A Traitor's Loyalty: A Novel (9 page)

He smiled. “Ellie,” he repeated. “A very pretty name.”

She ignored him. “How do you know Richard Garner?”

“I don’t. I’ve been sent to find him.” Truth.

“He’s defected?”

He spread his hands, which had been cradling his coffee cup, on the table, palms upward. “We don’t know. He’s disappeared. He’s taken some very sensitive information with him. It’s what I’m here to find out.” Truth.

“What do
you
think has happened to him?”

“I don’t know, mein Fraulein. If he
has
defected, he’s in a position to greatly compromise British security. I need to prevent that from happening.” Truth. “If he hasn’t, I need to find out what has happened, and help him if I can.” Deception. “How well do you know him?”

She shook her head. “Not well at all. I fear there’s nothing I can do for you. What do you mean, you’re only working for the English as long as you’re in Germany? Are you planning on leaving soon? What kind of spy are you?”

“A retired one, by preference. I parted ways with the Secret Intelligence Service four years ago. I am here—as a favor, you could say.”

“Why? Why did you come back? Why did they want you to?”

“To find Garner. They need to find him, to know what happened to him. In this business, instability is the greatest enemy. The situation is very unstable right now.” Truth.

“Because of the Führer’s death.”

Quinn nodded. She was perceptive for someone who had never done this. Ellie was silent for a moment, considering this, and he took advantage. “Have you ever spoken with Garner? Outside of a
Weisse Rose
meeting, perhaps?”

She shook her head.

“Come across him in your work?”

Another shake of the head. “I don’t deal with spies. That’s another department. Besides, I’m only a clerical worker. Why did you leave in the first place?” she asked.

He considered. “A traumatic experience,” he said at last. Truth.

“What do you mean?” He hesitated, and she said, “I can get up and leave now if I don’t trust you.”

He nodded. “I ran an operation to get copies of some crucial Wehrmacht documents into British hands. The Germans killed one of my principal operatives.” Karl. Quinn hesitated.

Quinn spun around to see what was happening, but the headlights glared so brightly that he had to throw his hands up in front of his eyes to shield them. All he managed to catch was a glimpse of Karl, standing transfixed in the headlights’ beam
.

He forced himself to put the memory away. “They killed him,” he said again. He swallowed and continued more firmly, “And I was shot and almost died, but we got the documents out. Because we did, a lot of people died who wouldn’t have otherwise. I had a . . . disagreement with my superiors over the relative success of the operation.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

He took a deep breath. “The documents contained the initial plans for the Croat invasion of Greece.
Because British intelligence gained access to them, the British and American garrisons in Greece were prepared for the invasion and were able to prevent themselves from being overrun long enough for the Greek forces to mount a resistance. My superiors therefore considered the operation a success.”

For a moment Ellie said nothing. Then, hesitantly, “You—you started the war in Greece?”

Quinn felt defensive. “I allowed Greece to defend itself.”

“But without what you did, we would have overrun the country—it would all have been over within days, maybe weeks.”

He couldn’t tell what was going on behind her eyes, but he held her gaze nonetheless. “You can choose to hate me if you want, mein Fraulein. You may have brothers in Greece, or a fiancé. They may have
died
in Greece, I don’t know. But I have borne this cross every day for four years. I must bear it in my own way.”

She did not respond. She was no longer looking at him, just staring at an indeterminate point over his shoulder. When at last she refocused on him and opened her mouth to speak, he expected either a condemnation or a refusal to work with him any further. Instead she said only, “It must be very hard.”

Quinn met her gaze. Then he drained the last of his coffee and set the empty cup on the table. “I think, mein Fraulein, that we have accomplished all here that we can. I thank you for taking the time to speak with me and apologize for detaining you unnecessarily.” He rose to leave.

“Wait.” She reached out a hand to his wrist to stop him. She looked up at him. “What time is it?”

He checked his wristwatch. “A little before ten.”

“You have a place to stay?”

He shook his head. “I haven’t had time to find one. I only arrived in Berlin this afternoon.”

