Nene did so well with the first Hell for Pastime story that when she had another Buy a Bard Auction, I quickly put in a bid. And Won!!! Again, I gave her the impossible task of writing a story from an idea that had been bouncing around in my head for many years which came from an Alistar MacLean book, Bear Island, and include the characters from the previous story she wrote for me, Hell for Pastime. Plus, since it is my fantasy, I asked her to give the character, Rohan, a love interest.
Language: some bad words.
Subtext: Yes, there are subs. And female/female sexual situations. If this is illegal where you live and/or you are under 18, do not continue to read this story.
Violence: Yes. Also angst and new and old Nazis.
This is the sequel to Hell for Pastime. You may wish to read that story first to understand the situations and characters. Any resemblance to persons dead or alive is unintentional.
HELL FOR PASTIME II: DEAD IN THE WATER
by Nene Adams ©2004 on behalf of Rohan the Thunder Chick
"Enemy submarines are to be called U-boats.
The term ‘submarine’ is to be reserved for Allied underwater vessels.
U-boats are those dastardly villains who sink our ships,
while submarines are those gallant and noble craft which sink theirs."
--- Winston Churchill
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
"Captain!" The desperation in Kapitänleutnant Helmut Möhlmann’s voice bled through the man’s trained military calm. "The engine room has flooded; there is damage to the communications room and other compartments. We must surface!"
"Nein!" Beneath the black beard, Captain Taranis’ face was engorged with blood; his eyes bulged with the fervor of a fanatic. "We must avoid capture at all costs. Our orders come directly from the Führer and from Befehlshaber Dönitz. The future of the Fatherland depends upon us, Helmut. We cannot fail."
Möhlmann swiped at his sweaty face. U-Boat 3555 was capable of running underwater far longer than other submarines; there was no need to surface to re-charge the batteries but the air inside was bad and getting worse. Every breath dragged into his leaden lungs felt thick as porridge. If he moved too quickly, black spots swam in his vision. What was left of the crew was no better off. The U-boat was crippled, the crew dead and dying… we are being driven to Hell by a madman obsessed with his single goal.
"Sir, the Russian torpedo did too much damage," Möhlmann said, trying once more to reason with the lunatic who was his commander. "If we do not surface, we will all die – either when we suffocate from lack of oxygen, or when more compartments flood and drag us down to the bottom of the sea. We must surface and surrender ourselves. Your orders do not matter, sir. More important things have happened at home." For the third time, he tried to show the captain a crumpled piece of paper – the last communication received before the hull was breached and the communications room flooded, destroying their radio equipment.
"Lies," Taranis said coldly, making a minute adjustment to the helm. He had taken that station himself, driving U-3555 deeper under the ice. "All lies."
Möhlmann wished that he still had his sidearm, but in a fit of paranoia, the captain had confiscated all weapons and locked them inside his personal safe. "The code was properly authenticated," he said. "Hitler is dead, a suicide. Dönitz has been named Reichspräsident."
"It was Hitler himself who abolished the office of president," Taranis said, "so I know this communiqué to be false. Be silent, Kapitänleutnant." In the red emergency lighting, his countenance was like a demonic mask. "We will complete our mission."
"What is this cargo we carry that is so precious to our commanders?" Möhlmann demanded angrily. "What treasure is worth all our lives?"
Taranis did not answer. Instead, he smiled – a flash of white teeth cutting through the heavy black beard that bisected his face – and began singing Deutschlandlied in a surprisingly sweet tenor.
Möhlmann coughed and spat; his chest hurt abominably, as if his sternum was being slowly crushed. He struggled another breath into his lungs and was about to speak, but a loud crunching noise echoed through the control room; at the same time, a vicious jolt shuddered through the pressure hull, almost driving the second-in-command to his knees. He fought to stay on his feet and barked, "Ice! We’ve struck ice!"
"Silence, Helmut!" Taranis roared, then shouted, "Äusserste kraft!" to the pale young sailor at the engine controls.
Full speed? Aghast, Möhlmann made a dive for the helm but Taranis whipped a pistol out of his uniform belt and pulled the trigger. Agony blossomed across his side; warm wetness seeped through his wool jacket. Möhlmann fell to the deck even as he registered the gurgling, bubbling rasp that came from his own throat, sure sign that the bullet had struck his lung. He was going to die if he did not drown first, along with every other soul on the doomed submarine.
A spray of salt water from a sprung seam hit him in the face.
Another loud crunch as the bow struck a sheet of ice; the steel plates, stressed beyond their capacity to bear, began to crumple with ominous groans.
"Full speed!" Taranis shrieked, striking the hapless sailor with the butt of his pistol. "Full speed, I say! Do you suffer from tin-fright, boy? You should be more frightened of me than any depth charge in the ocean! Now give me full power, damn you!"
Möhlmann choked; bloody froth spewed from his mouth, mingling with the salt water.
All around them, the ice was cracking. The emergency lights flickered.
Kapitänleutnant Helmut Möhlmann was dying, but so was U-3555.
CIA agent Amelia Peabody Emerson – God, how she sometimes hated her mother for burdening her with such a stupid literary moniker! – smoothed her navy blue DKNY jacket and checked her watch for the what seemed like the hundredth time since she had been summoned to the waiting room in the office of Senator Marian Donner, head of the Arms and Appropriations committee.
Emerson had no idea why the senator had sent for her but the woman had some serious political juju. The operative had been on assignment in Tangiers when the head of the Moroccan office had shown up with new orders and travel arrangements via a series of Navy air transports. Whatever Senator Donner wanted, she intended to get it by any means possible. That made Emerson very nervous. There had been no time to contact her boss and find out the reason behind the senator’s sudden interest in her. She had been whisked from the air field straight to Capitol Hill, although she had been allowed to change into more suitable clothing (provided by someone on the Senator’s staff) in the back of the limousine.
This can’t be good, Emerson thought, not noticing that her knee was jiggling nervously. I hate going into these situations without any intelligence at all. She eyed the secretary – one of those dragon-like females with permed hair and cat’s eye glasses – and wondered if she could sneak away and make a quick phone call to the Assistant Director.
It was very unusual for an ordinary agent to be summoned by anyone other than her direct superior or assigned controller. Under normal circumstances, it would be Emerson’s boss in the hot seat if Senator Donner was opening an inquiry into some CIA operation. What the hell was going on? Emerson gritted her teeth. Her firearm – and the back-up pistol she kept in an ankle holster – had been confiscated, as well as the knife in its spring-loaded sheath that she kept strapped to her forearm. The lack of weapons made her feel naked.
"C’mon, c’mon, c’mon," Emerson chanted under her breath, ignoring the secretary’s disapproving sniff.
The telephone on the secretary’s desk buzzed. She answered it, spoke briefly into the mouthpiece, then said to the impatient operative, "The Senator will see you now."
Thank the Great Ghu! Emerson sprang to her feet and practically raced to the door that led to Senator Donner’s inner sanctum. Despite her obvious middle age and pear-shaped figure, the secretary nevertheless managed to beat Emerson to the door; she opened it with a brittle smile that was as fake as plastic, and gestured the operative inside.
The first person that Emerson noticed was Senator Marian Donner herself. She was tall and elegant and lean, owning a classical beauty that reminded the agent of Jacqueline Bisset. The senator’s skin was well tanned, her hair styled in a deceptively simple fashion that screamed money. Donner rose from her desk – the top was clean of personal items except for a faded, sepia-toned photograph in a gilt frame of a man in uniform, a woman and a girl child holding a stuffed toy dog - and extended her hand in greeting. Emerson took it; the woman’s grip was firm and her palms dry. She glanced at the other person in the office, which caused her to stiffen in momentary shock.
"Hello, Amelia," the woman in the Navy dress whites said. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a smooth chignon at the base of her neck; her green eyes twinkled merrily, although her expression remained professionally neutral.
"Captain Anne Bonney, what a surprise!" Emerson said, drinking in the sight of her on-again, off-again lover. Their respective careers – she, a CIA operative and Bonney, captain of the Saber, a Sword-class U.S. Navy submarine – meant that neither of them were on dry land or in the same country long enough to sustain a physical relationship for very many weeks at a time. Even so, they connected whenever and wherever they could; the two women’s attraction was soul-deep and undeniable, regardless of the distance that circumstance conspired put between them.
"I understand that you two know each other." Senator Donner said, sitting back down behind her desk and clasping her hands together on the pristine blotter.
"Yes, last year we were involved in a joint intelligence operation… a downed satellite and a rogue agent," Emerson said, taking a seat in the chair next to Bonney. "I’m afraid that I’m not authorized to give you details, ma’am."
"That’s quite all right, Agent Emerson," the senator said smoothly. "What I’m after today has nothing to do with past CIA activities." She pressed a button to summon her secretary, who appeared immediately. "Agatha, bring me a cappuccino, please, and for my guests…" Donner broke off and looked at Emerson and Bonney, her eyebrow raised in mute inquiry.
"Nothing for me," Emerson said, followed by Bonney’s, "No, thank you, ma’am."
"Very well." When Agatha had gone, closing the door behind her, Senator Donner opened a folder on her desk and took out a photograph, sliding it across to Emerson. "This is a picture of a Type XXI U-boat, an Elektroboot which was built by Blohm & Voss for the German military between 1943 and 1945."
Emerson took the photo, glanced at it briefly, and handed it to Bonney. For an American, she noted, Senator Donner had a fairly decent German accent.
"This was the first real combat submarine," the senator continued, "developed to have the ability to run underwater for long distances. Before the Type XXI, other U-boats were mainly surface vessels that dived to hide from their adversaries or to attack enemy ships. With a battery capacity three times greater than its predecessors, she had enormous range and could stay submerged for two or three days at a time."
"If I may, ma’am," Bonney said, tapping the photograph with a finger. Her white dress uniform was crisp and fresh; the rows of gold braid on the sleeves were no less bright than her hair. "The Type XXI was a luxury boat for its kind; the crew quarters were more spacious, it was outfitted with a freezer for food storage, a shower, and was capable of running much more silently than other U-boats. Type XXI was also more streamlined and could load torpedoes in a fraction of the usual time. Had the Nazis developed the Elektroboot two years earlier, they might have won the war."
Well, I see my Annie’s been reading more than Patrick O’Brian novels lately, Emerson thought, and bit her lip to keep from smiling. The captain’s knowledge did not surprise her; like many sea commanders, Bonney was conversant in her occupation’s history and traditions.
"Thank you, captain." Senator Donner leafed through several pages in the folder before addressing the women again. "I’ve brought you both here for more than a history lesson, although you will need some background information in order to carry out your assignment. Captain Bonney, since you seem to have some knowledge of the subject, can you tell me what you know about U-3555?"
Bonney sat up very straight, which Emerson had thought impossible considering the captain’s normal ramrod posture. "U-3555, nicknamed Thunderbolt, was commanded by Kapitän Wilhelm Taranis." Bonney’s voice was precisely controlled, the tone identical to the one she used when explaining submarine operations to midshipmen-in-training. "She put out to sea in April, 1945, and was spotted off the coast of Norway by a Russian sub under the command of Pavel Ryndenko. He pursued and sunk U-3555 with all souls aboard."
"That may not be correct." Senator Donner took two more photographs out of the folder. These depicted a pair of paintings – Emerson thought she recognized the work of the late 19th century fin de siècle artist Gustav Klimt.
The senator brushed a lock of her brown hair behind her ear and went on, "These paintings by Klimt – Lady with Red Hat and The Golden Willows – are known to have been looted by the Nazis from a Jewish merchant family in Vienna. In a recently discovered cache of Third Reich documents, it was found that these particular artworks, among others, were part of a cargo carried by U-3555, along with some gold and other treasures including a list of Hitler’s secret Swiss bank accounts that contain millions of dollars of assets.
"Taranis’ mission was to take this cargo to South America, to be delivered to Erik Gottschalk, an S.S. officer whose mission was to establish a sanctuary for top Nazi government officials fleeing Germany ahead of the Allies."
Emerson exchanged a glance with Bonney. "Herr Gottschalk is the head of a neo-Nazi organization in South America called der Blitzschlag."
"Yes, he is." Senator Donner paused when her secretary, Agatha, came into the office bearing a cup of cappuccino whose foamy milk topping had been sprinkled with cinnamon. It smelled delicious but Emerson was in no mood for treats.
Although she had never dealt with Gottschalk or der Blitzschlag, Emerson knew that the organization was well-known as being dedicated to the re-establishment of the Third Reich. They ran a propaganda machine that produced magazines, newsletters and websites for their members, which numbered in the low millions world-wide. Der Blitzschlag also funded clubs to recruit new members to their cause; it was suspected that Gottschalk and his cronies had also established a terrorist training camp in Argentina but that had yet to be proved. The Israeli Mossad had been trying to get the war criminal Gottschalk for years without success.
When Agatha had gone again, the senator said, "The Klimt paintings were thought to be lost along with everything else on U-3555. However, three weeks ago in Amsterdam, both Lady with Red Hat and Golden Willows were sold to a private collector for $9 million and $5 million respectively."
Emerson let out a low whistle. "Are you sure the paintings came off that U-boat?"
"Whatever else one may say about the Nazis, they kept excellent records," Senator Donner said, narrowing her eyes. "As a further point of interest, the two owners of the art gallery which handled the sale belong to an underground organization called Nieuw Nederlands Front which is a Dutch offshoot of der Blitzschlag."
"Oh, my God." Bonney’s eyes glittered. "Someone’s found U-3555."
"Not someone," Emerson corrected grimly. "Gottschalk’s found it."
"Not necessarily." Senator Donner retrieved another photo from the folder. "It gets better, ladies. Take a look at this."
Emerson did as she was bid and bit off an exclamation that would have turned the air blue had she felt free to release it.
The photograph was black and white, probably taken with a digital camera with a zoom lens from across the street. It depicted a small group of people – five people, three men and two women – seated around a table at an outdoor café. An awning proclaimed that the place was named De Bakker’s Dochter, so it had to be somewhere in the Netherlands. That was not what concerned Emerson, or made her heart skip a beat.
One of the woman seated at the table was well known to her.
It was Rohan Tarnach.
She showed the photograph to Bonney; the captain had no scruples about letting out an obscene exclamation. "What is this?" Bonney took the picture and stared at it as if it was about to spit hellfire and damnation.
"Ms. Tarnach also participated in the satellite affair, didn’t she?" Senator Donner arched a brow. "This photo was taken by a CIA operative in Amsterdam; it depicts a meeting of members of the Nieuw Nederlands Front. One of the men is Klaas Donkersloot, co-owner of the art gallery where the Klimt paintings were sold."
"What happened to Rohan?" Bonney asked.
"She quit her job with the Daily Yell in Arlington, Virginia, two months ago," the senator said. She sipped her cappuccino and licked a smear of milky foam from her upper lip in one quick flick of the tongue. "Ms. Tarnach has been in communication with Donkersloot and the woman, Trudie van Geer, since just before she terminated her employment. I have copies of e-mails exchanged between Ms. Tarnach and Ms. van Geer."
Senator Donner slid the folder across the desk. Emerson took it and quickly scanned the contents, which would require a closer inspection later. One thing that jumped out at her was the depth of the relationship evident between Rohan and the van Geer woman; they seemed genuinely attracted to one another – on paper, at least. What she did not understand was why Rohan had become involved with a group of neo-Nazis! Granted, she did not really know the former journalist (no, researcher for the newspaper) very well, but it did not seem like something Rohan Tarnach would involve herself with.
Bonney must have been thinking similar thoughts, for she said, "That doesn’t sound like the Rohan Tarnach I know."
"People change." The senator shrugged an elegant shoulder. Clad in a cerise Westwood suit with a black-and-white checked silk shirt, she seemed the epitome of cool command. "You, Agent Emerson, and you, Captain Bonney, have been assigned to my office for the duration of your mission. I want you to go to Amsterdam and find out the location of U-3555. Destroy that sub if you have to; we can’t allow the resources to be exploited by der Blitzschlag or Nieuw Nederlands Front. You’re authorized to use whatever force necessary; the Amsterdam office will assist with all details."
"Ma’am, my boat…" Bonney began, and Senator Donner interrupted.
"Is in the capable hands of your Number Two, Commander Sherwood. The Saber is on patrol in the Denmark Straight, captain. I’m sure your crew will be able to get along without you for a few weeks, or however long it takes." The senator gave Bonney a hard look. "If U-3555 has to be scuttled, you’ve got the necessary expertise to do the job properly. Otherwise, if it is in operational order, you’re to pilot the sub to pre-determined coordinates. The information is in the file."
"Aye-aye, ma’am," Bonney said.
"And as for Ms. Rohan Tarnach…"
Unconsciously, Emerson leaned forward. She had a bad, bad feeling about this. The conversation had been pleasant so far but the other shoe was about to drop and she was willing to bet that it would make a hell of a thump when it hit.
Senator Donner continued, "Eliminate Ms. Tarnach once you’ve located the sub. Treason against this country is not to be tolerated. Is this understood?" This time, she focused that laser-beam gaze on Emerson.
"Yes, senator, I understand perfectly." Emerson managed to get the acknowledgement out coherently past a too-tight jaw, but it was not easy. Shit.
Rohan was not a friend but Bonney liked the plump, irritating, harem-scarem woman – why, Emerson could not fathom. Still, it would hurt Bonney if anything happened to Rohan… which is why Emerson needed to have a little chat with the head of the Amsterdam office when they arrived in the Netherlands.
There were ways to make a death seem natural.
Heart attack, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage… anything was possible when one had access to sophisticated chemical cocktails and cutting-edge delivery systems.
Emerson relaxed and sat back in the chair.
At least she could guarantee that Rohan would not suffer… or at least, the woman would not suffer for very long.
Over the Atlantic Ocean, en route to Amsterdam
Captain Anne Bonney reminded herself that she was supposed to be an officer and a gentleman, which meant that no matter how much she might have liked drop-kicking Senator Marian Donner into the nearest sanitary tank, she would comport herself with dignity and professionalism - which is why she was sitting on a commercial airliner sipping indifferent champagne in first class rather than slurping Chief Engineer Xiang’s excellent Ethiopian roast coffee in the control room of her submarine.
At least she had Amelia Peabody Emerson to compensate for part of the inconvenience. Bonney shot a side-long glance at her seat partner. Emerson looked good; she had acquired a tan in Tangiers which further lightened her ice-blue eyes. The agent’s dark hair was worn loose on her shoulders and she had recently trimmed her bangs. Bonney’s breath caught, as usual, at the crystal clarity of Emerson’s beauty. She loved Emerson, yet she could not forsake her first beloved – the sea.
Bonney recalled a poem by Cale Rice, The Great Seducer –
Who looks too long from his window
At the gray, wide, cold sea,
Where breakers scour the beaches
With fingers of sharp foam;
Who looks too long thro’ the gray pane
At the mad, wild, bold sea,
Shall sell his hearth to a stranger
And turn his back on home.
That was how it was with her; no matter how much she adored Amelia Emerson, the first claim upon her heart and soul was made by the wild bitch-mistress called ocean. Bonney was wedded to the waves, ensnared forever by a saltwater addiction. She had never tried to pretend otherwise. One day she would retire, of course; find some little cottage on an island or oceanfront property on the mainland, buy a sailboat and spend her remaining years puttering around and making a nuisance of herself with the local sailing community. She hoped that Emerson might agree to retire with her.
Then again, the CIA is one of those organizations where certain people retire feet first in a wooden kimono, Bonney thought. She knew Emerson did wet work when required; Bonney would never forget seeing the agent in action aboard the renegade Kursk submarine Samara, when she had killed two men in less than ten seconds - one with a knife, the other with her fists and feet. Emerson was all deadliness and grace who probably knew a dozen ways to end a life using a cocktail umbrella.
Well, they would deal with that when the time came. Right now, the focus was on Rohan Tarnach and U-3555.
Bonney waved away the perky stewardess who was shimmying up and down the aisles offering more champagne and snacks that were emphatically not honey roasted peanuts. She wrinkled her nose at the salty/fishy smell of caviar. Beside her, Emerson grinned and slathered a cracker with the shiny black beads.
"Mmmm," Emerson said, cramming the caviar-laden cracker in her mouth and chewing vigorously. "Want some?"
"No." Bonney filched a stuffed mushroom off the other woman’s plate. "If you knew what kind of pollutants were being dumped into the Caspian Sea on a regular basis, you wouldn’t eat beluga caviar either."
Emerson shrugged. "Eh, who wants to live forever." She ate another two crackers in rapid succession, then started on the smoked salmon-and-goat cheese torte. "I’ve eaten grubs, Annie. Raw. Squirming. Grubs. And sheep eyeballs in Morocco, live eels in Japan, maggot cheese in Sardinia and had cat-shit coffee in Indonesia. Cancer-causing fish eggs don’t even make a guest appearance on my squick list."
Bonney chuckled. "Remind me never to try and gross you out with tales of blood pudding in England and sweetened seal’s fat in the Arctic."
"Not even close to gross, sweetheart." Emerson scooped the last forkful of torte into her mouth and wiped her lips with a napkin. "So… Rohan’s back."
"She never really left, Amelia." Bonney frowned. "I wish I could get hold of COW Halliday; he and Rohan were email correspondents. He might have some insight into this whole mess."
"I doubt it."
Bonney gave her partner a sharp glance. "You sound altogether too complacent, Ms. Emerson. Don’t tell me you’re going to seriously consider obeying the senator’s order to terminate Rohan."
"Goddammit, Annie, why don’t you say it a little louder, ‘cause I think some of the folks in third class didn’t hear you," Emerson said under her breath in a forceful whisper.
"You are not going to hurt Rohan," Bonney retorted, although she did lower her voice.
"I’m not a midshipman and I’ve got my orders already, thanks." Emerson leaned over and took Bonney’s hand, brushing her thumb over the knuckles back and forth in an unmistakable caress. "Listen, Annie… we won’t know how to handle the situation until we get more intelligence, which is why the senator chose us for the job. We got close to Rohan on the Saber – you more than me, because frankly I think the woman’s a pain in the ass – and so we’re the only ones who can get close enough to her now to suss out the truth."
"I suppose that makes sense." Bonney could not help feeling somewhat suspicious, however. She knew Emerson about as well as anyone else; if the agent thought that Rohan posed a threat, the woman would have no chance at all. "Just promise me, Amelia, that you won’t do anything rash."
Bonney snorted. "Yes, you know – hasty, inconsidered, spur of the moment, off the cuff. Let’s hear Rohan’s side of the story before you go medieval on her ass."
It was Emerson’s turn to snort. "I knew I shouldn’t have let you see Pulp Fiction."
"Who was it quoting from The Hunt for Red October last month in Bimini?"
