Authors: Peter Lovesey
After consideration, the Duke had written agreeing to carry out the mission, subject to two safeguards: he wanted the British Ambassador in Lisbon to be informed, as well as Sir Alexander Cadogan, of the Foreign Office. This had led to a distinct cooling in MI5's enthusiasm for the project, but it was still under discussion. In fact, the Duke had just written suggesting an alternative procedure for arranging the meeting with Albrecht. His letter, dated 10 May 1941, had not yet reached its destination when the mysterious Hauptmann Horn had parachuted into Britain.
âShall we go in and see him?'
The prisoner was sitting up in bed, dark, morose and staring.
The duty officer announced the names of the visitors, and the prisoner's face lit up.
âI would like to speak to you in private,' he told the Duke. âIt is most important.'
The Duke turned to the other officers. âWould you have any objection, gentlemen?'
Flight Lieutenant Benson and the Army officer agreed to withdraw, leaving the Duke alone with the prisoner.
The prisoner's eyes glittered triumphantly under the thick, black brows. He said, âYes, I can be sure you are the Duke of Hamilton. I saw you in Berlin in 1936, when we held the Olympic Games. You had lunch in my house. I do not know if you recognise me, but I am Rudolf Hess.'
A tall man with flame-coloured hair came out of the telex room of one of Britain's national Sunday newspaper offices, shoulders hunched and shaking his head, and passed into the labyrinth of the newsroom. He was Dick Garrick, the deputy sports editor.
âBad news, Dick?'
Garrick stared across the copy paper and plastic cups and saw that the enquiry came from Cedric Fleming, the editor-in-chief. It was 10.35 on Saturday evening, and the top brass were gathered at the back bench, checking the first edition.
âWe just lost our only world boxing title.'
âAlready?' said Fleming. âDidn't it go the distance?'
âFour rounds. Our boy was disqualified for low punching.'
Fleming screwed his fat face into an expression of shock. âDeplorable. I presume he was innocent.'
âHe was British.'
âGood point, Dick. The Marquess of Queensberry really ought to have put in a rule to safeguard our lads from over-zealous referees. Still, if it had to happen, rather the fourth round than the fourteenth, eh? It should make the late edition.'
Queensberry, wasn't it?'
âWrote those rules.'
Garrick shook his head. He moved closer, to make himself heard above the clatter of machines. âIt was a Welshman called Chambers. He got up a competition for amateur glove-fighters in 1867, and persuaded Queensberry to present some cups. They were known as the Queensberry Cups, and fighting was according to the Queensberry Rules.'
Garrick moved on to the sportsdesk and picked up a phone.
The night editor said, without looking up from the layout on the table, âThat's either a very bright young man or a nut.'
âBoth,' said Fleming with approval. In his experience, the ability to recall facts was the hallmark of a good journalist. He was not much impressed with the dictum that nothing is worth remembering that can be checked in a reference book.
He had poached Dick Garrick from the
in 1978, when he had made a good impression subbing as a casual on Saturday nights. The lad had been assigned to the sportsdesk to fill a temporary gap, and stayed. Starting with no more than a mild interest in rowing, he had steeped himself in the lore of each major sport, and was now the paper's main authority on athletics, boxing, rugby football and water sports.
Towards 11.00 p.m. Fleming gave the nod to the front page, ambled across to the sportsdesk, and asked Vernon Padfield, the sports editor, to spare him a few minutes.
âIt's about Garrick,' he said in the upholstered quiet of his office, as he poured a couple of scotches. âHow would you feel, dear boy, if I took him off sport for a bit?'
âDo you want a short answer? Shattered.'
âHe's that good?'
âDare I say indispensable?'
Fleming handed over the drink. His physical bulk and almost apologetic style of speech were deceptive. He was amiable to a point â the point of decision; at various times in his twelve-year tenure as editor, he had taken on the print unions, the NUJ chapel, the proprietor and the Press Council, and not merely defended his autonomy, but caused heavy casualties among the opposition. His capacity for survival was both legend and mystery.
