Mammon in Malmö, part one: He watched the Luftwaffe trucks, laden with looted treasures
The first of four exclusive extracts from Mammon In Malmö, the eighth novel in Edinburgh-born author Torquil MacLeod’s crime series featuring Inspector Anita Sundström, in which the detective finds herself on the trail of paintings looted by the Nazis.
MAMMON. Noun. Riches or wealth regarded as a source of evil and corruption. Prologue1945The guns thundered in the distance through the urgent whirring of the propellers. The night sky flashed with the explosive light of heavy artillery. The Ivans were getting ever closer. Oberleutnant Bernhard Faber already knew that they had breached the supposedly impregnable Seelow Heights and it was only a matter of days before they surrounded Berlin.
He watched impatiently as two of his men heaved the long, thin crate into the bowels of the plane.‘Get a move on!’In the dark, he couldn’t register if their expressions wore resentment or resignation. If resentment, he could understand it. He, too, resented spending time on this pointless job. These things didn’t matter anymore. He should be back in Berlin, helping to stem the Soviet tide.
Of course, if the Luftwaffe had had any planes left, he’d have been doing what he knew best. But now, he was an airman unable to get into the air and reduced to a dogsbody for the Reichsmarschall, whose priceless plundered possessions were more important to him than his bloody fliers.His two men went to pick up the last load. They would have to be quick; the plane needed to be airborne soon or it would be too late. It may even be too late now; the skies above what was left of the Reich were thick with enemy aircraft.
Faber was unconcerned about the fate of the plane; it could get shot down for all he cared. Again, his thoughts turned to Berlin. His wife and young son were there, taking shelter in one of the giant flak towers near their bombed-out home. He needed to be with them to protect them.
Stories of Russian atrocities – killing, looting, rape – were crackling through the air like static, carried by the millions of refugees fleeing the Red Horde. Soon the vengeful victors would battle their way through the streets to where Helga and little Gunther were hiding. He’d rather kill Helga than let her fall into their hands.
As for his parents in Magdeburg... he hadn’t heard from them in weeks. He only hoped the Americans would get there before the Russians. And all this because a little Austrian megalomaniac had enchanted a nation with promises he couldn’t keep. Only the most fanatical or the insane believed that his ‘miracle weapons’ would save them now.On the Führer’s birthday, there had been constant aerial bombardments. The Allies’ timing was no coincidence. Yet despite the enemy at the gate, he’d watched Luftwaffe trucks, laden with looted treasures and escorted by a motorcycle detachment, trundle south, destined for Berchtesgaden.
Trucks much needed by stricken troops at the diminishing front. The last he’d seen of Göring was the Reichsmarschall forcing his bulk into his enormous limousine and driving off to Berlin to wish the Führer many happy returns.
Later, Faber had witnessed an almost unbelievable gesture of defiance and desperation. The blowing up of Göring’s beloved Carinhall, named after his much-mourned first wife. He hadn’t wanted his grandiose country residence to fall into the hands of the Ivans. But who would give a shit now? Faber and his men had helped site the eighty aircraft bombs in the cellars for the purpose and, through the cumulating clouds of dust and debris,they had watched the building collapse like a house of cards.‘Hurry up!’ he shouted above the noise of the aircraft. He knew where the plane was going, though it might as well be Timbuktu. He had no idea why this particular batch hadn’t headed south with the convoy. He was just following orders. As long as the fat bastard was happy. Göring had let them down as badly as the Führer. He’d turned the world’s greatest air force, feared throughout Europe, into an impotent, wingless rabble.The last crate was in, and the doors slammed shut. The plane manoeuvred away and a couple of minutes later, it was rumbling down the pitted, rubble-strewn runway before easing, not without difficulty, into the air. He watched it until it was nearly out of sight, then, suddenly, the wings flashed in the light from the barrages below.‘Right, let’s get the hell out of here!’
Tomorrow: A mystery down the years