THE COMMISSION travelled to Danzig by the ordinary train, not a special, and merely had compartments reserved for them since they did not wish to be more conspicuous than was unavoidable. Hambledon and Reck had one compartment to themselves. As soon as the train had settled into its swing the Chief of Police sent for his two plain-clothes men and addressed them in private.
“There are two men somewhere on this train among the ordinary passengers, their names are Schultz and Petzer. Here are their official descriptions and photographs; you had better, perhaps, study them here and now.” He lit a cigar and sat in silence, looking out of the window, till the men handed him back the papers. “Schultz and Petzer are going to Danzig. On arrival at the station, you will follow these men and see everything they do. When they have found quarters for the night, one of you will come back to me and report, but the other will remain on the watch. They are not to be lost sight of, night or day, or the consequences may be very serious.”
“If they should part company while only one of us is on duty, which are we to follow?”
“Schultz. Now go and identify them but don’t come back here; it would be disastrous if they saw you with me. You know where I shall be staying in Danzig.”
When the men had gone, Hambledon turned to Reck and said, “You’re very quiet, what’s the matter?”
“I have lived in Germany,” said Reck, without looking at him, “since 1901. That’s thirty-seven years. What shall I do in England?”
“I tell you one thing there’ll be to do,” said Hambledon. “Go to the Foreign Office and collect twenty years’ arrears of pay.”
Reck brightened up a little. “Do you think they will pay it? We didn’t do much for them for fifteen years, you know.”
“We’ll tell them we spent the time making useful contacts,” said Hambledon, “and heaven knows we succeeded. If German Intelligence spots us, we shan’t have the time drag. I think I’ll live quietly in the country and raise pigs.”
THEY arrived in Danzig toward evening, and Hambledon was busy arranging for the protection of his Trade Commission from battle, murder, and sudden death. There were sundry conferences arranged, some in Danzig itself and one out at Zoppot. The police reported that Schultz and Petzer had taken rooms in a not too reputable apartment house behind the Heilige-Geist Kirche, near the Fischmarkt, and one morning when the Commission was escorted round the sights of Danzig, he was led away from the party at the Butter Tor and had the house pointed out to him.
The Commission was to stay in Danzig for a week, and Hambledon’s idea was to take rooms for himself and Reck in some sailors’ boardinghouse down by the docks and slip away when the rest of the party went back to Berlin. He was never a believer in having plans very cut and dried beforehand, because too much prearrangement only gave scope for things to go wrong. “Some scheme,” he would say, “will doubtless present itself,” and it usually did. “When I have seen all my little lambs safely into their fold, I shall have time to deal with Schultz. Till then, my police can keep these two in order.”
“Little lambs,” grunted Reck, who was not impressed by the Trade Commission. “Old goats, most of 'em. What do you propose to do with Schultz?”
“He is guilty of murder,” said Hambledon quietly. “He killed a man named Ginsberg who worked for me and trusted me, so Schultz is going to die. I think I’ll ask him to go for a little drive with me in my fine car”—the Danzig Nazis had provided cars for the Trade Commission and Hambledon had one for his own use—“take him out somewhere in the forests round here and shoot him. I shall tell him why first, so it will be quite fair.”
Reck was on the point of saying, “Suppose he refuses to go?” when he glanced at Hambledon’s face and somehow the question seemed foolish, so he omitted it and substituted another. “What happens after that?”
“After that we leave, as inconspicuously as possible, in a ship bound for England if we can find one, if not, in a ship bound for anywhere except Germany. Have you ever been a stowaway, my wandering boy?”
“Never,” said Reck, “and I--”
“Never mind,” said Tommy cheerfully. “You will. We had better go and buy ourselves some clothes, any slop shop will do, and a couple of cheap suitcases. We can then walk out of this hotel in these suits, change in any secluded spot which seems convenient, and proceed on our way to the docks.”
“It might not be a bad plan,” suggested Reck, “if we went to the docks beforehand and had a look round. We might be in a hurry when we do leave.”
