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The Wewelsburg Covenant

John Braun


For my family, with love.

Author’s Note
Wewelsburg is a seventeenth-century castle in Germany that lords over the picturesque farmlands of the Alme Valley in the Paderborn district. With a colossal circular north tower, joined to two smaller south towers by heavily fortified walls, Wewelsburg is the only triangular-shaped castle in Europe.
On 3 November 1933, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Schutzstaffel (SS) – the ‘state within a state’ and the most fearsome cog in the Nazi death machine – visited the castle for the first time. Himmler had been searching for a spiritual home for the SS which he thought of as a knightly order, a reincarnation of the Teutonic Knights.
In 9 AD, an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius had ambushed and shattered three Roman legions and their auxiliaries led by Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest near Wewelsburg Castle. The Roman advance in the region was halted, and it was a defining moment for German unification. An ancient Westphalian legend foretold of a future battle at Wewelsburg, known as the Battle of the Birch, at which an eastern army would be crushed by a western army, which Himmler identified with the forces of Germany’s Third Reich.
Wewelsburg was therefore historically and prophetically significant to Himmler, who decided on the same night of his first visit that it would be the spiritual centre of the Reich, his very own ‘Camelot’.
In 1934, Himmler signed a hundred-year lease for the castle from the Paderborn district, for one hundred marks, and in August of the same year, reconstruction work began at the castle to transform it into a Nazi ‘Mecca’. A concentration camp was set up – Niederhagen – which would claim more than 1 200 lives during the castle’s reconstruction.
Initially, the castle was to be a Reichsführerschule SS, an SS school at which SS officers would be trained in pre- and early Aryan history, archaeology, astronomy and ideology. It would be the centrepiece of a fortified complex of buildings including SS barracks, a residential suburb and farmlands for high-ranking SS members. Himmler’s knights would rule over the region, and the world, from this Aryan heartland.
On the upper floors of the north tower, Himmler refurbished the Obergruppenführersaal, a meeting room where the Reichsführer’s highest knights, the twelve leaders of the SS, would receive instructions from their grand messiah. Beneath the Obergruppenführersaal, a crypt was developed, a cavernous dome-shaped vault, with twelve low, seat-like pedestals crowding around a circular indent. Built with special acoustics and ambient lights, this was Himmler’s ‘Realm of the Dead’. It is thought that the ashes of the fallen SS generals were placed in urns on the twelve pedestals, and the dead were commemorated in special occult (and some believe satanic) rituals designed to unleash Nordic occult powers.
Himmler’s knights were fashioned on the Arthurian concept of the knights of the grail. The Holy Grail (German de Heilige Gral) was thought by Himmler to be a Nordic object of vast occult power which would help the Nazis win the war if he managed to find it. Wewelsburg Castle was to be the home of the grail.
But the Aryan dream was deferred as Europe collapsed in a heap of ruins before the Nazis’ eyes in the first half of 1945. The Nazis made plans to escape, forging fake identification documents to slip through the Allies’ net. As many as 20 000 Nazis escaped to Argentina in the months following the war.
A network of former Nazi kameraden known as ODESSA (Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, the Organisation of Former SS Members) was established to assist the Nazis to escape via ‘rat lines’ in Europe, and to resettle in South America, primarily in President Juan Perón’s pro-fascist Argentina. Billions of dollars’ worth of Nazi war loot was smuggled out of Germany to help the escapees to establish themselves, and to realise their dream of setting up the Fourth Reich. (It is also little-known that before and during the War, a number of high-ranking British individuals sympathised with the Nazis.)
Only one official meeting took place in the Obergruppenführersaal at Wewelsburg Castle, in March 1941, when the leaders of the SS were briefed on the plans for Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of Russia that would backfire and eventually lead to the Third Reich’s downfall).
But another meeting reportedly took place in December 1944. The Reich was tilting towards ruin. Little, if anything, is known of the contents of this meeting …

Part I

Location Unknown
October 2012
Swells of water rose, gathered in the gloom and rushed in, column after column, smashing the basalt walls of the island and sending curtains of foam erupting and vanishing as quickly before the gritted eyes of three ‘fishermen’ who crawled along a ledge. The path they were on twirled around the island to a conical tip where the towers and battlements of a fifteenth-century castle poked through the mist like a row of jagged teeth.
They crawled one behind the other. The man in front was their leader. His blue eyes mirrored the brightness of the storm. He led his team into the protection of an overhang as a faint hum sounded from the skies that the other two hadn’t made out yet.
The men huddled together, glad for a buffer against the wind. The hum became an echo that banged off the cliffs above and below them: the whir of an approaching helicopter. The leader pushed his right index and middle fingers to his ear and spoke in German.
As he sat on his haunches, his coat flaps opened to reveal the butt of a machine gun, several grenades and a handgun clipped to his belt.
Wolfschanze Command, this is D-Patrol Squadron Leader, come in.’
‘Command here. State your position, over.’
‘We have an approaching bird from east-southeast heading on Wolfschanze. Confirm status, over.’
The other two pressed their fingers against their ears to make out the woman’s voice: ‘Approaching bird is friendly. The Eagle comes in to nest, over.’
‘Status received, over and out.’
The men crawled back out onto the ledge. The helicopter swooped down, a black speck against the navy sky, banked and then came in to roost behind the Gothic spires of the castle known as Wolfschanze, residential headquarters of the leaders of the Fourth Reich.
In the northeast tower, an old man cradled in his deathbed listened the helicopter descend and touch down on the cobblestones of the courtyard.
A tall man with broad shoulders and dark hair, in a long coat and red scarf, climbed out of the helicopter.
James Trevellian made his way into the castle, ascending flights of stairs in the northeast tower and entering the room his dying father lay in. The flames licking off the bed of pink-orange coals were a comforting sight.
He appraised his father. Franz Wagener seemed peaceful. The opera Der Ring des Nibelungen played in the background, an epic by Hitler’s favourite composer Richard Wagner.
Franz was blind, and his body riddled with cancer. It had begun in his prostate, but had spread quickly to the rest of his body. It stretched the membranes along the insides of the old man’s bones like stone scratching against glass and the pain induced delirium. In the past few months, Franz had believed at various times that Hitler had triumphed, the world was a conglomeration of Nazi-ruled colonies, that Russia had obliterated America with nuclear weapons. But miraculously, the disease also seemed to have the opposite effect when Franz was almost clairvoyant.
