Spy Against the Reich
In which an Intelligence Chief gets a daring woman’s final message: "He was tied up in a box-ottoman and he looked like a frog"
In the first days of the invasion of Poland
LAWRENCE FENTON, young Britisher, is purposely captured by the Nazis, and sometime later, back in England, his wife, Stella Fenton, reports the matter to elderly
SIR GEORGE FAWLEY. Chief of the Intelligence Department of the Foreign Of ice.
Months later, mysteriously freed from prison camp, Lawrence Fenton begins his work in Germany. Disguised, he meets
GRETA MAYER, a commercial artist who gives him a message from London mentioning a secret iveapon about which he is to collect information. En route one night to a cafe to meet Greta, he hears sounds of running feet in the blackout, a scuffling, and a woman’s voice cry out in English.
He saves her from a group of men. The woman thanks him and promises that the authorities shall hear of his good work.
From Greta. Fenton learns that the woman is
ALTHEA REMINGTON, wealthy English convert to the Nazi cause, who is close to the Nazi leaders.
On the trail of the secret weapon, Fenton gets a job— through Greta—in a factory where a crippled scientist.
HANS ERHARDT, is being forced by the Nazis to work on an invention that will revolutionize modern warfare.
VON ARNE, head of the Nazi Intelligence, comes to investigate the factory and Fenton is startled to see the English woman in the official party.
Greta Mayer learns that Hans Erhardt is living in a villa in the Hoffmanngarten, and manages to secure a position as the inventor-scientist’s housekeeper-secretary. She learns, too, that Erhardt hales the Nazis, and approaches him on the subject of his accepting payment for not completing his invention for Von Arne and the others. She is making good progress in the matter ivhen the door is crashed open by a uniformed figure and she is overcome with sheer terror at seeing behind him a black-bearded man whom she recognizes as being of the hated Gestapo.
Arriving as Greta is being taken to an internment camp, Fenton is recognized by the English girl, Althea Remington, as the workman from Krobel’s. Later he meets
JAKOB SCHAFER, member of the Freedom League, also interested in the suppression of Erhardt’s invention, who tells him that Greta Mayer has been tortured for information and since has died.
Fenton and Schafer plan to examine the secret iveapon at Krobel's, but that same day there is much commotion and the employees are called out to greet the Fuehrer, on a visit. Following the speech making there is wild jubilation as a British bomber is brought down in flames over the Krobel Works, and Fenton realizes that he has witnessed a demonstration of Erhardt’s secret weapon.
Schafer, who had been hidden there, later tells of what
went on in Erhardt’s laboratory during the Fuehrer’s visit and describes the flash of light which brought the plane down. Fenton and Schafer realize they must act quickly to stop the device’s completion for the Nazis. Fenton goes to an Austrian ex-pilot,
JOSEF VON VOSS, in the pay of the British Intelligence, who has agreed to steal a plane and fly to England with information; then Fenton disguises himself as a radio repair man and visits Althea Remington. While he is persuading her to lake a message to England, Von Arne arrives. Fenton binds and gags him, then leaves. Arriving back to make final arrangements with Von Foss, he learns that meanwhile the airman has been arrested by the Gestapo.
(This is the Seventh of Eight Parts)
THE MAN into whom Fenton had bumped on leaving the Meurice was in a quandary. Somewhere before, at no distant date, and in peculiar circumstances, he had seen the face upon which the beam of his torch had shone for an instant. But he was a heavywitted fellow, who owed his police appointment to a reputation for dogged tenacity rather than exceptional brain power. So Fenton had vanished before slow-thinking Ludwig Ludecke could make up his mind to ask even one question.
Now his dogged spirit inspired him to follow the man who stirred some chord of memory. He had not been detailed to look after Von Arne’s car, but, finding it unattended and unlit, he had taken charge of the vehicle, which he knew was the property of a high Nazi official. Possibly he had thought of currying favor with someone who could help forward his career.
All of which was more than fortunate, for within a few minutes of Fenton’s departure an important telephone call had come through for Althea Remington. In curt, harsh phrases, which are so dear to the German heart, she was informed by some minor official that the next day she must bring her passport, permission of residence, and special travel permit to the Foreign Office for revision. He used the word “revision” in preference to “restriction,” but Althea was not deceived.
She replaced the receiver thoughtfully. Already the “certain measures” of which Von Ame had spoken seemed to be in operation. But perhaps they would not function too swiftly, for the German is a creature of hide-bound routine, who adores written instructions. Possibly she might be able to get away with the British agent’s message before the net was drawn tight.
