The Prince of Berlin
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by Dan Sherman
Description: "The best spy novel Dan Sherman has ever written." -- New York Daily News Harry Rose, last of the great American spymasters, has stepped to the helm of the Berlin station in the wake of the Second World War. From deep within a pulverized Germany, he launches his own renegade operation to avert World War III. But there are some within his camp who claim that Harry has finally gone too far, playing the game of nations from the bottom of the deck. Here is an inside story of the nuclear arms race--the politics, the passion and the sheer lust for power. In short, here is a tale of elite Cold Warriors who lived and died by a dictum that reads: He who deploys a thermonuclear weapon is tantamount to God. This is the novel that elevated Dan Sherman to that "exalted plateau occupied by John LeCarr´┐Ż and Graham Greene." This is also the novel that inspired a whole new wave of espionage thrillers that will live in spy fiction forever. Other Dan Sherman thrillers from E-Reads: The Traitor, The Man Who Loved Mata Hari, The White Mandarin
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1983
eBookwise Release Date: November 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [350 KB]
Reading time: 217-304 min.
Harry Rose disappeared on a Thursday, the second Thursday in October. It was an unnatural time reminiscent of that first autumn after the war. There were night winds at dawn, a river mist in the market square and a deeper hint of winter. Later, residents would also recall that the week had been filled with unsettling events "as if the entire city were askew." On Sunday a mutilated dog had been found in the park. On Wednesday there was lightning but no thunder. Came Thursday, and in the exhausted afternoon Harry Rose simply disappeared.
It would never be clear exactly who had been the first to notice Harry's absence. Ordinarily those failing to respond to the morning call were immediately placed on report. But Harry had never regularly attended staff muster, and although this was technically a breach of station regulations, no one had had the heart to discipline him. So Harry more or less kept his own hours. He was not formally attached to an active section, nor accountable to die department head. Generally he would just wander in around ten o'clock. He never ate with the others. He always brought a sandwich and a carton of milk.
It was not until the following Tuesday that a written alert concerning Harry's disappearance was circulated. Precisely how his absence could have gone unnoticed for five days was never fully determined, but apparently mere had always been some confusion as to who was responsible for the irregular ones. Then too it was generally known that Harry's health was not so good.
Typical of the negligence associated with these early moves, the first attempts to locate Rose were very feeble indeed. By Wednesday responsibility for the case had fallen to station security and an improbable young man named Guy Campbell. Initially Campbell's only effort to contact Harry had been to telephone the man's home. Of course mere was no reply.
Later that same morning Campbell spoke with a woman from the registry, who supposedly knew Rose better than the others. She reported that Harry had often spent the summer with relatives and suggested that Campbell contact them. This, Campbell attempted to do, but he found no reference for an extended family in the station directory. A brief conversation with Harry's nominal senior confirmed that since the death of his wife, Harry had no one: no children, no friends.
It was not until Friday that Campbell actually visited Harry's home. He left in the afternoon, but because the roads had been blocked by a disarmament rally he did not reach the house until early evening. By then another river fog had moved in from the southwest. Except for an occasional wandering bus the suburbs were deserted.
The house was larger man Campbell had expected. The steepled outline rose well above the surrounding trees. The outer wall was high, gray stone blackened with ivy. By the hawthorns stood a rotting gazebo and half-timbered gables. In the wake of a passing car there was nothing but darkness and the ticking of wet leaves.
Campbell circled the house twice, testing the locks, then entered through a window. There were only night sounds: settling floorboards, a dripping faucet, wind under the door. He waited, letting the room come to him out of the darkness. Above a grand piano hung a seascape in muted tones. There was an empty bottle of gin on the mantel, a vase of dead geraniums on the table.
How long Campbell remained he would never clearly remember. Later, when asked to describe his visit, he would tell how he had calmly stalked from room to room, examining stray papers, peering into closets, noting the contents of drawers. None of this was true. In fact he spent no more than twenty minutes in that house and all he would recall was the still gaze of a woman's portrait, a ticking clock and the oddest sense of someone watching.
Later that same evening he found himself drinking and did not know why. Still later he began his initial summary of the Rose case. In the end this summary would comprise nine typewritten pages and a photocopy of Harry's personal file. It was routed from Berlin on a Friday and reached Langley, Virginia on a Monday.
