The Stockholm Run, Excerpt One: Death in Stockholm
It might still have been March, but the ferry from the old town to Djurgården was busy. The early Sunday afternoon crowd of families and couples, both young and old, was such that Werner Lippisch found it hard to identify watchers or followers. It ought to have been easy to spot anyone who didn't fit in, anyone like himself, but he knew that anyone interested in him would have taken care not to be obvious. It could be the young couple so apparently in love over by the railings on the far side of the vessel, or even the rather severely dressed woman talking in Swedish to the small blonde girl whose hand she was holding. With people milling excitedly around on the deck there was no way of telling.
Werner realised he'd been in the city for just over a year. How different things were now. The Stockholm he had first encountered had been firmly in the grip of the tail end of the worst winter that anyone could remember, a winter whose effects were felt right across Europe. The city, the entire continent, had experienced three exceptionally cold winters in a row and when you looked into people's eyes back then you got the sense they'd had enough. At the time Werner had found that ironic, humorous even. He'd come directly from Berlin, where the winters had been just as bad, but where people were also starting to come to terms with real privation, with growing casualty lists from the Eastern Front, and with the realisation that their city was not as safe from British bombing as they'd been assured it was.
Stockholmers in March 1942 might have had unusable harbours and solidly frozen waterways around their 14 islands, but their street and shop lights were switched on at night and the only air-raid warnings were rehearsals for an eventuality that, so far at least, had never happened.
A year later and many essentials were rationed in Stockholm. But bumper harvests the previous autumn had ensured that no one would starve, and the mild winter and early spring that followed had brought the city back to life much earlier in the year. There was still a chill in the air and the trees had yet to leaf but, those things apart, the blue skies of this March Sunday could easily be mistaken for early summer. Little wonder that Stockholmers seemed so determined to enjoy themselves. Little wonder the Djurgården ferry was so full.
When the ferry berthed in the shadow of the Gröna Lund amusement park, which had opened to accommodate the unusually early-season pleasure seekers, Werner joined the throng of people who surged onto the island. The crowd thinned out as those visiting Gröna Lund turned off, and there were fewer people around by the time he'd walked the half a kilometre or so to the entrance to the Skansen open-air museum park. He knew he could have taken a tram from the city centre to Djurgården, but the idea of the ferry had somehow appealed.
Having paid his admission to the park, Werner rode up what he'd been told was the longest escalator in Europe, opened just before the war by King Gustav V, to the raised plateau on which most of the elements of the park were located.
The man he was due to meet should be waiting for him in Seglora kyrka, the lovely old wooden church that had been moved in its entirety to its current location in 1916. Werner had picked the meeting place. He had visited Skansen once before, the previous summer, and felt the church would give them both a degree of privacy and security. If it was quiet, they could talk in the church, admiring the magnificently decorated ceiling. Alternatively, especially given the weather, they could walk through the park as they talked. Briefly, at least: what needed saying wouldn't take long.
The interior of the church seemed dark after the sunlight outside. The door, in the base of the south side of the tower, gave access to a vestibule, which in turn led through to the broad nave. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Werner again realised just how beautiful this place was.
A man was seated in a pew near the front of the otherwise empty church, at its far end. He turned round and stood as Werner entered. Werner felt a flood of relief. He knew Peter Bostock by sight, occasionally glimpsed across busy Stockholm cafés or restaurants. This was the man he wanted to talk to.
'Hello, Mr Bostock, I'm Werner Lippisch. I'm with the Bureau Wagner.' Both men smiled at the euphemism widely used to describe the Stockholm office of the Abwehr, the German intelligence service.
As they shook hands the other man replied. 'As you know, I'm Peter Bostock and I work in the British Passport Control Organisation here in the city.' This was the very transparent cover used by the British Secret Intelligence Service for its operations abroad. 'Let's talk here. Take a pew.' Bostock smiled again.
Werner had been right. The meeting didn't take long. He then left. The darkness of the church meant it took a little time to adjust to the sun shining into his eyes as he emerged. Too long, as it turned out. Two pistol shots were fired into his head from close range by someone standing to one side, just outside the church door, and Werner was dead before his body hit the ground.
By the time Peter Bostock reacted to the sound of the shots and reached the doorway, his pistol in his hand, there was no one in sight. No one still living, anyway: Lippisch was all too obviously beyond help. Bostock holstered his weapon, realising how it would look if he was seen there. He then stepped over Werner Lippisch's body and made his way as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself towards the exit of the park.