Excerpt for Bedlam in Berlin by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

JJ Bennett: Junior Spy


Bedlam in Berlin


By Alba Arango

Copyright © 2018 Alba Arango


All rights reserved.


Published by Sapphire Books

P.O. Box 753842

Las Vegas, NV 89131


Distributed by Smashwords


This book is available in print at most online retailers.


Book Cover by Bukovero


Library of Congress Control Number: 2018906342

ISBN: 978-1-7323769-4-6


This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

BOOKS BY ALBA ARANGO



Chapter 1


Heart racing, I sped through Berlin’s Tegel Airport. She was there. I just knew it.

“JJ!” Maggie called out behind me.

Ignoring her, I continued my search for the beautiful blonde Russian spy. I stopped just outside the automatic doors and looked frantically at the long trail of taxis in front of me. As the warm weather enveloped me, my heart fell. I was too late. She was gone.

A hand pulled on the back of my hoodie. “Jeremiah Ethan Bennett, Junior. What the heck is wrong with you?”

I turned to face Maggie as she let go of me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to ditch you like that. But, I swear I saw Ivana running through the airport. I tried following, but she got away.”

Maggie’s eyes narrowed. “Seriously, JJ? This is like the second time in two days that you swear you saw her. First at the Heathrow Airport in London, and now here.” She shook her head. “There’s a term for this. It’s called a hallucination.” Her dark brown eyes shimmered in the sun. “Face it. You want to see her again so badly, you’re starting to imagine things.”

My face felt hot. “That’s not true. Ivana was here. I know it.”

She rolled her eyes.

My father and Maggie’s mom, Ms. Hernandez, joined us, pulling our luggage behind them.

“Where’d you two run off to?” Dad asked as he placed my suitcase next to me. “I didn’t want to try and explain to the police how we lost two twelve-year-old kids at the airport.”

“It’s my fault, Dad.” I took off my hoodie and unzipped the front of my suitcase to stuff it inside. “I thought I saw Billy Johnson walking outside. It wasn’t him, though.”

I hated lying to my father, but when you’re an undercover spy, it’s one of those things you just have to do.

Dad frowned. “Billy Johnson? The kid that lives in Pahrump, up the street from Grandma’s?”

I grinned. “Yep. Wouldn’t that have been the trippiest thing ever? Running into a kid from our hometown out here in Berlin, Germany?”

He ruffled my hair. “Definitely would’ve been…trippy.” He laughed, but I noticed a look of concern in his eyes. Dad worried about me because I didn’t have a lot of friends. Ever since Grandma died a year ago, I’d been traveling with him.

My father worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, supposedly as a computer tech sent to embassies overseas to solve their computer problems. But, I knew the truth. He was a CIA investigator deployed to different cities to uncover the source of the Agency’s problems. Since the “tech” story allowed me to travel with him, I played along. I didn’t tell my dad I knew his secret, and I didn’t tell him about mine.

I pointed at the sign hanging near one of the doors. “Polizei? I hope that’s German for Polish sausage, because I’m starving.”

Maggie shook her head. “Polizei means police, moron.”

A twinkle shone in Ms. Hernandez’ eyes. “If you dedicated yourself as much to your studies as you did to your meals, you would be fluent in more than just English. Perhaps some additional lessons in foreign language would be helpful.”

I groaned and everyone laughed.

Ms. Hernandez was the toughest tutor on the planet. If she could cram any extra lessons into our daily routine, she would.

“Man, I can’t wait to get to the hotel.” I moved toward the back of the taxi line. “I totally need some massive foodage.”

“Actually, JJ,” Dad said and gestured for me to get out of line, “we’re getting picked up by a friend of mine. He’s a diplomat at the British Embassy here in Berlin. In fact, I think that’s him now.”

A beautiful black Rolls Royce limo pulled up to the curb in front of us. The back door opened and a tall, thin man with wavy blond hair stepped out and waved at us.

“Glad to see you made it, Jeremiah,” he said with a British accent as the chauffer began loading our luggage into the trunk.

“Nigel.” Dad extended his hand to the tall man. “It’s good to see you.” After shaking hands, he pointed at us. “Mr. Nigel Taylor, I’d like to introduce you to my son, Jeremiah Junior, or JJ as he prefers to be called, his friend, Maggie, and her mother, Maria Hernandez.”

“Pleasure,” he said and gave us a short nod. “Welcome to Berlin. Shall we?” He motioned for us to enter the car.

I got in first and noticed it had two bench seats facing each other. A blond-haired boy about my age sat at the end of the back seat.

“Hello.” He gave me a quick wave.

