/ Language: English / Genre:thriller,

If the Dead Rise Not

Philip Kerr

Berlin 1934. The Nazis have been in power for just eighteen months but already Germany has seen some unpleasant changes. As the city prepares to host the 1936 Olympics, Jews are being expelled from all German sporting organisations – a blatant example of discrimination. Forced to resign as a homicide detective with Berlin 's Criminal Police, Bernie is now house detective at the famous Adlon Hotel. The discovery of two bodies – one a businessman and the other a Jewish boxer – involves Bernie in the lives of two hotel guests. One is a beautiful left-wing journalist intent on persuading America to boycott the Berlin Olympiad; the other is a German-Jewish gangster who plans to use the Olympics to enrich himself and the Chicago mob. As events unfold, Bernie uncovers a vast labour and construction racket designed to take advantage of the huge sums the Nazis are prepared to spend to showcase the new Germany to the world. It is a plot that finds its conclusion twenty years later in pre-revolution Cuba, the country to which Bernie flees from Argentina at the end of A Quiet Flame.

Philip Kerr

If the Dead Rise Not

The sixth book in the Bernard Gunther series, 2009

That I have fought with beasts at Ephesus after the manner of men, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not again? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.


For Caradoc King


Berlin , 1934


IT WAS THE SORT OF SOUND you hear in the distance and mistake for something else: a dirty steam barge puffing along the River Spree; the shunting of a slow locomotive underneath the great glass roof of the Anhalter Station; the hot, impatient breath of some enormous dragon, as if one of the stone dinosaurs in Berlin’s zoo had come to life and was now lumbering up Wilhelmstrasse. It hardly seemed like something musical until you guessed it was a military brass band, but even then it was too mechanical to resemble man-made music. Suddenly the air was filled with the clash of cymbals and the tinkling of frame glockenspiels, and at last I saw it-a detachment of soldiers marching as if intent on making work for the road menders. Just looking at these men made my feet hurt. They came clock-stepping along the street, their Mauser carbines shouldered on the left, their muscular right arms swinging with a pendulum-like exactitude between elbow and eagle-embossed belt buckle, their gray steel-helmeted heads held high and their thoughts, assuming they had any, occupied with nonsense about one folk, one leader, one empire-with Germany!

People stopped to stare and to salute the traffic jam of Nazi flags and banners the soldiers were carrying-an entire haberdasher’s store of red and black and white curtain material. Others came running, full of patriotic enthusiasm to do the same. Children were hoisted onto broad shoulders or slipped through a policeman’s legs so as not to miss anything. Only the man standing next to me seemed less than enthusiastic.

“You mark my words,” he said. “That crazy idiot Hitler means to have another war with England and France. As if we didn’t lose enough men the last time. All this marching up and down makes me sick. It might have been God who invented the devil, but it was Austria that gave us the Leader.”

The man uttering these words had a face like the Golem of Prague and a barrel-shaped body that belonged on a beer cart. He wore a short leather coat and a cap with a peak that grew straight out of his forehead. He had ears like an Indian elephant, a mustache like a toilet brush, and more chins than the Shanghai telephone directory. Even before he flicked the end of his cigarette at the brass band and hit the bass drum, a gap had opened around this ill-advised commentator, as if he were carrying a deadly disease. And no one wanted to be around when the Gestapo showed up with its own idea of a cure.

I turned away and walked quickly down Hedemann Strasse. It was a warm day, almost the end of September, when a word like “summer” made me think of something precious that was soon to be forgotten. Like freedom and justice. “ Germany awake” was the slogan on everyone’s lips, only it appeared to me that we were clock-stepping in our sleep toward some terrible but as yet unknown disaster. This didn’t mean I was ever going to be foolish enough to say so in public, and certainly not when strangers were listening. I had principles, sure, but I also had all my own teeth.

“Hey you,” said a voice behind me. “Stop a minute. I want to talk to you.”

I kept on walking, and it was not until Saarland Strasse-formerly Königgrätzer Strasse, until the Nazis decided we all needed to be reminded about the Treaty of Versailles and the injustice of the League of Nations -that the owner of the voice caught up with me.

“Didn’t you hear me?” he said. Taking hold of my shoulder, he pushed me up against an advertising column and showed me a bronze warrant disc on the palm of his hand. From this it was hard to tell if he was local or state criminal police, but from what I knew about Hermann Goering’s new Prussian police, only the lower ranks carried bronze beer tokens. No one else was on the pavement, and the advertising column shielded us from the view of anyone on the road. Not that there was much real advertising pasted on it. These days, advertising was just a sign telling a Jew to keep off the grass.

“No, I didn’t,” I said.

“The man who spoke treasonably about the Leader. You must have heard what he said. You were standing right next to him.”

“I don’t remember hearing anything treasonable about the Leader,” I said. “I was listening to the band.”

“So why did you suddenly walk away?”

“I remembered that I had an appointment.”

The cop’s cheeks flushed a little. It wasn’t a pleasant face. He had dark, shadowy eyes; a rigid, sneering mouth; and a rather salient jaw. It was a face that had nothing to fear from death since it already looked like a skull. If Goebbels had a taller, more rabidly Nazi brother, then this man might have been him.

“I don’t believe you,” the cop said, and, snapping his fingers impatiently, added, “Identification card, please.”

The “please” was nice, but I still hardly wanted to let him see my identification. Section eight of page two detailed my profession by training and in fact. And since I was no longer a policeman but a hotel employee, it was as good as telling him I wasn’t a Nazi. Worse than that. A man who had been obliged to leave the Berlin detective force because of his allegiance to the old Weimar Republic might be just the type to ignore someone speaking treason about the Leader. If treason was what that was. But I knew the cop would probably arrest me just to spoil my day, and arrest would very likely mean two weeks in a concentration camp.

He snapped his fingers again and glanced away, almost bored. “Come on, come on, I haven’t got all day.”

For a moment, I just bit my lip, irritated at being pushed around yet again, not just by this cadaver-faced cop but by the whole Nazi state. I’d been forced out of my job as a senior detective with KRIPO-a job I had loved-and been made to feel like a pariah because of my adherence to the old Weimar Republic. The Republic’s faults had been many, it was true, but at least it had been democratic. And since its collapse, Berlin, the city of my birth, was hardly recognizable. Previously it had been the most liberal place in the world. Now it felt like a military parade ground. Dictatorships always look good until someone starts giving you dictation.

“Are you deaf! Let’s see that damned card!” The cop snapped his fingers again.

My irritation turned to anger. I reached inside my jacket for the card with my left hand, turning my body just far enough around to disguise my right hand becoming a fist. And when I buried it in his gut, my whole body was behind it.

I hit him too hard. Much too hard. The blow took all the air out of him and then some. You hit a man in the gut like that, he stays hit for a good long while. I held the cop’s unconscious body against me for a moment and then waltzed him through the revolving door of the Kaiser Hotel. My anger was already turning to something resembling panic.

“I think this man has suffered some kind of a seizure,” I told the frowning doorman, and dumped the cop’s body into a leather armchair. “Where are the house phones? I’ll call an ambulance.”

The doorman pointed around the corner of the front desk.

I loosened the cop’s tie for effect and behaved as if I were headed for the telephones. But as soon as I was around the corner, I walked through a service door and down some stairs before exiting the hotel through the kitchens. Emerging into an alley that gave onto Saarland Strasse, I walked quickly into Anhalter Station. For a moment I considered boarding a train. Then I saw the subway tunnel connecting the station with the Excelsior, which was Berlin ’s second-best hotel. No one would ever think to look for me in there. Not so close to an obvious means of escape. Besides, there was an excellent bar in the Excelsior. There’s nothing like knocking out a policeman to give you a thirst.


I WENT STRAIGHT INTO THE BAR, ordered a large schnapps, and hurried it down like it was the middle of January.

The Excelsior was full of cops, but the only one I recognized was the house detective, Rolf Kuhnast. Before the purge of 1933, Kuhnast had been with the Potsdam political police and might reasonably have expected to join the Gestapo except for two things: One was that it had been Kuhnast who had led the team detailed to arrest SA leader Count Helldorf in April 1932, following Hindenburg’s orders to forestall a possible Nazi coup. The other was that Helldorf was now the police president of Potsdam.

“Hey,” I said.

“Bernie Gunther. What brings the Adlon Hotel’s house detective into the Excelsior?” he asked.

“I always forget that this is a hotel. I came in to buy a train ticket.”

“You’re a funny guy, Bernie. Always were.”

“I’d be laughing myself but for all these cops. What’s going on here? I know the Excelsior’s the Gestapo’s favorite watering hole, but usually they don’t make it quite so obvious. There are guys with foreheads in here who look like they just walked out of the Neander Valley. On their knuckles.”

“We got ourselves a VIP,” explained Kuhnast. “Someone from the American Olympic Committee is staying here.”

“I thought the Kaiserhof was the official Olympic hotel.”

“It is. But this was a last-minute thing, and the Kaiserhof couldn’t put him up.”

“Then I guess the Adlon must have been full as well.”

“Take a flick at me,” said Kuhnast. “Be my guest. Those oxtails from the Gestapo have been flicking my ears all day. So some shit-smart fellow from the great Adlon Hotel coming around to straighten my tie for me is all I need.”

“I’m not taking a flick at you, Rolf. Honest. Here, why don’t you let me buy you a drink?”

“I’m surprised that you can afford it, Bernie.”

“I don’t mind getting it free. A house bull’s not doing his job unless he’s got something on the barman. Drop by the Adlon sometime and I’ll show you how philanthropic our hotel barman can be when he’s been caught with his hand in the till.”

“Otto? I don’t believe it.”

“You don’t have to, Rolf. But Frau Adlon will, and she’s not as understanding as me.” I ordered another. “Come on, have a drink. After what just happened to me, I need something to tighten my bowels.”

“What happened?”

“Never you mind. Let’s just say that beer won’t fix it.”

I tossed the schnapps after the other one.

Kuhnast shook his head. “I’d like to, Bernie. But Herr Elschner won’t like it if I’m not around to stop these Nazi bastards from stealing the ashtrays.”

These apparently indiscreet words were guided by an awareness of my own republican-minded past. But he still felt the need for caution. So he walked me out of the bar, through the entrance hall, and into the Palm Court. It was easier to speak freely when no one could hear what we were saying above the Excelsior’s orchestra. These days the weather’s the only really safe thing to talk about in Germany.

“So, the Gestapo are here to protect some Ami?” I shook my head. “I thought Hitler didn’t like Amis.”

“This particular Ami is taking a tour of Berlin to decide if we’re fit to host the Olympic Games in two years’ time.”

“There are two thousand workers to the west of Charlottenburg who are under the strong impression we’re already hosting them.”

“It seems there’s a lot of Amis that want to boycott the Olympiad on the grounds of our government’s anti-Semitism. The Ami is here on a f act-finding mission to see for himself if Germany discriminates against Jews.”

“For a blindingly obvious fact-finding mission like that, I’m surprised he bothered checking into a hotel.”

Rolf Kuhnast grinned back. “From what I’ve heard, it’s a mere formality. Right now he’s up in one of our function rooms getting a list of facts put together for him by the Ministry of Propaganda.”

“Oh, those kinds of facts. Well, sure, we wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about Hitler’s Germany, now, would we? I mean, it’s not that we have anything against the Jews. But, hey, there’s a new chosen people in town.”

It was hard to see why an American might be prepared to ignore the new regime’s anti-Jewish measures. Especially when there were so many egregious examples of it all over the city. Only a blind man could have failed to notice the grossly offensive cartoons on the front pages of the more rabidly Nazi newspapers, the David stars painted on the windows of Jewish-owned stores, and the German Only signs in the public parks-to say nothing of the real fear that was in the eyes of every Jew in the Fatherland.

“Brundage-that’s the Ami’s name-”

“He sounds German.”

“He doesn’t even speak German,” said Kuhnast. “So as long as he doesn’t actually meet any English-speaking Jews, things should work out just fine.”

I glanced around the Palm Court.

“Is there any danger that he could do that?”

“I’d be surprised if there’s a Jew within a hundred meters of this place, given who’s coming here to meet him.”

“Not the Leader.”

“No, his dark shadow.”

“The Deputy Leader’s coming to the Excelsior? I hope you cleaned the toilets.”

Suddenly the orchestra stopped what it was playing and struck up with the German national anthem, and hotel guests jumped to their feet to point their right arm toward the entrance hall. And I had no choice but to join in.

Surrounded by storm troopers and Gestapo, Rudolf Hess marched into the hotel wearing the uniform of an SA man. His face was as square as a doormat but somehow less welcoming. He was medium in height; slim with dark, wavy hair; a Transylvanian brow; werewolf eyes; and a razor-thin mouth. Returning our patriotic salutes perfunctorily, he then bounded up the stairs of the hotel two at a time. With his eager air he reminded me of an Alsatian dog let off the leash by his Austrian master to lick the hand of the man from the American Olympic Committee.

As it happened, there was a hand I had to go and lick myself. A hand that belonged to a man in the Gestapo.


AS ONE OF THE HOUSE DETECTIVES at the Adlon, I was expected to keep thugs and murderers out of the hotel. But that could be difficult when the thugs and murderers were Nazi Party officials. Some of them, such as Wilhelm Frick, the minister of the interior, had even served a prison sentence. The ministry was on Unter den Linden, right around the corner from the Adlon; and Frick, a real Bavarian square head with a wart on his face and a girlfriend who happened to be the wife of some prominent Nazi architect, was in and out of the hotel a lot. Probably the girl, too.

Equally difficult for a hotel detective was the high turnover of staff, with honest, hardworking personnel who happened to be Jewish making way for people who turned out to be much less honest and hardworking but who were at least apparently more German.

Mostly I kept my nose out of these matters, but when the Adlon’s female house detective decided to leave Berlin for good, I felt obliged to try and help her.

Frieda Bamberger was more than an old friend. From time to time we were lovers of convenience, which is a nice way of saying that we liked going to bed with each other, but that this was as far as it went, since she had a semi-detached husband who lived in Hamburg. Frieda was a former Olympic fencer, but she was also a Jew, and for this reason she had been expelled from the Berlin Fencing Club in November 1933. A similar fate had befallen nearly every Jew in Germany who was a member of a gymnasium or sporting association. To be a Jew in the summer of 1934 was like some cautionary tale by the Brothers Grimm in which two abandoned children find themselves lost in a forest full of hungry wolves.

It wasn’t that Frieda believed the situation in Hamburg would be any better than in Berlin, but she hoped the discrimination she now suffered might be easier to bear with the help of her Gentile husband.

“Look here,” I told her. “I know someone in the Jewish Department of the Gestapo. A cop I used to know at the Alex. I recommended him for a promotion once, so he owes me a favor. I’ll go and speak to him and see what’s to be done.”

“You can’t change what I am, Bernie,” she said.

“Maybe not. But I might be able to change what someone else says you are.”

At that time I was living on Schlesische Strasse, in the east of the city. And on the day of my appointment with the Gestapo I’d caught the U-Bahn west to Hallesches Tor and walked north up Wilhelmstrasse. Which was how I’d run into that spot of trouble with the policeman in front of the Kaiser Hotel. From the temporary sanctuary of the Excelsior it was only a few steps to Gestapo House at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8-a building that looked less like the headquarters of the new Germany’s secret state police and more like an elegant, Wilhelmine hotel, an effect enhanced by the proximity of the old Hotel Prinz Albrecht, which now accommodated the administrative leadership of the SS. There were few people who walked up Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse unless they really had to. Especially when they had just assaulted a policeman. Perhaps for that reason I figured it was the last place anyone would think of looking for me.

With its marble balustrades, high vaulted ceilings, and a stair as wide as a railway track, Gestapo House was more like a museum than a building owned by the secret police; or perhaps like a monastery-just as long as the order of monks was one that wore black and enjoyed hurting people in order to make them confess their sins. I entered the building and approached a uniformed and not unattractive girl on the front desk, who walked me up a stair and around a corner to Department II.

Catching sight of my old acquaintance, I smiled and waved simultaneously, and a couple of women from the nearby typing pool fixed me with a look of amused surprise, as if my smile and my wave were ridiculously out of place. And of course they were. The Gestapo hadn’t existed for more than eighteen months, but it already enjoyed a fearsome reputation, and this was why I was nervous and why I was smiling and waving at Otto Schuchardt in the first place. He didn’t wave back. He didn’t smile, either. Schuchardt had never been the life and soul of the party exactly, but I was pretty sure I’d heard him laugh when we were both cops at the Alex. Then again, maybe he’d only been laughing because I was his superior, and as we now shook hands I was already telling myself I’d made a mistake and that the tough young cop I remembered was now made of the same stuff as the balustrades and the staircase outside the department door. It was like shaking hands with a deep-frozen undertaker.

Schuchardt was handsome, if you consider men with white-blond hair and pale blue eyes handsome. As a blond-haired, blue-eyed man myself, I thought he looked like a much-improved, more efficient Nazi version of me: a man-god instead of a poor Fritz with a Jewish girlfriend. Then again, I never much wanted to be a god or even to enter heaven, not when all the bad girls like Frieda were back in Weimar Berlin.

He ushered me into his little office and closed a frosted-glass door, which left the two of us alone with a little wooden desk, a whole tank corps of gray metal filing cabinets, and a nice view of the Gestapo’s back garden, where a man was carefully tending the flower beds.



Schuchardt dropped a heating element into a jug of tap water. He seemed amused to see me, which is to say his hawkish face had the look of one who had eaten several sparrows for lunch.

“Well, well,” he said. “Bernie Gunther. It’s been two years, hasn’t it?”

“Must be.”

“Arthur Nebe is here, of course. He’s the assistant commissioner. And I daresay there are many others you’d recognize. Personally, I could never understand why you left KRIPO.”

“I thought it best to leave before I was pushed.”

“You’re quite wrong about that, I think. The Party much prefers pure criminalists such as yourself to a bunch of March violets who have climbed on the Party’s bandwagon for ulterior motives.” His razor-sharp nose wrinkled with displeasure. “And of course there are still a few in KRIPO who have never joined the Party. Indeed, they are respected for it. Ernst Gennat, for example.”

“I daresay you’re right.” I might have mentioned all the good cops who’d been kicked out of KRIPO in the great police purge of 1933: Kopp, Klingelhöller, Rodenberg, and many others. But I wasn’t there to have a political argument. I lit a Muratti, smoked my lungs for a second, and wondered if I dared mention what had brought me to Otto Schuchardt’s desk.

“Relax, old friend,” he said and handed me a surprisingly tasty cup of coffee. “It was you who helped me to get out of uniform and into KRIPO. I don’t forget my friends.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Somehow I don’t get the feeling you’re here to denounce someone. No, I don’t see you as the type ever to do that. So what is it that I can do for you?”

“I have a friend who is a Jew,” I said. “She’s a good German. She even represented Germany at the Paris Olympiad. She’s not religious. And she’s married to a Gentile. She wants to leave Berlin. I’m hoping I can persuade her to change her mind. I wondered if there might be a way in which her Jewishness might be forgotten, or perhaps ignored. I mean, you hear of these things happening sometimes.”


“Well, yes, I think so.”

“I wouldn’t repeat that hearsay if I were you. No matter how true it might be. Tell me, how Jewish is your friend?”

“Like I said, in the Olympiad of-”

“No, I mean by blood. You see, that’s what really counts these days. Blood. Your friend could look like Leni Riefenstahl and be married to Julius Streicher, and none of that would matter a damn if she was of Jewish blood.”

“Her parents are both Jewish.”

“Then there’s nothing I can do to help. What’s more, my advice to you is to forget about trying to help her. You say she’s planning to leave Berlin?”

“She thinks she might go and live in Hamburg.”

“ Hamburg?” Schuchardt really was amused this time. “I don’t think living there is going to be the solution to her problem, somehow. No, my advice to her would be to leave Germany altogether.”

“You’re joking.”

“I’m afraid not, Bernie. There are some new laws being drafted that will effectively denaturalize all Jews in Germany. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but there are many old fighters who joined the Party before 1930 who believe that not enough has yet been done to solve the Jewish problem in Germany. There are some, myself included, who believe that things might get a little rough.”

“I see.”

“Sadly, you don’t. At least not yet. But I think you will. In fact, I’m certain of it. Let me explain. According to my boss, Assistant Commissioner Volk, this is how it’s going to work: A person will be classified as German only if all four of his grandparents were of German blood. A person will be officially classified as Jewish if he is descended from three or four Jewish grandparents.”

“And if that person has just one Jewish grandparent?” I asked.

“Then that person will be classified as being of mixed blood. A crossbreed.”

“And what will all of that mean, Otto? In practical terms.”

“Jews will be stripped of German citizenship and forbidden to marry or have sexual relations with pure Germans. Employment in any public capacity will be completely forbidden, and property ownership restricted. Crossbreeds will be obliged to apply to the Leader himself for reclassification or Aryanization.”

“Jesus Christ.”

Otto Schuchardt smiled. “Oh, I very much doubt that he’d be in with any sort of a chance for reclassification. Not unless you could prove his heavenly father was a German.”

I sucked the smoke from my cigarette as if it were mother’s milk, and then stubbed it out in a nipple-sized foil ashtray. There was probably a compound, jigsaw-puzzle word-assembled from odd bits of German-to describe the way I was feeling, only I hadn’t yet figured one out. But I was pretty sure it was going to involve words like “horror” and “astonishment” and “kick” and “stomach.” I didn’t know the half of it. Not yet.

“I appreciate your candor,” I said.

Once again his face took on a look of pained amusement. “No, you don’t. But I think you’re about to appreciate it.”

He opened his desk drawer and took out an oversized beige file. Pasted on the top left corner of the cover was a white label containing the name of the subject of the file and the name of the agency and department responsible for maintaining the file. The name on the file was mine.

“This is your police personnel file. All police have one. And all ex-policemen, such as yourself.” Schuchardt opened the file and removed the first page. “The index sheet. Every item added to the file is given a number on this sheet of paper. Let’s see. Yes. Item twenty-three.” He turned the pages of the file until he found another sheet of paper, and then handed it to me.

It was an anonymous letter denouncing me as someone with a Jewish grandparent. The handwriting seemed vaguely familiar, but I hardly felt up to the task of trying to guess the author’s identity in front of Otto Schuchardt. “There seems to be little point in me denying this,” I said, handing it back.

“On the contrary,” he said, “there’s every point in the world.” He struck a match, put the flame to the letter, and let it drop into the wastepaper bin. “Like I said before, I don’t forget my friends.” Then he took out his fountain pen, unscrewed the top, and wrote in the “Remarks” section of the index sheet. “No further action possible,” he said as he wrote. “All the same, it might be best if you were to try and fix this.”

“It seems a bit late now,” I said. “My grandmother has been dead for twenty years.”

“As someone of second-grade mixed race,” he said, ignoring my facetiousness, “you may well find, in the future, that certain restrictions are imposed on you. For example, if you were to try and start up a business, you could be required, under the new laws, to make a racial declaration.”

“Matter of fact, I’d been thinking of starting up as a private investigator. Assuming I can raise the money. Being the house detective at the Adlon is kind of slow after working Homicide at the Alex.”

“In which case you would be well advised to make your one Jewish grandparent disappear from the official record. Believe me, you wouldn’t be the first one to do this. There are many more crossbreeds around than you might think. In the government there are at least three that I know of.”

“It’s a crazy, mixed-up world we live in, for sure.” I took out my cigarettes, put one in my mouth, thought better of it, and returned it to the pack. “Exactly how would you go about doing something like that? Making a grandparent disappear.”

“Frankly, Bernie, I wouldn’t know. But you could do worse than speak to Otto Trettin, at the Alex.”

“Trettin? How can he help?”

“Otto is a very resourceful man. Very well connected. You know that he took over Liebermann von Sonnenberg’s department at the Alex when Erich became the new head of KRIPO.”

“Which was Counterfeiting and Forgery,” I said. “I’m beginning to understand. Yes, Otto was always a very enterprising sort of fellow.”

“You didn’t hear it from me.”

I stood up. “I was never even here.”

We shook hands. “Tell your Jewish friend what I said, Bernie. To get out now, while the going’s good. Germany ’s for the Germans now.” Then he raised his right arm and added an almost rueful “Heil Hitler” that was a mixture of conviction and, perhaps, habit.

Anywhere else I might have ignored it. But not at Gestapo House. Also I was grateful to him. Not just for my own sake but for Frieda’s, too. And I didn’t want him to think me churlish. So I returned his Hitler greeting, which made twice in one day I’d had to do it. At this rate I was well on my way to becoming a thoroughgoing Nazi bastard before the week was out. Three-quarters of me, anyway.

Schuchardt walked me downstairs, where several policemen were now loitering excitedly in the hall. He stopped and spoke to one as we went to the front door.

“What’s all the commotion?” I asked when Schuchardt caught up with me again.

“A cop’s been found dead in the Kaiser Hotel,” he said.

“That’s too bad,” I said, trying to keep in check the sudden wave of nausea I was feeling. “What happened?”

“No one saw anything. But the hospital said it looks like he might have suffered some kind of blow to his stomach.”


FRIEDA’S DEPARTURE FOR HAMBURG seemed to herald an exodus of Jews from the Adlon. Max Prenn, the hotel’s chief reception clerk and a cousin of the country’s best tennis player, Daniel Prenn, announced that he was following his relative out of Germany in the wake of the latter’s expulsion from the German LTA, and said that he was going to live in England. Then Isaac somebody-or-other, one of the musicians in the hotel orchestra, went to work at the Ritz, in Paris. Finally there was the departure of Ilse Szrajbman, a stenographer who used to do typing and secretarial work for hotel guests: she went back to her hometown of Danzig, which was either a city in Poland or a free city in old Prussia, depending on how you looked at it.

I preferred not to look at it, the way I tried not to look at a lot of things in the autumn of 1934. Danzig was just another reason to have one of those Treaty of Versailles arguments about the Rhineland and the Saarland and Alsace-Lorraine and our African colonies and the size of our military forces. To that extent, anyway, I was much less of a typical German than the three-quarters that were to be allowed to me in the new Germany.

The hotel business leader-to give Georg Behlert, the Adlon’s manager, his proper title-took businessmen and their capacity to do business in the Adlon very seriously; and the fact that one of the hotel’s most important and highest-spending guests, an American in suite 114 named Max Reles, had come to rely on Ilse Szrajbman, meant that it was her departure, among all the Jewish departures from Adlon, that disturbed Behlert the most.

“The convenience and satisfaction of the guests at the Adlon always come first,” he said in a tone that implied he thought this might be news to me.

I was in his office overlooking the hotel’s Goethe Garden, from which, every day in summer, Behlert took a buttonhole. At least he did until the gardener told him that, in Berlin at least, a red carnation was a traditional sign that you were a communist and, therefore, illegal. Poor Behlert. He was no more a communist than he was a Nazi; his only ideology was the superiority of the Adlon over all other Berlin hotels, and he never wore a boutonniere again.

“A desk clerk, a violinist, yes, even a house detective help the hotel to run smoothly. Yet they are also relatively anonymous, and it seems unlikely that a guest will be greatly inconvenienced by any of their departures. But Fräulein Szrajbman saw Herr Reles every day. He trusted her. It will be hard to find a replacement whose typing and shorthand are as reliable as her good character.”

Behlert wasn’t a high-toned sort of man, he just looked and sounded that way. A few years younger than me-too young to have fought in the war-he wore a tailcoat, a collar as stiff as the smile on his face, spats, and a line-of-ants mustache that looked as if it had been grown especially for him by Ronald Colman.

“I suppose I shall have to put an advertisement in The German Girl,” he said.

“That’s a Nazi magazine. You put an ad in there and I guarantee you’ll get yourself a Gestapo spy.”

Behlert got up and closed the office door.

“Please, Herr Gunther. I don’t think it’s advisable to talk like that. You could get us both into trouble. You’re speaking as if there’s something wrong with employing someone who is a National Socialist.”

Behlert thought himself too refined to use a word like “Nazi.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said. “I just love Nazis. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that ninety-nine point nine percent of Nazis are giving the other point one percent an undeservedly bad reputation.”

“Please, Herr Gunther.”

“I expect some of them are excellent secretaries, too. Matter of fact, I saw several just the other day when I was at Gestapo headquarters.”

“You were at Gestapo headquarters?” Behlert adjusted his shirt collar to accommodate an Adam’s apple that was going up and down his neck like an elevator car.

“Sure. I used to be a cop, remember? Anyway, this pal of mine runs a Gestapo department employing a whole pit of stenographers. Blond, blue-eyed, a hundred words a minute, and that’s just the confessions obtained without duress. When they start using the rack and thumbscrews, the ladies have to type even faster than that.”

Acute discomfort continued to hover like a hornet in the air in front of Behlert.

“You’re an unusual man, Herr Gunther,” he said, weakly.

“That’s what my friend in the Gestapo said. Something like that, anyway. Look, Herr Behlert, forgive me for knowing your business better than you, but it seems to me that the last thing we want at the Adlon is someone who might scare the guests with a lot of talk about politics. Some of these people are foreigners. Quite a few are also Jews. And they’re a bit more particular about things like freedom of speech. Not to mention the freedom of Jews. Why don’t you leave it to me to find someone suitable? Someone who has no interest in politics whatsoever. Whoever we find, I’ll have to check her out anyway. Besides, I enjoy looking for girls. Even ones who can earn an honest living.”

“All right. If you would.” He smiled ruefully.


“What you said just now, you reminded me of something,” said Behlert. “I was remembering what it was like to speak without looking over your shoulder.”

“You know what I think the problem is? That before the Nazis, there was never any free speech worth listening to.”

THAT EVENING I WENT to one of the bars at Europa Haus, a geometric pavilion of glass and concrete. It had rained, and the streets were black and shiny, and the huge assemblage of modern offices-Odol, Allianz, Daimler-looked like a great passenger liner cruising across the Atlantic, with every deck lit up. A taxi dropped me near the bow end, and I went into the Café-Bar Pavilion to splice the main brace and look for a suitable crew member to replace Ilse Szrajbman.

Of course, I had an ulterior motive in volunteering for such hazardous duty. It gave me something to do while I was drinking. Something better to do while I was drinking than feeling guilty about the man I had killed. Or so I hoped.

His name was August Krichbaum, and most of the newspapers had reported his murder, for, it transpired, there had been a witness of sorts who had seen me deliver the fatal blow. Fortunately the witness had been leaning out of an upper-floor window of the Kaiser Hotel at the time of Krichbaum’s death and had seen only the top of my brown hat. The doorman described me as a man of about thirty with a mustache, and upon reading all of this, I might have shaved off my mustache if I had worn one. My only consolation was that Krichbaum had not left behind a wife and family. There was that and the fact that he was ex-SA and a Nazi Party member since 1929. Anyway, I had hardly meant to kill him. Not with one punch, even if it was a punch that had lowered Krichbaum’s blood pressure, slowed his heart, and then stopped it altogether.

As usual, the Pavilion was full of cloche-hatted stenographers. I even spoke to a few, but there wasn’t one who struck me as having what guests of the hotel needed most in a secretary beyond the ability to type and take good shorthand. And I knew what this was, even if Georg Behlert didn’t: The girl needed to have a little bit of glamour. Just like the hotel itself. Quality and efficiency were what made the Adlon good. But glamour was what made the place famous, and why it was always full of the best people. Of course, this also made it attractive to some of the worst people. But that was where I came in and, of late, slightly more often in the evenings since Frieda had left. Because while the Nazis had closed nearly all of the sex clubs and bars that once made Berlin a byword for vice and sexual depravity, there was still a considerable number of joy girls who worked a more discreet trade in the Friedrichstadt maisons or, more commonly, in the bars and lobbies of the bigger hotels. And upon leaving the Pavilion, I decided to drop in at the Adlon on my way home. Just to see what was what.

The doorman, Carl, saw me getting out of a taxi and came forward with an umbrella. He was pretty good with an umbrella and a smile and the door and not much else. It wasn’t what I’d have called a career, but with tips, he made more than I did. A lot more. Frieda had strongly suspected Carl was in the habit of taking tips from joy girls to let them into the hotel, but neither of us had ever been able to catch him or prove it. Flanked by two stone columns each bearing a lantern as big as a forty-two-centimeter howitzer shell, Carl and I remained on the pavement for a moment to smoke a cigarette and generally exercise our lungs. Above the door was a laughing stone face. No doubt the face had seen the hotel room rate. At fifteen marks a night, it was almost a third of what I made in a week.

I went inside the entrance hall, tipped my damp hat to the new desk clerk, and winked at the page boys. There were about eight of them. They sat yawning on a polished wooden bench like a colony of bored apes, waiting for a light that would summon them to duty. In the Adlon there were no bells. The hotel was always as quiet as the great reading room in the Prussian State Library. I expected the guests liked it that way, but I preferred a bit more action and vulgarity. The bronze bust of the Kaiser on top of a sienna marble chimney piece as big as the nearby Brandenburg Gate seemed to recognize as much.


“Who? Me, sir?”

“What are you doing here, Gunther?” said the Kaiser, tweaking the end of a mustache shaped like a flying albatross. “You should be in business for yourself. The times we’re living in were made for scum like you. With all the people who go missing in this city, an enterprising fellow like you could make an excellent living as a private investigator. And the sooner the better, I’d say. After all, you’re hardly cut out to work in a place like this, are you? Not with those feet. To say nothing of your manners.”

“What’s wrong with my manners, sir?”

The Kaiser laughed. “Listen to yourself. That accent, for one thing. It’s terrible. What’s more, you can’t even say ‘sir’ with any proper conviction. You have absolutely no sense of servility. Which makes you more or less useless in the hotel business. I can’t imagine why Louis Adlon employed you. You’re a thug. Always will be. Why else would you have murdered that poor fellow, Krichbaum? Take my word for it. You don’t belong here.”

I glanced around the sumptuously appointed entrance hall. At the square pillars of marble the color of clarified butter. There was even more marble on the floors and on the walls, as if a quarry had been running a sale of the stuff. The Kaiser had a point. If I stayed there much longer I might turn to marble myself, like some muscle-bound, trouser-less Greek hero.

“I’d like to leave, sir,” I told the Kaiser, “only I can’t afford to. Not yet. It takes money to set up in business.”

“Why don’t you go to someone of your tribe? And borrow some money?”

“My tribe? You mean-?”

“One-quarter Jew? Surely that counts for something when you’re trying to raise some ready cash?”

I felt myself fill up with indignation and anger, as if I’d been slapped on the face. I might have said something rude back to him. Like the thug I was. He was right about that much. Instead I decided to ignore his remarks. After all, he was the Kaiser.

I went up to the top floor and began a late-night patrol of the no-man’s-land that was, at this late hour, the dimly lit landings and corridors. My feet were big, it was true, but they were quite silent on the thick Turkish carpets. Except for a small squeak of leather coming from my best Salamanders, I might have been the ghost of Herr Jansen, the assistant hotel manager who’d shot himself after a scandal involving a Russian spy, way back in 1913. It was said that Jansen had wrapped the revolver in a thick bath towel to avoid disturbing the hotel’s guests with the sound of the gunshot. I’m sure they appreciated his consideration.

Entering the Wilhelmstrasse extension, I turned a corner and saw the figure of a woman wearing a light summer coat. She knocked gently at a door. I stopped, waiting to see what would happen. The door remained closed. She knocked again, and this time pressed her face against the wood and spoke:

“Hey, open up in there. You called Pension Schmidt for some female company. Remember? So here I am.” She waited for a moment and then added, “Do you want me to suck your cock? I like sucking cock. I’m good at it, too.” She let out a sigh of exasperation. “Look, mister, I know I’m a bit late, but it’s not easy getting a taxi when it’s raining, so let me in, eh?”

“You got that right,” I said. “I had to hunt around for one myself. A taxi.”

She swung around to face me nervously. Putting her hand on her chest, she let out a gasp that turned into a laugh. “Oh, you gave me such a fright,” she said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No, it’s all right. Is this your room?”

“Sadly not.” I meant it, too. Even in the low light I could tell she was a beauty. She certainly smelled like one. I walked toward her.

“You’ll probably think me very stupid,” she said. “But I seem to have forgotten my room number. I was having dinner downstairs with my husband, and we had a row about something, and he walked off in a huff. And now I can’t remember if this is our room or not.”

Frieda Bamberger would have thrown her out and called the police. And, in all normal circumstances, so would I. But somewhere between the Pavilion and the Adlon I had resolved to become a little bit more forgiving, a little less quick to judge. Not to mention a little less quick to punch someone in the stomach. I grinned, enjoying her pluck. “Maybe I can help,” I said. “I work for the hotel. What’s your husband’s name?”


It was a sensible choice of name, given the fact that I might have heard her use it already. The only trouble was I knew Pension Schmidt to be the most upscale brothel in Berlin.


“Perhaps we’d better go downstairs, and then we can ask the desk clerk if he can tell me what room I’m supposed to be in.” This was her, not me. Cool as a cucumber.

“Oh, I’m sure you got the right room. Kitty Schmidt was never known to make a mistake about something as elementary as giving the right room number to one of her joy girls.” I jerked the brim of my hat toward the door. “It’s just that the fleas change their minds sometimes. They think of their wives and their children and their sexual health and then they lose the nerve for it. He’s probably in there listening to every word and pretending to be asleep and getting ready to complain to the manager if I knock on the door and accuse him of soliciting the services of a girl.”

“I think there’s been some sort of a mistake.”

“And you made it.” I took hold of her by the arm. “I think you’d better come with me, Fräulein.”

“Suppose I start screaming.”

I grinned. “Then you’ll wake the guests. You wouldn’t want to do that. The night manager would come, and then I’d be forced to call the polenta, and they’d put your pretty little ass in cement for the night.” I sighed. “On the other hand, it’s late, I’m tired, and I’d rather just throw you out on your ear.”

“All right,” she said brightly, and let me lead her back along the corridor to the stairs, where the light was better.

When I got a proper look at her, I saw that the full-length coat she was wearing was nicely trimmed with fur. Underneath she wore a violet-colored dress made of some gossamer-thin material, opaque shiny white silk stockings, a pair of elegant gray shoes, a couple of long pearl strings, and a little violet cloche hat. Her hair was brown and quite short, and her eyes were green, and she was beautiful in a thin, boyish way that was still the fashion, despite everything the Nazis were doing to persuade German women that it was all right to look and dress and, for all I know, probably smell like a milkmaid. The girl on the stairs next to me couldn’t have looked less like a milkmaid if she’d arrived there on a shell blown along by some zephyrs.

“You promise you’re not going to hand me over to the bulls,” she said on the way downstairs.

“So long as you behave yourself, yes, I promise.”

“Because if I go up before a magistrate, he’ll put me in the tobacco jar and I’ll lose my job.”

“Is that what you call it?”

“Oh, I don’t mean the sledge,” she said. “I just slide a bit when I need a bit of extra money to help my mother. No, I mean my proper job. If I lost that, I’d have to become a full-time joy lady, and I wouldn’t like that. It might have been different a few years ago. But things are different now. A lot less tolerant.”

“What ever gave you that idea?”

“Still, you seem like a decent sort.”

“There are some who might disagree with you,” I said bitterly.

“What ever do you mean?”


“You’re not a Jew, are you?”

“Do I look like a Jew?”

“No. It was just the way you said-what you said. You said what a Jew says, sometimes. Not that it matters a damn to me what a man is. I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I’ve yet to meet a Jew who looks like one of those silly cartoons. And I should know. I work for a Jew who’s just the sweetest man you could ever hope to meet.”

“Doing what, exactly?”

“You don’t have to say it like that, you know. I’m not sitting on his face, if that’s what you mean. I’m a stenographer, at Odol. The toothpaste company.” She smiled brightly as if showing off her teeth.

“At Europa Haus?”

“Yes. What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. I’ve just come from there. As a matter of fact, I was looking for you.”

“Looking for me? What do you mean?”

“Forget it. What does your boss do?”

“Runs the legal department.” She smiled. “I know. It’s quite a contradiction, isn’t it? Me working in legal.”

“So, what, selling your mouse is just a hobby?”

She shrugged. “I said I needed the extra money, but that’s only part of it. Did you see Grand Hotel?”

“The movie? Sure.”

“Wasn’t it wonderful?”

“It was all right.”

“I’m a bit like Flaemmchen, I think. The girl Joan Crawford plays. I just love big hotels like that one in the movie. Like the Adlon. ‘People come. People go. Nothing ever happens.’ But it’s not like that at all, is it? I think a lot happens in a place like this. A lot more than happens in the lives of most ordinary people. I love the atmosphere of this particular hotel. I love the glamour. I love the feel of the sheets. And the big bathrooms. You’ve no idea how much I love the bathrooms in this hotel.”

“Isn’t it a little dangerous? Joy ladies can get hurt. There are plenty of men in Berlin who like to dole out a little pain. Hitler. Goering. Hess. To name but three.”

“That’s another reason to come to a hotel like the Adlon. Most of the Fritzes who stay here know how to behave themselves. They treat a girl nicely. Politely. Besides, if anything went wrong, I’d only have to scream, and someone like you would turn up. What are you anyway? You don’t look like you work on the front desk. Not with those mitts on you. And you’re not the house copper. Not the one I’ve seen before.”

“You seem to have it all worked out,” I said, ignoring her questions.

“In this line of work it pays to do the algebra.”

“And are you a good stenographer?”

“I’ve never had any complaints. I have shorthand and typing certificates from Kürfurstendamm Secretarial College. And before that, my school Abitur.”

We reached the entrance hall, where the new desk clerk eyed us suspiciously. I steered the girl down another flight, to the basement.

“I thought you were going to throw me out,” she said, glancing back at the front door.

I didn’t answer. I was thinking. I was thinking, Why not replace Ilse Szrajbman with this girl? She was good-looking, well dressed, personable, intelligent, and, if she was to be believed, a good stenographer, too. Something like that was easy to prove. All I had to do was sit her down in front of a typewriter. And after all, I told myself, I could easily have gone to the Europa Haus, met the girl, and offered her a job, completely unaware of the way in which she chose to earn a little extra money.

“Any convictions?”

Most Germans thought whores were little better than criminals, but I’d known enough joy ladies in my life to recognize that many of them were much better than that. Often they were thoughtful, cultured, clever. Besides, this one wasn’t exactly a grasshopper. She was quite used to behaving herself in a big hotel like the Adlon. She wasn’t a lady, but she could pass herself off as one.

“Me? None so far.”

And yet. All my experience as a policeman told me not to trust her. Then again, my recent experience as a German told me not to trust anyone.

“All right. Come to my office. I have a proposition for you.”

She stopped on the stairs. “I don’t do a soup kitchen, mister.”

“Relax. I’m not after one. Besides, I’m the romantic kind. At the very least I expect to be taken to dinner at the Kroll Garden. I like flowers and champagne and a box of chocolates from von Hövel. Then, if I like the lady, I might let her take me shopping at Gersons. But I have to warn you. It could be a while before I feel sufficiently comfortable to spend the weekend with you in Baden-Baden.”

“You have expensive taste, Herr…?”


“I approve. It coincides with my own, almost exactly.”

“I had a feeling it would.”

We went into the detectives’ office. It was a windowless room with a camp bed, an empty fireplace, a chair, a desk, and a washbasin. There were a razor and a shaving mug on a shelf above the basin, and an ironing board and a steam iron so that one could press a shirt and look vaguely respectable. Fritz Muller, the other house detective, had left a strong smell of sweat in the room, but the smell of cigarettes and boredom was all mine. Her nose wrinkled with disgust.

“So this is life belowstairs, huh? No offense, mister, but by the standard of the rest of the hotel, it’s kind of crummy in here.”

“By that standard, so is the Charlottenburg Palace. Now, about that proposition, Fräulein…?”

“Bauer. Dora Bauer.”

“Your real name?”

“You wouldn’t like it if I gave you another.”

“And you can prove that.”

“Mister, this is Germany.”

She opened her bag to display several documents. One of them, in red pigskin, caught my eye.

“You’re a Party member?”

“Doing what I do, it’s always advisable to have the best documentation. This one turns away all sorts of unwelcome questions. Most cops leave you alone as soon as they see a Party card.”

“I don’t doubt it. What’s the yellow one?”

“My Reich Chamber of Culture card. When I’m not typing or selling mouse, I’m an actress. I figured being a Party member might get me a few parts. But not so far. Last play I had was Pandora’s Box at the Kammerspiele on Schumannstrasse. I was Lulu. That was three years ago. So I type for Herr Weiss at Odol and dream of something better. So what’s the pitch?”

“Only this. We get a lot of businessmen here at the Adlon. Quite a few of them need the services of a temporary stenographer. They pay well. Much more than the going rate in an office. Maybe not as good as what you’d make on your back in an hour, but a lot better than Odol. Plus, it’s honest, and above all, it’s safe. And it would mean you could come in and out of the Adlon quite legitimately.”

“Are you serious?” There was real interest and excitement in her tone of voice. “Work here? At the Adlon? Really?”

“Of course I’m serious.”

“On the level?”

I smiled and nodded.

“You smile, Gunther, but believe me, these days there’s something dodgy about nearly all jobs a girl is offered.”

“Do you think Herr Weiss would give you a reference?”

“If I asked him nicely he’d give me anything.” She smiled vainly. “Thanks. Thanks a lot, Gunther.”

“Just don’t let me down, Dora. If you do-” I shook my head. “Just don’t, all right? Who knows? You might even end up marrying the minister of the interior. With what’s in your handbag I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”

“Hey, you’re one of the workers, do you know that?”

“I wish I was, Dora, I wish to God I was.”


THE VERY NEXT DAY the guest in suite 114 reported a theft. This was one of the VIP corner rooms, right over the offices of North German Lloyd, and, accompanied by Herr Behlert, the hotel manager, I went along to interview him.

Max Reles was a German American from New York. Tall, powerful, balding, with feet like shoe boxes and fists as big as two basketballs, he resembled a cop more than a businessman-at least, a cop who could afford to buy silk ties from Sparmann and his suits (assuming he didn’t pay attention to the Jewish boycott) from Rudolf Hertzog. He wore cologne and diamond cuff links that were almost as polished and shiny as his shoes.

Behlert and I advanced into the suite, and Reles looked at him and then at me with eyes as narrow as his mouth. His bare-knuckle features seemed to wear a permanent scowl. I’d seen less pugnacious faces on a church wall.

“Well, it’s about fucking time,” he said gruffly, giving me an up-and-down look as if I were the rawest recruit in his platoon. “What are you? A cop? Hell, you look like a cop.” He looked at Behlert with something close to pity and added, “God damn it, Behlert, what kind of flea circus are you chumps running here, anyway? Jesus Christ, if this is Berlin ’s best hotel, then I’d hate to see the worst. I thought you Nazis were supposed to be tough on crime. That’s your big boast, isn’t it? Or is that just so much bullshit for the masses?”

Behlert tried to calm Reles, but to no avail. I decided to let him sound off for a while.

Through a set of tall French windows there was a large stone balcony, where, depending on your inclination, you could wave to your adoring public or rant about the Jews. Maybe both. I went over to the window, pulled aside the net curtain, and stared outside, waiting for him to cool off. If ever he cooled off. I had my doubts about that. He spoke excellent German for an American, although he sang his words a bit more than we Berliners do, a bit like a Bayer, which gave it away.

“You won’t find the thief out there, fellow.”

“Nevertheless, that’s probably where he is,” I said. “I can’t imagine the thief is still in the hotel. Can you?”

“What’s that? German logic? God damn it, what’s the matter with you people? You might try and look a little more concerned.”

He hurled a gas grenade of a cigar at the window in front of me. Behlert sprang forward and picked it up. It was that or let the rug burn.

“Perhaps if you were to tell us what’s missing, sir,” I said, facing him squarely. “And exactly what makes you think it’s been stolen?”

“What makes me think? Jesus, are you calling me a liar?”

“Not at all, Herr Reles. I wouldn’t dream of doing that until I had ascertained all of the facts.”

Reles’s scowl turned to puzzlement as he tried to figure out if I was being insulting or not. I wasn’t exactly sure about that myself.

Meanwhile, Behlert was holding the crystal ashtray in front of Reles like an altar boy preparing to help a priest give communion. The cigar itself, wet and brown, resembled something left there by a small dog, and perhaps that was why Reles himself seemed to think better of putting it back in his mouth. He sneered biliously and waved the thing away with the back of his hand, which was when I noticed the diamond rings on his little fingers, not to mention his perfectly manicured, pink fingernails. It was like discovering a rose at the bottom of a boxer’s spittoon.

With Behlert standing between me and Reles, I half expected him to remind us of the rules of the ring. I didn’t much like loudmouthed Amis, even the ones who were loud in perfect German, and outside of the hotel I would hardly have minded showing it.

“So what’s your story, Fritz?” Reles asked me. “You look too young to be a house detective. That’s a job for a retired cop, not a punk like you. Unless, of course, you’re a commie. The Nazis wouldn’t want a cop that was a commie. Fact is, I’m none too fond of the reds myself.”

“I’d hardly be working here if I was a red, Herr Reles. The hotel flower arranger wouldn’t like that. She prefers white to red. And so do I. Besides, it’s not my story that matters right now, it’s yours. So let’s try to concentrate on that, eh? Look, sir, I can see you’re upset. Helen Keller could see that you’re upset, but unless we can all keep calm and establish what happened here, we won’t get anywhere.”

Reles grinned and then snatched the cigar back just as Behlert was taking away the ashtray. “Helen Keller, eh?” He chuckled and put the cigar back in his mouth, puffing it back into life. But the tobacco seemed to smoke the traces of good humor out of him, and he returned to his resting state, which seemed to be that of low rage. He pointed at a chest of drawers. Like most of the furniture in his suite, it was blond Biedermeier and looked as if it had been baked in a glaze of honey.

“On top of that cabinet was a little basketry-and-lacquer Chinese box. It was early seventeenth century, Ming dynasty, and it was valuable. I had it parceled up and ready to send to someone in the States. I’m not exactly sure when it disappeared. Might have been yesterday. Might have been the day before.”

“How big was this box?”

“About twenty inches long, about a foot wide, three or four inches deep.”

I tried to work that out in metric and gave up.

“There’s a distinctive scene painted on the lid. Some Chinese officials sitting around on the edge of a lake.”

“Are you a collector of Chinese art, sir?”

“Hell, no. It’s too… Chinese for my tastes. I like my art to look a little more homegrown.”

“Since it was parceled, do you think you might have asked the concierge to have it collected and forgotten about it? Sometimes we’re too efficient for our own good.”

“Not so, as I’ve noticed,” he said.

“If you could answer the question, please.”

“You were a cop, weren’t you?” Reles sighed and combed his hair with the flat of his hand, as if checking it was still there. It was, but only just. “I checked, okay? No one sent it.”

“Then I have one more question, sir. Who else has access to this room? It could be someone with a key, perhaps. Or someone you’ve invited up here.”


“Meaning just what I said. Can you think of someone who might have taken the box?”

“You mean apart from the maid?”

“Naturally, I’ll be asking her.”

Reles shook his head. Behlert cleared his throat and lifted his hand to interrupt.

“There is someone, surely,” he said.

“What are you talking about, Behlert?” snarled Reles.

The manager pointed at a desk by the window, where, between two sheaves of notepaper, sat a shiny new Torpedo portable typewriter. “Wasn’t Fräulein Szrajbman coming in here every day to do some shorthand and typing for you? Until a couple of days ago?”

Reles bit his knuckle. “Goddamn bitch,” he said, and flung away his cigar again. This time it flew through the door of the en-suite bathroom, hit the porcelain-tiled wall, and landed safely in the U-boat-sized bath. Behlert lifted his eyebrows clean off his forehead and went to retrieve it once again.

“You’re right,” I said. “I was a cop. I worked Homicide for almost ten years until my allegiance to the old republic and the basic principles of justice made me surplus to the new requirements. But along the way I developed a pretty good nose for criminal investigation. So. It’s clear to me you think she took it and, what’s more, that you’ve got a pretty good idea why. If we were in a police station I might ask you about that. But since you’re a guest in this hotel, it’s up to you whether you tell us or not. Sir.”

“We argued about money,” he said quietly. “About the number of hours she’d worked.”

“Is that all?”

“Of course. What are you implying, mister?”

