meters. Hans slipped off his greatcoat as he ran. The black curls of the barbed wire fence looked like the shadows of thorny bushes in wintertime. The searchlight would return all too soon. He threw the coat over the fence and clambered over. The tower guard spotted him just as he reached the top. A siren blared, but Hans was already on the other side. He collapsed into a heap behind a black sedan, panting from the exertion. The guards could no longer reach him.

“Herr Blutig, I presume,” said a voice from inside the vehicle. The window rolled down to reveal a young man in a broad-brimmed hat. “Can I offer you a cigarette?”

Hans stood up. That was one of the signs. “I don’t smoke, but let me buy you a drink.”

The man shook his head in response to the countersign. “And I’m afraid I don’t drink. Shall we go for a ride?”

Hans didn’t answer, but he slipped into the car’s passenger seat.

“What news brings you to West Berlin, Herr Blutig? Paranoids seldom risk the death strip so openly.”

“According to my colleague in Moscow, a representative from an American corporation recently met privately with First Secretary Khrushchev. No one knows what they discussed, but the company’s name is Black Sun Cosmocartography.”

“I’m missing something, I think.”

“Are you so new to the business?” Hans asked. He didn’t wait for a reply. “Black Sun is also a contractor that works with NASA. When Kennedy announced on TV earlier this year that the United States would soon place a man on the moon, a Black Sun representative was standing behind him.”

“What is on the moon that is so valuable to them?”

“I don’t know. We need to bring this to the rest of the Agency,” Hans said as the key turned in the lock and the man in the hat pushed the door of the apartment open. A small, electrically lit Christmas tree provided the only illumination in the darkened living room.

“It will wait until morning.”

Hans entered, shaking his head. “I must speak to them tonight. We may have been followed.”

The door slammed behind them, and Hans whirled. He found himself looking down the barrel of Agent’s pistol. Its silencer gleamed red and green in the glow of the Christmas lights.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you return to East Germany, Herr Blutig.” He almost looked apologetic. “You know far too much to be allowed to fall into the hands of the Enemy’s operatives.”

Hans opened his mouth to respond a fraction of a second before the bullet passed through his skull.

Chronicles of Darkness: Dark Eras is available in PDF and print-on-demand via DriveThruRPG. The Into the Cold chapter is also available separately in PDF and print-on-demand: Dark Eras: Into the Cold.