Upon his return to Flint Kaserne, Devlin Judge set out to track down General Oliver von Luck. It was six in the evening and outdoors the summer weather was inviting. A bold sun promised the local beer gardens a healthy crowd. Indoors, the Kaserne's hallways were deserted. Gone were the legions of smartly attired soldiers making their daily rounds. Passing an open door, he'd hear a hushed voice or a muffled laugh. In the gloom of the endless corridors, a shadowy figure shuffled from one office to the next. A skeleton crew could put Germany to bed. Administering the peace was a less urgent pursuit than fighting a war.
Judge had been given a large office on the second floor. Four pine top desks were spaced evenly around the room, scarred leftovers from the academy's glory days. Among the initials and dates carved into their yellowed surface, he had found the inscriptions of several promising cadets: "1,000 Jews equals one German"; "Lebensraum" -living space. And most haunting, the single word "Vernichtung" written ten times over in a perfect column. Annihilation. He had tried to repeat the word all ten times, but couldn't. It was physically impossible. After the fifth repetition, the word caught in his throat as a gush of nausea flooded his body. Above his head, an exposed pipe ran the length of the ceiling. Droplets of water leaked from one end of it into a tin bucket set in the corner.
But nothing was as bad as the mural. Painted across the rear wall was a Teutonic knight in full chivalric armor, blue eyes focused on the sunlit horizon, blond hair tousled by the wind. He rode a fiery black steed and brandished a gleaming sword. A scarlet Nazi armband was the artist's sole concession to modernity. Above the scene, floating among puffy clouds was a silver ribbon bearing the words, "_Mein Ehre Heisst Treue_". Loyalty is my honor. Every time Judge looked at the picture he cringed.
Along with the office and the lovely artwork, he'd been given three aides. Two of them were on the road, visiting divisional offices of the military police. A third, one PFC. George Merlin, an acned teenager from Iowa, had gone home for the day. As for Honey, he'd left for Munich to run down a lead. Someone from the local arm of Bob Storey's Document Collection Division had come across the personnel records of the First SS Panzer Division and Honey wanted to check if any of Seyss's comrades lived in the Munich area. Afterwards he planned on finding himself a billet.
Judge slid back his chair and with a resigned sigh set to work. First, he sent queries to all CIC sub-stations regarding last known whereabouts of General Oliver von Luck. Next, he transmitted wires to the seven regional chiefs of what remained of Germany's criminal police, known as the Kripo, asking for their cooperation in the search. The process was painstakingly slow, demanding the filling out of a mountain of forms, requests, and authorizations, each in triplicate. At ten past midnight (after a half hour of haggling with the night operator) he managed to get a direct line to Washington DC and put in a call to headquarters military intelligence at the War Department. Judge kept his request simple. Please forward all information regarding last known posting of General Oliver von Luck, German Army. Urgent. To add a little zip, he said, "by order of General George S. Patton, Jr." then hung up the phone.
"So you're looking for Ollie von Luck?"
Judge jumped in his chair, his eyes seeking the source of the words. A hunched figure lurked in the doorway, face cloaked in shadow. He had a high-pitched voice that delivered his English with a thick German accent.
"Who are you?"
"Altman is my name. Klaus Altman." The man stepped into Judge's office, the glare of the overhead light reflecting off his bald pate. He was young, no more than thirty, dressed in a pressed gray suit that despite its obvious quality looked as if it belonged to a taller man. A pronounced brow hid pale, anxious eyes. An aquiline nose and ruby lips curled in a salacious sneer completed the picture. For all the world, he looked like a dirty-minded vulture. Advancing a step, he flashed United States Army identification, holding it long enough for Judge to take a careful look.
"I am employed by the CIC substation in Augburg," Altman went on. "Lt Delvecchio is my commanding officer. I understand you're working with one of my colleagues presently, Sergeant Darren Honey?"
"That's correct." Judge motioned for Altman to take a seat, his heartbeat slowly returning to normal. The compact man shuffled forward, offering an ingratiating bow as he pulled the chair close to Judge's desk. Judge didn't know what scared him more: this little creep's midnight visit or that the counter-intelligence branch of the US Army was employing Germans, presumably former members of the military, presumably Nazis, as agents. "So you know von Luck?"