“I’m not implying anything. But I knew Fräulein Szrajbman quite well. She was very conscientious. That’s why the Adlon recommended her to you in the first place.”

“She’s a thief,” Reles said, flatly. “What the hell are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll put the matter into the hands of the police right away, sir, if that’s what you want.”

“You’re damn right I do. Just tell your old pals to swing by, and I’ll swear out a warrant or whatever you flatfoots do in this sausage factory you call a country. Soon as they like. Now, get the hell out of here before I lose my temper.”

At that I almost told him he’d have to keep his temper before he could ever lose it, and that while his parents might have taught him to speak good German, they certainly hadn’t taught him any good German manners to go with it. Instead I kept my mouth shut, which, as Hedda Adlon was fond of telling me, is a large part of running a good hotel.

The fact that it was now also a large part of being a good German was neither here nor there.


A COUPLE OF SCHUPOS wearing puttees and rubber macs against the driving rain were standing on duty by the main entrance of the Police Praesidium on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. The word “praesidium” comes from the Latin meaning “protection,” but given that the Alex was now under the control of a bunch of thugs and murderers, it was hard to see who was protecting whom from whom. The two uniformed cops had a similar problem. Recognizing my face, they didn’t know whether to salute or batter me to the ground.

As usual, the main entrance hall smelled of cigarettes, cheap coffee, unwashed bodies, and sausage. I was arriving just as the local wurst seller had turned up to sell boiled sausage to those cops who were lunching at their desks. The Max-they were always known as Max-wore a white coat, a top hat, and, as was traditional, a little mustache he’d drawn onto his face with an eyebrow pencil. His mustaches were longer than I remembered and probably would continue to be that way while Hitler continued with a postage stamp on his own upper lip. But I often wondered if anyone had ever dared ask Hitler if he could smell gas, because that was what he looked like: a gas sniffer. Sometimes you saw these men fitting long pipes into holes in the road and then sniffing the open ends for escaping gas. It always gave them the same telltale smudge on the upper lip.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, Herr Commissar,” said the Max. The large square metal boiler hanging from a strap around his neck looked like a steam-powered accordion.

“I’ve been away for a while. It must have been something I ate.”

“Very amusing, sir, I’m sure.”

“You tell him, Bernie,” said a voice. “We’ve got more than enough sausage at the Alex, but not nearly enough laughs.”

I looked around and saw Otto Trettin coming through the entrance hall.

“What the hell are you doing back here?” he asked. “Don’t say you’re another March violet.”

“I came to report a crime at the Adlon.”

“The biggest crime at the Adlon is what they charge for a plate of sausage, eh, Max?”

“Too right, Herr Trettin.”

“But after that,” I said, “I was planning to buy you a beer.”

“Beer first,” said Otto. “Then report the crime.”

Otto and I went across the road to the Zum, in the arches of the local S-Bahn station. Cops liked it there because with a train passing overhead every few minutes it was hard to be overheard. And I imagined this was especially important in Otto Trettin’s case, since it was generally known that he fiddled his expenses and, probably, was not averse to having his bread spread with some very dodgy butter. He was still a good cop, however, one of the Alex’s best from the days before the police purge, and although he wasn’t a Party member, the Nazis seemed to like him. Otto had always been a bit heavy-handed: he had famously handed out a beating to the Sass brothers, which, at that time, was a serious breach of police ethics, although they had certainly deserved it, and, doubtless, this was one of the reasons that had helped him to find favor with the new government. The Nazis liked a bit of rough justice. To that extent it was perhaps surprising I wasn’t working there myself.

“I’ll have a Landwehr Top,” said Trettin.

“Make that two,” I told the barman.

Named after Berlin ’s famous canal in which the water’s surface was often polluted with a layer of oil or gasoline, a Landwehr Top was a beer with a brandy in it. We hurried them down and ordered two more.

“You’re a bastard, Gunther,” said Otto. “Now that you’ve left, I’ve got no one to talk to. No one I can trust, that is.”

“What about your beloved coauthor, Erich?”

Trettin and Erich Liebermann von Sonnenberg had published a book together the previous year. Criminal Cases was little more than a series of stories cobbled together from a trawl through KRIPO’s oldest files. But no one doubted that the two had made money from it. Fiddling his expenses, ramping up the overtime, taking the odd back-hander, and now with a book already translated into English, Otto Trettin always seemed to know how to make money.

“Erich? We don’t see much of each other now that he’s head of Berlin KRIPO. Head’s up his arse with his own self-importance these days. You left me sitting in the ink, do you know that?”

“I can’t feel sorry for you. Not after I read your lousy book. You wrote up one of my cases and you didn’t even give me the credit. You gave the bracelets on that one to von Bachman. I could have understood it if he was a Nazi. But he’s not.”

“He paid me to write him up. A hundred marks, to make him look good.”

“You’re joking.”

“No, I’m not. Not that it matters now. He’s dead.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Sure you did. You’ve just forgotten, that’s all. Berlin ’s like that these days. All sorts of people are dead and we forget about it. Fatty Arbuckle. Stefan George. Hindenburg. The Alex is no different. Take that cop who got murdered the other day. We’ve already forgotten his name.”

“August Krichbaum.”

“Everyone except you.” He shook his head. “See what I mean? You’re a good copper. You shouldn’t ever have left.” He raised his glass. “To the dead. Where would we be without them?”

“Steady on,” I said as he drained his glass a second time.

“I’ve had a hell of a morning. I’ve been to Plötzensee Prison with a load of Berlin ’s top polenta, and the Leader. Now ask me why.”


“Because his nibs wanted to see the falling ax in action.”

The falling ax was what we Germans quaintly called the guillotine.

Otto waved the barman back a third time.

“You’ve seen an execution, with Hitler?”

“That’s right.”

“There wasn’t anything about an execution in the newspaper. Who was it?”

“Some poor communist. Just a kid, really. Anyway, Hitler watched it happen and pronounced himself very impressed. So much so that he’s ordered twenty new falling-ax machines from the manufacturer in Tegel. One for every big city in Germany. He was smiling when he left. Which is more than I can say for that poor commie. I’ve never seen it before. Goering’s idea that we should, apparently. Something about us all recognizing the gravity of the historic mission we’ve set ourselves-or some such nonsense. Well, there’s a lot of gravity involved with a falling ax, let me tell you. Have you ever seen one at work?”

“Just once. Gormann the Strangler.”

“Oh, right. Then you’ll know what it’s like.” Otto shook his head. “My God, I’ll never forget it as long as I live. That terrible sound. Took it well, though, the commie. When the lad saw that Hitler was there, he started to sing the Red Flag. At least he did until someone slapped him. Now ask me why I’m telling you all this.”

“Because you enjoy scaring the shit out of people, Otto. You always were the sensitive type.”

“I’m telling you, Bernie, because people like you need to know.”

“People like me. What does that mean?”

“You’ve got a smart mouth, son. Which is why you have to be told that these bastards are not playing games. They’re in power and they mean to stay in power, with whatever it takes. Last year there were just four executions at the Plot. This year there have already been twelve. And it’s going to get worse.”

A train thundered overhead, rendering all conversation meaningless for almost a minute. It sounded like a very large, very slow falling ax.

“That’s the thing about things getting worse,” I remarked. “Just as you’re thinking they can’t, they usually do. That’s what the fellow on the Jewish Desk at the Gestapo told me, anyway. There are some new laws on the way that mean my grandmother wasn’t quite German enough. Not that it matters much to her. She’s dead, too. But it seems as if it’s going to matter to me. If you follow my meaning.”

“Like Aaron’s rod.”

“Exactly. And you being an expert on forgers and counterfeiting, I was wondering if you knew someone who might help to fix it for me to lose the yarmulke. I used to think an Iron Cross was all the evidence I needed to be a German. But it would seem not.”

“A German’s worst problems always start when he starts to think of what it means to be a German.” Otto sighed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Cheer up, yiddo. You’re not the first to need an Aryan transfusion. That’s what they call it these days. My paternal grandfather was a gyppo. That’s where I get my Latin good looks from.”

“I’ve never understood what they have against Gypsies.”

“I think it’s something to do with fortune-telling. Hitler just doesn’t want us to know the future he has planned for Germany.”

“It’s that or the price of clothespins, I suppose.” Gypsies were always selling clothespins.

Otto produced a nice gold Pelikan from his coat pocket and started to write a name and address on a piece of paper. “Emil is expensive, so try not to let your tribe’s reputation for driving a hard bargain lead you to suppose that he’s not worth every penny, because he is. Make sure you tell him I sent you and, if necessary, remind him that the only reason he’s not cooling his heels in the Punch is because I lost his file. But I lost it in a place where I can certainly find it again.”

The Punch was what Berlin ’s police and underworld called the courthouse and jail complex in Moabit; because Moabit was a heavily working-class district, someone had once described the prison there as “an imperial punch in the face of the Berlin proletariat.” Certainly a punch in the face was more or less guaranteed when you went there, regardless of your social class. It was without question Berlin ’s hardest concrete.

He told me what was in Emil Linthe’s file, so that I might make proper use of it when I spoke to him.

“Thanks, Otto.”

“This crime at the Adlon,” he said. “Anything there for me? Like a nice young girl who’s been passing dud checks?”

“It’s small fry for a bull like you. An antique box belonging to one of the guests got stolen. Besides, I already figured out who probably did it.”

“Even better. I can get the credit. Who did do it?”

“Some Ami blowhard’s stenographer. Jewish girl who’s already left Berlin.”


“Forget it, Otto. She went home to Danzig.”

“ Danzig is good. I could use a trip somewhere nice.” He finished his drink. “Come on. We’ll go back across the road. As soon as you’ve reported it I can be on my way. I wonder why she went to Danzig. I thought Jews were leaving Danzig. Especially now that it’s gone Nazi. They don’t even like Berliners in Danzig.”

“Like everywhere else in Germany. We buy the rest of the country a beer, and still they hate us.” I finished my brandy. “Your neighbor’s field of corn is always better, I guess.”

“I thought everyone knew that Berlin is the most tolerant city in Germany. For one thing, it’s always been the only place that would tolerate the German government living here. Danzig. I ask you.”

“Then we’d better hurry before she realizes her mistake and comes back.”


THE FRONT DESK AT THE ALEX was the usual crowd scene from Hieronymus Bosch. A woman with a face like Erasmus and a pink pig’s bladder of a hat was reporting a burglary to a duty sergeant whose outsized ears looked as if they had belonged to someone else before being sliced off and stuck on the sides of his dog-shaped skull with a pencil and an unsmoked roll-up. Two spectacularly ugly thugs-their bloodied mugs stamped with the atavistic stigmata of criminality, their hands manacled behind their twisting backs-were being pushed and pulled into a dimly lit corridor that led down to the cells and a probable job offer from the SS. A cleaning woman, with a cigarette clamped firmly in her mouth against the smell, who was badly in need of a shave, was mopping a pool of vomit on the shit-brown linoleum floor. A lost-looking boy, his dirty face streaked with tears, was sitting fearfully in a corner underneath an enormous spiderweb and rocking on his stringy buttocks, and probably wondering if he’d make bail. A pale, rabbit-eyed attorney, carrying a briefcase as big as the well-fed sow whose hide had been used to fashion it, was demanding to see his client, except that no one was listening. Somewhere, someone was adducing his previous good character and his innocence of everything. Meanwhile a cop had removed his black leather shako and was showing a fellow SCHUPO the large purple bruise on his closely shaven head: it was probably just a thought making a futile bid to escape from his rusticated skull.

It felt awkward being back at the Alex. Awkward and exciting. I figured Martin Luther must have felt the same way when he turned up at the Diet of Worms to defend himself against a charge of spoiling the church door in Wittenberg. So many faces that were familiar. A few looked at me as if I were the prodigal son, but rather more seemed to regard me as the fatted calf.

Berlin Alexanderplatz. I could have told Alfred Döblin a thing or two.

Otto Trettin led me behind the desk and told a young uniformed cop to record my statement.

The cop was in his mid-twenties and, unusually by SCHUPO standards, was as bright as the badge on his ammunition pouch. He hadn’t been typing my statement very long when he stopped, bit his already well-bitten fingernails, lit a cigarette, and silently went over to a filing cabinet as big as a Mercedes that stood in the center of the huge room. He was taller than I’d expected. And thinner. He hadn’t been there long enough to get a taste for beer and get himself a pregnant belly, like a true SCHUPO man. He came back reading, which, in the Alex, was something of a miracle in itself.

“I thought so,” he said, handing Otto the file, but looking at me. “This object you’re reporting stolen was reported stolen yesterday. I took the particulars myself.”

“Chinese lacquer-and-basketry box,” said Otto, glancing over the report. “Fifty centimeters by thirty centimeters by ten centimeters.”

I tried to work that out in imperial measurement and gave up.

“Seventeenth century, Mong dynasty.” Otto looked at me. “That sound like the same box, Bernie?”

“Ming dynasty,” I said. “It’s Ming.”

“Ming, Mong, what’s the difference?”

“Either it’s the same box or they’re as common as pretzels. Who made the report?”

“A Dr. Martin Stock,” said the young cop. “From the Asiatic Museum. He was pretty exercised about it.”

“What kind of fellow was he?” I asked.

“Oh, you know. Kind of how you’d imagine someone from a museum would look. Sixtyish, gray mustache, white goatee, bald, myopic, overweight-he reminded me of the walrus at the zoo. He wore a bow tie-”

“I’ve seen that before,” said Otto. “A walrus wearing a bow tie.”

The cop smiled and then continued. “Spats, nothing in his lapel-I mean no Party badge or anything. And it was a Bruno Kuczorski suit he was wearing.”

“Now he’s just showing off,” said Otto.

“I saw the label on the inside of his coat when he took out his handkerchief to mop his brow. An anxious sort of fellow. But you would have gathered that from the handkerchief.”

“On the level?”

“Like he swallowed a geometry set.”

“What’s your name, son?” Otto asked him.

“Heinz Seldte.”

“Well, Heinz Seldte, it’s my opinion that you should leave this fat man’s desk job you’ve got here and become a cop.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“So what’s the deal, Gunther?” said Otto. “You trying to make a monkey out of me?”

“I’m the one who feels like a monkey.” I tugged the sheet and the carbons off Seldte’s typewriter and crushed them up. “I think maybe I should go and yodel in a few ears, like Johnny Weissmuller, and see what comes running out of the jungle.” I took Dr. Stock’s crime sheet from the police file. “Mind if I borrow this, Otto?”

Otto glanced at Seldte, who shrugged back at him. “It’s okay with us, I guess,” said Otto. “But you will let us know what you find out, Bernie. Ming Mong dynasty theft is a special investigative priority for KRIPO right now. We have our reputation to think of.”

“I’ll get right on it, I promise.”

I meant it, too. It was going to be a pleasure to feel like a real detective again instead of a hotel carpet creeper. But, as Immanuel Kant once said, it’s funny how categorically wrong you can be about a lot of stuff you think just has to be true.

MOST OF BERLIN’S MUSEUMS stood on a little island in the center of the city, surrounded by the dark waters of the River Spree, as if the people who built them had decided that Berlin needed to keep its culture separate from the state. As I was about to discover, there should have been a lot more importance attached to this idea than anyone might have thought.

The Ethnographical Museum, however, formerly in Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, was now located in Dahlem, in the far west of Berlin. I traveled there on the underground railway-on the Wilmersdorf line as far as Dahlem-Dorf-and then walked southeast to the new Asiatic Museum. It was a comparatively modern three-story redbrick building surrounded by expensive villas and manor houses with large gates and even larger dogs. Laws were made for the protection of suburbs such as Dahlem, and it was hard to see why there should have been two Gestapo men parked in a black W out front of the nearby confessing church until I remembered there was a priest in Dahlem called Martin Niemöller who was well known for his opposition to the so-called Aryan paragraph. Either that or the two men just had something to confess.

I went into the museum, opened the first door marked PRIVATE, and found myself looking down at a rather fetching stenographer sitting behind a three-bank Carmen, with Maybelline eyes and a mouth that was painted better than Holbein’s favorite portrait. She wore a checked shirt; a whole souk’s supply of brass bangles, which tinkled on her wrist like tiny telephones; and a rather severe expression that almost had me checking the knot on my tie.

“Can I help you?”

I felt sure she could, but I hardly liked to mention exactly how. Instead, I sat on the corner of her desk and folded my arms, just to keep my hands off her breasts. She didn’t like that. Her desk looked as neat as a display in a department-store window.

“Herr Stock about?”

“I guess if you had an appointment you’d know it was Dr. Stock.”

“I don’t. Have an appointment.”

“So he’s busy.” She glanced involuntarily at a door on the other side of the room, as if hoping I would be gone before it opened again.

“I bet he does that a lot. Is busy. Men like him always are. Now, if it was me, I’d be giving you a little dictation or maybe signing a few letters you’d just typed with those lovely hands of yours.”

“You can write, then?”

“Sure. I can even type. Not as well as you, I’ll bet. But you can be judge of that.” I reached into my jacket and took out the crime sheet I’d borrowed from the Alex. “Here,” I said, handing it over. “Take a look and tell me what you think.”

She glanced at it and her eyes widened a few f-stops.

“You’re from the Police Praesidium, on Alexanderplatz?”

“Didn’t I say? I just came from there on the underground.” This was true, but only as far as it went. If she or Stock asked to see a warrant disc, I wasn’t going to get anywhere, which was the main reason I was behaving the way a lot of real cops from the Alex behave. A Berliner is someone who believes it’s best to be just a little less polite than other people might think is necessary. And most Berlin cops fall a long way short of that high standard. I lit a cigarette, blew the smoke her way, and then nodded at a chunk of rock on a shelf behind her well-coiffed head.

“Is that a swastika on that bit of stone?”

“It’s a seal,” she said. “From the Indus Valley civilization. From around 1500 B.C. The swastika used to be a significant religious symbol of our own remote ancestors.”

I grinned at her. “Either that or they were trying to warn us about something.”

She stood up from behind the typewriter and quickly walked across the office to fetch Dr. Stock. It gave me enough time to study her curves and the seams in her stockings, so perfect they looked as if they’d been done in a technical drawing class. I always disliked technical drawing, but I might have been a lot better at it had I been asked to sit behind a nice girl’s legs and try to make a couple of straight lines on her calves.

Stock was less easy on the eye than his secretary but exactly as Heinz Seldte had described him back at the Alex. A Berlin waxwork.

“This is most embarrassing,” he wailed. “There has been an awful mistake for which I’m most dreadfully sorry.” He came close enough for me to smell the peppermint lozenges on his breath, which was a nice change from most of the people who spoke to me, and then bowed an abject apology. “Dreadfully sorry, sir. It would seem that the box I reported stolen was not stolen at all. Merely mislaid.”

“Mislaid? How’s that possible?”

“We’ve been moving the Fischer collections from the old Ethnographical Museum, in Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, to our new home, here in Dahlem, and everything is in disarray. The official guide to our collections is out of print. Many objects were misplaced or wrongly attributed. I’m afraid you’ve had a wasted journey. On the underground, you said? Perhaps the museum could pay for a taxicab to take you back to the Police Praesidium. It’s the least we can do to make up for the inconvenience.”

“So you have the box back in your possession?” I said, ignoring his bleatings.

Stock looked awkward again.

“Perhaps I might see it for myself,” I said.


“Why?” I shrugged. “Because you reported it stolen, that’s why. And now you’re reporting that it has been found. The thing is, sir, I have to fill out a report, in triplicate. Proper procedures have to be followed. And if this Ming dynasty box can’t be produced, I don’t see how I can very well close the file on its disappearance. You see, sir, in a sense, the moment I type that it’s been found, I make myself responsible for it. I mean, that’s logical, isn’t it?”

“Well, the fact is-” He looked at his stenographer and twitched a couple of times, as if someone had a fishing line in him somewhere.

She stared at me with hat pins in her eyes.

“Perhaps you’d better come into my office, Herr-”

“Trettin. Criminal Commissar Trettin.”

I followed him into his office, and he closed the door behind me straightaway. But for the size and opulence of the room, I might have felt sorry for him. Everywhere there were Chinese artifacts and Japanese paintings, although it could just as easily have been Chinese paintings and Japanese artifacts. That year I was a little weak on my knowledge of Asiatic antiquities.

“Must be interesting, working in a place like this.”

“Are you interested in history, Commissar?”

“One thing I’ve learned is that if our history were a little less interesting, then we might be a lot better off. Now, what about that box?”

“Oh, dear,” he said. “How am I going to explain this without making it sound suspicious?”

“Don’t try to finesse it,” I told him. “Just tell it like it is. Just tell the truth.”

“I always endeavor to do that,” he said pompously.

“Sure you do,” I said, toughening on him now. “Look, stop wasting my time, Herr Doctor, have you got the box or not?”

“Please don’t rush me.”

“Naturally, I’ve got all day to waste on this case.”

“It’s a little complicated, you see.”

“Take my word for it, the truth is rarely complicated.”

I sat down in an armchair. He hadn’t asked me to. But that didn’t matter now. I wasn’t selling anything. And I wasn’t buying anything while I was still standing on my size large. I took out a notebook and tapped a pencil on my tongue. Taking notes of a conversation always puts people on their heels.

“Well, you see the museum falls under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. And while the collections remained at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, the minister, Herr Frick, happened upon them and decided that a few of the objects might serve a more useful purpose as diplomatic gifts. Do you understand what I mean by that, Commissar Trettin?”

I smiled. “I think so, sir. It’s kind of like bribery. Only it’s legal.”

“I can assure you it’s perfectly normal practice in all foreign relations. The wheels of diplomacy often have to be oiled. Or so I’m told.”

“By Herr Frick.”

“No. Not by him. By one of his people. Herr Breitmeyer. Arno Breitmeyer.”

“Mmm-hmm.” I took note of the name.

“Naturally I’ll be speaking to him, as well,” I said. “But let me try to straighten this pretzel. Herr Breitmeyer removed an item from the Fischer collections-”

“Yes, yes. Adolph Fischer. A great collector of Asian artifacts. Now dead.”

“Namely one Chinese box. And gave it to a foreigner?”

“Not just one object. I believe there were several.”

“You believe.” I paused for more effect. “Am I right in thinking that all of this happened without your knowledge or approval?”

“That is correct. You see, it was thought at the ministry that the collections left at the original museum were not wanted for exhibition.” Stock colored with embarrassment. “That while being of great historical significance…”

I stifled a yawn.

“That, perhaps, they were unsuitable within the meaning of the Aryan paragraph. You see, Adolph Fischer was a Jew. The ministry had formed the impression that, under these circumstances, the true origins of the collection made it impossible to exhibit. That it was-in their words, not mine-‘racially tainted.’ ”

I nodded, as if all this sounded perfectly reasonable. “And when they did all this, they neglected to tell you, is that right?”

Stock nodded unhappily.

“Someone at the ministry didn’t think you sufficiently important to keep you informed about this,” I said, rubbing it in a little. “Which is why, when you found the object missing from the collection, you assumed it had been stolen, and reported it immediately.”

“That’s it,” he said with some relief.

“Do you happen to know the name of the person to whom Herr Breitmeyer gave the Ming box?”

“No. You would have to ask him that question.”

“I will, of course. Thank you, Doctor, you have been most helpful.”

“Do I take it the matter is now closed?”

“As far as your own involvement is concerned, yes, sir, you can.”

Stock’s relief turned to euphoria, or at least as near to euphoria as someone so dry was ever going to get.

“Now, then,” I said, “about that taxicab back into the city.”


I TOLD THE TAXI DRIVER to drop me at the Ministry of the Interior on Unter den Linden. Next to the Greek embassy, it was a dull, dirty gray building just around the corner from the Adlon. It was crying out for some climbing ivy.

I went inside and, at the desk in the cavernous main entrance hall, handed my business card to one of the clerks on duty. He had one of those startled animal faces that makes you think God has a wicked sense of humor.

“I wonder if you can help me,” I said unctuously. “The Adlon Hotel wishes to invite Herr Breitmeyer-that’s Arno Breitmeyer-to a gala reception in a couple of weeks. And we should like to know the correct way to address him and to which department we should send the invitation.”

“I wish I was going to a gala reception at the Adlon,” the clerk admitted, and consulted a thick leather-bound department list on the desk in front of him.

“To be honest, they can be rather stiff affairs. I don’t particularly like champagne. Give me beer and sausage any day.”

The clerk smiled ruefully as if he were not quite convinced, and found the name he was looking for. “Here we are. Arno Breitmeyer. He’s an SS-Standartenführer. That’s a colonel to you and me. He’s also the deputy Reich sports leader.”

“Is he, now? Then I expect that’s why they want to invite him. If he’s merely the deputy, then perhaps we should invite his boss as well. Who would that be, do you think?”

“Hans von Tschammer und Osten.”

“Yes, of course.”

I’d heard the name and seen it in the newspapers. At the time I’d thought it typical of the Nazis that they should have appointed an SA thug from Saxony to be Germany ’s sporting leader. A man who had helped beat to death a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy. I guess it was the fact that the boy had been murdered in a Dessau gym that had really bolstered von Tschammer und Osten’s sporting credentials.

“Thank you. You’ve been most helpful.”

“Must be nice working at the Adlon.”

“You might think that. But the only thing that stops it from being exactly like hell are the locks on the bedroom doors.”

It was one of the many maxims I’d heard from Hedda Adlon, the owner’s wife. I liked her a lot. We shared a sense of humor, although I think she had more of it than I did. Hedda Adlon had more of everything than I did.

Back in the hotel, I called Otto Trettin and told him some of what I’d discovered at the museum.

“So this fellow Reles,” said Otto. “The hotel guest. It looks as if he might have been in possession of the box quite legitimately.”

“That all depends on your notion of legitimacy.”

“In which case this little stenographer, the one who went back to Danzig -”

“Ilse Szrajbman.”

“Maybe she did steal the box, after all.”

“Maybe. But she’ll have had a good reason.”

“Like that, is it?”

“No. But I know the girl, Otto. And I’ve met Max Reles.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’d like to find out more before you go charging off to Danzig.”

“I’d like to pay less tax and make more love, but it’s not going to happen. What’s it to you if I go to Danzig?”

“We both know that if you go you’ll have to make an arrest to justify your expenses, Otto.”

“It’s true, the Deutsches Haus hotel in Danzig is quite expensive.”

“So why not telephone the local KRIPO first? See if you can get someone local to go and see her. If she really does have the box, then perhaps he can persuade her to return it.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I don’t know. Nothing, probably. But she’s a Jew. And we both know what’s going to happen to her if she’s arrested. They’ll send her to one of their concentration camps. Or they’ll put her in that Gestapo prison, near Tempelhof. Columbia Haus. She doesn’t deserve that. She’s just a kid, Otto.”

“You’re turning soft, you know that, don’t you?”

I thought of Dora Bauer and how I had helped her get off the sledge. “I suppose I am.”

“I was looking forward to some sea air.”

“Drop by the hotel sometime, and I’ll have the chef fix you a nice plate of Bismarck herrings. I swear, you’ll think you were on Rügen Island.”

“All right, Bernie. But you owe me.”

“Sure I do. And, believe me, I’m glad about that. I’m not sure our friendship could take the strain if it was you who owed me. Call me when you hear something.”

MOST OF THE TIME THE ADLON ran like a big state Mercedes-a Swabian colossus with handcrafted coachwork, hand-stitched leather, and six outsized Continental AGs. I can’t claim that any of this was attributable to me, but I took my duties-which were largely routine-seriously enough. I had a maxim of my own: Running a good hotel is about predicting the future, and then preventing it from happening. So every day I would look over the hotel register, just in case there were any names that leaped out at me as likely to cause trouble. There never were. Unless you count King Prajadhipok and his request that the chef prepare him a dish of ants and grasshoppers; or the actor Emil Jannings and his predilection for loudly spanking the bare bottoms of young actresses with a hairbrush.

The events diary was a different story, however. Corporate hospitality given at the Adlon was frequently lavish, often alcoholic, and sometimes things got a bit out of hand. On that particular day there were two groups of businessmen that were booked in. Representatives of the German Labor Front were meeting all day in the Beethoven Room; and, in the evening-by a coincidence that was not lost on me after my visit to the Ministry of the Interior-the members of the German Olympic Organizing Committee, including Hans von Tschammer und Osten and SS colonel Breitmeyer, were to convene for drinks and dinner in the Raphael Room.

Of the two, I was expecting trouble only from DAF-the Labor Front, which was the Nazi organization that had taken over Germany ’s trade-union movement. This was led by Dr. Robert Ley, a former chemist who was given to bouts of heavy drinking and womanizing, especially when the taxpayer was picking up the bill. Prostitutes were frequently invited into the Adlon as the guests of Labor Front regional leaders, and the sight and sound of heavy men making love to whores in the lavatories was not uncommon. Their light brown tunics and red armbands made them easy to spot, which made me think that Nazi officials and pheasants had something in common. You didn’t have to know anything about them personally to want to shoot one.

As things turned out, Ley didn’t show, and the DAF delegates behaved themselves more or less impeccably, with only one of them being sick on the carpet. I ought to have been pleased by that, I suppose. As a hotel worker I was a member of the Labor Front myself. I wasn’t exactly sure what I got for my fifty pfennigs a week, but it was impossible to get any kind of job in Germany without being a member. I was looking forward to the day when I could parade proudly at Nuremburg with a brightly polished shovel over my shoulder and, in front of the Leader, dedicate myself and my hotel work to the concept of labor, if not the reality. No doubt the Adlon’s other house detective, Fritz Muller, felt much the same way. When he was around, it was impossible not to consider the true importance of work in German society. Or for that matter when he wasn’t around, because Muller seldom did any work himself. He had been tasked by me with keeping an eye on the Raphael Room, which looked like the easier detail, but when trouble broke out he was nowhere to be found, and it was to me that Behlert came seeking assistance.

“There’s trouble in Raphael,” he said, breathlessly.

As we swiftly walked through the hotel-no member of the staff was ever permitted to run in the Adlon-I tried to get Behlert to paint a picture of exactly who all these men were and what their meeting had been about. Some of the names on the Olympic Organizing Committee were not the sort of men you went up against without first reading the life of Metternich. But Behlert’s picture came out as poorly painted as von Menzel’s copy of a Raphael mural that had given the function room its name.

“I believe there may have been one or two members of the organizing committee who were present earlier on in the evening,” he said, mopping his brow with a napkin-sized handkerchief. Perhaps it was a napkin. “Funk from Propaganda, Conti from the Ministry of the Interior, Hans von Tschammer und Osten, the sports leader. But now it’s mostly businessmen from all over Germany. And Max Reles.”


“He’s the host.”

“Well, that’s all right,” I said. “For a moment there, I thought one of them might try to give us some trouble.”

As we neared the Raphael Room we heard shouts. Then the double doors were flung open and two men stormed out. You can call me a Bolshevik if you like, but from the size of their stomachs I knew they were German businessmen. One of them had a black bow tie that had been twisted halfway around what was laughably called his neck. Above his neck was a face as red as the little paper Nazi flags that were pinned among several paper Olympic flags to an easel beside the doors. For a moment I considered asking him what had happened, but that would only have resulted in my being trampled, like a tea plantation trying to resist a rampaging bull elephant.

Behlert followed me through the doors and, as my eyes caught those of Max Reles, I heard him say something about Laurel and Hardy before his tough face opened into a smile and his thick body took on an apologetic, placating, almost diplomatic aspect that would hardly have disgraced Prince Metternich himself.

“It was all a big misunderstanding,” he said. “Wouldn’t you agree, gentlemen?”

But for the fact that his hair was messed up and there was some blood on his mouth, I might have believed him.

Reles looked around the dinner table for support. Somewhere under a cumulonimbus cloud of cigar smoke, several voices murmured wearily like a papal conclave that had neglected to pay the Sistine Chapel’s chimney sweep.

“You see?” Reles lifted his big hands in the air, as if I’d pointed a gun at him, and for some reason I got the feeling that if I had, he’d hardly have reacted differently. He’d have kept his nerve under the drill of a drunken dentist. “Storm in a teacup.” It didn’t sound right in German and, snapping his thick, stubby fingers, he added, “I mean, a storm in a water glass. Right?”

Behlert nodded eagerly. “Yes, that’s right, Herr Reles,” he said. “And may I say, your German is excellent.”

Reles looked uncharacteristically sheepish. “Well, it’s a hell of a language to speak well,” he said. “Considering it must have been invented to let trains know when it’s time to leave a station.”

Behlert smiled unctuously.

“All the same,” I said, picking one of several broken wineglasses off the tablecloth, “it does look like there was a storm. A Bohemian one, I think. This stuff is fifty pfennigs a time.”

“Naturally I’ll pay for any breakages.” Reles pointed at me and grinned at his complacent-looking guests. “Can you believe this guy? He wants me to pay for the breakages.”

There’s nothing that looks as pleased with itself as a German businessman with a cigar.

“Oh, there’s no question of that, Herr Reles,” Behlert said, and looked at me critically as if I had mud on my shoes, or something worse. “Gunther. If Herr Reles says it was an accident, then there’s no need to take this any further.”

“He didn’t say it was an accident. He said it was a misunderstanding. Which is how a mistake often falls just short of being a crime.”

“Is that out of this week’s Berlin Police Gazette?” Reles found a cigar and lit up.

“Maybe it ought to be. Then again, if it was, I might still be a Berlin policeman.”

“But you’re not. You’re working here in this hotel, in which I am a guest. And, I might add, a big-spending guest. Herr Behlert, tell the sommelier to bring us six bottles of your finest champagne.”

Around the table there was a loud murmur of approval. But none of them wanted to meet my eye. Just a lot of well-fed and -watered faces intent on getting back to the trough. A Rembrandt group portrait with everyone looking the other way: The Syndics of the Clothmakers Guild. It was then that I saw him, seated at the far end of the room, like Mephisto waiting patiently for a quiet word with Faust. Like the others, he was wearing a tuxedo and, but for his satirically grotesque saddlebag of a face, and the fact that he was cleaning his fingernails with a switch-blade, he looked almost respectable. Like the wolf dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.

I never forget a face. Especially the face on a man who’d once led a group of SA to carry out a gun attack against the members of a workers’ social club who were holding a dance party at the Eden Palace in Charlottenburg. Four dead, including a friend from my old school. Probably there were other killings for which he was responsible, but it was that one, on November 23, 1930, that I particularly recalled. And then I had his name: Gerhard Krempel. He’d served some time for that murder, at least until the Nazis got into government.

“Come to think of it, make it a dozen bottles.”

Ordinarily I might have said something to Krempel-a witty epithet, perhaps, or something worse-but Behlert wouldn’t have liked that. Punching a guest in the throat wasn’t the kind of hotel-keeping that read well in Baedeker. And, for all either of us knew, Krempel was the new minister for level playing fields and good sportsmanship. Besides, Behlert was already steering me out of the Raphael Room. That is, when he wasn’t bowing and apologizing to Max Reles.

At the Adlon, a guest is always given an apology rather than an excuse. That was another of Hedda Adlon’s maxims. But it was the first time I’d seen anyone in the hotel apologizing for interrupting a fight. Because I didn’t doubt that the man who had left earlier had been hit by Max Reles. And that he had hit Reles back. I certainly hoped that was the case. I wouldn’t have minded punching him myself.

Outside the Raphael Room, Behlert faced me irritably. “Please, Herr Gunther, I know you think you are doing your job, but do try to remember that Herr Reles occupies the Ducal suite. As such he is a very important guest.”

“Oh, I know. I just heard him order a dozen bottles of champagne. All the same, he’s keeping some very ugly company.”

“Nonsense,” Behlert said, and walked away to find the sommelier, shaking his head. “Nonsense, nonsense.”

He was right, of course. After all, we were all of us keeping some very ugly company in Hitler’s new Germany. And perhaps the Leader was the ugliest of them all.


ROOM 210 WAS ON THE SECOND FLOOR in the Wilhelmstrasse extension. It cost sixteen marks a night, and came with an en-suite bathroom. It was a nice room and a few meters bigger than my apartment.

I got there at long past midday. Hanging on the door was a DO NOT DISTURB card and a pink form informing the room’s occupant that there was a message awaiting him at the front desk. His name was Herr Doctor Heinrich Rubusch, and the chambermaid usually would have left him alone, except that he was supposed to check out of the hotel at eleven. When she knocked at the door there was no reply, at which point she tried to enter the room, and found the key was still in the lock. After a great deal more fruitless knocking, she informed Herr Pieck, the assistant manager, who, fearing the worst, summoned me.

I went to the hotel safe to fetch one of the key turners that we kept in there-a simple piece of metal about the size of tuning fork designed to fit an Adlon keyhole and turn a key from the other side. There were supposed to be six turners, but one was gone, which probably meant Muller, the other hotel detective, had it and had forgotten to put it back. This would have been quite typical. Muller was a bit of a drunk. I took another key turner from the safe and went up to the second floor.

Herr Rubusch was still in bed. I hoped he’d wake up and shout at us to get out and let him get some sleep, but he didn’t. I put my fingers on the big vein on his neck, but there was so much fat on him that I soon gave up and, having opened his pajama jacket, pressed my ear to his cold ham of a chest.

“Shall I call Dr. Küttner?” asked Pieck.

“Yes. But tell him not to hurry. He’s dead.”


I shrugged. “Staying in a hotel is a bit like life. At some stage you have to check out.”

“Oh, dear me, are you sure?”

“Baron Frankenstein couldn’t make this character move.”

The chambermaid standing in the doorway started crossing herself gravely. Pieck told her to go and fetch the house doctor at once.

I sniffed the water glass on his bedside table. It had water in it. The dead man’s fingernails were clean and polished as if he’d just had a manicure. There was no blood visible anywhere on his person or on his pillow. “Looks like natural causes, but we’d better wait for Küttner. I don’t get paid any extra for an on-the-spot diagnosis.”

Pieck walked toward the window and started to open it.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I said. “The police won’t like it.”

“The police?”

“When a dead body’s found, they like it if you tell them. That’s the law. Or at least it used to be. But, considering the number of bodies that turn up dead these days, who knows? In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a strong smell of perfume in the room. Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden, if I’m not mistaken. Somehow I don’t see this gentleman choosing to wear it himself, which means there might have been someone with him when he stepped off the pavement. And that means the police will prefer things to be left the way they are now. With the window closed.”

I went into the bathroom and glanced over a neat array of men’s toiletries. It was the usual out-of-town crap. One of the hand towels was smeared with makeup. In the wastebasket was a tissue with a lipstick mark. I opened his toilet bag and found a bottle of nitroglycerin pills and a packet of three Fromms. I opened up the packet, saw that one was missing, and took out a little folded slip on which was printed: “Please discreetly hand me a packet of Fromms.” I lifted the lid on the toilet seat and checked the water in the lavatory. There was nothing in the water. In a wastepaper basket by the desk I found an empty Fromm wrapper. I did all the things a real detective would have done except make a tasteless joke. I was going to leave that to Dr. Küttner.

By the time he came through the door I was about to ready to toss him a probable cause, but professional courtesy made me hang on to it until he’d earned his retainer.

“People in expensive hotels are seldom ever really ill, you know,” he said. “At sixteen marks a night they usually wait until they’re back home to be really ill.”

“This one won’t be going home,” I said.

“Dead, is he?” said Küttner.

“It’s beginning to look that way, Herr Doctor.”

“Makes a change to be doing something for my fee, I suppose.”

He took out a stethoscope and set about looking for a heartbeat. “I had better go and inform Frau Adlon,” Pieck said, and left the room.

While Küttner worked his trade, I took another look at the body. Rubusch was a big, heavy man with short, fair hair and a face as fat as a hundred-kilo baby. In bed, from the side, he looked like a foothill in the Harz Mountains. Without his clothes it was hard to place him, but I was sure there was a reason other than the fact that he was staying in the hotel why he seemed familiar to me.

Küttner leaned back and nodded with what looked like satisfaction. “He’s been dead for several hours I should say.” Looking at his pocket watch, he added, “Sometime between the hours of midnight and six o’clock this morning.”

“There are some nitro pills in the bathroom, Doc,” I said. “I took the liberty of looking through his things.”

“Probably an enlarged heart.”

“An enlarged everything, by the look of him,” I said, and handed the doctor the little slip of folded paper. “And I do mean everything. There’s a packet of three minus one in the bathroom. That, plus some makeup on the towel and the smell of perfume in the air, leads me to suggest that, perhaps, the last few hours of his life may have included a very happy few minutes.”

By now I had noticed a clip of brand-new banknotes on the desk and was liking my theory more and more.

“You don’t think he died in her arms, do you?” asked Küttner.

“No. The door was locked from the inside.”

“So this poor fellow could have had sex, shown her out, locked the door, gone back to bed, and then expired after all the exertion and excitement.”

“You’ve got me convinced.”

“The useful thing about being a hotel doctor is that people such as yourself don’t ever get to see that my surgery is full of sick people. Consequently, I look like I actually know what I’m doing.”

“Don’t you?”

“Only some of the time. Most medicine comes down to just one prescription, you know. That you’ll feel a lot better in the morning.”

“He won’t.”

“There are worse ways to hit the slab, I suppose,” said Küttner.

“Not if you are married, there aren’t.”

“Was he? Married?”

I lifted the dead man’s left hand to show off a gold band.

“You don’t miss much, do you, Gunther?”

“Not much, give or take the old Weimar Republic and a proper police force that catches criminals instead of employing them.”

Küttner was no liberal, but he was no Nazi, either. A month or two earlier I had found him in the men’s room, weeping at the news of Paul von Hindenburg’s death. All the same, he looked alarmed at my remark, and for a moment he glanced down at Heinrich Rubusch’s body as if he might report my conversation to the Gestapo.

“Relax, Doc. Even the Gestapo haven’t yet worked out a way of making an informer out of a dead man.”

I WENT DOWNSTAIRS to the front and picked up the message for Rubusch, which was only from Georg Behlert expressing the hope that he had enjoyed his stay at the Adlon. I was checking the duty roster when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hedda Adlon coming through the entrance hall talking to Pieck. This was my cue to hurry up and find out more before she could talk to me. Hedda Adlon seemed to have a high opinion of my abilities, and I wanted to keep it that way. The passkey to what I did for a living was having snappy answers to the questions other people hadn’t even thought about. An air of omniscience is a very useful quality in a god or, for that matter, a detective. Of course, with a detective, omniscience is just an illusion. Plato knew that. And it’s one of the things that made him a better writer than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Unseen by my employer, I stepped into the elevator car.

“Which floor?” asked the boy. His name was Wolfgang, and he was a boy of about sixty.

“Just drive.”

Smoothly, Wolfgang’s white gloves went into motion, like a magician’s, and I felt my stomach lower inside my torso as we ascended into Lorenz Adlon’s idea of heaven.

“Is there something on your mind, Herr Gunther?”

“Last night, did you see any joy ladies go up to the second floor?”

“A lot of ladies go up and down in this elevator car, Herr Gunther. Doris Duke, Barbara Hutton, the Soviet ambassador, the Queen of Siam, Princess Mafalda. It’s easy to see who and what they are. But some of these actresses, movie stars, showgirls, they all look like joy ladies to me. I guess that’s why I’m the elevator boy and not the house detective.”

“You’re right, of course.”

He grinned back at me. “A smart hotel’s a bit like a jeweler’s shop window. Everything is on show. Now that reminds me. I did see Herr Muller talking to a lady on the stairs at about two a.m. It’s possible she was a joy lady. Except for the fact she was wearing diamonds. Tiara, too. That makes me think she wasn’t a joy lady. I mean, if she could afford to be wearing mints, then why would she be letting people stroke her mouse? At the same time, if she was a little pinkie in the air, then what was she doing speaking to a sow’s bladder like Muller? No offense intended.”

“None taken. He is a sow’s bladder. Was this lady blond or brunette?”

“Blond. And plenty of it, too.”

“I’m relieved to hear it,” I said, mentally eliminating from my list of possible suspects Dora Bauer. She had short brown hair and was hardly the type to afford a tiara.

“ Anything else?”

“She wore a lot of perfume. Smelled real nice. Like she was Aphrodite herself.”

“I get the picture. Did you drive her?”

“No. She must have used the stairs.”

“Or maybe she just climbed on the back of a swan and flew straight out of the window. That’s what Aphrodite would have done.”

“Are you calling me a liar, sir?”

“No, not at all. Just an incurable romantic and lover of women in general.”

Wolfgang grinned. “That I am, sir.”

“Me, too.”

MULLER WAS IN THE OFFICE we shared, which was about all we shared. He hated me and, if I’d cared enough, I might have hated him back. Before coming to the Adlon he’d been a leather hat with the Potsdam police-a uniformed bull with an instinctive dislike of detectives from the Alex like me. He was also ex-Freikorps and more right wing than the Nazis, which was another reason he hated me: he hated all Republicans the way a wheat farmer hates rats. But for his drinking, he might have remained in the police. Instead he took early retirement, climbed on the temperance wagon for as long as it took to find himself the job at the Adlon, and started drinking again. Most of the time he could hold it, too, I’ll say that for him. Most of the time. I might have figured it was part of my job to put him out of a job, but I didn’t. Leastways, I hadn’t done it yet. Of course, we both knew it wouldn’t be long before Behlert or one of the Adlons found him drunk on the job. And I hoped it would happen without any help from me. But I knew I could probably live with the disappointment if this turned out not to be the case.

He was asleep in the chair. There was a half bottle of Bismarck on the floor beside his foot and an empty glass in his hand. He hadn’t shaved, and the sound of a heavy chest of drawers being rolled across a wooden floor was coming out of his nose and throat. He looked like an uninvited guest at a Brueghel peasant wedding. I slipped my hand into his coat pocket and took out his wallet. Inside were four new five-mark notes with a serial number that matched the notes I’d found on the desk in Rubusch’s room. I figured Muller had either procured the joy lady for him or taken a bribe off her afterward. Perhaps both, but it hardly mattered. I put the leaves back in the wallet, returned it to his pocket, and then kicked him on the ankle.

“Hey. Sigmund Romberg. Wake up.”

Muller stirred, took a sniff of air, and then let out a deep breath that smelled like a wet malting floor. Wiping his sandpaper chin with the back of his hand, he looked around thirstily.

“It’s by your left foot,” I said.

He glanced down at the bottle and pretended to ignore it, only he wasn’t very convincing. He could have pretended he was Frederick the Great and he would have looked more persuasive.

“What do you want?”

“Thanks, but it’s a little early for me. But you go right ahead and have one if it makes thinking any easier. I’ll just stand here and watch and have fun imagining what your liver must look like. You know, I’ll bet it’s an interesting shape. Maybe I should paint it. I do a little abstract painting now and then. Let’s see, now. How about Still Life with Liver and Onions? We can use your brains for the onions, okay?”

“What do you want?”

His tone was darker now, as if he were getting ready to hit me. But I was on my toes, moving around the room like a dancing master just in case I had to slug him. I almost wanted him to try it so I could. A solid right to the jaw might have helped sober him up.

“Since we’re talking of interesting shapes, why don’t we talk about that joy lady who was in here last night? The one wearing the tiara. The one visiting the man in 210. Name of Rubusch, Heinrich Rubusch. Did he give you the four leaves, or did you take it off the pussycat in the corridor? Incidentally, if you’re wondering why it’s any of my damn business, it’s because Rubusch is dead.”

“Who says I took four leaves off anyone?”

“Your concern for the welfare of the hotel’s guests is most touching, Muller. The serial numbers on those four new bills in your wallet match the numbers on a fold of notes lying on a table in the dead man’s room.”

“You’ve been in my wallet?”

“You might ask yourself why I’m telling you that I’ve been in your wallet. The fact is I could have brought Behlert or Pieck or even one of the Adlons along here and found those leaves in front of an audience. But I haven’t. Now ask me why.”

“All right. I’ll take a card from your pack. Why?”

“I don’t want to see you fired, Muller. I just want you out of this hotel. I’m offering you a chance to leave under your own steam. Who knows? That way, you might even leave with a reference.”

“Suppose I don’t want to leave.”

“Then I’ll go and fetch them anyway. Of course, by the time we get back, you’ll have got rid of the leaves. But that won’t matter, because that’s not why they’ll fire you. They’ll fire you because you’re stinking drunk. In fact, you stink of it so bad, the city’s thinking of sending a gas sniffer here to check it out.”

“Drunk, he says.” Muller picked up the bottle and then drained it. “What do you expect, in a job like this, with so much hanging around? What’s a man to do with himself all day if he doesn’t drink?”

I was almost ready to agree with him there. The job was boring. I was bored myself. I felt like a calf’s foot in aspic jelly.

Muller looked at the empty bottle and grinned. “Looks like I need another leg to stand on.” Then he looked at me. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you, Gunther?”

“With the intellectual equipment you have, Muller, I can see that it might seem that way. But there’s still a lot I don’t know. Take that joy girl. Did you bring her into the hotel, or did Rubusch?”

“He’s dead, you say?”

I nodded.

“I ain’t surprised. Big fat man, right?”

I nodded again.

“I saw the girl on the stairs and reckoned I could tap the tree for a little trickle-down, you know?” He shrugged. “Who can live on twenty-five marks a week? She said her name was Angela. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I didn’t ask to see her papers. Twenty marks was good enough ID as far as I was concerned.” He grinned. “She was pretty good, too. You don’t see many snappers as good-looking as that one. A real peach, so she was. So, like I said, I ain’t surprised the fat man is dead. I felt my arteries tighten like clams just looking at her.”

“Was that when you saw him? When you saw her?”

“No. I saw him earlier on that evening. In the bar. And then in the Raphael Room.”

“He was one of the Olympic Committee’s party?”


“And where were you? You were supposed to be keeping an eye on them?”

“What can I tell you?” he said irritably. “They were businessmen, not students. I left them to get on with it. I went to that beer house on the corner of Behrenstrasse and Friedrichstrasse-Pschorr Haus-and got soaked. How was I to know there was going to be trouble?”

“Hope for the best but expect the worst. That’s the job, pal.” I took out my cigarette case and flicked it open in front of his ugly face. “So. What’s it to be? A letter of resignation or Louis Adlon’s Oxford toe cap buried up your arse?”

He took a cigarette. I even lit it for him, just to be sociable.

“All right, you win. I’ll resign. But we ain’t friends.”

“That’s okay. I’ll probably cry a little when I get home tonight, but I think I can live with it.”

I WAS HALFWAY ACROSS THE ENTRANCE HALL when Hedda Adlon winged me with a tilt of her jaw and the sound of my name in full. Hedda Adlon was the only person who ever pronounced my first name as if it really meant what it means: brave bear, although actually there’s some debate that the “hard” part actually means “foolhardy.”

I followed her and the two Pekingese dogs that were always with her into the office of the hotel’s assistant managing director. This was her office, and when her husband, Louis, wasn’t around-and he wasn’t around much when the hunting season got under way-Hedda Adlon was very much in charge.

“So,” she said, closing the door, “what do we know about poor Herr Rubusch? Have you telephoned the police?”

“No, not yet. I was on my way to the Alex when you caught me. I wanted to tell them in person.”

“Oh? Why is that?”

In her early thirties, Hedda Adlon was much younger than her husband. Although she had been born in Germany, she’d spent much of her youth living in America, and she spoke German with a slight American accent. Like Max Reles. Only that was as far as the similarity went. She was blond, with a full German figure. But it was a healthy figure. As healthy as several million marks. You don’t get a healthier figure than that. She enjoyed entertaining and riding-she had been an enthusiastic member of the Berlin fox hunt until Hermann Goering had banned hunting with dogs in Germany-and was very gregarious, which was, I suspected, one of the reasons why the close-lipped Louis Adlon had married her in the first place. She added an extra touch of glamour to the hotel, like a mother-of-pearl inlay on the gates of paradise. She smiled a lot and was good at putting people at their ease and could hold a conversation with anyone. I remembered a dinner at the Adlon in which she was seated next to a Red Indian chief wearing his full native headdress: she spoke to him all evening, as if she’d been talking to the French ambassador. Of course, it’s always possible that he was the French ambassador. The French-especially the diplomats-do like their feathers and their decorations.

