Twenty-five years after fleeing Germany, Paul Weiss lives a quiet life in Spain. Throughout his years of exile, he’s kept a single photograph of a three-year-old girl. Now, he will set in motion a series of events that will reunite him with his long-lost daughter.
All Paula Stanley knows about her father is that he was killed in Russia in 1944, his body buried in a frozen wasteland near Stalingrad. Then she gets a call from a stranger. Not only is General Paul Bronsart alive, he wants to bequeath her a priceless treasure he claims was given to him during the war.
It’s called the Poellenberg Salt. For four hundred years, the thirty-six-inch-high gem- and gold-encrusted relic was the most priceless treasure in Germany—and someone else is after it. The matriarch of an aristocratic family whose home was looted by the Nazis also lays claim to the Poellenberg Salt. Culminating in a shocking denouement in Paris, Evelyn Anthony’s The Poellenberg Inheritance is a masterpiece of wartime intrigue and a daughter’s search for her father.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||1 MB|
About the Author
Evelyn Anthony is the pen name of Evelyn Ward-Thomas (1926–2108), a female British author who began writing in 1949. She gained considerable success with her historical novels—two of which were selected for the American Literary Guild—before winning huge acclaim for her espionage thrillers. Her book, The Occupying Power, won the Yorkshire Post Fiction Prize, and her 1971 novel, The Tamarind Seed, was made into a film starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Anthony’s books have been translated into nineteen languages.
Read an Excerpt
The Poellenberg Inheritance
By Evelyn Anthony
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1972 Anthony Enterprises
All rights reserved.
It took fifteen minutes exactly to walk from his apartment in the Avenida de Infanta to the corner of the Calle del Rey to buy the papers. In winter, even when the weather was bitterly cold and there was snow on the streets of Madrid, he came to the store at the same time, collected the English, French and German newspapers and went home to spend the afternoon reading them. He never bothered with the Italian Press. They had turned coward during the war and joined the Allies. He had never forgiven them. It was May and the sunshine gilded the city; in a few weeks the temperature would rise and the atmosphere would become stifling. By the end of June he went away to the Costa Del Sol for a two weeks' holiday. He had been in Switzerland for ten years, living a miserable existence in near poverty, unable to work at any but the most menial jobs, supported by funds from the organisation which had helped him escape. Then he was found a job in Spain, and life improved gradually, as the risk of discovery diminished and he applied himself to the engineering work in which he was engaged. Now, twenty-five years after his flight from Germany, he was a well-paid executive with the original company, living in a flat in Madrid. In Spain he was known as Paul Weiss. He had few friends; one Spanish family whom he sometimes visited, and two German couples, both expatriate but much younger. He maintained no link with the past now except one. The apartment was on the third floor of a modern block; he disdained the elevator, and always used the stairs. All his life he had emphasised physical fitness. He never lost an opportunity to take exercise. Inside his flat he went into the kitchen and made himself coffee; this he brought into the small living room and settled down to read the papers during the four hours' siesta which closed everything in Spain from two till six.
The idea of wasting an afternoon sleeping was too ridiculous to be considered. He began with the French papers first, reading every item; occasionally he exclaimed under his breath. Then the English papers followed. On the inside page of the Daily Express, he saw the photograph and the report of the divorce. He read it carefully the first and then the second time. He folded the paper back, and stared at the photograph. James Stanley's Wife Wins Divorce. He would never have read the item, because scandals didn't interest him, but the face in the photograph was large and clearly taken from a studio portrait. It was his own face, and the face of his mother and a sister who had been killed in a bombing raid during the war. He held the paper and his hands shook. Paula Stanley was granted a decree nisi on account of her husband's adultery with a Mrs. Fiona Harper. Then the account of the proceedings followed, and a write-up about her husband and his career as a racing driver. He had the name that made news. James Stanley, the hero of the international circuits, wealthy amateur who challenged the world's professionals at the world's most dangerous sport. There was a photograph of him taken by a low-slung racing car, one arm flung across the bonnet, the other cradling a silver cup. The face was indistinct, and the caption mentioned some triumph at Le Mans. He picked up his coffee and tried to drink it. Then he read the story again, to make sure. The racing driver and his exploits occupied nine-tenths of the report. The few facts given about his wife were bald and vaguely unsympathetic. She was twenty-eight. He had a pencil out by now and was underlining sections. The age was right. There were no children of the marriage, and her address was given in full. She was formerly Paula Ridgeway, and the marriage had lasted five years. Ridgeway. That was the right name too. The name of the man his wife had married after the war. The organisation had kept him informed of his family's situation immediately after Germany's defeat. He had heard about the confiscation of his property and the occupation of his home by British staff officers. And then his wife's remarriage. To a Major Ridgeway. They had left Germany, taking his daughter with them, and until that afternoon twenty-five years later, he had never heard of them again. He went to the desk, where he kept his files and business correspondence for work at home, and cut out the article and the photograph. Inside his breast pocket he carried a wallet, and in the wallet a small yellow snapshot. Everything else which identified him