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October 10, 1944—Washington, D.C.
The brigadier general sat stiffly on the deacon's bench, preferring the hard surface of the pine to the soft leather of the armchairs. It was nine twenty in the morning and he had not slept well, no more than an hour.
As each half hour had been marked by the single chime of the small mantel clock, he had found himself, to his surprise, wanting the time to pass more swiftly. Because nine thirty had to come, he wanted to reckon with it.
At nine thirty he was to appear before the secretary of state, Cordell S. Hull.
As he sat in the secretary's outer office, facing the large black door with its gleaming brass hardware, he fingered the white folder, which he had taken out of his attaché case. When the time came for him to produce it, he did not want an awkward moment of silence while he opened the case to extract the folder. He wanted to be able to thrust it, if necessary, into the hands of the secretary of state with assurance.
On the other hand, Hull might not ask for it. He might demand only a verbal explanation and then proceed to use the authority of his office to term the spoken words unacceptable. If such was the case the brigadier could do no more than protest. Mildly, to be sure. The information in the folder did not constitute proof, only data that could or could not bolster the conjectures he had made.
The brigadier general look at his watch. It was nine twenty-four and he wondered if Hull's reputation for punctuality would apply to his appointment. He had reached his own office at seven thirty, approximately half an hour before his normal arrival time. Normal, that was, except for periods of crisis when he often stayed through the night awaiting the latest development of critical information. These past three days were not unlike those periods of crisis. In a different way.
His memorandum to the secretary, the memorandum that had resulted in his appointment this morning, might put him to the test. Ways could be found to place him out of communication, far from any center of influence. He might well be made to appear a total incompetent. But he knew he was right.
He bent the top of the folder back, just enough to reach the typed title page: "Canfield, Matthew. Major, United States Army Reserve. Department of Military Intelligence."
Canfield, Matthew. . . . Matthew Canfield. He was the proof.
A buzzer rang on the intercom on the desk of a middle-aged receptionist.
"Brigadier General Ellis?" She barely looked up from the paper.
"The secretary will see you now."
Ellis looked at his wristwatch. It was nine thirty-two.
He rose, walked toward the ominous black-enameled door, and opened it.
"You'll forgive me, General Ellis. I felt that the nature of your memorandum required the presence of a third party. May I introduce Undersecretary Brayduck?"
The brigadier was startled. He had not anticipated a third party; he had specifically requested that the audience be between the secretary and himself alone.
Undersecretary Brayduck stood about ten feet to the right of Hull's desk. He obviously was one of those White House-State Department university men so prevalent in the Roosevelt administration. Even his clothes—the light gray flannels and the wide herringbone jacket—were casually emphasized in the silent counterpoint to the creased uniform of the brigadier.
"Certainly, Mr. Secretary. . . . Mr. Brayduck." The brigadier nodded.
Cordell S. Hull sat behind the wide desk. His familiar features—the very light skin, almost white, the thinning white hair, the steel-rimmed pince-nez in front to his blue-green eyes—all seemed larger than life because they were an everyday image. The newspapers and the motion picture newsreels were rarely without photographs of him. Even the more inclusive election posters—ponderously asking, Do you want to change horses in the middle of the stream?—had his reassuring, intelligent face prominently displayed beneath Roosevelt's; sometimes more prominently than the unknown Harry Truman's.
Brayduck took a tobacco pouch out of his pocket and began stuffing his pipe. Hull arranged several papers on his desk and slowly opened a folder, identical to the one in the brigadier's hand, and looked down at it. Ellis recognized it. It was the confidential memorandum he had had hand-delivered to the secretary of state.
Brayduck lit his pipe and the odor of the tobacco caused Ellis to look at the man once again. That smell belonged to one of those strange mixtures considered so original by the university people but generally offensive to anyone else in the room. Brigadier Ellis would be relieved when the war was over. Roosevelt would then be out and so would the so-called intellectuals and their bad-smelling tobaccos.
The Brain Trust. Pinks, every one of them.
But first the war.
Hull looked up at the brigadier. "Needless to say, General, your memorandum is very disturbing."
