ON SPECIAL MISSIONS
SOME UNUSUAL SPYING
The "Messenger" at Nantes
IN SPITE of his youth---he was just seventeen---the boy who was the subject of the inquiry I am about to describe was a dangerous spy. He was what we in the profession call a "messenger." Traveling frequently between France and England, he would deliver the lists of questions made out by the German General Staff, and would collect from German resident agents in France and England their answers to previous questions.
There were swarms of these "messengers," but they were the hardest of all spies to catch---or almost the hardest---because they claimed to be citizens of a neutral country and for that reason were less carefully watched. Indeed, our orders were to cause neutrals no slightest inconvenience. Some of them took advantage of this.
In this particular case we should never have suspected this young sailor if, each time he returned to France from a trip, he had not spent large sums of money---sums out of all proportion to his wages. Sailing under a neutral flag and himself a citizen of a neutral country, young and apparently harmless, one must have been gifted with second sight to guess that he was a spy.
Unfortunately for him he liked to cut a large swathe. Thus at Nantes, for instance, he would stay at the best hotels and dine at the best restaurants. Nothing was too good for him, and no price was too high. . . .
It was easy to question the ship's officers. They knew his family and told us that they were in moderate circumstances and that, unless a rich relative about whom they had never heard had left him a fortune, there was no normal explanation of the fact that he always had such large sums of money at his disposal.
Two of our agents were sent to his native country to investigate him, and they confirmed the report of the ship's officers. We had the young sailor shadowed by two of our best detectives. They had instructions never to let him out of their sight. His mail and the people with whom he came into contact were likewise checked up with great care. He was living in "a glass house." We knew every single thing he did. And yet, although each trip he went on living ostentatiously as became a man of unlimited means, and despite the unrelenting watch maintained by us, we could discover nothing whatsoever about him that seemed suspicious.
We were almost ready to give it up in despair when, one fine evening, this young gentleman, gloriously drunk, went to the general delivery window at the Post Office and asked if there was anything for him. That was something new. His other letters, like those of all the men on his ship, had always been addressed to the ship. As soon as the ship got to Nantes the second mate would go straight to the Post Office and get all mail. He would then give each member of the crew his letters.
The clerk found a rather large letter in the young man's name and at once gave it to him. It was a large, brown-paper envelope that looked as if it contained some sort of documents. As he left the Post Office, the young sailor became stranded in front of a café in the Place Royale. There it was that our two detectives saw that he was trying to pull the stamps off the envelope even before he opened it. He was not, however, able to do it. His condition made any careful movement impossible.
Just then something happened. The café waiter, seeing that the boy was intoxicated, refused to serve him a drink. The young man made a fuss and finally got angry and wanted to fight the waiter. Two policemen who had witnessed the scene then came forward and arrested the young man. At a sign from one of our detectives they took him to our headquarters where, you may readily believe, he was well known. He was put in safe keeping until he should be in fit condition to answer questions.
In his pockets was found the letter that he had just got at the Post Office and a small fortune---about 17,000 francs---in French and foreign banknotes. The next day he told us in all seriousness that he had saved that money out of his wages. . . .
While he was asleep, we made a careful examination of his belongings and of the papers that were in his pocketbook. There was nothing suspicious about them; his identification papers were in perfect order. We had just about decided to send him back to his ship. As a final precaution we would ask him to open the letter he had received the evening before; we had kept it all night in a strong-box. Then the two detectives who had shadowed him told us that the young sailor, the moment he had received the letter, had tried to peel the stamps off it. It then occurred to us to make a minute inspection of the letter.
At first sight there was nothing unusual about it. The postmark showed that it had been mailed on the Avenue de la République, in Paris. The address was typewritten. There was no return address on the back. Outwardly no clue could be got from it. All of a sudden, while examining the postmark with a magnifying glass, we noticed a mark made by a pen; it came from under the stamp, but was hardly more than a millimeter or two in length. . . . With the utmost care the two stamps were soaked off in hot water; underneath was written a message. By that time it had become a really serious matter; it might be that this would prove the young man's guilt.
As the message was unfortunately in cipher, that is, there was a secret arrangement of the letters in the words, we could not translate it until the "key" was discovered. After applying all the codes we knew and trying the usual methods of deciphering, we had to give up the attempt. We fell back on the main office for deciphering documents---it was connected with the B. C. R. in Paris-and by following their instructions we cleared up the message at once.
As there was no longer any doubt of the young man's guilt, and as, moreover, there was no chance that he could know about the discovery we had just made, he was held on a charge of . . . flagrant drunkenness, until we should learn the results of the inquiry that had just been begun in Paris.
A "Cook" Who Knew His Trade
Two days later a policeman brought in a Scandinavian sailor, gloriously drunk. Just for the fun of it he had broken most of the windows in one of the many little grogshops that line the wharves.
Surprisingly enough, this Scandinavian sailor spoke excellent French. As it was impossible to ask the usual questions about his identity of a man in his condition, the order was given to take him to the "violon" on the Rue Héronnière. The sailor didn't seem to like that at all, and asked to speak to us in private. His request was immediately granted. As soon as we were alone he became entirely different. His drunkenness seemed to fade away and, showing us a card, he said in a calm and measured voice,
"This is what I really am. The Paris office has sent me on with further instructions and the letter that you confiscated yesterday---and, by the way, that's a very important letter. First of all, you must get me a job on the same ship with the man to whom this letter is addressed. As soon as that is done, set him free and pay no more attention to him. I'll tend to the rest of this business. As far as you personally are concerned, the chief sends you his congratulations. Now let's get out of here in a hurry. Put me in a cell right off, but make sure that it's the one that this chap I'm taking charge of is in. The boat that we'll be on doesn't leave Nantes until day-after-to-morrow at nine o'clock in the morning, so you have plenty of time to arrange things.
"One more thing. You can sign me up either as an able-bodied seaman or as a stoker. I know all about both of those professions. If necessary, I could even fill in as a chef. I can cook fairly well. Here is my passport. It's absolutely all right. Even if one of Admiral von Scheer's submarines or destroyers held us up I wouldn't get into trouble."
We checked up on what he said and finally, when every detail of our procedure had been determined, we locked up this "Scandinavian sailor."
That afternoon I had a talk with the ship's captain and mentioned the fact that it would be an act of kindness if he would sign on this Scandinavian sailor. I said that after all the trouble he had been in, if he was taken to court, it was likely that they would be hard on him.
Like the good fellow he was, the captain agreed to do so at once. The next day the two sailors---who had become the best of friends---were brought before us. We gave them both sharp warnings and then returned the young sailor his papers, his money, and the famous letter. The letter he put quickly in a coat pocket. We told him that this time we would let him off easily, but that if on the return voyage he made the slightest slip we would haul him into court. Then we turned to the other "sailor" and said,
"As for you, you're in a pretty bad hole. Not only were you drunk, but to make things worse you broke 247 francs' worth of window-panes in the grogshop. I'll give you your choice. Either you pay for the windows and get on this boat at once, or into court you go! Which do you choose?"
"I pay up and embark!"
Then we called the two detectives and asked them to take the sailors to their ship. We also told them that for this trip, at any rate, they would not be allowed on shore again. . . .
Ten days later the boat was back at Nantes. A glance at the crew-list showed me that both sailors were still aboard. In the morning the captain came to get his papers 0. K'd and to ask permission for some of his men to come ashore. When we saw the name of the supposed Scandinavian sailor we pretended to be astonished.
"What! Is this man still on board? Are you really satisfied with him?"
"More than satisfied! Never have we had such a fine cook. We used to live on the sloppiest kind of stew, while now our meals are cooked with the greatest care. That is why I urge you to allow our cook to go ashore, despite his previous record."
"Very well. He can come. But tell him to pay us a visit before he goes anywhere else. We must make sure that he knows just what he's getting into in case he decides to continue with those 'pranks' of his."
That very evening the new "ship's cook" came to the office. . . . When he had sent off an important dispatch to Paris, he let us in on what he had already done. It was extremely important.
"You probably remember," he told us, "that when a Zeppelin bombed the steamer Enjoy in mid-ocean, we started work on a new projectile, capable of destroying enemy dirigibles. As you know, that undertaking was surrounded by the greatest secrecy. We were about to put it into service, as the tests worked out well. No one yet knows how it was done, but the plans, the blue prints, the diagrams, in short, all the documents connected with the thing, were stolen."
"The devil you say! "
"It's true! And this is how things stand. During my inquiry---you see what luck can do when it starts mixing up in a thing---I was able to get hold of one part, the most important part, of the plans. Guess how I did it?"
"I haven't an idea in the world."
"Well, just by going over the correspondence of this freak with whom I embarked. All of his letters---or almost all of them---had messages hidden beneath the stamps . . . and we now know the code in which they are written. Under the stamps on one of the last letters he received was a sketch of one of the missing blue prints. And that's not all."
Taking out of his pocket a photograph of two postage stamps (which is reproduced below), he handed it to us.
One Means of Communication Frequently Used by German Spies. Reproduced from a photograph greatly reduced, of a new type of anti-Zeppelin shell carefully concealed under the stamp. (Enlarged a little more than four times original size.)
"That is a really important discovery! But what's the next step? Should we arrest the fellow?"
"Nonsense! Don't do anything! Thanks to him I am on the track of most of the 'messengers' who ply between France and England and Scandinavia. When the time comes we'll put over the knock-out---and, take it from me, a lot of water is going to come in and out of this port before the Boches can fix up another system like this one! "
"In that case we can't help you out?"
He smiled and then said, "Don't be too sure. You can help me out greatly."
When we begged him to tell us how, he added, "Well then, do me a great, an enormous favor. Get me a first-class cook-book!"
Astonished, we stared at him.
"You'll never know," he said, with an amused smile, "you'll never know the importance of a tasty dish neatly arranged, when it comes to counterespionage."
And he went on getting more and more hilarious. . . .
That is really the way we uncovered one of the most important German sources of information---it was almost entirely by luck, after all. Two months later all but one of the men involved were in the hands of the Allied police. I might add that Germany was never able to reorganize this particular service.
Preparing for the Invasion
At the beginning of the war one of the things that most mystified those living in the invaded districts was the remarkable manner in which the Germans had organized their commandeering staff.
The moment a town, village or hamlet was reached, the officer commanding the German troops sent for the mayor and formally, without any beating about the bush, handed him a list of the provisions he required. On it were the names and addresses of the prominent people in the district, followed by itemized lists of just what each one was to deliver to the detachment. The lists included various sorts of merchandise, food, and livestock. Astounded by the accuracy of the enemy's information, few of the mayors entered any complaint against these proceedings. For the most part they fell over themselves in their haste to carry out the orders so as to save their community the . . . unpleasantness that would have followed any refusal. However, a few of them quietly set out to solve this "mystery." But there was really nothing at all mysterious about it.
One of the branches---and by no means the least important one---of the German Secret Service devotes itself entirely to this commandeering service. It is common knowledge that the German is a heavy eater ; he absolutely cannot stand going without food. He is not one of those soldiers who can fight on an empty stomach. That is the reason the Germans think so much of the saying: An army should always live on the country where it is fighting! In other words, the population of an invaded territory should supply the German army with all possible provisions, to make life in that army more pleasant.
For that reason, before the war, the resident German agents in France had to fill out a special questionnaire. A copy of this, translated into English, is printed below for the reader's enlightenment. You see how exactly they used to (and still do) check up on everything connected with the process of commandeering, by use of these questionnaires. Everyone should know, because it is absolutely true, that the German agents had such a blank for every town in France.
for the use of German spies
Some of these agents were resident, others floating, but whatever their connection with the headquarters at the Thiergarten, each one of them had to fill out these questionnaires, and to add to it a report giving details of any local peculiarities. When the accuracy of this information had been established---for other agents, higher in rank, were sent out to check it up---it was sent to an office in Berlin devoted entirely to the classification of this sort of thing. Here the questionnaires were first grouped according to Departments, and then again they were divided into counties, townships, etc. By this time, the office could tell exactly what they could demand in even the tiniest hamlet. The "work" was thoroughly done. . . .
The agents, moreover, didn't let it go at that. Along with their exhaustive inventory of everything that could possibly be removed (their work was especially thorough in the Departments near the frontier), they made a similar and no less important investigation of the topography of the country. This allowed the German General Staff to draw up an exact map of France. As one should not make such a statement without being able to prove it immediately, I print a copy of this second questionnaire, also translated into English.
RIVERS AND STREAMS
(Describe each stream, starting
at the source and going downstream. On this blank, describe only
the places where, in the rainy season, it might be difficult for
troops to effect a crossing without the aid of a bridge
---both the size of the stream and the nature of the banks must be considered.)
As you see, the information sought by the German General Staff was, from a military standpoint, of prime importance. Granted their methods, they had to have this information to achieve their ends. This is the reason: When he starts on a campaign, every German officer is given a complete collection of the ordnance maps for the sector through which the unit to which he is attached will pass.
If these maps are to be of practical use to the officer, they have to be as complete as possible. He expects, in other words, to have absolutely all information that might be of military use, whether the army is on the advance or is preparing for battle.
Once again we must admit that the German agents did their work thoroughly, for the information they turned in to the General Staff left nothing to be desired. I am unable, from lack of space, to reproduce copies of all the questionnaires---they are legion---which the agents had to fill out. But the reader may rest assured that they covered everything. However, these agents were not forced to stick to the questionnaires. If for some reason it seemed preferable, they could fall back on a written report or a rough map.
