Every German city of size or repute boasted at least one five-star hotel. In Heidelberg it was the Europaischer Hof. Three wings of weathered Dolomite granite dominated a cobblestone courtyard. Ceramic planters brimming with colorful flowers prettied the marble stairs that rose to the lobby. At either side of a revolving door, a military policeman replete with white helmet, white spats, khaki uniform and Sam Browne belt, scrutinized the arriving guests. The afternoonthé-dansant was an "officers only" affair.
Seyss lent his step a sprightly air as he climbed the stairs to the hotel. Passing the MPs, he threw in a tap of his shoe to show his delight at the cheery music drifting from the main salon. "Lovely day, eh, boys?" he ventured, sure not to slow his pace. Hesitation meant uncertainty, and uncertainty that for some reason he shouldn't be there.
"Have a nice time, sir," one MP replied. The other had already focused his attention on a brace of general officers at the foot of the stairs.
"Aye," said Seyss, and he was past them. So much for his picture in the paper. He felt strange, almost gay, masquerading as an Irishman. His new suit fitted better than he had hoped. His shoes, were they to be inspected, supported his cover nicely. Brogues from Churches Shoes. His lack of identification might prove problematic, but he had a story up his sleeve just in case. Something about being rolled by a German whore. They were a tough lot, he was prepared to say, and angry – but who could blame them? As for his cover, he had decided upon a reporter. The country was lousy with them. Wearing a white cotton shirt and a maroon club tie, he was the embodiment of the victor arrived to claim the spoils.
Seyss strolled past the reception desk and up a few stairs, letting himself be guided by the music. The salon was packed with American officers, most in forest green jackets and khaki colored trousers, all with a stiff drink in hand. He passed through their ranks, offering a polite nod, a hushed hello, and once, a brief handshake, when a drunken lieutenant offered him a scotch on the rocks. He paused to take a pull of the scotch, and in a second polished the whole thing off. He slid across the floor keeping a bee-line for the bar. On the stage, a quintet attired in dinner jackets was playing an unfamiliar song with an upbeat tempo. Suddenly, a young officer hopped onto the stage and began belting out the lyrics.
"Bei mir, bis Du schon…"
Hearing the German lyrics, Seyss did a doubletake, then laughed loudly, hoping to cover his surprise. It was a sign, he told himself. A none too subtle reminder just how close Germany and America actually were.
"I'd take the Andrew Sisters over that lout any day," boomed an officer who had appeared at his side. "Maxine's the one for me." He was a homely man with a pencil thin mustache, a shorter and fatter version of the jug-eared American who'd starred inGone with the Wind. An oak leaf adorned his epaulets. "Everybody's crazy for Patty: the thick blonde hair, those bedroom eyes. Not me, friend."
Seyss had no idea who the Andrews Sisters were, or who Maxine was, for that matter. Still it was clear the officer expected some kind of answer. "Yes, indeed," he answered. "Maxine's a gorgeous lass."
"Maxine?" The officer eyed Seyss oddly. "What, are you kidding me? She's the homely one. But she's safe. You wouldn't have to worry about her running around on you when you're over here. And boy, does she have a set of pipes."
Seyss wasn't sure if he was referring to her tits or her tonsils, so he simply nodded his head, wanting to escape further conversation. "Indeed, Colonel. A fine set."
A hand on his arm prevented his departure. "What are you, a Brit?"
Seyss retreated a step, forcing a smile. "Irish, actually. Just over to do a story for the local paper." "Sorry, guy. Didn't pick up the accent. A short round ruined the hearing in my left ear." He extended a hand. "Abe Jennings, nice to know you."
Behind his grin, Seyss gritted his teeth. "Jerry," he responded heartily. "Jerry Fitzpatrick." He'd chosen the name with a bent toward irony.
"Hello, Jerry. Where you from over there?" Seyss sighed inwardly. He was due at the bar any minute now. "County Mayo. Have you been?"
"Me? Heck, no. But you have to say hello to a chum of mine, Billy McGuire. He's always going on about his aunt or uncle in County Antrim. Stay right here, I'll go get him."
"Certainly." But Seyss had no intention of doing any such thing. He waited till Jennings was across the room, then hurried to the bar. He checked his watch and saw that he was five minutes late. Taking a seat on a leather stool directly under an ornate cuckoo clock, he glanced to his right and left. He was looking for a Captain Jack Rizzo. Bauer's description of the man was less than perfect: tall, dark hair, loud – a typical American. Funny, Seyss thought. He would describe a typical American differently. Chatty, undisciplined, and lazy, with lousy posture to boot.
