Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Place Clyde Barrow Was Seen in Dallas

While one of the troopers runs off, this man Hamer continues staring at me the same way folks do when they think they recognize someone, but can’t quite place them. I stare back like it don’t bother me none, though, truth to tell, my knees like to buckle right under me. But I just keep on my poker face and act like I could stand there under his gaze all the doodah day.
The trooper trots back with a dark brown folder. He opens it and takes out some photographs which he offers to the big man. The big man gives his head a tiny shake, like he wants him to show them to me and that he’ll just watch me doing it.
The first picture he shows me is the girl, only this time she’s got on a long black dress and she’s posing before the front grill of a Ford. “That’s her, all right,” I say, tapping her image with my finger. The next picture shows her with two young men in suits. One I recognize immediately as my cousin Clyde, the other is a kid I’ve never seen before but he’s got that same hungry West Dallas look of a dog finally getting to have his day. I tap Clyde’s face. “I think this is the guy who was outside, but I can’t say for sure cause I saw him through the screen door.”
Hamer listens to what I’m saying like it’s from a long ways away. He stands stock still, but, even so, I can feel the wheels furiously turning inside his head.
“I didn’t see this other guy, is he the cousin?”
Hamer gives his head another imperceptible shake, like this time he’s just a little annoyed by the question. He gestures the trooper to continue. The trooper hands me another photograph. It’s a mugshot of myself.
“You seen him?”

I stare at my picture. My face is swollen from a beating I’d just taken, but still it’s me. I look up from the picture directly into Hamer’s inquiring eyes. “No, sir,” I say.
“Look again,” he orders. “You’re from Dallas. You look like a man who gets around town. You should have seen him.”I stare helpless back down at the photograph of myself staring sullenly back. And I remember the moment, because at that moment I was staring into the eyes of one of the cops who’d just beaten the crap out of me. What’s going on with Hamer? Doesn’t he recognize me? Is this some game he’s playing with me? He’s got to know that the guy in the picture is myself. But I just look up back into his eyes and say, “Sorry, sir, I don’t recognize him at all.” (Excerpt from "Friend of the Devil," available on Kindle)
Point of historical interest here. The view is of the Dallas skyline from the north eastern side of White Rock Lake. The Coca Cola truck is on Buckner Blvd AKA Loop 12. It is also right around the spot where Clyde Barrow was last spotted by the police. My source here is Ted Hinton, of the Dallas Sheriff's office, who knew Clyde growing up and knew Bonnie as a waitress at Marco's cafe. Ted Hinton was also part of the shooting party led by Capt Frank Hamer, which ultimately bushwacked Bonnie and Clyde on May 23, 1934.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Doenitz Decides to Surrender

Alone, finally, Doenitz let his eyes close for a moment. It had been nearly six hours since the telegram had arrived from the Fuhrerbunker naming him Hitler’s successor and only now, with Himmler out of the way, was the weight of this new job beginning to sink in. Head of State, Reichspräsident, Fuhrer, Heil Doenitz! The last thought made him shudder.

He went back to his pile of reports and for two hours his attention remained focused only on paperwork. After thirty five years in the Navy, it had become second nature and now it provided him with a sense of reassurance that things were not as utterly chaotic as they appeared. Armies, even on their last legs, continued to generate reports, requests, tallies, statistics, strategic assessments. They kept streaming in and Doenitz continued reading them. But then somewhere around four thirty he looked up, rubbed his eyes, and realized nothing he was reading addressed the real heart of the matter; that the war was lost and as Head of State, the only choice left to him was deciding how large the funeral pyre should be.

He picked up a report from the Admiral Kummetz, in charge of the Baltic evacuation. Twenty more ships had come into different German ports with refugees and soldiers. Estimated numbers, thirty five thousand men, women and children. Tomorrow they hoped to get out fifty thousand. Every freighter, barge, and fishing boat they could get their hands on was now going to and from the Latvian ports of Lepaya and Memel, where upwards of a million Germans were still holding off the Russians. He knew as well as anyone what the Russians would do to them when they got them. He had to continue the evacuation. He couldn’t give up on them.

He needed to put together a government. But how was he supposed to do that? He didn’t know the first thing about government or diplomacy. He wondered if what Himmler had said about the Americans and British considering an alliance with Germany against the Russians could be true. It seemed crazy. But then didn’t he have all those spies and that whiz-kid Schellenberg with all his foreign contacts?

Besides, forming a new government is still only a means to an end. So what end was he seeking? What was left? A surrender? A few hours ago, the idea had still been completely unthinkable. But now it seemed to be the only thing that made any sense. The irony was that the Fuhrer had given the job to him because he knew he would never surrender.

So what should I do? Am I supposed to continue following the path of someone who has abdicated his responsibility and leadership? If Hitler wanted the war to continue, he should have stuck to his job. Where was he anyway? Was he dead? Or had he gone out to the streets to join the fighting? What difference does it make? he asked himself.

He remembered driving back from Luebeck that day telling himself that Himmler would be the next Fuhrer - the thought of serving under a liar like that seemed more than he could take. He found himself wishing he’d had the guts to arrest Himmler on the spot. Himmler’s men would have gunned him down immediately, but at least he could have died honorably, and remained true to all those young men he’d sent to their deaths.

Or, instead of returning to Ploen, he should have gone to the nearest airstrip, commandeered a plane and flown up to Oslo and gotten aboard one of the Type XXI boats and gone out to the North Atlantic to raise hell. The first enemy warship they’d find, they’d sink. Then they’d find another and sink it too and then the one after that and the one after that, until they’d finally get sunk themselves. He had the right to do that. He was a soldier and a soldier’s last bullet is always for himself. But it seemed Hitler had taken that privilege from him so he could go out fighting on the streets of Berlin. So why had he done it? It wasn’t right. Damn it, it wasn’t fair! It wasn’t. It was selfish!

So what do I do? What is the interest of the State? The interest of the State is survival. And at all costs, Germany must survive! Surrender, then? That’s not why I was appointed by the Fuhrer. But then he’s not Fuhrer any more. I am. I’m the Fuhrer. Don’t say that! Don’t use that word. I’m head of state. I’m in charge.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, Kindle download available here).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Two Jewish GIs Make First Contact with Albert Speer in Flensburg

A half hour later, the GI returned with a middle-aged man, short and heavyset, bespectacled with a big nose, looking every bit the Jew from all the old anti-Semitic posters, only instead of wearing a black banker’s suit and a bowler hat, he was in US Army combat fatigues with a .45 strapped on his hip.

The GI said, “Major Spivak, I present to you, Reichsminister Albert Speer.”

Speechless, Major Spivak stared at Speer. Finally he muttered, “Holy Cow!”

Speer stood up from his desk. “Good afternoon, Major,” he said, pleasantly as he could. He thought about extending his hand in greeting, but realized he shouldn’t.

Major Spivak didn’t return his greeting but continued to look at him with nervous distaste. He was thinking the same thing as everyone else; this man I’m talking to is Hitler’ ...friend!

Finally he recovered enough to say, “Sergeant Fassberg says you’d be willing to be interviewed.”

"Yes, whatever you’d like to know,” answered Speer. “It’s about strategic bombing you say?”

"Yes, the economic and other effects of daytime strategic bombing on the German war economy.”

"Please, have a seat,” said Speer. “I’m sorry I cannot offer you any coffee or other refreshment.”

Brusquely Major Spivak shook his head, like it was neither expected nor desired. They sat down and both men began undoing the snaps of their shoulder bags and took out notebooks and manila file folders. “Sergeant, do you have the file on the abrasives industry?” asked Major Spivak.

"Right here,” answered Sergeant Fassberg, handing him a sheaf of papers.

"All right, let’s start,” said Major Spivak.

He spent the next three hours asking Speer very detailed questions, first about abrasives and oil baths and then about specialty steels and problems with machine tools and manufacturing different kinds of screws and fasteners, nearly all of which Speer was able to answer easily from the top of his head.

Though it was obvious Major Spivak continued to regard Speer with extreme discomfort, he nevertheless conducted the interview with complete professional detachment. He’d ask questions, write down the answers, ask follow ups and write those down as well. In the end, as he sat looking over all his pages of notes, he turned to Speer, and, shaking his head with amazement, declared, “Well, Sergeant Fassberg was certainly right, Herr Speer. You’re definitely the mother lode.”

Then, for one very long moment, Major Spivak stared blankly ahead, while inside him the angels of light and darkness battled each other. Finally he looked at Speer and with the tiniest hint of cordiality asked if he’d be willing to undergo a more detailed debriefing by senior members of the Survey team.

"Why certainly,” said Speer. “I’d be happy to cooperate in any way I can.”

"Good,” said Major Spivak. “I’ll let the guys know. We’ll be in touch.”

They left without shaking hands or thanking him.

Speer went back to the castle feeling strangely let down. The Americans had come to him like heavenly messengers, only to vanish with the same abruptness with which they’d appeared. It had been the first time in months anyone had come seeking his expertise and even if Major Spivak had not been terribly courteous, he had at least acknowledged that Speer had something no one else had. He wondered what he’d meant when he said his colleagues would be “in touch.”

Baumbach, on the other hand, saw it as a clear sign that his friend’s bad fortune had reversed. “Well congratulations, Albert. Now they’ll have no choice but to bring you into their new administration. It’s just like what they’re doing with those rocket scientists from Peenemunde. You’ll probably get flown out to Okinawa to join Curtis LeMay’s intelligence staff.”

"We’ll see,” said Speer.

