Klaus Lehmann is the name taken by a man, presumably German, who lost his memory in the last war. He finds a job in Munich, is “adopted" by an elderly lady, Fraulein Rademeyer, who takes pity on his plight and makes a home for him. In postwar depression years he becomes a follower of Hitler. He rises to the Nazi party inner circle, but on the night of the Reichstag fire his memory comes flooding back. He recalls that he is really Tommy Hambledon, a British agent in Germany during the 1914-18 war, and realizes that he has probably been given up for dead. When Hitler takes power and appoints him chief of German police, he lays cunning plans to outwit the Nazis. Through a former espionage associate named Reck, whom he locates, he sends wireless code messages to the British Foreign Office, warns them not to try to discover his new identity. Hambledon has Nazi plans smuggled to Britain, pulls off many daring coups for British Intelligence. But his disguise is pierced by Dixon Ogilvie, talented British concert pianist touring Germany. As a boy he attended the school at which Hambledon was formerly a master. He promises not to give Lehmann” away, but Hambledon never knows at what time the Nazis may uncover the amazing story of their trusted police chief.
(Fifth Part of Eight)
HAMBLEDON pursued his investigations into the matter of Ginsberg, and found that the practice of allowing Jews to take about twenty per cent of their movable cash over the frontier in exchange for the other eighty per cent was not merely a local custom at Aachen, but a full-sized racket at every exit from Germany. His determination to break down the practice hardened; though he had just as much loathing as any German for the foul type of Jew who had fattened on the miseries of Germany in the bad years, his sense of justice revolted at making helpless and harmless people suffer for the sins of the rich and powerful. Besides, it was to safeguard these robbers and racketeers that Ginsberg had died, and they should pay for it. Besides again, it was against the law, and it was his business to see that the law was obeyed. Finally, it would annoy the Nazis, and he was coming increasingly to dislike the Nazis.
“The only thing that puzzles me,” he said to one man he was interrogating, “is why they are allowed to get away with twenty per cent. It’s quite a lot, twenty per cent. It’s one fifth.”
“Quite right, Herr Polizei Oberhaupt, it’s too much. But if we charge more they won’t give any at all. They just die and the money vanishes.”
“So you think half a loaf is better than no bread.”
“Four fifths of the loaf,” said the man with a grin.
The further Hambledon traced the threads of this organization the higher in rank were the Nazi officials whom he found to be involved, till he began to wonder who really was at the top or whether he had better cease his enquiries before he found out more than was good for him.
He came home to the flat one evening and was horrified to find Ludmilla Rademeyer in floods of tears.
“Christine,” said the old lady, and sobbed afresh. “Has there been bad news?” asked Hambledon of a distracted Franz.
“Evidently, sir, but we have no idea what it is.
The gracious Fraulein had a letter brought by hand--”
Ludmilla pulled herself together with an effort and clung to Hambledon’s hand. “Send them away,” she whispered, and the servants left the room. Ludmilla produced a crumpled letter from one of her numerous pockets and gave it to Hambledon.
“ ‘Ludmilla, my old friend,’ ” he read, “ ‘my husband was taken away this morning by S.S. men who came to the house and said they were taking him to a concentration camp because he was a Jew.’ Is that true?” he asked.
“His mother,” said Ludmilla unsteadily, “came of a Jewish family, but nobody thought any the worse of her for that, a nice fat old thing, endlessly kind. She was a Christian, and one can’t help how one is born.”
Hambledon went on reading. “ T was made to give up all our papers, and all our money except twenty marks. I gave them everything they asked, I thought if I was patient they would let Ludovic go, but they took him away. Then the men who remained said our house was too good for a Jew’s wife, and they turned me out in the street and locked the door.’ ”
Hambledon paused in his reading and stared before him, hammering with one clenched hand upon his knee, while Ludmilla looked in amazement at the beloved face so lit with fury that she could hardly recognize it. He continued after a moment.
"'I thought I had better go to my son Hugo for advice, so I walked to Albrecht Strasse--’ ”
“All that way, and she so lame!”
“ ‘—only to find’—I cannot read this, her writing is suddenly so bad—‘my daughter-in-law Magda coming to me with the children, because they have taken my son also. They have taken my son also, and the children were crying--' There is a piece here I can’t read, something about Gottlieb’s horse?”
“Gottlieb is the baby, he had a toy horse on wheels--”
“I see. She goes on, ‘They were also turned into the street, and when Magda said she did not know what to do, one of the men made a suggestion I will not repeat’—Blast them!” said Tommy Hambledon, and Ludmilla said “Amen.” “ ‘So we got on a tram and went to old Marthe whom you will remember was my children’s nurse when they were little; it is a tiny house, we meant to leave the children there but she would not let us go since they have taken my son also. Magda will find some work to do even if it is only scrubbing, but I am so helpless I can only mind the children and do a little sewing if our friends have any work to give out. Do not come to see me, it might not be safe for you to be seen with us. Marthe’s son will take this note, I do not trust post or telephone. I would not mind for myself but Ludovic is in need of care at his age, and there is Hugo and the children. Magda is so brave, but if they had to punish Ludovic and me I do not think they need have taken my son also.’ ”
Hambledon’s voice ceased and there was silence for a space till Ludmilla said, “No doubt I am too old and stupid to understand, and these people are your friends, my dear, but, oh, Klaus, this is wicked! Dear Christine, who never did anything but kindness in all her life! I would not turn out a dog on the streets like that. What will they do? Klaus, this is a vile thing. I can’t admire people who are so cruel. I don’t like our present leaders, Klaus, I don’t like a lot of things that have happened lately. I hate these loud-voiced bullying young men who swagger everywhere and order people about, the old Germany wasn’t like this. I don’t trust your Nazi Party, Klaus. I’ve never said so before because they are your friends--”
“No, they are not!” said Hambledon furiously. “I have acted a part to you long enough, but this is the last straw. The Nazis are a set of lying, cheating bullies, out for what they can get for themselves, with neither honesty nor conscience. They did a great work for Germany to start with and I helped them, but now they are a scourge to Europe and a blot on humanity. I was on their side once, but now if I can pull down this foul regime in blood, God helping me, I’ll do it!”
