“No thank you, Mr. Dulles,” Gabriella Doria said. “I do not drink – tea.”
Her host, a spectacled man with gray hair, a trimmed moustache, and a pipe that he fussed with, waved away his servant, who left them both alone in the parlor of the first floor apartment of the von Wattenwyl House, a medieval building that showed signs of baroque renovations, located at 23 Herrengasse in Bern, Switzerland. Allen Dulles was officially an assistant to the American ambassador to Switzerland. He was actually a spy master for the American Office of Strategic Services and the center of a web of networks that stretched across occupied Europe and beyond.
“My apologies,” he said, sipping his own tea. “I have never before had someone of your nature as a guest.”
“Or suspected that there we creatures such as myself outside of bad cinema,” she replied, smiling.
Dulles took a puff from his pipe. “The truth of the matter is that Section 12 has temporarily given you to me now that Venice has become too hot for you. However I have been at a loss as to what to do with you. Someone of your particular talents – and limitations – presents something of a challenge.”
“Nevertheless, I should like to contribute.”
“I would have expected no less from a person of your accomplishments.” Then, as if on queue, Dulles’ servant appeared with a file folder and handed it to him. Dulles opened it, glanced through it, and handed it to Gabriella. She opened the folder. The contents were a dossier was of a German Field Marshal with closed cropped hair and well chiseled features. He had that grimly serious mien that German officers always seemed to have in official photographs. Gabriella noted the name on the dossier.
“Field Marshal Erwin Rommel?” she asked.
“The Desert Fox himself. He is currently in command of Army Group B defending the French coast against a potential second front.”
“Is there going to be a second front?”
“I would assume so, but I don’t have that information.” And would not give it to Gabriella if he had it, went unspoken. “It is a second, somewhat unofficial capacity, that Rommel has taken on that I am concerned with. He is part of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and replace the Nazi regime with a military government that would negotiate a peace with the allied powers. My official orders are that I am to take no active part, beyond gathering information and passing it on to my superiors.”
“Why would Rommel want to kill Hitler?” asked Gabriella. “I thought he was the Fuehrer’s favorite general.”
“My information is that Rommel would like to arrest Hitler and place him on trial, but that places him at odds with most of the other conspirators. To answer your question, Rommel has only been back in Europe for about a year since his adventures in North Africa and has only recently become convinced of the more unsavory aspects of the Third Reich.”
“Like the death camps and the genocides.”
“Among other things. Others of the conspirators have doubtlessly concluded that the war is lost and want to make their own deals with the allies with Hitler out of the way. Regardless, this represents a remarkable opportunity to end the war at least a year early and save countless lives.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to make contact with Rommel. Sound him out.”
“About surrendering Army Group B the moment the landings for the second front start.”
Gabriella was taken aback at the sheer audacity of what had just been proposed. “Could such a thing be done?”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea. Rommel would be the best judge of such a question. What I need to know is whether he would be willing to do such a thing and whether he would be able to do such a thing. Some units, especially those belonging to the Waffen SS, would likely not obey an order to stand down and allow the allies to land unimpeded. But if anyone can convince the majority of the German Army in the west to turn against Hitler, it would surely be Rommel.”
Gabriella smiled. “Of course even if I were to get to him to make such a proposal he could just as well order my arrest and have me thrown into a nasty Nazi dungeon.”
“I trust that someone of your special skills will be able to get free if that happens.”
Gabriella nodded. That was probably true, provided that Rommel was not prepared to deal with someone of her nature. Hesselman had murdered her beloved Darcier with a pistol firing a wood tipped bullet. A German Army guard similarly armed could give her the true death just as thoroughly.
Still, the proposal was so audacious that she could not help but say, “Alright. I’ll do it.”
The rest of the conversation consisted of a discussion of the travel arrangements. Gabriella would have to go to France and somehow get inside Rommel’s Army Group B headquarters, located in the Chateau La Roche Guyon 40 miles north of Paris. But the talk soon drifted to social conversation, with Dulles peppering her with questions about her very long life.
Gabriella always thought that it was safest to tell stories about President Abraham Lincoln, a man she had known and greatly admired eighty or so years earlier. Lincoln had been a purveyor of amusing parables, many of which had become lost to history but not to Gabriella’s memory. Still, because of the manner of his dying and her feeling of guilt surrounding it, she always felt a twinge of sadness when talking about the man.
Gabriella noticed something growing in Dulles’ demeanor, something akin to both anticipation and hesitancy. She recognized the emotion almost immediately. Dulles, she had been told, was an epic womanizer, despite having a wife back in the United States. Doubtless he was beginning to wonder if she could become his latest conquest.
On the other hand, Dulles must have been mulling over what the consequences of such an encounter might hold for him. Gabriella typically took only enough blood to fill a wine glass from the lovers she took; it was enough to satisfy her nutritional needs. But Dulles, having grown up on lurid vampire stories in novels and the cinema, likely did not know that. He would gladly be Gabriella’s lover. He was not very keen on being her dinner, however.
Gabriella resisted the temptation to reassure him, instead allowing him to work out matters in his own mind. In any case, the OSS spy master was a little older than the sorts of men she liked to take to her bed. She preferred them to be young, filled with life, which she could sip from as delicately as sampling an anti pasta.
In the end, Dulles looked at his watch and said, “It’s a couple of hours before dawn.”
Gabriella rose from her seat. “Then I had better get going.”
They shook hands at the rear exit, which was badly lit enough so that prying eyes could not see clearly the comings and goings. She noticed an air of regret coming from Dulles as she turned and stepped out into the night air of Bern. The door shut gently behind her and she walked out into the street.
A couple of hours. Time enough to snack on an unwary late traveler before going to rest. Then, there would be preparations to be made for the journey into France.
Forward to Dark Invasion — Chapter Two
Gabriella’s previous World War II adventure is recounted in ‘Dark Sanction.’
Gabriella fights in the War on Terror in ‘Dark Hunt.’