Three days after the arrival of the Campbell summary two men who would ultimately share responsibility for the Rose case were alerted and briefed on the details. These men were Lyle Severson from counterintelligence and George Clay, the effective head of the European sphere. Both men had been with the agency for decades and their involvement in the case underscored its importance. Whatever else might eventually be said about the search for Harry Rose, no one would claim that those in charge had taken the disappearance lightly.
As with others of his generation Clay had originally entered the clandestine service at the start of the Second World War. Those who knew him from that era said that even before the German defeat he had been a strong, vocal critic of the Soviets. He was also said to have personally dealt with Stalin at Potsdam and disliked the man intensely. At the war's end Clay stayed on with the service as the regional director for the Rhineland-Palantinate. There he was remembered as a fierce in-fighter with a volatile temper.
Clay had been vacationing in Geneva when word of the disappearance reached him through the diplomatic route. He had arrived from Brussels after twelve days at the October war games. In Zurich he joined a German girl named Kristian Haas. Photographs from their last afternoon together showed them posing on the west shore: he, a fairly stocky figure with cropped gray hair, she, slender and very blond.
Following word of the disappearance, Clay left Geneva on an evening flight, landed in Virginia on a Tuesday afternoon. By now more than two hundred pages of documentation concerning Harry Rose had been drawn from the Langley vaults. Also included was a photograph of Rose from 1962. On reading this material Clay telephoned Lyle Severson's home on the edge of an older suburb.
Like Clay, Lyle Severson had also entered the service at the start of the war. Stories of his early years varied, but all agreed he had had a hard war with the loss of his bride, his health and much of his faith in what he referred to as a higher justice. Also like Clay, Severson had remained in the service through that transitory period of the late forties. He was a frail man with pale gray eyes and long features. He did not take the death, or disappearance, of agents well.
It was eight o'clock in the evening when Clay arrived at Severson's home. Severson was waiting in an oval room above the garden. All afternoon there had been intermittent rain, and Clay came back with a black mackintosh over his arm. Severson wore corduroy trousers that his daughter had given him years ago. There was a fire in the grate, brandy on a table, odors of coffee and the smell of damp earth.
"I suppose we should talk about Harry Rose," Severson said softly.
Clay had moved to the far wall and an etching of a schooner in high seas. "I don't know what there is to talk about, Lyle. The man has been giving this agency trouble for twenty-five years. You think I'm surprised that he's finally gone dirty?"
"But he was good, you have to admit that he was very good."
"Erratic. He was good on the political front, but you couldn't trust his strategic estimates." "You mean nuclear strategic?"
Severson had picked up a fountain pen, toying with the cap. "And they used to say that his people were very loyal to him, didn't they?"
"Hitler's were loyal to him too, weren't they?"
Clay had moved back to the table, poured a glass of brandy, drank it, poured another. "I'm going to send a man in, Lyle."
Severson ran his hand across his mouth. "Who? That boy I met the other day?"
"Jerry Mace? No, not him. I was thinking of using Alex Petty. Remember him? Thin? Fair hair? Good-looking?"
Severson shook his head. He had never been able to remember them all. He did not even know where Clay got them. Or how he kept them loyal.
"Look, if you've got someone better in mind...."
Severson shrugged, "What about Charlie Wilde?"
Clay had moved to another etching: boats along a dark canal. "What about him?"
"Well, he knew Harry, didn't he? Knew him better than anyone."
"That was years ago, he's an old man now."
Severson had drawn back the curtains. There were the lights of passing cars through the trees. "Look at it this way. You can send in your boy Petty and he may or may not get lucky. But if Harry Rose is still in the zone Charlie will find him."
"And you'd prefer it if Wilde found him, is that it?"
Severson sighed. "You never liked Rose, did you?"
"Well, I did. Of course I didn't know him well, not as well as you, but I liked him. I mean he definitely had a way about him, didn't he?"
"He was a crook."
"Oh, I suppose, but still he had the way about him. You can't deny that."
Their final moments together were spent at the edge of Severson's garden. Here along the hedgerows lay the scattered debris of an earlier wind. There was an oblique view through the trees of a back street lined with parked cars.
"Have you been there recently?" Severson asked.
"I was there a few months ago."
"But you didn't see Harry?"
"It was a rough trip, Lyle. I had two days to pave the way for a counterforce budget."
"What about that young lady of yours? How is she?"
"Kristian? She's fine. Why?"
"Does she still live in Berlin?"
"Very pretty girl, isn't she?"
"Lyle, what the hell are you driving at?"
Severson had torn off a strand of ivy. Now it lay coiled at their feet. "Oh, I don't know. I just wonder about the disparity."
