A Traitor's Loyalty: A Novel (2 page)

“Sure thing.” Aiello grabbed the kit off the front passenger seat and tossed it back to him. Quinn started to strip off his coat and shirt. It was not an easy task in his current state, and every bump in the road multiplied the pain a hundredfold.

The car radio was tuned to the Western diplomatic frequency.

“The Gestapo put up road blocks on all the major routes out of the city as soon as all this started,” Aiello said. “Now they’re barricading the entrances to the NATO embassies and consulates. Unless you have somewhere else you can go, we’ll have to leave the city by one of the little roads and hope they haven’t blocked it yet.”

“All right,” Quinn said. “South, and get on the autobahn as soon as we get out of the city. For Dresden.” He had started cleaning the wound now. He inhaled sharply as he daubed the antiseptic against the ragged, discolored edges of his flesh.

“What the hell happened tonight, anyway? What went wrong?”

“We were ambushed,” Quinn said. “Somebody must have tipped off the Gestapo. They knew exactly where we would be making the exchange.” He cut himself a bandage from the roll in the kit.

“Did you get what you needed?”

“Yes. Has there been any word on my contact? He was supposed to go to the British embassy.”

Aiello shook his head. “Nothing. He never showed up. But the Germans don’t have him, either. Or if they do, they’re putting on a really good show over the SS frequencies of continuing the search. As far as anybody knows, he’s just vanished.”

RICHARD GARNER, standing on the roof of the British embassy, took a puff of his cigarette and stared through his binoculars at the sight of the capital of the world’s most powerful empire at night. The bright lights and immense size of the city contrasted starkly with the first time he had seen Berlin, from the cockpit of a Halifax bomber, almost twenty-five years ago. But now, somewhere out there was the man he was looking for—cold, tired, overdue, and certainly very, very scared. Garner couldn’t say he blamed him.

He lowered the binoculars, setting them down on the low brickwork wall that ran along the edge of the roof, took off his glasses, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Without his glasses on, the street below was just a dark blur, punctuated every few hundred yards by pools of orange light from the streetlamps.

He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, breathed heavily on each of his glasses’ lenses to mist them over, and started to wipe them. A shiver ran down his spine. The night was chilly, and being this high up meant that a harsh breeze was blowing.

The radio operator, a freckle-faced lance corporal from the Royal Corps of Signals who could not have been more than twenty, sat on a wooden stool a few yards behind him. Garner could hear him now, fiddling with his equipment. He turned around and watched the young man. The lad pressed his headset against his ear, obviously receiving a message.

“It’s the American embassy,” he reported at last, his voice strong with a Scottish burr. “The Gestapo have blocked them off.”

“That leaves who?” Garner asked. “Just the Canadians and the Greeks—and us?”

The corporal, hunched busily over his radio, nodded and responded distractedly, “Yes, sir.”

Garner put his glasses back on and turned back around to the view of the city. The Royal Marines sharpshooter stood a few feet away, staring out at the surrounding area through a pair of binoculars, as Garner had been a few moments before, with his assassin’s rifle leaned against the brickwork wall.

Garner took his cigarette from his mouth and exhaled a large puff of smoke, studying the Marine. He was in his middle twenties, about five foot eleven, with short, fair hair and a good build. Like both Garner and the corporal, he wore dark, nondescript civilian clothing. Garner would never have pegged him as a professional killer, but he had learned long ago that, in this business, appearances always deceived. He could not, for the life of him, remember the man’s name.

The Marine had noticed his scrutiny now and had turned to face him. “Sir?” he asked. “Is something wrong?”

Garner shook his head no. “What was your name again, Lieutenant?” he asked.

The lieutenant had turned his attention back to the street. “Barnes, sir.”

Barnes. Yes.

Garner checked his watch. A quarter to two. That meant it was just under three hours since the target had been due to arrive at the embassy, and four since all hell had broken loose over the SS frequencies.

With a tired sigh, he put the cigarette back in his mouth and the binoculars back to his eyes and began scanning the street below again. As long as it didn’t come over the SS frequencies that he had been captured, they would have to continue searching.