“Hey.” I moved across the other seat so I sat right in front of him.

Maggie came in and sat next to me. She saw the boy and her eyebrows shot up.

He smiled. “And hello to you, pretty lady.”

Maggie opened her mouth and nothing came out. I stared at her, surprised. Maggie was never speechless. Ever. If anything, I could never get her to shut up.

After the adults sat down, Nigel pointed at the boy. “I’d like to introduce you all to my son, William. He’s staying with me for a spell while he’s on holiday from school. Son, this is Mr. Bennett, Ms. Hernandez, Maggie, and JJ.”

“Pleasure to meet you all,” he said and reached over and shook each of our hands.

While the adults started some conversation about the weather, William asked us about any movies we’d watched lately.

I told him about the new Disney flick we’d just seen.

He nodded. “Yes, that one was smashing. Have you seen the trailer for Avalanche Alley? It looks brilliant.”

Maggie giggled.

I gave her a what’s wrong with you look before answering, “Yeah, it does seem pretty cool.”

“Listen, kids,” Dad cut into our conversation. “The driver’s going to drop myself and Nigel off at the British Embassy and then take you all over to the hotel.”

Nigel turned to his son. “Make sure they get checked-in and then hurry back. It’s getting a tad late, and I want you home before they lock the front doors.”

“Yes, sir.”

It took less than twenty minutes to get to the embassy. As we got close, I noticed a bunch of short, fat poles jutting up from the ground keeping us from pulling the car up to the front doors.

“They’re for security,” Nigel explained. “The pollards are retractable in case anyone of importance should visit.”

Dad laughed. “I guess that means we’re getting dropped off way out here.”

“Sorry, Old Boy.” Nigel grinned. “That’s the breaks.”

As the two of them got out of the limo, I studied the outside of the embassy. Talk about weird looking. The top third appeared normal, like any other tan brick building, with windows all the way across. The bottom third also appeared normal, tan-marbled bricks from one side to the other, except where giant metal and glass gate doors, probably fifteen feet high, guarded the entrance. A coat of arms hung on the wall to the left of the doors, and the words British Embassy were engraved in the bricks.

But, the center third of the building was seriously bizarre, like somebody carved out the entire middle and replaced it with…stuff. To the left, and above the entrance gate, stood a blue box with windows all the way around. It reminded me of an observation deck, but why would anyone put an observation deck smack in the middle of a building? Wouldn’t it be better up at the top?

Next to the weird blue box lay a wide column of gray tiles supporting the pole that held the British flag. To the right of the flag pole was a giant, round, purple cylinder with no windows.

Seriously, the place looked like a middle school art class designed it.

The expression on my face must have given away my thoughts because Ms. Hernandez said, “This embassy is fairly new. Originally, this had been the palace of Bethel Henry Strousberg, a railway magnate. The British Embassy used this structure until the beginning of World War II. After the war, Germany and Berlin were split and Bonn became the new capital of West Germany, thus Britain moved their embassy there. Once the two Germanys reunited in nineteen-ninety, they relocated back here, to Berlin. The new building was designed by English architect Michael Wilford. It opened in the year two thousand.”

Way more information than I needed to know.

With the two men gone, William moved over so he sat in the middle of the seat facing us, right in front of Maggie. “How long will you be in Berlin?” He looked at Maggie who turned a slight shade of red.

Ms. Hernandez answered the question. “That all depends on how much work your father has for Mr. Bennett.”

“Hm.” William strummed his chin with his fingers. “I believe I may have to start sabotaging a few things around here.”

Maggie giggled.

It finally hit me why she’d been acting so weird. She was seriously crushing on William.

I narrowed my eyes and studied him, hard. He seemed average size, like me, but with blond wavy hair, green eyes, and a few freckles spread out across his cheeks. He wore regular jeans and a green polo, but looked like a Gap model for a TV commercial.

Leaning back, I listened as he told Ms. Hernandez about his father’s job as a diplomat. His accent worried me. Chicks dug accents, and by the way Maggie acted, she was already totally into him. Not good. We didn’t know anything about him. And, knowing Maggie, she’d want to tell him everything about the K-CIA and what we do. That could put our whole operation in danger. I crossed my arms and glared at him.

We reached the hotel and William led us into the lobby while the chauffer handled our luggage. As Ms. Hernandez went to the front desk to check us in, the three of us sat on a sofa.

I took a quick survey of the hotel. Compared to others we’d stayed at, this one seemed pretty small. The lobby had a gift shop and a business center on one side, and windows with couches around the rest of it. The front desk only had room for two agents, and the bell desk sat next to it.

