"So you want me to investigate his contacts?" Major Geoffrey Smythe asked. "You said he was into the night life of Berlin, so I'll take in the girlie show at the James-Klein review on Friedrich Strasse and find a way to get close to the fellow. It seems straight forward." Smythe was a tall straight-backed fellow with piercing blue eyes and blond hair, which he wore close cropped in the Teutonic fashion. He had no mustache like most of his peers and it gave him a look younger than his twenty-seven years.
"It might be so," Argent said, " but for the fact that he is a devote of the Thule Society and considered a master of magic and the occult arts."
Augustus Argent had been in service to the Crown for many years though his steps were still spry and his carriage as upright as the uniformed cavalry officer he was speaking with. He also wore his hair long and though it was pure white to match his full mustachios to give him an American frontier appearance, his face was not weathered nor lined to match. His age could have been anywhere from forty to sixty. The two men were walking along Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon and appeared to be nothing more than an old soldier and his protegee chatting.
"You can't be serious," Smythe said, "What difference does it make that he's a rabbit from the hat sort of bloke?"
"Oh, not an illusionist, Geoffrey," Argent said, "This man is a magician."
"What's the difference?" the younger man said. "I've known so many charlatans in the Golden Dawn Society; but it's just a bunch of parlor tricks."
"Magick with a 'k', Geoffrey is a dangerous thing; it can control the basic matter of the universe. It can alter the very shape of things and substances."
"You don't really believe that clap trap, uh-sir," the Major asked.
The white haired man smiled knowingly. "I have seen many things in my service to the Crown and my time in the Far East that defy conventional logic; yet there can be no denying that they happened."
"Well," the younger man said attempting to mitigate his audacity, "I suppose so, sir, but my job is to get concrete information for you and that is what I will get."
"Just watch your back, believe only half of what you see," Argent said, "and remember you fight for the light."
Major Smythe nodded and shook Argent's hand. "I will get the information back to you sir, one way or the other, you have my solemn promise."
erlin was a magic place in nineteen thirty; a place dark magic and dark thoughts. As he walked down the Leipziger Strasse the British spy smoked a cigarette in a long holder and relaxed into his surroundings. He knew that the key to blending in was simply to be; to have no thought that he did not belong. He took his true self, his inner man who had been raised in the Midlands of England and locked him away inside of the public persona of Dieter Von Holms. He did not play the part of a Saxony Architectural student turned businessman, he became him.
The Home Office had assigned Major Geoffrey Smythe to Rudolf Ziesse because Smythe 's mother had been a German from Saxony so he spoke the language like a native and, indeed often went abroad as Dieter Von Holms. He had maintained the dual identity for several years and it had brought him into contact with many levels of German society and provided him much valuable intelligence.
The streets were full of gay partiers, a Curt Bois film was playing at the Art House Theatre, and the air was crisp with an early fall storm looming. He passed the transvestite Eldorado club where the men who dressed as women were so effective that he knew many tourists who had not been careful enough to check for an Adams apple found a surprise when they returned to their hotel room with the night's 'conquest.'
Smythe laughed when he saw a tipsy businessman leaving the club with his arm around the slim waist of a well-dressed young 'lady'. A close look at the thick wrists of the 'lady' and then at the scarf tucked around her neck to hide her throat made the English man snicker. "I hope you've drunk enough to dull the pain of discovery, old fellow," he thought as the couple passed him heading toward the American Hotel up Chausse Strasse.
Smythe walked over to Jagger Strausse, passing the Cabaret of the Nameless at number eighteen where so many poor souls who hoped for a real career were humiliated by the emcee for the entertainment of the audience. It was all the rage and it, in a nutshell summarized for Smythe the depths of cruelty the German Republic had fallen into.
And the place that pointed to the darkest place at the heart of the dark empire was the Klub Magus, his destination. It was at the end of a narrow and dimly lit alley off of Mitte Strausse. A simple neon sign announced the club with the image of a wizard, arms raised in red.
The entrance was gained by descending a flight of stairs to a red door. He knocked twice heavily and a small window in the door slid back to reveal dark eyes and a scowling brow.
"I have walked a narrow path to the Luminous Lodge from a golden dawn." Smythe said. He knew that the occult society that operated the club had ties with the Golden Dawn Society in London. He had attended some of their meetings to further his Von Holm cover and now it was paying off.
"Let the light be both Luminous and Golden," the 'eyes' said and the panel slid closed. Then the door opened and a thin man in evening clothes beckoned the agent in. "Welcome, mein herr," the man said in a reedy voice," It is good of you to join us."
Smythe entered a small foyer backed by a heavy purple curtain laced with crystal beads in the pattern of the zodiac constellations and lit by candles so that it had the mystic and otherworldly feel to it.
When the door was closed and bolted behind, Smythe turned his attention to his host. The man was painfully thin with hair slicked back and with a pencil mustache , both jet black and obviously fake. He looked more closely and notice he did not have an Adam's apple. Smythe scanned the chest of the tuxedoed 'man' and barely saw the bindings that were holding the transvestite woman's breasts at bay.
"Nothing unusual for Berlin," he thought. He found himself enjoying her boyish hips when she turned to lead him toward the curtain with just a bit too much 'English' in her walk for a young lad.
Smythe had become used to the strange and bizarre in the streets of Berlin but when the door 'man' led him into the interior of the Klub Magus he changed his opinion.
he physical space of the Klub Magus was had been a storage warehouse at one point and still retained the vaulted roof architecture in the series of rooms that comprised the club. It was lit mostly with candelabras and small electric table lamps at each of the booths.
The center space of each room was a dance floor that doubled as a performance space and when Smythe entered the first room a cabaret act was occupying that space.
The act consisted of several near naked women enacting a Roman gladiatorial battle in dance; two of the women were made up as warriors and another had been body painted to resemble a lion with her hair braided and teased into a fair resemblance of a mane. The three women danced and wrestled to a tonal music played by three topless women. An androgynous man in a toga provided a humorous play by play as the women created a sensual combat scenario.
The 'battle' ended when the lion began to 'eat' one of the gladiators by chewing on her breasts and the third woman 'stabbed' the lion in the back. The three women took a bow as the crowd applauded with lackluster enthusiasm.
"My friends," the emcee said as the women scurried away, "I know you are all waiting for the event of the evening, but you will have to wait just a bit longer; but you can enjoy the music of Fraulein Fritta Klum to drown your sorrows."
