East Berlin 1955, Stefan awoke screaming from yet another nightmare. He quickly looked onto the street from his hidden vantage point, to see if his cries had attracted any attention. He quickly determined that they had not. The night was deathly silent as pale snow gently fell all around him. A misshapen pile of discarded lumber, broken doors and chunks of shattered masonry concealed the entrance to his hiding place, his home. He had carefully arraigned the assorted materials strategically to be structurally sound and yet look like little more than rubble to the casual observer. The Russian controlled East Germany had not yet fully recovered from World War II, and life for most residents of East Berlin was hard, but for an orphan it had been brutal. Stefan managed to both survive and prosper. That was all about to change.
He was eight years old when the Red Army invaded ten years earlier. Despite his mother’s best efforts, she could not shield him from the brutality of the war. His mother had believed in the Fuhrer’s words that Germany would prevail. She believed it unconditionally, so much so, that she refused to flee the city. So, when the Russian soldiers burst into their home, she had a complete look of disbelief on her face. She chastised the soldiers and warned them of the Fuhrer’s wrath. Her words did little to deter them. From a hidden cubby hole, Stefan was forced to watch as these soldiers savagely brutalized and raped his mother. Those images would be forever burned into his mind, forever seared into his memory.
When the three Red Army soldiers were done with her, they helped themselves to any food they could find in their tiny home. His mother all the while continued to curse them and tried to cover her ravaged body with what little fabric remained of her garments. One of the soldiers had grown tired of her frantic tongue-lashing, un-holstered his pistol and shot her through the skull. She fell gently and lifeless to the floor. His mother had made him promise, that no matter what, he would not utter a sound. So there in that dark cubby hole, as he looked unto his mother’s still face, as her forehead slowly spurted blood onto the floor, he kept his promise, he made not one sound.
Yuri, Pietro, and their leader Ivan, sat at the table and ate. They could have been back in Russia in one of their own homes, with the relaxed and casual manner in which they feasted and talked. Stefan listened and watched very carefully; names, faces, ranks, and voices were all committed to his memory. He had an exemplary memory, something that the doctors called eidetic memory. His extraordinary memory had also helped him in school, and by age five he could speak three languages, including Russian. After they had consumed all of their remaining food, the trio of soldiers departed. He swore that someday he would have his revenge.
Ten years had past since that night when the soldiers murdered his mother. He thought it was late December now, and the weather was bitter cold. Only one to go and tonight would be the night. For the last ten years he had worked tirelessly toward his goal. After he buried his mother in a shallow grave he hid and scavenged for whatever he could. He would have died soon after hitting the streets, but he was fortunate. A man simply named Klein, took pity on him and took him in. Stefan didn’t know why he did this until a few days later.
Klein had been a member of the German secret police, and now worked to help liberate Germany with acts of savage violence against the Red Army. He was relentless, devious, and devoid of any emotion, traits that Stefan quickly adopted. In the three years that he and Klein evaded the Stasi, they had set off over 100 explosives. Klein was always careful not to kill any Germans if possible, and would only implement a plan if he was sure he would not be found out. That is where Stefan came in. A child delivering a package laden with explosives was less likely to attract attention than a grown man with the look of a soldier to him. It took three years, but eventually the Stasi caught up to Klein. He did not go quietly, but he did go, ka-boom that is. He detonated the entire building that he was holed up in and took 20 Stasi secret police officers with him.