A steady stream of officers approached the bar, ordered drinks, then headed back to the main salon. Half fit Bauer's description. Not wanting to call attention to himself, Seyss asked for a whisky, paying with a lone twenty he'd discovered floating in his pockets.
The crowd was growing by the minute. At least a hundred Americans milled about the dancefloor: officers, civilians, and plenty of women. One or two couples had pushed their way to a corner of the parquet floor and were dancing. With all the talk it was becoming difficult to hear the band. Seyss gave himself ten more minutes, then he'd go. He didn't want to risk being caught up in conversation with Jennings or his buddy, McGuire, from County Antrim. Americans were so damned friendly. Five minutes gabbing and they thought they were your best pal. The last thing he needed was to meet someone who'd actually been to Ireland.
A hand on his shoulder interrupted his thoughts.
"Pardon me, boy, is this the Chattanooga choo-choo?"
Seyss inclined his head and spoke the insipid words that had been rattling inside his head all day long. "Track twenty-nine, boy, can you give me a shine?"
"Jack Rizzo, how are ya?"
Seyss introduced himself as Jerry Fitzpatrick, and said he was fine, thank you.
Rizzo leaned on the bar, snapping his fingers to garner attention. "Bartender, give me a double scotch, easy on the ice." He pointed to Seyss's half empty glass. "You okay or you need another?"
"I'm good, thanks." As Bauer had said, Rizzo was tall and dark, but his doleful eyes and heavy beard gave him the appearance of a Mediterranean – what the SS Eugenics Office would label "skull type IV -not suitable for incorporation into the Reich".
"Your pal told me you wanted to have a look at some of my merchandise," Rizzo said.
"That would be lovely," Seyss answered equably. "I'm in the market for some rather specific items. I'm planning on opening a small museum back home in Dublin. I hope it doesn't inconvenience you too much."
"That's what I'm here for, friend. Not to worry." Rizzo tapped his hand in time to the music, looking this way and that. With a mighty swig, he drained his cocktail, then leaned closer and whispered, "Wait till you see this place. Goddam warehouse is loaded with enough of Ivan's crap to start another war."
"_Another war_?" Seyss knitted his brow in horror. "We wouldn't want that."
"Just joking, Jerry. Drink up and let's get out of here."
The armory in Wiesbaden was the size of a soccer field and had been hastily built from cheap corrugated iron. Installations similar to it had sprung up all over Germany in the fall of 1941 when on a front two thousand miles long, the Fuhrer's armies had advanced unchecked across the Russian countryside. What glorious days! One city after another had fallen: Kiev, Minsk, Smolensk. In their wake, the conquering troops had left behind a million prisoners of war and the weapons they had laid down. Captured soldiers were marched to the rear, or when expedient, shot. Their weapons – pistols, machine guns, tanks, and artillery – were destroyed or loaded onto flatbeds for shipment to Germany.
Seyss waited in the front seat of the Buick as Rizzo spoke to the lone sentry guarding the armory. It was clear by their easy banter that the two were well acquainted. A bill or two exchanged hands, and after a pat on the back, the sentry pulled open the gates and waved them through. Rizzo drove the Buick to the rear of the armory, braking beside a pair of tall barn doors. "Shall we see if we can find what you're looking for, Mr Fitzpatrick?"
"Very kind of you indeed." Seyss swung open the door, glad for the chance to stretch his legs. Speaking English for the past three hours had left him with a terrible headache. Rizzo was the kind of man who viewed silence as a personal threat. He'd gabbed constantly, demanding Seyss's view on everything from the best way to avoid the clap to the question of trans- versus consubstantiation. Everything two good Catholic boys needed to square between them.
Rizzo went round to the trunk and returned with two army-issue flashlights and a crowbar. He handed a flashlight to Seyss and said, "Power only runs till seven around here. Even with the lights on, it's pretty dim. I know my way around this place, so follow me."
Seyss watched Rizzo unlock the doors, biting his tongue to keep from saying that he, too, knew his way around the place. Stepping inside the pitch dark warehouse, he ran a hand along the doorframe until he felt the rounded plastic form of a light switch. He flicked it and a few doddering bulbs came to life. A mountain of crates rose before him, a pine ziggurat of Soviet weaponry.
Rizzo turned on his flashlight and shone it into the gloom. "Your pistols, rifles, machine guns and what-not are right in front of you – these six aisles to the left. Ammo is kept in a separate pen at the back of this dump. Uniforms are all the way to your right. Ivan's trucks are in the garage next door. Beauts, wait till you see."
Seyss tucked away the information. "Let's start with the firearms, shall we, Captain?"
"You're the boss, Jerry."
