Devlin Judge emerged from the bachelor officers' quarters at six a.m., eager to begin his search for Erich Seyss. The air was cool and damp, the dawn mist rapidly burning off to reveal a cloudless sky. Birds chirped everywhere in the verdant canopy that shaded the streets of Bad Toelz.
A lone Jeep was parked at the curb. Seeing Judge, a lean, compact soldier jumped from behind the driver's wheel and brought himself to attention. "Morning, Major," he called. "First Sergeant Darren C. Honey at your service."
Judge returned the salute. "I needed you yesterday, Sergeant. Where were you?"
"I apologize," said Honey. "Roads in this country are all crapped out. It was all I could do to get here last night. Colonel Mullins personally brought me up to date on the case."
"Did he?" Judge fended off a smirk. Instead of sending Honey to him, Mullins had briefed him himself. He wanted there to be no question who was in charge of the investigation. "So I take it you know who we're looking for and why?"
"Yes, sir. And if I might take this moment, I'd like to offer my condolences. I'm sorry about your brother."
Judge dismissed the remark with a grateful smile. "So, Sergeant, did you volunteer for this snipe hunt or did Mullins shanghai you into it?"
"Volunteered, sir." Honey's face darkened as if his integrity had been impugned and he puffed out his chest that much more because of it. "Word came down General Patton needed help tracking down a fugitive. That kind of work is right up our alley. Thirty-second CIC in Augsburg, that is. We call ourselves 'Nazi hunters'. It's our mission to track down the krauts who haven't turned themselves in yet. This is the first chance we've had to go after one who killed some of our boys."
Judge smiled at his escort's unvarnished enthusiasm, thinking the little guy would fit in pretty good on a stoop on Atlantic Avenue. Even with his helmet, Honey was shorter by a head. He had a card sharp's blue eyes and a smile as wide as his southern accent. At first glance he looked the model soldier. Eisenhower jacket buttoned snugly over a khaki shirt and tie; olive drab trousers bloused neatly into spit-shined jump boots. But his.45 caliber sidearm was all cowboy, slung low on the hip and ready for the quick draw.
Judge threw his briefcase into the back of the Jeep, then pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. "Twenty-one Lindenstrasse, know where it is?"
"Spent four months in this part of the country. Guess I'd better." Honey waved away the paper, circling the Jeep and hopping in behind the wheel. "That part of town got hit up and down. B-17s took out a rail yard near there and infantry tore it up taking the city."
"So I've been told, but that's where Seyss grew up. I'm hoping we can talk to a neighbor, get a feel for what kind of guy he is. Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and find him sleeping in his old bed."
"Sooner find a rooster warming an egg," cracked Honey, tipping back his helmet as if it were his Sunday Stetson. "And if you'll beg my pardon, I can tell you what kind of guy Seyss is already. Major in the Waffen-SS. Made it through six years of the war in one piece. He's a survivor, sir. He won't go near the place. Dollar to a dime, he's in Italy as we speak."
Judge climbed in beside the driver, fixing him with a no-nonsense stare. "If you believed that, you wouldn't have volunteered. Now, let's get the hell out of here."
Honey fired the engine and brought the Jeep round in a wide arc, accelerating down the narrow streets and out of town. Settling back, Judge recognized a curious tingling in the hollow of his gut. The spark of a new case. The thrill of not knowing what lay around the corner. The petty excitement he'd given up when he'd left the force. All of these were heightened by his presence in the enemy's homeland and for a few minutes he was genuinely happy. But soon, those sentiments faded, dragged down by the leaden weight hanging from his web belt. He glanced at the.45 caliber Colt commander snuggled in its scarred leather holster. Nine bullets in the cartridge and one in the snout. When expecting action, release the safety and cock the hammer. That way you don't have to put your full weight on the trigger to fire the first shot. It was all coming back now.
"Looks like you've been overseas a long time," he said, eyeing the twin rows of multi-colored ribbons that adorned Honey's chest.
"'Bout my whole life," answered Honey. "I shipped out in November of' 42. Operation Torch – the landings in North Africa. Hitched a ride to Sicily, then got put ashore in Anzio. Tell you the truth, I'm ready to get home."
"Place you've never heard of. Harlingen, Texas. Queen of the Rio Grande Valley."
"You're right. Never head of it. But what do I know? I'm from New York City." "Yes sir," said Honey, shooting him his best shit-eating grin. "Kind of shows."
Judge accepted the rebuke with a laugh, then returned his eye to a sturdy angle iron rising perpendicularly from the center of the front bumper. For the last fifteen minutes, he'd been trying to figure out what the devil it was. Stymied, he pointed to it and asked Honey for an explanation.
"Werewolves," the Texan answered. "Krauts who don't want to surrender. They've taken to stringing wire across the roads at night. If you're on a motorcycle, or riding in one of these Jeeps with your windshield down, a string of concertina can take your head off. They haven't killed anyone yet, but they've blinded a couple and given a few more a decent haircut. That iron cuts the wire nicely."
Judge felt an anxious twinge in his gut. "Are there many of them?"
