THE BERLIN WARNING
OCTOBER 24, 1941
Hauptmann Egon Weinschenk of the Security Department of the SS fidgeted nervously on the back seat of his staff car, waiting for his aide to return with sweet rolls and a thermos of coffee from the bakery around the corner. It would be the only chance they had all morning for any breakfast, but somehow it struck him as slightly undignified, almost ludicrous, that Max, in his uniform and his polished black storm trooper’s boots, should be standing around in a cake shop, waiting meekly to be served.
Outside there was a faint breeze stirring; he rolled down his window to avail himself of a little fresh air. It was autumn, the season when, to Weinschenk’s mind, Berlin looked the prettiest. The leaves on the linden trees were just beginning to change color, and the morning sky was characteristically a pale, pearly gray. People could still go out-of-doors without their overcoats, and somehow the city seemed cleaner. Weinschenk was a Swabian and detested Berlin, with its vulgar official buildings and its hateful modernity, but in the autumn he could just tolerate it.
The Hauptmann took off his soft civilian hat and ran a hand over his dark brown thinning hair. At thirty-four, the slowly accumulating signs of age were beginning to depress him. The bluish shadows in the corners of his eyes, which had been with him since boyhood, had seemed deeper of late, as if the eyes themselves had started to sink farther back into their sockets, and his whole countenance struck him as more angular, especially around the lower half of his face.
Of course, most of the people he knew were making the same complaint. His friends in the SS, the men with whom he had attended university, it seemed that everyone was feeling it. One could hardly hold a friendly conversation anymore without hearing that life was becoming leaden and hopeless. Possibly it was just the war, or possibly this was simply something that happened at his time of life, but, in his own case at least, Weinschenk thought not. The grievances were more specific than that. As imperceptibly as the wind wears away stone, failure had settled over him like a shadow.
What hadn’t seemed possible after his first tour in Spain? He had volunteered for duty in the Condor Legion and had come home covered in glory. He had distinguished himself in combat when not half a hundred SS officers had ever even heard a shot fired in anger, and the Führer himself had signed the order promoting him to Hauptmann. He could have stayed in Berlin then and risen effortlessly up through the command structure; he was a young man people had noticed. He could have had everything, but he had asked for a new posting to Madrid. It had struck him as the only thing possible. It was in Spain that the battle had been joined, and life wasn’t about fashioning a career. Life was the sacred honor of German arms and the final victory for a New Europe. Life was the romance of the spirit. How very distant all of that seemed now.
They had assigned him to counterintelligence. He was a staff officer now and could hardly expect to spend his time clambering over battlefields. He would protect secrets. Madrid, as everyone knew, was full of spies; he would find plenty to keep himself occupied.
He had been on his way to distinguishing himself all over again, until his one great and dramatic failure.
When the war had ended and he had come home for the last time, there had been no parade review in front of the Reichskanzlei and no order for promotion. It was 1939, and war, this time the real war, was inevitable—they would need him. Spain had become something of an embarrassment. Men who had hardly finished their officer training classes when he was a hardened veteran were colonels today, having won promotion commanding the Einstazgruppen in the Eastern Territories. That was what the SS had become, a brotherhood of file clerks and murderers in which one rose to glory by shooting Jewish children with a pistol.
Hauptmann Weinschenk would remain Hauptmann Weinschenk, perhaps forever. His immediate superior disliked him and intrigued against him, and there was very little opportunity of being noticed for the sort of routine work that had fallen his way. There were always the Einsatzgruppen, but since he did not choose to follow the butcher’s trade he was stymied.
Perhaps he wouldn’t have minded so very much if things had been better at home. Other men were able to console themselves in their domestic happiness, but Magda . . .
He turned his head slightly and saw Max coming around the corner, carrying a white cardboard parcel done up with string, balancing it with ridiculous delicacy in his huge hand. His black military tunic seemed stretched to the bursting point—somehow it was impossible ever to find him a uniform that didn’t look too small—and the corporal’s stripes on the sleeves gleamed luridly in the sunshine. With his cap pitched to one side of his massive, carefully cropped head, he gave the impression of a dangerous animal tamed to service.
The heavy scar across his throat, a souvenir, like Max himself, of the time in Madrid, showed where a knife slash had cut his vocal cords, rendering him speechless, but Weinschenk, whose memories of him preceded the incident, was of the opinion that it had made remarkably little difference. Max was a useful assistant in all practical matters, rather like a well-trained dog, but his intellect was not of a very high order and he had never been particularly chatty. A growl and a gesture served most of his needs quite eloquently.
