ODDS AGAINST, PART 2
Late June 1939
"Come in, Lieutenant Hutchinson," the general ordered from behind his desk. Briskly Hutch entered the spacious office and came to attention with a crisp Academy-trained salute. Off-handedly the Brigadier waved his hand at his forehead and motioned the tense lieutenant to a chair in front of his desk.
Stiffly Hutch settled gingerly on the edge of the leather-padded luxury of the chair. Young lieutenants didn't get called into Brigadier General's offices every day, especially one that was attached to the office of the Secretary of War. Hutch studied this general as much as was possible. He was not impressive if one didn't look at the stars on his shoulders--just a middle-aged, slightly balding, slender individual. If Hutch had met him on the street in civies, he wouldn't have noticed him at all. It was the gleaming stars that kept Hutch on the edge of his seat.
"Relax, Lieutenant," the general muttered. "Generals do not eat young, green lieutenants for breakfast, no matter what the rumors say." The unimposing gentleman shuffled the file on his desk, then began speaking in soft, modulated tones.
"Lieutenant Kenneth Hutchinson, born Duluth, Minnesota in 1913." The general paused and looked speculatively at the ramrod straight young officer before continuing. "Hmmm... quite good grades at the Academy. Ranked in the top fourth of your class, graduated 1934." With a twinkle, the general added, "I didn't do quite so well, somewhere near the middle, if I remember correctly." Then General Morton laughed whole-heartedly. "Lieutenant, please relax."
Reluctantly Hutch settled down in the leather padded chair. He would have preferred to be at attention--then at least he knew the procedure.
"Tell me, what do you think of the situation in Europe?"
"I think the continent is ripe for war, sir."
"What do you think of the United State's involvement in a European conflict?"
"I don't think we're ready militarily--or at least as far as air power is concerned. I've been looking at the war in Spain and the Germans have some pretty impressive planes, especially the Messerschmidts." Hutch was beginning to feel more and more like a cadet. The general was throwing questions at him, expecting well thought-out answers. The teachers at the Academy might be posing the same questions to this year's cadets.
"Hmmm...So you wouldn't recommend the United States enter this war?"
"It's not for me to say. If I'm sent to fight, I'll do my damnedest. I think the American fighting man is as good as any. But I am concerned about our hardware. I spent some time on the Texas desert a couple of years ago, and the tank men I talked to thought the Panzer was a much superior tank."
"Then I think you can understand why we don't want an incident that will hasten the American involvement?"
"You have spent the last 18 months stationed at Fort Irwin in the California desert, haven't you? I can understand that it would not be a favorite assignment for a young buck like you."
"Teaching young G2 recruits the basics of flying?"
"Not quite happy with your post?"
"No, sir...er yes, sir."
"Lieutenant, please speak plainly."
"Well, I've blown off a bit of steam here and there about the quality of the pilots. But everyone has the right to bitch, sir."
"Yes, Lieutenant, you are quite right. However, on your next assignment you will have to work quite closely with some of those `fumble fingered idiots' you spoke of so lovingly."
Hutch looked up, startled, wondering where the general had gotten his information. After having spent the past few months in the training facility in Virginia, he had a lot more respect for the intelligence operations of G2. Now he was getting the feeling there had been more research done on him than he thought possible. But where was it all going? Why was he here basically interviewing with a general from the War Office? It still wasn't making any sense. But lieutenants don't ask generals to please get down to brass tacks, they listen respectfully. So Hutch was prepared to listen.
"Uh...I meant idiots in the air, sir," he said at last.
The general chuckled. "But you could work with an outfit of idiots couldn't you? Especially if you could do the flying, right?"
"Yes, sir!" The past few months had been grueling, but he felt that he might be able to pull his weight on almost any covert operation G2 was involved in. He had spent these months in a training atmosphere more physically demanding than any he had ever experienced.
"Well, bearing our conversation in mind, go down the hall and report to Briefing Room 6. Colonel Jorgenson and Major Henderson will fill you in on the details of your assignment."
Hutch rose and snapped, "Yes, sir." Then he briskly saluted and turned on his heel and headed for the door.
After Hutch left, the general punched a button on his desk and said deferentially, "You heard, sir?"
"Yes," a faintly accented voice answered over the intercom. "Seems like ideal officer material. I only hope that he can get that other young man out of the situation he has gotten himself into."
"Ideal officer material except for a few bad habits. Both of them," the general replied.
"If that young man in Germany has developed what Dr. Stannick thinks he has, we need him here. If the price of his research is fucking politicians, I'll get down on my hands and knees for him. In the wrong hands, that development could spell defeat for this country, General Morton."
"Yes, sir," the general answered. His tone was clearly mollified.
* * *
Hutch sat in the briefing room at a small round table with a tall, red-haired colonel, who was studying fuzzy black and white photos that were flashing across a screen mounted on the wall in front of him. Vaguely he heard the whoosh of the projector. Each one was a different shot of the same man. Hutch knew those features. He watched patiently and silently, wondering what was going on. His Academy training kept him from blurting out some inane comment while his normal powers of observation began to kick in. He first noticed that Starsky seemed to be uneasy in the situations. The figure on the screen lacked his normal exuberance. Then the setting began to look unfamiliar. Finally it clicked...the setting of the pictures were off because they were foreign. What? A foreign country? Yes, that must be it!
"In brief, Lieutenant Hutchinson, this is your assignment: Find this man and bring him back to the States," the colonel stated, fingering the file in front of him. "I will turn you over to Major Henderson for a complete briefing." Without further explanation the Colonel rose, and Hutch moved with him, throwing a smart salute. The colonel returned it and left the room, leaving the door open for a short, swarthy man wearing a major's gold leaf to enter. Hutch again saluted stiffly. He was doing more saluting today than he had done since the Academy.
After returning Hutch's salute, the major held out his hand, and began speaking with a soft southwestern accent, his complexion belying his Anglo name. "Lieutenant Hutchinson, my name is George Henderson. I'll be briefing you on this mission."
Hutch took the outstretched hand. "Pleased to meet you."
"Good; let's get right down to business, Hutch. I may call you Hutch? I noticed in your records that all your colleagues call you Hutch."
Hutch nodded. "Yeah, let's get on with it."
"Presumably you recognized the pictures that Colonel Jorgenson showed you a few minutes ago?"
"Yes, Dr. Starsky is a friend of mine."
"Were you aware that Dr. Starsky was going to Europe this spring?"
"No, I wasn't aware of any plans like that. I think he would have told me if he'd had any."
"Well...your friend left the country at the beginning of April. He went to Germany. Would you have any idea why?"
"No. Though I wouldn't have been surprised if he had gone to France at the end of the spring term. He has a sister there touring with a jazz band. He was concerned about there being a war, and that she might be in the combat zone or something. But Germany! He's a Jew for God's sake! Would Elise have something to do with this?"
"We're not sure. She was beaten and assaulted in a back alley in Paris a couple of weeks before he left."
"It would make sense if he went to Paris then, not Berlin or Germany."
"However, the ticket purchased in his name was for Bremen, Germany. We have reason to believe that he might been have coerced into leaving the country."
"As a friend of his, I would have thought that you would know that he was engaged in some very sensitive research."
"I asked him what went on in his lab. We joked about creating another monster for Frankenstein. But he always said that I didn't want to know. So I left it at that."
"Hmmm...sounds like he was being discreet with you. It seems that possibly his assistant wasn't quite so discreet. In fact, we have reason to believe she might be working for the German government. Did you know her?"
"Only through her atrocious recipes."
"Huh?" Henderson cast Hutch a piercing frown.
"Only in the fact that occasionally Starsky would fix some awful meal and blame Anna for the recipes. I never met the woman. Starsk indicated to me that she was a competent assistant. It never went further than that."
"Back on track, lieutenant," the swarthy major snapped.
"Yes, sir. I was only trying to remember if I had ever seen her."
"And have you?"
"No, we never went near the campus when I had a weekend pass. Why all this fuss about Starsky? Why have I been called in here and questioned by a general?"
"You were never aware of Dr. Starsky's line of research?"
"No, never," Hutch flatly denied.
"I don't know all the details, but it seems as though your er... friend, while researching pesticides, stumbled onto a substance that could have terrible applications in the area of chemical weapons. He tried to destroy all the evidence, but the head of his department found some notes that had accidentally slipped behind a file cabinet in his office. The implications horrified Dr. Stannick. When he couldn't locate Dr. Starsky, he made it known to the government. So if your young friend is working for the German government, he could cause us some grave problems. We still aren't sure if he left on his own, or on some mistaken quest, or if the bucks were big enough to tempt him. We do know that he is employed by I.G. Farben Chemical Works near Stuttgart. He has been there for the past month. He seems to be moving around freely. Some of the General Staff think that he just might have been paid enough to overlook the inequities practiced on Jews in that country."
"For God's sake, Major, the man is Jewish, and from what I hear the Fatherland doesn't treat Jews all that well...brilliant scientist or not. And Starsky was the one giving me the lecture on the treatment of Jews in Germany. He didn't go for the money."
