Excerpt of Mission to Paris by Alan Furst
(Page 6 of 9)
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Very generous indeed."
Herbert let this sink in. It took some time, but Prideaux eventually
said, "What if I'm... far away?"
Herbert smiled. Prideaux's eyes were cast down so he didn't see
the smile, which was just as well. "Monsieur Prideaux," Herbert said,
as though he were saying poor Monsieur Prideaux, "there is no such
thing as far away." Then he stepped into the hall and drew the door
shut behind him.
Herbert left Lothar to watch the hotel, likely unnecessary but why
take chances. Prideaux, he thought, had taken the bait and would
remain where he was. Herbert then returned to the nightclub, told
General Aleksey where to find Prideaux and described him, in his
pajama top and underdrawers. Thirty minutes later, as the canvas
horse capered and danced to the music of the accordion, Lothar and
the Russian returned. Herbert counted out two thousand Swiss
francs, General Aleksey put the money in his pocket, wished them a
pleasant evening, and walked out the door.
10 September, 1938. In Berlin, the Ribbentropburo - the political
warfare department named for Foreign Minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop - had its offices in the Reich Foreign Ministry at 3, Wilhelmstrasse.
Senior bureaucrats from the ministry liked to take a
morning coffee in the dining room of the vast and luxurious Hotel
Kaiserhof, on the nearby Wilhelmplatz. This was especially true of
the Deputy Director of the Ribbentropburo, who could be found, at
seven in the morning, at his customary table in the corner, his sombre
blue suit vivid against the background of shining white tablecloths.
The Deputy Director, an SS major, had formerly been a junior
professor of social sciences, particularly anthropology, at the University
of Dresden. He was an exceptionally bright fellow, with sharp
black eyes and sharp features - it was sometimes said of him, privately,
that he had a face like an axe. This feature did him no harm, it
made him look smart, and you had to be smart to succeed in the political
warfare business; you had to understand your enemy's history,
his culture, and, most of all, his psychology.
The Deputy Director's morning ritual made him accessible to junior
staff, of the courageous and ambitious sort, who dared to approach
him at his table. This was dangerous, because the Deputy
Director did not suffer fools gladly, but it could be done and, if done
successfully, might move the underling one rung up the very steep ladder
of advancement within the bureau. On the morning of the tenth,
a fresh- faced young man carrying a briefcase presented himself to the
Deputy Director and was invited to sit down and have a cup of coffee.
After they'd spent a few minutes on the weather and the state of
the world, the young man said, "A most interesting document has
found its way to my desk."
"Yes, sir. I thought it worth bringing to your attention."
"And it is...?"
The young man reached into his briefcase and brought out a press
clipping. "I have it here, with a translation - the document is in
"I read English," said the Deputy Director. He then snapped his
fi ngers and extended a hand to receive the interesting document.
"It's taken from the Hollywood newspaper called Variety," the
young man said as the Deputy Director glanced at the clipping. "And
reports that the movie actor Fredric Stahl is coming to Paris to make
"He is influential? In America?"
"Not really, he's just an actor, but I believe we can make use of
him once he gets to Paris. He will surely receive attention from the
French newspapers and the radio."
The Deputy Director fi nished reading the release and handed it
back to the young man. "What do you propose?"
"To put him on the list maintained by our French section."
"Very well, you may add him to the list, and make sure that
what's- his- name who runs the section does something about it."
Excerpted from Mission to Paris
by Alan Furst. Copyright © 2012 by Alan Furst.
Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.