Authors: Peter Lovesey
âWhat did the Nazis say about it?' asked Dick, professional in his pursuit of the story.
âThey waited twenty-four hours, and when there was no news from Britain they issued a statement that Hess had taken a plane and was missing, adding that he had become mentally unstable.'
âSo the stories of his madness were Nazi propaganda?'
âWhich Britain didn't choose to deny,' added Cedric.
Red suddenly asked, âWhat did Fleet Street make of all this? It was one hell of a story.'
âIt was also wartime,' Cedric explained. âEverything was censored. The fact of his coming filled the headlines when it was official, and after that the story was spiked for as long as the war lasted. We've had to piece it together from what people have said and written since. Millions of words. Every second chap you meet has a Hess story.'
âSo hasn't it all been said?' Jane suggested.
âWould I have brought you here from Washington if it had?' Cedric picked up an ashtray and pressed his cigar-butt into it. Then he placed it on the table and sat back with his hands locked under his chin in the pose he habitually adopted in crucial editorial meetings. âLet's address ourselves to the crux of this matter: why is Rudolf Hess still a prisoner in Spandau forty-three years after his flight to Britain? The stock response in the West is to blame the Russians, but is it quite so simple as that? You heard Wolf RÃ¼diger Hess suggest otherwise.'
âOK, let's have it,' Dick turned to Red. âYou were there. What was your impression? Does Hess's son know something the rest of the world doesn't?'
Red shifted his position on the window-seat and took out a cigarette. He wasn't so comfortable, Jane observed, when questions were put directly to him. âYou mean has his old man told him something? Not a chance. Every meeting they have is monitored by all four commandants.'
âSomeone else could have given him information,' Dick persisted. âThere are plenty of people who would like to see Hess given some mercy.'
âPlenty,' Red conceded. âHuman rights campaigners, churchmen, lawyers, people who actually participated in the Nuremberg Trials, All Party Committees of the House of Commons, successive German Chancellors â but what happens?
. The Russians won't agree. They have twenty million war dead to stiffen their resolve. Besides which, they like to keep their toehold in the West. The first thing they do when their tour of duty begins in Spandau is to erect their telecommunications antennae on the roof of the administration block. They even insisted on mounting a full guard â every watchtower â when Hess was out of the place, in hospital.'
Cedric had listened patiently to this exchange. Now he commented, âAll this is undeniable, but it doesn't tell us where the Western governments really stand on this issue. In 1970, the possibility was raised of saying to hell with the Russians, let's release Hess when it's our turn to guard him. The answer of Lord Chalfont, then Minister of State at the Foreign Office, was that the British Government wouldn't contemplate setting Hess at liberty without Russian consent because it would mean breaking solemn international obligations.'
âWe break them when it suits us,' commented Red.
âIf the will was there, we could release him tomorrow,' said Cedric. âDoes anyone really believe it would be the start of World War Three?'
There was silence as Cedric's remark sank in. He took another cigar from his pocket and lit it ostentatiously, taking stock of the effect of what he had said so far.
Dick Garrick cleared his throat. âI'm not entirely clear about this, Cedric. Are you implying that the British have their own reason for wanting to keep Hess in Spandau?'
âYes.' Cedric blew smoke at the ceiling.
âPresumably you have some evidence?'
âBut not enough to print?'
Cedric took time to watch the smoke disperse. âI would prefer to have more.' He reached for one of the books on the table in front of him. âThis curious little volume is Exhibit One.
The Case of Rudolf Hess: A Problem in Diagnosis and Forensic Psychiatry.
It was published just after the war, in 1947. The editor was Brigadier J.R. Rees, the British Army's chief psychiatrist, and there were seven other contributors, all doctors and psychiatrists who attended Hess during his detention in Britain. The purpose of the book â' Cedric opened it and found the quote he wanted â âis to show
to as wide a public as possible the considerable abnormality of a man whose influence on world history has been marked
.' He turned to another page. âThe Brigadier's conclusion is that:
Hess is a man of unstable mentality and has almost certainly been like that since adolescence. In technical language I should, on my present acquaintanceship, diagnose him as a psychopathic personality of the schizophrenic type
Red gave a long, low whistle.