"The information was disturbing to me, Mr. Secretary."
"No doubt. No doubt. . . . The question would appear to be, Is there any foundation for your conclusions? I mean, anything concrete?"
"I believe so, sir."
"How many others in Intelligence know about this, Ellis?" Brayduck interrupted and the absence of the word "General" was not lost on the brigadier.
"I've spoken to no one. I didn't think I'd be speaking to anyone but the secretary this morning, to be perfectly frank with you."
"Mr. Brayduck has my confidence, General Ellis. He's here at my request. . . . My orders, if you like."
Cordell Hull leaned back in his chair. "Without offense, I wonder if you do. . . . You send a classified memorandum, delivered under the highest priority to this office—to my own person, to be exact—and the substance of what you say is nothing short of incredible."
"A preposterous charge you admit you can't prove," interjected Brayduck, sucking on his pipe as he approached the desk.
"That's precisely why we're here." Hull had requested Brayduck's presence but he was not going to suffer undue interference, much less insolence.
Brayduck, however, was not to be put off. "Mr. Secretary, Army Intelligence is hardly without its inaccuracies. We've learned that at great cost. My only concern is to prevent another inaccuracy, a misinformed speculation, from becoming ammunition for this administration's political opponents. There's a election less than four weeks away!"
Hull shifted his large head no more than several inches. He did not look at Brayduck as he spoke. "You don't have to remind me of such pragmatic considerations. . . . However, I may have to remind you that we have other responsibilities. . . . Other than those to practical politics. Do I make myself clear?"
"Of course." Brayduck stopped in his tracks.
Hull continued. "As I understand your memorandum, General Ellis, you submit that an influential member of the German High Command is an American citizen operating under the assumed name—and a name well-known to us—of Heinrich Kroeger."
"I do, sir. Except that I qualified my statement by saying he might be."
"You also imply that Heinrich Kroeger is associated with, or connected to, a number of large corporations in this country. Industries involved with government contracts, armaments appropriations."
"Yes, Mr. Secretary. Except, again, I stated that he was, not necessarily is."
"Tenses have ways of becoming blurred with such accusations." Cordell Hull took off his steel-rimmed spectacles and placed them beside the folder. "Especially in time of war."
Undersecretary Brayduck struck a match and spoke between puffs on his pipe. "You also state quite clearly that you have no specific proof."
"I have what I believe would be termed circumstantial evidence. Of such a nature I felt I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't bring it to the secretary's attention." The brigadier took a deep breath before continuing. He knew that once he began he was committed.
"I'd like to point out a few salient facts about Heinrich Kroeger. . . . To begin with, the dossier on him is incomplete. He's received no party recognition as most of the others have. And yet when others have come and gone, he's remained at the center. Obviously he has a great deal of influence with Hitler."
"We know this." Hull did not like restatements of known information simply to bolster an argument.
"The name itself, Mr. Secretary. Heinrich is as common as William or John, and Kroeger no more unusual than Smith or Jones in our own country."
"Oh, come, General." Brayduck's pipe was curling smoke. "Such an inference would make half our field commanders suspect."
Ellis turned and gave Brayduck the full benefit of his military scorn. "I believe the fact is relevant, Mr. Undersecretary."
Hull began to wonder if it had been such a good idea to have Brayduck present. "There's no point in being hostile, gentlemen."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, Mr. Secretary." Brayduck again would not accept a rebuke. "I believe my function here this morning is that of the devil's advocate. None of us, least of all you, Mr. Secretary, have the time to waste . . ."
Hull looked over at the undersecretary, moving his swivel chair as he did so. "Let's make the time. Please continue, General."
"Thank you, Mr. Secretary. A month ago word was relayed through Lisbon that Kroeger wanted to make contact with us. Channels were arranged and we expected the normal procedures to be followed. . . . Instead Kroeger rejected these procedures—refused any contact with British or French units—insisted on direct communication with Washington."
"If I may?" Brayduck's tone was courteous. "I don't think that's an abnormal decision. We're the predominant factor, after all."
