In our last episode, Colonel Candace Dare was told that she will used in an experiment in Immortality. Her captor, Horst Von Zorm, son of the infamous Herbst Von Zorn (whom Colonel Dare shot), is financed by the secret organization, The Phoenix Brotherhood.
General Dan Fitzhugh was not happy as he limped into the Pentagon. He had not heard from Colonel Parker of CID in two days. Two days, he thought, wars have been lost in less time that that.
The general found his office and opened the door. Waiting for him was the self-same Colonel, along with Warrant Officer Will Hutton, Fitzhugh’s aide.
“Good morning, Colonel Parker. I hope you have good news for me,” Fitzhugh said.
“General Fitzhugh, I have an update. But the news isn’t any better or worse than it has been.”
“Come into my office and we’ll talk. You too, Will. I need you to hear what is going on.”
Hutton had coffee ready, Fitzhugh passed out a cup to each of them before he sat. He took a sip, and asked, “So, what is going on, Parker?”
Parker paused before answering, “I’ve put out a warrant on Colonel Dare, General.”
Fitzhugh felt the anger building; he knew his face was turning red. “You can’t possibly believe that she is a murderer, can you?”
Parker held up his hands to calm Fitzhugh down, “Here me out, General. It will all make sense to you soon.”
Fitzhugh wanted to throw the CID Colonel out. The only thing to do now is be calm and find a way to help Dare. He nodded.
Parker began. “We fired all of Colonel Dare’s weapons, none matched the murder weapon. But all the slugs were close to the slug from the victim. It seemed we were looking for a Luger. We saw the sign about the missing Luger, remember.”
“It seemed that the missing Luger might be the murder weapon, but of course, we need to be sure. I checked into your statement about Dare’s personal effects being taken after the close call with the A-Bomb. The gun, as well as Dare’s uniform were kept in a radiation ‘cooling’ chamber.”
“Yes,” Fitzhugh agreed. “I have some things there myself.”
“Apparently, General, the Luger was logged out three weeks ago.”
“How did that happen, Colonel?” Fitzhugh asked.
“A man claiming to be Von Zorm’s son claimed the pistol as belonging to his father. He claimed possession of the Luger.”
“But it was still radioactive,” Will Hutton said.
“Horst Von Zorm had the documentation and equipment needed to transport radioactive material, all the documents were in order. They are very tight with that sort of thing there.”
Fitzhugh nodded. “But then…”
Parker held up his hand, “Please, General, allow me to go on. We also checked at the restaurant where Dare and Owens had dinner. One of the waiters saw Colonel Dare pass out. Owens and another customer carried her to a car and were going to transport her to a hospital. The owners of the restaurant were thankful that people still help one another.”
“The other customer?” asked Fitzhugh.
“He was described as a very proper gentleman. He had a scar on his left cheek. We have identified him as the same Horst Von Zorm that picked up the pistol at the testing site. We followed a hunch and checked the slug from Owens. It was radioactive.”
“Then you can’t possibly believe that Colonel Dare murdered the bean counter,” Fitzhugh said.
“No. She didn’t do it. She is being framed. We need to find out who and why. We issued the warrant so whoever is behind this will think their game is working.”
“It has to be Von Zorm,” Fitzhugh declared.
“That’s what we believe, too.”
“Why can’t you just go and pick him up, Colonel?” Fitzhugh asked.
Fitzhugh watched as Parker sat back in the chair.
“Here is where it gets interesting,” Parker replied. “Have you heard of operation ‘Paperclip?’”
“Yes, certainly. German scientists trade possible war crime convictions for helping our science programs. Herbst Von Zorm was one of those selected. Very likely could have caused serious trouble had we not stopped him.”
“Interestingly enough, Horst Von Zorm, is also part of the Paperclip Program.”
“How can that be?”
“Horst Von Zorm was one of the younger trained scientists in Germany near the end of the war. He was considered a genius and educated very quickly. Of course, his father knew none of this.”
