The Terminal Man
by Philip Turner
Chapter 12

THE UZI DISAPPEARED into a carrier bag as Helm re-entered Vaduz. He was surprised at how well the shape was disguised but he could see that his escort's finger remained close to the trigger. The thin plastic wouldn't affect the flight of a bullet. Helm wondered what effect the muzzle flash would have. Would it set fire to the carrier bag? Or would it just glue smears of plastic to the barrel, forcing the gunman to spend hours scraping with a razor blade to clean up the weapon?
   "Left at the next corner," said the gunman.
   Helm noticed that the other two vehicles kept straight on down the main street.
   "Stop after the blue Renault and sound your horn."
   Helm beeped twice. A pair of tall, wooden gates on the other side of the street opened. Helm drove into a courtyard in the middle of a row of office buildings. The black gates closed behind him. He parked neatly between the painted white lines of a bay, beside the only other car in the courtyard. Just a handful of the offices showed lights.
   The gunman took his Uzi out of the carrier bag, showing that he was on home ground and not concerned about being seen armed. Helm entered an open door. The Uzi prodded him toward the yellow lights of a staircase.
   Helm turned left in response to another prod at the first floor starting to feel really pissed off with the method of direction. The corridor ran between a row of windows on the courtyard side of the building and unremarkable offices.
   "In here."
   A door with a frosted panel stood open a few inches. As he entered the office, Helm became aware of a peculiar smell. It had a spicy tang with a hard, throat-catching edge.
   There were thick curtains at the windows and on the door's frosted panel. Two lights with red shades cast an infernal glow. Helm stopped to avoid walking into something unseen. The gunman closed the door and pushed past him to hold a brief conversation with a shape on the other side of the room.
   Helm didn't recognize the language. As his eyes became more accustomed to the darkroom lighting conditions, he realized that the office was furnished as a sitting room. There were four armchairs, two coffee tables and two units filled with books and computer equipment.
   "Sit down," said the gunman in American-English. "And remember," he tapped the Uzi, "I'm in the other room."
   "Well, hoo-bloody-ray," muttered Helm as he shuffled to an armchair.
   The gunman pulled a wall hanging aside and left by a concealed door. The other man was wearing a Homburg hat and a dark suit. He had a whispy, white beard with several bald patches, curly sideboards and he wore a black patch over his right eye, under his glasses. His appearance lay on the borderland between sinister and comical.
   "So, Mister, tell me your name," said the old man. He inhaled from a fat cigarette but seemed not to exhale.
   "You sent two carloads of gangster to grab me and you don't even know who I am?" Helm's synthetic indignation dissolved into a coughing fit as a thread of smoke reached him. He had discovered the source of the peculiar and quite unpleasant smell. He realized that the old man was smoking cannabis.
   "We were watching Eva Arlberg," said the old man. "When she collected you we became interested. So, Mister, what are you? A doctor? Or maybe a microbiologist?"
   "You what?" said Helm, baffled.
   "Maybe I should see your passport."
   "Maybe I left it at my hotel."
   "So what were you going to do at the border?"
   Helm shrugged. "That wasn't my problem. They had all the guns so it was up to them."
   "They kidnapped you?"
   "Just like your gang."
   "I don't think it's any of your business."
   "Suppose I make it my business, Mister? Suppose I tell Avvi to break your kneecaps?"
   "If you want to know that badly, I suppose I can tell you." Helm had no intention of losing any kneecaps on a five-hundred-quid job. "Did you know the Countess von Arlberg is getting a divorce?"
   "So I was in a plan to move some jewellery for her. I suppose the Count sent this Eva to get my package. Is she his daughter, or something?"
   "So you're working for Renate Arlberg?"
   "No, I'm working for a friend of hers, who lent me to her for this job. I've met her once, for just a couple of minutes. The only other member of the family I've met is this Eva."
   "So you're not in the medical business?"
   "It says 'engineer' in my passport." Helm broke off for a coughing fit. "Can we open a window?"
   The old man pressed a button on the arm of his chair. An extractor fan behind him began to hum an off-key rhythm. He pressed another button for an intercom and issued a brief order in an unknown language. "This cigarette is medicinal, not for pleasure," he told Helm. "This engineering you do..."
