SEVEN IRON CROSSES
episode taken from Adventure No. 1073 -
THE MAN WHO HUNTED IRON CROSSES!
THE DYING MAN’S SECRET!
great steel doors of the headquarters of the German General Staff in
This agent had actually managed to get himself appointed to the special inside guard at the Wilhelmstrasse. At this moment he was posing as a Storm Trooper. He had told Kruft he was there to try and secure the Panzer Code, and the German had promised to help him. Today had come his chance. He had managed to take the code from the safe where it was usually kept, his idea being to keep it only long enough to copy it out. It was a series of groups of figures, and five minutes would have been sufficient for his purpose, but as ill-luck had it those five minutes were not granted him. General Milch himself had demanded the code a minute after Kruft had “borrowed” it, and the loss had been discovered immediately. He was the only one who had been to the safe, so his guilt was certain. The manhunt had started at once, and so far he had not been granted a moment in which to copy out those vital figures. Neither had there been any chance of passing it on to the British secret agent. The soldiers were coming along the corridor, opening and closing every door, searching every room. Captain Kruft quickly turned the key on the inside of his door, and knew he was cornered. What could he do with the code? He snatched it from his pocket and read the neatly-typed figures. Even if he did manage to memorise them he would not live to be able to pass them on to the British agent. “I must leave the code some place where he can find it,” thought the Captain as the heavy feet came nearer and nearer, and he glanced wildly round the room. There was not much scope for hiding anything. In any case the room would be turned upside down to see if he had left a copy of the key behind. What hiding place could he find that they would not discover? Someone turned the handle of the door and discovered it was locked. There was a shout and a heavy foot thudded against the paneling. “Open up! If that’s Captain Kruft—open up!” thundered a voice. The trapped man gnawed his lip feverishly as he looked around the big desk. There was a black leather case slightly to one side of the blotter. He jerked it open and saw seven medals confronting him from their plush lined partitions. They were all Iron Crosses of the first class. He knew why they were there. General Milch was to present them in the morning. There was to be a grand parade, but Captain Kruft would not see it. He would be dead before then. Crash, crash! Rifle butts thudded on the door. It would not be long before the barrier was down. The seconds were ticking away rapidly. Suddenly Kruft had a brain wave.
turned over one of the Iron Crosses. The back was blank but for the name of the
man who won it. With a pin taken from one of the other medals he began to
scratch on the medal one line of figures. 39762915, he wrote, pressing as
firmly as he could. Then he returned the medal to its place the right way up,
and grabbed a second. A similar batch of eight figures went on this. The
massive door was still holding back the soldiers, although they were now using
an axe. He might have time to scratch all the figures on the medals. He worked
as swiftly as possible. Right along the line of medals he progressed, and by
the time he had got to the seventh medal a complete record of the Panzer Code
had been made. He closed the plush lined case, thrust the original typed key
into his pocket, and stood tight-lipped behind his desk. The door collapsed at
last. Men surged into the room, headed by a Staff Colonel. He immediately
pointed his revolver at Captain Kruft. “You’re under arrest, you treacherous
dog! What have you done with the Panzer Code? You must have taken it from the
safe.” “Yes, I took it, and here it is. I had no chance to get away with it,”
admitted Kruft, holding out the paper. The Colonel snatched it, and glowered.
The Storm Troopers were closing in. Captain Kruft looked to see if the British
agent was there. He could not see him. He must have been with one of the search
parties in another part of the building. Somehow he must be given a hint about
the medals. “Cur! Swine-hound!” barked the Staff Colonel. “What made you do it?
Trying to make a fortune for yourself by selling it to the enemy, eh?” “No, I
was accepting nothing for it,” said Kruft. “I was going to hand it over to
those who will one day rid
All the others crowded round to heap insults and blows on him. The Colonel had left the room with the precious paper, but had given orders that the place was to be thoroughly searched in case a copy had been hidden by Kruft. Through the crowd of tormentors the dying Captain saw the search proceeding. He saw someone open the case of medals, glance inside, and close it again. Kruft sighed with relief. His ruse had worked. Then he saw another Storm Trooper come in from the corridor, and tensed himself for a final effort. The newcomer was the British agent, Major Warren Elton, of the British Secret Service. He pushed his way through to the wounded man. No sign of pity showed on his face, or distress of any kind. He had to play a part, and Kruft did not expect him to do otherwise. “So this is the dog, eh?” snarled Elton, who was known to the others as Karl Mayer. “I’d like to bash his face in.” He leaned over as though to do this, tripped, and fell face down across the figure on the sofa. His German friends roared with laughter at his clumsiness. “Trying to kiss him goodbye, Mayer?” shouted someone. “Have you got it?” the British agent was whispering, taking advantage of the closeness of his lips to the other’s ear. “No,” came back the equally soft whisper. “I copied it out. The—the Seven Iron Crosses!” His words died away in a choking gurgle. When Major Elton raised himself upright the man was dead. He had willed himself to keep alive just long enough to pass on his secret.