Any kind of luggage, she knew, would prove an embarrassment. For a person of her standing and position in Nazi society to leave the Meurice carrying even a week-end case would arouse suspicion, and once suspicion was aroused in the minds of the Gestapo she knew that not all the permits now in her possession would suffice to get her out of Berlin. On the other hand, if she presented herself at any railway station and asked for a ticket to a distant destination, especially one outside Germany, the ultra-suspicious officials would think it strange that she should be travelling with no baggage of any kind.
Finally she decided to leave the Meurice by the back stairs and staff door, carrying only a week-end case, such as is used for air travel.
As she moved about the room collecting the things she wanted, a certain commotion came from the interior of the box-ottoman at the foot of the bed. It was evident that Von Arne had come out of his swoon, but that did not alarm her. She had every confidence in the gag and the knots which Fenton had secured with such relentless efficiency.
As she was about to depart she turned back and raised the lid of the ottoman. The spectacle that met her gaze almost led to peal upon peal of uncontrollable laughter.
Obviously Von Arne was very angry indeed. The cords had not cut into his weak knees and ankles, but his thick wrists were chafed, and the ropes round his powerful torso were biting deep into his enormous biceps as he strained and twisted. So much had he worked his jaws in trying to get rid of the gag that it had forced back his cheeks to the limit.
At the sight of Althea his venomous little eyes blazed, and his features slowly turned purple as he strove to force words of abuse past the gag.
Althea looked thoughtfully at him, and then picked up the stiletto which Fenton had laid on her bedside table after trimming off the ends of the box cord with which Von Arne was bound.
At the sight of the knife the expression in Von Arne’s eyes altered, and he nodded his head as vigorously as his cramped position permitted. It was evident that he expected her to cut his bonds.
Althea, however, slowly tested the capsaicin-coated .point of the weapon with the ball of her thumb. She fingered the twin scratches on her own cheek reflectively. They still glowed with an uncomfortable warmth.
Then, holding the stiletto as a surgeon holds a scalpel, she leaned over Von Arne. Abject fear came into the man’s eyes. He cringed away, and would undoubtedly have screamed for mercy had it not been for the gag. Like all sadists, he loved the infliction of pain upon other people, but he dreaded the slightest suffering himself. But when the steel tip of the stiletto was within an inch of his eyes Althea stayed her hand and dropped the weapon into the box-ottoman so close to his throat that if he struggled overmuch it would inevitably prick him. She was careful to inform him of this circumstance. Then she thanked him for past favors, blew him an airy kiss, and let fall the lid with a bang.
She was satisfied that he could not break loose, and that no one would find him that evening. To make doubly sure, however, she rang through on the house telephone and gave orders that she was not to be disturbed until midday on the morrow. She knew that this order would create no surprise, since, like so many women who dread corpulence, she was in the habit of occasionally taking a day in bed without food. Some modern idiosyncrasies, she thought whimsically, may prove to have unsuspected merits in unusual circumstances.
After locking the door of the bedroom she stood for a time in the sitting room memorizing a scene upon which she did not expect to look again. In that room momentous events had taken place and the whole trend of her life had been altered. As she was about to leave, an exclamation of annoyance broke from her lips. Of all things in the world the last she would have considered herself likely to forget were the battered old school-girl Bible, whence had come the significant quotations from Isaiah, and the Three Good Monkeys, also a relic of school days. They had been sent home to her long ago by a cousin in the Far East. The Book went into her bag and the brass effigy into her pocket. Then she was ready.
rT'HE BACK stairs were dark and deserted. Althea wondered if. after all, it would be wise for her to attempt to get away by rail, or whether it would be better to go straight to Von Voss. But the agent had said that she was to try the Austrian air ace only as a last resource— and certainly the stealing of a German plane must represent a sort of desperate forlorn hope.
But when she emerged from the staff entrance and flashed on her torch for an instant to make sure of the edge of the pavement a new and heaven-sent plan of escape presented itself upon the instant. Not once, but dozens of times, she had driven Von Arne’s racing Lancia. As she had hurtled along interminable Autobahnen. with hands locked fast on the steering wheel and body braced in the bucket seat, her spirit had responded to the thrill of speed.
And there stood Von Arne’s Lancia. Althea’s first thought was that the immediate removal of the vehicle was indicated. Presently there was bound to be a big search for Von Arne, and, left where it was, that car would lead straight to the Meurice. But also she realized that here was a safer and surer way of escape than any she or the British agent had conceived. She had a permit to travel where and by what means she chose, and Von Arne would not be at liberty to deny her the use of his car for some time. A glance at the illuminated instrument panel proved that the petrol tank was full to capacity. Oil and water would have been attended to, she felt certain, for Von Ame was a martinet much feared by his servants— the sort of fear that destroys affection, but insures good service.
