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Authors: Brian Garfield

Kolchak's Gold

BOOK: Kolchak's Gold
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Kolchak's Gold

Brian Garfield


Open Road Integrated Media ebook

For Shan, with love


The editors gratefully acknowledge the important assistance, in preparing this manuscript, of Shan Willson, James O'Shea Wade, and Justin B. Scott.

John H. Ives

The Ives Literary Agency, Inc.

748 Third Avenue

New York, N. Y. 10017 U.S.A.

May 17, 1973

Dear Jack,

is not the contracted book on the Sebastopol siege. I may never finish writing that one. Hopefully you will be able to persuade McKay to publish the enclosed as a substitute for it.

The postmark will reveal I'm in Vienna but I shall be in another part of the world by the time you receive this package.

It's very hard to try to explain, cold, how I came to this point. You'll understand when you read the manuscript. I've backed into a game in which I have no second chances—a game in which I need to make the right move every time while the opposition needs to make the right move only once. I've become the quarry of a ludicrous number of security agencies: they want what's in my head and they'll kill to get it.

It might be a torrid fiction loosely based on one of my early books—the Donovan/OSS chapters or the study of MI-6 operations. But those were histories and I was only their chronicler. Now I'm the protagonist, and I am running scared. Armchair expertise from researching those cloak-and-dagger histories has kept me alive up to now but it's the professionals who are pursuing me and I can't warrant how long my run of luck will last. Two weeks ago in Athens I repeated Heinrich's trick of 1944 virtually move-for-move, as verbatim as I could recall it; I must have written that one in 1964, the Aeneas book. It threw them off; it was three days before they scented my trail again.

Maybe I shouldn't have dug in my heels when I did. At times I want to believe I didn't realize the consequences when I made that decision—that series of decisions, really. If I can persuade myself of that, it takes the onus off me—it becomes
fault entirely, and I their innocent victim. It's rationalization, contrived to absolve myself; actually I knew what I was doing. I suppose I'm stubborn after all: you were right in your complaints. A man told me, a month or two ago, “If you do this you'll be an outsider forever, you know. You're consigning yourself to exile—a blind wandering to an unknown destination. You're not the type, Harry.” (I'm translating that from memory but it's close.)

Let me try to picture it for you; you won't recognize me as the narrator but that's the point of it. I'm a different man—a better one in some ways, but if I think about it too much I feel cold terror.

‘How I spent my morning'—class theme by Harris Bristow—try this one on your Harvard chums:

This morning for the fourth day I prowled the hotels searching for a man—not a specific man; any foreigner who resembled me at least superficially.

The tourist crush hasn't reached its summer maximum but the city is preparing for the annual June Festival of Wien and there's quite a bit of transient activity. Two film companies are shooting big-budget movies here and you find camera-clicking crowds gawking at stars. There's also a fair gang of up-country aristocrats from their mountain
here to catch the tail end of the operatic and symphonic season. Fortunately for my purposes there are also several business conventions and a conference on East-West trade.

So there's a great deal of traffic inside the hotels and I didn't feel too exposed. I hit one of the bigger hotels this morning and had a piece of luck.

A number of guests were checking in; porters carried luggage through the fake-marble colonades and I waited in a corner chair like some ludicrous Marx Brothers prowler lurking behind potted palms. My man was in, but not of, a crowd that emerged from the lift-cage.

He separated himself from the group and crossed to the desk. A self-important business type, English or possibly American: fashionably fluffy hair, a hothouse tan, sideburns down to his jaw hinges. He was wearing one of those nipped-in suits that they tailor without regard for a man's need of pocket space. He had a lightweight raincoat over his arm, the transparent kind that air travelers prefer; there was nothing in its pockets. I sized him up as a movie assistant producer or a youngish hotshot in some burgeoning glamour conglomerate. He didn't have my tweedy trappings and he was stouter than I am; his shoes made him a couple of inches taller than he was and he still wasn't quite my height. But Europeans aren't accustomed to translating feet and inches into visual centimeters so it didn't matter that much. His face was as square as mine and the hair about the same shade of brown. He had a mustache but that doesn't matter.

He had an arrogant carriage and he looked careless: the type who wouldn't be very cautious about his possessions because he could always buy a replacement if he lost anything.

I watched him drop his room key at the, desk. One of the clerks inserted the key in its pigeonhole. From my corner I couldn't read the number but I made a note of the location of the box—third row, sixth from left.

He went. I waited in the chair long enough to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything and decided to return for it. I felt exposed: every face seemed an enemy. I know they're close now with their noses to the ground—it's as if I can hear them breathing sometimes. (A paranoid melodrama: that's the flavor of it and I can't help that. Bear with me.)

I went out the side door, slipped into my topcoat and reentered the hotel by the main entrance. I walked straight to the desk. As I approached it I read the mailbox number.

I chose one of the clerks: young, chinless, harried. Not the same clerk who had taken my man's key. I put myself in front of him and in nondescript High German asked him for the key to 724 and looked impatient. He handed me the key with hardly a glance.

I was sweating. The lift-cage felt like a prison cell. I found his room and let myself in. It was the third hotel in which I'd performed a burglary in four days; I guess travelers are wary nowadays, they carry everything on them: but I counted on my man's carelessness and that suit of his, the one without many pockets.

Morality is the first casualty of expedient needs, isn't it. Today I needed something so I stole it. (‘Cynicism is another word for experience.'—Machiavelli, I think.)

