ADVENTURE THE 45TH: DAS ENGLANDER
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 45TH:
In the last disastrous days of WWII when the Allied invasion turned the once picturesque city of Berlin into a stockpile of burning rubble, a high ranking Nazi official named Herr Otto Von Kritchzog managed to slip through the Allied blockades set up around the city. It was a mystery to the Allies how Kritchzog could have so completely vanished without a trace. The Nazi infrastructure that might have secured his safe passage only a few months before had been virtually dismantled and the city itself was awash in American and British forces who knew the old Nazi spy’s likeness all too well.
In particular, the blow of defeat immediately following Kritchzog’s disappearance was personally felt by Maj. Gen. George S. Patton who, in the years before the conflict had met Kritchzog socially at a banquet given in London in 1938 and, at which time Kirtchzog had practically guaranteed Patton and a consulate of world powers that Adolph Hitler had no interest in invading any country on the European map.
An American of valor and military distinction, but above all else, a soldier to whom ego and integrity were equally balanced and highly personal hallmarks, Patton was not a man who took being openly lied to sitting down. Following Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Patton made it his life’s work to track down Kritchzog - who had by war’s end acquired the dubious moniker of ‘Das Englander’ – and bring him to justice. A footnote in Patton’s near forgotten memoirs even suggests that he had possibly caught up to ‘Das Englander’ in Tunisia while on his campaign there, but that the wily German spy had once again managed a quiet escape, this time disguised as one of many moving autonomously in a caravan of refugees.
By war’s end, Patton had good reason to believe that the first place Kritchzog would return to was the last place any Allied Solider would think to look – Germany. And so, Patton petitioned Eisenhower to return – presumably in disgrace - to the Fatherland in pursuit of Krtichzog. It was even rumored that Kritchzog had been responsible for the catastrophic car wreck on Dec. 9, 1945 in Mannheim that would have left Patton a quadriplegic had he not died at the Army Hospital shortly thereafter.
As a matter of public record, few outside of a select military black ops brigade made up of U.S., British and Russian soldiers knew that Kritchzog had belonged to Hitler’s inner circle. Kritchzog’s specialty for the Nazis had been running secret communications between Germany to and from Hitler’s many external contacts around the world – the nearest centralized hotbed of activity then located in Buenos Aires. There, Hitler was rumored to have sent his embezzled millions funneled by Kritchzog into hidden bank accounts; the aged loot from all the discarded Jewish gentry he had casually exiled to murderous death camps back home.
Apart from Hitler, only Kritchzog had immediate access to these secret funds. Not even the Allies knew about it and by the time British Central Intelligence cracked the code that reveled monies squared away, both the monies and the bank that had housed them had vanished into thin air.
The official story from Buenos Aires was that an electrical fire caused by faulty overhead fluorescent ballasts in the vault room had triggered a four alarm blaze that leveled the First International Trade Bank to a pile of smoldering ruins. But had the Nazi loot still been locked inside at the time the fire broke out? Conventional wisdom suggested as much since, in the carefully monitored years and later decades following the fire, no large sums of money resurfaced either in Buenos Aires or anywhere else in the world.
However, in the summer of 1959 a self made Greek shipping magnet named Ari Chaykestopolis began spending lavishly on the expansion of his international fleet. Within three years the line had tripled in size. There was nothing particularly extraordinary about this economic growth on the surface.
The post war years had been particularly lucrative for Chaykestopolis’s shipping company. What was rather curious, at least so retired British naval intelligence officer Gen. Lloyd Allen was to discover after he began poking around for some answers, was that no one in Greece could recall where or what Chaykestopolis had been up to prior to the outbreak of WWII.
When questioned by Allen in a casual setting, Chaykestopolis told of an impoverished illegitimate birth to a woman who had died of starvation in the hills, and, of his own days as a nameless urchin begging for crusts of bread in the streets of Athens. Malnourished and in poor health, in Athens Ari was discovered, so the legend went, by a kind and wealthy gentleman, Anatol Chaykestopolis. Anatol adopted the boy after the tragic death of his own son and reared him as his own. It was colorful folklore. But was it really the truth? Or was Ari Chaykestopolis really Das Englander in disguise?
