International Writers Magazine: Spy Fiction
By the Tail
He ran as fast
and as hard as he could but there was no escaping the fact that
he was a dead man racing towards an early grave. The shot rang out
and the bullet hit him squarely in the back shattering and splintering
his spinal column sending him stumbling to the ground in blistering
pain. His last sight was the rain soaked tarmac of the strasse as
the blood came bubbling from his mouth as he screamed in silence
until there was nothing.
Harry looked in
abstract horror at Randall Cope, the man who had fired the shot. Quickly,
Harry raised his gun and in that moment, the thoughts of what had led
him to this decisive moment flashed into his brain.
It was 1969. Harry had been spending a lot of his time lately at Berlin
station, suggesting that the old man now trusted him fully to help run
the departments interests there on a regular basis. It felt good
to have his actions recognised. However, bad things were happening in
Berlin, a mole within the CIA was reportedly selling information across
the wall and Harry had been roped in to help investigate and represent
the British interest. The chief spy catcher from Langleys side
was Randall Cope. He was a bluff Texan who had been in Berlin since
the early days and Harry often reflected, during their little information
sharing over bratwurst and coffee each month, that it was his sort who
won the west and were now determined to do the same to the east. He
was tall and broad with a crew cut and the widest top lip Harry had
ever seen, which sweated as frequently as it gave one of its famous
laconic smiles. He gave one Harry as he detailed their mission to hunt
down their mole codenamed Tiger and Harry couldnt help feeling
like hed just witnessed John Wayne rouse Davey Crockett from the
The word on the grapevine was that the mole would be passing information
at a drop at midnight and Harry was to provide back up along with a
young CIA man called Hogan whilst Cope made the full guts and glory
arrest. Hogan was yet another Texan, though much more introverted than
the garrulous Cope. Harry just hoped he wasnt taking on a walk
on part in a remake of The Alamo. It was a dark and cold night as they
hovered around in the alleyway overlooking the alleged drop, waiting
patiently for The Tiger to break cover.
After twenty minutes, Hogan grew impatient "Its well gone midnight,
I think weve been sold a dummy boss" he informed his superior.
But all Cope would reply with was a patronising shush and a wave of
the hand. Hogan looked to Harry, but there was as Americans were fond
of saying, nothing doing. Harry knew this was a CIA operation; he was
merely there for the ride and knew better not to shove his hapennys
worth in. He could see Hogan was bitter about that; probably had a nice
fraternising frauline waiting for him somewhere; Too bad.
"Ok," Cope rumbled finally "This is how we play it, Hogan
I want you to walk towards the end of the street up there." He
pointed dead ahead towards the drop. "Harry I want you to go in
the opposite direction lets see what is coming, see how the coast is"
"And what will you do Randall?" Harry asked
Randall smiled his widest, "Ill watch your backs stick to
the middle and keep an eye on this here alleyway"
"Fine by me," said Hogan with the assuredness of youth and
the desire to get back home evident, he stomped off up the road.
Harry watched him go for a moment before turning to Randall and with
a smile and a nod moved off in the opposite direction. Hed only
gone a few yards, taking slow and uncertain steps in the cold before
he heard Hogan yell out. He turned to see what was wrong but Randalls
bulky frame blocked his view. He moved a little to the left and saw
Hogan running as if his life depended on it. Finally a shot rang out
and Hogan fell to the ground, dead.
Randall Cope turned round and faced Harry full on, his gun still raised.
Harry swiftly moved his into position.
They faced each other, gone midnight in a cold Berlin street on a cold
Berlin night. Two nations holding each other at the point of a gun,
regardless that they were supposed to be allies.
Naturally it was the bluff Texan who broke the streets silence.
His words cutting through the cold air; "This is how it is Harry,"
he said with total confidence. "You see we came here for the Tiger,
unsure as to his identity, and lo and behold it was our very own Hogan.
I shot him dead as he made a run for it to the East sector, but not
before he shot you."
"Very clever," Harry said without a trace of emotion. "But
to make that convincing youd need Hogans gun and somehow,
somehow Tiger" he baited with a grim smile. "I
cant see you turning your back on me to go and fetch it from him."
"Who said I needed to?" Randall Cope replied and the smile
just grew wider. Slowly he pulled out a second revolver and stood facing
Harry like a grinning bandit in Dodge City. "Picked his pocket,
guy didnt even notice, shoot what are they teaching these boys
"You just cant get the staff," Harry deadpanned.
"Indeed you cannot. Thats why I know you aint gonna
shoot me Harry, you aint got what it takes. Just aint got
the guts son," Randall goaded.
Harry sighed, his breath hanging in the cold night air "Randall,
youre right" he said and moved to place his gun back into
his trench coat, but then, like lighting he raised it up high and pulled
the trigger fast.
Now, what Harry expected to happen was a loud bang and flash and then
Randall Cope stagger to the floor. Harry was no killer but he was good
at his job, and if his job said he had to kill then he did. He detested
it, and luckily had only done it a handful of times. Tonight was not
one of those handfuls. Because instead of the loud bang and flash bursting
out across the street, a dull impotent click rang out instead. Harrys
gun had no bullets. He looked to it and then at Randall Cope. That blasted
smile was bigger than ever before. A deep chuckle grew up from his belly
and then changed pitch to a high holler of a laugh. "You cant
do it cos you need bullets son."