James leaned closer to look at his father. Sunken hollow sockets shot open and stared back at him. Along the side of his face, a long scar was carved like a deep river across his cheek. A disembodied voice spoke.
‘I sense you are troubled.’
James was silent.
‘You mustn’t be troubled on my behalf. My death will set me free. I will join the Einherjar, the Nordic warrior souls of a thousand generations.’
It was the clairvoyant voice today, thought James, always mixed up with grand Nordic mythology.
‘I can see the promised city,’ Franz continued, ‘there are the golden leaves of the divine tree Glasir, glittering in the celestial light. In the halls of Valhalla are German kings and warriors. Bismarck, Hitler and Himmler, with Odin at the head of the table on a mighty throne. They are drinking mead brought to them by valkyrie. The hall’s ceiling glows with the golden shields of fallen Teutonic Knights. The blessed stag eats the leaves of Glasir and rivers flow to earth from its horns.’
Thunder coughed and the sea brawled. Rain began to pelt sharply against the windows as the old man continued.
‘One thing keeps me clinging to this mortal coil, James. It is the realisation of the Aryan destiny. You will be faced with a choice. I can foresee it now. Do not be misled by fools, or those weaker than you. Do not forsake your Aryan heritage. Never forget who you are.’
Thunder cracked as a maddening light searched the room. In the flash, James saw his father’s eyes light up. Franz drew in a sharp breath and then exhaled: ‘How are the plans?’
‘Things are going well, father. Ingredients will be secured from Russia. The submarines are almost all ready. Our troops are primed for battle. Dissent in the Middle East also plays in our favour.’
‘What about the stone?’
‘Our source in Nepal is on the brink of solving a final clue. We will have it, in time.’
Franz tried to lean forward, but he stopped short, grimacing, and began to cough. James knew better than to try to help, there wasn’t much he could do. When the coughs had subsided, Franz forced his words out, rasping: ‘Push on, Führer, push on. Never let up until Himmler’s dream is realised. Always remember who you were brought up to be.’ Fervour possessed him as he began to shake. His voice rose in pitch and his eyes glowed. ‘Go now, bring back the stone! Stoke the fires of war, turn the cogs of death and unfurl the final victory banner. March over the continents and crush the Jews and their sympathisers beneath the feet of the greatest war machine ever built!’
Franz drifted back to his palace in the sky.

An old monk followed a track that carved through a valley. It twisted beside a river, ran up over and around foothills that were terraced with rice fields, and finally climbed to a hilltop where a phone booth was located, inside of which was the only landline phone for miles around. Distant bronze-capped peaks studded the Himalaya in the late-afternoon sun.
He walked brusquely, the material of his deep-maroon robes crinkling as he leaned into the wind. Passing several porters leading yak trains in the opposite direction, he reached the hilltop and entered the booth, rummaged through his satchel and clipped a voice distorter to the mouthpiece. He inserted a few coins, called a number with an Israeli dialling code and heard the familiar voice on the other end of the line: ‘Hello?’
The monk delivered a code that would allow the man to identify him: ‘Nine, eight, ten, six, twelve.’
There was a pause, and then the man had answered, ‘Go ahead, Badger.’
The monk, Badger, held the receiver tight, cupping his hands around it and his mouth. He didn’t speak any widespread language. Instead, he spoke code. Numbers and letters. Each character corresponded to a syllable in Hebrew. The syllable in turn corresponded to more numbers and then those to another set of syllables from which the message would be made out. It was a code language called NAKA, used by Mossad.
The man on the other end recorded the message on his notepad. The words he furiously scratched down were as follows:
‘Have solved final clue to stone. Expecting visit from T’s men. Can’t say if will survive this time round. Last time brutal. Source confirmed T travelling to Russia, Moscow. Then monastery on Anzer Island, White Sea. Looking key to unlock stone. Coordinates and time follow …’
After rattling the details off, Badger clicked the phone down and admired the auburn glow on the mountain peaks.

Mossad HQ
Tel Aviv
Two suits huddled around an aluminium table in a room known as ‘the Grinder’, more like a tin can than an office, seven floors up in the sky. The room was typical for Mossad headquarters: bare aside from a silver table, two steel chairs, a strip of carpet, a steel filing cabinet, and a window.
Between the men on the table was a packet of cigarettes, a lighter and an ashtray in which a neglected cigarette lay, a long tail of ash curling from its tip.
One of the suits was middle-aged. He wore a 24-carat gold band on his ring finger. He was of medium build, with a paunch pushing out over his belt. His face was not unhandsome, but his lips stretched thinly, and his voice was empty as if the joy had been sucked from it by personal troubles. His name was Steven. At least, that was the name by which he was known at the place where he worked.
The other suit sat staring out of the window, his tie loose around his neck. Tanned, ruggedly handsome and of a higher rank than his colleague, Ben had what some thought was a brilliant strategist mind and had been promoted to Director of Operations.
The suits sat with a riddle, a snippet of new information that had come from the phone call. Steven spoke in Hebrew.
‘I had them run the tests.’
Ben was quiet. His mind raced, jumping between words and clues, wondering how to treat the new information. Steven’s voice was annoying, grating on his nerves.
‘We couldn’t trace his location, as usual, but he used the code that he always does. Recent electronic whispers out of Moscow also link a few phone calls between Trevellian and an FSB agent, who has been known to sell plutonium to just about anyone with enough money. Trevellian is about to travel to Moscow.’
Steven assessed his intellectual and hierarchical superior’s face. His eyebrows slanted inwards, as if he were in deep thought, but otherwise it gave away little. Steven picked up his cigarette and pulled on it deeply.
‘Conditions are ripe to strike against Trevellian, Ben. The only problem is: how to organise a sting operation in such a short time?’
Usually months of planning were required for Mossad operations. Safe houses and letter boxes had to be set up, and as many as eight case officers, known as katsas, were used to carry out meticulously rehearsed operations that had been timed and practised down to the last second. In this case, the agents used would have been known as ‘jumpers’ – katsas who worked foreign countries.
‘It seems our previous attempts at blocking Trevellian from obtaining nuclear materials are paying off,’ Steven continued. ‘He’s getting increasingly frustrated. And that means rash decisions and mistakes.’