"Of course. He was a famous man, even well regarded – once."
Once. The ominous tone in Altman's voice warned of bad news to come. "What can you tell me about him?"
"You're familiar with the Abwehr? The intelligence wing within the Wehrmacht run by Wilhelm Canaris. The man for whom you are looking, General Oliver von Luck, served as Canaris's deputy chief from 1939 to 1944. Both men were active members of the Twentieth of July plotters, the cabal of officers who attempted to assassinate the Fuhrer at his military headquarters in East Prussia."
"Woltschanze." Judge gave the German name of the headquarters. The wolfs lair.
"Ah, you speak German. Excellent." Altman grinned while cocking his eyebrows, as if the two shared an appetite for an exotic dish. When he spoke next, it was in his native tongue. "Von Luck is dead. He was arrested with Canaris and tried by the People's Court, Roland Freisler presiding. You're aware of Freisler's record?"
"Shit." Judge couldn't stop the word from escaping. "Yes, I am."
In the wake of the failed attempt on Hitler's life over five thousand men and women had been executed, many of them tried and convicted by said Roland Freisler, a strutting, raving sadist who derived overt and grotesque gratification from verbally lacerating the accused in his kangaroo court. The most prominent of the plotters were hung by piano wire and left to die a slow, excruciating death. Hitler had demanded the executions filmed.
"We know that Canaris was killed," said Judge, "but do you have confirmation that von Luck received the same punishment?"
"Someone so close to Canaris could not have survived."
Judge recognized an evasive answer when he heard one. "Do you have any proof he was executed?"
"Proof, no," replied Altman crisply, his integrity impugned. "I was stationed in France at the time, in Lyons. But believe me when I say von Luck could not have escaped the Gestapo's grasp." The pride in his voice left no doubt as to the German's wartime affiliation. "I'm sorry if you are disappointed."
"Thanks for the information, but I'll keep checking all the same."
"Suit yourself." Altman placed a hand on the desk and leaned close. "Might I ask if this is in connection with your search for Erich Seyss?"
"It is. Von Luck was Seyss's trainer for the Olympic Games. I assume Erich Seyss is what brings you here at this late hour."
The German answered a simple yes, mumbling an insincere apology for disturbing him, before delving on. "Excuse my curiosity, Major, but I had to speak with you in person. You see, I'm a little confused by what's been happening these last few days. It seems you're mounting an awfully large operation to bring in one man. Is there, perhaps, any information you are holding back that you might care to share with me? Any idea why Seyss is staying in the country?"
"We're not withholding any information, Mr Altman. You have everything we have."
Altman waggled a finger, affecting a far off glance. "If it were me, and I'd killed an American officer to get out of a camp, I'd turn south and keep going until I hit the Adriatic. Maybe I'd try for Naples. Either way, I'd get out of the country as soon as I possibly could. It must be something awfully important for Seyss to remain in Germany."
"There's nothing more I can tell you, Mr Altman. It's as simple as that."
But even as the words left his lips, Judge was thinking of the dog tags Honey had retrieved from the basement of Lindenstrasse 21, hearing Corporal Dietsch recount Seyss's words. "One last race for Germany." He mulled his impressions over, mixing in the decidedly suspicious cast to Altman's voice.It must be something awfully important for Seyss to remain in Germany. Looking up, he found Altman's dull blue eyes boring into him and suddenly, unaccountably, he grew breathless and a little dizzy. He remembered feeling the same way only once before, the first time he'd been to the top of the Empire State Building. Peering out over Manhattan, past Central Park into the Bronx, east to Brooklyn and west up the Hudson River, he'd nearly fainted at the immensity of it all. He'd never imagined the world was so big. The revelation was as frightening as it was inspirational. A similar sensation swept over him now; a notion that he was tapping into something larger than he knew. And the thought dashed through his mind that he'd be smart to turn around this second and go home without asking any more questions. Francis could fend for himself.
"Too bad, then," said Altman. "I'm sorry for disturbing you so late in the evening, but my work demands I keep a rather odd schedule." His voice registered disappointment but his squirming lips never lost their lascivious posture. "I hope you didn't take fright."
