Synopsis and MPrologue


In 1940, a Nazi expedition to Greenland uncovers something
strange beneath an extinct volcano. Over sixty years later, a
young Jew is murdered by political extremists in Berlin,
setting in motion a chain of events which threatens to
culminate in Ragnarok – the Twilight of the Gods, and the end
of the world as we know it.

Does an Aryan super-race really sleep beneath an extinct
volcano in the desolate region known as Thule? There’s
certainly something there, something with far-reaching
implications for humanity, and over which people are quite
prepared to kill. Caroline Kent becomes drawn into the affair
while investigating her German grandfather’s war service, in
which there seem to be unexplained gaps. Once again she finds
herself enmeshed in a web of intrigue, in which there is more
than one spider. For by now others besides the Nazis have
rediscovered the secret of Thule; people who in their own way
are just as ruthless, and as deadly……

Part One: The Past
March 1940
It was either a paradise or a Hell, thought Dr Klaus
Wenzel; this bleak, barren expanse of white swept by
bitingly cold winds which could sometimes stifle the breath
in your mouth; depending on your point of view.
Personally he liked it, though he knew there were times
when it could be a killer. Of course he was well-insulated
in dufflecoat, pullover, wool vest, sealskin boots, mitts
and scarf, which undoubtedly helped.

He drew in a deep, sighing breath of that crisp air, which
stung the flesh of his face where it was exposed, but in a
manner not unpleasant. His gaze swept across the frozen
landscape to the rugged coastline with its fjords and
little inlets, and towering masses of ice which reminded
him of great cathedrals. “A floating crystal castle the
colour of a silver veil, yet hard as marble and the sea
around it as smooth as glass and as white as milk,” the
sixth-century Irish monk had described one of those
glaciers. Wenzel’s thoughts right now were much the same as
St Brendan’s when he first set eyes on this place. The air
was pure, like the snow on the ground; a purgatory, that’s
what it was. He thought of the Vikings who had settled here
to carve wood, spin, weave and dye, their simple, arduous
existence forging in them the qualities which he so much
admired. The hallmarks of a true Aryan.

They were about to rein in the dogs and take a brief rest
when Wenzel spotted what they had been looking for. “There
it is,” he shouted, pointing. The others glanced over to
the east and saw, just visible on the horizon, the three
masses of rock with the central one, the largest, soaring
high into the clear blue sky, its steep sides tapering
gradually to end in a blunt, flat top, resulting in an
overall shape not unlike a chimney stack. And indeed white
explorers referred to it as the Devil’s Chimney. It was
visible for miles around in what was otherwise a flat,
unbroken, featureless landscape.

The man sitting beside Wenzel on the sled glanced at his
rapt face, the eyes shining like the sun on the snow
surrounding them. He found himself smiling; there was
definitely something about his companion’s mood that
infected you. All the same, he couldn’t quite credit it.
What on earth did they think they were going to find here?
All this business of ancient runes and prehistoric
monuments, of Norse mythology and lost civilizations; it
might be alright for that crazy society Wenzel belonged to,
but not for him. Captain Albert Dachtler of the
Kriegsmarine, overall commander of the expedition, was a
practical man; if they wanted him to fight a war for them,
as might well be the case pretty soon if the current
conflict should suddenly escalate, that was fine. It was
his job. And indeed, one of the main reasons for the
expedition was to survey the area in order to establish if
a military base, preferably ice-free, could be built there.
It might prove of strategic importance if a U-boat war
broke out, allowing the Fatherland to command the northern
approaches to Britain and the Scandinavian countries. And
if America at some point should join the conflict, to have
a base in Greenland would enable an attack to be launched
against her, perhaps through Canada. The possibility of
such an attack might deter her from intervening. As for the
opinions of the Danes, who currently governed Greenland,
that simply did not matter. He suspected the war plans
included an occupation of Denmark, though if that were the
case no-one was choosing to share the knowledge with him.

As well as its military purpose the expedition had the
psychological value of demonstrating to others that the
glorious German Reich had conquered the North Pole. A
similar mission with a similar aim had been carried out to
Antarctica and proved successful.

The two Dornier seaplanes, Tristan and Isolde, had already
made over a hundred flights over the designated region,
covering some eight hundred thousand miles and taking more
than 11,000 photographs. They had been launched by steam
catapult from the deck of the expedition ship, the Prinz
Albrecht, anchored about ten miles down the coast from
where they were now. The Prinz Albrecht was a former
aircraft carrier which after the Great War had been
demilitarized and put to use on the transatlantic mail run
as part of the restrictions placed on Germany’s armed
forces by the hated Treaty of Versailles. After the Fuhrer
had put a stop to all that and begun an extensive programme
of rearmament, the Albrecht was not recommissioned, being
far too old for active service. She had been utilized as a
survey vessel instead.

Wenzel had been tempted to pepper the place with dropflags
bearing the swastika, claiming the territory for the
Reich as they’d done in Antarctica, but was persuaded that
this might be unwise. Antarctica belonged to nobody, so was
everyone’s for the taking, whereas Greenland was a Danish
possession and they could not just breeze in and act as if
they owned the place; not yet, anyway.

As it was they had so far failed to find any ice-free
areas, and there were unlikely to be any further north.
Wenzel and his team had carried out, without any result
whatsoever, a series of geological surveys; trying to
establish whether there was some kind of underground heat
source somewhere which might be tapped, although how it
could be harnessed to provide warmth and power for an
installation on the surface Dachtler couldn’t fathom. They
had visited the sites of the ancient Viking settlements,
drawn up plans of them, searched for and found a few
artifacts of interest. That was fine by Dachtler. He could
see nothing wrong with people taking an interest in how
their ancestors had lived; but as of yet they’d found
nothing of any practical value.

The expedition had already cost one million Reichsmarks,
not least in refitting the ship for its new role; and apart
from the various scraps of broken pottery they had
unearthed at the Viking sites it was turning out to be a
monumental waste of time. Wenzel and his friends from the
Department of History and Culture didn’t themselves seem
convinced it was worth the bother going by what he’d
overheard of their conversation around the Primus stove a
couple of nights ago.

“I still say it cannot be here,” insisted Dorfmann. He was
the one who was always complaining.

“But this is Thule,” Keller reminded him. “The
northernmost point. Not far off, anyhow.”

“It is not the Thule of the ancient legends,” Ludecke
said. “That is Iceland, it has to be.” The others sighed in
annoyance, dismayed that Dorfmann had found an ally.

“That does not matter,” smiled Wenzel happily. The place
had caught his imagination and he felt sure there must be
something here that would be of inestimable value to the

“Iceland, that is where we should be,” persisted Ludecke.

“We’ve already sent expeditions to Iceland, plenty of
them. They found nothing.” They had had no luck anywhere
else either; Greenland was a last shot. It was like
searching for a missing key in the light purely because you
could see to do so, whereas in fact you had lost it in the
darkness. If even these clever people with their university
degrees, who must know what they were talking about –
although that was doubtful at times – weren’t sure of the
value of the mission, Dachtler didn’t see why he should be.
No, it was all a waste of time.

Except for what the shaman had told them the day before.

It was a contradiction which baffled Dachtler; Wenzel and
the other scientists seemed to regard the peoples of these
regions as inferior, like all non-Aryans, yet were
fascinated by them nonetheless. They studied their culture,
carried out measurements of their heads and the profiles
of their faces, while the Eskimos happily put up with it
all, and compared them to the supposedly superior Germans
with Kotze – judged the most Nordic of the group - acting
as the subject. They’d been instructed to do all this by
the Ahnenerbe; one of that nutcase Himmler’s daft ideas.
They had also tried to study the Eskimos’ folk legends, in
the hope among other things of being led to what Wenzel and
his fellow academics had really come here to find. Wherever
they stopped they made enquiries, seeking out someone with
status and learning who would be sure to have the answers
they sought, if anyone did. They met with no success until
they came to Qaanaaq.

When it was learned what they were about they were dragged
off to see the old woman. Something in the excited reaction
of the locals to their questions gave them hope. In any
case, this was almost the last outpost of – call it
civilization, although it was not of the same standard as
the glorious Aryan Reich, going by the standards of Hitler
and Himmler. If they didn’t strike lucky soon, they never

So they had sat in the animal-skin tent, around a fire
made with whale oil, and listened to the shaman, with
Keller, the most knowledgeable about the local languages,
as interpreter. It was said there were not many shamans
left. All had now been baptized, the last just a few years
previously. A nominal, at least, adherence to Christianity
did not mean they had forgotten the old legends; all the
same this one, it was said, was the last of her line.

The woman was incredibly old, her skin seamed and wrinkled
like a walnut, and framed by hair as white as the snow
outside. But her eyes were bright and intense and
penetrating, gleaming with intelligence in the light from
the fire which cast strange wavering shadows across her

Keller had questioned her about the legends of her people.
In her thick, guttural voice she told them about Nanuk the
polar bear, a spirit as well as a real flesh-and-blood
animal, about Sita, the life force which pervaded the
natural world and gave us our awareness of who we were, and
about the woman who lived at the bottom of the sea and
determined success or failure in hunting the creatures

And then she lifted an arm and pointed away towards the
north. She spoke of a mountain not too far from here, that
had once spat fire. And she spoke of gods who lived beneath
the mountain, though they had not stirred from there to
walk among men for as long as anyone could remember. “When
they are angry the mountain roars. But the mountain has not
roared since before I came into the world….” And it
wouldn’t have surprised Dachtler if the shaman had been
over a hundred years old. “It is said the gods are

The mountain was supposed to be haunted, though whether by
the spirits of the gods (could you have a ghost of a god?)
or by some other agency wasn’t clear. The legend seemed a
bit confused on this point.

But Wenzel leaned forward, his eyes as bright and keen as
hers. His Wagnerian imagination was working overtime; he
had to know more. He asked what the gods looked like. “Were
they like you?”

And the answer the old woman gave sent a powerful,
indescribable thrill racing through his bloodstream. She
shook her head emphatically. “No. Like you.”

“White? They were white?”

Again she nodded vigorously. “And tall, very tall. And
some of them were him.” She shot out an arm
and pointed at Kotze: blond, blue-eyed,long-headed, the
epitome of everything the Fuhrer held dear. Wenzel jerked
backwards, sitting bolt upright as if an electric shock
had passed through his body. They heard him give a short,
involuntary gasp of amazement. Maybe it was the fire, but
his face seemed to glow like a prophet experiencing at
first hand some divine revelation.

Datchler frowned, shifting back a little. It couldn’t be
true, surely; it just couldn’t. Could it?

Wenzel muttered something the others didn’t catch. Then he
leaned forward again, his eyes fixed on the shaman’s. “And
this mountain; you say it is to the north of here? How

“A few hours’ ride, with dogs.”

“We just keep going north?” Dorfmann asked eagerly. His
manner was now entirely different, his scepticism
completely gone.

“Yes. You cannot mistake it. Its shape is very

“Is there anything more you can tell us about the gods?”

“No. It was too long ago.”

Curtly he muttered his thanks to the woman, then rose to
his feet. “This is incredible! We must go to this place
first thing tomorrow morning.” And so they had, setting off
immediately it was light. By now they were experienced
enough in the ways of the Arctic, and particularly driving
a dogsled, to dispense with their Eskimo guide, which was
fortunate. They didn’t want things to get messy. What lay
within the mountain, if it was there at all, was to be seen
by them alone. Otherwise, they might have to…..

“Only this tribe of Eskimo seem to know about the gods,”
remarked Dorfmann as they went out to their sleds from the
hut the townspeople had set aside for their use. “It is as
if they were confined only to this one small part of
Greenland. The population could not have been very large.”

“Just a minute,” said Dachtler. “Are you saying they
really were gods, these…these beings? I have to say I’m a
little confused.”

“Not gods,” replied Wenzel. “Not gods but supermen.

“I see,” Dachtler muttered. “And what military value are
they supposed to be, might I ask?”

“That is impossible to say at present. We just don’t know
what we’re going to find in there.”

“Do you think anyone has been here before us?”

“They may have done. But if they had found anything we
would have known about it.”

“Perhaps we’re lucky and the place simply hasn’t been
explored before.”

“What about the Eskimos?” asked Kotze.

“It seems they prefer to leave the place alone. I had the
impression they thought it was cursed in some way.”

Now they were almost up to the lower slopes of the
mountain. The ground here was flat, like everything else in
sight, save for a few rocks and boulders showing through
the light carpeting of snow. Above them loomed the towering
cone of black volcanic rock. There was a thin, ash-like
soil at its base. Oddly, it seemed to be entirely free of
snow itself, as if something, they’d no idea what, was
keeping the stuff at bay.

Dachtler suddenly reined in his sleigh and looked around
uneasily. The vast mass of rock was blotting out the sun,
casting a shadow over the party. They heard the soft, eerie
moaning of the wind blowing in and out of the crannies and
crevices within it.

“Are you alright, Kapitan?” asked Wenzel.

“Yes,” answered the Navy man, after a moment. “It’s
nothing.” Completely under the spell of the place, Wenzel
made no comment.

The others had also stopped, taking Dachtler’s doing so
for granted. They climbed down and gathered round Wenzel
and the captain. Wenzel placed his hand on a jutting
outcrop of rock, and looked up at the summit of the
mountain, although it wasn’t really that but rather a large
and unusually-shaped rock formation. It must be at least a
thousand feet high, and considerably greater than that in
extent. ”Now,” he began, “if there really is anyone living
inside it, the mountain obviously cannot be solid. And the
gods walked among men once, it is said, or no-one would
ever have known about them. So there must be some means of
getting in and out.”

They began to walk round the base of the mountain. The
massive folds of rock were riddled with numerous cracks and
crevices, some of which began at ground level or just
above; they varied in size, but a few were large enough to
admit the passage of a human body. One by one they explored
these openings, finding out how far in each went; Dachtler
without any obvious enthusiasm.

What is it? he wondered. I’m supposed to be a tough, nononsense
sailor but there’s something about this place

Wenzel was examining the hollow between two projecting
spurs of rock for some means of entry when he heard a
hollow, muffled shout from close by. He stepped out into
the open and looked round. “Who’s that?” he called, his
voice echoing slightly.

Suddenly Kotze was there before him, seeming to emerge
straight out of the solid rock, like an apparition. “Dr
Wenzel, I think there is a kind of tunnel here.”

Wenzel’s heart leapt. He shouted out to the others. They
joined him at the mouth of the narrow passage, just wide
enough for two men to walk side-by side, which Wenzel had
found within a gnarled fold of rock that swept majestically
down from about halfway up the mountain.

“How far in does it go?” Keller asked.

“I’m not sure. At least twenty feet.”

“Fetch the torches,” Wenzel ordered. Dorfmann went and got

Ordering him and Kotze to stay with the sleds, Wenzel led
the others into the tunnel, each man shining his torch
before him as darkness wrapped itself around the party.
It seemed to extend for rather more than twenty feet. “It
can’t go in all the way,” said Dachtler. “Surely.” His
voice echoed eerily back from the rock walls around them.
Wenzel hadn’t heard him. “An underground passage, that is
what we should be looking for.” Every so often they stopped
to shine their torches down at the floor.

“For one thing, we don’t want to fall into it,” said
Dachtler bluntly. “But why should there be an underground

“It will lead to the centre of the Earth. If there were
human beings living here permanently, they would need to….”
Wenzel broke off with a short, sharp intake of breath. A
few yards ahead the tunnel broadened out considerably, so
that about half a dozen people could walk abreast. And at
that point there was a change in the texture of the
surrounding rock.

It was too smooth, too regular.

Realisation hit him, causing him to jerk to a sudden halt,
gazing around in speechless awe. The implication was
awesome, astonishing; a little frightening.

The tunnel was man-made. It had to be.

“Gott in Himmel,” he murmured softly. He heard a few of
the others utter similar expletives as the same thought
occurred to them.

“This was excavated,” he breathed. For a long moment they
stood there letting it sink in. Total silence enveloped
them, broken by what might have been the faint drip-drip of
water. Illuminated in the pool of light cast by a torch, a
man’s head was like a ghostly skull hovering in the

Then suddenly Wenzel’s heart sank. There was a perfectly
ordinary explanation for it. Someone had got here before

Still, having come this far they might as well press on.

Wait a moment. Why did the man-made section only start
here? If someone had wanted to widen the natural tunnel
through the rock, making it more easily passable, why
didn’t they begin at its actual entrance, saving themselves
a bit of bother? It didn’t make sense.

Unless someone had chosen to live here, and had merely
adapted the existing passageways through the rock rather
than make new ones.

He started forward again, his excitement rekindled. The
others, who’d guessed his train of thought, followed. The
tunnel led on and on, quite some time passing or so it
seemed. It must go in all the way, thought Wenzel. Or
almost. There had to be some kind of central chamber. It
couldn’t just be miles of smooth featureless rock, even if
the purpose of the corridor was to act as a conduit for
something rather than give access to a room or rooms.
What could that something be? He could think of all sorts
of possibilities. Once more his imagination was going

They drew up sharply, feet scraping on the floor. In the
combined pools of light from their torches they saw before
them a vertical rock surface, completely blind; a wall
barring their path. Smooth like the sides of the corridor,
it gleamed in the torchlight.

Wenzel ran his hands over it but could find no opening, no
protrusion, no mechanism of any kind by which it might be
made to open out. In fact it seemed totally flush with the
sides and floor of the tunnel, an integral part with them
of the mountain. Nor was there any gap between it and the

Not a door, then. Just solid rock. You could make a rock
door open if there were some apparatus for doing it,
electrically- or diesel-driven; but he couldn’t see one.
But what was the purpose of this artificially-constructed
wall unless it did open? Another thing that didn’t make
sense. He ran his hands over it again, and over the side
walls, hoping to trigger a concealed mechanism but nothing

“We need equipment,” he snapped, spinning round to face
the others. “Explosives. We have to drill or blast our way

“We don’t have any of that stuff,” said Keller.

“Then we must send a message to Berlin for it.” Wenzel
glanced enquiringly at Captain Dachtler.

Dachtler nodded. “I’m happy to extend our stay in
Greenland for another few weeks, if Berlin are.” Actually
he wasn’t, despite what they’d just found, but he knew his
duty. “We’ll ask them for another batch of supplies.”

“Come, let’s go,” Wenzel said. They filed back down the
tunnel, to emerge with some relief into the open air and
feel the cool, fresh wind on their faces. Excitedly they
told Kotze and Dorfmann what they’d discovered.

“I’ll go and call Berlin,” said Keller, and went towards
the sleds, in one of which was the radio set.

“Then we must return to the ship,” Dachtler told them. “Or
go on to Siorapaluk. There’s no sense in hanging around
here until the equipment arrives.”

Wenzel nodded agreement. There might be something of
interest at Siorapaluk to keep them occupied for the time
being. It was still disappointing, though, not to be able
to go any further into the mountain. He sensed the others
shared his feelings.

“Herr Doktor Wenzel,” said Kotze. “Could there be another
way in, higher up?”

Wenzel thought. “I suppose there could be. But what would
be the sense in that? You’d have to climb up to get to it.
Much better to have all the entrances and exits at ground

“Yes, Herr Doktor, but you might need tunnels for

In which case, they would probably not be blocked at any
point. Wenzel started with joy. ”Mein Gott, you are right,
Wilhelm. Excellent thinking! We must – “ He checked
himself. “We don’t have the right gear with us. Let’s leave
it for now.”

Kotze was scrutinizing the rocky slopes above them, eyes
narrowed against the thin but piercing sunlight. Suddenly
he grabbed Wenzel’s arm and pointed. “Up there – you see? I
think there is some kind of opening.” There did indeed seem
to be an indentation, squarish in shape, in the rock about
fifty feet above their heads. Only darkness could be seen
within. It looked just big enough to admit a man. Whether
or not it could have been made by one was difficult to tell
without closer inspection.

“Let me go up and check,” Kotze offered. The others looked
at each other doubtfully.

On a sudden impulse Kotze started to climb. He put his
foot on a spur of rock, roughly beneath where the opening
was, and levered himself up onto it. There were enough
little ledges and crevices for him to find hand- and
footholds, and with astonishing speed and agility for his
huge size he swarmed smoothly up the fairly steep surface
towards his goal.

“I think he’s done some climbing before,” said Ludecke.

They craned their necks to watch as he clambered higher and
higher, with almost effortless ease. They stepped back a
little as loose rocks dislodged by him rained down towards

High above the opening, perhaps a couple of hundred feet
from the ground, was what Dachtler had thought at first to
be another projecting, solid outcrop of rock. He now saw it
was a huge boulder, resting on a spur which jutted out into
space like a pointing finger. He guessed it had fallen from
the higher slopes and come to rest lodged in its current
position, almost directly above where Kotze was now.
It must weigh several tons, Dachtler thought. That finger
of rock which had arrested its progress seemed very thin
and fragile by comparison. But it must have been there for
hundreds of years – thousands? – and not fallen yet, so why
should it do so now.

Dachtler was frowning. He should have told Kotze not to do
it, but it was too late now.

Wasn’t there a story about a hanging boulder somewhere,
precariously balanced just as this one was, which when it
fell would signal the end of the world?

Kotze’s head was just a foot or so below the opening. He
stretched his neck in order to see inside it. “Well, is it
man-made?” Wenzel shouted up to him.

Kotze shouted something back, but they couldn’t quite tell
what it was as the wind caught his words and snatched them
away. Then it dropped. “I can’t tell. This is as close as I
can get. No, I can’t be sure; but it looks too small to get
inside, anyway. I’m coming down.”

“Be careful,” Dachtler shouted. Coming down in these cases
was often more difficult than going up. Everyone’s eyes
were focused on Kotze anxiously.

Very slowly and carefully he began to descend, now using
handholds as footholds and vice versa. Once he nearly
slipped, his foot missing its hold and kicking vainly in
space for a moment before finding it again. They caught
their breaths.

Then they heard a grinding, crunching sound and looked up,
chilling with alarm. Concentrating on getting down to the
ground safely, Kotze was unaware of it.

The rock spur supporting the boulder was crumbling,
raining small stones and showers of black coal-like dust on
the watchers below. They saw the boulder give a lurch, then
dip as the spur broke away.

“Look out!” they shouted, and Kotze glanced up. He saw the
huge chunk of rock plummet down towards him, rapidly
filling his vision. He gasped in horror, aware that only a
sudden move to one side could save him and that if he got
it wrong it could be fatal. Desperately he glanced first
left, then right. Making his decision, he swung himself to
the left, out of the boulder’s path, fingers and toes
scrabbling for the holds he thought he had seen there.
His feet swung in empty air. What he had thought was a
ledge had been merely a shallow indentation in the rock,
offering no purchase. His weight dragged him down and his
fingers slipped from their crevice.

Kotze’s scream merged with the howl of the wind as he
plunged straight down, too fast for him to consolidate any
hold his scrabbling fingers might find. His feet hit the
rock face where it flared out towards the bottom and he was
flipped over backwards and to the right, his limbs flailing
wildly. Instinctively the others scrambled back. He landed
heavily at the base of the mountain, coming to rest with
his head and upper body directly beneath the falling
boulder. It was too late to drag him to safety. They turned
away, sickened. There was a soft crunching sound as the
boulder smashed down, shattering his skull and splintering
his ribcage like matchwood.

They forced themselves to look. From the amount of blood
staining the rocks, as much as anything else, they knew
Kotze was beyond help.

He had been young and keen. For the next couple of minutes
there was a stunned silence. Then Wenzel turned away
helplessly. “Poor fellow,” he muttered. “We shouldn’t have
let him go.”

They became aware that Keller had rejoined them and was
staring in horror at the mangled body, white-faced.
“There’s nothing we can do for him,” Wenzel told the

They stood silently over the body, eyes closed, hands
clasped in front of them, until finally Wenzel turned to
Keller and asked in a subdued tone whether he had sent the

Keller answered in a similarly flat, hollow voice. “Berlin
say we must return home immediately. It seems they can’t
say why without endangering the security of the Reich.
We’re to seal up the entrance to the tunnel, if possible,
and not tell anyone what we’ve found.”

They stared at him. “Kotze gave his life for the project,”
said Wenzel. “And we’re on the verge of a discovery that
will have..incalculable consequences. We can’t just abandon

“The order came direct from Reichsfuhrer Himmler.” And
that, Wenzel knew, was the end of the matter. Hitler would
be sure to back Himmler up. He sighed long and hard, like
the wind whistling around the slopes of the mountain, and
gazed first up at the menacing outline of the Devil’s
Chimney, then down at Kotze’s body.

“Very well,” he said flatly, “if that’s what they want.
We’ll go home, and we’ll take poor Wilhelm with us.”

“It’s the best thing,” Dachtler agreed. ”Ehrich, we’ll
need some help to move this boulder, so go back to Qaanaaq
and tell them what’s happened. In the meantime we’ll wait
here.” Ludecke nodded and went over to where the sleds
stood waiting, the dogs beginning to bark impatiently.

“Wilhelm’s family will need to be informed,” Wenzel said,
stating the obvious because as with all such situations,
there wasn’t much else one could say.

Dachtler’s head sank until he was looking straight down.
“It was foolish of him,” he muttered to Wenzel, “but then I
should not have let him do it. It’s all my fault.” Why
hadn’t he done something? “Though as we saw, he was a good
climber. I thought….”

“Perhaps it’s just one of those things,” said Wenzel.
“Perhaps it was Fate.”

Datchler turned and stared away into the far distance,
pondering. “Yes,” he murmured. “Yes, perhaps it was.”

When the Prinz Albrecht returned to Kiel some weeks later
a telegram was waiting for Wenzel from the Armed Forces
High Command, summoning him to its headquarters in Berlin.
There he was greeted by an official from the War
Department, who after introducing himself as Hermann
Strasser showed him to a little room where they sat down to

“First of all let me say how sorry I am at the loss of
your colleague, Herr Doktor. And that your expedition was
interrupted. I know how disappointed you must be. Let me
assure you that the High Command fully support what you are
doing at Thule. The Fuhrer has been informed of what you
have found and is most intrigued.

“However, it would not be practical for you to return
there just now. Let me explain why.

“Yesterday morning our forces invaded and occupied
Denmark. We had of course been planning to do so for some
time, but the exact date of the invasion had to remain a
secret. It was always known that the resulting situation,
as far as Greenland was concerned, would for a time at
least be uncertain, and so we agreed with Reichsfuhrer
Himmler and the High Command to recall your expedition in
advance of the invasion. It had already set off when the
timetable for the operation was decided upon. To have
cancelled it without any explanation would have aroused
your suspicions, so we wished to leave you some time in
which to complete your survey.

“Our spies in the United States report that she is
planning to move into Greenland. Now we have control of
Denmark, they are worried we could establish a foothold
there which would render them vulnerable if they ever
decided to declare war on us, especially since they are
also concerned about Iceland. They intend to set up a
couple of military bases as well as refuelling depots and
weather stations.” Wenzel stiffened, giving him a worried
look. “In these circumstances it would obviously have been
dangerous for your team to have remained in Greenland. We
are not at present at war with America, but nor can we be
sure of her friendship in the long term.”

“All we needed were those explosives,” Wenzel said
bitterly. “Another few weeks, at the most, might have been
enough to prove my theories right.”

“We couldn’t have taken the risk. But did you manage to
seal the tunnel?”

“That was not possible. Had we done so somebody might well
have wondered why; it would only have attracted attention.”
He changed his tack. “Herr Strasser…if we were to find
something substantial at Thule, beyond what we have
already, might it not contribute significantly to the cause
of winning the war?” The propaganda value would be
enormous. Then again; he checked himself uncertainly. They
had no idea exactly what it was they had found at Thule,
not yet. Perhaps it was unwise to build this thing up into
something it might not be.

“I understand what you are saying,” Strasser replied. “But
at the present time the Fuhrer regards the winning of the
war in Europe as a priority. Besides which, as you say, we
do not want to attract attention to Thule. For you to
remain in Greenland and possibly be captured by the
Americans, with the likelihood of them finding out what you
have discovered, would be an unjustifiable risk. They would
surround the site and keep the knowledge of what is there
secret, to prevent us exploiting it for political or any
other purposes.”

“But if the Americans are in control of Greenland, we may
never be able to resume operations at Thule.” As long as
there existed something which nobody but Germany could be
allowed possession of, because no-one could be sure what
course relations with strategically important neutral
countries would take in the future, America was potentially
an enemy. And if she had to be fought, she would almost
certainly win. Wenzel couldn’t see how anyone but a fool
could expect to stand up to the military and industrial
might of the United States; even Hitler, daring as he had
shown himself to be, couldn’t be so stupid as to take the
risk involved. Surely.

But in the end, he knew Strasser was right. Or was he?

Just one more week, he thought with an inward sigh. That’s
all it would have taken.

“We will have to see how matters unfold,” the official
smiled. “Should there be a change in the current
relationship between this country and the United States,
the situation will I am sure be reviewed. In the meantime,
as I am sure you will appreciate, absolute secrecy must be

“You do not have to worry about that, Herr Strasser,”
Wenzel said stiffly. “I am a loyal servant of the Reich and
so are the others who took part in the expedition. We would
have known what to do. Now if you will excuse me?”
He rose and strode from the room, blank-faced.

Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 5th December 1943
The whole place was designed to intimidate, thought Wenzel
with irritation. The room where he’d been asked to wait
until the Fuhrer was ready to see him was of medium size
and unremarkable in décor and furnishings, seeming ordinary
and unthreatening, but only so that the shock when you
passed through the massive double doors at one side could
be that much greater. Beyond was a vast hall, decorated
with mosaics, with a short flight of steps in one wall that
led to a high-ceilinged, 480-foot long corridor which never
seemed to end. All throughout the journey to Hitler’s
office he felt small, lonely – despite the presence of the
uniformed aide who marched along smartly beside him – and
insignificant. He wondered if the sound of their feet
ringing out on the floor would drive him mad before they
eventually got there. The walk also tired him out; an
uncomfortable reminder, he thought, of how the war has aged
us all.

The room at the end of the corridor was far bigger than
any normal office. Its dominant feature was the enormous
marble-topped desk at which sat the small figure of the
Fuhrer, himself somehow seeming lost and lonely behind it.

“Mein Fuhrer, Dr Wenzel to see you.”

Hitler looked up from the pile of official documents on
which he was busy scribbling his signature. Rising from his
chair, he came out from behind the desk and halted just
before Wenzel, his hands clasped behind his back.

Wenzel had always found the man physically unimpressive
until you saw his face; until Hitler’s eyes met yours and
you felt the full impact of the massive personality within
that little frame. The scientist almost recoiled from their
piercing stare. But in them was something different from
what he had seen there on previous occasions, the last just
over a year ago, when they’d met. Wenzel was not its
target, not really; but now there was an anger, a dark
brooding hatred in them whose cause he thought he could
guess and which he knew would drive the Fuhrer to prosecute
with even greater savagery the extermination of those
innocents still trapped within the occupied territories who
he had marked down as non-Aryan and therefore undesirable.
Hitler gave a curt nod and looked at him in expectation.
Wenzel nodded back politely. “Mein Fuhrer.”

He cleared his throat. “You will remember, mein Fuhrer,
that my expedition to Thule four years ago found evidence
that the mountain was at one time inhabited?” Out of the
corner of his eye he noticed a file lying open on the desk,
which Hitler had evidently been perusing at some point.
Without answering Hitler started to pace about the room,
the slow heavy tread of his feet echoing hollowly in
Wenzel’s ears. Unsettled, Wenzel cursed the man inwardly
for making him feel so uncomfortable. He swallowed, then
rallied his wits and continued. “I suggest that it is time
we restarted the expeditions to Thule.”

Hitler went on pacing and Wenzel wondered what was going
on in that strange, impenetrable, labyrinthine mind. The
sound of those feet plodding up and down was particularly
annoying when he was trying to think, to choose his words
with care so he didn’t cause offence.

Only too aware why Hitler might be reluctant to sanction
the proposal, he sought to mollify his leader. “Of course
at this stage of the war....” He cut off abruptly as he
realised he might have made a mistake. He knew very well
what might happen if he dared to suggest things were going
badly. But he had committed himself now, couldn’t turn
back. “At this present stage of the war, I…I can understand
why other matters might seem more of a priority.”
Somehow he had to stress the renewed necessity of another
trip to Thule without suggesting that Hitler’s conduct of
affairs was deficient. It was the worst part of serving
leaders like this, your inability to speak the truth. And
the truth in this case was that Germany had probably lost
any chance of victory. The V-weapons were not yet ready.
The U-boat war in the Atlantic, success in which could
still have determined the outcome of the conflict, had
during the past year been more or less been won by the
Allies. The German presence had been ejected from North
Africa and the British and Americans were now moving their
way gradually up through Italy. The situation on the
Eastern Front was desperate. There were also rumours that
the Allies were preparing a full-scale invasion in the
West. The magnificent achievement of 1940-41 was starting
to crumble. The knowledge that Germany was staring in the
face a second shattering defeat; it must be tearing him
apart, surely. For them to lose not one but two World Wars,
after all the expense in material and financial terms and
in millions of heroic lives sacrificed….it seemed so cruel,
so unjust. But nonetheless the growing realization of what
awaited them was settling upon their minds like a great
black cloud.

Of course the V-weapons might still turn the tide. And
then there was Thule.

And yet to his frustration, Hitler was clearly not
impressed by his claims. Perhaps it was to be expected.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the Fuhrer considered the attempts
to prove the cultural virility of the German race by
discovering great cultural achievements of the past, the
evidence for which was doubtful, to be a foolish and
pointless distraction. It was a wonder he let Himmler get
away with so much. In Mein Kampf he had even written that
neo-Paganism was the work of dark forces seeking to divert
Germans from the all-important struggle against the Jew,
their common enemy. He had effectively forced Liebenfels
and the New Templars underground, forbidding them to
publish their writings. Nor was he alone among the Nazi
hierarchy in holding such opinions towards the movement. To
hard-headed politicians, for that was how his leaders liked
to see themselves, rockets and flying bombs represented a
more tangible and practical means of achieving victory.
Even Wenzel himself now wondered whether he had not been,
in truth, a crank; for all he knew, there was not the
slightest reason to think the gods still lived or had ever
existed in the first place. Or at least there hadn’t been
until he actually set foot inside the mountain and saw the
evidence. If evidence it was.

The Fuhrer continued to perambulate the room with his
hands behind him, the fingers knitted tightly together, and
his eyes staring intently ahead. His movements had brought
him close to Wenzel. Suddenly he stopped and swung round
sharply to face the scientist, again fixing him with that
hard penetrating stare. And so far, he hadn’t said a single
God, those horrible eyes.

They were searching him, probing his features for some
sign of disloyalty. He had to struggle to hold the right
expression. If he averted his gaze or couldn’t keep a
straight face it would be seen as an insult.

He decided the only way to keep his cool was by going on
talking. His voice quavered from time to time as he fought
to stay calm. “If we have found what I think we have found,
it might have the effect of giving our soldiers new
courage.” Though how many of them really believed in the
ideology of Aryan racial supremacy, as opposed to wanting
victory simply for patriotic reasons, was a moot point.
“It is our only hope, Mein Fuhrer. We may not have a lot
to lose.” He had taken the plunge now. “But there is
everything to gain. If there’s anything at Thule which
could alter the course of the war in our favour, we should
take steps to secure it.”

Still that hostile, interrogative stare. The eyes seemed
to be - were - drilling deep into his very soul. He had
said about all there was to say now and could only stand
there looking sort of impassive, and hoping that even that
didn’t come over as rude.

Just when he thought he would crack, Hitler spoke. The
voice was exactly as you so often heard it on the radio.
Harsh, jarring, really quite unpleasant to listen to. He
wondered at times how the man had succeeded in gaining such
a mesmeric hold over an entire population; it must have
been by sheer force of character, rather than those cold
grating tones. “And may I ask,” the Fuhrer snapped, “how
you propose to enter Greenland without the Americans

“We have commissioned a feasibility study. It is possible,
as long as we can convince anyone who is suspicious that we
are Danes and not Germans. We will need some assistance
from the Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe in getting there, and
perhaps afterwards, although they would only be called in
if absolutely necessary. As for equipment, we will need
only what an expedition to that part of the world normally
does. Apart from explosives and power drills; we must have

He fell silent. Hitler had lowered his eyes and was
thinking over what Wenzel had said, his brow still knitted
in a severe frown. The scientist waited, swallowing from
time to time, feeling his heart pound faster and faster
with the tension. Suddenly Hitler shouted “sehr gut!”, at
the same time giving a short, sharp jerk of the head and
turning away. Signifying the interview was over.

Wenzel’s eyes lit up and he almost fainted from the shock
of relief and excitement he felt. He bowed his head
reverently. “Danke, mein Fuhrer.”

He left, both glad to be out of Hitler’s presence and
delighted the meeting had turned out as he’d hoped. As long
as Hitler didn’t suddenly change his mind; the sooner they
found what they were looking for and put a seal on the
matter, the better.

The following morning, while busy in his office at the
Department, whose work was still considered important
despite the war situation, Wenzel received a telephone call
from Armed Forces High Command inviting him to a meeting at
its headquarters where the logistics of the expedition
would be further discussed. And two months later, on 1st
February 1944, a U-boat left Kiel on a special mission the
nature of which was known only to SS chief Himmler, a few
senior figures within the military and the Fuhrer himself.
On board were most of the people who had taken part in the
original Thule expedition plus a biologist, a chemist, a
couple of engineers, a cryptographer and a physicist.
Keller had been released for military service and was
currently fighting on the Eastern Front. Captain Dachtler
was lying somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic, the Uboat
he was commanding depth-charged and sunk by a British

In addition there were a number of men from the Reich
intelligence service, the Abwehr, who had been specially
picked for this mission for their Danish connections and in
particular the fact that they spoke with Danish rather than
German accents. It hadn’t been too difficult to find such
people for a good many Germans had Danish links and there
wasn’t much physical difference between Germans and Danes,
except to a trained eye. There was little doubt the men
would be able to pass themselves off as Danish
Greenlanders, although it was still better to avoid
contact with any Americans who happened to be about; it was
possible, Wenzel had been told, that Allied spymasters had
taught their agents to recognize any characteristics,
however hard to spot, in looks and speech which might give
them away. Should they come into contact with US forces the
Danish-Germans had to appear to be in charge of the whole
operation, whose purpose was to be presented as purely
archaeological, and Wenzel and Co to speak as little as
possible and generally keep out of the way. There would be
a problem if the Americans decided to check their story
with the Danish authorities in Greenland, but if it came to
the worst the expedition was equipped with guns and all its
members had been taught how to use them.

It was a gamble, this business. But Hitler had been
sufficiently desperate to take the risk. Let’s just hope it
pays off, Wenzel thought.

The U-boat surfaced off the Greenland coast at a point
sufficiently far from either of the towns of Qaanaaq and
Siorapaluk to be safe, and the team rowed to shore in three
rubber dinghies, one of which contained the explosives and
other equipment they would need for the operation. They
were met by Nazi sympathizers from among Greenland’s Danish
population, with dogsleds. No Eskimo guides were needed,
because the Danes knew the territory and how to survive
there just as well.

Wrapped up in their thick sealskin jackets, and hooded and
goggled against the cold and the wind, the group set off on
their journey to the point where, in a few hours’ time, a
captured American aircraft with a Luftwaffe crew would drop
the food supplies and other equipment the Germans needed,
to be loaded onto the sleds for transport to the site. The
rendezvous point was some distance from Thule, because one
of the American bases wasn’t too far from there; there were
rumours the Americans were planning to set up a base at
Thule itself, which meant they might already be surveying
the area. Better they didn’t see anything which would
attract their attention.

Once they reached their destination, the idea was to be in
and out of the place as quickly as possible. Hopefully with
something valuable to the Fatherland.

There were, in fact, quite a few of the small square
openings in the rock of the Devil’s Chimney, most of them
accessible from ground level; if only Kotze had not made
that impulsive decision to go climbing, Wenzel thought. In
any case they were far too narrow for a person to crawl

His thoughts returned to the task in hand. They had rigged
up a string of lights, each connected by a single cable
running along the ceiling of the tunnel to a generator
which stood chugging away outside, a few yards from the
entrance. Now Lutzen, the Army engineer, was bringing the
tip of his drill to bear on a point on the smooth surface
of the “door” at the end of the tunnel. It too was powered
by a cable from the generator. Once a hole large enough had
been drilled several sticks of dynamite would be planted
within it, the fuses lit, and hopefully that would do the

Standing watching, a few yards behind, were Wenzel
and Dr Ernst Grunewald, one of Wenzel’s colleagues at the
University. Grunewald was a large, pig-like man with a fat,
pink, fleshy face, currently hidden by the mask he along
with Lutzen and Wenzel was wearing as protection from
flying splinters of rock. Like the physicist and the
chemist, he’d been brought along because none of them had
any idea what they would find if they really did manage to
break through the door.

Lutzen switched on the drill and its high-pitched
screaming, muffled by the earphones the three of them had
donned, started up.

After a moment he switched it off, frowning. “What is the
matter?” demanded Grunewald.

Lutzen whipped off his earphones. “There’s no mark,” he
said crossly.

“You’ve only just started drilling,” Grunewald snapped.
“Should there be?”

“I should have felt it give almost straight away. But
there was resistance.” He stepped back a little. “Look, see
for yourself. This is no ordinary rock, it’s harder than

They squinted. In the yellow-white glow from the lights in
the ceiling they could see that the spot on the door where
the drill-bit had been was completely unmarked. There was
not the slightest indentation in the smooth unblemished
surface, and no chips on the floor.

“Incredible,” breathed Wenzel. He knew now the secret of
the mountain must be something fantastic, unparalleled. But
that was no damn use if they couldn’t get in.

“This thing should have cut through it like butter,”
Lutzen said.

“Try again,” ordered Grunewald. With a doubtful look
Lutzen restarted drilling, gritting his teeth and screwing
up his face in concentration. He pressed the point of the
drill home, and this time a few chippings flew out. The
drill lurched backwards like a recoiling gun, then
forwards. More chippings, minute and fine like grains of
sawdust, appeared on the floor.

The ghastly screeching of the drill as it struggled to
bore into the material was uncomfortable to listen to, even
through the earphones. Sweat was pouring down Lutzen’s
face, glistening under the ceiling lamps. His whole body
was juddering, quite as much as the drill. Unable to take
it any more he withdrew the bit and cut off the power. The
echo of its screaming died, and they all looked at the

“Look!” cried Grunewald, pointing. This time there was
definitely a small neat, round hole in its centre.
Or was there?

He blinked, as if uncertain what his eyes had actually
seen. “There’s nothing,” he muttered.

“I swear it was there,” Lutzen gasped. “It…it’s closed
up.” It was as if the hole had disappeared in barely the
wink of an eye, almost as soon as it had been made.

“I don’t believe it,” he declared, clapping a hand to his
forehead. “Scheisse,” exclaimed Wenzel and Grunewald

Lutzen inspected the point of the drill. It was worn
almost completely away. He said what was obvious to the
three of them. “We’ll never be able to penetrate it like
this. We’ll have to use the explosives.”

Dorfmann had come up behind them. “What do you make of
it?” Wenzel asked him.

Dorfmann shook his head slowly. “Right now I just don’t
know.” He started to collect up a few of the chippings.
“I’ll have to do an analysis of these.”

Meanwhile, Wenzel was wondering uneasily if the door was
resistant to explosives too. In any case he would rather
not have used them unless absolutely essential. If they
worked they’d bring down the roof of the tunnel and parts
of the walls, and they’d have to shift a lot of rock, in
danger from a further collapse while doing it, before they
could penetrate the heart of the mountain. An explosion
might also be noticed, and bring the Americans along to see
what was going on.

“Let’s get the dynamite,” he sighed. If it didn’t work
they might as well go straight home, though he had an idea
Grunewald would protest. He wanted to be away from here
before the Yanks came along and ruined everything.

They placed the sticks of dynamite, tied together in
bundles of six, at the base of the door, lit the fuses and
retired. Outside, at a safe distance from the mouth of the
tunnel, they waited. They heard the boom of the explosion
and saw the smoke pouring from the opening. Gradually it
dispersed in the clear cold air, the echoes from the blast
dying away too. As the smoke thinned and vanished they took
a few tentative steps into the tunnel, flashing their
torches. Almost immediately they saw the huge pile of
boulders blocking any further progress.

“Right, let’s get this cleared,” said Wenzel. “We’ll have
to shore up the roof in case any more of it comes down. And
we’ll need to install more lights.” The explosion had of
course brought them down, plunging everything once more
into darkness.

It was a long, arduous, back-straining task. They had to
break up all the larger rocks, that couldn’t be shifted by
hand, into smaller pieces like a prison chain gang. Several
hours passed before the job was done. The walls and roof of
the tunnel, they noted, seemed to be normal rock without
the strange properties of the “door”, and large chunks had
been gouged from them by the explosion. Arrangements of
wooden beams were erected to strengthen them as and when
the task of shifting the debris allowed.

As more and more of the rubble was removed, it became
apparent the door was completely undamaged. Or perhaps,
while they had been engaged in the lengthy job of clearing
away the mess, it had been quietly repairing itself.

Wenzel spread his arms. “That’s it. There’s nothing more
we can do. It’s finished.”

“Perhaps more dynamite would make a difference,” suggested
Grunewald. “Or we could try blasting away at the sides
until we find something.”

“We can’t be sure we would. We might eventually break
through into the central chamber but we’d use up all the
explosive, and I don’t think Berlin are going to risk
sending us any more equipment. The longer this goes on for
the more likely the Allies will notice something. And I
don’t fancy having to shift thousands more tons of rock,
not after having had to deal with that last lot. Look,
let’s just get out of here before the Americans find us.
For all we know someone may have heard the explosion, seem
the smoke, and is coming over to investigate. This time
we’ll seal the place before we go, so that nobody else can
get in and – “

He was cut off by a shout from Dorfmann. “Herr Doktor!”

They heard a cracking, grinding, crunching sound and
whirled round. Dorfmann and the others were staring at a
section of the side wall. It had already been badly
weakened by the first explosion, and was riddled with
cracks. Now several more had appeared: big ones, branching
off each other to form a triskelion. Dust trickled from
them. More and more became visible as they watched,
lengthening and deepening, joining up. They felt no fear,
because the timbers they’d put in would prevent total
collapse; only puzzlement, because it was only this one
part of the wall that seemed to be affected.

The rock started to bulge outwards, as if something on the
other side was trying to punch its way through.
“Was is…..”
“Gott in Himmel!”

A huge chunk suddenly crumbled away, leaving a gaping hole
about the size of a man. And through it, they saw
something which made them catch their breath. As soon as
Wenzel set eyes on it, he knew beyond a doubt that the
expedition had found what it was looking for.

A few hours later
They heard the rumble of the explosion as the remaining
sticks of dynamite went off, saw the smoke issuing from the
tunnel mouth. “Well, that’s it,” sighed Wenzel. Their work
here at Thule was done now, for the time being at any rate.
They had learned as much as they were likely to without
further assistance. And they probably wouldn’t get it, for
the Fatherland’s best brains were all being employed on
other tasks, in particular the development of the VWeapons.
All their combined scientific knowledge and ability had
been insufficient to tell them how everything worked.
Perhaps they just needed a little longer. Wenzel could put
the request to the Fuhrer but something told him it was not
going to be granted. They could channel all their efforts
into the research at Thule but if it failed to produce any
more results, if the gamble didn’t pay off, Germany would
have lost the chance to win the war by either conventional
or unconventional means. Basically, they had run out of

The calls from Berlin had been getting more and more
desperate. The Wehrmacht was being pushed slowly but surely
out of Russia by the advancing Soviet forces and the
rumours of an Allied attack in the West continued to come,
although still no-one knew when or where it would be. Just
get back here as quickly as possible with what you have
found, they had said. Don’t delay. And always he had
replied, “Not yet. Just a few more days may be all we
need.” They’d been on the point of making it an order, he
was sure. It was what he’d have done.

They could have no idea how long it would it take to
finish the job; a lifetime maybe? He so much wanted to stay
but for various reasons that was impossible. All he could
do was take one last look back at the mountain, thinking of
Kotze’s death and hoping that now the sacrifice would not
have been in vain.

Would they ever be back, he wondered wistfully. Yes, he
vowed fiercely to himself, one day we will return. Whatever

He felt Grunewald’s hand on his arm, shaking it roughly.
“Come on, let’s go. The U-boat won’t wait forever.”

“I was just thinking,” Wenzel said. “When we get back, is
the Fuhrer going to believe what we tell him?”

“He’s going to have to,” Grunewald answered. “After all,
we have the evidence.” He started to make his way to where
the Danes, real and fake, were waiting for them by the
dogsleds; keeping a tight hold on the heavy metal case
clutched in his right hand.

Berlin, January 1945
It must have been like this for the British, thought
Wenzel with a grim feeling that Germany was only getting
what she deserved for having done it to them. The
terrifying, unearthly screeching as the bombs descended
through the night sky, growing louder and louder, seeming
so loud and so close that they must surely be going to land
here….the fear for loved ones elsewhere, not knowing if
they had made it to safety – supposing the “safety” would
do them any good – or would appear in the casualty lists
once enough of their bodies had been recovered to make
identification possible.

The mounting terror as each bomb seemed about to hit, the
sobbing relief when it didn’t…then, in another moment or
two, terror again…he wondered if his nerves could stand it.
Was the shelter strong enough to withstand the constant
pounding from thousands of tons of explosive?

A number of people had been working late at the University
when the eerie wail of the air raid sirens had sounded, and
they had all gone down to the shelter together. Keller was
somewhere among the huddled mass of bodies, Wenzel knew;
they had got separated at some point in the rush. They were
so tightly packed that it was difficult to identify any
individual person.

No-one spoke apart from the occasional muttered prayer,
even though it had been a while since the last bomb, which
sounded as if it had fallen well clear of the shelter. They
didn’t want to tempt Providence. They also knew the long
silences could be deceptive.

They lost themselves in their thoughts. Wenzel’s mind was
on Thule and the utter failure it had turned out to be. The
material they’d taken from the site had proved of no use
whatsoever. Given more time it might have been different;
but it was too late now to change the course of the war.
They had gambled and lost. The Department was itself a
thing of the past, its work put into abeyance as everything
was sacrificed either to the conventional war effort or the
basic needs of food, health, warmth and shelter. And those
commodities were themselves often in short supply.

What would happen after the war? Would the Allies come
looking for him? Would he be regarded as a war criminal for
what he had sought to do, or simply a crank? One thing was
certain, he saw no chance of rebuilding the Reich and
restarting the Thule project. After everything we’ve done,
they’ll never forgive us, he thought despairingly. It was
inconceivable they would allow Germany to regain its former
strength. In any case, at this rate there wouldn’t be an
awful lot of it left.

Someone had cracked under the strain and was shouting

The screeching started up again.

Again, you wondered whether the next few seconds were
going to be your last. You heard the children crying. You
tried to decided whether you should beg forgiveness for
your sins from a God you weren’t quite sure existed. You
just sat there and waited helplessly for what you hoped
would kill you instantly, if it was going to kill you at
all, and not leave you horribly scarred in mind and body.
And please God…please God, let the bomb not be an

When it came the explosion was utterly terrifying in its
ferocity, as bad as the waiting had been. It left them
temporarily deafened. They recovered their senses and
realised they were still alive.

It must have hit the hospital next door.

Perhaps that was as close as the bombs were going to get.
Their survival was symbolic. They had been spared and would
now be all right. We deserve to be, Wenzel thought. We’ve
been through enough, why put us through any more of this
hell? We’re no less human beings than anyone else, whatever
our country has done.

Weren’t they? Was he a monster because he had believed that
Germans were...superior....

When the next bomb came they were barely aware of its
approach until the last, the stress they’d already
undergone having inured them to fear. The actual effects of
the impact, when it happened, might be another matter. But
it was possible for the end to be swift. For Klaus Wenzel
it seemed the shelter around them was there one minute and
gone the next. There was a brief, shattering shock which
numbed the senses, and then the chaos of rubble and dust
and body parts buried Wenzel, choking and crushing him. He
was aware that he couldn’t breathe; and then of only

Hollenstadt Concentration Camp, East Prussia, April 1945
Sometimes, in his more reflective moments, Ernst Grunewald
found himself fancying that the eyes looked at him.

There were hundreds of them, of all different colours and
shades of colours, pinned to the wall of the laboratory
like butterflies. Eyes of soldiers killed in battle, eyes
of civilians who had died in tragic accidents; eyes of the
people who had been sent to the camp. Eyes of children,
eyes of adults. Eyes of men, eyes of women. Blue eyes,
brown eyes, green eyes, dark eyes; eyes of Aryans and eyes
of subhumans. Each one was marked with a number.

Eyes fascinated him. He had spent many hours during the
past year attempting to change their colour by swabbing
them with cotton wool impregnated with various substances.
As with any other experiment a certain thrill came from not
knowing what the result would be; it made up for the
discomfort caused by all the screaming.

His fascination with eyes had led him to take an interest
also in twins. He had noted that very few of them had the
condition known as heterochromia, in which one eye was a
different colour from the other. Maybe that was to be
expected. But it had occurred to him that if twins, the
people least likely to possess the characteristic, could do
so all the same, and you could find out why, it must be
possible to alter the colouring in just about anyone,
changing brown to blue…..He had spent a lot of time taking
twins apart to see how they functioned, hoping to devise a
means of persuading German mothers to produce greater
numbers of children with the characteristics he had
identified as typically Aryan. He had castrated them,
drained them of their bodily fluids, pumped them full of
various chemicals, immersed them in ice-cold water and
finally killed them with lethal injections before
dissecting them (sometimes he didn’t bother with the

As well as eyes Grunewald was also concerned with hair
colour, attempting to change it by the application of some
artifical substance or other. Unfortunately, he was unable
to trigger any change in the natural composition of the
hair; it was the dye itself which caused any alteration in
its appearance, and that wasn’t the same thing (also there
was that accursed screaming).

At most all the tests achieved was to inflict pain, injury
and frequently death upon the subject. Obviously this was
not the means by which the physical characteristics an
individual had might be determined; he needed to be looking
for something else, but at the moment had no idea what it
might be.

He had now abandoned this line of research. But the SS
leadership had more or less given him the freedom to do
what he liked while in the job, and so he busied himself
with whatever new idea seemed to appeal to him, regardless
of the eyes staring down from the wall. He amassed an
impressive collection of skeletons, many of Jews, dwarves,
and the mentally handicapped who he had placed, alive or
dead, in acid baths so that the flesh would dissolve and
render the bones more easily accessible. The wombs of women
prisoners were injected with cancer cells and later cut out
to observe the results. People were forced to have sex with
freaks. A naked man and woman, total strangers to one
another, were put together into a room where the
temperature had been lowered to just a few degrees above
zero, to see if they would attempt to warm themselves by
copulating. At one time Jews and anybody who was physically
or mentally defective were sterilized by means of surgery,
chemical castration or bombardment with X-rays.

At this present moment Grunewald was sitting at his desk,
recording the results of his latest experiment in a ledger.
On a shelf above him were stacked a collection of jars
containing the internal organs of some of the inmates whose
bodies he had dissected, preserved in alcohol.
Nearby his latest experiment lay strapped to a couch,
stark naked. It was the head and torso of a man, a prisoner
taken in Russia, from which the arms and legs had been
amputated, the stumps afterwards cleaned and cauterized. A
pair of woman’s breasts had been grafted onto the subject’s
chest. Nearby, an orderly was mopping up a pool of blood
and vomit from the floor with a sponge.

He heard jackbooted feet approach the door, and halt
smartly just outside it. The guard knocked several times, a
staccato rapping like the chatter of a machine gun. “Come
in!” Grunewald shouted.

The SS man entered, marching up to the desk. He treated
Grunewald to a brief, polite nod. “Herr Doktor, we have
received a message from the High Command in Berlin. Soviet
forces have been reported within ten miles of Hollenstadt.
We are to evacuate the camp immediately; everything is to
be destroyed.”

Grunewald received this news in silence. It was the most
sensible policy, he supposed. They’d known, of course, that
it was bound to happen before long. In fact he’d had his
escape route prepared some time ago. He would go along with
the soldiers to a small town on Germany’s southern border,
from where they would slip across into neutral Switzerland.
At the agreed rendezvous point the representative from the
Vatican would explain the plan in full, although Grunewald
guessed it involved a lengthy sea journey from an Italian
port to somewhere in South America.

But first, they had to get rid of as much evidence of
their activities here as possible. Grunewald gave a sharp
jerk of his head, and gestured towards the grotesque horror
on the couch. “Right. Get rid of that.”

The man’s eyes, blind from the chemicals with which
Grunewald had earlier tried to change the pigmentation of
the iris, merely stared glassily at the ceiling. The
sedative, administered after they’d finally got tired of
screaming, meant he could have little idea what was going
on anyway. You see, we are quite kind and considerate
really, Grunewald thought.

He turned away as the soldier stepped back and aimed his
Luger at the thing on the couch. The soldier fired once,
twice, into its body and it jerked convulsively, the straps
tautening. He unfastened them, scooped up the corpse and
flung it over his shoulder.

“Then I’ll need your help here,” Grunewald shouted after
him as he walked out with his burden. He and the orderly
were already snatching up as many of the smaller items as
they could, the surgical instruments, specimen jars and
bottles of dye and preservative, and stacking them in
wooden boxes.

A few minutes later, the flames of one of the camp ovens
roared with seeming relish and a puff of thick, evil-looking
black smoke swelled into being from the chimney

Grunewald, the orderly Rottheimer and the SS man worked
fast to gather up all the equipment in the room and carry
it out to the yard, where they dumped it down in one huge
pile. Among it was some of the stuff they’d taken from
Thule; a pity, Grunewald thought, but since it had turned
out to be useless not much of one.

They had to make several journeys. All the time the three
of them were sweating with fear; “within ten miles” meant
the Russians could be as little as only two or three from
here, and they knew what was likely to happen if they were

They didn’t realise at first that everyone else had
already fled. Then the silence which had descended over the
camp suddenly registered with them. Grunewald paled,
swearing softly.

We’ll make that rendezvous point somehow, he told himself.
We’ve got to.

At this point the SS man took off as well, although they
weren’t aware he had gone until after they had returned to
the laboratory for the third time. Grunewald looked hard at
Rottheimer. “Will you stay?”

After a moment’s hesitation the orderly nodded. Without
replying Grunewald looked round the now almost bare room,
trying to decide if there was anything which could be
safely left behind. The bigger and heavier items, like the
couch and operating table, could be passed off as standard
medical equipment.

“What about this?” said Rottheimer, pointing to the metal
case sitting on the desk, which Grunewald had always kept
securely locked.

“That comes with us.” Grunewald removed his lab coat and
draped it over the back of a chair, then grasped the handle
of the case and made for the door. “Come on, let’s fetch
the petrol.”

While Grunewald waited for him outside, hoping he wouldn’t
take the chance to disappear after all and giving him no
more than five minutes in which to return, the orderly went
to get the petrol from the outhouse where it was stored and
also to find some matches. Grunewald was just about to
leave when he appeared. “I’m not sure it’s going to be
enough,” he said anxiously. Most of the remaining fuel was
in the tank of the lorry now making its way south as fast
as possible. The can Rottheimer carried was less than half

“It’ll do,” Grunewald answered impatiently. It wasn’t as
if they needed to bother anyway, he thought gloomily. When
the Russians got here and found the surviving inmates it
would be all the proof anyone needed.

Rottheimer sprinkled the petrol over the pile of discarded
equipment. Then he struck a match, retreated a little and
tossed it onto the pile. They jumped back as it erupted
with terrifying ferocity, blazing like a furnace.

They guessed the Allies would be able to piece together
what had been going on here, sooner or later, from a
careful analysis of the charred debris. But the less they
knew the better.

The orderly was looking at Grunewald expectantly. But it
wasn’t time to go just yet. While waiting for Rottheimer
the scientist had been thinking carefully about what to do
with the case. His own capture was of minor concern beside
the danger to the Fatherland if it should fall into enemy
hands. “I need a spade,” he said.

Again, there was the fear Rottheimer would make a run for
it. Their eyes met. “I could get it if you like.”

Rottheimer shook his head. “I will.” He moved off, and
after a moment Grunewald decided to follow him; not that
there was any way of keeping him here against his wishes.
Grunewald supposed he could have got the spade himself,
although carrying both it and the case would slow him down.
In the end Rottheimer stayed loyal. He led Grunewald to
another outhouse where a number of spades stood leaning
against a wall; they’d been used, of course, to bury the
body whenever an inmate died from starvation, overwork or
in one of Grunewald’s experiments. Rottheimer selected one
and shouldered it, then the two of them fled through the
gates of the camp as fast as their burdens would allow.

“Where are we going?” Rottheimer gasped.

He’d guessed they were going to bury the case, presumably
in the little wood near the camp. Sure enough, when they
reached the point where the wood began Grunewald veered off
the road into the dense foliage, Rottheimer following. They
crashed through bushes and low-hanging branches until they
came to a small clearing where Grunewald signalled they
should stop.

Over to the west, through a gap in the trees, they
glimpsed a house and a cluster of farm buildings.

Selecting a tree at random, and using it as a marker,
Grunewald surveyed the ground around it. His gaze came to
rest on a patch of bare earth far enough from the tree for
the roots not to get in the way. He took the spade from
Rottheimer. “You can leave now if you like. I don’t need
you any more. You know where to go.”

Rottheimer nodded. “Yes, Herr Doktor.”

“If you speak to anyone about what you have seen, you and
your family will pay the consequences. Do you understand?”
Rottheimer stared for a moment, then nodded silently. He
resented the threat but didn’t feel disposed to argue with
it. And above all, he knew it was a very real one.

As he hurried away Grunewald began to dig. Fortunately the
earth was soft enough to yield easily beneath the blade of
the implement. When the hole was big enough, about three
feet deep, he placed the case inside it and filled it in
with the excavated soil. Then he heaped loose stones,
leaves and earth over the spot to hide the fact that it had
been disturbed. Finally he walked a few yards from the tree
before flinging the spade away; it fell out of sight into a
little hollow, partly hidden by scrub and bushes, which
he’d noticed earlier. From the path of sorts along which
they’d been running, nobody would see anything unless
they’d been looking in the first place.

The trouble, of course, was that he couldn’t be sure he’d
remember the exact location of the spot. Would it still be
discernible to someone seeking to retrieve the case
sometime in the future? He could leave some kind of marker
but it would be bound to arouse someone’s interest should
they set eyes on it.

He decided to worry about the problem later. Right now his
main concern was to avoid capture. That meant somehow
getting from here to the Swiss border. He had enough money
in his pocket for the train fare, but no idea whether in
the general state of chaos and disruption that prevailed
the public transport network was still functioning. Better
to try and steal a car or other vehicle, if he could.
Perhaps there was something at the farm….

He heard the crack of a rifle shot. It came from somewhere
ahead of him. Then the sound of running feet, crashing
through foliage. Through a break in the greenery, about a
hundred yards away, a group of figures came into view. It
looked like Rottheimer was among them.

Crack. He thought he saw Rottheimer twist and fall, his
body crumpling like a doll from which all the stuffing had
drained. So much the better, Grunewald thought. That’s one
less person who knows.

If they did catch up with him there was always the cyanide
capsule. If only he had the courage to use it.

He could hear more footsteps but they were not running
this time. They were the sounds of men moving slowly,
stealthily about the wood, looking for other men. And they
were coming from all around him. The Russians must have
split into several groups, the better to be sure of
covering every inch of the place.

His only chance was to find some hole and crawl into it,
burying himself among twigs and leaves so they wouldn’t see
him. Crouching down low, he padded softly from cover to
cover, hoping he could avoid being spotted before he left
the wood – because he couldn’t hide in there forever – for
open ground where he would be more dangerously exposed. If
they didn’t get a fix on him he might be alright.

Then he heard the sounds of movement change direction.
Some noise he’d made must have alerted the Russians and
they were all making more or less towards him. Closing the

There looked to be a sort of dip in the ground just ahead.
But if, trying to hide there, he pulled the surrounding
vegetation over him he would make a noise which would
attract his pursuers. Sudden panic seized him and he broke
into a desperate run, forgetting all about stealth.
Brambles slashed at his face, drawing blood, and ripped
his clothing. But he hurtled straight on, stumbling blindly
through clinging foliage which seemed to be actively
seeking to arrest his flight, the twigs and branches like
clawlike hands holding him back.

He was brought to a staggering halt by the impact of the
bullet smashing into his shoulder, followed by a searing
pain which seemed to spread outwards through his body from
the point of entry. Instinctively he clapped a hand to the
wound, and sobbed in despair on feeling the warm wet
substance oozing copiously through his fingers. Rallying
himself, he started running again, his other arm swinging
uselessly by his side, slowed down by its dead weight and
the agonizing pain in his shoulder. He was quite
unconscious of another bullet whining through the air and
embedding itself in the bole of a tree to his right.
He had heard stories of how the Russians treated captured
Germans. And when they found out the kind of things that
had been done at the camp….oh God…..

The next shot hit him in the leg, and he knew he could run
no further. The leg folded beneath him and he went down on
one knee. He made one last feeble attempt to stand and
collapsed again, rolling over onto his side. This time he
lay still, gasping and moaning.

They hauled him roughly to his feet and bundled him off,
back to the camp. There he was taken to a field dressing
station the Russians had set up within the compound, where
the bullets were cut out of his shoulder and leg and his
wounds treated. The Soviet doctor moved about his task with
blank-faced, professional efficiency but offered no words
of sympathy or reassurance. They wanted him alive, because
they needed to find out what had been going on at the camp.
They wanted to know exactly who he was and what his
responsibilities had been. It was only for this reason that
they had not killed him. They would torture the information
out of him, if necessary. And once they had got what they
wanted, he didn’t give much for his chances of survival.
Once he was deemed to have suitably recovered, he was
marched off to what had previously been his own office and
thrust inside. At the desk sat a Russian colonel who put
down the pen with which he was writing out some official
despatch and glanced up at him with cold eyes. Two soldiers
positioned themselves against the wall behind Grunewald,
ready to thump him with their rifle butts should he prove
unco-operative. He was kept standing throughout the
interview, which began with a lengthy explanation, in
heavily accented but adequate German, of how he would die
should he not answer all questions thoroughly and

Grunewald told himself he might as well co-operate.
Everything was lost now, wasn’t it? There wasn’t a Third
Reich anymore whose secrets must be defended. Or there
wouldn’t be in a short time, by his reckoning.

And so he talked. He told them everything they wanted to
know. He didn’t tell them about Thule because they hadn’t
asked, being unaware of that business, and he could always
justify his silence on the matter, should the truth emerge,
by claiming they wouldn’t have believed him. The Russian
listened in silence, barely seeming to breathe all the time
they were in the room together. The only reason his cold
hard stare did not grow more intense as Grunewald’s story
unfolded was that his face had set in that expression long

When he’d finished the colonel sat looking at him, tapping
the end of his pencil on the desktop and thinking. The look
on his face was one of contempt and loathing, but at the
same time thoughtful. He barked out an order and the
soldiers came forward, seizing Grunewald by the arms. They
dragged him from the office and down the corridor to the
cells. Unbolting and throwing open one of the heavy iron
doors, they shoved him inside then slammed and locked it.
He sat down on the bed in the tiny chamber which had
formerly been occupied by one of the hundreds of men and
women who had died here over the last three years; he’d
have plenty of time to reflect on the irony of it in the
days ahead.

He was to spend the next few weeks in this cramped little
cell, never allowed out for exercise and fed on stodgy food
and tepid water which every now and then they would shit
and piss in, collapsing with laughter at his expression
when he tasted it. They occasionally beat him, for no
particular reason except that he was German and at their
mercy, but they never spoke unless it was to issue orders
or, about a month after his capture, inform him with broad
toothy grins and gleaming eyes of the death of Hitler and
the final disintegration of the glorious thousand-year
Reich. Since total and crushing defeat was only what
Grunewald had come to expect, the taunting caused him no
distress. He sullenly accepted his fate, whatever it was to
be, with Teutonic impassivity.

And then one morning the door of the cell was unlocked and
the two soldiers appeared, ordering him to come with them.
He was led out to where a lorry stood in the yard, its
engine running, the rear doors open. They told him to get
in and of course he had no choice but to obey. The doors
were slammed shut and fastened. There were two more
soldiers in the back with him, sitting against the wall
with their rifles resting on their knees. By now the appeal
of being able to gloat had worn off and they simply eyed
him warily.

No-one bothered to tell him where they were going. Some
time later the lorry stopped at an airfield and he was put
onto a plane which immediately took off on a flight that
lasted about four hours. Disembarking in handcuffs, he saw
the grey concrete buildings of another small aerodrome with
beyond them a vista of drab, scrubby fields.

He was loaded onto another lorry which finally stopped
after a journey which took most of the rest of the day. He
stepped down from it to find himself in a cobbled square
surrounded by tall, grim buildings which might have been
deliberately designed to crush the soul, though no more
so than those of a concentration camp. From their style
it didn’t look like he was in Germany. It was in fact
Moscow, and within minutes he was in another
drab, dingy office being interviewed by a man in a civilian
suit who introduced himself as a member of the Soviet
Academy of Science; ever-watchful in the background was an
agent of the secret police. Basically, what he said was
this. Grunewald had skills in certain areas, skills which
the Soviet state might be able to use, and because of this
he was being allowed to live. He ought to be grateful,
considering what was happening to some of the Germans -
civilians included - who Stalin, attempting to establish
the fate of Hitler and his retinue, had had spirited off to
Russia for interrogation and eventual death in prison,
again simply because they were Germans. He would live and
work under carefully controlled conditions, with no
possibility of contact with the outside world. For his work
he would be paid a certain sum by the state. As part of the
package he was to undergo re-education to purge him of his
allegiance to Nazism and turn him into a loyal follower of
Karl Marx. Grunewald was to sit through each of the
sessions in solemn silence, pretending to absorb and accept
all the nonsense he was bombarded with without protest,
while inside remaining what he had always been – a
dedicated Nazi. It was a simple matter to put on a mask.
He’d learned that under Hitler, when he had found it quite
possible to be both a loving family man – he felt a pang of
sorrow at the realisation that he’d never see his wife and
children again – and a mass murderer.

Stalin was keen to learn how far Germany had progressed
with its chemical and biological weapons research. He
wanted to know how, if necessary, the technology might be
deployed against a Western city should war break out with
his former allies. Grunewald was moved to permanent
quarters at a scientific research centre in Siberia where
he worked on this and related projects for the next thirty
years. Throughout that time he was not allowed to receive
visitors. As far as the wider world was concerned he had
ceased to exist. He had committed suicide in order to
escape capture, crawling into some hole in the ground like
the miserable rat he was and then shooting himself or
taking poison. Or maybe he’d assumed some new identity in
Brazil or Paraguay, along with the Eichmanns and the
Mengeles. There was a third possibility, that which had
actually happened to him, but as long as the Cold War went
on it was impossible to investigate it properly.

Now that he had acquired a certain importance for the
Russians their behaviour towards him began to change.
Gradually they started to treat him with slightly less

All the same those were terrible years, thanks to the
character of Josef Stalin. Years when one had to be
careful, to an almost impossible extent, not to give the
slightest sign of disapproval of the dictator’s policies.
You were forever on edge, under hideous stress, in case the
Georgian tyrant should suddenly decide you were plotting
against him and must be liquidated. The strain of
practising an unnatural self-control was almost unbearable.
The murder of millions of human beings in Hitler’s death
camps was obviously an incalculable tragedy, but this was a
living hell. Stalin’s paranoia - which gave some
indication, Grunewald thought, of what it might have been
like for those around him if Hitler had remained in power
into old age - extended to anyone he might have some
conceivable reason, however slight, to suspect of wishing
ill against himself or the Soviet state. Among those
considered fair game were anyone who had fought on the
German side during the war - who was German, in fact. It
seemed not unreasonable to suppose they might be secretly
working against him.

But Grunewald was saved from execution by Stalin’s death
in March 1953, and continued to work for the Soviet cause
until his retirement in 1979, when he was installed in an
apartment at a KGB base just outside Moscow. It was where
the Soviets kept spies and other citizens of enemy powers
who because of what they had discovered, intentionally or
otherwise, could not be returned to their home countries;
among the other inmates, with whom Grunewald was not
allowed to communicate, was a man called Korablov whom some
said was really the famous British diver and war hero
Commander “Buster” Crabb, missing after an ill-advised
attempt to photograph at close quarters a Soviet warship
moored in Portsmouth harbour with the Russian leaders
Khrushchev and Bulganin on board.

All the time Grunewald continued to keep secret from those
around him everything he and his team had discovered at
Thule. The discovery was to be for no-one’s benefit but
Germany’s. Although he had learned to like them after a
while, on the whole he would rather the old enemy, the
relatively less Aryan Russians, did not get to know about
it. And as far as he knew, neither they or anyone else did.
For a time he had worked with other captured German
scientists, forming a close-knit unofficial association
with them, but they had not been among those engaged on the
Thule project. There was no sure way of knowing, but as far
as he could tell the people still living who knew about
Thule, who had not been killed in the war or died of
natural causes or hung as war criminals, were keeping quiet
about it. Very sensible of them.

His own war records, which since the Russians did not seem
to be acquainted with them, apart from what they had been
able to deduce from evidence found at the camp, must have
been lost or destroyed in Allied bombing, had been doctored
to leave no trace of the Thule affair or the subsequent
research to which it had led.

Although he was by then an old man, from the mid-1980s a
whole new chapter in Grunewald’s life opened up. Glasnost,
as the sum total of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms was known,
acquired a momentum of its own and demolished what it was
intended to preserve by all too clearly exposing its
weaknesses. Suddenly and unexpectedly Communism crumbled in
Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall fell, and Grunewald’s
beloved Germany was reunified. A year after that the Soviet
Union itself passed into history.

The implications were viewed with some trepidation by
Grunewald. What if, with the opening up of Russia,
questions began to be asked about the fate of war criminals
who could not be accounted for? He had no wish to end up
in the hands of the Jews.

For the moment, though, he remained where he was in his
comfortable KGB flat. The Russians showed no desire to let
him go and he didn’t want to anyway.

He did not in fact have anything to worry about, because
there was never any prospect of the Russians releasing him.
When the Soviet empire collapsed in 1991 what happened was
merely a change of regime; considerations of national pride
and prestige remained the same. Russia would not want the
world to know that she had employed an ex-Nazi and war
criminal on projects which, had they actually been put into
execution, would probably have attracted no less opprobrium
than the atrocities of Hitler.

Grunewald was handicapped because he really knew very
little about what was going on in the outside world; how
much it had changed in the last forty - nearly fifty -
years. He was allowed access to books but they were
heavily censored. But with Glasnost things had relaxed a
bit. And Ernst Grunewald saw how it could be done.
They weren’t bothering about him too much. He was just a
harmless, doddery old man, a relic from a bygone age. They
didn’t even mind him receiving books on the Third Reich, or
on modern-day Nazi organisations for that matter. He could
order copies of documents from libraries, not under his
real name of course.

He still wasn’t allowed access to the new mobile phones
which were just becoming available in Russia, though only
to the Party bigwigs, and it would probably take him ages
to work out how to use them anyway. But there was one thing
that worked in his favour and that was corruption.

The girl who had been assigned to attend to his daily
needs – which did not include sex, as it had with some of
her predecessors, because by now he was too old for that -
was young, ambitious, and still rather naïve though that
did not exclude her also possessing a certain calculating
intelligence. In addition security was becoming lax and
incompetent, like most things in Russia at that time. One
day when Sofia was in his room making his bed and generally
tidying up the place he beckoned her over to him and leaned
forward to whisper in her ear, grinning craftily.

“Listen, Sofia, I want you to do something for me. How
would you like to earn a lot of money? Enough to set
yourself up in a more comfortable apartment, with all the
Western goods you can afford?” They didn’t pay her very
well, he knew that.

He explained what he wanted her to do. “The letter must be
sent unopened or the deal is off. My friends will send you
the money. They’ll see you’re well rewarded for your
trouble.” He saw her eyes shine with a light as cold as the
smile that formed upon her elfin, doll-like, synthetically
pretty features.

His correspondence like the calls he made on his landline
was normally vetted, but it would be relatively easy for
Sofia to smuggle the letter out on her person. As soon as
she had gone he sat down and began to write it. It was
addressed to the secretary of a certain political
organisation based in Berlin.

“You will perhaps have heard of me; my name is Ernst
Ludwig Grunewald. During the Second World War I was in
charge of research into genetics and bacteriological and
chemical warfare at the Hollenstadt concentration camp.
“At the end of the war I was captured by the Russians and
forced to work for them on similar projects. I remain
their prisoner but have managed to smuggle this letter out.
Its content has vital implications for the future of the
German people, and indeed the entire Aryan race worldwide.
For their sakes, please therefore read the enclosed and
take the necessary action.”

Later Sofia returned and he handed the envelope to her
with an exhortation to be careful. Pocketing it, she
returned to her duties, moving about the flat with a
cheerless, mechanical kind of grace, and once finished left
without a word, closing the door behind her.

He collapsed back into his chair, eyes closed, breathing a
deep heartfelt sigh of relief.

Now Grunewald’s work was done. He couldn’t possibly
reward the girl for her trouble, but despite her resentment
she would keep quiet about the business because she faced
dismissal or worse if her employers got to know of it. And
he could always say that his “friends” had ignored the
message. Although they wouldn’t, he was sure. It was just a
pity that security was still tight enough to prevent its
receipt being acknowledged.
Not long afterwards Ernst Grunewald died peacefully at the
age of eighty-nine in his gilded prison, a reasonably fit
and healthy old man all of whose needs were provided for.
To the last he had avoided being brought to trial for his
crimes although he had not, by any standard, enjoyed full
liberty these last five decades. All in all the score was
even, he supposed. Meanwhile, the wheels he had set in
motion continued to revolve, gradually gathering speed,
propelling an unsuspecting world towards its destiny.
Towards Ragnarok.

“Come on, don’t let’s hang around,” scolded Elise Meinert.
Her husband, Karl, was still seated in the armchair in
their living room, in his slippers, doing the crossword. He
decided it could wait until later and levered himself
stiffly to his feet. “You are a bully, Elise, you know
that,” he complained. “You always were.”

“And you’re lazy. Come on, get your shoes on.” For them it
was a fairly typical conversation.

They were about to go into Hollenstadt for their
traditional Saturday morning excursion to the shops, plus
coffee and bread rolls at Horst’s café. It was one of the
simple pleasures which were all that remained once you were
too old to work or indeed engage in any strenuous physical
activity, and found the idea of long-distance travel

They had just taken their seats in the car when Elise
suddenly remembered she hadn’t locked up. She thrust her
shopping bag into her husband’s arms and fumbled in her
pocket for the key.

“Hah!” exclaimed Karl. “You try to push me into getting
everything ready, then you….” But there was a kind of
affection beneath his chiding, the sort which came from
over fifty years of marriage.

Elise locked the door and climbed into the now ancient VW
Beetle. Karl started the engine and they drove off along
the lonely road which wound through a range of wooded hills
towards Hollenstadt, travelling at a leisurely pace and
spending the time lost in reminiscences.

Neither of them regretted the course their lives had
taken, although in many ways things had been better before
reunification. They felt nostalgia for the order and
stability former East Germany had enjoyed under the
Communists. Like other “Ossies” Karl and Elise had found it
very hard to fit in at first; the two Germanies had grown
apart to some extent over forty-five years, and apart from
the bother of adjusting to a new currency, etc., they were
sometimes looked down on by westerners as thick-skulled,
unsophisticated rustics, narrow-minded and conservative in
their attitudes. Huh! The new Germany, dominated by the
prosperous west, that those people were so proud of wasn’t
what it was cracked up to be. Things weren’t done quite so
efficiently as in the old days; they regarded the
democratic system as corrupt and more a vehicle for the
egos of the various party leaders than for sound, or for
that matter representative, government. But they’d had
relatives in the West, and if a united Germany meant also
the unification of a fragmented family then it had to be
worth it. Now they could see their children, their
grandchildren, regularly and let their company relieve the
bleakness of one’s twilight years.

When they had grown too old to run the farm the property
had been split up and sold off. They kept the segment of it
which included the house, as well as rather unfortunately
bordering the camp. For a time they’d run the cottage as a
guesthouse, but although it was still known as Gasthof
Meinert it had never had many visitors and consequently
made little profit. The business had never been more than a
sideline, a way of providing a little extra financial
security for their old age. People didn’t like to linger
because of what lay just down the road.

That road turned back on itself, following the bend of a
river, until they could see the farm again, with to the
west the fifty acres of woodland between it and the former
concentration camp. Briefly the chimney of the crematorium
came into view then was swallowed up again by the trees,
looking like just another of them, which it always did
until you saw it from the right angle.

The camp. Elise remembered as a child seeing the place
being built, and wondering what it was for. They were
sometimes told it was a hospital, sometimes a prison, but
it didn’t take long to realise neither explanation
constituted the whole truth. She had shuddered at the look
of the place, the sinister black outline of the chimney
standing out starkly against the sky, and still did today.
She didn’t like to be near it and wished they’d pull it
down, but supposed they couldn’t. They had to remind
everyone of what had been done within those walls, in case
it all happened again.

Once she had been coming back from the village, where she
had gone to buy something for her mother – her father was
away fighting in Russia – along the lane which connected it
to the farm when a truck had gone past heading for the
camp. A section of the tarpaulin covering the metal
framework of the vehicle’s body was covered had come loose,
or been pulled away, and through the gap the face of a
little boy stared out, the wide frightened eyes gazing
fixedly at her in a silent appeal for help. She had been
unsettled and embarrassed by the incident and it still came
back to haunt her, even now.

She could not have done anything about it, of course, for
she was only a child. Her mother told her firmly not to
talk about it, for fear of the consequences. But if she had
been an adult then, what would she have done?

The fact was, it didn’t seem to her as if protesting would
have achieved any result other than her own probable
extinction. Maybe if you could be sure everyone else would
do it at the same time…but of course you couldn’t. And even
if they had been willing to, in the process of overthrowing
the ruthless dictatorship which ruled the country some of
them would probably have been killed, because soldiers would
panic and open fire indiscriminately on the crowd. And among
the dead might be oneself. Elise thought of herself as just a
simple farmer’s wife, but she was canny enough to understand
how the world, and dictatorships, worked. It was a simple
device, and very effective.

If people had known in the early days of the Third Reich
just what it would be responsible for later on, would they
have given it their support? That was an interesting
question. Perhaps not; but unfortunately, one could never
know for sure.

There was little point in dwelling on such matters, she
told herself. It was sixty years ago, in the first half of
what was now the last century – the last millennium – and
life had to go on.

What would happen to the land when they were gone? Sold
off, most probably. Their relatives, urban professionals
who enjoyed the city life and wouldn’t want to live way out
here in the sticks, had no interest in the property. Though
it would have been sad to leave it while they were still
alive, she didn’t care what ultimately became of it because
they would both have departed this world, joining all those
who had perished in the camp. German or Jewish, innocent or
guilty; whatever we are, whatever we have done or failed to
do and whether there is an excuse for it or not, we all end
up dead.

That was the thought which flashed briefly through her
mind as the massive 4 X 4 slammed side-on into their little
Beetle, sending it skidding off the road and into the wood
where it hit a tree with a force that smashed it like an
eggshell, killing her and Karl instantly and leaving the
ownership of Gasthof Meinert open to the highest bidder.

Wrapped up in a donkey jacket, Rolf Erdmann stood and
watched as caterpillar tracks and the massive tyres of
dumper trucks churned the ground into a morass of mud,
turning it into a First World War battlefield; a grey,
barren and featureless landscape from which the jaws of the
diggers were busy uprooting the few remaining trees, their
teeth biting deep into the ground beneath the roots and
then ripping them violently from it, to be tossed aside
like matchsticks. The peace and quiet of the little wood,
indeed the wood itself, was completely gone.

When the farm and the surrounding land had been put up for
sale on the tragic death of Karl and Elise Meinert,
Wachter’s consortium had faced little opposition in their
bid to buy the property. Not many saw any prospect of
developing it given that there was a concentration camp
next door. Certainly they wouldn’t want to live there.
Wachter’s actual stated plans for the site involved the
building of a research laboratory for the continuing
improvement of his company’s products; the work carried out
there would not of course involve experiments on human
subjects. All the same, the close proximity of the camp was
surely enough to make one uncomfortable. It was a crazy
plan, undoubtedly doomed to failure, and so people soon
dismissed the matter from their minds. When the project
appeared to have been abandoned – Wachter and his
colleagues having by then got what they wanted – it would
simply be assumed that the consortium had seen sense.
Idly Erdmann turned from watching the digging, and in the
near distance caught sight of the camp; a collection of
concrete blockhouses, brutally plain, from which jutted
skyward the black finger of the chimney. Yeah, well next
time we’re gonna finish the fucking job, he thought

His thoughts returned to the letter Schwege had received
from Ernst Grunewald. None of them quite knew what to make
of it. It seemed to mention some kind of super-weapon which
a scientific expedition to Greenland, carried out under the
Third Reich, had discovered inside a mountain at a place
called Thule. That was the gist of it, anyway. What the
weapon was exactly Grunwald hadn’t quite made clear, though
he’d also mentioned evidence of an ancient, and
surprisingly advanced, civilization which he implied had
built the thing. At any rate it was meant to be something
that would benefit their cause enormously.

The deranged ramblings of an old man? Maybe. Or some sort
of ruse to expose them? It was a very clever one, if so.
The police didn’t have that much imagination. And they
wouldn’t try something which most people would probably be
highly sceptical about. So by his reckoning it had to be

They knew Grunewald had existed, and been hunted for a
time as a “war criminal” by the Jews and their friends,
much of whose information on him had been obtained from a
dossier kept by the Simon Wiesenthal foundation. And that
he had worked as the camp’s doctor for the last year or so
of the war, after spending some time writing pamphlets on
genetics and the racial superiority of the Germanic
peoples. He also appeared to have been absent on
“research”, the nature of which was not disclosed, in the
early part of 1944.

The authorities probably dismissed all the stuff about
Thule as so nonsensical that anyone believing in it was at
worst a harmless nutter, not worth taking seriously despite
probably having extreme Nazi beliefs. After all, even
Hitler had been sceptical about it. Most of their movement
weren’t in the Society, as it happened, and tended to keep
themselves at a considerable distance from it. If this was
a ruse, it was therefore not being directed against the New
Vitality movement with the aim of discrediting it in the
eyes of the world.

The last tree was down now, and men in rubber gloves were
sifting through the mounds of earth piled up by the action
of the heavy machinery, or digging in the ground with
spades hoping that the blades of their implements would
encounter something else that was hard and metallic.

Suddenly he heard one of them cry out to him. “Herr
Erdmann! I think we may have found it!”

Erdmann spun round with a thrill of excitement. He saw
four of the men gathered round a mound of debris that one
of the excavators had earlier dumped down. A clod of earth
had fallen away to expose what looked like a hard impacted
chunk of soil, jutting out from the main mass, at which one
of the men was picking carefully. Something about its shape
– too solid, too regular – struck Erdmann at once.

He scrambled across to them, his heavy boots squelching in
the mud, and stood watching as a workman scraped away more
of the caked soil with his trowel, exposing a dark,
squarish object which gleamed dully in the sunlight. After
some struggling they managed to prise it free of the
surrounding earth and lay it on the ground.

It was a metal case, just as Grunewald had described,
light enough to have been carried in the hand; badly rusted
and still streaked with mud, but nonetheless intact. “Do
you think this is it?” a workman asked.

“It’s not likely there’s another lying around,” Erdmann
said. “All right, you and your mates can knock off work for
the day. I need to get this home so I can take a look at

That evening, back at his house in a comfortable suburb of
Munich, Erdmann placed the case, now cleaned of all
residual mud, on his desk and inserted a wrench between the
lock and the clasp, struggling fiercely for some minutes
against the rusted metal until he finally succeeded in
forcing it open. Fingers trembling with nervous
anticipation, he lifted the lid and looked down.

The case contained a bundle of papers on which extensive
notes had been typed out, the first sheet being headed “AN
a small cardboard box; an old exercise book full of
handwritten notes and diagrams; a number of what looked
like specimen slides; and several test tubes full of
crystals of a grey-white substance.

He sat down and read through the notes, then opened the
box to be confronted with stacks of black-and-white
photographs, seemingly of good quality. He looked at each
one in turn, the feeling growing in him that this was
either a very clever, painstaking and elaborate hoax or the
most incredible archaeological find ever made. The sketches
and diagrams written in pencil within the exercise book,
filling most of its pages, produced the same reaction in

As time wore on, he became more and more certain that it
was true. Why would anyone go to such lengths to perpetrate
a fraud like this? They would need an exceptionally vivid
imagination, plus a dedication that even the most
determined hoaxer couldn’t manage. The feeling was giddy,
intoxicating, unsettling. It was a hundred and one things.
Sometimes he was close to tears, sometimes it was so
overwhelming, frightening even that he had a sudden desire
to back out of all this.

But think of the opportunity he might be passing up. They
must have the courage to seize it and turn it into the
realization of everything they had ever dreamed of, their

The test tubes and specimen slides didn’t mean much to
him. But they would to Wachter’s research chemists. It was
just a question of ensuring their silence until that
consideration didn’t matter any more. If they didn’t seem
likely to oblige an accident or two could always be

Himself clad in the regulation white coat, Klaus Wachter
watched patiently as his chief scientist gently placed the
slide under the electron miscoscope and squinted through
its eyepiece, studying what he saw there with keen
concentration. With one hand he started to draw a complex
diagram on a notepad, attempting to reproduce what he was
seeing through the ‘scope. He seemed to find the task
difficult and gave up after a while, straightening up from
the machine to scratch his head in bafflement.

“So what is it?” Wachter asked, going over to look at the
drawing. He couldn’t make much sense of it.

“I – I’m not sure,” the scientist answered, his voice
hushed. “I…I think it’s…”

Impatiently, Wachter moved him aside and took a look
himself. He saw a structure of polygonal shapes, not unlike
the cells of a honeycomb, but with more than six sides and
each having a number of smaller, even more complicated
forms inside it. Asterisks; shapes like stars, or fishhooks,
or mathematical symbols; arrangements of horizontal
and vertical lines crossing over one another to form a
grid. The images they offered were bizarre and unfamiliar,
yet as if by way of compensation for this the number of
times each occurred was such as to form a symmetrical
pattern, a code perhaps. The whole construction was
fantastically complex yet somehow, in a way impossible to
describe, gave an impression of beautiful simplicity.
Wachter was more a businessman than a scientist. All the
same he knew what it, or bits of it, reminded him of.

“Those little shapes,” he murmured, fascinated.

“Yes,” said the scientist, “they’re the equivalent of the
structures within the cells of living matter. The asterisk
occurs more commonly than the others and I think it
represents some kind of nucleus. Only there are lots of
them in each cell, instead of only one.”

Wachter frowned. “I think it’s slightly bigger than the

“It’s a control, to make sure the cells always develop in
the same way. Or for that matter in a different way, if
desired. A governing brain, relaying its instructions
through slave units which duplicate to some extent its own
functions.” The scientist took a deep breath. “Herr
Wachter, do you realise what this means?”

He saw that his boss’s eyes were shining and the grin on
his skull-like face inhumanly broad. “Yes,” the
industrialist whispered. “Yes, of course I do. You’re
saying the stuff is…” A sudden doubt struck him. “It is a
mineral, isn’t it?”

“Yes, a mineral. But the crystals were grown, and in a
similar way to living matter. It’s a mineral – but alive.”

For a while both men were silent, absorbing the
implications, from more than one point of view, of the
whole incredible discovery. “I, I always thought it was
possible,” the scientist said eventually. “A lot of people
did. But there was never any actual proof…where did you
come by the sample, may I ask? Who made it?”

Wachter smiled enigmatically. “That is my secret; a trade
secret. If people knew where to find the stuff, all our
rivals would be descending on the place and greedily
snatching it up so they could copy the process.”

The scientist was a little hurt. He was a good employee of
the company and he knew his job would be forfeit if he
disclosed details of the techniques it employed to another
concern. He was also puzzled, because Wachter had always
trusted him in the past. But then it was clear his employer
had some special reason for maintaining such tight secrecy.
Had he stolen the stuff from someone else?

“You think there is an application then?” he asked,
suppressing his misgivings.

“Undoubtedly. If minerals can be grown artificially in a
laboratory, in the same way that one breeds livestock or
cultivates bacteria, we won’t need to worry when the
natural supplies of them run out, when quarries are
exhausted. We need to run some further experiments. It
could be that from this sample alone we can grow whole
buildings, along with any number of different industrial
products. Then again, it’s possible the substance dies
after a while just as organic matter does, and can’t be

Wachter seemed uncertain about something for a moment,
then came to a decision. “I think I’d better take charge of
the samples for the time being. And you must speak to noone,
no-one at all do you understand, about them. Is that

The scientist was taken aback. “Y-yes, Herr Wachter,
but..surely the samples will be safest here? And don’t we
want to copy and develop the process as quickly as
possible? To get a patent?”

“It’s my decision,” Wachter snapped, taking the sample and
putting it with the others, which the scientist had placed
in a cellophane sleeve within a plastic box, along with the
test tubes. “I’m sorry if you don’t like it. Now remember
what I said about keeping this quiet, or you’ll need to
look for another job. Understand?”

“Yes of course, Herr Wachter,” the scientist said flatly.

“Good.” Wachter tucked the box under his arm and walked
off, leaving the man staring after him in total

It probably wouldn’t be necessary to kill him, Wachter
decided. For something like this you needed proof, or you’d
be regarded with at best suspicion and at worst
incredulity. And as long as Wachter had the box, and the
other items from Thule, in his possession the scientist
wouldn’t have any. To break into his house and steal it
would be difficult, given that the building was surrounded
by high walls with CCTV cameras covering every square inch
of its surroundings, and bristled with all manner of stateof-
the-art burglar alarms and sensors, and that the grounds
were patrolled by tough ex-convicts with Dobermann and
Alsatian guard dogs; unless you had the kind of connections
which the scientist obviously didn’t.

Back in his office, Wachter dialled a number in South

A phone rang on the desk in the combined study and living
room of a comfortably furnished farmhouse on the border of
Brazil and Paraguay, where a white-haired man in slacks and
a short-sleeved cotton shirt sat in a cane chair sipping at
his Tia Maria, his eyes fixed on the television screen
before him, which at the moment showed a clip from a blackand-
white film of Jews being herded into the convoy of
trucks which waited to take them to their final
destination, encouraged by the whips, fists or rifle butts
of the SS guards. Once a woman ran forward and threw a
bucket of something over one of them, to the applause of
the soldiers.

The man rose from the chair and strode to the phone on the coffee table in the corner. “Ja? Klaus, is that you?”

Wachter told him the results of the analysis. “I don’t
know what possible use it could be to us. But it means
there are other things there, things just as fantastic:
things we can use. There must be. We have to get back to
Thule right away.”

“I can leave you to see to it?”

“It shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Then I’ll say goodbye now, Klaus. But I’ll be speaking to
you again soon. We must lose no time over this.”
“Very good, Heinrich.”

The old man put the phone down and gazed out through the
glass sliding door which looked onto the patio at the
brightly-coloured birds flitting among the trees in the
garden. He crossed to his desk, on which lay an MP5 Heckler
& Koch sniper rifle, kept permanently loaded in case one
day the Jews should come for him. He opened a window,
leaned out through it with the gun in his hands, butt
cuddled against his shoulder, and trained it on one of the
birds, which had settled on a branch to preen itself. He
squinted through the weapon’s sights, moved it a fraction
to the left, and once the target was squarely within the
cross-hairs squeezed the trigger. He heard the crack as it
fired, felt the gun jerk in his grasp, and smiled as the
bird dropped from its perch without a sound.

He winced as a sudden twinge of pain shot through him.
Moving stiffly and with some discomfort he returned to the
desk, pulled out a drawer and took from it a plastic case
containing a hypodermic needle.

The serum took effect, the pain dulled and faded. He
settled down again to watch the film, glass in hand. It
showed dozens of naked men, women and children filing into
the gas chambers, their faces at best puzzled, slightly
apprehensive maybe, at worst downright scared. Then cut to
the bodies, which the camp guards were shovelling like shit
into a huge pile ready for burning.

He raised his Tia in salute to the architects of the Final
Solution. Here’s to the Fourth Reich, he thought with a
relish no less intense for being outwardly invisible to an
observer (he had never been a man to show much emotion,
which in his job had been a considerable asset). This time
may our achievement really last for a thousand years.

He thought of all Wachter had told him about Thule. Yes;
this time, as Rolf had said, they were going to finish the

Part Two

The Present

David Richards sat curled up in a ball against one wall of the little room where they had imprisoned him, his wrists tied to the pipe which ran along the base of it.

They had beaten him up badly. Fortunately he was young, able reasonably to withstand the vicious punches and kicks. He was bruised and aching all over but it didn’t feel like anything was actually broken. Not that it would do him the slightest good if he didn’t get out of this somehow, and soon.

Through the wall he could hear them talking in the next room, their voices muffled by several feet of brickwork; he wasn’t sure whether he could actually make out what they were saying or his fevered imagination was translating the babble into what he fearfully expected. “What shall we do with him?”
“Kill him, of course. He knows too much, doesn’t he? We can’t let him go, not now.”

“You’re right. We’ll have to get him out of here while it’s dark, though.” By then “he” might be a body, a dead body. “There’s a patch of waste ground down by the canal. Or we could just dump him in the water, that’d be better.”
“Yeah. It’s far enough away from here.”
“About ten o’clock, let’s say?”

“That’d be fine.” They didn’t care whether he could hear them or not, how he’d feel if he did. Their kind just didn’t bother about such things.

He was certain that the voices now died away; they had reached a conclusion of some sort. He couldn’t tell whether “ten o’clock”, if that was what they’d said, was the time he would die, the time they would dispose of the body, or both. Well, he wasn’t going to just sit here morbidly wondering which, if he could help it. But what the hell could he do?

