The Honor of Spies (Honor Bound Series #5)by W. E. B. Griffin, William E. Butterworth IV
Griffin's Honor Bound novels have been hailed as "terrific" (Newark Star-Ledger) and "immensely entertaining" (Kirkus Reviews), with "enough derring-do, romance and action to satisfy Griffin's legions of fans and bring him new ones" (Rocky Mountain News). The new book is his best yet. August 6, 1943: In his brief career in the Office of Strategic Services,
Griffin's Honor Bound novels have been hailed as "terrific" (Newark Star-Ledger) and "immensely entertaining" (Kirkus Reviews), with "enough derring-do, romance and action to satisfy Griffin's legions of fans and bring him new ones" (Rocky Mountain News). The new book is his best yet. August 6, 1943: In his brief career in the Office of Strategic Services, twenty-four-year-old Cletus Frade has already been involved in a lot of unusual situations, but nothing like the one he's in now, standing with a German lieutenant colonel named Wilhelm Frogger in a Mississippi prisoner-of-war detention facility. Frade's job? To help Frogger escape. Frogger's parents are in Frade's custody in Argentina, because of their involvement in a secret German plan to establish safe havens for senior Nazi officials in South America, and the younger Frogger has agreed to help find out what they know. Even more important, however, is the secret within the secret. Before he was captured in Africa,...
Read an Excerpt
Estancia Casa Chica
Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
0805 11 August 1943
A white two-ton 1940 Ford truck with a refrigerator body followed a white1938 Ford Fordor sedan down the unnumbered macadam road that branchedoff National Route Three to Tandil.
The truck body had a representation of a beef cow’s head painted on it, togetherwith the legend frigorífico morón, and there was a smaller version ofthe corporate insignia on the doors of the car.
They were a common sight in the area, which bordered on the enormousEstancia San Pedro y San Pablo, the patrón of which did not know within fiveor six thousand exactly how many head of cattle grazed his fields. Nor did heknow who operated the estancia’s eight slaughterhouses, of which FrigoríficoMorón had been one of the smallest, until recently, when Frigorífico Morón hadbeen shut down to make room for the runways and hangars of South AmericanAirways.
The car and the truck slowed and turned off the macadam road onto a narrowerroad of crushed stone, then stopped when they came to a sturdy closedgate, above which a sign read Casa Chica.
A sturdy man in his fifties with a full, immaculately trimmed cavalryman’smustache got out of the car and walked toward the gate, holding in his hand akey to the massive padlock that secured the chains in the gate.
He had just twisted the key in the lock when a man on horseback trottedup, holding a rifle vertically, its butt resting on the saddle. Without speakingto him—which the man on horseback correctly interpreted to be a signal ofdisapproval; he knew he should have been at the gate before the man with themustache reached it—the man returned to the Ford. He got in and waitedfor the peon to get off the horse and finish dealing with the chain and swingopen the gate.
When the car and truck had passed through the gate, the peon went to theright post of the gate, pulled a piece of canvas aside, and then knelt beside anArgentine copy of the U.S. Army’s EE-8 field telephone. He gave its crank severalhard turns, then stood up, holding the headset to his ear as he looked upthe steep hill to Casa Chica.
An identical field telephone rang in the comfortable living room of CasaChica, a bungalow sitting near the crest of the hill.
There were five people in the room. A middle-aged balding man wearing asweater over his shirt sat across a desk from a younger man wearing a looselyknit white turtleneck sweater. A Thompson submachine gun hung from theback of the younger man’s chair.
Another rifle-armed peon—this one leaning back in a chair that restedagainst a wall—had been on the edge of dozing off when the telephone rang. Alarge, even massive, dark-skinned woman in her thirties sat on a couch acrossfrom a middle-aged woman in an armchair, who was looking bitterly at themiddle-aged balding man at the desk. When the telephone rang, the largewoman rose with surprising agility from the couch and went to it.
The balding man stopped what he was doing, which was working on an organizationalchart, and looked at the massive woman.