"It was abnormal, Mr. Brayduck, insofar as Kroeger would communicate with no one other than a Major Canfield. . . . Major Matthew Canfield who is, or was, an efficient minor officer in Army Intelligence stationed in Washington."
Brayduck held his pipe motionless and looked at the brigadier general. Cordell Hull leaned forward in his chair, his elbows resting on the desk.
"There's no mention of this in your memorandum."
"I realize that, sir. I omitted it in the conceivable event that the memorandum might be read by someone other than yourself."
"You have my apologies, General." Brayduck was sincere.
Ellis smiled at the victory.
Hull leaned back in his chair. "A ranking member of the Nazi High Command insists upon communicating only with an obscure major in Army Intelligence. Most unusual!"
"Unusual, but not unheard of. . . . We've all known German nationals; we merely assumed that Major Canfield had met Kroeger before the war. In Germany."
Brayduck stepped forward toward the brigadier. "Yet you tell us that Kroeger may not be a German. Therefore between Kroeger's request from Lisbon and your memorandum to the secretary something changed your mind. What was it? Canfield?"
"Major Canfield is a competent, at times excellent Intelligence officer. An experienced man. However, since the channel between him and Kroeger was opened, he's displayed marked tendencies of being under emotional strain. He's become extremely nervous and hasn't functioned in the manner of an officer with his background and experience. . . . He has also, Mr. Secretary, instructed me to make a most unusual request of the president of the United States."
"That a classified file from the archives of the State Department be delivered to him with the seals unbroken, before he makes contact with Heinrich Kroeger."
Brayduck took his pipe from his mouth, about to object.
"Just one minute, Mr. Brayduck." Brayduck may be brilliant, thought Hull, but did he have any idea of what it meant to a career officer such as Ellis to face the two of them and make a statement? For his statement was an undisguised petition for the White House and the State Department to seriously consider granting Canfield's request. Many officers would have rejected the illegal proposition rather than allow themselves to the placed in such a position. That was the army way. "Am I correct in assuming that you recommended the release of this file to Major Canfield?"
"That judgment would have to be yours. I only point out that Heinrich Kroeger has been instrumental in every important decision made by the Nazi hierarchy since its inception."
"Could the defection of Heinrich Kroeger shorten the war?"
"I don't know. The possibility brought me to your office."
"What is the file this Major Canfield demands?" Brayduck was annoyed.
"I know only the number and the classification stated by the archives section of the State Department."
"What are they?" Cordell Hull again leaned forward on his desk.
Ellis hesitated. It would be inviting personal as well as professional embarrassment to state the terms of the file without giving Hull the data on Canfield. He would have been able to do that had Brayduck not been there. Goddamn college boys. Ellis was always uncomfortable with the fast talkers. Damn! he thought. He'd be direct with Hull.
"Before I answer you, may I take the opportunity to fill in some background material I believe is most relevant. . . . Not only relevant, sir, but intrinsic to the file itself."
"By all means." Hull wasn't sure whether he was irritated or fascinated.
"The final communication from Heinrich Kroeger to Major Canfield demands a preliminary meeting with someone identified only as . . . April Red. This meeting is to take place in Bern, Switzerland, prior to any negotiations between Kroeger and Canfield."
"Who is April Red, General? I gather from the tone of your voice that you have an idea who he may be." Very little was lost on Undersecretary Brayduck, and Brigadier Ellis was painfully aware of the fact.
"We . . . or more specifically . . . I think I do." Ellis opened the white folder in his hands and flipped the top page over the cardboard. "If I may have the secretary's permission, I have extracted the following from Major Canfield's security check."
"Of course, General."
"Matthew Canfield—entered government service, Department of the Interior, in March, nineteen seventeen. Education—one year University of Oklahoma, one and one-half years night school extension courses, Washington, D.C. Employed as a junior accountant government frauds section of Interior. Promoted to field accountant in nineteen eighteen. Attached to Group Twenty division, which, as you know . . ."
Cordell Hull interrupted quietly. "A small, highly trained unit assigned to conflicts of interests, misappropriations, et cetera, during the First World War. Very effective too. . . . Until, as most such units, it became overly impressed with itself. Disbanded in twenty-nine or thirty, I believe."
