Comment on this prolog can be found on today’s AWL post.
May 4, 2012, Luisanne, Switzerland
The first man to arrive on the terrace was clearly an American. He spoke quietly to the maître d’ while glancing at his watch.
Behind him a voice said brightly, “Ian, you need not worry. I said 2100 and here I am. I think you are a moment early.”
Ian Gunn turned and put out his hand, and said, “That must be it.” They seemed to be old friends. It was calculated appearance but, in this case, also the truth. “It’s good to see you, Kurt.”
Ian Gunn knew his friend as Kurt, or Karl, or Klaus, followed by any of a number of surnames. Tonight he was using Kurt Heiss, which was his actual name, as far as Ian knew.
They were led to a table overlooking Lac Léman. As they ate, each enjoyed the other’s company; there was business to attend to, but this was a rare chance to be easy with one another, since their latest venture was now concluded.
Except that both men were extremely fit, and had the look of lions, they could have been taken for businessmen. In fact they were, but their business was blood and death. Or its avoidance.
Gunn asked, “Did the transfer of goods go as we had hoped?”
Kurt replied, “Yes. There were some tense moments, but eventually everything went to the right buyer.”
By this, Kurt told his American counterpart that five hundred AK-47s had not gone to the Taliban as both their governments had feared, but had gone instead to a different insurgent group in a different country. Ian nodded, passed a flash drive to his friend, and received another in return. They moved on to other conversation.
As the meal wound down, Kurt said, “Ian, you seem troubled. Is it business or personal, and can I help in either case.”
Gunn smiled and shook his head. “Not troubled, Kurt. Nostalgic. I ate here once before, in this same restaurant, looking out at the same view with a young woman in 1989.”
“A very good year.”
“For you, Kurt, yes.” Kurt Heiss had been a very young man then, and in November he had stood with sledge hammer in hand, shoulder to shoulder with other young Germans, pounding down the Berlin Wall. “For me, it was a bit more complicated.”
“The young woman . . .?”
“It’s a very long story.”
“Which you cannot tell . . .?”
“No,” Ian said, “nothing like that. I was not yet working at our craft. It’s just a long story.”
“A précis then. I no longer go looking for young women to take back to my room, since I married Anna. She has lie-detector eyes. It will be a long night, and I am not going back to Berlin until tomorrow.
“Besides,” he added, “even though you say nostalgia, your eyes are not smiling.”
Ian shrugged and surrendered to his friend’s concern. “All right, a story. 1989. The best thing about that year was that I was 28 years old . . .”