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would have traded everything but his life to rest a while, but if he stopped,
if he quit, he would have no life to barter with.
The man was running, fast and hard, his heart in his mouth and
his lungs ablaze he tore through the undergrowth ignoring the
long stinging nettles that attacked his entire frame, scratching
indiscriminately at his legs, torso and face. He was in agony
and would have traded all he had in the world to stop right now.
But he could not.
Hed be dead.
He knew this, because the man he promised to help was dead, and to live,
he had to leave him behind. To make it, he had to keep moving.
Finally hed reached a clearing, the pale moon shone down on him,
a welcome glare as opposed to the flares and searchlights that had endlessly
and remorselessly captured him in their sights. He could feel the broken
skin on his body, the blood bubbling out in full bloom before trickling
down into his thin socks and the collar of his shirt. He was suddenly
and most violently flung forward by the overwhelming surge of vomit and
bile that had coursed through his gullet and allowed it to splash out
onto the bracken on the ground below. He allowed himself a slight pause
to wipe his mouth of the bitter taste but sadly it was no reprieve as
he could hear the shouts closing in on him.
He had to keep moving, his aching tired knees churning back into motion
like giant decaying clogs in an old town clock, his heavy feet pounding
up the earth below him, his mantra running through his head once more
Ill make it. Hell make it
Across the forest just off the border, in a remote barn, stood MI6 officer,
David Leyrand, nursing a scotch heavy cup of coffee.
Hell make it
Those three words had been his mantra for the past hour and a half, since
the last communication he had received over the radio from his joe
Erich Spengler. The defector had been shot, Spengler was in danger and
the operation was blown.
By now, by rights Leyrand should have packed up, paid his patient operatives
and be on the next flight out back to London Central, mission failed.
But David Leyrand was disobeying protocol, he owed Erich more than the
standard rubber-stamped failed and closed file. He owed him
20 years of professional life and personal friendship, ever since their
first meeting back in 1960 at Bern University.
If he shut his eyes he could still picture that very first day, a short
dark figure waving his arms at him in greeting."You are the Englishman,
the important son of a Foreign Office johnny yes?" asked the waving,
energetic student who clearly did not waste time.
"Yes, thats right, I am. Leyrand, David Leyrand actually"
he replied and offered a hand in greeting, dropping his books in the process.
The German wagged a finger; a wry smile split out across his features
"I think not all you Englanders are smooth like David Niven no?"
They both laughed, a hearty laugh and set about regaining the fallen books.
"I am Erich Spengler, it appears my friend we are on the same course,
German History, but I fear it is German present we should give our energies
too am I right?"
He was always right
Snapping his eyes open Leyrand looked around to see the curious gazes
of his team, he smiled politely. He could see in their eyes what they
thought of him, what they thought of Erich. Leyrand was losing the plot
and Erich was dead, or as good as. How could he explain that he trusted
Erich with his life; that he believed in him? Ever since those days as
students together, their joint prowling of the ragged sites of Berlin,
the wall being built before their very eyes, their joint passionate belief
that the world was wrong, that it was suffering and needed saving, and
their joint stupid determination to save it themselves.
Leyrand had never met a man like Erich Spengler, he was a good man, a
man of true convictions, with a visionary sense of the Germany, its towns
and streets and people. He could predict the future, be it how the DDR
was shaping or whether to leave the Beer Keller because a brawl was imminent.
And he was vital to Leyrand, he got him free of many scrapes, and he proved
even more vital to him when he got the calling to follow in his fathers
footsteps, the family business, Intelligence.
It was just a couple of months after coming down from University, the
innocent heady golden summer Germany was glorying in was making way for
a heavy gloomy winter. To a young man like Leyrand it was portentous,
the winds of change, a time to put away childish things, but not one,
for Erich was coming with him. His contacts, his guile and his forward
thinking would make him an excellent asset. It would make David Leyrand.
But that was not to say Leyrand was using him, more often than not Leyrand
still wanted him around, to be his friend.
His friend was unbeknownst to him currently wading though the murkiest,
chilliest and filthiest stream he had ever encountered. There was a path
to the other side of the forest, Erich could see that, but he threw himself
headlong into the depths because it was probably quicker and also because
it may he hoped, throw the increasingly approaching Alsatians of his scent.
Cold and scared, his thoughts turned morbid and to the night he lost Anya.
Anya had been to University with both him and David, they had spent the
happiest times of their lives sitting in bars drinking endless schnapps
putting the world to rights. Anya was beautiful. A vibrant young girl,
elfin like with good humour and a unique quirkily beautiful face that
Erich instantly fell for. On hearing her speak, hearing her devotion to
her country and her pain and sense of injustice at what was happening
to it he was completely in love. He would never give his emotions to anyone
so strongly, so fully to another person ever again.
They were engaged shortly after they graduated, just as Erich accepted
his great friends offer to help him with intelligence work, to collate
information. To spy for David Leyrand and Her Majesty; for the greater
good of his beloved Germany.
He was proud of his good English friend making it, carving a name out
for himself, and Anya was proud of Erich and would constantly support
him in his new job as it grew ever dangerous. She never complained.
It was hear death warrant.
His thoughts had overwhelmed him and he slipped on a rock under foot.
Suddenly it was the putrefied water that was overwhelming him, drowning
It was a night like this very night, 1971, nine years hence when Erich
Spengler became a widower. He had been assigned with the task of getting
a vital defector over the wall, a scientist who would make a difference
Leyrand told him. As ever he set out to do his duty without fail, sadly
a far too nosey yet ultimately unsuspecting Stasi man picked him up the
moment he attempted to make contact. A month previously Erich was passing
contraband into the East, a foolish thing but he had been targeted and
now it was payback, a beating was waiting for him in some piss stained
cell, nothing more, nothing less, just a warning. He was taken off the
moment he tried to cross the street from the café. The scientist
was alone and uncertain. Anya who had been at the café with Erich,
immediately without hesitation picked up her husbands work and made
the contact. Within five minutes they were in the Volkswagen Leyrand had
put on for Erich and heading out.
David Leyrand was worrying. It was now two hours since Erich had made
contact. The message came clear from London Central; Report Immediately.
In short, what the hell was going on? Leyrand took a large swig of his
whiskey-fuelled coffee, draining the tin mug of its contents.
"Tell them Rain Stopped Play
" he said to the operator
temporarily" he added as an afterthought. A shiver went
down his spine. He recalled using those words regarding Anya. That time
did not have a good outcome. It had been ten minutes into what should
have been a straightforward crossover when he received the news that Erich
had been picked up on some trifling matter and that Anya had taken her
husbands place. It had startled Leyrand but he had every faith in
Anya, this was not the first time she had helped Erich, and she was herself
a very capable asset. However less than two hours later he was identifying
her body. He had not reckoned on some petty Berliner informant sounding
the alarm as he saw a fleeing Mrs Spengler take the Volkswagen. Luckily
for Erich he had been released battered and bruised after a mere hour
of questioning otherwise the link in the chain would have
been connected and the whole network blown.
Closing his eyes, Leyrand could still see Anya on the slab. Her throat
had been cut with a Stanley knife seven times, causing deep heavy red
gouges to swathe her once alabaster and perfect neck. There were cigarette
burns up and down her arms, heavy bruising under her armpits where she
must have been dragged from the car, one kneecap was blown clean off,
and worst of all in this unholy disgrace to another human, signs of rape.
It took Leyrand a second to identify Erichs bride, but the image
remained forever. He vomited as soon as he was clear of the morgue. Poor
Anya. The scientist, even now he could not remember the name of this valuable
and important defector, had it easy compared to her; Two slugs to
the head, instantaneous death.
It fell to Leyrand to tell the injured Erich, he was after all his controller,
and his best friend. Naturally Erich was devastated, he threw several
punches at him, but all struggled to affect, his own injuries and grief
debilitating Erichs strength. He cursed Germany, MI6 and Leyrand
and vowed to leave the great game to children more foolish to believe
it really to be a game. He ceased working with Leyrand and never spoke
to him for five years.
But friendships do not die.
Erich heaved a mighty breath, water choking back up from his lungs as
he slumped onto the bank. Tears stung his eyes and dirt filled his fists
as he pounded them into the soil determined to make it home. A bullet
sprang out onto the water behind him
they were on the opposite bank!
With the immense strength that only comes from total fear he charged up
the bank and into the woods.
Leyrand yelled down the receiver "I am not leaving!" Over! He
slammed the portable back into its case and threw a look that dared anyone
to speak. Cautiously one of the team offered him a mug of coffee with
one hand, a bottle of whiskey was in place in the other. Without hesitation
Leyrand grabbed the whiskey and gulped its fiery liquid down his trembling
You cannot leave your friends behind, Leyrand thought.
Come 1976 Leyrand had heard bad things about his old friend Erich, his
tragic loss had resulted in him becoming a desperate alcoholic, a once
genteel and noble man had now so much hate and pent up frustration in
his body that he would terrorise anywhere that sold beer night and day.
David Leyrand thought it was time he stopped. He was certain he was the
last person Erich wanted to see, but he had no intention of leaving a
friend behind. Erich was in a bad way and resolute that he needed no help,
certainly not from Leyrand. But patience and regular visits, decidedly
unwelcome at first and then more and more friendly got them back on track.
Leyrand arranged Erichs drying out courtesy of the firm and he received
some psychoanalysis. A year later and Erich wanted to come back into the
fold, to be a joe again. Leyrand was uncertain, but he knew
now not to get in the way of a man so determined as Erich. After some
small duties, Leyrand felt confident to use him for bigger things again.
Sure enough Erich excelled in the missions and operations set, it was
just like old times and their partnership prospered and thrived, gaining
good reports from London Central. Together theyd made it.
He always knew hed make it!
The relief was immense; his open mouthed gasps from the incessant running
were now letting out small gasping laughs of pleasure and joy. Tears came
down his face but again, these were now of joy and not of fear and exhaustion.
He could see the barn! He was almost across the border!
He always knew hed make it!
Leyrand stepped from his observation point cautiously further and further
out until he was into the field, his team slightly behind him. It was
him! It was Erich! He broke into a jog to reach him, yelling all the while,
"Come on Erich, I knew it! I knew youd do it!"
Every single cell in Erichs body tingled with emotion as he saw
Leyrand and the team on the horizon. He was here, he had made it, he did
it and he did it as always for his controller, his friend, David.
A helicopter roared above them, its blades shaking the leaves from the
trees upon them like tickertape celebrating the welcome return that was
occurring. Erich could not care; he was running blind.
He had made it.
He did not see his old friend wave at him, did not hear the shouts of
"Get down!" roared Leyrand.
An entire magazine round from the copters canon emptied itself into
the tired and exhausted yet still running figure of Erich Spengler. He
finally allowed himself to stop, falling in a bloodied slump just a few
inches over the border, at the feet of Leyrand as the copter flew back
to the east.
Tears pricked at the corner of Leyrands eyes, his shoulders began
to shake as he threw himself down into the dirt at the prone body of his
agent, the best friend he had ever had. His team stunned into silence
and uncertain of what to do or say wandered slowly and uncomfortably back
into the barn to inform London and to close the file.
"He did make it
he did make it" said Leyrand between sobs.
© Mark Cunliffe
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