had been destroyed. This one photograph he had kept. It had travelled through the nightmare of the Russian retreat with him; he had taken it out at night, with fingers so stiff with cold that they could hardly hold it, and kissed it. It showed a little girl, a leggy child of three years old, in a party dress with a lace collar, her brown hair tied back with a bow. It was frayed round the edges and a crack ran diagonally across it. He laid the snapshot beside the newspaper photograph; the resemblance was slight, probably only visible to someone who was looking for it; he recognised that. But the family likeness in the woman was unmistakable. It was a Bronsart face, high cheek-boned, light-eyed, with hair that grew back from a wide forehead, exactly as his own had done. He stood back from the desk. After twenty-five years. After resigning himself to a permanent loss, to taking out his treasured memory, faded and petrified like the little snapshot, and contenting himself with that, the impossible had happened. He had found his daughter again. And the dream he had dreamed for her in the last year before disaster overwhelmed his country could now become reality. Love, as he often said, died quickly enough between men and women. Marriage was a convenience and sentiment a trap. But the love of a father for his child transcended everything. That, and his love for his country, were what distinguished human emotion from the weak and the carnal. He had never loved Paula's mother; he had adored his child with single-minded passion, with tenderness, with fanatical pride. She was his flesh, his blood, she had his eyes, so distinctively blue that they had hindered his escape; she aroused in him a protectiveness normally found in women towards their young. She was the only human being with whom his emotions had ever been involved. Because of her, he sat down again and made the first telephone call to Switzerland in five years. It was only to be used in emergency. He knew it still operated because any change would have been notified. He knew who would answer, because they had served together and fought together, and through the offices of this one man, he had escaped. He asked for the number and waited. When the call came through he said only one sentence. 'This is the General. I am flying to Switzerland tomorrow; meet me at Zurich airport tomorrow between six and seven. I need your help.'
Paula Stanley was in the bath when the telephone rang. Since she had left her husband, she lived alone; she waited, hoping the caller would ring off, but the bell persisted. She got out of the hot water, wrapped a towel around herself and went through to the bedroom. Her feet left wet marks on the carpet; she looked down and grimaced. James, her husband, had always been untidy. He threw his clothes on the floor, dropped his ash indiscriminately, flung his papers into the corner when he had finished reading them, and refused to submit to any kind of domestic routine. All his concentration and discipline had gone into his racing career. Perhaps it was the very carelessness with which he approached ordinary life which had attracted her when they first met. He hadn't given a damn about anything. He was deliberately unconventional. He spent money on nonsense, and forgot about mundane demands like electricity bills; he would stay up all night going from one night club to the next, picking up friends and strangers, surrounded by admiring spongers, dragging Paula, bewildered and impressed along with him. Her own life had always been rigid; it was governed by routine since her childhood, by a strict boarding school and a mother whose principal dislike was being asked for, or expected to do, anything connected with her daughter. Paula had lived within narrow confines. Meeting a man like James Stanley was like being permanently drunk. The inhibitions vanished, the obligations of normality disintegrated, and there was a frightening sense of liberation. It hadn't lasted. The euphoria was temporary, the liberty became, after marriage, a worse constriction of freedom than she had ever known. He declined all responsibilities; he picked up the details of their married life and dropped them into her lap, with the injunction to take care of it because he couldn't be distracted when he was racing. The fact that girls and drink and disorder weren't considered distractions made no impression as an argument. When Paula remonstrated he simply disappeared. His cars were his life; the excitement, the concentration, the publicity and adulation were all that mattered. She had often wondered why he married her at all. She had refused to go to bed with him when they first met; she was too ashamed to admit that at twenty-three she was still a virgin, and the existence of such a freak never suggested itself to him. He had wanted her and been unable to get her. So, typically impulsive and without responsibility, he had asked her to marry him, and in a blaze of flashbulbs and screaming fans, they had rushed to the register office and out again. Sexually, it had not been a success. Paula didn't know exactly when he had begun his infidelities, but an instinctive fear of being hurt dictated that she ask no questions and investigate nothing, however flimsy his excuses. And so for five years they had lived, James projecting his unattractive free-wheeling image for the imitation of his fans, both on and off the racing track, and Paula waiting uncertainly for something to happen. When it did it was typical of her husband. He had begun a publicised affair with one woman and confessed in a burst of boyish candour, that he was in love with another. One was a close friend of Paula's, who had twice accompanied them on holiday, but the object of his immediate affections was unknown, one of the crowd of speed-mad girls who surrounded the racing heroes. Paula had packed her suitcase the same day and moved out. Their divorce had been granted only a month ago.
She put the receiver to her ear.
'Is that Mrs. Stanley?' It was a man's voice, with a foreign accent.
'Yes, speaking. Who is that?'
'My name is Black. But you don't know me. I would like to come and see you.'
Paula hesitated. It was five-thirty and she was getting ready to go down to her mother for the weekend.