Allen was presumably getting close to finding out through his own research and connections with the ‘right people’ when his body was discovered in a shallow pool of water near the coast. The cause of death by the Athens coroner was presumed as a drunken slip and fall off some ‘regrettably’ rocky terrain, even though an autopsy performed four hours later in England, and at the strenuous insistence of Allen’s widow, Margurita could not confirm that a drop of alcohol had actually been consumed by her late husband before his ‘fall’.
Evidently, Margurita seemed to know the purpose for her husband’s extended trip to Greece. She also knew that Allen had been in contact with Ari Chaykestopolis. This was a great curiosity to the Scotland Yard police who questioned her motives for the hasty second autopsy on her husband, since Margurita had not accompanied him, but rather had stayed behind in England - presumably to look after her sick mother. Whatever the truth behind Allen’s mysterious death, the inquest was laid to rest a scant three weeks later when Margurita was ‘accidentally’ run down on a street in Piccadilly.
With no leads to go on, the British consulate appointed a special investigator to make the journey to Greece. However, upon his arrival in Athens, this individual was promptly informed that Ari Chaykestopolis had quietly died of a heart attack only a few days before – his body laid to rest in the family crypt in Cyprus.
Indeed, when the investigator arrived in Cyprus he found a newly sealed casket inside the stately mausoleum built to house Ari’s remains; only an exhumation of the body produced a badly decomposed and much older gentleman lying inside. Nevertheless, Ari’s half brother, Peter and his wife Gina both insisted that the body in the crypt was that of Ari himself.
In the days before DNA evidence could conclusively make the proper identification, the British investigator was forced to accept Peter and Gina’s story and go back to England empty handed. Not long afterward, Chaykestopolis’ shipping empire was sold to a Turkish conglomerate – its base of operations in Greece quickly and quietly sold off and dismantled.
Three years later, an aged British investor named Gabriel McDonough began a rather meteoric rise to fame as one of the country’s foremost record producers. McDonough quickly signed unknown artists like Petula Clark, Tom Jones and The Beatles to his record label and shortly thereafter inundated the U.S. pop charts with what later became known as ‘The British Invasion.’ This time it was famed U.S. newspaper gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who declared in a December 1965 interview for Britain’s Spin Magazine that for certain she had made an acquaintance of McDonough even though McDonough casually denied ever having met the gossip maven before. “Though the name escapes me,” Hopper added to the Spin interviewer, “I never forget a face.”
If Hopper’s memory seemed to fail her just at that moment, she need only have reached back to 1943 and a lavish summer party her employer William Randolph Hearst had given at his famed San Simeon ranch; a ritual inaugural to quietly celebrate the demise of Hollywood’s wunderkind, Orson Welles.
At that party, Hopper had danced with a suave, much younger incarnation of the man Britain’s Daily Mirror had currently christened their ‘man of the year’ – only then he had been known to her simply as ‘Otto’ – a dashing rake of German/Romanian extraction or something like that, who had been relatively faithless in accepting Hopper’s loud professed assurances that with America’s involvement the Allied Forces would, in fact, win the war.
Hopper’s fervent insistence at knowing McDonough was something of a curiosity for the Spin interviewer who had intended to make another contact of Hopper early the following New Year. Unfortunately, in February 1966 the unusually healthy and resilient Hopper managed to contract a virulent strain of double pneumonia that claimed her life. Hopper’s persistence at knowing McDonough was quietly forgotten for a year and entirely overshadowed by an even more bizarre scandal that occurred in late November that same year.
Rumors had leaked to the press that the Queen was seriously considering McDonough for a knighthood. His lavish spending had invigorated the British economy and placed many a struggling local artist at the forefront of the international music scene – thanks to his savvy record producing and promotional machinery. Furthermore, McDonough’s generous philanthropy at home and his dedication to restoration and beautification projects in and around London had made all the papers. In fact, McDonough was supposed to attend a lavish New Year’s gala given in his honor at the Savoy by close friend and Harrod’s department store owner Mohamed al-Fayed.
Unhappy chance for al-Fayed, that his guest of honor never arrived at the party. Although the doorman at the Dorchester Hotel later confirmed that McDonough’s limousine had left with McDonough inside it and on time, what became of both the man, his car and chauffeur between these two relatively close points of destination was a mystery that, in the days that immediately followed, remained open to wild speculation, innuendo and rumor.
The Daily Mirror suggested without any basis in fact that McDonough had been a KGB spy – an erroneous claim even despite the fact that Russian Premiere Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev had received a package from McDonough wishing him hearty birthday salutations. The package contained a phonograph with a supply of replacement needles and virtually every hit single McDonough had produced as a Christmas gift in 1964.
An eye witness, a gripper working the wharf, claimed that a man answering to the name ‘Mac’ had frantically arrived at the pier near Lester in a tuxedo and had demanded usage of his tug. After paying the gripper nearly one hundred pounds, the man and the tug vanished into the heavy night fog. Neither were seen or heard from again. But perhaps the most shocking speculation of them all came from lowly prostitute, Josephine Clember, working the seedy byways of Piccadilly.
Clember claimed that McDonough had been a regular customer of hers who had “stopped off for a quick one” en route to the New Year’s Eve gala. Just where McDonough went afterward was not for Clember to say, and apparently not for her to even suggest since she telephoned Scotland Yard some three weeks later in a whispered hush to suggest that McDonough had returned and was “resting up” in her boudoir after “a bit of the malarkey.”
The police, frantic for a lead on McDonough’s disappearance, arrived at Clember’s shabby flat only to awaken a man two feet shorter than McDonough who had six children and a slew of outstanding payments at virtually every brothel in the city. That man was promptly arrested before later being returned to his wife.
Das Englander had once again disappeared.
“So,” I say to the Don as we get ready to set down in London, “We’re looking for a ghost?”
“A man,” the Don corrects as he buttons his shirt collar.
“A man who behaves like a ghost,” I add, refusing to be one upped. “Maybe we find this vapor and pump him full of concrete or Maalox?”
The Don looks at me curiously.
“I don’t understand,” he confesses.
“Well,” I suggest, “Let’s just say enough of either and he’ll end up leaving a fairly obvious trail wherever he goes.”
I lean back in my seat as the stewardess comes by to inform us to fasten our belts. We’re approaching Heathrow. Come to think of it, we had little trouble crossing the U.S./Canadian border in Windsor, thanks to the Don’s contact with a pair of nameless thugs who had enough high clearance to get in and out of the Manoogian Mansion unnoticed and supply us with a pair of pretty convincing phony I.D.’s.
“You’ve some friends,” I say to the Don, tapping my breast pocket to make sure ‘my’ passport is still there.
“The world belongs to those who know how to spend their money wisely,” the Don tells me, grinning from ear to ear as he taps his own breast pocket.
“Yeah,” I agree, “I know what’s better. I just can’t afford it.”
. . .
It’s raining in London – big surprise; foggy and miserable and full of that thick night air that gets way deep inside you like a floatation device that’ll collapse a lung or two. I retrieve our bags – also supplied by the boys in Detroit – and hail a taxi while the Don takes care of a few minor details.
I don’t claim to be intuitive but I get the distinct feeling I’m being watched. Casually, I pretend not to look around; wander past the newsstand; catching glimpses of my reflection in the glass partitions and then the sliding exit doors. There don’t seem to be any interesting characters slinking around the scenery. Maybe, it’s just me – too eager to get in touch with my feminine side.
“Where do we go from here?” I ask the Don, who comes at me, overcoat slung across one hand and slightly stumbling from the general direction of the Men’s Room, looking as though he’s only half finished.
There are a few tiny beads of sweat on his brow but I don’t give it much thought. Besides, maybe he just doesn’t get enough fiber.
