Time Travel Spy Thriller
Time travel is in the news again, thanks in part to Peter Kobel's article in the Sunday NY times (1/20/02) recounting the many time travel romances in novels and movies.
For those interested in an action thriller time travel story (and romance), try to obtain a copy of my novel "Ballard's War," Commonwealth Publications, 1996.
"Ballard's War" starts off as the fast-paced story of an enigmatic American trying to give the German Abwehr (Secret Service) information that he claims will alter the course of World War-II. Highly skeptical at first, Abwehr personnel soon discover the information is not only accurate beyond their wildest dreams, but of enormous strategic significance. But why is the American agent so shy,and what does he stand to gain?
Finally lured into working out of Abwehr headquarters in Berlin, Robert Ballard delivers one important warning after another. Soon the Gestapo discovers his activities and is furious at not being able to penetrate his sources. They push a beautiful Italian woman on the American, Sabina Pergolesi, and when she cannot fathom his methods, rape her brutally and place her mother in the Ravensburg concentration camp. "Find out where he gets his information from," Gestapo head Oskar Faulheim warns, "Or you'll be joining her shortly."
Ballard convinces Adolf Hitler to send him on a U-Boat mission to the coast of North Carolina. The task: to launch manned V-1 jets to destroy the Oak Ridge atomic bomb factories. The mission is a complete success, and Ballard returns to Germany a hero, only to find that Sabina has disappeared. Oskar Faulheim is circling in for the kill. In desperation, Ballard appeals to the lonely Eva Braun, much smitten by his charm. As they lie in bed, Eva's bunker apartment door is battered down by SS troops.
The story is expertly steeped in the color of WW-II Berlin; Eva Braun lights a cigarette with a Ronson lighter; the U-Boat crew drinks Beck's beer; Ballard writes with a Rotring fountain pen. Even the Berlin trolley car route numbers seem correct.
The premise of the story is a shocker, and cleverly thought out; the climax startlingly achieved with a fluidity that will fascinate, and the love story interwoven with unexpected tenderness.
Bormann was on his feet, pacing in small circles in front of Hitler. "I tell you, the man must be taken out of the succession list, mein Fuhrer. It is bad enough that he is a total morphine addict and can vacillate from dopey to a raging maniac in a matter of minutes. But this business with Count Bernadot why it's nothing more than a poorly disguised surrender negotiation."
"And not proven," Hitler muttered without meeting Bormann's gaze. Goering was his longest, most trust-worthy comrade. Yes he had quirks--who hadn't in this business. But such a mind. There was no one, not even Speer, with a quicker mind than Goering. The man knew everything and forgot nothing. He possessed the ruthlessness required to get a job done. And his bravery was also beyond question.
Bormann would not be deterred. "The Fat One is not only your immediate successor, which adds great credence to his treasonous behavior--people may think he is your secret emissary, but he is also still head of the Luftwaffe and the Reich Defense Council, President of Prussia, Reich Minister, Reich's Marshall, and who knows what else. I'll tell you one thing, mein Fuhrer, if he survives the war, he'll be a millionaire from what he's put away. Yet you, you who created the entire Third Reich, you who have given everything of yourself, you have taken nothing!'
"That's absolutely true," Hitler growled. It was recurring sore spot with him. He had no money. Yes, he could get anything he wanted--although his wants were always quite modest. Yet if he were to step down from his office he would be reduced to receiving a meager pension, and own nothing: no vast hunting estates in Prussia, no factories producing concrete, construction materials, mattresses, furs. No, Bormann, was right about that part of it. Goering was the businessman among them, that's for sure. And what had he done to earn his fabulous wealth?
"He's outside now waiting to see you with some new cockamamie scheme for saving the Reich at the same time it enriches his pocket, you can be sure," Bormann continued, recognizing that he had roused Hitler's ire at Goering. "Why not tell him to finance it himself-he should have been made to pay for all those jet fighter planes he got you to build."
Hitler shifted his weight on the couch. The report on Goering's suspicious connections to the Swedish businessman Birger Dahlerus had come from Himmler himself. It was not likely to be completely wrong, although lord knows how these guys went after each other--like little kids constantly tattling on one another.