Ben was passive, and Steven’s tone became more and more desperate. ‘Let’s send in our best, Ben. Let’s send in Agent Fox, from kidon. He’s the most ruthless killer we have.’
Kidon was a unit that carried out the agency’s dirty work; its agents were trained assassins, some of the best in the world. Steven watched Ben shift in his chair as his cigarette burned to the butt. Ben reached for the packet and pulled out another. Clutching it between his lips, he fired up a lighter and inhaled deeply. Slowly, he began to speak, his eyes narrowing as the cigarette danced on his lips.
‘I’ve reviewed the tapes myself. We have no reason to believe that it was not Badger. The code number and use of NAKA confirms that. There was something in the rhythm of his code when he was speaking to me … it was … him.’
Ben tipped his cigarette in the ashtray. ‘What you are proposing, however, is not going to solve our problems. Trevellian is a good leader, by all accounts, yes, but the body will simply grow a new head. What you forget, is that Trevellian may have important information on the other Nazis. How deep does their organisation go? Or how high up in certain governments? Also … Trevellian could lead us to the base.’
Steven made as if to answer, but Ben continued. ‘He’s more useful to us alive than dead. If they are securing plutonium, it confirms our suspicion that they are building warheads, while our attention has been fixed on Iran all this time … What you also forget …’ a column of smoke escaped his mouth and circled in the air above ‘… is that there are other ways to get information besides capture and torture.’
Steven shook his head. ‘What other way could possibly work on someone so …’ he searched for, reached far for the word: ‘… brainwashed?’
‘Need I remind you how many agents, including our own, have fallen for the charms of a honey pot?’
Steven looked doubtful. ‘Who, Ben?’ He looked at him pleadingly. ‘We’ve set up prostitutes for him in the past. He never takes the bait.’
‘Trevellian will fly in a few days, giving us next to no time to prepare an assault. We have no one good enough in Russia at present who could pull this off, even though we have a network of sayans and jumpers. But none of them are well-trained or experienced enough. These guys all need two years to prepare a cover. So … send twenty of your best katsas and some neviot from Listening Department, and try and get close to Trevellian within a single day. What do you think will happen?’
Steven didn’t answer, still looked puzzled.
‘They will rush in like fools.’ Ben took another pull on his cigarette and looked out over the city. ‘Rather, send in our finest assassin, home-trained and home-based. The man you mentioned, codename Fox, from kidon; the one who lost his family to that Hamas suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. A man who, surely, has hatred for any group, such as Trevellian Enterprises, that supplies Hamas with arms. Instead of having Fox kill Trevellian, let Fox capture him. Then send in the honey pot. Agent A, also from kidon. Let her follow Fox, so that she can “rescue” Trevellian and pretend that she wants to work for him. She speaks German and Russian fluently. Have you seen how beautiful that woman is?’Ben whistled softly and shook his head, smiling. ‘She’s gorgeous. Trevellian won’t resist this one. He’ll take the bait all right. She should’ve been in television, or modelling. In any case, this way, we can also trace Trevellian’s father, Franz, the bastard who escaped Germany to South America without a trace after the war, and we can make a bit of a public scandal out of his arrest and trial, like we did with Eichmann in 1960. We’ll get to the bottom of this secret base, and who knows where it will lead us?’
‘But both agents have no cover?’
‘Let them blend as they go. We know how effective they both are, based on their final tests before becoming full agents of kidon. Their provisional cover will be as agents of Trevellian Enterprises’ competitors in the arms industry – corporate espionage agents working for BEA or Lockheed Martin, looking to glean secrets on Trevellian’s arms business. Agent A is of Russian descent. Both she and Fox speak the language, although Fox not as well. Remember, Agent A did a reconnaissance mission in Moscow a few months ago. She discovered some pretty big Russian military secrets. She knows the lie of the land.’
Ben finished his cigarette, stubbed it out and stood up.
‘Let’s keep it tight. I will be happy to brief them.’
‘What if Badger is wrong? What if the Eagle isn’t about to travel to Russia?’
Ben answered: ‘He will.’
‘What makes you so sure?’
‘He is hunting for something else.’
‘What is he after?’
Ben had already left.

James made his way further up the tower to a study room. What had his father meant when he said that James would be faced with a decision? The way he had said it almost implied that it would be some kind of test, a test of character perhaps. But how could the old man know? Had the cancer finally got the better of his mind, even to shade out his so-called ‘lucid’ moments?
Questions swirled and remained undiluted. But they seemed to fill him with conviction, determination to see his father’s dream through to its conclusion.
James entered the room and paused in thought in the doorway. Frieda sat rigidly behind her desk. A framed portrait of James hung on the wall behind her. It faced a set of steel-framed windows looking out onto the sea. There was something about those windows, James thought, and the woman behind the desk that seemed to match. Perhaps it was her steel-framed glasses with the Coke-bottle bottoms. Though she reminded him of a librarian, he knew she was more than she let on. A ruthlessly efficient organiser, James’s secretary could easily run some of the best companies in the world better than many of the CEOs that James knew personally.
Mein Führer,’ Frieda said, noticing his frown but choosing not to comment. ‘Just in time … there’s a call for you.’
He walked over to the desk, and picked up the receiver. He cupped it and asked, ‘Who is it?’
Herr Parcival, mein Führer.’
‘Line secure?’
James nodded curtly.
Ja?’ he spoke into the phone.
Abenmein FührerHerr Parcival here.’
Herr Parcival, news?’
‘The same you have been waiting for. A turning point in the history of the Aryan race. After years of living among the Sherpa monks in Nepal, Badger has solved the final clue.’
James smiled. ‘Good to hear, herr Parcival. I want him interrogated. Use force if you have to. Listen, he’s been useful to us, and I hate to have to say this, but he knows …’
‘Too much? Say no more, I understand. He is due some leave, I think, is what you are trying to say, mein Führer. A very long holiday.’
‘I will debrief you myself. And if anything goes wrong this time, herr Parcival, we may look into a little vacation for you too …’
Jahwolmein Führer, I understand.’
The line went quiet as Parcival hesitated. James smiled to himself at his own twisted joke. He wouldn’t have carried out the threat to Parcival in any case, but Parcival, like most others in the chain of command, took threats such as this seriously. Their unquestioned respect for leadership, James noted, was at the same time their biggest strength and greatest weakness, and it was James’s job to let on to those in the chain that he was ruthless, whereas those closest to him knew differently.
