Russian Sector: Part Twenty-Seven

This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1140 words.

Berlin, 1987.

For eight years, I sat in the basement office of Closed Files. I was reminded about the warning that I would end up pushing papers around in a basement, and that was what I was doing. I settled for knowing that Inge was alive and well in Hamburg, although we could never get in touch. I was fifty-two years old, and tired.

To my credit, I did help Maria during her last year before the cancer came back and took her. I helped where I could and even though my influence had diminished beyond recognition, I was still able to get access to good food and some luxuries for her. I felt older than my years, lonely, and depressed. The evenings in my apartment seemed too long, and I was going to bed earlier and earlier, trying to forget as much as I could.

As advised, I kept my head down and mouth shut, and never heard from Colonel Meyer again.
And then I heard that Nagel was dead.

It was one of those things that you couldn’t imagine. He had been hit by a truck as he left his own car and ran across to his house. Apparently, his wife had been standing in the doorway and had seen him knocked down. The driver involved was terrified, but it was judged to be an accident. Colonel Nagel, the man so feared in the Stasi, had been a victim of his own impatience to get home for his dinner.

As you might imagine, I saw that as very good news indeed.

I didn’t wait long before I tried to get out of Closed Files, and back to something that might be remotely stimulating. But my disappointment was immediate, when I was advised to apply for nothing, and to continue to sit quietly in the basement. Inge’s defection had not been forgotten, and my age was also against me. I went to a bar after work that night, and had far too much vodka to drink. At least six years to go until retirement, no prospect of transfer or promotion, and having to spend my days sitting with a bunch of prune-faced middle-aged women who had no conversation about anything.

I was beginning to wish I had left with Inge that night.

Berlin, 1989.

By the time of my fifty-fourth birthday, I was so bored, I thought I might go insane.

But things were changing.

Poland had changed. Hungary had changed. The Soviets had lost their hold over the Eastern Bloc allies, and events were spiralling out of control. By the autumn, there had been so many demonstrations in Berlin, that the government tried to calm things down by allowing people to visit the West once again. Naturally, I was no longer involved in policing or investigating any of this unrest. By the end of November, we had already received instructions to begin shredding the Closed Files. That was a huge task, and one that I suspected would take many years.

Walking home from work, I was amazed to see people on The Wall. Some were painting slogans on it, others chipping away pieces as souvenirs. The guards did nothing to intervene, and there was a strange party atmosphere on many streets. By the end of the year, it was obvious that the change was coming. I carried on going to work, and watched as my staff shredded files. As there were so many, trucks arrived to take them away for incineration too.

Familiar faces began to disappear. As the spread of peaceful protest widened, those who had seen the writing on the wall began to bail out. Like rats leaving a sinking ship, they did what they could to get out of the country during the time that restrictions were relaxed.

The mood in the city was different too. I wandered around warily, expecting to be recognised and denounced at any moment. The balance of power had shifted, and ordinary people were no longer afraid. Being a Stasi officer was soon going to put me at a distinct disadvantage, after all these years of privilege. The circle had undoubtedly turned. I knew instinctively that I would not be able to count on my colleagues. Many uniformed officers had already started to wear plain clothes, and the tension was visible in the faces of everyone at headquarters.

Berlin, 1990.

When I turned up for work that morning, there were crowds of civilians outside. Many were scattering our secret files around, and congratulating themselves on having gained access to the building the previous night. I stopped short of going in, and realised that it was all over. I no longer had a job to go to, or others to work alongside. I had spent my working life in an institution that to all intents and purposes no longer existed.

I walked back to my apartment, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

In the bedroom, I had a few hundred West German marks, acquired from my previous job. There was very little that I had any attraction to in my apartment, save for some clothes, and my journals. Maria was gone, and I had no connection to anyone left in the East. I hadn’t turned up for work, but nobody seemed to care anymore. Time to face facts. My pension was gone. All those years counted for nothing. I had thousands of potential enemies, and not a friend in the world.

The Wall was as good as gone, and the Brandenburg Gate open to anyone who wanted to drive or walk through it. The German Democratic Republic was no more.

I thought of Mama. Her hard struggle to make things work. Her legacy that had eventually saved both Inge and myself. Memories of Grigiry, and the surprising news that Colonel Meyer had been her secret lover. She had worked so hard to secure a future for us in the DDR, and I imagined that she would be turning in her grave to see how readily the population had embraced the opportunity to become part of the West again.

I feared for our people, imagining that they would be marginalised in the West, and find life far more difficult than they might imagine. But it was too late. History had caught up with us, and our system was no more. I accepted that, and faced the change with a sense of foreboding.

I have enough western money to get to Hamburg, and find Inge. I am hoping that she will still be happy with Anna, and have a good life.
I will soon find out.

So, I leave these journals on the table in my apartment. I hope that someone will read them one day.

And I hope that they will understand how things were.

The End.

43 thoughts on “Russian Sector: Part Twenty-Seven

    1. It would be great in B&W. An all-German cast, and definitely subtitles. 🙂
      I would have to look at some ‘modern’ actors, but I would like to get Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck as director. He made ‘The Lives of Others’, one of the greatest films ever.
      Thanks, Frank.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you, Pete. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I enjoyed this serial. It was so much different than anything I’ve seen you write before. (although I”ve only been following you for six months) While most writers develop a sweet spot, I think the times we get out of our comfort zones to try something new is the most fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Pete. I am mostly known for writing stories and serials with a twist, or multiple twists. I wanted to change that this time, and write about a period in history that I grew up in, and a country that fascinated me enough for me to visit it.
      Interestingly, it has been read/viewed more times than the others, by a small margin.