"No," Judge lied, "not at all." He stood, still trying to shake off the discomfiting feeling as he accompanied his visitor to the door. "Mind if I ask what CIC has you doing these days?"
Altman shrugged helplessly in his too large suit. "I'm terribly sorry but most of our work is classified. I can only say that many of the men we're looking for here in the western zone are proving useful in the East."
Judge shook the man's hand, wishing him goodnight. It was clear that Altman was referring to his former colleagues in the Gestapo. Gestapo stood forGeheimstaatspolizei. The Secret State Police. For the past ten years, they'd been spying on their fellow Germans. All they had to do was turn their snooping apparatus in the opposite direction and spy on the Russians. The work was the same. The only difference was to whom they reported.Useful indeed.
"At least we know Erich Seyss is in Munich," Altman said in parting. "If he stays in Germany, we'll find him. Let's hope you scared him underground. That's my territory. There's only so many places a man can hide."
Judge watched the man slip off down the corridor. His footsteps were exceptionally soft, little more than brushstrokes against the flagstone. Then they were gone – like a rain that had abruptly stopped. Judge strained his neck, squinting into the darkness to make out the man's crooked silhouette, but he saw nothing. Shivering, he crossed the hall to the restroom. He had an overwhelming desire to wash his hands and face. Suddenly, he felt very dirty.
Contrary to what he told Major Judge, Darren Honey did not proceed to the Munich arm of Colonel Robert Storey's Document Collection Division. The personnel records of the First SS Panzer Division had, in fact, turned up, but Storey had already received them in Paris. Nor did Honey, as he'd also said to Judge, inquire about finding a billet for non-commissioned officers. Pointing the nose of his Jeep north, he left Bad Toelz and made his way out of the foothills and into the lush plain that surrounded the city of Munich. As the roads worsened, and he began dodging shell holes, craters, and piles of rubble taller than the buildings they once comprised, he sat up straighter and his smile vanished. Soon his face took on a decidedly unpleasant cast.
Darren Honey was sick of war and sicker of being smack dab in the middle of it. Most of all, he was sick of being someone else. His post in the 477thCounter-intelligence Company of the United States Army was only the latest in a string of covers too long to enumerate. He hadn't landed at Morocco with Patton in forty-two, nor had he endured the Anzio beaches with Mark Clark. Everything he had told Devlin Judge about himself was false, including his name.
The only truthful thing about his appearance was the ribbon adorning his chest that denoted the Silver Star. He'd been awarded the commendation in recognition of actions taken in Paris, France, on 5 June 1944, one day prior to the Allied landings in Normandy. He'd sworn never to divulge what exactly he did, but it involved making sure that certain German generals visiting the French capital for a bit of rest and recreation were kept far away from their respective divisional headquarters in Normandy. It had cost quite a few lives.
Honey's work came under the heading "SO" or special operations, known within the Office of Strategic Services, or "OSS", simply as Department II. His rank, not that it counted for much, was actually captain, which for a poor kid from Arlington, Virginia, who'd never even graduated high school, wasn't too shabby.
The OSS was America's secret intelligence service. Formed in 1941, just months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it had already placed thousands of agents around the globe, from Burma to Bulgaria, Singapore to Stockholm. The man who commanded the OSS, who had built it from the very ground up, was named William J. Donovan. His heroics in the First World War as an officer in the Fighting 69thhad earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, along with the nickname "Wild Bill." Contrary to his colorful moniker, Donovan was a mild-mannered, avuncular man, with thin gray hair and kind blue eyes. In the years between the wars, he'd made a small fortune as a Park Avenue attorney and consultant to many of America's largest corporations. He didn't speak loudly, but something about him made you pay close attention to his every word. People called him charismatic and magnetic. Honey called him "Sir", and did exactly as ordered.
Guiding the Jeep across the Maximilliansbrucke and up Maximillianstrasse, Honey sighed with distress. Munich was an absolute wreck. Eighty-five per cent destroyed according to the Allied bombing survey. All this destruction was getting to him, making it harder and harder to keep up his smiling persona as the ever-ebullient young sergeant from Texas. There came a point when enough was enough. He'd seen it in others: the constant irascibility, the inability to get a decent night's sleep, the need to keep moving, even if there wasn't a damned thing to do. And he was reaching that place himself. He didn't know what would happen if he ever got there. Some men started crying and didn't stop for a month. Others blew their brains out. Neither alternative sounded very appealing. He just hoped it didn't happen soon. He didn't want to disappoint "Wild Bill".
