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Authors: William Diehl

Tags: #Europe, #Irish Americans, #Murder, #Diplomats, #Jews, #Action & Adventure, #Undercover operations - Fiction, #Fiction--Espionage, #1918-1945, #Racism, #International intrigue, #Subversive activities, #Fascism, #Interpersonal relations, #Germany, #Adventure fiction, #Intelligence service - United States - Fiction, #Nazis, #Spy stories, #Espionage & spy thriller

The Hunt aka 27

BOOK: The Hunt aka 27
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In Germany, 1933, Johann Ingersoll, star of screen and master of disguise, enjoys a sinister talent. It is one that lets him indulge a taste for cruel sex and casual murder. And one soon spotted by Hitler's brutal regime.

(The Hunt)

“The agents of
Die Sechs Fuchse
report only to Vierhaus and he reports only to me. The particular assignment we have in mind for you would, in the event war is imminent with the United States, paralyze their war effort and neutralize them. It would, we are certain, keep the United States out of the war. In other words, Hans, this mission could directly affect the outcome of our struggle. So, if you choose to accept and are successful, you will be the single most important war hero in the history of the Third Reich.”

Ingersoll’s excitement flooded over. He began to speak but Hitler held up a finger.

“Before you say anything, Hans Wolfe, you must understand if you accept this job, both Hans Wolfe and Johann Ingersoll must die. You would become a man without an identity. A number.”

“A number?”

“Willie Hitler said.

“You would be known only as
Siebenundwanzig.”

“Twenty-seven? Why twenty-seven?”

“You will understand in time,” Vierhaus said.

Also by William Diehl

Thai Horse

Hooligans

Chameleon Sharky’s Machine

WILLIAM DIEHL

Mandarin

27

A Mandarin Paperback

27

First published in Great Britain 1990 by William Hei
n
emann Ltd

This edition published 1991

Reprinted 1991 by Mandarin Paperbacks Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 ORB

Mandarin is an imprint of the Octopus Publishing Group

Copyright © William Diehl 1990

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:

CPP/Belwin, Inc., a
n
d International Music Publications: An excerpt from the lyrics to “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” by Charles Tobias, Lew Brown, and Sam
uel
. Stept. Copyright 1942, 1954 Robbins
Music
Corporation.

Copyright renewed 1970, 1982 Robbins Music
Corporation
All rights of Ro
b
bins Music Corp. assigned to EMI Catalogue Partnership. All rights controlled and administered by EM
I
Rohbins Catalog, Inc.

International
copyright secured. Made in the USA. MI rights reserved. Used by permission.
Purdy
Bienstock Enterprises: An excerpt from the lyrics to “Strange Fruit” by Lewis Allen. Copyright 1939 Edward B.
M
arks Music Company.

Copyright renewed. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

MCA Music Publishing: An excerpt from lyrics to “Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be),” words and music by Jimmy Davin, Roger “Eam” Ramirez, and Jimmy Sherman. Copyright 1941, 1942 by
M
CA
Music
Publishing,

a division of MCA, Inc., New
York
, NY 10019. Copyright renewed. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., and Song
w
riter’s Guild of America as agent for Jay Gorney Music and Glocca Morra Music: An excerpt from
t
he lyrics to “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” by J. Gorney and E. Y. Ha
rb
urg.

Copyright 1932 by Warner Bros. Inc. Copyright renewed.

All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.: An excerpt from the lyrics to “Love for Sale” by Cole Porter. Copyright © 1957 Warner Bros. Inc. (renewed). An excerpt from the lyrics to “She’s Funny That Way” by Billie Holiday. Copyright 1928 Chapp
e
ll & Co. An excerpt from the lyrics to “
I’ve
Got a Crush on You” by George Gershwin—lea Gershwin. Copyright 1930 Warner Bros. Music (renewed) New World M
us
ic Corp.

All rights reserved. Used by permission.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 0 7493 0555 K

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cox and Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berks

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or other
w
ise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed

To the four people who love this island as much as I do:

The late, great Bobby Byrd,

my daughter, Temple,

Mark Vaughn,

and always, for Virginia

“What is past is prologue.”

William Shakespeare
The Tempest

BOOK ONE

“What other dungeon is so dark

as one’s own heart!

What jailer so inexorable

as one’s self.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851

The creature was a terrifying specter. A bizarre distortion, part human, part animal, this scarred, panting, wild-eyed obscenity seemed proof that all things in nature are not perfect and that even God in his infinite wisdom is sometimes capable of a monstrous blunder.

The face was a network of red, ridged scars, one of which stitched his left eye shut. The nose was a crushed lump, its nostrils flattened against a pale, cadaverous face like the snout of a pig. Thick lips revealed tortured, broken teeth which overlapped as if, in a divine afterthought, had been jammed haphazardly into the gums. His hair was a thick, blond, twisted mane that tumbled down both sides of his face, framing and accentuating its abnormalities.