There was a reckless smile on Althea Remington’s lips as she dropped her suitcase beneath the weatherproof cover of the tonneau and slid her slim body behind the steering wheel. Not until the fourth attempt with the self-starter was she able to coax the cold engine into a state of throbbing activity. Then the long, low speedster stole from the side street into the main thoroughfare. Althea quite realized the necessity for slow driving, for she must do no single thing which would unnecessarily attract the attention of the police.
But beyond Berlin lay open, snow-bound country, and presently there would be a full moon, although even in the brightest moonlight she would not dare to drive the powerful Lancia at anything like full speed. And the border lay all of two hundred and eighty miles from Berlin, perhaps a hundred and fifty miles farther. But with no headlights and possible stops for the examination of papers she thought she would be lucky if she made the trip in four-and-twenty hours. She only hoped that the contents of the fuel tank would see her through the distance, for the one thing she did not possess was a permit to purchase petrol. Moreover, any stop foi that purpose
would immediately reveal the road she was taking in Von Arne's stolen car.
It was with a view to concealing her route that she turned into a square which she knew would be deserted and. showing but a pin point of torchlight, explored beneath the corner of the tonneau. She quickly found the fur-lined motoring* helmet which Von Arne invariably wore, and also a thick leather jerkin, which went on comfortably over her fur coat. In this way she concealed her bronze hair and the lines of her slender figure. Even an acquaintance might well mistake her for a keen-faced boy belonging to the Hitler Youth Movement. If called upon to show her permission to travel she would rely upon the distinctive color of her special permit to get her through without interrogation or delay.
Beyond the city she discovered the brilliant moonlight to be of far less assistance than she had anticipated, for the icy surface of the snow-covered roads made anything even approaching fast driving absolutely out of the question. She would, in fact, have given half her fortune for the comforting reassurance of chains round the tires.
The Autobahn she followed seemed unending in its straightness, and the sheer monotony of driving mile after mile without speech or bodily movement through the utter silence of the completely white land soon began to play strange tricks with her nerves. She had done but little night driving in open country, and would have given much for companionship.
Time and again she found herself nodding, and stormed herself awake; and sometimes, too, she was forced to pull up because her body was half frozen. And then she would run up and down the road to restore some measure of circulation.
Toward morning the longing for food and rest and the warm comfort of really hot tea grew to an intensity of purely physical desire that was entirely new to her experience.
Dawn found her upon the fringes of a vast forest, and she could see blue smoke rising straightly above the trees at some distance from the main road. She turned the car into the next ride that ran in what she hoped was the direction of a human dwelling. Soon, however, she was in trouble, for the snow lay very deep away from the partly cleared Autobahn, and it was not long before the Lancia skidded into a drift.
Despite the brain-numbing cold and the frightful fatigue that had almost conquered her, she stayed to drain the radiator before setting off wearily on foot in search of shelter.
r-PHE DWELLING to which she came presently was no more than a woodman’s hut, but that did not matter. All she wanted was warmth and shelter—above all shelter
from the hitter, blistering wind which had beaten so mercilessly and for so many hours upon the sore and reddened parts of her face which were not protected by the fur-trimmed driving helmet.
The woman who opened the door to her knocking murmured a frightened “Heil HitlerV’ which was echoed by a number of children who clung to her skirts.
Althea did not repeat the conventional greeting, but suddenly gave way to laughter which quickly became hysterical. The room into which she had stumbled seemed warm with the goodwill of simple faith and homey things. And yet the world was at war and she was flying for her life.
The incongruity of the tree in such terrible times completely destroyed the equilibrium of her tired mind. She was still laughing as she slumped against the wall, then slid unconscious to the floor.
With the aid of her eldest daughter the woodman’s wife undressed Althea and put her into a quaint, old-fashioned bed close to the stove in the living room. The woman had heard rumors of the brutality of the Nazis, and she was unhappy because her husband had been summoned suddenly to military service. She thought he might be on garrison duty somewhere in the Polish marshes since Germany had conquered Poland, but people seldom came near the woodman’s dwelling, and she did not know very much about the war.
Althea Remington slept the clock round, and her first request upon waking was for food, for she was ravenously hungry. Then she asked if it was still Saturday.
“No,” replied the woman, “it is Monday, and a sad day for us. My good man has gone from us to help defend our Fatherland against the wicked Poles, and although we have still some food left in the larder it will soon be done, and I have no money with which to buy more. All the letters I have sent to Heinz remain unanswered.”
As she dressed Althea grew happy at the thought that, having plenty of money with her, she could provide for the immediate future of this woman who had treated her so kindly. The next thing was to find out where she w'as, and make an attempt to get the Lancia out of the snowdrift.
She was told the name of the nearest village, and maps retrieved from the car showed that the frontier was no more than fifty miles away. The woodman’s son was ;ent off to get horses to drag the Lancia :>ack on to the road.
