"The Nazis may be
crazy, but they sure can throw a parade."
Lieutenant Commander James Mannheim Martel, head of Naval Intelligence at the American Embassy in Berlin, nodded silently in grudging agreement to Major Wayne Mason, his Army counterpart, then turned back to the spectacle.
The thundering engines of the Tiger and Panther tanks, the cheering of the crowds and the insistent beat of the "Horst Wessel," theme song of the Nazi party washed over him in waves. Martel hoped it wasn't his German heritage that set his pulse to pounding in response. The thought was deeply distasteful.
After a while the Waffen SS division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler passed in review, flowed around the sides of the Brandenburg Gate and down the broad Unter den Linden thoroughfare in a dark gray torrent. These were the heroes of the Russian front, the victors of Stalingrad, Astrakan, and Baku. On this, the second anniversary of final victory in Russia, they were still heroes of the present rather than aging icons of former glory. Now more tanks, rank after rank, three abreast, roared by. Dark clouds of exhaust fumes spewed heavenward. The thunder nearly drowned the roar of the multitude.
Across the boulevard a thin line of black-clad SS guards, arms interlocked, swayed back and forth in response to the pressure of the ecstatic mob. The SS men were friendly enough, but they were also beginning to look a little desperate; it would never do to have some of the most enthusiastic patriots of the Third Reich pulped beneath the treads of a Panther - especially in front of the Führer and the international press - something that could well happen if the crowd broke through. The scene brought to Martel's mind the absurd image of a cobra tenderly protecting a baby.
The last of the tanks passed by. Next came half-tracked APCs, armored personnel carriers. Their squads of camouflage-clad infantry sat at rigid attention, immobile as statues, until they turned as one to salute the Führer, who stood on the reviewing stand, right arm outstretched. "Sieg heil!" roared the crowd. "Deutschland! Führer!"
Hitler was surrounded by his entourage - Göring, slightly ridiculous in his robin's-egg blue uniform, Goebbels, the gnomelike master of propaganda, Himmler, bloodless lips pulled back in a sardonic grin as his elite armored division rolled past, the ever-present Bormann, dressed in the brown uniform of the Party. In a wider circle around them were the field marshals, generals, industrialists, and party hangars on. Victory Day was the holiest day of the Nazi liturgical calendar, and the high priests of darkness reveled in their celebration of all that they had done to the world.
Again Martel became uneasily aware of how his own blood was set racing by the sense of power and glory that drenched the entire artificial drama. It was like being aroused by a woman one despised. No matter the revulsion, despite the inner certainty that never would one yield, beneath all moral rectitude there lurked a dark, compelling attraction. Again he wondered: was it his maternal heritage that made him feel this way? He very much hoped the attraction was at a more universal level, and not something peculiar to his personal history.
But how his mother would have cheered. German pride, German discipline, the Germany nation itself reborn in victory, marching in perfect unison toward its true and glorious destiny.
Martel shuddered slightly and interrupted his dark musings to thank his God that he was an American like his father before him and, again like his father, an officer in his country's navy.
It had been when traveling as part of a U.S. Naval delegation to the German Imperial Navy that Captain Jefferson Lee Martel had met Katerina von Mannheim, he an attaché to the legendary Admiral Sims, she the daughter of a German rear admiral. After a whirlwind courtship too romantic to be quite real, they had married. Not long after had been born unto them a son, their only child, James Mannheim Martel.
Martel had always been fascinated by the two so similar and yet so different traditions that he was heir to. Had his father been the German and his mother American he might well have been part of the crowd roaring beneath him rather than a foreign military observer.
As things had actually transpired, in 1917 his American father had sailed into the North Sea, where he might have been killed by Rear Admiral von Mannheim in battle. Instead his father had returned home safe from his passage through harm's way - while not long after taking part in the "mutinous" scuttling of the German fleet rather than transfer it to the Allies, his grandfather had died a suicide.
Little Jimmy Martel had been three years old at the time of America's entry into the Great War. Yet he would never forget how, when he walked down the street holding his mother's hand, people he had first met in his very own house would turn their backs on him and his mother rather than acknowledge the existence of the Hun amongst them. His mother had not taken it well. Among her class and nation the accordance of dignity and consideration to a forlorn female "enemy national" - to say nothing of the wife of an officer of the host nation! - would have been so automatic as not to bear comment. The naively close-minded patriotism of the American middle class did not charm her aristocratic soul.
Initially, Katherine had been determined to become the American wife of an American naval officer. After America entered the fray her attitude quickly became that of an enemy alien, a prisoner of war trapped by the existence of her son. And while she loved him and fulfilled her duty to him as she saw it, she did not hide her feelings. This small continuation of the Great War lasted until 1921 when she died of diphtheria, and the boy was sent to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to live with his American grandparents. During the years that followed his father spent as much time as he could with his only child, but he was much at sea.
For the sake of her memory Jim clung fiercely to his mother's heritage, even retaining German as his second language through constant private reiteration and practice. His grandfather had encouraged him in this. Being the son of a defeated Confederate naval officer, he understood how precious lost causes could be. There was nothing disloyal in it - quite the contrary! - and Jim's father and grandparents had even agreed to Jim's spending 1932, his last year of high school, in Berlin with his mother's family. That had been the happiest year of his life, even though he had lived it against the backdrop of the gathering Nazi darkness that had culminated in Hitler's final grab for power.
