Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Return of the Falcon — Chapter 5

8122 Commercial Avenue

      “Joe...Joe...Wake up, man. You been drinkin’?” One-Two Johnny said, shaking Joe gruffly by the shoulder.
   “Wha..., Johnny? What time is it?” Joe asked.
   “It’s eleven o’clock in the morning. How long yuh been here like this, huh? All night?” Johnny said.
   Joe felt the left side of his head. There were two walnuts there now. “No... uh... it was ... I don’t know... two  a.m.?  This morning... when this guy, Frankie Ferrel, came in here and tapped me on the head.”
   “Here le’ me get you up. Man, you better see a doctor, Joe.”
   “Nah, I’ll be all right. Just let me sit down here on the sofa for a while.” Joe tried to clear the static from his mind.
   “Hey, who’s this Ferrel? Sounds familiar.”
   “Remember Dixie Monahan?” Johnny nodded as Joe continued, “Well, Frankie Ferrel was one of his guys. Took off with him to the Orient way before the war.”
   Johnny said, “Yeah, yeah. Now I remember. Monahan owed the Outfit a lot of money, I remember. I know some guys that would like to plumb that guy up.”
   “I heard that Ferrel plumbed Dixie up permanent quite a while back.”
   “Ferrel ain’t lookin’ for me is he, Joe?”
   “What?—No!” said Joe.”It’s another case entirely.”
   “You know, I got some friends say they’re gonna lock me up today.”
   “I figured that, too,” Joe said as a rush of pain went down the side of his head into his neck, making it hard to pronounce his words. “They can only hold you for 48 hours. I’ll... aggh... see what I can do before they file charges—if they file.”
   “Here’s some money for the bond.” He handed Joe $2000 in cash in an envelope. “Joe, see a doctor. You’re no good if you’re messed up.”
   “Yeah, okay, maybe. I’ll see you tomorrow. Wilma will be here in an hour. We’ll take care of Tommy, so ah, don’t worry.”
   “See yuh, Joe,” and One-Two Johnny walked out of the office but without his natural swing. Joe watched him leave and leaned back in the sofa.


   After Johnny left, Joe fell asleep. And he had the dream again. It was different, yet always the same. He woke in a sweat, disoriented, and breathing heavily. Just as he dozed off again, a quick hard knock on the outer office door woke him. Joe labored to get up as the knocks grew louder. He got to the door and opened it. The boy handed him the telegram. Joe gave him a look and reached in his pocket for a tip. “Gosh, thanks Mr. Ganzer,” said the boy, and he ran out of the outer office slammed the door and galloped down the stairs. Joe closed the door, rubbed his eyes, walked back to his desk, and opened the telegram.
   “What?” he asked out loud.
   Then he answered himself. “This is that old poem code we used during the war.”
   Strange, he thought: Why would Hamilton go to such lengths to send a reply? An odd feeling came over him, one he hadn’t had since the war, a thrill, a rush, the game. He sat down to decipher the message. It would take a while. It had been almost two years since he decoded a message like this. He took his time.
   Joe looked first for the twenty-fifth letter. It was indeed an “H,” for Hamilton. This would appear as a mistake in the decoded message and guaranteed that Hamilton had actually written it. Another clue confirmed it was genuine.
   The last six letters (five plus one) were I-Y-A-Y-A-H. The “H” at the end was Hamilton’s signature. The other five letters represented words from the poem “The Life That I Have.” After a little work remembering the poem, Joe had the words. Now for the hard part: deciphering the message. It came back to him with a little effort, and as he worked on the message, he remembered long hours at Camp X, working with codes and ciphers until it became second nature to him.
   Agents like Joe Ganzer and Lawrence Hamilton owed their lives to the cipher men, a group of dedicated mathematicians and technicians at Betchley Park whose codemaking and breaking shortened the war by as many as two years.
   Joe made some mistakes decoding and had to start over. He was rusty, but then the clear text slowly emerged. The final clue, the last letter, was indeed an “H”:


   Joe tore up the telegram and his transcription, dropped it in the waste basket, and set it on fire. So now it begins again. He sat back in his chair, exhausted from the effort of decoding, and fell asleep again.


   Wilma entered the outer office. At first she didn’t notice the splintered wood around the door that led to Joe’s office. Routine makes people follow familiar patterns until something breaks through the murk. The wood... it’s broken and the frosted glass... cracked.
   Panic flooded her. It’s all wrong. She ran to Joe’s door without thinking that whoever kicked in the door might still be in Joe’s office. She didn’t care. She threw open the door, and there was Joe slumped over in his chair.
   “Joe...Joe,” she screamed and flew over to the his chair. Tears ran down her cheeks as she grabbed him in his chair. “Joe, come on, come on. Don’t be dead. Oh, God.”
   Joe’s eyes struggled open. He saw a blur that he thought was a woman. The dark-haired woman slowly came into focus. “Wilma...?”
   “Joe, I thought you were dead,” she said.
   “I’d have to feel better to be dead.”
   Wilma tried to hide her tears as his focus improved. “What happened? I’m calling the police.”
   “No, don’t. Frankie Ferrel came in here and telegraphed a message on my head. I don’t want him to finish it. Let it go.”
   “Who’s Frankie Ferrel, and why does it smell like smoke in here?” she asked.
   “He was one of Dixie Monahan’s guys. Remember him? Probably killed him. A contract killer. Now he’s back in Chicago.”
   “What’s he doing here and why did he hurt you?”
   “Ludko found out he’s Polina Kemidov’s guy now, and he came here to force me out of the picture.”
   “Every time you get involved with one of Ludko’s so-called clients something goes wrong. When are you ever going to learn?”
   “Hey...I must be a mental case. Get Ludko on the line for me would yuh?” Joe asked with a smile that made his head crackle.
   Wilma walked to the outer office and murmured, “You’re all idiots.” She dialed Ludko’s number while glaring at Joe, then switched the line over.
   Ludko answered, “Yeah.”
   “Guess what? Frankie Ferrel stopped here early this morning to tap out a message on my head. He wants me off the case, and you brought him here.”
   “Joe, I was sure I lost that tail. Nobody could have followed me. Nobody.”
   “Well, he did and I got the receipt to prove it.”
   “Joe, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t—. It won’t happen again.”
   “It can’t. He’ll kill me next time. Look, I got a telegram from Lawrence Hamilton this morning. There’s enough money in all this to kill anybody who gets in the way. Ferrel’s going for a double cross on Polina. I’m sure of it. Her loving Uncle Yuri was an art swindler in Occupied Paris and a Nazi collaborator. He’s running from the French government, the NKVD, and who knows who else. His only chance is to get out of England, maybe to the States, maybe to Canada.”
   “So, then Polina figured the double cross and hired us,” Ludko said.
   “She might be legit about her uncle. She may not even know about what he did in Paris. He operated as an art dealer under the identity of Hugo Morand, so she might not know. But Ferrel knows for sure. He might have just glommed onto her to get to the art, wherever that is. And Ferrel doesn’t know she even talked to me. He just knows about you, and you led him here. He must think we’re after the art, just like him.”
   “Hey, Joe, what are we talkin’ about here—Rembrandts, da Vincis, what?”
   “Maybe, I don’t know,” said Joe. “All I know is Kemidov flimflammed desperate Jews out of their valuable art, then turned them over to the Gestapo.”
   “What a stinkin’ puke,” Ludko said. “So what are we talkin’ about in money here?”
   “I’d say millions, Lud.” Joe heard the phone drop. “...Lud, you still there?”
   Ludko juggled the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, sorry, no wonder Ferrel hammered yuh. So what do we do now? And what’s the NKVD got to do with this?”
   “I’m guessing that Kemidov worked with the NKVD and was giving them intelligence on the Nazis all the time he was operating in Paris. A reptile like that would play both ends. The Soviets aren’t stupid. They figured it out. They knew he stole a lot of art, so they’re just following the money. And money is important even to communists—especially that kind of money.”
   “Joe, we dealt with those guys before, during the war. They’re damned ugly. Can’t we just let them take care of Ferrel?”
   “They’ll get Polina, too. I can’t take that chance.”
   “Sounds like the old Joe.”
   “What do you mean by that? She’s my client.”
   “She’s beautiful, too. That’ll be your undoing some day.”
   “Get back to the hotel. Do you think you can tail Ferrel without him knowing it or should I just send Benny?” Joe asked.
   “Aw, Joe, you really know how to hurt a guy,” Ludko said with a phony lament.
   “Look, I’m the one with the bruised ego. Now call me when you get something.”
   “You can count on me,” Ludko said as he hung up the phone.
   Joe called to Wilma, “Wilm, could you have your sister pick up Tommy Della Penna? Could she watch him for a couple of days?”
   “Where’s his dad?”
   “He’ll be in custody, but not for long. You’re going to bail him out after they charge him. Maybe tomorrow.” Joe reached into his top desk drawer. “Here’s two grand that Johnny brought here early this morning.”
   Wilma came in and took the money from Joe and said, “What are you doing dealing with losers like Johnny?”
   “He’s being pulled in on a burglary charge for hitting a liquor warehouse over on 100th Street. The guy is trying to go straight. He’s got a job at the mills, and he’s trying to take care of his kid....”
   “And you’re trying to help him out. What’s he paying you with, the liquor he stole?”
   Joe was disappointed, “I’ll tell you this, but don’t you breathe a word of it to anyone. That warehouse is owned by the Outfit, and they robbed it themselves for the insurance. Johnny’s their fall guy.”
   “Damn, Joe, first that Ferrel guy might kill you and now if you get Johnny off, the Outfit will make a nice hole for you in Chicago Heights. What’s the matter with you? Why don’t you stick with the domestic cases, like you have been?”
   “Say—can your sister get Tommy or not?”
   “Yeah, sure,” and she went into her office to call her sister.
   Joe went into his bathroom to see what he looked like. He combed his wavy dark brown hair and winced when the comb ran over the left side. He thought the knots beneath his thick hair made the wave stick out too much. I’ve looked worse.
   He grabbed his keys. On his way out he whispered, “Don’t worry.”
   Wilma was talking to her sister and looked up disapprovingly and smiled and shook her head.


