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 pulls off many daring coups for British Intelligence, his latest the smuggling of Nazi plans for Austrian anschluss back to Britain, packed around the motor of a phonograph carried by an unwitting English concert pianist, Dixon Ogilvie. When the son and husband of Christine Beckensburg, a friend of Fraulein Rademeyer, are thrown into concentration camp, he says he will try and help them and determines to get Ludmilla Rademeyer and Christine out of Germany. He never knows at what minute he himself may have to flee, should his disguise be penetrated. He makes the horrifying discovery that his fingerprints are in his own police department flies, dating from his espionage days in the last war. Goebbels may already have found them—and Goebbels has become his enemy since Lehmann began investigating a racket in which he is involved. Goebbels’ men permit fleeing Jews to take twenty per cent of their money out of the country, retaining the other eighty per cent. However, he finds an unexpected ally in the secret German Freedom League, of which his own butler, Franz, proves to be a member.
(Sixth Part of Eight)
THOUGH the days passed by without any overt attack upon Hambledon, he was always aware of being watched and followed, and the thought of his fingerprints, neatly docketed and filed, waiting in their proper place for Goebbels to ask for them, made him feel sick. The neatest way to solve the problem would be simply to substitute somebody else’s fingerprints for his own, but he had not the technical ability to do this, as he told Reck. "I don’t even know how they photograph the things,” he said irritably. "They powder them, don’t they? What with? Besides, how do they file them? Alphabetically, between Brain and Brawn?”
“No,” said Reck, "I don’t think so. I think they’re classified according to pattern, as it were.”
"That’s what I’m afraid of. If I got the wrong sort of loops into that place, the experts would spot it at once. That is, supposing I could get hold of it, or having got it could fake an imitation. Besides, there may be two copies under a sort of cross-reference system. I wish I’d taken an intelligent interest in the business earlier, I daren’t now. I only used them when necessary and asked not how nor scheme as that. Now Bill would have persuaded Goebbels that it was in the Nazi interest to have records destroyed, and Goebbels would have beamed on him and asked him to attend to it himself.”
"Ask Franz to attend to it,” suggested Reck lazily.
Tommy Hambledon looked at him much as Balaam must have looked at his ass, and walked thoughtfully away.
The next evening, when Franz came into the study as usual to switch on lights and draw curtains, Hambledon said: "By the way, I have no desire to meddle in any way with that organization of yours, but I did hear a piece of news today which might interest you.”
"Your emissaries scattered quite a large number of leaflets about in most of the larger towns of Germany sometime recently.”
"That is so, sir, and not one of the distributors was caught in the act.”
"No, Franz, but most of ’em left their fingerprints behind.”
"I warned them,” said Franz anxiously, "to be careful about that—having been careless myself.”
"Yes, but you can’t separate papers in the dark with gloves on. The fingerprints have been collected and filed, Franz, and if any one of them can be identified he will either be dropped on and persuaded to talk, or watched to see who his contacts are.” This happened to be true, which, as Hambledon remarked to Reck, was convenient, because he’d probably have said it anyway. “I can’t do anything, this is the Gestapo’s work.”
"It looks as though some steps should be taken in the matter, sir.”
"I leave it to you, Franz, with the utmost confidence,” said Tommy blandly.
Franz fidgeted about the room for some moments. "It would be very wrong, sir, of me even to wonder what advice you would give.”
"It would be positively immoral of me to offer any,” said his master.
"Yes, sir. Would it be inconvenient to you, sir, if I were to go out for an hour tomorrow afternoon? It is not my usual day.”
"Not at all, Franz, by all means go. There is a very exciting film being shown at some of the cinemas, it is called, I think, ‘Flames of Desire,’ or some such title.”
"Sir?” said the surprised servant.
"It is, of course, well known to everyone that photographic records are inflammable,” said Tommy patiently.
A slow smile spread across Franz’s face, and he left the room without replying.
A few days later Franz came to Hambledon and said without preamble, "There are certain men, sir, who are prepared to burn the fingerprint records in possession of the Government, if they could obtain access to the building.”
"It so happens,” said Hambledon, "that I know the place fairly well. At night it is, of course, always locked up and the night caretaker will not open to anyone. If any person in authority should want to turn up a record after the office shuts for the night, he would have to go with one of the three principal heads of Departments, who would take him there, let him in with his own key, stand over him while he transacted his business, and convey him out again. The outer doors have an ordinary lock which opens by turning a handle like any sitting-room door, and in addition, a Yale lock or something very like it. You know, it locks itself automatically when you pull the door shut-after you and you can’t open it again unless you have a key.”
“Are the doors locked all day, sir?”
