Young Cold Warrior
Freedom Fighters

Book status: Editing
Length: 55,000 words

Monday, October 1, 1956

Gunny Zellner

After my day at school in the Vienna American School, my apartment door is locked — my Dad is home and the corner of the willkommen mat turns under. I have a key, but I don’t use it. Dad and Mom might be making love or doing spycraft. The mat clues me to the second choice. So, I knock — two pounds with the bottom of my fist and one quick knuckle rap. It’s my secret code knock, Morse code g for Guenther, but I prefer Gunny. I listen as the two deadbolts turn and the chain clatters. When Dad opens the door, I’m sure it’s spycraft because he’s still wearing his overcoat and nobody makes love in an overcoat. He scoops an arm around my neck and pulls me inside like one of those canes in a vaudeville show pulling a character off stage.

Mom sits on the couch. Her face is as red as her hair and tears pour from her eyes. It’s a mad cry because there’s nothing happy about her down-turned mouth. I toss my schoolbooks on a table, slide beside her, and glare at Dad. I expect his news. “You’re leaving us again!”

He sits beside me. “No, but I've drawn a job.”

I know Dad is a spy. It seems like everyone in Vienna is. He’s been a spy for the twelve years I’ve been alive. He was a spy for five years before I was born. While I never know the details about his missions, I know they’re dangerous. Life-threatening dangerous. May not come home dangerous. Horrible torture dangerous.

Mom puts her arm around me and kisses my cheek. I don’t like such mushy stuff, but I don’t have a choice. “He’s not leaving you. You’re going with him.”

What? Suddenly, going on a mission seems a billion times more dangerous. “Me? Why?”

“Two reasons,” Dad says.

Mom wipes tears with a handkerchief as she turns on the radio. Station Wien plays Bill Haley & His Comets Rock Around the Clock. It’s one of my favorites and in English, too. Often they play German music. Dad turns on the shower. We crowd into the bathroom. Pipes and wires cover the walls where the landlords added plumbing and electricity. Dad perches on the edge of the claw-footed tub with the water running behind him. Mom sits on the pot and I climb onto the vanity.

“You’re part of my cover story. I’m a West German rocket scientist hired to teach electrical engineering at Technical University. The usual professor disappeared, and they brought me in for the semester.”

“So, I’m the rocket scientist’s son? Why can’t Mom be the rocket scientist’s wife?”

“I’m playing a new role. In it, your mother died in the war. The Soviets know it.”

“Tell him the other reason,” Mom says. I see the worry and dread on her face.

“You’ll help me spy. I must connect with young people.” Dad shrugs. “You’re my lure.”

“Where?”

“Budapest, Hungary.”

I know the world map. Being a CIA agent’s son is the same as a geography degree. “That’s behind the Iron Curtain.”

“It’s too dangerous for a boy,” Mom says.

I nod with complete agreement A lightning bolt of excitement strikes me. Mom senses it.

“You must keep up with your schoolwork,” Mom says.

I groan. “I can’t get out of reading Romeo and Juliet?”

“You’ll like it, if you give it a chance,” Mom says.

“I already know it’s about lovey-dovey mushy stuff.”

Mom giggles and seeing her smile is like a sunrise. “Someday, my son, you’ll like the lovey-dovey mushy stuff.”

“Never.” I make a solemn promise.

“We’ll use German,” Dad says, “until we pick up Russian and Hungarian. People your age and older know German. Hungary sided with Germany in World War II and was part of the Habsburg Empire for centuries. Since the war’s end, the schools teach Russian.”

“When do we go?” I ask.

“On the 6th. We’ll use our German passports and Zellner identities.”

“I don’t want to be Guenther. Can’t I be Gunny?”

“Sure,” Dad says. “West Germany’s Americanized enough, now.”

“Dad will be Zelly,” Mom says. “It’s what the Germans called him when we got married.”

