Read XPD Online

Authors: Len Deighton

Tags: #Action & Adventure, #Espionage, #Fiction, #Historical, #Mystery, #Spies, #Suspense, #Thriller, #World War II

XPD (32 page)

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‘I’ll keep at it,’ said Stuart.

‘Good man,’ said the DG. Now that he had won he could afford to be generous. ‘You’d put us in a devil of a pickle if you wanted to get out now. The PM’s meetings in Lusaka with the Commonwealth Heads of Government will give her a chance to achieve something that every previous PM has failed to do.’

‘You mean a settlement … changes in the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia constitution?’

‘Exactly, Stuart.’ The DG seemed surprised that Stuart knew about the story which was being told interminably in all the papers and news magazines. ‘And I think she’ll do it, Stuart.’

‘She’s had some amazing successes already, sir.’

‘She has. And between you and me, old chap, it’s making her the very devil to work with. A new broom sweeps clean and all that. I have a feeling that if we don’t whitewash old Winnie in just the way that Mrs Thatcher and the Conservative Party have always liked him to be … I think we might be in for the new broom business here. You see what I mean?’ The fire flared as the ball of paper was heated to combustion point. Then the ball of ash lifted gently from the coals and toppled into the hearth.

‘I’m an admirer of Sir Winston myself, sir.’ Stuart drained his glass.

‘Of course you are. We all are! He was a great man. That’s the essence of the matter. We must do a good job on this one because it’s something we all believe in. Luckily, I can assure you that the Hitler Minutes are forgeries. We have to make sure everyone knows it.’

Stuart said nothing. He knew the papers were not forgeries. There would not be such a fuss about forgeries. Perhaps the DG read Stuart’s thoughts for he touched Stuart’s arm and turned him towards the door, as a torpedo might be aimed at an enemy cruiser. Stuart walked to the door and turned for a moment before opening it. The DG looked up and raised his eyebrows. They were big bushy eyebrows surmounting a large craggy face.

‘Yes, Stuart?’

‘If, in the line of duty, you had to give orders for the expedient demise of two men, you’d not necessarily feel you had to tell me about that, would you?’

The house was still, and there was no sound of traffic. The DG stood for a moment and pondered the question, as if a profound philosophical principle were at stake. He rolled on his toes like a dancing master about to demonstrate a particularly tricky step. ‘I would use my judgement, Stuart.’

Chapter 29

By Monday, 23 July, it was becoming increasingly easy for Sir Sydney Ryden to believe that fate was working against him. He dined that evening at the Beefsteak, an old-established gentleman’s club consisting of little more than a small ante-room, an office, a few armchairs – providing a view of some public lavatories and a war memorial – and a narrow room in which members and their guests dined, all at the same long table.

Fortune placed Sir Sydney next to a bearded TV scriptwriter with decided views upon the government’s promised cuts in the civil service. ‘Take the Home Office,’ said the scriptwriter, reaching for a silver-plated cow which had been emptied of milk. ‘Half the people there are making tea whenever I have been inside the building. You are not at the Home Office, are you?’

‘No, I’m not,’ said Sir Sydney gravely.

The scriptwriter tilted the silver cow so that he could use its nose to draw patterns on the table cloth. ‘I did a documentary there last year. Disgusting waste … We said that in the programme, of course.’

‘Most interesting,’ said Sir Sydney. He glanced round to see if his host had yet escaped from the man who had button-holed him with a request about joining the club committee.

‘What part of the civil service are you with?’ the scriptwriter asked, having failed to discover this by means of indirect remarks.

‘The Foreign Office,’ said Sir Sydney Ryden.

‘They are helping us with a programme we’ll air next April,’ said the scriptwriter. He confidently assumed that everyone was fascinated by a behind-the-scenes glimpse of television. Sir Sydney sipped his port and hoped the young man would talk to his host and leave him alone. He would have made his escape, except that there was still a small matter of paying his share of the cost of the cigars.

‘… and the Germans had put all their gold down into this salt mine …’ he suddenly heard the scriptwriter saying. ‘The greater proportion of the entire German gold reserves and God knows what documents and stuff …’ Sir Sydney’s stomach tightened and the port suddenly became vinegar in his mouth. He turned to the bearded man and nodded.

