CURTAIN OF DEATH
by W.E.B. Griffin
& William E. Butterworth IV
[ ONE ]
The WAC Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club
Munich Military Post
Munich, American Zone of Occupation, 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 blonde, 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 painted 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 seventeenth 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 to 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 had come out the rear of the ambulance. As one had opened the second of its doors, the other had run 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 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 blonde 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 blonde 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-nosed 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 a 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.
[ TWO ]
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 he 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 coffeemaker.
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 thought, He wants to know if I’m German, specifically a German Jew?
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 six hundred and forty 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?”
“Her name is Claudette Colbert,” the young man said.
“Sir, who are you?” Augie repeated.
“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 a 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 open 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 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?” Cronley 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.”
[ THREE ]
Colonel Arthur B. Kellogg, a portly forty-six-year-old in uniform, came through the door of Suite 507 five minutes later.
“Your man caught me as I was going through the lobby, Cronley. There’s been a . . . an incident I suspect you’ve already heard about. Hello, Mr. Ziegler.”
“Good evening, sir. I guess I mean ‘good morning.’”
“What the hell went down at the WAC club? Three dead?” Kellogg said.
“And one wounded, sir. Not counting the hysterical WAC they had to sedate before they could get her in the ambulance.”
“What hysterical WAC?” Cronley asked.
“Miller, Florence J., Tech Sergeant,” Ziegler reported. “One of yours?”
“We need MPs sitting on her, too,” he said.
“Won’t that wait until Ziegler brings me up to speed?”
“Sir, I’d be really grateful if you’d indulge me,” Cronley said.
Kellogg considered that a moment, then pointed to the telephone.
As Ziegler was walking to it, Cronley said, “Freddy, while he’s doing that, call Max at the Compound. Tell him to put a dozen of his guys in ambulances and get them headed this way.”
“Can I tell him why?”
“No. And when you’ve done that, how’s the coffee machine working?”
“I’m way ahead of you on that,” Hessinger said.
“Okay, Mr. Ziegler,” Colonel Kellogg ordered perhaps three minutes later. “Start at the beginning.”
“Yes, sir. About 0015 hours, sir, an MP patrol responded to a call of shots fired, ambulance required . . .” Ziegler began. A minute later, he finished: “. . . A fourth man had taken a bullet in the shoulder and was being loaded into an ambulance. And the medics were sedating a WAC tech sergeant so they could take her to the 98th.”
“What was her problem?” Kellogg asked.
“She was hysterical, sir.”
“Because of the shooting?”
“The shooter, who we believe to be another WAC by the name of Claudette Colbert, knew what she was doing. She shot the three dead guys with a .38, which I’m guessing had hollow-points in it. To judge from what I saw of the shoulder of the fourth guy. They expand on contact—”
“I know,” Kellogg interrupted impatiently.
“So when she popped these guys in their heads,” Ziegler went on, “first we got their brains sort of exploding, and then making a large exit wound in the skull, through which a couple of handfuls of brain and a lot of blood then erupted. Two of the three men were in the back of the ambulance. Both then fell on the sergeant, still spouting blood and brains all over her.”
“My God!” Kellogg said. “Why did she shoot them? Fun and games in the back of the ambulance go wrong?”
“Sir,” Cronley said, “the woman Mr. Ziegler believes to be WAC Technical Sergeant Colbert . . .”
“That’s what her ID says,” Ziegler challenged.
“. . . is actually the administrative officer of DCI-Europe. I would be very surprised if she and Technical Sergeant Miller, who is one of our cryptographers, were involved in fun and games in the back of an ambulance in the parking lot at the WAC NCO club.”
“Then what were they doing there?”
“Okay,” Cronley said, “I should have done this before. What are you, Ziegler, a master sergeant?”
“I’m a chief warrant officer, sir.”
“Okay, Mr. Ziegler, you—and you, too, Colonel Kellogg, sir—are hereby advised that any and all information relating to the incident which took place at the WAC NCO club tonight is classified Top Secret–Presidential, and further that the Central Intelligence Directorate–Europe is taking over the investigation thereof. Do you both understand that?”
Ziegler’s eyes darted to Kellogg.
“Colonel, can he do that?” Ziegler asked, on the edge of outrage.
“Yes, I’m afraid he can,” Kellogg said. “And he doesn’t even have to tell us why.”
Cronley went on: “Because I think the most likely scenario is the shooting came when an attempt to kidnap Miss Colbert and Tech Sergeant Miller went wrong. Miss Colbert took her pistol from where she usually carries it—concealed in her brassiere—and started shooting.”
“My God!” Colonel Kellogg said.
“Jesus Fucking Christ!” Augie Ziegler said, then added, “Excuse me, sir.”
“Colonel Kellogg, I need a favor,” Cronley said. “Badly. I want you to put Mr. Ziegler on temporary duty with . . . What do we call it, Freddy?”
“Military Detachment, Central Intelligence Directorate, Europe, APO 907,” Hessinger furnished.
“Certainly,” Kellogg said. “I’ll have orders cut in the morning.”
“Am I allowed to ask why?” Ziegler said.
“Because there’s something about you that smells smart cop,” Cronley said. “And I want everything that happened tonight (a) to be investigated thoroughly and (b) the results of that investigation to be neatly summarized and typed up neatly with no strikeovers so that I can give them to General Bull, and (c) to help us with another investigation we’re running that probably has something to do with this. You have any problems working with us?”