They had wanted to invalid him out after his wounding—they had felt that a mute beast could hardly do the SS much credit—but Weinschenk had managed to prevent them. What would have become of Max if they had taken away his stripes and abandoned him to the great mad world? He would have ended in the gutter, or on the gallows, within half a year. That too would hardly have done the SS much credit. Besides, Max was his comrade in arms, almost his only friend. One must be able to trust someone. No—to desert him would have been unthinkable.
Max opened the door on the driver’s side, climbed in, and handed back the thermos and the cardboard parcel with a narrowing of his eyelids and a low, atavistic grunt—one gathered the bakery had been out of Berliner Pfannkuchen.
“Never mind, Max. Another day. I’m sure you made your disappointment known to them.”
The Hauptmann smiled and made a gesture with the fingers of his right hand, as if to say, “get on with it” and Max twisted back to the windscreen and turned the key in the ignition. The car jumped forward a few inches and edged its way into the sparse traffic of the Mockenstrasse. Weinschenk had a call to pay.
Gruppenführer Ncbe had been extremely vague. “It concerns one of the Foreign Minister’s little projects,” he had said, raising his eyebrows contemptuously. “He wishes us to investigate someone in his office, to discover if he has been in treasonous contact with the enemy. You will establish that—and only that. Needless to say, Reichsführer Himmler will not be excessively distressed if Herr von Ribbentrop’s intrigue comes to nothing.”
There was a large polished window behind the Gruppenführer’s desk; the light streaming in formed a kind of halo around his head and made it impossible to read his expression. Weinschenk hardly minded—it wouldn’t do to react to Nebe’s obvious hostility. If it could have been managed, he would have preferred to receive his orders from behind a screen, like absolution in a confessional.
Above a certain level, the SS was more like a harem than the army it parodied—everyone was competing for the Master’s attention. If one was ambitious—and Weinschenk was perceived to be half mad with ambition; why else would anyone have volunteered for a second tour in Spain?—the wisest policy was to disguise the fact, to play the humble acolyte, to appear ready to bask in the reflected power of others. Men like Gruppenführer Nebe had not the slightest intention of allowing a subordinate to develop into a rival and, unfortunately, returning to Berlin with the dust of war still clinging to his boots, Weinschenk hadn’t learned quite fast enough that the former upholstery salesman from Lübeck had no taste for heroics.
At any rate, the Hauptmann gained the distinct impression that he was being ordered to look the other way while that “treasonous contact” was being made.
“Here is the man’s dossier,” Nebe went on, sliding a heavy manila envelope across his desk. Weinschenk picked it up and clamped it under his arm; any display of curiosity just then might have been interpreted as a breach of military etiquette. “When you have discovered what he’s been up to, shoot him. No one is interested in the embarrassment of a trial.”
“And if he hasn’t been up to anything, Herr Gruppenführer?”
“Shoot him in any case. It will flatter von Ribbentrop’s vanity.”
That was clear enough. The SS had no real interest in this matter beyond undermining the position of the Foreign Minister, which was one of Reichsführer Himmler’s favorite projects. Did von Ribbentrop even know that the Security Department was investigating one of his people? It seemed unlikely, but there was no shortage of SS spies at the Wilhelmstrasse to ferret out such lapses of vigilance. Hauptmann Wein schenk was assigned to commit what amounted to a judicial murder. The facts of the case were irrelevant; a man was to die as part of some obscure bureaucratic struggle in which neither he nor his executioner had any share. Weinschenk hoped that the “treasonous contact” didn’t turn out to be merely another invention in the continuing unreality into which life had descended. He hoped the little worm was guilty. He didn’t like to think what would become of them both if he weren’t. “My regards to your wife, Weinschenk.”
Even in the glare from his polished window, the expression on Nebe’s face was recognizably a sneer. As he stood at attention, the Hauptmann could feel the shame and anger turning his bowels into ice water.
. . . . .
