Authors: James Twining
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Suspense
To my parents and my sister, thank you for everything
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. —Sir Isaac Newton, letter to Hooke, 1675
This novel is inspired by the incredible true story of the Hungarian Gold Train and its desperate journey across a ravaged continent in the dying days of the Second World War. When it was eventually discovered by U.S. troops in a remote Austrian tunnel, it was found to contain several billion dollars’ worth of stolen gold, art, and other treasures. All descriptions and background information provided on works of art, artists, thefts, architecture, and Nazi uniforms and rituals are similarly accurate. Descriptions of the workings
EXTRACT FROM THE
OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF
THE NAZI PARTY (EDITION A, NO. 270, SEPTEMBER 27, 1934), FROM
WEWELSBURG 1933–1945: A CULT AND TERROR CENTRE OF THE SS
, BY KARL
HÜSER; TRANSLATED BY ROBIN BENSON
Today the old defiant Wewelsburg Castle, situated in a historical location in the old
land of the Saxons, has passed into the care of the SS of the NSDAP and is to serve, in
future, as the Reich Leaders’ School of the SS.
As a result, Wewelsburg Castle, which can look back on a long and glorious role in
German history, has also been assigned a place of historical importance in the Third
For it is here that the men are to be instructed in a worldview and beliefs as well as
to receive physical instruction, whose calling it is to assume the office of leaders in the
SS, and who are to march forward as examples and leaders before the nucleus of our
healthy German youth.
THE SPOILS OF WORLD WAR II
, BY KENNETH D. ALFORD
On May 16, 1945, the 3rd Infantry Division, 15th Regiment, A Company, commanded
by Lieutenant Joseph A. Mercer, entered the Tauern Tunnel 60 miles south of
Salzburg. To their astonishment, they discovered a partially concealed train crammed
with gold and other valuables . . . . The 1945 estimated value of the contents of the
train was $206 million—which would translate into several billion dollars today.
The broad mass of a nation . . . will more easily fall victim to a big
lie than to a small one.
ST. THOMAS’ HOSPITAL, LONDON
December 27—2:59 a.m.
Ash cash. That’s what medical students call it. Every cremation or burial release form requires a doctor’s signature, and every signature earns its donor a small fee. Death could be good business for a doctor who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. To Dr. John Bennett, however, shouldering the icy rain as he walked briskly over to the main hospital building from the ugly hulk of the accommodation block, the prospect of a few extra quid was small compensation for being paged at three a.m. Very small. As if to emphasize the hour, Big Ben, its face suspended in the air like a small moon on the other side of the river, chose that moment to chime, each heavy, deadened strike shaking Bennett a little further awake.
He stepped out of the cold into the warm blast of the heaters positioned in the entrance vestibule, the sudden change in temperature making his glasses fog. He took them off and wiped them clean on his shirt, the moisture streaking across the lens. A red LED display glowed into life overhead as the elevator made its way down to him, the declining numbers scrolling
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rhythmically across the panel. Eventually, there was a muffled sound of machinery as it slowed and the door opened. He stepped inside, noting as the elevator lurched upward that the bronzed mirrors made him look healthier than he felt.
A few moments later, he walked out onto the ward, the wet soles of his shoes faintly marking the scarlet linoleum. The corridor ahead of him was dark, the lights dimmed apart from the emergency exit signs that glared green above the doors at either end.
“Doctor?” A woman’s voice rang out through the gloom. He slipped his glasses back on to identify the approaching figure.
“Morning, Laura,” Bennett greeted her with a warm smile. “Don’t tell me you’ve killed another one of my patients?”
She shrugged helplessly. “I’ve had a bad week.”
“Who was it this time?”
“Hammon? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. He was in a pretty bad way.”
“He was fine when I came on duty. But when I looked in . . .”
“People get old,” Bennett said gently, sensing she was upset. “There’s nothing you could have done.” She smiled at him gratefully. “Anyway, I’d better take a look. Have you got the paperwork ready?”
“It’s in the office.”
The windowless room was positioned about halfway down the ward, the only light coming from the glow of two surveillance monitors and the LED display of the video recorder beneath them. One monitor showed the corridor where they had just been standing; the other flicked between the patients’ rooms, pausing a few seconds in each. The rooms were identical, a single narrow bed dominating the space with a few chairs drawn up under the window and a TV set fixed high up on the facing wall. The only variation was in the quantity of flowers and get-well cards on one side of the bed and monitoring and resuscitation equipment on the other. Unsurprisingly, there seemed to be a
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Laura rummaged around on the desk for the file, the blue glow from the monitors staining her red nails purple.
“Do you want the light on?”
“Please,” she replied, without looking up.
Bennett reached for the switch, when suddenly something caught his eye. The roving camera had settled momentarily in one of the patients’ rooms. Two dark figures were silhouetted against the open doorway, one slight, the other improbably tall.
“Who’s that?” Bennett said with a frown. The picture jumped to the next room. “Quick, get it back.”
Laura switched the system to manual and scanned the rooms one by one until she found the men.
“It’s Mr. Weissman’s room,” she said in a low, uncertain voice.
