Bones of Spring (WIP) Chapter 48 – The Forger

The kitchen was lit only by a steadily burning fire that was situated in the centre under a ceramic tiled hearth and chimney. It divided the modern, stainless steel cooking area from a seating area that was little more than a scrubbed table and a sideboard. French doors led out to a generous balcony, supplied with expensive deck furniture. 

“Here,” Reza indicated a chair at the table. “I’ll put on the kettle.”

Augustin sat, folding his hands on the gleaming pine, trying to will the fear and tension out of his body. The part of him that was enraged didn’t want to admit to the part of him that was hurt, nor acknowledge that it was larger part. The heart pounding panic had receded, thanks to the mild disposition of the huge man now preparing tea for them. 

“If you’d been anyone else,” he muttered, not sure if Reza could hear him.

“Lucky for you,” he said as he poured hot water into a teapot, and carried it to the table. 


“I mean it,” he took two mugs from the sideboard, filled them, and pushed one towards Augustin. “If I really believed you were part of that group, you wouldn’t be going anywhere for a very long time.” 

“Because of this man. Fisher.”

Reza cocked his head. “What do you know about him?”

“Nothing, really,” Augustin admitted, blowing on his tea. “Well, I know he was involved with… ”

He didn’t want to say her name. It caught in his throat like jagged glass, and he had to stop and draw breath. There was a pain in his chest, and he could tell if it was from the physical shock, or if the idiot in him was in mourning for her. 

“I can’t tell you much,” Reza said slowly. “Because it is not my place to serve you this woman’s heart. She told you about the history between the two of you?”

“I don’t know that I really believe it,” Augustin admitted in a whisper, knowing at once that it was a lie. He did believe it. He just didn’t want to acknowledge her right to hate him. He didn’t want to believe he was or ever had been the kind of man to ask a sixteen year old girl to subject herself to the whims of depraved adult men who claimed sexual ownership over her. Or that he had failed to intervene, nearly resulting in her death. 

“You remember nothing?”

He shook his head.

“Johnny Janicke told me of your cousin, the man who invited you to this Frühlingsmorgen. I ask myself, what kind of man… and then,” Reza made a gesture to the air. “I try to understand any of it, and it makes me wish I had amnesia too.”

“And yet you’re living in Rostock,” Augustin poured himself another cup. “How did that come about? I never had the impression you were particularly fond of Germany.”

“Better business,” Reza said with a shrug. “That’s how I was acquainted with Katerina.”

“Because of her smuggling contacts.”

Reza gave a derisive little snort. “That’s one way of putting it.”

“How would you put it, then?”

“It was Miles Fisher, fifteen years ago, who put me in contact with the Americans,” Reza favoured him with a tight smile. “You know, the man fucked my wife for three months while I was away doing a deal in Istanbul.”

Augustin nearly choked. “Come again?”

“I know” Reza agreed. “Usually I castrate a man for such trespass. But my wife was angry with me for leaving her alone. I told him to give me one good reason not to cut his throat. He told me the infidelity was her business, not his, and then made me rich.” 

“I find that all incredibly hard to believe, Reza.”

“I’m telling you, he had a way,” Reza said. “I love this man. I want to kill him, yes, but he had this hunger for… I don’t know how to describe it. It made him so happy to make you happy, it was impossible not to feel fond of him.”

“What,” Augustin pressed. “Did he give you to make you so happy?” 

“Arms contract with the CIA and the US Army.” Reza shrugged. “Some people in the world don’t like communism so much, and the Americans help them kill communists. The Americans pay hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for my services.” 

Augustin stared at him. “Christ. You’re moving arms shipments through the port? And Kat… ”

Reza grinned at him. “She didn’t tell you that was what she was bringing me.”  

“No,” Augustin said shortly. Then frowned. “Is she…?”

“CIA? No. This group is smaller. Some hush-hush department that still puts a hand in now and again. Looks after old assets. It mostly fell apart when… she hasn’t told you what happened?”

Augustin sucked his teeth. “No.”

“Bad business,” Reza said, shaking his head. “I don’t know all the details because the Americans covered it up. Mind you, plenty of people will tell you she did the right thing, but Miles Fisher wasn’t one of them.”


“I can’t say more,” Reza said gruffly. “Just be grateful you weren’t in that room. And I wouldn’t ask her about it if I were you. Not if you want to go home again.”

“If I’ve even got one to go to,” Augustin muttered. “I’m sure my professional reputation is in shambles. And now the fucking Stasi…”

“You left Turkey at the right time. You have friends here who can help you deal with the authorities.”

