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Memoirs of a Secret Estate Agent


Memoirs of a

Secret Estate Agent

A short story by

Richard Blackah


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Copyright © Richard Blackah 2015

This morning I received a surprise correspondence from H Branch. It was a single paragraph affair, stating that the sanctions restraining me from discussing my life between 1982 to the end of 1989 had, for some unknown reason, been lifted.

So, with some excitement, I now sit down to write my memoirs, in order to recount the true events that led up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which brought an end to what had become known as the long and bitter, “Cold War”.

It all began on an unseasonably warm Monday morning way back in 1982, when I was reading Advanced Animal Languages at Emmanuel College in Cambridge. I remember it like it was yesterday; I was still in my first year and was standing under a tree, studying the behavioural patterns of some squirrels, when I saw Jonny Peddlelington ambling up the path. The moment he saw me he walked straight up and enquired as to my health, but before I’d had a chance to answer he glanced over both shoulders, leaned in a little closer and asked if I’d like to become a KGB spy! He then pulled out a crumpled old leaflet from his trouser pocket and pushed it into my young, innocent hand, before spending several minutes explaining to me the job’s many features and benefits. It was a while ago now but I seem to remember they included a generous salary, twenty-five days holiday, a choice of six different passports and the chance to occasionally assassinate someone. I remember being drawn to the idea like a magnet is to a fridge, but I still had two years of my degree to go, so I sadly declined and continued to study the squirrels in an effort to isolate some of the complex language patterns they’d been using.

I didn’t see Peddlelington again until some six years later, during the bitterly cold winter of 1988. I’d graduated four years earlier with a good 2:1 to discover, with some regret, that the only jobs available for people who could converse with a wide variety of animals were Zoo Keepers, and after spending two weeks following an elephant around with a shovel, I reluctantly decided that it wasn’t for me, and became an Estate Agent instead.

So I joined a firm in Winchester called Taylor Bekinsgale Hillander Cakeburt Phillip Bert and Bard, and settled into a sedentary life of showing people around houses and then phoning them up all the time; and there I remained until that fateful winter’s morning.

As I recall, it was our work’s annual Caribbean Day, so we’d had the heating on full blast since eight in the morning and were all wearing our Hawaiian shirts, and having a jolly good laugh about it. I’d only just finished pouring the last bottle of Malibu into the punch when good old Peddlelington happened to waltz in out of the cold, straight into our tropical atmosphere, like a frozen pizza being shoved into an oven.

We exchanged pleasantries over a pint down the Badger & Hamster, whilst recalling our student days with misty eyes and Cheese & Onion crisps, and just before we parted he again pressed me to join the KGB. As I still found the idea of having six different passports and occasionally being able to kill people hugely appealing, I agreed, and bought a one way ticket to Moscow that very afternoon.

My first tutor was Madame Ethel Ultem-Hiemer, a large, square headed women with a bust the size of Canada. At that time she was KGB’s Head of Counter-Intelligence for their Eastern European Division, and just happened to be taking our very first class.

The subject was, “How to Interrogate Someone by Asking them the Same Question, Over and Over Again”, and we were fortunate enough to have a real life British Agent to work with, a man who’d been caught smuggling a Big Mac in over the Berlin Wall the night before. He was slumped at the front of the class, with his hands bound behind his back, and gaffer tape flattened over his mouth. He looked like he’d been dragged through Hell backwards, or driven through Bradford forwards; either way, he didn’t look good.

It was during that very first lesson that I discovered my latent talent for interrogation. Everyone else in the class had been taking it in turns to ask their own questions, over and over again, whilst I observed from the back, but after three hours the prisoner still hadn’t said a word. It was then that Madame Ultem-Hiemer spotted me, levelled her Kalashnikov sub-machine gun at my head, and asked me to have a go. Fortunately I’d spent my time wisely and had been considering what they’d all being doing wrong. With this in mind I stood up, walked over to where the poor chap sat and carefully peeled off the gaffer tape that had been keeping his mouth firmly closed the entire time. Suddenly he was able to speak in a way that before he could not. Then I thought I’d try asking him my questions in English, instead of the Russian that everyone else had been using, and it soon became apparent that conducting the interrogation in a language that the prisoner could understand, actively encouraged him to answer.

Feeling that I was making good progress, I then tried to phrase each question in such a way that the word “please” would come at the beginning and “thank you” towards the end, and I found that the combined use of both, when spoken using the prisoner’s mother tongue, and without his mouth being incapacitated by the gaffer tape, allowed me to conduct the interrogation in record time, and without the need for the hammer, chisel or pliers that had been laid out, ready for the next class.

