PACT WITH THE DEVIL

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CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Mundt shifted in the chair before Butler’s desk, uncomfortable with the man’s stare as he gave his report. “As Major Worth claimed, Ross had the Sänger file.” Mundt passed a sheet across the desk to Butler. As Butler read, a scowl crept over his face. “I copied this list he had there as well.”

Butler held up the paper. “You’re sure?”

Mundt nodded. “Identical to the one that my contact passed on to the Russians.”

“Where did he get it?”

“He is close to that Jewish partisan in the file room.”

“Partisan?”

“The pretty brunette. Justine. The partisans worked closely with the Russians. Could she be a Russian agent?”

Butler’s gaze made Mundt’s stomach churn. “I thought you penetrated the Russian network. That other one in the file room is theirs and yours correct?”

Mundt nodded.

“Perhaps there are two networks.”

“I will find out.”

“That’s your job. On your way out, send in George.”

After Mundt exited, a burly blond man entered. Butler passed him the list. Once he glanced at it, he frowned. “What about it?”

“Mundt found it on Ross’s desk.”

“The guy runnin’ the Doctors’ trial?”

Butler nodded.

“What the fuck is he doin’ with this list?”

“Find out.”

*****

As Justine descended the Ministry stairs at the end of her workday, at the stair’s base, Lowe stood beside Ari’s car. He doffed his hat, gave her a half bow while opening the rear passenger door. “May I offer you dinner?”

After Justine slipped into the back seat, Lowe moved in beside her. The young man who drove before sat behind the wheel. Lowe turned to Justine. “Is Heinrich’s satisfactory?”

“Of course. The food is marvelous.”

Lowe chuckled. “The floor show may not be as good this time. Freda made me promise to behave myself before she would accept my reservation.”

“And you are a man of your word?”

His eyebrows arched, his eyes twinkled. “Have you cause to doubt me?”

He tapped the driver’s shoulder. “Pyotr, we are going to Heinrich’s.”

Once the car pulled into traffic, Lowe turned to Justine. “You have a problem?”

“I am not sure it’s a problem. But Captain Ross seemed disturbed last night. I believe it had something to do with Ari. Could it be the list I gave him to pass on?”

Lowe frowned. “What did your Captain say?”

He wouldn’t give me details. Said the people involved were dangerous.”

“Dangerous?”

“He said they attempted to kill an informant and had another deported to cover themselves. He feared if they discovered my involvement, I might be in danger.”

He patted her on the arm. “I’m sorry for your distress, but Ari keeps me in the dark about many things. Especially dealings with the Amis.”

“Where is he?”

“It’s that Nakam bunch again. He’s convinced they might launch that Plan B of theirs.”

“The poisoning?”

Lowe nodded. “Specifically, we do not know their plans, but they can be monsters if unchecked.” He shook his head. “Will the hatred spawned by those Nazi maniacs ever stop?”

*****

As Werner’s truck pulled up beside the cabin, the tall wavy-haired man at his side scanned the surroundings. Werner, in turn, studied his companion. Would his muscular physique from his years of service as a Naval Scout arouse suspicions with the men guarding the cabin? He hoped not for both their sakes. Long used to dealing with shady characters, the people involved in this whole enterprise, made the hair stand up on his neck. With a broad, well-shaped nose and granite-like chin, Viktor Leonov’s handsome face seemed more German than Slavic. His eyes narrowed as he peered into the dense surrounding forest, lit only by moonlight. “The only guard is at the junction with the main road?”

Werner nodded. “He is the only one I have seen. There might be others in the woods, but they never show themselves.”

“And you deliver every week?”

“Yes. Food and liquor.”

“But you told your handler you brought whores.”

“One time only. Two weeks ago.”

His companion’s eyes narrowed. “And that delivery required two trucks?”

“Of course. Not enough room for supplies and doxies in one.”

“Suggest they need another visit.”

“But…”

“You are a capitalist, yes?”

“I am a loyal party member. But I must provide for my family.”

“Use your bourgeois charm to persuade them. What do they call it? Salesmanship, right?”

The light streaming from the opened cabin door interrupted their conversation. Leonov slipped the Schmeizer beneath the seat. Werner nodded to Leonov’s pistol. “You had best conceal the Tokayev as well?”

