The Terminal Man
by Philip Turner
Chapter 14

HELM WAS GRATEFUL for Eva von Arlberg's silent concentration on her drive during the 97-kilometre journey to Meersdorf in West Germany. Her Ferrari rushed down from the castle to the valley, crossed into Switzerland where the Rhine flows into Lake Constance, across the bridge to Konstanz, and on to Meersdorf. Eva turned into the grounds of the Gletscher Klinik at twelve-thirty. She gave Helm a pair of mirror sunglasses to wear and a large, light box to carry.
   The clinic reminded Helm more of a large hunting lodge than a hospital. It was constructed of light-coloured stone, which gave it both solidity and grace. Royal blue drainpipes rose four storeys to a roof of grey-green tiles. There were at least a dozen large windows along the length of the façade.
   The grounds contained tall trees for shaded walks, bushes for screening, bright areas of garden and a golf course. It looked a very comfortable place for rich drunks to dry out or worn-out jet-setters to recharge their batteries..
   The staff offered respectful greetings to Eva and ignored the slave with the big box, which was as effective a disguise as being invisible. Their destination was a private dining room on the second floor. The furniture was dark, old and very highly polished. Lunch was traditional British fish and chips with brown bread and butter. Eva smiled across the two-person table and awaited her guest's approval.
   "No dandelion and burdock?" said Helm.
   "Is that a side salad?" The expectant smile became a mild frown.
   "It's what you drink with fish and chips, not white wine. And it should be malt vinegar, not red-wine vinegar. And supermarket white bread. But I'm sure the salt and pepper are okay. If it's white pepper, not black."
   "You're playing the game!" Eva gave Helm a beam of delight. "How is your fish?"
   Helm speared the crisp, golden batter with a silver fork and sliced with a silver fish knife. "First class," he had to admit. "Is this that famous Austrian wine? Geschutzmittel?"
   "If you mean anti-freeze, the word is Gefrierschutzmittel." Eva scored an effortless point in the game of one-upmanship.
   Helm turned his attention to the diagram in front of his plate. He saw the building itself half an hour later. The cryostore was located two hundred yards from the almost hunting lodge and hidden away in the trees.
   There was a timber-clad, single-storey office block at ground level. Helm and his empty box waited patiently until Eva had exchanged a few words with an unobtrusive security guard. Then they walked twenty yards along the central corridor to a lift almost at the other end of the building.
   "You remember the number?" Eva said when she had tapped out a security code on the keyboard beside the call button.
   "I wasn't watching," Helm admitted.
   "Eighty-one, five, five, nine. I must write it on your plan." Eva led the way into the lift. "This is the only access to the underground complex."
   "What makes you think Morgenstern will take me on his raid? Hasn't he got a gang he knows and trusts? He's more likely to keep me locked up until afterwards."
   "He thinks no one would refuse to help him destroy Hitler. He believes everyone else must share his obsession. And you must be on the raid to make sure he attacks the right place. He may believe the cryostore is under the main building."
   "Which is profitable, so you don't want it blown up?"
   "Exactly. And he will trust you more if you go with him. He will know you will not lead him into a trap because his gang will shoot you if you do."
   "That's comforting to know," sighed Helm.
   The lift doors opened onto gleaming whiteness. Helm put his sunglasses on again and dumped the box beside the lift. There was a reverend hush in the long vault, which ran at right angles to the building on the surface. Helm wondered if the distinct chill was purely psychological. He was glad to be wearing his cashmere sweater anyway.
   "If someone comes to look at the cryostore, we put staff in white coats down here, but the monitoring is all purely automatic." Eva gestured to a computer with an impressive array of winking, multi-coloured lights. "The area behind the computer is where the corpses are prepared, where they drain out the blood and put in the Gefrierschutzmittel. Or cut the head off. The short, upright cylinders beyond the operating area are where the heads are stored. Four in each, so they have someone to talk to. The big, horizontal cylinders along the left side are for the whole corpses."
   "I bet you don't talk about corpses like that in front of the cash customers," said Helm.
   "If someone pays more than two million schillings to have a dead body frozen, we play the game with them."
   "Is all this legal?"
   "Of course. Every corpse has been declared legally dead by two doctors of unchallengeable reputation. If the next-of-kin chooses to have it frozen instead of burned or buried, that is not the concern of the state."
   "Old Morgenstern gave me the impression this whole set-up is illegal."
   "Morgenstern thinks we have Adolf Hitler here," Eva said dismissively.
   "Don't believe things people tell you, son," Helm told himself. "You don't believe these bodies can be brought back to life by some medical advance?"