“Klaus dear, be careful ! One hears such dreadful stories. I don’t like Germany any more, I would rather go and live somewhere else. I think I’d like to live in England.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I knew an Englishman once, when I was very young. He was at Heidelberg University with my brother, who brought him home once or twice—to the white house at Haspe, Klaus, where you came to me. He used to tell me about England, I thought then I would like to go there someday.”
“What was he doing over here?”
“Oh, studying things, and learning the language. He was going to be a schoolmaster, my family thought that was funny because people in our class wouldn’t be schoolmasters in those days.”
“Unless they were in reduced circumstances, like us in Dusseldorf.”
“Ah, that was different. My brother used to make great fun of him, saying he would spend the rest of his life teaching little boys their ABC and making them blow their noses properly. It is only my fancy, I know, but you seem to me to have a look of him sometimes, Klaus. He never came back. We heard that he became a schoolmaster and also a minister of the Church, but he wouldn’t be both, surely?”
Hambledon’s mind went back to the country rectory where he was born, a white house not unlike that at Haspe, with a garden full of roses, striped carnations, and hollyhocks high in the air above his head. His father had been a schoolmaster in his younger days and insisted that his son should be one too, rather against Tommy’s own wishes, but there was no arguing with the autocratic old man. A schoolmaster he became to start with, but he turned his attention to other things afterwards. “And now I’m a policeman,” he thought. “Wonder if the old man approves?” He returned from his reverie to answer Ludmilla.
“Oh, yes, easily, quite a lot of schoolmasters are in Holy Orders, as they call it, in England, sometimes in later life they give up teaching and have a parish instead. About Frau Christine,” he said, to change the subject, “try not to worry, I will see what can be done about it. Doubtless something will present itself.”
ONE MORNING, a few days after Frau Christine’s letter had arrived, Reck returned from a walk and saw to his surprise that a poster had been attached to the front door with drawing pins. He read it with growing astonishment, glanced round him to see if anyone were watching him, tore it dowrn and ran up the three flights of stairs to Hambledon’s flat, not waiting for the lift. He burst into Hambledon’s room and said, “What do you say to this?”
“Thank heaven for safety razors,” said Hambledon, who was shaving. “What is it, free worms for early birds?”
“The German Freedom League,” said Reck. “Know anything about them? It was pinned on your door.”
“ ‘German Freedom League,’ ” Hambledon read. “ ‘Germans, arise! Germans, undeceive yourselves ! The Nazi leaders pretend they are making you strong and free, but in truth they are making you into a nation of slaves. Every day you have to work harder for less money, your liberties are curtailed, if any man complains he is thrown into prison without trial, while your leaders live in luxury and amass huge fortunes. Worse than this, they are indulging in wicked and senseless ambitions of conquest which will inevitably lead to war. There are no winners in a modern war, all suffer alike, even if Germany wins in the end it means privation, suffering, wounds and death. Germans, awake!’— Very rousing, this gentleman, ain’t he?—‘Stand up and proclaim that it is your desire to live in peace with all nations abroad, and at home to practice in happiness and freedom those pursuits of industry, science and culture which alone can make Germany prosperous and respected.
“ ‘Follow the Freedom League!
“ ‘Down with the Nazi Party!’ ”
“Very nicely put,” said Reck appreciatively.
“I doubt if our illustrious leaders think so, wonder how many of these appeared in our midst this morning? There’ll be a row over this and I’ve a horrid feeling I shall be in the middle of it.”
Hambledon was not in the least surprised, therefore, to find on arriving at his office that a summons awaited him to discuss a matter of importance at eleven-thirty at the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. He was punctually received by the Minister, in person.
“These posters,” said Goebbels. “We can’t have that kind of thing.”
“Assuredly not,” said the Chief of Police. “Most undesirable.”
“This Freedom League, who are they?”
“I have had my eye upon it for some time,” said Hambledon untruthfully. “It is an organization of discontented and subversive elements, fishing in troubled waters for what they can draw out to their own profit.”
“Doubtless, my dear Lehmann, but who are they?”
“That is precisely what it is my duty to discover. They are very well hidden, but if they think they can make a nuisance of themselves with impunity, I will show them that they are wrong.”
“You take the words out of my mouth,” said the Minister.
“I meant to,” said Hambledon to himself.
“I am sure you will deal with the scoundrels effectively and promptly.”
“The matter already has my attention.”
“Good. Your zeal and industry are examples to us all, I am sure. This brings me, my dear Lehmann, to the other point I wanted to discuss with you.”
“Now we come to the real nigger in the woodpile,” thought Hambledon, but he merely assumed an attitude of intelligent alacrity and waited in silence.
“I understand,” said the Minister, playing with a penwiper on his desk, “that you have been enquiring into the details of a certain financial latitude which is sometimes permitted to Jews leaving the country.”
“I am concerned,” said Hambledon with lofty nobility, “to put a final stop to corruption and lawbreaking wherever and whenever I find it.”
“Admirable—in principle. But in practice, there is no harm in a special arrangement being made in some cases—in some cases, I repeat.”
“Your Excellency will be as horrified as I was,” said Hambledon earnestly, “to hear that so far from this practice being an occasional exception, it is in fact the common practice. No one knows better than Your Excellency the disastrous effect of financial corruption from subordinates. It destroys their natural honesty, it depraves their consciences, it ruins their morals and finally it undermines their loyalty. I would not trust a man so far as I could see him, who would take a bribe to break an order I had given him.”
“Very true,” said the Minister, slightly overcome by this spate of integrity, “but I think you exaggerate--”
“It is my business to be exact,” said Hambledon coldly. “I will send a précis of the results of my investigations for Your Excellency’s perusal, together with a complete list of the names and addresses of every man whom I have proved to be involved in this traffic, and the approximate amounts by which each man has illegally benefitted —the last will be underestimated, believe me.”