“What? How do you know?” Fitzhugh asked.
Horst Von Zorm was one of, if not the oldest, “Lebensborn’ babies. They were raised in special facilities built by the SS. We think the father did not know of his son’s fate till after the war. By that time the son, Horst, was employed by a defense contractor out of France.”
“Not the European branch of Recalcitrant Laboratories? They hire all sorts of dubious people.”
“No, he was hired by L’ frères de Phoenix.”
Fitzhugh clenched his chair and must have turned white.
“General, what is matter? Are you all right?” Parker asked concerned.
“Before Herbst Von Zorm died, he confessed that he was working for the Phoenix Brotherhood. He said it was the Phoenix Brotherhood that financed Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. I’m sure the French Company is just a front. Lord knows what he is doing to Dare right now.”
Parker was silent; Fitzhugh could see this was news to him. “Well, that might make sense,” Parker finally said.
“What makes sense?”
“L’ frères de Phoenix is helping the Air Force with a new hush-hush project. It has to do with long term underground living.”
“Do you know where?”
“I can’t get anywhere with the brass. Only that’s it’s out in the boonies.”
“Who do you talk to?”
“Some colonel, I couldn’t get anywhere near the generals.”
Fitzhugh stood up. “Well, you’re near one now. Follow me, both of you.”
The general walked quickly, anger motivating him, the younger men tried to keep up. He finally arrived at the correct door. The nameplate read, “Harvey Harrison” with three stars below. Fitzhugh knocked twice and barged in.
Lieutenant Jane Sullivan, Harrison’s secretary jumped and composed herself. “General Fitzhugh, sorry, you surprised me.”
“I need to see him Jane, and I mean right now.”
“Yes sir,” Sullivan went and knocked on the door and slid in.
Fitzhugh could hear Harrison’s voice, not sounding like he was welcome. He then heard Sullivan saying something which quieted the ruckus down.
Sullivan came out of the office, “He’ll see you now.”
Fitzhugh smiled and quietly told her, “I owe you one.”
“You better believe it, General.”
Fitzhugh stood, flanked by Hutton and Parker.
“Sorry about Dare being a murderer, Dan. If I knew that, I would have never sent her your way,” Harrison said.
“She didn’t do it Harv,” Fitzhugh said.
“But CID wants her arrested.”
“We want her found, sir,” Parker said. “We think she’s been kidnapped.”
Harrison motioned them all into chairs. Fitzhugh told him the whole story. After Fitzhugh was done, Harrison grabbed the phone.
“Jane, get me Billingsly. Secure,” he ordered.
Fitzhugh and the others waited until the phone rang. Harrison picked it up at the very first chirp. “Billingsly, I’m sending General Fitzhugh, and Colonel Parker of CID. You will tell them what you know. Hold the wire,” Harrison motioned for Fitzhugh to get going. He spoke to the phone again, “Here’s the SITREP…”
Fitzhugh led the others. By the time they reached Billingsly’s office, maps were spread out over the desk.
“What I tell you now,” General Billingsly said, “is highly classified. The Air Force is looking to build a complex in Colorado that will be safe from atomic attack. We hired the French company to see what effects there will be if someone works underground for long periods of time.”
“Where exactly are we talking, General?” Fitzhugh asked.
Billingsly took off his glasses, “Well, that’s the thing, we don’t know ‘exactly.’ It’s somewhere in this area. I can get you planes and helicopters but where to send them, I don’t know for sure.”
“General, that’s like 500 square miles,” Parker said. “We can’t search that area that easily. We would need some high resolution imaging, a bunch of map-readers. That might take weeks or months.”
“I have an idea,” Fitzhugh said. “General Billingsly, I need a quick trip to Aberdeen.” He turned to Parker, “You get a team together, we’ll meet at Fort Carson in two days.”
“Don’t worry General Fitzhugh, we’ll get you all there.”