“I was going to ask the police if they might handle the matter discreetly, Frau Adlon. On the face of it, Herr Doctor Rubusch, who was married, had been entertaining a young lady in his room shortly before he died. No wife could ever like the news of her widowhood to be delivered with that kind of postscript. Not in my experience. So, for her sake, and the sake of the reputation of the hotel, I was hoping to put the matter straight into the hands of a homicide detective who’s an old friend of mine. Someone who’s equipped with enough human skills to deal sensitively with the case.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Bernhard. We’re grateful to you. But you said homicide? I thought his death was natural.”

“Even if he died in his sleep with a Bible in his arms, there has to be a homicide inquiry. That’s the law.”

“But you do agree with Dr. Küttner that his death was from natural causes.”


“Only it wasn’t with a Bible in his arms, but a young lady. Am I to assume you mean a prostitute?”

“Very likely. We chase them out of the hotel like cats where and when we can. But it’s not always easy. This one was wearing a tiara.”

“That’s a nice touch.” Hedda put a cigarette into a holder. “Clever. Who’s ever going to challenge someone in a tiara?”

“I might do it if it was a man wearing one.”

She smiled, lit the cigarette, sucked at the holder, and then blew out the smoke, not inhaling the stuff at all, like a child pretending to smoke, pretending to be a grown-up. It reminded me of me, pretending to be a detective, going through the motions with just the taste of a proper investigation on my lips and not much more. Hotel detective. Really it was a contradiction in terms. Like national socialism. Racial purity. Aryan superiority.

“Well, if that’s all, I’ll be getting along to the Alex. The boys in Homicide are a little different from most people. They like to hear bad news as soon as possible.”


A LOT OF WHAT I’D TOLD Hedda Adlon was nonsense, of course. I had no old friends in Homicide. Not anymore. Otto Trettin was in Counterfeiting and Forgery. Bruno Stahlecker was part of Inspectorate G: the Juvenile Section. Ernst Gennat, who ran Homicide, was no longer a friend. Not since the purge of 1933. And there was certainly no one with any human skills who worked in Homicide. What good were they when you were arresting Jews and communists-when you were busy building the new Germany? All the same, there were some Homicide cops who were worse than others, and these were the bulls I hoped to avoid. For the sake of Frau Rubusch. And Frau Adlon. And the reputation of the hotel. And all of it courtesy of Bernie Gunther, Ring-cycle hero and good guy, dragon slaying a specialty.

Near the front desk in the Alex I saw Heinz Seldte, the young cop who seemed too intelligent to be wearing a SCHUPO uniform. It was a good start. I waved him over, amiably.

“Who are the duty detectives in Homicide?” I asked.

Seldte didn’t answer. He didn’t even look at me. He was too busy coming to attention and looking over my shoulder.

“You turning yourself in for a murder, Bernie?”

Given the fact that I had actually murdered someone, and quite recently, too, I turned around and tried to look as nonchalant as I was able to. But my heart was beating, as if I’d run all the way along Unter den Linden.

“That all depends on who I’m supposed to have murdered, sir. I can think of one or two people I’d be happy to put my hands up for. Might be worth it at that. As long as I knew they were actually dead.”

“Police officers, perhaps.”

“Well, now, that would be telling, sir.”

“Still the same young bastard, I see.”

“Yes, sir. Only not so young. Not anymore.”

“Come to my office. Let’s talk.”

I didn’t argue. It’s never a good idea to disagree with the head of the Berlin Criminal Police. Erich Liebermann von Sonnenberg was still just a criminal director when I’d been a detective at the Alex, back in 1932. That was the year von Sonnenberg had joined the Nazi Party, and this had guaranteed his preferment by the Nazis after 1933. I respected him in spite of that. For one thing, he had always been an effective policeman and, for another, he was a good friend of Otto Trettin, as well as the coauthor of his stupid book.

We went into his office and he closed the door behind me.

“I don’t have to remind you whose office this was when you were last here.”

I glanced around. The office had been painted, and there was a new carpet instead of linoleum on the floor. The map on the wall showing the incidence of SA versus red violence was gone, and in its place was a glass case full of mottled brown moths that matched the color of von Sonnenberg’s hair.

“Bernard Weiss.”

“A good policeman.”

“I’m pleased to hear you say so, sir, given the circumstances of his departure.”

Weiss, a Jew, had been forced to leave the police and to flee Germany in 1932.

“You were a good cop, too, Bernie. The difference is, you could probably have stayed on here.”

“It didn’t feel like that at the time.”

“So what brings you back here?”

I told him about the dead man in the Adlon.

“Natural causes?”

“Looks like. I was hoping the investigating detectives might spare the widow the full circumstances of the man’s death, sir.”

“Any particular reason?”

“All part of the Adlon’s high-class service.”

“Like fresh towels in the en-suite bathroom every day, is that it?”

“There’s the hotel’s reputation to consider as well. It wouldn’t do for people to get the idea that we’re Pension Schmidt.”

I told him about the joy lady.

“I’ll put some men on it. Right away.” He picked up the telephone and barked a few orders and waited, covering the candlestick with his hand. “Rust and Brandt,” he said. “The duty detectives.”

“I don’t remember them.”

“I’ll tell them to watch their umlauts.” Von Sonnenberg added some instructions into the candlestick, and when he had finished speaking, he hooked the earpiece and shot me a questioning look. “Fair enough?”

“I’m grateful, sir.”

“That remains to be seen.” He eyed me slowly and leaned back in his chair. “Just between the two of us, Bernie, most of the detectives here in KRIPO aren’t worth a spit. And that includes Rust and Brandt. They’re strictly by the book because they wouldn’t have the nerve or the experience to know that there’s a lot more to the job than what’s written in there. A good detective needs to have imagination. These days the trouble is that that sounds like it has a subversive, undisciplined aspect to it. And no one wants to be thought of as being subversive. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yes, sir.”

He lit a cigarette quickly.

“What would you say were some of the characteristics of a good detective?”

I shrugged. “The feeling that you’re right, when everyone else is wrong.” I smiled. “I can see how that might not go down too well, either.” I hesitated.

“You can speak freely. It’s just you and me in here.”

“Dogged persistence. When people tell you to lay off, you don’t lay off. I never could walk away from something because of politics.”

“Then I take it you’re still not a Nazi.”

I said nothing.

“Are you anti-Nazi?”

“A Nazi is someone who follows Hitler. To be anti-Nazi is to listen to what he says.”

Von Sonnenberg chuckled. “It’s refreshing speaking to a man like you, Bernie. You remind me of how things used to be here. Of how cops used to talk. Real cops. I assume you had your own informers.”

“You can’t do the job without keeping your ear on the toilet door.”

“The trouble is, everyone’s an informer now.” Von Sonnenberg shook his head gloomily. “And I do mean everyone. Which means there’s much too much information. By the time any of it’s been assessed, it’s useless.”

“We get the police force we deserve, sir.”

“You of all people could be forgiven for thinking that. But I can’t sit back and do nothing about it. I wouldn’t be doing my job properly. Under the republic, the Berlin police force enjoyed a reputation as one of the best in the world.”

“That’s not what the Nazis said, sir.”

“I can’t help that. But I can try to arrest the decline.”

“I get the feeling my gratitude is about to be sorely tested.”

“I have one or two detectives here who might, in time, amount to something.”

“You mean apart from Otto.”

Von Sonnenberg chuckled again. “Otto. Yes. Well, Otto is Otto, isn’t he?”


“But these cops are lacking in experience. Your kind of experience. One of them is Richard Bömer.”

“I don’t know him, either, sir.”

“No, well, you wouldn’t. He’s my sister’s son-in-law. I was thinking he might benefit from a little avuncular advice.”

“I really don’t think I’d make much of an uncle, sir. I haven’t got a brother, but if I had, he’d probably have died of criticism by now. The only reason they took me out of uniform and put me in plainclothes was because I was so short with the traffic on Potsdamer Platz. Advice from me sounds like a ruler across the knuckles. I even avoid my own shaving mirror in case I tell myself to go and get a proper job.”

“A proper job. For you? Like what, for instance?”

“I’ve been thinking I might try to set myself up as a private investigator.”

“To do that you’ll need a license from a magistrate. In which case, you would need to show police consent. It might be useful to have a senior policeman on your side for something like that.”

He had a point, and there seemed to be no use in wriggling. He had me just where he wanted, as if I were a moth pinned in the glass case on his office wall.

“All right. But don’t expect white gloves and silver service. If this fellow Richard doesn’t like boiled sausage from the Wurst Max, I’ll be wasting his time and mine.”

“Naturally. All the same, it might be a good idea if you were to meet him somewhere outside the Alex. And that better include the bars around here. I’d like to avoid anyone pulling his chain about the low company he’s keeping.”

“Suits me. But I’d rather not have your sister’s son-in-law in the Adlon. No disrespect to you or her, but they generally prefer it if I’m not teaching a class when I’m there.”

“Sure. We’ll think of a spot. Somewhere halfway. How about the Lustgarten?”

I nodded.

“I’ll get Richard to bring you the files on a couple of cases he’s looking at. Cold ones. Who knows? Maybe you can warm them up for him. A floater from the canal. And that poor dumb cop who got himself murdered. Maybe you read about him in the Beobachter? August Krichbaum.”


ONCE A HUGE, LANDSCAPED GARDEN, the Lustgarten was enclosed by the old royal palace-to which it had formerly belonged-and the Old Museum and the Cathedral, but in recent years it had been used not as a garden at all but for military parades and political rallies. I’d been part of a rally there myself, in February 1933, when two hundred thousand people had filled the Lustgarten to demonstrate against Hitler. Perhaps that was why, when they came to power, the Nazis ordered the gardens to be paved over and the famous equestrian statue of Frederick William III removed-so that they could stage even larger military parades and rallies in support of the Leader.

Arriving in that great empty space, I realized I had forgotten about the statue and was obliged to guess where it had been so that I might stand there myself and give Kriminalinspector Richard Bömer half a chance to find me in accordance with Liebermann von Sonnenberg’s arrangements.

Before he saw me, I saw him-a tallish man in his late twenties, fair-haired, carrying a briefcase under his arm, and wearing a gray suit and a pair of shiny black boots that might have been made to measure for him at the police school in Havel. Deep laugh lines bracketed a wide, full mouth that seemed on the edge of a smile. His nose was bent slightly out of shape, and a thick scar ran through one eyebrow like a little bridge over a golden stream. Except for his ears, which were unscarred, he looked like a promising, young light middleweight who had forgotten to remove his gum shield. Seeing me, he approached unhurriedly.


“Are you Gunther?”

He pointed southeast, in the direction of the palace. “I think he used to face this way. Frederick William the Third, I mean.”

“Sure about that?”


“Good. I like a man who holds on to his opinions.”

He turned and pointed to the west. “They moved him over there. Behind those trees. Which is where I’ve been waiting for the last ten minutes. I decided to come over here when it occurred to me that you might not know that he’d moved.”

“Who expects a granite horseman to go anywhere?”

“They’ve got to march somewhere, I guess.”

“That’s a matter of opinion. Come on. Let’s sit. A cop never stands when he can sit.”

We walked up to the Old Museum and sat on the steps in front of a long façade of Ionic columns.

“I like coming here,” he said. “It makes you think of what we used to be. And what we will be again.”

I looked at him blankly.

“You know, German history,” he said.

“German history is nothing more than a series of ridiculous mustaches,” I said.

Bömer smiled a crooked, bashful smile, like a schoolboy. “My uncle would love that one,” he said.

“I take it you don’t mean Liebermann von Sonnenberg.”

“He’s my wife’s uncle.”

“As if having the head of KRIPO holding a sponge in your corner wasn’t enough. So your uncle. Who’s he? Hermann Goering?”

He looked sheepish. “I just want to work homicides. To be a good policeman.”

“One thing I learned about being a good policeman. It doesn’t pay nearly as well as being a bad one. So who’s your uncle?”

“Does it matter?”

“It’s only that Liebermann wanted me to be your uncle, so to speak. And I’m the jealous type. If you’ve got another uncle as important as me, I want to know about it. Besides, I’m nosy, too. That’s why I became a detective.”

“He’s someone at the Ministry of Propaganda.”

“You don’t look like Joey the Crip, so you must be talking about someone else.”

“Bömer. Dr. Karl Bömer.”

“These days it seems everyone needs a doctorate to lie to people.”

He grinned again. “You’re just doing this, aren’t you? Because you know I’m a Party member.”

“Isn’t everyone?”

“You’re not.”

“Somehow I never got around to it. There was always a big line of people outside Party headquarters when I went to apply.”

“It should have told you something. That there’s safety in numbers.”

“No, there isn’t. I was in the trenches, my young friend. A battalion can be killed just as easily as a single man. And it was the generals, not the Jews, who made sure of that. They’re the ones who stabbed us in the back.”

“The chief said I should try to avoid talking politics with you, Gunther.”

“That’s not politics. That’s history. You want to know the real truth of German history? It’s that there’s no truth in German history. Like me at the Alex. None of what you’ve heard about me is true.”

“The chief said you were a good detective. One of the best.”

“Apart from that.”

“He said it was you who caught Gormann, the strangler.”

“If that had been difficult, the chief would have put me in his book. Did you read it?”

He nodded.

“What did you think?”

“It wasn’t written for other cops.”

“You’re in the wrong job, Richard. You should be working in the diplomatic corps. It was a lousy book. It tells you nothing about being a detective. Not that I can tell you much. Except this, perhaps. It’s easy for a cop to recognize when a man is lying. What’s harder is to know when he’s telling the truth. Or maybe this: A policeman is just a man who’s a little less dumb than a criminal.”

“Your investigative method, perhaps? You could tell me something about that.”

“My method was a bit like what Field Marshal von Moltke said about a battle plan. It never survives contact with the enemy. People are different, Richard. It stands to reason that homicides are different, too. Perhaps if you were to tell me about a case you’re working on now. Better still, if you brought me the file, I could take a look at it and offer my thoughts. The chief mentioned one case that needed warming up. The murder of that cop. August Krichbaum, wasn’t it? Perhaps I could suggest something there.”

“That’s no longer a cold case,” said Bömer. “Looks like there may be a lead, after all.”

I bit my lip. “Oh? What’s that?”

“Krichbaum got himself murdered in front of the Kaiser Hotel, right? Pathologist reckoned someone clouted him in the gut.”

“Must have been quite a punch.”

“I guess if you’re not ready for it, it might be. Anyway, the hotel doorman got a look at the main suspect. Not much of a look, but he’s an ex-cop. Anyway, he’s looked at the photograph of every crook in Berlin, and no luck. Since then he’s been racking his brains and now reckons that the fellow who hit Krichbaum might have been another cop.”

“A cop? You’re joking.”

“Not at all. They’ve got him looking over the personnel files of the entire Berlin police force, past and present. As soon as he thumbs the right mug, they’ll have the guy, for sure.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

I lit a cigarette and rubbed the back of my neck uncomfortably, as if I could already feel the blade of the falling ax. It’s said that all you ever feel is a sharp bite, like the angry nip of the electric clippers in a gentlemen’s hairdressers. It took me a moment or two to remind myself that the hotel doorman’s description of the suspect had been of a man with a mustache. And it took me a while longer to remember that in the original photograph on my own police personnel file I had been wearing a mustache. Did that make it more or less likely that he could identify me? I wasn’t sure. I took a deep breath and felt my head swim a little.

“But I brought the file on something else I’ve been working on,” said Bömer, unbuckling his saddle-leather briefcase.

“Good,” I said, without enthusiasm. “Oh, good.”

He handed me a buff-colored file.

“A few days ago, there was a body found floating in the Mühlendamm Lock.”

“A Landwehr Top,” I said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nothing. So why didn’t the Mühlendamm Murder Commission deal with it?”

“Because there was some mystery about the man’s identity and about the cause of death. The man drowned. But the body was full of seawater, see? So he couldn’t possibly have drowned in the River Spree.” He handed me some photographs. “Plus, as you can see, an attempt had been made to weigh the body down. The rope around the ankles probably slipped the weight.”

“How deep is it there?” I asked, leafing through the pictures taken at the scene and in the morgue.

“About nine meters.”

I was looking at the body of a man in his late fifties. Big, blond, and typically Aryan, except for the fact that there was a photograph of his penis, which had been circumcised. Among German men that was a little unusual.

“As you can see, he might have been a Jew,” said Bömer. “Although from the rest of him, you wouldn’t say he looks like a Jew at all.”

“The strangest people are, these days.”

“I mean to say, he looks more typically Aryan, don’t you think?”

“Sure. Like a poster boy for the SA.”

“Well, let’s hope so.”


“Meaning this: If it should turn out he’s German, then obviously we’d like to find out as much as we can. But if it should turn out that he’s Jewish, then my orders are that we don’t bother to investigate. That it’s understandable these things should happen in Berlin and not to waste any police time investigating it.”

I marveled at the calm way he said this. As if it were the most natural distinction in the world. I didn’t speak. I didn’t have to. I was looking at the pictures of a dead man. But I was still thinking about my own neck.

“Broken nose, cauliflower ear, big hands.” I flicked my cigarette away and tried to concentrate on what I was looking at, if only to get my mind off the death of August Krichbaum. “This fellow was no choirboy. Maybe he was a Jew, after all. Interesting.”

“What is?”

“That triangular mark on his chest. What is it? A bruise? The pathologist doesn’t say. Which is sloppy. Wouldn’t have happened in my day. I could probably tell a lot more from the actual body. Where is it now?”

“At the Charité Hospital.”

Suddenly, I figured that looking at Bömer’s Landwehr Top was the best way of taking my mind off August Krichbaum.

“Have you got a car?”


“Come on. Let’s go and take a look. If anyone in there asks what we’re doing, you’re helping me to look for my missing brother.”

WE DROVE NORTHWEST in an open-top Butz. There was a two-wheel trailer attached to the back, almost as if Bömer were planning to go camping after he was through with me. This wasn’t so far from the truth.

“I lead a Hitler Youth troop of boys aged ten to fourteen,” he explained. “We were camping last weekend, which is why I still have the trailer attached to the car.”

“I sincerely hope they’re all still in there.”

“Go ahead and laugh. Everyone else at the Alex laughs. But I happen to believe in Germany ’s future.”

“So do I, which is why I also hope you locked them in. The members of your youth troop, I mean. Nasty little brutes. I saw some the other day playing piggy in the middle with some old Jew’s hat. Still, I guess we should forget about it. I mean, it’s understandable that these things happen in Berlin.”

“I don’t have anything against the Jews myself.”

“But. There’s always a ‘but’ after that particular sentiment. It’s like a stupid little trailer attached to the car.”

“But I do believe our nation has become weak and degenerate. And that the best way of turning that around is to make being German seem like something important. To do that properly, we have to make ourselves a special thing, a race apart. To make ourselves seem exclusively German, even to the extent of saying that it’s no good being a Jew first and a German second. There’s no room for anything else.”

“You make camping sound fun, Bömer. Is that what you tell the boys around the campfire? Now I understand what the trailer’s for. I suppose it’s full of degenerate literature to get the bonfire going.”

He grinned and shook his head. “Christ, did you speak like this when you were a detective at the Alex?”

“No. Back then we could all still say what the hell we liked.”

He laughed. “All I’m trying to do is explain why I think we need the government we have now.”

“Richard. When Germans look to their governments to fix things, you know we’re really in the shit. If you ask me, I think we’re an easy people to govern. All you have to do is make a new law once a year that says, do as you’re damn well told.”

We drove across Karlsplatz and onto Luisenstrasse, passing the monument to Rudolf Virchow, the so-called father of pathology and an early advocate of racial purity, which was probably the only reason why his statue hadn’t been moved. Next to the Charité Hospital was the Pathological Institute. We parked the car and went inside.

A red-haired intern wearing a white jacket showed us down to the ancient morgue, where a man armed with a pump-action spray gun was making short and pungent work of what remained of that summer’s insect life. I wondered if the stuff worked on Nazis. The man with the spray gun led us into the cold store, which, from the smell, wasn’t quite cold enough. He hit the air with some insecticide and walked us around a dozen, sheet-covered bodies laid out on slabs like a tented village, until we found the one we were looking for.

I took out my cigarettes and offered one to Bömer.

“I don’t smoke.”

“Too bad. A lot of folks still believe we all smoked in the war to calm our nerves, but mostly it was to cover the smell of the dead. You should take up smoking, and not just to help out in a smelly situation like this. Smoking is essential for a detective. It helps convince us we’re doing something, even when we’re doing nothing much at all. You’ll find there’s a lot of nothing much at all that happens when you’re a detective.”

I threw off the sheet and stared hard at a man’s body the size of Schmeling’s bigger brother and the color of uncooked dough. Looking at him, you almost expected someone to shovel him into an oven and bake him back to life. The skin on his face looked like a hand left too long in the bathwater. It was crinkled like an apricot. Even his optician wouldn’t have recognized him. What was more, the pathologist had already been at work. A crudely sewn thoracic scar crossed the body from the chin to the pubic hair like a length of toy railway track. The scar traversed the center of the triangular mark on the man’s broad chest. Pinching the cigarette from my mouth, I went down for a closer look.

“Not a tattoo,” I said. “A burn mark. It looks a little like the tip of a flatiron, don’t you think?”

Bömer nodded. “Tortured?”

“Are there any similar marks on his back?”

“I don’t know.”

I took hold of a big shoulder. “Then let’s turn him over. You take the hip and the legs. I’ll turn the body. We’ll pull him toward us, and I’ll lean over and take a look.”

It was like moving a wet sandbag. There was nothing on his back except some lank hair and a birthmark, but as the body rested against our abdomens, Bömer swore uncomfortably.

“Too much for you, Richard?”

“Something just leaked out of his prick and onto my shirt,” he said, quickly stepping away from the slab and then staring in horror at a large brown-yellow wound in the center of his belly. “Shit.”

“Close. But not quite.”

“That was a new shirt. Now what am I going to do?” He pulled the material away from the skin of his belly and sighed.

“Haven’t you got a brown one in that trailer of yours?” I joked.

Bömer looked relieved. “Yes, I have.”

“Then shut up and pay attention. Our friend here wasn’t tortured, that much I’m sure of. Anyone using a hot iron on him would have used it more often than once if he’d meant to hurt him.”

“So why do it?”

I lifted one of the hands and bent the fingers into a fist as big as the fuel tank on a small motorcycle.

“Look at the size of these mitts. The scar tissue on the knuckles. Especially here, at the base of each small finger. And do you see this bump?” I let Bömer take a look at a bump that curled all the way around the back of the palm to a point just below the knuckle of the little finger. Then, lowering the left, I lifted the man’s right. “This one’s even more pronounced. This is a common fracture in boxers. I’d say this guy was a southpaw, too, which should help narrow it down a bit. Except that he hadn’t boxed in a while. See the dirt under these fingernails? No boxer would tolerate that. Only the pathologist here didn’t scrape them out, and no detective ought to tolerate that. If the medicine man doesn’t do his job, it’s up to you to put him straight.”

I took out my pocketknife and an Adlon envelope containing Muller’s resignation letter and scraped out what was underneath the dead man’s nails.

“I don’t see what a few crumbs of dirt are going to tell us,” said Bömer.

“Probably nothing. But evidence rarely comes in a large size. And it’s nearly always dirty. Remember that. Now all I need is to see the dead man’s clothes. And I need the use of a microscope for a few minutes.” I glanced around. “As I recall, there’s a laboratory somewhere on this floor.”

He pointed. “In there.”

While Bömer went to fetch the dead man’s clothes, I put the contents of his fingernails into a Petri dish and stared at them for a while underneath a microscope. I was no scientist and no geologist, either, but I knew gold when I saw it. There was just a tiny crumb, but it was enough to catch the light and my attention. And when Bömer came into the lab carrying a cardboard box, I went ahead and told him what I’d found, even though I knew what he was going to say.

“Gold, huh? A jeweler, maybe? That might also be evidence that the man was a Jew.”

“I told you, Richard. This man was a boxer. Most likely he was working on a building site. That would account for the dirt under the nails.”

“And the gold?”

“Generally speaking, outside of a goldsmith’s, the best place to look for gold is in the dirt.”

I opened the cardboard box and found myself looking through the clothes of a workingman. At a pair of strong boots. At a thick leather belt. At a leather cap. The cheap flannel shirt interested me more, as there were no buttons on it, and there were small tears on the material where they should have been.

“Someone tore this man’s shirt open in a hurry,” I said. “Most likely when his heart stopped beating. It looks as though someone tried to revive him after he drowned. That would certainly explain the shirt. It was ripped open so that an attempt could be made to start his heart again. With a hot iron. It’s an old boxing trainer’s trick. Something about the heat and the shock, I think. Anyway, that explains the burn.”

“Are you saying someone threw this man in the water and then tried to revive him?”

“Well, it wasn’t the Spree. You told me that yourself. He drowned somewhere else. Then someone tried to revive him. Then they dumped him in the river. That’s the chain of causation, but I can’t attach any whys to that. Not yet.”


I looked at the man’s jacket. It was a cheap corduroy from C &A. Except the lining had been opened and then restitched, and, squeezing the material under the breast pocket, I felt something crumple in my fingers. I took out my knife again, cut away some of the stitches on the lining, and picked out a folded piece of paper. Carefully I unfolded it until I was able to spread a strip of paper about the size of a schoolboy’s ruler on the bench beside the microscope. After being in the waters of the River Spree, whatever it was that had been printed on the strip of paper was gone forever. The paper was quite blank. But there was no mistaking its meaning.

Bömer’s face was equally blank. “Could this have been his name and address?”

“It might have been, if he was a ten-year-old boy and his mother worried about him getting lost.”

“Well, then. What does it mean?”

“It means that what you first suspected is now confirmed. I believe this strip of paper was probably a fragment from the Torah.”

“The what?”

“If God is German, I for one won’t be at all surprised. Apparently he enjoys being worshipped, issuing people with ten commandments at a time, and has even written his own unreadable book. But the God that this man worshipped was the Hebrew God. Jews sometimes sew a piece of the word of God into their clothes, next to their heart. Yes, that’s right, Richard. He was a Jew.”

“Shit. God damn it all.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?”

“I told you, Gunther. The chief is never going to authorize me to investigate the death of a Jew. Damn it all. I thought this might have been a chance to prove myself. To lead a proper murder investigation, you know?”

I said nothing. It wasn’t that I was speechless, but I certainly didn’t feel like making a speech. What would be the point?

“I don’t make police policy, Gunther,” said Bömer. “Even Liebermann von Sonnenberg doesn’t do that. If you really want to know, the policy comes down from the Ministry of the Interior. From Frick. And Frick gets it from Goering, who probably gets it from-”

“The devil himself. I know.”

Suddenly I badly wanted to be away from Richard Bömer and his vaulting forensic ambition. And it was now obvious in a way it hadn’t been obvious before that being a policeman had changed a lot more than I had supposed. I couldn’t ever go back to the Alex even if I had wanted to.

“I expect there will be other murders, Richard. In fact, I’m sure of it. In that respect at least, you can rely on the Nazis.”

“You don’t understand. I want to be a detective, like in the stories. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. A proper detective, like you were, Gunther. But police states are bad for crime and bad for criminals. Because everyone’s a policeman in Germany now. And if they’re not yet, they soon will be.” He kicked the laboratory workbench and swore again.

“Richard. You almost make me feel sorry for you.” I picked up the dead man’s file and handed it back. “Well, I can’t say it’s not been fun. I’ve missed the job. I’ve even missed the customers. Can you believe that? But from now on I’m going to miss the job the way I miss the Lustgarten. Which is to say, not at all. Because it’s not the same. It’s not like it used to be. When someone gets murdered-it doesn’t matter who it is-you investigate. You investigate, because that’s what you do when you live in a decent society. And when you don’t, when you say that someone’s death isn’t worth the candle, then the job’s not worth having anyway. Not anymore.”

I held the file out to him. But he stared at it as if it wasn’t there.

“Go ahead,” I said. “Take this. It’s yours.”

But we both knew it wasn’t.

Ignoring the file, he turned and walked out of the laboratory, and although I wasn’t there to see it, the Pathological Institute, as well.

A few months later Erich Liebermann von Sonnenberg told me that Richard Bömer had left KRIPO and joined the SS. At the time it looked like the better career move.


THE TWO OFFICERS FROM KRIPO were very polite,” Georg Behlert told me. “Frau Adlon couldn’t have been more grateful for the way you’ve handled this whole affair. Excellent. Well done.”

We were seated in Behlert’s office overlooking the Goethe Garden. Through the open doors of the adjoining Palm Court, a piano trio was doing its best to ignore a statue of Hercules that seemed to demand something rather more muscular than a selection of Mozart and Schubert. I felt a little like Hercules myself, returning to Mycenae after carrying out some pointless labor.

“Perhaps,” I said. “But I can’t think it was a good idea for me to get involved like this. I should just have let them get on with it. I might have known they would extract some sort of price.”

Behlert looked puzzled. “What price? You don’t mean-?”

“Not from the hotel,” I added. “A price from me.” And just to see the look of horror on his smooth, shiny face, I told Behlert about Liebermann von Sonnenberg and the dead man in the Charité.

“Next time,” I said. “If there is a next time. I shan’t try to influence a police investigation. It was naive of me to think I could. And for what? Some fat guy in room 210 I never even met. Why should I worry about his wife? Maybe she hated him. If she didn’t, she ought to have. It would serve him damn well right if the cops put their feet right through her feelings when they gave her the bad news. He should have thought of her when he started monkeying around with a Berlin joy lady.”

“But you were doing what you did for the sake of the good reputation of the Adlon Hotel,” said Behlert, as if that was all the justification required.

“Yes, I suppose so.”

He was on his feet now, removing a stopper from a decanter of the good stuff and pouring us each a thimble-sized glass.

“Here. Drink this. It looks like you need it.”

“Thanks, Georg.”

“What’s going to happen to him?”

“To Rubusch?”

“No, I mean, to the poor fellow in the morgue?”

“You really want to know?”

He nodded.

“With an unidentified body, what usually happens is, they take him around to the university anatomical institute and let the students loose on him.”

“But suppose the investigation reveals his true identity.”

“I didn’t make that clear, did I? There isn’t going to be an investigation. Not now that we-I mean, I-not now that I’ve established that he was a Jew. The Berlin police don’t want to know about dead Jews. It’s not considered a proper use of police time and resources. As far as the cops are concerned, his murderer-if indeed he was murdered, I’m not at all sure about that-that person is more likely to be congratulated than prosecuted.”

Behlert drained his glass of the excellent schnapps and shook his head with disbelief.

“I’m not making this up,” I said. “I know it seems incredible, but it’s all true. Hand on heart.”

“I believe you, Bernie. I believe you.” He sighed. “One of the guests has just returned from Bavaria. He’s a British Jew. From Manchester. Apparently he saw a road sign that said something like DANGEROUS BEND, SPEED LIMIT 50. JEWS HURRY UP. What could I tell him? I said it was probably a sick joke. But I knew it wasn’t. In my own hometown of Jena, there is a similar sign outside the Zeiss Planetarium that suggests a new homeland for Jews on the planet Mars. And the terrible thing is, they mean it. Some of the guests are saying they’re never coming back to Germany. That we’re no longer the considerate people we were. Even in Berlin.”

“These days a considerate German is someone who doesn’t knock at your door early in the morning in case you think it’s the Gestapo.”

I handed him the letter containing Muller’s resignation as an Adlon Hotel detective. He read it and then laid it on his desk.

“I can’t say I’m surprised or sorry. I’ve had my suspicions about that man for some time. Of course, for you it will mean there’s more to do. At least until we can find a replacement. Which is why I’m going to increase your salary. How does an extra ten marks a week sound?”

“It’s not Handel, but I guess I like it.”

“Good. Perhaps you can find a replacement. After all, you were very helpful with Fräulein Bauer. The stenographer? She’s been doing a lot of work for Herr Reles in 114. Apparently he’s very pleased with her.”


“You might know someone else. An ex-policeman. Someone like yourself. Someone reliable. Someone discreet. Someone smart.”

I nodded slowly and poured the drink down my throat.

Georg Behlert seemed to think he knew me, but I wasn’t sure I knew myself. Not anymore. Certainly not since my visit to see Otto Schuchardt on the Jewish Desk at Gestapo House.

It was, perhaps, time I did something about that.

I CAUGHT A NUMBER 10 TRAM WEST, across Invalidenstrasse and into Old Moabit, past the criminal courts and the prison. Next to Bolle’s Dairy-from which a strong smell of horse manure blew down the street toward the Lessing Bridge -was a dilapidated tenement. It was a crummy sort of area-even the trash in the street looked like something someone had thrown away.

Emil Linthe was on the top floor, and through the open window on the landing in front of his door, one could hear noise from the machine-tool factory on Huttenstrasse. It had been silent for almost a year during the Great Depression, but since the Nazis had come into government, the place was constantly active. There were just three iron beats, over and over again, like a waltz conducted by Thor, the god of thunder.

I knocked on the door, and eventually it opened, to reveal a tall, slim man in his thirties with a plentiful head of hair that was high at the front and almost nonexistent at the back. It was like finding a chaise longue on top of someone’s head.

“Do you ever get used to that noise?” I asked.

“What noise?”

“I guess you do. Emil Linthe?”

“Gone away. On holiday. Rügen Island.”

There was ink on his fingers. Enough to make me suspect I was talking to the right man after all.

“My mistake,” I said. “Maybe you’re going by a different name these days. Otto Trettin said it might be Maier, or maybe Schmidt. Walter Schmidt.”

Linthe’s persona deflated like a balloon. “A copper.”

“Relax. I’m not here to squeeze your wrists. I’m here on business. Your kind of business.”

“And why would I want to do business with the Berlin polenta?”

“Because Otto still hasn’t found your file, Emil. And because you don’t want to give him any reason to start looking for it again. Or you might find yourself back in the Punch. His words, not mine. But I’m like a brother to that man.”

“I always thought coppers killed their brothers when they were still in their cradles.”

“Ask me in. There’s a good fellow. It’s a bit noisy out here, and you wouldn’t want me to raise my voice, now, would you?”

Emil Linthe stepped aside. At the same time he drew up his suspenders and picked up a cigarette he’d left burning in an ashtray on a ledge inside the door. As I came inside, he closed the door and then quickly moved ahead of me along the corridor to close the sitting room door. But not soon enough to prevent me from seeing what looked like a printing press. We went into the kitchen.

“I told you, Emil. I’m not here to squeeze your wrists.”

“The leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

“As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. I hear you can do exactly that. For the right money. I want you to give me what Otto Trettin called an Aryan transfusion.”

I told him the problem about my grandmother.

He smiled and shook his head. “It makes me laugh,” he said. “All those people who got on the Nazi train, now running back down the aisle to look for the station they started from.”

I might have told him I wasn’t one of those people. I might have admitted I wasn’t a cop, but I didn’t want to deliver myself into his potentially blackmailing hands. Linthe was a crook after all. I needed to hold on to the whip, or else I might lose control of a horse I planned to ride for as long as I needed it.

“You Nazis are all the same.” He laughed again. “Hypocrites.”

“I’m not a Nazi. I’m a German. And a German is different from a Nazi. A German is a man who manages to overcome his worst prejudices. A Nazi is a man who turns them into laws.”

But he was too busy laughing to listen to what I was saying.

“It wasn’t my intention to amuse you, Emil.”

“Nevertheless, I am amused. It is rather amusing.”

I grabbed him by the braces and drew them tight in opposite directions so that I was half strangling him, and then shoved him hard up against the kitchen wall. Through the window, just north of Moabit, I could make out the shape of Plötzensee Prison, where recently Otto had seen the falling ax in action. It reminded me to be gentle with Emil Linthe. But not too gentle.

“Am I laughing?” I slapped him on one cheek and then the other. “Am I?”

“No,” he yelled irritably.

“Perhaps you think that file of yours really is lost, Emil. Perhaps I need to remind you what’s in it. You’re a known associate of the Hand in Hand, a very nasty little criminal ring. Also of Salomon Smolianoff, a Ukrainian counterfeiter who’s currently doing three years in the Dutch cement for forging British banknotes. You did three in the Punch for the same offense. Which is why you’ve developed a profitable little sideline forging documents. Of course, if they ever catch you forging currency again they’ll throw away the key. And they will, Emil. They will. I can guarantee it. Because if you don’t help me I’ll walk straight round to the Charlottenburg Police Praesidium and tell them about the printing press in your living room. What is it, a platen?”

I let him go. “I mean, I’m a fair man. I would offer to pay you, but what would be the point? You could probably print more in ten minutes than I could earn in a year.”

Emil Linthe grinned, sheepishly. “You know about printing presses?”

“Not really. But I know what one looks like when I see it.”

“Actually it’s a Kluge. Better than a platen. The Kluge is the best for running any type of job work, including die cutting, foil stamping, and embossing.” He lit a cigarette. “Look, I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you. Any friend of Otto’s, yes? I just said it was amusing, that’s all.”

“Not to me, Emil. Not to me.”

“Well, then you’re in luck. I happen to know what the hell I’m doing. Unlike most of the people Otto could have recommended. You say your maternal grandmother, surname-?”


“Right. She was Jewish by birth? But was brought up as a Roman Catholic?”


“In the parish of?”


“I’ll have to fix it in the church registry and in the town hall. Neukölln’s good. A lot of officials there are old lefties and very easily corrupted. If it was more than two grandparents I probably couldn’t help you. But one is relatively straightforward, if you know what you’re doing. Which I do. But I’ll need birth certificates, death certificates, all you’ve got.”

I handed him an envelope from my coat pocket.

“It’s probably best I redo everything from scratch. All records fixed.”

“How much will it cost me?”

Linthe shook his head. “Like you said. In ten minutes I can print more than you can make in a year. So. We’ll call it a favor to you and Otto, all right?” He shook his head. “It’s no sweat. Adler easily becomes Kugler, or Ebner, or Fendler, or Kepler, or Muller, see?”

“Not Muller,” I said.

“It’s a good German name.”

“I don’t like it.”

“All right. And just to make things that little bit more plausible, we’ll turn your grandmother into your great-grandmother. Just put the Jew in you back a generation so that it becomes inconsequential. By the time I’ve finished, you’ll look more German than the Kaiser.”

“He was half English, wasn’t he? His grandmother was Queen Victoria.”

“True. But she was half German. And so was the Kaiser’s mother.” Linthe shook his head. “No one is ever one hundred percent anything. That’s what’s so stupid about this Aryan paragraph. We’re all of us a mixture. You, me, the Kaiser, Hitler. Hitler, most of all, I shouldn’t wonder. They say Hitler is one-quarter Jewish. What do you think of that?”

“Maybe he and I have something in common after all.”

For his sake I just hoped Hitler had a friend on the Jew Desk in the Gestapo, like I did.


HEDDA ADLON HAD A FRIEND, TOO, but not the kind you find anywhere south of paradise. Her name was Mrs. Noreen Charalambides and, a couple of days before I was introduced to her, I had already committed her face and her backside and her calves and her bosom to a space in the flask of my Faustian memory previously reserved for Helen of Troy.

It was my job to keep an eye on the guests, and whenever I saw Mrs. Charalambides in and around the hotel, I kept all eight of them on her, waiting for her to brush against the silken thread that marked the outer limits of my darker, spidery world. Not that I would ever have tried to “fraternize” with a guest, if that was what you called it. That was what Hedda Adlon and Georg Behlert called it, but something as brotherly as fraternity was a very long way from what I wanted to do with Noreen Charalambides. Whatever you called it, the hotel took a dim view of that kind of thing. It did happen, of course, and several chambermaids were not above selling it for the right price. When Erich von Stroheim or Emil Jannings were staying at the hotel, the chief reception clerk was always careful to have them attended by a rather elderly chambermaid named Bella. Then again, Stroheim wasn’t that particular. He liked them young. But he liked them old, too.

It sounds ridiculous, and of course it is-love is ridiculous, that’s what makes it fun-but I suppose I was a little in love with Noreen Charalambides before I even met her. Like some schoolgirl with a Ross postcard of Max Hansen in her satchel. I looked at her the way I sometimes look at an SSK in the window of the Mercedes-Benz showroom on Potsdamer Platz: I don’t ever expect to drive that car, let alone own one, but a man can dream. While she was there, Mrs. Charalambides looked like the fastest and most beautiful car in the hotel.

She was tall, an impression enhanced by her choice of hat. The weather had cooled of late. She wore a gray Astrakhan shako that she may have bought in Moscow, her previous port of call, although she was in fact an American who lived in New York. An American who was on her way back home from some kind of literary or theatrical festival in Russia. Maybe she had bought the sable coat in Moscow, too. I’m sure the sable didn’t mind. Mrs. Charalambides looked better in it than any sable I’d ever seen.

Her hair, which she wore in a bun, was also sable-colored and, I imagined, every bit as nice to stroke. Nicer, probably, as it wasn’t likely to bite. All the same, I wouldn’t have minded being bitten by Noreen Charalambides. Any proximity to her pouting, cherry-red Fokker Albatross of a mouth would have been worth losing a fingertip or a piece of my ear. Vincent van Gogh wasn’t the only fellow who could make that kind of heady, romantic sacrificial gesture.

I took to hanging around in the entrance hall like a page boy in the hope of laying eyes on her. Even Hedda Adlon remarked on the similarity.

“I’m thinking of asking you to read Lorenz Adlon’s rulebook for page boys,” she joked.

“I read that. It’ll never sell. For one thing, there are too many rules. And for another, most of these page boys are too busy running errands to have the time to read anything longer than War and Peace.”

She laughed at that. Hedda Adlon usually liked my jokes. “It’s not that long,” she said.

“Try telling that to a page boy. Anyway, the jokes in War and Peace are better.”

“Have you read it? War and Peace?

“I’ve started it several times, but after four years of war I usually declare an armistice and then sell the book down the river.”

“There’s someone who’d like to meet you. And it so happens she’s a writer.”

Naturally, I knew exactly whom Hedda was talking about. Writers, especially lady writers from New York, were thin on the ground at the Adlon that month. It probably had a lot to do with the fifteen-mark-a-night room rate. This was slightly cheaper if you didn’t have a bath, and a lot of writers don’t, but the last American writer who’d stayed at the Adlon had been Sinclair Lewis, and that was in 1930. The Depression hit everyone, of course. But no one gets depressed quite like a writer.

We went upstairs to the little apartment the Adlons kept in the hotel. I say “little,” but only by the standards of the large hunting estate they also kept in the countryside, away from Berlin. The apartment was nicely decorated-a fine example of late Wilhelmine wealth. The carpets were thick, the curtains heavy, the bronze hulking, the gilt abundant, and the silver solid; even the water in the carafe looked like it had extra lead in it.

Mrs. Charalambides was seated on a little birch-wood sofa with white cushions and a music-stand back. She was wearing a dark blue wraparound dress, a triple string of good pearls, diamond clip earrings, and immediately below her cleavage, a matching sapphire brooch that must have fallen off a maharajah’s best turban. She hardly looked like a writer-that is, unless she’d been a queen who’d given up her throne to write novels about the grand hotels of Europe. She spoke German well, which was fine with me since, for several minutes after shaking her gloved hand, I could hardly speak German myself and I was more or less obliged to let these two women talk across me like a Ping-Pong table.

“Mrs. Charalambides-”

“Noreen, please.”

“Is a playwright and journalist.”


“For the Herald Tribune.”

“In New York.”

“She’s just returned from Moscow, where one of her plays-”

“My only play, so far.”

“Was being produced by the famous Moscow Art Theater, after a very successful run on Broadway.”

“You should be my agent, Hedda.”

“Noreen and I were at school together. In America.”

“Hedda used to help me with my German. Still does.”

“Your German is perfect, Noreen. Don’t you agree, Herr Gunther?”

“Yes. Perfect.” But I was looking at Mrs. Charalambides’ legs. And her eyes. And her beautiful mouth. Now, that was what I called perfect.

“Anyway, her newspaper has asked her to write an article about the forthcoming Berlin Olympiad.”

“There’s been a lot of opposition in America to the idea of our taking part in these Olympics, given your government’s racial policies. The AOC president, Avery Brundage, was over here in Germany just a few weeks ago. On a fact-finding mission. To see if Jews are being discriminated against. And, incredibly, he reported back to the AOC that they were not. As a result of which the AOC has now voted, unanimously, to accept Germany ’s invitation and to attend the Berlin Olympiad in 1936.”

“Any Olympiad that doesn’t include the United States,” said Hedda, “would be completely meaningless.”

“Exactly,” said Mrs. Charalambides. “Since the AOC president returned to the U.S., the boycott movement has collapsed. But my newspaper is puzzled. No, it’s astonished that Brundage could have arrived at the conclusions he did. The American ambassador, Mr. Dodd; the chief consul, Mr. Messersmith; and the vice consul, Mr. Geist, have all written to my government expressing their utter dismay at the president’s report. And reminding it of their own report, sent to the State Department last year, which highlighted the systematic exclusion of Jews from German sports clubs. Brundage-”

“He’s the president of the American Olympic Committee,” said Hedda, interrupting, redundantly.

“He’s a bigot,” said Mrs. Charalambides, becoming angrier. “And an anti-Semite. You’d have to be, to ignore what’s happening in this country. The many instances of open racial discrimination. The signs in the parks. In the public baths. The pogroms.”

“Pogroms?” I frowned. “Surely that’s an exaggeration. I haven’t heard of any pogroms. This is Berlin, not Odessa.”

“In July, four Jews were murdered by SS men, in Hirschberg.”

“Hirschberg?” I sneered. “That’s in Czechoslovakia. Or Poland. I forget which. It’s troll country. Not Germany.”

“It’s the Sudetenland,” said Mrs. Charalambides. “The people there are ethnic Germans.”

“Well, don’t tell Hitler,” I said. “Or he’ll want them back. Look, Mrs. Charalambides, I don’t agree with what’s happening in Germany. But is it really any worse than what’s happening in your own country? The signs in the parks? In the public baths? The lynchings? And I hear it’s not just Negroes who get strung up by white people. Mexicans and Italians also go carefully in certain parts of the United States. And I don’t recall anyone suggesting a boycott of the Los Angeles Games, in 1932.”

“You’re well informed, Herr Gunther,” she said. “And right, of course. As a matter of fact, I wrote an article about just such a lynching I saw in Georgia, in 1930. But I’m here and I’m Jewish, and my newspaper wants me to write about what’s happening in this country, and that’s what I intend to do.”

“Well, good for you,” I said. “I hope you can change the AOC’s mind. I’d like to see the Nazis take a blow to their prestige. Especially now that we’ve started spending money on it. And I’d love it, of course, if that Austrian clown got some egg on his face. But I fail to see what any of this has to do with me. I’m a hotel detective, not a press attaché.”

Hedda Adlon opened a silver cigarette box the size of a small mausoleum and pushed it toward me. There were English cigarettes on one side of the box and Turkish on the other. It looked like Gallipoli in there. I chose the winning side-at least in the Dardanelles -and let her light me. The cigarette, just like the service, was better than I was used to. I looked hopefully at the decanters on the sideboard, but Hedda Adlon didn’t drink much herself and probably thought I felt the same way about the stuff. Apart from that, she was doing a fine job of making me look nice. After all, she’d had plenty of practice doing it.

“Herr Behlert told me what happened when you went to the Alex,” said Hedda. “About that poor Jewish man and how the police are refusing to investigate his death. Because of his race.”


“Apparently you thought he might have been a boxer.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Neither of them was smoking. Not yet. Perhaps they hoped to make me light-headed. The Turkish cigarette in my mouth was strong enough, but I had the feeling I was going to need more than one to go along with whatever it was they wanted from me.

Noreen Charalambides said, “I was thinking that the dead man’s story might be the basis of an interesting article in my newspaper. In the same way I wrote about that lynching in Georgia. It occurred to me that the dead man might have been murdered by the Nazis because he was Jewish. It also occurred to me that there might be an important sports angle that could tie his story in with the Olympics. Did you know that the German Boxing Federation was the first German sports organization to exclude Jews?”

“It doesn’t surprise me. Boxing’s always been an important sport to the Nazis.”

“Oh? I didn’t know that.”

“Sure. The SA has been punching people in the face since before 1925. Those beer-hall brawlers always liked a good fight. Especially after Schmeling became world champion. Of course, when he went and lost the title to Max Baer, that didn’t exactly do the cause of Jewish boxers in Germany any favors.”

Mrs. Charalambides looked at me blankly. I guessed that her remark about the German Boxing Federation had probably emptied the spit bucket of what she knew about the sweet science.

“Max Baer is half Jewish,” I explained.

“Oh, I see. Herr Gunther, I’m sure you must have already considered the possibility that the dead man-let’s call him Fritz-that Fritz was a member of a gym or a sporting association and was expelled because he was Jewish. Who knows what happened after that?”

I hadn’t considered the possibility at all. I’d been too busy thinking about what might happen to me. But now that I did, what she said made some sense. Still, I wasn’t about to admit that. Not yet. Not while these two wanted something from me.

“I was wondering,” said Mrs. Charalambides. “I was wondering if you might care to help me find out some more about Fritz. Kind of like a private investigator. I speak pretty good German, as you can see, but I don’t know my way around this city. Berlin is a bit of a mystery to me.”

I shrugged. “If all the world is a stage, then most of Berlin is just beer and sausage.”

“And the mustard? That’s my problem. I’m afraid if I go around asking questions on my own, I’ll run into a large dollop of Gestapo and get myself kicked out of Germany.”

“There is that possibility.”

“You see, I also plan to interview someone on the German Olympic Organizing Committee. Von Tschammer und Osten, Diem, or possibly Lewald. Did you know he’s a Jew? I wouldn’t like them to find out what I’m about until it’s too late for them to stop me.” She paused. “Naturally, I’d pay you. A fee for helping me.”

I was about to remind them that I already had a job when Hedda Adlon took over the sales pitch.

“I’ll clear it with my husband and with Herr Behlert,” she said. “Herr Muller can cover for you.”

“He resigned,” I said. “But there’s a fellow in the juvenile section at the Alex who can probably use the overtime. Name of Stahlecker. I’ve been meaning to give him a call.”

“Please do.” Hedda nodded. “I’d count it as a personal favor, Herr Gunther,” she said. “I don’t want Mrs. Charalambides to come to any harm, and it seems to me that having you alongside her is the best way of ensuring her safety.”

I toyed with the idea of suggesting her safety might be better enhanced by forgetting the whole idea; but the prospect of spending time with Noreen Charalambides was not an unattractive one. I’d seen comet tails that were less attractive.

“She’s determined to do this, regardless of what you decide,” added Hedda, reading half of my mind. “So don’t waste your breath, Herr Gunther. I’ve already tried to dissuade her. But she’s always been a stubborn woman.”

Mrs. Charalambides smiled.

“You can borrow my car, of course.”

It was clear they had the whole thing worked out between them and all I had to do was go along with it. I wanted to ask about the fee, but neither of them seemed inclined to return to the subject. That’s the thing about people with money. It’s only the absence of money that ever makes it seem relevant. Like having a sable coat. The sable probably paid no attention to it until the day it wasn’t there.

“Of course. I’d be delighted to help in any way I can, Frau Adlon. If that’s what you want.”

I kept my eyes on my employer while I said this. I didn’t want Hedda thinking that my delight in her friend’s glamorous company might be anything other than rhetorical. Not when her friend was so very beautiful. Not when my own excitement at the proximity of her person seemed to me so very obvious. I felt like a porcupine in a room full of toy balloons.

Mrs. Charalambides crossed her legs, and it was like someone striking a match. To hell with the Gestapo, I thought, it’s me, Gunther, she needs protection from. It’s me who wants to strip her naked and to stand her in front of me and then think of some extra things she can do with her sweet behind than only sitting on it. Just the idea of being alone in a car with her put me in mind of a novice father confessor in a convent populated with nuns who were ex-chorus girls. Mentally I slapped myself across the mouth a couple of times and then once more to make sure I really got the message.

This woman is not for the likes of you, Gunther, I told myself. You’re not even going to dream about her. She’s a married woman and she’s your employer’s oldest friend, and you’re going to sleep with Hermann Goering before you lay a finger on her.

Of course, as Samuel Johnson reminds us, sex is usually what happens when you’re busy resurfacing the autobahn with good intentions. Perhaps it loses something in the translation. But it was true enough in my case.