“You just keep on working, Herr Frogger,” the young man said not verypleasantly in German.
“I don’t have all these details in my memory, Major,” Frogger said.
“Try harder,” the young man said coldly.
He was Sergeant Sigfried Stein, U.S. Army, although Herr Wilhelm Froggerand his wife, Else, had been told—and believed—that he was a major.
Until weeks before, Wilhelm Frogger had been the commercial attaché ofthe German Embassy in Buenos Aires. On the fourth of July, he had then appearedat the apartment of Milton Leibermann, a “legal attaché” of the U.S.Embassy, and offered to exchange his knowledge of German Embassy secretsfor sanctuary in Brazil.
Leibermann was de facto the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s man in Argentina.He had no place to hide the German defectors from either the Germansor the Argentine authorities—who, he knew, would be told the Froggershad been kidnapped—nor any means to get the defectors out of Argentina. Sohe had turned them over to someone he thought could do both.
He knew that Don Cletus Frade, patrón of Estancia San Pedro y SanPablo, was in fact a U.S. Marine Corps major and the de facto head of theU.S. Office of Strategic Services in Argentina. He also knew that having anydealings at all with anyone connected with the spies of the OSS had been absolutelyforbidden by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and for that reasonLeibermann had not reported to the FBI that the Froggers had come to him,or what he had done with them.
Frade was interested in the Froggers because he knew more of the secretactivities of the German Embassy than Frogger thought he could possiblyknow, most importantly about something the Germans called “OperationPhoenix.”
Frogger steadfastly denied any knowledge of Operation Phoenix, whichconvinced Frade he was a liar. It had also become almost immediately apparentthat Frau Else Frogger was an unrepentant National Socialist who not onlyhad decided that defecting had been a mistake but that if they could only getaway from Frade and his gottverdammt Jude—“Major” Stein—all would be forgiven at the German Embassy.
Frade, however, knew enough about the SS officers in the German Embassyto know that before or after the Froggers were returned to Germany to enter aconcentration camp they would be thoroughly interrogated about Leibermannand about Frade’s operation. And the Froggers had seen too much to let thathappen.
Letting them go was not an option.
Frade had no immediate means of getting them even to Brazil without takingunjustifiable risks. So while they were, so to speak, in limbo, he was hidingthem on a small farm that his father had used for romantic interludes in thecountry.
There was a chance that Siggie Stein could break down one of them—orboth—and get them to reveal what they knew about Operation Phoenix. Notmuch of a chance, though, for Stein was a demolitions man turned communications/cryptography expert, not a trained interrogator. Still, on the otherhand, he was a refugee from Nazi Germany, and had some relatives who’d notbeen able to escape and had perished in concentration camps.
The massive Argentine woman, who was known as “The Other Dorotea”—Don Cletus Frade’s Anglo-Argentine wife was Doña Dorotea Mall'n de Frade—listened to the telephone and then reported, “It is Suboficial Mayor Rodríguez.”Stein rose from his chair, picking up the Thompson.
“Watch them,” he said to the peon with the rifle, then turned to HerrFrogger and said, “Keep at it,” and then walked out of the room and onto theverandah to wait for Rodríguez.
The incline in front of Casa Chica was very steep, and between the houseand the road and gate, but not visible from either, a landing strip had beencarved out of the hillside. Frade had told Stein his father had used it to flyhis lady love into the house in one of Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo’s fleet ofPiper Cubs.
The car and the truck appeared a moment later, moving slowly in low gear,and turned onto the landing strip. When they stopped, Suboficial Mayor EnricoRodríguez—who had been Cavalry, Ejército Argentino, and had retiredwith the late Coronel Jorge Frade from the Húsares de Pueyrredón, Argentina’smost prestigious cavalry regiment—got out of the car and started toward thehouse, going up the stairs carved into the hillside. He carried a RemingtonModel 11 self-loading twelve-gauge riot shotgun in his hand.
