Mary Ellen Fraser speeds down the lonely country road, aware that no matter how fast she drives, she cannot outrun the secret in her heart. In the POW camps of Northern Ireland, this doctor’s wife found a lover—a handsome German officer who begged her to smuggle a letter to his cousin. But the cousin is a lie, and the note is really an encoded message for Admiral Dönitz, high commander of the Nazi fleet. Not only has Mary betrayed her husband, she has betrayed Britain, as well.
When she discovers the consequences of her unwitting bit of espionage, Mary does everything she can to undo the damage. Trapped between Britain, Germany, and the merciless Irish Republican Army, Mary is the only person who can keep the Nazis from landing in Ireland.
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About the Author
In 1992, Janes published Mayhem, the first in the long-running St-Cyr and Kohler series, for which he is best known. These police procedurals set in Nazi-occupied France have been praised for the author’s attention to historical detail, as well as their swift-moving plots. The thirteenth in the series, Bellringer, was published in 2012.
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By J. Robert Janes
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 2014 J. Robert Janes
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The raindrops were big and singular, and as they hit the steaming dark-blue bonnet of the car, each made a metallic thud that signalled it would burst to pieces. Hunched over the steering wheel, Mary Ellen Fraser tried not to concentrate on them. Their sound was one thing; the sight of them destroying themselves quite another.
Down from her, the gravelled, rut-gouged road narrowed to a single lane before the first of the frontier posts whose tin-roofed hut had the glaze of the forlorn, then it sprang across a small wooden bridge, low and hugging a narrow stream before climbing gently up the long slope to the second of the frontier posts and yet another tin-roofed hut. The North was in the distance: Ulster and a war on over there; the Free Zone here, the Republic, the South and no war here—no continental war, that is. Just neutrality.
Boulders, cleared and heaved from the pastures on either side, hemmed in the road so that no one, not herself or anyone else, could make a break for it. Not on 9 September 1941, not at any time, though the boulders looked as if they'd been here for centuries, and probably had.
The field of fire was therefore clear. The enclosing hills sloped up and away, and it would only take one bullet from a .303 Lee Enfield rifle to do the job. She'd slip, she'd fall, would get up and try to run, and it would happen just like that. Right in the centre of her back, right between the shoulder blades from which her nightdress had slipped, right where Erich Kramer had first put his hands but down a little further, yes down to where his fingers had traced out the soft contours of her seat before lifting her into his arms, she now to lie face down in the turf of an Irish frontier field out in no-man's-land.
The pungent smell of the turf came to her, the acidity of its tiresome smoke, the frugality of its burning, then of course, the dampness of the house—Georgian it was—and the smell of old books some of which would lie open here, there, everywhere on the arms of the chairs, the sofa or on the carpeted floor where the dog hairs were thickest. The cushions ... Dear God in Heaven, why couldn't Hamish have set his bloody books aside for once and put a stop to what was happening to her?
'That isn't fair. No, it really isn't. It's myself who's to blame.'
The smell of hot engine oil came to her, then the mustiness of the fabric which covered the seat and the rancid dog smell of the throw rug in the back. The newspaper, which was still folded beside her, unread, gave off that inky smell which the dampness only reinforced. A copy of the Irish Times. Yesterday's. Bought in Dublin, of course. Dublin.
A straggle of cars and carts, two butcher's vans and the lorry of Michaelson's Fine Olde English Marmalade lay before her, just down the slope, still in the South and waiting in the rain. Van and lorry and things like bonnet she'd got used to very quickly. Oh yes she had.
On the other side, up the long slope from the stream, an almost equal lineup waited to get into the North. There wasn't a sight of anyone coming through to the South. Not a soul. It was like a migration of motorized cattle and horse-driven carts waiting silently in the rain at a ford, some getting across only to be held up by another barrier and a whole lot of silly damn questions. Always questions.
Why the delay? Why the bloody hell did this have to happen to her? Usually there were only one or two waiting, or none at all. It wasn't even the main road from Dublin which passed to the northeast of here through Newry. It was just the one that headed north to the west of Slieve Gullion and made its way through the bogs and fields and the green-grass hills. Not a restricted road. Not one of those.
They'd have spotted the car of course. Even as they were thumbing through some poor sod's passport, or going through his motorcar with the look of Jesus about them, they'd have given a glance down the long dip in the road and up the far slope to her poised at the top of this little hill.
Yes, they'd have seen her all right. They'd have recognized the car.
'Been to Dublin again, have you, Mrs. Fraser?'—she could hear one of them saying. The Garda first, and then the others over there in the North. Which of the latter it would be she couldn't tell for they often took turns but always seemed to sound the same.
'Would you be good enough to get out of the car, m'am? Sergeant Dillaney will be wanting a word. We'll have the keys, please. Oh and sure there's nothing to worry about but two bottles in the boot for the doctor but no sign whatsoever, now was there, of the silk stockings for yourself?'
