Front cover of book

CodeName: Snake - III Return Fire


Chapter 1

Do they really want me dead?

Stefan Hirsch shaded his eyes as he stepped out of his air-conditioned hotel into the bright morning sun in Bangkok. Humidity and smog hung over the city, his shirt already sticking to him. He walked across the street to a café and ordered coffee and toast. When the waiter brought the toast Stefan realized he’d forgotten to tell the waiter he wanted it dry, without butter. He sighed and ate it anyway. Down the street he bought a cup filled with sliced mango from a fruit vendor, walked to a nearby park bench, and ate it.

The start of the day was beautiful but his mind was clouded with the deadly issues he faced, and no amount of delicious fruit would change that. He’d completed his missions — both of them successfully — and was getting ready to head home, but his gut told him something was wrong… deadly wrong, and he was going to pay dearly for it. He was sure a bullet to the head awaited him.

Am I paranoid? Are they going to come after me? A few people wanted to rob me because I looked like a rich tourist, and that’s part of life here in Asia. All tourists could encounter it, although most didn’t unless they strayed from the main tourist areas…but my own agency now surely wants me dead. He had no qualms about killing assassins who were after him — psychopaths hired to kill him — even though he hated the killings. He also knew it was what he had become — an assassin for hire. How different am I from them? It was one thing to kill Nazis during the war and hunt down the ones who had escaped, but going after drug lords and political dictators, well…it had become something else.

Others might have no objection to this type of work, but he did, and it distressed him. Headaches and upset stomachs plagued him when he was a mission. He was an assassin…a good one.

He thought about things he had done, places he had been since World War II had ended, time spent tracking Nazis, and was mostly satisfied. No, satisfied wasn’t the correct word. He had done the "right" thing. It was when the government had contacted him to continue "doing what he was so good at doing," as they said, that things began to slip and slide into other areas, dark, questionable areas he didn’t want to think about, but couldn’t stop thinking about. And now the mistakes….

Every time he was tasked with a "hit" triggered a memory. And now he was the target. He remembered the first time he had taken action. He was seventeen and a prisoner in a concentration camp in Italy, run by the Germans and Italians. He and his mother, father, and brother had been captured and forced to endure the brutal conditions in the camp. His brother had died there, as had his mother. At least they had died quickly. He didn’t know what happened to his father since his father was taken from the concentration camp. Stefan assumed he’d been killed, but it wasn’t until the end of the war when Stefan would eventually meet him again, thanks to the Red Cross. But his father was a broken man.

While a prisoner, Stefan was so enraged at what the Nazis and Fascists were doing, he fashioned a knife out of a long sliver of wood and killed his guard while on a work detail outside the prison camp. He managed to escape, eventually making his way to England. The British SAS — the Special Air Service — trained him to be an assassin, taught him all the tricks of the trade, and sent him back into Germany to kill Nazi officers…to cause confusion and fear in the officer ranks, and he did that job superbly.

After the war Stefan joined with Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter, and continued using his talent for hunting down his quarry. During that time an American agent, John Adamson, and a British agent, Robert Smythe, contacted him to continue to hunt Nazis in East Germany and Russia.

But now…now all the killings, all the deaths…weighed heavily. At times he could smell the shroud of death hovering over him, smothering him. He wanted it to end, wanted to be free from it, but am I too deep into it? Will it ever end?

As a Nazi hunter his blood boiled with anger that some of the vermin were still out there, having escaped at the end of the war. Every time he confronted a Nazi, hatred clutched at him, and his heart filled with ice. He wanted to kill every one of them immediately, yet, somehow, he managed to control his anger, control it just enough to offer them a choice to live and go to trial or die now.

When Stefan found this latest piece of garbage, a general who had slipped out of Argentina and found refuge in Thailand, he spoke to him in German, giving him his standard offer. "Come back with me to Israel and stand trial, or die here. Your choice."

The general protested in hesitant and broken German, declaring he wasn’t German. "No, no. I not German."

But Stefan ignored him. He continued, "This is your only choice. Stand trial or die here."

The general stuttered, protested, declared in hesitant Spanish that he didn’t understand German.

Stefan smiled and switched to fluent Spanish without missing a beat. "You want to live? So did all those you killed, señor general. Men, women, and children. Did you not think they, too, wanted to live? Did you give them a choice?"

"But it wasn’t me," he pleaded. "I wouldn’t do such a thing. I’m not German. I’m not a general. I’m not a Nazi."

"But of course you did do it, and of course you are a German, a general, and a Nazi." Stefan cocked his weapon. Blood drained from the German’s face when he heard the ominous metallic click. "General, come with me now, or die now. Believe me, it’s easier if you die here and now."

The general realized he had no choice, for he believed he would be hanged in Israel. If I could overcome him…. He leaped at Stefan, but stopped short when a bullet entered his forehead and blew out the back of his head.

Stefan grimly smiled at the putrid piece of filth before him. He took several pictures of the dead man and searched his belongings for any notes about others in his escape network. It didn’t take long. From the general’s false-bottomed suitcase Stefan removed a journal. He smiled. The little Nazi general kept good notes and had a nice stash of money. Simon Wiesenthal’s organization would make good use of the funds, and my agency would make good use of the journal. A copy of the journal would also go to Simon Wiesenthal’s organization.

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