CAPTAIN MIKE BRIXAN had certain mild and innocent superstitions. He
believed, for example, that if he saw a green crow in a field he would
certainly see another green crow before the day was out. And when, at the
bookstand on Aix-la-Chapelle station, he saw and purchased a dime novel
that was comprehensively entitled "Only an Extra, or the Pride of
Hollywood", he was less concerned as to how this thrilling and dog-eared
romance came to be on offer at half a million marks (this was in the days
when marks were worth money) than as to the circumstances in which he
would again hear or read the word "extras" in the sense of a
supernumerary and unimportant screen actress.
The novel did not interest him at all. He read one page of superlatives
and, turned for relief to the study of a Belgian time-table. He was
bored, but not so bored that he could interest himself in the sensational
rise of the fictitious Rosa Love from modest obscurity to a press agent
But "extra" was a new one on Michael, and he waited for the day to bring
its inevitable companion.
To say that he was uninterested in crime, that burglars were less
thrilling than golf scores, and the record of murders hardly worth the
reading, might convey a wrong impression to those who knew him as the
cleverest agent in the Foreign Office Intelligence Department.
His official life was spent in meeting queer Continentals in obscure
restaurants and, in divers roles, to learn of the undercurrents that were
drifting the barques of diplomacy to unsuspected ports. He had twice
roamed through Europe in the guise of an open-mouthed tourist; had
canoed many hundred miles through the gorges of the Danube to discover,
in little riverside beer-houses, the inward meanings of secret
mobilizations. These were tasks wholly to his liking.
Therefore he was not unnaturally annoyed when he was withdrawn from
Berlin at a moment when, as it seemed, the mystery of the Slovak Treaty
was in a way to being solved, for he had secured, at a cost, a rough but
"I should have had a photograph of the actual document if you had left me
another twenty-four hours," he reproached his chief, Major George
Staines, when he reported himself at Whitehall next morning.
"Sony," replied that unrepentant man, "but the truth is, we've had a
heart-to-heart talk with the Slovakian Prime Minister, and he has
promised to behave and practically given us the text of the treaty--it
was only a commercial affair. Mike, did you know Elmer?"
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