THE SEVEN NAZI HEROES.
he had shown no outward emotion, Major Elton was profoundly moved by the
Austrian’s unpleasant death. The brutal behaviour of the Storm Troopers made
him itch to smash his fist in their faces, but he had learned to swallow his
feelings since he had taken on this dangerous job of entering
Storm Troopers were dismissed to their own quarters and the Wilhelmstrasse
resumed its normal appearance. The precious paper was safely back in its well
guarded safe. The British Secret Service man bitterly regretted his bad luck. Whilst
cleaning his equipment in the bare barracks at the back of the building, he
racked his brain for some way of getting at that case of medals. If he had been
on headquarters guard that night there might have been a faint chance, but as
his section were to form the guard of honour at the ceremony on the morrow they
had been excused night guard duty. He could think of no way of getting the
medals. After this afternoon’s business everyone inside the Wilhelmstrasse
would be doubly alert. “Poor Kruft sacrificed himself to get that key, and I’m
not going to have him sacrificed for nothing,” he thought. “Seven Irons Crosses
contain the greatest military secret in
Then General Milch and other high officers arrived, the usual patriotic speeches were made, and someone read out the deeds of the men who were to receive medals. Judging by those records, they were a daring bunch, but some of the things they had done to earn the medals were not of the kind a Britisher would have been proud of doing. Open towns had been bombed, refugee ships sunk, the cities and villages of quiet little countries had been shattered by armoured columns. But the medal winners marched up stiffly and proudly, received their Iron Crosses from their General, saluted, and as stiffly retired. From the ranks Storm Trooper Karl Mayer watched closely. Many another man would have decided this was the end of his hopes, but not so the disguised Britisher. He was determined Captain Kruft’s death should not have been in vain. If he could have got the box of medals from the Wilhelmstrasse he would have had the entire key to the code. Now he would have to get those seven Iron Crosses separately, one at a time, from their seven different owners. It was going to be difficult, for the seven men would soon be dispersing to their units. It would mean many adventures of many different kinds for Major Elton. The difficulties seemed to be unsurmountable, but Elton did not despair. He had pulled off desperate chances in the past, and meant to do so again in the future. He would be able to get particulars of these men’s units from the notice which had been posted on the board that evening, and meantime he had one task on which he could start right away. Captain Kaub was one of the new medal holders, and he was Elton’s own commanding officer. It would be possible to start with him very soon. The parade was now being dismissed. The Storm Troopers marched back to their quarters, with their newly decorated officer at their head.
AT THE BARRACKS.
of guard had taken place at the barracks of the Storm Troopers. Except for the
occasional sound of the sentry’s feet, there was silence in the big, concrete
building. The men were worked hard, and usually slept soundly when the R.A.F.
did not pay that part of
German officer could not miss such a target at such close range. Elton remained
perfectly still, his brain working at lightning speed. “Guard—turn out!”
thundered the Nazi, knowing the sentry would hear him. There were movements in
the adjoining cubicles. Someone shouted to know what was happening. “I’ve just
caught a thief in my cubicle,” called Kaub. “I don’t know who it is yet, but—”
Crash! Major Elton had been silently reaching out with his foot towards the
right. He had deftly kicked over the chair on which the tunic had been hanging.
It fell with a crash, and the German’s eyes flashed in that direction without
meaning to do so. For a moment the revolver wobbled. As quick as sight the
Briton leapt to the bed, his knee catching the man in the stomach, his hand
snatching for the gun. So unexpected was his action that Captain Kaub
relinquished the weapon without a struggle. The next moment it had thudded down
on his own uncovered head, and he feel back with a grunt. There was not a
moment to waste. Major Elton could hear men running along the corridor. There
was no escape that way. He must get away by the window. Grabbing the fallen
chair, he hurled it through the window, smashing frame as well as glass.
Someone burst in through the doorway at the exact moment when the desperate
Secret Service man was diving through the opening from the top of the corner
table. A shot followed him, but missed, and he landed lightly on hands and
knees, the distance to the ground being no more than four feet. He immediately
scurried along the foot of the wall towards the nearest door. He knew it would
be unlocked because that was the way out to the air raid shelters. Once he got
back to his own quarters he would be safe, for nobody could have recognised him
yet. The door swung inwards as he put out his hand to push it. Two half-dressed
Storm Troopers were in the act of rushing out. They barred his way. “Mayer!”
gasped one. “What—” There was no time for hesitation. Major Elton remembered
the Iron Cross in his pocket, and what it meant to
Ten seconds later the coat was back on its usual hook, and he was between the blankets. Hardly was his head on the pillow when the alarm signal went. Men scrambled from their bunks, sleepy-eyed, wondering if it was an air-raid alarm. An n.c.o. appeared in the doorway and snapped—“Get some clothes on! Bring your rifles! There’s trouble in the barracks! There’s someone running amok!” Warren Elton scrambled into some of his garments the same as the others were doing. His quick wits had so far saved him from disaster, but there was a chance search would be made for the missing Iron Cross. If it was found in his possession everything would be finished. Hiding places were not easily found in the bare, concrete barracks. He decided to use another method. As they scrambled into their uniforms in the semi-darkness he contrived to lift the lid of a tin of rifle oil that stood on the shelf above his bed. Into the oil he dropped the Iron Cross, and it sank to the bottom with the ribbon. The scratched numbers would not be affected by the oil, and it was unlikely anyone would look in such a place. Once he had a chance to copy off those figures accurately he could get rid of the medal altogether. The thing was to make sure no suspicion attached to him during the inquiry that was bound to follow. At the double, carrying their rifles, the men from that barrack room passed out into the corridor. All over the barracks similar movements were taking place. The outer gates had been closed and locked. Sentries in the drill yard had been trebled. “There’s a killer at large somewhere in the building,” a wild eyed officer told them. “Take no chances with him. He’s hatless and has a topcoat. Shoot on sight! Get busy!” The hue-and-cry began, and Major Warren Elton joined in it! He was wondering if his luck would hold this time.
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2007