The Nazi's Son: A Joe Johnson Thriller, Book 5
A deadly legacy of the Cold War . . .A mysterious Nazi source. A desperate escape bid through northern Russia. And life-threatening secrets being leaked by a mole at the heart of Western intelligence.
In the fifth book of this thriller series, ex-CIA war crimes investigator Joe Johnson heads to Berlin to assist with the supposedly straightforward debriefing of a Russian defector. The defector knows the background to the terrorist bombing of the city’s famous La Belle nightclub in the 1980s as well as the identity of a Russian agent who is funneling American and British military secrets to Moscow.
But things go wrong. Johnson is pursued by his nemesis, the vengeful Russian oligarch Yuri Severinov. And subsequent events turn out to be vastly more complex and terrifying than he expected.
Why are ex-KGB and Stasi intelligence chiefs so anxious to prevent Johnson from getting to the heart of what really happened? And what are the Kremlin connections that suck him into a life-or-death chase in St. Petersburg?
Johnson and his ex-MI6 colleague Jayne Robinson find themselves battling against the odds to dig out truths that have been concealed for almost thirty years.
At the same time, the pair find themselves inexorably drawn toward resuming the brief love affair they once had in Islamabad.
The key to solving the conundrum around the Berlin bombing comes from an unlikely direction, and the identity of the Russian mole who is wreaking havoc in the West turns out to be equally surprising.
The story works its way to a climax in London and Leipzig as Johnson battles against overwhelming odds to outwit the forces arrayed against him.
The Nazi’s Son is a thriller with many unexpected twists that will keep the reader guessing right to the end.
Release date: November 6, 2019
Publisher: The Write Direction Publishing
Print pages: 436
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The Nazi's Son: A Joe Johnson Thriller, Book 5
Saturday, April 5, 1986
The KGB officer pulled out a half-empty pack of his favorite Belomorkanal cigarettes from his jacket pocket and put one in his mouth. He offered one to his colleague, who was standing on the darkened balcony beside him. She accepted. He lit both using a cheap red plastic lighter, cupping his hands around it to prevent the breeze from extinguishing the flame.
He shivered as he took a deep drag on the cigarette, which glowed bright. The nicotine hit felt good. They were standing on the sixth story of an apartment building overlooking Hauptstrasse, the main street running through the Friedenau district of West Berlin. Across the street, high up on the soaring brick tower of the town hall, a giant illuminated clock read quarter to two in the morning.
The two Russians smoked in silence for a few minutes.
“Skoro sluchitsya,” the woman eventually said in her native language. It’s coming soon.
The man nodded. “Oni uzhe opozdali.” They’re already late.
On the sidewalk far below the KGB apartment where they had been staying undercover for the previous few days, a group of West Berlin youngsters staggered along, laughing and drunkenly trying to support each other. He had watched as they emerged from the entrance of a nightclub, more than two hundred meters from their vantage point. A red-and-white sign above the door read La Belle Disco Club.
La Belle was on the ground floor of the four-story art deco–style Roxy Palast building that had originally been a cinema. At this hour it would be packed with hundreds of music and dance lovers writhing to the latest American sounds, some of which were not yet even available in West Berlin’s record stores.
A few minutes later, another group emerged from the club, walked along the street, and climbed into a car. From the way they looked and dressed, the KGB officer knew they were United States soldiers. The club, southwest of Berlin’s center, was very popular with American servicemen stationed in the city.
On the sidewalk nearby, someone had painted in large white letters the words Amerikaner Raus! Americans get out.
One of the city’s ubiquitous white police cars, an Opel with its distinctive green doors, Polizei sign on the side, and blue light perched on the roof, crawled along Hauptstrasse.
The man stepped forward and leaned over the iron railing at the edge of the balcony. He scrutinized the street scene below and pointed. “I think that may be them.”
Two women, both brunettes with shoulder-length hair, had exited from La Belle and were crossing the street, striding away quickly without looking back. It was a giveaway. Both were dressed in tight black skirts and leather jackets. They disappeared around the corner and out of view.
“Yes, it was them,” the KGB woman said. “A couple of minutes now.” She finished her cigarette, stubbed it out on the balcony railing, and tossed the butt out into the gloom, where it floated to the ground. Then she gripped the rail, her knuckles going white as she leaned forward and watched.
The man also finished his cigarette and threw the butt off the balcony.
A group of twentysomethings, laughing and joking, crossed the street below, followed by a couple who were holding hands. Neither the man nor the woman on the balcony spoke as the people below crossed the road, drawing closer to the disco entrance.
A few seconds later, a boom tore through the night air, causing the KGB man to jump involuntarily. Despite the distance, he felt a little of the force of the explosion against his face. The entire ground-floor frontage of the building that housed La Belle disco was blown outward across the street in a storm of glass, steel, concrete, and wood debris.
The group of youngsters vanished behind a cloud of smoke and dust that was propelled outward and upward, hiding much of the building from view, and the sound of people screaming echoed up from the street.
Security and fire alarms triggered by the explosion were ringing, and after a short time, the sound of police sirens could be heard in the distance.
As the dust cloud began to clear, blown by the breeze, the piles of rubble scattered across the street gradually became visible. A man ran over to two girls who were lying spread-eagled on the road amid the debris and knelt next to one of them, placing his hand on her body.
“My God,” the woman said. She instinctively stepped back from the balcony’s edge into the shadows as two police cars screeched to a halt at the point where the spread of rubble began. She turned to face her colleague. “They did it.”
The man pressed his lips together and nodded. He reached out and caressed the nape of the woman’s neck. The entire operation had gone completely according to the plan that he had seen in meetings. The Libyans had done a good job: the carnage inside La Belle must have been enormous. “I need to let the boss know,” he said.
He walked to the rear of the balcony and through the open door into the dimly lit living room of the apartment. He went into the bedroom and sat on the mattress. The sheets were still all awry from their lovemaking earlier.
The man picked up a secure phone that lay on a table. Next to the phone was a West German passport and papers that identified him as an interior design adviser. He dialed a number.
After the usual three rings, a voice answered in Russian. “Da?” Yes?
“FOX is done,” the man replied. “FOX is done.”
“Understood. Thank you. Please keep me informed about the next one.” The line went dead.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Applause rang around room 603 at American University’s College of Law as Joe Johnson wrapped up his lecture on the history of Nazi war crimes prosecutions and the effectiveness over the years of the International Criminal Court in implementing them. He concluded, as he often did, with a few thoughts about the validity of continuing to pursue former SS officers who were now almost all in their nineties.
About 120 students had turned up, which pleased him. Usually his occasional talks for the college’s War Crimes Research Office attracted fewer than that. And judging by the reaction, almost all of those attending seemed to agree with his closing comments that there was complete justification for pursuing justice on behalf of the estimated six million Jews who had died at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War.
Johnson turned off the PowerPoint slide deck that was being projected from his laptop onto the screen behind him to illustrate his talk. He slowly gathered up his lecture notes from the wooden lectern and shook hands with the director of the WCRO, Sarah Southern, who had been sitting nearby with her deputy, William Cadman.
“Thank you, Joe,” Sarah said, a twinkle in her eye and a half smile creasing her face. “That was incisive as usual. It might just get you another invitation sometime.”
Sarah’s mother, like his mother, Helena, had been a Polish Jewish concentration camp survivor, and they had developed a close bond through their shared family histories. Sarah was passionate about her job, something he greatly respected, and he always appreciated the guest-lecturer invitations she still sent him. The WCRO ran a regular program of guest speakers on a wide variety of topics relating to international criminal law and human rights.
“Sure,” Johnson said. “I’d like to talk about Afghanistan next time. I was there last year. There’s a lot of interesting issues.”
“Afghanistan would be a good idea,” Cadman said. “We haven’t done anything much on it for some time.”
Johnson always smiled every time he bumped into Cadman: the academic was almost a spitting image of Johnson himself. He was of similar age, at fifty-five, of similar height and build, and even had the same semicircle of short-cropped graying hair. The only difference was that Cadman wore a pair of black-rimmed glasses. The two men got on well—like twin brothers, Sarah often joked.