“Maybe I’ll go back to Istanbul,” Augustin said, half-joking. “I still have friends there, don’t I?”

Reza’s face turned, if possible, even more grim. Augustin felt a sudden, further tightening in his chest. 


Reza nodded sadly. “In childbed, less than a year after you left. I thought about getting word to you, but you weren’t to be found.”

“I’m sorry, Reza,” Augustin said as he tried to fit his mind around this. Hazal Sadik had always seemed to him to be indestructible, so convinced about the life she wanted for herself. 

“It was terrible. She wanted children so badly. I thought about telling you, but then I thought, no. I asked Johnny to speak to you, but I suppose he was too busy running from the SD takeover to think of it.”

“I hadn’t thought of Johnny in a while either,” Augustin admitted guiltily. “If he was in trouble I wish he’d come to me, I would’ve certainly done what I could for him.”

“Too much spying for the British,” Reza said. “The Stasi wouldn’t welcome him either. He went to West Berlin, the British sector. They owed him that much.”

“Really,” Augustin thought of the West German passport in Kat’s suitcase, the one she’d procured in his name. “Kept in touch at all?”

“Now and then I commission him,” Reza refilled their glasses. “He’s the best forger in the country, but with this wall, it’s more difficult to do business.”

Something, some glimmer seemed to pierce Augustin’s subconscious. He leaned in, looked at his old friend. “How long has he been there?”

Reza shrugged. “He left Istanbul in ’44, not long after you. I heard from him in ’47. He’s got a workshop somewhere there, he doesn’t give tours. Has better tradecraft than he used to.”

“He probably has a better memory of the Frühlingsmorgen case,” Augustin ruminated. “Though it’s likely a dry well. If I could recall more details, at least a name or two — no, it’s no good.“ 

“Don’t try,” Reza advised. “What good is it for you, anyway? You know what happened.”

“I know my cousin set me up,” Augustin pointed out. “I just don’t remember how it actually —“ He fell silent, the glimmer in his mind seeming to throb, to glow, silhouetting a truth so close he could feel it, but it was still impossible for him to close his hand on it.  

I very much want to shoot you, little cousin.

“Silas Nyssen,” Reza prompted. “That is this man’s name, correct? Your cousin?”

“My mother’s cousin, yes.”

“Is he still alive?”

Augustin almost sighed as he felt it, the brush of recollection, the physical memory in his body of being bound to a chair. Not as he had been a few hours ago, however briefly, but the sensation of being tied with rope. Of waking from drugged stupor, vomit stinking on his shirt, only to look up at that sharp, mean smile. 

“I don’t know,” he admitted, still struggling to peer through the window that had opened in his mind. Then he met Reza’s gaze. “But I think I’d like to find out. I’d like to hear what he has to say for himself.”

“If he’s alive, he has a new name,” Reza pointed out. “The Americans were looking for all of the Frühlingsmorgen men. After what happened in 52’, if he’s alive he would be a complete fool to still be going around under that name.”

“’52,” Augustin repeated. “What happened in ’52?”

Reza gave him a slow shake of the head, indicated that this was the forbidden epoch, and was not going to divulge the details to him.

“If you’re really game enough, ask her,” he said simply. “If she wants to tell you, she will.”

Augustin contemplated this as he took the empty mugs and the teapot to the sink, his mind racing ahead. He looked at his old friend. “I think she’ll tell me.”

“Really,” Reza raised one of his thick black eyebrows. “You want to hazard your guts on that, my friend?”

“If Silas Nyssen changed his identity in or after 1952, where do you think he would have gone for his papers?”

Reza opened his mouth, about to provide some kind of refutation. Then his face relaxed, and he met Augustin’s eyes. He did not smile, but he did nod in assent, folding his hands together over his barrel chest as he leaned back in the chair.

“You think Johnny?”

Augustin nodded, and refilled his cup, his mind clicking ahead even as he tried to restrain his imagination.  

“You want my help with this. This is not a small favour, Augustin.”

“I think I can manage the journey,” Augustin said in a low voice. “But not alone.”

Reza shook his head. “If you think you can convince her. You’re a braver man than I am.”

Augustin’s mind raced as he ascended to the guest room. He wasn’t sure what he intended to say, which ultimatums he would put to her, how he would frame them. He thought about telling her to go to hell, taking the West German passport for his own use, and just daring her to do anything about. He also thought about falling on his knees to beg her forgiveness, which seemed equally natural. He didn’t feel quite sane enough for this, but he felt the mystery bending its will on him, compelling him forward.