HEDDA ADLON’S CAR was a Mercedes SSK-the type of car I never expected ever to drive. K stood for “short,” but with its enormous fenders and six external cylinders, the white sports car looked about as short as a castle drawbridge and was just as hard to handle. Like any other car, it had four tires and a steering wheel, but there the similarity ended. Starting the supercharged seven-liter engine was like turning the prop for Manfred von Richthofen, and only the addition of twin 7.92-millimeter machine guns could have made it any louder. The car drew attention like a spotlight in a colony of stage-struck moths. Undeniably it was exhilarating to drive the car-I gained a new admiration for Hedda’s abilities behind the wheel, to say nothing of her husband’s willingness to indulge his younger wife with expensive toys-but it was of less use for private investigation work than a pantomime horse. At least a pantomime horse would have provided two people with a sort of anonymity. And I might have appreciated the intimate practicalities of bringing up the rear behind Mrs. Charalambides.

We used the car for a day and then gave it back, and thereafter borrowed Herr Behlert’s rather more discreet W.

Berlin ’s wide roads were almost as busy as the sidewalks. Trams rattled up the center, their steady clockwork progress invigilated by white-sleeved traffic policemen who prevented cars and taxis from cutting in front of them like so many potbellied linesmen in a metropolitan football match. With the traffic cops’ whistles, the car Klaxons, and the bus horns, the road system was almost as noisy as a football match, too, and the way Berliners drove, you might have believed they thought someone stood a good chance of winning. Things looked calmer inside the trams: sober-suited clerks faced men in uniform like two delegations signing a peace treaty in a French siding. But the injustices of the armistice and the Depression already seemed a long way behind us. The city’s famous air was thick with the smell of gasoline and the smell of blooms from the baskets of the many flower women, not to mention a growing self-confidence. Germans were good about themselves again; at least those of us who were properly, noticeably German. Like the eagle on the Kaiser’s helmet.

“Do you ever think of yourself as Aryan?” Mrs. Charalambides asked me. “As more German than the Jews?”

I hardly wanted to tell her about my Aryan transfusion. For one thing, I hardly knew her; for another, it seemed rather a shameful thing to tell someone who, as far as I was aware, was one hundred percent Jewish. So I shrugged and said, “A German is a man who can feel enormously proud of being a German while wearing a pair of tight leather shorts. In other words, the whole idea is ridiculous. Does that answer your question?”

She smiled. “Hedda said you had to leave the police because you were a well-known Social Democrat.”

“I don’t know about well known. If I had been well known, things would be different for me now, I guess. These days you recognize a man who was a prominent Social Democrat by the arrows on his pajamas.”

“Do you miss being a policeman?”

I shook my head.

“But you were a policeman for more than ten years. Did you always want to be a policeman?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. When I was a little boy I used to play cops and robbers on the green outside our apartment building, and I wasn’t sure which I enjoyed being most: a cop or a robber. Anyway, I told my father that when I grew up I was probably going to be a cop or a robber, and he said, ‘Why not be like most cops and do both?’ ” I grinned. “He was a respectable man, but he didn’t much like the police. No one did. I wouldn’t say we lived in a tough neighborhood, but when I was growing up we still called a story with a happy ending an alibi.”

FOR SEVERAL DAYS WE DOODLED our way across a street map of Berlin with me telling her jokes and keeping her amused while we went visiting the city’s gyms and sporting clubs, and I showed around the photograph of “Fritz” from the police file Richard Bömer had left with me. It’s true Fritz wasn’t looking his best, on account of the fact that he was dead, but no one seemed to recognize him. Maybe they didn’t at that, but it was hard to tell, given their greater interest in Mrs. Charalambides. A well-dressed, beautiful woman visiting a Berlin gym wasn’t unheard of, but it was unusual. I tried to tell her that I might get more out of the men in these places if she stayed in the car, but she wasn’t having it. Mrs. Charalambides wasn’t the kind of woman you told to do anything very much.

“If I do what you say,” she said, “how am I going to get my story?”

I might have agreed with her except for the fact that it was always the same three-word story we came upon: NO JEWS ALLOWED. I felt sorry for Mrs. Charalambides seeing that kind of thing whenever we went inside a gym. She didn’t show it, but I guessed it might be upsetting for her.

The T-gym was the last place on my list. With the benefit of hindsight it ought to have been the first.

In the heart of West Berlin, just south of the Zoological Garden Station, is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. With its many spires of differing heights, it looks more like the castle of the Swan Knight Lohengrin than any place of religious worship. Grouped around the church were cinemas, dance halls, cabarets, restaurants, smart shops, and, at the western end of the Tauentzienstrasse, sandwiched between a cheap hotel and the Kaufhaus des Westens, was the T-gym.

I parked the car, got Mrs. Charalambides out, and then turned to gaze in the KaDeWe’s shop window. “This is a pretty good department store,” I said.


“Oh, it is. The restaurant’s good, too.”

“I mean, no, I’m not going shopping while you go in that gym.”

“How about you go in the gym and I go shopping? There’s a mark on this tie I’m wearing.”

“Then you’d hardly be doing your job. You don’t know much about women if you think I’m not coming into the gym with you.”

“Who said I know anything about women?” I shrugged. “The one thing I know for sure about women is that they walk along the street with their arms folded. Men don’t do that. Not unless they’re queer.”

“You wouldn’t be doing your job, and I wouldn’t pay you. How about that?”

“I’m glad you mentioned that, Mrs. Charalambides. How much are you paying me? We never actually agreed on a fee.”

“Tell me what you think would be fair.”

“That’s a difficult one. I’ve not had much practice at being fair. Fair’s a word I use for what’s on a barometer or perhaps to describe a maiden who’s in distress.”

“Why don’t you think of me like that and then suggest a price.”

“Because if I ever did think of you like that, then I’d have to charge you nothing at all. I don’t recall Lohengrin asking Elsa for ten marks a day.”

“Maybe he should have done. Then he might not have left her.”


“Well, then, ten marks a day plus expenses it shall be.”

She smiled, enough to let me know that her dentist loved her, and then took my arm. She could have taken the other one to match, and I wouldn’t have objected. Not that ten marks a day had anything to do with it. Just being near enough to smell her and get the odd snapshot of her garters when she climbed out of Behlert’s car was payment enough. We turned away from the department-store window and went along to the T-gym door.

“The place is owned by an ex-boxer called the Terrible Turk. People call him the Turk for short and because they don’t want to hurt his feelings. He hurts people who hurt his feelings. I never used to come to this place very much because it was the kind of gym that was more popular with businessmen and actors than with Berlin’s rings.”

“Rings? What are they?”

“Nothing to do with the Olympics, that’s for sure. The rings are what we Berliners call the criminal fraternities that more or less used to run this city during the Weimar Republic. There were three main rings: the Big, the Free, and the Free Alliance. All of them were officially registered as benevolent societies or sports clubs. Some of them were registered as gyms, and everyone used to pay them tribute: doormen, bootblacks, prostitutes, toilet attendants, newspaper vendors, flower sellers, you name it. All of it backed up by muscle from a gym. The rings still exist, but they themselves have to pay up now to a new gang in town. A gang with more muscle than anyone. The Nazis.”

Mrs. Charalambides smiled and tightened her grip on my arm, which was the first time I realized her eyes were as blue as an ultramarine panel in an illuminated manuscript, and just as eloquent. She liked me. That much was obvious.

“How have you stayed out of prison?” she asked.

“By not being honest,” I said, and pushed open the T-gym’s door.

I never yet walked through the door of a boxing gym that didn’t remind me of the Depression. Mostly it was the smell, and a fresh coat of puke-green paint, and a grimy open window did nothing to hide that. Like every other gym we’d been inside that week, the T-gym smelled of physical hardship, of high hopes and low disappointments, of urine and cheap soap and disinfectant, and above all of sweat. Sweat on the ropes and on the hand wraps; sweat on the heavy bags and on the focus mitts; sweat on the towels and on the head protectors. A valley-shaped stain on a boxing poster for a forthcoming fight at the Bock Brewery might have been sweat, too, but rising damp looked a better bet than any of the muscle-bound prospects who were sparring or working high-speed bags. In the main ring, a man with a face like a medicine ball was washing some blood off the canvas floor. In a little office, in front of an open door, a Neanderthal type who might have been a cornerman was showing a fellow troglodyte how to use a bruising iron. Blood and iron. Bismarck would have loved the place.

Two new things about the T-gym since I was last there were signs on the wall next to the poster. One read: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT; the other: GERMANS! DEFEND YOURSELVES. JEWS NOT WELCOME.

“That would seem to cover pretty much everything,” I said, looking at the signs.

“I thought you said this place was owned by a Turk,” she said.

“No, he just called himself a Turk. He’s German.”

“Correction,” said a man walking toward me. “He’s a Jew.” The man was the Neanderthal I’d seen before-a little shorter than I had supposed but as broad as a farm gate. He was wearing a white roll-neck, white gym slacks, and white gym shoes, but his eyes were small and as black as two lumps of coal. He looked like a medium-sized polar bear.

“That explains the sign, I suppose,” I said to nobody in particular. And then, to the nobody in the roll-neck, “Hey, Primo, did the Turk sell the place, or did someone just steal it off him?”

“I’m the new owner,” said the man, lifting his belly into his chest and poking a jaw as big as a toilet seat toward me.

“Well, I guess you answered my question, Primo.”

“I didn’t catch your name.”

“Gunther, Bernhard Gunther. And this is my aunt Hilda.”

“Are you a friend of Solly Mayer’s?”


“I guess you answered my question. Solly Mayer was the Turk’s real name.”

“I was hoping he could help me to identify someone, that’s all. Someone who used to be a fighter, like the Turk. I’ve got a photograph here.” I took the picture of Fritz out of the file and showed it to the roll-neck. “Maybe you’d care to take a look at it yourself, Primo.”

To give him credit, he looked at the photograph as if he really was trying to help.

“I know, he’s not looking his best. When this was taken, he’d spent several days floating in the canal.”

“Are you a cop?”


Still looking at the picture, he started to shake his head.

“Are you sure? We think he might have been a Jewish fighter.”

He handed the picture back immediately. “Floating in the canal, you say?”

“That’s right. Aged about thirty.”

“Forget it. If your floater was a Jew, then I’m glad he’s dead. That sign on the wall isn’t for show, you know, snooper.”

“No? It’d be a strange kind of sign that isn’t for show, don’t you think?”

I slipped the picture back in the file and handed it to Mrs. Charalambides, just in case. Roll-neck had the look of a man who was building up steam to hit someone, and that someone was me.

“We don’t like Jews, and we don’t like the kind of people who would waste other people’s time looking for them. And, by the way, I don’t like you calling me Primo, neither.”

I grinned back at him and then at Mrs. Charalambides.“I’ll lay you good money that the president of the AOC never came in this dump,” I said.

“Is he another dirty Jew?”

“I think we’d better leave,” said Mrs. Charalambides.

“Maybe you’re right,” I said. “It does smell kind of bad in here.”

The next second, he took a swing at me with his right, but I was ready for it, and his scarred fist whistled past the tip of my ear like a Hitler salute gone awry. He ought to have used the jab first-tested me out with it before throwing the kitchen sink my way. Now I knew everything there was to know about him-as a fighter, anyway. The man was made for the corner, not the ring. When I’d been a criminal commissar, I’d had a sergeant who was quite an accomplished pugilist, and he’d taught me one or two things. Enough to stay out of harm’s way. Half of winning any fight is not getting hit. The punch that had put August Krichbaum on a slab had been a lucky punch; or an unlucky one, depending on the way you looked at it. For that reason I hoped I could avoid hitting this man harder than he probably needed to be hit. He swung again and missed again. So far I was doing just fine.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Charalambides had the good sense to take several steps back and look embarrassed. That was how it seemed to me, anyway.

His third punch connected, but only just, like a flat stone landing on the surface of a lake. At the same time, he growled something that sounded like “Jew lover,” and for a moment I thought he might actually be right. I was damned if Mrs. Charalambides wasn’t very lovable indeed. And it angered me that she should have to witness this close-up display of rabid anti-Semitism.

I was also feeling a certain obligation to the small crowd that had stopped what they were doing in the gym to see what happened next. So I let go with a left jab to Primo’s nose. It brought him up short, as if he’d found a scorpion in his nightshirt pocket. A second demoralizing jab and then a third rocked his head on his shoulders like an old teddy bear’s.

By now there was blood on his face where his nose had been, and, seeing my client head for the door, I resolved to roll the credits, and I hit him just a little too hard with my right. Too hard for my fist, that is. Even as Primo was going down like a telegraph pole, I was shaking my hand. It already showed a degree of swelling. Meanwhile, something hit the floor of the gym like a coconut falling off a docker’s hoist-his head, probably-and the fight, such as it was, had ended.

For a moment I stood over my latest victim like the Colossus at Rhodes, but I might as easily have looked like the outsized doorman at the Rio Rita bar down the street. There was a short murmur of approval, not for my triumph, but for the delivery of a well-executed hook, and, still flexing my hand, I knelt down anxiously to see what damage I had caused. Another man got there before me. It was the man with the face like a medicine ball.

“Is he all right?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

“He’ll be fine,” was the reply. “You just knocked some sense into him, that’s all. Give him a couple of minutes, he’ll be telling us all how you caught him with a lucky one.”

He took hold of my hand and looked at it.

“Sure, it’s some ice you’ll be needing on that handle, and no mistake. Here. Come with me. But make it quick. Before that idiot comes around. Frankel’s the boss here.”

I followed my Samaritan into a small kitchen, where he opened a refrigerator and then handed me a canvas bag full of ice cubes.

“Keep your hand in there for as long as you can bear it,” he ordered.

“Thanks.” I put my hand in the bag.

He shook his head. “You were looking for the Turk, you said.”

I nodded.

“He’s not in any trouble, is he?” In the corner of his mouth was a ten-pfennig Lilliput, which he now removed and inspected critically.

“Not from me. I just wanted him to look at a picture and see if he recognizes the guy.”

“Yeah. I saw the mug. Familiar. But I couldn’t fix him.” He thumped the side of his head as if trying to dislodge something. “I’m a bit punchy these days. Memory’s all screwed up. Solly’s your man for the memory. He used to know every fighter that ever put on a pair of German gloves, and plenty others besides. It was a shame what happened here. When the Nazis announced that new law of theirs, forbidding Jews from all sporting clubs, Solly had no choice but to sell. And because he had to sell, he had to take what he was offered by that bastard Frankel. Which wasn’t even enough to cover what he owed the bank. These days he doesn’t have a pot to piss in.”

Finally I could bear the cold no longer and withdrew my hand from the bag of ice.

“How’s the hand?” He put the cigar back in his mouth and took a look.

“Still swollen,” I said. “With pride, probably. I hit him harder than I should have done. At least that’s what this hand says.”

“Nonsense. You hardly hit him at all. Big fellow like you. If you’d put your shoulder into it, you could have broke his jaw, maybe. But relax, he had it coming. Only no one thought it would be gift-wrapped so neatly. A real sweet punch, that’s what it was you dropped him with, my friend. You should take it up. The fight game, I mean. Fellow like you could make a real go of it. With the right trainer, of course. Me, perhaps. You might even make some money doing it.”

“Thanks, but no, thanks. Making money might take away the fun of it. I’m strictly an amateur when it comes to hitting people, and that’s the way I want it to stay. Besides, while the Nazis are around, I’ll always be second best.”

“Got that right.” He grinned. “It doesn’t look broken. Might feel sore for a couple of days, though.” He gave me my hand back.

“Where does Solly live these days?”

The man looked sheepish. “It used to be here. In a couple of rooms above the gym. But when he lost this place, he lost his home as well. The last I heard of the Turk, he was living in a tent in the Grunewald Forest, along with some other Jews who’ve lost out under the Nazis. But that was six, maybe nine months ago, so he might not still be there.” He shrugged. “Then again, where else can he go? It’s not like there’s any Jewish welfare agency in this country, is there? And these days the Salvation Army’s almost as bad as the SA.”

I nodded and handed back the ice bag. “Thanks, mister.”

“Give him my regards if you see him. The name’s Buckow. Like the town, but uglier.”


I FOUND MRS. CHARALAMBIDES STANDING in front of the KaDeWe, staring intently at a new Bosch gas-engine washing machine with a built-in wringer-roller. She wasn’t the kind of woman I could ever imagine using a washing machine. She probably thought it was a phonograph. It looked a lot like a phonograph.

“You know, when reason fails, a fist comes in very handy,” I said.

She met the reflection of my eyes in the window glass for a moment and then stared some more at the washing machine.

“Maybe we should buy it so that fellow in the gym can wash his mouth,” I offered feebly.

Her mouth stayed tight, as if she were trying not to spill what was really on her mind. I turned my back on the window, lit a cigarette, and stared across Wittenbergplatz.

“This used to be a civilized place, where people always behaved with courtesy and politeness. Well, most of the time. But it’s people like him who make me remember that Berlin is just an idea that a Polabian Slav had in a swamp.”

I snatched the cigarette from my mouth and stared up at the blue sky. It was a beautiful day. “Hard to believe on a day like this. Goethe had his own theory about why the sky is blue. He didn’t believe in Newton’s idea that light is a mixture of colors. Goethe thought it was something to do with the interaction of white light and its opposite: darkness.” I puffed hard for a moment. “Plenty of darkness in Germany, eh? Maybe that’s why the sky is so blue. Maybe that’s why they call this Hitler weather. Because it contains so much darkness.”

I laughed at my own idea. But I was babbling.

“You know, you really should see the Grunewald Forest at this time of year. In the autumn, it’s very beautiful. I thought we might take a drive out there now. As it happens, I also think it would be very useful for your newspaper story. Apparently the Turk is living there now. In a tent. Like a lot of other Jews, it seems. Either they’re just hardened naturalists or the Nazis are planning to build another ghetto. Maybe both. Tell you what. If you’re willing to try naturalism for a while, then so am I.”

“Do you have to make a joke about everything, Herr Gunther?”

I threw away the cigarette. “Only the things that really aren’t very funny, Mrs. Charalambides. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much everything these days. You see, I’m worried that if I don’t make jokes, then someone will mistake me for a Nazi. I mean, have you ever heard Hitler tell a joke? No, neither have I. Maybe I’d like him better if he did.”

She continued staring at the washing machine. It seemed she wasn’t ready to smile yet. She said, “You provoked him.” She shook her head. “I don’t like fighting, Herr Gunther. I’m a pacifist.”

“This is Germany, Mrs. Charalambides. Fighting is our favorite means of diplomacy, everyone knows that. But as it happens, I’m a pacifist, too. As a matter of fact, I was trying to turn the other cheek to that fellow, just like it says in the Bible, and, well, you saw what happened. I did it twice before he actually managed to put a hand on me. After that I had no choice. According to the Bible, anyway. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. That’s another thing it says. So I did. I rendered him. Unconscious. Hell, no one likes violence less than I do.”

She tried to keep her mouth steady, but it wasn’t working now.

“Besides,” I added, “you can’t tell me that you didn’t want to hit him yourself.”

She laughed. “Well, all right, I did. He was a bastard, and I’m glad you hit him. All right? But isn’t it dangerous? I mean, you could get into trouble. I wouldn’t want to get you into any trouble.”

“I certainly don’t need your help for that, Mrs. Charalambides. I can manage it quite well on my own.”

“I’ll bet you can.”

She smiled properly and took my injured hand. It wasn’t exactly tiny, but it was still frozen.

“You’re cold,” she said.

“You should see the other fellow.”

“I’d rather see the Grunewald.”

“It’ll be my pleasure, Mrs. Charalambides.”

We got back into the car and drove west along the Kurfürstendamm.

“Mr. Charalambides…” I said, after a minute or two.

“Is a Greek American and a famous writer. Much more famous than I am. At least in America. Not so much here. He’s a far better writer than I am. At least that’s what he tells me.”

“Tell me about him.”

“Nick? When you’ve said he’s a writer, you’ve said all there is to know about him. Except maybe his politics. He’s quite active in the American left. Right now he’s in Hollywood, trying to write a script and hating every minute of it. It’s not that he hates the movies or even the studios. It’s just that he hates being away from New York. Which is where we met, about six years ago. Since then we’ve had three good years and three bad ones. A bit like Joseph’s prophecy to Pharaoh, except that none of the good and the bad are consecutive. Right now we’re going through one of the bad years. Nick drinks, you see.”

“A man should have a hobby. Me, I like model train sets.”

“It’s more than a hobby, I’m afraid. Nick’s made a whole career out of drinking. He even writes about it. He drinks for a year and then he gives up for a year. You’ll think I’m exaggerating, probably, but I’m not. He can stop drinking on January the first and start again on New Year’s Eve. Somehow he has the willpower to last for exactly three hundred sixty-five days doing one or the other.”


“To prove he can do it. To make life more interesting. To be bloody-minded. Nick’s a complicated man. There’s never an easy explanation for anything he does. Least of all, the simple things in life.”

“So now he’s drinking.”

“No. Now he’s sober. That’s what makes this a bad year. For one thing, I like a drink myself and I hate drinking alone. And for another, Nick’s a pain in the ass when he’s sober and perfectly charming when he’s drunk. That’s one of the reasons I came to Europe. To have a drink in peace. Right now I’m sick of him and I’m sick of myself. Do you ever get sick of yourself, Gunther?”

“Only when I look in the mirror. To be a policeman you need a good memory for a face-your own, most of all. The job changes you in ways you don’t expect. After a while you can look in a mirror and see a man who looks no different from any of the scum you’ve put in jail. But lately I also get sick when I tell someone the story of my life.”

At Halensee I turned south, onto Königsallee, and pointed north out of the window. “They’re building the Olympic Stadium just up there,” I said. “Beyond the S-Bahn railway to Pichelsberg. From here on in Berlin is just forest and little lakes and exclusive villa colonies. Your friends the Adlons used to have a place down here, but Hedda didn’t like it, so they bought a place near Potsdam, in the village of Nedlitz. They use it as a weekend place for extra-special guests who want to escape the rigors of life at the Adlon. Not to mention their wives. Or their husbands.”

“I suppose the price of employing a proper detective is his knowing everything there is to know about you,” she said.

“Take my word for it. The price is a lot cheaper than that.”

About eight kilometers southwest of Halensee Station I stopped in front of the prettily situated Hubertus Restaurant.

“Why are we stopping?”

“An early lunch and a little information. When I said the Turk was living in the Grunewald, I neglected to mention that the forest covers almost eight thousand acres. If we’re ever going to find him, we’re going to have to pick up some local knowledge.”

The Hubertus was something out of a Lehar operetta: an ivy-clad, cozy villa with a garden where a crown prince and his young baroness might stop for a quick knuckle of veal on their way to some grand but doom-laden hunting lodge. Surrounded by a chorus of rather well-fed Berliners, we did our best to look like a leading man and his lady, and to hide our disappointment at our waiter’s ignorance of the local area.

After lunch we drove farther to the south and west, and asked at a village shop on the Reitmeister See, then at the post office in Krumme Lanke, and finally at a garage in Paulsborn, where the attendant told us he’d heard of some people living in tents along the left bank of the Schlachtensee, in a place that could best be reached by water. So then we drove to Beelitzhof and hired a motorboat to continue our search.

“I’ve had a lovely day,” she said as the boat cut through the chill Prussian blue waters. “Even if we don’t find what we’re looking for.”

And then we did.

We saw their smoke first, rising above the thick coniferous trees like a pillar of cloud. It was a small village of army-surplus tents, about six or seven of them. During the Great Depression, a large tent shantytown for the poor and unemployed had been built rather nearer home, in the Tiergarten.

I cut the engine and we approached carefully. A small, ragged group of men, several of them obviously Jewish, came out of their shelters. They were carrying clubs and slingshots. If I’d been alone, it’s possible I might have met with a more hostile reception, but, seeing Mrs. Charalambides, they appeared to relax a little. You don’t go looking for trouble wearing a set of pearls and a sable coat. I tied up the boat and helped her to step ashore.

“We’re looking for Solly Mayer,” she said, smiling pleasantly. “Do you know him?”

No one spoke.

“My married name is Noreen Charalambides,” she said. “But my maiden name is Eisner. I’m Jewish. I’m telling you that so you can be sure we’re not here to spy on you or to inform on you, or on Herr Mayer. I’m an American journalist and I’m in search of some information. We think Solly Mayer might be able to help us. So please don’t be afraid. We mean you no harm.”

“We’re not afraid of you,” said one of the men. He was tall and bearded. He wore a long black coat and a broad-brimmed black hat. Two long curls of hair were hanging off the sides of his forehead like lengths of seaweed. “We thought you might be Hitler Youth. There’s a troop of them camped around here somewhere and they’ve been attacking us. For fun.”

“That’s terrible,” said Mrs. Charalambides.

“Mostly we try to ignore it,” said the Jew with the earlocks. “There’s a limit to what the law allows us to do in the way of self-defense. But lately their attacks have been increasing in violence.”

“We just want to live in peace,” said another man.

I glanced around their encampment. Several rabbits hung off a pole next to a couple of fishing rods. A large kettle stood steaming on a metal grate laid over a fire. A line of washing was strung between two thread-bare tents. With winter fast approaching I didn’t give much for their survival chances. I felt cold and hungry just looking at them.

“I’m Solly Mayer.”

He was tallish, with a short neck, and, like the rest of them, heavily sunburned from months of living in the open air. But I ought to have picked him out immediately. Most boxers have their noses broken horizontally, but the Turk’s had been stitched vertically as well. It looked like a small pink upholstered cushion lying in the center of a wide expanse called his face. I could imagine a nose like that doing a lot of things. Ramming a Roman trireme. Breaking down a castle door. Finding a white truffle. But I couldn’t imagine anyone breathing through it.

Mrs. Charalambides told him about the article she was planning to write and about her hope that the Americans might still boycott the Berlin Olympiad.

“You mean they haven’t done that already?” said the tall man with the beard. “The Amis really mean to send a team?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Mrs. Charalambides.

“Surely Roosevelt can’t ignore what’s happening here,” said the tall man. “He’s a Democrat. And what about all those Jews in New York? Surely they won’t let him ignore it.”

“I kind of think that’s exactly what he wants to do at the moment,” she said. “You see, among his opponents, his administration already has a reputation of being too friendly with American Jews. He probably imagines that it’s better for him politically to have no position on the matter of whether or not the American team comes here in thirty-six. My newspaper would like to change that position. And so would I.”

“And you think,” said the Turk, “that writing an article about some dead Jewish boxer might help?”

“Yes. It think it might.”

I handed the Turk the photograph of “Fritz.” He settled a pair of glasses on what was laughingly called the bridge of his nose and, holding the photo at arm’s length, stared at it critically.

“What did this fellow weigh?” he asked me.

“When they fished him out of the canal, about ninety kilos.”

“So maybe he was about nine or ten kilos lighter when he was in training,” said the Turk. “A middleweight. Or maybe a light heavyweight.” He looked again and then smacked the picture with the back of his hand. “I dunno. After they’ve been in the ring for a while, a lot of these pugs start to look the same. What makes you think he was Jewish? To me he looks like a goy.”

“He was circumcised,” I said. “Oh, and by the way, he was a southpaw, too.”

“I see.” The Turk nodded. “Well, maybe, just maybe, it could be that this is a fellow by the name of Erich Seelig. A few years ago he was a light heavyweight champion, from Bromberg. If it is him, this is the Jew who beat some pretty good fighters like Rere de Vos, Walter Eggert, and Gypsy Trollmann.”

“Gypsy Trollmann?”

“Yeah. You know him?”

“I’ve heard of him, of course,” I said. “Who hasn’t? Whatever happened to that guy?”

“He’s the doorman at the Cockatoo, last I heard.”

“And Seelig? What’s his story?”

“We don’t get the newspapers here, friend. Everything I know is months old. But what I heard was that some SA thugs turned up at his last fight. A title defense against Helmut Hartkopp, in Hamburg. They put the frighteners on him. Because he was Jewish. After that he disappears. Maybe he leaves the country. Maybe he stays and ends up in the canal. Who knows? Berlin is a long way from Hamburg. But not as far as Bromberg. That’s in the Polish corridor, I think.”

“Erich Seelig, you say.”

“Maybe. I never had to look at no corpse before. Unless it was in the ring, of course. How’d you find me, anyway?”

“Fellow named Buckow at the T-gym. He said to say hello.”

“Bucky? Yeah, he’s all right, is Bucky.”

I took out my wallet and thumbed a leaf at him, but he wouldn’t take it, so I gave him all but one of my cigarettes, and Mrs. Charalambides did the same.

We were about to get back in the boat when something flew through the air and struck the man wearing the big hat. He dropped to one knee with one bloody hand pressed to his cheek.

“It’s those little bastards again,” spat the Turk.

In the distance, about thirty meters away, I saw a collection of khaki-clad youths now occupying a clearing in the forest. A stone flew through the air, narrowly missing Mrs. Charalambides.

“Yiddos,” they chanted in a singsong sort of way. “Yidd-os!”

“I’ve had enough of this,” said the Turk. “I’m going to sort those little bastards out.”

“No,” I said. “Don’t. You’ll only land yourself in trouble. Let me handle it.”

“What can you do?” said Mrs. Charalambides.

“We’ll see. Give me your room key.”

“My room key? What for?”

“Just do it.”

She opened an ostrich-leather bag and handed over the key. It was attached to a big brass oval fob. I threaded the key off the fob and handed it back. Then I turned and walked toward our attackers.

“Be careful,” she said.

Another stone sailed over my head.

“Yidd-os! Yidd-os! Yidd-os!”

“That’s enough,” I shouted at them. “The next boy who throws a stone will be under arrest.”

There were maybe twenty of them, aged between ten and sixteen. All blond, with young, hard faces and heads full of the nonsense they heard from Nazis like Richard Bömer. Germany’s future was in their hands. And so were several large stones. When I was about ten meters away I flashed the key fob in the palm of my hand hoping that, from a distance, it might pass for a policeman’s warrant disc. I heard one of them gasp, “He’s a copper,” and I smiled, realizing my trick had worked. They were just a bunch of kids, after all.

“That’s right, I’m a policeman,” I said, still holding the disc out. “Criminal Commissar Adlon, from the Westend Praesidium. And you can all count yourselves lucky that none of these other police officers you attacked are more seriously hurt.”

“Police officers?”

“But they look like yids. Some of them do, anyway.”

“What kind of cops go around dressed as yids?”

“Secret policemen, that’s who,” I said, and slapped the oldest-looking boy hard on his freckled cheek. He started to cry. “These are Gestapo officers on the lookout for a vicious killer who’s been murdering boys in this forest. That’s right. Boys like you. He cuts their throats and then dismembers their bodies. The only reason it hasn’t been in the papers is that we don’t want to cause a panic. And then you mugs come along and nearly blow the whole operation.”

“You can’t blame us, sir,” said another boy. “They looked like yids.”

I slapped him, too. I thought it best they formed an accurate impression of what the Gestapo was really like. That way Germany might have some kind of future, after all.

“Shut up,” I snarled. “And don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. Got that?”

The members of the Hitler Youth troop nodded sullenly.

I took hold of one by his neckerchief.

“You, what have you got to say for yourself?”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Sorry? You could have had that officer’s eye out. I’ve a good mind to tell your fathers to leather the lot of you. Better still, I’ve a good mind to have you all arrested and thrown into a concentration camp. How would you like that, eh?”

“Please, sir. We didn’t mean any harm.”

I let the boy go. By now all of them were looking contrite. They were looking less like Hitler Youth and more like a group of schoolboys. I had them where I wanted them now. I might have been handling a squad back at the Alex. After all, cops do all the same stupid juvenile things that schoolboys do, except the homework.

“All right. We’ll say no more about it this time. And that goes for you, too. Tell no one about this. No one. Do you hear? This is an undercover operation. And the next time you feel inclined to take the law into your own hands, don’t. Not everyone who looks like a Jew really is a Jew. Remember that. Now go home before I change my mind and run you all in for assaulting a police officer. And remember what I said. There’s a vicious murderer at work in these woods, so you’d best stay away from here until you read that he’s been caught.”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’ll do that, sir.”

I walked back to the little group of tents on the edge of the lake. The light was beginning to fade. The bullfrogs were opening up shop. Fish were jumping in the water. One of the Jews was already casting a line at a widening ripple. The man with the hat wasn’t badly injured. He was smoking one of my cigarettes to steady his nerves.

“What did you say to get rid of them?” asked the Turk.

“I told them all you were undercover cops,” I said.

“And they believed you?” asked Mrs. Charalambides.

“Of course they believed me.”

“But why?” she said. “It’s such an obvious lie.”

“And when did that ever stop the Nazis?” I nodded at the boat. “Get in,” I told her. “We’re leaving.”

I fetched my last cigarette from behind my ear and lit it from a piece of firewood that the Turk brought to me. “I think they’ll leave you alone,” I told him. “I didn’t exactly put the fear of God in them. Just the fear of the Gestapo. But to them that probably means more.”

The Turk laughed. “Thanks, mister,” he said, and shook my hand.

I untied the rope and climbed into the boat alongside Mrs. Charalambides. “That’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years,” I said, starting the engine. “To lie like you mean it. As long as you can convince yourself of something first, no matter how outrageous, there’s no telling what you can get away with these days.”

“And I thought you had to be a Nazi to be that cynical,” she said.

I think she meant it as a joke, but it didn’t feel good hearing her say it. At the same time, I knew of course that she was right. I was a cynic. In my defense I might have told her I was an ex-cop and that being a cop is to know but one truth, which is that everything you’re told is a lie, but that wouldn’t have sounded good, either. She was right, and it was no good brushing it off with another cynical remark about how the Nazis probably put something in the water, like bromide, that made all of us Germans believe the worst about everyone. I was a cynic. Who wasn’t that lived in Germany?

Not that I could have believed anything bad about Noreen Charalambides. And I certainly didn’t want her to think anything bad about me. There wasn’t a dog muzzle handy, so I folded one lip under another to keep my mouth under control for a while, and then pushed the throttle forward. It’s one thing biting your enemies. It’s quite another when it looks like you might bite your friends. To say nothing of the woman you are falling for.


WE RETURNED THE BOAT and got back into the car. We drove east, into Berlin, along streets full of silent people who probably wanted nothing to do with one another. It had never been a particularly friendly city. Berliners are not known for their great hospitality. But now it was like the town of Hamelin after the children had left. We still had the rats, of course.

Respectable men in well-brushed felt hats and cake-box collars were scurrying home after yet another day spent trying, respectably, to ignore the uniformed and licensed louts who persisted in resting their dirty boots on the country’s best furniture. Bus conductors leaned precariously off their platforms so as to avoid any possibility of conversation with their passengers. These days nobody wanted to speak his mind. They didn’t put that in Baedeker.

At the taxi rank on the corner of Leibnizstrasse, the cabbies were putting up their checkered hoods-a sure sign that the weather was getting cooler. It wasn’t yet cold enough, however, to deter the trio of SA men bravely continuing with their vigilant boycott of a Jewish-owned jewelry store next to the synagogue on Fasanenstrasse.

Germans! Defend Yourselves! Don’t Buy from Jews! Buy Only from German Shops!

With their brown leather boots, brown leather cross belts, and brown leather faces, and lit up by the green neon of the Kurfürstendamm, the three Nazis looked prehistoric, reptilian, dangerous, like a bask of hungry crocodiles that had escaped from the aquarium in the Zoological Gardens.

I felt vaguely cold-blooded myself. Like I needed a drink.

“Are you sulking?” she asked.


“As in silent protest.”

“It’s the only kind that’s safe these days. Anyway, it’s nothing a drink can’t fix.”

“I could use a drink myself.”

“Only not at the Adlon, eh? Someone will ask me to do something if we go there.” As we neared the junction with Joachimstaler Strasse, I pointed. “There. The Cockatoo Bar.”

“Is that one of your regular haunts, Gunther?”

“No, but it’s someone else’s. Someone you should speak to for your article.”

“Oh? Who?”

“Gypsy Trollmann.”

“That’s right, I remember. The Turk said he’s the doorman at the Cockatoo, didn’t he? And he’s the one who fought Erich Seelig.”

“The Turk didn’t sound like he was one hundred percent positive that Seelig is our Fritz. So perhaps Trollmann can confirm it. When you spend time in the ring with a fellow who’s trying to hit you, you probably get to know his face pretty well.”

“Is he really a Gypsy, or is he just a Gypsy the way Solly Mayer is a Turk?”

“Unfortunately for Trollmann, he is the real thing. You see, it’s not just the Jews the Nazis don’t like. It’s Gypsies, too. And pansies. And Jehovah’s Witnesses. And communists, of course, we mustn’t forget the Reds. So far the Reds have had it toughest of all. I mean, I haven’t yet heard of anyone who’s been executed for being Jewish.”

I thought about repeating Otto Trettin’s story about the falling ax at Plötzensee and rejected the idea. Since I was already going to have to tell her about Gypsy Trollmann, I figured one sad story was all she could handle that evening. Stories certainly didn’t come any sadder than Gypsy Trollmann’s.

WE WERE EARLIER than the main crowd at the Cockatoo, and this meant that “Rukelie,” as Trollmann was known to those working at the club, hadn’t yet arrived. No one causes trouble at seven o’clock in the evening. Not even me.

Some parts of the Cockatoo were done up to look like a bar in French Polynesia, but for the most part it was velvet bucket chairs, flock wallpaper, and red lights, like any other place in Berlin. The blue-and-gold bar was said to be the longest in the city, but clearly only by those who didn’t own a measuring tape or thought that it was a long way to Tipperary. The ceiling looked as if it had been iced like a wedding cake. There were a dull cabaret, a dance floor, and a small orchestra that managed to dance around the Nazi disapproval of decadent music by playing jazz as if it had been invented not by black men, but by a church organist from Brandenburg. With nude dancing girls now strictly forbidden in all clubs, the Cockatoo’s gimmick was to have a parrot perched on every table. This only served to remind everyone of another great advantage of having dancing girls: they didn’t shit on your dinner plate. Not unless they were Anita Berber, anyway.

While I drank schnapps, Mrs. Charalambides sipped martinis like a geisha drinking tea and with as little obvious effect, and I quickly formed the impression that it wasn’t just a talent for writing she shared with her husband. The woman managed her drink the way the gods could handle their daily dose of ambrosia.

“So, tell me about Gypsy Trollmann,” she said, taking out her reporter’s notebook and pencil.

“Unlike the Turk, who’s no more Turkish than I am, Trollmann is a real Gypsy. A Sinti. That’s like a subset of Roma, only don’t ask me to explain how, because I’m not Bruno Malinowski. When we were still a republic, the papers all made quite a thing out of Trollmann being a gyppo, and because he was also good-looking, not to mention an excellent fighter, it wasn’t long before he was doing great. Promoters couldn’t get enough of the kid.” I shrugged. “I don’t suppose he’s older than about twenty-seven even now. Anyway, by the middle of last year he was ready for a shot at the German light heavyweight title, and there being no other obvious candidates, he was matched against Adolf Witt for the vacant belt, here in Berlin.

“Of course, the Nazis were hoping that Aryan superiority would win out and that Witt would beat his racially inferior opponent to a pulp. That was one of the reasons they let him fight in the first place. Not that this stopped them from trying to fix the judges, of course, only they hadn’t counted on the crowd, who were so impressed by Trollmann’s heart and completely dominant display that there was a riot when the judges gave the fight to Witt, and the authorities were obliged to declare Trollmann the winner, after all. The kid wept for joy. Unfortunately, his happiness was short-lived.

“Six days later the German Boxing Federation stripped the kid of the title and his license on the grounds that his style of hit-and-run boxing, and his ‘unmanly’ tears, made him unfit to hold the belt.”

By now her neat shorthand covered several pages of her notebook. She sipped her drink and shook her head. “They took it off him because he cried?”

“It gets worse,” I said. “This is a very German story. As you might expect, the kid gets death threats. Poison-pen letters. Shit in his mailbox. You name it. His wife and kids are intimidated. It gets so bad he makes her ask him for a divorce and change her name so that she and the kids can live in peace. Because Trollmann’s not beaten yet. He still thinks he can box his way out of trouble. Reluctantly, the German federation gives him a license to fight again on two conditions: One is that he gives up the hit-and-run style that made him such a great fighter-I mean he was fast, no one could lay a glove on him. And the other condition was that his first fight would be against a much heavier opponent, Gustav Eder.”

“They wanted to see the kid humiliated,” she said.

“They wanted to see the kid get killed is what,” I said. “The two meet in July 1933, at the Bock Brewery, here in Berlin. In order to send up the new racial restrictions, Trollmann turns up for the fight looking like a caricature of an Aryan man, with his body whitened with flour and his hair dyed blond.”

“Oh, Lord. You mean like some poor Negro trying to disguise himself in order to escape a lynching?”

“Kind of, I suppose. Anyway, the fight takes place, and forced to abandon the style that had made him a champion, Trollmann stands toe-to-toe with Eder and trades the heavier man punch for punch. He takes a terrible beating until, in round five, he’s battered into submission and loses the fight on a knockout. After which he’s never the same fighter again. Last I heard, he was taking monthly fights against bigger, stronger fellows and taking regular beatings just to make the payments to his wife.”

She shook her head. “It’s a modern Greek tragedy,” she said.

“If you mean that there are not many laughs in it, then you’re right. And for sure, the gods deserve a kick in the ass, or worse, for letting shit like that happen to someone.”

“From what I’ve seen so far, they’ve got their work cut out in Germany.”

“Isn’t that the point? If they’re not there for us now, then maybe they’re just not there at all.”

“I don’t believe that, Bernie,” she said. “It’s bad for a playwright to believe that man is all there is. No one wants to go to a theater to be told that. Especially now. Maybe now most of all.”

“Could be I should start going to the theater again,” I said. “Who knows, it might restore my faith in human nature. Then again, here comes Trollmann, so I’d best not build up my hopes.”

Even as I spoke, I knew that if my faith in human nature had come with a bookmaker’s ticket, then just laying eyes on Trollmann again would have had me tearing it into pieces. Gypsy Trollmann, once as handsome as any leading man, was now the caricature of a ring-damaged pug. It was like clapping eyes on Mr. Hyde immediately after a home visit from Dr. Jekyll, so grotesquely were his features coarsened by his many beatings. His nose, previously small and combative, was now the size and shape of a sandbag on a poorly built redoubt, and this seemed to have shifted his dark eyes to opposite sides of his head, like something bovine. His much-enlarged ears were entirely without contours and might have fallen onto his head from a pork butcher’s bacon slicer. His mouth now seemed impossibly wide, and when he stretched his scarred lips into a smile to reveal several missing teeth, it was like sharing a joke with King Kong’s little brother. The worst of it was his disposition, which was sunnier than a picture wall in a school kindergarten, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

Trollmann picked up a seat as if it were a bread stick and put it down again with its back to our table.

We introduced ourselves. Mrs. Charalambides flashed him a smile that could have lit up a coal mine, and then fixed him with blue eyes a Persian cat would have envied. Trollmann kept on nodding and grinning, as if we were his oldest and dearest friends. Considering the way the world had treated him until now, perhaps we were.

“To tell the truth, I do remember you, Herr Gunther. You’re a cop. Sure, I remember now.”

“Never tell the truth to a policeman, Rukelie. That’s how you get caught. It’s true, I used to be a cop. Only not anymore. These days I’m the carpet creeper at the Adlon Hotel. It seems the Nazis don’t like republican-minded cops any more than they like Gypsy fighters.”

“Hey, you got that right, Herr Gunther. Sure, I remember you now. You came to see me fight. You was with another cop. A cop who could fight a bit, right?”

“Heinrich Grund.”

“Sure, I remember him. He used to work out at the same gym as me. Right.”

“We came to see you fight Paul Vogel, at the Sportpalast, here in Berlin.”

“Vogel, yeah. I won that fight on points. He was a tough customer, was Paul Vogel.” He looked at Mrs. Charalambides and shrugged apologetically. “Looking at me now-it’s hard to believe, ma’am, I know-but I used to win a lot of fights in those days. Now they just want to use me as a punching bag. You know, put me up in front of someone for target practice. I could beat some of these fellows, too. Only they won’t let me fight my own way.” He raised his fists and went through the motions of ducking and diving on the chair. “You know?”

She nodded and laid her hand on top of his welder’s mitt.

“You’re a pretty lady, ma’am. Isn’t she pretty, Herr Gunther?”

“Thank you, Rukelie.”

“That she is,” I said.

“I used to know a lot of pretty ladies on account of how I was a good-looking guy for a fighter. Isn’t that right, Herr Gunther?”

I nodded.

“None better.”

“On account of the fact that I used to dance around so that none of these other fellows could land a glove on me. See, boxing’s more than just hitting people. It’s about not getting hit, too. But them Nazis don’t want me to do that. They don’t like my style.” He sighed, and a tear appeared in the corner of his bovine eye. “Well, it’s all over for me now as a professional fighter, I guess. I ain’t fought since March. Six defeats in a row, I figure it’s time to hang up the gloves.”

“Why don’t you leave Germany?” she asked. “If they won’t let you fight your own way.”

Trollmann shook his head. “How could I leave? My kids live here. And my ex-wife. I couldn’t leave them behind. Besides, it takes money to set up in a new place. And I can’t earn like I used to. So I work here. And sell fight tickets. Hey, you want to buy some? I got tickets for Emil Scholz against Adolf Witt at the Spichernsaele. November sixteenth. Should be a good fight.”

She bought four. After her remarks outside the T-gym, I wasn’t sure she actually wanted to see a fight, and I imagined it was her way of kindly putting some money in Trollmann’s pocket.

“Here,” she said, handing them to me. “You look after them.”

“Do you remember fighting a fellow named Seelig?” I asked Trollmann. “Erich Seelig?”

“Sure, I remember Erich. I remember all my fights. It’s all the boxing I got now. My memories. I fought Seelig in June 1932. And lost. On points, at the Brewery. Sure, I remember Seelig. How could I forget, right? He had a pretty rough time of it himself, did Erich. Just like me. On account of the fact that he’s Jewish. The Nazis took his titles away, and his license. Last I heard, he fought Helmut Hartkopp in Hamburg and won on points. In February last year.”

“What happened to him?” She offered him a cigarette, but he shook his head.

“I dunno. But he ain’t fighting in Germany no more, that’s for a hundred percent.”

I showed Trollmann the picture of Fritz and told him the circumstances of the man’s death. “Do you think perhaps this might be Erich Seelig?”

“This ain’t Seelig,” said Trollmann. “Seelig is younger than me. And younger than this guy was, for sure. Who told you this was Seelig?”

“The Turk.”

“Solly Meyer? That explains it. The Turk is blind in one eye. Detached retina. You give him a chess set and he couldn’t tell black from white. Don’t get me wrong, the Turk is an okay guy. But he don’t see so good no more.”

The place was filling up now. Trollmann waved at a girl on the opposite side of the bar; for some reason she had pieces of silver paper in her hair. All sorts of people waved at Trollmann. Despite the best efforts of the Nazis to dehumanize him, he remained a popular man. Even the parrot on our table seemed to like Trollmann and let him smooth its gray feathered breast without trying to take a piece out of his finger.

Trollmann looked at the photograph again and nodded.

“I know this guy. And it ain’t Trollmann. How’d you figure him for a fighter anyway?”

I told him about the healed fractures on the knuckles of the dead man’s little fingers and the burn mark on his chest, and he nodded sagely.

“You’re a clever man, Herr Gunther. And you were right. This guy is a pug. Name of Isaac Deutsch. A Jewish boxer, sure. You were right about that.”

“Stop it,” said Mrs. Charalambides. “You’re going to make his head swell.” But she was writing now. The pencil was moving across the page of her notebook with the sound of an urgent whisper.

Trollmann grinned but kept on talking. “Zak was in the same workers’ sports club as me. The Sparta, back in Hannover. Poor old Zak. Somewhere at home I got me a photograph of all the fighters at the Sparta. The ones who were contenders, anyway. And Zak is standing right in front of me. Poor guy. He was a nice fellow and a pretty good fighter, with a lot of heart. We was never matched, though. I wouldn’t have liked to have fought him. Not from fear, you understand, although he was plenty tough. But because he was a real nice fellow. His uncle, Joey, used to train him, and he looked like a prospect for the Olympics until he got kicked out of the federation and the Sparta.” He sighed and shook his head again. “So poor old Zak’s dead. That’s sad.”

“So he wasn’t a professional fighter?” I said.

“What’s the difference?” asked Mrs. Charalambides.

I groaned. But patiently, like he was talking to a little girl, Trollmann explained it to her. He had a good, kind way about him. Except for the memory of seeing him fight, I might have had a hard time believing he’d ever been a professional boxer.

“Zak, he wanted a medal before he turned professional,” he said. “Might have won one, too, if he’d not been Jewish. Which makes it ironic, I suppose. If ‘ironic’ means what I think it means.”

“What do you think it means?” she asked.

“Like when there’s a difference between what is supposed to happen to a man and what actually happens to him.”

“That covers it pretty well in this case,” she agreed.

“Like the fact that Zak Deutsch couldn’t box at the Olympics for Germany because he was a Jew. But he ended up being a construction worker at Pichelsberg, helping to build the new stadium. Even though he wasn’t supposed to be working there. See, only Aryan Germans are allowed to get jobs on the Olympic construction site. That’s what I heard, anyway. And that’s what I meant about it being ironic, see? Because there are lots of Jews working at the Pichelsberg site. I was going to have to work there myself before I got this job. You see, there’s so much pressure to get the stadium finished in time that they can’t afford to turn any able-bodied man away. Be he Jew or Gentile. That’s what I heard.”

“This is beginning to make some sense,” I said.

“You’ve got a strange idea of sense, Herr Gunther.” Trollmann grinned his big, toothy grin. “Me, I think it’s crazy.”

“Me, too,” murmured Mrs. Charalambides.

“What I meant was that I’m beginning to understand a few things,” I said. “But you are right, too, Rukelie. It is crazy.” I lit a cigarette. “During the war I saw a lot of stupid things. Men getting killed for no good reason. The sheer waste of life. And quite a bit of stupidity after the war, as well. But this business with the Jews and the Gypsies is just madness. How else can you explain the inexplicable?”

“I been giving this some thought,” said Trollmann. “A lot of thought. And from what I seen in the fight game, the conclusion I come to is this: Sometimes, if you want to win a contest at all costs, it helps to hate the other guy.” He shrugged. “Roma people. Jewish people. Homos and commies. The Nazis need someone to hate, that’s all.”

“I guess you’re right,” I said. “But it makes me worry if there’s another war. I worry what will happen to all these poor bastards the Nazis don’t like.”


MOST OF THE WAY BACK to the Adlon, I was thinking about what we had learned. Gypsy Trollmann had promised to mail me the Sparta Club photograph, but I didn’t doubt his identification of the dead man found floating in Mühlendamm Lock or his information about Isaac Deutsch’s having been a construction worker on the Olympic Stadium site. Say one thing, do another, that was typical of the Nazis. All the same, Pichelsberg was a long way from Mühlendamm; the opposite end of the city. And nothing I had yet learned explained how Deutsch had drowned in salt water.

“You talk too much, Gunther.”

“I was thinking, Mrs. Charalambides. What you must think of us? We seem to be the only people in the world who are actively trying to live up to everyone else’s worst impression of us.”

“Please call me Noreen. Charalambides is such a long name, even in Germany.”

“I don’t know if I can do that now that you’re my employer. Ten marks a day demands a certain amount of professional courtesy.”

“You can hardly go on calling me Mrs. Charalambides if you’re going to kiss me.”

“Am I going to kiss you?”

“This morning you mentioned something about Isaac Newton. Which certainly encourages me to think you are.”

“Oh? How’s that?”

“Newton came up with three laws to describe the relationships between two bodies. I’d say he might also have come up with a fourth if he’d ever met me and you, Gunther. You’re going to kiss me, all right. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.”

“You mean there’s algebra and stuff to prove it?”

“Pages of it. Impulse, unbalanced force, equal and opposite reaction. Between us, we’ve got almost enough equations to cover a bedsheet.”

“Then I guess there’s no point in my trying to resist the laws of planetary motion, Noreen.”

“Absolutely none at all. In fact, it would be best if you gave in to the impulse right now, in case you put the whole damned universe out of joint.”

I stopped the car, pulled on the hand brake, and leaned toward her. For a moment she turned away.

“Hermann-Goering-Strasse,” she said. “Didn’t it used to be called something else?”