His body had not escaped the ravages of natural disorder. He was short, barely five feet tall, bent over by a bowed spine, his shoulders jammed against his neck in a perpetual shrug, one foot turned inward and slanted so he walked on its side in a curious limp that lacked rhythm and cadence.

Misery permeated every pore and sinew of this tortured being.

His one good eye hinted at the angry soul encased in this crippled cage of skin and bone; a fearful gray, glittering orb, unable to conceal his unbridled hatred for the normal humans who, on those rare times when he had been seen, were so revolted by his hideous deformities that they turned their own eyes away from him in horror.

Only his arms and hands seemed to have escaped the uncontrolled genes which had molded him into a human disaster. His arms were powerful and muscular, his hands long, expressive, even delicate. And yet as if their beauty reminded him of what might have been he kept them tucked away under his armpits, making his peculiar gait even more ominous.

A night predator, he emerged only after dark to forage for food, to steal what little money he required.

And to kill.

Shrouded by a long, dark green loden coat, its hood concealing his face, he stalked the shadows, dodging the police and the brownshirts, looking for victims. His rage was such that he hunted only the most beautiful and innocent-looking women, and when he found them he killed them, disfiguring their bodies with a ragged butcher knife as if he were getting even with the fates for what they had done to him.

In this, the spring of 1932, he had butchered no less than two dozen women over a period of three years.

The Berlin police were confounded by this monster serial killer who seemed to vanish in the city’s shadows. Clues were nonexistent. There was no pattern to his crimes other than the victims’ youth and beauty.

To everyone who read the newspapers or listened to the radio, he was now known as
Der Nacht Hund,
the Night Dog.

In deep shadows,
Der Nacht Hund
lurked ten feet above the grim, dimly lit alley that wound between the Berlin city hospital and the morgue and ended a block away at the Gelderstrasse bus stop. He had pulled himself, hand-over-hand, up into the shadows by the pipes that ribbed the alley wall. There he waited and watched as the night shift ended and the doctors, interns and nurses drifted out, jabbering as they walked to cars or down the alley below to the bus.

Fifteen minutes passed. He had been watching the alley for several nights, perched in its shadows, checking the nurses, seeking out that perfect beauty and waiting for the moment when she might drop her guard and walk down the alleyway alone.

Der Nacht Hund
was infinitely patient.

Two nurses came out of the staff door of the hospital and waited under the bright lights of the emergency entrance for several minutes. One was short and stout, the other, taller and slender with long equine features.

The tall one moved out of the light and lit a cigarette which she shared with the other one. They giggled mischievously, passing the cigarette back and forth, watching lest a doctor or senior nurse catch them. Women were forbidden from smoking on the hospital grounds; if caught, the two would be sternly chastised. In fact, the night supervisor frowned on women smoking at all, considering it a common and filthy habit suitable only for men.

They finished the cigarette, looked back at the exit, then the shorter one shrugged. They proceeded down the alley toward the bus stop.

The third woman was young, barely in her twenties, with an angelic face that exuded innocence
and
wonder, a delicate beauty who had been in nurse’s training for only a few weeks. As she exited the hospital, she looked around and called out, “Anna? Sophie?”

No answer.

She approached the mouth of the alley cautiously, and leaning forward peered into its gloomy depths. Fifty yards away the alley curved. She could see the long shadows of her two friends cast against the brick wall by the street lamps at the bus stop, could hear faint laughter.

She huddled into her coat and walked rapidly after them.

The loden coat made a slight flapping sound as he dropped toward his prey and she turned a moment before he landed behind her.

She caught a brief glimpse of his warped features but before she could scream he lashed out with one hand, slamming it over her mouth and shoving her against the alley wall. Her eyes bulged in terror; he immediately struck her in the temple with his other fist, a sharp, hard punch that knocked her unconscious. She made a slight whimpering sound, her knees buckled and as she dropped straight down he gathered her up in his arms and whisked her into a doorway.

There was not a sound. The alley was suddenly empty.

“Cut!”

Fifty feet away, the director rose from his canvas chair and applauded.

“Wunderbar, wunderbar!” he said in a thick German accent as he walked across the eerie Gothic movie set toward his stars.

“That should whiten their knuckles.”

The girl walked out into the set with a sigh.

“Wonderful, my darling,” the director cooed, and brushed her cheek with his lips. He was a slight, esthetic man, ramrod straight with the manners of a duke.

“Thank you, Fritz,” she said, genuinely pleased by the compliment. This was only her third film, the first in a costarring part. She was still awed by her luck at playing opposite Johann Ingersoll, Germany’s most popular actor, and being directed by Fritz Jergens, one of Germany’s best-known directors.

The creature emerged behind her.

“Excellent, Johann. Magnificent as always.” Jergens shook the monster’s hand. “You can go to lunch. Freda, we will do you close-ups before we break.”

Ingersoll merely nodded. Remaining in character, he crossed the set in his strange crablike gait and entered a dressing room in the corner of the sound stage.

