Diamonds Across the Atlantic can be found in






G-Men Detective, Winter 1946

Diamonds Across the Atlantic

By Edward Churchill

The ace of the F.B.I. sets out on a trail of gem thieves
that spans two continents and leads to peril at every turn
!

CHAPTER I
Lady in Black

AS THE non-stop run of the New York-Detroit Express across the plains of southern Canada came to an end the lady in black powdered her face. Then she applied her lipstick. She was careful to get the right shape to her lips, though there was really no need. Nature had curved them most desirably, shaded them in carmine.

In fact, Nature had gone exotic in creating Helvig Hoffman. It had endowed her with an ivory skin with satin finish, and dark hair which Helvig, on performing her toilet in Compartment A, Car 77, had given an upsweep which would have done credit to a Madison Avenue salon.

Her eyes were almond-shaped, long-lashed, and as she looked into the mirror they seemed shaded with violet. Her face was long, rather than oval, and her aquiline nose was long, too. But these added to an air of aristocratic beauty—an aloof and chilling beauty.

As she artfully applied the lipstick with a small, soft brush, she was annoyed to find that her slender carmine-tipped fingers were none too steady this morning. She automatically reached for some soft tissue, placed it between her lips, which she compressed to remove the excess of cosmetic.

There were two sharp raps on the door.

She slipped a beautifully cut black tailored dress over her head, hastily arranged it over her black slip, and surveyed herself with a moue of distaste. She hated black.

High-heeled black suede pumps of Continental vamp added to her slim, five-foot seven-inch height. Black nylon stockings, sheer and expensive, gave a sheen to her long, slim legs. She looked at the berth, on which lay a black coat, a chic hat with a black veil. Her look of disdain indicated they reminded her of something unpleasant.

This time the two raps betrayed impatience. Helvig Hoffman opened the door. As she did, the train lurched under the scraping application of brakes.

"You'd better step on it, Helvig," said the man who walked into the compartment. He looked out the window. "We're in the yards at Windsor."

"Very well, Johann."

"John, if you please," prompted Johann von Grimm.

He smiled, but there was no humor in the small grimace which twisted the corners of his thin, hard lips. Like Helvig, he was tall—taller than six feet. The homberg he wore was slanted rakishly on the side of his head, revealing blond hair. He wore a salt and pepper tweed suit and highly polished black shoes. The cut of the garment set off his slim hips, his flat stomach and his broad shoulders.

THE rakishness of the hat was complemented by a clipped blond mustache. A smooth, stiff collar was centered by a perfectly tied cravat. His eyes were cold and gray. His singularly bushy brows made a straight line across the lower part of his wide forehead. His nose was straight and quite narrow, and his small ears fitted tightly against his head.

His eyes distastefully surveyed the disorder of the compartment. His tongue clicked in disgust as he looked into the waste receptacle. His strong fingers gripped the carmine-stained tissue which the woman had just discarded. He crumpled it into a ball, stuffed it into his pocket.

"Fool!" he exclaimed. "How many times have I told you to leave nothing—absolutely nothing! Don't you know there are technical laboratories in this country which can trace anything?"

"Perhaps it would be well," replied Helvig, "for you to tend to your own affairs."

The train ground to a stop. John von Grimm sat down on the edge of the berth.

"The electric switch engine is picking us up for the run into Detroit," he said, glancing at his watch. "It won't be long now—then our work starts. Are you nervous?"

Helvig Hoffman appraised her cool beauty in the mirror, rubbed off an imaginary excess of powder with a forefinger.

"No, indeed," she said. "Are you?"

Ahead lay the yawning mouth of the cement cavern beneath the river. The train gathered speed. It's length was swallowed by the mouth. It plunged into darkness, rumbling toward the Canada-United States boundary line that lay half-way through it.

The engineer slowed, waiting for the track selection signal which would tell him the proper approach to Detroit's Union Station. Ahead of him he saw the scurrying figures of track checkers and laborers, their lanterns flashing like fireflies as they got out of the way on the American side. The engine crept slowly abreast of them, then passed them.

Getting his go-ahead, the engineer advanced his control for the upgrade pull into the station— and there was a sudden cessation of power. He jammed on his brakes to keep the train from rolling backwards.

"What the devil!" he exclaimed. "What's wrong?"

The man on the opposite side of the cab checked his instrument panel.

"Juice is off," he said. "First time that's ever happened. Power house failure, probably. They'll switch to emergency." A sudden movement behind the engineer caught his glance.

"Look out!" he yelled.

The engineer whirled and found himself staring incredulously into the black hole at the end of an automatic. Behind it was a man who wore the grease and dirt-stained coveralls of a track walker. The other trainman turned around and found himself in the same precarious position.

"Reach for it," commanded the man who covered the engineer, "and you won't get hurt."

The trainmen elevated their hands.

More than fifty yards down the track, two crews sprang into action. There were four men on each side of the third express car. A ninth directed operations—a gaunt, tall man. One man on each side clipped seals from one of the doors. A second inserted a small cartridge, pulled a pin from it. There were two almost simultaneous, muffled explosions. The doors were blown off their tracks. The men swarmed into the car from both sides. Two men stood guard at the doors.

