This book is now available on Amazon! Below are the first two chapters. In this opening scene, Betty Lehmann has a run-in with her old nemesis, FBI Special Agent Paul Gellar:
Betty Lehmann stood on a crowded passenger ship dock in Brooklyn, New York, on the western shoreline of New York Harbor. She looked up at the tall, wide prow of the RMS Scotlander.
It was a balmy day in September of 1938. The city of New York was sweltering under a late-season heat wave, but there was a pleasant breeze here, so close to the Atlantic.
Betty, moreover, could feel herself tingling with excitement, for the journey that was about to begin. Within the hour, Betty would board the Scotlander, which was bound for the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
This trip would be different from her recent one to Germany. Whereas the trip to Germany had been like official tourism in the name of the German-American Bund, this trip to Egypt would involve hands-on training.
And yes, probably a real-life test or two.
This had been a year of tests. A full year had passed since Betty had pushed Barry Rosenberg from the precipice at Lover’s Ridge. She had survived that trial by fire, dodging the inquiries of both the Dutch Falls police, and then the FBI.
Perhaps those trials had, ironically, made her more prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
She had known that the purpose of her recent trip to Germany was twofold. On one hand, the trip gave her an opportunity to see the Fatherland. But it also gave officials who oversaw the Reich’s Operation Pastorius a chance to evaluate her.
She had even been given the honor of meeting Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most powerful men in Germany.
How many ordinary people, she wondered, got to meet Heydrich? It had been the opportunity of a lifetime!
And the men in Berlin must have been impressed with her—at least to a degree. Otherwise, they would not have approved her participation in an actual Gestapo operation.
Of course, Rudolf Schenk would be primarily responsible for tracking down the perfidious traitors in Cairo. She would be only a trainee and an observer. But it was an opportunity and an honor, nevertheless.
The only downside was that Frank would be accompanying her to Egypt. She recalled how he had behaved in Berlin. Frank had jealously hovered over her the entire time. Frank had not learned of her fling with Colonel Volker’s young adjutant, Karl Richter; but he had suspected.
She was now twenty years old, and she did not intend to answer to her older brother about her personal life. Frank acted not like a brother, anyway, but more like a jealous beau.
This realization made her skin crawl, and she pushed it away. Hopefully Frank wouldn’t be too much of a wet blanket while they were in Egypt. She was anxious to learn everything she could from this Rudolf Schenk. If Frank became jealous of Schenk, too, he might ruin everything.
But at least Frank wasn’t here with her now, this minute. He had just excused himself to go into the station building for the shipping line. Probably he needed to use the restroom. Betty hadn’t asked. She was simply glad to be free of his overbearing presence for a few minutes.
Betty noticed a man looking at her from some distance away, amid the crowd waiting to board the RMS Scotlander.
The man looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place him. Probably he reminded her of someone she knew back in Dutch Falls.
This was New York City, she reminded herself. She didn’t know anyone here. No one at all.
Perhaps the man merely found her attractive. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all, that a strange man had noticed her.
So as not to encourage him, she tilted her head upward, and then looked away.
Horst had been almost as excited to see Betty off as Betty was herself. Her father had been the architect of this trip, after all, and of her previous trip to Germany. Horst was the leader of the German-American Bund in Dutch Falls. From Horst Betty had acquired not only her drive and discipline, but also her love for Germany and the Führer.
Not everyone in Dutch Falls had been anxious to see her go, however. Her younger sister, Heidi, would miss her.
And then there was Patrick.
Patrick O’Dell had made one final, impassioned plea, practically begging her to stay in Pennsylvania. She had, at least, managed to allay his suspicions about her role in the death of Barry Rosenberg. But convincing him to forget about her was another thing.
Patrick O’Dell had been a pleasant enough diversion by Pennsylvania standards. But while in Germany, she had seen and recognized the kind of man she wanted. She wanted a man like Ensign Karl Richter, the young Wehrmacht adjutant with whom she’d had an affair while in Berlin.