After Germany had come four years at Annapolis, where he graduated third in his class. Perhaps for that reason he was chosen to spend a further two years as a junior instructor. His senior thesis on the development of German naval air reconnaissance during the First World War (a field his grandfather had helped launch) also may have been a factor. Despite his expertise in aviation however, because he could so easily pass for a native German, his advisors at Annapolis had tried to push him into naval intelligence - but it was naval aviation that drew him. Perhaps that was inevitable; his father too was a pioneer in the new discipline, having been converted to air power as a result of the 1929 Panama fleet war games in which the new carrier Saratoga slipped through the covering lines of battlewagons and "destroyed" the canal locks. The umpires of the game were later pressured into reversing their decision but some observers, including the Japanese naval attachés, had paid attention.
His old man, as Jim fondly recalled, would lecture by the hour to anyone willing to listen about the revolution to come, even after - especially after - his forcible retirement due to a heart attack. Whatever his successes at converting the rest of the Navy, his son was hooked. After flight school came Jim's assignment to the Enterprise as a fighter pilot. His tour began on December 5, 1941, two days before Pearl Harbor. On the day that compression fractures to two vertebrae, the result of trying to bring in a shot-up Corsair that quit a hundred yards short of the deck, ended his flying career, he was America's number-seven ace of the Great Pacific War.
After several months in traction, Jim emerged to find that the war in the Pacific was all but over, and now that fighter aces were a drug on the market some old dark spots on his personnel folder had come back to life. Like Billy Mitchel and his own father, Jim believed that the US military, including the Navy, was paying far too little attention to the next war. By the time Jim was at Annapolis, no one had any doubt as to the magnitude of air power's role, but to him it was obvious that far too little attention was being paid to advanced technology. In his superiors' view to merely vocalize such opinions was bad enough -- and Jim had published.
The fact that he had published under his father's name in obscure professional journals had kept him out of the hottest water, but the true authorship was an open secret -- his dad's iconoclasm had not extended to airborne radar vectoring (science fiction!) nor the accelerated reaction times carriers would require when confronted by jet-powered aircraft. So while his discretion had left the brass merely irritated rather than wildly outraged, still there were some in positions of power who thought him another loud-mouthed maverick in the Mitchell vein who was badly in need of a lesson in patience, and why it was a good idea to keep superiors happy.
Besides, the Navy quite validly felt felt that Jim was uniqely well postitioned to understand just exactly what lurked in the dark underside of Nazi conquest: Europe enslaved, concentration camps, labor camps still teeming with Russian POWs, the blood-spattered basements of Gestapo headquarters, and, still only whispered about, a nightmare called "the Final Solution." Let him spend a few years out of the way, fixed so he can learn to keep his mouth shut good and proper, the thinking had gone. And so had come the posting to Berlin. To Jim's way of thinking, the worst part of it was that he couldn't keep up with the details of cutting-edge research in the USA. On the other hand there was some pretty damned cutting-edge stuff going on right here in --
As the last SS battalion passed by, Jim was pulled from his reverie by a sudden high-pitched whine that quickly rose in volume to a wailing shriek as a group of ME-262 jet fighters grouped in the shape of a swastika came roaring in, their shadows racing them down the boulevard. Mason, who was also a pilot, looked up at them with hostile envy. Jim shared Mason's envy, but was more phlegmatic about it, perhaps because he knew the plane fairly well.
Behind the 262s came a formation of less familiar shapes, and Jim abandoned his camera for his binoculars to get a closer look. He hoped his companion, who was snapping away, was doing his job right. The Germans were building three carriers, and American intelligence was still trying to figure out which planes would be adopted for seaborne operations.
As he watched, the flight of Arado 234 twin-engine jet bombers swept by, breaking from their swastika formation to climb almost vertically up through the scattering of clouds. Compared to the 262s, they did not seem all that agile, but as torpedo attack planes they would be formidable, far different from the lumbering Avengers the Americans had flown during three years of combat in the Pacific.
Jim still kept as a souvenir a picture of a young American pilot, Lieutenant Goerge Bush, standing on the wing of a splashed Avenger. He'd flown cover for the kid while he waited for rescue. Martel smiled as he thought about him. He had been one of the youngest flight leaders in the fleet, but by God if you needed someone to lead a group straight into enemy flak like they were on rails, he was your man.
After the 234s came the twin-engine ME-510s, prop-driven ground-attack bombers, their fifty-millimeter antitank guns looking like long ugly stingers slung under the nose. Either plane would be well suited for carrier-based operations, but the Germans were keeping that part of their hand close to the chest; none of the planes flown today had the necessary arresting gear for carrier landings.
"Here come their new heavies," Mason yelled as he pointed back up the street. Martel swung his binoculars around. Below, the crowd broke into wild yet inaudible cheers as a flight of heavy bombers thundered overhead at rooftop level.
