The Berlin Target

Nick Carter

Killmaster

The Berlin Target

Dedicated to the men of the Secret Services of the United States of America

One

It had gone like clockwork so far, but then the beginning of an operation — setting it in motion — was always the easiest part. The biggest hurdles were many and yet to come.

The sky above Sevastopol' was a clear blue, and the sun shining down over "Soviet Florida" — the southern Crimea — was warm. So warm that Nick Carter had removed his well-worn, cracked leather jacket and slung it over his shoulder.

He crossed Nakhimov Square and entered Primorsky Boulevard, the seafront. He passed the museum, the Court's Harbor, home of the Soviet Black Sea fleet, and continued on into the older and dingier section of the city.

Batov Street was little more than an alley leading from the wider boulevard down to the wooden promenade and the sea. It was a street of small cafes, drinking houses, and bistros with cheap sleeping rooms above for one-hour visitors or overnight travelers. Batov Street was a place where workers on vacation or local fishermen could go for cheap vodka, filling food, and inexpensive lodging. If one could afford it, companionship could also be arranged to go with a room.

The name of the place was The Silver Dolphin, and it was easy to spot. Inside, it was a clone of every other place on the street; a wooden bar that was ancient before Peter was czar of all the Russias, a few solid tables and chairs, and cushioned benches along the walls. Even though it was a blistering eighty degrees outside, the ever-present samovar sat steaming away on one corner of the bar.

Carter dropped his bag by the bar and claimed one of the stools. The bartender was an old man with a chest-to-knee apron the color of old concrete. He used a dirty rag to move around the refuse on the bar, and mumbled a greeting.

"Vodka," Carter said.

The other male customers in the bar were, for the most part, dressed as was Carter. There were two old peasant women gossiping over tea at one of the tables. The three younger women were working girls, making a little extra money on the weekend.

It was common knowledge — and acceptable in the resort areas — for salesgirls and minor clerks to supplement their incomes with an occasional roll in the hay.

Near the window a fat old man dozed in a chair, a cold glass of tea on the table before him. The cat in his lap stretched out and also slept. Carter guessed that both of them, without opening an eye, could have told him how many buttons he had on his shirt.

The old man could have had «informant» stamped across his forehead.

"Vodka."

"Spasee'ba," Carter replied, dropping a bill on the bar. "You have rooms?"

"Do… for the night?"

"Da. I just arrived on the morning train from Khar'kov. I leave in the morning for the workers' camp at Soucha."

"Vacation?"

Carter nodded.

"I will have to have your travel pass and your worker's identification."

Carter passed them over and returned his concentration to the three women. He knew the bartender wouldn't miss it. In minutes the old man was back with the room ticket registration.

Carter scanned it:

Age: 36

Place of Birth: Valki

Place of Residence: 110 Karpolov Prospect, Khar'kov

Workplace: Fitter, People's Tractor Factory, Khar'kov

Carter scrawled his signature across the bottom of the slip: Mikhail Ivanovich Assalov.

As he did so, he mentioned to the barman what a long, dry, and lonely trip it had been.

The man nodded knowingly. "You wish some company, comrade?"

"You can provide some company?"

He shrugged, his shoulders rising to his ears. "Such a thing, you know, is illegal… but I can inform one of the women of your room number."

"The tall brunette with the small breasts," Carter said.

"I will see, comrade."

The woman sat alone at one of the tables, sipping tea and leafing through a magazine. The barman approached her, whispered in her ear, and waited. She looked up at Carter, weighed the price she could ask, and nodded.

"The young lady's name is Ludmilla Alecmovna. For how long would you wish her company, comrade?"

"The night."

"I see. That will be thirty-five rubles, and it includes a bottle."

Carter grimaced but didn't quibble. He paid, grabbed his bag, and followed the man upstairs and into a room.

"The toilet is on the floor above, comrade. Your hours for the bath are between seven and eight this evening and six and seven in the morning." He set the bottle and two glasses on a table.

