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Walther Fiebes was in his office, drinking schnapps. Watching him from a table beneath the window was a row of five human heads white plaster casts with hinged scalps, all raised like lavatory seats, displaying their brains in red and grey sections the five strains which made up the German Empire.

Placards announced them from left to right, in descending order of acceptability to the authorities. Category One: Pure Nordic. Category Two: Predominantly Nordic or Phalic. Category Three: Harmonious Bastard with Slight Alpine Dinaric or Mediterranean Characteristics. These groups qualified for membership of the SS. The others could hold no public office and stared reproachfully at Fiebes. Category Four: Bastard of Predominantly East-Baltic or Alpine Origin. Category Five: Bastard of Extra-European Origin.

March was a One/Two; Fiebes, ironically, a borderline Three. But then, the racial fanatics were seldom the blue-eyed Aryan supermen they, in the words of Das Schwarzes Korps, were too inclined to take their membership of the Volk for granted. Instead, the swampy frontiers of the German race were patrolled by those less confident of their blood-worthiness. Insecurity breeds good border guards. The knock-kneed Franconian schoolmaster, ridiculous in his Lederhosen; the Bavarian shopkeeper with his pebble glasses; the red-haired Thuringian accountant with a nervous tic and a predilection for the younger members of the Hitler Youth; the lame and the ugly, the runts of the national litter these were the loudest defenders of the Volk.

So it was with Fiebes the myopic, stooping, buck-toothed, cuckolded Fiebes whom the Reich had blessed with the one job he really wanted. Homosexuality and miscegenation had replaced rape and incest as capital offences. Abortion, an act of sabotage against Germanys racial future, was punishable by death. The permissive 1960s were showing a strong increase in such sex crimes. Fiebes, a sheet-sniffer by temperament, worked all the hours the Fuhrer sent and was as happy, in Max Jaegers words, as a pig in horseshit.

But not today. Now, he was drinking in the office, his eyes were moist, and his bats-wing toupee hung slightly askew.

March said: According to the newspapers, Stuckart died of heart failure. Fiebes blinked.

But according to the Registry, the file on Stuckart is out to you.

I cannot comment.

Of course you can. We are colleagues. March sat down and lit a cigarette. I take it we are in the familiar business of "sparing the family embarrassment".

Fiebes muttered: Not just the family. He hesitated. Could I have one of those?

Sure. March gave him a cigarette and flicked his lighter. Fiebes took an experimental draw, like a schoolboy.

This affair has left me pretty well shaken, March, I dont mind admitting. The man was a hero to me.

You knew him?

By reputation, naturally. I never actually met him. Why? What is your interest?

State security. That is all I can say. You know how it is.

Ah. Now I understand. Fiebes poured himself another large helping of schnapps. Were very much alike, March, you and I.

We are?

Sure. Youre the only investigator whos in this place as often as I am. Weve got rid of our wives, our children all that shit. We live for the job. When it goes well, were well. When it goes badlyHis head fell forward. Presently, he said: Do you know Stuckarts book?

Unfortunately, no.

Fiebes opened a desk drawer and handed March a battered, leather-bound volume. A Commentary on the German Racial Laws. March leafed through it. There were chapters on each of the three Nuremberg Laws of 1935: the Reich Citizenship Law, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, the Law for the Protection of the Genetic Health of the German People. Some passages were underlined in red ink, with exclamation marks beside them. For the avoidance of racial damage, it is necessary for couples to submit to medical examination before marriage.

Marriage between persons suffering from venereal disease, feeble-mindedness, epilepsy or genetic infirmities (see 1933 Sterilisation Law) will be permitted only after production of a sterilisation certificate. There were charts: An Overview of the Admissibility of Marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans, The Prevalence of Mischling of the First Degree.

It was all gobbledygook to Xavier March.

Fiebes said: Most of it is out of date now. A lot of it refers to Jews, and the Jews, as we know he gave a wink have all gone east. But Stuckart is still the bible of my calling. This is the foundation stone.

March handed him the book. Fiebes cradled it like a baby. Now what I really need to see, said March, is the file on Stuckarts death.

He was braced for an argument. Instead, Fiebes merely made an expansive gesture with his bottle of schnapps. Go ahead.

The Kripo file was an ancient one. It went back more than a quarter of a century. In 1936, Stuckart had become a member of the Interior Ministrys Committee for the Protection of German Blood a tribunal of civil servants, lawyers and doctors who considered applications for marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans. Shortly afterwards, the police had started receiving anonymous allegations that Stuckart was providing marriage licences in exchange for cash bribes. He had also apparently demanded sexual favours from some of the women involved.

The first name complainant was a Dortmund tailor, a Herr Maser, who had protested to his local Party office that his fiancee had been assaulted. His statement had been passed to the Kripo. There was no record of any investigation. Instead, Maser and his girlfriend had been dispatched to concentration camps. Various other stories from informants, including one from Stuckarts wartime Block-wart, were included in the file. No action had ever been taken.

