From Chapter One of THE SOLDIER SPIES by W.E.B. Griffin:
Marburg an der Lahn, Germany
8 November 1942
On the night of November 7, Obersturmführer-SS-SD Wilhelm Peis, a tall, pale, blond man of twenty-eight, who was the senior Sicherheitsdienst (SS Security Service) officer in Marburg an der Lahn, received the following message by Teletype from Berlin:
YOU WILL PLEASE TAKE ALL NECESSARY STEPS TO ENSURE THE SECURITY OF REICHSMINISTER ALBERT SPEER AND A PERSONAL STAFF OF FOUR WHO WILL MAKE AN UNPUBLICIZED VISIT TO THE FULMAR ELEKTRISCHES WERK AT MARBURG 8 NOVEMBER. THE REICHSMINISTER WILL ARRIVE BY PRIVATE TRAIN AT 10:15 AND DEPART IN THE SAME MANNER AT APPROXIMATELY 15:45.
The message from Berlin seemed more or less routine to Peis, and he at first treated it as such until early in the morning of the eighth when Gauleiter Karl-Heinz Schroeder-in a state somewhere between chagrin and panic-burst into Peis's sleeping quarters (Peis was not in fact asleep) and pointedly reminded him that not only had Speer taken the place of Dr. Fritz Todt as head of the Todt Organization-in charge of all industrial production, military and civilian-which made him one of the most powerful men in Germany, but that he was a personal friend, perhaps the closest personal friend-of the Führer himself.
The intensity of Schroeder's concern impelled Peis to double his efforts on behalf of welcoming the Reichsminister, and he rounded up half a dozen Mercedes, Horch, and Opel Admiral automobiles to carry Speer from the railroad station to the Fulmar Electric Plant-or wherever else he might wish to go. He canceled all leave for the police and the SD. And he dressed in a new uniform.
By this time Peis was less motivated by the concerns of the Gauleiter than by more pressing and personal concerns of his own:
The Reichsminister would certainly be accompanied by a senior SS officer-at least an Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) and possibly even an Oberführer (Senior Colonel). If this officer found fault with his security arrangements for Reichsminister Speer, Peis could start packing his bags with his warmest clothes. There was always a shortage of Obersturmführers on the Eastern Front, and a long list of SS officers already there who had earned a sweet sinecure like the SS-SD detachment in Marburg an der Lahn. Peis had long before decided that it was far better to be a big fish in a little pond than the other way around.
Peis set up his security arrangements at about seven in the morning, soon after Schroeder had left him; he personally checked his arrangements twice; and he was at the Hauptbahnhof forty-five minutes before the scheduled arrival of the private train.
The train itself, though it rolled into the station on schedule to the minute, was otherwise a disappointment. To start with, it wasn't actually a train. It was one car, self-propelled-not much more than a streetcar. And there were no senior SS officers to be impressed with the way Peis had handled his responsibilities. Only Reichsminister Speer and three others-all civilians, one a woman-stepped out of the car.
And even Speer himself wasn't in uniform. He was wearing a business suit and looked like any other civilian.
After the Reichsminister and his party reached the platform, Karl-Heinz Schroeder, wearing his best party uniform, marched up and gave a stiff-armed Nazi salute, then launched into his welcoming speech. Speer made a vague gesture with his hand in reply to the salute and cut Schroeder off at about word five.
"Very good of you to say so, Herr Gauleiter," Speer said, and then went quickly on. "I had hoped that Professor Dyer would be able to meet us."
From the look on Schroeder's face, it was obvious to Peis that Schroeder had never heard of Professor Dyer.
Unless there were two Professor Dyers, which was highly unlikely, Reichsminister Speer desired the company of a man who had one foot in a Konzentrationslager (concentration camp) and the other on a banana peel.
"Forgive me, Herr Reichsminister," Schroeder said. "Professor Dyer?"
And then, Peis thought, Schroeder finally put his brain in gear. "Perhaps Obersturmführer Peis can help you. Peis!"
Peis marched over and saluted.
Speer smiled at Peis. "There was supposed to have been a message sent" he began.
"I sent it, Herr Speer," the woman said.
"-requesting Professor Friedrich Dyer to meet with me."
"I have received no such message, Herr Reichsminister," Peis said. "But I think I know where he can be found."
"And could you bring him?" Speer asked.
"If I may be so bold as to suggest, Herr Reichsminister?" Peis said.
"Of course," Speer replied.
"While you and your party accompany the Gauleiter, I'll see if I can find Professor Dyer for you and take him to the Fulmar plant."
"Good man!" Speer smiled and clutched Peis's arm. "It's quite important. I can't imagine what happened to the telegram."
"I'll do my best, Herr Reichsminister," Peis said.
Peis hurried to the stationmaster's office and grabbed the telephone. He dialed the number from memory.
Gisella Dyer, the daughter (and the only reason Professor Dyer was not making gravel from boulders in a KZ somewhere), answered the phone on the third ring.
"How are you, Gisella?" Peis asked.
"Very well, thank you, Herr Sturmbannführer," she said, warily. Peis understood her lack of enthusiasm. But she wasn't the reason for his call today.
"Do you know where I can find your father?" he asked.
He heard her suck in her breath, and it was a moment before she spoke again. She was carefully considering her reply. Peis knew that she would have preferred that Peis direct his attentions toward her not because she liked him (she despised him), but because as long as Peis liked her, her father stayed out of the KZ.