Unavailable those were, and not seen since before the war, but none of them would understand why she was here. Not the Garda nor the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British Army. She wasn't from either the South or the North, wasn't of recent Irish descent, not for several generations back, wasn't even what you'd call British or Anglo-Irish, was simply from limbo. Yes, limbo.
Two tommies, their bayonets slicing the pregnant raindrops, stood to attention on either side of the road at that far post. A captain of the British Army did the checking; the Ulstermen, the Constabulary and the custom's guards being shunned today, though they'd have done the preliminaries, made one roll down the side windscreen, et cetera.
The captain was thorough. The Army wore slickers of oily brown and greenish brown camouflage to shield them from the rain, but his was thrown back over the shoulders as if he wanted everyone to see the medals. As if he had to have them seen.
A DSO with bar from France, from the defeat at Dunkirk, the others too. The battle ribbons.
Captain James Allanby—'Jimmy' for short. Wounded twice and then again. Washed up here so far from the fighting he wanted. A hard, bitter man. Not unhandsome but looks ... why looks weren't everything and she hadn't been fooled by Jimmy. God no, but she had been deceived by Erich. Yes, she had.
'I've let him make a bloody great fool out of me and now I'm going to have to pay for it.'
Irritably running her gloved hands round the steering wheel, she shivered once and then clamped her knees together, said, 'Dear God, you stupid man, I have to pee!'
Jimmy Allanby would only have looked at her in the way drill sergeants do, and she'd have to wait, have to simply tough it out. An hour—would it take that long? Never mind trying to make a break for it, never mind getting herself shot out there. Never mind that it would only be recorded as a 'mistake.'
Jamming the gearshift into first, she released the handbrake and let the four-door Austin roll slowly downhill until, again, she was forced to stop. Now all she could see was the back of the marmalade van. Michaelson's of Armagh had been making the stuff since 1832. Wars hadn't stopped them. Through thick and thin, troubles and rebellion, and wasn't it typical they'd plastered on the logo—WORKING FOR THE BOYS UP FRONT—and yet had had the gall to drive into the South so as to get unrationed sugar and Sevilles when in season, all in the name of the precious war effort everyone talked so much about these days as if it was holy or something, as if they would just love to be up at that front too, giving old Hitler their best!
'I'm being unkind. I'm letting my troubles bring out the worst in me.'
The lorry lumbered ahead one space. The rain came down and the back of the lorry shut out everything else, made her world darker than she wanted, Hamish's voice coming to her, 'Mary, why must you go again? You were only there a fortnight ago.' The accent so of Edinburgh unless he deliberately used Glaswegian, he really wanting to say, 'My girl, I know damn well what you've been up to.'
'Would you rather I took the train this time?' she had asked.
He'd not turned from her. 'No ... No, of course not. The motor's far more comfortable and convenient. It's only that ... well, you know how people are. There's bound to be talk.'
'I can't help the dentist wanting to do more work.' She'd been anxious—scared stiff he'd insist she take the train, but had it shown? Hamish could be so perceptive.
'But Dublin ... Surely we could find someone suitable here? MacCool perhaps, in Armagh? They say he's very good,' the very pronounced as vaery or vairie, the good like goude, he stubbornly laying it on a little thicker.
'MacCool's not like Dr. Daly. He's not a dental surgeon, Hamish. It's a wisdom tooth—the upper left. Impacted. I've got to have it out.'
So much for lies and now what? No swollen jaw, no stitches. Not even a visit to Dr. Daly should Hamish think to have telephoned Dublin, just the rest of Saturday in that fair city and then ... then on Sunday morning early, the long drive and finally out along the coast road to Kinsale and beyond. Erich had said, 'Make sure you take the car,' and she had wondered why but had had no chance to ask, had only found out later, yes, later.
It had been so necessary yet so noticeable. There'd been far too few other cars. And Hamish? she asked. Hamish would put his fingers against her cheek and say, 'It must hurt,' and she would have to pull away and shake her head, would have to duck her gaze to his tie and whisper shyly, 'I missed you, darling,' while she tightened it and leaned in to brush a cheek against his as she always did at such times.
Yes, she'd have to lie.
Awakened in the dead of night at Kernével, the requisitioned villa of a Breton sardine merchant near Lorient on the Atlantic coast of France, Admiral Karl Dönitz, Flag Officer U-boats, allowed a faint smile as he gathered his thoughts. Though the letter he had reached for had been dated last Thursday, it had not come by the usual Red Cross channels but by secret wireless transmission from Dublin early on Sunday morning to the Abwehr's listening post outside of Hamburg. They, in turn, had immediately sent it on to Berlin, a delay that could not have been avoided. XB Dienst's code breakers had since been given the code within its code, but neither the bearer of the letter nor the Dublin agent would have known of its contents, nor anyone else for that matter who might have intervened. Only Saucepan (Tiegel)—"Tieg"—the Vizeadmiral Huber, now a prisoner of war in Northern Ireland, and he had known of that inner code. Huber had also made certain that had the letter been intercepted, it would have initially been seen as totally fitting and innocuous.
