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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.


Friday, April 17th 2020, 8:05pm

Lisbon, Iberia, Friday, 23 September 1949

Déricourt and Wang had arrived in Lisbon earlier in the week, and had spent the interval negotiating with the owner of the Casino do Estoril, the city’s most notable gambling establishment. A series of meetings with its owner, Don José Teodoro dos Santos, had failed to make much headway, despite the substantial monetary offers made on Blofeld’s behalf. In one last attempt to overcome Dos Santos’ reluctance, the pair had accepted an invitation to dine with him at his palatial home outside the city.

The Frenchman and his tight-lipped Chinese associate made an interesting contrast. The former was admired by his friends as a witty, self-confident and extremely persuasive charmer, an ideal negotiator. Wang Tung-hsing had been born in Macau, and raised on the Rue Catinat in Cholon; here he had learned the trade of thug, fixer, and gambler, attaining a significant position in Saigon’s Grande Monde casino until a twist in local politics forced him to flee. Should Blofeld’s intention of acquiring the Casino do Estoril come to fruition, he had been promised the position of its overall manager; to attain this, Wang was ready to be patient, until the time for action was ripe.

Dos Santos home was set in the countryside, for Don José was devoted to two things other than making money – growing oranges and raising horses. As the visitors toured the estate before settling down to their dinner their host had proudly shown them the groves that in their time yielded the sweetest fruit and the horses that had won many a race at Lisbon’s racetrack. During their dinner the verbal sparring was spirited if polite, during which Déricourt again brought up the financial benefit to Dos Santos of Blofeld’s offer, which their host again declined.

“Don José, we thank you for a wonderful dinner, and for listening to Mr. Blofeld’s offer. We will be departing Lisbon on Monday. Should you change your mind, you can reach us at our hotel.”

With that the two departed.

“He will need a reminder of the iron fist inside the velvet glove.” Wang’s voice was ice cold.

“I believe you are correct my friend. I will leave it to you for the details.”


Dos Santos had retired for the evening not long after his guests had departed. He had kept his hauteur from showing, but he thoroughly despised them – the Frenchman a ci-devant nobleman, the Chinaman an unknown cipher, representing a shadowy figure whose name meant little to him. Yet his rest that night was disturbed by nightmares, which in the early morning hours awoke him. Startled, he reached out his hand to right himself and touched… wetness. He switched on the lamp and saw the pool of blood that seemed to drench the bed… the blood that ran from the severed head of his prize stallion, which lay at the foot of it. In terror he tried to scream but could not; his heart pounded in his chest, he gasped for breath.

Déricourt and Wang were a breakfast in their hotel when an attendant brought a telephone, handing it to the former, who listened attentively to the caller.

“Yes, of course. I completely understand. I shall advise Senor Blofeld of your decision and prepare the papers for your signature. Thank you for reconsidering your choice.”

He set the telephone handset back in its cradle, and smiled.


Monday, April 27th 2020, 9:10pm

Lugano, Switzerland, Friday, 30 September 1949

Blofeld contemplated the results of his organisation’s activities in the last fortnight with satisfaction. The paper obtained by Kronsteen was already in the hands of Krüger, his tame forger, who would soon have available the wherewithal for the next assault on the Italian economy. Déricourt had returned from Lisbon having settled the acquisition of the Casino do Estoril, were Wang would soon bring to Europe the refined techniques of squeeze he had learned in Saigon.

A knock at his office door announced Cornfeld’s arrival.

“You sent for me sir.”

“Indeed Cornfeld; please sit down.” The younger man complied, awaiting his instructions.

“Our acquisition in Lisbon has temporarily diminished our resources, but we shall soon be able to reverse that problem. I should like you to draw up a list of legitimate firms that are worthwhile targets for investment – we need to continue our programme of diversification.”

Cornfeld nodded. “Undervalued compared to their market valuation?”

“Preferably. We are not yet so rich that money can be wasted.”

“Europe, the Americas, or the Orient?”

Blofeld thought before replying. “As inviting as the Orient might seem, there are still too many factors that lie beyond our control – at the moment. Europe first, and then the Americas I think.”

“Of course sir. I shall have the list for your consideration by Monday.”


Tuesday, June 2nd 2020, 8:09pm

Lugano, Switzerland, Monday, 3 October 1949

Blofeld read his subordinate’s report with considerable interest. “The Sociedad General de Riegos Industria y Colonizacion – you indicate that it was founded to construct irrigation works in the Ebro Valley. I presume you are not suggesting that I throw good money after bad in that sink hole?”