The next morning, sitting in the back of a police van that had been painted over to look like a newspaper delivery truck, Weinschenk caught his first glimpse of the pawn in this chess game of ministerial rivalries. Klaus von Abeken was a small, spare, bleached-out little man in his mid-fifties who walked with his elbows bent and turned away from his body. He wore a black jacket, gray trousers with a thin white stripe, and wing collars on his shirt—a costume which had by then become slightly obsolete even in the diplomatic corps. His gray hair was swept back from his thin, dissatisfied face, and he carried a black hat, possibly a bowler, in his right hand. He looked English. He had been stationed in London for several years during the twenties, and apparently it had taken hold with him. He was suspected of being a British spy.
But that was conjecture. All that was known for certain was that he hated the foreign minister, which was neither surprising nor unusual. The foreign minister was a bully, something of a fool, and, by von Abeken’s standards, a parvenu as well.
Everyone hated von Ribbentrop, but not everyone was a traitor.
However, there appeared to be more. Certain radio transmissions had been intercepted, carrying coded information about a matter referred to cryptically in the dossier as “the American project.” It had not been difficult to trace the probable source.
Herr von Abeken’s head was well and truly on the chopping block. His friends in London should have employed a higher clearance of code.
Hauptmann Weinschenk set to work. He assigned teams to keep Herr von Abeken under surveillance every moment he wasn’t at home or at the Wilhelmstrasse, and to watch his door while he slept at night. He had his telephone tapped. He arranged to have his mail intercepted and read. The apartment directly below von Abeken’s happened to belong to an employee of the Ministry of Information; Weinschenk arranged to have him transferred to Salzburg on twelve hours’ notice and put one of his own people in to man the best listening equipment the SS had to offer. Von Abeken couldn’t shave in the morning without someone from the Security Department listening to the razor scratch his face.
Weinschenk had decided he would like to make a personal inspection of the suspect’s quarters. Now, dressed in civilian clothes, he waited in his car until he received word from his watchdogs that von Abeken was away for the morning, and then he left Max to finish breakfast alone.
The apartment was up two flights of stairs which were covered with a thin runner of carpet that was almost worn away in the middle. The hallways were painted a depressing sandy brown, but the sconces for the light fixtures were made out of brass and rather well done. Possibly, at the end of the previous century, this had been an agreeable place to live, a little corner of upper-middle-class luxury of the kind bachelor gentlemen would favor, but things had obviously been allowed to run down.
Weinschenk took out his skeleton key and inserted it in the lock; the mechanism clicked into place and then turned soundlessly.
The front door opened onto the sitting room, which was furnished with incongruously massive oak furniture—a divan, two chairs, a low, rather awkward table, and a handsome, well-made armoire decorated with scrollwork and carved cameo heads of medieval German knights with full mustaches and fierce expressions. There was an expensive Turkish carpet on the floor. The two small windows that faced the street were tall and narrow and let in very little light; through them one had a view of a restaurant, a bicycle repair shop, and a vacant lot. The neighborhood was not what it had been.
The kitchen had a tiny wooden table. Weinschenk passed through quickly and went into the bedroom.
The bed was narrow and set into a corner of the room—clearly von Abeken didn’t entertain much. On the chest of drawers was a set of hairbrushes with yellowed ivory backs and a hinged picture frame holding a pair of oval portraits, done in brown tint, of a ferociously respectable couple in their mid-forties. The photographs had obviously been taken well before the 1914-18 War; it seemed unlikely that these people could still be alive. Probably it was from them that von Abeken had inherited most of the furniture.
Weinschenk opened the drawer of a marble-topped night table and was surprised to find a small nickel-plated automatic pistol—seven millimeters, he guessed—clearly well taken care of. He took it out and removed the magazine; it was full, and there was a round in the chamber. The cartridges had shiny brass casings that gave the impression they had been purchased recently.
Evidently the little diplomat was expecting trouble. Had it occurred to him yet that he was under suspicion? After a week or two, a sensitive man will usually know he is being followed, but it had been only three days since Weinschenk had undertaken this surveillance, and his team were all experienced men.
As he strolled back down the sidewalk to where he had left Max listening to the soccer scores on the car radio, he discovered within himself an unpleasant if not unfamiliar confusion of feeling. On the one hand there was a certain satisfaction, almost amounting to relief. Klaus von Abeken was a traitor, which meant that Weinschenk could order his execution without any crisis of conscience, and even the motives for his treason were now detectably clearer.
After all, why not? Here was a man with remarkably few reasons to treasure his existence—a limited income, no career expectations, no visible sexual interests. His early life and family background had led him to expect that by now he would be in charge of his own mission in one of the smaller capitals—say, Athens or Belgrade. The von Abekens were a respected family within the narrow world of official Berlin, but the economic collapse of 1919 and the caprice of Joachim von Ribbentrop had put an end to all that. Now the man had nothing to nurse except his resentments.
