Ross laid the two files side by side on his desk. The two pictures identical. Heydrich Schutz and Eugen Sänger. Either the same men or identical twins right down to their cheek moles. Both SS, but the similarity ended there.
Sänger had worked at a factory in Prague. Schutz? An ordinary thug working at Auschwitz. Granted, his rank merited shipment to Langwasser instead of discharged or sent for slave labor, but his only remarkable feat? Mass murder. Ross closed the folders as the door opened.
“Hard at it already?” Harrison entered with a paper bag in one hand and a steaming coffee mug in the other. “Thought you had a date last night. Didn’t expect you till noon.”
“Look at this.” Ross opened the Schutz file. After placing the bag on the table, he peered over Ross’s shoulder. While Harrison thumbed through it, Ross retrieved a donut from the sack.
“That’s the guy, all right. So how come Berlin had the file, and we didn’t?”
“We do.” Ross flicked open the Sänger file.
“What the fuck?” Harrison snatched it up. As he read, he dropped into the vacant chair beside Ross’s desk. With a frown, he reached across for the first file, glanced at the photo, and then back to the one he held in his hand. “What the hell?”
“So which file’s the right one?”
“We put the one together from the information supplied at the camp.”
“Yeah. We passed on his name, and this all came back.”
Harrison’s eyes rolled up. “From admin.”
“Butler ran the whole thing, including admin. Did he cook it up there?”
“You mean, did he slip us bogus information on this Schutz clown to get him sent to Langwasser?”
Harrison’s jaw dropped. “So, he could snatch him along with the others and stash `em in the woods.”
“Remember, I figured he might be up to somethin’ shady when I spotted him in New York.”
A knock on the office door interrupted them. As Harrison opened the door, Zwolf doffed his derby. “I cannot stay long, but I was told to tell you first thing that I can continue your portrait.” Ross gave Harrison a puzzled frown as Zwolf continued. “I am also to make you aware, Sergeant, that I will get a regular salary for my work, plus a bonus in my back pay.”
Ross gave Harrison a brief, puzzled glance before turning back to Zwolf. “How did this change come about?”
“I am not sure. Herr Mundt did not explain. Just gave these instructions. Should we continue with our regular appointment on Thursday evenings?”
“I really must get back to work.” Zwolf replaced his hat, then turned to go.
“Wait.” Ross rose from behind his desk, going to the door himself. “What are you doing for them?”
“I am sorry. I cannot say. Herr Fisher insists.”
Ross watched as the little man continued to the stairway without looking back.
As he closed the door, Ross turned to a smirking Harrison. “Is there something you should tell me?”
“While you were out playing sleuth, I took some initiative on my own. Find out what’s what, the Real Army way.”
“Is this safe for me to hear, Sergeant?”
Harrison shrugged. “If you would rather not.”
“Are the MPs coming after me or you?”
“Nah, nothin’ like that, sir. Just investigatin’ on my own.“
Harrison nodded. “That Foster that works upstairs for Butler is a nice guy, but he drinks like a fish. When he has a few too many, he sings like a canary. No matter how good a scrounger he is, Butler might need to get rid of him. Especially if he’s runnin’ a secret shop.“
“I take it you exploited his weakness.”
“I had some help. Gretchen brought along a friend to spice up the invitation out for libations as it was.”
“Sounds like you’ve become a spymaster.”
“Well, I’m not looking for medals or anything. I just figured until we got a handle on this thing, you wouldn’t have your mind on our job here. This way, I’d get you back on track.”
“You have made me aware of the Sergeant’s burden of keeping officers from getting their tits in a wringer now for quite some time. So, continue.”
“Foster gets all liquored up, and he spills the beans on Mundt. Apparently, the guys a real pervert. Child molester. It’s what got him booted out of the Gestapo and sent to the camps. Anyway, old Foster’s worried that Mundt is still up to his old tricks and that he might grab kids off the street here in Nuremberg.”