The trio began to play Million Dollar Baby and a lanky blonde singer stepped out on to the dance floor to mesmerize every person in the club. She had perfect features; high cheekbones, huge blue eyes lined with dark mascara to emphasize them and a perfect bow shaped mouth that seemed to be trying to kiss every one in the room.
She wore a silvery mesh gown that showed off every curve of her athletic body in a way more suggestive than if she had been nude. Her voice was good, but her presentation was better and she soon had everyone in the room clapping as she worked him or her like a veteran performer much older than her twenty-two years.
While the chanteuse performed Smythe was conducted to a small booth near the back of the room. "Your waiter will be with you in a moment, Mein herr," the faux doorman smiled at the spy. He returned the smile and once more enjoyed the rearview as the woman walked away.
Within a few moments a waiter made an appearance. He was wearing only an apron, garter belt and bow tie. "What would you like, sir?" he said managing to make it sound like an indecent proposal. He also wore stark blue eye make up and bright red lipstick.
"Lager," Smythe said doing his best to ignore the waiter's implied offer; it was standard practice in the 'cellar clubs' to mix business with pleasure in Berlin.
"Very good," the waiter said, " I will bring it right away." He moved away with more swing in his hips than even the faux doorman had in hers.
Fraulein Klum finished her song just as the beer arrived for Smythe. He watched her smile her way around the room and set about looking for his assignment: Rudolf Ziesse.
He knew what the man looked like from the newspaper articles he had read on him; square, jutting jaw, piercing green eyes, unusual for a Teutonic and an arrogant expression that was the norm for members of the National Socialists.
Smythe watched the crowd of dilatants and degenerates and thought about how different it was from even the 'down low' night clubs in London. Save for such legendary nightspots as the infamous Hellfire Club, English society, even at it's darkest and most deviant had passion in it. Those in the room seem detached from their own selves and their actions, as if they were being deviant because everyone else was; a herd mentality the cavalry officer could not understand.
"Get hold of yourself, Smythe," he admonished himself, "You are here not to judge or philosophize, but to do a job; a job that must be done."
As he concluded his thought, as if on cue he spotted the next best thing to his prey, Greta Brandstatter, the woman known to travel with Ziesse as his mistress and confidant.
She was thin and noble with short bobbed black hair and hooded dark eyes that regarded the room with a cool distain.
"She knows she's the queen, she does." Smythe thought, "And expects to be treated like it."
A maitre-de in drag brought the woman to what was obviously her regular booth. It was across the dance floor from Smythe's booth but out of the direct line of the entrance to the club. She slid into her booth like a graceful panther and a waiter appeared immediately with a glass of absinthe for her. She sipped it while she scanned the room to settle her gaze on Smythe.
The English spy locked eyes with the woman and gave her a slight smile that she acknowledged without returning.
The Emcee chose that moment to step out on the floor with a comical two-step. "And now my dearest of dear friends," he grimaced and smiled, "I present to you the event you have waited your whole life for, the Magus of the Magus; Herr Doctor Ziesse!"
The trio of musicians struck up a martial tune and the most remarkable sight he had ever seen greeted Smythe's eyes:
Rudolf Ziesse entered the room from a hidden door not far from the booth where Fraulein Brandstatter was seated followed by three barely clad women painted silver and gold. Ziesse himself was dressed in a long flowing robe with a hood that all but concealed his face. It could not hide the piercing power of his stare however as his eyes seemed to shine out from beneath the cowl like torches.
When he reached the center of the dance floor the three women assumed positions at the three points of a triangle, kneeling with their faces upward and their arms spread wide in supplicating positions.
Ziesse stood still and allowed all eyes to drink his ominous figure bowing his head to shadow his face completely. From the depths of the cowl his voice, a deep base that might have been beginning a hymn, roiled out to fill the room.
"All of you who sit here tonight are the brave ones who have faced the stolid and calcified traditions of the past and seen them lacking. Every one of you has looked beyond convention looking for the power of Vril." He raised his head dramatically and threw back his hood to reveal his handsome Nordic feature.
"Vril, whose vibrations are given to us from the Masters of Wisdom who reside in the hidden places of the earth beneath the Himalayas will help us all to rise above the common racially impure cattle who pollute the surface of the Earth."
He made a complex gesture in the air and a burst of light seemed to grow from a single pinpoint before him. The flaming ball of light raced around the room, whizzing over even Smythe's head before it returned to the outspread palm of its 'creator' and fizzled out in a hiss of steam.
When everyone began to burst into applause he held up his hands to stop them. He fixed everyone with his glaring gaze, even the English spy feeling the power of his eyes. The room was in rapt silence.
Smythe watched the woman Greta as she watched Ziesse. Her mesmerism was different from the crowds; he could see that the dark haired woman was basking in the reflected power of the magus. In her eyes he saw not the fawning and blind obedience of a follower, but the convinced and cunning power of a collaborator.
"The work for which we are responsible, " Ziesse continued in a quiet voice, "will be able to spread and gain strength in the world and become part of an organization of a higher order being established in the world which would be able to accept only those who had reached such a stage of spiritual development that they were able to generate higher energies." Now the power glowed from within him rather than his hands. It was an inner glow and Smythe was at a loss to say how he had accomplished the effect.
The three women began to sing now, a keening song in ancient German that rose in intensity and pitch as the glow from the magus increased.
Suddenly the song and the light reached a fever pitch and with a blinding flash Ziesse disappeared to be replaced by a huge white tiger!
he transformation was startling and the whole room gasped audibly. The tiger reared up on his hind legs and roared a challenge at the room. Several of the audience members jumped back at the beast's roar, one falling over backwards in his chair.
The three women seem unfazed by either the appearance or attitude of the animal even when it turned in a tight circle and sniffed at one of them. The animal moved to a second woman and sniffed her as well. The three sycophants seemed oblivious to the beast; their eyes glazed over as their bodies swayed in rhythm to their song. They continued to sing even as the feline reared back and pounced on one of the silver painted women and began to savagely tear at her flesh.
Women and men in the audience screamed at the gory display, several fainting at the sight. Most were paralyzed with fear and fascination. Smythe jumped to his feet not sure what he could do but determined to intervene just as there was another flash of light and Ziesse stood in the center of the three uninjured women.