“No, the catch of the spring lock is held back by a snib, which you slide up to put the lock out of action and pull down again to release the catch. By day the lock is not working, it’s only after office hours that it is used.”
"If one could get--” began Franz, but Hambledon interrupted him.
“So you see, if one night someone were to come out of the door and absent-mindedly slip up the snib as he went, any man who happened to be outside at the time could merely turn the handle and walk in.”
Franz nodded eagerly. “And the night caretaker?”
"He’s a very decent old fellow named Reinhardt, a veteran of the war, a Saxon; he fought at Ypres in '16, he tells me. Reinhardt must be got out of the way somehow.”
"If the gentleman who was going home would send him for a taxi,” suggested Franz.
"Gentlemen,” corrected Hambledon. “There will be two of them, because one will be an official with a key.”
"Of course, you said so just now. If Reinhardt were sent for a taxi, the taxi would come.”
Hambledon nodded. “Today is Tuesday. Friday night about ten? The side door, not the main entrance.”
"Yes, sir,” said Franz, suddenly becoming the servant again. "Certainly, sir.”
I MUST really apologize,” said Hambledon to the Records official, "for dragging you away from your family like this. A man should have his evenings undisturbed.”
"Not at all, Herr Polizei Oberhaupt. Besides being my duty, it is a pleasure to serve the Herr.”
"You are too kind,” said Hambledon, as the other man put his key in the lock. "I only heard tonight that this man had been traced, and tomorrow— tomorrow is Saturday, is it not? —he is going to Holland and it will be too late. Good evening, Reinhardt.”
“Why do you not arrest him at once just in case?”
“It is not a political offense,” explained Hambledon, “it is a case of private blackmail, a crime which I hold in such abhorrence, Herr Gerhardt, that I would not even accuse a man of it unless I were morally sure of his guilt.”
“It is evident that the Herr has the scales of justice implanted in his soul,” said Gerhardt with poetic but confused metaphor. “The dossier you require should be in this folder—here it is.”
Hambledon spent some time making notes from the dossier of a gentleman who had indeed been convicted of blackmail in the past, and then glanced at his watch to discover to his horror that it was five minutes past ten.
“I have completely ruined your evening,” he said. “What will Frau Gerhardt say to me? On such a night, too, there is rain beating the windows again. I’ll send Reinhardt for a taxi and drop you at your house on my way home. Reinhardt! Are you there? Oh, get me a taxi, would you?”
“I beg the Herr Polizei Oberhaupt not to inconvenience himself--”
“It is no inconvenience, it is a pleasure--”
“The Herr is too polite--”
“Besides, I owe you a little return--”
“On one condition, then, that the Herr will deign to come in and take a little something. Frau Gerhardt will remember the honor all her life.”
“I shall be glad to make my peace with the gracious Frau,” said Hambledon, who had the best of reasons for wanting an impeccable alibi for the next hour or so. “I shall be delighted. What a wonderful filing system you must have here,” he went on. “Do you keep the fingerprints here too?”
“The fingerprint section is on the floor above this, directly over our heads,” said Gerhardt, and went on telling Hambledon about it, regardless of the sound of a taxi drawing up outside, till the Chief of Police permitted himself another glance at his watch. Gerhardt took the hint, and they walked toward the outer door.
“Where is Reinhardt?” asked the Records official. “He should be here to open the door for us.”
“We can easily open it for ourselves,” suggested Hambledon, but his host continued to fuss.
“Reinhardt!” he called, turning back from the door. “Where are you? This is positively discourteous.”
But Hambledon had already opened the door and was standing holding the handle. “Please don’t trouble, Herr Gerhardt; no doubt he has a perfectly good explanation, perhaps it is time for one of his rounds. Come on,” he added, taking the man by the arm in friendly fashion, “let’s go; you have been on business long enough tonight already.” He slammed the door behind them and the two men got into the waiting taxi and drove away.
When Reinhardt had been sent for the taxi ten minutes earlier, he had walked briskly down the street whistling under his breath in spite of the rain. There was a taxi-rank at the end of the road, he was thinking. He came to the entry of a short cul-de-sac, leading only to the door of a church, silent, dark and deserted at that hour of the night. He started to cross it, but suddenly there were flashes before his eyes, searing bursts of flame, and in his ears the unbearable shock of explosion. He staggered, tried to run and could not, his feet would not move—the mud, of course. He threw out his arms feebly and crashed to the ground . . .
