In the hallway outside conference room B, the Sergeant passed Captain Jackson a stack of documents. Jackson frowned as he studied the top page. “So, there is no Major Ross assigned to the Tribunal.”
“No, sir, there is a Captain Ross, but no Major.”
“I heard some confusion among them as well concerning that same point.”
The Sergeant nodded. “Guy couldn’t even remember his rank himself.”
“But I know Sergeant Harrison. We worked together. How about him? He also works at the Tribunal.”
“They’ve told me quite a tale. While I gather more from them, can you also check on a Colonel Butler. Not sure what his specific assignment is, but he works from the Tribunal building.”
“He’s in your office now. Needs to talk to you. Says it’s urgent.”
Jackson’s eyebrows rose. “Here?”
“This is convenient. Sergeant, tell the men in there I’ve been detained. Should be with them shortly.”
Jackson marched to his office, where George and Mundt waited outside his door. As he arrived, Mundt sneered at him, while George opened the door. Inside, Butler, seated in a chair before his desk, rose. “Captain Jackson, I think you have a situation I might remedy.”
Jackson scowled. “Colonel Butler?”
Butler smiled, passed a badge wallet to Jackson. “Here’s my identification.”
“Yes, I’m out of uniform, but that’s the nature of my work.”
Jackson nodded as he handed Butler back his wallet. “You mentioned a situation?”
“My unit has a sensitive operation underway. I believe it is being compromised by foreign agents.”
“Really? Foreign agents? And that concerns us?”
“I can’t share all the details. It’s classified, but I can give you a summary of what is happening.” He gestured to Jackson’s desk chair. “Our operation is classified, but I can share with you what I believe in happening here.”
Jackson shuffled behind the desk, beckoned Butler to the chair he had occupied. “Okay. What’s going on?”
“We learned that Russian agents discovered our operation. They mean to compromise it to establish themselves within our system.”
“I’m not sure how. Perhaps claiming that we are engaged in a human trafficking scheme or some other nonsense.”
Jackson cocked his head. “And gain credibility themselves by exposing it.”
“Interesting tale, but what would be our role. We deal with crooks, bandits, and black marketeers. Espionage is not our area.”
“If you could detain these guys for two days. Give us time to complete the operation. Then we could arrange for the appropriate handling of their case.”
“And I should merely take your word for this?”
“No. Not at all.” Butler pushed the phone across to Jackson. “Call General McNarney. He’ll vouch for me. Give you all the authority you need.”
“Call the General?”
“Do you have his number?”
“I have the number for his offices.”
Jackson flipped through a file box on his desk. Retrieved a card and dialed. “This is Captain Jackson, Constabulary. Yes, I’ll hold.” Jackson drummed his fingers on the desktop, while holding the phone to his ear.
With an exasperated snort, Butler thrust out his hand. “Let me speak to them.”
Jackson passed the phone to Butler.
Butler smirked, sat up straight. “Ah, Wingate. Butler here. G-2. Need to speak with the General.” He glanced at Jackson. “Butler here, sir. Got a situation here at the Constabulary.”
“Yes, sir, one of our ops. Need their help with infiltrators. The officer here in charge needs some assurance.” He listened. “He’s right here, let me put him on.”
In the conference room Harrison leaped to his feet. “What the hell.” He paced while Willi trailed him with his eyes.
Ross shrugged. “I’m sure this Captain is checkin’ up on us. At this hour might take a while.”
Harrison tossed his hands in the air. “Meantime, Butler and his gang are gettin’ ready to strike it rich.”
“The delivery isn’t until tomorrow night. There’s plenty of time to jam a stick in his bicycle spokes.”
Captain Jackson entered. “Uh, Major Ross, may I see you a moment?”
As Ross stood, he exchanged glances with Harrison, then followed Jackson out the door.
As they marched down the hallway, Ross turned to Jackson. “This all probably seemed a bit far-fetched, but I’m sure you won’t regret followin’ up on this.”
“You’re right. I won’t.”
As they rounded a corner, they entered a cell lined corridor. The Sergeant they met at the front desk stood before one with its door opened. As they neared the open one, the Sergeant blocked their path. “I need your weapon, soldier.”
Ross stepped back. A soldier slipped up behind, jammed a gun in his back. “Wait. What the hell?”
The Sergeant said nothing as he disarmed Ross, then gestured to the opened cell.
Ross turned to Jackson. “What’s going on?”
“Initial charge is impersonating an officer, Captain, Major, whoever you are. We’ll sort out the remaining charges in the morning.”
The Sergeant shoved Ross inside before shutting the door.
Ross pressed his face against the bars. “Are you guys in on this too?”
Jackson ignored Ross’s comment. Instead turned to the Sergeant. “Get the German next.”
“What about this, Sergeant?”
“By the time we have the German safely confined, the patrol should be back. With a squad to escort him, the Sergeant should come peacefully. If not, we will at least outnumber him.”
Shortly Willi appeared escorted by the Sergeant. Willi’s eyes opened wide as he spotted Ross behind bars. The Sergeant took Willi’s arm, nodded to the open cell door across the hallway. “Have a seat in there.”
“What’s going on?”
“Don’t give me shit. Head on in there, or I’ll put ya there. You choose.”