William took a pad from the nearby table and pulled out a pen from his pocket. He scribbled something down and handed it to Maggie. “Here’s my mobile number. Give me a ring if you get bored. Perhaps we can go to the cinema together.”

Maggie’s face lit up. “Yeah, definitely. I’ll call you. I mean, we’ll call you and hook up. I mean….” Her voice trailed off and she bit her lip, looking very uncomfortable.

William stood and smiled. “I look forward to it.” He glanced at his watch. “Off I go. Dad throws a wobbly if I get back after they’ve locked the front gates.”

I frowned. Throws a wobbly? British kids speak weird.

“Bye,” Maggie said and waved.

After we watched him walk out the front doors, I turned to Maggie. “I don’t trust him.”

She frowned. “We just met him.”

“I’m just saying, we don’t know anything about him, so before you go getting all googly-eyed and run off to elope, we should find out more about him and his fancy accent.”

Her eyebrows knit and she crossed her arms. “JJ, are you jealous?” She sounded annoyed.

My eyes widened. “What? No! But, you’re my best friend, and I don’t want to see you fall for some smooth-talking British guy who steals girls’ hearts and then turns them into mindless zombies before casting them off into the wild. All I’m saying is that we should get to know him a little better first. That’s all.”

She raised her hands in a stop motion. “Hold on. I’m supposed to take dating advice from you? Okay, let me remind you about the girl you’re head-over-heals for. First of all, she’s a Russian spy, working for an organization that’s trying to destroy the United States. She’s drugged you, planted a bug on you, and, oh yeah, she trapped you in a tomb and left you there to die. Is that the kind of guy I should be waiting for, because I’m pretty sure William is none of those things?”

Ms. Hernandez walked up to us carrying hotel keys in her hands. “Are you two ready to go to our rooms?”

Maggie stood. “I am so ready.”

As we made our way toward the elevator, I thought about everything Maggie said. She was right. Ivana did try to kill me, more than once, and she did work for an evil organization bent on conquering the world. But, there was just something about her. Something…magical.

I sighed as we stepped into the elevator. Maybe that’s how Maggie felt about William.

We exited onto the third floor and Ms. Hernandez handed me a key card. “Here is your room key, JJ. Unfortunately, they didn’t have two rooms close together, so we are on opposite sides of the hallway.” She pointed to the right. “Get settled, and we’ll come pick you up in a half hour for dinner.”

I headed to my new temporary home, the last room on the right, which turned out to be nicer than I thought. It had a small kitchen and a table for eating, a decent-size living room area with a big flat screen hanging on the wall, and two separate bedrooms, a larger one that I would leave for my dad, and a smaller one, still bigger than the room I had as a kid growing up. The décor and furniture were modern, with lots of bright colors and shiny surfaces, and the entire hotel room smelled like flowers.

A knock on the door took me out of my thoughts. The bellman brought in my suitcase, and after he left, I rolled the bag into my bedroom and dropped it on the floor. Ms. Hernandez had said to get settled in, but I really didn’t feel like it. We’d probably be here for at least a few days, so I’d have plenty of time to unpack. Instead, I pulled the comforter back and plopped down on the bed.

After a few minutes, my phone beeped. The text came from Maggie saying that William had invited us to go see Avalanche Alley later tonight. Her mom had said it would be okay since William had a driver.

I rolled my eyes. William had a driver. I guess that made him like the coolest guy in the world or something. Of course, this would probably be the only chance I’d get to see the movie, so I texted back that it sounded great.

Within a half-hour, Ms. Hernandez knocked on the door and the three of us headed out to the restaurant. This was my favorite part of traveling to new cities. I loved trying new foods.

The smell of cooked meat overpowered the air as we walked into the restaurant. Good sign. We sat down and the waitress handed me a menu which, thankfully, had food names and descriptions in both German and English. I ordered schnitzel, a boneless cut of meat coated with breadcrumbs and fried, and kartoffelpuffer, potato pancakes. No matter what, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with meat and potatoes.

Maggie ordered the same as me and her mom ordered something called sauerbraten, which she said was one of the country’s national dishes.

The food came about twenty minutes later and did not disappoint. The meat was super thin and huge, it covered more than half my plate, and the potato pancakes weren’t like pancakes at all, but more like a round dense hash brown patty type of thing, seasoned with onions and spices. Super good. I could’ve eaten like fifty of them.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and Ms. Hernandez left us in the lobby, reminding us to thank William for picking us up. After she left, Maggie turned to me.

“Are you sure you’re okay with us going to the movies with William? I know you think he’s like the spawn of the devil or something.”

I cringed a little. “I know, I know. I over-reacted. I just…there he is.”