Had it been like this for his relatives in Poland sixty or more years ago, when the family had been called Vishinsky and not Richards? Helpless prisoners in concentration camps, or hiding in cellars from the same kind of monster as the people who were holding him now, quivering at the thump of heavy jackboots on the floor above…The thought of them and of the courage many had shown, the determination not to give in to despair and let themselves be taken, now strengthened him.

He shouldn’t have to be in this situation. All this kind of thing should have ended with the war, forty years before he had been born. Why must his people continue to suffer? Why must any Jew, anywhere, have to live in fear of what the future might bring?

I needn’t have done this, he told himself. I could have left it to someone else. But I had to find out what they were up to. Perhaps I was foolish. He thought of his parents, and a pang of anguish stabbed through him like a knife in his guts. He’d let them down.
I have to get out of it for their sake.

He thought of them flanking him proudly at his Bar-Mitzvah, listening with rapt attention as he read with authority from the sacred texts, telling him afterwards how splendid he’d been.

He tried to think what it could have been that had betrayed him. Maybe at some point he had said the wrong thing, expressing undue admiration for a group or person they didn’t like, without realising it. Maybe he had gazed at the synagogue which stood at the end of the street with too much interest. Maybe he’d left something disturbed when prowling round the house looking for clues. Maybe to them he just sent out the wrong vibes. They had seemed to accept him at first, when he’d rung up and inquired about membership, pretending to be a British National Front activist; saying how much he liked their policies and yearned like them to roll back the tide of corruption, immorality and racial bastardization which was sweeping Europe. He looked reasonably Anglo-Saxon, despite his background, and spoke without the accent some British Jews had, so he didn’t think they’d have any cause to be suspicious.

In a bid to get inside their heads he’d spent hours laughing and drinking with them, everyone perfectly at ease, chatting at length whenever it was safe to do so about the group’s plans (his German was fluent, eliminating any communication problems). He’d spent a lot of time at Erdmann’s place, ended up staying the night on one or two occasions. And during that time he’d listened, picked up odd bits of chatter, stolen glances at things they’d left lying around when none of them were looking. Hovered at keyholes, planted one or two bugs. Until, for whatever reason, they had become suspicious of him. And pretended to go out, leaving him alone in the place or so he thought. Only a couple of them had in fact stayed behind, carefully concealed somewhere, to see what he’d do. The others at some point managed to sneak back in without him realising. He guessed that was what had happened, anyway.

He’d wandered around for a bit in search of more clues, and not found any because having begun to suspect him they were taking extra care. He decided it was time to call the Institute on his mobile, and started to tell them all he’d learned; then suddenly and frighteningly Erdmann had sprung into action, bursting in and rushing at him, grabbing the phone and hurling it into a corner where it broke, before seizing his shirt collar in both hands and shaking him violently. “All right you little bastard! Who are you and who are you working for? Fucking well answer or we’ll kick your fucking head in!”

“You Nazi swine!” David shouted, losing his nerve and finally giving himself away. He struggled to break free, but Erdmann shouted for help and the others ran in and overpowered him, wrestling him to the ground.

What he had found out before that happened was monstrous. Parts of it were also incredible. But they seemed perfectly serious about it, and David knew he’d stumbled on something big. He knew roughly what they were planning to do. And he’d often heard them mention someone called Heinrich who seemed to be the ultimate boss of their outfit. That might be a vital lead.

The point was to get out of here and tell someone. But that at the moment was more easily said than done.

The voices had started up again. “We must make sure there’s nothing left which could prove he was here.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll be done. We’ll torch the place if we have to.”
“With him in it?”
“Why not? Gets rid of all the evidence in one go. We’ll see.”

David had been working at his bonds, on and off, for some time now. Escapology was one of the first things he had been taught at the Institute: how to contract your wrist muscles when you were tied up, so they’d relax later on and you could slip out whenever you wanted. However, whether you could pull this off depended on how well they’d done it. These ropes had been tied with a savage tightness which caused them to bite deep into his flesh, leaving he was sure unsightly red weals on his wrists. He’d worry about the aesthetics of it later, once he managed to escape from here. If he did. It was taking time, that was the trouble; part of the problem was he had to be careful not to make too much noise. But gradually, one wrist was coming free. The raw, red flesh was sore and stinging where the skin had rubbed off, and he was sure he could feel a warm liquid running from it as he shifted about. That was good, he thought ruthlessly, because the blood would help it to slip out.

He didn’t suppose they’d look in from time to time to check on him. They weren’t the sort to be solicitous about the welfare of their enemies. To them he was just a sack of meat; soon to be dead meat. And a Jew, of course.

They wouldn’t expect him to have got free. And that gave him an advantage.

He wondered how much time had passed since he’d been caught. Because of the position he was in he wasn’t able to consult his watch. But a fair amount of light was still entering the room.

He almost cried out in triumph - not a sensible thing to do, of course – as the ropes finally slackened, hanging down limply. He shook them off, ripped the tape from his mouth and then undid the cords around his ankles.

A little stiffly, he stood up and took stock of his surroundings. He’d heard them lock the door as an added precaution on leaving the room, so there was no escape that way. They hadn’t bothered, though, about the little window high up in the wall opposite him, fastened by a hinged arm with notches in it that fitted over a little stub of metal on the window sill. He padded softly over to it, a step at a time, and reached up. Gently he lifted the arm off its catch and pushed on it. The window swung up and out to its full extent, and he peered through the opening. He could just see the top of a wooden fence, and beyond it the back of the row of houses that ran parallel to this one.

The window was designed more to let in a little light than as a means of access or exit. This was going to be awkward. If it proved too big to permit the passage of a human body, he’d have to try and run past them, relying on speed and willpower alone, assuming he could get the door open in the first place.
Thank God they were on the ground floor.

He rested both hands on the ledge, bent his knees, paused to gather his energies, and then finally jumped up. His knees scraped on the ledge, bruising them painfully, then almost slipped from it. He wriggled forward to give himself greater margin in which to manouevre.

Resting his hands on the ledge to steady himself, he listened nervously for any sound of voices or movement from next door. For the moment there was none.

He wriggled out head first through the narrow space, inch by inch, into the fresh air. His head and torso dipped as his centre of gravity moved beyond the window ledge and he began to slide forward. He twisted his body, bringing his hands up in an attempt to protect the back and crown of his head. The drop to the strip of concrete which ran round the little back garden was enough to hurt. He landed more or less on his side, with a jarring impact that left him briefly breathless and sent a stab of pain through his bones. He hit his head too, though fortunately it was only a glancing blow. As he lay there, winded and stunned, he thought he could hear the voices again, raised in alarm. He must have made some sound as he struggled through the little window and fell to the concrete, for they obviously knew he’d escaped.

Fear brought him back to full consciousness. He sprang to his feet and glanced round desperately.
He heard the rush of movement as they ran for the back door. In moments they’d be in the garden.
Over the fence. It was the quickest and also the only way out.

He stepped back a few paces, paused to brace himself and then sprinted forward, the burst of energy enabling him to convert his run into a jump of about a foot or so off the ground, with his arm thrust upwards. His fingers touched the top of the fence - just - and locked round it. He swung the other arm up and grabbed for a hold.

He pushed down with the palms of his hands and heaved, levering himself up. Scrambling over the top of the fence, he dropped straight down to land squarely on the soles of his feet, slightly shaken by the impact.

If they chose to follow him by the same route that he’d escaped, they’d catch him within seconds. Unless he moved very, very fast.

He took off like a rocket, along the stretch of muddy waste ground between the houses towards the main road. He was quite unaware of them clambering over the fence and hurtling after him screaming abuse at the top of their voices, only a few yards behind. He just didn’t have the time to think about things like that.
Once he reached the road, he would be safe. Presumably.

They had to stop him before he got there. They might well have blown things already, but if so it meant they had nothing to lose. Especially given what he knew.

If not the road, then the shopping district on the other side. They wouldn’t be able to do anything there, it’d be too public.
They were gaining on him fast.

If he paused at the road they might catch him. Or would they not go that far, afraid of drawing attention to what was happening? He couldn’t be sure, so he had to keep going, his one thought to reach the other side of the road.

He couldn’t stop to listen for oncoming traffic. So he ran across the road without thinking; he didn’t see or hear the car as it came hurtling round the corner and slammed into him, the impact punching him ten feet through the air. As its force dissipated he landed heavily on the tarmac surface, while the Opel screeched to a halt a few yards away with one of its front wheels on the pavement.

His pursuers saw him hit the ground, arms and legs splaying out in a manner they afterwards found amusing, and the driver of the car stop his vehicle and jump out in horror. As one they skidded to a halt, turned round and ran back towards the house, anxious to be away before anyone saw their faces. With any luck the Jew was dead; it was just a pity they couldn’t stop to make sure.

Meanwhile David Richards was lying very still in the middle of the road, while the driver of the Opel gabbled frantically into his mobile. Another car came along from the opposite direction, the man at the wheel seeing the body just in time to stop before he hit it. Several people who had been strolling along not far away and heard the general commotion came running up to see if there was anything they could do; one went and stood in the road to wave down oncoming traffic.

The pool of blood around the young man was gradually spreading. As the people crowded round him, moved by pity and horror, they saw him start to stir, eyelids flickering. His jaws began working, trying to form words.

A woman crouched down beside him. “It’s all right,” she said soothingly. “The police are on the way, and an ambulance. It’s all right.”

He seemed not to hear her, indeed to be only vaguely aware of her presence. His eyelids fluttered once more, then closed for the last time. With one final effort he managed to speak, though the words came out as a thick, guttural croak which was barely intelligible.

“Thule,” he gasped desperately, feeling the blackness closing in on his mind. “Thule......”

Returning to her office from her lunch break, Caroline Kent glanced at her diary and at the piles of paperwork spread out on the desk and took a long, hard, deep breath.

This was going to take ages. Unless she was lucky enough not to have any interruptions, she stood no chance of finishing it by the end of the working day, which for her usually meant between five and five-thirty. Like everyone else, she preferred five but realised it wasn’t always going to be possible. Normally she managed to meet that deadline by working at the brisk, efficient pace characteristic of her, which her colleagues – even the ones who didn’t like her - always admired, even envied (they often found themselves having to work late in consequence of not possessing her apparently limitless, almost superhuman reserves of energy). But even she couldn’t work miracles.

In fact, even without the interruptions midnight was a generous estimate. This stuff looked as if it would need lots of overtime, over a period of several days, to shift. When as the afternoon drew on she wanted more than anything else to be able to go home and relax in front of the telly with her cat, after a day which could be strenuous at the best of times. When there were also meetings with other senior executives, and a talk to give about her work to graduates (and prospective employees of the company) at Imperial College this coming Thursday.

She’d only just got back from a stint at the Rotterdam refinery, checking the anti-terrorist procedures there were adequate and listening to complaints from indignant local residents about foul smells and emissions of gas from the complex, unforeseen by-products of the processes going on there, which had apparently, caused the death of someone’s pet dog. The Dutch were a tolerant people but even they were starting to lose it these days. Protests had been mounted at the refinery gates and these were becoming more and more violent; it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt. The engineers and technicians at the refinery claimed they had things under control, and an expert had examined the body of the dead dog, deciding its demise could not have been due to the kind of gas given off as a side-effect of the refining process. But deaths of pets and unexplained illnesses among humans were continuing and being blamed on the company. Handicapped by not being herself a scientist, she didn’t know which side to take but promised that if a second opinion could prove the company was responsible she would institute a further review of practices at the plant as well as personally ensure that everyone affected was fully compensated. The local authority were informed that unless the problem were solved the refinery, an important source of wealth and employment for the region, would be closed down out of concern for the safety of its employees and the public. The bluff worked. A prominent councillor resigned his seat and a patch of waste ground near the refinery was cordoned off so that Health and Safety workers in protective clothing could go over it. Shortly afterwards the company of which the councillor was a director was prosecuted for illegally dumping toxic substances there. Caroline’s suspicions were confirmed.

Only a day before touching down in Holland she had been in Indonesia, attempting to calm angry tribesmen who claimed representatives of the company had been intimidating them into agreeing to the construction of a pipeline across their land. The meeting started to get out of hand and at one point she was seriously afraid the tribesmen were going to take her and the other company reps hostage, threatening to kill them if their grievances were not met. Something similar had happened to a group of Western tourists a few years before and the situation was only resolved after a bloody battle with government troops, which left several of the hostages and all but one of their captors dead. It wasn’t the sort of thing she wanted. In the end, she managed to convince them that the pipeline, construction of which was scheduled to begin in a year’s time, simply had to go ahead but could be rerouted, at IPL’s expense, so that they’d only have to give up a small part of their territory. The company was angry at her committing them to such a move but she knew there wasn’t any option if they were to remain on good terms with the locals. The tribespeople still weren’t very happy as it was.

Things seemed to have calmed down for the moment, but she knew less scrupulous employees of the company would try to hound the Indians into giving up the land so they could keep to the original scheme. The trouble was, unless she kept popping back there every few days to keep an eye on things, which was simply impossible, there was no sure way of prevening this. They’d be on their best behaviour all the time she was prowling around and then start wrecking the natives’ crops and burning their houses the moment she was gone.

And before that, she’d been freezing her tits off in Alaska where the company’s right to drill was being contested by a Greenpeace, who claimed the area was protected and IPL were in violation of a United Nations accord. A loophole in the legislation enabled them to go on working at the site until specifically told to stop, which no-one had any authority to do. Unfortunately the international authorities were for some reason dithering over the matter, and while they dithered protestors got hurt in clashes with security guards.

IPL America were quite happy to let her handle it on her own, her reputation as a fixer having spread far and wide with consequences she hadn’t banked on and wasn’t entirely sure she could deal with. She told the UN official deputed to liaise with her, and the spokesperson for the protestors, that she would respect any decision that drilling should be stopped but until some decision, whatever it might be, was made operations would continue; although she, along with local police, would look into any allegations of brutality she couldn’t guarantee there would not be any further unpleasant incidents. The protestors started to picket the UN instead, making a nuisance of themselves. The tactic worked, for she’d just received notification from the organization that an international court was being convened in a week’s time to finally establish the legality or otherwise of the company’s claim.

And I don’t care what they decide, she told herself, as long as it settles the matter once and for all.

While suffering, she was sure, from jetlag a weary Caroline now now had to complete reports on all three cases, the management being anxious to demonstrate to itself and its personnel that it had not been guilty of any malpractice; or, if it had, said wrongdoing had been suitably atoned for. The three reports had to be before her boss, Marcus Hennig, by the end of the week – it was now Wednesday – along with two others, on recruitment figures for the past year and a recent conference she had organized on Equality and Diversity in the Oil Industry. She knew if they weren’t, Hennig would not be a happy bunny.

She often wished she had not taken on both the job of INternational Operations Supervisor (2) and that of Head of Personnel and Public Relations. The problem was that as a troubleshooter you could be unemployed for long periods, should nothing particularly troublesome be going on anywhere in the world, so she had to have a regular job here at HQ as well. Caroline had been promoted to her current position when it fell suddenly vacant on the death of its then holder, and had since tried to get the two responsibilities, Personnel and PR, separated in order to make things easier for her. She’d like to get her hands on the idiot who decided it would be a bright idea to amalgamate them in the first place, and had once given voice to that sentiment in public only to discover that the “idiot” was in fact Hennig himself, resulting in some embarrassment when it was realised he’d heard what she’d said.

Unfortunately, her colleagues seemed to think it administratively more economical to have one person doing the same two jobs, and since she naturally did her best to make a success of them, generally achieving this aim, no-one saw any need for a change to the status quo. After initially, and rather foolishly she had to admit, thinking it would be cool to show she could juggle both tasks with effortless ease, Caroline had begun to have second thoughts but no-one seemed to respond to her frequent hints that she needed a break, and she now found herself well and truly trapped.

Again she contemplated the mass of paperwork: the reports to be read, the forms to be filled in, the letters to be signed. “Shit,” she said simply.

Ah well, she told herself, better get down to it, and maybe finish the job tonight if you’re lucky. She’d stay until eight, the latest at which Security were happy for people to be in the building, if it seemed likely to achieve that objective. She glanced at her watch; a quarter to three. Might just do it.

There was a knock on the door. “Come in,” she said, making an attempt to sound cheerful.
In came George Watson-Dove, head of Admin. She sighed inwardly.
“Good afternoon, George,” she smiled with exaggerated politeness. “What can I do for you?”

“Need a list of all the people who went to the last recruitment conference, and their expenses. Also a breakdown of the results from all the job interviews Human Resources have done in the last six months.” He called Personnel “Human Resources” because he knew it annoyed her. She had often expressed the view that since “Personnel” was neutral as far as race or gender was concerned there was nothing to be gained from the point of view of equality by altering the wording, especially when it meant expensively replacing all the company’s letterheads and a lot of its publicity material. So there had been no change, which set IPL apart from most other people nowadays. It was a little concession Hennig had granted her.
“Do you now,” she said dubiously. “When by?”

“By tomorrow morning, if that’s alright. Just leave it on my desk.” With a nod he made to leave.
“Er, just a minute,” she called out as he reached the door. He turned to face her, his eyebrows raised quizzically.
“George, I don’t really have the time to….” She gestured at the stacks of paper taking up most of the desk. “As you can see, I’m already a little pressed.”
“Well, it is pretty important,” he said reproachfully.

Her blue eyes narrowed, concentrating their gaze like a magnifying glass focusing the sun’s glare into a burning ray. Like others before him Watson-Dove quailed, then met the assault by simply turning away; the tactic was effective, and also an unspoken message to the other that the check had been mated. He appeared to be gazing casually out the window.

“I assure you I’m well aware of where my responsibilities lie,” she said coldly. “But I think you could handle this one yourself.” It was an area where the two departments overlapped, something Watson-Dove frequently took advantage of.

“Ah, well you see I’m a little pressed for time,” he grinned, trying to pretend this was light-hearted ribbing rather than spiteful sarcasm. “Several of my lot are off sick, and I’ve got to sort out one or two things with Marcus; could take a while.”

It occurred to her that she could check whether this was true, and she’d half a mind to, but the trouble was it would divert her from the all-important task of doing those reports. As Watson-Dove was well aware.

I don’t like doing overtime either, she muttered beneath her breath. But we all have to accept our share of the burden. Unless of course we’re George Watson-bloody-Dove.

She took a deep breath. “George, I really can’t accept – “
“Hang on, I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, and went out closing the door behind him.

Caroline knew very well he wouldn’t return unless it was to ask if she’d done what he wanted. In my own time, she thought fiercely, then realised with a sigh that that wasn’t good enough. The report did have to be done some time, for all she knew by the deadline Watson-Dove had specified, and if it wasn’t somebody would complain. Hennig would take the view that the importance of getting business done came before one’s personal sensibilities.
She could of course take it home with her. But after having worked till eight…….

She went into the outer office and told Sheila, her secretary, that she didn’t want any calls put through to her unless it was absolutely urgent. Unfortunately, she knew, there were striking variations in people’s definitions of what constituted “absolutely urgent”.

When Watson-Bastard wants that report he can jolly well come and get it, she told herself. In the meantime, let’s just see how it goes.

“He died in the ambulance,” DS Astrid Lundt announced gravely. “The medics say he had several broken ribs and one of them was puncturing a lung. A lot of bleeding, both inside and outside.”

Inspector Hans Faltermeyer stroked his bottom lip with his forefinger, face grave. Finally he nodded. “Thanks, Astrid.”

Nodding back, Lundt took her seat at the table. She was blonde, getting on for six feet tall and big-boned, a rather intimidating apparition who seemed to have little difficulty in dealing with even the most hardened yobs, and thus an asset at a time when Germany was suffering like everyone else – though maybe not as severely as Britain, for example - from a certain increase in anti-social behaviour.

“So what do we know about the circumstances?” he asked the third and final member of his team, Sergeant Karl-Heinz Wegen.

“Very little, except that several witnesses say they saw a group of people running after him, but they don’t know who they could have been. They stopped, turned round and ran off when they saw him knocked down.”
“And no idea who the poor guy was?”
“None at all. There was no wallet or other ID on him. Perhaps the people he was running from took it.”

The phone rang and Lundt, who was nearest, picked it up. “Hello, Inspector Faltermeyer’s office.”
“This is obviously more than a simple road traffic accident,” said Faltermeyer to Wegen.
“Misadventure at best,” the sergeant agreed. Whether it might be something worse was what they had now to establish.
“The bunch who were chasing him didn’t stop to help when they saw what had happened,” Faltermeyer reminded him. “I think we might have to start asking what it might be at worst.”
Astrid Lundt was going “ah-hah”, nodding and scribbling down notes on a book of post-its.
“And he managed to say something before he died?” went on the Inspector.

“Yes,” said Wenge. “It sounded like “Thule”. Too-lay. What it means I’ve no idea.”
“I’ve a feeling I should know,” Faltermeyer said thoughtfully. He resumed stroking his lip, at the same time gazing intently out of the window.

Lundt put down the phone. “That was the hospital. They say there’s evidence someone had tied him up; marks on the wrists and ankles.”
All three looked at one another.

“That makes it manslaughter at least,” Lundt offered. Some silly game that had gone tragically wrong...perhaps.
“Right,” agreed Faltermeyer. “Now does the word “Thule” mean anything to anyone? Astrid?”
Lundt pursed her lips and thought. “No,” she said eventually.
“Sure?” he persisted. She hadn’t quite sounded it.
“It does sound vaguely familiar. I just can’t think where I’ve heard it before.”

The inspector looked at Wegen, who shrugged. He collected his thoughts. “Two things. Karl-Heinz: we need to know who the dead man was.” A statement would be broadcast on tonight’s news, including a description of the victim, together with an appeal for help, which hopefully would produce something. “You’ll be on the end of the hotline. I’ll handle the press if they start asking any questions.”

“I’ll get the notices sent out. What about the post-mortem?”
“I’ll see to that. Which mortuary is he at, Astrid, Bergenstrasse?” Lundt nodded.
“And we must find out who or what “Thule” is. Astrid, try the computer.”

The two of them left to carry out their respective tasks, leaving Faltermeyer alone in the room. Before ringing the mortuary, he stood for a moment looking out of the window again, overcome by a feeling he couldn’t quite put into words.
He wasn’t quite sure why. But somehow, he had a bad feeling about this case.

Caroline was just finishing typing out the last page of her report on the Rotterdam assignment when someone knocked on the door again. She shouted out for them to enter, hoping desperately they weren’t planning on staying long.

She had decided to get Watson-Dove’s business out of the way first, all the better to complete the other outstanding tasks before the evening was out. But to offset that she had staged a little rebellion and decided not to work late after all. Maybe it had been a mistake. She’d revised her plans and set herself a new deadline of Friday evening – tonight.

Her wish that she should receive no interruptions had unfortunately not been granted. From time to time people came along on important business which meant they couldn’t be turned away; needing her signature on a letter, her opinion on some crucial administrative matter, her approval for some statement being released to the press. With all that, and the meetings, which as always ended up taking much longer than anticipated, she had so far only managed to complete one of the five vital tasks. And one or two more things had come up to demand her attention, believe it or not. The deadline would have to be changed yet again. To add to her frustration she didn’t think she’d performed of her best at the talk yesterday; her mind had been too taken up with the problem of breaking the backlog, and she must have come over as edgy and unsure of herself, with annoyed her both in a personal way and because she felt she’d let down the company.

As for the meetings..well, yesterday morning’s hadn’t been too bad, but today’s was one she’d much rather forget. They had moaned at her because although she had yet to produce a final analysis of the current recruitment situation the figures seemed to be down on last year’s, despite her insisting there could be any number of reasons for that, including a sufficient number of individuals happening to have made one decision rather than another, and it wasn’t her department’s fault. “Yes, but we want them to join this company and not any other,” Hennig had reminded her, as if she had made no effort to explain the reasons why they hadn’t.

“Tell you what,” said one executive, “why don’t we just put Caroline on all the posters, preferably not wearing very much? That’ll solve the problem.”

Caroline looked at him dubiously. “Actually I’m not sure that doesn’t count as sexual harassment.”
“We could have her sitting on an oil drum – “

“John, please,” said Hennig, raising an admonitory finger, while clearly enjoying the look on Caroline’s face.
“Oh come on,” the executive smiled. “She loves it really.” The Head of Personnel made no comment.

It had been said that Caroline was the best recruiting agent for the company, that all they had to do was to milk her stunning blonde looks and fabulous figure for all it was worth, and that had proved nearer the truth than she cared to admit. After one particularly vigorous recruitment campaign, in which as Head of Personnel her face had featured prominently on much of the publicity, there had been a massive influx of job applicants, necessitating a crash programme of training sessions, until it was realised that all most of them wanted to do was to get into bed with her. The female ones as well, most probably; it wouldn’t have been surprising if she had had such an effect on otherwise heterosexual women.

At other times she might have been secretly pleased at the compliment to her looks, and contented herself with a quizzical raising of the eyebrows, laughing the remark off or pretending she didn’t know what the speaker was talking about. After all, she liked to think she could handle such things. As it was, she wasn’t in the mood.

Her visitor was Chris Barrett, her deputy at Personnel and occasional companion on her troubleshooting missions. “Just called to say goodbye,” he smiled. “I’m off now.”
She stared at him, completely bewildered. “Off? Off where?”

He stared back at her. “You know. To the Canaries. I told you ages ago. It should be in the Diary.”
“Oh,” she said, frowning. Briefly she put a hand to her head.
Chris took a step or two towards her. “Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.
“Just a little tired,” she confessed.

“Maybe you need a break too. You could always come with me – oh, I suppose it’s a bit late now.”
Caroline was staring into space, her mouth open, as if shocked by her forgetfulness. As indeed she was. The two of them had been colleagues for a long time and each usually knew what the other were doing. And it was her business to have known, if her departments were to be run properly.

“Do you want me to..“ He meant stay to help her, and would have done as well. He’d be a good husband, she thought. His invitation for her to join him on his holiday had been entirely Platonic in motive, but….

“No, it really doesn’t matter,” she said, shaking her head emphatically. It would be unkind to expect him to forsake sunny Tenerife and Gran Canaria for gloomy autumn evenings working late in a London office block. “Honest.”
“But if things really are difficult – “

“Chris, shut up,” she snapped, worried she was going to change her mind. He looked a little miffed, then softened, not wishing there to be an edge to their parting. “Well, goodbye anyway,” he said. They pecked each other on the cheek. “Take care,” he smiled, and was gone.

The phone rang. “Natasha’s here with that brochure you were asking about,” Sheila said. “Are you free?”
“Uh-huh. Send her in.”

Natasha Wicksteed, a graphic designer by training, worked in Publicity and was responsible for producing a lot of the material by which the company advertised itself to the world. She was responsible also to Caroline, by virtue of the latter’s being Head of Personnel and also of Publicity’s work overlapping like a Venn diagram with that of PR. In appearance the two of them were exactly the opposite; Caroline was slim, blonde, fairly tall and with apparently flawless skin and Natasha short, dumpy, plump-faced, freckled, mousy-haired and with glasses. It was often unkindly suggested that this was why the two were so often at loggerheads with one another. That, in fact, had nothing whatsoever to do with it. Nor was there such antipathy between them as sometimes seemed the case.

Whatever else she might be Natasha, like many of the science-fiction fans to whose ranks she belonged, was highly intelligent. Unfortunately, she was also the sort of person to whom accidents seemed to happen. As a result, she tended to annoy Hennig and the other senior executives – not the sort of thing which helped your future career prospects. Fortunately Caroline had had the sense to see that with Natasha it was a case of organized chaos, not simply chaos; be patient with her, recognize and nurture her not inconsiderable talents, and she would be an asset. And rather than dislike her Caroline found it rather sweet that Natasha was constantly in a blue funk worrying that she, Caroline, was going to sack her, when in fact there was not the slightest intention of doing anything of the sort (whenever she tried to calm the girl’s fears, it had not the slightest effect).

One more than one occasion it had been Caroline who had defended her from dismissal, against the insistence of an influential exec who happened to have conceived a genuine and unwarranted dislike for her at a time when the company was being rather ruthless about “restructuring”. Those who thought of her as a heartless bitch concerned only with getting results would do well to remember that.

Far from the deadly enemies of in-house mythology, the two women often enjoyed a drink together and might with justification be regarded as friends. All the same, there were times when Natasha tried her superior’s patience.

She entered smiling nervously, coming to stand before Caroline’s desk rather like a junior schoolgirl summoned before the headmistress. She was clutching a glossy soft-backed brochure as if afraid the slightest relaxation of her grip would cause it to blow away. “I’ve, er, I’ve had the report on renewables back from the printers,” she announced.

“I assume you have, because you’ve got it right there in your hand,” Caroline said pleasantly. “All right, let’s have a butcher’s.”

“Th-the only thing is, I’m afraid there’s w-w-one or two things wrong with it,” Natasha informed her apologetically. “I’m sorry.”

Caroline frowned. “Not your fault, I trust,” she muttered, before realising it was the wrong thing to say. “Well let’s take a look anyway.”

Natasha had designed it competently, indeed imaginatively; the arrangement and juxtaposition of the different sections of the text was neat and economical, the overall effect upon the eye highly pleasing, and the graphics bold and colourful yet also thought-provoking, in line with Caroline’s belief that renewable energy, into which the company at her behest was trying to branch, should be taken seriously. There was, as Natasha had said, only one thing wrong with it.

As Caroline was scanning it something caught her eye and she frowned in distaste. She produced a thick black marker pen and ringed it. As she read on her frown grew deeper and the corrections more numerous. Finally she gave up in disgust and slapped the brochure down on her desk, looking up at Natasha in indignant amazement. “The spelling’s awful. What the hell are they playing at? You did check it before you sent it off?”
“Yes, yes, of course I did,” squeaked Natasha. “All they had to do was…well, print it.”

Caroline thought she saw what had happened. The printers were so amateurish that they genuinely believed the correct spellings of things to be wrong, and thought they were doing a good deed by changing them. It was the kind of bizarre phenomenon that sometimes resulted from poor standards of education and training.
“I’m sorry,” stammered Natasha. “I haven’t had time to look at it and you said you wanted it right away so – “

“Yes, yes, of course I did. I’m not getting at you.” She sighed in vexation. “They’ll just have to learn how to do it properly. Either that, or we’ll try someone else. Check the rest of it and then send it back to them. Now, what about that Equal Opportunities leaflet?” She glanced at her watch and sighed. “I’m told I’m supposed to return it to Hennig, having OK’d it, in about five minutes’ time.”
“I’m afraid I’ve only about half-finished it,” came the reply.

Caroline’s face froze. Not another bloody complication. Hennig would of course moan about it like he had all the others, and even though it would be a moan and nothing more it would add to the tension and the raised blood pressure.
“Why’s that?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound too snappy.
“Yesterday I had to pick up my nephew from school because my sister couldn’t do it because….…and I was late coming in this morning, there was a traffic jam.…I’m really really sorry, honest. Then my rabbit wasn’t well and……”

Caroline closed her eyes tightly, sinking deeper and deeper into her chair. “Just get it done as soon as you can and bring it straight to me when you’ve finished.”
“All right,” said Natasha, making to leave. “I’m sorry.”
If she says that again I’ll……

Caroline was about to give her the report from Holland to put in the internal mail, as she would be going past it on her way to her office, but changed her mind. God, I don’t trust her do I. And that’s not good. It’s just that the slightest chance of anything else going wrong……

Natasha was scampering from the office like a frightened mouse. Such was her haste to be away she forgot to close the door properly.
“Natasha,” Caroline shouted after her.
“Sorry,” said Natasha, and slammed it shut, a little too forcefully.

Caroline winced. Getting to her feet, she gripped the edge of her desk with both hands, steadying herself, and for several minutes breathed deeply and slowly in and out. She fell back into the chair like a dead weight.
There was no doubt about it; she was starting to feel the pressure.

There were several people who could conceivably have been the man knocked down and killed by a car in the Hollendorf suburb of the city a couple of days before, but the most likely candidate was David Richards, a British student who had come to Germany on an exchange scheme. The authorities at the University of Berlin, where he had been studying, had reported that he hadn’t come back to his Hall of Residence for evening meal on Wednesday, nor was there any sign of him the following day. Not only that but the dead man’s description matched that of David. A member of staff was able to identify the body.

“Find out what you can about Richards’ background,” Inspector Faltermeyer ordered Karl-Heinz Wegen. “But first, Astrid, you were going to tell us about Thule.”

“Yes. It’s some sort of mythical land, somewhere up in the far North. In the past it’s been identified with Iceland, Norway, and the lost civilization of Atlantis. Apparently the Nazis believed that thousands of years ago it was the home of an Aryan super-race from whom all the other ancient civilizations, Egypt and Assyria and Babylon, got their culture and their technological achievements. There still is a Thule Society, an international organization with a website and headquarters in a dozen countries.”
“And are they Nazis?” Faltermeyer asked.

“Some of them have been involved with far-right political parties like New Vitality. It’s what you’d expect, maybe, given the society’s beliefs. But so far they’ve managed to keep their hands clean. No involvement in attacks on ethnic minorities, or anything like that, as far as we know.”
“They sound like just a bunch of cranks to me,” Wegen sniffed.
“If they’re involved in neo-Nazi politics, they’re dangerous cranks,” snapped Faltermeyer. “Ancient myths is one thing, killing people quite another.”
“So you think they might have been involved in the business?” Lundt asked.
“I don’t know what to think just yet. We haven’t got enough evidence.”
Wegen was frowning. “If Richards was English, he could have been saying “too late.” Zu spat.”
“It’s possible,” Faltermeyer agreed. Certainly he hadn’t thought of it until now. “He could have been. Too late for what, though?”
“Too late to give a last message to his loved ones,” Astrid suggested. “It’s the only thing I can think of. He might have been delirious from pain, of course.”
“Basically, we need answers. Astrid, was that all you could find about Thule on the Web?”
“No, there’s more. I’ve got the print-outs here.” She pushed them across the desk to him.

“I’ll look at those in a moment. Right now I want you and Karl-Heinz to concentrate on investigating David Richards. We need to know what possible motive someone could have for kidnapping him and holding him prisoner. We’ll be interviewing the family as soon as it’s been cleared with them.” The Richards’ had already been told the sad news through the British Embassy, and David’s parents and sister would be flying in from London the following morning to discuss arrangements for repatriation of his body and personal effects with British and German officials. “Astrid, liaise with the British. At the moment his people will be preoccupied with the funeral but as soon as they feel able to go through with it, we’ll need to speak to them. Karl-Heinz, see if you can get some more out of the University. I’ve a feeling there are depths to this case we aren’t fully aware of as yet.”

Outside, Lundt paused. “What do you think?” she asked Wegen.
“He seems to think it’s political. Me, I’m not so sure. But whatever the truth is, I’m certain there’s something funny about this case; the Chief certainly is. I think he’d be happier the more we learn about it, and the sooner.”

They went their separate ways, Astrid to contact the Foreign Office, and through them the British Embassy, Karl-Heinz to revisit the University in pursuit of further information on the murdered man, while Hans Faltermeyer sat himself down at the computer in the Incident Room and familiarized himself with the subject of Thule.

The man in the Major’s uniform sat waiting for them to call him, trying to decide if he did or didn’t have anything to worry about, and occasionally glancing from boredom as much as anything else at his watch or the remorselessly ticking clock on the wall opposite him. His mind made the usual comparison between the latter and a death knell and he wondered if it had been placed in that particular position as a form of psychological torture.

One of the clerical staff came by and flashed him a sympathetic smile, obviously guessing what he was there for. Major Mike Hartman smiled back.

Not knowing if you had anything to worry about was as bad as if you did have anything to worry about, he thought, because you might. It sort of made logical sense.

But was there really any cause to fret? In a few years’ time he’d be too old for this kind of work anyway.

He heard footsteps from down the corridor. They slowed down as they approached him and he looked up. Riordan, Moretti and Ferris were all standing there, anxious and subdued, wondering what they’d do if he did get kicked out of the Regiment. Their instinct would probably be to follow him wherever he was going, and he’d have to try and dissuade them. The Regiment needed men like these.
“Good luck, boss,” said Ferris.
“Yeah, good luck Sir,” chorused Moretti and Riordan.

The Major rose. “Thanks, boys. At least I’ve managed to keep you lot out of it.” That was the advantage – though there were also disadvantages – of being in an organization where you did things by simply obeying orders. It meant you could be excused blame if things went wrong. As long as you weren’t the one in charge.

The door was opened and a young staff officer appeared. “Major Hartman, the tribunal will see you now.”

Michael Hartman shook hands with his three friends and gave them a final rueful smile. “Well, here we go.” He disappeared inside the committee room where the meeting was being held, the door closing behind him. The three SAS men stood looking at it for a long time before turning away to go back to their duties.

Since it was very rarely used except for occasions like these, the room was almost bare apart from the usual notices about health and safety. At the side, grimly silent, the Commander-in-Chief of the Regiment, General Thomas Straker, sat with his arms folded. He was a trim, tough-looking man in his fifties with a grizzled moustache, a no-nonsense expression and the kind of hazel eyes that could be very penetrating. Behind the table sat three ex-SAS officers, the brigadier who would be chairing the enquiry and a pair of colonels, sitting on either side of him. The young staff officer, whose job it would be to take notes, had a table all to himself, with a pen and a notepad for him to scribble on in shorthand.

The brigadier looked up from his papers. “Please take a seat, Major Hartman.” Hartman planted himself on the single chair which had been placed in the middle of the room facing the table.

“Well, Major, you know why you’re here,” said the brigadier once the usual formalities had been concluded.
“Yes, Sir,” said the Major woodenly.

“You acquitted yourself very well in Pakistan. Even so, I’m sure you can appreciate that hijacking a nuclear submarine, that mutiny, if not piracy, is a very serious offence.” He paused for effect, replacing the biro he’d been playing with on the desk and leaning back in his chair. “Why, Major?”

“If I may say so, Sir, we did do the job. We prevented what might be prosaically described as a major nuclear disaster – and I’d say even that would be putting it mildly.”

“I know that, Major, I know that. You didn’t answer my question. We all know what this is really about. The “job” would have been done just as well if the Poseidon had remained under Captain Hillyard’s command. You’d no need to …”

Although he had no jurisdiction over how the tribunal conducted its business General Straker was allowed to chip in with pertinent comments from time to time. “We don’t know that. The way the Major stopped the Connecticut firing its missiles; it’s possible nobody else would have dared to do it.”

“I take your point, Sir. But it was still wrong for him to have commandeered the vessel the way he did. And in the first instance, his reasons had nothing to do with saving the world.” The brigadier sighed wearily, shoulders slumping in something like despair, then straightened up with an effort. “It’s that girl, isn’t it. It was all because of her. She’s a wrecker; if it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t be sitting here having to go through all this.”

“If it wasn’t for her, Sir, we might not be sitting, or doing anything, anywhere. We wouldn’t have had the faintest inkling what Marcotech were up to.”
“You were prepared to go on the run forever if necessary, weren’t you? Just to stop her from – “
“From being experimented upon without her consent. So that someone could do something that’d probably be just as unethical as what Marcotech were doing.”

“But that isn’t your decision to take, Major. If anything comes along which might be of use to the armed forces of this country, or any of our allies, in doing their job then it’s our responsibility to take the opportunity it presents. If you can’t obey orders you can’t be a soldier. I shouldn’t need to spell that out to an experienced officer like yourself.”

“Do you accept your actions were wrong, Major?” asked one of the colonels, speaking for the first time.
“Yes, Sir, I suppose they were,” said the Major contritely.
“But you’d do the same thing again, wouldn’t you?”

The Major’s expression alternated between the uncertain and the stonily impassive. The slightest suggestion of a smile flickered briefly on General Straker’s face.

“I don’t know what to do with you, Hartman,” sighed the brigadier. The Major’s lips twitched.
“And you can take that smug grin off your face.”
“Look at it this way, Sir,” said Hartman. “Who knows about it? It might be bad for discipline if they did, but my boys aren’t talking. I mean, we’ve all signed the OSA.”

“The public don’t have to know about it, Major Hartman. It’s still setting a dangerous example for others to follow. I think you can be sure your activities have already become enshrined in SAS legend. Although it’s safe to say there’ll never be that many officers like you in a million years.” He sounded almost admiring.

“Don’t we need people like me in the Regiment, Sir? We’re not quite like other units and never have been.”

“I know your gambles have usually paid off in the past. But this is different; this time you were clearly in breach of discipline. You were told that as soon as the Marcotech business was concluded, Caroline Kent was to be handed over to the Americans.”

“For them to do God knows what with her. Incidentally, I hope my lads aren’t going to be - ”
“We’ve been through that before, Major. As they were acting under your orders, we’ve taken the view they aren’t responsible for what happened. If someone barks an order at you you do it, you don’t question the ethics of it.”

“With respect, Sir, I’ve very rarely needed to “bark” an order at any of them. We’ve all been together long enough to understand each other perfectly.”

“Sure, Major?” grinned the second of the colonels. “I’m sure I’ve heard the sound of your voice from in town when you’ve been conducting an exercise here.”

“It isn’t true, Sir. Not the way you mean. With respect, to suggest it was would be demeaning both to myself and those under my command.”

“You’re protective of your men, aren’t you,” said the brigadier. “I like that.”
“And if I may say something else, Sir,” continued Hartman. “I thought that for us to be a party to something unethical would demean the whole of the British Armed Forces, in a way I’m much too patriotic to be happy about. It’s because I’m loyal to my country that I did what I did.”
“Your comments are noted, Major.”

It didn’t take them that long for them to conclude their business and dismiss him. After he’d gone, they sat looking at one another in silence.
“We’ve got to do something,” said the brigadier.

General Straker interjected again. “I take it you did read the Navy’s report on the incident?”
“Yes, General, of course we did,” the brigadier nodded. “They were a bit miffed at first, but when the full story emerged they seemed more amused than anything.” The one thing which had impressed those entrusted with the task of deciding the Major’s fate was the refusal of their brother service to press charges.

“And I have to admit,” Straker went on, “that insubordinate people are sometimes right. You have to allow them a bit of rope…”
The brigadier grinned. “So that they can hang themselves?”

“No,” Straker replied coldly. “That wasn’t what I meant at all.”
“The chap’s off his rocker,” complained the second colonel. “He’s mad. The girl too, from what I’ve heard. They’re made for each other.”

“He’s not mad, not in the way you’re suggesting. If he was he wouldn’t still be in the Regiment. He wouldn’t have been in it in the first place. I don’t know about the girl.”

“Understand the family spent some time in Zimbabwe,” said the first colonel. “They were there before independence, in fact, while it was still Rhodesia. Enough to make anyone go a bit crazy, in my opinion.” Apart from the effects of the burning African sun, there were those of living in a small, homogenous and in many ways embattled community, in a country controlled first by diehard racist reactionaries and then by an increasingly mad (and arguably even more reprehensible) Marxist dictator.

“You don’t understand the colonial mentality,” Straker snapped. “Come to think of it, nor do I. But lots of us in this profession have links with Rho…with Zimbabwe. And to stick it out there for any length of time takes guts. Those chaps have got something, even if I’m not entirely sure what it is.”

The colonel nodded respectfully. “I’m sorry if I seemed disrespectful, General. But we do have to make a decision and…well, the chap just worries me, that’s all. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

They continued to wrangle over the matter for some time; before finally reaching that time-honoured solution to a multitude of problems, the good old British compromise.

Thule, read Inspector Hans Faltermeyer, was the ancient Greek and Latin name for a land supposed by the people of those days to exist six days’ sail north of the British Isles, and to be the most northerly region of the world. It sounded like Iceland, and probably was, though there were other likely candidates such as Norway or the Shetland Islands. Some believed it was in a remote part of Asia but that somehow seemed wide of the mark. Thule was also the name of an Inuit culture in Greenland, though this seemed to have no connection with the mythical realm of the ancient chroniclers.

The word might mean simply the most distant unknown land, wherever it was. In a more general sense Thule, Ultima Thule, was a term sometimes used to describe the highest or furthest degree of something attainable; or alternatively the lowest point, the nadir.

In the late seventeenth century a Swedish writer named Olaus Rudbeck identified Thule as the fabled land of Atlantis, which was thought to have conquered North Africa and much of Europe some nine thousand years before. Rather than in the Atlantic Ocean, as received wisdom had it, he centred it in Sweden. Later the French astronomer and mystic Jean-Sylvain Bailly argued that the great powers of the ancient world had inherited all their knowledge and culture from a far superior civilization in the extreme north. Bailly believed that when the Earth was younger its interior heat was much greater, and claimed that this would have given the polar regions a more temperate climate than they currently enjoyed; one he thought much more conducible to the flourishing of the arts and sciences. The inhabitants of Thule were the Hyperboreans, who because they lived in northern Europe must have been tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed – typically Aryan, to use a term originally applied to what was thought to have been one of the aboriginal peoples of India and therefore now being misused, although perhaps not as much as objectors to it claimed since some inhabitants of the sub-continent still had fairish hair and skin and occasionally blue eyes.

In this way, the idea was helped to form in people’s minds that the Aryan – the Nordic, that is Germanic or Teutonic and Scandinavian - peoples represented the ultimate in both physical magnificence and cultural achievement, and were thus superior to other races. Here lay one of the roots of Nazi ideology. The tree was assisted in growing and in bearing fruit by nineteenth-century nationalism, as part of which races and nations rediscovered and sought to promote their own historic culture with increasing militancy. This tendency could sometimes extend to the praising of physical characteristics. The modern revival of Germanic paganism was a by-product of the German romantic movement and of German nationalism, following the creation of a united Germany in the nineteenth century. It tied in with a certain occult revival which came about as a reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and was characterized by a belief in lost civilizations with semi-divine powers. It started off as harmless nonsense but in time acquired an unsavoury, potentially dangerous character. Perverting the ideas of the mystic Madame Helena Blavatsky, the writer Lanz von Liebenfels argued that humanity was descended from a series of Root Races that had degenerated over the millennia from beings who were morally and spiritually pure, almost to the extent of being gods, to crude and barbarous peoples of whom the Aryans were the least so. Apes, and all the non-Aryan races too (especially the Jews) were the result of sexual intercourse between the third Root Race, the Nordic peoples, and monsters. In Liebenfels’ view, a parody of the Biblical doctrine of the Fall from Grace, the Aryans had lapsed into bad habits after leaving the paradise of their northern homeland, to which he in his heart and soul longed to return in both a spiritual and a geographical sense. He called the lost continent where the “gods” had lived Arktogaa, from a Greek word meaning “northern Earth”.

Liebenfels saw human affairs in terms of an ongoing, perhaps eternal struggle between the blond races, who were creative and heroic, and the dark “beast-men” who sought to corrupt and retard human culture. This struggle could only be won through racial purity, the forced sterilisation or extermination of inferior races, and the destruction of democracy, socialism and feminism. He appeard to modify his theories somewhat in a book entitled “Theozoology or the Lore of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods”. In it he sought to convince his public that most of humanity was derived from a race of beast-men (Anthropozoa), fathered by Adam. There was however a higher humanoid race (the Theozoa), who despite their name were not quite gods but rather beings with advanced mental faculties such as telepathy, which functioned by the transmission of electrical signals between one brain and another. Over the millennia the god-men interbred with the Anthropozoa until they became debased and the organs which were the source of the telepathic power atrophied, becoming the pineal and pituitary glands of modern Man.

Believing that mediaeval values and virtues were superior to those of the modern world Liebenfels, in a corruption of the noble ideals of the Knights Templar, the monastic and military order which had fought in the Crusades, and the Teutonic Knights founded a secret society called the New Templars. The new organization would be at the forefront of the struggle for supremacy between the Aryan and all the other peoples for world domination. The two principal personalities behind the movement were Liebenfels and Guido von List, both of whom added an undeserved “von” to their names to stress supposed aristocratic descent.

List was one of the founders of the Volkische movement, characterized by love of unspoiled nature and a fascination with astrology and “earth energies”. He and his colleagues believed the greatness of the Germanic peoples lay in their idyllic, noble rural past which had now been soiled by the growth of urban capitalism with all its evils, presided over by Jewish entrepreneurs and money-lenders. List had been instrumental in establishing a secret Masonic society called the Germanenorden, which sought to promote its members in public life to counter the corrupting influence of the Jews and socialists. No-one not of “pure Aryan descent” was permitted to join it.

List was also heavily influenced by the legends of lost civilisations and sunken continents. In his The Legends of the Ario-Germans (1910) he identified the four elements into which ancient scientists divided the world – earth, air, fire and water – with the mythical Teutonic realms of Muspilheim, Asgard, Wannenheim and Midgard, which were inhabited respectively by fire-dragons, air-gods, water-giants and mankind. He claimed the prehistoric megaliths of Lower Austria were actually Atlantean artifacts.

In 1918 the Germanenorden changed its name to the Thule Society. As might be expected its members were appalled by Germany’s sudden collapse in the First World War, which they attributed to the spinelessness of Jew-infested liberal politicians, because Germany as the archetypal Aryan nation had to be strong, had to be dominant over all her enemies. One of its leading lights, Rudolph von Sebottendorff, wrote: “Yesterday we experienced the collapse of everything which was familiar, dear and valuable to us. In the place of our princes of Germanic blood rules our deadly enemy: Judah. What will come of this chaos we do not know yet. But we can guess. A time will come of struggle, the most bitter need, a time of danger.....I am determined to pledge the Thule Society to this struggle.” According to one account, it was the Thule Society out of which the Nazi movement was born. Shortly after its foundation it established a worker’s section, which later became the German Worker’s Party and then, in February 1920, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

List, Liebenfels and von Sebottendorff all believed Thule to be the ancient homeland of the Aryan race. Von Sebottendorff, fascinated by the Eddas, the collections of Scandinavian myths compiled by the mediaeval writer Snorri Sturlusson, identified it with Iceland. So too did Alfred Rosenberg, one of the leading Nazi ideologues during the movement’s early years, who established an organization called the Nordic Society, with representatives from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland as well as Germany, whose aim was to defend the Aryan nations against the Soviet-Jewish threat. He called for expeditions to Iceland to make a proper study of its unspoilt, for the moment, culture and landscape before it too became ruined by the advance of modern technology and commercialism. Iceland had remained, until relatively late in the Middle Ages, the last place in Europe where a purely Germanic culture and language had survived untouched by the influence of Christianity or the classical civilizations.

Surprisingly perhaps, Hitler himself had little time for the Thulean mythology, which he regarded as utter nonsense, once actually in power. But his ally Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, was more sympathetic and in the 1930s organized several expeditions to Iceland and similar places under the auspices of the Ahnenerbe - the SS Association for Research and Teaching on Heredity. Among other things they carried out studies of Iceland’s caves and ancient monuments in an attempt to prove the existence of a prehistoric northern centre of culture (in itself a plausible enough hypothesis), based there.

All this was fascinating. But despite the Nazi connections which Astrid had obviously thought he needed to know about, Faltermeyer couldn’t see, at the moment anyway, what it might have to do with the kidnapping and possible murder of David Richards.
Wegen entered. “Anything?” Faltermeyer asked hopefully.
“Yes, It seems Mr Richards was Jewish.”

Faltermeyer stiffened, feeling alarm bells ring inside his head. Wegen noticed his reaction and nodded sombrely. If David Richards was Jewish, it had serious implications for the whole case. Firstly it suggested a possible motive for members of the Thule Society to kill him, given the history and character of the movement. Secondly, they would have to tread very carefully. If there was the slightest suggestion that the German authorities were failing to properly investigate the murder of a Jew by a far Right group, especially given certain events in their country’s past, there would be accusations of anti-Semitism. There would be political ramifications, and he himself might be settled on as a scapegoat and lose his job. The suggestion that Richards had lost his life as a consequence of some sort of kinky bondage game would have to be dropped, unless of course further evidence seemed to prove it. There were some people he could imagine causing offence there. We Germans are not very subtle on occasions, he thought ruefully.

Each of them knew that anti-Jewish feeling was on the rise in Germany, indeed throughout Europe in general, as a result of Israel’s activities in Lebanon and her treatment of the Palestinians.
Faltermeyer sighed long and hard. “We’ve got to find out who did this.”
“Yes. You still think he was saying “too late” when he died?”
“I suppose he could have meant it was too late to get him to hospital.”
“That implies he knew he was going to die. People generally don’t. That’s something only animals have. He wouldn’t have given in like that, and nor would you or I. And even if he was saying “too late,” it still doesn’t have any bearing on why he was killed.”
The corner of Faltermeyer’s mouth turned up slightly. “Do I take it you’re revising your original opinions about this case?”

“That it wasn’t political? What do you think? It’s all staring us in the face. It’s obvious he discovered something pretty nasty and they killed him to stop him telling anyone. He would have wanted to get the message to someone before he died.”
“Maybe he meant it was too late to do anything about the business. Whatever it was.”
“I certainly bloody well hope not,” the inspector muttered. He described to Wenge what Astrid had found out about Thule. As he went on his subordinate’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped lower and lower.
“Quite,” said Faltermeyer. “I’d say this was getting more and more alarming by the minute.”
“What was Richards doing here exactly?” he asked Karl-Heinz. “On an exchange, I think they said?”
“With a German student, also Jewish. It’s something the International Jewish Conference has set up with support from Israel, a scheme to promote links between Jews in different countries.

“A number of people at the University say that Richards had been acting very secretively over the last few days. It was like he was up to something he didn’t want people to know about. They say he was preoccupied, often anxious and irritable. They had the impression he’d got himself into something he wasn’t entirely happy about, but didn’t know how to get out of.”
“Or was being targeted by somebody? Harrassed?”

“There’s no evidence of that. In any case, if they didn’t like Jews I don’t see why they’d just murder one particular Jew.”
“Nor do I,” Faltermeyer agreed. “Unless, of course,” he added, “there was a very special reason for it.”


Major Hartman entered General Straker’s office, saluted, and took the chair Straker had pushed forward for him. His face was completely wooden and expressionless, but the General could feel his tension like a solid wall of electricity.
“All right, Major,” Straker said. “You’re off the hook. They’ve decided we should keep you on.”
“Obviously I’m very pleased about that, Sir.”

“So I can tell from the look on your face.” He jabbed a finger at the Major. “Don’t get too cocky. You’ve had a narrow escape. When you go against orders, it tends to work out. But they’re right, it’s bad for discipline. It’s bad because it could encourage someone who isn’t as good as you to do the same thing, and then it might not pay off. And since no-one would know if it was going to or not, we may as well give discipline the benefit of the doubt.”

“If it didn’t pay off, if they were the kind of officer who went against orders without knowing what they were doing, they wouldn’t be in the Regiment, Sir.”

Straker smiled. “No, Mike, they wouldn’t. Which is why I’m personally quite glad that you’ve been let off. But be careful. There are other people who wouldn’t take such a lenient view. Any more..…insubordination, whether or not combined with equally serious offences, and you’ll be out of the Army altogether. I’ll be issuing a formal warning in due course. Also, your secondment to the SBS has been terminated. It’s highly unlikely they’ll ever let you mess about with boats ever again.”

The Major’s face lengthened a little. He’d enjoyed his brief time in the SBS.
“I suppose that was inevitable,” he agreed.

“Yes, it was. I mean, you did ruin two perfectly good nuclear submarines. And Mike…if you should ever find yourself in another situation like that regarding Miss Kent…” The dark eyes bored into Hartman’s. “You understand? You can’t go on prioritizing her interests over those of the country, whatever the reason. Sometimes we just have to be harsh and put the common good before any one individual. Dismissed.”

They rose, exchanging salutes. “Er, one last thing, Sir,” Hartman said anxiously. “I don’t know if it’s in order for me to ask this but..did anything bad happen to Captain Hillyard?”

“Well there was an inquiry, of course. But I gather it looked at one stage like there was going to be a gunfight between your squad and the Navy boys. Hillyard was merely doing what he judged was necessary to avoid a very nasty situation.”
“I wouldn’t have gone so far as to let that happen.”

Again Straker smiled wryly. “Probably not. But the Lords of the Admiralty don’t know that. So Hillyard’s exonerated.”

Hartman went to the rest room where Moretti and Ferris were playing pool, and Riordan flicking through a copy of Loaded. “I’m in the clear,” he announced. “Sort of. But I’m afraid we’re finished with the boat boys, after what we did to the Poseidon.”
“So what happened?” asked Moretti.

The Major explained. They gave him three rousing cheers. “And are you going to…” began Riordan, once the echoes had died away. “I mean, if Caroline does get herself into trouble again….”

“It depends. If there really is anything to be gained by sacrificing her wellbeing, I might have to. If I think there isn’t….well, let’s just hope the situation doesn’t arise.” He grinned. “And as soon as we’re all free, go into town for a massive piss-up.”

They were into Scene 2 of Das Rheingold. Wotan, the ruler of the gods, and his consort Fricka were asleep on top of a mountain, behind which the towers of a magnificent fortress, newly built, gleamed in the dawn sunlight. Waking, Wotan’s first sight was of the building and he started to sing a hymn of praise to it in his powerful, booming voice. Sourly, Fricka reminded him that her sister Freia, the goddess of love, was offered to the giants, builders of the structure, in payment for it. In turn Wotan reminded her that it was she, Fricka, who asked for the fortress. Fricka retorted that it was meant to be a gift to him, one intended to bind the two of them together more closely. Instead he had traded love and womanly virtue in return for power, of which he sees the fortress as a symbol.

Wotan pointed out that he once pledged his only remaining eye to court her – fortunately he was not called upon to pay up – and insisted he never had any intention of surrendering Freia. Then protect her now, Fricka replied.

A terrified Freia came on, followed by the giants Fasolt and Fafner. Angrily Wotan wondered what had detained Loge, the fire god, on whom he had been relying to extricate him from the contract. Fasolt demanded Freia for the work done but Wotan insisted he be allowed to find some other means of payment. Not only must Freia’s virtue be protected but if the gods were denied the apples she grew, eating which gave them eternal youth, they would wither into old age and die. Fasolt reminded Wotan that the runic markings on his spear represented the agreement they had made with him, legitimizing his seizure of Freia.

As the giants prepared to take Freia away her brothers Froh and Donner, the god of thunder, rushed in to protect her. Loge arrived at last, telling Wotan that he had been circling the world attempting to find out what men valued more than feminine beauty. No-one would forego it except one man, of the race of dwarves called Nibelungen, who stole the magic ring called the Rheingold after his sexual advances were rejected. Loge explained that the Rheingold granted its wearer absolute power and although Fricka, who wanted it as an ornament, objected he suggested that it be stolen from the Nibelungen and given to the giants as payment instead of Freia. The giants agreed to this plan, but said they would hold Freia hostage in the meantime. As they left, dragging Freia with them, a thick sulphurous smoke enveloped the gods who began to age and weaken.

Wachter turned off the TV and sat thinking in the huge baronial hall while he waited for the others to arrive. The myths had fascinated him for as long as he could remember, whether in their Scandinavian or Germanic – to draw a distinction between the two – form (which was the definite version was hard to decide). He remembered as a lonely child sent up to his room for misbehaviour finding solace in a book on those old legends and reading it for hours, forgetting his troubles, so enthralled that he didn’t want to come down.

Gerhardt, his Operations Manager, rang from the factory, interrupting these reminiscences. It had been discovered that the new production process they were going to bring in required fewer personnel to oversee it than they’d previously thought. It was only marginally more efficient than the alternative scheme they had turned down, which also had the benefit of allowing them to keep on people some of whom had been in the firm for years and served it loyally. Gerhardt wanted to know what he should do. Wachter didn’t need to spend an inordinate amount of time agonizing about it. “We want maximum efficiency, any company does. If we get into the habit of putting sentiment before that, we don’t know where it’ll stop. And Rencke and Vogel, if that’s who you’re talking about, are both too old. They wouldn’t get another job anyway.” In Wachter’s view that was an argument for dismissing the two men, not for keeping them on. They were out of it, no longer part of the overall, smoothly running scheme of things.

“Do they qualify for the pension scheme?” The arrangement was voluntary, and much appreciated by those who benefited from it even though they would be provided for perfectly adequately by the state. With it went membership of a kind of club, involving holidays and regular social events for all the retired personnel. Without such things, employees of long standing would feel they still belonged to the firm and would not have to undergo the pain otherwise caused by suddenly having to leave it, which it was said devastated some people for whom a comfortable old age was not the issue, whereas the need to know you were appreciated by the company to which you had given a lifetime’s service was.

Wachter thought. “Rencke, maybe. Vogel…no, I don’t think so. Remember that business when we had to get rid of Becker, the way he spoke to me?”

“It was a long time ago,” Gerhardt reminded him. And Wachter had not been Vogel’s superior then.

“That doesn’t matter. It proves he is insubordinate and we do not reward insubordination. Give him his notice of dismissal immediately, and then let’s just put the matter behind us.”
For a moment there was silence from the other end. “Well? Is there a problem?”
“Er, no, Herr Wachter. I will see that it’s done. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.” Wachter cut him off.

To Wachter’s annoyance the phone rang again almost immediately. It was Gustav, his son, wanting a loan so he could afford to go on his trip round the world before starting at University. “No, I’m afraid it is out of the question,” Wachter snapped. And then of course Gustav started whining, wanting to know why it was out of the question. Wachter told him point blank that he didn’t want him bumming around the world, slumming it in youth hostels or second-rate hotels or even sleeping on beaches; that way of conducting oneself was degrading. And being impressionable, Gustav might come back with trendy addle-headed left-wing views from contact with non-Aryan cultures who had been “oppressed” by the superior races.

“Why can you not fund yourself?” Wachter demanded. “If you had not insisted on wasting the money I’ve already spent on you….” Gustav protested that he spent no more money than other people of his age, which was probably true. “What you are saying is that you have to be the same as those around you,” his father snorted. Frittering away your parents’ hard-won cash on booze and condoms and running up massive electricity bills through surfing the Internet. “That is pathetic, weak and stupid.” To Wachter conformity was only acceptable if it was to values of discipline, obedience and cleanliness.

“Well if you insist on going on this holiday of yours, you can pay for it by doing a bit of decent work,” he snapped and slammed the phone down.

He did briefly consider changing his mind. The thought of Gustav, big and strong and athletic, striding about the world, braving the harshness of some of the environments he would find himself in, the conqueror of all he found, would be an advertisement for the master race; if only the boy was a better specimen in other ways. Wachter doubted he really had the guts, or the brains to survive in dangerous and unfamiliar surroundings. His smashing up his father’s car, which he had borrowed for what it later became clear was nothing more than a joy-ride – he barely understood how to operate the vehicle despite taking lessons – had left Wachter senior with little faith in his abilities.

As for Vogel, he’d made his decision and it was too late to go back on it now.

But to return to the subject of his family, they were undoubtedly a pain; all of them. The younger boy, Helmut, didn’t quite agree with his politics although if he suspected what the Thule Society and New Vitality were actually doing he wasn’t telling anyone out of loyalty to his father. Gustav might have agreed with it, though he was just as likely to change his mind, but was in any case too much of an idiot, if a clever one, to be trusted with any important task for the party. And Lise, his wife, he now realised was a tiresome woman concerned only with social chit-chat and looking glamorous. He came here to get away from them all.

He liked to walk in the hills and wooded valleys among which the castle stood, feeling himself to be at one with nature and in communion with the gods. He could imagine the ancient rites being held there, secretly after the coming of Christianity, in sacred groves and hidden temples. The stirring Rhineland setting was one reason why the ruined castle had fired his imagination and his company had bought and restored it, as authentically as possible but incorporating all the comforts of the modern age where they did not adversely affect its character. Another who had been inspired by the old building and its environment, by the mist-shrouded Teutoburger Forest nearby, and by the other romantic old castles with which the region was dotted, was Heinrich Himmler who had taken it over as the headquarters for the Department for Pre- and Early History, a branch of the SS Race and Settlement Office. A major factor in its selection was that it was close to the stone monument known as the Exsternsteine, where the Teutonic hero Arminius was said to have battled the Romans. Its effective function under Himmler was as an indoctrination centre for SS officers, where they underwent pagan initiation rituals and learnt the mystic significance of the ancient runes.

Wachter had feared at one point that living in the castle once used by such a figure and for such a purpose was perhaps making things a bit obvious, but the pull of the place had been irresistible. Besides, people tended to dismiss New Vitality as just a small group of right-wing loonies and would continue to do so as long as they didn’t know too much.

After the war the castle had fallen into disrepair, and a great deal of renovation work had been required. Most of the rooms were entirely modern in their layout and fittings but the main hall had been restored to what Wachter, and Himmler before him, believed to have been its original state. Access to it was by a broad entrance hall with suits of armour in a row on each side, and the flags of the various SS regiments, and of ancient Germanic heroes, hanging from poles which jutted out from the upper walls to form effectively a covered walkway. In the hall itself a banner had been stretched across one wall with a motif of a serpent, thought of as evil in Judaeo-Christianity but regarded as sacred by the Aryans. It was based on the flag believed to have been carried by the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings.

Other flags and emblems, some duplicating those in the entrance hall and some different, also adorned the bare stone walls. Above the great fireplace hung the swastika, the crooked cross, also known as the hammer of Thor and symbolic of German manliness and Aryan supremacy. On one side it was flanked by the insignia of the Thule society, a circle of oak leaves surrounding a dagger superimposed on a swastika with curved arms. The head of the dagger was in the form of an eagle, coloured red to symbolize phoenix-like immolation by fire, after which Germany would be reborn to take her rightful place as the dominant nation of the world. On the other side was the Totenkopfring, the emblem of the SS, signifying membership of what had become a pagan cult as much as a military organization, with its death’s head, the ubiquitious swastika and a double S, the latter drawn in the fashion of the old runic alphabet of the pre-Christian Germans.

Also to be seen were the coats of arms of all who had served in the rank of SS Gruppenfuhrer; those to which their owners were not in fact entitled had been specially designed with great care and attention by “experts” from the Ahnenerbe. There were several paintings, most of them specially commissioned. The largest showed a mediaeval knight, fair and Nordic in appearance, slaying a monstrous two-headed dragon intended to represent the twin evils of Judaism and Communism. The knight’s hair was clear and shining like that of an angel, signifying cleanliness, goodness, moral purity. In another room was kept a different version of the same painting, in which the Teutonic hero was bare-chested and impressively muscled and in the background was chained up a well-endowed, naked blonde woman whom the knight by his action had presumably saved from being devoured by the dragon, or some other hideous fate. Wachter had intended to give the monster an actual Jewish head - the other, these days, would have been black or represented Islam - but he could not have borne having to look upon such a vision of appalling ugliness, even if portrayed in the throes of being destroyed.

Finally there were a number of triskelions and giant runic characters. The runes were believed to contain a magical power providing those who understood how to use them with a means of harnessing the fundamental, primitive, basic forces that powered the universe. By far the most powerful was the asterisk-like hagall rune, since within it could be found hidden all the others. The characters were meant to represent the different recurring stages in the ongoing history of the cosmos. The first stage, from unity to complexity, was symbolized by the swastika, by anticlockwise triskelions and inverted triangles; the second stage, from complexity back to unity, by a variety of clockwise symbols. In the view of one of the followers of Guido von List, the journalist Rudolf Gorsleben, every Aryan had hidden super powers, occult powers, which had become atrophied due partly to intermarriage with lesser races. If these powers could be fully tapped through the runic alphabet – devised it was believed by the chief Nordic god, Wotan - the Aryans would dominate the world. The runes could bestow upon one immortality, invincibility in battle, healing abilities, a superhuman degree of health and fitness and control of the elements. You could supposedly gain a slice of these powers through yogic exercises in which you adopted postures resembling the shapes of runic characters; Wachter had never found this worked for him, but of course he knew now that there might be other, more effective ways of harnessing the power.

In the centre of the hall stood the great oak dining table, modelled on the Round Table in the Arthurian legends which had always fascinated Himmler and around which he used to sit with his twelve senior Gruppenfuhrers, his Inner Circle. And beneath it, reached by concealed steps - three in all, symbolizing the three Reichs, the Holy Roman Empire (territorially based on Germany, though not a unitary German nation any more than it was holy, Roman or an Empire), the first German Empire created by Bismarck in 1871, and the Nazi state founded by Hitler - was a circular room with a shallow depression in the middle, like a kind of amphitheatre, where Wachter and his friends would carry on the strange rites performed here under Himmler. Among other things the coat of arms of dead members of the Thule Society or New Vitality, or deceased war veterans who had served in the SS, would here be ceremonially burned. There would also be attempts to communicate with the spirits of dead Teutonic heroes and influence the mind of a person in another room through concentration of willpower. And ceremonies where the names of the runes were called out and their shapes traced in the air as a way of invoking their power. It was claimed that on some occasions the rune shapes had formed themselves, magically appearing before the participants without any human agency being involved.

All the old pagan festivals were honoured, Easter being celebrated as Oster and Christmas as Yule. At the equinox and solstices they would gather on a hilltop and bury eight wine bottles laid out in the shape of a swastika. Also commemorated, though in pagan fashion, were Ascension Day and Good Friday; the former was sacred to Thor’s hammer, the latter to the heathen Saxons massacred by Charlemagne.

Each member of Himmler’s Inner Circle had had his own room at the castle, dedicated to an Aryan ancestor of his. Himmler’s own quarters were dedicated to Heinrich I, the Saxon king who had battled Hungarians and Slavs and of whom Himmler believed himself to be the reincarnation, although he also claimed to have had conversations with Heinrich’s ghost at night.

Wachter certainly liked to think the spirits of Heinrich, and of other ancient Germanic worthies, walked the corridors of this place and looked down on him from their portraits on the wall. And sometimes on autumn and winter evenings, evenings like this one, when the wind blew along the draughty corridors of the old castle and howled around the eaves and windows, turrets and pinnacles, he would sit here by the warmth of the roaring log fire and remember the old stories and legends, imagining himself as an ancient Nordic chieftain sitting here in his stronghold, his fortress against the bleak and hostile world outside, ruled by fate; against the forces of nature, and against those evil powers that sought to destroy him.

The myths of northern Europe reflected both a love of storytelling for its own sake and a view of man and the universe as being caught in the grip of conflicting powers. Some of those powers were friendly, others savagely hostile. This attitude was rooted in an acute awareness, common to a largely agricultural society, of the rhythms of nature to which all people were subject: the alternation of day and night, light and darkness, cold and heat, summer and winter, life and death. By boldness and enterprise men might tame nature and master adversity to some extent, but human destiny was still shaped by powers greater than Man.

The Scandinavians in particular, in their harsh, cold and geographically isolated environment, felt little security. Life and happiness were menaced by forces beyond human understanding and control. Between life and death and light and darkness, there was but a fragile barrier. They deserved praise for having the wisdom to see that. A brutal environment had perhaps produced a brutal people but that was only to be expected. It was not true to regard them as simply a race of bloodthirsty brutes whose grim, sterile culture saw value only in killing. In 1911 G K Chesterton, who described the Norsemen as “great, beautiful half-witted men” had written:

Their souls were drifting as the sea
And all good towns and lands
They only saw with heavy eyes
And broke with heavy hands.

Their gods were sadder than the sea
Gods of a wandering will
Who cried for blood like beasts at night
Sadly, from hill to hill.

That was a load of rubbish, but typical of the anti-Aryan views espoused by some writers of the time in response to Teutonic nationalism. It was either Chesterton or his friend Hilaire Belloc, Wachter couldn’t remember which, who had sought in his writings to rubbish the idea of Germany and England getting together as the two great Teutonic nations, or that they had anything in common in that respect anyway. Thomas Carlyle had written of the Saxons as dull-witted, lumbering morons. And Nietzsche had attacked the “blond beasts of prey” who persecuted the Jews (odd behaviour for a man who supposedly inspired Hitler).

It was a pity that the influence of Greece, Rome and Jerusalem – of the classics and that effeminate Jew-inspired creed, Christianity - had destroyed the Germanic religion, Germanic culture which had extended at various times from the Black Sea across Central Europe and Scandinavia to Iceland and Greenland. It was only thanks to Snorri Sturluson that any trace of it had survived at all. In the Prose Edda Sturluson related all the known tales about the exploits of the Nordic gods in their struggle against their enemies, the race of giants, and the power of chaos; of the personal deities or guardian spirits loyalty to which could bring prosperity to oneself and one’s family, ensuring a bountiful harvest – so important in an agricultural society. (Since the gods had varying and sometimes overlapping functions, there was nothing inconsistent or heretical about worshipping more than one of them. On the contrary a man might need to maintain good relations with several gods and goddesses).

In the beginning there had been the Earth Mother, Frija (later Freya), after whom Friday was named, and the Sky Father, Tiwaz (Tyr in Scandinavia, Tiw in Anglo-Saxon England), who was called Ruler of All. Tuesday, to which he gave his name, was sacred to him and it was then that the various primitive German tribes met in a wood to sacrifice humans and animals to the god. Later Tiwaz was gradually displaced from his position in the pantheon by Wotan (Odin to the Vikings), itself a sign of the impermanence with which the early Teutons saw things. The Eddas described Wotan, whose name meant to rage, as the god of war, who would greet dead heroes on entering Valhalla, the afterlife over which he ruled. He was also the god of prophecy and magic, to whom many victims were sacrificed by being hung on trees. His sacred emblems were the spear, the eagle, the wolf and the raven. The fourth day of the week, Wednesday, was named after him.

Thursday was derived from the thunder god Thunor or Donar (the Viking Thor), who controlled the weather and who it was vital to appease if you wanted prosperity. The axe he carried, which later evolved into a hammer, was symbolic of the thunderbolts he sent from heaven when angry. He was also a god of fertility, though sharing this function with other deities from time to time. There was some evidence that worship of Thor had continued into modern times; early in the twentieth century a North German farmer was observed to place stone axes in his first seed-drill to ensure good crops.

The activities of the gods continued to inspire people into the modern age. They gained a new popularity thanks to the Germanic cultural revival of the nineteenth century, prominent among whose leading figures was Richard Wagner. Wagner based his great cycle of operas, The Ring, on Teutonic mythology, though oddly he took most of his material from a Scandinavian source, the Verse Edda (the poetic version of the myths), rather than a Germanic one, except for the last part of The Ring where the gods were destroyed (here the account of events, based on the Nibelungleid, a thirteenth century compilation based on much older material, seemed to differ).

The worldview of The Ring was that of a doom-laden universe moving inevitably towards a predestined chaos in which the gods themselves would perish. This meshed with the pagan beliefs of the Thule Society, which saw things as a perhaps eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Man was a part of the cosmos and had to live by its laws, accepting the consequences of its impermanence and for comfort and protection drawing closer to his traditional culture.

Just as the world the gods inhabited was bleak and terrible, so in the nature of things would their end and that of the whole of creation be, reflecting the precarious balance of the cosmos and the impermanence of human achievement, which was constantly threatened by a harsh environment and by natural disasters such as floods, volcanoes and earthquakes. Where men were disloyal to themselves and their gods instead of imitating them in strength and valour chaos and disruption, such as there had been in the beginning, would result but even when they showed virtue and self-discipline, the best guarantors of survival in an uncertain world, they could not escape the endless round of Fate.

Wachter preferred the Scandinavian version, all in all. In this, the end of the world would be preceded by three winters of war, then three of terrible and unprecedented cold. A pair of monstrous wolves would devour the sun and moon, the stars would disappear and there would be violent earthquakes. The wolf Fenrir would break his chains and open his jaws to swallow up the world, and the Great Serpent spew poison over the sky and sea. At a blast on his horn from Heimdall, the watchman of Asgard, abode of the gods, Odin and his fellow deities would ride out to do battle with these and various other hideous creatures, as well as war among themselves. Thor would fight the Great Serpent, Frey the fire-giant Surt, Tyr the hell-hound Garm and Heimdall Loki (Loge), while the world-tree Yggdrasil trembled. While the other gods slaughtered one another Odin would be swallowed by Fenrir, Surt would hurl his fire over the world and the earth sink into the sea, dissolving in a maelstrom of fire and smoke. All would be as it was in the beginning, a void without form or substance.

But from this void, Ginnungagap, it would be born again, rich and prosperous and fertile and populated with a beautiful new race of humans.

Wachter wasn’t quite sure if things would actually turn out like that. He supposed so; after all, nothing was permanent. All through history civilisations had risen and fallen, and Aryan civilisation surely could not escape from that endless round of destruction and rebirth. Even Hitler’s Reich had been predicted to last a thousand years, not forever. And fate, or maybe the Fuhrer’s own foolishness, had ensured it survived for only twelve. Hitler had proved unequal to the Dark Forces against which he strove, and so deserved to fail and perish, dragging the German people down with him. If only he had not let the inferior Japanese with whom he had made an alliance ruin things, involving him in a needless and ultimately futile struggle with the United States. And yet Germany had been reborn, to become one of the most prosperous nations on Earth and later achieve political reunification. Now, maybe, she could contemplate her greatest ever triumph. Or at least Wachter and his friends could; for the moment, nobody else was allowed to know what they had in mind.

Against another wall stood a bookcase containing a collection of leather-bound volumes from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, first editions of works by List, Liebenfels and their like, with titles such as The Secret of the Runes, The Rites of the Ario-Germans and The Jewish Question by the sociologist Eugen Duhring, in which the author asserted his belief that the Germanic gods were still alive; plus writings on race and biology by Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain (Wagner’s son-in-law) and the Social Darwinists whose version of the theory of national selection justified the extermination or sterilization of so-called inferior races for the benefit of the superior, with whom they must not be allowed to breed.

The Jews, how I hate them, Wachter thought with a spasmodic clenching of his fist. The overidding impression they gave him was of darkness. Their hair, the clothes those Orthodox ones sometimes wore, their writing..all dark. Compared with his whole image, his whole concept, of something like Scandinavia, the white snow which covered everything there in winter, a sign he thought of purity, and the shining gold hair of its inhabitants, they seemed to him like something grotesque and alien. The two things contrasted hideously and offensively, entirely incompatible, when imagined together, one a dirty black stain on the other, a cloak of depressing blackness draped over it in a way that repelled the soul.

The style of their synagogues, their art and ornamentation, was alien to an exent that filled him with a visceral, shuddering revulsion. Then there were the high, gobbling voices, the thick lips and hooked noses, those nasty almost Oriental faces some of them seemed to have….he wondered how anyone could suffer such creatures to live. And they looked so unhealthily pale, were so effeminate in their manner; had to be effeminate because they venerated the female over the male principle, didn’t they? You were only considered a Jew if your mother, not your father, was Jewish; and Jewish women always henpecked their husbands, the children taking their side in any family dispute.

He resented the way they were lauded for their talents, their intelligence. Germany was told how much it benefited from the influence, before Hitler, of Jewish writers and philosophers and scientists. In this way her achievements were hijacked, misrepresented, projected as their achievements, the accomplishment of a people whose blood and ancestry meant they were not German, not Teutonic; it was both a pollution and a compromise of identity. And the more Jews had interbred with the rest of the population the more people would have felt they had grounds to do so.

Ironically, perhaps, he didn’t blame them for not having in the past been able to maintain themselves as a sovereign nation state, a sign in his view of lack of virility. It was because so many other powers had tried to oppress and destroy them. But because he sympathized with those powers’ wish to do so, it made no difference to his hatred.

Liberalism, feminism and plutocracy – all Jewish inventions, or at any rate built up by the Jews - destroyed the honourable virtues he believed to characterize traditional communal societies. He did, to his credit, occasionally reflect on the irony of this when one of the things he reviled Jews for was their association with communism.

But whatever happened, the Jews had to go. And along with them the blacks, the Arabs, the Turks and Iranians, all those other races who were becoming increasingly aggressive and assertive of their rights, and in the case of India and China increasingly powerful. They were a challenge, a threat, to Aryan identity on two fronts, at home and abroad. They had to be swept away to leave the Aryans sole masters of the world, of the future. And what better way to achieve that aim than through the embodiment of everything an Aryan hoped for and sought to emulate?

Because the more his colleagues learned about Thule the more he came to believe that it must all be true. The easier he found it to agree with List that great classical Christian writers such as Paracelsus and Boehme had been secret pagans, writing their books in a code which could only be understood by fellow members of the underground society to which they belonged, and that the Greek word “hieroglyph” was derived from the ancient Germanic “ir-og-liff”; that the swastika, originally a symbol in Sanskrit meaning good luck and used from prehistoric times in Asia and the Americas as well as Europe, was first found in the runic alphabet.

His thoughts turned to what they’d do once they’d actually achieved the power they had sought for so long. They had discussed it many times around this table. With any luck, what they did would be sufficiently devastating in its effects to leave them totally in control of the Northern Hemisphere at any rate, without creating a wasteland. In the aftermath they would take over and restore order. In the first instance, they would create a federation of right-wing totalitarian states to replace the corrupt and inefficient European Union, a monolithic – more or less - power bloc stretching from the US-Mexican border right round the world to Vladivostok. Then they would bring all white people of Aryan descent left outside it, in Australia, Africa, New Zealand or elsewhere home to the lands of their forefathers, or give them the power to resist the non-Aryans who surrounded them, threating a devastating retaliation if their interests were harmed in any way.

The rest of the world would have to deal with the new order of things whether it liked it or not. And sooner or later all those inferior races would be exterminated, by one means or another, so they could not be a threat to the survival of the new Reich. Before then all subhumans within Wachter’s empire would either have been killed or forcibly repatriated to their ancestral homelands (Wachter’s criteria for deciding if someone was “Aryan” was less exacting than Hitler’s had been, depending more on general physical appearance than detailed measurements of people’s facial bones, but no less uncompromising in the way it treated those who didn’t pass the test). Repatriation might be a better option if mass extermination made things too difficult with their friends in the south; but then again their friends in the south might not be in a position to do much about it.

He would recondition those concentration camps that had been kept as reminders of the Holocaust – Belsen, Auschwitz etc. – and re-employ them for their original purpose. How wonderful it would be to see those chimneys belching forth smoke again! And new camps would spring up too, to deal with the influx of blacks, Asians, Arabs etc who had flooded into Europe in recent decades seeking work or political asylum. He envisaged them as tall, austere, bleak, functional structures yet not without a certain beauty as things designed for a utilitarian purpose should be. The delight in undertaking a task with speed and technical efficiency, and the thought of cleansing for good the filth that now polluted the West combined in Muller’s mind to make the whole prospect exquisitely thrilling. He supposed Zyklon B could be used for the job, as in the war – it was still available, though only for eradicating animal pests - but if that didn’t prove possible for some reason there were, these days, any number of alternatives.

There would of course be a strict ban on immigration into the Reich, except by those judged to be sufficiently Aryan.

The Fourth Reich would have to be well-ordered, and thus viable. Here he was uncomfortably aware that the German state under Hitler had actually been in some ways very inefficient, and might have run into problems had it survived for a great deal longer. Divide and rule…it was sometimes a good policy, sometimes not.

Initially all industry and finance would be under the control of the government as it sought to restore order, but sooner or later private enterprise would return. Whether he wanted to privatize absolutely everything the way Margaret Thatcher and her successors in Britain, for example, had tried/were trying to do he wasn’t sure yet. What mattered most was that they produced efficient, loyal, hard-working citizens. In the long run they could use the developing sciences of genetic engineering and electronic surveillance to achieve that aim. Although even to him there was something false, something unappealing, about a total robot, a total clone. It was so manufactured you couldn’t really take a pride in it because it was not good from its own inalienable, fundamental, authentic, pre-existing nature, but only by virtue of what others had made it. Another bone of contention they would have to chew over at some point.

They would find no shortage of personnel to work for them as police or serve in the armed forces, once those who had shown dissident tendencies were eliminated. All the average citizen really cared about was having a roof over his head, a decent standard of living and freedom from escalating crime. They’d have no choice anyway, to be honest, but of course it would all be for the common good. And it wasn’t as if there weren’t many people in those professions who didn’t secretly sympathise with them.

Other than New Vitality all political parties would of course be banned, or their activities very closely monitored. Some difference of opinion as to how to do things was permissible, even necessary as a safety valve, as long as it didn’t go too far.

They had little need to worry about trade wars or price fluctuations on the international market threatening economic prosperity. The governments of the different countries making up the Reich would be so similar in outlook that they would inevitably gravitate towards each other, forming a single protectionist trading bloc. Political and economic union would follow from their natural inclinations and would not be something forced, artificial and resented. Nor was there any likelihood of foreign aggression; the crisis they would have to bring about to gain power in the first place would severely weaken the south, and besides the power from Thule, not to mention the nuclear and other WMD arsenals New Vitality would have inherited, could be used either to destroy it or make it think twice about trying anything. Israel – defined in any case as “southern” because it was beneath the line of demarcation Wachter had drawn – could be taken care of the same way if she decided on a pre-emptive strike.

At least they hoped it would turn out like that. They would gain a better idea how much was possible for them as research continued at Thule. Thule was the key to everything.

Martin Higson liked Germany. He liked to get stinkingly drunk at the Munich Beerfest, and an impressive collection of ashtrays from German hotels adorned his mantelpiece at home. He was over there as often as possible. Apart from anything else Germany was his spiritual homeland, and had been ever since he first developed an awareness of history and politics. He saw the Germans, as well as being good people to booze with, as brave and hard-working, the exact opposite to what the English had become. And he’d heard it said they were meant to be cleverer than their English cousins across the channel, these days. They certainly weren’t so fucking messed up, not feeling the need to complain so much when something went wrong instead of just getting on with whatever job needed to be done. Under the right leader they could achieve miracles; as, of course, they had.

Tiring of the paperback he’d bought from the airport bookshop, Higson put it aside and settled deep into his seat on flight 229 to Berlin with a wistful sigh, wondering how much better things might have been for him if he’d been born a German.

As it was he had come into the world in Upminster some thirty-five years before. His mother had been a nurse, his father a bus driver, working out of the local depot, and a union rep, until concern at the effect immigration from the Commonwealth was having on jobs had caused him to make certain controversial remarks at meetings of the local branch, and the union had kicked him out. The year after Martin was born the Higsons moved down the road to Romford. After primary school he went straight on to the local comprehensive, like most of the other kids in his street.

His interests were much like those of any normal boy from his kind of background, football figuring prominently among them. He was also fascinated by aircraft (as an extension of that, his imagination was captured by space travel and he had been quite heavily into sci-fi until he learned that the actor who played the lead role in his favourite TV series was a staunch socialist). He and his Dad had made model planes together, gone to air shows and to watch the big jets take off and land at Heathrow. Now his father was gone and a stable relationship from which might issue a son with whom he could keep the tradition going seemed as far away as ever.

But those days had left him with many happy memories. Memories of cosy little pubs where you could have beer and chips while watching the footie, a Union jack still hung over the bar, and on certain nights a good rousing sing-song was held round the piano while a china figure of John Bull looked on benignly. Watching the big match on a Saturday, West Ham v. Arsenal; fishing (illegally, which was the whole thrill of it) with his friends late at night by the little river which ran through the park; weekend outings to Brighton, with longer excursions to Blackpool or Torquay in the summer, for which the family had painstakingly saved up. There had been sad things too, of course; going to hospital to see his grandfather, dying of cancer, and finding him a pale gaunt skeleton of his former self, all sorts of tubes stuck into him to keep him alive; his aunt and uncle being killed in a car crash. It was all part of the unchanging rhythm of life and death.

Throughout it all Higson was growing up. And as he grew he realised the area where he lived was changing. Gradually, the world he knew with its comfortable feeling of a common identity was being eroded. The immigrants had started to flood in, taking jobs and changing the character of the place beyond recognition. As the black and Asian population, the latter taking over virtually all the newsagents and a lot of the other small businesses too, grew the indigenous whites started to move out. Instead of a warm, friendly little world where Higson knew he belonged, he now found himself in what he regarded as an alien colony. And because he was not a member of that alien culture, had never before known a situation where his ethnic group had not been in the majority, it was strange and unwelcome. He felt increasingly out of place and ostracized. They were very nice and polite, most of them, when you were in their shops but that wasn’t the point. It was hard, if not impossible, to adjust to and Higson didn’t see why he should have to do it when he hadn’t before.

The more their numbers increased, the more confident and assertive the Asians in particular became. The less they cared about what the white community thought of them. They did nothing to curb their bad habits, like their dangerous driving which could kill people. And Higson knew of an Asian party held in the local church hall after which the place had been left in a complete and utter mess, everyone shooting off home at the first opportunity so that church officials could be left to clear up the huge piles of rubbish. The more they became the majority the less they saw why they should change their behaviour to suit the whites, an increasingly small percentage of the local population. It didn’t help when a prominent Asian politician had admitted that he had intended a new housing estate recently built in the area to be from the start an Asian colony, and said he was disappointed when the Asians didn’t want to go there. Such talk sent a chill down Higson’s spine.

He was bewildered and unhappy, the more so because no-one seemed to care about what was happening. Either they couldn’t see what was happening under their noses or they simply chose to ignore it. As a result he had to suffer the inconvenience of having so much further to go to find a white pub.

It had been bad in the sixties and seventies, of course, although as a child he didn’t seem to have noticed or been bothered by it. Later his father told him how distressed and saddened at the whole business he had become, knowing what it signified and feeling utterly powerless to stop it.

And then one day, things had appeared to take a turn for the better. There seemed a ray of hope. Arthur Higson had come home, turned on the TV to watch the evening news, and seen a man with a moustache and a strange nasal accent stand up and talk about how the black man would end up having the whip hand over the white; how the annual inflow of thousands of immigrants was changing British society too much and would inevitably lead to violence. From then on a new spirit infused Higson Senior. He became bolder, more outspoken in his views, and didn’t really care when the union gave him the push because he sensed the tide was turning in his favour.

Then he received a second slap in the face when Powell, sacked from the Tory front bench for his temerity in saying what ordinary people were thinking, failed to compensate for this setback by organizing a party of his own and turning it into an effective political force. Angry and disillusioned, Arthur became violent and ill-tempered and on one occasion found himself in court for taking his frustration out on Martin’s mother, who eventually sued for divorce.

But there soon emerged a new focus for his hatred when the National Front was formed. Of course he immediately joined it, later transferring his allegiance to the BNP when it took over from the Front as the leading far right party in Britain. When old enough Martin joined too; it only seemed fitting. Both between and during elections to the council or to Westminster – in which Arthur stood every time, without success but always achieving a quite respectable tally of votes – he would accompany his father on trips in the Party’s “battle bus,” an ancient Bedford van, delivering leaflets, putting up posters and canvassing support among the ward’s white residents (naturally they didn’t bother asking the rest). He and a few others got into fights with black and Asian gangs who tried to break up their rallies; they didn’t always win but it was fun, especially when you did actually succeed in beating the crap out of the bastards.

In the 80s the family moved yet again, into a less racially mixed area. But then the niggers and the Pakis started to take over there too.

Martin Higson was by now on the brink of adulthood, and soon would have to start thinking about a job. At 16 he left school to join his father on the buses. That had probably been his first big mistake. He was clever enough to go to University, probably to study engineering, but wasn’t sure he was that bothered and by the time he’d made his mind up it was too late to apply. He could have tried again the following year but decided he’d missed his chance.

Then a remark he let slip out about a black colleague led to his dismissal from his job. His father resigned in solidarity with him, and never worked again, dying not long after from a heart attack. Higson got a job in a friend’s car repair business, but that didn’t last long once the friend found out about his membership of the BNP, of which he didn’t approve; apart from anything else he was worried about the effect on business if ethnic minority customers were alienated. There followed a couple of incidents which resulted in Higson acquiring a criminal record; they’d been mistakes, silly mistakes, but they left him a marked man. The publicity hadn’t helped his chances of re-establishing a foothold in the world of employment.

Even after he’d finally picked himself up by the scruff of his neck and embarked on an intensive jobsearch, the work was virtually impossible to come by. He felt excluded, disadvantaged; at best forgotten about, at worst derided. It didn’t help that the Paki woman down the Job Centre always treated him, he felt, with disdain. Most of the time, provided they were working in a primarily white environment or where the balance was about equal, they behaved with respect towards you. But a white person who was ill, or unemployed, and in their view lacked self-respect or any sense of responsibility, they felt they could shit on. That person’s own community had abandoned them, so why should they care? They didn’t have to respect a white who was vulnerable - and disowned, after all, by their own kind.

The opposite sex provided little consolation. Though gregarious enough, Higson was to prove unsuccessful at attracting a steady girlfriend; he was never quite sure why. They just didn’t seem to like him. So he was forced to seek comfort in the arms of prostitutes. These encounters were usually awkward and not entirely satisfactory; as well as very expensive, eating into his already limited budget and further lowering his standard of living. They were also, of course, degrading. But of necessity they continued to be his only source of sexual pleasure, if it could really be called pleasure; the only exception being a brief, fumbling, sordid, cheerless liaison with a stranger in the back bedroom of a friend’s house at a party, which only occurred because both of them had had too much to drink. Eventually he did manage to form one short-lived relationship which lasted about a year and whose failure left him depressed and lacking in confidence.

The one thing that gave him a purpose and an identity was the Party. They were good blokes who you could sit down and have a drink and a laugh with, because they thought as you did. A tribe united by a common allegiance to Queen and country, and to the white Aryan race worldwide. The only trouble was, they weren’t getting anywhere. He was constantly reassured that eventually things would swing their way, as the truth of Powell’s words back in ’68 became more and more apparent, but it seemed to be taking a very long time. He began to wonder if he should give it all up, let whatever would be be.
But then it had happened.

Waiting in the airport departure lounge for Erdmann to pick him up and take him to the castle, the man known as Heinrich felt a slight twinge of unease; but it soon passed.

Occasionally, when in public, he was struck by a sudden terrible fear that someone might recognize him. He would stop and look around, eyes darting guiltily from left to right, and people would ask him if there was anything wrong. By this he risked giving himself away. But his self-possession soon reasserted itself and he would smile and walk on, leaving them at worst staring after him in puzzlement. If anything he felt amused that they had no idea who he was, all the time that he was walking about quite freely and without, so far as anyone could discern, a care in the world.
In one way or another, he had always been doing that.

It was his great strength. The importance of his position within the apparatus of the Nazi state had been matched by his success at keeping out of the limelight. He’d been at the heart of it all, and yet the general public was unaware he had ever existed. And he’d kept those who might be interested guessing as to what had happened to him after the war. There were all sorts of often bizarre theories being aired on the Internet, which it amused him to read about (it had not taken him long to master the technology; adaptability was essential for someone in his situation). Some said he had joined the Soviet secret service; some that he had gone to work for one of Israel’s hostile Arab neighbours, most likely Syria; some that he was in South America, which happened to be the truth although they had no way of knowing that; some that he was dead. The CIA had a file on him, now declassified. Some of his supporters had built a fake tomb for him, bearing a false date of death, in the belief that it would throw the authorities off the scent. In fact, when the tomb was opened and found empty it suggested if anything that he was still alive, someone having connived to disguise the fact. But it didn’t matter that much as long as no-one knew for sure where he was. And they didn’t, despite an extensive search both in Paraguay and elsewhere, due to a combination of various factors; plastic surgery, the painstaking fabrication of a fake identity, withdrawal to a remote location, protection by the government (which had at one point been headed by a German immigrant, General Alfredo Stroessner) and by an extensive network of sympathizers drawn mainly from the country’s substantial German community and operating, where necessary, by threats and violence.

He did feel slightly more vulnerable whenever he left Paraguay, but soon got over it. After all there was very little chance of anyone realising who he was. His passport always got him through at both the point of departure and that of arrival; not that any custom officials would be looking out for him after so many years. They probably wouldn’t have expected him to be still alive.

It was probably the plastic surgery that was the crucial factor. He’d never liked it, because the sharp angular features it had left him with were so unlike his real ones; only of course the aesthetics of the matter weren’t important. But even in previous life his had been an ordinary, plain, undistinguished face, the face of an anonymous minor civil servant who you wouldn’t think twice about if you happened to pass him in the street. It was said that had been Himmler’s strength too, and Eichmann’s until the Israelis finally managed to track him down.

A Jew might recognize him, he supposed, though the risk still had to be taken. He wouldn’t put it past them.

Surgery apart, he supposed that if someone had done to him what had been done in the camps he’d remember their face regardless of how many years had passed in the meantime. That was hatred for you; and the Jews knew how to hate. He didn’t begrudge them that hate, all things considered. It just didn’t make any difference to what he had to do.

What with one thing and another, Caroline still hadn’t broken the backlog of work that was continuing to accumulate on her desk. The report on renewable energy had come back from the printers suitably amended except for a couple of errors which they had forgotten to correct. A couple was too many for her so she sent it to another firm, hoping earnestly that they at least would get the ****ing thing right. She had half a mind not to pay the bill to the original printers but decided it would be simpler and less stressful, especially at the present time, not to make a fight of it, and sent a note to Finance authorizing the transaction.

Natasha reported that she had “almost finished” designing the draft Equal Opportunities leaflet. The Indonesian report was also out of the way. But that still left those on the Alaska assignment and the Diversity conference, plus the breakdown of UK recruitment figures. And the annual assessment for each employee at the London HQ had also come up.

She had finally decided to knuckle under and put in a few late nights. That was why she was still here in the building at about five minutes past eight, finishing the last sentence of the Alaska report. Earlier she had rung her friend and neighbour Jane, to whom she had entrusted her spare pair of house keys, asking if she could go in and feed the cat in case he grew hungry and unsettled by his mistress’ failure to appear at the appointed time.

Finally she sat back with a sigh of relief, resting for a moment before sending the command to the computer to print the document. When that task was done she put it through the laminator, then the binder, and the job was finished. She’d deliver it personally to Hennig’s office in the morning.

She shouldered her handbag and went from the room, her temper not much improved. What irritated and depressed her was the knowledge that after going home and having only three hours, at the most, to spend on leisure before going to bed she would have to be up first thing in the morning for another hard day’s work here. Good as her salary was compared to countless others’, she still wished sometimes that she was independently rich.

The click of her high-heeled shoes rang out sharply on the night-time corridors, the sound echoing through the otherwise deserted building. She took the lift to the ground floor. Anxious to be out of the place as quickly as possible, she strode across the foyer to the doors, managing a friendly smile at the security guard behind the reception desk as she passed him. He returned the compliment.

“Count yourself lucky,” he grinned in an attempt at consolation, having noted the look on her face and guessed what lay behind it. “I’ve got to be here till three!”

“Mmmmm,” she answered, not really consoled at all. She went on walking until, just before she got to the doors, she stopped suddenly and put a hand to her head, frowning.