I nod, remembering the old stories. Dad was from Fredericksburg, Texas, sent to spy in Nazi Germany. Mom was from Knockbreda in Northern Ireland and served as a British nurse during the war. I was born in Germany before it ended. “Wish we’d go home to Fredericksburg or Knockbreda. I miss Uncle Fergus.”

“For now, hit those language books,” Dad says.

I flip through the Hungarian conversational guide and find the perfect phrase. “Ehes vagyok.” I turn the page to Mom. It says: I’m hungry. As I eat, my stomach flutters. It’s excitement. Going on Dad’s mission is an opportunity. Better than vacation or skiing in the Alps, or hunting deer on our Texas ranch. It means I’m a man.

Yuri Novitsky

I wait in Freedom Park, the largest of Sofia’s grand parks. Walking the broad avenues among the acacia and chestnut trees gets boring. I go to the playground, but the equipment is for kids, not someone twelve, like me. I’m nervous. My future depends on how things go with Papa, Andrei Nikolayevich Novitsky. He’s a junior lieutenant in the Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti. Those initials strike fear around the world — KGB. He is confronting his captain in the embassy behind a door marked Second Directorate, Counter-Intelligence. Last Friday, his last comrade from Moscow’s KGB training school got a promotion to lieutenant. That leaves him as the oldest junior lieutenant in the world. If he gets a promotion, it means we get a bigger apartment, a car, and I can get into a lyceum. My nerves won’t let me wait any longer.

I jog to the round-a-bout, down the boulevard, and to the embassy. The guards know me. Before I get to the Second Directorate door, I smell Papa. I push into the restroom. It’s empty except for one closed stall. Papa’s gray flannel pants bunch below the partition. Flatulence escapes his belly. The smell is horrible, but he’s my Papa. He’s sick, but there’s nothing I can do to help. “Papa, are you okay?”

“Go away, Yura. I’ll be out in a minute.” Yura is what Papa calls me, the diminutive form of Yuri.

I sit in the hallway outside his office and wait. He arrives, carrying a folder. When he opens the door, I follow him inside. “No promotion,” I say.

“Not enough fieldwork time, but the Captain has given me a chance.” He waves the folder toward me.

“What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Andrei Nikolayevich, you are smart and insightful. You often see through problems with a clear vision where others discern only muck and cloudiness. But you do nothing with your insights or action items. You leave the doing to someone else. That’s why you remain a junior lieutenant.’”

“The sugar before the kick in the balls,” I say. “What’s the chance?”

He flips through the report. “First is Khrushchev secret speech from February. I’ve read it before. Called ‘On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,’ it criticizes Comrade Stalin. Second is a document I wrote analyzing the speech. I predicted unrest in our zones of occupation. Third is a new report from Poland.”

Yuri nods and notices the report is Top Secret. “I know the history. Poland has never liked us. Our troops ended the war as conquerors, not liberators. We kept much of their eastern territory.”

“Back in a second,” Papa says.

When the office door closes behind Papa, I turn the folder and read. It tells of a protest in Poznań in June. Over 100,000 Poles demand better working conditions, tax reform, and a government that wasn’t Moscow’s puppet. The Soviet Army attacks the demonstration and kills many protesters. As the door handle rattles, I return the folder to its original position.

“We’re taking a trip,” Papa says. “I want to be where the next protest happens.”

“Isn’t that work? I’m going, too? Where?”

Papa laughs. “So many questions, Yura. Yes, it’s business. You’re going, too. I know Bulgaria won’t protest. It has always looked east — to the Russians or the Ottoman Turks. But, Hungary looks West. Budapest compares itself to Paris. Years ago, Hungary was part of the Habsburg’s Austro-Hungarian Empire. Last year our occupation troops withdrew from Austria and they became independent. Hungary is the place. I’ve ordered a car for a drive to Budapest.”

In the parking garage, we climb into a ZAZ G-200, a two-door rear-engine coupe.