"Our man on site has not been able to contact him. He finally had to return to the Embassy in Berlin. We thought perhaps you could make this contact. You must convince him to come out with you." The "or" was left unspoken.
"Or what...You're going to kill him, aren't you?" Hutch roared and leaped to his feet.
"Lieutenant, sit down. That's an order."
"If your young friend cannot be gotten out, yes, he will be killed. If he is a traitor, then he is not the man you thought. If he is being abused, then he might be better off. We do know what they do to Jews in that country. Perhaps more than you do. And certainly more than the general public knows."
Hutch sat and gazed out the fly-spotted window. He got up and began pacing the floor. He hadn't received any answers to his letters to Starsky the past few weeks. He had assumed that the scientist had gotten very involved in his research. It was not unknown for that to happen. He knew there were times Starsky never went home, sleeping at the lab to watch over critical experiments. The lack of communication had not been unusual.
Damn, he hadn't realized that what his high-spirited friend had been doing could get him into a situation with international implications. It all seemed to be something out of a bad spy novel. The man with the twinkling blue eyes had always spoken off-handedly of creating monsters or researching vampires. For a moment Hutch felt a flicker of annoyance that Starsk hadn't confided in him; but it passed as quickly as it had come. The scientist in his lover couldn't reveal his lab findings. The spy Hutch was becoming understood.
Oh God, Starsky loved monster films about mad scientists. Now he was cast in that role, but the implications were mind-numbing. It might have been amusing if he had felt like laughing.
Shaking his head as he paced the room in the silence afforded by the major, he knew without doubt that he had to find Starsk. During the last few weeks he found that he really did want to resign so he could spend his life with the volatile scientist. During their acquaintance the relationship somehow had slid from lust to love.
"Do I have a chance?" he finally questioned.
"Perhaps. You are well qualified for the job. You speak the language to a degree. You know the professor. You might be able to make contact without arousing too many suspicions too soon. You will have the support of MI6. MI6 has some very close contacts in the region. There are a lot of `ifs', Lieutenant. We think Dr. Starsky and his research is worth the effort. However, the odds are heavily against you. Do you want to be a part of it?"
"Excellent," the Major briskly commented. "Come along downstairs. We'll get you kitted out. General Morton has had your orders cut. You'll officially transfer to our Embassy in Berlin. But before you take your post you will want to do a bit of sightseeing. Isn't that right, Lieutenant?"
Hutch could only nod. The swiftness of his involvement stunned him, and he kept his mouth shut.
While moving down the stairs, then down a dingy hall at a rapid pace, the major continued his briefing. "The British Secret Service has a man in Stuttgart. He has been funneling reports to us via London. One department of MI6 is ready to make a try for the professor. We have asked them to wait for you. The canny Scot running that department isn't pleased, but there have been discussions in some very rarified realms."
"I'm not sure I understand?" Hutch frowned. "Why insist on waiting for me? I'm completely inexperienced."
"Well, for a couple of reasons: One, our boss wants a finger in the pie. He doesn't want the US to be completely shut out of the information received. Also you have some unique qualifications...foremost of which is your friendship with the subject. Frankly, it is thought if it comes down to the abduction of an unwilling subject, you might make it that much easier."
Again Hutch could only nod. Assisting in the abduction of his lover was not high on his list of things to do. He would go along with this charade since he was absolutely sure that Starsky was being held against his will. He understood that both governments had to cover all the bases. But he had only one concern--the safe return of David Starsky.
"Study the records on file here. Then we'll get down to the nitty gritty of your cover. Another thought might be that along with your sightseeing tour of Germany, you might be hunting some of your mother's family. It is your mother that has a German heritage?" Hutch again nodded. He had scoffed at the competence of G2, but now he was wondering where all this information had come from. They had his life, chapter and verse, as well as Starsky's.
The major started to turn away at the door to the Records Room toward the young WAAC in charge then changed his mind, "Remember this, Hutchinson--you will be pretty much on your own. The United States can't afford an incident that will start this war prematurely. Any incident that upsets the Third Reich will be disavowed at all levels. You'll hang alone. I want to make sure that you understand."
Hutch nodded. This was the same speech that General Morton had given him a while ago. Do the job and don't involve the good ol' U. S. of A.
"So General Morton intimated."
"I just want to emphasize this to you before you go in," the Major returned, "G2 is prepared to throw you to the wolves and go for your scientist any way that they can." There was nothing Hutch could say to this. He was simply happy to have the opportunity of going to Germany with even a bit of help and sanction from his superiors. He would have gone anyway, but this made it easier. If he wasn't successful, he didn't care if he was thrown to the wolves.
After that pretty speech, the major introduced Hutch to the sergeant in charge of the files. As he left he said, "Come back upstairs in about an hour to pick up your orders and travel vouchers."
* * *
It was nearly a week later when the four huge engines of the Yankee Clipper droned as Hutch tried to study the papers in his possession. After all the study in Washington, he nearly knew the file by heart. But still he flipped through the file, not really able to take his mind's eye off the photos of Starsk. He had seemed to be walking the streets of the small German village. But the body language in the pictures told of defeat. Hutch felt it would take a lot to defeat David Starsky.
Many of the shots had shown him in the company of a bull-necked Aryan type. One photo had shown this muscled figure clutching Dave above the elbow. David had been grimacing into the hidden camera. Had the fucker been hurting Starsk? It was unknown. The latest photos had been wired back only hours before he left Washington. These photos had been forwarded from an MI6 resident agent in Stuttgart. MI6 had agents scattered throughout the Third Reich.
The trim stewardess in her crisp pseudo-military uniform staggered down the narrow aisle between the rows of seats. She was asking everyone to tighten their belts as the weather was a bit rough over the rocky island that was their refueling stop. Hutch automatically checked his belt and glanced up into her startling green eyes. She smiled, and getting no reaction from the handsome blond, passed on to the next passenger. Hutch had noticed she had had her hands full with some of the passengers' airsickness and others' multiple questions about the new-fangled overseas air travel.
Hutch's distraction waned as she continued back to the galley. During the briefing with Henderson, it was decided that he would play the role of American Military Playboy. Henderson's one comment was that it was too bad he flew airplanes instead of riding polo ponies. Since his father had made a great deal of money during the depression years, it would not have been inconceivable for him to be that type of soldier. Because Hutch wouldn't accede to one of the fancy eastern private schools and had opted instead to take an appointment to West Point, his father had cut him off without a penny. But fate had intervened. Hutch's grandfather died just before his appointment came through, leaving him a sizable independent income. He had never had to depend on either his father or the Army pittance.
So with Major Henderson's blessings and some astute string-pulling by General Morton, he had used some of his own money to fly the ultra-new passenger route across the Atlantic. He would make the crossing in just over one day instead of a near week of the fastest passenger liners.
He would land next on the misty isle of Ireland. After that followed a much shorter hop to London where he would meet up with someone from the British Secret Service. This agent might have more information on the lab at Stuttgart. Eventually Hutch would go to the Templehoff airport and finish his trip by rail to Stuttgart.
He started packing away the unlooked-at file as he felt the plane begin its descent to the island for refueling. His ears popped as the altitude of the flying boat dropped then turned into landing pattern for Foynes, Ireland.
* * *
Studying the drops of rain spatter on the window, a slender man slouched against the gray metal side of a tall filing cabinet. It was one of his favorite positions when he was in the Controller's office. The Chief of Continental Operations for MI6 resided behind a massive desk. On the desk were scattered files and a teacup bearing the dried residue of Earl Grey.
"That, gentlemen, is the situation at this point. There have been some consultations in some very rarified areas of the Foreign Office," concluded the Controller, checking his teacup. He thought momentarily of ringing his secretary for more tea, but put aside the idea temporarily.
"I don't quite understand why we need the Americans in the operation at all," the man muttered, leaning against the file cabinet. "If this were strictly an MI6 operation, we could be in and out of Germany with no one the wiser."
"Only the Americans," commented the slumping, dark-haired agent seated in one of the hard oak chairs in front of the Controller's desk. The hard chairs were one reason the other agent preferred to lean against the file cabinet. During long sessions in the room, the chairs became almost unbearable on one's backside. "And the government wants to earn as much good will from the Yanks as possible."
"And that's the crux of the whole matter," the Controller responded from behind the desk. "There are some delicate negotiations going on behind the scenes with Roosevelt that are vital to our forthcoming war effort. In the American Congress there is a very strong element that favors an isolationist stance. The President would like to lean toward aiding the United Kingdom, but there are men in Congress who favor standing neutral. And some actively backing Germany."
"Bugger the American Congress," a sotto voice stated from the area of the file cabinet.
"Better you than me, sunshine," the agent sitting down retorted.
"Now, I have been looking at the records of the man that will be going to Germany. He has a close relationship with the missing scientist. That may make your job somewhat easier. At least he has a military background, graduate of West Point, and some training at their FBI facility in Virginia."
"Just a bloody amateur," from the file cabinet came the soft mutter. "I can just see us playing nanny to a General Custer."