"Well show him in," Hitler agreed. "I'll see him, alone."
"Jawohl, mein Fuhrer," Bormann said dubiously. He knew, what a fast talker The Fat One was, and, the hold he still had on Hitler.
Bormann left Hitler's study. Without looking at him, he motioned to Goering to enter.
"Mein Fuhrer," Goering blurted out ebulliently, charging up to him and shaking hands roughly. He was dressed in his white presentation uniform--the golden pheasant version with the ceremonial dagger dangling at his side. "It is a miracle from heaven that you escaped that cowardly attack at the Wolfschanze."
Hitler nodded noncommittally.
"Your escape was more than providential. Did you know that you were the only person who survived who was not permanently blinded?"
"Is that so?" Hitler asked. Now that was interesting. "What about that private--Voelker? He was just in and out."
"Also legally blind, mein Fuhrer," Goering effused. "He cam see light and dark, so there may be some future improvement. But right now he's on full pension and uses a white cane to walk down the streets."
Goering swiveled his massive bulk down and perched the edge of a stuffed chair facing Hitler's couch, coiled like a tiger ready to spring forward--a position from which to regale Hitler with another great new idea. He was sweating slightly even though the room was quite cool.
"Look at this photograph of you two coming out of the briefing room," Goering said, pulling an envelope out of his briefcase. He showed the photograph to Hitler. Hitler held, it at arms length. Goering was momentarily puzzled. Where was the phenomenal improvement in eyesight he had heard about? Or had there been some damaged after all?
The photo showed a hatless Hitler, his hair disheveled, clutching at the arm of Ptv. Voelker. Hitler gasped at what he saw. His eyes were two featureless disks, as if his pupils had been erased. He looked like a vampire.
"Gott im Himmel," Hitler said. "I don't want that picture getting out."
"No of course not, mein Fuhrer," Goering lied effortlessly. "The negatives are already burned and this is the only copy." He folded it and ripped it, folded it and ripped it again.
"Mein Fuhrer, I have just been to the rocket research facility in Peenemunde ...."
"How much is whatever you're trying to sell me going to cost, Herr Reichsmarshall?" Hitler asked testily. He could tell the Fat One was excited beyond normal. Opiates. That obese fool had the nerve to prop up his courage with drugs before coming to see him. It was outrageous.
"Cost, mein Fuhrer?" Goering said, astonished at the cold reception. "This is a chance to bomb America from German soil. That Ballard stunt took over thirty days and kept six U-boats out of commission. They could have been sinking Allied ships. Now we have the chance to do the same damage-as much damage as we want in Thirty minutes. How can we talk about cost?"
"Because it takes money to run the war, Herr Reichsmarshall, as you always seem to forget. And you've always got a disproportionate share of that money-for the air war over Britain, which you lost; for your jet fighter fleet, which is still letting the bombers through, and for your personal use, if appearances are to be believed."
"Personal use?" Goering said in disbelief. "Ach, ja. I should have known. That coarse dwarf has been stabbing me in the back again. He has made quite a career of it, No one he doesn't like is safe, which means almost everyone who has any field experience beyond being a flak private like himself. Of course! He's still burning because I failed to invite him to a hunting weekend. As if he, would fit in with the officer corps types that I did invite. Junkers all of them. You know that the last time he rode a horse he fell off and broke his collar bone?
"It's quite an estate, 'Karinhall,' one hears tell," Hitler added. "Thousands of acres ...."
"Acres of overgrown forest, mein, Fuhrer. Much of which was already in the family. A perfect nature preserve for future generations of German children to see stags, wild boar, geese, ducks, rabbits, wolves in their natural habitats. "Goering was gesticulating wildly to emphasize the size of the stag's antlers---"instead of in the zoo when that terrain gets carved up for workers' settlements. Goering wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He was drooling slightly, so agitated was his response.