“This thing is tiny,” I complain.

Papa smiles. “When I’m a captain, we’ll get a ZiL with a chauffeur.”

I pull a safety pin from my pocket and pin it on Papa’s collar. “For good luck.” It’s an old superstition.

He pats my hand. “Yura, life will be better.”

As we pull out of the parking lot, I ask my most important question. “Papa, you’ve never taken me before. Why am I going?”

Papa nods. “These protests have two things in common. There’s a western agent, almost always an American spy, who starts them and they always begin with the youth. My job is to find the American agent. Your job is to fit in with the boys and tell me which ones grow angry at the government.”

“So, I’m a spy?” I grin, expecting a glorious adventure.

“Yes.”

“What if I find the angry boys and the spy?”

“Then, you’ve made me captain.”

Saturday, October 6, 1956

Gunny

Four hours later, Dad and I leave the Vienna train at Budapest’s Keleti station into a cold, wet, and windy day. My suitcase is heavy with school work. A small duffel bag occupies the other hand with my sidewalk surfer tucked under an arm. It’s a flat board with wheels, like roller skating on a surf board. I got mine for my birthday from California where it was just invented.

“Hurry. We’re late. I told you not to bring that contraption,” Dad says in German.

“It’s important.” I hang one row of wheels on my collar bone and let the long red board trail behind. “How can I make friends in a place speaking a strange language? Only one way. Have something boys want to play with.”

Dad smiles when it falls and clatters onto the cobblestones, bridging a puddle.

I step on, kick forward, and glide past him. “Come on, slow poke.” I tease in German. As I weave side-to-side down the walk, the surfer’s wheels clatter and rattle on cobblestones.

Sidewalk surfing is a traffic stopper. Rákóczi Boulevard grinds to a halt as pedestrians, cars, and trams stop or slow to see the unusual spectacle. Dad slips his fedora forward, covering his face. The sidewalk surfer is the strangest invention to get off the Vienna train in years.

“You were right,” Dad says.

Every boy within sight and sound rings around me, awestruck.

“Guten morgen,” I say. “Do you speak German?” Some older boys nod. “Want a ride?” I pick a teen boy from the crowd and give a short lesson. Soon, he streaks across Blaha Lujza square and I run beside him. “My father’s a teacher at Technical University. Do you know it?”

“My brother goes there,” the boy says.

“We have an apartment on Pushkin Street. Know where it is?”

“Six blocks over there.” He returns to my suitcase and hops off the surfer. “I can take you.”

Boys take turns sidewalk surfing. I end up with nothing to carry and new friends trailing.

“What do you teach?” The teenager asks Dad, letting younger boys explore the surfer.

“Electrical engineering and rocketry.”

“It’s late to start a class. The term’s already weeks old.”

Dad nods. “The professor disappeared. They asked me to take over his class.”

The boy’s voice drops to a whisper, almost inaudible with the surfer’s clacking. “In Hungary, it is not unusual for people to disappear.”

By the time we turn onto Pushkin, only the teenager remains. He carries my heavy bag into a four-story building and upstairs. “I live around the corner on Trefort. Our buildings share a common courtyard. Maybe we can be friends.”

“I’d love that,” I say.

“My name is László, but you can call me Lotzi.”

“I’m Gunther — Gunny.”

We shake hands while Dad unlocks the flat’s door.

“Do you want help to unpack?” Lotzi asks and I grin.

The flat has two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and water closet. I get the small bedroom and unpack into an armoire.

Lotzi shoves a handful of briefs in the armoire’s bottom drawer. “You wear strange underwear and have lots of clothes.” From my duffel, he pulls a 1954 World Cup winning jersey for the West German team. His eyes grow gigantic. “Can I try it on?” Before I finish a nod, he pulls off his shirt and ducks into the jersey. He puffs his chest, admiring the logo’s imperial German eagle.

“You can keep it.” I offer a prized possession in favor of friendship.