Sarah indicated with her thumb toward the back of the room. “There’s someone over there who came in to see you just before the lecture started. I found him a seat at the back.”
Johnson didn’t need to be told to whom she was referring. He glanced in the direction she was pointing. Most of the students had stood and were filing out of the room, chatting and laughing as they went. In their midst, still sitting in the rear row of seats with his arms folded, looking utterly out of place among a crowd thirty years his junior, was a familiar figure.
He had seen Vic Walter sneak in just before he began his talk. His friend and former CIA colleague had known Johnson was going to be in town for the lecture because they had spoken briefly on the phone the previous week. But he had given no indication that he was going to turn up and listen. Something must be afoot if he had taken time out from his now crazily busy job at the Agency’s Langley headquarters to drive the seven miles to the College of Law.
“I spotted him. I’d better go and have a chat,” Johnson said to Sarah. “Thanks again, and let’s speak soon.”
He picked up his coat, tucked his papers under his arm, and ambled down the aisle between the rows of seats to the rear of the room.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Johnson asked, looking down at Vic, who hadn’t moved.
“You need someone to tidy up those slides for you,” Vic said in his familiar gravelly voice. “They’re high school standard.”
“Thanks. Carrie helped me with them, actually,” Johnson said. His daughter, aged seventeen, was in high school. “I thought she did a good job.”
Vic grinned and looked at Johnson over the top of his metal-rimmed glasses. “Ah, sorry. Don’t tell her I said that.” He stood, tossed his empty plastic takeout coffee cup into a nearby trash can, and shook hands with Johnson.
“You having an easy day today, Vic?”
“Not really. None of my days are easy now. Quite the opposite.”
“But you need to talk?”
Vic waved a hand. “I thought it would be good to catch up for a chat while you’re in town. Don’t see you very often these days. Spur-of-the-moment thing. But let’s not talk in here. Outside?”
Johnson suppressed a grin.
But he nodded, put on his coat, and turned to head out of the room, Vic following behind. They moved down the corridor and out through the glass and metal swinging doors that formed the entrance to the College of Law’s sprawling brick and stone building at 4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW, about a mile and a half east of the Potomac River.
It was an unseasonably warm March afternoon, and daffodils in a bed around the circular fountain in the plaza were waving in a light breeze. A few students, some of whom had removed their coats, were sitting at outdoor tables on the white concrete surface.
Johnson stopped next to a row of bike racks, to which were chained an assortment of bicycles in varying states of repair. He turned to face his former colleague. He and Vic had worked together for the Agency, mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the 1980s.
“So, how’s the new job going, Vic? You surviving up on that seventh floor, buddy?”
“Not really. I’m still suffering nosebleeds from the height.”
Johnson chuckled. His old friend’s self-deprecating air was one of his most endearing characteristics.
To many people’s surprise at Langley—mostly those who hadn’t worked directly with him—Vic had been appointed the previous September as acting director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, generally known as the Directorate of Operations. Despite being seen by many as something of a fringe candidate, he was then confirmed in the role in December by his boss, Arthur Veltman, the director of Central Intelligence, confounding the promotion ambitions of two associate deputy directors who had both upset the DCI in the preceding months.
Vic’s appointment followed the eventual resignation of the previous director of the NCS, Terry Jenner, in the wake of two successful investigations by Johnson and Vic into one of Jenner’s senior lieutenants and close ally, Robert Watson.
Watson was convicted and imprisoned on an assortment of charges, including corruption and illegal profiteering from arms deals over a long period of time while he was a senior CIA employee. Indeed, Watson had been Johnson and Vic’s boss as chief of the CIA’s Islamabad station in the 1980s and had been largely responsible for having Johnson fired from the service in late 1988.
Given that Johnson was a freelancer, Vic received most of the internal credit for Watson’s demise. But the promotion was more a reward for thirty years of service, much of it spent successfully organizing and running operations in the Near East and Asia, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also from time to time in Eastern Europe and Russia. Vic had previously had a zigzag career, sometimes taking two steps forward and one back, depending on whose star was in the ascendancy at the Agency. But he had survived and had now adapted to his new more demanding role in his usual understated, laconic manner.
