Page 99 from The Losing Role
By Steve Anderson
A Historical Espionage Spy Thriller
Reprinted with permission: Copyright © 2010 Steve Anderson. All rights reserved.
Book Description: In the last winter of WWII a failed German actor, Max Kaspar, is forced to join an absurdly desperate secret mission in which he must impersonate an enemy American officer. So Max cooks up his own fanatical plan — he'll use his false identity to escape tyranny and war and flee to the America he'd once abandoned. Max the performer is hardly a soldier let alone a double-crossing commando, yet in the deadly Battle of the Bulge he has to fool battle-shocked American GIs as well as dodge discovery by his reckless German comrades. Belgium's Ardennes forest becomes a snowbound hell and the magical America he'd loved is lost to him, replaced by a somber invading juggernaut. In the end, Max's gambles will lead him to a grim but honest payoff. Part espionage thriller, part expatriate noir and the first in a series, The Losing Role is based on an actual false flag operation that's been made infamous in legend but in reality was a doomed farce. In all the tragic details and with some dark humor, this is the story of an aspiring talent who got in over his head and tried to break free.
Up front, Max and Zoock smoked the American cigarettes. They were Pall Malls. Max had smoked the very same in New York City. For a moment the fine musky aroma took him back to his apartment on the Lower East Side, to the stoops and drug store diners, the salary men in the elevators, and even to that strange automat where he ate pie with a slice of cheese. And then the moment was gone. It didn’t take him back to Lucy. She smoked Camels.
The sky became a heavy, dark grey mass. The morning mist formed drops on their olive green wool. It was time to consider the mission, and Felix took the lead. He checked the maps as they drove on. As planned, they had been dodging the major crossings and villages. They passed only minor crossings and checkpoints. At every signpost Felix had Zoock stop so he could jump out and switch the signs backwards. Ideally this would send any unwary or retreating Americans right back into the advancing Germans, and, similarly, any counterattacking Americans far to the rear. It was Vaudeville to the death. And with every switch Felix jumped back into the jeep giggling.
They headed downhill, and a fog thickened. A stream had washed out part of the road, revealing the tops of rocks through the mud. Zoock shifted down to cross the water. Max peered through the fog. Something was ahead, at the base of the hill. He grabbed the binoculars.
It was a roadblock. Two jeeps, an armored car, and a squad of roughly ten American soldiers stood ready. The silhouettes looked unreal in the fog, like two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Seeing them, Felix cocked his Colt pistol. Max shook his head at Felix. “Don’t worry, lieutenant. I’m all right,” Felix said.
“Good,” Max said, and to Zoock: “So. We’ll just proceed slowly.”
Zoock nodded, slowly.
This was the first semblance of order they had seen. It meant they had to be well behind American lines. I could end it here, Max thought. Just step out of the jeep, stroll over and tell these Americans that German soldiers were with him. Then he’d be free. Wouldn’t he? He looked again with the binoculars. The Americans’ helmets had horizontal white stripes. They were Military Police—MPs, they called them. Could it be that easy? Max wasn’t sure. Logic and sentiment clashed and sputtered in his head.
Felix passed around American chewing gum—Black Jack gum. ...
Steve Anderson has worked in advertising, marketing, and journalism with the Associated Press in between being a language instructor, a waiter, and a freelance copywriter. He is a screenwriter and has had short stories published online and in print. He has traveled a lot and has lived in Germany but always comes back to his hometown of Portland. His historical espionage thriller The Losing Role is available for the Amazon Kindle and other e-readers. As a writer and a reader, he always roots for the underdog. Other titles include: Besserwisser: A Novel and False Refuge.
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