"I’d say this calls for a drink, Albert.” They settled into another night of drinking and storytelling and by the end of it, the whole episode became just a half-remembered jumble in Speer’s mind.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, Kindle version available here).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Herbert T. Barrow Remembers the War in France

And I turn around to look at the two guys who’d popped out in front of me and they’re both now frozen in mid-leap, their weapons hovering in the air a few inches from where they tumbled out of their hands.

What in the shit is going on?” I ask aloud. What I get for an answer is the complete silence around me. Everything, everything is frozen still, not even a hint of movement anywhere. I could be walking around inside a photograph. I walk back and stare at Hamer firing his BAR at where I’d been standing, and apparently not even caring about the two plainclothesmen facing me. Look at that hateful scowl he’s got on his mug. I had my hands up and he still tried to shoot me in the back and with a BAR. What a dog! What a complete fucking beast! Makes me wonder how many of them notches he got on his gun was from shooting unarmed guys with their hands up and then lying about it?

I yank the BAR from his hands, then point it back at him, curling my finger around the trigger, and telling myself I’d be completely within my rights if I killed Hamer right now.

But I don’t kill him. Because I already killed my last man. That’s what I told myself back in France, that I’d done killed all the people I was ever gonna kill and that even a murderous bastard like Hamer ain’t changing it.

Still, I’d like to take the rifle butt and smash in his face a little, but I don’t. That’s not how we do it in West Dallas. Instead, I try taking my anger out on the bullets, batting them with the rifle butt, but to my surprise, hard as I swat them, they hardly budge at all. So instead I rip the clip out, empty the magazine and then, holding it by the barrel, I smash it hard against the ground, shattering the stock, the receiver and the bolt. Then I toss it aside, and go over to the two guys who are leaping aside and pluck their rifles from the air, but instead of smashing them against the ground, I just spend the next few minutes going completely crazy, attacking their cars; smashing the windshields, the headlights, radiators, carburetors, slashing the tires.

Finally, I’ve had enough. I toss the broken rifles aside and just stand there trying to catch my breath. That’s when I hear the music playing. It’s coming from a radio inside the store; one of those hillbilly family quartets they have singing on the border blaster:

"Just a few more weary days and then,

I’ll fly away, fly away

To the land where joys will never end,

I’ll fly away, fly away.

I’ll fly away, O Glory,

I’ll fly away.

When I die, halleluiah by and by,

I’ll fly away, fly away.”

It makes me happy that while time might be standing still here, somewhere down in sunny Mexico reality goes on just like it always does.

(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle here).

Friday, October 31, 2014

News of Bonnie & Clyde's Death Spreads Through a Del Rio Diner

I stumble up the street, feeling like my eyes just been ripped out, and the whole time I got that dang song going through my head:

Death don’t take a vacation in this land 
Death don’t take a vacation in this land 
He’ll come to your house, he won’t stay long 
Look into the bed, somebody in your family will be gone
Oh, Death don’t have no mercy in this land.

So they got ‘em. Poor Clyde, poor Bonnie, poor stupid bastards. It’s not that I’m in the least bit surprised, or that I’m not massively relieved it was them that got killed and not me, but even so, I’ve now got an emptiness bellowing inside me that don’t want to let go. For a while I just wander the streets, like I got them alive in front of my eyes, so alive, so crazy, like they was gods from the old times. But now they’re dead, dead, dead, and poor dumb mortal me is still alive. I can’t wander the streets forever, I go into the Tastee Diner and order a blue plate special. They got the radio on with the usual worked-up preacher endlessly going on about Salvation and the Blood of the Lamb and his address, Box-435-Del-Rio-Texas. I keep waiting for someone to cut in and make an announcement, but twenty minutes and seven or eight Box 435s later, he gets replaced by another screaming preacher and I actually start half-believing it might all have been just crazy-girl talk. But then it dawns on me that, this being Dr. Brinkley’s station, they simply don’t broadcast news. So I stay on my stool, not really thinking about much of anything, just waiting for word to come, knowing it’s just a matter of time before it does. The counterman comes by and refills my coffee; I’m about halfway through it when the door opens and someone comes in shouting, “Did you all hear? The Barrow Gang’s been killed in an ambush!”

For the next few seconds it’s like this deep quiet sets in, as if, for that one moment, none of them actually believes it. But then the vacuum breaks and as the air rushes back in, I see their faces going off like they’re fireworks, some of them angry, some disappointed or glad, followed by a rumbling of voices, like we’re standing at their graves, with them already laid deep into the ground, and it’s time to offer final words, before the earth gets covered on them and we all walk away and get on with other things.

"Well, they had a good long run. Nobody expected them to last long as they did,” says one.

"They must’ve knowed they wasn’t going to get away forever,” says somebody else.

"Mean as snakes, both of them!”

"Couple of two-bit punks.”

After another minute or two, the topic has moved on to something else. I finish my coffee, pay my bill and go. A half hour later, I find Hector, ride the Tijuana Taxi across the border, do my show, collect my five dollars and then head back to Del Rio.
(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil," available on Kindle)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't Lose the Monocle! Nazi War Criminals Get Social Security and Jobs in Hollywood.

Outside in the corridor, someone was approaching. The door opened and General Strong stepped in. “General, we’re ready to begin,” he said.

Jodl nodded. He reached into his jacket’s inner pocket and took out something which he then fixed into his eye. A monocle! Jodl now looked like a Prussian played by Erich von Stroheim. What was he thinking? Did he somehow consider it vital that Germany be represented in her darkest hour by a walking caricature? Perhaps he was angling for a post-war career in Hollywood. From what Ziggy had heard, plenty of German and Austrian Jewish refugees had found lucrative careers playing Nazis in films. Jodl was the real thing. Why shouldn’t he get some of it?

"Ready?” asked Jodl. Seeing everyone nod, he said to them: “Gentlemen, this is a black day for Germany, but I promise you, we will survive!”

I wonder if Eisenhower will be there,” von Friedeburg mumbled aloud to himself.

They walked down the corridor in single file, past the staring soldiers, General Jodl first, followed by Major Oxenius, then Admiral von Friedeburg, then Ziggy.

They were brought into a crowded, map-filled room, at the far end of which, under the glaring light from a bank of movie-studio floodlights, was a large rectangular table. Sitting there facing them were nearly a dozen British, American, and Russian generals with Bedell Smith at the center. Ziggy examined the faces of the other Allied generals, but none of them looked anything like Eisenhower. On the other hand, he noticed Suslaparov glaring at him, this time not as though they were best friends.

They took chairs on the near side of the table. Bedell Smith gestured to an aide, who brought Jodl a document. Scowling, Jodl examined it perfunctorily and then scribbled his signature onto it before passing it to von Friedeburg, who did the same. The document then went to Bedell Smith, then to a British general, a French general, an American, and then Suslaparov, all of whom added their signatures to it. Then another copy of the surrender made the rounds, followed by another and another and another.

When all the copies had been signed, Jodl raised his hand. “General, I would like to say a word,” he said.

"Yes, of course,” said Bedell Smith, sounding nicer than he had in any of their previous encounters.

Jodl stood up and began addressing everyone in the room. “General, with this signature the German people and the German armed forces are, for better or worse, delivered into the victor’s hands. In this war, which has lasted more than five years, both have achieved and suffered perhaps more than any other people in the world. In this hour I can only express the hope that the victor will treat them with generosity.”

Then they were marched out. The war was over.

(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, Kindle version available here).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Where Bonnie and Clyde Longed to Belong

Bonnie and Clyde were two grit kids from hardscrabble West Dallas. Across the river was glittering Downtown Dallas. Color film from the 1930s:

Friend of the Devil is a novel about people from the wrong side of Dallas. But in 1939, the right side sure looked like smart, sophisticated heaven.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Americans Cross the Rhine and Speer's Ruhr Rebellion Goes Nowhere

At first, a war is a cause, a crusade. But ultimately it becomes nothing more than an intersection of x and y axes; a cost-benefit analysis, a calculus of conditions and circumstances. In this particular war, the lines had been crossed a long time ago and there was no longer any benefit, just cost. It wasn’t a question of belief or will, only numbers. And the numbers had said only one thing: the was is lost.

While the Western Allies stayed to the Western bank of the Rhine, people kept hoping it might somehow stay that way, as it had been two thousand years earlier when the Rhine had marked the Roman Empire’s northernmost border. They wondered what it might take to ultimately convince the British and Americans to stay put. The French could keep Strasbourg and the Alsace, the Russians the eastern bank of the Vistula. As far as fallback positions went, it almost bordered on the agreeable, Not that the Fuhrer would have seen it that way. But then again the Fuhrer wouldn’t be around for ever.

But of course now the Rhine was breached and the Americans were racing the Russians to Berlin. Now it was a question of trying to limit the destruction so that there might be something left for the future. It should be something everyone could agree to.

He and von Poser had gone in thinking it would be easy, since by then, Speer was on a personal basis with nearly every factory director in the Ruhr. Despite his youth, they all looked to him as a guiding light, someone who understood their needs and concerns, who respected their expertise and knew what could and could not be done. And he was someone they could speak frankly to about the suicidal course the war had taken. They’d all been acutely aware of what Hitler had done to the industrial areas in the east and were adamant the same thing not happen to their beloved Ruhr. Some had even dropped broad hints about their willingness to go against the regime should Speer elect to break with Hitler and lead a revolt. But now that Speer had come to do just that, they were suddenly overcome with reticence.