   "Do you, darling?" scoffed Eva.
   "Not this side of the second coming."
   "And not if you will blow them up tonight!"
   "That too. I saw a programme on TV about this. An outfit in the States. They had blokes going round, taking the lids off the tanks and measuring the depth of the liquid nitrogen with a wooden ruler to find out if it needed topping up. Do you do anything as low-tech as that?"
   "Of course not! It is all automatic. And if you will open the tank, water and carbon dioxide freeze out of the air and clog everything with ice."
   "So how come you want such a well-organized set-up blown to bits by the Mad Morgenstern?"
   "The store is full."
   "So it's all expenditure from now on? No more mugs paying their two million to have their loved one frozen. Not unless you spend some money on extending this place. So Daddy's going to take the insurance and run. No wonder you can afford to run a Ferrari. Who carries the insurance?"
   "Some of your Gnomes of Zürich."
   "As long as it's not Lloyds of London." Helm felt that he could tackle the job with a clear conscience if he wasn't swindling his own country, and if no one would be near enough to be hurt when the explosives went off.
   "Come on, darling," smiled Eva, linking arms. "I will show you the best places to put your bombs."
   "Wouldn't you achieve the same effect by draining the tanks and letting the bits thaw out? You can't re-freeze them if that happens."
   "The Mad Morgenstern wants to show the world a victory against the Nazis, even if they exist only in his cannabis-dreams. So there will be bombs and a big bang."

Helm's silver-striped BMW was waiting in the clinic's car park when the tour was over. On the way to Konstanz, he noticed that the petrol gauge was showing 'full'. The von Arlbergs may have been fond of playing games but they remembered the essentials.
   Helm wasn't sure if it was the Irish passport, but the Swiss customs officer insisted on checking the interior of the car, the boot and the engine compartment after he had pawed through Helm's cabin bag. There was no body search, but Helm was glad not to have $10,000 in cash on him. Even the poster of Liechtenstein's stamps had to come out of its cardboard tube for an inspection.
   Helm left the car on the edge of Zürich's shopping centre. He refused to flinch when he got the attendant to translate the car park's scale of charges. He had found that he could make Swiss prices seem almost reasonable if he assumed an exchange rate of 20 francs to the pound sterling instead of 2.6. His next stop was a stationery shop. He bought a packet of envelopes and had the cryostore's plan photocopied. Then he spent a quarter of an hour looking for a post office.
   He sent the original of the plan, complete with notes in Eva von Arlberg's handwriting, to himself at the poste restante section of the main post office in Athens. He obtained a fine collection of Swiss stamps by sending the envelope registered and express. More of his expenses money went on a pair of jeans and a dark anorak. They were more practical terrorist gear than his suit, which he locked in the boot of the BMW with his cabin bag.
   He ordered coffee and a piece of Black Forest cherry cake in a café and used the flat handle of the fork to slit one of the envelopes down the sides so that he could spread it flat. He copied the photocopied plan of the cryostore by hand on the inside of the envelope. Then he folded the envelope back to its original shape and returned it to the middle of the packet, taking care not to damage the securing band of paper. He visited the toilet to tear up the photocopy and flush it away. Preparations completed, he made his telephone call to report his position to the Morgenstern branch of the Black Hand Gang.
   He was drinking his third cup of coffee and he was well beyond the half-way mark of his blockbuster paperback when a man with curly black hair and a bright green shirt sat down at the next table. Helm recognized Avvi, who kidnapped people at Uzi-point and broke kneecaps for the mad millionaire Sigismund Morgenstern.
   Avvi worked his way through a cup of coffee, a glass of brandy and two pieces of cream cake, showing that he too was on expenses. His bill would have kept an average Third World family fed for a couple of months. Helm left the café first and strolled about aimlessly until Avvi caught up with him.
   "You're not being followed," Avvi muttered. "This way."
   He led Helm into a side street and then to another café. They walked right through the public area to the kitchen, and straight into a Volkswagen van parked right outside through the van's side door. The driver moved off before Avvi had finished closing the door. Helm sat down on one of the bench seats and put up with being ignored after Avvi had run an electronic box over him to check for bugs transmitting his position.
   He stepped out into the black shadows of a courtyard five minutes later. The brick building had dark green window frames and drainpipes, and window boxes full of bright flowers. Brass nameplates caught the sun on the other side of the cobbled yard. The place reeked of old money and continuing steady income. The occupants were clearly proud of what they did and they wanted everyone else to know it.