4 September 1941
How kind of you to send us warm socks and shaving soap. We have little news but are fit and in good spirits. Table tennis, soccer, chess and our daily exercises—seven times around the compound, can you believe it?—these pass the time. But oh for the taste of schnapps and a cup of your coffee or stein of Berliner Kindl, and afterwards a dance, my cousin, with the most beautiful of girls.
Your affectionate Tieg, as always.
Just as when he had first decoded it early on Sunday morning, the message took Dönitz back to his days as a naval rating, to command of a submarine in the last stages of the Great War, to capture and the status of a prisoner of war himself, and now to Kernével.
He glanced up at his orderly. 'Ludi, give me a few moments with this and that other business. Some coffee, yes, and a glass of schnapps.'
In May the Bismark had been sunk, and with it the Grossadmiral Raeder's hopes for a sea war on the surface. In June the Führer had launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, thus opening the war on two major fronts in spite of serious objections, and now there were the Murmansk convoys to contend with as well as those of the North Atlantic, both from Canada and sailing together. Too few boats to intercept them properly, too few experienced men, too little rest—they were dying like flies out there in spite of the successes: 325,000 tons of shipping sunk in May; 300,000 tons in June, but only 90,000 in July and even less in August.
Alarmingly increasing losses. Matz in U-70, Prien in U-47, Schepke in U-100, all lost; Kretschmer in U-99 taken prisoner. More deaths and more men as prisoners of war.
No matter how hard he had sought normal reasons—bad weather, the increased hours of daylight in summer, better protected and faster convoys—Dönitz knew it had to be something else. Spies among the French workers in the repair yards and submarine pens here at Lorient, at Brest, St-Nazaire, Bordeaux and La Pallice, a new or enhanced system of direction finding, a reason. It seemed as if the British knew of his every move, yet each time he had raised the wireless issue with Berlin, that same infuriatingly obstinate answer had come back.
'The matter is simply not possible. The integrity of our Hydra codes is being constantly monitored. Nothing has come up to suggest that there has been any breech of security.'
Nothing. From Kernével, so far removed from Berlin, and with but a slim staff of six experienced young officers, he directed the Battle of the Atlantic. Everything—the final bringing together of intelligence, its analysis and planning, the sending out of commands came from here, from two quite modest rooms, simply charts, charts and more of them, Uboat logbooks, messages, graphs of tonnages sunk, and graphs of U-boat losses.
Wireless security had been a problem he and Huber had discussed in Wilhelmshaven, and now here was this "letter" from his old friend. Both of them had known absolutely that Berlin would listen hardest only to firsthand reports and that those who could bring a consensus of opinion were even better than those who could not.
Decoded, the message had read:
Most urgent put bearer of letter in contact with IRA. Imperative arrange escape Kapitänleutnant Erich Kramer Tralane Castle.
More had not been given, though much more had been implied, for Huber had included that one word which, if found in any such Red Cross letter home, would bring the news no commander would want. Kindl: codes may have been compromised.
It was now Tuesday, 9 September. By 0410 hours last Sunday AST-X Bremen, who ran the Dublin agent, had received confirmation from Berlin and had sent Dublin its signal to proceed. And now here was the message that had awakened him:
Contact made. Heidi in motion.
Dönitz knew he had another even more pressing matter to attend to and that he would have to use Hydra and could not concern himself with what Berlin would offer the IRA in exchange for Kramer's escape. U-85, lying in wait some 96.5 kilometres to the south of Greenland's bleak Cape Farewell, had sighted a large and heavily laden convoy steaming slowly eastward before turning south into what had become known to the enemy as Torpedo Junction. All the convoys now used the northwestern approach to the British Isles, with a final passage to safety through the North Channel between Fair Head in Northern Ireland and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
He'd taken to using a new tactic, stringing his boats in wide arcs across the convoy routes, raking them like a giant comb. He knew the loneliness, the tension, that keyed-up feeling Gregor and all the men aboard U-85 would be experiencing because, unlike so many in Berlin these days, he had done it all himself. He could even put himself into the boots of the merchant seamen from Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia and could sense the fear they must feel.
'Signal the others of the Markgraf group to concentrate on U-85's convoy.'
There were seven boats in the group, U-85 being the most northerly. They'd begin the attack in the evening as darkness fell. In the interim, he'd see what the British did. If they directed the convoy northward towards the Greenland coast, the ships would have little room to manoeuvre and he'd know for certain that the enemy had decoded his wireless signal.
Excerpted from Betrayal by J. Robert Janes. Copyright © 2014 J. Robert Janes. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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