   Joe got in the Chevy and headed over to 100th Street to see if he could find something—anything—that might help Johnny. He drove the twenty blocks to the warehouse district. There were new houses going up on nearly every street. GIs were picking up their lives after four years of madness—starting families and businesses, building homes.
    In the warehouse district, the story was the same: new buildings going up on street after street. The total creative energy that won the war was now unleashed on the American business landscape, not only in Chicago but all across America. GIs were starting machine shops and auto mechanic garages and cabinet shops. As Joe made his way into the older sections along 100th street, the buildings were worn and needed repair, buildings of all shapes and sizes, and all ugly. After a few more minutes, there it stood—Marcello Liquor Warehouse—right on the corner. Joe pulled along the curb, opened the glove compartment and pulled out a pair of glasses. He put them on, grabbed a notebook and his hat, and got out of the car. He walked to the man door that probably led into the office. He opened it and walked in. It was a little room with a metal desk and a fat dark-eyed guy sitting behind it.
   “What do you want?” said the dark-eyed man.
   With his faint practiced lisp, Joe said, “I’m here investigating the robbery. I’d like to see the damage caused by the intruders.”
   “You with the insurance?”
   “Yes, could you show me the damage and do you have the inventory account?” Joe asked, not believing how easy it was. Show a little authority, even to a thug, and they respond accordingly.
   “Sure, come on with me,” said the fat man, relighting a cigar. They walked into the warehouse from the office and over to the door where the burglars had entered. There had been some amateur repairs done to the back door. “Right here. See?”
   “Yes,” Joe said, looking interested in the door frame, “I see. Must have made a great noise. Did you hear anything?”
   “I wasn’t here. It was at night. Nobody was here.”
   “Did anybody see anything?” Joe asked.
   “Nah, like I said nobody was here.”
   “Yes, you said that before. May I see the account of what was stolen.”
   “Yeah, come on back to the office.” They made their way through the maze of stacked boxes of every kind of alcohol imaginable. The little fat man handed Joe the list of beverages that were stolen, all expensive products.
   “I see that these thieves knew what they were looking for. These are the most expensive spirits on the market,” said Joe.
   “Yeah, it was a big haul. They done good.”
   “What do you mean by that?” Joe snapped.
   The fat man stammered, thinking he’d said something wrong, “You, you know, it was all expensive. Like you said, ‘...expensive spirits.’“ The fat man laughed uncomfortably.
   “Yes, indeed. Well I shall include that in my report. Thank you, sir.” And Joe headed back to his car. The flunky watched Joe carefully and picked up the phone. He’ll tell Marcello that an insurance guy came snooping around.
   Still wearing his glasses, Joe took a little cruise in the Chevy around the neighborhood of drab. Two blocks away from the Marcello Liquor Warehouse was a small, shabby warehouse that looked out of place with a new Cadillac parked in front of it. He parked and walked up to the door and tried it. Locked. He hammered on the door.
   After almost a minute, a muscular thug, late thirties, opened the door and said, “What do you want?”
   Joe smiled at that. These guys must all read the same books on hospitality. “Oh, I’m so sorry to disturb you, but I’m quite lost,” Joe said with a small bookish voice, pulling out his notebook and reading the blank page. “Do you know where, uh, the Marcello Liquor Warehouse is located?”
   As Mr. Friendly answered, he let the door open a bit more and Joe spotted stacks of liquor crates inside, “Yeah, it’s two blocks over on 100th street, right on the corner. Can’t miss it.”
   “Thank you so much,” said Joe and got to his car and left. He thought how brazen these guys were, storing their heist only a few blocks away. Took guts and connections—and “Mr. Friendly” was definitely a crew member. Sgt. Kavanaugh must be in thick with this crew to overlook that place. Joe headed for Vookie’s Tavern.


   “Hey, Joe, how’s it goin’?” asked Eddie wiping the bar.
   “What have you got for a headache and a growling stomach?” Joe replied.
   “Hung over?” Eddie insinuated.
   “No, a real headache, but what’s to eat?” Joe asked.
   “I got my famous egg sandwiches. Want some aspirin?” Joe nodded and headed for his booth.
   Before he got to his booth, the lone old guy at the bar said with the slightest of slurs, “I usually have a little bit of peppermint schnapps for my hangovers. Works like a ch-chaaarm.”
   “Thanks for the advice” said Joe, his head throbbing.
   Eddie filled a beer mug of water, a couple of aspirin, and an egg sandwich and brought it to Joe at his private booth.
   “Thanks, Eddie.”
   “Joe, you don’t look too good.”
   “I feel even worse,” said Joe. “I got to ask you something. You get your liquor from Rossi, right?”
   “Yeah, not that I want to deal with those people, but I sort of have to, yuh know.” Eddie said.
   “I figured Rossi had the lock on booze down this way. What’s with that Marcello’s over on 100th Street?”
   “That’s one of Rossi’s places. He’s got it all down here, all the way to Calumet City. Why, what’s up? Hey, you ain’t messin’ with that guy are you? Cuz, if you are, you’re gonna loose.”
   “No, I’m just following a lead for Johnny. You know, they got him up for that heist.”
   “Damn, I didn’t know it was that place. Johnny’s had it. You can’t do anything there, Joe,” said Eddie, his eyes and expression showed genuine concern for his friend and silent partner.
   “I was afraid of that.” As he took the aspirins and downed them with the water, he let out a melodious:  “Thank you, Eddie.”  Then he lowered his voice to a whisper and said, “You can’t say a word.”
   “I won’t. Take your sandwich.”
    He took the egg sandwich off the plate and and tore into it. Halfway through the sandwich Eddie’s phone rang.
   “Joe... it’s Wilma.”
   Joe hopped out of the booth and headed to the bar. “Yeah, Wilm?”
   “Ludko called and said Ferrel’s on the move. He said he’ll call back when he’s got more.”
   “Thanks. When he calls back, tell him to try to keep Ferrel away from The Drake as long as he can. I’m going there to talk to Polina.”
   “Okay, Joe. How’s your head?”
   “Eddie’s the best doctor. I’m doing fine. Still a little blurry,” Joe said.
   “Well, if it gets worse, see a doctor. Please, Joe—I mean it,” Wilma said.
   “I will, I will. See yuh,” and Joe hung up, put money on the bar when he left, and headed for Lake Shore Drive and The Drake Hotel.
(Use CONTENTS to navigate from Chapter to Chapter)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Return of the Falcon — Chapter 4