Leonov grinned as he slipped the black automatic pistol beneath the seat as well. “You don’t think they would believe a member of the master race captured such a fine weapon?”

As the Major strode out onto the porch, Werner and Leonov moved to the truck’s cargo bed. With a food crate cradled in his arms, Leonov climbed the stairs. The Major scowled as Leonov stepped into the light. Stepped into Leonov’s path. Called over Leonov’s shoulder to Werner coming up from behind lugging a box. “Where’s Bert?

Werner his head. “Drunk.”

The Major gave Leonov an appraising glance. “You don’t look skinny enough to be a German.”

“I was a prisoner in Britain. Just returned.”

The Major scoffed. “Sat on your ass while your buddies got the shit kicked out of `em.”

Leonov shrugged. “Fortunes of war.”

The Major stepped aside, allowing the two men through the door.

Leonov paused, holding his crate. Scanned the room, setting as many details to memory as he could manage. To his right, under a haze of tobacco smoke, four men drank while playing cards. In a setting room on the left, two other men sat in easy chairs. One read a book while the other thumbed through a magazine. He wrinkled his nose as the aroma of cooked cabbage drifted from the kitchen near the cabin’s rear. He turned to the Major. “Should I take the food to the kitchen?”

“Sure.” The Major turned to Werner. “At least this guy ain’t as lazy as your other buddy.”

After carrying his crate to the kitchen, Leonov and Werner continued shuttling boxes inside until the truck stood empty. While the Major counted out currency with Werner at his side, one man left the card game. With a bottle and glass in hand, he approached Leonov. He held up the container. “May I offer a drink to a fellow soldier?”

The Major paused in his counting. “Sit your ass down. I ain’t havin’ no master race reunions here.”

The man shrugged, returned to the game. As the Major passed the bills to Werner, he nodded his thanks. “It has been a while since these men had female companionship.”

“You pimpin’ now?”

“No, but the person who supplied the last young ladies, wondered if they might expect a return visit soon.”

“High demand?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Lotta guys wantin’ the service?”

Werner shrugged. “It took a bit of work to arrange the last visit. The supplier did not want to merely send anyone off the street. Believed you deserved quality.”

The Major scanned the men seated in the adjacent rooms, scoffed. “These guys? They’re lucky they get anything besides their fists. But to maintain harmony, how about next week?”

As Werner tucked the money into his jacket pocket, he nodded. “I will pass on the word.”

*****

Back on the main road, Werner pulled over at the next intersection. After retrieving his pistol from beneath the seat, Leonov stepped out of the cab. “Wait here. I need to check the woods.”

From the truck bed, he removed a white smock, which he slipped on over his jacket. Once he pulled the hood over his head, he screwed the silencer from his pocket into the pistol’s barrel. With the gun in hand, he trotted back down the main road. His footsteps the only sound as huge snowflakes drifted down.

As he neared the cabin turn off, he veered off into the brush lining the road. With measured tread, he slipped through the woods until he came to a path heading up the hill. As he slipped from tree to tree, he paused to scan his surroundings. Once confident he had no company, he moved to the next cover. Nowhere did he detect movement or any other signs of life. He proceeded in this manner until he reached the clearing surrounding the cabin. Again, he moved along the clearing’s perimeter until he had circled the cabin.

After heading downhill on the road’s opposite side, he again surveyed the surrounding woods for additional guards. Sure none existed, he crossed the road above the posted sentry.

Back at the truck, he removed his smock, tossed it into the truck bed, and climbed back into the cab.

Werner shivered as he started the truck. “Were there any other guards?”

“It does not appear so.” As the truck rolled back onto the main road, Leonov unscrewed the silencer. Slipped the gun back into his shoulder holster. Leaned back against the seat and ran over the cabin’s layout in his mind.

*****

As Ross and Harrison climbed the stairs to their office, General Taylor’s aide met them on the stairs. “Sir, the General wants to see you.”

Ross and Harrison exchanged glances. Ross turned back to the aide. “Right now?”

“ASAP.”

As he trailed the aide up the stairs, Ross called over his shoulder. “You might start on our new project while I’m gone.”

