Operation: Crimstone (Part 1)
September 2nd, 1940
I tend to consider myself a fortunate man. Given the events I’ve endured these past weeks, I feel that my string of good luck has run its course. Though I assure you, good luck or otherwise, I also tend to make a fine show of things.
Before you arrived, I felt little dapples of blood drying on my face as I lie next to a stunning and lifeless blonde maiden that goes by Cynthia Himmelreich. You should have seen her last night. Her dark red dress rhythmically slinked with her curves as would a skilled painter mocks a steady stream… and her lips; mmm… it was a shame that we had only just met. The arrangement called for us to meet at Rothstein, an establishment far above my worth that specializes in fine wine and dance. My mission statement explained that Journalist Fräu Himmelreich was supposed to show with two others posing at bodyguards but you already know, she came alone. Upon greeting, I could tell she was unnerved but given the circumstances, she couldn’t go into detail why. I asked her how her Mum was fairing with the diphtheria vaccination and she simply responded, “Still bedridden I’m afraid,” which was code for, “Everything is good.”
We were seated just a few meters from a small stage where a wiry looking man with a careful comb-over played the piano. I wasn’t familiar with the tune but it was performed with subtle brilliance. The room smelt of a damp musk; mixtures of cigar smoke, fried desserts, and honey wine. Speaking of which, after being seated Fraulein ordered a bottle of sekt. I must say, I’m not an admirer of the grape variety but it was considerably acceptable; though I still prefer a proper pint. Thirty minutes would pass before the dining area began to fill and more than half of that with higher ranking military personnel.
From what I could understand at that time given our coded communication; everything was still go on her end and we’re just waiting for the right moment. The plan changed just a tad being short half our original team but luckily she was the linchpin and everything I’ll need to complete the mission. Our waiter circled by once more, topping off our third glass of sparkling wine and informed us that another performance was about to take place. She glanced at me with those red lips and smirked… onto phase two then.
A few band members and couple, male and female carrying microphones took positions on stage around the piano. Just as the lights began to dim, I gestured towards my date for a dance and she humbly obliged. Surprisingly we weren’t the first to arrive to the dance floor that was directly adjacent to our seating arrangement. The male singer announces himself as Derik Von Mueller and his partner for the evening; a Miss Valeska Osterhagen and they’ll be starting off this evening with “Isn’t This a Lovely Day.”
When placing my right hand upon the small of her back, I can feel her trembling but the worry couldn’t be seen by her expression. Obviously something was amiss. She pulled me closer to her breast after grabbing my left hand and lifting her cheek up to mine. I can read the chill from beneath her gloves, a fluxuating 36.1 degrees Celsius. She is either nervous or ill. As the music begins to play, she slowly spins us around giving me the full view of the establishment. I count 63 military personnel, 14 manned restaurant crew, and 27 citizens. Then Cynthia finally says to me, “My men are dead.”
I continue to smile and nod to the others dance around us, “Well… that sounds awfully permanent. Care to go into any detail?”
“I thought they were just scared of getting caught. I can see how blowing up a Nazi sympathizing establishment could be a frightful task but I believe they were paid off. I was called down to the front desk to our hotel where I received wire from my assistant. He was just questioned about a leak at our office and they must have narrowed it down to me. The only others who knew about it are our current absentees.”
“You dealt with them, did you?”
“For the good of Austria… yes.”
“And the explosives?”
She pauses for a moment, “Agent, I believe there are other ways of capitalizing on our situation.”
“They didn’t bring the explosives.”
I take breath and look around again, the chorus is captivating the audience as they begin to sing along. “I believe now would a good time to abort the mission.”
“And what of my offer, sir Agent man?” I remain silent as she explains that she has been working on a film that can alter the state of the war. Something to the extent of breeding super soldiers and that is all relies on the research of a scientist. She says, “If you want to cripple Germany’s future, I found a way how. Just follow my lead.” What else was a man holding a powerful and yet beautiful woman to do? A secret agent’s life isn’t exactly as glorious as you read in fiction. Humour her, I thought… So I did.
She circles me again to face a room where 2 fully dressed officers are welcomed in. Inside I see a larger group of military personnel. Upon examining the men inside, I found our original target.
“Can you see in?” she asks.
“How many are there?”
Assuming she knows already knows my ability to assess my surroundings with high precision; I go ahead give her the full report. “4 soldiers on lookout, a wire operator, 3 Field Generals, an older Administrative General, 2 Staff Sergeants, and a bearded man with a World War 1 outfit that’s accompanied by two younger ladies.”
“The Administrative General, does he mustache?”
“Yes. Dark grey.”
“Is he drinking a beer?”
“Yes… they serve beer? I wanted a beer.”