“You’ll never find a hotel now,” she said. “The city will be packed with mourners for the Führer.” She hesitated, then went on, “You may stay at my flat. You can sleep on the settee.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Her eyebrow arched. “I have my reservations, but I have made the offer.”

He thought, then finally inclined his head. “Very well then, mein Fraulein. I thank you for your generosity.”

She rose, and they walked across the street and descended the U-Bahn station steps. He paid her fare. They waited ten minutes for the next train to arrive. All this occurred in silence. Only after they were seated and settled on the U-Bahn did Ellie say, rather distantly, “Two.” She was not looking at him.

Quinn frowned. “Mein Fraulein?”

“I have two brothers in Greece. Both junior officers with the
Panzerkorps.”
She smiled ever so slightly. “No fiancé.” The smile faded, and she went on, “Hans was injured last year in the action at Thessalonika. He won the German Cross for it. Neither of them are dead, though. Not yet.” She considered a moment. “They would not be proud if they knew I was in the
Weisse Rose.”

He hesitated, unsure of how to respond. In the end he elected on silence.

After a while she asked, “How long were you a spy?”

“Eleven years. And five in the army before that.”

“That’s where they found you? The English spy service? In the army?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do there?”

“I was a tank driver at first. With the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars in Siberia.” He paused. “I have something of a way with languages. I learned Russian fairly easily while I was there. Then I was captured by the Germans, but escaped after three weeks, and when I made it back behind the British lines I’d picked up a fair amount of German. So I ended up in the Intelligence Corps. That’s where MI6 found me.”

She said nothing for a long time, and Quinn assumed the conversation had ended. But then she murmured, “We each serve our country in the best way we can.” He wasn’t entirely sure whether she was talking to him or to herself.

After that they rode on in silence.

PART 2
CONFLICT

All nations want peace, but
they want a peace that suits them.

—Admiral Lord Fisher of Kilverstone

CHAPTER VIII

ELLIE’S SETTEE was old and threadbare, but Quinn slept comfortably nonetheless; four years in Siberia with, frequently, his tank as his only shelter had taught his body to take its sleep whenever it was offered. He awoke automatically at seven and was surprised to find Ellie already up and about.

She was in the kitchen; he could hear her footsteps and the quiet opening and closing of cupboards. He could also hear the tinny sounds of martial music—Wagner, he imagined, though he did not know the piece—issuing from a cheap radio in another room. He had no doubt that that would be all that was playing on any of the radio stations, in memoriam of the late Führer.

He yawned and stretched, then sat up. Like Denlinger’s flat—like most urban flats for the unmarried in Germany—Ellie’s was state-owned, small, and cramped. The main room, where he had spent the night, was about five meters by three. Two doors along one wall led, respectively, to the kitchen and the only bedroom.

Quinn folded up the blanket Ellie had given him, then stepped across the room to its small single window and peeked through the blinds. The uniform, impersonal concrete face of another block of state flats stared back at him. The sky was overcast and forbidding, the clouds hanging very low. There was very little car or foot traffic in the street below. A public bus trundled by, but the bus stop was deserted and the bus did not stop.

He heard Ellie’s footsteps stop in the kitchen doorway, but did not turn to see her.

“Spies rise early, it seems,” she said at last.

“Apparently not as early as some,” he responded, and only then turned round to her. She was wearing a pink cardigan and long, pale brown skirt that might have been fashionable in the States fifteen years ago, or in Britain five years after that. Her low-heeled cream pumps looked to be made of some sort of faux leather and had probably been manufactured in one of the Eastern Reich Commissariats like Kiev or Moscow, on an assembly line staffed by emaciated, toothless Slavic slave laborers. She had already washed, and her short, straight, shiny gold hair was brushed in bangs that left her forehead exposed and ran along her cheeks, neatly framing her face in soft, shallow curves.

She held a tray with two empty glasses, two plates each bearing a pair of French pastries and a couple of slices of orange. She set the tray down on the small dining table near the kitchen entrance, then walked over to the front door, unbolted it, and opened it. She brought inside a single bottle of milk that was waiting there for her, closed the door, and bolted it again.