“There is no need,” said the Minister hastily. “We have every confidence in your executive ability. There is only one thing, Lehmann, in which you have ever been known to fall short.”
“And that is---”
“The ability to take a hint.”
“I must beg Your Excellency to be plain with me, I am only a policeman, not a diplomatist, and it would be better to state clearly what you wish me to do.”
“Leave the matter alone, then,” said Goebbels irritably, “if you must have it in so many words, don’t interfere.”
“I am to understand that this corruption is to continue unchecked?” said Hambledon frigidly.
“Turn your superb detective abilities to the problem of the German Freedom League, Lehmann, and you will continue to earn the gratitude of the Reich.”
“I understand,” said Hambledon rising. “ I have the honor to wish Your Excellency good morning,” and he stalked out.
“Obstinate, pig-headed old die-hard,” said the Minister to himself. “Pity, he’s a useful man, but it looks as though his usefulness will come to an end soon if he can’t be more accommodating.”
“Sour-faced, evil-tongued, club-footed scoundrel,” said Hambledon to himself as he walked back to his office. “Another moment and I’d have rammed his inkstand down his throat, pens and all. I think my time here is running short, I’m not so patient with these swine as I used to be. They make me sick. I wonder just how much a year he gets out of that racket.”
He went home to lunch, turning over in his mind the question of Ludovic and Hugo Beckensburg, Frau Christine’s menfolk. He had seen to it that they were as well treated as was possible in a concentration camp, but that wasn’t saying much, and the old man was feeling it. It would be as well to get them out of Germany as soon as possible, or perhaps the women had better go first. Frau Christine, anyway, the younger woman could wait. If Frau Christine could be got into Switzerland, the others could join her, that is, if she could travel alone.
“What’s the matter with Goebbels,” he concluded, “is that he’s funny and he doesn’t know it.”
He went into lunch whistling.
“I went to see Christine this morning,” said Ludmilla.
“I’m glad to hear it, how did you find her?”
“Not very well. I wish we could do something for them.”
“I’m going to. They would be better out of Germany altogether, there is no future here for anyone of Jewish descent. If I could get Frau Christine out first, it would be best, I think. Tell me, haven’t you got anything the matter with you?”
Ludmilla stared. “Matter with me? No, I’m perfectly healthy, why do you ask and what are you laughing at?”
“Nothing. I think you’re wonderful, only it would be convenient if you could have something for which it’s necessary to have treatment in Switzerland.”
“You would want a companion, I mean somebody to talk to, you’d have Agathe, of course—I think Frau Christine would do very well. No one would question an old lady travelling with the Chief of Police’s aunt.”
“Klaus, of course not! How clever you are—but would that mean I should have to leave you?”
“Only for a little while,” he said soothingly, “not for long. Then either you could come back or I could come and join you—more likely the latter, I think.”
“Do you mean,” said Ludmilla, laying down her spoon and fork, “that you are really thinking of leaving Germany?”
“Sh—-sh,” he said, “don’t speak of it. Don’t even think about it, but I don’t think I can go on with these people much longer. We don’t get on as well as we did, somehow,” he added grimly.
“If you knew,” she said, “how I’ve been longing for you to say this ! Do you think we shall ever have enough money to go to England?”
“You’ve been very interested in England lately, haven’t you? Ever since the Ogilvies were here, why is it?”
“He told me,” she said, “that if you’re in difficulties in England you go to the police and they help you. Here, if you’re in trouble, you avoid them. I’d like to see a policeman who wanted to help you, Klaus, why aren’t your men like that?”
“Why, indeed,” he said.
TOMMY HAMBLEDON received a colored picture post card of the Kursaal at Wiesbaden, taken across the ornamental water. The message written upon it said, “Playing here tomorrow, Coblentz Saturday, Cologne Monday, going home Tuesday, auf wiedersehen someday, greetings, good-by,” it was signed D. Ogilvie. “Lucky devil,” said Hambledon, threw the card in a drawer of his writing table and went to a meeting of the Party Chiefs, summoned by the Leader. Now this was January, 1938.
One never knew what to expect from these meetings of the Leader’s. Sometimes they were addressed on stirring subjects such as a new badge for machine gunners, or how to stimulate the birth rate; sometimes they heard of a new tax to be imposed or new measures against the Jews, sometimes there was an announcement about something really important.
He soon learned, for they were informed in singularly few words, considering who was speaking, that Austria would be incorporated in the Reich in March. There would be internal troubles in Austria, unrest, rioting, faction fighting in the streets and so forth. The Austrians, realizing that their paltry Government was too weak to keep order, would naturally appeal to their powerful neighbor for help, and union with Germany would naturally follow. Thus so many millions more Germans would return to their spiritual home, the Reich, and Germany would become Greater Germany. Hoch der Anschluss! Hoch!
It was perfectly obvious that the inner circle of Party leaders whom Hambledon rudely called the Big Six had got this scheme all cut and dried, and the purpose of this somewhat larger meeting was merely to inform the various heads of departments about a decision already taken. They were not asked for comment, still less criticism, a few well-chosen words of congratulation, yes, but no more. One less tactful individual asked what would happen if any of the Austrians fought.
“Fought ! Fought whom?”
“Us,” said the Deputy bluntly.
“No worthy Austrians will fight us. There are, as I have said, subversive elements which require suppression. They will be suppressed.”
“There is no room for doubt. There is unrest in Austria, that is why we march in. If there is unrest after we have marched in, that will only show how right we were to do so.”
The Deputy gave it up.
The meeting ended with the executive officers being told to prepare plans, each in his separate sphere, for reorganizing the administration of Austria in line with that of the Reich; posts, telephones, railways, tax collections, and so forth. Hambledon received written orders for the reorganization of the Austrian police, supersession would be a better word. He was to submit detailed schemes for putting these orders into effect. He clicked heels gave the Nazi salute, and marched out.