In the hallway leading to Taylor’s office, they passed George, the blond man working for Butler. He sneered at Ross without a word. Without knocking, Taylor’s aide opened the General’s door and beckoned Ross inside. Taylor rolled his eyes as he returned Ross’s salute. “Two things, Ross. First, congratulations Major, they approved your promotion.”

A grin spread on Ross’s face. “Thank you, sir.”

Taylor passed a small box across to him. “These were my gold oak leaves. I would appreciate it if you would accept them along with my congratulations.”

After glancing inside the box, Ross looked up. “You mentioned two things?”

“Yes. If you recall, I cautioned you about contact with Butler and his crew.”

“Yes, sir.”

“One of his people stopped in. Asked me if you expanded the Doctors’ trial scope.”

Ross’s brow furrowed. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“The man said you removed certain files related to their operation.”

“Did he say which files?”

“A Sänger. I reviewed the list of defendants in your trial and didn’t see that name.”

“We’ve had a lot of material delivered to our office in the last week. They make mistakes. I would need to check what we have to see if that file got delivered to us.”

“That won’t be necessary. Apparently, Butler’s people retrieved the file already, but wanted to make sure your work and theirs weren’t crossing.”

“I’m sorry if this has caused you concern. Rest assured, if we officially expanded our investigation, I would discuss that with you.”

Taylor’s brow furrowed. “Very good.” Then as if shaking off the thought, he smiled. “Again, congratulations.

*****

When Ross slammed the office door behind him, Harrison’s head snapped up. “Something wrong?”

“Butler found out about the Sänger file.”

“What?”

At his desk, Ross set down the box with his gold oak leaves before snatching up a stack of folders. Thumbed through them. “Damn, it’s gone.” He moved to the door. After opening it, he examined the frame and the latch. “Either they have a key, or they picked the lock.”

“But how did they find out we had the file?”

“From the checkout card. I filled it in when I picked up the file.”

Harrison leaned back in his chair. “But still. Of all those files down there… Shit, they must watch `em.”

“Why? If they wanted the stuff kept secret, why not keep the thing in their office?”

“If someone found it in their office, it might look suspicious.”

“So, they hide it in plain sight.”

“No matter what, they know, we looked in it.”

Harrison nodded. “Think they might pull somethin’ on us?”

“I’m not gonna wait and see. Any luck with your end?”

“While I waited for you to get back, they assigned me to the Constabulary?”

“Does this fall in their jurisdiction?”

“What don’t?” Harrison nodded at the tiny box Ross set on the desk. “That a ring for your girl?”

Ross scooped up the box. Flipped it open. Held it out to Harrison.

Harrison peered down, glanced up, and grinned. “This mean I gotta start salutin’?”

“Couldn’t hurt. Especially around company?”

Harrison rose. After taking the box from Ross, he pinned the oak leaves on Ross’s shirt before giving him a snappy salute. “You know senior officers rate Master Sergeants as aides.”

“We survive the next few days in one piece, I might consider it.”

Harrison nodded. “True. With Butler’s gang on our trail, not sure what they might pull.”

“Like you said before, neither one of us is runnin’ for public office.”

“Willi thinks they tried to kill him. S`pose we rate better treatment?”

“They use folks who murdered millions. What’s a few more?”

*****

Mundt raised the scarf, so only his eyes showed. As he stomped his feet and huddled down deep in his coat, he wished he had established a procedure for contacting Martha. Arranged some signal so they might meet in a warm spot. Instead, he had to catch her here on her way home. While the scarf might conceal his identity to passers-by, it also protected him from the chilling breeze, drifting the coal-blackened snow down the street.

As Martha rounded the corner, they came face to face. At first, she gasped, stepped back, but when he lowered the scarf slightly, a smile spread over her face. “Herr Mundt.”

He clutched her elbow. Escorted her down the street to a shadowed doorway out of the wind. “Is something wrong?”

Mundt tightened his grip on her arm. She flinched. “You’re hurting me.”

“I apologize. There have been disturbing developments.”

Her eyes opened wide. “But…”

“Have you talked with anyone in your office about the work you did for the Russians?”

“No, of course not?”

“Not even the girls in the office?”

