A Novel, With Illustrations

Slow Learner

What would follow if, in 1969, a young man barely out of his teens went to Berlin and fell in love with a beautiful East Berlin girl? . . . And the girl was, in reality, a communist agent, working as a honeypot for the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious secret police? Would there be sex? Of course. And better than any our young man, Bill, has ever known. Better, and far more imaginative. And would the girl, whose name is Mia, reciprocate Bill’s love? Eventually, yes. In a powerful, and tragically self-sacrificing, manner. Conflict? Goes without saying. Because, among other shifts in plot, both MI6 and the Stasi are trying to recruit Bill, who speaks fluent German and whose parents are German. Sudden surprises? Yes, in the microfiche that Bill has been carrying throughout his journey, and which holds the secret to eternal life, a secret that everyone craves and that everyone involved would kill to procure. A poignant ending? Only two survive. And an even more poignant epilogue.

Book: Slow Learner

Let me tell you

More About the Book…

Chapter One

Bill Sets Out


Our first moon landing.


Richard Nixon.


The Cold War.

And its most visible symbol: The Berlin Wall.

Probably no greater number of columns, histories, novels, articles, treatises, college papers and classified documents, from the army, navy, air force and CIA, had been written about any other structure, and one so ugly, one so vile, in this, the seventh decade of the Twentieth Century.


* * *

When Bill had been given the Leica several days before, he didn’t know that he would be using it to photograph a nude girl.

The Leica came equipped with a f/0.95 lens, which meant that it could take very good pictures in very low light.

The light inside Mia’s apartment was very low indeed. It was overcast outside and growing late. The only luminance entered through a high dirty window, long and narrow. It was completely colorless and without warmth.

Mia had been staring curiously at the camera all day long; Bill hadn’t used it once.

“That’s a very expensive camera,” she said.

Bill was unable to answer. This was not, in fact, a yes or no question. To simply answer yes would be dumb. To answer more fully, which he knew Mia expected, required either the truth, which he knew he shouldn’t give, or a lie, and Bill was not accustomed to lying.

“My father gave it to me as a present before I left and told me to be very careful with it so I guess it cost him quite a bit.”

“It is also a very good camera,” Mia said. “You should take more pictures with it.”

When Bill didn’t answer, Mia turned on a small bedside lamp with a yellow shade. It cast deep, soft shadows.

Bill was thinking: Yes, I should have been using it; that’s what I was asked to do.

“Would you like to take some pictures of me?” Mia said.

“You mean here?” Bill answered.

“Sure. Why not here? Here is very good,” Mia said. Mia spoke, of course, with a German accent; her voice was quite deep, almost hoarse. She was only nineteen.

Under any other circumstances, Bill would not have hesitated. He immediately understood what Mia was proposing. Bill remembered later that his hands were trembling slightly as he held the camera and that he was embarrassed that Mia might notice the sudden bulge in his pants; at the beginning of his relationship with Chelsea, his first girlfriend, he had once worn a jockstrap in order to minimize the same phenomenon.

But there was reason for hesitation: the pictures’ future audience . . .

What should he say?

“All right,” Bill said. “But you’ll have to tell me what to do. I’ve never done this before.”

“You’ve never done what before?” Mia asked teasingly.

“Don’t I need a flash?” Bill answered evasively.

“Oh no – not with that camera. Besides, it would ruin the effect.”

Bill still seemed uncertain.

“You begin by holding the camera up to your eye,” Mia said.

Bill dutifully raised the camera and looked through the viewfinder. Mia was wearing tight jeans and a red sweater, both of which emphasized her figure, as, needless to say, she fully intended. The image was not yet in focus. He twisted the knob and her two halves came sharply together.

“You’re in focus,” Bill said.

“Gut – I like being in focus. How close am I?”


“What do I look like in the viewfinder?” Mia replied somewhat impatiently.

“I think in the movies they would call it a medium close-up.”

“So,” Mia said – a kind of signal – a peculiarly decisive signal – as she swept a hand, her smooth young hand through her short blonde hair, crossed, folded her arms just below her breasts, small breasts, her small, upturned breasts Bill noted, cocked her head to the left, made a minor adjustment, a second minor adjustment – just so, just so – such precision . . . – and pouted slightly into the camera.