William walked through the front doors and waved at us, a huge grin on his face.

Maggie beamed as he joined us. I wondered if that’s how I looked every time I saw Ivana.

“Are you two set to go?” he asked.

We both nodded and he motioned for us to follow him.

Maggie turned to me and muttered under her breath, “Be nice.”

Like I wasn’t going to be? I may not trust the guy but he was still the son of my dad’s friend. It’s not like I could be rude to him. Dad would kill me.

As we reached the car, I nodded my approval. Though not a Rolls Royce limo like the last one, it was still a Lincoln Town Car. All three of us fit comfortably in the back seat with Maggie in the middle.

As the driver pulled away from the hotel, William picked up a bag from the floor.

“Do you have video game hook-up on the telly in your room?”

I nodded. “Yeah, the TV in our living room has one.”

“Brilliant,” he said. “Then perhaps you’d be interested in this.” He pulled out a video game and handed it to Maggie.

My jaw dropped and I snatched it from her hands. “No…way. Aliens and Zombies Four? But, this doesn’t come out for another month.”

William grinned. “Dad has connections.”

Forget everything I ever said about William before. Maggie needed to marry this guy. Immediately. I traced the cover of the game with my fingers before placing it gently inside the bag. “William, you rock.”

Maggie glowed. I knew her well enough to know she was throwing me her I told you so look.

“Master William,” the chauffer called from the front seat. “It appears the street in front of the theater is closed to traffic.”

“Just drop us off here,” William said. “We can walk the rest of the way. I’ll text when the show is over.”

“Very good, sir.”

The driver pulled to the side, let us out, then moved back into traffic and left us there.

I was about to say something about the video game when, suddenly, everything went dark. Somebody had slammed a heavy bag over my head. I tried to protest but strong hands grabbed my arms and lifted me up. From the side, I heard Maggie scream.

Struggling, I felt myself get thrown onto the floor of a vehicle. Two loud thumps sounded next to me, probably Maggie and William, and then a door slammed shut. If I had to make a guess, I’d say we were in the back of a giant van. Wheels screeched and we were on the move.

Panic gripped me. We were being kidnapped, and I had no idea why!

Chapter 2


I ripped the bag off and saw Maggie and William laying on the floor next to me. Crawling over to Maggie, I removed the bag from her head and helped her sit up.

She looked terrified. “JJ, what’s going on?”

I shrugged. “I have no idea.”

William removed his bag and blinked at the two of us. “What on earth….” His voice trailed off as he glanced around.

We were in some kind of van, but unlike anything I had ever seen before. An iron wall blocked our view to the front so we couldn’t see the driver. There were no seats in the back, just the floor, decorated with a rough, dark blue carpet. Iron bars covered the back blacked-out windows as well as all the walls, including the sliding door. It felt like we were in a cell. A very bumpy, un-cushioned cell.

William looked miserable. “I’m awfully sorry about this, chums.”

“What do you mean?” I said. “Sorry for what?”

He put his head in his hands and pushed back his blond hair. “I’m a diplomat’s son. That makes me a target.”

The van screeched to a halt and the engine turned off. In the distance, I heard what sounded like a rolling metal door closing. The sliding door opened and the bars slid on a track to the right, revealing two enormous, as in WWE-sized, guys motioning for us to get out.

I climbed out first, followed by Maggie, and then William. After a short inspection of our surroundings, I decided we were in a dimly-lit, small warehouse, completely empty except for three folding chairs and the van.

One of the two thugs pointed at the chairs, like a scene straight out of some 1960s spy movie. Bad spy movie.

We obeyed and sat down.

The two gorillas tied our hands behind our backs with chains and then clamped the chains into stakes in the ground. After making sure our restraints held sturdy, they stood in front of us with their arms crossed, almost like they were daring us to make a move. Again, bad spy movie.

I cleared my throat. “So, are you guys gonna tell us what’s going on or do we get to guess?”

“You know perfectly well what is going on.” The words came from behind us. I didn’t have to turn around, I knew that beautiful, melodic Russian accent anywhere. Ivana.

The pretty blonde walked in front of us and stopped to face me. She reached over and stroked my face. My stomach knotted up like I had needles pricking me, and then I smelled it. Rose-scented shampoo. I felt light-headed.

“I told you we would meet again, American. I did not think it would be here. But, it is no matter. You will not win this time.” Her thick Russian accent reminded me of the last time I saw her, back in Prague, when she slipped out of a window after spraying me in the face with something that made my vision blurry. But, all of that seemed so far away. All I could think of now were roses.

William coughed. “Um, I don’t mean to sound like a twit, but what exactly is going on here? Who are you? What do you want?”