For the final two years of the war England had slowly increased the pressure of night bombing with their fleets of Lancasters. Though the destruction had never seriously hindered the German war effort, Hitler had not been amused - and Göring had sworn to his Führer that never again would Germany lack the means to retaliate in kind. Next time, Jim thought sourly, both sides could dedicate massive portions of their industrial capacity to the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.
The ME-290s were massive, far bigger than the American B-29s they resembled, with their oversized tail assemblies and glassed-over forward canopies. Unlike the American plane, however, these were a curious mix of four prop and two jet engines. Mason was again busy with his sixteen-millimeter camera. Like any hunter, he had focused in on a single member of the herd and was clicking away.
Though fully briefed on the specs, Martel watched in silent awe as the fast and deadly behemoths passed overhead. Earlier wisdom had been that Germany would not build a bomber fleet capable of reaching New York. The Germans, analysts had argued, simply could not afford the fuel consumption: Five hundred bombers flying five missions a month would devour one sixth of all avgas produced in the Reich. In a classic example of the perils of depending on narrow-gauge experts for strategic decision-making, the capture of Russia's Baku oilfields had changed all that. Still, it could have been worse; Intel believed that only a few 290s had been built. So far they had been pretty competent at that sort of analysis, thanks to code breaking and in-country agents - and anyway, the conclusion seemed reasonable to Martel. German air doctrine remained focused on tactical support, not strategic bombing. Furthermore, they had enough Arados and older twin-engine stuff to keep England quietly in her place.
As the last of the 290s passed, another even higher-pitched whine made itself heard in rapidly increasing intensity. Suddenly, gone almost in a blink, bat-like forms shot across the avenue at right angles to the thoroughfare. A few oddly empty minutes in which the loudest noise was the chatter of the crowd followed. Then, "There they are!" Mason shouted excitedly.
Martel looked up past the Brandenburg Gate where Mason was pointing. A few miles away the formation that had just passed overhead was swooping around in an impossibly tight turn to come racing up the boulevard in precise single file, literally below rooftop level. He had seen the early intelligence specs and had been specifically instructed to photograph the Gothas if they appeared. Though he would have vastly preferred to continue direct visual observation, Martel dutifully picked up his own camera and started to mimic Mason's efforts, snapping off shots and trying to keep a single plane centered in the viewfinder as they passed.
To Jim the Gothas looked utterly bizarre, and very, very threatening. Based on a flying-wing design, they had no fuselage, and in place of a tail showed only two tiny vertical stabilizers mounted on the outside trailing edges. Except for their exhaust outlets the plane's twin engines were invisible.
Their boomerang shape, Jim thought, would be entirely at home in a Flash Gordon serial. Scary as they looked though, he knew that the Germans had discovered some serious flaws inherent in the flying-wing concept; if the Luftwaffe had, as rumored, really achieved supersonic velocities, they hadn't done so with flying wings. But subsonic or not the Gothas were fast, highly maneuverable, and presented a razor-thin target silhouette when approached from astern. Martel found the mere thought of going up against them in a Corsair or Bearcat chilling.
Not that the U.S. had entirely ceased weapons development since Martel had missed the deck of the Saratoga. The Navy's new Panthers could go head to head with any German jet yet in production - but so far only a few were actually aboard the carriers. As for designs not in production, part of his job today was to write up a detailed analysis of any new German craft glimpsed during the parade. One thing he already knew would go in that report: any prop plane the Navy flew would be in for a rough time if it stumbled on one of these jet-propelled monsters; it was time and more than time to move on to the next generation of aircraft.
A carrier fleet depended for its life on its ability to knock out enemy ship killers before they got in range. With Gothas to protect them even the older bombers became a major threat. As for the Arados, if the German admiralty could arrange for Gothas to arrive in the neighborhood simultaneously with that winged annihilation . . . with Gothas flying in support, Arados might as well have been custom-made carrier killers.
As the last of the bat-shapes swept past, Martel swung his camera around to the main reviewing stand and snapped off a final human-interest shot of the fat man waving at the planes and laughing with childlike delight as he pointed out his latest toy to his Führer.
Hitler himself grinned hugely as the last of the planes whisked past, then gave a final salute to the adoring multitude lining the streets. A sea of upraised arms answered his, and the avenue echoed with chanted Sieg heils as the most successful mass murderer in the history of the human race turned and disappeared down a covered exit way, his entourage scrambling for position to follow.
"Quite a spectacle," Mason reiterated, as he put away his equipment.
"Nothing succeeds like success," Jim replied while packing his own camera bag. "If the ghouls up on that stand had lost, that mob would be spitting on their memory. Perhaps one day they will anyway." Martel knew in his half-German bones that along with the sort of thoughtless jingoists so well represented out in the street this day, there were scores of millions of Germans who were secretly repulsed by all that the Nazis represented.
Mason raised his eyebrows. "Lose? The Russians were finished the day it started. It just took a little longer than expected, that's all."
Martel shrugged and started down the steps of the reviewing stand to join the crowd which had swarmed into the middle of the boulevard, delighting in the beautifully clear autumn afternoon, when the SS security guards finally released their armlocks.