Kat was not alone when he entered her rooms. She was tucked into the window seat across from Eleni, the two of them sharing a cigarette as they looked out on the dark ocean vista. Kat appeared to have half-undressed herself for bed but forgotten along the way, because one stocking still clung to her uninjured foot. 

She looked as though she had been weeping. There were tear tracks on her face, and her eyes were red. Eleni had her injured foot in her lap, and was gently working it with her thumbs. She gave Augustin a reproving look, silently giving him to understand he was interrupting an intimate exchange where he was not welcome. Reza’s wife did not like him, he realized. She believed he was the cause of her friend’s pain. And then he recalled that she and Kat had a lover in common, separated in time, perhaps, but they had both cared for him. He, Augustin, was an interloper, an aberration. Not privy to that shared history.

“Frau Sadik, I need to speak to Miss Bergmann alone,” he said firmly. Both women looked at him disdainfully, and for a moment he expected them both to burst out laughing at him and his presumption.

Eleni looked to Kat. She nodded in a resigned way. Eleni kissed her forehead as she rose, then walked past Augustin with a regality that he could not deny. He found it unsurprising that she had forced Reza to accept her infidelity. He could almost, in his mind, imagine Hazal having just such a conversation with her Esam on Augustin’s own account, because he didn’t think she would lie to him about their affair either. He felt a little bite of misery as he recalled that she had died not long after he had left her behind. What would she make of all this?

“Your suitcase is over there,” Kat said, not bothering to look at him. She looked dishevelled and shabby. Her shoulders were slumped, head tilted back against the wide frame of the window seat. 

“I have something I want to say to you,” he began, moving over to the place Eleni had vacated, but he decided to stand. 

Kat finally condescended to look at him, her pale blue eyes almost colourless in the thin moonlight. “I’m sure you do.” 

He just caught himself, stopping himself from calling her a bitch for the second time. From demanding to know why she had done this to him, why she had gone to so much trouble to make him believe there was something substantive in this pursuit. She could have achieved this end in so many other ways that did not require the crafted intimacy, the sensual lie. The hairline fracture that had formed in his heart. He dearly resented her and was beginning to doubt that he could go through with his intention. She frightened him too much.

He sat down in Eleni’s place, and regarded her. “First. This thing between us, this is over.”

“Fine,” she said, returning her gaze to the moonlit cargo traffic chugging across the sea. 

“Second.” He took a deep breath. “I want you to tell me everything.”

Now she did look at him, one eyebrow raised. “Excuse me?”

“Everything,” Augustin reiterated. “From your arrival in America to the day you decided to stalk and entrap me.”

“Entrap,” she smiled. “You couldn’t wait a day to get into bed with me. You didn’t even care if I was Stasi. Don’t blame me for your ennui.”

He shrugged. “You have you admit, you assayed my ennui very effectively.”   

She sighed. “Go home, Adrian. Or Augustin. Whichever suits you. Take the passports, they’re in the outer pocket of my suitcase. Start a new life if you want. You’re very clever at adapting.”

He waited for her to look at him, and when she didn’t, he went over to the suitcases. He reached into his, noticed that it had been rifled, but the hard little packet was still snug inside the inner pocket of his rumpled jacket. Was it possible they’d missed it? Perhaps she just hadn’t bothered to continue searching his things once it was clear he had nothing she wanted. 

“I was going to leave you at Kiefernhafen,” he said frankly, returning to the window seat. “I was going to take your car, drive to the train station, and return to my maudlin little life.”

Kat gave no sign that she’d heard, pulling on the last of the cigarette. She flicked it out the open window, watching the shower of sparks arcing down into the darkness.

“I changed my mind,” he continued, watching her for any sign of acknowledgement. “It wasn’t because your friend would’ve killed me. I chose to return of my own accord.”

“I know,” she said as she lit another cigarette. “I don’t know why you think it matters.”

He took the little envelope from his pocket, and set them down on the wooden bench at exactly equal distance between them. He could see by her lack of reaction that she did not know what the envelope contained. 

“I found these by accident,” he said, touching a finger to them. “I was curious, so I looked through them.”

“Interesting,” she blew smoke at him. “You went through my possessions. That’s quite tame next to chatting up a Stasi agent, or leaving me with SS officers who wanted to use me for sex and forced procreation.”

