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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


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SEVEN

Bulow Strasse runs west to east for about a kilometre, through one of the busiest quarters of Berlin, close to the Gotenland railway station. The American womans address proved to be an apartment block midway down.

It was seedier than March had expected: five storeys high, black with a century of traffic fumes, streaked with bird shit. A drunk sat on the pavement next to the entrance, turning his head to follow each passer-by. On the opposite side of the street was an elevated section of the U-bahn. As he parked, a train was pulling out of the Billow Strasse station, its red and yellow carriages riding blue-white flashes of electricity, vivid in the gathering dark.

Her apartment was on the fourth floor. She was not in. Henry, read a note written in English and pinned to her door, Im in the bar on Potsdamer Strasse. Love, Charlie.

March knew only a few words of English but enough to grasp the sense of the message. Wearily, he descended the stairs. Potsdamer Strasse was a long street, with many bars.

Im looking for Fraulein Maguire, he said to the concierge in the hall. Any idea where I might find her?

It was like throwing a switch: She went out an hour ago, Sturmbannfuhrer. Youre the second man to ask. Fifteen minutes after she went out, a young chap came looking for her. Another foreigner smartly dressed, short hair. She wont be back until after midnight, that much I can promise you.

March wondered how many of her other tenants the old lady had informed on to the Gestapo.

Is there a bar she goes to regularly?

Heinis, round the corner. Thats where all the damned foreigners go.

Your powers of observation do you credit, madam.

By the time he left her to her knitting five minutes later, March was laden with information about Charlie Maguire. He knew she had dark hair, cut short; that she was small and slim; that she was wearing a raincoat of shiny blue plastic and high heels, like a tart; that she had lived here six months; that she stayed out all hours and often got up at noon; that she was behind with the rent; that he should see the bottles of liquor the hussy threw out No, thank you, madam, he had no desire to inspect them, that would not be necessary, you have been most helpful

He turned right along Bulow Strasse. Another right took him to Potsdamer Strasse. Heinis was fifty metres up on the left. A painted sign showed a landlord with an apron and a handlebar moustache, carrying a foaming stein of beer. Beneath it, part of the red neon lettering had burnt out: Hei s.

The bar was quiet, except for one comer, where a group of six sat around a table, talking loudly in English accents. She was the only woman. She was laughing and ruffling an older mans hair. He was laughing, too. Then he saw March and said something and the laughter stopped. They watched him as he approached. He was conscious of his uniform, of the noise of his jackboots on the polished wooden floor.

Fraulein Maguire, my name is Xavier March of the Berlin Kriminalpolizei. He showed her his ID. I would like to speak with you, please.

She had large dark eyes, glittering in the bar lights.

Go ahead.

In private, please.

Ive nothing more to say. She turned to the man whose hair she had ruffled and murmured something March did not understand. They all laughed. March did not move.

Eventually, a younger man in a sports jacket and a button-down shirt stood up. He pulled a card from his breast pocket and held it out.

Henry Nightingale. Second Secretary at the United States Embassy. Im sorry, Herr March, but Miss Maguire has said all she has to say to your colleagues.

March ignored the card.

The woman said: If youre not going to go, why dont you join us? This is Howard Thompson of the New York Times. The older man raised his glass. This is Bruce Fallen of United Press. Peter Kent, CBS. Arthur Haines, Reuters. Henry, youve met. Me, you know, apparently. Were just having a little drink to celebrate the great news. Come on. The Americans and the SS were all friends now.

Careful, Charlie, said the young man from the Embassy.

Shut up, Henry. Oh, Christ, if this man doesnt move soon, Ill go and talk to him out of sheer boredom. Look There was a crumpled sheet of paper on the table in front of her. She tossed it to March. "Thats what I got for getting mixed up in this. My visas withdrawn for "fraternising with a German citizen without official permission". I was supposed to leave today, but my friends here had a word with the Propaganda Ministry and got me a weeks extension. Wouldnt have looked good, would it? Throwing me out on the day of the great news.

March said: Its important.

She stared at him, a cool look. The Embassy man put his hand on her arm. You dont have to go.

That seemed to make up her mind. Will you shut up, Henry? She shook herself free and pulled her coat over her shoulders. He looks respectable enough. For a Nazi. Thanks for the drink. She downed the contents of her glass whisky and water, by the look of it and stood up. Lets go.

The man called Thompson said something in English.

I will, Howard. Dont worry.

Outside, she said: Where are we going?

My car.

Then where?

Doctor Stuckarts apartment.

What fun.

She was small. Even clattering on her high heels, she was several centimetres short of Marchs shoulder. He opened the door of the Volkswagen for her and, as she bent to get in, he smelled the whisky on her breath, and also cigarettes French, not German and perfume: something expensive, he thought.

