Authors: Daniel Silva
The source of Uzi Navot's remarkably accurate intelligence left Munich at 10:15 a.m. in the trunk of an Audi sedan. He remained
there, bound and gagged, until the car reached the Bavarian village of Irschenberg, where he was placed in the backseat next
to Gabriel. Together they listened to the breaking news on ARD as the car began the ascent toward the Obersalzberg.
“Something tells me the BrÃ¼nner boomlet just ended.” Gabriel looked down at Estermann's phone, which was vibrating. “Speak
of the devil. That's the third time he's called.”
“He probably thinks I'm behind the story you planted in
“Why would he think that?”
“The bombing operation was highly compartmentalized. I
was one of four people who knew the attacks were part of the Order's efforts to help him win the general election.”
“Talk about fake news,” remarked Gabriel.
“You're the one who engineered that story in
“But everything I told them was true.”
In the front passenger seat, Eli Lavon laughed quietly before lighting a cigarette. Mikhail, who spoke only limited German,
concentrated on his driving.
“I really wish your associate would put out that cigarette,” protested Estermann. “And must the other one tap his fingers
like that? It's very annoying.”
“Would you rather he tap on you instead?”
“He did quite enough of that last night.” Estermann worked his jaw from side to side. “Wolf is probably wondering why he hasn't
heard from me.”
“He will in an hour or so. Something tells me he'll be relieved to see you.”
“I wouldn't be so sure about that.”
“How many guards will be at the checkpoint?”
“I told you that already.”
“Yes, I know. But tell me again.”
“Two,” said Estermann. “Both will be armed.”
“Remind me what happens when someone arrives.”
“The guards call Karl Weber, the chief of security. If the guests are expected, Weber allows the car to proceed. If they're
not on the list, he checks in with Wolf. During the day, he's usually in his study. It's on the second floor of the chalet.
The gospel is in the safe.”
“What's the combination?”
“Eighty-seven, ninety-four, ninety-eight.”
“Not exactly hard to remember, is it?”
“Wolf requested it.”
“I wouldn't know. Herr Wolf is rather guarded when it comes to his personal life.” Estermann pointed toward the Alps. “Beautiful,
aren't they? There are no mountains like that in Israel.”
“That's true,” admitted Gabriel. “But there are no people like you, either.”
These days, it is common practice for politicians of every ideological stripe to line their pockets by writingâor hiring someone
to writeâa book. Some are memoirs, others are clarion calls for action on issues near and dear to the politician's heart.
Those copies that are not sold in bulk to supporters generally gather dust in warehouses or in the living rooms of journalists
who are sent free copies by the publisher with the hope they might murmur something favorable on cable television or social
media. The only winner in this charade is the politician, who typically pockets a large advance. He assures himself he deserves
this money because of the enormous personal and financial sacrifice he has made by serving in government.
In the case of Adolf Hitler, the book that made him wealthy was written a decade before his rise to power. He used a portion of the royalties to purchase Haus Wachenfeld, a modest holiday chalet in the mountains above Berchtesgaden. He commissioned an ambitious renovation of the dwelling in 1935, based on a rough sketch he made on a board borrowed from Albert Speer, his minister of armaments and war production. The
result was the Berghof, a residence Speer described as “most impractical for the reception of official visitors.”
As Hitler's power and paranoia increased, so did the Nazi footprint in the Obersalzberg. Perched atop the summit of the Kehlstein
was the Eagle's Nest, a chalet used by senior party officials for meetings and social occasions; and within walking distance
of the Berghof was the lavish teahouse where Hitler whiled away afternoons with Eva Braun and Blondi, his beloved Alsatian.
Several hundred RAF Lancaster bombers attacked the complex on April 25, 1945, inflicting heavy damage on the Berghof. The
German government razed the teahouse in the 1950s, but the Eagle's Nest remains a popular tourist attraction to this day,
as does the village of Berchtesgaden.
Andreas Estermann watched the snow falling on the tidy cobblestone streets. “It's the first storm of the season.”
“Climate change,” replied Gabriel.
“You don't really believe that nonsense, do you? It's a weather pattern, that's all.”
“Perhaps you should read something other than
now and again.”
Frowning, Estermann pointed out the postcard-perfect shops and cafÃ©s. “I think this is worth defending, don't you? Can you
imagine what this town would look like with a minaret?”
“Or a synagogue?”
Estermann was impervious to Gabriel's irony. “There are no Jews down here in the Obersalzberg, Allon.”
