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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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

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BOOK: They Used Dark Forces
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‘There may be something in what you say,' Gregory admitted thoughtfully, ‘and you certainly seem to be well up in the subject. Have you ever dabbled in the occult yourself?'

‘Yes; in my youth many Russians did so. But I had an experience that convinced me that I was playing with fire, so I gave it up. By then, though, I had learned enough to be certain now that this man is a servant of the Evil One.'

‘What makes you so sure of that? I admit that the way in which he extracted from me, through Frau von Altern, those mental pictures that I could not help forming of Gwaine Meads was positively astounding. But that's no evidence that he is a Black Magician.'

‘I doubt if any ordinary hypnotist could have done so. But let that pass. Did you not hear him say to me that it was useless to call upon the Holy Virgin and that one should speak with respect of the Lord of this World? Surely you know that when God commanded Michael and his angels to drive the rebellious Lucifer out of Heaven he gave him the Earth as his Principality?'

‘Yes, of course; still …'

Kuporovitch leaned forward and his low voice was intensely earnest. ‘Believe me, we are in worse peril here than if we were
being hunted by the Gestapo. Good cannot come out of evil. This man possesses powers that can be bought only by entering into a compact with Satan. Those powers would be withdrawn should he fail to honour his bond by doing his utmost to corrupt others. No good can possibly come to us by remaining in this house. To do so is to risk a fate that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.'

After a moment Gregory replied, ‘Stefan, knowing your courage so well, I don't doubt that you feel that you have good grounds for your fears. But even if you are right about Malacou being a Satanist I cannot believe that he has the power to harm us. By that I mean harm us spiritually. At least, not as long as we retain our own faith and convictions in what is right; and I foresee no difficulty in doing that. For the rest, whether he be good or evil he is on our side against the Nazis and his help may prove invaluable. Situated as we are, we cannot afford to forgo help from any quarter, so——'

‘There might be something in your argument if we could trust him,' Kuporovitch broke in. ‘But we cannot. And you need no telling how dangerous it can be in our game to collaborate with a person who deceives you.'

‘Why should you suppose that he is doing that?'

‘Because he has already done so by leading us to believe him to be a Turk. When he learned the truth about us he should have told us the truth about himself, but he did not. While I was a young Czarist officer my regiment was stationed for two years down in Georgia, on the Turkish frontier. On two occasions I spent my leave in Constantinople, as we used to call it then. I never learned to speak Turkish but I picked up enough of it to know it still when I hear it spoken. He may have lived in Turkey, but he is not a Turk. When he spoke to that hunchback servant of his he used Yiddish.'

‘You think he is a Jew, then?'

‘I do not think; I am certain of it. The moment I saw his daughter my suspicions were aroused. I gave them the benefit of the doubt until he spoke to his servant. That clinched it. I'd bet my last
that he's simply adopted a Turkish ending to his name and that it
is not Ibrahim Malacou, but Abraham Malacchi. For Jews to be still free in Germany is now unheard of. Of course, it's possible that the Nazis may believe these people to be Turks. But if the truth about them is known they can only have been left free as stool pigeons. Their having failed to come clean with us points to that; so it's my belief that we've fallen into a trap. Holding us up was just a clever act to win our confidence, and when they've got all they can out of us they'll turn us over to the Gestapo.'

Of Good and Evil in their Stars

For half a minute Gregory's brain worked overtime, assessing the degree of danger with which Kuporovitch's discovery might menace them; then he said:

‘I don't doubt you're right about his being a Jew by birth, Stefan; and at my first sight of her I scared myself stiff by getting just the sort of idea you have in mind. But we do know that von Altern was Military Attaché in Turkey, so there are good grounds for believing that he met and married Khurrem while he was there. Jews have no country of their own and are a migratory people; so if Malacchi, as you say his real name probably is, was born a Polish Jew and emigrated to Turkey there would be nothing surprising about that; or that he should have changed his name to Malacou and taken Turkish nationality. If he did he's got a Turkish passport and the Germans don't go out of their way to upset neutrals by throwing their subjects into the bin. As for Khurrem, she's in the clear because she would be on the record as a Turkish woman who married a quite high-up pro-Nazi. If I'm right I see no reason at all why the Gestapo should have put tabs on them.'