"He's at the university," she said finally, with a slight tremor in her voice. "Is there something wrong, Herr Sturmbannführer?"
"Where exactly at the university?"
Gisella Dyer considered that, too, before she replied.
"In his office, I imagine," she said. "He doesn't have another class until four this afternoon." She paused, then asked again, "Is there something wrong?"
"Official business, Gisella," Peis said, and hung up.
It would be useful for Gisella to worry a little, Peis thought. She tended to be arrogant, to forget her position. Periodically, it was necessary to cut her down to size.
Peis found Professor Friedrich Dyer where his daughter had said he would be, in his book-and-paper-cluttered room in one of the ancient buildings in the center of the university campus. He was a tall, thin, sharp-featured man; and he looked cold, even though he was well covered. He wore a thick, tightly buttoned cardigan under his many-times-patched tweed jacket and a woolen shawl over his shoulders. The ancient buildings were impossible to heat, even when there was fuel.
Professor Dyer looked at Peis with chilling contempt, but he said nothing and offered no greeting.
"Heil Hitler!" Peis said, more because he knew Dyer hated the salute than out of any Nazi zeal of his own.
"Heil Hitler, Herr Peis," the professor said.
"I wasn't aware you are acquainted with Reichsminister Albert Speer, Professor," Peis said.
"I gather he's here," Dyer said.
The professor was not surprised, and this surprised Peis.
"You were supposed to meet him at the station," Peis said.
"No," the dignified academic said simply. "The telegram said only that the Reichsminister would be here and wanted to see me."
"I really have no idea," Professor Dyer said.
Is that the truth? Peis wondered. Or is the professor taking advantage of his association with the head of the Todt Organization and trying to impress me?
"He is at the Fulmar Electric Plant," Peis said. "I am here to take you to him."
Professor Dyer nodded, then rose and with difficulty put his tweed-and-sweater-thick arms into the sleeves of an old, fur-collared overcoat. When he had finished struggling into it, the two top buttons would not fasten. He shrugged helplessly, set an old and shaggy fur cap on his head, and indicated that he was ready to go.
The university was in the center of Marburg atop the hill, and the Fulmar Elektrisches Werk was about ten minutes north of town. It was an almost new, sprawling, windowless, oblong building with camouflage netting strung across it. The netting was intended to blend the plant into the steep hills around Marburg to make it invisible from the air.
The plant had no guards now, but that was to change, Peis knew, as of the first of December. (The coming change sparked considerable curiosity in Peis: What were they going to make in there that required all that security?) The local SS-SD office (that is to say, Peis) had been ordered to dig up before December enough "cleared" civilians to handle the security job. If he could not provide enough "cleared" civilians, the police would have to provide the guard force, at the expense of whatever else they were supposed to be doing.
Meanwhile, a substantial guardhouse had been built. And a nearly completed eight-foot fence, topped with barbed wire, surrounded the plant property. At hundred-yard intervals there were guard towers, with floodlights to illuminate the fence.
Peis found Reichsminister Albert Speer and his party by driving around until he discovered the little convoy of "borrowed" automobiles.
Speer was inside a work bay. The bay was half full of milling machines and lathes, and there were provisions for more. As soon as he saw Peis and Professor Dyer, Speer walked over to them. He was smiling, and his hand was extended.
"Professor Doktor Dyer?" Speer asked.
"Herr Speer?" Dyer replied, making a bow of his head and offering his hand.
"I'm very pleased to meet you," Speer said. "I've been reading with great interest your paper on the malleability of tungsten carbide."
"Which paper?" Dyer asked, on the edge of rudeness. "There have been several."
"The one you delivered at Dresden," Speer answered, seemingly ignoring Dyer's tone.
"That was the last," Dyer said.
Speer looked at Peis the way he would look at a servant.
"We will be an hour," Speer said, dismissing him, "perhaps a little longer. Could I impose further on your kindness and ask you to arrange for Professor Dyer to be returned afterward to wherever he wishes?"
"It will be my pleasure, Herr Reichsminister," Peis said.
"You are very kind," Speer said.
"I am at your service, Herr Reichsminister," Peis said.
Since there was time before he had to retrieve his car, Peis walked the new fence surrounding the plant. The professional cop in him liked what he saw. In his judgment, whoever had set up the fence knew what he was doing. It would be difficult for any undesirable to get into the plant area. Or to get out of it.
He noticed too, on his journey of inspection, that the fence enclosed an open area large enough to build laborer barracks. He had heard that the Todt Organization was recruiting laborers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands-and even from the East-to work in German industry. They could not, of course, be permitted to roam freely around Germany.
After his tour, he settled into his Mercedes-Benz and started the engine. It was a waste of fuel, but he wanted the engine running anyway, partly because he intended to turn on the radios (unless the engine was running, the radios quickly drained the battery), but primarily because it was cold: Whatever the virtues of the Mercedes' diesel engine, it was a sonofabitch to start when it was cold. He did not want Reichsminister Speer to remember him as the SS officer whose car couldn't be made to run. Peis himself didn't mind some additional warmth either.
Over the shortwave radio, Peis checked in with both his headquarters and the detachment guarding the Reichminister's railcar at the Bahnhof. He then tuned in Radio Frankfurt on the civilian band radio.
The news was that the Wehrmacht in Russia continued to adjust its lines and inflict heavy casualties upon the enemy. But then there was a surprise:
In blatant violation of international law, at four that morning, United States naval, air, and ground forces had started shelling and bombing French North Africa. Later, an American invasion force was sent ashore on both Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches. Terrible casualties were inflicted upon innocent, neutral civilians, etc., etc., etc.