‘Really. And this was your idea?’ said Sir Sydney encouragingly.

‘Some looney historian from one of those dud universities in the Midlands. A professor he was …’ The bearded man laughed. ‘You should have seen him. I wouldn’t have given him a job as a cleaner. But he had the stuff all right. Unusable, mind you. Scriptwriting for TV is a very specialized technique. The Beeb gave him a few quid and sent him packing. The poor old fool was furious but there was nothing he could do about it. “Sue the BBC,” I told him, “and see where that gets you.” One of my people took over the project and started it rolling so that we can air it on the anniversary of the end of the war. That’s when the Yanks got to the mine and found the loot there.’

Sir Sydney relit his cigar, noting with some satisfaction that the flaming match did not tremble. ‘Tell me how your script begins,’ he said, this being the simplest way to have the story retold while he gave his full attention to it.

By now the scriptwriter was steering the silver cow round the salt and pepper so that it left tracks in the table cloth. ‘It’s not my script,’ he said. ‘I’m what they call a script editor. I phone up any writers I think might be able to handle it. We’ve had a four-page outline. The actual script won’t be ready until next month, as I remember.’

‘It must be an awfully interesting job,’ said Sir Sydney and gallantly sat through another half-hour of finer points of script editing until the subject of the salt mine was quite, quite cold.

The next morning Sir Sydney arranged an urgent meeting with the assistant director at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP is the official department which advises law-enforcement agencies about the legal aspects of serious criminal proceedings. The assistant director promised Sir Sydney that they would support an action against the BBC or any of its employees, and any other person concerned, should they not co-operate with MI6 in its endeavours to suppress the publication of material which was protected by the Official Secrets Act, as clearly this was.

On that same day Sir Sydney Ryden arranged a meeting with the chairman of the BBC board of governors. Without going into any detail, he explained that the revelation of certain aspects of the recovery of the treasure in the salt mine would not be in the public interest.

In the absence of the BBC’s Director General, who was indisposed, the chairman got Sir Sydney Ryden’s permission to bring the head of external services (who was the ranking executive) into the meeting.

Sir Sydney produced a map that one of the MI6 cartographers had prepared overnight. It showed the city of Frankfurt, and the autobahn north which led through Alsfeld and Bad Hersfeld, and the convoy route on the small side road off the autobahn. It showed too the present-day border, with its barbed wire, man traps, minefields, searchlights and machine-gun posts.

‘Director Janecke and Director Thomas of the Reichsbank were the two who handled all the gold in Nazi Germany,’ said Sir Sydney Ryden. ‘I have here some of the documents which show the shipments made to the Kaiseroda mineshaft at Merkers during those final weeks of the war. You see the signatures.’

The two BBC men looked at the map and the border of East Germany which encompassed the tiny town of Merkers.

‘This is the document from the Reichswirtschaftsministerium which assigned space in certain selected mines for the protection of such treasures as they considered most valuable,’ said Sir Sydney passing it across the desk.


List of Money, Gold, Bullion, Found in Salt-Mine Cave,
Merkers (H-6850) Germany, 8 April 1945

Gold Reichsmarks, bags 446

Austrian crowns, bags 271

Turkish pounds, bags 73

Dutch gold, bags

Italian gold, bags 62

Austrian coins (miscellaneous), bags 3 (nos. 2, 15, 96)

British coins (miscellaneous), bags 3 (nos. 12, 17, 15)

Gold bars, bullion 8198

American 20 gold pieces, bags 711 (25,000 dollars per bag)

Miscellaneous coins, bags 37

Gold francs, bags 80 (10,000 francs per bag)

Miscellaneous money and coin, bag no. 1 C

Italian gold coins, bags
(20,000 per bag)

British gold pounds, bags 280

Foreign notes, miscellaneous, bags 80


1000 Mark notes, bags 130
650,000,000 Marks
100 Mark notes, bags 1650
1,650,000,000 Marks
50 Mark notes, bags 600
300,000 Marks
20 Mark notes, bags 500
100,000 Marks
5 Mark notes, boxes 800
60,000 Marks
2,300,460,000 Marks