It’s only after we’re in our taxi and hurrying toward the Dorchester Hotel that the Don taps me with his foot, slowly uncovering the hand under his coat to reveal a fairly bloody mess and a couple of deep gashes about his wrist. I want to say something, but his eyes tell me to keep my mouth shut.
“Oh driver,” I say to youthful Pakistani giving us a lift, “Where can I stop off for a pint? I mean after I leave pops at the hotel?”
“The Dorchester has a bar,” he informs me.
“Yeah, I know,” I reply, “Only what if I want the whole bottle.”
“That too can be arranged, sir,” I’m told.
It’s no good. I’m already being too obvious. So, when the cabby pulls into the Dorchester’s main drive, I quickly get out, help the Don to his feet, pay the tab with some loose change and tote the bags myself through the front doors and into the lobby.
I sign the register. We’re shown by a portly valet to something called the Oliver Messel Suite. Apparently, only the very best people have stayed here; everyone from Noel Coward to Sylvester Stallone. I wonder how the hell we managed to rate it.
As we’re riding up the lift, I get the fifty-cent tour but could care less whether Elizabeth Taylor’s tuckus sat on the porcelain bowl before mine or Marlene gave herself a pink champagne bubble bath in the alabaster washroom. But it goes on and on and finally I interrupt the self-appointed rum-pot as the lift doors part and we’re shown to a grand and lavish suite of rooms that really make you ‘feel’ like you’re in England.
“So, are we all alone up here?” I ask as I fumble around for a tip.
By now, the Don’s looking more ashen than pumpkin and I really just want to get him inside a pour some bourbon or anything else alcoholic on that wound before deciding what next to do.
“Yes sir,” I’m told, “But there’s also an Audley, Terrace and Harlequin suite.”
I shove a crisp one between the fingers of this helpful chap before closing the door practically on his heels.
The Don looks relieved – or half dead…I can’t decide. He slumps into the loveseat, his bloody hand leaving a thick brown stain across the gold fabric. I find a wet bar in an anteroom with my pick of hairs of the dog that should bite me; pop the top off a fresh bottle of Jack and grab an ultra cushy white linen towel on my way back to the main sitting room. The Don look pale…real pale.
I liven the color in his cheeks as I pour the booze into the towel and wrap it firmly about his hand. He grimaces.
“Here,” I offer, tipping the bottle slightly as I press it to his lips.
He’s grateful and drinks like a Shriner for a few seconds.
“Hey,” I say, moving the bottle away, “I need you with it to tell me what we’re in for.”
“We’ve been followed,” the Don explains, “I was at a urinal when a man approached at my side. He smiled and asked me for the time.”
“So far, sounds par for the course of a high class gay hooker looking for a fresh john,” I say.
The Don smiles; the color returning to the rest of him.
“Except that this one knew me by name,” he tells me.
“Then we can’t stay here,” I suggest, admittedly hesitant to surrender such luxury even though I’ve yet to grow accustom to it.
“We can,” the Don mutters, “I’ve taken care of things.”
He doesn’t say much else and he suddenly starts to look weary again. I open the towel and get a good gander. Not as bad as I thought. A few gashes to be sure and a lot of blood’s been lost, but nothing that’ll require stitches, and a good thing that too. I wouldn’t know where to take him or how to explain it without calling half of Scotland Yard to our attention. Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
After I put the Don to bed I decide to take a swim in the moat that’s masquerading as our bathtub. There’s a flat panel T.V. on the wall opposite and a remote on the edge of the tub. As I sink my short n’ curlies into a bay of hot water and turn on the jets to massage my tense lower back I catch a glimpse of the eleven o’clock newscast.
They’ve found the body of some poor mutilated schmuck inside a men’s room at Heathrow. No I.D. but his throat’s been slashed. Taken care of things, indeed. I’m not only living the high life with a rich benefactor but I’ve just moved in with a murderer.
Not until the fat lady sings!
EDDIE MARS WILL RETURN OCT. 30th 2008
in his next great adventure:
A Foggy Day and Night In The Middle Of Nowhere.
@ Nick Zegarac 2008 (all rights reserved).