“There goes a good servant of the Reich,” said the Fuehrer approvingly.
“I had occasion to say a few words to him the other day about minding his own business,” said Goebbels. “They seem to have done good.”
“Indeed! What about?”
“He had some views about the Jewish question which hardly came within his province, that is all,” said Goebbels smoothly. “There was nothing wrong—every man has the faults of his virtues. He was a little overzealous, that is all.”
"I wish every man I had to deal with had only Lehmann’s faults. He has one outstanding merit which I will ask you to remember and cherish.”
“What is that?”
“He is the only man in the Party whom we all of us trust.”
“That is true,” said Goering thoughtfully.
“Herr Goebbels will remember in future.”
Herr Goebbels would, with displeasure, in fact the Fuehrer had made a dangerous enemy for his incorruptible Chief of Police.
Hambledon returned to his office to get some books of reference, said that he would not be returning that day as he was going to work at home, and returned to the flat. He settled down with maps and reference books to work out a scheme for the effectual policing of Austria, and it took him several hours. He made copious notes, drew up a draft report, and then corrected, amended and annotated it till it was barely legible. When he was finally satisfied he opened his typewriter, put in a sheet of paper, looked at it for a moment and took it out again, replacing it by two sheets with a carbon paper between. “I’ll give ’em something to think about,” he said with a grin, and proceeded to make a fair copy of his report. By the time he had finished it was past seven and he was stiff, tired and hungry, but there was a little more to see to yet. He rang the bell and Franz came.
“Is Herr Reck in the house?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“Ask him to come to me, will you?”
Reck came, Hambledon gave him a cigar and asked him if he knew anything about photography.
“Did you ever know a science master who didn’t? I made a hobby of it at one time.”
“Got a camera now?”
“Heavens, no. What for? Want a series of photos of yourself for a magazine article entitled ‘Great Men at Home?’ ”
“Could you take a photograph of this so that the prints will be completely legible?” asked Hambledon, holding up the two sheets of the orders he had received anent the policing of Austria.
“Nice black typing,” said Reck. “Top copy, not too large. Yes, I think so. One of those old-fashioned wooden cameras with bellows extension, half-plate size, wide-angle lens.”
“Can you buy such a thing?”
“Secondhand. Oh, yes, I expect so.”
“What pretext would you have for wanting a camera like that?”
“They are used mainly for photographing architectural features—ancient Gothic archway, that sort of thing. I take up a new hobby.”
“It might be as well,” said Reck. “I shall moon about with camera on long tripod legs, prodding people wherever I turn round. Focusing cloth. Pockets bulging with dark slides, and so forth.”
“What about developing?”
“I shall process them myself—may I use the bathroom?”
“Except when I want it,” said Tommy handsomely. “Ask Fraulein Rademeyer.”
Hambledon made a detour on his way to the office in the morning, to pay a visit to a shabby man who lived in a slummy street in the poor quarter of Berlin. The shabby man opened the door himself, and when he recognized the Chief of Police he looked alarmed and indignant.
“It’s all right,” said Hambledon reassuringly. “There’s nothing against you—at the moment. I only want you to do a little job for me.”
For this man had the gift of being able to write most beautifully in any style he chose; he made a living by practicing this gift, only unfortunately he sometimes practiced on cheques, and that was how he came to know the Chief of Police.
“Anything I can do for you, sir, of course—please come in.”
Hambledon went in, when the door was shut behind them he produced a picture post card of the Kursaal at Wiesbaden and said, “Can you imitate that writing?”
“Bit funny, isn’t it?” said the man, studying Dixon Ogilvie’s farewell message. “Foreigner, isn’t he?”
“Yes, can you do it?”
“Bless you, sir, yes, have to be a lot funnier than that before it stumps me. What d’you want?”
“Only a luggage label, here are some. Write on it ‘Dixon Ogilvie’—here, I’ll write it down for you.
‘Dixon Ogilvie, à Londres via Bruxelles, Ostende et Douvre.’ That’s all.”
“How many d’you want?”
“Only one. Don’t post it to me, bring it to my house at nine tonight.”
DIXON OGILVIE and his uncle, homeward bound from Cologne, sat in the train at the frontier waiting while customs formalities were being observed by passengers not going beyond Belgium. As the Ogilvie luggage was registered through to London, they did not expect to be disturbed, but a porter came to the door and said, “M’sieu’ Deexon Ojeelvie?”
“More or less,” said Dixon. “What is it?”
“A small matter of m’sieu’s baggages, if m’sieu’ would come?”
They both went, and were told at the customs office that there was a little difficulty because whereas D. Ogilvie’s waybill declared there were only six packages, there were in fact seven, as m’sieu' would see for himself.
“How many did you have, Dixon?”
“I don’t know, six or seven. I suppose the man at Cologne counted wrong.”
“I expect so. Perhaps we’d better just look at them.”
Dixon pointed at one and said, “That’s not mine.”
“It’s a portable gramophone,” said his uncle.
“It is, in effect, a musical instrument,” agreed the customs officer.
“You can’t call a portable gramophone a musical instrument,” objected Dixon, “any more than you'd call a sardine tin the Atlantic ocean. I’m not going to pay customs duty on the thing. I don’t want it.”
“I say, Dixon---”
“Yes, Uncle Alec?”
“The label is in your handwriting.”
“Exactly like all the others.”
Dixon walked over and examined it, and it occurred to him for the first time that there might be more in this affair than met the eye. His uncle snapped open the case, which had compartments in the lid for half a dozen records. He drew out the first, wound up the motor and set it going. The song was a French version of “Oh, Mamma!” and the singer was Waltheof Leibowitz.
“Waltheof Leibowitz,” said Alexander Ogilvie thoughtfully. “I’ve heard that name somewhere.” The introduction ended, the singer started off with notable verve. Dixon Ogilvie clapped his hands to his ears and said, “For heaven’s sake!”
