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Six Graves to Munich

Mario Puzo

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  Title Page

  Copyright Page
























  “I wrote my first short story when I was seventeen and wrote dozens more before any of them were accepted for publication. Luckily most of these stories have been lost. I switched to plays and they were worse. Finally, after World War II, at the age of twenty-eight, I started my first novel. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”


  First published under a pseudonym in 1967, Six Graves to Munich was Mario Puzo’s literary predecessor to his legendary novel, The Godfather . In this unsung classic, Puzo’s trademark unflinchingly stark writing style, vivid descriptive skill, and relentless pace are exemplified in the genre of the spy novel. In his hands, the classic tale of revenge becomes a haunting study of humanity at its most visceral, offering a glimpse into a damaged soul whose only remaining purpose for living is to kill.


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  Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Published by arrangement with the Estate of Mario Puzo.

  First New American Library Printing, May 2010

  Copyright © Mario Puzo, 1967 All rights reserved


  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


  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.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-40443-0

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  Michael Rogan checked the lurid sign outside Hamburg’s hottest nightclub. Sinnlich! Schamlos! Sündig! Sensual! Shameless! Sinful! The Roter Peter made no bones about what it was selling. Rogan took a small photograph out of his pocket and studied it by the red light of the swine-shaped door lamp. He had studied the photograph a hundred times, but he was nervous about recognizing the man he was looking for. People changed a great deal in ten years, Rogan knew. He himself had changed.

  He went past the obsequiously bowing doorman into the club. Inside it was dark except for the “blue” movie flickering on a small rectangular screen. Rogan threaded his way through the crowded tables, the noisy, alcohol-stinking crowd. Suddenly the house lights came on and framed him against the stage, with naked blond girls dancing above his head. Rogan’s eyes searched the faces of those seated at ringside tables. A waitress touched his arm. She said coquettishly in German, “Is the Herr Amerikaner looking for something special?”

  Rogan brushed past her, annoyed at being so easily spotted as an American. He could feel the blood pounding against the silver plate that held his skull together—a danger signal. He would have to do this job quickly and get back to his hotel. He moved on through the club, checking the dark corners, where patrons drank beer from huge steins and impersonally grabbed at the nearest waitress. He glanced into the curtained booths, where men sprawled on leather sofas and studied the girls on stage before picking up the phone to summon their favorite to join them.

  Rogan was becoming impatient now. He didn’t have much more time. He turned and faced the stage. Behind the nude dancing girls there was a transparent panel in the curtain. Through the panel the patrons could see the next line of girls getting ready to go on stage, and they applauded every time one of the girls took off a bra or a stocking. A voice called out drunkenly, “You darlings, ah, you darlings—I can love you all.”

  Rogan turned toward the voice and smiled in the darkness. He remembered that voice. Ten years had not changed it. It was a fatty, choking Bavarian voice, thick with false friendliness. Rogan moved swiftly toward it. He opened his jacket and slipped off a leather button that gripped the Walther pistol securely in its shoulder holster. With his other hand he took the silencer out of his jacket pocket and held it as if it were a pipe.

  And then he was before the table, before the face of the man he had never forgotten, whose memory had kept him alive the last ten years.

  The voice had not deceived him; it was Karl Pfann. The German must have gained fifty pounds and he had lost nearly all his hair—only a few blond strands crisscrossed his greasy pate—but the mouth was as tiny and almost as cruel as Rogan remembered it. Rogan sat down at the next table and ordered a drink. When the house lights went out and the blue movie came on again he slipped the Walther pistol out of its holster and, keeping his hands under the table, fitted the silencer onto the pistol barrel. The weapon sagged out of balance; it would not be accurate beyond five yards. Rogan leaned to his right and tapped Karl Pfann on the shoulder.

  The gross head turned, the shiny pate inclined, and the false-friendly voice Rogan had been hearing in his dreams for ten years said, “Yes, mein Freund, what do you wish?”

  Rogan said in a hoarse voice, “I am an old comrade of yours. We made a business deal on Rosenmontag, Carnival Monday, 1945, in the Munich Palace of Justice.”

  The movie distracted Karl Pfann, and his eyes turned toward the bright screen. “No, no, it cannot be,” he said impatiently. “In 1945 I was
serving the Fatherland. I became a businessman after the war.”

  “When you were a Nazi,” Rogan said. “When you were a torturer . . . When you were a murderer.” The silver plate in his skull was throbbing. “My name is Michael Rogan. I was in American Intelligence. Do you remember me now?”

  There was the smash of glass as Karl Pfann’s huge body swiveled around and he peered through the darkness at Rogan. The German said quietly, menacingly, “Michael Rogan is dead. What do you want from me?”

  “Your life,” Rogan said. He swung the Walther pistol out from under the table and pressed it into Pfann’s belly. He pulled the trigger. The German’s body shuddered with the force of the bullet. Rogan reset the silencer and fired again. Pfann’s choking death cry was drowned out by the roar of laughter sweeping through the nightclub as the screen showed a hilarious seduction scene.

  Pfann’s body slumped over the table. His murder would not be noticed until the movie ended. Rogan slipped the silencer off the pistol and put both pieces in his jacket pockets. He got up and moved silently through the darkened nightclub. The gold-braided doorman saluted him and whistled for a taxi, but Rogan turned his face away and walked down the Allee toward the waterfront. He walked along the waterfront for a long time, until his pulse slowed its wild galloping. In the cold north German moonlight, ruined U-boat pens and rust-covered submarines brought back the terrible ghosts of war.

  Karl Pfann was dead. Two down and five to go, Rogan thought grimly. And then ten years of bad dreams would be paid for and he could make peace with the silver plate in his skull, the eternal screams of Christine calling his name, calling for salvation, and the blinding, flashing moment when seven men in a high-domed room of the Munich Palace of Justice had put him to death as if he were an animal. They had tried to murder him, without dignity, as a joke.

  The wind along the waterfront cut into his body and Rogan turned up the Reeperbahn, Ropemaker’s walk, passing the police station as he entered Davidstrasser. He was not afraid of the police. The light in the nightclub had been too dim for anyone to have seen him well enough to describe him accurately. Still, to be safe, he ducked into a side street that had a large wooden sign: “Adolescents Forbidden!” It seemed like any other street, until he turned the corner.

  He had stumbled onto Hamburg’s famous St. Pauli Alley, the city area set aside for legal prostitution. It was brilliantly lighted and thronged with strolling men. The gingerbread three-story houses seemed ordinary at first glance, except that parties were going on in all of them. The street-level floors had huge showcase windows, revealing the rooms within. Sitting in armchairs, reading, drinking coffee, and chatting, or lying on sofas and staring dreamily at the ceiling, were some of the most beautiful young girls Rogan had ever seen.

  A few pretended to be cleaning their kitchens and wore only an apron that came to mid-thigh and had no back at all. Each house had a sign: “30 Marks for One Hour.” On a few windows the shades were drawn. Printed in gold on the black shades was the word Ausverkauft, “Sold Out,” to announce proudly that some well-to-do sport had hired the girl for the whole night.

  There was one blonde who was reading at a zinc-topped table in her kitchen. She looked forlorn, never glancing up at the busy street; some coffee had spilled near her open book. Rogan stood outside the house and waited for her to raise her head so that he could see her face. But she would not look up. She must be ugly, Rogan thought. He would pay her thirty marks just so he could rest before he started the long walk back to his hotel. It was bad for him to get excited, the doctors had said, and a woman with an ugly face would not excite him. With that silver plate in his skull Rogan was forbidden to drink hard liquor, make love excessively, or even become angry. They had not said anything to him about committing murder.

  When he entered the brightly lighted kitchen he saw that the girl at the table was beautiful. She closed her book regretfully, got up, then took him by the hand and led him to the inner private room. Rogan felt a quick surge of desire that made his legs tremble, his head pound. The reaction of murder and flight hit him full force, and he felt himself becoming faint. He sank down on the bed, and the young girl’s flutelike voice seemed to come from far away. “What’s the matter with you? Are you ill?”

  Rogan shook his head and fumbled with his wallet. He spread a sheaf of bills on the bed and said, “I am buying you for the night. Pull down your shade. Then just let me sleep.” As she went back into the kitchen Rogan took a small bottle of pills from his shirt pocket and popped two of them into his mouth. It was the last thing he remembered doing before he lost consciousness.

  When Rogan awoke the gray dawn smeared through dusty back windows to greet him. He looked around. The girl was sleeping on the floor beneath a thin blanket. A faint scent of roses came from her body. Rogan rolled over so that he could get out of the bed on the other side. The danger signals were gone. The silver plate no longer throbbed; the headache had vanished. He felt rested and strong.

