Monday, 29 April 2013
MI Fanfiction: The Minister - Ch 11
The street was empty, but Jim couldn’t help having the prickling feeling in his spine that at any moment a police car would roar up to investigate why officers had raided Bauer’s house with no recorded orders. It was always that way as they walked away from a mission – that feeling of success mingled with an adrenaline-filled suspicion that all could still go terribly wrong. He never felt quite relaxed until he was back home in his New York apartment with the fire burning and a glass of scotch in his hand.
The car was still there, though, and Liesl was still sitting there in the back seat, her eyes intent and suspicious as she watched the street around her. They got into the car quickly and wordlessly, slamming the doors behind them.
‘All right, let’s go,’ Jim said, turning the key in the ignition and moving off down the road.
Cinnamon had slipped into the back seat with Liesl, and Liesl was eyeing her warily.
‘Cinnamon’s with us,’ Jim told her tersely, his eyes on the rear view mirror. There was no one following them, it seemed, but still, he would take a circuitous route back to the apartment.
‘Then she was a plant,’ Liesl said, sounding stunned. ‘All of this – everything.’
‘Everything,’ Jim nodded, his eyes flicking between the road ahead and the rear view mirror. ‘All of it designed to bring Bauer down – nothing more.’
‘Then you – ’ she began.
Jim pressed his lips together, suffused by a feeling of guilt. She subsided into silence. In the mirror he could just see Cinnamon’s hand slipping sideways and closing around Liesl’s. He was glad that Cinnamon was there to give her that comfort.
Back in the apartment Jim shut the curtains and carefully locked the door while Rollin spurred the heaters into action and Cinnamon busied herself making coffee on the little stove in the kitchen area. Liesl sat in an armchair with her coat still tightly wrapped around her, looking stunned.
Jim stood at the window for longer than was necessary, checking the street for signs of police even though it seemed obvious that no one had followed them. He didn’t know what to say to Liesl. She was obviously torn between feelings of gratitude and betrayal, and he didn’t know how to explain things to her with Cinnamon and Rollin here in the room with them. What could he do for the woman anyway? It wasn’t as if he could arrange for her to come back to the States, and even if he did, what would she do then? He couldn’t be in a long-term relationship with anybody, not in his job. He should never have become involved. But it was too late now. All he could do was to try to repair the damage.
He turned his head a little and looked at Liesl out of the corner of his eye. Something about her profile and the wave of her dark hair made his heart jump a little in his chest. It was so easy to fall, and so hard to recover from the landing. It could be that he felt more for her than she did for him. After all, what had they really shared together? Eye contact over coffee, and one night in a warm bed? He had been watching her for longer than she had known of his existence.
‘All right,’ he said abruptly, turning from the window, showing no sign of his thoughts in his face. ‘Here’s what we do. Rollin, you’ve got all the evidence from Cinnamon that you need. You need to get that story written up and into the Berlin Daily. I want you to take Cinnamon and Liesl into Germany and over into the Western Zone. We’ll rendezvous there once Barney and Willy have completed their part in this.’
‘Jim, how are we going to get Fräulein Weismuller out of the country?’ Rollin asked seriously. ‘Barney’s tied up underground – he won’t have time for faking papers or knocking up hidden compartments.’
‘We’ll think of a way,’ Jim said tersely. ‘There’s always a way. Once she’s there, it’s your job to be certain she stays there.’
He turned back to the window, his mind racing through possibilities. There had to be a way. He couldn’t just dump her here, after getting her into so much danger with Bauer’s people. Had it really become that they were incapable of rigging up needed equipment without Barney to hand?
He looked around again, watching as Cinnamon bent towards Liesl, offering her a black coffee in a delicate china cup. Liesl’s fingers were closing around the saucer, taking it from Cinnamon’s hands. It was hard to tell whose fingers were whose.
He drew in breath suddenly.
‘Cinnamon, how many passports do you have with you?’ he asked abruptly. ‘What identities?’
She turned to him, raising her eyebrows. ‘Greta Hoch’s, of course. And I’m on your passport as your wife. I also have an identity as a reporter for the Berlin Daily that mirrors Rollin’s, and one as a nurse with the German Red Cross.’
Jim nodded, and looked over at Rollin. ‘Rollin, can you make Liesl look like Cinnamon?’
Liesl looked across at the other woman, startled. ‘Well, no, of course – ’ she began.
‘Oh, I should think so,’ Rollin cut across, unfolding himself from his chair and coming over to look more closely at Liesl. ‘Similar bone structure. The hair should be no problem. She’ll have to have contacts to change her eye colour, of course, but the build’s there.’
Liesl looked at Rollin as if he had gone mad, but Jim smiled.
‘Good. How long will it take?’
Rollin looked at his watch. ‘I’ve got everything I need here. If Cinnamon can sit for the mask and then do Fräulein Weismuller’s hair, I’ll have the mask made in a couple of hours.’
‘I can do that,’ Cinnamon said smoothly, cocking her head sideways as she assessed Liesl’s hair. ‘It’ll be quite simple to make her match the passport.’
Jim nodded. ‘In that case – Rollin, you and Liesl will leave the country together using the press passports. Cinnamon will leave later with the rest of us. We can’t have two identical people trying to leave the country at the same time.’
‘Oh, I think that could be quite fun,’ Cinnamon said in a serene tone. ‘But I’m happy to wait here with you, Jim.’
She took a sip of her coffee, then pushed her hair away from her face and leant back in her chair, saying, ‘I’m ready when you are, Rollin.’
‘I’ll have the plaster mixed by the time you’ve finished that coffee,’ he promised her.