"Thus the power of the Vril can transform the surface of the world if we believe; believe with me my fellows and the destiny of Lebensraum will be fulfilled!"
The crowd broke into a firestorm of applause as the magician stood and soaked in the accolades. The three women rose and stood behind him showing no expressions at all save for intense attention focused on the magus.
He acknowledged the adulation with a nod of his head and then imperiously headed off the way he had entered while the emcee took center stage again.
'How is that for a show?" He giggled. "And what a dreamy robe!"
Everyone laughed as a release for the shock they had all felt at what they had seen.
Smythe remembered Argent's words "Just watch your back, believe only half of what you see." And wondered again how he could find a way to get close to so outrageous an individual to discover his plans. The answer presented itself when he looked across to see Greta looking once more right at him.
"Well, Damn the torpedoes," he thought and stood to walk across the room to the booth the woman was in.
"Good evening, Fraulein," he said when he stood by her table. "Quite a show; is it like this every night?"
She smiled disarmingly and laughed. "Oh, not quite so dull. I noticed you were prepared to intervene -- a brave man or foolish?"
He slid easily into the booth opposite her and did his best to charm her; it wasn't hard to try, close up she was even more attractive than she had been from across the room. Her eyes sparkled with intellect and something more, a wildness and lack of fear that he had seen in men going into combat, the ones who always led the charge regardless of danger.
"A bit foolish, I must confess," he said, "I had no idea there was a magic show here; do I get to see him saw a woman in half later?" he saw a flash of something behind her eyes then, something beyond the wild girl. Yes, she was dangerous, but my best way to meet Ziesse.
"You shouldn't make fun of Rudolf," she said with sly smile, "He might turn you into a rabbit-or worse."
"You know him?" he asked with his most innocent voice.
"Biblically some might say," she said. "So what is your name, bold animal fighter?"
"I am called Dieter Von Holms, from Saxony."
"You may call me Greta," she said extending her hand which he bent to kiss. "And you are a very forward man -- I like that."
They sat and chatted and fenced with innuendo and nuance for a quarter of an hour while the topless trio played and members of the crowd came forward to dance.
"So, Mister importer of suits and clocks," she said as she finished another drink, "do you have bravery on the dance floor as well as in the animal arena?"
He stood quickly and offered her his hand "Never let it be said that the men of Saxony are not afraid to confront the tigress in her den."
The moved out onto the dance floor as the band changed the tempo of the song from soft jazz to a wild swing song. The two dancers took it in stride and were soon wildly moving across the floor. The other patrons sensed something special in the movements of the two and gave them a wide berth.
Smythe found himself dancing as if it were a battle with the woman challenging him with sparkling eyes and a lascivious grin. The band sensed that there was something unusual going on and increased the tempo so that the two were pressed to their limit.
When the song ended the crowd applauded and Smythe and Greta fell into each other's arms laughing and out of breath. The trio switched to a slow tune and though Smythe was prepared to return to the table Greta pulled him to her and they danced cheek to cheek to the slow music.
"You are as good as your word, mien herr," she whispered in his ear, "Are you as good in other areas?"
"I have had no complaints in any field I have ventured into," he said to her in hushed tones. "In what area might you need some help, dear lady?"
She was about to reply when a hand touched Smythe's arm and a deep voice said, "Excuse me, Herr, I believe I would like to cut in."
Smythe looked over his shoulder to see a tuxedoed Rudolf Ziesse.
"If you wish," Smythe said. He reluctantly released the lithe woman and Ziesse stepped in to take her in his arms. She looked past him to Smythe and winked, then allowed herself to be swept away into the crush of the dancing crowd.
Smythe went back to his table and watched the dancers.
"You were in the most dangerous of waters," a female voice said beside him. He looked over to see the Fritta Klum. She blew smoke at him with a languid gesture and smiled.
"You sing beautifully , Fraulein Klum." He said.
"And you dance across thin ice, Herr.' Her eyes followed Ziesse and Greta as they moved slowly across the floor.
"Do I, I didn't know."
"Oh I think you know," she said, "And that is very intriguing."
"Why is it everyone in Berlin likes to see a country fellow take chances?" he asked.
"Everything else is so dull," she said in a droll voice. She made eye contact with him and she too had the wild light in their depths.
The music ended and the crowd on the floor dispersed to their seats. Ziesse and Greta went back to her booth and she paused to wave Smythe over.
"Keep dancing, fellow," Fraulein Klum said, "and watch out for the tigers."
Smythe walked across the empty dance floor with the sensation that the room was elongating and time slowing down. As he approached the booth he became aware of Ziesse's green eyes boring into him as if they were searchlights at night. The blond magus smiled a reptile smile and extended his hand to Smythe.
"Good evening, Mien Herr," Ziesse said, "I enjoyed your performance."
"And I yours," Smythe said. "Wonderful tricks."
"Oh," Ziesse said with a dark smile, "wait around, it will get better; I am full of tricks."
mythe sat with Ziesse and Greta for much of the evening chatting about the state of Germany and the world, and with Ziesse holding court on matters psychic.
"The Vril have resided for untold ages at the center of the world practicing techniques to strengthen their mastery of the divine Vril energy so they would have mastery over others and over events." As he spoke others gathered around the booth to listen to his 'wisdom' and soak in the celebrity of his presence.
Smythe watched everyone and every thing and understood why this man was so dangerous to the British cause. It was thinking they were superior that had led to the first global conflict and he could see that charismatic individuals like Ziesse and that fellow Hitler with the National Socialists, could energize the hopeless masses of Germany to action. And religious wars were the most dangerous.
"They believed that the attempt at mastery was the only thing which gives purpose to existence. Any other activity is meaningless," Ziesse went on. He held everyone rapt with his low, deep voice and his piercing eyes which he scanned the faces of all around him with regularly.
"We, the German people, as Baron Lytton has shown, are the natural inheritors of this Vril power, but we must not squander it, we must harness and cultivate it, clean the streets of the refuse and refocus that power in our purpose. You have seen just small sample of what this energy can do to transform matter; you can transform yourselves as well into the perfect race, the perfect people, the perfect masters of the world!"
