And what exactly was he going to do if Henkel cracked, he asked himself? He shuddered as he remembered the Polish cleaner in Peenemünde. “From some friends,” she’d said as she dropped a balled-up piece of paper on his desk.
She’d fussed around him while he opened it and read a time and a place. His throat had tightened with excitement but he’d nodded as casually as he could and thrown the paper into her rubbish sack.
He’d turned his unseeing eyes back to the report he was reading. Argus was trying to get in touch with him! He’d thought he’d had enough, but damn he’d missed the feeling of being part of something more than the soulless glory of the Reich. And he’d missed Carlton, the poor sod.
The exuberance had left him as quickly as it had come. Suppose Carlton had named him? Shit, that woman could be a Gestapo plant. No, he was being stupid, they’d just arrest him. But what if, what if?
Carlton had briefed him on what to do if he was arrested. “If they get you, you’ll talk. Everybody talks. The best you can do is hold on for long enough that we realise they’ve got you. When you find you’ve given them a name, give them a dozen. Give them fifty. Tell them they’ve uncovered their worst nightmare of a conspiracy. They won’t believe you of course, but then they won’t know what to believe and hopefully we’ll get a bit more time while they’re arguing about it.”
Had Carlton really said that? It must have been years ago, but Silversmith couldn’t summon up the where and when. It didn’t matter, it made sense. It was what Carlton had probably done. Then the Gestapo would have to test everyone he named, which meant that the Polish cleaner would report his nod to a man with dried blood under his fingernail as it hovered over the name ‘James Silversmith’. Silversmith had about ten minutes to report her before he learned more than he ever wanted to know about how blood gets under fingernails. His chair flew backward as he lunged for his telephone.
Wernher von Braun, the spaceflight director, had congratulated him in person for leading the Gestapo to the cell of insurgents in Peenemünde. A week later, Silversmith had been assigned for flight training. She was Gestapo, he told himself, sent to test him before they let him on the flight roster. He never saw the cleaner again.
Argus had never tried to contact him.
Next week: Pluto
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Cover by Manda Benson