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Authors: J. Robert Janes


BOOK: Gypsy
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A St-Cyr and Kohler Mystery


Open Road Integrated Media Ebook












Gypsy: Brownish to white European moth which flits from place to place causing much damage. A serious pest.

Member of a scattered, nomadic people with a mind-set of its own.

Author's Note

is a work of fiction in which actual places and times are used but altered as appropriate. Occasionally the name of a real person appears for historical authenticity, though all are deceased and the story makes of them what it demands. I do not condone what happened during these times, I abhor it. But during the Occupation of France the everyday crimes of murder and arson continued to be committed, and I merely ask, by whom and how were they solved?

For Steele Curry whose inherent kindness
and boundless enthusiasm are much appreciated.


At last the dust began to settle, and all about the room things began to change colour.

Grey grew on the gold and crimson of an Aubusson carpet. Grey gathered on the Generalmajor's dressing-table. It was on the mirror that had split into shards just waiting to fall. It was on his jackboots that were set so neatly to one side, and on the silver and cobalt blue dish of Russian caviar, on the black of those exquisite little pearls not tasted in years, yes, years.

The spoon had been tossed aside to fling a fortune on to the floor. A fortune Herr Max of the Berlin Kriminalpolizei and the IKPK had injudiciously put a shabby brown brogue squarely and uncaringly over. Squish. All gone. Ah
, the stain, and dry cleaning was so expensive these days. Impossible for most.

Shattered flutes stood where once they had held champagne. The Taittinger 1934, a great year, was being soaked up by the settling dust, and the sight of its bottle on ice parched the throat and made one swallow.

As if to mock their panic, the door to the old black iron-studded safe suddenly relaxed and slowly turned inwards, allowing yet another of its firebricks to fall. An avalanche of rubble carelessly accompanied the brick, causing Hermann to blurt dumbfoundedly, ‘Has the fire alarm finally stopped?'

The bang had been deafening. Herr Max had only just stepped into the suite and now ruefully wiped the dust from his face. ‘So,
where is he?
Verdammt, dummköpfe
, is he still in the hotel?'

The Gypsy, the international safe-cracker. The Ritz Hotel, the place Vendôme – Paris and the Occupation; 18 January 1943 at precisely 10.59 p.m. Berlin Time. Monday evening, one hour and one minute before curfew.

‘The hotel?' demanded Herr Max.

‘He can't be,' breathed Louis in

What is this you are saying
?' shrieked the visiting
Detektiv Inspektor

‘The safe. It's empty, but as the Gypsy was not in the suite when it blew, how could he have emptied it then?'


Kohler could hear Louis sighing inwardly before his partner said resignedly, ‘The Gypsy must have emptied it earlier, Herr Max. His little pleasure was to blow it for our enjoyment. When the door knob was turned – it was yourself who did so, wasn't it? – the circuit was completed and an electrical current passed through the blasting cap. Those
bits of electrical wire, are they not? Those
the remains of at least two dry-cell batteries?'

‘Nitro, Louis. The fumes are giving me a headache.'

‘Me also.'

‘He has used beeswax to seal the seam between the door and the walls of the safe. He has poured the nitroglycerine in at the top and has used too much.'

‘Ah now, has he really, Herr Max?'

Kohler swore under his breath but said loudly, ‘Louis, our visitor is absolutely correct.'

‘That is exactly what I said.'

‘Don't be difficult.'

‘Then, Hermann, please inform all those who have come running to put their fire-extinguishers away and to calm themselves. Perhaps one of us – yourself, Herr Max – could summon the Generalmajor? Try any of the bars in the hotel or perhaps the main foyer? Who's to say, really, where a high-ranking officer of the Third Reich will meet a woman he has asked to share a little repast in his quarters?'

‘A woman?'

‘There are or, rather, there were two glasses. I am of course assuming
une affaire de coeur, n'est-ce pas? Une liaison dangereuse peut-être

‘Speak clearly. You know I can't understand you.'

. An affair of the heart, a dangerous liaison perhaps.'

Max Engelmann grunted disparagingly. ‘We will let the General-major return when he chooses. For now it is sufficient for us to examine the scene of the robbery. Please do not disturb a thing.'

‘Of course. There's nothing left to …'

Louis, shut up

St-Cyr grabbed his partner by an elbow and hustled Kohler into the bedroom to violently hiss in French, ‘
What would you have me do, idiot? Let that Büroklammer put his big feet on top of everything? Why is he here, Hermann? Who invited him and how, please, did he know “this” safe was the one to be robbed and by the Gypsy? Why not any other

‘Those are all good questions but they'll have to keep. For now, hold your temper. That's an order.'

You know I don't like taking orders from you

‘Then just back off. He's from Berlin, eh? That can mean many things. Besides, he's no paperclip and you damned well know it!'

‘Ah yes, Berlin. I had thought the IKPK
fini. Kaput
! Disbanded at the outset of the war.'

The International Police Commission had been based in Vienna, linking many of the major police services in Europe and around the world, but then the Anschluss had come, the takeover of Austria in 1938, and in '39, the war.

‘Quite obviously I should have remained far more alert to its continued existence,' confessed St-Cyr sourly.

‘Me too.'

Though much coveted by Reinhard Heydrich before his assassination by Czech Freedom Fighters in May of 1942, most had felt the IKPK had simply ceased to function, but why should it have? Pimps, prostitutes, pickpockets, con artists, forgers and safe-crackers could still migrate like gypsies. And of course the SS would not only want to keep track of them but to use them whenever necessary. Ah
, wondered St-Cyr, was that how Herr Max had obtained word of this job?

