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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

Tags: #Fiction, #Occult & Supernatural, #War & Military

They Used Dark Forces (43 page)

BOOK: They Used Dark Forces
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The risk being remote of anyone in the garden looking up and catching sight of the small part of Gregory not hidden by the chimney stack, every few moments he continued to snatch swift glances at the scene below. Using the deckchair as a stretcher, two of the Nazis carried the Count's body into the house, while another of them, holding Sabine by the arm, brought her, too, indoors. After that, for the best part of a quarter of an hour, that seemed infinitely longer to Gregory, nothing else happened to give him any idea what was going on.

Then he caught the sound of an engine and the clanging of a bell, both of which ceased nearby. Crawling to the front of the house, he saw that the Nazis had telephoned for an ambulance. A few minutes later von Osterberg was carried out to it. No sheet covered his body, so it seemed possible that he might not be dead. But the Gestapo was not accustomed to bother about such decencies; so Gregory thought that, even so, the Count probably was dead.

Silence fell again for a while. Then Gregory heard sounds of movement and the banging of doors immediately below. That told him that the Gestapo's search had brought them to the top floor of the house; so very shortly now his fate would be decided. Getting out his pistol, he cocked it and covered the trapdoor. If they attempted to come up on to the roof he could at least shoot down one or two of them; although he knew
that would save him only temporarily, as the others would send for tall fire-ladders from which they could shoot at him simultaneously from several angles.

Breathing very quietly he remained crouching on the far side of the chimney stack. At length the sounds below ceased. For another five minutes, still taut with apprehension, he continued to stare at the trapdoor. Then he heard a motor engine start up. Leaving his post, he again crawled to a vantage point near the front of the house from which he could see down into the road. What he saw there greatly distressed him; but he had feared it might happen and there was nothing he could do about it. The Gestapo thugs were leaving and they were taking Sabine and Trudi with them.

When the two cars had driven off he opened the trapdoor and, still with his pistol in his hand, went softly down the ladder. In the brief sight of the cars, which was all he had had before they left, he had been unable to check the number of Nazis in them. Although he thought it unlikely, it was possible that one or more of them had remained behind to continue the search for von Osterberg's papers; and he was too old a hand to be caught napping.

With extreme caution, pausing every few minutes to listen, he eased his way downstairs, looking into each room on his way. In the occupied bedrooms several drawers had been left open, some of the Count's things and pieces of Sabine's lingerie lay scattered on the floors. The downstairs rooms had also been ransacked, but after padding softly round for ten minutes he had made sure that he was alone in the house.

Helping himself to a badly needed drink, he sat down and considered the situation. Although he was worried about Sabine he felt that he had no need to be desperately so. The warning she had telephoned to Ribbentrop on the afternoon of the
must have reached him, and her generous impulse to give her ex-lover a chance to escape the conspirators should now pay her a handsome dividend. It was cast-iron evidence that she had not been in the plot; so Ribbentrop would continue to protect her. Much as Himmler hated his colleague at the Foreign Office, it seemed most unlikely that he would risk an open quarrel with him by taking to pieces a woman
whom he knew to be acting as one of his colleague's agents and against whom there was no proof of guilt. All the odds were, then, that after they had made depositions at the Gestapo H.Q. about von Osterberg's comings and goings previous to July 20th she and Trudi would be released.

Just in case the Nazis for some reason paid a second visit to the house Gregory decided not to clear up the mess they had made. Later he got himself some supper and took it up to his room. After he had had his meal he sat at the open window, keeping a look-out for Sabine.

The shadows lengthened until it was fully dark, but she did not return. With gradually increasing apprehension he continued to sit there until shortly after midnight, when the nightly air-raid on Berlin started. When it had died down and there was still no sign of her he came to the conclusion that she would not now be back that night; so, as a precaution against being caught asleep, he collected cushions, pillows and blankets and, taking them up to the roof, made a bed for himself up there.

On the Monday morning he woke early and, after getting himself breakfast, again sat at his window, hoping that Sabine would appear. But by ten o'clock it seemed clear that the Gestapo intended to detain her; so he decided that he must do something about it.