A flicker of motion out the corner of his eye caught his attention. Instantly, he brought the binoculars to bear. There it was again—a few blocks down, somebody lurking in the shadows at the mouth of an alley. As Garner watched, he darted from the alleyway to the shadowy recess of the entrance to a building, taking care to avoid as much as possible passing through the bright pools of light beneath the streetlights. He looked fortyish, short and stocky, and he had on a hat and a long dark coat.

“There’s our man,” Garner said. “South, about three blocks away. Hiding in the shadows.”

Barnes dropped to one knee and laid his binoculars on the wall, grabbed his rifle and brought it instantly to bear in the direction Garner had indicated. “I see him,” he said after a moment.

The figure was slowly making his way towards the embassy. Garner’s heart quickened. Despite everything, this operation was actually going to come off.

Something was wrong, though. He could not pinpoint it at first, but then he realized: sirens. The sound of
sirens, very faint, far away, but slowly drawing closer.

“The SS are coming,” he breathed.

Barnes nodded without looking in his direction. “I hear.”

The sirens were getting louder very quickly; they must have been traveling at breakneck speed. The man in the street had heard them, too—he had quickened his pace and forgone carefully shrouding himself in darkened alcoves in favor of making it to the embassy that much sooner.

Garner glanced down at the embassy gates. Two uniformed Royal Marines stood in the guard box, each with a rifle. With them waited a nondescript man in plain clothing—an MI6 agent, there to meet the figure when he arrived.

He spoke over his shoulder to the radio operator. “Have them open the gate. They need to be ready to meet him.”

“Yes, sir,” the operator said. He removed his radio headset, picked up the receiver of the in-embassy telephone sitting next to him, and dialed the front-gate extension.

Garner watched as the MI6 man picked up the telephone receiver in the guard box. Behind him, the radio operator relayed his instructions. The MI6 man said something, hung up, and spoke to the Marines. Immediately, they unlocked the front gate and swung it open.

The figure was less than half a block from the embassy now, still across the street, but the sirens were almost upon them. Then, suddenly, their source burst into view around a corner: an armored troop carrier, closely followed by two Gestapo Focke-Wulfs with flashing lights on top.

The figure burst into a sprint, heading straight for the open embassy gate. The armored car and the Focke-Wulfs came to a screeching halt. The Focke-Wulfs’ doors swung open and two Gestapo got out of each, pistols firing. With an anguished scream that reached Garner as nothing more than a thin whimper in the cold air on the embassy roof, the figure clutched his right thigh and sank to the ground.

“Sir,” said Barnes, but Garner ignored him.

The figure was still crawling towards the gate, dragging himself on one elbow and one knee while the other hand clutched at his injured leg. He was not six feet from the embassy entrance. The two Marines and the MI6 man stood right at the gate waiting for him, but they went no further. They knew the rules: as long as he was on German soil, they could not help him. He had to reach embassy territory before they could offer him asylum.

The four Gestapo and the Waffen-SS platoon from the troop carrier were hurrying toward the figure. “Sir,” Barnes’s voice was becoming more plaintive, “we haven’t much time.”

Garner did not respond. He stood transfixed, staring at the horrible scene that was unfolding inexorably before him. So close. They had come
so close

The SS were almost upon him.
Barnes hissed.

Garner came out of his reverie with a start. “What? Yes, man. Fire!”

Barnes’s finger squeezed the trigger. A shaft of orange flame spat eighteen inches from his rifle muzzle. Down in the street, the figure’s head exploded into a chunky vapor of blood, brains, and bone fragments. The nearest Gestapo was only a few feet away; he skidded to a halt and threw his arm up over his face to protect it. The figure’s headless body collapsed to the ground, twitched for several moments, and lay still.

Garner took the cigarette from his mouth and flicked it onto the ground. It landed next to his feet, smoldering. He ground it into the dust with his heel.