"Werewolves?" Honey shrugged and his hand brushed against the butt of his pistol. "Rumor is there might be a horde of them holed up in the mountains south of here. I doubt it myself. Tell you the truth, most krauts are as tired of this whole damned mess as we are. Still, every once in a while we find one who doesn't want to come in of his own volition."
"Sounds dangerous," he said.
Honey shrugged off the suggestion. "These days, it isn't the Nazis who're so bad. It's the wives or girlfriends who're protecting them. Just last week, a pretty young fraulein came after me with a pitchfork." He nodded his head for emphasis. "She wasn't joking. No sir."
A distinctive ribbon of red, white and blue stood out among the "fruit salad" on Honey's chest. Judge recognized it as the Silver Star Mullins had mentioned, a citation given for extraordinary gallantry in combat. Shifting his gaze, he traded the varied hues of Honey's ribbons for the gray expanse of road stretching in front of them. He was in Germany now, on occupied soil in another man's country. Less than two months ago, over six million German soldiers had been ordered to lay down their arms. It made sense that a few were upset at no longer being the vaunted "supermen" that Hitler loved to crow about.
For a while, the two men rode in silence. Honey kept his eyes pinned to the road, driving the Jeep as if they were in a cross-country rally: powering into turns, braking at the last moment, accelerating on the straightaway. Judge clamped one hand to the dashboard and the other to his seat for fear he'd be bounced out the vehicle. Seeing the speedometer reach sixty, he swallowed hard. He'd never enjoyed driving, and, in fact, didn't even carry a license. Growing up, he'd been too poor to own a car. Nowadays, he was too busy. To ease his anxiety, he reviewed the measures he'd put into effect the previous afternoon to bring about the rapid apprehension of Erich Siegfried Seyss.
First, he'd dispatched motorcycle couriers to the headquarters of the six US Army groups stationed inside the American zone of occupation in Germany. Each courier carried a photograph of Erich Seyss and a letter signed by General George S. Patton stating his unequivocal desire that Seyss be captured. Instructions were given to copy the photograph and distribute it to all elements of military intelligence, as well as to every unit of military police down to platoon level.
Next, he'd had the same picture transmitted via wire to the editorial offices of Stars and Stripes in Paris and Rome, Yank in London, and the four largest German language newspapers -Die Mitteilungen, theFrankfurter Presse, theHessiche Post and theKolnischer Kurier – which together boasted a circulation of three million copies. In twenty-four hours, every GI from Sicily to Stockholm would wake up with a picture of the White Lion on the front page of his favorite paper. And on Sunday, when the German papers appeared, so would a large number of Erich Seyss's compatriots.
But Judge hadn't stopped there. He'd spent an hour pleading his case to Radio Luxembourg, an American controlled pan-European station, until they'd agreed to broadcast a description of Seyss and a run-down of his crimes during their nightly four hour German language program. Radio Berlin, controlled by Stalin's forces, was less amenable.
Finally, he'd arranged for Jeeps mounted with sixteen inch loudspeakers to patrol the sector's largest cities blaring Seyss's name, his description, and most importantly, the news that a hundred-dollar reward was being offered for information leading to his arrest.
The net had been cast.
The Jeep crested a small hill offering an unimpeded vista of the surrounding countryside. Fields of saffron hugged both sides of the road, seas of blazing yellow swaying in a gentle breeze. Beyond them, brown hillocks furrowed for cultivation rolled toward the horizon. The burnt carcass of a Tiger tank rested like a desecrated shrine atop a nearby rise. A hundred yards away slouched its target: a barn holed by shell fire, its shingled roof hanging in tatters. Stranger than the scenery, though, was the rancid smell that queered the warm wind. Judge had expected Germany to smell more like gunsmoke than sour milk.
A few minutes later, the Jeep rolled into the outskirts of Munich. What from above had looked like a dead city was, in fact, very much alive. On every corner, American military police supervised lines of gray-uniformed POWs clearing debris from clogged roads. Men and women dressed in little more than rags stumbled over rubble palaces, searching for splintered wood, broken pipes and cracked bricks anything that might be salvaged. Their hooded eyes all flashed the same message of hate and resentment, as if defeat were a shameful illness passed onto them by the Americans. Worst, though, was the smell. The sour odor he had noticed in the countryside had blossomed into a ripe, eye-watering stench. He yanked a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his nose, trying hard not to breathe too deeply.
"Better get used to that perfume," said Honey. "We reckon over thirty thousand people are buried under all this…" He motioned a hand at the wreckage all around him. "This crap. And summer's just getting started. That stink's going to get worse before it gets better."
Judge remained mute, the sight of so much destruction, so much suffering, robbing him of the ability to speak. Reflexively, he clawed at his wristwatch, spinning it round his wrist. He needed a distraction. Anything. He imagined Brewer's Row left a pile of rubble. Schaeffer's, Rheingold's, Pulaski's Biergarten, all razed to the ground. The ill-formed pictures made him sick to his stomach.
"It's okay, Major," said Honey, eyeing him sympathetically. "If it didn't get to you, you wouldn't be human."