‘Is there anything else?’
‘The …’ Parcival hesitated again, ‘… the dietrich. The key. Said to be needed to unlock the stone.’
‘Russia. I will transmit the location in an encrypted message. I know that your men will travel there soon. I thought it prudent to suggest, if I may, mein Führer, that you travel with them, to help them secure the materials, but then to travel on to the monastery where the dietrich is kept.’
‘I’ll consider it, soldier. Do not disappoint me.’
‘The next time we speak, I will have more good news for you. Sieg heil!’

Mossad HQ
Tel Aviv
Ben Hariri sat on a hard plastic chair and spoke into a phone.
‘The word is that Trevellian is travelling to Russia himself. His men have failed several times to secure plutonium. Their deals have always gone wrong at the last minute, when our own agents intervene. We seem to be the only agency doing anything about these bloody Nazis. Anyhow, close calls, all of them, but successful so far.’
Ben pictured Agent A, Anna Leonova, wrapped in a towel, her body still steaming from the shower, perhaps painting her toenails or dabbing her hair dry as she spoke into the phone.
That would be a sufficient contrast, thought Ben, mirroring who she was. A gorgeous woman, too beautiful to be involved in this kind of work, talking trade with her ‘controller’, in this case the Director of Operations himself.
‘And where else to turn but Russia,’ Anna answered, ‘the McDonalds of the world’s plutonium supply. Is it that FSB man again?’ she asked.
‘Vladimir. Yes, he’s the seller.’
‘Scumbag that one. What’s the brief?’
‘You’re going in after him.’
‘You expect me to go in without a credible cover, at such short notice? What am I to do? Is this an assassination?’
‘No, it’s a kidnap operation. There’s nothing we can do about the lack of time. This is an urgent op, and you will have a cover.’
‘What – an agent begging to be killed by Nazis?’
‘Don’t get smart,’ Ben snapped. ‘Your cover is Sandra Greer. You work as a corporate espionage agent for Lockheed Martin, a rival arms company …’
‘With all due respect, sir, I know what Lockheed Martin is. Will there at least be a safe house, some helpers, sayans, other katsas?’
‘I’m afraid not, Anna. This is too urgent. Listen,’ Ben leaned forward and picked up a packet of cigarettes, shook one out and lit it, placing the pack and lighter back on the table. ‘You’re the best we have. Here’s what’s going to happen. All I can say is that someone is going to kidnap Trevellian in Russia. In Moscow. We have all the details. It’s your job as Sandra to rescue him. It must look like you’re trying to prove yourself to him, as if you want to become a Nazi yourself, and then hopefully he’ll take the bait and recruit you. If he does, we’ll have someone on the inside.’
‘Listen, this is the most bizarre operation I’ve ever heard of.’
‘Yes, I know. It’s risky, but …’
‘Who’s the kidnapper?’
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘You can’t tell me? Listen, Ben, I’ve put my life on the line for you countless times. I respect you and your decisions. For years I’ve undertaken missions for you that were insanely dangerous. But not once have I even heard of such a thinly planned operation.’
‘I know, I know. Listen, Anna, an ordinary katsa would not be able to pull this off. That’s why I’m giving this to you. As a member of kidon, and the finest we have, you’re my only hope. I have no idea what’s going to happen out there in Russia, but I trust you to deal with anything. I’ve got a full set of equipment for you – including tracking devices, fake IDs, and passports.’
‘What if, on the other side, I need transport?’
‘We’ll enlist the help of sayans. If you need help, contact us; there are thousands, no, millions of Jewish sayans in Moscow, thousands of places to hide, and hundreds of different covers to take. Trevellian’s meeting is on the fringes of downtown Moscow, at a place called the Shamrock Bar, so you’ll be able to go on foot, or use public transport. It will be safer. You can make your way around less surreptitiously.’
Great. Will I at least have a piece?’
‘What the hell do you expect me to do in a tight spot?’
‘Talk your way out of it. You’re the best goddamn actor the Institute has ever seen. I know you can do it. Shape-shift as you go. Borrow identities. Blend in …’
‘I don’t know, Ben. I need to think about this.’
‘Sleep on it. I’ll call you in the morning.’ Ben stood, about to hang up.
‘One more thing,’ Anna said. ‘This person doing the kidnapping.’
‘Do I know him or her?’
‘I can’t disclose that right now. Just trust me. Look, he’ll kidnap Trevellian in Moscow, take him to a pre-planned location, and you will break in and rescue him.’
‘So it’s a “he” then?’
Anna smiled. She’d called his mistake.
‘Can I expect resistance from this mystery kidnapper?’
‘You may, and you may not.’
‘Say I’m successful. How am I supposed to get close to Trevellian? I mean really close; close enough to learn some real secrets – like the location of the base? These aren’t things they just hand out to new employees like brochures.’
‘I’m sure you’ll find a way, soldier.’
‘Why don’t you just be blunt with me and tell me that I’m a honey pot, that I need to sleep with him like some cheap whore? Has this even been approved by the higher powers?’
‘Get some rest. We’ll talk tomorrow.’
‘Right. Maybe I’ll dream of the afterlife. Or … what’s the point? I’ll be there soon enough.’
‘I’ll call you in the morning.’
Ben hung up, sighed, and dialled Agent Fox, hopeful that the second agent would go easier on him than the first.
‘It’s Ben … Yes, thank you, and you. Listen, the mission we spoke about this morning. Your cover documents – passports, the works – are coming to you with a bodel … The target is to be captured alive, Fox. Under no circumstances should he be killed … When you have him at the location, someone is going to rescue him. You must put up a fight, but let that person win … Good, glad you understand. Speak to you tomorrow.’ Before Ben hung up he added, ‘You know, I really like how you don’t ask questions, soldier.’
Then he stood, pensive, scratching his beard, not knowing that a much longer race than he was anticipating was about to unfold in Russia.

Two days later
An icy wind whipped the shivering avenues of the city. It flicked up the corners of the führer’s coat as he walked towards an entrance to a Metro station, the National State Library to his right and a block of grey buildings on the left. To the south, a ruby-red star glowed at the top of the Kremlin’s Troitska Tower. James eyed his flanks to check that no one was following him. It was an important meeting, and nothing should be left to chance.