“I have it, it was that comic hotel baritone Denton punched on the nose in Switzerland.”
“He ought to have killed him,” moaned Dixon. “Stop it. How does one stop these blasted things?” “One takes the needle off for a start,” said his uncle, doing so, “and then one stops the motor, thus.”
“Thank you. I suppose the thing would play a decent record by Moskowski instead, would it?”
“Of course it would.”
“Accept my apologies,” said Dixon Ogilvie to the customs official, “I will take the thing on. What do I have to do about it?”
“It is only necessary for m’sieu’ to acknowledge ownership. I will make out an additional waybill.”
“Thanks awfully, carry on, will you? I am sorry to have given so much trouble,” said Dixon.
“Allow me to—er--”
“Thank you, m’sieu’. The affair is now in order.”
“That’s an odd business,” said Alexander Ogilvie, as the train moved off again. “Are you sure you didn’t buy it as a present for somebody and forget about it?”
“It’s more probable that some luggage labels came loose at Cologne and were later tied on the wrong things,” said Dixon.
“In that case, you’ve lost something. I wonder what it is.”
“So do I.”
“You don’t seem very worried about it. By the way, no, you can’t have lost one, the waybill said six packages, and this one was an extra.”
“Oh, the man counted wrong, that’s all, but if they insist the thing’s mine I’m jolly well going to keep it,” said Dixon, but all the time he was wondering whether Hambledon had had anything to do with it, and if so, what and why.
At Dover, a porter collected their luggage, including the gramophone, and wheeled them on a barrow into the customs shed, the two Ogilvies following. They saw him slide all the things onto the bench, though they were themselves impeded from reaching it at once by a lady with several daughters who passed before them in single file, adhering to each other. A large trunk shot on the counter and masked the Ogilvie luggage for a moment, but at last they arrived where it was and waited for the customs officer, looking about them with the ghoulish curiosity we all feel when passing customs, to see if anybody else was going to be bowled out. However, no such entertainment offered itself, and at last the customs man reached them.
“Anything to declare?” he said, and held up before them a card bearing a list of dutiable articles.
“One portable gramophone,” said Dixon Ogilvie promptly, and looked among the pile of luggage for it.
“What value, sir?”
“No idea, I had it given to me—I don’t see it. It’s not here. Where is it?”
“You are sure--” began the man, but Ogilvie cut him short.
“I saw the porter load it on his barrow with the rest, wheel them in here and put them on the bench. I saw him put the gramophone on the bench, I was watching him.”
The customs officer consulted the waybill and counted the luggage. “It says six articles, sir, and there are six.”
“I know. There was a mistake at Cologne, and the gramophone had a ticket all to itself.”
“I have no other waybill in your name, sir ”
“D’you think I’m lying?” stormed Ogilvie, thoroughly losing his temper. “It was in your charge and it’s missing. I will have it, it must be found at once.”
“A search shall be made,” said the customs man, and consulted a colleague.
“Someone has stolen it,” said Dixon furiously. “Blasted inefficiency! Infernal carelessness! If one’s goods aren’t safe in a customs-house in an English port, where are they?”
“My dear boy,” said his uncle, “did you really want it as badly as all that? No doubt if it can’t be found the authorities will replace it.”
“I don’t want it replaced, I want that one,” began Dixon, but suddenly became aware that everyone was staring at him, and relapsed into purple silence
* * *
Denton returned to his flat in town and Liese ran out to meet him.
“Charles dear, you are so late, be quick, the dinner is spoiling.”
“Yes, angel, just a minute, I must look at this thing.”
“It’s a gramophone, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I want to know why the Department sent me all the way to Dover to collect a wedding present in person.”
“Oh, who gave us that, Charles?”
“A friend of your father’s, m’dear. Records in the lid—my hat !”
“Oh! they’re Waltheof’s, how lovely! Is 'Im Monat Mai’ there? Yes, here it is, let’s have that one, Charles darling.”
“If you wish,” said Charles, putting it on. “Unhealthy distorted sense of humor I call this,” he muttered as Waltheof’s voice rang out. “Confound Hambledon. Fancy having to listen to this.”
But to their intense surprise, a third of the way through the record Waltheof’s ringing tones suddenly ran down the scale, and came to an abrupt stop.
“So he never kissed the kleine Madchen after all,” said Denton, laughing at his wife, “or did he? Something wrong here, where’s a screwdriver?”
“Oh, darling, the dinner!”
“Let me just do this, angel, won’t be a minute. No room on this table, I’ll do it on the floor. Look, it won’t take a minute, just these four screws and the whole thing lifts out--”
“Not on the carpet!” shrieked his wife, “oh, you pig, darling, on our lovely cream-colored carpet, all that black grease--”
But Denton was too busy staring to listen to Liese’s wails, for the vacant space round and under the motor was packed with papers. One envelope was addressed to him and he tore it open.
“Dear Denton,” ran the note inside. “These few nuts for the Dept., with my salutations. Hope your wife likes the records, she can play them when you’re out, can’t she? Every good wish. T.H.”
Denton drew out one thin packet and two thick ones, and put them in his pocket, his wife watching him in that dutiful silence which Dixon Ogilvie so rightly admired.
“Sorry about the dinner, my sweet, got to go out,” he said, and her face fell. “I am sorry, I won’t be a minute longer than I can help, and you are a darling not to argue. I adore you--”
“Dearest,” she said, as he was leaving the room with a rush.
“Yes, what? I can’t stop just now.”
“Not even to wash your hands?”
“No—oh ! As you were, yes.”
Denton took a taxi to the Foreign Office, handed over the papers and explained where he had found them.
“I had an idea that there might be something there,” said his chief. “Hambledon would not wireless such detailed instructions for collecting the thing if it were only a wedding present and nothing more—how did Ogilvie take its disappearance?”
“When I left he was jumping up and down and making turkey-cock noises,” began Denton, but the other man cut him short.