A set of these questionnaires was found on a spy who was captured behind our lines. They were on the thinnest paper obtainable. He had rolled them up and hidden them under the tobacco in his pipe. This was a favorite place for concealing papers by the agents of the Thiergarten as it had the added advantage that, if they thought themselves in danger, they had only to light their pipes to destroy all evidence of their crime. We had been warned about that trick, and usually we succeeded in stopping them in time. Eventually the Boches realized that we were on to their little pipe stunt, so they promptly invented another that we had a great deal of trouble discovering.
When he had information of some sort to get back to Germany---a report, map, sketch, or something of that sort---the spy, using a special ink, would copy this information out on a piece of mica thinner than a cigarette paper. He would then glue this on to the lenses of his glasses. I don't know just which one of them invented the "glasses trick," but whoever he was, he was a genius. No one will ever know how much damage he did!
That was not bad, but the Boches eventually went it one better. By means of special equipment, they were able to glue on to their finger-nails and toe-nails photographic copies of important documents. Then, having covered both with a polish such as is used by manicures, they were quite willing to submit to any search. . . . But even that, although I'll admit it was clever, wasn't good for long. The agents of the Reich kept falling into our hands just as they had before. Then it was that the Boches thought up two more stunts to make sure that their correspondence should not fall into our hands. The least one can say about them is that they were inspired.
A Spy at Lorient
What could seem less suspicious than the bit of music reproduced on the next page. Its title alone, "Myosotis d'Alsace," is worthy of a poem.
You and I would pass a store window displaying that catchy little piece a thousand times without thinking any more about it than we do about all the other songs of that sort. That would have been a mistake, however, for that little piece of paper had more than music on it. It contained instructions from the main espionage office in Berne to the German agents in France. And that, you see., is really dreadful! I will explain why.
Music for the song entitled "Myosotis d'Alsace."
When the Germans started to use this new "trick" we had organized our postal censorship so well that no letter coming from or going to any German Secret Service Office could reach its destination without having been deciphered and read by us on the way. As a result, despite many vain efforts to reestablish it., the espionage system built up at such great expense by Germany had been put completely out of commission. This was a great disaster for the German General Staff. As I think I have proven, they had come to consider this information service absolutely essential. They had to do something.
Then one of the most important of the German spies in England, Franz Highmann (?) by name., proposed the "sheet of music trick" to his chiefs. He seems to have invented it himself. This "trick" was to identify each letter of the alphabet with some musical note. As the agents who send the document and those who receive it are the only ones to possess the key, it is meaningless to the uninitiated. The secrecy of this method was still greater because it was perfectly simple to change the key each week. The simplicity of the scheme is almost childish. But no one could have any conception of the trouble we had discovering it.
When the postal censors saw that suspicious letters no longer came through the mails they passed the information on to the Counter-Espionage headquarters. The latter then got to work and discovered---I don't know how they did it---that information was still getting over the border in some way as yet unknown to us. It was up to us to discover, and discover in a hurry, just what this new means of communication was.
Every branch of the service was put on its guard, and our watch over border towns and seaports, vigorous as it had been, became pitiless. Not only were incoming ships searched---and how we searched them!---from the bottom of the hold to the top of the masts, but we even forbade the crews to come ashore. And yet nowhere at all could we find anything suspicious. The Paris office, however, informed us that the leak continued! We were all in despair! In vain did we double the patrols on the seacoasts where submarines might land agents; in vain did we increase our vigilant watch over all suspicious characters. We achieved no important results.
In our zone we were about to give up the job in despair when, one fine day, one of the agents who was shadowing a suspicious-looking man who lived in Lorient communicated to us an extraordinary discovery that he had made. This suspect was a bug on music, and each week a foreign musical publisher would send him a number of new pieces. Among them each week without fail was a song entitled "Myosotis d'Alsace." We set up a strict watch over him and, in three weeks, we came to the conclusion that if the title was always the same, the music, on the contrary, was different each week. Thus, you see, we were on the right track.
A report was drawn up at once and sent to the proper authority. Two days later a "decipherer" arrived. He was an expert in reading secret messages and was, moreover, a good musician. He soon cleared the matter up. It was by means of this sheet of music that the German Secret Service Office in Berne communicated with certain picked agents in France. It goes without saying that at the same time we discovered how the German agents in France sent their information to the Berne Office. We also learned about a few new agents whom we hadn't known of before. It was all too simple. As the "Myosotis d'Alsace" had no public sale, anyone having a copy of it must necessarily belong to the German Secret Service.
The key by means of which the "Myosotis d'Alsace" was deciphered.
The key, as I said before, had an infinite number of possible combinations, but, as its basic principle was always the same, nothing was easier than to decode it. I assure you that for a while the German General Staff was receiving all kinds of "information"! Once again our estimable officers in the 2nd Bureau, aided by the "stars" lent them by the office of the Sûreté Générale, had played an abominable trick on the Boches and, by upsetting their plans, had saved thousands of French lives. . . .
Let us now pass to the second trick that the Boches thought up. Surprising as you will doubtless think it, its authenticity cannot be questioned.
A Beautiful Woman Buys Eggs
"While it is all right to have a fondness for eggs, it is not necessary to send hundreds of them to a foreign country when you are not in the poultry business."
Such were my thoughts one fine morning as I read a report from one of our agents at Lausanne, in which he stated that large quantities of eggs were being shipped by a man in Switzerland, of whom we were suspicious, to a certain woman who was living in France. The lady in question, a charming woman, received many callers and kept open house. She was very generous and had many "godchildren" at the front, to whom she was constantly sending packages.
When they were on leave, her hospitality to them was decidedly un-Scotch.
Luckily for us, all of her "godsons" were not of the same breed. If they had been, I am free to admit that we should never have got to the bottom of the business. The world will never know how many sleepless nights and how much worry some of these "godsons" cost various directors and agents in the Secret Service.
It happened at times that a "godmother," without thinking of doing harm, would in public ask her "godson" about military affairs. And at times these conversations did not fall on deaf ears. . . . However that may be, although we kept an eye on this generous lady because she had so often indulged in conversations on delicate matters, there was really nothing about her to lead us to think that she was given to spying. We knew all about what she did; there was nothing suspicious about her mail; her telephone conversations left nothing to be desired. . . . Why the deuce had she such a craving for eggs?
As we had no right to overlook even the tiniest clue, I ordered that the eggs addressed to her should be sent to my office before they were delivered. At first sight there was nothing suspicious about them. But in such matters one has to go to the bottom of things so I sent the eggs to a laboratory where, surrounded by the greatest secrecy, our chemists were doing their bit for the welfare of the nation. The chemists got to work, and the next day I received the following report: "A chemical examination of the eggs which were sent to the laboratory for study shows that on the shells of some of them are messages written in invisible ink. The ink is probably made out of tithymalus (a variety of euphorbia). The messages have to do with military operations that are now under way, but we have not yet been I able to make complete translations of them."
A perfectly ordinary-looking egg.
The same egg after having been treated to a chemical bath. Out of a hundred eggs examined,
only two or three had messages on them.
The report added: "To bring out the secret writing it is merely necessary to dip the eggs in a solution of gallic acid."
Although the guilt of this charming lady was no longer in question, and although we had the text of the questions that had been sent her on the eggs, before we could do anything we had to find out how she sent her answers to the German General Staff. We put two of our best agents on the case. They worked it out, but not without difficulty.
One fine day when we examined the eggs we found the following message:
Let us know at once whether the 101st Division is still at Chalons.
How many airplanes are there at Buc?
Where is the 0. C. Dubail?
Here were three explicit questions. They required exact answers. From the day she received those questions, she was never out of our sight. She was even watched while she slept. We followed her every movement and she was in the act of putting her reply into the "mail box"---it was a bureau, such as is manufactured at Saint-Ouen---when we arrested her.
She was so conservatively dressed that she looked more like a housewife than the beautiful courtesan she really was. Her answer was written on---a curling-iron! Eaten into the iron by acid and later covered with a thin covering of rust, artificially applied, the answer was as definite as could be.
The 101st Division is at Nancy;
There are 70 airplanes at Buc;
Dubail is at Etain.
Notice that it took this spy only four days to get these three bits of information. She had proved herself really dangerous. We punished her as she deserved . . . and her accomplice likewise.
The curling iron of Madame X.
The matter, moreover, did not stop at that. From various sources we found that other eggs were being smuggled across the border from that same place in Switzerland. Guards were stationed at various places along the border and, because of the understanding that existed between the French and the Swiss customs officials, the traffic in these "literary" eggs soon stopped.
Thanks to the alertness of our Secret Service agents, the Germans had been foiled once again.
Moreover, this little business cost them one of their very best sources of information.
WHY THE GERMANS DECIDED TO SINK
SO AS TO LEAVE NO TRACE OF THEM
IN THE vigilant watch which we kept over the borders in our effort to track down spies, we got to know not merely the leaders of the German Secret Service, but most of the individual agents as well. As soon as the latter were shifted they were pointed out to us and, however well they might be disguised, if they had the nerve to try to cross the border, they were at once "picked up." Thus, by constantly repeated efforts, we were able practically to put out of business this elaborate system which the Germans had worked out in our country and which they directed from their headquarters in Brussels, Berne, and Charleville.
Especially were the Swiss and Spanish borders so carefully guarded that it was extremely difficult, if not absolutely impossible, for the German General Staff to introduce men of German descent into France. That was the great weakness in the Secret Service of the Reich. They felt fully confident only of agents of German descent and so far they had made very little use of agents of other nationalities.
For lack of anything better, they now had to call on these agents, most of whom came either from Scandinavia, Switzerland, or Spain. Most of these spies had been resident agents in their own countries who had hitherto done little besides occasionally sending the German General Staff second- or third-class information. They had neither the brains nor the technical knowledge of their German colleagues. This attempt, consequently, had most deplorable results . . . for the Reich.
Moreover, most of these agents had never expected to have to "work" in France or England and had thrown off their masks at the beginning of the war, declaring their German sympathies quite openly. They had thus attracted the attention of our own agents. Consequently, when the Boches tried to work them into France, whether they happened to be Spanish or Dutch, Swiss or Scandinavian, there was . . . well, a falling-off in their numbers. . . .
Then the German General Staff, driven to distraction by the losses suffered in their information service, had the inspired but unscrupulous idea of introducing real German spies into this country by disguising them as neutrals.
At this point I must refresh your memory. You doubtless remember the wave of horror that swept over the world when it was learned that the Germans had ordered the submarine commanders to sink Allied or neutral vessels without warning, so that there would be no trace of them left? Previously, before sinking a ship, they had allowed the crew to save their lives by getting into life-boats. Henceforth there was to be no more of this. The crew would share the fate of the boat and sink with it.
At first we supposed this to be an attempt to intimidate the neutrals. It would stand to reason when they found that neither boat nor crew returned and when further investigation showed that they had both disappeared without leaving any trace, they would think twice before weighing anchor for an Allied port. Soon afterward we found out---as a result of some shrewd piecing together of evidence by members of the Counter-Espionage System in "border ports," and especially at Nantes and Saint-Nazaire---that agents of German descent had been captured as they were leaving neutral vessels. Their passports were in perfect order, but they had formerly belonged to neutral sailors who had been reported lost at sea.
Although we knew that the Germans would commit any crime to procure really important information, we hesitated at first to believe them capable of such extreme ferocity. In the end we were forced to believe the evidence. From Havre, Marseilles, La Rochelle, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, came a flood of dispatches reporting the arrest of new batches of German spies armed with passports that did not belong to them. Likewise, there were occasional reports of outrages committed in our country that revealed the presence of German spies.
We set to work at once; the agents along the seacoast were warned and we called in the assistance of agents from the interior to help them out. We opened a sweeping inquiry. Both in France and in other countries we tried to get in touch with neutral sailors who had been on ships that had been torpedoed and to find out how the Germans went about it. Not a single one could be found! Boats and crews continued mysteriously to disappear.
That was where we stood when, one fine day, we received the following circular letter.
No. 90, 780 A. B. .......................................................Paris, 191---
To whom it may concern:
I hereby report that a man who gave his name as U-----K-----, born at U-----(Finland), July 27, 1895, has sworn that on October 21, 191---, the Norwegian S. S. H-----K------, on which he was a sailor, was stopped by a German submarine. The submarine commander seized the passports and identification papers of all members of the crew.
Description of U-----K-----: 5 ft. 5 in. tall, twenty-two years old, chestnut-colored hair, ordinary forehead, bright gray eyes, straight nose, round chin, medium. mouth. Distinguishing marks: none.
This proved definitely that the Germans were deliberately sinking ships with the crews aboard not to get hold of the ship's papers---they had only to ask for those---but because they wanted the papers of members of the crew.
We reinforced our guard and within two months the danger had been entirely averted. Once again a shameful subterfuge of the Germans had gained them little.
As far as concerns the case of U-----K------, mentioned in the document printed above, I can give you the whole story.
Once when our agents were on a mine-sweeper about ten miles off Cape Saint-Gildas, toward six in the afternoon, they hailed a Norwegian steamer that was making for Bordeaux. Having challenged it in the usual way, they went aboard to check up on their papers. When they went over the crew-list they noticed the name of a stoker who had U----K-----'s papers. As they had his photograph with them it was easy enough to see that this fellow had nothing in common with the real U-----. He was at once invited to change over to the other boat and that very evening was put in safe-keeping at Nantes. He was later questioned and, despite his denial, it was established that his name was H-----S-----, that he came from Spandau, and that not long before he had been second in command of a torpedo tube on a submarine that had made its headquarters at Ostend.
As, in such cases, we exacted an eye for an eye, H-----S-----in turn disappeared without leaving any trace. . . .