Scotland Yard
      Hamilton looked at the inspector intensely. “Who is Hugo Morand?”
      “He is an international art swindler and quite possibly a murderer. It’s a good thing you came along with this. We would have completely overlooked this photograph.”
   “It’s not like Scotland Yard to overlook anything,” Hamilton said with an invisible smile, raising his eyebrow, as he inspected the man in the photograph.
   “Now see here,” protested the inspector, “we are understaffed, and the war is still having its effect upon us.”
   Hamilton looked up benignly, “Of course, of course....” Having had his fun, he asked, “Tell me about Hugo Morand.”
   “Well, we have been alerted about him by the French government. It seems Morand was a reptilian Swiss art dealer who swindled Parisian Jews out of their art and then turned them over to the Gestapo. For his kind help in locating enemies of the Reich, the Gestapo agreed to split any money they confiscated with him. In most cases, that was more money than he had paid for the art.”
   Hamilton added, “Jews were indeed desperate to escape the Nazis. They sold anything and everything to have money to buy their way out of Occupied France.”
   Inspector Raynes said, “Morand selected only wealthy Jews who had fine art worthy of his beneficence.”
   Nazis were looting art all over Europe, but nowhere were they more rapacious than France. The art markets of France and the Netherlands were hives of vermin, teaming with collaborators, opportunists, and shady middlemen, like Hugo Morand. Thousands of objects, even entire collections, were seized or swindled by the likes of Morand and stored at the Jue de Paume Museum in Paris. At the bottom of this barrel of human garbage was Hermann Goering, the ruthless and powerful Reichsmarchall. Goering was amassing a fortune in stolen art at his lair outside Berlin named Carinhall, after his wife. Goering’s collection rivaled most all the museums in Europe.
   “Let me get the file on this bird,” The inspector said and stepped out of his office, leaving Hamilton to study the photograph. Although grainy, he could see that the man at the door of the hotel fit the description, at least generally, of Yuri Kemidov. He could not tell if there was a scar. The image lacked sufficient clarity. After a few minutes, Raynes returned.
   “I have it now,” said the inspector opening the file. “The name ‘Hugo Morand’ turned up in Goering’s records of all places, discovered by Joop Piller, the resistance fighter, after the Allies liberated Paris. They also found these photographs of Goering in Paris at the Jue de Paume. Inspector Raynes pointed out in the photograph. “See here—from right to left—it shows this German art dealer Bruno Loshe and Hermann Goering. And look here, in the background,  none other than our Hugo Morand.
   “And see, it states here Loshe was arrested in May of 1945 and testified against his fellow looters, including lurid details about Morand. Loshe claimed that Morand had, by way of murder, obtained a statue of a bird that once belonged to the Knights Templar, going all the way back to the Crusades. Can you believe that? A golden falcon, it was. ‘Encrusted with jewels’ it says here. I don’t know how much truth there is to that tale.”
   Hamilton interjected, “But they never got their hands on Morand, then?”
   “No,” replied the inspector. “They apprehended all the other sewer rats but not him.” He paused and added, “In fact, Goering’s in Nuremburg right now awaiting the gallows.”
   “Yes, I know.”
   At first the inspector looked surprised that Hamilton would know about Goering, but then realized he was MI5 and dismissed the thought. “How Morand arrived here in London is not Scotland Yard’s concern, but we will definitely expand our case to include him now. We’ll turn him over to the French when we catch up to him.”
   “But how Morand got to London is our concern, inspector,” said Hamilton. “He had to have had considerable help.”
   “Who would help a Nazi collaborator?”
   “That is what we need to discover,” said Hamilton abruptly. “Thank you so much for your time, Inspector. I shall include your diligent assistance in my report.” He shook the inspector’s hand. “Good day, then.” Hamilton exited the office and headed out of Scotland Yard to Whitehall Place. He motioned for a cab.
   A cab pulled up immediately. “Where now, guv’nor?” said Mickey Browne. Hamilton was amused to see him. He got in the cab. “I felt bad takin’ off on you like that, so I stuck around in case you needed to get away in a hurry.”
   “Well, thank you, Mr. Browne; but I hardly need to escape the police. I am trying to help the police, Mickey.”
   “Uh oh! Me and me bloody big mouth. I knew I should keep quiet about me past.”
   Hamilton laughed. “It’s not what you think. I’m helping the police apprehend a Nazi collaborator.”
   Mickey let out his breath. “I fought the Jerries in the Great War, but these Nazis were bloody worse, I say.” He turned and looked out the driver’s window and said, “Look what they’ve done to us.”
   Hamilton said, “Would you like to help us locate this collaborator?”
   “Me? How?”
   “Do you know any cabbies who work the Alhambra Hotel area?”
   “I surely do.”
   “Excellent. Could you try to find out if one of them had a fare about two weeks ago fitting the description of a middle-aged man, graying hair and a scar at his left temple.”
   “I’ll ask about...but, no offence, fares all start to look alike after a while.”
   “I’m thinking this fare may have been harried, disconcerted, and it would have been late at night.”
   “Unglued, eh?”
   “Yes, if anyone remembers him, I can be reached at the Hotel Cavendish.” He handed Mickey his card over the seat.
   “I’d certainly rather deal with you than Scotland Yard. Not that I have any trouble, mind you.”
   “No...No.” Hamilton just smiled.
   “Did I tell you about how I almost got barred from picking up fares from Euston Station during the bombings?” Mickey didn’t wait for an answer. “I was in the taxi rank, and I sees this couple. Must’ve come in from Manchester. Everybody was goin’ there to escape the bloody bombings. This couple had two suitcases, a pram, and a little baby. The line must have stretched around the station. So, I gets it in me head to just drive ahead and get them. So’s they don’t have to wait in the queue for hours. The porters were yelling as I pulled up. They had First Class passengers and officers, but I went right past ‘em. Picked that couple up and took ‘em all to Waterloo. Wouldn’t even take their tip. No, sir. Course threats were made by the station staff. Tried to bar me, they did.”
   “We need noble gestures like yours in times of war.”
   “My feelin’s precisely,” replied Mickey. “We’re almost to Treadwell Bookseller.” He turned the corner and pulled up to the door.
   Hamilton exited the cab and paid Mickey with a handsome tip.
   “Awfully generous of you guv’nor—ah—Mr. Hamilton.”
   Hamilton leaned into the cab and said, “Help me locate that man, Mickey.”
   “I’ll try me best.”
   “Thank you.” Hamilton turned and entered the bookstore. The door chimed merrily.
   Harry greeted him and said, “Well, how did you get on with Scotland Yard?”
   “Frosty at first, but they came along. They gave me the name of Hugo Morand, an art dealer in Paris. I believe our Kemidov is actually Mr. Morand. He is a Nazi collaborator. Do you think we have anything in our files about Morand?”
   “Let’s go check the files.” Harry headed up the steps slowly as Hamilton followed. When they entered the office Harry walked over to his file cabinets. “Paris, you say?”
   He opened one cabinet drawer after another, searching through files. Then, grabbing a file, “Here it is—Hugo Morand. Let’s see here. Identified as a double agent working for the Nazis and the NKVD. He posed as a Swiss art dealer as his cover. He was a minor player, we thought, and didn’t justify additional surveillance, but our MI6 boys captured some photographs of him in occupied Paris. One here with his morbid-looking henchman, identified in the dossier as ‘Molyneaux—the butcher.’“ He leaned over his desk and showed Hamilton the pictures.
   Hamilton scrutinized them and remarked, “A scar at the temple.”
   “What’s that, you say?”
   “The scar. See here,” said Hamilton as he indicated the left temple. “Hugo Morand is most assuredly Yuri Kemidov, aka ‘The General.’“
   “I believe you’re on to something,” said Harry as he inspected the photo again.
   “A clever deception. Kemidov is not only a master criminal but a double-crossing spy as well.”
   “Is there a difference?” Harry said with a stifled laugh. “And I suppose Scotland Yard wants the criminal.”
   Hamilton smiled at his case officer’s joke. “They think he is Hugo Morand and are planning to turn him over to the French government if they ever apprehend him.”
   “We cannot let them have him, Lawrence. He’s worth far too much to us.”
   Hamilton nodded knowingly. “I understand.”
   Harry added, “Unfortunately we have no leads on Kemidov’s current location.”
   “Something hastened his departure from the Alhambra, but I believe he is still in the city.”
   “As do I,” agreed Harry.
   Hamilton continued, “He is not working with the NKVD. He is using them. They smuggled him out of Paris, for whatever reason, and dropped him here in London. Now he resurrects his identity as The General, art dealer, connoisseur, and collector. According to Scotland Yard, Morand stole a fortune in art while in Paris.”
   “And you think it’s here in London?”
   “Not for long, if my guess is right,” said Hamilton as his brow arched. “Kemidov was selling art to Michael Copper Gallery to finance his escape. I’m sure of it.”
   Harry’s face grew dark. “It is quite possible, like Operation Sunshine, Kemidov is working with the remnants of the OSS against the communists in yet another deception. This inquiry did come from your colleague and former OSS operative, Joseph Ganzer. Am I right?”
   “You think, then, this is an OSS operation gone bad, and they are using us to clean it up?
   “It is quite possible,” said Harry.
   Operation Sunshine began near the end of the war. Nazi General Karl Wolff, commander of the SS and Gestapo in Italy, contacted the senior OSS officer in Switzerland. Wolff and other Nazi leaders were seeking amnesty and escape for themselves and an extensive roster of SS and Gestapo personnel. In exchange, General Wolff offered to shift allegiance of 5000 former Nazis of Eastern European and Russian descent to anti-communist activities. They were given extensive espionage training at a camp located in Oberammergau, Germany.
   This army of spies flooded Europe, undertaking covert operations against the communists. As part of the agreement, the Nazis were permitted to keep the booty they had collected during the war—gold, cash, precious jewelry, art and antiques, most of which had belonged to Jews who fell victim to the “Final Solution.” Thousands of high-ranking Nazis were now fleeing through “rat lines” to South America and elsewhere.
   Hamilton weighed the possibilities. “There is no conceivable way Joseph Ganzer would work an operation on me, Harry. He knows I would discover it straight away. No, Yuri Kemidov may be using the OSS or the NKVD or both, but Joseph is not part of Operation Sunshine nor is he any longer part of the OSS. Of that you can be assured. No, Kemidov is nothing more than a cunning opportunist who is just about out of rope. I am convinced he is now running for his life.”
   “Precisely, but not for his double cross—for his art treasures. Case in point: Scotland Yard has a report alleging that Kemidov has a bejeweled golden falcon once belonging to the Templars. Surely, some NKVD operatives in the field have learned of Kemidov’s treachery and his treasures. Once they locate him and have a little discussion as to the location of his art collection, they will report back to their control, and then they will kill him.”
   “Rouge agents? Yes, yes,” agreed Harry. “Even communists can become capitalists if there is enough money. I fear, then, your friend in America is in considerable danger.”
   “I agree. Someone approached Joseph Ganzer to track down Kemidov. That someone believes Kemidov will flee to the United States or Canada.” He paused and realized, “They know our operation, Harry.”
   “Yes, it seems they know us quite well.”
   “We must get to Kemidov before they do.”