"In nineteen thirty-two, Mr. Secretary." General Ellis was pleased that he had the facts at his command. He flipped a second page over the top of the folder and continued to read.
"Canfield remained with interior for a period of ten years, rising four pay grades. Superior performance. Excellent rating. In May of nineteen twenty-seven he resigned from government service to enter employment with the Scarlatti Industries."
At the mention of the name Scarlatti, both Hull and Brayduck reacted as if stung.
"Which of the Scarlatti companies?"
"Executive Offices, five twenty-five Fifth Avenue, New York."
Cordell Hull toyed with the thin black cord of his pince-nez. "Quite a jump for our Mr. Canfield. From night school in Washington to the executive offices of Scarlatti." He glanced downward, taking his eyes off the general.
"Is Scarlatti one of the corporations you referred to in your memorandum?" Brayduck was impatient.
Before the brigadier could answer, Cordell Hull rose from his chair. Hull was tall and imposing. Much larger than the other two. "General Ellis, I instruct you not the answer any further questions!"
Brayduck looked as though he'd been slapped. He stared at Hull, confused and startled by the secretary's order to the brigadier. Hull returned his gaze and spoke softly.
"My apologies, Mr. Brayduck. I cannot guarantee it, but I hope to have an explanation for you later in the day. Until then, will you be so kind as to leave us alone?"
"Of course." Brayduck knew that this good and honest old man had his reasons. "No explanation is necessary, sir."
"However, one is deserved."
"Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You may be assured of my confidence regarding this meeting."
Hull's eyes followed Brayduck until the door was closed. He then returned to the brigadier general, who stood quietly, not comprehending. "Undersecretary Brayduck is an extraordinary public servant. My dismissing him is not to be construed as a reflection on either his character or his work."
Hull slowly and in some pain sat down once more in his chair. "I asked Mr. Brayduck to leave because I believe I may know something of what you're about to discuss. If I'm right, it's best we be alone."
The brigadier general was unsettled. He did not think it possible for Hull to know.
"Don't be alarmed, General. I'm no mind reader. . . . I was in the House of Representatives during the period you speak of. Your words evoked a memory. An almost forgotten memory of a very warm afternoon in the House. . . . But perhaps I'm in error. Please continue where you left off. I believe our Major Canfield had entered employment with the Scarlatti Industries. . . . A most unusual step, I think you'll agree."
"There is a logical explanation. Canfield married the widow of Ulster Stewart Scarlett six months after Scarlett's death in Zurich, Switzerland, in nineteen twenty-six. Scarlett was the youngest of two surviving sons of Giovanni and Elizabeth Scarlatti, founders of the Scarlatti Industries."
Cordell Hull briefly closed his eyes. "Go on."
"Ulster Scarlett and his wife Janet Saxon Scarlett had a son, Andrew Roland, subsequently adopted by Matthew Canfield after his marriage to Scarlett's widow. Adopted but not separated from the Scarlatti estates. . . . Canfield continued in the employ of Scarlatti until August, nineteen forty, when he returned to government service and was commissioned in Army Intelligence."
General Ellis paused and looked over the folder at Cordell Hull. He wondered if Hull was beginning to understand, but the secretary's face betrayed no expression.
"You spoke of the file Canfield has requested from the archives. What is it?"
"That was my next consideration, Mr. Secretary." Ellis folded over another page. "The file is only a number to us, but the number gives us the year of its entry. . . . It's nineteen twenty-six, the fourth quarter of twenty-six to be exact."
"And what are the terms of classification?"
"Maximum. It can be released only by an executive order signed by the president for reasons of national security."
"I presume that one of the signators—witnesses to the file—was a man then employed by the Department of Interior by the name of Matthew Canfield."
The brigadier was visibly upset but continued to hold the white folder firmly between his thumb and forefinger. "That is correct."
"And now he wants it back or he refuses to make contact with Kroeger."
"I trust you have pointed out to him the illegality of his position?"