Some Unpleasant Discoveries---for von Tirpitz
If anyone wants added proof of the meticulous care with which Germany prepared for the war, he has only to study the manner in which the submarine bases were organized. Not only were these bases in readiness long before the opening of hostilities, but they were supplied in full expectation of a long war. It is well known that when Germany entered the war she counted on England's neutrality and on substantial assistance from Italy.
Her plan for the naval campaign was, if I may say so, childishly simple. First of all she would destroy our northern fleet which was notoriously inferior to hers. Then, supported by the Italian and Austrian fleets, her whole fleet would proceed to the Mediterranean where the rest of the French fleet, under the command of Admiral Boué de Lapeyère, would be wiped out. Unfortunately for her, England came at once to our aid, and Italy, from the very first, declared her neutrality.
In an instant the whole German scheme had fallen flat. But that is a matter of history. What is not so generally known is how Germany, having lost command of the seas, went to work to secure supremacy under water.
Another little-known fact is that, in addition to her important bases at Sebenico (in Dalmatia), Cattaro, and Salamis, and in addition to the official base at Pola, she had other bases in all countries no less safe than these and much more secret. . . .
At the risk of vexing Admiral von Tirpitz and his assistant, Herr von Kroon, the German naval attaché at Madrid, I will confess that from the very beginning we knew all about the base at Tres-Forcas (Three Forks) in Morocco, and that there was nothing secret, as far as we were concerned, about the mission of the German freighter Fangsturm, whose ports of call were Palma and Port Mahon.
I am well aware that such an admission will be very unpleasant for them, all the more so because we knew the name of their Spanish agent, and how he did his work. We made it impossible for him to do us any harm in the war that was then going on in the Riff. What, I wonder, would they think if they knew that there was nothing---absolutely nothing, you understand---that they did which we didn't know all about!
Do they really think, for instance, that we didn't know just how they transferred provisions, munitions and fuel at sea? And do they really imagine that we are gullible enough to believe that those tank ships loaded down with gasoline that plied between Messina, the Dodecanese Islands, and the Dardanelles really belonged under neutral flags? They certainly thought us much more gullible than we are! And I call as witnesses all the fellows who kept watch along the border, all who bobbed about in our "old tubs," as well as those who cruised on the "minesweepers": I ask them, "When and where did the Boches, with their false whiskers and their perfectly forged papers, ever get by us without our recognizing them? "
Of course I know that all the enemy's agents weren't born in Germany! They came from all parts of the globe. But what "blue collar" couldn't tell whether a man was a friend or an enemy just by giving him the once-over?
And maybe we did not send a few of those colliers to the bottom!
One fine day when we were returning from Pola---perhaps I'll tell you later what we were doing there---the boat that was taking us to our headquarters in Brindisi, ran across a couple of schooners equipped with unusually powerful gasoline engines. They hove-to at our summons and we asked the two captains to come aboard and show us their papers. They obeyed instantly, and I must admit that I have never seen papers more correct in all respects than those presented by these two debonair "captains."
"What is your cargo?" asked our captain.
"Chio wine, dried raisins, flour, and fruit."
"Neither oil nor gasoline?"
"Yes, but just enough to get us from Pirée to Bari."
"Good! We'll verify that."
"As you wish!"
We went aboard their ships and, although the visit we paid them was especially thorough---the faces and the general air of these gentlemen were not likely to inspire confidence in us---we could discover nothing that looked suspicious. The cargo checked up with the bills of lading. The tanks contained no more oil than they should have. And although we went over the boats from the hold to the top of the mast, we could complain of nothing. Yet the officers and men on board did not take kindly to our presence. Something was up---we had no illusions about that. But what was it?
We gave up in despair and, letting the two schooners go, headed for Brindisi. But our captain had not played his last card. As soon as the schooners were out of sight, we dropped anchor and awaited the coming of night.
When it was dark we returned, all lights covered, to the place where we had seen the schooners. We came upon them just as they were hauling up great casks of gasoline which they had been dragging in nets under water. As there was no longer any doubt about the business in which they were engaged, we escorted them to Brindisi, where the Italian authorities have a special procedure for dealing with such ships and their crews.
Two destroyers were sent out to find the submarine that these schooners were refueling. They came upon it just as it was rising. Caught by their fire, it was literally blown to pieces before it sank.
Am I right in saying that it is extremely difficult to get the better of our Secret Service agents?
A TRIP TO CATTARO, THE AUSTRO-GERMAN SUBMARINE BASE
THAT was a melancholy Christmas Eve. The day before, an Italian "silure" (submarine) had landed us (two Montenegrin agents and myself) near Cattaro, where we knew that there was an important German submarine base. When we left Taranto it had been arranged that the "silure" was to return for us forty-eight hours later, as our trip was to be a quick dash rather than a long-drawn-out investigation.
The town lay in the shadow of the imposing hulk of Mount Lovcen. We pushed on through the rain, down deserted streets to the place where we had arranged to meet the Montenegrin resident agent. He was the proprietor of an ill-famed joint where all the cutthroats, pirates, and spies in the district were accustomed to hang out.
Our mission was particularly dangerous because this man was not reliable. Some of the important officials in the service were convinced that he was a "double agent." Once, at least, it had been definitely proved that he had given information to the enemy. Since then he seemed to have turned over a new leaf, and recently he had given us several useful tips and had helped us to make a couple of successful hauls.
A few days before be had let us know that at various times sailors dressed in civilian clothes, but with a military bearing, had come at night to take drinks at his place. Especially significant was the fact that they spoke German. The leader had said to him, "We are coming back here Christmas Eve. As we don't know anyone around here"---which was quite untrue "will you get us the things we shall need for our celebration on board ship? "
The proprietor agreed to do so, and the sailor gave him a long list of the things he wanted and a considerable sum of money in Austrian crowns.
When he told us about this, the proprietor had added, "As far as I know, at least, there isn't a German or an Austrian boat anywhere around here. I think they must be members of the crew of a German submarine who want to spend Christmas Eve on shore." We had come to Cattaro to verify this. For some time a submarine had been known to be in this district. Despite all our traps, we had not been able to dispose of it. It had been credited with the responsibility for the disappearance of a number of ships, but as it did not replenish its supplies at any known base, it was evidently in touch with some new base, either at Cattaro, or in the immediate vicinity.
When this job was turned over to me, I at once asked myself, "As long as the submarine is in touch with a source of supplies, why do these men want to get food from the inn-keeper?"
I found myself faced by a dilemma.
"Either," I thought, "they are temporarily unable to get such things from their usual source, or else the inn-keeper himself has been keeping them supplied."
Things were going from bad to worse. There was nothing to prove that we were not walking straight into an ambush. But one cannot hesitate at such a time, so, come what might, I had to have a talk with the fellow.
He was waiting for us where we had agreed to meet him. Out of the flood of remarks with which he overwhelmed his compatriots, it developed that the mysterious sailors had come for their provisions the night before. His place had been full of people when they left, and he had not been able to follow them.
"Do you even know in what direction they started out? Did they go inland, or toward the coast?"
"I haven't any idea. I couldn't get away from the bar when they left. But it doesn't make any difference because they are coming back!"
"What do you mean? To-day?"
"In a few minutes! One of them came around this morning and told me to have a demijohn of brandy and five pounds of sugar ready at eleven."
I looked at my watch. It was ten o'clock.
"Good," I exclaimed! "Thanks f or telling us. We'll take care of everything else."
We gave the inn-keeper half of the reward that he had been promised ; he would not receive the rest until we had verified his information. Then we said good-bye and plunged into the night. As often happens in that part of the world, the rain stopped quite suddenly and a strong north wind dispersed the clouds that had been hanging over the town.
This dive was not in a prepossessing neighborhood. The place had an ominous look; it was on the ground floor of a dilapidated building that seemed to have remained standing only by a miracle. The houses near it were no more substantial. The street was getting more lively. A number of men were coming out of the houses and saloons and were doubtless headed for the midnight mass. Shivering in our wet clothes, we stood in a dark doorway and kept our eyes glued on the entrance to the dive while we awaited the approach of the proprietor's suspicious "customers."
Suddenly four men appeared out of a dangerous-looking alleyway. Three of them were plainly drunk. The fourth, however, was quite sober. He passed close to us and we could hear him humming a tune under his breath. All at once his companions stood still in the middle of the street and he walked toward the inn, singing the famous air from Faust that begins,
Wilkommen, süsser Dämmerschein,
Der du dies Heiligtum durchwebst;
Ergreif mein Herz, du süsse Liebespein,
Die du vom Tau der Hoffnung schmachtend bebst.
That was evidently a signal. We soon heard someone inside singing the German student song, "Grad aus dem Wirtshaus."
Then there was a German inside the dive! And an educated one at that, for an ordinary person would not have known that song. The other man must be an officer, or at least a non-commissioned officer!
We were almost positive that he had not gone in while we had been watching, so he must have been there when we arrived.
If that was so, why hadn't the proprietor told us about him?
I was getting more and more suspicious of this fellow! Leaning over toward my companions, I whispered my fears to them, and warned them to be ready for anything.
We waited there, Brownings in hand!
Soon the Boches came out, but now there were five of them, instead of four. Two of them carried the demijohn between them; two more carried rather good-sized packages. The fifth, a cigar in his mouth and his hands pushed down into his pockets, walked on ahead, reconnoitering. He kept looking all around him and poking into dark corners.
Although he passed close enough to us so that I could have reached out and touched him, we were safely hidden.
We let them get a slight start, and then we followed. . . .
What Happened to the "U-13"
Strangely enough, when we got out of the village and on the open road that winds along by the seacoast, the Boches seemed to lose their drunkenness. With heavy, even steps their sailors' boots pounded over the ground. They seemed to be heading for one of the thousand little bays that one finds along this wild and desolate coast.
We changed our shoes for sandals with matweed soles so that we might not betray our presence, and followed them at a distance. We took advantage of any unevenness of the ground to keep out of sight. Sometimes we were forced to worm our way along on our stomachs. Occasionally the German who looked like an officer would turn around and look to see whether they were being followed. But, due to the darkness and to the precautions which we had taken, our presence was not noticed. This kept up for about five kilometers.
Suddenly the men disappeared around the shoulder of a hill, and the stillness was broken by a guttural "Werda! " which warned us that we were nearing our destination. The men had been stopped by their sentinels.
Then they were well guarded! It was up to us to proceed with the greatest care if we were to avoid being discovered.
But who were these people? Were they Germans or Austrians? What kind of boat were they on? Was it a submarine, a scout-ship, or a destroyer? It wasn't going to take us long to find out.
Walking in single file about thirty yards apart---if one of us was captured or killed, there was no reason why the others should be forced to abandon the investigation---we went slowly forward, keeping out of sight as best we could. Much of the time we were flat on the ground.
All at once, on top of a nearby rock, we saw a man facing inland. A little further along, on another rock, was another. Evidently they were sentinels.
The three of us got together to hold a council. As it was useless for all three of us to risk being captured, I sent my companions back, and crept forward alone.
I was lucky enough to strike upon a well-worn path that had probably been used by smugglers. It was especially useful because it circled around the place where the enemy were established. It was perfectly protected from sight, and did not pass near any of the sentries. I followed it for a way until I got to the top of a huge rock, from which I found myself looking down on a strange sight.
In the middle of the bay was a submarine, on the deck of which an officer and a sentinel were walking back and forth. On the beach a distinctly German-looking tent was pitched, while nearby, around a fire, a number of German sailors were carousing under the watchful eyes of their officers.
I couldn't see the number on the submarine, but one glance at that tent told me to what country it belonged. Having got my bearings so that I could return, and marking the exact spot on the map, I continued my search.
Soon---it was then about two in the morning---the officer on the submarine called out an order which I could not quite understand. At once the sailors on shore put out the fire and picked up the remains of the feast. Two non-commissioned officers then rowed to the submarine while the rest went up the coast a little and rolled aside a number of large boulders which hid the entrance to a cave.
It was to this cave that they came to replenish their supplies. They took out a number of barrels of gasoline and several cans of oil, some provisions, and . . . two torpedoes. They had some difficulty getting all these things on board, but when they had finished, the submarine started out, and, as soon as it was clear of the reefs, it submerged. . . .
When I had made sure that no one was left on shore, I too went over to the rocks which blocked the entrance to the cave. In vain did I try to roll them away. Despite all my efforts they would not budge.
I then decided to return to the place where I had arranged to meet my companions. I had now discovered all that it was necessary to know about the submarine, but we still had to find out who was supplying it.
My two companions made an exhaustive inquiry among the main merchants in Cattaro, the customs officials, and among the patriot Montenegrins. By the next evening, as a result of piecing together various bits of evidence, we had proved definitely that our inn-keeper was furnishing supplies.
This man was what we in the profession called a "double" agent, that is to say, he was at the same time in the employ of both the Allies and the Central Powers. This Dalmatian was, of course, none the less dangerous because he was partly on our side. While we were making up our minds how to deal with him, I decided to point him out to our friends in Cattaro so that they could watch him. . . .
The next day an Italian "silure" called for us at the appointed place. As soon as I got back to Taranto I went to see the Admiral in charge of the naval station there, and told him about my trip.
A field of mines was planted all around the submarine's lair, and a week later it was blown up. An Allied torpedo boat shelled the cave and destroyed it and all that it contained. I assure you we had a nice display of fireworks. . . .
SOME DASTARDLY " WORK"
THE GERMAN SUBMARINES ON OUR COAST
I ADVISE those who do not know how ferocious the submarine warfare actually was to devote careful attention to the maps of the west coast of France and of the French side of the English Channel. They give the details of the dastardly "work" accomplished by the German submarines along the French coast. These maps-we kept them strictly up to date, and called them the "naval cemetery"---have a dot, followed by the name of the ship that was torpedoed, at each spot where a ship lies at the bottom of the sea.
It must be frankly admitted that the loss of these ships made great inroads upon our supply of necessary provisions, for all of them, or at least most of them, were bringing us either food or munitions.
When German writers have the audacity to complain of the severity of the Allied blockade, why should we not answer them with the statement that our blockade was never as severe as the one that they attempted to impose on us when they torpedoed hundreds of ships without bothering to find out to what country they belonged-and usually without warning?
I admit that our answer to this was terrible and crushing. It could not be otherwise! Had we hesitated to employ whatever means were at our disposal
to put an end to the war that the submarines were waging, we would have placed our cause in grave jeopardy. For this reason we would cheerfully leave our headquarters to give chase to the submarines as soon as one of those pirates was sighted within the zone that we were to protect and defend. . . .
We are often asked how we went about tracking down the German submarines when they had left the bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend. Although I must be discreet, I will tell you something about our methods.
As a rule, after the German occupation of Belgium, all Belgians, whatever their stations in life, were members of the Allied Secret Service. In consequence the Germans had organized a system of counter-espionage in Belgium which we found it very hard to get around. And yet, thanks to the patriotism of certain Belgians and to the intelligence of several of our agents who had been able to get into that country, we received daily reports of the submarines that entered and left these two bases.
Each day our headquarters would receive a report something like the following:
Z. 0. 3
At six minutes past eight this morning five submarines came into port from the north.
At half past eleven three of them left port, heading south.
At one o'clock this afternoon two submarines and two large torpedo boats came into port. Fifteen minutes later two other torpedo boats and four submarines also came in. All ten of these vessels came from the northwest.
At three minutes past eight four torpedo boats, each one of three smoke-stacks, and two of four smoke-stacks, left port with all lights covered. They were heading southwest.
There remain in port: fourteen torpedo boats moored near the pier, six more in the canal, and sixteen submarines in their proper berths.
P. S.---I might add that since early morning a submarine has been on guard near the light-ship Schouwenbank, and that six high-speed torpedo boats have been ordered to patrol the twenty-mile stretch between Knocke and Westcapelle every night.
Most of these reports were signed, "Ad usum Delphini"---which means, "For the use of the Dauphin."
The Dauphin, as it happened, was a French submarine that., whatever the weather, would come every day for the report which one of our agents, an excellent swimmer, would take to the place where they were to meet. That place happened to be out at sea, five kilometers from shore. The report was carried in a hermetically sealed bottle. Our leaders would send their instructions to our own agents in Belgium through the same channel, in front of the very noses of the German Counter-Espionage agents. This organization was effective until the end of the war. The Germans never found out about it, and did not even seem to suspect that we had anything of the kind.
It was, I assure you, a pretty piece of work. As soon as the report reached the commander of the French anti-submarine base, a general warning was sent out. As the various channels were closely guarded, it was quite rare for a submarine to "jump out of the net."
DESTROYER AND AIRPLANE AGAINST SUBMARINE
AS SOON as the pirates entered our active zone they were likely to run foul of some part of our extensive network of watchers. Taking advantage of the coast-line and of the contours of the ocean bed, our men were able to predict quite accurately what channel the submarine would take.
Most of the time when they were going ahead ten or fifteen yards beneath the surface the submarine felt perfectly safe. But high up in the air one of our naval airplanes would pick them out and warn the destroyers of their presence. The airplane would then stand by, ready, should the submarine attempt to rise, to drop one or more of those bombs "for detecting submarines" which did the Germans so much damage. From the air the outline of a submerged submarine is clearcut, and a scouting plane may easily follow all its movements. Nine times out of ten a pirate that has been spotted in this manner will never get back to its base. And for this reason:
When an airplane warns a patrol of the presence of one of the pirates, the boats in the vicinity close in for battle, and in so doing offer themselves as targets. When these boats happen to be mine sweepers, the submarines rarely pay any attention to them. Such vessels are not worth a torpedo. But when the patrol is composed of destroyers, the submarine almost always tries to sink them. But, although the pirate does not know it, the airplane keeps the destroyers posted as to his movements, and the boats are able to maneuver so that they are never in a place where they might be torpedoed.
They circle round and round, stopping, starting up quickly, always managing to stay reasonably close to the submarine so as to lure it on. If the latter decides to attack and begins to rise to the surface, the destroyer is warned and, putting on full steam ahead, it goes straight for the submarine so as to ram it the moment its tower appears above the water. If it fails in this, it can still try shelling it.
If neither of these operations is successful and the submarine for some reason escapes from the destroyer, the airplane lends a hand, and by well-placed bombs may be able to send it to the bottom.
One day our base got word that three submarines had left Zeebrugge the night before with orders to stir up trouble among a convoy of ships going from England to Havre. Someone had spotted them about ten miles from Griz-Nez. Everything was prepared, and in an instant we were ready for the fray.
Two of them, sailing along on the surface, must have caught sight of us, for they submerged and were lost to sight. We did not see them again. The third submarine, an especially large one, was submerged, and was heading at full speed for the convoy which it was supposed to disrupt.
About ten o'clock the smoke from the convoy appeared upon the horizon. It was guarded by two American torpedo-boat destroyers and by several schooners of a new model. These latter were to prove most effective against the submarines, but at this time they had not been perfected.
Soon the submarine arrived in the vicinity of the convoy and stopped to let it go ahead---doubtless to make sure of how many ships there were and to get an idea of what defenses it had. One after another, nineteen vessels passed. None of them gave any sign that they suspected the presence of the pirate. The same was true of the destroyers and the schooners; their crews appeared to feel quite safe. As a matter of fact, we had warned both the convoy and its guards, and they were ready to parry any attack that might be forthcoming.
However you looked at it, the prey was tempting, whether the attack was made with torpedo or shell. If the convoy hadn't been warned, the pirate would certainly have been able to cause it lots of trouble.
It had to make up its mind how to attack. Should it rise in the midst of the convoy, let fly with its torpedoes, and disappear? That was not to be thought of. Badly as such ships were protected, there was a strict rule that when they approached shore (Havre might already be seen in the distance) they should be absolutely prepared to resist an attack.
To rise to port or starboard of the convoy? Impossible! The destroyers were armed with long-range guns; their speed was also superior to that of the submarine. The latter risked being put out of business before it could get ready for the fight. Nevertheless, that is what the pirate decided to do.
We saw him start out, slowly increasing his speed as he circled around the convoy, doubtless mapping out a plan of campaign and trying to discover our weakness.
From high in the air we noted each thing he did. We could distinguish the gunners on the destroyers plainly as they aimed their rapid-fire guns in the direction that we had ordered by wireless.
Then he began to empty his water-ballast as he prepared to rise. He was to starboard and a little behind the destroyer that he had decided to torpedo. We flew directly over him, so we could "jump on him" as soon as he came to the surface. As soon as he appeared above the water, the destroyer opened fire. We, on our part, dropped three bombs, two of which scored direct hits. The third went wild. But even then, before he disappeared into -the dark water, the pirate had time to shoot a torpedo which came within ten yards of the destroyer.
The submarine, however, was mortally wounded. We saw it as it stood on end, turned over, and disappeared. Soon all that was left of it was a patch of oil that kept spreading wider and wider over the sea.
Requiescat . . .
And now, will you join me in a little tour of inspection through one of the most dreadful of the German offices-the Espionage Headquarters at Berne?
IN A GERMAN DEN AT BERNE
ON THE theory that, when you want to know exactly what is happening somewhere, there is no better way than to go there and find out, I left, one fine morning, for Berne, which, as the reader already knows, was one of the most active of the German espionage centers.
The nominal director of this center was Major von B-----, a nephew of a famous German statesman, a superficial and untalented old soldier. The actual head of the office, however, was S. E. von R-----, the German Minister to the Swiss Republic.
If Major von B-----didn't amount to much, von R-----, on the other hand, was supposed to be extremely formidable. From his office in the German legation were sent out the orders and questionnaires to the German agents in France, and it was in this same office that so many of those dastardly attacks on us were concocted.
According to Ludendorff, the services of the German Secret Service office at Berne were of doubtful value. If this office did not accomplish all that the chief Quartermaster General expected of it, it was because we took care to keep it in a state of constant disorder. Nevertheless, as I shall show you, the network of spies that von R-----strung out through France approached perfection.
Later on we will analyze the baneful influence upon the Central Powers of this strange diplomatic service that was directed more from the Thiergarten than from the Wilhelmstrasse. But for the time being we must be satisfied merely to study this strange place where spies and traitors abounded.
Unlike the other German embassies and legations, the legation at Berne was not near the center of town. On the contrary, it was out in a suburban district, not far from a small forest. To get there one had to take a street-car to Kirchenfeld. Even then it was a good fifteen minutes' walk to get to the end of Willading Road. From there one followed a long, straight, deserted avenue to the legation.
The building itself was a huge and peaceful-looking villa that had been modeled after an English country-house. On entering the court, the first thing to strike the eye was the main building with its triangular pediment. The principal door was framed by a porch supported by three columns in the purest Munich style. From the main building two low, squat wings shot off ; they were faced with brownish tiles. The windows were usually covered by green shutters.
The offices of the Chancellery were in another building to the right of this ; it was in the very center of the estate. Across the river Aar rose the solid mass of Gurten.
As you will see presently, such details are of some importance; as are also these:
The office of M. von R-----was not in the Chancellery, but in the main building.
It opened on a waiting-room that was always patrolled by guards distinctly military in bearing.
This study was large and well ventilated. It seemed more like the office of a cabinet minister than that of a diplomat.
It was very much cluttered up with files, indices, and maps. Everywhere, on M. von R-----'s desk, on chairs, on stools, on tables, were numerous documents.
In the center of the room, facing M. von R-----, a monumental bust of the Kaiser looked down as if, somehow, it were presiding over the devious schemes that were here being hatched.
This study, into which it was my fate to enter many times (always in the absence of its owner---usually at night), was arranged like a setting for a play.
Under certain boards in the floor were hidden bells. If one stepped on one of them it would start a number of bells ringing violently so that whoever was interested might know that there was an intruder in the study.
It was important not to sit down in certain of the armchairs in the room. They were veritable beartraps.
Above all it was dangerous to step on the rosette in the middle of the rug . . . without being careful first to shut the trap door which was underneath.
And if you valued your life it was imperative not to touch even slightly any of the keys that had been . . . forgotten . . . in various key-holes. Because he forgot this slight detail, M. H------, one of M. von R-----'s personal secretaries, was electrocuted.
If M. von R-----is cross at me for having let the public know these details about his "home," he must still admit that it would have been difficult for me to do otherwise, when I knew such details as these that I am about to relate. I guarantee their authenticity.
In a book recently published in Germany, the Germans boast that they knew absolutely all of the details of the extensive and very clever work accomplished by the French Secret Service.
To hear them talk you would think that they went where they wanted to---when they wanted to---in the Main Office of the Counter-Espionage Service.
I would request any of my readers who have run across that book to believe nothing in it. At no time did the Germans know the names of our directors; at no time during the war did they know where these men lived. As for their commendable work, if the Germans ever knew about it, it was when it was too late for them to do anything about it---it was after the accomplishment of the fact.
It was for that reason, may it please M. von R-----and his bosses, that I thought it advisable to make the preceding revelations. There is also another reason.
A writer in a German newspaper has taken me to task, saying,
Definite proof that the author of On Special Missions is ignorant of most of our secrets may be found in the fact that he describes as being in the Wilhelmstrasse certain offices that are really somewhere else.
As these gentlemen seem to want more definite details, here they are.
According to this newspaper, we in France don't yet know where the "Nachrichten Bureau" is. That, of course, is the name the Germans have given to their Secret Service.
Still better, this same paper charges that we don't even know where are the headquarters of "Abtheilung," the anti-French espionage service! There is a rash statement for you! If the reader will bear with me for a few minutes, I will do my best to take him through the headquarters of the German Military Secret Service. At the end of the famous "Unter den Linden" avenue and just across from the Imperial palace is the Place de Paris upon which are the Brandenburg gate and the French embassy. Going through the Brandenburg gate, one finds oneself in the Thiergarten, one of the prettiest promenades in the world. Passing by the column of Victory, one soon comes to an immense palace whose heavy architecture is a little out of keeping with the atmosphere of this aristocratic section, with its many magnificent villas, its gardens, and its parks.
This palace is the headquarters of the German General Staff.
You would never guess it, if you did not know. There is nothing unusual about the building. In front of it there is no sentinel; inside, no corporal's guard.
At times an immense, heavily-braided porter walks back and forth in front of the door. But there are countless "porters" of that kind all over Berlin.
As was said before, only important officials are allowed to use this door.
The small fry use the other door, which faces the Herwarthstrasse---to give all details. There one sees commissioned officers and subalterns who are employed in some one of the thousand offices that are controlled by the General Staff, military and civil secretaries, stenographers and scrubwomen. Ordinary spies and sectional directors in the Secret Service also enter this immense building through this door. On the second floor of this building are the offices of the German Secret Service.
If these details don't convince my colleagues on the other side of the Rhine, I can easily add to them.
For instance, in the anti-French section, there are five officers---a director and four assistants. And I could give their names---they are on the calling cards pinned to the door.
Let us walk into this room. It is a large room, furnished with a desk, two tables, and a few chairs.