Emerson got a far-away expression on her. "Ah, Bimini… sun, sea, surf, sand, and you."
"And about two dozen tourists who were treated to a variation of the lampshade watusi when you got drunk on Zombies, ripped off your bathing suit, jumped on top of the beachside tiki bar buck-ass naked and gyrated to the steel drum band’s up-tempo rendition of Mandy." Bonney still felt a mixture of fond exasperation and a trace of smugness over that one. Emerson had danced for two minutes before explosively vomiting and passing out, taking half the tiki bar with her. The next morning had been one for hushed voices and Alka-Seltzer.
"Yeah, but I still got that James Warhola original painting of Peeled Paul as a Garbage Pail Kids concept," Emerson said, sighing. Her collection of quirky and disgusting trading cards from the 1980s was her pride and joy. "And I got it for a song, Annie! For a song!"
No matter where they went, Emerson managed to find someone who appreciated the Garbage Pail Kids as much as she did, and she was not above a little swapping or outright dealing if she came across a wanted item. Bonney did not understand why an otherwise sophisticated woman-of-the-world would want to collect controversial cards depicting snot, pus and puke-dripping Cabbage Patch dolls gone horribly wrong. It was an oddly endearing incongruity, just part of Emerson’s complex character that Bonney loved.
"But to get back to the topic at hand," Bonney said, not willing to be distracted from more serious considerations, "I want your promise that you aren’t going to hurt Rohan."
Emerson abruptly sobered. "I can’t make that promise, babe."
Bonney wanted to argue but Emerson squeezed her hand in a silent gesture meant to express ‘hush and let me explain.’
"What if Commander Sherwood – your good buddy Nathan… what if he resigned his commission and later, you found out he had joined a terrorist group. He tells you that he’s now working to undermine U.S. national security. Would you let him live because he’s your friend, or would you try and eliminate the threat if it was serious enough to warrant such action?" Emerson stared at her, and finally, Bonney nodded.
She understood sacrifices. She understood the necessity to safeguard the country she had sworn to protect. Bonney could, and would, do whatever was necessary to fulfill that mandate. She loved Nathan Sherwood like a brother but if she had to order his death and there was no other choice, she would do it. That was what command decisions were all about.
Bonney did not have to like it, though.
Oh, Rohan… what have you done?
The CIA maintained a small, unobtrusive office above a shop in the Kalverstraat, a street in the heart of Amsterdam. The Chief of the station was James Walker, a pale-haired and pale-skinned man sporting a magnificent handlebar mustache.
"I can’t say that I’m entirely happy about this," Walker told them, ushering the women into a tiny office shoe-horned beneath a steep staircase. "It isn’t a good time. The AIVD/DIB – that’s the Algemeene Inlichtingen en Veiligheids Dienst and the Buitenlandse Inlichtingen Dienst, the Dutch intelligence community both at home and abroad – have been conducting some kind of sting operation in Amsterdam and they’ve shut us out completely."
Emerson grunted. "This have anything to do with the Klimt paintings?"
Walker gave her the fish-eye. "We think so," he answered slowly, hitching a hip on the edge of his cluttered desk and smoothing his mustache with a finger. "Look, all I know is that we received a communiqué from Senator Donner, authorized by the Director, ordering us to give you full cooperation and support on an unspecified mission. Maybe you can see your way to giving me enough details so I can do my job and help you do yours."
Emerson returned his fish-eye with a distinctly more evil one of her own. "We’re investigating the appearance of two Klimt paintings that were recently sold at an art gallery here. The works were believed to be lost."
"Yes, there’s some myth about a lost Nazi U-boat full of treasure, but a similar myth applies to the Amber Room that was in the Tsar’s palace. You know, the Germans dismantled all these amber and jeweled panels worth $142 million and shoved them on a U-boat which was subsequently torpedoed or ended up in Brazil or in an abandoned coal mine or some such bullshit. History as yellow journalism… it makes for a best-seller or an Indiana Jones movie, but there’s not a whole lot of provable fact in the theories."
"Be that as it may," Bonney said, "we want to interview the gallery owners."
"Not possible, hon." Walker shook a cigarette out of a crumpled pack and lit it with a Zippo lighter he took from his shirt pocket. "We’ve been warned off by the AIVD/DIB. They’re handing the sale as a potential art theft."
"If that really was the case," Emerson said, "wouldn’t the police be investigating?"
"Hey, I just do as I’m told, and I was told not to make waves." Walker shrugged and smirked. "If you have a problem, I suggest you see Marieke Verhagen. She’s the DIB agent in charge of the operation."
Emerson reached out, plucked the cigarette from between his lips and tossed it on the floor. With Walker’s startled, "Hey!" still ringing in the air, she utilized a martial arts move from the blend of styles she had forged from tae kwan do, jeet kun do, akido, Shaolin, Indonesian silek, Russian Army systema, Samoan pi’inga wrestling, Maori rongomamau empty-hand techniques and native lua from the Hawaiian isles. Walker was lifted, flipped and held pinned face-down over the desk in less than a heartbeat, his arm twisted painfully behind his back in a position that might end in a dislocated elbow if he struggled.
He did not struggle.
Bonney tsked and shook her head. "Honestly, Amelia, I think you enjoy that too much."
"Yeah? Maybe I love beating the crap out of snotty assholes who think they can blow me off." Emerson showed her teeth in a feral grin. "Listen, James," she hissed, wrenching his arm up another half-inch and dragging a pained whimper out of the man, "let’s get something straight, okay? You do as I tell you and we’ll get along just fine. You and me, we’re not going to get into some kind of territorial pissing contest because, frankly, I’ve got more balls than you ever will. Big brass ones, in fact, so you do not want to get on my bad side. I figure you’ve got to be expendable, otherwise they wouldn’t have stuck you in this po-dunk office in the middle of bumfuck Europe. I disappear you, I just get a reprimand in my file. Got it?"
"Got it," Walker gritted. Emerson released him. The man rose slowly from the desk, his face crimson. "Technically, I’m your superior," he told the agent.
"Well, technically I could castrate you with that stapler, but in reality, it’d just leave you with a nasty wound instead of a clean amputation." Emerson shrugged. "Same result; you’d still be peeing through a straw for the rest of your life."
Walker put on a brave expression but Bonney could tell that he was intimidated. "What do you want?" he asked harshly.
"I want you to quit jerking me around." Emerson picked up the abandoned cigarette, which was still smoldering, and stuck it back into Walker’s mouth. "Arrange a meeting with this DIB chick as soon as possible. Get me copies of all your intelligence on the Nieuw Nederlands Front, Trudie van Geer, the activities of der Blitzschlag in Holland, the art gallery where the Klimt paintings were sold, the buyer and anything else related to those topics. Captain Bonney and I will be staying at the Hotel Krasnapolsky."
"That’s a five-star hotel," Walker said. "I’ve already arranged for…"
"Hey, we Jane Bond types go for luxury all the way. Use the company credit card to make our reservations, James. I’m sure the senator will approve." Emerson shoved away from his desk and jerked her head at the door. "C’mon, Annie. I’m sure Mr. Man here needs time to pull himself together and put on clean undies."
Bonney paused at the door. "Mr. Walker, we would also like to interview the agent who has had the Nieuw Nederlands Front under surveillance."
"That’d be a Dutch asset, Henk Koopmans. I’ll have him come by your hotel after eight o’clock tonight." Walker sounded sullen but there was still a spark of fear in the man’s eyes. Bonney almost felt sorry for him. Emerson could be a real force of nature and she was used to having her own way.
Emerson was tugging her arm gently. Bonney nodded at Walker – who ignored her – and went out of the office.
Amsterdam, The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
in Dam Square, opposite the Royal Palace
The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky was not too far from the Kalverstraat. Emerson and Bonney could have walked there in a few minutes, but first they needed to do some shopping. Fortunately, the Kalverstraat was one of the premier shopping areas in Amsterdam, full of boutiques and stores and shops crammed cheek-to-jowl on either side of the narrow thoroughfare. Emerson had been given a credit card with a high limit for expenses, and she had two more cards drawing from a special Agency account that she could use if needed.
They purchased shirts and trousers and other necessities, since the Senator had given them no opportunity to pack suitcases. Dutch fashion proved to be either very ordinary or outré; there seemed to be no middle ground. Emerson stuck to black – her favorite color – while Bonney chose navy blue (no surprise there) or khaki. Both women avoided the feathers and fringes and brown-and-orange retro 70s gear that was thick on the racks.
Bonney dragged Emerson into the famous American Book Store in order to buy some books in case she got bored with the spy vs. spy thing – Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail and Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain. Emerson rolled her eyes. She knew that Bonney considered ships and subs and sailing better than sex… well, almost, since Emerson could muster no complaints on that score. Bonney was enthusiastic, inventive and uninhibited – they matched as perfectly in bed as they seemed mismatched out of it.
Emerson snorted. She did love Anne Bonney; that was not the problem. No, the fly in the ointment of their relationship was that their careers meant they could only snatch a few days together every few months. Having spent a lot of time, money and effort training her, the CIA was getting their investment’s worth sending Emerson to trouble-spots around the globe, places where her particular expertise was needed. As for Bonney… the Saber and the U.S. Navy were huge and very important chunks of her life.
Then again, I don’t want some little wifey waiting for me at home with pipe and slippers and a shaken-not-stirred martini, Emerson thought. No, she enjoyed Bonney’s independence and was proud of her lover’s accomplishments. She just wished they could have more time together.
I wonder if I ought to think about retiring from active duty. Emerson put a hand on the small of Bonney’s back as she opened the door to usher the shorter woman outside. If I took an analyst’s position or opted into another program, I’d be able to pick and choose my assignments. Let’s face it – I’m not getting any younger. Once you’re on the wrong side of thirty, the reflexes begin to slow down no matter how much training you put your body through. One of these days, some young turk is going to be that much faster and that much better and it’ll be lights out for good.
Before she met Bonney, the thought of dying while in the service of the Agency had not really bothered her. It had been inevitable, she supposed. However, Emerson now had somebody to live for. In fact, she had already named Bonney as the primary beneficiary on her life insurance and put the woman down as next-of-kin in her personnel file.
They checked into the Hotel Krasnapolsky – the CIA had a permanent reservation for a room that was paid out of the Amsterdam office’s budget – and after changing into new outfits, went to the hotel’s Wintertuin for a drink. The Wintertuin was a 19th century glass conservatory filled with palm trees and plants; the late afternoon sun was a blaze of gold that brought out the Titian highlights in Bonney’s hair. Emerson found a table and ordered Irish coffee for them both.
"Penny for your thoughts," Bonney said after their drinks arrived.
"Adjusted for inflation, that’s about a buck," Emerson replied. She toyed with the linen napkin a moment before saying, "Ah, hell, Annie… I miss you."
"I miss you too, Amelia."
"I miss you more." Emerson held up a hand to forestall Bonney’s next comment. "I’ve been thinking, babe."
"A dangerous prospect." Bonney took Emerson’s hand and entwined their fingers together. "All right, there’s something going on here. Spit it out before you choke on it."
Not even Emerson could resist the command growl in her lover’s voice, which she thought was kind of sexy. "I want us to be able to spend more time together. What would you say if I took a desk job?"
She closed her eyes just in time as a surprised Bonney spewed a mouthful of Irish coffee across the table, although her face took the brunt of the inundation. The ensuing mopping up gave Emerson an excuse to allow the other woman time to recover her composure. When Bonney finished wiping the dripping coffee trails from her face, Emerson said, "So? What do you think?"
"Have you hit your head recently?" Bonney threw down the sopping napkin. "You’d no more take desk duty than I’d turn into the Grand Poobah of Fiddler’s Green!"
"Well, your Poobah-ship, the time’s, they are a-changing." Emerson grinned. "Don’t look like I busted your dolly, babe. Us fire-eating, raw-meat chewing, kill-you-with-a-sanitary-napkin alpha bitches can’t keep up our dangerous ways indefinitely."
"I hear you," Bonney nodded slowly, apparently considering the matter. "You’re right, Amelia. You’re not getting any younger."
"And you are? No, that’s not fair. I’m sorry, Annie. What I mean is… I’m already losing my edge." Emerson took a sip of her Irish coffee, savoring the bitterness and the whiskey burn. "There are old agents, and bold agents, but no old, bold agents. I’ve either got to get out of the game soon or else…" She drew a finger across her throat.
Bonney took a deep breath. "What do you want to do?"
"I’m not sure." Emerson had not really given the matter a lot of conscious thought. "There’s a forensics program I could get into; it would mean some field duty but nothing like the assignments I’m doing now." Actually, the position was for a ‘cleaner’ – someone who was called in to crime scenes to either get rid of the evidence (including disposing of bodies) or alter evidence to make one thing seem like another – but Bonney did not need details.
"And then what? Are you going to be a sea widow, Amelia? Because I’ll tell you straight, I’m not ready to retire yet. The brass keeps trying to promote me to Admiral; I’m going to keep telling them to stow it until I can’t avoid land duty any longer." Bonney had the grace to look apologetic. "Don’t misunderstand me, darlin’. I want to be with you. I do."
"I know." Emerson patted her lover’s hand. "Believe me, I know. I’m not trying to pressure you into anything. It’s just time I made a change before something permanent happens, like the never-get-overs."
"It’s got to be your decision, but I won’t be unhappy to see you in a somewhat safer profession."
"Hah! Like being a thousand feet underwater in a tin can is safe."
"Statistically, your chances of breaking your neck at home in your own shower are greater than dying in a submarine."
"Tell that to the poor Russian bastards who were drowned on the original Kursk submarine back in ’00," Emerson said. She pushed an unruly lock of black hair out of her eyes. "Hey, we worry about each other, that’s good. We love each other, that’s even better. I just want us to have a little more togetherness time and besides, I figure the Agency owes me a cushy position after all the crap I’ve had to put up with over the years."
"Whatever you want to do, I’ll support you." Bonney suddenly grinned. "I’ve already listed you for spousal benefits."
"I put you down on my insurance," Emerson confessed. "So where should I start looking for seaside property?"
"Excuse me," a man’s voice said, interrupting their conversation. "I understand you wish to see me."
Emerson looked up at a dark-haired, clean-shaven young man with long sideburns that came to a point at the angle of his jaw. "Henk Koopmans?"
"Ja, dat ben ik." Koopmans stuck out his hand. Emerson took it, evaluating the man who had been recruited by Walker – an asset, in the Agency parlance, meaning a foreign agent working for the local CIA office.
"Please join us, Mr. Koopmans," Bonney said, shaking his hand in turn. "Would you care for a drink?"
Koopmans shook his head but he did sit down, turning the chair around and straddling it. "Mr. Walker said that you wanted to speak to me about some surveillance photos?"
Straight to the point. Good. Emerson finished her lukewarm coffee in a few swallows. "I’m interested in some pictures you took at a location called De Bakker’s Dochter."
"Trudie van Geer." Koopmans’ brown eyes narrowed. "And Nieuw Nederlands Front. A bunch of fascists, ultra-right garbage."
"What do you know about Trudie van Geer?"
"Not much." He shrugged. "She’s a student. Trudie used to be the girlfriend of Joop Voskuil, who owns Galerie De Twee Pauwen with Klaas Donkersloot. They’re all part of the Nieuw Nederlands Front. Mr. Walker pays me to keep surveillance on the three of them; Trudie in particular. He likes lots of photos."
Understanding dawned. Emerson asked casually, "You take a lot of candid shots, Henk?" At his puzzled frown, she elaborated, "Does Walker want you to photograph Trudie when she’s showering or undressing or just plain nude?"
"Of course." Koopmans shifted in the chair and took a pouch of tobacco and some Rizla papers out of his back pocket. He spent a few moments expertly rolling a cigarette, wetting the seam with his tongue. "Walker pays me extra for… what do you call it? Beaver shots. He likes porno, you know? I’ve got a telephoto lens, man; I can get real close."
Emerson bared her teeth in a not-grin. "Great. Just great. Listen, Henk… you’d better cool that Playboy shit, all right? If Walker’s bosses back home get wind that he’s been using budget money to pay for a personal stash of dirty pictures, there’s going to be some major shit-canning headed his way and you don’t want to get involved. Savvy?"
Koopmans lit his cigarette and blew out a stream of smoke. "I gotcha," he said, pointing an index finger at Emerson and cocking back his thumb in a classic pistola gesture. "Not a problem, Agent Emerson."
She poked him in the chest, more to get his attention than as an intimidation tactic, although that was hovering in the wings, too. "I’d better not catch you hawking pussy-pics over the Internet, hoss. Otherwise, there’ll be hell to pay."
He affected a ‘who, me?’ expression that did not fool Emerson one bit. She propped an elbow on the table, fixed him with her best ‘do not fuck with me, boy’ glare, and went on softly, "They’ll never find your body. Believe it.
His face still expressed his doubts. Emerson cinched it by adding, "My code-name, by the way, is Widowmaker."
Koopmans almost inhaled his cigarette. Emerson sat back satisfied; not even Bonney’s half-amused, half-appalled look could put a dent in her enjoyment. Any day in which she could strong-arm not one but two grown men into pants-pissing submission was a good day, indeed. Emerson not only felt like a bad-ass, she was a bad-ass.
Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil… for I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley.
Emerson’s code-name was infamous within the Agency. Widowmaker had a reputation for cold-blooded violence that far outshined any other wet-work operative. Some of that reputation was pure bombast but a large portion she had earned with gun and knife and other weapons. Bonney had no idea about some of the nastier assignments she had weathered, and Emerson never wanted her lover to find out.
The cigarette extinguished and his breath regained, Koopmans took his leave. Bonney gazed at her, a speculative gleam in the captain’s emerald eyes.
"Widowmaker?" Bonney asked.
"We’ve all got code names," Emerson said, knowing Bonney did not have the necessary security clearance to pull her operation files. "Do you remember John Makepeace?"
"The renegade agent who stole the microchip out of the downed satellite on Royal Island."
"His code-name was Chaos." Emerson spotted a bicycle courier headed towards their table; the spandex-clad girl had a cardboard delivery box under her arm. "Hey, I think Walker’s sent those files we wanted."
Bonney rose from the table. "We’d better take them to our room."
"I can think of better things to do when we’re in private." Emerson waggled her eyebrows and leered, which made Bonney laugh.
"Come on, you goofus, before we give these poor folks a show they’ll have to bleach their eyeballs to forget."
"Speak for yourself, sailor. I’m so buff, they’d pay to see me in the altogether."
"In your dreams, land lubber. Let’s get underway because I think the Irish coffee’s gone to your head." Bonney smiled and started walking towards the elevators.
Having signed for the box, Emerson followed Bonney, humming happily beneath her breath. While the senator’s assignment was irritating in some respects, in others, she was quite content. Time spent with Bonney – even if it was a stolen hour or two – was worth any price. Emerson decided that she would definitely seek out the Assistant Director and ask about a transfer from active status. Aware that she was being watched by several hotel patrons, she executed a roll-snap of her hips and a quick cha-cha one-two-three that would have made her mother, the International Latin Dance champion, proud.
What the hell… you only live once.
She got into the elevator, still humming… and found herself face-to-face with Trudie van Geer. The Dutch woman had a gun – a workmanlike Sig Sauer P-226, the weapon of the serious professional – and it was pointed at Bonney.
Emerson’s day plummeted from good to extremely bad in less than a second.
Amsterdam, The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
in Dam Square, opposite the Royal Palace
Another woman entered the elevator and stabbed the button to close the door. She was a tall thin brunette – built like a stork, in Bonney’s opinion, all bones and skin and no meat to speak of – whose boxy Chanel-type suit was yellow trimmed with braid the same color as her hair. A bright Hermès scarf was wrapped around her throat. Bonney would have bet that the scarf alone was worth a week of her salary including hazard pay.
In contrast, Trudie van Geer was scruffy, wearing a Powerpuff Girls T-shirt and faded denim jeans with a hole in the knee. Her strawberry-blonde hair was gathered into two braids fastened at the ends with yarn bows. Bonney noticed that Trudie’s eyes were emerald green, the same as her’s. There were other similarities; to the casual glance, the two women might have been sisters.
There was nothing sisterly in the Sig Sauer pointed at her head, though.
Emerson growled. There was no other word for the sound that rumbled out of the agent’s throat.
The CIA operative was not the only one well-versed in empty hand combat forms. As a naval commander, Bonney had undergone some martial arts training; not as extensive as Emerson’s but it would serve well enough. Accordingly, she reached up and grabbed Trudie’s wrist, applying a forceful twist against the joint that was not only painful, it would cause nerves to spasm instantly and painfully, making Trudie drop the pistol.
Emerson reacted with typical swiftness; in a heartbeat, she had the other woman pressed against the side of the elevator, the Hermès scarf acting as an opportunistic garrotte.
"Who are you and what do you want?" she snarled.
Bonney put her foot on the gun and kept Trudie in a submission hold.
The well-dressed woman’s gaze never flickered. "Be at ease, Agent Emerson, Captain Bonney. My name is Marieke Verhagen, DIB." She eased a hand into her jacket, removed a wallet and showed them an identity card. "We must talk."
Emerson’s eyes blazed. "Nice greeting, Ms. Verhagen, and a good way to get yourself killed." She released the Dutch agent, shaking her head. "Idiots."
Bonney let go of Trudie, who stooped to scoop up the gun. The pigtailed woman shoved the Sig Sauer into the back of her jeans, pulling her T-shirt down to cover the weapon. "A precaution," she explained. "We’re playing a dangerous game, captain."
"You got that right." Emerson eyed Verhagen and Trudie with dislike. "I don’t know how they do things here in Tulipsville, sweetheart, but where I come from, you don’t stick a gun in somebody’s face when their pissed-off partner is around to kick your dumb ass from here to Asia headed eastward."
Bonney cleared her throat. Sometimes, Emerson’s protective streak went a little too far. "Do I look like Little Nell to you?" she asked
"Do I look like Dudley Do-Right?" Emerson shot back. "Okay, so you weren’t tied to a railroad track by Snidely Whiplash, but you were still in danger, Annie."
"And I handled it," Bonney pointed out.
"Ladies, as fascinating as this incomprehensible dialogue is, may we continue our business elsewhere?" Verhagen asked. Without waiting for an answer, she pressed the button that would take them to the floor where Emerson and Bonney’s room was located.
Trudie led the way down the corridor. She was an incongruous sight in the luxurious surroundings, dressed in her torn jeans and cartoon T-shirt. Bonney could believe the young woman was a student; it was more difficult to comprehend why such a sweet-faced female would be a member of a neo-Nazi organization. Or was she? Judging from the presence of the DIB agent Verhagen, Trudie van Geer was either more or less than she seemed.