While the boy was away Althea unconsciously did much to ensure her safety by presenting the German woman with a sum which must have seemed a veritable fortune to her. Moreover, she believed the artful insinuation that because Althea was engaged in smuggling she did not wish her presence to become known.
Toward midday the boy returned with a horse he had managed to hire. He brought also the alarming intelligence that the police had stopped and questioned him as to whether he had seen a car for which they were searching. But he told his mother, who repeated the information to Althea, that he had said nothing of the lady at their hut, or of the car half buried in a snowdrift. He had thought that if the police knew about it his family might lose the reward which the lady would no doubt give him for getting the car back on to the road.
His anxiety on that score was set at rest by an immediate present. But Althea was greatly perturbed. Von Ame was evidently at liberty again. It would not be easy for her to cross the frontier, even by following the tortuous windings of side roads.
TON ARNE was in a very bad state * when he was discovered and released from the box-ottoman. He was put into Althea’s bed under medical supervision, and for half a day he remained semiconscious. But then, such was the man’s amazing vitality, he was sitting up and banging the telephone receiver hook up and down to attract attention, at a time when the physicians had declared he would be sleeping soundly.
He found talking extremely difficult because Fenton’s gag had bruised his mouth, nor could he stand, for his weak legs were far slower in recovering from the constriction of his bonds than was his abnormally strong upper body. Massage, however, worked wonders with his arms, and soon he was scribbling furiously on a writing pad.
When he was told that his chauffeur had been at the hotel enquiring as to the whereabouts of his master's favorite racing car Von Arne literally screamed with anger.
“Fools! Idiots! Beasts!” he raved. “I left it by the
Staffentrance. I tell you it must be found immediately.”
“Jawohl, Excellenz,” soothed the scared chauffeur. “It shall be found. I will go at once to the police. They, no doubt, finding it left so long unattended, have taken it away.”
»Von Arne nodded and waved the man out of the room. Those shouts had set the pain in his jaws at work again, but he was able to talk more comfortably the next morning when the Chief of Police came in person to tell him that the car could not be found.
“That is strange,” mused Von Arne, “for it is certainly a most distinguished car and one well-known in Berlin.”
“That is one of the reasons why we think it has been stolen and driven out of the city by night,” said PolizDirektor Joachim Rau. “Any car left unattended for more than a few hours would attract the attention of the police and be removed.”
“And your other reason?” insinuated Von Arne. The Chief of Police rubbed his hands and chuckled with satisfaction.
“Ha, ha, it is not only the Gestapo who are smart, Excellenz ! One of my men saw your car at the staff entrance of the Meurice, and, knowing that it belonged to a high Party official, mounted guard over it.”
Rau cocked his bald head on one side and looked quizzically at his frowning companion.
“And if that is so,” said Von Arne, in the soft, purring voice he sometimes used, “will you please explain what has become of my Lancia?”
“That is the point—the point that makes us so sure, Excellenz, that the car has been stolen.”
Von Arne began to open his mouth for a fresh bellow of rage, but felt a twinge of pain as his cheeks stretched, so he remained silent. Something, he decided, would have to be done about this ¡xtmpous, insufferably stupid Chief of Police. Joachim Rau, totally unconscious of the exasperation he was causing, continued with the slightly patronizing air of one explaining simple problems to a small child.
“You see, Excellenz,” he went on, and smiled ingratiatingly, “the car had gone by the time the constable came back.”
But Von Arne did not smile; he swallowed several times, and appeared to be upon the point of sustaining an apoplectic seizure.
“What constable, and where had he been?” he demanded in a tone of resignation.
“I do not remember the name of the particular policeman. Excellenz, but he is one of our best boxers. Now would it be Ludwig Ludecke, or Hans Molle, or. no. possibly Fritz Schultz? But never mind, Excellenz. I shall assuredly produce the right man at the right moment.”
“I think,” said Von Arne venomously, “that you will get out of here now, and produce the right man within the hour, so that I may find out for myself what really did happen.”
Without troubling to acknowledge the polite salutation of the departing Chief of Police Von Arne turned to the telephone.
“I want Stephen Feder, of the Intelligence Bureau,” he said.
r'TTIE MAN who presented himself in Suite Forty-two -*• within fifteen minutes was lean, vulpine in looks and by nature, and had a good deal of Slav and some Magyar in his make-up. He sat casually on the side of Von Arne’s bed without waiting for an invitation.
“So!” he said. “The little Remington has disappeared. Is she dead, or attempting to escape from Germany?”
“That is what we have to find out, my friend. That, and how much information she has gathered. I don’t like the look of things.” Von Arne scowled at the bed clothes.
“You mean that she is an agent?” Feder asked sharply.
