lost ironies

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Tag: Spy

an end to Paris part 2

read part 1 here
read part 3
here

July 28, 1945

He might have been a good uncle, sitting at his grand desk with his pipe, his broad face expressive in unguarded moments. But if one knew the truth, the terror and torture and how his cruelty and secret self-loathing eclipsed even that of Stalin’s, a person brought before him would either run or surrender without question, and hope for quick execution.

The small undernourished woman named Kisa Drugov knew this, as she was escorted into his office by two NKVD agents, and deposited into a chair facing him. He scratched away, writing memoranda with a quill tip pen, with the Great Leader’s large portrait behind him. Ignoring her until he was done, and finally putting down his pen and his pipe, he blew on the wet ink, and looked hard at her.

“You know,” he said, “I hate spies.”

The ghostly agent sitting to her left, Lieutenant Maxim Grekov, tapped her ankle once with the toe of his shoe, while remaining otherwise perfectly still and expressionless. It was code for her to answer remorsefully, and to at least try to squirm. Grekov knew Kisa Drugov was too unafraid and honest for her own good. He also knew where she’d been, and what she knew, and where she’d go with it if she were allowed. These were secrets whispered over vodka, by candlelight in a crumbling flat above a butcher shop on the wrong side of Moscow.

And now here they were. The obvious irony—blessing or curse—was that Grekov was the one ordered to bring her in.

Being summoned to 1st Commissar Slivka’s office was unusual. Having Kisa Drugov called in from active duty in Paris, even more so. Normally, Enemies of the People were simply made to disappear by night, without ceremony. Which was why Grekov usually worked on graveyard shift. And if Drugov was truly disgraced, hers would have been just another body in the Seine weeks ago. That was Joseph Stalin’s silently spinning lathe of terror, cutting continually.

It made this meeting a mystery. The Commissar must have caught wind of something.

Grekov’s plan was simple: to get her out alive, without Slivka ordering him to shoot her where she sat. Once that was accomplished, no matter what he was ordered to do, he would arrange for her escape. His fellow agent, Koshkin, who sat to Drugov’s right, was usually too drunk to pay attention. Even now, he was in a daze.

“I understand, Comrade 1st Commissar,” Kisa Drugov said humbly, at risk of saying too much too well. “Spies are liars, and selfish.”

“Yes they are,” the Commissar said. “Even Soviet spies, especially Soviets spies.”

One tap on her ankle.

“Yes,” she said, staring at her hands, “and I have lied in the past for purposes of my own aggrandisement.”

“That’s very honest of you. Good,” Slivka said. “We’re done here.” Waving his hand, and addressing Grekov, he said, “Torture her. See what she really knows, then put a bullet in her head.”

“If I may, Sir,” said Grekov, his belly boiling. “I believe, based on our best information, Comrade Drugov has established herself well within a network of operatives, both fellow Soviets and foreign, and is close to obtaining valuable information regarding a very secret American weapons research operation, supported by England and Canada. She’s very close to obtaining this information. It can be ours, if we return her to the field.”

“She lied about Leningrad,” the Commissar said.

Drugov had not lied about Leningrad, nor had any of the others who had signaled warnings. Comrade Stalin had simply ignored them, and as a result, the city had fallen under a Nazi siege of over eight hundred days.

“But tell me more,” said Slivka, now trying to light his pipe.

“It is a very powerful weapon, Sir,” Kisa Drugov said. “A single bomb able to destroy an entire city.”

“Nonsense.”

“One has already been detonated in the New Mexico desert, a test. There was a mushroom cloud several miles high, shock waves felt a hundred miles away.”

“Forget the torture,” Slivka said. “Take her into the toilet, and shoot her. Try not to make a mess.”

“But the war is ending,” Drugov said, too loudly for her own good, her fists clenched, nearly standing. “For all we’ve sacrificed, Russia may only get a few scraps of Europe in return. The West will take the rest, but not if we have this weapon.”

Now Grekov tapped her ankle twice, and she knew it meant shut up.

“Rubbish,” said the Commissar. “Now you’re lying to save your own life. Next you’ll be on the floor begging.”

“Of course I want to save my own life,” Drugov said. “What fool wouldn’t. But only so I can fight on.”

Grekov tapped again, harder. A kick, really. Kisa Drugov tried not to wince in pain.

“I want to save Russia,” she said. “Make it greater than any other nation, as much as anyone. And we’ve never been so ready, so well positioned, so well-armed. That can buy us time. We could detonate this bomb over New York, when we get it. We have the planes to deliver it.

“Don’t delude yourself, Comrade. Don’t think that Churchill and Roosevelt won’t order Allied forces to roll into Russia, once they’re finished with the rest of Europe. Even now, the Americans are infiltrating Germany and stealing the secret Nazi plans to their own bomb.”

Grekov gave up, and slouched in his chair.

“The West has never been so ready, either,” said Kisa Drugov, “so well positioned and well-armed. The Nazis are finished, and the US will use this weapon on Japan first. Of that you can be sure. Then us, if they can. That’s why with the Axis out of the way, there’s only one logical next step for us to take, Russia and the West. Both must establish new fronts, and fight on, against one another. We must finish it once and for all. If we don’t do it, and win, we’ll have nothing to show for our millions who have died. We need the bomb to assure our victory. I’m so close to acquiring the secrets, but time’s wasting.”

Slivka finally managed to relight his pipe, and blew a foul cloud of smoke.

“Tell me more,” he said. “Be brief.”

“A spy for the Americans says he has a copy of the plans,” Drugov said, “on microfilm. The blueprints and specifications. He’s 90% reliable—my estimation based on past dealings with him. He’s in Paris now, and he’ll sell to the highest bidder. That must be us. Then all we’ll need is the plutonium.”

“Plutonium?”

“Yes, it’s necessary. We can get Nazi uranium, and transmute it into what we need. But I must return to Paris. Now.”

“And what about these two,” asked Slivka, taking a different tack and a sheet of paper off of his desk, “Soho and Dillinger? How will you get round them?”

Kisa Drugov was startled by the question. “You know about them, sir?”

“Someday I’ll drown in a sea of all I know, Miss Drugov.”

“They’re incidental,” she said.

“I think not,” said the Commissar. “My intelligence tells me that they’re very effective, and quite deadly, for two people so invisible. Especially this Soho woman. Though she does seem to have lost her mind, no? But maybe that raises her to some divine next level. Even more dangerous, and invisible.”

“Yes, Commissar.”

“But you’re sorry for her,” Slivka said. “I can hear it in your voice, even though she’d happily cut your throat.”

Drugov remained silent. He left it at that.

“And what do you think, Lieutenant Grekov?” the Commissar said. “Since the two of you are so close, playing house together in that shabby little flat. And exchanging messages since little Miss Drugov was sent off to Paris.”

“I—,” Maxim Grekov began, then swallowed. Slivka had been toying with them all along.

“There are those in the Politburo,” he said, “who insist that there might be something to this. The General Secretary wants to see for himself, though. Have you a way out of Moscow, back to Paris, Miss Drugov?”

“Naturally.”

“Alright, but don’t fail to return with what you’ve promised. You still have family in Moscow, under surveillance. Gulag bait, or worse. And take Agent Grekov with you. He’d have to be shot if he remained in Moscow, since the two of you are so close. As for you, Grekov, you shoot this little bitch if she deviates from the plan.”

“What plan?” said Grekov, shifting in his seat.

“And no more pillow talk,” the 1st Commissar said. “This isn’t a honeymoon.”

“But I—,” Grekov stuttered again, wishing Slivka would actually drown in what he knew.

“Thank you,” said Kisa Drugov. “Soon the world will belong to Russia.”

“Yes,” Slivka said, “or it will be a mound of ashes.” He picked up his pen again. “Now get out, and have that bruised ankle of yours attended to, Miss Drugov.”

*    *   *    *    *    *

New Mexico desert, July 1945

The sad eyed J. Robert Oppenheimer drank coffee and read the New York Times in a booth at a diner on the highway outside of Albuquerque. He was already haunted. Little Boy and Fat Man were ready, waiting to be dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was late in the evening, and the faces of the ghosts yet to be, of those two cities were already peering at him, through the plate glass window. Their faces were bizarrely illuminated by a flashing neon sign.

Closing his eyes, he beheld his recurring vision. A little Japanese girl on the ground looking up, as she watches a silver bead falling in the sky. Wonder briefly sets in. Raijū, she says, a second before she is blinded.

Then for a moment, he meditates on the Sanskrit. He could smell Los Alamos on his skin. He would become the destroyer of worlds.

 

 

 

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an end to Paris part 1

For those who are not yet familiar with Trudy Parr,
check out the woman in the red raincoat
here

London July 30, 1945, 22:20

The clip of her quick pace down the unlit corridor could be heard from far away. The sound was the happy result of her hanging up her RAF uniform, and donning civilian clothes. Though she remained an RAF officer, Natalie Falls’ work with the Special Operations Executive meant that her practical military shoes were in her closet. It was now the heels of her stylish non-combatant pumps that announced her approach along the darkened halls.

In her hand was the usual attaché case, filled with the day’s communications and briefing notes. Outside, the sirens sounded, and spotlights scanned the sky. She stopped at the office of Vera Atkins, SOE – F Section, and knocked.

“Come,” came a voice from within. “Quickly, don’t let out the light.”

Blackout curtains allowed Vera Atkins to have a dimly lit office.

“The war’s nearly bloody over,” said Falls. “Patton’s mopping up. Why are we still having these damn drills?”

“It only seems over,” Atkins said, straightening her desk. “The Soviets still have an air force.”

“True, I suppose. And millions of starving peasants to throw at us.”

“Besides,” Atkins said, “sirens keep us on the home-front focused. Take a seat.”

“I brought this for you.” Falls placed the heavy attaché case on the floor, and sat.

“Speaking of the end,” said Atkins, “what will you be doing now, provided we truly do have peace.”

“Secret Intelligence Service, I imagine. They’ve asked me on.”

“Really? You don’t plan to marry some RAF hero, and move to a little cottage in Scotland, so you can watch each other become fat, toothless and alcoholic over the course of the next forty years?”

“Definitely not, and that’s very cynical of you. Besides, what good’s a hero without a war?”

“Yes,” said Atkins, “and I think, from reports, that you’re more impressed by the young ladies serving cocoa in the canteen. Does SIS know of your tastes?”

“If you do, they do.”