His valet, Otto Heinz, was waiting as usual. As the actor pulled the door closed, the small, gray-haired man poured Ingersoll a small snifter of brandy. Ingersoll suddenly seemed to grow a foot taller, straightening his shoulders, standing up to his full height. He shook his shoulders out, took out the grotesque plate that covered his real teeth and placed it in a glass cup which Heinz held open for him. He carefully removed the shaggy wig and, as Heinz placed it on a head mold on the corner of the makeup table, the actor dropped wearily on a chaise lounge in the corner of the room.

“It will soon be over,” Heinz said, standing behind him. Short and in his late fifties, Heinz still had the body and arms of a weightlifter. He kneaded his muscular hands into Ingersoll’s shoulders.

“Ten more days,” Ingersoll sighed in a voice that was refined with only a trace of an accent. “This has been the most difficult one so far. Those stunts in that grotesque posture

· . .
and the makeup! My God, I will think twice before I ever go
this
far again.”

Heinz laughed softly. He knew the agony of enduring seven, sometimes eight hours a day in the heavy disguise. It was unbearably hot under the layer of latex and cosmetics, uncomfortable to the point of pain. But he also understood Ingersoll’s drive to make each character more startling, more frightening and original than the previous one. Ingersoll created his own makeup, arising several hours before he was due on the set, applying it himself, assisted only by Heinz, who was also his valet, cook and chauffeur.

“You say that on every show,” Heinz said.

“This time I mean it. I will swear it in my own blood.”

“Of course.”

Heinz had given up his own respectable career as a top makeup man to become Ingersoll’s servant and confidant. He was a key figure in one of Germany’s most popular mysteries—
who was the real Johann Ingersoll?

The star had made seven enormously popular horror films, five of them talking pictures, and was being compared to the great American actor Lon Chaney. Yet nobody knew
anything
about Johann Ingersoll. There were no photographs of him except in the grotesque makeup he invented for each picture. His biography listed only his films. He never granted interviews and went to unusual lengths to protect his real identity. Adding further to the mystique was Ingersoll’s eccentric habit of arriving on the set each day in makeup and leaving the same way, sneaking through the underground tunnels that led to the furnace rooms and the adjoining sound stages, scurrying to some predetermined spot where Heinz was waiting with the limousine. For four years he had eluded both the news reporters and the fans who tried to peer behind the masks, to unveil the real Johann Ingersoll.

The ploy was a publicist’s dream and had enhanced the celebrity and stardom of the actor. His stature was now equal to that of Conrad Veidt, Emil Jannings and Peter Lorre. Together they were the four most popular actors to emerge from Germany’s young film industry.

There was a soft tapping at the door. Ingersoll groaned.

“Now what?”

“Ja?”
Heinz said.

“It is Friedrich. Sorry to intrude but it is important.”

“Come, come,” Ingersoll said impatiently.

Friedrich Kessler was a tall, intense man in his mid-thirties, a bon vivant who dressed in the latest fashion, wore his fedora jauntily cocked over one eye and affected a monocle and cane. He was Ingersoll’s attorney, agent and manager, and Ingersoll had made him a rich man in a bankrupt Germany where such a feat was virtually impossible. Only one person other than Heinz knew the truth about Ingersoll and that person was Kreisler. It was Kreisler who had created the idea of the movie star nobody knew, who had accompanied him on his first screen test when Ingersoll had stunned the studio by arriving already made up as a character of his own diabolical imagination. It was Kreisler who negotiated all the contracts and who handled all of Ingersoll’s business affairs.

To everyone else, his friends and neighbors, Ingersoll was Hans Wolfe, a reclusive Berlin businessman who frequently spent weeks at a time abroad.

“So, how does it go?” Kreisler asked.

Heinz rolled his eyes as if to say “don’t ask.”

“I need rest,” Ingersoll said.

“Three months when you finish. We don’t start
Das Mitternachtige Tier
until spring.”

“It will take me that long to create the character. I have already done a werewolf once; this one must be different.”

“Ah, you go skiing in Austria for a month, think about it around the fire at night.”

“I suppose.”

“I
. . .
uh
. . .
you have a visitor,” Kreisler said tentatively.

Ingersoll looked tip sharply.

“I do not take visitors on the set. You know that,” he snapped.

“I think perhaps you will make an exception this time.”

“No exceptions!”

Kreisler took a letter from his pocket and handed it to Ingersoll.

“He’s outside,” the agent said.

Ingersoll turned the letter over. There was an official wax seal on the back. His intolerance with the intrusion was obvious as he ripped open the envelope and unfolded the note. It read:

Herr Ingersoll

This will introduce Dr. Wilhelm Vierhaus, a member of my personal staff. I will be in your debt if you will give him a few moments of your time on a matter of the utmost importance to us both.

It was signed “A. Hitler.”

BOOK: The Hunt aka 27
11.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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