   "Civil engineering," interrupted Helm. "You know, roads, bridges, dams, that sort of thing." The old man seemed to have an obsession with medicine. Helm chose to tell a big lie, knowing that his captor could hardly tell him to build a bridge to prove that he was telling the truth.
   "So what's a civil engineer doing delivering jewels?"
   "I told you, I'm working for someone else. He asked me to do this job as a favour for the Countess. The only qualification is a valid driving licence."
   "So where are the jewels?"
   "They caught up with me after I delivered them."
   "So what were they doing with you?"
   Helm shrugged. "Your guys arrived before they told me."
   "So they were taking you to Schloß Arlberg? And you without a passport?" chuckled the old man.
   Helm shrugged again. "They didn't know that."
   "So they're not so clever, eh? What's your name, Mister. I'm Sigismund Morgenstern."
   "John Scott." Helm knew what Morgen means and he had seen a white star on the cover of Stern magazine. A morning-star, as far as he could recall, is a mediaeval club with a spiked ball on the end. The name tipped the balance from comical to sinister, as far as the old man was concerned.
   A dark-haired woman entered the gloomy office. She was small, dressed in dark clothing and she left before Helm could get a good look at her. She had brought two glasses in silver skeleton-frames. Slices of lemon floated on the clear, dark liquid.
   "So what do you think of these Arlbergs?" said Morgenstern after a healthy swig of lemon tea.
   "It wouldn't bother me if I never heard the name again." Helm put his glass down after finding that the lemon tea was much too hot for a normal person to drink.
   "Would you be willing to do a job for me against them?"
   "People usually pay me for jobs. Looking down the barrel of a gun doesn't help my concentration."
   "This is a job you will want to do, gun or no gun. And an engineer is just the man to do it. You know about the Gletscher Klinik?"
   "If that's the Count's place, I know it's sixty kilometres from Zürich or a hundred and forty from Stuttgart, and it dries out rich drunks. But I've never been there."
   "You've heard about their cryostore?"
   "What's that?" Helm played dumb.
   "Where they freeze the bodies of people with fatal diseases until some clever doctor works out a cure."
   "I thought they only did that in the States."
   Morgenstern shrugged. "All it takes is money. You know how many bodies they have in their crypt?"
   "Obviously not, if I don't know anything about it." Helm sipped his tea. It tasted like Earl Grey.
   "Thirty-one. And you know what most of them are?"
   "Dead and rich?" suggested Helm.
   "Nazis!" Morgenstern practically spat the word onto his carpet. "And you know who's in crypt number one?"
   "Not Martin Bormann?"
   "The Number One Nazi, that's who!"
   "The Big Boss? Sieg heil, and all that?" scoffed Helm.
   "Don't mock, Mister. They never found his body."
   "Hitler shot himself. Then his staff burned his body with Mrs. Hitler. And didn't the Russians produce his skull? That someone had been keeping in a filing cabinet for the last few decades? And didn't they get Hitler's own dentist to check out this teeth?"
   "Russians!" Morgenstern spat out another word, showing that he grouped Communists with Nazis. "You know how many doubles he had? Actors they made into exact copies with plastic surgery? And had their teeth fixed the same? Eight! And that's only the ones we know about. You don't think a man with his power couldn't get out of Berlin? Even with Russians all around?"
   "Even if he did get our alive, he must have died long before they invented freezing with liquid nitrogen."
   "So who needs liquid nitrogen, Mr. Engineer? Did the mammoths they got out of glaciers need it? With the flesh in perfect condition? Did the cavemen they found perfectly preserved in another glacier need it? Do you know what it takes to grow a new body for him? One tiny little nucleus out of one cell!"
   "It wouldn't be the same person, though. Adolf Hitler was the sum total of his memories and experiences. A clone wouldn't have any of that."
   "You think these Nazis can't educate him? Give him those memories? A living image of the Number One Nazi?"
   "That's just science fiction," scoffed Helm. "Years off."
   "You think they can't wait a few years now? Where are they going? Nowhere! All they've got to do is lie there, frozen stiff, waiting to come back. And you know when they'll come back? In the new millennium. The new Hitler will be born again in the year two thousand."