No one standing around the booth dared to speak, some barely dared to breath and the music of the band in the background seemed to fade as the mystic held court. Smythe watched them all and knew that the religious furor he was playing on was indeed the most dangerous thing he had ever seen. This was not just a political movement it was a crusade and anyone who got in its way would be trampled: Jew, English, French all stomped beneath the boot heels of the army he was seeing birthed right before him. It made the experienced spy shudder at the thought.
"One day, when the world has transformed through our efforts," Ziesse concluded." These beings at the center of the earth will emerge and form an alliance with we initiates who have adequately prepared ourselves."
While Ziesse spoke Greta watched Smythe. The spy was aware of it and worked to hide his disgust at the Magus' words and to look like one of the other rapt listeners. As the blond mystic spoke he focused on the audience and took his attention away from his mistress; she used the opportunity to slide across the booth and next to Smythe.
"He is a powerful speaker, isn't he." She said. She watched Ziesse but it was material she had heard before so she could 'split' her focus to speak to the spy.
"He is a great man," Smythe said sotto vocce. "You must feel honored to hold his company."
She pouted. "Yes, a great man," she said, "but great men are so much in demand; so little time for the purely human needs." She leaned her body into Smythe's and he could feel the warmth of her through his jacket as is she were on fire.
"But he is a man," the Englishman whispered, "and I am a stranger here."
"This is Berlin," she said. "There are no strangers here -- if you are good German stock." She squeezed his arm. "You are good German stock aren't you? Breeding is so important." She emphasized the word breeding with all the meanings she could give it. There was little mistake which meaning she intended.
"So, my friends," Ziesse concluded his lecture with a wide, benevolent smile. "We must all work to better ourselves, cleanse the Reich and keep the faith. But we are not divine yet, so, my friends, let us feel joy and make merry!" With that he suddenly stood up from the table and grabbed one of the women standing by the booth and whirled her out onto the dance floor.
The crowd erupted into cheers and all rushed to join the couple on the floor to become a jumbled writhing mob as the jazz tune went up-tempo.
Greta pointedly did not move to join them, going so far as to grab hold of the Englishman's arm.
"You don't want to dance?" Smythe asked.
In answer she reached up and placed a hand behind his head and drew him in to a tight embrace, kissing him hard on the mouth. Smythe responded with genuine passion, but always with the thought in the back of his mind that this was a dangerous act, but the fastest way to connect with the inner circle of Ziesse's followers.
When Smythe was able to look up again he cold see that Ziesse was dancing with Fraulein Klum in a tight and sensuous tango, their bodies pressed erotically together. The woman beside the English spy pulled back into another embrace and they were once more lost in the rapture of physical contact. The music of the club roared on around them but the two might have been on a desert island for the abandon with which the woman threw herself at the cavalry major.
He found himself in the most confused of circumstance, his natural shyness and reserve, so necessary for his military career and his spy activities were in direct conflict with the sensations and the circumstance he found himself thrust into.
He certainly enjoyed her advances as a man (though he usually preferred to 'be in charge') but he was conflicted whether it was the right course for his mission. He had even more reservations when she slid from the booth, pulling him after her and was led to the second room of the Klub Magus.
It was a darker room than even the intimate first room but with the same vaulted ceiling. Arrayed around the walls, however, instead of booths were small, enclosed spaces like sleeper compartments from a train. Figures could be seen in many of them, some unmoving as opium smoke drifted from the booths past the sheer curtain but some clearly writhing in carnal passion. There was every combination, male and female, male and male and females together . And the numbers varied from simple pairs to trios and groups of more.
Truly there were no 'strangers' in Berlin.
Greta pulled the English spy to one of the empty booths.
"This is so abrupt," he managed to breath as she began to divest him of his clothes, "Shouldn't we work up to it."
"You could not be more worked up," she said as her own clothing melted from her lithe form. "There is no time but the now in the new order," she added, "We must seize the moments as we will seize the world."
Still the spy resisted against his own body's desire for the woman's for one more attempt. "But the Magus-"
"Oh screw the Magus," she whispered, "I have and it's not a big deal. Come on, Dieter- don't be such an Englishman about it all; take me now."
And the spy did his best to not be an Englishman about it, all the while thinking, "The things one does for the Empire!"
mythe's gambit in 'romancing' Greta paid off in post-coital conversation.
"The cells are almost ready," She whispered as she snuggled against him. "We will soon have enough in place in England itself to cripple their navy. Believers like those you met in the Golden Dawn Society will prepare the way and our veterans, the ones who know what monsters the English are will be reborn; The National Socialists are ready to join us when we are ready."
"This is the information that the Doctor must have;" Smythe thought, "but I must be careful to not seem too eager about it to Greta." He stroked her hair and let his outer appearance reflect his purely physical joy at the woman's proximity.
"It is a glorious prospect," he said. "I often go to England on business and its arrogance is hard to take. They think they own the world."
"Yaw," she nodded, "They have no compassion for or understanding of the world to come. We are the future!" She nuzzled her head once more into the hollow of his neck assured that he was completely in simpatico with her agenda.
"Had we not better return to the other room before we are missed too much?" He said. She nodded her head against him.
"I suppose so," she said.
The two dressed with much hand holding and with her giggling frequently.
When they returned to the main room of the club no one seemed to notice that they had left. The music still played and the crowd still danced and the booth where Ziesse sat was occupied once more by the Magus, though now he sat with Fraulein Klum. The two of them obviously had not missed anyone.
"It is a wonderful night," Ziesse said as he sipped from a glass of cognac. "Comradeship, cause and the cosmic," the Magus added, "It is the way it should be."
Fraulein Klum joined him in a toast and when Greta slid into the booth she snuggled up to the singer and the two exchanged a kiss.
"I really am too English to not be shocked," Smythe thought, "But I must keep my game face on."
"You were remarkable tonight," Smythe said to Ziesse, "I had heard tales in the Society, but none do your skill and power justice, Herr Ziesse."
The Magus smiled with a canny expression. "I am surprised I have not heard more of you, Herr Von Holm. I have many friends in the Society."
"I have been to a mere handful of meetings when they have coincided with my visits to that decrepit isle."
"And yet you have not been to meetings of the Lodge here?"
"I must confess my interest in the energies of Vril and the Golden path are but newly awakened." Smythe bluffed. "I know it seems silly, but I really had no inkling that such things existed until recently." He did his best to turn his blush at the embracing women into a self-abashed shyness about his 'psychic ignorance' to throw Ziesse off.
