Dr. Rudolf Von Hacklheber is not much older than Sergeant Bobby Shaftoe, but even emotionally crushed, he has a certain bearing about him that men in Shaftoes world dont acquire until they are in their forties, if then. His eyeglasses have tiny rimless lenses that look like they were scavenged from a snipers telescopic sights. Behind them is a whole paintbox of vivid colors: blond lashes, blue eyes, red veins, lids swollen and purple from weeping. Even so, he has a perfect shave, and the silvery Nordic light coming in through the tiny windows of Enoch Roots church cellar glances from the planes of his face so as to highlight an interesting terrain of big pores, premature creases, and old dueling scars. He has tried to grease his hair back, but it misbehaves and keeps tumbling down over his brow. He is wearing a white dress shirt and a very long, heavy overcoat on top of that to ward off the cellars chill. Shaftoe, who hiked back to Norrsbruck with him several days ago, knows that the long-legged von Hacklheber has the makings of a half-decent jock. But he can tell that rude sports like football would be out of the question; this Kraut would be a fencer or a mountain climber or a skier.
Shaftoe was only startlednot botheredby von Hacklhebers homosexuality. Some of the China Marines in Shanghai had a lot more young Chinese boys hanging around their flats than they really needed to shine their bootsand Shanghai is far from the strangest or most far-flung place where Marines made themselves at home between the wars. You can worry about morality when youre off duty, but if you are always stewing and fretting over what the other guys are doing in the sack, then what the hell are you going to do when youre presented with an opportunity to hit a Nip squad with a flamethrower?
They buried the remains of Angelo, the pilot, two weeks ago, and only now is von Hacklheber feeling in any kind of shape to talk. He has rented a cottage outside of town, but he has come into Norrsbruck to meet with Root, Shaftoe, and Bischoff on this day, partly because he is convinced that German spies are watching it. Shaftoe shows up with a bottle of Finnish schnapps, Bischoff brings a loaf of bread, Root breaks out a tin of fish. Von Hacklheber brings information. Everyone brings cigarettes.
Shaftoe smokes early and often, trying to kill the mildewy smell of the cellar, which reminds him of being locked up there with Enoch Root, kicking his morphine habit. During that time, the pastor once had to come downstairs and ask him please to stop screaming for a while because they were trying to do a wedding upstairs. Shaftoe hadnt known he was screaming.
Rudolf von Hacklhebers English is, in some respects, better than Shaftoes. He sounds unnervingly like Bobbys junior high school drafting teacher, Mr. Jaeger. "Before the war I worked under Dönitz for the Beobachtung Dienst of the Kriegsmarine. We broke some of the most secret codes of the British Admiralty even before the outbreak of hostilities. I was responsible for some advances in this field, involving the use of mechanical calculation. When war broke out there was much reorganization and I became like a bone that several dogs are fighting over. I was moved into Referat Iva of Gruppe IV, Analytical Cryptanalysis, which was part of Hauptgruppe B, Cryptanalysis, which reported ultimately to Major General Erich Feilgiebel, Chief of Wehrmachtnachrichtungenverbindungen."
Shaftoe looks around at the others, but none of them laughs, or even grins. They must not have heard it. "Come again?" Shaftoe asks, proddingly, like a man in a bar trying to get a shy friend to tell a sure-fire thigh-slapper.
"Wehrmachtnachrichtungenverbindungen," von Hacklheber says, very slowly, as if repeating nursery rhymes to a toddler. He blinks once, twice, three times at Shaftoe, then sits forward and says, brightly: "Perhaps I should explain the organization of the German intelligence hierarchy, since it will help you all to understand my story."
A BRIEF TRIP INTO HELLS DEMO with HERR DOKTOR PROFESSOR RUDOLF VON HACKLHEBER ensues.
Shaftoe only hears the first couple of sentences. At about the point when von Hacklheber tears a sheet out of a notebook and begins to diagram the organizational tree of the Thousand-Year Reich, with "Der Führer" at the top, Shaftoes eyes take on a heavy glaze, his body goes slack, he becomes deaf, and he accelerates up the throat of a nightmare, like the butt of a half-digested corn dog being reverse-peristalsed from the body of an addict. He has never been through this experience before, but he knows intuitively that this is how the trip to Hell works: no leisurely boat ride across the scenic Styx, no gradual descent into that trite tourist trap, Plutos Cavern, no stops along the way to buy fishing licenses for the Lake of Fire.