After a squad escorted Harrison to the cell next to Ross, they left the three alone. Willi strode to his cell door. “What’s going on?”
Ross shrugged. “All they told me was that I was being charged with impersonating an officer.”
Once back in his office, Butler came from behind his desk with a bottle in hand. George grinned as he held up his coffee cup while Butler poured. “Nice work, you two. Now we can get on with it.”
As Butler moved to fill Mundt’s cup, George hoisted his mug as if offering a toast. “Damn, that was close. Mundt here smoked `em out right on time.”
Mundt smirked. “That is my job, ja?”
“And Jackson had that German’s record from when he was a cop.”
Mundt nodded. “They discharged him as unsuitable from the force in 1938.”
Butler’s eyebrows arched. “Discharged?
“That usually suggested the person may have been a Jew or a Communist. He is not a Jew.” Mundt shrugged. “So…?”
“Harrison and Ross pulled strings to get him released from the prison camp. After that, Harrison used him as an informant while he was here with the Constabulary.”
Mundt smirked. “There, you see? It all fits together. These Communists. All in it for the long game.”
Butler shook his head. “But Ross?”
Mundt shrugged. “He’s a Jew. Most of them are Communists as well.”
“So, the day after tomorrow, we send that crew in the woods packin’ to Moscow.”
George nodded. “And Comrade Joe will be eight million smackers lighter. Quite a coup boss.”
Butler grinned. “Yeah, in fact, the Major arranged a nice send-off for them tomorrow evening.”
Mundt tossed his drink back, rose. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I believe I will call it a day.”
He clicked his heels, donned his fedora, and exited.
After the door closed, Butler shook his head. “Damn, I wish he would knock that Nazi shit off.”
George shrugged as he reached for the bottle. “Old habits die hard.”
As Mundt guided his car down the darkened streets, he hummed the Horst Wessel-Lied. The tune they marched to so often during the happy times. With Ross and that Harrison safely behind bars, he intended to reward himself. Hunt down a stray street urchin.
He craned his neck as he rounded a corner, hoping he might find one on the streets even at this late hour. Yes, it seemed like ages since he had satisfied his lust. As he steered, he reached inside the glove box, making sure the chocolate bar he carried there remained untouched.
A quick glance to his left, down a side street, no one in sight. If he failed this evening, there would always be tomorrow night. And then?
Perhaps Harrison and Ross would be out of the picture for good. They interfered with Herr Fisher. The last person who dared, got shipped back to the States. While he did not himself believe they might be Russian agents, he had tainted them both. Surely, they would not remain here.
He chuckled as he imagined Harrison being sent to Russia. Even if he might be innocent, Stalin sent countless innocents to the Gulag. What would one or even two more matter?
Paused at an intersection, his eyes studied both side streets. In the shadows, he saw movement. A child? He turned in that direction. His headlights, lighting the way, illuminated a dog trotting on the sidewalk. Its eyes reflected his headlights as it glanced back in his direction.
A car approached from ahead. He slowed while steering to one side to avoid it. Instead of moving to the street’s opposite side, the oncoming car swerved in his direction. As he slammed on the brakes, men with guns drawn emerged from the other vehicle. At the same time, headlights appeared in his rearview mirror.
“Hands where we can see them.” One gunman called out, while his comrade leveled his pistol at Mundt.
Bandits? Hi-jackers? With the Constabulary patrolling, such acts in the city had been rare. A shiver ran down his spine as he considered what they might want. While he had a gun, any movement to draw it might trigger the one aiming at him to fire.
A tap on his window prompted him to turn. Beside the car, another man gestured with his pistol. “Step out of the car with your hands in the air.”
As Mundt complied, the man spun him around before shoving him against the car. “Place your hands on your head.” The man shoved his pistol in Mundt’s back as his hands patted him down. After finding Mundt’s weapon, the man jerked it from the shoulder holster beneath his coat.
“Has superman wet his pants yet?” A voice asked from the darkness.
The man behind him chuckled. “Not yet, Ari. Perhaps later.”
Werner’s fingers ached from gripping the steering wheel. Paused at the cabin turnoff, the truck idled as the sentry stepped out of the shadow. Leonov rolled down his window as the guard neared. He glanced back at the second truck, grinned. “Party’s about ready?”
Leonov brought up the long-barreled pistol, pulled the trigger. The guard’s eyes opened wide, then he glanced down at the dart stuck in his chest. As his knees buckled, dropping him to the ground, Leonov emerged from the truck. As he dragged the unconscious man to the roadside, men cloaked in white smocks piled out the back and slipped into the surrounding forest.
Once back inside the truck’s cab, Leonov turned on his portable radio. He turned to Werner. “We wait here until they are in place.”
“Will there be shooting?”
“Only if they shoot first.”
Werner released his grip from the steering wheel, shoved his cap back on his head. His brow wet with sweat despite the cold.
“Are you afraid?”
“Good, that keeps you alert.” Leonov patted Werner’s thigh. “This part is easy. Getting them to the Russian zone? That might prove challenging.”
Leonov’s radio clicked three times. He grinned. Nodded to the man lying on the roadside. “He must have been the only one. Either they are stupid or cheap. Let’s go.”