Lotzi strips it off as if it burns him. “I can’t wear this. West Germany beat Hungary in the game. I’d be a traitor. You’re not Austrian, are you?”

I hang the shirt in the armoire. “German.”

“West German?” His eyebrows rise. “I’ve never had a friend from the west. Nobody in Hungary has one.” He’s still shirtless. “I have hair on my belly. See?” The black trail from his navel into his pants is obvious. “Do you?”

I shake my head and lift my shirt, revealing a smooth belly. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen.”

“I’m twelve.”

At that instant, Dad opens the door. “Unpacked, I see. I’m overdue for check-in at the university. Want to come along?”

“I can show you the way.” Lotzi ducks into his shirt. “It’s just over Liberty Bridge.”

We go downstairs and head for the Danube River. Lotzi rests his arm across my shoulders and I smile at my friend. Across the bridge, we climb into hills. He takes us to a white stone building with arches and oaken double-doors in the center.

I find a bench. “We’ll wait here.” Dad climbs the steps and disappears We watch boats on the river. One docks near a brick building across the Danube.

“That’s central market. You can buy anything there.” He points to a domed building on this side of the river. “That’s Rudas baths. I’m meeting my brother there. Do you want to come? The Ottoman Empire built lots of baths along the river. Hot water comes right out of the hills. We go often. It’s fun and will warm us up.”

“I’ve never heard of Ottomans,” I admit.

“You’ve a lot to learn. The Ottomans didn’t conquer as far as Germany. Our Hungarian Army stopped them at Vienna.”

“I’d like to go.”

“Warning. We go naked.”

I shrug.

Dad returns. “All done.”

“Dad, Lotzi asked if I can go to the baths with him and his older brother. Can I?”

Dad looks disapproving. “You don’t know your way around or the language.”

“I’ll get him home,” Lotzi promises. “I can translate anything he doesn’t understand. And my brother knows Russian, too.”

“Be home by dinner?” Dad asks.

“I won’t starve if I miss a meal,” I say.

“I promise I’ll bring him home safe and by dinner,” Lotzi says.

At the bridge’s approach, Lotzi shares navigation directions. “This side is Buda. The other side is Pest. You can’t go wrong. Buda has hills and Pest is flat.”

“That’s cool,” I say. Dad rolls his eyes like he already knows.

We separate. Lotzi and I stay on the Buda side and Dad crosses to Pest. Lotzi leads me beside the river to a building near the next bridge. It has a dome with multi-colored glass panels.

We meet up with college boys as we walk through arches. “Gunny, this is my brother Peter.”

Peter twirls and offers his hand. “What kind of name is Gunny?”

I shake his hand. “It’s really Guenther. I’m from Germany. Some Americans gave me the nickname, and I liked it.”

“He’s from West Germany,” Lotzi says.

“That explains it. Don’t get many West Germans coming to Budapest.”

“My father is teaching a course at the Technical University on rocketry.”

“I go there. Maybe I’ll be in his class.”

By now, college boys stripping off their clothes surround me. Shyness sets in. I’ve skinny dipped before but always with friends, not older boys.

Lotzi is down to his underwear. “Hurry.”

But it isn’t just college boys — it’s guys of every age, size, and shape. I catch my breath and yank off my clothes. Most of the guys don’t bother with a towel. I follow Lotzi through the passage to the thermal pools.

Eight huge stone pillars hold up the bath’s dome. In the center is a large octagonal pool, and each corner has a triangular pool. The air is thick with humidity and smells a twinge of rotten eggs.

“Each pool has a different temperature,” Lotzi explains. He wades into the central pool and I follow. “It’s mineral water. Easy to float.”

I lay back and let the water support me. The warmth relaxes my muscles. “This is great.”

Lotzi dunks me. I spin and catch him in a headlock. We water wrestle. After several exhausting minutes, I let the water hold me and stare at the old dome. The hexagonal portholes of colored glass hue the sunlight like prisms.