‘But the Gestapo might get wise at any time to the fact that they are really Jews,' Kuporovitch argued. ‘If that happened they wouldn't give a damn about Malacchi having a Turkish passport but come here and carry them off to a concentration camp. Then we too, as their guests, would indirectly become suspect. I maintain that he ought to have come clean and warned us of that risk.'

‘I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill, Stefan. Remember, the Nazis' persecution of the Jews has been going on for ten years now, and it's six months since Frau von
Altern was deprived of any protection her husband could have afforded her. If the Gestapo had found out about these people they would have pulled them in months ago, so the risk that they may do so now is negligible. I think, too, that it's quite understandable that Malacou should have concealed from us the fact that he is a Jew. After all, as far as he's concerned the fewer people who know about that the better; and he must have taken into account the possibility of our being caught. He would be certain to reason that if we were, and had our thumbs screwed off, we should betray him.'

The Russian sighed. ‘Perhaps I have made too much of the danger entailed by his having deceived us about being a Jew. But there remains what is, to my mind, the far greater risk to us in remaining here.'

‘About that I have already told you my view,' Gregory replied firmly. ‘The very fact that these people are Jews makes it much more certain that they honestly intend to give us their help in getting the better of the Nazis. And we need their help in whatever way they can give it.'

‘Even if they are in league with the Devil?' Kuporovitch asked dubiously.

‘Yes. If Malacou communes, as you believe, with evil spirits, that is his affair, not ours. We have secured what I believe to be a safe base here, from which to proceed with our mission, and if we left it we have no other we could make for. Besides, you seem to have forgotten that he has our wireless. Without it any information we may secure would be useless, as we should be unable to transmit it to London.'

Mon Dieu
, yes! When he revealed that he had tricked us out of that I was surprised that you made no protest.'

‘I refrained because I was convinced that it would have been useless. You can hardly blame him, either, for having taken steps to make certain that we should not use it. As a matter of fact I had intended to let Erika and Madeleine know, via S.O.E. and Sir Pellinore, that we had landed without accident and found safe harbourage. Malacou guessed I'd do something of the kind and he was not to know that I'd have sent only a single prearranged code signal, which it's certain would have passed unnoticed in the general traffic.'

‘Then you refuse to take my advice and leave this place that Malacchi has made a focus for evil.'

‘Stefan, in the interests of our mission I must. But I'll not try to keep you here against your will. Since you feel so strongly about this I'll not reproach you if you decide to clear out. By morning I will have thought up some plausible reason to account for your disappearance.'

‘No, dear friend, no,' said Kuporovitch heavily. ‘As you are determined to stay, I will stay too. You know very well that not even fear of the Devil would induce me to desert you. But from now on I shall pray constantly to St. Nicholas to protect us from the dark powers that will seek to ensnare us.'

‘Thanks, Stefan.' Gregory laid his hand on the Russian's shoulder and pressed it. ‘I'd rather have you with me than any dozen other men, and between us we'll cheat the Devil, if need be, as well as the Nazis. Now let's try to put this business out of our minds and get some sleep, so that we'll be able to face up to any unexpected turn events may take tomorrow.'

The morrow brought no new fears or excitements. Gregory spent a good part of the day going round the home farm with Khurrem, while Kuporovitch loitered about, gossiping in his broken German with the house servants and the farm labourers. In the evening he paid a visit to the village inn and, in spite of the limitations of language, his genial personality secured him a good reception by the yokels. Although conversation was necessarily stilted he gathered the impression that, while everyone was aware that Frau von Altern had taken to the bottle since her husband's death, she still knew what she was up to as far as the estate was concerned; and that on account of the free clinic that her father held twice a week he was regarded with respect as a local benefactor.

