Told in a series of espionage transmissions, “Doppel” is the story of a British agent in occupied France. When he meets a charismatic SS officer who seems to be guarding a great and powerful secret, he must decide whether to abandon his mission and discover what the Nazi is planning. But the truth might be darker and more dangerous than anything the British—or the Germans—can imagine.
This short story was acquired and edited for tor.com by editor Kate Jacobs.
FROM Keystone TO SOE F Section Duty Officer, Priority. 18 January 1942.
Greetings from gay Paris, the home of high fashion, where the newest trend is a pair of lightning bolts pinned to your collar. What won’t they think of next?
Nothing to report on the flight in from Lisbon, and Mssr “Frere” brought me in from the station without incident—and, seeing as how you’re reading this now, the wireless crystal is in tip-top shape. I must say, you chaps do worry overmuch; yes, every street corner café and bistro and boulangerie teems with Gestapo goons, but with the Interallié ring dismantled, I dare say their primary pursuit these days is ever-rarer bottles of Bordeaux.
According to Frere, our best point of ingress will be Madame Labeaux’s party tomorrow eve. One of those dreary Spiritualist holdovers, I suppose she’s moved on from Crowley and Blavatsky and has found herself a newer, even more insipid crowd—SS-Sturmbannführer Weimert (whom she’s sleeping with) and a potential appearance by the mysterious SS-Oberführer Albrecht (whom she’s trying to sleep with). The Mssr agrees with SOE’s assessment of Albrecht, from the little he’s seen of him; says he’s far too fidgety and paranoid to buy what we’re selling, but fortunately seems to be absorbed in whatever vile backroom work Himmler has tasked him with. Weimert, however, may prove an easy mark for Operation Vertical. If he’ll buy my prodigal son story, it shouldn’t take but a skip and a hop to snare him in our web and, God willing, pull this whole mess off.
FROM SOE F Section TO Keystone. Priority. 19 January 1942.
F Section received your preliminary report, which we read with great interest. We have the utmost confidence in your ability to lay the necessary foundations for Operation Vertical, and are all quite convinced of your bona fides as the German-born playboy looking to set up shop in France now that it’s been returned to the control of more civilized hands (and don’t envy you the effort of saying that with a straight face). However, we encourage you to exercise great caution wherever SS-Oberführer Albrecht is involved.
Most Secret Sources tells us almost nothing about him and his tasks, yet he’s regularly seen in the company of Himmler, Göring, and the like; this may indicate his tasks are so secretive that even the sieve that is the German High Command knows better than to trust their details to the airwaves. Numerous informants have refused to tail the man or permit themselves to be in his company for long, but their colorful reporting does make us suspect they’ve let his reputation get the best of them. Still, we would encourage you to seek a venue other than Madame Labeaux’s party. SS-Sturmbannführer Weimert and his political prisoners are our primary focus for Operation Vertical, so we prefer that you engage him without Albrecht’s presence. However, if you insist on the Labeaux soiree, we welcome any insight you can provide us regarding his mission in Paris. Happy hunting.
FROM Keystone TO SOE F Section. Priority. 20 January 1942.
My thanks to the nannies at Special Executive Office for their touching concern for my well-being (after dumping me in enemy territory with an incredible cover story and the impossible goal of rescuing a few of our broken brethren from Weimert’s snapping jaws) but I’m happy to report the Labeaux soiree was a grand success despite SS-Oberführer Albrecht’s presence.
SS-Sturmbannführer Weimert was as gracious a conversation partner as he is a generous and tolerant human being (which is to say, not at all), and I am certain he barely listened to a word of my cover story, much less found it remotely suspicious. The only time my purported background seemed to interest him was when he began bragging about all his entrepreneurial aspirations and solicited my advice in maximizing profits. To my credit, Nanny, I tucked this convenient opening for Operation Vertical into my back pocket for later discussion instead of pushing too hard on our first meeting—you’re welcome. Nonetheless, Weimert apparently found in me a new friend, perhaps because I was one of the few attendees who didn’t find myself in urgent need of the WC within moments of being stuck in his self-aggrandizing conversational bear trap.