"He's told you about his own so-called farm, hasn't he? 'Agricultural Estate North,' he calls it, in Mecklenburg. Ten Thousand hectares in his own name. 'To guarantee the Fuhrer's food supply.' Hah! Enough land to supply food for the entire Luftwaffe. He'll be sitting pretty after the war. But I didn't want to dwell on Bormann's many perfidious shortcomings, mein Fuhrer. Rather I want to tell you about a new development, a development that will let us strike those damnable cowardly Americans on their own soil from here in the German Reich!"
"So what are you talking about, Hermann," Hitler asked irritably. Goering was in a state. There is nothing so annoying to be on the brunt of a person's attention when. he is intoxicated and you are not.
"I'm talking about the A-9, a three-stage rocket that could reach New York. We could finally give the Amis a taste of their own medicine ...."
"What? And frighten them out of the war, Herr Reichsmarhall? How would dropping bombs on New York help us win the war? It would merely infuriate the American people--perhaps enough to turn their fury from the Japanese to us," Hitler said, deliberately baiting his old comrade. "And now this British monster bomb on Hannover. Where were your Messerschmidts then?"
"For God's sake, mein Fuhrer," Goering said, switching from a bellicose bluster to a bathetic blubber. "You have to see the survivors of the Hannover attack. Some of them look like roast pigs that have been taken off the spit. They wander around like zombies. You must show yourself to the people, mein Fuhrer: Let them know that we still have a chance of winning the war ...."
"A chance at winning the war?" Hitler blurted out. "A chance, only? What kind of defeatist talk is that? Next you'll want to send signals to the Swedes for talks about a negotiated surrender! If your defense of the Reich hadn't been so porous, that attack on Hannover would have been prevented. That was in broad daylight, I remind you. Where were your expensive jets then?"
Hitler wore a hooded expression that Goering had never seen before. Goering felt his heart beating in his chest with frightening arrhythmic pulses. Was he going to faint, right here in front of the Fuhrer? Hitler snapped put of his momentary lull.
"I'm not so sure you are any longer capable of defending the Reich itself against Allied bombers today, to be bothering yourself with quixotic schemes to bomb the USA tomorrow. What does Speer think of your idea? And that Ballard person?"
"Ach, those two," Goering sighed. " Ballard thinks the entire V-2 program is a waste of time, but what does that oddball traitor know about German strategic interests? And besides, as an American, have you ever noticed in him any expression of hatred toward the Americans? It's very strange why he wants to help Germany so much--and to what extent. And Speer, the devil take him, he'll do whatever you think best and thank you very much. He says we could skip building the V-2 and go right to the A-9 `intercontinental' rocket. Intercontinental, mein Fuhrer! The A-9 is, just two smaller rockets sitting on top of the V-2. In concept at least. Naturally the bottom stage is by necessity quite a bit bigger. I have a fantastic film showing it."
"So Speer is against it, too," Hitler volunteered. "That leaves you and those moonstruck propeller-heads on the Baltic as the only ones who are pushing this project--General Dornberger and his crew. And that charmer, von Braun. Ever since Professor Doktor Lusser developed the V-1 and its fantastic seeing-eye guidance system, the rocket-scientists at Peenemunde have been desperate for a way to come up with a project to top that. Not to help the war effort, mind you, but to justify their existence. Delivering a ton of explosives four hundred kilometers away at Fifty-seven hundred kilometers an hour instead of only at seven hundred kilometers an hour is hardly an advantage at fifty times the cost!"
Goering knew Hitler well enough to realize the Fuhrer had something else on his mind. He was working himself up to broaching the subject. It might take a rage to get it out. God, this could go on for hours. Goering had a group of pilots to decorate. They should be back in the air shooting down bombers, not hanging around waiting for the Fuhrer to come to the point.
"I want to see better results against the Allied bombers," Hitler blurted out. "I gave you General Galland and his pick of the pilots with their new jets. That was not cheap to put together, that jet fighter, and it was the American who urged me to do it. At least they've reduced the bombings somewhat. But the reports show only a half-dozen or so bombers a day are being shot down. What happened to the twenty-five and thirty a day we used to shoot down?"
"Mein Fuhrer, surely you are aware that the Me-262s are working fabulously! They're sitting around just waiting for engagements. The Allies are afraid to show their heads.
"So the reports of the bombing of Darmstadt yesterday and Frankfurt the day before were just hoaxes?" Hitler said.
"No, they were hit, but at night," Goering said. "Eisenhower has called off daylight bombing." With this turn of the discussion, Goering knew any further talk on the A-9 was doomed. The program itself was probably doomed. And all because of that God-accursed American. Von Braun would be furious.
"The jet fighter is not ready for night operations, but we're working on it," Goering said defensively. The truth was pilots skilled enough to fly at night were the real problem. There just weren't enough of them. And it was just not possible to send inexperienced pilots up in the hottest fighter in the world at night. Half of them couldn't find the runway after an engagement, even if their didn't shoot each other down or crash into each other.
"So instead of solving the problem of how to keep the Allies from bombing Berlin, you're working on how we can spend a fortune now in order to maybe be able to drop a few kilos of bombs on New York in two of three years. You know, old friend, Bormann may be right. I don't know if I can trust your judgment anymore."
"Bormann right? About me? Can't trust my judgment?" Goering said, the look of incredulity slowly replaced by one of fear. God, if he could only pop a morphine tablet into his mouth. They were in his breast, pocket, just inches from his mouth. But he knew Hitler strongly disapproved of this little indulgence, and he was watching him, like a hawk. "That odious creature hasn't earned the right to cast any judgment about me. Where was he when you and I were being shot at on the streets of Munich? Where was he during the Great War while you and I were on the front lines, risking our lives and earning our Iron Cross? The only medal that creature ever got was his Blutorden-and even that was done
retroactively just like his backdated party membership. Number 555! How he hoodwinked you to permit that, mein Fuhrer, I'll never know,, but every one of us who fought with his bare hands in the streets resent it when that little orangutan sports one of our most honored decoration ...."
"I'll thank you not to libel the Deputy Secretary, Herr Reichsmarshall," Hitler said, his voice rising. "He may not be a war hero, but he is a tireless worker who helps me at every turn. He solves my problems instead of enlarging them, as your crazy new rocket bomb to America scheme proposes, and your inadequate defense of the Fatherland--no matter how much money I shower on you."
"A tireless worker, yes, mein Fuhrer," Goering replied, his own voice rising. "But just who he is working for--you, or himself--is another question...."
"Stop blaspheming the Deputy ...."
"Blaspheme that little toad," Goering shot back. He broke out into a profuse cold sweat. He was trembling and hardly knew what he was saying. "Nothing I can do will be blasphemy enough for that little coward. You know he's doing everything in his power to take over your position when..."
Hitler's eyes sparkled as if ignited from within. "When what?" he snorted. When who attempts what? Is that what's on your mind...?"
"Mein Fuhrer, of course I have no intention of taking over--unless you are completely incapacitated. As written in the codicil of June 29, 1941 ...."
"Taking over? You can sit here and tell me to my face you intend to take over?" Hitler sprang to his feet. "This display of brazen arrogance is outright treachery, Herman. You would have failed completely to protect us from Allied bombers: Only the American's suggestions pulled your coals out the fire on that one with that V-lb. And having failed to protect the Fatherland, you have the nerve to come in her with another crackpot scheme to spend millions of Reichsmarks to drop a few kilos of bombs on New York city in 1948. Then, in the same breath you tell me you're going to take over as soon as I'm 'incapacitated.'"
Hitler was shaking all over. "You know, Herman, I have been extremely patient with you, in spite of your vile habits and the advice of many other generals. But I can tell you one thing: you are not going to take over for me now, in the future or ever. I'm changing my will at this instant. I'm writing you out of the will, out of the succession. I'll, put Doenitz in your place. He knows about loyalty and keeping his nose to the grindstone. Doenitz doesn't come in here whining about how little support he gets, or how much money he needs for uranium-powered U-boats for the year 1950! And as far as your leadership of the Luftwaffe..."
'Out of the line of succession?' Goering couldn't believe his ears. That was impossible. He had worked so hard, put in so many years, accepted countless humiliations without complaint.
"Mein Fuhrer, you can't do that. Please reconsider what you're saying...."
"And now you have the gall to tell me what I can do," Hitler raged. "Oh -such perfidious treason. And from you of all people; you, my old friend, telling me to my face: that you're going to take over."
Hitler moved toward the door. "I'm getting a stenographer this instant. I want you to sit here and witness me cutting you out ...."
Goering sprang to his feet. "Mein Fuhrer, please don't be so hasty. Consider what you are doing ...." He clutched at Hitler's arm to hold him back. Hitler sprang aside, shocked at being seized. Goering reached down and unsheathed his ceremonial dagger. "I swore an oath and dedicated my life to you on this dagger, mein Fuhrer," Goering bellowed. "Don't take that away from me."
His face was red with hysterical tension, his eyes bugged with fear. He was waving the dagger aimlessly.
"You dare threaten me like that, you disgusting drug-sopping Schweinehund." Hitler screamed. "Bormann is right: you don't know what you're doing anymore. You'll be lucky if I don't have you shot for this affront." Hitler tugged at his arm, trying to break Goering's frantic grip.
"Nein, mein Fuhrer," Goering shouted. "I can't let you do that." He drew his arm back and spun the Fuhrer around to face him. For a split second the two faced each other like boxers squaring off for a fight. With powerful upward stroke Goering plunged his golden dagger straight into Hitler's solar plexus, lifting his victim off the floor. A horrible groan escaped from Hitler's lips.
"Hermann," Hitler gasped, unable to bear the incredible pain. "You betray me thus...?"His mouth continued to move, but no sound came out. He fell on his knees, clutching feebly at the ivory handle sticking out of his body, driven in up to the golden hilt, but to weak to pull it out. There was no blood. Then he-fell forward, catching himself by his hands. His face was purple and horribly twisted. He huffed and gulped in small gasps, even breathing was intensifying the acute agony.
Hitler fell on his side, moaning loudly and thrashing around on the floor. Goering's face had gone pale with the enormity of what he had just done. What had come over him? His mind had completely blanked out. Taken out of the succession? That was what did it. After all he had done for the Fuhrer--no one had suffered more humiliation and returned a more loyal service, time and time again. All to maintain the right of succession. Now Hitler was going to strike him off the list! All because of the constant whispering of that poisonous toad.
Goering kneeled down and put a meaty hand on his old comrade's quivering shoulder. He knocked the Fuhrer's trembling hands aside and jerked the dagger out. A spurt of blood squirted onto the oriental carpet. Goering got down on his knees and rolled Hitler on to his back. He stabbed him again, in the same vulnerable spot just below the sternum, this time angling the blade upward, searching for the heart. But the blade refused to find the vital organ. Impaled by the dagger, speechless in the most terrible agony, Hitler began to writhe and squirm on the rug, trying to free himself from the Fat One's iron grip. Goering held onto the dagger, searching upward with the blade.
"Help!" Hitler shouted weakly. His diaphragm was severed so he could not expel enough air to shout loudly.
"Shhhh. Don't cry out, mein Fuhrer," Goering crooned. Goering pulled the writhing Hitler to an upright sitting position and brought the knife to his throat. It all made sense now. This was his destiny, to rule Germany and rule it correctly; to remove all the doubt and equivocation that had plagued the Fuhrer's office ever since that swine Bormann and his counterfeit medal had got control over him.
"I do this for the good of the Reich," Goering said animatedly. "Heil Hitler." In a single maniacal stroke Goering pulled the knife blade across Hitler's throat. Released from Goering's bearhug, Hitler lunged forward, butting Goering's hand--the knife only severed his esophagus. Blood gushing from his throat, Hitler pitched forward, gasping air out though his gaping wound--air no longer able to reach his vocal cords which made a sloshing sound as blood clogged the slippery wind pipe sticking out of his neck.
Goering rushed to the study door. He came to a complete stop and then opened it and looked out. "Orderly," he called out calmly. The young man leaped to. Entering the study his eyes refused to believe what he saw: the Fuhrer crawling on the carpet like a broken dog.
Goering slammed the door shut. "Gott im Himmel," the aid muttered, stupefied. His face contorted to a mask of fear.
"You Schweinehund," Goering screamed. "You killed the Fuhrer!" He grabbed the young man and spun him around, holding him from behind. In one violent stroke he slit his throat with his ceremonial dagger. This time his stroke was strong and sure. The man raised his hands to his neck to staunch the pulsing squirts of blood. He struggled to free himself, but Goering held him with fanatic strength. Suddenly the young man wilted.
Goering released him and let him slump to the floor, stumbling to get up, incomprehension written on his face. He stared at Goering until terminal shock set in. His, face turned white, his eyes glazed over and he slumped to the ground.
His eyes twitching nervously, Goering gazed at his handiwork. What was he doing? Good God-but this was no time to be fainthearted. At last he could take a morphine tablet from his breast pocket; no better make it two. What a sense of relief just the knowledge that he had taken them provided a comfort.
Goering scooped up some blood and slathered it on the front of his white uniform. Quickly, he frisked the young orderly and found his service pocket knife. He unfolded the three-inch blade with a worried look. Hardly long enough to do the job. He threw the open knife next to Hitler's body.
"HELP, FOR GOD'S SAKE HELP!" Goering bellowed at the top of his lungs. He lifted the orderly up by his armpits and dragged him to the door, opening it by pushing the handle down with his elbow. Awkwardly, he inserted his toe in the crack of the door and flung it open.
"HELP! FUHRER ATTACK, HELP IMMEDIATELY."
Goering heard a responsive rush of activity and immediately drew back into the study, falling down on his back, drawing the dead orderly on top of him. As two SS officers burst into the room he flipped the orderly's body one way and then the other as if engaged in a furious struggle. The orderly was plucked up and a pistol thrust into his dead face. Goering stared at another pistol.
"Gott sei Dank, you got here," Goering blubbered, pushing the pistol aside. "See to the Fuhrer immediately. This maniac attacked him right in front of my eyes."
One of the two officers was already at the Fuhrer's side. The three of them saw Hitler's eyes bugging, trying to look at Goering standing half behind the officer. Hitler's arm moved as if to point.
"He's trying to say something to me," Goering blurted out, pushing the attending officer away. "Let me get next to him!"
The SS officer moved aside. Goering dropped to his knees. He put his ear next to Hitler's mouth. He heard a frothing gurgle. Suddenly his ear was seized and bitten with an unholy pressure. Goering winced, but managed to contain himself.
"Jawohl, mein Fuhrer," he said somberly, the pain of his ear being gnashed by Hitler's teeth bringing him to tears. "Oh God," Goering cried in agony. "Of course I'll do everything in my power to carry out your will. I swear it in your name."
"Herr Reichsmarshall," one of the officers said "Please let me get to the Fuhrer. He must have immediate medical assistance."
Goering could not move. His ear was still tightly clamped in Hitler's mouth.
"Be still," he hissed. "The Fuhrer is still talking to me." Abruptly Hitler's mouth fell open, releasing his painful hold.
"That's it, I'm afraid," Goering said with a somber face. It was all he could do not to take his mangled ear in his hand. "The Fuhrer has breathed his last." He turned to the two officers. One dropped to his knees next to the Fuhrer.
"Halt," Goering Bellowed. "He is finished." Uncertain of what to do, the man retreated. "By right of the Codicil of 1941, and the terms of Hitler's last will and testament, I, Hermann Goering, now assume the position of Reich's Fuhrer and Commander in Chief of the German Reich, and all the armed services. Gentlemen, you are released from your personal oath to Adolf Hitler. You will swear an oath to me, right now. Begin." He pointed to the first officer who was holding Hitler's head in his hands. "Let go of him. I am in command now."
The head dropped to the floor. The men sprang to attention and in unison began to tone: "I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf--Herman Goering, leader of the German nation and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and I am ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath."