THE POTSDAM PROTOCOL - MICHAEL KECHULA
Originally published in Skive, an Australian magazine, in 2005
I spent three weeks in Moscow rummaging through KGB archives. Ten hours a day. Didn’t find what I was looking for.
All the real good stuff is still hidden. Figures. They ain’t gonna volunteer anything about their nastiest black operations.
Waiting for the bus to Moscow’s Rossiya Hotel, I thought about Higgins from our Berlin squad. He was still at CIA headquarters. He’d urged me not to go to Moscow. Said it was all ancient history. What we did during the Cold War didn’t matter to anybody anymore. We succeeded in stopping the Reds, and that was good enough.
“Only we know the ugly things we did for God and country,” Higgins had said. “We got our noses bloodied regularly to make sure America made it to the twenty-first century free of communist totalitarianism. Well, we made it. Now it’s time to rest, Stokes. Time to write sanitized memoirs. Time to make it sound more glorious than it was. Time to let it all fade into the secret annals of the Cold War.”
“Easy for you to say,” I’d told Higgins. “You got to Berlin after Harry Fox was killed. After the CIA and KGB signed the Potsdam protocols where both sides agreed to stop killing each other’s spooks. Bashing, broken bones and maiming were still sanctioned. But somebody up high on both sides decided we were butchering each other at unacceptable rates. And if we lessened our spook power, then third world countries with interests inimical to both America and the Soviet Union could fill the vacuum. Better off finding out who the piss ant countries’ agents were, and kill them instead.”
“As I remember,” Higgins said, “you violated the agreement by killing two more KGB lower-echelon goons. You were lucky the KGB were reorganizing. By the time they got around to dealing with the fact that they had two less on the payroll, they figured to hell with it. They never complained officially. Saved you from hard time at Leavenworth.”
“I did it to retaliate. They violated the protocols first by killing Harry Fox. In fact, I’m heading to Moscow now that they’ve opened KGB archives. I’m gonna check the books. I wanna see if I can find some missing pieces. I wanna know for sure who killed Harry. He was my best friend. I always figured it was that freak, Vasil Pescuda, but couldn’t prove it. If I can find any reference to their operations in West Berlin in ’75, maybe I can make some logical leaps. If I can pin it on Pescuda, I’ll die a happy man.”
“Stokes, you’re a crazy bastard! For old times’ sake, we never had this conversation.”
Honking horns broke my reverie. Moscow’s version of rush hour. Traffic crawled.
The bus stopped where I stood outside old KGB headquarters. Somebody got off. Those ahead of me crammed the bus so badly, I couldn’t get both legs aboard. The driver yelled. With me half in, half out, he couldn’t close the door. I stepped out.
When the bus pulled away, I saw something that made my adrenalin rise. A face that could’ve been Pescuda’s, after 30 years of hard living, peered through a rear bus window.
I followed the bus for two blocks through mired traffic.
Next stop, enough got off so I could board. Shoving my way toward the back, I tried to get a closer look.
The only potential weapon I had was my room key. If I rammed it into his eye socket and pounded hard enough, maybe I’d pierce his brain.
That’s when I spotted a nail. It looked long enough to jam into his temple. Some Russian agents killed themselves with rusty nails to avoid interrogation by the German Gestapo. They’d tape the nails on the inner side of their belts, just in case.
I reached for the nail. Too bad it wasn’t rusty. It’d add a bit of icing.
I worked my way to the back. When somebody sneezed loudly, the target looked my way.
A hideous scar marred his left cheek. That didn’t square with my memory of Pescuda’s dossier photos. The photos I’d studied from every angle to ensure I’d never forget. Dammit! The scar planted a seed of doubt. I didn’t want to kill an innocent.
My mind raced when he pulled a cord to signal the driver.
“Harry Fox,” I yelled.
The target looked at me, then shouted, “Stokes! You bloody bastard!”
“Truce,” I said. “Potsdam Protocols.”
“Da! Truce!” he said.
We left together.
“Vasil, I see a McDonalds. I’ll buy you a Big Mac.”
While he chomped on a burger, I said, “Do you realize, if you’d won there’d be no McDonalds in Moscow?”
“We wouldn’t want them,” he said. “We’d be in America, dynamiting McDonalds and every other bastion of capitalism.” Then he added, “Why did you mention Harry Fox?”
“He was killed. After the protocols were signed.”
“I heard that. Shame.”
“No loss,” I said. “He was incompetent.”
“Then I did you a favor,” Pescuda said.
“Where’d you do it?”
“Figures. How’d you kill him?”
“It’s the nature of war,” I said. “Only the cruelest survive.”
“I’m glad it’s over and we can be civil,” Pescuda said. “Oy, my bladder’s about to burst.”
He headed for the loo.
Men are exceedingly vulnerable when facing a urinal. Holding urine back too long, and then suddenly releasing, makes their blood pressure drop. Weakens them momentarily.
He’d held it in too long. He shuddered.
I threw him to the floor and slammed the nail into his temple.
“Say hello to Harry Fox, you bastard!”
I propped him on a commode, jammed the stall door shut, and crawled out a window.
He’d pissed all over me. It was a small price to pay for revenge.
BIO: Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in 8 contests and placed in 7 others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards 4 times. His stories have been published by 116 magazines and 32 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored two books of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales” and “The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook versions available at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com. Paperback available at www.amazon.com.