Invisible Enemy

A Short Story by Ernest N.Whitenack


Von Schmidt didn’t reply; only blew a couple of smoke rings that quickly floated upward and dissipated

“You have the weekend to organize and will leave separately early Monday. You work out the details. Just two things; visit the Freiburg Tobacconist tomorrow, planning to arrive there fifteen minutes apart. Also, find separate hotels in Mittenwald. That’s it”, he said matter-of-factly, “Keep in touch through channels you will learn about in Mittenwald.”

The three men stood. Von Schmidt shook their hands vigorously and said,

“Be safe, gentlemen.”

Saturday morning Clancy was in the Früstücksraum when it opened; had a good breakfast and headed for the department store to purchase some hiking clothes -- or something to make him look like a tourist. It was a pleasant walk. The sun was bright and the air was clean and crisp with the promise of winter. Passing the Freiburg Tobacconist, he noticed the shop was in darkness. He could smell the baking bread as he approached the bakery and thoughts of home jumped into his mind. He also noticed that Lieutenant Samuel Fox was, happily, no where to be seen as he crossed the street to the department store.

Clancy roamed the men’s department of the store trying to decide between tweeds, Loden cloth, or heavy wool. He decided on a hunter green, thirty four inch, Loden hunting jacket, and a Tyrolean hat to match. He could wear his L.L.Bean tweed sport jacket, so thoughtfully supplied by the Platoon, under the jacket if needed. As for trousers, he selected brown canvas work pants and finished with a pair of pebbled leather hiking boots with knobby rubber soles and wool boot socks. No alterations were required.

The meeting time at Freiburg Tobacconist was set for 10:00 o’clock and 10:15 for Fox. Clancy checked his watch and decided he had time for a short stop at the bakery before the meeting. He left feeling content and a bit full from the cinnamon-raisin bun and coffee. As he lit his pipe, and noted that the L.L. Bean pouch was almost empty, he remembered he was also at the end of his tin of Sherlock’s Choice.

Clancy reached the tobacconist just a minute before 10:00 and paused to again take in the goods in the windows.

A buzzer sounded somewhere in the back of the shop as he opened the door. The delightful odor of the shop was primarily that of Virginia and Latakia with an undertone of an aromatic of some kind. Shortly, a tall man about forty approached him through a door directly behind the glass counter where a large number of pipes were displayed on a blue velvet background. The man was lean and looked muscular. His blond hair stood out above his ruddy complexion and was starting to gray at the edges. Round steel-rimmed glasses sat low on his nose.
The man greeted Clancy in German and asked if he could serve him in some way.

Clancy mustered up his American accented German getting into a tourist mode and replied, “I’m an American; do you speak English?”

“Most assuredly, sir; I have lived in England and the USA. I took my university studies in America. London is where I learned the tobacco trade. My name is Rudolf Zimmerman”

Clancy relit his pipe, giving him a moment to fully absorb the information, and replied, “How interesting! I teach Political Science in a small college in New Hampshire. When were you in the States?”

The conversation was interrupted by two young men entering the shop. One purchased a pouch of a Danish Cavendish and the other a package of Zuben Cigarettes; all the while stealing glances at Clancy.

Upon leaving, one of the young men turned to Clancy and asked;

“Aren’t you the American professor who has been lecturing at our university? Friends tell me you are an excellent teacher with an extraordinary command of our language.”

Clancy realized he must reply to the young men in German and cause a very strained situation if the shop attendant isn’t his contact and simply an employee.

“Yes I am, and thank you for the compliment. It has been a pleasure to teach such eager students.”

Clancy turned to face Zimmerman and found the man with a huge grin on his face and looking as if he was about to break out in laughter.

“Well Mr. Frank, or should I say Clancy, It appears we have no need to go through a Platoon recognition code exchange. Mr. Von Schmidt informed me you would be by today and I gave my clerk the day off -- good thing as he would be thoroughly confused. It was unfortunate the young men came in this early. We usually don’t get customers until afternoon on Saturday.”

Clancy was surprised and uneasy that Zimmerman took the situation lightly and quickly got over feeling sheepish about the situation. He shrugged his shoulders and said,

“Von Schmidt didn’t give any indication of why I was to come here this morning. Had you not brought it up I would have purchased some tobacco and started the recognition process just to see if you would respond. I do need tobacco, by the way.”