James’s thoughts turned to the man he was about to meet. Vladimir was an employee of the Russian secret service, the FSB, with connections to scientists close to Russia’s decommissioned nuclear weapons programme, a process ongoing since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
He’d been warned by Vladimir to come alone. But two ghosts drifted like vapours off the streets, no more than leaves fluttering behind corners, shadows dancing out of sight. Crammed into a small 1980s Russian-built Lada Vas-2105, cruising behind James at a safe following distance was Roger, his personal bodyguard. Another of his men, Patrick, followed on foot.
James walked through the Metro entrance and stopped near the door to assess any potential traps. He scanned the platform: brilliant chandeliers, bright and sparkling, dangled from the mosaic ceiling; murals hung on the walls, and an old woman sat, surrounded by a cloud of bags, cradling herself against the wind that nipped in through the entrance.
A train whooshed in and eased to a stop. It was the last northbound train for the night. James boarded, sat down and the train moved forward. A hooded man sat a few rows down, swaying from side to side as if drunk, singing an old Russian war song and clutching a pole.
The train eased west before snaking north. It glided into a station and stopped. James got off and found the nearest exit. He looked across a grimy street splayed with the Irish-green reflection of a neon sign: ‘The Shamrock Bar, Since 1991’, as young as so-called freedom in ‘Mother Russia’, mused James. The outline of the Lada was visible some way down the street. Patrick would be around too, thought James as he crossed the road and entered the bar. Bells chimed as the door swung shut behind him.
There was a lone patron at the counter, propped up on a bar stool. In front of him were several empty glasses and an ashtray heaped with cigarette butts. He wore a leather jacket – standard Russian civil servant issue – with his collar turned up. It was Vladimir, enveloped by a cloud of smoke. James sidled up to the bar. A groggy-looking barmaid sauntered over and stared at him blankly.
‘Beautiful night for a White Russian, don’t you think?’ James said, looking over the barmaid’s shoulder and into the mirror, straight into Vladimir’s sharp eyes. The barmaid sighed – Bloody tourist, she thought – before throwing a sloppy White Russian together. Vladimir nodded. ‘Indeed, a beautiful night, even for a white German.’
Suddenly Vladimir’s face broke into a glorious smile. He turned to face James and slapped him on the back.
‘I have been looking forward to meet you, Jamies! Come, have drink.’
Vladimir slipped a half jack of vodka out of a coat pocket and shouted: ‘Bitch, bring glasses!’
The barmaid came over sheepishly, slipping James his White Russian before handing two glasses to Vladimir.
‘What? No ice?’ he boomed. ‘Pour me some ice from your cold heart.’
Ice was dispensed. Vladimir laughed as he poured out the vodka. ‘Vodka. You know is meaning “little water”?’ He handed a glass to James. ‘Nazdarovye.’
‘Cheers. Prosit.’ James replied.
Their glasses clinked together. The men settled back in their seats and drank. James looked at the framed picture of the barmaid that hung above the shelves of booze. Its caption read ‘Employee of the Year’. He motioned to the picture and asked, ‘How many people work here?’
Vladimir winked at the barmaid who looked at him scornfully, shaking her head. ‘I understand English, you pigs!’ she spat and stalked off into the kitchen. Vladimir snorted.
‘She need more crack to make her quiet. I see dealer here two times tonight already.’
He produced two cigars, nipped them, gave one to James and held out a Zippo.
‘Money train.’ Vladimir lit his cigar and held it up to scrutinise it. ‘Mark of new successful Russia. More bling in streets now than ever before in my country. Seen how women in Moscow streets dress? Like whores!’ He grinned, flashing a gold tooth. ‘What better way to celebrate than with cigar?’
‘Vlad – can I call you Vlad …?’
Vladimir shrugged, picking up one of the zakuski on the bar – Russian hors d’œuvres eaten with vodka to absorb the alcohol – and swallowed it whole. This particular zakuska was a boiled egg stuffed with caviar. He reached for another, motioning for James to continue.
‘I hear you can get me ingredients.’
Vladimir nodded. ‘My friend, you heard right,’ he said, chewing. ‘I can get what you need.’ He swallowed a big gulp of vodka and smacked his lips together. ‘But I must warn you, many people want to bakes cakes these days. Price has gone up since 9/11 and Middle East uprisings in 2011.’
‘Money is not an issue,’ said James quietly. ‘What we aim to do will be of more worth than any sum on earth.’
‘Huh,’ grunted Vladimir, ‘What you want do? You want blackmail Bummer? You want burn world to ashes?’ Vladimir laughed, shook his head and added, ‘Ah, these extremists, they are all same.’
‘Forty-eight kilos. Put a price on that.’
Vladimir’s smile disappeared. ‘Ten million. In euros.’ He swirled the ice around in his glass and swallowed what was left of the liquor, crunching ice and staring ahead. ‘Twelve cans for twelve cakes.’
‘Done,’ said James.
‘You will be sent the location to make collection later by encrypted message.’ He paused. ‘I trust you, Jamies, for now …’
‘Good, then, I think we have a deal.’
Vladimir raised his empty glass in salute and James reached out to shake Vladimir’s hand. What happened next happened fast. A shadow slunk out of a dark corner, as if peeling away from the wall paint, a shady-looking man with a hood. The man withdrew a pistol and raised it. Acting on instinct, James pushed Vladimir down and dived towards the exit. He rolled, was up on his feet and midway through the pub’s door when three shots rang out.
James drew his Walther PPK 9 mm with silencer and fired a return volley, but missed. Crouching on the kerb outside the pub, he saw that Vladimir had fallen to the floor.
The Lada’s engine fired up from down the street and screeched to the entrance of Shamrock Bar within seconds. As James jumped into the passenger’s seat, he saw Patrick, dressed as a hobo, emerge from beside a dumpster. James signalled to him with two short jabs of his fingers: Follow him.
The Lada sped off into the night.
James banged his clenched fist on the dashboard and swore. Roger’s eyes were peeled to the road, his hands clutching the wheel at either side.
‘Who was that, mein Führer?’
‘How the hell should I know? You and Patrick were meant to stake out the location before I got there. Was that never part of your secret service training, or have you gotten slack?’ James looked out the window. The sidewalks of Novy Arbat Ulitsa were heaped with snow. Roger kept quiet and gunned the car through the street that ran parallel to Arbat Ulitsa, one of Moscow’s oldest roads with its wide vistas teeming with tourists by day.
‘I’m sorry, mein Führer, there is no excuse,’ Roger finally said, veering into a side street.
‘Okay,’ James was calming himself down. ‘Okay, let’s think it through in the office. We need to know who that was and what they were really trying to do. More importantly, how they knew about the meeting.’
The pull of the turning car made James clutch at the handle on the inside of the door. As they drove on in silence, James recalled how the hooded man had appeared. The echo of the three whips of the assassin’s silencer played over in his mind, and Vladimir falling to the floor, clutching his chest. James wondered if he was still alive.
Roger checked the rear-view mirror compulsively. He slipped the car into an alley and stopped outside a door that looked like the dark mouth of a snake. The body wriggled up four storeys, the shiny bricks forming a scaly skin. Two steps led up to the door, beside which a light flickered.
James got out and scanned left and right. All was quiet. He walked quickly to the door, pressed the buzzer and waited. Beside the button was a logo engraved on a metal plate. It belonged to a multinational arms manufacturing company known as Trevellian Enterprises that produced some of the most advanced weaponry and military technologies in the world. It was a plain red square, with a white circle in the middle, inside which was a black iron eagle, its head in profile, looking left. Its wings were stretched out widely, and it clutched an oak wreath in its talons. Within the wreath were embossed gold letters: ‘TE’. The eagle’s eye glinted deep red as it caught the reflection of the dim light of the alley.
‘Yes?’ Frieda answered.
Adler,’ James replied.
There was a buzzing sound, and a click. James pulled the door open and stalked up two flights of stairs. On entering the office, he took his coat off and threw it onto the rack. He paced across the polished wooden floor to a mahogany desk, sat in the chair behind it and steepled his fingers. Now everything was going to hell, he thought.
There was nothing in his surroundings to ease his anxiety. The sort of grandeur to be expected of a top Forbes company was conspicuously lacking in the office. It was Spartan, with only the desk, two chairs, a bookshelf, and a brown bear rug splayed out beneath a window that eyed the alley. It was an unofficial office, one from which dirty work was carried out, and one that might be packed up and deserted easily. The books on the shelf were a mixture of mass-market thrillers, biographies of prominent spies and a few 1930s academic titles on racial superiority and eugenics theories, and a well-worn copy of Mein Kampf. On the desk was a pile of the day’s papers from around the world.
On the wall behind the desk was an enlarged photograph of a young boy, a black and white. The boy’s chin was tilted upwards condescendingly. His gaze peered through the lens. The eyes had an unsettling, disquieting arrogance. Something gnawed at his soul. His arms were folded across his chest defensively. One had to be familiar with the picture to know that the young boy was Adolf Hitler. Only then did his eyes glint and the long gap between the nose and the top lip seem to colour itself in with a characteristic strip.
Through a communicating archway to the only other room on the floor came the faint sound of keyboards clacking and the slow regular hum of a machine that never slept. Behind the computers, speaking on the phones and pointing at the television screens flashing international news headlines, were four bright MIT graduates specialising in information and communications. Each had been hand picked by James to see to the day-to-day running of Trevellian Enterprise’s more nefarious business in Russia. The young men were known within the organisation as Membranes, Mems for short. They controlled what information came in and what went out, but also provided useful intelligence analysis.
Roger stood in front of the desk. His feet were planted slightly apart and he looked on. Sourced from the German secret service, BDN, Roger was now a BEAD man, an agent in Trevellian Enterprise’s own secret service, known euphemistically as the Business Environment Analysis Division, and funded by the company’s deep coffers. Roger was entrusted with the personal protection and transportation of James, CEO of Trevellian Enterprises. He’d worked his way through the ranks by carving out a name for himself as a hand-to-hand combat extraordinaire with unbelievable strength and superb driving skills. As James stared at him, Frieda walked in and stood smartly to attention beside Roger.
Abenmein Führer,’ she said, clicking her heels together.
Aben,’ James replied. ‘Bourbon please, Frieda.’
Frieda walked over to a cabinet beneath the picture of Hitler. James placed a hand over his eyes and reached into his pocket. He brought out a cigar, nipped it, lit it and swirled the smoke with a puff through his lips.
‘Who do you think it was, herr Roger? In the bar …’
Frieda made her way to James and handed him a drink. He took it and sipped.
Roger tried, ‘Mein Führer …’ but he was cut short by the buzzing of the cell phone in James’s pocket.
Ja?’ James answered.
‘It’s Vladimir.’ The words were spoken harshly, in a wounded voice that took James off guard.
‘I am still here, but I talk quick. Deal is still on.’
James couldn’t help smiling.
‘But Santa is not well.’ Vladimir coughed. ‘He must ask two of his elves to deliver gifts. In exchange, Santa asks ten cold, hard blue frogs. I will send time and location.’ He ended with an unholy volley of coughing.
‘Did you see the man who tried to ruin Christmas?’ James heard a lighter grate, the rustling sound of tobacco being burned deeply and an inhale of breath before Vladimir answered. ‘All I see is nine mil with silencer. This Grinch wore hood over his head. He could even be drug dealer, bloody depressed maniac, who knows?’
The line went cold.

The man lay on a rooftop near Shamrock Bar. He’d crawled, spider-like, up a fire escape in a dark alley behind the pub, and waited for his pursuer to chase his ghost through the dimly-lit streets. As part of kidon, Fox had memorised the street plans of every major city in the world, Moscow included. It was worth it now. He knew exactly how to throw a shadow off. His satellite phone buzzed in his pocket. He answered, pressing it close to his ear to catch every word, spoken by the voice that was muffled by a voice distorter.
‘One, five, eight, six, three.’
Badger always prefaced his messages with a string of digits, the sum of which totalled a double-digit figure whose numbers were sequential, in this case, twenty-three: two, three.
‘The Russian is still alive. He will sell the Eagle ingredients at a place near the Ural Mountains. If you want him, this is your chance.’
‘Where and when?’ asked Fox. He usually didn’t speak back, but things were pressing.
‘Coordinates and time follow …’
Fox listened, memorising each number and letter. He’d stopped wondering how Badger had access to this information. Word at the Office was that he had a source within Trevellian’s outfit.