Seyss moved quickly from one aisle to the next until he found what he was looking for. He brought down a crate of Tokarev TT-33s and had Rizzo pry it open with his crowbar.
He removed a pistol and examined it. Little effort had been taken to properly pack the guns. A stubble of rust grew from the barrel. He grasped the slide and drew it back. It didn't budge. He picked up another pistol, then another, until he'd found four in working condition. Laying them on top of the crate, he moved on. A little looking turned up a decent submachine gun, a Degtyarev PPSh-41, orPepshka, still packed in cosmoline, and a Mosin-Nagant sniper's rifle with a scope attached and twenty-seven notches cut into its stock.
"If you don't mind, I'll need a few rounds as well." Seyss adopted a docent's earnest tone. "We would like to give our visitors the fullest idea of what our boys were up against."
Rizzo hesitated a moment, then shrugged and told Seyss to follow him. Inside the ammo pen, Seyss gathered a few hundred rounds of various shells, no more than the four man team could divide among themselves. If they needed more, they would find it en route.
Getting his hands on the proper uniforms took less time than he expected. An hour of digging through heavy cardboard cartons turned up a two dozen tunics of coarse pea green wool whose sky blue epaulets bore a slim golden stripe. The uniforms belonged to the NKVD – the Russian state security police that functioned as a combination of Nazi Germany's own Gestapo and army field police. He picked out three he thought would fit his men, then spent a few extra minutes making sure he found a suitable uniform for himself. He knew first-hand that offices of the NKVD took particular pride in their appearance. On three separate occasions, he had masqueraded as one – the last time in Kiev for an entire month. Posing as Colonel Ivan Truchin, hero of Stalingrad, he had convinced the local artillery commander to place his guns at the city's southern flank in advance of a German counter-attack he knew would be coming from the north. His experience had imparted to him one lesson above all others: ordinary Russian troops feared the NKVD more than the enemy itself.
Seyss hefted the uniforms and carried them back to Rizzo. "And the truck?"
"Near the loading dock. Follow me." Rizzo led Seyss down a long aisle, then turned left. Five steps further on, a heavy iron door blocked their path. Rizzo fiddled with his keys before selecting the proper one and shoving open the door. "We've got about a dozen GAZs, some Zhigulis, even a couple Fords sent over during Lend-Lease."
Parked inside the garage were at least twenty trucks, a dozen tanks and a slew of self-propelled artillery pieces. Seyss patted the hood of the nearest truck, smiling. Proximity to heavy weapons and transport never failed to boost a soldier's spirits. He had the guns, the ammo, the uniforms, and now, even the two and half-ton truck Egon had promised. The runt was to be commended. All Seyss needed was the money to pay for it and the plan might work – at least this phase of it.
The Soviets had established a permanent residence in the heart of Frankfurt, seat of the American military government, ostensibly to strengthen ties with the American command, but in fact to monitor and interfere with the work of Dwight Eisenhower and his deputy, Lucius Clay. Each day at three p.m. a truck bearing members of the diplomatic mission and packed with booty liberated from the Western zones departed the residence for Berlin. Their route was always the same. Friedrichstrasse to Wilhelmstrasse, then a left turn onto the autobahn. What better cover could Seyss want than to pass his team off as members of the diplomatic mission? American military police would be reluctant to stop a truck carrying four Soviet soldiers. Once they crossed into the Russian zone, they could travel free of any worries.
"Nice," said Seyss, patting Rizzo on the back in a show of bonhomie. "A wonderful addition to my museum. I'm thinking a diorama. The valiant Russians breaking out from Leningrad, advancing across Lake Ladoga to encircle the Nazi foe."
But Rizzo was uninterested in his plans for the exhibit. "So listen, this stuff's yours for a thousand even. Payable on receipt. But I can't let you have the truck until Saturday night. Still a couple arrangements I've got to make."
Today was Thursday. Were he to pick up the truck Saturday night, he'd have only one day to drive to Berlin. Terminal was scheduled to begin Monday at five p.m. Tight, but he had no alternative. He reminded himself he still needed to raise a thousand dollars. He had his own arrangements to make.
"That shouldn't be a problem. Have it in good working condition and gassed up by midnight. We'll meet outside the hotel in Heidelbeg at nine and drive here together. We'll settle up then."
Rizzo motioned to the crates at his feet. "What about this stuff?"
"I'll take it all Saturday. And I mean it about the truck being in good working condition. Check the oil, the brakes, and throw a few extra cans of fuel in the rear."
"What do you want to do? Drive the truck to Ireland?"
Seyss smiled, but didn't answer.Wrong direction, Captain Rizzo.