'Why do you want to see me?' she asked. 'What can I do for you?'
'I just want to come and talk to you,' the voice said. 'Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Stanley. I am not a crank. I have something very important to tell you. Something which is to your advantage.'
'What do you mean? Are you a solicitor?'
Which she realised at once was immaterial because there was no one to die and leave her money. Her mother was her only relative.
'No, Mrs. Stanley. I am not a solicitor. I am a friend of your father's. When can I come?'
'What do you mean, a friend of my father's – my father is dead.'
'I know that; does the name Poellenberg mean anything to you?'
'Not a thing. I've never heard of it.' For a moment she was tempted to hang up. The towel was slipping and she was cold.
'Let me come and see you and I will explain,' the voice said. 'But don't mention it to anyone. Don't mention Poellenberg. Can I come tomorrow morning?'
'No,' Paula said. 'I'm going away for the weekend. Why mustn't I mention this to anyone – what's all the mystery about, Mr. Black?'
'I will explain when I see you,' he said. 'I will explain everything then, but you will have to trust me. On Monday morning, at ten o'clock.'
'I go to my office at ten,' she said. 'Wait a minute, let me think – why don't you come there? About eleven-thirty?'
'Will we be able to speak in private?'
'Certainly. Nobody will disturb me. One moment, tell me one thing – you say you're a friend of my father's ...'
'I will come to your office on Monday at half past eleven,' the voice cut in. 'I know the address. Goodbye, Mrs. Stanley. I look forward to meeting you.'
The line clicked. He had rung off. Paula put the phone down and stood shivering, holding the towel round her. Of course she wasn't afraid. That was what James always said about her, 'Nothing would scare you, sweetheart, you're a real tough little Hun.' It was a remark that wounded, assuming, as it did, that she was able to take care of herself and consequently he was free of obligation. Even if he were right, that epithet, Hun, always rubbed raw. It was not as if she had been to Germany since her childhood or even spoke the language. James had made the accident of blood into a genetic crime. She had been born in Germany, but she left it as a child, and the Englishman her mother married had adopted her legally and given her his name. Paula went back and let the tepid water out of the bath. She dried herself and stood for a moment before the mirror, examining the naked body for defects. There were none visible; she was young, firm, slenderly built, with an attractive face framed in smooth brown hair. Only the eyes were different. They were blue, but of an extraordinary colour. She went back into her bedroom and dressed in trousers, sweater and jacket. Her weekend case was packed. She looked at the telephone again. What an extraordinary call. A complete stranger ringing out of the unknown, claiming to have news of great importance for her, claiming to have known the dead father she could not remember. It was odd, but Paula realised suddenly that this was what had made her agree to a meeting. He had known her father. Who was he, this Mr. Black, with an accent that came from her unknown homeland across the Rhine? The voice was that of an old man, and if he had known her father the General, then he must be well into his sixties. She locked the flat door behind her and went into her car. As it started up, her thoughts were far from the traffic that choked her route out through the City of London, through the East End and on to the Newmarket road. She knew the route by heart; she had travelled down to her stepfather's house in Essex for the last eight years, since she had left home at twenty to live and work in London alone. Alone. It was the operative word to describe the best part of her life. Five years of that dismal marriage, after a childhood which was spent playing gooseberry to two adults who only wanted to be left alone with each other. Now that she was truly independent, free of family ties and without James to nag about neglecting them so he could go off on his own, Paula paid infrequent visits to the house in Essex. They didn't miss her when she stayed away. They were pleased to see her in a distant way, and kind, prepared to let her share their warmth and smugness in each other's company. The result was to drive her out of the house as quickly as good manners would permit.
But her mother was sixty, although she didn't look it, and sometimes Paula's conscience jabbed. On those occasions she gave up her weekend with friends in London or declined another invitation to go away, and invited herself down to the farm.
It was a handsome lath and plaster Essex house, sixteenth-century in the most part, with an eighteenth-century wing, which her stepfather's ancestor had built.
Brigadier Gerald Ridgeway, D.S.O., M.C. She could remember that rosy complexioned face, with the brisk gingery moustache and the hearty voice, bending over her from what seemed a gigantic height. He used to smell of leather and cologne. He had always been kind, but it was a stiff relationship, with bouts of false bonhomie which embarrassed Paula even when she was very young. Children have an instinct for what is assumed, and she knew that her stepfather didn't really love her, that he was only making an effort.
So there was no relationship; she didn't hate him as she might have done if his attitude towards her had been more positive. She accepted him as part of her life, and accepted also that she had lost her mother to him as inevitably as if she had died, like the General. She didn't remember the General. She knew he was dead, and her mother had answered her questions about him with obvious resentment at being expected to explain. Paula hadn't pursued the subject. Her mother indicated her displeasure and Paula, even though nearly grown up, withdrew from the contest.
Excerpted from The Poellenberg Inheritance by Evelyn Anthony. Copyright © 1972 Anthony Enterprises. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.