“Get through the first year. Then you’ll be fine,” Johnson said. “Anyway, tell me what’s happening. If you’ve driven here to ask me to do a job, the answer is probably no right now.”
Although it had been several months since the last long overseas investigation Johnson had carried out, in Afghanistan, the effects of being in a couple of life-threatening situations had remained with him. During occasional days off at home in Portland, Maine, he had been recently ruminating once again on whether, as a single dad with two teenagers, he should be carrying out such work at all.
Vic averted his gaze. “Why don’t we go for a coffee?” he suggested. “It’s still chilly out here.”
Johnson sighed. “Did you hear what I said?” He scratched his chin.
“Yes, I did.”
Johnson glanced across the plaza, past the leafless winter trees, at the streams of traffic running two lanes in each direction up and down Massachusetts Avenue past the university buildings.
“Okay, a quick coffee. Then I’m going back to the airport. My kids are expecting me to take them for pizza tonight.”
Vic nodded. “Good.” He beckoned Johnson. “This way. My car’s out the back.”
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Glen Echo, Maryland
Half an hour later, Johnson and Vic were sitting on a pair of wooden chairs nursing cappuccinos in the bar at the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, a stone’s throw from the east bank of the Potomac River—the Maryland side. A mile or so away, across the other side of the river in Virginia but hidden from view by a thick expanse of trees, lay the CIA’s offices at Langley.
The bar, with its heavy wooden furniture and gourmet menu, was in a low-slung sandstone building with a gray slate roof and a canopied outdoor area. Two flags hung on poles over the entrance—one American, the other Irish.
It had only a smattering of customers, allowing Johnson and Vic to choose a quiet indoor table away from others.
Johnson had been to the Irish Inn several times during his sixteen years in DC as a war crimes investigator with the Office of Special Investigations; it had been given a few makeovers over the years but remained fundamentally unchanged. It had always been one of Vic’s regular haunts when he needed a quiet chat with somebody without any danger of surveillance.
By this time, Johnson was braced for the sales pitch that he knew was coming.
But, as usual, Vic first asked about how Johnson’s kids, Carrie and Peter, were doing and then gave an update on his own two children, a boy and a girl, who were now in their twenties. Vic lived not too far away, in the DC neighborhood of Palisades.
After ten minutes of chitchat, Johnson glanced at his watch, then leaned forward and propped his elbows on the table. “All right, Vic,” he said, “let’s cut the crap. I’ve only got forty minutes before I need to leave for the airport. What is it?”
Vic rubbed his graying temples. “Listen. Normally I wouldn’t bother you with this, but since I was promoted I’ve had more freedom to draw on certain external resources that I might not have had before.”
“Like I said, I’m not doing CIA work for you.”
“No. War crimes only, I know that,” Vic said. “But there’s an element of that in an operation we’re looking at. You could add some value to it. I think you’d be interested.”
“Add some value to it?” Johnson muttered. “Is it compulsory to use corporate speak now that you’re in the top job?”
“We’ve got someone incoming in a couple of weeks,” Vic said, ignoring Johnson’s jibe. “From the other side.”
A defector, then. Interesting. “Who? From China? They’re the big threat now, aren’t they?” Johnson asked. “Or Moscow?”
“Right second time. The Chinese are after our technology and industrial intelligence, true, they want to overtake us. But the Russians matter more politically—they’d still like to destroy us. The guy is SVR. It’s a joint operation with the Brits.”
The SVR was Russia’s foreign intelligence service. It operated in tandem with the Federal Security Service—the FSB—its domestic equivalent. Until 1991 both units were part of the KGB, which after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was split into two separate organizations.
“Why is he important?” Johnson asked. “What’s the background?”
Vic hesitated. Clearly, he was about to venture into classified territory, Johnson assumed. It hadn’t stopped him before—his friend had trusted him implicitly ever since he had saved Vic’s life in a shoot-out while the two of them were on a CIA cross-border operation from their Pakistan base into Afghanistan in 1988.
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