“Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France, Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that’s when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.”
I had to smile when I read the name on the slip of paper. This assignment would prove interesting, I could be sure of that.
“You fly to Calcutta this evening. He’ll be waiting for you at the Hotel Holiday. Potter will give you directions from there,” Nigel was forever fiddling with his napkin. “You met the good doctor in Calcutta once before as I recall.”
“Yes, it was after Berlin. We became very good friends. I’ll be glad to see him again.”
“I thought you would,” Nigel smiled as he finally folded the napkin into his lap in a way that seemed satisfactory for the moment. “I heard you learned a few interesting tricks from him.”
“Oh, yes. Checkmate in ten moves.”
The flight was typical, bad food and stale air. Being Driven to Hotel Holiday was an adventure in itself. Calcutta taxis are infamous for their short cuts down narrow streets crowded with vendors and pedestrians.
“And would sir require a room?” The English was poor but understandable.
“Yes, please. And I’d like a meal sent up later if that’s possible.”
“Certain surely, sir. Good cuisine here, very good. And will sir be staying for long?” The clerk seemed eager to please.
“I’m not certain yet,” and Drake signed the registry. As he turned the book around the clerk, seeing his name, smiled broadly.
“Oh, Mr. Drake, this was coming for you earlier.” Reaching into a drawer under the counter he produced an envelope. On its exterior it simply read “For John Drake”.
“Thank you very much. Did the person leaving it happen to give a name?”
“Oh, no sir. He was a messenger boy. He come in, leave this, and then go again.” The clerk looked over his shoulder as though to be sure he wasn’t being watched, and leaning slightly over the counter, his hand cupped next to his mouth, said in a most secretive way, “Curried lamb this night. Cooks very fine. You enjoy this meal, I guaranteed.”
“Thank you, thank you very much.”
I opened the envelope as soon as I entered the room. It was from Potter. He would meet me in the lobby at eight p.m. We would go to the doctor’s room from there.
“Hello John,” Potter smiled. “Its been awhile.”
“Yes, three months at least. And hows Maggie?”
“Fine. It was a girl you know,” and Potter smiled a smile as wide as Potter could. “We named her Julie, after Maggie’s favorite aunt.”
From behind the counter the clerk called out, “Sir enjoy meal? Very fine, yes?”
Walking towards the stairs he looked over his shoulder and smiling replied, “Yes, very fine.” Moments later they were on the second floor. Potter knocked on the door of room number six. As the door opened narrowly both men entered. The old man, beaming, reached for Drake’s hand, pumping it with a vigor that said nothing of age.
“My young friend, it is so good to see you again!”
“Dr. Seltzman, how’ve you been?”
We needed more men like him. When first we met in East Berlin he had proven himself during the escape we organized. To have him in the free world was a great gain, and I had made a good friend.
Potter had left. Drake and Dr. Seltzman talked with lowered voices. There was no one to overhear, it was the subject matter that lent itself to a hushed atmosphere.
“He was a murderer, John. Colonel Becker was personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, many of them old women and small children. All of them deemed enemies of the Third Reich,” Dr. Seltzman’s tone was bitter. He had lived in the midst of a Nazi nightmare. But he had lived. And now was an opportunity for him to fight back at last. “I saw him in the market place three days ago. Immediately I wired our friend. I am glad they sent you.”
“And when you saw him did he see you?”
“Oh, certainly. Yes, he saw me and I am sure he recognized me.”
“You know of course,” Drake placed his hand on the older man’s shoulder, “that they’ll come for you.”
“Yes, of course. That is why I called, to offer myself as bait,” Dr. Seltzman smiled. “I will be your bait and you will devise the trap. Together we shall bring a measure of peace to many who still mourn. And do not worry about me, John. I knew that this might happen and made my escape plans long ago.”
“Where can you go?”
“It is best that no one know. If the trap we set is sprung properly I will explain later how you may contact me in the future should you ever need to.” Dr. Seltzman looked toward the window, an odd look on his face. “My escape. You know, my friend, that there really is no escape for any of us. We all carry our prison with us. There is no escape from self.”
There was to be a carnival in the market place the next day. It was primarily for tourists and pickpockets, and for setting traps. I could only hope all went well for the sake of Dr. Seltzman.
Drake stood near Seltzman, within arms reach. He was seemingly intent upon a map of Calcutta. The Doctor, for his part, was looking intently at melons. And of course they were not together, they did not know each other. And in such a mixed crowd no one noticed either. Seltzman swatted at flys with a rolled up newspaper as he felt of one melon, tapped on another. Drake saw Colonel Becker slowly making his way through the crowd. He recognized him from file photos he’d seen in Tel Aviv. The Doctor had glimpsed him, had purposely positioned himself so that his back was to the Colonel. When Becker was about ten feet from his target Drake stepped forward, and with his best Bronx accent addressed the man.
“Hey, pal, you look like someone from my part of the world. No one here savvy’s English, know what I mean?” He was between the two men now. “Look at this map with me, will ya? I can’t make heads or tails out of it. And just look how it’s printed! Can you help me find … ”
“Nine!” The Colonel barked, trying to push past him. He was trying to get to Seltzman, who having heard John Drake had started circling through the crush of the crowd so as to position himself behind Becker, who was at this point hurriedly growing livid. “Idiot American, get out of my way!”
“Well now, that’s no way to treat a guy like me, just looking for help. Why I remember …” And Seltzman, every bit as crafty as he had been in Berlin, was now directly behind Becker.
“Dumm Kopf, DUMM KOPF!” He was straining, looking over Drake’s shoulder, trying to find Dr. Seltzman, trying to force his way past this stupid American when, just over his right shoulder he heard the words, “Herr Colonel, it has been many years.”
He tried to turn but the two men, Drake in front and Seltzman in back, with the crowd on either side, had him pinned. He tried to reach for a pocket but Drake’s hand was quicker and in a moment a pistol had changed ownership unseen.
“Colonel Becker,” and the Bronx accent was gone now, “there are twelve agents, eight Israeli and four NATO, stationed at various positions here at the carnival. It will be much easier for you if you’ll accompany the good doctor and myself … ” And pushing gently, guiding him in the desired direction, Drake continued to give the Colonel directions until they were safely at the nearest police office. From there Drake made one phone call and after a few words into the receiver handed it to the officer behind the desk. It was only then that the German war criminal realized that the only agent involved in his capture was the one with the disappearing accent.
“You were very brave, my friend. You captured both the gun and the man,” Dr. Seltzman chuckled.
“Doctor, I believe it was you that both provided the bait AND sprung the trap.”
“He will have notified others,” Dr. Seltzman smiled at his friend. “I must put my plan into action, my friend. Now Dr. Seltzman will disappear. But before I go, please, give me an address so that I can mail you a small package.”
John Drake wrote down an address, handed it to the Doctor.
“I will send you a roll of film, vacation pictures. Have them developed. Make certain that you keep them in proper order. If you should ever need to contact me remember the code we devised in Berlin.”
“And how will you know that I’ve received them?”
“You may write to me at the return address. Someone there will know how to get your letter to me this once. After that … ” The Doctor shrugged.
The two men shook hands. Drake spoke first.
“I wish you well, Dr. Seltzman.”
“And I you, my good friend. And who knows? Perhaps things will change, perhaps sometime I will be able to come back.” He turned to walk away, and waving one last goodbye said, “Perhaps one day I shall have a change of mind.”