Directly after the taxi had driven off with Hambledon and Gerhardt inside, a car drew up at the same door and two men with suitcases got out. The car moved off to a point fifty yards down the road and stopped again with its engine running quietly; the driver lit a cigarette and waited, his eyes on the driving mirror reflecting the street behind him. The two men carried their suitcases across the pavement, opened the door by simply turning the handle, and went in, locked the door carefully behind them.
“Have a good look at how this catch works, Erich,” said one. “If this stuff flares up properly we may have to make a dash for it. Hans has pinched Eigenmann’s car for an hour or two because the police will always pass it through; you know, Goebbels’ secretary.”
“Good idea. I know all about those locks; we’ve got one like that on the front door at home. Where’d we better start it? Anywhere in this long passage? I’ve never been inside this place before.”
“This leads to the central hall where the stairs go up, there at the end, you can see them. If we start in a room near the stairs and open the window first, there’ll be a good draught. Come on.”
They entered the last room, next to the hall, and one pushed up the windows while the other opened the suitcases. The walls of the room were lined with wooden pigeonholes, full of papers, and there were besides screens six feet high across the room at intervals of a yard apart, screens themselves all pigeonholes of papers, neatly filed.
“What a wonderful spot for the job,” murmured Erich. “Why, you’d think one match would be enough without what we’ve brought.”
“Yes. I don’t think we need use it all in here,” said his friend. “We’ll start one here, and if we’re quick, another one farther down the passage as well before we go.”
He took handfuls of cinematograph film, cut into short lengths, from one suitcase and strewed it on the floor along the walls while Erich threw coils of film over the screens in all directions.
“I should think that would be enough, then,” said Erich. “Going to light it now?”
“But won’t they see the flames from outside?”
“No, this window looks on an inner court. Stand back—no, get right out in the passage. Take the suitcases, I shall have to jump for it.”
“All right, I’ve got them,” said Erich. “All clear.” The other man struck a match and applied it to one of the coils; immediately there was a spluttering crackle and the flare of burning celluloid. He lit another and another, tossed the match onto a heap on the floor, and sprang into the passage.
“That’ll do for that,” he said, “let’s find another. What’s in here? Books—not too good. This one— tin boxes, no. This’ll do, it’s very like the first.”
“My hat,” said Erich, glancing back, “that’s taken hold. Looks like the doorway of hell already.”
“Come on, don’t waste time.”
“This room looks out on the street,” said Erich, as they tossed the stuff about and pulled papers down to make them burn more readily.
“No matter, we shall be out before the flames show. Pull the blinds down. That’s right, now get out while I finish off.”
Erich heard the crackle of the lighted film as he turned away and the second man joined him in the passage. “Better than the other, I think,” he said. “Now--Good heavens, what’s that?”
It was a rattle as someone tried the handle of the outer door, followed by hammering on the panels and the shout, “Open, in the name of the Reich !”
“It’s the police,” said the older man calmly. “They must have found the caretaker.”
ERICH turned to run back along the passage but checked at once. “We can’t get through now,” he said. “Look at it.” The flames had barricaded the passage and even the floor was flaring.
“Dangerous stuff, linoleum,” said his friend. “No, we can’t go that way.”
“The windows, then?”
“They’re all barred. No, I’m sorry, Erich, I brought you into this.”
"Can’t we--What’s that?”
“They’re trying to shoot the lock off, they’ll probably succeed.”
“Can’t we do anything?”
“There is just a rather feeble chance that there may not be many of them, and if they’re silly enough to come in we might shoot them down and get clear away before reinforcements arrive. I’ve a good mind to go and open the door for them, you know, they’ve no need to come in, they’ve only to wait till the fire forces us out. I think I’ll do that. Listen ! There’s the car moving off, if we do get out we shall have to run for it.”
“Has Hans gone off and left us, then?”
“Of course, he had orders to do that. What could he do if he stayed? Nothing. Erich, look at that door! It’s opening! Into that doorway!” The two men dodged into doorways as the outer door burst open and the police charged in. There was the repeated crack of automatics, and the sergeant who was leading doubled up, stumbled, came running up the passage under his own momentum, and collapsed like a sack at Erich’s feet. A constable by the door uttered a yelp, clasped his arm, and jumped back, the others threw the door wide open and withdrew hastily into the street outside, from whence they could see down the passage with its creeping inferno of fire behind the two desperate men in the doorways.
“They’ve done us now,” shouted the older man. “They can see us and we can’t see them. Better get shot, it’s pleasanter than burning. Let ’em have it !”
The exchange of shots went on, lessening suddenly from within and finally ceasing altogether. The fire engines came, and the fire brigade leader asked if it was safe for his men to start.
“The fire don’t look too safe to me,” said the surviving sergeant of police. “I reckon the men are harmless enough by now.”
By this time the fire had taken secure hold of the building and was spreading from room to room and bursting through ceilings to the floors above; windows shattered with the heat and flames gushed out, lighting up the decorous streets and squares of the Government quarter with an incongruous dancing bonfire light. Crowds gathered and were shooed back by the police, telephone wires buzzed and celebrities arrived, among them Goebbels in person, to whom the Superintendent of Police reported.
“Arson, sir, there’s no doubt,” and he told the story of the two men. “Reinhardt—that’s the caretaker, sir—was decoyed out somehow and sandbagged. He’s now in hospital.”
“Did anyone visit the place tonight after closing hours?”
“Yes, sir, Herr Gerhardt came with Herr Lehmann, the constable on duty saw them go in.”
“Herr Lehmann, eh? Did they come out again?”
“I couldn’t say, sir. The constable’s beat takes him right round the square, and they might well have gone while he was out of sight.”
“Lehmann,” said Goebbels thoughtfully to himself. “Lehmann. Then the two men--” But the idea of the respectable Gerhardt loosing off an automatic at the police was quite beyond credit, if one of the men was Lehmann the other certainly wasn’t Gerhardt. After all, it was equally ridiculous to suspect the correct Lehmann of such behavior, only Goebbels was getting into the habit of suspecting him of having a finger in any unpleasantness which might crop up—not even quite a suspicion, more a hope that the incorruptible Chief of Police would slip up. “Has Herr Gerhardt been informed?”
“Apparently his telephone is out of order, sir, we can’t get an answer. I have sent a constable to his house to inform him.”
The firemen confined their efforts to saving the farther wing, since this one was clearly past praying for, the flames leaped higher into the thick rolls of smoke, and the crowd said “A-aah” as the roof fell in with a crash and a shower of sparks. Very reminiscent of the Reichstag fire this, with the important difference that this one was inconvenient, damned inconvenient. All those irreplaceable records--
He started violently as a quiet voice behind his elbow said, “An appalling sight, Herr Goebbels, yet impressive in its grandeur and disregard of human endeavor.”
“Lehmann! When did you leave here—where have you been?”
“At my house, Herr Minister, at my house,” said Gerhardt’s agitated voice. “For the past hour we have been taking a little refreshment in the Herr Polizei Oberhaupt’s esteemed company. We went home together from here, soon after ten. All was well then.”
“The devil you did,” said Goebbels to himself. “A little job for you, Lehmann. Find the miscreants,” he added aloud.
“The search will be the subject of my unremitting care,” said the Chief of Police earnestly.
JAKOB ALTMANN was a railway porter, not in one of the passenger stations of Berlin where there was nice clean luggage to be carried and tips to collect from grateful passengers, but in the goods yard, where he spent laborious days dragging heavy boxes about and staggering under the weight of awkward parcels. His wife Gertrud said repeatedly, and usually in the same words, that it was entirely Jakob’s own fault that he was never raised to the passenger grade; no one could expect gentlefolk to have any dealings with such a rough, clumsy, loutish, mannerless, loud-voiced, ham-handed bullock of a man. She knew what was what, having been with the same family of gracious ladies till she was insane enough to throw up her good place to marry such a lout, a lump, a baboon——
“I wish you were with them still,” growled Jakob.
“But they’re all dead.”
“That’s what I mean,” he said, and swaggered out laughing.
He drew his wages one Friday evening as usual and returned to the porter’s room to get his lunch bag before he went home. Most of the men had lunch bags alike, the black American-cloth shopping bag familiar to the poor in most countries; some were shabbier than others, but there was otherwise little difference unless one wrote one’s name on the lining, but why bother? If they did get mixed up it did not matter much as they never had anything in them at the end of the day. On this occasion there was something in Jakob’s; for some reason he had not been hungry at dinner time and had only eaten half his sausage, so he was naturally taking the rest of it home again. One does not waste good food. Since his name began with A he was paid among the first; when he reached the smoke-blackened brick hutch called the porter’s room the space under the bench was full of black bags, with a basket or two for variety, one tin box and several cardboard ones. Jakob picked up his own bag, felt the board ones. Jakob picked up his own bag, felt the lump inside to make sure it was the right one, and walked home as usual with his friend Buergers who lived two doors down the street.
They went into a place of refreshment on the way home and had one or two, since it was payday, and then ambled off to their respective wives.
“Late again,” said Gertrud, “as usual. Been gossiping with that mutton-head Buergers, I suppose. Been fined this week?”
“No,” said Jakob good-naturedly. “Been lucky this week, didn’t bust anything. Here’s the money.”
“This isn’t all,” said Gertrud, counting it.
“Had a drink on the way home,” explained Jakob. He explained this every Friday, and every Friday Gertrud received it as though it were a fresh enormity. “Buergers stood me one so I had to return the compliment as they say in high social circles, among the toffs you’re so fond of.”
“Taking to drink, now. If Buergers’ wife is such a soft fool she’ll put up with only getting ’alf the money as is her lawful due, I’m not, Jakob Altmann.”
“Buergers’ wife is one as ’as too much sense to nag at a man the minute he comes in,” said Jakob enviously. “Happy, they are, if she isn’t everlastingly buying things for the ’ouse as is no use when they’re got. Antimacassars, bah !”
“If Buergers’ wife is such a slut as to be content with an ’ome looking as if the brokers ’ad been in--”
“An’ if you call two glasses of beer at the end of a day’s work ‘taking to drink’ you’re the biggest fool in the street.”
“That’s right!” screamed Gertrud. “Call me names!”
“And Buergers’ wife isn’t a slut, she’s a decent, quiet, clean woman—”
“That’s right! Taking up with another woman! I suppose Buergers--"
“Will you stop!” roared Jakob in a voice which shook the windows. “Herrgott, I can’t stand this, I’m goin’ out. I shall kill you one of these days, then you’ll be sorry.”
“What’s that in the bag?” asked Gertrud, noticing an unaccustomed bulge in it. “Brought some think ’ome?”
“Only some of the sausage,” answered Jakob, diving into the bag for the parcel. “Didn’t eat it all.”
“Wasn’t good enough for Your Lordship, I suppose?”
“Oh, just the same as usual. Only when I was eatin’ it I ’appened to think of you, my love, as the song says, an’ it put me right off.” He pulled the packet out.
“That’s right! Be rude! There’s the fire goin’ out now,” said Gertrud, diving at the stove and producing a frightful clatter with the poker. “Go out to the shed an’ bring me another bucket of briquettes, quick.”
But Jakob neither moved nor spoke.
“Did you ’ear me?” said Gertrud, pushing a few tired-looking twigs into the stove. “Suppose I’m goin’ to slave for you all day long when you’re out an’ then carry ’eavy buckets in while you sit in an armchair an’ twiddle your thumbs? This wood won’t catch, now.”
Still no answer, and Gertrud lost her temper completely. “Will you do as I say?” she screamed, and hit the top of the iron stove a terrific welt with the poker, which bent. “Now that’s gone, I wish it had been your head, you--” she said, turning round, and suddenly her voice changed. “What’s that you’ve got there?”
“Money,” said Jakob in a shaking voice, “lots of money.”
“Give it to me,” said Gertrud, diving at the table, but he caught her by the wrists and whirled her across the room, casually, without looking what he was doing, with an easy strength.
“I must have picked up the wrong bag,” said Jakob in a puzzled voice.
“How much is there there?”
“Shan’t tell you. Here’s some for you,” said Jakob, counting out tenmark notes. “Go an’ buy some more antimacassars if they make you ’appy, and for ’eaven’s sake get drunk on the rest, maybe you’d be pleasanter company than you are sober.”
Gertrud watched him as he shuffled up the other notes, a fat wad of them, and replaced them between the cardboard covers he found them in, squares of cardboard with elastic bands round them.
“Where are you going?”
“Out. I told you that before.”
“Not with all that money,” said Gertrud, and made a lightning snatch at the packet. Jakob did not attempt to evade her, he held firmly to the money with one hand and with the other dealt her a stinging slap on the side of her head which sent her spinning to the floor, almost too astonished to cry, because in spite of incessant provocation he had never hit her before. Jakob did not even look to see if she were hurt, he put the money carefully in an inner pocket and walked out of the house.
HE STARTED the evening by taking Buergers and his wife to a restaurant where they got good food, appetizingly cooked and cleanly served, after which Frau Buergers, who was an understanding woman, went home and left the men to enjoy themselves after their own fashion. Unfortunately, their tastes in pleasure were limited and unrefined, and by ten o’clock they were hopelessly drunk. They staggered, arm in arm, along a dignified street which was new to them, since they had lost their way, singing the German equivalent of “Dear old pals—jolly old pals--” in anything but harmony. They came to the entrance of a short cul-de-sac leading only to the door of a church, dark, silent and deserted at that hour of the night, and turned into it, not intentionally but because their feet happened to go that way. Halfway along it they tripped over something and fell down.
“What’s that?” asked Jakob. “You fall over something, too?”
Buergers felt about in the obscurrity. “Not something,” he announced. “Somebody.”
Jakob also investigated. “Qui’ right. Somebody. I say, he’s had some, had lots. Lots more than us. We’re bit tiddley, he’s blind. Corpsed.”