But competing with the pride of the policeman was a distinct surge of unmeditated sympathy for one who, after all, was not so different from himself. If the SS was a harem, the Foreign Office was the court around an aging, vain, jealous dowager. Ribbentrop hated pedigrees, just as Nebe hated anyone who had ventured closer to danger than the filing cabinets of the Hohenzollerndamm. It was inevitable that von Abeken’s career should come to grief.
And all of this the man had had to face in the isolation of his withered private life, without friends or family or lovers to let him see himself as something more than a casualty and a stale joke. Failure and solitude, the two ultimate disasters.
Weinschenk had been married for twelve years, but that hadn’t saved him. Silence had become a precondition of their continuing together—it was impossible to talk to Magda about certain subjects. Sometimes love must wrap itself in reserve, and one can be as alone in a marriage bed as anywhere on earth. So Weinschenk had more than an inkling of von Abeken’s plight.
But the Hauptmann could regard himself as fortunate. He had never been tempted into treason. He was one of the new men, who belonged to a new world, and von Abeken was a relic. His world was gone, that world of aristocratic privilege which it was one of the Führer’s greatest accomplishments to have swept away, and von Abeken had simply grown reckless with despair.
When Weinschenk got back to the car, Max pointed to the radiophone, which took up half of the back seat. The harsh rumble that came from between his clenched teeth, like the sound of a grindstone, indicated that the message had been important. Weinschenk picked up the receiver.
“Herr Hauptmann, Von Abeken’s made a telephone call—from a booth on the Kriedrichstrasse. He left his office in the middle of working hours, walked to the booth, and made the call. What are your orders?”
“Has he returned to the ministry?”
“No, Herr Hauptmann. He’s across the street from me now, waiting for a tramcar.”
“The Unter den Linden, Herr Hauptmann.”
Weinschenk stared at the leaves that were drifting over the sidewalk outside his car window. The Unter den Linden line meant that von Abeken was probably on his way back to his apartment.
“Stay with him,” he said, and hung up the telephone receiver. He couldn’t have offered any conclusive reasons, but he had a sense that they were coming to the final moves of the game.
“Max, he’s coming home—and in the middle of the morning. Doesn’t that strike you as out of character?”
The yellow glint in Max’s eye could have meant almost anything.
. . . . .
The tramcar pulled into sight and stopped. When it had pulled away again, von Abeken was already making his brisk way down the sidewalk toward them. Weinschenk had played his hunch and gathered most of the team around the immediate area; they were in their cars, peeking out of the side streets like children waiting to play a prank.
“He came here directly?” Weinschenk asked, leaning out through his open window to talk to the corporal in the blue civilian suit who was supporting himself against the car roof, panting like a dog—the man had just had a long run the back way from the tram stop.
“Yes, Herr Hauptmann.” The corporal pulled himself up to attention. “I stayed behind him the whole distance. He never got off until just now.”
“Could he have met someone on the tram?”
“I don’t think so, Herr Hauptmann. There wouldn’t have been time after he placed the call.”
They were parked on the opposite side of the street, just around a corner, so they had the very best view of von Abeken’s progress home and ran a negligible risk of being seen themselves. Von Abeken gave the impression of a man who knew what he was about; there was something almost grim in the way he was stalking over the sidewalk, with his head down and his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his overcoat.
And then, suddenly, he did something unexpected. He crossed the street and entered the restaurant that was almost the first thing one saw looking out through his living room window. Weinschenk got out of his car and walked around to the sound truck that was parked about twenty yards farther back on the side street.
“Can you get a microphone in there?” he asked, calling the sergeant in charge outside and pointing to the back door, just visible behind a barricade of trash cans at the end of a narrow little alley. “Our friend is having his lunch. If anyone should happen to join him, it might be instructive to hear what they have to say to one another. Can you manage it?”
The sergeant seemed to consider the matter for a moment. He was a small, precise man with rimless glasses and hair so blond it actually seemed to be white. He stood there, examining the backs of his narrow, clever-looking hands, and then looked up with a grin. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-two.
“Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann. It can be done.”
“So that he won’t suspect? We don’t want him to break cover now.”