“About eight hundred years old,” Lotzi says.

I marvel at how many guys have floated here. Maybe emperors and kings. Knowing a little engineering from Dad, I think the old dome is spectacular. “It’s beautiful. I’m glad I came.”

Soon, the college boys drift off to the steam room. Lotzi and I try the hottest pool, but in seconds, I’m boiling. Men old enough to be my grandpa smile when I scramble out.

Lotzi suggests apple juice. I barefoot over the corridor’s ancient marble and climb stairs. The juice refreshes.

“Let’s find the big boys,” he says.

As I enter the steam room, conversation stops. I’m unwelcome.

“Why did you bring him?” Peter asks.

“He’s German and doesn’t understand Hungarian.” Lotzi answers.

“Could be ÁVO or KGB,” a guy suggests.

Lotzi explains. “ÁVO is Hungary’s secret police and KGB are the Russians.” He laughs at the older boys. “Ever seen a twelve-year-old agent?”

“Everybody informs,” a guy points out.

“Or a plant from the Stasi,” another guy says.

I know the Stasi — Staatssicherheit, East Germany’s State Security. “I’m West German!”

“Why come to this Communist shit hole?” Peter asks.

I couldn’t tell the true answer — Dad is an American spy, a Central Intelligence Agency operative — so I shrug and say, “Dad brought me.”

“I helped him unpack,” Lotzi says. “He has American jeans and different underwear. A West German football shirt. Any Hungarians or Russians have those?”

Their discussion resumes. Lotzi doesn’t translate. I sit and steam, pretending disinterest in their conversation and unable to follow their language. But one word I recognize well — uranium. It’s the same word in English and Hungarian. Soon, I piece together the boys are angry because the Soviets have stolen Hungary’s uranium. That’s news Dad will appreciate.

Walking home in the twilight, I ask Lotzi, “Your brother and his friends seem angry.”

“There’s lots to be angry about,” he says. “The Soviets stole Hungary’s uranium. Done all legal. Our government sold it to them for nothing. The guys are planning to protest.”

“Will it do any good?”

Lotzi shrugs. “Doesn’t seem to. Do you know why your train was late?”

I shake my head.

“A railroad strike protesting Communist economic policies. Don’t suspect it did any good, either. Then, there was the show funeral.”

“Show funeral?” I parrot.

“A big parade where the government re-buried a national hero named László Rajk and others. He was my namesake.”

“Re-buried?” I don’t understand.

“First, those guys were top communists. Then, they got arrested and executed for treason. Now, the government digs them up and re-buries them with honors. Hungary is so confusing — a good communist becomes a traitor, then a good communist again, and ends up a hero.”

When I get home, Dad and I go for dinner at the Hotel Astoria. He holds my hand, pulling me on the sidewalk surfer. As it clatters and clanks on the uneven pavement, I tell him about uranium, strikes, and re-burials. The racket masks my report.

Yuri

The huge crowd below protests the re-burial of László Rajk, as it makes it way toward the cemetery down the wide boulevard. I watch from our room at the Hotel Astoria. Though it’s cold, rainy, and windy, I open the window to hear the parade, but they are silent. Sofia’s never had a like parade — a protest of mourning. Papa is right. Budapest is ripe for something big to happen. I’m sure Papa’s day has been busy.

Hotel Astoria is the place to be. The rooms are full of visiting Soviet dignitaries and many KGB agents. Full of cherry-wood paneling, red velvet drapes, expensive china, opulent lights, marble on the floor and walls, beautiful statuary, and gold leaf frames around paintings, Astoria seems a palace. Still, I’m bored.

After the parade, I follow its route toward the Kerepesi Cemetery, where the re-burial took place. As I approach Lenin Boulevard, I find a huge square where I see a captivating sight. A boy, my age, riding a board with wheels. I know roller skates, but this is different. He glides beside his father with local boys chasing behind or running beside. The fantastic new toy draws me. Curious, I want to know everything about it. He stops and gives lessons, showing the boys how to stand and push off with their other foot. He speaks German, which I don’t understand but many of the boys do.

