CUCULUS By David R Graham
‘Mr William, Miller?’
‘Yes. And you are?’
‘My name is Edmund Varley.’
‘How can I help you?’
‘I wonder if I might speak to you about the package you sent to the Imperial War Museum.’
‘Oh, you’re from the museum. Why didn’t you say so? Come in, come in.’
‘I must say, this is the last thing I expected when I sent those documents off. Take a seat. Would you like some tea?’
‘Here we are. Now then; what exactly has brought you all the way out here in this weather, and how can I help you?’
‘In your letter you sent with the documents, you mentioned a suitcase containing Second World War paraphernalia.’
‘Yes. I came across it quite by accident when I was sorting out my father’s effects, at his cottage in Falmouth.’
‘Forgive me if I am remiss. Is your father deceased?’
‘You’re not remiss. He passed away seven weeks ago. Lung cancer, I’m afraid. His smoking got him in the end.’
‘I am sorry for your loss.’
‘Please go on.’
‘Well, as I mentioned in my letter, the suitcase is full of mementos from the last war. Those documents I sent to you where in there; mostly German, along with several different passports; French and German identity papers, assorted bric a brac, a couple of old handguns, several knives. Things my father must have collected on his travels around Europe, I expect. As I said in my letter, the museum is more than welcome to have the lot, if you think they might be of some interest.’
‘Is it here?’
‘May I see it?’
‘Yes of course.’
‘There is rather a lot in it,’ Mr Miller said, hefting the suitcase onto the dining table.
Mr Varley rose to his feet.
The suitcase was an Asprey, typical of its time, with reinforced leather corners. ‘I made a thorough search for a key; but I’m afraid I forced the locks,’ Mr Miller said apologetically. He lifted the lid. ‘I imagine the contents are of more interest, though. I doubt that they are of much interest to anyone, other than a collector. I thought they might make an interesting display at the museum.’
Mr Varley examined the cases contents: A radio, concealed in a biscuit tin, a magnetic compass disguised as a coat button; five passports: American, British, German, French, and Italian, a silenced one shot pistol disguised as a tobacco pipe, a silenced .22, a silenced .32 automatic, a sleeve gun, silk printed maps of continental Europe, Great Britain and the American continent, several acetone time-delay fuses. A selection of booby-trap devices. Detonators, vehicle engine disabling kit, close quarter combat weapons: a knife, a garrotte, a weighed ball, a sleeve dagger, a machete knife for piercing helmets. A matchbox camera, a pencil dagger, hollow coins of various continental currencies; spikes for puncturing vehicle tyres, a saboteur’s multi function knife. Several carrier pigeon message canisters. A set of brass knuckles, several codebooks, 1940’s English, French, and German, currencies. A tube of shaving cream and a tube of toothpaste, and bottle corks with hidden compartments.
‘May I?’ Mr Varley asked.
Mr Varley examined the passports in turn. The American bore the name Walt Mailer, the English, Walter Marlowe, the German, Wilhelm Muller, the French, Guillaume Meunier, and the Italian, Guglielmo Mugnaio. Baring slight variations in facial appearance, the photographs were of the same man.‘Do you recognise the man in these?’
‘Yes, of course. He’s my father.’
Mr Varley examined the identity papers in turn.
The papers bore photographs and details corresponding to their respective passports.
Mr Varley held up the papers, ‘…and in these?’
‘Yes. The pictures are of my father.’
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Mr Miller, these passports, and identity papers represent five countries; America, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.’
‘Yes. They do.’
‘The photographs on all of these documents are of the same man.’
‘Yes. I noticed that. I assumed that my father had had them made up for him; as mementos of his travels.’
‘Mr Miller, these are authentic documents issued by the proper authorities in each of the five countries they represent.’ He opened the British passport to reveal the bearers photograph. ‘Twelve years ago,’ he said, ‘in June of nineteen thirty five, this was issued to a Walter Marlowe.’
‘Well, as I said, I thought perhaps my father had…’
Mr Varley held up the passport, ‘all of these passports and identification papers were issued to the same man using variations of the same name,’ he said. ‘In Italian, Miller is Mugnaio; in French, it is Meunier, and in German, it is Muller. Granted, there are small variations in the appearance of the man in each of these passports, but not enough to disguise the fact that they are of the same man: a man with five different passports, Mr Miller.’
‘What exactly are you saying…?’
‘The moment I saw these photographs, I recognised the face. I know who the man was.’
‘How could you possibly know … look here, Mr Varley. Exactly who are you? You are not from the War Museum, are you?’
‘No, Mr Miller. I am not from the museum. I am here because of the documents you sent to the museum. Those documents were passed to me the moment they were recognised for what they are.’
‘And just what are they, Mr Varley. What are you, for that matter? Where have you come from? Why are you really, here?’
‘I represent Her Majesty’s Government, Mr Miller. You might say that I am a researcher.’
‘Are you indeed? Well would you mind telling me exactly what possible interest the Government has in my father’s … war mementos?’
‘Mr Miller this suitcase does not contain your father’s war mementos; it contains the tools of his trade.’
‘Tools of his trade…? What are you saying?’
‘Look here, all of those things in there were used by secret agents, and saboteurs, and…’
‘Spies, Mr Miller.’
‘Now hang on a minute. Surely, you’re not suggesting that my father was a spy. Are you?’
‘No Mr Miller I am not suggesting that. I am stating it as a fact.’
‘What? My father! A spy…! That is the most preposterous thing I have heard!’
‘The contents of this suitcase are the final pieces of the puzzle, Mr Miller: pieces that have been missing for the past decade.’
‘But how can you be so damn sure that this Cuckoo and my father were one and the same?’
Mr Varley took a photograph from the breast pocket of his jacket.
‘Do you recognise this man?’
‘What? Yes, it’s … it’s my father. Where did you get that?’
‘It is a picture of a German spy: codename “Cuculus”.He was a sleeper agent. We knew of his existence throughout the war. He was spying for the German Abwehr. Despite exhaustive counter-espionage measures, and a continental manhunt, he was never caught.’
‘Cuculus from Cuculus canorus: the Cuckoo. Like the Cookoo,’ Mr Varley said, putting away the photograph, ‘he made his nest here in England and fed information to German military intelligence, almost on a daily basis, throughout the war. Much of that information was of a highly classified nature; the revelation of which led to the loss of the lives of many men and women across Europe.’
‘You are not seriously suggesting that my father was this Cuckoo? That he was a spy, a … traitor. It’s a preposterous notion.’
‘It is neither a suggestion, nor a notion, Mr Miller. What I have seen here today proves the fact. The puzzle is completed. The case is closed.
The Cuckoo has flown the nest.’
The Institute for Economic Research
Ruschestraße and Frankfurter Allee,
10365 Berlin, GDR.
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I have taken over the nest.