"Well, yes," the magus said, "Most of the world, and sadly most of the fatherland lives in a state of disbelief and confusion. I am glad our words reached you, even if in such a round about way." Ziesse ordered another round for the table including Smythe, and the spy inwardly relaxed.
When the nearly naked waiter brought the drinks (and batted his eyes at Smythe in the process) the magus held up his stein.
"To the new world order," Ziesse said, "and we who will make it!"
The others raised their glasses and all said, "The Fatherland!"
They drained their drinks in one swallow and all laughed at Fraulein Klum when some of her champagne bubbled out of her nose.
"So tell me, Herr Von Holm," Ziesse asked, "What do you think of the transforming power of Vril energy?"
"Truly amazing," the spy said, "It is astounding to believe that such power can reside in a man."
"In all men, my friend, "Ziesse said, "If they have the true blood and the stalwart heart to take the risks needed to achieve it."
"He really believes this horsewash," Smythe thought, "or at least thinks all his brainwashed followers do. I know it was a trick, but it doesn't matter, it is what his followers believe --"
Abruptly the English spy felt himself grow weak. His vision began to blur and the sounds of the club became muffled. He felt his stomach contract violently and he thought for a moment he was going to throw up.
"Is there something wrong, Dieter?" Greta asked. He could barely understand her words and she seemed to be speaking to him from a great distance down a long tunnel.
"I think the wild dancer can't handle his liquor," Fraulein Klum said with a bubbling laugh, "or maybe he can't handle Greta!"
Both women laughed and the sound of it was like machinegun fire to the woozy officer. Ziesse joined in with his deep-throated laugh and through the tunnel of his vision Smythe saw a different light ignite in the magus' eyes.
"I hear the English have no stomach for good German beer," Ziesse said. "Perhaps that is Major Smythe's problem."
"He knows!" the spy thought. He tried to rise but his legs were rubber beneath him and he had to hold onto the edge of the booth to keep from falling.
"Well he may not be able to hold his liquor but he can hold me anytime," Greta said, "He's a regular English Stallion." This set the women to giggling again and brought a 'hurmping' sound from Ziesse who, for the first time, seemed to be angry.
"That will be enough, Greta," he said. "Don't disgrace yourself with the lower forms."
"Oh, Please, Rudolf," she said, "He is, after all, half German."
The spy tried to walk away from the table as the realization cut through the fog in his mind. "He has drugged me; he will kill me if I can not escape." He took only one step but his legs would not support him at all and he fell face forward on to the polished wood of the floor.
In the haze of his delirium he distantly heard Ziesse as he said, "We shall see just how much of a stallion our English turncoat is, Greta; fetch me my implements I think there will be another show here tonight!"
hen Geoffrey Smythe opened his eyes again he knew he was in some sort of trouble. He was still in the club and he was seated but he became aware that his arms were bound behind him and he was in the center of a circle of people. Rudolf Ziesse was standing before him dressed once more in his magician's robes. Beside him stood Greta Brandstatter also attired in ceremonial robes. She had a frighteningly wild expression on her face as she was looking at Smythe.
"Now you will see the true power of the Vril energy," Ziesse announced to the room of rapt faces. "This man came to us thinking we were ignorant of the work of the English agitator and unbeliever that gutter low Argent." When the magus saw that Smythe was awake he leaned in to look the spy directly in the eyes.
"We have agents who watch him and we saw you meet with him, watched you as you went to Golden Dawn meetings. We are the superior minds, Mr. Smythe."
"Stop this nonsense then, Ziesse." Smythe bluffed, "Do you think we did not know your people were watching but we knew your arrogance would make you expose yourself to us."
His thoughts however were not so sure. He had no idea that their network in England was so extensive, that they had such good intelligence. And he wondered if Greta had told him the truth in her pillow talk. He studied the near mad face of the woman and knew that it had been the truth, that she had not known or not cared that he was a British agent. "She was mad enough to tell me the truth, to risk divulging their real plan to make it more exciting for her, the chance that I might escape. Now, I have to."
Looking at the equally mad expression on Ziesse's face made Smythe think that he might not have that chance to escape. The magus stepped away from the bound officer and raising his arms summoned his three sycophants to begin chanting.
The women, dressed more conventionally than at his first 'performance' in dark robes, surrounded him and began to sing in high keening tones. Ziesse stepped even further back and he began to murmur in a language that Smythe did not recognize.
The spy's vision began to blur again and at first he thought 'they have drugged me again," but it was different sort of sensation. It was as though the lenses of a camera were being replaced. The quality of his vision changed.
Things went out of focus and refocused again and he was aware that he was not seated anymore; in fact the chair had fallen away with a cracking sound. The shirt across his chest tore and the ropes that had bound him tightened and snapped yet he could not move to run from the bizarre situation.
He seemed to be actually rising as he looked out at the strange tableau before him, the singing women and the robed magician and began to, for the first time to think there might really be something to the parlour tricks he had seen performed.
His whole body felt strange as well, his back hurt as if someone were trying to pry the spine out of him, his legs and arms were in pain.
"Now we will see just what kind of stallion you are, Mr. Smythe." Ziesse said. The women stopped their songs and the crowd in the nite club all gasped as one.
Smythe felt his chest tighten as he saw the look of horror on so many of the faces. He also heard with a strange new clarity the murmurs from the crowd of "amazing", "oh my God!" and "I'd ride him."
Smythe took a step back, overcome by the oddness of the looks and heard something that chilled him; a clopping sound. It was sound he knew so well; it was the sound of a horse's hoof. He looked down not believing it possible but fearing the reality and was still stunned to see the forelegs of a horse where the lower part of his body should have been.
"No!" Smythe tried to cry but the sound that came out chilled him to his soul. It was a high-pitched whinnying sound. He tried to speak again but with the same result.
"Now we will see if you are the young stallion of the Queen we thought you to be!" Ziesse said with a dark laugh. Greta joined in the laughter and soon it was general around the room.
Smythe spun first left then right looking for some face without diabolical delight at his plight but saw none. He was in hell and he knew it.
"I have to escape," he thought. "I have to find a way to get to Argent." It was an irrational thought, a prayer for help to the dark gods that had trapped him but his mind was consumed with the desperation of his situation.
