Hans Freid shuffled closer to the checkpoint that barred him from leaving the Soviet Sector of Berlin. He stood out among the workers streaming to day jobs in the West. For one thing, he was the only one wearing a homburg hat. Only professionals wore such hats, and academics like him rarely claimed to have business with the Americans.
He had even more reason to sweat that warm morning. Inside the hat was a hand grenade. If the border guard discovered a secret envelope tucked under his belt, Freid was prepared to blow himself up.
When he finally reached the guard, he swallowed hard and pulled his identity booklet from his suit coat pocket. The Russian was younger than him, but had a rifle over his shoulder. He probably couldn't read German, but flipped through the pages anyway.
Suddenly the booklet snapped shut and the guard faced him directly. Freid caught his breath. The soldier tapped the booklet against his gloved hand. Freid gulped.
A man nudged him from behind.
At last Freid realized that the soldier was merely handing back the booklet.
He let out his breath, took the booklet and stumbled into the West. He would live that day. And he was free. But most importantly, he would be able to carry out his mission.
He let the sullen crowd carry him onto the modern streets, where the air smelled sweet. He felt lightheaded.
Half a block into the city and he grew disoriented. Was he just too giddy? He had lived there as a child. That was before the war, fifteen years ago. The buildings he remembered must have been destroyed by bombs and hauled away.
"Bitte?" Please? He got the attention of a stranger. "Where is the American Consulate?"
The burly man turned. He was a street sweeper for the Americans, an enviable job for any German. The man pointed to a bend in the road where others were headed. "It's on Clayallee."
Even the street names had changed.
Freid tipped his hat, and the grenade rolled forward. He flinched and caught it with his free hand. His blood froze, but the thing didn't explode.
The sweeper gawked at him. This was awkward.
Freid attempted a smile. "Would you dispose of this for me?"
The fellow grabbed the grenade and studied it with an experienced eye. Freid's hopes sank. He had escaped the Soviets, only to fall in the hands of the Americans.
The man turned the grenade over to read its label. The lettering was in Cyrillic. His eyes flashed up to Freid.
All he could do was stand there fingering his hat.
At last the guy grunted and tossed the grenade into a trash bin. It landed with a dull thud.
"Russian-made," Freid said. "Worthless."
He donned his hat and hurried away before his fellow countryman thought better of it and turned him in.
It was ten a.m. when he found the U.S. Mission in Berlin. How much longer would his luck hold out? He straightened his tie and tried to tidy his wrinkled suit, then gave up and entered.
Hitler survived the war and slipped away to the Far East. Today's world leaders begin disappearing in western China. This all adds up to a crisis of international and historic proportions. But will Brad West's Chinese sweetheart accept his hand in marriage? Not unless he can find her father, who has also been abducted. Brad and his eclectic gang take a dramatic flight from Paris to Paradise in search of May's father and missing presidents. Help Brad elude INTERPOL, evade insurgents in Baghdad, escape China's army and crack the Shangri-la Code in this action-packed thriller on the road to Shambhala.
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