   A born-again Nazi! thought Helm, sipping his lemon tea. He knew that the third millennium doesn't begin until January first, 2001, but Morgenstern's story sounded well rehearsed and he doubted whether the old dope-fiend would appreciate having to learn a new version.
   "And while they're lying there," continued Morgenstern, "what's their money doing in Swiss banks? Growing like crazy, that's what. And you know what paintings are doing on the international market? New record prices every year. And you know how many paintings the Nazis stole that haven't been found?"
   "Lots?" said Helm.
   "Hundreds. Thousands. They had the art of the whole of Europe to choose from. And not just paintings. But you know how we can stop them taking over the whole of Europe again when the new, cloned bodies have grown, Mister Engineer?"
   "Get the authorities to investigate the clinic?"
   "The authorities!" scoffed Morgenstern. "You don't think Arlberg and his clients don't own enough Nazi politicians to keep the Gletscher Klinik private?"
   "You could get the Israelis to blow the place up. Killing a few rich drunks wouldn't bother them."
   "You think we haven't tried? What we need is an engineer to look at the inside. To look for structural load points so we can bring the whole roof crashing down on the vault to destroy it utterly."
   "What makes you think they'd let me survey the inside of the clinic?" protested Helm. "What makes you think they'd let me through the front door?"
   "Arlberg's greed. You have something he wants – the jewels."
   "True. But I delivered them." Helm remembered his lie just in time. He was weaving such a broad web of fantasy that he was bound to fall through a serious hole eventually.
   "How does he know you were telling the truth?"
   "Well, Eva searched my car."
   "Did she search your hotel room?"
   "They don't know about the hotel."
   Morgenstern smiled. "So you go there tonight. In the morning, you take your passport and you drive to Meersdorf, to the Klinik..."
   "My car took a battering when your lot stopped me," interrupted Helm.
   "So we get it fixed. Which hotel?"
   "The Maksimillian."
   "Leave your car here. It will be waiting in the morning. When you get to the Klinik, ask to see the Director. You tell him you must speak to Arlberg on a secret matter. Geheimsache. You speak German?"
   "Not so's you'd notice."
   "Remember that word. Geheimsache. When Arlberg arrives, you tell him you're willing to double-cross his wife."
   "Why should I do that?"
   "Did you look at the jewels?"
   "No, they were all wrapped up."
   "So you're not a curious man? Some of the pieces have been in Arlberg's family for centuries. Some of them are more recent gifts. The total value has to be at least eight million dollars."
   "Bloody hell!" Helm felt glad that he was carrying the replicas. He didn't fancy the crushing burden of looking after the originals.
   "You will tell Arlberg you are a man of honour. You think it's not right for the jewels to pass out of his family. Tell him he can have them back for a price. Start to bargain at one million schillings."
   "How much is that in real money?"
   "About seventy-five thousand dollars. He will try to force the price down, of course. When he gets to his highest offer, tell him you are an engineer and you want to look at the cryostore while you think about his offer. Remember the security precautions, and when you find all the main structural load points, accept his offer."
   Morgenstern pressed the intercom button again and issued further orders in the strange language. "You will tell Arlberg you have the jewels in a safe place," he added to Helm. "And you will take them to an agreed rendezvous in Austria at noon on the day after tomorrow, on Wednesday. Tell him you have to collect them in person. When you leave the Klinik tomorrow, drive to Zürich and phone the number I give you. My men will contact you when they are sure you are not being followed."
   "What do I do till then?"
   "Look at the shops, have a drink in a café. When you have made a report on the best places to plant explosives, I will pay the other half of your fee."
   "I'm not that sure I want your job," said Helm, sensing a presence beside him. The dark-haired woman had entered the office silently. She placed a slim wad of notes on the arm of his chair. Helm could just make out the figure 1,000 in the red gloom. The notes were dollar bills and there were ten of them in a neat fan.
   "Mister Engineer, it's your duty as a human being to take this job," said Morgenstern.