“My godfathers, look at this. Photographic copies of an order to the German Chief of Police to get out a scheme for the effective policing of Austria after its union with the Reich in March. In March, good heavens! A carbon copy of the said Chief of Police’s scheme, not merely a copy, Denton, but a carbon duplicate. How the devil—what are these?” he went on, opening the two fatter envelopes, full of sheets of flimsy paper. “Dossiers of German agents in this country, dozens of ’em. Dozens of ’em.” He put the papers down and filled his pipe. “So Germany marches into Austria in March, does she? Hambledon, you ought to have the K.C.B. No, he ought to have the Garter. Dammit, he’s earned a halo, only I hope he doesn’t get it just yet.”
HAMBLEDON, having some work he wished to finish at home, returned from his office a little earlier than usual one evening and went straight to his study. He was investigating a series of fires in various parts of Germany, in some of which (a) arson was suspected but not proved, (b) it was certainly arson but no arrest had been made, and (c) those cases in which an arrest had been made; but Hambledon was by no means satisfied that it was always the right person who had been arrested. He had left the papers in a tidy pile to the left of his desk, categories (a), (b) and (c) each in alphabetical order and, on top of the whole lot, a separate sheet containing a list of all these cases. He sat down at his desk, drew the pile toward him, and after the first glance examined it with curiosity.
In the first place, the list was not at the top, it was at the bottom, but what really made him gnash his teeth was that the rest of the papers, instead of being carefully and methodically sorted as he had left them, were thoroughly and horribly mixed up.
“Blast it,” said Hambledon, looking through them, “someone has shuffled them like a pack of cards.” He looked at the other papers on his desk; though they had not been so carefully arranged as the arson cases he was sure they had been changed about.
He rose from his chair and went in search of Fraulein Rademeyer. "I say, dear, have you by any chance been dusting my desk lately?”
“No, Klaus, why? Is it badly done?”
“No, that is, it’s perfectly clean, but my papers are all muddled up and it’s rather tiresome. Who does it, Agathe?”
“No, it’s Franz’ business to wait on you. I am sorry, dear, if he is getting careless, would you like me to speak to him about it?”
“Don’t bother, I will,” said Hambledon, and returned to his study and rang for Franz.
“Did you dust my desk today, Franz?”
“This pile of papers which were carefully sorted are all in confusion. Do you think you could--”
“I beg your pardon, sir. I had an accident with that pile of papers, I picked them up and held them in one hand, sir, thus, while I dusted underneath them with the other, and they slipped out of my hand and skated all over the floor, if I may put it like that, sir. I picked them all up, I was not aware they were in any particular order. I am very sorry, sir, I will see it does not occur again.”
“That’s all right, Franz, only you understand that sort of thing is tiresome when one is busy.”
“Certainly, sir. Thank you,” said Franz, and left the room.
“Quite a good explanation,” thought Hambledon, looking after the man. “It may be quite true, it’s a way papers have, but--Oh, well, I suppose I’m naturally suspicious.”
Nevertheless, when he left the study that evening he put most of the papers away in the drawers of his desk and locked them up. Among them was an order to raid the headquarters of the German Freedom League, it was complete except for his signature, but he was not quite satisfied with the bona fides of all the information received. He thought it over, decided to make a few more enquiries, and put it away in its envelope unsigned.
Two days later he opened the envelope again, but instead of the order there was a neatly-written note saying simply, “No good. They have escaped to Switzerland.”
“This is too much,” said Hambledon, justly indignant. “A joke’s a joke, but taking papers out of my desk and replacing them with little notes telling me where I get off is just plain impertinence. Who does the feller think I am? Von Papen?”
He considered the matter carefully and came to the conclusion that the culprit must be either Franz, Reck, or somebody from outside. It was almost too much to hope that whoever it was would have left useful fingerprints on the note, but it was worth trying, so he picked it up carefully by its edges and slid it into an envelope which he sealed down, marked A, and put it in his pocket.
“We’ll start at the easiest end first,” he said. “Franz.”
There was a cupboard in a corner of the room where glasses were kept in case Hambledon wished to entertain visitors in the privacy of his study, or even occasionally to entertain himself: he walked across and opened it. It was small and overfull, tumblers on one side, wineglasses on the other, in ranks of three abreast. Hambledon put on his gloves, took a clean linen handkerchief from his pocket, and very carefully polished each of the three wineglasses in the front row.
“There," he said, replacing them, “now it won’t matter which one he takes." He rang the bell for Franz and sat at his desk again.
“You rang, sir?”
“Oh, yes. Bring me a half bottle of Graves, will you? I’m thirsty."
Franz brought it in on a tray and got out a wineglass from the cupboard. He drew the cork from the bottle and picked up the glass to fill it; just at that moment Hambledon glanced up from his work.
“Don’t pour it out yet, Franz. I’ll do it—I’ll just finish this first."
“Very good, sir,” said Franz, and departed.
Hambledon put his gloves on again and, holding the glass carefully by the base, swathed it in tissue paper. He then rolled it up in a sheet of newspaper and tied a label on it inscribed B. After which he extracted a wineglass from the very back of the cupboard where Franz would not notice a gap in the ranks, poured out his Graves and thought about Reck. It was a little unlikely that Reck should be of the inner ring of the Freedom League, but not impossible it was a lot more likely than, for example, that the Chief of the German Police should be a British agent. He would have Reek’s fingerprints too, just in case.
He resumed his gloves, took a half sheet of notepaper and wrote on it in blue pencil, in a hand as unlike his own as possible, the cryptic sentence, “The bee has crawled into the tulip in search of honey.” He folded and creased it as though it had been in an envelope, took his gloves off again, drank another glass of Graves, and strolled off to Reek’s room. Reck was mixing chemicals.
“Hullo," said Hambledon, “how’s the photography going?"
“All right,” said Reck. “Expensive hobby, rather.”
“Don’t let that worry you. Harmless amusements are always included in the expense account."