The invasion was obviously successful, Peis concluded. Otherwise, the announcer would have gleefully proclaimed that it had been thrown back into the sea.
Why didn't the Americans mind their own damned business? Peis wondered. Germany had no real quarrel with America. What the hell did they want with French North Africa, anyhow? There was nothing there but sand and Arabs riding around on camels.
And then he remembered that he actually knew somebody in French North Africa, a policeman like himself: Obersturmbannführer SS-SD (Lieutenant Colonel) Johann Müller, who had been raised on a farm in Kolbe not three miles from where Peis sat, was on the staff of the Franco-German Armistice Commission for Morocco.
Müller, who came home to see his mother from time to time, had once been a simple Wachtmann (Patrolman) on the Kreis Marburg police. But he had been smart enough to join the Nazi Party early on, and he had been transferred to Berlin and commissioned in the SS-SD. And now he was a big shot.
Who just might, Peis thought, spend the rest of the war in an American POW cage. But better that, Peis decided, than the Eastern Front.
It was an hour and a half before he saw Professor Friedrich Dyer walking toward the car.
"You won't mind, Professor, if I see the Reichsminister safely onto his train?" Peis said when Dyer had gotten into the car.
"We all must do our duty," Dyer said dryly.
Peis discreetly followed the Reichsminister's convoy to the Hauptbahnhof.
On the way from the Hauptbahnhof to the university, Peis asked, as casually as he could, "What did Reichsminister Speer want with you?"
There was no reply for a moment, as Dyer considered his response.
"We spoke of the molecular structure of tungsten carbon alloys," Dyer finally said. "Specifically, the effect of high temperatures on their dimensions, and the difficulties encountered in their machining."
Peis had no idea what that meant, and he suspected that Dyer, aware of that, was rubbing his ignorance in his face. Yesterday, the professor would not have dared antagonize him. But they both knew that things had changed.
"I have no idea what that means," Peis admitted. And then he changed the subject before Dyer had a chance to reply: "Radio Frankfurt just said the Americans have invaded North Africa."
"You're an educated man, Professor," Peis said. "Why would the Americans want North Africa?"
"No telling," Professor Dyer said. And then he added, "You must remember, Herr Obersturmführer, that the Americans are crazy."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, for one thing, they believe they can win this war," Dyer said. "Wouldn't you say that makes them crazy?"
Peis's face tightened as he realized that the professor had mocked him again. And his anger grew as he realized that there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
Peis did manage a parting shot, however. As the professor was about to slip out of the car, Peis stopped him with his hand and gave him a knowing, confidential look. "Do please give my very best regards to Fräulein Dyer," he said through his very best smile.
Professor Dyer had no reply to make to that.
Ksar es Souk, Morocco
9 November 1942
The palace of the Pasha of Ksar es Souk was pentagonal. It was half a millennium older than the nearly completed world's largest office building, the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C., and bore little resemblance to it. But it was unarguably five-sided, and it pleased the somewhat droll sense of humor of Eric Fulmar to think of the palace as "The Desert Pentagon."
There were five observation towers at each angle of the Desert Pentagon. Over the centuries, lookouts had reported from these the approach of camel caravans, tribes of nomads, armies of hostile sheikhs and pashas-and in more recent times, patrols and detachments of the French Foreign Legion and the German Wehrmacht.
Today, there was nothing in sight on the desert in any direction, and it was possible to see a little over seven miles.
Eric Fulmar, who was tall, blond, and rather good-looking, sat in the northwest tower of the Desert Pentagon holding a small cup of black coffee. Except for olive-drab trousers and parachutist's boots, he wore Berber attire, robes and a burnoose. The cords around his waist, as well as those holding the burnoose to his head, were embroidered in gold, the identification of a nobleman.
Depending on whether his dossier was read in Washington, D.C., or in Berlin, Germany, he was 2nd Lieutenant FULMAR, Eric, Infantry, Army of the United States, or Eric von Fulmar, Baron Kolbe.
The chair he sat in was at least two hundred years old. He had tipped it back and was balancing on its rear legs. His feet rested on the railing of the tower. Beside him on the stone floor was a graceful silver coffeepot with a long, curving spout. Beside it was a bottle of Courvoisier cognac. His coffee was liberally braced with the cognac.
Next to the coffeepot was a pair of Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar, 8-power binoculars resting on a leather case. And next to that was a Thompson .45-caliber ACP machine-pistol-which is to say, a Thompson equipped with a pair of handgrips, rather than a forearm and a stock. The Thompson had a fifty-round drum magazine.
Fulmar leaned over and picked up the Ernst Leitz binoculars and carefully studied the horizon in the direction of Ourzazate. He was hoping to see the cloud of dust an automobile would raise.
When he saw nothing, he put the binoculars down, then leaned to the other side of the chair, where he'd placed a Zenith battery-powered portable radio. He turned it on, and a torrent of Arabic flowed out.
Fulmar listened a moment, then smiled and started to chuckle.
It was an American broadcast, probably from Gibraltar, a message from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States, to the Arabic-speaking population of Morocco.
"Behold, the lionhearted American warriors have arrived," the announcer solemnly proclaimed. "Speak with our fighting men and you will find them pleasing to the eye and gladdening to the heart."
"You bet your ass," Fulmar said, chuckling.
