Darren Honey had never seen General Donovan in such a state. Normally a man of unshakeable calm and storied reserve, Donovan was pacing back and forth across his office like a caged tiger, first shouting, then whispering, and yes, even growling. It was readily apparent how he'd earned the nickname, "Wild Bill".
"This Patton thing has become a mess," railed Donovan. "If you'd asked me a month ago, I'd have said all his talk about going after the Russians was just bluster. Something that riding partner of his von Wangenheim put into his head. Now, I'm not so sure."
"The general still has that damned Nazi on the payroll?" Honey scratched his head in bewilderment. Since arriving in Bad Toelz in late May, Patton had taken his daily equitation in the company of his groom, one Baron von Wangenheim. Like Patton, von Wangenheim was an Olympian, winner of a gold medal in dressage at the 1936 games in Berlin. He was also an unrepentant Nazi who had spent the war as an SS colonel of cavalry. "I thought Ike would have put an end to that by now."
"Just one of Georgie's 'eccentricities', says dear old Ike. He doesn't have any idea of the anti-Bolshevik, anti-Semitic bilge the old kraut is spewing."
"And Patton's falling for it?"
"Falling for it?" Donovan chortled disgustedly. "Why he eats up every word like it's his Thanksgiving turkey. Georgie's convinced that Henry Morgenthau is a lunatic and that Stalin has his sights on the Eiffel Tower. He's put former Wehrmacht troops in charge of guarding a camp of DPs and he wants to commandeer a village in the mountains and turn it into a camp for Jews. Instead of de-Nazifying the place, he's hiring every goddamned one of them he can find. He's gone over the top, I tell you. Over the top!"
Donovan stomped to his desk and fiddled with a compact tape recorder. "I asked the Signal Corps to put a bug on Georgie's phone a week back. I want you to listed to this. You won't believe your ears."
Honey grimaced involuntarily.A bug on Patton! Weren't they supposed to be spying on the enemy?
Donovan switched on the recorder and a moment later a scratchy voice hollered across the room. There was no mistaking its owner. George Patton at his irascible best.
"Hell," shouted Patton, "we are going to have to fight them sooner or later. Why not do it now while our armies are still intact and we can have their hind end kicked back into Russia in three months? We can do it easily with the help of the German troops we have, if we just arm them and take them with us. They hate the bastards."
"You're preaching to the choir, George," chuckled a British voice on the other end of the line.
Donovan whispered "Monty" and Honey's stomach fell to the floor.
Patton went on. "You don't have to get mixed up in it at all if you are so damn soft about it and scared of your rank. Just let me handle it down here. In ten days, I can have enough incidents happen to have us at war with those sons of bitches and make it look likethey started it!"
"We've already stacked the weapons," said Field Marshall Sir Bernard Law Montgomery. "One whisper of war and I'll have the bloody Wehrmacht rearmed within twenty-four hours. But, that's all I'm prepared to do at this point. By the by, your little Jerry still on the move?"
"Hell yes," roared Patton. "The man's indomitable. If the entire German army were made up of sons of bitches like him, you'd still be trying to take Caen."
"That I very much doubt," retorted Monty, bristling at the insult. "Still, I don't know how you've managed to keep your boys off him. There's a photo of him in every constabulary in the British zone. Chap sets foot here, he's done for."
"It hasn't been easy. Ike stuck me with a real pain in the ass to head up the investigation. Probably the only man in Europe who could actually find 'my little Jerry'." Patton managed a fair imitation of Monty's languid brogue. "But don't worry your aristocratic behind. Everything's well in hand."
"Right, then," said Monty. "I'll catch up with you in Berlin next week. Cheerio."
Donovan switched off the recorder, then fell into a worn leather chair next to his desk. "We taped it Friday afternoon. Patton's in Berlin now. How d'ya like it?"
Honey crossed to the window and looked down on Maximillianstrasse. Panes of glass rattled as a tram passed below, ringing its bell in advance of its next stop. The fact was he didn't like it at all. He was tired of the subterfuge, tired of peeking into other men's lives – even if it was for the good of the country. He didn't like knowing that Ike was impotent and had been for the entire war (his girlfriend the Brit, Kay Summersby, was an agent, too) or that Patton was as mad as a heated-up bull rhino. Sometimes he couldn't believe that just three years had passed since he'd put on his country's uniform; three years since he'd been working as an assistant greens keeper at the Congressional Country Club just outside of Washington DC.
In March 1942, Donovan had taken over the club and turned it into a top secret training center for agents of the OSS. Hearing Honey speaking German with one of the landscapers, he'd pulled him aside and begun questioning him about his background. The OSS needed native German speakers, he'd said, and Honey, the son of German-Czech immigrants whose real name was Darius Honnecker, qualified as one. A month later, Honey was back at Congressional, not as a gardener, but as an agent-in-training.
"Maybe the rumors are true, sir. You know, that General Patton took too many spills playing polo, one too many bumps to the noggin."
"You think George is crazy?" Donovan laughed off the suggestion. "People have been saying the same thing since he graduated from West Point. That wasn't one lunatic talking to another we heard. It was two old war horses plotting their final campaign. Besides, does it really matter?"
"No sir, I guess it doesn't."
"I'm every bit as keen as Patton to stop the Russians where they are," said Donovan, "but another war is hardly the answer. Right now, our attention has to stay focused on the Pacific. We've got to finish off those damned Japs before we do another goddamned thing. You hear what Patton said about 'them starting it'? What does that rascal have in mind?"
Honey recounted Seyss's desire for Russian uniforms, weapons, and transportation, his mention of "a last mission for Germany", and Bauer's statement that Seyss was leading his men to Babelsberg. "If Seyss is going to Potsdam, it can only be one thing, can't it?"
Instead of being shocked at the news, though, Donovan appeared pleasantly surprised. "He's a clever goose, I'll grant him that. Patton always did want to take Berlin."
Honey shook his head, his disbelief mixed with contempt and horror. "Will you warn the President's security detail?"
"Right away, but unfortunately, security in Potsdam proper is being handled by Stalin's boys. He's got five thousand of his thugs in the woods surrounding the area. I doubt he'll let our men lend a hand."
Honey envisioned the countryside swarming with uniformed Russian soldiers. To someone accustomed to passing himself off as the enemy, their presence would be a godsend. "I don't think they'll stop Seyss," he said. "The man is very resourceful. He spent two years on and behind the Russian front. If Stalin's got five thousand of his men up there, he'll take that as an invitation to join them."
Donovan took to pacing again. "Problem is Georgie's got his cards mixed up. It's Stalin who's holding all the aces. He has over three million men within fifty miles of the Elbe. Over a million pieces of artillery, too. Meanwhile, we've been hightailing our boys out of the European Theatre of Operations as quickly as we can. We pick a fight with Uncle Joe, we could end up back at Dunkirk in sixty days."
Honey didn't like Donovan's brooding. "Even if we couldn't defeat the Russians, we could hold them in check."
"Could we? They outnumber us three to one. Their tanks are superior to ours and they have an unlimited supply of manpower."
"But you're forgetting something, General."
"Our scientists, sir. I mean, they've been working on a device for a few years now. You can't help but pay attention to the scuttlebutt."
"You don't miss much, I'll grant you that." Donovan pulled a crumpled yellow paper from his jacket pocket which Honey recognized as an intercept of top secret diplomatic wire traffic. "Secretary of War Stimson received this yesterday."
Honey read the intercept.
Operated on this morning. Diagnosis not complete but results seem satisfactory and already exceed expectations. And skipping ahead, Dr Groves pleased.
"I'm not sure I understand."
"One of those devices you've heard about is 'operational'. A single bomb the equivalent of twenty thousand tons of TNT. The damned thing works!"
Honey tried to figure out what twenty thousand tons of TNT could do. The biggest raids on Berlin and Dresden and Stuttgart, the ones involving two or three hundred bombers, dropped no more than a hundred fifty tons of high explosives on a target. Donovan was talking about a single bomb capable of delivering more than a hundred times that amount. "Jesus Christ," he whispered.
"The Savior, indeed," said Donovan. "This time I think we can safely say God is on our side. Problem is we only have two of them and they're both headed to Japan. Anything comes up with Stalin in the next ninety days, we're out of pocket." Sighing, he rose from his desk and joined Honey at the window. "Which brings us to our last complication, your friend, Major Judge. Last we've heard, he's gone under. Disappeared with Ingrid Bach twenty-four hours ago after calling Third Army Headquarters and asking Paul Harkins for Patton. What do you think he's up to?"
"That's easy," responded Honey. "The same thing we are."
"Is he capable?"
Honey imagined the determined brow, the quick temper. "Of what? Getting to Berlin? I'd say yes. Of finding Seyss, once he's there? Maybe."
Donovan mulled over his answer. "Judge certainly discovered that Seyss was still alive quickly enough. You were right guessing he'd try and use von Luck to identify the body, but you didn't foresee that he'd bring Ingrid Bach into this. You said he wouldn't expose the girl to anything dangerous. Why do you suppose he didn't come to us instead?"
It was an annoying habit of Donovan's to dissect his men's thinking, expose their faults, then go right back and ask them for another opinion. "I don't know," answered Honey. "Seems he doesn't trust us."
"Us? Who's us? 'Us' doesn't exist. 'You', I think, would be more accurate." Donovan stared at the afternoon sky, wagging a finger at an invisible adversary. "What I really need to know, then, is if Devlin Judge is capable of killing Seyss."
Honey paused before answering, knowing he was treading on very thin ice. "I'm not sure. Either he's not as strong as he believes himself to be or he's holding part of himself in check."
"So, you're saying he might, but it wouldn't come easily. He'd hesitate."
"Yessir. That's correct."
Donovan's eyes had taken on a dreamy cast. Once, he'd told Honey that his job was not to see the world as it was, but as it would be in an hour's time. "Hmm," he whispered. "Maybe that's good."
"Just thinking. Patton wasn'tall wrong, you know?"
Honey stared hard at Donovan, wanting further explanation, but Donovan wasn't talking. His reverie suddenly broken, he wrapped an arm around Honey's shoulder and guided him to the door. "We've got a plane standing by to fly you to Berlin. There's no trains running that way, so maybe you'll pick up some time on Seyss. Al Dulles will pick you up and show you around town, introduce you to some of our contacts. You're cleared to attend the conference, but don't expect to get into the actual negotiating sessions. You know where Seyss needs to go to do his job. Keep an eye peeled and it shouldn't be too hard to spot him. And if you run into Judge, you might want to enlist his help in this thing."
Honey halted in mid-stride. "You sure? I thought we didn't want him involved in this any further."
"We didn't." Donovan smiled mischievously and Honey knew he was busy weaving some intricate plot. "But things are different now. Remember, Captain Honnecker, the only constant in our business is change."
Honey frowned inwardly, wondering when their work had become a business. "And what do I tell him?"
"Why the truth. It's nothing he doesn't know already. Just make sure he keeps his mouth shut afterwards."
Honey cocked his head, not sure he'd heard correctly. "Sir?"
Donovan responded to the pained expression on Honey's face. "Don't look so upset. We can't have anyone besmirching Georgie Patton's reputation. America does love its heroes."