"That's enough, Doyle," the commanding individual snapped from behind the imposing desk. "If you don't want to take the assignment, I will assign someone else to go with Bodie."
Doyle left off leaning on the file cabinet and began to pace the floor. "Naw, I'll take the assignment, but I still think the Yank should be left in London. We can go in and get the scientist. Better yet, why don't we just silence him for good?"
"You will go in and work with the American. And it is a last resort to silence the professor. If it comes to leaving him in Nazi hands and not getting him out, then you have the option of terminating him. It would be best if he were brought back. The Americans do not have a complete formula for what he was working on. Both governments would like to have that weapon." The older man paused and rose from his desk. He moved toward the ornate cabinet under the window. He did not notice that his agents stiffened and looked at one another.
He opened the cabinet and removed some glasses and a heavy crystal decanter. He frowned, and leaned down to look deeper into the cabinet. Then he turned to see only two very blank stares from the two agents. Bodie was looking intently at the hunting print over his desk. Without comment, he returned to his desk with the items he had removed from the cabinet. He continued briefing his agents.
"Also, we'd like to know how much he has given to the Hun." The Controller carefully poured a measure of his rather diminished supply of pure malt scotch in all three glasses. He shoved two across the desk to his agents who grabbed them with relief, then lifted his glass in a token salute. Both had a thought that he might know what had happened to the missing scotch. Naw...
As in any large city, London was busy and congested, so it was with difficulty Hutch finally located a taxi. The cab careened wildly through narrow streets on the wrong side of the road, neither of which did anything for the nerves of the fighter pilot. After attempting to teach "idiots" to fly, he was just as glad he didn't have this driver as a student. To his relief, the cab stopped at an unimposing, ancient stone building on a quiet street. If Hutch ever had to retrace his steps, he would hope for a homing pigeon.
He paid the driver in pound notes drawn from his wallet which was filled with almost any currency used in Europe, with more in a belt around his waist. Also hidden in the belt was a small velvet pouch of investment grade diamonds. During his stay in Washington, he had contacted an old friend of his father's through whom he had converted some of his investments into the high quality diamonds. G2 did not know of this transaction; neither would MI6. He did not want to fail because of a lack of funds when there was so much sitting in his Duluth accounts.
Looking up at the building after the cab left, Hutch wondered if one walked boldly up to offices that housed a nation's Secret Service. Finally he did simply that. At the front desk of a rather shabby reception area, a young man glanced briefly at his passport and asked him to make himself comfortable. Hutch eased himself into an ancient chesterfield wondering how long this whole procedure was going to delay him. He wanted to start exploring Germany, but knew that he needed expert assistance. He was a complete novice. If the Brits were willing to send an experienced team with him, he had better take them up on it.
"Will you come this way, `Leftenant'?" a quiet masculine voice giving his rank the English pronunciation, interrupted Hutch from his speculation regarding surreptitiously invading Germany. He looked up at a tall, dark young man who continued speaking. "You may leave your luggage with the receptionist."
"Certainly," Hutch answered, stopping to drop off his luggage behind the receptionist's desk.
The very fit-looking young man led him up some worn stairs then down a narrow hall. Stopping at an unmarked door, the young man gestured him into a small outer office where a uniformed young woman was furiously typing. She looked up as he entered and nodded him toward a solid oak chair across from her desk. She paused briefly to push a button on the intercom and say, "The American `leftenant' is here, sir." The vague tinny reply was lost in the distance between them.
With a flick of her cropped hair, she indicated that he was to pass through the door behind her desk. Hutch opened the door to a slightly larger office with windows on one side. Rising from behind a large ornate desk, was a small, balding, sandy-blond man. Coming toward Hutch he thrust out his hand, and as he moved closer, Hutch got the impression that here was a man one shouldn't mess with. His slight stature belied the presence of authority in his movements and body language.
"I am George Cowley, Lieutenant," the sandy blond figure said, giving his rank the correct American pronunciation overlaid with a rich Scottish burr. Cowley gestured to his left, and Hutch noticed for the first time two young men lounging against a steel file cabinet. "These are two of my agents, Raymond Doyle and William Bodie."
Hutch appraised them as he turned to take Doyle's outstretched hand. Doyle had an unruly mop of auburn hair which was reminiscent in style of Starsky's, Hutch noted with a twinge of pain. After shaking the proffered hand of the slender man, he turned to Bodie and grasped his hand, noting his well-fitted suit and close-cropped dark hair. Neither man reached to Hutch's height, but a feeling of competence radiated from the two as power had emanated from their slight, middle-aged commander.
Limping slightly, the older man moved back behind his desk and motioned all three younger men to chairs arranged in a semicircle in front of his desk. Shuffling the papers in front of him, Cowley did some appraising of his own. He saw a tall, rather weary, blond young man with a drilled military bearing. Warm American blue eyes met his icy Scot's ones over the desk without flinching.
Liking what he saw, the controller relaxed back in his chair and said, "Lieutenant Hutchinson, your government wants to get back an American scientist who may have developed some terrible chemical weapon. His Majesty's Government officially wants nothing to do with chemical weapons."
Hutch nodded and glanced at the two men seated with him. Both were casually listening to their boss; however, the revelation of the chemical nature of the weapon brought a raised eyebrow from the dark, brooding Bodie.
"Bearing the fact in mind that `officially' His Majesty's Government does not sanction the development or use of chemical weapons, there are certain segments concerned about the acquisition of these weapons by a potential hostile foreign power." Cowley paused and cleared his throat.
"There is one more fly in the ointment, so to speak. This department is badly funded and I can only spare two men for this assignment, Lieutenant. But that is not the critical problem. If you gentlemen run into difficulties on foreign soil, both Great Britain and the United States must disavow any knowledge of the operation."
"Bloody Operation Susie," Doyle muttered. "I might have known it."
"Yeah, it figures," Bodie answered softly to his partner. "All those years Willis spent hunting commies at Oxford when the real threat was a short, arrogant Austrian."
"Bodie!" Cowley reprimanded, not wishing to air interdepartmental politics in public. "Now, gentlemen, given those conditions, are you still willing to accept the assignment?"
Doyle and Bodie were a bit startled that the Scot was offering them any sort of choice. Ordinarily the Controller of Continental Operations gave an order, and the agent did it or died in the trying.
"Of course, sir." Both young men answered in unison.
Hutch turned to his companions, somewhat surprised at the strength of their support. His involuntary "What!" caused Doyle to shift his slender frame around to look Hutch in the eye.
"We volunteered for this mission. Didn't much care for the Hun getting somethin' this nasty." Hutch noticed Bodie raise his mismatched eyebrows at his companion. Perhaps there was some unvoiced objection from that quarter, but a quelling glare from Doyle seemed to take care of it.
"At least we know it's an Operation Susie goin' in. Unlike some operations I can remember," Bodie muttered. Turning his glare to the unperturbed Commander behind the desk, he achieved the same result. Hutch finally decided that it was an old grievance with his superior over someone or something called "Operation Susie."
"Och, enough, gentlemen," Cowley ordered. "Lieutenant, give me the papers you brought from Washington. I will need some time to get them decrypted. Bodie and Doyle will take you to their place for the night. It's probably just as well if you don't spend too much time on the loose in London considering your connection to the missing man. You may fill my men in on whatever you think would be helpful about your friend."
Hutch started at the reference, however oblique, to his relationship to Starsky.
"Easy, lad," Cowley soothed, "Your superiors filled me in on ALL the pertinent details. I had to know what might be going through your mind before I agreed to risk two of my best agents." Cowley ignored the smirk that Bodie exchanged with Doyle.
Rising from his chair, Hutch handed over the briefcase that he had been carrying for so long. Cowley held out his hand to the younger, taller blond man who gratefully shook it. "There will be another briefing at oh eight hundred tomorrow to sort out the details of the mission. Get a good night's rest, Lieutenant. You look like you could use it." Then Cowley motioned all three of them out of his office.
After retrieving the flier's meager luggage from the receptionist, the MI6 agents led the near comatose American to a small, dark green sedan behind the building. Hutch barely noticed the bright yellow roadster beside the sedan. He loved showy cars, but this one got only a passing glance. After turning over his files to Cowley, he then realized that he couldn't remember sleeping much on the flight over. Or even if he had eaten the meals provided en route.
He folded himself into the cramped back seat of the unknown vehicle while Bodie tossed his battered flight bag into the boot of the car. Hutch had absolutely no idea what passed for automobiles in this country, but noticed immediately they were not built for his frame. He leaned heavily against the window and watched London pass before his eyes without really seeing a thing.
"Yank. Oh Yank?" The young curly-headed man was leaning over the back of the front seat toward Hutch. "Are you hungry?" the man questioned. Hutch vaguely recalled he was the one called Doyle.
"I think so."
"Pull in here, Bodie," Ray Doyle gestured toward a parking spot at the curb.
The car slid to an abrupt halt before an aging brick building with a weather-beaten, swinging sign that proclaimed it to be the Brewer's Arms. After the auto settled, Hutch unfolded his long figure from the car and stumbled after the two Brits.