   There was a flavour of you can run but you can't hide if you don't in his voice. Helm realized that he had a Makronotis-type free choice over the job – do it or else! The telephone number was typed on a square of white card. He found it when he picked up the thousand-dollar bills. It fitted neatly into one of the credit card pockets in his wallet.
   "I have every confidence you shall play your part in making the world safe for future generations, Mr. Scott," Morgenstern added. "But remember, if you think of double-crossing me, don't think I can't find you again."
   "I don't think that for a moment," Helm assured him as he tucked the money into his pocket. He couldn't decide whether an explicit threat was any worse than an implied one, but he felt better now that he knew that he really was in even more trouble today than he had been in yesterday. He had come to hate uncertainty. The possibility of being doomed was infinitely worse than actually being doomed. Not having options allowed him to focus his attention on what had to be done.
   "Until tomorrow, Mr. Scott," said Morgenstern.
   The short, dark man, minus his Uzi, escorted Helm down to the courtyard, relieved him of the keys and drove away in the battered BMW. Helm found his way to the main road and wondered if he would be able to find his hotel. The evening was darkening but it looked very bright still to someone who had spent twenty minutes in darkroom lighting conditions.
   Helm spotted a familiar park after wandering along the main road for a few minutes. Vaduz was too small to hide a large hotel for long. He entered the lobby wondering if he had rival spies from Morgenstern and Count von Arlberg's respective gangs watching him. Helm had forgotten his room number but the receptionist remembered a twenty-franc tip and handed over the key as Helm reached the desk.
   He called room service to ask for a stiff brandy when he got to his room. The waiter turned up with a full bottle of Courvoisier and a balloon glass. Helm wondered whether to be insulted – did they think he was an alcoholic? Then he dropped a five-franc note on the tray and nodded a dismissal.
   He made himself comfortable in the armchair, poured a generous measure of brandy as he was allowing himself only one, and tried to pick up the thread of his book. He had had quite enough of real life for the moment. His most recent adventures had left him with a craving for escape into a fantasy world, where magic ruled and the author applied a keen sense of humour.
   He ordered a roast chicken sandwich and a pot of coffee at ten-thirty, wondering whether the waiter would arrive with a loaf, a complete bird with all the trimmings and an urn. The neat thermal jug filled his cup twice and he had to use the knife and fork on a sandwich containing big pieces of white meat and a lot of trimmings.
   By now, he had decided that he was playing a waiting game. Now that he was out of the darkroom gloom, Sigismund Morgenstern was looking more like the weirdo that he undoubtedly was and marginally less terrifying. Helm was in the process of convincing himself that even if Morgenstern had a whole gang of armed minions at his command, if John Scott could run far enough and fast enough, then he could get away.
   There was no reason for Morgenstern to hunt him down. It made more sense for the ancient dope-fiend to keep watching the Arlbergs if he wanted another sucker. If he was feeling honest in the morning, Helm could even put his $10,000 in the hotel's safe, less reasonable expenses, and tell Morgenstern where to find it from a safe distance.
   Reaching that safe distance, however, depended on having transport. So he had to play his waiting game until Morgenstern's minions had organized repairs to the BMW. And waiting for that to happen gave him a good excuse for sitting tight in the hotel and doing nothing.
   An hour after his meal, Helm found himself yawning and reading whole paragraphs without taking in the sense. He went to bed, determined not to answer the phone if Erlich or another of Phileros Makronotis' security advisors tracked him down and tried to give him further orders in the middle of the night.
   He woke some time later. He was having another of his nights of broken sleep. There was a 'V' of pale light at the window, where the curtains had blown apart. The bed moved. Helm became aware simultaneously of perfume and someone sitting on his bed.
   "Bloody hell, Tsai, is that you?" he groaned.
   "Sorry to disappoint you, darling," chuckled a female voice with a German accent. "You won't scream?"
   Helm saw a glint of light from a gun barrel before he closed his eyes again. He wanted to wake up and find that he had been dreaming. But he knew that reality had caught up with him again. He had waited a bit too long.

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NOVELS PAGECreated for Romiley Literary Circle by HTSP Web Division, 10/12 SK6 4EG, Romiley, GB.
This Edition published in 2006 by Farrago & Farrago. © 1989, Philip Turner.