He lowered himself gingerly into the bentwood armchair that had supported him through the whole of his journalistic career, starting with the
Ballroom Dancing Times
, a credit he coyly concealed from the compilers of
âVernon, my boy, I'm going to come clean with you. Queensberry Rules, right? I need a ferret, a bloody good ferret.'
âYou're onto something?'
âA sniff, just a sniff.'
âNothing to do with sport. Much bigger. Can't say more.'
âAnd you want Dick to do the digging?'
âSome of it. Others will be involved.'
âWould Red Goodbody be one of them?'
Fleming's eyebrows peaked in surprise. âHow do you know that?'
âHe was tanking up in the Cock when I went over for a sandwich, announcing to the clientele that you summoned him back from Berlin to a house party. I thought you sent that guy to Germany to give us all a break.'
âI've got to use him for this.'
âGoodbody and Garrick? It's not up to me, I know, but are you sure the mix is right, Cedric? Dick is a first-rate journalist and he'll do your research as well as anyone I know, but he takes it seriously. He's not out of Goodbody's stable.'
âThat's a relief. Two of them would be a pain.'
âHe's TT, a non-smoker, doesn't play cards â'
ââ¦ lives on whole food and reads the Bible on the train to work. I get the drift, thanks, Vernon.'
Padfield said, âActually, he drives to work.'
âWith his eye on the road at all times,' said Fleming. âWho knows? Maybe rubbing shoulders with Red will improve the young man, if improvement is possible. Can you find a replacement?'
âFor how long?'
Fleming lifted his hand and gestured vaguely.
Padfield stared into the whisky, rotating it slowly in the glass. âI could say something extremely offensive.'
âBe my guest,' said Fleming, rising from his chair.
Padfield swallowed the rest of the drink. âForget it. Do you want to see Dick now? Shall I send him in?'
âI knew you would understand,' said Fleming as he opened the door.
On the afternoon of Sunday 11 May 1941, London was still fighting the fires resulting from the worst night of the Blitz. Over seven hundred densely-populated acres had been destroyed, causing more deaths and damage in one night than the Great Fire of 1666 had inflicted in several weeks. The House of Commons itself had been gutted by incendiary bombs. It was not a propitious time to call the Foreign Office and ask to speak to a member of the government.
One of Anthony Eden's staff had been persuaded to take the call. As he listened, he became increasingly dubious. The caller claimed to be the Duke of Hamilton. He asked for Sir Alexander Cadogan, the head of the Foreign Office. He said he had something of the highest importance to impart, but he was not prepared to discuss it over the telephone. He wanted Sir Alexander to drive to Northolt Airport and meet him there.
This was utterly impossible, the civil servant doggedly explained. If the matter were really important, he might be able to arrange an appointment at some time in the next two weeks. It was unrealistic to expect the head of the Foreign Office to motor out to Northolt to meet the Duke of Hamilton, or anyone else.
This last remark was overheard. John âJock' Colville, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary, had walked into the office.
âWho is it?'
The civil servant cupped his hand over the mouthpiece. âI think he's a lunatic. He says he is the Duke of Hamilton, that something extraordinary has happened. He won't say what it's all about.'
Colville reached for the phone. Strangely, he had dreamed the previous night that GÃ¶ring had flown from Germany with the bombers and parachuted into Britain. It was one of those dreams that linger in the mind.
âColville speaking. Who is there?'
âThank God! Listen, this is Hamilton. I'm trying to reach Alex Cadogan. Something has happened, something unbelievable.'
âI can't say over a public line. It's just extraordinary â¦ like â¦ like something out of an E. Phillips Oppenheim novel.'
Colville hesitated. The dream surfaced again. âHas somebody arrived?'
There was a pause.
The Duke answered, âYes.'
âHold the line. I'm going to get instructions.'