They entered through a heavy wooden door into a dark, smoke-filled atmosphere. The room had a low ceiling with heavy wooden beams and paneling. Bodie turned to Hutch and motioned him to a table near the wall. Doyle followed Hutch to the table as Bodie strode over to the oaken bar. He spoke briefly to the barmaid. She laughed and flashed her eyes at his handsome profile as she pulled three pints from the taps in front of her. Bodie grabbed up the glasses and headed back to the table where Hutch and Doyle sat unspeaking.
"They make the best ploughman's lunch in London," Bodie commented as he handed the beers around. Hutch took a sip of his and nearly choked. Oh God, the land of warm beer. He had forgotten. He sipped on it again, finding it much stronger than he was used to. He knew he would be drunk quickly if lunch didn't show up soon. He set his beer down and looked around the place. There was a darts match going on amidst some loud talk in an accent he was hard-pressed to understand.
On the scarred table in front of him lay a pack of unfamiliar cigarettes with a stripe-shirted sailor decorating the cover. He shook out a cigarette and a small piece of cardboard about the size of a playing card fell out along with it. He turned the card over and saw that it had the insignia of an RAF squadron with a small plane in the background. He concentrated until he jogged his tiring brain. It was called a "stringbag." Not exactly one of England's most modern aircraft. He looked up to see Bodie holding out a lighter, so he leaned forward and took a drag on the cigarette. He found that it was comparable to cigarettes State side, and he leaned back to enjoy the nicotine rush while turning the card over and over in his hand.
"Latest fad, collecting these," Bodie said, indicating the card with his blunt forefinger.
"Now, Yank," Doyle said, tapping on Hutch's hand to get his attention. "Give us a few more details about the situation?" Bodie was looking at Hutch intently as well.
Hutch proceeded to tell them what little he knew regarding Starsky's so-called disappearance from L.A. Others were calling it a disappearance, but Hutch was sure it was an abduction.
Wearily organizing his thoughts as he flicked the ashes off his cigarette, Hutch began his narration. "In late March, Dr. Starsky had an argument over the toxin with the head of his department, a Dr. Stannick. This Stannick says Starsky felt it was too dangerous to be allowed into the wrong hands. Stannick then admits that he lost his temper and fired Starsky. Starsky walked out of the building and packed his stuff, and he wasn't seen by Stannick after that. Guess Stannick went looking, after he discovered some bits of research behind a file cabinet, but Starsky had moved out of his cottage." Hutch paused, thinking if he had resigned instead of taking the Virginia assignment, he would have been in California and possibly able to help. "What Stannick found in the few papers he had must have scared him to death. He lost no time calling the FBI, who in turn must have notified military intelligence."
"Did anyone else know about his experiments?" Doyle was questioning while tapping his fingers on the table thoughtfully.
"Yeah, he had a secretary. There was some speculation in Washington that she might have been involved. The FBI has her under surveillance at the moment."
"It's a bit dodgy that he up and disappears right after making some sort of important break through in his experiments; especially if everyone thinks the notes and data have been destroyed," Doyle commented, looking at his partner and receiving a slight nod. "Yes, just a bit on the suspicious side. The Hun probably offered just a bit more money than any school teacher could resist."
"No!" Hutch snapped, starting to rise from his chair. Bodie was already on his feet and shoved him back down.
"No need to take it so personally, Yank. But we do have to `cover all the bases,' as you Americans say."
"It's still a bit suspicious that the next time he's found, he's in Germany working for a German company," Doyle pressed.
"He's not that kind of person," Hutch stated. "I don't care what you think, but David Michael Starsky wouldn't sell out for money. He didn't worry about money."
"Everybody worries about money," Doyle snarled. "You can't tell me teachers in your country make so much they don't have to worry about it."
"Starsk just didn't let it get him down," Hutch retorted. He angrily ground out his cigarette before it could burn his fingertips.
"Easy, mate," Bodie said quietly, putting a firm hand on Hutch's forearm. "It's not that we don't believe that you believe what you say, but we need to consider all the possibilities, as I said before."
Hutch sank back down into his chair.
"Got anything else you can tell us?" Doyle asked.
"That's basically it," Hutch concluded. "He's working for Farben near Stuttgart." He drew out some photographs of Starsky taken around the village on the outskirts of the larger city. Hutch detailed the information Henderson had given him regarding the situation near Stuttgart. He mentioned the two men that seemed to be in charge of Starsky--or the men he hung around with, whatever the case might be. He elaborated a bit on his own cover as well.
"Well, we have a PCO in Stuttgart," Bodie commented, shoving the photos back across the table to Hutch. "Murphy's on station there, isn't he, Doyle?"
"Yeah, and Murph's a good man. We'll ask him to see if he can pick up on the habits of our friends here," he said, pointing to the stack of photos. "P'haps he's got a local he can use. Ya know how much cover those PCOs are."
"Yeah, MI6 has a few agents stationed around Europe supposedly doing Passport Control. I don't think the cover is much good, but if we don't contact Murph directly it should be all right."
"Oh." Hutch still was not much enlightened. They were all distracted as the barmaid arrived with their lunch and continued her flirting with the handsome Bodie. Hutch found the plain fare surprisingly good--or else he was simply hungry.
* * *
Starsky sat at the small lab table and studied the microscope in front of him. Rubbing his hand through his now closely cropped dark waves, he made some notes on the pad at hand then looked through the scope again. Yes, perhaps this was on the right track. He made some more notes and leaned back to massage his aching neck. The threats against Elise were getting more violent, and unless he produced something soon, they might be carried out. On a regular basis he received candid shots wired from the German Embassy in Paris. Some of the shots were grainy, but the subject was definitely his elfin-like sister. She had even autographed one and dated it for the photographer. All this was to keep him in line. This latest development in the research should calm the threats down. There were pictures taken of his mother, but not with the frequency of Elise.
"Dr. Starsky?" a voice queried from the doorway.
"Yes, Dr. Vogel."
"It is time to close the laboratory for the weekend. Everyone wants to get home on time tonight. The Fuhrer is speaking on the radio. Please hurry."
"Yeah, Heil Hitler," Starsky answered, muttering under his breath, "Heil, Schicklgruber."
Putting his notes away in the desk, he shrugged out of his white lab coat and went toward the door, dreading as always his evenings at the small cottage on the edge of Stuttgart with his roommates, Kurt and Hermann. One or the other always picked him up and escorted him there where he spent his evenings and weekends in isolation with the two men or at least one of them. Occasionally, Hermann would disappear into the local red-light district for a few hours or to the local beer garden.
Outside the door he was met by Kurt. He nodded casually to the man and moved down the corridor to the outside door. The black Mercedes sedan was waiting, Hermann driving. He got into the back seat and Kurt sat beside him. Hermann drove slowly down the winding tree-lined drive from the Farben Chemical Complex.
"Dr. Vogel says that you have made some progress this week. Perhaps we shall have a celebration tonight," Kurt commented, smiling at his charge.
Starsky made no comment. He had learned the hard way to keep his mouth shut and appear to cooperate. He had hopes of making just enough progress to keep Vogel happy, and Elise out of the agent's hands. He was guarded too closely to even think about escaping in a foreign country where he didn't know the language or geography.
The black sedan stopped outside a well-lit beer garden. Starsky was a little dismayed to find that this was the type of celebration that Kurt had been referring to. Though he had hoped for a quiet night to catch up on some reading, he docilely followed the large men into the smoky, crowded interior. The three men took a table near the back of the room where a young Fraulein in a tight bodice took their orders for dark German beer. In any other circumstance, Starsky would have enjoyed the beer.
Under the table, as the waitress returned with their drinks, Kurt began fondling Starsky's thigh. He nearly sighed, but did not allow himself the luxury. It was going to be one of those nights. Kurt was nowhere near as rough a lover as Hermann; in fact, Hermann had been told to lay off the scientist since Starsky was needed in good health to work. Only during his rebellious moments was Hermann allowed off his leash. Kurt, however, was another story.
Starsky sipped his beer, watching the crowd become rowdier and rowdier as the evening progressed. Kurt and Hermann took turns dancing with different bar girls. They were getting a bit drunk, but never forgot their job.
The American watched as black-uniformed SS troopers shoved their way through the crowd to one of the few empty tables. Even arrogant Luftwaffe officers grabbed their drinks and moved off. Two of the troopers stepped over to the piano which had been tinkling out a mournful Lily Marlene. Soon the rousing Horst Wessel reverberated off the walls as bar maids returned to them over and over with more beer. There were squeals of dismay and delight as the troopers fondled and pinched the young women.
The SS troopers eventually got into a rough scuffle with a Luftwaffe sergeant; his friends jumped into the fray. Kurt and Hermann yanked their American charge back behind the protecting bar, and laughed with glee as punches were delivered on both sides.
The scuffle died a natural death, and the two groups of military began buying each other drinks. The hour grew late and the beer garden was ready to close down for the evening. Starsky was both relieved and sorry, knowing he still had to satisfy Kurt with either his ass or his mouth.