"I have personally threatened him with a court-martial. . . . His only reply was that it's our choice to refuse him."
"And then no contact is made with Kroeger?"
"Yes, sir. . . . It's my opinion that Major Canfield would rather face spending the rest of his life in a military prison than alter his position."
Cordell Hull rose from his chair and faced the general. "Would you care to summarize?"
"It is my belief that the April Red referred to by Heinrich Kroeger is the boy, Andrew Roland. I think he's Kroeger's son. The initials are the same. The boy was born in April, nineteen twenty-six. I believe that Heinrich Kroeger is Ulster Scarlett."
"He died in Zurich." Hull watched the general closely.
"The circumstances are suspect. There is on record only a death certificate from an obscure court in a small village thirty miles outside of Zurich and untraceable affidavits of witnesses never heard of before or since."
Hull stared coolly into the general's eyes. "You realize what you're saying? Scarlatti is one of the corporate giants."
"I do, sir. I contend further that Major Canfield is aware of Kroeger's identity and intends to destroy the file."
"Do you believe that it's a conspiracy? A conspiracy to conceal the identity of Kroeger?"
"I don't know. . . . I'm not very good at putting into words another person's motives. But Major Canfield's reactions seem so intensely private that I'm inclined to believe that it's a highly personal matter."
Hull smiled. "I think you're very good with words. . . . However, you do believe that the truth is in the file? And if it is, why would Canfield bring it to our attention? Certainly he knows that if we can get it for him, we certainly can get it for ourselves. We might never have been aware of it, had he kept silent."
"As I said, Canfield's an experienced man. I'm sure he's acting on the premise that we soon will be aware of it."
"Through Kroeger. . . . And Canfield has set the condition that the file's seals be intact. He's an expert, sir. He'd know if they were tampered with."
Cordell Hull walked around his desk past the brigadier with his hands clasped behind his back. His gait was stiff, his health obviously failing. Brayduck had been right, thought the secretary of state. If even the specter of a relationship between the powerful American industrialists and the German High Command became known, regardless of how remote or how long in the past, it could tear the country apart. Especially during a national election.
"In your judgment if we delivered the file to Major Canfield, would he produce . . . April Red . . . for this meeting with Kroeger?"
"I believe he would."
"Why? It's a cruel thing to do to an eighteen-year-old boy."
The general hesitated. "I'm not sure he has an alternative. There's nothing to prevent Kroeger from making other arrangements."
Hull stopped pacing and looked at the brigadier general. He had made up his mind. "I shall have the president sign an executive order for the file. However, and frankly I place this as a condition for his signature, your suppositions are to remain between the two of us."
"The two of us?"
"I shall brief President Roosevelt on the substance of our conversation, but I will not burden him with conjectures which may prove to be unfounded. Your theory may be nothing more than a series of recorded coincidences easily explained."
"But if you are correct, Heinrich Kroeger could trigger an internal collapse in Berlin. Germany's in a death struggle. . . . As you've pointed out, he's had extraordinary staying power. He's part of the elite corps surrounding Hitler. The Praetorian Guard revolts against Caesar. If you're wrong, however, then we must both think of two people who will soon be on their way to Bern. And may God have mercy on our souls."
Brigadier General Ellis replaced the pages in the white folder, picked up the attaché case at his feet, and walked to the large black door. As he closed it behind him, he saw that Hull was staring at him. He had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Hull was not thinking about the general, however. He was remembering that warm afternoon long ago in the House of Representatives. Member after member had gotten up and read glowing tributes into the Congressional Record eulogizing a brave young American who was presumed dead. Everyone from both parties had expected him, the honorable member from the great state of Tennessee, to add his comments. Heads kept turning toward his desk in anticipation.
Cordell Hull was the only member of the house who was on a first-name basis with the renowned Elizabeth Scarlatti, that legend in her own time. The mother of the brave young man being glorified for posterity in the Congress of the United States.
For in spite of their political differences, Hull and his wife had been friends with Elizabeth Scarlatti for years.
Yet he had remained silent that warm afternoon.
He had known Ulster Stewart Scarlett, and he had despised him.