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The Man Who Wanted Tomorrow
By Brian Freemantle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1975 Innslodge Publications Ltd
All rights reserved.
The wind, soon to carry the first snow of winter, scurried over the lake, flustering tiny waves against the shore with urgent, popping sounds.
A vast wedge of blackness was cast over the water by the huge mountain that rose directly over the north-west of Lake Toplitz, and on which, in the daylight, were visible the scars of the successors to the V-l and V-2 rockets that were still being tested there at the German Navy's secret underwater missile-center as Hitler put the Luger to his head in the Berlin bunker.
There was light, though, on the eastern section, where the moon could reach, and it was here the first man broke surface. He trod water and turned a full circle, searching the complete darkness of the land. Then, in a patterned bunch, the other frogmen came up, with no sound.
They stayed, as if uncertain, a formal rectangle of men. After several minutes, without any indication of gestured command, they began moving awkwardly towards the shore. Their grouping was unusual, two separate lines each of three men, moving parallel and about three feet apart. From the slowness of their progress, it was obvious that between them they were supporting something of considerable weight. Near the edge, where it was possible to stand, the leaders ducked into the water, removing their flippers to walk easier. They paused, free of the water, to allow the two following to do the same.
The shotgun blast was deafening. It was fired only feet from the man who had first surfaced, completely decapitating him, and immediately there was the roar from another shotgun. The spreadshot killed the second man instantly and wounded the skin-diver behind him, who died anyway within seconds in the cross-fire of machine-pistols. The fourth swimmer had a knife quite uselessly in his hand when the first shotgun, reloaded now, caught him in the stomach, almost separating the head and chest from the lower torso. The fifth frogman ran blindly towards the shore, into a curtain of fire being directed into the lake with mathematical precision, and was lifted from the water by the force of the bullets.
It lasted exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds. Then, abruptly, it was quiet again.
The dead men were hauled further on to land, their bodies scuffing through the pine-needles with a hissing sound. Unhurriedly, the mouth- and headsets were removed, so those men not mutilated could be examined under heavy torchlights kept off until now because the killers wore infra-red night-sight glasses for complete visibility. The spectacles had given them a grotesque, frog-like appearance.
"There were six."
They all turned towards the lake, quiet and barely stirring now under the persistent wind.
The lights jabbed out, showing nothing. For several minutes, they searched the shoreline, seeking another body, and two men waded along, level with the shore, the water up to their knees.
"Who fired, ahead of the command?"
The confession was immediate. The man stood stiffly to attention, knowing of the discipline. There was a momentary pause, then the shotgun blasted again, but quieter this time because the leader had only used one barrel. He had purposely fired into the man's face, so there could be no identification.
The leader played the light over what the frogmen had hauled from the lake.
"Two boxes," he said, needlessly.
"There were more. They wouldn't have swum in that formation with just two boxes."
The flashlights spread out over the lake again and the obscenity was brief.
The men stirred with the odd embarrassment of soldiers hearing a superior officer swear. Quickly the leader gave an order and they formed up in a rectangle similar to that in which the swimmers had come ashore. Clothing from the dead men was piled on top of the boxes.
There was military precision in the way the group moved off through the woods.CHAPTER 2
The Russian scientists, few of whom had traveled extensively, filed off the special Aeroflot Ilyushin and gathered in small groups, waiting for guidance from the Minister of Science like chicks awaiting the lead of the mother hen. The minister, Alexei Mavetsky, was familiar with New York and strode confidently down the finger at Kennedy Airport, greeting the American officials from Houston and the Russians from the United Nations. They were flying on to Texas the following day, after a U.N. reception.
"Not what I expected," said Sergei Damerov to the man keeping step beside him. Damerov, the rocket-propulsion expert, was an untidy, fat man who bulged his clothes like a tire slowly deflating from several punctures. He spoke in nervous, bronchitic gasps, constantly worrying the floss of tangled, gray hair, and laughing immediately he expressed an opinion, as if he expected rejection of his views and wanted to indicate they should not be taken seriously.
He laughed now, glancing sideways for reaction, but the other man ignored him, the inevitable cigarette jutting from his mouth in its black malacca holder. He limped slightly, from a long-ago accident to his left leg.
"I said, not what I expected."
The limping man turned, his face, as usual, quite expressionless, and Damerov's deep-felt jealousy immediately surfaced. Vladimir Kurnov was the most self-controlled man he knew, thought Damerov, who despised his own nervousness. They had worked together for nearly eighteen years and never once had he known the man betray anger or happiness. Or any emotion, for that matter. It was Damerov who had christened the other man the Robot, giggling to the point of tears when he discovered that Kurnov had learned the nickname. But Kurnov had just stared at him, with those opaque eyes. And walked away, neither smiling nor frowning.