"Look in their eyes and smiling faces," the announcer continued, "for they are holy warriors happy in their sacred work. If you see our German or Italian enemies marching against us, kill them with guns or knives or stones-or any other weapon that you have set your hands upon."
"Like a camel turd, for example," Fulmar offered helpfully.
"The day of freedom has come!" the announcer dramatically concluded.
"Not quite," Fulmar replied. "Almost, but not quite."
He was thinking of his own freedom. Second Lieutenant Fulmar was at the moment the bait in a trap. Well, there again, not quite. Some very responsible people considered it likely that the bait-whether through cowardice, enlightened self-interest, or simply ineptitude-would, so to speak, stand up in the trap and wave the sniffing rat away. The bait himself kind of liked that idea.
That, of course, hadn't been the way they had explained the job to him. In several little pep talks they'd assured him they were totally confident that he could carry this "responsibility" off. But Fulmar's lifelong experience with those in authority had taught him otherwise.
Fulmar had his current situation pretty well figured out. It was kind of like a chess game. From the time he had received his first chess set, a Christmas gift from his mother's employer when he was ten, he had been fascinated with the game-and intrigued by the ways it paralleled life. In life, for instance, just as in chess, pawns were cheerfully sacrificed when it seemed that would benefit the more powerful pieces.
In this game, he was a white pawn. And he was being used as bait in the capture of two of the enemy's pieces, whom Fulmar thought of as a bishop and a knight. The problem was that the black bishop and knight were accompanied by a number of other pawns both black and white.
If the game went as planned (here Life and Chess differed), the bishop and the knight would change sides. And the white pawn wearing the second lieutenant's gold bar would be promoted to knight. If something went wrong, the second lieutenant pawn and the black pawns (who didn't even know they were in play) would be swept from the board (or-according to the rules of this game-shot) and the remaining players would continue the game.
The bishop was a man named Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz, a Pomeranian aristocrat presently serving as the senior officer of the Franco-German Armistice Commission for Morocco. His knight was Obersturmbannführer SS-SD Johann Müller, presently serving as the Security Adviser to the Franco-German Armistice Commission.
Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz, who had been educated at Harvard and had once been the German Consul General in New Orleans, had not long before established contact with Robert Murphy, the American Consul General for Morocco.
Von Heurten-Mitnitz informed Murphy then that he was convinced Germany was in the hands of a madman and that the only salvation he saw for Germany was its quick defeat by the Western Powers. He was therefore prepared, he said, to do whatever was necessary to see that Germany lost the war as quickly as possible.
The German diplomat went on to tell Murphy that Obersturmbannführer Müller, for his own reasons, had come to the same conclusion and was similarly offering his services: Through his own "official" sources, Müller had come into knowledge of the atrocities committed by the SS "Special Squads" on the Eastern Front and of the extermination camps operated at several locations by the SS. Müller was a professional policeman, and he was shocked by what the SS was doing (it was not only inhuman, it was unprofessional).
Also, Müller understood that his one great ambition in life-to retire to the Hessian farm where he had been born-would not be possible if he were tried as a war criminal and hanged.
This being not only the real world, but also the real world at war, Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz's noble offer could not be accepted at face value. His intentions had to be tested. He was offered a choice: He could do a job for the Americans, at genuine risk to himself; or he could choose to satisfy other needs.
Enter the pawns:
There were in French Morocco a number of French officers, Army, Service de l'aire, and Navy, who did not regard it as their duty to obey the terms of the Franco-German Armistice. Rather, they saw it as their duty as officers to continue the fight against Germany. These officers had provided considerable information and other assistance to curious Americans. And they were fully aware that what they were doing was considered treason.
Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz's controller told him that he would be expected to round up twenty "treasonous" French officers whom the Americans wished to protect from French forces loyal to Vichy, and from the Germans themselves, and take them to the palace of the Pasha of Ksar es Souk, where they would be turned over to an American officer.
The American officer was to be parachuted into Morocco shortly before the invasion began. As soon as possible after the ships of the American force appeared off the Moroccan coast, he would contact Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz to furnish the names of the twenty officers.
Finally, Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz was informed that the American officer's name was Second Lieutenant Eric Fulmar. Von Heurten-Mitnitz would not fail to take note of this. A U.S. Army second lieutenant, even one assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, was small potatoes. But Second Lieutenant Fulmar, Infantry, United States Army, held dual citizenship. His father, the Baron von Fulmar, was not only highly placed in the Nazi Party, but was General Director of Fulmar Elektrische G.m.b.H.
For months Eric Fulmar had been a thorn in the side of his father and of many highly placed Party officials. When the war began, Eric had been a student of electrical engineering at the University of Marburg an der Lahn. But he had not remained in Germany to accept his duty to don a uniform to fight for the Fatherland. Young Fulmar's departure was of course seen as a mighty thumbing of his nose at the Thousand-Year Reich. In other words, he was a messy embarrassment to his father and the Party.
Worse yet, he had not dignified his desertion by going to the United States. That could have been more or less explained. But he had gone to Morocco, of all places, as the guest of his classmate, Sidi Hassan el Ferruch, Pasha of Ksar es Souk.
Once there, he promptly made matters even worse by entering into the profitable business of smuggling gold, currency, and precious gems out of France through Morocco. His American passport and a diplomatic passport issued to him by the Pasha of Ksar es Souk saved him from arrest and prosecution.
When Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz was named to the Franco-German Armistice Commission, one of his missions had been to see that young Fulmar was returned to Germany. His best efforts (really those of Obersturmbannführer Müller) had been to no avail. And when the Americans entered the war-when he could have been arrested without offending American neutrality-Eric von Fulmar had simply disappeared.
In the American vernacular, then, Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz and Obersturmbannführer Müller were now offered the choice of putting up or shutting up.
The easiest thing for them would be to round up the twenty French officers and Baron Eric Fulmar and accept the congratulations of their superiors. It was hoped, of course, that, as their contribution to a quick end to the war, they would take the twenty to Second Lieutenant Fulmar and safety at Ksar es Souk. Which, of course, was treason.
More important, they would be compromised. Thereafter, the Americans would be able to demand other services-under threat of letting the SS know what they had done in Morocco.
When he had parachuted into the desert near Ksar es Souk three days before, Lieutenant Eric Fulmar would not have been surprised to find himself immediately surrounded by Waffen-SS troops. As it happened, German troops did not meet him; but this was no proof that Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz and Müller were playing the game as they were expected to. They may well have been waiting until he had furnished the names of the French officers before arresting him.
As soon as the code word signaling that the invasion was about to begin came over the Zenith portable radio, he had called Rabat to order the delivery of the list of French officers to Müller. Then he had telephoned Müller and told him the list was in his mailbox. To Fulmar's surprise, Müller had told him the precise hour he expected to be at Ksar es Souk.
Müller was so clear and careful about the time of his arrival that Fulmar immediately suspected that when the truck appeared, it would be full of Waffen-SS troopers, not French officers. In view of that, he decided to change his plan to accompany the Berber force that would intercept the Müller convoy before it reached Ksar es Souk.
He decided he would watch the intercept from the palace tower.
Pawns are put in jeopardy, he thought. That's part of the game. But nowhere is it written that they have to put themselves in jeopardy.
When the announcer began to repeat the presidential proclamation, Fulmar searched through the broadcast band, hoping to pick up something else. There was nothing.
He turned off the radio and picked up the binoculars again. This time there was a cloud of dust rising from the desert floor. Right on schedule. Fulmar slid off the antique chair and knelt on the stone floor in a position that would allow him to rest his elbows on the parapet to steady the binoculars.
It was two minutes before the first of the vehicles came into sight. It was a small, open, slab-sided vehicle-a military version of the Volkswagen, Germany's answer to the jeep. Four soldiers in the black uniforms of the Waffen-SS rode in the Volkswagen. Behind it was a French Panhard armored car.
Fulmar frowned. The armored car was unexpected. It smelled like the trap he worried about. Behind the Panhard was a Citroën sedan, and behind that a civilian truck, obviously just pressed into service. The truck was large enough to conceal twenty French officers. Or that many Waffen-SS troops. Behind the truck were two other slab-sided Volkswagens holding more Waffen-SS soldiers.
About half a mile from Ksar es Souk, the convoy disappeared from sight in a dip in the terrain. And then it reappeared, rounded a turn, and skidded to a halt. The road had been blocked there by a four-foot-high pile of rocks.
From the tower, Fulmar could see the Berbers waiting for the convoy, but to the Germans the Berbers were invisible.
The Waffen-SS troops jumped from their Volkswagens and formed a defensive perimeter around the convoy.
The Panhard moved in front of the leading Volkswagen and then tried to climb the pile of rocks. Nobody left the truck. Which meant nothing; they might be trying to conceal the presence of more German troops as long as possible.
Fulmar saw the muzzle flashes of the Panhard's machine gun moments before he heard the sound. And then the Panhard burst into flame, and a huge plume of black gasoline smoke surged into the sky.
There were more muzzle flashes, followed moments later by the rattle of the weapons. Two of the Waffen-SS troopers rushed toward a Berber position before being cut down.
And then the others began to raise their hands in surrender.
One German and three French officers, plus a Waffen-SS driver, came out of the Citroën with their hands in the air. Then the truck disgorged a dozen more Frenchmen-officers, civilians, and, astonishingly, two women. The German officer almost certainly was Obersturmbannführer Müller.
A Berber on horseback appeared. He rode over to the Panhard armored car and took a long, meditative look at two of its crew who had escaped and were lying on the ground. He killed both of them with a burst from his Thompson machine-pistol. He then rode over to the place where the two Waffen-SS troopers had been cut down and fired short bursts into their bodies.
More horsemen appeared. The remaining Germans, including the officer who had been in the Citroën, had their hands tied behind them. A rope was looped around their necks, making a chain of them. And one of the Berbers on horseback started leading them toward Ksar es Souk.
The French officers and the women were left unbound, but they were still unceremoniously herded down the road toward the palace. The vehicles were left where they had stopped.
The operation hadn't gone exactly as planned, but it had worked, and the armored car hadn't been nearly as much of a problem as it could have been. And, obviously, Müller was doing what he had been told to do.
Fulmar put the binoculars case around his neck, picked up his Thompson machine-pistol, and wound his way carefully down the narrow stone stairs of the tower.
At the bottom, he emerged into the courtyard. Spotting a small boy, he ordered him in fluent Arabic to fetch the cognac, the coffee service, and the radio from the tower.
Then he started toward the gate from the inner to the outer courtyard. Just before he reached it, he covered his face below the eyes with part of the blue cloth of his headdress. The once-glistening parachutist's boots were now scarred and torn by the rocks and bushes of the desert; they looked like any old boots. He was quite indistinguishable from a bona fide Berber.
