Spy Against the Reich
Another thrilling instalment of the adventures of a British secret agent on the trail of Nazi Germany's most closely guarded war secret
In the first days of the fast moving invasion of Poland by the Nazis
LAWRENCE FENTON, young Britisher, with his wife,
STELLA FENTON, is visiting her Polish uncle, an elderly man living alone in a fine old home on the slope of a valley.
When Nazi tanks appear in the valley and the old man refuses to leave his fireside, Fenton first burns a paper in his possession, then bundles his wife in a roadster and forces her to escape, himself staying. Changed to the uniform of a Polish soldier, he surrenders with the others of the small defending group as one of them, is horrified minutes later to see the old man emerge from the great house, sword in hand, to be struck down by a German soldier.
Some time later, back in England, Stella Fenton reports to elderly
SIR GEORGE FAWLEY, Chief of the Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, who listens to her story of Fenton’s being still among the Nazis with a good deal of satisfaction, suggesting that Fenton can be of immense value in his undercover role. He refuses Stella’s request to be allowed to go to Germany herself, but promises to get news of her husband as soon as possible, at the same time reminding her of the extreme danger of his mission.
Soon afterward a secret message travels to a British dockside, by ship to Holland, in the heel of a boot to the edge of the German frontier, through devious other channels, at last to cross into Germany hidden in the harness of the ancient nag hitched to an old woman’s cart.
And all of this, Sir George Fawley knew.
Months later, mysteriously freed from prison camp and instructed by other agents, Laivrence Fenton begins his work in Germany. Assuming a variety of names and disguises he follows puzzling instructions and so meets
GRETA MAYER, a commercial artist, who gives him a message from London mentioning a secret weapon about which he is to collect information. Fenton takes the name and papers of Otto Hirschfeld, now dead, formerly a close friend of Greta. As Otto, Fenton spends long days studying science in preparation for his designated work. En route one night to a café to meet Greta, he hears sounds of running feet in the blackout, a scuffling, and a woman's voice cry out in English. Startled, he suddenly finds a strange woman beside him and turns to face her pursuers.
(This is the Third of Eight Parts)
CONFUSION had broken out farther up the street. A man shouted, a torch switched on, its beam stabbing the darkness as it swept from side to side. Fenton saw a man running along the pavement, and in his hand was something that glinted in the light.
But the same indirect rays which revealed the knife also enabled the bearer to detect Fenton. The man checked in his run, stared, and then came forward with a slow menacing stride, the knife held low against his hip.
"Gott in Himmel,” muttered Fenton, and was about to move out onto the pavement where he would have more room if it came to a fight, when he felt a cold metal object pushed into his hand from behind. As his fingers closed about it he realized that the unknown woman had given him an automatic pistol.
The light was now shining directly upon him and upon the man with the knife, who was crouching a few yards away like an animal about to spring. But the beam danced up and down, for the man who held the torch was running, and, judging from the heavy tramp of feet, he was accompanied by several companions.
The crouching man screwed up his eyes as the light shone into them, and his lips drew back in a snarl. He crept forward another step. Fenton heard a quick intake of breath behind him.
“Back!” he shouted in German, and raised the pistol.
The running feet were very near now. The crouching man sensed it, for suddenly he dashed forward. There was a shout from the direction of the torch.
“Back !” cried Fenton for the second time.
But the assailant did not heed the warning. He sprang with knife upraised. Fenton did not hesitate. He pressed back the trigger of the automatic and kept it back. The man staggered and slumped forward onto his face as the three bullets hit him in rapid succession.
The girl behind Fenton gave a low cry, but before he could reassure her the man with the torch arrived and came to a halt within a few yards of the couple in the doorway. His companions gathered in a semicircle, and glancing quickly from left to right, while the torch was being directed at the man lying on the pavement, Fenton saw that the new arrivals wore some sort of uniform and that they carried rubber truncheons, which they handled tentatively.
There was a moment’s pause, as if neither party was quite certain what to make of the situation. “Well!” thought Fenton. “It looks as if I’m for it.”
The man at his feet stirred and groaned. A trickle of blood, looking dark and ominous in the bright light of the torch, came from beneath him and ran slowly across the pavement. One of the waiting men moved his foot so that he should not impede the progress of that red stream toward the gutter.
“He may die if you don’t attend to him,” said Fenton.
The muttering among the semicircle of men increased, but they made no answer. The report of Fenton’s automatic had fetched a number of the neighboring householders into the street, and these were now crowding onto the heels of the uniformed men. There was a noise, too, of windows being opened, and inquisitive heads were thrust out to lieer at the torchlight, the one bright spot in the blackness.
The beam of the torch left the wounded man and flicked up into Fenton’s face, blinding him. He raised his free hand to shade his eyes, being careful to let the other, which still held the automatic, hang limply by his side. A surprised and questioning murmur passed from lip to lip round the semicircle of men.
They spoke as if they could not believe their eyes. Fenton felt as if an ice-pack had been placed upon his stomach. Instinctively his fingers tightened about the automatic, for into his mind flashed the thought that there was a slight chance of escape if he could shoot his way clear and disappear into the darkness.
But before he could stir, the torch moved sideways away from his eyes, and at once came a gasp from the knot of people gathered about the doorway.
“Der Englander! Jawohl, der Englander!” And then followed a confused murmur of voices, some of which sounded hostile.
It was obvious to Fenton that he was no longer the centre of interest. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the beam of light was now focused on the woman whom he had rescued.
It was the first time he had been able to see her. She was dressed in an expensive fur coat, held closely about her neck, and beneath her hat, which she wore at a fashionable angle, he caught a glimpse of a pair of sea-green eyes blinking rapidly in the light of the torch, and a thin-lipped, rather set mouth.
Again came the menacing murmur, and Fenton remembered how he had heard a feminine voice call out in English. Was it possible for this girl to be of the same nationality as himself? Then at the back of his mind came the little niggling idea that he had seen her face before.