"Had I said that, Herr Reichsminister? You must be mistaken.”

"Don’t say these things, Herr Reichsminister. It’s treason.”

"Perhaps we should stop the conversation right here, Herr Reichsminister.”

"Herr Reichsminister, what you are suggesting is quite impossible.”

"Herr Reichsminister, you must not ask this thing!”

"Herr Reichsminister, I’ve always had the utmost respect for you, but if you do not leave at once, it will be my duty to inform the local Party militia of your subversion.”

"Now please, you must leave, immediately.”

"Get out.”

"Leave now!”


Not that it was surprising that everyone was now so scared. With everything in complete disarray and communication with Berlin hopelessly tangled, the local Nazi Party chiefs, the gauleiters, now held absolute power. Their “flying squads” seemed to be everywhere, examining travel documents, searching vehicles, questioning people about what they were doing away from the front lines, and then acting as judge, jury and executioner against anyone whose enthusiasm for the war they found wanting. Their victims were either taken away for torture interrogations or simply strung up from the nearest lamppost where they remained for weeks as a reminder to everyone else.

By the end of the first day, Speer was ready to throw in the towel and head back, and he would have except that von Poser’s steely determination showed no hint of flagging. So they went on, day after day, visiting chemical plants, steel mills, coal mines, electrical generating stations, ammunition works. Most of the distance driving they did at night, since during the day the sky teemed with enemy aircraft. Sometimes they traveled with military convoys, but more often alone. The roads were always kept dark and with their headlights masked down to tiny illuminated squares, they had to proceed slowly, since the roads were full of bomb craters and debris.

It was always a big guess where the roads would take them, since everything was rerouted and changed. Where the front actually was, was kept secret and more than once they ended up at the front lines with less than half a kilometer between themselves and the nearest enemy tank. Even more confusing was the fact that nothing looked familiar anymore. In his years as armaments minister, Speer had visited every factory town there countless times and knew the region like the back of his hand. But with half the buildings flattened and the sprawling industrial plants transformed into forests of twisted metal girders, frames and broken pipes, Speer and von Poser often found themselves disoriented. But as wrecked as everything looked, Speer knew that a surprising amount was repairable. Factories were often up and running again in a matter of days, machine tool works sometimes within hours. Of course if the militiamen really tried, they could render everything completely unfixable. And that was Speer’s biggest worry.

They drove around, visiting the factories that came their way. They’d talk to whoever was around, sound them out, listen to their excuses, nod sympathetically and then move on to the next location, hoping they’d get lucky. They’d knock off late in the afternoon, sleep a little, then drive through the night. Usually toward the dawn they’d find a command post where there were cots or they’d simply pull over and rest for a few hours. Sometimes they ate from their stock of canned food, but mostly they tried to eat whatever was being spooned out for the troops.

Then one night they were driving between Ludenscheid and Dessau on a particularly badly bombed stretch of autobahn. Speer sat beside von Poser in the front seat, an air defense map spread on his lap, while the radio alternated between piano concertos and a lifeless voice reading out positions of enemy aircraft; fighters reported in Grid E-6 heading westward, enemy fighters in Grid F-12 bearing east. Enemy fighters in Grid D-9 heading east, enemy bombers in Grid C-7, C-8 and C-10, high overhead heading west.

Then suddenly they heard the metallic scream of aircraft engines as machinegun fire ripped up the ground in front of them. Von Poser slammed on the brakes and before they knew it, the car was plummeting down the embankment. They pushed open the doors and jumped out onto the ground. A twin-engine Heinkel roared over them, with a smaller American fighter tight on its tail, firing away. The Heinkel’s starboard engine was aflame. Then its wing crumpled and it turned over, plunging into the darkness. A second later they heard the dull explosion and saw the flash of fire in a distant field.

They tried getting their car out of the ditch, but the mud was too thick and the four back wheels only spun uselessly. They stood around in the darkness unsure of what to do next. In another hour it would be light enough for the American Mustangs and Thunderbolts to return and begin strafing anything that wasn’t already blown up.

(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, Kindle ebook version now available here).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Albert Speer Insists He Was Never Hitler's Friend

With still an hour to kill, Speer lit a cigarette and went over to the couch and sat down.

You know what your friend will do if he finds out? They always referred to Hitler that way. Speer had always hated that. Hitler wasn’t his friend. Perhaps Speer was Hitler’s friend, perhaps even his only friend. But that wasn’t the same thing, was it? Besides, Speer knew what Hitler would do when he found out.

Reasonably speaking, all they could hope for now was to keep as much of Germany’s industrial base together so that some level of civilized life could continue after it was all over. He’d carefully broached that matter with Hitler during the winter, but Hitler dismissed it. “There is no need to preserve anything for the survivors, Speer,” he told him. “They will have proven themselves unworthy.”

Speer went over to the window and stared out. By now the bombing had taken out most of the city’s landmarks, leaving him without his usual points of reference. Locating Alexanderplatz had always been a matter of simply finding the old Town Hall’s clock tower and then going a little bit left. But now the tower was gone. So was the Karstadt department store, the Columbus building on Potsdamerplatz, the twin steeples of Saint Nicholas church. He tried to remember what they looked like, but they were already excised from his memory.

Instead what blazed unforgettably was the skyline of a city which had only existed on paper and tabletop scale models. He saw the dome, stretched out before him, larger than a sunrise, with its dozens of gigantic columns and a massive bronze eagle perched ominously atop its cupola.

And he heard Hitler’s voice reciting the numbers to onlookers, Sixteen times the size of Saint Peter’s in Rome! And he saw the rest of the imaginary city, the broad avenues, the monuments, the palaces and plazas, the gigantic ministry buildings, cinemas, concert halls, hotels and storefronts, miles and miles of it. The two of them had spent years dreaming it up; a city greater than Rome, a light among nations, a capital fit to rule the world for a thousand years; Germania!

Speer had actually believed in it back when Germany’s future still loomed bright, enough so that he went ahead with demolition orders for whole neighborhoods in order to make way for it. Berlin’s destruction hadn’t started with the first British bombing raids, but with the bulldozing he had himself engineered.

Once the war had started the whole thing should have been shelved, but the war only stoked Hitler’s enthusiasm. And when the enemy bombing did come, Hitler acted gleeful.

“They’re only doing our work for us, Speer,” he’d say. And Speer accepted it without question. Even after things went bad in Russia, Hitler insisted it be kept on as a top priority, summoning Speer to the studio in the middle of the night so they could discuss the changes which still kept occurring to him on a daily basis. They’d spend endless hours bent down at eyelevel to the miniature streets and buildings, peering under archways, discussing each gallery and staircase.

Even now, with the enemy at their door, Hitler still wouldn’t let it go. In his mind, Germania was still every bit as real as the miracle weapons, Inevitable Victory and all the other shabby fantasies which he insisted everyone believe in. And it was all Speer’s fault for wanting a thousand years of glory.

Going to pick up his bags, he paused for a moment to look at himself in the mirror. Was this the face of a future world leader? Except for some rings under his eyes and a receding hairline, there was still far too much boyishness in it. He was neither handsome nor ugly, his face was round, his chin soft. It was only the face of a technocrat. No, that’s not completely true, he told himself. His eyes had it. Dark, brooding, even without a night’s sleep, they had a sharpness to them, inquisitiveness, too, and sardonic humor. The face of a man who could put things into perspectice.

Speer went downstairs to the garage where Colonel von Poser was waiting beside a supercharged, six-wheeled Mercedes. They drove out after nightfall, heading west.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, Kindle version available for download here).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hipster Nazi Albert Speer

Speer looked up from his desk and saw a young American GI standing in the doorway. “Are you Albert Speer?” he asked in strangely accented German. He was wearing combat gear; helmet, a bandolier of ammunition, and a carbine slung on his shoulder. What could he want? He was the first American soldier Speer had seen so far. Had he come to arrest him?

Speer decided to answer him in English. “Yes, I am Speer,” he said. “Please, how may I help you?”

More than a little taken aback, the GI started to explain to Speer about something called the “United States Strategic Bombing Survey” which wanted to interview him on the effects of strategic bombing on the German war economy."

"Why certainly,” said Speer. “What precisely would you like to know?”

The GI looked confused. “Um, look, if you don’t mind, could you just not go anywhere for a few minutes? Let me get Major Spivak up here.”

The GI turned and left and Speer went back to the report he’d been reading. But he was too excited to concentrate. The Americans wanted to interview him about managing the armaments industry. He tried to repeat in his mind what the young soldier had rattled off, United States Strategic Bombing Survey. What could that possibly mean?

It only took Speer a second to guess the reason. The American air war against Germany had been long, bloody, and until its last six months, largely ineffective. Now their campaign against Japan was underway and they must have figured that whatever lessons there were to be learned from bombing Germany better be learned quickly. Well then, he thought, if that was the case, they’d come to the right man. Nobody knew more about the effects of strategic bombing than Albert Speer.

A half hour later, the GI returned with a middle-aged man, short and heavyset, bespectacled with a big nose, looking every bit the Jew from all the old anti-Semitic posters, only instead of wearing a black banker’s suit and a bowler hat, he was in US Army combat fatigues with a .45 strapped on his hip.

The GI said, “Major Spivak, I present to you, Reichsminister Albert Speer.” Speechless, Major Spivak stared at Speer. Finally he muttered, “Holy Cow!”

Speer stood up from his desk. “Good afternoon, Major,” he said, pleasantly as he could. He thought about extending his hand in greeting, but realized he shouldn’t.