As for your SS-Oberführer Albrecht, I must acknowledge there is something deeply unsettling about the man. For most of the evening he kept to himself, watching from the walls (less like a wallflower and more like a poisonous spider). If he ate or drank any of the outrageous gustations on display, I saw none of it, and he kept his sharp little gaze well-honed as the revelers became increasingly bleary-eyed.
When the night was nearly as drained as the champagne bottles, I was hunting for Weimert to bid him adieu and recommend we meet for brunch when who should appear at my side in the malodorous flesh but Albrecht? Yes, the man really does have a certain eau de toilette about him, but it appears the French women aren’t dissuaded by his smell, for reasons that elude. And yet . . . and yet, there is something about being fixed in his gaze that made me feel as if he were examining me with a jeweler’s loupe, studying all my hidden facets. It was at once unsettling and refreshing. While the moment couldn’t have dragged on for more than a second or two, I felt both a clear certainty that he’d seen through our mad gamble and a beautiful calm at that fact. Call it a spy’s intuition if you must; if someone is looking for a way out—a possibility we must always entertain—then what do we care if they know us for what we are?
“You are originally from Westphalia,” he said, taking me by the elbow and steering me away from the dwindling crowd. “I hear it in your accent.”
In truth, my family was poor lowlanders before we came to Jolly Olde England, but my mother always aspired for a higher station, and so she taught us Dortmunder diction and to mind our manners. It is the accent of my five-year-old self, before you Brits got ahold of me.
“So I am,” I said, puffing up my chest. “Hans Traummer, Traummer Manfacturing of Dortmund originally, and London of late.”
He shrunk from me as if I’d thrown acid on him at that London bit, and clucked his tongue. “I smell their taint on you.”
What can one possibly say to such a thing? A good spy knows to win the favor of anyone, no matter how eccentric or repulsive, but madness is something quite different, quite unpredictable. “The whole bloody isle smells that way,” I said, and wrinkled my nose for added effect.
He eased, becoming sinuous, perhaps even slithery if you’ll permit me some literary license, dear Nanny; it was not hard to see the man as a reptile, with his shiny skin and rolling eyes. I mimicked the stance, and felt something unraveling within me at permitting the essence of a monster into my body. It gnawed at me; in my mind’s eye I could almost see the parasites of National Socialism coiling up in my vital organs. But I embraced it. I embraced this evil man, this evil posture, Nanny, I embraced this evil persona all for you.
Albrecht asked me, still all hisses and mewls, what had brought me to Paris, and I explained as we’d agreed—that my father moved our business to bloody Britain after the last war, but I’ve dreamed of returning to the Fatherland ever since. As he grew older, he allowed me a greater role in dictating our company’s future, and granted me leave to open a plant in German-controlled Normandy, far enough to stretch my leash but close enough to keep his eye on me.
His head was nodding, but his sight was inward—searching for holes in my story, perhaps. I’m rather partial to the tale myself, as it cuts close (too close, Nanny?) to the quick. I often feel as if I’m moving about as a double in my own skin, a Doppelganger walking a divergent path of my life’s choices. What if I had been a Hitler-heiling little shit, too in love with the Vaterland I’d left behind to see the gift I’d been given in the Isles? There is a dark pleasure that passes through a spy when he finds himself agreeing with what he hates, behaving in ways he deplores. It’s the immersion, I think. We’re reluctant to shed the fancy costume and the liberation it offers, even after the masquerade has concluded.
Thus did a thrill run through me at the sight of the Totenkopf ring jammed onto Albrecht’s finger, bisecting it like a link on a sausage. A new clue. Albrecht is not merely SS, but one of Himmler’s darlings.
“You were wise to come here,” he said finally. My assessment was concluded. “You know what’s best for your business, don’t you.” He smiled, moist lips bulging, and I was struck by twin pangs of revulsion and fascination. Maybe this is what drove Madame Labeaux and all the rest to clamor to his bed—a morbid desperation to see what all the fuss is about. I’m not a religious man, Nanny, but if I were, I would swear I felt a divine hand pushing me toward Albrecht then. I would swear a voice looped itself around me like a lover’s arms and whispered that this was my destiny.
“I know everything better. I know what paths to walk, what gates to unlock.” I can’t say for certain what I meant by it; I hadn’t meant to say it until it was already out of my mouth. Perhaps it was that selfsame voice, my double within my skin, feeding me my lines to play the perfect Nazi supplicant.
