Authors: Leslie Charteris
THE SAINT IN PURSUIT
BY LESLIE CHARTERIS
THE WHITE RIDER
The Saint Series in order
MEET THE TIGER!
THE SAINT GOES WEST
ENTER THE SAINT
THE SAINT STEPS IN
THE LAST HERO
THE SAINT ON GUARD
THE AVENGING SAINT
THE SAINT SEES IT THROUGH
WANTED FOR MURDER
CALL FOR THE SAINT
ANGELS OF DOOM
THE SAINT VS. SCOTLAND
THE SECOND SAINT OMNIBUS
THE SAINT IN EUROPE
THE SAINT ON THE SPAN-
THE SAINT AND MR TEAL
THE BRIGHTER BUCCANEER
THE SAINT AROUND THE
SAINT IN NEW YORK
THE MISFORTUNES OF MR
THANKS TO THE SAINT
THE SAINT INTERVENES
THE SAINT TO THE RESCUE
THE SAINT GOES ON
TRUST THE SAINT
THE SAINT OVERBOARD
THE SAINT IN THE SUN
THE ACE OF KNAVES
VENDETTA FOR THE SAINT
THE SAINT ON TV
THE HAPPY HIGHWAYMAN
THE SAINT RETURNS
PRELUDE FOR WAR
THE SAINT AND THE FIC-
FOLLOW THE SAINT
THE FIRST SAINT OMNIBUS
THE SAINT ABROAD
THE SAINT IN MIAMI
THE SAINT IN PURSUIT
PUBLISHED FOR THE CRIME CLUB BY
DOUBLEDAY & CO., INC.
GABDEN CITY, NEW YORK
All of the characters in this book
are fictitious, and any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 71-123684
Copyright Š 1970 by Leslie Charteris
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Readers who have an uneasy feeling that they have “read” this new book before can relax again. They haven’t. But they may be recalling the plot of the original comic strip on which it is based, which was syndicated by the New York Herald Tribune between July 17, 1959, and January 7, 1960. Of course, I wrote that, too.
THE SAINT IN PURSUIT
I: How Simon Templar answered a
Summons, and Vicky Kinian
It is a philosophical observation so profound as to be platitudinous, that a man’s past is never finally past until he is buried; that any encounter, any incident in his life, though he may long since have filed it away as ancient history and for all everyday purposes forgotten it, may only be waiting with the infinite patience of a time-bomb to make violent re-entry into the peacefully lulled passage of his days.
This fact has been discovered with grave discomfiture by such diverse divisions of mankind as professional puritans, retired embezzlers, complacent bigamists, signers of petitions, devisers of unsolvable murders, and ambitious politicians who go into public life without first making sure that certain smouldering letters have been permanently extinguished.
In this episode of the chronicles of Simon Templar with which we are about to be concerned, the bomb had been planted during a war which ended a quarter of a century before the fuse ran out of its length. And if he could accept such a delayed resurrection with his equanimity ruffled by little more than a raised eyebrow, it was because he was within certain limits a resigned fatalist. If he had ever in his adventurous life been subject to wild waves of hope or unnerving attacks of apprehensiveness, he would never have survived to enjoy the fame and more importantly the fabulous fortune that his sallies as a twentieth-century Robin Hood had earned him. But ever since he had made it his vocation to prey on the world’s bullies, crooks, and pompous bloatpurses, he had accepted it as an inexplicable but incontrovertible destiny that trouble would always come to him even when he wasn’t looking for trouble, and that the only intelligent response was, in the words of the classic parable, to relax and enjoy it. Considering the antipathy he had aroused among both the Ungodly and their tax-supported official foes, most people in his place would have figured themselves stupendously successful to have stayed alive at all. Simon Templar, called the Saint, had not only survived but prospered in the greatest good humour with a Zarathustrian confidence in his ordained eventual victory over everything that the Ungodly could throw at him.
The first spark out of the past this time was a telephone call that traced him somehow to a hotel in Tokyo, and a dry voice that he had only ever known by the code name of Hamilton and an unlisted number in Washington.