The driver of the refrigerator truck got out from behind the wheel, went tothe rear doors, and pulled them open. A dozen peones, all armed with Mauserrifles, began to pile out of the truck and then to unload from it equipment, includingammunition cans, blankets, food containers, and finally a Browning AutomaticRifle.
Rodríguez put his arm around Stein’s shoulders and pounded his back affectionately,but did not speak.
“What’s going on, Sergeant Major?” Stein asked in Spanish.
Their relationship was delicate. Rodríguez had a long service history and hadheld the senior enlisted rank for ten years of it. He knew that Stein had just beenpromoted to staff sergeant yet had been in the army not even two years.
On the other hand, Don Cletus Frade had made it clear to Rodríguez thatStein was in charge of the Froggers and Casa Chica.
“I have had a telephone call from an old friend,” Enrico Rodríguez said.
“There are two trucks of Mountain Troops on their way here. They have withthem a half-dozen Nazi soldiers—the ones who came off the submarine? Theones with the skulls on their caps?”
Stein nodded his understanding.
“What makes you think they’re coming here?”
“My friend, he is also of the Húsares, heard the Nazi officer tell his men theywere going after traitors to the Führer.”
He mispronounced the title, and without thinking about it, Stein correctedhim and then asked, “How would they know we have the Froggers here?”Rodríguez shrugged.
“We will defend them,” Rodríguez said seriously.
“That’s what those guys are for?” Stein asked, nodding down the stairs towardthe peones now milling around on the landing strip.
“There are twelve, all old Húsares,” Rodríguez said.
“Sergeant Major, with the twelve we have here, that’s two dozen. Againsthow many soldiers on two trucks?”
“Probably forty, forty-two,” Rodríguez said. “What I have been thinking isthat they are coming in such strength thinking we have only the dozen men,and they can make us give them the Froggers without a fight. If they see we areso many, they may decide that there will be a fight, and they know that if thereis a fight against us, there would be many casualties. How would they explainthe deaths of ten or fifteen Mountain Troops so far from their base?”
“Sergeant Major, I think it would be best if there were no confrontation,”Stein said carefully.
“You mean just turn the Froggers over to them?”
“No. I mean get the Froggers out of here, back to someplace on EstanciaSan Pedro y San Pablo.”
“Don Cletus said they were to be kept here in Casa Chica,” Rodríguez said.
“That was before he knew about this,” Stein argued.
After a pause, the old soldier said, “True.”
Stein had to suppress a smile, both at the old soldier and at the Christianscripture that had for some inexplicable reason popped into his Jewish head:Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.Ninety seconds ago, he reminded himself, I was asking myself whether I hadthe balls to shoot both of those goddamn Nazis rather than see them freed, and decidedthat I did.
“You have some place to take them?” Stein pursued.
“I will tell the driver where to take you,” Rodríguez said. “And then latermeet you there.”
“You’re not going to take them?”
“I am going to stay here and see what these bastards are up to,” Rodríguez said.
“And so will I,” Stein said, somewhat astonished to hear himself say it.
Rodríguez was visibly unhappy to hear this.
“Do you have a saying in the U.S. Army that there can only be onecommander?”
“Sergeant Major, I recognize that your experience in matters like these ismuch greater than mine.” Which is practically nonexistent. “I am at your orders.”
“We will send six of the men, plus the driver, with the Froggers,” Rodríguezordered as he assumed command. “You tell The Other Dorotea to prepare theNazis to be moved. Tell her I said I want them tied and blindfolded.”
Stein managed to keep himself from saying, Yes, sir.
“Got it,” he said.
“And while you’re doing that, I will have the Ford car and your vehiclesmoved over there,” he said, pointing to a line of hills that began a quarter of amile the other side of the road. “There’s a dirt road. I want nothing in the housewhen they get here.”
Why? What’s that all about?
“And I will set up my command post there,” Rodríguez said, pointing.
“Just below the military crest of the hill.”
What the hell is “the military crest of the hill”?
“And you have the little German camera Don Cletus brought from Brazil?”
“The Leica,” Stein said. “It’s in the house.”