Shaftoe is not (though he should be) dead, and so this is not hell. It is closely modeled after hell, though. It is like a mock-up slapped together from tar paper and canvas, like the fake towns where they practiced house-to-house warfare during boot camp. Shaftoe is gripped with a sort of giddy queasiness that, he knows, is the most pleasant thing he will feel here. "Morphine takes away the bodys ability to experience pleasure," says the booming voice of Enoch Root, his wry, annoying Virgil, who for purposes of this nightmare has adopted the voice and physical shape of Moe, the mean, dark-haired Stooge. "It may be some time before you feel physically well."
The organizational tree of this nightmare begins, like von Hacklhebers, with Der Führer, but then branches out widely and crazily. There is an Asian branch, headed up by the General, and including, among other things, a Hauptgruppe of giant carnivorous lizards, a Referat of Chinese women holding up pale-eyed babies, and several Abteilungs of plastered Nips with swords. In the center of their domain is the city of Manila, where, in a tableau that Shaftoe would identify as Boschian if he had not spent his high school art class out behind the school leg-fucking cheerleaders, a heavily pregnant Glory Altamira is being forced to do blow jobs on syphilitic Nipponese troops.
The voice of Mr. Jaeger, his drafting teacherthe most boring man Shaftoe had ever known, until perhaps todayfades in for a moment with the words, "but all of the organizational structures I have detailed to this point became obsolete at the outbreak of hostilities. The hierarchy was shuffled and several of the entities changed their names, as follows . . ." Shaftoe hears a new sheet of paper being torn from the notebook, but what he sees is Mr. Jaeger tearing up a diagram of a table leg bracket that the young Bobby Shaftoe had spent a week drafting. Everything has been reorganized, General MacArthur is still very high in the tree, walking a brace of giant lizards on steel leashes, but now the hierarchy is filled with grinning Arabs holding up lumps of hashish, frozen butchers, dead or doomed lieutenants, and that fucking weirdo, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, dressed in a black, hooded robe, heading up a whole legion of pencil-necked Signals geeks, also in robes, holding bizarrely shaped antennas above their heads, wading through a blizzard of dollar bills printed on old Chinese newspapers. Their eyes glow, flashing on and off in Morse code.
"What are they saying?" Bobby says.
"Please, stop screaming," says Enoch Root. "Just for a little while."
Bobbys lying on a cot in a thatched hut in Guadalcanal. Swedish tribesmen run around in loincloths, gathering food: every so often, a ship gets blown up out in the Slot, and fish-shrapnel rains down and gets hung up in the branches, along with the occasional severed human arm or hunk of skull. The Swedes ignore the human bits and harvest the fish, taking it off to make lutefisk in black steel drums.
Enoch Root has an old cigar box on his lap. Golden light is shining out of the crack around its lid.
But hes not in the thatched hut anymore; hes inside a cold black metal phallus that has been probing around down below the surface of the nightmare: Bischoffs submarine. Depth charges are going off all over the place and its filling up with sewage. Something clocks him on the side of the head: not a ham this time, but a human leg. The subs lined with tubes that carry voices: in English, German, Arabic, Nipponese, Shanghainese, but confined and muffled in the plumbing so that they mingle together like the running of water. Then a pipe is ruptured by a near miss from a depth charge; from its jagged end issues a German voice:
"The foregoing may be taken as a rather coarse-grained treatment of the general organization of the Reich and particularly the military. Responsibility for cryptanalysis and cryptography is distributed among a large number of small Amts and Diensts attached to various tendrils of this structure. These are continually being reorganized and rearranged, however I may be able to provide you with a reasonably accurate and detailed picture . . ."
Shaftoe, chained to a bunk in the submarine by fetters of gold, feels one of his small, concealed handguns pressing into the small of his back, and wonders whether it would be bad form to shoot himself in the mouth. He paws wildly at the broken tube and manages to slap it down into the rising sewage; bubbles come out, and von Hacklhebers words are trapped in them, like word balloons in a comic strip. When the bubbles reach the surface and burst, it sounds like screaming.
Root is sitting on the opposite bunk with the cigar box on his lap. He holds up his hand in a V for Victory, then levels it at Shaftoes face and pokes him in the eyes. "I cannot help you with your inability to find physical comfortit is a problem of body chemistry," he says. "It poses interesting theological questions. It reminds us that all the pleasures of the world are an illusion projected into our souls by our bodies."
A lot of the other speaking tubes have ruptured now, and screaming comes from most of them; Root has to lean close in order to shout into Bobbys ear. Shaftoe takes advantage of it to reach over and make a grab for the cigar box, which contains the stuff he wants: not morphine. Something better than morphine. Morphine is to the stuff in the cigar box what a Shanghai prostitute is to Glory.
The box flies open and blinding light comes out of it. Shaftoe covers his face. The salted and preserved body parts suspended from the ceiling tumble into his lap and begin to writhe, reaching out for other parts, assembling themselves into living bodies. Mikulski comes back to life, aims his Vickers at the ceiling of the U-boat, and cuts an escape hatch. Instead of black water, golden light rushes through.
"What was your position in all this, then?" asks Root, and Shaftoe nearly jumps out of his chair, startled by the sound of a voice other than von Hacklhebers. Given what happened the last time someone (Shaftoe) asked a question, this is heroic but risky. Starting with Hitler, von Hacklheber works his way down the chain of command.
Shaftoe doesnt care: hes on a rubber raft, along with various resurrected comrades from Guadalcanal and Detachment 2702. They are rowing across a still cove lit by giant flaming klieg lights in the sky. Standing behind the klieg lights is a man talking in a German accent: "My immediate supervisors, Wilhelm Fenner, from St. Petersburg, who headed all German military cryptanalysis from 1922 onwards, and his chief deputy, Professor Novopaschenny."
All of these names sound alike to Shaftoe, but Root says, "A Russian?" Shaftoe is really coming around now, reemerging into the World. He sits up straight, and his body feels stiff, like it hasnt moved in a long time. He is about to apologize for the way he has been behaving, but since no one is looking at him funny, Shaftoe sees no reason to fill them in on what hes been doing these last few minutes.
"Professor Novopaschenny was a Czarist astronomer who knew Fenner from St. Petersburg. Under them, I was given broad authority to pursue researches into the theoretical limits of security. I used tools from pure mathematics as well as mechanical calculating devices of my own design. I looked at our own codes as well as those of our enemies, looking for weaknesses."
"What did you find?" Bischoff asks.
"I found weaknesses everywhere," von Hacklheber says. "Most codes were designed by dilettantes and amateurs with no grasp of the underlying mathematics. It is really quite pitiable."
"Including the Enigma?" Bischoff asks.
"Dont even talk to me of that shit," von Hacklheber says. "I dispensed with it almost immediately."
"What do you mean, dispensed with it?" Root asks.
"Proved that it was shit," von Hacklheber says.
"But the entire Wehrmacht still uses it," Bischoff says.
Von Hacklheber shrugs and looks at the burning tip of his cigarette. "You expect them to throw all those machines away because one mathematician writes a paper?" He stares at his cigarette a while longer, then puts it to his lips, draws on it tastefully, holds the smoke in his lungs, and finally exhales it slowly through his vocal cords whilst simultaneously causing them to emit the following sounds: "I knew that there must be people working for the enemy who would figure this out. Turing. Von Neumann. Waterhouse. Some of the Poles. I began to look for signs that they had broken the Enigma, or at least realized its weaknesses and begun trying to break it. I ran statistical analyses of convoy sinkings and U-boat attacks. I found some anomalies, some improbable events, but not enough to make a pattern. Many of the grossest anomalies were later accounted for by the discovery of espionage stations and the like.
"From this I drew no conclusion. Certainly if they were smart enough to break the Enigma they would be smart enough to conceal the fact from us at any cost. But there was one anomaly they could not cover up. I refer to human anomalies."
"Human anomalies?" Root asks. The phrase is classic Root-bait.
"I knew perfectly well that only a handful of people in the world had the acumen to break the Enigma and then to cover up the fact that they had broken it. By using our intelligence sources to ascertain where these men were, and what they were doing, I could make inferences." Von Hacklheber stubs out his cigarette, sits up straight, and drains a half-shot of schnapps, warming to the task. "This was a human intelligence problemnot signals intelligence. This is handled by a different branch of the service" and hes off again talking about the structure of the German bureaucracy. Terrified, Shaftoe flees from the room, runs outside, and uses the outhouse. When he gets back, von Hacklheber is just winding up. "It all came down to a problem of sifting through large amounts of raw datalengthy and tedious work."
Shaftoe cringes, wondering what something would have to be like in order to qualify as lengthy and tedious to this joker.
"After some time," von Hacklheber continues, "I learned, through some of our agents in the British Isles, that a man matching the general description of Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse had been stationed to a castle in Outer Qwghlm. I was able to arrange for a young lady to place this man under the closest possible surveillance," he says dryly. "His security precautions were impeccable, and so we learned nothing directly. In fact, it is quite likely that he knew that the young woman in question was an agent, and so took added precautions. But we did learn that this man communicated through one-time pads. He would read his encrypted messages over the telephone to a nearby naval base whence they would be telegraphed to a station in Buckinghamshire, which would respond to him with messages encrypted using the same system of one-time pads. By going through the records of our various radio intercept stations we were able to accumulate a stack of messages that had been sent by this mysterious unit, using this series of one-time pads, over a period of time beginning in the middle of 1942 and continuing up to the present day. It was interesting to note that this unit operated in a variety of places: Malta, Alexandria, Morocco, Norway, and various ships at sea. Extremely unusual. I was very interested in this mysterious unit and so I began trying to break their special code."
"Isnt that impossible?" Bischoff asks. "There is no way to break a one-time pad, short of stealing a copy."
"That is true in theory," von Hacklheber says. "In practice, this is only true if the letters that make up the one-time pad are chosen perfectly randomly. But, as I discovered, this is not true of the one-time pads used by Detachment 2702which is the mysterious unit that Waterhouse, Turing, and these two gentlemen all belong to."
"But how did you figure this out?" Bischoff asks.
"A few things helped me. There was a lot of depthmany messages to work with. There was consistencythe one-time pads were generated in the same way, always, and always exhibited the same patterns. I made some educated guesses which turned out to be correct. And I had a calculating machine to make the work go faster."
"I had a hypothesis that the one-time pads were being drawn up by a person who was rolling dice or shuffling a deck of cards to produce the letters. I began to consider psychological factors. An English speaker is accustomed to a certain frequency distribution of letters. He expects to see a great many es, ts, and as, and not so many zs and qs and xs. So if such a person were using some supposedly random algorithm to generate the letters, he would be subconsciously irritated every time a z or an x came up, and, conversely, soothed by the appearance of e or t. Over time, this might skew the frequency distribution."
"But Herr Doctor von Hacklheber, I find it unlikely that such a person would substitute their own letters for the ones that came up on the cards, or dice, or whatever."
"It is not very likely. But suppose that the algorithm gave the person some small amount of discretion." Von Hacklheber lights another cigarette, pours out more schnapps. "I set up an experiment. I got twenty volunteersmiddle-aged women who wanted to do their part for the Reich. I set them to work drawing up one-time pads using an algorithm where they drew slips out of a box. Then I used my machinery to run statistical calculations on the results. I found that they were not random at all."
Root says, "The one-time pads for Detachment 2702 are being created by Mrs. Tenney, a vicars wife. She uses a bingo machine, a cage filled with wooden balls with a letter stamped on each ball. She is supposed to close her eyes before reaching into the cage. But suppose she has become sloppy and no longer closes her eyes when she reaches into it."
"Or," von Hacklheber says, "suppose she looks at the cage, and sees how the balls are distributed inside of it, and then closes her eyes. She will subconsciously reach toward the E and avoid the Z. Or, if a certain letter has just come up recently, she will try to avoid choosing it again. Even if she cannot see the inside of the cage, she will learn to distinguish among the different balls by their feelbeing made of wood, each ball will have a different weight, a different pattern in the grain."
Bischoffs not buying it. "But it will still be mostly random!"
"Mostly random is not good enough!" von Hacklheber snaps. "I was convinced that the one-time pads of Detachment 2702 would have a frequency distribution similar to that of the King James Version of the Bible, for example. And I strongly suspected that the content of those messages would include words such as Waterhouse, Turing, Enigma, Qwghlm, Malta. By putting my machinery to work, I was able to break some of the one-time pads. Waterhouse was careful to burn his pads after using them once, but some other parts of the detachment were careless, and used the same pads again and again. I read many messages. It was obvious that Detachment 2702 was in the business of deceiving the Wehrmacht by concealing the fact that the Enigma had been broken."
Shaftoe knows what an Enigma is, if only because Bischoff wont shut up about them. When von Hacklheber explains this, everything that Detachment 2702 ever did suddenly makes sense.
"So, the secret is out then," Root says. "I assume you made your superiors aware of your discovery?"
"I made them aware of absolutely nothing," von Hacklheber snarls, "because by this time I had long since fallen into a snare of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. I had become his pawn, his slave, and had ceased to feel any loyalty whatsoever towards the Reich."
The knock on Rudolf von Hacklhebers door had come at four oclock in the morning, a time exploited by the Gestapo for its psychological effect. Rudy is wide awake. Even if bombers had not been pounding Berlin all night long, he would have been awake, because he has neither seen nor heard from Angelo in three days. He throws a dressing gown over his pajamas, steps into slippers, and opens the door of his flat to reveal, predictably, a small, prematurely withered man backed up by a couple of classic Gestapo killers in long black leather coats.
