For Armchair Detectives Only
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- THE ESCAPED PRISONER
- SHOT DOWN
- U-BOAT TO THE RESCUE
- HAWKE’S DARING PLAN
- IN BERLIN
- THE GESTAPO CHIEF
- AT THE DOKTOR’S LABORATORY
- THE GESTAPO CHECKS UP
- HAWKE TURNS BURGLAR
- PLAYING FOR SAFETY
- THE SECRET WEAPON
- HAWKE DECIDES TO QUIT
- THE FLIGHT ACROSS GERMANY
THE ESCAPED PRISONER
The wind howling over the wild moorland drove the rain in a blinding deluge against the windscreen of the big, black saloon, and the driver, crouched over the wheel, swore beneath his breath. Every now and then he slipped a duster from the dashboard pocket and wiped the glass as it steamed up.
"Donner und blitzen," he cursed. "What a night and what a country! Only the pig-dog British would build prison camps in such a place."
By which remark Herr Gustav Stonberg revealed his utter lack of any sense of humour, for, as one of the leading members of the German Secret Police, the dreaded Gestapo, he had been responsible for building some of the worst concentration camps in Germany.
Cursing viciously to himself, he sent the car splashing through a swollen stream, throwing great sprays of water from either wing, and went bumping up the narrow road on the other side. But presently he slackened speed and gave the windscreen another wipe over.
Peering ahead, he at last spotted the landmark for which he was searching, the chimney stack of a derelict mine shaft. Going cautiously now, he eased the car across the heather to the shelter of a pile of boulders, and shut off the engine. Two miles away, down in the valley, lay the camp where many naval and civilian German prisoners were interned, but not a glimmer of light was showing.
Leaving the car, Herr Stonberg moved cautiously towards the ruins of the old boiler house, halting every few steps and listening, but the wind and the rain made too much noise for him to hear the whistle for which he was eagerly waiting. Suddenly a figure moved in the darkness, and Stonberg's hand streaked to his breast pocket, and out flashed a small but deadly automatic.
He stood perfectly still, ready to shoot to kill at the first sign of treachery or danger. Then he heard it, three queer notes whistled clearly and repeated at regular intervals.
Still holding the automatic at the ready, Stonberg stepped forward and whispered loud enough for the other to hear ---"Deutschland uber alles."
"Es lebe Deutschland," came back the prompt reply. "Heil Hitler."
"Heil Hitler," snapped Stonberg impatiently. "Hurry, Herr Doktor. No time must be wasted."
"Nach Thnen, mein guter freund," nodded the other as he made a gesture for him to lead the way.
Stonberg turned reluctantly, hating to expose his unprotected back to anybody. Members of the Gestapo were sometimes shot in the back, and it made him nervous.
The man who stepped from the shelter of the shed was tall, gaunt-faced, with keen, intelligent eyes. Just now a peculiar smile flitted over his firm mouth, almost as if he might be enjoying some secret joke at Herr Stonberg's expense. But he kept close to the German's heels, shielding his face from the driving rain.
Stonberg opened the door and half-pushed his passenger into the seat beside him. Hastening round the car, he slid into his own seat and switched on the engine. Thirty seconds later they were bumping over the rough moorland to the road. Neither man observed the youthful but sturdy figure which, slipping from behind the cluster of rocks, hauled a motor bike from the heather and flung his leg across the saddle.
No word was spoken between the two men in the car for nearly ten minutes, then Stonberg said suddenly ---
"Is that a car following us. Look quickly, I thought I saw something behind."
The gaunt-faced passenger turned his head and peered through the rear window. As they came into a piece of straight road, he could just make out the dim outlines of the motor cyclist riding without lights and keeping a respectful distance away.
He turned back and said in faintly contemptuous tones --- "You are nervous, Herr Stonberg. I see no car."
The German gave an angry growl in his throat. He wasn't used to anyone answering him in that tone, but he refrained from comment. Doktor Carl Krantz was a privileged person under the protection of the Fuhrer himself. When the hated British had taken this great German inventor from the Italian liner while on his way home from America, and had interned him in England, the Fuhrer had raved like a madman for three whole nights, and the Gestapo had been ordered to rescue him. Gustav Stonberg had been selected for the difficult task, well knowing the penalty of failure.
He had, however, succeeded in his task, and was thankful that his end of the job was nearly completed. There was just one little thing the Gestapo agent had overlooked, and that was British Intelligence. He thought of all Britishers as a lot of stupid fools who allowed tens of thousands of Germans to live unmolested in their country during war-time.
Herr Stonberg had some respect for Scotland Yard, but none whatever for Intelligence. It never occurred to him that the British Secret Service was about fifty times more efficient than any other in the world, and that keen brains in London had already anticipated the attempt to rescue Doktor Carl Krantz.
The doctor was an expert in all matters connected with wireless, and was reported to be engaged on a secret weapon that would give Germany victory anywhere in a matter of weeks. British Intelligence were very keen to learn more about that secret weapon.
"Ach," muttered Stonberg half an hour later, "we are here."
He swung the car into a narrow lane, little better than a cart track, and, splashing through puddles and brushing the brambles on either hedge, came finally into a farmyard, and drew up before the door of a low-roofed, rambling old house. A shaft of light gleamed as the door opened and the two men passed into the stone-flagged corridor.
"Baron von Glucksteinhausen awaits you, Herr Stonberg," announced the man who had opened the door.
Stonberg nodded, and, pointing to an oak bench, indicated that Doktor Carl Krantz should wait. As Stonberg strode down the corridor to a room at the end the doctor glanced curiously about, but he made no attempt to explore as the doorkeeper was hovering nearby watching him. In a matter of three minutes Stonberg came back and informed him that the Baron would see him.
The tall doctor rose from the bench and followed Stonberg to the door, but the Gestapo man did not enter with him.
"Doktor Carl Krantz ist hier," he announced, and closed the door as the other advanced towards the desk at which the Baron was standing.
"Heil Hitler," saluted Krantz, extending his hand stiffly in the Nazi salute.
The Baron returned the salute and nodded towards the chair.
"Be seated, Herr Doktor," he invited. "So our good Stonberg has successfully rescued you from these accursed British. That is good, but there is still great danger. When will your escape be noticed?"
"Not until seven o'clock tomorrow morning," replied Golieb. "It is possible not even then. They are not strict with roll call of civilian prisoners."
The Baron shook his close-cropped, iron-grey head.
"They are mad," he declared. "I do not understand them, still less can I comprehend why they rule one-quarter of the world's surface. Fools and imbeciles, bah! But their days are numbered. The Fuhrer will master them before the year is out!"
Again that peculiar smile twitched at the corners of the other's mouth, but the Baron did not notice it. He was studying a paper on the desk before him, a monocle screwed into his eye, making his heavy red face seem more brutal than ever. When he looked up his little pig's eyes stared straight at the man watching him so calmly.
"Before dawn," he said, "one of our latest Foulk fighter planes will take you back to Berlin. You must be ready."
I shall not fail, Baron von Glucksteinhausen," replied the other. "But first I would like an hour's sleep. I am tired after the nervous strain of the past few days. Herr Stonberg made perfect arrangements to get me away, but you will realise that I had to keep awake each night."
"That is easily arranged," declared the Baron. "Me, I can do without sleep for a week, but I am a soldier." His thick lips curled in contempt for the civilian, for in Germany only a soldier counts, but not a muscle of the other's face moved as he listened to this offensive remark.
Herr Stonberg came in response to the bell, and on the Baron's instructions conducted the doctor to a bedroom upstairs.
"I will call you in one hour, Herr Doktor," he announced, and closed the door.
The man whom they believed to be Doktor Carl Krantz chuckled to himself as he walked to the window and slid the curtain aside. From his pocket he took a tiny torch, and, pressing the button, flashed a warning signal. Three times he did it before the answering flash came back from the darkness without. Then the tall, keen-faced man began to spell out a code message in Morse with the rapidity of an expert. He waited until he received the "accepted" signal, and then drew the curtains into place.
From the lane outside a sturdy youngster pocketed his notebook and got astride his motor cycle.
"Good old guv'nor," he grinned to himself as he freewheeled back to the road. "He's a master of impersonation, and those square heads will never spot any difference.
Perhaps Baron von Glucksteinhausen would not have been so pleased with the Gestapo man for rescuing the celebrated German scientist, Carl Krantz, could he have known how British Intelligence had fooled him. For the man upstairs was none other than the world-famous detective, Dixon Hawke, though no one would have recognised him as such.
To all outward appearances he was the living counterpart of the German doctor. His slight Bavarian accent and mannerisms were perfect.
When British Intelligence received information from its agents inside the Gestapo that the rescue attempt was on, they promptly called in Dixon Hawke as the one man who had the knowledge and ability to carry through the dangerous bluff, for it was a dangerous bluff, and no one knew it better than Dixon Hawke when he agreed to go.
Danger was, however, the very spice of life to the famous detective. He could speak not only high German, but most of the numerous dialects as well. Several times he had been to Germany to study the Nazi organisations, and he knew all about Doktor Carl Krantz. But, to make matters doubly sure, he had had himself interned with the doctor, and had studied his every little mannerism and trick of speech and gesture.
When he felt ready for a full impersonation, the real doctor had been quietly removed elsewhere, and Dixon Hawke had taken his place. This was the real test, and he came through it with flying colours. Not one of the doctor's German friends had noticed the fake, so that when Herr Stonberg got in touch with someone in the camp, Dixon Hawke, as Carl Krantz, knew all about it, and obeyed the Gestapo man's instructions exactly.
As a matter of fact, the detective and the doctor were something alike in appearance and height, and Hawke's skill at disguise and impersonation had done the rest.
Tommy Burke, his keen young assistant, had been waiting to shadow the guv'nor when the escape was made. As soon as he had taken down Hawke's message, Tommy had hurried away to the nearest telephone and put it over the wire in code to Intelligence H.Q.
Exactly one hour later Herr Stonberg called Dixon Hawke.
"Get ready, Herr Doktor," he ordered.
Dixon Hawke rose from the bed on which he had been lying and went to the window. From the darkness outside came the drone of a plane, and presently he was able to make out the shadowy outlines of a German Foulk as it came gliding down, engine cut out, into the field behind the house.
Five minutes later, as he came down the stairs to the hall, the door opened and the Baron came in, accompanied by a young man in flying kit. For a moment they stood talking, and then Hawke, who had already donned a German military flying suit and helmet, was introduced to the pilot.
"Hurry, now," ordered Baron von Glucksteinhausen. "Already the dawn approaches. Good luck, Herr Doktor, and my greetings to our beloved Fuhrer."
"I will not forget," promised Hawke. "Heil Hitler."
Following the pilot down the lane, they turned into a field, and Hawke took his place in the rear cockpit. Pausing for a final word with the Baron, the pilot swung himself into the forward cockpit and settled himself comfortably in the seat.
Under opening throttle the drone of the engine warmed up to a pulsating, thunderous roar, and then the machine swept forward to soar up into the night sky. Circling on the climb, it swung east, and at five thousand feet levelled out.
Down below him Dixon Hawke could see the dim, phosphorescent glow of the sea breaking on the wild, rock-bound coast. It was, he thought, too easy for German planes to land in Britain on dark nights. Within a few minutes, however, the dawn came up in great golden fingers of fire across the horizon, and soon it was quite light.
Suddenly from somewhere behind came a sudden vicious crackle, and bullets zipped past Hawke's ears. Automatically he crouched and glanced behind. Overhauling them was a French Curtis fighter, quite obviously out for German b!ood.
The pilot's face went white, but in a flash he thrust the control stick forward, throwing the machine into a glide, and the altimeter needle slid swiftly back from five thousand, down, down to one thousand. Then back came the stick, and up she went in a steep climb, the Frenchman hanging close behind. Bullets from his guns ripped upwards through the fuselage, and Dixon Hawke was beginning to wonder if his mission would end before it had really started. It would be just too bad, he thought, if the Frenchman shot them down.
The German pilot knew his stuff, and with his fast machine he twisted and turned at terrific speed, always creeping higher and higher. Above him was a great bank of cloud, and once there he might be safe.
Hawke, perfectly cool and rather enjoying the excitement, glanced back. The Curtis was still there, hanging grimly on and giving a marvellous exhibition of skill in following the faster Foulk so closely.
And then a burst from his guns tore through the fabric of the pilot's cockpit, missing Hawke by the merest fraction of an inch. The German jerked and twisted in agony and blood began to stain his right shoulder. He half-lurched in his seat and collapsed against the cockpit in a dead faint.
Quick as lightning Hawke got his hands on the German\'s shoulders and dragged him by sheer strength from the seat, easing him down into his own cockpit, as he took a chance balancing on the edge. Then, as the machine dipped at a dangerous angle, be slid down into the forward seat and grabbed the controls as another burst from the Frenchman's guns ripped by his head.
Hawke kept her on an even keel for another minute and then suddenly he kicked the rudder bar straight, whipped forward the stick, and as the machine dived he kicked the rudder again, bringing it round with a jerk that sent him sideways. He roared past the Curtis at four hundred miles an hour, pulled hard on the stick and went upwards in a zoom. Back, back he kept the stick until he was at the top of the loop, then he shot it across and rolled level in a perfect turn.
It was a marvellous feat of skill, but it did not save him. The French pilot got in a lucky burst and half the port wing ripped away, sending the Foulk over like a wounded duck.
Hawke now knew that there was nothing for it but a dive into the sea. But when he put her down he did it so magnificently that it fooled the Frenchman, who flew off, thinking he had killed both the German pilot and his observer.
Dixon Hawke managed to flatten out at the last moment and pancake down on the surface of the sea, which fortunately was dead calm.
It was typical of the famous detective that even after the terrific nerve strain of that death dive he was as cool and unruffled as ever. His first action was to attend to the pilot's wounds, for though the man was an enemy he had no intention of letting him die without doing what he could to save him.
The Foulk, with its large wing span, would probably remain afloat for some time. There was no rubber boat in the plane, and their chances of rescue lay in some machine of the coastal command spotting them, a slender hope under the circumstances.
U-Boat To The Rescue
When help did arrive, it came from a quite unexpected quarter, and from Hawke's point of view couldn't have been better. Twenty minutes after he had made that spectacular landing and the machine was beginning to submerge, the surface of the water was suddenly broken by something that looked like some gigantic sea monster coming up for air. As the water cascaded over its sides the conning tower of a U-boat was revealed and the submarine came rapidly to the surface.
"What a stroke of luck," thought Hawke, and shouted with all the force of his powerful lungs when he saw the officer's head appear over the conning tower casing. The naval officer immediately recognised the Nazi markings on the wings of the plane.
The U-boat came round in a graceful curve and drew alongside. Hawke lifted up the pilot, who was now returning to consciousness and the German sailors hauled him aboard. Then just as the plane began to settle down Hawke jumped and was assisted by strong arms to the slippery deck.
"Just in time," he laughed. "I was afraid the accursed British might find us first."
They carried the pilot down to the ward-room, where Hawke made a thorough examination of his wounds, extracting two bullets and applying dressings and bandages. The officers watched with admiration at the skilful but gentle way in which he did the job. As he worked he told the story of his escape.
"You must wireless H.Q. that I have been saved," he instructed. "The Fuhrer himself is waiting for me. I will recommend you for a decoration or promotion."
"Thank you, Herr Doktor," said the commander, his eyes gleaming with pleasure. Promotion would get him a safe shore job. "Your orders shall be obeyed at once. Heil Hitler."
Dixon Hawke was ace high in that submarine, and everybody jumped to obey his slightest wish. Even the Gestapo man, planted among the crew to spy on them, fawned on the detective, believing him to be a personal friend of Hitler. Everything went well until the following day, by which time they were approaching the North Coast of Denmark, and the minefield closing the Baltic Sea.
In the control-room the commander stood with beads of sweat upon his brow as he watched his charts, and the submarine went up and down to different depths to pass under the mines. He could not rely on those charts, and any second might be their last. However, luck was with them, and they passed through the Skagerrak safely into the Kattegat.
"I keep down the Danish Coast through the Great Belt," explained the commander when Hawke took an interest in the course he was navigating. "No infernal Britisher dare venture there. Now I come up to periscope depth and soon we surface."
Half an hour later the submarine broke water, and Hawke was able to go into the conning tower and take a breath of fresh air. Scarcely had some of the crew set foot on deck before, from overhead, came the sudden roar of a plane.
Hawke looked up, and recognised the British machine swooping down upon them. The commander saw it, too, and roared "Diving stations" orders. Then began a mad scramble to get back into the submarine. In a few seconds the deck was cleared.
Everyone jumped, climbed, or swung himself on to the conning tower and down the open hatchway. The periscope was swung into place and the hatch closed. The electric motors pounded away as the ship crash-dived, but not before the bomber overhead had got her in his sights. The water was pouring with a hiss and a roar into the diving tanks when suddenly there came a terrific blow in the region of the tower and a crash which sent every man staggering.
Hawke was flung upon the leather cushions of a couch in the wardroom, but the commander got a crack on the head against an iron stanchion that knocked him cold. Hawke dragged him through into his private cabin adjoining the wardroom, and then hurried out to see what was happening.
As he passed into the alleyway joining the control-room with the oil motor room the lights suddenly went out, and cries of alarm could be heard above the pounding of the engines. Hawke turned back and dived into the control-room, where, searching with his pocket torch, he found the auxilary battery lighting switch. The chief officer lurched in, blood streaming from a cut over his eye.
"We've been hit amidships," he announced:
"Surface immediately," snapped Hawke in such tones of authority that the sailor jumped to obey. Signals rang in all parts of the ship, and very slowly the sub began to rise. Dixon Hawke had no intention of drowning like a rat in a trap. They were, he judged, close inshore, and once he could gain the open air he knew he would be able to swim to land.
Compressed air whistled into the tanks as she went up, but not on an even keel. She was listing to starboard, and Hawke knew that somewhere water was coming in\*
Orders to open the conning tower were given presently, but the hatch had stuck fast.
"Open the aft hatch," roared Hawke as he scrambled along the alley plating through the Diesel engine-room to the electric motor room, where a smooth, greasy ladder about two yards long led up to the deck hatch, just large enough to take one man at a time.
When the hatch was open a current of cool, sweet air came down, dispersing the acid fumes from the batteries. In a couple of seconds Hawke was on deck and made a swift survey of the position. The second in command scrambled up and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw how close inshore they lay. The conning tower was a battered wreck, and a jagged split in the outer casing on the starboard side was taking water fast.
"Run her aground," ordered Hawke. "It's a sandy bottom."
The officer hurried below to give the orders, and Hawke remained on deck. Presently the commander came up, and they stood there together while the submarine slid towards the shore and grounded on the beach.
Again from overhead came the sound of a plane.
"Every man for himself," bawled the commander, and leaped overboard. Hawke followed him, and as the men poured out of the submarine the first bomb fell. It struck the ship for'ard with a terrific crash. The sub seemed to fling her nose into the air and slide back into deep water.
A second or so later there came another mighty explosion, and the boat rose up on the crest of a huge wave, seemed to quiver for a moment, and then burst in a deluge of twisted metal. The bomb had struck the torpedo room, which was still well loaded with ammunition. One more German submarine had fallen a victim to British bombers.
Hawke's Daring Plan
Hawke and the remnants of the crew got ashore and reported to the local German military commander, who happened to be a brother of the young pilot. By nine o'clock that night Hawke and the submarine commander had secured a car, and were on their way to Kiel.
The news of his arrival had been telephoned, and a naval guard of honour was drawn up to welcome him. Anybody who was a personal friend of Hitler received a guard of honour. Hawke chuckled to himself as the Admiral shook hands and conducted him to German Naval H.Q.
After a first-class dinner, with the most expensive wines and cigars, Hawke expressed a wish to see over the various buildings.
"You have, I understand, Admiral, the very latest marine mines here all ready to lay along the British coasts. I am interested in those mines," and, leaning closer, Hawke said in a confidential whisper ---"As a matter of fact, I hope to improve on them with my new invention."
The Admiral not only showed Dixon Hawke over the huge store of mines, but he took him along to his private office and proudly exhibited the blue prints. Hawke studied them carefully. He saw at once that they were a vast improvement on the magnetic mine. He was about to make a remark to this effect when suddenly there came a loud, wailing noise from outside, which increased in volume every second. The air-raid sirens were in full blast.
"The British bombers again," shouted the Admiral, and made a dash for the door. "Deep shelters are upon the dockside. Hurry, Herr Doktor!"
Without waiting for his guest the Admiral went down the stairs two at a time. Dixon Hawke turned as quick as a flash, darted into the room, and whipped up the secret blue prints. Rapidly folding them, he thrust them inside his waistcoat. Then, seizing all the loose papers, he wrenched an emergency oil lamp from the wall and poured the oil upon the pile. Striking a match he set fire to the heap, and ran from the room.
As he reached the quayside there came a terrific explosion and a blinding flash from the dock, alongside which a cruiser lay moored. The force of it hurled him to the ground, but Hawke was up in a moment racing for the cover of a low archway. Another and another bomb crashed down, and then a third got a direct hit on the battleship.
In a couple of seconds the whole place was an inferno of noise and leaping flames as the magazine exploded. Great chunks of armour plating and superstructure were hurled with sickening violence crashing against the buildings on the waterfront.
Then an idea came to the detective. Here he was in the very heart of the German naval headquarters. Behind him lay a building stacked with huge mines. Without a second's hesitation Hawke stepped from cover and raced to the entrance of the mine store. The doors were locked, but five seconds with his skeleton keys and he had them open.
Even in that inferno of crashing bombs his hand was as steady as a rock. Once inside he closed the doors again and flashed on his torch. All the naval sentries had dashed for safety at the first blast of the warning, and he was alone. Very deliberately he set the fuse of a mine, for this was a type which could be fired in three different ways.
Then, seizing an iron bar, he hit the cap an almighty wallop. He guessed that he probably had thirty seconds in which to reach safety, but he couldn't be sure. Wrenching open the doors he ran with all his speed across the waterfront and dived headfirst into one of the air-raid shelters.
It so happened that it was the one in which the Admiral and most of his staff had taken cover, and was the deepest in the whole of Kiel.
And just as well it was, too, for as Dixon Hawke turned a somersault at the bottom there came a roar from above which sounded as if the very earth itself had exploded. The whole structure of the dug-out seemed to heave, and showers of dirt and dust enveloped them, but though the twenty-foot concrete roof cracked, it stayed up.
Dazed and half suffocated by the dust and fumes, Dixon Hawke lay upon his back, while all around him piled in heaps were unconscious Nazis.
And then a new menace threatened him. Water began to pour down the steps, increasing in volume every second.
Hawke scrambled to his feet and clawed his way up the steps. Twice he was nearly swept back again, but, gasping for breath, he finally battled his way to the surface.
It had been pitch dark when he went down, but now the whole place was one great blaze of leaping flames. Thousands upon thousands of tons of masonry and twisted metal blocked the great canal. The water had risen many feet, and was overflowing in a deluge all along the battered waterfront. Every one of those Nazis sheltering in their dug-outs would be drowned. Kiel was a ghastly wreck. Dixon Hawke had done more damage in one evening than the R.A.F. could have done in a year.
In addition he still had those valuable blue prints tucked beneath his waistcoat. Tommy Burke would have grinned with sheer delight if he could have seen his guv'nor now.
It was not until morning that any semblance of order was restored at Kiel. Three destroyers and five submarines lay battered wrecks, and the whole of the German Admiralty buildings were smouldering ruins. The canal was out of action for many months, and all that vast store of mines gone up in one gigantic blast. Not only the mines, but enormous quantities of naval shells and small arms ammunition. It was, in fact, a major disaster for the Nazis. Within an hour or so Gestapo men, police, and soldiers were pouring into Kiel, and fire brigades from miles around were battling hopelessly with the ruins.
Dixon Hawke, pretending to be worn out and terribly frightened, reported to the General who had taken charge, and he was immediately given the best attention. Accommodation was found for him at the best hotel in Kiel, and he went to bed after a good breakfast.
By noon he felt ready for the next move in the game, and after a hot bath and attention to his make-up he went down to the lounge. Here he found a German staff officer waiting patiently until he should appear. He came up to Hawke and saluted smartly.
"I have orders to drive you to Berlin, Herr Doktor," he announced. "It is the Fuhrer's personal orders. Heil Hitler."
"Heil Hitler," responded Hawke with a fine Nazi salute. "I am ready when you are."
As they drove away from Kiel the terrific damage which had been done filled Hawke with secret delight. He had struck a hard blow for the British Lion, and he was proud of it.
But when he turned to the German staff officer sitting so stiffly beside him his face twisted in a scowl.
"The pig-dog British had luck last night," he growled "Their bombers did much damage."
"Damage!" exclaimed the officer. "Herr Doktor, they wrecked Kiel. I cannot understand how they did it. There is mystery somewhere. No bombs ever made would do that damage, and all the ammunition stores are bombproof. Only from inside could such damage have been done."
"But surely that is impossible," protested Hawke. "No spy could reach Kiel."
"Herr Dokter," replied the officer, "the British can reach anywhere. I know, I am of Intelligence. But do not say I told you," he added hastily and with a nervous glance at his driver, who, for all he knew, might be a Gestapo agent. No soldier, sailor, or civilian was safe from the spies of the Gestapo, and everyone from the highest to the lowest feared treachery even among his own friends.
Dixon Hawke sat back against the cushions and thought over what the officer had said. No suspicion could be directed against the man who had risked his life to return to Germany and give his great knowledge in the Fuhrer's service. He felt safe enough, unless some small accident should betray him. It was the small things which usually brought a man down, and not the main chance. But after his experiences he could always plead a defective memory.
The journey to Berlin passed pleasantly enough, though the staff officer was poor company. The Kiel business had got under his skin, and he was very worried.
Berlin was looking depressed and shabby when Hawke drove in. The whole city wore an air of suppressed fear, which to one of his sensitive perceptions could plainly be felt.
In the Konigin Augusta Strasse the staff officer stopped the car at the Admiralty building, and, excusing himself for a few moments, went in to report on the Kiel affair. While Hawke was waiting in the car a disturbing thing happened. A man walking along the street glanced at him and then stopped in hesitation. Instantly on the alert, Hawke pretended not to see him, but the man came forward, and was approaching the car when the driver curtly told him to keep off.
"But I would speak with the doctor," protested the man. "He is my friend and master."
The driver glanced inquiringly at Hawke, who nodded. Smiling a little uncertainly the man came up and extended his hand. .
"I thought, Herr Doktor, that you were a prisoner in England," he said.
"I have escaped," replied Hawke, wondering who the man might be, and suspecting some sort of Gestapo trap, though the fellow looked honest enough. "How are you keeping these days?"
"Oh, very well under the circumstances, Herr Doktor. Will you be returning to your laboratory?" he asked eagerly.
Hawke nodded. This was getting on dangerous ground. The man waited expectantly, and then when Hawke said nothing, he asked ---
"Is it that you will want me again, Herr Doktor?" His voice was so eager, and the appeal in his eyes so pathetic, that Hawke nodded, though he did not know what trouble he might be letting himself in for. "Give your address to the driver and I will send for you."
"But I am still at the laboratory, Herr Doktor," replied the other in surprise. "My wife is there, too, like she always was."
"That's fine," smiled Hawke, putting his head on one side with a characteristic mannerism of the real Doktor Krantz. "I'll be glad to be back in the old laboratory."
Further conversation was cut short by the arrival of the staff officer. Hawke nodded to the man as they drove away, but he was beginning to realise that he didn't know quite as much about Doktor Krantz's affairs as he ought. However, it was not the first time by a long way that Dixon Hawke had faced up to similar difficulties, and he was confident of success.
The staff car drove along to the Foreign Office, where they had been ordered to report. This was not the first time Hawke had been in the German Foreign Office, and he knew his way about, which was fortunate, as Doktor Krantz had been a frequent visitor there.
The staff officer saluted as they entered, and he turned his charge over to a uniformed attendant.
"You are to wait in the blue room, Herr Doktor," said the attendant.
"All right," snapped Hawke with German abruptness to inferiors. "I know the way."
"Very good, Herr Doktor," replied the man meekly, and Hawke strode up the broad stairway to the large and airy room overlooking the street.
He had scarcely seated himself before the door opened and two men in the black uniforms of Hitler's personal bodyguard entered.
"Herr Doktor," one announced, "the Fuhrer waits to see you. Come with us. Heil Hitler!"
"Heil Hitler!" replied Hawke. "Now for it," he thought as he followed his guides down the lofty, stone-flagged corridor.
The Gestapo Chief
Dixon Hawke had read all there was to read about Adolf Hitler, and he had seen him from a distance several times, but this was the first occasion on which he was to meet the madman who had plunged Europe into bitter war. His guides halted abruptly before a large, white-painted door with the Nazi Swastika on every panel.
"Herr Doktor Carl Krantz," shouted one at the top of his voice. A second later the door slowly opened, revealing a double row of black-uniformed S.S. men.
Dixon Hawke advanced boldly into the room, secretly amused at the protection needed by the Fuhrer from his adoring people. At the end of the lines a sergeant halted him, and stood for a long moment studying a photograph in his hand and comparing it with Hawke. Apparently satisfied, he opened another door, and gave the Nazi salute. The British detective walked into a very much smaller room, where a single S.S. man stood guard. He stepped up to Hawke, and ran expert fingers over him, searching for any hidden weapons.
"Just a formality, Herr Doktor," he apologised.
"That's all right," smiled Hawke. "It is good to be cautious. I might be a British spy in disguise all set to shoot our beloved Fuhrer."
The S.S. man smiled grimly at the joke, and then turned to knock twice upon a panel of the wall. Then to Hawke's surprise a section of the wall swung open, and the S.S. trooper nodded for him to enter.
If Hawke had expected Hitler to be alone when he saw him, he was sadly mistaken, for half a dozen guards stood about the room by the walls. A man was seated at a huge desk, head in hands, looking half asleep. He didn't so much as glance up when Hawke advanced into the room.
But standing by Adolf Hitler was another man, and the detective recognised him instantly as Himmler, dreaded chief of the Gestapo, leader of the Black S.S. Guards, and the criminal who had caused more human suffering than any man in history. This was not so good. Himmler was a very clever villain, and if he had the slightest suspicion he wouldn't rest until he had found out the truth. But not by the flicker of an eyelid did Hawke betray his thoughts.
"Welcome, Herr Doktor," said Himmler, with a smile that reminded Hawke of a filthy snake. "So you have escaped from the Englanders? That is good. Our Fuhrer is glad to see such a distinguished son of the Fatherland and the Third Reich returned to his own people."
Adolf Hitler looked up, and his lips creased in a sickly smile. "You had bad luck last night at Kiel," he said. "There was some damage done, I understand."
"A lot of damage, Fuhrer," replied Hawke. "The accursed British bombed the harbour and ships."
"Little actual damage was done," snapped Himmler sharply, glaring at Hawke. "In any case, we are soldiers, and the fleet is of small consequence. German arms are invincible. The Fuhrer has made them so."
"Oh, definitely," agreed Hawke hastily. "As every loyal German knows."
"That is true," said Himmler. "Now, Herr Doktor, your duty is to perfect the secret weapon on which you were working before you went to America. Your laboratory is just as you left it. Krauss and his wife are still there, but I will have guards put over it, too. In these days it is as well to be careful. Anything you require shall be obtained for you, but we must have quick results. That I hope you understand. The Fuhrer does not like failure or delay."
His words were quiet enough, but the deadly menace in them was unmistakable. If Doktor Carl Krantz failed, his life wouldn't be worth a moment's purchase. For such is the way Nazi Germany rewards its loyal sons --- the headsman's axe.
"I shall not fail, Herr Himmler," replied Hawke in confident tones.
Adolf Hitler seemed to have gone to sleep again. Himmler glanced at him and shrugged his shoulders.
"The Fuhrer is tired," he explained. "We will leave him."
Taking Hawke by the arm in the most friendly manner, Himmler walked to the secret door, which swung open as he approached. It would have given the Britisher the joy of his life just to have driven his clenched fist smack into that evil mouth, but he had to play his part, and seem honoured by the favour.
But one thing he had learned, and that was that Adolf Hitler was no more than a puppet in the hands of the Gestapo, and Himmler was the real ruler of Nazi Germany.
They passed out of the Foreign Office escorted by a troop of S.S. guards to the big car waiting outside. Six motor cyclists, armed to the teeth, formed up, and off they went. No hint as to their destination was given, and Hawke did not ask. With klaxons in full blast, the motor cyclist S.S. men cleared the streets as if by magic.
In a remarkably short time the party stopped before the imposing entrance of the Schaarsverbard Club at Potsdam. This club, as Hawke knew, was limited to the military elite of Germany. A military guard presented arms as they walked up the steps, but Himmler strode in without even bothering to acknowledge the salute.
In the hall a number of high rank officers stood talking, but as soon as they saw Himmler they moved away, pretending not to see him. Among the Generals Himmler was detested, but none had the courage to admit it. To have done so would have meant death or a concentration camp.
"We will go to my room. There we may talk in peace," said Himmler.
Up the broad, beautifully-gilded stairway they went to a room at the top, which Himmler opened with a private key. Once inside, the Gestapo chief locked it again and pointed to a chair.
"Be seated," he ordered curtly.
Hawke obediently sat down and waited while Himmler opened a drawer and took out a bundle of papers and a diary. These he tossed into Hawke's lap.
"Your private memoranda and diary," he said. "I have kept them safe for you while you were away. Now, Krantz, you understand that this invention must be perfected without a moment's day. Already we have lost too much, and Germany won't stand much more. I'm telling you this because I know you are a sensible man, and will not talk. Such unpleasant things happen to men who talk," he added with an evil grin.
Hawke glanced up as those foul little eyes glinted behind the rimless glasses.
"Rely on me, Herr Himmler," he said meekly. "I shall not be long."
"How long?" snapped Himmler.
"Two weeks, perhaps."
Himmler scowled and said quietly, but viciously ---
"That is one week too long. Now, get along to your workshop and start immediately. Do not forget the price of failure."
"I shall not forget," murmured Dixon Hawke meekly.
Himmler remained at the top of the stairs while Hawke walked down. All the officers had gone from the hall. The uniformed porter bowed and saluted.
"An automobile awaits you, Herr Doktor," he said. "I'm glad to see you back in Germany again."
"Thank you," smiled Hawke, and went out to the car. The porter, it seemed, knew the real Dr.. Krantz. That was going to be the snag, all these little men who had known the doctor. Any of them might become suspicious and sneak off to the Gestapo. But the threat of danger had never yet bothered the great detective; instead it only sharpened his wits.
"To my laboratory," he ordered the driver, and stepped into the car. The first round in the game could be considered a great success.
At the Doktor's Laboratory
As Hawke had guessed, Krauss was the nervous little man who had ventured to speak to him while he was in the German staff car. The laboratory was situated in a house overlooking the Tiergarten, the big public park near the Wilhemstrasse, the Whitehall of Berlin. Krauss had been warned that his master was returning, and both he and his wife were there to greet the supposed Dr. Krantz.
"I'm setting to work at once, Krauss," Dixon Hawke informed him. "Come and show me how you have kept my workshop."
"But certainly, Herr Doktor," beamed Krauss, and led the way up the stairs, thus saving Hawke from exposing his own lack of knowledge.
Hawke found the laboratory to be elaborately fitted out with all the most modern and expensive apparatus. Clever scientist as he was, his eyes lit up with appreciation.
"Fine," he said, smiling at Krauss. "Now leave me while I settle in."
Left alone, Hawke explored every drawer and cupboard and made himself familiar with the situation of every piece of apparatus. Then he went into the little study at the end and began to examine the notes and records of the doctor's experiments. It didn't take him long to realise that the German had hit on a new and very ingenious idea, one with vast possibilities.
With customary thoroughness the doctor had written down every little detail, not only of successful experiments, but also of all the unsuccessful ones. When he had mastered all the details Hawke turned to an examination of the apparatus itself, and his mind filled with admiration for the German scientist who had thought out this wonderful idea.
Roughly it was based on the rate of vibration of the molecules of a substance which by an electric process could be speeded up to such an extent that internal combustion was bound to take place, even in substances like metals. But the secret lay in the correct adaption of the apparatus to the particular vibrations of a chosen subject.
Krantz had been experimenting on explosives, and it seemed that he had perfected the apparatus for use over a short distance, but not for a distant object. Obviously if this could be attained, then the German Army could simply switch on the current and blow up the enemy ammunition dumps miles away, and keep it up until the other side were left defenceless.
Hawke worked late into the night, and by the time he went to bed his agile mind had grappled with the problem so successfully that he had fair hopes of an early triumph.
He was up early in the morning, and went for a walk in the Tiergarten. It was a glorious day, and the sun shone down upon the Houses of Parliament, now with its interior gutted by the fire kindled by the Nazis themselves. It was while Hawke was glancing at this building that he noticed out of the corner of his eye the old man sitting on a seat eating a piece of black bread. He was a poorly-clad, sickly-looking man, but his dark eyes were bright and intelligent As Hawke walked slowly past him, he heard a voice murmur in English ---
"If ever you want help, I'm here at this hour every morning."
Not by the slightest movement of a muscle did Hawke betray his surprise. There was, he knew, one of the S.S. guards lurking near the gates shadowing him, for no man is trusted in Germany who has State secrets in his possession.
Hawke walked on, and no one could have suspected that he had heard. The man might be a British agent detailed to help him, but more likely he was a Gestapo spy out to trap him. If so, then Himmler might be suspicious already. Hawke had to work fast. He returned to his laboratory, where Krauss brought him a breakfast of imitation coffee and bread and marmalade. There was no butter for civilians in Germany. Hawke carried not an ounce of excess fat on his whole body, but he began to think he'd be a very thin man by the time he saw London again.
By the following evening, after hours and hours of intensive experimenting and research, Hawke realised that he had discovered the secret for which Dr. Krantz had been working. As a matter of fact, Hawke had followed the doctor's reasoning so closely that he was bound to arrive at the correct conclusion.
With eager fingers he fitted up the final piece of the apparatus and attached the high-powered batteries. Switching off the light, he opened the window and looked out over the city, from which not a single light was glimmering. Away to the east lay a tall building standing in its own grounds, and on the roof of which an A.-A. gun was mounted, though, of course, it was too dark to see it now.
That building, Hawke knew, was the central storage arsenal of the Berlin area, heavily guarded by soldiers and impossible for a civilian to enter. He smiled grimly to himself as he turned the range-finder of his apparatus in its direction and pressed the switch controlling the power. Faint violet flashes came from the copper arm of the director, and Hawke waited with breathless suspense.
He had no means of estimating accurately how long the vibrator would take to act at that distance, or if, indeed, it would act at all. His work had, of course, been pure theory without the opportunity for practical experiment. The valves glowed in the darkness, and the soft purr of the complicated apparatus seemed to be getting louder and louder.
Ten seconds, fifteen seconds, twenty, twenty-five seconds; Hawke was beginning to wonder if, after all, he had not failed when he observed a torch flashing in the grounds of the arsenal, and then another on the roof. A split second later his hand went over his eyes as a terrific fan of vivid flame half-blinded him. And then came a roar like the end of time, and the whole great building seemed to rise from among the trees and burst itself in one colossal agony of twisted beams, girders, and shattered masonry. It sprayed out like the eruption of a volcano, and the blackness of the night was swept away in incandescent flame. A great chunk of granite thudded down into the garden at the rear of the laboratory, and windows bulged and splintered in thousands of houses.
Flames began to leap in a hundred different places in the city as the white-hot girders and pieces of burning timber fell crashing upon the roofs which caved in under the impact. Explosion after explosion could be heard as gas mains, ripped from their beds and igniting, set fire to neighbouring houses.
For some moments even Dixon Hawke was stunned by the enormous disaster which he had caused, and then he remembered that this was the heart of enemy country, an enemy so treacherous and foul that nothing was too bad to give it. Again that grim smile played over his sensitive lips. Nazi Germany was in for a very rough time.
The Gestapo Checks Up
The sound of running feet on the floor below awakened him to a new danger. Quick as thought he closed the window, dismantled the essential portion of his apparatus, then slipped from the laboratory along the corridor to his bedroom. Undressing with speed, he flung on his pyjamas and slid between the sheets just as there came an agitated knocking on the door.
"Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor," came the agitated voice of Krauss. "Are you all right?"
Dixon Hawke gave a perfect imitation of a tired man suddenly and violently roused from deep sleep. When Krauss came into the room and switched on the light Hawke was struggling up, rubbing his eyes and sighing.
"What's happened, Krauss?" he demanded. "Is it an air raid?"
Krauss was wringing his thin hands together, his face deathly pale and his eyes nearly popping from his head.
"Herr Doktor," he bleated, "the arsenal storage house has blown up. Berlin is in flames. Tens of thousands must have been killed. Save yourself, Herr Doktor!" Hawke got out of bed and went to the window. From the street outside came the loud, urgent clang of the fire bell and the scream of brakes as the engine driver cornered on two wheels. Another and another fire engine raced by, accompanied by the incessant blast of the Gestapo motor cyclists as they put their fingers on klaxon horns and kept them there.
"Dear me !" exclaimed Hawke in the worried tones of Dr. Krantz when he was disturbed, "this is terrible, Krauss! Do you think I ought to do something?"
"What can you do, Herr Doktor?" wailed Krauss. "Save all your valuable apparatus. The fire may spread to this laboratory."
There was, of course, a slight possibility that the fire might reach the house, but Hawke wasn't worrying much about that. But Krauss had given him just the opportunity he wanted.
"We will do it at once, Krauss," he agreed. "Help me to dress quickly."
With the German's fumbling assistance Dixon Hawke slipped on shirt and trousers and thrust his feet into slippers. Then drawing a dressing-gown about his lean, muscular frame he hurried to the laboratory, where he set about dismantling his apparatus while Krauss brought cardboard containers.
Down in the hall the telephone shrilled and Hawke heard the S.S. guard answering. Next minute the man's heavy tread sounded on the stairs and he came into the laboratory.
"What are you supposed to be doing. Herr Doktor?" he demanded with an evil scowl on his ugly face.
"We pack all the delicate apparatus," cried Krauss excitedly before Hawke could reply. "If the fire spreads it may destroy all this valuable material. What has happened, tell me, Herr Mannlein?"
"How should I know, old fool," snapped the S.S. storm trooper. "You have eyes and ears, have you not? Were you asleep when the explosion occurred, Herr Doktor?"
"I was," agreed Hawke, passing his hand over his brow as if the memory of the gigantic blow up still frightened him. "But this is terrible. What waste! What damage to our beautiful Berlin!"
"I heard you moving about up here not ten minutes ago," declared the S.S. man, staring at him accusingly.
Hawke returned that stare and the man glanced away, unable to meet those keen eyes.
"You are mistaken, Mannlein," rebuked Hawke sharply.
"Huh, maybe," growled the S.S. trooper, and was turning to go when Hawke snapped out ---
"Do not speak to me in that tone, my man, or Herr Himmler shall be informed. Remember that I am a personal friend of our beloved Fuhrer. Heil Hitler."
The trooper sprang to attention as if he had received an electric shock. His arm streaked up in the Nazi salute and he almost shouted ---"Heil Hitler." Then he added hastily ---"You pardon, Herr Doktor. I did not mean to be rude to you, but I have been on duty for many hours and I am very tired. You will not mention my words to Herr Himmler, will you?"
"I will consider it," barked Hawke. "Now go."
The S.S. man turned with alacrity and almost dashed from the laboratory. Krauss hugged himself with glee as he chuckled delightedly.
"That's the way to speak to those pig-dogs, Herr Doktor," he whispered. "They make our lives a misery with their spying."
"They guard the Fuhrer, Krauss," said Hawke. "You must not say things like that against them."
Tear flashed in the old man's eyes, and his hands trembled.
"I didn't mean it, Herr Doktor," he faltered. "You will say nothing, eh?"
Hawke smiled reassuringly. The old man was obviously terrified.
"I will say nothing, Krauss. Now, I don't think the fire will spread, and when we have packed this into a safe corner I'm going back to bed."
" Why, certainly, Herr Doktor," agreed Krauss, smiling once again.
"And don't disturb me, for I must sleep. I am worn out."
Back in his bedroom Hawke thought things over. That call on the phone had come from Gestapo H.Q. The S.S. guard had been instructed to report just exactly what Dr. Carl Krantz had been doing when the arsenal had blown up. It was almost impossible that Himmler could have any real suspicion as yet, and certainly he did not know of Hawke's final triumph in completing Krantz's work.
It was probably an example of the very thorough way in which the Gestapo checked up on everybody. However, Hawke had never been the sort to leave anything to chance when he could possibly avoid it. He had taken chances, great and dangerous chances, scores of times, but never when he could accomplish his aim by cool reasoning and calculated action. All the apparatus that mattered had been dismantled so that there was nothing now in the laboratory to give him away if the Gestapo made a sudden swoop. Not that they were likely to do it. Hawke had given them far too much to think about for one night in looking after the fire.
Hawke Turns Burglar
While all this excitement was on Hawke decided on a bold plan. Slipping on a pair of black, rubber-soled shoes and rubber gloves, he quietly opened his bedroom window and looked out. Twelve feet below him stood the garage roof. Hoisting a leg over the sill, he lowered himself to the full extent of his arms, and then dropped lightly to the roof.
Waiting a few moments while he listened intently, he slid down the rainpipe and crouched in the shadows. Somewhere near the front of the house he could hear a man patrolling. He stood there, invisible in the darkness, until the steps died away, and then he sprinted across the garden to the wall. The leaping flames of the burning buildings lit up the place with dancing lights, but Hawke took a chance, and sprang for the top of the wall, drawing himself over to drop into the street.
He knew Berlin almost as well as he knew London, and in a matter of minutes he had gained the far end of the Tiergarten railings, where the tall trees threw such deep shadows that he could move in comparative safety. He was making for the great mansion in the Grosser Veltstrasse where Himmler, the Gestapo chief, lived like a prince. Once or twice Hawke was obliged to halt in the shadows, but he had nerves of steel, and nothing could shake his confidence.
Like a shadow, he flitted from cover to cover until he was standing under the walls of Himmler\'s garden. The road was lined with lime trees, and Hawke moved on until he discovered one with a branch that nearly touched the wall. With the agility of an athlete he was up the tree, balancing precariously on the leafy branch until he was able to spring astride the top of the wall.
For a few moments he lay there, his keen eyes surveying the dim outlines of the garden, and then he dropped over, moving with silent tread towards the house. But just as he was about to step on the gravelled drive a figure suddenly rose up before him, and the dim light from the distant fires glinted on the blue-black automatic in the man's hand.
Without a second's hesitation Hawke bunched his powerful fist and brought it up in a real pile-driver flush under the man's jaw. He went down in a crumpled heap without so much as a stifled groan, and the detective grinned to himself in the darkness. With the rapidity of an expert he pulled off the fellow's tunic and top boots. Then, gagging him and lashing him securely in his own belt and braces, he dragged him beneath a holly bush and shoved him well out of sight.
When he stepped out again he was wearing the tunic, boots, and a cap of a trooper in the S.S. Black Guards.
Circling the house he spotted three more guards, but he was able to avoid them with perfect ease. His trained eye detected the best means of entry, and five minutes later he was climbing up the face of the building like a human fly, aided by the ornate decorations which flanked the windows. On the second floor he found what he was seeking, an open window.
It was a tricky business drawing himself over the window sill into the room, but Hawke managed it in record time. Once inside, he stood in the darkness straining his ears for the slightest sound, but heard nothing to disturb him. Without the slightest sound he crossed to the door and stole into the corridor. He had a shrewd idea of the location of the room he was seeking, and in ten minutes he proved himself to be correct. This was Himmler's dressing-room, and in it he found all he had come to get.
In a great wardrobe hung a dozen or more suits of Nazi uniform, all with Himmler's special decorations.
Hawke selected one, and, tucking it under his arm, he next appropriated a uniform cap. Boots he was already wearing, those he had taken from the unconscious guard outside.
With his loot Hawke made the return journey, and gained the garden again without incident. He heaved the bundle over the wall, and was preparing to follow when there came a sudden shout from the path and the sound of running steps. Standing in the shadows, Hawke waited until he saw the man coming towards him, and a voice called ---
"Is that you, Fritz ?"
"Ja, ja," replied Hawke. "I saw something moving over here." Then as the man was near enough to recognise the uniform, but not to see his face, he suddenly shouted --- "There he goes; after him, comrade."
The guard turned sharply and commenced to run in the direction Hawke was going, outpacing the detective, who deliberately stumbled over a bush. As he knelt up he seized a lump of hard earth and flung it away to the right so that it crashed among the bushes and immediately drew the guard's attention.
"Here he is, I have him," shouted the guard excitedly.
"You sure have," grinned Hawke, and sprinted for the wall. Taking a flying leap he was up and over before the guard had time to see him. Down in the road Hawke swept up the precious bundle, and, tucking it under his arm, he streaked off as fast as his long legs would carry him.
The sight of a Storm Trooper running through the streets at night aroused no suspicion from the police, especially on such a night as this, when half the S.S. men in the city were dashing about somewhere.
But when Hawke was nearing Krantz's laboratory he halted in a dark alley, and stripping off the stolen clothes he wrapped them in a tight bundle and heaved them over into the lake in the Tiergarten, trusting to luck that they would sink.
Ten minutes later he was back in his own room and safely in bed. Himmler's uniform, cap, and boots were hidden beneath the floor boards, the best place he had available just then, and well covered by the thick carpet.
It was characteristic of him that no sooner had his head touched the pillow than he was fast asleep.
Playing For Safety
When he awoke the sun was streaming in and someone was knocking on the door. Before he had time to answer, it was flung open, and Himmler himself strode in, his mean face and shifty eyes full of evil suspicion.
" You sleep soundly, Herr Doktor," he sneered, coming up to the bed and glaring down at the detective.
"On the contrary, Herr Himmler," replied Hawke quietly. "I have had a very disturbed night. Krauss tells me that the great explosion came from the city arsenal, and the noise of the fire engines made sleep impossible until dawn."
"We will have silent fire engines for you, Herr Doktor," sneered Himmler. "But I have not come to discuss your health, but rather your progress with the work for which you were rescued from the vile Englanders. It is completed, yes?"
Hawke regarded him with well-simulated astonishment. "But, Herr Himmler," he protested, "that is impossible. I have much research to do yet."
Himmler made a sudden movement, and his claw-like fingers grabbed Hawke by the throat.
"You are a liar, Krantz," he snarled. "Last night you finished the work and tried it out. Don't dare to deny it, or I will have you tortured until you howl for the quick death that does not come. Answer me, am I not right?"
"You are choking me, Herr Himmler," wailed Hawke, pretending to gasp for breath.
Himmler let go of his throat and stood scowling down at him while he panted and shivered as if he was terribly frightened.
"Answer me," roared Himmler, striking him across the mouth with his folded gloves.
Hawke shook his head, and in a quavering voice denied the charge ---
"Herr Himmler, I have much to do yet. I make progress, but I am not certain yet. Give me time. Why do you treat me like this?" Am I not a friend of our beloved Fuhrer?"
"Stop that nonsense," snarled Himmler. "I am master of Germany. So I must look elsewhere for the traitor who fired the arsenal, eh? Well, it would have been a small price to pay, one arsenal, if your invention had been responsible. I should have honoured a man with nerve enough to have tried out his experiment on such a grand scale."
All the while he was talking the Gestapo chief was watching the detective closely, but Hawke was too keen witted a man to fall into such a childish trap.
Presently Himmler left him, and when the door closed on the Gestapo chief Hawke lay back in bed and shook with silent mirth.
But there was another shock in store for the British agent before the day was through. About three o'clock, while Hawke was still working in the laboratory, Krauss came to announce Dr. Max Lembaum to see him.
"Show him up" ordered Hawke, instantly on his guard. He had, of course, heard of Lembaum, the authority on the atomic theory and inventor of several delicate scientific instruments, but he had never met him.
The man who came into the laboratory was an extraordinary creature. Comparatively short he had enormous shoulders and great arms which hung down below his knees like those of an ape. The gorilla likeness was further emphasised by a low, ridged forehead and a face almost entirely covered by black hair. He had a voice to match his appearance, too. When he spoke it was like the growl of an angry lion.
"So you have come back to Berlin, eh, Carl, mein freund?"
" Ja," nodded Hawke, busying himself with adjusting some screws just to gain time to get the measure of his visitor. "I was rescued from the British by our clever Gestapo."
"So, so," growled the other, leaning against the bench and staring at Dixon Hawke with his bright little eyes. "I heard of that, too. Your mission in America was a success, eh?"
"More or less," replied Hawke cautiously. He knew what Krantz's mission had been, but he didn't know how much Lembaum might know about it.
"More or less," snarled Lembaum. "You tried to double-cross me, Krantz. You tried to steal my invention. You tried to throw suspicion on me and make me out a traitor and a fool. I don't forget."
"I don't know what you mean," replied Hawke. "If that's all you've come to say, get out of here just as quickly as you can."
"Ho, ho," rumbled Lembaum. "So Carl Krantz has found some courage at last. Well, well, now where could he have done that? Listen, Krantz, I could crush you to pulp with one of these hands, and you know it. Once you used to cower in fear before me, now you speak like a man. That is strange, very strange!"
"I am busy on an experiment for Herr Himmler," retorted Hawke with a weary gesture. "Please leave me."
"Ho, ho, so now it's Herr Himmler. Not ' The Snake,' as it used to be. What will your comrades think of that, Krantz? You have changed, mein freund. So much have you changed! Gott in Himmel, it amazes me!"
Obviously Lembaum was speaking of something of which Hawke was ignorant. It sounded as if Krantz had been a member of one of the many secret societies aimed against Hitler and the Nazi gang. On the other hand, it might be a trap set by Himmler. Either way it was not so good.. Hawke determined to play for safety. He gave a weary sigh, and said with exaggerated patience ---
"Lembaum, will you please leave me to work in peace?"
"So?" growled Lembaum. "All right, I go."
He turned like a human gorilla and shuffled to the door, which he opened with a violent twist of the knob. He paused for a moment to glare at Hawke, then he went out and banged the door shut.
For a long time after he had gone, Hawke's agile mind was busy with the problem. Fortunately Krantz appeared to have no relatives in Berlin and few visitors, but another like Lembaura would be decidedly awkward.
The Secret Weapon
At the end of the week Dixon Hawke phoned Himmler to inform him that he thought his experiments were now concluded, and asked permission to try it out somewhere in the country. Himmler himself called within the hour at the laboratory and inspected the apparatus. For once he was civil and seemed excited.
"Get it packed for transport, Krantz," he instructed. "I will have arrangements made and the Fuhrer himself shall see it. For your own sake I hope there will be no failure!"
"I hope so, too," murmured Hawke meekly.
Half an hour later a big Gestapo car called for the apparatus.
The driver had his instructions, but refused to reveal their destination when Hawke inquired where they were going.
Forty minutes' fast driving brought them to a large wood, and on the other side Hawke observed what appeared to be a huge forest clearing, fenced by high, barbed wire. Several large wooden shacks stood in the centre, and men in Labour Corps uniform were unloading a lorry near one of the largest.
The driver halted the car about half a mile from the fence, and told Hawke that they must wait. Five minutes later half a dozen Gestapo motor cyclist troopers came roaring down the road and drew up beside them. Then came a big, armour-plated car with the Nazi flag fluttering from the radiator cap.
Immediately all the S.S. men stood to attention, and as the door opened their arms streaked up in the Nazi salute. Himmler stepped out, followed by a man whom Hawke recognised as Adolf Hitler himself. But this was quite a different Hitler from the half-dead creature he had seen at the Foreign Office. His step was jaunty, and his eyes were bright and excited.
When Hawke had first seen him he must have been suffering from a deep depression over the Kiel affair. Now he was alert and expectant. Krantz was going to give him a secret weapon which would make him master of the world!
Hawke saluted as Hitler came up.
"So you have succeeded, my dear Krantz," beamed Hitler. "Great shall be your honours. Well, what are we waiting for? Come, come, show me this wonderful invention.
"Certainly," agreed Hawke, commencing to assemble his apparatus and instructing the S.S. men how to connect the heavy batteries.
In a few minutes he had it all set, and, turning to Himmler, asked where the explosives were stored.
"In that large wooden shack in the compound," said Himmler. "But first we must warn the labour men there and get the lorry out."
By means of flag signals they warned the camp workers, and there was a general rush to get aboard the lorry as it drove quickly from the clearing.
"Go on, go on," shouted Hitler excitedly. "Never mind those stupid fellows. They ought to be quicker!"
Hawke fiddled with the apparatus long enough to give the labour men time to get clear, then he switched on the power. The apparatus commenced to purr as it warmed up, and Hawke brought the range finder into play.
Twenty seconds later the shack rose from the earth in a deluge of flying pieces, leaping flames, and great belching clouds of black smoke, while the roar of the explosion made Hitler cringe away, covering his ears with his gloved hands. But Hawke was staring in horrified amazement, for not only had he seen flying debris from the wooden shack, but he had seen, too, human bodies flung like rag-dolls high into the air.
"Oh, grand, grand!" cried Hitler, dancing about like a cat on hot bricks. "I am master of the world. The gold cross of the Third Reich is yours, Krantz. Myself I will pin it to your breast. I, Adolf Hitler, will decorate you."
"Heil Hitler," shouted all the S.S. men. "Sieg heil! Sieg heil!"
"But, Fuhrer," exclaimed Hawke, "there were human bodies in that explosion. I saw them."
"Nonsense," snapped Himmler, coming between them and elbowing Hitler aside. "Those were not human bodies, but Jewish swine who happened to be in that shack. Forget it, my dear Krantz. You are getting squeamish in your old age. Do you forget our slogan. 'Juden einerwunst.'"
"No, I do not forget," admitted Hawke, who had seen the sign, "Jews not wanted here," often enough in the past few days. "It was a quick death for them."
Himmler grinned ---
"Ah, now you talk like a man. You have done well, Herr Doktor. Tonight you shall broadcast to the eager nation. A speech shall be prepared for you, and all other broadcasts shall be suspended. Also you shall broadcast in English to the British people."
"I would like to write my own English speech, Herr Himmler." requested Hawke humbV "Then I could jeer at them and laugh. It will be fine revenge for their treatment of me while I was a prisoner."
Anything like that appealed to the evil-minded Himmler, so he agreed without hesitation, only adding the proviso that it must be read by the Gestapo before it was made, to which, of course, Hawke was only too happy to agree.
Hawke Decides to Quit
The Berlin evening papers came out in flaming headlines with news of the triumph of Dr. Carl Krantz and his secret weapon which would revolutionise war and make Germany master of the world. Correspondents of all the neutral countries flashed the startling information over the wires to the head offices of their papers, and within a few minutes New York and London were aware of what had happened in Nazi Germany.
At British Intelligence H.Q., Major Hamilton, the chief, grinned to one of his subordinates.
"He's done it, Mac," he cried, banging his fist upon the table. "Hawke has pulled it off! He's broadcasting tonight in English. Have it taken down by half a dozen shorthand writers so that there won't be any mistake. He's bound to use the code we agreed upon before he went. By Jove, but that man's a miracle! Good old Dixon Hawke!"
More than ever did the chief have reason to congratulate himself when the broadcast in English from Berlin came over. For Dixon Hawke had so framed his speech that almost every line conveyed vital information, though to the ordinary listener it sounded just like the usual Nazi boasting and stupid lies.
Major Hamilton rubbed his hands with glee and got busy on the telephone.
Two hours later wave after wave of British bombers were taking off to give the Nazis the worst series of air raids they had ever experienced, and every pilot had his instructions based on Hawke's information. Secret aerodromes, submarine depots, arsenals, and munition works got knock-out blows that absolutely staggered the German High Command in their devastating effect. For Hawke, during the days he had been in Berlin, and while he was travelling from Kiel, had learned a lot of useful information.
But, his time in Berlin was running short, though he didn't know it when he made his broadcast. It was while he was coming from the broadcasting studio and crossing the pavement to get into his car that the same shabby old man he had noticed in the Tiergarten shuffled up and opened the car door. As he did so he thrust a tiny scrap of paper in Hawke's hand and then faded back into the shadows. Hawke stepped into the car and sat down, but it was not until he had gained the privacy of the laboratory that he ventured to open the paper. On it he read ---
"Danger. Himmler suspects. E7X."
Hawke was in a quandary. E7X might be a British agent or he might be a Gestapo spy. While he was still considering the matter Krauss knocked and entered.
"And so you are back, Herr Doktor," he beamed. "I listened to your broadcast. It was so grand. At last we shall be the victorious nation for certain."
Hawke nodded rather absently and then asked casually --- "Has Himmler been here while I was away."
Krauss nodded and a frown lined his forehead.
"Yes, Herr Doktor. But he did not stay himself. Such strange things his men were doing. They turned out all your private papers in the drawers downstairs and dusted black powder all over them. Then they took photographs. Lots of them. I watched through the side window, Herr Doktor. That is how I saw."
"All right, Krauss," smiled Hawke. "You did very well. Here, friend, buy yourself something. I have long meant to give you a present."
Krauss\'s eyes nearly bulged from his head when he saw the five hundred mark note.
"Herr Doktor!" he exclaimed. "You are too good to me!"
"Ah, take it, Krauss. You've been a good friend to me. More so perhaps than you realise. Now go, for I wish to work alone."
Krauss bowed himself out and sped away to show the fortune to his wife.
But Hawke was doing some swift thinking. He knew quite well what had happened. Lembaum had either been suspicious or had denounced him out of sheer spite. Everybody in Germany was made to spy on his neighbour or risk a concentration camp, and those who brought in reliable information were rewarded on a generous scale. Krauss had not realised that the Gestapo men when they dusted the powder off the papers and took photographs were actually taking pictures of the real Dr. Krantz's fingerprints to compare with those they had already taken of Hawke's fingers, probably from the microphone he used when he broadcast. Himmler might even now be comparing the two sets of prints.
The game was up and Dixon Hawke knew it. To stay a moment longer would mean death, and a remarkably slow and painful one at that. Now was the time when the stolen Nazi uniform was to be used, for it was for this very purpose that Hawke had burgled Himmler's house.
Going into his bedroom he sat down before the mirror and got busy with his make-up box. Satisfied at last, he donned the uniform and boots, stuck the peaked cap upon his head and surveyed himself in the mirror. Staring back at him was a most amazing likeness of Himmler, Gestapo chief and arch criminal of Germany.
In a belt next to his skin Hawke placed the blue prints he had stolen at Kiel and the prints of his vibrator apparatus, together with a considerable quantity of German money in notes of high denominations. Then after a final glance round he slipped up the window and swung himself out, to drop lightly upon the garage roof. In the laboratory he had left a complete set of faked blue prints and had fixed the apparatus to correspond. The Nazis would get no aid from Krantz's invention.
Slipping across the garden and over the wall, he walked rapidly through the darkened streets until he came to a military garage, into which he walked with a bold swagger. The sergeant in charge recognised, or thought he recognised, Herr Himmler, and sprang to obey when a powerful car was ordered to be made ready for a long journey.
"I'll drive myself," Hawke snapped as the car was run out. "Stand aside."
Slipping into the driving seat Hawke let in the clutch and the powerful car roared away down the road to Potsdam. At the military club Hawke stood on the brakes, and, leaping out, hurried up the steps. The guards sprang to present arms and the porter almost fell over himself to get the door open.
Without so much as a glance left or right Hawke ran up the stairs to Himmler's private room. Five seconds with a skeleton key and he was inside. Another twenty seconds and he had scribbled a note, which he pinned upon the wall. It read ---
"Sorry you've been troubled, Herr Himmler. I hope the invention wins the war. Good-bye till we meet again !" He signed it "Krantz's Ghost."
Then he ransacked all the drawers he could open, took a book of Gestapo warrants which would give him a free passage anywhere, and then walked out, locking the door after him. Arms flew up in the Nazi salute as he hurried down the stairs and into the street. Just as he was getting into the car he observed the old man who had warned him.
"Here, you," he shouted. "Come here." And as the other shuffled up ---"Get into that car and be quick about it!"
Obediently the old man scrambled in and flopped upon the seat next to Hawke. The engine roared, and away they went, heading westward.
"So you are E7X, eh?" said Hawke presently. "What's your real name?"
"I don't know what you mean, Herr Himmler," whined the old man, cowering in his seat. "I am Karl Pfester, of 235 Burgastag Strasse."
Hawke glanced at him. His acting was perfect, and he was filled with admiration for this British agent who risked his life in Berlin.
"Well, Mister Pfester, I'm heading for London. Do you want to join me, or have you still work to do? My name; by the way, is Hawke, Dixon Hawke. Thanks for the tip, anyway."
"Well, blister my pants!" exclaimed E7X in amazement. "You got me guessing that time, Hawke. Do I want to get to London? Oh, boy, show\' me the way. I've been trying for a month to slip out of this perishing country. I've got the goods on me, and couldn't get 'em out. By the way, I'm Hugh Clavering, of M.I.5. I had the wire that Krantz was returning and might want help, hut, by heck, I didn't know it was you they were sending. You\'ve done some mighty slick work, partner."
"Thanks," smiled Hawke. "But they got wise to me. How did you find out?"
"Oh, we've got our men inside the Gestapo, you know," Clavering informed him. "They tipped me off to warn you. Himmler is suspicious of everybody. You were in Kiel when that big blow-up took place. They knew that was an inside job. Then the arsenal popped off here in Berlin. But it was Lembaum who really gave you away. He sneaked off to Himmler and swore you were an impostor."
"I thought so," nodded Hawke. "Well, never mind. I\'ve done all I came to do and then some. Now we have to get out. If the hunt is not up before morning I aim to dash over the Dutch border, but we shall have to get a uniform for you, I think."
The Flight Across Germany
But Hawke was doomed to disappointment in his hopes of escaping into Holland. The dawn was breaking as they streaked through a village, and the few peasants who were trudging wearily to the fields jumped for safety as the big, open car roared by. As they took the next hill they heard the noise of a high-powered motor cycle behind them, and presently a uniformed S.S. guard flashed by at a crazy speed, and was out of sight in a matter of seconds.
As they entered another village ten minutes later, Hawke saw the barricade that was being flung hastily across the road. Without hesitation his toe went down on the accelerator, and the powerful car responded like a living thing. A bullet smashed into the windscreen, and the glass splintered in a great spider\'s web right in front of Hawke's eyes, but he held on.
"Sit tight!" he yelled to Clavering, and charged full tilt at the barricade. Spars of wood, tree trunks, and tar barrels splintered and flew in all directions as the car smashed its way through, bumping and lurching to the safety of the open road beyond. Bullets spattered all around them, but their luck held, and they roared on.
But not for long. The radiator had been seriously damaged, and water was spurting from it in streams. Presently Hawke realised that they would have to abandon the car.
"Tough luck," grinned Clavering. "So what?"
"Maybe that S.S. man will come tootling along in search of us," suggested Hawke. "Anyway, we might be able to stop a car."
It so happened that they were near cross roads, and presently they observed a car travelling towards them from the side road at considerable speed. Hawke ran out into the middle of the road, and stood waving his arms. The driver recognised the uniform, and applied his brakes.
As there were no private cars on German roads, Hawke was not surprised to find that the driver was in army uniform, and his passenger a staff officer. The latter glared angrily, but recognising, as he supposed, the dreaded Himmler himself, he kept his mouth shut.
"Lay out the driver," whispered Hawke to Clavering as the car drew up.
Hawke stepped up to the staff officer and said abruptly --- "Step out. I want a word with you in private."
The officer, cursing silently to himself, followed Hawke to the rear of the car, and stood scowling down at the road while he waited.
"This is going to hurt you, I'm afraid," smiled Hawke, and hit him a terrific wallop under the jaw. He caught the limp body as it sagged.
"O.K.," shouted Clavering. "The driver's stone cold. This is where I get my uniform."
Five minutes later a German captain and corporal, minus tunic, caps, and trousers, were bound and gagged lying in the bottom of a very wet and muddy ditch. With Clavering driving, the staff car was turned into the main road, and off they went again, heading westward.
"I should just hate to be caught now," grinned Clavering. "They'll be thinking up new tortures for us, I guess."
But they had reckoned without the peasant who, working in a nearby field, had slipped to cover unnoticed by them. As soon as it had dawned upon the peasant that something queer was happening he had rushed back to his village and reported the occurence to the local policeman, who in due course had discovered the officer and corporal, and had been forced to listen to some pretty ripe abuse for his trouble. The result was that within half an hour the wires were buzzing and every road patrol in Germany was out to stop the fugitives.
It had its funny side, too. General von Bradinach, who happened to be driving that way, had his car stopped and he himself pushed into a small and very dirty cell for five hours until he could prove his identity. Staff Captain Baron Lemburgh was shot and severely wounded when he refused to stop, and Colonel Rimmler was severely kicked and cuffed by an enthusiastic policeman who thought he was on a winner and quick promotion.
However, all this didn't help Hawke and Clavering, and pretty soon they were up against it again. As they came over the brow of a hill they saw the narrow bridge over the river, and on the far side half a dozen heavy lorries were drawn up abreast, completely blocking the road.
Then from behind them came the roar of high-powered motor cycles, and a moment later the rattle of a machine-gun. Bullets smacked through the rear of the car, and then, just as they reached the bridge, one struck and burst a rear tyre. The car swerved like something gone mad, but Clavering held it to the road.
"Drive her over the side," shouted Hawke. "It's the only way."
"Right," grinned Clavering, and wrenched the wheel.
The car shot round in a violent, screaming skid, hit the parapet an almighty crash, and leaped into the air as it turned over. An S.S. motor cyclist, unable to brake in time and taken completely by surprise at the suicidal act, smashed into the rear wheels as they rose from the ground, and gave just the final weight necessary to hurl the car over the shattered parapet.