Carter nodded and thanked him, and the man oozed from the room.

The Killmaster poured three fingers of the white lightning into a glass and moved to the murky window. He sighed as he looked out over the harbor. It had been a long three weeks and seven thousand miles from Washington to where he now stood.

Three weeks previously, to the day, David Hawk had briefed him in the AXE offices high above Dupont Circle in DC.

"Six months ago, we turned a deep-cover agent named Peter Limpton. His real name is Boris Simonov, and he was operating as an electronics broker for high-level, high-tech equipment manufactured in the United States."

While Hawk had filled him in on the general data, Carter had been scanning the details from the man's dossier.

Peter Limpton's main job was to set up a dummy West German company for the purchase of American electronics equipment. This he had done, plus devised a method and route of diverting this equipment to East Germany and eventually to Moscow.

Just about the time he had everything ready to go, he had been blown and turned. But before Limpton could be used as a double, he had been called back to Moscow. The reason Moscow gave was their sudden decision that Limpton should acquire a wife to help him.

Needless to say, the wife he was to be given was to be a KGB agent even better trained than himself.

But Washington had learned that this wasn't the case at all. In fact, quite the contrary. Limpton would be introduced to his "wife," and they would be given a Black Sea vacation together so they could get to know one another.

"Actually, Nick," Hawk continued, "the new wife will get out of Limpton all the routes and methods, plus the contacts he has made in the States…"

"And then the KGB will execute him," Carter finished.

Hawk nodded. "That's the way we've got it figured. We want all that information ourselves. That's why we've got to get him out."

Limpton and his KGB wife were scheduled for a two-week stay in the southern Crimea at an exclusive VIP resort in the Sochi area.

Two days before, Carter had gone aboard the Turkish liner Ilion in the guise of a stevedore. A special section of the ship's brig had been provided for him during the sail across the Black Sea to Odessa.

But Carter had donned scuba gear and slipped into the sea fifty miles off the coast of the Crimea and Sevastopol'. Within a half hour, he had been picked up by a fishing trawler.

They had everything ready for him: proper clothes, a suitcase with more clothing, identity papers, a travel pass, and a canceled train ticket stub from Khar'kov to Sevastopol'.

The trawler had churned into Sevastopol' harbor just before dawn. Carter had stayed belowdecks until the catch was unloaded, and then had gone ashore at noon as one of the crew.

The boat was a long-range trawler, the Rosa, out of Sevastopol', and often cruised the entire length of the Crimean coast in search of fish.

It wouldn't be the last time Carter made use of the Rosa and its captain, Arlev Guildenkov.

A knock on the door brought him back to the present.

"Da."

The door swung aside and she stood, hands on hips, with her shoulders and pelvis moving in all directions at once. She was far short of beautiful, but pretty, with a strikingly pale face surrounded by blue-black hair. The dress was cheap and tight everywhere, and she wore a tiny hat on her head set at a saucy angle.

"You want to see Ludmilla, comrade?" she said in a too-loud voice.

Carter nodded her in with a smile, and she closed and locked the door behind her.

"Can we talk?" he asked, rolling his eyes around the room.

She nodded. "They only put listening devices in the Intourist hotels down here."

"How much did he give you?" Carter asked.

"Ten rubles."

"The thief, I gave him thirty-five. Drink?"

"Yes. I've set up at meeting with Kokolev for tonight, ten o'clock."

"We'll stay in the room until then."

"Very well, then I can get rid of this for a while." She pulled off the black wig and shook out a radiant mane of honey-blond hair.

"Sorry I was late. I waited at the station until the train I was supposed to be on came in."

"That's all right." she said with a chuckle. "I was rather enjoying myself. Do you know I could have made over two hundred rubles this afternoon?"

* * *

Carter checked out of the room with the excuse that he had decided to leave for the south early.

Ludmilla had left an hour before him.

Carrying his suitcase, he walked to Ushakov Square and joined the line waiting for the bus. He could see ...

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