If only Patrick O’Dell would just forget about her.
The man she had noticed a few minutes ago—the one who had seemed to notice her—was now walking directly toward her at a brisk pace.
Suddenly he did look familiar. Very familiar.
“Betty Lehmann,” he said. “Remember me?”
It took Betty only a few seconds to place the man, now that he was standing practically face-to-face with her.
This was the FBI agent who had shown up in Dutch Falls the previous winter, leveling accusations at her father, and also at her.
His name was—
“Special Agent Paul Gellar,” he said. “Just in case you’ve forgotten.”
Betty attempted to reply, but found herself tongue-tied.
Horst had warned her that they might not be completely finished with the FBI agent. Gellar might show up again, and try to trip one of them up.
The way to handle him, her father had said, was with cool-headed deliberation. Be civil; do not provoke him. But say as little as possible. Don’t allow him to rattle you, or goad you into saying something that you would regret later.
“Good afternoon, Agent Gellar,” Betty said, recovering herself now. “How nice of you to come and see me off. You must have a lot of time on your hands at the Bureau, if you have time for this.”
“Let’s just say that you’re a priority, Miss Lehmann.”
Betty felt a little chill run through her. She didn’t want to be a priority for the FBI.
But of course Gellar would say something like that. He wanted to disorient her, to make her incriminate herself.
With some difficulty, she forced herself to remember Horst’s instructions.
“Am I? You flatter me, Agent Gellar. Still, it’s reassuring to know that the FBI makes time to see citizens off when they take ocean voyages. Too bad you didn’t show up earlier. You could have helped me with my luggage.”
“Cut the crap, Miss Lehmann. You’re about as innocent as a fox leaving the henhouse with blood on its muzzle.”
Betty rolled her eyes at Gellar. “And you’re about as good at metaphor as well, a third-rate FBI agent. What is this about?”
It occurred to Betty that she was no longer following her father’s instructions to the letter. She wasn’t being entirely civil; nor was she saying as little as possible. She was actively sparring with Agent Gellar, in fact.
“I know you were lying,” Gellar said. “I know that you had some role in Barry Rosenberg’s death, in him falling off that cliff. I don’t know if you pushed him yourself, or if you lured him there, and someone else did the dirty work. Either way, though, I know you had a part in it.”
“You have a very vivid imagination, Agent Gellar.”
“How do you sleep at night, Miss Lehmann?”
“Usually in a negligee, Agent Gellar. But sometimes we German American women sleep in the nude. Put that in your report.”
She was pleased to see the color rise in his cheeks. She had just made an FBI agent blush.
“You think you’re clever, don’t you?” he asked, regaining himself.
“Have a pleasant day, Agent Gellar. Unless you have grounds to arrest me, I think we’re done with this conversation.”
“For now, maybe,” he said. “But we’re not done for good. And we won’t be, until you’re behind bars.” Gellar tipped his hat. “Have a pleasant voyage, Miss Lehmann. Anchors away!”
With that Gellar turned on his heels, started whistling to himself, and walked away.
The man still had nothing on her. Otherwise, she reminded herself, he would have arrested her. Especially when she was preparing to embark on a trip abroad. This entire encounter had been nothing but yet another attempt to rattle her.
But he hadn’t succeeded.
Frank showed up at almost the exact same moment that Gellar receded into the crowd.
“Who was that?” Frank asked.
“That was Agent Gellar. The FBI agent.”
Frank had had no real interaction with Special Agent Paul Gellar. But he had heard about him. Horst, moreover, had warned Frank not to allow himself to be provoked.
“What was he doing here?”
“Just fishing for information, Frank.”
Neither Horst nor Betty had ever told Frank the truth about what had happened to Barry Rosenberg. He had no need to know about it. Nor did either of them completely trust his discretion.
“About Papa,” Betty answered. “About the Bund. About everything. You know how they are. They cast a wide net, and look for anything they can use. Anyway, come on: It’s almost time for us to board.”