“Okay, now fully aware that when I finish saying this to you, you will seriously consider putting my photo in your urinal so that you can piss on it, I want to warn you, Mr. Ziegler, that if I catch you running at the mouth, even running a little at the mouth, about what you see, hear, or intuit about what’s going on around here, if I don’t have you killed, or court-martialed, which will be the first things that will occur to me, you will spend the rest of your MP career handing out jaywalking tickets in the parking lot of the PX at Fort Abercrombie, which is on Kodiak Island, in Alaska. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” Augie replied. He could not suppress a smile.
He thought: This guy, who looks like he made second lieutenant last week, is a real hard-ass.
A genuine hard-ass.
I think that whatever I’m going to be doing here is going to be a lot more fun than investigating dependent domestic disputes and catching people importing coffee and cigarettes from the States to sell on the black market.
“Okay,” Cronley said, “now before I send you and Freddy over to get Claudette out of wherever you have her, I’ll give you my take on what’s happened here.”
“Please do. That’s presuming I can be told?” Colonel Kellogg said.
“I think you should hear this, sir,” Cronley said. “Before Mr. Hessinger recruited Claudette for us, she was in the Army Security Agency, as an intercept operator and cryptographer and debugger. That means she knows how to find hidden microphones. And that means she knows how to install them, too. She was a tech sergeant.
“Now she carries one of these . . . Freddy, show Colonel Kellogg your credentials.”
“Yes, sir,” Hessinger said, and did so.
“She needs one of those, Colonel, because she is privy to everything that goes on around here. Everything.”
“I understand,” Kellogg said.
“DCI agents have assimilated field grade officer rank. They’re treated as at least majors when they need a hotel room, et cetera. Claudette lives here in the Vier Jahreszeiten—down the corridor. We have the entire wing on this floor. She’s on per diem, and takes her meals in the restaurant downstairs.
“Shortly after she came here, she suggested to Hessinger that he recruit Tech Sergeant Miller, a pal of hers in the ASA, and also a cryptographer and debugger. So we had her transferred to us.”
“Question?” Augie asked.
“‘Pal of hers’? How close a pal?”
“If you’re suggesting what I think you are, no, not that kind of pal.”
“You understand why I had to ask.”
“That’s why I recruited you, Ziegler. Because I thought you would ask the indelicate questions that have to be asked.
“Tech Sergeant Miller lives in the Pullach compound with other WACs. The ASA has an intercept station in the Pullach compound.
“But Claudette and Miller were still buddies even after Claudette moved into the Vier Jahreszeiten. So with one a tech sergeant and one an assimilated officer, what could they do together? Go to the PX and the movies, and that’s about it. Except the WAC NCO club. Claudette still had her sergeant’s ID card. So I think they went there to have a steak and some drinks. I think maybe Claudette left her DCI credentials in the safe. Freddy?”
“She customarily went around armed?” Ziegler asked.
“We all do,” Cronley said. He chuckled and pointed at Hessinger. “Freddy even wears his with his bathrobe.”
“Hessinger’s carrying a .45,” Ziegler said. “Colbert had a non-issue S&W .38 with the thumb part of the hammer filed off. It could only be fired double-action. One of your fancy weapons?”
“No. But I’m going to say it is, so we—she—gets it back. Is there going to be a problem with that?”
“Far be it from me to deny a good-looking blonde her right to file three notches in the grip of her trusty .38,” Ziegler said.
“Here it is!” Hessinger called, waving a credentials folder in the air. “She left it in the safe.”
“One more point for my yet-to-be-proven, or disproven, theory,” Cronley said.
“Which is, Mr. Cronley?” Kellogg asked.
“Sir, I think the NKGB may have attempted to kidnap Miss Colbert and Sergeant Miller.”
“The NKGB?” Kellogg asked incredulously. “Why?”
“To see what they know about certain subjects.”
“What certain subjects? Isn’t that germane to this investigation?”
Ziegler thought: Dumb question, Colonel.
“Colonel, with all respect, answering that would cross a line I’m not willing to cross.”
“I understand,” Kellogg said, his face and tone making it clear that while he understood, he didn’t like being told it was none of his business.
Then he stood up.
“I’d better get over to the scene,” Kellogg said. “The post commander by now has heard of the shooting and is liable to be there. What do I tell him?”
“That DCI-Europe has taken over the investigation, and you have been told the less said about it the better.”
Kellogg nodded at Cronley, and then walked out of the room without saying another word.
“I think he’s pissed,” Ziegler observed after the suite door shut.
“Can’t be helped,” Cronley said, and added: “I’m used to people being pissed at me.”
He looked at Hessinger.
“Get dressed, Freddy, and go with Ziegler and bring our Claudette home.”
“What about Sergeant Miller?” Hessinger asked.
“If she’s been sedated, she’s better off in the hospital. When Max gets here, I’ll have him send people to sit on her.”
“You ever hear of the 711th MKRC?” Ziegler asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“Right next to the ambulance with the bodies was another one, red crosses painted over, with those bumper markings.”
“And what did Miss Colbert tell you about that?” Cronley asked.
“All Miss Colbert said to me—again and again—was that she wasn’t going to say a thing—actually she said ‘a fucking thing’—until you were either in the room or on the telephone.”
“It stands for 711 Mess Kit Repair Company,” Cronley said. “Or did, until Freddy, who has no sense of humor, changed that to Mobile Kitchen Renovation Company. It’s our version of a police unmarked car. I’d say Claudette drove it over there.”
“And I would say,” Hessinger put in, “that either the NKGB or maybe the Odessa Nazis have seen through your clever subterfuge. It looks to me like they followed Claudette over there from the garage in the basement here.”
“Take notes, Ziegler. Freddy is much smarter than he looks.”
“One final off-the-wall question,” Ziegler said. “How did you know she carried a .38 in her bra?”