“Budapester Strasse.”

“That’s better. I want to remember where it was you first kissed me. I don’t want that memory to include Hermann Goering.”

She turned toward me expectantly, and I kissed her hard. Her breath was charged with cigarettes and ice-cold liquor and lipstick and a little something special from inside her pants. She tasted better than lightly salted butter on freshly baked bread. I felt her eyelashes brush my cheeks like the wings of tiny hummingbirds, and after a minute or so she began to breathe like a medium who was trying to get in touch with the spirit world. Maybe she did at that. And, keen to possess her whole body, I pushed my left hand underneath her fur coat and let it slide awhile up and down her thigh and torso, as if I’d been trying to generate static electricity. Noreen Charalambides wasn’t the only one who knew physics. There was a thud as her handbag slid off her lap and hit the floor of the car. I opened my eyes and drew away from her mouth.

“Gravity still works, then,” I said. “The way my head feels, I was beginning to wonder. I guess Newton knew a thing or two, after all.”

“He didn’t know everything. I bet he didn’t know how to kiss a girl like that.”

“That’s because he never met a girl such as you, Noreen. If he had, he might have done something useful with his life. Like this.”

I kissed her again, only this time I put my whole back into it, like I really meant what I was doing. And maybe I did. A lot of time had passed since I’d felt this way about a woman. I glanced out of the window and, seeing the name of the street, I was reminded of what I had told myself the first time I’d talked to Noreen back in Hedda Adlon’s apartment at the hotel: that Noreen was my employer’s oldest friend, and that I was going to sleep with Hermann Goering before I ever laid a finger on her. The way things were going, it looked as if the Prussian prime minister was in for a Hermann-sized surprise.

Her tongue was in my mouth now, alongside my heart and the misgivings I kept trying to swallow. I was losing control, but mostly of my left hand, which was now under her dress and making itself familiar with her garter and the cool thigh it was stretched across. Only when the hand slipped into the secret space between her thighs did she move to arrest the wrist commanding it. I let her move my hand away and then brought my fingers up to my mouth and licked them.

“This hand. I don’t know what gets into it sometimes.”

“You’re a man, Gunther. That’s what gets into it.” She took my fingers and brushed them with her lips. “I like you kissing me. You’re a good kisser. If kissing was in the Olympics, you’d be a medal prospect. But I don’t like to be hurried. I like to be walked around the ring for a while before being mounted. And don’t even think of using the whip if you want to stay in the saddle. I’m the independent sort, Gunther. When I run it’ll be because my eyes are open and because I want to. And I won’t be wearing any blinkers if and when we reach the wire. I might not be wearing anything at all.”

“Sure,” I said. “I never figured you any other way. No blinkers. Not even a tongue strap. How do you feel about me giving you an apple sometimes?”

“I like apples,” she said. “Just watch out you don’t get your fingers bitten.”

I let her bite me, hard. It was painful, but I enjoyed it. Pain from her felt good, like something primordial, something that was always meant to be. Besides, we both knew that when our clothes were lying on the floor beside our sweating, naked bodies, I was going to pay her back in kind. That’s always how it is between a man and a woman. A man takes a woman. A woman gets taken. It isn’t always marked by a due consideration of what is fair and decent and well mannered. Sometimes human nature can leave you looking just a little shamefaced.

I DROVE US BACK to the hotel and parked the car. As we went through the door and into the entrance hall, we met Max Reles, who was on his way out somewhere. He was accompanied by Gerhard Krempel and Dora Bauer, and they were all wearing evening clothes. Reles spoke to Noreen first and in English, which left me with the opportunity to say something to Dora.

“Good evening, Fräulein Bauer,” I said politely.

“Herr Gunther.”

“You look lovely.”

“Thank you.” She smiled warmly. “And I really mean that. I’m very grateful to you for helping me to get this job.”

“It was my pleasure, Fräulein. Behlert tells me you’re now working almost exclusively for Herr Reles.”

“Max keeps me very busy, yes. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much typing. Not even when I was at Odol. But right now, we’re off to the opera.”

“To see what?”

She smiled ingenuously. “I haven’t the faintest idea. I don’t know anything about opera.”

“Me neither.”

“I expect I shall hate it. But Max wants me to take some dictation during the interval.”

“And what about you, Herr Krempel? What do you do during the interval? Murder a good tune? In the absence of anything else.”

“Do I know you?” he asked, hardly looking at me. His whispered growl of a voice sounded as if it had been rubbed down with sandpaper and then marinated in burning kerosene.

“No, you don’t. But I know you.”

Krempel was tall, with flying-buttress shoulders and dead black eyes. Thick yellow hair grew on top of a head that was as big as a Galápagos tortoise and probably about as quick. His mouth resembled an ancient scar on a footballer’s knees. Fingers like scrap-yard grapples were already bunching into fists the size of wrecking balls. He looked like a real thug’s thug, and if the German Labor Front included a section for employees in the field of intimidation and coercion, then Gerhard Krempel might reasonably have expected to be elected as a workers’ representative.

“You must be confusing me with someone else,” he said, stifling a yawn.

“My mistake. I expect it’s those evening clothes. I thought you were an SA bullyboy.”

Max Reles must have caught that, because he scowled at me and then at Noreen.

“Is this dishwasher giving you any trouble?” he asked her, speaking German now for my benefit.

“No,” she said. “Herr Gunther’s been very helpful.”

“Really?” Reles chuckled. “Must be his birthday or something. How about it, Gunther? Did you take a bath today?”

Krempel thought that was hilarious.

“Tell me, did you find my Chinese box yet? Or the girl who stole it?”

“The matter is in the hands of the police, sir. I’m sure they’re doing all they can to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.”

“That’s very reassuring. Tell me, Gunther, what kind of a cop were you, anyway, before you started peeping through hotel keyholes? You know, I’ll bet you were one of those cops who wear that stupid leather helmet with the flat top. Is that because all of you kraut cops have flat heads or because some of you do a little moonlighting carrying trays of fish at Friedrichshain Market?”

“I think it’s both,” said Krempel.

“You know, in the States some people call coppers ‘flatfoots’ because a lot of them have flat feet,” said Reles. “But I think I like ‘flatheads’ a whole lot better.”

“We aim to please, sir,” I said patiently. “Ladies. Gentlemen.” As I turned to leave, I even tipped my hat. It seemed more diplomatic than punching Max Reles on the nose and a lot less likely to leave me without a job. “Enjoy your evening, Fräulein Bauer.”

I strolled over behind the front desk where Franz Joseph, the concierge, was in conversation with Dajos Béla, the leader of the hotel orchestra. I checked my pigeonhole. I had two messages. One was from Emil Linthe informing me that his work was completed. The other message was from Otto Trettin, asking me to call him back, urgently. I picked up the phone and had the hotel operator connect me with the Alex and then with Otto, who often worked late, since he seldom worked early.

“So what’s the story in Danzig?” I asked.

“Never mind that now,” he said. “Remember that cop who got murdered? August Krichbaum?”

“Sure,” I said, making a fist and biting my knuckles, calmly.

“The witness is an ex-cop. Seems like he reckons the killer is an ex-cop, too. He’s been going through the police files and has got himself a short list of suspects.”

“I heard that.”

Otto paused for a moment. “You’re on the list, Bernie.”

“Me?” I said, as coolly as I was able. “How do you figure that?”

“Maybe you did it.”

“Maybe I did. On the other hand, maybe it’s a frame. Because I was a republican.”

“Maybe,” admitted Otto. “They’ve framed people for less.”

“How long is the list?”

“I hear just ten men.”

“I see. Well, thanks for the tip, Otto.”

“I thought you’d want to know.”

I lit a cigarette. “It happens I think I’ve got an alibi for when it happened. But I hardly want to use him. You see, it’s the fellow on the Jew Desk at the Gestapo. The one who tipped me off about my grandmother. If I mention him, they’ll want to know what I was doing at Gestapo House. And I might drop him in it.”

A simple lie often saves a lot of time-consuming truth. I hardly wanted to put sand in Otto’s eye bath, but I didn’t seem to have much choice in the matter.

“Then it’s fortunate you were with me at the time of Krichbaum’s murder,” said Otto. “Having a beer in the Zum. Remember?”

“Sure, I remember.”

“We talked about you helping me with a chapter in my new book. A case you once worked on. Gormann the Strangler. You’d think I know all about it, the number of times you’ve bored me with that story.”

“I’ll remember that. Thanks, Otto.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. Trettin’s name and word still counted for something at the Alex. Half a sigh, anyway.

“By the way,” he added. “Your Jewish stenographer, Ilse Szrajbman, had the guest’s Chinese lacquer box, all right. She says she took it on an impulse because Reles behaved like a shit and refused to pay what he owed for her work.”

“Knowing Reles, I can easily believe that.” I tried to gather my trembling thoughts. “But why didn’t she speak to the hotel manager about it? Why didn’t she tell Herr Behlert?”

“She said it’s not so easy for a Jew to complain about things. Or about a man who is as well connected as this Max Reles. She told the Danzig KRIPO that she was afraid of him.”

“So afraid that she was prepared to steal from him?”

“Danzig is a long way from Berlin, Bernie. Besides, it was an impulse thing, like I said. And she regretted it.”

“The Danzig KRIPO is being unusually sensitive about this, Otto. Why?”

“As a favor to me, not the Jewess. A lot of these local cops want to come and work crime in the big city, you know that. I’m a somebody to these morons. Anyway, I got the box back. And to be frank, I can’t see what all the fuss was about. I’ve seen more obvious-looking antiques in Woolworth’s. What do you want me to do with it?”

“Perhaps you could drop it by the hotel sometime. I’d rather not come by the Alex, unless I’m asked to. Last time I was there, your old pal Liebermann von Sonnenberg collared me for a favor.”

“He told me.”

“Although from the sound of things, it’s me who might need to ask him for a favor.”

“It’s me you owe, not him, Bernie.”

“I’ll try to remember that. You know, Otto, there’s a lot more to this thing with Max Reles than some stenographer trying to get even with her boss. Just a few weeks ago that Chinese box was in a museum here in Berlin. Next thing, Reles has the box and it’s being used by him to bribe some Ami on their Olympic Committee with the full knowledge of the Ministry of the Interior.”

“Please bear in mind I have sensitive ears, Bernie. There are things I want to know. But there are just as many things I don’t want to know.”

I put the phone down and looked at Franz Joseph. His real name was Gustav, but with his bald head and muttonchop whiskers, the Adlon concierge bore a marked resemblance to the old Austrian emperor Franz Joseph, and was so nicknamed by almost everyone in the hotel.

“Hey, Franz Joseph. Did you get Herr Reles tickets for the opera tonight?”


“The American in suite 114.”

“Yes. Alexander Kipnis is singing Gurnemanz in Parsifal. The tickets were hard to get, even for me. Kipnis is a Jew, you see. These days it’s not often you can hear a Jew singing Wagner.”

“I imagine Kipnis has one of the least disagreeable voices to be heard in German right now.”

“They say Hitler doesn’t approve.”

“Where is this opera?”

“The German Opera House. On Bismarckstrasse.”

“Can you remember the seat numbers? Only, I need to find Herr Reles and give him a message.”

“The curtain goes up in an hour. He has a box on the grand tier, stage left.”

“You make that sound like a big deal, Franz.”

“It is. It’s the same box Hitler has when he goes to the opera.”

“But not tonight.”


I walked back into the entrance hall. Behlert was speaking to two men. I hadn’t ever seen them before, but I knew they were cops. For a start there was Behlert’s manner to identify them: he looked like he was speaking to two of the most interesting men in the world; and then there was theirs: they looked indifferent to almost everything he was saying, except the part about me. And I knew that much because Behlert pointed my way. Another reason I knew they were cops was their thick coats and their heavy boots and their body odor. During the winter, Berlin cops always dressed and smelled as if they were in the trenches. Backed by Behlert’s rolling eyeballs, they came toward me, flashing their warrant discs and sizing me up with narrowed eyes-almost as if they hoped I was going to make their day and run for it; that way they could have had a little fun trying to shoot me. I could hardly blame them. A lot of Berlin crime gets cleaned up that way.

“Bernhard Gunther?”


“Inspectors Rust and Brandt, from the Alex.”

“Sure, I remember. You two were the detectives Liebermann von Sonnenberg assigned to investigate the death of Herr Rubusch, in 210, weren’t you? Say, what did he die of anyway? I never did find out.”

“Cerebral aneurysm,” said one.

“Aneurysm, eh? Never can tell with that kind of thing, can you? One minute you’re hopping around like a flea, and the next you’re lying on the floor of the trench looking up at the sky.”

“We’d like to ask you a few questions down at the Alex.”


I followed them outside into the cold night air.

“Is that what this is about?”

“You’ll find out when we get to the Alex,” said Rust.

BISMARCKSTRASSE WAS STILL CALLED BISMARCKSTRASSE and ran all the way from the western tip of the Tiergarten to the eastern edge of the Grunewald. The German Opera House, formerly called the Municipal Opera House, was about halfway along the street, on the north side, and was comparatively recent in its design and construction. Not that I’d ever really noticed it much before. At the end of a working day I need something a little less bogus than the sight of a lot of very fat people pretending to be heroes and heroines. My idea of a musical evening is the Kempinski Waterland Chorus: a revue of buxom girls in short skirts playing ukuleles and singing vulgar songs about Bavarian goatherds.

I was hardly in the mood for anything that took itself as seriously as opera in German, not after a couple of uncomfortable hours spent at the Alex waiting to be asked questions about the cop I had killed, and then for them to find Otto Trettin-he was in the Zum-and have him corroborate my story. When finally they let me go I wondered if that was the end of it. But somehow I suspected it was not, with the result that I hardly felt like celebrating. All in all it had been quite an experience, which is often the lesson you get from life when you need it least.

In spite of that, I was still keen to see who Max Reles might be sharing a box with. And arriving at the opera in time for the interval, I bought a standing pass that afforded me an excellent view of the stage and, more important, the occupants of Hitler’s usual box on the grand tier. Before the lights went down I was even able to borrow a pair of opera glasses from a woman sitting close to where I was standing, so that I might take a closer look at them.

“He’s not in the house tonight,” said the woman observing where my attention was directed.


“The Leader.”

That much was obvious. But it was clear that there were others in the box, guests of Max Reles, who were senior figures in the Nazi Party. One of these was a man in his late forties with silver hair and thick, dark eyebrows. He wore a brown, military-style tunic with several decorations, including an Iron Cross and a Nazi armband, a white shirt, a black tie, brown riding breeches, and leather jackboots.

I handed back the opera glasses. “I don’t suppose you know who the party leader is?”

The woman peered through the glasses and then nodded. “That’s Von Tschammer und Osten.”

“The Reich sports leader?”


“And the general standing behind him?”

“Von Reichenau.” She had answered without a moment’s hesitation. “The bald one is Walther Funk, from the Propaganda Ministry.”

“I’m impressed,” I said, with genuine admiration.

The woman smiled. She wore spectacles. Not a beauty, but she looked intelligent in an attractive way. “It’s my job to know who these people are,” she explained. “I’m a photographic editor at the Berlin Illustrated News.” Still scrutinizing the box, she shook her head. “I don’t recognize the tall one, though. The one with the face like a blunt instrument. Or for that matter the rather attractive girl who seems to be with him. They seem to be the host and hostess, but either she’s too young for him or he’s too old for her. I’m not quite sure which it is.”

“He’s an American,” I said. “His name is Max Reles. And the girl is his stenographer.”

“You think so?”

I borrowed the opera glasses and looked again. I could see no sign that Dora Bauer was anything more to Reles than a secretary. She had a notepad in her hand and seemed to be writing something. Then again, she was looking extremely attractive and hardly like a stenographer. The necklace she was wearing glittered like the huge electric chandelier above our heads. As I watched, she put down the pad and, picking up a bottle of champagne, proceeded to fill everyone’s glass. Another woman appeared. Von Tschammer und Osten drained his glass and then held it out for another refill. Reles lit a large cigar. The general laughed at his own joke and then leered at the second woman’s cleavage. This was worth the cost of a set of opera glasses on its own.

“It looks like quite a party,” I said.

“It might be, if this wasn’t Parsifal.”

I looked at her blankly.

Parsifal lasts for five hours.” The lady with the glasses looked at her watch. “And there are still three hours of it left to go.”

“Thanks for the tip,” I said, and left.

I RETURNED TO THE ADLON, borrowed a passkey from the desk, and climbed the stairs to suite 114. The rooms smelled strongly of cigars and cologne. The closets were full of tailor-made suits, and the drawers with neatly folded shirts. Even his shoes were handmade by a company in London. Just looking at his wardrobe, I felt I was in the wrong job. Then again, I didn’t have to look at a pair of shoes owned by Max Reles to know that. Whatever the American did for a living, it was obviously paying him very well. The way I imagined everything did. He had that look about him. A selection of gold watches and rings on his bedside table only served to underline the impression of a man who was almost indifferent to his personal security or the Adlon’s Matterhorn-high room rates.

The Torpedo on the table in the window had a cover on it, but the alphabetical accordion file on the floor underneath told me it was getting plenty of use. The thing was full of correspondence to and from construction companies, gas companies, timber companies, rubber companies, plumbers, electricians, engineers, carpenters-and from all over Germany, too: everywhere from Bremen to Würzburg. Some of the letters were in English, of course, and several of these were addressed to the Avery Brundage Company in Chicago, which seemed like it ought to have meant something to me, but didn’t.

I raked through the wastepaper basket and smoothed out a few carbon copies to read before folding these and putting them in my pocket. I told myself Max Reles would hardly miss some correspondence from his wastepaper basket, although in truth I hardly cared if, on the face of it, Reles was helping to fix Olympic contracts. In a Germany governed by an ill assortment of murderers and fraudsters, I could see no point in trying to persuade an understandably reluctant Otto Trettin to take on a case that probably involved senior Nazi officials. I was looking for something more obviously criminal. I had no real idea of just what this might amount to. All the same, I thought I might recognize this if ever I saw it.

Of course, I was motivated by not much more than my own dislike and distrust of the man. These were feelings that had always served me well enough in the past. At the Alex we always said that an ordinary cop’s job is to suspect the man who everyone else thinks is guilty, but a detective’s job is to suspect the man who everyone else thinks is innocent.

Something caught my eye. The idea of Max Reles having such a thing as a ratchet screwdriver in a suite at the Adlon seemed a little out of place. It was lying on the window ledge in the bathroom. I was about to conclude that it might have been left there by a maintenance man, when I noticed what was written on the handle: Yankee No. 15 North Bros. Mfg. Co. Phil. Penna. USA. Reles must have brought the screwdriver from America. But why? The proximity of four screwheads in a marble-tiled panel concealing the lavatory cistern seemed to command investigation, and these were much easier to undo than perhaps they ought to have been.

With the panel removed, I peered into the space underneath the cistern and saw a canvas bag. I picked it up. The bag was heavy. I lifted it out of the cavity, placed it on the lavatory seat, and unlaced the neck.

While the ownership of firearms, especially pistols, was restricted in Germany, people with a legitimate reason to own one were permitted to do so, and for a three-mark fee, a weapons license could easily be obtained from any magistrate. A rifle, a revolver, even an automatic pistol could be owned quite legally by almost anyone. But I didn’t think there was a magistrate anywhere in the country who would have signed a permit for a Thompson submachine gun with a drum magazine. The bag also contained several hundred rounds of ammunition, two Colt semi-automatic pistols with rubberized grips, and a folding switch-blade. Inside the bag was another, smaller leather bag holding five thick bundles of thousand-dollar bills featuring a portrait of President Cleveland, and several thinner packets of German marks. There was also a leather wallet containing about a hundred Swiss gold francs and several dozen benzedrine inhalers still in their Smith Kline & French boxes.

All of it-especially the Chicago typewriter-looked like prima facie evidence that Max Reles was some kind of gangster.

I put everything back in the canvas bag, returned it to the hiding place under the cistern, and then replaced the tiled panel. When everything was exactly as I had found it, I slipped out of the suite and walked back along the corridor, pausing at the foot of the stairs, and wondering if I dared go up to 201 and use the passkey to let myself into Noreen’s suite. For a moment I let my imagination throw me in the back of a fast car and run along the AVUS speedway as far as Potsdam. Then I stared hard at the key for almost ten seconds before dropping it into my jacket pocket and pointing my libido downstairs.

Steady on, Gunther, I told myself. You heard what the lady said. She doesn’t like to be hurried.

But behind the desk there was another message waiting for me. It was from Noreen and more than a couple of hours old. I went back upstairs and pressed my ear to her door. In view of what was in the note, I might legitimately have used the passkey and let myself in. But German good manners got the better of me and I knocked.

A very long minute passed before she opened the door.

“Oh. It’s you.” She sounded almost disappointed.

“Were you expecting someone else?”

Noreen was wearing a brown chiffon peignoir and, underneath, a matching nightgown. She smelled like honeysuckle, and there was enough sleep still in her blue eyes to persuade me that she might want to go back to bed again, only this time with me. Maybe. She hustled me inside and closed the door.

“What I meant was, I left that note for you a couple of hours ago. I thought you’d come straightaway. I must have fallen asleep.”

“I went out for a while. To cool down.”

“Where did you go?”

Parsifal. The opera.”

“You’re all surprises, you know that? I never figured you for a music lover.”

“I’m not. I stayed for five minutes and then felt an irresistible urge to come here and search for you.”

“Hmm. So what does that make me? A flower maiden? Klingsor’s slave-what’s her name? The one in Parsifal?”

“I haven’t a clue.” I shrugged. “Like I said, I only stayed five minutes.”

Noreen put her arms around my neck. “I hope you brought Parsifal’s holy spear with you, Gunther, because I don’t happen to have one here.” She backed me across the room to the bed. “At least not yet, I don’t.”

“You think I should stay with you tonight?”

“In my humble opinion, yes.” She shrugged off the peignoir and let it fall onto the thick carpet with a whisper of chiffon.

I said, “You never held a humble opinion in your life,” and kissed her. This time she allowed my hands to roam the contours of her body as if they belonged to an impatient masseur. Mostly they stayed on her bottom, my fingers gathering chiffon until I could pull her into my groin. My right hand seemed to be making a miraculous recovery.

“So it’s true,” she said. “Adlon room service is the best in Europe.”

“The key to running a good hotel,” I said, cupping one of her breasts in my hand, “is to eliminate boredom. Nearly all of our problems are caused by the innocent curiosity of our guests.”

“I don’t think I’ve been accused of that,” she said. “Innocence. Not in a long time.” She shook her head. “I’m not the innocent type, Gunther.”

I grinned.

“I guess you don’t believe me,” she said, pulling a length of hair through her mouth. “Because I’m still wearing clothes.”

She pushed me down to sit on the edge of the bed and then stepped back in order to make a performance out of taking off her nightgown. Nude, she was worth a private room in Pompeii, and as far as performances go, it had Parsifal beat by several lewd acts. Looking at Noreen, you wondered why anyone ever bothered to draw or paint anything else but a woman’s naked body. Cubes might have done it for Braque, but I liked curves, and Noreen’s were good enough to satisfy Apollonius of Perga and probably Kepler, too. She drew my head against her belly and, pulling my hair, like the coat on a favorite dog, she teased me with the absence of all that made me a man.

“Why don’t you touch me?” she said softly. “I want you to touch me. Right now.”

She came and sat on my augmented lap and patiently permitted my impudent curiosities with eyes that were closed to anything else but her own pleasure. With nostrils flared, she breathed deeply, like a yogi concentrating her breath.

“So what changed your mind?” I asked, bending to kiss her hardening nipple. “About tonight?”

“Who says I changed my mind?” she said. “Maybe I planned this all along. Like this is a scene in a play I’ve written.” She pushed off my jacket and started to undo my tie. “This is just what I want your character to do. Maybe you’ve got very little choice in the matter. Do you really feel you have a choice here, Gunther?”

“No.” I bit her nipple. “Not now. But I got the impression earlier on that you were playing a little hard to get.”

“I am hard to get. Only not to you. You’re the first in a long time.”

“I could say the same.”

“You could. But it would be a lie. You’re one of the principal characters in my play, remember? I know all about you, Gunther.” She started to unbutton my shirt.

“Is Max Reles another character? You do know him, don’t you?”

“Do we have to talk about him now?”

“It can wait.”

“Good. Because I can’t wait. I never could, not since I was a little girl. Ask me about him later, when the waiting is over.”


THE CEILINGS IN THE SUITES at the Adlon were just the right distance from the floor. When you lay on the bed and blew a column of cigarette smoke straight up, the crystal chandelier looked like a remote and icy mountaintop surrounded with an ermine collar of cloud. I’d never paid the ceilings much attention before. Previous erotic encounters with Frieda Bamberger had been furtive, hurried affairs, conducted with one eye on the clock and the other on the door handle, and certainly I’d never felt sufficiently relaxed to fall asleep afterward. But now that I was looking at the lofty heights of this room, I found my soul climbing up the silky walls to sit on the picture rail, like some invisible gargoyle, and then to stare down with forensic fascination on the naked aftermath of what had gone before.

Our bare limbs still entwined, Noreen and Gunther lay side by sweating side, like Eros and Psyche fallen from some other, more heavenlike ceiling-although it was hard to imagine anything much more heavenly than what had just occurred. I felt like Saint Peter taking vacant possession of a smart new basilica.

“I bet you’ve never even been in one of these beds,” said Noreen, taking the cigarette from my fingers and smoking it with the exaggerated gestures of a drunk or someone onstage. “Have you?”

“No,” I lied. “It feels strange.”

She hardly wanted to hear about my private trysts with Frieda. Certainly not as much as I wanted to hear about Max Reles.

“He doesn’t seem to like you very much,” she said after I mentioned his name again.

“Why is that? After all, I’ve been doing a swell job of hiding how much I dislike him. No, really, I despise the man, but he’s a guest of this hotel, which obliges me not to punch him down six flights of stairs and then kick him out the door. That’s what I’d like to do. And I’d do it, too, if I had another job to go to.”

“Be careful, Bernie. He’s a dangerous man.”

“That much I already know. The question is, how do you know it?”

“We met on the SS Manhattan,” she said. “On the voyage from New York to Hamburg. We were introduced at the captain’s table, and occasionally we met up to play gin rummy.” She shrugged. “He wasn’t a good player. Anyway, it was a longish voyage, and a single woman has to expect that she will become the focus of attention for single gentlemen. Maybe even a few married ones. There was another man, besides Max Reles. A Canadian lawyer called John Martin. I had a drink with him, and he got the wrong idea about me. The fact is, he started to believe that he and I-well, to use his words, that he and I had something special going on. Well, we didn’t. No, really we didn’t. But he couldn’t accept that and became something of a nuisance. He told me he loved me and that he wanted to marry me, and I didn’t like it. I tried to avoid him, only that’s not so easy on a boat.

“One night, off the coast of Ireland, I mentioned some of this to Max Reles over a game of gin rummy. He didn’t say very much. And it’s quite possible that I’m completely mistaken about this, but the very next day, this man Martin was reported missing, and it was presumed he must have fallen overboard. I believe they carried out a search, but it was for appearance’s sake, since there was no way he could have survived after several hours in the sea.

“Anyway, soon after, I formed the impression that Reles had something to do with the poor man’s disappearance. It was something he said. I can’t remember the exact words he used, but I do remember he was smiling when he said it.” Noreen shook her head. “You must think I’m crazy. I mean, this is all completely circumstantial. Which is the main reason I never mentioned this to anyone.”

“Not at all,” I said. “There’s nothing wrong with evidence that’s circumstantial. In the right circumstances, that is. What did he say?”

“He said something like, ‘It sounds very much as if your irritating little problem has been taken care of, Mrs. Charalambides.’ And then he asked me if I’d pushed him off the boat. Which he seemed to think was funny. I told him I didn’t think it was at all funny and asked him if he thought there was any chance that Mr. Martin might still be alive. To which he then replied, ‘I very much hope not.’ Well, after that, I kept away from him.”

“What exactly do you know about Max Reles?”

“Not very much. Just what he told me over cards. He said he was a businessman in that way men do when they want to give the impression that what they do isn’t very interesting. He speaks excellent German, of course. And I think some Hungarian. He told me he was on his way to Zurich, so I hardly expected to see him again. And certainly not here. I saw him again for the first time about a week ago. In the library. I had a drink with him, just to be polite. Apparently he’s been here for a while.”

“That he has.”

“You do believe me, don’t you?”

She said it in a way that made me think she might not be telling the truth. Then again, I’m just built that way. Some people like to believe in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I’m the type who thinks the pot of gold is being watched by four cops in a car.

“You don’t think I imagined it, do you?”

“Not at all,” I said, although I did wonder why any man would murder another for a woman who was nothing more than a partner for a game of cards. “From what you’ve told me, I think you came to a very reasonable conclusion.”

“You think I should have told the ship’s captain, don’t you? Or the police, when we got to Hamburg.”

“With no real evidence to corroborate your story, Reles would only have denied it and made you look a fool. Besides, it’s not like it would have helped the man who drowned.”

“All the same, somehow I feel responsible for what happened.” She rolled across the bed, reaching for the ashtray on the bedside table, and stabbed out the cigarette. I rolled after her and caught up only an hour or two later. It was a big bed. I started to kiss her behind, then the small of her back, and then her shoulders. I was just about to sink my fangs into her neck when I noticed the book next to the ashtray. It was the book written by Hitler.

She saw that I noticed it, and said, “I’m reading it.”


“It’s an important book. But reading it doesn’t make me a Nazi, any more than reading Marx makes me a communist. Although, as it happens, I do consider myself to be a communist. Does that surprise you?”

“That you think you’re a communist? No, not particularly. The best people are these days. George Bernard Shaw. Even Trotsky, I hear. I like to consider myself a Social Democrat, but since democracy no longer exists in this country, that would be naive.”

“I’m glad you’re a democrat. That it’s something that is still important to you. The fact is, I wouldn’t have slept with you if you’d been a Nazi, Gunther.”

“Like a lot of people, I might like them a bit more if it was me who was in charge and not Hitler.”

“I’m trying to get an interview with him. That’s one of the reasons I’m reading Hitler’s book. Not that I think he will agree to meet me. Most likely I’ll have to make do with seeing the sports minister. I’m meeting him tomorrow afternoon.”

“You won’t mention our friend Zak Deutsch, will you, Noreen? Or me, for that matter.”

“No, of course I won’t. Tell me something. Do you think he was murdered?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll have a much better idea after we’ve spoken to Stefan Blitz. He’s that geologist I was telling you about. I’m hoping he can shed some light on how a man can drown in salt water in the center of Berlin. You see, it’s one thing when it happens off the coast of Ireland, in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quite another when it happens in the local canal.”

UNTIL THE SPRING OF 1934,Stefan Blitz had been a teacher of geology at Frederick William University, in Berlin. I knew him because sometimes he had helped KRIPO to identify the clay found on the shoes of murder suspects or their victims. He lived in Zehlendorf, in Berlin’s southwest, in a modern housing development called Uncle Tom’s Hut, named after a local tavern and subway shop that were themselves named after the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Noreen was intrigued.

“I can’t believe they called it that,” she said. “In the States, people would never have dared give it a name like that in case people thought the houses were fit only for Negroes.”

I parked the car in front of a four-story apartment building that was as big as a city block. The smooth, modern façade was very slightly curved and pockmarked with different-sized, recessed windows, none of which was on the same level. It looked like a face recovering from a dose of smallpox. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of these Weimar-built homes in Berlin, and they were about as distinguished as packets of Persil. And yet, although they despised modernism, the Nazis had more in common with its mostly Jewish architects than they might have thought. Nazism and modernism were both products of the inhuman, and when I looked at one of those neat, standardized gray concrete buildings, it wasn’t hard to imagine a neat, standardized detachment of gray storm troopers living in one, like so many rats in a box.

It wasn’t like that inside, however-at least not inside Stefan Blitz’s apartment. In contrast to the carefully planned modernism of the exterior, his furniture was old mahogany, tattered upholstery, chipped Wilhelmine ornaments, table oilcloths, and Eiffel Towers of books, with all of the shelves given over to slices of rock.

Blitz himself was as tattered as his upholstery and, like any other Jew who was forbidden his way of making a living, he was as thin as a maquette in an artist’s garret and hardly living at all. A hospitable, kind, and generous man, he displayed character traits that made him the very opposite of the grasping bogeyman Jew so often caricatured in the Nazi press. Nevertheless, that was what he looked like: a lecher in the stews of Damascus. He offered us tea, coffee, Coca-Cola, alcohol, something to eat, a more comfortable chair, chocolates, and his last cigarettes before finally, having refused them all, we were able to come to the point of our visit.

“Is it possible that a man could drown in seawater in the center of Berlin?” I asked.

“I assume you’ve discounted the possibility of a swimming pool, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. The Admiral’s Garden baths on Alexanderplatz is a brine bath. I used to swim there myself before they stopped Jews from going there.”

“The victim is Jewish,” I said. “And so, for that reason, yes, you’re right, I think I have discounted that possibility.”

“Why, if you don’t mind my asking, is a Gentile bothering to investigate the death of a Jew in the new Germany?”

“It’s my idea,” Noreen said, and told Blitz about the Olympiad and the failed U.S. boycott and the newspaper she hoped would put that to rights, and how she herself was a Jew.

“I suppose it would be something if an American boycott were to succeed,” Blitz admitted. “Although I have my doubts. The Nazis won’t be so easy to dislodge, with or without a boycott. Now that they have power, they mean to hang on to it. The Reichstag will sink before they have another election, and, believe me, I know what I’m talking about. It was built on posts because of all the swampy spots that exist between it and the Old Museum.”

Noreen smiled her neon smile. Her glamour seemed to warm the apartment, as if someone had lit a fire in the empty grate. She lit a cigarette from a little gold case, which she pushed toward him. He took one and slid it behind his ear like a pencil.

“Could a man drown in Berlin seawater, he asks,” said Blitz. “Two hundred sixty million years ago this whole area was an ancient sea-the Zechstein Sea. Berlin itself was founded on a series of islands that appeared in a river valley during the last Ice Age. The substrata are mostly sand. And salt. A lot of salt from the Zechstein Sea. The salt formed several islands on the land surface, and quite a few deepwater groundwater chambers all over the city and the surrounding area.”

“Seawater chambers?” asked Noreen.

“Yes, yes. In my opinion, there are some places in Berlin where men should not be digging. Such a chamber might easily be ruptured, with potentially disastrous consequences.”

“Could such a place include Pichelsberg?”

“It could happen almost anywhere in Berlin,” said Blitz. “For someone in a hurry, who didn’t carry out a proper geological survey-boreholes and that kind of thing-it would not just be the old lies that the new Germany obliged him to swallow, but a considerable quantity of salt water, also.” He smiled carefully, like a man playing a card game whose rules he was still uncertain of.

“Including Pichelsberg?” I persisted.

Blitz shrugged. “Pichelsberg? What is this interest in Pichelsberg? I’m a geologist, not a town planner, Herr Gunther.”

“Come on, Stefan, you know why I’m asking.”

“Yes, and I don’t like it. I have enough problems without adding Pichelsberg as well. Where exactly are you going with this? You mentioned a drowned man. A Jew, you said. And a newspaper article. Forgive me, but it seems to me that one dead Jew is quite enough.”

“Dr. Blitz,” said Noreen, “I promise you. Nothing you say will be attributed to you. I won’t quote you. I won’t mention Uncle Tom’s Cabin or that I even spoke to a geologist.”

Blitz removed the cigarette from behind his ear and studied it like a core of white rock. When he lit it, his satisfaction could be seen and heard. “American cigarettes. I’m so used to cheap ones I’d forgotten how good tobacco can taste.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps I should try to go to America. I’m damned sure the meaning of life in Germany doesn’t include liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not if you’re Jewish, anyway.”

Noreen emptied her case on the table. “Please,” she said, “keep them. I have more back at the hotel.”

“If you’re sure,” he said.

She nodded, and pulled the sable coat closer to her chest.

“A good engineering company,” he said, carefully. “It would first drill, not dig. You understand? The Ice Age left behind a real mixture of substrata that would make construction here very unpredictable. Especially somewhere like Pichelsberg. Does that answer your question?”

“Is it possible that the people building the Olympic Stadium don’t know this?” she asked.

Blitz shrugged. “Who mentioned the Olympics? I know nothing about the Olympics, and I tell you I don’t want to know. We’re told it’s not for Jews, and I for one am very happy about this.” It was chilly in his apartment, but he wiped some sweat off his forehead with a ragged handkerchief. “Look, if you don’t mind, I think I’ve said enough.”

“One more question,” I said, “and then we’ll leave.”

Blitz stared momentarily at the ceiling as if calling on his maker to give him patience. His hand was trembling as he put the cigarette back between his cracked lips.

“Is there any gold in Berlin’s substrata?”

“Gold, yes, gold. But only trace amounts. Believe me, Bernie, you won’t get rich looking for gold in Berlin.” He chuckled. “At least not unless you take it from those who already have it. This is a Jew telling you, so you can take that to the bank. Even the Nazis aren’t stupid enough to look for gold in Berlin.”

We didn’t stay much longer. We both knew we’d unsettled Blitz. And in view of what he’d said, I didn’t blame him for being circumspect and nervous. The Nazis would hardly have taken kindly to what he was surely saying about the construction site at Pichelsberg. When we left, we didn’t offer him money. He wouldn’t have taken it. But when his back was turned to lead us out of the apartment, Noreen slipped a leaf under the coffeepot.

BACK IN THE CAR, Noreen let out a loud sigh and shook her head. “This town is beginning to get me down,” she said. “Tell me you don’t get used to it.”

“Not me. I’ve only just got used to the idea that we lost the war. Everyone says the Jews were to blame for that, but I always thought it was the navy’s fault. It was them who got us into it and their mutiny that forced us to quit. But for them we might have fought on, to an honorable peace.”

“You sound like you regret that.”

“Only the fact that the wrong people signed the armistice. The army should have done it instead of the politicians, which let the army off the hook rather, and which is why we’re in the state we’re in. D’you see?”

“Not really.”

“No? Well, that’s half the problem. Nobody does. Least of all us Germans. Most mornings I wake up and think I must have imagined the last two years. The last twenty-four hours most of all. What does a woman like you see in a man like me?”

She took my left hand and squeezed it. “A man like you. You make that sound as if there’s more than one. There isn’t. I know. I’ve looked. And in all kinds of places. Including the bed we slept in. Last night I was wondering how I’d feel in the morning. Well, now I know.”

“How do you feel?”


“Of what?”

“The way I feel, of course. Like you’re driving the car.”

“I am driving the car.” I wiggled the steering wheel for effect.

“At home no one ever drives me anywhere. I like to drive myself. I prefer to decide when to start and when to stop. But with you, I really don’t mind. I wouldn’t mind if you decided to drive us all the way to China and back.”

“China? It’d be enough for me just to have you stay on in Berlin for a while.”

“So what’s stopping me?”

“Perhaps Nick Charalambides. And your newspaper article. And maybe this. That it’s my honest opinion that Isaac Deutsch wasn’t murdered at all. That his death was an accident. No one drowned him. He drowned. Without any help from anyone else. Right here in the center of Berlin. I know, it’s not as good a story if he wasn’t murdered. But what can I do?”



For a moment I was reminded of Richard Bömer and his disappointment at discovering that Isaac Deutsch was Jewish. And now here was Noreen Charalambides, disappointed to discover the poor guy hadn’t been murdered. It’s a hell of a world.

“Are you sure?”

“Here’s what I think happened. After his career as a boxer was outlawed by the Nazis, Isaac Deutsch and his uncle got a job on the Olympic building site. In spite of the official policy about hiring only Aryan workers. Given how much there is to do before the Olympiad starts, in 1936, someone decided it might be best to cut a few corners. And not just with the racial origins of the workforce. With safety, too, I suspect. Isaac Deutsch was probably involved in some kind of underground excavation when he ruptured one of those water chambers Blitz told us about. He had an accident, and he was drowned in seawater, only no one knew it was seawater. Someone figured it might be best if his body was found drowned a long way from Pichelsberg. Just in case some nosy cop started asking questions about illegal Jewish workers. Which is how the body ended up in a freshwater canal, on the other side of Berlin.”

Noreen searched her empty cigarette case for a smoke. “Damn,” she said again.

I gave her mine. “Much as I’m reluctant to admit it, Noreen, this little investigation is over. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to spin this out and keep on driving you around Berlin. But I think honesty’s best. Especially since I’m a little out of practice in that area, what with one thing and another.”

She lit the cigarette and stared out of the window as we came into Steglitz.

“Pull up,” she said, sharply.


“Pull up, I said.”

I stopped the car close to the town hall, at the corner of Schlossstrasse, and started to apologize on the assumption that she had taken offense at something I had said. Even before I had switched off the engine, she had got out of the car and was walking swiftly back down the street. I followed.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” I said. “But there’s still a story you can write here. Maybe if you found Isaac Deutsch’s uncle Joey-the guy who was his trainer-then perhaps he’d talk. You could get his story. That would be a good angle. How Jews are forbidden to compete in the Olympics but how one who gets an illegal job building the stadium ends up dead. That could be a great story.”

Noreen didn’t look like she was listening. And I was more than a little horrified to see that she was heading toward a large group of SA and SS men standing around a man and woman dressed in civilian clothes. The woman was blond and in her twenties; the man was older and Jewish. I knew he was Jewish, because, like her, he had a placard around his neck. The man’s placard read: “I’m a dirty Jew who takes German girls to his room.” The girl’s placard read: “I go to this dirty swine’s place to sleep with a Jew!” Before I could do anything to stop her, Noreen threw away her cigarette, produced her Baby Brownie from her capacious leather handbag, and, looking down through the little viewfinder, took a photograph of the somber couple and the grinning Nazis.

I caught up with her and tried to take her by the arm. She pulled it away angrily.

“This is not a good idea,” I said.

“Nonsense. They wouldn’t have put those placards around their necks unless they wanted people to pay attention to them. And that’s just what I’m doing.” She wound her film and once again lined up the group.

One of the SS shouted at me, “Hey, Bubi. Leave her alone. She’s right, your girlfriend. There’s no point in making an example of bastards like these unless people see it and take note.”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” said Noreen. “Taking note.”

I waited patiently until Noreen had finished. Until now she’d photographed only anti-Semitic signs in the parks and some Nazi flags on Unter den Linden, and I hoped this rather more candid kind of photography wasn’t about to become a habit with her. I doubt my nerves could have taken it.

We walked back to the car in silence, abandoning the miscegenating couple to their public disgrace and humiliation.

“If you’d ever seen them beat someone up,” I said, “then you’d be more careful about doing something like that. You want to photograph something interesting, I’ll run you over to the Bismarck Monument or the Charlottenburg Palace.”

Noreen dropped the camera back in her bag. “Don’t treat me like some goddamn tourist,” she said. “I didn’t take that picture for my album. I took it for the fucking newspaper. Don’t you get it? A picture like that makes an absolute mockery of Avery Brundage’s claims that Berlin is a proper place to hold an Olympic Games.”


“Yes, Avery Brundage. Weren’t you listening? I told you before. He’s the president of the American Olympic Committee.”

I nodded. “What else do you know about him?”

“Almost nothing beyond the fact that he must be a real asshole.”

“Would it surprise you to learn that he’s in correspondence with your old friend Max Reles? And that he owns a construction company in Chicago?”

“How do you know that?”

“I’m a detective, remember? I’m supposed to know things I’m not supposed to know about.”

She smiled. “Sonofabitch. You searched his room, didn’t you? That’s why you were asking me about him last night. I’ll bet that’s when you did it, too. Right after that little scene in the lobby, when you knew he’d be out for a while.”

“Almost right. I followed him to the opera first.”

“Five minutes of Parsifal. I remember. So that’s why you went.”

“His guests included the sports leader. Funk from Propaganda. Some army general called von Reichenau. The rest I didn’t recognize. But I’ll bet they were all Nazis.”

“Those you mentioned are all on the German Olympic Organizing Committee,” she said. “And I’ll bet the rest were, too.” She shook her head. “So you went back to the Adlon and searched his room while you knew he was safely otherwise engaged. What else did you find?”

“A lot of letters. Reles employs a stenographer I found for him, and it seems he keeps her very busy writing to companies who are bidding for Olympic contracts.”

“Then he must be on a kickback. Maybe lots of kickbacks. The GOC, too, maybe.”

“I took some carbon copies from his wastepaper basket.”

“Great. Can I see them?”

When we were in the car once again I handed them over. She started to read one. “Nothing incriminating here,” she said.

“That’s what I thought. At first.”

“It’s just a bid for a contract to supply cement to the Ministry of the Interior.”

“The other one is a bid for a contract to supply propane gas for the Olympic flame.” I paused. “Don’t you get it? That’s a carbon. It means that it was typed by the Adlon’s own stenographer in his suite. Contracts are supposed to be for German companies only. And Max Reles is an American.”

“Maybe he bought these companies.”

“Maybe. I think he’s probably got enough money. Probably that’s why he went to Zurich before he came here. There’s a bag in his room containing thousands of dollars and gold Swiss francs. Not to mention a submachine gun. Even in Germany you don’t need a machine gun to run a company these days. Not unless you have some serious problems with your labor force.”

“I need to think about this.”

“We both do. I’ve a feeling we’re getting in over our heads, and I’m kind of attached to mine. I mention that only because we have the falling ax in this country, and it’s not just criminals who get haircuts. It’s communists and republicans and probably anyone the government doesn’t like. Look, you really won’t mention any of this to von Tschammer und Osten, will you?”

“No, of course I won’t. I’m not ready to get thrown out of Germany just yet. Especially since last night.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“While I’m thinking about Max Reles, that idea you had. About looking for Isaac Deutsch’s uncle and basing my story on him. It’s a good one.”

“I only said that to get you back in the car.”

“Well, I’m back in the car, and it’s still a good idea.”

“I’m not so sure. Suppose you did write a story about Jews helping to build the new stadium. Maybe all those Jews will end up losing their jobs as a result of that. And what happens to them then? How are they going to feed their families? It might even be that some of them end up in concentration camps. Have you thought about that?”

“Of course I’ve thought about it. What do you take me for? I’m a Jew, remember? The human consequences of what I might write are always on my mind. Look, Bernie, the way I see it is this: There’s a much bigger issue at stake here than a few hundred people losing their jobs. The USA is by far the most important country in any Olympics. In L.A., we won forty-one gold medals, more than any other country. Italy, which was next, won twelve. An Olympiad without America would be meaningless. That’s why a boycott is important. Because if the games are not held here, it would be just about the most serious blow that Nazi prestige could suffer inside Germany. Not to mention it being one of the most effective ways that the outside world has of showing the youth of Germany its true opinion of Nazi doctrine. That has to be more important than whether a few Jews can feed their families. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Maybe. But if we go to Pichelsberg looking for answers about Isaac Deutsch, we might find ourselves asking questions of the very people who tossed him into the canal. They might not take kindly to being written about. Even if it is in a New York newspaper. Looking for Joey Deutsch could turn out to be just as dangerous as investigating Max Reles.”

“You’re a detective. An ex-cop. I’d have thought a certain amount of danger is written into your job description.”

“A certain amount, yes. But that doesn’t make me bulletproof. Besides, when you’re back in New York collecting a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, I’ll still be here. That’s the hope, at least. I can float in the canal just as easily as Isaac Deutsch.”

“If it’s a question of money.”

“Given what happened last night, I might tell you it’s not a question of money. At the same time, I have to admit that money is always a very persuasive answer.”

“Money talks, huh, Gunther?”

“Sometimes it seems you just can’t shut it up. I’m a hotel detective because I have to be, Noreen, not because I want to be. I’m broke, angel. When I quit KRIPO, I left behind a reasonable salary and a pension, not to mention what my father used to call ‘good prospects.’ I don’t see myself rising to the rank of hotel manager, do you?”

Noreen smiled. “Not in the kind of hotel I’d ever want to stay in.”


“How does twenty marks a day sound?”

“Generous. Very. But it’s a different kind of dialogue I’m looking for.”

“Pulitzer Prizes don’t pay that much, you know.”

“I’m not after a slice. Just a loan. A business loan, with interest. What with the Depression, the banks aren’t lending. Not even to each other. And I can hardly ask the Adlons to stake me enough to hand in my notice.”

“To do what?”

“To do this. Be a private investigator, of course. It’s about the one thing I’m good at. I figure about five hundred marks would let me set up on my own.”

“How do I know you’d stay alive long enough to pay me back?”

“That would be an incentive, of course. I’d hate to lose my life. And I’d hate to see you lose your money as a result of that, of course. Fact is, I could probably pay you a twenty-percent return on your investment.”

“You’ve obviously given this some thought.”

“Ever since the Nazis came into power. Human tragedies like the one we just witnessed in front of the town hall back there are happening all over this city. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. A lot of people-Jews, Gypsies, Freemasons, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses-they already figure they can’t go to the cops and get a hearing from anyone. So they’re going to go somewhere else. Which just has to be good for someone like me.”

“So you could end up making a profit under the Nazis?”

“That’s always a possibility. At the same time, it’s just possible I might actually end up helping someone as well as myself.”

“You know what I like about you, Gunther?”

“I sure could use a bit of reminding.”

“It’s that you can make Copernicus and Kepler look so very short-sighted and impractical and yet still cut a convincingly romantic figure.”

“Does that mean you still find me attractive?”

“I don’t know. Ask me later when I’ve forgotten that I’m no longer just your employer but your banker, too.”

“Does that mean you’re going to give me the loan?”

Noreen smiled. “Why not? But on one condition. You never tell Hedda that you got the money from me.”

“It’ll be our secret.”

“One of two, it now looks like.”

“You do realize you’re going to have to sleep with me again,” I said. “To guarantee my silence.”

“Of course. In fact, as your banker, I was banking on it. With interest.”


I DROPPED NOREEN OFF at the Ministry of the Interior for her interview with von Tschammer und Osten, and drove back to the hotel and then kept on driving, west, again. Now that she was out of the way, I wanted to nose around the Olympic site at Pichelsberg on my own. The fact was I had only the one pair of gum boots; and then there was the fact that I didn’t want to draw any attention while I was doing the nosing, which was almost impossible when Noreen was on my arm. She commanded attention like a nudist playing the trombone.

Pichelsberg Racecourse was at the north end of the Grunewald. In the center of the racecourse was the stadium, laid out from a design by Otto March and opened in 1913. Encircling the course were running and cycling tracks, while to the north was a swimming pool-all built for the canceled Berlin Olympiad of 1916. In stands that could accommodate almost forty thousand people were sculptures, including a goddess of victory and a Neptune group. Except that none of them were there anymore. Nothing was. Everything-the racecourse, the stadium, and the pool-had been demolished and replaced by an enormous earthwork: a huge mass of soil had been created from the excavation of a vaguely circular pit, where I assumed the new stadium was going to be built. As assumptions go, this one seemed unlikely. The Berlin Olympics were less than two years away and nothing had been built. Indeed, a perfectly serviceable and recently constructed stadium had been knocked down to make way for the Battle of Verdun as imagined by D. W. Griffith. As I got out of the car I half expected to see the French front lines, our own line, and heavy shell bursts in the air.

For a moment I was back in uniform and feeling fairly sick with fear at the sudden recollection of that earlier dun-colored wilderness. And then the shakes were on me, as if I had just woken up from the same nightmare I always had, which was about being back there…

… carrying a box of ammunition through the mud and clay while shells were falling all around. It took me two hours to move 150 meters up to our front line. I kept throwing myself on the ground or simply falling over until I was soaked to the skin and caked with earth, like a man made of mud.

I had almost reached our redoubt when I stepped into a shell hole and found myself waist deep in mud and sinking. I shouted for help, but the noise of the barrage was too loud for anyone to hear. Struggling only seemed to make me sink more quickly, and in less than five minutes I was up to my neck and facing the horrible fate of being drowned in a small sea of brown glue. I’d seen horses stuck in the mud, and nearly always they were shot, such was the effort of pulling one out. I struggled to take hold of my pistol so that I might shoot myself in the head before being drowned, but that was hopeless, too. The mud held me tightly now. I tried to lean back so that I might “float” on the surface, but that was no use, either.