Gold bar, 1

Silver bars, 20

Silver plate, boxes 63 and bags 55

Gold, 138 pieces in bags 49

Gold, miscellaneous pieces, bag 1

Gold, French francs, bags 635

Swiss gold, bags

Crated gold bullion, boxes 53

Crated gold bullion, long boxes 2

Valuable coins, bags 9

Coins (not marked), bags 5

Turkish gold coins, bag 1

Mixed gold coins, bag 1

American dollars, bag 1 (12,470 dollars)

Austrian gold (marked GA ‘V’), bags 13

Miscellaneous gold of various countries, bags 6

Danish gold coins, bags 32

Platinum bars, bag 1 containing 6 bars

Roubles, bags 4

Silver bars, bags 40

Gold bullion, bags 11

British pounds, bag 1

Documents (metal boxes marked FHQu) 82

The two BBC officials studied the documents and looked at the map. Soon they exchanged significant glances and one of them asked, ‘You’d not want the full list of gold and valuables made public, Sir Sydney?’

The DG gave one of his cheerless smiles. ‘I wouldn’t like to define exactly our priorities.’

This evasive reply was enough to convince them that the Russians had been deprived of their rightful share of the treasure from a mine which became part of the Russian zone. Now, believing that they understood the full implications of Sir Sydney’s mission, they were fully ready to help. The producer of the documentary would be informed that there was litigation threatened by an unspecified complainant. Photocopies of all relevant material made ostensibly for the legal department would actually be sent to Sir Sydney Ryden’s home address within twenty-four hours.

The DG expressed his gratitude and was pleased he had not had to mention his visit to the DPP’s office. It was always better to handle these things at the very top, where the people concerned knew where their duty lay.

By eleven
the following day, Sir Sydney had personally read all the material the BBC delivered to his office.

‘Just a lot of bilge,’ said Sir Sydney. Fatigue muted the relief and delight he might otherwise have shown. ‘A boring little script about the US army finding the bullion in the mine; the documents and archives are scarcely mentioned. Interviews with some high-ranking officers who were nowhere near the mine, and some US army signal corps photographs of the sacks of gold.’ He looked up at Boyd Stuart. ‘I had a sleepless night for nothing, Stuart.’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Stuart. ‘In fact, the research office is collecting all references to the Merkers mine – worldwide in all languages.’

‘Are you trying to tell me that we have this damned TV programme material already on record?’

‘Not quite all of it, sir. Research picked it up from their routine scrutiny of police permission for filming. The BBC wants to send a camera crew to get footage of the Foreign Office exterior and interior, for the beginning of their documentary. We asked the FO to request a copy of the treatment before giving permission. They would have got a copy of the script too, as soon as it was completed. That was to be a condition of giving the BBC the permits.’

‘Oh, well,’ said Sir Sydney philosophically. ‘I suppose it’s better that we catch it twice, and find it harmless, than miss it altogether and have a disaster on our hands.’

‘Precisely, sir. Perhaps you underestimate the organization you have yourself created.’

‘Don’t butter me up, Stuart. I can’t abide it.’

‘Very good, sir.’

‘How is the interrogation of young Stein going?’

‘He doesn’t seem to know very much, sir. His father probably doesn’t confide in him a great deal.’

The DG nodded. Such paternal secretiveness came as no surprise. He hadn’t discovered the names of his father’s clubs until the old man was almost on his deathbed. What man did confide in his son, he wondered. ‘Nothing at all, eh?’

‘Inference, sir. I think we can rule out this house in which Colonel Pitman lives. Stein says his father told him he’d moved the documents out of there some time ago, and I believe that. Stein senior has a protective attitude towards Colonel Pitman. I think he’d remove such documents simply to make it safer for the colonel.’

‘It sounds extraordinary to me,’ admitted the DG, who could not imagine any of the young men in his department adopting such a protective attitude towards him.

‘I believe it, sir,’ said Stuart. ‘Wherever the documents are, I think that the Pitman house can be eliminated.’

He looked Stuart up and down. ‘Has something happened?’

‘We have a positive identification on the photo, Director.’

‘Start at the beginning,’ said the DG. He sat down on the sofa, stifling a sigh, to convey to Stuart the complexities of his job.

‘The photograph of three men that was found in the safe belonging to Franz Wever,’ said Stuart. ‘It was taken in wartime. One of the men was Franz Wever himself, the second man was Max Breslow. Now we have identified the third person in the photo.’

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