Ivana laughed and took a few steps back. My head started to clear as her scent faded.

She knelt in front of William. “Did your American friends not tell you their true identities?”

William glanced over at us, a confused expression on his face.

The beautiful girl’s blue eyes shimmered in the pale light of the warehouse. “No, I can see that they did not. No matter. You will learn the truth soon enough.” She stood and said something to the two large men in Russian. They nodded and got into the front of the van.

As the large metal door rolled open, Ivana turned to us. “My apologies, I have not time for talking now. The hour grows late and I have a job to do. But, I will return soon and we can finish our conversation.” She flashed her dazzling, perfect smile, then climbed into the back of the van.

Within seconds, we were alone, chained to the floor of an empty warehouse, completely helpless.

William looked bewildered. “Think maybe one of you would like to tell me what’s going on?”

I peered over at Maggie and she nodded. I inhaled a deep breath. “It all started a few months ago when we were in Prague. Maggie and I found out that a lot of the CIA’s problems is a group who call themselves the P-KGB…kids trained by the former Russian spy group, the KGB, to hurt the U.S. The P stands for ребенок, which is kid in Russian.”

Maggie took over. “Back in the day, when Russia was communist and called the Soviet Union, the KGB and the CIA were like total rivals. But, when Russia became free, the KGB was disbanded and went underground. Now, they send kid spies to do their dirty work.”

My turn. “And, because adults are idiots sometimes, the CIA doesn’t believe the P-KGB exists. That’s why Maggie and I created a secret organization of our own, the K-CIA, or Kids-CIA. I mean, there’s only three of us in the “organization,” and one of us is somewhere in South Africa right now tracking down possible UFOs with his dad, but still. We have saved the world a couple of times.”

Between the two of us, we explained the rest of our story, from the moment we met Ivana in Prague to our last encounter with the P-KGB in Geneva.

Once we finished, William whistled. “I’ll be gobsmacked. And I thought I was a rather important lad being the son of a diplomat.”

“Gobsmacked?” I grinned. “Is that a real word?”

“But, you can’t tell anybody,” Maggie said, rolling her eyes at me at the same time.

I nodded. “Yeah, if our parents ever found out, we’d be disbanded forever. Maggie’s mom would be reassigned to tutor some other kid, and I’d be sent back to the States to live with my smelly cousin Jimmy.” I shivered at the thought.

William nodded. “No, chums, I understand. Mum’s the word.”

I sighed. “Of course, it’s not really gonna matter now. When we don’t come back from the movies, my dad will activate the tracker on my cell phone and come find us. We’re gonna have to tell him the truth.”

William’s face lit up. “Or, we won’t.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“We’ll tell him we didn’t get a good look at the blokes, but we overheard them say something about kidnapping the diplomat’s son. You two were just in the wrong place with the wrong mate.”

“William, no…” Maggie began but he cut her off.

“No, it’s brilliant. My father will put extra security on me—a bit of a drag—but it can’t be helped. That way, you two can get the gen on what Ivana is up to. By the sounds of what you’ve told me, the world could be in danger.”

“William…” I didn’t know what to say. He was willing to risk taking the fall for this so the two of us could keep our secret. Yeah, I was liking him more and more as the day went on.

We sat in silence for almost half-an-hour. Occasionally, one of us would struggle, trying to get free, but they were metal chains, not ropes, and they hurt. Sighing, I stared at the ground, trying to come up with a story that didn’t involve poor William getting stuck with a thousand bodyguards. I studied the chain tying Maggie to the floor, and an idea formed in my head. “Hey, guys, I’ve got a plan, but it might hurt a little.”

“Let’s hear it,” Maggie said. “I am so totally sick of being here.”

I motioned with my head to the ground behind Maggie. “The chains around your hands are clamped to a hook on the ground. Are mine?”

Maggie turned to the floor behind me. “Yeah.”

I nodded. “Okay, here’s my thought. We use momentum to knock our chairs down to the floor. It’ll probably hurt, but once we’re on the ground, we can wiggle ourselves so our backs face the hook, and then use our hands to unclamp the chain.”

“Genius!” William pushed himself so hard, his chair fell to the floor. “Ow!” He winced. “Well, you were jolly right about it hurting.”

Maggie and I joined him on the floor, squirming our bodies toward the clamps. The idea had gone much smoother in my head. We’d definitely have some bruises when this was over.

After about fifteen minutes, Maggie squealed. “Got it!” She lifted her knees to her chest, then pushed herself off the chair and stood.

“Good job,” I said. “I’m almost there.”

“Me, too,” William said.

Within a couple minutes, all three of us stood, grinning at each other in victory.

Maggie turned to face me. “Okay, now what?”

Good question. I hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. We had freed ourselves from the ground, but our arms were still chained together behind our backs. It’s not like we could show up at the hotel like this.

“Hold on,” William said. “I’d like a better look at these chains.”

In one sweeping motion, William squatted then fell into a partial backwards somersault. Then, as he rolled forward, his hands were no longer behind his back but in front of him.

“Dude, that was awesome.” I would’ve fist-bumped him if I could.

He grinned. “This is what happens when you’re the only chap in an embassy full of old-timers.” He studied the chains around his hands. “Chums, the chains have a clasp on them just like the one on the ground.” He squirmed his hands around and in a few moments, the chains fell to the floor.

“Nice,” I said.

He moved over to Maggie. “Turn around.”

As she complied, I could tell she was blushing. I rolled my eyes to myself. Leave it to a girl to make getting out of iron chains an embarrassing situation.

Once Maggie’s restraints were off, William unclamped mine.

I rubbed my wrists. “Let’s get out of here before they come back.”

We ran to the giant metal, retractable door. A few tugs up and it lifted enough for us to squirm underneath. Once out, we shut the door and studied our surroundings.

Maggie pointed to the left. “Looks like a major street over there. Let’s see if we can catch a taxi.”

We ran to the road, and noticing no cabs, William used his cell to call one.

“All right,” he said after he ended the call. “They’ll be here to fetch us in about ten minutes.”

I glanced at my watch. It had only been about an hour since we’d been dropped off by the driver. “It’s too early to head back to the hotel. The movie’s probably only halfway over.”

William did a search on his phone. “We should have the taxi take us to the cinema, because that’s where my driver is expecting to pick us up. There’s an ice cream parlor not far from there. Fancy a dish?”

“Definitely,” Maggie said. “And, it’ll give us time to pull up some reviews on the movie so we know what to tell our parents if they ask.”

The cab showed up within five minutes and the three of us clambered into the back seat with Maggie in the middle.

One thing I’ve noticed travelling around the world, no matter what country you’re in, taxi drivers love to talk. And, most of them spoke English, even here in Berlin. This one asked us what movie we planned to see and then went on and on about it. Good thing we weren’t actually going to watch the movie, because he told us just about everything that happened.

After he dropped us off, we headed in the direction of the ice cream shop.

“I guess we needn’t research reviews after all,” William commented.

“Right?” Maggie said. “I thought for sure he was going to tell us the ending.”

I laughed. “Hey, at least we know which one of the main characters dies. That way, if we ever actually get a chance to see the movie, we won’t get too attached to him.”

The ice cream parlor was packed and it took a good twenty minutes before we even got a table, which worked out pretty good for us considering how dirty we’d gotten from rolling around the floor of a warehouse. We took turns using the restroom and making ourselves look like we had just spent the evening at the movies and not ambushed by Russian spies.

After we placed our order, it took another half hour before we finally got our food, but it was totally worth it. The extra-creamy vanilla ice cream came drizzled with chocolate, caramel, and strawberry sauce, and stuffed inside a chocolate waffle cone. So good.

When we finished eating, William texted his driver to come pick us up. Once we reached the hotel, Maggie and I got out, promising to call him tomorrow.

As we made our way to the elevator, I peered around and lowered my voice. “We’ve got to figure out what Ivana’s doing here.”

She nodded. “I know, but how? We’ve got no clues to go on.”

I yawned.

“Tired?” Maggie asked.

“Totally. Aren’t you?”

She nodded, yawning. “I am so ready for bed.”

Once the elevator dropped us off on our floor, I waved to Maggie. “Let’s talk about this in the morning.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Dad sat on the couch, shuffling through some papers on the coffee table, when I walked in. Noticing me, he clumped them together into one pile and leaned back. “How was the movie?”

I shrugged and plopped down on the sofa next to him. “The first one was better.”

“They usually are.” He stretched his arms high into the air.

“Sleepy?” I asked.

He sighed. “Yes, I am. And I’ve got a pretty early day tomorrow, so I’ll be gone before you get up.”

That was pretty much how it usually went, no matter what city we were in. Dad worked really long hours.

“Will I see you for lunch?” I asked.

He teetered his head back and forth. “I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely try to make it for dinner.” He picked up the pile of papers and placed it inside his briefcase. As he closed the two locks on the front, I noticed one of them didn’t catch. Dad pushed the case to the side and stood, stretching again.

I yawned. “Good-night, Dad.”

He ruffled my hair. “Good-night.”

We both went into our bedrooms and shut the doors. After changing into my pajamas, I collapsed on my bed, thinking about the briefcase. If one of those locks didn’t catch, then there could be a chance I could get inside. I’d bet a million bucks that whatever Ivana was doing in Berlin, those papers would give me a clue.

After setting the alarm on my cell for one o’clock, I plugged in earbuds so the noise wouldn’t wake up my dad. Granted, I had the alarm tone set to Calypso, so he might’ve actually slept through it, but still. I didn’t want to take any chances.

At a little after one, I cracked opened my bedroom door, peeked out, and held my breath. Everything seemed quiet. Faint snoring came from my father’s room.

I exhaled and crept to the sofa where the briefcase still lay. Using the light from my cell, I examined the locks on the case. The one that hadn’t caught allowed me to lift the lid about a half inch, but the other lock held solid. I didn’t want to pry it open and end up breaking it.

Instead, I picked up the case and shook it to one side, hoping something would fall out of the half-inch opening. It worked. Several papers slid onto the sofa next to me. I tilted my head and listened for my dad. Still snoring.

I spread the papers out and took several pictures of each. Then, making sure not to bend any of them, I slid the documents back into the briefcase and returned it to where Dad had put it, then snuck over to my room and closed the door.

Jumping into bed, I opened the camera roll and studied the first picture. After using my fingers to enlarge it, I frowned. It was an image of a concrete wall. Literally. A gray, run-of-the-mill, nothing-exciting-about-it, concrete wall. Why would the CIA be interested in that?

I skimmed to the next pic. It turned out to be a photograph of three men with their arms around each other. The date at the bottom read December 22, 1961. I vaguely recognized one of them from research we had done on our first case. The man in the center was the guy who took over Russia after communist dictator Josef Stalin died. I couldn’t remember his name, but I recognized his bald head and goofy smile. The other two men did not look familiar at all.

The third picture appeared to be some type of schematic, but I had no idea of what. It could’ve been the blueprints for animatronic teacups for all I knew.

I rubbed my eyes. I was too tired to do anything else tonight. Tomorrow, I’d show Maggie the pics, and between the two of us, we’d figure out our next step. Laying my head down, I fell asleep thinking about Ivana and those pretty blue eyes.


*****


All at once, I was in the forest, a place I recognized from my childhood: Brian Head, Utah. Dad took Grandma and me there a few times many years ago.

“JJ,” a soft voice called out behind me.

Grinning, I whirled around. There she was—Grandma! Her white flowing robes swayed in the slight breeze.

I ran up and wrapped my arms around her. “I miss you, Grandma.”

She kissed the top of my head and pushed me to arms’ length. Her eyes seemed tired or stressed, the way they used to when she was alive and we went a long time without hearing from Dad.

“What is it, Grandma? What’s wrong?”

She looked around, as though making sure we weren’t being watched, then turned to face me. “Evil forces are at work, JJ. You must track it down before they do, or many people will die.”

I frowned and shook my head. “Track what down?”

She started to fade, her body turning into mist.

“Grandma! No, wait!” I reached out to grab her, but my hands passed right through her arms. “Track what down? Please, don’t go.”

A moment later, she disappeared.


*****


I bolted up in bed, heart racing. You must track it down before they do, or many people will die. Whatever was going on in Berlin, we had to figure it out, and fast!

Chapter 3


The next morning, I walked down the hall to Maggie’s room. While her mom finished getting ready for breakfast, I told Maggie about my dream.

Braiding her long black hair, Maggie frowned. “I wonder what your grandma meant. What are we supposed to track down?”

I shrugged and pulled out my cell. “Maybe one of the pics of Dad’s papers will have a clue.”

Maggie took the phone and skimmed through the pictures. “Who do you think those men are posing with Khrushchev?”

Khrushchev. That was the bald guy’s name. I leaned over to look at the screen with her. “I don’t know. Maybe we can find them on the Internet.”

Just then, Maggie’s mom walked in. “Ready to go?” She stole a quick peek in the living room mirror, pushed a loose strand of hair back, and grabbed her purse.

I placed the phone in my pocket and stood. “Always ready for food.”

Maggie jumped up. “Me, too. I’m starving.”

Ms. Hernandez led the way to the downstairs café.

Like the menu from the night before, this one had everything in both German and English. The breakfast part of the menu seemed pretty slim. I glanced up at Ms. Hernandez. “I’m not seeing a whole lot of options for breakfast here.”

She nodded. “Typically, Germans have bread served with deli meats and cheeses along with a marmalade and butter for their morning meal.”

I closed my menu. “Sounds good to me. I’ll take that.”

Once we had all ordered, I took a sip of cocoa. “So, what’s the plan for today?”

Ms. Hernandez smiled. “Let’s see. I believe Math is first on our agenda.”

I groaned. “Are you sure, because I’d be good with sightseeing first, you know, to soak in the local culture.”

She laughed. “There will be time for that later. Schoolwork first.”

We used the next fifteen minutes for me to practice my Spanish. I was finally starting to improve, a little. When the food came, we, thankfully, stopped my language lesson to eat.

Our plates were neatly arranged, with two large bread rolls, a few slices of sliced cheese and rolled up ham, a couple of cucumber slices, and a wedge of tomato. On the side, came a small bowl of some kind of berry marmalade. One bite of the bread and I fell in love. The crust was crispy and crackly, the inside soft and fluffy.

“Mm-kay,” I mumbled, then swallowed my mouth full of bread. “I’m pretty sure this is the best roll I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life.”

Ms. Hernandez nodded. “Germany is known for its freshly baked bread. Didn’t you notice the large number of bakeries we passed as we drove through town?”

I shook my head. “Nope. But, now that I know how amazing their bread is, I plan to visit every single one of them.”

After eating, we went up to their room where Ms. Hernandez had set up the living room table as our school station. After a boring morning of math and grammar, Ms. Hernandez announced that we would be going out for lunch. As she went into her bedroom to get ready, Maggie pulled out her cell and motioned for me to look at it.

I pointed to the image on the screen. “Hey, that’s the picture my dad had in his briefcase, the one with Khrushchev and those two other dudes.”

Maggie nodded. “I know. I found it online.”

“When did you do that? We’ve been crushing this schoolwork all morning.”

She grinned. “Didn’t you notice my restroom breaks seemed a bit long?”

I shrugged. “Not really.”

She shook her head and put her phone away. “Typical. Anyway, the two guys with him are Walter Ulbricht and Vladimir Semichastny.”

“Who are they and what’s up with the crazy last names?”

She shrugged. “That’s all I’ve found out so far.”

I nodded. “No, that’s good. At least we have an idea of where to start looking. Hopefully, we’ll have some time to do some research later.”

The restaurant we went to for lunch was not very big and had simple, but cool décor on the walls, like crates with wine bottles instead of pictures.

When the waiter found out we were American, he sat down in the empty chair at our table and went through the menu with us. “Of course,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “our specialty today is cheeseburger.”

I tossed my arms up and leaned back in my chair. “That settles it. I’ll have a cheeseburger.” As much as I loved trying new foods, I could never say no to a cheeseburger.

Maggie nodded. “Make that two.”

The waiter laughed and stood. “And, for the lady?”

Ms. Hernandez ordered quiche.

After the waiter left, Ms. Hernandez took a sip of her water. “After lunch, we’ll walk over to the Turkish Market that is not too far from here.”

Maggie’s eyes grew wide. “Shopping?” I could hear the excitement in her voice. The only thing Maggie liked better than saving the world from bad guys was shopping.

“Browsing,” her mom corrected. “Then after the market, we can roam around the canal for a bit before we return to the hotel to finish your studies.”

When lunch came, I was not disappointed. It turned out to be, hands-down, the best cheeseburger I’d had since leaving the US almost a year ago. And then for dessert, Ms. Hernandez ordered a chocolate soufflé. Seriously, people in the States have no idea how good chocolate can be.

After eating, we made our way over to the Turkish Market, which reminded me of the farmer’s market I went to growing up, only bigger. Lots of vendors selling fruits and spices and some Turkish stuff. I convinced Ms. Hernandez to let me try something called Gozleme, just because it looked like a quesadilla. It turned out to be flat bread stuffed with Spinach and feta cheese and grilled. Pretty good, although feta cheese was not really my favorite. Now, if it had been cheddar, I would’ve eaten like five.

Once we’d had enough of vendors trying to convince us to buy their tourist tee shirts, we walked toward what Ms. Hernandez called the Landwehrkanal, which Maggie told me was the name of a canal. It took a little while to get there, but the sunshine felt good and a slight breeze kept it from getting too hot. The smell from all the nearby trees made it feel like we were less in a crowded city and more in a national park.

As we neared the canal, more and more people filled the sidewalk. I noticed that most of them coming toward us were gazing at pics they had taken on their phones. “Ms. Hernandez, are we heading toward something really cool?”

She smirked. “What? Do you mean to say that nothing we have seen thus far has been really cool?”

I winced. “That’s not what I meant. The Turkish Market was great and all, but, why does everyone look like they’ve just been taking pictures of the greatest thing on Earth?”


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