“Sound idea,” said Hambledon. “We might go this afternoon, I shouldn’t think my flock would get into serious trouble between two and four p.m.”
They found the sort of shop they were looking for, and bought clothes of the sort that seafaring men wear when they spruce up to come ashore. They changed into their new suits in a place where a desire for privacy is respected, packed their other garments in the suitcases, and emerged into the hot sunshine of a Baltic summer’s day. Hambledon, strange to relate, had his head bandaged, the Chief of the German Police had become fairly well known by sight in Danzig.
“How do I look?” asked Reck.
“Too respectable. Couldn’t you look a bit more —I think ‘raffish’ is the word I want? Leer at the girls.”
“Leer yourself,” said the horrified Reck. “At my age--I tell you what. These clothes want sleeping in.”
“I’ll treat ’em tonight. Do you think it would do as well if I crumpled them up and slept on them?”
“No,” said Reck unkindly. “Where are we going?”
“To take a room in some dockside tavern. We don’t want to have to wander about seeking accommodation if we ourselves are being urgently sought, we want to be able to dive in and stay there. We will make sure the proprietor knows us again, too.”
“I think this’ll do,” said Tommy, a little later. “It looks to be more or less what we want, and I don’t think I wish to walk any farther this afternoon, anyway.”
They inspected a room which was vacant, approved it, and paid a deposit. A little light converse with the innkeeper completed their business, and they left the place, changed back into their ordinary clothes on the way home and returned to Hambledon’s hotel. One of the police whom he had detailed to follow Schultz and Petzer came in to report.
“The suspects spent the morning quietly in the vicinity of their lodgings,” he said, referring to a notebook. “They visited various taverns; I have a list of them here.”
“Omit the list,” said Hambledon.
“Very good, sir. At one-fifteen they came to the neighborhood of this hotel and hung about, one in front and the other, Petzer, in view of the side entrance. Pursuant upon your instructions, I concentrated upon Schultz. At two-fifteen precisely, the suspect Petzer came rapidly round the corner from the side entrance, spoke to the suspect Schultz, and both walked away at a good pace.”
Hambledon allowed his glance to stray carelessly in the direction of Reck, who gave no sign of having heard anything interesting. Nevertheless, two-fifteen was the hour at which they themselves had left the side entrance to the hotel.
“The suspects walked fast at first and then more slowly through several streets toward the poorer quarter of the town. I have a list of the streets.”
“Omit the list.”
“Very good, sir. They hung about for sometime in a small street off the Johannis Gasse, started again toward the river and again waited just inside the north door of the Johannis Kirche. Here they stayed about twenty minutes. There seemed to be a certain amount of discussion as to what they should do next, they were plainly arguing, and as they passed me I heard Petzer say, 'I don’t think it is,’ and Schultz answered, 'I do. I’m sure it is.’ They then proceeded in the direction of the wharves along the Mottlau and came to another stop in an archway opposite a tavern called the Seven Stars. The time was then three-forty-eight. They waited here until four-thirty-two and then returned to the Johannis Kirche, where they stayed for only twelve minutes. They then walked smartly in the direction of this hotel. When it became evident where they were heading, I rang up Bermann as arranged and he took over from me outside here at the moment when the suspects went away. That is all I have to report.”
“Very good.” Hambledon rose to his feet and took a turn across the room and back. “I think it probable,” he went on, “that they have now gone home. Find out, and telephone to me.”
“Very good, sir.” The man saluted, and left the room. Hambledon looked at Reck and laughed.
"So much for our beautiful disguises,” he said. “Schultz and Petzer have been trailing us all the afternoon. They know where we’re going, what we’re going to look like, and most serious of all, the fact that we are arranging to get away—they must have guessed that. They know a lot too much.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“Have something to eat, for a start; I can’t do anything till that fellow telephones. I hope he’ll be quick, because some of the Commission want to go for a stroll round Danzig tonight and I shall be expected to go with them. I should anyway, because heaven knows what mischief they’d get into if they were out on their own.”
“Bear leading, eh?”
“No. Puppy walking.”