Major Spivak didn’t return his greeting but continued to look at him with nervous distaste. He was thinking the same thing as everyone else; this man I’m talking to is Hitler’ ...friend! Finally he recovered enough to say, “Sergeant Fassberg says you’d be willing to be interviewed.”

"Yes, whatever you’d like to know,” answered Speer. “It’s about strategic bombing you say?”

"Yes, the economic and other effects of daytime strategic bombing on the German war economy.”

"Please, have a seat,” said Speer. “I’m sorry I cannot offer you any coffee or other refreshment.”

Brusquely Major Spivak shook his head, like it was neither expected nor desired. They sat down and both men began undoing the snaps of their shoulder bags and took out notebooks and manila file folders. “Sergeant, do you have the file on the abrasives industry?” asked Major Spivak.

"Right here,” answered Sergeant Fassberg, handing him a sheaf of papers.

"All right, let’s start,” said Major Spivak.

He spent the next three hours asking Speer very detailed questions, first about abrasives and oil baths and then about specialty steels and problems with machine tools and manufacturing different kinds of screws and fasteners, nearly all of which Speer was able to answer easily from the top of his head.

Though it was obvious Major Spivak continued to regard Speer with extreme discomfort, he nevertheless conducted the interview with complete professional detachment. He’d ask questions, write down the answers, ask follow ups and write those down as well. In the end, as he sat looking over all his pages of notes, he turned to Speer, and, shaking his head with amazement, declared, “Well, Sergeant Fassberg was certainly right, Herr Speer. You’re definitely the mother lode.”

Then, for one very long moment, Major Spivak stared blankly ahead, while inside him the angels of light and darkness battled each other. Finally he looked at Speer and with the tiniest hint of cordiality asked if he’d be willing to undergo a more detailed debriefing by senior members of the Survey team.

"Why certainly,” said Speer. “I’d be happy to cooperate in any way I can.”

"Good,” said Major Spivak. “I’ll let the guys know. We’ll be in touch.”

They left without shaking hands or thanking him.

Speer went back to the castle feeling strangely let down. The Americans had come to him like heavenly messengers, only to vanish with the same abruptness with which they’d appeared. It had been the first time in months anyone had come seeking his expertise and even if Major Spivak had not been terribly courteous, he had at least acknowledged that Speer had something no one else had. He wondered what he’d meant when he said his colleagues would be “in touch.”

Baumbach, on the other hand, saw it as a clear sign that his friend’s bad fortune had reversed. “Well, congratulations, Albert. Now they’ll have no choice but to bring you into their new administration. It’s just like what they’re doing with those rocket scientists from Peenemunde. You’ll probably get flown out to Okinawa to join Curtis LeMay’s intelligence staff.”

"We’ll see,” said Speer.

"I’d say this calls for a drink, Albert.” They settled into another night of drinking and storytelling and by the end of it, the whole episode became just a half-remembered jumble in Speer’s mind.

He awoke late in the morning with a terrible hangover. Staggering through the hall down to the kitchens he debated whether he should call in sick or just show up the way he was, since it seemed that was the way everyone else was half the time.

As he was working his way through a cup of tea, he heard agitated footsteps running up the corridor toward him. He started to feel a sense of dread. It was the captain of the honor guard, which had been assigned to him for security.

"Herr Reichsminister, we have an emergency!”

"What is it?"

"The American Army is here, demanding to see you.”

"What?” "The Americans, your Excellency! There must be twenty of them. They’ve come in Jeeps.”

"In Jeeps? But what do they want? Are you sure they’re not looking for Himmler?”

"No, your Excellency. They say they want you. Reichsminister for War Production Albert Speer. Do you want my men to shoot at them?”

"No, absolutely not. Tell them to wait. I must get dressed first.”

He went back to his room and found his best gray suit. Then he selected a French tie and put it on. He took a glimpse in the mirror and thought to himself that he looked pretty good.

(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ebook version available here).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Reich Government Finally Meets to Discuss Minister Appointments

Doenitz sat at the head of the table, correct and steely-eyed as always. Schwerin von Krosikg, the chancellor and foreign minister, sat to his left, while Speer, in charge of the economic portfolio, at at his right. The other ministers and advisors sat around the table, all of them looking very serious. Doenitz's government was now ten days old. At its inception, it had consisted of Doenitz, Speer, and von Krosigk, and a geographical realm that, besides northern Germany, included all of Denmark, Norway, Bohemia, and Crete, plus fragments of Russia, Latvia, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and even the British Channel Islands. Now there were more than a dozen ministries, several special departments, and more than sixty typists, clerks, and other staff members. The government's territorial jurisdiction, on the other hand, barely extended beyond the gates of the Marineschule.
They convened each day to have meetings, explore problems, issue orders, and attempt to establish some coherence amid the chaos. But what effect any of it had was hard to say. Whether their orders would be carried out, or, for that matter, even delivered, was largely beyond their control. The all-powerful Allied Control Commission was a bureaucratic hydra that stood in their way, without having any clear plan of its own. From time to time, its members would show up and nose around and issue orders and directives, whose meaning they usually seemed at a loss to explain. 
The discussion on fertilizers went on for another twenty minutes and then they moved to the next topic on the agenda: churches. The question was whether a portfolio should be added for religious affairs. Dorpmuller, the transportation minister, suggested it might be a good idea, given everything the German people had just gone through, indeed it was necessary, that a Christian moral culture be reinstituted in the state.
People bristled at the idea. "Are you suggesting that just because National Socialists weren't Christian, they weren't moral?" one of the ministers countered.
"All I'm saying is we need to go back to old, traditional values. For more than a thousand years the Germans have been a Christian people. We need to emphasize that point both to ourselves and to the world. I think it would also be a good idea to embrace the contemporary Christian theology of human dignity."
"Do you have anyone in mind?" asked Doenitz.
"Yes, I do, Grand Admiral. I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be a perfect candidate. Last I heard he was still alive. We should see if we can locate him."
While an aide was dispatched to make some calls, the topic changed to banking issues. There wasn't enough money on hand to pay state employees or to fund purchases of emergency foodstuffs from Sweden and Portugal. The question boiled down to asking the Allies permission to print an emergency issue of reichsmarks. They were discussing it when an aide returned to inform them that Pastor Bonhoeffer had been executed by the Gestapo two weeks before.
The afternoon meeting wound down and Speer trudged back to his office to find a young Luftwaffe colonel waiting for him. It took Speer a second to realize it was Werner Baumbach, whom he'd often run into while kayaking on the Havel back before the war.
By the look of him, Baumbach was the happiest man in the world. He'd just arrived in Flensburg and only now had it occurred to him that he'd survived the war in one piece. And on top of it, it was May and everything was in blossom and he'd seen his first women in several months and they were even more beautiful than he'd remembered them. He'd billeted himself at Schloss Glucksburg, a nearby castle owned by his friend the Duke of Mecklenburg-Holstein, and it was great!
"You Luftwaffe buys have all the luck," said Speer, trying to sound upbeat. "I just got kicked out of my quarters by the British." He told Baumbach how he and the rest of the government had been living aboard the Patria, an old Hamburg-Amerika liner docked in the harbor. But that morning they had been told to vacate it and were now crammed into the cadets' dormitories. He gave a sour look.
Baumbach laughed. "Well, that's great, then, Albert. You can stay with me! There's plenty of room, plenty of food, plenty to drink. Get your stuff together. Let's go!"
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ebook version available on Kindle here).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Devil Knows You Were in Knoxville

I take another big hit, like all the talk he’s putting down is just so much street patter, but the whole time I’m wondering to myself, how the heck does this evil cat know I was ever in Knoxville?

Stevens laughs. ”Oh, I know all kinds of things about you, my friend. Your name is Lowell George, isn’t it? You were second trombone for that lush dance orchestra that plays at the Starlight ballroom at the Van Buren Hotel. What’s its name?”

Stevens takes a big long hit. For the longest time he holds it in his lungs while keeping the burning reefer in his right hand as he flexes his wrist, like there’s a point he’s about to make as soon as he lets the smoke out of his lungs. I stare out the window at the marshmallow fog and wonder how I’m ever going to get out of this one.

“The Ray Covington Melody Makers,” I say like it was a long time ago. But he doesn’t seem to hear me. His mind is his own lungs all packed full with Harlem’s Best marijuana smoke. Stevens begins exhaling and immediately breaks into a hacking fit as he tries telling me something. “Huah, huah!,” he coughs. “But… you… can’t…huah, huah, huah, get…out of it…until, huah, huah, huah,…you get…into it!” he declares. “Huah, huah, huah! Am I right, Mister Lowell George?”“Oh, you are most definitively right,” I answer, rejoicing that he only seems to know my alias.

I put my hand out for the stick, but instead of handing it back to me, Stevens takes another massive hit, again holding it in his lungs but then almost immediately letting it out as he turns to me and says, “Now is your name Lowell George, or is it Herbert T. Barrow of Eagle Ford, Texas?” He hands the three-quarters castigated reefer back to me with a flourish worthy of a cavalier with a big plumed hat.

“Either name works fine for me,” I say, like there’s nothing particularly amazing about this last feat of his. “But I’ve been thinking of calling myself Lawrence “T-Bone” Dupree. What do you think of it?”

“Oh, I like it,” he says. “I like it a lot. That’s a real bluesman’s name, not one anyone would associate with a bank robber and escaped convict.” (Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Enter Bonnie Parker with a Double-barrel Shotgun

A few minutes later I see this little mom-and-pop grocery store with a Socony Gas sign hanging like a banner from its eaves and two pumps in a little island out front.