“Let’s step in the back to avoid any more early customers. I have instructions for you as well as information you will find useful.

I’ll fix you up with tobacco as well.”

Just as they passed through the door to the back room, the buzzer for the shop door sounded again and Lieutenant Samuel Fox entered exactly on time. Zimmerman went back to the sales room and Clancy listened through the slightly open door while loosening the revolver in its ankle holster. He immediately recognized Fox’s voice and went through the door to introduce the two men. He was anxious to get on with the meeting.

In the back room Clancy turned to fox and mockingly said.

“I’m happy to see that you are on time, Fox. I didn’t see you around this morning.”

“Don’t worry, I was around. The fact is I can relate every minute of your movements since you left the Gasthof. I was almost early. When I saw those two men go in the shop I was tempted to follow in case there was trouble and you needed backup.” I could see through that everything looked ok. They came out so quickly I decided to wait until my appointed time.”

“It seems you have graduated from the Clancy School of Surveillance -- Lieutenant. Now, perhaps we can approach this assignment as a team, not teacher and student”, Clancy came back.

Zimmerman stepped forward in hopes of ending a somewhat biting give-and-take.

“That will not be possible. Lieutenant Fox will receive orders tomorrow to return to Munich for reassignment. You’re finished on this one Lieutenant. The opinion is that Mr. Clancy is not known to any opposition, thus making tight surveillance unnecessary. Which, I understand was your wish from the beginning Mr. Clancy.”

Clancy simply nodded in the affirmative and Zimmerman continued.

“So, Lieutenant Fox you may leave now and Clancy and I will get on with it. I hope you have an interesting and successful career in the military if that is what you will be pursuing.”

Fox stiffened, shook hands with both men and thanked them, turned and left the shop thinking he should have bought some tobacco for his new pipe.

After another customer was satisfied, Zimmerman returned to the back room and sat opposite Clancy as he was lighting his pipe.

“That’s smells familiar Clancy; let me see – Sherlock’s Choice isn’t it? I smoked that on and off for years when I was in college in California.”

“Quite an educated nose you have there. You are correct, amazing!”

Clancy grabbed the opportunity to quiz Zimmerman. He had no intention, of going any farther with him until he felt more comfortable about the man; considering the way Zimmerman accepted him so readily and without any recognition code being passed.

“So you went to school in California. How long did you live in America.

“Most of my life. I was born in the Midwest, Milwaukee to be exact. My parents came to the U.S. in 1910. My father was a brew master and quickly found work in America’s beer capitol. I was born in 1913. We moved to the west coast when prohibition closed all of the breweries. I studied agriculture figuring to take advantage of the home-grown education my father gave me of hops. Prohibition couldn’t last forever and I would be ready.
The uproar over the German-American Bund of the thirties and Hitler asking all German born to return to the fatherland upset my parents deeply; along with letters from relatives about the troubles in Germany. They did not intend to leave America and talked to me almost unceasingly about patriotism and what America meant to them and what it should mean to me.

Clancy cut in and asked, “how did you end up here?”

When the U.S entered the war, I was working in the grape industry and to accumulate funds and was about to purchase some acreage to grow hops. Instead, I answered a call for German speaking males to translate intercepted embassy messages in D.C. I was later assigned to a joint British/American decoding group in London in the came capacity. I became friendly with a tobacconist there. After he discovered I had a talent for detecting tobacco and distinguishing quality by scent, he taught me his blending skills. This shop was set up with U.S. funds, by the OSS just after the close of the war to service combined allied security agencies. My tobacconist friend suggested me for this job after he turned it down due to failing health. Von Schmidt and I work hand in hand but in different areas. His is administrative and I am more in the ranks and closer to the actual work of agents. I have a high “GS” rating and all profits of this shop are returned to the U.S. defense budget.

It all sounded feasible to Clancy. This, and the fact that Von Schmidt sent him to Zimmerman, eased his mind and he said,

“Quite a life you have lived, sir. You’re a credit to your country.”

“I could say the same of you. I have read your service record. It is very generous of you to take this assignment after what you did during the war. Also, it tells you how highly you are regarded at the pentagon. Now, to business.”