   Helm climbed the marble stairs of a tiled staircase to the first floor, going ahead of Avvi, who kept his right hand ominously in the pocket of his black leather jacket. Helm was ready for the red glow in the black-out office, but Sigismund Morgenstern's herbal cigarette set him coughing immediately.
   "So, Mister Engineer, you did your deal with Arlberg?" said Morgenstern. Contrarily, the black patch had moved to his left eye.
   "I guess so," said Helm.
   "Let me tell you how much you got for the jewels. Lots of promises but no cash. Am I right?"
   "He didn't put his hand in his pocket, no."
   "That Arlberg is a miser. Watch out, or he will swindle you. You made a plan of his clinic?"
   "Could be." The mercenary in Helm wanted to see some more money.
   Something hard rammed between his shoulder blades. Helm raised his hands automatically. Avvi charged through Helm's pockets, tossing everything onto a nearby table. He switched on a low-power reading lamp to check through his finds. Then he shook his head.
   "You left it in your car? Or you posted it?" Morgenstern picked up the packet of envelopes with the air of Sherlock Holmes making a breakthrough.
   "It's almost like being back with the von Arlbergs," remarked Helm. "Only they show you the gun instead of shoving it in your back. You've got no idea how much that pisses me off. And how unco-operative it makes me feel. And how bad my memory gets if I'm worrying about being shot."
   "You don't like our hospitality? I don't blame you." Morgenstern issued orders to Avvi in what Helm assumed was Hebrew. "Sit down, Mister. Have some coffee. Or a beer."
   "Beer, please." Helm dropped into an armchair after reloading his pockets.
   A tall glass, a bottle and $10,000 arrived on a red tray.
   "Have a closer look at the envelopes," said Helm.
   Morgenstern split the paper band and fanned the envelopes. He soon found the one that Helm had slit open. "The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe. If you really want to hide something, put it in plain sight." He waved the envelope at Avvi as if to say, 'So much for you, Mister Bodyguard!'
   "The cryostore isn't under the clinic, it's under the office block some distance away," said Helm.
   "That I knew," said Morgenstern. "And if you know too, you must have been there. See how I check up on you? They let you have a look at it instead of giving you any money?"
   "Something like that."
   "See how easy it is to predict what a greedy man will do?"
   "And you don't need to blow it up. All you have to do is drain the stuff out of the tanks and unfreeze the bodies."
   "That I know as well. But we want to show these Nazis we can hit them hard wherever they are." Morgenstern crushed the life out of the remains of his herbal cigarette and let Avvi give him a light for another. "You know what I think? I think maybe you want to come with us."
   Helm shrugged and topped up his glass, telling himself that not only misers are predictable. "I've got no experience as a commando. Or of blowing things up."
   "You can leave that to us, Mister. You just show us how to get in and where to put the charges. We'll do the rest."
   "And what happens then? I mean, the Nazis aren't going to like us blowing up their leader for the next millennium. They're going to want revenge."
   "So you'll have to lie low for a while. If they don't find you, they can't touch you. The world is a big place, Mister. Grow a beard and get your hair cut. You go and drink more beer and read your book."
   "I'd rather have coffee," Helm said, remembering his tired blood.
   Helm went further along the corridor with Avvi. The second office looked comfortable enough with its deep carpet and well-padded armchairs. There were shutters on the windows – closed to keep intruders out or Helm in. Avvi unplugged the telephone and took it with him. A dark-haired woman with a serious face took his place, bringing a tray with a cup and saucer, a vacuum jug of coffee and a camera. She wanted to take his picture for a passport. A key turned in the lock when she left the office.
   Sigismund Morgenstern was another Phileros Makronotis, Helm decided. Both felt entitled to take over his life whenever it suited them. Being held incommunicado, somewhere in Zürich's business district, was worse than being imprisoned in Makronotis' villa. There was no Klara Amercott to keep him company in Zürich.
   Helm read his book, visited the en-suite bathroom for a change of scene and drank coffee. The dark-haired woman brought him a further supply of coffee without feeling a need to say anything to him. Another man, a redhead with a more authentic American accent than Avvi's, brought a meal at six o'clock.
   Dan took great delight in explaining how he had prepared such an excellent veal risotto on a camping stove in another of the offices. Helm let him drink the bottle of lager that came with the meal as a reward. He recalled that Dan had wielded a submachine gun during the ambush the previous evening but without Avvi's animosity.
   Two hours later, Avvi escorted Helm down to a blue Renault in the courtyard. Sigismund Morgenstern was sitting in the back, wearing an impenetrable pair of wraparound dark glasses and looking like a Mafia gang-boss. Helm belted himself into the front passenger seat. He waited in vain for someone to start a conversation.