He tossed his head and felt his mane slap against his elongated neck, he snorted and felt his enlarged nostrils flare. He grimaced and felt his large lips slide back over his huge teeth and every sensation made his horror more real and filled him with increasing dread.
"Go ahead, Greta," Fraulein Klum chided her companion, "he rode you; now let's see if you can ride him!"
The dark haired girl nodded her head and threw off her robe to reveal that she was naked beneath. With no thought to her nudity she strode across the dance floor toward the transformed Smythe. The crowd cheered.
Smythe tried to back up as if the naked waif approaching him were the devil herself but his hindquarters came in contact with the wall and he knew he was trapped.
She came forward slowly, sensuously with her arms wide and beckoning toward him. The crowd watching laughed at his cowering back from the pale naked woman and it was an absurd sight; a thousand pounds of muscular animal cowering from barely a hundred pounds of waifish girl.
He could have crushed her, lunged forward and stomped her beneath his massive hooves but there was still the man in the beast and he, even in his panic and pain, remembered her writhing in joy beneath him and he could not react in violence. Regardless of the circumstances of their tryst they had been intimate and he was a gentleman.
Not that his thoughts were so rational, rather they were a chaotic jumble of terror, pain and wonder. It all allowed the woman to walk directly up to him so that she could reach out and touch his muzzle. She stared directly into his enlarged eyes with an expression that was cajoling and fearful all at once. And more, there was wildness in her eyes that fixed Smythe's vision.
"Now, now," she whispered as if to a child or real wild animal, "we will have a nice ride and you will learn to love your new life, Dieter." She giggled and ran her hands along his muzzle and along his jaw line to touch his neck.
Smythe froze. The sensations were almost overwhelming and more than his mind could process. He stood, the muscles in his neck twitching, his ears flicking back and forth nervously.
The girl walked along his flank running her hands along his side until she reached the withers of the newly transformed man. She then nimbly vaulted onto the spy's back.
Despite her size she felt like a heavy weight to the trapped Englishman. The warmth from her thighs seemed searing hot on his back.
She leaned forward, grabbed his mane and whispered in his ear, "Now my stallion, let's show them how we trot!" She kicked him in the sides and the transformed spy shot forward!
mythe moved forward across the dance floor because he had no thought not to. He was not, at that moment thinking about escape, or even to attack the magus who had trapped him in the equine body. He only moved because the woman on his back commanded him to and he was so confused he could not countermand the order.
His hooves clattered across the dance floor and the three singers jumped aside as he shot past them. Smythe ran toward the crowd that was lining the dance floor and they scattered with squeals and giggles like school children playing tag.
"Go on, fleet stallion," Greta said in a breathless voice into Smythe's neck. He could feel her warm breath on his long muscular neck and for some reason it felt reassuring. He ran through the length of the main room of the club first one way then when he reached the far end he turned and ran back. Club goers leapt over tables and scattered steins and absinthe glasses every which way.
Greta laughed like a schoolgirl on a roller coaster ride and waved her hands at the partiers as she past them.
Smythe's mind was awhirl of thoughts. He knew they had him isolated from any help. They could have killed him and indeed might still kill him but the core of who he was said that as long as he was alive he had a chance.
He gave no thought to what would happen afterward to him if he escaped; he just knew in his soul that he had to. That he would have no way to communicate his information to anyone was only the vaguest of thoughts. When he turned from the back of the room he determined to head for the main entrance.
The crowd was running around in delicious confusion, still giggling with child like delight at the great white stallion racing around the club. Ziesse stood with this three singers and Fraulein Klum in the center of the floor watching his handy work with a sly smile on his face and his hands on his hips.
Smythe felt a sudden surge of anger at the magician and that translated into him changing his direction abruptly to run straight at the grinning magus.
Greta tried to rein him away from Ziesse but the transformed spy raced straight at the magus picking up speed so that the robed man had no chance to react in any other way than to dive out of the horse's path.
Smythe gave a wild horselaugh as he raced by the panicked magician and toward the exit door of the club.
"Stop," Greta called," Stop!" But the spy was committed now and ran on until his hooves slid to a stop on the polished wood near the doorway. He stopped so that he could duck beneath the lintel to push past the curtain and out into the foyer.
The tuxedoed faux man at the door screamed like a girl when she saw his equine head poke through the curtain and ran off into the coat check room to hide behind a stack of fur coats.
The outer room that had seemed so spacious before was cramped with his new equine body. Greta had somehow clung to his back as he went under the door jam and she pleaded again for him to stop. "There is no point to this Dieter. Rudolf can not be opposed."
Her using his undercover name enraged the spy so he bucked. She grabbed more tightly to his mane and clamped her legs around his flanks. Next he turned in the tight space and kicked hard his hooves hitting the exit door. He looked back over his shoulder and flank to check his progress and looked directly into Greta's eyes.
There was something beyond the wildness there now, a real fear as if she had somehow suddenly discovered that this was a real situation and he a real man whose life had been stolen from him. He thought that the fear might have had a changing effect on her and it made her feel human. And vulnerable.
He ignored her pleading eyes and kicked the door again this time smashing it down. He spun again slowly and ducked his head down through the doorway.
Somehow Greta still held on, perhaps too scared to drop off, as Smythe fit the bulk of his new body through the doorway. He could faintly hear the sounds of the crowd behind him that had gone from delighted squeals to outraged indignation. Clear above the din was the voice of Ziesse admonishing the club goers to "Get him!"
Suddenly Smythe was in the cool night air of the alley. Greta was still on his back but the transformed Englishman gave her no further thought to the girl. His only thought was flight.
He raced down the alley and out onto Mitte Strausse with Greta now screaming for Smythe to stop but her voice just egged him on to further speed.
The crowd on the Strausse tried to evidence no shock at the sight of Smythe and his burden, smiling and pointing with contrived nonchalance. Even for Berlin the sight of a fifteen hand white stallion with a naked dark haired girl on his back racing down the night streets was unusual.
Smythe had no thought to where he would run but he knew he had to run. His new body reveled in the demands put on it and he all but flew over the cobbles.
It began to rain, a light drizzle that slapped against his face and flanks. It stung him and Smythe could hear the girl on his back complaining with sobs but no words as he raced on.
He ran toward Leipziger Strausse and turned down it at a full gallop.
Now Greta was holding on with her eyes closed and her face pressed against Smythe's neck. She sobbed softly but Smythe had the impression deep in his consciousness that it was not from fear.
