Read an Excerpt
By Robert Elmer
ZondervanCopyright © 2006 Robert Elmer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKAPITEL EINS
EAST BERLIN CHECKPOINT
MARCH 1989 - NEARLY TWO YEARS LATER
Of course it's me. Who else?
Liesl bit her lip and did her best not to look guilty as she waited for the East German Vopo border guard to check her I.D. papers. Again.
Hair: Brown. Eyes: Brown. Date of Birth: 12 März 1976. And yes, that would make her thirteen years old today.
Liesl's mother tried to explain. "It's my daughter's birthday, and we're just visiting my half brother for the occasion -"
Frau Stumpff's voice trailed off at the guard's withering stare. He would surely hear Liesl's heart beating, and he would find out everything. Surely he would find out.
"You will simply answer my questions," he snapped, still clutching Liesl's I.D. "Nothing more."
"Of course." Frau Stumpff rubbed her forehead as the guard went through their bags. A lonely fluorescent light tube flickered overhead. But it gave enough light for the guard to see the contents of their purses strewn across a pockmarked wooden table that had once been painted a gut-wrenching shade of green. The table nearly filled the dreary interrogation room, barely leaving them enough space to move. And the guard towered over them across the table, blocking their way to the door. A Russian-made clock kept time on the bare wall.
Ten minutes slow. Liesl checked the clock against her own watch, a nice gold Junghans model Papa had given her a few days earlier, before he went to Stuttgart, again, on business. She pushed her sleeve down before the guard noticed. No telling what he might ask of them.
Liesl's mother gave her an "I'm sorry" look. But what could they do about it?
They could ignore the grimy two-way mirror on the wall behind them. Everyone knew an inspector of some kind sat behind it watching them, waiting for them to say something that could be taken as a "crime against the East German State."
Well, she wouldn't give anyone that chance. The guard methodically picked through their things, thumbing through appointment books, opening up wallets. He even took the rubber tip off her mother's crutch and looked inside. Imagine that!
And Liesl knew she would faint if the guard moved on from searching their purses to searching anything else. She prayed the small bulges in her socks and the one taped under her blouse would only make her look as if she had eaten a few too many eierkuchen - pancakes - perhaps filled with a bit too much sweet marmalade. Wouldn't he just assume all West Berliners were fat and greedy, lazy and overfed?
Some people might think so, but only if they listened to Radio DDR Eins - the East German government broadcasts. She closed her eyes and leaned against the table.
Bitte, bitte. Please, please, get me through this, she prayed silently, biting her lip until she was sure it would start bleeding.
Was the guard leading her off in handcuffs? No. Her mother gently squeezed her elbow. "Answer the man's question, dear."
Liesl's eyes snapped open. What? The guard faced her, his frown growing deeper. He held out her I.D. papers but wouldn't give them back until she answered.
"Oh, ja. Of course." She lit up a smile and bobbed politely, as she might in a ballroom, only this was no dance. She must have said the right thing; his hollow-cheeked expression thawed a couple of degrees as he released the papers.
"Gut," he told them as he glanced once more at the mess on the table. "Enjoy your stay here in East Berlin."
There. Almost like a travel agent - only his words didn't fool anyone. He pivoted like a robot and stepped toward the exit, pausing only a moment as he reached for the doorknob.
"And," he added, still facing away from them, "Happy birthday."
Pardon me? Liesl was too startled to say "thank you." And she couldn't have brought herself to say anything like that to the nasty guard anyway. Not even when she was pretending to be Cher, her favorite American singer and actress. Her hands shook as she shoveled her things off the table and back into her purse. Right now they had to get out of that dirty border station checkpoint, past the dreary shops on Friedrichstrasse, and on to her uncle's flat.
She fought the temptation to check her smuggled cargo, to touch the bulge in her sock. No one must know, not yet. Not even her mother.
"Mutti," she whispered as they turned the corner. "What did I agree to back there?"
Frau Stumpff shook her head as she continued limping along with her crutch. Liesl was used to walking at half speed.
"Oh, just that you should go through the Jugendweihe ceremony while you were here." She held a glove to her face, partly because of the chill wind, partly because of the other people on the street. "Just like all the other good young socialists, dedicating their lives to the state."
Oh, bombig! - Great! Liesl groaned at what she'd done without knowing. But she was an actress, just like Cher. An actress played the part.
"You'd better be careful what you agree to around here." A smile played at the corners of her mother's lips. "Or you'll be defending socialism and the Soviet Union before you know it."
Liesl nodded. After what they had just been through, she couldn't help jumping when she heard a man's voice boom at them, "You two!"
Liesl turned and saw the guard who had searched them. He raised his hand as he ran closer. "Stop right there!"
Excerpted from Smuggler's Treasure by Robert Elmer Copyright © 2006 by Robert Elmer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.