And then, just as the mud was up to my jaw, there was an enormous explosion a few meters away as a shell hit the ground and, miraculously, I was lifted right out of the morass and high into the air to land twenty meters away, winded but uninjured. Had it not been for the mud enveloping me, the shock of the blast would certainly have killed me.

That was my recurring nightmare, and I never had it without waking up, soaked with perspiration and out of breath, as if I had just sprinted across no-man’s-land. Even now, in broad daylight, I had to drop down on my haunches and take several deep breaths in an effort to pull myself together. A few spots of color in the once fertile but now devastated landscape served my mental recovery: some blue thistle at the edge of the distant tree line; red dead nettle close to where I’d left the car; some yellow-flowered tansy ragwort; a robin redbreast picking a juicy pink worm out of the ground; the empty blue sky; and finally an army of workmen and a railway line conveying a small red train of earthmoving wagons from one end of the site to the other.

“Are you all right?”

The man wore a workman’s peaked cap and a quilted jacket as voluminous as a smock. His black trousers ended several centimeters above boots doubled in size by several kilos of clay. Over a shoulder as big as Jutland rested a sledgehammer. His blond hair was almost white, and his eyes were as blue as the thistle flowers. His chin and cheekbones might have been sketched by one of those Nazi artists, like Josef Thorak.

“I’m okay.” I stood up, lit a cigarette, and waved it at the landscape. “When I saw no-man’s-land, I went off a bit like August Stramm, you know? ‘Yielding clod lulls iron off to sleep, Blood clots the patches where they oozed, Rust crumbles, flesh is slime, Sucking lusts around decay.’ ”

To my surprise, he completed the verse: “ ‘Murder on murder blinks in childish eyes.’ Yes, I know that poem. Me, I was Second Royal Württemburg, Twenty-seventh Division. You?”

“Twenty-sixth Div.”

“Then we were in the same battle.”

I nodded. “Amiens. August 1918.”

I offered him a cigarette, and he took a light from my own, trench style, not to waste a match.

“Two graduates of the university of mud,” he said. “Scholars of human evolution.”

“Ah, yes. The ascent of man.” I grinned, remembering the old saying. “When someone kills you not with a bayonet, but with a machine gun; not with a machine gun, but with a flamethrower; not with a flamethrower, but with poison gas.”

“What are you doing here, friend?”

“Just looking around.”

“Well, you’re not allowed. Not anymore. Didn’t you see the sign?”

“No,” I answered truthfully.

“We’re way behind schedule as it is. We’re already working three shifts. So we don’t have time for visitors.”

“It doesn’t look too busy here.”

“Most of the lads are on the other side of that earthwork,” he said, pointing to the west of the site. “You sure you’re not from the ministry?”

“Of the Interior? No. Why do you ask?”

“Because they’ve threatened to replace any construction companies that aren’t pulling their weight, that’s why. I thought you might be spying on us.”

“I’m no spy. Hell, I’m not even a Nazi. The truth is, I came out here to look for someone. A fellow by the name of Joey Deutsch. Maybe you know him.”


“Maybe the site foreman’s heard of him.”

“That would be me. The name’s Blask, Heinrich Blask. Why are you looking for this fellow, anyway?”

“It’s not like he’s in trouble or anything. And I’m not about to tell him he’s won a fortune on the lottery.” I was wondering exactly what I was going to tell him, until I remembered the fight tickets in my pocket: the ones we’d bought off Gypsy Trollmann. “The fact is, I manage a couple of fighters, and I want Joey to train them. I don’t know what he’s like with a pick and a shovel, but Joey’s a pretty good trainer. One of the best. He’d be in the game right now, but for the obvious reason.”

“Which is?”

“With a name like Deutsch? He’s a kike. And kikes aren’t allowed in gyms. At least not the gyms that are open to the public. Me, I’ve got my own gym. So no one’s offended, right?”

“Maybe you don’t know, but we’re not allowed to employ non-Aryan labor here,” said Blask.

“Sure I know that. I also know that it happens. And who can blame you with the ministry breathing down your neck about getting this stadium built in time? Pretty tall order if you ask me. Listen, Heinrich, I’m not here to make trouble for you. I just want to find Joey. Maybe his nephew’s working with him. Isaac. He used to be a fighter himself.”

I took two tickets out of my pocket and showed them to the foreman. “Maybe you’d like some tickets to a fight yourself. Scholz versus Witt at the Spichernsaele. How about it, Heinrich? Can you help me here?”

“If there were kikes working on this site,” said Blask, “and I’m not saying that there are, but you would do best to speak to the hiring boss. A man called Erich Goerz. He’s not on site very much. Mostly he works out of a bar on the Schildhorn.” He took one of the tickets. “There’s a monument there.”

“The Schildhorn Column.”

“’Sright. From what I heard, if you want to work, no questions asked, that’s where you go. Every morning around six there’s a whole crowd of illegals that waits there. Jews, gyppos, you name it. Goerz turns up, decides who works and who doesn’t. Mostly on account of how they each pay him a commission. He calls the names, gives them a work tab, they report to wherever they’re needed most.” He shrugged. “They’re good workers, he finds, so what am I going to do, me with my schedule? He doesn’t tell me, and I don’t need to be told, right? I just do what the bosses order me to do.”

“Any idea what the bar’s called?”

“Albert the Bear or something.” He took the other ticket. “But let me give you some free advice, comrade. Be careful. Erich Goerz wasn’t in the Royal Württemburg, like me. His idea of comradeship owes more to Al Capone than the Prussian army. You follow me? He’s not as big as you, but he’s pretty handy with his fists. Maybe you’ll like that. You look like a fellow who can take care of himself. But Erich Goerz also carries a gun. And not where you’d expect him to carry one. It’s strapped to his ankle. If ever he stops to tie up his shoelaces, don’t hesitate. Kick him in the teeth before he shoots you.”

“Thanks for the warning, friend.” I flicked my cigarette into no-man’s-land. “You already said he’s not as big as me. Anything else you can tell me about what he looks like?”

“Let me see.” Blask dropped the sledgehammer and stroked his anvil-sized chin. “For one thing, he smokes Russian cigarettes. I think they’re Russian, anyway. Flat ones that smell like a nest of burning weasels. So when he’s in the room, you’ll know about it. Otherwise he’s a pretty regular guy, at least to look at. Aged about thirty, thirty-five, pimp mustache, bit swarthy-looks like he should be wearing a fez. Owns a new Hanomag with a Brandenburg license plate. Matter of fact, that might be where he’s from, originally. The driver’s from somewhere south of there. Wittenberg, I think. He’s a slugger, too, with a reach like the Palace Bridge, so mind you watch out for him as well.”

TO THE SOUTH OF PICHELSBERG, a high road affording pretty views but now much used by construction traffic skirted the Havel River and led to Beelitzhof and the two-kilometer peninsula of Schildhorn. Close to the riverbank were a little group of bars and ivy-covered restaurants, and a series of stone steps that rose steeply up to a group of pine trees that hid the Schildhorn monument and whatever else went on there at six o’clock in the morning. The monument was well chosen as a place for picking up illegal workers. From the road it was impossible to see anything that happened around the monument.

Albert the Bear was shaped a bit like a boot or a shoe and was of such an age that it looked as if the shoe might have an old woman who lived in it with so many children she didn’t know what to do. Outside the door was a new Hanomag with an IE license plate. It looked as if I’d arrived at the right time.

I drove on for about three or four hundred meters and parked. In the trunk of Behlert’s car was a pair of overalls. Behlert was always messing around under the hood of the W. I put on the overalls and walked back into the village, stopping only to push my hands into some damp soil to give myself a workingman’s manicure. A cold easterly wind was blowing off the river and carried a strong hint of the coming winter, not to mention a whiff of something chemical from the Hohenzollerndamm Gasworks on the edge of Wilmersdorf.

Outside the Albert, a tall man with a courtroom artist’s idea of a face was leaning on the Hanomag reading the Zeitung. He was smoking a Tom Thumb and probably keeping an eye on the car. As I pushed open the door, a little bell rang above my head. It didn’t seem like a good idea, but I went inside anyway.

I was greeted by a large stuffed bear. The bear’s jaws were open and its paws were in the air, and I guess a person coming through the door was supposed to feel under attack or something, but to me the bear looked as if he were conducting an ursine choir to sing “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Otherwise the place was almost empty. The floor was a checkerboard of cheap linoleum. Tables with neat yellow cloths were ranged around the orange-colored walls that were a picture gallery of river scenes and characters. In the far corner, underneath a large photograph of the River Spree logjammed with Sunday canoeists, sat a man in a cloud of foul-smelling cigarette smoke. He was reading a newspaper that was spread over the whole table, and he hardly looked up as I came over and stood in front of him.

“Hey,” I said.

“Don’t make the mistake of pulling out that chair,” he murmured. “I’m not the type who likes to jaw with strangers.”

He wore a mid-green suit and a dark green shirt with a brown woolen tie. On the bench next to him were a leather coat and hat and, for no reason I could see, a substantial-looking dog lead. The flat, yellowish cigarettes he was smoking were not Russian, however; they were French.

“I understand. Are you Herr Goerz?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Stefan Blitz. I was told you were the man to speak to about getting work on the Olympic site.”

“Oh? Who told you that?”

“Fellow named Trollmann. Johann Trollmann.”

“Never heard of him. Does he work for me?”

“No, Herr Goerz. He said he heard it from a friend of his. I can’t remember his name. Trollmann and I, we used to box together.” I paused. “I say ‘used to,’ because now we can’t. Not anymore. Not now that there are rules about non-Aryans in sporting contests. Which is how I come to be looking for a job.”

“I’ve never been a sporting man myself,” said Goerz. “I was too busy earning a living.” He looked up from his newspaper. “I can see the boxer in you, maybe. But somehow I can’t see the Jew.”

“I’m a mischling. Half and half. But that doesn’t seem to make much difference to the government.”

Goerz laughed. “No, it certainly doesn’t. Let me see your hands, Stefan Blitz.”

I held them out in front of him, showing off my dirty fingernails.

“Not the backs of your hands. The palms.”

“Are you going to tell my fortune?”

His eyes narrowed as he pulled on the last few centimeters of the foul-smelling cigarette. “Maybe.” Not touching my hands, just looking, he added, “These hands look strong enough. But they don’t look like they’ve done much real work.”

“Like I said, mostly I’ve worked with my knuckles. But I can handle a pick and a shovel. During the war I did my fair share of digging trenches. Quite a few graves, too.”

“Sad.” He put out the cigarette. “Tell me, Stefan, do you know what a tithing is?”

“It’s in the Bible. It means a tenth part, doesn’t it?”

“’Sright. Now, then. I’m just the hiring boss. I get paid by the construction company to find them men. But I also get paid by you, to find you a job, see? A tenth of what you make at the end of the day. You can think of it as being like your union dues.”

“A tenth seems a little high for any union I’ve ever been in.”

“I agree. But then beggars can’t be choosers, now, can they? Jews aren’t allowed to be in German workingmen’s unions. So, under those circumstances, a tenth is what you’re asked to pay. And you can take it or leave it.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I thought you would. Besides, like I said. It’s in your holy book. Genesis, chapter fourteen, verse twenty. ‘And he gave him tithes of all.’ That’s the best way to look at it, I think. As your holy duty. And if you can’t work your head around that, then just remember this: I only pick the men who pay me the tithing. Clear?”


“Six o’clock sharp, at the monument outside. Maybe you’ll work, maybe you won’t. It all depends on how many are needed.”

“I’ll be here.”

“As if I care.” Goerz looked back down at his newspaper. The interview was over.

I HAD ARRANGED TO MEET NOREEN at the Romanisches Café on Tauentzienstrasse. Formerly popular with Berlin’s literati, the café resembled an airship that had made an unscheduled landing on the pavement in front of a four-story Romanesque building that might have been the sibling of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church opposite. Or perhaps it was the modern equivalent of a Hohenzollern hunting lodge-somewhere for the princes and emperors of the first German empire to get a coffee or a kummel after spending a long morning on their knees to a God who, by comparison with them, must have seemed rather vulgar and ill bred.

Under the glass ceilings of the café she was easy to see, like an exotic species of hothouse flower. But, as with any vivid tropical bloom, something dangerous was close at hand. A young man wearing a smart black uniform was seated at her table, like Miss Muffet’s spider. Less than six months after the demise of the SA as a political force independent of the Nazis, the impeccably dressed SS had already established itself as the most feared uniformed organization in Hitler’s Germany.

I was none too pleased to see him myself. He was tall and blond and handsome with an easy smile and manners as polished as his boots-lighting Noreen’s cigarette as urgently as if her life had depended on it, and standing up with a click of heels that was as loud as a champagne cork when I presented myself at their table. The SS officer’s matching black Labrador shifted uncertainly on his haunches and uttered a low growl. Master and dog looked like a warlock and his familiar, and before Noreen had even begun the introductions, I was hoping he might disappear in a puff of black smoke.

“This is Lieutenant Seetzen,” she said, smiling politely. “He’s been keeping me company and practicing his English.”

I fixed a rictus smile to my jaw, affecting pleasure in our new friend’s company, but I was glad when he finally made his excuses and left.

“That’s a relief,” she said. “I thought he’d never go.”

“Oh? You looked like you were getting on very well.”

“Don’t be an ass, Gunther. What could I do? I was reading through my notes, and he just sat down and started speaking to me. All the same, it was kind of fascinating in a sort of creepy way. He was telling me that he’s applied to join the Prussian Gestapo.”

“Now, there’s a job with prospects. If only I didn’t have any scruples, I might just do the same.”

“Right now he’s on a training course in the Grunewald.”

“I wonder what they teach them. How to use a rubber hose on a man without killing him? Where do they get these bastards?”

“He’s from Eutin.”

“Ah, so that’s where they get them.”

Noreen tried to stifle a yawn with the back of her elegantly gloved hand. It was easy to see why the lieutenant had spoken to her. She was easily the best-looking woman in the café. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But it’s been a hell of an afternoon. First von Tschammer und Osten, and then that young lieutenant. For a clever people, you Germans can be awfully dumb.” She glanced down at her reporter’s notebook. “Your leader of German sports is so full of bullshit.”

“That’s how he got the job, angel.” I lit a cigarette.

She turned some of the pages of shorthand, shaking her head.

“Listen to this. I mean, he said a lot of things that sounded sort of unhinged to me, but this took the biscuit. When I asked him about Hitler’s promise that, in the selection of its Olympic team, Germany would observe Olympic statutes and recognize neither race nor color, he said-and I quote, ‘But it is being observed. At least, in principle. Technically, nobody is being excluded on any of those grounds.’ And listen to this, Bernie. This is the best bit. ‘By the time the games are held, Jews will probably no longer be German citizens, or at least first-class German citizens. They may be admissible as guests. And in view of all the international agitation on behalf of the Jews, it may even happen that, at the last moment, the government will accede to there being a small quota of Jews on the team, albeit in those sporting events in which Germany stands only a slight chance of winning, such as chess or croquet. Because the fact remains that there are certain sports in which it cannot be denied, a German-Jewish victory would present us with a political, not to say philosophical, question.’ ”

“Is that so?” I put out my cigarette. It was still only half smoked, but I felt something sticking in my throat, as if I had swallowed the little silver death’s-head badge from the lieutenant’s black cap.

“Depressing, isn’t it?”

“If I’ve given you the impression that I’m a tough guy, then I should tell you now, I’m not. I appreciate a little bit of warning before anyone punches me in the stomach.”

“There’s more. Von Tschammer und Osten said that all Roman Catholic and Protestant youth organizations are, like all Jewish organizations, to be expressly forbidden to pursue any sport. As far as the Nazis are concerned, people are going to have to make a choice between religion and sports. The point being that all sports training is to be done under Nazi auspices. He actually said that the Nazis are conducting a cultural war against the church.”

“He said that?”

“Any Catholic or Protestant athletes who don’t join Nazi sports clubs will lose their chance of representing Germany.”

I shrugged. “So let them. Who cares about a few idiots running around a track anyway?”

“You’re missing the point, Gunther. They’ve purged the police. Now they’re purging sports. If they succeed, there will be no aspect of German life in which they won’t be able to exert their authority. In all aspects of German society, Nazis will be preferred. If you want to get on in life, you will have to become a Nazi.”

She was smiling, and it annoyed me that she was smiling. I knew why she was smiling. She was pleased because she thought she had a scoop for her newspaper article. But it still annoyed me that she was smiling. To me this was more than just a story, this was my country.

“It’s you who’s missing the point,” I said. “You think it was an accident that SS lieutenant decided to speak to you? You think he was just passing the time of day?” I laughed. “The Gestapo marked your card, angel. Why else would he have told you he was joining the Gestapo? After your interview with the sports leader they probably followed you here.”

“Oh, that’s nonsense, Bernie.”

“Is it? Most likely Lieutenant Seetzen was told to charm you, to find out what kind of person you are. Who your associates are. And now they know about me.” I glanced around the café. “They’re probably watching us right now. Perhaps the waiter is one of theirs. Or that man reading the newspaper. It could be anyone. That’s what they do.”

Noreen swallowed nervously and lit another cigarette. Her lovely blue eyes flicked one way and then the other, examining the waiter and then the man with the newspaper for some sign that they were spying on us. “You really think so?”

Noreen was beginning to look convinced, and I might have smiled and told her I was joking but for the fact that I’d also succeeded in convincing myself. Why wouldn’t the Gestapo have followed an American journalist who had just finished interviewing the sports leader? It made perfect sense. It’s what I’d have done if I’d been in the Gestapo. I told myself I ought to have seen this coming.

“So now they know about you,” I said. “And they know about me.”

“I’ve put you in danger, haven’t I?”

“Like you said this morning. A certain amount of danger is written into the job description.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Forget it. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t forget it, after all. I like your feeling guilty on my part. It means I can blackmail you with a clear conscience, angel. Besides. As soon as I saw you I knew you were trouble. And it just so happens that’s just the way I like my women. With big fenders, polished coachwork, lots of chrome, and a supercharged engine, like that car Hedda drives. The kind of car where you find yourself in Poland the moment you touch the gas. I’d be on the bus if I was interested in sleeping with librarians.”

“All the same, I’ve been thinking about this story and not thinking at all about the impact it might have on you. I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid as to bring you to the attention of the Gestapo.”

“Maybe I didn’t mention it before, but I’ve been in their sights for quite a while. Ever since I quit the force, as a matter of fact. There are several good reasons I can think of why the Gestapo or for that matter KRIPO could arrest me if they wanted to. It’s the reasons I can’t think of that are the ones I worry about most.”


NOREEN WANTED TO SPEND THE NIGHT with me at my apartment, but I couldn’t bring myself to bring her to what was little more than a room with a tiny kitchen and an even tinier bathroom. Calling it an apartment at all was a bit like describing a mustard seed as a vegetable. There were smaller apartments in Berlin, but mostly it was the families of mice that got them first.

It was embarrassment that prevented me from showing her how I lived. But it was shame that prevented me from telling her that I was one-eighth Jewish. It’s true I had been discomfited at the discovery my so-called mixed blood had been denounced to the Gestapo, but I felt no shame in being who and what I was. How could I? It seemed so insignificant. No, the shame I felt related to my having asked Emil Linthe to airbrush from the official record the very blood that connected me with Noreen, albeit in a small way. How could I tell her that? And, still nursing my secret, I spent another blissful night with Noreen in her suite at the Adlo.n.

Lying between her thighs, I slept only a little. We had better things to do. And early in the morning, when I made my nefarious exit from her room, I told her only that I was going home and that I would see her later that day, and nothing at all about catching the S-Bahn to Grunewald and Schildhorn.

I kept some working clothes in my office. As soon as I had changed, I went out into the predawn darkness and walked to Potsdamer Station. About forty-five minutes after that, I was walking up the steps to the Schildhorn monument with several other men, most of them Jewish-looking types with brown hair, dark melancholy eyes, bat ears, and beaks that made you wonder if God had chosen his people on the basis of their having noses they might not have chosen for themselves. This generalization was made easier by the certain knowledge that all these men shared a bloodline that was probably purer than my own. In the moonlight, one or two of them shot me a questioning look, as if wondering what the Nazis could possibly have against a tall, burly man with blond hair, blue eyes, and a nose like a baker’s thumb. I didn’t blame them. In that particular company I stuck out like Rameses II.

There were about 150 men gathered in the darkness under the invisible pine trees, which whispered their presence in an early-morning breeze. The monument itself was supposed to be a stylized tree crowned by a cross from which a shield was hanging. It probably meant something to someone who had a taste for unsightly religious monuments. To me it looked like a lamppost without a much-needed lamp. Or, perhaps, a stone stake for burning city architects. That would have been a worthwhile monument. Especially in Berlin.

I walked around this economy-sized obelisk, eavesdropping on a few conversations. Mostly they were to do with how many days each man had worked in the recent past. Or not worked, as seemed rather more common.

“I got one day last week,” said a man. “And two the week before. I need to work today, or my family won’t eat.”

Another started to excoriate Goerz but was quickly silenced by someone else.

“Blame the Nazis, not Goerz. But for him none of us would work. He’s risking as much as us. Maybe more.”

“If you ask me, he gets well paid for the risk.”

“It’s my first time,” I told the man standing next to me. “How do you get yourself picked?”

I offered him a cigarette, and he looked at me and my cigarettes strangely, as if suspecting that no one who really needed to work had money for such sensuous and expensive luxuries. He took it anyway and put it behind his ear.

“There’s no method in it,” he said. “I’ve been coming here for six months, and still it seems arbitrary. There are some days when he likes your face, and others when he doesn’t even meet your eye.”

“Maybe he’s just trying to spread the work around,” I said. “For the sake of fairness.”

“Fairness?” The man snorted his derision. “Fairness has absolutely nothing to do with it. One day he’ll take a hundred men. Another day he’ll take seventy-five. It’s a kind of fascism, I think. Goerz reminding us all of the power he wields.”

Shorter than me by a head, the man was red-haired and sharply featured, with a face like a heavily rusted hatchet. He wore a thick pea jacket and a worker’s cap, and around his neck was tied a bright green handkerchief that matched the color of the eyes behind his wire-framed glasses. Jutting out of his coat pocket was a book by Dostoevsky, and it was almost as if this young and studious-looking Jew had emerged, fully formed, from a space between the pages: neurotic, poor, undernourished, desperate. His name was Solomon Feigenbaum, which, to my mostly Aryan ears, was about as Jewish as a ghetto full of tailors.

“Anyway, if it’s your first time, you almost always get picked,” said Feigenbaum. “Goerz likes to give the new man a day, so that they get the taste.”

“That’s a relief.”

“If you say so. Only you don’t look like you’re in desperate need of work. Matter of fact, you don’t even look Jewish.”

“That’s what my mother said to my father. I always figured that’s why she married him. It takes more than a hooked nose and a yarmulke to make a Jew, friend. What about Helene Mayer?”

“Who’s she?”

“A Jewish fencer on the German Olympic team in 1932. Looks like Hitler’s wet dream. She’s got more blond hair than the floor in a Swedish barbershop. And what about Leni Riefenstahl? Surely you’ve heard the rumors.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Not at all. Her mother was a Polish Jew.”

Feigenbaum seemed vaguely amused by that.

“Listen,” I said. “I haven’t worked in weeks. A friend of mine told me about this Plage. As a matter of fact, I thought I’d see him here.” As if hoping to see Isaac Deutsch, I looked around the crowd of men standing near the monument, and shook my head with disappointment.

“Did your friend tell you about the work?”

“Only that it’s no questions asked.”

“That all?”

“What else is there?”

“Like they use Jewish labor for work that maybe so-called German workers don’t want to do because it’s dangerous. On account of how they’re cutting corners on safety so they can finish the stadium on time. Did your friend tell you that?”

“Are you trying to put me off?”

“I’m just telling you how it is. It seems to me that if your friend was really your friend, he might have mentioned that much. That you’ve got to be a bit desperate maybe to take some of the risks they expect you to take. It’s not like anyone’s gonna give you a hard hat, my friend. A rock falls on your head or you get buried in a cave-in, there isn’t going to be anyone looking surprised or grief-stricken. There’s no social welfare for illegally employed Jews. Maybe not even a headstone. Understand?”

“I understand that maybe you’re trying to put me off. Increase your own chances of getting work.”

“What I’m trying to say is we look after each other, see? If we don’t, nobody else will. When we go down the pit, we’re like the three musketeers.”

“The pit? I thought we were on the stadium site.”

“That’s up top, for German workers. Nothing to it. Most of us here are working on the tunnel for a new S-Bahn that’s going to run from the stadium all the way to Königgratzer Strasse. If you work today, you’ll find out what it’s like to be a mole.” He glanced up at the still-dark sky. “We go down in the dark, we work in the dark, and we come up in the dark.”

“You’re right, my friend didn’t tell me any of this,” I said. “You would think he’d have mentioned it. Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve seen him. Or his uncle. Hey, maybe you know them. Isaac and Joey Deutsch?”

“I don’t know them,” said Feigenbaum, but behind his glasses, his eyes had narrowed and were studying me carefully, as if maybe he had heard of them, after all. I didn’t spend ten years at the Alex without getting an itch for when a man is lying. He pulled on his earlobe a couple of times and then glanced away, nervously. That was the clincher.

“But you must,” I said firmly. “Isaac used to be a boxer. He was a real prospect until the Nazis excluded Jews from the fights and took away his license. Joey was his trainer. Surely you know them?”

“I tell you I don’t know them.” Feigenbaum spoke firmly.

I shrugged and lit a cigarette. “If you say so. I mean, it’s nothing to me.” I puffed the cigarette to let him get a whiff of it. I could tell he was desperate for a smoke, even though he still had the one I’d given him behind his ear. “I guess all that talk about the three musketeers and looking out for each other was just that. Talk.”

“What do you mean?” His nostrils flared in front of the tobacco smoke and he licked his lips.

“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing at all.” I took another drag and dried his face with it. “Here. Finish it. You know you want one.”

Feigenbaum took the cigarette from my fingers and went to work on it as if I’d offered him an opium pipe. Some people are just like that with a nail: they make you think that maybe there’s something really harmful about a little thing like a cigarette. It’s a little unnerving to watch an addiction at work like that sometimes.

I looked the other way, smiling nonchalantly. “Story of my life, I guess. I don’t mean anything at all. Maybe none of us do, right? One minute we’re here, and the next we’re gone.” I glanced at my wrist and then remembered I’d deliberately left my wristwatch back at the hotel. “Bloody wristwatch. I keep forgetting I pawned it. Where is this fellow Goerz, anyway? Shouldn’t he be here by now?”

“He’ll be here when he’s here,” said Feigenbaum, and then, still smoking my cigarette, he walked away.

Erich Goerz arrived a few minutes after that. He was accompanied by his tall driver and another, muscular-looking man. Goerz was smoking the same pungent French cigarettes and, under a gray gabardine coat, wearing the same green suit. A hat sat on the back of his head like a felt halo, and in his hand was the lead for the same invisible dog. Immediately after he appeared, men started to crowd around him as if he’d been about to deliver the Sermon on the Mount, and his two disciples extended their thick arms to prevent Goerz from being jostled. I pushed a bit closer myself, keen to seem like I was as needful of work as anyone else.

“Stand back, you kike bastards, I can see you,” snarled Goerz. “What do you think this is, a beauty parade? Stand back, I said. I get pushed over like last week, and none of you yids will work today, got that? Right. Listen to me, you kikes. I need just ten gangs today. Ten gangs. A hundred men, hear? You. Where’s that money you owe me? I told you not to show your face back here until you can pay me.”

“How can I pay you if I can’t work?” said a plaintive voice.

“You should have thought of that before,” said Goerz. “I don’t know how. Sell your whore of a sister or something. What do I care?”

The two disciples grabbed the man and pushed him out of Goerz’s line of sight.

“You.” Goerz was speaking to someone else now. “How much did you get for those copper pipes?”

The man he’d spoken to mumbled something back.

“Give,” Goerz snarled, and snatched some notes out of the man’s hand.

With all this business concluded at last, he started to choose men for the work gangs, and as each gang was filled, the men left unpicked began to look more and more desperate, which only seemed to delight Goerz. He was like some capricious schoolboy selecting classmates for an important game of football. As the last gang came to be filled, one man said, “I’ll give you an extra two for my shift.”

“I’ll kick in three,” the man next to him said, and was promptly rewarded with one of the tickets a disciple handed to those lucky men whom Goerz had identified as those who would work that day.

“One day left,” he said, grinning broadly. “Who wants it?”

Feigenbaum pushed his way to the front of the large crowd of men still encircling Goerz. “Please, Herr Goerz,” he said. “Give me a break. It’s been a week since I had a day. I need a day real bad. I’ve got three kids.”

“That’s the trouble with you Jews. You’re like rabbits. No wonder people hate your guts.”

Goerz looked at me. “You. Boxer.” He snatched the last ticket from the hand of his disciple and then thrust it at me. “Here’s a job.”

I felt bad, but I took the ticket all the same, avoiding Feigenbaum’s eye as I followed the rest of the men who’d been picked back down the steps to the riverbank. There were about thirty or forty steps, and they were as steep as Jacob’s ladder, which was, perhaps, the intention of the Prussian emperor William IV, whose romantic ideas of chivalry had brought that peculiar monument into being. I was almost two-thirds of the way down the steps when I caught sight of the truck that was waiting to drive Erich Goerz’s illegal workforce to the site. At the same time I heard some footsteps closing behind me. This was no angel, it was Goerz. He took a swing at me with a cosh, which missed, and like Jacob, I was obliged to wrestle with him for a moment before I lost my footing and fell down the remainder of the steps and hit my head on the stone wall.

I felt as if I had been lying on a concert-sized harp while someone had struck it hard with a sledgehammer. Every part of me seemed to vibrate wildly. For a moment I lay there, staring up at the early-morning sky with the certain knowledge that, unlike Hitler, God has a sense of humor. It was in the Psalms, after all. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. How else was I to explain the fact that in order to claim for himself the shift given to me, Feigenbaum, a Jew, had almost certainly informed the anti-Semitic Goerz that I had been asking questions about Isaac and Joey Deutsch? He who sits in the heavens was laughing, all right. That was enough to make me split my sides. I closed my eyes in prayer to ask Him if there was something He had against Germans, but the answer was all too obvious, and opening my eyes again, I found there was no perceptible difference between having them open and having them closed, except that my eyelids now seemed like the heaviest thing in the world. So heavy, they felt like they were made of stone. Perhaps the stone over a deep, dark, cold tomb. The kind of stone that even Jacob’s angel could not have wrestled away. Forever and ever. Amen.


HEDDA ADLON ALWAYS SAID that for her to run a truly great hotel, the guests needed to be asleep for sixteen hours a day; during the other eight they should be resting quietly in the bar. That sounded just fine with me. I wanted to sleep for a long time, and preferably in Noreen’s bed. I might have done, too, except for the fact that she was trying to put out her cigarette in the small of my back. That’s what it felt like, anyway. I tried to shift away, and then something struck me hard across the head and shoulders. I opened my eyes to discover that I was sitting on a wooden floor, covered with sawdust and tied with my back to a freestanding faience stove-one of those ceramic heaters shaped like a public drinking fountain that sits in the corner of many a German living room, like some senile relation in a rocking chair. Since I was seldom ever home, the stove in my own living room was seldom lit and was therefore seldom ever warm, but even through my jacket this one felt hotter than the smokestack on a busy steam tug. I arched my back trying to minimize the point of contact with the hot ceramic and succeeded only in burning my hands; hearing my cry of pain, Erich Goerz once again set about lashing me with the dog lead. At least now I knew why he carried it. No doubt he saw himself as a sort of overseer, like that Egyptian slave driver murdered by Moses in Exodus. I wouldn’t have minded murdering Goerz myself.

When he stopped beating me, I looked up and saw that he had my identity card in his hands, and cursed myself for not leaving it back at the hotel in the pocket of my suit. Standing a few feet behind him were Goerz’s tall, cadaverous-looking driver and the square-sized man from the monument. He had a face like an unfinished piece of marble sculpture.

“Bernhard Gunther,” said Goerz. “It says here you’re a hotel employee but that you used to be a cop. What’s a hotel employee doing around here, asking questions about Isaac Deutsch?”

“Untie me and I’ll tell you.”

“Tell me and then I’ll untie you. Maybe.”

I saw no reason not to tell him the truth. No reason at all. Torture will do that to you sometimes. “One of the guests at the hotel is an American reporter,” I said. “She’s writing a newspaper article about Jews in German sports. And Isaac Deutsch in particular. She wants to bring about a U.S. boycott of the Olympiad. And she’s paying me to help her do the research.”

I grimaced and tried to ignore the heat in my back, which was a little like trying to ignore a minor imp in hell, armed with a hot pitchfork and my name on his day’s work sheet.

“That’s bullshit,” said Goerz. “It’s bullshit, because I read the newspapers, which is how I happen to know that the American Olympic Committee already voted against a boycott.” He raised the dog lead and started to beat me again.

“She’s a Jew,” I yelled through the blows. “She thinks that if she writes the truth about what’s happening in this country, to people like Isaac Deutsch, then the Amis will have to change their minds. Deutsch is the focus of her piece. How he got kicked out of his local boxing association and how he ended up working here. And how there was an accident. I don’t know what happened exactly. He drowned, didn’t he? In the S-Bahn tunnel, was it? And then someone dumped him in the canal on the other side of the city.”

Goerz stopped beating me. He looked out of breath. He swept his hair out of his eyes, straightened his tie, swung the leash around his neck, and then hung on it with both hands. “And how did you find out about him?”

“An ex-colleague, a bull at the Alex, showed me the body in the morgue and gave me the file. That’s all. I used to work Homicide, see? They’d run out of ideas on who the guy might be and figured I might offer a new perspective.”

Goerz looked at his driver and laughed. “Shall I tell you what I think?” he said. “I think you used to be a cop. And I think you still are. A secret cop. Gestapo. I’ve never seen anyone who looked less like a hotel employee than you do, my friend. I’ll bet that’s just a cover story so you can go around spying on people. And more important, on us.”

“It’s the truth, I tell you. Look, I know you didn’t kill Deutsch. It was an accident. That much was clear from the autopsy. You see, he couldn’t have drowned in the canal, because his lungs were full of seawater. That’s what made the polenta suspicious in the first place.”

“There was an autopsy?” It was the square-looking man-the living sculpture-who spoke. “You mean they cut him open?”

“Of course there was an autopsy, you dumb schmuck. That’s the law. Where do you think this is? The Belgian Congo? When a body’s found, a body has to be investigated. Surgically and circumstantially.”

“But when they finished with him, they’d have given him a proper burial, right?”

I groaned with pain and shook my head. “Burials are for Otto Normals,” I said. “Not unidentified bodies. There’ s been no identification. Not formally. No one claimed him, see? I’m only investigating it because the Ami woman wanted to find out about the guy. The polenta doesn’t know shit about him. As far as I know, the body went to the Charité Hospital. To the anatomy class. The kids with the forceps and the lancets got to play with him.”

“You mean medical students?”

“I don’t mean students of political economy, you stupid bastard. Of course medical students.”

I was beginning to see that this was a sensitive subject to the man with the jaw that looked as if it had been cut from a piece of marble. But with my tongue loosened from the pain I was feeling from the heat of the stove, I kept on talking regardless. “By now they’ll have sliced him open and used his dick to make an oxtail soup. His skull’s probably an ashtray on some student’s desk. What do you care, Hermann? You’re the people who dumped the poor bastard in the canal like a pail of restaurant garbage.”

The square-looking man with the marble chin shook his head grimly. “I thought at least he’d get a decent burial.”

“I told you, decent burials are for citizens. Not floaters. It seems to me that the only person who’s tried to treat Isaac Deutsch with any respect is my client.” I tried to twist away from the stove, but it was no good. I was beginning to feel like Jan Hus.

“Your client.” Erich Goerz’s voice was full of contempt, like some grand inquisitor. He started to beat me again. The dog lead whistled through the air like a flail. I felt like a dusty rug at the Adlon. “You’re going. To tell us. Exactly. Who the hell. You are…”

“That’s enough,” said the square-looking man with the marble chin.

I didn’t see what happened next. I was too busy pressing my chin into my chest and closing my eyes, trying to ride out the pain of the beating. All I know is that suddenly the beating stopped and Goerz hit the floor in front of me with blood pouring from the side of his mouth. I looked up just in time to see Marble Jaw neatly sidestep a big haymaker from Goerz’s driver before lifting him off his toes with a fist that came flying up from the basement like an express elevator. The driver went down like a tower of wooden blocks, which was as satisfying to me as if I had toppled him myself.

Marble Jaw took a breath and then started to untie me.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“For what?”

“For what I said about your nephew, Isaac.” I pulled the ropes away and wrestled my back clear of the stove. “I’m right, aren’t I? You are Isaac’s uncle Joey?”

He nodded and helped me to stand. “The back of your coat’s scorched through,” he said. “I can’t see what your back looks like, but it can’t be too bad. Otherwise we could probably smell it.”

“There’s a comforting thought. By the way, thanks. For helping me.” I put my arm around his huge shoulder and straightened painfully.

“He’s had that coming for a long time,” said Joey.

“I’m afraid all of what I said was true. But I’m sorry you had to hear about it like that.”

Joey Deutsch shook his head. “I suspected as much,” he said. “Goerz told me different, of course, but in my guts I suppose I knew different. I wanted to believe him, for Isaac’s sake. I guess I had to hear it from someone else for it sink in.”

Erich Goerz rolled slowly onto his stomach and groaned.

“That’s quite an uppercut you’ve got on you, Joey,” I said.

“Come on. I’ll get you home.” He hesitated. “Can you stand by yourself?”


Joey bent down over the unconscious driver and retrieved a set of car keys from the man’s waistcoat pocket. “We’ll take Erich’s car,” he said. “Just in case these two bastards come after us.”

Goerz groaned again and contracted, slowly, into a fetal position. For a brief second I thought he might be having some sort of convulsion until I remembered what Blask, the site foreman, had told me about the gun strapped to Goerz’s ankle. Only it wasn’t strapped to his ankle anymore. It was in his hand.

“Look out!” I yelled, and kicked Goerz in the head. I’d meant to kick his hand, but as I raised my foot I lost control and fell onto the floor again.

The pistol fired harmlessly, breaking a windowpane.

I crawled over to Goerz to look at him. I hardly wanted another man’s death on my conscience. He was unconscious, but fortunately for me, and more especially him, Erich Goerz was still breathing. I retrieved my ID card from the floor, where he had tossed it angrily a few minutes earlier, and picked up the pistol. It was a Bayard semiautomatic 6.35-millimeter.

“French cigarettes, French gun,” I said. “Makes sense, I suppose.” I made the gun safe and pointed it at the door. “Anyone else out there, do you think?” I asked Joey.

“You mean, like him? No, it was just these two, the three truck drivers, and, I’m sorry to say, me. After Isaac got killed, they took me on the payroll. As extra muscle, they said, but I guess it was just as much about ensuring that I kept my mouth shut.”

As Joey helped me walk to the door, I got a better look at him and saw a man who didn’t look much more Jewish than I did. The hair on the side of a head as big as a watermelon was gray, but on top it was blond, and as curly as an Astrakhan coat. The huge face was both florid and pasty, like old bacon. Small brown eyes sat on either side of a broken nose that was sharp and pointy. The eyebrows were almost invisible, as were the teeth in his gaping mouth. Somehow he put me in mind of a man-sized baby.

We went downstairs, and I recognized that we were in the Albert the Bear. There was no sign of a proprietor, and I didn’t ask. Outside, the fresh morning air helped revive me a little. I got into the passenger seat of the Hanomag and, almost destroying the gears, Deutsch quickly drove us away. He was a terrible driver and narrowly missed colliding with a water trough on the corner.

It turned out that he lived not so very far away from me in the south-eastern part of the city. We dumped what was left of the Hanomag in the car park of the cemetery on Baruther Strasse. Joey wanted to take me to a hospital, but I told him I thought I’d probably be all right.

“How about you?” I asked him.

“Me? I’m all right. You don’t have to worry about me, son.”

“I just cost you a job.”

Joey shook his head. “I shouldn’t ever have taken it.”

I lit us both a cigarette. “Feel up to talking about it?”

“How do you mean?”

“My Ami friend. The journalist. Noreen Charalambides. She’s the one writing about Isaac. I imagine she’d like to speak to you. To get your story and Isaac’s.”

Joey grunted without much enthusiasm for the idea.

“Given that he’s got no actual grave, it could be like a kind of memorial,” I said. “To his memory.”

While Joey considered this idea, he puffed at the cigarette. In his mallet-sized fist it looked more like a safety match.

“Not a bad idea at that,” he said finally. “Bring her around this evening. She can get the whole story. If she doesn’t mind slumming it.”

He gave me an address in Britz, near the meat-canning factory. I jotted it down on the inside of my cigarette pack.

“Does Erich Goerz know this address?” I asked.

“Nobody does. There’s just me that lives there now. If you can call it living. Since Isaac died I’ve let myself go a bit, you know? There doesn’t seem to be much point in looking after the place now that he’s gone. Not much point in anything at all, really.”

“I know what that’s like,” I said.

“Been a while since I had any visitors. Maybe I could tidy up a bit. Put things in order before-”

“Don’t put yourself to any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble,” he said quietly. “No trouble at all.” He nodded resolutely. “Matter of fact, I should have done it a while ago.”

He walked away. I found a phone booth and telephoned the Adlon.

I told Noreen some of it but not all. The part about me spilling almost the whole story to Erich Goerz I didn’t tell her. The only consolation there was that I hadn’t mentioned the name of the hotel where she was staying.

She said she’d come right over.


IOPENED THE DOOR WIDE, but not as wide as Noreen’s eyes. She stood there, wearing a red dress underneath her sable coat and looking at me with a mixture of shock and bewilderment, much as Lotte must have looked upon discovering she had arrived in time to find that young Werther had just succeeded in blowing his brains out. Assuming he had any brains.

“My God,” she whispered, touching my face. “What happened to you?”

“I just read a portion of Ossian,” I said. “Second-rate poetry always affects me this way.”

She pushed me gently aside and closed the door behind her.

“You should see me when I’m really affected by something good. Like Schiller. I’m bedridden for days.”

She shrugged off her coat and tossed it onto a chair.

“You might not want to do that,” I said. I was trying not to feel embarrassed about the place, but it wasn’t easy. “It’s been a while since that chair was properly deloused.”

“Do you have any iodine?”

“No, but I have a bottle of kummel. Matter of fact, I think I’ll have one myself.”

I went over to the sideboard to pour a couple of drinks. I didn’t ask if she wanted one. I’d seen her drink before.

While she waited, she glanced around. The living room had a sideboard, an armchair, and a folding table. There was a high bookcase built into the walls, and it was full of books, several of which I’d read. There were a stove and a small fireplace with an even smaller fire. There was also a bed, since the living room happened also to be the bedroom. Through an open doorway was a garbage area that was also the kitchen. On the other side of the frosted kitchen window was a security grille and a fire escape, just to make the mice feel safe. Next to the front door was the door to the bathroom, only the bath was hanging upside down on the ceiling, right above the lavatory, where a man sitting there might contemplate the inconvenience of taking a bath in front of the fire. The floor was linoleum throughout, with a small collection of stamp-sized rugs. Some people might have thought it a bit of a dump, but to me it was a palace or, to be more accurate, the meanest room in a palace, the one where the servants kept their junk.

“I’m waiting for my interior decorator to come back with a portrait of the Leader,” I said. “After that it should look nice and cozy.”

She took the drink I offered her and stared closely at my face. “That weal,” she said. “You should put something on it.”

I pulled her closer. “How about your mouth?”

“Do you have any Vaseline?”

“What’s that?”

“First-aid petroleum jelly.”

“Hey, listen, I’ll live. I was at the Battle of Amiens and I’m still here, and believe me, that takes some doing.”

She shrugged and pulled away. “Go ahead. Be tough. But I had the funny idea I care for you, which means I don’t like it that you’ve been whipped. If anyone’s going to whip you it ought to be me, only I’ll make sure I don’t leave any marks.”

“Thanks, I’ll bear it in mind. Anyway, it wasn’t a whip. It was a dog leash.”

“You didn’t mention a dog.”

“There wasn’t a dog. It’s my impression that Goerz would prefer to carry a whip, but people on the tram look at you a bit strangely when you go around with one of those in your hand. Even in Berlin.”

“Do you think he hits his Jewish workers with it?”

“I shouldn’t be at all surprised.”

I tossed back the kummel, held it on my tonsils for moment, and then let it roll, enjoying the warmth as it spread through my body. Meanwhile Noreen found some chamomile ointment and anointed my more obvious wounds with it. I think it made her feel better. I poured myself another kummel. Which made me feel better.

WE WALKED TO A TAXI RANK and took a cab to the address in Britz. South of another modern apartment building called the Horseshoe and next to the Grossmann Coburg canned-meat factory was a decayed archway that was the entrance to a series of courtyards and tenement buildings of the kind that might convince any architect that he was some kind of messiah come to save people from their squalor and poverty. Personally, I never minded a little squalor. To be honest, for a long time after the war I hardly noticed it.

Passing through another archway, we came upon a tatty sign for infrared health lamps painted onto the brickwork. That seemed a little optimistic, to say the least. We mounted a dark stairway that led up into the building’s tomblike interior. Somewhere a barrel organ was churning out a melancholy tune that matched our lowering spirits. A German tenement building could have sucked all the light out of the second coming.

Halfway up the stairs we passed a woman who was on her way down. There was a bicycle wheel in her hand and a loaf of bread under her arm. A few steps behind her was a boy of about ten or eleven wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth. The woman smiled and nodded a little bow in Noreen’s direction or, as seemed more likely, at the sable coat she was wearing. This prompted Noreen to ask if we were on the right flight of stairs for Herr Deutsch. The woman with the bicycle wheel answered respectfully that it was, and we carried on up, stepping carefully around a second woman who was on her knees, scrubbing the stairs with a heavy brush and something noxious in a bucket. She had heard us ask about Joey Deutsch, and as we moved past, she said, “Tell that Jew it’s his turn to clean the stairs.”

“Tell him yourself,” said Noreen.

“I did,” said the woman. “Just now. But he paid no notice. Didn’t even come to the door. Which is why I’m doing it myself.”

“Perhaps he’s not in,” said Noreen.

“Oh, he’s in there, all right. He must be. I saw him go up there a while ago and I haven’t seen him come down. Besides, his door is open.” She went at the steps with the brush for several seconds. “I expect he’s avoiding me.”

“Does he normally leave his front door open?” I asked, suddenly suspicious.

“What? Around here? Are you joking? But I think he must be expecting someone. You, perhaps, if your name is Gunther. There’s a note stuck on the door.”

We quickly went up the last two flights of stairs and stopped in front of a door once painted scarlet but now hardly painted at all unless you counted the yellow star and the words JEWS OUT with which someone had thoughtfully defaced it. There was a blue envelope tacked onto the door frame. It was addressed to me. And the door was open just as the woman cleaning the stairs had said. I put the envelope in my pocket and, taking out Erich Goerz’s pistol, steered Noreen behind me.

“There’s something not right here,” I said, and pushed open the door.

As we went into the little apartment, Noreen reached up and touched a small brass plate on the door frame. “The mezuzah,” she said. “It’s a passage from the Torah. Most Jewish homes have one.”

I worked the slide on the little automatic and stepped into the small hallway. The apartment comprised two largish rooms. To the left was a living room that was a shrine to boxing and one boxer in particular: Isaac Deutsch. In a glass cabinet were some ten or fifteen empty wooden trophy stands and several photographs of Joey and Isaac. I imagined the trophies had been pawned a long time ago. The walls were papered with boxing posters, and piles of fight magazines were heaped around the room. On a table were a very stale loaf of bread and a fruit bowl containing a couple of blackened bananas that were now a world’s fair of tiny flies. A pair of ancient-looking boxing gloves hung from a nail on the back of the door, and a selection of rusting weights lay next to a bar that was leaning against a wall. Above it was a length of rope from which were hanging a shirt and a broken umbrella. There were a disemboweled armchair and, behind it, a full-length mirror with a crack in the glass. Everything else was just junk.

“Herr Deutsch?” My voice sounded tight in my chest, like I had a cuckoo nesting between my two lungs. “It’s Gunther. Are you home?”

We went back through the hallway and into the bedroom, where the curtains were drawn. There was a strong smell of carbolic soap and disinfectant. Or so I thought, anyway. A big brass bed stood opposite a wardrobe the size of a small Swiss bank vault.

“Joey? Is that you?”

In the curtained gloom I saw the outline of a figure on the bed and felt my hair lift the back of my hat. You spend ten years as a cop, sometimes you know what you’re going to see before you see it. And you know that it’s not everyone who can look it straight in the eye.

“Noreen,” I said. “I think Joey’s killed himself. We’ll only find out for sure when I draw the curtains and read that note. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who feels she needs to see everything. Who thinks she has a duty to report everything, unflinchingly. I don’t know. But it’s my opinion that you need to brace yourself or leave the room. I’ve seen enough bodies in my time to know that it’s never-”

“I’ve seen a dead body before, Bernie. I told you about that lynching in Georgia. And my father, he killed himself, with a shotgun. You don’t forget that in a hurry, I can tell you.”

Reflecting that it was interesting how quickly my concern to spare her feelings turned to something like sadism, I yanked the curtains open with no more argument. She wanted to play at being Turgenev, it was all right with me.

Joey Deutsch lay across his bed, still wearing the same clothes I had seen him in earlier. He was half twisted up off the mattress, as if some of the springs had burst out of the material under the small of his back. He was clean-shaven as before-only now it looked as if he were wearing a brown mustache and a small beard. These were corrosive burns and the result of whatever he had swallowed to poison himself. A bottle lay on the floor where he had dropped it, and next to this was a pool of bloody vomit. I picked the bottle up carefully and sniffed at the open neck.

“Lye,” I told her, but she had already turned away and was leaving the room. I followed her into the hallway. “He drank lye. Jesus. What a way to kill yourself.”

Noreen had pressed her face into a corner of the entrance hall like a disobedient child. Her arms were folded defensively across her chest and her eyes were closed. I lit a couple of cigarettes, tapped her on the elbow, and gave her one. I didn’t say anything. Whatever I might have said would have sounded like “I told you so.”

Still smoking, I went back into the living room. On top of a pile of fight magazines was a small leather writing folder. Inside were some envelopes and notepaper that matched the note addressed to me. So did the ink in the Pelikan he’d replaced in the little cylindrical leather sleeve. There was nothing that made me suspect anyone had forced him to write the note. The writing was neat and unhurried. I’d had love letters that were much less legible, although not for a long time. I read it carefully, as if Joey Deutsch had meant something to me. It seemed like the least I could do for a dead man. Then I read it again.

“What does it say?” Noreen was standing in the doorway. In her hand was a handkerchief, and in her eyes were some tears.

I held the note out to her. “Here.” I watched her read it, wondering what was going through her mind. If she actually felt anything for the poor guy who’d just killed himself, or if she was just relieved to have found an end for her story and a good excuse to go home. If that sounds cynical, maybe it was, but the truth was that her leaving Berlin was all I could think about now because, for the first time, I realized I was in love with her. And when you’re in love with someone you think might be about to leave you, it’s easier to be cynical, just to protect yourself from the pain you know is coming.

She offered the note back.

“Why don’t you keep it,” I said. “Although he never met you, I think he really meant you to have it. For your newspaper article. I kind of sold him on the idea that your piece could be a kind of memorial to Isaac.”

“It will be, I think. Why not?” She took the letter. “But what about the police? Won’t they need this? It’s evidence, isn’t it?”

“What do they care?” I shrugged. “Maybe you’ve forgotten how anxious they were to find out what happened to Isaac. All the same, perhaps we ought to get out of here before we have to wait around and answer questions we might not want to answer. Like how come I’ve got a gun without a license, and why I’ve got the mark of a dog leash across my face.”

“The neighbors,” she said. “That woman on the stairs. Suppose they tell the police about us. The note. She knows your name.”

“I’ll square her on the way out. Ten marks buys a lot of silence in this part of Berlin. Besides, you saw the door. These neighbors don’t exactly strike me as very neighborly. It’s my impression that they’ll be glad to see Joey dead and out of this building. And what do you think the polenta would do with a note like that? Print it in the newspaper? I don’t think so. Most likely they’ll destroy it. No, it’s best you keep it, Noreen. For Joey’s sake. And Isaac’s, too.”

