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21

Wednesday, April 4th 2018, 3:33am

Bread and Butter

The Deutsche Oper, Berlin-Charlottenburg, Sunday, 4 September 1948

As he sat on a bench outside the opera house, Alfred Burcough found himself fidgeting – and willed himself to cease. The arrival of another postcard from Blofeld had summoned him here; and the British naval attaché was certain that at some point the Abwehr would tumble to what was happening. He was not really concerned about Blofeld’s fate; and having diplomatic cover he himself would suffer nothing more than being declared persona non grata. But blowing the source of such good intelligence would reflect badly on the Royal Navy generally and himself personally – and his naval career might be over.

He tried not to be looking expectant, or otherwise looking for someone; Blofeld’s arrival thus caught him unawares.

“Good day Herr Burcough,” he said, sitting down on the bench next to him with not so much as an invitation. “Have you read the latest edition of the Danizger Echo?”

“No,” Burcough admitted. “I haven’t found a news agent that carries it.”

“You should. It is full of information. Here, you can have my copy.” Blofeld passed a folded newspaper. “It has an interesting article on recent Kriegsmarine exercises. If you find it interesting, please send five thousand marks, per usual.”

And with that, Blofeld departed, and lost himself in the crowds hurrying into the opera hall.

Burcough made his own way back to the embassy, where he examined the newspaper. Hidden in its fold was an envelope containing several thin sheets of paper detailing amphibious exercises recently held off the island of Rügen, and the negatives of several photographs – one showing a Kriegsmarine transport discharging into amphibious lorries and another, and aerial shot, of a Wittelsbach-class amphibious ship exercising with landing craft.


London, he was certain, would find this interesting enough.

22

Thursday, April 12th 2018, 3:33am

The Big Leagues - Preparations

Berlin-Müggelheim, Monday, Saturday, 11 September 1948

One of the challenges Ernst Blofeld enjoyed was pitting his wits against the hidebound and bureaucratic police forces of Europe; it had begun as a game in his youth, and now was a part of his psyche. His underlings and associates he deployed on a mental chessboard, using to his advantage all the information he had garnered as editor of the Danziger Echo. With greater resources at his disposal he began to scheme anew.

The door opened to admit Kruger, the forger.

“You wished to see me Herr Blofeld?”

“Yes Kruger, sit down.” The little man did as he was ordered. “I want you to print the remaining nine million lire as soon as possible. How long will it take?”

“If I proceed with due care in the printing, three weeks.”

“Care is far more important that speed. I want you to start work immediately.”

23

Saturday, April 21st 2018, 2:20am

A Good Deed (1)

Schönefeld, Sunday, 19 September 1948

An industrial suburb of Berlin, Schönefeld had little to recommend it to anyone save its denizens; this is what appealed to Ernst Blofeld – anonymity in the midst of crowds. He had made an appointment to meet with an associate for that very reason; not that he expected to be trailed by the police or any of the intelligence services with which he did business – but on general principles. He approached a small street corner park, half-filled with mothers walking their children in the late-summer sunshine – there he spotted his associate patiently waiting – tow-headed, dressed casually but in a tailored manner, smoking an expensive Gran Corona.

“Good afternoon Tomasz”.

“Hello Ernst; good to see you.”

They sat together on the park bench, chatting about not much of anything, while both scanned the park and allowed passers-by to fade into the distance.

The tow-headed man took a long drag on his cigar. “Your message said you had some information I might find useful.”

“Yes… I presume you have heard of the The Just Judges?”

Blofeld’s seat-mate nodded. “A Van Eyck altarpiece, stolen from a church in Ghent back in ’34. As the thief died without revealing where he had hid it, it is presumed to have been lost.”

“Correct, as far as most people know. Some information has come into my hands that could be a decent lead.”

Another puff on the cigar. “That is a story I’ve heard before.”

Blofeld took an envelope from his pocket and handed it over. “You can follow-up on this if you wish, or not, as you choose.”

“Let’s say I do follow it up… and let’s say I find it. The official Belgian valuation for it is fifteen million francs; the normal finder’s fee is ten percent. That’s fine for me. What’s in it for you?”

“A good deed perhaps? The enjoyment of a beautiful piece of art returned to its rightful place? The consternation caused by its recovery? I’ll settle for a tenth of your tenth if it proves true.”

“Then I hope this lead works out.”

Blofeld stood and nodded. He was confident of his associate’s abilities and probity. Now all that was needed was time and some good luck.