Cornfeld smiled. “By no means. Effectively the firm has been moribund for the best part of a decade, having lost much of its initial capital in legal quarrels. But it does own several square kilometres of property on the outskirts of the city of Tarragona. They are suitable for development if they way can be cleared for their sale.”

Blofeld understood. Acquire the stock of the old company, strip it of its more valuable assets, and then dispose of the useless husk to an unwary purchased. “Buy the hectare, sell the lot.”

“Indeed sir. The shares are quite undervalued and, if done carefully, can be acquired cheaply on the bourse in Madrid and Barcelona.”

“Do you believe Monsieur Tarankov would be fitted to carry out the acquisition of the shares of the Sociedad General?”

“He has the discretion for it, but I suspect that if Monsieur Déricourt is finished with the matter of the Casino do Estoril he might guide Tarankov through the process. Besides, Déricourt has an established reputation as a financier.”

“Very good. Now about this firm in Alexandria...”


Monday, June 22nd 2020, 9:02pm

Lubiana (Laibach), Tuesday, 11 October 1949

Tev Kronsteen had made the journey from Lugano to Lubiana a number of times, but he never took the trip for granted. The greatest danger – falling foul of the Italian customs authorities when crossing from Switzerland – he had avoided through long-standing arrangements with the senior officer for that sector. Since Italy treated its Slovene province as part of the Republic, his only concern was the possibility of rogue elements of the Camorra doing something completely idiotic. Thankfully, that had not happened, and he reached his destination without incident the prior evening.

That morning he ventured to the local branch of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, and deposited into the account of the Compagnia commerciale internazionale Spettro the monies he had brought with him – products of Herr Krüger’s art. The officials of the bank were happy to follow his instructions on wiring the money to several financial institutions around Europe. For a relatively small fee they were induced into ignoring the recently introduced currency controls imposed by the Italians in a half-hearted attempt to avoid flooding of their economy with counterfeit currency.

By late afternoon Kronsteen was able to depart for Budapest secure in the knowledge that fifty million lira had been added to Blofeld’s financial resources and that another blow was to fall on the money markets of Milan. There was no doubt in his mind that Cornfeld would make a killing on the bourses of Europe.


Tuesday, July 14th 2020, 8:00pm

The Financial Times, Tuesday, 25 October 1949

The exchange rate for the lira took a body blow late yesterday with the announcement of the discovery of more counterfeit bank notes circulating across northern Italy. Precautions had been taken to prevent the recurrence of the appearance of such fakes, but by all accounts the fake notes incorporated all the purported security features and are considered indistinguishable from the genuine article. A special squad of officers from the Carabinieri has been formed to track down the source and take action to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Wednesday, November 11th 2020, 1:02pm

Lisbon, Iberia, Friday, 18 November 1949

In a country where the strategic application of a douceur would smooth many a path it had taken little time for Wang You-theng to take full control of operations at the Casino do Estoril. With the coming of the holiday season and its well-heeled tourists Wang did not have to make many changes to begin to show a profit on Blofeld’s investment. In his mind he had already planned a campaign to make the Casino do Estoril the premier gambling oasis of Europe, to overshadow Monte Carlo and Coldmere. But it would take time. His reverie was interrupted by the entry of his head bookkeeper, Jerónimo de Sousa.

“You asked for the winnings of this week Senor Wang. Overall the direct gambling operations have brought in four million pesetas, and the other departments of the casino a further million.” He placed a portfolio on Wang’s desk. “The details are here…”

Wang skimmed the report and allowed himself a smile. “Excellent”.

De Sousa recognised that he was dismissed and returned to the counting room.


Saturday, January 30th 2021, 1:01am

Guardia di Finanza Headquarters, Rome, Tuesday, 6 December 1949

Andrea Fogli, Commanding General of the Guardia di Finanza, had listened to the briefing from his senior subordinates for ten minute and could stand no more.

“Imbeciles! How many months have you been chasing this funny-money around the country without a clue to its source or how it is distributed? Do you know the cot to the nation of this counterfeit currency? We are the laughing stock of Europe!”

Giovanni Branca, head of the Polizia Tributaria Investigativa – upon whose shoulders lay the burden of all financial crimes, and Fabrizio D'Aloia, TPI central technical office – who had first reported the resurgence of counterfeit currency earlier in the autumn, tried to avoid Fogli’s gaze.

“The notes are so well printed that it is extremely difficult to distinguish them from the real thing” D’Aloia attempted to explain. “In some cases, they look more real that genuine – particularly when the genuine notes are worn from use.”

“That is the most asinine argument I have ever heard within these walls. If we cannot distinguish our own currency we should be hung.”

