Dinah Pelerin wasn’t used to waking up happy, and it scared the daylights out of her. She pulled the blanket to her chin and snuggled close under Thor’s arm. They had known each other for almost a year, but had moved in together just three weeks ago. With every passing day, her confidence grew that she’d made the right decision. She cared about him more than she’d cared about anyone in a very long time, but the people she cared about had a habit of turning into liars or dying. Thor was too honest to lie. She said, “I wish you didn’t have to go. It’s not fair. I haven’t learned my way around the city yet, and the only person I know besides you is the wacko across the hall.”
“You have a dozen Berlin guide books and street maps and Geert isn’t a wacko. He’s the resident caretaker. If the lights go off or the furnace dies, tell him and he’ll take care of the problem. Anyway, I’ll only be away for five days. Norwegian Intelligence can’t function without my unerring wisdom.”
“Can’t you send your unerring wisdom to them in an email?” “I’m glad you’ll miss me, kjære, but I have my orders.” He looked at his watch and sat up. “I need to be at the Embassy in an hour. I’m picking up two diplomats who will join me on the flight to Oslo.”
“Just my luck to fall for a latter-day James Bond, forever charging off to save the nation.” She placed a hand over her heart. “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”
He kissed her in a particularly melting way, then rolled out of bed abruptly and headed for the shower. “Hold that thought.”
“You’re a tease, Thor Ramberg.”
“Like Bond, I leave them begging for more.” “Them?”
He didn’t hear. The bathroom door snicked shut and she slipped on her robe and padded into the kitchen to make coffee. Rain pelted against the windowpanes, and the pedestrians on the Niederwallstrasse down below carried umbrellas and wore their collars turned up like KGB operatives. Until the Wall fell in 1989, this street and the area for miles around was Soviet-dominated East Berlin. Since that time, the Germanys had reunified and Berlin had reinvented itself as the cultural and financial hub of Europe. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the KGB weather. She shivered. If September was this cold and dreary, she didn’t want to think what winter would bring. But in spite of the gloom, she’d never felt so happy. It seemed that the stars had aligned and, for the first time in living memory, every aspect of her life clicked perfectly. Thor was wonderful, her new job as guest lecturer on Native American cultures at Humboldt University was a plum, and the weather aside, Berlin was one of the most exciting cities she’d ever visited. She tried to put the thought of all this happy synchronicity out of her mind lest the gods grow jealous and snatch it away.
She brought in the International Herald Tribune, brewed a pot of the local Einstein coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table to read about the turmoil in Greece and Pakistan and Kenya. The world seemed fragmented, a jigsaw of violent factions that refused to fit together and fanatics willing to do anything in furtherance of their causes. She worried about Thor’s work carrying out counterterrorism missions on behalf of his native Norway. He’d almost been killed in Greece last June while investigating a ring of arms-traffickers. She had encouraged him to go to law school or return to a less hazardous police job in Norway. But he was a patriot and he craved adventure. She had learned not to try to argue him out of his dream job as an international sleuth.
He breezed into the room in a dark suit and tie, bringing with him the ferny scent of Fitjar soap. With his deep brown eyes and almost black hair, he did look a bit Bond-like—a cross between Sean Connery and Genghis Khan. Descended from the Sami people of Arctic Scandinavia, he loved cold weather as much as she hated it. He poured himself a cup of coffee and glanced out the window. “Museum weather. You should go to the Pergamon this afternoon. The Gates of Ishtar will start your anthropologist’s juices flowing.”
“It’s on my list.”
“And there’s a market in the platz with local fruits and vegetables and flowers.”
“I’ll check it out.” His tie didn’t need straightening, but she pretended it did, standing ready for a kiss that would have to last her for five days. “I’ll probably spend the day preparing for my first class. I know that most Germans speak English, and the ones who sign up for my class will be fluent, but I don’t want to use too many Americanisms.”
“Most Germans under the age of fifty have studied English in school. Even those who say they speak ‘only a little English,’ can talk politics like a senator, which by the way, is the German word for senator.”
He was so relaxed and reassuring. Too relaxed? She felt a frisson of superstitious fear. “You will be careful, won’t you? Don’t let the bad guys sneak up on you.”
“I’m off to Oslo, not Kabul.”
Her iPhone burst into its ringtone of imperative plinks. Thor took a quick swallow of coffee and set down his mug.
“Answer your xylophone. I’ve got to run.” “No, wait…” she turned toward the phone.
“I’ll call you.” His kiss landed in her hair somewhere in the vicinity of her left ear and he hurried out the door.
Frustrated, she picked up the phone. “Hello.”
“Dinah, is that you? It’s your mother. Your friend Margaret and I are in the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta waitin’ for our flight.
What’s that number, Margaret? Here it is, Air France, eighteen thirty-four. Do we change planes somewhere, Margaret?”
“You’re coming here? To Berlin?”
“We stop over in Paris, but we don’t change. Good heavens, that’s too little for me to read, Margaret. Anyhow, we’ll be arriving this evening at…what? Can that be right? All right, tomorrow evening at eight-thirty at TXL, which we think is the name of the airport. If you can come get us and put us up for a few days, that’ll be just lovely.”
Dinah fought back a groan. “How long do you plan to be here?”
“That depends, baby. We have a little detective job we need you to help us with.”