“Possibly. But if that is so, mein Coll, how magnificently she has played her cards! Now listen carefully, Stephen.”
“I am all attention.”
“Good ! People more highly placed than ourselves have made a perfect fool of this renegade Englishwoman, as I know you will agree.”
He paused expectantly, but the wily Stephen did not answer.
“I came here secretly,” Von Arne continued, “to see if I could ascertain the true extent of her knowledge of Nazi plans and policy. I had a little plan of my own for binding her to us irretrievably, but it could not be carried out.”
Stephen Feder smiled sardonically.
“I entered by the back stairs,” Von Arne went on, “and enquired of the floor chambermaid if Fräulein Remington was alone. The maid, who had only just come on duty, thought there might be a radio mechanic still at work. As I approached I heard the radio playing an English song. I hammered on the door and shouted to cover the noise, for it would not have suited my plans to find the Fräulein arrested for listening to forbidden broadcasting.
“As to the mechanic, Fräulein Remington assured me that he must have been summoned by someone else. She had not needed his services, and had sent him away at once. I believed her at the time, but now I am certain she was lying.”
“In other words,” suggested Stephen,” “the fellow was concealed in the suite all the time you were here, and you are now wondering whether he was one of her lovers or an espionage accomplice. Is that the idea?”
“Why should he be her lover?” hedged Von Arne, and shot a venomous look at his companion.
“Well, he knocked you out, didn’t he? Are you quite sure you did not give her cause to call for help, and so inspired someone to come to her rescue?”
Again Von Arne scowled.
“There are times when your intuition takes you too near the truth, Stephen. But, even so, that help must have come from inside this suite. The outer door was locked and the key in my pocket. The accomplice theory seems to be the more likely, since she has evidently gone off with him.”
“Your are sure of that?”
“I’m not sure of anything, but a certain policeman who will be here presently may help us.”
When Ludwig Ludecke arrived Stephen Feder looked contemptuously at the heavy, slow-witted fellow, but Von Arne, who knew the type, assumed his most amiable manner. He invited the man to tell his story in his own way, and, having lit a fresh cigar, lay back to listen.
“Excellenz,” said Ludecke stiffly, “I had come off duty on the night in question and was proceeding to my home, when I saw the Excellenz's automobile standing at the staff entrance to the Meurice unattended. I did not know at that time to whom the machine belonged, only that it was the property of someone of great importance. As the hour of the blackout was approaching, and there are many thieves in Berlin, I considered it my duty to mount guard over the vehicle until its owner should return.”
Ludecke paused, as though puzzled how best to continue his narrative.
“And, that being so, what made you change your mind
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Continued from page 20—Starts on page 18
and abandon your self-appointed duty?” prompted Von Arne.
“Excetienz, it was the workman who came from the staff entrance of this hotel and bumped into me. I flashed my torch in his face, and at once it occurred to me that I ought to know him. I had seen that face quite recently and in suspicious circumstances. I had seen the Excellents automobile at the same time, I feel certain, but where or in what circumstances I still cannot remember.”
He paused to frown portentously and scratched his close-cropped head.
“But you left the car to follow the fellow, eh?” broke in Stephen Feder.
“Yes, mein Herr. I followed him right across to 18 Riberstrasse, in Neukölln, where the Gestapo had just made an arrest. But afterward I lost him completely in the blackout. I am sorry, but—” He stopped, silenced by a gesture from Von Arne, who had sat up suddenly.
“Get on to Gestapo headquarters, Stephen, and ask for particulars of the arrest at 18 Riberstrasse last Friday evening,” Von Arne ordered.
After conversing on the telephone for some minutes Feder hung up the receiver. There was a smile of satisfaction on his lean features as he turned to his chief.
“They arrested the Austrian, Von Voss, but could get nothing out of him,” he reported, “even though extreme measures were taken. The girl, whom they arrested on Saturday, proved more amenable to— er—reason, with a little —er—persuasion.”
“Well, go on,” purred Von Ame.
“According to her story,” Stephen continued, “a man came to the flat in the middle of Thursday night, and in the darkness did not see her there. She did not hear the whole of their conversation, but it was something to do with Von Voss stealing an airplane. She confessed that the unknown man went again to the fiat just after the arrest of Von Voss and asked her, should a woman come to the fiat in search of Von Voss, to warn her to get away as quickly as possible. He was dressed as a workman, and she recognized his voice.”
“And that is all, my good Stephen?”
“All that she confessed, yes. But Von Voss was employed at Flughafen Templehof. He was arrested upon suspicion of being associated with the Greta Mayer British spy gang.”
Donnerwetter und blitzen! Ich habe! Ich habe !”