Cedric continued, âThe book gives numerous instances of Hess's strange behaviour, persistent fantasies that he was being drugged or poisoned, the frequent rejection of food, periodic loss of memory and two attempts at suicide.'
âSuicide? Genuine attempts?' asked Dick.
âWhat did he do?' asked Jane.
âThe first incident was at Mytchett Place, near Aldershot, where he was held for a year. It happened within a month of his arrival in Britain. He called the doctor in the night, rushed him as he came in and threw himself over the banisters. He broke a leg. The second occasion was in 1945, at Maindiff Place, near Abergavenny, where he spent the rest of the war. He managed to obtain a bread-knife and stabbed himself in the chest, but it was not a deep wound. There must be doubts whether either was a genuine attempt at suicide.'
âSo was he really off his head?' asked Red.
âThat's the message in the book.' Cedric's flat response was like a gauntlet thrown down.
There was a pause before Dick said tentatively, âBut there's evidence to the contrary?'
Cedric nodded. âFrom some pretty impressive sources. Winston Churchill was no psychiatrist, I admit, but as Prime Minister he was presumably getting reliable information. In a statement he prepared for the House of Commons â it was never read, but it's in the Public Record Office â he wrote â' Cedric reached for a clipboard â
âHe is reported to be perfectly sane and apart from the injury to his ankle in good health.
That was soon after Hess arrived, of course. Then four months later, in September 1941, Churchill asked Lord Beaverbrook to visit Hess at Mytchett Place and find out what he could.'
âBeaverbrook, the newspaper baron?' asked Jane.
âHe was in the War Cabinet, and as close to Churchill as anyone,' Cedric threw out tersely, wanting to move on to other things. âLet me tell you about Mytchett Place. It was an MI5 establishment, the headquarters of the Field Security Police. With MI5 in charge, Beaverbrook's visit was a bizarre occasion. They used assumed names for the benefit of the concealed shorthand-typist taking down the conversation. Beaverbrook called himself Dr Livingstone and Hess was given the name Jonathan. Hess told his story and outlined his peace plan and Beaverbrook went back to report to Churchill. The PM asked, “Is he mad?” and the Beaver answered, “Certainly not. Hess talks quite sanely and rationally. He may have unusual ideas on health matters, but he is not mad.”'
âSo what was going on?' asked Dick.
âIn Mytchett Place? Plenty.'
To ease them over another of Cedric's pregnant pauses, Red said, âWe're all ears.'
Cedric gave a rare smile. âSo were MI5. There were hidden microphones under the floor and in the chimney of Hess's quarters. In the thirteen months he was there, he underwent a series of interrogations and psychiatric examinations. He had to eat his meals in the company of German-speaking intelligence officers. He is reported to have shown symptoms of paranoia, but who wouldn't have? His complaints that his food was drugged may have seemed outrageous to fair-minded British folk in the 1940s, but knowing as much as we now know about the methods of the security services, can we be sure he was mistaken?' Cedric leaned forward in his chair. âAnd can we say with any certainty that his lapses of memory were not induced?'
Jane had followed the trend of Cedric's argument with growing unease. She sensed that she was being led into making assumptions that were inimical to her deeply-held convictions. She dug in her heels. âInduced? But why?'
âBecause there may have been things our people wanted to wipe out of his memory.'
Jane frowned. âCedric, that's highly speculative.'
Cedric picked up the Rees book again and opened it at the front. âThen I think you'll be interested in the statement at the front of the Brigadier's book. Apparently, Hess was asked to give his consent to publication, and he wrote a kind of foreword.'
âIt's reproduced here in German, on prison notepaper from Nuremberg, with Hess's signature below it, and there's a translation.'
âHe agreed to write a foreword to a book that claimed he was a psychopathic personality?' said Dick in amazement.
