Robert Craven

Get Lenin

Chapter 1

September 1938 — Munich

The early-hours sounds of the city drifted up through the hotel window — trams, cars and music. Spotlights fanned the still summer night, casting swooping shadows around the room.

Eva Molenaar pulled a robe about her, slipped from the bed and reached into her handbag to retrieve her cigarette case and lighter. Her head swam with vodka, but she still felt in control. Tapping the cigarette four times against the case before lighting up, she sat on the window sill and viewed Munich. Every building was draped with red swastikas, giving the street the look of a theatre proscenium.

She looked back at the Soviet Attache snoring in the bed, his big, shaven head resembling a bulb. The Russian had been an inexhaustible seam of information. Whatever the outcome of the conference, her homeland was finished.

Her next thoughts were of her family and her handler. The cigarette case was a gift from him. It was silver, slim and anonymous.

She dressed quietly. She had been careful as to where she had put her clothes. She switched the bathroom light on and the snoring from the room beyond increased as if in response. Her hair she could do nothing about, but she made an effort to control it. Splashing cold water onto her face and applying make-up, she stepped back to review herself, turned out the light and slipped out of the room.

In the corridor raucous singing and the sound of a phonograph boomed from the suite where the Italian delegation was staying. Street girls flitted from room to room, one or two giving her a sisterly look as she passed them. At the end of the corridor, a two-man SS security detail checked her papers. At 3 a.m. and with so many girls in constant motion, they paid little heed to her, waving her through.

Eva crossed the foyer. The night-staff were so bored they didn't even look up to see a pretty girl passing them by. Journalists, writers and Pathe news teams sat smoking and drinking. Some were shouting into lobby phones to editorial departments across the world's time zones. German songs bellowed from the residents' bar.

At the second check point she came under greater scrutiny, encountering more plain clothes Gestapo. Her papers, issued via the Dutch Embassy, were gallantly handed back with a suave smile. The Fraulein should not be travelling the city at night alone — one of them strode out of the foyer onto the street and hailed a passing taxi. Eva beamed thanks to them, flashing her thigh as she slipped into the car.

As the taxi made its way through the city, an almost New Year’s Eve feeling filled the night.

‘What do you think of Neville Chamberlain flying in tomorrow? The eyes of the world will be on Munich!’ announced the driver, cheerfully breaking the silence.

‘Let’s hope it’s the last conference,’ agreed Eva nonchalantly, making it a point to stare out of the window,

‘Good for business, though!’ He raised a smile but noted the pretty girl seemed lost in her thoughts. Undeterred, he kept the conversation going but ensured it was small talk. It killed the time.

Eva’s German was fluent but her accent still had traces of her native Polish. She replied occasionally to the driver who was extolling the joys of the city before she interrupted him asking him to drop her off. Despite his protests, she insisted she was suffering from car sickness and would rather walk the last block to clear her head. She tipped him and waved sweetly, insisting she was ok as he sped back to the hotel.

Dawn was breaking over the skyline. A young couple passed her hand-in-hand, wishing her a good morning, the young man dressed in crisp Wehrmacht uniform, the girl in a beautiful cocktail dress, revellers from one of the many embassy balls. They both couldn’t have been more than nineteen years old. As Eva stepped into the hotel where she was staying, a pair of Messerschmitt fighters tore across the dawn skyline, glinting like knives. Ascending smoothly to escort the in-coming diplomatic flights, they banked up into the vanilla coloured clouds and disappeared. The street became silent again. Eva collected her key, using the name De Witte.

In her room, Eva did one thing before retiring to bed. Opening her wardrobe, she took out her long blue raincoat. She had placed a half-full packet of cigarettes in the pocket. She took them out, intent on transferring them into the silver cigarette case. Sliding her thumbnail along the glued edge, she opened out the carton. She reached for the cigarette case. It was fitted on the inside with two strips of metal that swung out on a hinge. Each strip was fitted with buttons equidistant on both sides. Placing the carton's thin edge between the two strips of metal, she pressed them together, the points under the tab pushing out the cardboard. They were a combination of dots, visible to the eye only when angled into the light, but to her handler a simple code in fine-point Braille.

She paused before the next sequence. Should Germany invade the Soviet Union, Lenin's body would be a priority evacuation. The attache had snorted in derision through the shot glass as he spoke those words. She input the message. Using one of her hairpins, she fastened the carton together, placing three cigarettes back. She then stowed the cigarette packet back in her coat pocket.

Removing the Braille strips, she released the hinge holding the plates together. With the Gestapo being so diligent during the conference she couldn't afford to have these strips discovered. She put one plate along the hemline of her overcoat for its return to British Intelligence and, stepping out into the corridor, she went over to the open-grilled elevator and slipped the other plate through the gap between the lift door and the floor. It dropped from sight without a sound.

She lay on the bed, pulled the top cover around her, and replayed the banquet where she had met the Russian.

The first recollection was of the room filled with the smell of pomade, cigars and aftershave. She had committed to memory the faces and names around her to the medley the orchestra was playing — Oswald and Diana Mosley, Unity Mitford, Von Ribbentrop, Molotov, Daladier, and a tall American businessman named Donald T Kincaid. She had met dozens of his ilk in her time and this one was no different. He was about fifty, rich in a vulgar fashion and accompanied by a young platinum blonde. He regarded Eva and most of her Eastern European counterparts with barely disguised contempt. Still, he had leered at her through the thick lenses of his glasses whenever the blonde he was escorting was engaged elsewhere in conversation.

Eva spotted the Russian Attache in an ill-fitting uniform from the photograph memorised earlier. He was looking at her as she had hoped, his small eyes glinting with lust. Breaking from a group of publishers and freelance reporters, she struck up a conversation in Russian. In no time he had moved past clumsy flirting to doe-eyed adoration. Closing her eyes, she shuddered for what might happen during the remainder of the evening, but in fact nothing did as the drunken Russian passed out struggling to get his boots off.

Kincaid made her nervous, though. With his sort of money she would be easy to find should he decide to take up the chase. On several occasions he had jettisoned the blonde to make small talk, ignoring the Russian’s ire.

The dawn light glinting through the heavy curtains woke her. It was 8am. Eva showered quickly, slipped into a formal skirt and jacket, and took out her perfume. Spraying some into the air, she stepped into the fine mist and out again. She took the overcoat from the wardrobe and spilled the remainder of the perfume onto it. Draping it over her arm, she took the stairs down to the lobby where she singled out a waitress serving coffee to some English journalists looking lost amid their luggage. The waitress was thin and angular- faced, with her fair hair pulled back severely.

‘Pardon me, Fraulein, could you ensure this is cleaned? I must leave for Stuttgart this afternoon.’ Touching the waitress on the arm with a pre-arranged signal, she handed her the coat.

Eva smiled faux-shyly at the journalists, apologising for the interruption. The waitress smiled back, giving a slight nod in recognition of the signal and of the codeword ‘Stuttgart’. She told Eva that it would take an hour to clean and directed her to the breakfast room.

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