“If the restaurant is not too crowded, it should work. We have directional microphones that are disguised as briefcases—it’s the latest thing. We send in two men. They sit at different ends of the room so that they and von Abeken form three points of a triangle. They rest their briefcases on the chairs opposite from where they are sitting, lined up on von Abeken, and go ahead and enjoy their lunch. The fact that we will have two microphones will screen out some of the background noise, so we should get a good, clear signal. The men will be equipped with battery packs and transmitters; you will be able to sit right here in the truck and hear every word.”
“Very good. Then do it.”
Now there was nothing left to do except to wait. Weinschenk sat on the rear seat of his car, smoking a cigarette and watching the back of Max’s head. If anyone of any interest should show up, Max would be the first to spot him. Having a brute for an aide sometimes had its little advantages.
It was twenty-five minutes after twelve when Max’s ears began to crawl up into his short, bristly hair. He turned around and made a noise as if to clear his throat. He was very excited.
“Yes—I see him. It’s Lupescu, isn’t it?”
Max growled and nodded; he didn’t much like it cither.
Weinschenk tried to look unconcerned, but he found it advisable to keep his hands folded together on his lap. This was the worst possible calamity, as direct a threat as someone pointing a pistol at his head. Lupescu happened to be a particular friend of his. Nebw would be delighted.
Weinschenk stepped out of the car and into the shadow of a shop awning, the scalloped edge of which was just low enough to brush the top of his head. Standing there, watching this man in his loud checkered overcoat cross the street, was one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life.
It was most unfortunate. It would require the most delicate handling or the consequences could be extremely dangerous. Already, in imagination, Weinschenk could feel the piano wire tightening around his neck.
Ion Lupescu was some sort of third secretary in the Rumanian delegation, a few years younger than Weinschenk, a great favorite of Magda’s. He seemed a charming, thoughtless, harmless sort of person, interested in his own pleasure and without any marked political opinions. If one had troubled to ask him how he managed his yellow five-liter Daimler and his vulgar but expensive wardrobe on the salary of a minor diplomat, he probably would have grinned—he had a way of grinning so that his upper lip seemed almost to disappear—and made some sort of tasteless joke about his many feminine admirers. Somehow he succeeded in creating the impression that his family had money, that he was the sort to whom success came without effort, and that the principal attraction of the foreign service was that it allowed him to escape from Bucharest. He was entertaining company and he knew a great deal about French literature.
And he was a great favorite of Magda’s.
And now, it seemed, he was a British agent. Weinschenk had to admit it did make a certain amount of sense. If one was a spy, failed Foreign Office careerists and dissatisfied officers in the Security Department of the SS would be precisely the sorts of persons one would cultivate.
Weinschenk wondered if Lupescu might not also be one of his wife’s lovers, and what sort of things Magda could have told him as they lay together in the twilight darkness of some hotel room. If Lupescu’s role in this matter became known, and if he should chance to be arrested and interrogated in a prison basement, what secrets would his torturers wring from him before they consigned his broken body to a bomb crater in Weissensee?
Magda’s whispered confidences, the stuff a woman says to justify her betrayal of her husband, must not find their way into one of Nebe’s thick personnel files.
“Well, Max,” Weinschenk murmured, surprised at the strained, unreal quality of his own voice, “at least we don’t have to wonder anymore if Herr von Abeken is here just because he likes the desserts. This is the real thing.”
But Max merely glanced down at the pavement, as if embarrassed.
As soon as Lupescu was out of sight, the Hauptmann went back to the sound truck, where he tapped on the rear door with the joint of his middle finger and was helped inside by the sergeant with the pale hair.
“Is it working?”
“Yes, Herr Hauptmann, it’s working.” The sergeant took off the ear-phones that had been clamped over his head and flipped a switch on the massive control panel that took up almost one whole wall of the interior compartment. Instantly Weinschenk could hear the clatter of dishes and the faint hum of a dozen different conversations—and then, with shocking clarity, the voice of Klaus von Abeken.
“Were you followed?
There was a little pause. The sound of something being set down on the table—perhaps a water glass. The clicking of silverware. It was as if one were at the table with them. It was a miracle.
“How should I know?” There was no difficulty in imagining the sly smile that went with those words. “Who can be bothered to notice? Besides, you ask me that same question every time”
“One day there will be someone, and then it will be your neck. Wait and see.”