Yeah, so me and Gretchen start followin’ him after he leaves here and sure as hell, he grabs a kid last night. Well, we break up his little party. Gretchen took pictures of him grabbing the boy, and then Mundt and I had a talk.”
“And you straightened out his arrangement with Zwolf?”
“Sure. Plus, he believes that if any of this blows back in our direction, like it did with Bradshaw, that I would share the shots with Butler and Fisher.”
“And you think they would eject him because of this? They probably already know about his little fetish, plus the man ran a god-damned death camp.”
“Well, that’s it. Apparently, if Mundt draws any unfavorable attention to Butler’s little unit, Butler promised he would hand the man over to the Russians.”
“Foster told you all of this.”
Harrison grinned. “Mans a real fountain of knowledge. Perhaps, I can find out more about their little operation, if you would reimburse me from your discretionary fund.”
“Sergeant, you are aware no such funds exist, but I don’t see how giving the pictures to Butler would draw unfavorable attention to their unit. They’re not going to blab about those pictures.”
“They won’t have to, cause I would post them in the PX. Plus, I promised that I would make sure he didn’t have the equipment to continue his little perversion.”
“Jesus, does nothing in the Army run the way it should?”
Harrison shrugged. “Sir, I am sure Julius Caesar probably said the same thing.”
“So, what happened to the boy?”
“The kid at least had a mother. They live in one of the DP camps. He’ll be on shit detail for quite a while. He was supposed to be in school and snuck out to play hooky. Kids are the same all over, I hope this taught him a lesson.”
Ross then told Harrison what he learned from Ari the night before.
“So besides perverted war criminals, this Palestinian says we want a bunch of other war criminals that also happen to be scientists to work for us.”
“That’s what he said.”
“Who is this guy, anyway? I’ve heard how they have the Brits by the balls sneaking around executing Nazis and smuggling people into Palestine. How do we know he’s not just trying to stir up a mess to draw attention away from what his outfit’s up to?”
“I just met him twice. Justine trusts him, but for all I know, he could send us on some wild goose chase for his outfit’s pleasure.”
Harrison tapped on the folders. “But what about this guy? We have two files with apparently the same guy. Either way, Butler’s crew has him and a bunch of others sitting out in the woods partying.”
“True, if they are these scientific geniuses, why doesn’t Butler or Fisher just ship them off to this Castle with the rest?”
“Let’s say instead of shipping them to us, they’re planning on selling them to the Russians.”
Ross frowned. “What?”
“Shit! Why not? It’s like everybody, but you and me got some racket here. Everything, including people, are up for sale. I never pictured Butler as having that kind of smarts or even that shady, but…” Harrison stopped talking, then shrugged.
Ross stared off. “If what happened with Bradshaw is any sign, he’s got clout.” He glanced back at Harrison. “Somebody far above him must back this play.”
“Should I have another go at Foster?”
“I don’t know. I mean, we started poking around in this because of what was going on with Willi and Zwolf. You seem to have taken care of that. Perhaps now it’s none of our business.”
“Yeah, but what if these guys upstairs are selling these guys to the Russians? Isn’t it somewhere in our patriotic duty to stop `em?”
“True, that Palestinian claimed we wanted them too. But, hell, aren’t the Russians on our side?”
“Remember that Major with the flatbeds at Mauthausen?”
Ross massaged his forehead. “Taylor seems to be a square shooter. Maybe I should take it to him. He might know what to do. Since thinking is officer work, let me mull it over. Let’s talk it over tomorrow.”
“Well, tomorrow Bradshaw’s replacement’s supposed to show up.”
“We ready for him?”
Harrison shrugged. “We finished the orientation the day before yesterday. A bunch of files are coming from the camps in two days. Scuttlebutt has it; there are four Deuce and a half’s hauling them.”
“That’ll be a good start, I am sure. We have like twenty defendants, right? If we need the same poundage as they have for this first trial, we might need four or five more truckloads.”