“Then you should have been man and ordered one. And that Administrative General is Walter Strauss. He has been promoted to oversee the development process within the Germany’s Science & Research Division (GSRD). Tonight’s celebration is in his honour… paid for by the Fuhrer himself.”
“I know you write for their local propaganda market but how did you come by this information. Was it the film you speak of?”
“Time is of the essence, Agent. A very important man, that scientist I mentioned is your target and he is very close by. So if Strauss is here, that means he should be staying at the hotel above. That’s your new mission.”
“At this point Fräulein, why should I believe a word you say?
She looks directly into my eyes as the song breaks into its final verse. “He’s one of yours Agent. And the GSRD has been exploiting his works for far too long. I believe it’s time for him to go home.” The song comes to a close and the dining hall erupts into applause. Before letting go, she plants a small kiss upon my cheek and then tells me, “Now, go to the little boy’s room and wait for me.”
I don’t know what came over me, I felt compelled. There was no reason to go there but I started making my way. By the time I reached the loo, the next song had already started… I can’t recall what it was… everything was a blur.
I stood there looking into the room as I felt the world around me was rushing by. My heart was racing and a cold sweat was starting to build. At the time, I was clueless to what had happened. She must have poisoned me. The restroom door swung open as a blurry figure walked through with Fräu Himmelreich. She giggles as she locks the door behind her, dancing with… I couldn’t tell. Then she calls out my name.
“Pierce”, then everything came back in focus. The blurs immediately cleared and time slowed to normal. Though, I couldn’t speak. I tried, I swear I did. She announces to me, “This is Field General Kurt Werner and I think he can help us out. Isn’t that right Kurt?”
I look over at the General and I recognize him from earlier. Clear as day, you can see a small dot of red lipstick highlighting his lower lip but it doesn’t deter you away from his trance-like state of emptiness. His jaw slacks open as he responds, “Yes, Fräulein Himmelreich. I want to help.”
“Such a sweetie. Now tell me, where might be Professor William Saunders?”
“He is in the hotel, upstairs in room 43C.”
“Uh-huh, and is he being guarded by any of your men.”
“Yes, the standard 4 man watch.”
“Excellent. You’ve done a great deed for your country.”
“I do what I must for Germany.”
“Oh, that’s sad. Pierce, knock him out.”
Her command once again takes control as I slam his skull up against the tile wall, spraying a bit of blood as body crumbles to the floor. Then I suddenly regain my senses. “You psychotic woman, what did you do to me?”
She smiles at me. “Oh I’m sure you figured it out by now. Any who, time is of the essence Agent.”
“No now wait. I deserve an explanation.”
“Would you like the quick and dirty or the long and dreadful?”
I continue to collect myself. “Firstly, if you can… control people, why didn’t you just command him to go to sleep?”
She looks at me in shock. “Oh my, well. Hmm, never occurred to me. These are all quiet new, you see.”
“I’m getting that.”
“But he did also say ‘Germany,’ so I say it’s well deserved.”
“All too true but again, time... essence. Don’t make me kiss you again.”
For the first time, I realized that I just met the real Cynthia Himmelreich. Following such realization led to fair mix of excitement and fear. I have a keen eye for reading people and she… well. I’m getting off track again. I say, “fine” to her and follow her out of the restroom, then back into the dining area. As I glace over at the front exit now draped in balloons, I see a group of 3 lawmen running towards our original target and ordering them to gather their belongings. “I believe need to move quickly dear before our friends realize I just nearly killed a man in the loo.”
She takes my arm and pulls me to the kitchen. “No worries, there is a door to the hotel lobby just across the way.” The kitchen is bustling with workers, pots and pans frantically clanging as would you expect in a packed venue.
We finally make it to the back of the hotel lobby and head for the lift. She looks back to me and whispers as we slow down, “He’s on level C so we must be swift about this… but most of all quiet.”
Of course she says such a thing while a gunshot echoes out and splits a wooden vase next to us. That’s where things started to get a little too interesting. I pushed her towards an adjacent hallway for cover as I slip into an architectural dip into the wall by the lift. After a second, a man in German says, “That was a warning shot Miss Himmelreich and if you can believe anything we Germans have to say, it’s that we won’t miss a second time. Now come out and turn yourself in. We know... that you're off you medication.”
to be continued...
What? A cliffhanger? Yeah, I know. I had to do it and for mainly two reasons. First off, the next bit is super action packed so tonally... if would feel weird bundled with this one without a small break. And secondly, it has a lot of more world building elements to it and I want to be able to hone that with the Slamfist team before venturing forward without them. It's a long process but I'm all too excited about what's going to take place next time. I'll aim for this to be complete by next month just to wrap up this particular mission. Remember to tune into this month's Supara Update to see possibly a sneak peak in the next part of Agent Pierce's Operation: Crimstone.