The guard saw her pause, the muscles of her face twitching in what looked like a startled expression, and sat up sharply. “Are you all right, love?” he called out. “Miss Kent?”

“Er, yes,” she answered. “I’m fine, thankyou. Just…tired.” Composing herself, she pushed open the door and strode out into the night.

At her car, she paused again and rubbed her forehead, trying to decide if it really had been fatigue, or was a little bit more than that. Just for a second she had seemed to hear voices. Inside her head.

They were both tall, gold-haired, fine-boned; so alike, in fact, that they might have been brother and sister. They had successfully traced their Aryan ancestry as far back as 1750 (it didn’t matter what had happened before then since any undesirable genes would by now have been bred out), a necessary precondition of the marriage. The couple had walked beneath the array of flags and banners in the entrance hall, with at one point a pair of swords, held by Rolf Erdmann and Martin Higson, crossed high over their heads. The brief ceremony was conducted by Wachter in his capacity as high priest. The couple exchanged rings and received gifts of bread and salt from Wachter. “I now unite you as man and wife, to the glory of the Aryan race,” he intoned. “May you keep yourself pure in heart and in blood, and so uphold the noble ways of our ancestors.”

When their children were born, they would be taken to a clearing in a wooded part of the castle grounds where, on a stone altar, would be placed a bronze hammer and a bowl of water from a sacred spring believed to have magical properties. The mother would lay the child at the father’s feet, and the father then take it into his arms and sprinkle it with water from the bowl, saying “I recognise you as my own, take you into our kindred and give you a name. I sprinkle you with the pure water of the German spring. May all that is un-German be alien to you...”

Immediately after the wedding the bride and groom departed – the groom was not a member of the Ruling Executive, who at present were conducting the Society’s business on a “need-to-know” basis, and Wachter did not believe women competent to be involved in running its affairs anyway. Heinrich, Wachter and their colleagues took their seats at the table in the banqueting hall for the latest of their regular meetings to assess progress made towards achievement of their movement’s aims. They had used to meet at a hotel in Munich, but after the Thule Society had merged with New Vitality and become in effect a serious political movement aimed at establishing the Fourth Reich the venue was switched to Wachter’s castle for security reasons.

Present apart from Wachter, Heinrich, Erdmann and Higson were an American, a Russian, a South African, a Frenchman, an Austrian, several Dutchmen, a Belgian, a Dane, a Swede and a Norwegian. All were members of far right organizations, which might or might not be official political parties, in their home countries. Each possessed a secret military wing and some of its supporters, at any rate, belonged to the Thule Society.

The reports came in from the different branches. Generally, everything was going well. The stockpile of guns and other weaponry was growing. There was a lot you could obtain on the international black market in arms, such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, if you knew how to work it. In particular it was important not to let anyone know who you were really working for, just in case they had ideological objections to selling you the stuff. There was a lot of money laundering and a lot of phantom companies being set up as fronts.

Membership was on the increase, although they had reached a point where they had all the shock troops they needed for the initial series of uprisings. The rest could be relied on to go into action as soon as they realised what was happening and were told to take advantage of it (though they probably didn’t need to be). Any more might be a security risk, not because they weren’t sufficiently committed to the movement’s ideals but because the fewer members knew what was being planned the lesser the risk of something being blurted out and maybe overheard by the wrong people.

There were still several outstanding issues which needed to be resolved. For one thing, a number of people felt the criteria for deciding who was or was not a perfect Aryan were too loosely defined. “If we’re not careful,” warned the South African, “a lot of people will slip through that we don’t want.” The Austrian, the Belgian and the three Scandinavians nodded their agreement.

“I understand that,” said the American, Helldorf. “But there’s one thing that bothers me. You could get someone who looks a hundred per cent Aryan but isn’t, though only by a fraction. I’m frankly not happy about killing someone – a good-looking chick from Sven and Ulf’s part of the world, maybe - who doesn’t fit the bill just because their cheekbones are a millimetre too wide. Because of something you can’t see, unless you wanna get a ruler and take an exact measurement. Let’s face it, most of us are never gonna bother about a difference that small. It’d be a stupid waste.”

Wachter deliberated for a moment. “Well I suppose it’s down to whoever’s carrying out the examination in the first place. We can issue guidelines telling them they can allow a degree of leeway if they want. Any difference big enough to be a problem, they’re bound to spot.”

“What matters is that the subject’s ideologically sound,” Higson said. “They’ve got to agree with our aims, or at any rate be prepared to let us get on with it.”

“So is that how we should leave it?” Wachter asked the meeting. He glanced over at Heinrich, who sat at the head of the table in the place of honour once occupied by Himmler. The old man had been happy to let Wachter run things without any intervention by himself, while listening carefully to everything that was being said and well aware of the different factions within the party and their agendas.

Heinrich nodded. “It’s not how we used to do things,” he remarked, “but I suppose it makes sense.” After a moment a rumbling murmur of assent travelled round the table. Sensing the matter was resolved, Wachter moved on to the next item. “Now, the question of the leadership once we are in control.”

His eyes flickered briefly to the portrait of Hitler which he’d bought the year before from a shop that sold Nazi memorabilia.

“It’s either you or Heinrich,” said the Frenchman. “The pair of you have been involved the longest, and you have proved yourselves to be adept organizers. One or the other must be Fuhrer.”

Heinrich gave a little chuckle. “May I say I have no ambitions in that direction. In the past I have found it sufficient merely to play the part which fate has allotted me. And although I like to think I’ve lasted remarkably well, it’s still my opinion I’m too old for the job. So Klaus, I’m quite happy to let you do it. What matters is that this organization achieves the power it needs to fulfil its aims. That is all.”

“Then if you have no objection….” began Wachter. Fourteen heads bobbed up and down.

For a moment his skull-like face grinned broadly, the eyes gleaming in an almost feverish fashion. “Well, if that’s settled,” he concluded. He consulted the agenda on the table before him. “Ah,’s been suggested we ought to have a representative from the actual BNP on the Executive.”
“It would seem a good idea,” said the Dane.

“I’m not sure they’d want to sit at the same table as me,” Higson smiled. “Not now.”
“Of course,” he said with a shrug, ”if you want me to ugger off…”

Wachter smiled placatingly. “I don’t think there’s any need for that at this stage, Martin. Let me assure you we all appreciate the valuable service you have been to us. But is the time not now ripe for you to put out some feelers, re-establish some kind of contact with your former colleagues? If they are to be of any help when the time comes they must know what we are doing, and vice versa.”

“I take your point. But I’m not sure we can trust them not to cock it up somehow. What if they let it leak out that we’re planning something big?”

“Perhaps you could alert them just before it happens, so there is less time for something to go wrong?”

“They may think I’ve turned informer. After all it’s ages since any of them have seen me, they’ve no way of knowing what’s been happening meanwhile. I don’t think we should risk it. There’s no point: when the balloon goes up they’ll do their bit, believe me.” They agreed to leave it at that.

“While we’re at it, I think you could say they’re doing fairly well at the moment, if the local election results are anything to go by. That growth in support is worth any number of court cases or actual convictions, and the hassle they cause. Of course the pollies are trying to downplay all their gains but there’s no denying it’s slowly happening.”

Wachter nodded his approval. “That is good to hear. Now, I have kept the most important item until last, because I feel it is best dealt with once everything else is out of the way. The question of whether the authorities in any of our respective countries suspect anything.”

“There’s nothing,” said Helldorf. “Not at my end, anyway.” The others too shook their heads. “I know our LA branch got busted, but they don’t know about Thule. Of course we’re having to be very careful right now, so much has changed after 9/11. Any what they’d call an extremist organization…..they reckon the National Security Agency are tapping every phone in the country. But for the moment it looks like we’re all clean, as far as the Feds and the CIA are concerned. And we’ve no spies anywhere in the woodwork, that we’re aware of.”

“If there don’t appear to be any, then we may as well rest content,” Wachter told him. “There is no sense in worrying about a problem until we can be sure it exists.” He coughed. “There has, unfortunately, been one..incident about which you may well have heard by now.” Wachter was embarrassed that it should have taken place on the German branch’s patch.
“This Richards?” asked one of the Dutchmen.

Rolf Erdmann grunted. “I don’t think the police have enough evidence. We cleaned it all out, the stuff we used to tie him with, his wallet, the bugging device he was using. If they had the proof they would have arrested us by now, or at least brought us in for questioning.”

“All the same, it is very disturbing,” Heinrich said. “It suggests the Jews have reason to suspect us. They might anyway, of course. It concerns me that he was able to infiltrate your group in the first place, although it would seem we are already being as careful as possible over recruitment. Perhaps we were just unlucky.”

“I had thought of putting a ban on further recruitment for the time being,” said Wachter. “But such a measure might be seen as proof of our guilt.”

“We’ll have to be extra-careful from now on, whatever happens,” Higson muttered.
“Indeed. I would suggest we try to communicate by post where possible, not telephone or e-mail unless it is absolutely necessary. That includes any contact with the Thule expedition. The old-fashioned way is often the best, because for one thing people will not be expecting you to use it. It’ll throw any investigator right off the scent.”
“They could intercept our letters,” pointed out the Swede.

“We will just have to try and find a way round that. We will also have to continue trying to avoid any more unfortunate incidents. It’s worth saying again; it is vital attention isn’t drawn to us before the plan is ready for implementation. So there must be no attacks on Turks or Jews or asylum seekers, not for the moment. Anyone who breaks that rule will be severely punished, especially if it turns out to have wrecked the plan.”

“If we don’t seem to be doing anything alarming that in itself will eventually make the authorities suspicious,” Martin Higson said. “The calm before the storm, know what I mean?”

“Or,” said the Norwegian, “the authorities may decide that since we do not at the moment appear to represent a threat to security, they should concentrate their resources on dealing with Islamic terrorism, which does. It could go either way.”
Higson guessed he was right.

“I’d still like some assurance that what’s at Thule is something we can use,” said Helldorf. “If it’s not then the whole damn thing’s blown, isn’t it?”

“We have to risk it,” Heinrich told him. “We may not get another chance. The way the world is going, it is sure to collapse in chaos anyway before long. But if we act now, if we are strong and decisive, we can influence the form the collapse and the subsequent rebirth will take. And establish something that has a chance of lasting maybe not forever, but for – for the next thousand years.”

“There is one more thing I would say,” he continued after a brief pause. “After it has achieved its purpose the machine must be destroyed. It is too dangerous for anyone to possess. Even us. Is that understood? Even us….”

The original plan had been for Astrid Lundt and Karl-Heinz Wegen to fly to London to interview the Richards family at their home in Twickenham. But they’d already had the funeral; Orthodox Jews believed that burial (it would be burial not cremation, which they saw as a blasphemous destruction of what God had created) of a body should take place as soon as possible after death, preferably within twenty-four hours. The only delay had been caused by the need for David’s mother and father, Jonathan and Muriel, to fly to Germany to identify the body, as well as recover from the initial shock and distress of the bereavement.

As it happened Muriel Richards had been intending to return to Germany as soon as the funeral had been held, to tie up a few loose ends; collect a few items of her son’s personal property, and say thankyou to the people who’d looked after him during his stay at the University. She also felt the need to see the place where David had died, to speak to a few of those who had had contact with him in the last week of his life, and to learn something of the progress of the police investigation into his death. Her husband would have accompanied her on the trip, but he hadn’t been very well these last few days.

Muriel was shown into Faltermeyer’s office, where the police chief introduced himself and Astrid Lundt. He had thought it best for a woman to be present at the interview in view of the need, for political reasons, to handle this sensitively. Lundt smiled reassuringly at the British woman as they took their seats, and Muriel smiled back weakly. She was a short, round-faced woman in her mid-forties, dark hair graying at the edges. Although obviously her manner was subdued, she somehow succeeded in giving an impression of considerable reserves of energy lying beneath that slight frame.

Both Germans spoke good English so there was no need for an interpreter. “First of all, Frau Richards, may I say how sorry I am at your loss,” Faltermeyer began. His manner was sincere enough, Muriel thought, and she nodded her thanks.

“Let me assure you we’re doing everything we can to find the people who killed David.” Unfortunately, they hadn’t had much luck so far. None of the eyewitnesses had been able to give descriptions of the men who had been seen chasing David, everything having happened so quickly, and neither the subsequent appeal for information or the house-to-house search of the immediate area had produced any result. It could just mean that the killers were covering their tracks well.

“And also,” Faltermeyer continued, “to find out why he was killed, which will to some extent amount to the same thing.”

“As with all police investigations, there are some things which may have to remain confidential for the moment,” Astrid said. At this, they thought they saw Muriel Richards frown briefly, her eyebrows lifting and then contracting as the eyes narrowed in what might have been suspicion.

Does she really trust Germans? Faltermeyer wondered. She knows all about what happened in the war; her elders would have made damn sure of that. And of course we’ve been foolish in the past, made silly mistakes, said things which have offended people.

“But that is only until the investigation is concluded,” Lundt went on. Either David Richards’ killers would be apprehended or they wouldn’t. If they were, neither Astrid nor her boss could see any reason why they should not be publicly tried and their identity thus revealed. The authorities would go out of their way to prove they were determined to take the threat of neo-Nazism seriously and that Germany was atoning for everything that had happened in the past. Unless of course members of the political establishment were themselves involved with the killers; that was always a possibility.

“You’ll keep us informed at every stage, won’t you?” Muriel asked.
“Of course,” said Astrid, she and Faltermeyer nodding in unison.

“So what can you tell me?” Muriel said. “It’s very important for us to know as much as possible.” She thought of her husband and the way he’d changed in just the past week or so to a haggard ghost she barely recognized as the man she’d married.

They told her all they’d been able to glean so far, about the men seen running after David, the failure as of yet to find any substantial clues, and about other things. “There were marks on David’s wrists and ankles suggesting he’d been tied up,” Faltermeyer said quietly. “I’m afraid David had also been beaten very badly. I, I’m sorry if this is distressing for you.”

They saw her wince, contemplating the floor for a moment or two. Astrid leaned over and placed a comforting hand on her arm.

Muriel took a deep breath to compose herself, and after a moment glanced up. The Germans’ faces were a study in solemnity, but she didn’t think it was entirely forced. Astrid asked her if she was willing to go on.

“Yes, of course,” she replied, a little impatiently. “It’s obvious they kept David prisoner for a while, then. Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?”

“I’m afraid that’s about all we know,” said Faltermeyer. “But we thought perhaps you might be able to help us in one or two respects.”
“Oh, yes?”

“Can you think of any reason why anyone might want to kill your son? Was there anybody who had a grudge against him, for one reason or another?”

“What, here?” Muriel frowned. ”David hardly knew anyone in Germany. Apart from the other people on his course, and they seemed to have liked him even though they hadn’t known him for very long.”
Astrid nodded. “That is what our own enquiries appear to confirm.”
“As for back home, well he always got on well with everyone. I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.”

Lundt went on, “We have spoken to some of David’s fellow students at the University who say he seemed preoccupied in the days leading up to his death. As if he was anxious about something but not prepared to confide in anyone about it.”

Muriel lowered her head again, sighing. ”As a matter of fact there’d been quite a few times recently when David was like that. We were a bit annoyed that he wouldn’t talk to us about it. He…he didn’t seem unhappy, though, not really. Not at that stage.”
“You’ve no idea what could have been on his mind?”

There was a pause in the proceedings while Muriel thought, but only a slight one. It obviously wasn’t the first time she had tried to fathom the business, without success. ”No I’m sorry, I can’t. I suppose a lot of young men are like that. There may have been nothing significant about it at all. If I can think of anything, of course I’ll let you know immediately.”

“That would be most helpful. Now if I could ask you, Frau Richards, why exactly did David come to Germany? I understand he was on an exchange visit.”
“Yes, that’s right. He was quite excited about it. I remember….” She swallowed several times, tears pricking at her eyes, and once again Astrid made to comfort her, but she smiled and shook her head to indicate she was coping. “It meant foreign travel, which he enjoyed, but he also wanted to understand how Jews in Germany today felt about the Holocaust and about anti-Semitism; in particular whether they felt themselves to be vulnerable at present. He also wanted to understand the reasons behind the atrocities, if there was anything in Germany’s past that made them…more likely to happen, I suppose.” She looked uncomfortable at this point, wishing not to offend them. “It fitted in with his own history course back home.”

“Did he belong to any……” Lundt hesitated very briefly. “Did he belong to any political organizations?”
“Not unless you count the Anglo-Israeli Friendship Society. I suppose some would say you could. After all, I admit it’s a political issue. May I ask why you need to know?”

Faltermeyer interjected. “Well, in case the motive for David’s murder was….political.” They’d known the issue would have to be raised at some point. He wondered if he needed to mention that David was known to have got into several vigorous arguments on the subject of the Palestinians and of Israel’s right to exist; probably not, since the discussions had not ended amicably enough.

“So you think there’s that kind of angle to the matter?” This was undoubtedly a challenge. There was a look in Muriel Richards’ eyes which told Astrid she wasn’t going to go away until the question was answered.

“These things cannot be ruled out,” Lundt said. “It is something we have to investigate.” She herself looked as if she was impatient with these platitudes. Muriel decided to come to her rescue. “You’ll probably have guessed by now that we are ourselves Jewish, Fraulein Lundt.” She’d been wondering for some time whether to mention it directly.

“As a matter of fact we had,” said Faltermeyer. “That is why we needed to know if there were political factors involved.” He couldn’t possibly mention the Thule Society until there was firm evidence to prove they were guilty. “I did not mention the…Jewish aspect specifically because without further evidence, it did not seem relevant. At present we cannot be certain this was a racial attack.” Which was perfectly true, depending on exactly what David Richards had been trying to say when he died.

“Perhaps,” Muriel agreed. “But the way things are these days, you can’t discount the possibility.”
“We don’t intend to discount the possibility, Frau Richards. We are ruling nothing out until we have all the facts at out disposal.”
“Well,” sighed Muriel, “just let me know when you’ve got it. If that’s all?”
“I think so,” said Faltermeyer, getting to his feet. “Once again, my condolences.” She nodded in acknowledgement; a little stiffly, but then she obviously had a great deal on her mind at the moment.

Did I do that right? Faltermeyer asked himself once she’d gone. It didn’t seem to him that Muriel Richards had any cause to complain; he noted however how reluctant he’d been to actually allude to the family’s being Jewish. They were getting far too sensitive about these things. And she’d gone away sensing, quite correctly, that they were keeping something back from her. Which wasn’t good.

The sooner they were in a position to be more frank with her, the better. Which meant finding out just what exactly the Thule Society were up to.

A hundred yards from the entrance to the tunnel into the mountain, from which all the rock and rubble had now been cleared away, the expedition had set up their base camp, consisting of six steel-framed cabins serving as living accommodation for its members plus storage for the smaller items of equipment. Each one contained separate living and sleeping quarters and a hygiene unit consisting of shower and chemical toilet. In the open space between the two rows of huts several Unimogs, one fitted with a snowplough, a Snocat and a couple of bulldozers stood around. Behind the camp was the airstrip built to receive the planes that had flown in the heavy equipment along with the prefabricated sections of the cabins, and every so often delivered food and any other supplies the expedition might need. Women were occasionally flown in too, although strictly speaking this was against the rules; all their needs had to be provided for.

It had taken time, but after several years’ planning they had returned to Thule. A subsidiary of Wachter’s company had acquired a lease on the site and within a few months, after some initial surveying, set up what purported to be a research station.

They now had what amounted to a permanent presence here of about a dozen people. It wasn’t always the same people, because life out here in this chilly wasteland could be bleak and monotonous despite all the creature comforts of modern society, and not everyone was able to stand it for long. The rota was changed every few weeks, apart from the personnel who because of their specialist knowledge needed to be here all the time. Their dedication to the cause would keep them going.

They had been allowed to carry on with their work unmolested; the occasional plane had flown over, but nobody was showing any close interest in their work, perhaps because they were so far from anywhere that mattered. They visited the town of Qaanaaq occasionally, but were careful to keep their distance from the American airbase at Thule, a sensible precaution to take anyway because the Yanks were so obsessively security-conscious.

From the mouth of the tunnel, which had been widened so that several could now walk abreast all the way along, stepped Professor Ludwig Wolfmann, formerly of the University of Bonn. Walking in a hurried, breathless fashion he made for the largest of the cabins, which served as a kind of community centre.

Before venturing out into the open he had donned parka and gloves against the biting cold, which grew more severe each day as the Arctic winter approached. He had not needed protective clothing within the complex itself – nor was there any need for central heating - for there was obviously a geothermal heat source, which a civilisation living inside a mountain would have needed, although as yet they had no idea how it was tapped.

They had expected all the major rooms to be underground, to be closer to the heat source, yet it seemed they weren’t. Perhaps there was a hot spring, or something like that, somewhere.

On the roof of the main cabin was mounted a cluster of aerials and several satellite dishes. Inside one found, apart from living and sleeping quarters for a couple of the party, a recreation room and a radio room where contact was maintained with the outside world. In the former a few of the heavies were sitting round a table, one reading a pornographic magazine, the rest playing a game of cards. There was a TV with a DVD player and a portable three-bar electric fire stood in the corner, for use should the power unit supplying lighting and heating to the camp, located in a hut of its own a few hundred yards from the main base, break down. Nodding briefly to the paramilitaries, Wolfmann entered the radio room where Mikhail Letsyn from Moscow, whose duty it was to man the place today, sat before a battery of CCTV screens. Letsyn had been a keen member of the main Russian nationalist Party, the Liberal Democrats, and a great admirer of its leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, until Zhirinovsky’s violent behaviour made him too many enemies and he became discredited. Letsyn – one of the Nordic-looking sort of Russian – had considered switching his support to Vladimir Putin when the latter came to prominence, for Putin represented the kind of no-nonsense authoritarianism he believed the country needed. But partly because Putin’s political background was Communist rather than nationalist, and partly because he, Letsyn, wanted something more openly in line with what he really believed, he and a few other nationalists decided instead to throw in their lot with the wider global neo-Nazi movement. They had thought of asking Zhirinovsky to join them, but dropped the idea because (a) the man was too much of a liability, and (b) although Letsyn wasn’t sure that he minded, it was possible Zhirinovsky might; for on one side of his family, Mad Vlad’s ancestry was Jewish.

“Hi,” said Letsyn. “How’s it going in there? Managed to crack the code yet?”
“I’m getting there,” Wolfmann said. “But it’s difficult. You can only learn a little bit at a time.” He nodded at the radio, in reality a form of satellite telephone. “We need to call Heinrich. Something’s come up.”
“What is it?” Letsyn asked eagerly. “Have you found something in there?”
Wolfmann looked the Russian straight in the eye. “Yes,” he said quietly. “I have. Something very important.”

She kept herself so busy these days, working for the defence of her country, that she rarely had time to think about it. That was not her deliberate intent. What had happened had been so awful, so wrong and evil and without justification, that it was inconceivable either she or anyone else should forget the horror. Noa Golani was proud of the fact that her family were not émigrés from Europe, but unlike the thousands who had flocked to Israel after the war had always been there, rooted deep in the soil of the Promised Land. The land given to the Jews by God, as the Bible made abundantly clear, if you cared to reflect on that rather than rush to take the Palestinians’ side the way people were always doing. Not that Golani was particularly religious, but it still seemed to her a good argument for the existence of the state of Israel, by her interpretation of the Old Testament. The issue, however, was primarily about land as far as she was concerned. Land, and the freedom of a people to occupy it in peace, without fear of harrassment or actual harm.

Her own family had been farmers and shepherds here for thousands of years, since Biblical times. The pastoral surroundings in which they lived and toiled had in some ways changed little from those days.

From an early age she had worked on the farm gathering in the crops and tending the livestock, from time to time having to shift crates of produce and heavy machinery, and in the process she grew as big and as strong as many of the boys and men, often besting her brothers in fights or in feats of strength.

In those days she had played in the farmyard with the boys; and also with children from one of the Palestinian villages down the road. Yes; she would often play with the Palestinians in their dirt yards, among the piles of rubbish where the dogs scavenged, and join them on expeditions to raid orchards on neighbouring farms, scrumping olives and other fruit. A little girl called Hanan had been her constant companion on such adventures. They were the best of friends, seeing no difference between each other that mattered; to Noa Hanan was just another human being, and vice versa.

When you were a child, you didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

Then one day, while Noa aged thirteen had been working in the fields with her father, learning how to drive a tractor, the militants had come. Four men with cloths tied around their heads, wielding Kalashnikov rifles, had driven up to the lonely farmhouse in a pickup, jumped out and kicked in the door. They burst in and riddled the building and its occupants with bullets; killing her mother, her sister, her aunt who had come to visit, and two of her brothers.

The following day a shocked Hanan had come to see her, to say how sorry she was. Noa had stared at her blankly, as if in some kind of trance, then spat at her, full in the face. Before turning away and going back into the house, which she was not to leave for some weeks, she said one thing to her former friend.
“Your people did this.”

After that Hanan did not come to the house again. She knew there would be no point. Golani didn’t care; all she did care about was finding something to fill the aching void which had opened up within her, a desolate wilderness in which she could hear a voice crying. Crying out for revenge.

Caroline had considered working late every night until the logjam was broken, but now abandoned the idea, frightened by the odd sensation she had had on Tuesday night when leaving the office. Was the stress she was under affecting her brain?

It might be better to take a few days off. But she knew that the work wouldn’t get done in her absence, and when she got back it would have piled up even more making her task doubly difficult. She earnestly wished Chris hadn’t chosen this particular time to go on holiday, suddenly feeling a powerful urge for his presence.

At least Natasha had finished the draft Equal Opportunities leaflet, which Caroline had OK’d and passed to Hennig for his approval (though whether he looked at such things in detail was a matter of conjecture). But she still had three important tasks outstanding and past their deadlines, and the completion of all the others had failed to mollify Hennig.

“Oh by the way,” he said. “If you really want that renewables report to go before the next directors’ meeting, it’s got to be on my desk sometime within the next seven days.”

“There’s been a slight delay, I’m afraid,” she explained. “We had to send it to another printers’ because the first lot made a pig’s ear of it. As soon as it reaches me I’ll pass it on.”

He sat back and studied her thoughtfully. “I know I’ve asked you this before, but why are you so keen on this particular project, Caroline?”

“Don’t you ever feel uneasy,” she said, “that we’re working for a company that’s pumping God knows how many tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day, causing God knows how much pollution?”
“Why?” he asked. “Do you?”
Their eyes met.

“We ought to do something about it,” she said. “We think a fossil fuel economy’s the only way to guarantee a high standard of living like the one we’re enjoying right now. But the damage global warming’s eventually going to cause to the quality of our lives will offset any advantage we think oil and coal give us from that point of view.”

“I think you’re getting too worked up over it,” he said. “On top of all your other duties it’s a bit of a burden, surely.”

“Well no-one else was interested,” she pointed out resentfully. And so they’d ended up making it Caroline’s special responsibility, on her own suggestion. It was the one out of all responsibilities which she could jack in without anyone being particularly bothered and giving her grief. That was the one consolation; she didn’t have to care about the planet. She didn’t have to put any effort into making the Renewables Initiative a success, not for the sake of the human race or the millions of other species it shared the world with. She owed it to someone whose life had been so shattered by personal trauma that the green cause was the only thing left to them; but of course there was no point in exerting oneself unduly over things like that.

“It means you’re overworking yourself,” Hennig said. “I don’t want you conking out on me. That wouldn’t be much help to the company.”

No, because I’m everyone’s favourite repository for dumping work in, she thought bitterly.
“Come to think of it, you don’t look too good right now,” he said.
“Eh?” said Caroline, and winced.

The sensation was like a very sharp, stabbing migraine. Her head was swimming. For a terrifying moment, the view before her rippled and blurred, disappearing into a shimmering red haze. It was as if she couldn’t see, hear or even think in the normal fashion. There was just a babble of sounds, like a chorus of whispering voices all trying to speak at once. A jumble of diverse, unrelated sensations she couldn’t make sense of. It was like being trapped in a room where there was a multiplicity of doors and windows, all of which she could see at once, and no way for her brain to interpret the signals it received through them from the outside world. But somehow she had the odd impression she could hear the people talking in the office next door, even through solid brick.

Just as suddenly as it had started the attack passed, and her vision cleared. Caroline stared vacantly at Hennig, her shock such that she didn’t really see him. She felt cold sweat all over her body.

To Hennig her face had seemed to freeze for a few seconds, going totally blank as if her mind had been transported somewhere else, to a completely different plane of existence. Now she looked, he thought, seriously frightened.

Caroline became aware that he was speaking. “Are you alright?” To give him his due, he sounded genuinely concerned. “Caroline, for goodness’ sake what’s the matter?”

“I, I dunno,” she said stupidly, quite unable at the moment to make sense of her experience. “I just….I just…..”

“See what I mean? I’m telling you to go home.” He spoke bluntly, but kindly.
“But I’m OK now….”
“Caroline, go home,” Hennig snapped. “That’s an order. If you don’t I’ll suspend you, for your own good. I didn’t like what I just saw. Don’t come back until you’ve seen the doctor and found out what the problem is. Go home this minute; and I’d advise you to take the bus.”
“What about my work?” she protested.
“Don’t worry, I’ll see to that. Just go home.”

Seeing there was no point in further protest, she nodded and left with a brief muttered thanks, Hennig’s anxious gaze following her.

Caroline caught the bus home. And once there she collapsed into a chair to remain in it for a long time, staring at the wall and wondering fearfully what the hell was happening to her.

It was a good production; the acting and special effects were both of a high standard, and oh that stirring music.

Brunnhilde had just come on, and was telling how Siegfried had sworn her an eternal oath of fidelity. She ordered logs to be gathered to make a funeral pyre for the hero, singing of her betrayal by he whom she had thought the noblest of men and how his death had atoned for his guilt. She took Siegfried’s ring, promising to return it to the Rhinemaidens who guarded it. She hurled a blazing torch onto the pyre, which immediately ignited, then mounted her horse and rode into the flames. The fire spread to the whole of Valhalla and everyone screamed and ran in terror. The Rhine burst its banks, flooding everything. The Rhinemaidens appeared in search of the ring and one of the gods leapt into the water in pursuit of it, intending to steal it, but the maidens went in after him and seized him, dragging him down to his death and holding up the ring in triumph. The flood waters receded and Valhalla caught fire again, the blaze illuminating it spectacularly as all those assembled there were consumed; Gotterdammerung, the long-predicted end of the gods, had come to pass. The curtain fell to the thunderous cheering and clapping of the audience.

He had turned his mobile phone off during the performance, not wishing to have his enjoyment disturbed. As soon as he turned it on again, outside in the foyer, it started ringing.

Wachter found a quiet corner of the place and answered it. “Klaus,” said Ludwig Wolfmann. “I know you said we shouldn’t phone, but something’s come up which we have to sort out. We need to find Engelmann.”

Muriel and Jonathan Richards sat together on the sofa, gazing without any particular interest at the old film on the TV. After a while Jonathan switched it off and just sat gazing into the blank screen, a single huge eye staring back at him impassively. He hadn’t bothered to ask her if she minded, as if he wasn’t even aware she was present.
“Shall I make you another cup of tea?” she asked. The last one still sat on the table beside him, barely touched.

He merely grunted vaguely, which she took as a yes. Taking the untouched cup with her she went into the kitchen. After she’d finished seeing to him, she steeled herself and trudged upstairs to David’s room – she’d always think of it as that – to continue sorting through all his possessions, including the things sent home from Germany by the university. It couldn’t be put off any longer.

She bent over the pile of stuff on the floor and set to work. It wasn’t long before the first tears began to prick at the corners of her eyes.

Photographs of David as a baby, on family holidays in Israel, at his bar-mitzvah; various framed awards won at school for hard work and good behaviour; a few battered old toys. The history of a life which had been suddenly and unjustly cut short. They had always known what they as Jews might potentially experience, though here in Britain they’d always considered themselves safe from it. Now the fact that it had actually happened to them made it personal, and unpleasantly so.

She thought back to the funeral, which had been held at the local Jewish cemetery. It was a simple affair, because Jews believed that rich and poor should be treated alike. Death can happen to anyone. The body had been washed and wrapped in a plain linen shroud with the prayer shawl around its neck, and then placed in a plain wooden coffin over which the mourners had said the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Afterwards the family had returned home for the period of formal mourning known as Shiva (seven), which lasted the whole of the following week. During that time they stayed at home, as was the custom, friends and members of the synagogue visiting them three times each day to offer prayers and comfort.

They had two other children, which of course took the pain away to some extent. But to lose someone you had nurtured from birth, on whose education and welfare you had lavished such loving care and attention…she knelt weeping over the heap of bric-a-brac until her husband heard it, picked himself up shakily from his armchair and climbed the stairs to her. They hugged each other for a long time, neither speaking.

He was out of it now. Because he could see she needed him, just as much as he knew he needed her.

Finally he smiled weakly, saying he’d better let her get on with it, and went back downstairs. He knew that the whole heart-breaking business might set him off again.

Muriel got on with it, sorting out what they were going to keep, putting all that could be thrown away in a separate pile. While she did it she imagined David safely in the afterlife, looking down at them and laughing his head off at all the fuss they were making. It was the only way to cope.

Finding herself contemplating an old shoe box full of Corgi toys, she sorted the less damaged from the rest and laid them out neatly in a row. They could always be given away, to a charity shop or a collector. The rest would be dumped, having long ago served their purpose of helping give David a happy and content childhood. She turned her attention to the next item: a metal case, dented and rusted, in which her son used to keep miscellaneous personal possessions. She’d found it tucked away right at the back of the wardrobe, buried under a pile of old clothes. It could be padlocked and had been, suggesting to her, now that she thought about it, that there was something inside David hadn’t wanted people to see.

Again she recalled how preoccupied, how secretive, he’d been at times in the weeks before his departure for Germany, while the arrangements for the visit were being finalized. The people at the university hadn’t mentioned it but the German police had, clearly feeling the matter to be important.

Dirty books or girlie magazines? She could cope with that; it wasn’t that much of a sin, not for a red-blooded, perfectly normal young man of twenty-one. And she doubted it was the reason for his strange behaviour. You might be embarrassed if your parents found out you were hoarding such things, even in adulthood, but she didn’t think you’d lose much sleep over it, not altogether. The days when young people ever thought like that about such matters were long gone.

It might be something it would be preferable for her not to know, but she couldn’t think what. David couldn’t be a serial killer or a child abuser, she was sure of that.
What she did want to know, though, was why he was dead.

Perhaps now that he was gone they should respect his wishes, but…..

There should be a key for the padlock somewhere. Glancing round the room, she saw what might be it lying on David’s desk. She tried it and with a click the lid of the case jerked, loosened. Lifting it, she gazed down at the contents.

Just a few scraps of notepaper: but why had he kept them locked away like this?

On one was scribbled “Abi Feinstein c/o Embassy” and a London telephone number. The name suggested the embassy in question was the Israeli. It wasn’t surprising if David had been in contact with its staff, since he was known to be an enthusiastic supporter of the country and had often taken his holidays there as an adult. He had probably been intending to arrange some such outing, or wanted to participate in some cultural event the embassy was staging.

But if that was the case, why hadn’t he mentioned it to them? He mentioned most things to them. Most things. Something big had been bothering him in the last few weeks of his life, without doubt, and they didn’t know what it was.

It couldn’t be anything to do with the German exchange because that had been organized by the IJC, though she knew the Israelis had an input. And why had the notes been kept apart from his other possessions?

On another flimsy were written the dates, times and venues of various meetings, usually with this “Abi” person somewhere in London. The other names were Jewish or might have been. Were they Israelis too?
A third sheet contained a series of notes:

New Vitality
Main branch in Berlin, others in Munich, Hamburg and Bonn. Membership fairly mixed, though quite a few unemployed and low-grade workers. Funded mainly from personal wealth of leader. Manifesto calls for repatriation of asylum seekers and Turkish immigrants and end to “culture of apology” for Nazi war crimes. One or two Holocaust deniers among Ruling Executive. Links in past with French National Front, South African racists, Austrian Freedom Party and Flemish Nationalist Union.
Key names:
Wachter (leader). Big league industrialist, runs one of country’s leading computer firms. Not seen much. Lives mainly in old castle in Rhineland.
Schwege (Secretary).
Lucke (Treasurer).
Erdmann. Runs party’s youth wing, been in trouble with police in past for beating up political opponents, but clean of late. Was student at the University in Berlin, where blackballed for his views. Recently active in trying to recruit members for party among student population, despite being banned from campus. Still people there, fellow NDP members, who can be counted friends of his. Get to know them?

Muriel read through the notes again and again, turning what she was seeing over in her mind. It all added up to something highly disturbing. Something she would have preferred to have been told about.

Again the leading members of the Thule Society were sitting round the table in Wachter’s banqueting hall, having been summoned back from their homes in England, France, Holland, Belgium, Paraguay or wherever almost as soon as they had touched down there.

Heinrich felt it was best if he chaired the proceedings. He explained what had been discovered by the team working at Thule. “You will all know about Engelmann from your study of the Grunewald dossier. We had supposed he was of no further importance to us. This latest discovery at Thule, however, affects the situation quite considerably.”

Wachter nodded. “We don’t want the Power to be in the possession of anyone who might not share our aims. That could be utterly disastrous.”

“So - we must find out what happened to Engelmann, if he survived the war. We can start at the Bundesarchiv.”
“I’ll get Ulrich to do it,” Wachter said.

Heinrich’s gaze swept over each of them, travelling round the room in a wide arc. “I needn’t emphasise how important this is. If anyone knows or finds out anything they are to inform Klaus immediately.”

Rolf Erdmann took the opportunity to ask what was the general situation at Thule.
Wachter told him. “We still don’t know enough about how the stuff works, and what we do know we’re piecing together gradually through trial and error. It might help if we could get through those sealed doors, but I’m not optimistic about our chances there.”
“Haven’t they tried explosives?” asked Ulf.

“One of them, you wouldn’t want to go in there anyway. The other, it’d probably be a waste of time. The hole would simply seal up again, too fast for us to get through it. Tests on some of the surrouNding rock confirm that. We’re clearly not meant to get either of those doors open, you see.

“But that is not our most pressing worry right now. If we can’t find Engelmann, matters may slip out of our control.”

“If the theory is correct, if someone had used the Power, then there would be..incidents,” said Sven. “We have heard of none.”
“Perhaps there have been. Things which were badly observed and wrongly interpreted.”

“But if they were not wrongly interpreted? If someone were to realise what they meant? The authorities have ways of covering such things up. Which means perhaps we will never find Engelmann.”
“Only if they know,” Higson reminded him.

“What would be the implications,” asked the Russian, “if they had found out about the Power and studied it to learn how it worked?”

“It is difficult to say. But let’s not lose heart unnecessarily. I suggest we apply the principle of William of Occam’s razor; we do not know the authorities have found out about the Power, so let us be optimistic they haven’t.”
“But we must find Engelmann,” he added. “Before somebody else does. We must find Engelmann.”
“Or his descendants,” Heinrich said.

Muriel had managed to secure the interview by saying it was a matter affecting Israel’s national security and that she needed to speak to someone urgently, in confidence. That, she knew, would produce the desired result and save having to badger them.

“Now, Mrs Richards, what can I do for you?” began Shimon Ezra charmingly.
“It’s about my son, David Richards. The young man who was murdered in Germany, you may have heard about it.”

He nodded sympathetically. “Yes; a dreadful business. However I’m not at all sure how we can help you. He was a British citizen, I take it?”
“Yes, he was.” She looked him squarely in the eye. “But he was working for you, wasn’t he?”
The First Secretary looked puzzled. “What do you mean, Mrs Richards?”
“I don’t mean for the Embassy. I mean he was working for your security services. Spying for them.”
“You have evidence?” he asked politely.

“Something I found in his belongings when I was going through them.” She pushed the two pieces of paper, both photocopies, across the table towards him and he put on his glasses and peered at it closely.
It was perhaps foolish of David to have kept it, she reflected. But then he probably hadn’t expected himself to die. The young generally didn’t.
“I was sure it was Nazis. What I didn’t know was why they’d killed him. But now I think I do. You got him to infiltrate them, didn’t you? And something went wrong.”

Ezra looked up. “Mrs Richards, I really don’t understand this.” It was hard to tell if his bewilderment was genuine. “I can assure you it’s not our policy to recruit nationals of foreign countries for our intelligence services.”
“The evidence is right there before me. I checked the number and found it was for this office.”

“Yes, that’s our number alright. But perhaps it was for some other reason that he had it. I admit the evidence of these notes your son wrote down supports the theory he was spying on this organization, but I don’t see that there’s necessarily any connection with this embassy.”

“I rang the extension and asked for a Mr Abi Feinstein. Apparently he doesn’t exist. Not officially, anyway. I think you’re lying to me, Mr Ezra.”

He stared at her, then gave an astonished laugh. “I assure you I’m not, Mrs Richards.”
“I still want to know why. You’ll appreciate that it means a lot to us.”
Almost a whole minute went by before he replied to this. “That cannot be revealed, I’m afraid. It would compromise our national security.”
In other words, her surmise was correct.

“Did you tell the German police what you were doing?” she asked.
“We weren’t doing anything, Mrs Richards. The Germans won’t be able to tell you any more than we can, which quite frankly is nothing at all. I appreciate that you need to understand why your son came to die, but - ”
“So there was something going on? Otherwise you wouldn’t want it kept quiet, would you?”
“Mrs Richards, I’ve already told you. We don’t recruit nationals of foreign countries.”

“But you just implied there was a threat to your national security. I’m just…..putting two and two together. I hardly think it likely David would have been working against you.”
Ezra smiled. “I don’t mind having to say it again; I appreciate your concern to see justice done for your son. However, there’s really nothing to add to what I’ve just said. It’s only fair to tell you you’d be wasting your time by taking this matter any further.”
Falling silent, he began to fiddle with his biro.

Muriel regarded him through hollow eyes. “I see,” she muttered, and rose slowly from her chair.
“I’ll see you out,” he offered cordially, rising too.

“Don’t bother, I think I remember the way. Thankyou for seeing me.” She left the room, and the building, without a word. Her mind remained a blank haze until she got home, when she could think more clearly and calmly about what she’d been told. And what to do about it.

Strictly speaking, thought Dr Frank Haydon, I shouldn’t be here. The tests were supposed to take place in a controlled environment, which meant the constant presence of a supervisor looking over one’s shoulder was discouraged. It might prove a distraction and lead to mistakes, answers which were wrong or only correct because of sheer fluke. But they needed to observe the behaviour of the subjects while the experiment was in progress, know whether the exercise of the powers caused them any stress. A hidden camera would have made no difference because the subjects probably guessed there’d be one anyway, and so it would affect their performance every bit as much as his actual physical presence. He might as well take the risk.

All the same he had entered the room softly, and then stood looking at them from a position right at the back, making sure none of them could see him. Of course, if they really had the powers they were supposed to possess they might know he was there anyhow. They showed no sign of it, though. Maybe that was because their minds were too taken up with the task they’d been set. This thing didn’t make you omniscient, no matter how well it worked. Trouble was, you’d no idea most of the time when it was working.

Each person had been given a different puzzle to solve, though Haydon supposed it wasn’t really a puzzle since there weren’t any clues. You just had to describe the colour and other features of the object or objects within the sealed box before you – those who did cheat by trying to open the box when they thought no-one was looking were immediately kicked off the programme – say which of a number of envelopes, also sealed, contained letters with secret writing, or look at a photograph of some faraway foreign location and see if you could sense details which were too small to be detected by the eyes alone, with or without glasses.

They were of all ethnic groups; all social classes, occupations. There was a glamorous blonde, a plump motherly-looking housewife in her fifties, an intelligent-looking black youth with massive thick-framed spectacles, a tough-looking construction worker, a girl in a studded leather jacket with a ring through her nose, several smartly-dressed business types, a smattering of Hispanics and Asiatics. The only restrictions were on account of age. No-one over sixty had been selected to take part in the tests because after then, to be brutally frank, your mental powers were no longer quite functioning at maximum efficiency.

It wasn’t his presence that was bothering them, Haydon sensed. It was the test itself. They seemed irritable, uneasy, impatient. All except the black kid, Gary, who was ploughing through it with the calm, relaxed, yet at the same time alert expression of one who is enjoying what he is doing. But although Gary was always convinced he’d got it right that didn’t necessarily mean he had. He was often cut up to be told he was wrong and there had been some friction between the two of them over interpretation of the results.

Beside Gary sat Sam, an older Caucasian with greying hair and a benign, owl-like face. Sam’s brow was deeply corrugated, the muscles of his face drawn tight, in an expression of almost painful concentration. No, it was painful. Haydon felt a sudden pang of remorse and shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably.

It was the fifth test they’d done that day. He wondered if the failure so far to produce concrete results was only making him more determined to pull this thing off, explaining why he was increasing the pressure. That could be dangerous and he’d better ease off.

Sam drew himself up with a deep breath. He looked round, caught Haydon’s eye and pulled off his glasses.
“Dr Haydon,” he said plaintively, “you’re working me too hard. I just can’t do this any more.”
Fatigue was another thing that could lead to mistakes. “All right, folks, that’s it for today,” he called out. “OK, Sam.”

Gary looked disappointed, even resentful, that his fun had been interrupted but the rest threw themselves back in their chairs with heartfelt sighs of relief. As they began to relax, and the initial euphoria at the cessation of tension passed, their true feelings about the test became apparent. Some were just glad it was all over, others annoyed despite the stress that they hadn’t managed to crack it, which had been found to be a fairly common reaction. The blonde’s face was difficult to read but Haydon didn’t think she was entirely happy.

If it doesn’t come easy to them, he thought, if they have to strain themselves so much to get results that we know aren’t always accurate, then this’ll never work. We need something more but what the hell is it?

He noticed one woman was in tears, and being hugged by another with whom she’d formed a close friendship during the course of the sessions, as wasn’t uncommon. Haydon approached them cautiously, aware that men weren’t really welcome when one woman was comforting another. “Are you alright, Dolores?”
Her friend replied for her, rather curtly. “Yeah, she’s OK.”

They all filed out, making for the room specially set aside for them to relax in after a session. Haydon collected up the completed answer sheets and took them back to his office, where he sat down to mark them.

The same mixture of right and wrong answers, proving nothing. There was quite a high proportion, approaching fifty per cent, of correct ones but still not enough to demonstrate that it couldn’t be coincidence.

I suppose the only thing for me to do, he guessed, is keep going until someone in higher authority tells me to stop. He was certain that somehow, somewhere in among all this, he would find what he had been looking for if he only kept on persevering.

With encouragement from the CIA and FBI, who had a close interest in any tangible result it might produce, the programme had been going on, though not quite continuously, since the early 1970s. Admittedly it had its origin partly in the interest in such matters then current among the general public. But it was intended to have a serious military application; the other main reason for Stanford’s research into psychic phenomena was Cold War paranoia. Apart from anything else it stemmed from the fear that the Soviets might be doing the same thing, and perhaps making greater progress. The enemy now, of course, was a decentralized religious terrorist organization, or loose association of such organizations; a tendency rather than a state. But it was no less important that America be protected from it, and a secret agent with paranormal powers would be very useful in her defence.

The scientists working on the project included physicists interested in things like fundamental electrodynamics, electrical engineering, quantum vacuum states, gravitation, cosmology and high power microelectronics. They sought to establish a connection between the physical world, the world of matter and energy and their interactions, and the more mysterious and intangible realm of the mind. They were principally interested in “remote viewing”, the supposed ability of a person to detect the existence of an object in a particular place regardless of how far away it was, or whether it was enclosed in a building or other container. Individuals with such gifts could be successfully used to locate hostages or secret installations, perhaps from thouands of miles away.

Operation Stargate, as it was called, continued for over twenty years. During that time thousands of people were recruited from all walks of life (though the majority were university students), placed in darkened rooms and asked to describe clearly the objects they saw there. Fifty per cent of the time their observations, according to one of the project’s directors, were accurate. Particularly good results were achieved in the late 70s and early 80s with a group called “The Naturals”. One of them, a retired army intelligence officer called Joe McMoneagle, claimed that in 1984 he received a Legion of Merit award for “providing information on more than 150 targets that had previously been unavailable from other sources.” In the early 70s McMoneagle had a Near Death Experience which seemed to have given him telepathic abilities, that he could turn on and off at will. He believed the ability to remote view was dependent on the individual; it was a talent you were either born with or weren’t. On one occasion the Naturals described in detail a secret Soviet missile base which no spy plane or satellite had seen, although conventional means were later used to substantiate what the remote viewers claimed they saw.

Research into the paranormal was also being carried out at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, Texas, and among students at Penn State University. At the latter, participation in the tests was not always voluntary, or so it was claimed. The subjects were drugged and then subjected to various forms of stimuli to see if mental activity during sleep could be increased. They also alleged that hidden cameras were placed in their dormitories to keep them under surveillance. To avoid criminal liability on the part of the federal government dirty tricks were played on them, including the altering of academic records and unauthorized withdrawals from their bank accounts, designed to send them into overdraft and so make them look financially irresponsible, discrediting them in the eyes of the law and public. Having been somehow got at their lecturers refused to testify in their favour, pretending not to know them. The University refused to comment on the allegations when questioned by journalists, while not actually denying them.

In early 1972 a scientist at Stanford with an interest in quantum biology, which was the scientific study of biological processes in terms of quantum mechanics, published a paper arguing that physical theory as we knew it was inadequate to describe the function of living organisms. It was read with interest by another scientist, Cleve Backster, who had been studying the electrical signals that appeared to be given off by plants. During a visit by him to Backster’s laboratory the paper was seen by Ingo Swann, who had earlier participated in some apparently successful experiments in psychokinesis – causing movement in physical objects, or influencing their behaviour, through the power of the mind – at the laboratory of Professor Gertrude Schmeidler at the City College in New York. Swann wrote to the Stanford scientist suggesting that a study of the paranormal might be a useful line of enquiry for someone in his field. Swann was invited to visit SRI where he appeared to disturb the operation of a magnetometer which was surrounded by several layers of heavy shielding designed to keep out any signals which might have interfered with it (it was to be noted in later experiments with promising individuals that the apparent psychic ability was not itself affected by electromagnetism and the like). He then went on to describe its interior workings accurately even though details of them had never been published. In further tests Swann described objects hidden from view in boxes with varying degrees of accuracy. Encouraged, Stanford embarked on what it called a Biofield Measurements Program, costing $49,909.

Operation Stargate meanwhile continued, under strict conditions designed to prevent any external factor influencing the subject’s behaviour and giving a false result. An increasing number of individuals turned out to have remarkable remote viewing abilities, often to their own surprise. One of them, it was alleged, even managed to find a ring around the planet Jupiter before the Pioneer 10 probe did. Sometimes it was necessary to give the subjects the approximate geographical location (i.e. latitude and longitude) for a site; but once they did, they gave an astonishingly accurate account of its layout, both inside and outside.

During the Carter administration an American plane went down in Zaire and after an intensive search by spy satellites failed to locate the wreckage the then head of the CIA, Admiral Stansfield Turner, turned to a woman reputed to have psychic powers who was able to give the geographical co-ordinates of the crash site. The satellite cameras were turned on that point and sure enough, the plane was found. Later, between 1986 and 1995, the Department of Defense ran a paranormal psychology programme which received more than two hundred requests from military organizations for it to help them obtain information they had been unable to acquire from more conventional sources.

Following the closure of Stargate in 1994 a review of the results from the experiments at Stanford and elsewhere was carried out by two academics, Jessica Utts from the Division of Statistics at the University of California and Ray Hyman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon. Utts concluded that the existence of extra-sensory perception had been proved but Hyman disagreed, insisting that the reports from some of the experiments “have become accessible for public scrutiny too recently for adequate evaluation…moreover, their findings have yet to be independently replicated.” He still felt more evidence was needed. Overall, the assessment concluded that despite some striking results there was insufficient proof for consistent and accurate use of paranormal powers in any individual, as opposed to coincidence. Sometimes a subject could tell what sat within the locked, lead-lined box that had been placed in front of them, sometimes they couldn’t. In a lot of cases the authorities had known the information themselves and merely failed to communicate it to the subjects; there was no absolute proof that the latter had not actually happened despite the safeguards in force.

Maybe the politicians were scared of something they didn’t understand and wouldn’t be able to control if they let it out of the bottle. Maybe there just wasn’t enough money. Maybe the programme had acquired a bit of a cranky image, and was too much influenced by the New Age movement with its noted fascination for the paranormal; Joe McMoneagle was on record as saying “the project deteriorated as the military began letting any old kook into Stargate.” Maybe they really couldn’t be sure of eliminating extraneous material which either prevented the psychic ability from working or made it appear more powerful than it was; some researchers had commented that they had picked up “a lot of noise along with the background material”, and it was true that the power had not worked, or worked poorly, in certain conditions, like underwater where the dense liquid seemed to muffle it. The director of Stargate strongly disagreed with the report’s findings and the project’s subsequent cancellation. But for whatever reason, the various experiments to determine the existence of paranormal faculties in human beings ceased, and the whole idea was relegated to the back of the official mind.

At least for a time. What with the threat from Islamic extremism, in some ways more dangerous and destructive than anything the US had faced before, it had been decided to resurrect the program. Although the main interest still lay in remote viewing, efforts were also being made to explore the possibility of teleportation through psychic energy. Though its claims were dismissed by most mainsteam scientists the Air Force had commissioned a 7.5 million dollar study which concluded that the phenomenon was quite real and could be controlled.

Haydon was aware that a few years back, just after the invasion of Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defence had spent £18,000 recruiting psychics for use in tests similar to those carried out at Stanford, the aim being to try and find Osama bin Laden plus any dirty bombs or other WMDs al-Qaeda might have hidden somewhere. The experiments were deemed to have proved inconclusive and the project abandoned.
Maybe America would have better luck.

The room was spacious, one wall covered by bookshelves filled with an impressive collection of volumes, some of them hundreds of years old, on Jewish law and history.

Muriel Richards waited patiently while the Rabbi continued to stare down at the desktop, his chin resting on the knuckles of one hand. It was clear he felt the matter required some thought.

Muriel had had much to think about after the doors of the Israeli Embassy closed behind her. She was aware she needed to tread carefully. Aware she needed advice. And she had decided to seek it from her rabbi, Dr Abraham Kohler. Kohler, a member of the Board of Deputies for British Jews, was a prominent figure in Britain’s Jewish community, and not without links to Israel.

He finally straightened up from his mediations. “All right. So that’s what this man told you - that they wouldn’t recruit foreign nationals but he couldn’t discuss the matter any further because it was against their national security?”
“That’s right. It seemed like a contradiction somehow.”

The Rabbi’s lips pursed grimly. “That’s untrue, for a start. They’ve always depended on a network of supporters, mainly from the Jewish community, in other countries. The likelihood is that David was a sayanim, a volunteer agent recruited by one of the local Mossad field officers. There are thousands of them around the world. He’d have been told not to tell you about it, on the basis that the fewer the people who knew the better.” It was almost inevitable, when you thought about it. David Richards was a passionate Zionist; on his first visit to Israel he had been captivated by its people, its culture, the beauty of its natural environment, and generally impressed by all it had achieved. And given enthusiasm, youth, naivety perhaps….

“When I wouldn’t give in he more or less admitted there were...political aspects involved. I mean, if he wasn’t working for them why would there be anything to damage their national security? That’s what I told him.” She paused breathlessly. Recovering her wind, she looked him squarely in the eye. “Do you think it’s right, what they’re doing?”

The Rabbi appeared uncertain. ”If it’s the best way for them to operate, then maybe. A case could be made for it, let’s say. And it was David’s choice. He was doing what he wanted to. As for the secrecy, it’s something all agents of intelligence services have to respect; even, sometimes, to the extent of keeping things from their own families. It doesn’t just apply to Israel.”

He bit his lip. “I’m sorry to say this, Muriel, but quite frankly I don’t think you’ve much of a case.”

“I want to know,” she said firmly. “I want to know how exactly he came to die. I don’t like the veil that’s been drawn over the whole business.”
“I suppose a secret service would be bound to do things - ”

“Secretly? Well yes, of course. But they didn’t even tell the German police.”
“How can you be sure of that?”

“Because I’ve just been on the phone to them. I could tell from their reaction it’d come as a genuine surprise. I know when someone’s being honest with me and when they aren’t.”

“They must have told someone in the Bundeskriminalamt.” Kohler didn’t sound one hundred per cent sure of that. In fact, it wouldn’t have been the first time Mossad had conducted operations on the territory of a friendly country without informing its government. In 1982 Margaret Thatcher had had to expel staff at the London embassy because they had failed to share information about suspected Arab terrorists living in Britain, whose activities might have been dangerous to the British public. The reason given for the expulsion was that the personnel concerned had been guilty of “activities incompatible with diplomatic status”. And the recruitment of a British citizen wouldn’t go down well with certain elements in the UK establishment where there was considerable disapproval of the conduct of the state of Israel.

“There might not have been any reason for the police to know,” he told her.
“I want to know,” she repeated.

His benign bearded features broke into a smile. ”Am I right in thinking that it’s because you’re not too fond of the Israelis? I mean, generally.” When discussing the subject with fellow members of her synagogue, Muriel Richards had often been critical of the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli state. She felt it was responsible for much of the anti-Semitism that was spreading around the world today. They might, perhaps, be said to be indirectly responsible for her son’s death, and not just because they had employed him on a dangerous mission without the knowledge of his family or his government.

“I think the way they carry on is unacceptable,” she said. “And I’m determined to do something about it. Do I have your support?”
“Well, if there is anything I can do..“

Muriel knew Kohler would make representations on her behalf. But he wouldn’t go as far as she believed was necessary should the Israelis prove obdurate.

“I’m just...unsure where to go from here,” she said. “I mean, maybe he’s right, it would create too much of an embarrassment if everyone knew the truth. But I want to know, and so does Jonathan. So do all of us.

“The Israelis think it’d be safer if a lid was kept on the business. The thing is, do I just leave it at that? Say they were right and forget everything?”

”Well, no doubt Mossad will continue their investigations. And perhaps they’ll get lucky. When the time is right they’ll probably release details of what they’ve found to the Germans, who’ll have to act or they’ll look as if they don’t care. Then maybe David’s part in the matter will be revealed. Your son will be a hero.”

“And what if Mossad don’t get lucky? What if these Nazis just go underground? David will have died in vain and we’ll never know what really happened.”

She threw herself back, breathing out heavily, and sat for a moment attempting to translate what she was feeling into words. “I just feel like David was duped into something he shouldn’t have been, and I’m expected to approve of it.”
“Your son was an intelligent young man. He must have known exactly what he was doing.”
“We should have been told.”

“It was a good cause. These people, these Nazis must have been up to something pretty bad if Mossad were investigating them. And the more there was at stake the greater the need for secrecy.”

“Why did they pick David to do it? He was just too young. Clever, yes, but you can be intelligent and…..and foolish at the same time. Perhaps that’s why something went wrong and David got killed. He made some silly mistake and – “ She was near to tears again.
“Are you alright?” the Rabbi asked softly.

“Yes, I’m alright. But I think Mossad have slipped up in a big way. Why didn’t they tell the Germans? Why did they have to try and do it all by themselves? Why did they use an inexperienced young student instead of working with the German authorities and making a proper job of it?”

“I don’t think they trust the Germans. They seem to prefer doing their own thing – in all sorts of matters, not just this one. Perhaps it is because of anti-Semitism, I don’t know. But I agree, it’s better on the whole to work with the security forces of other countries. It causes too much distrust if you insist on being a loose cannon.”

“Something needs to be done about it when they do,” Muriel snorted. She lapsed into silence.

Again the Rabbi studied her thoughtfully. Muriel Richards was a very determined lady. There wasn’t much point in trying to dissuade her from whatever she was contemplating. And that she was contemplating something he could tell by the look in her eyes.

There was only one thing he could do. “Be careful,” he warned her. “Whatever you do, be very careful.”

The room was divided into three aisles, meeting at a stone altar on which a pile of wood had been placed. Behind it was a second, smaller altar on which sat a copy of the Prose Edda, a replica of Thor/Thunor’s hammer and a gold ring, believed to be sacred, on which oaths were to be sworn. The sweet smell of incense filled the air.

All of them wore white robes with horned helmets on their heads. Wachter, the Master, held a ceremonial lance intended to represent the spear of Wotan, while Higson and Erdmann, his assistants, both carried swords. Higson didn’t look entirely at ease; he had to admit, this was when it all got a bit daft. But as with the gangs he had been in as a boy to be fully a member of the Society, and thus trusted by the others, meant having to do as they did.

While other Thuleans, including Schwege the Secretary and Lucke the Treasurer, sang the Pilgrim’s Song from Wagner’s Tannhauser Helldorf and the Belgian entered leading forward the candidate for initiation, robed and blindfolded. It was Marenkov, the Russian.

The song came to an end and everyone made the sign of the swastika. Lucke lit the heap of wood on the altar with flint and steel, and the dancing flames along with those of the candelabras hanging from the ceiling cast their flickering glow over the rapt faces of the worshippers. A sermon was preached on a text taken from the Edda. Then solemnly Wachter explained the aims and beliefs of the Society, informing the novice that they were distinguished from inferior races by their Ario-Germanic concept of the world and life. Marenkov swore a solemn oath that he was of pure Aryan blood, would keep his line so by marriage only with other Aryans, and would bring up his children to do the same.

Wachter seized the spear in both hands and held it up before him. Higson and Erdmann crossed their swords upon it. Finally to the accompaniment of music from Lohengrin the Russian was asked a series of questions to determine his loyalty to the Society’s aims, all of which he responded to in a satisfactory manner.

Afterwards they divested themselves of their robes and repaired to the banqueting hall, Schwege and Lucke included. Wachter lit the fire and took his seat with the others. “What have you found?” he asked Schwege.

“According to the Bundesarchiv Engelmann was captured with his regiment in France in September 1944. He was shipped to England as a POW and decided to remain there after the war, as all his family had been killed in an Allied bombing raid on Cologne, and in any case he’d fallen out of favour with them long before. Some sort of scandal involving a girl Engelmann had got pregnant.”
Wachter interjected. “You say “long before...””

“It was when he was on leave from the Army, in the summer of 1938. Two years before the first Thule expedition. And the child was aborted. It can have no bearing on our current plans.”
Wachter sat back.

“So Engelmann seems to have felt he had nothing to return to,” Schwege finished.
“And then?”
“Then the official record ceases.”

Silence fell around the table as they reached this impasse. Wachter broke it. “I think our next move should be to contact former Army colleagues of Engelmann’s. There should be a few still alive.”

“We’re assuming he kept in touch with them,” Marenkov said. “You say he felt there was nothing left for him in Germany.”

“It was his family he had fallen out with. He might still have had friends. In the army....let’s say the bonds forged by war are too strong to break easily.”

“Let’s try the British authorities first,” Rolf Erdmann said. “There must be some record of him there.”

“We can entrust that to you, Martin,” Wachter said, turning to Higson. “Fine,” nodded the Englishman.
“Are we sure there’s no doubt about it?” the Belgian asked.

“None whatsoever, Wolfmann says. Of course we’re still learning from what’s at Thule but I think we can be pretty certain.”

“So is there no record of Engelmann after he returned to active service?” Lucke asked Schwege.

“We only know, from the official histories of the war, that his regiment was transferred to France after the D-Day landings. Since the experiment appeared to have failed, he was no longer of any interest to the Reich. Besides, our only concern at that time was the war, so nobody bothered to keep track of him.

“He was unmarried at the time of the experiment and, as far as we know, for the remainder of his war service. Not that anyone had much time in which to get married at that stage of the war. There remains the possibility of illegitimate children, of course, but such children might not be easy to trace.”

Wachter meditated silently for a moment, then briskly drew himself up. “Well, gentlemen. Let’s assume that he survived the war, got married, and had at least one legitimate child. If that lead proves fruitless we can consider the illegitimacy angle.”

“If there were children, we must find them before their powers become a danger to the plan,” he went on anxiously. “If things got out of hand…”

“If anyone had the powers and were able actually to use them, I still think we would know about it,” Lucke said. “Everyone would know.”

Helldorf shook his head. “Not necessarily. They might have been locked up somewhere to prevent them doing any damage.”
“Could you keep such a person locked up?” Erdmann asked.

“I don’t know. We don’t know the full extent of the powers or how it might be possible to control them.”

“The means to control them does not exist, beyond what there may be at Thule,” said Wachter. “And that is another reason why no-one must find out what we are doing there. No-one.”

Once again Muriel Richards was seated before Shimon Ezra in his office at the Israeli embassy.

“I had to find out from you and not the Germans,” she complained. “And if I found out at all, it was purely by chance.”
Ezra shifted awkwardly.

“The only reason you’re not telling us the truth is because you don’t want the world to know you were doing it on your own, without any contact with the Germans. And I don’t think that’s right. It makes me even more angry that David had to be mixed up in all this. Besides, if you worked with them on it you might get better results.” She didn’t believe all Germans were bad and shouldn’t be trusted. Until some Hitler came along and set them off most people probably didn’t care whether you were a Jew or not.

“I want you to tell them everything you know. And unless I hear from them that you have, I’ll make sure everyone’s acquainted with what’s been going on, whatever the consequences. I’m not going to let go of this.”
“Your son would not have approved of that,” Ezra said.

“Don’t try and use emotional blackmail against me when your own behaviour has been reprehensible. I think you took advantage of David because he was young and naive.”

“Your son died in a good cause. Something he believed in.” Ezra seemed to marshal his thoughts. Finally he said, “How much of a Jew do you consider yourself to be, Mrs Richards?”

“I think that’s an impertinent question. However, I’ll answer it if you like. How much of a Jew am I? Enough of one to know the difference between right and wrong.

“Jews and Israel aren’t the same thing, you know. I’m a Jew and proud of it but I’m also British.

“What are you going to do to stop me talking? Kill me? That wouldn’t look good, would it? Israel killing other Jews to stop them from washing her dirty linen in public.”
“If this were to leak out....” he protested.

“I’ll make sure it does, one way or the other. Goodbye.” And Muriel Richards left him to his thoughts.

It occurred to her that she had been a little naïve. There was no way for her to be sure that Mossad would keep any promise to work in conjunction with the Bundeskriminalamt. The Germans themselves might not want to cause too much of a fuss over the business. What mattered was that she’d shaken them up a bit.

A little later, Ezra picked up the phone and dialled an extension, the one listed in David Richards’ notebook, which Muriel Richards had tried only to be told by the telephonist that it didn’t exist. “Abi? It’s Shimon. Listen, I think we have a problem. I’m afraid we’re going to have to tell Head Office what we’ve been up to.” Abi Feinstein was the senior Mossad officer in charge of recruiting and running new agents, with special responsibility for the sayanim.

”I already have,” Feinstein sighed. “The Germans have been on to us about it already. You can expect a bollocking very shortly. I’ve already had mine.”

“Well you can tell them we’ve now got Richards’ mother threatening to cause trouble, on top of everything else. I guess we’ll just have to let them sort it out and be careful not to do anything like this ever again.”

“Or not to get caught. Yeah, OK. Thanks for letting me know, anyway.” Feinstein cut him off. Almost immediately the phone rang again and Ezra picked it up, swallowing. He had a nasty suspicion who this might be, the ambassador or someone important in Jerusalem, and and what they were going to say to him.

Feinstein was evidently considered important enough to be allowed to keep his job, though only just. Ezra wasn’t so lucky.

There were two possible lines of enquiry for someone seeking to trace Reynart Engelmann. They could find out what camp he had been in and try and get in touch with its commander, if still alive, or former camp guards. Or they could do a name search on “Engelmann” and take it from there. For the moment, Higson decided to try the latter approach.

The Data Protection Act would restrict the amount of information available on any one private individual to another. Engelmann was not, of course, a very common name in England. Or for that matter Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland. In fact Higson could only find two Engelmanns from his study of the telephone directories in his local library, the electoral rolls, or any other source of information which you could either consult legitimately or hack into using your computer. Neither of them fitted the bill. Though both were of German extraction, one was a recent immigrant living in Britain for business reasons and the other a Jewish lecturer at Keele University. They weren’t the right age to be the man himself, nor did they have any family or other connection with Higson’s quarry.

Engelmann if he was still alive would be well into his nineties. Higson wondered if someone could still use the power at that age, or survive the strain of it breaking out. He doubted it somehow.

As regards finding the man they were left with two possibilities. Either Engelmann had died without issue, thus solving the problem, or he had changed his name. It had not been uncommon for immigrants to Britain to do that before political correctness started to dictate that people should not be ashamed of having foreign origins. For example the late controversial businessman Tiny Rowland, whose father had hailed from the same part of the world as Engelmann but whose mother was half-English, allowing him entry to the UK, had come into the world as Roland Fuhrhop.

The name change would have occurred between 1945 and 1947, Higson reckoned. The time German POWs were being repatriated to Germany, and would be considering their options; whether to stay behind or return to the land of their birth. If the former, the name change might be part of their domesticisation, a desire to put as much difference as possible between themselves and their past.

Between 1939 and 1952, because of National Registration and the need to issue identity cards and ration books, all changes of name by British or foreign nationals had to be recorded by means of a declaration, and until 1945 were published in the London Gazette. Unfortunately the declarations had been destroyed when National Registration was abolished. However someone carrying out a search for a change of name by deed poll could search the indexes in the Gazette, copies of which were held by the National Archives or indeed any main reference library in London, to find details of the enrolment even if they only had the person’s original name.

It wasn’t that long before Higson got lucky. Reynart Albert Engelmann, born Koblenz, Germany, on 24th November 1908 but now a naturalized British citizen. And with the name change no longer Reynart Engelmann, but Richard Kent.

“We do appear to have got ourselves into rather a mess,” observed Stefan Wolniak. Wolniak was the Institute’s Head of European Operations.

“You’re telling me,” sniffed Uri Masur, the ex-soldier who was currently overall director of the organization. “If Feinstein slips up like that again, he’ll find himself demoted to a fucking filing clerk. We can’t afford too many mistakes like that.”

“Yes,” Wolniak sighed. “To have used someone like Richards, not without at least telling me first..he was young, enthusiastic, dedicated, but he didn’t damn well think about what he was doing. For one thing he shouldn’t have kept records of it at home for his mother to find.” That went against the basic rules of any self-respecting intelligence agency, let alone Mossad.

“What about the surveillance equipment and all that? You’re sure you got all of it back?”

“There wasn’t much of it. He took it all to Germany with him and I guess the Nazis have some of it now – although it’s still not clear what actually happened after we last made contact with him. The rest we managed to sneak out of his college room safely.”

“That’s something, at least.” And the Germans had been appeased by the sacking of those staff at the Berlin embassy who had been privy to the scheme. “Our problem now is to do something about the mother. I get the impression it won’t be easy to persuade her to shut up. And we obviously can’t kill her.” They would of course do their best to cover it up, but all the same it’d look extremely bad if by some bad chance the world learned that officials of Mossad had authorized the murder of a fellow Jew because she was threatening to expose activities carried out in a way many people, including some in Israel, would have considered unethical. And Masur, Wolniak and their kind never liked to take life, not unless it was the only way out. They prided themselves on being above that sort of thing.

When needing to think about something carefully Uri Masur liked to stand at the window of his office looking out over the panoramic view it gave of the city. He did so now.

“I’ll speak to the Foreign Ministry and see if I can get an official letter of apology sent,” he said. “We’ll promise not to do it again and also let her know – if it’s politically feasible and doesn’t compromise the investigation – when there are any further developments in the case. We’ll also try and prevail upon Mrs Richards not to tell the British authorities. Jerusalem will want the damage from this to be limited as much as possible.”
“What if she’s told her government already?”
“I get the impression she wanted to let the threat of it hang over our heads.”

“If the Germans tell her we’ve set the record straight with them, that should keep her happy for the moment,” Wolniak said. “She’s still angry that a British citizen was recruited by a foreign intelligence service without London’s consent. But I think she’s sensible enough to see the need for a prudent compromise.”
“So she won’t show our letter to anyone?”

“It’s there for her to use if she ever feels she has to. We’ll just have to make sure she doesn’t.
“Yes, I think we’ll have to leave most of the work to the Germans. But we definitely need to know everything that’s going on in the case. These Nazis definitely seem to be up to something, or they probably wouldn’t have killed Richards. Some good’s come out of what Feinstein did, anyway. That’s why I let him keep his job. Of course there had to be some…casualties.”

“Why didn’t he at least recruit a German Jew for the operation?” said Wolniak, still angry at Feinstein’s indiscretion.

Masur grinned. “You think a German one would have done it more efficiently?”
“I think it would have made more sense.”

“I’m not so sure. In view of everything, in my opinion it’s better to keep the Jewish community in Germany out of it. It would only increase the hostility of the German far right towards them.”
“I wonder why he did it at all?”

“He claims he was just being over-zealous. But at a guess, the reasons go a little deeper.”

Most of the remaining Nazi war criminals being too old to stand trial, Mossad activity in the world at large was mainly concerned not with avenging the sins of the past but rather those things which presented a current threat to the interests of the state of Israel. The more powerful and influential right-wing, anti-Semitic groups became in Europe the more likely it was she would be endangered, and have to withdraw into herself for her own protection when like everyone else in the modern world she needed the economic, political and military support of the wider global community if she was to prosper. “It worried him, as it does me. He may also have been thinking about what happened to his family during the war.”
“I did hint,” Masur went on, “that it had never been our policy to let our feelings get the better of us.”

Andrei Maskov downed the last of his wine and leaned back to gaze benignly round the hotel’s spacious dining room, replete. Now all he needed was a couple of hours’ relaxation in front of the TV in his comfortably appointed suite followed by a good night’s sleep. Then in the morning he would meet the Iranian, hand over the nuclear triggers locked safely away inside his briefcase and conclude the deal before heading back home to Moscow.

He had got in to dinner late, having been tied up on the phone speaking to his contact and also sorting out the affairs of the Montreal branch – a convenient excuse for his being here in Canada. A few other smart-suited businessmen, plus a couple of tourists, were still sipping at their cocktails and making small talk, but otherwise the refectory was almost empty.

His eyes wandered idly over the remaining clientele, to come to rest on an attractive young brunette sitting alone at one of the tables gazing casually ahead of her. She was close enough for Maskov to see that her features were smooth and regular, the skin gleaming like porcelain in the lighting, along with the reddish highlights in the long chestnut hair which fell to just below her shoulders.

Sitting up straight with her arms folded on the table before her, she looked relaxed but attentive, as if waiting for someone; a friend maybe. At what seemed carefully judged intervals she let her eyes stray around the room in a manner almost casual but not quite.

Was it possible she was….he’d heard stories about some hotels.

He could be mistaken, but there was no harm in trying. Think what he might be missing out on if he didn’t.

He saw that her skirt was split almost to the waist and she had crossed one knee over the other, exposing a length of shapely thigh. She caught his eye, smiled, and although he was a perfect stranger lifted her hand and waved to him in a friendly fashion.

Maskov felt his heartbeat quicken and his penis stir as the blood rushed to his loins at express-train speed. Yes!

A little nervously, he got up and crossed her table, taking the seat opposite her. “Hi,” he grinned.

“Hi,” she replied, eyes lighting up with interest. “What are you in Montreal for?”
“Oh, business. You?”

“The same.” Which was undoubtedly true. “I’m Luisa, by the way.” She held out her hand for him to shake. “I’m Andrei,” he said, taking it.

She asked where he came from, if he visited this hotel often, if he was married, all that sort of thing. They chatted for a couple of minutes before she smiled again and said, as if she’d only just thought of it, “would you like to come for a drink somewhere? The bar’s just closing but – “
“How about my room?” he suggested.
“OK. Two hundred dollars for an hour, three hundred for the whole night. Alright?”

“Fine.” He stood up, pushing back the chair, and followed her out into the lobby. They chatted while they were in the lift, Maskov a little nervously, the girl with a complete lack of self-consciousness which showed she was a thorough professional at her job.

She led him to the room and once they were both inside closed the door quietly. “Now if I could take some money off you?”

He unzipped his wallet and handed over the bunch of notes. She counted them off, gave a brief nod of satisfaction and stowed them away in her handbag.

She turned back to him. Once again that charming smile. “If you’d like to take your clothes off?”
Maskov didn’t waste any time over it.

“Now if you could lie on your back on the bed.” Maskov stretched out and watched her as she stripped, revealing a trim figure and well-rounded breasts and buttocks. In a moment he was going to be running his hands over that, squeezing and kneading the firm, taut young flesh. He’d hit pay dirt alright. “I’ll just put a condom on you, if I may,” he heard her say. She pulled open a drawer and fumbled about inside for a moment. Then she turned towards him, her expression seeming to change slightly. And he saw that the object in her hand was not a condom. She shot him twice through the heart with the silenced pistol and his body jerked reflexively, the head thumping back against the pillow. Then Maskov’s eyes glazed over and his face set in the expression of surprise.

Dressing, the girl went over to Maskov’s briefcase and with the equipment she had been issued with before setting out on her mission picked the lock. She opened the case, found what she was looking for and tucked them away in her handbag.

She would wait a few minutes before leaving. In the meantime she made a quick call on her mobile phone. “It’s done.”

“Good,” said Noa Golani, in her own hotel room a couple of streets away. “See you at the airport, first thing tomorrow.”

Golani called Tel Aviv to report that Andrei Maskov would be doing business with the enemies of their country no longer.

“Well done,” said the section head for North America. “See you all back home, then. By the way, Noa, European Section have a job for you. It’s a pretty big one, but they seem to think you’re their best chance of pulling it off. It was the boss man himself who requested you.”

Golani felt herself swell with pride. She would be taking on this assignment on the personal recommendation of Uri Masur. Now she was certain, if she hadn’t been before, that she’d been fully accepted by the higher echelons of Mossad. The past was no longer a weight dragging her down.

“It sounds interesting,” she replied. “I guess I’ll hear all about it when we get back.”

In bed later on it seemed appropriate to reflect on her career so far. Almost from the moment of the atrocity at the farm, she had known what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to join the army and defend her country from the people sought to destroy it and had killed her family in friends in pursuit of that goal. Initially the choice was made for her, because of Israel’s system of conscription. But she knew that when her three-year period of service came to an end, she would be asking to be allowed to stay on as a permanent member of the armed forces.

The request was granted. Unlike many of the other conscripts she had shown no fear when under attack, and was quite prepared to directly imperil her own life when necessary, while never taking unnecessary risks. On the one occasion where there had been no option but to run into a house occupied by Hamas militants and open fire she had stood and blazed away at the enemy, quite fearless and barely seeming to notice when a bullet grazed her shoulder. And she clearly enjoyed the military life, the orderliness and discipline that went with it, sometimes too the sense of comradeship although it was noted she didn’t mix with her fellow soldiers much more than was unavoidable.

And she would savour the thrill of a successful strike against the Palestinian strongholds from which rocket attacks were launched on Jewish settlements. The missions in which she took part were mainly short-haul ones like those, because as a woman she couldn’t march for long distances, disqualifying her from serving with some units. On the one occasion when she’d had to march, she and two male colleagues having been separated from the rest of their squad when it was decimated by an RPG attack and their transport destroyed, her companions were astounded by the distance she covered before finally collapsing from exhaustion. Perhaps the frightening look of sheer determination on her face gave some clue as to how she did it.

She continued to be held in high regard by her superiors, until one or two things happened which caused them some concern. She was felt to have used excessive force in clearing a group of sleeping foreign backpackers, one of whom was obviously ill, off the beach at Eilat while conducting a security operation against Palestinian guerillas who were planning a seaborne assault. Then she had to be disciplined for beating up two British woman tourists who’d strayed more or less accidentally into a prohibited area.

Golani was demoted and confined to barracks for a short period, then after a decent interval reinstated in her former rank and returned to service. It hadn’t been that much of a hassle. The truth was that the Israeli Armed Forces needed people like her, and in the long run they were to be tolerated if they got results within the context of their job. Golani knew that if she kept her temper in check from now on, she’d probably be alright. The business with the British tourists, which fortunately had occurred at an early stage in her career, would be forgotten. To be a permanent soldier she would have to show restraint, if she wanted to carry on doing what she liked most. That, she decided, was no problem; if you wanted to defeat your country’s enemies you had to be smart, and of her commitment to doing the defeating there could be no question.

Not long after her reinstatement she single-handedly captured a Palestinian sniper who had been threatening the patrol of which she was a member. Later as he was being led away the man had spat in her face and hurled at her just about every insult imagineable. He rounded off his tirade of abuse by informing her that (a) she was a whore and (b) she had not been conceived in the missionary position. “Your family, I’ve heard they will only fuck like dogs,” he sneered.

Her unit had held its breath. But all through the barrage of invective Golani had simply stared at the man without emotion, her dark eyes barely blinking, until his anger had exhausted itself and he fell silent. And each of the soldiers around her had felt an indescribable chill penetrate deep into their very soul.

So tightly controlled were her emotions that she felt no remorse at the loss of lives when a unit under her command, or anyone else’s for that matter, flattened a village which terrorists were thought to be using as a base of operations. Similarly it was her heartfelt conviction that those Western peace activists who insisted on getting caught in the crossfire, ending up shot and killed or, in one case, crushed under a bulldozer while trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes, had only got what they deserved. Her new restraint made no difference to her inner feelings. Her superiors knew what it was that motivated her, or guessed, but because the anger was controlled it was acceptable. And she got results.

She had risen within a relatively short time from private to sergeant to lieutenant to captain, and finally from captain to major. They still didn’t seem to trust her with any rank higher than the latter, and after a while she had felt the need for a change of scenery. She didn’t mind which branch of the Army she served in as long as she was protecting Israel against her enemies, and there were many ways one could do that. So she applied to join the Special Forces. Her initial choice of unit had been Sayeret Duvdevan; they were the counter-terrorists, who carried out raids into the occupied territories to kill or kidnap Palestinians suspected of terrorism. But they had a reputation for being trigger-happy, one she preferred to ditch, and for committing acts of excessive violence which left them suffering psychological problems. Her eventual decision to go for hostage rescue instead was probably a wise one. She led a variety of missions, some of them on foreign territory, at great personal risk but always with a high success rate.

Although intelligence-gathering prior to a mission was usually the work of spies rather than soldiers, in the planning of those missions Golani demonstrated an observant, coldly logical mind and a sharp instinct for danger which could detect suspicious behaviour and alert her to the fact that a house was being used by terrorists. It was therefore suggested she be seconded to Military Intelligence, a proposal to which she agreed. The job involved a lot of plainclothes work and proved to be her passport to Mossad, enabling her to bridge the gap between the worlds of soldiering and spying. She had become interested in the intelligence services because she wanted to develop that more analytical, assimilatory side of her personality. In the future, as she grew too old, relatively speaking for active combat, that was where her skills would lie. In the meantime she was still young, physically fit, exceptionally strong for a woman, and just as capable of performing well on active service as when she’d first joined up.

By now the earlier incidents were indeed forgotten, or no longer mattered quite so much. Any lingering doubts on the part of her superiors were offset by their conviction that to deny her country the benefit of her talents would be the greater loss. All in all.

“Do you really think it was wise to bring in Golani?” said Stefan Wolniak. He looked hard at Masur. “We don’t want another Feinstein. Someone who takes the wrong kind of risk to get results.”

“You know the story, I see,” Masur smiled. “Well, she’s been on her best behaviour these last few years. And we need to show that we trust her, by giving her something big to do, or it’s my reckoning she will kick over the traces out of sheer resentment.” It was part of Wolniak’s philosophy that you should take good care of your agents. “Anyway, for the moment she’s only going to sit in on the case, make a few pertinent comments now and again. I don’t think there’s any cause for worry.

“And don’t you see, it’s because she hates that she won’t make any mistakes. Give me credit for having seen that. If you don’t appreciate the sense in it, then you don’t understand the woman.”

“I trust your judgement,” Wolniak said. “All the same, there’s something about her that….”

Impatiently Masur waved this aside. “I’ve heard people say that a thousand times. Look, I know what I’m doing. We had a psychological assessment made and it confirmed that the best thing to do was keep her on. Her country is everything to her and if she’s denied the chance to serve it then she will go crazy. I don’t want to have to deal with a rogue agent as well as all the other things we’ve got on our plate. She’s the sort of person you want on the inside pissing out, not the other way round.

“If these Nazis are planning something you can bet she’ll find out what it is, and deal with it. You know, Stefan, maybe I need my head examined but somehow I almost feel sorry for them.”

Caroline seemed to have been sleeping lightly of late. She dreamed often, and the dreams were very vivid, so much so that when she woke up she wasn’t sure for a time whether they really had been dreams, or actually happened.

That morning she went to see the doctor for a low-down on the results from the blood and other tests he’d done. “I can’t find anything wrong with you,” he said. “Physically, anyway. The cause must be psychological. You said you’d been under a bit of stress recently….”

She explained again about her job and the bad effect it was having on her at the moment. He nodded understandingly.
“Describe the feeling to me again,” he said.

Again she struggled to find the words. “Like a rushing noise in my head. And a burning sensation there. I feel sort of hot and prickly....that’s about it.”

“You’re a bit too young for the menopause,” he said thought-fully. “But it can happen earlier. And yet there ought to be some indication of it in the hormone levels.”

He had studied her medical history in some detail. “As far as I can see, you’re a perfectly normal healthy young woman. No hereditary diseases, no illnesss or injuries in childhood which could have a lasting effect. All I can assume is that it’s mental in nature and the stress is triggering it off. I can give you some tablets to take, and sign you off sick for a few days if you’d prefer.”

“I think I’ll just take the tablets,” she said. Taking time off would only postpone the problem because in her absence the work would simply pile up all the more. It wasn’t worth the additional bother she’d sooner or later be caused, especially if there was any chance the tablets would do the job. She could of course have delegated some, at least, of her tasks to others but everyone seemed to be too busy and there was no way of telling, in the cases where doubt existed, if the excuse was sincere or not.

So she went back to IPL that afternoon, by bus. And, as she had expected, found a huge pile of stuff waiting for her on her desk, in addition to that which had already been outstanding. God, she groaned inwardly, were they under some impression she was an octopus?

She supposed the simplest thing to do was just to grit her teeth and get on with it. Taking out her bottle of tranquiliser tablets and swallowing a couple, she sat down and started work on the Diversity report. She had almost finished it, but as was often the way with lengthy and laborious tasks it still seemed to be taking forever. And every time the phone rang it meant another bloody interruption she couldn’t afford.
The phone rang.
“What is it, Sheila?” she answered with forced politeness.

Sheila hesitated before informing Caroline that Mr Watson-Dove wanted to see her. “What is it now?” she sighed.
“He didn’t say.”
“Can you ask him?”

A few moments later Sheila came back. “Something about a…personal log?”
“What?” Caroline frowned. “Oh, he doesn’t mean that silly thing he….well, let’s have a word with him and then I guess we’ll find out.”
“Right, boss.”

Caroline swept the tablets off the desktop into a drawer. If Watson-Dove saw them, he’d only be able to give a bit of credence to the rumours he liked to spread that she was neurotic and unstable. He might ease off if she knew she was ill, but the gossip….

Talking of the tablets, they didn’t seem to be doing her a lot of good, she reflected with irritation. Perhaps it was just a question of giving them time to work.

Watson-Dove knocked and was admitted. “Yes, George, what can I do for you this time?” she said in a voice of exaggerated cheerfulness.

“I couldn’t have your personal log for the last few weeks, could I?” he said politely.
“George, would you care to remind me please,” she simpered, “what a personal log actually is?”
“Well, a….a personal log.” He looked both puzzled and annoyed that she didn’t know.

“Of what? You don’t mean that little scheme you were so keen on back in February?” At that time Watson-Dove, with the mentality of someone who was both ex-Army and ex-civil service, had proposed a system whereby every employee, from the Administrative Assistants who tended to be no more than glorified tea girls or boys right up to the MD (though she suspected that in practice the latter was exempt from it), kept detailed notes of everything they’d done each day and how long it had taken, and entered it into a log to be submitted to the heads of the Admin and Finance Departments. The aim was to decide whether each person was using their time profitably from the viewpoint of both organizational efficiency and financial cost-effectiveness. Caroline had thought it a stupid idea, because nobody unless they were a robot could bring themselves to bother with such a tedious and time-consuming task, and so had everybody else. Everyone except the other managers. She had argued against it at an inter-departmental meeting but been outvoted. In line with her predictions, the scheme died a natural death as everyone, including some of the people who’d enthusiastically supported it in the first place, lost the energy to fill in the forms and there was an unspoken collective agreement to abandon it. That wasn’t good enough for Watson-Dove, though. He’d evidently decided that since there had been no overt official decision to drop it it was therefore still in force.

“George, we’re talking about months ago,” Caroline protested. “Ages. No-one gives a damn about it now.” And why had he decided to undertake personally to see that hers was completed and returned? Obnoxious git. He could easily have sent one of his staff over to ask for it.

“I don’t think that’s a very responsible attitude to take,” he said in a low voice.

Yes Sir, Mr Watson-Dove Sir. “I’m far too busy with a lot of stuff which I have to regard as considerably more important. I’m sorry. Maybe some other time.”

“May I remind you that it was a decision reached by the Board of Management and implemented according to – “

“And now completely forgotten about by everyone except you. You’re wasting your time. If you don’t mind – “

“I do need it right away. The information has to be collated and analysed by the next Board meeting.” He actually held out his hand for it.

She could feel his dislike and contempt for her like a great black cloud descending on her mind. “I haven’t done it,” she told him. “As you should have gathered from everything I’ve just said.”
His eyes widened. “You haven’t done it?”
“No. Now please – “

“If I may say so, as a senior executive you’re not setting the right example. I’m going to have to report this conversation to the MD. Can I ask you to make sure you and your staff complete the forms and send them to me by – “

Slamming down her pen, Caroline sprang to her feet, face twisted with rage. “You’re just wasting my time and getting on my bloody nerves. If you haven’t got anything useful to say to me then you can damn well get out!”

Watson-Dove, used to ordering soldiers about with professional machismo in a loud bellowing voice, quailed. If there was such a thing as a cold fire then this was a blazing furnace of it. He managed to pull himself together and said, “There’s no need to take that tone of voice.”

“I said get out!” Caroline screamed, trembling uncontrollably. He stared at her for a moment, then hurried from the room. She glared savagely after him, and the image of the door was still burning itself onto her retina some time after it had closed behind him.

As she finally turned her gaze from it, something caught her eye. She stared at her handbag where it rested on the edge of the desk, wondering why it was several feet from where she knew she’d left it when she came in.

The date of the name change was 15th December 1945. The entry gave Engelmann’s - Kent’s - address as 15 Belle Vue Terrace, Tunbridge Wells. Whether he was still living there...well, it was possible but doubtful after five decades. But if he had been there for some considerable time, and left a forwarding address when he moved, maybe it was worth visiting the place.

On the whole Higson didn’t think so. For all he knew 15 Belle Vue Terrace might no longer exist. As a last resort, perhaps.

But somehow he had to find out whether Engelmann – Kent – was still alive and if he had married (though whether he had or not didn’t necessarily have a bearing on whether he he’d left any descendants; it was just a bit more likely). Birth, marriage and death certificates were kept at the Family Records Centre, Islington, where they could be consulted free of charge. It wasn’t very far from where he lived in his rented flat, so he caught the bus over there and introduced himself to the staff at reception, explaining that he was doing a bit of family history research.

Looking first under the old name, in case any marriage had taken place before it was changed, and then when that produced no joy the new one, he consulted the index to find that Richard Kent, aged 38, labourer, had married Mary Ann Elizabeth Hollis, 27, nurse, on 12th March 1947 at the Registry Office in Tunbridge Wells. Also that Richard Kent had died of a heart attack on 8th June 1986 at his home in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Next Higson had to search through all the birth certificates between those two dates. When he had finished he had a list of several hundred people whose surnames were Kent and whose father was called Richard (the ones whose mother was Mary and still of childbearing age he ringed as being the most likely candidates, but it was possible Kent had been divorced or widowed and later remarried). Richard was a very common Christian name, and Kent a fairly common surname. He needed to boil things down a bit.

It occurred to him that they could start killing all the people called Kent, but once the first few had died the rest would be given police protection, so if they didn’t get the right one earlier on it might not do them any good, unless they had the Terminator on their side and even he would find it a messy and time-consuming business. Besides, to kill them might also be to slay the goose that would lay the golden egg.

Where to go from here presented something of a problem. The Data Protection Act would make it difficult for the Society to find the information it required. They had enough knowledge and expertise between them to hack into a few computers but that wouldn’t necessarily tell them anything. At most they would be left with a list of people with the surname Kent, who might conceivably be the children or grandchildren of Reynart Engelmann. And since a man could father offspring until around the age of 70, or even after, it would be quite a long list. There would be various data on them, such as their age and marital status and occupation, but it wouldn’t necessarily tell Higson what he wanted to know.

Google, or any other of the Internet search engines, might supply more information. There were a few terminals at the Centre, one of which he was able to book; it was the better way to access the network if you wanted to cut down on your phone bill.

He clicked on “Internet Explorer”, then “Google”, and keyed in the word “Engelmann”. This produced no result of any benefit to him so he tried “Kent” instead. It turned out there were thousands of UK sites to work through. Patiently, he began scrolling down the list, pressing “Next” every time he came to the bottom of the screen. Most of the sites were to do with the county of Kent: publicity for the county council and other local authorities.

By closing time he hadn’t had any luck, so he visited his local library the next day and took up the search again. Halfway through the session he found something a bit more relevant. “International Petroleum PLC Annual Report. Caroline Kent, Director of Personnel and Public Relations, says IPL is meeting all its targets for recruitment....”

He clicked on the link, and after about a minute the first page of the weighty document came up on the screen. He kept clicking on the “down” arrow, scanning the text before him for any mention of the name. Eventually a photograph of Caroline Kent appeared. As with all Internet photos the quality wasn’t wonderful, but it was good enough for him to see that she was of the Aryan type, with a fine bone structure, golden hair and very blue eyes. And she looked about the right age to be a grandchild of Reynart Engelmann. None of those things, however, proved she had any connection with him.

She could be contacted at the company, whose address was given on the website under one of the hyperlinks. But was there any point, if it was the wrong person? An enormous waste of time if so.

Unless you wanted to ask her for a date, he mused. There was no doubt about it, she wasn’t a bad looker.

Regarding the camp Engelmann had been at, a member of the organisation had managed to get hold of a book written by a German historian on the experiences of POWs in England, including those who had decided to “stay on”, which included an interview with Engelmann. From this they learned the name of the camp and its location.

He’d keep trawling the net for info on people with the surname. In the meantime, perhaps an advert in the papers? Yes, that might be the way. He sat down to write it.

It was some time now since Caroline had first suspected its presence within her, but until now it had only made itself manifest when exceptional circumstances happened to trigger it off. Images from past incidents, past exploits, flashed back into her mind: a fierce battle for her life with a being who knew how to use the power better than she did, but could only do so through a device which fortune had placed in Caroline’s possession, thus evening the odds….standing on a bleak Cornish clifftop, calling on the help of another force from realms beyond this one, concentrating savagely, laying herself open to its psychic influence so that she could open a channel to it, summon it to her aid……

The whale… of the most intelligent of animals, seeming almost human at times. You could talk to it, after a fashion. Hello, who are you? I’m Caroline and I want to get out of here. Let me come with you…that’s right….I like you, you’re my friend. I like you too. Animals understood the power better than a human, because their minds functioned on an instinctual, if more complex than humans often realised, level and their brains, not being occupied with exercising the faculty of reason, had more time to devote to using it. They sensed, not thoughts because they didn’t think as such, not in the way humans did, but emotions…..

This time it was stress that had started it off. That made sense, didn’t it? Stress unlocked things that usually lay trapped beneath the surface, perhaps struggling to break out but never quite succeeding. Under it – or the mental disruption it could cause, the madness sometimes - people were sometimes capable of extraordinary feats of strength. And weren’t ghosts, poltergeists, and other paranormal phenomena often reported in houses where there was someone in their early teens, going through the trauma that accompanied puberty?

The only thing was, she had been under pressure before and it hadn’t happened. This was surely something new, something different. Oughtn’t she to tell someone? But if she did they’d lock her up, wouldn’t they? And yet if it happened again, there was no telling what the consequences might be.

Eventually she came to some sort of decision. If the stress was the trigger, then if she managed to keep calm despite it she might be alright. Once the stress was gone then it would go away too.

And if she couldn’t cope with her many burdens, she knew her colleagues, or some of them anyway, would start spreading malicious comments. Comments that might reach the ears of top management, meaning people even higher than Hennig. She wasn’t having that.

And so for the umpteenth time Caroline took a deep breath, forced herself to put her worries behind her, and bent her head once more to her work.

Seated at the table in the room set aside at Bundeskriminalamt HQ for important top-level meetings were Astrid Lundt, Hans Faltermeyer, Karl-Heinz Wegen, Stefan Wolniak and Noa Golani.

Faltermeyer - heading the German side of the operation as the officer under whom the investigation had first begun - studied the two Israelis with interest. Wolniak was short, stockily built, greying; Golani slightly larger and taller than the average for a woman, seeming somehow or other to dwarf her superior and indeed dominate the entire room, even when not speaking. Her dark hair was drawn back into a severe ponytail, with a cluster of thick ringlets at the sides. Faltermeyer found her vaguely attractive, in a coarse kind of way. Her lips were tightly set in a fashion indicating strict self-control. In contrast with the impassive, slab-like face the eyes were in constant movement, flickering from side to side as they tried to size up the others in the room. He sensed he might find some clue there to the rigid restraint she otherwise practiced, but searched for it in vain. If only they’d stop moving.

It was Wolniak who was speaking at the moment, addressing himself to the three Germans. “Again let me say how sorry I am this should have happened without your being notified,” he said. “Those responsible have been disciplined. From now on our people would be happy to leave matters entirely in your hands, although we would like to be informed as soon as there are any significant developments. You will understand of course why we take an interest in such matters.”

Noa Golani continued to stare ahead with a face as cold and hard as stone.
“Of course,” smiled Faltermeyer.

“I need hardly state that we would have informed you anyway once we felt we had enough evidence to justify your making arrests.” Now it was the Germans’ turn to look impassive.