Oh! I almost forgot the most important thing---a huge steel cabinet takes up one whole side of the wall. In it are kept all documents---collections of papers, maps, photographs, etc.---that have to do with the French army and navy. Pasted on that cabinet is the sign, "In case of fire save this first!" Of course, if the documents in this cabinet were to be destroyed it would be a real catastrophe. . . .
But let us go on with our tour of inspection.
There is a door in the wall opposite the steel cabinet. It opens into the office of the head of the section.
Let us open that also. This room is more comfortably furnished. The desk and chairs are of oak. There is an iron safe in a corner and over the mantelpiece is an Empire clock. Above the clock is Edouard Detaille's painting, "Le Rêve!"
I have no doubt that such revelations will irritate several people in Berlin. And yet, I must admit, they are far from complete. There are things that I am not allowed to tell!
One interesting question concerning which I must be reticent is, "How do the Germans organize their map-making service?"
If I tell my German colleagues---for I am positive they do not know it---that the headquarters of this branch of the service is in the room directly above the one that I have just described, perhaps they will recognize that, once again, we are, to say the least, quite as well informed about such matters as they.
Do they want still another proof?
A few pages back I remarked that the palace of the German General Staff faced the Thiergarten, and that the most imposing entrance to the building was on that side. I did not, however, mention the fact that side by side with this door is another, very small, discreet, and unimposing. . . . At the present time there is just one man in all Germany who has the right to use that door-and that man is General von Seeckt, commander-in-chief of the German army.
Formerly, that is, before the armistice, the Emperor himself was the only German who might use it. Unknown to anyone, he would use that door when he went to the offices of the German General Staff to give his orders. It was after having left the building through this door that, one fine morning in August, 1914, he declared war on France.
Who can say that it is in the interest of peace that von Seeckt follows in his steps? However that may be, I hope that these details have been explicit enough to satisfy my German colleagues.
Perhaps they will even show M. von R-----, to whom we shall pay another visit, that if his little doings were not unknown to the directors of our service, neither were those more important activities of his bosses---the officials at the Thiergarten!
THE MOST DANGEROUS SPY OF MODERN TIMES: IRMA STAUB
M. VON R-----, as I think I have already told you, was a . . . diplomat, as clever as he was unscrupulous. I need give but one proof of that statement. Never, despite his numerous violations of international law, were the Swiss police able to establish his guilt definitely enough to justify his deportation. And when one knows all that that man had the audacity to attempt, such an idea seems really fantastic.
Although for several months I was so constantly with him that I might have been mistaken for his shadow, and consequently know him better than most people, I still cannot understand how such a wretched and despicable creature as von R----- was able alone to do the overwhelming amount of work that he managed to accomplish in a day. He had secretaries, of course! Quite a number of them. But whatever his faith in them, never under any conditions would he trust them with anything of a confidential nature. He alone knew the secret code. For fear of some indiscretion on the part of his aides, he was forced to decipher and to classify all dispatches himself.
Hence, it was practically impossible to catch him up. If he was outwitted by the Allied Secret Service agents, most of the time it was because the men to whom he entrusted various missions were not competent to carry them out. Except for Irma Staub, the most dangerous spy of modern times, all, or practically all, of them eventually fell into our hands. Even at that, with Irma Staub to help him, he ought to have been able to pull through. It is true that, although she was the perfect assistant for work outside the office, she was of no use at all for desk work inside the Chancellery. But on special missions she proved to be so dangerous that we had to put our very best men on her case alone.
She played some criminal tricks on the English, and they nicknamed her "The Demon." We modestly called her "The Dark Shadow."
The Dark Shadow! She was the very devil!
I have received within a single hour five reports from different agents, each one claiming to have seen her at a different place, and each of these places being far from the others. As I write this, I am looking over my diary for 1917. Under the date of June 17 I see the following items:
Report from X-23---Irma Staub was seen at Nancy in company with Captain G-----, the aviator.
Report from S-12---Irma Staub has been seen motoring from Spain. The license on her Mercedes automobile is F. 12,680-2.
Report from J-3---For what it is worth, I hereby report that M. André H-----, conductor on the lines of the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits., claims that among the passengers on the Calais-Nice Express he recognized Irma Staub. He has arranged with detectives at the station at Avignon to have her arrested as she leaves the train.
Report from L-5---Yesterday at about five o'clock I saw Irma Staub in the square in front of the Théâtre Français. I was caught in a traffic jam and was unable to catch her. When I had got free, she was nowhere to be seen.
Report from N-345---Unless I am mistaken, I think I recognized Irma Staub in the station at Menton-Garavan. I was at the time on board a train. I reported her presence to the Italian special police at Vintimille.
Not one of these five reports was accurate. But our agents knew how dangerous she was, and their one ambition was to capture her! As a result, they saw her everywhere at once.
It is certain that she went on missions into France during the war; but as far as I know, she did it only twice. And she did so under conditions that made it impossible for us to arrest her, for each time, both coming and going, she crossed the border in an aeroplane.
Moreover, she had an infernal amount of cheek. May I give you an example of it? Berne, of course, is a small city of scarcely 90,000 inhabitants. Naturally after having lived there for a month, if you know everyone there, everyone knows you. Although in time of peace it is one of the quietest towns in the world, in time of war it was quite different. It was a convenient place from which to start out for the belligerent countries, and from the beginning of the war it was flooded with German spies who used it as a jumping-off place for France. As a result, we had no choice but to go to these spies and begin the battle with them on their home grounds. That was our reason for being in Switzerland.
One day while I was having lunch with one of my friends at the "Bellevue," Irma Staub entered the room where we were, accompanied by one of the "stars" of the German Secret Service, Captain von R-----. The latter, be it understood, looked the part of a gentleman.
As usual, Irma Staub was dressed very simply in beige serge. She glanced around the room, and when she saw that the only vacant seats were those at our table, she came toward us without the slightest embarrassment, and with a disarming smile asked,
"As there are two vacant chairs at their table, will the French Secret Service agents allow us to use them? "
I was already standing up.
"What," I countered, "would one not do to please Miss Irma Staub?"
Under her rouge, I saw her turn pale. My point had gone home.
"What," she answered, "you recognize me, you know who I am?"
"How could it be otherwise? Are you not both the prettiest woman in Berne and the inspiration of M. von R-----, who sees only through your beautiful eyes?"
She gave way to a laugh and then said with a smirk,
"I see that the French are always gallant, and that race hatred burns out when it comes against the power of woman."
"Don't be too sure! " I laughingly answered. "There are times when I am really ferocious."
She looked straight at me for some moments and smiled again. Then tossing her head as though unconvinced, she said,
"We'll find out, all right!"
After that we bowed once more and continued our meal without paying any attention to one another---outwardly, at least. But while Irma Staub and her friend spoke only French, my companion and I used German.
On neutral ground---but only there---one could remain civil.
That is but one of a thousand examples of the audaciousness with which this extraordinary woman would throw herself into the struggle. In addition, she was extremely intelligent, well educated, she spoke eight languages, and knew her trade from the bottom up. She could undertake any mission at all, and was likely to carry it to a successful conclusion. Moreover---and this is extremely rare---she acted from patriotism and not from self-interest. That, necessarily, made her much more to be feared. At times an agent who acts from self-interest may be "bought"; a conscience can never be bought.
In addition, Irma Staub had been well trained. At the Thiergarten she had made her start under the famous Richard Cuers, who for many years directed the espionage headquarters at Brussels; at the Zeughaus in Berlin she had had as professors, Thiesen, Major von Wenker---he was a real "ace"---and Brose, one of our most inveterate adversaries.
Many times have I had Irma Staub as my antagonist. And if most of the time I was able to counteract her deeds---which made her furious---I must admit without false pride that it was largely a matter of chance that I was able to do so. Once I almost succeeded in "pinching" her, and if she slipped out of the net, it was not really my fault that she did so. At any rate, it is a story worth telling.
The Magnificent Strategy of Irma Staub
Two of my colleagues were working in conjunction with some Italian agents in the rectangle formed by the towns of Domodossola, Pallanza, Bellagio, and Bellinzona. In the district was a band of men trying to smuggle some specially prepared explosives into Italy, with the intention of blowing up some of the factories of the powerful Ilva Society and the immense factory of Sanpier d'Arena, near Genoa. One morning I was informed that Irma Staub's automobile---a beautiful Mercedes---had been sighted at Tesserete, heading for Lugano.
I had found out from some German agents who had fallen into our hands that the famous spy had just been told by von R----- to get some information about our air force, at the time worrying the enemy considerably.
Moreover, from other sources I had discovered that a number of paroled French officers who had got into a very bad condition in the German jails had just been sent to Lugano to recuperate. Among these officers were several well-known aviators, including the famous Lieutenant G------whose escape several days later attracted so much attention.
Consequently, I asked myself whether this trip of Irma Staub to Lugano---I had meanwhile learned that under the name of Baroness d'Aspremont she had reserved an apartment at the Helvetia-Palace Hotel---had any connection with the presence of these officers at Lugano.
I got permission from my chief and left that evening. The next day I, too, was registered at the Helvetia. I was disguised as a retired major, as gouty as one could wish. I went at once to my room and washed up a bit. Then I went down to the hotel bar, where a large and pleasant crowd had already assembled.
It was the cocktail hour. Officers from all branches of the service were seated around the tables sipping many-colored drinks. As I entered the bar, leaning on my cane and dragging one foot along behind me, the officers in the room took me for one of them and arose to salute me. I returned their salute and introduced myself,
"Commandant Luneau, of the Staff of the Narmy----."
A young captain came up to me and, one after another, he introduced me to the officers present. Then, smiling pleasantly, he said, "We are charmed, Commandant, to have you with us. As you are the ranking officer present, allow me to ask you to preside at our table."
"And to be our military leader," added a young major in the colonial infantry who had just come in.
This caused a general burst of laughter. These mad youngsters thought they had a fine chance to "kid along" the old wreck that they took me to be. Purposely exaggerating my clumsy air and pretending to be completely bewildered, I gasped,
"To preside at the table! To be your military leader! What is the meaning of such flattering but meaningless phrases at such a time as this! Let the first go, but there is, I trust, no need for the second . . . in our present position!"
"My dear comrade," replied the young colonial major, "I am afraid you don't understand. The ranking officer is held responsible by the Swiss authorities for the maintenance of order and discipline among us!"
With another smile, he added, "You have, my dear sir, but to signify your willingness . . ."
"And to christen my assumption of office fittingly," I finished laughingly.
I called the waiter.
"Bring drinks for everyone," I told him.
Comfortably seated in a large chair near a window overlooking the lake, Irma Staub was smilingly watching what happened.
"She has nerve!" I thought. "Let's hope that I have as much."
"Let it not be said, Madame," I said to her, "that French officers have raised their glasses in your presence without first paying beauty the homage it. deserves."
Holding my glass out toward her, I said, "I drink to your health, Madame!"
She dropped her eyes blushingly and answered:
"I accept your homage the more willingly because, as I have not yet met these gentlemen, I have not had the chance, which is now offered me, to tell them how greatly I love and admire France."
Raising her glass, she added, "Gentlemen, I drink to the brave French army! I drink to its past and its future success! I drink to France!"
Knowing her as I did, I could not but admire her cheek. It was beautiful "work." She then advanced toward me and said,
"At your age, commandant, you might be my father. Therefore allow the Baroness d'Aspremont, whose husband has fallen on the Belgian front, to kiss you. In your person, I kiss the entire French army."
My comrades were touched to the point of tears by this act, and they applauded vigorously.
"Madame, it is not fitting," I answered. "By all the rules of logic, your kiss should go to the youngest and bravest of us, and he is Lieutenant G-----, whom I now present to you."
Smilingly she replied, "Very well, then."
With charming grace she took G------'s head in her hands and kissed him on the forehead. The applause became still more vigorous.
As you see, she had tamed them with consummate genius. Not only had she, in an instant, attached all these young men to her, but also, by reference to her false but respectable title and name, she had drawn a line which none of them would overstep. I need not remark that she had played her part with superlative skill.
Whatever was up, I had noted two things.
1. I was sure that, thanks to my disguise, the famous spy had not recognized me.
2. By thus putting her at once in close touch with the French officers at Lugano, I could quickly discover what she was going to attempt because I knew the person upon whom she had put her spell.
All in all, things hadn't started out so badly.
Important Documents Disappear
Irma Staub must be playing for something important, for she was doing things with a finesse and an adroitness of which I did not believe her capable. She kept up her pose of being a war widow, and it was with real dignity that she received the homage of all of the young officers who fluttered around her. She always remained a little distant. Among those who paid her the most constant attention was Lieutenant G-----, who was head over heels in love with her. He was as constantly with her as her shadow, but, at first, she seemed to pay little attention to him.
That is where things stood when, one fine day, a gentleman whom she introduced as her brother-in-law arrived at Lugano. He was, it appeared, a Belgian diplomat attached to the staff of the Belgian legation at the Vatican.
An aristocrat to the tips of his fingers and of fine appearance, Count Tirlemont seemed to be well over fifty although he was still vigorous. While in deep mourning-----"in mourning for my country," he confided to me one day---he was not above the various distractions with which our youngsters whiled away their time. Much to their discomfiture he would beat them consistently both at tennis and at golf.
As I had no illusions about what sort of person this Count Tirlemont was, I had, as soon as he arrived, telegraphed my colleagues in Havre and Rome to find out about him.
In Rome they claimed not to know him---a statement that I was inclined to doubt. Not so at Havre.
They answered that he was named von Richber and was a former officer in the aviation corps who for some unknown reason had been removed from that branch of the service and sent on espionage missions. He was attached to the Staff of General von Bissing.