Gabriel glanced over his shoulder. Directly behind them was the second Audi sedan. Yaakov was driving, Yossi and Oded were in the back. Dina and Natalie were following in the Mer
cedes van. Gabriel dialed Natalie's number and told her to wait in the village.
“Why can't we come with you?”
“Because things might get ugly.”
“Heaven knows we've never been in an ugly situation before.”
“You can file a complaint with Personnel first thing tomorrow morning.”
Gabriel killed the connection and instructed Mikhail to make a left turn at the end of the street. They sped along the banks
of a granite-colored river, past small hotels and holiday cottages.
“We're less than three kilometers away,” said Estermann.
remember what will happen if you try to warn him?”
“You'll drop me down a deep hole.”
Gabriel returned Estermann's phone. “Place the call in speaker mode.”
Estermann dialed. The phone rang unanswered. “He's not picking up.”
“I have a suggestion.”
“Call him again.”
Jonas Wolf was not a regular watcher of television. He regarded it as the true opiate of the masses and the source of the
West's drift into hedonism, secularism, and moral relativism. On that morning, however, he had switched on the news in his
comfortable study at eleven fifteen, expecting to see the first reports of a major terrorist attack at Cologne's historic
cathedral. Instead, he had learned that a truck bomb had been discovered at a remote compound in western Germany and that
a former Austrian police officer with known ties to the extreme right had been taken into custody.
had linked the man to the bombings in Berlin and Hamburg and, more ominously, to Axel BrÃ¼nner and the National Democratic Party. The attacks were purportedly part of a ruthless operation by BrÃ¼nner
and the far right to inflame the German electorate on the eve of the general elections.
For now, at least, Wolf's name had not been mentioned in the coverage of the unfolding scandal. He doubted he would escape
scrutiny for long. But how had the Bundespolizei learned of the compound in Grosshau in the first place? And how had the reporter
tied the bombings to BrÃ¼nner's campaign so quickly? Wolf had but one suspect.
Gabriel AllonÂ .Â .Â .
It was for that reason Wolf did not answer the first call he received from Andreas Estermann's iPhone. Now was not the time,
he thought, to be talking to an accomplice who was calling from a cellular device. But when Estermann rang a second time,
Wolf lifted the receiver hesitantly to his ear.
Estermann's voice sounded an octave higher than normal. It was the voice, thought Wolf, of a man under obvious duress. It
seemed a member of the Order who still worked for the BfV had warned Estermann that he and Wolf were about to be arrested
in connection with the bombings. Estermann was approaching the estate with several of his men. He wanted Wolf to be downstairs
when he arrived. He had already instructed Platinum Flight Services, the fixed-base operator at Salzburg Airport, to prepare
one of the Gulfstreams for departure. A flight plan had been filed for Moscow. They would be airborne in less than an hour.
Wolf was to bring his passport and as much cash as he could fit in a single briefcase.
“And the gospel, Herr Wolf. Whatever you do, don't leave it behind.”
The connection went dead. Wolf replaced the receiver and
raised the volume of the television. A pack of reporters had cornered BrÃ¼nner outside NDP headquarters in Berlin. His denials of involvement in the bombings had all the credibility of a murderer pleading his innocence while clutching a bloody knife in his hand.
Wolf muted the volume. Then he reached for the phone and rang Otto Kessler, the general manager of Platinum Flight Support.
After an exchange of pleasantries, Wolf asked if his plane was ready for departure.
“Which plane, Herr Wolf?”
“A man from my company was supposed to have called you.”
Kessler assured Wolf that no one had contacted him. “You won't have a problem getting a departure slot, though. There's only
one other private aircraft leaving this afternoon.”
“And who might that be?” asked Wolf indifferently.
“It's his plane, but I'm not sure he'll be on board. It was empty when it arrived.”
“Where is it going?”
“Tel Aviv, with a brief stop in Rome.”
Gabriel AllonÂ .Â .Â .
“And what time is Landesmann scheduled to depart?” asked Wolf.
“Two o'clock, weather permitting. The snow is forecast to worsen later this afternoon. We've been told to expect a complete
ground stop sometime around four.”
Wolf rang off and immediately dialed Bishop Richter at the Order's palazzo on the Janiculum Hill in Rome. “I trust you've
seen the news, Excellency.”
“A troubling development,” replied Richter with his typical understatement.
“I'm afraid it's about to get worse.”
“How much worse?”
“Germany is lost. At least for now. But the papacy is still within our reach. You must do everything in your power to keep
our friend from the Society of Jesus away from the cardinals.”
“He has two million reasons to keep his mouth shut.”