Half an hour later the telephone rang, Hambledon lifted the receiver and said “Yes” at intervals. He ended by saying, “Very good. You and Bermann can both go off duty now. Yes, there is no need to continue the watch tonight. Report here for duty at ten a.m. tomorrow.” He put the receiver down. “They have gone in, the police are going off, and I am going out. See you later.”
“Don’t you want me?” said Reck.
“No. Yes, you can sit in the car, it may save questions, and you might be useful keeping Schultz in order on the drive. I shall leave the car by the Heilige-Geist Kirche and you will stay with it. Bring your automatic.”
HAMBLEDON walked along a street behind the Fischmarkt, turned into the entrance of an apartment house and walked up the stairs without hesitation. It was a shabby building with paint peeling off the walls, worn stone stairs with an iron handrail leading straight up from the door, and a fine mixed smell of cookery, oilskins and damp stone floors. There were two doors on each half landing. Hambledon went up three flights with his right hand in his coat pocket, opened the first door with his left hand and went swiftly in. In fact, it might be said that he burst in except that he did it so quietly; but the precaution was wasted, for the room was empty.
There were two rooms in the apartment, a sitting room first and a bedroom opening out of it. Hambledon listened intently for any sound in the farther room, but there was none, so he walked through and investigated it. It had two beds, a dressing table and a washstand, with signs of masculine occupation in the way of shaving tackle, spare boots and a coat or two. One of the coats, hung from a nail on the back of the door, had a pocket which looked heavy. It contained an automatic.
“Careless, careless,” said Tommy, and thoughtfully unloaded it. “Possibly one of our friends is unarmed.”
He returned to the sitting room. There was a table in the middle, with playing cards lying in confusion on it, a pipe, a tin half full of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes and some matches
“Good,” said Hambledon, surveying this. “They won’t be long, they’ve only gone to fetch the beer.” The window was wide open to the hot evening, and directly opposite to him, only about fifteen feet away, was another window, also open. A girl came to the window and leaned out, her elbows on the sill, watching him. He turned away.
“Trudi!” called the girl to some unseen friend elsewhere in the block. “Just fancy. A new man opposite, an’ he’s shy!”
A voice below called up a reply. “Confound the girl,” Tommy said irritably, “if all these windows fill with Delilahs I am sunk. As it is, if she saw me with a gun in my hand she’ll tell the world.”
However, the window opposite the bedroom remained vacant. Hambledon pushed the door almost shut, and waited.
Presently the outer door of the apartment opened and two men entered, talking. Objects were set upon the table with bumps, chairs were drawn up, and there were sounds of settling down.
“Have a drink,” said one voice.
“Thanks, I don’t care if I do,” said the other. “You look worried,” said the first voice, to the accompaniment of pouring noises. “Buck up.”
“I shall be glad when it’s over; didn’t reckon on being mixed up in this sort of game.”
“You don’t ’ave to do nothin’, on’y come with me an’ help in the getaway. You’ll be good at that.”
“Did you say it was tonight?”
“Tonight, yes. Listen, it’s easy. Some of that high-an’-mighty Commission are goin’ out tonight on the binge, an’ Lehmann's goin’ too to keep ’em in some sort of order. Well, you know what those sort of toffs are when they’re on holiday. ‘Show us somethin’ tough,’ they say, an’ off they goes an’ all piles into some dockside pub they’d turn their noses up at at home. ‘ ’Ow quaint,’ they say, ‘ ’ow interesting.’ I’ve ’eard ’em.”
“Well, I’m havin’ some of the boys keepin’ a look out for ’em. When they goes in somewhere where the likes of us can go, we all piles in and soon somebody starts a bit of bother over somethin’. In the ensooin’ uproar, guns are drawn an’ the Chief of Police is unfort’nately shot dead. After which we all leaves in ’aste, as is natural, an’ you an’ me comes back ’ere, picks up our bits and pieces, and takes the first train for Berlin. See? Simple.”
“Don’t see what you want me around for at all,” objected Petzer.