“I’ve got a little job for you,” it said, “that should give you much more of a lift than those geishas.”
“I packed up my cloak and dagger in mothballs years ago,” said the Saint. “And I thought you’d have retired before you got senile.”
“This is unfinished business,” Hamilton said. “I’m having a plane ticket to Lisbon delivered to you. If you can bear to get out of your kimono, ask for Colonel Wade at our embassy there. He’ll brief you.”
“Just be sure it’s a first-class ticket,” said the Saint. “My days of patriotic economizing are over.”
It would never have seriously occurred to him to refuse, and he knew that Hamilton knew it—just as he knew that Hamilton would never have called him out of that distant past without some irresistible reason. And that was all he needed to tell him that life had made a new move in the very special game it played with him, and there was a challenge that any true buccaneer must accept.
So it was that less than two days and half a world away from that brief conversation he sat relaxed—blackhaired, lean, immaculately tailored, piratically handsome—in the Lisbon Embassy, confronting a much less relaxed military attache who was obviously inclined to fidget about incursions of civilians into his territory.
“I can’t say this is a sentimental journey, exactly,” Simon Templar said, “even if I do get a lump in my throat when I think of the American taxpayers footing my expenses. But it does take me back.”
His quizzical blue eyes glanced over the panelled room, which was protected from the glaring heat beyond its wide windows by the best imported Yankee air-conditioning, and across the spacious mahogany desk at the officer’s neat uniform. The officer fidgeted. He was a middle-aged man with reddish hair and a baritone voice whose low pitch seemed self-consciously cultivated.
“Were you here in Lisbon with the OSS during the war?” he asked with forced cordiality. “I—er—I haven’t been filled in completely on your background.”
“Nobody has,” the Saint said simply. “We were all very busy in those days, weren’t we, Colonel?”
He realized as he said it, with a certain shock, how inexorably it dated him. Time slips by with such astounding smoothness that we are seldom aware of the space it has covered until we count back. But a few of the Saint’s activities during that war have been inescapably recorded in other volumes of this saga, so that some milestones cannot be hidden from any student with a mastery of elementary arithmetic.
“Yes, we were,” was all Colonel Wade could think of to reply. He produced a salesman’s sudden depressing smile. “Well, wherever you were exactly in the forties, Washington seems to think you’re the man for this job now, and my orders aren’t to question you at all, of course …”
Most of the officer’s sentences never seemed to come to a full period, leaving the impression that he was about to say “but—” He cleared his throat and unnecessarily straightened some papers on the desk in front of him. Simon Templar waited, secure and cool in his own un-uniformed independence.
“This—er—matter involves one of our Intelligence Officers, a Major Robert Kinian, who disappeared here in Lisbon in 1944. He’d been to school in Germany for years, spoke the language perfectly, and he’d been undercover there during the first part of the war. Then in February of ‘44 he came here and …” Wade flicked one of his hands. “… disappeared …”
“A lot of people disappeared in 1944,” the Saint said impassively. “But I’d have thought that by this time you’d have closed the file on an agent who disappeared on a risky mission in wartime.”
The colonel pressed his hands together in front of him, steeple-like, carefully matching the tip of each finger precisely with its opposite.
“If it was an assignment like Kinian’s—never,” he said. “There was too much involved, and there are questions we want answered because the answers could still mean a lot today. We don’t give up easily. If you see what I mean.”
The officer showed quiet pride in American intelligence’s bulldoggery. Simon let him enjoy himself for a moment before deflating him as gently as possible.
“And just what have you found out about him in these last twenty-five years?”
The Saint refrained from bearing down on the number for the sake of good civilian-military relations. Colonel Wade nevertheless betrayed embarrassment. His homemade steeple crumpled and he smoothed his already smooth papers with nervous hands.
“We—er—we haven’t found out anything, yet,” he admitted.
“No clues at all?” Simon asked.