"Take our little friend back to the house," ordered Hermann, "The Fraulein and I are going to her place for a while." Hermann rubbed his hands over the giggling blonde barmaid standing beside him. He nuzzled her ear and pushed her toward the stairs at the rear of the main hall.
Casually Kurt held Starsky's arm as they left with the rest of the disappearing crowd. Shoving Starsky into the car, Kurt fitted a short set of handcuffs, kept affixed to the dash there for that purpose. Kurt could then concentrate on his driving.
It would be a long night for Dr. David Michael Starsky, ending with him being chained by the ankle to the iron bedstead that he slept in. Kurt would release him in the morning and escort him back to the lab. This had been the pattern for the weeks that he had been in Germany. He thought with longing of the footloose days in Los Angeles. He never let himself dwell on Kenneth Hutchinson--that was the road to certain insanity.
* * *
Unconsciously scratching the irritating itch on his midriff, Hutch slid farther down in the padded seat. He knew without looking that the small passenger craft was losing altitude for a landing. He yawned as the changing air pressure became uncomfortable, one of the hazards of flying being the constant changes in air pressure. He started again to scratch beneath his belt, then moved his hand away as he remembered that the maddening itch was the small pouch of diamonds. He debated again the advisability of declaring them. No, they were his ace-in-the-hole. He would have to take the chance of being caught smuggling them into Germany.
Casually he glanced back toward the rear of the compartment. Seated near the galley were the two British agents posing as young men on a hiking holiday. The three would accidentally meet at a bar Bodie remembered from his infrequent holidays to the continent.
The lurch, and screech of tires heralded the landing of the small Lufthansa passenger aircraft. The motors reversed and roared before the brakes were applied. Hutch looked out his window as the plane taxied toward the off-loading area, getting his first look at Germany. He could see the new construction going on at Templehof. There was supposed to be a massive new aerodrome built in the near future that would board or disembark passengers of nearly twenty planes. That would be some hangar, Hutch decided, as the small plane came to halt. Passengers heaved sighs of relief and began reaching for their possessions. Hutch waited as the clanking of opening doors and rumbling of portable steps alerted the passengers that it was nearly time to deplane.
Waiting patiently in the line as the hostess wished each passenger a good visit to her country, Hutch shuffled along behind a robust woman and her husband as they discussed in English the amenities of various hotels in the Berlin area. Obviously they had traveled to the Third Reich before, as they spoke admiringly of the German system of government and the wonderful roads that Herr Hitler had built.
After finally disembarking, Hutch was directed through some large doors with the other foreign passengers. He worried momentarily about the diamonds. Surely the immigration officials would have no reason to body-search a vacationing American Army officer ostensibly looking-up the home of his ancestors before taking up his post at the American Embassy in Berlin. That was the cover Hutch would use during his tour through the German countryside: He was looking for long lost relatives on his mother's side of the family. He had even acquired a few names and places that might be possibilities, as well as some faked possibilities near Stuttgart.
Much to his relief, the search of his person and luggage was a mere formality. He found himself in conversation with a Luftwaffe officer outside the airport while trying to hail a taxi to take him to his downtown hotel. "I overheard that you were in the American Army Air Corps," the young man in a Luftwaffe uniform commented. "I am much interested in your fighter planes."
"Oh." Hutch took in the flying emblem on the trim uniform of the figure standing beside him. Taxis were beginning to line up on the street. He smiled at the engaging eager young man who must have been his junior by four or five years.
"Ya, I hafe heard about a new fighter that might be as good as our 109. Hafe you know anything about it?"
"I was in Air Training Command. So I don't get to fly the latest. Hopefully I can change that."
"Ya, teaching young--how do you say it?-- `fools' to fly could be nerve making. Are you visiting Deutschland for the first time?"
"Yes, I'm trying to find some of my mother's people before taking up my assignment at the American Embassy."
"Ahh, you are a Deutschlander."
"On my mother's side only." Hutch was beginning to become uncomfortable with the conversation.
A taxi pulled up to the curb and Hutch moved toward it. The young officer grabbed Hutch's arm. "Perhaps ve could get together for a drink and discuss flying. Vere are you staying?"
Hutch mumbled the name of his hotel and started to say that he had a lot of sleep to catch up on since he had been traveling so long. Then he remembered his playboy image though he certainly didn't feel much like one at the moment. "Where do you recommend?" he asked reluctantly.
The young German officer named a club. Hutch shook his head.
"Do you know my hotel? Maybe we could meet in the lobby. Oh, say about 10:30 tonight?"
"Ya, I will meet you there."
The two fliers shook hands as a taxi arrived for the American. The young Oberleutnant smiled and ran for the car with military emblems emblazoned on the sides which was stopping for him.
After a struggle with his nearly lost German, Hutch finally managed to convey to the taxi driver which hotel he wanted to go to. The wide streets of Berlin were interesting with the ancient buildings, but everywhere Hutch looked there were swastikas being displayed. Occasionally he caught sight of the uniformed military hurrying here and there on business or pleasure. The bright June day seemed to be an excuse for the population to be wandering the streets and enjoying the lovely summer.
But Hutch was depressed since he was sure Starsky was not enjoying anything about this summer. He had not allowed himself to dwell on what kind of circumstances Starsky might have been enduring the past few weeks. Surely if his scientific expertise were needed, he would be kept in good health. Certainly that must be the case.
After reassuring himself, Hutch sighed as the taxi pulled up to a large brick building with a canopied doorway. It was a bit ostentatious, but in keeping with the playboy Army officer image he was trying to portray. The doorman opened the automobile door with a flourish and called for a bellman to hurry for the luggage that Hutch was putting on the sidewalk. Check-in turned out to be a simple routine with the desk clerk speaking perfect English.
Once in his fourth floor suite, Hutch indulged himself in a bath and shave then sent for room service. It was a bit of trial with the phone operator's lack of English and his broken German, but eventually he had light meal sent up with some heavy dark beer. After calling for the bellman to retrieve the tray, he loosened his tie and reclined on the bed. He would be meeting with the British agents in a couple hours, then had to do some night life in Berlin afterward. He would need a bit of sleep if possible. Lately sleeping had been a uneasy , restless affair because of his worry about Starsky.
Perhaps because he was finally in Germany or because exhaustion was catching up, Hutch slept three hours and woke the most refreshed he had felt since this whole ordeal had begun.
* * *
It was early evening when Hutch dressed for his meeting with the British agents to be followed by his engagement with the young Luftwaffe flier. As he finished dressing, he called the front desk to get him a cab for his trip to the out-of-the-way bar where he would meet with the English agents.
The phone rang within ten minutes to tell him that his cab was waiting. He went down on the elevator and out through the high ceilinged lobby. He tipped the doorman generously and gave the driver the address in his poor German. The trip across the busy city took longer than he expected so he was about 15 minutes late for his meeting.
He entered the darkened bar and looked for his contacts. He couldn't spot them so he went to the bar and ordered a Campari. He leaned on his elbow and surveyed the room in what he hoped was casual manner. As he started to sip his drink his elbow was roughly jostled. Cursing lividly, he turned to look into laughing blue eyes. "Sorry, mate," said Bodie, reaching for a bar napkin and wiping ineffectually at the stains appearing on Hutch's suit coat and tie. "Let me buy you another." The Brit turned to the barkeeper and ordered Hutch another drink in impeccable German.
"Name's Bodie," the agent said, introducing himself.
"Ken Hutchinson." The fresh drink arrived and Bodie paid for it.
"Why don't you join me and my friend?"
"Yeah, it is a bit lonely," Hutch answered. "Thanks."
Moving toward the rear of the crowded bar, Bodie led the way to a small table hidden by a large potted plant. Doyle slouched easily on the hard chair. He shoved a chair toward Hutch with his foot and nodded at the introduction by Bodie.
The conversation was trivial as the three men pretended to get acquainted. Finally Bodie slid an envelope under the table to Hutch who slipped it into his pocket. "Murph sent this message. It seems he's got to leave Stuttgart rather abruptly. Something about his cover bein' blown. So we're really on our own," Bodie commented, looking indifferently around the crowded bar.
"You'll leave for Stuttgart tomorrow?" Doyle questioned.
"We're getting a bus late tonight. Don't hurry. Take about a week to make the trip. Stop and search for your lost relatives. We'll look the place over before you get there," Bodie commented, making sure that the patrons of the bar were busy with their own pursuits. "In that envelope are more pictures and the address of a good hotel. Check in at that hotel and wait to be contacted by us. Our PCO contact has your friend under surveillance by some of the local help. Now, get on with your tour of Berlin night life."
Rising from his chair, Hutch thanked the two men for the drink and started to turn away. His hand was trapped by Doyle momentarily. "And Yank, don't do anything stupid. It's our heads as well as yours and your mate's."
Hutch took in the icy green eyes and nodded, then shouldered his way out of the bar. It was nearing nine o'clock. He was to meet the German Officer at 10:30 back at his hotel. There was enough time to go back and change out of the spoiled clothes.