“I guess you’re right, Gunther. But I wish you weren’t.”

“I get that.” I glanced around the miserable apartment and let out a sigh. “Who knows? Maybe he’s better off out of it.”

“You can’t believe that.”

“I don’t see things improving for Jews in this country. There are a bunch of new laws coming that will make things even tougher for anyone who’s not properly German, as they see it. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”

“Ahead of the Olympics?”

“Didn’t I mention it?”

“You know you didn’t.”

I shrugged. “I suppose I didn’t want to put a dent in your optimism, angel. That something can be done. Maybe I was hoping that some of your lefty idealism would rub off on me along with your pants and stockings.”

“And did it?”

“Not this particular morning.”


IN THE EARLY EVENING I accompanied Noreen back to the hotel. She went up to her room for a bath and an early night. The discovery of Joey Deutsch’s body had left Noreen emotionally and physically exhausted. I had a good idea how she felt.

I was on my way to my office when Franz Joseph called me over and, after some polite inquiries about the marks on my face, told me he had a package for me, from Otto Trettin at the Alex. I knew it was the Chinese box belonging to Max Reles. Just the same, when I got to my desk, I opened it up to see what all the fuss had been about.

It looked like a paper-clip box for a Chinese emperor. I suppose it was quite attractive, if you like that kind of thing. I prefer something in sterling silver, with a matching table lighter. On a black lacquer lid, outlined in gold, was a brightly painted Arcadian scene featuring a lake, some mountains, a handsome weeping willow, a cherry tree, a fisherman, a couple of mounted archers, a coolie carrying a large bag of hotel laundry, and a group of Fu Manchu types in the local noodle house who seemed to be discussing the yellow peril and the finer points of white slavery. I expect you never got tired of looking at it if you lived in seventeenth-century China, unless there was some paint you could watch getting dry. It had the feel of a cheap souvenir from a day trip to Luna Park.

I opened it, and inside were a number of contract-tender letters from companies as far afield as Würzburg and Bremerhaven. I glanced over them without much interest. I put these in my pocket, to irritate Reles with their apparent loss in case they were important to him, and went up to his suite.

I knocked on the door. It was answered by Dora Bauer. She was wearing a light brown gingham pleated dress with a matching cape collar and a large pussycat bow on the shoulder. Her hair had a wave as big as a tsunami that swept all the way across her forehead and down to an eyebrow as thin as a spider’s leg. A bow mouth that was more Clara than Cupid parted in a smile as wide as a welcome mat. The smile turned painful as she noticed the weal on my face.

“Oooh, what happened to you?”

Otherwise she seemed pleased to see me, unlike Reles, who ambled over behind her wearing his usual expression of contempt. I had the Chinese box at my back and was looking forward to handing it over after the usual litany of insults. I had the vain hope I might embarrass him or make him eat his words.

“If it isn’t the Continental Op,” he said.

“I don’t have much time for detective stories,” I said.

“I suppose you’re too busy reading the Leader’s book?”

“I don’t have much time for his stories, either.”

“You want to be careful saying disrespectful things like that. You could get hurt.” He frowned and searched my face. “Maybe you already did. Or did you just pick a fight with another hotel guest? That’s more your level, I’d say. Somehow I don’t see you as the heroic type.”

“Max, please.” Dora sounded scolding, but that was as far as it went.

“You’d be surprised what I’m called to do in the line of duty, Herr Reles,” I said. “Squeeze the eggs of a fellow who doesn’t pay his bill. Flick the ear of some barfly. Slap a garter handler in the mouth. Hell, I’ve even been known to recover stolen property.”

I brought my arm around and handed him the box, as if it had been a bunch of flowers. A bunch of five was what I felt like giving him.

“Well, I’ll be damned. You found it. You really were a cop, weren’t you?” He took the box and, backing away from the door, waved me in. “Come on in, Gunther. Dora, get Herr Gunther a drink, will you? What’ll you have, Detective? Schnapps? Scotch? Vodka?” He pointed out a series of bottles on the sideboard.

“Thank you. Schnapps would be good.”

I closed the door behind me, watching him carefully for the moment he opened the box. And when he did, I had the satisfaction of noticing a small wince of disappointment.

“That’s a pity,” he said.

“What is, sir?”

“Only that there was some money and correspondence in this box. And now it’s not there.”

“You didn’t mention the contents before, sir.” I shook my head. “Would you like me to inform the police, sir?” That was two “sirs” in a row: maybe it was still possible I could hold down a career in hotel keeping, after all.

He smiled irritably. “It really doesn’t matter, I suppose.”

“Ice?” Dora was standing over a bucket containing a piece of ice with a pick in her hand, looking more than a little like Lady Macbeth.

“Ice? In schnapps?” I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so.”

Dora stabbed the ice a couple of times and placed a few shards in a large tumbler glass, which she handed to Reles.

“American habit,” said Reles. “We put ice in everything. But I kind of like it in schnapps. You should try it sometime.”

Dora handed me a smaller glass of schnapps. I was watching her now for some sign that she might be up to her old whore’s tricks, but there didn’t seem to be anything between them that I could see. She even shied away a little when he came too close. The typewriter looked like it was still as busy as always. The wastepaper basket was overflowing.

I toasted Reles.

“Down the hatch,” he said, and took a large mouthful of ice-cold schnapps.

I sipped mine like a dowager, and we faced each other in awkward silence. I waited a moment, then tossed back the rest.

“Well, if that’s all, Detective,” he said. “We have work to do, don’t we, Fräulein Bauer?”

I handed Dora the glass and headed for the door. Reles was there ahead of me, to open it and speed me on my way.

“And thanks again,” he said, “for recovering my property. I appreciate it. For what it’s worth, you’ve restored my faith in the German people.”

“I’ll be sure to tell them that, sir.”

He chuckled, thought of a retaliatory remark, appeared to think better of it, and then waited patiently for me to make my exit from his suite.

“Thanks for the drink, sir.”

He nodded and closed the door behind me.

I hurried along the landing and down the stairs. Crossing the entrance hall, I went into the switchboard room, where, under a high window, four girls were sitting on high chairs in front of what looked like a double-sized upright piano. Behind them was a desk where Hermine, the switchboard supervisor, sat watching the hotel’s “hello girls” as they went about the voluble business of connecting telephone calls. She was a prim woman, with short red hair and a complexion as pale as milk. Seeing me, Hermine stood up and then frowned.

“That mark on your face,” she said. “It looks very much like a whip mark.”

Several of her girls looked around and laughed.

“I went riding with Hedda Adlon,” I said. “Listen, Hermine, the party in 114. Herr Reles. I want a list of everyone he calls this evening.”

“Does Herr Behlert know you’re asking?”

I shook my head. I went a little closer to the switchboard, and Hermine followed attentively.

“He wouldn’t like you spying on the guests, Herr Gunther. I think you’ll need to get his written permission.”

“It’s not spying, it’s snooping. I’m paid to snoop, remember? To keep you and me and the guests safe, although not necessarily in that order.”

“Maybe. But if he found you listening in on Herr Reles’s calls, he’d have our hides.”

“Putting you through now, Herr Reles,” said Ingrid, who was one of the best-looking of the Adlon’s hello girls.

“Herr Reles? He’s on a call now? To whom?”

Ingrid exchanged a look with Hermine.

“Come on, ladies, this is important. If he’s a crook-and I think he is-we need to know about it.”

Hermine nodded her approval.

“Potsdam 3058,” said Ingrid.

“Who’s that?” I waited for a moment.

Hermine nodded again.

“That’s Count von Helldorf’s number,” said Ingrid. “At the Potsdam Police Praesidium.”

Anywhere else but the Adlon I might have persuaded them to let me eavesdrop on that call, but short of a spot lamp and a set of brass knuckles, I’d had all that I was going to get out of the hello girls: standards might have been compromised in other Berlin institutions such as the police, the courts, and the churches, but not at its best hotel.

So I went back to my office to smoke some cigarettes, have a couple of drinks, and take another look at the papers I had taken from the Chinese box. I had the curious idea these were more important to Max Reles than the box itself. But my mind was elsewhere. A telephone call made by Max Reles to von Helldorf so soon after I had seen the American was disturbing. Was it possible their topic of conversation had been me? And if so, to what effect? There were good reasons why von Helldorf might be useful to a man such as Max Reles, and vice versa.

Formerly the leader of Berlin’s SA, Count Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf had been the police president of Berlin for just three months when a notorious scandal interrupted his progress to higher office. He had always been an enthusiastic gambler and a rumored pederast with a taste for the flagellation of young boys. He was also a close friend of Erik Hanussen, the famous clairvoyant who, it was supposed, had paid off the count’s very substantial gambling debts in return for an introduction to the Leader.

Much of what happened thereafter was still the subject of speculation and mystery, but it seemed that Hitler was strongly impressed by the man Berlin’s communists called “the people’s stupefier.” As a result of Hitler’s open favor, Hanussen’s influence over senior Party members, including von Helldorf, became even greater. Yet all was not quite what it seemed. Hanussen’s leverage within the Party was, it was to be revealed, the result not of good advice, nor even of mesmeric power, but blackmail. At lavish sex parties he had hosted aboard his yacht, the Ursel IV, Hanussen had “hypnotized” several leading Nazis and subsequently filmed them taking part in sexual orgies. That was bad enough, but some of these orgies were homosexual orgies.

It is possible Berlin’s famous clairvoyant might have survived all of this. But when Goebbels’s newspaper, Der Angriff, revealed that Hanussen was a Jew, the shit really ended up on the conveyor belt, with most of it headed Hitler’s way. Suddenly Hanussen had become an acute embarrassment, and von Helldorf, held largely responsible, was required to clean up the mess. Several days after Hermann Goering dismissed him as Berlin’s police president, von Helldorf and some of his more murderous SA friends abducted Hanussen from his lavish apartment in Berlin’s Westend, drove him to his yacht, and tortured him there until Hanussen gave them all of the compromising material he had amassed over several months: debt receipts, letters, photographs, and ciné film. Then they shot him and dumped the body on a field in Mühlenbeck. Somewhere north of Berlin, anyway.

Rumors persisted that von Helldorf had used some of the material he had obtained from Hanussen to secure himself a new position as police president of Potsdam-an unimportant town about an hour southwest of Berlin, where, it is said, beer goes to turn flat. Von Helldorf now spent most of his time there breeding horses and organizing the continuing persecution of those Social Democrats and German communists who had most offended the Nazis during the last days of the republic. And it was generally supposed that in this respect, von Helldorf was largely motivated by the hope he might eventually manage to restore himself to Hitler’s full favor. I knew von Helldorf was also on the German Olympic Organizing Committee, of course, which said something about the success of his attempt to put himself back in favor with Hitler, although I wasn’t quite sure exactly what he did on the committee. Possibly that was just payback from his old SA pal von Tschammer und Osten. Possibly, since Goering’s departure from the Ministry of the Interior, he was in better odor there, too. In spite of everything, von Helldorf was not a man to be taken anything but seriously.

My attack of nerves lasted only a short while, however. As long as it took for the alcohol to kick in. After a few drinks I persuaded myself that since there was really nothing about the letters and business estimates I had taken from the Chinese box that could prove anything in a court of law, then there was no need for me to feel concerned. There wasn’t anything I had seen that could have harmed a man like Max Reles. Besides, Reles couldn’t know it had been I who had taken these papers, and not Ilse Szrajbman.

So I put the papers and the gun in my desk drawer and decided to head home, thinking, like Noreen, to have an early night myself. I was tired, and I ached in every conceivable part of my body.

Leaving Behlert’s car where I had parked it earlier, I walked south down Hermann-Goering-Strasse to catch a tram on Potsdamer Platz. It was dark and a little windy, and the Nazi banners hanging on the Brandenburg Gate were flapping around like danger flags, as if our imperial past were trying to warn us about something in our Nazi present. Even a stray dog trotting along the pavement ahead of me stopped and turned to look at me dolefully, perhaps to ask if I had a solution to our country’s problems. Then again, he might just have been trying to avoid the open door of the black W that had pulled up a few meters ahead. A man wearing a brown leather coat got out of the car and walked quickly toward me.

Instinctively, I turned to walk in the opposite direction and discovered my retreat blocked by a man wearing a thick, double-breasted overcoat and a low-brimmed hat, although it was the neat little bow tie I noticed most. At least until I noticed the beer token in his paw.

“Come with us, please.”

The other man in the leather coat was right behind me now, so that, sandwiched between them, I couldn’t very well have resisted. Like experienced window dressers moving a tailor’s dummy, they folded me into the car and jumped in the backseat on either side of me. We were moving before they had even slammed the car doors.

“If this is about that cop,” I said. “August Krichbaum, wasn’t it? I thought we’d sorted out that bullshit. I mean, you checked my alibi. I had nothing to do with it. You know that.”

After a few moments I realized we were going west, along Charlottenburger Strasse, in completely the opposite direction from Alexanderplatz. I asked where we were going, but neither of them spoke. The driver’s hat was made of leather. So were his ears, probably. By the time we reached Berlin’s famous radio tower and turned onto the AVUS-Berlin’s fastest road-I had guessed where we were driving. The driver bought a ticket and we sped toward Wannsee Station. A few years before, Fritz von Opel had set a speed record on the AVUS, driving a rocket-powered car at almost 240 kilometers an hour. We weren’t driving anything nearly as fast as that, but neither did I get the impression that we were likely to stop anywhere for coffee and cake. At the end of the AVUS, we drove through some woods onto the Glienecke Bridge and, although it was very dark, I could just make out that we had passed two castles. Shortly after that we entered Potsdam on New Königstrasse.

Surrounded by the Havel and its lakes, Potsdam wasn’t much more than an island. And I couldn’t have felt more lonely if I’d been marooned on some desert atoll with a solitary palm tree and a parrot. For more than a hundred years the town had been the headquarters of the Prussian army, but it might as well have been the headquarters of the Girl Guides for all the help the army was going to give me. I was about to become the prisoner of Count von Helldorf and there was nothing anyone could do about it. One of the buildings in Potsdam was the palace called Sanssouci, which is French for “without care.” I was a long way from a state of mind like that.

As we drove past another castle and a parade ground, I caught a glimpse of a street sign. We were on Priest Strasse, and I was beginning to think I might have need of one as we turned into the courtyard of the local police praesidium.

Entering the building, we went up several flights of stairs and along a cold, dimly lit corridor to a handsomely appointed office with a nice view of the Havel, which I recognized only because there was an even more handsomely appointed motor yacht floating on it just below the leaded window and lit up like a ride at Luna Park.

In the office, a tree was burning in an open fireplace where you could have roasted a whole ox. There were a big hanging tapestry, a portrait of Hitler, and a suit of armor that looked about as stiff as the man standing beside it. He was wearing the uniform of a police general and an air of aristocratic superiority, as if he should have preferred that my shoes had been removed before I was allowed to walk on his park-sized Persian rug. I suppose he was about the same age as I, but there the similarity ended. When he spoke, his tone was careworn and exasperated, and he gave me the impression I had caused him to miss the beginning of an opera or, more likely in his case, a queerish cabaret turn. On a log cabin of a desk, a backgammon set was laid out for a game, and in his hand was a little leather cup containing a pair of dice that every now and then he would rattle nervously, like some mendicant friar.

“Please sit down,” he said.

The man in the leather coat pushed me into a seat at a meeting table and then pushed a pen and a sheet of paper toward me. He seemed to be good at pushing things. “Sign it,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked

“It’s a D- 11,” said the man. “An order for protective custody.”

“I used to be a cop myself,” I said. “At the Alex. And I never heard of a D-11. What does it mean?”

Leather Coat glanced at von Helldorf, who replied, “If you sign it, it means you agree to be sent to a concentration camp.”

“I don’t want to go to a concentration camp. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to be here, either. No offense, but it’s been a hell of a day.”

“Signing a D-11 doesn’t mean you will be sent to a camp,” explained von Helldorf. “What it means is that you agree to go.”

“Forgive me, sir, but I don’t agree.”

Von Helldorf rocked on the heels of his jackboots and rattled the dice box behind his back.

“You could say that once it’s signed, it acts as a guarantee of your good behavior,” he said. “Your future good behavior. Do you see?”

“Yes. But equally, and with all due respect to yourself, General, it could just as easily result in my being taken from here to the nearest camp. Don’t get me wrong. I could use a holiday. I’d like to sit around for a couple of weeks and catch up on my reading. But from what I’ve heard, there’s not much concentration that’s possible in a concentration camp.”

“A lot of what you say is quite true, Herr Gunther,” said von Helldorf. “However, if you don’t sign, you will be kept here in a police cell until you agree to do so. So, as you can see, you really don’t have much choice in the matter.”

“So in other words, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“I don’t suppose there’s a piece of paper I have to sign before I can be kept in a police cell, is there?”

“I’m afraid not. But let me repeat, signing the D-11 doesn’t mean you will go to a camp. The fact is, Herr Gunther, this government is doing its best to be more sparing with the use of protective custody. You may be aware that Oranienburg concentration camp has recently closed, for example. Also that the Leader has signed an amnesty affecting political prisoners, on August seventh this year. All of which makes perfect sense, given that almost everyone in the country is now inclined to favor his inspired leadership. Indeed, it is even hoped that in time all of the concentration camps will disappear, like Oranienburg.

“Nevertheless,” continued von Helldorf, “there may come a stage in the future when, shall we say, the security of the state is endangered, at which time anyone subject to a D-11 will be arrested and incarcerated without recourse to the judicial system.”

“Yes, I can understand how that might be useful.”

“Good, good. Which leaves us with the subject of your own D- 11.”

“Perhaps if I knew the reason you feel I need to give a guarantee of my own good behavior,” I said, “then I might be more inclined to sign such a thing.”

Von Helldorf frowned and looked sternly at the three men who had brought me all the way from the Adlon. “Do you mean to tell me he hasn’t been told why he’s been brought here?”

Leather Coat shook his head. His hat was off now, and I had a clearer idea of him as a human being. He looked like a gorilla. “All I was told, sir, was that we should pick him up and bring him here immediately.”

Von Helldorf rattled the dice box irritably, as if he wished it had been Leather Coat’s skull. “It seems I have to do everything myself, Herr Gunther,” he said, and walked toward me.

While I waited for him to arrive, I rolled my eyeballs around the room, which was set up for the playboy prince of Ruritania. On one wall was a geometry set of foils and sabers. Beneath this was an oceangoing sideboard that was home to a radio as big as a tombstone and a silver tray with more bottles and decanters than the cocktail bar at the Adlon. A double-front secretaire was full of leather-bound books, and a few of them were about the laws of criminal evidence and procedure, but mostly they were classics of German literature such as Zane Grey, P. C. Wren, Booth Tarkington, and Anita Loos. Police work never looked so leisured and comfortable.

Von Helldorf drew out one of the heavy dining chairs around the table, sat down, and leaned against a carved back that had more tracery than a window in a Gothic cathedral. Then he laid his hands on the desk as if he had been about to play the piano. Either way, he had my full attention.

“As you possibly know, I’m on the German Olympic Organizing Committee,” he said. “It’s my job to ensure the security not just of all the people who will be coming to Berlin in 1936, but also of all the people who are involved in making sure everything is ready in time. There are several hundred contractors, which presents something of a logistical nightmare if what looks like an almost impossible deadline is to be met. Now, given the fact that we have less than two years to get everything up and ready, I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that there are times when mistakes get made or when standards have to be compromised. All the same, it’s awkward for some of these contractors when, in spite of doing their very best, they feel that they’ve become the subject of scrutiny by elements who lack the same enthusiasm for the Olympic project as everyone else. Indeed, it could be argued that some of these elements are behaving in a way that might easily be construed as unpatriotic and un-German. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yes,” I said. “By the way, General, do you mind if I smoke?”

He nodded, and I tossed one onto my lip and lit it quickly, marveling at von Helldorf’s talent for quietly spoken understatement. But I wasn’t about to mistake or underestimate him. Underneath the velvet glove was, I felt certain, a substantial fist, and even if the general wasn’t prepared to hit me with it himself, I figured there were others in that absurdly large room who lacked his well-bred scruples about using violence.

“To put it bluntly, Herr Gunther, a number of people are upset that you and your Jewish lady friend, Mrs. Charalambides, have been asking a lot of awkward questions about this dead Jewish laborer, Herr Deutsch, and the unfortunate Dr. Rubusch. Very upset indeed. I’m told you actually assaulted a gang master who supplies labor for a new S-Bahn tunnel. Is that right?”

“Yes, that’s quite correct,” I said. “I did. However, in my defense I should point out that he assaulted me first. The mark on my face was given to me by him.”

“He says this only happened because you attempted to subvert his workforce.” Von Helldorf rattled the dice in the box impatiently.

“I’m not sure that ‘subvert’ is the right description of what I did, sir.”

“How would you describe it?”

“I wanted to discover how Isaac Deutsch-that Jewish laborer you mentioned-met his death and if it was, as I had supposed, the result of his being illegally employed on the Olympic site.”

“So that Mrs. Charalambides might write about it when she gets back home to America? Is that right?”

“Yes, sir.”

Von Helldorf frowned. “You puzzle me, Herr Gunther. Don’t you want your country to put on a good show in front of the rest of the world? Are you a patriotic German or not?”

“I like to think I’m as patriotic as the next man, sir. Only it strikes me that our policy with regard to the Jews is-inconsistent.”

“And you want this exposed with what aim? So that all those Jewish workers might lose their jobs? Because they will. If Mrs. Charalambides writes about this in her American newspaper, I can guarantee it.”

“No, sir, that’s not what I want. It’s just that I don’t agree with our Jewish policy in the first place.”

“That’s neither here nor there. Most people in Germany do agree with it. Even so, that policy has to be tempered with what is practical. And the fact remains that it simply isn’t feasible to get the project finished in time without employing a few Jewish workers.”

He put it so matter-of-factly, I could hardly disagree. I shrugged. “I suppose not, sir.”

“You suppose right,” he said. “You simply can’t go around making an issue about this. It’s not realistic, Herr Gunther. And I simply can’t allow it. Which is where the D-11 comes in, I’m afraid. As a guarantee that you will put an end to this habit you’ve developed of sticking your nose in where it isn’t wanted.”

It all sounded so reasonable I was actually tempted to sign his D-11, just in order to actually be able to return home and go to bed. I had to hand it to von Helldorf. He was a smooth operator. Quite possibly he had learned more from Erik Hanussen, the clairvoyant, than merely his own lucky number and color. Perhaps he had also learned how to persuade people to do something they didn’t want to do. Such as signing a document saying that you agreed to be sent to a concentration camp. Maybe that just made von Helldorf a typical Nazi. Quite a few of them-Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler, most of all-seemed to have a flair for persuading Germans to go against their own common sense.

Reflecting that it might be a while before I got to smoke again, I took a couple of hurried puffs and then stubbed out my cigarette in a smoked-glass ashtray the same color as von Helldorf’s lying eyes. And this was just enough time for me to remember the day I’d looked in on the Reichstag fire trial and how many Nazi liars I’d seen in court; and how everyone had loudly bravo’d the biggest liar of them all, Hermann Goering. Seldom had I found being a German so unattractive as on that particular day of lies. With all of that in mind, I felt obliged to tell von Helldorf to go to hell. Except that I didn’t, of course. I was rather more polite about it. There’s bravery, after all, and then there’s downright stupidity.

“I’m sorry, General, but I can’t sign that document. It’d be like a goose writing someone a Christmas card. Besides, I happen to know that all of those poor fellows who were in Oranienburg got sent on to a concentration camp in Lichtenberg.”

The general upended the dice box onto the table in front of him and inspected the result, as if it mattered. Maybe it did, and I simply didn’t know it. Maybe if he’d thrown a couple of sixes, that might have been lucky for me-he might have let me go. As it was, he’d thrown only a one and a two. He closed his eyes and sighed.

“Take him away,” he told the man in the leather coat. “We’ll see if a night in the cells can’t change your mind, Herr Gunther.”

His men picked me up by the shoulders on my suit and sleep-walked me out of von Helldorf’s office. To my surprise we went up another floor.

“A room with a view, is that it?”

“All our cells have a nice view of the Havel,” said Leather Coat. “Tomorrow, if you don’t sign that paper, we’ll give you a swimming lesson off the bow of the count’s yacht.”

“That’s all right. I can swim already.”

Leather Coat laughed. “Not off the yacht, you won’t. Not after we tie you to the anchor.”

THEY PUT ME IN A CELL and locked the door. A lock on the wrong side of the door is one of the things that remind you that it’s a cell you’re in and not a hotel room. That and a few bars on the window and a stinking mattress on a damp floor. The cell had all the usual amenities, like an en-suite bucket, but it was the little things that reminded me I wasn’t staying at the Adlon. Little things like the cockroaches. Although really these were little only by the standard of the Zeppelin-sized roaches we’d encountered in the trenches. It’s said that human beings will never starve on this planet if they can learn how to eat a cockroach. But try telling that to someone who’s ever stepped on a roach or awoken in the night to find one crawling on his face.

Freud had invented a technique used in psychology called free association. Somehow I knew that if I got through this, I was forever after going to associate cockroaches with Nazis.


THEY LEFT ME ALONE for several days, which was better than a beating. Of course, this gave me plenty of time to think about Noreen and to worry that she would be worried about me. What would she think? What did anyone think when a loved one disappeared off the streets of Berlin and into a concentration camp or a police jail? The experience gave me a new understanding of what it was to be a Jew or a communist in the new Germany. But mostly I worried about myself. Did they really intend to throw me in the Havel if I refused to sign the D-11? And if I did sign it, could I trust von Helldorf not to send me to a camp straightaway?

When I wasn’t worrying about myself, I reflected on how, thanks to von Helldorf, I knew something more about the death of Isaac Deutsch than I had before. I knew that his corpse was somehow connected with the corpse of Dr. Heinrich Rubusch. So was it possible that his death in a room at the Adlon Hotel had been the result of something other than natural causes? But what? I never saw a more natural-looking corpse. The two cops who had investigated the case, Rust and Brandt, had told me that the cause of death had been a cerebral aneurysm. Had they lied? And Max Reles-what was his involvement in all of this?

Since my incarceration in a Potsdam police cell seemed to owe everything to a telephone call Max Reles had placed to Count von Helldorf, I had to assume that the American was somehow implicated in the deaths of both men and that this had something to do with Olympic bids and contracts. Reles had somehow been informed of my interest in Deutsch and had assumed, incorrectly, that this was connected with my recovery of the stolen Chinese lacquer box-or, more accurately, with the contents of that Chinese box. Given the involvement of the notoriously corrupt von Helldorf, it seemed I had stumbled onto a conspiracy that involved a variety of people from the GOC and the Ministry of the Interior. How else could one explain how artifacts from Berlin’s Ethnographical Museum were being given to Max Reles so that he might send them to Avery Brundage on the AOC in return for his continuing opposition to an American boycott of the Berlin games?

If all of this was true, then I was in a lot more trouble than I had realized when I’d been lifted off Herman Goering Strasse by von Helldorf’s men. And by the fourth or perhaps the fifth day of my imprisonment, I was beginning to regret not taking a gamble on von Helldorf’s word and signing the D-11-especially when I recalled his reasonable tone.

From my cell window I could see and hear the Havel. Between the south wall of the prison was a line of trees and beyond it the S-Bahn line to Berlin, which ran along the riverbank and across a bridge into Teltower. Sometimes the train and a steamboat traded hoots, like good-natured characters in a children’s story. Once I heard a military band playing somewhere to the west, behind Potsdam’s own Lustgarten. It rained a lot. Potsdam is green for a very good reason.

On the sixth day the door finally opened for longer than it took for me to slop out and be given a meal.

Leather Coat, smiling quietly, beckoned into the corridor outside my cell. “You’re free to go,” he said.

“What happened to your D-11?”

He shrugged.

“Just like that?” I said.

“Those are my orders.”

I rubbed my face thoughtfully. I wasn’t quite sure what was making it itch so much: my urgent need for a razor, or suspicion at this latest turn of events. I had heard stories of people being shot “while attempting to escape.” Was this to be my fate? A bullet in the back of the head as I walked along the corridor?

Sensing my hesitation, Leather Coat’s smile widened-as if he had guessed the reason for my hesitation in leaving. But he said nothing to reassure me. He looked as if he enjoyed my discomfort, as if he had just watched me eat a very hot chili pepper and was now looking forward to seeing me suffer an attack of hiccups. He lit a cigarette and stared at his fingernails for a moment.

“What about my stuff?”

“You’ll get it downstairs.”

“That’s what I’m worried about.” I picked up my jacket and put it on.

“Aw, now you’ve hurt my feelings,” he said.

“You’ll grow new ones when you get back under your stone.”

He jerked his head down the corridor. “Get moving, Gunther, before we change our minds.”

I walked ahead of him, and it was just as well that I hadn’t eaten that morning-otherwise, it wouldn’t have been only my heart that was in my mouth. My scalp was crawling, as if I had one of the praesidium’s cockroaches in my hair. At any moment I expected to feel the cold barrel of a Luger pressed against my cranium and to hear the sound of a shot, abruptly curtailed as a hollow-point 9.5-gram round tunneled through my brain. For a second I recalled seeing a German officer in 1914 shooting a Belgian civilian suspected of leading an attack on our soldiers, and the way the bullet had left his head looking like a burst football.

My legs felt like jelly, but I forced them to march me along the corridor without stopping to look around and see if Leather Coat had a pistol in his hand. At the top of the stairs, the corridor kept on going and I paused awaiting his instructions.

“Downstairs,” said the voice behind me.

I turned and tramped down the steps, my leather soles slapping against the stones like my heart on the walls of my chest. It felt pleasantly cool on the stairwell. A great blast of fresh air was coming up from the ground floor like a sea breeze. And arriving there at last, I saw a door open onto the central courtyard, where several more police cars and vans were parked.

To my relief, Leather Coat marched ahead of me now and led the way into a little office where my coat and hat, my tie, my braces, and the contents of my pockets were returned to me. I put a cigarette into my face and lit it before following him along another corridor and into a room the size of an abattoir. The walls were covered with white bricks, and on one was a large wooden crucifix; for a moment I thought we were in some kind of chapel. We turned a corner, and I stopped in my tracks, for there, like a strange-looking table and chair, was a shiny new falling ax. Constructed of dark polished oak and dull-colored steel, the machine was about eight feet high-just a bit taller than an executioner wearing his customary top hat. For a moment it sent such a chill through my body that I actually shivered. And I had to remind myself that it was unlikely Leather Coat would have attempted to execute me by himself. The Nazis were hardly short-staffed when it came to carrying out judicial murder.

“I bet this is where you bring Hitler Youth in lieu of a bedtime story,” I said.

“We thought you’d like to see it.” Leather Coat uttered a dry little chuckle and stroked the wooden frame of the falling ax fondly. “Just in case you were ever tempted to come back.”

“Your hospitality overwhelms me. I suppose this is what they mean when they talk about the people who’ve lost their heads to Nazism. But it might be just as well to remember the fate of almost all the French revolutionaries who were so keen on their guillotine: Danton, Desmoulins, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon. They ended up going for a ride on it themselves.”

He scraped the blade with the flat of his thumb and said, “As if I care what happened to a bunch of francies.”

“Maybe you should.” I flicked my half-smoked cigarette at the terrible machine and followed Leather Coat through another door and into a corridor. This time I was pleased to see that it led out onto the street.

“As a matter of idle curiosity, why are you releasing me? After all, I never signed your D-11. Was it the thought of having to spell ‘concentration camp’? Or was it something else? The law? Justice? Proper police procedure? I know that sounds unlikely, but I thought I’d ask anyway.”

“If I was you, friend, I’d count myself lucky just to be walking out of here.”

“Oh, I do. Only not as lucky as I count myself for the fact that you’re not me. That really would be depressing.”

I tipped my hat to him and walked out of there. A moment later I heard the door bang behind me. It sounded a lot better than a Luger, but it still made me jump all the same. It was raining, but the rain looked good because there was only the open sky above it. I took off my hat and lifted my unshaven face into the air. The rain felt even better than it looked, and I rubbed it across my chin and hair the same way I’d washed my face with it in the trenches. Rain: it was something clean and free that fell from the sky and wasn’t going to kill you. But even while I celebrated the moment of my liberation, I felt a tug at my sleeve and turned around to find a woman standing behind me. She was wearing a long, dark dress with a high belt; a fawn-colored raincoat; and a small, shell-like hat.

“Please, sir,” she said quietly, “were you a prisoner in there, perhaps?”

I rubbed my chin again. “Is it that obvious?”

“Did you by chance come across another man by the name of Dettmann, Ludwig Dettmann? I’m his wife.”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Frau Dettmann, no, I didn’t see anyone at all. But what makes you think he’s in there?”

She shook her head, sadly. “I don’t. Not anymore. But when they arrested him, this is where he was taken. I’m sure of that, at least.” She shrugged. “But afterward, who knows? No one thinks to tell his family anything. He could be anywhere for all I know. But no one thinks to tell his family anything. Several times I’ve been in that police station asking for information about my Ludwig, but they won’t tell me what’s happened to him. They’ve even threatened to arrest me if I go in there again.”

“Might be one way of finding out,” I said glibly.

“You don’t understand. I have three children. And what’s to become of them, eh? What is to become of them if I’m arrested, too?” She shook her head. “Nobody understands. Nobody wants to understand.”

I nodded. She was right, of course. I didn’t understand. No more than I understood what had persuaded von Helldorf to order my release.

I walked through the Lustgarten. In front of the state castle was a bridge that led across the Havel and over an island to the Teltower Tor Station, where I caught a train back to Berlin.


WASHED AND SHAVED and wearing a change of clothes, I walked back into the Adlon, encountering both surprise and delight, not to mention a certain amount of suspicion. It wasn’t unknown for staff to pull a sicky for a few days and then return with the same explanation as me. Sometimes it was even true. Behlert greeted me much as he might have greeted a tomcat returning home after an absence of several days and nights: with a mixture of amusement and contempt.

“Where have you been?” he said, scolding. “We’ve been worried about you, Herr Gunther. Thank goodness your friend, Detective Sergeant Stahlecker, has been able to take on some of your duties.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear it.”

“But even he was unable to find out what had happened to you. No one at the police praesidium at Alexanderplatz seemed to know anything. It’s not at all like you to disappear like that. What happened?”

“I’ve been staying at another hotel, Georg,” I told him. “The one run by the police in Potsdam. And I didn’t enjoy it. Not one bit. I’m thinking of walking around to that MER travel bureau on Unter den Linden and telling them not to recommend it any longer as a place to stay when you’re in Potsdam. You can sleep much more comfortably in the river. In fact, I very nearly did.”

Behlert glanced uncomfortably around the mausoleumlike entrance hall. “Please, Herr Gunther, keep your voice down or else someone will overhear, and then we’ll both be in trouble with the police.”

“I wouldn’t be in trouble if it wasn’t for the help of one of our guests, Georg.”

“Who can you mean?”

I might have mentioned the name of Max Reles. But I saw no point in explaining exactly what had happened. Like the majority of law-abiding Berliners, Behlert preferred to know as little as possible about those things that might get him into trouble. And, in a way, I respected that. Given my own recent experiences, it was probably the more sensible way to be. So instead I said, “Frau Charalambides, of course. You know I’ve been working for her. Helping her write this article.”

“Yes, I did know. And I can’t say that I approved. In my opinion, it was wrong of Frau Adlon to ask you. It put you in a very difficult position.”

I shrugged. “That can’t be helped. Not now. Is she in the hotel?”

“No.” He looked awkward. “I think perhaps you had better speak to Frau Adlon. As a matter of fact, she inquired about you only this morning. I believe she’s in her apartment, upstairs.”

“Has something happened to Frau Charalambides?”

“She’s fine, I can assure you. Shall I telephone Frau Adlon and suggest an appointment for you?”

But sensing something was wrong, I was already running upstairs.

Outside Hedda’s apartment I knocked and, hearing her voice, turned the handle and opened the door. She was sitting on the sofa, smoking a cigarette and reading a copy of Fortune magazine, which, given she had one, seemed only appropriate. Seeing me, she threw Fortune aside and stood up. She looked relieved to see me.

“Thank goodness you’re all right,” she said. “I’ve been worried about you.”

I closed the door. “Where is she?”

“Gone home to New York,” said Hedda. “She left on yesterday’s boat from Hamburg.”

“Then I guess she wasn’t as worried as you.”

“There’s no need to be like that, Bernie. It’s not how it is at all. Her leaving Germany and promising not to write about the Olympics was the price she paid to get you out of jail. And quite possibly to keep you out of jail as well.”

“I see.” I walked over to the sideboard and picked up one of her decanters. “Do you mind? It’s been one of those-weeks.”

“Please. Help yourself.” Hedda went over to her desk and opened the lid.

I poured one out-quite a large one of whatever it was, I didn’t much care-and sucked it down like it was a medicine I’d prescribed for myself. It tasted horrible, so I prescribed myself another and brought it back to the sofa.

“She left you this.” Hedda handed me an Adlon envelope.

I slipped it into my pocket.

“It’s my fault for getting you into this in the first place.”

I shook my head. “I knew what I was doing. Even when I knew that what I was doing was, perhaps, ill advised.”

“Noreen always did have that effect on people,” said Hedda. “When we were both girls, it was nearly always I who got caught for some infraction of the school rules, and Noreen who got away with it. But I was never deterred by that. I was always up for our next escapade. Perhaps I should have warned you about her. I don’t know. Maybe. Even now it feels like I’m the one who has to stay behind and make up her grades and offer an apology.”

“I knew what I was doing,” I repeated dully.

“She drinks too much,” said Hedda, by way of an explanation. “She and Nick, her husband. I assume she told you all about him.”


“She drinks, and it doesn’t seem to affect her in the least. Everyone who’s around her drinks, and it affects them a great deal. That’s what happened to poor Nick. Goodness, he never drank at all until he met Noreen.”

“She’s very intoxicating.” I tried a smile, but it didn’t come out right. “I expect I’ll have a hangover before I get over it.”

Hedda nodded. “Take a few days off, why don’t you? The rest of the week, if you like. After five nights in jail you could probably use a break. Your friend Herr Stahlecker will cover for you.” She nodded. “It’s worked out very well with him. He doesn’t have your experience, but-”

“Perhaps I will take some time off. Thanks.” I finished my second drink. It didn’t taste any better than the first. “Incidentally, is Max Reles still staying in the hotel?”

“Yes, I think so. Why?”

“No reason.”

“He told me you got his property back for him. He was very pleased.”

I nodded. “Maybe I’ll go away somewhere. Würzburg, perhaps.”

“Have you got family in Würzburg?”

“No. But I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s the capital of Franconia, you know. Besides, it’s the opposite end of Germany from Hamburg.”

I didn’t mention Dr. Rubusch, or the fact that the only reason I was going there was that he was from Würzburg.

“Stay at the Palace Hotel Russia House,” she said. “I believe it’s the best hotel in the state. Have a rest. Catch up on some sleep. You look tired. Put your feet up. If you like, I’ll telephone the hotel manager and get you a special rate.”

“Thanks. I will.” But I didn’t tell her that the last thing I intended to do was put my feet up. Not now that Noreen was gone out of my life for good.


LEAVING THE ADLON, I walked east to the Alex. The railway station was bristling with SS, and yet another military band was getting ready to welcome some self-important government bonzo. There are times when I swear I think we have more military bands than the French and the English put together. Maybe it’s just a lot of Germans playing it safe. No one ever accused you of being unpatriotic when you were playing a flugelhorn or a tuba. Not in Germany.

Tearing myself away from the palpable excitement in the air around the station, I walked into the Alex. Seldte, the smart young fellow from SCHUPO, was still on duty at the front desk.

“I see your career is leaping ahead.”

“Isn’t it?” he said. “If I stay here for much longer, I’ll turn into one of these freaks myself. If you’re looking for Herr Trettin, I saw him head out of here about twenty minutes ago.”

“Thanks, but I was hoping to see Liebermann von Sonnenberg.”

“Would you like me to call his office?”

Fifteen minutes later I was sitting opposite the Berlin chief of KRIPO and smoking one of the Black Wisdom cigars Bernhard Weiss had been obliged to leave behind when he left.

“If this is about that unfortunate business involving August Krichbaum,” said von Sonnenberg, “then you needn’t worry, Bernie. You and the other cops who were in the frame as possible suspects are in the clear. Everything has been brought to a sort of conclusion. It was a lot of nonsense, of course.”

“Oh? How’s that?” I tried to contain the relief I felt. But after Noreen’s departure, I hardly cared nearly as much. At the same time, I hoped they hadn’t framed someone for the killing. That would really have given my conscience something indigestible to chew on for a while.

“Because we no longer have a reliable witness. The hotel doorman who saw the culprit was an ex-policeman, as you probably know. Well, it turns out that he is also a queer and a communist. It seems that this was why he left the police in the first place. Indeed, we now think his evidence may even have been motivated by malice against the police in general. Anyway, all of that’s irrelevant, since the Gestapo has had him on an arrest list for several months. Not that he knew, of course.”

“So where is he now?”

“In the concentration camp, at Lichtenberg.”

I nodded, wondering if they’d made him sign a D-11.

“I’m sorry you had to go through all of that, Bernie.”

I shrugged. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do a bit more for your protégé, Bömer.”

“You did all you could under the circumstances.”

“I’d be glad to help out again.”

“These young men today,” said von Sonnenberg. “They’re in too much of a hurry, if you ask me.”

“I got that impression. You know, there’s a bright young fellow wearing green on the desk in the entrance hall downstairs. Name of Heinz Seldte. You might give him a lick. Fellow’s too smart to be left with his balls in a desk drawer like that.”

“Thanks, Bernie. I’ll have a look at him.” He lit a cigarette. “So. Are you here to play the accordion, or is there some business you and I can do?”

“That all depends.”

“On what?”

“On your opinion of Count von Helldorf.”

“You might as well ask if I hate Stalin.”

“I hear the count’s trying to rehabilitate himself by tracking down anyone the SA ever had a grudge against.”

“That would certainly look commendably loyal, wouldn’t it?”

“Maybe he still wants to be your boss here in Berlin.”

“Have you got a way of making sure that couldn’t happen?”

“I might have.” I puffed the strong cigar and aimed the smoke at the high ceiling. “You remember that stiff we had in the Adlon a while ago? The one you gave to Rust and Brandt.”

“Sure. Natural causes. I remember.”

“Suppose it wasn’t?”

“What makes you think different?”

“Something von Helldorf said.”

“I didn’t know you were cozy with that queer, Bernie.”

“For the last six days I’ve been his houseguest at the police praesidium in Potsdam. I’d like to repay his hospitality, if I can.”

“They say he’s still holding on to some of Hanussen’s dirt, as an insurance policy against arrest. The films he shot on that boat of his. The Ursel. I’ve also heard that some of the dirt comes from underneath some very important fingernails.”

“Like whose, for instance?”

“Ever ask yourself how he managed to get on that Olympic committee? It’s not his love of riding, I can tell you that much.”

“Von Tschammer und Osten?”

“Small fry. No, it was Goebbels who got him the job.”

“But he was the one who broke Hanussen.”

“And it was Goebbels who saved von Helldorf. But for Joey, von Helldorf would have been shot alongside his warm friend, Ernst Röhm, when Hitler settled the SA’s hash. In other words, von Helldorf is still connected. So I’ll help you get him, if you can. But you’ll have to find someone else to put the stake through his heart.”

“All right. I’ll leave your name out of it.”

“What do you need from me?”

“The case file on Heinrich Rubusch. I’d like to check a few things out. Go and see the fellow’s widow, in Würzburg.”


“It’s near Regensburg, I believe.”

“I know where the hell it is. I’m just trying to remember why I know where the hell it is.” Liebermann von Sonnenberg flicked a switch on his desk intercom to speak to his secretary. “Ida? Why does Würzburg mean something to me?”

“You had a request from the Gestapo in Würzburg,” said a woman’s voice. “In your capacity as Interpol liaison officer. Requesting that you contact the FBI in America about a suspect living here in Germany.”

“And did I?”

“Yes. We sent them what we got from the FBI a week or so ago.”

“Wait a minute, Erich,” I said. “I’m beginning to think this bone might make a lot more than just soup. Ida? This is Bernie Gunther. Can you remember the name of that suspect the Gestapo in Würzburg wanted to know about?”

“Wait a minute. I think I still have the Gestapo’s letter in my tray. I haven’t filed it yet. Yes, here we are. The suspect’s name is Max Reles.”

Von Sonnenberg flicked off the intercom and nodded. “You’re smiling like that name means something, Bernie,” he observed.

“Max Reles is a guest at the Adlon and a good friend of the count’s.”

“Is that so?” He shrugged. “Maybe it’s just a small world.”

“Sure it is. If it was any bigger, we’d have to hunt for clues like they do in the stories. You’d have a magnifying glass and a hunting hat and a definitive collection of cigarette ends.”

Von Sonnenberg stubbed out his cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. “Who says I don’t?”

“This information you had from the FBI. Any chance you kept a copy?”

“Let me tell you about being the Interpol liaison officer, Bernie. It’s extra sauerkraut. I’ve got plenty of meat and potatoes on my plate already, and what I don’t need is extra sauerkraut. I know it’s on the table because Ida tells me it is. But mostly it’s her that eats it, see? And the fact is that she wouldn’t keep a copy of Luther’s ninety-five theses unless I told her to. So.”

“So now I’ve got two reasons to go to Würzburg.”

“Three, if you include the wine.”

“I never did before.”

“Franconian wines are good,” said von Sonnenberg. “If you like your wines sweet, that is.”

“Some of these provincial Gestapo officers,” I said. “They can be anything but sweet.”

“I haven’t noticed their big-city counterparts assisting old ladies to cross the road.”

“Look, Erich, I hate to give you more sauerkraut, but a letter of introduction from you or even a telephone call would straighten this Gestapo man’s tie for him. And keep it straight while I was squeezing his eggs.”

Von Sonnenberg grinned. “It’ll be a pleasure. There’s nothing I like better than clipping the tails on some of these young pups in the Gestapo.”

“I think that’s a job I’d be good at.”

“Maybe you’ll be the first person who ever enjoyed going to Würzburg.”

“That’s always a possibility.”



Adlon Hotel, No. 1 Unter den Linden, Berlin

My dearest Bernie,

It grieves me more than words can tell you that I cannot be there to say good-bye in person, but I’ve been told by someone from the police chief’s office in Potsdam that you won’t be released from prison until I have left Germany.

It looks as if this has to be for good, I’m afraid-at least for as long as the Nazis are in government, anyway-as I’ve also been informed by someone in the Foreign Ministry that I won’t be given a visa again.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve been told by an official in the Propaganda Ministry that if I publish the newspaper article I was planning to write and call upon the AOC to boycott the German Olympiad, then you could find yourself in a concentration camp; and since I have no wish to expose you to this kind of threat, you can rest assured, my dear Bernie, that no such article will now appear.

Perhaps you will consider that this will be a tragedy to me; but while I lament that I am now forbidden the chance to oppose the evil of national socialism in the way I know best, the greater tragedy, according to my understanding of that word, is the obligation I now have to give you up, and the utter improbability of seeing you at any time in the near future. Perhaps ever!

Given more time, I should have spoken to you of love and, perhaps, you would have done the same. Tempting as it is for a writer to put words in someone else’s mouth, this is my letter and I must limit myself to what I myself can say. Which is this: I love you, right enough. And if I now seem to draw a line under that, it’s only because the elation that I once might have felt at being in love with someone again-it’s not easy for me to love anyone-is alloyed with the acute pain of our parting and separation.

There is a painting by Caspar David Friedrich that encapsulates the way I’m feeling right now. It’s called The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, and if you’re ever in Hamburg, you should go to the local art gallery and take a look at it. If you don’t know this painting, it depicts a solitary man standing on a mountaintop staring out over a landscape of distant peaks and jagged rocks. And you should picture me, similarly positioned on the stern of the SS Manhattan carrying me back to New York, and all the while staring back at a rocky, jagged, increasingly remote Germany that contains you, my love.

You might equally think of another Friedrich painting when you try to visualize my heart. This picture is called The Sea of Ice, and it shows a ship, hardly visible, crushed by great shards of ice upon a landscape more bleak than the surface of the moon. I’m not sure where this picture can be seen, as I only ever saw it myself in a book. Nevertheless, it represents very well the cold devastation that is my current situation.

It seems to me I might very easily curse the fortune that made me love you; and yet I know, in spite of everything, that I don’t regret it one little bit, because, in the future, every time I read of some dreadful deed or criminal policy carried out by that big-talking man in his silly uniform, I will think of you, Bernie, and remember that there are many good Germans who have courageous, good hearts (although none, I think, could ever have a heart as courageous and good as yours). And this is good, for if Hitler teaches us anything, it is the stupidity of judging a whole race as one. There are bad Jews and there are good Jews, just as there are bad Germans and there are good Germans.

You are a good German, Bernie. You protect yourself with a thick coat of cynicism, but at heart I know that you are a good man. But I fear for all good men in Germany and I wonder what terrible choices now lie ahead of them and you. I wonder what awful compromises you will be called upon to make.

Which is why I want to help you to help others in the only way now open to me.

By now you will have found the enclosed check, and your first inclination on seeing that it is much more than you asked to borrow may be not to cash it at all. That would be a mistake. It seems to me that you should take it as my gift to you and start the private detective business you told me about. And for this good reason: in a society founded upon lies, the discovery of truth will become more and more important. Probably it will land you in trouble, but, knowing you, I suspect you can handle that in your own way. Most of all, I hope that you can come to the aid of others in need of your help, as you tried to help me; and that you will do what, because it is dangerous, you ought not to do because it is also right.

I’m not sure I expressed that correctly. While I speak German well enough I find I am out of practice writing it. I hope this letter does not seem too formal. Emperor Charles V said he spoke Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to his horse. But you know, I think that horse might just have been the creature he loved best in the world and that, like you, his horse was very bold and full of spirit; and I cannot think of any other language that suits your temperament, Bernie. Certainly not English, with its many shades of meaning! I never met a more straightforward man than you, which is one of the reasons why I love you so much.

These are ugly times and you will have to go to ugly places and deal with people who have made themselves ugly, but you are my knight of heaven, my Galahad, and I feel certain you can endure all these tests without becoming ugly yourself. And you must always tell yourself that you are not just sweeping leaves on a windy day, although there will be times when that is what it will feel like.

I kiss you. Noreen. xx

WÜRZBURG WASN’T AN UGLY PLACE, although the Franconians had done their best to make their state capital a virtual shrine to Nazism and had effectively uglified what was a pleasantly situated medieval red-roofed town in an open part of a river valley. In almost every shop window there was a photograph of Hitler or a sign advising Jews to keep out or risk the consequences-sometimes both. The town made Berlin look like a model of true representative democracy.

Dominating the landscape from the left bank of the river was the old castle of Marienberg, built by the prince-bishops of Würzburg who had been champions of the Counter-Reformation during another ugly time in German history. But it was just as easy to imagine the imposing white castle inhabited by some evil scientist who exercised a powerful and malign influence on Würzburg, unleashing an elemental force to make monsters of the town’s unsuspecting peasants. These were mostly ordinary-looking folk, although there were one or two with boxy foreheads, vivid surgical scars, and ill-fitting coats who might have given even the most committed galvanist some pause for thought. I felt kind of inhuman myself and walked south from the railway station and onto Adolf-Hitler-Strasse with awkward, stiff legs, which might easily have belonged to a dead man, although that might have been the lingering effect of Noreen’s letter.

Checking into the Palace Hotel Russia House helped to lift my spirits a little. After a week in police custody, I had the taste for a good hotel. Then again, I had the taste anyway, and now that I’d decided to overcome my scruples and cash Noreen’s check, I also had the money. After a light supper in the hotel’s Königs Café, I walked three quarters of a kilometer east, on Rottendorfer Strasse, to a quiet suburb near a reservoir to see the widow Rubusch.