“A strip of dried cod ’ud be more generally useful,” said his candid friend, “but you will at least know the way back ’ere from wherever we are--”
The bedroom door opened noiselessly, and Hambledon appeared on the threshold, with his hand in his pocket out of regard for the lady in the room opposite, who was still leaning on the sill. In the same moment he saw Schultz’s automatic on the table within reach of his hand. No time for argument here.
“Talking of shooting,” said Tommy conversationally, “do you remember Ginsberg? That’s for Ginsberg,” he said, and shot Schultz through the head.
THE MAN slid to the floor, the gun he had snatched up spinning from his hand, and immediately pandemonium broke loose. The girl opposite uttered an ear-splitting shriek and followed it with cries of “Murder! Murder! Help!” Petzer gave a yell of rage, and rushed at Hambledon with his bare fists.
“Here, hold off, you fool,” said Hambledon, parrying the attack, “I don’t want to kill you ! Stop it, you idiot--”
Sounds of shouting filled the house, hurrying feet clattered on the stairs, somebody tried to open the door and failed, because it was bolted inside, so they hammered and kicked it instead. Hambledon was getting an unpleasant surprise from Petzer, whom he had assumed from the previous conversation to be something of a pacifist, but apparently the man only had a conscientious objection to murder, especially when directed against himself. Petzer landed one heavily on Hambledon's left ear and made his head sing.
“This practice will now cease,” said Tommy, through clenched teeth. He hit the man in the wind, which made his head come forward, and then hit him under the jaw. Petzer threw up his arms and dropped to the floor.
“Now,” said Tommy, surveying the scene of battle, “what does A do? After all, I am the Chief of Police, but I do hate making a public exhib--That door’ll be down in a minute.”
Petzer, who was only half stunned, saw Schultz’s automatic on the floor under the table, picked it up and staggered blindly to his feet. While he stood swaying, and shaking his head to clear his brain, Hambledon retired hastily to the bedroom as the outer door fell in and two men with it, backed up by several others who jammed up the doorway and stared. They saw one man dead on the floor, obviously shot through the head, another man standing over him waving an automatic, and drew the obvious conclusion.
“He’s shot him!”
“Shot his pal!”
“Catch him! Tie him up!”
Petzer finally lost his temper and his head. He didn’t know much but he did know he hadn’t killed Schultz, and this was too much. He fired a couple of shots at random which happily hit the wall and not his fellow Danzigers, and made a rush for the door. Room was made for him, as it usually is for an angry man with an automatic, and he bolted down the stairs, colliding with people coming up, and finally dropped over the handrail of the last flight into the hall, dodged out into the street, and ran like a hare, with a couple of policemen and half a dozen agile citizens in hot pursuit.
The two men who fell in with the door very wisely stayed down and let the wild ass stamp over their heads. When Petzer left the room they picked themselves up, not in the least surprised to find a third man there who seemed to have come from nowhere in particular, and all charged down the stairs in pursuit of Petzer together.
Once out in the street, Tommy ran as fast as he could round two corners, dropped into a walk, and rejoined Reck in the car near the Heilige-Geist Kirche, panting slightly.
“Not got your man?” asked Reck.
“Oh, yes, I got him. Ginsberg may sleep in peace,” said Hambledon, tenderly caressing his left ear. “It didn’t turn out quite as I expected; there was something of a brawl. There was to have been another meeting of the Joy-through-Shooting League tonight, with me for target, but I should think that’s off now. Schultz’s boy friends were going to pick a quarrel with the Commission--”
As for Petzer, he made his way to the goods yard, having an idea they might be looking for him at the passenger station. He dodged round trucks and stumbled over rails; somebody shouted at him so he dived into a truck of which the doors were open and crouched behind bulky packages. Probably the truck would go to Berlin; he had a muddled idea that most things went to Berlin from Danzig, but it didn’t matter. Anywhere out of the place, anywhere—
Five minutes later somebody came along, slammed the truck doors and bolted them, whistles blew, the truck began to move, bumped over points and gathered speed. Petzer was off on the long run to Constantinople.
