The Paris Spy (Maggie Hope Mystery #7)

The Paris Spy (Maggie Hope Mystery #7)

Susan Elia MacNeal

About the Author

The German night has swallowed up the country…France is nothing but a silence; she is lost somewhere in the night with all lights out.

—ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPéRY, An Open Letter to Frenchmen Everywhere No great country was ever saved by good men, because good men will not go the lengths that may be necessary.


The Letters of Horace Walpole: Earl of Orford, Volume 9


Only a single small sparrow, hiding in the high branches of the green chestnut trees, dared to pierce the Avenue Foch’s eerie silence with her chirps and trills.

Even though it was afternoon, there was no traffic on Baron Haussmann’s grand Neoclassical thoroughfare, which linked the Arc de Triomphe to the Bois de Boulogne. The vélo-taxis avoided the wide street itself, while pedestrians and bicyclists bypassed its contre-allée—the inner road separated from the boulevard by a ribbon of lawn.

There were few cars in Paris, and even the large black Citro?ns and Mercedes favored by the Gestapo seemed to glide silently, as if they, too, were unwilling to disrupt the quiet. Without traffic, the air on Avenue Foch was unexpectedly sweet and fresh.

The cream-colored limestone fa?ades, with their wrought iron balconies, tall windows, and mansard roofs, were considered the height of Parisian elegance. But a more ominous factor lurked behind Haussmann’s design: some of the architect’s critics opined that the real purpose of his grand boulevards was to make it easier for the military and police to suppress armed uprisings. And so the elegant and distinctive city plan had made it simpler for the Nazis to invade Paris during the Battle of France in June 1940.

On the section of Avenue Foch closer to Porte Dauphine stood several anonymous buildings that gave the street its chilling reputation. Number 84 housed the Paris headquarters of France’s section IV Counterespionage division of the Sicherheitsdienst, the German security service that interrogated arrested foreign agents. The Gestapo leaders had chosen Avenue Foch deliberately for their headquarters: it was named after the French general Marshal Foch, to whom the Germans had surrendered in November 1918.

The Sicherheitsdienst’s chief, Obersturmbannführer Wolfgang von Waltz, lifted his head as he heard the low growl of a car pierce the silence of the street. He looked up from the papers on his massive walnut desk and out the window to see a gleaming Benz pull to the curb. Two Gestapo officers in plain clothes emerged with a young brunette in handcuffs.

Von Waltz was in his early forties. He was of medium height, handsome, and immaculately groomed, with golden-blond hair and silvery sideburns, his midsection slimmed by an elastic waist cincher. Only one eye slightly larger than the other kept him from looking like the Nordic gods of the Nazis’ propaganda posters.

Despite his high SS rank, he wore a double-breasted, gray-striped suit, Lanvin silk tie and pocket square, and handmade alligator shoes. He wore civilian clothes on purpose, to win over incoming prisoners. He left the actual torture, if necessary, to the SS henchmen in the elegant building’s damp and chilly basement.

He stood, taking one last satisfied glance over his large office. It had high ceilings with elaborate meringue crown moldings and a glittering cage chandelier, light sparkling through its heavy spear crystals, grand enough to impress any prisoner. His eyes slid across the reproduction of Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women that hung on one wall, while on the other, over the marble fireplace, hung the gold-framed official portrait of Adolf Hitler. On the mantel stood an antique clock topped by a Jean Gille porcelain figure of a woman in repose—The Sleeping Beauty—one slipper teetering on a graceful foot.

But the centerpiece of the room was a plantation table topped with an enormous domed Victorian cage containing an African gray parrot—a gift from von Waltz’s superior officer, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister, whose photograph was displayed in a silver frame on the desk. And even though von Waltz loathed the bird, he couldn’t wring its neck as he might have liked. Ribbentrop had bought it at the Paris bird market, amused that a bird from Africa’s Ivory Coast, with feathers scalloped like silver chain mail and long tail in Nazi red and black, could be taught to say “Heil Hitler!” on command.

The bird, whom von Waltz had named Ludwig, had intelligent orange eyes and a few bald patches from nervous overgrooming. Ludwig’s ornate cage was lined with newspaper, which von Waltz’s secretary had to change regularly. She also fed the bird his special diet of seeds, greens, chicken bones, and snails. “Bonjour! Guten Tag! Grü? Gott!” the parrot sang out, shifting his weight from one taloned foot to the other. “Heil Hitler!”

“Shut up,” von Waltz snapped.

Ludwig replied, as Ribbentrop had taught him: “Schupf di du Schneebrunzer!”—Get out of the way, you snowpisser.

Von Waltz ignored the bird. He lifted the black Bakelite telephone receiver with one manicured hand and dialed his secretary with the other. “Fr?ulein Schmidt,” he crooned, “our ‘guest’ has arrived from the Rouen office. Please serve us coffee and perhaps a few pastries? Yes, perfect.”

Outside von Waltz’s office, Hertha Schmidt rose from her desk and did as she was told. Coffee—real coffee, not the ersatz stuff made from chicory or roasted acorns—was as precious as gold or diamonds in occupied Paris. A broad-shouldered, thick-waisted German blonde in her twenties, Hertha relished the many luxuries, such as coffee and chocolates, that working for the SS in Paris afforded her. “Terroristen,” she muttered, measuring out the fragrant ground beans. “Englische Terroristen.” It was bad enough to care for the horrible bird; treating prisoners of war to coffee and pastries was too much.

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