The headquarters of the United States Army of Occupation, Military Government Bavaria, was located in the barracks and classrooms of the former SS academy at Bad Toelz, a sleepy hamlet perched on the banks of the Isar river twenty miles south of Munich. The academy was impressive: a three-storey stone edifice painted a rich cream with steep, gabled roofs that ran in a continuous square around a parade ground the size of Ebbetts Field. Stands of mature poplars stood sentry at each corner of the parade ground. A flagpole rose from its center, the Stars and Stripes snapping to attention in the warm morning breeze.
Devlin Judge hopped from the Jeep as soon as it had pulled to a halt, and followed his driver into the building. Marching up a few stairs, he came to a wide corridor running in either direction as far as the eye could see. The place was as busy as Grand Central Station. A steady stream of soldiers zipped back and forth, as if drawn by a magnetic force. To a man their uniforms were impeccable, their posture equally so. This was Patton's command all right. "Spit and polish" and "blood and guts".
Judge walked for two minutes down the hallway. A broad black stripe ran down the center of the flagstone flooring. Every fifty feet, a pair of soldiers knelt low, vigorously maintaining its sheen. His escort turned right, leading him up a broad winding staircase. A different word was painted across the base of each step.Entschiedenheit.Mut.Lauterheit. Decisiveness. Courage. Integrity. Brocades of black cloth were draped like bunting from the walls. Between them, painted in gothic script, were the names of the SS's elite divisions:Das Reich,Viking,Totenkopf. All over Germany, Allied soldiers were working to eradicate all traces of the Nazi Party from the landscape. The swastika had been outlawed in every shape and form. Yet here, it looked as if Patton were maintaining a shrine to the worst element of the German army: the SS.
At the top of the stairway, the two men turned right again and continued to the end of he hallway where a brace of military policemen in gleaming white helmets and matching Sam Browne belts stood at attention beside an open door. Hanging above the door was a small red flag with four gold stars. Instead of entering the office, though, Judge's escort continued past it, stopping at the next door down. A hand-lettered sign announced "United States Army of Occupation, Provost Marshal." He knocked once, then opened the door and allowed Judge to pass before him.
"Get in here, Detective," boomed the familiar voice. "On the double." Rising from his desk – all six foot four of him Stanley Mullins crossed the room, arms open in greeting. "Hello, Dev. I can't tell you how sorry I am about Father Francis. A loss to us all."
"Hello, Spanner. Long time."
Mullins pulled him to his shoulder, whispering in his ear, "It's Colonel Mullins, these days, if you'd be so kind. The boss is a bit of a stickler."
Judge accepted the outstretched hand and gave it a firm shake. "Colonel Mullins it is, then."
Mullins bobbed his chin, but failed to provide the expected wink. "Good to see you, lad. You did the right thing coming to visit."
So far as Judge knew, Mullins had never set foot in the old country, yet there was no mistaking the lilting brogue. He wasn't just tall, but big, and the twenty pounds he'd put on since Judge had last seen him gave him not only the girth of an oak, but the solidity, too. His hair was thinning, more salt than pepper, parted expertly and slicked into place with a handful of brilliantine. His complexion was ruddier than Judge remembered, the blue eyes a tad more suspicious. He was Irish at first sight, but God forbid you joked about his love of a good pint. From five generations of coppers, Mullins didn't touch a drop. Not a teetotaler, mind you, just a man who appreciated control. And control was written all over him: in his uniform with the creases sharp enough to cut butter and the shirt bathed in enough starch to stand at parade rest; in his stride, the long, precise steps, each pre-measured, each perfectly executed; and most of all, Judge thought, in his posture, a bearing so rigid, so upright, that even standing still it conveyed its own kinetic aggression.
"I remember you joined up a couple years back," said Judge, when Mullins had stopped pumping his hand. "What's it been?"
"Three years and then some."
"St Paddy's Day, wasn't it?" Mullins had thrown an Irish wake to mourn his leaving the force. Judge had received an invite but didn't attend. By then, Brooklyn was off limits. "I wanted to stop by and send you off. I'm sorry."
"Nonsense, lad. You had more important things to do than bid your old boyfriends farewell. I've been keeping track of you in the papers. Assistant United States Attorney Devlin Parnell Judge – Brooklyn's very own 'gang buster'. Tell me, Dev, what's your streak up to these days? Twenty-six? Twenty-seven?"
"Something like that." Actually, it was twenty-nine. Fifty-eight out of sixty cases won over a four year period. A career built on the backs of corrupt city officials, shady building contractors, and union thugs. He'd earned the moniker "gang buster" for putting away Vic Fazio, a small-time hijacker looking to muscle in on Lepke's turf of "murder for hire" by accepting contracts to knock off total strangers, men and women outside the rackets.
"Fair number without a loss," Mullins grinned suspiciously. "Not paying off the bench, are you?"
"What? And have you lose faith in me? Never."
Mullins laughed, wagging a finger. "There's my straight shooter. Just remember, I knew you before you converted."
"Yeah, I remember," said Judge. "You won't let me forget." He laughed, too, but less brightly, thinking it was the debts you could never repay whose reminder bothered you most.
Mullins draped an arm over his shoulder, steering him toward his scarred headmaster's desk and the pair of wooden school chairs set before it. "Well, lad, I'm pleased to set eyes on you again. You waited a damn sight long to get into the game. Frankly, I was beginning to wonder."
Judge chose to ignore the implicit chastisement, the hint of duty unfulfilled. It was a delicate issue, even now that he wore an olive drab uniform and a campaign cap. The fact was Thomas Dewey, Special Prosecutor for the State of New York, an appointee of the President of the United States, had asked him personally to stay on. The army needed bodies, he'd said. Not minds. And certainly not minds as astute as Judge's. If he wanted to help his country, he should start at home. Clean up New York City. It had practically been an order.
Bodies, not minds.
The recollection of the words and the urbane attorney who had uttered them sent a proud shudder along Judge's spine. For a kid raised on the streets of Brooklyn, it was the compliment he'd always dreamed of receiving. So he'd stayed. But as the war dragged on, year after year, as his promotions came faster and the cut of his suits improved, a voice inside him protested that he liked the size of his office a little too much, that he spent too much time adjusting the dimple in his Windsor knot, and that he grinned too eagerly at the sight of his name in cheap newsprint.
Judge settled into a chair, dropping his briefcase to one side. He explained about his appointment to the International Military Tribunal four months earlier, his more recent discovery that Erich Seyss was responsible for Francis's death, and his push for a transfer to the unit looking into Seyss's escape. "I hope you don't mind me forcing myself on you."
Mullins looked up from the nickel cigar he was unwrapping. "No, I don't, lad. I don't mind at all. And bully for you. You've got family to answer to. I imagine your wife's proud of you. Teresa, wasn't it?"
Judge laughed softly, surprised by the acuity of Mullins's memory, then remembering that he'd been at the wedding. "Maria Teresa O'Hare. Italian and Irish split down the middle. A half-breed like me." He smiled apologetically. "We're not together anymore."
Mullins struck a match and fired the cigar. "What do you mean 'not together'?"
"We divorced two years ago."
"Oh?" Mullins's countenance ruffled behind a cloud of blue smoke. Divorce wasn't in an Irishman's vocabulary. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"We were drifting apart for a long time before that. She wanted the job on Park Avenue, you know, white shoe firm, the athletic club, weekends in the country. I chose the other road – Dewey, the US attorney's office, working weekends. It was the only law I knew."
Mullins pulled the cigar from his lips and leaned his bulk over the desk, the inquisitive blue eyes not settling for an excuse when the truth was so close at hand. "Was it the boy, God rest his soul?"
"Ryan?" It figured that Mullins had the temerity to come right out and ask. Whether it was the gossip in him or the father confessor, Judge didn't know. But he couldn't deny the sympathy in his voice. For all his faults, Mullins cared for the men under his command as he would his own sons. "I don't know. Yeah, maybe. When he left us, we couldn't use him to patch over our differences any longer. Anyway, neither of us tried too hard after that."
Mullins lowered his eyes, sighing loudly, then landing both fists softly on the desktop. " Aye, the polio. Nearly killed Mr Roosevelt, too. Poor boy, hardly stood a chance. He's with the Lord now. At least we can take comfort in that." He drew on his cigar and sat back in his chair. "I am sorry about Father Francis. He was the good egg, wasn't he?"
And this time, Judge felt the barb. The good egg. He being the bad one: the violence-prone urchin on his way to the state reformatory until Spanner Mullins had intervened. His self-pity angered him until he recognized it for what it was. Mullins's none too subtle way of letting him know who was in charge.
"Yes he was," Judge answered equitably. "Francis was always the good one."
"And this bastard, Seyss, you say he's the man responsible?"
Judge patted the briefcase by his side, happy to be on the safe side of reminiscence. "Eyewitness evidence written in the German's own hand."
"I imagined as much. Else you wouldn't be sitting here before me."
Suddenly, Mullins was out of his chair, stubbing out the cigar, while circling the desk and motioning for Judge to join him. "Off your duff, then, lad. The Boss wants to say his hellos before his noontime ride."
"So this is Judge? He doesn't look like such a mean sonuvabitch to me. Show him in, damn it. Show him in!"
General of the army George S. Patton, Jr. strode across the room with the energy of an untamed stallion. Resplendent in tan breeches and black riding boots, pearl-handled revolver at his side and cigar clenched in his teeth, he was the personification of American victory: brash, arrogant, and with a shower of stars on his uniform – Judge counted twenty-four in all- more than a little overwhelming.
"Got here in a hurry, I see," he said. "I admire a man with a fire under his ass."
Judge was sure to give the extended hand a firm shake. "It's an honor, sir."
Patton patted him on the arm while shooting Mullins a questioning glance. "Sure this is the right man, Colonel? I'm not certain he's quite the ferocious bastard you advertised."
Mullins smiled broadly, locking his arms behind his back. "That he is, General. Just give him a little prodding. Believe me, he's tougher than a bulldog and at least half as smart."
Patton roared, and kicked the white bull terrier sleeping at his feet. "Hear that, Willie, you yellow bastard?"
"Willie" for William the Conqueror, Judge remembered. The dog whimpered and buried his head under his paws. The three men were standing in the center of Patton's palatial office. At the far end of the room sat a broad pine desk framed by the Stars and Stripes and the colors of the United States Third Army. Behind the desk, a French window rose from the polished wooden floor to the molded ceiling, which itself was a masterwork. Painted in the center of the ceiling was a trompe l'oeil watercolor of Apollo in his golden chariot parting the clouds and casting a bolt of lightning from what appeared a height of a hundred feet, but was only about fifteen. The twin runes of the SS "flashes" they were called – adorned the collar of his tunic.
It was a suitably pagan image, thought Judge, but by then Patton was talking again.
"I appreciate you stepping away from your duty in Luxembourg and giving us a hand. The war crimes trials are an important event. A soldier finds his glory on the battlefield. The place for a lawyer is a court room. I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision. If you want out, say so now. I don't want you quitting midstream."
"No, sir," said Judge loudly, responding to Patton's infectious bravado. "My only regret is that the transfer is temporary. I'll be with you for seven days. I hope that proves to be enough time."
"Hell, Major, in thirty-six hours, I turned the entire Third Army on its axis and motored a hundred miles through the shittiest piece of weather you'd ever laid eyes on to relieve my good friend, General McAuliffe, at Bastogne. If I could keep forty thousand men moving for three days in a blizzard while under enemy fire, you can find one lousy German in seven."
"Yessir." There it was again. The booming voice. The willful nod. Give him a machine gun, point the way, and he'd be over the top in a second, screaming like a banshee as he stormed an enemy pillbox. Patton had that strong an effect on a man.
The general looked older in person than he did in his photographs. He was a tall man, bald save a crust of white hair. His face was ruddy, possessed of a wind-kissed hue that spoke of hours spent outdoors. His eyes were a hard agate blue, measuring their range of fire from concrete gun slits. His mouth was cast in permanent disapproval. The first words you'd expect to see it utter were "fuck" or "shit" or "piss", and you wouldn't be disappointed. Older, Judge thought, but damned fit for a man of sixty.
Clamping the cigar in the corner of his mouth, Patton wrapped an arm around Judge's shoulder and guided him to the side of the room. "Mullins tells me this is a personal matter between you and Major Seyss?"
"Seyss was the scene commander at Malmedy. He issued the order to open fire."
"And your brother, the priest, he was there?"
"Francis Xavier. He should never have been at the front."
But Patton didn't appear to hear. Eyes wrinkled in distaste, he stared at the floor, slowly shaking his head. "Hard to believe a man of Seyss's caliber could do such a thing. He ran for his country in the thirty-six Olympics, you know. The Boche called him 'the White Lion'. He was a national hero."
Judge wasn't sure if Patton was appalled by Seyss's behavior or trying to defend it. Patton was an Olympian, too.
He'd represented the United States in the modern pentathlon in the 1912 games in Stockholm. Maybe that explained the note of pride in his voice.
Patton shook off his reverie with a grunt, and strode to the center of the room. The time for intimacy was over, his buoyant manner restored. "I take it you know the details of Seyss's escape. Frankly, I'm livid. We can't have the German people getting the idea that they can kill our boys and get away with it. An officer, no less. I won't have it, understand?"
He began a slow march toward the door, one hand patting Judge's back. "Need anything, call me. Don't worry about going through proper channels. That's all bullshit. If there's a problem, I want to hear from you directly. And if you can't find me, talk to Mullins. Is that clear?"
Judge said yes.
Patton spun to face Mullins, jabbing the cigar at his beefy chest. "And Colonel, remember what the order from Ike said. Be sure to extend Major Judge our every courtesy and convenience."
"Yes, General." Judge caught a sarcastic glance passing between them and the thought came to him that despite their alacrity, these two proud men might be peeved at having an investigator from outside their ranks foisted upon them. Patton's encouraging hand and enthusiastic voice erased the idea as quickly as it had appeared.
"Now, Major," he barked, "draw a weapon from the armory and get the hell out of here. I don't want to hear a goddam word from you until you've found Seyss."
Judge got the message loud and clear. Patton was there if needed, but only in the strictest of emergencies. Firing off a salute, he followed Mullins from the room.
"Just one more thing, Major," Patton called from behind his desk.
Judge froze, craning his head through the door. "Yes, sir?"
"Don't bring me the sonuvabitch. Just kill him."