SOME half-dozen of the younger members of the Commission set out on a tour of Danzig at about nine that night. They had a Danzig driver for their seven-seater Mercédôs, and Hambledon, with Reck beside him, followed in the black saloon which had been lent to him.
“What’s the program?” asked Reck, as the cars moved slowly off.
“Broadly speaking, a pub-crawl,” said Hambledon. “We visit a few assorted cafés in Danzig itself, some new, with chromium plate; some old, with hereditary smells. My job is to see that the outing proceeds in a stately and preordained manner, and now that Schultz is dead I expect it will. I wish I could leave my left ear at home, tenderly wrapped in cotton wool in a small box with ‘A Present From Danzig’ on the lid.—What’s this? Oh, stop number one. I suppose I must go in, are you coming?” Reck privately thought the program sounded rather amusing. The first café was very modern and it did not detain the Commission long. There were plenty like that in Berlin, they wanted to see something different.
“Is this tour all prearranged?” asked Reck.
“Of course it is, what did you expect? Those singularly sober men holding large pots whom you see in all the corners are police.”
“Oh. Suppose the Commission wants to go somewhere else?”
“The driver will dissuade them, that’s part of his job. Besides,” added Hambledon cheerfully, “Schultz is dead, so I don’t suppose it would matter.”
But members of the Commission had their own ideas. “Look here, driver, if you can’t find us something more amusing we’ll find it for ourselves. You hop in and drive where we tell you to drive, and when we say stop, you stop. See?”
The driver looked at Hambledon who merely made a gesture of resignation to the inevitable, so the cars moved off again.
“You can hardly blame them,” said Hambledon, “the tour as arranged was not particularly inspired. There’s not likely to be any trouble if we keep these fellows in a good temper.”
The procession took a devious route in the general direction of the Vistula, since the Commission did not know the way and the driver sulked and refused to tell them. Eventually someone recognized the Kran-tor at the end of a street and remembered that that was on the quayside, but they had passed the turning by the time they got their bearings so they took the next street instead, which was the Heilige-Geist Gasse with another river gate across the end. At the bottom of this street they saw something which looked a little more helpful.
“Here, what about this?”
“This looks better.”
“Stop here, driver, we’ll try this one.”
Hambledon slipped out of his car and had a hasty look inside while the Commission was disembarking. The place was certainly old and picturesque; with the requisite sanded floor and polished brass fittings, it really looked the sort of place where tuneful seamen might burst into song at any moment if there happened to be any tuneful seamen there. At the time, however, it was practically empty and seemed harmless enough. Hambledon withdrew again and the Commission entered.
“Shouldn’t think they’d get into mischief in there,” he said to the driver. “Hardly anybody there.”
“Ah,” said the driver. “It’s quiet enough when it is quiet, if you get me. Aren’t you going in, sir?”
“No,” said Hambledon, “I’d rather look at the river. Coming, Reck?”
“I’ll just turn the car round,” said the driver. “Save time afterward.”
“Quite right, I’ll do the same.”
THEY turned the cars to head up the street and all three strolled through the gate onto the quay. To their left the Kran-tor towered against the sky. Wharves and warehouses faced them across the glassy river. Somewhere far out of sight a steamer hooted.
“Do you get much foreign shipping here?” asked Hambledon.
“Not a lot here, mostly barges and that from up the river. The foreign ships mostly put in to the Free Harbor down at Neufahrwasser, that’s the real port, like. There’s always ships in there, German, Swedish, English, Italian, French--all sorts.”
“Is it far down there?”
“ ’Bout three and a half to four miles. No, not far. I tell you, there was a real brawl there last night. Some men off an English ship got into a row in a pub down there—just such a place as this one. Two of ’em was properly laid out. The ship’ll have to sail without ’em, for they’re in hospital and she’s going out in the morning.”
“What will happen to them?”
“Oh, nothing. Get another ship when they come out, I expect.”
The conversation languished, and Hambledon looked at his watch.
“Do you think if you blew your horn it would hurry them up?”
“I doubt it,” said the driver, but he strolled off, climbed into his seat and blew the horn. He was quite right, nothing happened.
