Pray for a Brave HeartHelen Macinnes
PRAY FOR A BRAVE HEART
ALSO BY HELEN MacINNES
AND AVAILABLE FROM TITAN BOOKS
Assignment in Brittany (July 2012)
North From Rome (August 2012)
Decision at Delphi (September 2012)
The Venetian Affair (October 2012)
The Salzburg Connection (November 2012)
PRAY FOR A BRAVE HEART
Pray for a Brave Heart
Print edition ISBN: 9781781161524
E-book edition ISBN: 9781781161647
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd 144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: June 2012
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
© 1955, 2012 by the Estate of Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group Ltd.
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June 22, 1954
1. Meeting in Berlin
2. Arrival in Bern
4. The Waiting Hours
5. The Café Henzi
6. No. 10 Henziplatz
8. The Running Men
9. Paula is Persuaded
11. Max Meyer’s Last Word
12. The Gaps Are Filled In
13. Journey To Falken
14. The Quiet Inn
16. Trouble On The Blümlisalp
18. The House On The Hill
19. The Silent Woods
20. Waiting For Andrássy
About The Author
Pray for a brave heart, which does not fear death, which places a long life last among the gifts of nature, which has the power to endure any trials, rejects anger, discards desire…
If we have common sense, Chance, you are not divine: it is we who make you a goddess, yes, and place you in heaven.
JUVENAL, 10. 357-360, 365-366
MEETING IN BERLIN
On the narrow bed lay two uniforms, an army great-coat, a stack of khaki shirts and socks. The table, holding a neat small pile of civilian clothes, was jammed against one wall to give more space for an open trunk and a clutter of books on the floor. Letters and pencils and odd sheets of paper, stamps, bits and pieces of old erasers, pens broken and pens usable, had been emptied from the desk drawer on top of the blotter. The travelling clock, pushing its face through a tangle of ties and handkerchiefs, gave quiet warning that the evening was slipping away. But William Denning, sleeves rolled up, a smudge of dust streaking his brow, stood at the window and watched the street lights go on, bringing his last night in Berlin.
He was a quiet-faced man, with watchful grey eyes, even features, and brown hair trimmed close. His height was average, his body thin; but his shoulders were good and his tight army shirt (with captain’s insignia on its collar) stretched across firm muscles. He looked like a capable man, self-disciplined, serious, older than his thirty-three years. At this moment, by himself, his face was relaxed. His eyes were amused. The usual firm line of his mouth had eased into a smile.
The hurrying people down in the street had hurried along there yesterday, would hurry tomorrow. They always seemed the same, as anonymous as the row of buildings opposite him. Buildings? Someone called them apartments, even called them home. “All right, all right,” he told the street, “I’m a stranger here, a stranger who lived four years with you. Go on, give me one kind word, one first and last kind word.” But the street was too busy. At least, he thought, it would be easy to say goodbye. He had been neither happy nor unhappy in this room: he had no deep memories of this place. Was this the best he could hope for, now?
He drew the curtains, switched on the reading lamp by his armchair, and poured himself some beer. Then he sat down, studying the art magazines. What about this lot on sculpture and architecture? Good illustrations, they’d probably come in useful, back numbers were always difficult to get; better pack them for New York. Now what about these others? Leave them, he decided, and tossed them lightly on to a growing pyramid of books and magazines in front of his chair.
Next, he reached for the books piled on the small table at his elbow. Those three were surplus weight: he threw them on to the pyramid. But these—no doubt about these, they’d go back home to America along with the magazines. He finished his beer, and began carrying his selection towards the trunk. He frowned down at the layer of shoes and books, already tightly packed. It was then that the door bell rang, briefly, gently.
Denning’s frown deepened and he glanced impatiently at his watch. But he dropped his load into the trunk, and opened the door. Outside, the landing was in darkness. What had happened to the lights? he wondered, and then stared at the figure which took a quick step from the darkness towards the open door. As Denning’s shoulders straightened, the stranger smiled, made a gesture of caution, and flicked his thumb against the drooping brim of his hat so that it snapped back to show his deep-set eyes and prominent brow. Just as quickly, he glanced back over the well of the staircase, seemed satisfied with the silent hallway beneath him, and slipped into the room.
Denning closed and locked the door. “Max! What are you doing in Berlin?”
“Just foot-loose as usual,” Max Meyer said, pulling off his black coat and then looking round for a free chair. “Charming bit of chaos you’ve got here, Bill. Taking an inventory?”
“Don’t let it bother you, I’m almost packed.”
“So I see. Now, don’t start clearing a space for me—you’d better keep your system intact. Here’s a free spot, anyway.” He dropped his hat and coat on the floor. “Good to see you, Bill.”
“Good to see you.”
They clasped hands.
“Two years, almost, since I was last here,” Meyer said, wandering across the room. “June, 1951, to be precise. What happens to time these days?” He picked up Denning’s empty glass and sniffed it. “Any more where this came from? I’ve a thirst I wouldn’t sell for twenty dollars.”