If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools

—Rudyard Kipling, “If—”

Préveza, Greece

QUINN JERKED up in bed at the alarm clock’s shrill shriek. His left hand fumbled about on the bedside table, his fingers probing till they found the clock, and it abruptly fell silent. He lay back in bed, a little disturbed at how on edge his body seemed to be. His heart pounded in his chest; his hands felt clammy; he was sweating and breathing shallowly.

He swung himself out of bed and moved across his cramped cabin into the tiny lavatory. He flicked the light switch on, blinking in the sudden harsh, colorless florescent light. He turned on the tap and splashed some cold water on his face to help wake himself up, then stared at his reflection in the mirror. A pair of sharp mahogany eyes stared back at him beneath a head of disheveled black hair, but it was the prominent nose that dominated his face. Quinn ran a hand over his chin. He needed a shave, but it could wait. He ran his fingers through his hair to straighten it, then flicked off the lavatory light.

A glance at the clock as he came back into his cabin showed that the time had just reached seven. A small chest of drawers stood against one wall. Quinn opened the top drawer and took out a small shortwave radio. He extended the antenna and flicked the radio on, to be greeted by a burst of static. The radio was tuned to the correct frequency, so Quinn took a slow step to the side to find the signal. From the static emerged the sound of chimes fading away. A voice followed a moment later.

You are listening to the BBC World Service,” the announcer said. “The time is oh-six-hundred Greenwich Mean Time, oh-seven-hundred British Summer Time, Tuesday, the 27th of May, 1971. And now, the news.” A pause. “Our top story: The German Government announced this morning that Adolf Hitler, Führer and Chancellor of the Greater German Reich, has died in Berlin at the age of eighty-two.

Quinn had been holding onto the radio with one hand while the other slid another drawer open and rifled through it for some clothes, but now he stopped and gave the radio his full attention. He held onto it with both hands and straightened up. The news commentator’s voice erupted into static at the movement, and Quinn straightened his arms and held the radio a little higher to regain the signal.

reveal the exact cause of death, but Western experts have believed for some time that Herr Hitler suffered from Parkinson’s disease. As the German nation mourns, the greatest question arising from his death regards the Nazi succession. Herr Hitler has made no public provision for his heir since the death of his previous designated successor, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, in 1947. His wishes are believed to be contained within his last will and testament, which, by his own order, will not be unsealed until following his funeral, set to take place in three days’ time, on Friday, in the city of Linz in the German province of the Upper Danube. Who will be responsible for the administration of the German government in the meantime remains unclear at this time. We’ll have more, including the reaction to Herr Hitler’s death in Berlin, London, and Washington, later in the broadcast

In other news, fierce fighting continues around the city of Kharditsa in northern Greece, where British positions are under heavy attack from Croatian and Italian divisions. A Greek armored battalion

Quinn switched the radio off. For a moment he continued to stare at it, then, shaking himself slightly as if waking from some deep meditation, he collapsed its antenna, tossed the radio onto the bed and went back to the clothes drawer.

He dressed in a plain grey sweater, denim jeans, and a black leather jacket hung on a peg on the back of the cabin door. When he was dressed, he returned the radio to the top drawer and took out a small, snub-nosed pistol that he slid into his jacket’s inside pocket. He went to close the drawer but paused, his hand hovering in
mid-motion, then picked through the other items in it. There were two passports—one British, one Sicilian—and, at the bottom, a pair of small, rectangular leather cases. The first was embossed with the tiny letters MM, the second, VC.

Quinn removed the second case, sat down on the bed, and opened it. He looked at the medal inside, the deep maroon ribbon and the small, shiny gold cross with the inscribed legend “For Valour.” The Military Medal in the drawer was his own, but the Victoria Cross he held in his hand was his brother’s. Tenderly, he flipped the medal over and read the date inscribed on the back: 12 July 1944. Almost twenty-seven years ago now.

Quinn replaced the medal and snapped the case shut, then, on impulse, slid it into his pocket instead of replacing it in the drawer. He stood, opened his cabin door, and climbed up on deck.

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