“You heard that about the English ship, didn’t you, Reck?” said Hambledon. “When I’ve got this school treat home again I think we’ll slide quietly away and board her. I've paid Schultz, so there’s nothing to wait for; if we leave it too long Goebbels might replace him with somebody more efficient.”
Reck grunted assent and they leaned against the quayside rails and waited. After a while they walked back through the archway and leaned against their car watching the door of the tavern patronized by the Commission. It seemed to have livened up a little; snatches of song floated out, and sounds of merriment. The driver of the big car had apparently fallen asleep. Various people approached the tavern door and entered, others came out, but none of them looked particularly truculent.
An elderly man in a neat grey suit came down the street, pausing every now and then to glance behind him. He reached the tavern door, decided to go in, looked in, decided not to, and strolled past the cars toward the river. Before he passed under the arch he cocked his eye up at the sky.
“Sea Captain,” said Hambledon, “looking at the weather.”
“Sea Captain or not,” said Reck, “he’s the living image of you.”
“Nonsense. My face has its drawbacks, but not warts on its nose.”
“I meant, in build and general appearance.”
“I am not unique,” admitted Tommy modestly.
A woman came down the street closely followed by a man. Husband or lover, presumably, for when she looked at Hambledon in passing, the man glowered. They went under the archway and disappeared, but the neat grey man returned. He stopped near the cars and brought a cigar out of his pocket, pinched it, smelt it, cut the end off with a knife, stuck the cigar in his mouth and finally lit it. He took one or two puffs at it which appeared to please him, and strolled past.
He was just approaching the tavern door when there came a change in the tone of the sounds which floated from the half-open door, and he stopped to listen. Instead of song there was shouting, instead of merriment, anger. Hambledon straightened up and began to run toward the door, and at that moment two shots rang out.
Instantly the doors burst open and a gush of customers poured into the street. The Mercédés driver awoke, started up his engine, and kept on tapping the accelerator, producing a rhythmic series of roars. Hambledon leaped at the car and threw the doors open just in time for the Commission to fling themselves into it.
“You are a fool, Andreas,” said one angrily.
“I thought all Danzigers were good Germans,” said Andreas in a pained voice, while another voice from the doorway told them what sort of Germans they were. The adjective used was not “good.”
Hambledon slammed the doors and shouted. “Drive on!” The car moved off and was rapidly gathering speed when there came a fresh rush of men from the tavern, and one of them fired several parting shots after the car. Several of them hit, for the impact was audible, but one at least missed, for the elderly man in the grey suit, who was hurrying away, suddenly threw up his arms as though he were going to dive, and fell headlong in the road in front of the car. The driver had no chance to avoid him and perhaps did not even see him; the heavy Mercédès ran right over him, shot up the road, round the corner and out of sight.
“Now they have killed somebody,” said Hambledon in an exasperated tone. “There’ll be trouble over this.”
THE OTHER people in the street melted away so quickly that it seemed some of them must just have vanished where they stood; already the tavern lights were out, blinds drawn and doors locked. In an incredibly short time the HeiligeGeist Gasse was deserted except for Hambledon and his car, Reck, and the neat grey man who was a great deal greyer and not nearly so neat.
Reck, instead of hurrying to the car, was bending over the body in the road. Tommy, supposing him to be animated by purely humanitarian motives, did not call to him, but started the car and drove it to the spot where the man lay.
“Come on,” said Hambledon, after one glance at the victim of malice and accident, “you can’t do anything to help him.”
“Quick,” said Reck in peremptory tones, “get him in the back of the car. Come on, lend a hand.”
Hambledon slid out of the car, opened the rear door and helped Reck to hoist the body into the back. “Why on earth you want to saddle us with a corpse just when--”
“Don’t argue,” ordered Reck, slamming the door. “Get in and drive like blazes!”
Hambledon obeyed, and it was not until they were several streets away that he said, “May I know what all this is about?”
“Certainly. That poor thing in the back is you.”
“But he’s not in the least like me in the face.”