"In lifestyle. That is, you've done very well, while Harry..."
"So perhaps it's jealousy. Perhaps it's frustration. I understand that tactically you've never seen eye-to-eye with him. I mean he never much liked the idea of a--how shall I put it? A European theater force?"
"Lyle, what's your point?"
"Oh, no point really. I'm just trying to understand."
The motivation. I mean, after all these years, why defect now?"
When Clay had gone, Lyle walked back into his house and sat down in a burlap chair by a reading lamp. An hour passed. It was raining again. Earlier he had rummaged through a box of old photographs, but he had not found one of Harry Rose. Still, he remembered the man well enough from 1956.
Alex Petty was a slender man with light hair and delicate features. Before joining the European desk he had been posted in the East: Macao, Hong Kong, Vientiane--all tough assignments. On his return to Langley he studied weapons systems analysis in Brussels, men surfaced in Rome under the shallow cover of a Rockefeller grant. From Rome he moved to northern Greece and a rushed tour of the Balkans. Between the continent and Langley there had also been London, where he was generally regarded as distant and unreadable, but perfectly suited to the trade.
Petty met Clay in a restaurant seven miles west of the Fairfax County line. The bar was filled with travelers left stranded by the rain. Beyond lay a stretch of open highway to the railroad line. Petty arrived in a beige linen suit, a gray shirt and thin tie. His hair was longer than others on Clay's staff, but acceptable within the European sphere.
They sat by the window. There were miles of headlights moving south to the city. A drab girl had brought them beer.
"I've had Jerry Mace book you on a Monday flight," said Clay. "I assume that's okay."
Petty shrugged. "Sure. That's okay."
"You should also know that you're going to be working with someone else. His name is Charlie Wilde. He's one of Lyle Severson's people--in a manner of speaking."
"No. He used to work with Rose. Severson thought he might be able to help."
"Do you know him?"
"What's his story?"
"Like I said, he used to work with Rose. Then a few years ago Rose sent him over the Wall. It went bad, and he took a bullet in the shoulder. I wouldn't ask him about it if I were you."
"What's his arrangement with us?"
"Nothing formal. Just play him along for whatever he's worth. He's an old man. He won't last the whole run."
Past a wasted yard two children were waiting by the road on the fender of a Chevrolet: a boy in black leather, a girl in a torn jumper.
"So what's he like?" Petty asked suddenly.
Clay shook his head. He had also turned to watch the northbound tracks. "I haven't seen him in years."
"Do you think he crossed the border?"
"It wouldn't surprise me."
"Who's been handling the case?"
"A guy named Campbell. Station security."
"According to the file, Rose had a wife. What do you know about her?"
"Not much. Rose picked her up in Germany after the war. She died a few years back, natural causes."
A woman in a red dress kept watching Petty from the doorway. There were sounds of a passing train, then laughter from the kitchen.
"Why do you think he did it?" Petty asked.
Clay shrugged. "Why do any of them do it? Money? Women? Politics? I'd say someone bought Rose. He always spent more than he had."
"I gather he wasn't too happy about the tactical side of things."
"What do you mean?"
"Who told you that?"
"It's in the file. He wanted to go on record for a cutback," Clay turned in his chair to the window. There was nearly a mile of undisturbed railroad track to the swamp. "I want you to remember something when you're over there," he said. "You're going to hear a lot about how Rose used to run things in the old days, a lot of weird stories from a lot of weird people. I want you to try and ignore it. You understand what I'm saying? Just find him, and ignore the rest. You're good at ignoring things, so just keep it up."
Afterward Petty accompanied Clay to the parking lot. Farther on Petty passed Jerry Mace, glaring from behind the windshield of a Cadillac. Once, months ago, Petty had been paired with Mace on the night course at Langley and had almost killed the man. Now they rarely spoke, except in the presence of Clay.
Two days after the involvement of Alex Petty, Severson took a morning flight to Tampa, landed in the afternoon, men caught a bus to St. Petersburg. Charlie Wilde was waiting at the station. Severson saw him first through a break in the disembarking crowd. Wilde stood unsmiling by a fountain, in dark glasses and a tropical suit.
Like Lyle, Wilde was a thin man with white hair and long features. His eyes were also pale gray. At the start of his retirement he had purchased a duplex and four acres in an older section along the shore. There were cypress groves to the south, a long view of the bay to the west. Here, too, the days had been marked by an intermittent rain.