Going downstairs, he went to the wall cupboard behind the picture, picked up the telephone receiver and jiggled the button. Almost at once a voice at the other end of the private line asked, ‘Who is calling?'

‘I'm speaking for number forty-three,' Gregory replied. ‘I have a most urgent message for Herr von Weizasecker. Please put me on to him.'

‘I regret,' said the voice, ‘Herr von Weizsaecker is not here. He is at Schloss Steinort with the Herr Reichsaussenminister.'

‘When will he be back?' Gregory asked.

There was a long pause, then the voice answered, ‘It is thought this afternoon. But we cannot say for certain.'

Fearing that if he gave his message to an underling it might not get through, Gregory said, ‘All right. I'll ring again this afternoon.' Then, considerably perturbed, he rang off.

Going out to the garage, he found that it had already been unlocked by the unwelcome visitors of the previous evening but, apparently, they had done no more than look round it. The low red sports Mercedes was still there chocked up, and as he looked at it he thought what a beautiful advertisement a photograph of it would make with Sabine at the wheel. To his relief, he also found her emergency store of petrol untouched. Keeping an ear open anxiously for anyone who might drive up to the villa, he spent the rest of the morning getting the car in order after its many months of being laid up. When he had finished the tanks were full to the brim with petrol and the engine purred like a dream.

By lunchtime Sabine had still not returned and he could only pray that the Gestapo had not yet started wielding their thin steel rods to disfigure her lovely body, and that of poor little Trudi, with a sickening criss-cross of agonising red weals. Controlling his impatience as best he could, he waited until half past three then rang up on the private line again.

To his immense relief he was put through to Ernst von Weizsaecker. Refusing to give his name, he gave a brief account of what had taken place at the Villa Seeaussicht and urged him to lose not a moment in reporting the matter to the Herr Reichsaussenminister.

The Permanent Secretary did better. He said that on behalf of his chief he would intervene himself, and at once telephone Gestapo headquarters.

Having, to the best of his belief, saved Sabine and Trudi, Gregory was anxious to be on his way, but he would have liked to make certain that Sabine had been freed before he left. He also felt that if he did not set out till after dark fewer people would mentally register his having passed them as the driver of the conspicuous red Mercedes. There was no reason to suppose that their doing so would later have unfortunate consequences, but Gregory owed the fact that he was still alive to having never taken a risk that was avoidable, unless circumstances had made it absolutely necessary.

In due course he got himself a bottle of wine from the cellar and some cold food from the larder. He was just about to take it upstairs when the telephone from the public exchange began
to ring. For a minute he stood listening to its insistent shrilling, then decided to answer it. He already had food and his few belongings stowed in the car, so if the call presaged trouble he could be off at a moment's notice. Picking up the receiver, he put his handkerchief over the mouthpiece so that it muffled his voice, and said, ‘Hullo!'

It was Sabine who answered. ‘If that's a Gestapo man you can look forward to being flayed by the Herr Reichsaussenminister for daring to make a mess of my house. But if it's who I think it is I'm grateful to you for staying on in the hope of finding out what had happened to me. I've rung up to let you know that I've been released and come to no serious harm. That traitor von Osterberg tried to do himself in. But, like General Beck, he bungled it. Still, he made an awful mess of himself and is probably dead by now. They kept glaring lights on all night in my cell; so I'm feeling about all-in. Trudi and I are going to spend the night at the Adlon with Paula. We'll be back in the morning; but it's better that you should not wait for us. Good luck. See you sometime.'

‘Thank God you are all right,' said Gregory. ‘I'll get off then. A thousand thanks for everything. When our paths next cross you know you can count on me.'

By then it was half past seven. Immediately he had put down the receiver he hurried across to the garage. There was the possibility that the call might have been monitored and Himmler's people, still anxious to get something on Sabine, come along to find out to whom she had telephoned. Three minutes later he was at the wheel of the long, low car, heading for Potsdam.