Promptly at 10:30 the German officer presented himself at the front desk of the hotel and called for Hutch. The two officers shook hands and chatted briefly as they moved toward the waiting car where there were two more Luftwaffe officers. Hutch was a bit worried, but as the evening wore on he became disabused of the notion that his cover had been blown. It was simply a drunken brawl involving young officers on leave for the first time in a month. The only good to come out of the hangover he was going to have on the upcoming train ride across Germany was the name of a friend of one of the officers at a local bomber base outside Stuttgart. He didn't know if it would be useful or not, but he filed it away for future reference.
Pleading an early morning departure from Berlin, Hutch was finally able to take a cab back to his hotel. He left the Luftwaffe officers continuing their steady drinking and flirting in the bar.
The metallic clacking of the wheels on the tracks and the swaying of the car distracted Kenneth Hutchinson from the lovely green, rolling hills outside his window. Hutch felt he had spent his life rather than a few days in musty churches as he had built his cover, looking for his grandparents' records. He didn't know much about them and hadn't really paid much attention to his mother's comments of where they had come from in the "old" country. It was just as well this whole process was a "cover" for he wasn't going to receive any prizes for his research. He had sat and stared at the old hand-written texts that his high school German wasn't adequate to translate and he had interviewed aging priests who had done their best to be helpful to the young American.
Now he was finally on his way to Stuttgart and Starsky. He hoped that Bodie and Doyle had located him. It seemed as though they had gotten good information from their Stuttgart contact. There had been grainy photographs in the envelope passed to him in the bar in Berlin. In most of them he could vaguely identify his lost lover.
The train rocked to a halt at another small depot. With no more interest than he had for the rolling fields, meadows, and occasional forest, Hutch noticed black-uniformed figures mounting the train at this last stop. The death's head emblem on their caps identified them as part of the elite SS corps. Arrogantly they pushed old men, women and children out of their way. One old woman surreptitiously made a two finger sign as she turned away to trudge off into the depot. With a slight smile, Hutch turned back to the English language newspaper he had been holding to make people think that he was reading.
The door to his compartment clattered open and two of the black-uniformed figures shoved their way in. Hutch put up his paper and watched them stow their cases in the overhead racks and under the seats. He turned back to his newspaper and tried to concentrate on the printed words in front of him.
He noticed that the two were officers, which was not surprising since he was riding in a first class car. He kept his eyes on the paper and tried to ignore the other two men. The door slammed open to admit an attractive brunette woman carrying a huge purse and some cases. The officers helped her put away her possessions and began a flirtatious conversation, leaving Hutch relievedly ignored. He had felt exposed being alone in compartment with the two Nazi officers even if his cover was solid. He did have a guilty conscience regarding his mission. He was afraid that his ability to play the role might be strained beyond belief with these men. The woman was a great distraction.
The train shuddered then began slowly moving out of the station. He knew that it was only a few more hours to Stuttgart. As the wheels began their hypnotic clacking again, Hutch leaned back against the window and tried to doze. The conversation in the car became louder, then the men and the woman got up and left, probably heading to the lounge car for a drink. Left in peace, Hutch finally dozed for real. He only woke completely as the train finally pulled into the Stuttgart station.
Gathering his cases from the overhead racks, he edged his way down the narrow passageway to disembark the train. He had only a couple of small pieces of luggage so he had checked nothing and could immediately search out a taxi to take him to the hotel the British agents had arranged.
The hotel was a quietly elegant affair on a busy boulevard. The doorman took his meager luggage and ushered him inside. He found that his reservations were ready so he went directly to his suite to freshen up and hope for an immediate contact with the two agents.
His hopes were slowly dashed as the hours passed in the quiet, elderly hotel. Finally the young lieutenant went down to the in-house restaurant. He ordered a simple meal and a dark, heavy beer. He sipped on it and listened to a quiet combo play unfamiliar music.
Returning to his room on the third floor, he tried to interest himself in the genealogy files he was compiling. Strangely enough, he thought he had actually traced his mother's parents to a small village. One mystery had been solved. His Grandfather had been an enlisted man in the Prussian army and seemed to have left the area under some sort of cloud. He had sent for his pregnant bride a few months later from New York.
He wondered where Starsky's family had come from. Probably from some Eastern European country...Poland? The name spelling could have been changed or even completely modified. Damn! Thinking about Starsky brought up all sorts of pain for him. He should have known there was a problem when there had been no letters from him. He should have returned to the West Coast right then. However, good little Kenny Hutchinson always did what his authority figures ordered. His one rebellion had put him in a system where there were "daddy" figures galore.
He leaned back in his overstuffed chair and looked at the dim chandelier swaying slightly in the breeze from the open window. Then he was back on the rented sailboat rocking gently on Mission Bay. They had taken their Thanksgiving holiday in the Navy town of San Diego. Renting the boat had been a lark in which he had indulged Starsky. The twinkling blue eyes had assured him the owner-Starsky-was an experienced sailor. It had been a luscious time of sipping chilled wine and making love on the narrow bench that posed as a bunk on the little boat.
He had discovered the twinkling blue eyes had lied, but he hadn't cared. Between them they had managed to simply fire up the auxiliary motor and had anchored in a quiet cove. They were rough-housing in the small cabin when the young scientist had pinned him to the cot--and suddenly the eyes were no longer sparkling.
"I love you, gorgeous man," the curly-haired scientist murmured as he held the Lieutenant down on the bunk. "I want to marry you."
Hutch had been taken slightly aback. He rested his head back into the pillows and allowed himself to relax in the arms of his lover. As he thought about it, he realized for the first time this was a feeling he had never felt with his wife. Looking up into the suddenly very vulnerable face with its slightly too-long nose and endearing moles, he nodded. "Oh, God, me too!" he murmured fervently. Then he freed his hands from the loose grip and pulled the terribly precious man to him. The lovemaking had been frantic and satisfying this time on the deck of the boat.
A gentle tapping from without startled him out of his memories. He opened the door to a slouching Doyle who simply shoved himself through the door followed by a glowering Bodie. "Damn, it's pissing down out there," snarled Doyle, shrugging out of his damp, steaming leather jacket. Looking around the restrained elegance of the suite, Doyle flicked his hand out. "The Cow never gives us this kinda cushy cover."
"Just lucky, I guess," Bodie commented, as he made a survey of the room and settled his frame on the soft divan next to the window. "Nice, this. I could get used to this life."
"What the hell took so long for you to make contact?" Hutch demanded sharply. His nerves were on edge after the slow trip across Germany, followed by the spell of waiting in the hotel.
"We were waiting for you to finish dinner. Nice, was it?" Doyle had as sharp an edge to his tongue as Hutch.
"Why the hell didn't you just make contact in the restaurant?"
"Dressed like this?" Doyle snapped, pointing to his rumpled clothes. "We're poor working men on a cheap holiday on the continent."
"I never thought," Hutch answered. "But you left the contact so vague."
"Preserve me from amateurs!"
"That's quite enough, both of you," Bodie snapped, finally tiring of the game. Turning to Hutch he said, "We've located your mate. The local contact here, Murphy, had to get out a couple days ago. He was declared persona non grata, but he had found the Professor."
"We'll have you make your first contact tonight. It seems your mate hangs out at a local beer garden after work with a couple of Gestapo types," Doyle added as he sank into the armchair that Hutch had been occupying earlier. He stretched out his long slender legs and sighed. "We've been observing the Professor for the last few days. Figure the pub is the best place for any kind of outside contact. At Farben it's completely out. Their security would give the Tower a run for its money. Then the cottage where they live is in a small suburb. No reason for an American tourist to find it." Doyle paused. "You'll see if you can make a casual meeting in the pub while Bodie and me set up a distraction for the two heavies."
"Right." Hutch was already heading for the door.
"No, Yank." Bodie quietly stopped the airman. "You can't go to this type of place dressed like a bloody lord."
Doyle rose from the chair and went over to Hutch. He grabbed the neatly tied tie and loosened it then threw it over on the chair. He rumpled Hutch's neatly combed military hair. Then he unbuttoned the jacket and the top buttons of his shirt.
"Guess he'll do as an American tourist gone slumming. Whatcha think, Bodie?"
"Have to, won't he?"
The three men left the hotel and walked out into the drizzling rain. Hutch would have called a cab, but Bodie motioned to a small automobile parked at the curb. It resembled nothing more than a giant bug, and Hutch noticed that it said Volkswagen on it. Then he discovered all over again that European cars were not made for him as he folded his lean frame into the ledge that seemed to pass for a rear seat in the back of the "people's car."
Through darkened, damp streets Bodie guided the car. The streets got progressively narrower until, from his American perspective, they diminished into alleys. Bodie seemed to have a suicidal impulse to his driving, appearing unconcerned that his partner was slouching against the door with his hand braced on the dash. Bodie abruptly twisted the wheel of the little car and manhandled it next to the curb. About halfway down the block, or what passed for blocks in this city, were the bright lights of a drinking establishment.
Bodie turned around to Hutch. "Give us about five minutes, then you come in and try to be casual," he instructed. The two British agents then left the car and sauntered down the sidewalk, giving every appearance of being slightly tipsy. Hutch checked his watch and settled in for a long five-minute wait.
