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The Hidden Target

Helen Macinnes




  Pray for a Brave Heart

  Above Suspicion

  Assignment in Brittany

  North From Rome

  Decision at Delphi

  The Venetian Affair

  The Salzburg Connection

  Message from Málaga

  While We Still Live

  The Double Image

  Neither Five Nor Three


  Snare of the Hunter

  Agent in Place

  Ride a Pale Horse

  Prelude to Terror

  I and My True Love (October 2013)

  Cloak of Darkness (November 2013)

  Rest and Be Thankful (December 2013)

  Friends and Lovers (January 2014)

  Home is the Hunter (February 2014)





  The Hidden Target

  Print edition ISBN: 9781781163399

  E-book edition ISBN: 9781781164426

  Published by Titan Books

  A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

  144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

  First edition: September 2013


  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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Copyright © 1980, 2013 by Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved.

  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.

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  Sir William Stephenson

  —a man well named Intrepid —

  with admiration and affection


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  About the Author


  The church lay in the heart of the city. It was old, a thousand years old, his fellow workers at the bookstore had told him. And kept telling him, as if to impress the newcomer that Essen wasn’t merely a West German town surrounded by coal mines: no more blast furnaces or steelworks since the war; modern factories, fine shops, a handsome art gallery, pleasant suburbs. Yes, they had assured him, he would find life agreeable here. In turn, he had assured them it would be most agreeable. How easy it was to be accepted, he thought as he approached the main entrance of the church, if you smiled and nodded. Criticism jarred, rousing animosities, even curiosity about any offbeat character who didn’t fit in. If there was one success in the eight months he had spent in this industrial town, it was that he had fitted in. To his acquaintances, he was simply Kurt Leitner, a quiet, unassuming, undemanding young man, totally unremarkable. Dull? He hoped so. It had spared him from parties and overfriendly interest.

  Leitner stepped into the church, cold grey dimness towering around him, glitter from the far-off altar to lighten the gloom, stillness broken by the slow shuffle of tourists’ feet now entering the Gothic hall that formed the nave. Their guide’s hushed voice droned on: that part tenth century, this part thirteenth, this built by so-and-so, that added by whoosis; notice the pulpit, the chancel, the narthex; all tributes of centuries past. The monotone faded into a murmur; the shuffles merged into silence. Leitner’s eyes, accustomed now to the shadows, were fixed on the third massive pillar to the right of the nave. Slowly, with total unconcern, he moved into the aisle and approached the carved stone column. Theo wasn’t visible from this angle, but Theo would be there. As usual, Theo would have arrived early and given himself time for a leisurely stroll around the church, studying the people in prayer or contemplation before the altar, checking the group gathered at a side chapel for some remembrance. Theo was thorough. Caution and care were his professional mark.

  And Theo was there, a prosperous bourgeois in his dark suit blending with the pillar against which one shoulder rested. A man in his fifties perhaps, of medium height, with brindled hair cut short and a smooth white face. He glanced at Leitner, and gave an almost imperceptible nod of approval, not only for Leitner’s casual approach, but also for his sombre grey jacket and dark shirt. Then the two men, vague shadows in this unlit area of the church, faced the pillar ahead of them: two strangers lost in quiet reverence.

  Leitner waited. Theo would set the pace. This was an emergency. No doubt about that. The signal for it had been simple, planned long in advance. “If ever I call you—before you leave for work—about your family in Munich,” Theo had said when Leitner was being installed in Essen, “that will be the sign. We’ll meet in the Minster seven minutes after the bookstore shuts down for lunch. When is that?” Leitner had answered, “Twelve thirty. But I could be delayed. I’m the junior clerk.” There could be a dilatory customer to ease out of the shop before he closed it. “Then,” Theo had replied, “we’ll make it twelve forty-five—the third pillar to your right as you enter. One early-morning ’phone call and you’ll be there.” The call had come this morning. A brief, innocent talk with “Uncle Ernst” about Leitner’s mythical father in Munich, who had slipped and broken his thigh. Simple. That was the way Theo liked it. Ultraclever voice codes or notes that had to be deciphered were something that could arouse suspicion if they were overheard or intercepted. Keep it natural, was his dictum.

  Now, he stayed silent for a full minute: two strangers didn’t start talking as soon as they had met. And then, as if making a remark about the church, even gesturing briefly towards a distant sculpture on which his eyes were fixed, he said in his low voice, “You do not travel to Frankfurt next week. You do not fly to London as planned. Instead, you leave tonight. Nine o’clock. By truck. From Leopold’s.”

  Leitner nodded. He knew the place. It was one of the smaller machine shops on the outskirts of town. There was worry in his eyes. What had gone wrong? He did not pose the question. Theo would tell him if he needed to know.