In 1953, Stuckart had begun a liaison with an eighteen-year-old Warsaw girl, Maria Dymarski. She had claimed German ancestry back to 1720 in order to marry a Wehrmacht captain. The conclusion of the Interior Ministrys experts was that the documents were forged. The following year, Dymarski had been given a permit to work as a domestic servant in Berlin. Her employers name was listed as Wilhelm Stuckart.

March looked up. How did he get away with it for ten years?

He was an Obergruppenfuhrer, March. You dont make complaints about a man like that. Remember what happened to Maser when he complained? Besides, nobody had any evidence then.

And there is evidence now?

Look in the envelope.

Inside the file, in a manila envelope, were a dozen colour photographs, of startlingly good quality, showing Stuckart and Dymarski in bed. White bodies against red satin sheets. The faces contorted in some shots, relaxed in others were easy to identify. They were all taken from the same position, alongside the bed. The girls body, pale and undernourished, looked fragile beneath the mans. In one shot she sat astride him thin white arms clasped behind her head, face tilted towards the camera. Her features were broad, Slavic. But with her shoulder-length hair dyed blonde she could have passed as a German.

These werent taken recently?

About ten years ago. He turned greyer. She put on a bit of weight. She looked more of a tart as she got older.

Do we have any idea where they are? The background was a blur of colours. A brown wooden bedhead, red-and-white striped wallpaper, a lamp with a yellow shade; it could have been anywhere.

Its not his apartment at least, not the way its decorated now. A hotel, maybe a whorehouse. The camera is behind a two-way mirror. See the way they sometimes seem to be staring into the camera? Ive seen that look a hundred times. Theyre checking themselves in the mirror.

March examined each of the pictures again. They were glossy and unscratched new prints from old negatives. The sort of pictures a pimp might try and sell you in a back street in Kreuzberg.

Where did you find them?

Next to the bodies.

Stuckart had shot his mistress first. According to the autopsy report, she had lain, fully clothed, face down on the bed in Stuckarts apartment in Fritz Todt-Platz. He had put a bullet in the back of her head with his SS Luger (if that was so, thought March, it was probably the first time the old pen-pusher had ever used it). Traces of impacted cotton and down in the wound suggested he had fired the bullet through a pillow. Then he had sat on the edge of the bed and apparently shot himself through the roof of his mouth. In the scene-of-crime photographs neither body was recognisable. The pistol was still clutched in Stuckarts hand. He left a note, said Fiebes, on the dining room table.

By this action I hope to spare embarrassment to my family, the Reich and the Fuhrer. Heil Hitler! Long live Germany! Wilhelm Stuckart.



Who found the bodies?

This is the best part. Fiebes spat out each word as if it were poison: An American woman journalist.

Her statement was in the file: Charlotte Maguire, aged 25, Berlin representative of an American news agency, World European Features.

A real little bitch. Started shrieking about her rights the moment she was brought in. Rights! Fiebes took another swig of schnapps. Shit, I suppose we have to be nice to the Americans now, do we?

March made a note of her address. The only other witness questioned was the porter who worked in Stuckarts apartment block. The American woman claimed to have seen two men on the stairs immediately before the discovery of the bodies; but the porter insisted there had been no one.

March looked up suddenly. Fiebes jumped. What is it?

Nothing. A shadow at your door, perhaps.

My God, this place Fiebes flung open the frosted glass door and peered both ways along the corridor. While his back was turned, March detached the envelope pinned to the back of the file and slipped it into his pocket.

Nobody. He shut the door. Youre losing your nerve, March.

An over-active imagination has always been my curse. He closed the folder and stood up.

Fiebes swayed, squinting. Dont you want to take it with you? Arent you working on this with the Gestapo?

No. A separate matter.

Oh. He sat down heavily. When you said "state security", I assumed Doesnt matter. Out of my hands. The Gestapo have taken it over, thank God. Obergruppenfuhrer Globus has assumed responsibility. You must have heard of him? A thug, it is true, but hell sort it out.

The information bureau at Alexander Platz had Luthers address. According to police records, he still lived in Dahlem. March lit another cigarette, then dialled the number. The telephone rang for a long time a bleak, unfriendly echo, somewhere in the city. Just as he was about to hang up, a woman answered.


Frau Luther?

Yes. She sounded younger than he had expected. Her voice was thick, as if she had been crying.

My name is Xavier March. I am an investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei. May I speak to your husband?

Im sorry I dont understand. If youre from the Polizei, surely you know

Know? Know what?

That he is missing. He disappeared on Sunday. She started to cry.

Im sorry to hear that. March balanced his cigarette on the edge of the ashtray.

God in heaven, another one.

He said he was going on a business trip to Munich and would be back on Monday. She blew her nose. But I have already explained all this. Surely you know that this matter is being dealt with at the very highest level. What?

She broke off. March could hear a conversation at the other end. There was a mans voice in the background: harsh and questioning. She said something he could not hear, then came back on the line.

Obergruppenfuhrer Globocnik is with me now. He would like to talk to you. What did you say your name was?

March replaced the receiver.

On his way out, he thought of the call at Buhlers place that morning. An old mans voice:

Buhler? Speak to me. Who is that?

A friend.


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