In the outer courtyard there were a hundred Berbers, a third of them women in black robes. The men had painted their faces blue, as was their custom, and most of them were armed as he was with a Thompson. Off at one side, handlers held about forty horses. Fulmar made his way among the men to a group of the leaders and told them what had happened.
And then one of the Berbers touched his shoulder and nodded toward the gate. The horseman with the string of prisoners was now in sight.
"As soon as he's inside, go get the trucks and cars," Fulmar ordered. "And see what you can do about hiding the armored car."
"Why?" the Berber asked.
"Just do it," Fulmar said.
The Berber made a mocking gesture of subservience.
"I hear and obey, O son of heaven," he said.
"May you catch the French disease and your member turn green and fall off," Fulmar said.
They laughed at each other, and the Berber walked to where the horses were being held. He swung easily into a tooled leather saddle, then called out the names of half a dozen men, who trotted to the horses and mounted. They rode out of the courtyard as the German prisoners were led inside.
The Germans appeared terrified.
What the hell, Fulmar thought, I'd be terrified too if I was being led with a rope around my neck into a King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table palace by a bunch of guys with blue faces and submachine guns.
He turned to another Berber.
"The stocky one," he said. "The one without the leather equipment. Take him inside to the small room or the library. Leave someone with him and make sure that no one else goes into the room with him."
"And the others?"
"Take them into the main room and get them something to eat and drink. They are not to be bothered."
"Not even their boots?"
"Not even their boots," Fulmar said. "They fought well. They deserve honorable treatment."
When the French arrived and had been herded into the courtyard, Fulmar walked up to them.
"On behalf of His Excellency Sidi Hassan el Ferruch, Pasha of Ksar es Souk, I welcome you to his home. You will be fed and cared for, and when it is time, you will be taken behind American lines."
He spoke in French. They seemed to accept him as a French-speaking Berber. At least he got no surprised, wary looks.
He was a little puzzled at the lack of excitement. No joy. No cries of pleasure. Then he realized that these people had expected to be taken somewhere in the desert and shot to death by the SS. They were in shock. They hadn't quite understood yet that they would live.
One of them, a wiry, intense little man, pulled himself together enough to start questioning Fulmar.
But Fulmar turned and walked off without letting him finish. He went into the palace to the small room off the library.
There was a Berber outside the door, and another inside. The German officer was sitting awkwardly on a three-legged stool, his hands still tied behind him.
Fulmar walked over to him, took a curved blade knife from a jewel-encrusted scabbard on the gold cords around his waist, and cut him free.
"Have someone bring my cognac," Fulmar ordered. "And coffee and oranges and some meat."
"Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" the German officer asked as he rubbed his wrists.
"Absolutely," Fulmar said in flawless German. "I'm an Alt-Marburger, you know-an alumnus of Philips University, Marburg an der Lahn."
"You're Fulmar?" the German asked, genuinely surprised.
"At your service, Herr Obersturmbannführer," Fulmar said. "Where the hell did that armored car come from? That could have sent this whole operation down the toilet!"
"What was I supposed to say? 'Thank you, I don't need an armored car'?"
"It could have fucked things up," Fulmar repeated, repressing a smile.
They looked at each other.
"This is a little strange, isn't it?" Fulmar asked.
There had been a brief moment's emotion. But as quickly as it had come up, both seemed anxious to restrain it.
"Are you going to live up to your end of the bargain?" the German asked.
"As soon as we get everybody safely out of sight, I'll take you back to your car," Fulmar said.
"And what happens between there and Ourzazate?"
"You're safe between here and there," Fulmar said. "If I were you, I'd be worried about getting from Ourzazate to Rabat."
The game was over, Fulmar thought. And the pawns had not been swept from the board.
He wondered why he had no feeling of exultation, and the answer came immediately: A new game had already begun.
The Franco-German Armistice Commission
10 November 1942
Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz was not in his office when Obersturmbannführer SS-SD Johann Müller went there looking for him. But Müller found him calmly packing his luggage in his apartment, a high-ceilinged well-furnished suite overlooking a palm-lined boulevard in the center of town.
Von Heurten-Mitnitz was a tall, sharp-featured Pomeranian aristocrat, the younger brother of the Graf von Heurten-Mitnitz. He was the sixth generation of his family to serve his country as a diplomat.
"Good afternoon, Obersturmbannführer," von Heurten-Mitnitz said dryly as he placed a shirt in his suitcase. "You have doubtless come to tell me that our courageous French allies have driven the Americans into the sea?"
Obersturmbannführer Johann Müller snorted.
"In a pig's ass they have," he said.
"What is the situation?" von Heurten-Mitnitz asked.
Müller told him what had taken place just outside Ksar es Souk and of his meeting with Fulmar.
"Finally, face-to-face, eh?" Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "What's he like?"
"I thought he was an Arab at first," Müller said. Von Heurten-Mitnitz looked at him, waiting for him to go on. "And somehow I expected him to be older," Müller said. "Good-looking kid. Well set up. Smart. Sure of himself."
Von Heurten-Mitnitz nodded thoughtfully. The description was more or less what he had expected.
"And what of the other Americans?" von Heurten-Mitnitz asked dryly.
"I think the Americans will be here in Rabat in twenty-four hours," Müller said.
"Something is slowing them down?" von Heurten-Mitnitz asked.
"There's a reliable rumor going around that they had to waste two hours sinking the invincible French North African fleet," Müller replied.