   Darkness was closing in, bringing street lights to life. When they passed Clerment's department store, Helm realized that they were leaving the city to the north, on the airport road. They crossed the West German border without incident. Ten minutes later, they reached their destination. Helm knew from road signs that the small town was called Hüfingen.
   Avvi stopped at a large detached house on the far side of town. Redhead Dan let them in. Morgenstern retired to the red glow in the sitting room. Avvi took Helm upstairs to a bedroom. The shutters on the window were closed and the telephone point was a bare socket.
   "How long are we going to be here?" said Helm.
   Avvi surprised him by looking at his diver's watch. "Two hours. We leave at eleven and attack at midnight."
   "You mean it's tonight?" gaped Helm.
   "Why the hell do you think we've been keeping you out of circulation?" mocked Avvi.
   Helm shrugged. "I thought it was just routine messing me about."
   Avvi put on a macho man grin. He was about Helm's age but shorter, heavier and a lot cockier. "We don't mess about. The Chief has been ready to go for a long time. All he needed was someone to take us in quietly."
   Helm kicked off his shoes when he was alone and sprawled on the bed with his book. He finished it at twenty to eleven and put it on the bedside unit. The book had been all right as a means of passing time but he couldn't see himself wanting to read it again. He could afford to buy as many new books as he could read now. Having the opportunity to consume any great number of them was a severe problem while he had assorted millionaires, and possibly his own body, trying to write him off.
   Dan unlocked the bedroom door a few minutes later. He was wearing a big grin. "Saddle up, compadre. We're going to hit the trail. Want to hit the heads first?"
   Helm descended to the sitting room via the bathroom. That window was shuttered too. The lights in the sitting room were white not red now, but they were still at a Scrooge wattage. Avvi and the dark-haired woman were pushing cartridges into long magazines for their Uzi submachine guns. Morgenstern lifted a hand to Helm in greeting.
   "Hello, Mister Engineer. You're ready to strike a blow for freedom?"
   "I feel a bit like someone about to go sky-diving without a parachute," said Helm.
   "All taken care of. We have an Australian passport for you to sign, and an English driving licence. Plus your escape money. You can live on one hundred thousand dollars?"
   "Bloody oath, cobber!" Helm dropped straight into character.
   Morgenstern handed Helm a money belt. "Are we ready to go now?"
   "You're going too?" frowned Helm.
   "Mister, you think I'd miss such a blow for freedom?"
   "I guess not." Helm had a quick look in the pockets of the money belt then buckled it on under his shirt. He caught an edge of a predatory glance from Avvi and wondered if his custody of the money might be fairly temporary. He had no means of arguing with a submachine gun.
   He realized that hearing that Sigismund Morgenstern, the seventy-nine-year-old, pot-smoking invalid, was going along on the raid shouldn't have been a surprise. When he thought back to his conversation with Eva von Arlberg that afternoon, he realized that she was expecting Morgenstern to take part in his final battle with Nazism.
   Dan gave him the Australian passport. Helm used his normal handwriting to sign his new name so that he wouldn't have any problems if he had to sign his name again in the future. Dan applied an embossing stamp that caught an edge of the signature to make it official. Helm tucked the completed passport and the driving licence into his money belt.
   Two cars set off for Meersdorf at a brisk pace. Morgenstern and Dan led in a dark Mercedes. Helm, Avvi and the dark-haired woman followed in the Renault. Helm learned in passing that their driver was called Gail. She was about Dan's age, mid-twenties, and she had very little to say for herself. She seemed to aim for a dark and dangerous image. The Uzi in her overlarge handbag confirmed to Helm that she was dangerous enough.
   The two cars cruised through the night at the speed of the rest of the traffic when they reached a main road. They parked on a forest track about three-quarters of a mile from the main complex of the Gletscher Klinik. After a final weapon check, Avvi sprayed everyone with a large aerosol. The spray smelled of nothing in particular but Avvi was sure that it would make guard dogs lose interest in them immediately.
   Helm wondered if the old man would be able to manage the long walk as they padded into the night, following spots of light from pen-torches. He soon discovered that making Morgenstern take the journey steadily was a bigger problem. The old man seemed ready to gallop to his final battle with the mythical enemy.
   Gail's wire cutters made short work of a chain-link fence on the other side of the road. They crawled through a flap then tacked it back into position roughly with twists of wire. A dog did bark as they were sneaking through the trees, but it was a long way from them. They approached the office block from the side opposite the main building of the clinic.