I pull up and shut off the motor. The screen door opens and this skinny old guy ambles out in overalls and a beaten-up felt hat. I extract a dollar bill from my pocket and shove it his way. “Fill it up with the cheap stuff,” I tell him. “You got any sandwiches for sale in there?”

“Maw will make whatever you want. Got cold drinks, coffee, too, in paper cups.”


“Gonna be closing up,” he says. “Didn’t you hear? Barrow Gang’s a comin’ this way.”

“I thought they was in the south,” I say. “I was hoping to stay out of their path.”

"No, no, they’re supposed to be around here,” he says. “There was a whole bunch of state trooper cars drove through here a little while ago. Somebody stopped just now, said they have a roadblock set up.”

“Which way was they going?”

The old boy points south.

“Well, I didn’t see anything,” I say and head inside.

The store is a small unlit room lined with shelves full of canned goods and bags of flour and coffee. On one side of the room, there is a bank of glass cases displaying some forlorn-looking cuts of smoked meat, while a heavyset woman in a white apron stands at the ready behind it.

"What for you?” she asks. I order some baloney sandwiches and ask for a Nehi. She points me to a water-filled tin box where a dozen or so capped bottles sit up to their necks in the dark water. “They’re ice-cold,” she says, nodding toward them. I pull one out and bring it to her. She takes a bottle opener and pries off the cap. “You gonna drink it here, otherwise there’s a two-cent deposit.”

"I’ll have it here,” I tell her. She nods like I made a wise choice. She hands it to me and I take a swig. The jolt of cold sugary sweetness hits me like a bomb blast. After all I just been through, it’s an irrefutable reminder I’m still here among the living. I take another long swallow, then I watch her make the sandwiches, laying down three slices of white bread on the wooden counter, then plopping down a slice of baloney on each, followed by another, then another, and then dressing them with dabs of mustard and mayonnaise and covering them with slices of bread, stacking them one on top of another. The woman wipes her hand on her apron, then cuts the sandwiches diagonally. Suddenly I realize how ravenously hungry I am and that if I could, I’d take them right now and gobble both of them down on the spot. But I don’t, because I’m on the lam and best not to do anything quirky that’ll stick in their memories. No, I’m just a quiet, well-mannered city feller who came and went without giving them no never-mind. Instead I start a conversation.

Man says you got the Barrow Gang coming through?”

“That’s what they saying on the radio.”

“What’d they say?”

“Only that they’s in the vicinity, going to effect a rendez-vous with Clyde Barrow’s cousin.”

“Cousin? Didn’t know he had a cousin.”

“Yes, sir. They say his name’s Herbert T. Barrow and that he’s a bad one.”


“Mad-dog killer he is, G-men been chasing him all the way from Knoxville.”

“And they think he’s around these parts?”

“Yes, sir. Me and Paw got our guns ready in case they come here. Don’t want no mad-dog killers coming for me!” She nods at a brace of ancient revolvers lying on the glass countertop on the far side of the room and I think that if old Clyde spotted them there he might laugh, but if they was holding them in their hands, he’d likely kill them both without a further thought.

I finish my Nehi, just as she finishes wrapping up my sandwiches in a sheet of white butcher paper. “That’ll be fifty five cents,” she says.

I dig into my pocket and give her the exact change. She puts it in the till and I go back to where the empty pop bottles are sitting, before I go pick up my sandwiches and leave. Then the bell over the door jingles and the screen door opens. The old guy is standing in the doorway with his hands up. “We got company, Maw,” he says like it’s not a good thing. That’s when I see a tiny woman in a long, gaily colored polka dot dress standing behind him with a double barrel shotgun planted in his back.
(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

South of Nacogdoches, Stoned, Stuck in the Mud, Listening to Dr. Brinkley while the Rain Comes Down

The next morning it starts raining while I’m downstairs having breakfast. I tell myself that once it stops, I’ll go to the station and just catch the first train out. But the rain doesn’t stop and I’m up in my room with nothing else to do, so I open the windows and light up another reefer. And next thing I know, I’m flying high and next thing I know after that, I’m feeling the fear again. Have I stayed in Nacogdoches too long? Could Hamer be back on my trail. Could he be lurking around somewhere one or two blocks away, waiting for the moment to open up on me again, this time without any benefit of warning? This rainstorm may be the only cover Imo get. I decide what I need to do is put as many miles as I can between this place and myself.

So I pack my bags, carry them downstairs, pay my bill at the front desk, and then I load them into the back seat of my Ford. At that point, my plan was to drive to the station, ditch the car and get on the first train heading out. But instead of going there, I see a sign pointing south for Lufkin and head that way and I’m mentally slapping myself on the back at just how dang clever I am.

Two hours into my drive, the rain is still coming down and the road is mostly empty. I’m feeling so good about everything I decide this calls for a reefer! It’s my last one and I was intending to save it for later, but now I’m thinking, what the hell? This in itself is a perfect moment that needs to be observed. So I take it out from my pocket, stick it between my lips, grab a strike-anywhere match from the carton in the glove box and light it. But before I can even bring it to where I got the reefer stuck in my lips, the car blows a tire, goes into a spin and goes off the road. And that, dear friends, is how, two hours ago, me and this dang car ended up stuck in this ditch.

I’m stuck here, so I turn on the radio to see if there is anything worth listening to. Once again, it appears the Blood of the Lamb loses to the Gonad of the Goat.

"Can a man be… re-activated?” asks a husky female voice. “I need him to satisfy me just like he used to. Is there any hope?”

"Yes!” answers the friendly radio announcer. “Write today to the Brinkley Hospital, Del Rio, Texas, and be sure to enclose ten cents. Do it now!

Absolutely! Do it now! Don’t wait another minute. And make sure the envelope is postmarked before midnight tonight, because this is a special limited offer and the supply of goat testicles is liable to give out at any moment. Meanwhile, my reefer has gone out. I fetch another wooden strike-anywhere from the glove box and rip it across the dashboard’s surface. It bursts into flame and I bring it up against the long stub of a reefer I’ve got in my mouth and start sucking the smoke into my lungs, where it might do me some good.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah! My mood is definitely improving.

Just doing my job, answers the reefer, now just sit back and relax!

Then I take another good long hit and, oh, man, I am cooked! I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this high. Maybe it’s a good thing this is my last reefer.

Doctor Brinkley is once again addressing all his friends out in Radio Land.

"I know right now a lot of you folks are telling yourselves that you can’t afford it. That you don’t have the money right now. That in the current economic climate you can’t afford to spend a lordly sum like eight hundred dollars for something that doesn’t actually put food on your table. Well, folks, nothing could be more wrong. Because nothing affects your economic well-being as much as your sexual health. Ask yourself, how hard-charging can a gelding be? Why, just today I received a letter that I have in my hand now. It reads, ‘Dear Doctor Brinkley, I am writing just to let you know that, following your surgery and recuperation at your fine institution, I have made a full recovery and my wife and I are once again enjoying sexual joy of a sort not experienced since our earliest days as a young buck and doe. What I paid you was a reasonable sum, indeed, but what you have given me in return has been truly priceless. Thank you, Doctor, and God bless you!”

I stub the reefer out. Eight hundred smackers? That’s a fortune in anyone’s book! That’s more than most people make in a year. In this day and age with a depression going on, how can anyone afford it? And for what? To con yourself into believing he can make your Johnson ten hut and stay ten hut!

(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year After the West, TX Fertilizer Plant Explosion, Looking Back on How the Czechs Found Out About Their Cousins in Texas

In April of 2013, I was living in a small town in the Czech Republic. One morning I got up at my usual crack of dawn, got on to Facebook and quickly learned that there had been a catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas. Being from Dallas, I quickly got in touch with a couple of my coffeehouse buddies who had not yet gone to bed and were still on Facebook and got them to tell me the details of what had happened. As I was doing this, I noticed that one of my Czech buddies, a local radio reporter, was also on Facebook as he was doing his morning show.

We started chatting and I told him what had happened in West. He said he'd heard about it but didn't see why it was of any interest to anyone there in the Czech Republic. I explained to him that West was an entirely Czech town, that it was for almost everyone in Texas among their favorite places. And that Texans loved West precisely for its Czech-ness and that they considered it the heart of "real" Texas. This stoked his curiosity.

After that, I told him about the Czech Stop, the famous roadside bakery that sells authentic kolaches on the highway between Dallas and Austin and that everybody traveling between the two cities will stop there. I told him that my guess was that the explosion was something Texans took extremely personally, akin to having their hearts ripped out. My buddy said it was very interesting and that he was going to place a couple of phone calls to Prague to see if anyone was interested in covering the story there for the Czech media.

About twenty minutes later, the first of more than a dozen phone calls started coming in. Since I don't speak Czech, I was asked to get my wife out of bed to tell the nation how Czech the town of West really is. She was on, live, for about ten minutes, talking about the Czechs of Texas and how they love their heritage, her memory of chatting with some of the older residents, who'd grown up speaking the language and still did from time to time.

Then a TV station called and told us they were sending down a crew to film us looking at the news from West and our friends' reactions on Facebook. We met them in a cafe off Masaryk Square. Later in the afternoon, another TV crew came down and they shot us in the square, buying kolaches at a farmer's market and explaining to the viewers what real kolaches mean to Texans and the lengths that they will drive to get them.

