Moss, Norway: May 16, 1921

Five armed men stood around a serrated table in the center of the room. The snow-covered building was located a few miles out of town. The transparency of the glass pane behind them offered an extensive panorama to the gusting squall and the cold, ghostly wind as it howled outside.

The men were all dressed in heavy coats, boots, and carried pistols in holsters strapped to their hips. At the corner of the room to their left, piles of ammunition, rifles, handguns, and grenades were stacked meticulously.

On the table was a map of Oslo. The street that passed by the royal palace was marked by a circle of black ink.

Mads Anderson studied the map, then eyed each of the men. “Tomorrow, the National Day parade will proceed outside the palace, where the entire royal family will be. That’s when we will strike.”

“What time, exactly?” a man asked.

Mads pointed at the person standing next to him on his right. He had a gaunt appearance, but his nimble fingers seemed ideal to handle a rifle.

“Charles,” Mads said, “have you picked the best moment?”

The man smiled beneath his unkempt beard and answered in Norwegian, but with an American accent.

“The best time is at the end, when the crowds will be singing ‘Kongesnsangen.’”

“A political statement, no doubt,” one of them said dryly.

“Not really,” Charles replied. “The loud singing will muffle the sound of my rifle. They will not know where the shot came from, and the panic ensued by the crowds allow me to slip by unnoticed. The police will believe it came from the street.”

“What rifle will you use?” Mads asked.

Charles went over to the side of the wall, where there was a gun sheath placed against it. He brought it over to the table and produced a rifle; the wooden stock was engraved with hand-made carvings.

“The Enfield, American version,” he said. “It’s perfect for the job.”

“Then what?” someone asked.

“Then we storm the palace and seize Prince Olav, forcing him to abdicate the throne and return the power of the country to the people.”

“A pity I won’t be here too long to enjoy it,” Charles said.

“How will you escape?” a young man amongst them asked.

“Hans, you and I will be parked behind the building in a motorcar,” Mads answered. “Charles runs from his position to us, and we drive to Bergen, where a boat will be waiting to take him out of the country.”

Charles picked up his Enfield and set it down carefully amongst the large arsenal stacked against the wall.  Hans finished his cigarette and walked to the window to toss the remaining stub out, only to stand still as the burning end of the tobacco remained wedged between his fingers.

“My God,” he uttered.

All the men at the table turned to him instantly.

“What’s the matter?” Mads asked as he approached Hans and looked over the boy’s shoulder.

Outside, all their sentries lay dead beside their motorcars. There were no footsteps in the snow coming to or from their position.

Mads snapped his fingers twice, then closed the panels to the window and secured the locks.

“Hans, get the men out of here,” he said. “You know the plan.”

The boy was paralyzed by fear.

Mads struck him in the face. “Hans!”

He blinked, then regained his composure as he led the others to the cache, and together, they hastily carried the crates towards a side door leading to a hallway. Charles remained in place, placing his hands on his hips.

“Are you going to just stand there?” Mads asked. “The king’s agents aren’t going to let us walk away.”

“It’s not the King; it’s not your government.”

Mads turned and stared. “You told us you weren’t wanted by your government.”

“Apparently I was wrong.”

“What do we do?” Hans asked.

“We take what we can and go,” Mads said. He ran back to the table to grab the city map and stuffed it into his pocket. Charles retrieved a small pistol from his underarm holster, checking the magazine before he cocked it.

Hans and another man went to the side door and cautiously opened it. On the other side, five guards were dead, slumped against the corridor wall. Their guns were still in their hands.

Hans frantically slammed the door and locked it.

“We’re trapped!” he whispered.

Mads said nothing as he snatched a rifle and loaded it. All but Charles had their weapons trained on the door. As minutes transpired, nothing happened.

Charles raised his eyebrows as he listened to the bristling of tree leaves outside.

“They are here,” he said.

Then the light fixtures above died, leaving them in total darkness.

“Nobody move,” Mads said. “Stay calm. They want us to panic and mistake each other for them.”

Outside, abruptly, the wind disappeared.

A cry rang out from the end of the room. Another quickly followed. Then it escalated into a full-on barrage of sporadic gunfire. The flashing muzzles illuminated the room like fireworks in the night sky.

A faint figure appeared near Mads. He fired several times, but the bullets seemed to merely pass through it.

“Hans,” he yelled out.

“Yes, sir?”

“Where are you?”


After several more shots, silence returned to the room.

A fist struck Mads in the face, then the chest. He fell to the floor and attempted to crawl away. A voice spoke Norwegian. Like Charles, the voice was clipped by an American accent.

“If you want to live, I suggest you don’t move,” he said.

Mads dropped his arms down, now on his knees.

The light fixtures came back to life. Charles Brandenburg was in the center of the room. Both of his hands were held up high. Behind him was a young man dressed in black trousers, boots, and a pea coat. In his hand he held a silenced Colt pistol almost resting against the nape of Charles’ neck.

All the others were dead, including Hans. They either had gunshot or knife wounds in their chests.

The American eyed Mad. “Please kindly rise to your feet.”

Mads struggled, but managed to get up. He leaned up against the wall, using an arm for support.

“If you want Brandenburg, take him,” he said. “But I had nothing to do with it.”

“With what?”

“Whatever he did in America.”

The side door creaked open. Another American stepped in, dressed in the same attire as his counterpart. He also had a silenced pistol held low at his hip.

The first American standing near Charles spoke to his friend in English, who replied in a quiet voice. The first American smiled in response. With a similar grin, his companion then faced Mads.

“Mads Anderson?” he asked.

Mads nodded.

The man immediately raised his pistol and shot Mads twice, killing him. The fellow then turned to his partner. “Had to confirm. Wouldn’t want to report he’s dead and then find out he snuck out somehow.”