   Gail bridged alarm wires, then used her wire cutters again. Morgenstern slid nimbly over a windowsill and led the way across the office. Gail unlocked the door to let them across the office. Avvi and Dan sped silently up and down the corridor to make sure that the building was unoccupied.
   "Eighty-one, five, five, nine," Helm muttered to himself, prodding at the keyboard beside the lift.
   "Good, Mister," breathed Morgenstern when the doors opened.
   Metal slithered on metal to cock the submachine guns in the descending lift. Helm stood and stared with his companions when the doors opened on the lower floor. Long red pennants with a black swastika in a white circle hung from ceiling to floor. Slogans in Gothic script wound round the walls. There were swastika flags among the vertical cylinders of frozen heads.
   Morgenstern started to mutter to himself in Hebrew. Helm felt almost sorry for him. The old man was like a Roman Catholic confronted with the Devil – but Morgenstern had the means to demolish his personal demon. There was something different about the underground room, a fundamental structural change, but Helm couldn't pin-point it. He did notice that Avvi, Dan and Gail were looking shaken, however. None of them had expected Morgenstern to be right about the Nazi dormitory of frozen leaders for the next millennium.
   Everyone else had two haversacks, which were slung from one shoulder to the opposite hip. Helm had been trusted with neither explosives nor a weapon. He trailed after Morgenstern as the others rushed to examine the cylinders. Four flags formed a square around one of the vertical cylinders. Black swastikas formed a continuous ring around the white circumference. Helm was wondering what Führer befiehl – wir folgen Dir! meant when the doors closed and the lift began to rise to the surface.
   Helm dived for cover behind the Führer's new bunker, hissing at the others. They took up ambush positions, Uzis at the ready. The lift doors opened again to reveal a woman in a black uniform with a swastika armband. The thick, black frames made her glasses look almost like goggles. She was speaking into a personal radio, which obscured the lower part of her face.
   Helm caught a few words, which sounded almost like English, as the guard surveyed the cryostore from the doors of the lift. The woman's tone suggested that she was enjoying a joke with someone called Heinrich. Helm's inferior German vocabulary couldn't cope with the conversation.
   "Alles in Ordnung," the woman said with brisk confidence, making a formal report before resuming her chat.
   The lift doors closed. They opened again on the floor above after a brief episode of humming.
   "Did she say 'Everything in order'?" Helm murmured to Morgenstern.
   He nodded. "It was a routine check. So can we be out of here before the next one?"
   Each of the haversack bombs had a digital counter in the fuse circuit. At Morgenstern's command, eight index fingers descended together on eight buttons. The counters began to flick down in seconds from 45:00. Planting the haversacks was a well-drilled manoeuvre.
   Everyone had a copy of the diagram on Helm's envelope. Morgenstern himself planted a charge at the base of the Führer's cylinder. Then he dealt the gleaming, white surface a resounding kick. Helm winced in sympathy. The old man was wearing black-striped trainers for silent sneaking but he seemed not to feel any pain.
   Helm was relieved when the lift descended in response to the security code. He had been starting to wonder if the von Arlbergs intended to trap the saboteurs in the cryostore, but everything seemed to be going to plan. A previously undisclosed part of Morgenstern's plan became clear when the group reached the office, through which it had entered the building.
   The old man slid over the windowsill and went on ahead with Gail and Dan. Avvi and Helm remained behind to cover their rear. When the three had disappeared beyond a belt of bushes, Avvi perched on a desk and rested his submachine gun on his shoulder with the magazine pointing at the ceiling.
   "I don't think you've been playing straight with us," he snarled in his synthetic American accent. "So take that money belt off, Mister Engineer." He lifted the submachine gun a couple of inches and let it drop back to his shoulder, daring Helm to make a threatening move.
   "Suppose you come and take it off me?" Helm said defiantly. "Start blasting with that thing and you'll have every guard in the place on your neck."
   "Listen to the expert," mocked Avvi. "One shot in a closed building is all I need. No one will bother about that. Want to try it? You'll never know if I'm right."
   "Don't bother." Helm unzipped his anorak, lifted his cashmere sweater and began to unbutton his shirt as slowly as he dared.
   His involvement with the von Arlbergs and Sigismund Morgenstern had been one double-cross after another. There was no money in this job. He would be lucky to come out of it with his life. His best option seemed to be to throw the belt one way as a distraction and try to dive through a closed window and then run like hell for cover with Avvi blasting away at him.
   As a life plan, it offered the virtual certainty of a quick death from lead poisoning as an alternative to the possibility of a slower death from his internal waxy lumps or whatever was causing his anaemia. It was some choice!

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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.