Fox hung up and checked the location on his phone. ‘Shit,’ he whispered. ‘One thousand two hundred bloody kilometres away, how the hell am I going to get there in time?’ He sent an encoded email to Ben: ‘Eagle got away, received info from Badger, meeting still happening, southern Urals, 1 200 kilometres from current location, need transport … here are coordinates and time.’
As he waited for the reply, his eyes glazed over and the seconds turned into minutes, the lights faded and nostalgia crept up on him like a shadow.
13 January 1990. Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv. We sat at a table on the kerb at a roadside café overlooking the calm seas on a perfectly clear day, beneath the bluest sky. The sea was beautiful, it glittered and danced in the sunlight. There were yachts and boats out in the bay. How I wished to have a boat of my own!
Father was in a good mood, he and Mother had been playing a naughty game all day as we walked in and out of the shops. Father got paid extra so we were buying a lot of stuff. Father bought Mother a beautiful red dress with pretty lace frills. Each time she wasn’t looking, he tapped her on her bum and she would laugh and try to do the same to him. Each time I would laugh as well, and baby sister would join in. We were going to Gordon Beach next after ice-creams.
A man walked in. He was carrying a guitar case. I asked him as he passed our table if he was going to play songs. He didn’t smile and walked on. I think he was scared. Rivers of white yumminess trickled and oozed over my knuckles and I tried to play the game of gobbling them up before they reached my pinkie.
That’s when the world went black.
I couldn’t hear anything. There was dust everywhere and father’s head was lying on a pile of rubbish. It was like sister’s dolls’ heads – the ones that popped off – because it had just been torn away from his body and was shredded, oozing. His eyes were no more seeing, just hard and cold like marbles, staring at me, at nothing. His arm was next to Mother, who was buried under bricks and rubble. Her legs were twisted and her foot was next to her face. She was smiling; her eyes were open, and she looked like an angel.
There was broken glass and I cut my hands. I was crying. I couldn’t hear anything. Only a screaming voice in my ears that was full of hurt like demons screeching in a nightmare. I was calling for Mother but she couldn’t hear me, crying.
Then sound came back suddenly, and there were sirens wailing and people shouting for help, and in the middle of all this there was this lady. She was just sitting there, on her knees, praying to God. But she wasn’t asking for anything, she was giving thanks to God for the beauty of the world. Sister was red and full of blood too. I vomited on the floor, staring at all the broken puppets.
Later, I was told that their strings had been cut by a group of people called ‘Hamas’.
Fox’s glazed eyes gradually came back into focus. He was staring at the concrete floor, struggling to overcome the rage that the memory never failed to induce, breathing hard and fast. He’d memorised the account that he’d told to police, that had been tape-recorded, years before, of the day his family had been murdered. It was a noose that had grown legs and followed him from orphanage to orphanage, family to broken family as he stumbled like a clumsy reject through his childhood.
Now, here’s a chance, he thought. Trevellian … so big and important, within his sights. Ben said ‘capture’. Fox had ideas of his own.
His phone was buzzing. He blinked, swallowed, and answered. A woman’s voice this time, in comforting Hebrew: ‘This is the Office. Regarding your request, you are to meet Anne Boleyn in a cave at “Dmitri’s Place”. Here are the coordinates …’
Fox committed them to memory, said thank you and the line went dead. He punched the digits into his satellite phone and saw a small black pin on a map about four kilometres northwest of his position.
‘Anne Boleyn.’ A codename for Agent A. What was Anna doing in Moscow?

Mossad HQ
Tel Aviv
Ben picked up his phone and read the coded message from Fox. ‘Shit,’ he whispered to himself and, closing the message, dialled a number and waited, staring at a code sheet for the phrases he would need to use.
‘This is the Office. They didn’t accept the deal and walked out of the meeting. A new meeting has been scheduled, business associate F is to attend; you are to shadow. Travel by train. The one you looked into last time. Help F onto the train but he is not to know that you are also in on the meeting. It may jeopardise the deal. Meet him at Dmitri’s Place. Here’s where.’
Ben hung up and typed a message on his phone and pressed ‘send’.

Agent A, sitting on the edge of a hotel-room bed, received the coordinates and whispered softly to herself. ‘Business associate F? What is Fox doing in Russia?’
‘Travel by train?’ What did that mean? ‘Surely they don’t expect me to take the Metro 2!’ Anna shivered. The Metro 2 was Russia’s secret ghost express, a metro running beneath Russia, connecting its strategic military bases. The reference to Dmitri’s Place confirmed her suspicions. It was a dingy little hellhole of a cave beneath the city, where she had undertaken a mission a few months back – the entrance to the secret train lines. ‘How am I supposed to follow without him knowing?’ Anna swore and drew in a long, nervous breath.
James put the phone down and took a sip of bourbon. Things were looking up. Ice clinked against his teeth as he took in a deep satisfying gulp that burned the back of his throat. ‘The deal is still on.’ Roger and Frieda blinked and nodded, wide-eyed and obedient. His phone beeped.
‘And here …’ he said, ‘… are the GPS coordinates, and a time. Easy as clockwork. Look them up, would you?’ he tossed the phone to Roger.
‘On it,’ Roger said, hurrying out of the room. James turned to Frieda and said, ‘Wake the captain up. Tell him to get the Learjet ready.’
Frieda lingered. She took in James’s handsome face. Although forty-eight, James seemed to get handsomer every year. She imagined running her fingers through the thick brown hair with attractive greying tufts at the temples; cupping his face with her hand as she stared into his eyes. Her romantic ideas, yes, she had to admit, sometimes seemed to her to be from the 1950s, but James fitted that bill. The eyes … the eyes were the colour of a stormy sea, she thought. Smooth jaw line, thick eyebrows, almost too perfect, like a movie star. But he seemed strangely unconscious of his looks. Instead of vanity, there was, Frieda thought, an unsettling air about him, of a wounded animal, like a creature caught in a trap …
She snapped to. ‘Yes, consider it done, mein Führer,’ and turned on her heels and walked out of the room.
James turned and stared out of the window, his mind racing at the prospect of securing such a large quantity of plutonium. Finally, things were coming together, he thought, now, if only he could get his hands on the dietrich …
Roger barged in, grounding his fledgling reverie.