“The price used to be ten,” Bill Denning said, with a grin. He went to the cupboard and brought out all the remaining bottles of beer.
“Cost of living is rising.” Meyer sat down in the armchair with a sigh of relief and studied his flimsy shoes. “Can you imagine it, Bill?—Some people actually choose this kind of clothes, of their own free will.” He gestured with distaste to his sharp-shouldered, waist-nipped jacket, its grey colour too silvered, its pin-stripe black and emphatic. His blue shirt had horizonta
l stripes of white, cuffs too long, a deeply peaked collar stiffly angled around the tight knot of his black artificial satin tie. His chin was blue-shadowed. His dark hair needed cutting, but he kept it plastered back with plenty of brilliantine. Only the hawk-like, inquiring nose and fine brown eyes, now watching Denning with amusement, were recognisably Max Meyer. “Go on,” he said encouragingly.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to.” Meyer took the offered glass of beer and propped his feet wearily on a pile of magazines. “Now stop jeering, and sympathise.”
“You look like a man who’d have a stolen car to help him get around.” Denning was studying Meyer’s clothes with interest.
“I have, actually. But tonight was definitely pedestrian. To you, Bill!” Meyer drank thankfully. “And continue packing. I like seeing other people work.”
“That’s part of your new character?” Denning brought over some more bottles of beer and stacked them near the armchair. “Interesting company you must be keeping these days, Major.”
“A half-colonel, my boy, and don’t you forget it.”
“A half-intelligent colonel? Congratulations. But be careful. Or you’ll end up as one of those damn-fool colonels we used to curse.” He enlarged a space on the floor with his foot—that was easier than clearing a chair piled with clean shirts—and sat down with his back against a wall.
Meyer studied his friend. “You look fine, anyhow. And you stayed with Restitution of Property up to the last?”
“We recovered most of the Nazi loot. There are still a few outstanding items, though, I guess we’ll have to file them under Failures.”
“Will we?” There was a sudden gleam in Meyer’s eyes. Then he began examining the white embroidered arrows on his black artificial silk socks, and was very silent.
“Recently, I’ve been doing some interrogation of displaced persons,” Denning went on. “I thought we might get some leads from them, but—” He watched Meyer, who seemed scarcely to be listening. I remember that look, Denning thought: Max is getting ready to tell me something important, in his own way, in his own time.
“But no dice?”
“I got more interested in people than in property,” Denning admitted. “What we need now is a new department—the Restitution of Lives.”
“And you’ve started restituting your own?” Meyer waved his hand vaguely towards the trunk.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing. Not a bad idea, not bad at all. And yet, you know, I’ve often wondered why you did stick with the old Restitution of Property when it became practically moribund.”
“Just naturally stubborn, I suppose.”
“Or you don’t like seeing crooks getting away with their crookery?”
Denning looked up in surprise. There had been an edge to Meyer’s usually soft, almost lazy voice.
Meyer said, his tone normal again, “I’ve always thought it was a pity you didn’t come into counter-intelligence with me a couple of years ago. We’d have made a damned good team. As we always did.”
Denning lit a cigarette. His cool grey eyes watched his friend with some amusement over the flame of his lighter.
“All right, all right,” Meyer said, sharing the amusement. “So you’re going to Switzerland for your terminal leave?” He pointed to the table which held civilian clothes. “Right?”
“Frankfurt knows a damn sight more about Berlin than Berlin knows about Frankfurt,” Denning remarked dryly.
But Meyer kept right on. “What’s your first stop in Switzerland?”
“Are you serious? Basel? Why on earth Basel?”
“Yes, of course. Hans Holbein. Renaissance art was your field, wasn’t it?”
Denning said nothing at all. He was enjoying himself, watching Max and his manoeuvres. Max ought to have been a diplomat, he thought: that was certainly Max’s field, handling light remarks and delicate tangents with equal skill while he steadily pursued his own purpose.
Max Meyer cleared his throat. “Why don’t you go on packing while we talk? You’ve made me feel guilty, using up your last hours in Germany. You didn’t have a party all arranged for tonight, by any chance?”
Denning shook his head. “Don’t worry, I’m practically ready.” Then, suddenly, he found himself looking at Peggy’s photograph on the bureau. For a moment, he was no longer in his room. He was four years back. In Princeton, working for a Fine Arts degree on the GI Bill. Living in the cramped little apartment that seemed a pretty fine place to him. And Peggy—Peggy getting ready for a special party while he waited, all dressed, nervous about the evening ahead at the Dean’s house, glancing at his watch, fifteen minutes to go and they were supposed to be sitting down to dinner. And Peggy coming out of the bedroom, her face powdered, her hair arranged, but without a stitch of clothing on. Peggy saying earnestly, “Now, Bill, darling, don’t look so worried. I’m practically ready!” “I’m practically ready,” he repeated to Meyer; and he looked away from the photograph. Yes, he thought, I can now remember Peggy: once, I couldn’t even trust myself to do that. He became aware that Max was watching him. “What is it, Max?” he asked defensively. “What is it you want me to do?”