No matter how many times Jim had seen Rollin transforming himself or another into a completely different person, it was strange to see Liesl being turned into a carbon-copy of Cinnamon, right down to the silver-blonde hair and the narrow-bridged nose and the wide blue-green eyes. When she stood in the doorway of the bedroom and looked at him, he had to look twice before he could perceive anything of Liesl in her. Of course, it was there. There was something about the way she held herself, the way her lips were pushed together with a subtle sign of stress, the way her hands were curled at her sides – but on the surface, she was Cinnamon.
‘Now I believe it,’ she said simply, glancing sideways at her reflection in the glass of a picture on the wall.
Cinnamon moved past her out of the bedroom, looking smugly satisfied at what she and Rollin had created. Their clothes were different, but still, they looked like the most identical of twins.
‘Liesl, can I have a moment?’ Jim asked, stepping closer and gesturing her back into the bedroom.
Liesl looked at him, then dropped her eyes. No amount of disguise could hide the suspicion in her. She nodded briefly, and he followed her back into the room.
‘Did any of it mean anything?’ she asked him before he could speak.
Jim felt something tighten inside his chest, and he nodded.
‘All of it,’ he promised her, moving close enough to her that he could smell and sense that this was Liesl and not Cinnamon in front of him. ‘The instant you were out of Bauer’s employment I should have left you alone. But I didn’t. I came after you. I shouldn’t have. It was unprofessional of me. But I did.’
‘You’re not even Otto, are you?’ she asked.
He shook his head. ‘My name’s Jim. I can’t say more than that.’
She smiled weakly, her gaze lifting to meet his. He moved closer again, filled with the urge to kiss her, but she drew back.
‘This doesn’t feel – safe,’ she said, gesturing towards the mask that covered her face. ‘I feel as if it would fall off if I sneezed.’
Jim laughed quietly. ‘Oh, Rollin’s better than that,’ he promised her, ‘but I understand. It’s strange for me, too. Cinnamon’s a very good friend. A friend,’ he promised her, at her slightly suspicious look. ‘Nothing more.’
She laughed then, nodding. ‘She’s something more of a friend to Herr Hand, perhaps?’
Jim glanced at the door. He was never quite sure what did go on between Rollin and Cinnamon, if anything did.
‘Perhaps,’ he said. He turned his wrist to look at his watch. ‘Liesl, you’ll have to be going soon. You’ll remember what we’ve all told you? Just keep your cool, let Rollin do the talking as much as you can. Look them in the eye, don’t give them a reason to suspect.’
‘I spent a lot of time acting for Georg Bauer,’ she told him, a hardness edging her voice. ‘I know how to hide my feelings when I must.’
Jim bit back his feelings at those words. His anger was for Bauer, not for her.
‘Good,’ he said, laying a hand on her cheek – Cinnamon’s cheek, it appeared. The false skin even felt like skin. The warmth of Liesl’s blood permeated the soft membrane. ‘Then I will see you in Berlin,’ he promised. ‘Rollin will look after you. Trust him.’
‘I will trust him,’ she nodded. ‘You trust him.’
After Liesl was gone, Jim sat in one of the tired armchairs in the apartment and drank Scotch. Cinnamon left him alone. There was nothing either of them could do at this point, either to help Rollin and Liesl or to help Barney and Willy. Cinnamon had given up her chance to escape the country early to let Liesl escape in her place, and Jim didn’t know how to properly express his gratitude for that. He knew it was the kind of the thing that any of them would have done, but still, Cinnamon was risking her life or her freedom for a woman she hardly knew and to whom she owed nothing.
‘I appreciate it,’ Jim said after a while, looking up from his drink. The alcohol had just taken the edge off his tension and made the evening seem a bit more friendly to him.
Cinnamon looked up from her book, seeming startled at the sudden noise in the quiet room. She registered what he had said, then shrugged. ‘You don’t need to tell me that, Jim.’
‘Maybe not,’ Jim said, ‘But I appreciate it.’
‘You should go get some sleep,’ Cinnamon told him. ‘Barney won’t be through to the safe until the morning, will he?’
Jim looked at his watch. It was pushing close to ten p.m., and the night’s cold was pressing through the windows no matter how tightly they kept the curtains closed.
‘Not until the morning,’ he nodded. ‘Then we’ll need to be on hand to take the money to various banks. It’ll all go much more quickly with us there too. Take a lot of the heat off of Barney and Willy.’
Cinnamon nodded. ‘And we won’t hear from Rollin until the morning, either,’ she said pertinently.
‘No,’ Jim said. ‘No, they’ll still be travelling...’
‘They’ll both be fine,’ Cinnamon told him quietly.
‘Yeah, sure,’ Jim nodded with a quick smile. ‘Sure.’
He stood up abruptly, taking his glass over to the little kitchen area and putting it down with a sharp sound on the surface by the sink.
‘Goodnight, Cinnamon,’ he said.
‘Goodnight, Jim,’ she replied quietly.
In his room he lay on his bed fully clothed, his head resting back on the pillow and his eyes unfocussed, staring at the light fitting that hung from the ceiling. In the dim glow cast by the lamp by the bed everything in the room looked strange. He wondered if Rollin and Liesl were making out fine. They’d be just about reaching the border by now. But he wouldn’t know until tomorrow. He wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. It was up to Rollin to get Liesl through into East Germany, and then to get her all the way through to West Berlin. It was up to Rollin to get Cinnamon’s clandestinely taken photographs and facts made up into a neat news story and printed in the newspaper. If he succeeded, it was possible that Jim’s first knowledge of it would be to see the story on sale in one of the local shops. Then the pressure really would be on, as Bauer started to feel himself attacked from all sides.
There was nothing Jim could do right now to further any of this, and that was the kind of time he hated most of all. All he could do now was sleep, and make sure that the final part of the mission went off properly tomorrow.