“We will need photos of everything that happens here to show Don Cletuswhen he returns. You would be useful doing that.”
“I’ll send two men with you down there,” Rodríguez said, pointing to a roofless,windowless old building on the edge of the road about a hundred meters fromthe gate. “I think you will be able to see both the house and the approaches, aswell as the road, from the upper story.” He paused and chuckled. “If there still isa second story. If not, you’ll have to do as best you can from the ground floor.”
While I am trying to take their pictures from the ground floor of a decrepit oldbuilding in the middle of Argentina, I am going to be shot to death by the SS.Jesus Christ!
Thirty minutes later, on the second floor of the old building, Staff SergeantStein sat patiently while one of the two old Húsares with him carefully paintedhis face, his hands, and whatever shiny parts of the Leica Ic camera with a mixtureof dust from the building and axle grease. They took extra care with thecamera so as not to render it useless.
When they had finished that, they draped Stein in a sort of shroud made from burlap potato bags, which covered his head and his body to his ankles.
Then, very carefully, they stuck a great deal of dead leafy vegetable matter intothe burlap shroud.
While he had been undergoing the transformation, the other old Húsar tookapart an Argentine copy of a U.S. Army EE-8 field telephone, disconnected thebells that would ring when another EE-8 was cranked, and then carefully putthe phone back together.
Then he communicated with four other old Húsares, plus SuboficialMayor Enrico Rodríguez, who had apparently stationed themselves in placesStein could not see, although he tried very hard.
And finally, they painted each other’s faces with the axle grease and dustcompound, put on potato sack shrouds, and adorned these with dead leafyvegetation. One of them had a Mauser army rifle with a telescopic sight, andthe other a Thompson submachine gun like Stein’s. They wrapped them withburlap, looked around, and then wrapped Stein’s Thompson in burlap.
Twenty minutes after that, the man who had camouflaged Stein had a conversationover the telephone, which surprised Stein since he had not heard it ring,although he was no more than four feet from it. Then he remembered watchingthe man disconnect the bell.
“Ten minutes, give or take,” the old Húsar said conversationally.
The first vehicle to appear, five or six minutes later, was not the army truckStein expected from the west but a glistening, if olive-drab, Mercedes-Benzconvertible sedan. And it came down the road from the east.
It slowed almost to a stop at the intersection of the road to Casa Chica. Steinsaw that Colonel Juan D. Perón was in the front passenger seat, but did notthink to record this photographically for posterity until after the Mercedes hadsuddenly sped down the road and it was too late to do so.
Both of the old Húsares looked askance at Stein.
Ten minutes after that the Mercedes came back down the road, now leadingan olive-drab 1940 Chevrolet sedan and two two-ton 1940 Ford trucks, alsopainted olive drab, and with canvas-covered stake bodies.
Stein was ready with the Leica when Colonel Perón got out of his car and exchangedsalutes with two officers in field uniforms who got out of the Chevrolet.
While to Stein the sound of the shutter clicking and then the film advancingsounded like the dropping of an anvil into a fifty-five-gallon metal drum, followed by a lengthy burst of machine-gun fire, none of the people on the road apparentlyheard it.
Troops began getting off the trucks. One of them—probably a sergeant,Stein decided—started shouting orders. Some of the troops began to trot towardthe gate, where one of them cut the chain with an enormous bolt-cutter. Thegate was pushed open, and the troops spread out facing the Casa Chica hill onboth sides of the road.
The sergeant looked at the old house, shouted an order, and two soldiersarmed with submachine guns trotted toward it.
Stein’s heart began thumping. The old Húsares rolled onto their backs andtrained their weapons at the head of the staircase. More accurately, where stairs hadonce led to the second floor. When Stein and the others had come to the building,they had found that the stairs were just about rotted away. They had climbed ontothe second floor from the outside, using one another as human ladders.Stein could hear movement on the lower floor, and watched the stairwellopening for a head to pop up. None came.
“Nobody’s been in here in years,” a voice said in German.
