The corridor outside Liesl’s apartment was empty as Jim walked down towards her door. A couple of people had watched him approaching the building with Rollin and had melted away into the background as soon as they had registered the uniforms, but there was hardly anyone inside. At this time of day most of the people had probably left for work. The deserted nature of the place would make things much easier.
Liesl’s door was shut, but it bore signs of recent damage. There were scuffs near the base as if someone had tried to kick it in before she had finally opened it. Jim closed his eyes briefly, hoping to God that she had been sensible, that she had not tried to fight or said anything foolish. He didn’t want to be the cause of her death.
He raised his hand to the panel of the door and knocked, far more softly than he would if there were anyone watching and he was having to keep rigidly to his persona as a police officer on an important mission.
There was no sound or movement from inside, and he pressed his lips together, trying to keep his sense of apprehension pushed down inside his chest. He glanced at Rollin, and registered the concern in his face too.
He knocked again, more loudly this time, and then put his mouth near to the door and called, ‘This is the police. Open up.’
Hopefully she should have no special reason to fear the police. It would not have been the police that Bauer had sent to find her last night.
He knocked again, and called out in an even more stentorian voice, ‘Fräulein Weismuller. This is the police. Open the door.’
Finally, he heard noises inside. He glanced at Rollin, feeling as if his spine had suddenly loosened. Rollin met his eyes, and nodded briefly.
The door opened, and Jim saw Liesl standing there, wrapped in a thin dressing-gown, her hair in disarray and her face bruised. She looked fearful and in pain. A hot feeling of anger spiked inside his chest at the sight, and he pushed through the door with Rollin behind him so that he could get that door shut and protect her from the eyes of anyone who happened to walk past.
Liesl’s eyes widened as she recognised who it was in the official uniform. Jim pressed his finger to his lips instantly, shaking his head.
‘Fräulein Weismuller, you are under arrest,’ he said peremptorily. ‘I’d advise you to get dressed. It’s cold outside.’
Her lips parted. She started to mouth the word, ‘Otto?’ and he shook his head again.
‘Get dressed, Fräulein.’
Abruptly something seemed to click inside her, and she nodded, hurrying away into the bedroom. She came back neatly dressed in a skirt and sweater, and Jim picked up her coat and purse from a chair and handed them to her.
‘Where are you taking me?’ she asked as she pushed her arms into her coat.
She sounded fearful, and Jim touched a hand to her arm, squeezing gently.
‘To the police station, of course,’ he told her, letting none of his empathy come through into his voice. ‘Come on.’
As they walked back through the hallways Liesl was completely silent. It wasn’t until she was in the back of the big black car that she finally spoke, her voice desperate and strained.
‘Otto, what is this?’ she asked. ‘What are you doing? Who are you? You are in the police?’
Jim shook his head, twisting round in the front seat to look at her as Rollin drove, wishing that he could have been seated in the back with her.
‘I am not in the police, Liesl,’ he said in a low, firm voice, ‘any more than I am a trader in women. You need to trust me. I’m trying to get you to safety.’
She stared at him, seemingly trying to read some truth in his face under the layers of deception to which she had been exposed.
‘Why?’ she asked eventually.
‘Because I care,’ Jim said. ‘And we’ve got a friend who’s in danger too. I want to get both of you to safety.’
‘Away from Herr Bauer and his men?’ Liesl asked disbelievingly.
‘Away from Herr Bauer and his men,’ Jim nodded. ‘Over the border if we can – and into West Berlin.’
Distrust mingled with amazement on her face. Jim nodded forward down the road. Bauer’s town house was just a few hundred yards away.
‘Our friend’s in there,’ he said. ‘She’s in danger. Now, I need you to trust me, Liesl. Will you trust me?’
She stared at him, fixing her eyes on his, trying to read something in them. Then she nodded.
‘For now, Otto,’ she said quietly.
‘I’m going to lock you in this car when we leave it,’ he said. ‘I’m going to leave the keys with you – you understand? If we’re not back within an hour, you drive it to 271 Eichenstrasse, and go up to my apartment – that’s apartment 311 – and wait there for either me or my friends. Can you do that?’
She nodded again.
Rollin drew the car in to the side of the road, and stopped. Jim fixed his eyes on Liesl’s once more.
‘271 Eichenstrasse, apartment 311. You’ll remember that?’
‘I will remember,’ she nodded.
Jim pressed his hand briefly over hers, then got out of the car and slammed the door.
‘Ready?’ he asked Rollin, pulling Barney’s sheaf of forged papers out of his pocket.
‘I’m ready,’ Rollin nodded.
It took only a brief flash of their police identification to get in at the townhouse’s tall gates. Jim looked up at the tall building with some apprehension. There were a lot of rooms in there for Cinnamon to be hidden in, if Bauer gained enough warning. He could already see the man at the gate stepping back into his booth and moving toward the telephone. Rollin moved like lightning, though, stepping after the man and putting his hand over the guard’s.
‘No warning calls to the house, thank you,’ he said smoothly, jerking the cable out of the wall and cutting it with a penknife.
The guard looked dismayed rather than angry, and Rollin shrugged.
‘You’re trying to do your job, I’m trying to do mine,’ he said amiably.