"Hey, I want you to meet this guy," Mason whispered as he grabbed Jim's arm and guided him over to a knot of SS officers he had apparently just noticed. One of them, the tallest, nodded towards the descending Americans, and the rest of the group slowed and looked up. The one who had nodded was nearly six and a half feet tall, and had a build from a football fullback's nightmare. His pale blond hair was close-cropped, almost shaved, and his face was slashed with several dueling scars.
The scarified giant smiled at Mason's approach and, unlike his compatriots, saluted in the traditional military way rather than like a Nazi. Jim returned the gesture. "Good afternoon, Major! Did you enjoy our little show?" Though he spoke to Mason, his cold snake-like eyes had fixed on Martel, who stared straight back.
"Colonel Otto Skorzeny, I'd like to introduce Lieutenant Commander Jim Martel." Skorzeny extended his hand. Taking it, Jim was startled and annoyed by the vise-like grip that was meant to embarrass and almost did, before Jim bore down in turn.
As Skorzeny released with a faint look of disappointment, Jim briefly examined his companions. All three wore SS uniforms with paratroop insignia, and looked nearly as hard, competent, and well trained as their boss. The one standing just behind Skorzeny had a face marked by dueling scars as well. Another, with ghostly white hair, was scarless but had the mashed-in nose and puffy features of a battered prizefighter. The four of them might have been taken for professional athletes in the peak of training were it not for their indefinable aura of deadliness. Jim had killed more than a few in the Pacific War, and sometimes spent ghost-ridden nights because of it, but these were killers in a far different league.
"So what did you think of our display today?" Skorzeny asked the Americans, as he flexed his fingers just a little.
Mason let Jim respond. "A lot of new designs, hugely expensive ones, I should think. I thought by now you'd be easing off a bit on the armaments."
"Peace through strength," Skorzeny replied. "If we stay strong, there will be no future problems. Remember, Russia is still waiting on the other side of the Volga."
Peace through murder and conquest, more likely, Jim thought to himself. "I doubt they'll be a problem," he finally said aloud. "Stalin's too busy fighting resistance groups out in Siberia to want a return match."
Skorzeny laughed. "Not immediately, in any event. But in ten years? You Americans have no idea of the service we have done the world. Without us, it would be you squandering your lives and wealth fighting the Red Menace. Without us, your forces in China right now would be facing a Communist tidal wave, rather than helping the Nationalists mop up the remnant of the Maoists. The suppression of Marxism is an accomplishment for all of civilized humanity, one for which Germany deserves the highest recognition."
He looked back at his comrades, who nodded their approval, and went on. "Poland had to go before we could come to grips with the real foe. If Churchill had only understood that, our differences with England never would have occurred. Be very sure that if the Russians try again, we will be ready."
When Jim still did not seem to feel the need for any reply beyond a slight shrug the officer with the battered face interjected coldly, "The Russians are not like the Japanese you so easily squashed. You Americans think that when a war is over your Johnnies can just come marching home to glory. Yours is a fool's paradise!"
Another chimed in: "You had a romp in the Pacific. We know war."
"Lieutenant Commander Martel made twenty-three kills," Mason interjected, "and Japanese pilots were every bit as good as those in your Luftwaffe."
"No air force is or was equal to ours," the battered officer replied heatedly. "And I would like to see your Martel's performance against the RAF. There was an enemy to be proud of."
"Hans, Hans, let us not bandy insults with our guests," Skorzeny said with an ironic grin. "Besides, some of the American pilots are quite good." The way he said it made the unspoken "but not good enough" almost audible.
Having made his point Skorzeny reverted to host mode. Casually gesturing at the wings and Navy Cross ribbon on Martel's uniform, he said, "I am a pilot too, you know. In that at least we can understand each other."
"Perhaps," Jim replied with a smile of his own.
"Yes, 'perhaps,' " Skorzeny replied softly.
There was a tense moment of silence, and then Skorzeny smiled again. "Well, we had best be going. I look forward to a time when we can meet again, perhaps under less . . . constrained circumstances."
Martel devoutly hoped that any such unconstrained meeting between him and this human attack dog took place at about 20,000 feet. He was ashamed to realize that under those circumstances he would go out of his way to give the German his wish. An old and painful image rose in his mind, only this time it was this tall SS officer rather than a Japanese naval pilot batting at himself as he tumbled out of his aircraft and began the long, long fall, drenched with burning gasoline. Skorzeny, it seemed, brought out the killer instinct in others as well. . . .
Almost as if reading Jim's mind, the SS colonel nodded drolly as he and his companions turned and merged with the crowd.
As they departed, Mason snatched his camera out of its case and snapped off a quick shot. "That is one scary son of a bitch," he said quietly. "He's head of the SS's number-one commando team."
Feeling himself begin to unwind, Martel realized he'd been in an adrenal state appropriate for combat. "The guys who snatched Koniev out of Leningrad?"
"The same. Runs his operations exactly the way he sees fit, answers directly to Hitler. Even field marshals have to step aside if Skorzeny wants something." Mason paused for a second. "That wasn't his only coup, either. He pulled half a dozen other ops in Russia in the last months of the war. As a matter of fact I saw a report that he was planning to 'drop in' on Stalin if the armistice talks fell through." Mason smiled and shook his head. "What glory, if he'd succeeded. I think he was disappointed that he didn't get the chance."
