January, 1946: Two WACs leave an officers' club in Munich, and four Soviet NKGB agents kidnap them at knifepoint in the parking lot and shove them in the back of an ambulance. That is the agents' first mistake, and their last. One of the WACs, a blonde woman improbably named Claudette Colbert, works for the new Directorate of Central Intelligence, and three of the men end up dead and the fourth wounded.
The “incident,” however, will send shock waves rippling up and down the line, and have major repercussions not only for Claudette, but for her boss, James Cronley, Chief DCI-Europe, and for everybody involved in their still-evolving enterprise. For, though the Germans may have been defeated, Cronley and his company are on the front lines of an entirely different kind of war now. The enemy has changed, the rules have changed—and the stakes have never been higher.
About the Author
William E. Butterworth IV has been a writer and editor for major newspapers and magazines for more than twenty-five years, and has worked closely with his father for several years on the editing of the Griffin books. He is the coauthor of several novels in the Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, and Presidential Agent series. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Date of Birth:November 10, 1929
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Read an Excerpt
The WAC Non-Commissioned Officer’s Club
Munich Military Post
Munich, American Zone of Occupied Germany
0005 24 January 1946
Two women, both wearing the olive drab uniform of an “Ike” jacket and skirt, came out of the club and started to walk through the parking lot. They had come to the club late and had had to park at just about the far end of the lot.
One of the women, a somewhat stocky dark-haired thirty-five-year-old, had the chevrons of a technical sergeant on her sleeves. The other, who was a trim, twenty-nine-year-old blond, had small embroidered triangles with the letters “U.S.” in them sewn to her lapels. That insignia identified her as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army.
At the extreme end of the parking lot were two ambulances parked nose out. One had large red crosses on its sides, rear doors and roof of the body. On its bumpers the white stenciled letters “98GH” and “102” identified it as the 102nd vehicle assigned to the motor pool of the 98th General Hospital, which served the Munich Area.
The red crosses on the second ambulance had been painted over, and on its bumpers had been stenciled “711 MKRC” and “17” which identified it as the 17th vehicle assigned to the 711th Mobile Kitchen Renovation Company.
When they reached the 711th vehicle, the WAC tech sergeant started to get in the passenger seat beside the driver, and the woman with the civilian triangles insignia started to climb in behind the wheel.
Three men, all wearing dark clothing, erupted from the 98th General Hospital ambulance. One of them came out the passenger side, ran around the front of the other ambulance, where he pulled the woman with the triangles out of her ambulance, and after giving her a good look at the knife he held, placed it across her throat.
The other two men came out the rear of the ambulance. As one opened the second of its doors, the other ran to the 711th ambulance, pulled the technical sergeant from it, and, as the other had, showed her a knife and then placed it across her throat.
He then marched her to the rear of the hospital ambulance. By then, both doors were open, and the man who had opened both doors was inside.
“Get in!” the man holding the knife against the sergeant’s neck ordered.
When she was halfway in, the man inside the ambulance, now wielding the same kind of knife as the others, ordered her: “Get on the forward stretcher. On your stomach. And don’t move.”
The sergeant complied, crawling on her hands and knees to the stretcher, which was on the left side of the body, and then onto it.
The man who had brought her to the rear of the ambulance then ran to the passenger seat and got in.
The man who had pulled the woman from behind the wheel of her ambulance now marched her up to the open ambulance doors. His knife was still against her throat.
“Get in!” he ordered. “On your belly on the lower stretcher in the back.”
The man then shut the left open door, climbed into the ambulance, and kneeling on the floor, pulled the right door closed.
“Go!” he shouted to the driver.
Then, still on his knees, he made his way forward to the front. There he stopped, turned his head, and called out, “If you make a sound when we pass through the gate, he will slit your friend’s throat.” Then he turned his head forward and again shouted, “Go!”
The driver ground the gears as he revved the engine.
The man in the aisle pushed aside the curtain separating the stretcher portion of the body from the driver and passenger seats.
The blond woman with the civilian triangles began to slowly move her right hand from her side to the neck of her Ike jacket.
The ambulance began to move.
The blond woman unbuttoned her second and third khaki shirt buttons, and then put her hand in the opening. Then she pushed aside the top of her slip. Finally, she put her hand inside her brassiere.
And then she slowly removed it.
It now held a small, five-shot, snub-nose Smith & Wesson .38 Special caliber revolver.
She pushed herself off the stretcher onto the floor and, supporting herself on her elbows and holding the pistol in both hands, took aim.
The man holding the knife against the tech sergeant’s neck was trying to look though the small opening the other man had made. He heard, or sensed, her movement and started to turn for look.
Her first shot hit him just below the ear, and the bullet exploded his brain before making a large exit wound in the upper portion of his skull.