  Nothing had been taken from his wallet. The Walther pistol was still in his jacket pocket. He had picked an honest girl who also had common sense, Rogan thought. He went around to the other side of the bed to wake her up, but she was already struggling to her feet, her beautiful body trembling in the morning cold.

  The room smelled strongly of roses, Rogan noticed, and there were roses embroidered on the window curtains and on the bedsheets. There were even roses embroidered on the girl’s sheer nightgown. She smiled at him. “My name is Rosalie. I like everything with roses—my perfumes, my clothing, everything.”

  She seemed girlishly proud of her fondness for roses, as if it gave her a special distinction. Rogan found this amusing. He sat on the bed and beckoned to her. Rosalie came and stood between his legs. He could smell her delicate perfume, and as she slowly took off her silk nightgown he could see the strawberry-tipped breasts, the long white thighs; and then her body was folding around his own like soft silky petals, and her full-lipped mouth bloomed open beneath his own, fluttering helplessly with passion.


  Rogan liked the girl so well that he arranged for her to live with him in his hotel for the next week. This involved complicated financial arrangements with the proprietor, but he didn’t mind. Rosalie was delighted. Rogan got an almost paternal satisfaction out of her pleasure.

  She was even more thrilled when she learned that his hotel was the world-famous Vier Jahrezeiten, the most luxurious hotel in postwar Hamburg, its service in the grand manner of the old Kaiser Germany.

  Rogan treated Rosalie like a princess that week. He gave her money for new clothes, and he took her to the theater and to fine restaurants. She was an affectionate girl, but there was a strange blankness in her that puzzled Rogan. She responded to him as if he were something to love, just as a pet dog is something to love. She stroked his body as impersonally as she would stroke a fur coat, purring with the same kind of pleasure. One day she came back unexpectedly from a shopping trip and found Rogan cleaning his Walther P-38 pistol. That Rogan should own such a weapon was a matter of complete indifference to her. She really didn’t care, and she didn’t question him about it. Although Rogan was relieved that she reacted this way, he knew it wasn’t natural.

  Experience had taught Rogan that he needed a week’s rest after one of his attacks. His next move was to Berlin, and toward the end of the week he debated whether or not to take Rosalie along to the divided city. He decided against it. Things might end badly, and she would be hurt through no fault of her own. On the last night he told her he would be leaving her in the morning and gave her all the cash in his wallet. With that strange blankness, she took the money and tossed it on the bed. She gave no sign of emotion other than a purely physical one of animal hunger. Because it was their last night together she wanted to make love for as long as possible. She began to take off her clothes. As she did so she asked casually, “Why must you go to Berlin?”

  Rogan studied her creamy shoulders. “Business,” he said.<
br />
  “I looked in your special envelopes, all seven of them. I wanted to know more about you.” She pulled off her stockings. “The night you met me you killed Karl Pfann, and his envelope and photograph are marked with the number two. The envelope and picture of Albert Moltke are marked ‘number one,’ so I went to the library and found the Vienna newspapers. Moltke was killed a month ago. Your passport shows you were in Austria at that time. Envelopes three and four are marked with the names of Eric and Hans Freisling, and they live in Berlin. So you are going to Berlin to kill them when you leave me tomorrow. And you plan to kill the other three men also, numbers five, six, and seven. Isn’t that true?”

  Rosalie spoke matter-of-factly, as if his plans were not extraordinary in any way. Naked, she sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for him to make love to her. For a bizarre moment Rogan thought of killing her and rejected it; and then he realized that it would not be necessary. She would never betray him. There was that curious blankness in her eyes, as if she had no capacity to distinguish between good and evil.

  He knelt before her on the bed and bent his head between her breasts. He took her hand in his, and it was warm and dry; she was not afraid. He guided her hand to the back of his skull, made her run her fingers over the silver plate. It was concealed by hair brushed over it, and part of it was overgrown with a thin membrane of dead, horny skin; but he knew she could feel the metal. “Those seven men did that to me,” he said. “It keeps me alive, but I’ll never see any grandchildren. I’ll never live to be an old man sitting in the sun.”

  Her fingers touched the back of his skull, not recoiling from the metal or the horny, dead flesh. “I’ll help you if you want me to,” she said; and he could smell the scent of roses on her and he thought, knowing it was sentimental, that roses were for weddings, not for death.