And their note continued:
Von Richber is the more dangerous because he speaks several languages, including French, perfectly. Thus frequently, variously disguised, he has been able to worm his way into different belligerent countries. He has been decorated with the ribbon of the order of the Red Eagle for his accomplishments. He is closely related to the Wittelsbachs, the reigning family in Bavaria.
He has "worked" under the following names: Count Tirlemont, Baron Kerbeck, Marquis Verrières, Lord Greenock, Jean de Gimet, Durand des Cognets, etc. . . .
Under these various names he has done us incalculable harm. Among other things, the arrest of Prince de Croy and Miss Cavell is attributed to him.
Use any means that may be necessary to frustrate his activities. Enclosed is his description and a photograph of him.
There could be no mistake. The photograph and the description tallied exactly with this pseudo-Count Tirlemont.
As I was getting nowhere, I told my chief what had happened and asked for orders.
From Paris came the reply, "You have permission to do whatever you wish, but be careful. We know all about this man. He is extremely dangerous. Don't forget that you are in a neutral country."
The words "extremely dangerous" were underlined, which was our conventional way of saying, "This man will not stop at anything, even at murder, to get what he wants."
That was a personal matter between the two of us! It would soon be settled!
But another question had to be settled, one involving a matter of conscience. Now that I knew the record of "Count" Tirlemont, wasn't it my duty to warn these officers at Lugano that he was a spy?
They might unwittingly commit some indiscretion that would have frightful consequences.
If I warned them, what would their attitude to him be? Would they be able to restrain their wrath and continue to shake hands with this villain as they had done before? If not, I risked being "scorched" ---and messing up the whole business. After thinking it over carefully I decided to say nothing.
That was how things were when, one day, 1 was informed that two of the interned officers, G---and M-----, wanted to speak to me. When I saw their tortured faces and their nervousness, I knew at once that something important had happened. Walking toward them with outstretched hands, I asked,
"What, gentlemen, has upset you this way?"
Lieutenant M----- answered. His friend seemed to be too wrought-up to speak. "Last night, commandant, while we were at the Club someone broke into our room, and stole several documents which are of vital importance for the safety of France."
"The devil! That is annoying! But are you sure that you are not exaggerating the importance of these documents?"
"You can judge for yourself, commandant," he answered.
Then, first one speaking and then the other, they told me that they had wanted to "do their bit" even though they were prisoners on parole, so they had made and perfected a new invention, the possession of which would give the mastery of the air to the nation which first made use of it. . . .
Two of the blue prints taken from the picture frame in the room of the two interned officers.
"Good! Now let's not go too fast! In what shape were these documents?"
"There were six diagrams in blue print, with instructions for the construction of our invention."
"You have no duplicate of it?"
"Alas! We haven't."
"Good! Now tell me who were in your party at the Club last night---without omitting any of them. First of all, were Madame d'Aspremont and her brother-in-law there?"
"What! Do you suspect her?"
"Not in the least. But one must distrust everything and everybody at such a time!"
"Well, the Baroness was at the Club until midnight. She was playing bridge with us. Her brother-in-law was only there for a moment. He gave us the latest report from the front and inquired whether the game was going to last a long time. Then he went out, complaining of a frightful headache."
"Fine! When he asked whether the game would last long, what did you tell him?"
"We didn't say anything, but his sister-in-law answered that she wasn't at all sleepy and that she wanted to win back what she had lost."
"Had she lost much?"
"A dozen louis!"
"Good! When did she leave?"
"Exactly at one. We remember it clearly because we walked home with her."
"Good! When did you discover that your documents were missing?"
"At about one o'clock!"
"If you don't mind, let's go back to your room so that I can see exactly where you hid them. But---I can't yet tell you why---will you go back there alone, and let me join you in a few minutes?"
The two officers went off together.
Within five minutes I had joined them.
"Now where were the documents?" I asked.
"We put them behind this picture here. To be more exact, they were between the picture itself and the piece of cardboard which holds it in the frame."
"Good! Now will you give me the picture?"
Lieutenant M----- stood on a chair and took down the picture. He turned around and cried out in astonishment,
"Sapristi! Am I blind! The documents are here. They haven't moved!"
G----- jumped toward him, grasped the picture, and turned it over.
"They're really there! But a few minutes ago they weren't."
"Are you absolutely sure?"
"I swear it on my word of honor, commandant!"
"Then someone must have put them back while you were seeing me. May I see the picture?"
Putting it down flat on a table in front of the window, I took out my magnifying glass and examined it closely.
In a moment I had found definite proof that von Richber had been tampering with it.
HOW I PROVED "COUNT TIRLEMONT'S" GUILT
WHEN they gave me "Count Tirlemont's" description and photograph, the officials of the Belgian Secret Service had taken the precaution of also send me his finger-prints. I had studied these fingerprints carefully. A glance was enough to convince me that they were exactly the same as those that I now saw on the frame of the picture. After swearing the officers to secrecy, I showed them the similarity between the two finger-prints.
"Remember that to everyone except you I am still Commandant Luneau," I warned them."
That they might have no doubts, I told them about the job that I had under way, and let them know that I was a member of the Counter-Espionage Service.
"The devil," exclaimed Lieutenant M-----, "then we are safe!"
"Don't be too sure! First of all, we must be sure not to make any slips."
Then I took out of my pocket the document that had been sent on from Havre and made a minute examination of von Richber's finger-prints. They checked up absolutely perfectly! There could be no doubt in the world that they were of the same man!
He had stolen the papers, photographed them, and then replaced them. It was up to me to steal them back before he could cross the border.
I realized that I could never find two better assistants than these chaps who had been the victims of such a disgusting theft, so I told them who the Baroness d'Aspremont and Count Tirlemont really were. G----- was furious!
"Name of a she-goat!" he exclaimed. "I will kill the low-down slut with my own hands!"
Another portion of one of the blue prints showing the machine as it would look when assembled.
He Was already starting out of the room, and I had some difficulty restraining him. M-----, more thoughtful, asked me,
"What's your plan of campaign? How can we retrieve our documents? You know that if any dirty work is necessary, you can count on us!"
"I know! That's why I'm going to ask you to act as though you had never heard anything about the affair!"
They protested vigorously, and I finally burst out,
"Damn it all! Are you going to let me run this as I want to, or not?"
"Yes, but you are asking us to do the impossible," said G-----, "I know myself. The first thing I will do when I seen von Richber will be to slap his face! That would be something he can't steal!"
"And then . . . Well, then we would see what happened!"
"There you are! If he skips off with your documents, would you then be any better off? Rely on me, do as I say, and everything will come out all right."
They were finally convinced and decided to follow my instructions. Ten minutes later I went down to the bar, where I was pleased to see them sitting at a table with Madame d'Aspremont and her "brother-in-law." They did, it is true, keep at a respectful distance from them. . . .
I presented my respects to the "Baroness" as if nothing had happened, and shook hands most cordially with the "Count." Then I had breakfast, after which I went out as usual for a walk around town.
When I returned, I bumped squarely into the chauffeur of the Baroness (he was not a Boche) who was dashing down the main staircase so fast that he almost knocked me over.
"Well! I hope there isn't a fire up there," I said laughingly.
"Oh, no, commandant! It is merely that my mistress just called me to say that we shall have tea to-day at Como. So, you see, I have just time to get ready to start."
"At Como"' I exclaimed. "Well, that is nice! G-----, M-----, and I had just decided to go there, too. We shall have the pleasure of seeing the Baroness there. But don't tell her about it. Then we will surprise her when we arrive. When do you leave? "
"At two o'clock, commandant!
"Good! We shall probably start somewhat later. Good-bye, my good fellow."
And he went on in high spirits.
I turned around and went to the grocery on the corner where I had occasionally stopped to chat with the proprietor. I bought a half-pound of powdered sugar.
"To sweeten my strawberries," I confided to him. "I love strawberries in wine!"
As I returned to the hotel I passed Adolphe, the Baroness's chauffeur, who was getting gasoline.
I called to him,
"Listen, Adolphe, a glass of white wine never did you any harm?"
"Certainly not, commandant," he answered, laughing.
"Good! Well, here's a louis. Run down to 'Martha and Mary's,' the florists on the docks. Ask them to give you a bunch of white lilacs for me. I intend to brighten up the inside of Madame d'Aspremont's auto. Then buy yourself a drink before you return."
"Very good, commandant. But what, about my car? "
"Don't worry about your car. I'll wait here and smoke a cigar."
"Oh! That's fine!"
And he started off in a hurry.
When he was out of sight, I glanced around and saw that there was no one else in the garage. Then I dumped the half-pound of sugar into the gasoline tank. I had, of course, purchased it with this in mind.
"I'll be darned," I said to myself, "if she doesn't get stuck on the road somewhere with this mixture!"
Then, satisfied with this little trick that I had played on the Baroness, I went back to my usual place in the dining-room.
Nothing worth telling about happened during the meal, which was very gay. A young lieutenant in the Zouaves was telling about his experiences with the commandant of the fortress in which he was imprisoned in Germany.
The youngster's story was most amusing, and Irma Staub enjoyed it heartily. Von Richber's laughter, however, was palpably forced, and he got more and more gloomy.
Finally he left the table, remarking to his "sister-in-law,"
"You know, my dear, that we have quite a few miles to go in the next few hours. If you are ready, I think we might leave at once."
She nodded her agreement, and we soon watched them through the window as they got into the Mercedes.
I beckoned Lieutenants G----- and M-----.
"Here's what's going to happen," I told them. "Irma Staub and von Richber have just left for Como. They won't get there, or if they do, it will be in our company. I can't go into the whole story now. Get into your civilian clothes at once and meet me in ten minutes at the Cafe Glacier. Above all., don't bring any weapons!"
Ten minutes later as we were getting into an auto driven by a member of the Secret Service, we saw Irma Staub's Mercedes go by. It was evidently not running smoothly. We followed after them.
Although it was not a German car, ours was as good as theirs, and whatever happened, we were sure of meeting them when they least expected us.
A Tragic Arrest
We let Irma Staub's Mercedes get enough of a start so that they would not realize that they were being followed.
I utilized this time to give my companions a sketch of the plan that I had worked out, by means of which I hoped to get possession of the precious documents.
Nothing could have been simpler than this plan. We were, as will be seen, faced by a dilemma. Either Irma Staub and her companion would consent to ride on with us to Como, in which case I could have them arrested at the frontier by the Italian police, or they would refuse to accompany us and would try to turn back.
In that case, as our wile had been unsuccessful, it would be up to us to get the photographs of the documents by main force.
"And if von Richber is armed . . . ?" asked Lieutenant G-----.
"If he is armed there will be a fight!"
"I hope to Heaven he is," was the answer. "You can't have any conception of how I hate and loathe that fellow."
"I quite share your feelings; but we must not allow them to cause us to lose sight of the end we have in view. And so I am going to ask you to let me have a free hand in running this business. Nothing could be sillier than for us to risk being wiped out when there is some other way out of it."
Again I insisted,
"Promise me that you will remain calm. Otherwise I shall be forced to go through with it alone."
When they had promised, I gave them some final advice and we speeded up.
Nevertheless, 1 felt no reassurance as to the eventual outcome of the adventure on which we were starting. G----- was continually doing things that showed he was tremendously nervous.
Until we got to Chiasso we saw nothing of the Mercedes. About half a mile out of that town we at last caught sight of it parked on one side of the road. Irma Staub was railing at poor Adolphe, who was quite up in the air and had no idea what was the matter with the car. We pretended not to recognize them and passed by at full speed on the road to Como. We nearly ran over von Richber, who had taken his companion's veil to wave to us with. He was standing in the middle of the road.
"What a shame we missed him," cried G-----. "it would have saved us trouble later."
"Stop fooling!" I answered. "We don't even know which of them has the documents. Moreover we want them alive, because I've several other matters to talk over with them."
We turned the car around and came back slowly to the Mercedes.
"Well, well! What has happened, Baroness?" I asked. "Are you stuck?"
"Don't speak to me! I'm furious! We've had some silly accident! Just our luck! Think of it, we have an appointment for tea with some people at Como, and, thanks to this clumsy Adolphe, we can't possibly get there on time!"
"Not at all! We are on our way to Como. Won't you come along with us? If we squeeze in a bit, there will be plenty of room for all of us. And anyway, it isn't very far from here."
Irma Staub and von Richber exchanged glances, and the latter gave a forlorn look at the Mercedes, after which he said,
"Well, well! We accept your offer most willingly---especially as there doesn't seem to be anything else for us to do. But I'm afraid we are going to be terribly in your way!"
"Not at all!"
Turning to G-----, I remarked,
"I wonder whether you would be good enough to sit next the chauffeur? Madame d'Aspremont and Count Tirlemont can then sit in the back and Lieutenant M----- and I will pull out these little seats."
With G----- next the chauffeur and away from the two spies, I breathed a little more easily. There he could not give way to any sudden impulse.
We all got in and started off at once. Our permits were viséed at the Italian frontier, and then we headed for Como, where we arrived a few minutes later. We were in Italy, in an Allied country.
"Where may I drop you, Madame?" I asked.
"At the Rialto, on the Via Roma."
"The Rialto? Isn't that the confectioner's where they make such delicious ice-cream?"
"That's the place!"
"0h, I know just where that is."
I gave the necessary instructions to the chauffeur and then turned again to Irma Staub and asked,
"Are you going to be here long? May we not wait and bring you back to Lugano, or have you other plans for returning?"
"'It is awfully nice of you to make such an offer, commandant. I shan't be here more than an hour. If that clumsy Adolphe is still having trouble and hasn't met us, I shall ask you to take me back to Lugano."
"Will M. de Tirlemont come too?"
"I have an idea that he expects to see some lady here, for he doesn't intend to return to Lugano for two or three days!"
"Very well! We shall do our errands and will be back here for you in an hour."
They went into the Rialto.
This was one of the places, not uncommon in Italy, which was a confectionery store and a place where you could meet friends, combined. There were two entrances to it: one on the Via Roma, the other on the Corso Rissorgimento.
As soon as we had turned the corner we stopped, and at once I placed my two companions as sentries, one near each door.
"If either of the spies leaves the building," I ordered, "follow him, keeping out of sight, until you are sure where he is going. It's only a matter of ten minutes. It would be such a shame if they were to get away from us now."
Having fixed things up for the time being, I dashed to the office of the Commissioner of Police, M. Sarda. I had known him for a long time and he recognized me at once. In a few words I told him the story. He called his secretary and four detectives and we all went at once to the Rialto. He posted his men at the doors, and made sure that there was no other possible means of escape. My two companions joined me on the corner where I was watching what went on without seeming to pay any attention to it.
"Nothing happened?" I asked them.
"Nothing. They are still there."
Meanwhile M. Sarda and his secretary had gone inside. They had been there scarcely five minutes when we heard some noise followed by two shots.
Fearing that M. Sarda had come to grips with von Richber, we dashed in. The four detectives forgot their orders to watch the doors, and they too went in.
A tragic spectacle met our eyes.
The Death of von Richber and What Happened Afterward
We entered the dining-room which was pleasantly furnished in Louis XV style and saw von Richber lying covered with blood on the floor.
M. Sarda, pistol in hand, was covering an oldish-looking man whose glasses, untrimmed beard, and long hair gave him the appearance of one of those scientists who used to come from Germany in the days before the war. His features were distinctly Teutonic.
I hastened up to M. Sarda, and, pointing to the corpse on the floor, asked,
"What has happened?"
"Nothing unusual," he answered. "As I was about to arrest Irma Staub, this chap threw a cup of tea in my face. I was momentarily blinded and had to wipe the hot liquid off with my handkerchief. While I was doing this, she disappeared. Meanwhile, my secretary threw himself on von Richber, who had drawn a revolver and had succeeded in firing a shot, which went wild. As you can see, my secretary was not even scratched!
"And Irma Staub . . . ? "
"She dashed out the door at the end of the room there. It opens on a stairway going upstairs. My detectives are now looking for her."
"Fine! And who is this fellow?" I asked, pointing to the bearded man who was being guarded by a policeman who had just come in.
"I don't know who he is, but we'll soon find out."
He was with Irma Staub and von Richber, so at any rate he must be a good haul."
"Of course! But have you searched him?"
"Not yet. First we were going to question him."
Turning to the man, M. Sarda asked in Italian,
"Have you any identification papers?"
"Will you show them to me?"
He took out a pocket-book bulging with papers and produced a passport made out in the name of Hans Widenau, 72 years old, professor of foreign languages, born in Zurich, Switzerland, of German parents.
"These are in perfect order," remarked M. Sarda.
"It is a pity that you were in the company of two such very suspicious persons. How did you get to know them? "
"Oh, I have run across them at watering-places. They are the sort of friends that one is likely to pick up when one travels."
While the man was making these explanations, the Commissioner had picked up the pocket-book and was examining its contents.
The secretary was sitting at a nearby table, writing down questions and answers.
"It seems that you do a lot of traveling! You cross borders with remarkable ease! By the visés on your passport I see that within the last year you have been in France three times, in Germany twice, and in Italy five times. What reason have you to do so much traveling?"
"Oh, I love to travel!"
"Evidently! Each to his own taste. But your love for traveling does not quite explain why you have such a document as this in your possession."
M. Sarda then held out an Italian Staff map of the Gothard region. I was trying desperately to remember where I had seen the fellow.
The man was taken aback for a moment, then he pulled himself together and answered,
"Oh, that's a map I used in mountain climbing! I love to climb mountains."
"And was it on such trips that you outlined in red our fortifications and the roads that lead to them?"
"I don't understand."
"You will later."
Going on with his examination of the pocket-book, the Commissioner came upon a photograph which he showed me.
"Now," he remarked, "there is no doubt at all about it."
"Right you are! " I answered. "Especially as that is an important document for a spy."
The photograph showed one of the forts recently built on the Italian border. What made it really important was that the way the forts were built might be easily worked out by anyone who knew anything about the latest methods of building such things.
Going on with his questioning, M. Sarda remarked,
"You must admit that it is foolish to keep such documents on your person when you are traveling."
He took out another photograph, and handed it to me.
"Will you tell me who the man in this photograph is? He is next to Miss Irma Staub. Of course, it is she, isn't it?"
Lieutenants G----- and M-----, who had been eagerly listening to the questioning, shouted together,
"Oh, yes! It is certainly she!"
For a second time the man hesitated a moment, then he said,
"I don't know whether her name is Irma Staub or not. I have always heard her called the Countess de Louvain."
That name called to my mind another recent affair, and at once I saw light!
"So," I shouted, "if Irma Staub is the Countess de Louvain, then you are Major von Trauth, the brilliant member of the staff of the army of Crown Prince Rupert of Bavaria."
The man broke down, A few minutes later he "put his cards on the table," and confessed who he was.
M. Sarda turned von Trauth over to a detective and a policeman and had him taken to jail.
While his secretary was placing in a sealed envelope the papers which were found in the pocketbook, M. Sarda and I proceeded to examine the papers which we found on the body of von Richber. Among them were the photographs of the documents that had been stolen from my young friends.
It may easily be imagined how happy they were to get them back.
"Now," I said, smiling, "if your detectives have found Irma Staub, we can't exactly complain of having wasted our day."
Just then one of M. Sarda's inspectors came in looking very excited.
"Irma Staub has disappeared! " he said. "We have hunted everywhere in vain. The hag has slipped through our fingers!"
Never in my life have I heard such an eloquent stream of profanity as that poured forth by M. Sarda. When he became calmer, he asked the detective,
"At least do you know how she got away?"
"Yes! We know that. In a storeroom on the third floor there is a door that we thought at first opened into a closet. With some difficulty we opened it and discovered that it led into the house next door. She escaped through there."
"Oh, well," I said, "that's not too bad. At least we got two of them. And we'll catch the beautiful Irma some day."
I put my arm through M. Sarda's as we walked out.
"Don't take it too hard, my friend! Remember that the police all over the world think that Irma Staub will never be arrested until she wants to be. She didn't want to be to-day, that's all! But I'm not through with this business yet. Some day she will fall into my hands, and you can bet your boots that I won't slip up then! "
I said good-bye to this friendly Italian official and we started back for Lugano, taking things easy on the way. Of course, the Baroness d'Aspremont had disappeared when we got there. It is true, it wasn't long before I heard of her again.
THE PLAN OF THE GERMAN GENERAL STAFF TO INVADE SWITZERLAND
SEVERAL days after I got back to Berne, I was sent on a new mission. This time I was supposed to find a German spy named Kohr, at Geneva, or somewhere near there. According to an anonymous warning sent the Swiss police, he had made several trips into France for M. von R-----.
On my arrival in Geneva I got in touch with the proper officials. They gave me certain details---important details---that the letter had contained, but they claimed to know nothing at all about Kohr or his past record. They didn't know where he lived, or even what he looked like.
As there are as many Kohrs in Germany as Smiths or Joneses in America, that wasn't very much to go on. It was the proverbial attempt to find a needle in a hay-stack. But as I am not one to be easily discouraged by difficulties, I got to work at once.
At the office which registered people living in furnished rooms, I didn't find---and I hadn't expected to---any clue that could even remotely point to the identity of Kohr. Neither was he listed among the tax-payers in the district.
Therefore, as he neither owned a house nor rented a furnished room, it was evident that he had either rented an unfurnished apartment, or else he was living under a false name at the home of one of the numerous German Secret Service agents in town.
You can see the investigation gave every evidence of being very arduous. I decided, nevertheless, to go on with it, and two days later after much bustling about I had the names of all the Kohrs in Geneva.
There were thirty-four of them! A mere handful! At least, I knew the addresses of all of them and with luck and hard work I had high hopes of finishing my job.
For a month I went on weeding them out, going over their records, noting everything that seemed to me at all suspicious; sifting all evidence cautiously. I had soon disposed of thirty of them; although most of these were of German birth, they minded their own business and not ours.
However, with four of them, the lives they were leading, the kind of talk they were said to indulge in, the money they spent (which was out of all proportion to their incomes), made them seem extremely suspicious. One of them was especially so. He was a chemist by profession, but had no regular job. He was always traveling, as was proved by his passport, which was covered with visés. (I was able to glance at it when he presented it to the Italian consul in order to obtain permission to go to Turin.)
In time of war it is a good rule to distrust globetrotters! I decided that for the time being I would let the other three men of this name go and devote myself exclusively to this fourth chap.
He claimed to have been born at Zurich, Switzerland, on January 4, 1884, of German parents who had applied for Swiss citizenship. Although he should have fulfilled the compulsory military service which is required by law in the Swiss Confederation, he claimed to have been exempted because of chronic bronchitis. Everything about him was certainly suspicious enough!
I got in touch with our agents in Zurich and found that there was no record of his birth in the official registers there, and, carrying my investigation even further, I discovered that no one by the name of Kohr was mentioned in the records of the office that took care of cases of exemption from military service because of physical incapacity. The whole business was irregular.
All the evidence pointed to the fact that all of his identification papers had been forged. Therefore, he must have some reason for wanting to conceal his real identity.
Before going any further, it was up to me to unmask him and to discover who he really was. That is what I did, and here is how I went about it.
I knew positively that at the headquarters of the German Secret Service at Berne there was a separate envelope for each agent they employed. In these envelopes were the curriculum vitae of the agents and their photographs. Thus, if Kohr was employed by the Berne branch as the anonymous communication claimed, I could easily prove it by looking up his envelope.
Obviously this was no easy task to accomplish. The envelopes and all other things of that sort were kept in the private office of His Excellency, von R-----, who took the greatest care of them. He shut them up in a strong-box and allowed no one else to have a key to it.
But, as you know from what I said before, the private office of His Excellency held few secrets for me. I even had my "private entrances" to it, and by complying with "the necessary requirements" I could be pretty sure of getting what I wanted.
My readers must excuse me, but I am not allowed to give the details of just how I did it; at any rate, that was the method I used to get the information that allowed me to establish the real identity of Kohr.
He, as I had supposed, was really a German and, naturally, he had performed his compulsory military service in his native country, as was proved by a photograph that I found in his envelope.
Kohr was the son of German emigrants who had moved to a town near Metz; he had gone to school at Nancy. He was a distinguished chemist and before the war had "worked" in foreign countries for the famous German I. G. Company (Interessen Gemeinschaft). That firm is a trust composed of the following branch companies:
1. The Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik;
2. The Bayer;
3. The Aktien Gesellschaft für Anilin Fabrikation;
4. The Hoechts;
5. The Cassella, at Frankfort-am-Main;
6. The Kalle Aktien Gesellschaft, at Biebrich;
in other words, it contains all the important German chemical manufacturers.
Thus Kohr had served an apprenticeship for his military espionage in commercial espionage. During my inquiry I found that he had had a job in a dye factory at Tremblay, near Creil, in France. Working as a chemist, he had stolen their trade secrets and had turned them over to the I. G.
In his envelope I also found information of quite a different character. Kohr did not merely indulge in these little "excursions" into France; he was also working out routes and plans of campaign for the use of the German army in case it decided to invade Switzerland and so attack the French and Italian armies from the rear.
I was stunned!
How could it be that we had not yet discovered the identity of such a troublesome spy? The rascal had indeed proved to be dangerous.
And how did it happen that the Swiss police, suspicious as they usually were, let him move about as he did without ever thwarting him?
As, for the moment, I was unable to answer either of these questions, I left them to be decided later and went on with my study of the documents in his envelope.
Before continuing with the story and reporting what else I found in Kohr's envelope, I must apologize to the Swiss authorities for several indiscreet remarks that I must make if I am to give you any adequate idea of how abominable were the machinations of this master spy.
I hasten to add that nothing that follows could possibly do the Swiss national defense organization any harm. I have carefully avoided all details of a technical nature.
With that out of the way, I shall prove that at one time the German General Staff contemplated using once again, in Switzerland, the plan, the loathsome plan, that had worked so successfully in Belgium. My proof rests upon a fact which in itself is sufficient to establish the authenticity of what is to follow.
First of all we must ask, "Was it to Germany's interest to invade Switzerland?" That question is answered by the fact that I shall now give you.
In 1916 the General Staffs of the Central Powers attempted to make the Italians retreat from their lines along the Carso, by working to the rear of this line of defense across the Trentino and the plain of the seven communes. This is an indisputable fact that has been indelibly written on the pages of history.
Among the papers under Kohr's name I found a plan for a simultaneous attack upon France and Italy. It will be readily understood that I cannot reveal the tactics and strategy of this proposed plan. At any rate, here is the gist of it:
The scheme was to invade Switzerland by way of Bale-Rorschach along the line of the Rhine. After occupying that plain, the force was to divide, one branch going into France across the Rhone and the Jura, the other into Italy across the various accessible passes---the valley of the Reuss and the valley of the Aar for Milan, and the Gothard pass.
This maneuver was to be supplemented by two other crushing offensives, one against France by way of Bâle and Porrentruy, the other against Italy, by way of Saint Gothard, the Rhine valley, Valtelina and Inn.
As you see, it was quite unimportant!
This maneuver would have entailed serious risks. (The valiant Swiss army is not one to fail to live up to its reputation! ) There was also a report bearing the signature of Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Ulrich, of the German army, but it was written in Kohr's handwriting.
The accompanying report gave details as to permanent fortifications, and was full of descriptions of the two main systems of defense of the Swiss Republic.
1. The Saint-Maurice System: These defenses are along the bank of the Rhone near Morcles. There are two fortresses, at Dailly and at Savatan.
The report stated that on the plain at Dailly they had heavy artillery mounted on railroad carriages, as well as howitzers protected by dugouts.
2. The Saint-Gothard System: Dangerous defenses, consisting of an extensive entrenched camp that commands all of the valleys that run out from the mountain.
The report enumerated the various fortifications in the valley of the Reuss, and noted the positions of Bühl and Batzberg on each side of the bridge fortified by its rasant batteries. This passage ended with a detailed description of the Blockhaus de Bruckenwaldboden.
It went on to say that in the west the heavily armed battery at Galenhütte, and the fortification at Furka obstructed the strategic entrance to Urserenthal.
In the east, it noted the fortifications at Oberalp, Taschmutt, Calmot, Grossboden, and the camp at Loch which defended the valley of the Rhine and the Oberalp.
Finally, going on to the valley of the Tessin, it gave complete details of the fortifications on the Italian side of Gothard, especially of those at Airolo, Fondo, Motto-Bartola, Stucci, Bianchi, Cavanna, and Pusmeda. It ended with a very detailed description of the work done at the Hospice du Gothard.
This report had been annotated by Irma Staub herself. It complemented a second report by a man named Wahlaender, which was also in Kohr's handwriting. They were documents of the highest importance.
The number and the caliber of the guns defending each place, and the stock of ammunition on hand, were noted; the figures included both the amount on hand and the amount that might be procured.
This document was the work of a master. I would have trembled for Switzerland had it not been for my unbounded confidence in the solidarity and patriotism of the Swiss army.
When I had finished my little investigation I put the envelope back in its place and left immediately for Geneva. All that remained for me to do was to find Kohr and his two accomplices, Lieutenant-Colonel Ulrich and Wahlaender.
Of course, I could make no direct use of the documents concerning these three spies that His Highness von R----- had, unwittingly, furnished me. Even if the Swiss Counter-Espionage Service had been informed of my discovery, it would have been impossible for them to break into von R----'s headquarters and seize the documents, because von R-----enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
My only remaining resource was to catch the spies in the act of violating the law.
Luckily, as the three men lived in Geneva and I knew who one of them was, it was easy enough to discover the other two by their connection with him. Therefore, I started to "shadow" Kohr and tried never to let him get out of my sight. I hasten to add that this was no mean task. He was very cautious, he showed himself as little as possible and never called on anyone.
I was beginning to despair of ever catching him when, one fine day, I had the luck to hear that Kohr was that evening to see "Germania," an emissary of von R-----'s, to whom he was to give an important document. They were to meet at a little German café in Geneva. I got this information at first hand and decided to make full use of it.
That evening I went to the appointed café, properly disguised. No sooner had I entered the room than I saw . . . Irma Staub in heated conversation with several men, among whom I recognized Kohr.
They did not recognize me and I sat down at a table near theirs and, to all appearances, at once became absorbed in reading the Berliner Tageblatt. As a matter of fact, although I was too far away to overhear their conversation, none of their gestures escaped me.
Irma Staub was taking notes in a little book. One after another she questioned the men around her. When she was through with one of them, she would dismiss him with a quick wave of the hand.
After a time there remained at the table only Kohr and two other men, neither of whom I had ever seen before, and about whom, consequently, I knew nothing. I realized that the time for serious discussion had arrived, so I redoubled my attention. It was well that I did, as you will see.
In Which Irma Staub Finds Someone To Talk To
The three men were leaning over the table listening to a rather long talk which Irma Staub was giving in a low voice.
I had noticed, without thinking it significant, that Kohr had kept on his hat, his overcoat, and still had his umbrella, which was lying on top of the table. Suddenly Irma Staub pushed her hand into the umbrella. She took out of it an envelope which had been hidden there and slipped it up her sleeve. It had all been done so quickly that I was sure that I was the only one in the room to see it.
What, then, was my amazement to hear a man at a table next to mine ask me,
"Well, what do you think of that, my dear colleague? The girl's not bad!"
I turned squarely toward my questioner.
"Sir," I said, "I have not the honor of your acquaintance! And I don't understand just what you are alluding to!"
He smiled, and then, under the table, he handed me a card. Under a line which read, "Intelligence Service of the British Army," I read the name of the "ace of aces" of the Allied Secret Service, James Nobody.
How in the devil had this man, generally recognized to be the foremost detective in the whole world, how had he been able to recognize me despite my disguise, and especially under such conditions?
I asked him how he had done it, without, however, losing sight of the little movements of Irma Staub and her companions. James Nobody then told me that his chief, Colonel C. C-----, had got wind of the projected invasion of Switzerland by the German army, and he had been sent on to throw some light on the matter.
"When I got here my men told me that you yourself were on the job." (The different branches of the Allied Secret Service did make a habit of giving each other all information that they discovered, so that they would present a united front against the German agents.) "That being so, I set out to find you. I followed you in here."
"I compliment you! It was well done. I had no idea that I was being followed! What do you think of this business?"
"I haven't yet any very definite ideas. As a matter of fact I'm inclined to think that it is a false alarm."
"What if I could prove to you that it is on the verge of being accomplished?"
James Nobody never lost his stolidness, but he seemed greatly perturbed by my question. For a moment he thought, then he asked,
"You have definite proof of it?"
"Parbleu! And this is how I got it."
Then I related to him how and under what conditions I had inspected the reports drawn up by Kohr and amended by Otto Ulrich and Wahlaender. I went at length into all of the technical details of the project. I ended my talk with the statement that I was sure that Irma Staub, who only took part in things of genuine importance, had come to Geneva for no other purpose than to put the finishing touches on the remaining details of the scheme for invading Switzerland.
James Nobody had listened to me with the greatest attention. He now returned the compliment that I had just given him.
"That, too, is fine work. I compliment you thoroughly on it. Tell me, do you think that two of us would be too many in this business? First of all, what do you think of the letter that Irma Staub (she is pretty, the slut!) has just taken out of Kohr's umbrella? "
"I think it might be very interesting to know what it says!"
"So do I! What shall we do about it?."
"Let's work together!"
Just at this moment Irma Staub, who had doubtless finished her business with Kohr, got up from the table, shook hands with him, and left.
As I turned back to ask James Nobody how we should divide the work, I saw, to my astonishment, that he had disappeared.
I looked toward the door and there he was, standing aside to let Irma Staub go out first. Reassured, I glanced toward Kohr. He hadn't moved.
Dejectedly I went back to my perusal of the Berliner Tageblatt and waited patiently to see what would happen next. I hadn't long to wait.
The door suddenly opened with a bang, and there stood Irma Staub. But she was not the pretty creature she had been a moment before! She was torn and disheveled and as pale as death. She seemed to be tongue-tied. Her sleeve had been ripped off her dress.
Everyone rushed toward her----Kohr reached her first---to find out what had happened. Suddenly she slipped into a chair, hysterical.
Kohr, beside himself with fright, yelled,
"Is there a doctor present? The poor girl needs help! Can't you see, she's dying!"
I. too, came over and, brusquely pushing away the people who surrounded her, I bent over the spy.
"Now let's see," I began.
I got no further. Irma Staub came to. Although her eyes were dilated, her breathing became regular and her blood flowed once more.
She glanced around with the look of a hunted beast, of a wild animal caught in a trap, then suddenly she cried out,
"Oh, the thieves! I have been robbed! They took everything!"
"What's all this?" asked a man who had just come in, accompanied by two policemen.
He came up to the spy, to whom he bowed courteously, and repeated his question, adding,
"You can tell me without fear; I am the police commissioner in this district."
You may be sure that Irma Staub did not want the police mixed up in this business. She had too much to lose by it. As she had, however, to give some reason for the emotion she had given way to, she pulled herself together and told the commissioner that when she stopped on the curb looking for an automobile, two thugs had held her up, and in the mix-up they had torn from her her fur, her sleeve, and her reticule. It had all happened so quickly that she had been thrown to the ground and her hat had been knocked into the middle of the street.
"Just plain robbery," said the commissioner. "Can you give me a description of the men?"
"I can't. I scarcely saw them, and I would be afraid of getting mixed up!"
"That's too bad," said the commissioner. "Nevertheless, we shall do everything possible to apprehend the two bandits."'
He made a list of the things that had been stolen from the spy, and asked her to identify herself and give her address. Needless to say, what she told him was absolutely untrue. He bowed to Irma Staub a last time when his offers to accompany her home had been refused, and went out.
That is what Kohr was waiting for. When the crowd had dispersed somewhat, he went up to her, and., after a hurried conversation, he told the doorman to call a taxi.
I was getting ready to follow them when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned quickly around and found James Nobody there, a pleased expression on his face. He beckoned me to follow him.
When we were outside, I asked,
"Well . . . ?"
"Well, I have the letter! My men turned the trick! Shall we go to your house to look it over?"'
"Surely! I'll go first; follow a little way behind me. Although we haven't much to fear from the Swiss police, it is better if, for the moment at least, they know nothing of this affair."
"Well, I agree with you! Let's go!"
One behind the other, we disappeared into the night.
When we got to the hotel where I was staying (it was run by Frenchmen who were ardent patriots), James Nobody, making sure that no slip-up was possible, and that we could "work" without fear of interruption, took out the envelope that his men had snatched from Irma Staub.
It contained documents concerning the Swiss army (I may not divulge them here), and several reports from spies working behind the French lines. These latter I found extremely interesting. Practically all of them were to go to the Secret Service headquarters at Berne. They were so important that I decided to leave for Paris as soon as the Kohr-Ulrich-Wahlaender trio had been taken care of. As luck would have it, among these documents was one signed by Kohr acknowledging the receipt of some reports from Ulrich and Wahlaender. It would be of the greatest interest to the Swiss committee for national defense.
In other words, we had positive proof of the crookedness of this sinister trio.
Thus we should be able to turn them over to the Swiss police, who alone had the power to arrest them, without any mention of the discoveries I had made in von R-----'s office in Berne.
In short, we had killed two birds with one stone. Not only had we, at least temporarily, got rid of spies whose activities had become dangerous, but we had also disorganized the information bureau at Berne.
James Nobody confided to me that he was extremely glad to have turned this trick. I learned later that Irma Staub had "put it over" on him several times.
We then went over various aspects of the question, and it was agreed that I should leave for Paris as soon as possible, as some of the information in the envelope was of such a nature as to demand immediate investigation. Later on we shall see what results I obtained. . . .
However, we had to get going in a hurry. Although Irma Staub probably did not know what was in the envelope that had been taken from her, she would lose no time warning her men to get under cover. After having agreed what was to be done, Nobody and I decided that, despite the lateness of the hour, we ought at once to get in touch with the head of the Swiss military police, and impart our discovery to him.
He received us immediately. I introduced my colleague, whom he knew by reputation. Without wasting words, I told him of the plot which the Germans had hatched against Switzerland, backing up my accusations with the documents. This high official was so astounded that he could not believe his eyes and his ears.
At once he telephoned to General W-----, then in command of the Swiss army, and at the General's request we went at once to his headquarters.
Everything there was in disorder. We had to push through a double line of officers of all branches of the service before we reached General W----'s office. He met us at the door. In a few words we told him how things stood. Despite the fact that he was notoriously pro-German, he at once understood the importance of the situation.
Before we left, the Chief of Police had the necessary warrants for arrest, and, still more interesting, we had been assured that from Lake Constance to the end of the canton of Tessin, the Swiss troops would be mobilized, upon the pretext that they were in training.
Already messengers were leaving for all parts of the country to carry the orders to the battalion chiefs. The situation was so serious that the General could not risk sending the orders by telegraph or telephone, for fear the Germans might intercept them.
As we went, we were joined by several squads of Swiss policemen from the headquarters division. They were specialists in counter-espionage. They soon understood what was happening, and we divided up the work, separating into three parties.
The Chief of Police took on Otto Ulrich; James Nobody gave his attention to Wahlaender; while I took charge of the arrest of Kohr. Of course, Nobody and I had no official position. Our most important duty was to identify the criminals, as we were the only ones who knew them by sight.
Unluckily, Irma Staub had got to Colonel Otto Ulrich's before us, and he had fled. The discomfort of the Chief of Police was painful to see. Nobody and I had better luck and we "pinched" Kohr and Wahlaender as they were packing their suitcases. They offered no resistance when arrested. Like the cowards they were, they informed on a dozen of their accomplices, who were arrested that same night.
The jury was easy on Kohr, and he was condemned to forty-five days in prison and a 500-franc fine. Wahlaender got three months in prison and a 1,000-franc fine. Colonel Ulrich was condemned in absence to two years in prison and a fine of 5,000 francs.
In steel files in the latter's office we found duplicates of all the letters and telegrams in code that I had seen at Berne. We also learned that each of these spies got paid 7,000 marks a month.
With this part of the band taken care of, I still had to uncover their accomplices in Paris and at the front. That very night l said good-bye to James Nobody, who had helped me so much, and left for S------ where the headquarters of our Counter-Espionage Service were then located. I reported to my chief what had happened at Geneva, and he gave me a free hand in finishing off the business.
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