“General, there is a pattern to be seen.” It was Lorenzo Fabbri, D’Aloia’s assistant. “The counterfeit notes first appear in the eastern parts of the country, in Istria, in Friuli, and in the Veneto, and only then to they appear to circulate widely. It is as if the counterfeit currency is injected near the apex of the financial system and is allowed to make its own way through normal banking channels.”

Fogli nodded. “At last! Somebody has an idea how this gang is operating. Which of the Camorra clans do you think is responsible?”

“General, neither the Camorra nor the Mafia would appear to be directly involved. Our intelligence indicates that they have suffered losses a bad, or worse, than legitimate businesses.”

“Then who? It makes no difference. Fabbri I place you in charge of the Special Currency Police Unit and do not rest until this matter is settled.”


Monday, March 8th 2021, 1:01am

Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, 17 December 1949

Osman Ghaleb Bey had taken charge of the offices of the Egyptian Commercial and Trading Company not six weeks before and already the Cairo business world was aware that there was a new captain at its helm. Blofeld Effendi had purchased for a small price the shares of the old, established cotton-trading company and despatched him to move it into the modern world. Alongside the old line of selling Manchester-made cottons on the local market the firm had branched out into marketing Egyptian grown cotton in Iberia, and importing industrial goods in return. With abundant capital Ghaleb had taken advantage of low prices to buy up derelict properties and begin to clear them. This, he explained, would make way for new and larger warehouses that would soon be filled with bales of goods for export or boxes of imports. Long familiar with the way business was conducted in the East, he had already established good working relationships with government officials and the police. This was to the good, as he hoped to cultivate the many business opportunities Cairo presented; already he had word from a contact in Khartoum regarding import of ‘machine tools’.


Saturday, July 17th 2021, 4:54pm

Lugano, Switzerland, Sunday, 29 January 1950

Blofeld read the new of the arrest of officials of the Lubiana branch of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro without consternation. It was a possibility he had made provision for, and had severed all links between the Compagnia commerciale internazionale Spettro and the other parts of his business empire. He expected that having found some minor scapegoats that the Italians would soon cease their efforts to track down the source of the counterfeit currency that had flooded their economy. Indeed, Blofeld had little need to continue his efforts in that arena.

Wang’s efforts in Lisbon were already earning a substantial profit and his plans for a killing in real estate in Barcelona were on the verge of their culmination. And with the recent developments in the African political scene, he foresaw that his new venture in Cairo would soon be making more than adequate returns. He turned his attention to the report from Osman Ghaleb Bey on his recent discussions with certain officials in Belgrade. Yes, sales should be strong in the ‘machine tools’ market.


Monday, August 9th 2021, 1:15am

Koumala, Ubangi-Shari, Monday, 30 January 1950

The sun had long since set before the pilot of the elderly Lockheed Lodestar neared his destination. The prior morning the cargo-laden transport had departed Cairo for Khartoum, and thence on to Genaina. Fuelling they had then flown west across the border with Ubangi-Shari, trusting to dead-reckoning and hoping that their customers were on time for the rendezvous.

“We’re three kilometres from where the landing strip ought to be – if this map can be trusted.” The navigator was a man of little faith.

“I think I see something” the first officer was hopeful – he had a family back in Cairo. “There, to our left...”

The pilot put the Lodestar into a slight turn. “I see it.” Soon they could see the faint outline of fires lit beside the outlines of a runway. The pilot overflew the strip to get his bearings and when he reversed course to land someone on the ground turned some car, or truck, light to dimly illuminate the scene.

The aircraft alighted and bounced twice on the airstrip. The pilot taxied to one end of the airstrip and throttled back the engines to await the reception party. In the cabin, the three armed cargo handlers opened the portside door and got out. Soon two trucks pulled up to the rear of the aircraft and a group of natives began unloading the aircraft’s cargo – boxes labelled “machine parts” – something that would fool no one.

It did not take long to offload the Lodestar – a little more than 1,500 kilograms of rifles and ammunition – just enough to keep a brush war going. Their delivery made, the aircraft’s crew prepared for take-off, being desirous of returning to Genaina before the sun rose and Dutch aircraft made their own appearance.