"May I proffer an observation?" says Rudy von Hacklheber.
"But of course, Herr Doktor Professor. As long as it is not a state secret, of course."
"In the old daysthe early dayswhen no one knew what the Gestapo was, and no one was afraid of it, this four in the morning business was clever. A fine way to exploit mans primal fear of the darkness. But now it is 1942, almost 1943, and everyone is afraid of the Gestapo. Everyone. More than they are of the dark. So, why dont you work during the daytime? You are stuck in a rut."
The bottom half of the withered mans face laughs. The top half doesnt change. "I will pass your suggestion up the chain of command," he says. "But, Herr Doktor, we are not here to instill fear. We have come at this inconvenient time because of the train schedules."
"Am I to understand that I am getting on a train?"
"You have a few minutes," the Gestapo man says, pulling back a cuff to divulge a hulking Swiss chronometer. Then he invites himself in and begins to pace up and down in front of Rudys bookshelves, hands clasped behind his back, bending at the waist to peer at the titles. He seems disappointed to find that they are all mathematical textsnot a single copy of the Declaration of Independence in evidence, though you can never tell when a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion might be hidden between the pages of a mathematical journal. When Rudy emerges, dressed but still unshaven, he finds the man displaying a pained expression while trying to read Turings dissertation on the Universal Machine. He looks like a lower primate trying to fly an aeroplane.
Half an hour later, they are at the train station. Rudy looks up at the departures board as they go in, and memorizes its contents, so that he will be able to deduce, from the track number, whether hes being taken in the direction of Leipzig or Konigsberg or Warsaw.
It is a clever thing to do, but it turns out to be a waste of effort, because the Gestapo men lead him to a track that is not listed on the board. A short train waits there. It does not contain any boxcars, a relief to Rudy, since he thinks that during the last few years he may have glimpsed boxcars that appeared to be crammed full of human beings. These glimpses were brief and surreal, and he cannot really sort out whether they really happened, or were merely fragments of nightmares that got filed in the wrong cranial drawer.
But all of the cars on this train have doors, guarded by men in unfamiliar uniforms, and windows, shrouded on the inside with shutters and heavy curtains. The Gestapo lead him to a coach door without breaking stride, and just like that, he is through. And he is alone. No one checks his papers, and the Gestapo do not enter behind him. The door is closed behind his back.
Doktor Rudolf von Hacklheber is standing in a long skinny car decorated like the anteroom of an upper-class whorehouse, with Persian runners on the polished hardwood floor, heavy furniture upholstered in maroon velvet, and curtains so thick that they look bulletproof. At one end of the coach, a French maid hovers over a table set with breakfast: hard rolls, slices of meat and cheese, and coffee. Rudys nose tells him that it is real coffee, and the smell draws him down to the end of the car. The maid pours him a cup with trembling hands. She has plastered thick foundation beneath her eyes to conceal dark circles, and (he realizes, as she hands him the cup) she has also painted it onto her wrists.
Rudy savors the coffee, stirring cream into it with a golden spoon bearing the marque of a French family. He strolls up and down the length of the car, admiring the art on the walls: a series of Dürer engravings, and, unless his eyes deceive him, a couple of pages from a Leonardo da Vinci codex.
The door opens again and a man enters clumsily, as if thrown on board, and ends up sprawled over a velvet settee. By the time Rudy recognizes him, the train has already begun to pull out of the station.
"Angelo!" Rudy sets his coffee down on an end table and throws himself into the arms of his beloved.
Angelo returns the embrace weakly. He stinks, and he shudders uncontrollably. He is wearing a coarse, dirty, pajamalike garment, and is wrapped up in a grey wool blanket. His wrists are encircled by half-scabbed lacerations embedded in fields of yellow-green bruises.
"Dont worry about it, Rudy," Angelo says, clenching and opening his fists to prove that they still work. "They were not kind to me, but they took care with my hands."
"Thou canst still fly?"
"I can still fly. But that is not why they were so careful with my hands."
"Without hands, a man cannot sign a confession."
Rudy and Angelo gaze into each others eyes. Angelo looks sad, exhausted, but still has some kind of serene confidence about him. Like a baptizing priest ready to receive the infant, he holds up his hands. He silently mouths the words: But I can still fly!
A suit of clothes is brought in by a valet. Angelo cleans up in one of the coachs lavatories. Rudy tries to peer out between the curtains, but heavy shutters have been pulled down over the windows. They breakfast together as the train maneuvers through the switching-yards of greater Berlin, perhaps working its way around some bombed-out sections of track, and finally accelerates into the open territory beyond.
Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring makes his way through the car, headed towards the rear of the train, where the most ornate coach is located. His body is about as big as the hull of a torpedo boat, draped in a circus-tent-sized Chinese silk robe, the sash of which drags on the floor behind him, like a leash trailing behind a dog. He has the largest belly of any man Rudy has ever seen, and it is covered with golden hair that deepens as the belly curves under, until it becomes a tawny thicket that completely conceals his genitals. He is not really expecting to see two men sitting here eating breakfast, but seems to consider Rudy and Angelos presence here to be one of lifes small anomalies, not really worth noticing. Given that Göring is the number-two man in the Third Reichthe designated successor to Hitler himselfRudy and Angelo really should jump to attention and give him a "Heil Hitler!" But they are too stunned to move. Göring stumbles down the middle of the coach, paying them no mind. Halfway down, he begins talking, but hes talking to himself, and his words are slurred. He slams open the door at the end of the coach and proceeds into the next car.
Two hours later, a doctor in a white coat passes through, headed for Görings coach, carrying a silver tray with a white linen cloth on it. Tastefully arrayed on this, like caviar and champagne, are a blue bottle and a glass hypodermic syringe.
Half an hour after that, an aide in a Luftwaffe uniform passes through carrying a sheaf of papers, and favors Rudy and Angelo with a crisp "Heil, Hitler!"
Another hour goes by, and then Rudy and Angelo are escorted back through the train by a servant. The coach at the rear of the train is darker and more gentlemanly than the florid parlor where they have been cooling their heels. It is paneled in darkly stained wood and contains an actual deska baronial monstrosity carved out of a ton of Bavarian oak. At the moment, its sole function is to support a single sheet of paper, hand-written, and signed at the bottom. Even from a distance, Rudy recognizes Angelos handwriting.
They have to walk past the desk in order to reach Göring, who is spread across an equally massive couch at the end of the car, underneath a Matisse, and flanked between a couple of Roman busts on marble pedestals. He is dressed in red leather jodhpurs, red leather boots, a red leather uniform jacket, a red leather riding crop with a fat diamond set into the butt of the handle. Bracelet-sized gold rings, infected with big rubies, grip his pudgy fingers. A red leather officers cap is perched on his head, with a gold deaths head, with ruby eyes, centered above the bill. All of this is illuminated only by a few striations of dusty light that have forced their way in through tiny crevices between curtains and shutters; the sun is up now, but Görings blue eyes, dilated to dime-sized pits by the morphine, cannot face it. He has his cherry-colored boots up on an ottoman; no doubt he has trouble with circulation in his legs. He is drinking tea from a thimble-sized porcelain cup, encrusted with gold leaf, looted from a chateau somewhere. Heavy cologne fails to mask his odor: bad teeth, intestinal trouble, and necrotizing hemorrhoids.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he says brightly. "Sorry to have kept you waiting. Heil Hitler! Would you like some tea?"
There is small talk. It goes on at length. Göring is fascinated with Angelos work as a test pilot. Not only that, he has any number of peculiar ideas adapted from the Bavarian Illuminati, and is groping for some way to tie these in with higher mathematics. Rudy is afraid, for a while, that this task is about to be placed on his shoulders. But even Göring himself seems impatient with this phase of the conversation. Once or twice he reaches out with his riding crop to part a curtain slightly.
The outdoor light seems to cause him appalling pain and he quickly looks away.
But finally the train slows, maneuvers through more switches, and coasts to a gentle stop. They can see nothing, of course. Rudy strains his ears, and thinks he hears activity around them: many feet marching, and commands being shouted. Göring catches the eye of an aide and waves his riding crop towards the desk. The aide springs forward, snatches up the handwritten document, and bears it over to the Reichsmarschall, presenting it with a small, neat bow. Göring reads through it quickly. Then he looks up at Rudy and Angelo and makes tut-tut-tut noises, shaking his gigantic head from side to side. Various layers of jowls, folds, and wattles follow, always a few degrees out of phase. "Homosexuality," Göring says. "You must be aware of the Führers policy regarding this sort of behavior." He holds up the sheet and shakes it. "Shame on you! Both of you. A test pilot who is a guest in our country, and an eminent mathematician working on great secrets. You must have known that the Sicherheitsdienst would get wind of this." He heaves an exhausted sigh. "How am I going to patch this up?"
When Göring says this, Rudy knows for the first time since the knock on his door that he is not going to die today. Göring has something else in mind.
But first his victims need to be properly terrified. "Do you know what could happen to you? Hmm? Do you?"
Neither Rudy nor Angelo answers. It is not the sort of question that really needs answering.
Göring answers it for them by reaching out with his riding crop and lifting up the curtain. Harsh blue light, reflected from snow, peals into the coach. Göring shuts his eyes and looks the other way.
They are in the middle of an open area, surrounded by tall barbed-wire fences, filled with long rows of dark barracks. In the center, a tall stack pours smoke into a white sky. SS troops in greatcoats and jackboots pace around, blowing into their hands. Just a few yards away from them, on an adjacent railway siding, a gang of wretches in striped clothing are at work in, and around, a boxcar, unloading pale cargo. A large number of naked human bodies have become all frozen together in a solid, tangled mass inside the boxcar, and the prisoners are at work with axes, bucksaws, and prybars, dismantling them and throwing the parts onto the ground. Because they are frozen solid, there is no blood, and so the entire operation is startlingly clean. The double-glazed windows of Görings coach block sound so effectively that the impact of a big fire ax on a frozen abdomen comes through as a nearly imperceptible thud.
One of the prisoners turns towards them, carrying a thigh toward a wheelbarrow, and risks a direct look at the Reichsmarschalls train. This prisoner has a pink triangle sewn to the breast of his uniform. The prisoners eyes are trying to probe through the window, past the curtain, trying to make a human connection with someone on the inside of the coach. Rudy stiffens in panic for a moment, thinking that the prisoner sees him. Then Göring withdraws the riding crop and the curtain falls. A few moments later, the train begins to move again.
Rudy looks at his lover. Angelo is sitting frozen, just like one of those corpses, with his hands over his face.
Göring flicks his crop dismissively. "Get out," he says.
"What?" ask Rudy and Angelo simultaneously.
Göring laughs heartily. "No, no! I dont mean get out of the train! I mean, Angelo, get out of this coach. I want to talk to Herr Doktor Professor von Hacklheber in private. You may wait in the parlor car."
Angelo leaves eagerly. Göring waves his crop at a couple of hovering aides, and they leave too. Göring and Rudy are alone together.
"I am sorry to show you these unpleasant things," Göring says. "I simply wanted to impress upon you the importance of keeping secrets."
"I can assure the Reichsmarschall that"
Göring shushes him with a wave of the crop. "Dont be tedious. I know that you have sworn any number of great oaths, and been through all of the indoctrination concerning secrecy. I have no doubt of your sincerity. But it is all just words, and not good enough for the work that I wish you to begin doing for me. To work for me, you must see the thing I have shown you, so that you can really understand the stakes."
Rudy looks at the floor, takes a deep breath, and forces out the words:
"It would be a great honor to work for you, Reichsmarschall. But since you have access to so many of the great museums and libraries of Europe, there is only one small favor I, as a scholar, might humbly request of you."
Back in the church basement in Norrsbruck, Sweden, Rudy yells, and drops a cigarette on the floor, having allowed it to burn down to his fingers, like a slow fuse, while relating this story. He puts his hand to his mouth, sucks on the finger briefly, then remembers his manners and composes himself. "Göring knew a surprising amount about cryptology, and was aware of my work on the Enigma. He didnt trust the machine. He told me that he wanted me to come up with the very best cryptosystem in the world, one that could never be brokenhe wanted to communicate (he said) with U-boats at sea and with installations in Manila and Tokyo. And so, I came up with such a system."
"And you handed it over," Bischoff says.
"Yes," Rudy says, and here, for the first time all day, he allows himself a slight smile. "And it is a reasonably good system, despite the fact that I crippled it before giving it to Göring."
"Crippled it?" Root asks. "What do you mean?"
"Imagine a new engine for an aeroplane. Imagine it has sixteen cylinders. It is more powerful than any other engine in the world. Even so, a mechanic can do certain thingsvery simple thingsto kill its performance. Such as pulling out half of the spark plug wires. Or tampering with the timing. This is an analogy to what I did with Görings cryptosystem."
"So what went wrong?" Shaftoe asks. "They figured out that you had crippled it?"
Rudolf von Hacklheber laughs. "Not very likely. Maybe half a dozen people in the world could figure that out. No, what went wrong was that you fellows, you Allies, landed in Sicily, and then in Italy, and not long afterwards, Mussolini was overthrown, the Italians withdrew from the Axis, and Angelo, like all of the other hundreds of thousands of Italian nationals living and working in the Reich, fell under suspicion. His services were badly needed as a test pilot, but his situation was tenuous. He volunteered for the most dangerous work of allflying the new Messerschmidt prototype, with the turbine-jet engine. This proved his loyalty in the eyes of some.
"Remember that, at the same time, I was decrypting the message traffic of Detachment 2702. I kept these results to myself, as I no longer felt any particular loyalty to the Third Reich. There had been a great burst of activity around the middle of April, and then no messages for a whileas if the detachment had ceased to exist. At exactly the same time, Görings people were very active for a few daysthey were afraid that Bischoff was going to broadcast the secret of U-553."
"So you know about that?" Bischoff asks.
"Natürlich. U-553 was Görings treasure ship. Its existence was supposed to be a secret. When you, Sergeant Shaftoe, turned up on board Bischoffs U-boat, talking about this thing, Göring was very concerned for a few days. But then everything settled down, and there was no Detachment 2702 traffic through the late spring and early summer. Mussolini was overthrown in late June. Then the troubles began for me and Angelo. The Wehrmacht was defeated by the Russians at Kurskabsolute proof, for those who needed it, that the Eastern Front is lost. Since then Göring has redoubled his efforts to get his gold, jewels, and art out of the country." Rudy looks at Bischoff. "I am frankly surprised that he has not tried to recruit you."
"Dönitz has," Bischoff admits.
Rudy nods; it all fits.
"During all of this," Rudy continues, "I received only one message intercept in the Detachment 2702 code. It took my machinery several weeks to break it. It was a message from Enoch Root, stating that he and Sergeant Shaftoe were in Norrsbruck, Sweden, and requesting further instructions. I was aware that Kapitänleutnant Bischoff was also in the same town, and became interested. I decided that this would be a good place for me and Angelo to escape to."
"Why!?" Shaftoe says. "Of all the places"
"Enoch and I had never met. But there are certain old family connections," Rudy says, "and certain shared interests."
Bischoff mutters something in German.
"The connections make a very long story. I would have to write a whole fucking book," Rudy says irritably.
Bischoff looks only slightly appeased, but Rudy goes on anyway. "It took us several weeks to make preparations. I packed up the Leibniz Archiv"
"Hold onthe what?"
"Certain materials I use in my research. They had been scattered among many libraries, all over Europe. Göring brought them all together for meit makes men like him feel powerful, to do these little favors for their slaves. I departed from Berlin last week, on the pretext of going to Hannover, to do my Leibniz research. Instead I made my way to Sweden through channels that were quite involved"
"No shit! Howd you manage that little stunt?" Shaftoe asks.
Rudy looks at Enoch Root as if expecting him to answer the question. Root shakes his head minutely.
"It would be too tedious to explain here," Rudy says, sounding mildly annoyed. "I found Enoch. We got a message to Angelo saying that I was safe here. Angelo then tried to make his escape in the Messerschmidt prototype, with the results that we have all seen."
A long pause.
"And now, here we are!" says Bobby Shaftoe.
"Here we are," agrees Rudolf von Hacklheber.
"What do you think we should do?" asks Shaftoe.
"I think we should form a secret conspiracy," says Rudolf von Hacklheber offhandedly, as if proposing to go in together on a fifth of bourbon. "We should all make our way separately to Manila and, once we arrive, we should take some, if not all, of the gold that the Nazis and the Nipponese have been hoarding there."
"What do you want with a shitload of gold?" Bobby asks. "Youre already rich."
"There are many deserving charities," Rudy says, looking significantly at Root. Root averts his eyes.
There is another long pause.
"I can provide secure lines of communication, which is the sine qua non of any secret conspiracy," says Rudolf von Hacklheber. "We will use the full-strength, uncrippled version of the same cryptosystem that I invented for Göring. Bischoff can be our man on the inside, since Dönitz wants him so badly. Sergeant Shaftoe can be"
"Dont even say it, I already know," says Bobby Shaftoe.
He and Bischoff look at Root, whos sitting on his hands, staring at Rudy. Looking oddly nervous.
"Enoch the Red, your organization can get us to Manila," von Hacklheber says.
Shaftoe snorts. "Dont you think the Catholic Church has its hands sort of full right now?"
"Im not talking about the Church," Rudy says. "Im talking about Societas Eruditorum."
"Congratulations there, Rudy!" Shaftoe says. "You surprised the padre. I didnt think it could be done. Now would you mind telling us what the fuck youre talking about?"