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Wednesday, March 25th 2020, 11:05pm

A Spectre Resurgent

Lugano, Switzerland, Thursday, 15 September 1949

It had taken a substantial investment in time and money for Ernst Blofeld to complete the transfer of his operations from Germany to Switzerland, and to staff them with operatives having the skills he desired and whom he could trust, or control. He had gathered them here at his headquarters to review, as good businessmen would, the results of their activities.

Gathered about him at the conference table were a diverse group of men – some older than others. His general factotum, Tev Kronsteen, sat immediately to his right. To his left sat Dagobert Frey, a greying Viennese, who opened the discussion.

“In the last two months we have orchestrated the recovery of three major artworks previously stolen by our associates, Monet’s Beach in Pourville, Courbet’s Femme nue couche, and Pisanello’s Madonna of the Quail. After deducting all expenses and settling with our associates, our profit amounts to £50,000. This of course represents only the return on artwork ransomed by the insurance companies. On the outright sale of stolen works of art the profit was a further £80,000.”

These facts brought forth a round of nods from those assembled. Blofeld nodded. “Excellent. Admittedly, art and antiquities do well, but we were favoured with circumstances. Herr Cornfeld, can you speak to arbitrage activities?”

The remarks were addressed to the young man who sat opposite Blofeld. Bernard Cornfeld, born in Byzantium, was barely more than twenty years old, but already had demonstrated his financial wizardry to Blofeld’s satisfaction.

“Short-term currency manipulations earned us £48,000 since July, with a further £30,000 on stocks and securities.”

“Very good. Herr Krüger?”

The little man felt at easy; in his own mind he ought not to be at this table at all, but rather at his printing press. “Our paper supplies are still exhausted…”

Blofeld checked his first thoughts. “Kronsteen?”

“Our contacts in Munich have let us down. With your permission, I will visit and remind them of their obligations to us.”

“Please do. Wasting the talents of Herr Kruger for lack of proper paper is a crime. Monsieur Déricourt, will you inform us of progress on our Lisbon project?”

“We have opened negotiations to acquire the Casino do Estoril but have yet to reach mutually agreeable terms with the owner, Dos Santos. My associate, Monsieur Wang and I will be departing on Saturday for Lisbon where I am confident that arrangements can be made.”

“Good, very good.”

And so Blofeld continued to discuss matters with his subordinates. Since departing Müggelheim many things had changed.


Wednesday, March 25th 2020, 11:08pm

München, Germany, Sunday, 18 September 1949

Oktoberfest was in full swing, and the Theresienwiese was thronged with devotees of Bavaria’s potent beverage. No one paid any attention to the man with the goatee as he sat quietly at a small table-for-two, a stein of beer before him. Kronsteen was waiting patiently for the contact he expected momentarily. He used the time to consider the options before him.

The firm of Giesecke & Devrient was the source of specialty banknote paper for many nations across Europe, with appropriate security for their product to prevent its diversion towards misuse – the very end to which Kronsteen had come to München to arrange. The last time Blofeld had made an understanding with an element of the city’s underworld to obtain such it had turned out badly for the criminals involved; Blofeld did not appreciate double-dealing. For this reason Kronsteen hoped that their current associates would prove more trustworthy.

Leiter approached warily. He was well aware that his ring had thus far failed to deliver the goods demanded by their obligation to Blofeld – a man he had never seen – but Kronsteen, the factotum, was known to him as a man who did not accept excuses.

“I was not expecting you to come in person.”

Kronsteen barely looked in his direction. “We were not expecting delays.”

“Diverting paper from the firm’s warehouse has grown more difficult over the last year. An inventory disclosed missing product and…”

“You undertook to supply our requirements, accepted our advance payment, and thus far have failed to fulfil your contract with us.”

Leiter noted the ominous tone in Kronsteen’s voice. “Yes, I know, but I promise that I can deliver the product to you in three days.”

“Three days? Very well, if you do so we will consider the contract fulfilled. If not, we shall take appropriate measures to recover our advances.”

“How will you get the paper out of Germany?”

“That is of no concern to you. Three days; no more.”

With that Kronsteen departed, leaving Leiter to contemplate the consequences of any failure.


Monday, March 30th 2020, 7:20pm

München, Germany, Wednesday, 21 September 1949

Suitably motivated, Leiter had managed to make delivery of the bank note paper Blofeld had ordered the day before; and to Kronsteen’s relief the German had not attempted to jack up the price to be paid. This of course left Kronsteen with the problem of safely getting the bundle of paper out of Germany to Switzerland without discovery; fortunately, this problem had been foreseen and prepared for.

José Bandeira had notified Kronsteen earlier in the day that he was ready to take charge of the shipment. It would be placed within a steamer trunk ostensibly holding Bandeira’s wardrobe. The fact that the Iberian held a diplomatic passport had frequently been of benefit to Blofeld’s plans, and so it would on this occasion.

“Are you certain that the Swiss customs guards will not search your luggage?”

“The Swiss? They are even more deferential to diplomats than the Germans. Diplomatic immunity is inviolable!”

Kronsteen hoped for Bandeira’s sake that his assessment of the situation was correct; diplomatic immunity did not extend to commission of a crime, and smuggling stolen goods would be treated most seriously, if discovered. The exchange made, both men went their separate ways, to meet in Lugano in two days.