“Yes, I know," said Reck cynically. “The operative word is ‘harmless.’ ’’
“Quite. Got any good ones today?”
“How can I tell till they’re developed? I exposed plates at the principal entrance to the Zeughaus, a collision between two cars and a tram, and a small boy being rude to a policeman."
“On the whole,” said Hambledon, sinking into an armchair, “I have had an uneventful day. The only interesting thing that happened was that I found a note when I got home this evening."
Reck was pouring something out of a bottle into a graduated measure glass; his hand did not shake nor did the flow of liquid vary.
“Assignation or libel?" asked Reck, when the measure had been filled exactly to the desired line and no more.
“Neither. Here it is,” said Hambledon, offering him the folded sheet which he held lightly between his fingers like a cigarette. “What d’you make of it?"
Reck took it without hesitation, unfolded it and read it aloud. “What does it mean?"
“I haven’t the faintest idea," said Hambledon which was true enough.
“How did it come?”
“By post. Posted in Berlin last night.”
“Evidently someone is flattering you,” said Reck acidly.
“Why? Am I the industrious bee or the colorful tulip?”
“Neither. They thought you’d understand.”
“You are neither kind nor helpful,” said Hambledon in a pained voice. “I thought you might be able to suggest something.”
“Oh, I can suggest plenty of things, but I doubt if they’ll be helpful. It’s a warning of intended burglary, do you know a burglar whose name begins with B?”
“It has a political significance. Our heaven-sent Leader is going to march into Rumania after the oil fields.”
“What am I supposed to do about it? Arrest him?”
“Goering’s going to invade Russia in search of caviar.”
“You are incurably flippant,” said Hambledon, getting up and taking his paper from Reck. “I shall go and brood over it alone.”
He put the half sheet into an envelope, labelled it C, and took all three exhibits to the fingerprint experts in the morning, asking whether, if there were any prints on A, they coincided with those on either B or C, and if not, were they among the Department’s records. He received the report the same afternoon. There were two sets of fingerprints on exhibit A, one being the same as on exhibit B, i.e. the glass, and the other coincided with a set acquired by the Intelligence section during the Great War 1914-18; they were those of a Dutch importer at Cologne named Hendrik Brandt.
Hambledon really felt for a moment as though he were going to faint. A man can plan so carefully: with a little luck he works himself into an unassailable position, he has a flawless identity and a better background than the Leader himself, and all of a sudden Fate rises to her full height and socks him on the jaw. It only remained for Goebbels to obtain one of his fingerprints and make a similar enquiry, and the balloon would go up in a shower of sparks and a strong bad smell. “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” said Tommy Hambledon, “I wonder who did that? Von Bodenheim, I’ll bet, just taking precautions in the usual routine manner. Fancy a man you’d shot down twenty years earlier rising from the dead to get his own back like this—after twenty years.” He clutched his head in both hands. “Goebbels must have hundreds of my fingerprints; he may send them in tomorrow—he may have already done it—I’d better not think about it or he might get the idea and act on it. I must get Ludmilla out at once, and Frau Christine—and her family. Oh, dear, I wish Bill was here, he’d suggest something. Franz —then it was Franz who put the note in my desk. Franz belongs to the Freedom League. He must have duplicate keys to all my drawers and probably the safe as well, heaven knows how much he’s read. Oh, dear, I wish things didn’t all happen at once--”
He got up and walked distractedly about the room trying to think calmly, but it was very difficult. He felt acutely the need of someone to whom he could talk. The only available person was Reck, so Hambledon picked up his hat and went home. Reck raised his eyebrows as Hambledon walked into his room, and said, “Hallo! Come to arrest me?”
“Don’t make these ill-timed jokes,” snapped Hamblqdon. “Come along to the study, will you, I want to talk to you. Listen,” and Hambledon told Reck everything, admitting that he had suspected him as well as Franz.
“Naturally,” said Reck. “It would have been absurd not to.”
“Yes, but evidently your fingerprints are not recorded, whereas mine are duly docketed as Brandt, Hendrik, importer, Dutch, Hohe Strasse, Cologne. You see the beauty of it, don’t you? Goebbels has got a down on me already, don’t know why; if he starts looking round for evidence against me--”
Reck whistled dolefully, and the two men looked at each other in painful silence.
“Burn down the Record House or whatever they call it.”
“You drastic old man. But something like that will have to be done. I can’t go on living over a volcano like this day after day. It might be simpler to shoot Goebbels.”
“Frame him,” said Reck.
“I’ll bear that suggestion in mind, too. Now there’s Franz to deal with, I think I’ll have him in and talk seriously to him. I should think he could be managed; he knows his life is in my hands, even if Goebbels’ isn’t, and, of course, I don’t really mind if Germany is riddled with Freedom Leaguers, but I don’t want to lose a good servant. In my official capacity I have to discourage these activities, that’s all.”
Reck merely grunted, and absentmindedly helped himself to one of Tommy Hambledon’s best cigars.
“I must get Aunt Ludmilla out at the earliest possible moment, and Frau Christine Beckensburg and her clan too. As for you, Reck, I think you’d better slide out unostentatiously, too. Can’t you attend a photographic conference in Paris or somewhere?”
“No, I think I’d better stay here.”
“Well, judging by the mess you’re getting yourself into, somebody ought to look after you.” Reck nodded to the Chief of Police and strolled nonchalantly out of the room, leaving Hambledon gaping.
“The idea of that moss-grown old buffer—! Oh, well, I suppose I must deal with Franz now.”
HE RANG the bell, and Franz appeared.
“Franz, I have got to talk to you very seriously. Don’t stand over there by the door all ready to bolt at any moment, come over here.”
Franz walked up to the desk with his usual perfect composure, and with no expression on his ugly lined face beyond courteous enquiry.
“I hope sir, that I have not in any way failed to give satisfaction.”
“You are a very good servant and I’d hate to lose you. Why did you go and get yourself mixed up with those poisonous Freedom Leaguers?”