“I, for one, will be sorry when it’s over,” Atkins said, lifting the lid of a teapot and peeking in. “The war has been good to us—women I mean. Take you, for example; you’d just made Flight Lieutenant when you came to Orchard Court. Now look where you are. I wonder if I shouldn’t salute you.”

“That’s not what I’m here to discuss, Vera.”

“Most women doing war work now will be returning to children’s runny noses and scrubbing floors,” Atkins said, trying to envision a postwar England.

“Shall we change the subject?” said Falls.

“Of course.”

“It’s Soho and Dillinger,” Natalie Falls said. “Parr and Dench. There are plans to evacuate all of our agents from France, but not them. As their handler, I’d like to know why. And I’d like to know why no one bothered to discuss the matter with me.”

“We need them there, for a little while longer.”

“They deserve to be brought home,” Falls said.

“There are always little details to attend to when war ends, Natalie.”

“Will they be spying on France for us now? What if they’re caught? Spies are executed, even in peacetime.”

“Yes,” said Atkins, “that would be ironic, after their having survived until now.”

“Please take this seriously,” Falls said.

“The lives of spies are always in danger, Natalie.”

“Needlessly?”

“Truth be known, the two of their lives have always been in greater jeopardy than the rest, and their chances of survival have never been more than middling. Even before they came to us, they were just throwaways. It’s why they excel at what they do. They measure success differently than regular people, good people. They measure it by what and how much they can steal, and the amount of mayhem they can cause.”

“That’s how we measured their success, too.”

“But for them, it’s nearly a mania,” Atkins said. “Especially for Soho, that Trudy Parr woman. Face it my dear, there will be no place for them now that the war is ending. Can you see them living normally back in Canada, some little town called Vancouver? And they’ll be no good in intelligence services, either. They lack the necessary sophistication.”

“I disagree,” said Falls.

“Don’t let their accomplishments in Paris fool you. They’re not heroes. They’re merely thieves and murderers, verging on psychopathy.

“Once again,” Falls said, “you’ve described most of the spies in service of the Empire.”

“These two don’t deserve to be removed from the chaos they’ve helped to create and have thrived in for the last five years, just because you pity them. You could bring them home tomorrow, and they wouldn’t thank you for it. Especially Soho. Her profile,” here Atkins took a file out of her inbox and placed it on her desktop. “It suggests that, for her, murder passes for intimacy. Her psychological assessments says as much. She’s a psychotic, and too dangerous to evacuate. She was useful to us when we needed her, but we never imagined she’d survive ‘til now. We have a mission in mind that will delete her as a problem, but something more important first.”

“You’re wrong, Vera. Her performance has been stellar, Dillinger’s too. What they’ve done for the war effort has taken an enormous amount of discipline, acumen and courage. I understand that Trudy Parr’s condition may be deteriorating, but if it is, it’s due to the stress of her uniquely barbaric mission. She’s done it for England and the Allies, Vera. Please don’t forget that.”

“You’re a romantic.”

“What do you intend to do with them?”

“Continue to make them useful, for the time being.”

“And what is the important mission you’ll send her on, before you delete her?”

“A target.”

“Who?”

“A fellow named Frank Becker, code name Chicago.”

Falls was surprised. “He’s an American,” she said.

“Yes, but he’s in Paris, bargaining with Soviet spies. He somehow knows about something called the Manhattan Project. It’s believed that he’s obtained specifications for the so called Shadow Makers, through some sleight of hand.”

“What are Shadow Makers? I don’t know what those are.”

“You’re not supposed to know. You’ve only just been cleared. The yanks call them Fat Man and Little Boy. They’re a new kind of weapon. The equivalent 21 kilotons of TNT in a single bomb, dropped from on high. One will destroy an entire city, on its own, if they work.”

“What are they going to do with them? I don’t imagine they’re museum pieces.”

“Japan. They won’t quit, and no one has the stomach for another invasion by sea.”

“Why don’t the Americans take care of Becker themselves?”

“They may. That’s part of the stunt we’ve had assigned to us. There are two teams going in. Ours is already there. Theirs may be, too. Both of our countries have residue agents in Paris.”

“Residue?”

“Soho and Dillinger will be informed of the assignment in seven days, by BBC Radio code, the usual thing. Until then, they have other things to attend to.”

“I don’t like the term residue agent, Vera.”

“It’ll be a feather in the cap of whichever country gets him first. We need that feather in our cap, Natalie. And the Americans need to be humbled. All of this noise regarding George Patton and his 3rd Army is quite out of control.”

“How long have you known about Becker?”

“A while.”

“So, all of this comes down to you wanting to get him before the Americans, even if the war ends tomorrow. That’s really why you’re keeping Soho and Dillinger there. You know they’ll win that race. I don’t think you believe a single word of what you just said about them.”

Vera Atkins placed Trudy Parr’s file back into her inbox.

“Not every word of it,” she said, “but many of them. There are people above me, Natalie. They must be kept contented. The use of extra judicial killing is coming to an end, officially. And killing an American is definitely off of our compass, officially. This may be our last grand escapade of the war.”

“Won’t stopping a double agent from selling the Soviets plans to a weapon that powerful make the two of them worthy of retrieval?”

“Soho and Dillinger are formally considered irredeemable by SOE,” Atkins said. Then, with a broad smile, she lifted and peeked under the base of her desk lamp. “I see no reason to stray from that point of view.”

With a tug, she pulled a listening device out from beneath the lamp, and held it up by its broken wires for Natalie Falls to see. Then lifting the lid of the teapot, she dropped it in, where it made a wet plopping sound.

“Oh dear!” she said, looking into the teapot. “What have I done? Clumsy me!”

Falls looked astonished.

“Oh well,” Atkins said, shrugging, and reclining in her chair.

“They bug your office?” said Falls.

“Not anymore.” Atkins placed a hand on her teapot. “That was the last one, for now. And don’t be naïve.”

Now Falls was embarrassed.

“Let’s talk more freely,” Atkins said.

“I’m starting to lose track of what’s happening here,” said Falls.

“I regret having to be the one to tell you this in such an unambiguous way, Natalie, but you must understand that no matter how well they’ve performed in the field, and no matter how well they perform this last assignment, SOE will never knowingly allow Soho or Dillinger to return alive.”

“I know this sort of thing happens,” Falls said, “usually for very good reasons. But now that we’re talking more freely, why?”

“The answer remains the same. It’s been determined that their assimilation back into civilian life would be too difficult. Especially in light of what they’ve done for us, and Soho’s failing mental condition. They’re too clever, too difficult to contain. Soho is too unstable, and Dench too devoted to her. They are therefore considered at risk to divulge classified information, not intentionally, of course, but under many predictable and unpredictable forms of duress. They’re not alone. Some have already been dispatched for similar reasons, as operations wind down; identities erased, paper trails torched, names forgotten.”

“Why are you divulging this to me, in such detail?”

“I don’t know, Natalie,” Vera Atkins said. She picked up a pencil, and studied it. “Maybe it’s because I’m overworked, and in my state of fatigued, I just let it slip out. Bad luck, too, because as their handler, you might try to intervene on their behalf—mightn’t you?”

“I might,” Natalie Falls said, after an uncertain moment.

Atkins opened her desk drawer, and pulled something out.

Then she said, “You might even arrange for a Group 2 submarine called the HMS Ultra to arrive at a certain location, at a certain time, indicated in documents contained in a certain envelope. Once there, Ultra could, perhaps, pick them up and take them to a safe harbour, where they may be provided with false identities, passports and enough currency to get them back to Canada, or to wherever else they might like to go.”

Vera Atkins slid an envelope across her desktop.

“As a high level Intelligence Officer,” Atkins said, “you could arrange and authorise this sort of thing. No need for paperwork in light of the confusion that will shortly ensue. Naturally, you’ll properly dispose of the contents of this once you’re done. I know nothing, of course.”

“Of course,” said Falls, taking the envelope.

“And now,” said Vera Atkins, pulling open a side drawer, “I have a lovely tin of pâté and a box of these dreadful American Ritz Crackers. I may even be able to locate some tinned peaches. Shall we have a nosh?”

“Yes,” said Natalie Falls, “that would be very nice.”

Paris, same night, 02:55

“Keep your eyes open,” Crispin Dench whispered, as he fixed a silencer onto the muzzle of a .38 automatic.

He and Trudy Parr stood on the landing between the second and third floors, in the dimly lit stairway of a hotel on rue Hérold. They had agreed that that night’s kill would be Dench’s. The assigned target was SS-Obersturmbannführer Ritt Gerst, of the 33rd Waffen SS Grenadier Division. Gerst was normally accompanied by an armed aide, Obersturmführer Wolfric Hueber. This night, however, Gerst was visiting his mistress, alone.

Dench climbed the stairs silently, and turned down the hall to room 3E. There, he put his ear to the door and listened. There was soft talking, languages shifting from German to French and back again. Dench tried the door knob. Locked.

Meanwhile, Trudy Parr stood perfectly still on the landing, surrounded by faces staring out from dark corners, the too many ghosts of her victims that followed her everywhere. She held safe within her the memory of each of them, each private final breath, each last evidence of thought. She remembered each name, and how each life had ended, by the gun, blade, poison or other means. She loved them all, and wished to remain with them forever.

There came a sound from below. Someone beginning to climb the stairs. She backed away from the light, to stand amongst her departed.

In the hallway above, Dench stood at the apartment door and considered the possibilities, of which there were too few. Picking the lock was risky and would take too long, and though the desk clerk had provided the room number, he refused to offer a key. So, Dench stepped back and kicked the door in, the peace of 3:00 a.m. making it sound like thunder.

On the landing, Trudy Parr heard the footsteps cease momentarily as the door went crashing in, then begin again, rapidly now and in earnest. As the footfalls came closer, she stepped out of the shadow.

In 3E, Dench found Obersturmbannführer Gerst in bed with a girl no older than twelve years, his mistress. Gerst began to struggle, encumbered by bedsheets, for the nightstand where he had placed his Luger. As Dench waited, and watched, he thought of how tired he was of war, of his and his partner’s faultless precision in their orbit of chaos. And now, this privileged fool in his bed with a child, scrambling for the only thing that might save him.

Back on the landing, Gerst’s aide, the trim blond Obersturmführer Hueber, had come face to face with Trudy Parr. He held a bag of groceries and wine in one hand, and his sidearm in the other, but was startled to see this woman standing there, with her disturbing violet eyes and serene demeanor.