On the second morning Gregory was standing with Khurrem von Altern in the big yard at the back of the Manor when an old but powerful car drove into it and a tall, florid-faced man of about forty got out. As he was wearing good-quality country clothes Gregory did not at once suspect his identity, for he would have expected any Nazi official always to wear uniform. But, striding towards them, the newcomer gave the Nazi salute with a shout of ‘
Heil Hitler!
' Gregory and
Khurrem promptly followed suit, then she introduced them and it transpired that he was Herr Sturmbahnführer Hermann Hauff.

Khurrem explained that her guest was an old friend of her late husband's and had come from garrison duty in Norway to spend part of his leave with them. Hauff showed his strong teeth in a friendly smile and said, ‘I hope you will have a pleasant time here,
Herr Major
; but you must have found life in Norway pretty dull. I wonder that you should prefer to spend your leave in a remote country village like Sassen, rather than hit the high-spots in Berlin.'

Gregory returned the smile. ‘Until quite recently I would certainly have done so; but unfortunately I have developed a weak heart and am on indefinite sick leave. All excitements and vigorous pursuits are now forbidden me; so I came here for a quiet time and hope to get some fishing.'

‘That should not be difficult, although we are quite a distance from the sea here. Are you well acquainted with our Baltic coast?'

‘No. I am a Rhinelander and have never before visited this part of Germany.'

Raising his fair eyebrows, Hauff remarked, ‘There is good fishing to be had on the Rhine, and as you are condemned to a quiet life it must be a disappointment to your family that you have decided against spending your leave with them.'

‘I would have, if I had one,' Gregory replied. ‘But I lost both my parents when I was quite young and was brought up by a maiden aunt who has since died. I was, too, an only child and have never married.'

‘Perhaps in that you were wise. Marriage is far from always proving a blessing. That is …' The Nazi's pale blue eyes flickered towards Khurrem. ‘… unless one can find the right sort of wife.'

Thinking it a chance to show his patriotism, Gregory said lightly, ‘I may marry yet. In fact, since the Führer has said that it is the duty of every virile man to beget children to make good in the next generation the losses Germany has suffered in this, I have been seriously considering doing so.'

Hauff gave a sudden laugh. ‘Your sentiments are laudable,
Herr Major
, but one does not have to marry to do that. There are plenty of eager Fräuleins and young war-widows about these days.'

Gregory laughed too, but shook his head. ‘I fear my heart condition would not permit me to become a Casanova; but by being careful of myself I could father a family, and the idea has its attractions.'

A shade abruptly Khurrem cut in, ‘Herr Sturmbahnführer Hauff has come to see me on estate business,
Herr Major
. So you will excuse us please while I take him to my office.'

Bitte sehr, gnädige Frau.
' Gregory stepped back, saluted her, shook hands with Hauff and added, ‘I'll go for a quiet walk.'

As they turned away he decided that his first meeting with the Nazi had gone off well. Hauff had proved a more pleasant man than might have been expected. In spite of his rather close-set eyes he had an open face and genial manner, so it should not be difficult to get on good terms with him.

On the following morning at about ten o'clock, by his own mysterious means of thought transference, Malacou sent a message to Khurrem informing her that he wished to see their guests. Kuporovitch was summoned and the three of them went over to the ruin.

Tall, gaunt and slightly stooping, the occultist was standing beside the big desk in his lofty, book-lined room. On the desk lay two large parchments. On each had been drawn an inner and outer square, the border between them was divided into eight triangles and the whole was dotted with numerous figures and astrological symbols. When greetings had been exchanged and his visitors were seated Malacou pointed with a long, smooth-fingered hand to the two charts and said:

‘There are your horoscopes. Since neither of you has any knowledge of astrology I shall not attempt to explain them in detail. But at least you will be aware that the Sun, the Moon and the Planets all have individual properties. It is these which govern our lives and make certain dates and periods either propitious or unpropitious for our undertakings. Anyone with knowledge of the subject is able to ascertain these, because from the most ancient times each of the heavenly bodies has been associated with a number.

BOOK: They Used Dark Forces
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