   Hamilton sat at his desk in his rooms at the Hotel Cavendish, considering his next move. He had to warn Joe Ganzer about the danger he might be in, but he had so little to report, no concrete intelligence. He didn’t even know if Yuri Kemidov had already fallen prey to the Soviet agents trying to assassinate him. He didn’t know where Kemidov’s stolen art was being stored. Was Joe Ganzer being used by OSS to locate Kemidov for them? Was Joe part of that operation?
   The phone rang. Hamilton reached over and picked up. ‘Hello.”
   “Sir, this is the desk clerk. There is a gentleman.” The clerk paused and looked at the man standing across the desk from him. “Your name please?”
   “Mickey Browne... with an ‘e’.”
   The clerk repeated, “A Mickey Browne with an ‘e’ is here to see you. Shall I send him up?”
   “Yes, of course, of course.”
   “Very well, sir.” The clerk hung up and said to Mickey, “You may take the lift to the third floor. Mr. Hamilton’s suite is—”
   “Yeah, I know, guv’nor,” and Mickey was off to the lift. He pushed the button and ascended to the third floor.
   A brisk knock. Hamilton rose and headed to the door and opened it. “Come in, Mickey.”
   “Blye me...that desk monkey was a real uppity type.”
   “Have you some news?” asked Hamilton anxious for any piece to the puzzle before him.
   “Indeed I do,” said Mickey. “There’s a cabbie friend of mine—I ain’t seen him in quite a while—but when I asked around his name comes up as a cabbie that works the Alhambra area. His name is Charlie Cuddy, an Irish bloke. He thinks I’m Irish, too, ‘cuz of me last name. But mine ends with an ‘e,’ you see. That makes it English, but I don’t tell anybody until I knows ‘em good.”
   “Very discerning of you, Mickey. Continue.”
   “I thought he was killed in the bombings. Hadn’t seen ‘im around the pubs. Turns out he was in hospital for a time, then changed his route. He’s fine now.”
   Hamilton was impatient. “What did he tell you?”
   “Well, I asks ‘im if he had a fare out of Alhambra fittin’ the description of the bloke you told me about.”
   “Well, he said he took a gentleman one evening, very late, from the Alhambra to The Strafford Hotel. Can you imagine?”
   “The Strafford? My that is a considerable move up.”
   “Quite right, guv’nor,” said Mickey. “That’s why it stuck in ol’ Charlie’s memory. Not many fares make a change of address like that.”
   “Are you sure it was our man?”
   “Positive. He had the scar on his temple, just like yuh said.”
   “What else do we know?”
   “Charlie tells me he knows the bloke’s room number, but he won’t give it up unless I pay him a quid.”
   “So, I paid out of me own pocket.” Hamilton reached in his suit coat pocket for his wallet and handed Mickey a two pound note. “Thank you again, Mr. Hamilton.”
   “Now, how did your friend learn his room number?”
   “Turns out this fare had luggage, and Charlie lugged it up to his room expecting a generous tip, which he didn’t get,” said Mickey with contempt. “Imagine a rich bloke like that, at The Stafford Hotel, tipping a farthing?”
   “Atrocious behavior.”
   “Yes, sir. He lugs these three bags up to his rooms. Suite, it was. Fancy, too. Charlie said the smallest case must’ve had lead in it, it was so heavy. The fare kept telling him to be careful of the small case.”
   “Go on.”
   “Then, when he gets inside Room 436, there’s a big fellow already in there. Charlie claims he was a real gruesome sort.”
   “I see. Anything else?”
   “No...Charlie left directly after that measly tip. He was done with ‘em both.”
   “Could you take me to The Stafford now?”
   “For that extra quid yuh gave me, I’ll even take you back to Scotland Yard.”
   With that, they were on their way down Gower Street, then to Bedford Square through Soho, finally arriving at The Stafford Hotel at St. James Place. The street was crowded. Mickey had a difficult time negotiating his cab down the cramped passage, jumbled with people and other cabs picking up fares and dropping them off.
   “Mickey, let me out here,” said Hamilton. As he exited the cab, he added, “But wait for me, no matter how long it takes.”
   “Whatever you say, “ and Mickey lit out and looked for a parking space just off Piccadilly close to Green Park.
   Hamilton walked down the street. The entrance to the hotel was palatial. Four Doric columns supported a heavy canopy of black marble. Hamilton reached the arching carved wooden doors and entered the hotel. As Hamilton approached the front desk at the end of the long entranceway, one of the clerks asked, “May I help you?”
   “Yes, I was told to meet a party here for business.”
   “Would that be a guest of The Stafford or perhaps you are meeting at our dining room or one of our private rooms?”
   “No, a guest in Room 436.”
   The clerk consulted the registry and said, “Yes, Mr. Kemidov. He has one of our suites overlooking the courtyard. Shall I ring him, sir?”
   “Yes, please. Tell him an associate of Bruno Loshe, Lawrence Hamilton, is here to see him.” Hamilton used Loshe’s name to assure Kemidov he would meet with a colleague in the underworld of stolen art, one scoundrel validating another. Hamilton did not expect Kemidov to meet him cold, not now, not with NKVD searching for him.
   As expected the clerk returned to the desk and said, “Mr. Kemidov regrets that he cannot meet with you right now, but if you leave your card, he will contact you sometime later.”
   Cautious, he thought.
   If Hamilton were a NKVD agent, he would certainly not have a calling card, but if he were truly associated with Loshe, he would definitely have one, the semblance of legitimacy in an unsavory business. “Very well,” said Hamilton and handed the clerk his “Antiquities” calling card.
   Reading the card he said, “Certainly, Mr. Hamilton, I will tender it to him when next I see him.”
   Hamilton chummed the waters hoping it would attract the interest of his quarry. Right now he needed to call Harry and let him know his progress and get additional support. He found a comfortable sitting room just off the main lobby. No one was there.
   All the world’s major newspapers were carefully arranged on oval tables opposite green and brown leather couches. Photographs of famous guests covered the green walls above the dark brown wainscoting. Hamilton sat in one of the upholstered chairs next a house phone. He picked up the receiver and placed a call through the hotel switchboard to Harry.
   “Treadwell Bookseller,” answered Harry.
   “Harry, I have located our quarry. Could you send someone to keep an eye on him?”
   “Of course, where shall he be dispatched?”
   “The Stafford. Room 436, a suite.”
   “Excellent accommodations in the business of art, I see.”
   “Perhaps we can put an end to that,” said Hamilton.
   “Anything else?”
   “No, when my replacement arrives, send him to the sitting room off the main lobby. Then I’ll head back to the Cavendish.”
   “Very well then,” and Harry hung up and immediately placed a call to summon another agent. Harry would brief him on Kemidov, show him the photograph, and send him to The Stafford.
   An hour and a half later, Hamilton’s replacement arrived. They surreptitiously acknowledged each other. Hamilton remarked how wonderful the weather had been of late. The MI5 agent smiled and said, “Better than at Gloucester,” which was the signal for the change of guard.
   Hamilton rose and left the sitting room, heading for the front doors. The doorman held the door as Hamilton exited. He walked a short distance toward the intersection at Little James Street. Mickey pulled up alongside, and Hamilton hopped in. “You waited after all.”
   “Where to now?”
   “Back to The Cavendish.”
   “Right, sir,” said Mickey as he pulled away from the curb. “Have any luck with your Nazi collaborator?”
   “He is there alright, but we have to be patient now.”
   As they drove along Pall Mall on their way to the Cavendish, Hamilton tried to formulate a plan that would ensnare Kemidov. Having worked with the NKVD and important Nazis, Kemidov had a wealth of intelligence that would be invaluable to MI5. However, they needed criminal charges to detain him in Britain; otherwise, he would have to be turned over to the French for almost certain execution.
   Mickey could see that Hamilton was lost in thought, so the ride was kept quiet and uneventful. Even when Mickey was cut off by a careless motorist, he stifled his swearing. After a few more turns, they arrived at The Cavendish. Mickey pulled up to the entrance, stopped, and waited....
   “Sorry to disturb you sir, but we’re back at your digs.”
   “ we are,” said Hamilton. “I’m afraid I was too preoccupied to notice.”
   “That’s all right. I know you have important things on your mind.”
   Hamilton exited the cab and went to the driver’s window and handed Mickey his fare plus a handsome gratuity.
   “Thank you again, sir.”
   Hamilton smiled and said, “Give my regards to Harry Treadwell, would you?” For less than a breath, Mickey was caught off guard but then smiled, gave a little wave, and pulled away from the curb. Hamilton walked into The Cavendish. As soon as he got to his rooms, he placed a call to Harry. He listened impatiently as it rang.
   “Treadwell Bookseller.”
   “Harry, I’ll need some expensive art work, preferably paintings, smallish, if you can manage to procure them.”
   “Pray tell, what is this all about?” asked Harry.
   Hamilton laughed. “Sorry, old boy. I am setting out a little bait out for our quarry. If I can lure him here to The Cavendish with stolen art, we will have some serious charges to hold over his head.”
   “I like it,” said Harry. “ Once he takes possession, we will have him alright. But are you sure he will even bite?”
   “Get me something he cannot resist, something to appeal to his greed and his aesthetics.”
   “Tall order, but I shall do my utmost. An old schoolmate Lt. Col. Leonard Maycott is one of the Monuments Men. I can see whether he has something we may borrow.”
   “Quickly, Harry,” urged Hamilton. “I’m afraid we have little time.”
   “I appreciate that fully,” said Harry. “I learned from C that our MI5 agent inside the Michael Cooper Gallery is gathering intelligence on a network of former SS members liquidating stolen art to finance Die Spinne or ‘The Spider.’ Lawrence, they are planning a Fourth Reich in South America....”
   “Heaven help us.”
   Harry hung up and began trying to track down Lenard Maycott.
   They hadn’t seen each other since their days at King’s College. Maycott had gone on to become an important art historian but volunteered for duty with the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) to help save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat and thereafter. Lenard Maycott was one of the “Monuments Men.”
   General Eisenhower worked in coordination with the MFAA in France and Germany to salvage and protect cultural treasures, but the MFAA soon discovered that the Nazis had planned and were executing cultural theft on a scale unprecedented in world history. Hitler’s focus remained on stealing the greatest artworks of Western Civilization. No object was too small or too large to ignore, and all the better if it could correct the wrongs of history and humiliate those responsible. The Nazis had created an enormous web of deliberate deceit that stretched across all of Europe.
   Between 1938 and 1945 Nazi thieves stole millions of items, nothing of value was left unplundered. It was the job of the Monuments Men to at first protect and later to return the art treasures of Europe. Lt. Col. Leonard Maycott was still on the project, identifying and cataloguing art objects, hoping to return them to their rightful owners.
   The phone rang in Lt. Col. Maycott’s temporary office at the British Museum, a cramped room barely large enough for a desk, not to mention art objects of all shapes and sizes, stacked precariously in every available space. “Hello.”
   “Lenny? Is that really you?” asked Harry Treadwell.
   “Who’s calling, please. I’m quite engaged at the moment.”
   “This is Harry... Harry Treadwell.”
   “Good heavens,” said Lenny. “I haven’t heard from you in years. How have you been? I’ve heard rumors about you.”
   “They’re all true, especially the ones about my amorous adventures.”
   Laughing, Lenny said, “A little old for that aren’t you?”
   “Not yet. Just slowing down.”
   “We must get together soon, over some tea.”
   “I agree, but over some brandy. It’s been too long. The war and all.”
   “Yes, it has. But I understand you are in a very unusual business these days,” Lenny said having learned of Harry’s work with British Intelligence. “How may I help you?”
   Harry had always admired Lenny’s acumen. “Let’s call it a unique business, shall we? And I do need something special from you fellows at the MFAA.”
   “What might that be, Harry?”
   “Lenny, I need some paintings. Important. Valuable. Not too large.”
   “We have hundreds and hundreds here at the museum, but they are under catalog and will be returned to their true owners in due time.”
   “Perhaps there are some that meet our criteria that have no owners.”
   “Unfortunately there are some we fear their owners have perished in the death camps. Orphans as it were.”
   “I need at least one of great value. I’m thinking a modern artist.”
   “We have a Van Gogh that would be quite valuable and a Renoir. Would those do?”
   “Not to press the issue, but do you also have a minor work by a recognizable artist?”
   “Oh, indeed, there is a lovely Picasso that we believe is lost.”
   “That would be excellent,” said Harry. “Can you dispatch the paperwork without delay and assign them to us at MI5?”
   “I shall send this up the ladder, and I am sure we can help. However, there is the problem of their return,” cautioned Lenny. “Eventually we hope to discover their rightful owners and return their art. Therefore, they must be protected at all cost and returned.”
   “I understand completely. They will be in the best of care.”
   “May I send a man over to transport them?”
   “Where to, Harry?”
   “I am not at liberty to say, you know.”
   “You can’t blame my curiosity, Harry.”
   Harry laughed, “Someday, my friend, when we’re old.”
   Lt. Col Lenard Maycott turned three paintings over to the young MI5 agent with a warning: “See to it that nothing happens to these.”
   “Right, sir,” said the agent as he signed for the transmittal. He left Maycott’s office with a package not much larger than a suitcase but worth a small fortune. The agent stowed the package in his car and headed the short distance to the Hotel Cavendish. Lawrence Hamilton was pacing the floor when the agent knocked. Hamilton opened and greeted the agent.
    “Your package, sir.”
   “Thank you so much,” said Hamilton, delighted that Harry was able to make the arrangements.
   “There is a letter here, sir, from the Monuments fellow. Harry said the name is Martin Ruddock at the Michael Cooper, and he knows your target.”
   Hamilton took the letter and thanked him and opened it as the agent left. The letter explained the nature of the paintings and their worth in the present art market. Hamilton was impressed by the value of the paintings. He burned the letter in the ashtray.
   He took great care removing the paintings from the small crate and prepared to hang them in his office adjacent the main room. He hung the Van Gogh in the center of the wall opposite his desk, a delightful landscape in muted greens and ochres, a field of wheat in the foreground and a distant village with aqua rooftops in the background, all in Van Gogh’s bold unmistakable brushwork.
   Hamilton placed the Renoir to the left of the Van Gogh. A delicate little painting of a child with a ball in a garden that was radiant in its palette of pastel blues, reds, and yellows. The Picasso placed on the right of the Van Gogh seemed somehow out of place, almost grotesque. The painting itself was a contradiction. Although the canvas size was moderate, the subject was an oversized woman looking contemplatively at flowers in her hand and dressed in a white tunic. The arrangement of these paintings was a tableau of the development of art over the past 50 years, all of which the Nazis abhorred.
   Many such modern paintings were actually burned by the Nazis in Paris to make room at the Jue de Paume modern art museum for “more desirable art” looted elsewhere in Europe. They declared such art “degenerate,” unworthy of German standards of excellence and beauty. Some were treated as devalued scrip and traded for other paintings coveted by the Nazi elite. These three escaped the Nazi bonfires. Hamilton surveyed their placement with a certain pleasure and recalled Sherlock Holmes with a smile and thought: “The game is afoot”... now to warn Joseph.