Monday, August 9th 2021, 3:52pm

Interesting. *beard/chin stroking time*


Monday, August 9th 2021, 4:42pm

Indeed. :D


Wednesday, August 18th 2021, 4:54pm

Tarragona, Iberia, Wednesday, 8 February 1950

Henri Déricourt savoured the excellence of his meal as he sat awaiting the return of Tarankov. The latter had stopped at the commercial court to register the acquisition of the outstanding shares of the moribund Sociedad General de Riegos Industria y Colonizacion by the Compagnia commerciale internazionale Spettro. At a cost of little more than one million pesetas they had acquired for Blofeld a company whose assets Cornfeld, the organization’s financial wizard, valued at more than twenty millions, perhaps more, if the local real estate market continued to rise as it was. Moreover, it was entirely legal and the iron fist had remained inside the velvet glove. Déricourt preferred things that way.

In the morning he would be departing Tarragona for Paris, leaving Tarankov to oversee the gradual sale of the Sociedad General’s properties and its eventual disposal when it had served its purpose. After Paris, he would head to Lugano to report to Blofeld for his next assignment.


Tuesday, August 24th 2021, 10:54pm

Lugano, Switzerland, Tuesday, 14 February 1950

Blofeld was somewhat surprised by the lack of effective follow-up by the Italian authorities to their discoveries that officials at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in Lubiana had permitted their branch to be used as a funnel for the counterfeit currency that he flooded onto the Italian economy. He was willing to lay it at the door of Fogli, the former Commanding General of the Guardia di Finanza, who had lost his position as a result of the last Italian cabinet shuffle in January. He made a note remind himself to discuss with Déricourt the exact links that might remain between Spettro and the Tarragona project.

His musings were interrupted by the entry of Cornfeld.

“A cable from New York sir.”

“Ah. And what is the answer to our proposal?”

“An envoy is on his way to open negotiations and explore options. Mr. Thomas Hagen is due to arrive from Amsterdam on Tuesday; he will be flying in via Zurich.”

Blofeld nodded. “We are dealing with a very prudent man – Don Corleone is not given to rash decisions. America is the land of opportunity - we must be willing to begin small and build slowly until we can stand on our own feet.”


Tuesday, August 31st 2021, 8:35pm

KLM Flight 014, Zurich to Schiphol, somewhere above the Rhineland, Saturday, 25 February 1950

After several days of meetings with Herr Blofeld and his associates Thomas Hagen felt very satisfied with the results. Blofeld’s offer of an alliance would serve the Corleone family’s interests at a crucial juncture and permit a resolution of the gathering storm among New York’s Five Families. In return for making five million dollars available to Don Corleone Blofeld would be permitted to operate in the United States in partnership with the Corleones. In his mind he marshalled the arguments he would use to convince Don Corleone of the usefulness of the alliance and the advantages that would flow from it.


Tuesday, September 14th 2021, 2:26am

Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, 2 March 1950

Osman Ghaleb Bey deftly manipulated the beads of the abacus before him, calculating the profits that accrued to his efforts with the Egyptian Commercial and Trading Company. Blofeld Effendi’s predictions had proven correct – providing arms to Africa in troubled times meant profits galore. In Ethiopia the anti-Italian ‘patriot’ faction was a steady customer, in Ubangi the anti-Dutch rebels would take what might be offered them, not asking too many questions and paying in cash on the barrel-head. There were even markets for guns and ammunition in Somaliland and Yemen, on the far side of the Red Sea. He worried not about the seeming contradictions of some of this sales – the good merchant, he did not allow politics to influence the pursuit of profits. He finished his final tabulations and recorded the summary in a notebook. He hoped that his report would find favour in Lugano.


Sunday, September 26th 2021, 3:33am

Lugano, Switzerland, Sunday, 5 March 1950

Ernst Blofeld kept his thoughts to himself as he sized up his subordinate. They had discussed that morning the general outline of Déricourt’s mission to the United States but now Blofeld would reveal the fine details would mark his alliance with the Corleone family.

“I cannot overemphasize the importance of this venture to the overall success of the organization, to your standing in it, and – in the event of failure – to yourself. In all your previous missions you have given proof of your ability and your loyalty.”

Déricourt allowed his chief’s words to sink in. He understood that allying with the Corleone family would open many doors behind which stood substantial profits, but more than ample risk. He made no professions, merely nodded and replied, “Yes.”

“Good.” When you arrive in New York you will check into the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. There you will meet with Bandeira, who will be transferring the bulk of the funds you will need. You will deposit these funds in the Chase National Bank, following the instructions Bandeira will convey to you. Only then will you make contact with Herr Hagen, the Corleone family’s advisor, who will arrange the meeting with Don Corleone to consummate our alliance.” Blofeld slid a thick envelope across the desktop that lay between them.

“The details of your travel arrangements are here; together with funds for the incidentals of your journey. Your first flight leaves in the morning; make what preparations you need.”