A worried, uniformed brakeman stumbled down the track, peered into the car. One of the two guards fired. The brakeman's face was pulped by a shot that caught it full center. He fell into a heap beside the tracks.

The tall, gaunt man, his face smeared with grime, directed the remaining six men as they checked consignment after consignment. Finally, one called, as he inspected the shipping tag on a heavy strong box:

"I've got it! Let's go!"

One of his companions helped him with the box. The others filed forward, some ahead and some behind, weapons ready. They climbed onto the engine. The tall, gaunt man faced the engineer.

"You'll find your power on now," he said. "You are uncoupled from the rest of the train. Proceed from the tunnel."

He emphasized the order by jabbing his gun into the engineer's stomach. The trainman turned to his controls, his face gray and drawn.

"If I didn't have a wife and kids," he muttered, "you wouldn't get away with this."

"Shut up!" rasped the tall, gaunt man.

The engineer shoved the controls forward. The engine moved ahead, gathered speed.

* * * * *

SITTING at his desk in the Department of Justice Building in Washington, Inspector Dan Fowler's brows were wrinkled in perplexity. He was in a singular and unusual spot for him, he was discovering, as he mulled over the reports before him. They concerned the most baffling landing of Nazi personnel in the United States as yet to come to the attention of the F.B.I.

Fowler's dark hair was neatly combed. His leathery face was neatly shaven, the blue, pin- striped business suit he wore was well-pressed, and his black shoes bore a nice polish. But in spite of his perfection of dress, he was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. For Dan Fowler did not like what he was reading.

According to the reports in front of him, the Nazi technique in making this particular landing had been unique. Twelve men, and a woman who had been disguised as a Fisherman, in boots, oilskins and hat, had deliberately walked off the docks after tying up the fishing boat "Codster" in Boston harbor. Not until hours later had the port authorities discovered that the genuine "Codster", out of Belfast, Maine, was in drydock in Penobscot Bay, The Nazi version was such a perfect replica of the Maine vessel that naval architects declared she had been built from original plans. And evidently she had come across the Atlantic under her own power, flying the American flag.

In Boston, the trail ended.

Agents from the Boston field office of the F.B.I., Naval Intelligence, and other authorities had gone over the imitation "Codster" from stem to stern, finding only a dearth of material which could be classified as clues. One of these clues was on Fowler's desk now. It was a white envelope containing not much more than a dusting of face powder, which had gone through the Microchemical Department of the Bureau.

Fowler sniffed the envelope for the fifth time or so. The powder had a base of Japanese rice, and other Oriental ingredients, according to findings of the microchemists.

"And," Fowler told himself, "that kind of Stuff has been unobtainable in the United States for at least four years. Only a Japanese ally— Germany—would have it. So what? It doesn't show where the Nazi rats went after they left the Boston dock."

He set aside the chemical analysis and turned to an old preoccupation—reading combat reports on pursuit ship sorties and mass bombing attacks compiled by Army Air Force Intelligence officers. He got a sort of vicarious pleasure from this, for whenever he had an idle moment he wished that Fate had allowed him to be with the Armed Forces. If he had had his choice, he would have picked the Air Force, and would have trained as pilot, gunner or bombardier.

The mimeographed combat reports were serviced to him by special arrangement, a privilege granted him, because of his years of service in the F.B.I. The sheaf which particularly interested him now dealt with a series of bombings of German objectives from an Italian air base. One phase of one report caught his trained attention, for it had all the elements of mystery—and mystery was the breath of life to him. He read:

On return from the mission over Nuremburg, Lieutenant Colonel Halsey Dakin, commanding, reported that Nazi pilots concentrated on our plane No. 107534, carrying the name "Marrying Maisie." The aircraft, a Liberator (B-24) was practically the only target attempted by the Messerschmitt and Heinkel pursuits. While the AAF flight consisted of 120 planes, No. 107534 was singled out by more than fifty German fighters. The outboard starboard engine was first disabled just after the plane had made its bombing run and had turned back toward its base. The attack was sudden and furious. The plane at first fell back. Then a second engine was put out of commission. When last seen, the airplane was losing altitude rapidly about ten miles south of Nuremburg. The pursuits were still riding it down. It is believed to have crashed. This was the first mission of No. 107534.

Wondering why that ship had been singled out, Fowler went on reading the reports. Half-way through the pile he found another which might well have been a carbon copy of the first, though the aircraft had been a Liberator. It also had been on its first mission. Heinkels and Messerschmitts had swarmed it. The plane eventually had been shot down.

"Why?" Fowler asked himself.

He was trying to find some kind of an answer when a debonair, bare-headed man approached— Larry Kendal, Dan Fowler's assistant and closest friend in the F.B.I. Kendal was a little more than six feet tall, and an expertly cut brown suit clothed his athletic body. His square chin was grim as he advanced, holding out a sheet covered with teletype. The customary twinkle was gone from his blue eyes, and his characteristic devil-may-care expression had been wiped off his face.