There was a pang of emotion in his mind as he thought of the girl now clinging to him and how she had clung to him barely two hours before with passion. Was there something he saw in her or had he imagined it?
As he ran Smythe noticed that the looks from the street crowds changed. They looked at him but then their eyes went wide as they looked behind him He had the strange sense that he was being perused.
He paused at the corner of the Strausse and whirled.
What he saw filled the transformed spy with a new depth of fear.
Racing down the Strausse with great lopping strides was a white tiger!
he white tiger was stark against the stinging rain and the darkness of the street. Felis Tigris Regalis, nine hundred pounds of muscular carnivore was racing down the street with its jaws slack and moving in chewing motions. The feline shook its head and snarled as if to clear it, and with a roar it charged at an even faster pace.
A second roar of fear went up from the crowd watching as they fled in anticipation of the horse's imminent dismemberment. The great cat hurled itself at Smythe's flank but he waited until the last second, and kicked backward which caught the descending tiger on the chest with both his hooves. The powerful hind legs struck dead center and propelled the startled beast upside down into the sidewalk of the Strausse.
The big cat crashed down on its back and rolled against a building.
Greta was screaming at the top of her lungs, but it was not a mindless yell of fear. She yelled, "Rudolf, Stop this! Stop this!" and slid off the back of the halted Smythe.
The transformed spy reared back and whinnied at the top of his massive lungs and then set his head down and fixed his eyes on the monster cat. The tiger came to his feet and snarled at the horse. His jade green eyes were aflame with rage that went beyond the animal and approached the demonic.
The tiger seemed to look directly at Greta and roared at her but within the roar was the echo of a human voice; Rudolf Ziesse's. "Get away from him, Greta!"
She blanched and stepped against a streetlight. She ignored the sting of the increasingly heavy rain against her naked body and shook her head. "Stop this, Rudolf!" She yelled again.
The tiger ignored her now and fixed its attention directly on the horse. It moved forward at a slow stalking pace. The horse stood its ground shaking it's head from side to side.
In the wild of the American west a Mustang will fight even a cougar to defend its harem of mares and the smaller cat will usually retreat; cats prefer to leap on the back of a fleeing prey, especially if it hunts a horse. The tiger, however, was more than twice the size of a cougar so the few hardy souls who lingered in doorways to watch the battle to come were sure the horse was going to die.
The horse was not just a horse, however. Smythe had the mind to resist.
"You will not take me without a fight," Smythe thought. "I will never surrender!"
When the tiger got close enough Smythe lashed out with his fore hooves and struck the great feline on the head. The cat staggered back and Smythe pressed the attack.
He lashed out with both hooves like they were fists working a speed bag. The magus in tiger form had to back up under the onslaught of the equine attack.
Smythe felt a fierce satisfaction as the great cat retreated and snarled his displeasure but it was short lived. The tiger-magus darted to the side with a grace that seemed impossible and struck back with a massive paw.
The slashing cuts across his fore leg caused Smythe to whinny in pain.
The tiger moved forward with deliberate care, moving to Smythe's right trying to get at his throat but the transformed spy spun quickly and kicked back with his hind legs again hitting the feline on the shoulder.
This maddened the magus and he whirled with the kick and with a flex of his powerful legs leapt on the back of the spy.
Smythe screamed in pain as the razor-like claws of the magus sliced into his back. He tried to shake him off but the cat dug in too tightly.
"Stop it Rudolf!" Greta screamed. The naked woman ran up to the side of the two fighting animals and slapped at the great cat's haunches.
The tiger swatted at her with the back of its right paw and sent her sprawling to the street. The motion unbalanced the cat and he fell from the Smythe's back.
The transformed spy bolted forward when the weight came off his back but the rain slick streets and the wounded front leg caused him to slip. Smythe went down on to his front legs and rolled.
Before he could rise a net came out of the darkness and enveloped the downed equine. The rope net snared the transformed spy so that he flailed violently about could not rise. Members of the Luminous Lodge moved in and secured the ropes around the prisoner's legs.
Greta ran to the fallen horse and grabbed his head.
"Do not fight it, Englishman," she said, "you can not win against Rudolf."
"She is right, impostor," Ziesse said. He stepped from the darkness wearing his conjuring robes breathing hard. There was an ugly bruise already forming on his face down one side of his cheek and on his forehead. It was roughly crescent shaped; an exact match for the shape of Smythe's hoof. "Your life from this point out will be a living hell, I guarantee it."
he group of occultists got Smythe to his feet and forced him to walk back to the Klub Magus by using cudgels. He was so weak from blood loss and disoriented that he offered only token resistance.
It being Berlin, no one reported the strange procession to the police once they saw that it was lead by Rudolf Ziesse.
Once in the club (via a back door that had once been used for loading cargo into the warehouse and so made getting Smythe in an easy task) they took the transformed spy to a stall in the disused back section.
Ziesse stood before the narrow space the bruise on his face discoloring more by the moment and giving his evil expression punctuation. "You will pay for you little disruption, Mister Smythe for a very long time, but know that you have done nothing but inconvenience me and my cause."
The hobbled Smythe could do little but snort weakly as the magus sneered.
"Rest, my impostor friend," Ziesse said, "for tomorrow is the first day of an eternity that you will regret your birth. Tomorrow, you debut in show business!"
The robed Teutonic turned and left the prisoner in the dark space by himself.
The transformed spy stood in the narrow space inn pain. The wounds on his back and on his legs were aching but he ignored them. Instead his mind focused on only one thing; how to escape. He had to get the word to Doctor Argent about what the Luminous Lodge and its activities.
Eventually the stress of his circumstance and the pain from his wounds lulled him to sleep and he nodded off to a troubled sleep.
In the nightmares that followed he was a draught animal pulling a heavy wagon and Ziesse was the driver, whipping him viciously. In the dark dream he whinnied in agony but no sound came out; above him instead of the moon the image of Argent hovered laughing at his plight. And worst of all Greta stood by the side of the road and spat at him, throwing a Union Jack on the ground and stepping on it crying "Down with England!"
Smythe woke with a scream of despair as the next day in hell began.
hen Smythe woke the next day it was to a new level of agony and humiliation. Early in the morning three of the Magus followers came to his stall and washed him down with an antiseptic solution making his wounds tingle, then proceeded to 'costume him' in a rubberized outer skin that fitted over his body as if it were painted on. It took them the better part of an hour and he tried to resist but he had not been fed or given water so he was weak.