“Bonsoir, monsieur,” she gently said

The razor she drew from her garter made a curious metallic sound as it snapped opened. Then she swiftly slashed Hueber’s throat, severing the carotid artery. Out of habit, she was careful to step back in order to avoid the resulting spray of blood. It was a calmly executed series of graceful movements. Hueber dropped his Luger, and she kicked it away. His eyes were wide, and he held his hands to his throat, as though that might save his life. As he stood there dying, Trudy Parr reached out and softly stroked his cheek. She spoke in English this time, and tenderly said, “Bye-bye, baby.”

In 3E, Dench stood with Gerst in his sights as the man fought to pull his weapon from its holster. Dench believed that giving the SS officer a chance at defending himself was the least he could do. But clearly Gerst wasn’t used to working under pressure.

“Oh, c’mon,” Dench said, and waited a moment longer. The girl had by now fallen out of bed and lay flat, facedown, on the floor. “…fucking master race…,” Dench said, finally, and squeezed the trigger.

The first bullet struck Gerst in the head, spraying grey matter on the wall behind him. Then Dench strolled up and shot him in the heart.

“Get dressed,” he said to the girl, in his best street Parisian.

Taking a billfold from Gerst’s tunic, he pocketed the officer’s ID. Then he walked round the bed to the girl, and gave her the money it contained. Far more than she’d ever seen in one place before.

“Get out, as fast as you can,” he told her. “Exit through the kitchen.”

When he returned to the landing, Trudy Parr was crouching next to Hueber’s body. She looked at the dead young man with her strange, adoring eyes. Crispin Dench had seen this before, and had stopped worrying about it. Though Trudy’s methods had become bizarre, her work remained otherwise flawless.

“He died like a darling little soldier,” she said, his blood pooling as she ran her fingers through his hair.

”Swell,” Dench said. “Now, let’s get the hell outta here.”

 

 

 

 

the Foncie photograph (rewrite)

Paris, May 1945 

She stood on the wet cobbles at the river’s edge, and looked across at the Eiffel Tower. The foggy dawn was clearing. There’d been a meeting arranged.

The Tower had survived, and the city had been liberated for eight months. Now she just wanted to go home. Back to the east end of Vancouver, where she’d no longer be a code name floating on encrypted radio waves between Paris and 64 Baker Street. Where she’d no longer earn her keep by killing silently.

Her neighborhood, back home, would be coming into bloom about now, in its own slightly savage way. But there was still so much to do in The City of Light. Mopping up, the Special Operations Executive called it. They who sat in London, sipping tea. Ink on their fingers, instead of blood on their hands.

“Soho,” said a man, as he came up behind her. He spoke in prefect street Parisian.

“Hello, Vicker,” she said without turning around.

Vicker was the alias for an American agent named Amsterdam, Timothy. Soho was her own. The hostilities were over, and the use of code names between spies was no longer strictly necessary. But survival habits die hard.

“I must be the first man ever to creep up on you,” he said.

“I’ve been listening to you approach for forty-five seconds,” Soho said. “French made leather soled shoes, with composition heels. Likely size nine or ten. Colour unknown. A tall, athletic man. I’d need to fire first. But I assumed it was you. Or you’d be bleeding right now.”

He was impressed, not for the first time.

“You’ll be missed by London,” he said.

“They can go to hell.”

“And Dillinger, is he nearby?”

“Very nearby.”

“But invisible.”

“It’s part of his charm,” she said, turning to face Timothy Amsterdam.

“Why am I still alive, Trudy?” he said, dropping her alias. “I understand that I’m at the top of your list.”

“Officially you’re not alive,” said Trudy Parr. “Officially, I did my job. And you were fished out of the Seine with your throat cut last night. It was the body of a Vichy operative I’d been letting live for a moment like this. He had fake papers with your name on them in his coat pocket. So the heat’s off for now. They’ll know it’s not really you when London gets the finger prints. That’ll take about a week, though. By then you should be securely underground.”

“Straight razor and slight of hand,” he said. “Your calling card.”

She said nothing.

“So, I’m free to go then.”

“Any way you can, Timothy,” Trudy Parr said. “But you should be more careful. Money isn’t everything. If it’s found out that I purposely let you live, that it wasn’t some dumb female error, I’ll be as dead as you’re supposed to be. I still have some explaining to do. Consider it a favour between professionals who worked well together in the past, but don’t expect another.”

“There’s booty involved, Trudy,” said Timothy Amsterdam. “A lot of it. And I could use an accomplice. Two, if Crispin wants in.” He looked around the general area for a trace of Crispin Dench, code name Dillinger. But Dench was playing shadow, for the moment.

“The Russians are throwing money around like mad men,” Amsterdam continued. “They’re being sloppy about it, too. They need intelligence, badly. They’re not stopping at Berlin, you know? Americans or no, they’re planning on taking Europe.”

“And you’re going to help them?”

“No. I’m giving them crap. It looks good because I can counterfeit anything, as you know. But it won’t get them anywhere, and they won’t know it until I’m long gone.”

She watched him talk, his body moving to the words. His steady eyes. And she knew he wasn’t lying. She was paid to know.

“We can’t go home, Trudy,” he said. “You, me or Dench. Not really. You know that, don’t you? We can go back and try to make it, but they’ve used us up. And no one wants to know what it really took to win this war.”

“Crispin and I are going to try.”

“Where do two assassins fit into postwar Canada? Or greasy little Vancouver, for that matter?”

She didn’t know. But spies weren’t heroes — she knew as much. They were dirty secrets.

Vancouver, 1951
the offices of Dench and Parr Investigations 

Trudy Parr picked up the phone. It was Virginia in reception.

“There’s two mooks out here,” Virginia said. “They got revolvers stickin’ outta their jackets, like it’s a Cagney film. Say they wanna see you.”

“They show you any tin?” said Trudy Parr.

“Yeah, they showed me some.”

“Then send them in.”

“All right. I’ll tell ‘em to wipe their feet before enterin’ your office.”

Trudy Parr hung up, sat back in her desk chair and lit a Black Cat. There was a soft knock, and two men walked in, taking off their hats. It was detectives Olaf Brandt and Roscoe Finch of the VPD.

“What’s the good word, Trudy?” said Brandt.

“I don’t deal in good words,” Trudy Parr said. “You know that, Olaf. But pull up a chair, anyway.”

The two men sat down.

“Well?” she said.

“That secretary of yours is kinda rude,” said Finch.

“Maybe,” said Trudy Parr. “But she types fifty words a minute, and she’s good with a gun. That kind of makes her indispensable. Sorry if she hurt your feelings.”

“What’s a secretary need a gun for?”

“This is a private investigation agency,” said Trudy Parr, looking Finch over like he was a street shill. “We attract undesirables.”

Finch shifted in his chair.

“Never mind that,” said Brandt. “Finch and me got something we want you to see.”

“What?”

“This,” Finch said, reaching into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a photograph, and slid it across the desktop face down. Trudy Parr looked at it lying there, and smoked her cigarette. It was 5×7, and had a phone number and the name Foncie Pulice stamped on the back.

“It was taken by that Foncie character,” Brandt said. “He snaps you on the street, and hands you a card, and….”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” Finch said. “ We all know — take a gander, Trudy.”

She flipped it over and saw a black and white image. It was a Vancouver street scene. Olaf Brandt and a skinny woman walking hand-in-hand down Granville Street on a sunny day, both smiling for the camera.

“Nice,” said Trudy Parr, pushing the photo back at Finch. “You and your girlfriend look very pleased with one another, Olaf. I wish you many years of happiness.”

Finch pushed it back.

“Take a closer look,” he said.

She’d seen something strange in the photograph on first glance, but had ignored it out of mounting boredom. She looked again. Behind the smiling couple was a man in a trench coat and fedora, his face circled with grease pencil. It was a familiar face. Handsome in spite of the dark scar on his left cheek and jaw. It brought back cold memories.

“I don’t get it,” she said.

“Sure you do,” Finch said.

“It’s Timothy Amsterdam,” said Brandt.

“Swell.” She pushed the photo back again.

“He was an American spy,” Finch said. “During the war. Mostly in Paris. He turned commy near the end.”

“That’s not what I heard, Roscoe,” Trudy said. “I heard he’s all free market and apple pie. Sure, he cashed-in selling the Ruskies dirt. But that was a couple weeks before VE day. He was gonna be out of a job soon, I heard he was real selective in what he sold. It was out of date, redundant or generally misleading. Useless, in other words. The Russians were paying in captured SS bullion, so he took the gold and ran. You know, a spy needs a plan at the end of a war. They don’t fit back into society so well.”

“Really?” said Finch. “What was your plan?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“That still makes him a double agent,” said Brandt. “There’s a warrant.”

“Okay,” said Trudy Parr. “So call the RCMP and the FBI. It’s a US federal rap. He’ll be extradited.”

“We want him,” said Finch. “The RCMP will get him eventually – we’ll hand him over when the hoopla’s over. But we want to make the arrest.”

“You want your pictures in the papers, is that it?.”

“Sure,” said Brandt. “Why not. We spend all our time sweeping up other people’s messes, and don’t get no thanks for it. Now we gotta big fish in our shitty little pond, and we wanna hook him.”

“What’s it got to do with me?”

“We figure you know where he is.”

“That’s a surprise,” said Trudy Parr.

“You were a spy, yourself,” said Finch.

Trudy Parr lit another cigarette.

“You was in Paris,” Brandt said. “Your paths must have crossed.”

“C’mon, Trudy,” Finch said. “We’re the cops. We know you were an Allied spy. You’re on at least three watch lists. And we know you worked with Timothy Amsterdam. We ain’t supposed to know it. It’s classified, I’ll grant you. But we know it all the same, and that makes you a semi-legitimate lead.”

The traffic hissed by on the rainy street fifteen storeys below. Trudy Parr smoked.

“Just tell us if you’ve seen him.”

She picked up the photo once more and looked. Timothy had been a good agent. He deserved whatever he could scam out of the chaos. And he’d need it, too. He couldn’t have come back after the horror show and work in a hardware store. No one could.

She tossed the Foncie photograph back at Finch, across the desk .

“It ain’t him,” she said.

“Oh, come on.”

“Look, Trudy,” said Brandt. “We’re colleagues, you and us. We don’t wanna have to bring you in, and make this all official.”

“Don’t you?” she said. “I wonder why that is. Perhaps because you’ve obtained most of your information illegally, from classified documents. State secrets.”

“We don’t gotta bring her in,” said Finch. “We just gotta make her life difficult.”

“No,” said Brandt. “Let’s keep this friendly.”