âNot only that, but he states that he welcomes its publication,' Cedric looked down to pick out the relevant words, ââ¦
because one day it will be regarded as supplementary proof of the fact that in some hitherto unknown manner people can be put into a condition which resembles that which can be obtained through a hypnosis leaving its after-effects (post-hypnotic suggestion) â a condition in which the persons concerned do everything that is suggested to them, under the elimination of their own will, presumably without their being conscious of it
âBrainwashing,' said Red.
Jane gave him a pitying look and said, âYou do have a flair for the melodramatic.'
He gave her a dazzling smile. âThat's why I'm in journalism, love.'
She turned to Dick. âWhat do you say? Do you believe a word of this?'
He answered thoughtfully, âDoesn't it come down to whether he was really mad or not? If he was, these suspicions of his are just a symptom of the condition. If he was sane, we ought to ask what MI5 were up to, and why.'
Jane asked Cedric, âIs there any evidence whatsoever that they used drugs or hypnosis?'
He nodded. âThe book is categorical about one occasion. On 7 May 1944, at Maindiff, he was injected with the drug Evipan and interrogated in the post-narcotic stage for an hour and a quarter.'
There was a moment's puzzled silence.
âWhat about?' asked Dick.
âDetails of the past.'
âThree years after he arrived in Britain?' said Jane in a high note of disbelief. âHadn't they got all the information he could give by that time?'
Red said, âThey wanted to find out how much he had forgotten.'
âPrecisely.' A look of gratitude amounting almost to smugness spread over Cedric's features. âThis was 1944, when the D-Day landings were in prospect and Hitler's fortunes were fading. The end of the war was not impossible to contemplate. Some time in the future, Hess would be put on trial. In the spotlight of a show trial, what might he say about his reasons for flying to Britain?'
âWhat you're about to suggest is that the true reason would have embarrassed this country,' said Jane.
âI'm about to suggest we adjourn and prepare for dinner.' Cedric peered around the shadowy interior. âMy impression is that you need to think over what we've discussed so far. Shall we meet again for drinks in an hour?'
Red heaved his wicker case onto the bed and loosened the rope that held it together. He swung the lid open and looked inside, deciding what to wear for dinner. He hadn't brought a suit. There was a short-sleeved shirt with black and white stripes that he had acquired when the Harlem Globetrotters had come to Berlin, and the players were horsing around, throwing referee shirts to the crowd and inviting them on court to confuse the officials. Worn under his leather jacket, it usually got him into the less exclusive Berlin nightclubs, where he acquired his complimentary teeshirts. He was not much seen in the men's outfitters of the city.
He gave the shirt a sniff and a shake and dropped it on the bed. With that sartorial decision made, he stripped off his yellow teeshirt, socks, cords and pants and turned on the shower. It was the sort that you could adjust to a concentrated jet that massaged your back and shoulders. He stepped under it and sampled the pleasurable sensation. It didn't come up to the tiny fingers of a Vietnamese masseuse, but it was enought to cause a moment's reflection on the vagaries of a life that provided Cedric with showers like these in his guest bedrooms and himself with a lime-encrusted bath in a Berlin tenement.
After stepping out, he discovered the purpose of the sliding glass panel, which he had left open, seeing no cause for modesty. The bathroom floor was awash. More personally inconvenient, so were his clean socks and pants. He reached for a towel, rubbed himself dry and dropped it onto the floor with two others to minimise the possibility of damp ceilings downstairs. Then he padded into the bedroom to see if by some genius of foresight he had packed some spares. He had not.
He would borrow some. Cedric had mentioned that Dick Garrick was also in the end cottage. âGinge', as Red had privately named Dick, looked the sort who packed spares of everything and would get positive satisfaction out of coming to the aid of a less organized fellow-guest. Some movements were apparent in the adjoining room, so Red rapped on the connecting door and said, âDick?'
There was no reply. Presumably, Ginge was in the shower and couldn't hear.
The key was on Red's side of the door, so he turned it, opened the door and put his head round. He was right that the shower was running, but he was not right about the occupant â unless Ginge had just stepped out of a pair of pink knickers in the middle of the floor.