* * *
In the dimly lit beer hall, Starsky slumped at a table near the rear. He stared into his dark beer and occasionally sipped a little. He rarely let himself become the slightest bit drunk. Since he had been recreating more and more of the formula, the nights at the beer garden became more and more frequent. Hermann and Kurt were getting a bit bored with their job, probably since he hadn't caused any trouble after the aborted escape attempt in the small Colorado town. They were pursuing their pleasures more often.
Starsky was depressed. He even remembered the small concrete station platform in Colorado that night. On a weatherbeaten sign had been the Spanish words La Junta. He had managed to slip his keepers since the drug dosage had been cut down. His reaction to the drug in Arizona had made his keepers a bit more careful with how much they forced on him. However, there had been enough of it in his system, he finally decided, to impair his judgment. If he had had any sense, he would have known that escape was impossible that night.
He had slipped out of the car and down onto the opposite side of the train from the station, carefully trying to make his way across the tracks to anywhere that was away from the hissing train. He hadn't counted on being missed quite so soon, but Kurt had come rushing out and had seen him. He had tried running across the tracks only to come in harsh contact with a freight car parked on the siding. He had started to slide under it when he had caught his foot in some mechanism beside the rail. While freeing his pants cuff, Kurt and Hermann both had run up puffing, their guns drawn. Freeing him, the two men helped him to his feet and escorted him back to the train.
Nearly sobbing with frustration, he had been unceremoniously shoved into their compartment. With little gentleness two white tablets had been forced down his throat.
Then his memories began fading...mercifully, he imagined, from the aches and pains he suffered the next time he surfaced, just as the train was entering the huge Chicago switching yards.
Mentally sliding back to the present, he scanned the dim room without much interest, noting that Kurt and Hermann were in animated discussion with two foreign tourists at the far end of the bar. Glancing on around his surroundings, he nearly missed the familiar lean figure lounging against the bar. Hutch! His mind sang with sudden joy. Hutch cared enough to travel halfway around the world to find him. No, it couldn't be,--he must be seeing things.
Intently he rose from behind the small circular table and began easing toward the bar, never taking his eyes off the figure there. He steeled himself for the disappointment he was sure must come. Watching from behind a pillar, he drank in the sight of the lover he had thought never to see again. How the hell had he gotten here? Damn the man! He must have pulled some strings in Army intelligence or through his family to find him.
Aww shit, here was just one more complication in his life. Somehow he must convince Hutch to get out and leave him here. He was positive that Hutch had some wild idea about trying a "white knight" stunt, but he must disabuse him of that. Making up his mind, he straightened his shoulders then glanced over at his keepers. They were still talking to the two men at the far end of the bar as he moved up beside the blond. "Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?" he whispered.
Hutch flinched and blinked at Starsky in disbelief. "I'm here to take you home," he said without preliminaries in a low, hoarse voice, seemingly overcome with emotion.
"What if I don't want to go?"
"Starsk, I love you!" Hutch responded under his breath, leaning toward the other man. "And I know that you love me." He paused. "Any problems, we can solve..."
Hardening his heart against the love shining in the blue eyes looking at him so earnestly, Starsky hissed, "Love is all well and good, soldier boy. But considering the amount that they're paying me for this work, I can't afford to give it up for a two-bit soldier! Then there's the fact I've got two lovers who are real men, not sentimental slobs like some I could name." With his heart nearly breaking, David Starsky turned away, heading for the men's room.
"Starsk...David, wait please!" Hutch reached out and put his hand on the other's shoulder.
"No, Hutch, get the hell outta here! Live your own life and leave me to mine. I've got exactly what I want. What I don't want is you here screwing it all up." Leaning in close to Hutch's face, he snarled in a low voice, "Got exactly what I need! Ever had a cock in your mouth and one up your ass, soldier boy? It's a real thrill." He paused and saw the shocked comprehension in the blond's eyes. "Now get the hell outta here and back to your square life!" Nearly shuddering at that particular memory, Starsky hoped the crudeness of the remark would send Hutch to safety.
With inward sadness he shrugged off the restraining hand and went on toward the men's room, knowing it was the only thing he could do. If he were to try and leave with Hutch, Kurt and Hermann would probably simply kill the airman. But foremost in his mind were the threats to Elise and his mother--he had no choice.
He entered the restroom, noting that it was empty, and leaned against the wall next to the urinals where he raggedly sobbed. He had been repeatedly raped and beaten, but he had had the satisfaction that THEY hadn't broken him. Instead he had broken himself by telling Hutch to get out and leave him. That had been final straw. The racking sobs stopping in a few moments, he shoved himself off the wall and headed for a stall as he heard a noise from the hallway. He slid into the confined space and began straightening himself mentally and physically, knowing he still had a role to play. As he left the stall, he saw Hermann leaning against the door frame.
"Get back to the table. The next time you have to take a leak, tell one of us or tie a knot in your dick." Shoving himself against the slighter man, Hermann continued, "I could cut it off." Booze and tobacco smells nearly knocked Starsky over. "Then you could use the fraulein's. You're never going to have much use for it again, Jew boy." Hermann snickered and turned into the empty stall.
Slipping out from the claustrophobic presence of Hermann, Starsky rushed through the door and back into the bar. The smoky dimness made him blink back further tears, but he noted that Hutch no longer leaned against the ancient bar. He quickly returned to his table and chugged the now flat beer, oblivious to that fact as he hurriedly downed it. Everything was flat. He would finish the formula as quickly as possible, then he could only hope they would kill him. He was weary of stalling for time and hoping for a future that was impossible.
* * *
Watching raindrops scuttle down the windshield of the agents' car, Hutch was numb. Starsky actually wanted to stay in Germany! Hutch had thought it would be so easy: He would waltz in there, pay off the guards in diamonds, and carry his lover off into the sunset a la one of Starsky's celluloid melodramas. He had never thought that money or rough sex would tempt his lover. He sighed and leaned against the door post.
The doors of the car clicked open revealing the two British agents backlit by the dim street lights. "Any luck, Yank?" questioned Doyle, not letting his usual hostility show.
"No, he turned me down on leaving Germany. Said that they were paying him too much to leave for any... soldier boy. I can't believe it!" Hutch's tone was anguished. He couldn't tell the strangers the rest of Starsky's reasons.
"Well, I guess that's that," Bodie stated as he settled himself in the driving seat. He started the motor and backed the car out into the nearly deserted street. Most of the customers had long since hurried to their own transportation or rushed down the street in the diminishing rain. "Whaddya think, Doyle?"
"Yeah, we go tonight. Those two Nazi types are a bit squiffy. Should make them all the easier to handle."
"Tonight! You're going after Starsky tonight?" Hutch interjected from the back seat. "You aren't going to kill him?"
"Nah, mate, we'll just have to convince him to come along peaceable like," Doyle muttered.
"It's like this," Bodie explained, "We'll try to bring him out. But if he's going to fight us all the way, we may have to..." he let the sentence trail away. Hutch understood all too clearly the implications and made no comment. He had always known that the Brits considered killing Starsky a viable option. Even his own government would not take them to task for that action . He would just have to see to it that it never happened. He would guard Starsky with his own life. It was something that simply felt right.
"Anything you can't live without at your hotel?" Doyle questioned. "Got your passport with you?"
"No and yes," Hutch answered shortly, uneasy with his own thoughts. A raised eyebrow from Bodie to Doyle simply said they knew what was going on in the blond's skull. Neither one especially wanted to take out the scientist, but if it was the only way, they would do it. Another raised eyebrow reiterated Doyle's earlier comment about working with amateurs.
The car sped down the street and left the more inhabited part of the city. Eventually Bodie pulled over into a darkened driveway. Both British agents got out of the car. Bodie went to the front of the vehicle, opened the boot, and began taking out a few items. There was a lightweight Sten gun along with clips of ammunition for it. Both men slid into shoulder holsters with hand guns, blackened their faces, then turned to the curiously watching Hutch. From the satchel in the boot Bodie threw out some slacks and a sweater followed by boots and heavy socks. All landed at Hutch's feet.
"Get into those things," he commanded, walking over to the satchel to remove a few more items which he stashed on different parts of his person. Doyle was doing the same thing. Reluctantly Hutch saw the sense of changing clothes. His trim, double-breasted pin-striped suit was not suited to a kidnapping. And that was what it was going to be, he supposed, given Starsky's attitude toward being rescued. It was a tad hard to rescue someone who didn't want to be saved.
"You had this planned all along," he told Bodie and Doyle accusingly.
"Nah, mate, just a contingency plan," Doyle retorted. "Thought there was a chance he might just walk out of the pub with you."
"I mean that tonight was the time, no matter what."
"Yeah, look at the moon." Hutch looked up into the misty sky. He couldn't see any moon. "If we wait too long, we end up trying a bit of housebreaking or border-running during the full moon. Not the best idea." Bodie walked around the car and began to put Hutch's discarded clothes into the boot of the Volkswagen. "Then there's the added bonus that our targets all have been drinking pretty hard. Should make them a bit easier to take."