That night, West, Texas was the main topic of news in the Czech republic. Viewers all watched clips of the explosion and the Czech Stop and its kolaches and, in the process, something changed in the Czech psyche.

I don't know how it happened, but somewhere in the mid-20th century, the Czechs lost any sense of connectivity with the Czech diaspora in the outside world. In this regard, they are completely unlike the Poles, who have always seen the Polish world as being global in breadth. Maybe it was the Nazi occupation or the four decades of communist rule that followed. But to the Czechs, when you go, you're gone. This goes even more for the Czechs who left in the nineteenth century. They may understand that they are out there but they feel absolutely no connectivity to them, which is something I'm not sure the Czech-Americans every really grasped.

But now, they realized that those people in that town in central Texas that got flattened by a huge explosion were Czechs, just like themselves, even though most of them drove pick-up trucks and watched high school football games on Friday nights.

One thing that had happened was the Czech Rotary Club had immediately started organizing a charity drive to raise money for the victims of West, Texas. As Waco Tribune recently reported, Rotary Clubs around the world have since raised over $100,000 to help them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Speer's Rebellion Against Hitler: Consorting with Assassins while Driving through the Ruhr

It happened again the following afternoon, only this time instead of coming out the front door he emerged from the alley, moving even quicker than he had the day before. On the third occasion he went into a regional police prefecture only to reappear a few minutes later, leading a frightened-looking man by the elbow. The man was wearing a raincoat which fit him so poorly Speer guessed they’d nicked it on their way out. Manni opened the rear door and let the man get in beside Speer. “He’s a friend of mine. I told him we’d give him a ride,” he said. Then he got behind the wheel, put the car into gear and they were off again. For the next two hours the man remained rigid, wild-eyed and trembling, like he thought he was still under the interrogator’s lamp. Eventually Manni glanced back from behind the wheel and asked Speer to find him something to eat. Speer went into his bag, and pulled out a can opener and a tin of mixed vegetables. He went to work opening it, then pulled back the lid and handed it to the man, who stared at it warily before taking it in his hands, and gulping down its contents in a few seconds. Once he finished, he looked around ravenously, then sank back in embarrassed silence. Finally, just as it was getting dark, they drove into a forest and let him out near a logging road. Without saying goodbye or waving the man hurried up the path and disappeared into the trees. that it got even stranger. He’d pull up to different party offices, and for several minutes would wait, meditatively staring into the building, never saying anything. And then he would either get out and go in or simply change his mind and drive off. Either way, he never explained anything.

During one such time, it occurred to Speer that perhaps the young man was an assassin, whose real mission was killing off Nazi Party officials. But he immediately told himself he was being silly. But then the next time the young man went out, it occurred to him again, and again the next time and the time after. And each time Speer dismissed the idea, until one day, just as he was getting ready to go, the young man took out his pistol and casually screwed a silencer onto the barrel before returning it to his jacket. As they watched him disappear into the building, von Poser suggested they could drive away at that moment. But for some reason Speer said no.

An hour later as they were driving down the road, hidden inside a military convoy, Speer asked himself what it was that actually bothered him about it, other than the prospect of getting caught. Was it that he murdered somebody or that it was someone whose only crime was slavishly obeying the Fuhrer just as he had been only a few days earlier?

When Speer had finally decided to go against Hitler, he never imagined it would suddenly put him in league with murderers and assassins. But then, why should he have such a problem with that? The fact was he’d been consorting with thugs and murderers for twelve years now anyway. Of course the difference was the SS and Stormtroopers were supposed to be the good guys. They’d been on the side of the law. They were following orders. They were supposed to stand for what was right and decent in the world. Manni Loerber was a lone crazy acting on his own, without orders or moderating influence or any kind of official justification. But was that the only real difference? It sure didn’t feel that way.

Or was it the way he operated? Was it knowing that when he put the bullet in their head he had them laughing and reminiscing about the good old days at the Blue Star Cabaret and the Admiralspalast? Was it better to be assassinated when you were happy than when you were scared?

Speer tried to remember what he knew about the Magical Loerber Brothers. Like most Germans he’d seen them perform easily a dozen times and certainly he’d enjoyed their act. It was impossible not to. But at the same time he’d never been part of the Loerber Brothers Mania which went on through the 1920s and ‘30s. He remembered seeing the cover of one particular variety magazine with their four clean-scrubbed, blonde haired, blue-eyed, smiling and utterly indistinguishable faces arranged in a half-moon. Which one is your favorite? it asked. Until then he had never imagined that such a thing as a favorite Loerber Brother could exist. Since he’d never been able to tell any of them apart, it hadn’t occurred to him that they might possess individual personalities. But everyone else apparently could and they obsessed endlessly over the supposed minutia of their lives. Franzi’s Secret Crush! Twenty things you don’t know about Manni! How does somebody like that turn into someone like this? What had happened?
(An abbreviated version of this chapter appears in Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here).

Friend of the Devil: Bluesman on the Run from the Law Shares His Sandwiches with God

He eats the other sandwich quickly and rather than look sated, he seems even hungrier than before. He looks at me again with his big mournful eyes. “I feel terrible asking you this,” he says, “but, seeing how you’re not going to eat with me, would you terribly mind if I had the last sandwich?”

“It’s yours,” I say.

He reaches into the back seat and takes the paper bag and then sets it down on his lap and begins unwrapping the last sandwich. He puts the first half up to his mouth, leaving the other sitting in its bed of white paper on his lap. I feel my stomach start to rumble. I could ask for the other half, but I think I’d rather starve.“Funny you should say, ‘It’s yours,’” he says. “Isn’t that what you told that woman when she robbed you?”

“Why is it funny?”

“Well, you didn’t have to say it. By telling her those sandwiches were hers, you were giving them to her. Technically speaking, after that she wasn’t stealing them.”

“I’m not really interested in technicalities,” I say.

The young man looks surprised. “You aren’t? Didn’t you get sent to prison on a technicality?”

“Well, what if I did?”

“Well, it’s a lot easier to get a conviction overturned if it’s on just a technicality. It’s just a question of having the right connections; a good lawyer, for example.”

“Good lawyer?” I snort. “I’m not sure such a thing exists, least not in Texas.”

We pass an old church. He stares at it like it’s reminding him of something he’d completely forgotten about.

(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Schellenberg Learns Kersten Is Gone, Calls for a Substitute

Normally Schellenberg was wary of letting Himmler veer off on a different topic, but this was a good sign. It meant the Reichsfuhrer was solidly thinking about running things after Hitler was gotten rid of.

"Reichsfuhrer,” he began solemnly, “I would say the best thing to do would be bow. Why? Because it shows your gallantry and your readiness to approach Eisenhower as a supplicant. Offering to shake hands right off could create the impression of being too forward. But when you bow, he will feel compelled to put his hand on your shoulder and be gracious.”

Himmler was suddenly a whirl of activity, speaking quickly as he paced back and forth. “You’re right, you’re absolutely right. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll come up to him and I’ll bow. smiled.

"Now I just need to see about getting the Fuhrer’s permission,” Himmler added almost as an afterthought.

Schellenberg stood dumbfounded.

...Getting the Fuhrer’s permission?

Could he possibly have heard it wrong? The understanding was supposed to be that if Hitler didn’t agree to step down, he should be shot. ... Permission? He stared up at Himmler, who stared back, his watery eyes imperceptible as ever behind the pebble lenses of his glasses.

There is also the matter of my uniform. Should I wear the green one or the black. I think black would be ideal,” he ventured.

Schellenberg tried to keep from exploding. “Reichsfuhrer, you need to tell me, are we still on the same page on this?”

Himmler dabbed at his mouth with his forefinger. “Whatever do you mean?” he asked, absently.

"None of this can happen until you confront the Fuhrer and make him step aside. We’ve already discussed this.”

Himmler twitched.

"Now are you going to do it or not?”

A bigger twitch this time.

"Count Bernadotte is going out on a limb telling Eisenhower you are ready to take over the government. That was the whole point of my flying up to Stockholm. That was what we agreed on, wasn’t it?”

Himmler’s stomach jerked.

"They both expect immediate action from us, Reichsfuhrer. And I’d say they are also definitely starting to lose their patience.”

Another twitch. Himmler’s mouth gaped.

Schellenberg pushed it further. “Reichsfuhrer, the situation is critical. The Russians are going to chew us up and spit us out. They’re going to rape and kill everyone they find. Is this what you want to happen?”

Himmler was all frantic motion now, waving his arms like he was battling an onslaught of flies. “General Schellenberg, you know it’s not as simple as that. You really must understand my situation here. I owe everything to the Fuhrer. Everything! And while yes, I might agree in principle, I just can’t come to him and say ‘Get out of the way, it’s now my turn... It’s just not, it’s just not, it’s unthinkable...I’ve sworn an oath of allegiance, a sacred oath, and I, for one, take that sort of thing very seriously...”

"Reichsfuhrer...,” interjected Schellenberg. But Himmler waved him to silence.

"You must understand the karmic implications of what you are suggesting. It would be much better for everyone if the Fuhrer elected to step down, that would minimize the celestial trauma. I think we should give it a few more days and see if something might alter the forces in our favor. Karmically speaking, it would be the thing to shoot for. And my astrologer assures me there are some major events on the horizon, so who knows?”

Schellenberg cursed himself. The whole trip had been a waste. All of his efforts over the last two years had been a waste.

"We need to be patient, Schellenberg, and not rush anything. It’s the cosmic thing to do.” Beads of sweat were forming on Himmler’s forehead and his left eyebrow was fluttering.