Skorzeny was nearly out of sight when he turned back to cast that same ironic smile - and was gone. 'The Cheshire Commando,' Jim thought, without the least bit of amusement.
As Wayne Mason continued to rattle off his information, Jim found that the professional in him grudgingly admired Skorzeny. He was the ultimate soldier, but lost without the scent of battle to follow; to men like him, the cause for which one was fighting became nothing compared to the pure flaming joy of combat. Skorzeny was most likely in his own private hell right now. Too long without a war and he might well go mad. Jim thought about that as he said good-bye to Mason and turned to drift with the crowds, on his way to his real task of the day.
There had been a taunting challenge in Skorzeny, the self-confident arrogance of a player on a winning team who had just verbally scrimmaged with someone he would meet and surely defeat come next Saturday afternoon. It was an interesting datum, something that he would note in the contact report. Strange that it had felt so personal. . . .
* * *
After leaving Mason, Jim continued
down the boulevard, passing several of the new temples to the
Nazi Reich. The central section of Berlin had been hit hard by
the RAF in the closing months of the war, but the rubble had long
since been cleared, and now Hitler's neo-classical monstrosities
were beginning to dominate the skyline. To his right just ahead,
the new party headquarters, with the beginning of what would one
day be a thousand-foot dome, was just starting to rise up out of
the ground. Supposedly it would take another fifteen years to
bring the hideous thing to completion. Next, also on his right,
the new museum for the Volkische Kunst for "Aryan Peoples'
Art" had just opened. Nearly all its displays leaned heavily
toward the new German heroic style, which in practice seemed to
mean a superfluity of iron-jawed young Teutonic knights battling
the hordes of darkness, alternating with saccharine scenes of
buxom peasant girls tending hearth and farm.
Craftwise enough to assume he was being tailed, Martel moved casually, taking in the sights. As he strolled down the middle of the boulevard a line of young boys dressed in the brown shirts and red neckerchiefs of the Hitler Youth marched past him. They were singing the latest popular hit about the heroes of the Eastern Front. It had been given great prominence on the airwaves in preparation for Victory Day. The main point of it was that the gods must love dead Slavs because they had helped the Reich make so many of them. Theirs was the kind of religion, Martel thought dryly, that gave atheism a good name. As they marched, the boys waved their Nazi flags in time to the song's catchy beat. It looked as if venomous red, white and black butterflies swarmed over their heads.
As they marched by, several of the children looked up at him, wide-eyed at the sight of an American uniform. He smiled at them until one flung a comment about American Jews. How his Jews were next on the list. Shocked and angered, he turned away lest he strike the little monster and create an international incident.
"Jim! Good to see you!"
A German army officer had come around the corner and bumped into him, as if by accident.
"Willi! Good to see you!" Jim extended his hand, grabbing hold of the German major's in a grasp of genuine affection.
Major Wilhelm von Metz, adjutant to Major General Hans von Oster of Admiral Canaris's Abwehr, the center for Military Intelligence and Counter Intelligence patted Jim on the shoulder.
As it happened, Willi was Jim's cousin. Indeed the two of them might easily be taken for brothers, though Willi had the typical pale blue eyes, high cheek bones, and aquiline nose of the Mannheim family line, while Jim, whose nose was equally aquiline and cheekbones equally high and planed, had the dark hair and gray eyes of his father. During his high school year in Germany he had lived as a fully accepted member of Wilhelm's family. Willie's mother was Jim's aunt, and he had rather adored her.
It was a relationship the Navy had known about and wanted Martel to cultivate; the Navy had reason to hope that both Wilhelm and his superior Canaris hated the Nazis and might be willing to do something about it. Jim was able to confirm this; while living with the von Metz family he had witnessed their horror at the rise of Nazism, and had often heard his aunt privately denounce the "Nazi thugs." The Mannheims were German patriots and Junkers of the old school, and the von Metz's too were fiercely patriotic, and just as proud of their military heritage, which they traced back to the army of Frederick the Great. To such as they the Nazis were gutter sweepings that in an obscene twist of fate had seized control of the Fatherland. In Willie's case, this hatred was compounded on a personal level by the loss of two older brothers who never returned from Russia.
But huge as the stakes might be, and dark the backdrop against which their little drama was played, balancing against each other the intelligence jobs their respective countries had handed them was an amusing game in some ways. Willie had let Jim know early on that he had been given the task of playing upon Jim's German heritage and family relationships in order to turn him into an asset of German Intelligence.
To string the other side along, Jim would occasionally be cleared to "let slip" a minor detail about naval equipment or designs, and very occasionally, to keep the contact hot, something major that Navy Intelligence knew was already compromised. But in von Metz's case the turning was genuine.
"I was supposed to meet Lori here after the parade," von Metz said loudly enough that he could easily be overhead. "Have you seen her? I think we must have got our directions crossed."
Directions crossed. They were definitely being followed.
Jim looked around as if to help out.
"Well, I'm pretty sure she hasn't passed me, so she probably went this way," Jim replied, pointing down the street, and the two set off as if in pursuit, pushing their way through the crowd, forcing their tail, whoever he was, to fall behind.