“What’s that?” I ask a boy.

“The boy calls it a sidewalk surfer,” he answers in Russian.

I recognize the word for sidewalk, but surfer is foreign. I follow the boy, his father, and the gaggle of boys behind him. They turn onto Puskin street, but I return to the Astoria. Waiting for Papa’s return, I daydream of owning a sidewalk surfer.

From the window, I spot Papa a block away. I race down the stairs to greet him at the Astoria’s door.

“Ah, Yura.” He tousles my hair. “I won’t be much company tonight. There’s a mound of paperwork tucked in my briefcase.”

We stop at the velvet rope of the Astoria’s dining room. The maître d’hôtel swoops in, lifting the rope and seating us in a mahogany-paneled booth reserved for Russian visitors. Papa orders a vodka stinger, no ice, and a Kysel for me. It’s a thick berry juice and one of my favorites. He pops open the briefcase and pulls out a stack of green-bar paper, peppered with little dots computers use to make letters.

I crave conversation after a lonely day. Sitting here in silence is unthinkable. “What’s that, Papa?”

“Two lists. The long one holds known agitators. Railroad men from the strike. Factory workers reported by their supervisors. Names with stars are the worst.” He separates a smaller stack of papers. “These are foreigners in Budapest. Stars show the ones with ties to the West.”

The waiter brings our drinks. Papa downs the stinger, asks for another, and orders. “Galushki with bacon and mushroom sauce for both.”

I smile because Mama made the Ukrainian dumplings. “Looking for your American spy?”

He farts. It rattles in my ears before the stench reaches my nose. I pretend not to notice.

“I already know of one. He’s station chief at the American embassy. I have him under surveillance. Any new spy will meet with him.”

“Papa, I wish you’d go to the doctor. I worry about you.”

He smiles, but his eyes continue looking at his lists. “I will, Yura. I promise.”

Outside comes a commotion. It’s the boy with the sidewalk surfer. The clatter of his wheel-board is louder than a trolley car.

“Look, Papa. That boy’s riding a sidewalk surfer, a new toy. I saw him earlier. Hundreds of boys watched, too.”

Papa is already looking.

Gunny

Dad and I check our coats at the hotel cloak room and I leave my sidewalk surfer, too. We join the short line waiting for the dining room. Soon, it’s our turn and we sit in a mahogany-paneled booth. There’s a heavy-set man right behind me and across his table is a boy somewhere near my age. The boy smiles and nods.

As Dad lifts his napkin, he flashes me a victory sign with the other hand. Next, he points at the man behind me. Then, he crosses his thumb over an open palm. I get his message. It’s American sign language for KGB. I already have a creepy feeling about the guy.

Food arrives at the table behind me — dumplings bigger than spaetzle or gnocchi. Then, the waiter comes to take our order.

“Goulash soup and water with gas,” Dad says.

“Can you do a veal tenderloin with fried potatoes,” I order traditional German food. “Tea to drink with an extra glass and ice.” I smile at Dad because he knows I’m planning to make ice tea, not a common drink in Europe. “When do you meet your class?”

“Already met one student,” Dad says. “Lotzi’s brother Peter is in my class. I met him after you returned from the baths. He promised to show me around campus tomorrow.” He winks. “Your noisy contraption was helpful.”

I hear a disgusting fart. It vibrates my booth. Against the stench, I hold my nose behind my hand. My booth moves. The big man behind me rushes toward the lobby toilet. I bet I give him a nasty look because the boy with him comes to our table. He says something I can’t understand. Dad nods.

The boy smiles at me and says, “Surfer.”

I return the smile. “Want to try?” Dad’s translation makes him grin.

The boy thumbs his chest. “Yuri.”