"Well, it appears that you and I are to be preserved from the Americans in order to assist in the future victory of the Fatherland. Passage has been arranged for you and me, and not more than one hundred kilos of official papers, et cetera, aboard a Junkers at half past eight," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "There is a fifty-kilo allowance for personal luggage."
"Why so late?" Müller asked.
"The Americans also wasted several hours sweeping the invincible French Service de l'aire from the skies," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "It was a choice between a U-boat and the Junkers at night."
Müller walked to a table and picked up a bottle of Steinhager.
"May I?" he asked, already pouring some of the liquor into a glass.
"Of course," Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "And would you be good enough to pour one for me?"
When Müller handed von Heurten-Mitnitz the small, stemmed glass, he asked, "Did you know what the Americans had in mind?"
Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz met his eyes.
"Not in the way I think you mean," he said. "I knew they were coming. It was the logical thing for them to do, and I knew they were capable of mounting a transatlantic invasion force. But they didn't tell me about it. Murphy, in fact, went out of his way to lead me to believe the Americans intended to reinforce the British from Cairo."
"Then they didn't trust you," Müller said simply. "So why trust them?"
Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz sipped at his Steinhager before replying.
"The simple answer to that, Johann," he said, "is that I have-we have-no choice but to trust them. Do you understand? I didn't expect them to tell me details of their invasion."
"We could arrange to be captured here," Müller went on doggedly. "Have you thought about that? We just don't show up at the airport."
"That would work for you," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "If you want, you can do just that."
"It wouldn't work for you? Why not?"
"You would be considered a soldier and become a POW," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "I have a diplomatic passport. I'm quite sure they would put me on a plane to Lisbon for return to Germany."
"Not if you said you didn't want to go," Müller said.
"But I have to go, Johnny," von Heurten-Mitnitz, said. "You understand that."
Müller snorted, drained his Steinhager, and poured another.
"You have to put things in perspective," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "Although it just began, the invasion of North Africa is already history. What they want me for is the future."
Müller grunted again.
"What they want us for, you mean." He paused, frowning. "And aren't you afraid that you-and, for that matter, me-that we'll look bad in Berlin for not having done more than we did here?"
"Are we going to be blamed, you mean? Or regarded with suspicion?" von Heurten-Mitnitz asked and went on without waiting for a reply. "I don't think so. I think what happened here will be regarded as yet another manifestation of French perfidy and ineptitude in battle. And with the Americans in Morocco, I think the Führer and his entourage will want to put the unpleasant subject out of mind. Until, of course, the Führer in his good time decides to take Morocco back."
Müller snorted derisively.
"And have the Americans told you what they want from us in Germany?"
"To a degree," Helmut von Heurten-Mitnitz said. "But I think the less you know about that now, the better."
He closed his suitcase and buckled its leather straps.
"Are you packed?"
"I packed right after Fulmar telephoned me," Müller said.
"Well, then, let's collect your luggage and go out to the airfield," von Heurten-Mitnitz said. He looked at Müller. "Johnny, if you want to stay and be captured, I'll understand. I can also come up with a convincing story to explain it back home. You know, devotion to duty and all the rest of it."
"Jesus Christ, don't make it easy for me," Müller said. "I've almost talked myself into staying. Almost, shit! When I walked in here, I was going to tell you I was staying. And then I remember what those swine did in Russia. What they're doing in Germany, to Germans...."
"Yes," von Heurten-Mitnitz said, understanding.
He looked around the room. "I rather hate to be leaving," he said. "There's much about Morocco I really like."
Müller looked at him.
"I wish we were going someplace besides Germany," he said.
12 November 1942
SUPREME HEADQUARTERS ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
GIBRALTAR 1015 HOURS I2 NOV 42
JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF PENTAGON WASH DC
FOR COL W J DONOVAN OLD FRIENDS SAFE STOP NEW
FRIENDS GOING HOME STOP SIGNED MURPHY STOP END
The radio message was received and logged in at the Pentagon Message Center at 0515 hours, Washington time. Since it had been transmitted in the clear, no decryption was necessary. It was placed in Box G at 0517 hours.
Box G was emptied at 0528 hours, and its contents carried by armed messenger to the National Institutes of Health building, where it was logged in at 0605 hours. At 0615, the message was placed in a box marked DIRECTOR, by which time it had a red tag stapled to it, identifying it as an "Operational Immediate" message deserving the Director's immediate attention.
At 0619 hours, the messages in the Director's box were picked up by Chief Boatswain's Mate J. R. Ellis, USN, a ruddy-faced, heavyset man of thirty-eight whose unbuttoned uniform jacket revealed a Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol carried high on his hip in a "skeleton" holster.
Ellis read the sheaf of messages, then put them into a briefcase. He buttoned his uniform jacket and went to the parking lot, where a white hat sailor, a torpedoman second class, sat behind the wheel of a Buick Roadmaster sedan. Ellis got into the front seat beside him.
"How they hanging, Chief?" the torpedoman asked, and then, without waiting for a reply, asked, "Georgetown?"
"Georgetown," Ellis confirmed.
When Chief Ellis had joined the OSS-so early on that it was then the "Office of the Coordinator of Information"-he was a bosun's mate first class just back from the Yangtze River Patrol, and he had been the driver of the Director's Buick Roadmaster. His duties were different now, if somewhat vaguely defined. Newcomers to the OSS, particularly senior military officers who might naturally tend to assume a chief petty officer was available to do their bidding, were told two things about Chief Ellis: Only the Colonel and the Captain (which meant Colonel William J. Donovan, the Director of the OSS, and Captain Peter Douglass, USN, his deputy) gave orders to Chief Ellis.