Once inside their room, Bonney and Emerson sat side-by-side on the leather sofa while Trudie slouched against the wall nearby. Verhagen stood in front of them, smoothing her heavily sprayed helmet of brunette hair. "I received word from James Walker that you’ve been sent to investigate the Nieuw Nederlands Front."
Emerson nodded in acknowledgement, and Verhagen continued, "The DIB is already involved in a covert investigation. We will not tolerate American interference in what is a purely internal matter. Do you understand?"
"Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel," Emerson grumbled.
Bonney discreetly thumped Emerson in the ribs with her elbow. "We have no intention of interfering in your investigation, Ms. Verhagen. However, since it involves a U.S. citizen named Rohan Tarnach, I believe that our country’s interests cannot be wholly dismissed."
"Are you with the diplomatic corps?" Verhagen asked.
"United States Navy," Bonney replied.
They stared at each other a long moment, assessing. Finally, Verhagen broke off and sighed. "All right, in the interests of international relations, I concede the point. But," she added, pointing a scarlet-lacquered fingernail at Bonney, "my tolerance extends so far and no further."
Bonney would have liked to grab that scarlet talon and snap it off; she did not appreciate being pointed at as though she was a deck-ape called to task by the Chief of the Boat over some infraction. Instead, she stiffened her spine and said crisply, "I’m sure your superiors will appreciate the spirit of cooperation you’ve extended, ma’am… no matter how reluctantly."
Verhagen stared at her, then threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, nobody’s spoken to me like that in years!"
"Then it’s high time somebody did." Out of the corner of her eye, Bonney saw Emerson’s wide grin and decided to ignore it, as long as the DIB agent did not take offense. "Perhaps you can start by telling us about Ms. van Geer. We were told that she was a member of Nieuw Nederlands Front."
"I am," Trudie said, shoving her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans. "I’m an undercover DIB agent."
"And I’m the Tooth Fairy," murmured Emerson.
Trudie shook her head, strawberry-blonde pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. "I look younger than I really am."
Verhagen chose a chair and sat down, crossing her long, slim legs. "Two months ago, a DIB informant told us there were rumors that U-3555 – Taranis’ Thunderbolt – had been found by a German researcher. We tried to follow the lead but it went nowhere. Then the two Klimt paintings appeared here in Amsterdam three weeks ago at Galerie De Twee Pauwen, being sold by the owners Klaas Donkersloot and Joop Voskuil."
"Who was the buyer?" Emerson asked.
"A Japanese investment firm," Verhagen said. "We’ve checked and Tokoyumi Enterprises has no connection to Nieuw Nederlands Front or der Blitzschlag."
Bonney rubbed her lower lip thoughtfully. "And the German researcher who supposedly found U-3555… would he be Professor Gebhard Kappelhoff by any chance? Of Stuttgart University?"
Verhagen raised both plucked eyebrows in surprise, while Emerson turned to Bonney and mouthed, "Who the hell?"
"How do you know Herr Kappelhoff?" Verhagen asked.
"He’s written several books on U-boats and their crews," Bonney said. "Kappelhoff is considered one of the world’s leading experts on World War II submarine warfare."
"I should have known," Emerson sighed.
"Herr Kappelhoff died three weeks ago, around the same time the paintings were offered for sale. Officially, it was a heart attack. Unofficially, there were faint marks of torture on the body. I’d say that he did not survive the first question; autopsy showed Kappelhoff had a weak heart." Verhagen offered this tidbit to Emerson, one professional to another.
Emerson tsked. "Sloppy work; the idea behind torture is to extract information, not kill your target the first time out of the gate." She explained to Bonney, "One of the favored methods of forceful extraction is electrocution – it was used a lot by the Stasi, the East German secret police, back when Berlin was still divided by a wall. Hotwiring causes a hell of a lot of pain, sometimes bleeding in the joints or muscle tissue, but the technique leaves no visible scars unless the torturer gets carried away. I guess Kappelhoff’s heart couldn’t take the voltage. One zap was probably enough to kill him."
"Do you speak from personal experience?" Verhagen asked coolly.
Emerson just looked at her and did not answer.
Bonney knew her lover was an assassin, a wet-work operative who killed people for a living, among other things. Her own profession was not that different; in the event of a war, she could be ordered to fire nuclear missiles upon a city of millions, the majority of whom would be innocent victims of their own government’s choices. Bonney could live with that; she would do her sworn duty but at no point would she try and absolve herself of responsibility. There would be no mealy-mouthed Nuremberg-type excuses about following orders. She knew Emerson felt the same and she was at peace with her lover’s work.
"Well, we think that Kappelhoff found U-3555 intact and took the two Klimt paintings as proof of his discovery. Joop Voskuil is an acknowledged Klimt expert," Verhagen said. "Kappelhoff must have wanted the paintings authenticated before he told the world about U-3555’s location. Unfortunately for the professor, Voskuil is a member of Nieuw Nederlands Front, which as you know is a branch of der Blitzschlag."
"I can guess the rest." Emerson leaned back and put an arm over the back of the sofa, letting her fingertips trail on Bonney’s shoulder. "Gottschalk, who’s an old horror preserved in formaldehyde, ordered Kappelhoff snatched for questioning because Gottschalk knows exactly what was in U-3555 and he wants that treasure, the greedy so-and-so. Problem is, the professor dropped dead before he revealed the location, so Voskuil and Donkersloot sold the paintings. Case closed."
"Not entirely," Trudie said. Bonney shifted her attention to the pigtailed woman. "Just days after Kappelhoff’s death, Voskuil ordered me to contact Rohan Tarnach in Virginia. I had already infiltrated Nieuw Nederlands Front posing as an art history student; that’s been my cover for two years. Voskuil trusts me because I’ve proved my loyalty in the past."
"What were your orders regarding Rohan?" Bonney asked.
"Voskuil was specific – I was to meet Rohan on-line in an Internet chat-room that she was known to frequent." Trudie tugged at the hem of her T-shirt, momentarily distorting the bright cartoon image on the front. "I was to charm her, seduce her and draw her here to Amsterdam to meet with Donkersloot and Voskuil. Rohan doesn’t know about Nieuw Nederlands Front; she’s accepted my cover identity and believes that I’m learning about the art business at Galerie De Twee Pauwen."
"And how is the seduction going?" Emerson drawled.
Trudie had the grace to blush a becoming shade of pink. "Rohan and I are…"
"Oh, by the Great Ghu! Don’t tell me you’ve fallen in love with that annoying little…" Emerson started to say, and Bonney interrupted.
"Rohan is a very nice woman," the captain said firmly. "I was lucky enough to make her acquaintance last year. I wouldn’t like to think that she’s been drawn into a dangerous situation without her full knowledge and consent."
Verhagen shrugged. "It’s obvious that Juffrouw Tarnach has something that Voskuil wants, and whatever Voskuil wants, Gottschalk put the desire there. You understand? I believe that Rohan Tarnach possesses knowledge regarding U-3555. Der Blitzschlag will stop at nothing to obtain that knowledge, which is why I authorized our operative van Geer to go ahead with Voskuil’s plan. With an agent in place, the situation is under control and any threat to Tarnach is significantly lessened."
"So you say." Bonney found herself getting angry. The captain had liked Rohan; the other woman had a somewhat embarrassing tendency towards hero-worship but she was intelligent and friendly, with not a scrap of malice in her. "This really is an unconscionable situation, Ms. Verhagen. Luring a U.S. citizen out of the country, under false pretences and with criminal intent… that just won’t do." Her voice was low and deadly but her eyes flashed with suppressed fury.
Verhagen’s own gaze was like polished steel. "Do you know what’s at stake? More than art treasures and gold, I can assure you."
"Enlighten us," Emerson said flatly. It was not a request.
"Millions of dollars of artworks and jewels were looted from European Jewish families with great efficiency by the Nazis. There are unclaimed bank accounts in Switzerland that are worth great fortunes. There are paintings and sculptures now in museums or private collections that once belonged to others." Trudie fidgeted and flashed Emerson an unreadable look. "One of the problems of survivors and their families who try to get compensation or make a claim is that it’s often impossible for them to prove prior ownership of a stolen item. Many records were lost in the war; the families weren’t given receipts by the Nazis and in the art world, provenance is everything." Her lips quirked in an almost-smile.
Bonney did not return that smile, but she nodded encouragement.
Trudie continued, obviously warming to her subject, "One of the most diligent of Hitler’s art acquirers was Fritz Jager, whose family operated a fine arts auction house in Berlin for three generations before the Nazi Party came to prominence. The younger Jager son was given a commander’s position in the Schutzstaffel under Himmler. Jager and his S.S. unit were responsible for dozens of raids on wealthy Jewish families.
"They would come at night, in the darkness… their boot heels striking sparks from the street stones," Trudie said, her eyes getting bigger, more mesmerizing as she told the story. "A fist banging on the door was all the warning the family received. Men, women and children were bundled out of doors, dressed only in their nightclothes, to stand shivering in the darkness while their home was torn apart by cruel, greedy men. What Jager’s men did not steal, they destroyed. In most cases, the Jewish families were transported to concentration camps. Anyone who resisted was killed or arrested and later executed. It was a terrible time, especially in occupied countries like the Netherlands."
"What does this have to do with U-3555?" Bonney asked.
"It has been long rumored that Jager kept private documentation on every raid that he and his men participated in, including from whom the works were taken." Trudie bounced on her toes in apparent excitement. "Do you understand what this means if it’s true?"
"I suppose some people will be able to make successful claims for compensation from the German government," Bonney said.
"Ah, but there’s more," Trudie said. "Hitler himself is said to have kept journals detailing orders to Jager to target specific homes for specific works. His journals are also supposed to contain account numbers and passwords for secret Swiss bank accounts; the money was made from the private sales of some works to places like the Vatican."
"I wouldn’t be surprised," Emerson said. "The Vatican Bank laundered millions of dollars for the Nazi Party in ’43. Stands to reason that the Pope would shell out some of his profits to plump out the Vatican’s art collection."
"If it could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Hitler specifically targeted certain families, and the profits of the sales of those looted items went into his private bank accounts, then the World Court would be able to order the Swiss government to open those accounts and pay compensation to legitimate claimants," Verhagen said.
"But I still don’t understand what Rohan has to do with this," Emerson said.
Verhagen got up and went to a sideboard, where she turned on the electric kettle to heat water for coffee. She turned and folded her arms across her scrawny chest. "It is the belief of the DIB that Rohan Tarnach’s grandfather was Ludger Taranis, captain of U-3555."
Bonney closed her eyes as goosebumps rose over her flesh, making her shiver.
Amsterdam, Café De Bakker’s Dochter
Rohan stirred her cup of coffee; it was much smaller than the equivalent American version, but then she had found that almost everything in Holland was smaller, except the people. She had read that the Dutch were the tallest nation in Europe and she could well believe it. In a crowd, Rohan felt like she was surrounded by a redwood forest. The impression was reinforced by a typical Dutch attitude towards personal space – that is, the concept was almost nonexistent. People had no trouble pushing another person to the side if they were in the way. If you were lucky, you got a muttered apology. If not, you just accepted the treatment as normal and went on your way without getting upset.
Trudie was a big help when it came to adjusting to the Dutch way of doing things. Rohan smiled to herself, thinking of the pretty woman who was almost her lover. Almost. She let out a pensive sigh. She and Trudie held hands in public; in private, by mutual agreement, they had limited themselves to necking sessions in Trudie’s tiny flat.
This consisted of kissing and more kissing, from gentle loving pecks to spit-slick, open-mouthed, tongue-duelling, teeth-clashing, sloppy wet passionate embraces that left them both breathless. Rohan sighed again, this time because her spine was tingling; the electric sensation travelled down to lodge moistly between her thighs. She wanted Trudie, plain and simple. If that meant that she had to also accept Trudie’s friends… Rohan wrinkled her nose. That was the difficult part.
She was sure that Joop and Klaas were nice enough guys. Rohan had at first assumed they were a couple – as in, romantically involved – but she had quickly changed her mind on that score. They were a couple, all right – a couple of assholes. Joop could be charming when he put his mind to it, but Klaas looked at her with dead eyes, as though he was a python assessing his prey. Trudie was learning the art business from them, though, so Rohan tried her best to keep the men sweet. It was hard to stay polite. Joop and Klaas had what she considered to be a strange fascination for her past; they asked personal questions and seemed especially interested in her family background for some reason.
Rohan took a sip of coffee and watched a six-foot four-inch drag queen walk past, dressed from head to toe in purple fake fur, including enormous space boots and a leashed poodle dyed to match. When Trudie was not there with her, she wondered what temporary insanity had driven her to quit her job, abandon her home and fly across the Atlantic Ocean. When they were together, Trudie’s bright presence drove all doubts from her mind. She smiled, remembering the previous evening’s ‘date’, and then frowned when she recalled that after the movie and dinner, they had gone to Joop’s flat for more Q&A.
I wonder why Joop wants to know so much about my grandmother? Rohan nibbled the crisp, clove-scented cookie that came with the coffee and shook her head. The man asked a lot about Grandma Gewitter, like what part of Germany she had come from, and who her family was, and many other questions to which she did not have an answer.
Rohan had been orphaned almost at birth – an auto accident had taken both her parents – and she had been raised by her maternal grandmother. Grandma Gewitter was a German emigrant who had refused to teach her granddaughter any German or to speak about the life she had left behind when she had fled Berlin to America with her daughter – Rohan’s mother - in 1945. Rohan knew virtually nothing about the woman or her past.
She sighed a third time. Life was boring when Trudie was not there.
The café was close to Trudie’s flat, which made it a convenient place to get coffee and meals. Rohan was particularly fond of the uitsmijter – fried eggs and ham on bread – that came close to an ‘American-style’ breakfast, although the portion was smaller than she was used to. Rohan lifted her gaze and saw the postman in his red-and-brown uniform parking his bicycle near the café. Since she and Trudie were at De Bakker’s Dochter so often, he usually delivered the mail to their table instead of dropping it off at Trudie’s flat. Rohan grinned at the man, who greeted her with a hearty ‘goeie morgen’ and laid an envelope next to her cup.
Speak of the Devil!
The letter was from Grandma Gewitter.
Rohan was surprised, excited and then, a little worried. Her grandmother’s health had been declining the last few years but she was still active for a woman of her advanced years. It suddenly occurred to Rohan that she did not even know how old Grandma Gewitter was. She opened the envelope and drew out the letter, a faint apprehension clenching her stomach and making the uitsmijter turn sour. She read:
My dearest Rohan -
The doctors tell me that I don’t have very much longer to live. By the time you receive this letter, I will most likely be dead. I was diagnosed with aggressive pancreatic cancer three months ago; they have made me comfortable but there is no cure, no treatment beyond pain management. Do not grieve for me too much. I’m an old woman, prinzessin. I’ve lived my life. I’m ready for the next world.
What I must do before I die is correct a great wrong that I’ve done you, my dearest granddaughter. Please don’t judge me too harshly; I did what I thought was best in order to protect you and, it must be admitted, myself. Now I must tell you the truth and pray that you will someday forgive me for lying to you all these years.
My true name is Brigitta Taranis, wife of Ludger Taranis, a U-boat captain. My husband and I were Nazi Party members; we supported the Führer and his war to bring the Aryan Nation to its deserved prominence. In 1945, my husband was chosen for a secret mission. The orders came from Hitler himself as well as BefehlshaberKarl Dönitz. Ludger was given command of U-3555, a newly developed U-boat that was supposed to be superior to the submarines manufactured by the Allies. I never saw my husband again.
He was supposed to have been lost at sea, U-3555 sunk by a Russian torpedo, but almost a year after Germany’s surrender, Ludger’s second-in-command,Helmut Möhlmann, came to see me in Berlin. He had been terribly injured and undergone a dreadful ordeal; most of his extremities were lost to frostbite. I scarcely recognized him. He told me that U-3555 had been damaged by the torpedo but Ludger refused to surface and surrender.
The U-boat had been trapped in an ice cave in a fjord on the coast of Norway. Only Möhlmann escaped; Ludger chose him to convey a message toDönitz or, if that was not possible, to me. The rest of the crew committed suicide to preserve the secret of the submarine’s location. I was given to understand that the cargo was particularly precious although Möhlmann did not have any details. He was only able to give me the last known coordinates of U-3555, which I include here.
Helmut Möhlmann was explicit in his warnings that the Allies must never be allowed to find U-3555, not only because of the treasures on-board but also because the submarine was holy ground, the burial place of so many loyal Germans including my husband. He also said there were factions within the government that would not hesitate to kill me to obtain the secret. He left, and the very next day, I learned that his tortured body was found in the park by the police.
I was terrified. I had to take my little daughter and leave Germany as soon as possible. Fortunately, I found a sympathetic American soldier who was willing to marry a pretty widow and bring her and her child to his home in Virginia. I tried to be a good wife to him, as he was good to me and my Mariele. When my daughter – your mother, dearest prinzessin – was ten years old, my American husband died. I have never told anyone about my past in Germany, as I feared repercussions because of my connection to the Nazi Party. After my second husband’s death, I moved to another city and changed my name.
Now we come to the next lie which I told you, liebchen. Your mother and father did not die in an automobile accident. Your mother is still very much alive but she does not wish to see you. I’m sorry to say this, however you deserve the truth. Your mother never married; she chose a man to father her child, and after the birth gave you to me on the understanding that I never reveal your mother’s identity. This secret I must take to my grave.
Someday, your mother may contact you – perhaps after I am dead. Don’t be too angry, Rohan. Your mother cannot help being what she is. She takes after her father – too much in love with power to share that love with anyone or anything else.
I give you a bank account which holds money in trust for you, set up by your mother years ago; you must see my lawyer, Thomas Olsen, for the details.
Never doubt that I love you, my prinzessin, my precious liebchen, my Rohan.
You must do as you think best regarding U-3555. It is part of your heritage. You had a right to know why I have kept the past hidden from you for so long.
Try to forgive me someday. That is all I ask.
Brigitta Taranis, your Grandmother Gewitter
Rohan put down the letter, her hands shaking. She was numb all over, the sour taste of bile in her mouth. Oh my God.
Oh my God!
Her grandmother was a Nazi. Her grandfather was a Nazi. Her mother was… well, not a Nazi as far as she could tell but certainly a cold-blooded bitch who had abandoned her at birth. Her grandmother – the woman who raised her - was probably dead. It was a little much to take in at once. The blood drained from her face. Rohan’s thoughts buzzed round and round. She had no idea how long she sat there, stunned, before someone touched her on the shoulder. Rohan let out a startled scream, almost falling out of the chair.
"Are you alright, Rohan?" Joop Voskuil asked, a look of fake concern on his fat bearded face. Rohan really, really disliked the man at that moment, but she also needed some kind of human contact after being dealt such a series of blows.
"I heard from my grandmother," Rohan said, scraping her dark hair out of her eyes. "She’s dying. She might already be dead."
"That is very bad news," Joop said, sitting down and taking her hand. His palms were unpleasantly damp. "Will you be leaving Amsterdam?"
Rohan had not thought that far ahead. Tears sprang to her eyes and she wiped them away angrily, not willing to show weakness in front of this man. She wished that Trudie would come. Yes, Trudie would put warm arms around her, pull her down to rest her aching head on a firm bosom, and croon loving words to soothe her pain.
It was unfortunate that right now, she had to deal with Joop instead of Trudie.
"I don’t know," Rohan said, flattening the letter on the table and smoothing it out with her fingers. "I need to talk to Trudie."
"Oh, she’ll be along, I’m sure." Joop let go of her other hand and reached out to touch the letter. "May I?" he asked, while simultaneously snatching the paper out of her grasp.
"Hey!" Rohan exclaimed, jumping up and trying unsuccessfully to snatch the letter away from him. "What do you think you’re doing?"
He showed his teeth in a snarl that made her heart contract and freeze in place. Rohan was no coward but there was something feral in the man’s face that frightened her. Joop quickly skimmed the letter and said, "So, now you know about your glorious heritage, Fraulein Tarnach... or should I say Taranis?"
"Give me that!" Rohan grabbed the letter out of his hand and stuffed it into the pocket of her trousers. "What’s wrong with you, Joop?"
He rose to his feet; the man was taller than her and outweighed Rohan by a good seventy pounds or more. "Come with me," Joop said.
"I don’t think so!"
"Don’t make a scene, juffrouw. Otherwise…" He briefly flipped open his jacket to show the grip of a pistol in a leather harness under his arm. Joop’s voice was soft but his eyes were as hard and lifeless as agates. "I will shoot you and take what I want anyway, but if you come quietly, I won’t hurt you."
Rohan drew a deep breath. Her world was crashing around her, dissolving into confusion where nobody was who they seemed. Joop sidled closer.
She did the only thing that was possible under the circumstances.
Rohan opened her mouth and screamed, "Gun! He’s got a gun!"
Complete chaos broke loose at De Bakker’s Dochter.
"Rohan will be waiting for me at the café," Trudie said, leading the way once they were out of the Hotel Krasnapolsky.
After some hot debating, DIB Agent Verhagen had agreed to allow Emerson and Bonney an opportunity to interview Rohan, although she did not want Trudie van Geer’s cover blown. The plan was that Emerson and Bonney would wait in Trudie’s flat, while the pigtailed woman went to fetch her oblivious lover.
Like most plans, Emerson thought as they neared De Bakker’s Dochter, their’s was not screw-the-pooch proof.
"Gun! He’s got a gun!" screamed a familiar voice at an ear-splitting, operatic diva’s volume that bounced and echoed off the buildings.
Freud in the Void! If Rohan chose not to return to her job as a newspaper researcher, the woman could always make an excellent living as a hog-caller, Emerson thought. She focused on the center of the milling chaotic mob that erupted around the café.
Some fat idiot was waving a gun – in public, no less! – while women and white-faced men ducked out of the way. In front of him was Rohan Tarnach, just as pale but stubbornly refusing to kiss the dirt. Why was she not surprised? Emerson cursed her lack of firearms. If Mr. Manic shot Rohan, she was too far away to do anything about it. Bonney must have come to the same conclusion; the captain was looking equally dismayed but continued towards the café in an efficient trot, her jaw jutted forward pugnaciously as if she was spoiling for a fight.
Ah, shit. Emerson braced herself for an ugly confrontation. Somehow, without her being aware of it, her priorities had shifted. Once upon a time, Agent Emerson would have fulfilled her mission and to hell with everything else. Nobody really mattered to her. She was the Widowmaker, deadliest and most efficient operative on two legs. The previous Assistant Director had believed that Emerson was a sociopath, but one that was controllable. Emerson had done very little to change that impression… until Bonney.
Now, she understood that Anne Bonney came first. To hell with Rohan, and van Geer, and Verhagen, Mr. Gun-Wielding Maniac and any other yutz that tried to come between Emerson and her beloved. To hell with the senator’s orders, too. Emerson felt an adrenaline surge in her veins. Her lungs expanded and more oxygen spilled into her bloodstream, priming her for action. If Bonney was threatened, she would tear the fat man to shreds with her bare hands and stomp what remained into sludge.
Trudie had drawn her Sig Sauer and was shouting something incomprehensible, probably Dutch; it all sounded like ‘rooten tooten zooten frooten’ to Emerson. Mr. Maniac swung around and pointed his gun at her. Stand-off! Emerson was close enough now that she might be able to take him, just a few more steps… Rohan spotted her, shrieked and swung her purse at Mr. Maniac’s head.
Emerson had no idea what women kept in their purses – she never carried such impedimenta herself – but she thought it must be stuff like lipstick, address book, cab fare, emergency tampons. Rohan must have been packing bricks because her leather bag collided with Mr. Maniac’s skull with enough force to knock him off his feet, over a nearby iron railing and into the canal, narrowing missing a tourist sight-seeing boat. Trudie tucked her gun out of sight, ran over to Rohan, threw her arms around the plump woman and began to run her hands all over Rohan’s body, checking for injuries.
Emerson grimaced, feeling the vertigo of adrenaline rush. Bonney steadied her with an arm. "Somebody mind telling me what that was all about?" Emerson asked harshly. She glared at Rohan. "Why is it that every time I meet you, you’re in trouble?"
Rohan burst into tears. Trudie held onto the sobbing woman; both she and Bonney gazed at Emerson like she was the kind of person who clubbed baby seals to death while destroying the ozone layer and the rain forest, and while she was at it, nuking the whales, too.
"What?" Emerson asked, looking around to see if there might be somebody behind her who deserved such an eye-whipping. No, her luck was not that good.
Bonney sighed. "Are you okay?" she asked Rohan, who nodded. "Miss van Geer, it would be better for us to go somewhere private before the police arrive."
"Yes, of course, my flat is close-by." Still clutching Rohan and making soothing sounds beneath her breath, Trudie staggered off down the street. Emerson and Bonney followed. From the distance came the odd ‘tah-too tah-too’ of police sirens.
Trudie lived in a flat at the top floor of a brick building with a stepped roof and white masonry trim. There was no elevator; the stairway was both steep and narrow. Graffiti on the walls included telephone numbers and comments done in black permanent marker – the Dutch equivalent of ‘for a good time, call…’ By the time they reached the fifth floor, Emerson wished she had brought climbing equipment, including a safety harness.
This isn’t a staircase… it’s a ladder.
Once inside, Trudie made a phone call. When she had finished, she turned to Rohan. "We need to talk."
Rohan turned paler and groaned, "Oh, no…" She looked at Bonney. "Does this have something to do with why you’re here, Annie?"
"I’m afraid so, Rohan." Bonney sat down next to Rohan on the battered sofa, while Trudie claimed the other side. Feeling a tad miffed, Emerson found an oversized cushion and took a seat on the floor. The broad leaf of a Swiss cheese plant kept brushing the back of her neck but the room was too cramped for her to do anything but grit her teeth and endure the irritation. Dutch interior decoration apparently called for a great deal of clutter crammed willy-nilly into a very small space.
Rohan pulled a crumpled and torn piece of paper out of her pocket. "I’m a Nazi!" she wailed as she flung her arms around Trudie’s neck, and started weeping again.
Trudie and Bonney glared at Emerson, who was incredulous.
"I didn’t do anything!" she protested.
Rohan sniffled. "My grandma’s dead and I’m a Nazi!"
Trudie made shushing noises and rocked Rohan back and forth.
Emerson rolled her eyes.
There was nothing sappier than an agent in love… and she ought to know.
Amsterdam, Trudie van Geer’s apartment
Rohan pulled herself together long enough to call her grandmother’s lawyer, Mr. Olsen, who confirmed that Brigitta Gewitter had died two days previously in a hospice in Arlington, Virginia. Olsen had been asked to make funeral arrangements and he promised Rohan that the ceremony would be postponed until she was able to fly home. At the moment, she had no idea when that would be. There were too many unresolved issues for her to deal with in Holland, never mind the U.S.A.
For starters, Trudie van Geer was not an art student; she was a government agent investigating a Dutch neo-Nazi organization. Joop Voskuil and Klaas Donkersloot were owners of an art gallery but they were also members of that organization, in the pay of a real old-time Nazi named Gottschalk. Everybody was after a lost German submarine, U-3555… and it seemed that Rohan’s grandmother had known the location all these years.
The nice thing about shock is that you could only take so much before you went numb. Rohan was in that comfortably numb space now, floating and kind of disconnected from the rest of the world. Bonney and Emerson had taken the letter from her and were huddled together at the kitchen table. Trudie was on the sofa with her, talking quietly into her ear.
"I’m so sorry, liefje," Trudie said, her breath warm and moist on the side of Rohan’s neck. "I didn’t like lying to you but I was ordered to maintain my cover. We needed to find out why the Nieuw Nederlands Front was so interested in you."
"I understand." Rohan was sure that she could really understand once she came back to earth. She hoped that the re-entry burn would not turn her entirely to ashes. Just like my world, she thought, but was not upset, cushioned as she was by a merciful muffling veil.
"You must know that I did not lie about loving you." Trudie’s big green eyes were so sincere, Rohan knew she could fall forever into that treacherous gaze. Trudie squeezed her hands. "Do you hear me, liefje? I do love you."
Rohan blinked. Something was rushing towards her, out of the confusion and the darkness; a blur of light and sound and motion that was going to crash into her headlong and shatter her to pieces. She blinked again as reality crashed over her like a wave, a tsunami that swept her along, tumbling and gasping and wondering if this was all some awful dream. The pain of loss was so great, it was tearing her down to the bone. Rohan was not aware that she was crying until she felt Trudie wiping away her tears.
She jerked away, pulse pounding so hard, she felt woozy. "No, don’t!" Rohan was suddenly terrified. She could not catch her breath. Trudie tried to soothe her but Rohan did not want to be touched. She felt betrayed and the pain was agonizing, as though her heart had been cleft in two.
"I’m sorry! I’m sorry!" Trudie said, grabbing Rohan’s head with surprising strength. "Please, liefje, please!"
Rohan desperately tried to suck enough oxygen into her spasming lungs to keep from passing out. She stared wide-eyed at Trudie; some small part of her noted the terror in the other woman’s eyes.
"Here, breathe through this." It was Emerson with a paper bag, which she put over Rohan’s nose and mouth.
Eventually, the panic attack subsided and Rohan was able to push the bag aside. "Thank you," she said to Emerson, still a little breathless but doing much better.
The agent nodded.
Trudie was staring at her anxiously. "Rohan? Are you alright?"
"No, hon, I’m not alright. My grandmother’s dead, I have a mother that I’ve never met, my family were Nazis, some guy was going to shoot me, my girlfriend’s a secret agent… I don’t know when my life took a left turn into the Twilight Zone but I wish it would go back to the way things used to be." Rohan hiccupped and accepted the tissue that Emerson held out. She blew her nose loudly, ignoring the agent’s grimace.
"I do love you," Trudie said, cupping her cheek.
"Do you? Because I’m thinking you used me just like Joop and his partner were trying to use me." Rohan crumpled the wet tissue into a ball.
"Maybe at first…" Trudie blushed. "But then I got to know you, Rohan, and the more I knew, the better I liked you."
"I don’t know what the truth is anymore."
"May I?" Emerson squatted down in front of Rohan. "You and I get along about as well as oil and water, so you know I’m not going to lie just to make you feel better, right?"
Rohan nodded, pinned into place by the intensity of Emerson’s ice-blue glare.
"Agent van Geer’s cover has been blown," Emerson said, nodding at the miserable-looking woman, then turning her attention back to Rohan. "She has no reason to lie to you now. There’s nothing to be gained by further obfuscation. So if she says she’s in love with you, van Geer must be telling the truth."
That actually made sense. Rohan transferred her gaze from Emerson to Trudie. "Do you… do you really love me?" she stammered.
"Yes!" Trudie leaned in and kissed the corner of Rohan’s mouth. "Always, liefje."
Rohan was still reeling a bit but she did have a rock to cling to, so she held onto Trudie, who was warm in her arms, an amazing softness over firm muscle beneath. The woman smelled like musk and salt with a trace of floral scent that Rohan had bought her from Crabtree & Evelyn in the Kalverstraat. To Rohan, Trudie smelled like love.
After several long minutes, Rohan pulled back, took a deep cleansing breath and asked, "Okay, first things first… what are we going to do about U-3555?"
"Are you sure?" Emerson asked, not unkindly. "I can make arrangements with our diplomatic office for you to fly back to the States."
"And leave you all behind to get into trouble without me?" Rohan attempted a smile that probably looked as shaky as it felt. That earned her another kiss from Trudie, which went a long way towards mending the ache in her heart.
Bonney came from the kitchen with the letter. "The coordinates given by your grandmother are definitely in Norway," she said, "but I’m not familiar with the precise location. Do you have an atlas?" she asked Trudie, who shook her head, pigtails dancing.
"I’ve got to contact Verhagen as well as Walker," Emerson said, rising to her full six-foot height. "We’re going to need transportation, among other things."
"So we are going to look for U-3555?" Rohan asked. Despite the grief and hurt that still coursed through her veins, the tiniest bit of excitement was beginning to make itself felt.
"Better dress warmly," Bonney said, a smile lighting her emerald eyes. "Ladies, we’re going to Norway."
Norway, Stavanger Air Force Base
58º 58' North, 05º 44' East
Bonney did not mind flying; she understood the fundamentals of aerodynamics and had even learned to fly a microlight in her youth. What she did not like was turbulence, particularly the kind that wrenched the airplane up and down in roller-coaster fashion while lightning and rain lashed the wings in equally horrendous waves.
She, Emerson, Trudie van Geer and Rohan had caught a transport plane from the U.S. military base Ramstein AB in Germany, headed to Stavanger Air Force Base on the southwestern coast of Norway. The cargo section of the C-130 Hercules was forty-one feet long, but the four women were seated together in the front, near the flight section. The rest of the huge space was empty. They had been given headphones so that they could communicate with each other over the loud drone of the engines but no one had really felt like talking. Emerson was the only one of the group who had not turned green around the gills.
The pilot had passed out sickness bags when the turbulence started. At first, Bonney refused to take one but Emerson had persisted until she gave in just to shut the other woman up. Bonney had never been seasick in her life, not even during a training run in the Caribbean when Saber had been unable to dive due to equipment failure and the crew had been forced to ride out a Category Three hurricane on the surface. The decks had been awash in vomit and Sickbay had run out of Dramamine within the first twenty minutes.
After that infamous episode, Bonney thought she had a cast-iron stomach. She was wrong. After the fourth time the plane hit an air pocket and dropped like a stone, she spewed into the bag and kept on vomiting until her toes curled. Trudie and Rohan followed right behind her, while Emerson smirked and cackled and said things like, "Greasy pork fat with stinky cabbage, mmm mmm good," until Bonney seriously considered opening up the cargo bay door and shoving her lover out sans parachute.
Look out below, indeed!
Judging from the hateful looks being cast her way by Trudie and Rohan, Emerson should, by rights, have been pushing up daisies. Instead, the agent cracked jokes with the pilot and co-pilot and showed every evidence of enjoying herself at everyone else’s expense. Bonney rolled bloodshot eyes in Emerson’s direction and contemplated mayhem… just as soon as her belly stopped rebelling.
Finally – thank you, God! – the Herc landed at Stavanger Base, where they were met by the civilian liaison officer, Lt. Brian Cudahy.
"Welcome to Stavanger AFB," Cudahy said with a boyish grin. Bonney thought the young man was not bad looking, but his prominent front teeth gave him a rabbit-like air.
In short order, Cudahy showed them the guest facilities, where a thoughtful person had provided toiletry kits including much-needed toothbrushes and toothpaste. After taking some time to get refreshed – and maliciously spurning Emerson’s advancements – Bonney found herself in a conference room with the rest of her companions. Cudahy was no longer in evidence; he had been supplanted by the Station Chief Malcolm Fletcher, who headed the local CIA office.
"I’ll get straight to the point," Fletcher said, shiny fluorescent lights reflecting from his bald head. He switched the toothpick he was chewing from one side of his mouth to the other; Bonney figured he was trying to quit smoking. "The Assistant Director is ready to go all the way on this U-3555 business but only if plausible deniability is in effect. As far as he’s concerned, this operation is under the auspices of Senator Donner only. You’re on your own, kids. Furthermore, the Norwegian government doesn’t have a clue and we want to keep it that way, so it’s hush-hush, need-to-know."
"So what do you want from us?" Emerson asked, her eyes hooded in that deceptively lazy manner that reminded Bonney of a dozing panther. In reality, the agent was coiled for action and ready to pounce.
"We’ll provide you with a contact so that you can hire a civilian ship," Fletcher said. "Your cover story is that you’re looking for a group of oceanographers studying whale migration patterns who disappeared two years ago off the coast of Norway."
Emerson shifted impatiently and crossed her arms over her chest.
Fletcher chewed his toothpick and continued, "Our agreement with the Dutch is that we’ll allow Agent van Geer on the recovery operation, and they get first crack at any records which may be aboard U-3555. We’ll take custody of everything else, including the sub itself, until proper disposition can be made."
Bonney knew that meant the U.S. government would get the financial benefit of any gold or jewels, since ownership would be virtually impossible to prove, although the German government might make a claim, which could be delayed for years in the courts.
"If recovery is not possible, the submarine must be scuttled to avoid U-3555 being claimed by hostile agents," Fletcher went on. "The Dutch are in agreement with us on this. Emerson, you can requisition C-4 and other supplies from our office’s stores."
"We’ll also need other gear," Emerson said, "including weapons."
"Whatever you need, within reason," Fletcher said. "Senator Donner has authorized the expenditure and we’ve been given a budget surplus to cover the cost."
"Before we do anything else, I need navigational maps," Bonney said, "and satellite photos of the area." Her stomach heaved slightly and she swallowed it back down. "I also want access to SLCSAT." She pronounced it ‘slick-sat.’ "I need to contact my boat."
"Now, captain, that probably isn’t such a good idea," Fletcher said, running a hand over his bald dome. "The assignment is strictly need-to-know. remember?"
Bonney fixed him with her glacial commander’s eye. "My boat is in the Denmark Straight, Mr. Fletcher, and I’ve decided that my 2IC needs to know in case we need a little assistance successfully fulfilling our goal."
"Captain Bonney, the United States government requires plausible deniability, which can’t happen if your intentions are broadcast over the Naval laser communications band!" Fletcher’s face infused with crimson which spread from jowls to crown.
"I have no intention of broadcasting my intentions." Bonney’s mouth stretched in a shark’s grin – all teeth and not a smidgen of humor. "Mr. Fletcher, I am normally in complete control of a multi-billion dollar piece of military hardware capable of firing six nuclear warheads at any coastal target in the world. I think I can be trusted with one phone call."
Fletcher backed down, although he was still muttering. Emerson patted Bonney’s back and said, "You go, girlfriend."
Puzzled, Trudie van Geer frowned and shrugged.
Lt. Cudahy appeared to be ecstatic at the prospect of providing a satellite link-up to SLCSAT. The communications/operations center at Stavanger was small, crammed full of equipment, and reminded Bonney of the radar shack aboard Saber. The chief communications officer, Commander Jezebel Mallory, was a lanky blonde with a nasal twang. She and Mallory were left alone while Cudahy showed the other three women to the mess hall.
Mallory fiddled with dials and buttons and a computer mouse, chattering all the while. "Gotta hook up to AFSACTOM – that’s Air Force Satellite Communications – and bounce the signal over to SLCSAT. Son-of-a… ‘scuse me, ma’am. We’ve been having trouble with sunspot activity last couple of weeks. Our hook-up got blasted. Lemme try again."
"Carry on, commander," Bonney said.
"Okay, okay, c’mon baby… gotcha!" Mallory fiddled some more. "Yeah, Saber, this is Stavanger AFB, do you read?" she asked into the mic connected by hair-thin wires to the micro-bead ‘phones inside her ears.
A blast of distorted noise came out of a speaker, making Bonney flinch. Mallory quickly made some adjustments. "We’re five by five, Saber. Stand by."
She gave Bonney what looked like an old-fashioned telephone receiver; it also resembled the 1MC intercom system interface on her submarine. Before she clicked it on, Bonney asked, "Is this line secure?"
"Not Pentagon secure but the signal is encrypted on both ends," Mallory replied.
Bonney held the heavy receiver to her ear and said, "Saber, this is Captain Anne Bonney. Give me Sherwood, ASAP."
"Aye-aye, sir!" caroled Saber’s communications officer, surprise evident in her voice.
When Sherwood came on, Bonney filled him in on the situation as much as she could, being careful not to mention U-3555, but only to say that she was in the area and that Saber should stand-by in case they were needed. "And don’t forget the HUFF DUFF," Bonney concluded. "Captain out."
Mallory gave Bonney a funny look after she had signed off. It was obvious that the commander had been eavesdropping on the conversation. "Ma’am, I don’t think anybody’s used HUFF DUFF since, um, the 1940s, I think."
High Frequency Direction Finding was a system used by the Allies to pick up U-boat transmissions; that was about the sum of Bonney’s knowledge of Unterseeboot radio communications, and she has used it as a hint for Sherwood to keep monitoring pre-satellite radio frequencies. She was confident that he would figure out her reference; he was a real U-boat buff who often traveled to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Technology to visit the only German U-boat captured by the U.S. Navy. U-505 Type IX-C was part of a big indoor exhibit and was deemed a National Historic Landmark. Sherwood and Bonney had been stationed together for years; he would understand what she could not say.
Bonney shrugged at Mallory and said, "Carry on, commander."
She left the room without answering Mallory’s question, and the operator’s curious gaze burned a hole in her back as she walked away.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Isbjørn – the Ice Bear – was the small ship chosen by Bonney to ferry them as close to the Drekkjarhorn Fjord as it was possible to get by sea. The Navy captain had insisted on hiring a boat which she could pilot herself, not trusting the local talent. Emerson could sympathize with the desire to be hands-on. Besides, nobody wanted a civilian hanging over their shoulder while a treasure hunt was on. She narrowed her eyes and scowled at Rohan, still not believing how the plump, irritating woman had wrangled her way aboard the ship.
Emerson had wanted to leave Rohan at the Air Force base. It was safer, she had argued, than ending up Ghu-knew-where in the ice. Rohan was a civilian. She had no training for this kind of thing. What if she got injured or killed? They had no back-up and while airlift rescue was possible, it could come too late.
Rohan had scorned every objection. Bonney and van Geer had given Emerson the ‘murderer-of-helpless-baby-animals’ look. The agent had caved in, albeit reluctantly. Several days later, Emerson clung to the ship’s rail, dressed in foul-weather gear (yellow slickers including the dumb fisherman’s hat) that made her feel like a dork and left her wondering what she had done in a previous life to merit such bad karma now.
The ship’s bow dipped, then rose and crashed through a white-capped wave, sending a rooster tail of spray over the deck. Emerson clung tighter to the safety line, blinking salty, cold Atlantic water out of her eyes. She tried very hard not to think about the theme song of Gilligan’s Island. Naturally, since she could have gone the rest of the day without thinking about Bob Denver and the most idiotic sitcom of the 1970’s, she could not get the song out of her head. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed…
Nausea swelled and burned the back of Emerson’s throat. She was not going to toss her cookies. No way. No how. Not in front of the Tulipsville chick and the most annoying woman in the world. Not when she had been so mean to everybody on the Herc (and weren’t seasickness and airsickness related enough so if she had immunity to one, she wouldn’t get the other?) She was not going to be sick especially while she was encased in yellow rubber dork gear that was about as sexy as Bob Denver... and there she went again, dammit.
A three hour tour… a three hour tour…
At least underneath she was wearing a comfortable black turtleneck and flannel-lined black trousers, with another black sweater over the top of that. Thanks to Fletcher, Emerson was also packing a .45 Glock semi-automatic in a shoulder holster, a .22 in an ankle holster, another .22 in a holster at the small of her back, a knife up her sleeve, another strapped to her calf, an extra handcuff key taped to her shoulder within reach of her teeth, and a length of wire around her waist that could be used as a garrote.
Emerson felt fully dressed for the first time in days.
It was almost enough to make her feel happier about riding this bucking bronco of a vessel while her lover – who might have shown a tad more sympathy – grinned and said cruel, nasty things to her like, "Remember to empty your breadbasket on the lee side so you won’t get hit in the face by your dinner."
Maybe she had been Hitler in her last life. Talk about karmic justice!
Arthur Guiterman’s parody poem Sea Sickness ran through her head, momentarily supplanting Gilligan and his island:
I must go down to the seas again, where the billows romp and reel,
So all I ask is a large ship that rides on an even keel,
And a mild breeze and a broad deck with a slight list to leeward,
And a clean chair in a snug nook and a nice, kind steward.
Ha! Next time Annie wanted to take her out to sea, they would be going by way of a fully stabilized cruise liner with a casino, an off-Broadway show, a midnight chocolate buffet and cabana girls who served tropical cocktails and coconut suntan oil on the Lido Deck.
A shout from Bonney made Emerson’s head snap up.
"We’re approaching the anchoring point!" Bonney hollered above the wind and the slapping waves. This far north, the Atlantic Ocean was a wild thing, rough and stormy and unpredictable. Emerson rode out another dip-and-slide and risked a glance at her partner. Anne Bonney was in her element, a huge grin wreathing her face, strands of blonde hair escaping from her ponytail and lashing her cheeks.
Emerson blinked again. Ah, Annie was so beautiful, it made her chest hurt to look at her. The sun created a glowing halo behind her head, giving her the semblance of a saint. Emerson was aware that she had a big goofy smile on her face and did not care. Bonney’s eyes crinkled in her direction and Emerson’s heart lurched in a good way.
It did not take long for Bonney to navigate Isbjørn as far up the Drekkjarhorn Fjord as she could before the channel became choked with ice. After anchoring the boat and gathering their supplies, the four women took a rubber Zodiac boat to the edge of the packed ice. Bonney had a handheld GPS navigation system which she consulted from time to time to ensure that they remained fixed on the coordinates. Securing the Zodiac, they trudged along the pristine white, frozen surface of the fjord that was known as the Drinking Horn.
Emerson’s boots crunched noisily on the hard packed snow as she followed Bonney, keeping her gaze fixed on the delectably swaying ass that played a starring role in some of her favorite fantasies. And my favorite realities, too, she thought, licking her lips and grimacing at the taste of Vaseline. Focus, Amelia, focus…now is not the time to dwell on what Annie looks like wearing her captain’s hat and nothing else.
Way better than nude Bob Denver, and whoa! Where the hell did that come from? Okay, I am never going to have sex ever again with the television on. Never!
"Be careful of crevasses," Bonney said to the group, frowning at the GPS read-out. She shifted her backpack, settling the straps more comfortably on her shoulders. "The Drekkjarhorn Fjord is a mile deep in some places. We’re fairly close to the coordinates in the letter but it won’t do us any good if somebody breaks their leg or their neck."
"Aye-aye, sir!" snapped Rohan in an excellent imitation of Navy tradition.
Emerson mouthed the words, ‘suck up’ to her.
Bonney – who must have had eyes in the back of her head – reached around without looking and thwacked Emerson on the upper arm. "Behave," she said crisply. "Honestly, Amelia, the way you squabble, sometimes you’re worse than the lowest knuckle-dragger I’ve ever had the misfortune to command."
Emerson resisted the impulse to beat her chest like the alpha love monkey she was and swallowed the Johnny Weissmuller-esque Tarzan cry that was begging to emerge. She did, however, give in to the urge to whisper, "Ook, ook," in Bonney’s ear, earning herself another swat.
Harsh blue-white sunlight turned Trudie van Geer’s red-gold hair into a fiery blaze. "How much further, Anne?"
"About a kilometer north," Bonney answered.
Rohan unshipped a stainless steel thermos from beneath her parka. "Coffee, anybody?"
"We didn’t come to Norway for a coffee klatch," Emerson snarled at her, and endured another stereo ‘you monster, you’ glare from Bonney and Trudie.
While they walked along, Trudie said in fine operatic recitative style:
Father, don't be so severe!
If I can't drink
my bowl of coffee three times daily,
then in my torment I will shrivel up
like a piece of roast goat.
Emerson was surprised when Bonney continued the song in a bathroom soprano:
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
mellower than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee I must have,
and if someone wishes to give me a treat,
ah, then pour me out some coffee!
Rohan nudged Emerson in the ribs with a none-too-gentle elbow. "From Bach’s Kaffee Kantata," she said.
For good measure, Bonney sang the aria in the original German:
Herr Vater, seid doch nicht so scharf!
Wenn ich des Tages nicht dreimal
Mein Schälchen Coffee trinken darf,
So werd ich ja zu meiner Qual
Wie ein verdorrtes Ziegenbrätchen!
The song was swallowed up by the vast, empty silence of the fjord, where all that could be seen in every direction was ice and snow and more ice. Nevertheless, Rohan and Trudie applauded, and Bonney made a shallow bow.
"Your accent is not bad for an American," Trudie said, "but only the Dutch can mimic a German accent with anything approaching real accuracy."
"It’s a hobby, not a profession. We’re almost at the coordinates," the captain said, shielding her eyes with an upraised hand.
Emerson felt the tremor a split-second before the awful thing happened.
A crack zig-zagged from the place where Rohan’s booted feet were planted, and widened with a loud gunshot snap. Rohan’s eyes turned into comically wide and startled O’s. That was the image impressed into Emerson’s mind just as a scream erupted from Rohan’s mouth and the plump woman disappeared into the darkness of the open crevasse.
Trudie let out a full-throated scream of her own and fell to her knees beside the crack. "Rohan! Rohan!" she shouted, struggling to remove her backpack.
Bonney put a hand on her shoulder. "You won’t do Rohan any favors if you fall in yourself," she said. "Stand down, Agent van Geer. Let’s assess the situation before we jump in with fangs out and hair on fire."
Trudie nodded, short and sharp. Bonney got down on her belly at the edge of the crevasse. Emerson grabbed her partner’s ankles, just in case. Things seemed fairly stable now, but then again, nobody had predicted that Rohan would fall through, either.
"Rohan? Can you hear me?" Bonney shouted, her breath steaming in the cold air. Flakes of ice shivered into the lightless hole.
"Anne? Trudie? I’m okay, I think," Rohan called back. "The thermos is a loss, though. I landed on it. You know, it’s kind of dark in here."
"Hang tight and stand by," Bonney said with a smile of relief.
Trudie sang out, "If you can reach the flashlight in your backpack without moving around too much, liefje, take it out and see if you’re on a ledge. We need to know your situation before we can pull you up."
"Good idea," Emerson muttered. "Wouldn’t want her to go splat before we can haul her ass out of there."
Several long moments of silence later, an impatient Emerson was ready to jump into the damned crevasse and fetch Rohan out herself. "What is she doing in there?"
"Making sure it’s safe," Trudie answered, tossing her head to flip a lock of hair out of her eyes. "Rohan, how does it look?"
"I found the flashlight… oh! Oh! Oh my God!" Rohan screamed, her voice ringing loudly enough to make Bonney wince.
After that, no matter how many times they called her, Rohan did not answer.
Even Emerson’s heart sank at the prospect that something bad had happened to the most annoying woman in the world.
Rohan grasped her chest with her free hand, as if by squeezing hard she could prevent the trip-hammering organ from beating its way out of her ribcage. Other than bruises, her body was okay, but her mind was another matter. Was she hallucinating? She did not think she had struck her head on the way down. The other hand, which held her flashlight, was trembling violently; the circle of yellowish-white light bobbed around and around, illuminating a rust-streaked grey steel shape that reared out of the ice.
"Oh, my God," she repeated in a whisper.
Rohan Tarnach had found U-3555.
Shivering as much from a combination of excitement and dread as from cold, Rohan tried to control her shaking hand so that she could sweep the flashlight from side to side. The streamlined hull was long - she estimated over 75 meters - and the narrow conning tower with its twin double-barrelled 3cm anti-aircraft cannons, snorkel and periscope base was sheathed in dripping ice crystals that reflected the light in dazzling waves. If the modern submarine was a shark, U-3555 was a barracuda, sleek and deadly from chisel-tipped bow to the rear hydroplanes that looked like stubby fins.
Rohan moved closer, focusing the beam of light above her head. In the utter blackness of the cave, her flashlight could only reveal the U-boat in fragments, a little at a time, flashes of the past looming out of the darkness. She squinted, trying to put it into perspective as she drank in the sight of Taranis’ Thunderbolt, lost for so many decades.
The walking deck was also covered in a thin layer of sparkling ice; blue-white icicles formed wicked points all along the length of the boat. Trapped within the cavern of the fjord, U-3555 was a frost giant, a massive Jötunn caught fast in the perpetual Fimbulwinter of Norse legend. Rohan could feel the cold dampness cutting straight through her parka. The aromas of spilled coffee (the thermos lid had somehow been torn off in her fall) and salt-eaten steel were strong enough to be almost palpable.
At last, Bonney and Trudie’s frantic shouts cut through her daze and Rohan answered, "Yes, I’m okay! Hey, I found it!"
"What? What did you find?" Bonney asked, her voice oddly distorted by echo.
"I found the boat. U-3555."
Rohan jumped as something plummeted from the hole in the ceiling, striking the ground with a loud thump. She trained her flashlight on it, mouth suddenly dry. After a terrifying moment, Rohan realized that the dark shape was not a huddled human body but a backpack. Two more followed in rapid succession, then a thin snake of nylon rope unspooled into the cavern.
Bonney came down first, rappelling in a blunt but well-trained way, followed by Trudie who slid down so fast it was a wonder she had any skin left on her palms. Emerson came last; the CIA agent was grace personified, practically floating through the air and landing on her feet. When her toes touched the ground, she leaped up and executed an entrechat quatre, her feet crossing rapidly in mid-air in fine ballerina style.
Upon coming to earth once more, Emerson made a familiar grimace and said, "What? My mom insisted on classical training before I learned tango and paso doble. Just don’t ask me to do go en pointe. After I broke three toes that way, I quit the class."
Rohan almost resented Emerson’s abrasiveness but Trudie was hugging her hard and burying that sweet cold nose in her neck, so Rohan decided not to hold a grudge.
With four flashlights working in concert, the contours of U-3555 became more solid, less dream-like. Bonney and Emerson found a ladder leading to the walking deck. "Stay here," the captain ordered. "We’ll go aboard and see how the generator’s held up. In the meantime, you two keep your asses at anchor."
Rohan nodded her acceptance; she had no desire to go aboard the U-boat just yet. Trudie hugged her tighter, making a deep bruise on her ribs scream in protest, but she did not care. Ignoring the pain, she stared at U-3555 – her grandfather’s boat, the last hope of the Nazi government that had tried to exterminate everyone who did not fit into their narrow, bigoted, fascist world view. Rohan herself, in spite of her antecedents, was not made along the blonde and blue-eyed Aryan ideal. She was small and dark; in Hitler’s time, she might have been accused of being ‘tainted’ with a despised Jewish or gypsy strain.
The fact that her own grandmother and grandfather – and perhaps her mother, too – were part of that evil made her sick to her stomach. Rohan tightened her hold on Trudie.
The Dutchwoman said, "It doesn’t matter, liefje. They lost. We won." Trudie jerked her chin at the U-boat.
"But it still persists," Rohan said, shivering again.
"Evil always does, but as long as we stand against it, the new Nazis will never prosper."
"God, babe, I hope you’re right."
"So do I."
Rohan leaned against Trudie and waited for the moment when she would enter U-3555 and finally unveil the mystery of her past.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Bonney led the way up the ladder, her boots clanging on the steel rungs. The coating of ice made navigation slippery, the footing uncertain. Doing her best not to fall down or worse, break an ankle, Bonney managed to slide her way along the walking deck to the conning tower, where another ladder led to the closed hatch on top.
She tried the hatch-control wheel but it would not budge. "Frozen shut," was Bonney’s assessment. "We can try the rear escape hatch but it’s probably in the same condition."
"What do we need to do?" Emerson asked.
Bonney kicked the wheel lightly with the toe of her boot, considering. She had brought a small butane torch, the kind that would be used by a dessert chef to caramelize the sugary top of a crème brulee. The question was, would the little torch prove powerful enough to thaw the wheel mechanism? There was also rust to consider.
"Did you bring that industrial-sized pot of Vaseline?" she asked Emerson, who nodded.
"Okay, go back down the ladder and get the butane torch from my pack and the Vaseline from yours," Bonney said. "We’ll also need some rope."
Emerson moved to the ladder and disappeared. In a few minutes, she returned with the requested items. "I brought the extra butane as well," she said. In the light of the two flashlights that were propped on the deck, her eyes were the same color as the icicles that decorated the rail.
Bonney pressed the ignition switch on the torch; immediately, a yellow-red flame with a flickering blue heart hissed to life. She played the flame around the base of the wheel, nodding in satisfaction as years of ice melted into trickles of water that pooled on the hatch cover. When she finished with the wheel, she worked on the edges of the hatch itself. Emerson pushed Vaseline into the wheel’s screw shaft, using her fingertips to try and insert as much of the petroleum jelly as possible into the mechanism.
After refilling the butane twice, Bonney decided that she had done as much as possible to release the hatch from the ice that had held it frozen shut. She laid the torch aside and looked at Emerson. "Ready?"
"As ready as I’ll ever be," Emerson replied, her lips quirking in a smile. She had taken off her parka and rolled up the sleeves of her black sweater. The muscles in her forearms bulged as she adjusted her grip on the wheel. "On three?"
"That works for me." Bonney grabbed the wheel and gasped. The chilled metal bit into her palms; the sensation was akin to pain. She set her jaw and wrapped her fingers more securely around the rim. "One… two… three!"
Together, she and Emerson threw their weight into turning the wheel, which stubbornly refused to budge. After a minute of bone-shaking effort that made a red mist rise in Bonney’s vision, it yielded a bit, emitting a shrill screech. Emerson let go first and crouched there, panting, a flush rising from the base of her throat.
"Great Ghu!" Emerson said. A bead of sweat slid from her temple, down the side of her nose, over the corner of her mouth, and dripped off her chin. "There has to be an easier way to dislocate my shoulders. Next time, we’re bringing WD-40."
"Are you hurt?" Bonney moved to kneel beside Emerson and touched the other woman’s arm. "Dammit, Amelia!"
"Damn yourself, Annie," Emerson groaned as Bonney began to massage her shoulders. "I’m okay, honest, but I think we’re going to need more leverage."
Bonney kneaded her partner’s shoulders, feeling the shift of hard muscle against bone. She worked her thumb into a knot and said, "That’s why I asked for the rope."
Emerson’s eyes gleamed, then she squeezed her eyelids almost shut and let out another groan as Bonney pressed on the spasm in her shoulder. "Oooh, baby, that feels so good…"
"And it’ll get better, but not right now." Bonney released Emerson and stood up. "Come on, Amelia. Let’s get that rope in place."
"Party pooper," Emerson replied sullenly, but she rose and helped Bonney as the captain ran two loops of rope between the periscope base and the hatch wheel, effectively creating a lever.
Bonney and Emerson grabbed one end of the rope. "One… two… three!" Bonney cried, and they heaved together, putting their backs into it.
After a moment’s resistance, the wheel shifted the tiniest bit. Beneath her breath, Bonney sang an old drag shanty, a foresheet song from the days of sail:
"Haul the bowlin',the skipper he's a-growlin',
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', so early in the morning,
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', the chief mate he's a-growlin'
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', the wind it is a-howlin'
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', the ship she is a-rollin'
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', the fore and maintop bowlin'
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', to London we are goin',
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!
Haul the bowlin', the main-topgallant bowlin',
Haul the bowlin', the bowlin' haul!"
Each time Bonney voiced the word, ‘haul,’ she and Emerson pulled on the rope, forcing the rust-stiffened wheel to turn. At last, something gave with a loud clang and they almost fell backwards. Bonney hoped that they had not broken the thrice-cursed thing, otherwise she and Emerson would have to repeat the whole performance on the rear escape hatch. She was not looking forward to that at all.
Thankfully, the wheel spun more easily. Bonney and Emerson pulled together until the hatch popped open, belching a gust of foul air that made them reel. "Halitosis from hell," Emerson said, waving a hand in front of her nose.
Bonney found a tin of Vick’s in her pocket. She daubed some of the eucalyptus-scented salve under her nose; the strong scent made her eyes water but it also helped block out the stench coming from the U-boat’s interior. Emerson emulated her, going to far as to jam a couple of globs of Vick’s into her nostrils.
"There’s death in there," Emerson said, shining her flashlight into the open hatchway. "No matter how old it is, that stink just doesn’t quit."
Bonney had done rescue missions and pulled her share of floaters out of the water, two-week old corpses that had been food for fishes and crabs in the deep. Emerson was right; the smell of death was incredibly pervasive. One scrubbed and disinfected until the paint peeled off, but the dead still left an unforgettable mark.
She leaned over the rail and hailed Rohan and Trudie. "We’ve got the hatch open and we’re going inside," Bonney said. "We’ll signal you when its safe to come up."
"Take your time," Rohan said. "We’re not going anywhere."
Behind Bonney, Emerson snorted.
Bonney did not understand why the agent had such a… well, a raging dislike of Rohan Tarnach, who as far as the captain knew had never done anything to Emerson that would warrant such an attitude. This was not the time to address the issue, though. She took a deep breath and climbed down the conning tower into the control room.
It was cold inside, too; condensation sparkled on every surface. On the forward bulkhead was the helmsman’s station; the fore and aft planesmen’s stations were on the starboard side. Bonney let out her breath in a long sigh. All three chairs contained human remains, dry and withered mummies rimed with frost that lolled in the seats, empty eyesockets trained on their equipment, mouths gaping open in silent screams. The German Naval uniforms were also well preserved due to the freezing conditions.
Emerson gave the mummies a cursory examination. "No bullet holes or signs of trauma or violence," she said. "Maybe they used poison."
"Cyanide pills." Bonney nodded. "At least it was quick."
"Unless they froze to death, but I don’t think so. Otherwise I’d expect to find them in groups, trying to stay warm until the end."
A circular hatch led forward to the radar unit, which was jammed behind a map table that was still littered with charts. In the aft corner of the room were dozens of valves. Heavy steel columns rose from deck to ceiling – the periscope masts – and one had several speaking tubes attached to it. The bulkheads were lined with air and water pipes.
Bonney checked behind the columns for a certain pipe, the seawater strainer inlet. U-boat crews would try to scuttle their boats by removing the cover and opening the valve before they abandoned ship. This pipe’s cover was intact, more proof that the crew of U-3555 had not wanted to destroy the boat. Instead, they had chosen to die here in the ice, creating a mass grave inside the Norwegian fjord.
The radar operator’s body was here, slumped over his FuMO 65 equipment, which had been cutting edge at the time the U-boat was commissioned. The familiar circular display screen was dark now, but when in use, it would have shown a green arm sweeping in a circle as the antenna on the conning tower sent out its radar beam to detect enemies in the water.
Bonney led Emerson further forward, sweeping aside a thin green curtain to reveal the captain’s quarters on one side, and the radio and sound room on the other. The captain’s ‘quarters’ consisted of a wooden sleeping/working arrangement along the length of the bulkhead; the bunk was about thirty inches long and wedged under a storage cabinet, with a tiny desk built right up against the side of the bed, leaving very little space to get in and out. Above the desk was another cabinet. Modern submarine bunks were considered coffin-sized, but this bunk, Bonney thought, was even smaller than that.
Sitting up in the bunk was Captain Ludger Taranis himself.
Bacteria and fungi could not survive in the humid but freezing conditions that had prevailed inside the submarine since it had found its resting place in the ice. Taranis’ body showed few signs of decay. He was dark-haired and clean-shaven; Bonney fancied she could see a resemblance to Rohan in the nose and around the eyebrows. Big yellow teeth jutted from his open mouth. If his crew had taken poison, Taranis had chosen a more direct route, as evidenced by the small hole in his temple and the Luger semi-automatic pistol that the corpse was still clutching in its hand.
Emerson gently pulled the stiffened body forward and focused her flashlight beam to illuminate the much larger hole and the shattered skull in the back of the head where the bullet had exited. There was a scorch mark on the varnished wood-paneled bulkhead at the head of the bunk to indicate the bullet’s resting place. Emerson let Taranis’ body fall back again, then froze as her gaze traveled to the tiny desk.
Bonney looked in the same direction. On the desk was a photograph in a frame that was blackened with age. The sepia photo had suffered a little water damage but beneath the protective glass, it was more-or-less intact. The subjects were a man in uniform (which had to be Captain Taranis), a woman (his wife) and a girl child holding a stuffed toy dog (his daughter). With a sense of shock, Bonney realized where she had seen this photo before.
She had seen it in Senator Donner’s office. Her mind made several connections at once, rapidly sorting through the facts and drawing conclusions.
Donner meant ‘thunder’ in German.
Taranis was the name of a pagan thunder god of an ancient Germanic tribe.
Gerwitter was German for ‘thunderbolt.’
Rohan Tarnach’s last name was ‘thunder’ in Gaelic.
Senator Marian Donner had to be Rohan Tarnach’s mother!
Emerson must have drawn the same conclusions. She looked disgusted. "What mother would want her own daughter eliminated?"
Bonney remembered that the senator had ordered Rohan’s death on account of her so-called treason. It was impossible that Donner was ignorant of her daughter’s identity, therefore the woman had some compelling reason for wanting Rohan dead. Did it have to do with the treasure that was allegedly aboard U-3555? She did not know. Donner struck her as the cold, unemotional type, a sociopathic personality. Bonney had heard about the senator’s climb to power - the dirty Machiavellian politics, the whispered rumors of blackmail, trading favors (sexual and otherwise), and clawing her way to the top of the Washington food chain with the single-minded ruthlessness of an Al Capone or a Julius Caesar.
"I think Senator Donner’s mother, Brigitta Gerwitter, kept the secret of her husband’s U-boat to herself all these years," Bonney said quietly. "I don’t know how or when Donner found out, but she did. Maybe they had a confrontation… again, I’ve no idea, but Donner also discovered that Brigitta intended to tell Rohan about it."
"Which is why Donner wanted Rohan dead after we found U-3555," Emerson said.
"My mom wanted me dead?" asked a very small voice.
Bonney turned around and directed her flashlight at Rohan, who was standing in the captain’s quarters just behind them. There was a soft click as Emerson put the safety back on the gun she had drawn and returned it to her shoulder holster. Trudie van Geer was beside Rohan, her arm around the plump woman’s waist. Neither of them looked very happy.
"Rohan…" Bonney began, and was interrupted by Emerson.
"Yes, Senator Donner told me to be sure you were terminated," the agent said, her gaze not flickering one whit. "She told us you were part of that neo-Nazi group and guilty of treason against the United States. Killing enemies of the state is how I make my living, so you can understand why I wasn’t too concerned with that part of the mission." She held up her hands. "However, I’ve got a lot of leeway in the way that I get a mission accomplished. I’m not a mindless drone; I’m trusted by my superiors to use my own judgment. So I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore Donner’s orders and let you live… unless you annoy me too much, in which case I reserve the right to change my mind."
Bonney did not know whether to whack Emerson or hug her, so she did neither. Instead, she reached out and patted Rohan’s shoulder. "I wouldn’t have let her hurt you," she said, and ignored Emerson’s snort.
Rohan’s eyes crinkled but she did not smile. "I know," she replied simply. "Thank you."
Rohan came forward, pulling away from Trudie’s grasp, and stared down at the hollow-eyed corpse on the bunk. Captain Ludger Taranis… her grandfather.
"Hello, granddad," she said, and toppled backwards in a dead faint.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Both Trudie and Emerson lunged; the sound of their skulls striking together was remarkably like a pair of coconuts being bashed against a rock. Bonney caught Rohan before she hit the deck, but the woman’s dead weight was too much for her to support unassisted. She did manage to keep them both from being injured, and ended up sitting on the deck with Rohan’s head in her lap while Emerson and Trudie rubbed their sore heads and gave each other the stink-eye.
Trudie squatted and put a hand on Rohan’s stomach. "She’s been holding up so well."
"That’s the problem," Bonney said. "I think it’s all hit her at once."
"Rohan can’t be comfortable, laying on the icy deck," Trudie said. She turned her head and looked at the bunk. "Perhaps if we shifted the body elsewhere…"
Emerson stood above them, hands on hips. "Agent van Geer, a stunted dwarf contortionist would be hard pressed to squeeze in there, and besides, the mattress and blanket are probably soaked in body fluids and Ghu-knows what else."
Trudie’s eyes flashed and she bared her teeth at Emerson, who growled back.
They were saved from an open altercation by Rohan’s eyes fluttering open. "My head hurts," she whispered.
"I’m not surprised," Bonney said. "Can you sit up? Take it slow and easy; we’re not in any hurry."
"Speak for yourself," Emerson said, but her usual acerbic tone was missing.
Rohan was supported by Trudie and Bonney as she went from horizontal to vertical, and finally got to her feet. "I’m sorry," she said. "I think I’m a bit… hey, he’s my grandfather, you know? And I never knew him, not that I’d want to get cozy with a Nazi anyway, but there he is, dried up like a raisin in the desert. It freaked me out."
"I don’t blame you," Bonney said.
Trudie echoed the sentiment, adding, "Liefje, I would be astonished if you weren’t, as you say, freaking out."
"I’m better now. It was just a weird moment. I was looking at Taranis and I heard what you said about Senator Donner and bam!" Rohan smacked her fist into her open palm. "I’m okay, really. Well, not okay about my mom trying to kill me… but then again, I don’t know her and I suppose I never will." Her gaze fastened on Emerson. "Will she send somebody else after me?"
Emerson shrugged. "Could happen."
Trudie and Bonney glared at her. The agent continued, "Don’t maim the messenger, girls. Can you imagine what it’d do to Donner’s political career if it came out that her daddy was a high-ranking Nazi U-boat captain? We’ll be lucky if we aren’t all shot in the back of the head and left to gather maggots in a garbage dump."
"I never thought of that," Bonney said.
"You don’t have a nasty, suspicious, paranoid mind like me," Emerson said, grinning. "We’ll take it one issue at a time. First off, let’s see if this boat can swim… if everybody’s done with lady-like swoons and fits of the vapors, that is."
"There are times," Rohan muttered darkly, "when I’d really like to kick that woman’s ass."
Bonney winced in sympathy. "You go, girlfriend," she said.
Trudie kissed the tip of Rohan’s nose and asked, "Are you alright?"
"No, but I will be." Rohan squared her shoulders. "Let’s go."
The sound and radio room was three feet away from the captain’s ‘quarters’ on the opposite side. There was a great deal of equipment in the claustrophobically small space, senders and receivers with big black dials, levers and switches, as well as a listening post for the passive acoustic detection system, which was connected to microphones mounted flush on the outer hull in front of the keel. Bonney pointed out the phonograph hooked up to the ship-wide intercom, next to a rack still filled with vinyl record albums.
Trudie leafed through the records. "Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles," she read "Lili Marlene – that was popular, I remember my grandmother singing that – and songs from Die Grosse Liebe. Also Zarah Leander, too, I see. Tjonge, jonge! My grandfather said she was hot, the Betty Grabel of Germany, even though Zarah was born in Sweden."
A device that looked like a typewriter stood on a table in the corner. Bonny frowned, then nodded in recognition. "An Enigma machine," she said. "The encypherment system that couldn’t be broken by the Allies; in 1944, they had to capture a submarine and its Enigma machine in order to decrypt German codes."
"Check this out." Emerson indicated an area of the starboard bulkhead that had been patched with a welded steel plate. Bonney touched the edge of the patch.
"Maybe they were damaged by the Russian torpedo," Bonney said. "If so, I think the crew made repairs before they committed suicide."
"Why? Why would anybody do something like that?"
"I don’t know, Amelia. Maybe they hoped to be found someday and didn’t want their discoverers to think less of their submarine. Sailors are a proud lot, you know."
Retracing their steps, the women went back through the control room to the diesel engine room, a narrow passageway flanked by two huge diesel engines, each over twenty feet long and five feet high. The six-cylinder M9V40/46 engines, built by MAN, were turbocharged and relied on extremely high-tolerance parts spinning at high speeds. Red painted wheels and pressure gauges were dotted everywhere. A big compressed air tank was perched atop one of the engine blocks, its oblong length covered in flaking green paint.
"When the submarine was submerged," Bonney said, "they generally used one diesel to propel the boat and the other as a generator to charge the on-board batteries to give them maximum range underwater. However, the Type XXI was built to remain submerged for a long time, up to three days while running at five knots, and they had a fitted snorkel device so they could take on fresh air and recharge the batteries without fully surfacing and becoming a target for Allied aircraft."
Rohan wrinkled her nose. "Sounds like you admire them," she commented.
"If the Germans had developed the Elektroboot two years earlier," Bonney said, "they would have won the war. I can admire the ingenuity and vision required to make significant technological advances, but that doesn’t mean I’m enamored of the Nazi Party."
"You’ve had quite a few shocks lately," Bonney said, not unkindly. There was compassion in her emerald eyes. "It’s understandable."
"Hey, what’s this?" Emerson asked, kicking a grey-painted box with a red lever on the side. It had pipes running out of it that were connected to more pipes that lined the ceiling and ran out of the room into the dark infinity of the rest of the submarine.
Bonney came to peer at the piece of equipment in question. "Looks like a lime CO² absorption device," she said. "These are air ducts, see? The lime helps scrub carbon dioxide out of the air when the boat’s submerged. There’s a hole here in the duct, so it must’ve been damaged in the torpedo strike."
"Do you think there’s still diesel fuel?" Trudie asked.
"The gauge says so. We need to check the electrics, though." Bonney continued aft, into the electric motor room. Once again, the room was a narrow corridor between two banks of Siemens 4,800 hp motors, the smooth steel faces covered with dials and switches. Double-cell storage batteries lined one wall beneath the primary starboard motor, while the secondary port motor shielded another compressed air tank.
Rohan smoothed dark hair away from her face and tapped a dial with her fingernail. "It’s a compromise, isn’t it? The submarine’s diesel engines propel the boat faster, but don’t run underwater. The electrics work underwater but only until the batteries run out."
Trudie bent to examine a battery. "How can we tell if its still charged?"
Bonney went back into the diesel room and checked a number of levers and dials. "Ladies, in order to charge the electrics, we need to get the diesels running, if that’s at all possible. We’ve got fuel and it looks like we’ve still got compressed air, so now we need to bleed air into the cylinders at a pressure capable of turning over the engine. Emerson, you check the high-pressure air service line over there for damage. Rohan, I want you and Trudie looking for engine lubricant. These old diesels eat grease like a deck ape scarfin’ donuts."
The first attempt to send pressurized air into the engine cylinders was a failure. Bonney determined that there was air being moved through the service line but it was blocked at the other end. A check of the regulator valve showed the filter screen was solidly iced. Lacking the butane torch, which was out of fuel anyway, the women took turns holding the screen under their parkas so that their body heat would thaw out the small but vital piece of equipment. Bonney put the screen back, turned the valves, and smiled when the gauge’s needle began to slowly rise. When the needle indicated that full pressure had been reached, she closed off the valves. Her smile grew wider when the needle held at pressure – there were no leaks in the system.
Bonney closed her eyes and leaned against the housing of the engine start controls. It had been a long time since she had studied diesel engine schematics. Saber was a nuclear submarine, but there were still a few ancient WWII diesel subs in use as floating museums, maintained by the Navy to promote the service to schoolchildren and other civilians. Thanks to her brass-hat relatives, she had been stationed on one, a Tench-class called the U.S.S.N. Piranha, straight out of the Academy – a cushy P.R. slot that she had absolutely hated.
"Okay," she said finally. "Time to shit or get off the pot."
The captain looked at the start controls and found two levers. The throttle was labeled Halt, Anfangen and Laufen – STOP, START and RUN. The air starter hand valve lever only had two designations – Auf and Zu, or OPEN and CLOSED. Emerson was set to priming the fuel pump. Rohan and Trudie had located some cans of oil; Bonney had them hand-lubricating the push rods, rocker arms, valve tappets and other moving parts of the engines in anticipation of the diesels actually running.
Bonney kept the throttle on the STOP position while she turned the engine over several times with the air starter hand valve, to ensure there were no obstructions. Afterwards, the test cylinder valves were closed. She put the throttle in the START position and opened the air starter valve once more. The diesels choked – a surprisingly loud sound in the cramped confines of the room – and she tried again.
It took several attempts but eventually, the diesels turned over, a thin mosquito whine turning rapidly into a deafening roar that made ice shiver from the bulkheads. She shifted the throttle to RUN and closed the air starter valve. After several seconds, the light bulb in the ceiling began to glow, a sign that the batteries were charging. In a few minutes, lights were burning steadily all over the submarine.
Rohan clapped her hands together, bouncing in excitement. She had a smudge of oil on her nose and another on her cheek. "We did it!" she crowed.
Trudie swabbed some more oil into a shuddering engine. "Yes, we did!" she answered, beaming happily.
Bonney sighed. "The fun’s not over yet," she said. "Miss van Geer, I want you and Rohan to keep an eye on the engines. Keep feeding oil into the diesels and if you see smoke or smell something burning, shut the engines down by pulling the throttle to STOP. Understand? I don’t think the fire suppression systems work anymore."
"Aye-aye," Rohan said.
"Emerson, you come with me." Bonney walked out of the diesel room aft, through the electric motor room, and continued to the crew compartment in the stern. There were bunks on either bulkhead, two deep, with thin mattresses and thinner pillows. A mummified body was sprawled on each bunk. Beneath the bottom bunks were open wooden crates containing the frozen remains of vegetables. Dried hams and sides of bacon hung from a rack on the ceiling, frost glittering on the slabs of meat. On the rear bulkhead was a big wheel which Bonney identified as the emergency rudder steering gear.
After seventy-one years, the overhead bulbs in their metal safety cages still cast a luridly bright light over the scene. Emerson averted her eyes from an open-mouthed corpse at eye level and spotted something. Bending carefully to avoid banging her head, she reached down and scraped a clump of frozen onions away from the object reflecting the light.
It was a bar of solid gold engraved with a swastika.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Emerson whistled. "I think I’ve found something."
"Don’t whistle, it’s bad luck." Bonney bent to have a look. "Hellfire and damnation."
"I wonder if…" Emerson blinked and did not finish the sentence. She and Bonney quickly rifled through the crates and found that they contained only half of edible supplies. The rest of the space was taken up with more gold bars.
"I’m surprised the crew didn’t get a case of sticky fingers," Emerson mused, touching a shiny gold surface with reverence.
"Where would they hide it? Those bars are heavy, darlin’, and the crew was hot-bunking it – sharing each bunk between two crewmen on separate shifts. As I recall from the files, U-3555 didn’t see action until Captain Taranis took it out of Wilhelmshaven, headed for South America. There wouldn’t have been time to steal the gold, much less conceal it."
Bonney shook her head, blonde ponytail whipping back and forth between her shoulder blades, and went on, "We’d better find out what else is on board."
She and Emerson retraced their steps to the control room – noting that Trudie and Rohan were still minding the diesel engines, which seemed to be running nicely – and made their way to the senior officer’s quarters, the next compartment forward of the captain’s quarters. Like the captain, the senior officers had enjoyed wood-paneling, a private sink and a little glass-fronted cabinet with shaving equipment and personal tea mugs. In this area were four bunks; three were occupied by a dead man in uniform.
"Leitender Ingenieur," Bonney said, "that’s the Chief Engineer; he’s in bed above the Wachoffizier, the officer of the watch. The other is the Obersteuermann – the Chief Quartermaster. Wonder what happened to officer number four? He had to have been the 2IC."
"Möhlmann was the second-in-command. Captain Taranis ordered him to leave the boat, remember?" Emerson said. "He had frostbite, so I guess Möhlmann had to walk over the ice to civilization."
"You’re right." Bonney opened a cabinet at the foot end of the top bunk on the starboard side; within it were rolled up canvasses. She retrieved one and spread it out over the top of the sink.
"Is that…?" Emerson crowded closer.
Bonney licked her lips. "Uh-huh. Signed by Rembrant."
"Holy shit." Emerson took another canvas and unrolled it. "Pablo Picasso here."
"It’s been damaged." Bonney indicated an area where condensation had eaten away some of the oil paint and stained the rest. "This one, too. We’d better leave them before we do worse. There may be more."
In the galley, they found more gold bars stacked in the freezer, along with several zinc-lined boxes containing ropes of pearls, rings, bracelets, tiaras, earrings and loose gems. A steel box held an unusual prize – a small book, the cover made of gold and silver, inlaid with cabochon coral, emeralds and sapphires. Bonney risked opening it. The manuscript pages were vellum, beautifully illustrated in a style reminiscent of the medieval Book of Kells.
Bonney read a few words of the elaborate Latin script aloud, then said, "It’s an illuminated gospel, maybe 9th or 10th century." She put it back into the box and closed the lid. "That’s worth more than the gold, I think."
Emerson was investigating other boxes on the shelves. "Hey, now this is more like it."
Bonney went to her partner’s side. "Papers," she said, pulling out a few and fanning through them. "Ah, this is what the Dutch want, not to mention Holocaust survivors and their families. Inventories… names, dates, places – oh, yes. Excellent records. If we have to abandon ship, these are coming with us."
"What about the rest?" Emerson’s gesture encompassed the freezer and beyond to include the gold, jewels and paintings worth billions of dollars.
"The gold and jewels can always be recovered later." Bonney put a hand on Emerson’s arm, squeezing lightly. "They’ve been here for seventy-one years; they’ll survive a few more months, or however long it takes for a recovery team to be put together."
"Hah! That’ll be one helluva wrangle. Everybody and his brother will have a claim to put forward." Emerson put the papers back. "I’ll be the Swiss will drop their famed neutrality to get a piece of the action."
"I need to check the torpedo room," Bonney said. "Live ordinance can be tricky. We don’t want to blow ourselves to kingdom come."
"Heaven forbid!" Emerson exclaimed. "Come on, girlfriend. Haul ass. We don’t have all century to poke around."
The rest of the galley was tiny, with a stove, oven and refrigerator, as well as an enamel sink. A ladder led upwards to a hatch which would open on the walking deck (called the wintergarten) and was used for loading supplies. Oversized tin cans with peeling labels were stacked in every available niche; railed shelves held waxed rounds of cheese, dried fish and strings of dried sausages, jars of marmalade and honey, tins of coffee and sugar, and bags of noodles and rice that had burst open, making a mess on the deck.
Continuing forward, they came to the petty officer’s quarters – twelve bunks, each with a privacy curtain, and foot lockers beneath the bottom bunks. More dead men were here, more withered corpses laid out neatly on the mattresses. There were small wooden lockers that had once held the limited personal belongings that the men were allowed to bring on patrol. Glancing inside, Emerson found slender silver bars and bundles of heavy ornate silverware. All of the metal was coated in greenish-black tarnish.
The final compartment was the forward crew’s quarters and torpedo room. This was the main living area of the crew, and it was here that Bonney and Emerson found the majority of the men’s bodies. The ice-rimed mummies were two to a bunk, each pair laying shoulder-to-shoulder like good friends and shipmates. A few hammocks suspended from the ceiling held more corpses, these dressed completely in white – the cook and the mess crew, Bonney thought. There was also a tiny shower, a toilet with its attendant pressure valves, and a pair of folding tables that held decks of cards and a chess set.
The bunks were on the port side, two deep as in the other sleeping compartments. On the starboard side was a chain-operated overhead crane. U-3555 carried G7e T3a torpedoes that were twenty-one feet long, with a 280 kg warhead, and were capable of running 7500 meters at 30 knots. There was a hydraulic reloading system that allowed all six tubes to be loaded within five minutes, much faster than the ordinary U-boats could load a single torpedo, but Bonney believed the chain-operated crane had been installed in case of hydraulic failure. The torpedoes themselves were stored under the bunks, and the tubes were already loaded to save space as well as time.
Bonney scratched her nose after performing a cursory examination of the weapons. "I don’t see any obvious signs that the torpedoes are unstable but since they’re so old, they’re unreliable for sure."
"I don’t think I’m up to dragging torpedoes out of here and up the ladder to the deck," Emerson said. "Leave it. We’re not in danger of going boom just yet."
Having completed their survey of the ship, Emerson and Bonney went to the diesel engine room to re-join Trudie and Rohan. The two women were not there.
What the hell? Emerson mouthed at Bonney above the engine roar. The captain raised her pale brows in response and shrugged to indicate her own puzzlement.
A fine spray of lubricant arced through the air and splattered against the bulkhead. The smell of scorched oil filled the room. Bonney cursed and leaped to grab a can, liberally greasing a gyrating rotor. The task accomplished, she grabbed Emerson’s upper arm. "We have to find them!" she hollered in the agent’s ear. "It’s too dangerous!"
Emerson nodded. A U-boat was no place to goof off. Leaving Bonney to baby-sit the temperamental diesels, she went to the control room. The racket of the engines was still loud; the submarine’s metal bulkheads amplified the noise until she was afraid that her sore head might fall off her neck. Trudie van Geer had a skull like solid concrete. Ow!
Fortunately, the engine noise was not too much to blot out the sound of voices drifting down from the conning tower. She recognized one of the voices, male with a pronounced German accent, and a chill invaded her spine. Erik Gottschalk himself, last of the living old-school Nazis – an anachronism kept alive with blood transfusions, stem cells, gene therapy, illegal organ transplants and Ghu-knew what other horrors that science could concoct.
They were in seriously deep kimchee now.
Emerson strained her hearing; there were at least four of them including Gottschalk. Without visual confirmation, she had to assume that three of the men were heavily armed because Gottschalk went nowhere without his hand-picked and extremely loyal bodyguards. Just at the edge of perception, she made out a whump-whump-whump sound that had to be helicopter blades. Great. There were probably more than three bully-boys to deal with.
A touch on her shoulder made Emerson whirl around, hands poised to strike, to rend, to maim. A wide-eyed Trudie van Geer had also adopted a martial arts pose, while Rohan held a greasy wrench as if it was a dagger. Rolling her eyes, Emerson broke her stance and shook herself to work out the tension in her muscles. "Erik Gottschalk of der Blitzschlag is here," she said to Trudie, "and he didn’t bring the Swedish Bikini Team with him."
Trudie was obviously puzzled by the popular American culture reference, but her grimace showed that she understood who Gottschalk was. There was a clang as Rohan dropped the wrench. Emerson beckoned to them both. "Come on, we’ve got to tell Annie." She led the way to the diesel engine room.
Appraised of the situation, Bonney’s eyes narrowed in thought. "Agent van Geer, can you protect Rohan?"
"With my life," Trudie vowed. They all had to scream at each other to be understood above the engines, but the Dutch agent’s gaze gleamed with confidence. She discarded her parka – it was getting hot enough in the room to melt the ice coating the walls and the deck was awash in water – and revealed a shoulder holster with a pair of Sig Sauer P228 9mm pistols, the same firearm preferred by U.S. federal and law enforcement agents.
Bonney said, "Emerson and I will go outside and distract them. I want you two to go forward to the torpedo room. In ten minutes, you’re going to fire a torpedo."
"What? We can’t!" Rohan exclaimed. "It could bring the whole cavern down on top of our heads."
"The U-boat is stuck in the ice but there’s water underneath. We’re buoyant." At Emerson’s suspicious squint, Bonney continued, "Trust me, Amelia. I’m a sea captain. I can sense water at a hundred yards or better. Taranis’ boat got into the cavern, so I’m guessing the entrance of the cave was sealed over at some point in the last seventy-one years. It can’t be that thick. I’m hoping the force of the explosion will open the entrance and we can sail out of here on U-3555, up the fjord and into Bergen or some other Norwegian port."
"And what if that doesn’t work?" Emerson asked.
The captain answered, "Then I suppose we’re screwed."
Rohan tossed her head. "I’m sure it’ll work, Anne. Your plans never fail."
Bonney flashed her a smile. "There’s always a first time. Okay, ladies. You know what to do. Give us ten minutes – no more, no less – and fire that fish from the No. 5 tube. That’ll be the control button marked fünf. Now both of you pay attention…" She went on to describe the steps necessary to fire the torpedo.
Both Rohan and Trudie nodded their readiness. Their expressions softened as the two women looked at each other with such love and affection, they glowed.
Emerson sighed, then turned to Bonney and jerked her thumb over her shoulder. "Let’s get out of here before I go into a diabetic coma."
Bonney laughed and followed her partner up the ladder to the conning tower, where an evil from the past awaited them on the wintergarten deck.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Erik Gottschalk was as withered and wrinkled and juiceless as the mummies aboard U-3555. Only his maliciously glittering black eyes showed any sign of life. The skin stretched tightly over his bald cranium and the sharp bones of his face gave him the aspect of a skull. The resemblance was reinforced by an almost lipless mouth, leaving two rows of unnaturally white teeth on constant display. Emerson noted that he smoked black Russian Sobranie cigarettes with gold filters, which he held between thumb in forefinger in European style.
With Gottschalk were several of his der Blitzschlag followers, identifiable by the double lightning-bolt gold pins on their parkas. Four big buff men, all blonde hair and blue eyes and muscles up to their eyebrows were toting AK-47 assault rifles with professional ease. There were six others with them – four men, two women - dressed identically in dark blue parkas that bore the crossed orange tulip and swastika logo of the Nieuw Nederlands Front. The Dutch were armed with American M-4 combat rifles fitted with grenade launchers.
When Emerson and Bonney emerged from the hatch, they were immediately grabbed by two of the bodyguards and hustled over to Gottschalk, whose beady eyes roamed greedily over their bodies. Under that glittering gaze, Emerson felt like a dessert buffet at a Weight Watcher’s convention. Gottschalk was rumored to subscribe to some esoteric Taoist fang-chung sexual practice that involved the transfer of chi energies from ying to yang, which required large amounts of Viagra and several female ‘volunteers.’
"Frauleins," Gottschalk said with a crisp nod of his head. "I believe I know you, Amelia Peabody Emerson of the Central Intelligence Agency, although I have never actually met the infamous Widowmaker."
"The pleasure’s all yours," Emerson muttered.
Gottschalk turned his attention to Bonney. "We have not been introduced, fraulein. I am Erik Werner Gottschalk, former Schutzstaffel and Gestapo officer, now supreme kommandant of der Blitzschlag."
"Captain Anne Bonney of the U.S.S.N. Saber," Bonney replied, ignoring his outstretched hand. "I’ll skip reciting my serial number, if you don’t mind."
"Of course, Frau Kapitän." Gottschalk executed a shallow bow. He flicked his cigarette over the rail; one of his bodyguards gave him another Sobranie, already lit. "I must thank you for leading us to the Thunderbolt," he said. "Captain Taranis hid his vessel too well."
"Yes, I’ll add my congratulations as well," said a familiar female voice. Senator Marian Donner walked out from behind the armed men and women. The woman was wearing ultra-fashionable ski wear, as if she was on holiday in St. Moritz, and the smile she directed at Emerson and Bonney was distinctly predatory. "So tell me, Agent Emerson, did you take care of the troublesome Rohan Tarnach?"
"Of course," Emerson lied, her expression giving nothing away. "It’ll be in my report, and I’ll be sure to send you a copy."
Donner’s bright red lipsticked mouth moved in a sneer. "What a good little drone you are, following orders without knowing the reason why."
"Is this the part where you reveal your nefarious plans for world domination? Gloat over the fate-worse-than-death that awaits the white hats? Go ahead and twirl that mustache, senator; make like a movie bad guy because frankly, I don’t give a damn." Emerson crossed her arms over her chest, cool and composed. "Been there, done that."
Gottschalk’s bodyguards were, in Emerson’s opinion, incompetent idiots. They had removed her shoulder holster but missed the ankle holster with the .22 and the other .22 in the small of her back. A pair of small guns may not have seemed like much of a defense against AK-47s and M4s, but Emerson figured she could take out four of the opposing force before they could get a shot off, if she had a chance.
"I suppose you know that Rohan is my daughter." Donner’s eyes were narrow slits that oozed maliciousness. "That was a mistake."
"Your genetic material was important to our cause, Fraulein Taranis," Gottschalk said to the senator, cigarette smoke boiling from his mouth. "The Eugenics Committee believed it was an appropriate match that might have resulted in a perfect Aryan specimen, had your mother not lost her dedication to the cause. As a result…" He shrugged. "Your daughter was raised improperly, fraulein. It ruined her despite her good blood."
"Be that as it may, Herr Gottschalk, the effort was wasted. None of us knew that Brigitta was a traitor to der Blitzschlag… not until recently." Donner cocked her head to one side and regarded Emerson. "Brigitta kept a journal, which she had sent to me after her death. In that journal I learned that she knew the location of U-3555 all along. So that no one else would ever find my father’s submarine, she killed Helmut Möhlmann.
"That traitor Brigitta raised my daughter to hate the Nazi cause rather than embrace it because she blamed the Party for my father’s death. Furthermore, she did not want us to have the treasures that Taranis and his Thunderbolt have been safe-guarding for decades. It was Brigitta’s nurse who alerted me that she had sent a letter to Rohan. The rest was easy to deduce, the plan simplicity itself."
"And then you gave me the mission to find the submarine and eliminate your inconvenient offspring," Emerson said. "How thoughtful of you."
"You’ve justified my faith in your abilities," Donner said. "You and the captain make a formidable team."
"Lady," Bonney said after glancing at her wristwatch, "you just said a friggin’ mouthful."
Emerson sucked in a breath. The torpedo!
Had it been ten minutes already?
Her skin prickled.
A weird bubbling, hissing, fizzing noise – a lot like a fart in a bathtub, Emerson thought – sounded through the cavern.
Gottschalk frowned. "Was ist das?"
Emerson grabbed Bonney around the waist and dove sideways, aiming for the rail, as the world exploded in a shower of ice and fire and searing heat all around them.
Rohan was sweating heavily, but not more than half of the perspiration was generated from her nerves. The diesel engines ran hot; it had to be a hundred degrees in the room itself and the other compartments were heating up as well. Like Trudie, she had taken off her parka and cold-weather gear, leaving herself dressed in heavy jeans and a flannel shirt. There was water everywhere from the melting ice. Rohan hoped the dead men would not start to stink any worse now that they were thawing out.
A torpedo was already in tube No. 5, which saved them the trouble of having to figure out the hydraulics system. She and Trudie had managed to open the loading hatch after applying plenty of lubrication to the wheel; they had to check and be sure that the torpedo had not rusted to the inside of the tube, making launching impossible. That task completed, the two women had to see if there was enough water under the ice-locked keel to flood the tube.
Rohan gnawed her bottom lip as they waited to see if the light turned red; that would indicate the torpedo was ready for launch. Tension mounted, wire-taut in the humid atmosphere, as the bulb remained dark. Rohan felt dizzy; she suddenly realized that she had been holding her breath and let it out slowly, feeling slightly foolish. The gulp of air that followed was tainted by rot and diesel fumes and an unpleasantly moldy odor that reminded her of a neglected mop.
The light flashed red.
Trudie glanced at her watch. "Two more minutes," she said. Suddenly, she leaned forward and kissed Rohan hard. Their mouths clashed together, rough and slick; Rohan closed her eyes, whimpering and hanging onto the other woman’s shoulders for dear life. One of Trudie’s teeth nicked her bottom lip. The sharp sting and taste of blood made Rohan shudder.
"I love you, liefje," Trudie whispered when they broke apart. She laid a series of light butterfly kisses on Rohan’s eyelids, her nose and cheekbones and chin.
Rohan clung to Trudie as the woman reached out and stabbed the button marked feuer.
The submarine shivered, vibrations traveling through the hull as the torpedo was launched through the outer door. The sensation quivered through the deck, running upwards through the soles of Rohan’s feet, racing along her spine and making her fillings hum. Her head began to throb.
The explosion knocked Rohan and Trudie off their feet. The two women landed in a sprawl of elbows and knees. The breath was knocked out of Rohan; she gasped and huffed and puffed while part of her prayed that the bulkheads would not rupture and send them both to a cold watery grave at the bottom of the Drekkjarhorn Fjord. The submarine was rocking back and forth. Rohan had enough presence of mind to babble something about the ballast tanks that sent Trudie staggering out of the compartment, one eye already swelling purple from her face’s accidental impact with Rohan’s chin.
Rohan managed to force herself upright – no easy task – and followed her partner to the control room.
Emerson had hold of the rail with one hand, Anne Bonney with the other. Her ears were ringing like Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, had gone completely insane and was attempting to recreate the drum solo from In-Na-Gadda-Da-Vida on the bronze bells inside her skull. The agent shook her head – mistake! – and waited until black spots stopped flickering in her vision before trying to focus her gaze on the rest of the walking deck.
Erik Gottschalk, the fossilized Nazi, was being cradled on a sea of blonde muscle-boys; his bodyguards had all jumped, en masse, to save their leader. The Nieuw Nederlands Front was in a struggling clump at the far end of the wintergarten, near the bow. Senator Donner was missing. Everyone looked shell-shocked, their minds still trying to absorb what had happened. Sooner rather than later, Emerson thought, they were going to remember that they had weapons and somebody was going to start shooting.
Emerson blinked. Light! There was light streaming into the cavern. She heaved herself to her feet, yanking Bonney up as well. The torpedo blast had not only freed U-3555 from the imprisoning ice, leaving the submarine afloat, it had also torn a good-sized hole in the cavern wall. Chunks of ice were still falling from the semi-circular aperture, splashing into the waters of the fjord. She could just catch a glimpse of blue cloud-dotted sky, and the tiniest slice of blazing sunshine reflecting off the rim of the hole.
Bonney snatched her hand out of Emerson’s grasp. "We’ve got to…" The captain broke off as a member of Nieuw Nederlands Front clambered to his feet and aimed an M-4 in their direction. "Duck!" Bonney yelled, pulling Emerson down to the deck.
The man was apparently still confused; instead of bullets, he launched a grenade, which flew over their heads and impacted against the side of the cavern. The fireball explosion sent a wave of hellish heat and smoke-stained shards of ice rolling over the deck. Emerson’s eyes were clenched shut. The acrid tang of explosives joined the salt stink of seawater. Beneath her breath, she cursed the moron with his orange tulip and swastika logo, going so far as to suggest that not only were his parents unmarried, he and they enjoyed a mutual unnatural attraction to llamas and possibly hamsters as well.
"Impressive as that is," Bonney murmured in her ear, "we need to get the hell out of here."
"No argument, babe," Emerson said. A big icicle lay next to her right hand, broad at the base and coming to a nice sharp point at the end. She jumped to her feet, picking up the icicle as she moved; her arm went back then snapped forward as she threw the improvised dagger at the man who had launched the grenade. The icicle spun end over end as it sailed through the air, and took the man through the throat. Blood sprayed over the deck and coated his startled face with liquid crimson. He fell backwards, finger tightening on the trigger of his M-4. The resulting hail of bullets tore more ice from the cavern ceiling.
Dodging shrapnel and more chunks of frozen water falling from the ceiling, Bonney kicked another of the Nieuw Nederlands Front people over the side. Spinning on her heel, she whipped her arm up in time to block a blow aimed at her from another of the Dutch crew – a woman this time – and threw an uppercut that laid the dark-haired female out cold.
Emerson’s heart was swollen with affection as she watched Bonney in action. Her lover could kick ass with the best of them! Unfortunately, one of Gottschalk’s goons decided to try and interfere, so Emerson was forced to stop admiring Bonney and focus on knocking the Nazi wanna-be off the submarine. He flipped over the rail; there was a large splash and a wail as he landed in the water.
Emerson realized the submarine was moving towards the newly opened entrance.
Cold steel suddenly pressed against her temple. Emerson froze. An arm snaked around her neck. A woman’s voice – Senator Donner’s voice – was a buzz in her ear.
"Did you really think I’d let you get away?" Donner asked.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Bonney stood in place, shock warring with fury in her breast. Donner was holding Emerson with an arm around her neck, a gun pressed to the agent’s head. The senator’s hair was a tangled mess; there was a streak of blood on her chin and her expensive ski jacket was torn in several places. The expression on her face was madness, pure and not-so-simple.
"We’re moving," Donner said, showing the whites of her eyes sidelong. "Stop moving the submarine. Stop it!"
Emerson’s lips tightened into a thin, straight line. Bonney caught her breath; she knew that look. Her muscles tensed. Her body was coiled to take advantage of whatever opening the agent managed to give them. That chance came when Emerson slammed her head back into Donner’s face, connecting with the woman’s nose which broke with a loud crunching sound. At the same time, she reached up and twisted the senator’s wrist viciously to the left, dislocating the joint and causing Donner to drop the gun.
Bonney leaped for the ladder to the conning tower, legs pumping. Some of the Nieuw Nederlands Front gunmen shot at her as she ran, bullets spanging off the deck. Emerson scooped up the senator’s gun, pulled another from the small of her back, and took several shots of her own as she followed Bonney. Gottschalk let out a frustrated shriek as the two women raced up the ladder and down the conning tower hatch.
The captain pressed herself to one side as soon as they were in the tower. "Go!" she yelled at Emerson, who planted her feet on either side of the ladder and simply slid down, the speed of her passage making her dark hair fly up off her shoulders like a banner. Bonney closed the hatch, locking it securely before emulating Emerson’s descent. As she fell, habit made Bonney cry out, "Make a hole!" to warn anyone who might be lingering below.
The moment her feet struck the deck, Bonney was in motion again, headed for the helmsman’s station. On the way, she snagged Rohan. "Sit here," she snapped, "and do exactly as I tell you."
"Aye-aye, ma’am," Rohan said, eyes wide.
A loud clang rang through the ship, followed by several others. "They’re firing at the hull, and it ain’t bulletproof," Bonney said. "We need to dive as soon as we’re in deep enough water. Amelia, you keep an eye on the depth gauge, here, and the engine speed, here. All ahead full – just grab the lever, Amelia, and push it to all the way to the top. You can do it. Agent van Geer…"
"Please, call me Trudie."
"Very well, Trudie… I need you to go to the engine room and keep oiling the diesels. When it comes time to dive, you and I will have to manually uncouple the clutch connections and switch them to the electrics."
"Understood, kapitein," Trudie said smartly, and left the control room at a sprint.
Bonney went to Rohan. "Just keep the bow pointed straight ahead; watch that needle, see? That tells you we’re straight. We ought to be clearing the cavern any minute."
Rohan bit her bottom lip but obeyed, keeping a white-knuckled grip on the yoke. There was a dessicated body at her feet; apparently, she had pushed the corpse out of her way. Bonney approved of the way that Rohan was controlling herself. The woman had the makings of a fine officer, if she ever decided to join the Navy.
Meanwhile, Emerson was fidgeting nervously. "Um, Annie, you know how I don’t really like submarines that much?"
"Well, take that feeling and multiply it by ten. This thing’s a friggin’ tin can. And it stinks worse than your boat, and that’s saying something!"
"Just sit down – yes, Amelia, push the dead sailor out of your way – and watch that gauge. When we dive, you’ll need to take the planesman’s yoke. Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll do a good job, as always."
After a moment of searching, Bonney found what she thought was the periscope control. Everything was, of course, labelled in German, and the military terms did not always coincide with the conversational language she had learned. Metaphorically crossing her fingers, Bonney manipulated the control and was rewarded by a groan as the periscope mast came up out of the well.
She snapped the handles down – the action was quite stiff, and she had to put some force into it – and looked through the eyepiece. The glass was green, the seal fuzzy with mold, but she could see enough to know that the sub had cleared the cavern and was in the fjord itself. "Rohan, right full rudder!"
"Right full rudder, aye!" Rohan said as she twisted the yoke.
"Keep it level and easy," Bonney ordered as the submarine made a right turn into deeper waters. She rotated the scope and came eyepiece-to-face with Erik Gottschalk. "Jesus Christ on a gold-plated crutch!" she yelped.
"What’s the matter?" a white-faced Emerson asked.
"Just a totenkopf," Bonney muttered, going back to the periscope eyepiece. Gottschalk’s nightmare visage was gone, and even better than that, Emerson would never get the inadvertent pun. "Okay, we’re going to try a shallow dive. Amelia, you’ll find several switches marked bettung – those are for the ballast tanks. Pull them all to mid-point, then slowly, slowly push the steering yoke forward, just a little bit – less than five degrees. Let’s see how our Nazi friends like getting their feet wet. Watch the bow angle on the dial directly in front of you. Rohan, keep the helm steady."
"Will do," Rohan said. "Should we maintain engines at full speed?"
"Drop to one-third," Bonney said, still gazing through the ‘scope. Both the Nieuw Nederlands Front and Gottschalk’s boys had decided to abandon ship and take their luck with the frozen fjord. Wavelets lapped at the bottom lip of the periscope’s eyepiece. The walking deck was completely submerged, so that only the conning tower stood out of the water. "We don’t want to run into an iceberg and do a Titanic."
"Captain Bonney! There is a problem!" Trudie’s voice came through a speaking tube. Rather than answer the same way, Bonney abandoned the ‘scope and ran to the engine room. One of the diesels was smoking; the acrid chemical tang caught in her throat and she coughed, eyes watering.
"Shut it down!" she screamed at Trudie, who moved the throttle to halt. Both engines emitted a final ear-splitting roar, then choked and died.
Bonney rolled up the sleeves of her turtleneck sweater. "Give me a hand with the uncoupling," she said, reaching for an engineer’s tool box secured in its rack on the bulkhead. "We’ll run off the batteries as long as we can."
Trudie sneezed and nodded. Her strawberry-blonde hair was stringy with engine grease and her hands were filthy, her nails blackened by the lubricant. Together, they wrestled the couplings aft to the electric engine room and hooked them up to the storage batteries. The electric engines were nowhere near as noisy as the diesels; they emitted a loud hum that was much more bearable on the eardrums.
Bonney wiped some grease off her hands and said, "I’m going to the radio room and see if that’s working. If so, I’ll try to contact Saber."
"And if not?" Trudie asked.
"Then we may have screwed the pooch, but damned if I’m going to surrender now." Bonney cast a last look around. "Go forward to the control room and keep an eye on Amelia and Rohan. Those two treat each other like red-headed stepchildren; they’re probably at each other’s throat already, and I’d just as soon avoid out-and-out bloodshed."
"I’ll make them behave," Trudie said.
"Better take your sidearm with you," Bonney quipped. She went swiftly back through the control room, not pausing to do anything other than pat Emerson on the back and tell her to watch the depth gauge. "If the keel scrapes bottom, pull up a bit, okay?"
Emerson nodded, her gaze not wavering from the dial.
Bonney continued to the radio room.
She ran into an immediate problem – Bonney had no idea how the Telefunken radio equipment worked. By sheer luck she managed to figure out the sequence of switches to turn the receiver on, and was inundated with a loud hiss of static after the set warmed up. Putting on the headphones and turning the dial, Bonney tuned into a phantom-like whisper of sound that, after some straining, she identified as a transmission from an Italian merchant vessel. She kept trying, alert for any ‘official’ sounding traffic.
A burst of mingled German and Dutch made her wince and ease the headphone away from her ear. With fierce concentration, Bonney was able to translate some of the chatter. It appeared she was picking up transmissions from two helicopter gunships – one containing Gottschalk, who was in charge of the operation – and the other from the surviving Nieuw Nederlands Front members. They were debating whether or not to fire upon the fleeing U-boat and risk losing the treasures aboard.
Bonney smirked. The Dutch were eager to destroy the submarine but Gottschalk was still trying to figure out a way to salvage the contents. He was too greedy to accept the loss of some of the treasure, like the paintings. There was no word from Donner but she figured the senator would rather sink the sub rather than allow them to escape and ruin her political career. It was a dead certainty that Bonney, for one, intended to do whatever she could to see that Donner was prosecuted for attempted murder, and that the woman’s connection to the neo-Nazi faction was exposed to the public.
If they survived. That was going to be one hell of a trick.
Bonney continued listening and suddenly sat back in the chair. After much argument, Gottschalk seemed to be in reluctant agreement to try disabling the submarine by shooting at the rudder, which was hidden beneath the surface. In essence, he and his men would be firing blind upon the U-boat, hoping to destroy the steering mechanism and leave them unable to flee any further. In reality, the helicopters’ .30 caliber machine guns would probably blow the hull to smithereens and send U-3555 to the bottom.
They had to dive and do it quickly, as deep as possible. Lacking visual confirmation, the helicopters would be unable to follow them or shoot at them. Bonney turned on the ship-wide microphone so that she could still monitor the conversations while she was out of the radio room, then pushed out of the seat and made haste to the con.
"Prepare to dive," Bonney said to Emerson.
"You’re shitting me."
"No, I shit thee not." Bonney turned to Trudie and Rohan. Trudie, at least, understood the stream of German/Dutch chatter coming from the intercom; her face was bloodlessly pale and taut with apprehension.
"Gottschalk is in a helicopter gunship above us," Bonney explained for the benefit of those who did not speak German or Dutch, "and he’s about to try to shoot our rudder and hydroplanes, so we need to dive or surrender."
"Well, when you put it that way… tell me what I need to do," Emerson said, turning back to the helm.
"I don’t have time to teach anyone the intricacies of sonar operation," Bonney said, "so we’re going to dive without knowing what’s on the bottom. We don’t need to submerge too deeply, just enough to throw the choppers off our track." She took a deep breath; running a boat with an untrained civilian crew was the hardest work she had ever done. "Amelia, throw the ballast vent tanks to full then give me a ten degree down bubble. Watch the trim. Rohan, keep the helm nice and steady, no sudden moves. Trudie, man the periscope and holler if you spot something."
Bonney received acknowledgements from the other women. She wiped her sweaty brow with the back of her hand and went to stand behind Emerson, watching the depth gauge. When they reached seventy feet, Bonney had the agent level out the submarine. Creaks and groans coming from the bulkheads spoke eloquently of the stresses the old U-boat was suffering, even at so mild a depth.
Suddenly, the radio chatter ceased. A booming voice rang from the speakers: "Unidentified aircraft, you are in violation of Norwegian airspace. Decrease your speed and altitude and follow us to Jåtta base, or we will use deadly force!"
"Sounds like the Royal Norwegian Air Force has caught up with Herr Gottschalk," Trudie said, smiling.
Then a second male voice issued from the speakers, and the feeling of triumph that Bonney felt turned at once to sour dread.
"U-3555, this is Captain Christoffer Kjetil of the Royal Norwegian Navy submarine, Gungnir. You are ordered to surface at once and surrender your vessel to our authority. Acknowledge or you will be fired upon."
"Oh, Great Ghu!" Emerson exclaimed.
Bonney gritted her teeth against an incipient headache. "I’m going to the radio room," she said, "and try to buy us some time. Trudie, go forward to the torpedo room and stand by."
"You don’t intend to… Annie, have you lost your mind?" Emerson asked, fixing Bonney with her steeliest glare. "That’s a state-of-the-art, billion dollar submarine out there, and we’re in a rusty tin can. Besides which, if you shoot them, it’ll be a declaration of war and we’ll be filling out paperwork until we’re both old and gray."
"Don’t worry," Bonney soothed. "I’ve had diplomatic training. I’m just going to try and stall them until we reach international waters. As long as we’re in the fjord, the Norwegian’s claim is justifiable. We need to run, not fight, but I still want an edge in case Gungnir tries something. Amelia, I have no intention of starting a war, but if Captain Kjetil pushes me, I’m going to lay a shot athwart his forefoot that’ll make his hair stand on end."
"You’ve been reading Patrick O’Brian again, haven’t you?" Emerson accused.
"Just try and keep us from running into any whales or icebergs while I’m away," Bonney said. With a wink and a smile to her partner, she left the con.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
"Yes, captain, I understand your position," Bonney said, "however…" She scraped her fingernails over the mic several times to mimic static and continued to speak, knowing that Kjetil’s communications operator would be frantically trying to fine-tune his equipment to pick up a ‘better’ signal. This would result in a complete loss of signal, if she was lucky, and that would gain her a few more moments as Gungnir had to readjust their radio reception again.
She played the game for several minutes, mentally tracking the U-boat’s course along the fjord. Captain Kjetil’s patience would come to an end very shortly, she reckoned. Bonney considered broadcasting a Mayday over the airwaves but the likelihood of the SOS being picked up by a U.S. Navy vessel was slim at best. Saber was in the neighborhood and ought to be looking for U-3555; she could not, however, try to contact her boat directly as that would alert Kjetil that something was going on.
Besides, she did not know if she could even get the aging Telefunken to make a transmission on single sideband 2182 kHz, the standard calling and distress frequency. The radio equipment looked like it was being held together by spit and baling wire. U-3555 might have been state-of-the-art in 1945 but it was a dinosaur compared to the kind of submarine that she was used to commanding. Taranis’ Thunderbolt was also a minnow in contrast to the cutting-edge Norwegian whale that was hunting them.
Would the Norwegian really fire on them? Bonney thought he might. After all, his government would be able to deny that they had known Americans were on board the antique U-boat. With Gottschalk and his merry band of neo-Nazis in custody, the Norwegians could claim they believed more terrorists were inside U-3555. Was Kjetil the kind of commander who would follow such an order? Bonney did not know the man, but submarine captains in general were given considerable latitude in how they interpreted orders. It came down to whether or not Kjetil was willing to have the deaths of innocents on his conscience.
The answer to her question came sooner than she expected.
"Captain Bonney!" roared Kjetil’s voice from the Telefunken receiver, "No more games! Surrender at once or I will sink you!"
"Say again?" Bonney asked, scraping her fingernail over the mic surface even as she was reaching with her other hand for the speaking tube that connected to the forward torpedo room. She turned her head and said into the tube, "Trudie, flood tubes three and four."
"Aye-aye," came the woman’s tinny reply.
Bonney closed the mic and flicked on the passive detection system, big gray boxes with huge dial faces that were connected to microphones mounted on the bow. While not as sophisticated as modern active sonar, it might be good enough to allow her to pinpoint Gungnir’s underwater location. U-3555 used acoustic torpedoes that would home in on the other submarine’s cavitation. Despite her brave words to Amelia, Bonney knew that there was no way she could program one of the U-boat’s torpedoes to make close contact with Kjetil’s boat without actual impact. There might be another way, though…
What she heard over the headphones made her heart pound loudly enough to drown out the sound of cavitation coming from the Gungnir’s screws.
Gungnir was opening its outer torpedo doors.
That might have been in response to U-3555 flooding its tubes, or it might be Captain Kjetil’s patience expiring at last. Whatever the cause, Bonney needed to be in several places at once. Wishing for a handful of experienced crewmen was not going to save the situation, so she would have to make do with what she did have. She risked a precious moment to steady herself, drawing on years of command in a hazardous profession to calm her jangling nerves.
When she was ready, she opened the speaking tube to the con. "Amelia, on my mark, reduce speed and instigate a ten degree down bubble to depth two hundred feet, then level out. Rohan, make your course two-two-zero, right standard rudder. Mark!"
Bonney knew that Gungnir was close, practically hovering on their stern. By reducing speed, she hoped to make the Norwegian submarine back off to avoid collision. Diving deeper would give her some breathing space. She opened the speaking tube to the forward torpedo room. "Trudie, go to the aft torpedo room and flood all tubes."
Bonney took a deep breath – she felt as though she had a loaded gun in her back - and began listening intently to the passive sonar, estimating Gungnir’s position. She also reached over the corpse of the radar operator and flicked on the FuMO 65 set, which began to glow green. Next, she contacted the con again.
"Rohan, the German equivalent of the target data computer is in the conning tower, alongside the attack periscope. Do you think you can estimate range, course and speed of the enemy submarine and plug it into the TDC?" Bonney asked. She did not know if Rohan was capable of the task, but the plump woman had shown that she had some knowledge of submarines during the Samara incident.
"I… I can try, captain," Rohan answered. "I’m on my way."
Around her, the bulkheads groaned ominously as the submarine’s depth increased. Theoretically, the U-boat should have been capable of reaching a crush depth of a thousand feet but U-3555 was old and worn out and the seams were not what they used to be. Bonney winced as a rivet popped out of the bulkhead and whizzed past her nose. Much more stress and the Thunderbolt was going to come apart around them.
Bonnie put the mic on again and contacted Gungnir. "We’re experiencing some technical difficulties with these antiquated systems," she broadcast. "Stand by."
As she listened to Kjetil’s threats and commands, Bonney’s thoughts drifted to the con and to Rohan, whom she hoped would be able to carry off the most necessary task of her plan.
The words to the submariner’s hymn rang silently through her mind:
"O Holy Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the waters dark and rude,
And bid their angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea."
"Hear us when we cry to Thee," Bonney whispered, "for those in peril on the sea."
Emerson abandoned her post to follow Rohan to the conning tower. "Are you sure you know what you’re doing?" the woman asked as after some searching, Rohan found the controls that would raise the attack periscope.
"I have no idea what I’m doing," Rohan replied calmly, snuggling the upper part of her face against the eyepiece. "But I’m going to keep muddling on because it’s better than sitting on my ass and doing nothing. And no, Agent Emerson, I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m just a little too busy to chat right now, okay?"
"Just don’t blow up the boat," Emerson snarled, and stalked off with her usual inhuman grace.
Rohan chuckled to herself. The situation was tense; any moment, the Norwegian captain might decide to sink the U-boat, or their own engines might fail as the batteries ran dry, or the bulkhead might spring a significant leak, or any of a hundred other things that could spell their doom. Nevertheless, she was with Trudie van Geer – in spirit, if not in body – and her friends, even if Emerson did not consider herself such.
The task they were undertaking was of paramount important, not in terms of monetary gain, but of justice. Justice for the millions who had died in the Holocaust, and the families who continued to be denied reparations for their losses at the hands of the Nazis.
Spotting the Gungnir through the periscope was easy. The dark streamlined shape of the Norwegian submarine cut through the cold, clear waters of the fjord like a shark. Calculating its course and speed proved more difficult. Rohan had read about target motion analysis but had no practical experience. In the end, she decided to take her best guess and hope for the best. Angle on the bow starboard zero zero four mark. Speed, five knots, course one six five, distance to track 1,200 yards.
The target data computer was a complicated array of dials, switches and knobs, which had an additional scope that allowed the fire control officer to gain an even more accurate fix on the target’s range, heading and speed. Rohan had no idea how to operate the TDC, but she knew that she had to input her navigation readings and the corresponding data from the observed target; the TDC would then perform trigonometric calculations, report the correct firing angles and torpedo gyro settings.
Rohan surveyed the bank of switches with dismay. Not only was everything labeled in German, she did not have the slightest clue how it all worked. With a sinking heart, she opened the speaking tube to the radio room. "Captain, I don’t know how to run the TDC," she confessed, feeling like she had let everyone down.
There was a moment’s pause, then the captain’s reply came through. "Okay, Rohan. Stand by. I’m on my way."
Rohan sighed and went back to the attack periscope.
As Bonney passed through the control room, she said to Emerson, "Take the helm and prepare for evasive manoeuvres. Make turns for ten knots, then I want you to make a long loop and come about 180º."
"We’re going to do a Crazy Ivan?" Emerson asked. At Bonney’s raised eyebrows, she said, "Hey, I pay attention to the naval mumbo-jumbo sometimes, you know."
"Yes, we’re going to pull a Crazy Ivan manoeuvre," Bonney said, patting Emerson’s broad shoulder. "I hope that’ll make the captain of the Gungnir dive deeper to avoid a collision."
"Hey, babe, you want to play chicken with a 5,000 ton nuclear submarine? That’s fine by me," Emerson said, a smile quirking one corner of her mouth. "I just hope that other captain flinches first. If we hit them in the missile bay, we’ll all go kaboom."
Bonney reached out and traced Emerson’s lips with her thumb. "In case we don’t make it…" She swallowed, unable to continue.
"I refuse to say good-bye," the agent said. "That’s for quitters. Carry on, Annie. Kick their asses, take their names, and then we can go home."
Bonney grinned. "Take the helm, Amelia. Let’s give those fish-eaters the finger."
"You bet, babe."
With a final blown kiss at her lover – if attitude was a weapon, they’d have enough firepower to knock the Gungnir clear out of the water - Bonney went to the conning tower where Rohan was waiting.
"Sorry, Anne," Rohan said, looking downcast. "It’s very complicated and I’m afraid that I don’t know much about the system."
"Don’t apologize," Bonney said. "To tell the truth, I don’t know how to work this thing either. Let’s see if we can figure it out together. But first…" She opened the speaking tube to the aft torpedo room. "Trudie, go forward again; I need you in the bow."
Together, she and Rohan puzzled out the TDC, with Bonney providing translations of the German labels. As Trudie passed through the compartment, Bonney said to her, "Get ready to fire that fish on my mark."
"Aye-aye, ma’am," Trudie said. There were dark circles of exhaustion under her emerald eyes, but the Dutch woman seemed fairly upbeat. She snagged a quick kiss from Rohan as she blew past, headed for the forward torpedo room.
"What’s the plan?" Rohan asked.
"We’re going to do a Crazy Ivan. If Kjetil performs as expected, he’ll dive. At that same moment, I want to fire a torpedo. He’ll think twice about crowding us after that." Bonney began punching buttons on the TDC, inputting Rohan’s navigation data. "Can you finish this? I need to make some manual adjustments on the fish to remove the acoustic trackers, otherwise it won’t go further than eight hundred feet or so. It’s a safety measure to prevent the torpedo from acquiring us as its target."
"Yes, I think I’ve got it now," Rohan said, taking over the inputting task. "You do intend to miss him, right? You’re not going to blow up a nuclear submarine."
Bonney shrugged. "I’ll do my damnedest not to start World War III," she said, "but unless Captain Kjetil abandons his pursuit, all bets are off."
The stunned expression in Rohan’s dark eyes made Bonney chuckle as she made her way to the forward torpedo room.
Approximately 60º 19’ North, 05º 42’ East
Drekkjarhorn Fjord, Norway
Bonney finished making adjustments to the torpedo in tube No. 2. "Now let’s hope that the outer doors open," she said, helping Trudie push the weapon along the cradle and back into the tube. "If this fish gets stuck, we don’t have any divers to pry it out."
"I didn’t know that a submarine was so dangerous," Trudie said. Runnels of sweat had cut through the dark grease that streaked her face.
"It can be," Bonney said. "Okay, Amelia ought to be starting her big turn about now…"
More loud creaks and bone-chilling moans came from the bulkheads. Three rivets popped off and whizzed through the air. A fine spray of seawater issued from a sprung seam. Bonney wiped her wet cheeks and let out a heart-felt curse. "Leave it," she said to Trudie, who was trying to plug the leak with her hands. "There are probably seams splitting over the whole boat. Being in the cold so long must’ve made the steel brittle."
"How long do you think we can last?"
"Long enough," Bonney said. "We should be in international waters within another hour or so, if we maintain our current speed."
"And if the other compartments start filling with water?"
Bonney gave Trudie her best confident commander’s look. "If it comes to that, we’ll surface and pump the bitch dry," she said.
"Very well, kapitein." Trudie’s eyes sparkled with good humor.
"I’m headed back to the sonar shack," Bonney said. "Fire the torpedo on my mark – not a moment sooner."
Bonney was getting tired of running around the U-boat; her legs felt as if she had been jogging for miles, back and forth, back and forth in the never-ending task of putting out metaphorical fires. Back in the radio room, she put on the headphones at the listening station to monitor the passive sonar. True to her prediction, when faced with a Crazy Ivan and the U-boat’s flooded torpedo tubes, Captain Kjetil reacted instinctively by making a crash dive.
"Trudie… mark!" Bonney snapped into the speaking tube.
She could almost, but not quite, hear the plunger striking home; the whoosh of the launched torpedo was unmistakable. "The fish is running hot, straight and normal," she muttered under her breath, eyes closed as she monitored the sounds. It had been years since Bonney had taken mandatory courses on operating a sonar system; Navy captains were required to take basic training on all submarine operations in hands-on situations, so that they understood their subordinates’ jobs.
If she and Rohan had input the data correctly, the torpedo would explode above Gungnir’s hull - a warning shot to show that the U-boat was old but not toothless. A show of strength would, she hoped, make Kjetil think twice about attacking them. Bonney pulled the headphones away from her ear just as the explosive impact roared through the bow mics. Vibrations shivered through the hull, and the whole U-boat rang like a struck bell.
She was thrown to one side as the violent pressure wave surged against the submarine, a rolling crash that was echoed by unsecured items tossed to the deck. Her pulse thundering, Bonney put the headphones back on and listened intently, praying that they had not hit Gungnir. The sound of the other submarine’s screws made her smile in relief.
Kjetil did not sound like he was smiling, though, when his transmission came through. "I’ve toyed with you long enough, captain," he said. "Surrender now. There is a battleship at the entrance of the fjord; it has dropped sonar buoys and will also drop depth charges if you do not give yourselves up."
"You have no right to do this," Bonney said, abandoning pretense.
"Just as you, an American, have no right to the U-boat’s contents."
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law, captain."
"And you are in Norwegian waters. Surrender, madam."
Bonney could do no better than emulate General Anthony McAulliffe who, at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, responded to a German surrender request with a single defiant word. "Nuts!" she shouted into the microphone. She took off her headphones and went to the control room, where Rohan had taken over the helm, leaving Emerson at the planesman’s station, her hands tight around the yoke.
"Come about and increase speed to full," Bonney ordered. "We can’t outrun them, by God, but I intend to give it a try. Rohan, left full rudder. Amelia, give me a five degree up bubble. Let’s take this show to the surface. I think Kjetil is bluffing to a certain extent; if was going to fire on us, he’d have already done so."
"He’s herding us," Emerson said. "Chasing us into a trap."
Bonney nodded. "He said there was a battleship at the entrance of the fjord. The Norwegians want this U-boat and it seems they’d prefer to take it intact rather than lose some of the more fragile items."
"What are we going to do?" Rohan asked. Trudie came into the control room and stood with a hand on her lover’s shoulder. Both women had their attention focused on Bonney.
"We’re going to run as far and as fast as we can. Once we’re in international waters – twelve nautical miles from the coast – I’ll broadcast a securité, which is one step down from a mayday," Bonney said. "When we go topside, we’ll have to switch to the diesels and…"
She was interrupted by the deafening sound; her head snapped up and around. "Son of a bitch!" Bonney gritted. "Kjetil chucked a fish at us!"
Emerson turned huge blue eyes in her direction. "He did what?"
"The torpedo wasn’t armed," Bonney said, clamping down on an impulse to bang her fist against the bulkhead. "He’s playing with us, that goddamned chicken of the sea!"
"The next one will be armed," Kjetil broadcast.
"No, it won’t," Bonney snarled, although the captain of the other submarine could not hear her response. "Ladies, we’re at Condition One as of right now, and I’ll sound General Quarters as soon as I find the alarm bell. If Kjetil wants a fight, I’m going to give him one. Amelia, bring us to periscope depth – that’s four-zero feet. Rohan, I want you to chase the lubber’s line; that is, steer an erratic course without beaching us on the ice. Can you do that?"
Bonney went to the attack periscope and peered through the eyepiece, rotating the mast 360º to obtain the fullest possible picture of their situation. Gungnir was following them, hot on their tail. The fjord widened as it emptied into the sea; she could just make out a tell-tale gleam of sunlight on steel that betrayed the presence of the Norwegian battleship at the entrance of the Drinking Horn.
"Captain, we’ve sprung another leak!" Trudie’s exclamation was echoed by a horrified, wordless shout from Rohan. "I think the patch in the radio room is giving way."
"Amelia, emergency blow on the ballast tanks!" Bonney ordered. "Everybody, brace for surfacing!"
Following her own advice, Bonney planted her feet wide and hung onto the periscope arms as U-3555 broached the surface of the fjord like a whale frightened from the depths. The aging bulkheads screamed in protest; more rivets flew, releasing streams of cold salt water into the compartments. They were not in danger of sinking yet, but Bonney knew that the U-boat could not endure much more stress.
She staggered to the radio room. Trudie was right; seawater was spewing from the sides of the patch where the welds had worked loose. Unfortunately, the patch was below the waterline, which meant that surfacing did not help much. Bonney put on the headphones to check sonar and realized that Kjetil was flooding his torpedo tubes.
If he was serious, he might arm the torpedo this time, in which case… bend over, grab your ankles and kiss your ass good-bye, Bonney thought.
Even if Kjetil was just trying intimidation tactics, there was still the matter of the battleship waiting for them. U-3555 was not capable of running submerged for any real length of time, not the way the boat was on the verge of coming apart. Avoiding capture was not going to be an easy or simple proposition, and she was running out of options.
High pucker factor, indeed.
Bonney had to make a decision about what to do next. She was weary, suffering from task saturation. There was too much to do and no time to do it. Bonney made an effort to think clearly. She did not believe the U-boat would be able to run at angles and dangles – making steep ascents and descents and rapid turns to throw off Gungnir’s targeting ability. Thunderer would probably crap out in mid-dive, leaving them stranded under the surface, or break up entirely. Shooting more torpedoes at the enemy vessel was out of the question. She did not want to destroy Gungnir, nor did she want to create an international incident.
Removing the headphones, Bonney returned to the conn. "Ladies, we have a choice to make. Either we surrender now – I believe the Norwegian government will allow us to be remanded into the custody of American representatives – or we continue running. I can’t guarantee what will happen in that case but the likelihood is that it won’t be wine and roses."
"I vote we keep running for it," Rohan said. "We’re nearly in the clear."
"Let’s kick that Norwegian pig in his big brass balls," Emerson said with a feral grain. "Kick him till he’s squealin’ from the feelin.’"
Trudie shrugged. "Where Rohan goes, I go."
Bonney wiped the sweat from her face with the sleeve of her sweater. "All right. Trudie, you and I will rig the diesels again. Rohan, continue evasive action. Amelia, I want you to take the attack periscope. Watch Gungnir to stern and the battleship ahead. Sing out if they do anything, and I mean anything. If Kjetil so much as farts in our general direction, I want to know about it."
"You got it, babe," Emerson answered.
It did not take Trudie and Bonney long to uncouple the batteries and get the diesels running again. The familiar roar was still deafening, the stink of grease still faintly nauseating, but Bonney was already getting used to it. "Nurse these bastards," she screamed at Trudie over the diesel noise. "If they give out, our pooch is screwed."
Trudie nodded agreement.
Kjetil had launched another unarmed torpedo at them.
Bonney ground out a choice selection of blasphemies and took off for the control room at a dead run.
Emerson called from the conning tower, "We’re getting mighty damned close to that battleship, Annie. You planning on ramming that thing or what?"
"Or what," Bonney said. "How close is it?"
"Couple of thousand yards at best guess," Emerson replied, pushing a lock of black hair behind her ear and going back to the eyepiece. "There’s a lot of orange things floating on the surface, too."
"Sonar buoys. Well, the Royal Norwegian Navy only has five nuclear submarines in its fleet, so I doubt they’d assign more than one to capture a renegade U-boat. I’m going up to the top of the tower to do a little reconnoitring," Bonney said. "If I call out course corrections, you relay them to Rohan. All right?"
"Can do," Emerson said.
Bonney climbed up the ladder and opened the hatch, blinking against the bright spill of sunlight reflected from the ice.
The battleship was at the entrance of the channel, but there was ample room for the U-boat to go around it. As Bonney squinted, mentally estimating the ship’s range, a sharp whistle made her look up. An artillery shell was flying towards them, waves of light rippling along its titanium body. The shell struck the water off the submarine’s bow with a resounding crash. Bonney ducked, clapping hands to her ears as the explosion sent sea-spray and shards of ice skywards. A second shell followed, this time striking to starboard.
Ranging shots from the battleship guns, Bonney thought, eyes squeezed tightly shut against the wall of noise and light and shrapnel. She screamed down the conning tower hatch, "Full left rudder; decrease speed to one-third!"
The U-boat turned, skirting a floating chunk of ice. Another ranging shot splashed behind them. Bonney heard shrill cries and glanced at a flock of seagulls that, heedless of the danger, dove into the chill blue water. The birds were eager to devour the fish that floated belly-up to the surface, stunned by hydrostatic shock. The next explosion caused the seagulls to flap furiously back into the sky, screaming protests.
"Right full rudder! Increase speed to full!"
Taranis’ Thunderer began its next evasive turn. Suddenly, there was a loud choking cough from the diesels and black smoke poured from the open hatch. Bonney wheezed as the stink from the burned-out diesel engines caught in her throat and made her eyes water.
This was it, she thought. They could run no further. The game was done.
Gulls wheeled in the sky above her, scolding.
"Captain! It’s the Saber!" came from below – she thought it was Rohan.
Bonney ducked into the hatchway and heard from the radio, "Gungnir, this is the U.S.S.N. Saber. Break off your attack; I repeat, break off or we will defend the U-boat with lethal force. There are American personnel aboard. Break off your attack or we will defend!"
Bonney could not help the cheer that burst from her throat, echoed by Emerson, Trudie and Rohan.
The calvary – or in this case, the navy – had arrived in the nick of time.
Amsterdam, The Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
in Dam Square, opposite the Royal Palace
"An excellent recovery," the Dutch agent Verhagen said, sipping a cappuccino. The tall, elegant, stork-thin woman was wearing a lilac Isaac Mizrahi suit and another Hermés scarf was wound around her throat. "Although we wish you could have avoided conflict with the Norwegian navy."
"Someone on Stavanger AFB got wind of our mission somehow," Emerson said, scowling. "I’m ready to finger that rabbit-faced liaison officer, Cudahy."
"It could also be the communications officer," Bonney pointed out.
Trudie blushed. "It’s my fault," she said. "I sent an e-mail to Agent Verhagen with a field report. It was in Dutch and in code but someone must have intercepted it."
"Be that as it may," Verhagen said smoothly, before Emerson could get in first with a good verbal drubbing, "the Norwegian government will be making a claim on U-3555 through the proper channels, as will the German government."
"Do they dare?" Trudie gasped.
"The war was a long time ago," Verhagen explained, "and Hitler’s shadow has faded a great deal in modern Germany."
"Well, by the time they have their day in court, I suspect the contents of the U-boat will be distributed to more deserving parties," Bonney said. "And I trust the Dutch to be sure that the inventory records and bank accounts don’t disappear."
There was a moment of silence while the women drank their coffee and considered what had happened.
"How did Gottschalk and Senator Donner know where to follow us?" Rohan asked.
"The same way the Norwegians did, I suspect," Verhagen said. "There is a mole in Stavanger AFB."
"My boss is going to hear about this," Emerson muttered darkly.
"As is mine," Verhagen said. She set her cup down with a clatter.
Bonney sat back and sighed. "Now that the pooch screwing is over, I have to re-join Saber in Den Helder. We’ll be picking up some Navy brass hats and civilian journalists for a P.R. tiger cruise to the Bering Straight. Rohan, you’re welcome to hitch a ride back to the States. I’m sure we can arrange for further transportation so that you’ll make your grandmother’s funeral in time."
"Thank you, Anne. Do you think there’s a second berth for Trudie?" Rohan asked.
"Oh, I think we can convince the COB to find a couple of bunks," Bonney said, "but you’ll have to cool the honeymoon until we reach the mainland."
"That’s going to be a problem!" Rohan giggled. Trudie emulated her, cuddling the plump woman in her arms with a grin that threatened to split her face.
"What about me?" Emerson asked, scooting over to touch her hip to Bonney’s.
"Oh, I don’t know," Bonney said, eyeing her lover. "Someone told me that you really, really didn’t like submarines." She quoted an old poem:
"Born in the shops of the Devil,
Designed in the brains of a fiend;
Filled with acid and crude oil,
And christened "a Submarine".
Emerson chuckled. "Babe, for you, I’ll gladly risk that claustrophobic boat-from-hell. Besides…" Her voice lowered. "We never did get the chance to christen the paint locker."
Since the paint locker was the area of the submarine where illicit rendezvous between crewmembers were conducted, Emerson’s intent was clear. Her ice-blue gaze sparkled wickedly. Bonney felt a flush creeping up her cheeks. The captain was supposed to set a good example, but even so…
At least the trip home would be very interesting, Bonney thought, and forgetting the presence of the others, she tilted her face towards Emerson for a kiss.
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