A moment later, Stein rolled back onto his stomach and saw that the soldierswere trotting back to the trucks and to the sergeant. He tried and finallygot a shot of that.
And then he saw that something else was being off-loaded from the trucks.
I know what that is. That’s a Maxim Maschinengewehr. Poppa showed me onein the Krieg museum in Kassel. He told me that he’d been an ammunition bearerfor a Maxim in France.
My God, there’s two of them! And there’s the ammunition bearers!
Four soldiers trotted through the gate carrying a heavy water-cooled machinegun mounted on a sort of sled. The sled had handles like a stretcher. Theywere followed by two soldiers, each carrying two oblong olive-drab metal canslooking very much like those used by the U.S. Army.
There’s probably two hundred rounds in each can.But they’re in a cloth belt, not metal-linked, like ours.What the hell are they going to do with all that ammo?
And then another Maxim crew ran through the gate with another machinegun on its sled, followed by two more ammo bearers.
Who the hell do they think is in Casa Chica? The 40th Infantry Division?
No. If they knew where to look for us, then they’d know there’s no more than adozen men. What they are going to do with this show of force is make the point thatthey’re irresistible, get us to surrender without a fight.
And aren’t they going to be surprised when they go in the house and find there’snobody there at all.
Stein had trouble with the film-advance mechanism and looked at theLeica and saw why. He’d used all of the twenty-four frames in the film cartridge.
I will be damned! I was not paralyzed by fear!
When he had changed film—which required great care so that he did notget any dust-grease inside—and rolled back into place again, he saw somethingelse had happened. The Maxims were set up and ready to fire, but they werenow each manned by a two-man crew. The four men who had carried theweapons into place and the two ammo bearers for each were now trotting backto the trucks. As Stein watched—and took their picture—they took rifles fromthe trucks and formed loosely into ranks.
Ah-ha. The reserve. To be thrown into the breach when the 40th Infantryvaliantly refuses to surrender.
Not to worry, guys. There’s nobody in that house to surrender, much less shootback at you.
The sergeant now trotted up to Colonel Perón and the two officers, cameto attention, and saluted.
They had a brief conversation, duly recorded on film, and then saluted oneanother. One of them gave a crisp straight-armed Nazi salute.
Got you, you Nazi sonofabitch!
The Nazi sonofabitch now trotted through the gate, past the machineguns, and started up the hill.
Colonel Perón went to his staff car and leaned on the fender. The other officerand the sergeant went to the Chevrolet and leaned against its side.
The Nazi sonofabitch was no longer in sight as he made his way up the hill.
Shouldn’t you be holding up a white flag of truce?
For three minutes, which seemed much longer, Stein tried in vain to see theman moving up the hill.
There came the sound of a shot.
Oh, shit! Rodríguez couldn’t resist the temptation!
I should have thought about that, and tried to talk him out of it. Not that itwould have done any good.
But that wasn’t loud enough for a shotgun; it was a different sound, like a pistol.
What the hell? And what happens now?
The answer to that came immediately, as Stein looked at Colonel Perón tosee what, if anything, he was going to do.
First one of the Maxims and then the other began to fire.Colonel Perón screamed something but was drowned out by the sound ofthe firing weapons. He ran to the officer leaning on the Chevrolet. Almost immediately,the sergeant ran—not trotted—toward the firing machine guns.
Perón walked very quickly—almost ran—back to his Mercedes.
Perón got in and the car, wheels screeching, started heading east.
Stein saw—click, click, click—the walls and windows of Casa Chica literallydisintegrate as the machine-gun fire struck.
The sergeant was now at the closest Maxim. He was excitedly waving hisarms, obviously trying to make them stop firing. They didn’t.
And then, as suddenly as it had started, the firing stopped.
The crews of both machine guns stood up and pulled something fromtheir ears. Then the crew of one shook hands.
When the crew of the other saw this, they shook hands.
The officer who had gone up the hill now came down it, apparently unhurt.