"Get in." Doyle motioned to Hutch as Bodie got in the driver's side. Hutch complied. This whole sequence of events was advancing faster than he had expected. He should have understood that the agents would want to hit the cottage while the occupants were vulnerable.
Bodie drove on a few more miles through the thinning city outskirts then he slowed to stop and cut the headlights on the small car. While carefully letting his eyes adjust for a few minutes, he began to fill Hutch in on the plan. "The targets should have reached their place a short time ago. We hung around the bar long enough to make sure they were thoroughly drunk and leaving. Now we'll park as close to the house as possible. Doyle and I will go in and take care of the roommates. Give us about thirty minutes then you come in and help us deal with your friend."
"I'm going in with you," Hutch argued, half afraid that by the time he got there Starsky would be dead.
Sensing his suspicions, Bodie raised another eyebrow at Doyle. He then added, "We won't harm your mate if he doesn't force us to. If there are shots or other loud noises, bring the car up to the door and get in there fast." Bodie reached down to the floorboards of the car and brought up a Luger. "Here, use this if you need it. Notice we're trusting you not to rush in and screw everything up."
Doyle muttered something nearly unheard. Hutch thought it might be "bloody amateur."
Bodie started the car and continued down the narrow lane. The eyes of the three men were now reasonably adjusted to the darkness and the shadows of the surrounding trees were not as unnerving as before. Bodie pulled the small car off the road into the bushes.
"House is about a hundred yards straight up this drive," Doyle mentioned as he unlatched the car door at his elbow. "Don't get up there too soon and spook the heavies," he cautioned.
After sliding out of the car, the British agents quickly faded into the underbrush which barely twitched at their passing. They moved with all the silence of Red Indians, and Hutch couldn't quite remember where they had gone. There weren't any bushes fluttering to give evidence of their passage.
* * *
Bodie watched in satisfaction as Doyle slipped from shadow to shadow. He had taught him everything he could about moving in stealth, lessons he had learned the hard way while mercing in Spain. That had been a bloody rout at the end. He had barely escaped with his life as the foreign brigades disbanded when the fascists took control of the valiant country that had fought overwhelming odds for its freedom.
Doyle stopped and motioned Bodie forward. Easing himself beside his partner, he saw they were at the edge of a clearing. In the midst of which set the cottage. It was small, but like all German residences, very neatly kept. There was a dim light in what was the living room. Murph's surveillance had covered the cottage pretty thoroughly without outright burglary.
Nodding at Doyle, Bodie took the lead. There were few words necessary between the two--Bodie would take the door and Doyle the window to the bedroom. Bodie slid his hand into his pocket for the thin cord which coiled there. Something flashed in Doyle's hand. It was a slender throwing knife. He was almost as good with a knife as he was with the Webley. Bodie grinned ferally as he slipped up to the heavy door and slammed it open. The man dozing in the arm chair grunted and started to raise his hand to reach for the gun on the table beside him. Bodie leaped forward and slipped the loop of cord around the man's neck. The red-head jerked and struggled as the thin cord cut off his wind. Bodie held the loop tight until the struggles ceased. The air was permeated with a foul smell as the dying man's sphincter relaxed. Bodie shuddered. This was never pleasant.
Moving away from the body, he leaned over the table and controlled his own instinctive response. A hand lightly touched his shoulder, and he flinched.
"Easy, mate. He deserved it." Doyle said, "After you take a look in the bedroom, you'll understand. But for now, I think I had better get the flyboy up here. His mate is in a bit of shock. Besides, I imagine the Seventh Cavalry is coming up the drive about now...with about as much discretion as General Custer at Little Bighorn." Doyle moved toward the sagging front door.
Getting his racing heartbeat back to normal, Bodie entered the bedroom. He almost expected a blood bath from what Doyle had said. On the floor lay a muscular blond man with a knife in his back. He removed the slim stiletto and absentmindedly wiped the blade on the man's shirt. Looking up he saw the scientist shivering on the bed. He had drawn himself up toward the head of the bed as far as the chains on his ankles would allow. Lying on the floor beside the bed was a short riding crop.
Bodie walked quietly over to the bed, searching his pockets for the lockpicks he always carried. Doyle had sent him in here for two purposes--one was to show him he had not killed in vain, and the other was that he was better with a standard set of lockpicks. Doyle could manage, but he would be quicker. A further example of his misspent youth, he supposed.
The chains rattled as the scientist tried to get farther from the imposing figure Bodie supposed he must present. His dark clothes and blackened features must make him rather scary. He felt he should say something, but could only murmur inane things like "easy" or "won't hurt you". He felt completely out of his depth and hoped Doyle would hurry with the airman. It was his problem to comfort the shocked scientist.
* * *
Hutch settled himself down, checking his watch every thirty seconds. The time dragged on and on. He kept himself busy checking the cartridges in his gun finding only one clip of eight shells. Probably that would be more than enough. He looked at his watch and smiled. One whole minute had passed while he was checking his gun. At this rate he could probably give the car a tune and oil change and still have time left over. He smiled to himself and mulled over his two cohorts. Not the easiest of men to get along with. But they seemed more than competent as he had expected in London. He knew nothing about them beyond their names which probably even weren't their own.
He looked at his watch again. Ten minutes, he sighed. Hell, he was going to go on in. He slipped out the car as soundlessly as he could and began moving through the bushes and trees beside the driveway. He came out into a clearing and saw that the lights were burning brightly in the small house. He edged up to the garden fence then heard a rustling behind him. He turned and found himself looking into twinkling green eyes.
"Bang, bang, you're dead. Ya outta be a bit more careful of your back side, Yank," Doyle said. "Was just coming to get you. Get inside before any nosy neighbors come walking their dogs, eh""
Following Doyle into the small living room, Hutch was struck by the stench that greeted him--then he noticed the sprawled figure on the chair. "Jesus Christ, you killed them."
"Yeah, that was the plan."
"Shit, I thought you'd just disable them or something," Hutch's eyes glittered as he stared at Doyle.
"Listen, Yank, this is not a game. If we're going to have a chance of getting out of this ruddy country, we need all the edge we can get. If killing a couple of bastards will give us that bit of edge, then I'll kill a couple more," snarled Doyle.
"He's right you know," another voice interrupted. Hutch turned to see Starsky standing barefoot, zipping up a pair of wrinkled cotton slacks. "They died a little too easily to suit me."
Starsky walked over to the inert form on the chair, managing a tight smile as he turned to Hutch. He seemed to wilt as he clutched Hutch's shirt front and buried his head beneath the other man's chin. He shuddered, "I was so afraid you believed me in the bar. Then I was so frightened you wouldn't."
Doyle watched the tableau with interest. There was a bit more to the professor than just a pretty face. He was tough if he managed to get himself together after the scene Doyle had witnessed in the bedroom before knifing the burly blond Nazi. The scientist had been spread eagled on the bed, being beaten with a riding crop across his already well-bruised ass.
Bodie touched Doyle on the sleeve. He nodded toward the two figures now huddled on the floor stroking one another and whispering.
Doyle reluctantly turned to the Americans. "I hate to do this, but we've got to get going. Dr. Starsky, please get up and finish dressing." Doyle knelt down and put a hand on the bare shoulder.
"God, Hutch, I can't go with you," Starsky whispered. "Don't think I don't want to go. I want that more than anything. But I can't."
"You have no choice," Bodie interjected harshly before Hutch could speak. "Get dressed. We can't hang about here any longer." He briefly paused. "Doyle, you help him. Hutchinson can help me get the bodies to the cellar. If we're lucky no one will come looking until after the weekend." He didn't want the two left together at this point. Nor did he want the American airman hatching any plans that might bugger the whole operation. He had been reasonably sure the ploy in the pub wouldn't work. If it had been that easy, there would have been no reason for the young scientist not to simply have taken himself to the American Embassy. There was an unknown reason for the man to submit to obviously brutal circumstances. Right now, he didn't have time to worry about it.
Doyle lifted the nearly naked man from Hutch's lap and propelled him into the small bedroom, noting with distaste the restraints on the bed as he sorted through the meager belongings in the closet and drawers. For someone who was supposed to be receiving a lot of money for his labors, he had certainly not spent any on himself. And unless he liked his sex rough, Doyle could see no reason for the man to want to stay in Germany. There were a few things that weren't connecting up; and Doyle hated mysteries. He watched the subdued scientist silently dress himself.
"I'm glad you killed them," Starsky said in a hoarse, dry voice. "But you've really made it so I have no choice now. I have to go with you." He bent down to tie his shoes. "But...you've just signed the death warrant for my sister, damn you." Starsky glared up at the man watching him.
"Your sister? What does she have to do with this? When we checked this op out, your sister was in Paris doing nicely with a small band on the Left Bank."
"Yeah, and they have agents watching her. If I don't produce, she gets roughed up. Shit, shit," Starsky muttered in an anguished voice.
Well, that explained a few things, thought Doyle. He had wondered why a Jewish American scientist would give himself over to the Third Reich.