Randall Cope withdrew his gun, and keeping Hogans levelled at
Harry; he fumbled in his pocket and drew out a fist, which he raised
to the air. Harry instantly realised that in that clenched meaty hand
were his bullets. "Shouldnt have left the gun in my office
huh? What do they teach you boys?"
The fist was about to shake, causing the bullets to rattle, when for
the second time that night, Harry heard another noise in its place.
This time it was a loud bang and Randall Cope shook to the very foundations
before, his back arced, and his fist flew open sending the bullets crashing
to the floor. Blood began to run down his granite square jaw and he
stared at Harry before turning slowly behind him. Another shot rang
out across the street sending Randall Cope flying backwards heavily
onto the tarmac; Hed been shot once in the back and once in the
chest by someone as yet unseen by Harry, but that was about to change
as he heard footsteps moving slowly but surely towards him.
The streetlights showed them. They were two very big men in black leather
bomber jackets standing either side of one other man. In each of the
burly mens hands was a stubby gun still aimed upwards and ready.
However this meant nothing to Harry for his attention, and indeed anyone
elses attention if anyone else was there, would not have been
fixed on the two heavies or their guns but on the shadowy small figure
in between them, closed in by both their bulky frames. As they moved,
the light bounced on him showing more and more of the stranger with
every footstep coming closer. He was small but demanding, squat but
powerful, old but wily. He wore a KGB greatcoat and a fur kepi. Finally
Harry could see the big wide rheumy old eyes searching him out and a
cackle soon followed. He was Colonel S., unofficial head of the wall
and he said by way of greeting "Eh! Hallo English! How are you?"
"Col Bloody S.!" Harry said shaking his head ruefully, yet
relieved that the Stasi heavies were now placing their pistols firmly
back into their bomber jackets.
S. laughed as heartily as only he could. "I saved your bacon ah?
Im right English?" he said slapping Harry on the shoulder.
"You killed your agent." Harry replied pointing to the prone
figure of the once mighty Randall Cope, "That was Tiger"
Stok gave a tut of irritation as if having to explain something to a
small child. "This we know," and he moved Harry further down
the street. Stopping only to look at the body of Hogan "Is pity
we could not come sooner," he said softly, at odds with the inherent
gruffness he had. As they walked slowly he spoke. "This man, Tiger,
he was not good. He gave information, vital yes, and grateful we were.
But he was decadent. The Soviet Union does not accept decadence in its
"And tell me Col S.," Harry pondered, "How did such decadence
"Cocaine." S. spat and his face grew grave with distaste.
"He was a drug addict, and what was worse he was bringing this
rubbish across to the East."
"Wow," Harry said with a wry smile "Snow in Red Square."
"We know that soon it will be 1970, a new decade, but such things?
Is not for us. The Soviet Union," he added wagging a finger at
Harry, "does not want drug addicts, it does not want such Western
"Neither do the West Colonel," Harry said. "But some
are weak," he said casting an eye over the corpse.
"He had become a liability. And so
" he waived a hand
airily at the body, "It is better for both sides that he is dead"
S. replied as if discussing little more than the settlement of a bill.
"Who will tell the Americans?" Harry asked.
"Ach!" S. spat. "A deal will be done I am sure. Leave
it to me English, they are already on their way." He tapped his
nose sagely. "And remember, smuggling across the wall, we accept
it happens, but drugs, at drugs we draw the line."
"Noted" Harry said
"We do not blame you English for sending over your Rolling Stones
LPs eh? Haha!" he said and cheerily punched at his arm like a Grandfather
jesting with a child at Christmas.
Harry looked stunned for a moment and then realised that his little
sideline of passing western music to a contact across the wall into
the East for the young teens eager for Western culture was bound to
come under S'.s radar. S. knew everything.
Finally with a smile Harry corrected him; "It'sThe Pink Floyd now".
S. grunted, his wrinkly face frowning. "I prefer Prokofiev."
"Me too." Harry laughed.
S. began to walk off, clicking his meaty old fingers at the Stasi as
if calling two very obedient yet dangerous hounds. A thought came to
him and he turned "You know English, if you ever wish to defect
you let me know ya?"
Harry smiled "If they don't give me a pay rise next year I may
just take you up on that!"
S. laughed and raised his arm as if to shoo away the joke. "Just
watch your tail, eh, English? This Tiger did not."
And with that he was gone.
Cunliffe December 2007
"That was fantastic," she said, pleasing Guy immensely. "Much
better than last time."
Eddie Cochran once sang of love as being a journey built on Three
Steps To Heaven;
'Step one - you find a girl to love
Step two - she falls in love with you...'
Mark Cunliff's spook story
Harry trudged bitterly up the marble steps of the imposing house and
pressed the buzzer. It was gone eleven at night, he was tired and his
Man in Africa
The jeep bounced along the dirt road sending Harry up from his seat
and back down again with a crash. His stomach was not happy about this.
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