The two figures were now standing on either side of the bed looking down at the sleeping patient. Even on the monitor he looked thin and frail, his skin pinched, his cheeks hollowed by age. Various wires and tubes emerged from under the bedclothes and led to a heart-rate monitor and some sort of drip.
“What the hell are they playing at?” Bennett’s surprise had given way to irritation.
“You can’t just come in here whenever you feel like it. What do people think we have visiting hours for? I’m calling security.”
As Bennett reached for the phone, the tall man on the left snatched a pillow out from under the sleeping man’s head. He awoke immediately, his eyes wide with surprise and then, as he blinked at the two men looming above him, fear. His mouth moved to speak, but whatever sound he might have been trying to make was smothered as the pillow was roughly pushed down onto his face. Helplessly, his arms and legs flapped, like a goldfish that had leapt out if its bowl.
“Jesus Christ!” Bennett gasped, his voice now a whisper. He jammed the phone to his ear, the white plastic slippery against his sweaty skin. Hearing nothing, he tapped the hook switch a few times before locking eyes with Laura. “It’s dead.”
On-screen, the tall man nodded to his companion, who lifted a black bag onto the bed and
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what Bennett instantly recognized as a surgical bone-saw sparkled in the light. Deftly, the figure slid back the man’s left pajama sleeve and placed the blade on his arm, just below the elbow. The man jerked his arm but to no avail, what little strength he had left clearly ebbing away in his attack-er’s strong grasp.
Bennett glanced at Laura. She was standing with her back to the door, her hand over her mouth, her eyes glued to the monitor.
“Don’t make a sound.” His voice was thin and choked. “We’ll be fine as long as they don’t know we’re here. Just stay calm.”
The saw sliced through the skin and muscle in a few easy strokes before it struck bone, the main artery gushing darkly as it was severed and the blood pressure released. In a few minutes the arm had come free, the limb expertly amputated across the joint. The stump oozed blood. Abruptly, the struggling stopped.
Working quickly, the figure wiped the saw on the bedclothes, then returned it to his bag. The arm, meticulously wrapped in a towel snatched from the foot of the bed, soon joined it. The victim’s face was still masked by the pillow, the bedclothes knotted around his legs like rope where he’d kicked out and got himself tangled up. The heart-rate monitor showed only a flat line, an alarm sounding belatedly in the empty nurse’s station down the corridor.
The two men moved away from the bed, across the room, careful not to touch anything. But as he was about to shut the door, the tall man suddenly looked up into the far corner, into the camera lens, straight into Bennett’s eyes, and smiled.
“Oh my God,” Bennett whispered in slow realization. “They’re coming for the tapes.”
He jerked his head toward the other monitor. The thin man was walking slowly up the corridor toward them, the blade of the knife in his hand glinting like a scythe. Laura began to scream, a low, desperate, strangled call that grew louder and louder as the
is that good men do nothing.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
PINKAS SYNAGOGUE, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
January 2—10:04 a.m.
The shattered glass crunched under the leather soles of Tom Kirk’s Lobb shoes like fresh snow. Instinctively, he glanced up to see where it had come from. High in the wall above him white sheeting had been taped across a window frame’s jagged carcass, the plastic bulging every so often like a sail as it trapped the biting winter wind. He lowered his gaze to the man opposite him.
“Is that how they got in?”
Rabbi Spiegel shook his head, his side locks bumping against his cheeks. Although smartly dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, he was thin and frail, and the material seemed to hang off him like loose skin. A faded black silk yarmulke covered the top of his head, firmly clipped to a fierce growth of wiry gray hair. His face was hiding behind a wide spade of a beard, his watery eyes peering through small gold-framed glasses. Eyes that burned, Tom could see now, with anger.
“They came in through the back. Broke the lock. The window . . . that was just for fun.” Tom’s face set into a grim frown. In his midthirties and 12 james twining
about six feet tall, he had the lithe, sinewy physique of a squash player or a cross-country runner—supple yet strong. He was clean shaven and wearing a dark blue cashmere overcoat with a black velvet collar over a single-breasted gray woolen Huntsman suit; his short, normally scruffy brown hair had been combed into place. His coral blue eyes were set into a handsome, angular face.
“And then they did this?” he asked, indicating the devastation around them. Rabbi Spiegel nodded and a single tear ran down his right cheek.
There were eighty thousand names in all—Holocaust victims from Bohemia and Moravia—each painstakingly painted on the synagogue’s walls in the 1950s, with family names and capital letters picked out in blood red. It was a moving sight, an unrelenting tapestry of death recording the annihilation of a whole people.
The bright yellow graffiti that had been sprayed over the walls served only to deepen the unspoken weight of individual suffering that each name represented. On the left-hand wall, a large Star of David had been painted, obscuring the names underneath it. It was pierced by a crudely rendered dagger from which several large drops of yellow blood trickled toward the floor.
Tom walked toward it, his footsteps echoing in the syna-gogue’s icy stillness. Up close he could see the ghostly imprint of the names that had been concealed under the paint, fighting to remain visible lest they be forgotten. He lifted a small digital camera to his face and took a picture, a loud electronic shutter-click echoing across the room’s ashen stillness.