The Volkswagens 1300 cc engine rattled behind them. March drove carefully: west along Billow Strasse, around the Berlin-Gotenland station, north up the Avenue of Victory. The captured artillery from the Barbarossa campaign lined the boulevard, barrels tilted towards the stars. Normally this section of the capital was quiet at night, Berliners preferring the noisy cafes behind the K-damm, or the jumbled streets of Kreuzberg. But on this evening, people were everywhere standing in groups, admiring the guns and the floodlit buildings, strolling and window shopping.

What kind of person wants to go out at night and look at guns? She shook her head in wonderment.

Tourists, said March. By the twentieth, therell be more than three million of them.

It was risky, taking the American woman back to Stuckarts place, especially now Globus knew someone from the Kripo was looking for Luther. But he needed to see the apartment, to hear the womans story. He had no plan, no real idea of what he might find. He recalled the Fuhrers words I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker and he smiled.

Ahead of them, searchlights picked out the eagle on top of the Great Hall. It seemed to hang in the sky, a golden bird of prey hovering over the capital.

She noticed his grin. Whats funny?

Nothing. He turned right at the European Parliament. The flags of the twelve member nations were lit by spots. The swastika which flew above them was twice the size of the other standards. Tell me about Stuckart. How well did you know him?

Hardly at all. I met him through my parents. My father was at the Embassy here before the war. He married a German, an actress. Shes my mother. Monika Koch, did you ever hear of her?

No. I dont believe so. Her German was flawless. She must have spoken it since childhood; her mothers doing, no doubt.

Shed be sorry to hear that. She seems to think she was a big star over here. Anyway, they both knew Stuckart slightly. When I arrived in Berlin last year, they gave me a list of people to go and talk to contacts. Half of them turned out to be dead, one way or another. Most of the rest didnt want to meet me. American journalists dont make healthy company, if you know what I mean. Do you mind if I smoke?

Go ahead. What was Stuckart like?

Awful. Her lighter flared in the darkness; she inhaled deeply. He made a grab at me, even though this woman of his was in the apartment at the same time. That was just before Christmas. I kept away from him after that. Then, last week, I got a message from my office in New York. They wanted a piece for Hitlers seventy-fifth birthday, talking to some of the people who knew him from the old days.

So you rang Stuckart?

Right.

And arranged to meet him on Sunday, and when you got there, he was dead?

If you know it all, she said irritably, why do you need to talk to me again?

I dont know it all, Fraulein. Thats the point.

After that, they drove in silence.

Fritz Todt-Platz was a couple of blocks from the Avenue of Victory. Laid out in the mid-1950s as part of Speers redevelopment of the city, it was a square of expensive-looking apartment buildings, erected around a small memorial garden. In the centre stood an absurdly heroic statue of Todt, the creator of the Autobahnen, by Professor Thorak.

Which one was Stuckarts?

She pointed to a block on the other side of the square. March drove round and parked outside it.

Which floor?

Fourth.

He looked up. The fourth floor was in darkness. Good.

Todts statue was floodlit. In the reflected light, her face was white. She looked as if she was about to be sick. Then he remembered the photographs Fiebes had shown him of the corpses Stuckarts skull had been a crater, like a guttered candle and he understood.

She said: I dont have to do this, do I?

No. But you will.

Why?

Because you want to know what happened as much as I do. Thats why youve come this far

She stared at him again, then stubbed out her cigarette, twisting it and breaking it in the ashtray. Lets do it quickly. I want to get back to my friends.

The keys to the building were still in the envelope which March had removed from Stuckarts file. There were five in all. He found the one that fitted the front door and let them into the foyer. It was vulgarly luxurious, in the new imperial style white marble floor, crystal chandeliers, nineteenth-century gilt chairs with red plush upholstery, the air scented with dried flowers. No porter, thankfully: he must have gone off duty. Indeed, the entire building seemed deserted. Perhaps the tenants had left for their second homes in the country. Berlin could be unbearably crowded in the week before the Fuhrertag. The smart set always fled the capital.

Now what?

Just tell me what happened.

The porter was at the desk, here, she said. I asked for Stuckart. He directed me to the fourth floor. I couldnt take the elevator, it was being repaired. There was a man working on it. So I walked.

What time was this?

Noon. Exactly.

They climbed the stairs.

She went on: I had just reached the second floor when two men came running towards me.

Describe them, please.

It all happened too quickly for me to get a very good look. Both in their thirties. One had a brown suit, the other had a green anorak. Short hair. Thats about it.

What did they do when they saw you?

They just pushed past me. The one in the anorak said something to the other, but I couldnt hear what it was. There was a lot of drilling going on from the elevator shaft. After that, I carried on up to Stuckarts apartment and rang the bell. There was no reply.

So what did you do?

I walked down to the porter and asked him to open Stuckarts door, to check he was okay.

