A Heidelberg Gap Preview

Just for the hell of it, here’s a draft of Chapter 1 of my new Nick Temple File, The Heidelberg Gap. It will be the sixth title in the series. So far, so good. I passed 10,000 words yesterday, and feel like I’m hitting a productive stretch after some time away from the book. So here’s a taste. I hope it makes you want more! If you want to catch up with the series, click here for Nick Temple Files 1 through 5.

The Heidelberg Gap
A mock-up of the cover for Nick Temple File no. 6

CHAPTER 1: I Want Confirmation

August 22, 1968

For the third time in the last 45 minutes, the Director of Central Intelligence is in direct communication with a field agent near the border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia. The reports he is receiving are for the most part identical in their lack of detail. He knows the Joint Chiefs are getting the same or similar reports. He knows the president and the national security council are in session and engaged at DEFCON 2. He knows NSA is digging and listening. He knows every general grade officer in USAREUR and USAFE is on a hair trigger waiting for word from Washington. He knows they are all waiting to hear from the CIA whose assets should be in the best, hands-on, first-person position to provide instantly actionable intelligence. And he knows one small move in the wrong direction will spell disaster for much of the world.

“How far west?”

“The reports are in conflict, sir, but two columns of Soviet tanks have been spotted somewhere between 10 and 20 kilometers west of Prague.”

“Tanks? Just tanks? How many damn tanks? A company? A battalion? Any air support? Ground support? Any mechanized infantry? Any self-propelled artillery? Are the tank columns moving? What about their comms? God dammit, I’m not going to tell the president he needs to launch World War III over the presence of a handful of Warsaw Pact nation tanks in a Warsaw Pact nation. Do you understand?”

“Loud and clear, sir.”

“And what the hell happened to Temple?”

“He hasn’t checked in since his last communication, sir.”

“Maybe, just maybe that’s because there isn’t a damn thing to communicate. Engineers inspect bridges, right? Especially engineers that work for the goddamn government, or did I miss something?”

“I’ll see if I can’t run him down, sir.”

“The line’s open. Let me know the second anything, and I mean anything at all, changes. Jesus Christ! I feel like it’s August 31, 1939, and this time we’re Poland!”

←↔↔↔↔↔→

Nick sees the first man move towards the base of the bridge. From this distance it appears he’s outfitted with standard combat gear. Nick scans the area of operation, searching for demolition equipment, evidence of sappers, anything resembling a team whose mission is to destroy the bridge.

He notices movement in the dark to the right and refocuses his binoculars. He can make out the silhouettes of more men joining the first. The men keep coming. More combat gear. No charges, no plastique, no spools of wire. Just combat gear. A three-man mortar team joins the growing force and begins to set up just south of the bridge’s eastern limit. A two-man light machine gun team takes a position north of the bridge on a slight rise. A rifle squad approaches and spreads out along the approach to the bridge immediately joined by another.

“Jesus! That’s at least a platoon. And they’re loaded for bear.”

At that moment, Nick’s worst fears are realized. He needs to pull out and report. The weeks and days of guessing and waiting are over. The door isn’t closing; it’s slamming shut.

Nick tucks his binoculars into his field jacket. As he is about to stand his position is suddenly awash in the bright glare of three intense floodlights. If he freezes, he’s a dead man. And there’s only one way out!