'Hold your fire! Let this man through…!'
Martel dashed past him and the station entrance was ahead with more sightseers behind a cordon of police waiting for a glimpse of the Chancellor. Beyond he saw the locomotive of the express just stopping. He ran on…
As the express slowed to a halt Klara Beck was walking through the corridor towards the exit, carrying her tartan-covered suitcase. She did not even glance into Claire Hofer's compartment. Something about the way she moved made Claire study the woman.
Lindau! Claire had seen Beck arrive in the reception hall of the Bayerischer Hof. From the elevated terrace above the harbour she had observed Beck walking rapidly towards the Hauptbahnhof. Klara Beck!
Claire stood up, grabbed The Wailer and left the compartment, following the woman in the trouser suit. When she reached the exit the door was open and Beck stepped down on to the platform.
Half-way along the coach Beck paused, stood the case on the platform, twisted the handle through a one hundred and eighty degree arc and walked on, leaving the case. Alain Flandres had descended from the restaurant car and glanced quickly round as though looking for something suspicious. Then he walked swiftly through the ticket barrier to the side of the station. Chancellor Langer had left the train and waved a hand, acknowledging the crescendo of cheering.
Claire dropped The Wailer on the platform and pressed the button. She nearly jumped out of her shoes as a hellish wailing sound like a police siren blasted out, its high pitch penetrating the cheers. Langer paused uncertainly. Stoller appeared beside him, a gun in his hand, followed by O'Meara. Beck glanced back and recognised Claire.
There was a searing flash of light as the magnesium flares packed inside the paper-thin walls of the tartan-covered case exploded. It was the five-second moment of distraction the assassin was waiting for. Ewald Portz raised his pistol and began firing the blank shots. Martel appeared behind him, the Colt. 45 in his hand. He gripped the butt with both hands and elevated the muzzle.
At the side of the station Alain Flandres aimed his Luger equipped with a silencer point-blank at Langer. Martel swivelled his weapon and snapped off three rapid shots. The bullets missed the Frenchman but ricochetted all round him. He ran for the entrance to the Starnberger Hof station and disappeared.
Klara Beck was on the verge of pulling the trigger of her pistol pointed at Claire when Stoller fired once. Beck stooped forward, the pistol falling from her hand, and sagged to the ground.
O'Meara had produced his. 38 Smith amp; Wesson and took deliberate aim at Portz..After firing his blanks the German was fleeing towards the U-Bahn. The American's bullets slammed into his back and he sprawled on the concrete, leaving behind a smear of red as he lay inert.
As Alain Flandres ran on to the platform a train was just leaving the Starnberger Hof. The timing had been vital. He grabbed a door-handle and heaved it open. A train guard shouted at him as Martel came round the corner. Flandres had heaved himself up on to the step and was about to hurl himself inside the compartment. Martel fired twice and both bullets rammed into the target's back.
The train was gathering speed as he hovered, half-inside the compartment and half on the step. He stayed poised like a figure frozen in a tableau. Then his body jack-knifed, toppled backwards into space and hit the platform like a sack of cement. He was dead when Martel reached him.CHAPTER 30
Wednesday June 3
`The Soviets – using East Germans as proxies – replaced a young French lieutenant in the Army of Occupation in Bregenz with their own man thirty years ago,' Martel said and accepted a cigarette from the German Chancellor who sat opposite him in the restaurant car of the Summit Express.
The train had left Munich and was heading east for Salzburg and Vienna. Martel was not in the least embarrassed by his audience which included his own Prime Minister, the American and French Presidents, together with Tweed, Stoller, O'Meara and Howard. He just felt unutterably weary.
'How did they manage that deception?' Langer asked.
'By a process of elimination, I assume. Everyone has a double. I happen to know you have your own for security reasons – and never use him. They had a man – my guess would be an Armenian – and he looked very much like the real Alain Flandres. They undoubtedly scoured the French forces in the Vorarlberg, the Tyrol and Vienna searching for their double. Poor Alain was made to order.'
`In what way?' Langer pressed. 'And drink some more cognac…'
'The real Flandres was an orphan. No one back in France knew him well. He was being demobilised and planned to join the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire – an outfit where everyone would be a stranger. Damn it, Chancellor – if you don't mind my recalling the episode – Chancellor Willy Brandt was compelled to resign when his chief aide, Guenter Guillaume, turned out to he a KGB agent. An even more difficult plant than Alain Flandres.'
'You're right,' Langer agreed. 'And I an most grateful that you saved my life. But how did you detect Flandres?'
'It's a tragic story. We had a previous agent, Charles Warner, who was murdered. In his notebook was an intriguing reference to Bregenz. I showed Warner's photo round the town and that led me to a cemetery – to a grave still visited by the woman who married the real Flandres just before he was murdered…'
'She knew about the impersonation?' Langer queried.
'The East Germans fooled her, kidded her up with a story so her dead husband was buried under another name. They had to do that if the fake Alain Flandres was going back to France to infiltrate the security services
'We were not very clever,' interjected the French President.
'Every security outfit has been penetrated at some time -even the KGB overlooked Col. Oleg Penkovsky. We worked on a process of elimination…'
'What exactly do you mean by that?' Howard demanded. let Mr Martel continue,' the PM reprimanded Howard sharply.