“Poor ole corpse,” said Buergers affably. “Wake up, catch cold.”
“Qui’ right. Wake up, corpse.” They shook him, but Reinhardt took no notice.
“Can’t leave’m here, die of cold,” said Jakob. “Not Clish—Christian.” “Pick up,” suggested Buergers. “Take’m home.”
“Not my home,” said Jakob firmly. “Gertrud—wouldn't like ’m. Very respectable woman, Gertrud. Too ’spectable. Don’t like her.”
“Well, take’m somewhere,” urged Buergers, and they hoisted him up, holding him under each arm, and carried him along without effort though his feet were trailing, for the two porters even when drunk were stronger than most .men when they are sober.
“ ’Minds me,” said Jakob, “carrying ole Hoffenberg.”
“Yes,” agreed Buergers. “Jus’ like funeral. Sing!”
So they emerged into the very dignified street again, proceeding in zigzags and dismally chanting that dirge of German funerals, “I had a comrade, A better one could be,” and met the constable completing the circuit of his beat.
“ ’Ere!” he said sharply. “What’s all this? Stop that noise.”
“This feller’s corpsed,” explained Jakob. “Take ’m away. I’ll give ’m to you.”
They let go of Reinhardt, who immediately collapsed like a sack in the road, face downward, and the constable, seeing that this was more than a one-man job, blew his whistle for reinforcements, and waited. Jakob and Buergers sat down on each side of Reinhardt and went on singing till the constable hushed them again, whereupon Buergers said he was unkind and burst into tears, while Jakob went to sleep.
Another constable and a sergeant arrived and the first policeman explained the circumstances.
“Know who they are?” asked the sergeant.
“No, sir. Don’t belong round here, that is, I haven’t seen the middle man’s face, but they were all together.”
“Let’s look,” said the sergeant, so they turned Reinhardt over and shone a torch on his face. In spite of the mud smears on it the constables recognized him at once.
“Herrgott! It’s Reinhardt, night caretaker at the Record House.”
“He’ll lose his job for this,” said the sergeant ominously.
“He can’t be drunk, sir, I saw him an hour ago stone sober, and just after that Herr Lehmann and Herr Gerhardt went in; he wouldn’t get drunk with them there.”
“Besides,” said the other constable, “he never does.”
“There’s something very odd here,” said the sergeant. “Get an ambulance, Georg, and have him taken to hospital. Handcuff these two to the railings, can’t bother with them now. Johan, come to the Record House with me.”
When they looked through the letter-box of the Record House they saw the end of the passage a mass of flames, and two men walking toward them.
After the shooting had ceased, the fire brigade arrived and took control of proceedings at the Record House, and the constables remembered their charges which they had left handcuffed to the railings. They were still there, with the crowd surging round and tripping over their legs, but nothing troubled them nor made them afraid, for they were sound asleep. Efforts to awaken them having failed completely, they were lifted onto wheeled stretchers and taken to the police station.
Here in the morning came the Chief of Police in person, pursuant upon his promise to Goebbels that he would look into the affair himself. Here were two men who had been in company with the damaged Reinhardt; very well, he would start with them.
It was quite easy to start, but quite impossible to go on. The police stated that they had found a large number of ten-mark notes, eleven hundred and eighty-two to be exact, upon the person of the prisoner Altmann, who could give no satisfactory explanation as to how he came by them. There were also two squares of cardboard which, with two rubber bands, had held the money together; one of the pieces of card had notes scribbled on it in pencil. The cards and the money were handed over to the Chief of Police.
Interrogated, Jakob Altmann deposed that he found the money in his bag when he got home. That he had no idea whose it was or how it got there, and suggested, in a flight of fancy for which the police rebuked him, Santa Claus. That he had noticed a lump in the bag but thought it was sausage. That he had gone home, had a row with his wife, given her some of the money to keep her quiet, and then gone out with the rest of it and taken his friends the Buergers out to supper. That after supper Frau Buergers had gone home to mind the kids while Buergers and he went on the binge. No, he could not recall where they went, just to one place and another. No, he didn’t know how they came to fetch up in that quarter of Berlin, supposed they must have lost their way. No, he didn’t remember meeting Reinhardt, didn’t know anybody of that name, though, of course, they’d met and talked to a lot of people they didn’t know in the course of the evening, and who was this Reinhardt, anyway?
Buergers, a gentler and less truculent man than Altmann, but also of a lower mental grade, remembered even less of the evening than his friend, but what he did remember corroborated Altmann’s statements. No, he didn’t know where the money came from. Old Jakob said he’d found it in his bag and Buergers had simply believed him. Why not? It was no business of his, it wasn’t his money.