Why?

She hesitated. There was something about those two men. I had a hunch. You know: that feeling when you knock on a door and nobody answers but youre sure someones in.

And you persuaded the porter to open the door?

I told him Id call the police if he didnt. I said he would have to answer to the authorities if anything had happened to Doctor Stuckart.

Shrewd psychology, thought March. After thirty years of being told what to do, the average German was careful not to take final responsibility for anything, even for not opening a door. And then you found the bodies?

She nodded. The porter saw them first. He screamed and I came running.

Did you mention the two men youd seen on the stairs? What did the porter say?

He was too busy throwing up to talk at first. Then he just insisted hed seen nobody. He said I must have imagined it.

Do you think he was lying?

She considered this. No, I dont. I think he genuinely didnt see them. On the other hand, I dont see how he could have missed them.

They were still on the second floor landing, at the point at which she said the men had passed her. March walked back down the flight of stairs. She waited for a moment, then followed him. At the foot of the steps a door led off to the first floor corridor.

He said, half to himself: They could have hidden along here, I suppose. Where else?

They continued down to the ground floor. Here there were two more doors. One led to the foyer. March tried the other. It was unlocked. Or they could have got out down here.

Bare concrete steps, neon-lit, led down to the basement. At the bottom was a long passage, with doors off it. March opened each in turn. A lavatory. A store-room. A generator room. A bomb shelter.

Under the 1948 Reich Civil Defence Law, every new building had to be equipped with a bomb shelter; those beneath offices and apartment blocks were also required to have their own generators and air-filtration systems. This one was particularly well-appointed: bunk beds, a storage cupboard, a separate cubicle with toilet facilities. March carried a metal chair across to the air vent, set into the wall two and a half metres above the ground. He grasped the metal cover. It came away easily in his hands. All the screws had been removed.

The Ministry of Construction specifies an aperture with a diameter of half a metre, said March. He unbuckled his belt and hung it and his pistol over the back of the chair. If only they appreciated the difficulties that gives us. Would you mind?

He took off his jacket and handed it to the woman, then mounted the chair. Reaching into the shaft, he found something hard to hold on to, and pulled himself in. The filters and the fan had both been removed. By working his shoulders against the metal casing he was able to move slowly forwards. The darkness was complete, He choked on the dust. His hands, stretched out in front of him, touched metal, and he pushed. The outside cover yielded and crashed to the ground. The night air rushed in. For a moment, he felt an almost overpowering urge to crawl out into it, but instead he wriggled backwards and lowered himself into the basement shelter. He landed, dusty and grease-smeared.

The woman was pointing his pistol at him.

Bang, bang, she said. Youre dead. She smiled at his alarm: American joke.

Not funny. He took the Luger and put it back in his holster.

Okay, she said, heres a better one. Two murderers are seen by a witness leaving a building and it takes the police four days to work out how they did it. Id say that was funny, wouldnt you?

It depends on the circumstances. He brushed the dust off his shirt. If the police found a note beside one of the victims in his own handwriting, saying it was suicide, I could understand why they wouldnt bother looking any further.

But then you come along and you do look further.

Im the curious type.

Clearly. She smiled again. So Stuckart was shot and the murderers tried to make it look like suicide? He hesitated. Its a possibility.

He regretted the words the moment he uttered them. She had led him into disclosing more than was wise about Stuckarts death. Now a faint light of mockery played in her eyes. He cursed himself for underrating her. She had the cunning of a professional criminal. He considered taking her back to the bar and going on alone, but dismissed the idea. It was no good. To know what had happened, he needed to see it through her eyes.

He buttoned his tunic. Now we must inspect Party Comrade Stuckarts apartment.

That, he was pleased to see, knocked the smile off her face. But she did not refuse to go with him. They climbed the stairs, and it struck him again that she was almost as anxious to see Stuckarts flat as he was.

They took the elevator to the fourth floor. As they stepped out, he heard, along the corridor to their left, a door being opened. He grabbed the Americans arm and steered her round the corner, out of sight. When he looked back, he could see a middle-aged woman in a fur coat heading for the elevator. She was carrying a small dog.

Youre hurting my arm.

Sorry. He was hiding from shadows. The woman talked quietly to the dog and disappeared into the lift. March wondered whether Globus had retrieved the file from Fiebes yet, whether he had discovered that the keys were missing. They would have to hurry.

The door to Stuckarts apartment had been sealed that day, close to the handle, with red wax. A note informed the curious that these premises were now under the jurisdiction of the Geheime Staatspolizei, the Gestapo, and that entry was forbidden. March pulled on a pair of thin leather gloves and broke the seal. The key turned easily in the lock.

He said: Dont touch anything.

More luxury, to match the building: elaborate gilt mirrors, antique tables and chairs with fluted legs and ivory damask upholstery, a carpet of royal blue with Persian rugs. The spoils of war, the fruits of Empire.

Now tell me again what happened.

The porter opened the door. We came into the hall. Her voice had risen. She was trembling. He shouted and there was no reply, so we both came right in. I opened that door first.

It was the sort of bathroom March had seen only in glossy magazines. White marble and brown smoky mirrors, a sunken bathtub, twin basins with gold taps Here, he thought, was the hand of Maria Dymarski, leafing through German Vogue at the Ku-damm hairdressers, while her Polish roots were bleached Aryan white.

Then, I came into the sitting room

March switched on the light. One wall consisted of tall windows, looking out over the square. The other three had large mirrors. Wherever he turned, he could see images of himself and the girl: the black uniform and the shiny blue coat incongruous among the antiques. Nymphs were the decorative conceit. Fashioned in gilt, they draped themselves around the mirrors; cast in bronze, they supported table lamps and clocks. There were paintings of nymphs and statues of nymphs; wood nymphs and water nymphs; Amphitrite and Thetis.

I heard him scream. I went to help

March opened the door of the bedroom. She turned away. Blood in half-light looks black. Dark shapes, twisted and grotesque, leapt up the walls and across the ceiling, like the shadows of trees.

They were on the bed, yes?

She nodded.

What did you do?

Rang the police.

Where was the porter?

In the bathroom.

Did you look at them again?

What do you think? She brushed her sleeve angrily across her eyes.

All right, Fraulein. Its enough. Wait in the sitting room.

The human body contains six litres of blood: sufficient to paint a large apartment. March tried to avoid looking at the bed and the walls as he worked opening the cupboard doors, feeling the lining of every item of clothing, skimming every pocket with his gloved hands. He moved on to the bedside cabinets. These had been unlocked and searched before. The contents of the drawers had been emptied out for inspection, then stuffed back haphazardly a typical, clumsy Orpo job, destroying more clues than it uncovered.

Nothing, nothing. Had he risked everything for this?

He was on his knees, with his arm stretched beneath the bed, when he heard it. It took a second for the sound to register.

Love unspoken

Faith unbroken

All life through

Im sorry she said, when he rushed in. I shouldnt have touched it.

He took the chocolate box from her, carefully, and closed the lid on its tune.

Where was it?

On that table.

Someone had collected Stuckarts mail for the past three days and had inspected it, neatly slicing open the envelopes, pulling out the letters. They were heaped up next to the telephone. He had not noticed them when he came in. How had he missed them? The chocolates, he could see, had been wrapped exactly as Buhlers had been, postmarked Zurich, 16.00 hours, Monday afternoon.

Then he saw she was holding a paper knife.

I told you not to touch anything.

I said Im sorry.

Do you think this is a game? Shes crazier than I am. Youre going to have to leave. He tried to grab her, but she twisted free.

No way. She backed away, pointing the knife at him. I reckon I have as much right to be here as you do. You try and throw me out and Ill scream so loudly Ill have every Gestapo man in Berlin hammering on that door.

You have a knife, but I have a gun.

Ah, but you darent use it.

March ran his hand through his hair. He thought: You believed you were so clever, finding her, persuading her to come back. And all the time, she wanted to come. Shes looking for something He had been an idiot.

He said: Youve been lying to me.

She said: Youve been lying to me. That makes us even.

This is dangerous. I beg you, you have no idea

What I do know is this: my career could have ended because of what happened in this apartment. I could be fired when I get back to New York. Im being thrown out of this lousy country, and I want to find out why.

How do I know I can trust you?

How do I know I can trust you?

They stood like that for perhaps half a minute: he with his hand to his hair, she with the silver paper knife still pointed at him. Outside, across the Platz, a clock began to chime. March looked at his watch. It was already ten.

We have no time for this. He spoke quickly. Here are the keys to the apartment. This one opens the door downstairs. This one is for the main door up here. This fits the bedside cabinet. That is a desk key. This one he held it up- this, I think, is the key to a safe. Where is it?

I dont know. Seeing his look of disbelief, she added: I swear.

They searched in silence for ten minutes, shifting furniture, pulling up rugs, looking behind paintings. Suddenly she said: "This mirror is loose.

It was a small antique looking glass, maybe thirty centimetres square, above the table on which she had opened the letters. March grasped the ormolu frame. It gave a little but would not come away from the wall.

Try this. She gave him the knife.

She was right. Two-thirds down the left-hand side, behind the lip of the frame, was a tiny lever. March pressed it with the tip of the paper knife, and felt something yield. The mirror was on a hinge. It swung open to reveal the safe.

He inspected it and swore. The key was not enough. There was also a combination lock.

Too much for you? she asked.

In adversity, quoted March, the resourceful officer will always discover opportunity. He picked up the telephone.


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