“Face! Did you notice his face?” “No,” said Hambledon. “I thought you’d put something over it—a rag of some kind.”
“No. There was nothing over it.” “Oh,” said Hambledon, and shivered. “What were you thinking of doing with him?”
“Driving the car to some quiet spot and leaving him there to be found. Then we can go away and live happily ever after, because even German Intelligence won’t look for you when they’ve buried you with full honors and an oration by the Fuehrer.”
Hambledon slowed the car on purpose to look at Reck. “I hand it to you," he said admiringly, “on a gold plate edged with rosebuds.” He thought it over for a moment. “But this means I shall have to change clothes with him.”
“It does,” said Reck firmly.
“Well, the Department will damn well have to pay me twenty years’ arrears after that. I shall have earned ’em.”
“Do you know of a good place to go?”
“I only know the Zoppot road. It runs through forests, I should think we could find a track turning off it somewhere.”
“No marks on his underclothes,” said Reck sometime later, after investigation. “That saves your changing those too.”
“No, it doesn’t,” said Hambledon, “for I shouldn’t have put them on in any case. It only saves you picking the marks off. Mind, that’s the wrong leg. You’ll have his trousers on back before.”
“Why do we have so many buttons? Heave him up while I fix his braces.”
“Collar and tie. Hang it, Reck, how do you knot a tie on somebody else? It’s all the wrong way round.”
“Your watch in his pocket,” Reck ordered.
“I liked that watch,” said Tommy plaintively, but it had to go.
“Now his coat. No, it’s not so simple as all that, his sleeves will ride up if we aren’t careful. Here’s a bit of string, tie his cuff links to his thumbs, and don’t forget to remove the string afterward and twist the cuffs round.”
“I would give the whole of that twenty years’ arrears,” said Hambledon violently, “for a tumblerful of the best —neat.”
THE SHIP was ten hours out from Danzig, bound for Cardiff with a cargo of sugar, when one of the firemen thought he heard voices in the coal bunker. He picked up a firebar and went to investigate.
“ ’Ere, you! Cummon outer that.”
They came, slithering down the coal, blinking from the long darkness, cramped for want of movement, and inconceivably grimy.
“ ’Ere! Look what I’ve found.”
“Stowaways,” said the second engineer. “Hoo mony o’ ye are there?”
“Two,” said Hambledon with dignity. “I want to see the Captain at once.”
“Ye’ll no need to fret yourselves, ye’ll see the Captain quick and lively, but whether ye’ll enjoy the interview is another pair o’ breeks a’thegither. Come on, now, get a move on. What the deevil ye mean stowin’ away aboard this ship--”
“Who the devil are you?” asked the Captain.
“Thomas Hambledon and Alfred Reck. Can I speak to you in private?”
“No, you filthy blasted skulking scarecrows! How dare you stow away aboard my ship?”
“Because we had to. I am sorry, Captain, but there was no alternative. The passage will be paid as soon as we arrive in England. I must speak to you in private.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort. Yes, you’ll pay for the trip all right—in work. Lucky for you I’m two men short. Take these men for’ard--”
Hambledon took a quick step forward and leaned over the Captain’s desk. “Look here,” he said, in a tone inaudible to the men clustered round the door, “we are British Intelligence agents on the run, and I must send a wireless message instantly.”
“Wireless message my--”
“Don’t be a fool, man. You’ll soon know when you get the answer. The message is to the Foreign Office.”
The tone of habitual authority was unmistakable, and the Captain paused.
“The matter is urgent,” added Hambledon coldly.
“Very well,” said the Captain.
In the wireless room Hambledon asked for a sheet of paper and wrote down a message, briefly informing the Department that he and Reck were on board the Whistlefield Star bound for Cardiff, and requested instructions.
“Code that, will you, Reck?”
“Let me see it first,” said the Captain, and read aloud, “Hambledon to Foreign Office, London.” The rest of the message he kept to himself.
“You may send it.”
“Carry on, Reck.”