It was a substantial two-story house-three if you counted the dormer window in the high mansard roof-with a curving bay-front door and a long white picket fence atop a substantial granite wall. It was painted the same color of yellowish beige that had been used to paint a small Star of David on the similar garden wall of the house on the opposite side of the street. There were one or two cars parked in front, both new and both made by Daimler-Benz. The trees had been recently pruned. It was a nice German neighborhood: quiet, well kept, solidly respectable. Even that yellow star looked as if it had been painted there by a professional decorator.

I mounted the front steps and tugged on a bell pull as big as a ship’s cannon, and almost as loud.

A light came on and a maid appeared in the door-a big pig’s-trotter of a girl with red braids and a stubborn, almost belligerent, cast to her jaw.


“Bernhard Gunther,” I said. “Frau Rubusch is expecting me.”

“I wasn’t told about it.”

“Perhaps Hitler’s telegram hasn’t arrived yet. I’m sure he would have wanted to let you know.”

“There’s no need to be sarcastic,” she said, and, taking a large step backward, opened the curved door. “If you only knew how much I’m expected to do around here.”

I put down my briefcase and took off my hat and coat while she closed the front door and then locked it carefully.

“It sounds to me like you need a servant,” I said.

She shot me a high-velocity look.

“You had better wait in here.” She opened a door with the side of her foot and chopped at an electric light switch with the side of her hand. “Make yourself comfortable while I go and fetch her.” Then, seeing my hat and coat, she sighed loudly and took them, shaking her head at the inconvenience of finding herself with yet another duty to perform.

I went over to the fireplace, where a blackened piece of log was almost burning, and picked up a long poker. “Want me to bring this back to life? I’m good with fire. Show me a shelf of decadent literature and I’ll have you a blaze going in no time.”

The maid smiled back at me bleakly, although it could just as easily have been a sneer. It crossed her mind to say something tart until she thought better of it. I had a poker in my hand, after all, and she looked just the type who gets hit by one. I probably would have done it, too, if I’d been married to her. Not that being struck about the head with a poker would have troubled that girl very much, especially when she was hungry. I’ve seen hippos that looked more vulnerable.

I turned the half-burned log, heaped some embers next to it, and fetched another log from the basket by the hearth. I even bent down and blew on it for a while. A flame reached around the little pile of wood I’d made and then took hold with a snap as loud as a Christmas cracker.

“You’re good at that.”

I turned to see a small, birdlike woman wearing a shawl, and an uncomfortable smile on a freshly lipsticked mouth.

I stood up, wiped my hands, and made the same lame joke I’d made earlier, about decadent books, which didn’t sound any funnier the second time around. Not in that house. In the corner of the room was a table with a radio and a small photograph of Hitler, and a glass bowl of fruit.

“We’re not really like that around here,” she said with arms folded, watching the fire. “They did burn some books in front of the bishop’s palace about eighteen months ago, but not here. Not in East Würzburg.”

She made it sound like we were in Paris.

“And I suppose that yellow star painted on the house opposite is just mischievous children,” I said.

Frau Rubusch laughed but covered her mouth politely while she did, so that I wouldn’t have to look at her teeth, which were perfect and porcelain white, like a doll’s. And indeed a doll was what she most reminded me of with her penciled eyebrows, her fine features, her dainty red cheeks, and her even finer hair. “That’s not a Star of David,” she said through her fingers. “The man who lives in that house is a director of Würzburger Hofbrau, the town brewery, and that star is the company’s trademark.”

“Maybe he should sue the Nazis for infringing his copyright.”

“Which reminds me. Would you care for some schnapps?”

Next to the table was a three-tier wooden drinks trolley with bottles I was fond of. She poured a couple of large schooners, handed me one with her bony little hand, sat down on the sofa, kicked off her shoes, and tucked her feet under her skinny little backside. I’d seen folded laundry that looked less neat than she did.

“So your telegram said that you wanted to see me about my late husband.”

“Yes. I’m sorry for your loss, Frau Rubusch. It must have been a terrible shock to you.”

“It was.”

I lit a cigarette, double-inhaled the smoke, and then swallowed half of my drink. I was nervous about telling this woman that I believed her husband might have been murdered. Especially when she had only just buried him with the belief that he’d died in his sleep of a cerebral aneurysm. I swallowed the other half.

She recognized my nervousness. “Help yourself to another,” she said. “Perhaps then you’ll feel up to telling me what’s brought the Adlon Hotel detective all the way from Berlin.”

I went over to the drinks trolley and refilled my glass. Next to the picture of Hitler was a photograph of a younger, thinner Heinrich Rubusch.

“I really don’t know why Heinrich put that photograph there. Hitler’s, I mean. We were never very political. And it’s not like we used to entertain very much and try to impress people. I suppose he put it there in case anyone did visit. So that they would go away with the impression that we were good Germans.”

“You don’t have to be a Nazi to be that,” I said. “Although it does help when you’re a cop. Before I was a house detective at the Adlon, I was a Homicide cop at Berlin Alexanderplatz.”

“And you think my husband might have been murdered. Is that it?”

“I think it’s a possibility, yes.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Heinrich always stayed at the Adlon when he was in Berlin. I thought maybe you thought he’d stolen some towels.” She waited for a moment and then smiled. “I was joking.”

“Good. I hoped you were. Only, your being a widow, I assumed your sense of humor might have gone missing for a while.”

“Before I met my husband, I ran a sisal farm in East Africa, Herr Gunther. I shot my first lion when I was fourteen. And I was fifteen when I helped my father put down a native rebellion during the Maji Maji War. I’m a lot tougher than I look.”


“Did you stop being a policeman because you weren’t a Nazi?”

“I quit before I was pushed. Maybe I’m not as tough as I look. But I’d rather talk about your husband. I was reading the case notes on the train and was reminded that he had a heart condition.”

“He had an enlarged heart, yes.”

“It sort of makes you wonder why he didn’t die of that instead of a cerebral aneurysm. Did he ever suffer from headaches?”

“No.” She shook her head. “But his death wasn’t exactly a surprise. He ate too much and drank too much. He loved his sausage and his beer, lots of cream, cigars, chocolate. He was a very German sort of German.” She sighed. “He enjoyed life in every way. And I do mean every way.”

“You mean besides his food and his drink and his cigars?”

“That’s precisely what I mean. I haven’t ever been to Berlin. But I hear it’s changed quite a bit since the Nazis came into government. I’m told it’s not the den of iniquity it used to be during the Weimar years.”

“That’s correct. It’s not.”

“Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that it’s difficult to find the company of a certain kind of woman, if that is what one wants. One imagines that the Nazis can only do so much to change things. After all, it’s not called the oldest profession for nothing.”

I smiled.

“Did I say something amusing?”

“No, not at all, Frau Rubusch. It’s just that after I found your husband dead, I went to a lot of trouble to persuade the police to spare you some of the details when they informed you that he was dead. To leave out the fact that he had been in bed with another woman. I had the quaint idea that it might upset you unnecessarily.”

“That was very thoughtful of you. Perhaps you’re right. You’re not as tough as you look.”

She sipped some of her schnapps and put the glass down on a flame birch coffee table: the X-shaped base made it look like something from Roman antiquity. Frau Rubusch had a sort of Roman air herself. Maybe it was just the way she was sitting, half reclined on her sofa, but it was easy to imagine her as the influential and steely wife of some fat senator who had, perhaps, outlived his usefulness.

“Tell me, Herr Gunther. Is it normal for ex-policemen to be in possession of a police file?”

“No. I’ve been helping out a friend in Homicide. And, to tell the truth, I miss the work. Your husband’s case gave me an itch I simply had to scratch.”

“Yes, I can see how that might happen. You said you were reading my husband’s case file on the train. Is it inside that briefcase?”


“I would very much like to look at that file.”

“Forgive me, but I don’t think that would be a good idea. The file contains photographs of your husband’s body as he was found in his hotel room.”

“I was hoping it did. Those pictures are what I’d like to see. Oh, you needn’t worry about me. Did you not think I would look at him before we buried him?”

I could see there was no point in arguing with her. Besides, as far as I was concerned, there were other things I wanted to discuss with her more important than the happy smile on her dead husband’s face. So I opened my briefcase, took out the KRIPO file, and handed it over.

As soon as she saw the photograph, she started to cry, and for a moment, I cursed myself for taking Frau Rubusch at her word. But then she let out a breath, fanned herself with the flat of her hand, and, swallowing an almost visible lump in her throat, said, “And this is how you found him?”

“Yes. Exactly as we found him.”

“Then I fear you are right to be suspicious, Herr Gunther. You see, my husband is wearing his pajama jacket in bed. He never wore a jacket when he was in bed. I used to pack him two pairs of pajamas, but he only ever wore the trousers. Someone else must have put the jacket on him. You see, he used to sweat a lot at night. Fat men often do. Which is why he never wore the jacket. Which reminds me. When the police returned his belongings, I received only one pajama jacket. Two pairs of pajama trousers but only one jacket. At the time I thought the police must have kept it or that perhaps they had lost it. Not that it seemed of any great importance. But now that I’ve seen this photograph, I rather think it must be important. Don’t you?”

“Yes. I do.” I lit another cigarette and stood up to help myself to a third drink. “If you don’t mind.”

She shook her head and carried on staring at the photograph.

“All right,” I said. “Someone must have put the jacket on him after he was dead, in order to make his death seem as natural as possible. But what prostitute would do such a thing? If he died while or immediately after having sex, any sensible party girl would have ripped a hole in the wall to get out of there.”

“Also, my husband was very heavy. So it’s hard to imagine a girl able to lift him up and put a jacket on him by herself. I know I couldn’t have done that. Once, when he was drunk, I tried to get his shirt off him, and it was almost impossible.”

“And yet there’s the evidence of the autopsy. The cause of death appeared to be natural. What else but a strenuous bout of lovemaking could bring about a cerebral aneurysm?”

“All lovemaking was strenuous for Heinrich. I can assure you of that. But what was it that first made you think his death might be a murder, Herr Gunther?”

“Something someone said. Tell me, do you know a man named Max Reles?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, he knew your husband.”

“And you think he might have had something to do with my husband’s death?”

“It’s not much more than a slight breeze I have, but yes. I do. Let me tell you why.”

“Wait. Have you eaten dinner?”

“I had a light supper at the hotel.”

She smiled kindly. “This is Franconia you’re in now, Herr Gunther. We don’t do light suppers in this state. What was it? That you ate?”

“Just a plate of cold ham and cheese. And a beer.”

“I thought as much. You’ll stay for dinner, then. Magda always cooks far too much anyway. It’ll be nice to have someone eat properly in this house again.”

“Now that I come to think of it, I am rather hungry. I’ve missed quite a few meals of late.”

THE HOUSE WAS TOO BIG FOR ONE. It would have been too big for a basketball team. Her two sons were grown up and gone away, to university, she said, but my money was on Magda’s cooking. Not that there was anything wrong with it. But any man there for any length of time was taking a big risk with his arteries. I was in that house for only a couple of hours, and I felt as fat as Hermann Goering. Every time I laid my knife and fork together, I was persuaded to have another helping. And if I wasn’t eating food, I was looking at it. All over the place there were paintings of dead game and cornucopias, and bulging fruit bowls, just in case anyone got peckish. Even the furniture looked like they fed it extra beeswax. It was big and heavy, and whenever she sat or leaned on any of it, Angelika Rubusch resembled Alice down the rabbit hole.

I guessed she was in her mid-forties, but she might have been older. She was a handsome woman, which is just a way of saying that she was aging better than a pretty one. And there were several reasons for suspecting she found me attractive, which is just a way of saying I had probably drunk too much.

After dinner I tried to gather my thoughts on what I knew about her husband: “Your husband owned a quarry, didn’t he?”

“That’s right. We supplied a wide range of natural stone to builders all over Europe. But mainly limestone. This part of Germany is famous for it. We call it beige limestone on account of the honey color. Most of the public buildings in Würzburg are made of beige limestone. It’s uniquely German, which makes it popular with the Nazis. Since Hitler came to power, business has been booming. They can’t get enough of it. Every new public building in Germany seems to require beige Jura limestone. Before he died, Paul Troost, Hitler’s architect, actually came down here to look at our limestone for the new chancellery building.”

“What about the Olympics?”

“No, we didn’t get that contract. Not that it matters now. You see, I’m selling the business. My sons don’t have any interest in limestone. They are studying to become lawyers. I can’t run the business by myself. I’ve had a very good offer from another company here in Würzburg. So I’m going to take the money and become a rich widow.”

“But you did bid for an Olympic contract?”

“Of course. That’s why Heinrich went to Berlin. He went several times, as a matter of fact. To discuss our tender with Werner March, the Olympic architect, and some other people from the Ministry of the Interior. The day before Heinrich died, he telephoned me from the Adlon to say we’d lost it. He was very agitated about losing it and said he was going to take the matter up with Walter March, who was keen on our stone. At the time, I remember telling him to watch his blood pressure. His face got very red when he was cross about something. So when he died, naturally, I already suspected it must have something to do with his health.”

“Can you think why Max Reles should have been in possession of a contract tender from your company?”

“Is he someone at the ministry?”

“Actually, no, he’s a German-American businessman.”

She shook her head.

I took the letter I’d found in the Chinese box and unfolded it on the dinner table. “I’d half suspected Max Reles was taking something off the top of supplier contracts. Like a finder’s fee, or a commission. But since your husband’s company didn’t actually get a contract, then I’m not so sure what the connection was. Or why Max Reles should have been worried that I was asking questions about your husband. Not that I ever was, you understand. Not until now. Not until someone else made a connection between Heinrich Rubusch and Isaac Deutsch. And assumed that I had already connected the two.” I let out a yawn. “When I hadn’t. Sorry, none of that is going to make any sense to you. I’m tired, I guess. And probably a little drunk.”

Angelika Rubusch wasn’t listening, and I didn’t blame her. She didn’t know anything about Isaac Deutsch and probably didn’t care. I was making less sense than a blind football team. Bernie Gunther, stumbling around in the dark and kicking at a ball that wasn’t even there. She was shaking her head, and I was about to apologize again when I saw that she was looking at her own letter of tender.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“That makes two of us. I haven’t understood anything for a while now. I’m just a guy to whom things happen. And I don’t know why. Some detective, huh?”

“Where did you get this?”

“Max Reles had it. He seems to have his fingers in a lot of Olympic pies. I found that paper in something else that belonged to him. An antique Chinese box that was lost for a while. While it was missing, I formed the distinct impression that he was very keen to have it returned to him.”

“I think I can understand why,” said Angelika Rubusch. “This isn’t our tender. It’s on our notepaper, but these aren’t our figures. This is way above the price we put in to supply this quantity of limestone. About twice as much. I’m looking at this and thinking that it’s no wonder we didn’t get the contract.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. I was my husband’s secretary. That was to stop him from… you know. Well, that’s not important now. I used to type all our correspondence, including the original letter of tender to the German Olympic Organizing Committee, and I can tell you that I certainly didn’t type this. For one thing, there’s a spelling mistake. There is no e in ‘Würzburg.’ ”

“There isn’t?”

“Not if you come from Würzburg, there isn’t. Also, the letter g on this typewriter is riding a little higher than the other letters.” She put the tender letter in front of me and placed a well-manicured fingernail under the offending g. “D’you see?”

In truth, my eyesight was feeling a little blurred, but I nodded all the same.

She held the notepaper up to the light. “And you know what? This isn’t even our notepaper. It looks like it, only the watermark is different.”

“I see.” And now I really did.

“Of course,” I said. “Max Reles must have been rigging bids. And I think that works like this: You put in a bid for something yourself and then make sure that competing bids are priced at an unreasonably high level. Either that or you chase off the other bidders, by whatever means necessary. If this is a fake bid, Max Reles must have an interest in the company that was awarded the contract to supply the limestone. Probably that was a high bid too, but crucially not as high as your husband’s bid. As a matter of fact, who did win the contract?”

“Würzburg Jura Limestone,” she said dully. “Our major competitor. The same company I’ve agreed to sell to.”

“All right. Perhaps Reles had already asked Heinrich to put in a high bid so that your competitor would get the contract. If he’d agreed to do it, he’d have been paid a commission. And maybe even ended up supplying Würzburg Jura himself. The advantage being that he could have been paid twice.”

“Heinrich may have been cheating on me as a husband,” she said, “but he wasn’t like that in business.”

“In which case, Max Reles must have tried and failed to put the thumbscrews on him. Or simply faked the bid from your husband’s company. Perhaps both. Either way, Heinrich found out about it. So Max Reles got rid of him. Quickly. Discreetly. But permanently. This all makes sense now. The first night I ever saw your husband was at a dinner hosted by Reles for a lot of businessmen where there was an argument. One of the other businessmen stormed out. Perhaps he was asked to supply an inflated bid for something else.”

“What are we going to do now?”

“Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with the local Gestapo. It seems I’m not the only one who’s interested in Max Reles. Perhaps they’ll tell me what they know, and perhaps I’ll tell them what I know, and maybe we’ll figure out a way forward from there. But I’m afraid all of that might mean another autopsy. Obviously the Berlin pathologist missed something. These days they often do. Forensic standards are no longer as rigorous as they used to be. Nothing is.”


YOU WALK UP TO A DOOR that is guarded by two steel-helmeted men wearing black uniforms and white gloves. I’m not sure about the purpose of the white gloves. Are they meant to persuade the rest of us that the SS is pure in heart and deed? If so, then I’m not convinced: this is the militia that murdered Ernst Röhm and God knows how many other SA men.

Inside a heavy wood-and-glass door is a large hallway with a stone floor and a marble staircase. Next to the desk are a Nazi flag and a full-length portrait of Adolf Hitler. Behind the desk is another man wearing a black uniform and the same unhelpful expression you see all over Germany. It is the face of totalitarian bureaucracy and officialdom. This face does not seek to please. It is not there to serve you. It cares not if you live or die. It regards you not as a citizen but as an object to be processed, up the stairs or out the door. It is how a man looks when he stops behaving like a human being and becomes a kind of robot.

Unquestioning obedience. Orders to be carried out without a second thought. This is what they want. Ranks upon serried ranks of steel-helmeted automatons.

My appointment is checked off on a neatly typed list that lies on the well-polished desk. I am early. I should not be early any more than I should be late. Now I will have to wait, and the robot does not know what to do with someone who is early and has to wait. There is an empty wooden chair beside the elevator cage. Normally there is a guard sitting there, I am told, but until the appointed time I may sit there.

I sit. A few minutes pass. I smoke. At precisely ten o’clock the robot lifts the telephone receiver, dials a number, and announces my arrival. I am ordered into the elevator and up to the fourth floor, where another robot will meet me. I enter the elevator. The robot operating the machinery has heard the order and assumes temporary responsibility for my movement within the building.

On the fourth floor, a group of people are waiting to take the elevator down. One of these is a man whose arms are supported by two more robots. He is manacled and half conscious, and there is blood streaming from his nose and onto his clothes. No one looks at all ashamed or embarrassed at my being there or seeing any of this. This would be to admit the possibility that what has been done is wrong. And since what has been done to him has been done in the name of the Leader, this simply cannot be the case. The man is dragged into the elevator, and the third robot, who remains standing on the fourth-floor landing, now leads me down a long, wide corridor. He stops in front of a door numbered 43, knocks, and then opens it without waiting. When I enter, he closes the door behind me.

The room is furnished but empty. The window is wide open, but there is a smell in the air that makes me think that perhaps this is the place where the man with the bloody nose has just been interrogated. And when I see a couple of spots of blood on the brown linoleum, I know I am right about this. I go over to the window and look out onto Ludwigstrasse. My hotel is just around the corner, and although it is foggy outside, I can see its roof from here. On the other side of the street from Würzburg’s Gestapo HQ is the office building of the local Nazi Party. Through an upper window I can see a man with his feet up on a desk, and I wonder what gets done in there, in the name of the Party, that doesn’t get done in here.

A bell starts to toll. The sound drifts across the red rooftops from the cathedral, I presume, only it sounds more like something out at sea, something to warn ships approaching rocks in the fog. And I think of Noreen, somewhere on the North Atlantic, standing in the stern of the SS Manhattan, staring back at me through the thick fog.

The door opens behind me, and a strong smell of soap is carried into the room. I turn as a smallish man closes the door and rolls down the sleeves of his shirt. I guess that he has just washed his hands. Perhaps there was some blood on them. He says nothing until he has fetched his black SS tunic from a hanger in the closet and puts it on as if the uniform will help to compensate for his lack of centimeters.

“You’re Gunther?” he said in a voice that sounded folksy and Franconian.

“That’s right. And you must be Captain Weinberger.”

He carried on buttoning his tunic without bothering to answer. Then he pointed at the chair in front of his desk. “Sit down, please.”

“No, thanks,” I said, sitting down on the windowsill. “I’m a bit like a cat. I’m very particular where I sit.”

“What ever do you mean?”

“There’s blood on the floor underneath that chair and, for all I know, there’s some on it as well. I don’t make enough money to risk spoiling a good suit.”

Weinberger colored a little. “Please yourself.”

He sat down behind the desk. His forehead was the only tall thing about him. On top of it was a shock of thick brown curly hair. His eyes were green and penetrating. His mouth was insolent. He looked like a defiant schoolboy. And it was hard to imagine him being rough with anything other than a collection of toy soldiers or a fairground coconut toss. “So, how can I help you, Herr Gunther?”

I didn’t like the look of him. But that hardly mattered. A display of good manners would have struck the wrong note. Clipping the tails of young pups in the Gestapo was, as Liebermann von Sonnenberg had said, almost a sport among senior police officers.

“An American called Max Reles. What do you know about him?”

“And you’re asking in what capacity?” Weinberger put his boots up onto the desk like the man in the office across the street and clasped his hands behind his head. “You’re not Gestapo, and you’re not KRIPO. And I think we can take it you’re not SS.”

“I’m conducting an undercover investigation for Berlin’s assistant police commissioner, Liebermann von Sonnenberg.”

“Yes, I got his letter. And his telephone call. It’s not often that Berlin pays much attention to a place like this. But you still haven’t answered my question.”

I lit a cigarette and flicked the match out of the window. “Don’t piss me around. Are you going to help me, or am I going back to my hotel to call the Alex?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of pissing you off, Herr Gunther.” He smiled, affably. “Since this doesn’t appear to be an official matter, I just want to know why I’m going to help you. That is right, isn’t it? I mean, if this was an official matter, the assistant commissioner’s request would have come down through my superiors, wouldn’t it?”

“We can do it that way if you’d prefer,” I said. “But then you’d be wasting my time. And yours. So why don’t you just count this as a favor to the head of Berlin KRIPO.”

“I’m glad you mentioned that. A favor. Because I’d like a favor in return. That’s fair, isn’t it?”

“So what do you want?”

Weinberger shook his head. “Not here, eh? Let’s go for a coffee. Your hotel is not far. Let’s go there.”

“All right. If that’s how you want this.”

“I think it might be best. Given what you’re asking about.” He stood up and grabbed his belts and his cap. “Besides, I’m already doing you a favor. The coffee here is terrible.”

He said nothing more until we were out of the building. But then I could hardly stop him.

“This isn’t a bad town. I should know, I went to university here. I studied law, and when I graduated, I joined the Gestapo. It’s a very Catholic town, of course, which meant that, in the beginning, it wasn’t particularly Nazi. I can see that surprises you, but it’s true-when I first joined the Party, this town had one of the smallest Party memberships in the whole of Germany. It just shows you what can be achieved in a short period of time, eh?

“Most of the cases we get in the Würzburg Gestapo office are denunciations. Germans having sexual relations with Jews, that kind of thing. But here’s the anomaly: the majority of denunciations come not from Party members, but from good Catholics. Of course, there is no actual law against Germans and Jews conducting their sordid love affairs. Not yet. But that doesn’t stop the denunciations, and we’re obliged to investigate them if only to prove that the Party disapproves of these obscene relationships. Occasionally we parade a couple accused of race defilement around the town square, but it seldom goes much further than that. Once or twice we have run a Jew out of town for profiteering, but that’s it. And it goes almost without saying that most of the denunciations are groundless and the product of stupidity and ignorance. Naturally. Most of the people who live here are not much more than peasants. This place is not Berlin. Would that it were.

“My own situation is a case in point, Herr Gunther. Weinberger is not necessaily a Jewish name. I am not a Jew. None of my grandparents is a Jew. And yet I myself have been denounced as a Jew, and on more than one occasion, I might add. Which is not exactly helping my career here in Würzburg.”

“I can imagine.” I allowed myself a smile, but that was all. I hadn’t yet got the information I needed, and until then, I hardly wanted to upset the young Gestapo man walking along the street beside me. We turned onto Adolf-Hitler-Strasse and walked north, toward my hotel.

“Well, yes, it’s funny. Of course it is. Even I can see that. But somehow I feel it wouldn’t be happening in a more sophisticated place, such as Berlin. After all, there are people there with Jewish-sounding names who are Nazis, aren’t there? Liebermann von Sonnenberg? I ask you. Well, I’m sure he would understand my predicament.”

I hardly liked to tell him that Berlin’s assistant police commissioner might have been a Party member but he also despised the Gestapo and all that it stood for.

“What I feel is this,” he said earnestly. “That my name wouldn’t hold me back in a place like Berlin. Here in Würzburg there will always be the faintest suspicion that I’m not completely Aryan.”

“Well, who is? I mean, you go far enough back and, if the Bible’s right, we’re all Jewish. Tower of Babel. Right.”

“Hmm, yes.” He nodded uncertainly. “Besides all that, most of my caseload is so petty it’s hardly worth the effort of my investigating it. That’s why I became interested in Max Reles in the first place.”

“And you want…? Let’s be a bit more specific here, Captain.”

“Nothing more than a chance. A chance to prove myself, that’s all. A word from the assistant commissioner to the Gestapo in Berlin would surely smooth my transfer. Don’t you think so?”

“It might,” I admitted. “It might, at that.”

We walked through the hotel entrance and made our way to the café, where I ordered us both coffee and cake.

“When I get back to Berlin,” I told him, “I’ll see what can be done. As a matter of fact, I know someone in the Gestapo myself. He runs his own department in Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. He might be able to help you. Yes, it’s possible he might. Always supposing that you can help me.”

These days, that was how everything in Germany worked. For rats like Othman Weinberger, it was probably the only way to get on. And while personally I regarded him as something to be scraped carefully off the sole of my Salamanders, I could hardly blame him for wanting to get out of Würzburg. I’d been there for just twenty-four hours and already I felt as keen to leave the place as the wandering Jew’s stray dog.

“But you know,” I said, “this case. Together we might yet make something out of it. Something a man might base a career on. You might not need anyone’s kind word if this impresses your superiors.”

Weinberger smiled wryly and gave the pretty waitress a slow up-and-down as she stooped to serve our coffee and cake. “You think so? I doubt it. No one here seemed very much interested in what I had to tell them about Max Reles.”

“I’m not here to pour coffee in my ears, Captain. Let’s hear it.”

Ignoring his coffee and the excellent cake, Weinberger leaned forward excitedly. “This man is a real gangster,” he said. “Just like Al Capone and those other Chicago hoodlums. The FBI-”

“Hold up. I want you to begin at the beginning.”

“Well, then, you might know that Würzburg is the capital of the German quarrying business. Our limestone is highly prized by architects all over the country. But there are really only four companies that sell the stuff. One of them is a company called Würzburg Jura Limestone, and it’s owned by a prominent local citizen called Roland Rothenberger.” He shrugged, ruefully. “Does that sound any less Jewish than my name? You tell me.”

“Get on with it.”

“Rothenberger is a friend of my father’s. My father’s a local doctor and a town councillor. A few months ago, Rothenberger came to see him in his capacity as a councillor and told him that he was being intimidated by a man named Krempel. Gerhard Krempel. He used to be an SA man, but now he’s a heavy for Max Reles. Anyway, Rothenberger’s story was that someone called Max Reles had offered to buy a share in his company, and that this Krempel character started to get rough when Rothenberger told him he didn’t want to sell. So I started to check it out, but I’d hardly finished opening the file when Rothenberger contacted me to say that he wished to withdraw the complaint. He said that Reles had substantially improved his offer and that there had been a simple misunderstanding and that Max Reles was now a shareholder in Würzburg Jura Limestone. That I should forget all about it. That’s what he told me.

“But I’m afraid boredom got the better of me, and I thought I’d see what else I could find out about Reles. Right away I discovered he was an American citizen and, on the face of it, an offense had been committed right there. As you probably know, only German-owned companies are allowed to tender for Olympic contracts, and, it transpired, Würzburg Jura Limestone had just outbid the local competition to supply stone for Berlin’s new stadium. I also found out that Reles seemed to have important connections here in Germany, so I resolved to see what was known about him in America. Which is why I contacted Liebermann von Sonnenberg.”

“What did the FBI tell you?”

“A lot more than I bargained for, to be honest. Enough to persuade me to check him out with the Vienna KRIPO. The picture I’ve built of Reles is based on two separate sets of information. And what I’ve managed to work out for myself.”

“You have been busy.”

“Max Reles is from Brownsville, New York, and he’s a Hungarian-German Jew. That would be bad enough, but there’s a lot more. His father, Theodor Reles, left Vienna for America at the turn of the century, most likely to escape a murder charge. He was strongly suspected by the Vienna KRIPO of murdering someone-perhaps several people-with an ice pick. It was apparently a secret technique taught to him by a Viennese Jewish doctor by the name of Arnstein. When Theodor settled in America, he married and had two sons: Max and his younger brother, Abraham.

“Now, Max has no convictions, although he was involved in the Prohibition rackets, as well as in loan-sharking and gambling. Since the end of Prohibition in March of last year, he’s built connections with the Chicago underworld. Little brother, Abraham, has a conviction for juvenile crime and is similarly involved in organized crime. He’s also believed to be one of the most cold-blooded killers in the Brooklyn mob and is reputed to use an ice pick for his murders, like his father. So skilled is he with this weapon that in some cases he leaves no trace.”

“How does that work?” I asked. “You stab a man with an ice pick, you figure it leaves more than just a bruise.”

Weinberger was grinning. “That’s what I thought. Anyway, there was nothing about this technique in the information I had from the FBI. But the Vienna KRIPO still have an old case file on Theodor Reles. You know, the father. Apparently what he used to do was ram the ice pick through the victim’s ear, right into his brain; and he was so good at it that many of his victims were thought to have died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Something natural, anyway.”

“Jesus,” I muttered. “That must be how Reles killed Rubusch.”

“What’s that?”

I told Weinberger what I knew about the murder of Heinrich Rubusch, and how Würzburg Jura Limestone was now the new owner of the Rubusch Stone Company. “You said Max Reles has built connections with the Chicago underworld,” I said. “Such as what?”

“Until recently, Chicago was run by Capone himself. Who also came from Brooklyn. But Capone is now in jail, and the Chicago organization has branched out into other areas, including construction and labor racketeering. The FBI suspects that the Chicago mob was involved in fixing construction contracts for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.”

“That figures. Max Reles has a close friend on the American Olympic Committee who also owns a Chicago construction company. A fellow named Brundage. He’s getting some sort of kickback from our own committee in return for chasing off an American boycott.”


“No. He’s being drip-fed East Asian art treasures that were part of a collection donated to Berlin’s Ethnographical Museum by some old Jew.” I nodded appreciatively. “Like I said, you have been busy, Captain. I’m impressed at how much you’ve been able to find out. Frankly, I think the assistant commissioner is going to be as impressed as I am. With your talents, perhaps you ought to consider a career in the real police. In KRIPO.”

“KRIPO?” Weinberger shook his head. “No, thanks,” he said. “The Gestapo is the police force of the future. The way I see it, the Gestapo and the SS will have to absorb KRIPO in the long run. No, no, I appreciate your compliment, but from the point of view of my career, I have to stay in the Gestapo. But preferably the Berlin Gestapo, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Tell me, Herr Gunther, you don’t think we’re eggs trying to be smarter than the hen, do you? I mean, this Reles may be a Jew and a gangster. But he’s got some important friends in Berlin.”

“I’ve already spoken to Frau Rubusch about exhuming her husband’s body, which will prove he was murdered. I think I can even lay my hands on the murder weapon. Like most Amis, Reles likes a lot of ice in his liquor. There’s a lethal-looking ice pick on the sideboard of his hotel room. And if all that’s not enough, then there’s his being a Jew, like you said. I’d like to see what all of his important friends in the Party think about that. I don’t much like playing that domino, but in the end there might be no other way to nail the bastard. Liebermann von Sonnenberg was appointed by Hermann Goering himself. And possibly we’ll have to present all the salient facts to him. And since Goering isn’t on any Olympic committee, it’s hard to imagine him choosing to ignore corruption among the committee’s members, even if some others might.”

“You’d better be certain of all your evidence before you do that. What’s the saying? The cock that crows too early gets the twisted neck.”

“I suppose they teach you that at Gestapo training school. No, I won’t do anything until I have all the evidence. I can walk just as well as I can run.”

Weinberger nodded. “I’ll need to see the widow. To get her written permission to exhume the body. Probably I’ll have to involve the Würzburg KRIPO, too. Such as it is. And a magistrate. All of that could take a little time. At least a week. Perhaps longer.”

“Heinrich Rubusch has plenty of time, Captain. But he needs to rise up from the dead and start talking if this case is going to get anywhere. It’s one thing ignoring a construction racket. It’s quite another ignoring the murder of a prominent German citizen. Especially when he’s properly Aryan. You’re a little folksy for my taste, Weinberger, but we’ll make a first-rate policeman out of you yet. Back at the Alex, when I was police, we had a saying of our own. The bone won’t come to the dog. It’s the dog that goes to the bone.”


IT WAS THREE HOURS TO FRANKFURT on the passenger train. We stopped at almost every town along the Main valley, and when I wasn’t looking out of the window and admiring the scenery, I was writing a letter. I wrote it several different ways. It wasn’t the kind of letter I had written before or which made me feel happy, but all the same it needed to be written. And somehow I managed to persuade myself that it was a way to protect myself.

I shouldn’t have been thinking of other women, but I was. At Frankfurt, I followed along the platform a woman who was built like a Stradivarius cello, and then felt a bow stroke of disappointment when she climbed up into the ladies’ compartment, leaving me in a first-class smoker beside a professional type with a pipe the shape of a tenor saxophone, and an SA leader who favored Zeppelin-sized cigars that smelled more lethal than the locomotive. In the eight hours it took the train to reach Berlin, we generated a lot of smoke-almost as much as the Borsig-built steam R101 itself.

It was raining from a bucket when finally I arrived back in Berlin, and with a hole in the sole of my shoe, I had to wait awhile for a taxi at the rank in front of the station. The rain hit the big glass roof like stair rods and leaked onto the head of the line. The cabdrivers couldn’t see it, which meant they always pulled up to exactly the same spot so that the next in line would have to take a shower before he or she could climb inside, like something out of a Fat and Stupid movie. When it was my turn I pulled my coat over my head and ducked into the cab; I was able to wash one whole sleeve of my shirt without a trip to the laundry. But at least it was too early in the winter for snow. Whenever it snows in Berlin, it reminds you that it’s nearer to Moscow than Madrid by more than two hundred kilometers.

The shops were closed. There was no booze at home, and I didn’t want to go to a bar. I told the driver to take me to the Adlon, remembering that there was half a bottle of Bismarck in my desk at work-the same bottle I’d confiscated from Fritz Muller. I figured I’d use just enough of it to warm myself up and, if Max Reles was out somewhere, to put enough blood and iron in my belly to check out my own typing skills on the Torpedo in his suite.

The hotel was busy. There was a party in the Raphael Room, and undoubtedly the many patrons in the dining room were staring up at the Tiepolo panegyric ceiling, if only to remind themselves of what a blue and cloudless sky actually looks like. Pouches of thick white tobacco smoke gently rolled out of the door of the reading room like a quilt from Freyja’s bed in Asgard. A drunk wearing a white tie and tails was holding on to the front desk while he complained loudly to Pieck, the assistant manager, that the phonograph in his suite wasn’t working. I could taste his breath from the other side of the entrance hall. But even as I went to lend a hand, the man fell backward, as if he’d been sawn off at the ankles. Luckily for him, he hit a carpet that was even thicker than his head. His head bounced a bit, and then he lay still. It was a near-perfect impersonation of a fight I’d seen on the newsreels, when Mad-cap Maxie Baer laid out Frankie Campbell one night in San Francisco.

Pieck rushed around the desk to help. So did a couple of bellboys, and in the confusion, I managed to lift the key for 114 and drop it into my pocket before kneeling down by the unconscious man. I checked his pulse.

“Thank goodness you’re here, Herr Gunther,” said Pieck.

“Where’s Stahlecker?” I asked. “The guy who’s supposed to be filling in for me?”

“There was an incident in the kitchens earlier. Two members of the Brigade were involved in a fight. The rotisseur tried to stab the pastry chef. Herr Stahlecker went to break it up.”

The Brigade was what we called the kitchen staff at the Adlon.

“He’ll live,” I said, letting go of the drunk’s neck. “Passed out is all. He smells like the schnapps academy in Oberkirch. That’s probably what stopped him from hurting himself when he fell. You could stick a hat pin in this rumrunner, and he wouldn’t feel a thing. Here, give me some space here, and I’ll take him back to his room and let him sleep it off.”

I grabbed the man by the back of his coat collar and dragged him to the elevator.

“Don’t you think you should take the service elevator?” protested Pieck. “One of the guests might see you.”

“You want to carry him there?”

“Er… no. Perhaps not.”

A page boy came after me with the guest’s room key. In return I handed him the letter I’d written on the train.

“Post that, will you, kid? And not in the hotel. Use the box at the post office around the corner on Dorotheenstrasse.” I reached into my pocket and gave him fifty pfennigs. “Here. You’d better take this. It’s raining.”

I dragged the still-unconscious man into the elevator car and glanced at the number on the key fob. “Three twenty,” I told Wolfgang.

“Yes sir,” he said, and closed the door.

I bent down, pulled the man forward onto my shoulder, and then lifted him up.

A few minutes later the guest was lying on his bed, and I was wiping the sweat off my face and then helping myself from an open bottle of good Korn that was standing on the floor. It didn’t burn, didn’t even catch my collar stud. It was the smooth, expensive stuff that you drank to savor while reading a good book or listening to an impromptu by Schubert, not to help you handle an unhappy love affair. But it got the job done all the same. It went down like a clear conscience, or as near to the feeling of a clear conscience as I was going to get after posting that letter.

I picked up the telephone and, disguising my voice, asked one of the hello girls to connect me with suite 114. She let it ring for a while before coming back on the line to tell me what I now knew, that there was no reply. I asked her to put me through to the concierge, and Franz Joseph came on the line.

“Hey, Franz, it’s me, Gunther.”

“Hey. I heard you were back. I thought you were on holiday.”

“I was. But you know, I couldn’t keep away. Do you happen to know where Herr Reles is tonight?”

“He’s having dinner at Habel. I booked the table myself.”

Habel, on Unter den Linden, with its historic wine room and even more historic prices, was one of Berlin’s oldest and finest restaurants. Just the kind of place Reles would have chosen.


I pulled the shirt collar from the neck of the man now sleeping it off on the bed and then, thoughtfully, turned him onto his side. Then I capped his bottle and took it with me, slipping it into my coat pocket on the way out. It was two-thirds full, and I figured the guest owed me that much at least; more than either of us would ever know if he happened to throw up in his sleep.


I LET MYSELF INTO SUITE 114 and closed the door behind me before switching on the light. The French window was open, and the room was cold. The net curtains were billowing across the back of the sofa like a couple of comedy ghosts, and the heavy rain had soaked the edge of the expensive carpet. I closed the windows. That wouldn’t bother Reles. He’d only expect the maid to have done the same.

Several packages lay open on the floor. Each contained some sort of East Asian objet d’art packed inside a bird’s nest of straw. I took a closer look at one. It was a bronze or possibly gold statuette of some Oriental god with twelve arms and four heads. About thirty centimeters high, the figure appeared to be dancing a tango with a rather scantily clad girl who reminded me a lot of Anita Berber. Anita had been the queen of Berlin’s nude dancers at the White Mouse Club on Jägerstrasse until the night she’d laid out one of the patrons with an empty champagne bottle. The story was he’d objected to her pissing on his table, which used to be her shtick. I missed the old Berlin.

I stuffed the statuette back into its nest and glanced around the suite. The bedroom beyond the half-open door was in darkness. The bathroom door was closed. I wondered if the tommy gun and the money and the gold coins were still behind the lavatory cistern’s tiled panel.

At the same time my eye was caught by the ice bucket next to the drinks tray on the sideboard. Beside the ice bucket was an ice pick.

I picked it up. The thing was about twenty-five centimeters long and as sharp as a bodkin. The heavy steel rectangular handle was embossed with Citizens Ice 100% Pure on one side and Citizens on the other. It seemed a curious thing to have brought from America until you remembered that it was possibly a favorite murder weapon. Certainly it looked like an effective one. I’d seen less lethal-looking switchblades sticking out of a man’s back. But there seemed to be little point in borrowing the ice pick in the hope that someone at the Alex might run some tests on it. Not as long as Max Reles was also using it to break the ice for his drinks.

I put down the ice pick and turned to examine the typewriter. A half-finished letter was still on the platen of the shiny Torpedo portable. I turned the platen knob until the paper was clear of the type guide and the paper fingers. The letter was addressed to Avery Brundage in Chicago and was written in English, but that didn’t stop me from seeing that the letter g on the Torpedo was riding one millimeter higher than the other keys.

I had the probable murder weapon. I had the typewriter on which Reles had written false bids for Olympic contracts. I had a copy of the report from the FBI. And a sheet from the Vienna KRIPO. Now all I had to do was check that the machine gun was still where I thought it was. Explaining that would be a tall order even for a man like Max Reles. I looked around for his screwdriver and, not seeing it, began to search the drawers.

“Looking for something in particular?”

It was Dora Bauer. She was standing in the doorway of the bedroom, naked, although she might as easily have covered herself with the object in her hands. It was big enough. A Mauser Bolo is a lot of gun. I wondered how long she would be able to hold it at arm’s length before her arms got tired.

“I thought no one was at home,” I said. “I certainly didn’t expect to see you, Dora dear. And so much of you, too.”

“I’ve been eyeballed before, polyp.”

“Whatever gave you that idea? Me, a polyp. Tsk-tsk.”

“Don’t tell me you’re searching the drawers to steal something. Not you. You’re not the type.”

“Who says I’m not?”

“No.” She shook her head. “You got me this job, and you didn’t even ask for a cut. What thief would have done that?”

“It proves you owe me something, surely.”

“You already collected that debt.”

“I did?”

“Sure. A man with a bottle in his pocket lets himself in here and starts raking through the drawers? I could have shot you five minutes ago. And just because I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, don’t think I won’t. Cop or not. From what I already know about you, Gunther, your old colleagues over at the Alex might think I was doing them a favor.”

“It’s me you’re doing a favor, Fräulein. I haven’t seen so much of a pretty girl since the Eldorado got closed down. Is this how you normally dress for some shorthand and typing? Or is being naked just the way you end up when Max Reles finishes giving you dictation? Either way, I’m not complaining. Even with a gun in your hand, Dora, you’re still a sight for sore eyes.”

“I was asleep,” she said. “At least I was until the telephone started ringing. I suppose that was you seeing if the coast was clear.”

“It’s a pity you didn’t answer. I could have spared your blushes.”

“You can stare at my mouse all you want, polyp, but you won’t see me blushing.”

“Look. Why don’t you put down the gun and then find a dressing gown. After that we can talk. There’s a perfectly simple explanation for why I’m here.”

“And don’t think I don’t know what that is, Gunther. We’ve been expecting you, Max and me. Ever since your little excursion to Würzburg.”

“Pretty little town. I didn’t like it at first, mind. Did you know they have one of the finest baroque cathedrals in Germany? The local prince-bishops built it, to make up for the fact that the citizens of the town murdered some poor Irish priest back in the year 689. Saint Kilian. Max Reles would fit right in if he ever went there. But then he probably does go, now that he owns a quarry or two, supplying stone to the GOC. He murdered someone, too, of course. Let’s not forget that fact. Using that ice pick on the sideboard.”

“You should be on the radio.”

“Listen to me, Dora. Right now it’s just Max who’s staring at the inside of a headsman’s basket. Remember Myra Scheidemann? The Black Forest murderess? In case you’d forgotten, we execute women, too, in this great country of ours. Be a shame for you to end up the same way as her. So be sensible and put the gun away. I can help you. The same way I helped you before.”

“Shut up.” She jerked the long barrel of the Mauser at me and then the bathroom. “In there,” she said fiercely.

I did what I was told. I’d seen what a bullet from a Mauser can do to a man. It wasn’t the hole it makes going in that gave me pause for thought, but the hole it makes going out. It’s the difference between a peanut and an orange.

I opened the bathroom door and switched on the light.

“Take the key out of the door,” she said. “And put it back in the lock on this side of the door.”

Besides, Dora was an ex-whore. Probably still was a whore. And whores are less particular about shooting people. Especially men. Myra Scheidemann was a whore who had shot three of her clients in the head with a thirty-two while they were having sex in a forest. Sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of whores don’t much like men. This one was giving every impression that she didn’t mind putting a bullet in me. So I took the key and put it in the lock on the other side of the door, just as she’d told me to do.

“Now close the door.”

“And miss the show?”

“Don’t make me prove I can handle a gun.”

“Perhaps you should try for the Olympic shooting team. I don’t think you’d have any problem impressing the selectors, dressed like that. Of course, pinning a medal on your chest might prove to be difficult. Although you could always use an ice pick.”

Dora lengthened her arm, took very deliberate aim at my head, and steadied the Mauser.

“All right, all right.” I kicked the door shut, angry with myself for not thinking to bring the little automatic I’d taken from Erich Goerz. Hearing the key turn in the lock, I pressed my ear to the door and tried to continue the conversation.

“I thought we were friends, Dora. After all, it was me who got you the job with Max Reles. Remember? It was me who gave you the chance to climb off the sledge.”

“By the time you and I met, Gunther, Max was already a client. You just gave me a chance to be here with him legitimately. I told you before. I love being in big hotels like this one.”

“I remember. You like the big bathrooms.”

“And whoever said I wanted to get off the sledge?”

“You did. And I believed you.”

“Then you’re a pretty poor judge of character, aren’t you? Max thinks you’re all over him like fleas, but I think you’ve just been pinning the tail on the donkey. And got lucky. Max thinks that because you went to Würzburg you must know everything. But I don’t think so. How could you?”

“As a matter of interest, how did he find out? That I’d gone to Würzburg.”

“Frau Adlon told him. After your trip to Potsdam, he was wondering where you were. And so he asked her. He told her he wanted to give you a reward for finding that Chinese box. Of course, as soon as he knew you were there, he guessed you were on your way to check up on him. With the widow Rubusch or the Gestapo. Maybe both.”

“The Gestapo didn’t seem particularly interested in Reles and his activities,” I said.

“I suppose that’s why they asked the FBI for information about Max.” Dora laughed. “Yes, I thought that would shut you up. Max got a telegram from his brother in America passing on a tip from someone in the FBI saying that the FBI had received a request for information about him from the Gestapo in Würzburg. You see, Max has friends in the FBI just like he’s got a lot of useful friends here. He’s clever like that.”

“Is that right?”

I glanced around the bathroom. I might have kicked out the window and climbed down to the street but for the fact that the bathroom didn’t have a window. I needed the gun behind the panel. I glanced around for the screwdriver and then opened the four bathroom cabinets. “You know, Max is not going to be very happy when he comes back here and finds me in his bathroom,” I said. “For one thing, he’s not going to be able to use his own toilet.”

There wasn’t much in the cabinets. Most of the man’s toiletries were on the bathroom shelf or on the side of the sink. In one cabinet were a bottle of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass and some Charbert Grand Prix men’s cologne. They looked like a perfect couple. In another I found a bag containing some rather vulgar-looking dildos, a blond wig, some expensive-looking lingerie, and a diamond tiara that was obviously paste. No one leaves a real one in a bathroom cabinet. Not when the hotel has a perfectly good safe. Of a screwdriver, however, there was no sign.

“It gives Max a real problem about what to do with me. I mean, he can hardly kill me here in the Adlon, can he? I’m not the type to sit still and have my ears syringed with an ice pick. And the noise of a gunshot is going to attract some attention and require some explaining. But make no mistake, Dora, he’s going to have to kill me. And you’ll be an accessory to murder.”

Of course, by now I had realized the significance of the wig, and the tiara, and the Blue Grass perfume. I was reluctant to mention this to Dora, as I still hoped she might be persuaded to cooperate with me. But with each passing minute it was becoming clear that I had little choice now but to scare her into cooperation with what I now knew about her.

“Except that you’ve got no problem with being an accessory to murder, have you, Dora? Because you’ve already helped out with one murder, haven’t you? It was you that Heinrich Rubusch was with the night Max killed him with that ice pick. You were the blond in the tiara, weren’t you? Didn’t the guy mind when you showed him your mouse? That you weren’t a natural blond?”

“He was like any other Fritz when he sees a bit of mouse. All he cared about was that it squeaked when he stroked it.”

“Please tell me that Max didn’t kill him while you were doing it.”

“What’s it to you, anyway? He made no noise. There wasn’t even any blood. Well, maybe just a bit. Max blotted it up with the guy’s pajama jacket. But you couldn’t even see a mark. Incredible, really. And, believe me, he didn’t feel a thing. Couldn’t have. Which is more than I can say. Rubusch wanted a racehorse, not a girl. I had the marks of his hairbrush on my backside for days afterward. If you ask me, the fat pervert had it coming.”

“But the door was locked from the inside when we found him. The key was still in the door.”

“You opened it, didn’t you? I locked it the same way. Lots of hotel whores carry passkeys or key turners. Or know how to get hold of one. Sometimes a client pays you off without a tip. Sometimes they peel some leaves off a bush that’s too tempting to leave behind. So you wait outside for a while, and then go back in and help yourself to more money. Some hotel detective you are, Gunther. The other bull. What was his name? The drunk. Muller. He knew the score. It was him that sold me a key turner and a good passkey. And in return, well, you can imagine what he wanted. The first time, anyway. On the night Max killed Rubusch, I bumped into him, and was obliged to pin some notes on his coat.”

“Which were some of the same notes you’d been given by Rubusch.”

“Of course.”

By now I had given up looking for the screwdriver. And I was scrutinizing my change to see if I had a coin thin enough to fit the screw head on the cistern panel. I didn’t. I did have a sterling-silver money clip-a wedding present from my late wife-and I spent several minutes using that to try to loosen one of the screws; but I succeeded only in mangling the clip’s corner. The way things were looking, very soon I was going to have a chance to apologize to my wife, if not in person, then something vaguely similar.

Dora Bauer had stopped talking. Which was fine. Every time she said something it reminded me of how stupid I’d been. I picked up the tooth glass, washed it out, poured myself a generous measure of Korn, and sat down on the toilet. Things always look a little better over a drink and a cigarette.

You’re in a spot, Gunther, I told myself. In a short while, a man is going to come through that door with a gun, and he’s going to either shoot you or try to walk you out of the hotel and shoot you somewhere else. Of course, he might try to hit you over the head and then kill you with that ice pick, and take you out of here in a laundry basket. He’s been staying here for quite a while. He should know where everything is by now. How things work here.

Or he could just dump your body in the elevator shaft. It might be a while before anyone finds you down there. Or maybe he’ll just telephone his friends in Potsdam and have them come and arrest me again. It’s not like anyone’s going to object. Everyone in Berlin looks the other way whenever someone gets arrested these days. It’s nobody’s business. No one wants to see anything.

Then again, they can hardly take the risk that I won’t say something in front of everyone when they try to sleepwalk me out the front door. Von Helldorf wouldn’t like that. Nor would our honored sports leader, von Tschammer und Osten.

I drank some more of the Korn. It didn’t make me feel any better. But it did give me an idea. It wasn’t much of an idea. Then again, I wasn’t much of a detective. That much was already evident.


A COUPLE OF HOURS PASSED. So did a couple more drinks. What else was I going to do? I heard the sound of the key in the lock and rose to my feet. The door opened. Instead of Max Reles I found myself face-to-face with Gerhard Krempel, which put a big dent in my idea. Krempel wasn’t very bright, and it was hard to see how I was going to talk myself out of anything if it was his cauliflower ears that were doing the list