“General Taylor also said he wanted to see you first thing. Might want to break the news to you personally.”
As Ross entered the General Taylor’s outer office the Sergeant behind the desk glanced up. “Would you tell the General that Captain Ross is reporting as requested?” After announcing his arrival, the Sergeant beckoned him inside.
Taylor, standing at the window, turned as Ross entered. After acknowledging Ross’s salute General Taylor beckoned Ross to the vacant chair before his desk. “At ease, Captain, I won’t keep you long. How’s the training coming?
“I think they understand the basics of investigation now. The rest will come to them as they get experience gathering the evidence.”
“I saw that form you put together for them to complete as they put together their cases for indictment. It should do a lot in guiding them through the process. I wish we had done the same for this first trial. It would have been a helluva lot more efficient. Nice job, Captain.”
“Well, I had a lot of input from your people in putting it together, and my Sergeant has a lot of experience in pulling things like this together. I really can’t take all the credit.”
“Any jackass can run around spouting orders. Leaders inspire people. I see why Bradshaw and Butler speak highly of you.”
“How is the trial going, sir?”
“We’ve finally worn out that Goering bastard. Speer’s admission of responsibility has really taken the wind out of all their sails. So maybe we can get going a little more efficiently. The man who will lead the prosecution for you is arriving tomorrow. I am sure he will want to review your procedures and will probably have his own ideas.”
“Good, the people are ready, and I understand the first records will arrive soon.”
“Why don’t you and your people take the rest of the day off? They might not get a break again for a while.”
Ross paused. Should he share his discovery now with Taylor? Beyond his and Harrison’s speculation, they had nothing more than the funky file.
Taylor cocked his head as if puzzled. “Anything else, Captain?”
“Uh, no, sir. I’ll share your comments with my Sergeant. The unit will be grateful for a respite before the storm.”
Harrison closed the file drawer as Ross returned. “What did the boss say?”
“I didn’t tell him about the files.”
“We need more.”
“What about the guys Butler stashed out in the woods?”
“What have we got except our own speculation?”
“They tried to kill Willi.”
Ross dropped into his desk chair. “That was his speculation too. Besides, if I told Taylor about it and he confronts Butler, what then?”
“And neither one of us is runnin’ for office back in the States.”
“Plus, Butler might figure out Willi’s still alive. Wouldn’t be too hard to find him with Zwolf workin’ in his office.”
Harrison frowned. “You figure the little guy would squeal?”
“No, but it might slip.”
“So, we drop it?”
“Not for one second. But we need more than the files and what Willi told us.”
“We might buck the system.”
Harrison shrugged. “You might have been a big-time cop, but this is the Army. You still need my expertise. Sergeant’s job, remember?”
“As you constantly remind me. But…”
“If I recall correctly, Taylor warned you away from Butler after Bradshaw got deported.”
“While it might not involve Taylor, whoever runs this has a lotta juice. It’s the Noncoms job to work the system, so the right things get done.”
“Besides, remember I come from a long line of crooks. If I learn some cop procedure like the revenuers’ use, it could help the family after I retire from here.”
“You’d be a bootlegger’s Sergeant?”
After slipping on her coat, Justine flipped her hair from inside the collar. Martha, seated at her desk slipped forms into a file.
“Are you sure you won’t join us?” Justine slipped on her gloves as she and Gretchen prepared to leave.
Martha shook her head. “I’m not feeling well. I thought I would have some tea and broth, but maybe next time.”
Gretchen buttoned her coat, shook her head. “The Major might never treat us to lunch again. Are you sure?”
“I am certain. Besides, they might need files while you are away. This way, you can all enjoy yourselves while I keep things going.”
After the two left, Martha slipped to the window. Once the three departed in the Major’s Jeep, she locked the outer door after placing the out to lunch sign on the doorknob. From her purse, she retrieved Jovanovich’s camera along with the list.