“It’s all going on the tapes,” the sergeant announced quietly, pointing to the big spools that were slowly turning just over his head. Weinschenk nodded.
“I haven t seen you since your return from Obersalzherg” Lupescu said after a silence of perhaps a quarter of a minute. “How was the great man when last you saw him? Any new plans of conquering the world yet? Hah!”
It was a joke. The two men in the back of the sound truck regarded each other with embarrassed silence.
“Our employers are very well pleased with your reports. I think they would not he averse to an increase in your basic salary scale—if this last thing of yours proves out there should be a sizable bonus involved. For both of us”
“Really?” Von Abeken didn’t sound very convinced. He wasn’t a fool, and doubtless he knew that in all probability Lupescu had already been collecting the money for weeks, committing robbery at both ends of the transaction.
“Where are they sitting that they can dare to talk like this?” Weinschenk asked. It was astonishing to hear even Lupescu speaking so carelessly. The sergeant shrugged his shoulders.
“They have a table in the corner near the front,” he said. “It couldn’t be better for our purposes, but there is no one near them.”
“They wonder, in fact, if you have heard any more of that little matter which you mentioned as pending.”
There was a faint sound, like the chair creaking. Weinschenk could imagine Lupescu leaning forward confidentially.
“You recall—Ribbentrop’s little coup? You can imagine what they would be willing to pay for that!”
“Oh, yes. It seems to me that I heard something.” It was merely a game now. One could tell as much from von Abeken’s voice—didn’t the man care about anything? “And I expect to exact a high price for it.”
“I don’t think we’ll have a problem there. I’m sure they’ll pay whatever you ask.”
There was another long pause. Weinschenk felt the sweat running down his back and wished he had another cigarette.
“Oh, don’t worry. It won’t be the British who pay.” Another pause. One hoped that von Abeken was enjoying this as much as he seemed to be.
“You will send a signal,” he went on finally. “The signal will consist of one word: ‘Kungsholm’. They’ll understand—they’re waiting.”
It took a few seconds. Lupescu seemed to have the instincts of a petty criminal, and finally he grasped the situation. Weinschenk would have given a great deal to have seen the expression on von Abeken’s face at that moment.
“Yes—did you imagine the British wouldn’t provide me with an alternative contact? I sent a coded letter to an address in a neutral city. I never had the slightest intention of delivering anything of this importance into your hands. Why should you be allowed to barter with them over the outcome of the war?”
“Is it as important as that?”
“Yes—it’s as important as that”
For fifteen or perhaps twenty seconds there was silence. The loudest sound was the faint crackle of static from the radio transmitters. The sergeant’s face looked as if it had been modeled out of wax, and Weinschenk couldn’t blame him in the least. It was like waiting to hear the death sentence pronounced.
“You will send the signal” von Abeken continued, his tone almost consoling. “You will get out your little shortwave radio and you will send the signal. They’re waiting for it, and if you don’t send it you will have more than simply the Gestapo to worry about.”
“And I suppose you’ve worked out your own deal with them. What did they promise you—fifteen thousand? Fifty?” The Balkan’s voice was heavy with longing, as if the only pleasure left to him would be to hear the figure named.
“Nothing. No money. My price is my revenge, and the Nazis will pay me that when they lose the war.”
There was the sound of a chair scraping. It had the heavy quality one associates with the movements of the very old.
“And now you will wait here.” It was von Abeken—it must have been he who stood up. “Send the message. Just one word: ‘Kungsholm’. Send it. When I have been gone for five minutes, go and send it.”
Weinschenk made a gesture that he had heard enough, and the sergeant reached up to switch off the speaker.
“You will have him arrested now, Herr Hauptmann?”
He climbed out of the rear of the truck and began walking back to his car. By the time he reached it, he could see von Abeken standing in the doorway of his apartment building. Weinschenk was remembering his orders. He was in the business of proving that von Abeken was a traitor.
“You will establish that—and only that. Needless to say, Reichsführer Himmler will not be excessively distressed if Herr von Ribbentrop’s intrigue comes to nothing.”
He would not interfere. The apartment was being watched—von Abeken wasn’t going anywhere. He would wait until Lupescu was safely away, and could send his signal in peace, and then he would move in and tidy up all the awkward little details.
When you’ve discovered what he’s been up to, shoot him. No one is interested in the embarrassment of a trial.
He would have to remember to tell the sergeant to erase that tape. The sergeant was a good man and would know enough to keep his mouth shut without having to be told.