“No,” said the colonel. “I can give you the whole story very quickly.” He pushed back his chair, stood up, and paced the room like a university lecturer as he talked. “We know this: Major Kinian had been underground in Germany for six months in the second half of 1943. As I said, he knew the country thoroughly and spoke German Uke a native. He got out to Switzerland in February ‘44, but he didn’t make any report there. He came on to Portugal a few days later— about the middle of February—and made a telephone call to report his arrival in Lisbon and the hotel he was staying at.”
“Where was the call made from?” the Saint asked.
“From his hotel, presumably. The Avenida Palace. Of course we checked every possibility of tracing him through the hotel personnel years ago. His stay there was perfectly normal, it seems. Until after a couple of days he just didn’t come back, and he’s never been seen again.”
“And that one telephone call was his only contact with the OSS?”
“It was his only contact with anybody on his own team. Since he was on an underground mission he never came here or met the fellow who had my job at the time. After he telephoned, Washington waited two days for the report he was supposed to send to the embassy here. Then an agent was sent to contact him.” The colonel made an empty-handed gesture. “No dice. Nobody knows what happened to him.”
His story finished, the officer dropped back into his red-leather swivel chair and stretched his legs.
“With so much to go on I should have the riddle unravelled in half a day,” Simon said caustically. “You left out just one minor detail. What was this mission Major Kinian had been on?”
“He was trying to get a line on the escape plans of the Nazi bigwigs if they lost the war,” the colonel answered. “With Roosevelt pushing for unconditional surrender, there obviously wasn’t going to be much future for secondhand SS officers, or Nazi politicians, in Germany. It was common knowledge that the top boys were getting escape hatches ready for themselves and salting away plenty of funds to keep them comfortable in their retirement.”
The Saint tilted back his own chair and folded his arms.
“I’m afraid, Colonel, that if Kinian was working inside Germany on something as big as that, your predecessors should’ve expected him to disappear. Apparently he was on such a hot trail that he didn’t dare take his nose off it—even after he got into neutral territory.”
“Right. That’s the way we figure it.”
“But the game got his scent about the time he got here— and turned around and removed him.”
“I’m afraid that’s the most obvious possibility, Templar,” said the officer soberly.
Simon stood up to his full six-foot-two and walked over to the window. Somehow the spacious peace of the embassy’s grounds, the summer sunlight in the foliage of the trees, made the cruel deaths of the Second World War seem almost as remote as the battles of the Iliad.
“And that was the end of the trail,” he said quietly.
“The end of one trail,” Wade replied, and went on with fresh enthusiasm: “We kept an eye on other possibilities— and his daughter was one of them.”
“She must have been all of ten years old at the time,” the Saint said, turning to face the man in the uniform. “An obvious Mata Hari.”
The colonel allowed himself a disciplined smile.
“She was only one year old at the time, as a matter of fact,” he said. “But being as she’s the only member of Major Kinian’s immediate family who’s stiE alive—his wife died five years ago—we thought there might be a chance she’d give us a lead someday. And I think she has.”
The Saint’s interest had clearly picked up. He was following the colonel’s words intently.
“Without wanting to impugn the honour of the secret services,” he said, “I assume you’re thinking that Major Kinian may have taken the back door to the rich life by joining up with the lads he was supposed to be undoing.”
“It’s a possibility,” Wade said in his radio-announcer’s baritone. “Very remote, perhaps. But we had to consider that and a lot of other chances to be sure we were covering the field. And now, just recently, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Kinian’s daughter was given a sealed envelope by an attorney that’s bringing her straight to Lisbon.”
“Right. From Iowa. It wasn’t her father’s regular attorney who gave her the letter, or we probably would’ve known about it before. We checked him long ago. But we know the letter is from the girl’s father, and that it was given to her on her birthday by a lawyer we didn’t know he’d had any dealings with. A few days later, she quit her job and booked a passage to Lisbon—where he vanished.”
“It looks a little as if Major Kinian was trying to out-secrecy everybody, doesn’t it?” Simon commented. “You’ve no idea what was in that time capsule he left for his daughter?”