It would have been moral blackmail, Faltermeyer was thinking. While on our territory they act as if they’re a law unto themselves, and then they expect us to step in right at the end to add the finishing touches, for their convenience. But we have to let them do it because of what happened in the war. They get away with fucking murder.

“Perhaps it would help,” he said, “if we could begin with your setting out why you first became interested in the Thule Society, and what exactly you have found out about them?”

“Certainly. We had become concerned by the growth of right-wing, neo-Nazi sentiment in Europe – I am sure you will agree, Herr Faltermeyer, it is a problem – and naturally wished to know what the extremists were doing. While I and most of my colleagues concentrated on problems such as al-Qaeda, the matter was entrusted to one of my subordinates who I am afraid proved a little over-zealous. However David Richards might have seemed, in some ways at least, an ideal choice. He was interested in, and knowledgeable about, modern European history and very much concerned for the wellbeing of Israel and of the Jewish people. And so when approached he readily agreed to help infiltrate Nazi organizations in Germany and find out what their long-term plans were. He wanted to find out, for academic and more important reasons, how a Nazi’s mind worked, how influential these groups were and whether they were doing anything we ought to be worried about.

“He chose the New Vitality party, and through them also became involved with the Thule Society. They seemed a bunch of cranks with bizarre ideas about race, religion, science and politics. The kind of people even Hitler, it seems, did not take seriously. And yet in the last few years its membership has increased significantly and it has also become affiliated to New Vitality – who are the most important of the far right parties in Germany at present. A lot of its members are also members of the NVP including its leader, Klaus Wachter.” The Germans were nodding, telling him that their own investigations had confirmed his findings.

“Richards had managed to work his way into the confidence of Rolf Erdmann, New Vitality’s Youth Organiser, and his friends, pretending to be of like mind to themselves. There was a lot he wasn’t able to find out; he sensed information was being divulged strictly on a “need to know” basis, and there seem to be a lot of different Nazi cells, here and in other countries, which are to a great extent compartmentalized so that each knows very little of what any of the others are doing – a sensible precaution. But that we are talking about a wider international movement, which probably includes French, British, Russian, Dutch, Belgian, Scandinavian, South African and American Nazis, was suggested by various chance remarks, various little incidents, that Richards saw or heard made while he was with them. He just had the vague, but nonetheless definite, impression of one. As for anything more substantial…well, the word Thule came up a few times, and there was a lot of talk about someone called “Heinrich” who seemed to be the one ultimately in charge of everything. We’ve no idea who he might be at present. From time to time they talked about “the excavation” and said it was proceeding well, but we’ve no idea what’s being excavated or where. I expect we would have learned more if Richards had been alive to tell it.

Astrid Lundt spoke. “There would have to be some contact, from time to time, between the different cells for the organization to function, especially if it was planning something on a worldwide scale.”
“What evidence do you actually have against them, at present?” Noa Golani asked Faltermeyer.

“Nothing that would justify arresting anyone, I’m afraid.” Golani’s face showed a faint but unmistakeable disdain. It was clear she thought they could and should be doing more. “Other than that Erdmann’s house is not far from where the accident happened. The group often meets there. We’ve questioned them and searched the premises inch by inch. But there’s nothing to connect them with David Richards’ death, not that would stand up in court. They did point out that in these times of increased anti-Semitism, which problem is of course nothing to do with them, it could have been some other right-wing group that did it.”
“Some other far right group, but racist which of course they are not,” Wolniak remarked acidly.
“All the same, they could be telling the truth.”

Wolniak had to admit this was so. “Another damn silly mistake,” he growled. “Richards should have told his controller where he was going that day.”

“Surely his use of the word “Thule” would settle the matter in the eyes of a judge?” Golani said. If so, there would be no need to bring up the findings of intelligence agencies in court, which would present certain complicated problems.

“If that’s what he was actually saying.” Does a part of me still want to believe it wasn’t? Faltermeyer thought.
“Have you put anyone under surveillance?”

“As of yet, no. I didn’t think there was enough proof to justify it. But you think these people have something big in mind, and they’re going to do it pretty soon – maybe within the next few weeks or months?”

“There seemed to be some uncertainty whether they could pull it off. But that was the impression Richards got, yes. They were pretty confident something could be made to happen before very long.”

“Then in that case I think a surveillance operation would be in order. On both Thule and the NVP.”

Wenge said that both organizations had branches in major cities, the Thule Society only in Munich, the NVP also in Berlin, Bonn, Hamburg, Dresden, Koln and Stuttgart. It might also be an idea to monitor Wachter’s Rhineland castle but unfortunately it was very difficult to actually get near the place. “Like any rich businessman, or because he’s got something to hide, Wachter is very security-conscious. The place is surrounded by high fences and CCTV cameras, patrolled by security guards with dogs, and bristling with alarm systems. He’s also pretty knowledgeable about how you can hack into a computer or listen in on a phone conversation and how to guard against that kind of thing.”

“Could you not infiltrate the group yourselves?” Golani suggested.
“Doubt if it would work,” answered Faltermeyer. “After the Richards affair, they may be wary about taking on new members. That and the compartmentalization might mean our plant wouldn’t learn anything much. I suggest we concentrate on the surveillance for now. As time goes by, the evidence should start to accumulate. Don’t worry, Fraulein Golani; sooner or later, we’ll have found something interesting to tell the judge.”

Caroline thought she had succeeded in solving the problem by going off sick (which in a way she was; Hennig had seen the effects of it and would not ask questions) and taking her work home with her, leaving the phone off the hook while she attended to it so she could be free from any distractions. Unfortunately, from time to time there were things for which she needed to call the office or make an actual visit there. This made it difficult to keep up the pretence of illness. The frequent journeys to and from the office were a time-consuming business since she was relying on public transport. And, deciding that she wasn’t really sick, or that even though she was had signified she was still part of the loop, they kept ringing her and then complaining that they couldn’t get a reply.

So the backlog was still not broken, and she knew people were getting restless. The next few days would be crucial and that fact made her even more tense and anxious and irritable. There was always the fear some additional complication would appear out of the blue and disrupt her schedule for clearing it.

To endure the stress and control her anger and irritation had taken a Herculean effort. It left her resentful that she couldn’t, at any time between approximately nine and five, relax and so be better equipped for what she had to put up with the rest of the day. Someone or something seemed to feel it was out of order that she should be given the slightest break.

It was now getting on for teatime and she hoped, she hoped, that nobody else would try to get in touch with her today. She was starting to sound bolshy and hostile on the phone and someone was bound to complain before very long.

She was sitting in the living room doing nothing in particular, a half-drunk cup of tea on the coffee table nearby, Jack her cat perched comfortably beside her on the arm of the sofa with his legs tucked beneath him. She reached out and tickled the animal gently behind one of his ears, his contented purring rising a notch or two in response.

Jack was a handsome tabby the vet had thought was about five years old. He wasn’t very big, and inclined to be timid, even nervous, by nature though happy enough as long as he was safe within the boundaries of a house and garden where he had enough space to play in to his heart’s content, when he wanted to, and plenty of warm comfortable places to sleep, and an owner who cared for him and tended to all his needs. It was a strange business, how she had come by him. He had popped in through the back door one evening, looking around with nervous curiosity. He was in perfect condition as far as she could see, and obviously belonged to someone because there was a collar around his neck with his name on it, along with a little bell. She gave him something to eat, presuming he would go away after a while. But he seemed to decide that he liked the place and wouldn’t mind staying. When he was still there the following morning she realised, with a certain sadness, that she should place adverts in all the local newsagents and in each of the local papers to say he’d been found and could someone come to collect him. They didn’t, and after a month or so Caroline realised that Jack was hers. Her heart leaped with delight, in spite of inward groaning at the responsibility of buying cat food and all the other things. After a while the fear that someone might suddenly turn up to claim him faded, and he became fully part of the furniture. He certainly liked to sit on it, and occasionally on her newspaper while she was trying to read it but of course if you really valued the company of cats, or people for that matter, you had to put up with all their faults and try to see the good things in them instead of complaining.

She never found out the reason for his sudden appearance, although she had the impression he was fleeing from some frightening experience which of course he couldn’t talk about, not in any language she could understand. A real mystery. But certainly he had no cause to complain about his current situation. He returned affection with affection, and was a cherished companion at times of trouble. She liked to relax with him on her lap of an evening, thinking that however much of a chore it might be to ensure he was properly fed and groomed you never had half the trouble from animals you did from people. You got a lot more respect, anyway. Jack was only occasionally naughty, and that because something or other had unsettled him, and she didn’t begrudge him the likelihood that if he found himself somehow uprooted and placed in a new environment with a new owner he would probably adapt to it quite easily, forgetting her altogether after a while. He couldn’t help being a cat. And although she liked to think she might be mistaken in her estimation of his loyalty, she couldn’t blame him for simply trying to survive. That was one thing she liked about cats, their adaptability. Their independence. Each knew what suited it best, as a cat or as an individual, and was determined to have it. In that respect they were a bit like her.

Jack’s fault was that he wasn’t particularly playful or adventurous. That didn’t especially bother her, she was just glad to have someone who didn’t complain too much. And without a husband or a boyfriend at the moment, she needed his companionship.

Only right now it wasn’t doing her any good. She couldn’t stop thinking about the..problem and how it affected her, on top of everything else.

She knew there were people at work who didn’t like her. Sometimes when going about on her business at the office she could sense their thoughts. When they were angry with her she had a sudden sense of being surrounded by an attacking army, the very air turning into a forest of cold steel knives stabbing at her.

She didn’t ask for this. The powers had proved useful at times and she knew she ought to be grateful, but right now she didn’t feel like it. They were also scary. They put on her a terrible responsibility which weighed heavily on her mind like a millstone, dragging her down into a deep, dark sea of depression.

What if she couldn’t control them? There would be danger either to herself or others. She wanted just to be normal. Why had Fate singled her out, picked on her to be troubled by this particular demon, just at the very time when she didn’t need any more hassle?

Jack sensed the uprising anger in his mistress and glanced up, eyeing her a little uneasily.

The anger broke surface, suddenly and violently. “It’s all so wrong!” she shouted, jumping to her feet.

The cup of tea shot off the table and flew through the air on a roughly horizontal path. Before the psychokinetic energy could expend itself the wall stopped it and it shattered into several pieces.

With a startled meow Jack sprang up, took off across the room and darted under the bookcase, crouching down as low as he could and shrinking back in terror.

Caroline stood staring at the fragments of the cup, confronted by the indisputable proof. She breathed out slowly, eyes closed.

Well, there’s no doubt about it now, she told herself. It’s there. Now somehow I’m going to have to deal with it.

She looked round for Jack, couldn’t find him, then saw the light glinting on the two wide eyes looking out from the shadows under the bookcase. “Jack?” she called. “Jack, it’s alright honey. Jack?”

She took a few tentative steps towards him, trying not to alarm him by any sudden movements, but he only shrunk back a little further, unsettled by the power because it had manifested itself in violence. Because she had been the origin of the incident he had identified her as a threat.

Caroline felt herself grow cold with horror, upset at any thought that he might regard her as an object of fear. She hesitated, then moved a little closer. To her distress he hissed at her.

She knelt down, peering underneath the case at him. “Jack? “Jacky? It’s alright, Mummy didn’t mean to hurt you. Come on.”

Jack stayed firmly where he was. “Jack, it’s all right, sweetheart. Mummy’s sorry she startled you. Come on, don’t be frightened.”

She caught a flicker of movement and the frightened eyes looked out at her warily. Then they drew back out of sight.

Suddenly she knew what she should do. Shuffling forward on her knees, she lay down on her front until she was on a level with him, taking the risk that he might decide to lash out and scratch her. Her eyes met the cat’s and she gazed into them intently, concentrating on her love for the animal, thinking benign and comforting thoughts.

“Mummy didn’t mean to frighten you,” she whispered soothingly. “Come on out. There’s nothing to be scared of. Mummy loves you. Alright?”

Jack seemed to twitch, his head jerking upwards in an alert fashion. The expression on his face was most like surprise. He stared back at her in fascination, his fear evaporating for the moment. He wasn’t quite sure what was going on but didn’t seem to find it entirely disagreeable.

“Mummy was just a bit upset because the nasty people at work have been giving her a hard time,” she explained. “She didn’t mean to take it out on you. You’re my friend, aren’t you Jacky? I wouldn’t hurt you, not ever. You understand, don’t you? Of course you do.”

Unafraid, perhaps a little curious, Jack crept out from his hiding place, his feet padding softly on the carpet. He went up to her, sat back on his hind legs and looked up expectantly.

Gently she picked him up, settled him in her arms and carried him over to the sofa. She sat down, resting him on her lap, and let herself relax. Purring now, he turned to face her and began to push his paws up and down on her stomach. She smiled with pleasure, rubbing him behind the ears and on the side of his head.
There are some good things about this, she reflected.

Together, Angachuk and his brother Kunnunguaq loaded the kayaks onto the sled and fastened them down. Then Angachuk went round the back of the house where the dogs were chained up and released them. Enticing them with scraps of whale meat and fish, he persuaded them to accompany him to the sled. They came barking and howling impatiently, not having eaten for some days. It was felt that if the dogs were too well fed they would become lazy and not work hard.

Once they had finished greedily wolfing down their food he chained them to the sled in a fan formation. Then he and Kunnunguaq climbed onto the drivers’ seat. Both men wore sealskin trousers, sealskin anoraks with ruffs of fox fur around the hood and wrists, and sealskin mittens rather than synthetic materials which they disliked; for this was Qaanaaq.

From the door Kunnunguaq’s housekeeper and “companion”, Pawluk, a sturdy young woman with hair tied back in the traditional topknot favoured by female Inuit, waved them goodbye. She preferred to accompany Kunnunguaq on his hunting expeditions but in addition to staying at home and looking after the children and old people she had been forced to take a job to pay the bills, a not uncommon situation faced by Greenlanders these days. In any case it was not unusual for Inuit men to have a different “companion” for when they were out on the ice – an age-old custom which Pawluk accepted with equanimity. Though Kunnunguaq had none at the moment, it was likely one would come along before too long.

They waved back and then Angachuk tugged on the reins. “Puquok, puquok,” he cried. “A ta ta ta ta ta.”

The sled began to move, the runners of smooth polished whalebone sliding easily over the flat snow-covered ground, and they were off on another day’s hunting. It was always, to some extent, a hit-and-miss affair, this way of making a living; but it had served the Inuit well enough in the past and Angachuk for one had no wish to abandon it.

Traditionally, Greenland’s was a balanced economy which made best use of the resources of both land and sea – caribou (though mainly in the south-west around Kangerlussuaq), and fish and sea mammals - storing them against the winter when they would be needed most. Families lived a nomadic existence, moving every two or three months to follow the game. In the summer those in the north would travel south to Savissik to hunt walrus and in the winter there would be a mass emigration to the far west where it was better for finding whales. The distances covered in these seasonal migrations, or in trading expeditions between settlements, could be vast. Angachuk’s grandfather told of journeys to Qaanaaq from Illorsuit, many miles to the south, and back which took four months, from February to May. The hunters often spoke of how unsettled they became by the flatness of the land the further north they ventured, especially around the ancient site of Thule where there were no mountains at all, apart from that Devil’s Chimney place. It spooked them. You felt there was something wrong with the land there, the way it was so flat and bleak and desolate. It scared Angachuk too, to be honest. The place did remind him a bit of the surface of the Moon, or the wasteland after a nuclear holocaust.

He understood the white people were doing something at Thule; they’d built a base there with a runway where planes touched down every few days. And it was said they’d actually opened up the mountain and were doing things inside it. He’d no idea what it was about, nor did he care; it was their business. Though they’d have to be crazy to do it, in his estimation. In the past explorers had avoided the place, or not stayed long there, because of the way it screwed up the mind, giving you this sense of black foreboding. What kind of person would actually want to live in it?

They passed a cluster of wooden huts on the outskirts of the town, the home of one of their distant relatives. In the old days, Angachuk reflected, people had lived in houses of stone or earth over a framework of wood or whalebone, lit by lamps of whale oil. They were communal, a dozen or so nuclear families with their own reserved space and oil lamp living in each. Kin were recognized on both paternal and maternal sides of the family to the degree of second cousin. Generally everyone helped each other out as much as possible, although there was a basic line of demarcation between the sexes where vital tasks were concerned; the men went out to hunt while women stayed at home to do the cooking, mend clothing and look after the children (though it depended to some extent on where you were exactly; here in Qaanaaq the women had often hunted with the men and indeed they still did).

But for the past hundred years or so, the old way of life had been gradually changing. The advent of more efficient methods of hunting, using guns and motor boats, meant the prey was dying out, or going north to those realms where still no man could live in order to escape the predators. You had to travel much further away to find your food these days. And the decline in traditional hunting had an effect on everything else.

Angachuk hunted because for him it was the only way to survive; the only way he knew. Those damn Greenpeace activists didn’t realise that killing whales and seals was essential for the livelihood of the community – the very livelihood Western do-gooders claimed they sought to protect – and it had had a bad effect on the economy here when they got the selling of sealskins in Europe and America banned.

He wondered if it would ever be possible to make the polar regions habitable in the same way the developed world was, so they could be colonized by millions of people living a settled existence off the products of farms and heavy industry. He hoped not. Apart from anything else, it would mean changing the climate to such an extent that it’d cause far more damage than global warming already had.

Some places resisted the onward march of change better than others. Up here around Qaanaaq people had been late in catching up with the modern world, compared to the more progressive – if you saw it in terms of “progress” – south of the island. It was only in the last twenty years that electricity had been installed, and mobile phones and fax machines still weren’t very common. Everyone now used computers and the internet, except for some of the older inhabitants, and a few important places had satellite TV for when an emergency arose and it was necessary to contact the wider world for assistance. But many still hunted for their living, often doing so in dogsleds or in kayaks made by the village kayak maker (albeit with wood imported from Denmark). The outer covering of each kayak was made from sealskin and fastened over the wooden skeleton with string made from narwhal ligaments. The oars were wood too, also the harpoons, formerly of bone, still used to spear seals, walruses or narwhals. Snowmobiles and motor boats were an option, but restrictions on their use meant you didn’t see them very often, unlike in say Canada where they were regarded as an essential accessory. Generally Thule, as the overall region which included Qaanaaq was known, was a strange mixture of the old and the new, combining the best of both. The outboard motors for the skiffs used in hunting were made from reindeer antlers, and when plastic dogsled runners cracked sealskin might be used to patch them. On the whole Angachuk was happy with the compromise that had been achieved, though he knew not everyone shared his views; the old folks still regretted the disappearance of the stone and peat houses, now replaced by clapboard houses made from the ubiquitous Danish wood, in which they had been born and brought up. But that was understandable.

Thule had remained so traditional in its outlook because here there’d been less Danish colonisation. Elsewhere, the missionaries had from the early eighteenth century onwards destroyed much of the Inuit’s historic culture in their well-meaning attempts to Christianise it. Because it was thought to encourage sexual immorality and incest extended families were prevented from living together in the same house and this had destroyed the whole communal basis of Inuit society, on which successful hunting – involving co-operation – depended. Some of the damage was repaired later on as the Danes embraced socialism, which brought out the underlying preference that still persisted for a communal lifestyle. Thule, less affected by colonialism, benefited in particular from this tendency. But throughout Greenland today, although one’s house remained one’s own, the land was held in common and there were no boundary fences and no disputes over ownership, unlike in the West.

Whatever troubles they might have to face in a changing world Greenlanders had one thing to be grateful for, at least. Thank God the Americans hadn’t settled here. If they had, the Inuit might have disappeared or been carted off to the States as slaves. But they hadn’t, and so it had not been like the Native Americans in the USA or the indigenous peoples of Central and South America. There were nice Americans, of course; Angachuk had met some of them. But thank God the Americans had never settled here.

As it was the inhospitable, to a white person, nature of the environment had discouraged full-scale colonisation and the basic fabric of Inuit society was kept intact, here at any rate. Family groups remained important and were merely made more complex and interlinked by the infidelity that often went on. The elderly were always taken care of, children fleeing broken homes where there was violence taken in without complaint, and offenders, even murderers, dealt with by communal sanctions and ostracism rather than prison. Instead of being punished for misbehaviour children were allowed to learn from the consequences of their mistakes. They each inherited the name and the “name soul” of an ancestor, to whom smacking them therefore showed disrespect. This also accorded wonderfully with the liberal Danish view that smacking was wrong and a form of child abuse.

The Inuit had an over-arching sense of the oneness of everything. Along with respect for the wider family unit went an appreciation for nature and of how far humans depended on it for their continued existence. It provided the food they ate, the clothes they wore, the materials they used for lighting and heating. You paid it back for that by not damaging it, which meant killing no more animals than was necessary for survival. For apart from anything else the land could take revenge by killing you. As always, despite the modern world, the ice was a harsh place where a stupid person could die, which was why the people needed to all pull together in order to master their environment. Because like all things – natural features, animals, people, inanimate objects - it had a spirit, and that spirit could sometimes get angry. During the dark winter months when it was impossible to hunt stories were still told, if by electric light rather than a fire made with whale oil, of how the spirits had created the world, of people who could turn into animals, and of great feats by which men and women had won their favour.

Because the spirits needed to be appeased if hunting was to be good and the people prosperous. Formerly there had been a complex set of taboos and rituals designed to ensure that the souls of the animals killed were shown proper respect, which meant the carcasses must be being quickly skinned, the flesh eaten and all non-edible parts put to some other use rather than wasted. This was especially important because the dead beast had to be treated with proper ceremony if it was to be reincarnated as a new animal of the same species and the never-ending cycle of birth, death and rebirth continue. Breaking the rules could result in death, famine or other misfortune for the transgressor. There had been shamans who made “soul flights” under the ice and put themselves into trances during which they journeyed to the spirit world, where they interceded with the beings who inhabited it to ensure success in hunting and release a person from the curse they were under as a result of some offence. Alternatively the shamans could invoke malevolent spirits to punish troublemakers within the community; this they did by making carvings of either real animals, bears or birds or seals, or hideous imaginary creatures - whatever the nature of the spirit was thought to be – as a focus for their powers.

They could also cure the perlonereq - the madness which, particular during the long winter months, could come upon even those who’d lived on the ice all their lives as the all-enveloping darkness of the Arctic night fell over everything. The psyche was a delicate thing, a treacherous terrain which they knew how to navigate. They perfected this and all their other skills through finding a solitary place where they would meditate for hours, recognizing that only in solitude, away from the distraction of other people, could true wisdom be attained.

Angachuk still knew someone who had been a shaman’s apprentice, although she was very old and sadly had forgotten all the dances and songs she had learned. Apart from that; well, no-one knew for sure but it was rumoured there were people who could put in a good word with the spirits to ensure a good catch. Could twenty thousand years of it have disappeared in less than a hundred? Who were you trying to kid.

Like their not too distant relatives, the “Indians” of the North American prairies, traditional Inuit believed in a happy hunting ground where successful hunters went after death, and where caribou grazed in vast herds. Hunters who were lazy and therefore unsuccessful went to a land called Nuqumiut where they could never catch anything and simply sat around miserably, eternally hungry.

Yes; so far, Thule had preserved the old ways. But Angachuk knew things were very different in the south, and he feared that sooner or later the cancer would spread to here. During the 1950s, in another well-intentioned but misguided social experiment, the populations of the smaller villages were shipped off to the new towns which had arisen with the booming fishing industry. Those who had previously been subsistence hunters, but now hunted mainly to supplement their income, felt rootless and turned to drink to cure their resulting depression, which only made it worse. Nor did it improve matters when boom turned to bust, first in the fishing and then in the burgeoning oil industry. The consequence was more alcoholism; especially dangerous was the local home-brewed beer, known as imiaq, which was both of poor quality and also often toxic, having been brewed in old oil drums – and a host of other social problems such as domestic violence, rowdiness, drug and solvent abuse and rape. The Inuit tolerance of infidelity now became socially harmful, leading to a rise in teenage pregnancies and STDs and the breakdown of many relationships. Suicide rates were high. The alcoholism was particularly common on long winter nights when there was nothing much to do, in settlements which were still relatively remote but had lost the traditional culture which formerly prevented people from falling into bad habits. It fuelled the domestic violence, which in turn resulted in binge drinking as people tried to forget their troubles by drowning them in beer, completing a vicious circle. Along with Western processed foods – bringers of obesity and heart disease - it caused health problems to which the Inuit had a low immunity, partly due to their genetic make-up and partly because they simply weren’t accustomed to the Western lifestyle. The effects were even more distressing when children took to the bottle or absorbed the alcohol from their mother when in the womb.

Instead of knowing how to navigate a snowdrift as their forefathers had done, people would get drunk and fall asleep in it, losing their limbs from frostbite. Or career about madly in their snowmobiles until they crashed and killed themselves or others. Children would stay out on the streets all night because they were afraid of being beaten by their parents, or simply out of the latter’s neglect of them. It made Angachuk’s soul weep just to think of it. The more the economic development of Greenland followed the West’s, the more it suffered from the latter’s problems, its physical and psychological illnesses.

Where diet was concerned, the problem was partly pollution of the environment. It was thought poisonous chemicals were accumulating in the Arctic food chain, and the northern peoples were being advised to limit their intake of the more healthy traditional foods. Pollution was an issue in more general ways. In many areas the oil and mineral extraction industries, neither of which did a lot of good for the environment, were now the main sources of wealth. Oil and gas exploitation, ozone depletion, climate change and general industrialization were destroying the natural ecosystem and the human cultures which depended on them.

New towns and roads threatened wildlife migration routes, commercial fishing threatened to exhaust remaining stocks of seafood as it was doing elsewhere. And as the ice melted with the heat, traditional seal hunting grounds would gradually cease to be accessible, even in the far north. The bears were feeling it too; nowadays you often saw them marooned on drifting chunks of ice which were carrying them inexorably out to sea, looking bewildered and sad at what had happened so that Angachuk almost felt sorry for them. It was comical, he supposed, but not funny for the bears themselves or the people who hunted them for their skins or meat.

Then of course there was the weather. It was stormier now and broke up the ice so that it was difficult to use kayaks alone when hunting. There were lots of things wrong with the weather. Angachuk had the feeling that it was getting old; like the planet.

Everyone seemed powerless to stop it all. The most they could do was try to persuade the young people to live by the old ways, teaching them hunting as soon as they were old enough. Whether they absorbed what they were taught was up to them. But he himself, like all his family, had been taught from an early age how to shoot, prepare skins, flense a seal, and drive dogs.

He preferred the young not to go to universities in Denmark or the States, in case they acquired Western ideas that would be dangerous if applied to the Inuit. In fact he didn’t have a lot to worry about because most of them soon got homesick and returned to Greenland without graduating. It had been so with him, he’d gone to an American college for a couple of years and not liked it.

His thoughts turned to the day which lay ahead and what the hunting would be like. They were on the way to Inglefield Fjord, a vast inland lake fed by a channel linking it to the sea, where narwhal, seals and whales could be found in abundance. They were making good time, although no doubt they’d get there even quicker in a snowmobile. Again he thought about getting one and dismissed the notion with a shudder not caused by the cold. They were dangerous and not too good for the environment either, the way they churned up the snow and frightened away the wildlife.

During all the time he had been thinking they had neared the American airbase, just visible on the horizon some ten miles away to their right. The military association between the US and Denmark had begun during the Second World War when airbases were established at Sondre Stromfjord and Naarssarsuaq as defence against possible German attacks, by air or sea, on America. Then in a covert agreement between the two countries during the Cold War a new air force base was built on the historic site of Thule, on Inuit hunting grounds, to protect the “free world” against its new enemy, Russia.

He didn’t like the place, or its reputation; a cousin of his been arrested just for going a bit too close to it while hunting. You could easily find yourself locked up while an extensive check of your credentials was carried out, simply because you had stood and looked at the base, out of curiosity, for just a moment too long. Generally he avoided the installation as much as he could.

The construction of the base, which had begun in 1953, still caused resentment. A whole Inuit settlement, the original Qaanaaq, had been uprooted to make way for it. The houses of turf were demolished and the population housed temporarily in thin canvas tents which were quite insufficient to keep out the cold, some of the old people dying, until a new town of wooden huts, where they were not happy, could be built for them. Many never wholly recovered from the trauma inflicted on a whole community by this uprooting. In fact the old Qaanaaq was not quite gone, but it was a ghost town, just a few buildings remaining which were used occasionally by hunters passing through.

Angachuk forgot about the base and concentrated on being happy, on the exhilaration as they felt the passage of the cool wind displaced by the sled cutting through it, and took in the vast, beautiful emptiness of the icefield all around them. Out here in this wilderness you could remember who you were.

The sky was so clear and blue, like the eyes of some qannuaalit women, and the sun so bright that you sometimes felt you were already in some celestial paradise; for Heaven must surely be not unlike this. The sled travelled so smoothly over the snow that it seemed you were flying. Flying to Heaven.

They needed no maps to get to Inglefield; the Inuit had done without maps for twenty thousand years. All they need do was look for the pointers that nature had provided, like a flock of seagulls flying over, which meant there must be open water somewhere near.

In ten minutes they had sighted the Fjord, lying before them glimmering in the sunshine; part sheet of ice, part sparkling blue water. It was so vast and extended for so long that although the place was popular with both foreign and native hunters, no-one else was visible for as far as the eye could see. They would have this lonely spot all to themselves.

Angachuk reined in the dogs at the lake’s edge and they unloaded the kayaks, easing them slowly into the water and then climbing in. Each had an opening in its upper surface in which one man could sit and a cluster of harpoons was held in place beside him by a pair of pitons. They paddled slowly out, the oars making hardly any sound as they rose and fell with perfect, almost practised symmetry.

Five minutes into the hunt Kunnunguaq saw a dark shape break the surface, just a few yards away. He laid down his oars, selected a harpoon and threw it. It lodged quivering in the seal’s head and the water around the prey began to fill with blood.

They killed five seals in all before it began to get dark and it was time to return home. With ropes tied to the harpoons which had killed them they dragged the dead animals up onto the little beach, cut them up there and then with their knives and bagged up the bloody chunks of raw meat in polystyrene sheeting, their only concession to modernity.
“Could have been better,” grunted Kunnunguaq as they started on the third seal.
“It’ll make us all a good supper tonight,” Angachuk replied. “That’s what counts.”

He felt his brother stiffen slightly and glanced in the direction Kunnunguaq had been looking. Another dogsled was coming towards them over the ice, seeming to be making straight for them. They broke off what they were doing and waited for it to reach them. It could be these people needed help, in which case it was their duty to give it.

The driver reined in his dogs and the sled glided to a halt. He and the two men who had been sitting flanking him now dismounted and began walking towards the two Inuit, smiling in a friendly fashion. They wore parkas rather than sealskin; so probably not locals, then. Their features were Caucasian. Danes?

The trio halted. “Good afternoon!” said the one who had been the driver. He spoke Danish but his accent was different from a Dane’s; German, Angachuk reckoned. “We’re from International Geographic, doing a feature on what life is like here, and we’d like to take a photograph of you both if that’s alright.”

Angachuk nodded. If that was what they wanted to do he could see nothing wrong with it. He glanced at Kunnunguaq, who indicated his assent.

“Thankyou,” said the driver politely. One of the men produced a camera. “One of your sled first, with the seals?” he said. His accent was different from the first man’s, thick and guttural and probably East European in origin, Angachuk decided. Russian?

Again Angachuk bobbed his head in assent. The man aimed the camera at the sled, took a couple of pictures. “Now the two of you together,” beamed the Russian. They moved to stand close to one another and the Russian positioned himself in front of them, raising the camera.

Their attention focused on him, they didn’t register the other two each step to one side, out of their line of vision.

He raised the camera to his eye and they heard the click as he pressed the shutter button. “Now one more…that’s it, that’s beautiful.” He lowered the camera.

Angachuk was about to move away when he felt the hood of his jacket pulled back and something cold and metallic pressed to the side of his neck. It pricked him sharply and he gave a short gasp of pain before the tranquiliser took effect and he knew no more.

Kunnunguaq too felt a cold sensation as something made of metal was pressed against his skull. But this object was not a hypodermic needle, and the blackness which descended upon his mind was the blackness of death. For the experiment they were about to perform, Wachter’s men only needed one subject.

They weighted Kunnunguaq’s body and heaved it over the edge of the ice into the water, where it sank straight to the bottom. They did the same with the corpses of the dogs, once they’d shot them with their silenced handguns, and the sled, and the seals, and the two kayaks with the oars and harpoons still strapped in place. The knives and any other remaining equipment were replaced in the bags in which they had been carried by their owners and dumped along with the other stuff. Preferably no trace should remain of what had been done here; there were still the tracks made by the sleds but these would probably be obliterated by the wind and snow within a short time. Angachuk and Kunnunguaq’s failure to return from their hunting expedition would be noticed sooner or later, but as far as the explanation for it was concerned it would simply be assumed that the ice had claimed two more victims. One of them, or both, had made some foolish mistake and nature had not been forgiving.

The Russian and the Frenchman laid Angachuk’s unconscious body on their own sled and strapped it in place, covering it with canvas which they then fastened down securely. They and the German climbed onto the vehicle and set off back to Thule, their mission accomplished.

Finchley, North London
It had reminded Stephen of his own bar-mitzvah, eight years ago now. Having attained his thirteenth birthday Joshua, wearing his own prayer shawl for the first time, had been called to the reading desk in the synagogue to recite the blessing on the Torah before his family and friends. To learn the Hebrew had taken a lot of practice, despite which the boy was still clearly nervous, just as Stephen had been. But he got through it alright. Their father and the rabbi both said their piece, thanking God for His grace in permitting Joshua to grow to healthy maturity. Congratulating the boy, Dr Jezelvitch gave a brief talk in which he informed Joshua that he would now be counted as an adult in everything involving his religion, and explained the new status, and responsibilities, this entailed, which included counting towards the quorate needed before a service or important administrative meeting could go ahead. Joshua looked rather chuffed at it all.

After the service a celebration meal was held. There were further speeches and Joshua was presented with books on prayer and on the history of the faith, intended to help him fully understand what it meant to be a Jew. Finally everyone had gone back to the house for a buffet supper.

Surrounded by all the chatter and bustle of a Jewish get-together in full swing, Stephen moved among the guests, asking each if they would like something more to eat or drink, a responsibility which fell upon him as the eldest. Most people either already had something or were so busy laughing and joking with one another that he suspected his inquiries were proving more of an intrusion than anything else, and soon more or less gave up.

He continued to wander around a little aimlessly until he caught sight of his Aunt Simone talking to her friend Greta, and went over to her. “All right, Aunt?” he asked.

Interrupted, she glanced up sharply, saw who it was and broke into a warm smile, eyes shining with pleasure. “Stephen, my boy! How are you?”
“Fine thanks,” he grinned.

Forgetting Greta for the moment, she shifted to create a little more space on the sofa. “Come and sit down, and tell me what you’ve been doing with yourself. Still at College?”

Stephen suppressed a smile. They’d surely have told her if he was due to leave it. Simone had reached the age where one started to become a little forgetful.
“Yes, aunt, this is my final year,” he said. “But the exams will be in May and June.”

Simone frowned, screwing up her face in concentration, and shook her head peevishly. “Oh, of course….my poor addled brain.” She was subdued for a moment, contemplating what was happening to her, then gave a shrug of resignation. “So, how are your studies going?”

“Fine, aunt. Trouble is, I haven’t decided what to do for my thesis yet. And it needs to be ready by January.”
“It has to be something to do with what you’re studying, doesn’t it?”
“That’s right.”

“And that’s history, isn’t it? Same as that poor young man who got killed the other day. If you’re thinking of going to Germany on a student exchange, be careful.”
“The full title of the course is “Modern European History and the Holocaust”,” Stephen said helpfully.
“I knew it was something like that. It’s right that people should know about such things.” Greta nodded in polite agreement.

“Well, you could always write about what happened to me,” Simone suggested.
“But people have already done that. It’s been on the TV and in the papers, on the Net, everywhere. I found a website on it the other day.” And he’d heard the story straight from her own mouth, many times since he was a small child. Sometimes she’d broken down and cried and he’d been embarrassed, not understanding.

“But they still haven’t found the man who did it,” she said. “The man who gave the order.” Her chin sank onto her chest, her eyes staring down at the floor but not really seeing it, gazing instead back sixty years into the a now increasingly distant past. “Terrible business,” she whispered, because there never had been much else to say about such things, anything that words could remotely express. “Terrible business….terrible…” Her voice tailed away, and Stephen held her hand while she regained her composure, wiping the moisture from her eyes.

Greta clearly thought she ought to say something. “What happened?” she asked awkwardly.

For a moment the old lady was silent. Then, swallowing, she began to speak, perhaps moved to do so by the contrast between the scene of life and laughter around her and the horror she was now fearfully recalling. A horror of a kind which might one day visit itself upon the people merrily chatting and joking in this room; people who could never take for granted the security and comfort, the happiness, which they currently enjoyed, whatever they might think. No-one had ever thought Hitler and the Shoah possible but it had happened. She supposed even Greta, who was not Jewish, couldn’t be entirely safe from it. She was an….Anglo-Saxon, a WASP, but there were people who hated WASPs because of all the racism, the imperialism there’d been in the past and if they ever came over here, to conquer and enslave as Hitler had most of Europe…was that possible? Anyhow……

“After the north fell in June 1940,” she began, “we moved down south to the part of the country under the control of Vichy. We thought we’d be safe there, though we still took care to keep out of sight. Then in 1942 the Germans tightened their control over the south and things became very hard. God knows how we managed to survive for so long, when all the others had been deported to the camps. The resistance helped; they managed to set up a network, moving us around the country one at a time, in disguise - at least the ones who looked Jewish were. They should have got us out of France long before, then we’d have been alright. But apparently someone had said that getting out the British airmen who’d crashed or baled out and been trapped was the priority. After the war people blamed Churchill and the British government for what happened. I don’t know if that was fair. As a matter of fact, there was a plan to smuggle us all out, across the Channel in a fishing boat; that’s why we were in the north, in Macy. But it was abandoned just before D-Day; they probably thought that with D-Day we’d be alright. Everything got swallowed up in the preparations for that, and so we were still there when the Allies invaded. Funny, in a way…

“One man, an important local official with connections to the Resistance, managed to hide us in the cellar of his house for a whole year. There were about twenty or thirty of us. Then during the invasion the house was shelled and flattened by tanks and the people there were killed. We were alright in the cellar, but we knew we couldn’t stay there because there was no-one to look after us and keep bringing food. We managed to shift the rubble which was blocking the hatch into the cellar and one of us took the risk and went exploring. We could hear the guns going off and the sound of explosions, and guessed there must be a pretty fierce battle going on. The shells were going off all around us….we had to find somewere to hide and we chose the church. The priest, a good Christian man, realised who we were but didn’t mind. Unfortunately it was a fairly modern church and it didn’t have a crypt. Anyway we stayed inside, frightened out of our wits but daring to hope the battle was going in our favour…the children crying…” She was near to tears herself. Stephen reached for her hand and clasped it tightly. “Aunt, you don’t have to….”

But she was too far gone now. “We were afraid the church would be hit. The sound of the shells was terrifying, deafening…then it stopped. We almost cheered. When it hadn’t started up again five minutes later we thought the battle was over. Maybe the British or the Americans…but then the door into the church was thrown open and a German officer came in, followed by some of his men. The Germans must have beaten back the Allies from the town for the time being. You can imagine how we felt.

“The children started crying again. I held on to Pierre and Francoise – the cousins who you never knew, Stephen – as tightly as I could, while Paul seemed to be making up his mind whether to challenge the officer. I shook my head at him and he saw it out of the corner of his eye. Thankfully he gave up the idea, because he realised it might only get us into more trouble.

“None of us dared to say anything….in fact we could barely breathe. The officer stood there looking at us…then he turned and walked out, the soldiers following. Someone sneaked a look out of the window and saw the tanks parked in the square where the church stood.

“He was an ordinary army officer, not SS, so we thought we’d be alright. All the same none of us wanted to move or speak for some minutes after he’d gone.

“No sooner had we started to talk than the shelling began, this time even more fiercely. One young boy became excited and started shouting, “The British and the Americans are coming! They’re going to rescue us, you’ll see!”

“We were all spread flat on the floor, the priest and his family included. But the boy…I suppose it was a kind of madness, brought on by having to spend so long in hiding, often underground in dark places where there wasn’t much room and…well, you can imagine what it must have been like. Anyway he couldn’t resist going to the window and looking out. And he saw something which caused him to collapse in a kind of fit, screaming hysterically.

“Then the first shell hit the church. We all screamed, not just the children, when part of the roof fell in. Several people were hit by the falling rubble and didn’t get up again. And then…and then….”

She was trembling. Greta put a hand on her arm in an effort at consolation. Stephen studied her in some embarrassment. Several times he had seen her looking out of place but trying not to let her feelings show. He knew that sometimes Gentiles could feel excluded at a Jewish party, not really one of the family; and now she had to listen to this. It wasn’t, perhaps, entirely fair.

Simone was making a great effort to keep calm, so she could tell her story coherently. Maybe she particularly felt Greta ought to hear it. “It was like…all Hell breaking loose, that’s the only way I can describe it. All Hell…in what was supposed to be a church, a religious place, a place of sanctuary. They pounded the building into rubble. They used shells….incendiary shrapnel as well. Or just drove over the rubble and crushed it to dust. People everywhere, men women and children, screaming and crying and sobbing, running around trying to find a way out, only the fallen rubble was blocking the exits. We were all just stumbling about, in first one direction then another, completely blind, trying to keep hold of our loved ones and failing. It was like a sea of bodies, a sea of rubble, drowning me and crushing me and suffocating me…I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, and I knew I wasn’t going to get out alive. And the noise…deafening, tearing our heads apart…..Yes, I know there can be no such thing as Hell for me when I die, because I have already been there. Mon dieu…..”

She took a long, deep breath. “Something struck me a blow on the head and I suppose I must have blacked out. When I woke up, I can’t say how long afterwards, I found I was trapped in a sort of little cave, formed by three big pieces of rubble. I couldn’t move my leg at first but eventually I managed to get it free.

“It was a miracle I had survived. But of the rest, all but three did not. Pierre and Francoise, your Great-Uncle Paul, my father and mother, my friends were all killed. All killed….

“I still couldn’t get out but I didn’t dare shout for help in case the Germans heard me. I don’t feel that way now, I suppose, but at that moment I didn’t trust any German, whoever they were. They could all go to where I had just been, as far as I was concerned. Then I heard shouting, the sound of boots tramping all over the place, and felt the rubble around me shift a little. Hands took me and lifted me out, into the daylight. They were American hands.

“I saw one or two German tanks standing around, burning. A body was leaning half out of the top of one and it was all black and smoking; I felt no emotion, no pity. Otherwise, there wasn’t a German in sight.

“And I saw….heads, arms, legs….or just the, the torsoes, with everything else gone…lying about. Some of them crushed flat into the ground, with the imprint of the tank tracks on them. It looked like something unreal, the sort of thing you see in a cartoon, only there the people get up again afterwards and of course these didn’t. I didn’t think that could actually happen to a human body.”

Greta looked about to throw up. “I’m sorry, my dear, for putting you through all this,” Simone said honestly.
“It’s OK,” Greta answered, although her voice had been constricted to a strangled whisper.
“If you’d like me to stop….”
Greta ignored her. “So what, what happened then?”

“Well, I was safe. The Americans were very kind, very friendly, and horrified by what had happened. They took me to a field hospital and cleaned me up, treated me for shock and put my leg in a cast until the broken bones had healed. But it was several weeks before I could bring myself to talk about what had happened. And when they said Paul and the children were dead I went back into a sort of coma again and said nothing until……well, again I had lost my sense of time. I couldn’t tell you when I first regained the ability to speak.

“I and the other survivors were taken to a prisoner-of-war camp where we were housed in a special section, away from all the German prisoners. When I was well enough, I was interviewed by someone from an organization that dealt with refugees, displaced persons. I told him I didn’t want to go back to France after what had happened but would rather join my relatives in England.

“After the war I got together with the other survivors and we tried to find out what had happened, who exactly had been responsible for the…the atrocity. A Panzer Regiment, obviously, but which one? There were several around at the time, so I understand. We knew the names of their commanders, but the trouble was none of those who had survived had actually seen the face of the officer who had come into the church, and who must have ordered the attack. It was bad chance, really. One had been standing behind someone else. Another, who was little more than a child at the time, was so shocked that he blocked the whole incident from his mind and could remember nothing of it. Me…well, for one reason or another I can’t recall his face. When they showed me photographs of the different commanders I honestly couldn’t say which was the one. As for the other soldiers, everyone had been looking at the officer and not his men so their faces didn’t register.”
“But the matter was investigated?” Greta asked.

“By a War Crimes tribunal, yes. We’ve tried to get the case reopened several times since, but there hasn’t been much interest. It’s because what happened in the camps seems much worse. But this was no less deliberate.”
“So they definitely meant to kill you all?”

Simone nodded slowly, looking her straight in the eye. “No doubt about it. During the investigation a man watching from one of the houses close by told the tribunal that he had seen the tanks turn their guns to point at the church. We knew then what the boy had seen and what had turned him mad with fear. He knew we were going to be…..

“I don’t see why they would have needed to destroy the church. A military expert confirmed it. Unless it was just because we were Jews, it didn’t make any sense. We thought our lives had been spared, but…to have lasted so long, until D-Day, and then….”

Stephen saw that Greta’s face had tightened in what was unmistakeably anger. She didn’t speak, but perhaps she didn’t need to. Her expression and the glint that had appeared in her eyes said it all. There was no longer any embarrassment or discomfort in her manner.

“For the first few years I wasn’t thinking of revenge. My main concern was survival. How to cope with the trauma I’d suffered, the way my life had been destroyed. Some people didn’t.

“My wonderful husband and my two beautiful children were dead. And I knew I could never replace them, because I could never love another man like I had Michel. To go through all the business of marrying and having more kids, just as a way of spiting Hitler, was quite impossible. So now there’s just me. I’m here now because if I had given in and taken my own life it would have been to hand victory to those bastards. I like to think I made something out of what remained to me.”

Stephen felt a lump in his throat. “You’ve got us. We’re your family, aunt…”

Taking a close interest in her wider kin had been a way of coping with it. But sometimes, he thought, she must look at couples with children and be reminded, with a feeling like a stab to the heart, of what she had lost.

“Yes, and you’re a good boy, Stephen,” she said, patting him on the arm. “You’ve always been very kind to me; everyone has. I couldn’t wish for anything better. But sometimes, I can’t help thinking…

“You might think it would matter less to me as I get older…as time moves on. Well for a while I suppose that was true. But now….I don’t know why but suddenly it seems important to me again.”

She looked up at her great-nephew. “Oh, Stephen……Stephen my child, do you think you could do something for me?”

She seemed to have forgotten Greta was there, in this moment of family intimacy. But Greta didn’t look as if she minded.
“What’s that, aunt?” Stephen asked.

“Find out who killed my husband and children. Who took away my life. For my sake and for the sake of all Jewish people. The world must never forget. You are young, you have the time and the energy; it’s with your kind that our future lies. I want him found and punished, if it’s not too late. I don’t really care about his men, I’m old and I haven’t got the time or the strength any more to argue about whether they were just obeying orders. Just find that man and see that justice is done. If we can only show that sixty years make no difference…but if all you can do is put a name to him, then that would make me feel much better.”

She squeezed his hand. “Will you promise me you’ll do that, Stephen? Will you?”

He felt overwhelmed with emotion at the responsibility she had chosen to entrust to him. It was a moment before he could reply, during which she repeated her question again. There was only one answer he could give to it.

The original inhabitants of the mountain had not, it seemed, required all of it and so the expedition had been able to cut or blast away enough of the rock to make rooms to serve as toilets or storage space. The further one ventured into the complex, however, the harder it was to penetrate it, because it regrew almost immediately an explosion disintegrated or a drill made a hole in it. That was why they’d decided to leave the rooms they couldn’t get into alone for the moment, not wanting to risk the whole place caving in on top of them.

They had also installed halogen lighting where it was needed. Most of the time it wasn’t, because the veins and clusters of crystal found there gave off a phosphorescent glow that proved adequate to see by. (Where the walls were overlaid with stone they formed a criss-cross pattern in it, like mortar lines).

They had enlarged the ventilation shafts already present, mainly for ease of access when maintenance was required since the shafts were otherwise quite sufficient for their purpose, allowing fresh Arctic air to circulate within the mountain.

The room in which Otto Kiessling stood was vast, even bigger than the entrance hall, and fashioned out of the bare rock of the mountain yet lit by the same phosphorescent radiance as elsewhere. Everything was a silver-white colour, perhaps because of the light from the crystals which seemed to be brighter here; needed to be as this had been a place where people worked. All around him were control consoles and huge masses of machinery which gave off a low, almost inaudible hum like the gentle purring of a kitten. Near to the wall the expedition had set up two or three workbenches with laboratory equipment spread out over them.

The dominant feature of the room was a huge machine twenty or thirty feet across. It was enclosed within four walls of a material like stone but incredibly light, so that one side could be lowered on some kind of hinge, permitting direct access to the equipment when required. Within them at the heart of the apparatus was an intricate structure of metal or crystalline filaments, like a very complex cobweb.
At its centre was a space large enough to contain a human body.

Poised rather menacingly above it, two on either side, were four jointed rods which arched back and up then finally downwards, like snakes in the act of striking at their prey. Between them an inspection gantry, reached at either end by a flight of metal steps from floor level, ran across the top of the machine, passing directly above the cluster of filaments at its core.

Projecting from one end of the machine was a stone slab which could retract and extend in and out of it, performing the function of a conveyor belt, the mechanism like all the other technology of this place being operated using either electricity or some process very similar to it. And branching off from it at right angles were several control consoles, each of which appeared to be integral parts of it. There were two seats by one of them, and an apparatus that looked like a pair of headsets.

As Kiessling stood waiting by the machine he heard footsteps approach from the corridor and looked up to see his colleague, Ludwig Wolfmann, come towards him. “They’re here,” Wolfmann said.

“Good. Everything seems to be working alright, so we can begin.”

The paramilitaries came in, two of them carrying the Inuit stretched out between them. Kiessling signalled to them to place him on the conveyor belt. Clamps snapped into position around his wrists and ankles, holding him there.

“Do you suppose it makes any difference if the subject is alive or dead?” asked Wolfmann suddenly.

“I don’t know. So we don’t want to take the chance. We need him alive.” Kiessling moved to what they had identified as the main control console for the machine, located a few yards away from it near the wall, and placed his hand on a raised crystalline surface which served as a button, switching it on. The conveyor belt started to disappear into the machine.

They heard the Inuit stir and mutter. “He’s coming round,” said one of the paras.
Kiessling shook his head dismissively. “No matter.”

They saw Angachuk’s eyes open, widening in first astonishment and then fear as he looked round at his strange surroundings, his head twisting from side to side. Was this some abode of the gods? He saw the men watching him, and began to cry out in Danish and Greenlandic, struggling against the clamps holding him down. “What do you think you’re doing? What is this?”

They said nothing, their faces as cold and impassive as the rock out of which the chamber was hewn. Something about that total lack of expression chilled him unspeakably.

As the belt carried him along, into the machine, his terror mounted. Ignoring him, Kiessling touched another control. And it was then that Angachuk screamed.

Caroline Kent yawned and stretched luxuriously, feeling the stress leave her with a delicious, almost orgasmic she thought wickedly, tingling sensation. The Annual Assessment was now finished. That meant there were no more tasks which had to be completed by an imminent deadline. Through perseverance, self-discipline, patience, involving the sacrifice of one or two relaxing evenings by the TV with Jack, she had finally managed to break the backlog. She only just managed to restrain herself from flinging the document clean across the room in her euphoria.

There had been no more of those frightening attacks. Obviously she had managed to get the power under control, and therefore saw no need to contact the authorities. And since there should be no more stress, she hadn’t any reason to suppose the problem would return.

Feeling better than she had for many days, she went into the outer office to ask Sheila if she would like to join her for a meal after work, followed by a visit to a club, with maybe a few other colleagues invited too. She was in the mood for a celebration. It occurred to her, come to think of it, that she didn’t spend enough time socializing with fellow employees in the evenings or at lunchbreak; which wasn’t good if you wanted to maintain your power base at work. Well, tonight would be a new start. Because from now on, the road ahead looked much clearer and the sky above it bright and sunny, regardless of the autumn gloom now gathering outside as October wore on.

Sheila said “yes”, and that she would try to get a group together from both the departments, putting out a few tentative feelers during lunch. Failing that it would just be the two of them, woman to woman, discussing each other’s ongoing problems and offering mutual support. That would be good enough for her. It was a pity, though, that Chris couldn’t be there. They could, she supposed, have waited until he returned from holiday in a couple of days’ time. But she owed it to herself; a fun, relaxing, uninhibited night out, in the company of friends, with any residual worries that remained behind banished firmly to the back of her mind.

Caroline caught sight of Natasha in the corner chatting to one of the AAs – probably about Doctor Who or something like that, she thought affectionately. The girl caught her eye and termin-ated the conversation with a brief apology, suspecting she had roused Caroline’s ire by discussing non-work-related matters in her office. She made to leave but Caroline stopped her, making sure to sound friendly. “Oh, Natasha?”

Natasha looked politely expectant. Caroline gestured to the girl to go out with her into the corridor.
“Thanks for all your hard work over those leaflets,” she smiled. “It’s much appreciated.”
Natasha broke into a broad grin, pleased to feel that she’d done something right. “Oh, th-that’s all right,” she gasped.

“A few of us are having a get-together at Monty’s just round the corner, about seven. You don’t have to come but you’d be most welcome. Bring a friend if you like…” She realised she was implying Natasha didn’t have any friends at IPL, and looked uncomfortable. Fortunately, the girl didn’t pick up on it. “Alright,” she said. “I’ll have to see what I’ve got on tonight first, though. But that’s very kind of you.”

“See you there then, maybe,” Caroline said, and went back into the office, feeling herself surrounded by a warm glow of goodwill and wellbeing.

After the party Stephen Aron had thought very carefully about how he was going to go about his one-man investigation into Macy.
He’d never done anything quite like this before.

He was very much aware that Aunt Simone was eighty-six and not necessarily going to be around for much longer. She’d been quite ill a few months back, emphasizing the need for haste. But he would have to devote a lot of time to his thesis as well, with the risk of having to perform a difficult balancing act.
Why not combine the two projects?

As a subject for a thesis it did make sense; how to view the atrocity in the context of the Second World War and of anti-Semitism generally. What was it that had led to the massacre, and public and official attitudes towards it subsequently. He could entitle it “Macy: The Forgotten Holocaust,” or something like that. It would be a good complement to what he was already studying. He’d have to have a word with his tutor, of course. Would Dr McKeith consider it too specialized? Perhaps he’d let him do it anyway out of fear of causing offence if he didn’t, and if so should Stephen take advantage of that? How would he know that was the reason, anyway? He decided that if McKeith thought he shouldn’t then it was for McKeith to say so, and if he didn’t that was his own fault. If he did Stephen would accept his decision.

Whatever happened, he would make some effort to get the investigation reopened. If it produced no result then he’d make enquiries of his own. Any results he obtained would provide material for the thesis as much as anything else.

He wondered why exactly he was so keen to do it. Just for Simone’s sake, or for other reasons too? He remembered what she had said to him at the party, that it was with people like him that the future lay.

Stephen Aron liked being Jewish. He liked the strong family ties, the fact that Jews knew how to get together and have a good rousing song and dance, a good nosh, the way others had forgotten how to. The sense of solidarity and a common identity which thousands of years of persecution had only served to make seem all the more important.

He knew what being Jewish meant; but he wasn’t only thinking about the good side of it.

He had been told, of course, about the Egyptians and the Babylonians and the Romans, the Tsars and the Nazis, from an early age. But to his young mind it had all seemed like ancient history, sometimes literally. Then one day it had become suddenly and unpleasantly real, if in a way less serious than other things which had happened over the past few thousand years, when a rather silly argument with a schoolfriend turned nasty and he found himself subjected to uncomplimentary remarks about Jewish people; their appearance, their solidarity with one another, their supposed meanness.

Seriously upset, he had gone home and told his parents. Taking him aside, they had told him gently that now he knew what they had been trying to explain to him all these years, but also that it was something they simply had to bear with, and if they did so with patience and dignity it would prove their superiority over those who hated them. His mother had also assured him that no Nazis were going to attack him in this country.

And indeed, he hadn’t since then experienced any trouble personally, apart from one affair at boarding school when he had punched a boy who called him a “dirty Jew”. A fair-minded headmaster had cautioned him not to try to resolve such disagreements by fisticuffs in future - he didn’t really have much choice but to do so, for the sake of discipline - while reserving the worst punishment for Stephen’s tormentor. But such incidents served to remind him of the hatred and prejudice that lurked under the surface.

He was unsettled by it at times, and also angry. The Jews hadn’t gone around making life difficult for other people. Most of the time, they’d kept themselves to themselves. And when he considered their contribution to the cultures and economies of the countries where they had settled, which had been entirely beneficial, the bigotry filled him with a seething rage. It was merely resentment at how clever and successful the Jews were, and he suspected it stemmed from a sense of inadequacy at one’s own efforts. The Jews had often been more literate, more educated, maybe more intelligent (although that was a controversial, complex and sensitive subject) than the people around them, who should put their own houses in order before trying to knock them purely out of spiteful jealousy.

Nonetheless, he was aware there was a wider human race of which the Jews were but one part, and he felt it was better to be involved with it than not since apartness only bred more suspicion and hostility. While identifying with fellow Jews in Israel and admiring their achievements he didn’t condone the way they treated the Palestinians and hoped like most decent sensible and decent people for a two-state solution to the region’s problems. He knew that although many Gentiles had stood aside while millions were herded into the gas chambers there had also been those who had risked, and sometimes lost, their lives trying to prevent that happening.

But as for why he was taking up the subject of Macy in such a big way; all he knew was that it was for Simone’s sake as much as any other reason. He wanted to set her heart at rest so she could die reasonably happy. And if he couldn’t do that, he’d go on searching in her memory.

He started with some research on the Net, and also read up extensively. The one thing which became abundantly clear before he’d got very far was that there had been no strategic advantage to be gained by flattening the church. It wasn’t on the Allies’ main line of advance, nor was there any evidence of enemy troops within the building. The whole thing was a needless act of malice. Just because they were losing the war…..

Well, by now he had established exactly what had happened and who the principal suspects were. Finding out just who was the guilty party - when everyone else had failed to do so, and after sixty years – was another matter. One thing he needed if he was to succeed was publicity. The more people were aware of the matter in the first place, the more likely someone’s memory would be jogged. Perhaps a line or two to the TV companies was in order.

Every so often, Rolf Erdmann went down to the cellar of his house to lovingly run his eyes over the collection of rifles, sub-machine guns, grenades, mortars, RPGs, and explosives, with a certain frustration at not yet being able to use them. It was enough, literally, for a small army. Because that was what they were, the Aryan Army.

The weapons had been moved in gradually over a period of weeks, one at a time. That way it was less likely anyone would realise. The Jew Richards had probably known it was there, although there hadn’t been so much of it then, but fortunately they’d taken care of him before he could tell anyone.

The stuff was here because they would need to hit the major cities first, hit them hard and fast, if they were to take maximum advantage of the chaos and confusion caused when the Power was first used. But there was more of it stacked in various farmhouses on land owned by the company, including Gasthof Meinert near the concentration camp, and other remote rural locations ready for the follow-up. He knew that similar measures had been, or were being, put in hand by the cells in Paris, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, and the various branches in America. When the time came each would occupy government offices, military bases and TV and radio stations in the cities, declare themselves in charge and then start gradually clearing up the mess and restoring order, gaining support from the public in the process. Many of the police and armed forces would probably join them – for God’s sake, a lot of their members were soldiers, or had been. He could certainly see it happening in Britain where racism, if you called it that, still existed in those professions despite having been driven underground by the march of political correctness. That was what Higson had told him, anyway. Generally police officers disliked the way PC had made their jobs more difficult. They lived in constant fear of being accused of some form of bigotry, and had to spend too much of their time on tedious form-filling so they could give an account of themselves for every single tiny thing that had happened to them each day, an account which would be subjected to minute scrutiny, in case they’d done something racist. It detracted from the business of effective policing and was putting people off joining the profession, which made the task of fighting crime that much more difficult.

The Army itself was suffering. The young recruits were pampered too much nowadays, Higson said. They had duvets on their beds, not blankets. It didn’t equip them for the business of real fighting and the officers knew that, only they had to bow down to PC and user-friendliness like everyone else. Mismanagement and poor planning by the politicians had left British forces handicapped in trying to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan, hampered by ineffective equipment and by the sheer scale of the problem facing them. And when those sailors captured by Iran were allowed to turn the whole affair into a media circus by selling their stories to the press it had made a mockery of the entire armed forces. Who altogether were confused, demoralised and unhappy.
They wanted an end to it all.
And when everyone rises in our support, he thought, the baptism of fire will purge us of the filth that walks our streets, and the swastika will flutter in the chill north wind.

He brought himself back down to earth for the moment. Without the Power, of course, the uprising didn’t stand the remotest chance of success. The armies and police forces of the different countries would soon crush them, even if casualties were sustained in the process. There would still be some point in it because they’d cause fear and alarm throughout the world, by making clear the forces that lay beneath the surface and were prepared to resort to direct action to get their way. But to offset that their leading members, himself included, would probably be arrested, their network smashed and their hardware confiscated.

One thing was certain, they’d have to use it sometime or it’d all be a pointless waste. And the longer the equipment sat here in its various hiding places, the greater the more likely it’d be found.

Yes, it all depended on this miraculous Power that Heinrich and Wachter claimed existed under a mountain in Greenland. It was clear they still didn’t have a clue how exactly it was going to be used to benefit the organization. In Erdmann’s view Heinrich, despite his legendary coolness and the remarkable state of preservation he was in, was nonetheless an old man in a hurry. He hadn’t thought it all out properly.

It was the big question; if it turned out in the short run that they couldn’t depend on it, and might have to wait years, maybe decades, before they could did they go ahead with the coup regardless of the consequences? Probably the national cells would grow impatient and each make their own decision. That could be disastrous if not enough of them acted to maximize the overall effect of the uprising.

You’d better have got this right, Heinrich, Erdmann muttered to himself beneath his breath. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be all or nothing. The thousand-year Reich or Gotterdammerung.

He knew what the trigger would be; fortunately, it was something David Richards hadn’t quite managed to find out before he died.

He went upstairs to the kitchen, where he made himself a cup of coffee and over it sat thinking and occasionally doodling on the notepad beside him, drawing a series of square objects and one big round one with a number of chimney-like structures in the background.
Drawing a nuclear power station.

The resolution of the problem that had been dominating her thoughts so entirely left Caroline’s mind a pleasantly blank slate, until other considerations, which had been suppressed while she worried about the backlog and the attacks, suddenly rushed back into her consciousness. She was sitting at home one evening after work thinking about what she ultimately wanted to do with her life. At some point she was sure to get bored with her current job within the company and want to move on. Vertically, she hoped, rather than horizontally. Ideally she wanted to be in Hennig’s shoes; but would she really be able to stand the extra pressure, the extra responsibility, given that her current job could be strenuous enough? She would of course eventually get to the stage where it wouldn’t matter what she did as long as she attended the occasional board meeting, but that kind of cop-out wasn’t for her.

Best to just take things as they came. The future often turned out to be something totally unexpected, anyway.

She decided to turn on the TV and catch the rest of the news, wondering with a morbid idleness what kind of horrors were going on in the world today.

The presenter was just finishing describing the latest terrorist atrocity in Baghdad, judging from the graphics of soldiers and burning cars on the screen beside her. Cut to her colleague. “A London student is calling for the investigation into the murder of Jewish refugees at Macy-sur-Auvergne in France during the Second World War to be reopened. The incident took place shortly after D-Day…” A black-and-white film of German and Allied tanks opening fire on one another, and buildings collapsing in heaps of rubble. ”German forces were fighting a fierce rearguard action in the streets of the small market town in Normandy, against the advance of British and American forces, when according to an eyewitness account a Panzer regiment suddenly turned their guns on a church where the refugees were hiding. Only three people survived the massacre that followed, in which the priest and his family were also killed.

“Earlier, a German officer had entered the church with some of his men, but taken no action against the fugitives. Although it’s been suggested the Germans thought there might be Allied soldiers hidden in the church, ready to fire or throw grenades at the tanks, interviews with surviving British and American officers involved in the battle for Macy suggest this is unlikely.” Talking head of military historian giving his opinion.

“What is certain,” the presenter went on, “is that one of the Panzer groups known to be involved in the battle knew there were refugees in the building. Now Stephen Aron, the great-nephew of a survivor of the massacre, is hoping someone will come forward with new information. Cassie McMillan reports.”

Cut to an intelligent-looking young man who couldn’t be much more than eighteen if he was that; he was sitting at a desk poring over an assortment of papers, the idea being that he should look keen and studious. “It all grew out of a thesis for a University course. For Stephen, however, the matter is more than just academic.”

“This has been investigated before, hasn’t it?” McMillan’s voice, off-screen, asked Stephen Aron who was now in close-up. “There wasn’t enough evidence for a prosecution.”

“Yes, but it’s possible someone who didn’t hear or see the original appeals for information may come forward,” said the young man.

Back to the voice-over, while Stephen was shown discussing something, probably nothing to do with the atrocity, with other members of his synagogue. “It may be the last chance to bring the men responsible for the crime to justice. They’d now be very old, in their eighties or nineties. Some would say the whole thing happened so long ago there’s little point. But Stephen’s Great-Aunt Simone, now 86, disagrees. And Stephen is determined to campaign for justice on her behalf.”

“I think there’s still anti-Semitism around, and that means we can’t forget it,” Stephen said.

There was a brief interview with Simone during which she explained why she felt the matter was still important. Then back to Stephen. “So what do you say to those who think this is simply stirring up things which are much better forgotten?”

“I’d ask them how they’d feel if it was their family who’d been murdered,” he replied simply.

“So Stephen continues to look for clues to the identity of the officer who ordered the attack which killed Simone’s husband and two children.” Another black-and-white, this time a still photo of a man in Second World War German Army uniform, flashed up onto the screen. “One possibility is this man… ”

Caroline’s grip on her cup of tea went limp. It tilted and some of the contents splashed onto the carpet. She was barely aware they had done so.

“Oh God, no,” she whispered. “Oh no. Please. Not again. Please…..”

She had felt uneasy the moment World War Two atrocities had been mentioned, and as soon as it was clear the item was about Macy her stomach churned. Now her fears were confirmed and she felt as if the bottom had dropped right out of her world. The face staring out at her from the TV was the face of her grandfather, Reynart Engelmann.

“He’s known to have commanded the 27th Panzer Division, which was in the area at the time. However when interviewed after the war he denied any involvement in the killings. So do the two surviving German tank commanders who took part in the fighting around Macy.” Photographs were shown of the commanders as they would have looked in 1944. By now, Caroline guessed, they must be very old.

“Although the situation at the time was very confused, of the three tank divisions in the area Engelmann’s is thought to have been the closest. However when American forces captured the town and rescued the survivors of the massacre, the wrecked tanks found at the scene were from another regiment. But information from eyewitnesses and from captured German records makes it clear the 27th Panzers were in a position to carry out the atrocity.”

“We’d like to eliminate him from our enquiries,” said Stephen Aron. “The closer we can get to the truth the better.”

“Engelmann, who emigrated to Britain after the war, is now dead,” Cassie McMillan informed her public. Evidently no-one had made any effort to find out if Engelmann had any surviving family in Britain, so they could be contacted in advance of the item going out in deference to their feelings. “But that doesn’t mean this particular line of enquiry is now closed.

“Stephen is off to France shortly to make enquiries there. Whether, after so many years, his search is likely to prove successful is anyone’s guess; that hasn’t dampened his determination to find out once and for all, sixty years on, who was responsible for one of the forgotten tragedies of the Second World War.”

Back to the studio. “That’s all for tonight,” smiled the newsreader. “Join us again tomorrow at six, goodnight.”

Caroline closed her eyes and for a minute or so breathed deeply in and out. Then she reached for the phone.

It was her father who answered. “Oh, hi, love.” He sounded pretty grim.
“Dad, have you seen the news?” It sounded as if he had.
“Yes,” he sighed.

“What are we going to do? They’re going to rake it up all over again. I thought they’d forgotten….I thought they’d given up….”
“Nobody found anything last time.”
“That doesn’t mean they might not now.”

“I don’t see there’s very much we can do. I’ve said it before, I doubt very much if it was our Grandad. I just don’t think he was the type, whatever his faults. But if this kid wants to go around digging up the past like that I’m afraid we can’t stop him.”

Caroline knew he was right. Again her heart sank like a lead weight.

“Look, love, don’t worry about it. We’ll just have to ride the storm. Face it together. We could even offer to help him.”

Caroline didn’t fancy the idea of aiding in the unmasking of her own grandfather as a war criminal. Would Stephen Aron accept their assistance anyway?

“We’ll get together and have a talk about it; the whole family. In the meantime, try not to think about it. You’ve usually got enough on your plate with that job of yours. Anyway, I can’t see how it would reflect on us if he did do it.”

“But it does,” she replied. “It shouldn’t, but it does.”

“We’ll sort it all out,” he promised. The conversation moved on to the usual niceties. But Caroline wasn’t in the mood for them.

Afterwards she curled up on the sofa, hugging herself protectively, and tried to think the problem over. If Engelmann had done what he was supposed to have done, didn’t he deserve to be exposed, dead or alive? Perhaps the truth should come out.

To be honest, it wasn’t the first time it had happened, though nothing had come of the incident. They’d kept quiet, trusting to the people who knew of their connection with Engelmann not to gossip.

This time, she had an idea things might be different. Over time, the probability was that new evidence would become available. Because it often did, if you only kept on looking for it.

It wasn’t possible, surely. Reynart Engelmann had been a loving man, totally dedicated to his family, kind to animals and children. But then so had Dr Goebbels.

Eventually she uncurled herself and did what the English always do in times of stress; made herself a cup of tea and sat down in front of the TV again, letting the warm liquid gradually soothe her ruffled nerves.

She picked up the newspaper and flicked casually through it, tossing it aside after a few pages. The item at the bottom of the second page of the advertisements section, inviting any surviving British descendants of Oberst Reynart Engelmann, former soldier in the 2nd Regiment of the 27th Panzer Division, and known to have settled in the United Kingdom after the war, or anyone who had worked in any capacity at the Boarstall Hill prisoner-of-war camp near Dover, to ring a certain Munich telephone number remained unnoticed.


It was a shame, really, that gatherings like this didn’t happen very often, and that when they did happen it tended to be for the wrong reasons.

The entire extended Kent family were grouped round the table in the dining room of Edward and Margaret’s house on the outskirts of Dorking. Actually they weren’t quite a complete set; Caroline’s two cousins on her father’s side were absent, evidently feeling the business was nothing to do with them and they could easily brush off any hassle that did ensue. Lucky you, she thought.

Opposite Caroline and her parents sat Edward’s two sisters, Marlene and Sophie, with their husbands. Both women were more or less grey now, but here and there a few hints of the original gold showed through. Sophie was the spitting image of her mother, Reynart’s wife, the Red Cross worker who had fallen in love with him and nursed him back to health, one might say to life, after the shocking news of his family’s death in an Allied bombing raid, to afterward marry him and help found a new dynasty in a new land. Marlene, like Edward, had the face of the man whose photograph sat on the sideboard. All three of Reynart Engelmann’s children had aged in much the same way. They made a rather striking group, anno domini having on the whole been kind to them; adding if anything a touch of distinction to their appearance.

The introductory small talk had exhausted itself, and they now sat staring at one another vacantly, unsure where to begin.

As always it was Caroline who took the lead. “Well,” she sighed, “what are we going to do, then?”

“Let’s face it, if he did do what he’s supposed to have done, it wasn’t right. They’ve every right to know. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Caroline knew what Marlene said was true. Not that it made her feel any better.

“I still can’t believe he’d do a thing like that,” said Sophie. She looked hard at her sister. “Can you?” Evidently she felt Marlene ought to be displaying more in the way of family loyalty. Marlene sighed. “Let’s face it, there are things we don’t know about our nearest and dearest which would knock us silly if we did. I’m afraid we can’t rule anything out.”

“Yes, I’m sure. But I don’t think he was a secret child molester or anything like that, somehow.” Sophie’s tone was acid.

“Nor do I darling, nor do I. But a war criminal…I don’t know…”
“But he never talked about it. He never said anything.”
“He wouldn’t do, would he?” Marlene snapped. “Would you?”
“I don’t like what you’re implying.”

Caroline decided it was time to interrupt what looked like developing into quite a promising family quarrel. “Just a sec, you two,” she said authoritatively, then changed the tone of her voice. “So Marlene, you think…you think there might actually be some truth in these allegations?”

“Remember that’s our father you’re talking about,” Edward said darkly. And Marlene’s husband Ron stiffened, sensing the atmosphere of hostility towards his wife and feeling the need to defend her. Marlene swallowed. “We…we have to face it. It’s happened before. People have lived lies…kept their past from their families. Let’s face it, how much did we ever really know about him?”

Up until then the non-Kents by birth had preferred to keep out of it. But now Sophie’s husband, Caroline’s Uncle Derek, spoke up, possibly emboldened by the effects of drink. “That he was a loving father and grandfather and a thoroughly decent bloke. That’d be good enough for me.”

“Aren’t you just trying to appease those people who are determined to have their pound of flesh over things like this?” Edward said to Marlene.

Caroline raised a hand in an appeal for calm. “Look, folks. If we’re going to face this together, decide what we’re going to do about it, we need to be united. Not fall out with each other like this. It’s going to be damaging enough even if the allegations aren’t true, supposing nobody ever manages to prove it one way or the other. Which is one possible outcome.”

“You’re daughter’s talking sense again, Edward,” Derek said. “Like she always does. Let’s just try and cool it a bit, shall we?”

“We ought to make some sort of statement,” said Margaret Kent, Caroline’s mother, making a contribution for the first time.

“That’d just be drawing attention to ourselves,” said Derek. Ron, a man of few words, nodded in a slow ponderous fashion.

“I can’t see why it matters so much to this kid, anyway,” grunted Edward. “Everyone connected with the business, on the German side, is either dead or very old. No point in punishing them.”

“They think there’s every point in it,” said Sophie. “Vindictive lot at times, they are.”
“Who are?” asked Caroline.
“The Jews.”

Caroline looked at her sharply. Sophie caught her niece’s gaze and qualified the statement. “I suppose when you consider what they’ve been through; perhaps not vindictive, but...vengeful. Some of them, anyway. They don’t forget a favour but they don’t forget a wrong either. And they never get off the scent where these things are concerned.”
Caroline relaxed, acknowledging there was a certain amount of truth in what Sophie said.

“It matters to them,” said Derek, “because it still happens.” Synagogues still got bombed or torched, cemeteries desecrated, people murdered. Anti-Semitism was still a problem, and in fact in recent months there had been a disturbing new spate of attacks, though so far nobody had been killed, in Europe anyway, with the possible exception of David Richards in Germany. People didn’t like the influence they thought the Jewish community had, the insistence of many Jews that the Holocaust was a worse thing than the countless other examples of murder and cruelty that disfigured human history. And then of course there was the behaviour of a certain small Middle Eastern country.

“But he’s dead, for Christ’s sake,” Edward grumbled. “You can’t try a dead man. What’s the point in stirring things up now? Don’t they have any feeling for us?” Something had happened to put him in a bad mood, which wasn’t unusual, and he was in a less conciliatory frame of mind than the night before. “It’s like that business with Princess what’s-her-name.” He had in mind the storm which broke when the father of the German-born Princess Michael of Kent was revealed by a witch-hunting researcher to have served in the SS, something which until then had been kept strictly quiet. The effect on the Princess herself had not been pleasant and many people thought the matter ought to have been left to rest.

“I think they just want to know the truth,” said Caroline. “People often feel better that way, when something nasty’s happened in their lives and it has a lasting effect. We have to see it from their point of view.

“It’s also possible that they don’t know we exist. They may have heard of me because of my…..exploits.” The ones she could tell people about, anyway. “But they won’t necessarily connect me, or any of us for that matter, with Grandad. Especially if, as Derek says, we don’t attract attention to ourselves.”

They still seemed to be going round in circles. “Let’s look at what we know. Someone says he actually went into the church and saw what was going on there, not long before it was flattened.” It was why Marlene had concluded Reynart was guilty. “Afterwards, things were a bit confused. No-one can be sure it was the same unit.”
“So it’s not conclusive,” Ron said.
“And that’s the trouble,” Caroline mused.

“It may not have been your grandfather,” Ron continued, finding a voice for once. “There could have been someone else involved, someone who’s still alive somewhere. To be fair to the lad, I think they ought to be allowed to find out the truth. I mean, we can’t stop him, can we?”
“Precisely,” Caroline muttered.
And, of course, she knew she probably wouldn’t be quite so objective if it was her family who had been slaughtered.

Sophie brightened a little. “Couldn’t we persuade them to keep Father out of it....if, yes, there was someone else involved, besides himself and we found out who it was...if they could be satisfied with that...”

“I don’t think that’d work,” Caroline warned. “If anything they’d probably take offence. And it wouldn’t be seen as ethical.” Because it wasn’t. “Besides I think we’re grasping at straws there. We’ve no reason to suppose there was anyone else. Apart from the people who were simply obeying orders, of course.”

They weren’t any nearer reaching a decision. The smoke from Marlene’s cigarette curled ceilingwards in a seemingly endless spiral; the big antique clock on the mantelpiece ticked away the minutes without remorse.

Edward spoke with a sudden snort of impatience. “I say we just do nothing. No-one would connect us to him, anyway, like you said Caroline.”

“Some people know,” Sophie objected. “And there’s such a thing as gossip. It’d get around.”
They fell silent again.

“I want to know,” said Caroline suddenly. “I want to know if he was a war criminal or not.”

“You mean look into it yourself? You’ll only be drawing attention to the connection that way,” Edward said. “Which is just what you said we shouldn’t – “

“I want to know,” she repeated stubbornly. Family pride was at stake.
“You could be doing more harm than good, sweetheart.”

“That depends on what she finds,” Derek pointed out. “He may have been perfectly innocent. And she doesn’t have to let anyone know she’s doing it at all.”

“I won’t,” Caroline said. “Until – “ She stopped herself. If the evidence proved her grandfather’s guilt, would she really be prepared to reveal it to the public? “Well I’m going to do it, anyway. We’ll see what I can find and take it from there.”

Marlene lent her support. “I don’t want our past to be shrouded in lies, in mystery. We’ve got to know what happened, for the sake of our own piece of mind.”

After a moment Edward nodded in agreement. “It’s better than standing back and let this Aron bloke do it for us. Of course he may find nothing at all - as might we - but we can’t bank on that.”

Caroline sat sunk in morbid reflection. The fact that there’d been a name change meant nothing. It was still her family. She knew very little about her German forebears, but certainly didn’t like to think they’d been racists and murderers. She didn’t see why you should be embarrassed by your ancestors. You couldn’t be, because you needed a past, a pedigree; it was vital for your sense of identity. But if they were Nazi butchers……
It must be embarrassing, and that seemed a massive understatement, for the children and grandchildren of the Nazi leaders. Some of them had changed their names; how far it had gone towards making them feel better she didn’t know. It could easily be established, as it had been by those carrying out the most recent of the previous investigations, that Reynart Engelmann had later became Richard Kent. That wouldn’t mean people could necessarily connect them, out of all the people in the country with their surname, with the events at Macy. But unless they went to elaborate lengths to conceal their past, or lied which seemed distasteful, people would sooner or later find out. To her mind it was sure to be extremely distressing, whatever happened.

Well, she wasn’t going to sit around and wait to be distressed. She would have to take a hand. If there were things to be discovered which might upset her she’d much rather do it herself than wait until someone else did. As for employing a paid researcher or a private detective she didn’t want to do that in case they mucked it up.

Edward raised his voice. “So are we all agreed then? We’re going to leave it all to Caroline.”

The group around the table nodded. “Good on you, lass,” said Ron. “Go for it. I hope you get there before he does.”

Determinedly she stood up. “The best thing is if I start right away.”
“Can you get the time off?” Edward asked.

“They owe me it, after all the hard work I’ve put in over the last few weeks.”
“Where are you going to start?”

She realised she had no idea. “I’m not sure, really. Germany, maybe….France sometime….” She paused and looked round at them all. “One thing. Whatever happens, we can’t let ourselves be blamed for something that happened over sixty years ago. Something we wouldn’t have remotely considered doing. If anyone asks us about it we’ve got to have the courage of our convictions and say it shouldn’t be allowed to reflect on us in any way. We’re sorry about the massacre, of course. But we have to get on with our lives the same as anyone else.”
And that, she hoped, would be sufficient.


It occurred to Caroline that her investigations were just as pointless as Stephen Aron’s, when all things were considered. She had managed to get hold of a report of the previous investigation into Macy. It had been fairly thorough and she didn’t see herself dredging up anything that no-one else hadn’t already. But just in case…..

The London Holocaust Bureau, located in Godman Street near St Paul’s Cathedral, served both as a source of information on that dark chapter in Mankind’s history and as the headquarters for the Nazi-hunting organization set up by its founder, Auschwitz survivor Shmuel Tenenbaum. Most of its work was educational these days, the surviving unpunished Nazi war criminals now being very few in number. But in its time it had been responsible for bringing a good many of Hitler’s butchers to justice, and by so doing making sure the world did not forget.

Shmuel Tenenbaum himself happened to be in that day, as Caroline had hoped. The two of them had first met when she had called on him asking for advice on how to go about finding the terrorists who had murdered her brother, and had devised an elaborate system of safeguards to make sure they were never brought to justice. He’d been happy to give it, even though it had not really been part of his brief, and it had paid off. They had kept in touch ever since. The two were good friends even though they disagreed, sometimes vehemently – the old man still had plenty of fire left in him – over many issues; whether Israel was not as bad as the Nazis at times in her behaviour, the morality of the kidnapping of Eichmann in violation of international law, and the relativity of the Holocaust when compared with other atrocities. The disagreements were always amicable.

The Secretary met her and showed her upstairs to Tenenbaum’s office. The old Jew rose slowly from his chair to greet his visitor, breaking into a broad delighted grin. She suspected that having lost so many of his family to the Nazis, he compensated by regarding her as a sort of daughter.

He was now over ninety, but had aged grandly. There were lines and wrinkles of course, but the flesh had not begun to sag and the eyes were still clear and bright, for the most part perceiving the world without the aid of glasses. Sparse white hair fringed a massive dome of a skull whose skin was smooth and brown and gleaming. Above his moustache thrust a hooked nose which seemed typically Semitic, although she knew it was really no more common among Jews than, say, blond hair among English people. We don’t, she supposed, tend to find such a feature attractive; but it in no way marred Tenenbaum’s appearance. If you saw him coming towards you in the street, and you didn’t know him, something about him would impress you, grabbing your attention and holding it. You would see more than just a frail little old man. He was that, of course. There was a justification for the Bureau’s continued existence but not a lot he himself could do now, at his age. But all the same, every day he came into work here, stiffly mounted the stairs to the office and sat down at his desk to read and answer correspondence, type out a few letters, and go through the copies kept there of all the files to see if there were any outstanding matters, perhaps forgotten about over time, where his intervention might produce results.

The two embraced one another affectionately, Caroline planting a kiss on his ninety-three year old cheek. “My dear, it’s so nice to see you again,” he beamed. “Do sit down.”

A helper fetched tea for them while they took their seats, Caroline gazing briefly round the little room which for sixty years had been, in many ways, the centre of the entire operation being conducted from here. It was simply furnished, without undue ornamenation. One wall was taken up by a bookcase of polished mahogany, its shelves filled with works on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in general. The sounds of cars and buses drifted up to them from the busy, bustling London street. The office was dusty, but it was not the dust of neglect but rather that of age; the dust of old crimes.

She’d had no need to tell them the purpose of her visit, because she knew she was welcome to turn up any time she liked, but Tenenbaum had obviously guessed it anyway. “I’m afraid Stephen Aron has already been here,” he chuckled.
“I expect he has,” she muttered.
“It would be his logical first port of call.”
“May I ask what you told him?”

“I told him to be careful. That he must never accuse without proof. That has always been my watchword, all through the years I’ve been running this. And he must do his best to be calm and reasonable about the whole business.” A look of foreboding crossed the old man’s face for a moment. “I’ll be honest with you, some of these young Jews nowadays….”

“You told him to leave the family alone, didn’t you? Not to come to us with any questions. You’ll appreciate this is causing us enough grief as it is.”

“Huh!” exclaimed Tenenbaum, eyeing her reprovingly. “What do you take me for? That was another of my watchwords. Our quarrel was with the war criminals themselves, not with those who happened to be their families. It’s not my business purely to be vindictive.” He shrugged. “Of course, they might shelter their relatives from justice, but I suppose….”

“Your father is your father whatever he’s done,” Caroline observed. “Maybe it’s natural.”

“Of course. It just doesn’t get in the way of my doing my job. Although if my father were a mass-murdering Nazi I should be pretty ashamed of him, to say the least.”
Caroline winced.

“I’m sorry,” said Tenenbaum, reaching out to pat her on the hand.
“It’s alright,” she whispered.
“And you still don’t want my people to look into it for you?”

He knew, had known long before, just who she was, of her grandparent’s possible involvement in Macy. But she had sensed she could confide in him, knowing his reputation for honour and also compassion. She’d already established that Tenenbaum’s organization had nothing on the matter themselves, having been more concerned at the time with hunting down those responsible for atrocities that had to be considered more serious, on terms of scale anyway. Perhaps some additional material had come along in the meantime.

“No, thankyou,” she said. “This is something I have to do myself.”

“Then I don’t understand why you have come to me for help on this matter. Or is this just a social call? You’d be welcome, of course…..”
“I just want to know if you’ll back me up if it does turn out that he was…”

“But of course!” He shrugged, spreading his arms expansively. “We established that long ago.”
“If you did find out he did it, you’d have to make it known though, wouldn’t you?”

“We understand each other well enough for you to know that I would. After all, that was my brief. It was what I set out to do all those years ago….” For a few moments he was silent, lost in sad memories, his eyes going to the framed black-and-white photograph on the desk.

Something in his manner suggested he wasn’t quite so sure as he seemed. You’re wondering, aren’t you, Caroline thought, whether there’s still any point in prosecuting doddery old men who’ll soon be senile, most of their lives already past; men the sight of whom, as they’re led off to trial, may even excite pity, at worst ridicule, and make us look stupid….…or worse.

Tenenbaum snapped out of his reflections and back into the present. “So I don’t think there’d be anything to gain from the point of view of your own peace of mind. Always depending on the results of any investigation, of course.”
She felt the need to clarify her thoughts. “I’m just a bit....I don’t know, this time it feels…as if I’ve got to stand up and play a part in things, or I’m going to find myself in trouble.”

“I’m sure nothing that has happened reflects on you,” he said consolingly.
She wasn’t quite listening. “They could at least have considered the possibility he might have relatives here who’d be upset by it all being brought up again.”
“Ah, but what if they had contacted you? Would you not have felt offended? Being asked to help investigate your own relative...I gather someone did, once.”
“Yes, they did,” Caroline said. “I wasn’t very old at the time. But my parents remember it quite clearly.”

“Once again I must apologise for that. It was foolish of them, and done without my approval. It was fortunate your father took it so well.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Caroline said. “They weren’t really part of your set-up, were they?”
“No, they were a collection of amateurs who had decided to set up their own Nazi-hunting organization, without first taking advice from anyone else. Normally people tend to come to me for guidance on these things.”

“They certainly should,” she said. She allowed herself a slight smile. His seminal importance, not undeserved, in the Nazi-hunting cause mattered to him and making reference to it was a good way to win him over.
“I could arrange a meeting with the family, if you like,” he said kindly. “Would that help?”
“No, it’s alright.” Caroline felt she’d done enough soul-searching on the subject and that a meeting with Stephen Aron’s family wouldn’t help. The angst she was experiencing over the matter was becoming tiresome.

“My impression of Stephen Aron was that he was basically a good lad. Perhaps a little…impetuous. I’m sure he doesn’t harbour any ill will towards you or your family. And he does have a point; people may be able to forgive but they should not forget.

“I suppose we should really be grateful. There have been others who were much more….” Vindictive was the word Sophie had used, Caroline remembered. “They are crazed by vengeance. But I expect even they realise there is little point in visiting it upon the dead.”

“They wouldn’t go for me, would they?” Caroline asked uneasily, suddenly worried. She’d read a novel once where…..”I mean, an eye for an eye and all that.”

She thought Tenenbaum looked uncertain for a moment. “To have the satisfaction of seeing Engelmann’s line wiped out too, even though he could not know it? Well, in the early days it’s true I had to restrain some of my associates from taking…extreme measures. The effect it can have on a person, to have gone through an experience like the Shoah....but to my knowledge such incidents have never actually occurred in real life.” Would he admit it if they had, Caroline found herself wondering, given the damage there might be to his cause. “And after so many years…no, I think I can probably set your mind to rest on that count.”
They decided to dismiss the matter.

“Aside from all that, how are you, liebchen?” Tenenbaum smiled.
“Oh, OK. And you?”

“I’m having a little trouble with my back, and if I’m reading something for a long time I may need the glasses…it’s to be expected of course, considering.”

“And how is your w….oh, I’m sorry.” She had forgotten that Tenenbaum’s wife had died not so long ago, never quite having recovered from the treatment she had received at the camp all those years ago.

He just smiled, but Caroline knew he was more affected by the death of someone he had lived with and loved for nearly seventy years than he was willing to let on.

“Anyway, I’d like to see what you have on the case. I guess all there is to know about it would be here, if anywhere. I know most of it already but a recap wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Certainly,” said Tenenbaum, and rose creakily to his feet. “There’s not much. But what we do have is at your disposal.” She started to follow him out. At the door he paused and turned to her. “You realise, if you are investigating the matter yourself it may only create suspicion, because you would stand to gain by a favourable result?”
“I have to do something,” she said. “I’m not just going to sit back and watch while my family’s reputation is torn apart.”

He moved on, and they went downstairs to the Reading Room where Tenenbaum asked the woman behind the desk for the file. It was available on computer – a row of them stood on a table - but although he knew how to use one she guessed the old man still thought in terms of manual filing systems. The helper nodded, went to a filing cabinet and pulled out one of the drawers. She sorted through the contents, found what she was looking for and offered it to them. Caroline smiled her thanks, took the folder and sat down at one of the tables.

“I’ll leave you to it,” Tenenbaum said, and left. She watched him shuffle out with a look of concern. There had been an unmistakeable deterioration since she had last set eyes on him. He wasn’t as spry in his movements as he had been then. At least his mind remained as sharp as ever. But then he’d had a very important job to do these past sixty years, and that had helped.

It was dank, dark and damp inside the temple, though refreshingly cool after the oppressive humidity of the rain forest. Rivulets of water glistened in the light of the torches as they trickled down the walls. With unnerving suddenness a bat – they supposed it must have been a bat – flew at them from out of the darkness, its sleep disturbed. They jumped back in alarm and it fluttered away down the corridor.

“In here, Senor,” said the boy, pausing at the opening in the left-hand wall. He went inside, and Heinrich, Wachter and the rest of the party followed him.

He halted, and shone his torch on the wall in front of them, running the circle of light over the stonework and the paintings, executed with dye from some kind of jungle plant, which adorned it. Twelve foot high, the figures, some male and others female, wore robes and ornate headdresses from under which appeared to stream hair of a bold yellow. The faces were pale, the eyes a startling blue.

The others held up their own torches, and Heinrich heard Wachter, who was seeing this for the first time, catch his breath. He murmured something the older man didn’t quite catch.

“Yes,” he purred, in a soft, savage tone of triumph. “Yes, the Sky People. Because their hair was like the sun and their eyes like…like the sky.”

They took photographs, then Wachter resumed staring spellbound at the paintings. “How far did they travel,” he whispered. “Just think…how much more must remain to be discovered? There must be other traces of their achievements, not only here but all over the world. This is the archaeological find of the century.”

“The temple was discovered some years ago,” Heinrich reminded him. “And the century is still not a decade old. But the greatest find of all time is the complex at Thule.” He was speaking in German now, mindful of the Indians’ presence. He had become thoroughly proficient in Spanish since arriving in Paraguay after the war, but since they spoke it too, along with their own traditional dialect, one obviously had to take care.

Wachter decided he’d seen enough. In silence they emerged from the building into the sun-dappled jungle, following the path that had been cut through it to the dirt road beside which the pick-up stood waiting. “You realise,” said Wachter suddenly, brushing aside a stray creeper, “that this is all a gamble, what we’re doing?”

“Of course,” Heinrich agreed. “But so, in effect, were the policies of the Fuhrer – Hitler, I mean. Of course, he was someone who knew when a gamble would pay off. Until he became too confident.”

Wachter was looking down at the ground as he walked. “We must not fail again,” he said. “Twice we overstretched ourselves and lost. Twice….”

“The Kaiser was not Hitler,” Heinrich said. “He was a fool.”
“But had the German Reich conquered all of Europe, it would have provided the basis for the ambitions of a Hitler to be realised.”

“The first time we were betrayed by the civilians in Berlin. In the autumn of 1918 there was no particular reason to suppose Germany was fated to lose the war, yet they had to conclude that shameful armistice. The second time…..well as I said, Hitler was too confident. He should have been content with what was achieved in 1940, and not taken on Russia and the United States until we had developed super-weapons against which no-one could stand.” Given Germany’s technical skills and that it had been a period when scientific and technological progress was taking place fairly rapidly, victory would in Heinrich’s estimation have been possible before the Nazi state fell apart due to internal rivalries, as happened to all governments sooner or later.

“So if we can’t find the…the Chosen One?”
“Then we wait. We may have to conceal the weapons even more securely, to prevent their discovery. I might not have authorized the creation of our arsenal at all had it not been for the danger that sooner or later, probably sooner, someone will want to know what we’re really up to at Thule, and once they find out the whole scheme is wrecked anyway. I thought we might as well proceed.”
“If we have the Power we may not need the weapons to take over.”
“But we cannot keep using it until there is nothing left for us to rule.”
“If we wait…you say yourself that sooner or later someone will realise what we are doing. I do not see the logic in your strategy.”
“There is a risk either way,” Heinrich shrugged.

“There must be no mistakes,” Wachter said peevishly. “No mistakes.” This time Germany must be victorious. He wanted theirs to be a triumph for her in particular as well as Aryan Man in general. She must be the centre of the new world order, with everyone else as willing client states.

As a child and young adult, he had searched for an identity for himself and discovered one in the nation. True happiness was to be found in eclipsing oneself within it. It was a paradox of the Fuhrer principle, then, that to become strong and popular and thus able to harness the people to the task of building the Reich and preserving it in being the one at the top had to magnify himself, to become great and god-like.

It was a daunting responsibility, to which most proved unequal. But he would do it. He would fulfil his destiny.

“I was thinking,” he said as they got back into the pickup. “The machine…what it did to the Inuit….”

“We still don’t know what actually happened. Something was transferred, but we can’t say what until we understand the workings better. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. That was just a test.”
“But it does have…implications. We…..”

“Cannot allow them to deter us from our duty. If you wish to be Fuhrer, Klaus, you have to remember that.”
“I was thinking of…..oh never mind, Heinrich. Yes, you are quite right. We cannot allow it to deter us.” Wachter started the engine.

Caroline closed the file and glanced up at Tenenbaum. The helper had gone out of the room on some task or other, leaving them alone.

“So all this proves,” she said, “is what we know already. His Panzer division was in the area at the time the church was destroyed, but it wasn’t the only one. I can’t see that Stephen Aron has very much to go on.”

“There were SS Panzers in the vicinity. On the whole, it’s far more likely to have been them. Of all the crimes against humanity which can be laid at the door of the German army in World War Two, the vast majority were committed by the SS.
“Though even there,” Tenenbaum mused, “there were one or two decent men.” He remembered the dying soldier who had begged forgiveness from him, needing to seek absolution from a Jew, and whose request he had refused, to his subsequent regret. “Not many, but...”
“There’s nothing to say the killers couldn’t have been Wehrmacht.” His lips twisted sardonically. “But of course the ordinary, decent German soldier could never have done such a terrible thing. Could he?”

There were those who regarded the average German in World War Two, whether soldier or civilian, as entirely blameless of Hitler’s crimes, and others who attacked them as having been his willing executioners. As with most things the truth, Caroline suspected, lay somewhere between the two extremes.

That, however, wasn’t what concerned her right now. “The SS unit was too far away to have been involved,” she said worriedly.
“The records could have been falsified.”
“A cover-up?”
“It’s possible.”

“I just wish I knew,” Caroline sighed. “One way or the other. This thing keeps cropping up from time to time and I hate it. I hate it.”
“Well as I said, if there is anything I can do to help you I will.”
“If that’s all….”

“That’s all. For the moment.” She collected up her things and rose. Again the two of them hugged.
“Take care of yourself, liebchen.”
“And you.”
“You know where to find me if you need me.”
“Of course.”

He showed her out. As the door of the Bureau closed behind her she paused and sighed, gazing with dull eyes into the mass of people and traffic around her, before setting off for the tube and home, several people stopping to stare after her, struck by the grim purposefulness in her stride and on her face.

It was just a few small things that you noticed from time to time over a long period. The flash of light on something metallic that might be the lens of a pair of binoculars; or the figure, dimly glimpsed through the window of a building on the other side of the road, who seemed to be looking in your direction. The two men who had been sitting together in their car, parked near or opposite the house, for just long enough to make you suspicious, probably because their relief was a bit late in turning up. The people in the street who were a little too studiously casual in their manner whenever they passed you, or you them.

Ulrich Schwege was standing looking out the window of the living room of the house which served as the Thule Society’s headquarters, thinking. Suddenly he realised it was the wrong thing to do; they would conclude, he’s watching for signs he’s being spied on. He knows.
Abruptly he moved away from the window.

It was possible that after the Richards incident he was becoming paranoid, but it was the sort of thing the police would do. They would have to be very careful when going about the country on their business. Fortunately there was only so long you could tail a suspect without losing him, even by car.