The first American chuckled lightly.

“What is the Bureau doing in Norway?” Charles said. “You have no jurisdiction here.”

The second American smiled and started pacing around Charles. “We’re not from the Bureau. We work for someone else; someone who had a ‘special interest’ in your case.”

Charles raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

“Our organization first had an eye on you when you proved to be quite competent at killing German officers during the war. We thought you would be an ideal addition. However, when you joined the Communist Party and tried to assassinate American government officials, our organization didn’t feel too fondly about it. Instead of getting the job, you became the job.”

The first American spoke. “Our organization has an interest in people trying to spark communist revolutions. That interest mainly involves killing them.”

Charles nodded. “How did you find out where I was?”

The first American shrugged. “Your forged passport initially threw us off, but we were still able to intercept you when you arrived in Norway. We contacted the Norwegian intelligence services, who gave us a list of communist militants you would mostly likely work with. I have to say, this plan was pretty unoriginal in trying to duplicate the Bolsheviks. You should have found a more creative approach.”

Charles smiled, but it was weak. “If you’re not the Bureau, then who are you?”

“We are merely actors on the world’s stage. And this was a small scene of a much larger act.”

“Wonderful performance. Will there be an encore?”

“Consider this your final performance.”

The first American fired three silenced shots into Charles’ chest. He fell backwards onto the floor without a sound. Then other man began searching Charles’ pockets, taking a wallet and other possessions. He stood up, a somber expression etched on his face.

“Goodnight, Mr. Brandenburg.”

The first American sighed in relief as they put away their weapons. He walked over to his partner and slapped him on the back. “Nice work, John.”

John revealed a suppressed yet relieved smile. “Get our contact on the radio, Marlon. They wanted us to inform them the moment he was dead.”


The two of them went outside of the building, walking past the slain bodies. They uncovered a radio buried under a pile of branches and turned it on.

Marlon spoke firmly into the receiver. “Come in, Brooklyn, come in, Brooklyn; this is the Bronx. I repeat, this is the Bronx. Over.”

After several seconds passed in silence, a voice appeared, coated in static.

“Roger, Bronx, what is your status? Over.”

“Brooklyn, this is Bronx. Babe Ruth has hit a homerun. I repeat; Babe Ruth has hit a homerun.”

“Roger, Bronx, we have received your message. Assume normal play. Return to dugout and await instructions from coach. Over.”

“Copy that, Brooklyn. Over and out.”

Marlon put away the receiver and began carrying it, following John back to their motorcar waiting on the side of the street, hidden behind a large tree. Neither of them said anything as they got inside. As John drove their car carefully back to their hotel, he reached into his pocket for a cigarette.

“I can’t wait to get back to the States,” Marlon said. “This weather is killing me.”

John raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

“It gets cold back home in New York, but it’s like the North Pole up here. I’m shivering like crazy, and I’m wearing a coat and two layers underneath it.”

“Somehow you’ll survive.”

“The boat’s not going to be any better, either. I’m going to get seasick, I know it.”

“I think you picked the wrong profession.”

“We’re spies, not arctic explorers. If I wanted to freeze to death, I would have joined up with Shackleton and his boys. Except there aren’t any communists there to fight.”

“They’ll go there…once they’ve taken the rest of the world.”

“Well, Brandenburg won’t be one of them.”

Moscow, Russia

Peter Nikolayevich Herzen walked swiftly between several armed men posted by the entrance to a large room. They parted like the curtains of a theatrical stage, leaving him space to open the door and enter.

Inside the room, his commander and closest friend Alexander Shukhov Malchev quietly stared through the windows overlooking the Kremlin on the other side of the city. His hands were held behind his back in a rigid, proper position.

Peter Nikolayevich was not surprised to find him there. Whenever he was in deep thought, he would always go into this room to meditate or remind him of better days. He cleared his throat subtly so that his presence was made known with tact.

Alexander Shukhov silently acknowledged him, then turned his focus once again to the window.

“I got a message from our men,” Peter Nikolayevich said. “He just called us a moment ago.”

Alexander Shukhov stood like a statue, not moving at all except his lips when he spoke.

“And?” he asked.

“We have obtained it.”

“And what was the damage to us?”

“We lost three men. You were right; it was not as easy to acquire as our informant promised.”

“A small problem,” Alexander Shukhov said. He finally turned around and faced Peter Nikolayevich. “But small problems can become big ones if they are left alone.”

He then formed out a small grin. “Please let our informant know that giving our organization inaccurate reports is a grave mistake, not something to be taken lightly.”

“I will do as you wish, comrade.”

“Remember: I still want him alive. He is useful, but he needs to feel a little bit of injury in exchange for the loss of my men.”

“Of course, comrade. Now that we have it, what is our next plan of action?”

Alexander Shukhov broke out of his rigid posture and walked over to the table standing in the middle of the room. On it was a map encompassing Europe.

“We will meet up with our men in Geneva,” he said. “I have already made the necessary arrangements for our passage. From there, we go to our target.”

“Then what?”

With a vicious stab, Alexander Shukhov plunged a dirk into the left side of the map. He became bitter and emotional. “Then we put forth our plan into action. The United States is ripe for change. The people of that oppressed country will soon experience the same liberation we have gotten here.”

He reached over and put his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “My friend, a great day is coming soon.”

The word conveyed the admiration he held for Peter Nikolayevich. He was not merely a comrade. He was a “friend,” a word seldom used in Russia anymore.

“Yes,” Peter Nikolayevich said in a whisper. “I never thought that we would live to see it.”

“We will,” Alexander Shukhov assured him. “First, Russia. Europe is already falling. Next, America. The Revolution is inevitable.”


For all installments from The Shadow Men, click here.