“Friendly, my ass,” Finch said. “We cut this bitch way too much slack. She’s always slicin’ some poor bastard up or breaking an entry. Most of the private dicks in this town are standing in soup lines while she drives round in her little red Porsche and has a top floor office in the Dominion Building. Where’s the money comin’ from for all that, Trudy?”

“We solve more cases than your standard soup line dick.”

Roscoe Finch clenched his fists in his lap.

“You know what your problem is, Trudy?” he said.

“I have some ideas I haven’t shared.”

“You’re not afraid of nothin’,” Finch said, standing up. “And that ain’t healthy. It ain’t like a dame. And maybe you’re not afraid of nothin’ because you need a lesson in what to be afraid of.”

“That’s dime store talk,” said Trudy Parr.

“Take it down a notch, Roscoe,” Brandt said.

“Naw,” said Finch. “No way, She’s comin’ with us. Down to the docks. See how smart she is when she comes back with a busted nose.”

“I ain’t goin’,” said Brandt.

“What? You yellow over a skirt?” Finch said. “Ha!”

“No,” said Brandt. “I just don’t think you understand the seriousness of what you’re suggesting.”

“Fine,” Finch said, starting to move. “You go home and arrange some flowers. Me and Miss Parr are going for a ride.”

“Oh boy,” Brandt said, grimly.

Finch moved round the desk like a locomotive. When he arrived at Trudy Parr, still sitting in her desk chair, he got an unexpected size six Chanel pump to the groin, and another one hard in the chin. And as he stumbled to the floor, Trudy Parr retrieved a straight razor from where it was hidden under her chair. Then she stood, grabbed Roscoe Finch by his thinning hair, and held the razor’s edge firmly against the general area of his carotid artery.

“Don’t do it, Trudy,” Brandt said, standing up.

Finch coughed and whimpered.

“What else is there to do?” said Trudy Parr. “If I start letting this sort of thing slide, I might as well close the agency.”

“God! Trudy.” Olaf Brandt pointed at a trickle of blood dripping from Finch’s neck.

“Ah shit,” she said, and let Finch fall to the floor. “Mop this fucker up and take him back to the nursery.”

“Sure, sure,” said Brandt. He helped Finch to his feet and the men exited the office.

A moment later, the closet door next to Trudy Parr’s desk opened and a man with a scar on his left cheek stepped out.

“Glad to see you haven’t lost your panache,” said Timothy Amsterdam.

“They’re small time,” she said, and lit another cigarette. “You’ve got a train to catch.”

Amsterdam checked his wristwatch.

“Damn,” he said. “Well, it was a short but pleasant visit. Tell Crispin I said hello. And, oh! I almost forgot why I came by. We sort of lost touch, you and me, when the shooting stopped. I never got a chance to share the spoil with you. I figure I owe you something for not turning me over.”

He pulled three hand sized gold ingots, embossed with swastikas, from his satchel. They made a heavy, blunt thud when he placed them on the desk.

“That’s a load off,” Amsterdam said. “Those get heavy after a while.”

“You did kind of push your luck near the end,” said Trudy Parr. “Now nowhere is home.”

“I can’t stay put in one place more than forty-eight hours, anyway. Besides, there’s this new thing called the CIA. I hear they’re recruiting fellas like me. They’re kinda criminal, themselves. The outstanding warrant for my arrest will just make me more appealing.”

He exited Trudy Parr’s office with a tip of his hat.

She watched from her window as Timothy Amsterdam exited onto the street below, and walked toward the CPR station.

“You know,” Virginia said, coming into Trudy’s office with the mail. “It’s not even lunchtime yet, and you’ve already nearly cut off a cop’s head, and there’s a small fortune in Nazi gold on your desk.”

“It’s a glamorous life,” said Trudy Parr.

the Persian rug

Vancouver 1949 

The Agent drank coffee at a lunch counter in the railroad station. He was young, casting a lonesome glow. The waitress had flirted, but he’d been cold. It wasn’t his training, but his inclination. She wasn’t a target, and therefore unworthy of notice.

He had made the telephone call, the one upon which all things hinged. Now he sat idle, in wait. He’d studied his target thoroughly, her image hung on a wall in the evening light of his mind. He’d try for a quiet kill, something restrained, close-in so that he could experience the life drain from her. Garrotting suited him best. Or a knife, so he could look into her eyes as she faded from the world. But a bullet wasn’t out of the question, either. He carried a .38 revolver, and hated it. It was a repulsive way to kill, the stuff of armatures.

His instructions were this: Wait three hours from the designated time. If she doesn’t appear, hunt her down, at her office first. She’d be there alone.

They said she was unpredictable, dangerous even. He was both those things, too. A small part of him wished he could have met her under different circumstances.

* * * * *

the offices of Dench and Parr Investigations

It came in the morning office mail, a parcel wrapped in brown paper and butcher string, the size of a detective novel. There was an envelope attached, held fast by cellophane tape. It had a Winnipeg post mark. Trudy Parr held the package in her hand for a moment, recognising the sender’s handwriting. She gave it a shake, something moved inside. Then she decided it could only contain bad memories, and dropped it into her inbox. The telephone rang.

“Dench and Parr Investigations, Trudy Parr speaking.”

“There’s a parcel in the mail,” a voice said. “It should be there by now. It should be on your desk, I reckon.”

“Who’s speaking?”

“Doesn’t matter. Open the package.”

“I know the handwriting on the label. It doesn’t match your voice.”

“The fellow who sent it to you, Bertrand Mosley, he’s dead. This is between you and me now.”

“Bertrand’s dead? How? Why?”

“Never mind that. Bertrand said you was a clever little Chiquita. It’s all about the parcel now, so get clever and open it up.”

“I don’t like your tone, buster. I think I’m gonna hang up and toss your package in the trash.”

A third voice came onto the line. “Another thirty-five cents for the next six minutes, mister.”

“Long distance,” Trudy Parr said. “Where you calling from?”

There was the sound of coins dropping into a slot and bells chiming.

“Where I’m calling from is immaterial. Open the package.”

“You just wasted thirty-five cents, boyo.” Trudy Parr hung up the phone.

Picking up the package again, she examined Bertrand Mosley’s flamboyant script. He’d been sweet to her, strange for a heartless, solitary killer. They’d met in Paris in 1943. He’d been notorious as an Allied spy. A homosexual ridiculed for his proclivities, but valuable for where they could take him. Could he actually be dead? She wondered how any of them, who’d been present for the slaughter, could still be alive. She cut the string and opened the envelope.

Dear Trudy, 

I hope this correspondence finds you well. I have landed here in Winnipeg, on my way to Montreal and then New York, after a brief time in your little city. Sorry I didn’t contact you, but I was on a selfish mission. Please take the contents of this package and proceed to the CPR Station to retrieve a certain asset of mine. It’s something I hold very dear, but that I can no longer have in my own possession. I hope leaving it with you doesn’t cause you any difficulties. I’ve been as stealthy as possible. I know I can trust you with it.

Say hello to that man of yours, Crispin Dench, the one you always claim is just a business partner. Well if you don’t want him, I certainly do.

TTFN,

Bertrand

PS: The package you’ve just opened contains one very valuable little item. I placed it there to spark your interest. It’s yours in payment for services rendered in this matter.

Trudy Parr tore away the brown paper on the package to reveal a blue box embossed with Tiffany & Co. She lifted the lid and found two objects wrapped in tissue. One was a locker key with the number 237. The other was a small red velvet pouch with a drawstring. She recognised it from what now seemed like another life, and picked it up and felt for the contents. It was exactly what she expected, a hard object, pointed at one end and flat at the other. She’d felt that shape before. Memories of Paris returned. She opened the drawstring and dumped the object out onto her desk. It wasn’t from Tiffany & Co., of course. That was just Bertrand’s sense of humour.

She wasn’t an authority, but she guessed it was flawless. And that there were more of them somewhere, unclaimed because they were lost to the world. Lost because Bertrand had made off with them, late in 1944.

“I have in my possession something very valuable,” Bertrand told her in a pub in London. It had been Christmastime, and she’d had just enough Jameson’s to feel a warm appreciation for the fairy lights strung across the bar.

“It’s something that I was able to smuggle back from Paris in a SIS satchel,” he said, sounding as though he were in Confession. “I’m telling you this now because in order for me to enjoy the value of this possession, I must disappear completely. The war’s all but over now anyway, and we spies will soon be made redundant. Besides, an ageing queen like me needs to know when to exit with dignity. But I didn’t want to disappear and have you think I finally got my throat cut. No, dear Trudy, this is a voluntary departure, and I wanted to wish you all of the best in your postwar post-assassin life. Though what it will mean for us is anyone’s guess. I feel like I’ll never be anything but what they’ve trained me to be, and what does a spy with a flair for silent killing do when the hostilities end?”

And it was in that moment at the bar, for the first time since the whole thing began, she wondered the same thing about herself.

It was an open question. Bertrand gulped back his gin.

Bertrand hadn’t said in the pub what his valuable possession was, but Trudy Parr had an idea. The two of them had handled some very valuable items a short time before, thousands of them at once in fact, just before they were extracted from Paris. It had been a special mission that included her, Bertrand and Crispin Dench. There’d been an astonishing number of the shiny little things. Each one either perfect or near perfect. Each one stolen and hoarded by the Nazi’s, then found and hoarded by the Allies. They’d been graded and inventoried. Trudy, Dench and Mosley were charged with bringing them to London, but their exit from Paris had been difficult and dangerous. And when they arrived in London, the actual count didn’t match the tally. Who could say why? War is chaotic, and the expectations of spymasters are often unrealistic.

Now she used her finger to roll the diamond round in a small circle on her desk blotter. It was over a carat, perhaps one and a half. And it caught the light from her office window in the way a diamond will. It was gorgeous. But she still wondered at the value of it versus its utility. The telephone rang again.

“You’ve opened it, I reckon.”

“’Reckon’,” Trudy Parr said. “That’s an American way of saying ‘I guess’, isn’t it?” As she said this, she quickly scanned a list in her mind of people she and Bertrand had in common.

“Maybe,” said the man on the line.

“And you have a slight accent. I’d say northern Illinois, near the lake. Chicago, right?”

“Don’t mess with me, Chiquita.”

“Are you calling from Chicago?” said Trudy Parr. “Is this extortion via long distance?”

“The locker that key belongs to,” said the man, “Mosley put a bag in it seven days ago. The locker has a seven day rental limit. Sometime within the next twenty-four hours, it’s going to be emptied out by train station management. That will complicate things for me.”

Trudy Parr reclined in her desk chair. “You know,” she said, “I used to know a mug that used words like Chiquita and reckon all the time. He was with the OSS, worked the Counter-espionage Desk outta London during the war. His name was Larry Flannigan, from Chicago. A real smarmy bastard with bad hair, used a cheap eau de toilette that really stank up the place. Is that you, Larry? Why are you calling me from a pay telephone in Chicago, why not your office? You’re with the CIA now, aren’t you?”

There was a moment of silence, faint clicks on the long distance line.

“I never liked you, Trudy,” Flannigan said, “you bitch. You’re arrogant, a loose cannon, not a team player, a liability.”

“And you’re a real company man, eh Larry? What do you drive now, a Buick? Not a Cadillac or a Lincoln, no no no, too showy. Got a nice little sports model for the wife to drive to the country club too, I bet. You’ve got a townhouse in the city and a country house just outta town on the lake shore, somewhere quiet where there’s still a few trees. And it’s all paid for with the war swag you stole on the job in London. That’s right isn’t it, Larry? And that crowd you run with now, they think you’re a bit of a poser, don’t they. They think you’re swinging above your pay-grade. But you don’t care. You’re way off their radar. You keep your savings under your mattress. And now it’s the Agency that matters, right? Your new source of potential loot.”

Another silent pause.

“Those are some good guesses,” Flannigan said. “You want in on this? I can cut you in.”

“You killed Bertrand.”

“Fuck Bertrand, we’re talking millions here.”

“I liked Bertrand.”

“He was a fucking homo. The world’s a better place without him.”

“What did you do? Did you cut him, shoot him, throw him in front of a subway car? Just tell me it was quick, you fucking bastard.”

“He had a heart attack, potassium chloride and calcium gluconate. He died fast, in a New York City bath house. Now can we get on with this?”

“So how was this caper supposed to play out, Larry? Was I supposed to cheerfully mail you the goods when I got them? You’ve got a shadow up here waiting for me to retrieve the bag, don’t you? I’m your last chance at the ice, and once I’ve got it, I’m dead.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Why did you call me, Larry? You needed to know that the key had actually arrived, didn’t you.”

Trudy Parr got up from the desk and locked her office door.

“You’re sending your boy up right now,” she said, “you sick fuck. You should know me better though, Larry. It’s your job to know better. I don’t die easy. Why didn’t you just have your man pick the lock?”

“I know you’re alone up there, Trudy. Dench is following up on a missing person case, and your secretary’s off with a cold. That’s why you answered your own phone.”

“That will be thirty-five cents for the next….” — the third voice again.

“Fuck!” – the sound of coins dropping and bells chiming.

Suddenly there was a sound in the outer office, a door opening and closing. Trudy Parr listened. The Agent stepped into the reception area, appreciating the well kept Art Deco surroundings.

“You still there, Trudy?” said Flannigan.

She didn’t answer Flannigan. She listened.

“He’s there, isn’t he?” Flannigan said. “So, it’s too late for dealing. Make it easy on yourself, Trudy. He’s a good man. His name is Malcolm Corey. He’s a family man, goes to church every Sunday. He’ll shoot you clean in the heart, no strangling, no rape, no torture. One bullet, I promise. CIA agents are a new breed, respectful, sane, squeaky clean. They’re sharp, though. He’s been briefed on you. That straight razor shit ain’t gonna work on him.”

Trudy Parr pulled a .45 and clip out of her desk. She put down the receiver and loaded the pistol, and picked up the receiver again.

“Did I just hear you loading a gun, Trudy?” Flannigan said.

“Damn straight.”

“Well now you’re just being wilful. This is why I hate the whole idea of lady spies.”

“Wrong again, Larry. I ain’t no lady, and I’m not a spy anymore. I’m just a citizen who enjoys protecting herself.”

The doorknob turned slightly.

“I’m putting the receiver down now, Larry. I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Ahh, Trudy, this is so unnecessary….”

Trudy Parr’s name was painted neatly across a frosted window in the upper half of her office door. The Agent was crouching low beside it, not in front, trying the doorknob. Locked, a small obstacle, but it meant a silent kill might be out of the question. He pulled his revolver.

From behind her desk, she guessed at the Agent’s approximate location, took aim and squeezed the trigger. She fired three times, the bullets flying through the wall above the crouching Agent’s head.

She listened for a body falling to the floor, but the gun fire was deafening. The kill was unconfirmed.

She knew that if he was still alive, in a second, the door would come crashing in. She reached under her desk. There was a straight razor there; there was always a straight razor there, held in place with two strips of masking tape. She pulled it free and, lacking a better place, secured it under her dress in the top of her stocking.

Then she saw the Agent’s silhouette through the frosted glass The door came crashing in, and she took refuge behind her desk heavy oak desk.

He was in her office now, silent but moving. She’d been trained this way, too. Never be still. Never stop listening. Use your instincts. Feel the room and its hidden target on your skin. Given a choice, a man will instinctively move to the left when he enters a room, a woman to the right. Don’t count on it, however, when dealing with a trained assassin. He may move neither left nor right, but in a straight line, over obstructions as best he can. Listen for his breath, his clothing, moving on his body, his body against the walls, the drapes. Listen for footfalls, the floorboards.

She did that now, and heard all of those things. It was like radar. Then, a familiar creak in the hardwood to her left. But the Agent heard it too, beneath his foot, and he fell and rolled left, all the time aiming in Trudy Parr’s general direction.

She crawled left also, to the other end of the desk. Timing was everything now. She grabbed the wastepaper basket and threw it over the desktop. The Agent was on his knees, saw the basket and fired. He reproached himself immediately, as Trudy Parr thought he might. It was the error of a novice. Now she had only a split second. She struggled to her knees, firing twice at the Agent over the desk. The first shot went wide, the second hit the mark. The Agent spun backward, onto the floor.

She ducked back behind the desk. It was quiet now. The post gunfight quiet she always found disconcerting. It meant someone was dead, or dying. She stood up, maintaining her aim. But blood pooled round the Agent’s body on the Persian rug. A good sign, the living don’t bleed like that.

Cautiously, she stepped toward him, kicking his revolver away. Then she knelt next to the body, feeling the neck for a pulse. The pulse of a dying man could be very hard to detect. Did she feel something there, some beat of life? She decided to back off. It was the wrong time for conjecture. She’d call the cops, and watch him until they arrived.

Standing, she turned toward her desk telephone. She’d have to hang up on Flannigan, but that didn’t happen. The Agent grasped her ankle. She looked down and saw he’d pulled a knife, and moved her foot enough for it to miss by less than an inch. His grip remained strong, in spite of his condition. Trudy Parr kicked him in the face with her free foot. He recovered quickly and reached up, grasping her dress and pulling her down. When she hit the floor, she released the .45 and it spun out of reach.

“Fucking bitch,” the Agent hissed, swinging his knife, cutting her cheek.

Her eyes narrowed as her hand went to the wound. She took it away and saw blood.

“Not so pretty anymore,” he said, and swung the knife a second time.

This time he missed and loosened his grip on her ankle. She pulled herself away and scrambled for the gun. But he grabbed her ankle again and pulled her back. In seconds, with the macabre strength and agility of a rapidly dying man, he had an arm around her and the knife to her throat.

“We die together then,” he said, tightening his hold. “Go ahead and struggle. I like that.”

Trudy Parr felt the keenness of the blade on her throat, and knew she may have lost the last fight of her life. But then her hand fell onto the razor in her stocking. She reached under her dress and pulled it out, giving it a shake to release the blade from the handle. Then she sliced the strong arm holding her against the Agent’s fading body.

“Fucking bitch,” he yelp as the razor cut in.

She’d escaped, but the Agent lunged toward her once more, and she swung the razor as he did. Aiming well, she opened his throat. The wound went deep. He grabbed at the gash that bubbled as the blood spilled. There was a peculiar look in his eyes. She’d seen it before. He wasn’t used to loosing to a woman.

Trudy Parr stood up again and looked down at him. Soon, he’d most certainly be among the confirmed dead. But she lamented the loss of the Persian rug, upon which he bled.

After a moment, she heard what sounded like frantic whispering and picked up the telephone receiver.

“You still there Larry, you bum?”

“Where’s my fucking agent?”

“He’s bleeding to death on my 600 knots per square inch Persian, you bastard.”

“You killed an American, you bitch,” Flannigan said. “We’re coming for you.”

“Go ahead, send in the Marines,” Trudy Parr said, picking up the locker key. “I’ve gotta get down to the train station.”

doppelgänger fantasia part 5

Read part 1 here, Read part 2 here, Read part 3 here, Read part 4 here

Paris July, 1944

Round midnight. There was an air-raid siren in the distance. He entered through the alley door, climbed three flights of stairs and walked the corridor maze to her door. He was a tall rangy man whose face seemed always to be in shadow. He knocked.

“Oui?” came the quiet pensive voice from within.

“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle.”

“What the hell…?” She opened the door part way. “Your can’t be here. Beat it.”

The tall man, Henry Caine, American OSS, pushed his way in. The apartment was dimly lit with candles and a Tiffany desk lamp. There was a Boldini on one wall, a Picasso on another. “Ah, my Soho,” he said, removing his hat. “So distant and haunting. Please close the door. We have to talk.”

“No, we don’t,” said Trudy Parr. She was dressed in a pale blue silk kimono. She closed the door. “I’ve been instructed not to talk to you. We shouldn’t even be seen together.”

“Those instructions are dated,” Caine said, lighting a cigarette and handing it to her. “The Nazis are old news in Paris. The elephants are in the trees.”

She accepted the cigarette. “Perhaps the Nazis don’t share your point of view.” She drew on the cigarette then looked at it. It was a Camel.

“They wouldn’t, would they,” he said. “But isn’t that always the way with an extinct species. They’re already looting the city. The swag trains heading into Switzerland are overflowing.”

“You’re risking our lives to tell me that?”

“No,” he said. He lit a second cigarette for himself, removed his coat and sat in a Royère chair. “It’s about Doppelgänger. That thing the Nazis are doing in Lyon, at the École polytechnique, with anomalistic microwaves. You know what I mean. Anyway, I understand the Russians want it when the fracas ends. Just because the Germans stole it from them, like that still means anything now. Point is, the English are willing to role over and let them have it. Something about sharing the spoils and all that. But I’ve decided that ain’t in the cards.”

“What have I got to do with it?”

“Two things, actually. First, in time, you’ll tell them in London that I’ve decided that the Russians can’t have Doppelgänger. We’re probably going to give them a piece of Germany and Berlin. And they should be damn glad we are. The US army’s rolling now. We could take it right into Moscow if we liked.”

“Tell them yourself,” said Trudy Parr. “Have someone stateside do it. I’m not your monkey.”

“They don’t know stateside,” Caine said. “Maybe I don’t want them to know, not yet anyway. I just decided this last night. It’s a field decision, get it? When things start happening round here in a few weeks, they’re gonna happen fast. I don’t have time to run to daddy. The second thing is that I want you and Dillinger to help me infiltrate the Doppelgänger operation so it’s ready and in our possession when our tanks roll in.”

“Screw you, Caine. We don’t work for you. Get your own people to do it.”

“We’ve taken casualties. My numbers are down and everyone’s already assigned. Besides, no one would ever guess we’re working together. That’s the genius of the plan.”

“What plan?” said Trudy Parr. She knew Henry Caine well enough to know that likely no plan existed. “And you’ve taken casualties because you’re reckless. You treat everyone like they’re disposable. Working with you is a death sentence.”

“Look, Trudy,” Caine said, standing up from the chair. “Patton’s on his way. You and Dench are foreign spies in what’ll damn soon be American territory. You wanna come down on the right side, don’t you? It’ll cushion the fall.”

“What fall? I thought we were all on the same side.”

“Hey,” he said stepping closer, “this is war, sugar. Nothing’s for certain. The world bleeds, but the US hasn’t even reached its full war production capacity. We could take it all, baby.”

“Why would you? Most of it’s yours for the asking.”

“Don’t ask me to make it sound rational, doll.” He reached out and tugged gently on the lapel of her kimono. “It’s just what people do. They kill each other and steal their stuff. Why should the states stop now when we’re on a roll? The banks are loving it and everyone has a job.”

Their eyes met and then she looked away. There were bombs falling in the distance now. “You’re not making sense.”

“We’re Americans, Trudy. We’re God’s switchblade children. Never tell us what we can’t do, or we’ll push the Apocalypse button and eat popcorn while we watch you burn.” He took her hand and tenderly kissed the palm. “I’m bringing you in on this so you don’t get hurt. We’re allies tonight; by tomorrow that could all be over.”

She pulled her hand away. “Don’t,” she said. “That part of this war’s over.”

“No,” he said embracing her. “Not over. We never really got started.” She struggled as he kissed her. “That’s right, baby,” he whispered. “Fight it. That’s how it goes with us, isn’t it. We scrap, and you lose. Then I take what I want.”

Struggling to free herself, she brought the heel of her hand up hard and sharp under his chin. His jaw slammed shut with a loud blunt thud. He stumbled backward, dazed and shaking his head. In the second that followed, Trudy Parr opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pistol. She stood and took aim. He grinned as he regained himself, rubbing his chin.

“This is bringing back some very fond memories, baby,” he said.

“Yeah, well come on over for some more.”

“Ah, honey. You’ve never pulled a gun before. This ain’t part of the game.” He stepped towards her. “You’re not gonna shoot me, anyway. Wadda you gonna do with the body?”

“There’re plenty of corpses in Paris right now. Yours would blend in just fine.”

“We had a good thing once.” He tried to look wounded. “Remember London?”

“I remember you were a stinker.”

“But we had fun.”

“You did. I got bruises.”

“Maybe I was falling in love.”

“You can’t love anything in this world and neither can I.”

“Oh, I get it,” Caine said, as though he’d just solved a puzzle. “It’s Dench, isn’t it? He finally jumped your bones and now you’re doing the boogie woogie. Well ain’t that precious. You’re his little quail.”

“You know better than that, Henry. I ain’t nobody’s quail.”

“Then let’s do this.” He threw his cigarette onto the Persian carpet and attacked.

She knew she’d never look back to ask herself why she didn’t fire the weapon. Killing Caine would have just been plain wrongheaded. He wasn’t really bad, just an asshole. Like all Americans. Besides, she figured romance had rules – even their kind of romance.

He batted the gun away and pulled her close, grabbing her viciously by her hair. Her hand went down and caressed him. He kissed her hard, no hope of tenderness now. Then he tore off her kimono.

“Where’s the fucking bedroom in this museum,” he said. She smiled and nodded over her shoulder, never losing contact with is his hard hazel eyes. He pushed her towards it.

where clocks reign time part 3.1

Read Part 1 here, Read Part 2 here, Read Part 3 here, Read Part 4 here

I’ve written part 3.1 of where clocks reign time to add context to a TV pilot script based on the story. If you’re a Trudy Parr fan, and I know many of you are, this will definitely be your cup of tea. If you’ve never met Trudy Parr, then now’s your chance.
          In this part of the story, we find Crispin Dench and Trudy Parr in the Rothschild Mansion in 1943 Paris. They are masquerading as a SS Officer and his date attending a Christmas Party, hoping to get to the secret behind Operation Time Clock and eliminate it. This is where Trudy Parr almost assassinates the antagonist, Hansel Orav, with her trademark straight razor, and thereby sets the tone for their feature engagements. 

Rothschild Mansion, Paris 1943

Crispin Dench and Trudy Parr followed the small group of seven down a dark staircase and into the cellar of the mansion.

“When the shit starts,” Trudy Parr whispered to Dench on the stairs, “that fat fuck is mine.”

Orav led the group through a large reinforced blast door and into the laboratory. The light inside was bright white and all of the surfaces were spotlessly hygienic.

“This is the centre of our little universe,” Orav said with a sweeping gesture. “Here we are endeavouring to use our greatest enemy’s own tricks against him.”

“What does that mean?” an officer in the group asked.

“The Jews have their own magic,” Orav said. “It’s wicked and unclean, but it’s effective. And we have tapped into it.” He walked over to a tall stainless steel closet and opened the door. Inside stood a tall man-like figure made of what looked like clay. It was broad shouldered and nearly seven feet tall, and it had long cruel claws on both of its hands.

“A statue?” said another voice in the small group.

“A golem,” said Orav.

“Does Herr Hitler know about this,” asked the officer.

“To this point,” Orav said, “it has been a ‘need to know’ affair. Recent advances ensuring the projects success, however, have changed that. Hence your presence here. We are now in the process of informing the upper echelon.”

Having said this, Orav clapped his hands twice and the golem opened its eyes. There were gasps of surprise in the crowd. One woman fainted and nearly fell to the floor as the military men reached for their side arms. Trudy Parr undid the clasp on her bag.

“Golem,” Orav snapped. “Step out.”

The golem obeyed and stepped out of its container.

“Virtually indestructible,” Orav said addressing the group. “And completely obedient. Imagine sending our troops home and letting an army of these fight our enemies and conquer the world.”

Dench and Trudy Parr’s eyes met and a silent message passed between them. Dench reached into his tunic and pulled out a Walther PPK with a silencer. He stepped back from the crowd and began firing well aimed headshots. There was quiet confusion as the group began to die and fall to the floor. Trudy Parr pulled a straight razor from her bag and went for Orav.

Orav saw her coming but was as surprised by the unfolding events as everyone else. He reached for his Luger, but not fast enough. Trudy Parr slashed his throat and blood splattered on the walls and floor, but it wasn’t a killing wound.

“Bitch!” he coughed wide eyed, holding his hands to his throat.

“I ain’t done yet, you filthy Nazi bastard,” she said and lunged at him, but the golem pushed her away. Orav turned and made for the back of the lab, exiting through a sliding door. He trailed blood all of the way.

Dench dropped an empty magazine, reloaded and fired on the golem. The bullets merely passed through it.

“Stop,” said Trudy Parr. “You can’t kill it.”

“Then I’ll fucking die trying,” said Dench.

“No,” said Trudy Parr, looking at the thing inscrutably. She still held the straight razor, dripping Orav’s blood. It was a bizarre scene, but she’d comprehended something in that moment that only she could.. “It’s blameless,” she said. “Orav’s the bad guy, the one who pulls all the strings. There’s always some prick in the dark, pulling strings.”

Dench relented. “It’s a killer, Trudy.”

“I guess it is. We have that in common, don’t we. But it was conjured up by a maniac. I don’t know how I know it, but I know it’s innocent. That’s how it is, right?” She said this stepping up to the golem.

“Fuck, Trudy,” Dench said. “Back off. It’ll tear you apart.”

“No it won’t,” Trudy Parr said, reaching out to it. The golem stood perfectly still and looked back at her. “You don’t want to. Do you?”

“Then let’s get the hell outta here,” Dench said. “By now Orav’ll have the whole German army coming down on us.”

They looked around for an exit. Going back up the stairs didn’t seem smart.

“I don’t see a safe exit,” Dench said.

“How do we escape this place?” Trudy Parr said the golem.

“Try that,” the golem said, slurring its words. It pointed a clawed finger at the sliding door Orav had used.

Dench looked at Trudy Parr and shrugged. “Why the hell not?”

They exited through the sliding door, leaving the golem standing in the lab. It watched them leave and then closed its eyes.

at the grave of Gypsy Anne Kaufmann

                                 another gripping Trudy Parr/Crispin Dench mystery

1949

It was the Gypsy’s funeral. We all stood waiting for the rain to stop, but the clouds never parted. Nothing ruins a good funeral like rain. It isolates the grieving beneath dripping umbrellas, and adds to the bleakness of the moment. But this was February in Vancouver. A city at the edge of a rain forest was supposed to get rain. The Gypsy knew this, and she’d opted for a concrete lined vault with drainage. She’d obviously put more thought and money into the inevitable than most of the rest of us. After the slab was laid on top, she’d have the driest joint in town.

I was at the funeral for Trudy, providing support. Trudy had known Gypsy Anne Kaufmann for most of her life. Their friendship began in elementary school, and lasted until a week ago when the Gypsy was found dead in her east end home. It was a mysterious death, and the police were keeping mum. I’d talked to officers who’d been on the scene, and I’d been to the Coroner’s Office to get what I could. But they were all part of the same quiet choir. It was enough to make you want to smack someone. But I knew that some information, the good stuff, had to be waited on. The important part was letting the right people know just what you wanted, so they could spill when they couldn’t hold on anymore. That’s what I was good at. I was almost always the first person the pigeons would call when the time was right.

Trudy and I shared an umbrella. She wore crimson kid gloves and red shoes that contrasted well against her blonde hair, a black wool coat and hat, and a black Dior dress. She placed a small bouquet on the casket that lay beneath a canvass shelter next to the vault, and then she turned away.