Odd, thought the rocket-expert as they entered the V.I.P. lounge, that even without raising his voice Kurnov inevitably succeeded in getting his own way. Probably his psychiatric training. Damerov wondered if he could hypnotize people into obeying him. That could be it. The tussled man stared up into the empty eyes turned towards him. They could easily hypnotize someone, he decided.
"What did you expect?"
Like the eyes, the voice lacked expression. The monotone of his speech was one of the initial reasons for Damerov's choice of nickname. Immediately faced with a question, Damerov sought a path of safety.
"Oh, I don't know," he shrugged, sniggering dismissively. "It's supposed to be such a vibrant, exciting place ... full of action ..."
"It is," cut off the other man, with the curtness of an adult irritated by a child's prattling. Kurnov looked at his watch, pointedly. "You've been on the ground exactly sixteen minutes, and we haven't even left the airport yet. How on earth can you judge what sort of place it is?"
Damerov was in full retreat.
"No, of course not. Stupid of me. Then again, I haven't traveled as extensively as you," he capitulated, annoyed at himself. It had been a stupid thing to say. Kurnov had turned away, however, ignoring him. The minister was slowly beckoning the party forward, introducing them to NASA officials and scientists with whom they would be working on the joint Soviet-American space link-up. He gestured to Kurnov, who moved obediently up to the group.
"Vladimir Kurnov," announced Mavetsky. "Our leading expert in behavioral patterns and stress factors ... in fact, some people have even said the world's expert ..."
Kurnov waited patiently while the translator went through the introductions, then said, "I speak English."
The NASA director, Melvin Sharpe, shook hands and smiled. "I've particularly looked forward to meeting you, Comrade Kurnov."
"I've looked forward to coming," replied the Russian, easily. His English was good, with hardly a blur of any accent.
"I tried contacting you during your last visit," the American went on. "But somehow my messages never seemed to get through."
He stopped and smiled again, inviting the question. Kurnov looked at him, his face blank.
"We found your papers on human stress quite extraordinary. Our people learned a great deal from them," offered the director.
"Yes," said Kurnov, flatly, indicating the praise came as no surprise.
"We had no idea you would be so far advanced," said Sharpe.
"Painstaking attention to detail and slow progress, rather than dramatic performances, have always been a factor in all Russian research," said Kurnov.
Sharpe looked at him curiously, seeking an implied criticism of America's over-publicized space exploration. But the statement had no rudeness, he decided. It was as if the man had read aloud words written by someone else. Kurnov returned the look, waiting for the director to take the lead again. The American studied the man before him. Kurnov's hair was cropped short, militarily, high above his ears, and his face, almost completely free of lines and shaved to a pink, polished look, gave no indication of his age. So devoid was it of any expression, the director realized, that it would never be possible to guess what thoughts the man might be having. He was nearly six feet tall, but slighter than most of the other thickset, bulky Russians in the party, and his suit, although a nondescript, undistinguished gray, appeared better cut than those of the men around him. The matching gray tie was tightly knotted into a crisp, white shirt, with just the correct amount of cuff protruding. Kurnov would always wear white shirts, decided the director, because he would always conform, even to the conservatism of his dress. Instantly the American doubted his own assessment. He found the man unsettling, without being able to isolate the reason for his discomfort. Perhaps it was the man's demeanor. Kurnov stood before him almost to attention, but at the same time there was a casualness about the stance, the sort of insolence a parade-ground sergeant would have recognized and been angered by, knowing the challenge to authority could never be proved.
The only obvious weakness visible in the man showed in the nicotine-tanned fingers on his right hand.
"I'm sure our joint association will be fruitful," said Sharpe, accepting he would always have to lead the conversation.
"I'm sure it will be," agreed Kurnov.
Arrogant bastard, thought the American, as Kurnov fitted another cigarette in his holder.
"I know our psychiatrists are most anxious to discuss with you your views on how to resist mental collapse," Sharpe tried again.
"Yes," said Kurnov, unhelpfully, as if he already knew.
The director determined to unsettle the man and get some reaction from him.
"Certainly, from our experience in Korea, our psychiatrists weren't able to concur with your assertion that there could be developed a mental attitude that could resist any predictable pressure," said Sharpe. "There's always a breaking-point."
Kurnov shrugged, as if the conversation bored him. "I know all about Korea," he said. "Child-like brainwashing. The understanding of the mind has moved on considerably since then."
"Could your cosmonauts keep their stability, knowing for instance that they were lost in space, with no chance of recovery?"
"I think so," said Kurnov, not bothering to conceal the edge of contempt.
Sharpe flushed, trying to control his annoyance.