I pat my chest. “Gunny.” I lead him to the cloak room and retrieve the sidewalk surfer. We go outside and I show him how to ride. He steps on and the board unbalances. He falls into my arms. I steady him while he tries again and fails. When he stands on the board, he keeps his balance with a hand on my shoulder. I walk, towing him beside. The biggest grin flashes over his face. I break into a trot until a cobblestone crack brings everything to a halt and tumbles him onto the sidewalk. I help him stand.

“Tovarish,” he says. It’s the only Russian word I know. It means friend.

Through the hotel window, I see my food arrive. I grab the sidewalk surfer, check it at the cloak room, and dart into the toilet for a quick piss. The place reeks because shit covers the floor. Vomit rises in my throat at the smell and I’m back in the booth in a flash.

When his father returns, I sip the last of my tea and Yuri finishes his dumplings. His father shovels dumplings at break-neck speed.

Dad pays our bill. “I’m going to the toilet.”

“Might want to hold it. Place is a disaster area.”

We fetch our coats and leave. Dad pulls me on the sidewalk surfer.

After dinner, Dad types a lengthy, report in code for the CIA, describing angry youth, uranium theft, railroad strikes, and re-burials. He lays odds on a period of unrest. When it’s done, we sneak out into the night and find a small used bookstore near Blaha Lujza square. In an alcove near its back, Dad selects a book — Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse. He pulls the folded report from his trench coat’s inner pocket and places it at page 113. The novel goes back on the shelf.

Yuri

I watch Papa eating galushki at a galloping pace. A horrible smell accompanies his return from the bathroom. He pours over the computer listings, scribbling a note here or there. “Yura, order another stinger.”

I wave to the waiter and he brings another. “Papa, you shouldn’t.”

“It makes me feel better,” he says without ever raising his eyes. The stinger goes down in a single gulp.

I disagree. It makes the symptoms worse, but maybe the pain is less. “You must see a doctor.”

“Later. I’m too busy now.” A drop of galushki sour cream drops from his fork and splatters beside the last name on his list. “Ah, here he is.”

“Who?”

“Your surfer boy and his papa. Arrived today from Austria — a West German citizen coming as a substitute engineering teacher at the Technical University. Frederich Zellner and his son Guenther.”

“He goes by Gunny,” I say.

“Does he, now?”

“Do you think they’re spies?”

“Unlikely. Spies try to fit in, not stand out. That surfer gadget attracts too much attention. And so does tea with ice. A spy would never do it. And spies seldom travel with children.”

“You did, Papa. You brought me along.”

Papa gives a pained smile. “I’m not a spy. I’m a counter-spy.” He pulls out a pad of surveillance orders from his briefcase. I watch him write an order to have Mr. Zellner followed. “Just in case.” He writes another five or six orders for other suspicious people on his lists.

“Another stinger!” Papa bellows when the waiter passes.

As Papa downs it, I read upside down from the list. I know the place where the sour cream fell. The Zellner’s apartment is on Pushkin Street. “Papa, can I visit Gunny while you work? And I can tell you if they’re doing anything strange.”

Papa grins at the idea. “Yura, I swear you’ll be a KGB agent one day.”

I beam to make him proud.

“I’m ordering electronic surveillance at their apartment. Western visitors often stay there and we have plenty of listening devices.”

“So, you’ll be able to hear me if I’s there?”

“It takes a day or two for processing, translation, and transcription. Tell me if you find something suspicious.”

My heart races at the opportunity for adventure. Not because I can uncover a spy. Most likely they’re not spies, but the boy could have even more new toys. And we can prowl Budapest for some mischiefon the sidewalk surfer.

Papa farts again. “Yura, let’s go. That one was liquid.” As we climb the stairs, I can’t stand the smell. But, Papa says, “The captain was right. Field work is enjoyable.”

Copyright © 2017 Gary Kidney — Author's Email: gary@garykidney.com