Finally Lupescu emerged from the restaurant. Only now he really was frightened; he almost ran across the street to his car, glancing back over his shoulder as if he imagined the police were everywhere—and they were. The yellow Daimler jumped forward as he popped it into gear.
Good. Let him go. There was nothing in Weinschenk’s orders about stopping any conspiracies, and he did not intend to precipitate the disaster that would come down upon him if he arrested Lupescu. There would be no mention of Lupescu in the report he would write. Lupescu didn’t exist.
“When you’ve discovered what he’s been up to, shoot him.”
Weinschenk stood on the corner, looking up at von Abeken’s apartment window, wondering what was going on behind it, wondering what thoughts could be filling the mind of that strange little man.
“Do you suppose, Max, that there is even the slightest possibility this matter could be as important as our friend up there would have us believe? Wouldn’t that be a plum for us, wouldn’t it just? Perhaps we might be justified in putting a few questions to him before we carry out our orders—no point in being overly scrupulous, is there?”
He turned around and was a little startled to see that his aide had been standing almost directly behind him. Max bared his teeth. He enjoyed that sort of thing. It was virtually his only pleasure.
“But we still have to get him down from that apartment, hey, Max? A little finesse might be in order, don’t you think? It wouldn’t do to go in there with guns blazing—no point in needlessly upsetting the civilian population—and we don’t want him to have any advance warning. It’s impossible to predict what he might do. Mustn’t have our own people getting killed out of sheer carelessness.”
Weinschenk realized, with an uncomfortable start of surprise, that he was talking too much. It was nerves, of course. He would have to watch himself.
He tried to focus his mind on the purely technical problem. He phoned across to the apartment where one of his listeners was still on duty, and determined that von Abeken was in fact upstairs, and then he and Max walked back to the car and drove around to park on a side street behind the building.
They entered through the basement door, where the man on duty there saluted, and made their way quietly up to the second floor. Weinschenk had considered a number of alternatives and thought perhaps he might just stage a good, smoky fire under one of the stairwells, perhaps even ordering in a fire truck for authenticity. He could catch von Abeken on the landing while the apartment house was being evacuated. It wasn’t the sort of thing he would care to try on a real professional, but von Abeken wasn’t that. He expected it would work like a charm.
After that, a few quiet hours somewhere, just he and von Abeken and Max. He might even discover what was going on—or at least the name of von Abeken’s alternate British contact.
Kungsholm. He wondered what it could mean. Perhaps, if it was really as important as all that, it might go a long way toward solving a number of problems.
“Herr Hauptmann, I think something’s gone wrong.” The listener stood in the apartment doorway. The collar of his shirt was undone, and his Adam’s apple worked its way up and down in his throat. He pointed toward the ceiling. “I think I heard a shot.”
“That damned pistol—I should have known!”
They ran the rest of the way, not caring how much noise they made. All Weinschenk could hear was his heart pounding, but as they reached the door, and he put his hand on the knob, he felt himself being pushed violently against the wall. Max’s hand was against his chest, holding him pinned there; he might as well have been nailed in place.
Max shook his head—no, this wasn’t going to be a case where he would listen to orders—and unsnapped his holster flap. He held his Luger up as if he were showing it off, gently lifted his other hand away from Weinschenk’s chest, and kicked in the door, throwing himself through the opening like a man diving into the sea.
There wasn’t any shooting. There wasn’t anything. After a few seconds Max rose up on one knee, looked sullenly back at his officer, and gestured him inside. No one had anything more to worry about. Von Abeken was sitting propped in a corner of the great oak divan with his brains leaking down the side of his face. It would seem, god damn him, that he had decided to save the SS the trouble.
“Kungsholm,” Weinschenk murmured, almost to himself. He stepped over to von Abeken’s body, took the little nickel-plated automatic out of the dead hand, examined it for a moment, quite as if he had never seen anything like it before, and then threw it onto the cushions of the divan. Von Abeken’s eyes were still wide open, and his face was twisted into a sneer that somehow reminded the Hauptmann of Gruppenführer Nebe. Weinschenk felt an oppressive and, of course, irrational anger welling up inside his chest. It was almost as if von Abeken had cheated him of something more precious than anyone except the two of them could possibly imagine.
“Kungsholm,” he repeated, as if the word itself might have some calming effect on him. “What do you think of that, Max? He died over a single word.”