But he had no time for conjecture, for, shading her eyes with her hand, the girl raised her head defiantly and spoke in German.
“Jawohl, der Englander. And what have you alert and watchful guards to say?”
APPARENTLY the uniformed men had very little to say. They shuffled their feet uncomfortably at the girl’s sarcastic tone and muttered among themselves. The torch had been lowered, so that it no longer dazzled the two [>eople in the doorway.
“Well?” The single word cut across the night like a whiplash. In the last few seconds the girl had completely dominated the situation.
“We found it impossible to keep close to you in the darkness, Fraulein, and this man was able to avoid us,” came a dejected voice from beyond the circle of light.
“So?” The note of sarcasm still remained in the girl’s voice. “Is that all you have to say? Then listen to what I have to say. Your chief shall hear of this. Had it not been for this brave gentleman you might have had much to answer for. Your chief shall hear of him too.”
And her hand dropped lightly on Fenton’s shoulder.
Glory be! thought Fenton, almost dumfounded at the possibility of being presented to Adolf Hitler.
The girl moved from behind him, and, stepping over her prone assailant’s outfiung arm, went up to the men whose duty apparently it was to guard her. They were profuse in their apologies, while one was bold enough to point out that if the Fraulein had consented to travel by car in the usual way the unfortunate incident would never have occurred.
Fenton was deeply interested in this strange girl. Apart from the feeling that he had seen her face before, though he couldn’t for the life of him think where, he agreed that she must have an unusual standing in Germany if she was able to use the Leader’s name with such freedom and conviction. This might well be a trail worth following, and although he had not forgotten his appointment at Altmann’s Café he remained in the doorway, hoping that the girl would speak to him again.
She continued to talk with the guards, some of whom began to disperse the crowd. The wounded man was picked up and carried away into the darkness. It was at this point that Fenton felt someone take hold of his hand and tug gently.
He looked round. Now that the torch was occupied elsewhere he could scarcely see a yard in the darkness, but he caught a glimpse of a pale face, and suddenly he sensed that Greta Mayer had come in search of him. With a swift glance in the direction of the guards he slipped through the remnants of the crowd, putting the automatic pistol into his pocket. Perhaps it was as well, he decided, that he should not become more deeply involved in the matter. But he could not banish from his mind the memory of the girl’s face as she stood in the doorway, defiant, proud, and arrogant.
Greta joined him at the café door, and they went down the stairs together, choosing a table as far away from the other customers as possible. When their modest order had been brought, Greta leaned toward him.
“What happened?” she asked anxiously. “I had nearly reached the café when I heard that shot, and I feared ...” She broke off with a shrug of her shoulders. “So I hurried up to see if I could help.”
“That was good of you, if you thought I might be in danger,” said Fenton.
She smiled. “It is all part of our work. Tell me what took place. Who shot the man?”
“I did,” Fenton admitted, and gave a full explanation of the incident.
When he had finished Greta slid her arm across the table-top.
“Hold my hand,” she said. “We must pretend we are lovers.”
“I say,” Fenton expostulated, as he obeyed with an alacrity which brought a startled look into Greta’s dark eyes, “let us observe the proprieties! Say, rather, that we are courting. The word ‘lovers’ is open to a wide variety of misinterpretations.”
The girl laughed. ‘‘The point is that we must have an obvious reason for meeting here and talking so seriously. Then the other customers are not likely to take an unhealthy interest in us. One cannot be too careful in Germany today.”
“So it seems,” agreed Fenton, and as Greta withdrew her hand he slid his feet forward and imprisoned hers between them. A stout German who had been watching them from behind the cover of his newspaper smiled to himself and returned to his reading.
AGAIN that peculiar, almost fearful look appeared in Greta’s eyes.
“You’ve done this before,” she said accusingly.
Fenton smiled. “ ‘One man in his time plays many parts,’ ” he quoted airily. “Women, I regret to say, are as an open book to me.” He coughed apologetically. “Sad, but true—sometimes!”
“I don’t quite know what to make of you,” Greta said, staring at him fixedly. “You speak like a fool, but you can’t be that, or else you wouldn’t last long in this game, nor would you have been sent to Germany.”
“I shouldn’t worry yourself. It’s a relief sometimes to talk nonsense, and who can talk it better than two lovers —er—sorry—a courting couple?”
Greta shook her head and laughed, and the stout German, who was peeping from behind his newspaper smiled again to himself.
“It was fortunate that I fetched you away from that fracas,” said Greta, coming back to more important matters. “If you had been brought up as a witness, you would probably have had an uncomfortable time.”
A frown appeared on Fenton’s forehead. “I was wondering about that. The police will be on the look-out for me for shooting that fellow, and that’s going to be a darn sight more uncomfortable than being a witness.”
“Somehow I think you won’t hear anything more about the affair.”
“You think that?” Fenton asked, in surprise. “Why?” He stretched out his hand, and Greta twined her fingers about his. The stout German sighed, as if remembering the days of his own youth.
“Since women are an open book to you perhaps you can explain the lady in the case,” Greta smiled mischievously.
“Odd you should say that.” The frown returned to Fenton’s forehead. “I’ve an idea I know her face.”
“Not, I hope, an old flame?” Greta, of course, knew nothing of Fenton’s private life. “That might be awkward.” “Oh, no, nothing like that. I have probably seen her photograph.”
“Quite probably. She is the famous, or rather notorious, Althea Remington.”
“ Himmel!” exclaimed Fenton. “Of course, that explains why I knew her face, and why she referred to the Fuehrer as if he was her boy friend.”
For the name of Althea Remington was well known both in England and Germany. The only daughter of an industrial magnate, who had left her a million and a half when she was a few months over twenty| one, she had startled her friends and horrified her relations by plunging headlong into politics, imbued with certain iconoclastic ideas which she firmly believed would benefit her country.