"We won't be seeing each other again for some time," Wilhelm whispered.
"Why, are we under suspicion?"
"Not 'we.' It's you. Certain people are more interested in you than they should be. Apparently there's something in the works to damage you. That's all I know."
"Me? Just me? You're my only contact!"
"I don't have any details and we don't have time to go into it," Wilhelm replied quickly. "Just be careful."
"Careful about what?"
"I don't know. Some kind of set-up maybe."
Clearly Willie was worried for him, which added weight to his next words: "But that's minor compared to the other. Something big is up. We don't know what, but security has been tightened. Also, training schedules for units inside Russia have gone to a wartime footing, and secret amphibious and airborne assaults are being rehearsed on the shore of the Black Sea."
He slowed down for a moment, turning around as if looking for his fiancé and then took off again, with Jim following. "Even Canaris is in the dark on this," he whispered. "Internal security is higher than it was before Operation Barbarossa." Barbarossa had been the code name for the launch phase of the Reich's attack on the Soviet Union in '41. "Expect some major code changes at the highest levels in the near future, also some - what's the English phrase? False . . . herrings?"
Despite the tension, Martel couldn't help his smile.
"Don't trust anything you hear - and not just you personally. Your entire intelligence system can expect to be the target of major spoofing.
"Oh. And one more thing. The entire operation, whatever it is, is code-named 'Arminius.' "
"It's definitely aimed toward us?"
"We think so, but we're not sure. Jim, this is our last contact for a long time. Canaris ordered me to break off with you now so that he won't be questioned later about my part in the failed effort to turn you."
Jim nodded, smiling as if the two were exchanging a casual pleasantry.
Wilhelm looked past Jim, as if seeing something else.
"I think that's Lori over there," he announced, and he started to move away. Wilhelm paused and looked back, his blue eyes filled with a distant melancholy. "If you should ever get a message from me inquiring about your father, it's a clear warning that the show's about to start. Remember that, and . . . take care, my cousin." He reached out, squeezed Jim's hand, and disappeared into the crowd.
Jim made a studied effort to appear as if nothing at all had transpired between him and his cousin other than a friendly chat while looking for a misplaced girlfriend. Slinging his camera bag over his shoulder, he continued down the thoroughfare, pausing for a moment to look in a shop window where the new television sets were on display.
Berlin had opened the world's first full-time television station the month before, and a crowd was gathered around the window watching an old propaganda film about the start of the war with Russia four years ago. The image was grainy, and the picture tube no more than a hand's span across, but even so it held a certain hypnotic quality.
After a minute or two he turned and continued on, pausing here and there to look in shop windows that were again filled with goods. Gasoline, rubber products, and anything that required copper, brass, or aluminum were still impossible for ordinary folk to find, but the food markets overflowed with loot: Russian sausages, bread, and vodka (which had become the cheap hard liquor of Germany); fruit from the Black Sea region; French wines and the latest Parisian fashions. Even silk stockings were coming back, though they generally sold out in a few hours.
Sadly, Jim had noted that hemlines were dropping again. To his mind the effect on hemlines of the tight rationing of cloth had been one of the few real wartime benefits, both in Europe and America.
But despite the lowering hemlines the people around him seemed relaxed and happy; clearly they were enjoying the fruits of German victory - even though, Martel supposed, they could not help noticing that there were far more female celebrants than male.
Other social changes the war had created were evident as well. Under Speer's wartime economy program, rushed into effect within days of Hitler's accident, German women had filled the factories. Germany had still been playing a guns-and-butter game up until then, but instantly when given the opportunity, Speer had changed that. Within eighteen months, the most essential military production was up three hundred percent, and the majority of the labor force was female, something previously unthinkable.
Women controlled the money now and spent it as they pleased. Jim wondered how, if Germany ever did demobilize, these women would react when the former masters of the house came back home and tried to reassert control.
As he passed a beer garden, loud and boisterous singing rioted through the open doors from an interior packed with soldiers in a happy mood after the parade. He continued on with the flow of the crowd, sensing from them the same self-satisfied contentment that emanated from crowds going home after Fourth of July and Labor Day picnics.
Martel wondered how that could be. How could they not know of the horrors being perpetrated in their name all over the Reich and in the conquered territories? Slave labor starved in the East while working to fill Berlin shops. Tens of thousands were dying of overwork, malnourishment and exposure as they labored like the captives of Pharaoh on the new autobahn extensions that were pushing deeper and deeper into the Ukraine and Occupied Russia. And worst of all, the camps. On the other hand, in a climate where no one dared speak "sedition" except to their closest, oldest friends, information flow would be very slow. Especially if people did not want to know. But sooner or later murder would out, the atrocities become common knowledge. What of German pride then?
Coming to the corner that housed his destination, Martel turned from the boulevard and its obscene canopy of swastikas to the American flag floating above the American Embassy. As ever, he felt a certain relief at the transition to American soil, symbolic though it was. Going through the outer doors, he returned as crisply as they were proferred the salutes of the Marine guards, stepped into the main corridor, and turned to sign in at the receptionist's desk, where to his surprise Betty was waiting to meet him.