As Worth and the two women returned from lunch, Martha set aside her soup spoon. “Did you show the Major a nice time?”
Gretchen chuckled. “I believe we were more than he could handle, so he behaved himself.”
Worth stiffened, scowled. Justine chuckled, squeezed his arm. “As always, he was a perfect gentleman.”
He hung his head. “Anyone need anything while we were out?”
Martha shook her head. “The trial did not recess for lunch, so all was quiet.”
After hanging up his coat and hat, Worth trudged to the room containing the file cabinets. With a mixture of dread and sadness, he pulled the first drawer. The tells he placed now lay in the drawer’s bottom. Without glancing back to the main room, he moved to the next drawer. A lump formed in his throat as he checked the rest. Since Butler’s man placed those files in the cabinet, he monitored them throughout the day. None had been disturbed. But none of his girls remained alone there either. He arranged the lunch outing as a test. If all went along, then none could be guilty. But if one remained behind, it gave them the chance to do whatever it might be.
Each, except the Sänger file, had been removed over the lunch hour. A card showed Sänger’s checked out to Captain Ross upstairs. Why he needed it, Worth didn’t know, but the evidence suggested Martha must be the spy.
Stunned, he closed the last drawer, then ambled to his desk. Seated at his desk with his head in his hands, he shuddered as he considered it. A spy? It defied belief.
The Colonel had been certain someone would purloin information from this office. Worth thought if anyone did such a thing, it would be the worldly Gretchen, or Martha, whose disabled husband had no income. Always on the prowl for ways to make more cash. Worth suspected her of black marketing and believed she stole office supplies.
Alone in the lavatory, Worth grasped the sink as he stared at his reflection in the mirror. My God, he loved these girls who worked in his office. Considered himself their protector. But now what? Must he betray them to the thugs upstairs? Butler or Fisher, no matter what his name might be, had no real authority of him. Had merely bullied him into this game. He splashed water on his face, hoping to compose himself as he considered his options.
The man upstairs had been adamant. Worth’s duty as a soldier and a patriot to do his bidding. But did he really have to? Perhaps he should seek clarification from his formal superior. The prosecutor in charge. Feeling more in control, he walked back to his desk.
“I need to speak to the General.” Worth announced, then left the office. As he trudged up the stairs, he pondered how to broach the discussion about this thug upstairs and the files. He froze in his tracks as his dilemma clarified. The man upstairs had convinced him weeks ago to start this routine. The Chief Prosecutor would want to know why he didn’t seek clarification then? Also, if he did not report it now, they might discover the tampering later, casting suspicion on him.
Before reaching his destination, he turned. Retraced his steps. Trapped, he would follow through as Butler requested. Tell them someone tampered with the files without sharing his suspicions.
Perhaps someone else did it. Anyone beside himself might be guilty. The file room had a simple door lock that latched automatically when someone closed it as they left. Several times he discovered one or more of the girls sitting in the hall waiting for him to return. Locked out because they had gone out and closed the door behind them without thinking or realizing no one was inside to open it. They did not have keys, but any skillful burglar could pick that lock. The MPs in charge of security warned them about that several times. But General Taylor felt no one would have a motive to steal them. Only the case attorneys had an interest in the file’s contents. They had access to them at any time during the day. Plus, if they need access after hours, they called him.
Who would want the information, anyway? He told himself as he climbed the stairs to Butler’s third-floor office. That someone disturbed, the targeted files might mean nothing sinister. He would tell Butler first thing about the discovery. Protect himself from this thug’s witch hunt.
He didn’t have to share his suspicions. The poor woman needed the money. Besides Butler and his crew, who cared about the files’ information? She removed nothing. She must have copied something or read it to pass along later. If the files contained information delicate to security, they would be marked.
Someone accessed the file. Butler had no right to hear anything else. But he should make Butler aware of Captain Ross having the Sänger file. Let him take care of himself.