"And you, doctor," he said, accepting the impertinence of the question before speaking. "How well do you think you could withstand concerted mental torture? Have you ever asked yourself that?"
Kurnov stared at him, letting the surprise show to increase the other man's embarrassment.
"No," he said, curtly. "I rarely waste my time on fatuous conjecture."
The confrontation was broken by Mavetsky bustling Russians and Americans together for a group photograph. Kurnov immediately moved away, not bothering with a farewell to the American, who stood frowning after him.
The minister and Kurnov sat alongside each other in the Zil limousine taking them into Manhattan.
"I'd have liked you by me during the photographic session," rebuked Mavetsky, who was a vain man and knew the Americans regarded Kurnov as the most important member of the party.
"The people who mattered were where they should have been," said Kurnov, carelessly. "I'm a scientist, not an actor."
"From where you stood, I wouldn't be surprised if you weren't obscured completely," smiled Damerov, hopefully, from the jump-seat facing both men. Mavetsky looked sideways at Kurnov, but the other man stared out at the Manhattan skyline as the vehicle went over the Triboro Bridge, not bothering to answer.
At that moment, four thousand miles away, one of the foresters employed by the Austrian government, to ensure that Lake Toplitz and the surrounding area remained permanently sealed against Nazi fortune-hunters, strolled down to the shoreline, wondering at the tree trunks apparently stripped of bark. When he realized they were six naked bodies, he whimpered, biting at his lower lip in fear, then ran yelling back through the woods, convinced he was about to be shot, too.
A week later, the Israeli government announced that five members of the Mossad, their secret service, had been murdered in Austria, discounted as irrelevant Vienna's protests at the illegality of the mission and demanded the fullest investigation into the crime.
Because of Russian pressure, the United Nations were immediately convened in New York to formulate a censure motion.
And in Jerusalem, two Israelis who had stumbled ashore together from the Exodus as two bewildered, frightened children, and grown into inseparable friends, had their first serious argument in twenty-five years, then parted angrily, knowing there would be more disagreements.CHAPTER 3
Only the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1968 for the genocide of the Jews had created similar interest. To ensure the necessary security for the government leaders who attended, and to accommodate the world's press, the main committee-room of the Knesset in Jerusalem had to be set aside for the conference.
Golda Meir attended, as an elder statesman, with President Katzir. Moshe Dayan was there, too, flanked by General Mordechai Gur and Yitzhak Rabin. Also present were two of the country's High Court judges in case the questioning became centered on international law. A Brigadier Shimeon Cohen was introduced as the man who would conduct the conference, assisted by a clutch of Information Ministry officials behind him. The beige-washed room had been wired for simultaneous translation, and available to every journalist was a headset linked to interpreters housed beneath the committee-room, watching the conference on closed-circuit television monitors. The floor was ribboned with electrical wiring, both from the translation service and from the television teams from America, France, Germany and England who were transmitting the conference live.
With difficulty, a junior official quietened the room. The conference began with a surprise, for although she held no office it was Gold a Meir who rose to speak, waiting patiently for complete attention.
"Israel," she began, glancing at the notes in her hand, "does not deny the illegality of sending into another country a commando squad."
She paused, with a politician's timing.
"The expected result of that mission, like that which resulted in the capture in the Argentine of Adolf Eichmann, was judged worthy of that offense."
The only sound in the huge room was the noise of television cameras and the subdued whisper of radio reporters.
"It is no secret," she continued, "that in the final stages of the Second World War, the inner caucus of the Nazi Party retreated to what they hoped would be their Alpenfestung, their Alpine fortress in the Austrian mountains around Bad Aussee. Eichmann initially fled there, with a fortune in gold and opium. Kaltenbrunner, Himmler's Gestapo chief who was later executed at Nuremberg for war crimes, scuttled there, too, with over £1,000,000 in gold and foreign currencies."
She paused, sipping from a glass of water.
"Little, if any, of that treasure has ever been recovered," she took up again. "It was either buried, or thrown into Lake Toplitz, about which there are many legends of the size of the fortune hidden beneath its waters."
There was another pause, for effect.
"The Israeli government," said the gravel-voiced grandmother, "are not interested in the gold and jewellery taken from the 6,000,000 Jews being herded into the gas ovens and crematoria of the Third Reich."
She stopped, for the point to be assimilated.
"But other things lay hidden in Lake Toplitz. From the information gathered over many years by our various intelligence services, the Israeli government know that also in the lake are full details of the coded Swiss and Beirut bank-accounts containing the millions upon which the Nazis exist today ..."
Excerpted from The Man Who Wanted Tomorrow by Brian Freemantle. Copyright © 1975 Innslodge Publications Ltd. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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