The technical sergeant began to scream.
The woman wearing triangles fired a second shot. It hit the man who had opened the curtain just below the left eye, exploded his brain, and then created a large exit wound in his cranium.
She fired two more shots, first one to the left, where she hoped the bullet might find the driver, and then one to the right, where she hoped it might find the man in the passenger seat.
Her third shot apparently missed, for the ambulance kept moving. The fourth, to judge by someone screaming in pain, had hit, but was not immediately fatal.
The driver, perhaps not wisely, pushed the dividing curtain aside to see what was going on in the back. She fired her fifth shot, the last she had, and it hit the driver just about in the center of his forehead.
Moments later, the ambulance crashed into something and stopped.
The technical sergeant was still screaming hysterically.
“Florence!” the woman wearing triangles called. “It’s over! Shut the fuck up!”
Then she crawled back onto the stretcher.
Get your little ass out of the line of fire.
The sonofabitch in the passenger seat may be alive, and he probably has a gun.
She realized her ears were ringing painfully from the sounds of five shots going off in the confines of the ambulance.
And then she felt dizzy.
And then she threw up.
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
Munich, American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0215 24 January 1946
Chief Warrant Officer August Ziegler, who was thirty-one but looked younger, walked down the nicely carpeted third floor corridor and stopped before the double doors of Suite 507. Above the door a neatly lettered sign announced: XXVIIth CIC.
There was a brass door knocker on each of the double doors, so Ziegler lifted the one on the right and let it fall, and then did the same with the knocker on the left.
After he lifted the first knocker, he thought he heard a faint ringing of a bell, not inside 507 but somewhere close, and when he lifted the second knocker he knew he heard it again.
There was no response to Ziegler’s rings from inside 507, so he lifted and dropped both knockers again.
This time he heard both bell rings and then the sound of an opening door. Then he saw someone coming down the corridor. It was a plump young man in his twenties. He was wearing a rather luxurious red silk dressing gown, very cheap cotton shower shoes, and had around his waist a leather belt supporting a Colt Model 1911A1 pistol in a holster Ziegler instantly recognized to be a “Secret Service High Rise Cross Draw” holster.
He knew it because few people anywhere—except of course the Secret Service—had such holsters. Augie Ziegler was one of the few people who did. He was wearing one right now under his Ike jacket, the lapels of which bore triangles, the idea being that people would think he was a civilian employee of the Army, and that he was not armed.
He was in fact not only a chief warrant officer but also a supervisory special agent of the Criminal Investigation Division—called the CID—of the Provost Marshal General’s Department.
Aware that on general principles he and others in the CID did not think much of the CIC—and that the reverse was true—Augie smiled, and turned on cordiality.
“Sorry, sir, to disturb you at this hour,” he said. “I wouldn’t do it, sir, if it wasn’t important.”
When he spoke, sort of a German accent was apparent. It was not a German accent precisely, but a Pennsylvania Dutch accent. Augie was from Reading, Pennsylvania.
“No problem,” the chubby man said. “What can I do for you at this obscene hour of the morning?”
When the chubby man spoke, a German accent also was apparent. Staff Sergeant Friedrich Hessinger had been born in Germany. A Jew, he and his family had gotten out of the Thousand Year Reich just in time to miss getting sent to the gas chambers.
Hearing the accent, Augie wondered, Is this CIC sonofabitch mocking me?
He said: “Does the name Claudette Colbert mean anything to you?”
“I’ve always thought she is better looking than Betty Grable. Why do you ask?”
There’s that Kraut accent again!
The sonofabitch is mocking me!
Augie took his credentials—a leather folder holding a badge and a plastic sealed photo identification card—and held them before the chubby man’s face.
Hessinger examined them and nodded his understanding of what they were.
“I am investigating a shooting,” Augie announced.
“Somebody shot Claudette?” Hessinger asked. “Somebody” came out Zumbody.
“I asked if you knew her,” Augie snapped.
“Is she all right?”
“So you do know her?”
“I asked if she’s all right.”
“I’m asking the questions,” Augie snapped.
Hessinger shrugged in resignation, and then leaned toward the door to Suite 507, and unlocked it with a key he had hanging around his neck with his dog tags. He then went through it, and turned on the lights.
“Shit!” Augie said, and followed him inside.
He found himself in a luxuriously furnished office. He saw Hessinger sit behind a large ornately-carved desk and pick up the telephone.
“Sorry, sir, to wake you,” Hessinger said. “But you better come to the office right now.”
The German accent was still there, so Augie put that together:
He doesn’t look like a Jew—but what does a Jew look like?
He’s a German Jew. The CIC is full of them.
Why didn’t I think of that before? So is the CID full of ex-German Jews.