I found the prize in the pocket of his Vuitton suitcase. His passport. Canadian, as it turned out. Also a vaccination certificate, an International Driver's License, a list of traveler's-check numbers with half of them crossed out; and an emergency fund, three hundred dollars cash.

The passport photo was close enough to get by a busy customs man in a crowd; I could always say I'd shaved off the mustache since the photo was taken. I took most of his money as well: he could afford it, I rationalized, and the Canadian consul would replace his passport quickly enough—he looked the type who'd get things moving for him. He'd have an adventure to relate to his drinking buddies back in Montreal; I had a ticket, to survival.

I know how and where I mean to disappear and where I mean to hide. But getting there's another thing: I'm likely to get stuck in the flypaper of my own mistakes; I'm still an amateur at this kind of madness.

I left his key at the desk and walked to the AmEx to cash the last of my own traveler's checks. They were in my own name and if I didn't pass them now I couldn't ever do so. I have to assume my pursuers will have traced me as far as Vienna very soon. I cashed the checks for Canadian dollars; maybe that, and the theft of the Canadian passport, will persuade them that I'm going to try to get into Canada and hide there. I doubt it but anything's worth trying.

My flight leaves early this afternoon; it's usually a pretty crowded plane as I recall. I'll stay in the middle of the crowd.

In forty minutes I've got to leave this flat, drop this and the
in the postal exchange and taxi to the airport. By that time the Canadian may have discovered the theft of his passport but there'll be time wasted while they question hotel maids before a bulletin goes out, and while the passport details filter through channels to the airport desks. By then I'll be in another country destroying the passport. I have a scheme for obtaining something more like a permanent valid passport in a new name but it'll take more time than I've got now.

Anyhow they may nail me before I get that far. But I'm giving them a run for it.

If they get me, or if they don't, I mean to have something to show. Partly it's sheer rage—the need for vengeance: I want some prominent noses to bleed, I want to blow the whole stinking mess ten miles in the air. And I keep rehearsing Burke's dictum that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The manuscript is my act of defiance. I've spent every available snatch of time on it. When I've had access to a typewriter I've used it; the rest of the time it's been pen and even pencil. As you can see, parts of the thing are scrawled on both sides of scraps of hotel stationery—a mapping of my peregrinations through the fleabags of Asia Minor and Europe.

It's a very rough draft. I've spent no time polishing or cutting. I'm going to ask you and the McKay editors to be my collaborators on this book: not merely polishing the enclosed wretched scrivenings, but doing many things I haven't been able to do. I can't carry around with me the contents of my files on the Kolchak and Sebastopol books, for example; they're still down in Lambertville.

I want you to go down there and burglarize my office. Rick knows you, he'll let you in; if he balks show him this letter. (Rick—let Jack Ives in.)

By now I'm sure those files have been rifled, possibly more than once, by the buffoon henchmen of my erstwhile buddy from Langley, and maybe by some of the others too. But I doubt they've stolen anything, that's not their style. They're all trained to take microphotos and leave things as they found them. And even if they've absconded with a few items they thought vital, they've had no reason to steal the things I want you to get.

You're going to have to put it together and make a coherent book out of it. In the enclosed
I've had time only to relate current events, together with the pages of transcription of my interviews with two or three people in Israel and elsewhere. For the lay reader to understand all this he's got to have background. Particularly he needs to know something of the events of the Kolchak years and the events of the Ukrainian disasters during Hitler's war. I don't know how you'll decide to fit it in: in separate chunks or filtered piece by piece as interpolations into the narrative. Either way it must be included in order for this book to make sense; and it
make sense—it must be heard.

In the second drawer of the steel cabinet in Lambertville, in the manila folder marked ‘Kolchak,' you'll find the rough draft of my manuscript on the history of the White Russian debacle. It's quite short; of course it's far from complete—I'd intended doing further research. But it does cover the ground and it contains quite a bit of history that's never been published anywhere. You'll want to take the appropriate portions of the Tippelskirch interviews (transcriptions enclosed with the file) and fit them into the Kolchak document where they belong in the chronology; perhaps those passages should be set off somehow to distinguish Tippelskirch's narrative from mine.

Unfortunately all my Crimean-based notes on the Ukrainian campaigns were lost before I could get them out of the Soviet Union. I've related as much of that information as I can recall; some of it is probably faulty in detail but the drift of it is accurate enough. The key documents I destroyed myself; the only record of those specifications is in my head. That's mainly why they're after me.

Both Tippelskirch brothers are beyond anybody's reach now. I'm the only living link to what they're after, and I hope to disappear and take my knowledge with me. Doubtless a good many governments are indulging in ecstasies of speculation over its whereabouts, but they're not going to find it without me.

It sounds shaggy-dog, I suppose. You'll have to set that right; this is to be my last book and if nothing else it must stir people's hearts. If there's indignation left anywhere in the world, we've got to seek it out and induce its outcry.

I'm leaving it to you and the McKay editors to select a title; to arrange the organization of chapters and whatnot; to rewrite and add explanatory notes wherever they seem needed; and to find a sensible concluding wrap-up if circumstances don't permit me to send you further material.

There's more, but I feel them breathing too close to me. The enclosed is enough for an understanding and I must at least be sure that you receive this much of it.

BOOK: Kolchak's Gold
6.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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