This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1110 words.
Captain Teller had been as good as his word. Inge was employed as a trainee teacher, without having to sit any tests or attend an interview. Mona had come up with a plan too. She would move in with me, and Inge could take over her room in the nice shared house. I was quite surprised at Mona’s modern attitude. When she said she would move into my apartment, I said, “Are we to marry then?” She had laughed. “Why? There is no need. We don’t have to be married, and it’s not as if we are intending on having children. We are both too young still”.
I went to see the man who owned the bar where Mona worked, and suggested that he might like to change her to a day shift, where she could serve breakfast and lunch. She would then be home in the evenings. He must have known who I was, as he agreed immediately.
I hadn’t mentioned my report or the conversation with Captain Teller to Inge. We never spoke about what she told me again. She started to get back to something of a normal life, and enjoyed the idea of teaching the small children. She also settled in well in Mona’s old room, and liked being able to close the door when she got home, to shut out the world.
That Spring, I celebrated my 21st birthday with Mona and Inge, enjoying a meal and drinks at the bar where Mona worked. Her boss waived the bill, telling me he was pleased to offer his hospitality. Another perk of the job.
But we soon had other things to worry about.
There was trouble in Hungary. Armed insurrection against the government had escalated into an all-out war on the streets. The Soviets had become involved, and had sent in troops to put down the uprising. Nothing was reported publicly here, but we knew that people would get to hear about it.
Work became incredibly busy. We started to round up everyone who had any connection to or communication with Hungarians, as well as some of the well-known trouble makers who we believed would try to jump on the bandwagon. When I returned with two suspects one afternoon, the Sergeant in charge of custody told me that the cells were full, and we had to take them to a small police station in the suburbs.
That was a tense time indeed, and carried on until order was restored in Hungary in late November.
Not long after new year’s day, Mona surprised me by announcing she was going to visit a cousin. She had never mentioned her before, but suddenly this cousin was a great friend, as well as a relative. She would travel by train to Freiberg, not far from the Czech border, and be gone for a week. My job made me suspicious of everything now, so I immediately checked Mona’s file at headquarters. I noted with some amusement that she was now shown as living at my address, which left me wondering who was keeping tabs on me. Page two of her unremarkable file did indeed show a cousin living in Freiberg. Surprisingly though, there was no name or address for that cousin, just a one-line entry.
While she was away, I was summoned to Captain Teller’s office. “Good news, Kraus. You are to be promoted to sergeant, and I am going to make you my driver. How do you feel about that then?” I guessed this was a reward for keeping quiet about the report I had written about Inge. But it was a good job to have, and the promotion would do me no harm. I smiled at the Captain. “I feel very pleased. Thank you, Captain Teller”.
The new job was so much better. I was finally included in lots of things that I hadn’t previously been allowed to know. I went to meetings with the Captain, and overheard top-secret conversations in the back of the car. Whenever anyone was hesitant, the Captain would say, “It’s alright, Sergeant Kraus is my driver, and you can say anything in front of him”. Whatever his motives, Teller had drawn me into an inner circle that I hadn’t known existed. Mona had been delighted at the news of my promotion. But I could get little or nothing out of her about her trip to see the cousin. “Oh, she has been unwell, she just wanted to see a familiar face, and chat about old times. I was bored, to be honest”.
It said a lot about the new me that I didn’t believe a word of it.
Being the Captain’s driver was such an easy job, I soon became bored. The action of the arrest teams faded into memory, as I spent my time driving to meetings at various buildings around the city, then sometimes having to wait in the car for hours. I was also at Teller’s beck and call, never knowing what time I might finish for the day, or if I would even get home at all, when meetings ran on long into the night. One thing I did learn from that job was that everyone still residing in the new East Germany had a file on them. And almost all of them were suspected of something or another. Stasi recruitment kept on increasing, and yet we never seemed to have enough officers to deal with the workload.
Outside on the streets, life went on much as normal. The rebuilding of the war-damaged areas continued, as well as the construction of new apartment blocks and public buildings. People did their jobs, ate their food, and acted much as they had before. But the sense of fear and dread was palpable at times. Say the wrong thing, listen to the wrong radio station or pass on some rumour or gossip, and you could be sure someone would denounce you.
One evening as I drove him home, Captain Teller informed me that we had stopped recruiting anyone else to serve in the SSD. He laughed as he told me the reason. “We just realised that we don’t need them, Manfred. The people are prepared to work for us for free, by informing on their neighbours, colleagues, even members of their own family. All we have to do is sit back, take the reports, and decide which ones we want to follow up on”.
When he got out of the car, I realised the implication of what he had told me. From a policeman’s point of view, we had achieved utopia.
An entire nation, policing itself.