Judge sat up straighter, propping a shoe against the chassis. He wanted to ask something dreadfully stupid like, "Why?" or "To what end?" He saw Francis dead and frozen in the Belgian mud and his pity vanished. In its place blossomed an all-encompassing hatred of Hitler and Germany and the wretched system that could bring such destruction to pass. "Bastards deserved it."
"That they did," replied Honey. "All the same, it's pretty lousy."
Judge didn't care to meet his driver's earnest gaze. "Just get us to Seyss's house. Twenty-one Lindenstrasse."
Honey steered the Jeep through the crowded streets, slowing occasionally to consult the road map spread across his lap. They crossed a bridge, then rumbled past a brick wall fronting a mound of rubble and mortar piled as high as a street lamp. On the wall was a large poster of a voluptuous woman in a tight dress flashing them a welcoming eye while slapping her behind. The word Verboten was stenciled in bold letters across her shapely form.
Honey cocked a thumb at the tempting fraulein. "Ike's number one rule: no fraternizing with the enemy. That's a sixty-five dollar fine. One week's salary gone, no questions asked. No talking to them, no drinking with them, and certainly, no frattin' with them." He grinned like a naughty teenager. "Of course, you're a married man. No need to explain General Eisenhower's rules to you."
Judge played along with Honey's sarcastic banter. "Don't count me out just yet. This ring is just for show. Keeps the girls at the office honest. I've been divorced going on two years."
"Divorced? Sorry to hear that."
"Don't be. There comes a time when its best just to break things off. End everyone's suffering. Know what I mean?" He attempted to smile, but felt like he was sucking on a lemon. For some reason, Honey's words roiled him, coming off as condemning instead of conciliatory. Judge gazed combatively to the sky. Somewhere up there, Francis was having a last laugh at his expense.
"An unholy of unholies," he'd taken to saying, while berating his brother from the end of a Jesuit fingertip. It was the argument they'd never resolved. The one issue they could never get around. To Francis Xavier, man and woman, once married, did not divorce. Not when they'd brought a boy into the world. And certainly not, when they'd sat together and watched that boy die. Holy bonds, he'd said. Ties that cannot be undone.
Judge stared off at some broken landmark, wishing that a snap of the fingers could rid him of his guilt. Not about the divorce, mind you. What alternative was there when the sight of your spouse brought back every mistake you'd ever made, every sin you'd committed and the price levied in a young boy's blood to rectify them? When three years had passed since husband and wife shared a smile or a joke, never mind a conjugal bed? No, Judge didn't have a shred of guilt about the divorce.
It was Francis who haunted him.
A hundred times before he'd shipped out, Judge had urged himself to apologize to his older brother. Say fifty Hail Mary's. A hundred Our Father's. Whatever that all-knowing, self-righteous son of a bitch wanted him to do to make amends. Francis was his only blood relation. What did it matter if Judge prostrated himself before the altar of maternal obedience? But, no, that hadn't been his way. In his universe, Francis was the only person not allowed to win an argument. The only one to whom an apology was impossible.
Judge forced a bluff laugh, even as he cursed himself for being a stubborn ass.
Honey welcomed the smile with visible relief and took up where he'd left off. "Another thing, Major: stay away from the black market. Germans aren't allowed to hold US dollars. Their own currency ain't worth a damn so they'll trade just about anything they've got for some cigarettes or stockings." He leaned closer, as if to confide a secret. "And remember, the going rate for a carton of Luckies is fifty bucks."
Judge was getting the idea, all right. Over here, rules didn't count for much. Mullins had said it better.This is Germany, lad. There is no law.
Five minutes later, Honey pulled the Jeep to the side of the road and pointed at a three-storey concrete scarecrow, the last structure left standing on the entire block. "Thar she blows. Number Twenty-one Lindenstrasse."
Judge put his hands on the dash and stood, staring hard at the building. It was a typical Wilhelmine affair: steep mansard roof with dormer windows, solid terraces fronting the windows on the second floor, colonnaded entry. Or at least it used to be. The place had taken some thumping. Fire had gutted half of it. One corner was demolished and there were enough holes in the place to make it look like a Swiss cheese.
"Believe it or not, this used to be quite a neighborhood," said Honey. "Not your Sutton Place, but definitely your Upper West Side."
Judge shot Honey an annoyed glance. "I thought you were from Texas?"
"Got a sister in Manhattan. I visited her once."
"Just once?" Judge was beginning to think there was more to Honey and his Silver Star than met the eye. "Well, Sergeant, what do you say? Shall we have a look-see?"
But Honey was already out of the Jeep, drawing his pistol and cocking the hammer in a single fluid motion. "I was about to suggest the same thing. If I'm not mistaken, I caught somebody peeking at us from an upstairs window. How much you care to wager it's Mr Seyss, himself?"
Judge jumped to the ground, drawing his pistol and hustling across the street. "Didn't you say something back
there about a rooster and eggs?"
"Me?" Honey spun, slowing long enough to offer Judge his already familiar grin. "What the hell do I know about chickens? In Texas we got steers."
And then they were inside the house.