Click. Wind.

She bit her lower lip and did something with her eyes, her blue German eyes, somehow half-shuttered them while seeming to look at him more closely perhaps, more intently, and with increased desire, more lustful intent.

Click. Wind. Click. Wind.

“Now wait,” she said and turned her back to Bill.

She crossed her arms in front of her – in that mysterious manner unique to all girls and women and that Bill would always find intensely sensual – and removed her sweater, revealing a black lace bra. Bill felt surprised. Why should he feel surprised?

With her back still turned, she unhooked her bra, then took off her jeans. She wriggled out of her black panties, and while carefully showing nothing of her front, pulled up a kitchen chair. She then straddled the chair, presenting her nude profile, presenting it to Bill, presenting it to and for Bill.

Bill put the viewfinder up to his eye.

“Wait, wait,” Mia said again and Bill lowered the camera by a hair.

She spread her legs farther apart and pushed back her ass, opening it more fully. It wasn’t, however, her final flourish. The drab light from the window left most of her in shadow, a single diffuse stream accentuating only her shoulders. She languidly crossed her arms over the back of the chair and with the same slow movement turned her head, her face, her eyes, toward him.

Click. Wind.

Bill moved closer.

Focus. Click. Wind.

And closer.

Focus. Click. Wind.

Closer still.

And the camera would no longer focus. Or Bill could no longer focus it.

Slow Learner

By Patrick Beacham

A Little About the Author

Patrick Beacham

I have been writing since I was 8. This experience is described in my second novel, “Finding Shamoo,” available on Amazon. My influences are many: they range from John le Carré to Raymond Chandler to Hermann Hesse to Willa Cather, with many stops in-between. As a graduate of UCLA, I majored in political science with a specialization in international relations, and this, too, has continued to influence me. And oh, did I mention my film studies, which also inform my writing? Like any other writer worth his or her salt, what motivates me is simply the overpowering need to write, regardless of physical, psychological or financial condition.

Financially, I have been fortunate: I have, of necessity, while as a writer, re-invented myself several times, first as an art dealer, then as stockbroker and finally as a systems engineer at Microsoft.

Unfortunately, my psyche has not always been as cooperative, and I have experienced many psychological ups and downs over the years.

But perhaps most importantly, I have, throughout my literary career, received the unfailing support of my wife, Nancy, whose patience I continue to find altogether amazing.

The Story Behind The Story

At least two of my novels are semi-autobiographical in nature. They draw on real events as a point of departure, but then fiction quickly takes over.
My trip to Europe in 1969 ranks very high in my memory banks, as most of my vacations do. You are experiencing something entirely new and the events that define your vacation never leave you.
For a writer, the question then becomes: are these events worthy of supplying the basis for a novel? In my case, with “Slow Learner,” the answer was yes. With about a million embellishments to what really happened.
In 1969, when I was junior at UCLA, I had two main interests: sex and political science. When I began work on the novel, in 2018, my interests had broadened, but they most certainly still included sex and political science. Feeling a strong surge of testosterone, I set out to tell the tale I’m rather sorry did not unfold in real life, in the two Berlins, where most of the action takes place. Many of the events are true, but my romance with Mia, alas, is not. Probably a good thing: events in the story grow increasingly dangerous, and I am not a person who courts danger. Still, as I have written elsewhere, as the novel progressed, I very much fell under Mia’s spell and deeply regretted her fate at the novel’s conclusion. I’m sure you will too.

What Readers Say About

Slow Learner

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Enjoy Reading!

Anyone reading “Slow Learner” should pay very close attention to the cover. In a series of fun-to-research pictures (as I was devising the cover), the cover shows practically the entire story, and even, at the top, features Mia, my beautiful and sexy heroine.
I was always afraid that people would misinterpret the title “Slow Learner,” but it really refers to my own personality, and just how slow on the uptake, at age twenty, I could be. Had Bill, my hero, who is basely largely on my myself, been just a little quicker to put two and two together, he might not have found himself mired in quite so much peril. But then, of course, you wouldn’t have a story.