"Stop day-dreaming, Dan," he said. "The Director says to drop the spy landing—leave it to the field offices—until we get a fresh lead. We're off to Detroit to find out why a gang of ten or a dozen men stuck up the New York-Detroit express an hour ago. It's apparently theft from an interstate shipment. Just came off the teletype."

Fowler took the sheet which Kendal extended toward him. He read it carefully, then whistled.

"Well, they did one smart thing, anyway," he exclaimed. "Took the name of every passenger, and pulled the train onto a siding for our inspection. You'd better make plane reservations, Larry."

"Beat you to it," said Kendal. "There's an Army transport waiting for us at Bolling Field."

CHAPTER II
Powder Trail

WHEN Inspector Dan Fowler reached Detroit, he lost no time in reaching the scene of the holdup. And when he entered Compartment A in Car 77 of the New-York-Detroit Express, after a futile search of most of the side-tracked train for clues, he had a feeling of encountering something familiar.

After examining the cluttered place, he decided that this stimulus was olfactory, and did some exploratory sniffing. This led him to a shelf beneath the mirror, on which there were several small dustings of powder. He withdrew a pocket knife, opened a blade, began scraping up minuscule piles and placing them in an envelope.

At first the scent was vague and just beyond the fringes of his memory. Then he placed it. It was the same kind of powder, with Japanese rice base and other foreign ingredients, which had been delivered to his desk in the Department of Justice building in Washington!

This, then, was the same variety of powder which had been used by the woman spy who had come across the Atlantic from Germany in the replica of the fishing boat "Codster." And if his reasoning was correct this was no mere coincidence, and he was again in contact with the spy gang!

He counted on his fingers. Eight men, directed by a ninth, had looted the express car. Two had climbed onto the engine. That made eleven. Twelve men and a woman had come across on the spy ship. One man was missing.

He turned to Kendal.

"Who had this compartment?" he asked.

"Miss Mary Smith," Kendal replied. "She's staying at the Book-Cadillac."

Fowler smiled grimly as he inspected an ashtray.

"I doubt both the name and the place of residence, Larry," he said. He examined the rouged cigarette stubs of a popular brand. Then he found others of a different brand without rouge. "Somebody visited Miss Smith," he added, as he inspected a butt. "I suppose his name is John Brown. He probably had Compartment B."

"The occupant of Compartment B, Dan," Kendal told him, after consulting the list, "was one Henry Jones."

"Good enough," agreed Fowler. "That gives us our twelfth male member of the spy gang, and we'd better get going—fast!"

He led the way into the adjoining compartment. A search of the small room at first revealed nothing. Kendal inspected the wash basin.

"He even wiped this out with a towel," he said.

Then he saw something on the floor, and bent over with an exclamation. He picked up a strip of light, semi-transparent material about an inch wide, two inches long and a quarter of an inch thick. It was tinted flesh color. He bent it back and forth to test its flexibility.

"It's some kind of plastic," he told Kendal.

Kendal took it. "I'll check into it," he said.

Fowler turned to another man who had accompanied him—the agent in charge of Detroit field offices.

"I'll leave the rest of the train to you and your men, Dailey," he said. "Give it a good working over. Have you a list of consignments and consignees?"

Dailey passed over a sheet, pointing to one name.

"That ought to interest you," he said. Fowler read:

Consignee, International Importing Corporation, Inc. Consignment not revealed.

"That was in the express car the gang opened," Dailey said.

"I'll get after it," Fowler replied. He looked at Kendal.

"That plastic clue is pretty thin," he conceded, "but go after it as soon as you finish working over the passenger list. I'm expecting Sally Vane to be here soon, to handle the woman angle. I asked the Director to have Sally sent along—just in case. She can ride herd on our exotic lady spy while we break up the rest of the gang's game before they get started."

Twenty minutes later Fowler was standing in the outer offices of the International Importing Corporation, Inc., high in the New World Building, a stone's throw from Washington Boulevard.

"I'm sorry," the red-headed receptionist was saying to him, "but our president, Mr. Arthur Jeffrey, is in conference. So is our general manager, Mr. Dalton Arnold."

"I'll wait," Fowler said, and settled himself in a chair.

Almost at once an inner door, labeled "General Offices" flew open. A tall woman who came through the door slammed it, drew herself up to her full height, then her heels beat a sharp tattoo across the reception room floor.

FOWLER noted that she was dressed entirely in black, from suede pumps to trim, veiled hat. Her dress was severely unadorned.

Her face fascinated him. It was as cold as marble, even in anger, with high cheek-bones, almond-shaped eyes and firmly drawn carmine lips.

The woman banged the outer door to relieve her taut fury after passing a wastebasket into which she snapped a ball of paper. The paper scattered like confetti.

After she had taken her abrupt departure only a delicate fragrance lingered—an Oriental scent, exotic, captivating. One sniff caused the G-man to leap to his feet. He darted to the wastebasket, quickly gat...

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