“Two million and one,” said Wolf.
He hung up the phone and contemplated the river landscape hanging on the wall of his study. Painted by the Dutch Old Master
Jan van Goyen, it had once belonged to a wealthy Viennese Jewish businessman named Samuel Feldman. Feldman had given it to
Father Schiller, the founder of the Order, in exchange for a set of false baptismal certificates for himself and his family.
Regrettably, the baptismal certificates had not arrived in time to prevent the deportation of Feldman and his kin to the Lublin
district of German-occupied Poland, where they were murdered.
Concealed behind the landscape was Wolf's safe. He worked the tumblerâ
87, 94, 98
âand opened the heavy stainless-steel door. Inside was two million euros in cash, fifty gold ingots, a seventy-year-old Luger
pistol, and the last remaining copy of the Gospel of Pilate.
Wolf removed only the gospel. He laid the book on his desk and opened it to the Roman prefect's account of the arrest and execution of a Galilean troublemaker called Jesus of Nazareth. Ignoring the advice of Bishop Richter, Wolf had read the passage the night Father Graf brought the book from Rome. Much
to his shame, he had read it many times since. Fortunately, his would be the last eyes to ever see it.
He carried the book to the window of his study. It overlooked the front of the chalet and the long road running the length
of his private valley. In the distance, faintly visible through the falling snow, was the Untersberg, the mountain where Frederick
Barbarossa had awaited his legendary call to rise and restore the glory of Germany. Wolf had heard the same call. The fatherland
At least for nowÂ .Â .Â .
But perhaps there was still a chance to save his Church.
The snow is forecast to worsen later this afternoon. We've been told to expect a complete ground stop sometime around fourÂ .Â .Â .
Wolf checked the time. Then he dialed Karl Weber, his security chief. As always, Weber answered on the first ring.
“Yes, Herr Wolf?”
“Andreas Estermann will be arriving any minute. He's expecting me to meet him outside in the drive, but I'm afraid there's
been a change in plan.”
Mikhail turned onto Wolf's private road and climbed steadily through a dense forest of spruce and birch. After a moment the
trees broke and a valley opened before them, ringed on three sides by towering mountains. Clouds draped the highest peaks.
Estermann gave an involuntary start when Gabriel drew his Beretta.
“Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot you. Unless, of course, you give me the flimsiest of excuses.”
“The guardhouse is on the left side of the road.”
“I'm seated on the passenger side. If there's an exchange of gunfire, I might be caught in the crossfire.”
“Thus increasing my chances of survival.”
Behind them, Yaakov flashed his headlamps.
“What's his problem?” asked Mikhail.
“I imagine he'd like to overtake us before we reach the checkpoint.”
“What do you want me to do, boss?”
“Can you shoot and drive at the same time?”
“Is the pope Catholic?”
“There is no pope right now, Mikhail. That's why we're about to have a conclave.”
The guardhouse appeared before them, veiled by snowfall. Two security men in black ski jackets stood in the middle of the
road, each holding an HK MP5 submachine pistol. They didn't appear concerned by the two cars approaching at high speed. Nor
did they give any indication that they were planning to move out of the way.
“Shall I run them over?” asked Mikhail.
Mikhail lowered the two windows on the passenger side of the car and put his foot to the floor. The two security men retreated
to the shelter of the guardhouse. One waved cordially as the cars passed.
“It looks as though your ruse worked, Allon. They're supposed to stop every car.”
Mikhail raised the windows. To their left, across a snow-covered meadow, an Airbus executive helicopter stood on its pad with the sadness of an abandoned toy. Wolf's chalet appeared a
moment later. A single figure stood in the drive. His black ski jacket was identical to the ones worn by the men at the checkpoint. His hands were empty.
“That's Weber,” said Estermann. “He's got a nine-millimeter under his jacket.”
“Is he right-handed or left?”
“What difference does it make?”
“It might determine whether he's still alive thirty seconds from now.”
Estermann frowned. “I believe he's right-handed.”
Mikhail braked to a halt and climbed out with the Uzi Pro in his hand. Behind them, Yaakov and Oded, both armed with Jericho
pistols, leapt from the second car.
Gabriel waited until Weber had been relieved of his weapon before joining them. Calmly, he approached the German security
man and addressed him in the Berlin accent of his mother.
“Herr Wolf was supposed to be waiting for us. It is urgent we leave for the airport at once.”
“Herr Wolf asked me to show you inside.”
“Where is he?”
“Upstairs,” said Weber. “In the great hall.”