As she was a headstrong young woman with decided views and a disinclination to listen to the advice of her elders, it was not long before she fell out with all well-established political parties, declaring roundly that they wanted her money and not her personal assistance. Then, furious that her capabilities were not taken at her own valuation, she had for a few weeks embraced the creed of Fascism.
But that imported growth seemed unlikely to make much progress in a Northern climate. Althea needed something more virile upon which to bestow her enthusiasm, and she found it during a visit to Germany. The amazingly clever propaganda and showmanship of the Nazi party swept her off her feet.
No religion had a quicker or a more ardent convert, and the Nazis, ever ready to utilize anyone who might be of use to them, gave her every encouragement.
She was admitted into the highest circles, which flattered her vanity tremendously, and she was carefully photographed with various Nazi leaders. Germany was regarded with suspicion at that time, and this led to more trouble with her relatives. They were not tactful—they seldom are—and Althea, accustomed to having her own way, told them blunt home-truths which stuck like burrs and caused internal family strife for many months.
It was unfortunate that her enthusiasm ran away with her. Her oft-repeated opinion that a little Nazism would help to rejuvenate a decadent England was not received at all favorably. Outspoken, and
far from diplomatic, unwilling to listen to friendly advice, she caused much unpleasantness for herself and the few friends she had left by her vehement support of the Nazi faith. The German photographs did not go down well in England, and Althea found life far more pleasant in Berlin. She was living there when war broke out, and either she did not want to return to England or permission to do so was refused. No one knew the truth about that point save herself and certain high authorities.
Greta glanced up sharply. “Did she really refer to the Fuehrer?”
“She said, ‘your chief.’ I took it that she meant Hitler.” “No,” said Greta. “The men to whom she spoke were Gestapo. They are her special bodyguard given to her by Himmler himself, because her life has been threatened more than once. But Himmler acted on instructions of one even more important than himself, although he is unknown to the general public.”
“And who is that?”
“Julius von Arne, the Chief of Intelligence to the Third Reich.”
“Is that so?” murmured Fenton, and Greta thought that his quiet voice was caused by amazement at the information she had given him.
It is true Fenton was surprised, but that feeling was only momentary. In a flash his mind flew back to a recent adventure in Lithuania when he had found himself in opposition to Julius von Arne, and had experienced the pleasure of scoring a notable victory against him. They had never met, though they had spoken over the telephone, the German at that time being unaware of the identity of the man with whom he conversed. Moreover, Fenton had happy memories of eavesdropping outside a window and hearing Von Arne not only pay his intelligence and astuteness a high tribute, but also reveal the plan with which it was proposed to trap him.
“Julius von Arne,” he repeated softly, and gave a little smile, as if he was pleased at the prospect of renewing hostilities with his former foe.
Greta, however, saw nothing amusing in the name. “He is a very dangerous and a very clever man,” she said seriously, “and he seems to be—fascinated by Fraulein Remington. It is best to keep clear of such people. Perhaps she would have presented you to him to receive his thanks.” “A situation which I should not have appreciated. Once again I thank you for getting me out of what might easily have been an awkward corner.” He stroked her hand, and she smiled. The fat German behind the newspaper sighed, for he remembered that he had once behaved in a similar fashion to his Matilda, and she had liked it. Now when he reached home she would nag him for stopping so long at Altmann’s, and if he patted her hand she would think he was drunk. He reflected dismally that he had not the means of meriting that suspicion.
“But,” said Greta, “you have not asked why I summoned you to the café tonight.”
“In the excitement I’m afraid it slipped my mind,” Fenton confessed. “You have news?”
The girl nodded. “You remember Otto’s friend?”
“The man with ‘his visage so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.’ Yes?”
A little windsock with its podded sides Tugging against the currents of the air;
A runway facing up against the sun,
Color and life and movement everywhere.
Gay lads in blue who dare the vaulted skies,
Songs on their lips and laughter in their eyes.
There is a whirr of swift propeller blades,
A face above the cockpit flushed and gay;
A lifted hand, the slamming of a door,
A little rushing wind and he's away.
Gaining his altitude with splendid ease.
Like a great bird circling above the trees.
Whence comes this breed of men, this splendid race Knights of the arching skies, these sons of ours?
At home amid the clouds, they ride aloft Counting a life-span by their flying hours;
A shining speck above earth's weary trails,
Charting the skies on flashing silver sails.
"I have found him," said Greta simply. "I have found Hans Erthardt."
UMIL DOLLINGER moved slowly along the gangway between the benches in the main shop of the Krobel Engineering Works, his eyes wandering from side to side. In front of him he pushed a small handcart divided into compartments. Every now and then he paused and, stopping by the side of a workman, swept into a dustpan any scraps of metal, filings, or waste of any kind which had fallen to the floor. This salvage he placed in the appropriate compartments in the cart.
The task was not heavy and, though it demanded little brainwork, it involved a good deal of walking. For those three reasons it suited Lawrence Fenton very well indeed, for he was able to move about the works and observe things without incurring much risk. He was more than grateful to Greta Mayer for discovering that so humble a post was vacant, and advising him as to the best way to apply for it.
A few days after Greta’s discovery of the whereabouts of Hans Erhardt, Otto Hirschfeld had announced sadly to his landlady that he was obliged to return to his home in South Germany because his finances had been badly hit by the war and he could not afford to remain in Berlin. Frau Koernig was loath to lose so well behaved a lodger, and wept a little when Otto took his scanty luggage.
Fenton spent that night in Greta’s flat. She had procured clothes suitable for his new character, and when he left early in the morning while it was still dark to walk to the Krobel Engineering Works, which were situated in a northern suburb of the city, the resurrected Otto was once more safely interred.