   Hamilton took no chances with this message. He used a poem to encode his message. The poem, “The Life That I Have,” was written by one of England’s most brilliant cryptographers, Leo Marks, and both men knew it by heart.
   The life that I have
   Is all that I have
   And the life that I have
   Is yours.
   The love that I have
   Of the life that I have
   Is yours and yours and yours.
   A sleep I shall have
   A rest I shall have
   Yet death will be but a pause.
   For the peace of my years
   In the long green grass
   Will be yours and yours and yours.
   Choosing the second stanza at random, Hamilton selected the last line and used the next five words as his key: ISYOURSANDYOURSAND. He used this sequence in a double transposition of his message. The encryption had to be strong. Hamilton suspected Morand/Kemidov was darkly entangled with the NKVD; nothing else could explain how he got out of Paris and arrived in England. With the kind of money involved in stolen art, even a dedicated communist could be driven to neutralize a fellow agent and abscond with his loot.
   So, if Kemidov was indeed a Russian, he reasoned, then he has been working with the NKVD throughout the war. He was probably using them now to smuggle a fortune in art out of Europe to the US or Canada.
   The phone in Hamilton’s room rang. “Yes,” said Hamilton.
   In a cultured Russian accent, the voice on the other end said, “Mr. Hamilton, I believe you left your card at my hotel. I see that you are an antiquities dealer. How may I help you?”
   “I am an acquaintance of Bruno Lohse. He told me some time ago when I was in Switzerland that you were someone to approach about disposing of certain objects discovered during the war.”
   “If I may be so direct, how did you know to contact me here, at this hotel?” asked Kemidov.
   Hamilton was ready. “I spoke with Martin Ruddock.”
   “Ah, yes, Martin. Well, what can I do for you?”
   “I have some paintings that were acquired recently, but they are not in my area of expertise. They are works by the Spaniard Picasso and a work by Van Gogh and one by Renoir.”
   “Do you have these paintings in your possession? I would like to view them as soon as possible, as I am departing very soon.”
   Greed never fails, Hamilton thought.”Yes, they are here in my rooms at The Cavendish. Are you familiar with it?”
   “Yes, I am. May I visit you later this afternoon?”
   “Of course. I’ll order dinner for us, if you don’t mind?” said Hamilton.
   “That would be most gracious of you. Thank you,” said Kemidov. “I’ll see you in an hour.”
   “Indeed, ‘til then,” Hamilton said as he hung up. He at once dialed Harry Treadwell and asked for an agent to send a telegram. A young man arrived a short while later and took the coded message with orders to send it to Joseph Ganzer, 8112 Commercial Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA. The message read:

(Use CONTENTS to navigate from Chapter to Chapter)

** Later look for an appendix at the end of this book on Cryptography for a brief description of message encryption.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Return of the Falcon — Chapter 3

Hotel Cavendish

   Lawrence Hamilton was a fastidious man, rising early, morning calisthenics, breakfast, and start the day. Today would begin with a knock at the door. He was met by a youthful bellhop with the telegram. Hamilton took the telegram directly, gave the boy a two shilling tip, and closed the door. The years of stress from receiving such telegrams showed on his face, the wrinkles darkened, the mouth sagged. He steeled himself for whatever the contents might be.
   The relief at seeing “GANZER” at the bottom of the message gave this jaded MI5 agent a rush of excitement, a sense of the old drama. Hamilton met Joe as a trainee when he was assigned to the Toronto division during the war. His thoughts turned now to the message and saw it was in the old Slater Code with a couple of substitution codes thrown in. Must be names, he thought.
   His rooms at the Hotel Cavendish were just short of elegant, a ruse in his current role as an antiquities dealer but also a reward for risking his life for the Crown. He walked past his desk and the chaise longue to a large bookcase against the wall. He removed a heavy tome and opened it to reveal its hollowed-out, inner compartment. Hamilton removed the Slater code book, sat at his desk, and went to work decoding the message. He knew Joe would use “1776” as his offset number. He smiled at that, and some of those years returned to him. His hair was mostly gray now with some stragglers of black, which belied his age, an asset at times when enemy agents underestimated his speed and strength.
   He had that part of the message decoded. “Now, to those names―” and he
   laughed out loud at remembering the transposition code word: SNAFUWY. Joe made that up when Hamilton trained him at Canada’s Camp X outside Toronto.
   Camp X was only 30 miles west of Toronto, but it was a world away from any ordinary Canadian city. Its denizens included Italians, Hungarians, Croatians, and Germans, all recruited as spies for service throughout occupied Europe. Men like Hamilton would train them in the art and craft of espionage.
   Being only miles from the United States made Camp X perfect for training US agents like Joe Ganzer. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the US wartime intelligence agency, handpicked Joe Ganzer for their X-2 branch of counterintelligence. His journey behind the veil began there.
   Camp X was the Allies’ university of espionage with Lawrence Hamilton one of its professors. Joe was one of their star pupils, top of his OSS class. The school had an extensive library, weapons, enemy uniforms, insignia, a shooting range, a 90-foot jump tower, and a telecommunications center (code named HYDRA) which received top-secret coded data from around the world. A spy factory.
   Those Camp X days seemed so long ago to Hamilton. He smiled now remembering Joe’s transposition key, and how they used it later during operations in the States. The code worked by placing the word SNAFUWY beneath the regular alphabet and skipping every other letter:


   Then, the coder put the rest of the letters back together in reverse order, so it looked like:

   Not a sophisticated code by any means, but one that would prevent anyone except a cryptographer from knowing its contents. Hamilton arranged the clear text on a sheet of paper with the “Hotel Cavendish” discreetly printed across the top, he wrote out:

   He memorized the message without delay and set it ablaze in an ashtray on the writing desk. The Alhambra Hotel was only a few miles from the Cavendish. He grabbed his coat and headed downstairs for the lobby and the street. He hailed a nearby cab. “Alhambra Hotel, please,” he said as he entered the back seat.
   He watched out the window at the remnants of unimaginable terror, now in neat piles of what was once London. We’ll rebuild, he thought. Londoners were mounting an intense reconstruction effort, but the scars, both external and internal, would remain.
    He arrived at the Alhambra on Argyle Street. Hamilton got out of the cab and went straight to the front desk. “I am to meet a Mr. Kemidov here for business this morning. Is he in?” asked Hamilton. The clerk looked over his glasses at Hamilton in that suspicious and curious manner that only a hotel clerk can manage.
   “No, I am sorry Mr. Kemidov left rather abruptly. Let me see....” The desk clerk looked in his registry and added, “Yes, here it is. He left over two weeks ago under disturbing circumstances.”
   “Why do you say disturbing?”
   “Well, delicately, sir, he departed without settling his account.”
   “I see,” said Hamilton. “Of course, he left no forwarding address.”
   “No, I am again sorry. He left late in the evening. I was not at the desk, or I would have challenged him directly.” Leaning toward Hamilton, the clerk offered his personal analysis. “He did not appear the sort to leave his account open, but one never knows.”
   Hamilton, sensing suspicion by the clerk, asked, “I have never met Mr. Kemidov, only through correspondence. You say he appeared trustworthy?”
   “A distinguished gentleman, yes. About your age, I would imagine, gray hair, impeccably dressed. I was curious about that scar at his temple. Perhaps a war wound.”
   “Well, Mr. Kemidov may have been called away on some immediacy. These days, you know. Perhaps he will return to right his account.”
   Then spoken like a dedicated employee, the clerk added, “We can only hope, sir.”
   “Yes, I am sure he left many loose ends in his business affairs—mine being one of them. If he returns, would you give him my card.” Hamilton handed him his card, which read:

Lawrence Hamilton, Esq.
Hotel Cavendish

   The clerk studied his card carefully. “Indeed, Mr. Hamilton, I will tender this to Mr. Kemidov should he return.” Impressed with Hamilton’s credentials, the clerk offered, “You are now the second person to inquire upon Mr. Kemidov of late. They did not receive the news of his departure as candidly as you, sir.”
   “Perhaps a relative?” suggested Hamilton wanting more information, knowing the clerk’s quibbling, polemic nature.
   “Hardly,” replied the clerk. “This inquirer seemed more alarmed than remorseful, bordering—it seemed—on anger.”
   Hamilton, goading him, “This war has affected so many of us in so many different ways. It could simply be he wished to reunite with a wartime comrade and was disappointed.”
   “He?” exclaimed the clerk. “ No, it was a woman that inquired after him, only days after Mr. Kemidov absconded.”
   Hamilton countered, “A jilted lover?”
   “Not likely, she was so much younger....” Reconsidering, he added, “Of course, he certainly appeared wealthy, so perhaps. She left no name, no card. Simply turned and walked out.”
   Hamilton shook his head. “Curious.” He hesitated tapping his finger on the counter, knowing the clerk would fill the emptiness.
   Glancing again at Hamilton’s business card, the clerk remarked, “I see you are in a similar business as Mr. Kemidov.”
   Hamilton was off guard now. “Well, in a manner of speaking.”
   “But, it was my understanding he dealt with art, not antiquities, like you, sir.”
   “Yes, he was expanding his pursuits,” said Hamilton, deliberately vague.
   “A number of his visitors were gallery owners here in London, some from abroad. In fact...” He looked in his record and produced a card. “Ah... here we are. Michael Cooper Gallery, very prestigious.” He proffered it to Hamilton.
   “Yes, I do business with them occasionally.” He glanced at it for a moment and handed it back, his photographic memory capturing it all. “Well, thank you so much for your help.” He handed him a 10-shilling note and asked, “May I impose upon you to call a cab?”
   Without hesitation, the clerk said, “Certainly, Mr. Hamilton.” He turned and picked up the phone.
   Outside the Alhambra, across the street in a dark alcove, something moved in the shadow, like someone hiding. Hamilton came out of the hotel and entered the cab. He was heading for the book store.
   As Hamilton drove off, a tall gaunt man with pale skin and deep-set dark eyes emerged from the shadows of the doorway. He crossed the street to the hotel and would soon ask the presumptuous desk clerk the same questions as did Hamilton, but for entirely different reasons.
    Hamilton told the driver to proceed immediately to Blacklands Terrace and King’s Road. They sped off, past the rubble and bombed-out buildings. At those crossroads, the cab came to a halt. Hamilton emerged from the cab and walked two blocks toward Treadwell Bookseller. The building looked like any other shop in London—small, two-story, charming with multiple glazed windows showcasing stacks of books inside. The upper story had two windows facing the street each with flower boxes brimming with vivid deep reddish-purple geraniums.
   Throughout the war, Treadwell Bookseller was a “double cross” center for MI5, run by the unassuming Harry Treadwell. As many as thirty Nazi espionage agents were apprehended and placed under direct control of MI5 as double agents. Harry Treadwell, from inside the Treadwell Bookseller store, directed a number of these double agents, sending disinformation to their Nazi controllers. Harry even had a wireless transmitter on the second floor of the bookstore to send deliberately inaccurate information sprinkled with accurate (but useless) intelligence to the Nazis, as if from their own agents. Harry was a rather good “piano player,” the term used for radio operators. He could impersonate the “fist” of almost any wireless operator. He carried on this charade until the end of the war. Harry was an integral part of the Twenty Committee, taking its name from the Roman numerals “XX,” the double-cross system. He was one of the lead coordinators, using the turned agents of the Nazi Abwehr and Sicherheitsdienst (the dreaded SD), to misinform their handlers back in Germany. Today, Harry is the case officer for an elite group of MI5 operatives in Britain and the broader United Kingdom.
   Every agent has a case officer, the man who “runs” him. The case officer is the agent’s accountant, keeping track of all the details so that there will be no miscues, no contradictions. Harry Treadwell was more than that: he was his agent’s liaison, backup man, big brother, and father. Spymaster Harry Treadwell became their one reality in their world of illusions.
   Hamilton pulled open the door. The bell chime announced him. As he entered, there was that unmistakable musty smell of old books. Harry Treadwell greeted him. “How may I help you?” Harry was perplexed to see one of his agents arrive unannounced.
   Hamilton could see the store was empty. “I took no chances if that’s what you imply,” he said defensively. “I am pressed for time and need to access our books and identify a possible NKVD agent.”
   “Let’s go upstairs to my office,” said Harry, concerned at Hamilton’s request. As they walked to the rear of the store passing rows of book shelves, Harry asked, “Do you have a name?”
   “General Yuri Kemidov is what I was given. It is an alias, I believe.”
   “How did you come by that name?” asked Harry as he climbed the stairs. Harry was in his early 70s, hair nearly all white, with unruly eyebrows above black glasses, a man of books. The stairs creaked as they ascended them, carefully engineered creaks intended to announce a visitor who should somehow bypass the door chime.
   “I had a request to locate Yuri Kemidov from a former OSS colleague, Joseph Ganzer, in the Colonies.”
   Harry furrowed his white brow and said, “Ah, I do recall, you and he knew each other.”
   “Indeed, he was an outstanding agent, a star pupil. He returned to civilian life after the war, after his last assignment. He only contacted me to discover what I could about the situation of a General Kemidov.”
   As they entered his office, Harry remarked with barely a smile, “This all sounds quite intriguing, Lawrence.”
   That tone in his voice and that smile told Hamilton that Harry questioned the relevance of this investigation to MI5. “Joseph suspects NKVD. He sent his inquiry in code via telegram. I received it this morning.”
   Satisfied with the explanation, Harry walked over to the top bookshelf beside his office desk. “Then let us proceed from there. We have a book here of known NKVD agents in Western Europe. Look through them. See if you can find our General.”
   Hamilton went through page after page of photographs and dossiers. Nothing. The door chimed. Harry abruptly left Hamilton to attend his customer in the bookstore. Hamilton could hear their lively discussion about James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway and authors he did not recognize. He resumed his search and found an entry describing a NKVD operative known only as “The General,” an informant working in Switzerland before the war. He heard the door chime as the customer left. The stairs creaked as Harry labored back up them.
   Winded at the top, Harry asked, “Any luck?”
   “Just this entry for a low-level NKVD informant known as ‘The General’. ”
   Harry went over to the desk and read the account. “It states here this chap is dead.”
   “Yes, but see here, MI6 didn’t eliminate him.”
   “NKVD kill their own quite often, you know,” Harry said with the whisper of a lament.
   “The report says that he was killed by Corsicans over some art swindle.”
   “It’s not unusual for NKVD field agents to line their pockets whatever way they can. This one just chose the wrong people to swindle.”
   “The General I’m looking for is very much alive,” said Hamilton, “or at least he was until about two weeks ago when the desk clerk at the Alhambra Hotel said he absconded without paying his bill. He also said Kemidov was an art dealer of sorts, even had business with a representative of the Michael Cooper Gallery.”
   “Well, the swindle sounds like your man, as does the involvement with the art world. I seem to recall a bulletin on that gallery, though. Michael Cooper was it?”
   “Yes, that’s what the clerk said. I saw the card myself.”
   Harry pulled a report from his files and studied it. “Just what I thought.”
   “It seems we have an MI5 agent inside the Michael Cooper Gallery, gathering intelligence on a group of former SS members converting stolen art into cash to finance some new campaign. I’m afraid that is all we have in here.”
    “Can we find out who he is?”
   “That is a separate operation, Lawrence, outside of my purview. I shall try, but I think I have a better ploy,” said Harry as he read further in the report. “It states here Scotland Yard also has the Michael Cooper Gallery under surveillance. Apparently, they have Cooper under investigation for trafficking in stolen art.”
   “And you think we can get more information out of Scotland Yard than our own agency?”
   “Not more, Lawrence, just sooner. MI5 is at cross purposes with the Yard on this, obviously. We don’t know and can’t know what another MI5 unit’s mission entails, but we can extract what we need for our purposes from the unsuspecting Yard.”
   “Quite right.”
   “I shall need to contact Scotland Yard and arrange for a ‘friendly’ exchange.”
   “The cops do not trust the spooks,” said Hamilton.
   “And vice versa, it seems, considering our agent is inside that gallery. We must tread carefully,” said Harry.
   “How can we get the Yard to cooperate?”
   “An exchange of intelligence, my dear Lawrence,” said Harry with his calming baritone. “Scotland Yard will be thrilled to learn that their investigation has unearthed the living dead.”
   Hamilton laughed, “A real spook, eh?”
   “Surely. Now I must ring some bells to wake them at the Yard.” Harry took the phone and started making calls. Another customer arrived. Hamilton looked at Harry, who nodded. He hurried down the stairs to assist. Hamilton looked out of place in the Treadwell Bookseller store, too virile, too polished, someone unaccustomed to books.
   His customer, a portly woman in her fifties, asked for help locating a copy of Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands, from 1848 to 1881 by Queen Victoria. Hamilton was lost. From the second floor, Harry shouted at the top of the stairs, “It’s in the last bookcase at the rear. I think on the third shelf.”
   They walked to the rear of the store, through a labyrinth of bookshelves so narrow the woman could hardly squeeze between them. Then in the last case, sure enough, there it was on the third shelf. The woman looked admiringly at Hamilton, as if he had personally located it for her. She inspected the book carefully, nearly every page, for what seemed an eternity. “Thank you ever so much, my dear man. I shall have it.” They moved back through the bookcases to the front of the store, where she paid absentmindedly, looking slyly at Hamilton as she tendered the money. The door chimed as she left, and Hamilton lit up the stairs to Harry’s office.
   “Quite a good sale I must say. Do I receive a commission?” asked Hamilton.
   “After I extract my finder’s fee, I’m afraid you will owe me a fiver.”
   Hamilton loved the old man. “So where are we now?”
   “You have an appointment with Inspector Raynes, who is not altogether willing to share findings in their investigation but will hear what you have to offer.”
   “How accommodating the Yard is.”
   Harry leaned forward, placing his elbows on his desk. “You meet with him. I have a few more calls to make, but I assure you he will give you whatever they have by the time I’m through.” Harry smiled and added, “Your cab will be here any minute.”
   “Excellent, Harry. I may even pay you the five pounds.”
   “Off with you now. Don’t keep the Inspector waiting.”