‘The location for the deal. Eight kilometres north of Mount Yamantaw, in the southern Ural Mountains. We’ve checked it out on satellite maps and placed it at a medium-sized pond, almost as big as a lake, in the wilderness. Very remote. It’s close to the secret underground Russian military base, Mount Yamantaw. I presume you are familiar with …’
‘Yes,’ said James. ‘A facility half the size of Washington DC, where all the Russians run if there’s ever a nuclear war. The base is connected to other important locations by the Metro 2 …’
‘Yes,’ said Roger, ‘And near to some of the plutonium facilities. Beloreck Airport is thirty-five kilometres away from Yamantaw.’
Roger paused for a brief moment, took a deep breath and then continued. ‘Patrick phoned, mein Führer. The man he was shadowing must be damn good. He managed to throw Patrick off. You know, the only man who could possibly have given Patrick the slip like that is …’
‘Agent Fox, yes. You’re right, herr Roger. I have to give it to him. That agent is bloody good at shadowing. How far is Yamantaw from Moscow?’
‘One thousand two hundred kilometres east.’
‘Then Frieda and I will fly. You’ll take the SLS. You leave immediately. Get Frieda to clear our landing at the airport. Keep it hush, as usual.’
‘Of course.’ Roger turned to leave, but James stopped him.
‘There’s one more thing, herr Roger. Prepare a few bags, with ten million in hard currency … euros.’

Following the map on his phone, Fox jumped over a roadside railing and jogged carefully down an embankment that led from a main road down to the banks of the Moskva River. The wail of a far-off muezzin called the faithful to prayer as the first light of day hugged the horizon. He connected with a rough path that ran down beneath a bridge from the main road to the other side of the Moskva, and slowed up beneath its arch as the pin that represented him on the map drew up with his destination. It must be here somewhere, Fox thought, looking around. There was an entrance to a dimly-lit cave to his right. The smell was appalling – a mixture of urine, faeces and smoke. ‘HQ always chooses the best meeting places,’ Fox muttered to himself.
As he came nearer to the cave’s entrance, which looked like a hole blasted into the wall by cannon, two beggars carried a TV into the cave, placed it down and began to quarrel. A stray dog hovered like a leaf over some scraps, sniffing; deciding that they weren’t edible and then blew off into the grey-blue shadows after some promising scent of food.
Fox walked with a limp, and with a hood over his head, his eyes shone beneath it like two metallic glints. All at once, a group of beggars huddling closely together at a brazier stopped talking to look up at him. He smiled as he passed them and greeted: ‘Dobroe utro, Dobroe utro, Dobroe utro! Good morning, good morning, good morning!’ Staring into each of their eyes in turn, like a madman or a drunkard, he began to sing in a garish voice. Fox was glad for the Russian lessons Mossad had given him at the Mossad Academy. They’d gone to the fine detail of teaching the agents old war songs, but Fox couldn’t remember which one was which, so he settled for the first one that came to mind. It was ‘Comrades let’s bravely march’, which he sang in an exaggerated, deep soldier’s voice:
‘Comrades let’s bravely march, Our resolve gets stronger in the struggle, We will fight our way, Towards liberty …’
To Fox’s surprise, the beggars lauded him and some joined in. Their voices faded as he left them, entering the cave.
Debris lay about, the props of broken dreams; tables with linoleum tops, chipped chairs, cracked porcelain lamps and patchy teddy bears with the stuffing coming out.
Finding a chair stripped of upholstery, Fox sat down and scanned the walls around him. All that he’d been given by HQ was a set of coordinates and two words: ‘Dmitri’s Place’. What could it mean?
An old man stirred beneath a rag and some newspapers, looked up. His weathered face was carved with hardship, like furrows on leather. His mouth, twisted by many bitter years and cold winters, was slightly open, revealing a line of jagged rotten teeth. Fox looked from the man to the wall. Above a hole of crumbling bricks was the inscription: ‘DMITRI’S PLACE’.
He was about to rise, but the beggar’s croak settled him down: ‘Dmitri still lives there, you know, even though they killed him. Killed him because he knew secrets. Found something down there. We don’t talk about that, oh no!’ The man burst out laughing. ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t go in, if I were you. They’ll kill you.’ His smile was twisted and he began laughing, the putrid smell of stale breath mixed with alcohol rose like a cloud.
Fox shook off his misgivings and made his way over, crouched and climbed through. Inside, it was dank, water dripped from the roof. He avoided the puddles of water and cast his torchlight all over the walls. It was a long, thin tunnel, with the remains of an incomplete Metro platform, a long slab of concrete that pushed up to one side. It still had some of the signage and the cracked tiles and bricks. From beside the platform near Fox’s feet, rusted train tracks ran to a dead-end wall on the far side. The ceiling was arched in a semi-circle. Behind the raised, crumbling platform was a wall of white-painted bricks. Fox was about to turn back, standing in front of the wall, when the light danced over a red brick, half way up the wall, that seemed out of place amongst the sea of white ones.
Shining his torch along the face of the wall, Fox noticed that the grouting between the bricks was missing, forming a jagged dark line that ran down from the red brick. Then, to the left of the red one, the same thing: a line of missing grouting that led horizontally across for about a metre.
Fox walked up to the wall and ran his finger along the line. Is it a door? The red brick also seemed offset from the surface, as if it were a massive button. He decided to take a chance.
He reached up and pressed the brick in. A grating sound set his teeth on edge as the wall seemed to crease inwards. Fox threw his shoulder against the wall and heaved. It groaned and crunched as it opened further, as if it were on hinges. A third push produced a crack wide enough for Fox to slip through.
On the other side was a dark, close chamber. Fox swung the flashlight around to see a hole in the floor, with the top of a steel ladder poking through. Climbing down the ladder, his foot finally struck air. He shone the torch downwards; beneath him, about two metres below, was the floor of another cave. He slipped off the ladder and landed smoothly. The flashlight came out and he searched the walls. This was the place: ‘666’ and ‘Dmitri’s Place’ were spray painted all over the walls in red. The torch began to falter, and finally, the light died.
With nothing to do but wait for Anna, Fox pulled a massive hunting knife out of its sheath, which was clipped to his belt beneath his coat, and a long flat stone, which he pushed out of a material holder. Pushing the blade against the edge of the stone and his finger, he felt for the angle he wanted, nice and sharp, and began to grind the blade against the stone.