Schellenberg began shouting. “Reichsfuhrer, do you understand the situation we’re in as a nation? We are facing racial extermination. And unless you move immediately, now, today, we will all be destroyed. You must find the strength inside yourself to do what must be done.”

"But you don’t understand,” shot back Himmler in a high- pitched voice. “I owe him everything. I swore an oath to him.” Suddenly Himmler clutched at his stomach and began shrieking in pain. “It’s starting again, Schellenberg! The pain, it’s tearing me up!” he screamed. “Aaahhhh, I can’t take this! It’s killing me, it’s killing me. Call Kersten. Get him in here at once.”

"Reichsfuhrer,” said Schellenberg calmly. “Kersten is still in Stockholm.”

"Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!” Himmler shrieked as he thrashed about on the couch. “Do something, Schellenberg! Do something! I can’t take it.”

Schellenberg went to the door. In the outer office, Himmler’s adjutants, aides and secretaries all waited in hushed terror. “Shouldn’t we send for Kersten?” suggested one of the women.

"Kersten isn’t coming back,” said Schellenberg. “Is there anyone else we can call?”

Everyone looked at each other helplessly. There wasn’t a doctor Himmler would let touch him. There was only Kersten. Nobody could take the pain away like Kersten. Nobody could listen to him and give him advice like Kersten. In the next room Himmler screamed like he was being gutted.

"There has to be somebody,” repeated Schellenberg.

One of the adjutants shifted nervously. “Ummm, there’s Sub-lieutenant Loerber from the Astrology Branch. He’s supposed to be pretty good.”

Himmler shrieked louder.

Then get this Loerber up here on the double!” ordered Schellenberg.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here).

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Sinking of the Battleship Roma and the Dawn of the Age of Precision Guided Munitions

The Sinking of the Battleship Roma and the Dawn of the Age of Precision Guided Munitions

A couple of hours after midnight on the morning of Sept. 9, 1943, a large force of Italian warships – three battleships, three cruisers, and eight destroyers – slipped out of the northern Italian port of La Spezia. Leading them was the Roma, the Italian Navy’s newest and largest battleship, and they were going out to attack a large Allied naval force, which was, at that moment, staging an amphibious invasion further down the coast at Salerno. At least that was what Adm. Carlo Bergamini told a local German commander. But what they were really doing that night was switching sides and joining the Allies.  
To read the full article, visit Defense Media Network at

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Himmler in Hiding: Himmler's Astrologer Ponders the Cambridge Spies

“I thought I told you not to go outside,” said Macher. He was furious. He pointed to the house. “Get back inside now.”

Meekly, Franzi Loerber did as he was told and started walking back to the house. “I needed to see the stars,” he mumbled apologetically.

Macher was unimpressed. “You pull something like that again, I swear I’ll blow your brains out. I don’t care how great the Chief thinks you are.” had no doubt that Macher would not hesitate to shoot him. Only the day before he’d killed an SS man who’d given him backtalk. Just like that. Bullet in the head, drag the body off, somebody clean the blood off the floor. Now where were we?

The others were standing along the side of the house, keeping back from the open front yard as they watched Macher throttle Franzi. There were three of them, Grothmann, Kiermaier and Gebhardt, who until then had been on lookout duty. Himmler was standing at the threshold, buttoning up his trousers as he stared out at them. “Macher, what is it?” he demanded. “Is everything all right? Tell me what is going on?”

“Zonag the Magnificent here wanted to go look at the stars,” Macher fumed. “Little fairy’s going to get us all caught.”

“He wanted to look at the stars?” Himmler asked. “Well maybe you should let him.” He turned to Franzi. “Did you see something? What was it?” he demanded, his voice squealing with excitement. “You should let him look, Macher. How can you expect him to complete my horoscope? Let him stay outside. I’ll watch him.”

Macher shook his head. “It’s too dangerous,” he said. “Everyone back inside.”

From far inside the house, a woman’s voice, high-pitched and fretful, called out, “Heinzi, what is it?”

“It’s nothing, nothing at all,” Himmler called back.

“Then come back to bed,” they heard her purr. “I’m so cold.” Even from outside, it was easy to tell she was pouting. Immediately Himmler turned and made his way back inside, unbuttoning his trousers as he did. Macher shook his head with disgust, then, turning his attention back to Franzi, he grabbed him by the collar and threw him against the ground. “I’ve about had it with you,” he said.

Franzi got back to his feet and stumbled back inside, numbly making his way into the empty parlor. But once there, he found that he could not, for the life of him, remember which chair he’d been sitting in before going out. There were four chairs in the parlor and four of them sitting there in them; Franzi, Macher, Grothmann and Kiermaier. Each with his own place and for Franzi to sit in someone else’s was to invite no small amount of abuse upon himself. By this point, everyone’s nerves were on edge and being at the absolute bottom of the totem pole, Franzi was everybody’s target of choice.

He tried to remember, but couldn’t. The vision he’d just had left him too drained. Even though it had been barely five minutes since he’d been sitting there, the way his head felt it could have been last year. He remained standing, woozily surveying the chairs, hoping to let the others sit down first.

"Sit down!” barked Macher.

Franzi went to an armchair and fell into it. “Get out of my chair!” Kiermaier growled from the doorway. Wearily, Franzi got back up and looked at the other chairs. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “Where was I sitting?” Angrily, Kiermaier pointed to the one across from him and Franzi lowered himself again, feeling more dazed than he ever had in his life.

“What’s with you, anyway?” asked Grothmann. “You’re acting strange.”

Franzi put his hand to his brow and said. “I’m sorry, I just...bad headache."

“Oh? So the Swami is having trouble getting out of his trance?” sneered Grothmann.

Franzi gave a week grimace and nodded.

“Hey! The Reichsfuhrer might buy that crap but don’t expect me to,” said Grothmann combatively.

Franzi closed his eyes and let the back of his head rest against the top of the chair. He tried to gather his thoughts, but his head felt like it was full of cold, wet cement. His thoughts moved listlessly through his brain like dying animals.

Then he remembered the vision and what he’d seen, and as dead as he’d been feeling, he suddenly felt a spark of warmth in his heart. Ziggy was near! Manni too, he knew it now with a certainty. They were looking for him, they were looking for him together! Was it even possible? And there was someone else there too, holding Ziggy’s hand and forcing him to look…….It felt like his old friend Nigel Westerby. He couldn’t believe it, but he knew it was true. What were they doing? What did they know? What could be going on that would bring them all together like this? For the first time in weeks he felt hope.

Up till now, he’d been feeling so worn down from fear and futility, he knew he’d soon run out of the strength and will to continue contending with Macher. The only reason Franzi was even alive was that no one else could take away Himmler’s pain. But that didn’t mean they trusted Franzi in the slightest. He was nothing more than a servant, someone they would have gotten rid of long ago if they’d been able to figure out a way to do without his talents. Nothing he could say could ever convince Macher that he wouldn’t try to run away at the first opportunity. As a result, they wouldn’t even let him go out unescorted to the outhouse.

The others got out quite a bit. Every few hours one of them would go sneak around outside to make sure no one had infiltrated in. Franzi had volunteered to go, but Macher wouldn’t let him. “This is man’s work,” he’d say with a superior smirk, as if being homosexual made Franzi an inferior sneaker.

Were they setting up some plan to rescue him? Did they know something about Himmler’s plans that he didn’t know? Franzi knew next to nothing about any of the day-to-day planning that went on. He wasn’t even sure how much Himmler knew. They seemed to be keeping a lot from him, ever since Macher found out he would confide things to Franzi during the course of a massage. They were making very sure that none of that information filtered down to him.

But since the Reichsfuhrer had nothing mundane with which to impress Franzi, he’d resorted to handing him morsels of information on a far grander scale. He never told him very much, by themselves they were all tantalizing, but useless little chunks.

Except what no one understood about Franzi Loerber was his ability to store up all the little chunks and fit them against and alongside each other until he managed to piece large pieces of the puzzle together. And by this point he actually knew quite a lot about the extent of German infiltration into the Soviet intelligence apparatus.

He knew they had two men in the NKVD’s Thirteenth Directorate, which handled foreign counter-intelligence. He didn’t know their names but he did know something about how they operated. He knew that they were among the bargaining chips that Schellenberg hoped to use to get them all in with the British. He also knew that the Soviets had British Intelligence pretty well riddled with their people whom they’d recruited straight from Cambridge. He even knew several of their names, Burgess, Philby, Donald McLean. But there was also another one, one whom Schellenberg had yet to identify.

He knew lots of other things as well. It wasn’t just spies and infiltration and intelligence estimates. He knew about linkages. He knew about the trading houses and holding companies and the foreign subsidiaries and which bankers and industrialists had worked with the Nazis throughout the war. He knew about British lords and American senators. There were plenty of powerful people out there with a vested interest in keeping that information from ever getting out. It was a sure bet that they’d have their people out among the advance parties tidying up and removing certain inconvenient realities before the main force arrived.

Just then a loud creaking of bedsprings erupted from the other side of the parlor wall. Himmler and his mistress were at it again. It had to be the fifth time that day.

Her name was Fraulein Potthast and she was, Franzi had learned, the Reichsfuhrer’s longtime mistress. She had already been living at the farmhouse for two weeks when they had arrived. Apparently Himmler had Kiermaier arrange her accommodation without anyone else knowing about it. She was young, blonde and pretty, though in a horse-faced way. She was also vivacious, flirtatious and loud. She liked wearing shimmery silk robes; lilac and silvery blue and when it was cold she would wrap herself in a heavy, full-length fur which she told them was sable, though Franzi knew it was something else.