Caroline came up to the door of Hennig’s office, braced herself and knocked. “Come in,” she heard him bark.

He was sitting at his desk eating an egg sandwich from his lunchbox. She wrinkled her nose at the pungent odour.
“And what can I do for you, Miss Kent?” To her relief, he seemed in a good mood.
“Well I wondered if I could have a little break, actually,” she said, her hands clasped behind her back.

“I thought you were looking a bit under the weather again. How much time do you want off?”
“About a couple of weeks.”
“Were you going to count it as annual leave?”
“If you’d prefer me to.”

He gave a charming smile. “You don’t have to. No, take those two weeks off. Count it as a bonus. I know things have been a bit tough for you lately.”
“They certainly have,” she agreed. “All right, thanks. I’ll count it from tomorrow, if that’s OK.”
“You deserve it.” Then he frowned suddenly. “But with Chris Barrett away too, won’t that leave us a bit…..”
“Chris is coming back tomorrow.”

“Well timed,” Hennig remarked. “It should be OK, then. Are you planning on going anywhere?”
“Maybe to the Continent for a few days. Got one or two things to do there, a few people to see.”

It seemed to him she was being deliberately vague. But then he was used to her mysterious ways by now. “Oh right,” he laughed. “Well enjoy yourself.”
Enjoy myself, she reflected. Yeah, right. Wow.

She returned to her office to collect a few things. As she was about to leave her worry at the situation suddenly manifested itself as anger. “Oh screw it,” she shouted.

This time she didn’t notice the mouse of her computer jerk sharply a couple of inches to the right.

Still no reply to the advert, Martin Higson thought. Give it a few more days?

He sat looking at the wall trying to figure out the best way to proceed if there was no response. From time to time, his thoughts would stray and his eyes travel around the room and its furnishings, leading to reflections on his current situation. On the whole it was quite a comfortable little pad, this place. With Wachter’s money he could afford something better, like he could afford the trips to Germany for meetings of the organization, but he had to be very careful how he spent his money. If he suddenly bought a posh house in one of the wealthier districts of the capital it was possible that not only the DWP but also, bearing in mind what he was, the police, would wonder where he could have found the means to do so. It was a bit of a bugger really. But he was very lucky to have met Erdmann, and through him Wachter, or things could have been so much worse.

If he had eventually become very disillusioned with the British National Party it was not out of disgust with their policies but rather because of their ineptitude. They had no cunning, no acumen, tending to blow any advantages which did come their way, and insisted on an overall strategy which, until the public finally started coming over to them in droves, was not likely to benefit them. It would make sense, he thought, to drop the call for compulsory repatriation altogether and confine themselves to opposing the more ridiculous aspects of political correctness, those which might without controversy be felt to be unfair to the white majority. He knew that some black people thought it was too, although Higson still wanted them out of the country as quickly as possible. It was an issue on which the Party might gain not inconsiderable support. Indeed, they could make headway by highlighting issues which didn’t necessarily have a racial dimension, ones which had been largely ignored by the mainstream parties. They could present themselves as the spokespeople for the long-term unemployed, of whom there were still quite a few about despite the tendency of successive governments to fiddle the figures by counting those participating on useless training schemes as working. For the pensioners, and anyone the wrong side of thirty who had been denied a job because their face didn’t fit, because they were not good-looking and in the first flush of youth. For those on low incomes, most of whose hard-won gains went towards exorbitant rents and service charges while they had to watch the fat cats, the big bosses, receive astronomical pay rises or golden handshakes often for doing their jobs badly. For fathers who were denied the same rights of access to their children as their wives, in what came across as a particularly spiteful case of inverted sexism. For all kinds of marginalised and disadvantaged people. Such an approach might eventually bring them to power, or give them enough political clout to force change. The compulsory repatriation policy could always be brought back once they were safely established in government, or in some position of real influence. But as long as they were seen as merely a racist party there would be less chance of their being elected in the first place. Too many people were put off by their extremism, their thuggishness, despite growing discontent at the state of the nation.

True, they were gaining support, but it was a very gradual, frustratingly so, process. In the end Higson had found it impossible to remain patient. The final break had come over a documentary in which members of the Party, including several prospective councillors, were secretly filmed boasting about acts of violence they had committed against members of the black and Asian communities, as well as making controversial remarks about the “Islamicisation” of Britain. There had been an outcry which had led to the Party being asked by its bank to take its account elsewhere, dealing a major blow to its finances, and possibly affected its support among those who while sympathizing with it on many points nonetheless had qualms about its agenda.

The real problem was that the Party’s chairman refused to disown the activists in question, which tactically would have been the sensible thing to do. He foolishly tried to defend their statements as a legitimate expression of opinion within a free society, whereas he ought at least have pretended to acknowledge a distinction between what is said and how one says it. Even Higson, who had little love for ethnic or religious minorities and feared for the future of the white race in Britain, knew some of the statements were wildly exaggerated. It had all been a major lapse of judgement on the chairman’s part. At the same time, an investigation had made it plain that a considerable percentage of the Party’s activists not only had criminal records but were positively proud of the fact.

Perhaps the trouble was that the BNP’s membership consisted too much of mindless thugs, on whom the leadership depended and whom it could not therefore afford to alienate by expelling them. Whatever the reason, its fortunes were in a right bloody mess.

Studying the history of far-Right political parties, Higson soon realised that there was much more of a tradition of them on the continent than in Britain. Mosley’s effort back in the thirties had been relatively feeble. The European Fascists had always been much better organised, often cleverer, with a wider appeal, and of course in some cases had managed to become the government. They still were much more powerful than the BNP could hope to be in the short run. Higson had made contact with a few of the groups, learning French and German so he could communicate with their members more effectively. He became friendly with Wachter and the New Vitality people. And the more he learned about them the more he was thrilled by their willingness to actually do something, to translate their beliefs about how the world should be run into action. The Thule business had seemed weird enough to almost put him off the whole thing, but only until he’d actually seen the evidence.

The doorbell rang. Cautiously Higson answered it, to find that his caller was Rolf Erdmann. “Hiya, mate,” he grinned. “Come on in. Nothing’s up, is it?”

Erdmann stepped into the hall. “I came to warn you. We’re certain the organization in Germany is under surveillance. That means they may be watching us everywhere else as well.”
Higson nodded slowly. “I’ll be careful.”

“But Klaus thinks it may be better if any operations within Germany are carried out by someone from outside it. That may mean you, as you have proved yourself useful to us so often in the past. Though as we are agreed, you will need to be careful. There must be nothing whatever, not the smallest thing, which could lead the authorities to us.”
“You got anything in mind, particularly?”

“There’s been no reply to the advertisement you placed in the British press. That is to say a few of the former POW camp guards have contacted us, but only to say they don’t know about any surviving descendants of Engelmann’s. He was friendly with one or two of them but they lost touch with him after a while. One of the informants told us that Abercrombie, the camp commandant, who would have known since the two of them were very close at one point, died of cancer in 1967. And there has been no other response to the advert.”

“A lot of people don’t bother to read advertisements, unfortunately.” Out of a select group of people, consisting in this case of just one family – who might not even exist - and its offshoots, the chances of any one of them happening to see a particular ad were fifty-fifty at the most. “It’s a bit hit and miss. But what were you getting at?”

“If there has been no reply the best course of action may be to approach Engelmann’s former Wehrmacht comrades. There are still a few of them alive.”
“Yeah, I was thinking that myself. They’d know if he had any descendants in this country.”

“We’ve drawn up a list.” Erdmann handed it to him. “And you will need a cover story.”
“I’ll think of one.” Higson paused, unsure whether the matter he was about to bring up was relevant. “Did you know that someone’s going around saying Engelmann might have been a war criminal? Something he did in France just before he got captured.”

“I shouldn’t think it need make any difference to us. We’re only saying we want to reunite the British and German branches of the family. If there is a British branch, and they’re concerned about the allegations, they may feel the need to get together with their relatives for mutual support, so it could work to our advantage.”
“Or they might not be bothered.”
“Maybe not. If we can find a current address, that could be all we need. In the meantime, it’s up to then what they do about the allegations.”

It wasn’t just the practical business of locating the material she needed to consult and extracting the information she wanted from it. At this time Caroline felt the need to rediscover her past, retrace the journey which had taken her to where she was now, to what she was.

Her first trip was to the RAF Museum at Hendon, where she wandered around until she found a display panel on the bombing of Germany and a discussion of the morality of it.

There was no doubting the awful necessity of the raids. She was quite prepared to be ruthless on that issue. What upset her was the spirit with which some people defended the bombings, even now. They did it to us. That was what one veteran had said when questioned on the matter on a TV programme about it. Perhaps it was because of her ancestry on one side plus the fact that she’d never herself experienced such things as the war, even if some of what she had been through had been pretty hideous at times. But nevertheless the attitudes one still encountered from time to time saddened, even angered her because reason dictated Germans couldn’t be any worse than other people, not at heart. It seemed bigoted and also hypocritical. Many of those who expressed moral indignation on behalf of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were probably only doing so because the Germans had bombed British cities in the Blitz, killing British people, and in her experience weren’t quite so keen to defend the blacks and Asians who’d moved into the areas where they lived during the 50s and 60s, deeply regretting the failure of the late Mr Enoch Powell to become Prime Minister.
One thing she had to acknowledge, though, was that with the passage of the years a lot of the bitterness had evaporated. British and German veterans could meet each other socially, share jokes, compare each other’s wartime experiences, and shake hands in public at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance. One had to look on the bright side.

She wandered off and into the hall where most of the historic planes were kept. Here it was pleasantly cool and airy, soothing her mind to some extent. Her footsteps rang out hollowly on the smooth polished floor.

She paused in front of a Lancaster bomber, an undoubtedly fine and majestic machine, and gazed up at it. The front end of the aircraft, with its bulging Perspex canopies over the cockpit and gunner’s turret, looked like the head of some giant insect, menacing and black and sinister. Some indescribable sensation made her shudder.

But if it had not been for the bombings, in which Reynart Engelmann’s family had all been killed, her grandfather probably wouldn’t have decided to stay in England after the war, and she would have been born a German. There was no disgrace in that, but personally she was glad to be English. In fact, she might not have been born at all, a thought which made her a little uneasy. She was even more grateful for that.

It was a strange situation to be in; an infuriating and disturbing kind of dilemma. Such terrible things, yet we owe what we are to them. Is there any point in regrets and recriminations? From Hendon she caught the tube to the Temple, and walked from there to the Strand, having felt drawn for some reason to inspect the statue of Sir Arthur Harris, wartime chief of RAF Bomber Command. And to some people (not all of them Germans) a reprehensible mass-murderer. It was unfortunate that many of his photographs showed him with a mean, cold-eyed look.
She was aware there had been a likeable side to Harris. Right now he seemed to be looking down at her with a benign expression on his face and a twinkle in his eye, and saying, in a nice sort of way, “Ah, now you don’t like what I did, did you? But if I hadn’t done it you probably wouldn’t have been born, so you ought to be grateful.”

Completely unsure as to what to think, she shrugged, turned and walked away. There was no answer to that, was there?

Then she stopped, turned round again and looked back. One thing. The statue had been unveiled on the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, hadn’t it? And the late Queen Mother had been behind that. She couldn’t have been unaware of the significance of the date.

You lost a brother in the first one, didn’t you, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon? Yes, he was killed in the Great War. Killed by Germans.
You weren’t the sweet, kind old lady everyone thought, were you?

It wasn’t that there shouldn’t be a memorial to Harris, or to Bomber Command. But as far as she was concerned, the statue was tainted. It was silly of those responsible, really. Had just a modicum of compassion and common sense been shown, she could have appreciated it as much as they no doubt wanted her to.

Though always interesting, the Imperial War Museum didn’t have anything relevant to her quest apart from a tape recording of an interview with her grandfather in which he gave an account of his experiences as a POW in England. And so, she thought, to Germany; taking in a little French stop-over on the way.

At the workbench which had been set up in the laboratory Dr Gottfried Kiessling, the other of the two scientists recruited by Wachter’s company to work on the project, wearily put down his pencil and stared down at the symbols he had scribbled across the sheet of paper in front of him in a futile attempt to work out what they meant. He ought to be able to, surely, but the harder he worked at it the more something seemed to be blocking his mind. If he was a better scientist maybe he could do it. But he wasn’t a better scientist and he knew it. He wasn’t even a Doctor, not really. And so far they hadn’t found any Rosetta Stone to help them understand this strange alphabet, which even those knowledgeable about ancient Germanic culture and the runes found hard to decipher. More than that, he had the idea that something about this place was interfering with the functioning of the mind, so there was always a limit to how much they were able to learn. Wolfmann was better, the only one among them with genuine academic qualifications, and he too made mistakes and missed things. Would they ever fully understand it all? Wolfmann thought. Perhaps not without the help of others, and for security reasons they didn’t want that.

The results of the experiment hadn’t been entirely to his liking, although the Inuit would have had to die anyway in the end. Apart from anything else he knew too much. The main thing was, they knew roughly what the machine was for and also, now, that it worked. Whether it would work in precisely the way they wanted it to was another matter.

There were some secrets of this place that he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Unless it turned out they were vital to the plan, something told him it would altogether be best to leave them undisturbed.
Meanwhile, he was getting bored out here.

For the time being their research had reached a dead end. There was no purpose in their being here except to make sure no-one else was. So with nothing much to do at the moment, and Wolfmann and the others in the rest room watching television, Kiessling wandered from the main chamber and down a long, slightly angled passageway. At a junction three more passageways branched off it.

The third passageway ended in a door, fashioned like all other doors in this place from solid stone and with no gap that could be seen, even the tiniest, between it and the walls and ceiling so that it seemed an integral part of the mass of the mountain rather than a separate entity. You only knew it was a door because there was something on it that looked like the keypad for a combination lock. Whether they could have got it open he didn’t know because without understanding more about what was in there none of them desired to.

There was a window, an observation screen, in the door made from a smooth transparent crystalline material which looked like glass but had the texture of solid rock, and probably the strength. It was difficult to see through it clearly because it was stained on the inside with a dull greenish liquid, and in any case the interior of the room beyond was shrouded in murky gloom. Peering carefully through the window with squinted eyes, you had an impression of a vast cathedral-like chamber in which fantastic shapes, gnarled and twisted, loomed menacingly like the trees in some dark fairytale forest. Among them smoke drifted, sometimes in wisps and sometimes in dense impenetrable clouds. Pools of thick viscous liquid seethed and bubbled, occasionally spitting drops onto the window where they sizzled and smoked before trickling down it in steaming rivulets.

It was a vision of Hades. And at one point in the darkness of that Stygian underworld Kiessling thought he could make out a figure. He also thought that it moved once or twice, if only slightly; a huge, monstrous, gigantic shape with the likeness of a man.

Macy-sur-Auvergne, France
A few minutes’ walk had taken Caroline to where she wanted to go. In a corner of the town square, between the town hall and the central library, stood a few jagged fragments of wall, jutting up from the ground like broken stumps of teeth, all that remained of the building which had formerly occupied this spot. Apart from these few pathetic fragments of rubble the area where the church had stood had been paved over, and in the centre of the paved area was a block of stone with a memorial tablet set into it. She translated the inscription. “Here stood the Church of the Annunciation, in whose destruction on 17th June 1944 by soldiers of a German panzer regiment during the fighting following D-Day a group of Jewish refugees were murdered. May we never forget.”

She imagined the scene as it was on a chilly evening sixty years before, and felt her blood run cold. Again the feeling was hard to describe exactly. What is it about the war….

She placed a bunch of flowers at the base of the memorial. Think of it as a peace offering. Then stood back with her hands clasped before her; not remembering, for in one sense she could not remember what had happened long before she was born, so much as contemplating.

She stood silently in that spot for about five minutes, the wind that blew in from the English Channel whistling around her, and occasionally flicking a lock of hair across her face. It seemed to be getting even colder, and with that and the atmosphere of the place she found herself shivering despite her thick overcoat.

Deep in her thoughts, she didn’t notice when someone else came along and placed their own tribute on the steps of the memorial, before going to stand a few feet from her. She turned away a moment or so before they did.

Stephen Aron stopped to gaze after the tall, striking blonde woman as she walked away. He was intrigued by her presence here, mainly on account of her decidedly non-Jewish appearance. The custodian had told him that it wasn’t only Jews who came here, but all the same...

She could be Jewish, of course. It was quite possible.
Somehow he felt the need to speak to her. It might be useful for his thesis to glean something about opinions on the atrocity among Gentiles.
“Excuse me,” he called out in French.

She swung round to face him, eyebrows raised enquiringly. For a moment he was rendered speechless as he realised just how attractive she was, and failed to follow up his approach.
She was smiling, by way of saying ”over to you”. It was a rather nice smile.
Stephen walked up to her. “Did you lose anyone here?” he asked.

“As a matter of fact no,” she said. “I just....” He saw her hesitate. “I just thought I’d pay my respects.”
He had assumed she was French, but although she spoke the language fluently he couldn’t help noticing her accent. “Are you English?”
“Uh-huh. And so are you, if I’m not very much mistaken.”
“You’re not,” he said, reverting to his native tongue.

“What are you doing here...” She coughed. “I mean, er, if it’s not glaringly obvious.”
“Same as you: paying my respects.”
“No, I meant in France. Unless it was just for that, of course.”
“I’m doing some research,” Stephen told her.
“Ah,” she said.

“I’m trying to find out why people come here exactly. Are you Jewish, may I ask?”
The girl laughed. “Do I look it?”
“There are Jews like you,” he said.

“Not many, I’ll bet. No....I just heard about what had happened here and I thought...” Again that suggestion almost of embarrassment. Of unease. “I thought I ought to come along and...”

It seemed to him that she suddenly came to a decision. She leaned towards him, gazing into his face with her rather intense blue eyes. “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? I’m sure I have.”

“I’m Stephen Aron. I’m doing a thesis on what happened here, and I wondered if you’d be willing to talk to me about your views on the matter.”
So it was him.

“I don’t see why not,” she said. And took a deep breath. “But I think there’s something you should know - Stephen. I’m Caroline Kent. But if my grandfather hadn’t decided to change his name, I’d be Caroline Engelmann.”

At first Stephen just stared at her while the revelation gradually sank in. When it did, his jaw dropped. Then Caroline saw his expression change as shock was replaced by wariness. She herself was wearing a noncommittal half-smile.

For a moment Stephen had felt himself go icy cold. Then a certain numbness crept slowly through the fabric of his being, rendering him totally speechless. He had never before been in the presence of someone related to an actual war criminal. Altogether he was awed and in fact a little frightened, as if, because she was his descendant, she might harbour the same prejudices, the same kind of wickedness. And how was he to know she didn’t?

He was quite unable to crystallise his thoughts verbally. “You’’re his....” was all he could manage to splutter.

“Granddaughter, yes. But that doesn’t mean I’ve got horns and a forked tail,” she said sweetly.

He succeeded in regaining his composure. “I didn’t say you had. And...and you think it means I wouldn’t want to talk to you?”

Caroline realised she might be being unfair. “Because of who I am and all that. There are some people who can’t bear to be in the same room as the relatives of Nazi war criminals. Mind you, that’s a bit harsh. And no way to bring about reconciliation.

“I don’t mind us talking. I just thought you might, but perhaps I’m wrong.”
“I didn’t say it was your fault,” he protested.

“Well,” he began, “what do you think about it? The atrocity?”
“It was dreadful,” Caroline said, lowering her voice a fraction or two. “Obviously. You don’t like to think that such things ever just seems one big black mark against the human race. And it leads to other things happening...equally dreadful.”
“What do you mean?”

“I mean what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.” “That’s....wrong, yes,” Stephen agreed. “But isn’t it a bit unfair to draw a comparison with - “

“No it isn’t,” she snapped before he could finish his sentence, fixing him squarely with those piercing eyes. The strength of her reaction, the suddenness with which her manner changed, left him a little shaken. “The Jews of all people should know better than to do that sort of thing, given all they’ve suffered in the past.”

Her manner was beginning to irritate him. All the same something, he couldn’t have said what, stopped any attempt at further protest.

She had fallen silent again and was pacing up and down with a moody expression, hands deep in the pockets of her overcoat. He moved a little closer to her. “Did you come here because of who you were? Because you were Reynart Engelmann’s granddaughter?”

She didn’t answer at first, then ceased her pacing and slowly bowed her head. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, I did.”
“You didn’t say so at the start.”
“Because I didn’t want people to know. Would you?” Her tone was bitter.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t. I’d be ashamed.”
“On your own account?”
“Well...not really. Are you ashamed?”

“Not for myself. I can’t accept the blame for what someone else did sixty years ago, even if he was my own flesh and blood.”
“So why have you come here then?”

“I should come here anyway, shouldn’t I?” Again she sounded angry.
She gazed down at lines in the concrete beneath their feet. “To be honest, though, I...I suppose I came to make amends. I don’t personally have anything to feel guilty over, but it seemed appropriate. I also needed to see where it had actually happened.”
“So did I. Not for the same reason, I guess. Do you feel better now you’ve done it?”

“I feel a little better. So…what are you going to do now then, Stephen?”
Stephen shrugged. “Keep on searching for the truth. Until I find out whether Engelmann...your grandfather....whether he....” The words fizzled out as embarrassment overcame him.

“Oh, I don’t really blame you for what you’re doing.” She looked him up and down in a way that unnerved him slightly.

He was a few years younger than her; precocious, like many Jewish youths. But perhaps he wasn’t thinking much. “I just don’t see what useful purpose it could possibly serve,” she told him. “I mean, it happened sixty years ago. Everyone involved in the business is dead, and you can’t try a dead man.”

She suddenly realised, with a shock, that she had already assumed her grandfather was guilty. “Do you know, then?” he asked softly.

“No, I don’t, not yet. I’m still making enquiries.”
“You’re conducting your own investigation?”

“That’s right. Look, why don’t we, er, get together on this? I mean, two people might be able to find out things a lot quicker than one could.”
Stephen shifted awkwardly.
“I can see you don’t trust me,” she observed sadly.
He made no reply to this. “What have you found so far?”

“Stephen, if you won’t help me it’s a bit much to ask me to help you.”
“I presume you’re trying to clear your grandfather’s name?”
“I just want to know the truth. Whatever it is. So – do we have a deal or don’t we?”
“I...” He was clearly ill at ease. “I just think it would be better if I did it on my own. Sorry.” Wanting to put as much distance between the two of them as possible, he walked hurriedly away.

Caroline glared after him as he vanished from sight, fuming. Gradually, however, she felt herself calm down. She realised she had been a bit too short with him and ought to go and say sorry. After all, he was little more than a kid. But her worries preoccupied her mind like a black cloud settling over it, in the manner of a giant spider sitting on its prey, and she wasn’t in the mood for apologies.

Higson’s list was a lot shorter than it would have been in 1945, which made his job easier. But he’d have to hurry in case one or more of the veterans decided to die in the near future.

He’d set off first thing in the morning. Erdmann had already given him the money for his airline ticket and any expenses he might incur while in Germany. The organization was right now making the various arrangements needed to give credibility to his cover story.

Erdmann had told him to be careful what he spent the money on. “You know what I mean,” he’d said, eyeing the the Englishman warningly.

“Don’t tell me you’re gonna hold that against me,” Higson said plaintively. The whoring had always been part of the culture which bound them together. Fucking Wachter wasn’t above that sort of thing himself. Plenty of times in the past he’d had prostitutes from Hamburg bussed in for riotous orgies at the castle, at which anything went. They took with them certain….accessories which enabled them to cater for whatever tastes a client might have. They were often older ladies, because Wachter liked them big, plump, pink and bouncy. The vast majority were blondes or at least Aryan-ish in appearance and origin, because sex with anyone of an inferior race was an offence against the values of the organisation, meriting severe disciplinary measures. Or even death, because if they merely beat up the transgressor resentment might lead him to leak all the organisation’s secrets to the police.

“We may be approaching an important stage in the implementation of our plans,” Wachter had said not so long ago. “We need to be careful. We must purify ourselves in mind and body. No delinquent tendencies must pollute our blood and sap our energy and willpower.” Intimate physical contact with those not of the master race was seen as liable to result in a form of contamination.

Higson supposed that in the last resort basic desires would triumph. But until that point was reached, he had no quarrel with Wachter’s philosophy.

That night, back at his hotel, Stephen Aron lay on his bed thinking; trying to describe in his mind, as far as that was possible, his meeting with Caroline Kent and to assess its results.

Because so few of the Nazi war criminals had settled in Britain after the war, it was strange to think that Engelmann could have an English granddaughter. She didn’t really look any different from other English girls of the fairer sort. And she was undoubtedly beautiful. Not quite as tall as she had seemed on first sight, but still a commanding presence. Regular, finely-chiselled features; hair almost pure gold, apart from a slight darkening around the parting, and sweeping down, long and straight, to just below shoulder level. Large, intelligent, rather expressive blue eyes.

Nice arse and tits, too. He felt a surge of lust rush through his bloodstream to his loins, stirring his manhood halfway to erection.

Of course her beauty wasn’t entirely perfect; if you looked more closely you could see the laughter lines just beginning to form. Though somehow they seemed to enhance her appearance more than anything else. And there was something in her manner that he had liked, that no-nonsense attitude which, coming from a woman some years older than he was, though still very much in her prime, he found turned him on slightly, and obvious intelligence. The latter quality, when combined with her golden good looks, was somehow incredibly sexy.

There can’t be many women like her, he thought. The idea came to him that Reynart Engelmann, whatever else he was, must have been quite a character. He assumed her Nordic appearance originated from him; that wasn’t necessarily the case, of course.

Reason told him it couldn’t reflect unfavourably on her that her grandfather had done something a bit nasty in what was now another world, not just another time. Did that make her an angel? His feelings about her were frustratingly mixed; he couldn’t quite shake off the notion that she had her own agenda, which she was determined to pursue whatever anyone else might take it upon themselves to do. And yet at the same time there was that strangely likeable quality about the woman. He couldn’t quite fathom it, fathom what she was doing to him.

Better to play safe, he decided. You know what your priorities must be. Don’t have anything to do with her if you can avoid it. Anything at all.

And so he dismissed Caroline Kent from his thoughts, directing them towards the next stage of his journey. He’d already spoken to a couple of eye-witnesses of the massacre, from whom he learned nothing new. But maybe, though it seemed a slim chance, he’d have better luck in Germany.

Locking the front door, Higson heard the sound of a car pulling up to the pavement near the entrance to his drive. He turned to see the driver, a simply-dressed young woman in her late twenties with light-brown hair, smile at him before unfastening her seatbelt and alighting from the vehicle. He returned the smile a little feebly, not sure whether he was pleased to see her just now.
“Oh hi, Sis,” he grinned as she came up to him. “You OK?”

“Yeah, I’m alright,” Samantha Higson replied. She eyed the suitcase he was carrying. “Er, I was on my way to see Kylie and I thought I’d pop in.”
“I’m just off out, actually.”

“I can see that. Where are you going, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“To see a friend,” he replied vaguely. “Up north.”

“Couldn’t it wait, just for a few minutes? We haven’t set eyes on each other for ages.”
“It’s really important.”

“So important you have to rush off this minute? I can’t believe that.” She lowered her voice a fraction. “In fact, I can’t for the life of me work out what you do with yourself all the time. None of us can. Unless of course you’re hanging around with your mates from the BNP.”
“I told you, I split with them a long time ago.”

“Well then I just don’t understand it. Not moonlighting, are you?”
“No,‘course I’m not,” he said defensively.

“Beats me where you get the money from for all this travel,” she said. “Because you always seem to be out somewhere in that thing.” She regarded the BMW parked in his driveway, something that until a few months ago he’d always insisted he couldn’t afford.

“Told you, I’ve been saving up. And by a bit of careful budget-balancing. There’s ways you can do it.”
“Well whatever you’re up to must be important, ‘cause we’ve hardly seen you since the wedding. But you’re not going to tell me what it is, are you?” She looked him straight in the eye.

He turned his head to one side. “Huh,” she murmured, her suspicions confirmed. “I just hope you’re not doing anything bad, Martin. If you are and you get caught don’t expect us to bail you out.”
“That’s nice, that is.”

“You need the shock. Martin, it’s not that I don’t care. I do care and that’s why I’m saying these things. I just know you’re involved in something you shouldn’t be and you’re going to get hurt, just like you’ve got hurt before, more times than I can remember.” Samantha swallowed uncertainly. “Maybe I should tell the…..”

“You wouldn’t!” he shouted, suddenly alarmed. A couple of people walking in the street stopped and looked round, startled. “Shhhh, keep it down,” she whispered fiercely.

“You wouldn’t!” he repeated, gesturing at her with clenched fist. He was about to speak again but the words died in his throat and he stared down at the fist stupidly, clearly shocked at himself.

“Yeah, I’m your sister,” she said coldly. “Don’t tell me you were actually gonna hit me.”
“You wouldn’t, Sam.” This time it came out as a plaintive bleat.

“No, I wouldn’t, ‘cause I’ve got no proof. So you needn’t worry. I just want you to know this. You carry on this way, hardly ever seeing us because you’re afraid you’ll let slip what’s really going on, we’re gonna give up on you. It’s not worth the stress and the grief and the heartbreak. Do you understand, Martin?”
He stared down at her impassively.

“And I’ll ask you once again. Were you going to hit me just then?”

“No, Sam, of course not. I wouldn’t do that, sweetheart, honest. You’re my sister. Family.”

She thought he meant it. Biting her lip, she thought for a moment. “Then if you feel that way…..look, Martin, sooner or later you’re going to have to decide between us and whatever it is you’ve got yourself mixed up in.”
“I thought you didn’t want to know,” he said.

“You’re just looking for an excuse to dodge the issue. All we said was we weren’t too happy with what you were doing. Even Mum, and if you remember she didn’t mind letting Dad get on with it when we were at Romford.”
“I told you, I’m not with the Party any more.“

“So who are you with, the National Front? It’s obvious it’s something like that. The BNP aren’t the only bunch of racist hard cases going around and they never have been.”

“We’re not racists,” Higson snapped, his temper rising again. He saw Sam’s lips curl sardonically, and realised to his annoyance that he’d proved her right. “I thought you’d understand,” he said bitterly. “You, of all people.”

“You’re only making things worse by all this hate,” she told him. “I never wanted to start a war over it. You’re making far more fuss over the whole thing than I ever did.”
“At least you had the sense not to marry one of them.”

Sam shrugged. “Well – I suppose I wouldn’t, after…..” Association of ideas, she guessed. “But I don’t hate them, Martin, not the way you do.”

“It’s not hatred, Sam. I just want them out of the country as soon as possible, for our sake and theirs.”

“That’s not the way, Mart. It wouldn’t work.” They were silent for a minute or two, Higson beginning to shift impatiently as she still didn’t speak, instead looking down at a crack in the pavement and biting her lip again. Finally she looked up. “Well…apart from all that, how are you? Really?”

He softened. “I’m OK, Sis. Finding plenty to do. It’s best if you let me get on with it. It’ll be for everyone’s good, honest.”
“We’ll see,” Sam murmured.
“And you? Are you OK?”

“Me and Jamie are fine, and Mum too. They all send their love.” She sighed. “For God’s sake Martin, give it up. Please. You…you have to learn to live with these things. You have to learn to put them behind you and move on. You have to learn not to poison yourself.” He managed a bland smile.

“I’ll be off now,” she said. “I’ll pass on your love to everyone, shall I?”

Higson nodded. “Yeah, that’d be great. Tell you what, when all this is over we’ll have a big get-together somewhere, shall we?” Once it was over nothing would matter very much. “Just like the old days.”

“I’ll let them know you’d like that - whatever “this” is. Take care, and enjoy yourself wherever it is you’re going.”
“I will. And you take care too.” He touched her cheek gently with his knuckles. “’Bye then.”
“‘Bye,” she smiled, and was gone. He waited while she drove off, gazing after the disappearing car with mixed feelings.

They had been good friends, him and his sister. She’d looked after him, and he her, on many occasions when things had gone wrong. He felt disgusted with himself that he had more or less physically threatened her. Especially after what she’d gone through that night by the canal. The thought of her just after the incident, so vulnerable, so frightened, so crushed, tugged painfully at his heart. And he recalled his own feelings as he looked down at her, lying on her hospital bed, listening to her halting, half-coherent account of what had happened and feeling the anger and disgust mounting rapidly within him. They were all the stronger because despite his views a part of him had never entirely believed such things were possible, that the stories about them weren’t all made up or at least partly so.

But once it was over, once the Thule Society had succeeded in its aims, would she thank him? Would she ever want to see him again, even supposing he could make her? And if she caused enough trouble, organised some kind of resistance to them, would they have to….

But there wasn’t much time in which to dwell on it. A man in his eighties or nineties could drop dead at any time. He loaded the suitcase into the boot of the car, and in a few minutes was heading north towards the junction with the M25, bound for Heathrow.

The woman stood on the beach looking out to sea, dark glasses shielding her eyes against the blinding rays of the sun. The breeze ruffled her headscarf, the folds of light cotton material rustling as they undulated gently beneath its caress. Carried on it she could hear the excited shouts and screams of children as they splashed about happily in the water, making the most of the blue sky and scorching heat. And of the return of peace, which they probably feared would not last very long.

Gradually as the soldiers had left the tourists had come back, somewhat hesitantly at first, but the beach was still nowhere near as full up as it had been before the invasion. No, nobody had much faith the ceasefire would last. There weren’t many foreigners, by the look of it, among the people on the beach. They didn’t fancy having to be hurriedly evacuated like last time, maybe suffering death or injury if things went wrong.

For a few moments she removed the glasses and let her eyes range over the bathers disporting themselves in carefree abandon. A little boy and his mother were tossing a beach ball to one another. Further out a young couple, in up to their waists, were locked in a loving embrace. They’d better be careful, she thought. There were some people round here who didn’t approve of ostentatious affection between the sexes (or, for that matter, the wearing in any situation of trunks or bikinis). But at that moment the two of them didn’t care. And good luck to them, the woman thought.

She heard a child, a little girl by the sound of it, burst suddenly into tears and looked round. What had gone wrong wasn’t clear but the child was being carried to shore in the arms of her father, who deposited her gently on the sand. The two were met by the mother with a beach towel in which she proceeded to wrap the sobbing infant, gently rubbing her down with soothing words of love.

She stood gazing at the horizon, watching the gentle rise and fall of the sun-dappled waves, until hearing feet pad through the sand towards her and turning to see her own lover approach. He was thickset with short, curly dark hair and a broad, squat, face. He was, she supposed, reasonably handsome; at any rate, that face had had a character about it which she liked. Something whimsical, humorous……and yet when he wanted to he could be ruthless.

“We’d better get back to the hotel,” he said. “Danny will be there at four.”

The woman nodded, almost imperceptibly, and made a vague noise just above her breath. Her fiancée peered at her oddly for a moment, eyebrows raised. Her mind seemed to be elsewhere.

Then she jerked herself back to reality, and accompanied him across the beach to the road. They needed to complete the arrangements for what they had come here to do, do it and then catch the flight back home, all as quickly as possible. After all, Israelis weren’t very popular in Lebanon just now.

The fact that she did not want to reveal the connection between herself and Reynart Engelmann might cause Caroline considerable problems later on, that person reflected gloomily. If the truth did prove to be that which she feared, and she was forced to come out and make a statement, it would look dishonest and imply she had known, or at least strongly suspected, that her grandfather was guilty, otherwise why would she be trying to hide it?

The French eyewitnesses to the massacre had been unable to tell her anything, having for the most part been hiding in their houses from the fighting. Nor did she expect to find much of use to her amongst any archive collection. Most likely it had already been found by those carrying out previous investigations into Macy. Still, there was one pencil-thin ray of hope. People did miss things, or wrongly translate or interpret them, and it was just possible she might come across something her predecessors had overlooked. Even if she didn’t, she somehow knew she would feel better if she just saw the material herself, became acquainted with every small detail of it – not just for the period around D-Day but the whole of Reynart’s war record, beginning with when he first joined the Army back in 1932.

She could understand written as well as spoken German and there was little chance of her making a mistake except through carelessness, which was unlikely since she found the determination to know the truth concentrated the mind wonderfully.

Germany, thought Caroline; the land of her ancestors, on one side anyway. Maybe on both sides, if you bore in mind where the Saxons had come from. Something often forgotten in the enmities engendered by war was that the original “English” – as opposed to the “British”, a Romano-Celtic people - had been Germans, more or less. How much of the genetic inheritance of the population of the United Kingdom was Germanic – Aryan – was a moot point, since the indigenous Britons, of whom there had been some five million – in those days a big number, in demographic terms - had for the most part remained where they were rather than been driven out by the invaders, as popular belief once had it.

Had the influx of Saxons, Angles, and Jutes been enough to ensure, eventually, that we were more Teutons than anything else, if nonetheless bastardized to a degree? Was it, surprisingly perhaps, the other way round? Or the ratio roughly fifty-fifty? She didn’t doubt there were ways of finding out, and someone was probably doing that right now, but it occurred to her there could never be complete satisfaction that the conclusions were accurate. The only thing you could say for sure was that the Germanic immigration must have been on a pretty large scale. Something had to explain why the English, along with most Scots, Welsh and Irish, spoke what was basically a Germanic language, defined according to the origin of those words most often used in everyday conversation. And why their temperament was undoubtedly more like that of Germans, Belgians, Dutch and Scandinavians - sober and stoical to the extent of it sometimes being a fault - than, say, Spanish or Greeks or Italians. Nonetheless, there were both physical and mental differences between the English and their German cousins, partly because of interbreeding with non-Nordic elements and partly because Germans going to live on an island would in any case have developed differently from their kinfolk on the European mainland, in line with the way evolution – natural selection - worked. An English person of Saxon descent was not genetically quite the same as a German. The lines of the face seemed somehow softer, the bones not quite so large; and yet despite 1500 years of intermarriage the family resemblance was often striking. In most parts of Britain, if you lingered on any street corner for half-an-hour or so you would during that time see plenty of good Saxons – along with good Celts, good Romans, good Vikings, good Normans and perhaps even a Neanderthal or two. What gets into the genes stays there, Caroline thought.

By an accident of birth, of history, the descendants of the Saxons who settled in England had been spared the stigma of the Holocaust and two world wars, plus such horrors as the bombing of Dresden and the state of general devastation Germany had been left in by the second conflict, to grow up happy English children. Through their Empire and all its achievements the British had achieved what their Germanic cousins had tried, at least, to do with a good deal less brutality, though some would disagree. The Germans, still a relatively young nation, were to the English a sort of younger brother with bad habits they themselves had succeeded in outgrowing. In many ways it was a shame there should in the past have been such antagonism between the two countries, considering how much they had in common.

They certainly looked like one another. Except that there were more fair-haired people, on the whole, in Germany than back home; it was difficult to be sure about that, however, because the colour was so often fake, on the women at any rate, here as elsewhere in the Western world. She suspected in fact that the Germans in truth weren’t much blonder than the English once the highlighter and the peroxide were off. Marlene Dietrich, for example, had been born a brunette. The hair started off very fair and then commenced to gradually darken, sometimes at an early age. The blondest Germans, like the blondest English people, probably had some Viking blood in them somewhere; most likely she did herself, she thought, brushing a hand through her abundant golden locks. It was the Scandinavians who were the real masters at being and staying blond. Ironically given the whole Nazi thing, they rather than the Germans themselves were probably the purest Aryans, relative geographical isolation helping them to remain so; but then that was why SS chief Himmler had ordered the mass kidnapping of blonde children from the territories he conquered to be raised by ethnically pure Aryan German couples as part of his programme to breed a new master race. The traumatic effects of this were still being felt today, with some of the now grown-up children, who had been disowned by their real parents while not having enjoyed their time with their surrogate ones, left without a sense of belonging and the UN workers who had forcibly removed them from foster families who they might have been happy with and returned them to parents they had now grown apart from, out of reluctance to condone a practice the ideological origins of which were repugnant, still haunted by whether or not they had done the right thing.

It was strange how there could be such reverence for a particular genetic type, amounting to dislike, even hatred, for those most obviously dissimilar to it. Some seemed to take revenge for this by going to the other end of the scale. If she was given a pound coin for every time a blond(e) person in fiction was portrayed as stupid, scheming or both she’d be a billionairess. And she remembered certain things she’d seen and read in TV programmes and official literature about the war and its aftermath. A Jew being publicly beaten up by Nazis in Poland in front of a cheering crowd told how a mother had gleefully pointed out to her little daughter what was going on, the two of them laughing at the spectacle. “She had a little girl with her…..blonde….held her up so she could see…” She sympathized with him on account of his sufferings, but why did he have to suggest that blondes were more likely than other people to become Nazis if exposed to such things in childhood – if that was what he was saying? How the kid had turned out she could have no way of knowing, but at the time she couldn’t have been old enough to understand what was going on and that it was wrong – or, if told anti-Semitic propaganda by her parents, to make a free decision whether to believe it. A leaflet issued to British troops in Germany warned them that every time they stooped to pat a blond(e) child they were letting sentiment blind them to the underlying Fascist tendencies of all Germans. The association of hair and eye colour with the crimes of the Nazis, for that was what it seemed, was objectionable to her - and would have been if she had not been blonde herself - yet people seemed able to get away with it.

It seemed particularly unfair when most of the Nazi leaders had not been of that type; certainly not Hitler himself. He had been the small, dark, Celtic sort of German, not the tall blond variety. (Ironically the one who in physical terms most resembled the ideal of the typical Aryan, Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich, was part-Jewish by descent). It might be said that fair-haired people had got the blame for something that wasn’t really their fault.

And there was a certain sad irony about it all. The scientists reckoned that the genes which gave blond(e)s people their particular physical characteristics were recessive, and that this might lead to their eventual extinction. Hitler had believed, to the extent of committing acts so appalling as to seem unparalleled in their wickedness and brutality, that the fair-haired Aryan types were genetically superior. In fact you could say it was the reverse which was the case. They were genetically weak. They were also prone to certain ailments which others needn’t worry about quite so much, such as skin cancer. If that particular problem continued to get worse they would be unable to bare their bronzed bodies, show off their sun-bleached hair, on the beach, either for their own pleasure or anyone else’s; at least not for more than an hour a day. When they might want to be in the sun as much as anybody.

A sudden cold pang of horror gripped her. Was it possible she had….it was true she liked to sunbathe, spending as much time as possible on the beach in summer, but…of course she took precautions….

She had a few moles here and there, but nowhere near the number which signified there was anything to worry about. They might just be signs of ageing. Still, maybe it was time she saw a doctor and asked them for their professional opinion.

Yes; although they might be uniquely favoured, and kept in clover by wealthy husbands and boyfriends or the modelling industry, blondes had in many ways a raw deal. Increasingly at risk from skin cancer, derided as stupid or disliked as nasty, destined for genetic extinction; far from despising them one ought to feel sorry for them. It seemed they were supposed to stoically accept their annihilation, and everyone else was too. Yet she couldn’t see those people who liked them letting them go without a fight. But of course it didn’t matter because in the future, if we wanted to “Save The Blonde” without having to put an embargo on mixed marriages, we’d simply dye our hair and tint our eyes - or alter our genes to give us whatever appearance and physiognomy we wished, just by pressing a button or injecting ourselves with the right drug. Perhaps on nothing more than mere whim. But was that a good thing?

Oh, what the hell, she thought as the Rhineland countryside sped by through the windows of her hired car. I don’t know. And it’s a lovely day so why not just sit back and enjoy it, bugger everything else.

She reflected once more on the cleanness and tidiness of everything she saw whenever she was here, both in the town and in the country. Unlike at home there weren’t huge piles of litter lying about; and although you did encounter loud-mouthed and rough-looking characters from time to time they weren’t quite so evident, or as much of a problem, as in Britain. And yes, it was true: trains and buses did run on time, something she appreciated enormously. The overall impression was of rigorously ordered effiency. Perhaps, being racially purer than the English, the Germans were less hopelessly mixed up. A little alarmed to find herself entertaining such sentiments, she told herself she would rather not lose the eccentricity and individuality which gave England so much of its character, whatever happened. In the end she concluded that neither purity nor impurity should be seen as an essential virtue, since there were advantages and disadvantages in both.

She’d spoken to Germans who’d said Germany was actually worse than Britain in respect of some of the problems the latter was experiencing. This puzzled her a little as she could see no sign of it. It was probably something that lurked beneath the surface; a lot of things lurked beneath the surface. The main gripe she had against the Germans was that they were often a little dull. Their formal politeness both gratified and amused her but she wished that at the same time they were a bit bigger on laughs. They presented a different face, however, when relaxing over a drink and a good nosh. Then, they were among the liveliest and friendliest people you could ever hope to meet.

Again she cast her eyes over the scenery before her and smiled. It was nice to think her ancestors came from somewhere like this. The rolling landscape of wooded hillsides, gently undulating fields, the grey stone of follies and castles peeping here and there through the trees or perched high on hilltops overlooking rivers that sparkled in the sunshine as they wound their way through scenery not dissimilar to that of southern England; this was one of the most pleasant parts of Germany, much more attractive than the dull, flat plain which made up most of its northern half. She wound down the window and breathed in a lungful of the bracing country air.

She stopped to look for a while round Koblenz, from where her grandfather’s family had come. It was an old walled town which had expanded during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into a bustling modern city. Then she went on to visit the little church of Matthau, a small village a couple of miles to the south, where most of them were buried, the tombstones in the churchyard recording their dates of birth and of death over hundreds of years. She laid a bunch of flowers beside the tomb of her great-great grandfather and mother, standing silently before it for a while; signed her name in the visitors’ book; had a chat with the pastor who expressed a genuine interest in the reasons for her visit, showing her the entries for her forebears’ baptisms and marriages in the parish register; and took the opportunity to do some family history research, copying down the names and the dates on the relevant gravestones in a notebook. Afterwards she sat for a while in the cool peace and quiet of the little churchyard, on the seat beneath the spreading yew tree, and lost herself in her thoughts, relaxed by the sweet sound of birdsong and the gentle autumn sunshine. Thinking of the war memorial she had seen earlier in the village square, she contemplated the beautiful scenery visible through a break in the trees fringing the churchyard, the golden sea of ripe corn waving gently in the breeze. Taking a little walk along the footpath running by the side of a lush meadow, she could imagine picnic parties there in the summer of 1914; the last summer of old Europe, the Europe of Victoria and Albert. People enjoying the beauty of nature, the fresh air and the birds and the sun slanting through the trees. Surely we were born to live and to laugh in places like these, not be killed in the horrors of war that had twice convulsed Europe.

Later she spoke to some elderly inhabitants of the village who remembered Reynart Engelmann and his family, and picked up many snippets of interest. Always she was received with politeness and hospitality.

Those of her family who had died in the bombing of Cologne, of course, had no grave. They were just names on a list, a very long list, carved into a marble slab set into a wall. She went to look at it after finishing at Matthau, going through what now seemed the familiar ritual of placing a bunch of flowers and standing in silence; remembering people she had never known but would have liked to have done, and wishing them well wherever they might be now.

She tried to imagine Cologne, Koln, as it would have been on that fateful night so many years ago. The night when the machines of war had come, sleek, beautiful, deadly. The dark skies over the city swarming with the winged steel monsters, filled with the throbbing, pulsing note of their engines, sounding indeed like the drone of some giant insect. They clustered above their target and the doors of their bomb bays opened like giant jaws, giant mandibles.

And death rained from the skies upon the people of Cologne, whistling down through the air; killing people, wiping them out in a terrifying maelstrom of smoke and fire and falling debris. Destroying young lives, innocent lives. There was an exhibition centre where she stopped to look at a photograph of a family who had been among the victims of the holocaust – it was correct to describe it as that - and once again was reminded of the common ancestry which the English and the Germans to some extent shared. One of the family was a young girl, aged thirteen or fourteen, who smiled broadly at the camera rather than looking solemn and miserable as Germans were supposed to do. She looked astonishingly like Caroline, could have been her, though dressed in the clothes of another era. The same kind of face, the same shining blonde hair, long and straight, only styled in a fashion now sixty years out of date. This to her mind was when the bombings most hurt; it looked like you’d killed the girl next door.

She shuddered queasily and turned away.

Outside, she paused to gaze out across the sea of post-war housing which now covered the spot where Reynart Engelmann’s family had met their deaths. The site of the house was no longer identifiable with absolute certainty, but anyway she found what she thought might be the place and stood and stared across the road at it for a bit, attracting one or two curious glances from passers-by.

A solid, stolid wall of brick and concrete stared back at her, revealing absolutely nothing.

Would she have liked them? What would they have thought of her, and she of them? Had they been stiff, formal, rather dull people or the sort you could relax with, get to like? The trouble was that she couldn’t get a complete picture of them in her mind, because her grandfather had never talked much about his life before he came to England.

Which made it more likely that there was something in that past he had wished to hide.

“I still don’t like it,” said Nitza Avnir.

Baruch Rothstein frowned, pulling a face, and was silent while he considered the implications of her dissent. The two sayanim, George and Danny, said nothing for the moment but their expressions made it plain they shared his disapproval. Nitza just stared back at them all, her gaze steady, not prepared to give ground.

Danny spoke up. “Nitza, is it killing him at all you’re not happy about? Is that what you’re saying?” In the last resort she didn’t have to undertake the assignment if she didn’t want to. They could find someone else to take her place. But that might mean losing time, which they couldn’t afford to do.

“No, it isn’t what I’m saying,” she replied. “I know he’s got to die, as well as you do.”

The team was in Beirut because of Abu Hassan Zanoussi. In his time, this gentleman had been a leading member of such groups as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and its offshoot, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command), as well as having links with illuminaries of the terrorist community like Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, aka “Carlos”, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the late Abu Nidal and senior figures within the IRA. He had eventually fallen out with his colleagues and formed his own organization, the Palestinian People’s Freedom Army, which in its bloody campaign against Western and Israeli interests had hijacked and bombed passenger jets, cruise liners, airports and railway stations across Europe and the Middle East, killing over a thousand people. Zanoussi’s motivation had been mainly secular and political, the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a sovereign and independent Palestinian state. But in the early 1990s he had become a Muslim, and begun to see things from a Muslim perspective. The Jews and the other infidels were enemies not only of the Arab people but the entire Islamic world. This change in his life came at about the time that organisations like Hamas, Hizbollah and al-Qaeda, whose motive was primarily religion, were pushing aside the more secular groups in the struggle against the West and Israel. Although Zanoussi was not as fanatical as many of his co-religionists in his religious observance or as visceral in disliking Westerners simply because they were that, he was devout enough, and sufficiently committed to the Palestinian cause, to contact the leaders of these groups and offer his services. He was now, if possible, even more dangerous than before - although the secular groups, if less in the limelight than previously, continued to deal arms to Israel’s enemies and while they did so their leaders remained on Mossad’s wanted list.

Intelligence suggested Zanoussi, a wealthy businessman who owned a major shipping company as well as several private yachts, had been among those supplying Hamas and Hizbollah with the rocket launchers they had used in the attacks on Israel mounted from within Lebanon by their supporters there. The Palestinian People’s Freedom Army was still active, and in keeping with Zanoussi’s tactics during the period of his heyday, the 1970s and 80s, it sometimes claimed responsibility for arms shipments captured by Israel and sometimes denied it, thus causing confusion, in which it delighted.

Where it did admit responsibility, it was quite unrepentant about what it had done. Speaking on al-Jazeera, members of the organisation based in Syria vowed that they would go on arming the militant groups as part of a struggle which if necessary would last for a thousand years, until Israel was totally annihilated. Zanoussi, against whom no connection with any terrorist atrocity had ever actually been proven, protested that he was out of it now, but film of meetings he had held with Syrian members of the PPFA and with al-Qaeda and Hizbollah leaders suggested otherwise.

As well as using his vessels to smuggle arms into Lebanon for use by Hizbollah, he also sponsored acts of terrorism by Palestinian militants within Israel itself. Eight months before, a yacht had been intercepted sailing on a course for Gaza with a massive cache of weapons in its hold; grenades, rocket launchers, mortars, anti-aircraft missiles, shells and mines, assault rifles and 15,000 rounds of ammunition. Though Zanoussi claimed the evidence had been forged, according to documents found aboard the boat it belonged to a British company suspected by Mossad of being a front for one of Zanoussi’s. Its crew were notorious drug smugglers, and also not averse to handling weapons if the payment for their services was high enough. Their plan had been to throw the crates of arms overboard to be picked up later by the militants, under cover of darkness, in dinghies with outboard motors. There was a similar incident shortly afterwards. Under interrogation, the crews of the yachts admitted they had undertaken the arms shipments for Zanoussi’s organization, although Zanoussi merely claimed that the information was false and had been tortured out of them. However it might have been obtained, it was chillingly apparent from what they said that some of the shipments had got through.

The heads of Mossad decided it was time to act. Zanoussi had to be taken out – killed - to show that you didn’t mess with the state of Israel. It had always been a common Mossad tactic. Nitza was uncertain as to what good this actually did. There would be others like Zanoussi; perhaps the value was psychological rather than practical. But there was another reason why she wasn’t too happy about it.

In 1979, here in this very city, a Mossad hit squad, just like this one, had assassinated Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the men responsible, or so it was thought, for the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics seven years earlier. He was also a leading spokesman of the PLO and instrumental in putting across the Palestinian view in America, Israel’s most important ally. There was some fear he might persuade the American public to pressurise their leaders into taking a less pro-Israeli line in Middle Eastern affairs. For one reason or another, it was decided that Salameh had to die, and eventually in the fullness of time a car bomb blew him to pieces. The explosion also killed a number of innocent passers-by, many of them young people. Because Beirut was a cosmopolitan city, some of the dead were foreigners, whose relatives might think it was unfair they should have had to die because of Israel’s quarrel with the Arabs. But although there had been protests the Israeli government largely ignored them.

“So what the hell is it, then?” Baruch said, tersely. He was annoyed because he didn’t want any falling-out with her, not at this time. It was more than a matter of their mission and its achievement of its objectives.

“You remember Salameh? People got killed then. Ordinary people, people who didn’t have anything to do with the terrorists. I don’t want it to happen again.”

“Of course people are going to get killed,” said Baruch. “You often get that in these operations. Collateral damage. It’s regrettable, of course, but the risk is acceptable.”

She gave him a disgusted look, and he felt stabbed to the heart. ”Is that all you can say?” she muttered.

There was no sympathy in George’s voice. “You know we’ve been studying Zanoussi’s movements. He always surrounds himself with other people so that he’s less vulnerable - or feels less vulnerable, anyhow. And so that if there’s any innocents killed, the nasty Israelis will get the blame. He’s exploiting those he claims to be protecting. Believe me, Nitza, he’s a lot more ruthless than we ever were.”

Is that true? she thought. “Look, it’s not going to achieve anything. Some other leader will step into his place, sooner or later. Probably one of his sons will take over where he left off. Altogether it’s more likely to damage our cause than do it any good - especially if we kill innocent people.”
“Why are you so convinced it will?”

“Because it happened with Salameh. If there are enough people in the area when the bomb goes off….I don’t want to take chances.”

“Alright, then. If you don’t want us to do it, fine, we’ll just go home and let him go on killing all our friends there, shall we? Is that OK?”
“No, of course not,” she said angrily.

“If you’re worried about innocent lives, then believe me it’s better we go ahead with this than that we don’t. I don’t like to have to say it but a small sacrifice is better than a big one. On balance more people will probably be killed if we don’t take out Zanoussi than if we do.”

“It’s only going to make us more unpopular than we already are. Whenever there’s a bombing in Lebanon and someone gets killed people think it’s us.” Zanoussi’s murder – if that was how you regarded it - could always be blamed on a rival Arab faction, but not everyone would be convinced.

“But that’s something that’s always going to happen,” Danny said. “We have to accept that and learn to live with it. People blame us for everything bad that goes on in the world.”
“You think I don’t know that?”
“And what we do do is done purely to protect ourselves.”
“This won’t achieve anything. It isn’t worth the risk.”

“So are you saying you don’t want to be a part of it? You’d rather be excused? Why didn’t you say so before?” Barcuch was clearly annoyed, as were Danny and George, that she hadn’t.

“I suppose I wasn’t really thinking about it before. It just…I don’t know, it just hit me all of a sudden.”
“But you’ve been on missions in the past where we had to kill people.”

“That was different, Baruch. It was just a single person, one man – sometimes a woman – who we knew was guilty. I helped stake them out, or set the honey trap, or crept up behind them and shot them, just them, once in the back of the head. Quickly, cleanly, painlessly. This is different. There are innocents involved and it’s going to be messy.”

Baruch slammed himself back into his chair, sighing like a deflated balloon, and wiped his forehead in exasperation. ”Come on, Nitza, this is crazy. Since when did our enemies ever care about “innocent people”? Zanoussi didn’t care if there were “innocent people” in any of the places he bombed.”
“So should we be like him? Should we descend to his level?”
“There’s no comparison.”

“Great. There’s no comparison. So after we’ve done it, and people are without their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, whatever, we just go home and when we get back we have a party to celebrate, and the section head says “well done!”?”

“Life’s got to go on.” He frowned suddenly, studying her through narrowed eyes. “You know, sometimes I wonder if you were ever really cut out for this kind of work.”
For a moment she didn’t seem disposed to contradict him.

”I don’t know what you mean. I just believe in doing things the right way. We can’t afford to slip up and kill someone who doesn’t deserve to be killed.”
“I’m getting annoyed, Nitza.”
“You can get annoyed as much as you like.”

They argued about it for what seemed to her to be hours, without coming to any resolution of the problem, before she sprang to her feet in fury and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her with as much force as she could muster.

According to the Imperial War Museum there was as yet no complete central archive for German military records. For many years the different states had kept their own, but the system had been rationalized to some extent with the number of separate collections much reduced as some were amalagamated. The material was only slowly becoming accessible through the Internet. In the meantime the most likely place for Caroline to find what she was looking for was the Bundesarchiv in Aachen, the equivalent of Britain’s National Archives, so she had rung them and made an appointment for the following morning.

Now she was seated in their reading room poring over a document in German Gothic script, which she found difficult to read. Suspecting she was straining her eyes, she had donned the glasses she wore when having to use her computer for long periods.

At one of the desks on the other side of the room Stephen Aron sat doodling on his notepad, wishing it had not been against regulations to take a paperback book in with him so he could relieve his boredom if he needed to. Once more he glanced over at where a blonde head was bent over the file he was hoping to look at next. When he’d ordered it well over an hour before the archivist, nodding towards the woman, whose head was buried in the file so that the face could not be seen, had told him someone already had it out and he’d have to wait.

She seemed to be taking a very long time over it, perusing the document with meticulous care as if it was important she didn’t miss a single full stop or comma. He glanced at his watch. Reaching a decision, he got up and crossed over to her. “Excuse me,” he said in German, “will you be much longer with that document?”

She glanced up, and Stephen saw who she was. For a moment both of them were startled, then the young man grinned embarrassedly.

The glasses lent her an air of mature severity, like a schoolmistress, which he found turned him on. She took them off as if seeing him better without them. “Well, well, well, Mr Aron,” she smiled. “We can’t seem to stop bumping into one another, can we?”

She extended a hand; he accepted it uncertainly. There was a certain triumph in her manner at having got there before he had. It wasn’t lost on him. All the same, he’d been brought up to be polite. “Have you had any luck?” he asked pleasantly.

“I meant to say when we met in France that I’d only just started my investigations. Since then I haven’t really got anywhere. I’ve interviewed a few people but they couldn’t tell me anything other than what’s in the official record. Of course it’s quite possible someone knows something but just doesn’t happen to have seen the appeals on TV or in the papers. There’s no one hundred per cent perfect way of being sure you’ve reached everyone who might be able to help.”
That’s what’s so frustrating about the whole business, she thought. And then there was Anno Domini. She could try again in five, ten years’ time. But would those people who knew what really happened in 1944, and whose memory might be jogged by a fresh enquiry, still be alive then?

“How about you?” Her manner was friendly enough, Stephen thought, despite everything.

He shook his head. “Nothing. I did the same as you and I didn’t get anywhere either.”

“Is there really any point in us following each other around like this? It’s getting a bit silly. You know, I really think we should - “
“Why were you so keen to investigate this yourself?”
Again that intense piercing gaze which left him feeling so unsettled. “I get it,” she sighed. “You think that if I do it myself I can then more easily come up with a result that clears my grandfather of any blame. Or I can get hold of the evidence and doctor it somehow. You’re still suspicious of me, aren’t you?”
Stephen was silent.

“If you remember, I suggested before that we should pool our resources. If we worked together on this, it’d mean we could keep an eye on each other, couldn’t it? But you’re never going to trust me, I can see that.”

“It’s a thesis I’m doing,” Stephen said. “It’s got to to be all my own work.”

“You could just say I helped you. You don’t have to mention me at all, come to think of it.”

Again Stephen felt that feeling of total confusion sweep over him. Was he really giving the right reasons for not wanting to work with her? To be totally honest with himself, a part of him didn’t like the Germans and, indeed, didn’t trust them. Caroline would have replied indignantly that she was English, thankyou very much.

He knew what his Uncle Samuel would have said. Once a German, always a German. Bad blood.

Again that strange impulse to like her. He didn’t trust people who he couldn’t fathom, and yet...

Don’t be won over just because she’s blonde and glamorous and all that. There were plenty of good Aryan specimens in Hitler’s Germany who seemed very nice until they sneaked on you to the Nazis.

She’s dangerous, Stephen, whatever she is. It’s a fatal attraction. Keep her at arm’s length, at most, or you might get hurt.
Dangerous? Was she really?

“I still don’t see the point in what you’re doing,” she complained. “Raking up the past like this.”
“I think it’s important people should know the truth.”

“I can understand that, but...look, I don’t want to sound ruthless. But the people who died in that church are dead and nothing’s ever going to bring them back, not in this life. On the other hand, what you’re doing may only succeed in blackening my family’s reputation and doing even more damage, on top of all the other harm there’s been because of Macy.”

“It might not have been him. If it was someone else - someone who might still be alive - would you want them to get away with it?”

“No, but…” She opened her mouth to speak, shut it again, thought for a bit and then made up her mind. “There’s a guy in Israel - it would be Israel, of course - a Jew, who’s supposed to have murdered quite a few innocent Germans and Poles who’d been locked up by the Russians after the war, when he was working for them as a prison camp guard, in revenge for the Holocaust. No-one’s going to punish him.”

“If he committed crimes against humanity then he should be punished,” Stephen decided after a moment or two’s thought. “I know all about the case and I’m inclined to agree with you. But he’s eighty-something now, and ill. There wouldn’t be anything to be gained by putting him in prison.”

“Then wouldn’t it be the same with all the old Nazis?” she said triumphantly.

“It isn’t the same. What he did was bad but it couldn’t possibly be as bad as - “

“If you were one of his victims you wouldn’t think that,” she pointed out.

Stephen sensed the argument had the potential to go on interminably. He decided to change the subject. “Anyway, I can’t see how it could hurt you. He changed his name, didn’t he? There’s no reason for anyone to connect him with your family.”

“There are people who know,” said Caroline. “If they found out can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for us?”

“I’m sorry about your reputation. But there are other things which matter more, surely.”
“Yes....I suppose there are,” she muttered.

“Do you want to know why I’m doing this?” he said passionately. “I’m Jewish, right? And people don’t like Jews. I, personally, or one of my family, could be murdered because some idiot doesn’t like the shape of our noses or they’re jealous of how well we’ve done for ourselves when we’ve been given the chance. And I want to find out why. I want to understand what motivates these people and for that I need to know who they are.

“And it’s not just because of me. It’s for my Aunt Simone. She lost her husband and two children, almost her entire family, at Macy and she’s never really got over it, not in sixty years. I’d like to think she could have some peace of mind before she dies.”

“I appreciate that, but I’d like to have some now. And you don’t have a hooked nose, it’s more sort of blobby.”

Their voices had risen somewhat during the conversation, and a number of people had put down their pencils and were eyeing them severely. The Registrar got up from her seat and came over to them: “Please, would you be quiet please.” Stephen returned to his desk, where he sat fingering his nose thoughtfully.

Some time later Caroline straightened, replaced her glasses in their case and got to her feet, picking up the file as she did so. She crossed to the order desk, Stephen Aron’s eyes following her, and deposited the file in the wire mesh tray set aside for returned documents. Then she strode out. The Registrar pressed a button and Stephen’s number came up on the big LCD display above her head.

Stephen didn’t immediately go to claim the file. He was thinking about the look on Caroline Kent’s face as she left and trying to interpret it. Finally he gave up and went to collect his document.

Outside, Caroline came down the steps of the building and paused at the bottom to collect her thoughts, her face a picture of moody introspection. She had not found what she was looking for. But she had found something else instead, something which deserved to be investigated.
Something which might, or might not, be just as serious.

It had been a good day. He’d sorted out a yob who’d tried to mug him in a rough district of London; they’d never find the body. Caused an actress he’d never liked to oversleep while using a sunbed; she wouldn’t have to worry about getting a tan again, not for a very long time, he thought with a snigger. And found out what happened at the end of the latest Harry Potter book.

He often wondered if he could be making more of the powers he’d got. He certainly had an incentive to. Once again he thought of his mother. They could have spared her, he thought bitterly. The fact that she had chosen to fight against them ought to have made no difference. It was brave of her to have done so even though she knew her side stood little chance of victory. He had stood aside from the battle, in case by some cruel twist of fate it fell to him to deliver the blow that killed her, and they had reviled him for being cowardly and disloyal.

Her image hovered before his eyes. She was more handsome than most of her kind, whose features, even to him – if he were honest about it - were rather crude and uninspiring. He hadn’t altogether been that fond of them, to tell the truth. But they had had their skills, their virtues, their distinctive culture. And he remembered his mother rocking him gently in her arms while softly crooning a lullaby, playing games with him down by the river which ran through the land when it was still green and pleasant, watching fondly as he learned to walk and to run.

He wondered if any of them still remained. Occasionally you did hear rumours. It had often occurred to him that someone with his abiltities ought to be able to find out, sooner or later. But to cover vast stretches of the globe, possibly without any success, would be crushingly boring. And he did get bored very easily.

Today had been exceptionally busy for him. He was getting more and more restless. He wondered how long he could restrain himself from going too far and wrecking everything. The random factor in the equation, of course, that might just conceivably alter the entire situation, was Thule.

Baruch found Nitza in the bar, sitting alone at a corner table sipping indifferently at a glass of raspberry-flavoured mineral water. Uncertainly he sat down beside her. ”I’m sorry about everything.” His tone was kinder now. But you know I’m right, don’t you?”
“You’re a hard man,” Nitza said.
“Does this mean you don’t like me anymore?”

She was a moment before replying. “No,” she replied, shifting her chair so she could look him full in the face. “But I don’t want this to be a shadow over the two of us.”

“So is it because of…..that you’re not happy about doing it? Because of…you and me?”
“Yes,” she said. “It is.”
He remembered the words of the marriage ceremony. I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me.

What is it about men, Nitza was thinking, that makes women like them despite their brutality?
Unlike other national intelligence agencies Mossad often used husband-and-wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, teams. The emotional ties were thought to engender solidarity and so make co-operation between a unit’s members easier. Rather than cause people to make wrong decisions out of fear of endangering their loved ones, it was able to have a positive effect because the common feeling that their country was in a vulnerable position, locked in an ongoing fight for survival, and couldn’t afford to slip up meant they wouldn’t make mistakes. But she wondered sometimes, as Baruch was clearly wondering now, whether it was really such a good idea.

“It’s one reason, anyway,” she sighed. “I don’t think I’d be happy with it even if we weren’t just about to get married. But yes, it is a reason. I mean, Baruch, we might have…might have…..”

Baruch lowered his voice. “And what about those children who Zanoussi will kill? Or leave without parents?”

Her face lengthened, like a heavy weight was dragging it down, and she found herself staring fixedly at the contents of her glass. Perhaps he was right after all.

He swallowed, then said gently: “Look..if you want to break it off….” He didn’t mean the mission.

“I don’t want to break it off,” she answered, though not in fact entirely sure what she did want. “I just want to find a way out of this.”

“There isn’t a way out. Once we know what Zanoussi’s movements are it’s got to be quick, simple and effective. We don’t want to hang around here for too long, remember. Fortunately we can all pass for Arabs, just about, or Europeans, but it won’t be too long before someone gets suspicious.”

“We Jews are supposed to be cleverer than anyone else. If that’s true then how come we can’t think of a way to pull this off without any…collateral damage, I believe you called it.”

“I’m not concerned with proving I’m cleverer than anyone else. I’m just trying to protect our country.”
“If we keep on using that argument it’s going to get pretty stale.”

“What other argument is there? We have to survive, Nitza. And sometimes to survive we have to kill. We’re not superhuman. There isn’t any way of avoiding innocent casualties…well, not a sure way. But…I mean, it might be alright. No-one could get hurt.”
“And if they were?”

“Look, if what you’re afraid of does happen and you don’t feel like marriage for the moment, I can understand. We could always leave it for a while…..”

“Maybe,” she said, toying with the half-empty glass. Neither of them said anything for some time, Baruch finding the clock on the wall utterly fascinating, merely because it was there.

Nitza got up and went to the bar. She bought a drink for herself, a cocktail, and stood leaning on the counter, sipping it and trying to find the answer in her head.
Eventually it came. At least she thought it had.

It couldn’t work, could it? Would he accept the suggestion anyway? It might go horribly wrong and fail to achieve its objective, but surely it was worth a try, as long as none of the sayanim were injured or worse. It wouldn’t make sense for her to not only fail to prevent the carnage – apart from Zanoussi, of course – but actually increase the body count as well.

She returned to Baruch and resumed her seat, her expression and manner now a little different. “I’ve got an idea,” she said.

He glanced up sharply. “A way of doing it without anyone else getting hurt?”

“Uh-huh. See what you think of it.” She explained the details of her plan carefully. As she’d expected Baruch was dubious; he thought it sounded pretty weird. And if anything went wrong it might blow any chance they had of killing Zanoussi; he’d just increase the security around himself, perhaps disappear for a while. But she made clear that if he didn’t agree to give it a try, at least, she would break off the engagement, although secretly she wasn’t sure she’d really go that far; the mere threat would hopefully be enough. And she would certainly resign from Mossad.

“Alright,” he said eventually. “But it’s your idea. If it does go wrong it’s not my fault, OK?”
“OK,” she said flatly.

“And we’ll certainly never try a damn crazy stunt like that again.”
“Unless it works.”

“We’d have to be careful. Do it too often and people would realise what was going on.”
“All right, we’ll be careful.”

“I’ll have to clear it with George and Danny, you realise that.”
“Tell them if it doesn’t look like it’s going to work, we’ll go ahead and press that button anyway. But if there’s a single innocent life lost, I’m finished with Mossad. Just tell Danny and George I’ll cause as much trouble as I can unless they agree to it.”
“Alright. But I can’t make them agree, you understand.”

“You’re the senior member of the team. Of course you can.” She wasn’t going to let him wriggle out of his responsibilities that easily.

“Well, let’s see what they say.” He left her to consult with the two sayanim. He was a little more cheerful now, while still wishing he didn’t have to go through some complicated and bothersome procedure just for the sake of keeping her happy.
Women, he thought.

He came back about twenty minutes later. “They’ve agreed,” he reported. “They’re not too happy about it, but they’ve agreed. It’ll take a while to arrange, of course, and I’d better not tell HQ what we’ve got in mind. But we’ll do it.”
She nodded in approval, her eyes lighting up.
“Happy now?” asked Baruch.
“Yes,” said Nitza. “I suppose so.”

The waiter came by and Nitza hailed him, ordering more drinks for them both.
“Thankyou,” she said, “for agreeing to it.” He still looked doubtful about the wisdom of the whole thing, but managed a smile.

They could let their voices rise again now. Gradually relaxing, they started to talk about matters other than the assignment, friends again.

After leaving the Bundesarchiv Caroline found a café just down the street where she bought a coffee and croissant and sat down to think about what she’d found. She wanted a bit of time to herself, but as it turned out she didn’t get it. Curious about her English accent, a couple at the table next to hers struck up friendly conversation and were intrigued to learn of her joint ancestry. They chatted animatedly about various things, Caroline not wanting to seem rude by giving them the cold shoulder, until the couple finally left.

At the next table four people were discussing politics, and seemed quite happy to be doing so. Germans were no longer reticent about mentioning the war, despite that Fawlty Towers sketch. Some thought it best to honestly debate the issue so that one could decide how to prevent such things from happening again. Others simply didn’t like the fact that it should be taboo and desired the freedom to say what they thought.

One young man proclaimed boldly: “You know, before unification I used to feel ashamed about the war, the Jews and everything. But now I don’t, not any more.”

Caroline’s eyes flashed. So might makes right, she thought. Mere power is enough to wipe away our guilt so that we have nothing to be contrite about, no mistakes to learn from. It wasn’t the denial of responsibility which angered her, because she understood how people might be afraid to invite the wrath of a powerful totalitarian state, but something else entirely.

She turned to the man, fixed him with her piercing stare and addressed him in his own language, in tones as cold as ice. “So you think that just because you are strong again you have the right to do what you like? Because that’s what you are saying, isn’t it? That is just the kind of attitude which caused two world wars and left you isolated and despised. The kind of attitude which could lead to it happening again. And if it does, what do you think they’ll do to you then? They’ll never forgive you. For your own sake if nothing else, you go and wash ideas like that right out of your stupid head.” It was precisely because she liked Germans, and felt a kinship with them, that she was annoyed whenever they said or did something which damaged their reputation.

Everyone froze with their cups halfway to their mouths, an astonished silence descending upon the room. The man who had made the offending remark was staring at her in total amazement.

Some people looked hostile, one man getting up and leaving the café so as not to contaminate himself by being in her presence, and some just shuffled nervously, while still others were nodding in solemn approval. The waitress paused halfway to one of the tables to glare at her coldly, annoyed at the effect her words were having on custom. At length things returned to normal, the diners went back to their food, and Caroline left.

At the Bundesarchiv she approached the reception desk and asked if she could see the Chief Archivist, Dr Wolfgang Eckstadt. He wasn’t immediately available, but the receptionist rang him and after a brief conversation informed her that he would be free at two o’clock that afternoon. So she was back again promptly at two, and was shown into his office. She introduced herself, explaining the purpose of her visit as being to find out as much as possible about her grandfather’s war record. At this stage she didn’t mention the specific reason why she needed to know exactly what he had done, and where, all through his time in the Wehrmacht, just in case it could provide some clue to the mystery of what really happened at Macy-sur-Etienne. And so she could be sure there weren’t any other skeletons lurking in the family cupboard.
“So how exactly may I help you?” he asked.

“There are several months of his war service which I can’t account for,” she said. “I don’t know what he was doing during that time. I know he was in the 27th Panzer regiment and that they were in Russia from 1941 to June 1944 when they got sent to France after D-Day. I was looking at the Orders of Battle earlier on and they confirm it. But from early April to late May 1944, a period of about eight weeks, his record says he’d been seconded to “special duties”. I just wondered if you’d any idea what that might mean.”

It had somehow seemed sinister, in the light of what Reynart Engelmann was supposed to have done at Macy. It might not have any bearing whatsoever on that incident, but she felt she had to know. If nothing else it was highly intriguing.

Eckstadt turned away slightly and thought for a while, chin resting between thumb and forefinger, elbow propped up on his desk. Finally he asked, “Was your grandfather in the Panzers for the whole of the war, apart from the time he spent on special duties?”

“That’s what the record says. He was fascinated by mechanical things, you see. Quite an engineer in his own right. Might have been something big in that field if it hadn’t been for the war. No qualifications in it, but he did have an aptitude for tanks. Understood them and how they worked, how you could get the best out of them. Also had leadership qualities, obviously. He could have been lots of things if it hadn’t been for the war.”

“Could not we all,” Eckstadt smiled, enigmatically.

“Quite a guy.” She sighed. “I think I’d like to have known him a bit better than I did.”

“But he had no connections with any other branch of the Army? Or the intelligence services?”

“He was in the infantry fairly briefly before he transferred to tanks. And before he joined up he didn’t have much of a career to speak of. Too much of a tearaway, from what I’ve been able to gather.” She smiled. “The army knocked a bit of discipline into him, I think. But the intelligence services – I don’t know. It doesn’t seem his thing.”

“Because “special duties”, it suggests some kind of espionage work. On the other hand it could mean just about anything. A general term for activities which the authorities did not want too many people to know about, for security reasons.”

Fair enough, Caroline thought. But let’s hope it wasn’t something far more disturbing than that.

“You might consult the files of the intelligence services. Otherwise I don’t know what to suggest.”

“He wasn’t too dedicated a Nazi,” Caroline said, hoping she was right. “I can’t see him risking his life or his liberty for the sake of a regime like that. He didn’t approve of a lot of the things they did, even if he couldn’t talk about it until after the war.”

“I mean,” she went on awkwardly, ”they were a pretty nasty bunch, you have to admit.” She winced inwardly at this banal statement of the obvious.

Eckstadt’s response was a rueful laugh. “Of course,” he shrugged. “There’s no point in denying it. But to return to the subject of what your grandfather was doing during this mysterious period of which we have little knowledge, it may be that whatever it was, he might have had little choice in the matter, bearing in mind the kind of – regime we are talking about.”

“I once met someone whose father had been requisitioned into the Luftwaffe,” Caroline said. “Two blokes just came along one day while he was working on his farm and put a gun to his head. But intelligence services don’t often recruit anybody other than dedicated professionals. They don’t want people who are doing it only because they’ve been forced to.”

“True. But at that desperate stage of the war when we were losing men on a massive scale, it could be there was no-one else available.”

“He was a soldier, not a spy. It must have been something very important if they had to pick someone without the right training, who could have slipped up bigtime and ruined everything. Especially when, as you say, they were losing. Surely they’d need as many men as possible at the front.”

“It does seem strange, I agree.”

“Well,” she sighed, “I suppose I’d better get on and have a look at those intelligence files.”

“Of course, they may not give you the answer you are looking for. Some things were so secret they were never written down.”

She saw Eckstadt was frowning. There was an altogether curious look on his face which intrigued her. She regarded him expectantly until finally he spoke.

“There is one other reason I can think of why a soldier would have been absent from the front at such a difficult stage of the war.” He sounded unsure. ”There may be nothing in it. But it’s the only lead I could suggest; whether you want to follow it up or not I don’t know.”
“I think I do want. What is it?”

“You are no doubt aware that the Nazi regime was very much concerned with racial purity, along with the promotion of maximum health and fitness among its subjects, the two in its view going together. It sought to destroy all those things which it thought view stood in the way of such goals, by practising eugenics in one form or another.

“You may know that at one point in the history of the Third Reich Himmler, head of the SS, instituted selective breeding programmes designed to keep the Aryan race pure. Many of the participants were members of the armed forces, and particularly the SS, because such men were thought to possess the qualities Hitler valued so much in the German people - courage, strength, fitness and loyalty. They were mated with specially chosen Aryan women so that their children would be of the same genetic type. The aim was to breed out any undesirable, non-Aryan qualities and so create the nucleus of the future master race, the Herrenvolk. You’ve heard of the Lebensborn project?”

“All those children being abducted and given to ideologically sound Aryan couples? Yes, I was thinking about that the other day. Awful business, especially as afterwards some people seemed to despise the kids themselves for having been part of it. As if it was their fault.”

“It was the same strategy. To create an allegedly superior race that by birth or nurture was “Aryan” in its physical characteristics, its thinking. But one would think at that stage of the war, with the military situation desperate, they would not have had time to devote to such things. On the other hand, it may be Himmler thought that if the war was going to be lost, which after 1942-3 seemed increasingly likely, they should at least ensure the Aryan race survived. His prime concern was that there were enough pure Aryans around for it to do so, whatever terrible revenge the Allies might inflict on Germany after they’d won. But I am merely speculating.”

“You’re suggesting, though, that my grandfather was withdrawn from military service so he could get to know some nice Aryan girl, and, er, do the business with her often enough for her to get pregnant.” Caroline fell silent at the thought of it, struggling to absorb the implications.

“But you’re not sure….” she said at length.

“It is not very likely to my mind. But I would say it is nonetheless a…a possibility. I did not like to mention it in case it was distressing for you. It is distressing for many people.”

“Oh, I can take it. And there’s nothing else it could have been?”

“Apart from a spying mission, nothing that I can see.” He shook his head. “If the aim was the security of the Reich, anything else would have been a waste of valuable resources, especially at that point in the war.” He spoke with absolute certainty.

Clearly, this was as close to the answer as she was going to get for the time being. “All right,” she nodded. “Thankyou very much for talking to me.”
“It has been a pleasure, Fraulein Kent.”

A thought suddenly popped into her head. “Er, one last thing. I hope you don’t mind my asking but….” His expression was politely quizzical. “Er, as a German what do you think about what happened during the war….to the Jews, I mean, and all those others the Nazis didn’t like? Should people in Germany have done more to stop it?”

“That,” said Eckstadt, “is a complex question. It’s worth noting that towards the end of the war at any rate, those who did speak out were liable to be killed. Before that they would at the least be put in prison, which is less serious but nonetheless not something a person feels inclined to risk.” It was a moment or two before he continued, showing he needed to give the whole question some thought. “Those soldiers who were told by their superiors to shoot Jews, or gypsies, or homosexuals, afterwards tended to say that they were only obeying orders. Perhaps it was not the right explanation to give.”

“Made it seem as if they didn’t care either way,” Caroline observed.

“Ja. And that was their mistake. What they should have said, what they should be saying now, is that they knew those orders were wrong but that they were scared of being shot themselves.”
“Understandable human weakness,” she commented.

“Yes, and anyone else might have done the same. Nobody has any right to criticize.” He looked angry for a moment, then composed himself. “Had they said that it might have been better received. But to admit to the weakness, to having been afraid, is not seen as a manly, Germanic thing to do. There is a fear of losing face. That is one of our great faults as a people. It’s the same with the Japanese and their atrocities.”

Again Caroline nodded. People tended not to feel sympathy for the Germans because they seemed more the perpetrators of injustice than its victims, and perhaps also because their stoicism meant they never allowed pain or discomfort or anxiety to show. The reality of course was that they could be hurt and frightened and vulnerable, suffer mentally or physically, feel fear at the prospect of death and anguish at the loss of loved ones, just like anyone else. Their trouble was that they didn’t care to let others know it.

“And the bombings? The Allied bombings of Germany? How do you feel about that?”

“That is one area where we have little cause to complain. After all, we did it to you.”
“But women and children?”

For a long moment Eckstadt gazed out of the office window; into the past. “The Allies did warn us that civilian areas were likely to be bombed. I think that is something which needs to be stressed.”

They shook hands – most meetings between two or more people in Germany began and ended with handshakes – and Caroline left to muse over what she had learned from him in the café downstairs.

Eugenics experiments. Master races and all that. Did she have relatives somewhere who were the result of Nazi breeding programmes? It was a horrible thought.

Why “horrible”? As she had herself insisted, it wasn’t their fault. They might turn out to be perfectly nice people. We don’t choose who our parents are. She liked the idea of trying to find them and make contact, invite them over to England to stay for a while. Assuming they existed.

If Eckstadt’s theory was correct in the first place, then as far as she knew her grandfather had had no contact with the woman, whoever she might have been, after the war. That wasn’t important from Himmler’s point of view, as long as there were a few more pure Aryans kicking around.

Now she had two mysterious and unsettling things to investigate. Well, she told herself, I might as well get started.

And she would begin with a few of Reynart’s old comrades. Best to ask the ordinary soldier, the one who was actually there - and who unlike politicians or the military top brass had no impulse to conceal the truth. At least she hoped not.

“There she is,” said Baruch. “OK, do your stuff.”
Nitza hesitated. “We came to an agreement,” he reminded her.

“Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman,” she said, “that this sort of thing doesn’t come easy to me.”

“Come on, we sorted all that out didn’t we?” Baruch had begun to warm to Nitza’s scheme after a while, and relations between them were now fully back to normal.

“I don’t mean killing the innocent. With any luck that won’t happen. I mean the whole business of…” She shrugged helplessly and set off down the beach to where a plump, fortyish woman sat on her towel gazing out to sea and occasionally sipping from a can of some soft drink. Two young children were playing in the sand beside her. Earlier they’d seen her husband go for a swim, leaving her alone with the kids; right now he was still ploughing smoothly up and down through the water about fifty yards out, occasionally stopping to wave at his family.

The beach was fairly crowded – with Hizbollah themselves being a touch alarmed at the consequences of what they’d done and not likely to try it again in a hurry, maybe people had concluded there wouldn’t be another Israeli invasion in the foreseeable future – and there was no obvious reason why someone shouldn’t plonk themselves down beside Maryam Zanoussi on one of the few bare patches of sand that seemed to be available. Nitza spread out her towel and sat cross-legged with eyes closed blissfully, basking in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.
“Isn’t it a lovely day,” she remarked.

The other woman laughed, turning towards her. “It’s usually like this here, at this time of the year. I take it you’re not from Lebanon?”

“I’m from America - New York. My father was Egyptian, though he hasn’t set foot in the Middle East for years now. My mother’s French.”
“That’s interesting. Where in France is your mother from?”

“Oh, I love Paris. It’s such a wonderful city. So……so alive. What are you doing here?”

“I’m visiting a friend. I went to an international school in Switzerland and that’s where I met her. She invited me to stay with her for a few days.”

One of the children looked up from trying to eat a mouthful of sand and caught Nitza’s eye, returning her gaze curiously. She smiled down at him.

Maryam Zanoussi was studying the horizon a little anxiously, as if expecting a fleet of Israeli gunboats to suddenly appear over it. Nitza tried to guess her thoughts. “It is nice here,” she smiled. “In Lebanon, I mean. I just hope another war doesn’t come along and spoil it.”

“Oh, don’t think of things like that on a day like this!” Maryam laughed. “Anyway, I doubt the Israelis will be back in a hurry. They got their fingers burnt over that business, I think. Serve them right if they were made to look stupid.” She checked herself. “Of course I don’t know what your politics are…”
Nitza shrugged. “I’m just here on holiday.”

“Well, that’s fine by me.” They returned to the subject of Paris, Maryam asking if Nitza visited the place much. “I suppose with your mother having come from there…”

“Oh, I go once in a while. Last time was in February, at that concert by Bondarevski.”
Maryam’s eyes lit up. “You like music?”

“I’ve a degree in it from the Sorbonne. But yes, I like it as well as study it. Bondarevski’s always been one of my favourite cellists.”

By the time Maryam’s husband had returned from his swim, the two of them were well away. Nitza’s colleagues had done their research well.

Nitza studied Zanoussi with polite interest. He was now in comfortable middle age, tending to plumpness but in good health, having recovered well from a liver operation a few years before. The problem had been due to excessive drinking, a habit which had been in abeyance since his religious conversion. The bushy moustache and once sleek dark hair were flecked with grey.
So this is the man.

Maryam introduced herself and Zanoussi. “I’m Camille Mahmoud,” said Nitza. “I’m very pleased to meet you.”

“You’re welcome,” Maryam said. Look, why don’t you come home with us afterwards and have something to eat?”

Heinz Walther pushed aside the remains of his fried egg and pork chop and before scraping them off the plate into the bin sat back for a moment with a contented sigh, replete.

He reflected that it seemed to take him longer to finish off a meal these days. Chewing and swallowing were a bit of an effort and so he just sat and picked at it with his knife and fork until the last morsel had finally gone. It didn’t bother him, though. These days, he had all the time in the world to do what he wanted. One of the consolations of old age.

When he had finished clearing up, he got out his war mementoes and sat down to look through them, smiling at the black-and-white photographs of uniformed men relaxing on the grass beside their tanks or sitting at tables with their glasses raised in salutation, drinking to victory; from time to time feeling a surge of sadness as a particular face caught his eye, the face of one who had not been lucky enough to survive the war.

There wasn’t much else for him to do but this, not since his wife had died of cancer two years before. And not now age prevented him from taking part in the activities he had delighted in in youth and middle age, the swimming and rock climbing and athletics. All things he could have made a career out of had the war not intervened; and yet he didn’t regret it one bit.

He never liked being interrupted when going through his mementoes, and frowned crossly when the doorbell rang. Stiffly he rose and shuffled from the room to answer it.

He turned the latch and opened the door as far as the chain would permit; he always left the chain on, whatever the time of day. Squinting suspiciously through the gap, he saw a tall solidly-built figure in smart clothes, suit and tie and black shoes gleaming with polish; young, early or mid-thirties, with medium length dark hair. Martin Higson saw a little old man with sparse white hair and watery eyes blinking at him through spectacles perched precariously on the bridge of a beaky nose.
“Ja?” Walther challenged.

The man spoke in German, with what sounded like an English accent though he wasn’t sure which one; he was aware there were lots of different English accents. “Herr Walther, my name is Ian Drake. I’m representing the German relatives of Reynart Engelmann, a former colleague of yours I believe. They’d like to get in touch with his British family sometime. As you served with him in the Panzers, I thought perhaps you might be able to help. We have a certain amount of information on him, but not enough to trace them. I thought it would be quicker if I approached people like yourself.”

Walther paused for a moment, puzzled. “I didn’t know Reynart had any living relatives. He told me they were all killed when the Allies bombed Cologne.”

“They weren’t all killed. The Allied authorities must have been mistaken. There are a couple of cousins and a brother still alive in Munich.” Higson had checked long before making this visit that Engelmann had in fact had such relatives. “But they’d lost touch with him some time previously. They’ve decided they’d like to re-establish contact, and asked me if I could help.”

Again a pause while the old man digested the information. It was odd, Walther thought, that Reynart had never mentioned any surviving German relatives; but then, he had wanted to put his past behind him.

His visitor had said “we”. “So what are you exactly, Herr Drake?” he enquired warily.

“I’m a researcher. I help find missing persons, for a fee, but I specialize in reuniting old war comrades. Military history’s one of my interests, in fact. I work on an international basis.”
“You are a private detective?”

The Englishman smiled disarmingly. “I suppose so. Look, here’s my card.” He thrust the square of laminated plastic through the gap. Walther took it and studied it briefly.

“All right,” he grunted, and undid the chain. With a brief gesture he ushered Higson into the house. On the way down the hall to the living room, Walther suddenly stopped, turned sharply to face him and fixed him with a hard, hostile stare. “How did you find me?”

“I went to the Bundesarchiv and consulted your equivalent of our Army List for the war years.” He had in fact been working from the list supplied him by Rolf Erdmann. Walther being the nearest to Frankfurt, where his plane had touched down, he’d chosen to start with him. The old man had been out when he’d rung, so he’d decided to pay a personal visit.

Satisfied, Walther moved on. He showed Higson into the living room. Glancing round, the Englishman saw that the place was neatly furnished, Spartan in its lack of unnecessary decoration, like a soldier’s quarters at barracks. On the mantelpiece sat a photograph of a scholarly-looking young man in Wehrmacht uniform, standing stiffly to attention, forage cap perched pertly on a head from which the hair, by the look of it, was already begining to recede. He had worn glasses then, big round ones of the sort common in those days but now not quite so fashionable. Higson thought vaguely that he looked like Glenn Miller.

Gesturing Higson to a seat, Walther turned slowly to face him. “You know that Reynart is dead? He died….” The old man struggled to dredge the information up from his failing memory, scowling in fierce concentration. “I can’t remember when exactly, but it must be more than twenty years ago, I should think. Heart attack.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Did he have any children? I think my clients would like to make contact with them if at all possible.”

Walther didn’t appear to have heard him. “We all of us came to the funeral...we were the only people in Germany who he kept in touch with. Afterwards we all sat and talked about him….” His head jerked up sharply. “What was that you said?”

“I was asking if he had any children, Herr Walther.” If Walther’s perception had not been dulled by age he might have sensed the suppressed nervous tension beneath his visitor’s calm politeness. Higson knew how much depended on the answer to his question.

Walther broke into a wide beaming smile. “Children? He had grandchildren! A boy and a girl. They were a splendid family, all in all. I lost touch with them after Reynart died; rather a pity.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have the family’s addresses, by any chance?”

“I might have, but it was such a long time ago; they’ve probably moved since I last saw them.”

“Any information you can give us would be helpful, anything at all. When did you last see them? At the funeral?” The old man nodded.
“How old would the children have been then?”
Again suspicion. “Why do you need to know that?”

“It would help to trace them if we knew how old they would be today.”
Walther nodded, accepting the explanation. “Well, let me see....I think the little girl was about five or six and the boy three or four....that’s all I can say.”

He was more alert now, more voluble, his memory jogged. “You’ll probably have found out by now that he was captured by your people, by the British, in France and became a prisoner-of-war.” Higson nodded. “He decided to stay on in England after the end of hostilities. Wanted to cut all his links with home. Germany had too many sad memories for him. Some of us didn’t approve and there was a bit of a falling out. But he kept in touch with us. You could never understand that if you hadn’t been in the war. Everything we’d been through together….”

Walther hobbled over to an old-fashioned mahogany bureau standing in the corner, lifted the top and riffled through the contents, while Higson waited patiently for him to find whatever he was looking for. At length, the old soldier straightened up and turned towards him with a photograph clutched in his hand. It was a modern photograph, a colour one. Higson felt his pulse start to race.

Walther handed it to him. “This was taken not long before Reynart died. We all had a reunion; it was at his family’s home in England, he wouldn’t come to Germany. There’s Reynart….and the son, what was his name...” The old man squinted at the names he had scribbled on a piece of sticky-backed paper attached to the photo. “Edward. His wife, Margaret. And those are the grandchildren.....” He struggled to make out his own handwriting. “Caroline and Douglas.”

Higson studied the picture. It showed a group of people standing on the lawn of what looked, from what he could see of it, a fair-sized and reasonably genteel house somewhere in England. Most were smartly turned-out men in late middle age or elderly, their erect bearing and silver-grey hair lending them a distinguished appearance; the old comrades. They were standing more or less in a row with Reynart Engelmann,instantly recognizable on the extreme left, tall and commanding. A pretty little blonde girl of about the age Walther had estimated said was sitting cross-legged on the ground right at the very front of the group, smiling proudly at the camera; you somehow felt she was pleased at being the centre of attention. In the background stood Edward and Margaret Kent; Edward on the left, stocky and fair-haired, and Margaret on the right, grinning while a little boy, with his mother’s jet black hair, drew back from the whole gathering into her reassuring arms.

It tells me absolutely nothing, thought Higson crossly.

“Very nice,” he said. “And you’ve no idea where they might be living now?”

“No, I’m sorry. As I said, I lost touch with them some time ago. Wait a moment, I think I might have their address somewhere. Of course it’s probably out of date now.”

He returned to the bureau and after a few moments’ fumbling took out a battered hard-backed notebook, skimming through its pages until he found the right one. “There you are.”

Higson produced a personal organizer from the inside pocket of his suit and scribbled down the address in it. 15 Pinewood Crescent. Richmond-upon-Thames. Let’s hope they’re still there, he thought. The parents anyway. Of course the children would since then have grown up and moved away.

“Well, thankyou for all your help, Herr Walther,” he smiled. “I’m sure my clients will be very grateful.”

“I’ll ring a few of my friends and let them know to expect you,” Walther offered.
“That’d be fine.”

“But that’s not a lot of people, these days.” Walther bowed his head sadly. ”Each year there are fewer and fewer of us left….”

Higson waited patiently until Walther emerged from his wistful daydream. “I could ask them if they know the family’s current addresses,” the old man suggested.

“You could. But I think a personal visit would be better.” To be on the safe side Higson thought it best not to trust the old man, or any of his fellow veterans, to remember to make the calls. “I’ve found in my business that the face-to-face approach is best at getting people to open up. I might be able to say something that could jog their memory.”

After leaving Walther, having given the old soldier his mobile phone number in case he did remember to make the calls and wanted to contact him with the results, Higson searched until he found a phone box and rang international directory of enquiries, to find that there was no-one of the name of Kent living at 15 Pinewood Crescent in Richmond. He called Wachter to report his failure. “I still think this is the best way of going about it,” he said. “Nothing else is likely to get any results. Unless we put another advert in the British papers and hope that this time one of them sees it.”

“Do that when you get back home, if by then you haven’t had any luck. But I think you’re right. A personal call would be much better.”

“Do we really need to bother about the son? Or the two daughters? I know the grandchildren are the future, obviously. But could the previous generation still – “

“That is something on which we have no data at present. We only know that it is possible for the powers to lie dormant from one generation to the next. But I should think on the whole the grandchildren are a much better prospect, don’t you?”

“Agreed,” said Higson. “If only we could get our bloody hands on them.”

“It’s very fortunate I should happen to meet you just like that,” Maryam was saying. “I don’t suppose you knew there was a concert on – a Concert for Peace, they’re calling it – at the old government offices tonight? Would you like to come? Barenboim is playing.”

“Camille Mahmoud”’s eyes widened with interest. “Really? Well, why not?”
“Why not, if your friend can spare you.”

“She’s away on holiday with her husband for a few days. I decided to stay on for a bit after she left. Yes, I’ll come.”

The two women were sitting in the living room of the house drinking from mugs of sweet tea. The place was clean, tidy and pleasant-smelling, the lush carpeting and varnished woodwork giving off a faintly intoxicating perfume-like scent.

Suddenly Zanoussi appeared from the room at the back of the house which he used as an office, passing through the lounge on his way to the toilet. He cast a brief, not entirely approving glance at Nitza. She sensed he wasn’t happy at having women in the house chatting while he was trying to get on with his work. What sort of work, she wondered.

There was nothing so far to suggest he was suspicious of her. In any case she wouldn’t have been entirely surprised if he had been. It was suspiciousness that had enabled him to survive all these years.

Nitza flashed him a friendly smile, and he nodded curtly to her before moving on.

The two boys, Mohammed and Yassir, were rolling about on the carpet locked in combat. It was a play fight, judging from their delighted laughing and giggling, but no less dangerous to the furniture. They knocked into a table and almost caused the ornamental vase which stood on it to topple over. Maryam went over and gently but firmly separated the contestants, admonishing them to be more careful.

“Ah, children,” she sighed, rejoining Nitza on the sofa. “Still, how dull and empty life would be without them. So, how long are you in Lebanon for then, Camille?”

“Until Friday, then I’m heading for home. I don’t really want to go, to be honest.”
“Do you travel a lot?” Maryam asked.
“A fair amount. You?”

“I’m usually at home looking after the boys,” she sighed. “My husband is away a lot of the time on business; he’s off again tomorrow, in fact.”
“Where’s he going to?”

“Ankara, Athens, Rome, maybe London and Paris. He has so many customers in so many countries. I wish sometimes he would take me on some of these trips, but I think he feels I’d only get in the way.” She sighed vexedly. “Weeks on end he’s gone, sometimes. I get so terribly lonely at times, that’s why I’m so glad to have you here.”

So Zanoussi would be driving to the airport the following afternoon, to catch a plane to Europe. And he might be there for some time. They had to strike before he left for the airport or they might not get a better chance. She thought about doing it today but realised there wasn’t enough time to get everything into place.

What would he be up to on his travels? It might genuinely be a business trip, or he could be going to meet with other terrorists to plan further atrocities against Israel. If he died his associates’ plans would be thrown into disarray and the meeting postponed for the time being. And maybe, just maybe, that would save lives.

She became aware Maryam was speaking. “Would you like to come shopping with me tomorrow morning? I can pick you up from the hotel. My husband will be here all the way through to lunch, so I don’t have to worry about the children. We’ll have plenty of time to ourselves.”

So Zanoussi wasn’t leaving for the airport until some point during the afternoon. Now all they needed to do was check the times of flights to Ankara.

“Would you excuse me a moment,” Maryam said, and left to attend to some domestic chore. Yassir and Mohammed had run off to find somewhere else to play. Alone, Nitza turned to the wall and clenched her teeth in a grimace of almost physical pain, every fibre of her being revolting at what she was doing.

“Yes, I do remember you,” grinned Albert Steinmuhl. “I had you on my knee when you were about this high...quite a big girl now, aren’t you?”

Caroline saw the twinkle in his eye and felt a sort of affectionate exasperation. Men never change, she thought. He was still erect of bearing, but at his age he wasn’t likely to get up to any serious mischief. Although you never knew….

But something told her that he wouldn’t, not in a million years. Not with his old friend’s granddaughter.

Moving with a spryness that startled her a little, the old man suddenly darted to a cupboard and after a moment fished out one of his photographs of the reunion which had been held at her family’s then home in Richmond. “Look, there we all are! Wasn’t that a splendid day?”

Caroline smiled nostalgically at the group in the picture. Her gaze lingered briefly on her grandfather’s image. A man who could dandle little blonde children on his knee but also ruthlessly massacre dozens of innocent human beings….perhaps. She tried to forget about all that for the moment.

“He doesn’t seem to think so!” Steinmuhl remarked, jabbing a thumb at her brother, who was once again shrinking back into his mother’s arms.

“I think Douglas was a bit shy,” she said. “No change from the usual there. He bucked up a little in the end, though.”

“So how are your charming family? Your parents….Edward, wasn’t it, and Margaret.”
“Oh, they’re fine.”

“Perhaps I send them a card this Christmas. We ought not to have lost touch.”
“I think they’d like that.”
“And your brother?”

Briefly a spasm of pain passed across her face. “I’m afraid Douglas is dead,” she said simply. “You remember the Air America bombing not so long ago?”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Steinmuhl was genuinely shocked. He put down the photo and stared at her, aghast. “Killed……that’s terrible.”

“Yes,” said Caroline softly. “Yes, it was.” She felt her eyes moisten at the memory.

“I’m sorry,” repeated Steinmuhl, resting his hand on her arm.

She grinned. “It wasn’t your fault, was it? Yes, it was terrible…but life goes on, of course. Now then, Herr Steinmuhl, what I came to see you about; I wanted to find out as much as possible about my grandfather’s war record. Just a bit of family history research. It’s a very popular pastime in Britain right now.” She explained about the period of Reynart’s Wehrmacht service on which there seemed a baffling lack of information.

“Let me get us something to drink,” he offered. He glanced at his wife, Ilse, who nodded and left the room. Caroline and Steinmuhl made small talk until she returned with a couple of cups of coffee. Steinmuhl took a sip from his, then pushed it to one side, forgetting it as he became lost in his memories. “One day they came and took him away. We were on the Russian Front at the time, I forget where exactly. He spoke to us all, told us we wouldn’t be seeing him for a while, he didn’t know how long exactly, because he’d been transferred to special duties. He also said he’d been ordered not to talk about it and nor should we, for the sake of the Fatherland’s security. We knew that was the end of the matter. If either he or any of us had said anything to anyone we’d probably have been shot.

“A temporary commanding officer was appointed. Reynart was away for about two months in all, then, not long before we were transferred to France, he came back. He seemed much the same as before. But he still didn’t speak about what had happened in that time, nor did we ever tell anyone that he had been transferred. I suppose people are less likely to bother about it now.”

“None of what you’ve just said surprises me. But did anyone specifically tell you you’d be shot?”

He didn’t reply straight away. Instead he seemed to think it over, hinting at things it might not be a good idea to bring out into the open. Caroline sat up straighter, her eyes gleaming. Might she be on to something here?

Steinmuhl had clearly noticed the change in her manner. “How important is it that you have this information, Fraulein?” he asked, on his guard now.

So she told him about the renewed interest in Macy. “I need to know, you see. Just what he was, what he might have been capable of doing. Anything that might give me a clue….I want to make one thing clear. Obviously you are in a position to tell me whether or not my grandfather killed those Jews. Equally obviously it would appear to incriminate you if he did. So I won’t necessarily make the fact known to the general public. Unless, that is, you and the others who were involved get together and decide, by vote, that you wish the truth to be told. I don’t think it’s entirely fair you should suffer for Macy. I’m aware that in war a soldier will obey orders and it’s not part of his, his mindset to do anything else, especially when it might have unpleasant consequences.” Neither of them spoke for a long moment, Steinmuhl absorbing what Caroline had said and evidently thinking carefully about where he stood.

“That is very kind of you,” he nodded. “But I can tell you something, Reynart Engelmann was no butcher. Just an ordinary German soldier doing his duty. He wouldn’t have ordered us to open fire on a church full of innocent civilians.”

It sounded, in part, too much like a standard excuse for her liking. How convinced was he by her assurances?
“But we need to prove that,” she insisted.

“I don’t know how one would do so. All I can say is that yes, we were in Macy at the time of the atrocity but we weren’t responsible for it.” He gave an account of the regiment’s itinerary throughout May and June 1944. “That’s as much as I can remember.” It merely confirmed what she’d already learned from the Imperial War Museum and the Bundesarchiv. “You have to understand, I am an old man, and sometimes my memory isn’t what it used to be.”

There was a definite edge to his manner now, one of anger at the insinuation that he might have participated in war crimes.
Because it wasn’t true, or because it was?

Caroline suddenly remembered Ilse, sitting silently in the corner, and shot her an embarrassed look. The woman’s face was without emotion.

“I’m sorry,” she said, deciding the subject was best dropped for the moment. “I didn’t mean to offend.” He nodded stiffly.

“Perhaps if we went back to this business of..special duties?” she suggested.
“You thought there might be some connection between them and Macy, didn’t you?” he said. It was obvious he suspected she was trying to catch him out. The faintest of knowing smiles flickered briefly on his face.

“I did, but I think I’d like to know anyway. However if you don’t want to tell me – “

“I cannot say if there is a connection. But if I do not want to tell you any more than I already have, it is because my life might be forfeit if I did. Although I suppose there will be no danger as long as I in what I say.”
“Go on.”

“A couple of years after the war I was approached by two men. I don’t know who they were but they told me, just in case Reynart had let slip to any of us what he was doing on special duties, that I had better keep what I knew a secret. If I did I would be murdered along with all my family. I insisted that I knew nothing, and they said that if I was telling the truth, so much the better but if I was lying it all depended on whether I kept my mouth shut. I later learned that all the others to whom Reynart might have spoken about the matter had received similar threats. I was not inclined to dismiss the warning lightly, as I had just started a young family and was concerned for their safety.”

His expression changed again. This time it was grim, with a touch of the sardonic. ”Have you ever heard of Sippenhaft, Fraulein?”

“I’m Caroline. Sippenhaft….er no, I’m sorry. What is it when it’s at home?” At his puzzled look she explained what the expression meant.

“I’m talking about punishing those people who are not considered to have acted like true Germans, true Aryans. By killing not only they but also their families. Bad blood, you see. Probably a bit of Jewish in there somewhere. Among other things it was a political weapon, a tool Himmler and the SS often used to punish people who had committed treason against the Reich, betrayed confidences or failed to carry out orders. After the 1944 bomb plot against Hitler the SS murdered every member they could find of the family of Count von Stauffenberg, the ringleader, including at least six people in their seventies. It is the kind of thing dictatorships do. And the idea is that such treatment be extended to those who fail to protect war criminals or report them to the authorities or the Nazi-hunting organisations. After the war it is estimated there were five million former members of the SS, many guilty of war crimes, living somewhere in Europe. From time to time they are found out and brought to trial. But many people refuse to give evidence for fear of reprisals. Because the kind of killers who slaughtered von Stauffenberg’s family are still around. And they are organized.”

“I don’t recall hearing about a lot of cases where people were threatened if they testified at a war crimes trial,” Caroline said, sceptical.

Again that sardonic look. “Perhaps that is because the threat worked,” Steinmuhl said. “That the person should not reveal they were threatened is part of the plan.”

“So the men who warned you off, they’d have known what my grandfather was doing on his special duties?”

“Not necessarily. They could simply have been planted, to make sure that in the future no-one said what they did know. If you are thinking of attempting to contact them, I must warn you it would be most unwise. Indeed, perhaps you had better be careful they do not contact you.”

“You mean Sippenhaft might still apply to me, even though I’m English?”
“You are Reynart Engelmann’s granddaughter, are you not?”

“Yes, I am,” she murmured, crushed. This meant she would have to rethink just about everything. If she was putting her family’s lives, not to mention her own, in danger she might have to give up her investigation altogether.

But she was only trying to find out something, not tell anyone about it – yet. They’d probably give her a warning before they did anything more unpleasant, so she wasn’t immediately going to be staring death in the face. For the moment she would carry on as before.

“So they didn’t want my grandfather to reveal what he did in April and May 1944,” she said, trying to clarify her thoughts by speaking them, “because it would have endangered the security of the Reich. But why would that matter after the war?”

“I honestly cannot say. But that someone should still be concerned to keep the business a secret does not surprise me. The war spawned many secrets. People did things that might later damage their reputation or that of their country if they became known. There are rumours of deals between the Allies and the Axis which were never disclosed to the public and never will be. It is said the late Rudolf Hess was murdered because in his old age….” Steinmuhl smiled at this reminder of his own antiquity. “It was feared he might blurt out something that the former Allied powers wanted a lid kept on, to use another of your English expressions. Something perhaps connected with his mysterious flight to Britain on an unauthorized peace mission – an affair which still, to my mind, defies explanation.

“Well, I think I’ve told you all I can. It’s possible they gave Reynart some kind of drug to make him forget everything that had happened in those three months, as an additional precaution.”

“Hmmm,” said Caroline, gradually starting to digest it all. “Well I can see I’m not going to get any more out of you today, Albert. Or ever. But you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about.

“I’ll let you have my family’s contact details. Yes, I think they’d like to hear from you.”

They exchanged addresses. “Please be careful, Caroline,” he urged her.

“I will,” she assured him, anxious he shouldn’t be left in a state of anxiety about her. His concern was obviously genuine and she liked him for that. Certainly, he didn’t seem the type to assist in cold-bloodedly murdering innocent people, and therefore also lie about it. It puzzled her a little.

Who knows what really happened, that summer’s evening back in 1944. Will they ever?
She gave him a kiss before leaving.

There were two more “old comrades” to see today, Friedrich Lantz in Bremen and Bruno Heinemann in Hamburg. How forthcoming they would be she’d no idea but there was always a chance she might learn something by probing gently and asking the right question at the right moment. Before she left she told Steinmuhl she wouldn’t be calling on any more of his colleagues; there was little point if everyone was too scared to talk, whether about “special duties” or Macy. Although respecting the latter, she couldn’t see her grandfather arranging for someone to ruthlessly seek out and execute anyone who spilt the beans about him.

She hated having to lie to Steinmuhl. But if he spread the world among his ex-Wehrmacht buddies that she was going round asking about these things, they might clam up and refuse to co-operate. Nonetheless the thought of her deceit gnawed at her conscience.

As she started to walk down the path to her car she saw Stephen Aron come through the gates. He gave a shrug and carried on past her.

Heinz Walther, meanwhile, was ringing round his surviving friends from Wehrmacht days, including a few he had over the years lost touch with. Most were in, but didn’t know where Reynart Engelmann’s family were now; one, Friedrich Lantz, was out so Walther decided to call him again later.

Steinmuhl told Walther about Caroline’s visit and gave him her address and telephone number in England. Walther guessed it would be best to ask her permission before putting Ian Drake in touch with her and rang the number, leaving a message on her answering machine. He let it stand at that; either she would respond or she wouldn’t. He could have called Drake and let him know of her existence, but since it was up to her anyway to decide if they should meet he didn’t bother.

It was a beautifully sunny day. Danny left the Renault, with its deadly cargo stowed safely away out of sight in the boot, a few feet from Zanoussi’s Volvo, which was parked by the kerb just outside his house. It was a much safer way of doing things than breaking into the Volvo, planting the bomb and wiring it to the ignition. They’d have done it at night, of course, but there was still a risk of some keen-eyed observer noticing something and getting suspicious.

The bomb had been put together the night before in Baruch and Nitza’s hotel room, from items some of which had been brought into the country in their luggage, and some purchased in local shops – perfectly innocently, of course. Economically, the peroxide had also been that used by Nitza to dye her hair, so that along with her blue-tinted contact lenses it would ensure she looked less obviously Jewish.

Danny got out of the car and crossed the road to the safe house, where Baruch sat by an upstairs window reading a book and occasionally taking a sip from the mug of coffee on the bedside table. He glanced round as Danny entered the room and the sayanim saw the lines of strain around his eyes. It was often like this just before a hit. Especially one where the task had been complicated by having to work around other considerations than the success of the mission.
“The hardware’s in place,” Danny said.

“Yeah, I saw,” Baruch grunted. He looked at his watch, then out of the window towards the Zanoussi house, from where there was as yet no sign of movement. The family were still eating, or at prayer.

They didn’t expect Zanoussi to move from where he was before all their arrangements were in place. Of course that assumed nothing happened which was unexpected.

This had to appear totally innocent; Zanoussi must have trained himself to look for signs that he was being watched. It must seem as if the two of them just happened to be sitting there talking, the curtains pulled back to allow maximum sunshine into the room, and only occasionally, from whim, glancing over at the house on the other side of the road where their target lived. After all, there shouldn’t be any need to worry. They’d checked at the airport; the flight to Ankara was due to leave at three o’clock, a couple of hours from now. They’d calculated how long it took to get to the airport. Zanoussi would allow himself plenty of time, in case of unanticipated hold-ups. He would not be intending to leave the house just yet but must surely do so sometime within the next hour, they guessed.

Baruch glanced once more at his watch. “OK, let’s go,” he said. Danny turned away so that his body hid the mobile phone from the view of anyone who might be looking at the safe house, and called Nitza.

The street was mostly residential, and fairly quiet, at least at this end of it. The other, where there were a few shops and offices, joined onto one of the main roads through the city and was a bit noisier and livelier. Here the sound of traffic and large crowds in motion was constantly making itself heard. But now the hooting of horns and the growl of car engines was mingled with shouting and chanting in angry voices. Down the thoroughfare in one direction, half on the road and half on the pavement, marched a twenty-plus strong band of men with fiercely jutting black beards, many wearing long white robes and white linen caps on their heads. They carried banners or placards bearing messages in Arabic and English, proclaiming things like “Death to Israel” and “Islam will conquer the world”. There were also messages of support for Syria, whose interference in the country’s affairs, real or alleged, was another sore point. She was not yet an Islamic state, but acted as a rallying point for opposition to the Zionist enemy next door. These men represented one of the various political factions in the cosmopolitan hotchpotch that was Lebanon; one that had become worryingly stronger and more influential in recent years. Many of the ordinary Lebanese stood and watched the demonstration from the sidelines with suspicion and foreboding.

What they didn’t suspect was that most of the protestors were not Muslims at all, and that some had in their time worked for Mossad or the CIA, or at any rate disapproved of Islam as practised by al-Qaeda and would have been happy to co-operate with Western intelligence against it.

In any case, they seemed about to meet their match. Coming towards them from the other direction was a group of about twenty or thirty people, many of them in kaftans, with flowers in their hair and faces painted in elaborate floral designs. They, too, were beginning to spill over from the pavement into the road. Their banners proclaimed them to be the Peace and Light Brigade, and the messages on their placards called for harmony between nations and universal brotherhood. They came from a variety of races, nationalities and religions and indeed there were one or two Muslims among them, in the same white robes and caps as their more militant fellows.

Here again the majority were sayanim, or friends of sayanim. But none of the onlookers knew that, nor if it could be avoided was anyone going to tell. Nor did the people that the sayanim had roped into the demo necessarily know what was really going on and who was behind it.

The two groups saw one another, halted, and exchanged uneasy looks. Then the chanting started up again and both began moving forward to halt again at the intersection of the main street with the Rue Charles de Gaulle, completely blocking it off.

By now the whole business was causing some disruption to the even tenor of life in central Beirut. The rumble of vehicles was unusually subdued as traffic was having to nose its way along more or less inch by inch, gently (or not so gently) easing the protestors aside in order to be on its way. Horns sounded in shrill protest, people wound down their windows and leaned out to shout abuse. But the two groups of protestors stayed where they were, barely a yard or so apart, each haranguing the other furiously. Actually it was the Muslims who were doing most of the haranguing while the Peace and Light Brigade, with one or two exceptions, responded with turn-the-other-cheek equanimity.

Zanoussi won’t wait till the police come to move the demonstrators on, Baruch told himself. He’ll miss his flight otherwise. He could ring to cancel it but it’s more likely he’ll try to clear a way through.

The people who had been in the street at the time the disturbance started were a mixture of native Lebanese and foreigners in the country on business or for tourism. A number of the Westerners wore shorts and T-shirts and were trying to circle around the protest, aware that their dress made them suspect in the eyes of the Muslims and made uneasy by the aggressive chanting, the aura of hostility and the sense of potential conflict. Others hung at the edges of the gathering, interested to see what was going to happen and even excited at the prospect of fireworks. Those who had been making their way along the Rue Charles de Gaulle from the high street continued to do so.

As he sat watching the TV news and drinking from a glass of lime cordial, Abu Hassan Zanoussi heard the commotion from down the street and frowned. He hoped the demonstration – that was what it sounded like – wouldn’t cause any traffic hold-ups. Like most Arab businessmen he was scrupulous about not keeping clients or colleagues waiting. To be late for an appointment was considered the height of bad manners. He wanted to be in Turkey by five o’clock at the latest. He might have agreed with the aim of the demonstration, depending on whether it was for or against Syria, but it was still an annoying inconvenience.

He’d thought he’d be in for some peace and quiet, Maryam’s new friend having declined her offer of lunch; apparently she wasn’t feeling well. He couldn’t stand the pair of them jabbering away while he was trying to think about the meetings in Ankara and Rome, which would be crucial for the planning of the next stage in the holy and glorious war against Islam’s Western and Zionist enemies.

Crossly he got up and went into the kitchen, where Maryam was busy washing the plates. “Have you any idea what that noise is all about?”

“No. I heard it too.” She sensed his disgruntled mood and the reasons for it. “Stay here, I’ll go and see if I can find out what’s going on.”

“Someone’s probably already called the police,” said Danny. “It won’t be long before they get here, anyhow.”
Baruch nodded. “Tell George to get going,” he ordered.

Maryam reported to her husband what she had seen. “You should be able to get out by going the other way. It’ll just take a bit longer, that’s all.”

Zanoussi made a quick calculation, and nodded in agreement. He plonked himself down on the sofa again, and took another sip of his cordial. The delay wouldn’t make a great deal of difference. He’d make the flight OK, assuming nothing else went wrong.

He looked at his watch again and decided to leave as soon as he’d finished the rest of the glass.

Since the Muslims were blocking their route down the main street, the Peace and Light Brigade decided to stay where they were for the moment. Some of them broke into song, while strumming guitars and jingling tambourines. Others were handing out leaflets to passers-by. Under her face-paint it might have been possible for those who knew her to recognise one of the leafleters as Nitza Avnir; from the look on her face they would have concluded that she was enjoying herself.

Still others were arguing with the Muslims and attempting to intervene whenever they decided to have a go at the Westerners. The Peace and Light Brigade were doing their best to live up to their name but at times it looked as if things were about to turn nasty.

“Islam is the way! The only true way!” shouted one of the Muslims at the woman Peace and Light Brigade-er he was confronting.

“We believe there is good in all religions,” she told him. “But you are preaching hatred.”

“You are tools of the Zionist-Crusader conspiracy!” he yelled back.

A couple of the Muslims turned on one of the spectators, a Swedish woman who from her hair and colouring was obviously Western and, even more to the point, was lightly dressed in shorts and sandals. They began denouncing her as a whore. A heated argument broke out between the woman and her boyfriend and the ranting Islamicists; yes, it was possible for Swedes to get passionate.

A lorry was inching its way slowly through the crowd, trying to turn into Rue Charles de Gaulle. Once it was clear of the protestors and in the Rue Charles de Gaulle the driver, evidently anxious to make up for lost time, trod hard on the brakes and shot away down the road at almost maximum speed, just at the same time that a car was coming down the road towards the intersection. Such was the lorry driver’s haste that he didn’t seem to be looking where he was going, and his vehicle veered suddenly to the left, into the other lane.
I’ve got to get this just right, thought George.

The other car, going very slowly because its occupants knew they would have to ease their way carefully through the dense crowd ahead, easily stopped in time. But the lorry was travelling towards it much too fast. Horrified, the driver of the car and his wife scrambled out and ran onto the pavement. The lorry sped on and its driver, desperate to avert a collision, trod hard on the brakes. It began to slow. Then, realising he wasn’t going to be able quite to stop in time, he threw the vehicle into a skid. As it ground to a halt the lorry slewed round and its tail caught one of the cars parked by the kerb, flipping it round so that it mounted the pavement and smashed into the wall separating it from the front gardens of the houses. Fortunately the vehicle was unoccupied.

The lorry came to rest right across the road about fifty yards beyond Zanoussi’s house as one approached it from the main street. George threw open the door of the cab and jumped down. He stood looking around for a moment, trying to appear dazed. The road was now completely blocked at this end, apart from the pavement on Zanoussi’s side. Someone could still get through that way. At least the flow of pedestrians from the high street end had stopped, people preferring to avoid the two warring groups of demonstrators. Between the two cordons that had effectively been created to seal off the middle section of the road a few were in their gardens or on the pavement peering down it at the demonstrators, but after a while, once the matter had lost its novelty, they were to drift back inside.

George registered a couple of men hurrying towards him. “Are you alright?” they called.

The people who had been in the car ran up to him shouting angrily.

“Get back,” he yelled to them. “Petrol. I think I can smell petrol.” They skidded to a stop, stiffening at his words, feeling the fear of fire burnt into the consciousness of all living things. Then they turned and fled, scrambling into their car and shooting off back the way they’d come.

Without bothering to check if he was telling the truth, the other two immediately leapt into action. “I’ll tell the police,” one shouted to his companion.
“Right. I’ll stay here and make sure no-one goes near it.”
“Don’t get too close.”

“I’ll take the other side,” George said, and ran round the lorry to stand at at safe distance from it facing down the road in the other direction. He was probably too far from the car with the bomb to be in any danger when it went off, and besides the body of the lorry would deflect the worst of the blast. But the look-out on Zanoussi’s side of the vehicle…….there might be a risk to him.

It’d have to be taken, unless they were going to abandon the whole operation. And they were too far into it now.

Although for a moment the crash had diverted everyone’s attention from the demonstration, it soon returned to it. But those gathered at the intersection were being warned to avoid the Rue Charles de Gaulle for the moment. Meanwhile George and the other look-out were continuing to stand guard, shouting at people in the vicinity of the crash to stay in their houses.

Danny had left the safe house to see how things were going, pretending he had merely been attracted by the commotion. He took stock of the situation. So far, so good. With a few exceptions, which they couldn’t do much about at present, everyone was congregated at the upper end of the street, at or near the intersection.

He went back inside. As he did so, he heard the wail of a police siren.

Zanoussi had just finished the last of the cordial and was getting to his feet when he heard the sound of the crash. He swore violently. What in the name of Allah had happened now?

He heard Maryam go to see what the matter was. A moment later she returned looking anxious. “A lorry has crashed and it’s blocking the other end of the street. I think he was trying to clear a way through the demonstration and he went too fast.”

“Shit,” Zanoussi snapped, his eyes flashing with rage. Now he was stuck here. “Have the police been told?”
“I assume so,” she replied.
At that moment the telephone rang.

As soon as the lorry was gone and the police cleared away the demonstrators, Baruch thought. That would be the moment Zanoussi would leave, the moment to strike. Already they must be trying to ease them aside, alternately cajoling and threatening, to clear a way for the traffic. Taking a chance and pulling back the curtain, he looked out and saw a couple of them hurrying down the road towards the lorry.

George should be able to talk himself out of trouble, he thought.

He fingered the object in his hand, that looked very like a TV remote control.
The detonator.

“What do you mean, the shipment failed to arrive?” snarled Zanoussi.

It was Ahmed, the eldest of the brood of sons he had raised to fight the Jews, and his second-in-command at the shipping company. It seemed the latest batch of weapons destined for Hizbollah, manufactured in Kazakhstan to be delivered to Zanoussi, the middleman, to pass on had not arrived at the company’s warehouses as scheduled. “Defects have been discovered in a few of the guns,” Ahmed explained. “They have had to postpone the shipment until the others are re-checked.”

“But this is the second time they have let us down,” Zanoussi scowled. “Oh, leave it to me. I will call Bulov and see what he has to say for himself.”

“No petrol,” said the policeman, shaking his head. “I can’t see a leak anywhere. You must have been mistaken.”

George shrugged. “Oh well. Look, can I go now? I’ve got a whole load of flour to deliver.” The other policeman had just finished taking down his statement.

“Yes, you are free to go. But you realise the owner of the car you have damaged will probably press charges. After all, you were driving without proper care.”
“I’m sorry.”

George climbed back into the cab and started the engine. Slowly and carefully, all the time looking to check he wasn’t about to bump into anything, he started to turn the lorry until it was pointing in the right direction, away towards the suburbs in the southern half of the city.

Meanwhile at the other end, the police were keeping the crowds back while they gently moved the protestors on. The intersection should be clear in just a couple of minutes, Nitza reckoned.

“What do you mean he’s not available?”

“He’s in a very important meeting,” the Kazakh’s secretary explained. “I’m afraid I can’t disturb him right now.”

“And I have some very important clients who cannot be kept waiting,” Zanoussi told her. “I want to speak to him. This minute.”
“I could leave a message – “

“No, you don’t understand. I want to speak to Mr Bulov. Now.”
“Very well, Mr Zanoussi. I’ll give him a call.”

Baruch glanced once more at the house. He could see Maryam Zanoussi peering from a downstairs window at the lorry as it moved off, but no sign of her husband.

His finger began tapping the detonator impatiently, a fraction of an inch from the button.

Since Nitza had been standing apart from the other protestors giving out leaflets, the police hadn’t thought it necessary to move her on. At the moment she was more or less unobserved. She called Baruch on her mobile. “The intersection’s clear now.”

“Right,” said Baruch. Once more he shot a glance towards the house. The lorry having now gone the police were starting to move off to join their colleagues at the intersection.

There was no sign of Zanoussi. And in a moment the street would start to fill up with people.
Come on, he whispered. Come on.
I knew there’d be problems.

Nitza watched the crowd surge forward, as those who had wanted to go down the Rue Charles de Gaulle were now free to do so.
No, no, no, she thought.

She wanted to shout out, to warn them, but that’d blow everything. She’d agreed with Baruch that if the scheme didn’t work out they’d go ahead with the hit regardless. Anyway it was too late now.

“I’m sorry, he really can’t be disturbed,” said the secretary.

“And you explained to him that the matter was urgent?”

“Yes, Mr Zanoussi, I did, but – “

Zanoussi sighed bitterly. He would have words with Bulov about this.

In a few minutes it would be too late to make the airport in time for his flight. Should he go now, or wait a little longer and if necessary call his al-Qaeda contact to reschedule the meeting?
“Has the lorry gone now?” he asked his wife.
“Yes, it’s gone,” she nodded. “You can go now.”

Zanoussi decided to take up the matter of the cancelled shipment later. He slammed down the phone, ran from the lounge and bounded upstairs. Grabbing his briefcase, he shot back down to where Maryam stood waiting to bid him farewell.

He wrapped his arms around her and they kissed. “Goodbye, my sweet,” whispered Zanoussi. “Give my love to the children.”

“I will. Have a pleasant journey. I hope your meeting is profitable. Insha’allah.”

He hurried from the living room, down the entrance hall to the door, out of the door and down the garden path to the car, watched by Miriam standing on the doorstep gazing fondly after him.

Watching from the window of the safe house, Baruch stiffened. He felt his heart quicken.

He glanced up the street in both directions. It was still clear for several hundred yards on either side, but about twenty or thirty people were starting to make their way down it from the main road and from the other direction. Towards danger.

Zanoussi waved once to his wife, then opened the door of his car and got in.

They could try again later, but what if there was a hold-up then? And the next time, and the next? They’d never do it.
It had to be now.

He was quite unaware of Danny standing beside him, yelling at him to detonate.

Zanoussi fastened his seatbelt, put the key in the ignition and twisted it.

The engine of the Volvo rumbled into life, and Zanoussi started to reverse, moving away from the car with the bomb.

Baruch pressed the button.

The bomb exploded with a force that blasted one car into another, blowing out the windows and reducing both vehicles to shapeless masses of crumpled metal. Several people were knocked off their feet or sent staggering helplessly with their hands over their ears, temporarily deafened, as the shock wave rolled down the street in both directions.

The windows of a number of the houses had shattered. Somewhere a child was crying.

People started running to see what had happened and establish whether anyone needed help. Among them was Nitza Avnir; she had to know.

Most of the crowd were still milling around in confusion, a few of the women in tears, one man bleeding all over from cuts caused by flying fragments of broken glass. They were shocked, frightened, distressed. But they were alive.

Maryam came hurtling out of the Zanoussi house, appalled by the closeness of the blast to where her husband had been and drawing the terrible conclusion. Her feet scraped to a halt on the path and she stared in unbelieving horror at the concertina-like remains of the two cars, and at the upper part of her husband’s body projecting from the blood-spattered mass of wreckage, the staring sightless eyes making it quite clear he was beyond medical help. She finally realised what had happened and went to pieces, screaming and wailing and sobbing. Hysterical with grief and rage, she began haranguing the crowd, accusing first the Israelis and then an anti-Syrian faction of the atrocity and demanding punishment.

Among them she caught sight of a painted face, one of the Peace and Light protestors, and afterwards it seemed to the onlookers that she froze in surprise as if recognizing it. For a moment the two stared at each other, then Nitza turned away, and the face faded into the crowd and was gone.

Only one of the veterans on Caroline’s list lived in former East Germany, and she had been planning to visit him last only she’d so far been unable to get hold of the other three she had still to see, and thought she might as well go straight on to Leipzig. When she arrived at his house at the time they’d agreed and rang the bell there was no reply. She waited for ten minutes, trying the bell again at intervals, but still no-one answered. Somehow, she had the impression he’d got cold feet and decided not to go ahead with the interview. Dejected, she abandoned her efforts and walked away.

She tried again to contact the remaining veterans – Lantz, Heinemann and Heinz Walther - and this time struck lucky. It turned out Walther and Lantz had been staying with relatives and Heinemann attending a meeting of his local branch of the German equivalent of the Royal British Legion. The numbers attending such events must get fewer each year, she thought with a certain sadness.

Before going on to see them she decided to fit in a visit to Berlin, where she stood and looked across at the Brandenburg gate and imagined jackbooted soldiers in smart tunics and shining steel helmets goose-stepping down the street towards it seventy years before, while a man with a little toothbrush moustache and wearing a brown shirt with swastika armbands looked on, his arm raised and held straight out in salute. She thought she ought also to look in on the Holocaust memorial at Brandenburg and called at the main tourist information centre to ask where it was exactly.

“Huh!” exclaimed the woman behind the counter, disdain in her face. “What do you want to go there for?”

Caroline stared at her. “I’m going,” she snapped, “because a lot of people got killed there during the Second World War. Murdered.”

The woman stared at her, taken aback, then seemed to recover her composure. She gave a cold smile in which the lips were pressed tightly together, and spoke slowly, precisely, quietly, in a voice which matched her expression. “Oh yes, I understand that,” she said insincerely. “But you should not get angry. It is not polite.”

Briefly the two women regarded each other across the counter. The receptionist started to turn away, her nose held high in the air.

“Go fuck yourself,” said Caroline in German. The receptionist froze in shock and anger. Caroline strode out with brisk dignity, deliberately making sure she was beyond earshot before the woman could reply.

When she explained in more detail why she wanted to see him Caroline found Friedrich Lantz impeccably polite and courteous, but frankly sod all help; it was the same with Bruno Heinemann. “No, I know nothing about these things, nothing at all. I am sorry, Fraulein, but I cannot help you.”

Because you don’t know anything, or because you do and you’re too scared to tell? Caroline wondered.

Either Heinemann was too clever to let himself be tricked into giving anything away, or he genuinely knew nothing. She studied his face for any sign of fear or anxiety but couldn’t detect it. Of course in unguarded moments old people often let things slip out. But nothing like that had happened during the course of the meeting.

“But there is something I am able to tell you,” Heinemann exclaimed with pleasure. “There is a young man who wants to get in touch with you. He’s already called on a couple of my old associates.”

An amorous admirer? Caroline wondered. She had plenty of those. “Why does he want to get in touch with me?” she asked.
And Heinemann told her.

Her jaw dropped and she gaped at him in astonishment. It couldn’t be! What an amazing, unbelievable coincidence. And she had relatives still alive in Germany! “D-did he leave a contact address?” she asked, almost gabbling in her excitement.

“Yes, the friend who rang me on his behalf gave me it. I’ll just see if I can find it - what is wrong, Fraulein?”

Yes, thought Caroline, it was a remarkable coincidence all right. Perhaps too much of one. That not long after she started on her quest to find the truth about her grandfather, someone should be trying to contact her on behalf of his German relatives.

The word popped into her head, sending cold fingers running down her spine. Sippenhaft. Had someone found out about the enquiries she was making, and decided to impress upon her that some stones were better left unturned? Perhaps it had been somebody at the Bundesarchiv, or one of the veterans she’d been talking to.

It was all right. They didn’t know where she was. Fortunately she had come to the conclusion that nobody was going to break silence over the things which most concerned her, and not bothered to leave anyone her address. But if they had found out that she was related to Reynart Engelmann, might they not also have ways of tracing where she lived? Perhaps it was better if she just dropped the whole thing right away.

But if, as she guessed, they would simply warn her off, shouldn’t she give it the benefit of the doubt? If it was a genuine attempt to make contact…..
“Are you alright?” she heard Heinemann ask.

She needed to think. “Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Herr Heinemann. I’m sorry you couldn’t help me but there you are. I’d better be off now.” She rose, shook his hand and was escorted to the door. She said a final goodbye, climbed into her hired car and drove away, Heinemann staring after her in puzzlement.

Stephen Aron had been received courteously enough by each of the veterans he had spoken to, though one made him nervous because he still kept his steel helmet on the sideboard in his living room, unashamed of this memento of his glory days fighting for the Reich. He detected no obvious anti-Semitism in their manner towards him, but with some there had been a distinct hint of frost beneath the cordiality. Were they rattled by the mere suggestion that they could have been party to the atrocity, or because they actually did have something to hide? Either could be the reason; it was so hard to tell. Of course maybe they were simply getting annoyed with being asked about Macy twice in the same day, by both himself and Caroline Kent, in whichever order. That word had obviously got around he was investigating the case, his reputation preceding him, hadn’t helped.

His intention had been to establish how far they were prepared to talk about Macy, and perhaps be honest about what had really happened there. Whether they were being honest or not, he certainly wasn’t getting anywhere. “I am sorry, Herr Aron, but as I told that young lady I have no information which could be of any use to you,” the last one had said. “Now, er, if you don’t mind I am rather busy.”

“Well, thankyou for agreeing to see me, anyway,” smiled Stephen, getting to his feet. The veteran showed him out, again with unfailing courtesy.

Stephen wondered whether Caroline Kent was having better luck. He hadn’t seen her for some time now, but past experience suggested they would bump into each other again before too long. It was a good job they didn’t seem to be seeing the veterans in quite the same order, as otherwise the situation would have become even more ridiculous.

He was beginning to regret having given her the brush-off. Now he thought about it, there had been real pain in her voice when they were talking about the implications of Engelmann’s possible guilt. It couldn’t be easy for her learning that her adored grandparent might have been a mass murderer, especially when you considered the consequences for the family’s reputation. And perhaps her offering to help him in his research was a genuine goodwill gesture, aimed at making them colleagues rather than enemies. Perhaps she was just trying to show that she did not approve of the kind of things Nazis did, and wanted the truth to be known as much as anyone else. And as he wasn’t getting anywhere with his investigation right now, it might be an idea to reconsider his strategy.

How? There were other, equally likely suspects. He’d been investigating them too, but with little luck. Was that why he found himself fixating on Engelmann, letting the image of the man dominate his thoughts, seeming time after time to loom up ghost-like before his eyes as if the man were physically there in front of him?

He had thought of trying to contact any of Engelmann’s surviving German relatives, supposing they existed, but somehow didn’t think he’d get a lot out of them. Apart from the fact that it was a bit tactless. Come to think of it it was tactless, and naïve, to be interviewing his wartime friends because they were hardly going to admit to having been a party to mass murder. His line had been that he just wanted to know the truth, not necessarily to tell it to the world. That was more or less the case, because apart from other things he couldn’t betray their trust.

Had the attack on the church been a mistake, a tactical error committed in the heat of battle? If it was, they only had to say so. He sensed Simone would be satisfied with that. But of course they were afraid of being blamed as if they had done it deliberately. Maybe that was why they were giving nothing away, while agreeing to see him and treating him with politeness because they didn’t want to seem…he knew what they didn’t want to seem.

He had just finished calling on Friedrich Lantz, learning nothing whatsoever from the meeting. He wondered if he should continue with the whole project. He was getting bored, angry and dispirited. Then he thought of Simone, what it would mean for her if he eventually turned up trumps, and once again vowed inwardly to persevere. He just needed to try a different approach, but wasn’t sure what it should be.

As he neared the end of Lantz’s driveway on his way back to his car, a man came up to the ornamental wrought-iron gates and unfastened the latch, pushing them open.

As their eyes met Martin Higson scowled at the dark-haired youth, thinking he looked a bit Jewish. Stephen pulled a funny face and walked on past him.

In his living room Lantz, the whole subject of the war recalled to his mind by the enquiries of his visitors, was going through his collection of war snapshots, reliving those heady days before the tide had turned at Stalingrad and El Alamein and victory been succeeded by three nightmarish years of suffering, despair – all the more terrible for one’s feelings being bottled up in true German fashion – and finally defeat. Lives sacrificed in vain. But up until then, it had seemed that nothing was impossible for them.

Ach, those were good times. Tears came to his eyes as they ranged over the images of long-dead comrades, each with their name scribbled above them so that in later years his failing memory would not forget it. Together they had restored their country to its rightful place among the nations, given it back its pride and self-respect. They had felt on top of the world; as in a way Germany was, in the summer of 1940. Each day a whole succession of towns would fall like ninepins, and in each one you would stop for a drink and to take a few pictures of yourself and your mates celebrating; without hatred for the vanquished, but simply doing what a soldier was in business for – fighting for his country, and winning.

It was the comradeship which more than anything else had sustained them throughout all the savagely fought battles and, in between, the general gruelling slog of military life. They could even derive pleasure – Schadenfreude - from each other’s misfortunes, rolling about with laughter whenever someone trod on a mine and was left writhing on the ground with his leg blown off, without their being any real malice in it. Other people didn’t understand, he thought bitterly, that the supposed cruelty and insensitivity of the Germans was something they couldn’t really help, a part of their national character, and not necessarily proof of wickedness. It was just the way they were. And perhaps, during the war, a way of coping.

Of course the one big regret, apart from the loss of so many good friends, was that they had lost. It was an illicit sentiment; but who could say what it would have been like if things had turned out differently? Over time, the Nazi dictatorship that ruled Europe would have mutated into something more benign – there would been a lot of agonized soulsearching over the Jews, of course, once the truth finally came to light – as well as probably much more efficient than the shambles which currently prevailed. Then people wouldn’t be looking upon the Reich in quite such a spirit of anger and condemnation.
But why waste time moping over what might have been?

The doorbell chimed and he went to answer it, first peering through the little peephole he’d had specially made in the door so he could see who was calling. Ah, it was no good, all he could make out was a hazy blur which could have been anyone. His eyesight was going, there was no doubt about it. The dark night of advanced old age, with all its handicaps and indignities, was descending upon him. Much better in a way to have died on the battlefield, like Kuntzen and Ettig and Brennerhausen. He sometimes felt guilty that he had survived the war and they had not.
He put the chain on, opened the door. “Ja? Who is it?”

The young man introduced himself, flashing his ID card. Lantz smiled warmly. The war was his favourite subject and the only one he seemed to have any interest in talking about these days. “Yes, of course. Come in.” He took off the chain and pulled the door wide open, gesturing for the visitor to enter.

“Who’d have thought I’d be so much in demand,” Lantz laughed as he shut the door behind them. “That anyone would be interested in an old man like me! I’ve had several visitors already today. And all of them asking about the war, in one way or another.”
“Oh yes?”

Lantz guided him into the living room. “One was asking about her grandfather’s war service – an English girl, but German ancestry on his side. The other….” He didn’t really want to talk about that. “Oh, just something that happened when we were in France in ’44. Now, can I get you some coffee?”

Martin Higson wasn’t listening. An English girl, but with a German grandfather….it was a bit of a coincidence, but could it possibly be…

He realised Lantz was looking at him expectantly. “Sorry, I was daydreaming. Did you say something?“

“I asked if you wanted a cup of coffee.”
“Oh, er - yes, that’d be nice.”
“Take a seat then, and I’ll be with you in a minute.”

In fact Lantz seemed to take an eternity over the task. While he was in the kitchen Martin Higson sat and considered what he’d just been told. This might be their best opportunity and perhaps, until something else chanced to come up, the only one. Enquiries had established that the addresses Walther’s friends had given for the Kent family were, as he had feared, out of date.

Eventually Lantz returned with two cups of coffee, and they sat down to talk. “Herr Lantz,” began Higson, “do you mind if I ask you about the girl who came to see you earlier today? It’s just possible she might be someone I’m currently anxious to trace.”

Lantz looked doubtful. “She did not actually give permission to disclose her personal details. What do you want to know about her?”

“Let me explain in more detail why I’m here. I’m acting on behalf of the family of Reynart Engelmann, your former commanding officer in the 27th Panzers. They lost touch with him after he settled in England following the war. Most of the family had been killed in an air raid but there are still one or two survivors left alive and they’ve now decided to re-establish contact with Reynart. We know he changed his name to Kent. Unfortunately, I was told the other day by another veteran that he has since died, but I was hoping there might be children or grandchildren for whom somebody had a contact address, so a family reunion could be organised.”

Lantz smiled. “I think I can help you there. Yes – the young lady who you are seeking is the one who called on me this morning!”

Martin Higson stiffened, his eyes gleaming, his expression suddenly one of wolfish eagerness. “What time did she call?” he demanded abruptly. If there was the slightest possibility Caroline Kent might still be in the area….

“About eleven,” Lantz said, peering curiously at him. The old man was puzzled, and a little uneasy, at the rapid and total change in his manner, the sense of urgency which went beyond anything Lantz would have expected. The visitor’s whole body was rigid with tension, charged with an almost feverish excitement.

“Did she leave an address?” The words were more or less snapped at him.
“Er, no,” stammered Lantz. “I’m afraid not. Was ist – “

Higson stared at him, the realization dawning that he might have given away too much. He took the decision more or less on impulse. Getting to his feet, he strode in a mechanical, robot-like fashion towards the old man, his face impassive. Lantz gasped in horror and shrunk away, fear getting the better of him. Higson’s expression burnt into his brain like the face of the fellow soldier who had gone for him in a brawl, driven mad by the stresses of war, and left him with the scar on his right cheek.

It’s too late now, Higson thought. He had to go through with it.

He continued to bear down on Friedrich Lantz, forcing him back against the wall. “Nein,” Lantz gabbled, lapsing again into German. “Nein - was ist - ”

The high-pitched old voice rose in alarm. “Nein! Hilfe! Hilfe!”

Higson grabbed the old man by the shoulders and with a savage twist hurled him to the floor. The German landed heavily on his side, crying out in pain. For a moment he lay there moaning feebly, then began struggling to rise.

Higson’s eyes flickered across the room and saw the heavy metal paperweight on the desk in the corner. He ran to it and snatched it up.

Lantz had just managed to get to his knees, shouting feebly for help, when the paperweight smashed down on his skull and shattered it. Higson saw his eyes film over. The old man collapsed face-down and this time lay still.

Higson had no time to reflect on what he had just done. Someone might have heard Lantz’s cries and concluded he was in trouble. Taking the paperweight, the murder weapon, with him in his briefcase he left the house, trying to look casual and unhurried, got into his car and drove until he found a phone box. He tapped out the number of the castle, several times hitting the wrong key and having to start again.

“Klaus, it’s Martin. Listen, I think I’ve found the girl!” Hurriedly he told his leader what he’d learned from Lantz. “We’ve got to get moving and fast. And there’s more, I’ve just had to kill someone.” Breathlessly he explained what had happened.

There was silence while Wachter tried to absorb these developments. Higson could sense his mind racing. “Right,” he snapped. “Drive to a point near the French border and once you are there, call this number. Leave the girl to us.” He read out the number, then slammed down the phone.

Next Wachter rang Ulrich Schwege. “We must act fast or we may lose her. I want a watch kept on all bus and coach stations, and as many hotels and guest houses as possible, in the vicinity of each of the homes of the veterans on our list. And at all airports and major rail stations in the country. At a guess she’s still in Germany but we don’t know for how long.”
“Will we recognize her?”

“I should think so. We’ve got her photograph from the IPL brochure, so we won’t just be looking for any pretty blonde.”
“All the same it’ll be a tall order.”

“Just do it. And somehow we’ve got to get Martin out of the country, in case he’s caught and it leads back to us. Philippe will see to that. Now listen, once we’ve got the girl we’re going to have to move out. Preferably out of Germany altogether. You, me, Lucke. Rolf will have to stay behind, go to ground somehow, so he can organize the uprising when the time comes. But all those who know about the plan will have to get out, we can’t risk any of them falling into the hands of the police. The others must remain here and hope the authorities don’t take too much of an interest in them.”
“Does that mean we’re going to…..”

“Yes, it does. The arrangements are all in place.” The arrangements had been in place for some time, just in case of an eventuality like this. “We may as well do it, if we’ve finally got the girl. Now it’s possible she can be made to come willingly, in the first instance anyway. Try and make contact with her somehow, I’ll leave it up to you how it’s done. And you and Lucke are to make your preparations to leave, but be sure it’s done discreetly so the police aren’t alerted.”

“OK, Klaus, I’ll get it all done. And I’ll keep contact to a minimum.”
“Make sure you do. Goodbye.”

Schwege paid a visit to the local library where he consulted the German equivalent of Yellow Pages, in which all the hotels and guest houses in the areas of his interest were listed. He photocopied the lists and over the next few hours proceeded to ring each establishment from a different phone box, making sure that the boxes were spaced as widely apart as possible, and not all in the same town or village. He explained to the receptionist that he had just heard an English tourist by the name of Caroline Kent was staying somewhere in the area, and he was anxious to contact her regarding certain relatives of hers in Germany who wished to be put in touch. He had no idea of her English address or telephone number. Could they check to see if there was anyone of that name on their guest list?

It was the best way to proceed. But with things suddenly beginning to move very fast, and their security maybe compromised, they couldn’t give her a lot of time to reply.

After leaving Heinemann Caroline drove until she found a public park, where she sat down on the first vacant bench and tried to think. She stayed sitting there and thinking for a very long time, while the quacking of the ducks on the lake and the laughter of children and courting couples carried to her ears on the crisp autumn breeze.

Did it really matter if she gave it all up now? After all, if her grandfather was the guilty man the fact would be of limited interest to people because he was dead. Nonetheless, it probably wouldn’t be long before some dedicated reporter tracked the family down and asked them how they felt about the revelation. Even if they declined to comment their connection with the mass murderer would become public knowledge. And then she’d be marked for life, as would any children or grandchildren she had. Anything she did would always be judged against the knowledge of whose descendant she was, and played down because to promote her would seem to be promoting him. Her whole future would be just torn up and thrown away.

How many generations would it take to erase the burden, the stigma?

She wondered if there was a support group for children of former Nazis. If not, it would certainly be a good idea. If the truth did turn out to be what she feared, and leaked out, why shouldn’t she start one?

Or was she essentially over-reacting? After all, she was third generation; it wasn’t her, or her father, but her Grandad who was the suspected war criminal, and she was English not German. Would anyone really be bothered that much six decades on, even the Jews who perhaps had the most cause to be? The only way to find out would be if it actually came to the worst, and that was the problem.

But looming over everything else was the question of Sippenhaft. Surely it allowed her to make up her mind without loss of face or any further traumatic angst. Getting herself killed, if she chose to pursue the matter, wouldn’t achieve anything. Surely she should take the way out it offered. On the other hand, if she waited for someone to get in touch with a warning not to poke her nose in where it wasn’t wanted, or perhaps made contact with these mysterious people who claimed to be acting for German relatives she had never known existed, she might learn something to her benefit; if it didn’t appear to be relatives of Engelmann who were threatening her, and she couldn’t somehow see them harming their own family, then perhaps he didn’t do it.

But walking into the lion’s den was risky. She’d done it once or twice before and nearly got eaten.

Eventually, her mind at last made up, she returned to her car and drove back to the hotel. By then it was getting dark. She decided to pack her things, check out as soon as evening meal was over, and catch the overnight train to Frankfurt from where she would fly back to London.

At the reception desk she asked if any messages had been left for her. There was one. The message was from the people who wanted to contact her on behalf of her German relations; they were suggesting a meeting at a house in a small town in the south-west of the country not far from the French border. A telephone number was given.

After a moment she crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into the nearest wastepaper basket.

Martin Higson drove to a small village on the border between France and Germany, just to the south of Carlsruhe. There he booked into a guest house from which he rang the number Wachter had given him. He found himself speaking to Philippe Versaud, a member of the French National Front, to whom he explained the situation. The two of them agreed on a plan.

If Higson entered France by car there would be a danger he might be stopped at the border. Instead he must buy himself some walking gear, as if he was going for a ramble, and contrive to stray over the border to a secluded woodland location where Versaud would meet him and take him to where his car was parked. Higson’s own hired vehicle would simply be left at the guesthouse.

Higson discarded his suit and tie and put on casual clothes and a pair of heavy walking boots and rucksack. Having made sure he had left no clues behind (the paperweight with which he had killed Lantz had by now been dumped), he set off on his stroll, and a couple of hours later was in Versaud’s car driving south towards Marseilles. There was a substantial far right element in the port, capitalizing on the tensions arising because of the large population of Arab immigrants which had made its home there. One of the members of the local National Front was a prominent businessman and shipowner who could arrange a berth for Higson, with no questions asked, on one of his cargo vessels bound for Canada. From there he would make a further journey, either by sea or air, to Thule. As an additional precaution he dyed his hair blond and set about growing a beard and moustache.

That night, as he lay down to sleep in the spare bedroom at Versaud’s colleague’s house, he thought over the day’s events and hoped to God he hadn’t blown everything.

He’d killed an old man, and someone he ought to have had common cause with, who had fought on what he considered to be the right side in the Second World War: the side Britain should have fought on. He found himself thinking about a couple of other incidents which had ended in killing. In the first he had been swept along by the crowd, putting the boot in with everyone else. He wasn’t sure he could have done it if he’d been on his own. In the second he had found his pent-up anger and hatred spilling over until the man had been badly injured and later, whether or not Higson for his part had intended it, died. This time the circumstances had been somewhat different, and yet…..

Nothing could bring Lantz back, of course. The main thing now was to minimize any damage resulting from his action. And there might not be any, not that mattered, if they could only move quickly enough. If they could only get their hands on a certain Miss Caroline Kent.

His inability to extract from Friedrich Lantz anything which could properly be termed information had further disillusioned Stephen Aron regarding the usefulness of his project, and added to his feeling of guilt that he was causing Caroline Kent such anxiety and distress. The more he thought about her the less it seemed his suspicions of the woman were justified. After all, she’d gone to the memorial at Macy, hadn’t she? Perhaps she was simply concerned to make a show of her regret at such atrocities. But who would have known that she intended to go there? What was there to distinguish her from all the others who from time to time stopped in that place to contemplate what had happened there and remember the dead?

He still had not quite decided to abandon his quest, but he did feel he hadn’t handled the matter quite as sensitively as he ought to have done. There was an edge to their relationship and it was at least partly his fault. He had to find her so he could apologise.

Caroline had called on Lantz the same day that he had. And since Bremen and Hamburg weren’t too far from each other and one of the other veterans, Bruno Heinemann, lived in the latter place it was quite likely she’d gone on there to visit him, reasoned Stephen. With any luck she was staying at a hotel in the area.

He rang Heinemann and after fixing up an appointment with him for tomorrow – “I am quite happy to see you, Herr Aron, although quite honestly I do not think there is a great deal I can tell you” – asked if Caroline had visited him that day, and at what time exactly. “About four o’clock,” he replied.

Stephen went back to his hotel room, a reasonably upmarket establishment in a northern suburb of Bremen, and there drew up a list of all the veterans who as far as he knew Caroline had not visited yet. He knew roughly where she had gone either because he had seen her there or because the veterans had mentioned it to him. Of the two remaining people on the list one, Walther, was in Munich, the other resided in the former so-called Democratic Republic of Germany. By the time she’d finished with Heinemann it might be too late in the day to attempt to travel so far south or east. More logical to stay overnight in either Bremen or Hamburg and start off first thing in the morning.

The sooner things were patched up the better; he didn’t want the matter preying on his conscience. He wondered whether there was another reason why he was so keen to contact her. Although only a few years separated them in age, it was enough to make a difference; although sometimes her mannerisms were more like those of a teenager or a child, which confused him further. In any case his family would probably press for him to marry a nice Jewish girl rather than a Goyim – there was an even ruder word some of them might have used, although personally Stephen wouldn’t so demean himself as to let it pass his lips.

He began ringing round the hotels asking each if they had someone with her name staying there as a guest. He got lucky the third time: the Kaiser Friedrich on Bismarckplatz, Prinzwhilhelmstrasse, Hamburg. Not so far from where he was, as a matter of fact. Excellent.

All the same he might have to move fast if he was to catch her before she left. And he couldn’t guarantee seeing her again while the two of them were in Germany. As for after that, he’d no idea of her home address, or workplace, in the UK.

To Stephen’s surprise the receptionist at the Kaiser Friedrich informed him that Caroline was checking out that evening, probably around eight o’clock although as far as she knew the lady had intended to be present at supper, which was only just started, so he might be able to catch her provided he paid for his meal, if he was intending to actually eat. Thanking the girl, Stephen put down the phone and consulted his watch. It was already a quarter-past now. Deciding to eat out on this occasion, after he’d concluded his business with Caroline, he went down to reception and told the clerk at the desk he wouldn’t require a table to be prepared for him in the dining room tonight. He then set off for the Kaiser Friedrich, a walk of about twenty minutes.

When he arrived there supper was still in progress judging by the view through the glass doors of the refectory. He hung around waiting for the diners to come out, once or twice peering through the glass at them but seeing no sign of the person he was looking for. He took up a position by the counter and leaned against it.

Now and then one or two people cast him disapproving glances, as if suspecting him of loitering.

He heard the click of high heels on the smooth floor of the lobby, and a tallish young woman passed in front of him on her way to the exits, pulling a suitcase on wheels behind her and with an overnight bag slung over her shoulder. A bell of golden hair bobbed up and down. With a start he realised it was her. She must have already eaten and gone to her room to pack. Walking purposefully in a straight line, eyes fixed on what was in front of her, she had failed to notice his presence. That she had things on her mind was obvious from her expression. She looks just like a sulky little girl, he thought. It’s cute.

Those long, scissor-like legs had taken her almost to the swing doors before he called out to her. “Caroline! Miss Kent! Hey, wait!” She stopped sharply and swung round.

On seeing him coming towards her she didn’t look particularly enthused. With an aggressively expectant look she waited for him to reach her.

“I just thought I’d catch you before you go,” he began. “Listen, I’m sorry. For being a bit unfair to you earlier on.”

Her face softened somewhat, but he still didn’t think she looked particularly happy. “That’s alright.”
“I didn’t give you much of a chance really, did I?”

“Well, Stephen,” she sighed. “If I’d wanted to put you in a gas oven I could have found some way of doing it anyway, without pretending to be your friend.”

Stephen wasn’t sure what to say. It was uncharitable of the woman to think he suspected her of wanting to do that. But then maybe he had.

“I just want to say, if you did want to work with me on this I’d be quite happy about it. I mean, if it turned out he was….was…..”
“For God’s sake keep your voice down,” she hissed.

“Was the guy who did it, then I’d be interested to hear what you thought about it, as his granddaughter,” Stephen whispered. “Only if you wanted to go about it that way, of course. I mean, I don’t want to be – “

She stopped him. “It’s alright, Mr Aron. As far as I’m concerned you can do just what you like. Right now I’m going home and I’m staying there.”
His eyebrows lifted. “Why? What’s happened?”
“Ever heard of Sippenhaft?” she said grimly.

“Actually yes. You mean people being afraid to tell on all the war criminals because they might get murdered.” It was a defence that hadn’t cut much ice with him at first, and still didn’t with certain of his family. “Are you saying someone’s threatened you?”

“Well, they’ve been trying to contact me to arrange a meeting with some of my grandfather’s German relatives. Personally I didn’t know I had any. Of course – of course it could be perfectly innocent.” He saw her bite her lip.

“I could be passing up a wonderful opportunity,” she said wistfully. “But you can see why I’m suspicious. If it’s someone who stood to lose by me finding out what really happened at Macy – because word’s probably got round about why I’m here - or what my grandfather was doing on “special duties”…”

She sensed his ears prick up and told him about the gaps in Reynart’s war record. He looked intrigued for a moment then seemed to decide, as she had, that it probably had no bearing on Macy. “So you aren’t worried about what the reaction would be if I found out he did it?” he went on.

“Of course I’m bloody worried,” she snapped. “So would you be. But because you’re the same race as the people the Nazis most persecuted, and it’s the kind of thing you can make seem worse than anything else that’s ever happened, you can take the moral high ground. I’m sure what I’m going through doesn’t matter anywhere near as much.”

“I’m not trying to take the moral high ground. I’m just doing what I think is right. In fact…in fact, though, I’m not sure I want to carry on with the investigation. It’s not too late to change the subject of the thesis.”

She gave a little start, and he could see that some of her anxiety had lifted. ”Oh,” she said uncertainly.

“I’m not really getting anywhere, you see. Either they really don’t know anything – or it could be this Sippenhaft thing and they’re just too scared to tell.”

“They might kill you too, the people behind it all,” she warned; hoping, partly for reasons of her own, that he’d take the hint and abandon the whole crusade in the interest of his own safety. “In fact you’d be particularly at risk because – “
“Because I’m a Jew,” he finished, pointedly.

“Quite. So maybe it would be best if you did pack it in. I mean, you’re only young and these are a hard bunch we’re talking about, professionals at doing away with anybody they don’t like.”

Aron sniffed, feeling himself patronized. “Well I think it’s only fair to tell you, I haven’t decided for sure to give up the investigation. I just wondered – “

“Oh, great. So I’ve still got this great big thing hanging over my head and making my life a misery whenever I think about it.”

“I’m sorry if it’s having that effect on you. But what I was going to say was, if I did find out anything bad about your grandfather it would only be courtesy to let you know first. If perhaps you could let me have your address – “

“Quite frankly, Stephen, I just want to forget the whole damn thing. Goodbye.” She spun on her heels and walked straight out of the lobby into the car park.

Oh, sorry, I forgot, Stephen muttered beneath his breath. It was your turn to be unreasonable today.

He gazed after her for a moment through the glass front of the building as she crossed to where he guessed her car was parked, then turned away and stared at the wall, waiting until she was off the premises before he made a move because he was too embarrassed to catch her eye.

So he didn’t see the two men in the BMW don a pair of black balaclava helmets and leave their vehicle, walking with a swift marching stride towards Caroline, who had paused by her hired car, put down her luggage and was fumbling in the pocket of her overcoat for the key.

He did hear what sounded – surely – like a scream from the car park, slightly muffled, and noises as of people fighting. He ran to the door and looked out through the glass. He couldn’t see anything in the darkness, but there it was again – a woman’s scream, harshly uttered threats in a male voice and those sounds of desperate, vicious struggling. “I think there’s something going on outside!” he shouted to the receptionist.

If someone was being assaulted or abducted, the police might get there too late to prevent harm being done. Without thinking Stephen dashed out into the night, running towards where he’d heard the sounds coming from and yelling at the top of his voice. “Alright, stop that! Leave her alone! We’ve called the police, OK?”

He skidded to a halt, horrified to see Caroline Kent struggling with two dim figures dressed entirely in black, the better to blend in with the night. As he watched one managed to seize her around the waist while the other moved towards her, reaching into his pocket for something with which to threaten or overpower their victim – a gun, a cosh, maybe a needle containing some kind of knockout drug.

Their purposeful stride as they approached her, sounding sinister to her mind, had alerted her in time. She had been able to fight back, to defend herself. He guessed she must have broken free at least twice and run back towards the hotel and safety, only to be grabbed again.

Busy attempting to subdue her, they failed to realise that someone else had taken a hand. The man with the needle, or whatever it might be, was taken completely by surprise when Stephen cannoned into him, sending him staggering, then leaped on his back and grasped the fabric of his balaclava with both hands, tugging hard at it with all his strength. If it could be ripped off, Stephen thought, the man would be distracted from Caroline in his panic to replace it, afraid he might be recognized even though it was dark.

The man gave a shout of rage and jabbed backwards with his elbows, catching Stephen a sharp blow in the side which made the young man loosen his grip. Still he hung on, digging his fingers deep into the thick leather of the mask.

His colleague was snatching at Caroline’s other arm, trying to grab it so he could hold her where she was. She jerked it out of the way, then stabbed viciously with her index finger through the eye-hole of his mask. He let out a ghastly piercing scream and reeled away from her, both hands clasped to the damaged eye; she saw the blood on his fingers gleaming in the moonlight.

In a savage twist the second thug succeeded in throwing Stephen from his back, the youth losing his balance and falling over to hit his head on the tarmac, crying out from the shock of the impact. Then a kick like a pile-driver slammed into the pit of Aron’s stomach and he screamed in agony.

Then another kick, this time in the ribs; a third to the side of his head. A fourth to his face. His world exploded in searing fire, then he lost consciousness.

The thug looked up from him to see Caroline running back through the door of the hotel. He made a move to follow her and then checked himself. They’d lost their chance. The agitated receptionist was on the phone, probably to the police. How long had they known about the attack for? How much time would he and Schuler have in which to get away? A few minutes might make all the difference.

He looked round for Schuler and saw him lurching about with both hands clapped to his left eye, shrieking like a little boy. He ran to him and tried to pull the hands away. “What is it? What’s the matter? Come on, we’ve got to get out of here!” He saw what had been done to his friend and gasped in horror. “Scheisse!”

Impatiently he bundled the man towards the BMW. Unlocking the doors, he thrust the wailing Schuler into the passenger seat and then jumped in beside him. The staff at Reception heard the car roar away into the night, the sound of Schuler’s screams fading with it.

A porter glanced out cautiously. “I think they’ve gone. But there is a man on the ground, he looks like he’s quite badly hurt. We’d better - ah wait, he’s moving.”

Stephen Aron, a good deal tougher than he looked, was clambering shakily to his feet, rubbing his bruised and bleeding head. He stared about him in a daze, startled by what he had seen, or thought he had seen, just for a brief moment. He wasn’t sure if it was the still befuddled state of his mind, some effect of the blows to the head, but he could have sworn the eye of one of the kidnappers had been hanging down his cheek on a strip of tissue.

He could see no sign of Caroline and wondered if they’d succeeded in making off with her. His head ringing painfully, his nose sore and swollen and his stomach still aching where the kidnapper’s boot had landed, he turned and staggered back towards Reception. He lurched through the door and stumbled over to the desk, vaguely conscious of people running forward to help him. The night manager, Tomas Engel, looked at him in horror. His face was a mask of blood from his streaming nose and his lower lip and right cheek were a livid mass of purple. He was also clutching his side in a way Engel didn’t like, suggesting a rib or two might be broken.

“Did they get her?” he asked, his voice sounding thick and slurred. “The lady – her name’s Caroline Kent…I don’t think they did but I’m not…not sure…..”

“It must have been her who came running in,” said the porter. “Probably in her room.” He snatched up an internal phone, found the number on the list kept behind the desk and dialled it.

In her room, Caroline had put the door on the latch and sat down on the bed, breathing slowly and deeply in and out, waiting for her shattered nerves to recover. The phone on the desk rang and she eyed it uneasily for a whole minute before deciding to answer. “Er, hello?”
“Fraulein Kent, it is the night manager. Are you alright?”
“Yes, thankyou; just a bit shaken. Have they gone?”

“It looks like it. The police should be here soon. In the meantime, you’d better stay where you are.”

“OK. Can someone bring my luggage in for me? I’d put it down by my car.”
“Yes, of course.”

Downstairs Engel was speaking to the night porter. “Better lock the doors in case they come back.”

A few people were coming out of the dining room, asking the staff what was going on and staring at the bloody and battered Stephen Aron. Tomas Engel raised his hands in an appeal for calm.

Caroline had more or less regained her composure by the time Engel called again to say the police had arrived and were waiting to take a statement from her. She went down to Reception, where Stephen was propped up on a chair beside the counter. A maid, who was obviously the first aid expert around here, was mopping up the blood from his face with a tissue. Caroline saw the extent of the bruising and grimaced.

“Stephen!” She hurried over to him, aghast. “Oh, my God! What happened to you? Did they….oh, the bastards!”
He smiled at her weakly, tried to speak but failed.

“You have good cause to be grateful to him,” Engel told her. “His intervention distracted the other man at the right moment. Had they both been free to overpower you, you would not have stood a chance.”

“Are…are you OK?” she asked the boy. “Stephen, can you hear me?”

“I’m fine,” he answered, though he still looked a bit pale, except for where the bruising had turned his flesh into a kaleiodoscope, and dazed. His eyes closed for a moment.

She became aware of the two police officers approaching her. “Fraulein Kent, we need to speak to you. And Mr Aron too, when he is well enough.”

Caroline nodded. The older of the two officers ushered her through the door of a spare cloakroom which had been set aside to serve as an interview room. She sat down on one of the three chairs which had been provided for them.

“Can you give us your account of what happened?” the older man asked, while his colleague got out his pen and notebook. She described the incident as best she could; it was with particular relish that she came to the bit where she’d jabbed the thug in the eye.

When she had finished the younger man asked her if she knew of any reason why someone should want to kidnap her.

“One,” she replied. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of Sippenhaft?” She explained why she had come to Germany, asking them not to talk for the moment about her grandfather’s possible involvement with the Macy massacre; the warning Albert Steinmuhl had given her; and the invitation that had come out of the blue to attend an Anglo-German family reunion. “It could be someone is protecting someone else and they’re worried in case I find out who really carried out the massacre. I certainly can’t see any other reason why Nazis should be after me.”

She noted the senior policeman’s grave expression. Any crime involving far-right political organizations was considered a serious matter by the Federal authorities. “Miss Kent, may I ask how long you were intending to stay in Germany? It may be necessary to give you protection while you are here.”

“As a matter of fact, I was just about to go home. I’d more or less decided to give up my investigation. So they shouldn’t have anything to worry about. The question is, do they know that?”

She could announce to the world that she was giving up her quest, but that of course would have the effect of publicising the possibility of her grandfather’s guilt, which she didn’t want.

She could see the policeman was thinking carefully. “They probably wanted to kidnap you so they could warn you, as well as leave you feeling frightened and therefore less likely to go against their wishes. You may not have been in any actual physical danger, and if you left Germany they might decide to leave you alone. We could of course notify your Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, I see little chance at this stage of identifying the people responsible and arresting them. There are not enough clues. The men were both in disguise and got away too fast for anyone to read the car’s numberplate. We cannot say for certain that it is a far right group, or if so which one.”

Caroline was uncertain for a moment, then told him she wasn’t bothered. She’d simply go home and forget about it all. She hoped that was the right course of action.

The policeman nodded stiffly. “If that’s your decision. You will of course be prepared to return to Germany to act as a witness should there be a trial?”
“Of course.”
“How were you planning to return to the United Kingdom?”

“I was going to fly out of Frankfurt. I’ve got a hired car which I was going to leave at the airport for the firm to collect.”

“Would you please remain here for the moment? I will call my station for a car to take you to Frankfurt. An officer will remain with you until you are safely on the plane. Don’t worry about the hire car, we’ll see it is returned.”

She nodded, getting up and going to the door. “I just want to have a word with someone before I leave.” The two of them followed her out, anxious not to lose sight of their charge.

Stephen Aron seemed more or less recovered now, although still in some discomfort. ”How are you feeling, kid?” she asked.

He was pleased to note that her concern seemed genuine. “A bit better, thanks. And you?”

“I think they came off worse than I did. I’m sorry I didn’t stop to help but I guess I was busy getting as far away from them as possible. I didn’t notice you were having the living daylights kicked out of you or I’d have done for that arsehole what I did for his friend.”
“That’s OK.”

“Well,” she said, “thanks.” She offered her hand and Stephen shook it, firmly. “Anytime,” he grinned.

“I’ll have to give you my address sometime.” She fumbled in her pocket for something to write on. “Oh, just contact me at International Petroleum.”
“Will do.”

Meanwhile the police were busy taking statements from the night staff, apart from the officer who had been deputed to keep an eye on Stephen and Caroline, the two most important potential witnesses. The man was watching them both like a hawk.

Caroline’s luggage had been placed at the foot of the counter. She went over to collect it, shouldering the overnight bag and taking hold of the handle of the suitcase.

She was about to return to Stephen when she felt a twinge of pain across her forehead. It felt as if it was actually inside her head, her brain. Inside it….
Oh God, she thought. Not that. Not here. Not now.

No. She had thought it was over. But it was worse this time.

As before, nothing around her seemed quite real. The concerned faces of the people in the lobby, the lights in the windows of the hotel, all seemed to blur together into a hazy shapeless mass. A hundred, a thousand babbling voices filled her head in a rushing surge of sound which almost deafened her. This time the sensations were stronger, more overwhelming. She was drowning in them. For a few moments she had the horrible feeling that the physical world had ceased to exist and there was just her mind, floating lost in a sea of sounds and images that were coming in much too rapid a succession for her to make sense of them. Trapped forever in a world she couldn’t understand.

It lasted longer, too. Perhaps it was only the policeman shaking her by the arm which brought her back to reality. If this was reality; somehow the weirdness she had just experienced had seemed much more vivid.

They mustn’t know. If this was what she thought it was, they mustn’t know.

“Are you alright?” the policeman asked.
She shook her head vigorously. ”Yes…I think so. Still a bit…shook up I suppose.” Delayed shock from the kidnap attempt, the policeman decided. He wondered if he should call an ambulance. But she’d be alright; these things didn’t usually last. He turned away.

She became aware of Stephen Aron moving closer to her. “Um, those men. Do you think they were….” He lowered his voice to a whisper, somehow thinking it might be better if as few people as possible knew about the Sippenhaft aspect. It might only land Caroline in greater danger.

She answered in a similar tone. “Nazis? Well, maybe. But I can’t be a hundred per cent sure. There’s plenty of people who’d want to do something nasty to me. I tend to make enemies,” she finished ruefully.

“Why do you make enemies?” he asked, wondering if he was becoming obsessed with this extraordinary woman, desperately needing to find out what made her tick.

“Because there are some things I can’t let go of. And that means I get in certain people’s way...not very nice people. That’s all I can say.” She turned and stared into the darkness beyond the doors of Reception. Stephen was left to contemplate her back and wonder what she could possibly be thinking.

She swung round to him again. “This isn’t over,” she said. “Is it?”

“No,” he replied. “It’s not. Yet.” Momentarily there was silence between them.

“I still think it would be better if you tried a different subject for your thesis. Apart from…the other thing, you could go on searching for years and not find the answer.”

“That might be an idea,” he conceded. “But I won’t ever stop searching for the truth about Macy. Sorry.”
She nodded resignedly.

The policeman was regarding the pair of them with some suspicion. Why were they talking in such low voices? Collusion of witnesses? Had the two of them set the whole thing up for some reason? But he didn’t think it very likely, on the whole. The boy had been far too badly hurt for that, unless his attacker had simply got carried away. But then it should be possible to detect undercurrents of alarm, of anger, beneath the face they were displaying to everyone; he was experienced enough to be able to notice them. The signals they were sending out weren’t quite like that, unless of course they were just good actors.

“Well,” said Caroline, smiling warmly, “goodbye and good luck. Take care.” To Stephen’s surprise, as well as delight, she wrapped her arms round him in a tight embrace, pressing the side of her head against his. His eyes popped.

He heard her whisper softly into his ear. “Pretend to faint.”
“Uh?” he gasped.

“Be quiet, you twit. I said pretend to faint.” She let go of him and stepped back. Stephen’s eyes closed and he swayed on his feet before twisting and crumpling to the floor, apparently unconscious.

Tomas Engel sighed. He’d thought so. “Call that ambulance,” he ordered the receptionist. They could take a look at the girl too while they were at it.

The receptionist snatched up her mobile phone, while everyone clustered round Stephen in concern. “Stephen, are you alright?” Caroline shrieked. “Please, answer me! Oh, Stephen!”

While the receptionist was busy calling for the ambulance, and everyone else including the policemen were examining Stephen solicitously, Caroline was able to slip away. Leaving the suitcase where it was – it would only slow her down, she’d have to worry about it later – she hurried from the building and through the car park to her Opel.

She unlocked the door and scrambled in. As she strapped herself up she could hear the shouts and dashing about as they realised she was missing.

Speed was of the essence. She thrust the keys into the ignition, turned them, reversed out of her parking space. Fortunately the way ahead was clear, no other vehicles entering the car park at that moment. Gathering speed, she shot off through the gates and down the main road, in the opposite direction to the city centre. Going she knew not where.

When they realised Caroline was missing the police immediately called their colleagues on their mobiles, describing her appearance to them and requesting they put out a general alert. One of them began leafing through the telephone directory and listing the names of the various car hire firms in the area. Then he proceeded to ring each of them, asking if they had loaned a car within the past few days to a Fraulein Caroline Kent and requesting a description and registration number.

Before embarking on that task he glanced suspiciously over at Stephen, not sure his misgivings hadn’t been confirmed. First they seem to be conspiring together, then she does a runner. Very interesting.

The boy was on his feet again, insisting it was just a brief dizzy spell and he was quite alright, honestly. He was staring in the direction Caroline had gone in complete and utter bemusement. What to make of it all I don’t know, he thought, scratching his forehead. But there’s a subject for a thesis, I can tell you.

Caroline drove on into the night, leaving the city far behind. And trying to marshal her thoughts into some kind of order. The attacks had come back; triggered, probably, by the shock of the attempted kidnap.

But this time it had been worse. Was that in proportion to the seriousness of what had happened? Or was the timing just coincidence?

She hoped desperately it was a one-off. For a moment back there she had really felt as if she was going mad. Would she end up a gibbering idiot, unable to have any influence on events and with her destiny entirely in the hands of others?

If it happened again, while she was with the police, they would insist she go to hospital. There they would keep her under observation, and if they eventually realised what the trouble was she might not regain her freedom for a very long time. If ever.

Was her ongoing worry about the investigation into Macy partly responsible? If that was the case then it was unlikely the problem would go away.

She shouldn’t be driving while prone to these attacks. She had to stop. Images flashed through her feverish brain of the burnt-out wrecks of cars she had seen lying by the roadside several times while she’d been in Germany. They left them there for a reason, reminding people that a mother and her two children had been killed here today….

But if they caught her….and if the wrong people got to hear of it, as surely they must sooner or later……

She was on a lonely country road, and it was dark. But they must be looking for her by now. They’d trace the car from the hire firm and….

She slowed, turned off onto the grass verge and pulled on the handbrake. The car juddered to a halt.

She should have had plenty of time by now to recover from the fright of the kidnap attempt. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, forcing herself to stay calm and relax, using the meditational techniques taught her by a Chinaman who although a Christian had seen nothing incompatible between his faith and a bit of Zen Buddhism.

Some minutes passed, she couldn’t tell how many exactly. Finally she opened her eyes. She felt much better now, at peace.

Then suddenly the nightmarish images were coming at her, sometimes in succession, sometimes jumbled crazily together. Scenes from events in her past life. She hadn’t been thinking of them, had had no wish to recall them and yet suddenly they were there, being re-enacted right in front of her. Seen with her eyes or her mind?

The dark mass of a sprawling industrial town in the north of England, slumbering beneath a harvest moon, studded with hundreds, thousands, millions of winking lights. And in the night sky above it, more lights, ones that were moving…..a plane……

The plane broke apart as if smashed by a giant hand, the bodies spilled out into the cold night air, falling helplessly to their doom, and death and destruction rained down upon the people of the town.

Fouasi, the white slave trader, ripping off her clothes with his bare hands, then flinging her violently to the ground. His snarling, hate–filled voice: ”You tried to interfere in what I was doing. Well now it’ll serve you right if I fucking well do it to you, you fucking bitch.” Again she was struggling to her knees only to realise that was the position he wanted her in. He must have already been naked because she could feel his…feel his….and then he…..

Next she was lying bound and helpless on some sacrificial altar, flames licking around her. She couldn’t remember if that had actually happened or was just an image thrown up by the havoc this thing was wreaking on her mind.

A host of nightmarish creatures, their faces contorted in expressions of pure hatred and evil, were clustered round the car trying to get in. Banging on the roof, pounding on the windows, rocking the vehicle in a bid to turn it over. A flat white face with staring eyes was pressed against the windscreen, leering in at her. She could hear chanting voices: We’re coming for you, Caroline. We’re going to take you away and then we’re going to…..

Desperately, her hands clasped tight to her head, her eyes screwed up in concentration, Caroline struggled to shut out the horror. This is not real! I know it can’t be real! It’s just an illusion, a nightmare, a bad dream…isn’t it? Go away! Go away! Go AWAY!!!!

She couldn’t tell afterwards just how long it had gone on for. But just as abruptly as it had begun, the nightmare passed.

It would be back. The Thing, as she found herself thinking of it, must be something so ingrained in her that nothing could dislodge it. Where had it come from? Had it always been there inside her, buried deep, or was someone or something mucking about with her psyche for its own purposes?

“Leave me alone, please,” she wailed. “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve it? Why….how…..”

An association of ideas was forming in her mind. The key idea, the key word that kept coming back to it again and again, was “eugenics”. That was what Wolfgang Eckstadt had said. God....
Was it possible?
My God....
it couldn’t be true...could it?
What gets into the genes stays there.

Savagely Caroline pulled herself together. She wasn’t going to be crushed by this, any more than her other problems had crushed her. She took her mobile from her overnight bag and dialled a number in London.

“Hello, Global Datasystems,” said the girl on the night desk.

“My name’s Caroline Kent. I’d like to leave a message for one of your staff – Rachel Savident. Could you please tell her it’s urgent? In fact if I could speak to her now that’d be much appreciated.”

“Alright, Miss Kent, I’ll see if I can get hold of Rachel for you. She’s probably at home right now, but I’ll make sure she calls you as soon as possible.” There was no need for them to ask if Rachel had her number; they could identify easily enough which mobile phone the call had been made with.

Caroline stowed away the phone, turned the car’s heater on and snuggled as far down into her seat as possible. She let the peace and stillness of the night calm her nerves, the occasional noises which broke it – the sound of other vehicles on the road, the drone of a plane somewhere up in the sky, and the rustling of small animals in the undergrowth nearby serving if anything to soothe her further. Fortunately, it seemed the Thing had decided to leave her alone for the time being, and it wasn’t that long before she fell asleep.

”It’s crazy,” muttered police inspector Hans Lotting, shaking his head. “This whole business, it makes no sense.” He turned slowly to Stephen Aron. “But I think perhaps it is time we had a little talk with you, Herr Aron. Unless you are going to faint again, that is?”

He nodded towards the door of THE cloakroom. Lotting, Stephen and Lotting’s sergeant trooped inside and took their seats. Lotting leaned towards Stephen, his eyes glinting, his lips tightly compressed. “Now suppose you tell us what is really going on here?” Suspicion was written all over the two policemen’s faces.

That’s great, thought Stephen. She runs off for some strange reason and leaves me in the lurch, suspected of being an accessory to crime.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he protested. “I just had a faint, that’s all. I mean, after what happened…”

Lotting smiled sardonically. “Considering what you were doing when you fainted, it was a case of...what is the English expression…perhaps you were bowled over by her charms, yes?”

Stephen decided he had little choice but to tell the truth. “She wanted me to pretend to black out, for some reason. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But I honestly don’t know why she should run off like that. I haven’t the slightest idea what she’s playing at.”

“He’s young,” the other policeman said. “Easily led by someone older and more…experienced.”

“Yes, perhaps we will be charitable and leave it at that,” Lotting said after a pause. “Now if we could have your statement please, and your contact details. What are you doing in Germany, may I ask?”

“I was researching the massacre at Macy-sur-Auvergne in France during the Second World War, to see if I could find any new clues to who might have done it.”

“So, as a matter of fact, was Miss Kent. A bit of a coincidence you should both be researching the same topic.”

“She started her own investigation because of what I was doing.”
“Had the two of you had any contact before?”

“No, we’d never met before I bumped into her at the memorial in Macy.”

“She told us she had had little luck in her research. You?”

He shook his head ruefully. “None at all. It’s this Sippenhaft thing, you see. Maybe.”

Lotting started, showing he was well aware what Stephen meant. “Right. And have you any idea why someone should want to kidnap your friend?”

“Because of Sippenhaft. That was her theory, anyway. It kind of makes sense, I guess.”

“This was something the veterans were themselves suggesting?”

“Yes. But I don’t think you’d get much out of them if you asked whether they knew who these people were.”

Lotting nodded slowly. ”Very well, Herr Aron. Thankyou for being so co-operative. I think we had better get a doctor to look at you, just in case. Afterwards you will be free to move around as you please, although we would ask that you be prepared to return to Germany to give evidence in court should it become necessary. Please supply contact details for when you are in Germany and afterwards.” Stephen wrote them down on a scrap of paper and handed them to the sergeant. “Regarding your investigations, it is entirely up to you whether you wish to continue them but I must warn you we cannot give you protection while you are doing so.”

Stephen returned Lotting’s gaze solemnly. The policeman rose stiffly to his feet, motioning the Englishman to do the same. “You may find,” he said darkly, “that it is sometimes better to bury the past. Much better.”

As often happened, Rachel Savident was abruptly disturbed from her sleep by the ringing of her mobile phone, which she kept on her bedside table in case she didn’t hear the landline in the other room. She switched on the light and then glanced at the man lying naked beside her, his head turned to one side, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. When she was satisfied he was still fast asleep she answered the call. “Hello?”

It was the night desk. Shaking herself back to full alertness, as best she could, Rachel listened to what they had to say. “Who….oh, Caroline.”

I might have known, she thought. “Uh-huh…..right…..and she didn’t say what it was about? I see….which number is she on right now? Her mobile….no that’s OK, I’ve already got it. Yes, I’ll see to it and get back to you if I need to. Thanks,‘bye.”

She sighed briefly, then threw back the duvet and clambered out of bed in her underwear, with another brief glance at her still dormant boyfriend. It was one fortunate consequence of a man’s liking for late night pub-crawling with his mates that he was ready to crash out as soon as he got back home, quite oblivious to the world. It meant he was less likely to hear things that could get someone killed if he blurted them out to the wrong person, or at all.

Because as a Senior Case Officer Rachel quite often had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to attend to some Service matter. She would of course have much rather stayed in it. Tonight the call was particularly unwelcome because Paul was there, which made things difficult.

But Caroline was a friend. And most likely she had discovered something which ought to be brought to someone’s attention. Wrapping a dressing gown around her body, Rachel went into the living room and rooted about in the bureau for her diary, which contained her list of commonly used telephone numbers. Finding the one she wanted, she reached for the phone.
“Caroline? It’s Rachel.”
A sleepy voice answered her. “Rachel? Oh, thank goodness.”
“Are you all right?”
“Well, at the moment I am, yes.”
“Where are you ringing from?”

“Germany.” She explained what she had been doing there. Rachel knew of the whole business concerning her grandfather; the two of them had discussed it many times before, Rachel always advising her not to think that it reflected badly on her, but also not to try to prevent the truth coming out and if it proved to be what she feared, to face the music with courage.

“Someone just tried to kidnap me. But that’s not really what I’m worried about. You remember I told you about those times when I seemed to be able to do things with my mind? During the Ishtar business, and at Marcotech?”

“Uh-huh.” Rachel remembered, alright. She had almost gone and told higher authority, but stopped herself partly out of loyalty to Caroline and partly because she was able to convince herself there was no need. In Caroline’s hands the power, which at the moment was merely latent, would probably be harmless, because Caroline despite her faults worked basically for good. So there was no need to tell anybody, and what they didn’t know they wouldn’t be bothered about.

“Well, lately I’ve been having these…attacks. I think that’s the best way to describe them. It’s like you can see and hear things you don’t really want to, as if the powers are getting stronger.…hey, are you still there?”
She heard Rachel swallow. “Oh my God.”

“Yes, it’s scary. And you get really dizzy, can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. I need help, Rachel. I’m more worried than I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t know what’s happening to me and I also don’t want to be locked up in a box while people try and work out how to use this thing it for their own purposes. I’m sure there’s something dangerous in this, dangerous for all of us.”
“You think there’s definitely a connection with….”

“Yes. It comes and goes, but when I’m angry or upset for some reason I can move things about, like a poltergeist.”
“What exactly do you want me to do?”

“The German police are probably after me right now, because I did a runner and I’m a potential witness in a criminal case. If your lot can get on to them and…” She broke off. She didn’t know how you explained to people what the problem was, not if you wanted to keep it a secret.
“It’ll be difficult,” said Rachel. “And after that?”
“After that I don’t really know,” she sighed.

”All right,” Rachel replied, trying to sound as reassuring as possible. “I’ll be with you as soon as I can. The main problem will be trying to keep it from my superiors. With any luck we can get some sort of solution worked out before the Germans realise I’m acting without their authorization.”
“Thanks, mate,” Caroline said. “I appreciate that.”

“I’d better bring something with me.” They weren’t proud to admit to it, but MI5 and 6 did on occasions carry drugs around with them to subdue captured enemy agents and elicit information from them. ”You don’t mind, do you? I mean if there’s a chance you might be dangerous I – “
“I don’t mind. In fact I think I’d prefer it.”
“OK. Now where are you right now?”

“In a layby somewhere south of Hamburg. But I can’t stay there for too long without someone wondering what I’m up to.”

“Find somewhere else if you can. Once you have, give us a call and we should be able to get a fix on you.” A thought occurred to Rachel. “This kidnap thing could give me an excuse. I could say I’m taking you under my protection.”

“It would only work in the short run. Oh and by the way, I’ll have to pick up my suitcase at some point. I want my folks to think I’m still wrapped up in my research and someone’ll smell a rat if the case arrives but I don’t.”

“I’ll see to that too,” Rachel promised. “Look, the kidnap business, are you sure it’s nothing to worry about? There’s no security risk involved?”

Caroline explained about Sippenhaft. “It’s the only explanation I can think of. But the thing is, I doubt they’ll try again somehow. Particularly if they don’t know where I am.”

“With any luck they’ll think they’ve scared you off the case. Anyway, I’ll see you soon. Try not to worry.”

“I’m not just worried,” Caroline said. “I’m frightened. Really frightened. What if I kill someone? They’ll….”

“Caroline, don’t panic OK? I can only try to help you as best I an. Just keep calm and stay more or less where you are. Alright?”
“Alright,” came the shaky reply.
“Good. See you.”

Rachel dialled Vauxhall Bridge House and told the night staff what she wanted them to do – ask the Germans, through their own security services, to leave Caroline alone for the time being as she was a British asset, a fact which of course was not to be disclosed to anyone who didn’t need to know, and MI6 naturally wanted her protection to be their own responsibility. They were alarmed at the consequences of someone with her knowledge and connections falling into the hands of an extremist political organization. As for why she had run from the Germans, Rachel couldn’t be sure but would try to find out.

Her superiors at MI6 were to be informed that she was on a case, something to which Caroline had alerted her – Caroline had often brought major problems to their attention, in the past – and for general security reasons preferred not to disclose the full details at present. She didn’t know yet when she would be back. Hoping earnestly that this would do the trick, she went back to bed. She could have set off for Germany immediately, but like everyone else an MI6 operative needed some sleep if they were to do their job properly.

She stood looking down at Paul. He couldn’t have heard a thing…could he? She’d kept her voice as low as possible during the conversation with Caroline. Or had he been listening at the door, trying to catch her out? Would he one day suddenly and dramatically surprise her with “I’ve sussed you out, Rachel. I know your little secret. You’re a spook, aren’t you? A spy. A secret agent.”

What he had said, when someone had rung in from the Moscow station – there still was one – and he happened to be awake, was:
“So what was that all about, then?”
Rachel: “Just a friend.”
Paul: “Your friends often seem to ring you at an unGodly hour. What’s going on, you’re not in MI5 or something, are you?”
MI5? Well, nearly.

“No of course not,” she said as if in mock reproach at his silliness. “But in the job there’s a lot of shift working and sometimes the people on nights need to ring me.”

A pause. “Fair enough. But I’m dying to see this place where you work sometime. They sound like interesting people, from what little you’ve cared to tell me about them.”

“I’m not sure that’d be possible. They’re very security conscious. Perhaps a bit paranoid. They do certain work for the government and that’s why they don’t like having anyone who isn’t an employee or a client on the premises.”

He’d seemed to accept that explanation for the time being. She had thought of telling him that she “worked for the government” herself, but the very vagueness of such a statement meant it was likely to be perceived as a euphemism for being in the security services. So instead she pretended she was an executive at Global Datasystems (the actual front for MI6), which avoided the danger of him ringing up a completely fictitious company in order to speak to her about something and getting decidedly suspicious when he found out it didn’t exist.

He must guess the truth, she thought. He isn’t stupid. And if he’s not stupid he won’t tell anyone. Unless of course he has too much to drink.

She was going to have to be ruthless and ditch him. None of her boyfriends seemed to last long anyway, because the distance she almost unconsciously put between herself and them, so that they didn’t find out too much, pissed them off after a while.
She was finding it a bit of a bugger too.

It would be best if she could find someone who did the same kind of job. But she’d tried that before and got burnt. She had liked Bob, and now Bob was dead. It was sometimes like that in the Service.

Hundreds of miles away, Caroline contemplated the darkness outside her comfortable little house on wheels without enthusiasm.

She told herself she’d be alright here until the morning, when people might start to wonder if she stayed there for too long. Then she’d just have to make for Frankfurt, where Rachel had said she would be touching down, and wait for her there. In the meantime booking another hotel was out of the question; if her would-be kidnappers could work out that she was at the Kaiser Friedrich, they could also trace her to the next one.

Let tomorrow bring what it will, she thought. Then sleep, disturbed briefly by Rachel’s call, claimed her again. It was not total sleep. She dreamed, but this time the images although uncannily vivid were pleasant ones, the knowledge that Rachel was on the case having put her in a much better mood.

Gudrun Leichner’s high-flying business job in Hamburg meant she often worked late, in addition to the lengthy journey back to Bremen afterwards. Sometimes, if delayed by some urgent business matter, she wouldn’t get back until the early hours of the morning. It was a tough job, but Gudrun as a career woman had learned to accept the inconveniences and the stress it often entailed. And her boss was fair-minded; she could always ask for the morning off, knowing she had earned it.

It was nearly half-past one when Gudrun swung her VW Polo into the short drive that led up to her house in the outer suburbs of Bremen, smiling as a pair of gleaming yellow eyes appeared in the darkness; her cat, Hansi, breaking off his nocturnal prowlings to welcome her home. Though mainly because he was hungry, she suspected.

She garaged the car, then went to let herself and the cat in. Stooping down, she patted Hansi lovingly on the head and scratched him gently behind the ear.

He seemed nervous, she sensed. Animals often knew when something had gone wrong. She felt the first vague stirrings of unease. “What’s up, Hansi, eh? What is it? Perhaps you tell Mummy, no?”

Then she became aware of another cat crying from the house next door where old Friedrich, the war veteran, lived. It was a drawn-out, high-pitched whine of the sort she knew meant that from the cat’s point of view at any rate, something was seriously amiss. Glancing at the house, she noticed that none of the curtains had been closed, which was unusual. Had Friedrich simply forgotten to draw them, or…..and he usually preferred to go to bed no later than ten at the most. It was now well past midnight.

Gudrun peered in through the window and saw the body huddled on the floor of the living room. Horrified, she ran back to her own house and dialled the emergency services, requesting both police and an ambulance.

“So you failed,” snarled Schwege into his mobile. He had found a remote corner of the public park near the Thule Society’s offices, where he guessed it would be safe to make the call without the police listening in.

“She was like a tigress. I had to take Schuler to hospital. Then this arsehole decided to have a go. Sorted him out, though. That’ll teach him to - ”

Schwege wasn’t listening. “You took Schuler to hospital?” he repeated, alarmed.

“Oh, there’s no need to worry. I just told them he got into a fight, and I think they bought it.”

The police, and not only the police, knew that Schuler frequented the St Pauli red light district of Hamburg where from time to time he would get into fights with the women, the other customers, or the pimps; people you didn’t mess with if you had all your cups in the cupboard.
“So do we get our money?”

The nerve of the man. “Sorry,” Schwege snapped. “I told you at the beginning, no payment for undelivered goods.”

“It’s a pity we don’t know who you are, or I would tell the police.”

“You are saying that to frighten me. You wouldn’t do it because then you would be incriminating yourself. And yes, you don’t know who we are. That’s how we operate.” Viciously he cut the man off, then, popping another couple of coins into the slot, rang Wachter at the castle.

“We’ll keep watching the airports and railway stations,” his leader said once his initial burst of rage had expended itself. “She’s bound to go home eventually. Meanwhile, go back to the office and make sure everything which might give the police any clues is destroyed.”
“I’ve already done that.”

“Good. I’ve done the same here. Now all we’ve got to do is wait. Keep me informed of all developments.” If an opportunity arose to grab the girl they would take it. If they didn’t succeed in snatching her before she left Germany they’d just have to get out of the country, as they were planning to do in any case, and do it abroad. While the leadership made their way to Thule, using forged passports for the first stage of the journey or being smuggled out through France by Le Pen’s lot, other members of the organization would be searching for Caroline in Britain, France, the Low Countries or anywhere else she might be.

Wachter himself, as a fairly prominent figure, would be easily recognized. Fortunately it was easy to slip across borders which were not delineated by natural features such as the English Channel. Once he was in France the network of sympathizers would ensure he reached Marseilles safely and from there got to Thule by one means or another.

At the moment he sensed there was little danger from the police. All they needed now was the girl.

Hans Lotting put down the phone and turned to his subordinate, Sergeant Wolff, with a sigh of disappointment. “We’ve been told to leave Caroline Kent alone.”
“Who by?” asked Wolff.

“The Bundeskriminalamt. To my mind that suggests there are “issues of national security involved”, though we’re not meant to talk about these things. It looks like the British intelligence services are after her, or maybe she’s one of them.”

“Pity we’re being taken off it, just as it gets interesting,” remarked Lotting’s other sergeant, Dietrich Busse.

“Well, they did say we could let them know if we happened to come across anything relevant to the case.”
“What about the investigation into the kidnapping?”

“That’s to continue, as far as I know. They didn’t say it wasn’t. We just have to be careful if it turns out the British woman is implicated in anything…political.”
“Are there any clues?”

“A man was taken to hospital shortly after the incident with a rather nasty eye injury. Name of Andreas Schuler, a real vicious character. The only thing we can pin on him is the odd brawl in St Pauli. Actually visiting the place isn’t a crime, whether or not it should be. He’s suspected of previous involvement in kidnapping, protection, bank robbery, but nothing’s ever been proved. Generally he covers his tracks well.”
“Want one of us to interview him?”

“He’s still recovering from an emergency operation. In the meantime we’ve been trying to establish his whereabouts at the time of the incident. He’s got good alibis from various outstanding public citizens, of course.”

The phone rang and Wolff answered it. After a moment he handed it to his superior, who listened to the caller’s message with interest.

“That was Berlin,” he said afterwards. The Bundeskriminalamt again. “Something interesting which might have a bearing on the case. Last night a 92-year old war veteran named Friedrich Lantz was found beaten to death at his home in Bremen.”
“A war veteran?”

“The Bundeskriminalamt are thinking it might be a case of Sippenhaft. An attempt is made to kidnap Caroline Kent, possibly in order to stop her from uncovering things someone would much rather stayed buried. Now we learn that a war veteran has been murdered. There might possibly be a connection.”

“According to Stephen Aron, it didn’t seem the vets were being particularly forthcoming.”

“Lantz’s murderer might have thought he would tell somebody. Or maybe he just wasn’t taking any chances.”

Busse picked up a sheaf of papers from the desk and flicked through it. “Was he one of the people on Kent’s and Aron’s list?” He glanced up. “Yes, they both saw him alright.”

“He was battered to death with something heavy. They’re still examining the place for fingerprints but it could be the killer took the murder weapon with him.”

Wolff looked up the case on the incident room computer. “He was killed late afternoon, probably around four o’clock. It’s a quiet area and the people there don’t often talk to each other. They’re mostly business types who are usually at work during the day. No-one noticed anything was wrong until the early hours when a neighbour who’d got back late from work heard Lantz’s cat crying and thought she’d better check he was alright.”

Lotting nodded, absorbing the information. “It’s possible Caroline Kent or Stephen Aron might have noticed something, seen somebody acting suspiciously. Kent we unfortunately can’t touch at the moment – God knows where she is now. But Aron – if he’s still in Germany, we’ll have him brought in and find out when he visited Lantz. That’s as far as we can go; after that it’ll be over to Berlin.”

First thing in the morning Caroline had driven straight to the airport, where she left the hire car for the firm to collect. Now she stood in the foyer of Terminal Two waiting for Rachel, feeling tense and edgy.

Suddenly she saw the MI6 agent coming towards her, and her face lit up. Caroline went to meet her. “Hi,” grinned Rachel. “I had somebody from the Berlin station fetch your suitcase from the hotel. It should be here fairly soon.” She paused. “I hope we’re not going to be wandering the globe for all eternity like the Flying Dutchwomen. I, er, don’t think my superiors would like that.”

Caroline gave her a crotchety “yes, I know” sort of look. “Well then let’s sit down and talk about what we’re going to do next.”
“Have you decided?”
“As a matter of fact yes, I have.”

“I fancy a bite to eat,” Rachel declared. Caroline nodded her agreement and made for the nearest café.

As the two of them moved off the eyes of one of the hundreds of people thronging the foyer followed them in an idle, incurious fashion. The man watched them enter the café and go to the counter to place their orders. He turned to look at his colleague, who sat a few yards away on one of the comfortable seats positioned around the glass fountain in the centre of the foyer, scanning the crowds around him in the same casual detached manner. Waiting until the other man’s eyes met his, he nodded briefly, almost imperceptibly, at the café. The man turned his face to look at it, saw Rachel and Caroline taking their seats through the glass front. From then on he continued to gaze more or less in its direction, never averting his eyes for more than a brief moment, his posture and expression such as to make it seem he was only staring at what happened to be in front of him because he had nothing else to do until his plane arrived.

“Well there was this guy,” said Stephen Aron. “Big bloke, dark hair, a bit scary. I don’t like the way he looked at me.”

Lotting’s face tightened. Not only was this suspicious in itself, it meant others might remember seeing the man. “Can you describe him?”

“He was quite young; early thirties, I’d say. And smartly dressed. That’s about it. Of course I might recognize him if you showed me a picture of him. I doubt I’d forget that face in a hurry.”
“Could you draw a sketch of him?”

“I’ll have a go.” Busse handed him his notepad. He scribbled away for a while and then handed it back. “It’s not very good, I’m afraid.”

“It’s something. Now what time of the day are we talking about, please?”
“Oh, about three-thirty I think.”

Not long before Lantz was killed. “And what was this man doing?”

“He was opening the front gate. He was obviously going to see Lantz. I was on my way out at the time. I gave him a look back and carried on.”
“Did he come in a car, do you think?”
“There were a few parked near the house but any of them could have been his.”
“And that’s all you can tell us?”
“I’m afraid so.”

“All right. Thankyou for helping us with our enquiries. We may need to speak to you again if we can obtain a photograph of the man.”
Stephen nodded. “Of course.”

He was now free to go. The doctor had seen him and pronounced him fit in every respect. Fortunately, though he had been quite badly bruised, nothing was broken. But Stephen wasn’t sure any more why he remained in Germany, now that his enquiries had proved singularly unsuccessful. And then it hit him, with such an impact that he cursed himself for his incredible laxity in letting it slip his mind. There were still a few places he ought to visit, essential stops on any tour of Germany for someone with his background and heritage. Places with barbed wire fences, tall searchlight towers and bleak, faceless concrete blockhouses which even now could still crush the soul.

After he had gone Lotting spoke to Wolff and Busse. “We’d better pass this information to our colleagues in Bremen, and to Berlin.” They would have an identikit made up. It and the drawing would be shown on national television and hopefully ring a bell in someone or other’s mind.

“Between you, see if you can get hold of the CCTV footage from the rail and bus stations and service stations in the area,” Lotting’s opposite number in Bremen told his team. “Anywhere he might have had time to visit between when he carried out the murder and now, assuming he’s still in Germany.”
“It’ll take a long time,” someone remarked.

“This is a very serious matter,” the inspector snapped. “Political extremists might be involved.”

“You don’t think she murdered the old guy, do you?” another member of the team suggested. “The Kent girl. Probably not personally, but hired someone to do it? Because he might have information proving her grandfather was a war criminal?”
“Then what about the kidnapping?”

“Maybe it was staged. I don’t know, I’m just speculating. That’s about all we can do until we have more information.”
“Then let’s go and get it.”

“It never caused me any trouble, not until now,” Caroline was saying. “First it was just something I suspected. Then it was an asset, more than anything else. Helped me get out of some tight situations.” She touched Rachel lightly on the wrist. “Incidentally, thanks for keeping it a secret.”

“To tell the truth, sometimes I wasn’t sure what I ought to do,” Rachel admitted. Another thing which Caroline liked about her MI6 friend was that she’d always been honest with her. “But I’d’ve had to have had a good reason for telling anybody. You’re quite right to fear the consequences.” She leaned forward. “I…I might have to if there was any danger to the public. Do you really think there is?”

“I don’t know…it all depends on whether I can control it. How bad it gets. But in the past it never came out unless it was under…special conditions. This time…this time it feels different.”
“So what are you suggesting we do about it?”

“I want to see Zuckermann, Marcotech’s chief scientist on the Aquanoid project. I mean, they more or less took me to pieces and put me back together again. He’d know, if anyone did, whether there’s something in me that’s causing it and what that thing is.”
“Something in the genes?”

“I suppose so. Everything we are comes from our genes, doesn’t it? Unless somebody’s been bombarding me with magic rays from their secret hideout on the Moon.”

“I think we can discount that theory,” Rachel grinned, “on lack of evidence. About Zuckermann – well, I suppose so. But you realise he probably can’t even go to the toilet without the Americans watching him on concealed CCTV? If you go to see him, every word of your conversation will be recorded. They’ll know you suspect yourself of being psychic and if they think you might be right they’ll lock you up in a box while they try to validate that theory. You might as well give yourself up to our own people. It might be better, actually, considering what the Yanks can be like.”

“I know,” said Caroline sadly. She had needed time to think about how to deal with the crisis. Now she had had that time, it seemed going to ground wasn’t the best course of action after all.

“I just want to find out what’s really going on inside my head,” she told Rachel. “To do that would need a scientist anyway. And I suppose powers like these would be dangerous whoever got hold of them.”

“You’re right there. Er, one thing I want to make clear…if there is any danger, I’m going to have to turn you in. Because then, from the point of view of public safety, there’d be nothing to lose. You understand that, don’t you?”

Caroline nodded solemnly. Then she brightened. “Besides, if the powers really are that great the Americans wouldn’t be able to keep me locked up, would they? I could just walk out any time I liked. In fact I could do anything I – what are you looking at me like that for?”

She realised what she’d just said and paled. “Oh God.” Her hand went to her mouth. “Oh God. Rachel, help me please. Help me……”

Rachel, her eyes closed, kept her hand on Caroline’s while her companion gave full vent to her pent-up emotions. Her head bent low over her coffee, she sobbed uncontrollably into it, the shaking of her body causing the chair to scrape backwards and forwards on the parquet floor.

“I will,” said Rachel softly. “I will. I promise. I’ll do what I can.”

Finally Caroline looked up, her crumpled face damp with tears, and nodded her thanks.

“You can see why it might be safer for you to remain within a controlled environment,” Rachel said.

“Mmmm,” said Caroline. She wiped her eyes with a tissue, then sat up straight, her mind clear now that she had regained her composure. “Rachel, I’ve been thinking. It’s just an idea, but….I was investigating my grandfather’s war service, trying to account for the periods we knew nothing about. The official record says special duties. I’ve come to the conclusion it couldn’t have been cloak-and-dagger stuff, not on his part anyway. It would have been so unlike him.”

“I wouldn’t describe what we did as “cloak-and-dagger” stuff,” Rachel said. “But carry on.”

“The head honcho at the Bundesarchiv said he might have been taking part in a eugenics experiment, during which German soldiers were mated with acceptable Aryan-type women so they could breed a pure master race. Now to my mind that – or something like it – is the only answer which makes any sense. It was usually people from the SS who were involved, and he was ordinary Wehrmacht. But it’s the only possibility.”
“But how does this tie in with your attacks?”

“You hear about Nazi genetic experiments during the war, trying to create a…well, a master race. Supposing the Nazis did something to my grandfather, to make him into the perfect Aryan soldier..and through him it got into the family genes, being passed down eventually to me.”

Rachel frowned. “There’s been plenty of science fiction stories or political thrillers based on just that sort of thing. But I’m not sure anything like it could have happened in real life. The equipment, the knowledge, just wasn’t available then. You had that guy – Mengele, wasn’t it - trying to change eye colour and other characteristics in order to make people more Aryan but he was just a crank – a dangerous one of course. It wasn’t until the fifties that people started to understand the DNA helix and how genes really worked. Besides, if your theory’s correct why aren’t your father and your two aunts affected?”

“Perhaps because the changes were dormant…recessive. I don’t know. I just know it’s the only thing which can explain it. After all, you never hear of anyone else with powers like mine.”
“Perhaps the truth was covered up,” Rachel suggested.
Caroline looked fearful again. “By killing them?”

Again Rachel touched her on the arm. ”You can’t run forever, Caroline. Not if you want a solution to your problem. We’ll have to be very careful with the Americans..try and work things out somehow. But it’s your choice whether to come willingly or because I’ve got a gun in my handbag and am quite prepared to use it.”

“I’ve made my choice,” Caroline said fiercely. “There’s as much danger, as much uncertainty, either way. And I think someone’s been mucking about with my bloodline, my genetic inheritance. I’m not going to stand for that. I want to know exactly what they did and I want it out of my system. Right out.” Her fingers, playing idly with the polystyrene coffee cup before her, suddenly tightened their grip and crushed it.

“Well if that’s settled,” Rachel said, “I suggest we go and book a flight to London. And from there to the States. OK?”
“OK,” muttered Caroline. Rachel paid the bill, and they
went to see if her luggage had arrived.

Three hours later, one of the men who had been stationed to watch them left the Terminal building and crossed to the car park. Once in his vehicle he rang Ulrich Schwege. “It’s Kurt. They’ve just boarded a British Airways plane to London. Flight 243, ETA 17.30 hours.”

“OK, we’ll take it from there,” replied Schwege. “Great work. You’d better get out of the country yourself now, and don’t waste any time over it. Book the first flight that’s available to Paris.”

They already had an agent stationed in London, in case Caroline Kent had decided to head for home. Schwege told him to go straight to the airport and wait there for any sign of the women. Then he rang Wachter and Lucke to give them the news. Now they could leave Germany and head for Thule. And after a few things had been tidied up at his home, so that nothing was lying about there which could put the police on to him, Schwege could be making his way there himself.

“Success, Sir,” reported Sergeant Karl Dietrich. “We put out the artist’s impression on the lunchtime news. Already a number of people have reported seeing a man who looked like that. A mechanic at a filling station near Wildeshausen thinks he served him and he’ll be on the CCTV. The tape’s on its way here now.”

“Right, get this Aron,” ordered Inspector Neumann. “We’ll need him to take a look at it.”

A CCTV image was far from perfect, but nonetheless a damn sight better than any Identikit picture, Neumann reflected drily.

Detective Constable Uschi Essen looked up from the computer. “I did a check on all those veterans like you said, Sir. According to the guys in Munich where he lives, one of them, Heinz Walther, was called on by somebody answering to our man’s description. Walther says the man claimed to be representing the family of Reynart Engelmann and wanted to know where his English relatives were now. He also gave Walther his mobile phone number; turns out it’s a British make and registered to a Martin Higson.”

“Well done, Uschi. Feed that name into the computer and see what comes up.”

Shown the CCTV image, Stephen Aron immediately stiffened. “That’s the guy, alright. I think I’d know that face anywhere.”

The attendant at the filling station had said the same thing. More than anything else, it was the sense he had had that the man’s soul was spoiling.

So they had fed the image into the national police computer, via which, within minutes, they could also access the records of Interpol, Scotland Yard, MI5 and 6, the Israeli Mossad, the CIA and FBI, and the anti-terrorist branches of each national police force. It didn’t take them very long to get a match, but when they did it merely confirmed what Uschi’s name check had already established.

Neumann studied the print-outs from the computer, a mixture of photographs and text. ”I think we’ve got our man. Martin Higson, 34, British. In his time a keen activist for the far-right British National Party as well as various similar groups. Has links with extremist parties on the Continent, including the French National Front and our own New Vitality, and has attended many of their meetings. Several convictions for grievous bodily harm and fomenting racial disturbance. Violently opposed to immigration and asylum seekers and in favour of forcible repatriation of ethnic minorities. Hasn’t directly killed anyone until now, but once took part in an attack on an Asian shopkeeper in his home town of Romford, which left the victim permanently disabled, and also suspected of involvement in an assault on a black man who later died as a result of his injuries, although nothing ever proved. Stood as a candidate for the BNP, unsuccessfully, in the last British general election. And he’s a member of the Thule Society.”

He looked up at them. “I want a general alert put out for Higson. But in the meantime, I think this ought to go to higher authority.”

Caroline was silent for most of the flight, poring over some print-offs from the Internet, accessed via Rachel’s laptop, and making copious notes from them on a pad of file paper. The sites were all in English, since she found technical German still a bit of a mouthful. From time to time Rachel stole a glance at her. The material all seemed to be to do with genetics, and on the notepad Caroline had drawn a sort of flow chart:

Natural selection

Dominant/recessive genes.

Gene flow (normal process by which genetic material is exchanged within a population by sexual reproduction)

With GF, recessive genes more likely to disappear or become diluted, especially when there is a mix of different genetic types.

If a gene has survival value this does not mean it cannot be recessive.

Sexual selection?

Dark hair/brown eyes dominant to blonde hair/blue eyes, but not always.

Dilution a frequent {more likely?} outcome – eyes/hair of intermediate shade

Genetic drift?

Acquired characteristics cannot be inherited BUT this many not apply with genetic engineering by humans

Rachel saw her break off her scribbling and tilt the biro into a vertical position, stabbing several times at the paper with the nib and leaving a deep indentation in it, going down several sheets. She rotated the pen, churning a ragged hole in the paper but not seeming to care. Her eyes stared fixedly at the head of one of the people in the row before them, though not really seeing it.

She’s trying to decide if it’s really true, Rachel thought. If they really did something odd to her grandfather’s DNA all those years ago and she’s inherited it. But what’s all this blonde hair/dark hair stuff?

Caroline’s expression was one of angry determination. Suddenly Rachel saw it change, her face twisting into a mask of pain. Not physical but mental, a specific kind of anguish which could result only from a sense of…..Rachel groped for the word.

It passed from Caroline’s face, but left her eyes smouldering with rage, hatred almost.

The man in the seat in front of them frowned, rubbing his head and glancing round indignantly for the source of whatever was causing his obvious discomfort. And then with her own eyes, Rachel saw the plastic cup of coffee Caroline had been drinking from give a jerk, travelling several inches across the table and causing some of the liquid to splash onto it. It was fortunate no-one else noticed this, or had put it down to turbulence.

Caroline realised what had happened and leaned right back in her seat, closing her eyes tightly. She breathed in and out in an attempt to relax herself. When she seemed to have calmed down Rachel nudged her gently, whispering in her ear. “OK now?”
“Mmmm,” Caroline grunted.

Rachel thought of the hypo in her bag, once more wondering whether she’d have to use it. God, to be shut up on a plane with…..

Injecting Caroline with a tranquiliser would obviously be preferable to shooting her. But it would still attract unwelcome attention. However, the problem seemed to have passed. For now.

“What have you found so far from your surveillance?” Noa Golani asked once they’d all taken their seats.

“Nothing whatsoever,” confessed Hans Faltermeyer. “We’ve been monitoring their phone calls and e-mails and keeping watch where practical on their homes, their headquarters, any other places they might hang around from time to time. But no luck. New Vitality have been careful of late not to do anything that’s against the law. Apart from the odd vague remark which you can’t really avoid making, neither they or the Thule people have mentioned anything in daily speech which would give anyone listening in the impression they were part of an international Nazi network. They also seem to be avoiding close contact with one another. That itself is suspicious, but because it’s essentially negative evidence there’s nothing there that would convince a judge to convict, even if privately they were assured of guilt.

“To help avoid the surveillance Wachter seems to have got the group passing on instructions to each other by word of mouth and personal visits, rather than using the telephone system – or the ordinary post, which can be intercepted.

“But,” Faltermeyer continued, “something very important has just come up. Yesterday in Hamburg an attempt was made to kidnap a British woman who had been visiting Germany to do some research into her grandfather’s war service; he was German and served in a Panzer regiment on the Russian Front, and later in France, before being captured and shipped to England, where he eventually decided to settle down, as a prisoner-of-war. Another Briton, a tourist, although to be honest he wasn’t really here for pleasure, fought them off. A few hours before a war veteran was murdered and the crime has been traced to a former member of the British National Party. As a matter of fact the person who saw him arrive at the veteran’s house is the same guy who had a go at the kidnappers; his name is Stephen Aron.”

“Why did they want to kidnap the woman?” asked Noa Golani. “Who was she?”

“Her name’s Caroline Kent. According to the Aron kid she was trying to find out if her grandad could have had anything to do with a massacre of Jews in France during the war. He was in Germany for the same reason and that’s how they bumped into one another. During the course of her investigations she realised there was a period of his war service which didn’t seem to be documented, although that was some time before the atrocity. She decided to find out what he was up to then.”

“It’s the only possible link,” mused Stefan Wolniak. “But I don’t see how it could matter to the Nazis now. Unless one of them was involved in the atrocity, or in some other nasty business, and they’re trying to protect him.”

“You’re talking what we call Sippenhaft. Well Friedrich Lantz, the veteran who was murdered, served in the same Panzer unit as the grandfather. He could have said something he shouldn’t have, or been thought likely to. But a British Nazi, it seems odd somehow.”

“We already know the far right groups in Europe have links to one another,” said Golani impatiently.

“And Higson is a member of Thule. We’ve been speaking to a few of Lantz’s old comrades, all of whom say the girl had been visiting them asking questions about Engelmann’s war service. Stephen Aron had been doing the same thing, by what seems to have been nothing more than coincidence. A couple of them had also had visits from Higson; he claimed to be representing Engelmann’s German relatives who’d asked him to help put them in touch with any British family he might have. He wanted to know if Engelmann had any children or grandchildren in England.

“As far as we can tell the German branch of the family was totally annihilated in the Allied bombing of Cologne in 1942, so Higson’s story was probably a ruse to cover his real motives.”
“So why exactly should Nazis be interested in the girl?”

“Because if she finds out he did do it, she finds out who else is involved. Or if he didn’t do it, who did. Then again maybe it’s not Macy they’re concerned about, but what Engelmann was doing on his “special duties”.

“Interestingly, Caroline Kent seems to have vanished. Not only that but the British secret services have asked us to leave her alone. She’d already told the police in Bremen what she knew, or what she was prepared to admit she knew, but I’m not happy.” Faltermeyer described the whole incident at the hotel to them. “What I don’t understand is why she ran off; all we were going to do was escort her to the airport, and then if she was MI6 or something they could have taken over responsibility for her safety. The MI6 case officer who’s handling the matter said she’d try to find out, but I’ve heard nothing since. I hope the British don’t know something about this which they’re hiding from us. Unfortunately, the case officer is on a crucial assignment at the moment, or so she said, and no-one can get hold of her.”

“I’ll see if my people have anything on the girl,” offered Wolniak.

“You might as well. Whatever happens, the Thule Society have gone too far now. Whatever they are, they’re clearly not just a bunch of harmless cranks. Two murders and an attempted kidnapping….”
“So what are you going to do about it?” Golani said.

“We’re raiding all places associated with them right now. A watch has been put on all the airports, ports and train stations in case they guess we’re tightening the net and are thinking of fleeing overseas. But so far, no sign of any of their leading members. It is of course much easier for them to escape in a Europe that since 1992 has been without frontiers.

“It’s the girl I’d most like to get hold of,” Faltermeyer told them. “I’ve a feeling she might be the key to all this.”

By the time the Airbus touched down at Heathrow Caroline seemed to have sunk into a deep depression. Rachel thought she had never seen her, or anyone, look so miserable before, so thoroughly dejected.

“It’ll be alright,” she said. Totally lost in her gloomy thoughts, Caroline didn’t seem to hear her.

“Let’s get something to eat,” Rachel said with a cheerful smile, nodding towards the nearest café. Caroline trudged after her with a slow, plodding, mechanical, lifeless motion. It was becoming a familiar routine. Get on a plane, get off it, have a snack, get on another plane, get off it, have a…..

They each bought a fruit scone and a cup of tea and sat down, as before talking in low whispering voices. “I’ve been thinking,” Rachel said. “Maybe we ought to go somewhere else for a bit before booking our trip to America, stay there for a while. The jetlag’s not going to do you any good. Could set off the….the problem again.”

“I just want to get it over with.” Caroline spoke in the dull, flat, sullen tones of a manic depressive, and Rachel felt a pang of horror. ”Just stick a needle in me if you have to. That’ll take care of it.”

“I don’t want to have to do that if I can help it. Look, I know this is very worrying for you but it’s not helping matters, insisting on being so down.” Rachel went cold, remembering that she shouldn’t whatever she did make Caroline angry. Had she just made a big mistake?

But Caroline said nothing. For the moment she was determined on sulking rather than being aggressive.

“If you just told me what’s really on your mind. I mean, it’s obviously something more than these attacks. That’s the impression I get, anyway. Please, tell me.”
“Don’t want to,” said Caroline petulantly.
“Caroline, I’m your friend.”

“I said I don’t – “ Caroline sighed. “Oh hell.” With an effort she managed to recover her adult self-discipline. “Not now. I don’t think this is the best place to discuss it. When we’re at a hotel somewhere in the States, maybe.”

“Fair enough. But I thought perhaps we should get you some tranquilisers or something; I can see a chemist’s over there. They should deal with the effects of the jetlag and generally stop you getting anxious or irritable. Or feeling any strong emotion which could trigger it off. You need to relax, but right now you’re not getting the chance.”
Caroline nodded. “It sounds like a good idea to me.”
“They could also deal with the depression.”

Rachel thought she could do with a couple of them herself. They’d both be a bit jetlagged by the time they landed at JFK.

Suddenly Caroline spoke. “Rachel, I wonder if it might be better to tell my parents first. I mean, if the Yanks decide to lock me up in a box and then…”

“They wouldn’t,” said Rachel. “Because I’d make a fuss.” She winced at the thought that it would mean telling her own people what was going on, and getting a bollocking for not having done so before. But for the moment, if the Americans didn’t know she hadn’t told them, there shouldn’t be a problem. “Whatever happens I’d make sure your family knew.” She’d have to give the Kents some doctored version of the truth, of course. What could she say?

A little voice was speaking inside her head. Tell them everything and get sacked. Then you can have a boyfriend with who you can be honest. Not about the old secrets, they’ll bind you for the rest of your life, but at least you won’t have any new ones to hide.
“It’s up to you,” Rachel said.

“I just want to get it over with,” Caroline repeated. “And I want some…some answers.”

”What Zuckermann knew, the Yanks will know too, now that he’s working for them.”
“Depends if they knew what questions to ask.”

“They’ll know when you tell him about your attacks, assuming they’re listening in. Which means there’ll be danger to others, if they try to develop and exploit your powers.”

“There’ll be danger to others if I just go walking around as I please,” Caroline said. “And I don’t want to be on drugs for the rest of my life.”

By now they had finished their meal. “Well, let’s go,” Rachel said, pushing her chair back. Caroline didn’t move; she was gazing fixedly into mid-air and toying idly with a salt cellar, having lapsed back into depression.

Rachel squatted down beside her. “Whatever…answer you’re looking for, the one ou get may not be the one you’re afraid of. Let’s put a brave face on it, yeah? No point in being miserable until you know you’ve got an excuse.”

Managing a weak smile, Caroline got to her feet and followed Rachel out of the café, while the eyes of the man at the table in the far corner followed them. His name was Jef Kluytens and he was a member of Belgium’s Vlaanse Militanten Orde, which had been banned by the country’s government as a terrorist organization. It was a pity Martin Higson couldn’t do the job, Wachter had thought, but he was known to the British police and would have to lie low following the killing of Lantz. Meanwhile it was Wachter’s opinion, Heinrich’s too, that the task was better entrusted to Kluytens than those incompetent idiots from the BNP.

Several hours later Kluytens made a call on his mobile from the men’s toilets in Terminal Four. “It’s Jef. They’ve now got on a flight to New York.” He gave the full details.

“It’ll be over to our friends in America now,” Schwege replied. “I don’t think there’s anywhere much she can go after that, she can’t dash about the globe like this forever.”

“What should I do now?” asked the Fleming. “Will they be after me?”

“I shouldn’t think so, we’ve destroyed all the membership lists. No, you’ll be OK. Just go home and wait for the signal. And don’t contact me, or anyone else in the group, before then.”

Schwege gave the same instructions to the leader of the American cell when calling him to ask his people to watch out for Caroline Kent at JFK. After making the call he left his car in the car park at Frankfurt Airport and made his way to Terminal Two to catch the flight he had booked earlier to Montreal, Canada, via London.

The others should be safely out of the country by now, he reckoned. Heinrich too was on his way to Thule. The only piece of the jigsaw still missing was Caroline.

So far she seemed to be doing nothing more than airport-hopping. What was she up to? And who was the other girl?

The plan had been for Kluytens to tail them from the airport to wherever she had been intending to go; presumably Caroline’s home, or to her workplace, as she was English. He had been rather thrown when she and her friend had caught another flight, this time to the States. Had she taken fright after the business at the hotel? Did she know why they were after her?

He joined the line of people queuing to go through the doors into the boarding tunnel. He was just about to pass through the doors when he became aware of the hand on his shoulder. He twisted free of it and spun round in surprise and anger, to see a man and a woman, the latter distinctively tall, standing before him. They wore plainclothes but as he watched the pair drew ID cards from their pockets and brandished them before him.
“Herr Ulrich Schwege?” the man asked.

Schwege paled, then asserted himself, deciding to bluff it out. He shook his head. “I’m sorry, you must be mistaken. My name is Hermann Strasser.”
“Do you have some ID on you, Herr Strasser?”

“I have my passport.” Schwege took it out and showed it to the policeman. “Alright?”

“I am sorry, Herr Strasser, but we have reason to believe this passport is false. You answer the description of Ulrich Schwege, a member of an organization currently being investigated for illegal activities of a political nature, whose photograph is in our files. I must ask that you come with us, please.”

Schwege’s nerve broke. He tried to dodge round them, making a bolt for the exits. He didn’t get far before Astrid Lundt threw herself at his legs in a smooth rugby tackle and brought him crashing down. She scrambled onto his back, pinning him to the floor, and in a flash had handcuffed his wrists together.

Astrid and her colleague hauled him to his feet and bundled him off, struggling furiously but helplessly, to where several uniformed police stood waiting ready to escort them and their captive out to the waiting van.


Rachel turned from the drinks cabinet with a Bacardi for herself and a Pernod for Caroline, who was sitting on the sofa doing nothing in particular.

“You all right?” she frowned. “You don’t look too good to me.” Caroline had turned a rather nasty grey-green colour.

Suddenly she began retching and swallowing convulsively. She got up and made a bee-line for the bathroom but was too late. Rachel put down their drinks and went to help her, only to narrowly avoid being spattered with vomit as Caroline was violently and abundantly sick.

Ignoring the mess on the carpet she marched up to her and took her by the shoulders, steadying her as she began gradually to relax, her colour returning. “Better now?” she asked finally.
“Yes, I think so,” Caroline said.

“I expect it was the tablets. You’ve taken a few more than you should have done, haven’t you?”
Caroline nodded miserably.
“You could kill yourself that way.”

Caroline slumped back onto the sofa. “But they seem to be working. And I’m terrified of what might happen if I don’t take them.”

“I just think you should be careful.” A worrying thought occurred to Rachel. “Um, you’re not trying to…”

The sick was plastered all down the front of Caroline’s blouse. “I need a shower,” she mumbled, evading the issue. “And to change.”

While she was in the bathroom Rachel busied herself with wiping up the mess on the floor and on her shoes. Finishing, she noticed it was now dark outside and went to draw the blinds over the window.

Five minutes later Caroline emerged from the bathroom, hugging a towel to her body, her old clothes in a bundle under her arm. She draped the clothes, which she’d washed in the sink, over the radiator and proceeded to change into nightie and dressing gown. She was too tired to think of going anywhere, or doing anything much in fact, tonight.

Rachel reflected that Caroline probably hadn’t washed since the morning of the day before. Yet her shower didn’t seem to have done her mood much good, judging by her still sour and self-absorbed expression. Rachel handed her her Pernod and the two of them sat down and sipped at their respective drinks, Caroline without much enthusiasm.

“You were going to tell me,” Rachel prompted, “what else there was you were worried about.”

Caroline sighed. ”I was saying the Nazis might have experimented on my grandfather to give him these powers to create a sort of Aryan superman. But for some reason they became sort of dormant, and only re-emerged in me. I was thinking, though, that maybe they meant them to be passed on to the descendants.”

“That’d save them the bother of having to keep doing it,” Rachel said. “Carry on.”

“And the powers could just be a side-effect of what they were really trying to do. Anyway, I think they did other things beside make us psychic. The reason I think they mucked about with my Grandad’s DNA is because of other things about me. I’m blonde, aren’t I? Blue eyes. And quite….Aryan, I suppose, all in all.”

“So are a lot of people in Britain. It comes from the Saxons, the Vikings - ”

“Yes, I know all that. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about genes, and inheritance, that sort of thing.”
“I’ve noticed.”

“Over the years I’ve become aware of one or two little things. I always wondered about them but they never really bothered me, not until now. I was pleased about them, if anything. But now they frighten me.”
“What things are we talking about?”

“It always puzzled me,” she went on, “why I was blonde and my mother was dark.”

“Nothing odd about that. You just took your father’s genes, that was all.”
“But with one dark parent – “

“You mean because blonde hair and blue eyes are recessive? Yes, but you still get them, don’t you? A recessive gene doesn’t disappear, it just becomes less common than it was before people’s blood started getting mixed, or the characteristics less pronounced.” That had been the effect when the great movement of populations during the early Middle Ages had brought blond North Europeans and the darker Celtic and Roman peoples together for the first time. “The hair is somewhere in between, sort of mousy; or it starts off blonde and then gradually fades as the dominant gene starts to assert itself. You sure yours won’t do the same?”

“I bloody hope not,” said Caroline. It was something she lived in constant dread of. “But it might, I grant that.”

“Then why do you think there’s something funny about still being a blonde? It may not have happened yet, but it probably will before long – if you don’t mind me reminding you of the fact. Most blondes start to darken by their late thirties, if not before. I suppose it would be different if more of them married other blonds, but they seem not to. Opposites attract tends to be the rule.”

“I once took part in a survey….it was one of those stupid things they do for TV, as a gimmick more than anything else. Sort of thing you kind of knew they’d get around to one day. It was probably asking for trouble, depending on the results. They did a sort of genetic profile to see how you’d age and what you’d look like in your forties, fifties, sixties, and so on. I was terrified, but I had to know.”

“They reckoned I’d be much the same at sixty as I am now, hair and all.” If you’re lucky enough to live that long, Rachel thought. “The hair was a bit darker, I suppose, and afterwards it went sort of ash. But that was about all. Of course there were other changes too, but all in all I was surprised at how little difference there was between me now and me as I was projected to look in forty years’ time. They said they’d arrived at the result by studying people with colouring and skin type similar to mine.”
“You were pleased, of course.”

“Who wouldn’t be? But what I’m getting at, Rache, is this. People who are that blonde often stay so, till quite late in life. But I have a feeling most of them were lucky enough to have two blond parents. I didn’t. And that’s why I think it’s odd. It’s as if my genes have been…what’s the word? Spliced. Like when they make hybrids between two different types of plant.

“It’s not just that, either. The amount of time I spend in the sun, I should get skin cancer, but I don’t. Skin like mine, very fair, burns easily.” What was more worrying, she thought, having the condition or what it might mean if she didn’t.

“And have you ever seen how blonde women don’t age well? Not once the makeup’s off, anyway. They seem to crack up, go all fat and ugly and horrible.” If nineteenth-century novelists were to be believed, anyway.

“I’m not sure they’d like to hear you say that,” Rachel laughed. “Anyway, I’ve known plenty of exceptions.”

But Caroline wasn’t listening. “And we don’t respond well to illness, or stress. We tend to lose our looks, our hair fades, our skin starts to crack and fall apart. I’ve seen it happen in lots of women.” It was a good thing she hadn’t gone through the trauma of childbirth yet, she reflected. What effect would that have on her? “We’re not that suited for survival, except at the cost of losing what we value most – about our appearance, anyway. Us Aryan types…..our genes are weak, Rachel. They survive only because people think we look nice and want to do the business with us – a kind of sexual selection. You, you’re lucky.” Rachel was a brunette, with a very different kind of beauty to Caroline, and one she had so far succeeded in preserving without too much artifical assistance.

Caroline’s tone had been distinctly resentful. “I’d never thought of it that way,” Rachel said. “Anyway, you can’t be sure any of this is true. You’re not a geneticist and neither am I. Better to wait and see what Zuckermann says.”

Caroline sat there wringing her hands. ”I’m shit-scared over what it might be. Considering some of the things that have happened to me, and you know what I’m talking about, I shouldn’t still be in as good shape as I am. It just seems…unnatural. Uncanny. Besides there are the eyes. Brown eyes are dominant, so why are mine still as blue as they are? Don’t tell me they’re going to change colour, not now.

“And you know why I’m like that? Who’s responsible for it all? The Nazis thought the Aryan race was superior, didn’t they? And in their view, the ones with fair hair and blue eyes were the most superior of all. It was the mark of an aristocracy. They were so hot on it they hated anyone who was different. Now we know they tried to change people’s eye colour and that in the concentration camps, using dyes, chemicals. Suppose they found another way of doing it, a more effective one?

“They wanted to make up for the fact that the gene was recessive. They also took the opportunity to make sure the characteristics they were so fond of didn’t disappear with time.

“It was part of their plan for a permanent Aryan master race. The ultimate blonde, one who wouldn’t fade with age, at least not for twice as long as it normally takes. Whose kids would be the same as them, whoever they had sex with and whatever happened to them during their lifetime? The Nazis couldn’t be sure who my grandfather, or his children, would marry. So they did something that the laws of inheritance somehow wouldn’t make any difference to. Made it so that at least one child would always be like me… Nordic. I bet if I married a black guy our kids would turn out the same. That happens, so all you need to do is find out the cause and reproduce it in a test tube.”

Caroline had got to her feet now and was pacing the room in agitation, her drink forgotten again. She was trembling with anger and emotion. Her face had become set in a cold mask of rage. “And I expect they thought they’d be doing me a favour. They thought I’d be grateful. Well I’m not, Rachel. You know why?” She swung round savagely to her friend, a glint in her eyes the other girl found scary even though she knew she wasn’t the target of all this wrath. “I like what I am. I wouldn’t be anything else. It’s what I’ve been all my life and……and now I find out it’s not real, it’s not natural. And if it’s not natural what bloody point is there in it? If you did that to me you could do anything else as well, anything you liked. I enjoy being what I am because that’s just how I happen to be. Not because someone wanted it that way. I’m not me because someobody else sat down and dictated what I should look like.” Her voice rose higher and higher, ending finally in a near-hysterical shriek. “I’m not something contrived, designed, manufactured, artificial. I’m not some bloody Barbie doll grown in a laboratory, you understand? You understand? Do you?” The fabric of Caroline’s dressing gown twitched. Her body seemed to be a mass of nerves and muscles all trembling uncontrollably.

Her hand shot out and sent the glass of Pernod flying across the room, to shatter on the floor. “And all because of some stupid ideology over which millions of people were maimed, murdered, caused all kinds of suffering and grief and misery. I feel tainted, Rachel, tainted. Do you realise that? Something dirty, abnormal, evil, something that should never have been born. I feel…I feel….”

Her face crumpled and she fell into Rachel’s arms, lips peeling back in soundless distress. She found the words and they tore from her in a terrible cry of utter pain and anguish.

“A lie, it’s all a lie. My past has been betrayed. Everything I was, everything, has come from…from that….from Hitler...”

As before, they held each other until Caroline finally ceased her sobbing, the energy to cry completely drained. Gently Rachel disentagled herself from her embrace. Caroline threw herself into a chair to sit in it stiffly with her eyes drilling into the wall.

Rachel returned to her own seat, shifting it so she could look Caroline straight in the face, and took her friend’s hands in her own. She spoke slowly and softly. “Caroline. Think a minute. You just more or less said you didn’t want to carry on living. That you saw no value in yourself any more. That suggests to me you’re planning on doing something…you know, something stupid.” “And what if I did?”

“Well for a start, there’s your family. Live for their sake, if not your own. Just as importantly, you don’t know you’re right; about what exactly the Nazis did to you. So it’s a silly thing to go and kill yourself over.”

“I suppose so,” Caroline said, not sounding entirely convinced.

“There was no need for you to say any of those terrible things. And particularly to blame yourself for it, even supposing it is true. That’s just plain ridiculous. You hardly had any choice in the matter, did you? Blame yourself and it’ll only encourage those people who think you ought to. And they do exist, you were talking about them earlier.” Children born from liaisons between German soldiers and citizens of occupied countries during the war could still be the object of hatred, even today, when all their parents had done, admittedly out of wedlock – if you bothered about that sort of thing nowadays - was indulge a natural desire to mate, because Germans were human after all. If merely being the natural child of an ordinary German soldier resulted in such ostracism, how much worse would things be for one deliberately engineered as part of illicit experiments by hardline Nazis?

“If someone thinks – maybe unfairly – that someone should be blamed for something, they’ll only be more likely to do so if that person themselves believes they should,” Rachel said. “People aren’t rational.”

Which was certainly true whenever IPL had the decency to admit to its mistakes, Caroline reflected sourly. She realised she had been able to think of something other than her genetic heritage. Rachel sensed her old spirit start to return and smiled.

“It’s still something that’s hard to live with,” Caroline said.
“Let’s see what Zuckermann has to say and take it from there. Meanwhile, why don’t you just relax?” Rachel had decided to arrange things so that for Caroline’s sake they could do that, before going on to see Zuckermann. Especially as the visit might not make Caroline feel any better, if he was unable to answer her questions to he satisfaction. “Right now I’d advise you to get some sleep. In the morning, how about a session in the Jacuzzi? I might join you there at some point, actually. We can hire a couple of costumes.”

“Fine,” Caroline said, rather indifferently. “But as you say, right now I ought to get some sleep.” She took off her dressing gown and climbed into bed.

“And leave off the tablets for now.” Caroline grunted incoherently, turned over onto her side and closed her eyes.

Rachel waited until the sound of gentle, steady snoring told her Caroline was asleep. Then she crept over to the bedside table where the bottle of tablets stood, took it and slipped it into her pocket. Finally she, too, turned in for the night, trying to banish from her mind uneasy thoughts of what might be happening back in London.

Sophie Cameron-Davies, current Director of the Special Intelligence Service (aka MI6), was on the phone to her German opposite number Matthias Hencke, head of the Bundeskriminalamt. “I see, Herr Hencke,” she was saying politely.

“I am not sure it is in my country’s interest, or that of good relations between ourselves and you,” Hencke went on, “for you to withhold information that may be of importance to us. However, from courtesy and from a desire to preserve those same good relations I deferred speaking to you about this in case we could extract what we needed from the suspect we arrested at Frankfurt Airport. Unfortunately he has not proved very forthcoming.”

“I’m very concerned at all you have told me, Herr Hencke,” said Cameron-Davies soothingly. “I certainly didn’t authorize the actions of our personnel on this occasion. They really ought to have cleared it with me first.” That was not to say she would necessarily have given permission anyway, she added hurriedly. “I’ll carry out an internal enquiry and let you have the results as soon as possible.”

“That would be much appreciated, Frau Cameron-Davies. Good-day to you.” Hencke cut her off.

Cameron-Davies paused while she struggled with her mounting temper, breathing hard. She rubbed the flesh between her nose and upper lip with a finger while her other hand tapped out a steady rhythm on the desktop before her. Finally she reached for an internal phone, determined that someone, somewhere, was going to have to explain themselves for this.


“And Rachel said she was on a mission?”
“Yes, Sir. She didn’t say what it was.” The employee who currently managed the telephones on the night desk, and who had taken Rachel’s call, sounded a little slurred, having been at home sleeping when Nigel Haverhill rang.

Haverhill was Cameron-Davies’ deputy and the Higher Executive Officer at Vauxhall Bridge, who beneath the Director acted as overall manager for all staff where operational matters were concerned.

“I presumed she’d discussed it with you, though. I assumed it must have been Category A stuff.”

“Yes, and so secret she couldn’t even tell me about it,” Haverhill snapped. He stomped back to his office, where he rang Rachel Savident’s mobile number.

“This person’s phone is switched off,” came the reply. It might mean Rachel was on a plane somewhere. Whatever the explanation, she’d be in trouble when she got back. The girl was already stretching her luck as it was.

He went to see Cameron-Davies. “The person who made that call to the Germans telling them to leave off Caroline Kent. I’ve a feeling it might be Rachel Savident.”

Cameron-Davies sighed long and hard, her eyes flashing in anger. “She’s gone too far. She didn’t have the authority. I’ll see she’s issued with a formal warning. Where is she at this moment?”

“That’s the problem, I just don’t know. You see, she’s gone off on some mission of her own and her mobile’s turned off. I’ll have our German friends look out for her. But my guess is she’s with her friend. And on past experience, that could mean just about anywhere in the world. They’ll only show when they want to.” He clenched a fist savagely. “And they’d be well advised to. I’ll have Savident’s arse for this.”

“At least we can tell the Germans some progress has been made,” observed Cameron-Davies. “And we can now have an input into whatever’s going on. We ought to. Can I ask you to take on the role of liaison with them?”

“I’d be delighted. I’d give my right arm to know what this is all about.”

He thought of something else. “Anything been done about this student whose mother says he was working for Mossad?” The operations David Richards had carried out for his Israeli con-trollers had been on foreign soil; but he might have ended up working in Britain if Jerusalem had decided it was necessary, and besides a British citizen had been recruited for a foreign intelligence agency without his country’s consent.

“They’ve made the appropriate noises of regret and apology. I think, though, they really have learned their lesson over this. It seems to have been a rogue decision. In any case,” went on Cameron-Davies, “they too are working with the Germans on the Thule business. Perhaps it’ll give us an opportunity to keep an eye on them.”

Rachel and Caroline were both immersed in the hotel’s Jacuzzi and one of them, at least, was relaxing, enjoying the warm tingling sensation as the swirling, effervescent water caressed her skin.

Keep it up until we’ve seen Zuckermann, at least, Rachel was thinking. But then we’ll have to face the music. If we don’t, then among other things my job’s going to be on the line if it isn’t already.

She glanced across at Caroline, trying to work out whether the soothing liquid was having any effect on her. It was hard to tell. Caroline’s face seemed totally blank, as if she was thinking about nothing at all; nothing that was worth the effort anyway.

Rachel had been happy to wear a bikini for their session in the pool, but Caroline had deliberately chosen a one-piece. She wasn’t normally the kind of person to be ashamed of her body, but this time it seemed she didn’t want to expose any more of it than was necessary.

“What shall we do afterwards?” Rachel said, trying to open her up through conversation.
“I’d like to go back to the airport to do some shopping.”

“OK,” Rachel agreed. “But I’m not letting you out of my sight, you understand.”

Minutes later the pair came out of the hotel and went to the bus stop on the forecourt. The two men, both from the American Nazi Party, who had followed them to the Marriott from the airport and were now watching it from one of the cars in the car park saw them and noted that their only luggage was a shoulder bag each. One of the men immediately telephoned Wachter to report what he had seen. “Doesn’t look like they’re leaving yet. They’re just off to do some shopping or something, probably at the airport.”

“One moment.” Wachter probably wanted to confer with Heinrich. A minute later his voice crackled back to them, slightly distorted by interference. “Any chance of taking her now?”

“No, it’s too public. There are other people at the bus stop and it’s broad daylight. We wouldn’t get far before someone got a fix on us.”

Again a pause, then Heinrich’s voice. “Follow them to the airport, or wherever it is they’re going. If you lose them there, we can pick them up again when they return to the hotel. We’ll just have to wait for a better opportunity. In the meantime, perhaps we can find out whether they’re up to anything interesting.”

Samantha Myers, nee Higson, almost stopped the car dead in the middle of the road when she saw the blue-and-white tape cordoning off the house and the cluster of police, including a pair of Forensics people in orange coveralls, standing on the pavement outside it. Oh God, she thought, catching her breath fearfully, what the hell’s gone and happened now?

She’d known it would, sooner or later. They’d finally caught up with him at last.

It might make her look suspicious if she just turned round and drove away. Besides, she had to know. Her heart sinking, she pulled in to the pavement, got out and nervously approached the nearest of the half-dozen or so officers. “Excuse me, can you tell me what’s going on?” she asked nervously.

“Sorry,” the woman said, shaking her head. “I have to tell you there are possible implications for national security. May I ask who you are, Madam?”

Again Sam’s heart gave a lurch. National security…that had to mean something pretty serious. Terrorism? Was Martin involved in terrorism? “I-I want to know,” she persisted. “I’m the sister of the man who lives here.”

At this their ears pricked up almost visibly. “In that case we’d like to ask you a few questions,” said a policeman. “You’ll have to accompany one of us to the station, if that’s alright.”
She didn’t mind. She had to know.

When they told her what it was she almost wished she hadn’t asked. Murder…..Martin had committed a murder. And this time it had been more or less proven. He’d really gone and done it now. Oh, God…..

When she finished crying the woman who had been sitting beside her holding her hand asked if she was alright, and on receiving a brief confirmatory nod told her gently that they needed to know where her brother was now. Sam informed them that she didn’t, and that was one of the reasons she was so upset about everything. She told them all she could – it was obligatory now – but that wasn’t a great deal. She just wanted to go home and rest while she absorbed the news as best one could. They let her go, with a request that she should inform them immediately her brother made any kind of contact with her. For her part, she only hoped he did.

But it would leave her with a terrible dilemma. Did she shop him? And what were the rest of the family going to say about all this?

Was this the right moment to disown him, cut off all links with him for good, rid themselves of something which had become so emotionally wearing, such a depressing blight upon their lives? No, she thought fiercely, never. If he had killed, then Martin had to go to prison whatever happened. But she at any rate would be there for him, in one way or another. The trouble was, he had gone to ground after what he’d done and she had no idea where “there” was.

The police search found nothing to give any clue where Martin Higson might have gone, or what the Thule Society’s ultimate plans might be. It was a very ordinary, simply furnished, rather dull little flat, in terms of personal possessions containing nothing worthy of comment except perhaps the books on the Third Reich, including a volume of speeches by Hitler, the copy of Mein Kampf and a selection of action, sci-fi and pornographic movies on DVD. There were no mementoes from childhood or the teenage years; any which existed must be at Higson’s mother’s house. In all there was nothing that told you very much about the past stages in Martin Higson’s life, or what course that life might be taking now.

Rachel and Caroline wandered for some time around the shopping centre at the airport. There was nothing Rachel particularly wanted there and Caroline seemed hesitant and indecisive, as if she was contemplating something Rachel might not approve of. But suddenly, she made up her mind and dived into a drugstore. Following her, Rachel saw her scan the contents of the shelves for a few moments and then take something from one of them; something plastic and transparent and filled with a dark swirling liquid.

Rachel came up to her. “What are you getting?” she asked in a friendly fashion.

“This,” said Caroline flatly, making no effort to show it to her. Rachel had to twist her neck a bit to peer at it. It was a bottle of black hair colourant.

“Let’s go,” said Caroline once the transaction had been completed. They made their way to the bus stop for the hotel. The men following them had seen Caroline go into the drugstore but not what she had bought, which was now out of sight in a carrier bag. In any case the mere fact that she had visited the establishment was of no interest to them; she was probably after some shampoo or toothpaste or something like that.

When they got back to the hotel Caroline immediately disappeared into the bathroom. Rachel made herself a cup of coffee from the dispenser and sat down to watch TV.

Some minutes later Caroline reappeared, the transformation complete. Rachel had to admit the result wasn’t bad. Her hair was now a glossy, gleaming jet black. This way, she looked even more like her mother than ever, a younger version of the still beautiful Margaret. As a brunette she was every bit as stunning as she normally appeared, the only trouble being that if you looked closely enough the complexion didn’t quite match the hair.

“I still think it’s self-denigration,” Rachel said. “You’re doing yourself down and I’ve already told you you mustn’t.” But Caroline wasn’t angling for compliments. Without replying she sat and gazed at the TV with hollow, unseeing eyes.

The watch had by now been changed; it was a different car with a different two men inside, one of them Helldorf, the Thule Society’s main representative in North America.

“It doesn’t look like they’re planning to leave the States just yet,” Helldorf said.

“Wish they’d leave the fucking hotel,” growled his companion, Varden. “This is causing problems. We can’t stay here for too long without people getting suspicious.” It would be better if someone could relieve them, but right now there was no-one available to do the job. The other people in the organization who knew the secret of Thule and why Caroline was so important to the group’s plans had thought it best to go to ground. If they were seen in public they might be arrested. Wachter knew that Thule and the NVP had been under increased surveillance, and that they might have been seen entering and leaving the castle. The fact that Schwege had failed to make the rendezvous had further alarmed him and Heinrich and emphasized the need for caution.

There was also the ever-present fear that Schwege, if he was now in police custody, might tell everything. They had to get this whole thing wrapped up, and fast.

Watching the world go by, seeing its problems multiply, he often got the impression things were building up to a crisis. One of his fears was that it would destroy itself and put a stop to the fun he was having with it. But there would, perhaps, be a new order to succeed the old one; maybe then the time would be right for him to show his hand. And it could not be born without that process itself causing lots of chaos and destruction, which he would revel in. He could of course try to stop the catastrophe when it came. He might have nothing to lose then. And maybe everyone would be grateful to him, make him their ruler.

But rulers could be overthrown. And he was sure he’d soon be doing things people wouldn’t like, and taking pleasure from their reactions. If you had power why not use it?

He could try to precipitate the crisis himself; it could be done quite easily by someone with the resources at his disposal. The temptation was certainly there. It was how he’d survived these last few decades, but there had to be something else other than this constant taking of an identity and then getting bored with it; each time, when he disappeared, becoming just another missing person whose case baffled the police, who’d never guess the truth in a million years, and wasted their time when they could be dealing with far more serious matters like yob culture. It had been amusing at first but after a while the appeal wore off. Wouldn’t it be more exciting if he could just tell the world who he was and be damned? But there were dangers in such a course. He wasn’t invulnerable and pretty soon someone would be out to get him, because they feared him or because they coveted what he could do.

If only he had a soul mate in whom he could confide; someone he could really trust. A relationship would certainly fill the aching gulf he still felt within him at his separation from his wife and from the others of his kind – if it was correct to call them his kind. There’d been one woman who seemed interested in him, who he had told the truth to. She’d thought he was mad and walked out on him; but then she would have guessed something odd was going on sooner or later. After a while he had decided not to punish her.

On the plus side, there was little anyone else could do to physically harm him, as long as he was careful. When people offended or threatened him he could always hit back - if only from behind the scenes, which spoilt the fun at times. He would sometimes kill them and sometimes just make something nasty, or at least inconvenient, happen to them depending on his mood.

If only he could be safe from the temptation to use the power openly, blowing everything in the process. He was living on the edge and he knew it. But it was too late to go back now.

Everything depended on what happened at Thule. He decided it was high time he paid another visit to the place, to see what was going on there.

Caroline had drawn her legs up onto the chair and wrapped her arms around her calves, letting her chin sink onto her knees. She continued to stare fixedly at the cartoon characters dancing like epileptics across the screen.

Oh hell, this is getting me nowhere, she thought after a while. She needed to get away, to find somewhere secluded where she could think, away from the distraction of Rachel’s constant presence.

She knew she must be right about the extent of the Nazis’ interference with her DNA. Too much seemed to hook up. Whatever Zuckermann might have to tell her couldn’t make a difference, surely.

Tiring of what was on the TV, but not wishing to change channels in case it seemed rude, Rachel was engrossed in a book. Caroline heard the rustle as she got up, tossing the paperback onto one of the beds, and went to the bathroom, probably to use the toilet. As the door closed behind her she lowered her legs and raised herself slowly to her feet. Moving very carefully, a step at a time, she eached the door and gently turned the handle.

The watchers in the station wagon in the car park saw a woman come running out of the building and down the drive to the main road. She was moving so fast they couldn’t get a good look at her face, but it couldn’t have been the woman they were staking out: she was blonde and this was a brunette.

Rachel came out of the bathroom and stopped dead in alarm. “Caroline? Caroline, where are you?”

Perhaps she’d had another attack and run off again. To do something stupid? Frantically, Rachel ran from the room and down the corridor to the stairs.

She shot down them and hurried over to the reception desk. “Did you see a woman go out just now?” she panted. “Dark hair, in her twenties?”

“Matter of fact, yes I did,” the receptionist said. “She was hotfooting it fit to bust. Can’t think what could have been the matter with her.”
“Did you see which way she went?”
“No. Just out.”

Rachel ran out onto the steps and stood looking around; no sign of Caroline. She went to the end of the drive and glanced down the main road in both directions, but the girl had vanished. She might have doubled back and was hiding somewhere in the hospital grounds, intending to slip away later. Wherever she was, she had to be found and quickly.

But how? It was vital the police weren’t involved. She’d have to do the job herself. She ran back inside the hotel and up to her room where she snatched up her handbag with her mobile phone inside. Then she noticed Caroline’s lying on the dressing table. Not that she’d respond if called, anyway.

Outside in the station wagon Helldorf and Varden were looking at one another in puzzlement. They’d seen Rachel dash out of the building, glance to and fro and then run around for a few minutes in obvious agitation before going back inside. “I sure can’t figure it out,” said Varden.

“I’d say the two of them are after that girl who came out earlier. Why I dunno.”

“But the Kent girl must still be in the hotel, ‘cause we haven’t seen her leave,” said Helldorf. “Maybe this is our chance.”
“But how are we gonna get her out without anyone seeing?”

They saw Rachel come out of the hotel again and go to the bus stop. “Shall we follow her?” Varden asked.
“No, we might lose Kent if she decides to check out.”
“She won’t without her friend.”

“Guess not. But we don’t know when the friend’s coming back.”
“Hey, do you suppose Kent realizes we’re watching for her? Maybe that’s why she ain’t leaving the hotel.”
“Shit,” snarled Helldorf, slamming his hand violently against the window beside him. “Fucking shit.”

The minutes ticked by while the two of them shifted uneasily, aware that the longer they remained there the more likely they’d be to attract attention. Helldorf forced himself to stay calm. Another half-hour, he told Varden. Then we’ll go, and come back later once everyone’s had time to forget they ever saw us.

They had to get the girl; her friend was less of a priority. But they didn’t want to linger here, and perhaps give someone the idea they were watching the place out, if it would serve no purpose.

As time passed, a certain suspicion began to grow in Helldorf. “You know something?” he said. “I oughta have guessed it before.”

“The girl we saw running out of the place; not Kent’s friend, the other one. I think that was Kent. Apart from the hair it could have been her.”

“You think about it. She came shooting out like her ass was on fire and ran off. Then Kent’s friend comes out looking just a little spooked. And we haven’t seen Kent since. Now the friend’s gone out on her own. I think Kent panicked and made a break for it.”

Something clicked in Varden’s brain. “She went into a drugstore.”
“Yeah, she dyed her hair as a disguise. Thought it might throw us off the scent.”
“So where’s she gone?”

“Dunno. Could be anywhere. We might never find her now. Christ….”
“What if we’re wrong? Let’s not shit our pants if we don’t have to.”

“If she is still in there, she’s gotta come out sometime. But I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.” He thought carefully for a minute or two, weighing the pros and cons. “I got an idea. It’ll take some time to fix up, and it means being away from here for a bit, but that’s probably just as well. Come on, let’s go.”

At the airport, Rachel Savident found a hire car company and paid for the use of a vehicle for two days. Then she drove around the area looking out for her friend. She had already decided that Caroline, though she appeared to have taken her wallet with her, would not have caught a plane somewhere. Rachel guessed she would head for some place where she could be alone, and not choose to be cooped up on an aircraft with lots of other people.

She asked the people at the company if a dark-haired woman, young, with an English accent had hired a vehicle from them in the last half hour or so. As a matter of fact one had but they had no idea where the woman had been going. It wasn’t their business to ask that sort of thing.

Armed with a map of the area, but no clues as to where Caroline might be, Rachel began driving slowly up and down all the main roads within a radius of ten miles. Some time passed without her having any luck.

If she couldn’t find Caroline she’d just have to go to her superiors and tell all. Always assuming Caroline hadn’t done “something stupid”. If she had it might be the best way out; but once again Rachel banished the thought from her mind.

It was a kind of country park, with a picnic area and woods in which you could walk. Caroline was sitting at one of the picnic tables with her head in her hands, reflecting on her troubles. From time to time people cast curious looks in her direction and she could sense them thinking, “what does a girl like her need to look so moody for? You’d have thought she could have had everything. I wonder what’s her story?”

You wouldn’t belief half of it, she thought with a wry smile.

Gradually the atmosphere of the place, the beautiful sunshine, the birdsong, the sounds of children laughing as they played, was beginning to relax her. She was already feeling a little ashamed of herself. Everything Rachel had said was true. She didn’t know for sure that the cause of her condition, if being blonde was a “condition”, was the one she suspected and feared. Besides, if the Nazis had determined her appearance by genetic engineering did it really matter that much, whatever their motives? After all, there was nothing wrong with her looks in themselves. Apart of course from also having super powers, she was hardly any different from people who were that way naturally, whatever the means by which she’d acquired her make-up.

In the end there were worse things. Looks weren’t all there was, anyway. No amount of Nazi tinkering had prevented her being able to feel compassion and concern for others and to understand the difference between right and wrong. That was what counted; you could influence what a person looked like but not necessarily the way they thought. She was made by Nazis, but not one of them. Why then should she feel tainted?

Even if for the wrong reasons, the Nazis had created beauty, of its own special kind, and it should be valued. Good out of evil. For no-one could argue that beauty was good even if it led to conceit or an obsession to possess it. No-one in their right mind would desire ugliness for its own sake, if given the choice. And to want to age well, and be free from the effects of skin cancer, was natural and reasonable for anyone. Nazis weren’t nice people, but if they’d done you a favour why not take advantage of it?

Having got used to herself as she was, she couldn’t see herself adjusting to a different genetic make-up even supposing she could somehow get hold of the technology they’d used and reverse what they’d done. Finally, she was still her in some essential, indefinable, intangible way regardless of the nature of the physical container she inhabited, and that was what counted.

There were a row of phone boxes over by the car park. She selected the nearest unoccupied one and rang Rachel’s mobile number, which she’d taken care to memorise some time ago in case of emergencies. “Rache, it’s me.”

“Caroline! Oh thank God! I’ve been driving all over the place looking for you. You sound as if you’ve sorted yourself out now.”

“You bet. Look, I’ll meet you at the airport; I need to return the hire car. Then we’ll take a long-distance bus to somewhere near Zuckermann’s place.” Might be best to save money on petrol, especially as the Service were most unlikely to pay Rachel’s expenses on this.
“Fine. Catch you later.”

With a new spring in her step and a smile on her face once more, Caroline set off back to the car.

The receptionist looked up on hearing footsteps approach her desk, and smiled at the two burly figures in police uniforms standing before her. “Good afternoon. How may I help you, officers?” She was not to know that the uniforms had been hired an hour or so earlier from a theatrical agency.

The men showed her their ID cards, which she wasn’t to know were fake. ”Do you have a Caroline Kent staying with you at the moment, please? That’s her photograph. British girl.”

The receptionist studied the picture, which Helldorf had cut out of an IPL brochure the organization had managed to obtain. “I don’t think I’d forget someone like her in a hurry,” she remarked. “Well, let me just check the register. Kent, you say?” She started to leaf through it, wondering why they might be interested in the girl but supposing that as they were police, they must have their reasons. “She hasn’t done anything wrong, I hope?”

“The matter’s confidential right now, ma’am. We’re not at liberty to say.”

The woman glanced up from the register. “No-one here called Kent, I’m afraid.” She wasn’t to know that “Emma Finch” and “Jennifer Vane” weren’t who they said they were.

She took another look at the photo. “But I’m pretty sure we do have this lady here somewhere. I can’t forget her face; she looks OK there, but when I saw her I thought….so beautiful, yet somehow so sad. She must have registered under another name; I’m afraid I can’t remember what it was. She was with another girl, also British. They must have booked in together. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear she’s in trouble; such a pretty girl. But when you see her you think, there’s something on her mind, something that’s troubling her, and she doesn’t want anyone to know what it is. Maybe something she’s done…”

“Uh, yeah, sure, Ma’am. Have you any idea if she’s on the premises at the moment?”

“I haven’t seen her since last night. You could ask Lucy who did the earlier shift. I’ll give you her number, shall I?”

“If you’d be so good, Ma’am. Uh, when did you start your current shift, may I ask?”

“At twelve noon it would have been. Forty-five minutes ago.” Helldorf thought. That would have been some time after he and Varden had glimpsed the mysterious brunette who they now suspected was Caroline Kent bursting through the hotel doors. “OK, ma’am. If you could just let me have that number, I’ll arrange an appointment with your friend Lucy. Meantime I hope you won’t mind if my friend hangs around in here, just in case Ms Kent should happen to show.” Being a public-spirited person, the receptionist didn’t mind. She gave Helldorf Lucy’s number, and in a moment or two he was speaking to the girl on his cellphone. She agreed they could call at her apartment anytime with the photograph of Caroline.

Outside the paramilitaries, drawn from all those countries where the organization had a sizeable following, were on guard. Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, South Africans, Russians, Flemings, Balts, Ukranians, Scandinavians and others, all of them highly trained, brave and fanatically dedicated. A few were stationed inside the mountain too, but Wachter still didn’t feel entirely safe.

One thing gave him confidence. A few minutes ago, when he had managed for a short time to calm down, he had thought he could sense the gods’ presence. They were here, watching over him, over everyone. There certainly seemed to be something, an awareness of a powerful intelligence that slept, waiting for something perhaps, yet at the same time seemed conscious and alert. It was a peculiar feeling, very difficult to describe.

Heinrich spoke, snapping him out of his trance. “It looks like Helldorf and Varden might have lost her – the idiots. But to be fair they cannot be quite sure. If she is in that hotel, then the net is closing in. What worries me is that we may have to make our move soon, despite the dangers if it doesn’t work and they get arrested. I’m thinking they may have to kill her and then disappear. It’d be less risky.”

“I hope not,” said Wachter. “She’s too important to our plans.”

“It’d be too public,” Martin Higson said. “Whatever they did. They won’t take the risk of getting caught unless we can guarantee to start the uprising pretty soon, and right now we can’t. Not without her.”

“How long before she breaks out and becomes a full telepath?”
“Hard to estimate. The process may not have started yet.”

“If it has, what will she do? She’s bound to notice something before long.”
“She may seek medical help. She may be taking some kind of medication to try to control it, not realising what it is. I cannot be sure but I imagine it will only delay the breaking-out process.”

For once Heinrich seemed, if only briefly, to lose his self-control. He slammed his fist against the stone wall of the chamber, barking the skin on his knuckles. ”They must find her,” he snapped, trembling with anger and impatience. “They must.”

“I did notice her coming out of breakfast, and leaving the hotel a little later. After that I don’t remember seeing her at all. It doesn’t sort of register in my brain that I did.”

“I see,” nodded Helldorf. “Uh, could she have dyed her hair at all between now and then?”

Lucy Weissman looked at the photograph again, studying it carefully. She frowned. “At one point I saw a girl with dark hair come running through the foyer and out of the building, like she was desperate to get away from something. Thinking about it now, I’m more and more certain that was her. It seemed funny at the time. I didn’t think it was likely because why should she suddenly colour her hair like that, especially when if I’d been her I’d have stayed blonde. That’s what guys like. And she’s best that way, by my reckoning. But the face…yes, it could be.”
“You’re not one hundred per cent sure, though?”

“Well, no, but put it this way…if I had to stake my life on it, I’d say that was the girl you’re looking for.”

“Thankyou, Miss. You’ve been very helpful. ‘Bye now.” Taking the photograph, they returned to the police car which a third member of the organization had stolen earlier, changing the number plates so it couldn’t immediately be recognized.
“I’d say that was her,” Helldorf said. “It’s gotta be.”

“We’d better have some of the other guys keep watching this place, just to make sure.”

“Right. But for the moment, let’s just assume Kent is at large somewhere, and her friend’s looking for her. That makes our job a little bit easier, since it’d be dangerous to try and snatch Kent straight from the hotel.”

“That depends where exactly she is. And we don’t know, do we? Jesus, this is a right fucking screw-up.”

“Not quite. We’re police, remember? So we go around asking people if they’ve seen either of the two lately. Hire-car firms, taxi companies, rail stations, the airport…”

As they drove off Varden asked, “who do you think the other girl is? I’ve got an uneasy feeling about her. Might be a spook or something.”

Helldorf didn’t find the thought at all to his liking. “Maybe,” he grunted. “If she is, it’s all the more reason for us to get to Kent before she does. The one thing we don’t, repeat don’t, want right now is too many other people finding out what she is.”


Stefan Wolniak had already consulted Mossad’s files on Caroline Kent, and found one or two things of considerable interest. He’d also deemed it useful to know what other people had on her. The information had not in every case proved easy to come by. The British had said they didn’t know at this stage what the connection was between Caroline and the Nazis; the other information on her they’d refused to supply, there still being influential elements within their intelligence services who weren’t too well-disposed towards Israel. Of course Mossad was not above hacking into other people’s computers, but that was always a hit-and-miss affair, since the security procedures were improving all the time. It could also be embarrassing if you were detected. Before taking the risk, Wolniak had decided to try the Americans; altogether a much better prospect. The previous incidents in which Caroline Kent had been involved had been major enough for the Yanks to have files on them. All he had to do was call his contact at Langley and the material would be with him in minutes, or as soon as the contact was free to attend to the matter. It was not a foregone conclusion that any request for help, official or otherwise, would be met. But, after all, Israel and the United States were partners in the war on terror, and the suggestion that any Jewish member of the American government or intelligence services would necessarily leak information to Mossad could easily be condemned as anti-Semitic.

Now Wolniak stared down at the copy of the dossier which had been faxed to him, trying to decide if he believed what he had read there. Clearly Caroline Kent was a remarkable woman. Something of an adventuress, not perhaps in the end ideal material for MI6, although nonetheless useful. So far so good. Robert Maxwell had been in that category, with the difference that Maxwell was less discrete and had eventually had to be eliminated. But some of it he frankly found incredible, believe, while simultaneously being annoyed the CIA hadn’t let his people know.

The latest entry in the file was entitled “Marcotech affair.” Reading through it, he concluded there had been no particular threat to the security of Israel, as opposed to that of the world in general. There was little his country on its own could have done, and the matter had been dealt with anyway.

He read through the first page of the file one more time, still not believing what he was seeing. “”This document concerns a secret programme carried out by the now disbanded Marcotech Consortium Limited, an international conglomerate with interests in marine technology, microsurgery and genetic engineering. The programme involved the abduction of and experimentation upon human subjects with the aim of producing a human being capable of breathing underwater without artificial assistance, and generally functioning effectively within a marine environment.

“Although an accurate estimate is impossible it is believed that some two to three hundred people were treated in this fashion, all within a period of one year from the perfection of the necessary biotechnology.”

The next few pages were taken up by a list of the known victims, with photographs. One of them, which Wolniak’s contact had ringed, was of Caroline Kent. I guess that’s what can happen when you stick your finger in one pie too many, Wolniak reflected. Then there was a full-page colour photograph of an “aquanoid”; a woman in this case, and naked so that you could see what had been done to her to best advantage. She had blue-grey skin made up of thousands of tiny scales, webbed hands and feet, and what looked like gill slits in her neck.

After the conclusion of the affair several of the victims were successfully returned to normal, including Caroline Kent. They had either been given some sort of amnesiac drug or were thought unlikely to tell their story to anyone because it would be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, in the same category as the claims of those who insisted they had been abducted by aliens – although if you believed the entry headed “Ishtar”, such allegations might not be as far-fetched as most people supposed.

In all these cases, either nothing had survived which anyone could put to practical use, or the Americans had chosen not to share the knowledge gained with others. It was also possible the British were sitting on things that neither America nor Israel knew about. If such incidents could happen at all, they could happen anywhere. He’d just have to keep probing. In any event he could see no immediate military advantage to be gained by his country from this aquanoid thing. Israeli Special Forces had a seaborne branch, but Wolniak reckoned they could probably get by without it and besides the practice would cause controversy if it became known to the general public. His country was in enough trouble anyway with the international human rights lobby, even if, as far as Wolniak was concerned, its actions in Lebanon and elsewhere fell within the definition of legitimate self-defence.

Nor did this or any of the other documents in the file have any bearing on Wolniak’s current problem, this Nazi business. All they proved was that Caroline Kent had a remarkable knack of finding trouble. Wolniak studied her photograph thoughtfully, and a little sadly. One day you’re going to make a great deal of money from your memoirs, he told it. Let’s just hope you live long enough to make a start on them.

Though Caroline had more or less come to terms with her problem, there were still a number of things on which she wanted reassurance. She understood, of course, that genes didn’t always behave in the ways you expected them to. Scientists didn’t entirely understand how they worked, no matter what they claimed. Darwin had sketched out the basic pattern, describing how the environment worked on randomly occurring mutations to favour those which best guaranteed an organism’s survival. Mendel had discovered the operation of dominant and recessive genes; Watson and Crick the structure of DNA, the mechanism of inheritance. But it would need some further genius to give Mankind a truly accurate and comprehensive picture of how the whole process functioned. Nevertheless there were some things you could say for certain and which provided some kind of framework within which to try and understand what had happened to her.

The blonde gene survived because in terms of the operation of natural selection it had a survival advantage – the characteris-tics it gave rise to were sexually attractive, to some at least, which made it more likely that mating and reproduction would occur, the gene being passed down to the next generation even if it might lie dormant there. Nonetheless the recessiveness of the gene determined how frequently it occurred in a population and how pronounced the characteristics were, especially when combined with gene flow – the transmission to a population, from its mixing with another, of genes which might be dominant and thus drive out to some extent the recessive ones.

But there was also something called genetic drift – perhaps the joker in the pack. In the literature she’d read on it there was a lot of stuff about “alleles” and “stochastic effects”, whatever they were, which she didn’t understand but the gist was clear. If you took the view that natural selection arose in the first place from a random, though strictly speaking that wasn’t what it was, process – random mutation of living organisms - then it was possible for certain characteristics to be inherited, and to become more widespread, regardless of whether they were dominant or recessive, especially when the laws of probability were taken into account. It perhaps explained why you could have two brown-eyed parents and a blue-eyed child, or vice versa, or why dark hair could sometimes go blonde at birth. However, genetic drift occurred most commonly in small isolated populations and not in the large urbanised ones of which she was a member. It still could be the answer, but in thinking that was she not merely clutching at straws?

”We’re here,” Rachel announced. Caroline glanced to her right and saw a high chain link fence enclosing a cluster of windowless concrete and metal boxes. Rachel slowed, turned into the driveway and came up to the gates, where a tough-looking uniformed guard was already standing with arms folded eyeing them suspiciously. The butt of a pistol stuck out prominently from the holster at his hip.

He crossed to the car as Rachel wound down the window and leaned out. “You mind my asking what your business is here, ladies?”

Rachel held out her pass for his inspection. “I’m Rachel Savident, MI6.” She nodded towards Caroline. “She’s with me.”
“Uh-huh?” He sounded only marginally less suspicious.

“Following the Marcotech affair we had an agreement that information would be shared. There are certain things I need to know. We’d like to speak to Dr Zuckermann if possible.”
“Does your friend have a pass, Ma’am?”

“No, but I can vouch for her. I was involved in the Marcotech business myself, on the sidelines. You check with whoever’s in charge here, they’ll confirm everything.”

The guard made a call on his mobile, then asked them to wait. After a few minutes one of his colleagues arrived with passes for Caroline and Rachel. The man took them to the security block, where they were searched by a couple of female guards, then led them down a succession of featureless corridors to the man Caroline wanted to see. Rachel insisted that she listen in on the interview in case anything was said that she ought to know about. Caroline sensed expected that bits of the conversation might be intensely private in nature, but nonetheless agreed. After all Rachel was a friend, in whom such matters could be confided. And if she were to help her it was important that they knew everything.

As they were ushered into the office the man behind the desk rose slowly to greet them. Caroline thought he had aged visibly in the few months since she had last set eyes on him. The bones of the face stood out very prominently and there were lines running down from his eyes that looked like scars. Previously she had thought him a well-preserved fiftysomething but now he seemed haggard, haunted, old.

“Good morning, Dr Zuckermann,” said Caroline softly.

“Good morning, Miss Kent,” he replied. A little uncertainly he extended a hand. She nodded as she took it, as if showing that some kind of understanding existed between them. He nodded politely to Rachel.

“How are you?” he asked Caroline. He was being as pleasant as possible, trying to make up for what had happened at Marcotech. “Well, I hope?”

“I have certain problems,” she said, “which I’d like your help with.”

“I’ll do what I can,” he promised, and waved the girls to a seat. He owed it to her. “So, what’s the trouble?”

She took a deep breath, remembering what this man had done to her and hating it because afterwards she had found it so hard to decide what her feelings about it should be. But towards Zuckermann himself she no longer entertained any resentment. Right now he just looked pitiful and frightened. And somehow, it all seemed such a long time ago.

“When I was your....your prisoner, back at Marcotech, you did certain things to me.”

“Yes, and I’m sorry – “

She shook her head. “I’m not bothered about that, not now. It’s a moot point at best. But genetically, you more or less took me apart and put me back together again. While you were doing it, did you notice anything particularly unusual?”

Her DNA had been analysed in laboratory conditions before then, by that weird Curno family down in Cornwall, but with a very different purpose in mind and and with equipment less advanced, she suspected, than Marcotech’s. Besides which the Curnos, compared to Zuckermann, were little more than amateurs even if one of them had worked at Porton Down.
“Anything unusual? Like what?” Zuckermann enquired.

“Well,” she said, “it would be to do with the genes, wouldn’t it? Everything we are is due to them. Our environment can make a difference, but the way we react to it, mentally as well as physically, is determined genetically. To some extent. Mental characteristics are carried in the genes; unless there’s something or other which comes down from heaven whenever a baby’s born, off some heavenly production line, and goes “plop” into its brain.”

Zuckermann managed a faint smile. “Well, that’s a question neither scientists nor theologians are able to answer right now. Let’s assume it’s genetic, anyway, or we’d probably be here debating it forever. And I’m dying to hear just what this problem of yours is.”

She told him everything, about the attacks, the hallucinations, the telepathy and the telekinesis. “My doctor says he can’t find anything wrong with me. So it isn’t something that conventional medical science can identify. You Marcotech people were a bit more advanced on the whole.”

“Are you saying what we did to you was responsible for.....” He jumped suddenly to a conclusion. “I’m sorry, I-I-I-I......”

She leaned forward. “It might not be that. I’m trying to find out just what it is. That’s why I’ve come here.

“Look....” she said awkwardly. “What you did to me was wrong. You should have asked for my permission, at any rate. But I understand your reasons. You wanted us all to survive and you thought that was the only way. wasn’t the worst thing anyone’s done to me, not really.” It had been a kind of rape, she supposed, but only a kind. For a moment she seemed distant, her eyes, her mind gazing into some strange and beautiful underwater world as alien to where they were now as the surface of another planet. ”It was great, in some ways. To be able to swim like a fish; to dive right down to the bottom of the ocean without having to take a breath, and play with dolphins and that on their own territory.…” There was regret, pain almost, in her voice.

A shuddering sigh like a deflating balloon burst from the scientist’s lips. He shut his eyes for a moment, then slowly opened them again. It was something he had wanted to hear for a long time.

“I can see....I can see advantages in it,” Caroline went on. “But maybe not...not yet.

She glanced towards the door in the opposite wall, which she guessed led to some kind of laboratory. She didn’t like to think what they might have got him working on in there.

“If this is an unfortunate side effect of what you did to me, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. Like I said, you meant well. But we seem to getting away from the point of my visit. Did you by any chance notice anything in my DNA, my genetic structure, that you thought was…unusual?”

He didn’t answer immediately. “You realise it could be very dangerous for..certain people to become acquainted with the truth?”
“You wouldn’t tell them, would you?”
“Not from choice, no.”

“I know there’s a risk involved. But I’ve a feeling there’ll be a risk if we don’t get to the bottom of this matter as soon as possible.”

Zuckermann leaned back in his chair. “OK. You know of course that the human genome has now been more or less completely mapped. How much do you actually understand about genetics, by the way?”

“I’ve been boning up on it,” she told him.

“And you’re a highly intelligent young lady, I know that. Well, I’ll assume you can understand what I’m about to say to you. When I was carrying out the initial tests on you, to see if there was anything in your make-up that might cause you to react badly to the operation, I found some very interesting things. I had no reason to think they’d make any difference to the treatment, so I wasn’t really bothered by them.

“Although we may know the location of a gene in the human body, we don’t necessarily know what it’s for. There are a number whose purpose we can’t identify, just as there always have been.”

“And I have some of these mystery genes in me?”

“Quite a few of them. I didn’t tell my, ah, new employers about that because I thought I’d done quite enough damage already. Now it’s been speculated the mystery genes may be to do with telepathy and things like that.”
He saw her stiffen.

“We know there are large areas of the human brain which are never used. Scans show that the whole of the brain is active at some level most of the time. But that doesn’t mean it’s active at all levels all of the time.

“We also know that under certain conditions, which usually come about accidentally, the parts which aren’t so active as others in performing certain tasks can be enabled. There are people in comas who suddenly start speaking fluent French, when they previously couldn’t understand a word of the language. There was a gang boss once…he wasn’t what you’d call an educated man. No intellect, though he was smart in his own way. His conversation consisted mostly of obscenities. As he lay dying in hospital having been fatally injured in a gangland brawl, he started, in his sleep, to pronounce at great length on subjects like philosophy, art and religion. Usually, it only seems to happen when the normal functions of the brain are for some reason suspended.”

“That seems to tie in with my experiences at Marcotech,” Caroline said, causing him to raise his eyebrows enquiringly. “I’ll explain more about that later. But we’re not talking about telepathy there, are we? Or telekinesis.”

“It’s something which may be related. Anyhow; there’ve been experiments which seem to show that there’s some kind of telepathic ability in humans, but the effect’s rather weak at present. It seems to be strongest among twins, especially identical ones. They seem to think alike, making the same choices as to which subject to major in at college, for example. That could just be because they’ve got the same mind anyway, to some extent, because of their genetic similarity. But there are other things which are less easy to explain. A person dies in an accident or is murdered, and at more or less the same time, thirty miles away, their twin suddenly collapses. As if they knew.

“Some animals probably have the ability; for one thing, there’s the way they seem to sense the approach of an earthquake or a storm. And it’s reckoned that in circumstances where the normal senses don’t work very well, like under the sea, an organism might develop telepathy.

Caroline decided to tell him. “When I was underwater at the Marcotech colony, I found I could…empathise with marine life. Not fish or molluscs, but whales and dolphins, which are more intelligent. I could sense their thoughts, or what passed for their thoughts. I think it was because my mind wasn’t functioning in the normal fashion. You can’t hear, see or speak underwater the same way that you do on land and I just wasn’t accustomed to that kind of existence. The other aquanoids couldn’t do it because they’d been drugged to help them adjust to their condition; I wasn’t, because you needed to see how a free mind could cope.”

“So as an aquanoid you were partly telepathic? That’s very interesting.” Zuckermann’s eyes lit up for a moment.
I’ll bet, Caroline thought.

“It could be, though,” went on Zuckermann, “that evolutionarily telepathy’s not very efficient; it’d cause too many problems if people really did have it.

“The subject’s still being researched, as I expect you’ve guessed. The results so far can be looked up quite easily on the Internet, but as you’re here…

“This country has been working to harness latent psychic powers among humans, on and off, for about thirty years. The possible military application excites certain people. We’ve tended to work with groups of subjects, either chosen at random or already suspected of having the powers in latent form. Over a period of time each was asked to do things like guess the colour of a certain object, present in their vicinity but which they could not see, or what the object was. The subjects were all put in the same room for the tests and given time to get to know each other and form relationships; a sort of camaraderie developed among them. The scientists in charge of the project were certain that this explained why a high proportion of the answers given were correct. They believed that shared emotion, empathy, along with the mental effort involved in the process, boosted the subjects’ psychic abilities.”
“So did anything come of it? Anything you could use?”

“I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you if it had. But no, it didn’t. The powers weren’t evident on enough occasions for us to be one hundred per cent sure it was telepathy and not just coincidence. The reason details of the tests are fully available on the Web is that they didn’t ultimately amount to anything.”

“What about that Israeli chap? Uri Geller? Doesn’t all that spoon-bending stuff prove it?”

“Maybe. Geller claims all kinds of psychic abilities: telepathy, telekinesis, ESP, dowsing – that’s detecting the presence of minerals in the ground - precognition, and the power to make seeds sprout in his hand within seconds, although not all of them have actually been observed. He once took part in a series of tests like the ones we’ve been talking about, and most of the time was able to identify the object correctly. However he admitted there were occasions when he was unsure – which may suggest he’s honest. It may also suggests the other answers, the correct ones, may have been down to coincidence. He admits his powers don’t always work; it depends on what mood he’s in or whether something’s distracting him.”

“Which would probably be the case with psychic abilities,” Caroline mused.

“I don’t know how he does the spoon-bending thing. But since it can’t be used to stop a ballistic missile in mid-flight, no-one sees it as anything other than a curiosity. Overall, there isn’t enough evidence to prove whether Geller is a genuine psychic. One problem is that we don’t know, because the existence of these powers in humans is unproven and their functioning certainly not properly understood, what kinds of external phenomena might interfere with someone’s ability to use them.

“So in a nutshell, the jury’s still out. My opinion is that yes we do have telepathy etcetera, some people to a greater extent than others, but something’s preventing the powers from being fully harnessed. All I can say for certain is this: the “mystery” genes are for those functions of the brain which are normally unused. They’re present in all of us, but you had more than the norm. It’s only a theory, but I suspect some are control genes that switch on the other ones, making a person fully telepathic.

“It looks like something or other has caused the control genes to become active. Stress, it would seem, from what you’ve been telling me; that squares with what little we know about the paranormal. That trigger may have been necessary for the process to start or perhaps it merely hastened it.

“Concerning the reasons why you’re like this, if you have a particular psychic ability I would be inclined to say it’s hereditary. Have your parents exhibited any symptoms?”

“Then either this is something which is unique to you as an individual, a genetic quirk, or the powers lay dormant in previous generations and have only just begun to surface. I couldn’t say more without detailed scientific research carried out in the right conditions. Do you really want to be a lab rat again?”

“Preferably not,” said Caroline. “Right now I just want some answers. Could I be right in thinking someone implanted the powers in me? By genetic engineering?” She explained her theories about Nazi involvement in the matter.

“It’s possible,” Zuckermann told her. “But they’d have had to be able to identify them in the first place, and transfer them from whoever originally possessed them. I don’t think you could necessarily tell a gene had been implanted in an organism just by looking at it. Only if it was doing something, or had some feature, which it normally wouldn’t; and even then it could simply be abnormal.”

“I see,” she murmured. “Well, if you’ve answered my questions as best you can, I should like to ask you a few more, if that’s alright.”

“After what I did to you it’s the least I can do. So fire away.”

In the adjacent room two employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, a senior agent named Jack Carver and a younger man called Marshall Stanbrook, sat wearing earphones the wires from which disappeared into the wall before them, where a cavity had been drilled to take the sensitive listening device now picking up every word of what passed between Caroline Kent and Dr Zuckermann. Normally this kind of work would be carried out by the FBI, but because Caroline tended to get involved in things that had an international dimension it had somehow been thought wise to use the external security service instead.

Stanbrook was utterly astonished at what he was hearing. “So she’s fucking telepathic?”

Carver was around fifty, with silver hair but smooth, tanned, youthful skin. “That’s what she said. Psychokinetic too.”
“I thought the word was telekinetic.”

“That just means the power is transmitted somewhere, not that it’s done by the mind.” Carver raised a hand for silence. “Hold on, we don’t want to miss anything.”

“ the middle of the God-damn Arabian desert? In broad daylight?”
Rachel Savident suppressed a smile.

Caroline blushed. “I won’t go into how it happened, if you don’t mind. But yes, I was. For about twenty minutes in all, maybe half-an-hour. I lost track of the time because I was trying to get away from these people, unsurprisingly.”
“You must have got awful sunburn,” he said with a shudder.

“I went a bit red for a while afterwards. But there was no lasting damage. The thing is though, I keep on thinking there should have been. Especially with skin like mine.”
“You reckon you ought to have skin cancer?”

“Well…you couldn’t check for me, could you?” He saw her suddenly look very worried. “Y-you must have the facilities here.” Rachel stiffened, concern in her face.

“Yes, I can do that alright,” Zuckermann nodded. “You might not like to know the answer, of course. If it’s set in it might be too late to do anything about it. I don’t see that many moles and blemishes on you, though. How often do you sunbathe?”

“Quite a lot. Not much more than other people, I don’t think, although I’ve never counted. I just don’t see how you can keep out of the sun, anyway. I love it too much. I always use lots of sun-tan lotion, of course, though they’re now saying it doesn’t make much difference. When I was in the desert I didn’t happen to have any available.”

Zuckermann frowned. “You’re certainly more susceptible to it than someone with darker skin would be. But I’ve always suspected there are other factors than skin type that determine whether or not someone’s at risk. Perhaps in the end it has more to do with the genes of individuals. Always best to take care, though. If there really is something unusual in your genetic make-up which effectively acts as a sunscreen, you won’t have much to worry about. But on the occasion you describe, it could just be you weren’t exposed quite long enough for there to be serious harm.”

“But fair-skinned northern Europeans – people like me – do get it if they spend too long in the sun?” she persisted.

“That’s what I said. The damage occurs because that’s what happens with fair skin in those conditions, there’s no way it wouldn’t. It’s a scientific fact. But maybe some people have something which repairs the damage afterwards, quickly enough not to leave any visible sign of it.

“As for why you’re blond when you only have one blond parent, although I can’t see why the question bothers you so much, I’m going to have to draw a blank there. There could be any number of reasons for it, and I’m sure there are plenty of others like yourself. It’s a fact that genes don’t always obey hard and fast rules and any scientist worth his salt knows that. I would offer one comment though. It’s been known for a marriage between a black person and a white person to produce two children one of whom is genetically 99% black while the other is genetically 99% white, without any artificial assistance involved. If that can happen then surely it’s possible for two white people, between whom the genetic difference is much less, to produce a child of the type who stays blond when one of the parents is dark.”

“I see,” Caroline nodded, at least partly reassured. “Well in that case there’s only one more question I’d like to raise. It..”

She swallowed. “It’s not something I prefer to talk about, actually.”
“Well then you’re not going to get an answer, are you?”

“OK. When I was in the Middle East on an oil job, I….God, you’re going to find this hard to believe. I fell in with some pretty nasty people. They weren’t all Arabs, I have to say. It was an international set-up. But I suppose you’d call them white slave traders. They kidnapped me and then they..did things…” She shuddered with dread at the memory, Rachel holding her hand while she told the whole story. “Beat me, stubbed cigarettes out on me, damaged me inside, then starved me almost to death once they’d had their fill of me. I was one huge mass of welts and bruises. I also picked up one or two nasty diseases, fortunately not fatal. As you can see I got over it, but – are you OK?”

Zuckermann was staring at her in horror, deathly pale. His face, and then his whole body, began to tremble, gently and first then with increasing violence. He let out a shuddering wail of anguish.

“Oh God! I – I did the same to you, I – I – oh, oh, oh…” He launched himself at her and wrapped her in a tight bear hug. “Oh, oh, I’m sorry, I….I….”

She waited until he had disentangled himself from her and sat back, his eyes pleading for forgiveness, then smiled warmly. “It’s OK. What you did doesn’t compare with what I suffered under those bastards, and you know it. I don’t bear any malice towards you, not now. I just want to know…should I really have recovered from it so well, given that blond people aren’t supposed to recover that easily from serious illness?”
Zuckermann looked surprised. “Aren’t they?”

“Or age well generally. The hair fades so easily, the looks go, the face cracks. It happens in fiction a lot and I’ve seen it in real life as well, quite a few times.”

“I don’t know if it’s a scientific fact. I should also add that there are any number of people, though they’re a relatively small percentage of the total population, who stay blond beyond say, their thirties. It’s those Vikings, you know. But another thing I found when I examined you at Marcotech was that your body had an exceptionally high level of Killer T cells.”
“They’re the ones that prevent infection, aren’t they?”

“That’s right. They’re why some people who are HIV-positive don’t get AIDS. I can only presume that’s why you pulled through so well. Maybe they help take care of other illnesses and injuries too.”

Zuckermann could see her mind was occupied absorbing all the information he’d given her. He waited a bit then suggested they do the skin cancer test.

She had to know. “Alright,” she sighed. “Let’s get it over with.”

While Helldorf patrolled the airport looking out for their quarry and her friend Varden, armed with Caroline’s photograph, proceeded to call on each of the five hire car firms in the area, asking if anyone looking like Caroline, but with dark hair, had borrowed a vehicle from the company within the last few hours. In case her friend had caught up with her and managed to calm her down he said it was possible she might have had another girl, also brunette, with her.

As it was, he had struck lucky first time. The firm based at the airport told him that a dark-haired woman, otherwise answering to the description of the one in the photo, had hired a car earlier in the day and returned it only ten minutes ago. On leaving the office she had been met by her friend.

Shit, just missed them. But that meant they might not be very far away. He called Helldorf to report what he’d found. It was agreed that Helldorf would proceed on the assumption they were still at the airport, intending to catch a flight; Varden that they were planning to take a bus journey (there was no rail station for quite a while in any direction) to somewhere not in easy reach from here by car. To be on the safe side he checked with the men now watching the hotel, in case they’d gone back there, but it seemed they they hadn’t. He told the watchers to keep looking out for them.

He had cruised round all the bus stops but couldn’t spot them. So he went to the main bus and coach station and consulted the map which showed all the different routes and where they ended.

There were three bus companies operating in the district, all based at this depot. They communicated with their drivers by radio. Varden asked them to put out a call to all buses asking each driver if at any time they’d picked up an attractive brunette with a British accent. Or two attractive brunettes with British accents, maybe.

The accents, he thought, would be particularly noticeable. He wasn’t wrong in that estimation. Within five minutes a call had been received from one driver to say he thought he had the two girls on his bus, whose ultimate destination was Robertsville, a small industrial town fifty miles to the south. The man was told to let Varden know when they disembarked. Varden thanked him and the company’s representative at the depot and drove to Robertsville.

So far no-one had suspected he wasn’t a real policeman. He came over convincingly as a cop because he’d been one not so long ago, until he was discharged from the force for beating up a civil rights activist during a protest. And if anyone needed to contact him with information he’d give them his cellphone number rather than that of any police station, a call to which would soon expose him.

He rang a rather disgruntled Helldorf, relieving him from the necessity of viewing hours of airport CCTV footage. Helldorf found a convenient place and stripped off his policeman’s uniform before setting off for Robertsville in his own car to join Varden.

Half an hour before Varden reached Robertsville the bus driver had rung his cellphone to say the two girls had just got off there. There was no rail link anywhere near so Varden decided they must be intending to hire a car to wherever it was they wanted to go. Unless they were planning to stay in town for the time being, in which case at least he and his colleagues knew where they were. They might have been trying to throw any pursuer off the scent, assuming they knew there was one. As a precaution Helldorf, once he arrived in Robertsville, checked the bus stops while Varden did the hire companies. There were two, from the second of which he learned that the two women he was looking for had rented a car from them and left in it just twenty minutes before. He was given a description of the car together with its number.
Twenty minutes. The girls couldn’t have gone far.

They’d keep an eye on the company offices; sooner or later, the car would have to be returned. But it was far better to snatch their prey on some country road, where they might be able to pull it off without being spotted, than in the middle of a busy town.

Helldorf had consulted a map of the area Varden had bought. Other than the one the bus had taken to get here, two roads – neither on any bus route - branched off from the town, one going east and the other south. The eastward road took led to another conurbation of small industrial towns, beyond which there was farmland for a while and then the sea. The southward traversed a large stretch of open country with a few scattered farms but only one or two sizeable settlements, separated by many miles. Much more promising, but was that where they’d gone? For quite a while there were no villages and nowhere else where someone might want to stop, apart from a motel and some big place, like a factory or something, that didn’t have a name. He’d try and get a couple of their comrades to take the road from the other end, to be sure of spotting their quarry.

Both roads were long. But as it would be some time before either reached any major town or city, traffic would be sparse, and once they did find the girls it was likely they could pull off the job without any interference. Of course anyone who did get in the way would soon wish they hadn’t.

He and Varden would take the southern road while the other members of the organization patrolled the eastward. Once all the arrangements were in place he called Thule to inform them of progress.

“You’ve found the girl?”
“Well we lost her, then picked up the trail again,” Helldorf told Heinrich. “We think we know where she is, more or less.”

“Any idea what she’s doing, travelling around the world with this friend of hers?”

“Not sure, but I somehow don’t get the impression they’re on holiday. It seems crazy to me. We’re in New Jersey and they’ve just left a town called Robertsville in a hired car. Nothing exciting in the area except some building that looks like it might be some top secret government place. Y’know, I was thinking….”

“They might be connected with the intelligence services? It makes things a bit risky. But there’s too much at stake for us to afford to lose the chance. Anyway, you could be wrong. Let’s just see.”
“OK.” Helldorf said goodbye and rang off.

The sound of fluttering wings made Heinrich look up. A bird; a raven to be precise. You did find them in Greenland, he knew.

How appropriate, he thought, in view of the importance of the bird in Germanic mythology. The chief god, Odin, had had two pet ravens, Hugin and Munin, which served as his eyes and ears, every day flying out from the abode of the gods to return with news from thae world of men.

One of the paramilitaries raised his rifle and took aim at it. “No, don’t kill it,” Heinrich shouted. “It’s a raven. You know it is sacred to us. And besides, you’d be wasting ammunition.”

The man lowered the weapon and nodded, accepting the rebuke. Then the raven was gone, flitting and wheeling along the corridors of the complex towards the exit, and the men in the chamber thought about it no more.

Zuckermann had removed a sliver of skin from Caroline’s forearm and placed it under a microscope. While he studied it carefully through the eyepiece she lay on the couch as stiff as a board with fear, hardly breathing.
Rachel smiled down at her. “It’ll be alright.”

Hope so, she thought. If the test proved positive…first her looks would go, which would be bad enough. She was so proud of them, how could she possibly cope? Then as the melanomia spread like..well, like a cancer, she would suffer illness, great pain and finally, before she was much older, death. The great unknown which was so terrifying because you could never know what awaited you there, and the thought of total and everlasting oblivion was depressing enough.

Her heart leapt as Zuckermann rose from the microscope and turned towards her. Then she saw that he was smiling.
“It’s OK,” he said. “You’re in the clear.”

She closed her eyes, took a deep shuddering breath, and opened them again. “For that alone, I’m extremely grateful.”
“What are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll have to decide. If I went back to this place I couldn’t be sure they’d ever let me out again.”

Zuckermann said nothing. “Well, if there’s anything more I can do for you…”

“I don’t know, I….” A last thought came to mind. “If I had a child….would anything that’s been done to me be passed on to them?”

“Well from what you’ve told me, it seems to be touch and go whether someone takes the altered genes or not. They might. Or it might not recur for another hundred generations.”

“I see,” she mused. “Well, I guess that’s about it. I’ll be on my way, if they’ll let me go. They won’t punish you for not telling them about the powers, will they?”

“Oh, I don’t think so. They’re not vindictive like that. They know there’s no point when they can do whatever they like to me, when they like.”
“How do they treat you, on the whole?”

“Oh, I’m allowed a certain amount of freedom. I can move about more or less freely….” His face changed, a cloud falling over it. ”But they’re watching me, all the time, wherever I go, whatever I do...flitting about like ghosts..shadows that move....”
“Are you alright?” Caroline asked.

“Yes,” he murmured. “I think so.” He pressed the buzzer to let the guard outside know the interview was over. The man entered and stood patiently waiting.

Caroline and Rachel got up. “’Bye, then,” Caroline whispered.
Zuckermann nodded vaguely in response, and they left.

“What do you reckon?” asked Stanbrook.
“I figure we should keep an eye on her for a while,” Carver said. “If she really is psychic then she’s a potential asset to us, one we don’t want to lose. Accidents can happen, she could get knocked down by a car and then that’s it. And I suppose there’s all kinds of people we don’t want to get their hands on her if we can help it.”

“So do we put a tail on her?” It wasn’t an ideal way to go about things. A tail couldn’t be maintained forever.

“We’ll try to. Meanwhile let’s see if we can fix things with the Brits. We want her over here if possible, where we can keep things under control.”
“Why not just keep her here?”

“The Brits may not like that. Of course they may not have any choice, but I always think it’s dangerous to strain the special relationship too far. Nothing stays the same forever.

“So let’s get the others,” Carver snapped. “We’re going after them.”

“Will you thank the Director on our behalf for letting us see Dr Zuckermann,” Rachel said to the guard.

“Will do, Ma’am. Let me show you to your car.” It was obvious he was concerned to see that they weren’t on the premises a moment longer than necessary.

Five minutes later they drove through the gates onto the main road and turned to the left, in the direction of Robertsville.
“Well, did that achieve anything?” Rachel asked.

“Other than that I know I haven’t got skin cancer, not really.” Caroline sighed. “It raised more questions than it answered. Too many “maybes” and “possiblys”, and I don’t like that sort of thing.”

“The Americans have always been interested in you,” Rachel said. “And in anything you or I might know about Marcotech and other things but not yet told them. Anything they might be able to turn into some kind of weapon. I’m convinced they’d have bugged our meeting with Zuckermann, which means they now know about your powers. They’ll contact London and try and get my bosses to lock you up somewhere, so they can find out more at their leisure.”
“Maybe there’s another way,” Caroline said.
“Like what?”

“If someone did engineer my, my line to be psychic, perhaps we could find out how they did it and reverse it. If those people are still alive, and the equipment they used still around…”

“How could we find them? They probably wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to do it, especially if they were Nazis. They wouldn’t have left a great deal of clues lying around. We could try, of course. Is that what you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Caroline, gazing abstractedly through the window. “I was you really suppose the Nazis wanted their perfect Aryans to be psychic?”

“If I were them I wouldn’t have. It would be too dangerous if the powers couldn’t be controlled.”

“But they were desperate. At that stage in the war, they were desperate. At a time when they’d been forced to retreat in North Africa, Russia and the Mediterranean, and rolled back from Stalingrad, and expected an invasion in the West any day…I know the flying bombs and the V2s might have seemed a better investment. But who knows what they cooked up in the way of secret weapons in the last two years of the war.”

“We can’t be sure it was them. Are you positive no-one else could have done it? The know-how just wasn’t there in the forties.”

“There’s no period of my life, before I first realised I had the power, that I can’t account for. When someone could have altered my genes without my realising it. But there is in my grandfather’s.

“I was thinking again about the reasons they might want to kidnap me. Sippenhaft; it might be. But supposing there’s another reason. Supposing they know the powers have become active in me and now they’re trying to reclaim their own?”
“It’s a possibility,” Rachel agreed.

Anxiously Caroline glanced out of the rear window. “There’s a car not far behind us.”
“You reckon it’s them? The Americans?”
“I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t have to be. It’s a bit of a coincidence, seeing as we’ve only just left Zuckermann’s place. And we know they’re interested in you there. On the other hand, we could just both be being paranoid.”

It helped to focus Rachel’s mind on their problem. “Caroline, we’ve got to decide what we’re going to do, and soon. I’ll be in enough trouble once Cameron-Davies and Haverhill find out I’ve made an unauthorized visit to the Centre. If I don’t make contact with them pretty soon I’ll be chucked out of the service and then I won’t be able to protect you if you should need my help at any time in the future.”

“I’ll need to tell my parents what’s going on,” Caroline said. “Then I won’t just seem to disappear. They won’t be quite so worried about me.”

“If we’re followed to them, and it’s realised they know about the powers, they’ll be seen as a security risk.”

Caroline’s face twisted in frustration and she banged on the dashboard with her fist.

“But would they tell anybody you were being held somewhere?” Rachel said, trying to reassure her.

”They wouldn’t if they thought it’d put me in danger. Because it might, mightn’t it? The more people know about what…what I am, the less likely I’d ever be allowed to come out of this alive.”

“I’ll try and find some way of telling them what’s happened without the Service knowing. Or anyone else for that matter.”

“You’re welcome. So what’s the plan, then? Are we going to stay on the run or throw ourselves on the tender mercies of the Service? I’ll go along with whatever you decide.”

“I’ll need to think about it. One thing’s for certain, I’d rather give myself up to MI6 than the Americans. And I insist that the research is carried out under their control, in Britain.”

“I’ll see if I can arrange that. But remember, I won’t have an awful lot of clout with them if I get sacked.”

Rachel’s tone changed. “Caroline, I really think this is the sort of business where we’re going to have to take it as it comes. There’s not much time to make a decision in, and somehow I don’t think we’ll be able to run for very long, not without help. And whoever we went to, it would mean letting them in on the secret.”

Caroline relapsed into moody silence. She was certain the British would hand her gift-wrapped to the Americans, sooner or later, though she wasn’t in any hurry for it to happen. The Yanks usually got what they wanted. And even if they took it and then let her go, as they’d done with the aquanoids, it wouldn’t calm her fears for the safety of the world at large. The powers were far too dangerous for anyone to possess. She had no wish to be a hunted fugitive, but nor did she want to be responsible for bringing God knew what kind of disaster upon humanity. No way.

It would be quick. All she had to do was undo her seatbelt, open the door and throw herself out. Goodbye, Rachel. Thankyou for being there when I needed you. But now there’s really no other way out, I’m sorry.

But did she have the courage? More to the point, could she stand the thought of the effect such an act would have on her family?

“There’s that motel up ahead,” she heard Rachel say. “Let’s stop for a bit of refreshment. I think we could both do with some.”

“I hadn’t expected it,” said Stefan Wolniak. “But Caroline Kent is on our files.”
“How come?” asked Hans Faltermeyer. “Is she mixed up in anything dubious?”

“I’d better explain,” began Nigel Haverhill. “Caroline resigned from the Service some time ago but still has links with us. In fact she worked with a couple of Stefan’s people on a very important case a while back. Pro-Palestinian sympathies, but prepared to help Israel nonetheless if enough’s at stake. What I don’t understand is how she’s connected with this current business.” In fact he did know, or thought he knew, after what the Americans had just told Vauxhall Bridge. But he wasn’t sure if he wanted to share the knowledge with Berlin or Jerusalem, for the moment anyhow. “I just wish I could get hold of her case officer. We’ve got agents out looking for them at the moment, and I’ll let you know as soon as there are any developments.”
“What about Higson?” asked Noa Golani.

“He doesn’t seem to have been back to the UK. We’ve searched his house but haven’t found any clues. All I can tell you is that his sister had the idea he was up to something, but didn’t take her suspicions to the police.”
“She should have had more of a sense of responsibility,” Golani said.
“I don’t think she knew enough to make it worthwhile. Lots of trips overseas, general avoidance of contact with his family, but no firm proof he was involved with the Thule mob.”
Stefan Wolniak turned to Hans Faltermeyer. “Any news of Wachter?”

“We tailed him but lost him. No idea where he is now. We’ve been looking, of course, with the help of about two dozen other national police forces and intelligence agencies. But all the leading Thule people seem to have disappeared and going by the results of our questioning the rest genuinely don’t know where they are or what they’re planning, which of course was the intention. Since there’s no proof any of the rank-and-file membership have actually done anything wrong we can’t keep on holding them.” It was impossible to arrest them all anyway, so the operation had concentrated on the principal players, any attempt by whom to leave the country had to be reckoned as suspicious. “There’s Schwege, but he’s not being very co-operative at the moment.”

Noa Golani’s lip curled. “You’re too soft. You ought to let us question him, we’ll soon have the truth.”
“I’m not sure I’m allowed to do that.”

“Bearing in mind who these people are, and what they have been responsible for in the past, I think you can make an exception in this case.”

“The end justifies the means, eh?” said Faltermeyer. “Forgive me, but the Nazis might have used the same argument.”
“The comparison is inappropriate and offensive.”

“I meant no disrespect. I’m only saying that there are certain issues, issues of human rights and personal liberty, involved. Ironically perhaps, it is precisely because of our nation’s past that we are reluctant to use methods which are reminiscent of totalitarian states.”

“So, then it all depends on this, this girl,” Golani said drily. “Well, when the time comes I’m sure we’ll all be very interested in what she has to say.”

It was no good, thought Caroline. She wasn’t going to do it, although she’d never admit she didn’t have the courage. And that meant she had to look for some other solution. She might as well “take things as they come.”

“Do you suppose our people would have the resources to do the research?” she asked Rachel, making sure to keep her voice low.

“I doubt it. I imagine only the Yanks would have the money and be prepared to spend it. At the very least, they’ll expect the knowledge to be shared with them.”

“They’ll kick up a fuss if it isn’t,” Caroline remarked moodily.
If it came to the worst she resolved to be a difficult subject, co-operating as little as possible. They would have to put up with it because they wouldn’t want to harm her, and because Rachel would ensure the truth leaked out if they did. The thought cheered her up considerably.
“Excuse me a while, I’m just going to the loo,” she said, and rose and left the dining room.

She was gone a long time. Rachel wondered if she should go and look for her. The chilling thought came that she had decided to take the easy way out and was slumped on the toilet dead from an overdose of the tablets.

Four men in suits came in and sat down at one of the tables, talking and laughing together. They looked like businessmen, perhaps on their way to a convention somewhere; or maybe something else. There was no way of telling.

Caroline came back, or rather a woman emerged from the door which led to the lavatories and approached their table. It took Rachel a moment or two to recognize her. She had washed off the dye and was smiling cheerfully, back to her usual blonde self. Rachel gave her an enquiring look.
“Just taking things as they come,” she explained.

Having seen no sign of Rachel and Caroline’s hire car on the eastern road, despite cruising up and down it a couple of times, Helldorf’s back-up concluded they must have taken the southern, unless they’d just disappeared into thin air. It was agreed with Helldorf that they’d cover the road in the opposite direction to where he and Varden were stationed in their police car. This meant first having to return to Robertsville. An hour later they passed the police car, which had been parked by the side of the road. They carried on towards the motel and the towns beyond, intending to stop only if it became clear that Rachel and Caroline had taken a different route. There were a couple of service stations along the way so they didn’t have to worry about petrol.

“I’m very sorry about all this, Sir,” Rachel told Nigel Haverhill. “But I did have my reasons.”

He didn’t sound appeased. “Yes, Rachel, I’m sure you did. We’ll talk about it later. For now, just get the two of you back home safe and sound. There’ve been some developments that may help us catch the people who are after Caroline.”
“Shall we go to the safe house in Goulburn Street, Sir?”

“It’ll do. I’m in Germany at the moment but once I know you’ve arrived there safely I’ll come straight over and meet you. Meanwhile, I’m arranging for you to be met at Kennedy and be put on a special flight to Brize Norton. Alright?”
“Alright, Sir.”

She told Caroline what had been agreed. “They’ll want to interrogate the two of us. As we both accept the only option is to tell the truth, they won’t need to put the screws on us too much.”
“Mmmmm,” replied Caroline, contemplating apprehensively what lay ahead.

Something else occurred to her. It was a striking and in some ways unsettling thought. She had been assured after the Marcotech business, when the operation that had turned her into an aquanoid had been reversed, that she was exactly as she had been before it, every single cell; and there was no reason to doubt it that she could see. But the whole question served to remind her that one was never, from day to day, quite the same person in any case. Cells died and were renewed, hair and skin fell off and crumbled to dust and new tissue grew to replace them. But always we were renewed to the same unique pattern, she reflected. Even physically there is something that is quintessentially, indissolubly me. A unique person in a unique body, never genetically quite identical to another even in the case of twins, that had been given to them as their own special present. The only issue was how far the pattern was due to the Nazis.

“Er, what was that, sorry?” she said, aware that Rachel had been speaking.
“You realise,” said the MI6 agent awkwardly, “that if you tried to run away or anything I’d have to shoot you.”
“Oh, I don’t begrudge you that,” Caroline said. “It’s your job. And you were going to stand by me, weren’t you? I appreciate that.”
“Anytime. So you’ve definitely decided to face the music?”
“I can’t see we’ve any other choice.”

A car, a Ford, came towards and past them with two men in the front. Though it was the only other vehicle there, on this lonely stretch of road in this lonely stretch of countryside, they gave it barely a moment’s thought.

They had seen the Buick which they had thought might be following them in the car park of the motel as they were leaving. They couldn’t be sure it was the same vehicle, though.

While they continued on their way to Robertsville the driver of the Ford was speaking excitedly into his cellphone to Helldorf, who was already in position. “Frank, we just passed them! Heading right your way.”
“Well done boys, that’s great. OK, you know the drill.”

After a safe interval the Ford slowed, stopped with a screech of brakes, then swung round and set off in pursuit of the hired car, keeping far enough behind it to avoid being spotted by its quarry. Just in case Helldorf needed any help when the time came.

The occupants realised that a third car was coming up alongside them. It was going much faster and soon overtook them. “I hope that isn’t going to be a problem,” grunted the driver, Mawson.
“Maybe they’ll turn off,” said his companion, Berger.

“There aren’t any turn-offs, not for ages.” That was how they knew there was only one way Caroline Kent and her companion could be going, and that was to Robertsville.

They called Helldorf. “If there’s any trouble we’ll just have to handle it as best we can,” he said. “If we don’t make our move before we get to Robertsville we may not get another chance.”

Up in front, Caroline and Rachel were keeping their eyes on the road ahead and trying not to think about what the future held in store. Suddenly Rachel spoke. “I suppose,” she said, “that the Americans won’t mind us having a share in your powers provided they’ve got one too. Then there’d be a sort of balance.”

The thought made Caroline feel a lot happier, and she nodded approvingly. “Like with Mutual Assured Destruction during the Cold War?”

“That’s right. After all, if you could use telekinesis on a large enough scale, and to destroy people or buildings, it’d effectively be a weapon of mass destruction.”
“Sure would. But why would we want to – hello, what’s this?”

Several hundred yards ahead, there seemed to be a car parked clean across the road, with a couple of figures standing beside it and waving. An accident? Or something more sinister, from their point of view?

“Hmmm,” said Caroline nervously. Rachel felt her go tense, thoughts of the incident at the Kaiser Friedrich no doubt coming to mind.

“There’s a pair of binoculars in the glove compartment,” Rachel said. A good agent never knew when they might need something like that. “Would you mind taking a look through them and seeing who it is?”

Caroline found them and squinted through them. She saw the black-and-white livery, the flashing lights, the uniforms of the two men beside the vehicle. “It’s police.”

They cut their speed, cruising gently towards the roadblock – that was what the two men and the car constituted – instinctively on alert for any sign of trouble. Not that they had any reason to suppose there’d be any. Just a couple of cops doing their duty.

They came to a stop a few yards from the police car, and Rachel wound the window down as one of the policemen came forward. He bent to speak to them. “Sorry, ladies, but we’re on high alert at the moment. Just had a report of a suspected terrorist in the area, probably on his way to blow something up. Would you mind both stepping out of the car, please?”

Rachel was about to reach into her pocket for her MI6 pass, but the thought occurred to her they might think she was pulling a gun and shoot her. The Americans were paranoid enough, these days. It seemed ridiculous, especially when neither of them looked anything like your average al-Qaeda terrorist. But better to err on the side of caution. Whenever she felt inclined to get angry about it Rachel forced herself to think of crashing airliners, collapsing skyscrapers and blazing wreckage raining down on the firefighters and the people in the streets.

She and Caroline looked at each other, eyebrows raised, then smiled tolerantly at the policeman. “Fine,” Rachel said. “Are you going to search us?”

“Uh-huh,” the man nodded. “Gotta make sure, and that’s the only way.”

“Then you’ll find I’ve got a gun. I work for the British Security Services and I’m fully authorised to carry firearms; I can show you my ID if you like.”

Helldorf felt a moment’s unease at the confirmation of his suspicions. In what way were British intelligence involved? How much did they know? He told himself not to worry, because it was two armed people against one, and to just get on with the job. If they were involved then the sooner they hauled in their catch and spirited her away the better.

It was fortunate, though, that the unease hadn’t been enough to show. The spook woman didn’t seem to suspect anything. “I’ll look at your ID in a minute, Ma’am, if that’s all right. Would you step out of the car please?”

Caroline made to open the passenger door, not seeing anything wrong, but Rachel stopped her, an arm flashing out to grab her shoulder.

Shouldn’t he have shown more reaction on being told she was MI6? It did seem a little odd.

At that moment Helldorf came to the same conclusion. He realised his mistake and adjusted. “Look, I’m sorry Ma’am. I know you’re MI5 or whatever, but how do I know your ID ain’t false? I should warn you we’re both armed, my buddy and I, so we’d put a bullet in the tyres before you could get very far.”

He was thinking of the guys in that other car Mawson had told him about. He could already see the vehicle approaching them, starting to slow down as it saw the roadblock. He didn’t want to give them any idea that something might be wrong.

He nodded to Varden to go over and speak to them. As Varden went off, Caroline and Rachel were getting out of the hired car, having decided there was little point in resistance. But the blonde girl was suspicious now, you could tell, and less cool about it than her friend. If she caused any trouble…..

“Would you please walk round to the front of the car and stand with your hands flat on the bonnet.” The two women obeyed.

“May I, uh, inquire what your people are doing here?” Helldorf asked Rachel. “Is it anything to do with – “

“Your terrorist? No, this is something completely different. Can’t tell you what it is I’m afraid, classified information and all that.”
“Fair enough, I guess.” He ordered Varden to frisk the girls.

To Caroline and Rachel it seemed the policeman was taking rather a long time over it, for some reason, and they felt themselves becoming annoyed. “Couldn’t you have got a woman to do this?” Caroline complained, a sign of her nerves.

“Wasn’t time to find one, Ma’am. Told you, we only just heard about this al-Qaeda, or whatever he is, guy. Had to move fast. Otherwise we’d have waited until the anti-terrorist boys could get here.”

“So what’s he going to blow up? There isn’t much around here that a terrorist would bother about. If I were him I’d head for New York, and that’s far enough from here for you to have time to organize a proper roadblock.”

Again Helldorf thought fast. “We reckoned it might be that big place down the road there, belongs to the government. Obviously something important, that’s why they don’t tell you what it is.”

“But we’ve just come from there,” Caroline protested. “Or are you saying we might have planted a bomb in it? Oh, what’s the use. You’re just paranoid. It’s well-known you people’s minds don’t work on a logical basis when it comes to things like this. Otherwise there wouldn’t be all those people still in Guantanamo Bay who by now ought to have either been released or put on trial. I know you can’t afford to take too many chances these days, but really…”

“Anything you say, honey,” the policeman said. He sounded amused more than anything else. Out of the corner of her eye Rachel saw Caroline scowling and grinned.

Meanwhile the Buick had pulled up behind them. The driver leaned out the window and addressed Helldorf. He was a middle-aged man with a tanned face and sleek grey hair. “What’s the trouble, officer?”

He explained. “We’re searching everyone just to be on the safe side.” They had to keep up the pretence. “So if you don’t mind, Sir…”
“No need,” the driver said. “We’re CIA. Want to see our passes?”
For just a second or two, Helldorf froze. CIA. This was a more serious matter.

He could now hear the engine of a fourth car in the mid-
distance. Presumably this was Mawson and Berger. He hoped so, anyhow. If it wasn’t….and anyway he didn’t want a shoot-out, whose outcome couldn’t be predicted, if they could avoid it.

CIA and British intelligence; it couldn’t just be coincidence. And the Americans were on their home soil, they could do just about whatever they liked. You didn’t mess with their kind if you could help it.
This time the unease showed. At first the CIA man looked puzzled, then his eyes narrowed, turning to cold grey steel. “Is anything wrong, officer?”
“Er – no, Sir, I don’t think so,” Helldorf answered, struggling desperately to keep his nerve. “Uh, what do you mean, Sir?”

The grey eyes burnt into him the way ice could stick to your flesh at the North Pole. “I should like to call your station, if you don’t mind.” The spook had reasoned that any ID would probably be fake. “Would you let me have the number?”

At the same moment, the hands of his three companions went to the guns in the inside breast pockets of their suits. As did his own.

Caroline and Rachel were glancing at one another. They had overheard the conversation and didn’t like what it signified.
“Uh – the number?” Helldorf stared at the spook blankly, as if not understanding what he had said.

The spook nodded to his friends, and with robot-like synchronicity all four men climbed out of the car, two of them pointing their guns at Helldorf while the other pair covered Varden. Caroline and Rachel recognized the group from the motel and relaxed a little. If they were who they suspected them to be it was a relief, sort of.

“OK,” Carver rapped. “I don’t know what’s going on here but I’m gonna find out. Put your hands up, both of you. Make one move for your guns and we shoot.”

Then the Ford coming up to the roadblock suddenly gathered speed and shot off the road to the left, Mawson shooting from the front passenger window at the four CIA men with his Sig-Sauer pistol. The CIA men whirled round, their attention distracted from the two fake cops, who threw themselves down instinctively as soon as Mawson opened fire. Caroline and Rachel did the same.

One of the CIA jerked and folded in two as several bullets ripped through his heart, killing him instantly. A shot hit the rear window of their car, shattering it in an explosion of broken glass.

Then the CIA started firing back, peppering Mawson and Berger’s vehicle with bullets. A tyre burst and the car began to slow, lurching from side to side. The four people on the ground twisted round to see what was happening.

The fake policemen saw their chance. Another CIA man crumpled and fell as Helldorf whipped his gun from his holster and shot him in the back. The Nazi was about to select another target when Rachel Savident opened fire with her Beretta from behind him, dropping him instantly. A second bullet from Rachel ended Varden’s life a split second before he could pull the trigger of his gun and shoot Carver.

The two CIA men whirled round. Carver’s eyes met Rachel’s and he smiled, realising she’d just saved their lives. Just for a moment she sensed a genuine warmth in him, an awareness of common ground.

Mawson and Berger’s car screeched to a halt, shuddered and was still. The Americans turned their attention to the stricken vehicle, selecting it as their priority, wary in case its occupants were uninjured and conscious and likely to shoot. They started to approach it cautiously, guns drawn.

Rachel looked at Caroline. Get back in the car, she mouthed. Better to get as far away from the Americans as they could, and hopefully lose them, common ground or not.
She realised the hired car was trapped between the CIA vehicle and the fake, or stolen, police car. They’d have to take the CIA car instead – sorry, boys.

Rachel nodded towards it. Moving as slowly and quietly as possible, they climbed in and Rachel started the engine. Its sound caused the two Americans to spin round instantly. They saw their car reverse, veer off the road and back onto it, circumventing the two other vehicles. Rachel flashed a smile at them from the wheel.

The Americans hesitated. Then Carver made up his mind; his orders had been to follow the two girls, not letting them out of his sight, and the wrecked Ford wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. “Let’s get after them,” he snapped. He nodded towards the Ford. “But take care.”

Their eyes trained on the Ford, watching keenly for any sign of movement from it, they backed away slowly towards the hired car. Reaching it safely, they jumped in, reversed and drove round the police car onto the grass and then back onto the road.

“I feel a bit rotten doing this to them,” Rachel was saying to Caroline meanwhile.
So did Caroline, although she was less inclined to show it. “Who do you think those bogus cops really were?”
“No idea. But they obviously were bogus, which suggests to me they were aiming to kidnap us, or something like that. Coming after the business at the hotel in Germany, don’t you think that’s a bit significant?”

“I do,” murmured Caroline. “The question is, who’s the real danger – the Americans, or whoever’s trying to snatch me? It would help if we knew what they….what’s going on? Why are we slowing down?”

The car was not only slowing, it was lurching backwards and forwards, juddering as it did so in a way most uncomfortable for its occupants. Rachel trod on the brakes. They got out and examined it, for the first time noting the several bullet holes that been punched in the bodywork. Obviously some vital component had been hit and damaged.
“Shit,” Rachel said.

Caroline sighed. She could hear the Americans’ car coming along the road towards them. They’d probably offer to pick them up but she didn’t feel inclined to trust them.

“The police car,” she said suddenly. “Let’s try and work our way back to it.” She nodded at the belt of scrub, bushes and trees which fringed the road, forming effectively a small wood. “We could lose ourselves in this lot. Quickly, they’ll be along any minute.”

Rachel wondered if it was worth the bother. “I don’t think they actually mean to kidnap us, or they’d have done it at the Centre. I think they just want to keep tabs on us.”
But Caroline had already disappeared into the shrubbery, not wanting to lose any time. Rachel sighed and plunged in after her.

A little later the hire car with the two CIA men inside it pulled up beside the abandoned Buick. Carver’s eyes went to the vegetation at the side of the road. “They may be in there somewhere.” They got out of the car and stood listening. Faint rustling sounds reached their ears from somewhere deep in the little wood. If they could be heard from here then they must be made by something fairly large, such as a human being. Carver tried to gauge the direction in which they were moving.

He smiled, realising his quarry’s intent. “They’re heading back to the cop car. Let’s see if we can get there before them. Better than screwing about in all that lot.” He made to get back into the hire car, but his colleague stopped him. “Hold on, Jack. What if they hear the car stop and work out what we’re doing? Shouldn’t we go on foot?”

“We’ll have to risk that. For one thing, there are those other two goons in the Ford. I don’t feel safe walking around while they may still be alive and dangerous.”
“If they are, wouldn’t they have taken the police car and beat it?”
“They could still be out cold. In which case I want to get there before they wake up. We can take care of them and pick up the girl at the same time.”

“’Course, we don’t know who these guys are or what they’re after,” the junior agent said as Carver started the engine, turned the car round and drove off. “My guess is they want the girl. Which means they’ll have to take care of us first.”

Carver trod hard on the accelerator and the car gathered speed. He didn’t want to lose even seconds if he could help it, despite the fact that their destination was only about a mile away at the most.

Ahead, they saw the vegetation at the roadside come to an end, and a little later the police car still there in the middle of the road, with the crashed Ford a short distance away. There was no sign of life in its vicinity. Carver made to cut their speed. The junior agent saw his face tense, alarm flashing in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t slow down,” Carver gasped. He trod on the brakes but nothing happened. If anything the car seemed to be going faster. The scenery on either side of them flashed by in a blur as it rapidly exceeded the speed limit. ”What the hell is going on?” The junior agent heard the panic in his colleague’s voice. “I can’t stop it! It’s out of control!”

Then something slammed into the car and flipped it high in the air. The vehicle performed a complete circle, going boot over bonnet, battering its occupants against the roof and walls like insects trapped inside a roulette wheel, then landed on its roof and slid along with a screech of tortured metal. It left the road and ploughed through about ten yards of earth and vegetation before smashing into a tree and crumpling like a concertina. The men inside were already dead when the petrol tank exploded, turning the little car into a blazing red fireball.

”Thelma and Louise,” grinned Caroline suddenly.
“Oh yes,” said Rachel noncommittally. “Er – you realise we can’t expect to keep it up for long, not in a stolen police car?”
“I might as well have some fun before I get locked away in some laboratory, maybe for good,” Caroline said.
You think this is fun, thought Rachel. I’m not sure that I do.

They could still hear the sound of the Americans’ engine, now some way ahead of them. At once its pitch changed, as if they were racing along at breakneck speed. Then they heard a shattering crash followed by the dull booming roar of an explosion.

The two friends stared at each other in horror. At once, all thought of flight was abandoned. They scrambled through the shrubbery onto the road and ran towards the sound of the flames.
The burning, smoking heap of wreckage came into view and they skidded to a stop, staring transfixed. They could see no bodies on the ground nearby, and it was quite obvious no-one in the vehicle could have survived.
There was pity and horror in Caroline’s face. She turned to her companion, appealing for some kind of explanation. “Rachel, they…they…..what happened?”

Rachel thought of the American’s expression when she saved his life, the sense of comradeship the two of them had felt for a moment. ”I don’t know,” she said hollowly. “I just don’t know.”

They stood and stared into the inferno for a few moments longer, then Caroline gave a weary sigh. “There’s nothing we can do. We’d better just call the emergency services and then beat it.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” rasped a harsh voice.

They looked round with a start, and saw a man standing before them, covering them with a handgun. His face was badly bruised down one side and there was a bloody gash across his forehead. They assumed he had come from the crashed Ford.
Rachel nodded towards the burning hire car. “Did you do that?”
“I dunno what happened there, to be honest,” the man replied. “They just seemed to go out of control. But it sure was lucky for me. Now turn around, both of you.”

Rachel knew that if she made to draw her gun she’d be dead in an instant. The tone of the man’s voice left no doubt about that. She did as he’d said.

Something heavy thudded down on the back of her head and a myriad brilliantly-coloured lights exploded into existence like fireworks before her eyes. She crumpled to the ground, and a moment later Caroline joined her there.

Mawson looked down at them, and his lips peeled back in a wolfish grin of triumph. He’d not long come round to find Berger slumped in the passenger seat beside him, having been hit in the head by one of the bullets that had gone through the rear window. The bloody hole in his cranium told Mawson there was nothing he could do for the guy. He himself had survived by literally keeping his head down. The impact when the car crashed had knocked him out, but inflicted no serious injuries. He stayed where he was until certain that the CIA or whoever they’d been had gone. Then they’d returned to the scene only to meet with a nasty and, for them, extremely unfortunate accident.

He couldn’t hang around. Eventually someone was bound to notice the scene of general carnage and call the authorities. Mawson hurried over to the police car, where everything he needed was to be found. The keys to the boot were in Helldorf’s pocket. He found them, unlocked it, got the stuff out and returned to his captives.

He injected Caroline with the hypo, a tiny prick to the base of her neck, enough for her to stay out for the next couple of hours at least. Then he lifted her gently, reverently, and placed her in the boot. Rachel he tied hand and foot, gagged with a length of ducting tape, and laid on the back seat with a blanket thrown over her. That should suffice until they got to some nice quiet spot where no-one would see what he was doing.

He slammed the side door shut and straightened up. Just before getting in, he glanced back once more at the still-burning CIA car.

Something in the sky above it caught his eye, and he craned his neck to get a better look at it. It was a bird, a large black bird of a sort he thought he recognized. For a moment it wheeled above the funeral pyre of the two CIA agents, then flew in his direction, close enough for him to tell what it was. He grinned: a raven. Odd to find one here; they usually inhabited bleak, rugged, inhospitable places rather than normal countryside. But very appropriate, very Wagnerian.

The stage was set for Ragnarok. And he and his kind would survive the conflagration, to rule the world. He gazed after the bird as it disappeared into the distance, then climbed into the car and drove away.

A few miles on, Mawson turned the police car off the main road along a short, bumpy track into a dense wood. Once he was sure he couldn’t be seen from the road he stopped the car and got out. Opening the side door, he looked down at the blanket-covered form of Rachel Savident. The folds of material stirred as she began to come round, mumbling confusedly through the gag.

He jerked the blanket away. “Don’t struggle,” he ordered, pointing the gun down at her. “Just do exactly as I say and you’ll be fine.” He untied her feet and motioned to her to get out of the car. In his other hand he clutched several more coils of rope.

Keeping a tight grip on her arm, he scanned the trees around them until he saw what seemed to be a path, branching off from the main track into the heart of the wood. He hustled Rachel along it until they came to a suitable tree, then positioned her against it and lashed her tightly to the trunk, feet as well. When he was satisfied she wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, he stepped back and regarded his captive with a smile.

Her fear was tightly controlled. She was a cool one, he thought; a professional. “No hard feelings,” he assured her. “I’m just doing what I have to.” Her eyes returned his gaze impassively.

Mawson returned to the car and called the local cell. ”Listen, I’ve got the girl. It’ll be a while before anyone realizes what’s happened. But you gotta pick us up, quick. I can’t go riding around in a stolen police car for long without somebody getting suspicious.” He teld them roughly where he is. “Find the area on a map and see if you can fix a place to meet me. Right now I gotta get out of here.”

Turning round with difficulty, he drove back along the narrow track to the road and turned to the right. By now he had dressed himself in Helldorf’s police uniform. If someone noticed that the driver of the car was wearing civilian clothes, they might just wonder why.

It was starting to get dark now; all the better for him to conceal himself somewhere. They’d noticed an old house, now derelict and abandoned, at one point on the way down; by his reckoning it couldn’t be far from his current position. Might be a good place to hole up with the girl until they came to collect him.

Before long he saw its dark mass loom up forbiddingly on his right, starkly illuminated in the glare of the car’s headlights. There was a driveway leading up to it, choked with weeds, and what looked like a garage built onto one side. He drove the car up to the garage and tried the doors, which stood partly open, to see if they could be closed. Having established that they could, he drove inside. With the vehicle safely screened from view he took Caroline, slung her over his shoulder and carried her through a connecting door into the house.

Laying her on the floor of what had been the living room, where a few items of furniture still stood shrouded in cobwebs, he called his colleagues again and gave his approximate position. Then he settled down to wait, giving Caroline another dose of the drug whenever she showed signs of coming round.

A couple of hours later his friends arrived with the truck. Caroline was placed in the back and once more covered with blankets, Mawson stationing himself beside her.

Three hours after that, they turned into the car park of the Geophysical Survey Institute, a scientific organization concerned with measuring the effects of global warming on different environments and devising a strategy for countering them, at Harpers Bay on the coast of Massachusetts. The Institute, ostensibly the sponsor of the Thule expedition, was privately owned and funded, its director being a successful local businessman who was also a secret member of the Thule Society. The GSI had its own dockyard at Harper’s Bay; there, in one of the warehouses, Caroline Kent was placed within a specially constructed crate equipped with its own air recycling system to enable her to survive the voyage to Greenland, without having to drill holes which might arouse suspicion of a vigilant customs official. The crate was conveyed by forklift truck to the quay where a crane loaded it onto a cargo ship. The vessel then set sail for Thule.

Their captive would remain drugged throughout the entire journey. The problem of feeding her would be solved by doing it intravenously. As for any danger of her being discovered, this was felt to be so slight that it was not worth worrying about. Fortunately, customs officials were concerned more with people attempting to illegally enter the United States than with anyone being smuggled out of it. It wasn’t particularly apparent to them why somebody would want to do that. And the GSI was to all intents and purposes a perfectly respectable, legitimate organization. A combination of corruption, having one or two sympathizers in high places, and the current acceptability of privatization in all walks of life meant that no-one would bother to check its apparently impeccable scientific credentials, or necessarily find anything wrong with them if they did.

All recruits to MI6 underwent training in escapology. Unfortunately, how useful this turned out to be depended on how tight a captor tied the knots. Mawson had made a pretty good job of it – it was an alternative to killing her – and by the time Rachel succeeded in freeing herself, several hours later, she was tired, cold, wet, hungry and filthy.

She then had to try and make her way back through the woods to the road, in the dark. She considered staying where she was and waiting until morning, but decided it might be better for her welfare if she got back to civilization as soon as possible. Another thing which needed to be done as soon as possible was to rescue Caroline from her abductors.

On the way to where she had been tied up Rachel, all the time trying not to think about what her fate might be, had sought to memorise every detail of her surroundings, so that later she could find her way back to the main road. As it happened she was alive and the knowledge could now come in useful. She had not of course been able to distinguish every single bush, every single tree, from its fellows, except where it stood alone or was particularly distinctive in shape, but she could remember where all the main paths, marked out over the years by the feet of walkers and birdwatchers, had been. Her only problem was that it was night.

Fortunately the moon was bright enough for her to make out the densely massed, dim shapes of the trees and thus, from the spaces between them, where the paths were. She made quite good progress, and before too long the sound of an engine told her she was fairly close to the road. Frustratingly, the vehicle would be well into the distance by the time she got there.

Then a cloud passed in front of the moon, and decided to settle there.

The next few minutes were a nightmare. She had to grope her way along, struggling to hold on to her sense of direction, feeling for the rough texture of the bark of the trees and having to suppress panic whenever her fingers failed to find it, scrabbling in empty air. The ghastly thought came that she might fall into a dip and, if it went down far enough, be knocked out, injured or even worse. She stumbled blindly on, whimpering with fear as her nerve finally started to crack, a child that had lost its way in the woods.

Every few seconds, whichever way she turned, she found herself blundering into a tree. She tasted a warm wetness and realised her nose was bleeding. Brambles scratched at her face, her eyes, once almost blinding her. Again she shouted for help as loud as she could, again no-one heard her. She was close to panic. Then the cloud decided to move on and once again she could see clearly. She found she had left the path, but was able to work out the way back to it without difficulty.

Finally, sobbing with relief, Rachel staggered onto the grass verge at the side of the road, into clear moonlight. Exhausted, she sat down to wait for the next vehicle to come along.

She could call the emergency services and have them pick her up. But that might not actually be the best thing to do. While she had been tied up her main concern had of course been to get the ropes off. But throughout that long and difficult struggle, and then the hazardous journey through the woods, Rachel had had time to think.

“It took a while,” said Pete Stankovic, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “But the two bodies in the car have been identified as Jack Carver and Howard Ross. Logan and Stanbrook both died from bullet wounds. The others were all known members of the National Socialist White Freedom Party. No trace of the two women.”

Both Stankovic and Frank Lerpiniere, the new head of the Company as it was colloquially known, were haggard and unshaven from having been up all night. Neither was in the best of moods. “What the hell does this mean?” Lerpiniere snarled.

“We’re still trying to piece together exactly what happened. But it looks like we’ve lost track of Kent and Savident. We’ll have to put a watch on the airports.

“If there’s no sign of the women, it may mean they weren’t caught up in the business. They’re probably OK.”

“I’m not gonna jump for joy until I know for sure. I don’t like this, John. Sure we’ll check the airports; we’ll check the whole fucking country. But meantime, it’s a bit suspicious that there’s no sign of them.”
The third man in the room was Jerry Mantell, head of the Company’s European section and responsible for liaison with London. “Jerry, what did the Brits say about sharing these..powers with us?” Lerpiniere asked.
“They’ve agreed to do that, but I’ve made clear any research will have to be carried out here in the States. Of course we could find some excuse for going back on any agreement we make with them.” Especially since it would be secret, Lerpiniere thought.
“Yeah, well we’ll just see how it works out,” the Director grunted. “It may not frigging matter if these Nazis have got hold of her.”
“I sure hope they haven’t,” muttered Stankovic.

“Do we tell the Brits about this latest development?” asked Mantell.
“I don’t think they’d be too happy if they knew we’d been following her. Better not risk it. They’ll let us know if she doesn’t turn up safe and sound in London. Until then, let’s keep it quiet.”

Nigel Haverhill had tried to ring Rachel several times in the past few hours to establish when she was likely to arrive at Heathrow, but there had been no reply. Eventually he’d given up. Perhaps she was already in the air. Then, some time later, just as he decided it was time to try again – and was beginning to get worried – she rang. “Ah, Rachel,” he said. “Good to hear from you. You’re at the safe house, I presume?”

“Actually I’m still in America, Sir,” she replied. He didn’t like the grave tone of her voice. “And I’ve spent most of the time since we last spoke tied to a tree.”
“Tied to - are you serious?”
“I’m afraid so, Sir.”

Haverhill felt himself go cold. “What the hell’s happened? Where’s Caroline?”
Rachel described events as best she could. “I managed to flag down a long-distance lorry driver; nearly caused a crash. I told him I’d been attacked and needed to report it to the police. He dropped me off at the police station in Robertsville.”

There was a long silence while he absorbed everything. “So you’ve told the American authorities.”
“No, Sir, I haven’t actually. I was thinking. We don’t really want the Americans to get their hands on her, do we?”
“I would remind you that they’re a friendly country, an ally,” he told her severely. “But I know what you mean. What exactly were you suggesting we did?”

“You said there’d been developments which might lead us to the people who were out to kidnap Caroline. I think they must be Nazis, trying to….the words Caroline used were “reclaim their own”. You remember what I said about genetic experiments during the war? If they know how it was done, we could make them reverse it. Then she wouldn’t have any value to the Americans and could go free, once someone’s managed to get her back from whoever’s taken her. We’d also have sole possession of the technology, although I’m thinking we’d be better off destroying rather than using it.”

Haverhill considered all this. “I see your reasoning. I must admit, the idea of America with that kind of power, even if it was shared with someone else, is a bit scary. If we can handle this ourselves, we will. I’ll have to check it with the boss, of course. And I’m afraid it’s going to be impossible to confine knowledge of the business to our own people. I won’t go into how they got involved in this, but Mossad and the Germans have both been asking about Caroline. You said Nazis. Well there’s definitely a far right political conspiracy going on and it seems Caroline might in some way be connected.

“I’ve been having a series of meetings with them at the Bundeskriminalamt. After what’s happened to Caroline I think there’d better be another one. As you’ve already chosen to involve yourself in this matter, you may as well be in the loop. I want you to join me here in Germany. As soon as you touch down, let me know and I’ll arrange to pick you up. How soon do you think you can get here?”

“Not sure, Sir. I need to get back to Kennedy first. I told the police my car had broken down and I needed somewhere to stay the night. I was afraid they’d offer me one of the cells but fortunately they were very nice and drove me to a motel near far from Robertsville. I managed to get a room for the night there.”
“Have you enough money for transport?”
“Yes, Sir, just about.”
“Then I’ll see you when I see you, I guess.”

“One last thing, Sir. Are we really going to tell Mossad and the Germans everything?”
“Well, I’ll do my best to avoid it. But it’s going to be a bit difficult. ‘Bye for now.” He cut her off.
And by the way, since you ask I’m fine thankyou, Rachel muttered under her breath. The ordeal in the woods wasn’t something she’d care to repeat in a hurry.
Equally disturbing, somehow, was the idea of the Israelis being involved in this. She was glad Caroline hadn’t known about it, or her anxieties would hardly have been dispelled.
But after everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, she wanted only to snatch a bit of sleep. And in fact, Rachel thought as she climbed into bed, I’m quite looking forward to this meeting. She had a feeling it could turn out to be very interesting.

Around the table at Bundeskriminalamt HQ sat Hans Faltermeyer, Astrid Lundt, Karl-Heinz Wegen, Noa Golani and Stefan Wolniak. They had run out of small talk some time ago, and were sitting staring at each other or at whatever item of furniture happened to be available.

Someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” shouted Faltermeyer. Nigel Haverhill and Rachel Savident, the latter now somewhat smartened up, were shown into the room. Briefly Haverhill introduced Rachel to the others, then they took their seats.

Faltermeyer began. “First of all, for the benefit of Miss Savident, I will go over the course of events so far.” Faltermeyer described the progress of the affair, from Mossad’s decision to investigate the Thule Society and the death of David Richards through Friedrich Lantz’s murder and the tracing of the crime to an ex-BNP activist to the unsuccessful kidnap attempt on Caroline in Bremen and the successful one in America, of which Haverhill had told him earlier. “We have raided the Thule Society’s headquarters and found it empty. With one exception all its key personnel seem to have disappeared, taking any incriminating evidence with them. We have no idea where they’ve gone. The exception is a man named Ulrich Schwege, who was arrested at Frankfurt Airport just as he was about to board a flight to Paris. We suspect the others are now out of the country. It seems they moved just too quickly for us. We’ve put out an international alert, but no-one has the slightest idea where they are now. They’ve probably changed their appearance and are travelling on false passports. The search is continuing.” Wolniak and Golani regarded the German with despair, and a hint of disdain. They were sure that had they been in charge of the operation Wachter and his friends would all be in custody by now. That was why their country so often liked to do its own thing. “The one advantage we have is Schwege. Unfortunately, at the moment he is telling us nothing. We can continue to hold him for only a few more days under present legislation.”

“I say again, why don’t you let us have a go at him?” said Wolniak. “Remember our agreement. That we should share with each other our skills and expertise. Our people have considerable experience in matters of…interrogation.”
The German shuddered. “If he comes to any harm.....”

“He needn’t come to any harm,” Golani said, though something in her tone didn’t reassure Faltermeyer. ”We could give him a truth drug. Inject some sodium pentathol into him.”
Faltermeyer didn’t like such methods, none of his team did. “Well, it’s certainly better than beating him up,” he said flatly.
“Which is why I feel we ought to do it,” said Wolniak. “I assure you, Hans, that despite distressing popular preconceptions we Israelis are not thugs.”
Apart from Golani, the others in the room greeted this with a stony silence.

Wolniak sighed. “The Thule society are planning something pretty big. We don’t know what it is but I imagine it involves inciting racial violence, perhaps terrorist activities. In the circumstances I must insist that your prisoner be given the truth drug.”

“But what can the Thule Society do, Herr Wolniak? They are dangerous extremists, true, but they are not a state. They don’t have an army or weapons of mass destruction.”
“They might be planning to steal some.”
“The security would be too great.”

Nigel Haverhill drew himself up. “There, er, there might be a very pressing reason why you should use truth drugs on your prisoner. Why it’s vital to extract the truth from him by whatever means available. I don’t understand how the murder of the war veteran is connected with it, but….”

“But what? What is this “very pressing reason”, Mr Haverhill?” asked Noa Golani.
Haverhill and Rachel shifted. Wolniak looked hard at them. ”You tell us this woman, this Caroline Kent, was once an agent of yours, and that she still works with you occasionally on matters of importance. Could it be that she is in possession of vital information which you do not wish to see fall into the wrong hands?”
“I think there is something we aren’t being told about.” Noa Golani spoke in a sweet, sing-song kind of voice.

Mossad had certainly been interested to find out why Caroline Kent might be important to the Nazis’ plans, but for a time had wondered whether it was nothing more than a case of Sippenhaft, her connections with MI6 being just a coincidence. If so, the matter didn’t in the end concern them that much. Since the relatively few Nazi war criminals who remained alive were now very old, Mossad no longer viewed their capture as a priority for it. As for any dark secret which the war might have spawned it was unlikely, sixty years on, that it could damage anything more than reputations. And there they liked to think the Holocaust had put them on the moral high ground. But now it seemed there was rather more at stake than that.

“In view of the partnership between our two countries, the close association we have enjoyed in the past, I had expected better,” Wolniak said. “You cannot expect our co-operation unless you are prepared to share the information with us. That would be reasonable, would it not?”

“There must be particular knowledge she has which you do not want the Nazis to possess,” Golani said. “Otherwise you would not be here.”

“I was merely concerned that they should be attempting to kidnap someone with links to the Security Services,” insisted Haverhill. “Of course there’s also Martin Higson, but nobody seems able to find him at the moment. He’s not in Britain, I can tell you that.”

“Then why is there this special reason I should use the truth drug on Schwege?” Faltermeyer asked, anxious to be let off the moral hook.
“You are being very disingenuous, Mr Haverhill,” said Wolniak. “If I may say so. We cannot help you unless we know exactly why these people should be interested in your Miss Kent. For I’m fairly certain it was they who kidnapped her in America. The Thule Society is an international organization, as is the neo-Nazi fraternity in general.” He looked significantly at Faltermeyer. “Which means Schwege probably knows where she is now and what they plan to do with her.”

“If we need your help, you also need ours,” Haverhill told the Israeli. “So I would respectfully advise you not to press the matter. Let’s just see if we can find Caroline. I know how efficient your people are, and if you’re able to assist in any way I’m sure we’ll be truly grateful.”

“We cannot assist if we do not have enough information,” Golani repeated. “And besides, how could you help us unless you had knowledge which was vital to the matter?”
From her face, Rachel Savident clearly felt Haverhill wasn’t handling the situation well. She decided to intervene. “The trouble is, I think the truth might be a little hard for you to believe.”
Golani’s lips twitched in a knowing smile. “Perhaps this is like the Americans testing experimental aircraft for their military, and getting someone to put forward the idea that they were unidentified flying objects - alien spacecraft - so that the whole thing would be dismissed as foolish, and investigation into the matter deterred. No?”

Well, it’s not aliens, Rachel thought. All the same, she chuckled inwardly at the Golani’s words. The Israeli was nearer the truth about some things than she could ever have thought possible.

“Can your friend make things disappear into thin air?” asked Golani. “Can she move faster than the speed of light? Oh, I see, it is because she is from outer space. Why didn’t I guess that before?”

“One moment.” Stefan Wolniak raised a hand in an appeal for discipline. “We have been carrying out a little research into Miss Kent’s career. It has produced some interesting results. There was something about a company called Marcotech….” He let the last bit hang in the air.
“How did you know about that?” Rachel asked.

“Through our allies.” He meant America, of course. Perhaps also somebody at MI6, for all she knew. She noted that Israel’s supporters in America didn’t know, or choose to pass on to their friends in Jerusalem, everything of importance or Wolniak might already be aware of Caroline’s latent powers.

“This company operated on her and various others to turn them into….well, fish people. I did, indeed, find it difficult to believe at first, which is why I have not until now mentioned the full details to my colleague; you will notice her startled expression. But evidently it is true. Is this perhaps something similar? Of course this….aquanoid business also could be a diversion from something. But I have no idea what, so perhaps it is quite simply the truth. The files did not say it was a deception, as they would if that were the case, given that they were intended first and foremost to be read by other intelligence personnel and not by the people whom it was meant to deceive - that is, the general public. And I don’t think secret agents have the time or the inclination to go to such lengths to play foolish jokes.
“The point is that if I can believe it really happened, then I can believe other things which previously would have seemed absurd.”

Haverhill’s face could have been graven in stone. Again it was Rachel who spoke first, after taking a deep breath. “I believe Caroline has psychic powers, including telepathy and psychokinesis, which could be very dangerous in the…in the wrong hands, if someone found a way to use them. That’s why we need to wring the truth out of Schwege as soon as possible.” Her eyes met Hans Faltermeyer’s.

The German hesitated a moment longer then nodded. “I still find it hard to believe,” he told them. “But alright. If it’s a truth drug he’s not very likely to tell lies. I’ll send for the equipment.”

He leaned forward and pressed the button on the intercom. “Klaus, Otto, would you bring Herr Schwege down to the interview room, please?” He got to his feet, prompting the others to rise too. As they did so Nigel Haverhill shot Rachel Savident a brief, hard glance, resenting the way she had taken charge.

One by one they filed out of the office. Faltermeyer led them down the corridor to the interview room. He pushed open the door and ushered them all in. Schwege was sitting in the chair normally occupied by suspects, his hands manacled before him, flanked by two of the heftier members of Faltermeyer’s department. Faltermeyer had a quiet word with them, explaining that this was a special case and that they might therefore see things which in other circumstances would not be permissible.

Faltermeyer invited the others to be seated. Then he stood before Ulrich Schwege. “Since you have so far refused to co-operate with our enquiries, Herr Schwege, and this is a matter which affects national security, I regret that I am forced to use methods which normally would be expressly forbidden. You should come to no harm, however.”

He nodded towards the two Britons. “Miss Savident and Mr Haverhill are from the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.”

Schwege’s cold eyes regarded them without expression. Faltermeyer indicated Stefan Wolniak and Noa Golani. “This gentleman and lady are from the Israeli Mossad.”
Lifting his head, Schwege spat at first Wolniak and then Golani. Neither reacted.

“They will administer a drug which will give me the answers I need.” Schwege’s eyes flashed with hatred and he attempted to rise, but the two policemen’s hands descended on his shoulders like heavy metal clamps. He kicked and twisted furiously, but their sheer strength held the chair and its occupant down.
They waited until his struggles finally subsided and he sank into bitter apathy. Then Golani stepped up to him and unbuttoned the sleeve of his right arm.
“Take your hands off me, you filthy Jewish sow,” Schwege snarled.

She rolled up the sleeve to the elbow, then went back to the table where she had left the case containing the equipment she needed. She took the needle from it and returned to Schwege.

Gently she held the point of the needle to the flesh of his forearm, just above the wrist, and pressed the plunger. For a moment there was no response. Then the Nazi frowned, his head slumping a little. The muscles of his face shifted and then relaxed, taking on a vague confused expression.

Golani stood over him. “Where is Caroline Kent? What are you going to do with her?” She kept her voice firm and authoritative, but polite at the same time. Best not to upset the Germans. You have to be a little more careful when you’re not on your own territory.

Schwege’s face cleared. For now he seemed to be resisting the effect of the drug. “Go to hell, Jewish bitch.”
“Give him another shot,” ordered Wolniak.

“Not too many,” warned Faltermeyer. Too frequent doses of the drug could have dangerous side-effects and he didn’t want Schwege to die on them or be reduced to a mindless vegetable.
If the Israelis heard him, they gave no sign.

“Where is the Kent girl? Why are you so interested in her? What is your plan?” The questions came again and again, Golani steadily increasing the pace, her tone becoming by degrees more aggressive and threatening.

“Where is Caroline Kent? What have you done with her? What is your plan?” Schwege flinched once or twice, but said nothing. Five minutes passed, and he was still sitting there with that look of pure hatred on his face, deigning to give away nothing.

One more dose, Faltermeyer decided. It would have to be the last. If it didn’t work, they’d leave it for a bit and then try the scolopamine. He’d talk then, all right.

Golani changed her tack. This time she tried to sound friendly and soothing. “Ulrich, you know it really is important you tell us what we want to know. Or we might have to hurt you and we really don’t want that. Please tell us, Ulrich. What have you done with the girl? Why do your people need her so much? Please tell us, Ulrich. Please….please…..”

She waited a few moments, then let herself explode. “Well? I said, what have you done with her? Tell us what we want to know, you filthy little Nazi pig, or I’ll beat the truth out of you, do you hear me?”
They would as well, if the drugs didn’t work. They’d have to.

Schwege’s eyes were flickering. Encouraged, Golani went on ranting at him. “Go to hell,” he repeated, his voice now slurred and a little faint. “Go to hell. Go to…go to…..”

Schwege’s eyes closed. He took a deep shuddering breath. His voice was faint and hollow, as if coming to them from a long way off, but the words could be clearly made out. “Thule....they’ve taken her to Thule....”
“Where is Thule?”
A pause, then: “Greenland…it is in Greenland.”
“Where in Greenland?”

“I do not know…exact site. We destroyed…maps…..we were to meet in Canada, Montreal, and be taken from there to the base….it is in the north, near Thule…”
“And what’s going to happen to the girl at Thule?”
“The powers of the ancients.....the power is at Thule....”

“Go on, Ulrich. What do you mean, “the powers of the ancients”?”
“ gods.....the power can....”

“You’re wasting our time, Ulrich. We’ll have to get nasty with you if this goes on for much longer, I’m afraid.”
“No,” Schwege protested, sounding indignant. “Truth......”
Wolniak glanced at his colleague. “The scolopamine.”
“Too many drugs in his system and he could die,” Faltermeyer said.
“We must know the truth.”

“If he were rational he would not tell us things he knew we would not believe,” Astrid Lundt argued. “It must be the drug that is making him say them. So he is speaking the truth.”
Wolniak nodded his agreement.

“You’re doing fine, Ulrich,” smiled Golani. “Now tell us, please, this business of gods and ancient powers. What has it to do with the girl? Where does she fit in? Tell us, Ulrich.”
“The power....we could not....could not allow it be wrong hands.....

“In her’s in her genes.....experiments.......Engelmann.....The genes...the power is in the must be freed…..she is the Chosen One, the saviour....”

“The saviour of what?”
“Of the Aryan peoples…..the Chosen One..”
“What is this power that’s in her genes?”

“Power to move mountains… change…change form…..see the truth in every heart. Nothing can stop it…nothing….power…the power must be ours…”
“And you need to get this power out of her somehow? How are you going to do that?”
“The machine…the machine will transfer the power…”
“What is this machine?”

“The machine built by the gods. It will….it will give us the power….we will….we will be victorious….Ein Reich……Ein Volk…”
“Can you tell us anything else, Ulrich?”
“That is all…all I know….”

Time for the hard stuff again. “You’re lying!” she shouted with a violence that made everyone in the room jump. “You expect me to believe this rubbish? Tell me the truth or I’ll break every bone in your body, you miserable little piece of shit!”

Schwege winced as if in pain, and for a moment appeared to be in some discomfort. He stared up at Golani with an expression that seemed almost bemused, uncomprehending. “No,” he moaned, his voice garbling until it was difficult to make out the words. “No....not lying. Not lying. Not…lying….” His head fell forward onto his chest.

Golani studied him for a long time, then turned slowly to face her companions. She looked both perplexed and uneasy.
“What do you think?” she asked Wolniak, her voice quiet.

He shook his head slowly, wonderingly. “He..he must actually believe it. It’s the only explanation. I think the drug has destroyed his will to resist. You terrified the truth out of him, if nothing else.”

It was odd, Wolniak thought, to see her so lacking in self-assurance. “I…I thought of asking him some more questions, but I just didn’t know if there was any point,” she said.

Wolniak’s mouth twitched. He glanced over at the Germans, the British. The former looked astonished, the latter less so, though still intrigued. It reinforced his conviction that they’d come across this kind of thing, or something equally amazing, before.

Golani was suddenly doubtful. “I’m still not sure. The drug means he’s been telling us what he believes is the truth. So what does that prove? Nothing except that these guys are a bunch of crazies. Dangerous ones maybe, but still crazies. They can’t really believe this girl’s some kind of....”

“Personally I wouldn’t like to take the risk that it was true,” Faltermeyer grunted. “Because if it is, it’s pretty scary.”

Golani turned to the prisoner in the chair again. “What else is the Thule Society planning? It’s not just these…powers, is it?”
“Uprising,” moaned Schwege. “Armed uprising……we shall take over….”
“Once the power is used here will be confusion…..chaos….we shall take over. That is all we have been told.”

“Compartmentalisation,” she muttered. It was why he probably wouldn’t be able to tell them much about the other Nazi cells worldwide, truth drug or not. “Did you kill David Richards?” she asked.
“Yes…we killed the Jew. He…he found out too much….”
“What did he find out?”

“He knew about Thule and the power. We had to…had to stop him telling anyone…had to…”
“Who is Heinrich?”

“Heinrich is the Fuhrer. The leader. I know nothing about him. He is Fuhrer until the uprising has been successful. Then it will be Wachter, Klaus Wachter.”
“Your installation at Thule. Is it guarded?”

“We have..paramilitaries. Heinrich will probably have stationed them there now. They are mostly ex-Special Forces soldiers.”
Golani thought for a moment, then straightened. “I think that’s all. It seems to depend on their using this mysterious power that’s supposed to be in Caroline Kent. And I’m still not convinced he’s telling the truth. About the uprising, and David Richards, yes; but the other things…”

“Caroline was convinced she had these powers,” Rachel said. “In fact….” She hesitated, knowing the revelation she was about to make wouldn’t ingratiate her with Haverhill. “In fact she’d mentioned them to me before. In the Marcotech business, and that thing with Saddam. Also the Treneer incident.”

“Perhaps we had better know more,” said Wolniak. “Is there a room somewhere where we will not be disturbed?” he asked Faltermeyer.
The Inspector shrugged, looking puzzled. “Here is as good a place as anywhere.”
“I meant – “ Wolniak checked himself

Nigel Haverhill coughed. “I think in view of the potential danger if the powers were misused, it would be best if knowledge of the matter were confined to as narrow a circle as possible.

“Herr Faltermeyer, I regret I must ask you and your colleagues to leave the room. I feel sure my government would take the view that knowledge of this matter should be restricted for the moment to itself and the state of Israel.”
The German’s eyes narrowed a fraction.

“We also ask that you preserve confidentiality regarding what you’ve just heard. We will be in touch with you over the matter in due course.”
Faltermeyer spread his hands. “Unless they’ve been in this room today, who is going to believe what has been said in it?”

He nodded to the two uniformed policemen. ”You can take him back to the cells now.” They’d decide what to do with Schwege later. It was doubtful whether evidence gained as a result of truth drugs would be admissible in court.
What went on behind the scenes was of course a different matter.

“We shall leave you in peace now, if that is what you want,” Faltermeyer told Haverhill. “We’ll let you know when we’ve finished,” the Englishman replied, taking his words for granted.
The Germans trooped out with their prisoner, closing the door behind them. Outside, Faltermeyer turned and stared hard at it for a long time, inhaling sharply.
Psychic powers, he thought. Well, they all seem to believe it’s true. And if it is true, it amounts to a weapon of mass destruction. So they’re not going to trust us Germans with it, are they? They don’t trust us with anything like that. Still.
In the interview room, Haverhill was fixing a small black disc to the wall. It was a device which would tell them straight away if the Germans were bugging them. Once sure that it was firmly in place, he returned to his seat. “Tell us a bit more about these….abilities Caroline thinks she’s developing, Rachel. For Mr Wolniak and Miss Golani’s benefit.”

“She’d been suffering for a while from ....attacks. They were like violent headaches, fits of dizziness. And sometimes when she had a particularly bad one, she thought she could hear what people were thinking. That’s how she described it. She heard thoughts as if they were sounds. And she insists that when she’s angry about something, very angry, solid objects start to move about.”

“Psychokinesis,” remarked Wolniak.
“Um. Like what your Mr Geller is supposed to have, though this is something more. More dangerous, certainly, if it was misused, than bending a few forks.

“But she’d started to suspect it long before the attacks started. It only came out when there was some other factor operating. It happened at Marcotech, as a side-effect of the environment she was in. She lost the power when she was returned to normal, and in any case it only worked when she was underwater for a lengthy period. But for a while, she had empathy with animals – and still does, that’s a characteristic of the power – and limited telepathy with humans. Not psychokinesis: that seems to require a different kind of stimulus, probably stress, to trigger it off.”
“So it was only under exceptional circumstances that any of ther powers manifested themselves? Stress, you say….”

“Or when she’s not able to use her conventional senses in the normal way.” Or when the atmosphere was conducive to it, perhaps with other psychic forces at work. Or if the power could be amplified in some way. But for the moment neither Rachel nor Haverhill wanted the Israelis to know more than was necessary.

“If the powers are only evident during stress,” Wolniak said, “then they may be less dangerous. As well as more difficult to make use of.”

Unless the stress could be caused deliberately, he supposed. But it occurred to him they might have to make sure the subject didn’t know it was artificially induced, because if he or she did there might not be the right psychological effect and it wouldn’t work.

“Even under stress, it never happened before. But the upshot of it is, Caroline’s frightened she’s got powers she may not be able to control. Or, perhaps, that other people might.”
“The Nazis,” Golani muttered.
“Not only the Nazis, I’d imagine.” Rachel didn’t elaborate on that.

“These…gods Schwege was talking about seem to have had the power themselves. And I had the impression that in them it was something that could be controlled. I think I know how all this started. Caroline was puzzled because there was a period of her grandfather’s war service no-one could account for. I think she suspected the Nazis had used him in some sort of weird experiment, probably to create an Aryan super-race, which involved genetic engineering. Giving him superhuman powers. What Schwege just said confirms it. I think the Nazis found out about the gods, let’s call them that for the moment, and their achievements – I don’t know how – and used their science to do it. It didn’t work, but the powers remained dormant in him and were transmitted to his descendants. They’ve become active again in Caroline. The Nazis knew that would happen and decided to….reclaim their own. That’s what she’d more or less realised when she was kidnapped.”
“So,” said Haverhill, “there’s something at Thule which will tap the powers in her and enable these Nazis to exploit them. We’ve got to stop that.”

“We certainly have,” Wolniak said. “Who do you think they would target first? I should advise you that my country is not going to stand by while they do something which will probably result in its complete destruction.” It was clearly a warning. Rachel glanced at Haverhill. He played with his biro for a bit then looked up at them, clearing his throat.

“Well, Caroline Kent is a British you say, however, this matter is a threat to your country’s interests -and also, I believe, to those of the wider world community. Of course we’d need clearance from my superiors before - ”
“Get it,” snapped Wolniak.

“Once we’ve worked out where this Thule place is, I shall propose to them that we carry out a joint military mission there and sort things out before they go too far. There’ll need to be personnel involved from the intelligence services as well: yours and ours.”

“I’d like to go, Sir,” said Rachel. “Caroline and I are mates. I think she’d prefer it if I was there.”

“I’ll decide on that in due course, Rachel.” He coughed again. “Now, there’s one very important issue we have to resolve. If there is equipment at this Thule place which can harness telepathic powers….powers which, who knows, could be lying dormant in everyone… see, it’s not just a question of stopping these Nazis from doing their stuff. What happens after that? Are we, er, going to use the thing ourselves? I mean....” He tailed off. “You will of course understand that…in the wrong must be used wisely….”

“And you think we would not, Mr Haverhill?” Noa Golani’s dark eyes flashed in warning.

“Could anyone?” said Rachel, trying to defuse the situation.

“Things like this cannot be undiscovered,” Wolniak observed. “I recommend we destroy the equipment once it is in our possession. It would be safer.”

“Forgive me,” Haverhill said, “but can you be sure you would do that when the time comes? Perhaps for understandable reasons, your country regards itself as being in a particularly vulnerable position. You know, and I know, that it would not hesitate to make use of any advantage these powers could give it. And if not the telepathy, there may be other things at Thule that could be exploited.

“I don’t think that any one country should control it. And yet for too many people to have access to it would lead to disaster.
“Ultimately it’s for our superiors to decide, of course. But what I’m proposing is that our two countries agree to share the knowledge. There would be a balance of power, just as there was in the Cold War. Neither of us would want to do anything to harm the other, for fear of the consequences.”

After a moment, Stefan Wolniak nodded. “It seems a good idea to me.” Noa Golani too indicated her agreement.

“Are we going to tell the Americans?” asked Wolniak. “It would seem they already know something of the situation.”

“Well, my side had a sort of agreement with them concerning Caroline,” Haverhill said. “If necessary we can say it only covered Caroline herself, not whatever there might be at Thule. Because neither we nor they knew about it till now, and they still don’t.” It was bad enough here had been no way of preventing them finding out about Marcotech. Haverhill didn’t like to think what they were doing with the information.
He eyed the two Israelis uncertainly. “I don’t know what you think…”

Wolniak smiled. “As you more or less told Herr Faltermeyer, in view of the potential danger if these powers were misused it would be best if knowledge of the matter were confined to as few people as possible.” The Israelis expected the Americans to immediately tell them about anything which might affect their interest; they did not see themselves as being under any obligation to reciprocate.

“It’s another question which will have to be referred to our superiors,” Haverhill said. “But personally I think it’s the best way to proceed.”
So what you’re saying, thought Rachel, is that only we, the Israelis and maybe the Yanks can be trusted with this sort of thing. Everyone else would only muck it up, purely because they’re not us. But it’s quite clear to any intelligent and reasonable person that we’re so wonderful and perfect we’d never ever use it for the wrong reasons, oh no. Period.

Wolniak was speaking. ”Together with the Americans, of course, our two countries, Britain and Israel – the latter the only democracy in the Middle East - stand together in an alliance, a partnership, which has been of enormous benefit to the free world, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or on a global scale. We are the tripartite pact, if you like, which ensures peace and stability. And we will use the power of Thule to achieve those things. Under our leadership the world will be made safe from terrorism, and the right conditions created for freedom and prosperity to flourish everywhere.”

Yes, quite, thought Rachel, doing her best to maintain a deadpan expression. Absolutely.

“Can we rely on the Germans to keep quiet about what they now?” wondered Noa Golani.
Wolniak gave a dry laugh. “You bet they will. Their trouble is, after what they’ve been responsible for in the past they’re too shit-scared, and too ridden with guilt, to do anything that’ll unite people in fear of them, even if it gives them a power no-one can challenge. They won’t try and get hold of what’s at Thule for themselves, if that’s what you’re worried about, for the same reason they haven’t any nuclear weapons. Nor will they tell anyone else about it from pique at being left out. The only countries who could conceivably stop us are Russia, China and the United States. People are too suspicious of China’s growing power, or of Russia in her current belligerent mood. And the idea of the Yanks in possession of this thing would terrify them, as it does me to be honest. France is a possibility, she and Germany are pretty friendly these days. But the Germans wouldn’t want to be blamed if anybody used it in the wrong way.”

“Well if that settles matters,” Haverhill said, getting to his feet, “I suggest we repair to our respective capitals to obtain the necessary clearance.”

“One moment.” Behind Wolniak’s smile iron teeth seemed to gleam. “You have forgotten the other matter which I think we need to resolve. How, may I ask, are you able to believe all this business about psychic powers?”

Haverhill marshalled his thoughts. ”Let’s say there are, er, things going on in the world, in the universe one might say, which we don’t yet...fully understand. I’m not talking about political matters, about espionage.” Though sometimes human agencies might have been a factor in the equation, as with the Ishtar affair.
“And you have experience of such things?”
Haverhill smiled. “If you like, yes.”

The files were held jointly by MI6 and the mysterious organisation known as UNIT, with which it had worked closely on occasions and whose brief was to deal with what were described as “new and unusual menaces to Mankind.” They bore names such as “Ishtar,” “Nahathui” (cross-reference to FBI), “Sun God”, and “Treneer”. Rachel, who’d conducted the debriefing of Caroline and her IPL colleague Chris Barrett who was also involved in the incident, following Ishtar suspected there were yet more cases about which Caroline was keeping secret. She had decided not to press the matter.

There had been odd features about several of the cases which required investigation. Much they’d had to get second-hand from Caroline, and Rachel wasn’t sure she’d have believed it if the lie detector hadn’t judged in the girl’s favour. But it had, and from this and other enquiries the astonishing truth had become apparent. Maybe it was some offshoot of her pyschic abilities, maybe it was chance, maybe it was both, but Caroline seemed to have a knack of rooting out the activities of supernatural agencies. There were also a number of interesting incidents on record in which she hadn’t been involved.

“I have to confess we never told you the full truth about Ishtar,” Haverhill said. “The secret weapon which the late Saddam Hussein attempted to use against the West was - not of human manufacture.

“And we were told nothing about all this.” Stefan Wolniak’s remark was a statement more than a question.

“As with this current problem, it was thought best not to disseminate the knowledge too widely.” Haverhill meant that if the existence of supernatural - and by their nature potentially destructive - forces was proved, attempts to discover and exploit them would be renewed. In such a situation, either everyone would suffer or those who did not control the powers would be vulnerable to those who did. So Britain had an interest, not an altogether selfish one, in sitting on the information she had gained through Caroline’s activities.
“But our agreement...” protested Wolniak.

“Like everything else, release of the full details will have to be cleared with those above me. I can’t guarantee they’ll consent to it. I can tell you one thing, though. Generally, the forces we’re dealing with here have no interest in any particular human ethnic group or nationality. But if we hear of anything that poses a clear and present danger to Israeli national security, you can rest assured we’ll let you know immediately.” His lips twitched in a placatory smile.
Wolniak raised a hand in solemn salute.

Haverhill began shuffling his papers. “However..” His tone was part exasperation, part admiration. “I have little doubt that you will try to, and eventually succeed, in obtaining the information you require, either by the exercise of the influence you possess or by....other means.”
The two Israelis made no comment.
“Well, if that’s all…”

“I think so,” replied Wolniak. The meeting broke up, the four of them rising and making straight for the door, apart from Haverhill who removed the bug detector from the wall before leaving. Meeting Rachel’s eye, Wolniak nodded and smiled; Golani managed a brief, curt bob of the head.

In the car outside, Rachel buckled herself up and sat stiffly in her seat, steeling herself for the imminent confrontation.
“So why didn’t you tell me the truth about Caroline a bit sooner?” Haverhill asked coldly.
“Because I didn’t like to think of the use to which people might put her, Sir.”

“What it boils down to is that you’ve been deliberately with-holding information from me.”
“I had my reasons, Sir.”

“You’re a good agent, but you don’t like it when someone here does something you feel to be unethical. Then you do everything you can to get your way. You even threatened to resign once, so I understand. You were trying to protect Caroline Kent, just as you’re doing now.”

“We were going to hand her to the Americans on a silver platter,” Rachel said bitterly. “And they’d have gobbled her up until there wasn’t a scrap left, her and Chris Barrett. Because the Americans wanted the...the weapon and she had the sense to know it wasn’t safe whoever managed to get hold of it. Because she tried to destroy it and they didn’t want the world to know they’d been about to kill her to prevent that.”

“You also threatened to spill all our secrets, or so I’m told. I don’t know if you were serious, but that doesn’t sound very loyal to me. I’d remind you that the previous head of the Service lost his job over that particular business, because he chose to stand by you. Well now the secret’s out, so it probably doesn’t matter any more. But I’ll tell you this, Rachel.”

He took a deep, weary breath. “I realise she’s your friend, that you women can be close. But I’m warning you all the same, there’s a point when an agent who insists on being a lone star becomes a problem. This is your last chance. Within the next couple of days you’ll receive a formal warning. If you step out of line after that I’ll be asking for your resignation and if I don’t get it, you may expect immediate dismissal to follow. And although they might not swallow the story, if you do go against the Official Secrets Act by talking to the press you’ll be in very serious trouble. We’re talking prison....” He paused for effect. “Or maybe worse.”
“Can I just make one request of you, Sir.”
“And what is it?”

“That we don’t tell Caroline’s family about any of this. We needn’t cause them any unecessary grief. As far as they’re concerned she’s on holiday. With any luck we can find her and get her back before they start to worry.”
“I wouldn’t want them to know anyway,” he told her. “So don’t worry.”
They drove along in silence, back towards the airport, for some minutes. Then suddenly Rachel said, “Sir?”
“You can have my resignation now if you want.”

“I don’t believe you’re serious, Rachel. If you resign, then there’d be nobody at the Service to protect your little friend, would there?”
Rachel didn’t bother answering, because she knew he was right and that it placed her, at best, in a Catch-22 situation. In fact she was silent for the whole of the rest of their journey home; either trying to think up some solution to the problem, or not thinking about anything at all.

At least, she thought, the Israelis didn’t hold Caroline’s grandfather’s possible involvement in war crimes against her, or at least they didn’t seem to. It would have been the last thing they needed.

“I’m not sure there’s enough to charge Schwege,” sighed Hans Faltermeyer. They were all back in the conference room again.
“Except that he did try to resist arrest,” Wegen pointed out.

“We’ll hold him for the maximum period under the law. Hopefully in the meantime more evidence will come our way.”

“Well,” Faltermeyer said, “apart from that, it’s the end of the matter as far as we’re concerned. But I suppose we’ve done some good.”
“What he said about Thule and the gods, do you think it’s true?” Lundt asked, still reeling from it all.

“I don’t know, Astrid. I wish I did.” Faltermeyer knew he and his team would be dogged for the rest of their lives by frustrated curiosity, not knowing the full story behind what was going on, but maybe it didn’t matter that much in the end. They were citizens of a relatively prosperous and secure country, with little fear of poverty or of foreign invasion, and hopefully, because MI6 and Mossad were on the Nazis’ trail, they could go on being so. That in the end was what counted. There were too many people in the world who didn’t have that kind of assurance.

“Thankyou, everyone,” he said, and the trio found themselves smiling together, their comradeship reaffirmed. “Now I guess we’ll have to get started on writing our reports. Apart from that I suppose there’s only one thing left to do.”

Stephen Aron wasn’t entirely sure why he was still hanging around in Germany, with the veterans being so uncommunicative, and the visit to the camp out of the way. “Out of the way” seemed a disrespectful mode of putting it, but he found he had been genuinely glad when it was over. It had been a necessary pilgrimage, and yet he wouldn’t want to repeat the experience too often. When afterwards he had stepped out into the bright light of a clear, sunny autumn day, looked up at the china blue sky and heard the birds singing, he’d found it very hard not to burst into tears.

It had left him emotionally drained and all he really wanted to do now was go home. The trouble was, he didn’t like to leave the country as long as his task was incomplete. His grandmother would understand, he was sure, but all the same he didn’t like the thought of having to tell his grandmother he’d failed in his quest, for the time being anyway.

He was lying on his bed in his hotel room with his arms crossed behind his head, idly following the pattern of the stippling on the ceiling with his eyes. Tomorrow, he thought wistfully. I’ll go home tomorrow. Might as well, Dad’s money isn’t a bottomless well. To be honest, a part of me never did think there was much point in it. It seemed wrong to entertain such a thought, but maybe he was just indulging a sad, sweet old lady who in the autumn of her life wanted to make sure it had all been worthwhile.

And upsetting Caroline Kent into the bargain. He felt he’d let down old Shmuel Tenenbaum that way, which nagged at his conscience. If there was any chance of success then the distress to the relatives, though regrettable, was justified. If there wasn’t, it would be unethical. And yet he couldn’t feel any sympathy for Caroline while there was a possibility she was mixed up in something shady. That whole business at the Kaiser Freidrich still seemed weird, unsettling.
The internal phone rang. “Hello?” he answered.

“Herr Aron, this is Reception. We have a gentleman from the police here to see you. Would you come down, please?”
They must want to speak to him about the incident in Bremen. As long as you don’t think I’m involved in anything dodgy, he muttered to himself.

He arrived at Reception to find a young man in plainclothes standing at the desk. The man turned to greet him as he approached, smiling warmly. “Herr Stephen Aron?”
“Yes, that’s me,” Stephen nodded. “Er, can I help you?”
The policeman flashed an ID card at him. “If we could go to your room?”

Once there Stephen gestured for the German to sit down, then did so himself. He looked expectantly at his visitor.
The man spoke. “Herr Aron, I thought you would like to know that as a result of the information you gave us, a man has been arrested at Frankfurt Airport while attempting to leave the country. Although he was not responsible for the murder of Friedrich Lantz, we have been able to gather information from him that may result in the arrest of the extremists behind that and another recent killing, as well as the kidnap attempt on your friend Miss Caroline Kent.”

He said an extremist organization, thought Stephen. I don’t suppose he’ll tell me all, but he must mean Nazis.

“It may also enable us to trace the victim of another kidnapping which has taken place in America and which we believe was carried out by the same group. It is early days at the moment, and I am not able to give you the full details at present, but there is hope. Of course we will let you know more in due course, if we can.”

Stephen had been listening gobsmacked. Slowly a broad grin spread across his face, and his eyes lit up with delight.
“On behalf of my colleagues at the Bundeskriminalamt, I would like to thank you for all your help.” The German extended his hand, and Stephen shook it firmly.
“Goodbye, and I hope you have enjoyed your stay in Germany.” The man left him standing there trying to take it all in.

Not a bad bit of luck, he reflected. He hadn’t found any material for his thesis or identified the true perpetrator of Macy but he had played a part, perhaps an important one, in sorting out a bunch of latter-day Nazis. Perhaps that was more important than anything else. It was something to tell his family when he got back, anyway.

And so the following morning, at peace with himself and with the world, feeling that maybe it had all been worthwile after all, Stephen Aron set off home.

Uri Masur was studying a photograph of Caroline Kent. “I don’t like this at all,” he muttered. “I mean, look at her. Blonde, blue-eyed, etcetera…the sort of person who could have stepped right out of a Nazi recruiting poster.” It wasn’t the first time such things had been said about Caroline; she didn’t appreciate them.
“That isn’t really a problem, is it?” queried Masur’s deputy, Ariel Schwarzmann.

“Well, you think about it. She’s the type Nazis are always drooling over. The very image of Aryan perfection. And if everything we’ve been told is correct, she may have superhuman powers. Someone like that going around with such abilities, it’s bound to excite the Nazis and fill the heads of susceptible people with all sorts of wrong ideas. To them she will look like the first of a new herrenvolk. You must admit, Ariel, there are dangers. She can be presented as the ultimate Aryan, physically sublime by their standards and also with the mental powers of a super-race.”

Schwarzmann went quiet, and began worrying at his chin with his index finger. “I see what you mean,” he murmured.

“And she’s not that fond of us, I have to say. She believes our treatment of the Palestinians to be unjust.” Masur raised his eyes to the ceiling in weary despair.
“I don’t think she’s the sort who’d let herself be used in the way you’re suggesting. She may not like us all that much, but she isn’t a Nazi.”

“They’ll use her for propaganda purposes, whether she likes it or not. So we’ve got to put a stop to this.” His lips curled in a cunning, mischievous smile. “You must admit it would be appropriate if we took what the Nazis are planning to do and use it for our own benefit. Yes, I think it’d be very fitting.”

“You think we should try to use the powers instead?”
“She’d never consent to it. Not willingly, of course. That is not to say we won’t do it without her consent, if it turns out to be necessary.”
“Someone with such abilities would be difficult to control,” Schwarzmann pointed out.
“Apparently this machine gets the power out somehow. Whether that means it amplifies it or removes it from her isn’t clear. If it removes it, she’ll then be no danger to us.

“Incidentally, we shouldn’t allow the possibility of her grandfather having been involved in war crimes to colour our attitude towards her. She merely happens to have the misfortune of being the descendent of a possible war criminal. We have no time to waste on punishing the innocent.”
“Fine. Now what about the British government?”

“The Brits have agreed to fully share the data on these other matters, and anything like them which comes up in the future, with us. Just in case there’s anything there we might use.”
“What do the Americans know about them?”

“They’ve had their own experiences with….unusual problems. It seems the British decided the knowledge might as well be shared. In any case UNIT is supposed to be an international organization, operating under the auspices of the United Nations. I’m not sure how the politics of it works out in practice; it seems a bit complicated.”
“But about Thule; the PM’s OK’d everything?”

“He believes it is in the country’s interest for us to find out just what’s there and how we might exploit it. The joint meeting between us and the IDF is scheduled for tonight at six. The PM and probably the Foreign Minister will be there too.”

“I think it would be best if we sent the two agents who worked with Kent on the Fouasi business, Avnir and Rothstein, on this mission. She’s formed a reasonable rapport with them and their presence will help to reassure her and secure her co-operation.”
“They may not be happy about us experimenting on her, because that’s what it amounts to.”

“I’ll speak with them about it,” Schwarzmann said.
“We also need to decide what we’re actually going to do with this power when we’ve got it.” The ultimate decision would rest with the Prime Minister and his cabinet, but Mossad had to agree on a position which they could recommend to the other attendees at that night’s meeting.
“Let’s just get the damn thing first, then we’ll decide. That’s what I’d say.”

“One thing’s clear, we can’t let anyone else have it. We don’t know what use they’d make of it, and if it fell into the hands of people hostile to us…Or even a share in it. If they are unsympathetic to our aims, there will simply be a stalemate. With sole possession of the power, we have an advantage.”
“Do you agree we shouldn’t let the Americans in on this?”

“Yes, I do. I know they’re our protectors, but they’re also paranoid and reckless. They frighten me sometimes. Their support is invaluable to us but I’ve often secretly wondered if one day they might just do something that’ll wreck the whole show. And you know me, I don’t like to take chances. I’ve always felt we can’t bank on their support forever, despite what people think. One day they might decide they’re tired of having to put up with the likes of al-Qaeda for our benefit, and it’s possible these powers might allow them to do that. The British…well we had no choice. But those who don’t know had better remain ignorant.”

“Speaking of the British, what are we going to do about them, if we want sole possession of the power?”
“That’s something that’ll be decided tonight. But we’re certainly not going to tell the Americans.”
“But the British....”
Masur grinned. “You think they will?”

Sir Matthew Darlison, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, was standing at the window of his office looking out across Horse Guards’ Parade and listening to the familiar, reassuring chimes of Big Ben as it rang out five o’clock, the sound carrying clearly to him on the clear, chill evening breeze which blew in through the partly open window. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t hear the door open as his deputy, Gordon Pargitter, entered the room.

A file tucked under his arm, Pargitter gazed uncertainly at Darlison as he stood there, realising he was deep in thought and not knowing whether to interrupt him. His eyes wandered from the figure by the window to range over the oak-panelled walls of the room, the row of portraits, some genuine and some reproductions, of Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries; men in powdered wigs, cravats, top hats, frock coats, winged collars. The earlier ones were depicted sitting at a desk, apparently pausing in the act of committing something to writing with quill pen and parchment, or standing with one hand placed proprietorally on it, to signify their commitment to the hard work needed to maintain the security of the British nation and of the wider Empire to which this small, rainswept island off the coast of north-west Europe had given birth. The Empire that had ruled one-third of the world’s surface as well as, in a different way, the vastness of its oceans. This room was still redolent of those days, its décor not having changed that much over the last three centuries; the only thing it lacked, conspicuously so it seemed on this autumn evening, was a roaring log fire, the building having gone over to central heating many years before.

Although whatever happened had in theory to meet the ultimate approval of the Foreign Secretary, whether considered or simply a case of rubber-stamping (literally or otherwise), it was here that that most of the important business of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was transacted. Assuming they could see them from wherever they were now, Pargitter often wondered what the gentlemen in the paintings thought of their present-day successors; the men who took, as they had once taken, the momentuous decisions which would determine this country’s whole future, its destiny. And of he, Darlison and their team, whose work was no less crucial – might even on occasions be more so.

He saw Darlison close the window against the breeze and turn to face him, smiling briefly in greeting. “Sherry?”
Pargitter nodded. Darlison crossed to the drinks cabinet and unlocked it, taking out a bottle of amontillado. He poured glasses for himself and his deputy.
Initially the two men stood and sipped their drinks in silence. Then Darlison said, “it all depends of course on our beloved Prime Minister.”

Earlier that day Sophie Cameron-Davies had called the Prime Minister’s Private Secretary to arrange a meeting with him, saying that something vital to the country’s interest had suddenly come up and it was best if they get together as soon as possible to discuss the political implications of it. There would need to be military action, preferably within the next couple of days because no-one knew how close the enemy’s plans were to maturity. The Foreign Secretary and his senior civil servants would have to be present. Since a call of this nature from the Director of MI6 couldn’t be ignored, the Prime Minister had agreed to drastically revise his schedule for that day, and within an hour everyone was seated around the table in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street waiting expectantly for Cameron-Davies, Nigel Haverhill beside her, to explain what it was that had made this sudden demand upon the government’s attention. She seemed to be composing herself elaborately, as if needing to choose her words with great care.

When she had finished there was silence for a couple of minutes; total silence. On the wall Disraeli looked distinctly sceptical. Then the Prime Minister, his eyes wide in astonishment, broke into his familiar broad grin. “This…is incredible,” he spluttered, shaking his head. “I – I – I……it’s some kind of hoax, surely.”

Cameron-Davies’ face showed she knew he didn’t really believe that. Someone like the head of MI6 didn’t ask the Prime Minister to cancel all their engagements for the day for the sake of playing a practical joke, and that was why Tom Buchan was so jittery.

The best way of representing the situation to him was to say that the Nazis were about to gain possession of a devastating weapon of mass destruction. But to impress upon him just how serious things were, they’d had no option but to reveal just what kind of weapon it was. Everyone had to know the exact facts of the matter.
Finally the Prime Minister had asked, “Do you have proof?”

And Cameron-Davies had opened her briefcase and taken out several copies of a bulky file full of photographs, diagrams, correspondence and eyewitness accounts, sliding one across the table towards Buchan. “There are certain things I think it’s time for you to know, Prime Minister.”

In there was all the information needed to convince those present that she had been telling the truth. A record, in condensed form, of those incidents in which the national, if not international, interest had come under threat from “new and unusual menaces”, whether originating from this planet or from some realm beyond it. When Buchan had finished reading the document he passed it to the Foreign Secretary, who afterwards handed it in turn to Sir Matthew Darlison.

“Why wasn’t I told about this when I took office?” The Prime Minister’s face had frozen in anger and there was a dangerous gleam in his eyes. He seemed to have decided the whole business was genuine, probably because it was the only way he could cope with the revelations.

The Foreign Secretary looked disapproving, the spies and civil servants present impassive. They either knew why the Prime Minister had never been told or could make a very good guess. His predecessors, whatever their faults, had had the common sense to know when something was best kept quiet. But this one …...there were plenty of things he had kept from the public or not told the whole truth about, which was par for the course with all politicians, so maybe they’d never really needed to worry. All the same…something about him, something you couldn’t quite put your finger on, was different. Something that called his judgement into question.

And besides, any PM who believed he knew everything that went on, where matters of national importance were concerned, and had complete control over it was deluding themselves.

“Not to share with me something as vital as this, why it….it amounts to a kind of treason,” Buchan gasped. “Are you effectively admitting there’s been a conspiracy in this country to…”

“Well, Prime Minister, we’ve had no option but to bring you, Mr Steinberg and Sir Matthew into the loop,” Cameron-Davies said, her tone calm and unruffled. “The question is, do we bring the public in too? You would certainly have to do that if I or any of my colleagues were prosecuted over the matter. The country would need to know why the prosecution was being brought. And if the public knew there were supernatural forces out there, forces we cannot yet fully understand or control, which might be hostile to us it would have an even worse effect than the fear of Islamic terrorism. There would be mass panic.”

Of course, there had in the end been only one thing he could do.

“There’s other evidence you may wish to see,” Cameron-Davies informed him once the matter had been settled. “Stored in a secret location known only to us. Physical evidence…bodies. But so far nothing anyone has been able to adapt for, say, military use. That may be because it has been destroyed.” There were some people at UNIT who believed things were better that way.
“Are UNIT themselves part of this conspiracy of silence?”

“If you call it that, Sir, yes. It’s because they’re still subordinate to the different member states – the UN isn’t a world government, after all – and it’s those states who are partly funding them. I think they feel they haven’t an awful lot of choice. But they thought they ought to let us have copies of the files, and access to the other material if required, so that someone at least knew the sort of thing we might find ourselves up against.”

“Well,” said the Prime Minister eventually, “I suppose the main thing now is to stop these Nazis getting hold of this..psychic power. There’ll have to be a consultation between us and the Army, in case military force is required. We’ll discuss the, er, geopolitical aspect later.”

Matthew Darlison smiled as he reflected on how the meeting had gone. “Your whole world turned upside-down in just thirty minutes. I must confess…there were always rumours, but I never thought…..”

“Question now is what we do about this Thule thing,” Pargitter prompted. “I suppose we’ll have to tell the UNIT people?”

“Not necessarily. That hasn’t always happened in the past. UNIT is like any other branch of the UN, it can only act with the co-operation of national governments. That’s why news of these things has been successfully suppressed for decades, despite there being some who didn’t want it to be. If we decide not to supply them with the information, then they’re out of the picture.”
“Will Buchan take that view, though?”

“He’s quite prepared to brush the UN aside when it suits him. I don’t think he’s even going to tell his friends the Americans.”
Pargitter was surprised. “Isn’t he?”

“This is something no-one will allow anyone else a share of because they’re afraid they might use it against them. And even Buchan’s not too sure about the Yanks, deep down. He’s just too afraid to publicly oppose them. That kind of fear lies behind a good deal of his policies, on other issues than foreign affairs.”

Darlison smiled mysteriously. “And if necessary….if it did look like he was going to change his mind, there are people, not necessarily to do with the intelligence services, with the power and the know-how to deal with such problems. Permanently. You know what I mean by that. And I’d consider such an action justified.”

Pargitter frowned, though he knew he wouldn’t go so far as to report what he’d heard to Buchan. Darlison noted his discomfort and sighed.

“Gordon, this country can’t afford to rely on US protection all the time. To be America’s poodle. To be dragged by them into dangerous adventures which are just going to get our people blown up, whether it’s on the Tube or the streets of Baghdad. We’ve been waiting for too long for something to give us back our power, so that we’ll be a force in the world again. It’s because we’re now so weak, relatively speaking, that we have to cling to the Yanks’ coat-tails. That we haven’t been able to find a role despite years of searching for one.

“We all want an end to this so-called New World Order where the Yanks are running the whole show and making a bloody hash of it. We know how things should be done, even if that doesn’t count for much when we’re led by an idiot. We’ve been around a lot longer, we’ve got the historical experience of successfully maintaining a balance of power. But they’d never bloody well listen to us, never take our advice. We’re only acceptable to them as long as we’re prepared to toe their line.”
“What about the Israelis?” Pargitter asked.

“You can bet the Izzies won’t tell the Yanks, despite their long-standing alliance with them. And that suits us because we don’t want them to know. Only problem is the Izzies themselves.” Darlison sighed long and hard and wearily, as if at a problem of long standing that had proved frustratingly difficult to solve.

In the past the Foreign Office had tended to be pro-Arab. This was recognised by the Prime Minister who not long before, in a brilliant feat of enlightened statesmanship, had attempted to redress it by appointing a Jew as Britain’s special ambassador to the Middle East, it not having occurred to him that this would merely be seen by the Arabs as pro-Jewish bias and that it might have been better, on this extremely sensitive issue, to have someone who belonged to neither race, neither side, and could thus straddle both. The appointment had probably done little to curb underlying resentment over attachment to a nation whose policies had caused massive suffering amongst Arabs, as well as led to international tension and resulted in terrorism which might be directed against those who supported Israel as much as Israel herself. It was a contributory factor to British citizens dying at the hands of Arab extremists.

“If they want to use the supernatural as a weapon,” Pargitter said, “why don’t they just get hold of that chap, what’s his name…..”
“Uri Geller lives in this country,” replied Darlison, “and supports Reading Football Club.”
“But Buchan will want to share the power at Thule with them, won’t he? He’s pretty fond of them, after all. And of course the Foreign Sec is a Jew….”

“So was his predecessor. The chap wasn’t too happy with some of the things they did, and said so. I must admit my estimation of him went up quite a bit. Let’s give this new fellow a chance.” He paused to take another sip of his sherry. ”But about Thule, I don’t think we’ve anything to worry about. What I said about no-one wanting anyone else to have the power applies to our relations with Israel. It’s a principle everyone on our side - us, the PM and the spooks – all endorse. The real problem is exactly how we’re going to cut the Israelis out of the picture.”

Cabinet Room, Government Offices, Jerusalem
As the operation would be a joint effort with them, the Israelis would have to liaise with the British as to the exact numbers from each side which would be committed to it. That would be down to General Liebermann, the head of the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). Liebermann had already agreed with the head of Special Forces, General Tekoah, on what regiments would be participating.

That concluded the purely military side of things, for the moment. There would also be two scientists, a physicist and a biochemist, from the King Saul University at Tel Aviv.

Certain political matters remained to be sorted out. “We’re not going to tell the Danes, are we,” said General Liebermann. It was more a statement than a question.

“That goes without saying,” answered the Prime Minister. Denmark, still responsible for Greenland’s security, would kick up a fuss of course if she found out, as would the Greenlanders themselves. But both could be safely ignored. On this point the Israelis and the British were in agreement; it was simply not an issue.

“The only real problem is our allies,” said Itzhak bar-Levi, the Foreign Minister. “At the moment they seem happy to share the Power with us. But since we don’t yet fully understand how it works, I’d be happier if we were to have sole possession of it.”

He had already, earlier that day, spoken with his British counterpart who had insisted that Israel used its share of the Power, as it was now being simply referred to, only in its own self-defence. At the moment bar-Levi couldn’t identify any other purpose he would have used it for, at least he thought he couldn’t. The issue was that definitions of what constituted a country’s legitimate national interest could vary. The Foreign Minister was a member of a group that believed in the concept of Eretz Israel, Greater Israel. This group, thought not particulary open about its views, sought the permanent annexation of the West Bank and Golan Heights, acquired by Israel for its future self-defence in the wars of 1967 and 1973, and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians would be expelled from their historical lands which would then be occupied by Jewish settlers. And perhaps, perhaps, they might one day go further and seize the whole of the area from the Nile to the Euphrates, including Jordan and Lebanon, much of Syria and Iraq and parts of Egypt and Turkey, in accordance with the covenant made by God with Abraham in the book of Genesis. But the world community would have no truck with any of that if it could help it and the British would not consent even to share the power at Thule if there was the slightest chance it could be used to achieve such a goal.

“I’m inclined to agree with you,” the Prime Minister was nodding. Not about Eretz Israel, but about other things. Ehud Olmert saw himself as the steward of a small and vulnerable country more or less surrounded by hostile neighbours who craved its destruction. Nuclear weapons, of course, had existed before the state of Israel even came into being. But here was something entirely new which she had an opportunity to gain sole control of. In her situation, any advantage which Israel could gain she must.

“We can’t be sure the British won’t double-cross us,” he said. “Buchan is our friend, but there are others, the officials at the Foreign Office, who have very different feelings towards us. Deep down, like everyone else they believe us to be paranoid and dangerous, willing to upset the global balance of power and cause all kind of trouble provided we survive. Or they may simply want the Power all for themselves.”
“So what do we do about that?” asked Uri Masur.

The Prime Minister smiled and turned to General Liebermann. “I think that is another thing which could be considered a military matter.”

Meanwhile, in London, government officials were meeting with the heads of the Army in the briefing room at the Ministry of Defence. Earlier the civil servants had been filled in on the situation by their counterparts at the Foreign Office. It was stressed that there had been no option but to work with the Israelis rather than undertake a unilateral, pre-emptive strike on the installation at Thule. The Prime Minister had insisted on it and Sir Matthew Darlison had found it quite impossible to change his mind. “But I don’t trust them,” he said again. “I’m just not happy about it.”

“Nor am I,” grunted General Sir Donald le Chevalier, the Chief of the Army General Staff, looking darkly thoughtful, when told of Darlison’s words. “Nor am I.” He had a lot of admiration for the Israelis’ bravery and professionalism; all the same, he knew what they were like. And although he suspected he hadn’t quite been told the full story, he was aware there were aspects to the matter which concerned Britain’s national interest, if not that of the whole world. Unfortunately, for either the Foreign Office or the Army to go against Downing Street’s wishes on this matter would be effectively to overturn the basis on which the government of the United Kingdom was conducted. Much as it often seemed a military dictatorship might be a good thing, given the state of the country and the mess the government were making of running it….

There was little doubt that the operation should be carried out on the British side by the SAS. The only issues left to sort out were ones of logistics.

“We do know where this Thule place is, do we?” asked the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, James Harkness.
Le Chevalier nodded to the staff officer who had accompanied him to the meeting, a bespectacled, scholarly-looking man who looked more an academic than a soldier. He switched on the PowerPoint and a map of Greenland came up on the screen, with the location of Thule clearly ringed in red.

He pointed to it with a ruler. “There we are. Not too far from the sea and not too far from the town of Qaanaaq. Of course it’s best to avoid Qaanaaq for security reasons, and we’ll have to land some way up the coast so there’s less danger of the people at Thule or the American base spotting us, if word of our presence gets around, until it’s too late. But I shouldn’t think there’s any danger of getting lost.”
“I anticipate we’ll be entering Greenland by Canada,” said Sir Donald.

The Permanent Under Secretary nodded to confirm this. “We’re already working on that. The Canadian government will be told we’re doing a training exercise; no actual combat, though we’ll be using live ammunition. The Israelis are joining us as observers. I shouldn’t think the Canadians will ask too many questions, as relations with them have been pretty good in the past.”

“There’ll need to be plenty of reconnaissance. That chap Schwege couldn’t say roughly how many of these paramilitaries would be guarding the place, and we’ll need to have some idea what we’re up against. It’ll have to look reasonably innocent, of course; as if we’re on a scientific expedition or just sightseeing.”
“Do we anticipate any complications during the actual attack on the installation