      These two are still my personal favourites though.
      https://beetleypete.com/2018/10/06/benny-goes-bust-the-whole-story/ (No twist)
      https://beetleypete.com/2019/02/22/the-old-remington-the-complete-story/ (All twists)

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

      1. I’ll be glad to check them out. When a writer talks about his/her favorite stories, I immediately perk up because I know they are emotionally attached (often because they know it is some of their best work).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny but I am the lone supporter of quitting after this chapter. I love knowing him in this setting at this time in history and delighted in the way he left the journals for someone to find. Great series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent, Pete. You have brought life to a piece of history that is not common knowledge, Personally, although I have had run ins with the KGB and the Chinese equivalent, I have never encountered the Stasi.
    I can hardly wait for the next part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for your engagement with this serial, Don. I am so pleased you enjoyed it.
      I left it open for more, but I am as yet undecided about whether or not to leave the outcome to the imaginations of the readers.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great journey though history, Pete…Manfred was the perfect protagonist – limited by the world around him, but still able to make a positive change for his sister…as for him, I’d love to see them reunited – and I assume that is what happened to him, because he deserves it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I think we can assume he found her in time. A new life in a unified Germany. Maybe not as great as they had hoped, but perhaps so much better than what they left.
      May thanks for reading it all, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. (1) When the serial started, Manfred was living in a basement room in Berlin, and we learned how he ended up there. Now, at the end of the serial, we learn that Manfred, who’s been working in a basement office, is going to leave Berlin.
    (2) In an article announcing Col. Nagel’s death, the truck driver was quoted as saying, “Nailed him!”
    (3) “Poland had changed.” Can we thank Eddy Winko for that?
    (4) “…I was amazed to see people on The Wall. Some were painting slogans on it…” / “…those who had seen the writing on the wall began to bail out.” Talk about a double entendre!
    (5) People were “chipping away pieces as souvenirs.” Manfred, being the helpful man that he is, really should have offered to chip in on the action.
    (6) …”the tension was visible in the faces of everyone at headquarters.” / “Familiar faces began to disappear.” Now you see ’em, now you don’t!
    (7) “The circle had undoubtedly turned.” Yes, in a roundabout way. But that’s only fair and square.
    (8) “So, I leave these journals on the table in my apartment. I hope that Pete Johnson will read them one day, and maybe publish them on his excellent blog.”

    (A) “Russian Sector” was a terrific read, and could well be expanded into a gripping novel in the genre of historical fiction. Pete, your serial craft has a hit a new all-time high!
    (B) Back in 1994, I German friend of mine, living in Detmold, drove me to Berlin, with a brief stop in Tangermünde. What struck me on this road trip was the contrast between West and East. In the former West Germany, there were vibrant colors everywhere. In the former East Germany, there was no color at all—the cities and countryside (even the sky!) were only black and gray. Also, much to my surprise, I witnessed Russian tanks on the highway—pulling out, heading east… Finally, Berlin itself was astonishing. I’d expected a bland city (I’d never heard anyone say, “Let’s plan a vacation to Berlin!”), but instead found a beautiful city with lakes, rivers, forests, boulevards, and amazing architectural gems! We visited the Brandenburg Gate, walked the Unter den Linden, crawled past the Berliner Philharmonie (at my request), watched an organ grinder and his monkey interact with the crowd, and picnicked beside one section of the Berlin Wall.
    (C) I’m not sure a sequel to Russian Sector is in order. I understand that a great story sometimes get readers so invested in it that they ask for more. I’ve had a couple of people ask for a sequel to “Pope on the Dole.” and my answer is no. As the famous quote goes, “Always leave them wanting more.” Rather than write a sequel, I would rather see (as stated in A above) a fuller development of the story into a full-length novel.
    (D) Once you publish the whole story in one post, I’ll link to it on Twitter. Congratulations, Pete! This was a great piece of literary work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your valued thoughts and opinions, David. Not to mention your dedicated work on the puns through all 27 episodes! :).
      I tend to agree about a sequel, so will think about it for some time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! The ending is particularly powerful with the journals left in the apartment. Well done, Pete! Your historical fiction is excellent. I only wish you would write an epilogue, perhaps five years later, of Manfred and Inge and their life in the west.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really didn’t think I would get caught up in this serial, but I was wrong. A beautiful and authentic account of Manfred, I sincerely hope he found Inge and spent the rest of his life with happiness! Excellent story once again Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That was as much of a twist as I wanted, Manfred made it out alive 🙂 Great story Pete, much enjoyed, you seem to be able to take any genre and make something of it. I’m happy to know that I on the list of the people who get to read your work.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well not a bad ending, but a good place for it to stop and I will look forward to a sequel at some point. Would love to know how Inge and Anna got on and for Manfred to find them, that’s the mark of a good story isn’t it? When you want to know what happened next!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Another really enjoyable serial! Perhaps there can be a “Part 2”, where we find out what happened to Inge (and maybe even Manfred?!) He had a very sad life I feel, very lonely 😦

    Liked by 2 people

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