The soldiers who had been fanned out on both sides of the road werenow summoned to the guns. Some of them picked up the sleds and ran with themto the trucks. Others began picking up the fired cartridge cases and putting theminto the now empty ammunition cans. When the cans were full, the soldiersstarted stuffing their pockets with the empties that didn’t fit in the cans.
Casa Chica did not seem to be on fire, but what looked like smoke was comingout of where the windows had been and from the holes in the tile roof.The soldiers who had manned the Maxims came to attention and renderedthe Nazi salute when the officer who had come down the hill walked upto them.
He returned the salute and then offered them cigarettes from a silver caseand finally shook hands with each of them.
The officer who had been at the Chevrolet came up to them and againsalutes were exchanged.
The officer went to one of the soldiers picking up brass and said somethingto him, whereupon the soldier and another soldier ran to the trucks. They ranback a moment later, this time carrying Schmeisser MP38 machine pistols,which they gave to the soldiers who had manned the Maxims.
The sergeant and others were now urging all the soldiers to move morequickly back to the road and onto the trucks. This was accomplished in a veryshort time, and then the trucks and the Chevrolet started to drive away.
This left the officer, the four men who had manned the Maxims, andanother man who had appeared from somewhere standing alone by the side ofthe road.
They started walking up the hill and soon disappeared from sight.Stein changed film, just to be sure.
Five minutes later, there came the sound of more gunfire. Not much. Aragged burst of shots, as if weapons had been fired simultaneously on command,and one or two of the shooters had been a little late in complying. And thenanother shot, and a moment later, another.
“We go now,” one of the old Húsares said.
They lowered Stein first out the window to the ground, one on each arm,and then used his shoulders as a ladder to climb down themselves.
They walked toward the gate. They were almost there when the gray Fordwith the Frigorífico Morón corporate insignia on its doors appeared.
That’s right, I forgot. Rodríguez told them to hide it across the street.
They got in that and rode up the hill.
Four bodies were sprawled close together in just about the center of thelanding strip. Two were on their stomachs, one on his back, and the fourthon his side. A fifth body was on its stomach halfway up the stairs leading tothe verandah of Casa Chica, and the sixth on his stomach on the runwaytwenty meters from the others, as if he had been shot in the back trying torun away. There was a great deal of blood. At least three of the bodies had sufferedhead wounds.
Stein got out of the Ford.
Suboficial Mayor Enrico Rodríguez was kneeling by one of the bodies.Stein waited for him to get out of the picture.
Rodríguez walked over to him and handed him a stapled-togetherdocument.
“Identity document?” he asked. “I just took it off that one.”
Stein took it. He flipped through it. He was surprised at the wave of emotionthat suddenly came over him. His hand was shaking.
“This is the SS ausweis—identity card—of Wilhelm Heitz,” he read softly,“who was an obersturmführer—lieutenant—in the headquarters company ofthe Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler of the Schutzstaffeln of the National SocialistGerman Workers’ Party.”
“You think we ought to keep it?” Rodríguez asked.
“I think we ought to do more than that with it,” Stein said. He walked tothe corpse. The eyes were open.
He laid the identity card on the blood-soaked chest.
He picked up the ausweis, now dripping blood, shook as much off it as hecould, then held it somewhat delicately with his thumb and index fingers.Rodríguez took it from him and placed it in a canvas bag.
“And then I think we should do the same with the other bodies. And then,I respectfully suggest, Sergeant Major, that we get the hell out of here.”
Meet the Author
W. E. B. Griffin is the author of seven bestselling series: The Corps, Brotherhood of War, Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, Presidential Agent, and now Clandestine Operations. He lives in Fairhope, Alabama, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
William E. Butterworth IV has been a writer and editor for major newspapers and magazines for more than twenty-five years, and has worked closely with his father for several years on the editing of the Griffin books. He is the coauthor of several novels in the Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, and Presidential Agent series. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- Coppell, Texas
- Date of Birth:
- November 10, 1929
- Place of Birth:
- Newark, New Jersey
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