The stentorian bellow with which the erstwhile stolid Ludwig Ludecke announced that he had made some kind of discovery startled both Von Ame and Feder. But, finding their eyes upon him, the policeman blushed and stammered like an overgrown schoolboy. The enormity of his offense in shouting at such important people paralyzed his power of speech completely.
“Well, what have you got, Ludecke?” asked Von Arne, with admirable restraint.
“The man, Excellenz, the man ! I remember it all—where I saw him, what he was doing ! And you too were there, Excellenz !”
“Eh! Come, come, steady yourself, Ludecke. How on earth could I be there when I was here trussed up in an infernal box!”
“No, no, Excellenz! Truly you were there !”
“In the Hoffmanngarten, Excellenz, the day w’e arrested the spy named Greta Mayer. As we were bringing her out you rushed past us on your way to the house. There was a workman standing near, and I thought for a moment he meant to attack us. It was the same man whom I followed on Friday evening. As we drove ¡ off with the woman Mayer I looked back,
and the workman was then talking to the lady you had left to wait for you in your racing car.”
‘‘By heaven!” cried Von Arne. “It all fits in !” After that one outburst he curbed his excitement. “All right, Ludecke,” he said quietly, “you may leave us now. You have done splendidly, and your services shall not be forgotten.”
“Don’t you see how it all fits in?” he demanded of Stephen, as the door closed upon the delighted policeman. “I always distrusted the Remington woman. She’s as deep in the plot as any of them, and at any cost she must be caught.
“It’s the Erhardt secret weapon they’re after, and this unknown workman is the king pin of the whole undertaking, I’m certain of it. He has organized the whole thing without a doubt.”
With his great head bent forward and his eyes glowing, Von Arne ticked off one by one upon his fingers the damning links of evidence.
“First, Greta Mayer planted on Hans Erhardt to get the secret—Himmel, it’s lucky for us he gave her away. Second, the unknown workman waiting in the Hoffmanngarten, probably to make off with the information. Third, Von Voss ready to steal a plane and fly Althea Remington, who would then have the secret, out of Germany. When they found Von Voss had been arrested, Remington made her getaway alone. How’s that, my friend?”
The saturnine Stephen smiled sardonically, but did not answer until he had lit a fresh cigarette from the stub of its predecessor.
“Why didn’t the unknown go himself?” he queried, as the smoke he had inhaled trickled lazilv from his nostrils.
“Because,” replied Von Arne triumphantly, “he is a far more important person than you imagine, and will stay in Germany in the hope of doing yet more harm.”
Stephen Feder raised interrogative eyebrows, and Von Arne leaned nearer to his chief assistant. There was a peculiar gleam in his eyes.
“Once before,” he said, “I crossed swords with a certain Lawrence Fenton of the British Foreign Office, and through the bungling of Oscar Malfroy this Fenton got the better of me in an affair in Lithuania. I have never seen him, but you will remember that we were warned that he would try to enter Germany. We discovered later that he had done so in the guise of a Polish prisoner, who escaped subsequently from the prisoner-of-war camp. If I am not mistaken, he is the unknown workman.”
“But what information can Fenton, alias the unknown workman, have endeavored to send to England by Fräulein Remington if, as you say, Hans Erhardt has refused to divulge his secret?”
“So?” snarled Von Arne. “The Gestapo will soon make Erhardt tell us if he has talked or not.”
“I’m not so sure of that. Last time he was—er—persuaded he completely lost his reason for a while. Next time he may die and take his secret with him. Besides, I don’t see the need to worry Erhardt. Why not try Fenton?”
Von Arne stared at his subordinate in amazement.
“Try Fenton? Are you mad? How are we to get hold of him?” he demanded.
Again the slow smile crossed Feder’s thin features.
“Some time ago,” he said, “your suspicions were aroused when Fräulein Remington started and cried out at the sight, as you thought, of a workman you encountered at the Krobel Engineering Works. You told me to have the man watched, but that got us nowhere. Don’t you think now that he might be your ‘unknown workman’?”
Von Ame would have answered, but Feder raised his hand.
“Moreover,” he went on, “it is more than possible that this so-called ‘workman’ saw the experiments with the captured British bomber which was brought down
by Erhardt’s ray. If so he will have drawn his own conclusions from the presence of the Fuehrer at Krobel’s on that occasion.”
“Mein Goti\” cried Von Arne. “The woman must be caught !”
“Don’t worry, she will be caught if she has escaped in your car. The description of it has been circulated, and whoever is driving will be shot on sight if they do not pull up when challenged.”
AT THE moment when Stephen Feder
^ was affirming with great confidence that she would be caught, Althea Remington was working her way toward the frontier. She was as nervous as a fretting horse, but it was the nervousness of high courage, not of fear.