It was disappointing that von Osterberg was not definitely dead; but there seemed a good chance that he might not survive his self-inflicted head wound. Putting the Count temporarily out of his mind, Gregory concentrated on the road ahead, while thanking his stars that, after nearly a fortnight of anxiety as a voluntary prisoner, he now had ample money and a good chance of making his way to freedom.

As he sped along the road that curved round the end of the Wannsee he had a sudden mental picture of Malacou. Now with bristling beard and dressed like a tramp, he was trudging
along a country road. The brief vision of the occultist called to Gregory's mind that his lucky escape from capture by the Gestapo the previous evening had taken place on a Sunday, his most fortunate day of the week. Following this line of thought, it suddenly came to him that today must be July 31st and his birthday. Then that Malacou had told him that the 4, being governed by Uranus, was unlucky and that he was protected from it only owing to his close association with the Sun.

When he passed through Potsdam that dangerous period for motorists, semi-darkness, had come. As he entered the suburbs of the bomb-stricken town he put out a hand to switch on his headlights. Suddenly a girl ran out from the entrance to a block of workers' dwellings. A man came running after her shouting at her to stop. Evidently, in her anxiety to escape her pursuer, she did not see Gregory's car, or thought she could get across the road ahead of it. In an endeavour to avoid her he swerved towards the pavement, but too late. His outer mudguard caught her and, with a scream, she was sent flying into the middle of the road.

Had Gregory been in England he would have pulled up immediately, but he dared not stop to give particulars of himself to the Police; and it was certain that the man who had been running after her would do for her anything that was to be done. After only a second's hesitation he let the powerful car out to get away from the scene of the accident as soon as he could.

But two hundred yards ahead there was a crossing. A policeman was on duty there. He had seen what had occurred. Stepping into the road, he signalled Gregory to halt. Ignoring the signal Gregory drove straight at him. Only just in time he jumped aside. Then Gregory caught the shrill note of his whistle. Ahead a lorry was approaching. Grasping the situation, its driver swung his vehicle across the road. As it turned Gregory saw that it was a great six-wheeler loaded with barrels of beer. For him to crash into its side head-on at the pace he was going would have been suicidal. Swerving again, he mounted the pavement. Next moment the car hit a concrete lamp post. There came the sound of screaming metal and tinkling glass. Then he passed out.

No Escape

When Gregory's eyes opened he was lying on his side. They took in the uniformed torso of a State policeman then, as his glance wavered round, another policeman standing a little further off against a background of whitewashed wall with notice-boards on it. That, and the memory of his recent crash, told him that he was in a police station. Behind him another man was doing something to his left arm, and he realised it must be a doctor patching him up.

Considering the speed at which the Mercedes had hit the lamp standard, he had come off very lightly. The muscles of his left arm had been strained, his ribs were badly bruised where the steering wheel of the car had caught them, and he had knocked himself out on the windscreen. When the doctor had bandaged his head and strapped up his arm they helped him to sit up and a police sergeant said:

, it is my duty to charge you with driving dangerously and with ignoring the signals of a police officer to halt.'

For a moment, still being half dazed, Gregory was foxed at being addressed as ‘Highness'; then it clicked home that the police must have the wallet and identity card he had been carrying, so took him for Prince Hugo von Wittelsbach zu Amberg-Sulzheim. With a slow nod he asked, ‘The woman—the woman who ran out in front of my car. Is she … is she badly injured?'

The Sergeant shook his head. ‘No. Fortunately,
, she only strained her wrist and grazed one side of her face.'

Gregory sighed with relief. At least he would not be charged with manslaughter. But all the same he was in a nasty mess.

For the night he was put in a cell and the doctor gave him a
sedative. At seven o'clock next morning he was brought breakfast and an hour later the doctor examined him, then pronounced him fit to appear in court. The Sergeant asked if he wished to send for his solicitor and he replied that he had not got one in Berlin, so would choose a lawyer to defend him when he was brought before a magistrate.

BOOK: They Used Dark Forces
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