It felt as if he were being squeezed in a vice and rubbed against his wounds causing him more pain. When they were done they stepped back and admired their handiwork and laughed.
"Now that is a horse of a different color," one of them said.
Indeed he was. It was a golden bodysuit that had been slipped over his form that made him look as if he were a gilded horse. The followers then painted his hooves bright silver and a groom braided his mane with streamers.
He tried to bite them several times but the just laughed at his helplessness.
When they were done the men left him in the hot suit in the dark space. Hours went by during which the exhausted and transformed spy became dehydrated. He felt himself dizzy and was afraid he would fall when the door at the end of the room opened and a figure holding a bucket was silhouetted in the light from beyond.
The dark figure approached and resolved itself the evening gowned form of Greta Brandstatter.
"I could not come sooner," she said to Smythe. "I brought you some water." She held the bucket up and the transformed man dropped his muzzle into it.
"Take at easy,' she said, "You'll get sick." There was a tone to her voice he had not heard at any time the night before, a compassion he had not thought she possessed.
"Rudolf is still livid with you," she said. She gave a slight smile that was almost girlish and shy. "No one has ever made him so mad." She stroked Smythe's snout and he found it comforting even though the contact was mitigated by the rubber suit.
She looked over her shoulder to see that no one else had entered and then leaned in close to his ear and whispered, "Do not give him trouble tonight or he will kill you. Remember, as long as there is life there is hope."
Then she left and he was more alone than he had been before.
He did believe as she had said that while there was life there was hope and in his case the hope to escape and revenge himself on Rudolf Ziesse.
The magus himself came into the makeshift stable an hour later and walked up to the captured spy.
"I hope you have enjoyed your day, Herr Smythe," the magus said. His bruises were hidden beneath makeup and he was dressed in tailed formal wear. He played with the cufflinks of one sleeve as he spoke.
Smythe snorted derisively.
"Ah, I suspect you are a bit puzzled by your attire, yah?" Ziesse stood with his hands on his hips. He held a riding crop in one of his hand and he brandished it at the prisoner. "Today you will have a coming out party in the club before you go off to your new life." he laughed at some secret joke then and walked away leaving the trapped spy puzzled once more.
When yet another hour had past several gaily dressed partygoers came in for the horse. They were dressed in golden tuxedoes and made up like clowns in whiteface, but they were big men and took strong control of the prisoner and led him out.
The light of the club was blinding after his day in the dark stable. He was weak still having had only the water that Greta had brought him.
The main room of the club had been decorated like a circus big for the night and a faux ring set around the dance floor. It was there that the man/horse was led.
"Ladies and Gentleman," the emcee said through a megaphone. He was dressed in tails and a top hat and in full mime makeup. "Tonight for your special entertainment I bring you Herr Ziesse the animal trainer extraordinaire and Dieter, the wonder horse of all time."
Ziesse stepped out the center of the ring, a lead whip in hand and raised his hands to the applause of the crowd. The golden clowns leading Smythe brought him into the ring as well.
The made up magus spun to face the horse and pointed the whip at him. "Come to me, Dieter!" He cracked the whip and waited.
Smythe looked around the ring until he spotted Greta standing next to Fraulein Klum. The two women were holding hands. Klum had a carefree expression on her face but the dark haired girl was staring at the horse intensely. Her expression was tense and pained, imploring him with her eyes to obey.
Smythe chose to answer the summons with a slow walk across the ring.
The crowd applauded.
Ziesse raised his hand to silence them and turned to the horse prisoner to whisper. "Now I want you to trot around the ring, my trained beast, and I will let you live as a stallion; disobey me before the crowd and I will make you a gelding!"
Smythe knew what the show was all about then, it was Ziesse attempt to save face from the previous night. It was only then when the transformed spy realized how badly he had hurt the man's prestige. He toyed with the idea of causing trouble again but he remembered Greta's words.
Smythe began to trot around the ring and the crowd applauded again. Ziesse snapped the whip in the air for show and then proceeded to issue a series of orders for the Englishman to follow.
He forced the cavalry officer to perform a series of dressage moves snapping the whip to hurry him along if he tarried.
This went on for a quarter hour exhausting the suited prisoner more and more. The outfit that Smythe wore dehydrated him even more and soon he was barely capable of movement.
Only then did Ziesse call a halt to the activities.
"And now, my friends," he called out, "As the last act of our little comedy you will all witness the preparation of Dieter for his new life as a cavalry mount in the English army!"
Before Smythe could grasp the meaning of what had been said the three 'clowns' had seized him and hobbled his legs so that he could not move.
Now he understood the horror on Greta's face, or so he thought until one of the men tore at the rubber suit at his flank leaving a gaping hole. As he did so, the emcee wheeled out a brassier that was glowing red hot with coals. A single branding iron protruded from it.
Ziesse stepped up beside the brassier and pulled the branding iron from it. He held it up before the eyes of the exhausted man beast to let him see the single letter Z that comprised the brand.
"You will wear my mark for all your long miserable life pulling cannon for your Queen's army; at least until we make it our own army. Perhaps I will look you up then, eh Mr. Smythe and make you my personal carriage horse." He laughed deeply then and took great delight in applying the hot iron the spy's flank.
The pain was nothing worse that what Smythe had felt before but it was mitigated when he saw the only one in the crowd to turn her head away from the sight was Greta. And there with tears in her eyes.
He paused by the corner of the park to lit a cigar, puffing it with determination. As he stood looking out across the green space of the park he was aware of a tapping noise behind him. He took little notice at first but after a few moments he realized the sound had a rhythm.
The rhythm he realized was more than that, it was a deliberate pattern. It was Morse code!
Argent turned to see a great white horse standing in harness ahead of a caisson. The animal was looking directly at him and tapping its right front hoof.
"I-a-m-S-m-y-t-h-e," the horse tapped and Argent bit through his cigar when he realized what the animal was tapping.
He raced to the horse's side and grabbed the harness. "I hear you , Geoffrey," the white haired spymaster said. "And I know what to do. You can wait to make the rest of your report until you can tell me in your own voice!"
It was the first time the venerable occultist had ever seen a horse cry. . .