More important, if the Chief asked that something be done, it was wise to presume he was speaking with the authority of at least the Captain.
When the Buick pulled to the curb before a Georgetown town house, a burly man in civilian clothing suddenly appeared from an alley. It was clearly his intention to keep whoever got out of the Buick from reaching the door of the town house.
And then he recognized Ellis, and the hand that had been inside his jacket reaching for his pistol, came out and was raised in a wave.
"What do you say, Chief?" he asked as Ellis stepped out of the car and walked toward the red-painted door of the building.
"I thought you got off at six," Ellis said.
"So did I. Those sonsofbitches are late again," the burly man said.
Colonel William J. Donovan opened his own front door. He was stocky and silver-haired, and he was dressed in a sleeveless undershirt. Shaving cream was still on his face.
"The damned alarm didn't go off," he said. "How much time do we have?"
"Enough," Ellis said.
"You didn't have to come here, Chief," Donovan said. "I was going by the office anyway."
He turned and motioned for Ellis to follow him inside.
"Something important in there?" Donovan asked, indicating the briefcase.
Ellis opened it and handed Donovan the sheaf of red tagged messages. Donovan read them, carefully, and then handed them back.
"Douglass see these yet?" he asked.
"No, sir, I thought I would send them back with the driver," Ellis said.
"You saw Murphy's radio?"
"There never was any doubt in your mind about that, was there, Chief?"
"Not about Fulmar," Ellis said. "I wasn't too sure about the Krauts."
"Well, it worked," Donovan said. "And just between you and me, there was more to it than appears."
"I had sort of figured that out," Ellis said. "I haven't figured out what yet."
It was a subtle request to be told. Donovan, as subtly, turned him down. "Have you had breakfast?"
"There's a coffee shop at Anacostia," he said.
"Which means you haven't," Donovan said. "Which means that you've been up all night, too. Am I right?"
"I figured I'd better stick around."
"The cook's not up," Donovan said. "But I started the coffee. Do you think you could make us some ham and eggs without burning the kitchen down?"
"Yes, sir," Ellis said.
"I'll go put a shirt on," Donovan said, "and grab my bags. I won't be long."
He started up the stairs, then turned.
"Ellis, maybe you'd better check with Anacostia. I'd hate to go all the way out there only to find we can't fly out today."
"I checked just before I came over here," Ellis said.
"Yes, of course you would have," Donovan said. "What would I do without you, Ellis?"
"I don't know," Ellis said seriously. "Without one man who knows what he's doing, this outfit would be even more fucked up than it already is."
It took Donovan a moment to realize that Ellis, in his own way, was making a joke.
Then he laughed, a hearty, deep laugh in his belly.
"Sunny-side up, Ellis, please," he said. "And try not to burn the toast." And then he continued up the stairs.
Ellis turned to a telephone on a small table against the wall and dialed a number.
"Ellis," he said when the call was answered. "I'm at the Boss's. We should leave here in thirty minutes. If you don't hear from me again in two hours, tell the Captain that we're on our way."
Then he hung up, went into the kitchen, removed his uniform blouse, and, wearing an apron, he made breakfast for the two of them.
Ellis had learned to cook from a Chinese boy aboard the USS Panay of the Yangtze River Patrol. He often thought of that when he was pressed into cook service. That had been a long time ago. He'd seen a twenty-one-year-old seaman first striking for bosun third. Seventeen years ago.
But he'd only been back from China a short time. Just before the war started, they'd closed down the Yangtze Patrol and sailed what gunboats were left to the Philippines. They'd wanted to keep him in the Philippines, but his enlistment was up, and he didn't think he wanted to serve in the Philippines, so he told them he wanted out, and they'd sent him home.
They'd been pissed, of course. Everybody knew the war was coming, and they didn't want to let him out. But there was nothing they could do about it (enlistments had not yet been frozen). So they'd sent him back as unpleasantly as they could, making him work his way as supercargo on an old and tired coastal freighter headed for overhaul at San Diego. He'd thought then that since he would never see China again (he loved China), the best thing he could hope for was to keep his nose clean so he could get his twenty years in and retire with his rating.
That was not quite two years ago.
He had fallen into the shit and come up smelling like roses. The orders that were soon sending him back to China (and to Burma, and India, and Egypt, and England) described him as "the administrative assistant to the Director of the Office of Strategic Services." Which meant that he was going to travel with the Colonel to all those places and take care of whatever he needed taken care of.
That sure beat what for most of his adult life had been his great ambition, to be the ranking chief on a Yangtze River gunboat.
Naturally, there had to be a price to pay for this beyond making life a little easier for the Colonel when he could arrange it-beyond even putting himself between the Colonel and whoever meant the Colonel harm-but he was prepared to pay that.
What exactly that price was going to be, Ellis didn't know. When he got the bill, he'd pay it. And in the meantime, if the Colonel wanted eggs sunny-side up before they got on the plane to go around the world, that's what the Colonel would get.
Reprinted from THE SOLDIER SPIES by W.E.B. Griffin by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1986 by W.E.B. Griffin. Originally published under the pseudonym Alex Baldwin. First G.P. Putnam's Sons edition 1999. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.