The Keller Papers by Ellis M. Goodman
The Imperial Hotel busboy came out of the staff entrance into the chill air, lit a cigarette, cupping his hands around his old Colibri, as he was thinking of his girlfriend Anke, and their plans for the weekend. He pulled up the collar of his leather jacket and hurried towards the bus stop, hardly noticing two men deep in conversation three meters away.
They were both in black ski outfits, standing on the sidewalk outside the palatial Hotel Imperial, on the Karntner Ring in the center of Vienna.
Tall and athletically built, Kurt Rickter was nervously drawing on a cigarette, with beads of perspiration on his forehead. He had high cheekbones and a Slavic countenance topped by short cropped black hair. The other man, Helmut Fischer, was cold-eyed and pale-faced, with a haircut very near the scalp, and had his hand inside his jacket, clutching something bulky. Passers-by took no notice of them. It was Friday, February 25, 1983 and the dying sun cast a golden pink glow in the western sky, giving some hope of spring after a brutally cold winter. The weather forecast was good and snow conditions were excellent for the thousands of skiers who would soon be leaving the city to head for the slopes.
The men watched as a hotel porter put luggage into the trunk of a Jaguar outside the hotel entrance. They also noticed the Audi parked a few meters behind the Jag. Two men and a woman came out of the hotel and stood at the entrance, looking around, as if trying to get their bearings. They were accompanied by another, who headed towards the Jag. Kurt recognized the target and his wife from photos he had studied, but had not expected to see the other man with them, well dressed in a smart blue suit.
“Now!” said Kurt, through clenched teeth. The skiers now looked more like militia as they both pulled ski masks over their heads, revealing only their eyes and mouths. They started running at full pelt toward the hotel entrance. There was a glint of gunmetal as they drew handguns from their jackets. Helmut slammed the first man into the rear door of the Jaguar. Kurt shot the target twice from close range. A woman screamed. The man crumpled to the ground. Kurt and Helmut continued to sprint to the end of the road and turned right onto the road off the Canovagstraße to their parked BMW R80 motorcycle. Two men jumped out of their Audi, but were at least thirty meters behind, as Kurt, with Helmut riding pillion, kick-started the bike into action and accelerated, with a loud growl, up the road to join the traffic on Bosendorferststraße. After a couple of blocks, they crossed Karlsplatz and shortly after turned right into an alley off Friedrichstraße, where a large white van was parked with the shuttered rear area open. Two men in the vehicle slid a metal ramp down onto the roadway as the BMW approached. Kurt accelerated fiercely as he shot up the ramp and then immediately cut the engine. One of the men grabbed the bike and helped bring it to a stop as the other pulled up the ramp and lowered the shutter. The van moved off into the Getreidmarkt and joined the Friday-evening rush hour in the heart of the city.
Keller Papers, The
A Cold War espionage thriller, with a generational background based on World War II history.