  “You’ll travel light. The night dispatcher at Leopold’s is reliable. Leave your motorcycle and extra baggage with him. We’ll have them picked up within the hour. The driver of the tr
uck will give us no trouble. It will be a safe journey. And short. You will be dropped off the truck at Duisburg.”

  Shock stiffened Leitner’s spine, but his brief stare at the placid face beside him was its only evidence. Duisburg, on the Rhine, the largest inland port in Europe, with its twenty basins, vast stretches of silos and warehouses, oil storage tanks; Duisburg, the target his people had been aiming at for more than a year, long before they drifted quietly into Essen. It was a convenient half hour away by car or motorbike. Careful infiltration, well-directed sabotage, and the storage tanks, with their 178 million gallons of oil, could add considerable colour to the background of red smoke from the Ruhr’s blazing blast furnaces. “Tonight in Duisburg,” he reminded Theo, his voice equally low, “we had planned some fireworks.”

  “We’ve postponed them.”

  This time Leitner’s stare was long-lasting, challenging. All those preparations, all that work we put into the plan, the risks, the dangers... “I’ve got Section Two all set up in Duisburg. Section One in Essen is ready. They co-operate well. They—”

  “We have an informer among us.” Theo’s face was expressionless.

  “In Section Two?”


  “Section One?” The section I organised and led for the last five years... Leitner’s disbelief turned to alarm, even into a moment of panic. Quickly, with an effort, he repressed all emotion. “It’s definite?”

  “Quite definite. The police raided the Friederikenstrasse apartment at midnight and arrested Ferdi and Willy, your radio experts. They also found weapons. Amalie wasn’t there, or Berthe.”

  “They had dates last night, picking up some information from a couple of army sergeants. Who is the—”

  Theo signalled for silence, moved aside.

  Leitner waited, head bowed. The disaster wasn’t complete: the communications unit was destroyed, but they could be replaced. Not like Marco, with his assistant, Karl, installed in the Rüttenscheid area: Marco was the specialist, the expert in demolition. The other three members of Section One, with part-time jobs as hairdresser, drugstore clerk, bus driver, shared quarters in Töpferstrasse. He, himself, had his own place, a rented room within walking distance of the bookstore. None of the others, not even Marco, had visited it, or even knew where it was or where he worked. To them, old comrade Marco excepted, he was Erik, possibly a courier, a trusted go-between. His instructions were conveyed by public ’phone; meeting, only when necessary, took the form of a beer party in the apartment on Töpferstrasse. And there he had guarded himself by staying in the background, appearing to be a minor cog in this well-designed machine, listening to Marco giving out the orders Leitner had passed to him on the previous evening when they had met in the anonymity of Gruga Park.

  As for Theo, their bankroll, their supplier of forged papers— passports, identity cards, licences—their arranger of reservations on planes, their adviser and controller, none of the others, not even Marco, had ever seen him; and only Marco knew the code name Theo. But even with Marco, Kurt Leitner had kept silent about his secret encounters with Theo. He didn’t allow himself too much speculation, either, about Theo. Yet some things were fairly obvious if you thought hard about them. Theo must run a tourist agency, hence his expertise in travel arrangements. His office could be in neighbouring Düsseldorf. (He had, quite abruptly, refused Leitner’s plan for an operation in that city, tempting as it was as the financial and administrative centre of the major Ruhr industries.) But where Theo’s supply of money came from, or what vast intelligence source supported him with world-wide information and contacts, these were matters best left unquestioned. They existed. That was enough.

  Theo was still a few paces away, seemingly studying the nave of the church. He had been quick to notice the three wandering visitors who were exploring this aisle. But they had found nothing of interest in its unlighted alcoves and walked on, paying little attention to the young man in the shadows, his head bowed, his eyes covered by his hand as if in prayer. Theo returned to stand close again, and Leitner could drop both his hand and his far-ranging thoughts. He asked the question that had been bottled up for those last three interminable minutes. “Who is the informer?”


  “Amalie?” Recruited by Willy in Milan where she had headed out of West Berlin when the remnants of the Baader-Meinhof group were scattering. She had been one of its minor members, but dedicated and intense. At first, she had been doubtful about returning to West Germany, but Willy had persuaded her. Checked and double-checked, her credentials were good. And Willy kept her close to him. “That little whore—” began Leitner, and was silenced by a restraining hand on his arm. Checked and double-checked. By Theo, too. Nothing escaped his oversight. Except this bitch.

  “We’ll take care of her. And of Willy,” Theo said grimly.

  Leitner nodded. He had liked Willy, trustworthy, indefatigable, always willing. Too willing, as it had turned out, with a pretty little blonde called Amalie. “Who is she working for? The CIA?”

  Theo was smiling as he shook his head. “Forget the CIA. Its throat is cut. Bleeding and paralysed.” He liked that picture. “She isn’t with the British or French, either. But we’ll find out. She had no direct contact with the Essen police; her information was usually passed to them through some Western intelligence unit. Just as well for us that she never was familiar with police headquarters, or she might have stumbled on my informant there.” Theo paused, his eyes watching the nave. “Yes,” he went on, “that’s how I learned this early morning about the midnight arrests.”

  “Then you had time to warn Töpferstrasse,” Leitner said with relief. “But Marco and Karl are already in Duisburg.”

  “Marco is on his way to Hamburg. Karl is in hiding. Time enough to warn the others when you and Marco are safely out of Germany.”

  “Time enough? The police could be moving in on them right now.”

  “No, no. The police are keeping the arrests quiet—no publicity for thirty-six hours. That way, they hope you will all be unsuspecting and gather as arranged for tomorrow night’s meeting in the Töpferstrasse apartment. Then a mass arrest.”

  Yes, tomorrow night was to have been the celebration party for the Duisburg blowup. A surprise party for most of them— only Marco and Erik and Section Two had known the exact timing of that project. So that was one defeat for Amalie. At the last general meeting in Töpferstrasse, Marco had mentioned the end of next week as zero hour. Leitner’s idea: security, security... And it had paid off. Partly, at least; for the police must be watching those oil and propane-gas storage areas even if they expected the attack to come ten days away.

  Theo seemed to guess Leitner’s worry. “The police won’t cover the entire waterfront. They’ll be nowhere near the Hafentreppen.”

  Duisburg’s quays stretched almost thirty miles along the Rhine. The Hafentreppen, a seamen’s bar, was close to the docks but far from the target area. “I contact Sophie?” She worked there regularly; a raddled, blowzy blonde with a quick ear and sharp eyes, one of Theo’s prized undercover agents.

  Theo nodded. “She’ll have one of her clients take you to his ship. It’s loading right now. A coastal freighter. Sailing at midnight.”

  Half an hour to Duisburg, a ten-minute walk to the Hafentreppen, another half hour making careful contact with Sophie, ten minutes or so before he could follow her seaman out of the bar; and how much distance to the freighter? He hoped it was short. “Do I stow away or stay topside?”

  “You’ll stay in the hold. Quite safely. The first mate needs money. It was easy to arrange that—easier than getting you seaman’s papers at such little notice. Besides, your hands would have given you away.”

  “Sailing at midnight...down the Rhine to where?”

  “Rotterdam should suit you.”

  “And there—the usual place?” A safe house, all necessities provided, from money and clothes to the American passport for his new identity. There would be a careful life histor
y worked out for him, too.

  Theo answered with a nod, drew a thick envelope from an inner pocket, slipped it into Leitner’s hand. “For the journey as far as Rotterdam. Pay the seaman. The mate has had his in advance, but he could need a sweetener. There may be others, too, who’ll look aside—with their hands out. That covers everything, I think.” Theo glanced at his watch. He didn’t need to ask if Leitner had memorised the details of the long journey in the months ahead of him. They had been over all that in their meetings in the woods beside the onetime estate of the Krupp dynasty. An excellent place for quiet conversations: visitors to the Krupp museum were constantly arriving and departing, so access was safely covered. And the visitors spent their time in the mansion or its vast gardens, had little energy left to explore the wild woods. “You’ll arrive in London by next week. Good luck, Erik.”

  The code name had slipped out. Or a mark of confidence? Leitner wished he were as sure of the London assignment. It was unnecessary, an addition to the original mission. “The girl worries me. Do we really need her?”

  “Yes—an opportunity in a million.”

  “I know little about her. I’ll need information, background—”

  “You’ll get everything from Greta. She’s been in London for almost a year, scouting for talent. It was Greta who discovered the girl.”

  And added several headaches, possibly serious complications. Leitner shook his head. “Frankly, I’m wary about this. Didn’t you tell me that Greta decided against recruiting her?”

  “But not,” Theo said sharply, “against using her. She’s important to your mission, ultimately important. Once we heard who her father was—well, the decision was made at the highest levels. Not by Greta.” He paused, added softly, “And certainly not by you.” His white round face was set, all its usual amiable softness banished.

  It’s still a crazy idea, thought Leitner. “How do you know she’ll even like me?” He tightened his lips, again shook his head. “Without that, there is no trust. Without trust—I’ll never get her beyond Amsterdam.”