“Is this what you do?” he wondered, feeling contempt heating his face. “Collect and nurse a stack of grievances so that you can use them later as ammunition? Is that why you choose to live such a mean, miserable life?”

Her mouth went tight as she looked at him, her narrowed eyes sending a ripple of apprehension up his spine. He knew he was in the wrong, knew she had every reason to distrust him, even hate him. Knew that he was lashing out because he had been used roughly and frightened. The apprehension intensified as she reached for the photographs, using one finger to work the first one out of the worn envelope. It was the blurry image of her and Captain Miles Fisher, posing for their wedding photos. 

“So you’re curious,” she said, the cherry end of her cigarette illuminating as she took a drag, its little ember reflecting in her indifferent eyes. “You want to know all about my adventures. Ah —“ she came to the intimate photos, the one of her naked body stretched out below the viewer, and held it up. “I suppose you thought this worth your academic interest.” She tossed it down in front of him. “Here. Keep it. A souvenir.”

He did not move, simply watched her as she stared down at the photograph beneath, the one of Miles Fisher, the one she’d taken herself over ten years ago. He saw the frown deepen between her brows, the slight quivering of her lower lip. 

“He loved you,” Augustin said. “Those images say that much. I suppose after seeing them, I thought it was just possible I might be able to love you also. That there was something in you that could be loved.”

“Don’t,” she began, but her facade was disintegrating. She brought her knees up to her chest again and pressed her face into the inside of her arm, hiding like a bird behind its wing. “Just go, Augustin. Please.”

“No,” he said simply. “You dragged me along your wild goose chase, and now you’re coming along for mine. If we’re fortunate, we’ll both find a path towards closure. If not, then I’ll leave you to spend the rest of your life living in mourning for him if that’s what you want.” 

“What the hell are you talking about?” she muttered, looking at him with red eyes.

“I’ve been made aware that an old friend of mine now forges documents in West Berlin, in the former British sector. He’s been doing this for more than a decade. I thought we might go speak to him about my cousin.”

“So take the passport. You don’t need me.”

“Strictly speaking, I don’t,” he agreed. “But you’re experienced with this kind of thing, and in spite of your appalling treatment of me, I owe you a debt. Even if nothing comes of this, I can at least say I tried to give you what you wanted.”

“But only if I tell you everything.”

“Without all of the information, we can’t hope to succeed.”

Kat considered him. For the first time since his ill-omened arrival in the Sadik home, she seemed like her old self, the one who had drawn him from his featureless existence, had at least appeared to trust him. He was nostalgic for that delusion.

“I’ll think about it,” she said, then rose stiffly from the sill. She grimaced slightly as she untucked her foot, that warped, deformed appendage. The hole where the bullet had been lodged for so long was ridged, and so perfectly shaped to represent the trauma there. 

She’d jumped from a train, and received a bullet in the foot, then a pummelling under a water wheel for her trouble. She’d been put on that train by his cousin, Silas Nyssen, in punishment for shooting her rapist. A few days before, he, Adrian Wehnert had asked her to remain in Frühlingsmorgen so that he could get evidence on Nyssen and his friends to impress Wilhelm Canaris, in revenge for SS slights against the Abwehr. None of them, including him, had given a damn about the young woman herself.

No wonder she hates me so much.

She leaned against the bed and worked the stocking off her foot, then balled it up and tossed it next to her luggage. Then she pulled a dressing gown from a hook behind the door and wrapped it around herself. 

“Where are you going?” he asked before he could stop himself. 

“To find another bedroom,” she said, then slipped out the door. “You can have this one. I can’t sleep here anyway.” 

Augustin sat frozen in the window seat, a sudden wave of physical confusion washing over him. He knew, of course, he’d just said it was over between them, but his body hadn’t acknowledged the declaration. It didn’t care about his pride. The pressure building under his sternum was almost physically painful. It wasn’t really even a sexual feeling, just an intense need feel her close to him. 

He wanted to go after her, to pull her back. To speak whatever words of apology were necessary to make her forgive him. But he didn’t know how to justify such an action, because he could not unbelieve what he knew to be true. 

He gathered up the photographs and returned them to the envelope, recalling to mind that she’d last been here in this apartment, almost certainly in this room, with Miles Fisher. He, Augustin, had used his image to illustrate a point of merit. A magnanimous confession of his own, petty duplicity. 

As he crawled into bed, alone and miserable, Augustin wondered if, in spite of his vociferous protests, he in fact deserved everything that had happened to him and worse.