“I don’t understand. What’s wrong?”

“Not even the Rothstein woman?”

“Justine?”

“Yes, her.”

“No. None of them.”

Mundt clutched her shoulders, shoved her back against the wall. “She is involved with that man working the Doctors’ trial.”

Martha nodded. “Captain Ross. And Gretchen is dating his Sergeant.”

Mundt’s eyes narrowed as he recalled the humiliation with the boy. Harrison’s threats. The woman, Gretchen, had been there as well. “And you never mentioned the work you did for the Russian to either?”

“No, never. All we talk about is women things, nothing more. Have they said anything?”

He ignored her question. “Has the Russian contacted you since you passed on the film?”

“If he had, I would have informed you.”

After releasing her from his grasp, he shoved her out of the doorway. “Go home. In the future, if I need to talk, I will come to your office at lunchtime. If so, meet at the cafe, as we discussed before.”

As she trudged away, he raised the scarf before heading off in the opposite direction. There must be a second network in that office, but which one? And if so, why Ross and his Sergeant? Could they be Russian agents? Ross, the Jew, it fit.

Besides pleasing Fisher with his information, exposing Ross and his Sergeant had many advantages. First, it would negate Harrison’s blackmail. Allow Mundt to pursue his pleasures as he saw fit. Also, avenge the humiliation he experienced from Ross down to his current predicament. Instead of relaxing at home like other veterans or moving to countries where he might find more acceptance, he must serve at beck and call of this grubby Fisher.

Despite the bitter cold around him, the victory he might soon achieve warmed him as he marched to set his plan in motion.

*****

George ran his hand over his face as he dropped into the vacant chair before Butler’s desk.

Butler’s eyebrows rose. “Well?”

“Taylor met with Ross about the file. Ross claimed it somehow got mixed in with stuff the file room sent up.” Finished with his report, George leaned back in the chair setting before Butler’s desk.

“But that doesn’t account for the list.”

“I didn’t mention that to Taylor. Figured if we revealed that, he’d realize we did more than go into Ross’s office after the file.”

With his arms resting on the chair rests, Butler steepled his fingers before his face. His brow furrowed. “Good point. No sense drawing more attention to our project either.”

A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. After Mundt entered, he doffed his fedora, clicked his heels before the desk, and gave a half bow.

“Goddammit, I told you to knock that Nazi shit off.”

Mundt slouched. “Forgive me. In my excitement to share my news, old habits crept in.”

“News?”

“Jawohl, Mein Herr. Excuse me. I meant yes, sir.”

“What is it?”

“I identified the Russian’s second network.”

A smile crept over Butler’s face. “Who?”

“It is either Captain Ross or Sergeant Harrison. Or it could be both.”

“Ross?”

“Yes.”

Butler frowned, turned to George. “Shit.”

“He and Harrison both snoop around us. Remember, he stirred up Bradshaw.”

Butler nodded. “He and his Sergeant have teamed up for quite a while. In fact, when they worked together in the prison camp. They pulled a few shenanigans to get prisoners released.”

George cocked an eyebrow. “Really? They get charged?”

“Nothing I could prove. I suspected they did some shady things to get the guards’ discharges expedited.”

“Foster goes drinking with Harrison. He told me that Harrison pulled a lot of strings to land this assignment back with Ross.”

“And Ross poked his nose into one of our operations in New York. Covered it by hanging with a bunch of his old cop colleagues.”

Butler turned to Mundt. “This is serious. How did you discover this nugget?”

“One of my agents. The new handler told her.”

“Just said, oh, by the way, Ross and his Sergeant are agents as well?”

Mundt threw back his shoulders. “Of course not. Apparently, this new handler is a real lady’s man. Likes to bed his female agents. While engaged in pillow talk, the handler mentioned that they would have other people verifying the list. He didn’t mention names…”

Butler’s eyes narrowed. “But Ross and his Sergeant somehow got it.”

Mundt nodded.

Butler opened a desk drawer, withdrew a bottle. Beckoned Mundt to the remaining vacant chair before his desk. As he poured a glass, he nodded toward the sideboard. “Why don’t you two grab coffee cups?” He hoisted the bottle. “Sounds like we got some things to do to keep our little project working.”

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