Recalled, Altmann said that the only explanation he could suggest was that he had inadvertently exchanged bags with someone who had got his sausage in exchange for the notes, he explained how much alike most of the bags were.
“That I can understand,” said the Chief of Police, “but what I don’t believe for an instant is that a man in your position would lose a sum like that without making an uproar about it. Would you?”
“No, sir,” said the prisoner promptly.
“That is, if he ever had such a sum. Has there been any complaint about a serious loss of money among the goods yard porters?”
“No, sir,” said the Superintendent present. “Enquiries have been made.”
“So you see,” said Lehmann, addressing the prisoner again, “it doesn’t seem as though your story could be true, does it?”
“But it is, sir,” insisted Jakob.
“Would you believe it yourself, if you were in my place?”
“No, sir,” he said, facing Lehmann squarely. “I don’t believe I would. But it is true, sir.”
“Dammit, I believe the fellow’s telling the truth,” muttered Lehmann to the Superintendent. “Remanded in custody for a week, both of them. Have that car looked up, you’ve got its number.”
“The Herr Oberhaupt has a funny way of examining prisoners,” said one Inspector quietly to another.
“What odds so long as he gets at the facts?” said the other.
“Supposing this man to be speaking the truth,” said Lehmann, talking to the Superintendent in private, “it is perfectly obvious that the man who lost the money had no right to it. Nobody swaps eleven thousand marks for a couple of ounces of sausage without howling about it, not in these days.”
“No, sir. Looks like proceeds of a robbery, sir.”
“So I think. Either that, or they’re forged. I will take them away and have them investigated. I’ll sign a receipt for them if you’ll make it out.”
IT WAS soon established that the notes were not forgeries, so Hambledon sent a list of their numbers to the various banks, with a request to know when they had last been passed out and to whom, and sat down to consider the pencilled entries on the cardboard cover. They ran:
“Message ends,” said Tommy to himself. “Since the faculty of reasoning is what mainly distinguishes us from the brute creation, what do we deduce from this? How much did Altmann have on him after his night out?” He turned up a note on the amount. “11,820. And to think of him lying asleep on the pavement with all that mob surging round him and nobody picked his pocket! However, I think that Herr Altmann spent one hundred and eighty marks on his evening beer. What a jag! I wonder how much of that he gave his wife.”
He looked at the two dates and the list of names. “April 7, that was the night of the fire. I think there was going to be a share-out that night among the Herren Gagel, Dettmer and Co., but when they got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor dogs got none. I wonder what they said to the treasurer when he offered them two and a half ounces of sausage instead.” He looked again at the list of names, some of them were familiar. “Rautenbach, Militz, Eigenmann and Baumgartner are creatures of Goebbels,” he said thoughtfully, unlocked his safe and took a book out of it. “Let’s see if we have any notes about them. Yes, I thought so. Eigenmann is up to the neck in this Jewish racket, Militz, s.n.p.— suspected, not proved. Nothing against the other two. Kitzinger, I think I’ve heard of him before. Yes, Jewish racket again, and so is Dettmer if I don’t mistake —I don’t. He is. Tietz, s.n.p. again. Gagel, no mention.” He locked up the book again and lit a cigar. “The bag turns up on the railway, and the railway people are deep in this Jew swindle. We are getting on, we really are. I don’t think this is quite an ordinary robbery, somehow, I think it’s a share-out of some of the cash extracted from our Jewish emigrants, poor shorn lambs, and if Herr Goebbels takes any interest in the case. I shall know I’m right. It will be interesting to see what the banks report and in the meantime I think I’ll copy out this little list.”
He made a copy, locked it up in his safe and spent ten minutes in going through a police report which came in. He smiled secretly to himself when an S.S. trooper tapped on the door and announced, “The Herr Minister of Propaganda Goebbels.”
“I beg your forgiveness, my dear Lehmann, for breaking in upon your labors like this. I am anxious to know whether you have been able to get any light upon the abominable fire at the Record House.”
“Please sit down,” said Hambledon, setting a chair for his visitor, “I trust that you will never think it necessary to apologize for coming to see me. I am firmly of the opinion that the effective functioning of a Government is only possible when the heads of Departments are upon terms, not merely of formal interrelation, but of genuine collaboration.”
“How true,” said Goebbels, “but---"
“But you did not favor me with minutes of your valuable time to hear my platitudinous remarks upon Governmental efficiency. Exactly. With regard to the fire at the Record House, I think there can be no doubt but that it was a case of deliberate arson.”