“Don’t stand there saying ‘sir’ at intervals like a talking parrot, you heard what I said. You took out of a locked drawer—a locked drawer, Franz—an order to raid the League’s offices, and left this note in its place.” Hambledon slammed down the note in question on the table. “It is of no use to deny it, your fingerprints are on it.”
“I was not aware that I had attempted to deny it, sir.”
“Look here, Franz. You and I have been together now for a number of years. It is acutely painful to me to find that you are working against me in my own household.”
“Oh, no, sir. Believe me, I have never worked against you and I never would. What you were good enough to say just now about--”
“Franz. You belong to the German Freedom League, therefore you are working against the Government.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Franz calmly, “but so, I think, are you.”
Hambledon leaned back in his chair and looked at the man with so savage an expression that most men would have turned and fled. Franz merely shifted his weight from the right foot to the left, and continued: “For instance, sir, it is known that the man Otto Hauser, who stole the specification of the magnetic mine, made a copy of it which was never found; he told a friend of mine about it. I think you searched for it yourself, did you not, sir?”
“Go on,” said Hambledon quietly.
"Coming nearer home, there is Herr Reck and his transmitting set, which he keeps in the roof-space above his bedroom. It was purely by accident, sir, that I discovered that the plug in the wall above his chest of drawers, to which he connects his tapping key, was not the ordinary power plug it resembles. I endeavored to work the vacuum cleaner from it, sir.”
Hambledon’s grim face relaxed a little, but he merely said “Go on” again.
“Though I must admit, sir, that all our efforts to decipher the code he uses have so far failed completely.” “I am glad I still retain a few secrets from my domestic staff,” said Hambledon.
“Yes, sir, certainly. On the other hand, there are a few things I could perhaps tell you, if you would permit me. For example, is Your Excellency aware that you are followed wherever you go by the orders of Herr Goebbels?”
“I am not altogether surprised.”
“There are two men outside the house now, sir, waiting in case you should go out again this evening.”
“Do you know how long this has been going on?”
“I could not say precisely, sir, but it was shortly before you went to see that forger to get the label for Herr Ogilvie’s portable gramophone.”
“So you know that too,” said Hambledon.
“Yes, sir. The man is one of our most useful, if not one of our most respected members. Yes,” said Franz thoughtfully, “it was just before that, about the time when Herr Reck took up photography.”
“You know, Franz, I’m awfully sorry, but I’m afraid I shall have to have you painlessly destroyed—as painlessly as possible. You know too much, you must see that.”
“On the contrary, sir, it is precisely because I know so much—not only about you—that I could be of use to you.”
“What do you mean by ‘not only about me?’ ”
“To answer that, sir, I must tell you something about the Freedom League. When the Nazi Party first received any notable measure of public support, some of us who remembered an earlier Germany were not favorably impressed, and a careful study of Mein Kampf confirmed us in our opinions. For after all, sir, it is all set down there, what he meant to do and how he meant to do it.The only mystery is why so many people are surprised at what he does. Why did they not simply believe him? Well, we did, and we regarded the future with such forebodings that we formed a League to protect what we foresaw would be most endangered, our personal freedom. That was in 1924, and since then, with the growth of the Nazi Party, the Freedom League has also grown till now there are thousands upon thousands of us. It is a lowly and inconspicuous organization, sir, we have no mass meetings and we carry no banners, but we do a lot of good work — literally,” added Franz with a smile. “The ivy is an inconspicuous plant, sir, but it had been known to pull down the forest oak.”
“Please go on,” said Hambledon, “I am most interested.”
“We thought you would be, sir. I may say that if you had not brought about this éclaircissement, I should shortly have initiated it myself. To return to the Freedom League. We decided that it was necessary to install ourselves into positions of confidence in the Party without having to take any share in its iniquities, so as most of us had fairly good manners and knew how things ought to be done—I was a Captain of Uhlans myself—we readily became butlers, valets and so forth. We were fortunate in obtaining situations with most of the Party leaders, I came to you because from the earliest days it was evident that your outstanding capabilities and integrity of character would carry you far—
“Stop a minute,” said Hambledon, “you’re making my head ache. Do you mean to say you have a whole network of—of supervision running through the Nazi Party?”
“Among all the more important members, sir.”
“And that you planted yourself on me on purpose to—er—supervise me?”
“Yes, sir. Of course, until recent years I thought you were as convinced a Nazi as any of them, but when I discovered you were not, I was only all the more interested.”
“Naturally. Er—sit down, Captain--”
“Thank you,” said Franz, but not supplying his name. “I think perhaps I’d better not, someone might come in. Thanks all the same, I appreciate that.”
“Tell me, who do you think I am?”
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t the faintest idea and I’ve never been able to find out. It annoys me—it is a failure on my part,” said the man with a frank smile. “I think, however, that you love Germany as we do, and loathe the Nazis as we do. We have seen you defending the cause of simple, honest people against tyranny in power, that is our aim also. We mean to pull down this foul regime which is making the name of Germany a stench in the nostrils of decent men of all nations, and we will set up in its place a Government founded on justice, humanity and peace.”
“If you succeed,” said Hambledon carefully, “you will no doubt receive a large measure of support from, as you say, decent men everywhere.”
“We shall want a new President,” said Franz, his eyes kindling with I the visions his mind beheld, “a man who can be trusted, whose instincts j are sound, whose heart is upright, whose word is his bond.”
“Such men are scarce, Franz.”
“I think I know of one, sir. I have served him for some time and I should be glad, if he would rescue Germany, to serve him till I died.”
Franz clicked his heels, bowed to Hambledon, and marched out of the room before his master could find I words to reply.
“Good heavens,” said the horrified Hambledon, when he was alone, “that settles it. I must get out, I couldn’t stand that. President— what a frightful thought. Franz looks quite capable of it—oh, gosh! No more beautiful blondes, and I should have to live on cabbage. This is where I go home.”
To Be Continued