Ten minutes' drive took him to an enormous red brick building, formerly belonging to the Bavarian postal authority, that was more or less intact. Pulling over at the end of the block, he hopped from the Jeep and entered the building. Today, the Boss was in town, down from Nuremberg where he was helping Justice Jackson check out the Palace of Justice as a possible site for the war crimes trials. Donovan as very concerned about Erich Seyss and anxious that everything possible was being done to track him down. He was also concerned about the men behind the investigation – especially Devlin Judge – though he wouldn't say how or why. He wanted to hear everything that had happened at Lindenstrasse this morning. Honey's job was to watch, listen, and report back.
Mounting the stairs to the third floor, Honey mulled over some of the things Donovan had told him three days ago.
Apparently, Seyss was guilty of a lot worse things than the Malmedy massacre. He had done unspeakable things on the Russian front. Unspeakable. That was Donovan's word and he didn't use it lightly. Seyss was dangerous all right. One of Hitler's best. Donovan had said something else, too something that made Honey very nervous. This wasn't about a mere prison escape and the murder of an American officer. It was about something bigger.
As Darren Honey knocked on Donovan's door, he had the feeling he was about to learn what.
Judge arrived in his dripping office the next morning at seven, prepared for a long wait. Altman's visit had unsettled him. If Oliver von Luck was dead, the investigation was, too. Unless the personnel records of the First SS Panzer Division listing the homes of Seyss's comrades panned out, Judge had nowhere else to turn. He'd be left chained to his desk, twiddling his thumbs for the next three days while praying for Seyss to show himself and trip an alarm. He shot the wall calendar an unfriendly glance. Thursday 12 July. Three days until his transfer expired.
Time. He needed more time.
Bracing himself for the fact that von Luck was dead, he spent an hour drafting a comprehensive list of divisional headquarters whose military police he would contact to keep the heat on Erich Seyss. The Seventeenth in Stuttgart the 101stin Munich, the Seventh Cavalry in Heidelberg – which if he wasn't mistaken was George Armstrong Custer's former unit.
He was glumly whistling the Garry Owen when his phone rang five minutes later. It was headquarters of military intelligence at the War Department in Washington DC. In three rushed sentences, a timid lieutenant named Patterson confirmed Altman's report, then abruptly hung up. Von Luck was, in fact, a Twentieth of July conspirator. He was arrested, tried by the People's Court and convicted. Sentence presumably death, though no official word had ever been received as to his fate. Click.
Judge threw down the phone, cursing the world. He damned Altman for being right and Lieutenant Patterson for confirming it! Pushing himself away from his desk, he rose and paced the perimeter of his office. There had to be another way to gather information about Seyss. Shadow his friends, track down his lovers, locate members of his extended family, but Judge had neither the means nor time to gather such information. Stymied by his lack of resources, he sought refuge in anger. What kind of cruel gift was it to give a man every means to track down his brother's killer while denying him the time to see the job through?
Fifteen minutes later, Judge's world righted itself.
A captain with the military police detachment of the Forty-fifth Infantry Division radioed in that he recalled there being a prisoner named von Luck confined to a bed at Dachau. Yes, that Dachau – the oldest and largest of Hitler's concentration camps situated fifteen miles northwest of Munich. A hospital had been set up on the premises to nurse the camp's ill back to health. Though infirm, von Luck was under arrest as a security suspect. How could anyone forget that name?
Judge immediately contacted the officer now commanding Dachau and confirmed that the von Luck in question was, in fact, General Oliver von Luck, formerly deputy chief of the Abwehr, formerly trainer to German national champion Erich Siegfried Seyss, and that he was alive and in sufficient health to be questioned. An appointment to interview the prisoner was scheduled for two o'clock that afternoon.
Judge slammed his hand onto the desk and let go an enthusiastic, if abbreviated, rebel yell. He was back in the game.