“Mittenwald is a hubbub of activity since the discovery and revelation of that sheet music supposedly containing code as to the location of Hitler’s diamonds. Remnants of the defunct Forth Reich, treasure hunters, GDR agents, adventurers and anyone looking for quick riches, are hunting for the diamonds and gold stashed by dear old Adolf with the aid of the SS. Anyone not known in Mittenwald is looked on with suspicion by the town authorities, and just about anyone else; especially the bad guys from the east. You must be very careful. No one expects you to find the loot but to observe activities in the forest northeast of the town. Notice the clothing on those in any gatherings that seem to be searching the woods. The East Germans do not have good clothing and they have an east European look, Russian booth, hats etc. There has been occasional shooting in the forest, which is hunting restricted, so be armed when you are in there. We think it is just a scare tactic but don’t take chances should you have to use a weapon. There will be no repercussions if you have to defend yourself. It is all fixed with the authorities.”

Clancy raised his hands in interruption and said, “Speaking of weapons I was issued a 32 caliber revolver, or I should sat it was in luggage given to me, that I’m not too happy about. Can you get me a piece with at least some stopping power?”

“I understand” said Zimmerman, “I’m sorry but I cannot. That issue came from “P” unit and I am not allowed to override that decision. However, I’m sure you have the ware-for-all to correct that on your own. Be inventive. Incidentally, we never had this part of our conversation; although I will mention your dissatisfaction with the issued weapon in my report. It might help someone else later on.

“Trade in your BMW rental for something more sporty; a bright convertible perhaps. You’ll be noticed the moment you enter Mittenwald so go directly to the Tourist Office on the main square and pick up your hotel reservation. Ask for Heir Gould, the manager. He is your “P” contact there. Get a camera if you don’t have one and act like a tourist for two or three days before venturing out of town. There is much to see in Mittenwald. Bus tours can be had and many brochures on spots if interest are available. This tourist bit will afford you access to tour contact without drawing suspicion. Any questions?”

“Yes”, Clancy replied, “How large is this forest and how long will it take me to cover it? Also, it’s my understanding I’m to go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. When am I due there and what am I supposed to do when I get there? Von Schmidt gave me just a brief outline of the spy situation there, but that was all.”

“The forest is a park, seldom used as such lately; about twenty acres and there are maps. It shouldn’t take long just walking through and observing if you plot each walk. You should have a compass. A hunting and fishing store is a short distance from the hotel. Leave when you think you have finished. When you get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, find the Provost Martial’s office and see Major Fisher, the PM. He knows you are coming. He will brief you and give you his full cooperation; anything else?”

“No sir; just some tobacco and matches please.”

“Right, let’s go in the humidor.”

The cedar lined room was cool and slightly humid and contained many boxes of cigars along with large, covered white buckets. Zimmerman sat one of the buckets on a small table and removed the cover.

“How about this one?” Zimmerman asked, as he pushed the bucket toward Clancy.

Clancy bent forward and smelled the contents; looked up at Zimmerman and smiled. Reaching in, he pulled out a handful and examined the tobacco.

Is this Sherlock’s Choice? It certainly looks and smells like it.”

“Not from Tinder Box”, it is my own creation of it and private stock – took me two years to perfect it and I think I hit it dead on. Fill up and give it a try.”

Clancy lit up and took a couple of slow deep puffs, releasing the smoke slowly.

“I would say it is perfect. I sure can’t tell the difference. Can you spare a pound or two?”

At that Zimmerman measured out two pounds and put them in individual tins saying;

“Of course, I can always blend more. I’m happy you like it. I sell very little English blend here. The Germans prefer a finer cut and use a lot of Cavendish and Burly blends with Virginia blends coming in third.”

Back in the sales area of the shop Clancy reminded Zimmerman of the matches and he tossed a few boxes into the plastic shopping bag with the tobacco and refused payment for either.

“I’m very happy to have met you Mr. Clancy. You are rather famous in this odd business of ours, you know. If you are around this way again please stop in.”

The men shook hands as Clancy thanked him, turned and left the shop. Turning back toward the hotel he noted it was time for lunch and headed for the bakery again.

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2016

Chapters: Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Ch 12 | Ch 13 | Ch 14 | Ch 15 | Ch 16 | Ch 17 |                    Ch 18

Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired.

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