Always she was trying to force the car toward the frontier, avoiding the main roads. This made her progress slow, for the side roads were often deep in snow, and, despite the ropes which she had obtained from the woodman’s wife and bound about the tires, she was obliged to drive with the utmost care. She dared not risk another skid into a drift, for this time there might be no providential boy with a horse to drag her out.
Several times the snow proved an insurmountable obstacle, and she was forced to back onto a main road. When this happened she dreaded that police or troops would summon her to stop. But luck was with her, and only once, looking along a side road as she passed, did she see the stalwart figures of two policemen, both of whom fortunately had their backs turned.
So hour by hour she drew nearer the frontier and safety. She was numbed with cold and could scarcely feel the accelerator pedal beneath her shoe, yet so intent was she upon her task that all sense of pain and discomfort seemed to have vanished. Presently a signpost, crowned with a cornice of driven snow, told her that her destination lay only a short distance ahead.
She had carefully avoided the routes usually taken by motor traffic, for they would bring her to customs-houses and barriers. The country lane along which she now drove with infinite caution might only have a solitary guard. She was surprised to find herself praying that the lane would not become blocked by a drift and that the guard would not be alert. Prayers were unusual with Althea.
With some skidding of the back wheels in the soft snow she brought the car to the top of a rise crowned with a small wood. She got out and walked stiffly to the edge of the trees. At the foot of the rise the country became fiat, and within half a mile she saw a red-and-white post standing out boldly against the gleaming whiteness. Beyond that post was safety.
Her heart bounded and her lips, numbed by the cold wind, parted in a stiff smile. She’d done it! The road before her was clear. She had only to drive carefully down the hill and past the frontier post and she could snap her fingers at Von Arne.
She was on the point of returning to the Lancia, when a dark shape near the post moved into the lane from the shadow of a hedge. Another followed, and another. Althea counted six men. They carried rifles, and they were on the German side of the frontier. The road was not unguarded after all. Stephen Feder had made his dispositions with Teutonic thoroughness.
The reaction of this discovery brought Althea to the verge of tears. Then she pulled herself together. She thought that if she could see the soldiers they could see her, but then she realized that with the dark wood behind her this was improbable. With teeth caught on her lower lip she stared thoughtfully at the lane. To go back was to court almost certain capture, for the hunt was up behind her. Somehow or other those six guards must be passed. The problem was how the move should be executed, for in that quiet countryside they would certainly hear the roar of the Lancia’s engine long before the car reached them, and Althea realized that her only chance was to surprise them.
She studied the road carefully. There was an awkward open stretch, about two hundred yards long, immediately after the road left the wood. Then it sank and wound between high hedges, until a sharp bend at the bottom brought it into full view of the guards. An idea was born in Althea’s brain, but its success depended upon whether she was able to cross the two hundred yards at the top unobserved, and she would not know that until she reached the bottom. Once she was between the high hedges she would be hidden until she rounded the last bend.
She returned to the Lancia. The engine was ticking over smoothly as she brought the car to the edge of the wood. The figures at the foot of the hill had vanished save one, and she could not tell at that distance in what direction he was looking. She must take the risk that he would not see her cross the stretch of open road.
She edged the car forward again, and immediately it felt the downward slope she thrust out the clutch and held it out, and took her foot from the accelerator so that the engine turned over quietly.
The Lancia gathered speed and slid downhill between the hedges. Althea gave a sigh of relief. Somehow she felt more secure beneath their shelter, though it was quite possible she had been seen. The car bumped because of the ropes round the back wheels, and as it coasted down the hill Althea had the uncomfortable feeling that she had not complete control.
As she came to the first bend she touched the foot brake, for she could afford a skid less than ever now. The wind whistled past, and the thump, thump of the ropes on the snow seemed abnormally loud, for they were no longer drowned by the noise of the engine.
Althea counted the corners as she came to them. One, two, three. All were safely rounded. The fourth was the last, and would bring her within sight of the frontier. As she approached she steadied the Lancia and gripped the wheel harder. She knew exactly what she had to do. The bend came closer. A slight touch on the brake. She must not skid here. Her hand sought the gear lever. It was still in top gear. Her foot ached with the strain of holding out the clutch. Not far to go now. Another touch on the brake to make quite certain her speed was not too great. Then her foot rested gently on the accelerator.
She pulled the wheel round, and the car swept into the straight. At the same time Althea scanned the road. To her dismay one soldier was standing in the middle of the lane looking directly toward her. She saw him unsling his rifle and saw his mouth open as he shouted.
A LTHEA did not hesitate. Down came her foot on the accelerator. The engine roared into life, and the next instant the car gave a violent jerk as she let in the clutch. Then the Lancia bounded forward straight at the soldier.
Bending over the wheel and peering with set face through the windscreen, Althea had a hazy impression of more figures leaping from the shelter of the hedges, arms outstretched. But she was intent upon the soldier in the middle of the road. She drove straight at him. She saw him level his rifle. There seemed a long pause, as if the car had stopped moving and nothing was happening. Then the windscreen splintered, and vaguely she realized that he had fired. The next instant the Lancia was upon him. More shots rang out, but above the roar of the engine Althea did not hear them. She saw the soldier directly in front of the radiator. Then he jumped wildly for the side of the road. But he was not quite quick enough. The mudguard sent him spinning into the hedge, and at the same time the Lancia swerved violently.
Only by a sudden wrench at the wheel did Althea contrive to keep the car on the road. Further shots rang out, and she felt a sharp, red-hot pain in her side. The next moment the incident was over,
although it seemed to have lasted a long time. The frontier post flashed past.
“Done it,” gasped Althea between set teeth.
She kept on without slowing down, and she had driven more than a mile into neutral territory before she felt the reaction of the strain through which she had passed, and also the effect of the bullet wound in her side. Loss of blood and fatigue began to take their toll. Her concentration wavered, and when presently the road forked, she could not decide which branch to take.
The car swerved from side to side, Althea’s strength and judgment failed, and with a sickening crash Von Arne’s Lancia jumped a ditch and piled itself head-on against a tree. Immediately it caught fire, but fortunately the girl had been flung clear. She lay, a huddled heap, twenty yards away, and the snow about her gradually became tinged with red.
Within an hour, however, she was in hospital, and as the doctors dressed her wounds she regained consciousness. For a few seconds she stared at the faces above her in bewilderment. Then she whispered faintly, “Message—Sir George Fawley—• tell—British consul.”
But the consul did not arrive for some hours, and by then Althea had relapsed into unconsciousness. The house surgeon shrugged his shoulders when he was asked if she would waken soon.
“Who knows? She is very gravely injured. The bullet wound was slight, but she damaged her head when she was flung out of the car. She has concussion, and there may be complications. We can onlywait.”
The consul frowned. “That’s just what we can’t do,” he muttered, for he remembered Althea’s w'ords. “Are there any marks of identification?”
“Her clothes were bought in Germany,” volunteered a nurse, “and they have only laundry marks. But there was a handkerchief in the pocket of the coat she w'as wearing, and it bore the initials ‘A.R.’ ”
“H’m. Did you find anything else?”
“Here is the list.”
The consul glanced down it. Then, “Three brass monkeys!” he exclaimed. “What on earth!”
Rapidly the nurse explained. The consul nodded.
“Give me a copy of the list, please. And was there anything in the car?”
, “It was completely burned out,” said the house surgeon.
The consul returned to his office and sat for some time in deep thought. Then he
reached for the telephone, and in due course got through to Sir George Fawley, to whom he related what had happened.
“I understand,” said Sir George. “Unconscious and may not recover, but has a message for me, and you don’t know who she is. Very hopeful.” Vaguely he felt that Fenton was concerned in this incident. But he could not be sure. News of Fenton had been all too rare since the death of Greta Mayer.
“I can only tell you there were the initials ‘A.R.’ on a handkerchief.”
Sir George grunted. They meant nothing to him.
“And I have a list of her possessions,” the consul added. “I’ll read it out.”
“Three brass monkeys,” murmured Sir George, when the consul reached that point in the list, and became certain that the unknown “ A.R.” was connected in some way with Fenton. “Listen,” he added quickly. “I’m flying over at once. Have the girl watched night and day, and take down every word she speaks.”
COME hours later Sir George Fawley ^ and the consul stood by Althea’s bed, looking down at the slight form beneath the clothes and wondering what was hidden in the heavily-bandaged head.
While they watched, the pale lips opened, and a tired sigh came forth like the tiny whisper of an evening breeze. The house surgeon stirred.
“I think she’s coming round.”
The three men bent closer in anxious silence. The girl’s eyelids fluttered, and a pair of sea-green eyes stared uncomprehendingly at them.
Sir George moved closer. Now that her eyes were open he had suddenly recognized the much-photographed features of Althea Remington.
“Althea Remington,” he said quietly, “I am Sir George Fawley. You have a message for me.”
The eyes stared at him for a full minute. Then the girl broke into a chuckle of laughter, laughter so horrible that the house surgeon and the consul started back. Only Sir George held his ground.
“The message?” he asked, and the laughter faded.
Althea giggled, a silly, simpering sound like a nervous schoolgirl.
“He was tied up in a box-ottoman, and he looked like a frog.”
They were the only words she spoke before she lapsed into unconsciousness again, and before the sun rose the next day she was dead.
Fenton’s message remained undelivered.
• To Be Concluded