There were several similar gestures before the small crowd began to mill about, and old friends were reacquainted after so many years. Trudy, however, walked away toward the Jaguar, slowly in the rain with her hands in her coat pockets. I followed. When I caught up with her, she was leaning against the passenger side door. Gorgeous, even in the rain, but she looked startled. A Vogue model on a bad day, but no. The war had made her too much of a potential menace for polite society. It was safer for everyone that she worked with me, chasing leads and going after bad guys. The war had ended four years ago, but she and I had been changed by indoctrination and duty. Maybe we should never have come back when it was all done, but that was an old and pointless conversation. We’d missed our chance to go out in a hail of bullets when the Nazis evacuated Paris.

“Times like this make me think about the war,” I said. “The last days, I mean.”

“You shouldn’t,” she said.

She smiled weakly, and for a brief moment lost her startled look. Now under my umbrella once more, she took a package of Black Cat cigarettes out of her purse. She pulled one out, and I retrieved my lighter holding it ready. She bit the cork end off the cigarette and daintily spit it out to the side. I lit it. We’d done this a thousand times before. I had never asked her why she didn’t just buy plain cigarettes without the cork. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t ask why she still carried a nickel finish .38 automatic in her handbag, either. Asking would sound like disapproval; I didn’t disapprove.

“I think about the war the way you drink whisky,” she said. “A couple of shots at a time, and then only occasionally. But you, Crispin. When you think about the war you do it like an angel on a mission, always weeping for the dead you might’ve saved. Always looking for what went so wrong, looking for a solution that you think must have been there all along but that was never obvious enough — always looking, always. Sometimes you seem obsessed with the past, maybe trying to rewrite it. Trying to make out like your reasons were noble, that you were never capable of a wrong action. That’s very Canadian of you, of course. But nothing about Paris under the Nazis was right. Our country trained us to be spies and assassins, and Paris turned us into exterminators. Now you, me and a few others, we’re the only ones left who saw it all happen up close. And sometimes the best we can manage is avoiding eye contact.”

“And now that Gypsy Anne is gone?” I said.

Trudy drew hard on her cigarette and said, “Now that Gypsy Anne is gone we’re even more alone than ever, the two of us.”

“She used to promise that she’d return from the dead, remember?”

“She said she’d bring chocolates,” Trudy said. And then she said, “It’s cold. I want to go back to the office.”

I wanted to say no, that this town’s infidelities and transgressions could go on without the two of us for one day, in memory of the Gypsy. Maybe I’d suggest we go for a couple shots of rye. But then Detective Lieutenant Egon waddled over from the thinning crowd with something on his mind.

“Hello, you two,” Egon said. “Sorry about your friend, Trudy. I hear you was in the war together.”

“That’s still classified,” Trudy said.

“Yeah, well,” Egon said belatedly removing his hat. “Just so you know, we’re still looking into who might have been responsible for her death. There weren’t many clues.”

“’…weren’t many?’” Trudy said. “That means there were at least some.”

“Fingerprints, mainly. We’re still working on those,” Egon said. “The door was forced; there was a broken mirror and some blood. I don’t think it was hers, though. She wasn’t cut the coroner says.”

“Just strangled,” Trudy said.

“You’re right,” I said. “That ain’t much. You going to take a second look?”

“The boys go in again this afternoon,” Egon said, and then went quiet. He stared at his shoes, and then he said, “In the meantime you two might want to look at this, come over here.” He walked back in the direction of the Gypsy’s grave and stood over a tarp on the ground. Lifting the corner of the tarp, he revealed the slab that was going to be laid over the Gypsy’s vault. It was polished British Columbia granite with a shining blank copper plate in the centre measuring three feet by two.

“Either of you know what that’s about?”

“It was among her final wishes,” a man said behind us.

We turned to see a man in overalls, work boots and a peaked cap. “I’m Arturo Grapelli,” he said holding out his hand, “cemetery keeper.” Egon took Grapelli’s hand and gave it a shake. Then Grapelli tipped his hat to Trudy. “In her will, Mrs Kaufmann instructed that this slab should be laid today, as is. Tomorrow at 12.05 pm, a framed piece of tempered plate glass must be placed over the copper sheet and bolted down.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Have to ask her,” Grapelli said, and stuck a toothpick in his mouth.

“You two sure know some odd ducks,” Egon said.

“She’s got nothing to prove to you, Egon,” Trudy said.

“Ah, come now, Tru…”

“Let it go, Egon,” I said.

“All I know,” Trudy said, “is that I’m going to be here tomorrow to see the glass placed over that copper plate. The Gypsy never did anything without a reason.”

I took Trudy gently by the hand and walked with her back to the Jag.

The cemetery was on high ground. Below us was Vancouver shrouded in low clouds. We exited, and turned onto Fraser Street.

“I don’t think Egon is smart enough to really insult anyone,” I said to Trudy.

“I’ll decide whether I’ve been insulted, Crispin.”

“Okay,” I said, and shifted down for a light.

“Are you afraid that I’ll spank his big fat ass?”

“A little, I guess,” I said.

“After all the previous opportunities I’ve had?”

“Sometimes these things are cumulative. Shit builds up, no?”

“Maybe,” Trudy said. “But maybe Egon is far more valuable to us alive.”

That was good thinking, and I smiled. I looked across at her and saw that she smiled, too. All of which meant absolutely nothing as far as Egon went. Trudy was a very reactive girl, and someday Egon was going to mouth off at exactly the wrong moment. I hoped that moment was a long way off, and made for the office.

When we arrived, there were two characters waiting in the hall outside of the office. One of them was Horis Weld, a local who’d taken a severe hit to the head at Normandy. He hadn’t been right ever since. The other character, I didn’t recognize. But I knew the type.

“What’s the score, Horis,” I said unlocking the door to the office.

“Just wonderin’ if yer spittoon needs cleanin’,” Mr Dench.

“Horis,” I said. “I’m willing to bet that there’s not one spittoon in this whole building.”

“Just one I know of, for sure,” Horis said.

“Oh,” I said. “Who’s still got a spittoon in this day and age,”

“Mr Boughwraith, but he says his wife cleans it for him.”

Trudy said, “No money in that is there, Horis,” and placed a dollar bill in his hand.

“Oh thanks, Miss Parr. But I ain’t done nothing for you yet. You got some chores or odd jobs?”

“Just think good thoughts,” Trudy said. “And spend it on lunch, not hooch.”

“Okay, bye. I’ll be at the Ovaltine if you need me.”

The other character followed Trudy and I into the office and said, “Your line of work seems to attract some interesting persons.”

I looked at him and told myself that he was right. Then I said, “Horis there’s a good fella. He’d give you the shirt off his back if he could find it. Who are you?”

“My name is Klaus Finn,” he said as he fixed the lapels on his suit jacket. He walked toward me holding out his hand, and I sensed that there were likely things about Mr Finn that I really didn’t want to know. Maybe I should have sent him on his way, but business is business. I invited him into my private office, and asked him to have a seat.

Once settled in, I asked Finn what it was he needed to see me about.

“It’s about Gypsy Anne Kaufmann,” Finn said. “The woman whose funeral you and your secretary attended this morning.”

I heard my door open and Trudy stepped in, “I heard the Gypsy’s name. May I sit in?”

“Of course, Trudy. Pull up a seat.”

“Please Mr Dench,” Finn said in his hard to place accent. “Surely it’s inappropriate to have one’s help allowed in on a sensitive and private discussion.”

“It’s the damnedest thing, Mr Finn,” I said. “Miss Parr and I don’t have help, unless you include the night janitor. You might say we’re helpless. Miss Parr and I are partners. You hire me, you also hire Miss Parr. Anything you have to say to me, you can say to her.”

Finn remained seated for a moment working the angles. Then he stood up saying, “It has been my mistake. Please forgive me. I shall seek assistance elsewhere.” He started for the door. Trudy also stood and put her arm across the door to block Finn’s path.

“You ain’t going nowhere, Jasper,” she said. “You used my friend’s name in vain, and now you’re going to tell us what you’ve got on your polluted little mind.”

“Please, miss,” Finn said. “I beg you not to force me to exercise my superior male advantage.”

“Oh, brother,” I said shrinking into my chair.

“I will allow you a moment to move and then….”

“And then?” Trudy said. “You gonna belt me one?”

Finn looked at me and said, “Have you no control over this woman, Mr Dench?”

“None whatsoever, Mr Finn.”

“In that case,” Finn said. “I have no choice but to….”

In 1938, in an overwhelming fit of infatuation, I asked Trudy Parr to marry me. I had purchased an engagement ring from an Italian jeweller on Commercial Drive, and presented it to her while on a stroll to Third Beach in Stanley Park. She refused me, saying that she was unworthy and would, if married to me, eventually drive me insane. I pleaded with her, but in the end found myself the soul owner of a nearly flawless half carat white diamond mounted in a white gold setting on an eighteen carat gold ring. The Depression was still on, and asking the jeweller to take back such a costly piece of jewellery didn’t sit well with me. So I left it with Trudy, who eventually accepted it as a token of friendship. On a night of fireworks in the park, I slipped it into the pocket of her dress. Several weeks later, it appeared on her right hand ring finger where it has remained ever since.

Whatever violent act Mr Finn was planning to perpetrate against Trudy Parr, it was interrupted by her swift right hook. The fist upon which was placed the engagement ring.  My gift to Trudy had ruined the good looks of many a miscreant. Finn called out for my assistance. Then there was a thud, as Finn hit the ground. The pugilism ended, Trudy took a seat.

“You think that sort of thing might be bad for business?” I said to her.

“He was walking out. Now he’s not. He may still write a cheque.”

“He could sue,” I said.

Trudy shrugged, “Maybe. But then again, dead men don’t sue.”

From where Finn lay there came a pitiful moan, and then a sharp yelp, “I’m bleeding. You fiendish woman, you’ve cut my face.”

I walked over and stood looking down at him where he sat on the floor, and dropped my handkerchief into his lap. “You got something to say about the Gypsy, Finn?”

“Not to you,” he said wiping the blood off his chin. “I will be calling the police, and reporting this to my attorney. I am not common human trash off the street. I have influential friends who….”

I bent over and grabbed Finn by the lapels of his pricey suit, and pulled him up face to face. “You think my partner here can kick some ass, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you don’t start answering our questions, I’m going to throw you out of that window. That’s the back of the building, so you’ll land in the trash fifteen floors down.”

Finn gasped and clenched his fists. His eyes narrowed, and then he slouched. I let go of him, and he sat gloomily down on the leather sofa.