Winston Churchill was at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, his secret headquarters for weekends when a full moon made Chequers vulnerable to bombing raids. It was a country house in a four-thousand-acre estate owned by his friend Ronald Tree. That weekend was the first anniversary of Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister, and thirty house guests had been invited. News kept coming in of the devastation in London, but Churchill was accustomed to adversity. He was jubilant that the RAF had shot down thirty-three Luftwaffe bombers. At his request, a film comedy,
The Marx Brothers Go West,
was to be screened after dinner.
Churchill was puzzled by the message from Colville. He knew the Duke of Hamilton as a friend and former colleague in the House, but he could think of nothing of âurgent Cabinet importance' that the Duke would need to discuss with him. He sent Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information, to the phone. Bracken came back with a more sensational version: the Duke had an âamazing piece of information' to report, so sensitive that it could not be divulged over the phone.
Churchill decided to summon him to Ditchley. His own car was sent to meet the Duke at Kidlington airport.
Dinner was almost over when the Duke was admitted. Churchill stood to shake his hand. âMy dear Douglas, what a pleasure this is! Have you eaten?'
âNot yet, sir, butâ'
âThen you must certainly join us.' Churchill beckoned a servant. âA chair for his Grace, if you please.' Then, turning back to the Duke, âYou have whetted our appetites, too. Something certain to amaze us, we were told. What is this all about?'
âSir, it is of a highly confidential nature.'
Churchill took a deep breath. âI see.'
Tactfully, the other guests started putting their napkins on the table.
Churchill said, âI should like the Secretary of State for Air to remain.'
In a moment, the Duke was alone with Churchill and Sir Archibald Sinclair. They waited for the doors of the dining room to be closed.
âSir, last night a German airman crashed his plane and baled out over Scotland. He was picked up and taken to Glasgow. He was wearing the uniform of a hauptmann in the Luftwaffe and he gave his name as Horn. He repeatedly asked to be allowed to speak to me. I was asked to interview him at Maryhill Barracks this morning, and I did. As soon as we were alone, he identified himself as Rudolf Hess.'
Nothing was said for several seconds. Churchill stared at the Duke of Hamilton in open disbelief, as if deciding whether this visibly exhausted man were suffering from hallucinations brought on by too much flying.
âDo you mean to tell me that the Deputy FÃ¼hrer of Germany is in our hands?'
âThat is my conclusion, sir. The man I saw this morning bears a striking resemblance to Hess. He was carrying these photographs of himself and, I presume, his wife and child.'
Churchill put on his glasses and examined the photographs. He passed them to Sinclair. After another long pause, he pushed back his chair and said, âWell, Hess or no Hess, I am going to see the Marx Brothers.'
Jane Calvert-Mead was in bed in her second-floor flat in Brook Green when the doorbell rang. She pulled the duvet around her ears and moaned. Caught again. A hangover: an occupational hazard for a newspaper diarist. But it should never have happened. If a peer of the realm so adored his daughter that he had hired Hever Castle to announce her engagement, wouldn't you think he would use genuine champagne in the bucks fizz?
One of the tenants downstairs could answer it.
Jane stretched and turned on to her stomach. Then there crept into her mind a recollection of something said earlier in the week when she was on her way down with the milk bottles. Both sets of people below were away for the weekend. Bugger. No one else was going to answer that bell.
It rang again. Bloody cheek, disturbing people on a Sunday morning. Probably boy scouts collecting jumble. How they ever grew up into passably attractive men, she couldn't imagine.
It was going like a fire alarm. Little fiends!
She couldn't stand it any longer. She hurled aside the duvet, wrapped her bathrobe around her shoulders, shuffled across the room, let up the blind, opened the window and looked out. The cold air made her sneeze.
The guy on the doorstep moved back towards the gate and stared up. He was like an advert in
Horse and Hound
: peaked cap, tweed suit with leather sections on the shoulders, dark green cravat and pale lemon shirt. She had no idea who he was. If he hadn't said, âMiss Calvert-Mead?', she would have shut the window and gone back to bed.
âI'm here to pick you up.'
âIs this a joke? Some sort of singing telegram?'