Goebbels gulped slightly. “I had no idea that anybody doubted that for a moment,” he said acidly. “The facts speak for themselves.” The old fool Lehmann must be entering his dotage; it was inconceivable that he was daring to pull Goebbels’ leg.
“Not necessarily,” said'the Chief of Police. “I have known facts which lied like—like Ananias, till one found out some more. However, I think we may safely assume this to have been arson. The two men who, presumably, caused it were so completely destroyed by fire as to be quite unrecognizable when found. Unfortunately, the sergeant who saw them through the letter box slit also perished, so we shall never know whether he recognized them or not.”
“So you’ve got no further in the matter?”
“On the contrary,” said Hambledon, leaning back in his chair and putting the tips of his fingers together, “several interesting points have emerged. There have been, as no doubt Your Excellency knows, a number of cases of arson in various parts of Germany during the past twelve or fifteen months. I now know them to be the work of criminals already known to the authorities, since they were so anxious for the destruction of all records of such criminals as to be willing to take the risk involved in destroying by fire a large and important building in the--”
“Yes, yes, my dear Lehmann, but that is all rather vague, is it not? It would have been encouraging to hear that you had found out something a little more definite.”
“Your Excellency brings me to a point which, if you had not done me the honor to visit me, I should have called upon you to discuss. A constable who was passing the Record House shortly before the alarm was given—the same who found Reinhardt—noticed a car standing by the roadside about fifty yards from the door, with its engine running. He took its number.”
“The moment the alarm was given the driver threw in his clutch and drove off at a furious rate. My men regarded the incident as suspicious.”
“They could not chase him because they had no means at their disposal, but they subsequently looked up the number. It was that of a car belonging to one Eigenmann, who is, I understand, one of Your Excellency’s private secretaries.”
“The car must have been stolen,” said Goebbels instantly.
“Enquiries were made,” said Hambledon, fitting his fingers together in a different order, “of Herr Eigenmann personally as to his movements that evening, with a view to elucidating that point. He told my representative that he had spent that evening driving the car in question to a house near Lindow, where some of his cousins live.”
“That is true--”
“That he arrived there soon after seven and did not leave again for Berlin till after eleven. As Lindow is fully sixty miles from Berlin--”
“It is plain,” said Goebbels, “the car by the Record House had false number plates.”
“That may be,” said Hambledon. “I—forgive my careless inattention! Let me offer you a cigar. You may possibly prefer these, let me give you a light. I was about to tell Your Excellency that a robbery took place near Gransee that evening, and as the thieves had escaped in a car all the roads .were picketed and every car stopped. Herr Eigenmann’s car was not in that neighborhood that night.”
“He exchanged cars for some reason,” said Goebbels hastily. “Possibly he had a breakdown.”
“He particularly assured my man that he had driven his own car all the way,” said Tommy blandly. “We thought of that.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Goebbels angrily. “This is a mare’s nest you have found, Herr Lehmann. I will ask Eigenmann to tell me clearly what happened, and inform you in due course.”
“That is precisely what I was going to ask your Excellency to do. If Herr Eigenmann was involved that night in some little indiscretion, it is natural he should not wish to tell the police about it, though, of course, it would be no concern of ours—probably. At the same time, I should be glad to have the fullest possible details of the movements of that car that night.”
“Yes, yes, of course. Another point, what about that money?”
“We think it must have been the proceeds of a robbery. I am having enquiries made.”
“If you find out nothing?”
“It reverts to the Treasury, of course, who will give me a receipt for it.”
Goebbels looked as if he could have killed the Chief of Police, but merely said, “An odd complication. How much was there?”
“Eleven thousand eight hundred and twenty marks by the time it came into our hands, though apparently it was twelve thousand marks originally.”
“How do you know?”
“I assume it by the notes on this card,” said Hambledon, handing it to him. “The notes were held together —I fear you are not well, Herr Goebbels. You are quite pale. The cigar, perhaps--”
“I have a slight chill, it is nothing,” said Goebbels carelessly. “Common names, all of these.”
“It would have been better if we had had their initials also,” agreed Hambledon.
“I will not take up more of your valuable time,” said Goebbels, and took his leave.
“Considering,” said Tommy after he had gone, “that you knew perfectly well Eigenmann was waiting with the rest of the hungry crew somewhere in Berlin for the cash to arrive, that’s a pretty stout effort.”
“Damn the fellow,” thought Goebbels. “I’ll get rid of him somehow, only he’s so infernally incorruptible. Wonder if there’s anything in his past; I’ll have him looked up. Heidelberg man, by his scars. Before my time, of course. Wonder which Student Corps he was in?”
To Be Continued