Clearly, it achieved the desired effect; he extended his right hand, Totenkopf ring glinting in the luxurious electric light, and shook my hand. Maybe it was the lights after too long in the dark courtesy the Blitz blackouts, or maybe it was the champagne (rationing has made me lose much of my previously championship-grade tolerance, I fear), but the room spun around me for a moment, almost as if I were glimpsing a shadow-skewered mirror of Labeaux’s soiree, but it was gone as quickly as it had come. No—I’m sorry to have mentioned it now, only I am trying to be thorough, as I’ve read the agent reports alleging some of Himmler’s dearest might be employing some manner of chemicals or toxins to manipulate the men they speak with.
“A pleasure to meet you. Glory to the Third Reich,” he said, and was gone.
I was ready to retire for the evening, having failed to lure Weimert into a suitable opening for Operation Vertical and having succeeded too well in luring Albrecht, but I lingered for one more round so as not to appear as if the SS officers’ presence had been my sole motive in attending. I glimpsed Albrecht speaking in urgent tones with Weimert (upon whose arm a much-inebriated Madame Labeaux was dangling), but couldn’t position my conversation partner such that I could catch their words. Despite gathering valuable insights into Albrecht’s character, I feared the evening was something of a waste, as my only progress with Weimert was in playing a mirror in which he could admire his own magnificence. I feared I couldn’t arrange another meeting with him in which I could drop the Operation Vertical bait, but then—
“Herr Traummer, was it?” Weimert rounded on me with a fierce little smile on his lips as if he knew a secret, and relished keeping it from me. “You said that you are in the manufacturing business, yes?”
“I am,” I said, amazed he had been paying enough attention to catch that much.
“And how far along are you in your efforts?”
I explained that we were awaiting permits to acquire a factory that his friends had liberated from a French Jewish owner, but expected it would require minimal alterations, as our production methods were very similar.
“And have you secured a labor force?”
My pulse cantered now, as when the exits are barred and the snare begins to pull tight. A labor force of POWs—the Vertical prize. If he didn’t suspect our game, then Providence was doing an exceptional job of guiding him into our plans. But spies are never so lucky, are they? “I haven’t yet.” I wet my lips, doing my best to act the nervous first-timer at graft. “I’ve heard that sometimes . . .”
Weimert interrupted me with a smothered burp that likely woke up the rest of the 6th District. “I think I may have a proposal for you. Care to join me for tea in two days’ time?”
“I’d be delighted to spend more time in the presence of a civilized gentleman such as yourself.”
We made our final arrangements, and the good SS-Sturmbannführer strutted back to his Madame Labeaux.
Barring any orders to the contrary, Nanny, or any hint of danger in your Most Smarmy Sources, I’d like to meet with Weimert and see if we can’t advance the operational clock by contracting his labor force. I realize his proposal is somewhat alerting given that it aligns a little too neatly with our needs, but nothing else about the evening or any reporting you’ve passed my way would indicate a compromise; Frere and I have detected no tails as we maneuver about the city, and our apartment shows no signs of tampering. If you’ll kindly authorize the meeting, we’ll get Vertical well and truly under way.
Now that I’ve thoroughly exhausted my poor pianist’s fingers—
Keystone, signing off.
FROM SOE F Section TO Keystone. Immediate. 20 January 1942.
F Section read your colorful and, shall we say, exhaustive account of your exchange with SS officers Weimert and Albrecht with great interest. Your experiences with these two elusive, high-priority targets has furthered our knowledge of the dynamics at play amongst the SS in occupied Paris.
Because of this great value, and because of the utmost necessity in seeing Operation Vertical through, we have chosen to authorize your teatime with SS-Sturmbannführer Weimert despite his alerting labor force comments that hint at the crux of Operation Vertical’s ploy. The public venue he has chosen will make it much easier for us to ensure your safety, and we hope the time away from Albrecht’s watchful gaze will loosen his lips.
It is possible that Weimert is vetting you just as much as you are him, whether for recruitment or to assess whether you may be someone with ties back to England to whom he can turn if he chooses to divest himself of the Gestapo’s grasp. The comments did cause something of a stir back at home, hence the new set of transmission codes you received earlier today, but fortunately we have reviewed all traffic regarding Operation Vertical and are confident that even with complete access to transmissions he could not have glimpsed our full plans.
On a final, congratulatory note, SOE Director CD was pleased to read the character assessment on Albrecht and to learn that he is considered one of Himmler’s closest associates, given the Death’s Head/Totenkopf ring he wears. He has passed that information along to Churchill and we hope to exploit it soon to learn more of Himmler’s and his trusted advisors’ activities across the continent. Regards.
TO SOE F Section FROM Keystone. Immediate. 22 January 1942.
My dear Nanny, I fear SS-Oberführer Albrecht’s goals are far stranger and far more dangerous than we could have anticipated.
The teahouse Weimert chose for our rendezvous is about what you’d expect from the Parisians—gaudy Versailles posturing, mirrors floor to ceiling in gilded frames, a conservatory roof, and enough ferns to choke an invading army—if only the bloody Gauls had thought to do that! They did a piss-poor job of presenting an authentic high tea, but once I accepted the meal as the seven-course Bacchanalia it really was, I quite enjoyed myself.
Weimert arrived late with Madame Labeaux, the former as jovial as if he were on holiday on someone else’s tab (but then, isn’t he?), and the latter a bit more trembly than she’d appeared at her soiree. And well she should be, I suppose… keeping the company of monsters in men’s skin never ends well. Still, for one who has invited such monsters regularly into her bed, her nervous nature set my teeth on edge.
SS-Sturmbannführer Weimert began our tea, to no one’s surprise, with a great many boasts. As he exaggerated his role in dismantling the Interallié resistance network and personally assisting Goebbels in producing some dread chunk of propagandistic film, he kept turning to Madame Labeaux for confirmation of his greatness, as if they were Laurel and Hardy blundering through a rehearsed routine. She played her part, I suppose, but her bracelets clattered against her wine glass from the tremor in her arm and even her generous ration of rouge couldn’t keep much color in her cheeks.
Naturally, I smelled a trap. I recognized one of your cooptees a few tables over, and patted his position in my head like you might pat a pocket to reassure you your keys are still there. And if I knew he was there, dear Nanny, I’m certain there were others there whom I didn’t recognize. Thank you.
I started probing Weimert about the assistance he’d mentioned in establishing my factory. I don’t recall the specifics of the conversation, as it was eclipsed by all that happened later, but I hope you will trust in my subtlety and spy craft enough to know that I did not outright ask him to name all the captured resistance prisoners in his care and demand he “rent” them to me or my factory. There’s no great rush to Operation Vertical (though I’m sure those poor prisoners might disagree), and I recognize the gradual course we must traverse. In truth, I was treading lightly also because of Madame Labeaux’s unsettling disposition. I chatted and waited for the next polished Parisian pump to drop.
Sure enough, who should ride in on the wave of our third course but dear SS-Oberführer Albrecht? Your man near spilled his Bordeaux in shock. I realize now that I was a bit cruel in my earlier description of Albrecht as reptilian; while at a distance his slimy lips make the resemblance to a toad uncanny, up close his features resolve themselves into something more akin to the features of a carved figurine whose edges have been worn smooth from centuries of handling. The effect is quite soothing, really, and lest you think I imagine or exaggerate, as soon as Albrecht joined us, the color returned to Labeaux’s face and her tremors eased. His presence even seemed to mollify Weimert, who paused his braggadocio enough for the two to conduct some arcane greeting ritual full of handshakes and salutes and declarations of Teutonic supremacy.
Only once I averted my gaze did I recall my earlier hesitation about this scene, and whether I’d played into a trap, but the waiters continued to service the dining room, and the other diners remained in their seats, so I gave your man a swift jerk of the head to stand down for the time being.
“Oberführer,” I said, standing and giving him a brisk handshake. “You are involved in Weimert’s business ventures as well? We were just discussing my manufacturing plans underway in the 14th, assuming all the permits go through . . .”
“Yes, yes, we are both very eager to explore the possibility of a joint venture,” Albrecht assured me. “But I never discuss business on an empty stomach.”
As I’d not seen him eat anything at the soiree, and he currently made no move for the bread basket, I resigned myself to a long wait. “What shall we discuss, then?”
Albrecht gave the Totenkopf ring on his finger a little spin. I had half a mind to inquire about it, feigning ignorance as to its source, but he clearly already had a topic of conversation in mind.
“Are you a religious man, Herr Traummer?” he asked, but he didn’t wait for me to answer. “I did not used to be. How, after all, could a good Christian God allow the German people to suffer as they did after the last war? I thought for a time that perhaps we, the German people, are the gods, and this is the pain of awakening to find our own people, whom we have created, no longer believe in us. We know better, of course, but how to convince our children scattered across Europe and unite them once more?”
“An interesting interpretation.” I didn’t feel the sarcasm and hatred I would have expected when entertaining a lunatic; perhaps it was his cadence, void of the ire and spraying of spit one usually sees from Hitler et al. And I didn’t mind entertaining him because if this was the thought that kept SS-Oberführer Albrecht awake at night, then by God, I wanted to know it.
He advanced two fingers on the table toward me, and a hum like electricity ran up my arms. “No, Herr Traummer, I am asking you. How to convince the rest of the world of our godliness?”
I swallowed down the stubborn bit of pâté lodged in my throat. “I suppose you could perform a godly act to remind them of what you are.”
The smile spread across his gleaming lips like oil. I wanted to shrink away from it, but fought against the instinct. “Yes. Yes, Herr Traummer. You are very sharp. You must invoke your powers as a god.”
I reached deep into my bag of spy tricks, Nanny, truly I did. But I could not find any clever way to equate the bullying and blasting of one’s neighbor states and the absconding of their people into labor camps with godly acts. Flay me if you must, but even with that sense of a twin self, a Doppelganger, lodged firmly in my chest, I could find no words.
“There is a medieval German philosopher you may have heard of back home in Dortmund. Baruch—one of our great alchemists and mystics. He recovered much of what we know now about the German gods of old. In fact, he believed that someone of pure Germanic blood could invoke the gods themselves to protect the land.”
“Sounds a bit like your crowd,” I said to Madame Labeaux—her long-time tenure with Aleister Crowley and his ilk are well-known in Parisian gossip, so I don’t think my cover was slipping—but she barely heard me. Her sight was exclusively for Albrecht and his sinuous speech.
Albrecht leaned back, and I found myself leaning toward him as if he’d tangled his fingers in my veins and was tugging me like an expert puppet master. I wanted to divert the conversation flow back to the groundwork for Operation Vertical, but Albrecht’s words pressed against my brain as if they were lodged in my skull. Again that dizziness overcame me. Albrecht’s words became physical, their physical form became man, the man beckoned to me—
No, I’m sorry, Frere, don’t transmit that last bit to Nanny. Let me step back in the scene. I don’t need them worrying. Let’s go back to Albrecht prompting the conversation about gods.
[Note to SOE: I am preserving Keystone’s dictation verbatim to better present the environment. —Frere.]
Albrecht prattled on for some time about German gods and harnessing their power, something about pure blood, you know, your typical Nazi drivel, I was a few too many fatty courses in to pay it much notice. Maybe my minders can fill in some of the details. Albrecht extended me an invitation to observe one of his readings from some medieval manuscript he’d claimed from the French l’Archives nationales—from his alchemist Baruch, he said. If Nanny approves, I do think there may be some value in seeing what the man’s on about, if only to illuminate more of the SS High Command’s thought process.
One oddity of note transpired: Albrecht seemed overly curious about the partial missing digit on my left hand—a boyhood injury, as SOE is aware—but I told him it was a manufacturing accident. He seemed much relieved it was not a congenital defect, then interrogated me a bit more as to my past, though I think he was less concerned with poking holes in a possible cover story and more interested in assuring himself that he wasn’t associating with someone of inferior or non-Germanic stock.
Pending your concurrence, I’d like to attend this manuscript examination with Albrecht in three days’ time, and follow up on Weimert’s offer to discuss business at the following reception (you see, I’ve not forgotten dear Operation Vertical after all).
FROM Frere TO SOE F Section. Immediate. 22 January 1942.
Apologies for intruding on your operational planning but I would like to express my concern regarding SS-Oberführer’s invitation to Agent Keystone to attend the reading of some old manuscript. Agent Keystone has spoken of nothing but ever since their meeting, but becomes agitated and incomprehensible when I question him as to the reasons why he deems this of equal importance to pursuing the Operation Vertical groundwork. I cannot offer more basis for my concerns beyond a general tightness in my gut when speaking about it to Keystone but I feel strongly that Albrecht is leading him into some sort of trap. Regards from Paris.
TO Keystone FROM SOE F Section. Immediate. 23 January 1942.
While we appreciated your detailed account of the unexpected meeting with Albrecht and applaud your quick thinking in dealing with his arrival, we regret that we cannot authorize you to attend any further events in Albrecht’s presence at this time. F Section finds Albrecht’s demeanor toward you to be overtly aggressive, and even if he does not suspect your intelligence affiliation, his unusual interest presents too many liabilities to Operation Vertical. To that end, we insist you postpone any further meetings with Weimert, as well, and suggest that you not reestablish contact with him until Albrecht has left town, citing your consuming work establishing the factory as your reason. Regards.
CONFIDENTIAL TO Frere FROM SOE F Section. Immediate. 23 January 1942.
F Section applauds your careful work in keeping us apprised as to the true nature of the situation regarding Keystone and SS-Oberführer Albrecht. As you have no doubt been made aware, we are ordering an immediate stand-down of any communication with Albrecht in the interest of protecting the safety of Agent Keystone and Operation Vertical. However, we wish to determine the motive behind Albrecht’s fascination with Keystone to ensure other elements of Vertical plans are not compromised. To that end, we are tasking you with tailing Albrecht over the next few days, both to ensure he does not become more aggressive in approaching Keystone, and to assess what he knows or suspects of our work in Paris.
CONFIDENTIAL TO SOE F Section FROM Frere. Priority. 25 January 1942.
As requested, I tailed SS-Oberführer Albrecht intermittently these past few days. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, he does not spend much time attending to the typical SS officer duties you would expect, but instead spends a great deal of time surrounding himself in the history and tragedy of my beleaguered Paris. He is constantly visiting various museums and antiquities centers scattered about the city (most are officially closed owing to the occupation, but what SS officer worth his ring cannot command them otherwise?), and calling upon the numerous scholars and researchers at the universities.
Against my better judgment, I was able to overhear one such conversation at the Institut d’Art et d’Archéologie. The building is a hideous red spiky monstrosity, but it contains nooks and crannies in which one can easily overhear a conversation, aided in great part by its unreliable acoustic features.
Albrecht met there with one Professor Greard, who I later discovered is the university’s leading researcher on prehistoric peoples. Albrecht was quite adamant that Greard surrender to him the university’s collection of alleged proto-Germanic runes; Greard, for his part, was insistent that Albrecht should not take them (I quite liked his Gaulic gall—oh, dear, I fear Keystone is rubbing off on me) but, of course, there was only one way such an argument with a Nazi can go.
Once Greard had been “persuaded” to retrieve the artifacts, I followed them into the honeycomb of storage beneath the main building. Greard pulled a sizable array of storage cases from the stacks and turned them over to Albrecht’s goons. As he did so, he vehemently insisted that “they aren’t what you think. They’re much older, and far more dangerous.”
Albrecht began to lecture the poor man—some drivel about the children of Wotan and Teutonic blood as the key—but he had shifted his pitch and I confess I had difficulty understanding him at that point. As I tried to move closer, however, I felt a great pressure bearing down on me; red rimmed the edges of my vision and I began to hallucinate.
I cannot do the images justice—I’m sure all victims of chemical attacks must say the same—but I distinctly recall the feeling of claws skittering along my flesh and a great, gnarled hand reaching to pluck out my eyes. I must have failed to keep track of one of Albrecht’s goons, and this was his weapon of choice. I forced myself to ignore the dreadful sights and return the way I’d come, despite the horrible sensation of teeth and nails ripping along my arms and legs. The stacks became eroded ruins; the shadows grew limbs that reached for me to bar the way. My heart pounded in beat to a distant drum, tolling out my impending death. The staircase was slick as if with blood, and only when I reached the main floor and breathed fresh air was I able to clear my mind. (I did in fact discover corresponding gouges along my arms and legs when I returned home, which I must have inflicted upon myself in my desperation to flee.)
I hope this report aids you in uncovering more about this Albrecht character. If SOE knows anything more about whatever chemical agent the Nazi use to inflict that violent imagery, I’d greatly appreciate information as to how to guard against it in the future.
