"We can't give covering fire. That's the truth. They tell us there'd be war if we did."
"It's nonsense," said the younger policeman, emboldened by the whiskey. "If the allies weren't here the Wall would be gone by now."
"So would Berlin," muttered the elder man.
"I've got a man coming over tonight," said Leamas abruptly.
"Here? At this crossing point?"
"It's worth a lot to get him out. Mundt's men are looking for him."
"There are still places where you can climb," said the younger policeman.
"He's not that kind. He'll bluff his way through; he's got papers, if the papers are still good. He's got a bicycle."
There was only one light in the checkpoint, a reading lamp with a green shade, but the glow of the arclights, like artificial moonlight, filled the cabin. Darkness had fallen, and with it silence. They spoke as if they were afraid of being overheard. Leamas went to the window and waited, in front of him the road and to either side the Wall, a dirty, ugly thing of breeze blocks and strands of barbed wire, lit with cheap yellow light, like the backdrop for a concentration camp. East and west of the Wall lay the unrestored part of Berlin, a half-world of ruin, drawn in two dimensions, crags of war. […]
"Herr Thomas! Quick!" Leamas stepped to the observation.
"A man, Herr Thomas,'' the younger policeman whispered, "with a bicycle." Leamas picked up the binoculars.
It was Karl, the figure was unmistakable even at that distance, shrouded in an old Wehrmacht mackintosh, pushing his bicycle. He's made it, thought Leamas, he must have made it, he's through the document check, only currency and customs to go. Leamas watched Karl lean his bicycle against the railing, walk casually to the customs hut. Don't overdo it, he thought. At last Karl came out, waved cheerfully to the man on the barrier, and the red and white pole swung slowly upwards. He was through, he was coming toward them, he had made it. Only the Vopo in the middle of the road, the line and safety.
At that moment Karl seemed to hear some sound, sense some danger; he glanced over his shoulder, began to pedal furiously, bending low over the handlebars. There was still the lonely sentry on the bridge, and he had turned and was watching Karl. Then, totally unexpected, the searchlights went on, white and brilliant, catching Karl and holding him in their beam like a rabbit in the headlights of a car. There came the seesaw wail of a siren, the sound of orders wildly shouted. In fron tof Leamas the two policemen dropped to their knees, peering through the sandbagged slits, deftly flicking the rapid load on their automatic rifles.
The East German sentry fired, quite carefully, away from them, into his own sector. The first shot seemed to thrust Karl forward, the second to pull him back. Somehow he was still moving, still on the bicycle, passing the sentry, and the sentry was still shooting at him. Then he sagged, rolled to the ground, and they heard quite clearly the clatter of the bike as it fell. Leamas hoped to God he was dead.
Monday, November 9, 2009
"If the allies weren't here the Wall would be gone by now."