In his new identity of Emil Dollinger, Fenton secured the job without difficulty, mainly because his employer was tired of having his workmen called up for military and other services, and Emil’s papers stated that he was exempt on account of weak eyesight. Fenton had retained Otto’s horn-rimmed spectacles, for he knew by experience that they helped considerably to disguise his face and expression, besides being an excellent excuse for him to peer shortsightedly at things.
Fenton pushed his cart along, looking keenly to left and right for any signs of waste material. Occasionally he indulged in a little banter with the workmen at the benches, but he took care that the overseer was nowhere near, for conversation was classed as a waste of time. Because everyone had been ordered to work his hardest to enable the war to be brought to an early and satisfactory conclusion, waste of time was as serious an offense as waste of material. Waste was the great bogey which was continually being raised to frighten the German people.
Suddenly the door of the main bay opened with a rattle of runners, and into the shop came a curious group. Between two S.S. men shambled an odd, twisted figure which moved in a series of spasmodic jerks. The left foot was turned inward at such an angle that the right foot in coming forward stepped over it with a scarcely controlled kick. The arms swung loosely from bowed shoulders. But it was the man’s features which attracted the greater attention.
The whole face was drawn up toward the left cheekbone, where there was an irregularly shaped reddish-purple scar that extended down the cheek, below the ear, which was crumpled like a piece of paper, and across the neck, until it vanished beneath the man’s collar. The left eye was a mere slit in the corrugated and creased skin of the scar, while the wide-open right eye glared with a kind of feverish malevolence. Form and feature out-Calibaned Caliban, and Hans Erhardt, as he progressed with a short, jerking limp across the shop between his guards, looked scarcely human.
Curiously enough the explosion which had played havoc with his body had not affected his mind. One of the most brilliant students of his year, he had graduated at Heidelberg, and afterward taken up electrical research assisted by Otto Hirschfeld. He was arrested without warning because of his undisguised hostility toward the Nazi Party, and when his notebooks, which contained the results of his experiments, were examined by a scientist whose allegiance to the Party was above suspicion, it was found that he was on the fringe of a great invention.
But the notes were useless without the brain behind them. Erhardt was interviewed in the concentration camp to which he had been sent, and at first he denied all knowledge of the matter. The production of his notebooks proved that he was lying, but he still refused to discuss his experiments. Thus, he imagined, he would be revenged upon the political faith which he loathed.
The Nazis, however, had been confronted before with obstinacy born of hatred, and were not in the least dismayed. They began to break down Erhardt’s resistance by systematic and callous cruelty. Only Erhardt himself knew the physical and mental agony he endured, and, like many a better man, he finally surrendered, and agreed to continue his experiments under Nazi supervision.
He told himself that he was not obliged to discover anything—no one could force him to do that—but he had reckoned without Nazi cunning. With an understanding of psychology which was unusual, they guessed that his enthusiasm for his work would eventually outweigh everything else. And they were right. Moreover, they were careful to have his work checked.
As an outlet to his misery Hans Erhardt plunged into his work with ever-growing enthusiasm, and very quickly became completely absorbed in it. Every morning he was brought by car from the concentration camp to Krobel’s Works, where he occupied a laboratory equipped with all the apparatus he required. If he needed a thing he had only to ask and it was provided, no matter what the cost. But at dusk he was escorted back to the squalor and dejection of the concentration camp, and his mind descended from the scientific heaven in which he had spent the day to the unutterable misery which the Nazis axe so adept at creating.
TAWRENCE FENTON was well aware of all this. Some of it had been related by Greta, some he had seen for himself. There was one thing about which he was quite certain. The discomforts of the concentration camp, the poor food, the strain of the work, and the callous treatment of the guards were all combining to bring about a breakdown of Hans Erhardt’s health.
Week by week Fenton had watched him as he crossed the main shop and passed through the door marked Verboten, and as time went on it seemed that Erhardt’s stoop increased, his uncertain steps grew slower, and he appeared to be losing strength.
Fenton carefully collected some brass shavings and placed them in his cart. The workman next to whom he was standing glanced in the direction of Erhardt.
“I’ve often wondered what he does behind that door,” he muttered.
But Emil Dollinger was not to be drawn. For if he whispered one incautious word it was quite possible that he would be denounced to the shop Party man. Publicity was the one thing he wished to avoid.
“Ah,” he said slowly, “no doubt many of us have wondered at that, but the door says Verboten, and that's good enough for me.”
He pushed his cart farther along the alleyway, and out of the corner of his eye watched Hans Erhardt stagger out of the shop. Fenton knew well enough what the inventor did behind the forbidden door. In that laboratory experiments were being conducted which the Nazis expected would result in the construction of that secret weapon by means of which they hoped to win the war. Fenton’s task was to discover the nature of the weapon and prevent the Germans using it by every means in his power. On that particular morning he had no more idea how to solve the problem than he had when he first entered the works.
He knew that Hans Erhardt’s health was failing, but to bank on the man’s dying and taking his great secret with him before his work was completed savored far too much of good fortune. For a time, knowing Erhardt’s hatred of the Nazis, which was doubtless intensified by the illtreatment he had received in the concentration camp, Fenton had toyed with the notion of trying to buy the man’s knowledge. Prolonged consideration had convinced him that this was the plan most likely to be successful. But how was he to establish contact with a man so carefully guarded? At the moment that difficulty appeared to be insurmountable.
Trying to comfort himself with the
saying that big things have small beginnings. Fenton took to working in the main gangway at the time when Erhardt passed by. It was impossible for the inventor to fail to notice him, and Fenton hoped that if ever he was able to speak to him without undue risk, Erhardt would recognize him as a workman from Krobel’s.
One day Lawrie was industriously cleaning up the main gangway when Erhardt came hobbling toward him with one guard in front and one behind. Fenton noticed how very ill he looked, and it was obvious that walking called for a tremendous effort. Once or twice his steps were uncertain and he reeled slightly.
The guards did not seem to be unduly worried about this, but as Erhardt came abreast of the odd-job man his strength gavé way and he collapsed on the floor. Instinctively, yet aware that here was a chance to draw Erhardt’s attention to himself, Fenton stooped to assist the fallen man. The next instant he was sent flying down the gangway by the boot of one of the guards.
The force of the kick had been partly taken by his forearm, otherwise he would probably have suffered several broken ribs. Slowly he picked himself up and adjusted his glasses. The guards were bending over Hans Erhardt, and while Fenton watched they picked him up and carried him through the door marked Verboten.
Fenton returned to his work, followed by the muttered sympathy of the men at the benches, decent fellows for the most part, with no liking for any of the five varieties of police by means of which the Nazi Party maintains order in the Reich. He kept a careful watch upon the main gangway where there was much coming and going of doctors and officials. Two hours elapsed before Hans Erhardt reappeared. and then he was carried out. a twisted, motionless form upon a stretcher. But Fenton noted that the blankets which covered him were not drawn over the scarred face.
A FEW days later Lawrie met Greta by arrangement near the Tiergarten during the blackout. They had synchronized their watches and agreed upon the exact time and place. As they walked slowly past, almost invisible to each other in the darkness, Fenton whispered, “Is that you, darling?”
“Emil !” replied Greta.
They linked arms, walked a few yards, and then stood embracing each other against a wall. If any policeman discovered them they were merely lovers, and the information which Greta poured into Fenton’s ear could not possibly be heard by any eavesdropper.
“He has been taken to a nursing-home,” Greta whispered. “It is collapse through bad living conditions, ill-treatment, and overwork. His room is closely guarded, and no one is allowed to see him.”
“Will he recover?”
“I think so, but not for some weeks.” Greta had means of obtaining information which were denied to Fenton. “And when he does I do not think they will allow him to return to the camp. They value his life too highly, and they have had a bad fright. If he had died before his work was completed ...”
“Perhaps,” murmured Fenton, “it is a pity he hasn’t. It would have saved me a lot of trouble.”
“Have you any plan?”
“Yes. Nothing very concrete, but if they do not take him back to the camp we have a chance. I think.”
“I see what you mean. It is impossible to approach him at the works?”
“It is,” said Fenton ruefully, remembering the large bruises on forearm and ribs from the Nazi guard's boot.
“And I,” the girl continued, “have found no method of making contact in the camp. He has no friends; he seems to shun company. I believe Otto was the only person who knew him really well.”
“If only these Nazis weren’t so thorough,” sighed Fenton. “But surely our luck must turn soon.”
“When I have more news we will meet again.”
“The same time and place?”
“Yes. Auf Wiedersehen."
“Good luck,” whispered Fenton, and momentarily tightened his arms about her, for he admired Greta. She possessed courage and resource such as he had seldom met.
They parted in the darkness, Greta to her lonely flat, Fenton to the humble workman’s dwelling where he was a welcome lodger.
Fenton’s labors at the works continued without incident for three weeks. Hans Erhardt remained in the nursing-home, and the door marked Verboten remained shut and locked. One morning, however, the works were disturbed by the entry of a considerable force of Gestapo. They swarmed through the entrances and spread out through the shops like bees leaving a hive. The workmen watched them sullenly as they went along every bench, peered behind and underneath, searched every drawer, and examined the identity cards of every man in the building. Fenton emerged from the ordeal without arousing any suspicion, but with an increased admiration for Teutonic thoroughness.
The works wondered why they had been favored with this visitation, and there was much murmured speculation when a number of Gestapo remained behind when the night shift took over. There was something in the air, and in Nazi Germany the uncertainty of what that something was put everybody’s nerves on edge.
When Fenton arrived the following morning the Gestapo were still in charge, and the rumor had gone round that the Fuehrer himself intended to visit the works.
Fenton noted that the information was received by the operatives with veiled apprehension rather than with that extravagantly exuberant enthusiasm which the personality of Adolf Hitler is alleged to arouse in the hearts of his adherents.
The British agent was not surprised. What he had seen since his arrival in Germany had confirmed his earlier opinion that the Fuehrer’s power lay mainly with the Hitler Youth, whose souls and bodies he had so carefully subordinated to his purpose, and in the outrageous fear that Nazi oppression had imposed upon the minds of men and women of another more stable and less emotional generation.
It so happened that Fenton, as he felt at the time, was caught, most unfortunately, in the full glare of a completely undesired publicity. As usual he was trundling his handcart slowly round one of the shops, and pausing here and there to collect waste metals, while he listened for interesting items of conversation. He had just reached the main gangway, when a stentorian bellow of “Achtung!" brought him to a sudden standstill. Next moment he was aware of a party of strangers coming straight along the gangway toward him.
But it was not Adolf Hitler who accompanied the head of Krobel’s. Beside the managing director tripped a pert little fellow. His head was abnormally large, and seemed to wobble as he walked, despite the support of a pair of broad shoulders. Below the ribs the body of this surprising creature dwindled into narrow hips and the spindle shanks of a lad of twelve. The sallow skin of his countenance seemed to be drawn uncomfortably tight over the skull. His mouth was like that of a frog, hut, despite the intermittent mechanical smiles which constantly parted his lips and revealed rabbity teeth, this man’s eyes were venomous. He was tricked out in an elaborate uniform which might betoken the habitual vanity of the physically abnormal. There was something ghoulish beneath the Puckish surface appearance of the little fellow which made Lawrie Fenton shudder inwardly. He had an instinctive horror of the abnormal and the unclean, and might well have given definite offense by his stare of fascinated amazement had not a sudden, quickly stiffed exclamation drawn attention to him in quite another manner.
rTHE exclamation, which had sounded like a cry of recognition, came from a woman whose features had been concealed from Fenton by the bulk of the managing director. Now his eyes encountered those of the girl who had cried out.
Fenton knew her at once. There was no mistaking the dark bronze head beneath the small green turban hat, nor the restless sea-green eyes set in the clear-cut pale features which would have made Althea Remington so suitable a model for Titian. Also she wore the famous emerald pendent earrings which had belonged to unhappy Marie Antoinette in an era no less evil than that created by the Nazis.
No one save Fenton and the little man in uniform seemed to notice the exclamation, but the latter whipped round like a cockchafer spun upon a pin.
“Well, what about the workman?” he demanded. “Are you afraid the fellow will attempt my assassination?”
The question was asked in a surprisingly large voice for so small a man, and was followed by a deep, booming chuckle.
“No, no, mein Herr. I said nothing about a workman. I—I must have stepped on something. I cried out because I turned my ankle.”
“Hum!” The little man’s alert eyes swiftly scanned the floor and saw nothing upon which the girl could have tripped. Fenton wondered if Althea Remington had made that excuse because of some look of warning which had appeared subconsciously in his own glance. Meanwhile he had placed his man. Fenton had a peculiar ability to recognize people by their voices, even voices heard but once over the telephone. He had heard this deep, booming voice twice before: once when he had mounted a barrel in a yard in Memel to listen to invisible men conversing in a room of a night club, and once when he had spoken to Von Arne by telephone from Kaunas. But he was to be given no further time for reminiscence or speculation.
Von Arne stepped forward and, taking Fenton by the wrist, swung him brutally against a bench. Instinctively the Englishman’s muscles stiffened, for above all else he hated being manhandled. At the first faint hint of resistance the German tightened his grip to a degree amazing for a person of so frail an appearance, and his eyes blazed with purely sadistic enjoyment in the infliction of pain upon a person who, it was to be assumed, would not dare to retaliate.
Lawrie felt the bones of his wrist cracking, but he resisted the temptation to wrench his arm free, to smash his fist into the set smile and the sneering eyes that stared gloatingly at him. He contrived, indeed, to look thoroughly sheepish and frightened, as he stood holding his bruised wrist, while the party of visitors passed on.
The mechanic from whose bench he had been collecting waste material when the incident occurred, muttered a word of sympathy.
“Who was the—gentleman?” asked Fenton.
“I do not know,” came the answer. “None of us know. Someone pretty big, I think. He has been here before, but even to the Gestapo he seems to be a mystery, or if they know about him they say nothing.”
Fenton trundled his handcart to the room where all the waste material from the shop must be deposited in the appropriate containers. Here he knew of a quiet, wellconcealed nook in which he could rest and think, but although he longed for the biting whiff of a cigarette to stimulate speculation he dared not light one. That,
like so many other pleasures of life in Nazi Germany, was verboten in factories and workshops. The slightest smell of smoke would have betrayed him to one or other of the Paul Prying sycophants who were always hanging about in the hope of being able to curry favor by spotting a fellowworkman in some small misdemeanor. Very shamefacedly Lawrie produced a packet of chewing gum from the pocket of his dirty overall.
As he sat there on a scrap heap with his shoulders resting against the bottom of an upturned barrow and his jaws working steadily, he reflected how much pleasanter it would have been to lie back in a deep chair at, say, the Adlon or the Meurice, with immaculate clothes upon his limbs, a long drink at his elbow, and freedom to smoke and survey the world through his monocle, while he gave his attention in decent comfort to the problems presented by recent happenings.
To have recognized Von Arne by his great booming voice was something of an achievement. He had known, when he was investigating another matter in Lithuania not long after the Nazis had marched into Memel, that Von Arne was a pretty big noise in the German spy service, but then he had regarded the man, upon whom he had not yet set his eyes, as a sort of super-spy. Now Greta Mayer had said that Von Arne was the bright little King Pippin of the whole Intelligence outfit.
rT'HEN there was the English girl, Althea Remington, to be considered. Hitherto Lawrie, like most of her countrymen, had been inclined to regard her merely as a particularly nasty piece of work. He had thought of her as a young woman spoiled by the possession of too great wealth.
Now he was not sure if the general judgment of the world upon Althea Remington was right. Was she something far greater than the rich little charlatan who had fled her country because the political bigwigs would eat of her fieshpots but would give no adoration to her intellect? Had she in embracing Hitlerism found a faith which satisfied her, or was it true that she, like so many women, had experienced that extraordinary attraction which Adolf Hitler—a scrubby, repulsivelooking person, as most men see him—has for the opposite sex?
Much depended upon the solution of that problem, for here was an English woman actually persona grata with the secret head of the German Secret Service, and probably upon intimate terms also with the Fuehrer.
If she was just a fanatically blind disciple of Hitler, Fenton felt that her reconversion to a decent faith might induce her to serve her own country, but if she was genuinely in love with the German Leader, then the British agent doubted if much use could be made of her.
And then Fenton drew in a long breath, for it had just dawned upon him that Althea Remington, by getting herself hated in her own country and despised throughout the world as that most despicable of all beings, a traitor, had built up the most perfect camouflage for espionage.
Was that what she really was—a British agent? But no, she could not be. Otherwise he felt certain that Sir George Fawley would have put him wise to the game, would have put him in touch with Althea as the most likely of all people to get him the information they wanted. Fenton decided that he must find occasion for further conversation with Althea Remington.
At the moment, Fenton felt, he had but one string to his bow, but one line of approach to the problem Sir George Fawley had set him to solve. This girl, if he could enlist her help, might enable him to tackle the secret from an entirely different angle. Fenton believed that Hans Erhardt was perfecting the secret weapon with which the Nazis had so long threatened the world?
A further meeting between Lawrence Fenton and Althea Remington was not, however, to be easily brought about. Von Arne’s suspicions had been roused by the incidents of the afternoon, and the British agent quickly became aware of having fallen beneath the shadow of a constant and relentless surveillance.
It was no new experience, nor one to disturb him greatly. He was far too old a player of the Great Game to leave untidy tags to his work for inquisitive people to catch hold of. This the Secret Police discovered quickly when the domiciliary visit was paid to the place where he dwelt.
Fenton was away at work when the police went through his room, and his landlady had nothing but good to report of her single, stay-at-home lodger, Emil Dollinger. She liked Emil, and would have warned him that the police had been through his effects, but she had been given her orders, and—well—one does not disobey such orders in Nazi Germany.
Fenton, in the character of the docile Emil, smiled secretly, for he was well aware that every single thing he possessed had been searched with amazing thoroughness and put back in place with the most meticulous care.
In the workshops men with whom he had exchanged barely a dozen words previously, suddenly acquired the habit of laying down their tools at his approach, ostensibly for the purpose of placing waste material in the appropriate compartments of his handcart. In reality those new acquaintances did their level best to draw him into discreetly whispered conversations. Some tried to extract a promise from him to attend certain secret meetings.
Other men he sometimes heard talking of their dreams, and these he knew to be secret listeners to the rigorously prohibited foreign radio stations.
All, or any, of these people might be trying to trap him, or he might have found among them a genuine anti-Nazi friend, but he was taking no chances. Presently he was dropped as being an utterly dumb proposition, as a German put it who had returned from America to serve the Fatherland.
So the active canvassing within the works to get Emil Dollinger to commit himself was abandoned, but everywhere he went by daylight Lawrie knew that eyes were watching him, and if he moved abroad in the blackout the echoing sound of following footsteps was never absent from his ears.
In the blackout, however, it must be remembered that the shadower is at a greater disadvantage than the person he is following. Lawrie realized this, and acted accordingly after he had twice been called upon to produce his papers. On the second occasion he had been taken to a police station for further examination. His papers were absolutely in order, and no amount of questioning could shake his statements.
It looked as though the British agent had been provided by Greta Mayer with a stone-cold certainty in the way of a castiron identity. Nevertheless Fenton was fully aware that if the Gestapo wanted evidence or incriminating admissions nothing would be easier than for them to clap him into a concentration camp, where a cross-examination could be conducted by methods sufficiently “persuasive” to cause the dead to rise and speak.
Before going out that evening Emil informed his landlady that he expected to be away for a few days. Ten minutes later, securely hidden in the blackout, Lawrie removed his glasses, slightly altered his appearance, working entirely by sense of touch, and quite easily dropped the man who was shadowing him.
That evening a tailor disposed of a window model suit which he had long ago despaired of selling, for it had been made by a famous firm of London tailors, and Greta Mayer received a message.
nPHE DOORKEEPER at the International Press Club, which is in a quiet cul-de-sac not far from the Brandenburg Tor, was a very old man. He had taken the place of his son, who had long since gone to the Front.
Old Fritz sighed as he thought of his son, for he remembered his own sufferings in various front-line trenches during three winters of the last war. He hoped that Heinz was getting better food as a soldier than his poor old father was allowed as a civilian. He hoped, too, that his son would be neither wounded nor killed, and he chuckled as he remembered how each night his wife offered up a prayer that their son might be spared the horrors of captivity in England.
How silly these women were, to be sure. His Rita believed the stories spread by the Ministry of Propaganda about the cruelties inflicted upon their prisoners of war by the English, of how so many had died of exposure, brutality, and disease bred of semi-starvation. Old Fritz knew better in his own heart than to take notice of such stuff and nonsense. Had not his comrade Kurt Lubeck been a prisoner in the last war? Had he not said he had been better fed and treated as a prisoner in England than as a private in the German Army? And had he not continued to write until the outbreak of this war to the kind people on whose farm he had been sent to work in a part of England called Devon?
Fritz was still chuckling over the foolish gullibility of women when someone tapped on the enquiry window of his cubbyhole. After making sure that the door leading to the cul-de-sac was closed, he switched on a light, and saw, standing in the passage, a well-set-up, well-dressed man, in one of whose keen eyes gleamed a monocle.
Fritz sprang smartly to attention. As a soldier of the old German Army he was quick to recognize a member of the old Officer Corps class who, having fallen upon evil times, had doubtless sustained the misfortune of becoming a mere journalist. He answered promptly and with the greatest respect when asked which of the American special correspondents happened to be in the club at the moment.
Satisfied with the answer given, Fenton strolled upstairs and into the bar, where he ordered a short drink. He felt peculiarly safe for the moment, since the very last place he imagined the Gestapo woujd be likely to enter for the purpose of inspecting passports and identity papers was the International Press Club. Dr. Goebbels had a particularly unpleasant way of dealing with any subordinate who was so indiscreet as to upset the susceptibilities of foreign press correspondents.
After finishing his aperitif Fenton strolled to a secluded corner from which he could get a good view of the bar, and asked a passing Kellner to bring him a plate of sandwiches and a Stein of Pilsener. Again he was lucky, for the American accent in which he took care to speak German was as good as a whole ration-book. Goebbels had issued orders that foreign correspondents, especially Americans, were to be given the best possible impression of the food situation within the Reich.
Almost an hour went by before the hundred-to-one chance upon which Fenton had gambled came off. The sandwiches had long since vanished, the beer mug had been twice replenished, and he was looking out for a waiter to refill it once more, when his eyes lit up at the sight of a bronzed, lean-faced young fellow who entered and lounged toward the bar.
AS USUALLY happens upon such occad*sions. the newcomer, having perched himself upon a high stool, allowed his eyes to roam round the room while the barman was preparing the highball he had ordered.
Fenton made a quick gesture of warning and then crooked a beckoning finger as the newcomer’s inquisitive glance reached the corner where he was sitting. For an
instant he held his breath. The American youngster, especially if he had already had a few, might just as likely as not let out a regular whoop of excited welcome when he recognized the familiar features behind the famous monocle.
As it was. Steven Levant, with the quickness of the trained journalist, appreciated the slight gesture and waved an airy hand as if greeting some slight acquaintance. Presently he picked up his drink and sauntered over to Fenton’s corner. His poker-face expression gave nothing away as he seated himself at the table.
“Heaven’s heraldry, Lawrie, but you sure are a sight for sore eyes in this outfit. But what are you doing in Berlin with a war on?”
“It’s good to see you, Steve,” smiled Fenton. “How d'you feel about the situation?”
“Meaning do I like the Huns?”
“I do not. So for the love of Mike don’t tell me if you have turned renegade and taken up broadcasting. I thought you once played for the Gentlemen?”
“That’s what you called me at our last meeting. But, honest, Lawrie, what’s the layout and the low-down?”
“I, too, am an American journalist—for the moment; and you can help me—professionally.”
“Oh, yeah! And you expected to find me here!”
“I did not. This was the safest place I could think of in which to pass an hour or so, and there was always the millionth chance that I might run across some special correspondent who does not like Adolf’s little pets, and so would be willing to give me the small amount of aid I am seeking.”
“I understand, and I’m asking no questions, Lawrie. So come clean, and all I’ve got is yours up to three grand.” “Splendid fellow! D'you think you could get an interview for a fellow pressman with Althea Remington?”
“I can, and, oh, boy, what a story it’ll make if you arrest her and smuggle her out of the country right under the noses of the Nasties.”
“Don’t let your Wild West imagination run away with you, Steve,” came the warning. “All I want is a quiet heart-toheart talk with the young woman to see if I can get at her real viewpoint. It may seem odd to some people, but we British seldom condemn a person for sticking up for their perfectly honest convictions. Only-—in this particular case especially— we’ve got to make very sure that the lady is convinced, and has not turned against her own country from mere pique or because the Nazis have flattered her vanity. Honestly, Steve, I’ve just got to get the story.”
“Just as you say. son,” Levant answered, “and what you say goes with me. I’m asking no questions. All I want to say is that when we met in Poland long before this war, and again later in Finland, I was never able to fathom what game you were playing. Now. maybe, you’re jockeying me along to get you the biggest scoop story any British journal ever published. That’s okay by me, boy, because it’s not American news, but mighty good journalism for you. Or maybe you’re a British agent, and that’s not so good—not because of where it might lead me. but it might land my paper into trouble.”
“All right, Steve, let’s forget it. What about a drink, and I’ll be going.”
“Going nothing! The devil ! What d’you take me for, Lawrie?”
“A fool maybe.”
“Yeah? And enough of a fool not to creep in out of the rain to save himself a wetting when a pal is shouting for the loan of an umbrella?”
NEXT morning the representative of the New York Argus-Mentor interviewed Miss Althea Remington by appointment in her private suite at the Meurice. But it was Lawrie Fenton who sent in the card of Stevan Levant and who was presently received in the lady’s boudoir.
It was in many ways a curious room, and one, Fenton assumed, which reflected what was probably this young Englishwoman’s muddled state of mind. On the other hand vanity alone might have led to the display upon the walls and elsewhere of small Eastern trophies and unusual foreign paintings as evidence of how widely she had travelled. Vanity, however, would not account for the presence in one corner of a prie-dieu, unless it was some valuable museum piece. Against the theory, again, was the fact that above the prie-dieu hung a small, exquisite painting of the Mother and Child.
It was hard to reconcile these evidences of religion with Althea Remington’s close association with the Nazis, or, for that matter, of their association with her.
Fenton took care during the conversation which followed to maintain a drawling American accent, for no one knew better than he how quickly a person may be betrayed by the normal timbre of a voice once heard.
Slowly it dawned upon him as he talked with this strange girl that she was neither an irresponsible fanatic nor a vain fool. Slowly, by her words and the way in which they were spoken, she built up, unconsciously perhaps, a picture of herself in her companion’s mind as a Seeker.
She seemed to Fenton to be a woman who, despite her youth, had already gained great experience. She had, he thought, followed more than one faith, but had come through and beyond them to a state of bewilderment. Religions and their rituals had lost their hold upon her, but without the comfort of a creed she felt as naked as a waif whipped by the bitter winds of winter.
Yet she was still searching fearlessly for the great truth and the great ideal which would bring peace to her tormented soul. She cared not whence she found it. Creed, color, or caste meant nothing so long as her ultimate success was assured.
For the moment it was evident that she believed that she had found in the doctrine of the Nazis the fulfillment of all her hopes for a better world. What could be no more than a political creed even to Hitler and his closest adherents had become for Althea Remington a new revelation and a faith for which she might die or betray her country. She was, Fenton judged, of the stuff of martyrs.
And yet Lawrie left the Meurice with one faint gleam of hope in his heart. During the interview he had not sought to influence her in any way. Indeed, to have done so in his guise of an American journalist would have been suicidal. Besides, it was obvious that she was completely denaturalized. Hitler as the high priest of Nazism might well be the object of her fanatical adoration, but she probably cared no more for Germany than for her own country.
And yet Lawrie wondered if there was hope for her future. For when as an American he had spoken well of England a slight flush had mounted to her pale cheeks, her eyes had become misty, and her expression one of wistful longing. Despite that doubt he could not hope for her help at present, he felt certain.
This being so, there remained Greta Mayer and the hope of buying or forcing from Hans Erhardt the secret of his invention.
Fenton stepped into a telephone kiosk in the hall of the Meurice and dialled a number at which Greta had told him that he could count upon getting into touch with her at almost any time.
While he was talking a man came out of the lift and hurried toward the hotel entrance. But just as he was passing the telephone-box he seemed to change his mind, for he sat down behind a palm and thoughtfully lit a cigarette.