“My boss is coming,” Hessinger announced.
He then rose from the desk and walked across the office and opened a door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Augie demanded.
“To the coffee machine,” Hessinger replied. “I don’t think well when somebody gets me up in the middle of the night until I have my coffee.”
Augie saw Hessinger switch on an electric coffee maker.
Hessinger turned from it, and said, “Sie haben einen Akzent.”
I have an accent?
What’s that, Chubby, the pot calling the kettle black?
Hessinger went on: “Sind Sie ein Deutscher? Ein Deutscher Jude?”
Augie, without consciously deciding to do so, angrily replied in German: “Nein, ich bin kein Deutscher. Oder Jude sei. Ich bin ein Gott verdammten Amerikanischen! Meine Familie wurde American seit der Gott verdammten revolution!”
Hessinger nodded, then replied in English: “If you’ve been American since the revolution, that makes you a Pennsylvania Dutchman. I know a great deal about you people.”
“‘You people?’ ” Augie repeated, incredulously.
“Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, went to General Washington and told him that the peasants conscripted to serve in the Landgrave de Hesse/Kassel’s Regiment of Infantry, commonly called ‘The Red Coats,’ were unhappy with their lot and could probably be induced to desert if they were offered 640 acres of land and a mule. Washington thought it was a good idea, and told the Marquis to give it a try. It succeeded. About thirty percent of the regiment went, as we say, ‘over the hill.’ Where do you live in the States? Bucks County, Pennsylvania?”
Augie replied, without thinking: “Berks County. Outside Reading.”
“When I heard your Hessian accent, I should have put it all together.”
The conversation was interrupted when the door opened and a tall, blond, muscular young man in his early twenties came into the room. He was wearing a bathrobe with the logotype of Texas A&M University on its breast and battered Western boots.
“He’s from the CID,” Hessinger replied. “He says somebody shot Claudette.”
“Jesus H. Christ! Is she all right?”
“Who are you, sir?” Augie asked.
“I asked if Claudette is all right. What the hell happened?”
“The woman . . .”
“Her name is Claudette Colbert,” the young man said.
“Sir, who are you?” Augie asked.
“Freddy, show him your DCI credentials. Mine’s in my room.”
“Yes, sir,” Hessinger said.
He walked to the wall, moved an oil painting out of the way and began to work its combination lock.
“My name is Cronley,” the young man said to Augie. “I’m the big cheese around here and I asked about Claudette. You would be ill-advised to fuck with me.”
Augie decided not to do so.
He said: “A woman carrying the identification card of Technical Sergeant Claudette Colbert is being detained for interrogation in connection with a shooting in the WAC NCO club parking lot just after midnight.”
“For the last fucking time, is she all right?”
“She is uninjured, sir.”
Hessinger held out an opened leather folder before Augie’s eyes.
Office of the President of the United States
Central Intelligence Directorate
The Bearer Of This Identity Document
Is an officer of the Central Intelligence Directorate acting with the authority of the President of the United States. Any questions regarding him or his activities should be addressed to the undersigned only.
Sidney W. Souers
Sidney W. Souers, Rear Admiral
Director, U.S. Central Intelligence Directorate
“You understand what that is?” the young man asked.
“I’ve never seen one before, but yes, sir, I think I understand what it is.”
Jesus Christ, what’s going on around here?”
“There’s one just like it with my name on it in my room, okay?”
“Okay, now what’s happened?”
“About 0015 hours, sir, an MP patrol responded to a call of shots fired, ambulance required, at the parking lot of the WAC NCO club. MP protocol requires that the CID be notified whenever there’s a shots fired. I was working late at the office and took the call.
“When I got there, there were three bodies, white males, in a 98th General Hospital ambulance, all with bullet wounds to the head. A fourth man had taken a bullet in the shoulder and was being loaded into an ambulance—”
“They sent MPs with him, I hope?” the young man interrupted.
“Sir, I don’t know if they did, or not.”
“Okay, priority one, get on that phone and make sure there are at least two—four would be better—MPs sitting on this guy and that no one but doctors gets near him.”
Augie looked at him and thought: I don’t know if this guy has the authority to order me to do that, but it’s a good idea.
“Yes, sir,” Augie said.
“Freddy, didn’t you tell me Colonel Whatsisname, the provost marshal, lives in the hotel?”
“Kellogg, sir,” Hessinger furnished. “He does.”
“Try to get Colonel Kellogg on the phone. Ask him to come here right away. Tell him it’s important. If he’s not in the hotel, find out where he is.”
Cronley turned to Augie: “You heard me, get on the goddamned phone, whatever your name is, and make sure MPs are sitting on the guy in the hospital.”
“Yes, sir. My name is Ziegler, sir.”