"Hi, Betts. What are you doing out here?" Normally at this time of day Betty would be busy keeping the intelligence section of the embassy running. She was one of those incredible private secretaries who wind up running the show. "Sharon sick again?"
"They asked me to sit out here, so here's where I'm sitting. How was the parade, Commander?"
"The usual," he replied as he leaned forward to scribble his name. "Lots of brass bands and marching around." Much more quietly he added, "Wait till you see the pics. If this doesn't wake people up, I don't know what could." Jim was being mildly out of line talking with her even in such vague terms, not because she shouldn't know but because they were arguably in a public place, deserted though it was.
Betty Kulowski looked up at him with a smile. "Hey, Lover, one lieutenant commander, even one as gorgeous as you, can't take the whole weight of national defense policiy on his shoulders."
When he hardly smiled in return, nor reminded her that though they might have an understanding they were not lovers, and by the way why not? she too turned serious. "You and I have gone over the specs for those planes, Honey. As far as our side is concerned we wrote the book on German jets. You've even drawn schematics. Surely just seeing them in flight didn't add that much?"
"Seeing them made it real. Betty, I'm telling you. We're in trouble, and if we don't wake up to that fact and do something about it, we could wind up fighting a war in the continental USA."
"Jim, it's not that bad."
"Not quite. Not yet."
For a moment Betty seemed at a loss for words, as if she wanted to reassure him, but not falsely. She understood too well the profound implications behind Jim's concern, and suspected that the vision of Nazi air power he had just experienced would have had a similar effect on her. "Nothing much we can do here, though, except stay on top of developments and do our jobs," she finally ventured.
"Betts, I think my dad might soon be moved to write another article, and this one not for Defense Analysis Quarterly."
Betty's face fell. "Jim, don't. They're mad enough at you already."
Jim shrugged. Frankly, he wasn't sure an article such as he had in mind would have any desireable effect, while he was pretty sure it would permanently blight his career. Also he realized that he would have to be awfully damned careful to avoid references to anything he had learned as a matter of performing his duties as an intelligence officer . . . which would include about everything that would give such an article credibility. "Oh, hell, you're as right as you usually are. I'd just cancel myself out of the equation without doing any good." He smiled lopsidedly. "When they assigned me to intel they really muzzled me good, didn't they? Good thing I have you. . . ."
"Me too." Betty smiled sympathetically, then turned impish: "And I have my sights set on an admiral of the fleet, my boy -- an admiral who has done it all, up close and personal. I don't have my sights set on a defrocked flyboy history teacher stuck in some out-of-the way school because he resigned under a cloud!" Despite her attempted humor, clearly Betty shared his frustration over the way so many in high places would rather stick their heads in the sand than admit error, or even admit a failure in their own omniscience.
Looking at her, feeling both her emotional support for him personally, and her shared concern for their country, Jim regretted more than ever embassy policy on liaisons between staffers. He and Betty would be seeing a lot of each other as soon as they both were out of this place, and it was very damned irritating that in public they had to settle for a friendly bonhomie, while aside from a couple of carefully coordinated vacations their "private" times were limited to working over intelligence files. Once they had accidentally met on a Berlin street and had impulsively ducked into a shop for a cup of tea -- and were asked about it the next day, with a strong hint that a repetition, even an accidental repetition, would be frowned on very darkly indeed. As if it wouldn't be better for staffers to spend some lonely hours together rather than to be constantly subjected to temptation by the local talent, some of which was quite gorgeous. Not that the locals weren't equally forbidden, but still, the -
"Jim, could I see you for a minute?"
Jim's musings flash-evaporated as he looked over his shoulder at Steve Acres, the head of military intelligence. Supposedly Steve was a mid-level State Department functionary and came complete with the usual (though in his case phony) Yale credentials. In fact, in other times and places he would again wear the single star of a brigadier general of the US Army.
Something was wrong. Before Jim could respond to his request, Acres had turned away from him and was walking back to his office. As he followed Acres through the double doors into the heart of the embassy, Jim felt his hackles begin to rise. When (crossing the small reception area that held Betty's desk to do so) they had entered Acres's office and Jim saw that there were two others in the room, they rose even more.
One of them, Harriman, his name was, Jim vaguely recognized as an intelligence agent with the OSS. He wasn't around much, and didn't mingle when he was. The other was a complete stranger, though he seemed to recognize Martel - and looked at him as if he were a piece of rancid meat.
Without benefit of introductory niceties the stranger stated baldly, "You met with von Metz this afternoon." As he made this announcement he pointed peremptorily to a chair set in the middle of the room.
Jim looked over at Steve.
"Jim, this is Mr. Grierson. He's here to ask you some questions."
Jim sat, but otherwise ignored Grierson. "Steve, what the hell is going on here?"
"Lieutenant Commander Martel, I asked you a question," Grierson said grimly. "You would be well advised to answer it."
Still ignoring his interrogator, Jim continued to gaze levelly at his boss.
"Jim, you are to answer Mr. Grierson's question without hesitation."
Jim turned in his chair to face Grierson. "Sure. I met with von Metz. If you check the contact report that I turned in yesterday you'll see that I already had the meeting arranged."