TO SOE F Section FROM Bletchley Park. MOST SECRET SOURCES—DO NOT DISSEMINATE.
The following is the translated transcript of an encrypted Enigma transmission intercepted on 25 JAN 42. Please contact Decryption Services for further assistance.
FROM Jaeger TO Wewelsburg Command Post ATTN: Offices of the Reichsführer.
Forgive, mein Reichsführer, that I could not deliver this message by hand as we had agreed, but soon I shall deliver you something far more valuable.
The Miezenkraft Runes and accompanying Baruch manuscripts have been secured. Greard would not acknowledge the runes’ heritage, much less their criticality, but I have the utmost faith in your archaeologists in the Ahnenerbe and the dutiful researchers at Wewelsburg. The manuscripts document quite plainly their purpose in the early Wotanist settlements and posits, as we had hoped, a newer method of accessing their power for the glory of the Germanic peoples.
Without proof, they are worthless; without a suitably pure gate to unlock their power and draw forth that which we must petition, they are mere trinkets. I’d gladly bear the burden myself, yet given the risks, it is perhaps unwise… But fortunately, I’ve found a solution for that problem, as well. They have spoken to me. They approve of my choice.
TO SOE F Section FROM Keystone. Immediate. 25 Jan 1942.
I did not wish to wake Mssr “Frere” to transmit this message, so please forgive any errors.
I have just been disgorged from the most incredible dream, and I urge you to reconsider allowing me to accompany SS-Oberführer Albrecht on tomorrow’s outing. As I lay awakened, I felt—as I have been feeling since this operation began—as if there was another presence inside of me, stretching at my skin, tugging me, trying to subsume the me that remains. It showed me such wonderful things tonight that I know there is nothing to fear; to the contrary, I’m now quite certain that for all the Nazi thuggishness, Albrecht has managed to stumble upon a far deeper truth, and who better to see that truth realized but us? Why should we leave something so valuable for those men to seize?
The power is mine. Ours. Yes, ours, and I will have this power, and you shall wield me as a mighty weapon. I must seize this thing.
In these wonderful dreams, I saw myself splitting open, I felt my soul pouring forth from my body, but it was not depleted, it was endless and joyful. It burned away the evil settled over Europe like fog evaporating in the sun. The voices these men have silenced all spoke as one, chanting an ancient knowledge that I’m certain I once knew but have since forgotten. This is what I felt before, when I played a role and saw the monster, the double, within myself. It is evil, but a necessary one, and I shall be its voice of reason. It is salvation, trying to break free.
I must harness it. I must go with Albrecht, so he cannot take it for himself.
FROM SOE F Section TO ALL PARIS UNITS. FLASH. 26 January 1942.
Please be advised that Agent Keystone, née “Hans Traummer,” has gone missing. We strongly suspect he has been turned by the German officers Weimert and Albrecht (descriptions of all three to follow) but it is possible he is acting under his own power for purposes unclear. Please report any sightings of these individuals immediately. Do not engage unless doing so will not violate your current operations.
FROM Frere TO SOE F Section. Routine. 15 February 1942.
I attended Madame Labeaux’s latest soiree last night to no avail. Neither Weimert nor Albrecht were in attendance, and needless to say, no signs of Agent Keystone, either. When I approached Madame Labeaux, she would tell me only that the two officers were away on official business, but she herself seemed out of sorts about the matter, as if she resented being kept out of the loop.
FROM SOE F Section TO ALL PARIS UNITS. Priority. 17 February 1942.
In reference to 26 January 1942 transmission—we are still searching for any updates on the referenced individuals but have downgraded the search to Priority. Appreciate any information.
FROM Cobblestone TO SOE F Section. Immediate. 23 February 1942.
Sirs, I regret to inform you that I have discovered a sad ending to the mystery of Agent Keystone’s disappearance. My source in the Paris police tipped me off last week to the recovery of a most gruesomely mutilated body, and given our Teutonic friends’ flair for the dramatic, I thought it warranted further investigation. My source led me to the city morgue, explaining that he had discovered the body in the depths of the Catacombs when he’d had to respond to reports of Allied agents using the crypts for a meeting place. (Not this one, especially after what I’ve seen!)