Both Hawke and Clavering jumped before the wreckage struck the water. Hawke went down, down into the muddy river until he thought his lungs would burst, but all the time he was swimming with all his might. When he came to the surface his head grazed the side of a lighter moving slowly under the bridge. Snatching a hasty breath, Hawke went down again. When he came up he was on the landward side of the lighter, hidden from view. A moment later another head broke surface, and Clavering grinned at him.
"Close call, partner," he whispered as soon as he had his breath back. "This looks like our passport, don't you think?"
"I hope so," said Hawke. "Keep close against the side."
Hanging on to a length of rope trailing from a fender, the two Britishers floated along with the lighter as it went slowly downstream, expecting any second to hear the shots which would proclaim that they had been seen. Someone on the bridge shouted down to the tug captain towing the lighter, but the captain bawled back that he hadn't seen the two men come up.
Fortunately there was a bend in the river a short distance from the bridge, and once around it they were safe for a while.
"Gee," whispered Clavering, "it's perishing cold. Look, there's a wood. What about it, partner?"
"I'm with you," agreed Hawke, and together they let the lighter drift away as they swam into the nearby bank. Crawling among the reeds, they wriggled their way across a small strip of open ground to the shelter of the wood. Out on the road a few hundred yards away they could see a patrol of cavalry, and farther along a couple of S.S. motor cyclists were standing.
"What a commotion just for us," grinned Clavering. "It seems such a shame to disappoint old Himmler, don't you think?"
"Wait until we are out of this," warned Hawke. "We're in a mess."
"I wish it was my regimental mess," retorted Clavering. "I'm starving."
Hawke was pretty hungry, too, but he knew that it would be hopeless to try anything until darkness set in. The alarm was up in earnest, and until the Gestapo had recovered their bodies from the river it would stay up.
In the wood they found some edible berries, and ate these, but they didn't do much to stave off the pangs of hunger. Hour after hour they crouched there under the cover of the trees and brambles, cold, wet, and hungry, but neither man was one to complain about a little discomfort.
Darkness was well in before they ventured to move from the shelter of the wood and crawl across the open field beyond to the hedge which flanked the road. Two hours later they had travelled perhaps five miles when they came to a railway line. Hawke's eyes lit up with new hope.
"This is the main line going south-west to the French Frontier," he declared. "And, by gad, here comes a goods train!"
"Oh, boy," exclaimed Clavering. "What luck! Let\'s hope it's slow enough to get aboard."
"No goods trains travel fast in Germany these days," said Hawke. "The permanent way won't stand the strain. The railways are rotten."
It seemed an age before the long, rumbling train came lurching and rattling down the track as they crouched in the ditch under the embankment. Van after van went by before Hawke gave the signal. Then they scrambled up the bank and waited for an open door. Presently they saw it and made flying leaps, both landing safely inside the van. Hawke sniffed as he picked himself up from the floor.
"Sugar beet," he announced. "Not much as food, but something."
Sugar beet tastes sweet on the first few bites, but after that it has an almost bitter taste. Hawke and Clavering didn't care what it tasted like, they ate them until they felt very much less hungry.
"Better get some sleep," advised Hawke. "I'll take first turn."
"O.K.," agreed Clavering, and curled up on a pile of sacks in a corner. In a few seconds he was fast asleep. The train rattled and jolted on, rumbling through pitch-dark stations and darker forest lands until it came to a shuddering halt at a small village. Voices sounded in the darkness and Hawke could see the dim outlines of a number of soldiers as they came along the track, one carrying a hurricane lantern. With a sharp nudge he roused the sleeping Clavering and clapped his hand over his mouth when he tried to speak.
"Quiet," he whispered. "Soldiers outside. Looks as if they are searching the train."
"I don't think they like us much," remarked Clavering in an equally subdued voice as he slipped his revolver from its holster.
The soldiers came abreast of the truck in which the two men were hiding. They stopped, and one called out --- "Here you are. Here's one open. This'll do."
Pressed flat against the inside wall of the van, Hawke and Clavering waited with baited breath. Then one of the soldiers flung in his rifle and equipment and scrambled in. He sniffed loudly and then exclaimed ---
"Phew, it's full of sugar beet." He was gathering up his gear again when the train gave a jolting movement and commenced to move. Someone outside shouted that he had found an empty van, and there was a general rush to jump in. Another soldier, however, scrambled into the sugar-beet van to join his pal.
"This'll suit us, Manfred," he declared. "I\'m used to the smell of beet, and in any case we have this to ourselves. It is lucky we were able to catch this train or we should be late in rejoining the regiment at Bruckenstadt. Even so, we shall have to walk from Vuth."
Hawke's fingers were gripping Clavering's wrist, silently tapping out a message in Morse code. It was obvious that they could not remain there long without being seen, and something had to be done about it. But the two Germans made it dead easy for them. After they had talked for a few minutes one declared his intention of snatching an hour's sleep, and his comrade agreed. Both lay down on the floor of the van in the only clear space by the door.
Hawke tapped out more code on Clavering's wrist. Then they acted. Those two soldiers of the Third Reich never knew what hit them. It was, as a matter of fact, two British fists which connected with dull clops under their jaws and sent them sound asleep. It was perfectly timed and executed with marked success.
"Let's have a little gamble between ourselves as to what uniforms we finish up in," suggested Clavering as he commenced to strip the soldier who was nearest his weight. "Personally, I'm all for a nice little nurse's outfit."
Hawke smiled at the other\'s unwavering cheerfulness and sturdy optimism. Clavering was well aware that their chances of coming through alive were pretty thin, but he chose to treat it all as a huge joke.
In a few minutes they had donned the German uniforms and were now disguised as privates in the thirty-third Regiment of Bavarian infantry. It would have been hopeless to have retained their previous uniforms, as without any doubt their descriptions had been circulated, and every military policeman in the country was on the lookout.
By four o'clock the train was nearing Vuth, which was a village in the Saar close up to the Siegfried Line. Hawke knew this part of the country fairly well, and he decided to take a chance. The two Germans, securely bound and gagged, were stuffed into a corner with heaps of sugar beet piled over them. They were not likely to be discovered for some hours at least.
"We'll hop off just as soon as the train is pulling up," said Hawke. "Then we'll strike across country. That\'s the only way now, Clavering."
"Suits me," grinned Clavering cheerfully.
Hawke felt the first touch of the brakes as the train rumbled past a row of cottages. He nudged Clavering and swung himself out of the van, to drop upon the track. Clavering joined him, and together they dodged across the rails and down the embankment on the other side. They found themselves in a lane at the back of a block of flats, and as they walked boldly round the corner they came into a large square, on the far side of which several army lorries were standing.
A military police sergeant suddenly appeared from a doorway and challenged them. As they halted and stood to attention he walked up. When he saw their regimental numbers and badges he glared and snarled ---"More of the infernal thirty-third. I've been getting you pig-dogs away all night. Go on, get a move on to those lorries or it'll be the worse for you."
Hawke and Clavering sprinted across the square just as one of the lorries commenced to move.
"Wait a minute," cried Hawke, and scrambled over the back, dragging Clavering after him. The lorry was fairly well packed with other troops, but a swift glance over their epaulets failed to reveal any other men of the thirty-third.
"So far so good," breathed Clavering as the lorry gained speed.
Soon they were bumping along a country road, when suddenly from overhead came the drone of planes, British bombers with their escort of lighters. As they roared overhead, Hawke nudged Clavering. Away to their right came the sound of anti-aircraft fire, as the raiders dived to attack their objective --- an aerodrome.
Still the lorry carried on, lurching crazily at breakneck speed. Then with a shrill whine and a roar a high explosive bomb ploughed up the road some fifty yards ahead. The air was filled with dust and falling shrapnel, and in a moment confusion reigned. By a miracle the lorry driver drew his machine to a halt, and the troops scrambled down, running for shelter in all directions.
Taking advantage of this, Hawke and Clavering, slipped through a hedge and ran like blazes for the aerodrome.
As they ran they could see a line of German bombers ready for instant use, and above them the German fighters attacking and re-attacking the British. Dense clouds of smoke from burning hangars helped the fugitives make their getaway.
"We'll take that machine," panted Hawke, and they sprinted for the nearest one. In a flash they were in, and Hawke was seated at the controls.
With a thunderous roar the engines leapt to life, and, through a haze of dust and smoke Hawke took off. Once in the air they circled round, and noting that the air battle was still in progress, Hawke set his course for England.
During their flight they encountered enemy patrols, but thanks to the "friendly" markings of their machine passed on without incident, and finally came in sight of the Channel.
"We shan't be long now," said Clavering jubilantly, as they made out a British destroyer far below, but scarcely were the words out of his mouth when there came the "Rat-tat-tat" of machine-guns.
Out of the sun dived a British Spitfire, his eight machine-guns spitting viciously, and, brilliant pilot though he was, Hawke didn't have a chance. He pushed the stick forward, sending his machine down in a dive, but the Spitfire, banking sharply, came down on his tail, forcing the German machine down, down, nearer the sea.
"We'll have to jump for it, Clavering," shouted Hawke above the noise of the engines. "See that your 'chute's O.K."
"You give the word," was Clavering's answer, and at a nod from Hawke opened the escape hatch and bailed out. In a flash Hawke had left the controls and followed suit.
As their parachutes opened out, their machine hurtled down and dived into the sea. The Spitfire flew over the destroyer, signalling that there were two Germans to be picked up.
Before long, Hawke and Clavering were aboard her and Hawke was able to explain their position to the captain. He was somewhat dubious at first, but a radio message to the Home Office soon put matters right.
Some hours later, Hawke stood by the captain's side as the destroyer came alongside at Portsmouth. A sturdy, youthful figure was waiting there to greet him, and within a very few minutes he was shaking hands with Tommy Burke and hearing all the news.
The nest of German spies had been cleaned up, work in which Tommy had played a large part.
"But, by Jove, guv'nor," he exclaimed, \" it's a mere fleabite to what you've done. You should hear what they're saying about you at M.I.5.!"
"Hear, hear," agreed Clavering who had just joined them. "They'll shout a lot more when I add my little bit. Good old Dixon Hawke!"