“She told me. Boy Scout’s honor and cross my heart and hope to die, I have never seen Miss Colbert in her underwear.”
I’ve said, and think, that he’s a smart cop.
Will a smart cop sense that is exactly the opposite of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
[ FOUR ]
Interrogation Room Three
Military Police Station
Munich, American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0335 24 January 1946
The MP captain sitting across a small desk from Claudette Colbert looked up in annoyance when he heard the door behind him opening. When he turned to see who was coming in, his expression changed to one of mingled annoyance and curiosity.
Hessinger, now wearing officer’s “pinks and greens” with triangles on the lapels, walked into the room, followed by Augie Ziegler.
“Ziegler,” the captain snapped. “When that light over the door is on, it means that no one is to go through it. You should know that.”
“Captain, this is Mr. Hessinger of Central Intelligence,” Ziegler said.
“What the hell is Central Intelligence?”
Hessinger held out his credentials folder to the captain, who examined it carefully.
“DCI is taking over the investigation of this incident,” Hessinger announced. “How are you doing, Miss Colbert?”
“Not too well,” she said.
Hessinger nodded. He could see evidence on her uniform that her attempt to clean up after the shooting had not been entirely successful.
“‘Taking over the investigation’?” the captain parroted. “Two questions. What exactly does that mean? And what’s the provost marshal got to say about you taking over our investigation?”
“What it means is that you will conduct the same kind of investigation of this incident you normally do. With the following exceptions: You will not give information to, or request information from, any other agency regarding this incident unless, in every instance, DCI tells you that you can.
“Further, any information you gather, any evidence, will be classified Secret, and held—separate from anything else—until DCI decides what should be done with it.
“As far as Colonel Kellogg is concerned, Captain, he is not only fully aware of our involvement in this incident but has loaned us Mr. Ziegler to assist in our investigation and, of course, to serve as liaison between us and the provost marshal.”
“Interesting,” the captain said.
“You are advised, Captain, that what I just told you is classified Top Secret–Presidential and is not to be shared with anyone without the express permission in each instance of the DCI. Do you understand what I have just told you?”
After staring at Hessinger for a long moment, the captain turned to Ziegler.
“You’re sure Colonel Kellogg knows about this?”
“Yes, sir, he does,” Ziegler said. “We just left him.”
“Did you understand what I just told you, Captain?” Hessinger pursued.
The captain nodded, and belatedly added, “Yes, sir.”
“Thank you,” Hessinger said.
“I guess I’m dismissed, right?” the captain said.
“It would be helpful, Captain, if you assisted Mr. Ziegler in gathering up all the paperwork, the photographs, et cetera, everything the Military Police has generated so far with regard to this incident so that I can take it with me. More than likely it will be returned, but tonight—this morning—the chief wants a look at everything.”
“Does that include the shooter’s weapon, sir?” Ziegler said.
“Including the shooter’s weapon,” Hessinger said. “All weapons. I understand that knives were involved?”
“Yes, sir. There were knives,” Ziegler said.
“Additionally, Captain, please advise your men at the 98th that our security people are en route to the hospital, where they will take responsibility for security. I would be grateful if you would leave your MPs there to assist them.”
“They and everybody else involved have to be told that the investigation has been assigned to another agency—please don’t mention the DCI—and that all details are classified Secret—just Secret, not Top Secret–Presidential, as that would arouse their curiosity.”
“I understand, sir.”
“Two more things,” Hessinger went on. “Presuming you still have men at the scene of the incident?”
“Please advise them that I will be taking the ambulance parked next to the ambulance where the shooting took place.”
“Yes, sir. Sir, on the subject of ambulances, the one in which the shooting took place was stolen from the 98th General Hospital’s motor pool sometime today—I mean yesterday.”
“Mr. Ziegler, you will look into that?” Hessinger asked.
“The other ambulance, sir, the one with the red crosses painted over, is a questionable item.”
“The bumper markings say it’s from a unit, the 711 MKRC. That’s not on the USFET list of organizations.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s ours. That’s why I’m going to go pick it up,” Hessinger said.
“Can I ask what MKRC stands for?”
“It’s not important.”
And as soon as I get it in the Vier Jahreszeiten garage, that will be changed to something else.
My God, I can’t do that! Cronley’s Nazi cousin swallowed that Mobile Kitchen Renovation Company story whole!
“The second thing I want you to do, Captain,” Hessinger said, “in case the men looking through that one-way mirror . . .”
He pointed to a large mirror mounted flush on the wall.
“. . . didn’t hear what I said in here, is make sure you tell them. Before you get them out of there.”
“Yes, sir,” the captain said, then saw that Ziegler was smiling and gave him a dirty look.
Hessinger went on: “And hurry it up, please, Mr. Ziegler. I want to take Claudette home as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir,” Ziegler said.
The captain’s face told Ziegler that the captain had picked up on Hessinger’s “take Claudette home” remark and was puzzled by it. Ziegler smiled.
The captain saw the smile and glowered at him.
Ziegler thought: I’ll pay for those smiles when my TDY with these DCI people is over.
So what? It was worth it to see Hessinger cut Captain Chickenshit off at the knees.
And maybe I can arrange to stick around this DCI for a long time.
As soon as the door to Interrogation Room Three closed, Claudette started to get out of her chair.
Hessinger shook his head and held up his hand, signaling her to stay put.
Thirty seconds later, he walked to the wall and put his back to the one-way mirror, completely covering it. Confident that he could not be seen if anyone was still on the other side of the mirror, he signaled Claudette to come to him.
She went to him. He opened his arms and embraced her.
“Oh, Freddy!” she said, and then began to sob.
He patted her back comfortingly.
“There’s a reason you’re upset,” Hessinger said. “It’s to be expected. Killing someone isn’t easy.”
She pushed herself away from him far enough so that she could look up into his face.
“What I’m upset about is that I’m upset. If I hadn’t shot those bastards, they’d have killed me. And Florence. What’s happened to her?”
“She’s been taken to the 98th. She had to be sedated. MPs are sitting on her, and as soon as Max can get his people over there, they’ll sit on the MPs.”
“And Jim Cronley?”
“I think right now he’s on the telephone to Wallace, telling him what we know.”
“What I need right now is a bath and clean clothes,” she said. “I didn’t know that heads really explode when you put a bullet in them.”
She pushed herself farther away from him and looked at his body.
“And some of what landed on me is now on you. Sorry, Freddy.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“And after . . . no, before I get out of my clothes and into the shower, I need a drink.”
He reached into one of the pockets of his tunic and came out with a leather-covered flask.
“Cognac,” he said, as he handed it to her.
“Freddy, you’re amazing,” Claudette said, as she unscrewed the top.
She giggled, then took a heavy pull on the flask.
[ FIVE ]
The WAC Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club
Munich Military Post
Munich, American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0415 24 January 1946
Claudette sat in the front seat of Ziegler’s car, a black 1941 Ford sedan, and watched as Ziegler watched Hessinger drive the ambulance past the MPs and Polish security guards at the gate.
Then he trotted to the car, got quickly behind the wheel, and started out after the ambulance.
“Miss Colbert,” Ziegler said, “Mr. Hessinger introduced me to you as ‘Mr. Ziegler.’ My name is August. My friends call me Augie.”
He put his hand out to her, and she shook it.
“My name is Claudette, and my friends call me Dette.”
He smiled, then reached inside his Ike jacket, came out with a short-barreled Colt .38 caliber revolver, and handed the “Detective Special” to her.
She looked at it, opened the cylinder to see how many live cartridges it contained, counted five of five, and then closed it.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Claudette asked.
“You can borrow it. Mr. Cronley told me to get your snub-nosed back to you, but I don’t want to do that until the lab in Heidelberg establishes that the bullets in the dead people—and bad guy still alive—came from your gun.”
“Dotting the i’s?”
“And crossing the t’s.”
“Thank you. I’ve got a .45 in the safe in the office, but . . .”
“That .45 will be easier to carry?”
“You’re right. Thank you for this. I’ll take good care of it.”
She put it in her purse.
“I used to be a cop in Reading, Pennsylvania,” he said.
Why am I telling her this?
For that matter, why am I loaning her my gun?
“My father,” he went on, “who is also a cop in Reading, gave me that .38 when I passed the detective exam.”
“I never got to be a detective. When I missed the cut for detective, I got pissed and told the draft board they could have me.”
“Missed the cut?”
“Four detective vacancies. I scored fifth on the test.”
“So here I am, a CID agent in Munich, loaning my .38 to a good-looking blonde.”
“And if she knew, what would your wife think about that?”
“No wife. And no girlfriend, either.”
Neither said another word until they were in the basement garage of the Vier Jahreszeiten, when she said, “The elevator’s over there,” and he said, “I know.”
When they got to the elevator, Augie remembered his manners.
“After you, Dette.”
She smiled at him and got on the elevator. As he got on after her, Hessinger trotted up, got on also, and after examining the bloodstains and brain tissue on his tunic in the light provided by the elevator, said, “Scheiss!”
[ ONE ]
Hotel Vier JahreszeitenMaximilianstrasse 178
Munich, American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0415 24 January 1946
Augie Ziegler saw that Cronley had dressed, more or less, while he and Hessinger had been bringing Claudette home. His bathrobe had been replaced with a sweatshirt—also bearing the logotype of Texas A&M—and olive drab (OD) trousers. He was still wearing the battered Western boots.
With him were two other men, one a muscular blond whom Augie judged to be in his late twenties. He was wearing ODs with triangles. His Ike jacket was unbuttoned, and Augie saw that he had a Secret Service High Rise Cross Draw holster supporting a .45 on his left hip.
The other was an enormous, very black captain, whose OD uniform lapels carried the crossed sabers of cavalry.
Augie decided he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties. Augie decided the captain was not the sort of person one wished to meet in a dark alley, and not only because he, too, had a .45 in a Secret Service holster.
“You all right, Dette?” the black captain greeted her. He had a very deep, melodious voice.
“I need a shower and a change of clothes,” she said.
“What the hell is that mess on your tunic, Freddy?” the black captain asked.
“You don’t want to know,” Hessinger said.
“Can you hold off on your shower and give us a quick after-action report?” Cronley asked.
“Yes, sir,” Claudette said.
She then delivered a concise report of what had happened.
“What language were these guys speaking?” Cronley then asked.
“English. Foreign accent. Could have been German or Russian. Or something else.”
“Was their ambulance there when you got there?” Cronley asked.
“No,” Claudette said. “I remember seeing an empty space beside us when we parked. The lot was just about full.”
“That suggests they followed you there.”
“Go have your shower, and then go to bed,” Cronley ordered. “Wallace said he’ll take off as soon as he can in the morning, which should get him and the general here about half past nine. Be prepared to be grilled then.”
She smiled and said, “Yes, sir.”
Augie wondered: Who is Wallace? Take off from where he’s been? Where’s that? And what general?
“What about Florence?” Claudette asked.
“My people tell me,” the big man in the uniform with triangles said, “that her sedation will have mostly worn off by morning—”
“Your people are sitting on her?” Claudette interrupted.
Augie thought: And who is this guy? He sounds like he’s an Englishman.