Max Meyer looked at him blankly.
“You didn’t come here tonight to talk me again into another hitch in the army, did you? It’s too late, anyway. I’m going back to pick up my own work where it was all broken off.”
“Take it easy, Bill, take it easy.” Meyer poured himself some more beer. “I think you’re right, perfectly right in what you’re doing. I only hope you don’t regret listening to my advice in 1949 when I persuaded you back into Germany.”
“No. That was the right idea then. It worked out.”
“I’ve often wondered.” And worried, too, Meyer thought.
“It worked out.” Denning looked again at Peggy’s photograph. Then he searched in his pocket for his cigarettes. “You don’t, do you?” He offered the crumpled pack politely.
“Still don’t use them, You’ve a good memory, Bill.”
“That has its drawbacks.” Denning’s face was a quiet mask.
“Look,” Meyer said suddenly, “when do you leave for Switzerland? Tomorrow, isn’t it?”
“Tomorrow.” Denning’s smile came back. “And you probably know the train I’m taking too.”
“You’ll enter Switzerland by Basel.”
“That’s the general idea.”
“Couldn’t I interest you in Bern instead? It’s less than two hours farther south. Surely, there’s some Renaissance art in Bern too. Wasn’t there a fellow called Nicholas Manuel who did a good altarpiece there?”
Denning’s smile broadened. “1515 is the date. I see you’ve been doing your homework. But I hate to spoil it—Manuel’s best paintings are in Basel.”
Meyer ignored that, and pointed to the bag of golf clubs leaning against the table. “And if you want to balance museums with the great outdoors, there’s a golf course near Bern. Now, Basel has only—”
“Come on, Max. You’ve baited the hook. What are you fishing for? You want me in Bern. Why?”
“For the last six weeks, you’ve been tidying up your office, clearing the in trays, briefing your replacement, answering friendly questions about your future plans. All routine. All perfectly normal. Everyone expects you to be doing just what you’re doing. Right?”
“Right.” So that’s my cover, Denning thought.
“You and I have worked together, before, tracking down Nazi loot. How many of our original team do you think are still around?”
“You and I, and a couple of others.” So that’s my necessary experience, Denning thought now.
“That’s just about it. Eight years ago, there were hundreds of us. Today? They’re back home, being lawyers or teachers or art critics or insurance brokers.”
“Even you and I haven’t been working
together for some years, now,” Meyer went on smoothly.
“That’s right,” Denning said with mock cheerfulness. “That makes me contact-pure.”
Meyer studied his face. “What I like most about you, Bill, is that I just tell you—I don’t have to explain.”
“Well, before you tell me any more, I think you should get one thing straight. I’m a civilian now. Practically.”
Meyer could have said, “You’re still under orders until you’re finally separated from the army.” But he didn’t. He studied the back of his hands. “Don’t worry, Bill. I didn’t go to your command and plead special emergency and get your leave postponed. I’ve come to you, yourself, as the almost-civilian. The choice is yours. You’re free to refuse. Besides, I wouldn’t want your help unless you were really interested.”
“Interested in what?”
“Think back to 1946…just before you left the army—”
“Twice in the army and twice out. Don’t I get a medal or something?”
“Think back,” Meyer said, refusing to be humorous about it, “think back to the Nazi loot we were tracking down.”
“I’m thinking.” But Denning’s actual thoughts were more sober than his words. Nazi loot. Mass plunder. Everything from museum pieces to gold teeth. Church bells, acres of church bells stolen from Belgium and Poland. Medical instruments from Dutch hospitals. Silk-mill machinery from Lyons. Prize cows. Libraries. Furs. Everything, anything, that could be sneaked or ripped out. Even that truckload of baby clothes which the British discovered, emptied out of Amsterdam stores and shipped eastward with the retreating Nazis. “It all seems incredible now,” Denning said grimly. “But it’s still more incredible that we did find so much to hand back to the right owners.” He was thinking of the hiding places: deserted quarries, salt mines, warehouses, factory yards, railway sidings, pleasant gardens, quiet fields, peaceful cottages. His lip curled with distaste as he remembered the protests and outraged indignation when the stolen property had been recovered: the honest-faced farmer who swore the collection of rare sixteenth-century books belonged in his barn, no matter what the bookplates said about a Danish doctor; the factory girl, denying anything unusual in possessing three silver-fox capes from Norway, a gold Cellini snuffbox from Czechoslovakia, and twenty-four dozen pairs of silk stockings from France; the placid housewife, aroused to fury over the lies that the Luxembourgers were telling—why, those paintings had been in her grandmother’s parlour.