“I hope milk is all right,” she said, crossing the room back over to the table.

Quinn waved his hand airily. “More than I could ask, mein Fraulein.”

“You’ve spent the night in my home,” she said matter-of-factly as she poured two glasses of milk. “It’s probably all right for you to call me by my name.”

He smiled. “Ellie.”

Two glasses poured, she sat down, took one of the plates from the tray and began eating one of the orange slices. Quinn stood at the window, watching her.

She glanced up at him. “Is there something I should know about the table I set, mein Herr? Probably not quite so glamorous as you’re used to in your world, I’m sure, but it’s the best I could do on such notice.”

“I’ve spent the night in your home,” he said. “Call me Simon.”

She glanced up. “For now, I’m happy with mein Herr.”

He crossed the room, sat down at the table and picked up a pastry. “Is today your day off?” he asked, nodding at her clothing.

“It’s everybody’s day off,” she explained. “It was on the radio. Days of National Remembrance, today and tomorrow. And of course for the Führer’s funeral on Friday.”

Quinn nodded. It was a logical step; evidently someone in the Reich bureaucracy had finally been willing to assert himself sufficiently to take it.

They ate in silence. Quinn studied the cover of a celebrity magazine lying on the table. It bore a photo of Gustav Gründgens, the elder statesman of German cinema who, according to the caption, played the Pope in Riefenstahl’s latest film,
Charlemagne
.

After a few minutes Ellie asked, “What will you do now?”

“I don’t know,” Quinn admitted. “I seem to be out of leads at the moment. All I have is that Garner was participating in clandestine meetings at Prinz Albrechtstrasse between officials of the British embassy and the RSHA.”

She frowned. “Really?”

He nodded. “But that’s come to naught. The only thing I’ve been able to find is a reference to something called the ‘Columbia-Haus protocol.’” He noticed the look on her face. “Why? Do you know something about this?”

She opened her mouth to say something, then evidently changed her mind. “No,” she said instead. She shook her head but was unable to meet his gaze. “No, this is the first I’ve heard of anything like that.” She busied herself, putting their empty plates and glasses back on the tray, then gathering it up and carrying it through to the kitchen.

Quinn turned in his seat to follow her. “Ellie,” he said, “if there’s something you know, I need you to tell me.”

She tossed the orange rinds into the dustbin, deposited the tray’s contents into the kitchen sink, and turned on the tap, moving her hand back and forth through the flow of water to check that it was heating. She glanced up at him. “You forget,” she said, “that I haven’t yet decided that I’m helping you.” After a moment, she added, “Besides, it’s not like I really know anything. I’ve just heard of Columbia-Haus, nothing more. No more than you’ve already learnt, and probably far less.”

Quinn remained silent, knowing when it was time to back off. Satisfied with the water temperature, Ellie took some soap and a rag from beside the sink and set to scrubbing the dishes.

After a while she asked, “What will happen if you don’t find Garner?” Her attitude was affectedly offhand, but Quinn was fairly sure it was an act. “I mean, spies have defected before. It’s not like there’ll be an atomic war.”

Quinn shrugged. “If we knew what the consequences could be, we probably wouldn’t need to find him so desperately. Atomic war? I doubt it. But even among the mildest of possible consequences, he could divulge to the SS the identities and locations of every British agent in West Prussia. If that happens, those men and women are dead—if they’re lucky, before they’re subjected to days or even weeks and months of Gestapo custody.” He rose and stepped into the kitchen doorway. “Ellie, I understand this is hard for you, but if there’s anything you can tell me, I beg you to do so. Nuclear war? I pray not. But regardless, lives
do
hang in the balance.”

“Lives of English spies and
Germans
they have incited or blackmailed into treachery,” she countered, but there was no venom behind the words and she couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes as she said them.

Several minutes of silence followed. She finished washing the dishes and turned off the tap. She was a fairly small woman, and Quinn watched as she had to stand on her tiptoes and reach up, stretching, to place the clean dishes comfortably in the cupboard above the sink. When she had finished, she turned to face him, crossing her arms and leaning against the kitchen counter.

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