“I came to you,” he said, “because of your association with Gypsy Anne. I know that you were an Allied spy in Nazi occupied Paris.”

“As was Miss Parr, here,” I said.

“Yes,” Finn said, dabbing his bruised and bleeding chin with my handkerchief. “Gypsy Anne was your primary intelligence contact in England. I’m aware that she communicated with you via the BBC, Morse code and smuggled satchel. But she wasn’t the heroic figure you imagine. And before you choose to pummel me again or throw me out the window, please hear me out. You may have known that the Gypsy was an occultist.”

“That’s old news,” Trudy said. “It’s why she was called Gypsy in the first place.”

“Just so,” Finn said. “Now, like the Nazi’s, the Allies were investigating the occult in search of an ultimate weapon. Gypsy Anne was very high up in the Allied secret Occult Weapons Program. She was an extremely gifted person, and was something of an ultimate weapon herself.”

“Meaning what,” I said.

“She could manipulate matter, conjure spirits, move solid objects through time and space. Her kind comes along only very rarely. With Gypsy Anne’s help, the Allied Occult Weapons Program was on the verge of some great discoveries. That was when Churchill found out about the program. He had a bizarre puritanical fit, and put an end to it. Gypsy Anne was demoted, but remained your England contact until the end of the war. Her record of achievements is still classified.”

“And,” Trudy said.

Finn said, “This will be difficult for you, Miss Parr, but Gypsy Anne was a thief. She was not the only person to line her pockets, taking advantage of the chaos of war. I admit to having done the same, on a much smaller scale.

“After Churchill put an end to Gypsy’s program, she became bitter. She had worked hard, and achieved much. In the end, however, she saw it all go to waste because her abilities frightened the powers that were. In a way, with all she knew and was capable of, I was surprised that they didn’t exterminate her.”

“Five hundred years ago, they’d have burned her at the stake,” I said.

“Not at all,” Finn said. “The only women burned as witches were those in the wrong place at the wrong time, the powerless, the mentally ill, those who held property that others wanted. Gypsy Anne would have been untouchable and all powerful.”

“Then how did she get strangled in her own home,” Trudy said.

“It must have been someone very powerful, both psychically and physically. And whoever it was was very motivated. The thing that the Gypsy stole is a very attractive item. You see, in 1941 Gypsy Anne  was made aware of a very large cache of captured Japanese gold bullion in a high security facility in London. She became obsessed with having it, and eventually she devised a way to have it transferred from there to here.”

“Here?” I said.

“Yes, and she was finally killed by someone who knew she had it.”

“Would she have revealed the location of the gold to the assassin,” Trudy said.  “Was she tortured? Egon didn’t mention anything.”

“No, Miss Parr. You must think like a magician, like an occultist. Many authorities on the topic believe that only in the spirit state can a person be compelled to tell the whole truth behind the events of his or her life. In Gypsy Anne’s case, among other things, where the gold is hidden. According to this logic, Gypsy Anne had to die and be summoned later. But a spirit can only be compelled to answer truthfully once, to the first inquisitor. After that the spirit is free, and need not answer anyone else.”

“This makes me want to spit,” Trudy said. “What’s your role in this, Finn?”

“Well, I’m only human. I too would like to get my hands on the bullion. I’ve pursued Gypsy Anne with this in mind since the end of the war.”

“What’s your connection to her,” I said. “You ever work with her?”

“Yes and no. We knew about each other. We admired each other’s work. You see, I was employed by the Nazis on their occult investigations.”

“You’re a fucking Nazi?” Trudy said. “Hold him down Crispin; I’ll get your straight razor.”

“Please don’t, Trudy,” I said. “The war’s over.”

“Miss Parr,” Finn said. “I was nothing more than a fortune teller in Berlin when Hitler came to power. I am almost everything the Nazis hated: a circus performer, a Catholic, I had leftist leanings, and I am a homosexual with a penchant for cross-dressing. In the end, all that kept me from going to a death camp was some minor psychic power. Calling me a Nazi would be like calling Stalin a capitalist.

“I simply came to see Mr Dench, an associate of Gypsy Anne, because I’d hoped he would have information that I would find valuable. You still may have such information, Mr Dench. However, by revealing myself in this way, it appears that I have acquired two unexpected partners in crime. Of course there is more than enough gold to go around.”

“How much,” I said.

“According to the price of gold reported in this morning’s newspaper, more than $27,000,000. It isn’t easy to move wartime bullion, so I have enquired about a fence and have been provided with the names of some supposedly trustworthy individuals. So, the actual amount we take home may be far less.”

“Except we don’t know where it is,” I said.

“Correct.”

“And there’s some spook out there,” Trudy said, “trying to bring the Gypsy back from the dead in order to discover its location.”

“Correct again.”

“So what now,” I said.

“This meeting has exhausted me,” Finn said, looking at Trudy. “And I have injuries to attend to. I have a suite at the Hotel Vancouver. I wish to return there, bathe and sleep.”

“Hotel Vancouver’s a pretty swell joint for a second rate fortune telling transvestite,” Trudy said.

“I was fortunate enough to walk away from the war with a full purse, as it were. My current wealth allows me time to seek out more. May I use your phone to call a cab?”

“Yeah sure,” I said. “It’s on the desk.”

“Wait a minute, Crispin.” Trudy said. “You sure you want to let this little worm go. Maybe Egon will want to talk to him.”

“Na, let him go,” I said. “My psychic powers tell me that he may be no good, but he ain’t no murderer.”

It was dark, and I closed the office after Finn left, and drove Trudy home. Afterwards, I stopped along Lagoon Drive to watch the lights. Some time later, I awoke to someone tapping on the window. It was Lieutenant Egon.

“I thought you might be here.” Egon said. “Your favourite view of the city.”

“What do you want, fat man? I was sleeping real nice.”

“You know a little fella by the name of Amyl Grimm?”

“Never heard of him,” I said.

“How about Klaus Finn?” Egon said referring to his note pad.

“Finn? Yeah, what’s the beef?”

“Your name was in his personal phone book. We’re still not sure who he really is. Grimm and Finn were just two of five passports he had with him. He was found by the hotel dick in his suite after some complaints about the noise. His throat was cut, and, well.…”

“Well what, Egon?”

“Whoever did him in, castrated him as well. This town gets stranger and stranger.” Egon paused for a moment, and then said, “You do it, Dench? You know I gotta ask.”

“Who else?” I said.

“Okay, okay. Go back to sleep. I’ll have to talk to you soon about why you were in his phonebook, but that can wait.”

Next morning, I showered at the office and ate breakfast at the Ovaltine. I let the morning fly by, reading a Chandler novel and drinking coffee. At 11.00 am, Trudy came in with a bouquet of flowers.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“Where?”

“The Gypsy’s vault, they’re putting the glass over the copper plate at noon, remember?”

“Oh right,” I said. ”You hear about Finn?”

“Yeah, tough luck.”

We drove up to Mountain View Cemetery, and arrived just as Grapelli was fastening the glass over the copper plate.

“There you are,” he said standing over the slab. “Pretty cute trick if you ask me.”

“What?” I said.

“This?” Trudy said kneeling down over the slab. “It’s an Ouija Board, etched into the glass. It stands out well against the copper plate.”

Someone behind us said, “Hello.” It was an Oriental man in a formal blue business suit standing behind us. We turned around and he said, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Boris Nishimura, and this,” he said pointing to another Asian man, this one dressed in a black tuxedo, “is my associate Mr Koji. We know who you are,” Nishimura said bowing.  “Miss Parr and Mr Dench.

“When Mrs Kaufmann was alive, I was her lawyer. A few years ago she instructed me, in the event of her death, to meet Miss Trudy Parr here at this time and give her this package.”

“What is it,” Trudy said, taking the box.

“I have no idea,” Nishimura said. Trudy lifted the box’s lid and pulled out a gold pendant on a long gold chain. “Mrs Kaufmann said that you would understand, Miss Parr. That it was an important tool to be used with the etched glass that Mr Grapelli just installed.”

“A pendulum.” Trudy said. “The perfect tool to use with an Ouija Board.” Trudy began to say thank you to Nishimura and Mr Koji, but when she and the rest of us looked up, they were gone.

“This is getting to be too much like a cemetery,” I said.

“Well, that’s the Gypsy for you.” Trudy said. “Let’s get to it, then.”

She knelt over the etched glass Ouija board while holding the pendulum over its centre, and began with simple questions.

“I’d like to speak with Gypsy Anne Kaufmann, is she here?” The pendulum moved in a circle, and then pointed straight to the word Yes.

“Gypsy Anne, have you, indeed, passed onto the other side?” The pendulum went slack, and then pointed at Yes again.

“Will you use this Ouija board to communicate something to me?” Yes again.

“Why through an Ouija Board?” The pendulum slackened, and bounced erratically for a moment. Then it began to spell out an answer. T-O G-I-V-E Y-O-U A M-E-S-S-A-G-E

“What is the message?” Trudy asked. L-O-O-K F-O-R B-U-L-L-I-O-N U-N-D-E-R
D-E-N-C-H S-P-I-T-O-O-N.

“I don’t have a spittoon.” I said. “It’s 1949, for the love of God.”

Now the pendulum twisted and spun as though the Gypsy was having a fit. I-S
D-E-N-C-H D-E-N-S-E Trudy looked over at me, and smiled like I hadn’t seen her smile for days. Then, O-F-F-I-C-E S-T-O-R-A-G-E D-O-N-T S-P-E-N-D A-L-L I-N O-N-E P-L-A-C-E F-A-R-E-W-E-L-L And that was all there was. The gold chain from which the pendulum was suspended snapped, and it fell on the glass.

Trudy and I drove back to the office, and spent an hour looking for the key to our storage locker. For some reason, I had hung it in the washroom medicine cabinet. We took it and a couple of flashlights down into the basement, and after ten minutes of tripping around in the dark we found the locker for our office, #1510.

We shined our flashlights into the locker, and saw a corroded old spittoon sitting on top of several stacked crates of which I had no recollection. I opened the locker, and went in with Trudy close by. Turning on the light, I was able to see that the crates had no dust on them. They had arrived recently, but without my knowing. I took the spittoon off and placed it gently onto the ground. No matter what, that little artefact was coming back up to the office with me.

Stencilled on the side of the mysterious new crates was the red ensign of the Imperial Japanese Army. Portions of a bill of lading were glued onto the side of the box. The disjointed pieces of yellowing paper displayed many fragments of Japanese text, but “bullion” and “1941” were also written in English. I took a crowbar from the wall, and lifted to top of the first crate.