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Chapter 28

Early the next afternoon, inside a torpid quonset hut at airfield Y31 on the outskirts of Frankfurt, five men gathered round a conference table to review for a third and final time their plan to capture Erich Seyss. Each betrayed the anxiety gnawing at his gut in his own particular fashion. Spanner Mullins ripped at the cuff of his splendidly pressed uniform, eyes darting from one man to the next as if trying to guess who held the ace of spades. Darren Honey slouched in his chair, hands drumming the table, his shit-eating grin stowed in a safe place. Next to him sat the German informant, Klaus Altman, ramrod-straight in his too large suit, forehead awash in sweat, cracking one knuckle, then the next. An outsider and wanting everyone to know it.

Nearest to Judge stood Major General Hadley Everett, Patton's dapper chief of intelligence, caressing his gambler's mustache as he droned on about the necessity to arrest Seyss before the Big Three arrived in Berlin.

"Georgie tells me Ike is counting on some good news to pass to President Truman when the three meet in Berlin tomorrow," Everett said. "Our efforts to bring in Seyss coincide with the kicking off of the operational phase of Tally Ho. I can't imagine a better way to get things started than to capture Seyss. It would send Fritz just the right message," he shot Judge a bullying glance, wall eye holding him for a second before caroming to a far corner, "not to mention free up some precious resourcesand please everyone concerned."

Great, thought Judge, he should have figured someone would turn the hunt for Seyss into a political football. Stealing a glance at his watch, he saw that it was only two fifteen. The temperature was ninety and climbing. Above the table, a fan turned too slowly to do anything except push the clouds of cigarette smoke from one side of the hut to the other. He felt miserable. His head pounded in time to his heart. His tongue had grown a coat of fur. And no wonder…he'd polished off a half bottle of booze last night. If that wasn't enough, the knuckles of his right hand ached as badly as his bruised ribs. All morning he'd been waiting for word that General Carswell was pressing charges. Laughing, Mullins had told him not to worry. Ike would be none too pleased to learn that a lieutenant general under his command considered plinking unarmed, if larcenous, Germans part of a Friday evening's entertainment.

With Everett finished speaking, Mullins lumbered to his feet and walked to the south end of the table where he addressed himself to a chalkboard set on rollers. A schema of the Wiesbaden armory decorated the black slate.

"Once more for those of you in the bleachers," he began, and Judge saw Everett flash a grin. One point for Spanner. "Dusk falls at 22:30 hours. At 22:45 hours we'll move our lads into position around the armory. Troops from military police Company Seventy-three will be divided into four platoons and positioned here, here, here and here." He banged his chalk at the four corners of the outpost. "Sgt Honey will take the platoon opposite the entry. Two platoons with yours truly will be opposite the garage and one held in reserve outside the installation perimeter. We're setting up the kliegs inside the garage, so that when we get the signal from Major Judge, we can illuminate the bastards and make sure no one shoots one of our own, namely the villainous Captain Jack Rizzo. You may stand and take a bow."

Rizzo was seated in a far corner of the quonset hut, along with a pair or brutish MPs to keep him company. Hearing his name he smiled glumly and wisely chose not to respond. He'd been pulled in at 10:30 that morning, as Judge, Mullins, and Honey were en route to Frankfurt in an army transport. According to Altman's unnamed source, Seyss was doing business with the American officer who controlled the keys to an armory in Wiesbaden. As there was only one armory in town, the path quickly led to Rizzo, who as it turned out, was already under suspicion of selling Russian weapons to his fellow GIs. Given the choice between fifteen years at Leavenworth or a dishonorable discharge, Rizzo not only confessed to his crimes but promised his full and complete cooperation.

"As for you, Captain," Mullins continued, pointing a finger at the swarthy black marketeer, "you're to play it very cool, indeed, which I imagine should pose no problem at all to a man of your criminal bent. You're to lead your chum, Fitzpatrick, as Mr Seyss calls himself, and whoever accompanies him, into the armory and take them directly to the spot where we've gathered the weapons." Mullins indicated a bay deep inside the armory adjacent to the doors leading to the garage. "Understand?"

Rizzo said yes.

"Good lad. And there you'll wait, making small talk, twiddling your thumbs, picking your I-talian nose for all we care, until you hear my signal." Here, Mullins produced a silver whistle from the folds of his uniform and gave it a good long blow. Everyone rushed to plug their ears and Judge was pleased to note a look of discomfort on Everett's face. " And when you do, you'll be smart to hit the ground double-quick. Got that boy-o? Remember, you'll have a friend close by. Won't he, Dev?"

Spotting his cue, Judge walked to the blackboard. He accepted the chalk from Mullins and drew an "x" next to the small box that indicated where Rizzo had placed the weapons Seyss wanted to purchase. "I'll be laying on top of the stack of crates, just above and behind you, Captain. You don't have to worry about a thing. I'll be keeping an eye on you the entire time you are inside the armory. Just be sure to maneuver Seyss into the open so that a direct line of fire exists from the garage to the weapons. We don't want him playing hide and seek inside the armory. Too many guns and too much ammunition."

Indicating to Rizzo where Mullins would be positioned, Judge asked himself again what Seyss wanted with Russian weapons and uniforms. How he had been able to locate his former comrades so rapidly. And how {according to Altman's informant) he'd gotten his hands on a couple of thousand dollars even before selling supplies pirated from an army convoy? Maybe he'd been digging up cash back at Lindenstrasse along with the dog tags. Or maybe somebody else had given the money to him.

Disturbingly, Judge seemed the only man at the table concerned about Seyss's motives. Everyone else was focused simply on getting the arrest. After all, Everett had pointed out, once they had Seyss it didn't matter a good goddamn what he wanted to do with the weapons. Even Honey had agreed. Four rifles, four pistols, and four uniforms were hardly something to worry about, he'd said. As for the truck, no one had the faintest idea what Seyss wanted with it and no one cared. End of discussion.

But Judge had never been satisfied to close a case with a bundle of questions left unanswered. Simple curiosity demanded he know what the White Lion was up to, what "last race for Germany" he'd been planning to run. After all, if Seyss failed, there might easily be someone ready to take his place. Replaying the questions, Judge came to the same conclusion over and over again. Seyss was not acting alone, but as part of a larger preconceived plan. The word "conspiracy" came to mind, then flitted away. Only by capturing him could Judge learn the scope of his endeavor.

"When I see that you're in a safe spot, I'll signal Colonel Mullins to order his men into the armory," he continued. "Three clicks on the walkie talkie, right, Colonel? We'll hit the sirens, throw open the garage doors and turn on the kliegs. The sound and light should be enough to make everyone freeze in their tracks."

"You mean piss their pants, don't you, Dev?" Mullins cracked and everyone laughed, even Judge.

"I guess I do."

The plan was his creation, a variation on the standard "bait and wait". It had been Honey's idea, however, to put a man inside the warehouse, and to his dismay, Judge had heard his own voice volunteering for the role. He would have preferred taking Seyss and his cronies at their hideout in Heidelberg. Seyss was a cagey one, though. According to Altman, he and his comrades had left the house early this morning all going separate ways. It was the armory or nothing.

Replacing the chalk in its tray, Judge walked over to Rizzo and laid a hand on his shoulder. "If all goes according to plan, everyone will walk out of there in one piece.Capiche?"

Rizzo grinned morosely. "Capisco."

"Alright then. We adjourn until 20:00 hours."



Chapter 27 | The Runner | cледующая глава