Wilde's house stood above a seawall at the end of a beaten path. There were palms to the water, a crumbling wharf, a half-submerged dinghy among the reeds. Inside there were odors of cigarettes and rotting wood. Lyle sat in a rocker. Wilde faced him on the window box. The first moments were taut, filled with a pointless exchange about the weather and life along the Florida coast. Severson kept glancing at the objects around him--driftwood, a rock, a slab of shale.
Finally Wilde said, "I always knew this would happen."
"Knew what, Charlie?"
"That you or someone like you would eventually come to see me about Harry."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, he was always more or less an outlaw, wasn't he? Always on the edge to a certain degree."
Severson had risen, turned to the window. Here too there were headlights on a distant bridge. "They tell me that Harry' had strong feelings about the escalation. Is that true, Charlie?"
Wilde shrugged. "He never believed in the deterrence theory, if that's what you mean."
"Is that why he hated George Clay?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure that he ever really hated Clay so much as the Clay mentality. The Russians build this, we build that ... I think there just came a point when Harry stopped believing--"
"You don't think he defected, do you?"
"Then what happened to him, Charlie? Tell me what could have happened to him."
Two women were moving between the seawall and a line of palms. One of them seemed to be limping, the other dragging a stick.
Severson said, "I imagine that you've already guessed that Clay is sending in a man. Very smooth little cobra by the name of Petty."
"So do I have to tell you what will happen if Clay finds him first?"
Wilde had also turned to watch the women, although by now they were fairly indistinct against the water. "I can't promise that I'll find him, Lyle."
"I realize that."
"And I'll need a passport."
"It's been taken care of."
"And I don't want to have to work with anyone. This Petty, for example. What's the deal with him?"
"No deal, Charlie. Let him do your leg work, that's all. He needn't even stay through the end."
"I'll do my best to keep Clay out of it. I promise."
Wilde managed to unearth two inconsequential letters from 1968 and a photograph of Rose on the balcony of a cabaret. Later mere was rain again, and the unexpected sounds of passing ships. Severson spent the last six hours in a rented room, then caught an early flight from Tampa.
Now all that remained were the final preparations. On the last day before departure Petty wandered down to the Langley vaults where the bulk of the dead files were kept. The librarian was a nervous boy whom Petty remembered vaguely from the year before.
The master index held seven references to Harry Rose, but the actual files were relatively thin. There were three letters of recommendation, a medical voucher and a loyalty pledge, presumably in Harry's own hand. The service record contained only twelve sheets with minimal notations. Apparently Rose had fought an undistinguished war in a propaganda unit outside of London. He was, however, rated in hand-to-hand and small arms. Also, he was Jewish.
Attached to these pages were two entries relating to placement in the zone, and a receipt for three hundred redeemable barter unit certificates. The only other article of consequence was a photograph, obviously decades old and never intended for the Langley record.
Here Rose appeared as a dark boy against a descending landscape of Berlin rubble. His face was lean, but undeniably handsome. The features were even, strong,, and with the shadow of the cap across his eyes, almost Oriental. On the obliterated horizon stood the remains of a clock tower and a gray cathedral.
Wilde's preparations were no less random. On the last day before departure he too returned in a haphazard way to the past and the Harry Rose he once knew very well. There were letters in a coffee tin, photographs in an envelope, even a drawing that some woman had done: a reflective portrait of Rose in the doorway of what looked like a brothel. "Things may go under," Rose had once written, "but you and I will survive, maybe win." And years later in another note: "Be quiet, Charlie, and swallow defeat. There's always tomorrow."
There were remnants of a lifetime with Harry scattered everywhere in Wilde's cramped room. Under the rolltop was a book, the second of two volumes on cabalistic thought. On the wall was an etching stolen from a house outside of Dachau. From Harry's first days in Berlin, two silver candlesticks confiscated from a tank commander. From a later era, a nine-point proposal for bilateral arms reduction. Then another of Harry's favorite books: Alchemy and the Jewish Tradition.
Harry Rose. There were moments when it seemed to Wilde that he had never really known the man. Specific memories were no help. There was a contemplative Harry watching the city from a window oh the Kanstrasse, a cynical Harry with diamonds under the floorboards. There was an intense Harry feeding a clip of an automatic rifle, and a secret Harry who really believed in magic. There was also a private Harry for friends, and a public Harry for the city. But like an object in a darkened room he kept changing, depending upon what you thought you saw. By the spring of 1946, much of Berlin was afraid of him. By the fall of 1980, even his own people had forgotten him.