Reck settled down to write a string of letters, with pauses for thought, occasionally counting upon his fingers. Hambledon walked restlessly up and down the cabin, the Captain sat in a chair and stared at a calendar on the wall, the wireless operator looked from one to the other, and no one spoke out of deference to Reek’s mental labors. The wireless operator was a stocky man, with a freckled face and red hair turning grey. He had been aboard the Whistlefield Star for a number of years and had served in destroyers during the Great War.
The Captain unbent enough to smile, and said, “You’ll be glad of a wash, no doubt. Won’t you sit down?”
“No, thanks,” said Hambledon absently, and went on walking up and down, thinking. Dear old Ludmilla in Switzerland, must let her know as soon as he could or she’d grieve horribly. Perhaps they wouldn’t find the car for some days; it was well hidden in the woods off the Zoppot road. He must send her a message somehow as soon as possible, better send it to Frau Christine and let her tell Ludmilla. She must come to England; she always wanted to, though how she’d like living there permanently was another matter, with the language difficulty, the foreign cooking and the strange customs. Pity to part from Franz but it could not be helped, Franz would be sorry, probably. He’d have to look elsewhere for the President of his New Germany—thank goodness!
Reck stirred in his chair and began I running through what he had written, absent-mindedly tapping out the message with his pencil on the table, whereat the wireless operator spun round, scarlet with excitement, and cried, “Good heavens! Is that who you are?”
“What d’you mean?” asked the Captain.
“Why, British secret agents, of course. T-L-T, that’s the call-sign. Used to listen for it when I was on destroyers in the last war. Heard it again soon after I came in this ship, that’ud be six years ago, before you came to us, sir--”
The reply to Hambledon’s message came a few hours later, instructing the Whistlefield Star to rendezvous at a certain time and place in the Channel to transship passengers to a destroyer, but by that time Hambledon and Reck, washed clean and in borrowed garments, were having dinner with the Captain.
The following evening they were listening to the Berlin radio from the wireless set in the Captain’s cabin, for Hambledon showed a certain interest in the German news bulletins.
“It is with heartfelt sorrow and burning anger,” said the announcer, “that the German people will learn of the cowardly and brutal murder of our Chief of Police, Herr Klaus Lehmann. His car was discovered this afternoon hidden away in a forest glade near Danzig; inside it was the body of Herr Lehmann, battered almost beyond recognition. It was, actually, only identified by the clothes and general appearance, and by the fact that the honored and respected Chief had not returned to his hotel two nights earlier. He was not, however, always in the habit of giving previous notice of his movements, so that his absence had not yet caused alarm. He was one of the earliest adherents--”
“Love us,” said the Captain, who knew enough German to follow a plain statement, “was that why you were on the run?”
“What a question,” said Tommy blandly, and the Captain blushed and held his peace.
“—faithful servant and leader of the Reich and a trusted and beloved friend of the Fuehrer himself--”
An inarticulate gurgle came from Reck.
“—who will himself pronounce the oration at the State funeral, which will take place in Berlin on Tuesday in next week. The whole German people will join with their Leader in mourning and resenting this bestial and revolting outrage, perpetrated upon one whose outstanding devotion to duty, meticulous honor and unfailing fidelity make him an example to every--”
“They are doing him proud, aren’t they?” said Tommy, fidgeting slightly.
“Wonder if Herr Goebbels wrote this?” said Reck impishly.
“—Immediate steps are being taken to ensure the arrest, conviction, and condign punishment of the bloodstained assassins, who were guilty of this abominable act of treachery. At the end of this announcement a two minutes’ silence will be observed as a tribute to the dead Chief.”
Reck lifted his glass. “To the late Chief of Police,” he said in German, and drank. Hambledon, with a rather wry smile, followed suit.
“May he rest in peace,” said the Captain solemnly, and drained his glass.
“No rest in peace for him, I fear,” said Hambledon cryptically. “There wasn’t before,” he added to himself.
The radio reawoke to life. “We are now giving you a recorded version of the late Herr Lehmann’s radio play, ‘The Wireless Operator,’ first broadcast from this station in March, 1933. There is only one character, the wireless operator himself--”