He left the man in the booth and joined Jim on the path. Together they strode to the door and Jim rang the bell in a peremptory way, his face grim. The door was answered by some kind of butler in a dark suit, and Jim flashed his identification and the forged papers in front of him.
‘Herr Bauer is not here – ’ the butler faltered.
‘We do not need Herr Bauer to be here,’ Jim said in a crisp voice, pushing past the man without preamble. ‘We are authorised to search these premises for Greta Hoch, suspected of immoral conduct. Do not try to interfere.’
He moved on down the wide foyer, looking to the left and right, his eyes taking in ornaments, paintings, the stairs and the many doors leading to other rooms. It was good that Bauer was out of the way and unable to interfere, and at least Cinnamon would not be trying to evade capture – but it was almost certain that Bauer’s butler was now on the telephone trying to reach the minister and warn him of what was happening.
‘Look for her room,’ he murmured to Rollin, and the man nodded, making towards the stairs. Even if Cinnamon were downstairs, Rollin would be able to recover any incriminating possessions from her room.
Jim carried on through the house, opening doors and glancing through them before shutting them again with a bang. He jerked open a door to a small sitting room, startling a woman who was kneeling and sweeping ashes out of the grate, but before she could speak he shut the door again, moving on. Then he opened the door to what was obviously Bauer’s study. His eyes flicked over sheaves of paper left out on the desk, and the locked filing cabinets along the walls. It would be so easy to rifle through those documents. He pushed the door closed behind him and stepped right up to the desk, gently pushing at the top papers with his fingers.
Upstairs Rollin walked along corridors that were beautifully decorated, but to his mind devoid of any soul. There was no personal touch in this place. It said nothing about Bauer except that he was obsessed with appearance.
He pushed open a door with his fingertips and looked in on an empty guest room. There was another, and then another, and he wondered what Bauer did with all these rooms day to day. Then he opened one to his left, and drew in breath silently as he saw Cinnamon standing in front of a full length mirror, dressed in no more than her underwear. A twin set and skirt were laid out on the bed, but as yet she hadn’t even reached for them.
He stood staring for a moment at the curves of her body and the suggestive lines of the underwear, before shaking himself, and clearing his throat just as she reached out for the clothes. Cinnamon jumped and spun, and Rollin gave her his most charming smile. He was gratified to see that it brought a blush to her cheeks even as she recognised who it was in the doorway.
Speechless, and obviously aware that she might be under surveillance, she began to pull on her clothes with a kind of flustered speed, and Rollin snapped back into character, saying, ‘Fräulein Hoch, you are under arrest on suspicion of immoral conduct. Come with me please.’
Her mouth worked for a moment, her eyes wide in a look that always reminded him of a kitten. She was perfect at looking innocent, but he knew she had claws sheathed and ready to use.
‘Just a moment,’ she faltered, pulling on her skirt. ‘Will you give me a moment?’
Rollin bowed graciously, watching as she buttoned her shirt and pushed her arms into the sleeves of the cardigan..
‘May I get my purse?’ she asked as she slipped her feet into high heeled shoes.
‘Be quick, Fräulein,’ Rollin said sternly.
Cinnamon turned to the dressing table and gathered a few things together into her purse, then turned back to Rollin, holding out her arms as if she expected him to cuff her.
‘That won’t be necessary,’ Rollin told her, taking hold of her upper arm.
‘Trouble?’ she murmured as he walked her out of the door, and he nodded minutely.
‘Come on. Downstairs,’ he told her, jerking her forward as a maid peeked out of a door down the corridor. ‘There better not be any more of your kind around this place.’
‘And what is my kind?’ Cinnamon asked him in a raised, indignant voice, pulling back a little. ‘I’ll thank you to know – ’
‘That’s enough, Fräulein,’ Rollin snapped, and she subsided into silence.
Jim was at the bottom of the stairs, buttoning something into his top pocket.
‘Ah, you have the Fräulein,’ he nodded with deep satisfaction, meeting Rollin’s eyes. ‘Let’s go.’
He strode to the front door, ignoring the flustered looking butler who was still holding the phone receiver in his hand. He flung the door open and the cold winter air rushed past them as they walked outside.
‘Jim, what’s going on?’ Cinnamon murmured as soon as they were far enough from the house to not be overheard.
‘Bauer may be onto us,’ Jim replied, his lips almost motionless. ‘My fault. We had to pull you out.’ He took hold of Cinnamon’s other arm and hurried her on towards the high gates. ‘Come on.’
There was a sudden yell from behind them of, ‘Officer!’ and Jim’s pace quickened.
‘So he got through to Bauer, then,’ he murmured. ‘Still doesn’t know who we are, maybe.’
‘At least the phone’s cut off at the gate,’ Rollin reminded him.
The guard at the gate looked at them quizzically as they approached, aware of the calls from the butler at the door of the house.
‘If Herr Bauer wants to argue with our orders, I suggest he go to the Präsidium and file a complaint there,’ Jim said tersely to the man. ‘Now open the gate. I am in a hurry.’
The guard gave one more look back towards the house, but Jim waved at the gates impatiently, his expression grim, and the man pressed the button that opened the gates without further argument. The three passed through quickly and into the street outside.
‘This way,’ Jim said, turning Cinnamon towards where the car still sat, just a few hundred yards away. ‘Come on. Let’s get out of here.’