Blogs by S G Cardin
Destination: Berlin is avaliable through IUniverse!
8/24/2007 1:30:36 PM
My book, Destination: Berlin is out
Well, I've been meaning to get back here, but it's been a hectic couple of weeks in real life. I made a switch in my work schedule so now I work from 2 pm to 10 pm. I don't mind the hours and I think it's going to work out. That said, this past week, my novel, Destination: Berlin was published with IUniverse.
I originally published the book in 2001, but I went back to edit it. I tightened up the plot, focusing on the action/adventure aspects of the story. I'm really pleased with the outcome. Here's an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!
Somewhere in East Germany
Spies. Espionage. Danger. The Berlin duty train hinted at it all as it carried
the four allies between the West and occupied Berlin. Corporal Sharon
Cates was high on the potential thrill, but her military common sense
kept her anchored to the fact that hints rarely ever gave way to facts.
She walked through the doors and into the duty train's dining car,
wearing her class "A" uniform. It was relatively empty. A lone concession
window was open selling coffee and brötchen. She bought a cup and sat
down next to a window. It was dark outside, and she couldn't see much.
The train itself felt old with its dull, gray cars wearing cracks in its paint
like an old woman's age lines. Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was
two o'clock. Sharon knew she should be asleep, but she was too excited.
Soon she'd be in Berlin, and she was thrilled. Going to Berlin would be
stepping into living history. She put her briefcase on the table and took
out a guidebook to Berlin, thumbing through it as she drank her coffee.
There were so many places to see, but none she wanted to see more than
the Brandenburg Gate. It stood in proud, yet silent testament overlooking
West Berlin as if offering hope to all.
A faint creak pierced the air breaking her thoughts. When Sharon
looked up, she spied a Soviet soldier also buying a cup of coffee. A warm
shiver slid down her spine. After all, she knew the Soviets also used the
duty train; she just thought she'd never see one. He was tall and filled out
his uniform well. From the markings on his uniform, she gathered he was
a non-commissioned officer, but that was all. To her surprise, he
approached her booth.
"Good morning, Corporal. I am Junior Sergeant Dimitri Nagory of the
Soviet Army. May I join you?"
Sharon looked up. He was talking to her—in English! She motioned to
him to have a seat.
Dimitri sat down and smiled. "If you don't mind my asking, what's
your name, Corporal?"
"Sharon," she answered, as distantly as possible. She never thought
she'd meet a Soviet soldier on the Berlin Duty Train. This felt like a page
out of a LeCarre spy novel. "Sharon Cates."
"Is this your first time on the duty train?" he asked.
Sharon stared at him. Nosey Soviet. Cpt. Heathers had cautioned her
about them during her security briefing.
"Because it is the first time I have seen you," Dimitri continued, sipping
"Ah, yes," Sharon finally answered. Should she finally entertain those
hints of espionage and secret spy scenarios? "It's my first trip to Berlin,"
"I see. Are you attending the Berlin Orientation Tour?"
"How did you know?"
"Most of the Americans I see on the train travel to Berlin for that purpose,"
Dimitri explained, grinning.
"If you don't mind my asking, why are you on the train?" Despite the
desire to keep her composure, her lips curved into an inquisitive smile.
"I work in the Soviet embassy in London. My headquarters are in East
Berlin. I travel between London and Berlin every two weeks," he
"And you can tell me that?" she asked, raising a surprised eyebrow.
"It's common knowledge," he added.
"Do you make it a habit to talk to Americans on the train?" Sharon
"No, I don't. I usually sleep in my train car, but I haven't had much to
eat today so they let me out to do that," he replied.
"Touché," she said curtly. "So, Jr. Sgt. Nagory, what do you do in your
"I am a translator for my superior, Major Orlov. I'm fluent in German
and English. And you?"
Sharon felt mildly inadequate, but she had to admit this was thrilling,
in a forbidden way. "I studied French in high school, but I wouldn't consider
myself fluent in it."
"Languages aren't for everyone. What do you do? I notice you wear the
cross pistols on your lapel. Are you military police?"
Sharon pursed her lips. "Yes, I'm with the military police," she said
simply. She couldn't take it any further. He didn't need to know she
guarded nuclear weapons at a remote American kaserne in West Germany.
"How long have you been doing … this?" She pointed aimlessly with her
hand out the window. "Translating?"
"Four years," said Dimitri. "And you?"
She chuckled. "A little over three years." He seemed sincere, but was it
possible that a Soviet soldier could be curious as opposed to inquisitive?
The way he smiled at her, he must be curious. But why? Why would he
start a conversation with her—an obvious stranger to him.
"If you don't mind my asking, why did you join the military?"
"I wanted money for college," she answered flatly. "Why did you join?"
"I was conscripted."
"Of course—conscripted. That's like being drafted, isn't it?" said
"Yes, it's like a draft."
"America did away with the draft after Vietnam, I believe," she added.
The Soviet took a sip of his coffee. "Your accent, I can't place it. Where
are you from in America?"
His question caught her off guard. So much for small talk.
"Maine. It's in New England," she stammered, wrinkling her brow.
"I am from Leningrad. I do not have an accent," he said.
"You speak with a British accent," she replied, now befuddled. Enough
"I do not!"
"Jr. Sgt. Nagory, with all due respect, isn't this getting kind of personal?
We just met. Why would you ask me these questions? Are you trying to
get information from me? Here we are in a dining car on the duty train
between Bremerhaven and Berlin and we'll probably never see each other
"No, I am not trying to get information out of you for military purposes.
We may never cross paths again, but maybe this would be a nice
story to tell my grandchildren—how I met an American on the duty train
and that the Americans are not the evil people the government believes
them to be," Dimitri replied smoothly.
"I'm sorry," said Sharon.
"It's fine. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable, Corporal."
Sharon realized she wasn't uncomfortable with him, but with the principles
his army uniform represented. She held out her hand. "Friends? For
the night? Tomorrow, when we step off the train, we'll be enemies again."
"Friends … for tonight," he confirmed, taking her hand.
Sharon was impressed with his firm handshake.
The train car violently lurched. After a brief pause, a loud crack filled
the air and the train began to roll over, slamming into the ground end on
end. Sharon plowed into the Soviet junior sergeant. At first she felt a searing
heat surround her. She tried to look around, but the images that
assaulted her eyes were blurry. The heavy metallic scent in the air made her
gag. She felt as if she were soaring, and when she landed, her lungs
exploded. Pain shot through her torso. The bright light that had dominated
her sight was now replaced with cool blackness.
"Corporal? Corporal? Are you all right?"
Sharon stirred and struggled to sit up. "Yes, I think so."
About 500 meters east of the train derailment, there was a fire. Faint
voices from that direction filled the air. The night sky, once black, was
now filled with gray smoke. As her vision came into focus, she found her
dining companion kneeling next to her. The heavy lines of concern
Dimitri wore surprised her. She clenched her fists, tensing, and was met
by a pain twice as impressive as Dimitri's concern. Her hand shot to her
left side almost as quickly as the pain.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Feels like my ribs," she grimaced.
"I think I landed on you when we were thrown from the train. I'm
sorry," Dimitri said.
Sharon nodded. What a way to start her trip to Berlin. They had
already crossed the East/West German border and she had no idea just
how deep they were into East Germany. "What happened?" she asked.
"There was an explosion on the train."
She paused, letting his words sink in. This was serious. Was it an accident
or an act of international sabotage? What could cause such a violent
explosion? Trains in Europe were supposed to be one of the safest ways to
"The smell of gunpowder is in the air," Dimitri continued.
"This doesn't bode well," Sharon added.
"No, it doesn't," Dimitri affirmed.
Sharon reached over expecting to clutch her briefcase. Instead there was
nothing. "Oh my God!"
"What?" asked Dimitri.
"Where's my briefcase?" Sharon barked. She got on her hands and
knees, squinting her eyes as she looked for her missing luggage, doing her
best to ignore the throbbing pain in her side.
Dimitri put his hand on her shoulder. She stopped. Their eyes met.
"You need medical attention. What's so important you have to find
your briefcase?" he asked.
"My travel papers for Berlin are in there. I don't want to be without
them," she replied.
"I'll help you then," said Dimitri, frowning.
Sharon nodded her head and they began to scour the immediate area.
For the first time since she jumped out of an airplane, a sense of unflinching
panic filled her. Cpt. Heathers stressed to her that she needed to keep
her paperwork with her at all times. The Soviets or East German police
wouldn't hesitate to detain her if she couldn't produce her travel papers.
Sharon's eyes cut to Dimitri. He scoured the dirty ground just as determined
as she was to find her briefcase. If only she had her mini Maglite on
her, but she didn't have any pockets big enough in her dress uniform, so
she put it in her briefcase.
She got to her feet and stumbled to the nearby bushes. Maybe her briefcase
landed in there. In the distance, she could see people scurrying
around the train.
Dimitri joined her, pointing past the shrubs. "They're searching for
people," he said. Several fire trucks, small from the distance, rolled onto
"Argh!" Sharon bent over, clutching her side. A sharp pain reminded
her she was injured herself.
Dimitri stopped what he was doing and wrapped an arm around her,
providing her with support. "You need a medic."
"I need to find my briefcase!" she barked.
"Something isn't right," said Dimitri through tight, impatient lips. "I
don't believe this was an accident. I've ridden the duty train many times
and nothing like this has ever happened. Stay here and wait for me. I'll
bring a medic to you."
"No, I am not waiting for a medic. I need to find my briefcase first,"
she replied hotly. Who was he to dictate orders? Her sense of urgency
"We'll find your briefcase, but first you need medical attention. You
can barely walk," Dimitri replied calmly. Almost too calmly for Sharon's
tastes. After all, she could walk, her ability just wasn't as pain free as
before. What did she in his eyes? Concern? Yet it appeared laced with confusion
and urgency. About what? Maybe she'd have better luck looking for
the briefcase herself.
"Fine—go find a medic. I'm going to keep looking for my briefcase,"
"You're exasperating," Dimitri said.
"So are you. No wonder why our armies are enemies," Sharon retorted.
"But we promised to be friends for the night," he shot back.
Sharon went to say something, but nothing came out. For once, she
couldn't think of a thing to say. Dimitri smiled.
"I'll be back shortly," said Dimitri.
"Go," replied Sharon.
She watched him quickly disappear from view, partially concealed by
shadows, yet half in the light coming from the fire's blaze. She walked
across the clearing and stood next to one of the tree's surveying the area,
trying to find even a hint of her briefcase.
From her spot, she felt soothing warmth emanating from the blaze.
Against the dark sky, the roaring fire stood out. The pungent, smoky
aroma coming from the burning wood and metal kept taunting her to
vomit. Still, she held onto her senses, despite the ache in her ribs. How
could this have happened? This was a hell of a reward for winning Soldier
of the Quarter.
Sharon quickly surveyed her clothes. Her class "A" jacket was gone, lost
in the wreckage. Her pumps were scuffed, her nylons had runs in them,
and her skirt was dirty. She wore a short-sleeved class "B" shirt, also dirty.
Surprisingly, her ribbons hadn't fallen off. An Army Commendation
Medal (ARCOM,) two achievement medals, a good conduct medal, and
the army service ribbon stood proudly displayed over her heart, along with
a driving badge and her jump wings. On her right chest, the MP regimental
crest was still there. As per regulations, her nametag, which would have
been under the crest, wasn't worn. Her corporal bars were still firmly
attached to her shoulder lapel. What was going to happen now? She was
worried Dimitri would return with the KGB. Oh, that was a foolish
notion. What would the KGB want her for? She had very tight lipped
about what she did for the army, and she blended in with every other
American on the train.
Sharon closed her eyes and took a deep breath. What a way to cap off
the past couple of months. Three months ago she had won Soldier of the
Quarter for her battalion. This was a great accomplishment, but even
more than that, it gave her legitimacy as a soldier, a good soldier. Her platoon
sergeant recommended her for promotion. She did well on the promotion
board and scored high. She'd only been back from the Primary
Leadership Development Course (PLDC) a week, the month-long leadership
school she needed for promotion to sergeant. On July 1, her company
commander officially promoted her from specialist to corporal, a
junior NCO rank. Her professional life was soaring, which she could
hardly say about her personal life.
The separation had played havoc with her relationship to her
boyfriend, Specialist John Eddington. That and the fact he was jealous of
her professional accomplishments. They'd argued practically every day
she'd been back. Then on Thursday, after a fierce argument in front of her
platoon at the club, Sharon knew it was over. Now, here she was, waiting
for a Soviet soldier to return with help. Her eyes probed the shrubs and
bushes around her for her briefcase.
The four World War II allies rode the duty train. There were two trains,
one that left from Bremerhaven and one that left from Frankfurt. She
caught the train in Bremerhaven. After all, she was stationed in
Osnabrueck, a city in northern Germany in the British zone of occupa-
tion. Bremerhaven was only two hours away. Frankfurt was three and a
half hours away. When Captain Heathers gave her the security briefing on
Friday, he told her she might encounter Soviet soldiers. Heathers' voice
still rang in her ears.
"It's all a cat and mouse game with them. MI will debrief you when you
get to Checkpoint Bravo. If you can find out anything of strategic value,
do your best. If not, just keep any conversations with them casual. You can
bet they'll attempt to engage you …"
Meeting Soviet Junior Sergeant Dimitri Nagory was like meeting a
nervous chatterbox. She wondered if soldiers in his army were like him—
curious about Americans. She let him think she was a traditional police
officer, but in the army the military police had several jobs, including
physical security. She worked at a NATO site in the heart of British-occupied
Germany. Her job was to guard short-range tactical nuclear munitions.
It wasn't glamorous, but it was important and it required her to be
somewhat secretive regarding her work.
She sighed, as her eyes adjusted to the contrasts between fire and darkness.
Her thoughts drifted to her relationship with John. It had been based
on pure attraction. How could she think of John at a time like this? Was it
because she feared Dimitri would betray her as John had? Certainly his
motives would be understandable. He was the enemy, after all. John was
an American. Even if he was a lousy boyfriend, he had to be loyal to his
country. Didn't he?
Her eyes cut to an unusual sparkle of light about twenty-five meters
away in a tree branch that was just slightly higher than eye level. Could it
be her briefcase? She took a deep breath and walked toward it.
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