'It looked like O'Meara at one time,' Martel said, staring at the American. 'When Tweed visited Clint Loomis to check up your background Loomis ended up dead…'
'Hell, I'm not taking that…'
'You are taking that – and whatever else comes,' the President of the U.S. told him mildly.
'As I was saying, Loomis ended up dead. But that was to point us in the wrong direction – Manfred's doing, we suspected. Plus a missing two months when you were in West Berlin and absent from your base.' Martel tactfully omitted to mention, that
O'Meara had spent time with the now-deceased Klara Beck.
'You, sir,' Martel switched his gaze to Howard, 'posed a problem. While attached to the Paris Embassy you spent six weeks' leave in Vienna. You've made no mention of this fact since this operation started – even though Vienna is our destination.'
'Purely personal reasons,' Howard responded stiffly and lapsed into silence.
'Then there was Erich Stoller.' Martel glanced at Tweed. 'You might like to go on…'
'Erich was the obvious suspect,' Tweed began briskly. 'He had spent two years underground inside East Germany. Plenty of time for him to be trained by the state security people in Leipzig or East Berlin. Too obvious. Had he gone over to the other side, after a year or so they'd have faked an imminent exposure which made him dash back across the border. That would have built up a nice credit balance of trust. The fact he was there two years proved he was just damned good at his job.'
'So we came to Main Flandres,' Martel explained. 'Likeable, lively Alain who seemed above suspicion. Until it occurred to us that his early background was the vaguest of all four security chiefs. And now, if you don't mind, I'd like to snatch a little sleep. I'm getting off at Salzburg…'
'I shall also get off there,' said Tweed.
'Well,' Howard broke in boisterously. 'I think you can safely leave security for the rest of the journey in our hands…'
'Now that they have located the assassin,' the PM interjected cuttingly.
Manfred received his first warning when he drove into the underground garage to keep his rendezvous with Reinhard Dietrich. To his surprise he saw Dietrich's Mercedes had already arrived – although it was strictly understood that Manfred would be there first.
He checked his watch. No, he was not late – Dietrich was early. In the deserted cavern Manfred swung his car in a semi-circle and backed rapidly to position his vehicle alongside the six-seater Mercedes. He used one hand on the wheel while the other opened the automatic window and then grasped from the seat beside him a Luger with the silencer screwed on the barrel. When he switched off his motor he realised Dietrich had kept his own engine ticking over.
'You are early,' he called out. 'Another mistake – I trust you do appreciate the whole manoeuvre has failed?'
'Entirely due to you,' the millionaire replied.
Dietrich was sitting in the automatic car with the gear in drive, the hand-brake off – and only his pressure on the foot-brake preventing the ear moving forward. The front passenger window was open, his right hand gripped a Walther pistol, his left hand a metallic sphere, and the passenger door was not closed.
Your meaning?' Manfred asked quietly. 'Because Langer was not assassinated his party will win?'
'That, of course. But it is not pleasant to grasp that I have been tricked from the beginning. You supplied the arms to Delta, I told you every time the location of the dumps. You, alone – and myself – had this information. Stoller must have been delighted as you relayed the locations to him. You are a bloody Bolshevik…'
Both men reacted at almost the same moment. Manfred raised the Luger and fired twice. Phut-phut. Dietrich had used his right foot to kick the door open wide as he leant forward and aimed the Walther. He was too late.
Manfred's bullets thumped into his chest and he slumped sideways over the passenger seat. His hand holding the large sphere lost its grip and, unseen by Manfred, the 'rolling' bomb thumped on to the concrete floor and disappeared beneath Manfred's car.
The new device designed by Dietrich's boffins in the secret research section of his Stuttgart factory was like a massive grenade. The button Dietrich had been holding depressed was released, the device activated and timed to detonate in five seconds. Dietrich's foot slipped from the foot-brake and the Mercedes glided forward.
Manfred turned on the ignition at the very moment the rolling bomb exploded with tremendous power. Compressed between concrete floor and chassis, the blast soared upwards and elevated the car. The sound was deafening, the ruination total. Afterwards they were never able to find enough of Manfred to make any kind of identification possible. He was literally blown to pieces.
The three of them – Martel, Tweed and Claire Hofer- stood on the platform at Salzburg Hauptbahnhof watching the end of the rear coach grow smaller as the Summit Express headed on the last lap for Vienna.
'I'm flying back home,' Tweed announced. 'I shan't expect you for three weeks, Keith.' He glanced at Claire. 'I expect I can keep Howard at bay until you return
They watched the compact figure of Tweed striding briskly away, his shoulders erect, looking from side to side, still observing all that was going on around him. Martel turned to Claire who spoke first.
'He'd make a marvellous chief of your SIS. He's so amazingly cool under pressure. When he came to give me The Wailer just before the train reached Munich the tension must have been terrific. You would have thought he was on holiday.'
'Talking about holidays, you're going back to Berne to report?'
'On the other hand there's no rush, surely? I'm going to pick up Christine Brack from the Hotel Clausen to take her back to Bregenz. I want her to know the man who impersonated her husband is dead – psychologically it may close a long, painful chapter in her life. Bregenz is on the way back to St. Gallen. Didn't you find the Metropol a comfortable hotel?'
'I think I'm going to find it even more comfortable this time,' she replied, linking her arm inside his.