The corpse he displayed was badly decomposed, but it was clear that much of the damage had occurred during the act of dying itself. Its ribs had been snapped open and splayed outwards. Many of the internal organs had been removed in a crude fashion. Most vulgar of all, however, was the face—the upper layer of epidermis had been pulled clean away, like peeling off a glove.
To be truthful, I can’t be certain that the mutilated body I observed was Agent Keystone. But I know this much—the poor unfortunate soul was missing the same partial digit on his left hand as the F Section physical description sent out previously.
Apologies that I do not have better news to report.
SOE F SECTION INTERNAL MEMO 25 February 1942.
I have filed the death notice for Agent Keystone as you requested, and all necessary arrangements have been made to scrub Operation Vertical data. I concur with your decision not to inform Frere of Keystone’s passing at this time, for we need his attention focused on disrupting the Labeaux network and, in time, developing a new operation to extract the POWs from Weimert’s Paris jail.
FROM THE DESK OF DOCTOR HAROLD FARTHINGTON, MBE
PROFESSOR EMERITUS, MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, OXFORDSHIRE.
01 March 1942
Gentlemen of the Special Executive Office,
I am sorry that it took me some time to respond to your inquiry regarding the Miezenkraft Runes, but as I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a war on, and I imagine any inquiry into a centuries-old hoax couldn’t have been more pressing relative to the other work I certainly hope is engaging you at present.
In any case, the Miezenkraft Runes were unearthed in Westphalia around the 14th century, and I’d wager that those bloody goose steppers, like many Germans before them, are trying to use them as proof of some ancient hyper-intelligent proto-Germanic race, but as Professor Greard (about whom you also inquired) argues, they are likely much too old for all that rot and probably have nothing to do with the filthy Krauts at all. My colleagues’ best guess is that the Miezenkraft runes belong to far older peoples who passed through modern Germany several millennia before the Krauts began crawling around, but this is not my area of expertise.
Inconvenient facts have never stopped anyone before, though; shortly after the Runes were discovered, the infamous alchemist Baruch declared them instruments of accessing the gods’ will and wrote some incomprehensible encoded grimoire all about employing their power to invoke the true German gods. Lots of blood and guts involved in that one, sacrifices of flesh for the gods to claim, you know the sort. Syphilis is quite the facilitator of insane ramblings, so I hear. His little cult flourished for a time but then the copious VDs caught up with him, and shortly before passing he acknowledged in a letter to John Dee that he should have left the damned things buried. Some nonsense about the stones tapping into something far older, far more dangerous, far less willing to obey their Teutonic desires—your usual superstitious ravings. Eventually all of Baruch’s possessions wound up in Louis XVIII’s court, and you can imagine the rest.
I cannot speculate as to what interest the Special Executive Office might have in those chunks of prehistoric rubble, but if it’s the Krauts you’re looking to defeat, I can only encourage you not to waste your time.
FROM Frere TO SOE F Section. FLASH. 03 March 1942.
I must deliver most alarming news concerning Agent Keystone, and I fear it may mean my position with you all is completely compromised at this time. I arrived at Madame Labeaux’s latest party upon hearing rumors that Weimert and Albrecht were back in town, and was stunned to find Agent Keystone among them, wearing the smug look and the Totenkopf ring of a sworn officer of the SS.
I very nearly fled the scene right then, certain that if he had joined their ranks, my cover was well and truly blown. But something dark and glittering in his eyes fixed me in place. Not familiarity, nor hatred, but a kind of amusement, as if my fear was beneath him somehow. He knew that I knew him, or the man he used to be, and couldn’t resist the chance to see me suffer.
I found myself unable to move. My legs betrayed me as he drew close; the same hypnotic images of chanting and smell of blood that once stalked me when I tried to follow Albrecht those many weeks ago once more filled my mind. I leaned toward him, a needle magnetized by Keystone’s pull. Whatever horrible fate he had in mind for me at the mercy of his SS handlers, I had no choice but to embrace it.
Which is why I was completely unprepared for what he said as he drew up to my ear.
“They think I am one of their old gods.” He straightened his lapel with his left hand—now curiously unblemished—and his smile cut through his face like a scythe. “But I will be so much more.”
“Doppel” copyright © 2014 by Lindsay Smith
Art copyright © 2014 by Jeffrey Alan Love