It was strange having her brought into their pared-down, die-hard ranks. Franzi could tell Macher didn’t approve of such a reckless change to what had until then been his flawless regime of evasion and escape. But before he could voice his objections, the Reichsfuhrer had already vanished into the bedroom with her.

Her presence was a mixed blessing to say the least. She got on everyone’s nerves and seemed spectacularly unmindful of the perilous situation they were in. It didn’t register with her that they were, at that moment, the focus of possibly the largest manhunt in history. All that mattered was that finally she was the one closest to the Reichsfuhrer! That his mighty empire was now down to a handful of people and that it barely extended beyond the farmhouse was of no consequence. She had him now! She had risen to the very top and no one could take that away from her.

And because of this, she felt entitled to rule the roost, to be treated as the lady of the house, First Lady of the whole SS Empire. She would voice her opinions, she would ask questions, demand answers and accounts. She demanded deference and was quick to inform the four subjects of her dominion which of them were currently on her good list and which were not.

On the other hand, she kept Himmler occupied and out of their hair for hours at a time. Until now, Franzi never had the impression the Reichsfuhrer was much of a swordsman. He seemed more the mousey, schoolmaster type, too prissy and fastidious to ever get really down and nasty. But now he was absolutely unstoppable. Nothing, it seemed, spurred the Reichsfuehrer’s romantic ardor quite like impending doom.

It shouldn’t have affected Franzi’s situation either way except that it did. It made it a lot worse. To his dismay, Franzi discovered that Fraulein Potthast regarded him as her rival. Even though she managed to occupy nearly all of the Reichsfuhrer’s waking attention, there were nevertheless things he needed that she could not provide, physical things, things altogether too similar to her own ministrations for her to be able to brush them aside.

For much as Himmler was now generally calmer and more stable from having her around, his stomach did occasionally erupt into paroxysms of pain, that were worse than ever before. When that happened there was nobody who could take the pain away but Franzi. Each time, she would be dismissed from her privileged place and forced into the common room to sulk while Franzi would come in and go to work on Himmler’s stomach and abdomen, kneading the spasms and squeezing out the knots and replacing them with warmth. He’d listen to Himmler as he’d freshly detail all his fears and he’d calm him and tell him about what the stars were saying about the future. And by the time he’d leave, the Reichsfuhrer would again be glowing in happiness and optimism. Sometimes he would want to have a little party, light the nice candles, break out a bottle or two of the good stuff and even play the gramophone. During which time Fraulein Potthast would feel impelled to act as the charming hostess, addressing everybody with pet names of her own devising; everyone, of course, except Franzi. And they’d all have to treat her with graciousness and deference, which was asking an awful lot of Macher, who had a hard enough time keeping up the pretense that she was anything more than some snatch-on-the-run.

Franzi opened his eyes only to see Kiermaier staring at him. Kiermaier had the unnerving quality of sitting motionless and staring straight at you for an hour, two hours, three, it made no difference to him. He didn’t talk about things, he didn’t give off any indication what he was thinking, if he was thinking anything. And as the groaning bedsprings grew noisier and more imperative, Kiermaier’s stillness only grew disconcerting. Franzi knew better than to start a conversation or, worse, make a comment about what was going on in the next room. Kiermaier was Himmler’s personal bodyguard and while he might have to put up with Macher’s or Grothmann’s little digs, he certainly wasn’t going to take anything from Franzi Loerber.

Franzi drifted back into his thoughts about his brothers and wondered if the view he’d found of the town and that castle was enough landmark that they could find their way. He hoped he was right, he prayed to God they were coming to get him out of this hell. It would be so wonderful to be rescued, to be free. He felt like a Rapunzel locked in a tower, waiting to let down his golden stair, so he and his rescuers could descend it, dismantling it in the process and taking it with them on their escape. Wherever they were going, he knew they’d need it.

The creaking grew louder, but always irregular and arrhythmic and punctuated by the Reichsfuhrer’s sporatic, labored grunting. Does he think himself a great lover? Franzi wondered. Is he relishing his role of public stud? Probably.

“Jesus God, is that all he’s good for?” It was Macher, seething with disgust. He hated weakness in any form and the thought of serving a Reichsfuhrer so enslaved to his own urges ran against his grain.

Kiermaier shot him a poisonous look. “Watch your mouth,” he growled. Macher pursed his lips into a contemptuous sneer, but said nothing. Franzi looked down, not wanting to get drawn into the argument, knowing it would only get him beaten on by both of them.

Macher had only been Himmler’s adjutant for the last two months, but Kiermaier had served as bodyguard for twenty years. It didn’t matter that Macher outranked him and was obviously in charge, Kiermaier’s loyalty was absolute and he wasn’t about to let Macher or anybody even suggest disrespect to his boss. The two butted heads on a regular basis, and, as a result, Franzi sometimes fantasized about Macher and Kiermaier having such an argument that it would get out of hand and they’d end up shooting and killing each other, leaving Franzi free to walk out. But he knew it wasn’t going to happen. They were both pros, and knew better than to tread very hard on the other’s space. Besides, any excess anger they had, they usually took out on Franzi.

He thought about Ziggy and Manni again. How would they escape? Would they steal through the night fields and forests, hiding in the shadows while their pursuers and the victorious armies forged past? And after that, what? Would they find passage across the waters aboard anonymous, nondescript steamships, melding themselves into the mass of humanity in transit?

Where would they go? Anywhere, as long as it was someplace where the dogs couldn’t follow. A sunny land, somewhere lazy and entropic. Someplace where they could go to ground and hide themselves, someplace where even the presence of three identical-looking foreign men would scarce arouse curiosity in the good-natured natives. Spain, Portugal, Chile, the Andes, Uruguay, The Argentine. On second thought, maybe not The Argentine, since it seemed like half the SS was already on their way there. Uruguay, then. Buy a hacienda or a cattle ranch, sink into happy oblivion, keep a low profile, maybe marry, have children. Why not?

Then another thought came into his head. If they were planning to come and rescue him, they had better get a move on it. Even though Macher and the others had gone out of their way to keep Franzi in the dark, he knew beyond a doubt that something was about to happen. There had been several visitors during the last few days, all coming from Flensburg to discuss things with Macher and Grothmann. Every time they did, he’d get sent into the parlor with the girl while Himmler stayed hidden in another room, listening in on the conversation.

That very morning, in fact, a Luftwaffe officer came up in a jeep driven by two British soldiers, both of whom remained in their vehicle while he went inside to talk to Macher and Grothmann. About the only things Franzi actually made out was the Luftwaffe man saying ‘flying boat,’ and Macher telling him, ‘we’ll have it here tomorrow.’

We’ll have it here tomorrow.” What could Macher have been referring to? What could the Luftwaffe guy care about that much besides payment. He couldn’t want Reichsmarks. No paper money, unless it was Swissfrancs. Couldn’t be British Fivers either, not with the way Schellenberg had been forging them. No, for something like that, it’d have to be Specie; Gold, up front, payment in hand, nothing promissory. Thank you very much, welcome aboard, take any seat you like, we’ll be taking off shortly!

Besides, the Russians were also closing in on them. Only a few days earlier, while they were hiding out in a manor house on the edge of a small village, looking out the window onto the street, Franzi noticed a zigzag mark in yellow chalk on a traffic sign across the street. An inconsequential mark, to be sure, not something anyone would pay any attention to, except that, it hadn’t been there the day before, and it just happened also to be the hailing mark of his old Moscow-Center spy ring. They were looking for him and he didn’t know what to do.

The obvious answer was of course that they were looking for Himmler to bring him to justice. He could find a way to leave them a countermark and lead them to him, which would earn him praise and reward and even a bright, quiet, unproblematic future.

Of course another possibility was that they also wanted the Gold. In which case he could only expect praise and reward if the gold was going to the public good, which was, by the nature of the substance, a bit of a stretch. More likely, they’d want to pocket it for themselves and get rid of him.

Perhaps they wanted him because he’d been their man inside the SS for all these years and it was time to get their spy out and bring him home. Even on an honest, straightforward level, the idea sounded horrendous. He had no desire to go to Russia, even as a hero of the Soviet People. But he knew it was doubtful they would ever do that.

But there was always the possibility they’d figured out he wasn’t a Soviet hero at all, but someone who’d been playing both sides and giving his best work to the British. If that was the case, it wouldn’t be a quick shot in the back of the neck. No, Franzi would have real hell to pay!

Could they have figured that out? Ever since he’d learned from Schellenberg that the Russians had their own people at the top of British Intelligence, he knew it was a very real possibility. All it would take was someone figuring out where Manni had been getting his information from and passing it on to the Russians, who’d promptly connect the dots.

The creaking grew louder and louder, Fraulein Potthast began moaning and making little mewing squeals of joy and then she started screaming full out. She’s faking it, Franzi thought to himself. He’s putting it to her with that pathetic asparagus sprout of his, thinking he’s King Kong reincarnated. Franzi saw Macher and Grothmann exchange a less-than-bemused glance.

Then suddenly it wasn’t the girl who was screaming but Himmler! He shrieked out in excruciating agony, infinitely worse than he had during any of his previous attacks. Kiermaier bolted up from his chair and ran over to the bedroom to investigate. If that bitch has tried something, Franzi could hear him thinking. Had she bitten him someplace? Goddammit, I’ll kill her! 

(A slightly different version of this chapter appears in Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here).