‘The IKPK's card-index files, Hermann. The SS will have them. Every international criminal, every safe-cracker …'

‘Come on,' said Kohler softly. ‘Hey, we'd better get back to him.'

‘Of course.'

The fight against common crime had always been difficult, only the more so now under the Nazis, for one never quite knew exactly what the SS and the Gestapo might be up to. A robbery such as this could well have been engineered by them for purposes quite unrelated even to the loot.

In the interlude Engelmann had relighted the butt of a small cigar and was savouring its rich blend of tobaccos, straight from Rotterdam and budgeted to the very end. ‘So,
meine Kameraden der Kriminalpolizei
, are we ready to work together?'

Louis threw him a dark look. Kohler simply grinned and said of his partner, ‘He's a Chief Inspector of the Sûreté Nationale who's used to handling things himself. Once you've got that under your belt, the rest is easy.'

‘Easy or not, just see that he behaves.'

Max Engelmann took them both in at a glance. These two
Schweine Bullen
from Gestapo Paris-Central and the Sûreté would soon find he'd been a policeman under the Kaiser and that his father had been a Swabian woodcutter, his mother a laundress, himself once a poacher who had betrayed others. Friends, yes, and fellow countrymen but no matter.

Kohler was giving the
en suite
washroom a good going over. St-Cyr was at the Generalmajor's dressing-table but was watching his
in the shattered mirror.
what do you see, my friend? grunted Engelmann inwardly. A giant like your partner, but one whose gut is far more prominent? Of course I need a shave and haircut but the scruffy, ten-day-old, grey-black beard is my usual – a skin condition, you wonder? Please don't trouble yourself. The poorly clipped beard and moustache simply enhance a natural fierceness that is deliberate, as is the shabby trench coat.
Und ja, mein lieber Franzose
, the spectacles are large and thinly gold-rimmed, the bifocals to correct the nearsightedness of grey-blue little eyes my mother's youngest half-sister shared with me.
such as yourself might wonder about, so I will not elaborate.

Mischief …

Miraculously a crystal vase had escaped the blast, though the hothouse roses were coated with dust. The Baccarat or whatever went over, sending its little flood across the inlaid fruitwood of the King Louis-Whatever table the Ritz had felt suitable.

Startled, the Frenchman stiffened, and just for good measure the mirror relaxed, letting its shards rain on to the dressing-table.

Perfect! sighed Engelmann, grinning inwardly. ‘We must question the Generalmajor, Herr St-Cyr, and then his guest. Perhaps if you were the first to do so, I could come in at the end for another spin of the wheel.'

‘That safe was first opened using its combination lock.'

‘Did the woman the Generalmajor was expecting to entertain give it to another?'

‘Or did he foolishly write the combination down somewhere as so many often do?'

‘Perhaps we should look.'

‘I am and I have.'

There was a desk, ornate and gilded, but the Frenchman had already been over it. Still, the challenge was out and one had best have a look.

‘You will find it on his memo pad beside the photo of his children,' said St-Cyr drolly. ‘“Erika's birthday, 23/5/35; Johann's is 18/1/40.”'

‘Did you try it?' asked Engelmann.

Was the discovery such a surprise? ‘Alas, our Gypsy friend also used beeswax around the mechanism and blew the dial off. Only a check with the manufacturer will settle the issue if our victim remains silent on such an oversight, but I leave that to you since the safe is from Mannheim, from the firm of Leinweber
Friesen. They went out of business in 1908.'

‘He should have used something newer.'

‘It's the shortages,' interjected Kohler passionately as he rejoined them. ‘Everyone has to make do.'

They set to work. They fussed, they probed. Did the General-major swim or dine in his absence? Did the woman? Just what the hell had been in the safe and how had the Gypsy gained entrance and known the victim would be absent?

Everything pointed to the woman, but why had someone let Engelmann know of the job in the first place so that they would arrive after the fact?

‘Why prepare that little surprise for us and yourself, Herr Max?' asked Louis.

‘Why, indeed,' grimaced the visitor distastefully.

‘Who told you about it, and when?' asked Kohler.

Engelmann drew in a tired breath, taking the time to size them up again before saying, ‘A little bird sang like a nightingale but unfortunately forgot to get the words straight. I received a telephone call at my hotel this evening from her conductor at 10.17, telling me the time and location of the robbery. He then contacted Srurmbannführer Boemelburg, who then notified yourselves.'

‘And this little bird?' asked Louis.

‘Will now have to answer for the mistake she has made in not letting us know sooner and in not warning us.'

Oh-oh. ‘Can't you put a name to her?' bleated Kohler.

‘That's just not possible.'

‘Then who the hell is her “conductor”?'

‘That I cannot tell you either.'

! ‘Perhaps she didn't know the Gypsy would leave this little surprise for us, perhaps he lied to her about the timing,' muttered Kohler, lost to it.

The visitor tossed his head as if struck. ‘Lighten her punishment – is this what you are suggesting?'

Ah damn. ‘Something like that, yes.'

Engelmann thumbed dust from his glasses. ‘Then please realize that when the cage is opened, the bird tastes freedom and rejoices. It is only understandable. But soon it realizes that if it fails to return, the hand that scatters grain will set snares and pluck its feathers.'

, then. Not a little bird at all. A prison informer who had been told what to do by her ‘conductor'.

BOOK: Gypsy
8.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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