“Eight of them,” the man said. “On her and the chap you popped. At the moment, he’s out of surgery, in stable condition. Would you be distressed to hear that you tore up his shoulder joint to the point where he’s in great pain and can look forward to having a somewhat immobile right arm for the rest of his life?”
“Not at all,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Unfortunately, the palliatives they have given him for his discomfort will keep us from talking to him until sometime this afternoon.”
“I don’t suppose we could talk the hospital into not giving him any more palliatives for his pain?” she asked.
“Go to bed, Dette.”
“Freddy, when you’re cleaned up, you come back. We’re going to go over what the MPs have turned up before Wallace gets back.”
Claudette and Hessinger left the office.
“A formidable female, in more ways than one,” Augie said.
“Methinks our Claudette has caught this gentleman’s eye,” the large civilian said.
“Meaning she hasn’t caught yours?” the black captain challenged.
“Meaning I’ve learned the Ice Princess has not yet been taken in by my soulful Polish eyes.”
“She’s probably waiting for Mr. Right to come along, and found us all wanting,” Cronley said.
The black man laughed and put out his hand to Ziegler.
“Since the boss has once again forgotten his manners, I’ll introduce myself. C. L. Dunwiddie. People call me ‘Tiny.’”
Jesus, he’s six-foot-six, or more, and weighs three hundred pounds!
“I can’t imagine why,” Augie replied. “My name is Augie Ziegler.”
“I’m Max Ostrowski, Ziegler,” the blond man said. “I understand you’ve been temporarily banished to us?”
“It looks that way,” Augie replied, and then asked, “You’re Polish?”
“Let’s have a look at what the MPs have come up with,” Cronley said.
“I’ll have to tell you what the inside of the ambulance looked like,” Augie said. “The photo lab isn’t finished. I told them to send prints as soon as they’re done.”
[ TWO ]
U.S. Constabulary School
American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0655 24 January 1946
There were twelve officers seated around the heavy table in the senior officers’ dining room of what had once been the Adolf Hitler Schule, where the sons of the Nazi aristocracy had been trained to assume leadership roles in the Thousand-Year Reich. The dozen officers at the table were dressed in woolen ODs. Their shoulder insignia was that of the U.S. Constabulary, a three-inch yellow circle outlined in black, with a “C” in the center. A red lightning bolt pierced the “C.”
Major General I. D. White—a stocky forty-six-year-old who had led the 2nd “Hell on Wheels” Armored Division to the banks of the Elbe River, and then, after the Russians had been allowed to take Berlin, into the German capital—sat at the head of the table, where Der Führer had once reigned over his dinner guests.
Sitting at the table were a full colonel of cavalry, a full colonel of infantry, a lieutenant colonel wearing the insignia of an aide-de-camp to a major general, a captain wearing the same insignia, a lieutenant colonel and a lieutenant of artillery (both wearing liaison pilot wings), a colonel and a lieutenant colonel whose lapel insignia identified them respectively as chaplains of the Jewish and Christian faiths, a colonel and a lieutenant colonel of the Medical Corps, and a lieutenant colonel of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
General White believed that command problems could be discussed and possibly resolved over a meal at least as well as, and possibly better than, gathering everyone around a table in a conference room. Thus, once a week, on Thursdays, he scheduled a breakfast—“So everyone will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”—to which were invited those officers concerned with a problem who might have a solution for it. Their invitations provided the subject to be discussed.
General White waited until everyone invited had entered the dining room and was standing behind the ornate chairs at the table. Then he walked—marched would be more accurate—into the room.
His senior aide-de-camp called, “Ah-ten-hut!” and everyone came to attention.
“Be seated, gentlemen,” General White said, and sat down.
“For obvious reasons it would be inappropriate to discuss the subject of the day while we’re eating our breakfast,” he went on. “So we’ll hold off until we’re having our coffee.”
Thirty minutes later, after two young men wearing starched white jackets over their uniforms cleared the table of dishes and placed coffee cups in front of the diners, the moment to discuss the subject of the luncheon conference had come.
General White did so without rising from his chair.
“The problem we have, gentlemen,” he said, “is social disease, which is a polite way of saying venereal disease. How does this affect the Constabulary? And what do we do about it? Your thoughts, please, Lieutenant.”
He pointed to the lieutenant wearing the liaison pilot’s wings.
The lieutenant, visibly surprised to be called on, rose to his feet. And appeared to be struck dumb.
“Didn’t they teach you at West Point, Lieutenant Winters, that the junior is called upon first, so we get his honest opinion, rather than what he thinks his superiors want to hear?”
The lieutenant flashed White what could have been a dirty look. The general did not seem to notice.
“Yes, sir. I was taught that,” he said. “Sir, venereal disease is a problem . . .”
“That’s why we’re having this conference,” White agreed.
“. . . not only in that men are sick in hospital rather than available for duty, but that it poses a problem, sometimes a fatal problem, for them for the rest of their lives.”
“I couldn’t have summed it up better myself,” White said. “And how would you suggest we deal with the problem?”
The lieutenant visibly thought his reply over before making it.
“If it were up to me, sir, I would open first aid stations for any German girl who wanted to come in, get examined, and then if she had the clap, syphilis, or scabies, treat her. And I would examine all the prostitutes in the brothels and walking the streets, whether or not they liked it, and offer them the choice of getting treated or going to jail.”
“Nonsense!” the Christian chaplain said, for which he was rewarded with a withering glance from General White.
“And what about our Constabulary troopers?” White asked.
The lieutenant again debated replying, but finally said, “Sir, you’re probably not going to like this.”
“Sir, I’d see to it they had a chance to do what the officers do.”
“Sir, they find some friendly doctor to give them penicillin so they don’t have to go to the hospital and wear a bathrobe with VD stenciled on the back. And get it in their service record.”
“General,” the Medical Corps lieutenant colonel said, “I have to protest!”
“Duly noted,” General White said. “Lieutenant, are you saying you have personal knowledge of officers who”—he paused, and then repeated verbatim what the lieutenant had said—“who ‘find some friendly doctor to give them penicillin so they don’t have to go to the hospital and wear a bathrobe with VD stenciled on the back’? ‘And get it in their service record,’ or do you just think that’s what’s going on?”
“I have personal knowledge of that happening, sir.”
“And what would you do with our enlisted troopers, Lieutenant?”
The lieutenant’s mouth ran away with him. Or perhaps he consciously decided that since he had just flushed his military career down the toilet anyway, What the hell? Why not?
“Sir, I’d get the doctors to determine who had the clap and scabies and nothing worse, and teach the first sergeants how to give them the six shots of penicillin to kill the clap and stuff to kill the scabies. I’d have the doctors send the people with syphilis to the hospital, but I’d diagnose it as something besides syphilis so that it wouldn’t fuck up their careers.”
He heard what he had said, and added, “Sorry, sir. That ‘fuck’ just slipped out.”
The Medical Corps colonel said, “General, if I may—”
“You may not. I decide who speaks here and when,” General White replied, not at all pleasantly. He paused, obviously in thought, and then went on: “I’ve just decided that that’s me.”
He gestured for the lieutenant to sit down.
“While I am sorely tempted to do so,” he began, “I am not going to quote the late General George Smith Patton’s insightful comment on officers and enlisted men and the carnal union of the sexes . . .”
All the officers in the room knew that Patton had famously said, “A soldier who won’t fuck won’t fight.”
More than half of the officers at the table laughed or chuckled. The rest showed shock or disapproval or both.
“. . . But I don’t think anyone can honestly argue with the fact that the ideal solution to our venereal disease problem, abstinence or chastity, is simply not going to be available.
“I have also believed since I first heard this at Norwich that if something valuable is going to be issued by the Army, the officer corps gets theirs after the enlisted men do. I can see no reason that this shouldn’t apply to the curing of social diseases. Finally, when I first learned that patients in hospital suffering from venereal disease were forced to wear bathrobes with VD stenciled on them, I thought—I knew—that this was going to keep soldiers from seeking the treatment they needed.
“So, what we are going to discuss now—”
The door to the dining room opened and a second major general practically burst into the room.
He was wearing, like the others, a woolen olive drab Ike jacket but, unlike the others, instead of OD trousers he was wearing riding breeches and highly polished riding boots. He carried a leather riding crop. His shoulder insignia was that of the Constabulary. The opposite shoulder carried the insignia of the 2nd Armored Division, indicating that the general had served in wartime with the division.
Major General Ernest Harmon had in fact commanded Hell on Wheels until, on assuming command of the VI Corps, he had turned it over to I. D. White. He was scheduled to turn over command of the Constabulary to General White on 1 February.
General White was the first to see General Harmon. He rose to his feet. So, quickly, did everyone at the table.
“Gentlemen, I’m really sorry to bust in this way, but I have to have a few minutes with General White.”
Harmon had a harsh, grating voice, which had caused his subordinates to call him, behind his back, “Old Gravel Voice.”
“General,” White said, “we’re discussing VD. Your knowledge of that subject would be welcome.”
Harmon glared at him.
“Well, in that case,” White said, and raised his voice, “meeting adjourned. To reconvene at eleven hundred in my conference room. Think about what Lieutenant Winters said.”
He then pointed at the lieutenant colonel with wings and at Lieutenant Winters.
“You two stay.”
When everyone else had filed out of the room, Harmon offered his hand to the lieutenant colonel.
“Billy, what is General White going to tell me you did wrong now?”
“Sir, I am as pure as the driven snow,” Lieutenant Colonel William W. Wilson said.
“Ernie, this is Lieutenant Tom Winters,” General White said.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you, son. How’s your dad?”
“Mom sent me a picture of her and Dad in kimonos. He’s got the First Cav.”
“I heard. Please give them my best when you write.”
“Yes, sir, I will. Thank you.”
“What’s I.D. got you doing in the Constab, Tom?” Harmon asked.
“Just before you came, I was testing him to see how well he thinks on his feet,” White said.
“He’s a chip off the old blockhead,” White said. “Even under pressure he said only one dirty word.” He paused and then asked, “Tom, you sure you want this transfer?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve thought about it carefully.”
“Okay. Billy, Cronley can have him. And the A&M lieutenant, too.”
“Thank you, sir,” Lieutenant Colonel Wilson said. “Permission to withdraw, sir?”
The lieutenant colonel and then Lieutenant Winters shook hands with the generals, and then the lieutenant colonel came to attention and saluted. General Harmon returned it, and then the two younger officers marched out of the dining room.
When the door had closed, Harmon asked, “I.D., what the hell is going on?”
Before White could finish framing his reply, Harmon went on: “Harry Bull called me in last night, told me I was not going home, and would have to put my retirement on hold. When I asked him what the hell was that all about, he said it had come from McNarney and was not open for debate. He said you knew what it was all about, but might not be able to tell me unless the CID gave you permission.”
“Did Harry say ‘CID’? Or ‘DCI’?”
“I don’t remember. What the hell is the DCI?”
“The Central Intelligence Directorate. They can’t use the same acronym—CID—as the MP’s Criminal Investigation Division, so they say ‘DCI.’”
“Okay, then what the hell is the DCI? More important, what’s it got to do with you and me?”
“That brings us back to what Harry said about me needing the permission of the DCI to tell you,” White said.
“What’s so classified about this? How highly classified is it?”
“It doesn’t get any higher: Top Secret–Presidential.”
“I.D., how the hell long am I going to have to stand around with my thumb in my ass waiting for you to tell me what the hell’s going on?”
“Captain Cronley called me last night and gave me permission to tell you anything you want to know.”
“Cronley? As in, ‘You can tell Cronley’?”
“Yes. He’s the chief, DCI-Europe.”
“And he’s a captain?”
“A twenty-two-year-old captain. He didn’t make captain as soon as Billy Wilson made captain—Billy wasn’t out of West Point six months before he made captain—but he’s cast from the same mold.”
“You know I like, and respect, Billy Wilson. But I have a lot of trouble with him being a twenty-five-year-old lieutenant colonel. I was older than that when I made first lieutenant.”
“And so was I. Different Army, Ernie.”
“I sort of liked the one we had. Okay, start telling me what this twenty-two-year-old captain told you that you can.”
“The question is where to begin.”
“Try the beginning.”
“All right then: How come I never told you anything about it? Because I was ordered not to.”
“By who? Harry Bull? McNarney?”
“By Admiral Souers.”
“And who the hell is Admiral Souers?”
“Souers—Sidney W., Rear Admiral, Reservist. He came to Fort Riley, where I was making plans for the Constabulary—”
“A Navy admiral—a reserve Navy admiral—went out to the plains of Kansas to see an armored general? What the hell, I.D?”
“There I was, sitting on the porch of Quarters 24—you know, what they call ‘Custer’s House’?”
“I’ve been to Fort Riley,” Harmon said. “Jesus Christ!”
“Then I guess you already know it isn’t really Custer’s house. The house from which Lieutenant Colonel Custer actually rode forth to immortality by getting his entire command wiped out at the Little Big Horn burned down.”
“As I was saying, they put me in Quarters 24, Tom Davis having decided that it was appropriate accommodation for a distinguished general officer such as myself, who outranked him, and was at Riley for an unspecified purpose, but which Tom thought might have something to do with me being sent there to spy on him.”
“I didn’t think about that,” Harmon said, smiling.
“Or that I had been sent there because it was suspected I agreed with Georgie Patton that we should rearm the Wehrmacht and march on Moscow and had been sent to Riley while they decided what to do with me.”
“That was the rumor going around.”
“So, there I was sitting on the porch of Quarters 24, innocently going over proposed Tables of Organization and Equipment for the Constab, when a staff car with a two-star plate pulled up at the curb. I presumed, of course, it was Tom.
“It wasn’t. I suspected Tom was in—or his aide was in—a staff car that seemed to be following the one that stopped at my curb.
“A Navy lieutenant got out of the car and opened the rear door, and then a civilian and an admiral got out. They marched up onto the porch, and the admiral said, ‘General White, I’m Sid Souers,’ and handed me an envelope.
“Inside the envelope was a note on White House stationery. The note—handwritten, not typed—read ‘Dear General White. I have sent Admiral Souers to see you. He will explain. Best wishes, Harry S Truman.’”
“Which the admiral promptly did. He told me that Truman had realized he had made a mistake when he disestablished the OSS. Everybody who had been saying the OSS was useless, a threat to democracy, et cetera, and had to be abolished—by everybody I mean Army G-2, Navy Intelligence, the FBI, and the State Department—was now angling to take it over.
“The admiral told me that Truman had decided, when he ordered the dissolution of the OSS, to turn over to him certain operations which had to be kept running.”
“Him? Why? The Navy? Who is this admiral, anyway?”
“I later found out he’s a longtime crony of the President, going back to Missouri, where Truman was a weekend warrior in the National Guard and Souers a weekend sailor in the Naval Reserve.”
“I’d heard Truman was a National Guard colonel,” Harmon said.
“He was an Artillery captain in France in the First World War. Anyway, when I said the admiral was the President’s crony, I meant just that. When Souers went on active duty when the war started, he was assigned to Naval Intelligence in Washington. Where he moved into Senator Harry Truman’s apartment, and they were bachelors together.”
White paused in thought, then went on: “Where was I? Oh, yeah. The admiral told me that when Truman signed the order disbanding the OSS, Truman had decided where he would put the OSS operations that couldn’t be shut down. He promoted Souers to rear admiral, had him named deputy chief of ONI. Then he gave responsibility for these clandestine operations to the deputy chief of ONI.
“Next, when the President decided he really needed a clandestine espionage, et cetera, organization answering only to him, he signed an Executive Order establishing the Directorate of Central Intelligence as of January first and named Admiral Souers as director.”
“That’s three weeks ago,” Harmon observed.
“Just before I came back here,” White said. “Somewhere during our conversation on the porch, Souers introduced the civilian. His name is Schultz. Souers said that Schultz had been Number Two in the OSS operation in the Southern Cone—Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile—during the war. He had just retired as a commander and was now Souers’s Number Two. The ‘executive assistant to the director.’
“Souers then told me ‘it had been decided’ that the Constabulary was going to provide whatever support was requested by DCI-Europe . . .”
“Decided by who?”
“He didn’t say. I got the feeling that Souers has the authority to do whatever he thinks has to be done. Anyway, he said that Harry Bull was in the loop, as is a brigadier general named Greene.”
Harmon shook his head, signaling he didn’t know who Greene was.
“He runs the CIC for USFET,” White said. “I had met him once, but didn’t know him. And the head of the Army Security Agency in USFET, a major named McClung, and a Major Wallace, who used to run OSS Forward and is now ostensibly working for Greene.”
“Didn’t . . . What’s his name? Mattingly . . . Didn’t Colonel Bob Mattingly, who used to be in Hell on Wheels before he went to the OSS, command OSS Forward?”
“When I asked the same question, Schultz—who is known as ‘El Jefe,’ which means ‘the Chief’ in Spanish, because he was once a chief petty officer—”
“An ex-CPO is now Number Two in this DCI?” Harmon interrupted, his tone incredulous.
White nodded. “He is. Schultz told me that Colonel David Bruce, who ran the OSS in Europe, decided that OSS Forward could function more efficiently if ‘the Army’ thought it was commanded by Bob Mattingly, when it was in fact commanded by Major Harold Wallace, who was—is—in fact Colonel Harold Wallace. Schultz also told me that Bob Mattingly, who is now Greene’s deputy, would not, repeat not, be in the loop.”
“What’s that all about?”
“G-2 wants to take over DCI-Europe. Quote, Since Colonel Mattingly has applied for integration into the Regular Army . . .”
“I always thought he was a fine officer,” Harmon said.
“He was. Is. Let me finish the quote . . . he might consider his primary loyalty was to the Army, rather than to DCI. End quote. So Mattingly is not in the loop. Lieutenant Colonel Billy Wilson is.”
“Billy’s part of this?” Harmon asked, shaking his head in disbelief.
“You remember that during the war he was always doing things for the OSS?”
“Among those things he did for the OSS was fly Major Wallace to the rendezvous point where Generalmajor Gehlen surrendered. Among the things he’s done recently for the OSS—now the DCI—was arrange for the pickup across the border in Thuringia of the wife and two kids, boys, of an NKGB colonel the DCI had bagged and sent to Argentina.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Because Billy—not knowing that I was already in the loop—came to me and asked for permission to participate. Knowing Billy, if I had said, ‘Hell, no!’ he probably would have done what he did anyway, but I thought it was nice of him to ask. You’ll recall Billy doesn’t always ask permission.”
Harmon laughed. “Billy once told me, with a straight face, that if you think you’re going to get your ass chewed anyway, it makes more sense to get it chewed after you’ve done what you want to do instead of getting it chewed just for asking.”
“Maybe that’s the way you get to be a twenty-five-year-old lieutenant colonel. Why didn’t we think of that?”
Harmon laughed. It came out as a grunt.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what you think of all this,” Harmon said.
White understood he had been asked a question, and he answered it: “I don’t think we should rearm the Wehrmacht and head for Moscow, but I believe the Soviet Union is a real threat. And it looks to me like few people outside of the loop realize how serious a threat. And I’m a soldier, Ernie. When someone gives me an order I know is lawful, I salute and say, ‘Yes, sir.’”
When Harmon didn’t immediately reply, White went on: “To answer your original question, Why am I not going home? Apparently Ike decided that the role originally envisioned for the Constabulary is not going to happen. The Germans are behaving. The Russians are not. The Constabulary is going to have to be more border police than anything else, at least for the time being. And Ike also probably realized that the support the Constabulary has been ordered to provide DCI-Europe is going to go far beyond sending a platoon of M8 armored cars somewhere.
“I think Bull decided—and I don’t know this, Ernie—that I had too much on my plate to handle, and that the solution to that was to keep you in command for a little longer, until things sort themselves out.”
For a long moment Harmon was silent.
Then he said: “I knew the minute I laid eyes on the dependent housing officer at Fort Knox that if I took him under my wing, sooner or later he was going to royally fuck me up.”
“That’s why you got me out of that damned job and gave me that battalion of Armored Infantry, right?”
“But, me too, I.D.”
“I’m a soldier, too. When I get a lawful order, I salute and say, ‘Yes, sir.’”
[ THREE ]
Office of the Chief, Counter Intelligence Corps
Headquarters, U.S. Forces European Theater
The I.G. Farben Building
Frankfurt am Main
American Zone of Occupation, Germany
0715 24 January 1946
A tall, hawkish-featured man in his early thirties in ODs with triangles pushed open the door to the outer office of the chief, CIC USFET, and smiled at the WAC chief warrant officer, an attractive woman in her late twenties sitting behind the desk. She was wearing the female version of pinks and greens.
“What got you up so early?” he asked.
“The Greene monster,” she replied. “Someone had to cut your orders.”
“He’ll tell you all about it,” she said, and pointed at an interior door. On it was a neatly lettered sign: BRIG. GEN. H. P. GREENE.
The man went to the door and knocked.
The man pushed the door open. A stocky, forty-three-year-old officer with a crew cut waved him in. His olive drab uniform had the single star of a brigadier general on its epaulets.
“Come on in, Jack,” he said. “And close the door.”
The man did so.
“Good morning, General.”
Greene waved him onto a couch before a coffee table, and then rose from his desk and joined him.
The door opened and the WAC came in with a thermos and two coffee mugs.
“I’ve been reading your mind,” she said.
“Good for you. Don’t let anybody in but Major Wallace and/or General Gehlen,” General Greene ordered.
The WAC nodded, poured coffee into the mugs, and then left.
“General Gehlen?” Jack asked.
“What Helen has been doing is cutting orders putting you on indefinite temporary duty with Military Detachment, Central Intelligence Directorate, Europe, APO 907,” he said.
“And if that didn’t get your attention, Jack, maybe this will: You play your cards right, you just might get your commission back.”
“I’m all ears.”
CURTAIN OF DEATH
BOOK III in the bestselling
CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS series.
Published 27 December 2016.
Order copies here
©2016 W.E.B. GRIFFIN & WILLIAM E. BUTTERWORTH IV.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.