   The black cab pulled up to Treadwell Bookseller. This was no ordinary cabby but one of Harry Treadwell’s “East End Tommys,” trustworthy citizens from the working class who were Harry’s eyes and ears outside the espionage community. Usually, the intelligence officer gathers information unfettered by his case officer, but Harry suspected that MI5 might become entangled in a problematic international situation with the American OSS. So, he attached one of his East End Tommys to report on things from another perspective.
   Hamilton got in the cab and said, “Scotland Yard, please.”
   “Right, suh, Whitehall Place it is then. No trouble, I ‘ope,” said the driver.
   “No. I’m meeting a friend for lunch, an inspector,” said Hamilton. The cab pulled away from the curb.
   “I been there meself a few times under curious circumstances,” said the driver.
   “Curious, how?” asked Hamilton.
   “Seems, the police thought I was involved in a series of robberies. This is way before, when I was a younger man.”
   “I see.”
   “They hadn’t a thing on me, you understand? Had to lets me go.”
   “I’m sure they had the wrong man.”
   “Indeed they did, suh. Indeed they did. Mickey Browne never committed no robberies. No, suh.” They drove on in silence. Hamilton watched as the city flew by, past Hyde Park and Piccadilly toward Westminster.
   In Chicago, in the small dark hours past midnight, a phone is ringing. It is Benny the Hat calling Joe Ganzer’s apartment to tell him he and Ludko had just captured that would-be politician on film flaming drunk and hanging all over two girls at the Blue Moon Club.
   “Hey, Ludko,” Benny yelled over the din of the crowd, “there’s no answer. I know it’s late but—”
   “He’s probably still at the office. Try there.”
   “Okay, yeah.” Benny hung up the receiver and the coins jangled into the return slot. He grabbed them and tried again.
   The phone rang and rang and rang.
   Benny shrugged, “No answer.”
   “Let it ring, he’s probably in his little darkroom or somethin’.”
   But there would be no answer.
   Hamilton arrived at Whitehall Place, the suite of buildings making up Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police Service. He paid and tipped the driver,
   “Why, thank you kindly, guv’nor,” said Mickey Browne. He tipped his hat and drove away, like a man possessed.
    Hamilton smiled, turned, and looked up. Two large Romanesque male statues stood above and either side of the equally large entrance doors, all meant to inspire and intimidate the criminals and miscreants with the power and grandeur of law enforcement.
   Hamilton went through the doors to the central desk and asked for Inspector Raynes. He was directed back into the bowels of Scotland Yard. Door after door he passed until he reached the rather small office of Inspector Raynes. His secretary stopped him.
   “I’m here for an appointment with the inspector.”
   “Name please?” she asked perfunctorily, looking down at the appointment book.
   “Lawrence Hamilton.”
   “Yes, I have you right here. One moment, please.” She left her desk and entered the inner office and announced him. “You may go right in, Mr. Hamilton.”
   “Thank you.” He walked past her through the door into an unimpressive office that looked like any other bureaucrat’s office anywhere in London.
   “Good morning,” greeted Inspector Raynes, thrusting his hand out. They shook hands. “Please have a seat.” Hamilton sat down across from Raynes, a bulbous man, balding, dark eyes and complexion, putting on more weight, a bureaucrat well suited to his office, but his crooked nose and small facial scars told of his days as a bobby.
   “I understand you have the Michael Copper Gallery under surveillance,” said Hamilton getting straight to the matter.
   “What can I help you with, Mr. Hamilton?” said the inspector, not committing to anything.
   “You understand, I do not have any interest in your investigation, per se,” said Hamilton, allaying the inspector’s concerns that the security services were out to railroad his investigation. “We are looking to establish the identity of someone who may be involved with the gallery now under your investigation.”
   “Who are you looking for?” asked the inspector, still trying to limit what he would reveal.
   “A representative from the Michael Cooper Gallery contacted our target at the Alhambra Hotel approximately two weeks ago.”
   “Why should that concern Scotland Yard?” remarked the inspector as he leaned back smugly in his chair.
   “The target is thought to be a NKVD agent operating here in London. We need to locate him.”
   “Go to the Alhambra. I’m sure you’ll find him there.”
   “If I walk out of this office without obtaining the information that we need, I promise you, within a year you will be back in a bobby’s cape standing in the rain wondering why you didn’t help us when you had the chance.”
   The inspector looked stunned. “You blokes don’t have that kind of power.”
   “Shall I leave and let us roll the dice?”
   Inspector Raynes straightened up in his chair, “Does your target have a name?”
   Hamilton said unemotionally, “Yuri Kemidov...which may be his alias.”
   “That name hasn’t come up in our investigation, not a single time. Do you have a description of the target.” He said “target” with a taste of sarcasm that angered Hamilton but didn’t deter him.
   “He is middle-aged, well-dressed, salt-and-pepper hair and a scar at his temple.”
   “Well, that narrows it down to just about every client going in or out of that gallery, except for the scar.”
   “May I see your surveillance photographs?”
   “What good will that do? I just said that just includes about everybody coming—”
   “I want the photos from the Alhambra.”
   “What makes you think I have any from that location?”
   “Despite your abrasive character, I believe you are an excellent policeman. You put tails on the representatives of the gallery, I am sure. Let’s have a look, shall we?”
   The forthright compliment warmed the inspector, who reached behind him for a thick album of annotated surveillance photographs. He opened it on his desk. Hamilton stood and went over to look at them. “Let’s see,” said the inspector leafing through pages of surveillance photographs. “Well I’ll be.... Here’s one of Cooper’s men entering the Alhambra Hotel.”
   “Do you have any of this fellow leaving the hotel?”
   “I’m sure we have. Be patient.” He turned more pages, then paused. “This is the Cooper man leaving.”
   “Indeed,” said Hamilton. They both looked carefully at the photograph of the Michael Copper representative leaving, almost to the street, with a thin rectangular parcel under his arm. Further back in the picture, at the door, about to leave the hotel, was a man fitting Kemidov’s basic description. “This might be our man here,” said Hamilton as he pointed to man at the door of the hotel.
   “Here, let me have a look at it,” said Inspector Raynes, taking a magnifying glass out of the center drawer of his desk. “Let’s have a closer look at this gentleman.” The inspector stood over the photograph with the glass. Then, as if startled, he stood erect, looked Hamilton in the eye and said, “I know this chap.”
   “Who is he?”
   “Not your Kemidov, I’m afraid. That’s Mr. Hugo Morand.”

(Use CONTENTS to navigate from Chapter to Chapter)