By the end of the course, everyone was so impressed that I was appointed the new Assistant Director of Counter-Intelligence for KGB’s Western European Division. I remember that I wasn’t too enamoured with the idea of being called an “Assistant” anything, but fortunately my new boss defected to America that weekend, with his wife and children, and so on Monday morning I became the new Director of Counter-Intelligence by default. Basically this meant that I could do whatever I liked, on the condition that I was able to gain some useful information from the many Western European agents still being held captive. This was particularly beneficial as I had, in fact, been working for MI6 all along, and had therefore just become the very first British agent to successfully infiltrate the KGB’s inner most sanctum.

With my cover still very much intact, I began re-interrogating the dozens of British Agents, who’d all been left to languish in the depths of the KGB’s cells without access to tobacco, beer or even a subscription to Good Housekeeping. And by implementing my new techniques, my team and I were able to conduct some very pleasant interviews, enabling us to acquire all the information the Kremlin needed, which included their names, telephone numbers, home addresses and fax numbers, when relevant. And as nobody could think of anything else to ask them, we were given permission to let them all go. Within just a few weeks, I’d managed to secure the release of every single British Agent from the KGB’s holding cells!

Feeling spurred on by my early success, and having received a buoyant letter of personal thanks from Number 10, I began to further develop my new counter-intelligence techniques towards instigating the release of every single Western European prisoner who’d ever been caught smuggling fast food into the Eastern Bloc.

To begin this highly opportunistic task, I first moved my entire team into a pleasant office overlooking Checkpoint Charlie, in East Berlin. As soon as we’d unpacked our multi-lingual phrase books, we set to work; but with one additional method in play. Before each interrogation started I offered every prisoner a nice cup of tea and a cream bun. It was a bold move but one that really paid off!

Over the next few months we continued to develop these innovative techniques and were eventually able to establish a method of interrogation that was so advanced, that each session only took about five minutes, just about the time it took to make the tea; but we didn’t stop there. There was still one method we had yet to try, and we waited until the very end of one particularly hot and sultry week during August before giving it a go.

And so it was, that at exactly 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon, we asked the guards to bring up all the remaining prisoners and assemble them in the main hall. Once there, we removed their handcuffs and took them all down the pub, where we made them drink several litres of Eastern European beer.

The effect was dramatic. Not only did they tell us their names and fax numbers but also gladly told us what books they liked to read and what their favourite songs were. Some even took to standing on the tables to sing them to us!

As the evening progressed, we continued to ply them with beer until they’d had around seven or eight litres each. It was then that they really began to spill the beans, divulging such precious information as their golf handicaps and even the names of their favourite tailors.

It was then that an idea struck me that was so bold, it needed a toupée to hide it. Using the knowledge gained during my formative years as a British Estate Agent, and with money I’d managed to embezzle from the KGB, which they thought I needed to pay for numerous rounds of drinks, I started to purchase every East German shop, house and flat I could get my hands on. At that time property in East Berlin was so cheap I was able to buy one large department store, twenty five high street shops, one hundred and twenty three houses and about four and a half thousand flats, all for the price of just over two dozen rounds of Hofmeister.

Having then waited nine months for my solicitors to finish processing all the title deeds, I popped down to my local ironmongers and bought the largest sledgehammer they had in stock. I then took it straight down to the nearest pub and bought everyone several rounds of beer before standing on a barstool, lifting my sledgehammer just as high as I could and shouting, ‘FOR FREEDOM, JUSTICE AND A MASSIVE INCREASE IN PROPERTY PRICES!’ Then, like a wayward Panzer Tank Division, we all marched to the Berlin Wall, singing heartily along the way, and duffing up anyone who thought they could stop us.

That day was 9th November, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall came down and which is now considered by historians to be the very last day of the Cold War.

As my entire property portfolio went up by ten thousand percent each week for the next six months, I was soon a wealthy man. I was also no longer needed by the KGB, who gave me a month’s notice. And so, free and rich beyond my wildest dreams, I returned to London to buy myself a one bedroom flat over-looking Clapham Common.

Having now finally told my story, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can, at last, look forward to a peaceful night’s sleep, without the fear of being dragged out of bed at two o’clock in the morning to be forcibly made to play musical chairs, without either music or chairs, whilst being asked to recall such sensitive information as my Facebook user name and password.

Memoirs of a Secret Estate Agent

Copyright © Richard Blackah 2015

Memoirs of a Secret Estate Agent

The fifth in a series of eight short stories, here the man who brought an end to the Cold War tells all.

  • Author: Richard Blackah
  • Published: 2015-09-24 11:40:06
  • Words: 2035
Memoirs of a Secret Estate Agent Memoirs of a Secret Estate Agent