"What did you discuss with him?"
Jim looked back at Acres.
"Sir, is there a problem here?"
"Martel, I'm asking you a question," Gierson snarled, "so stop looking to General Acres for help like you're Charlie McCarthy sitting on his knee."
Jim swung around and stood up. "Listen buddy, back off."
Jim turned and looked back at Acres.
"You've been accused of a breech in security," Acres said. "Grierson came in this morning from the States to check it out. Just answer the questions."
Stunned, Jim looked back at Gierson, who now pointedly ignored him as he spoke to Harriman. "You followed Martel today?" Grierson asked.
"After the parade he met von Metz. The two suddenly took off through the crowd and I fell behind. They talked for several minutes and then parted company."
"So? We should stand motionless, talking in loud clear voices? He had sensitive information. That was the point of the meeting!"
"And what was that information, Jim?" General Acres asked, holding his hand up for Grierson to be silent.
"Something is starting to move. Willi's not sure what. Training schedules for troops inside of Russia have been stepped up. Amphibious assault rehearsals on the Black Sea coast. Internal security is tightening up, the same way it did before they went into Russia. Their coding system is scheduled for a major overhaul. Even Canaris is being kept in the dark. One hard fact: The code name for this operation is 'Arminius.'"
"Arminius," Acres repeated, looking back quizzically at Jim.
"You probably remember it from your Academy days. The German leader during the reign of Augustus. Annihilated Varus's legions in the Teutoburger Forest."
"What's the target?"
"Maybe us. Probably us. Von Metz wasn't sure."
Grierson laughed sarcastically. "That's it?"
Jim started to report on von Metz's personal warning, then decided to omit that for the moment. If he was suspected of a leak, then a leak there almost certainly was - somewhere. If word of a personal warning got back to German intel, it might be just what they needed to nail his cousin. "That's about it."
"Martel, we've been filtering reports like that since the war ended. Why should we take this one seriously? Hell, we're the last thing the Germans want to take on."
"What about this amphib report?" Acres asked the civilian. "Do the British know about this? With Churchill back in office the Germans might be having preemptive thoughts about England."
"We've been getting those reports as well," Grierson replied disdainfully. "Our assessment is that they're prepping a move into Kazakhstan for more oil. The amphib's for moving some divisions directly across the Caspian Sea; training in the Black Sea would be the obvious place."
Grierson turned and looked back at Jim.
"What did you and your German relative really talk about?"
"I told you."
"Nothing. I was doing my job."
"I've already looked at the initial contact report for today," Grierson said, casually revealing that he had access to General Acres's files.
Acres barely flinched.
Grierson looked over at Harriman and nodded a dismissal. Harriman stood without comment and exited. As he watched him go, Jim felt as though he were watching something wet that crawled in the dark. The worst part of it was knowing that if the tables had been turned - as they easily could have been - he would have been the one doing the tailing and reporting. Suddenly he was hip deep in the filthy reality that underlay all the cloak and dagger games. He didn't like it, or himself, much just then. He longed to be a pilot again.
As the door closed on Harriman, Grierson burst rudely in on Jim's thoughts. "Martel, are you familiar with recent developments in radar equipment used for spotting submarine periscopes and snorkels?"
"How and why?"
"I was briefed on it four months ago. One of my assignments was to find out if the Germans knew about our design, the frequencies we were using, and whether they had developed radar-detection gear for their submarines."
"What about acoustically guided torpedoes?"
"I wasn't briefed on that, but I was supposed to find out if they were developing submarine noise makers. That made it pretty obvious that we or the Brits were working on acoustical guidance."
Acres interjected. "Jim, we've gotten feedback from other sources --"
"Mr. Grierson. Aside from the fact that he's the best operative I've got, I've known this boy and his family for twenty years. I know him. This whole thing is a bunch of crap. Chances are the Nazis got the information Stateside. Since the Pacific War ended it's become a damn sieve back there. This whole thing is most likely an FBI screw-up."
So Grierson was FBI. Very high-up FBI. No wonder Acres had hesitated to cross him.
"The leak originated here. That points to one person. Him."
"Am I being charged with something?" Jim asked sharply. "If so I have a right to know - or are you picking up a few tricks from the Gestapo?" He regretted the words almost immediately, and not just because of what came next. He knew very well the difference between even a hardnose like Grierson and a genuine secret-police thug.
"Lieutenant Commander James Martel, under the Espionage Act of 1941 you are hereby charged with delivering classified information to a foreign power. You are under arrest. You will be escorted back to the United States where you will face a military court martial. Prior to that court martial some people in my division want to have a long, long talk with you. A plane is waiting at Templehof." Grierson went to the back door of Acres's office and, with a bit of flourish, knocked on it. The door opened and two more men in civilian garb stepped in.
"Martel, these two men will escort us to the plane and back to the States. They have been ordered to kill you rather than let you escape, and believe me, should the occasion arise they will happily carry out that order."
Stunned, Jim looked back at Acres.
"Just cooperate, Jim. I'll get things moving on my end. You'll be cleared of this within a week, maybe two." In the long months to come James Martel would often recall that empty promise.
Copyright © 1995 by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen