The Spy Inside the Cage

Day 27: A peek behind the curtain… The Iron Curtain.

She called herself Tina.

We crossed paths in West Berlin, where I lived, and she was just passing through.

I worked in the Cashier’s Cage at the Harnack House, which at the time was the Officer’s Club within the American Sector. The work was fairly simple: make change, cash checks, verify membership, keep track of membership dues.  It was also pretty boring.

Until Tina showed up. We were introduced on her first day of work in the cage. The boss said she was ‘filling in’ for a little while.

She was quite talkative, Tina was. She also left her mail lying around and her purse open on her desk. And she talked about her love life. She was dating a married man, an Army Major who worked with my father. Someone I had seen at parties and at the club. None of my business.

Until George Blake escaped from prison. Which I found out, not from the newspapers, but from Tina’s breathless recounting of a wild night out on the town. She and her ‘gentleman’ as she called him, had gone to a private gambling club, where all the talk was that Blake was headed for Berlin, and was going to take revenge on the people who betrayed him.

Well, this was too good not to share, so I told my mother. She said I had to tell my father, because the officer was clearly a security risk.

And that was the end of Tina. Almost. She never came back to work. A few days later, I got a call from an angry friend. Tina had stolen both my friend’s identification card AND her boyfriend and run off to Munich. Tsk, tsk.

Years after, I was watching an old Perry Mason show. The opening scene was inside a bank, the kind of bank with lots of marble and columns and money. An elderly woman wearing a mink coat is greeted by her young niece. And that young niece? That’s the last time that I saw Tina.

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