Curtain of Death by W. E. B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV is the dramatic 3rd novel in the Clandestine Operations series about the Cold War, the fledgling Central Intelligence Agency—and a new breed of warrior (Available December 27, 2016).
January 1946: Two WACs leave an officers’ club in Munich, and four Soviet NKGB agents kidnap them at knifepoint in the parking lot and shove them in the back of an ambulance. That is the agents’ first mistake, and their last. One of the WACs, a blond woman improbably named Claudette Colbert, works for the new Directorate of Central Intelligence, and three of the men end up dead and the fourth wounded.
The “incident,” however, will send shock waves rippling up and down the line and have major repercussions not only for her, but for her boss, James Cronley, Chief DCI-Europe, and for everybody involved in their still-evolving enterprise. For, though the Germans may have been defeated, Cronley and his company are on the front lines of an entirely different kind of war now. The enemy has changed, the rules have changed—and the stakes have never been higher.
The WAC Non-Commissioned Officer’s Club
Munich Military Post
Munich, American Zone of Occupied Germany
0005 24 January 1946
Two women, both wearing the olive drab uniform of an “Ike” jacket and skirt, came out of the club and started to walk through the parking lot. They had come to the club late and had had to park at just about the far end of the lot.
One of the women, a somewhat stocky dark-haired thirty-five-year-old, had the chevrons of a technical sergeant on her sleeves. The other, who was a trim, twenty-nine-year-old blond, had small embroidered triangles with the letters “U.S.” in them sewn to her lapels. That insignia identified her as a civilian employee of the U.S. Army.
At the extreme end of the parking lot were two ambulances parked nose out. One had large red crosses on its sides, rear doors and roof of the body. On its bumpers the white stenciled letters “98GH” and “102” identified it as the 102nd vehicle assigned to the motor pool of the 98th General Hospital, which served the Munich Area.
The red crosses on the second ambulance had been painted over, and on its bumpers had been stenciled “711 MKRC” and “17” which identified it as the 17th vehicle assigned to the 711th Mobile Kitchen Renovation Company.
When they reached the 711th vehicle, the WAC tech sergeant started to get in the passenger seat beside the driver, and the woman with the civilian triangles insignia started to climb in behind the wheel.
Three men, all wearing dark clothing, erupted from the 98th General Hospital ambulance. One of them came out the passenger side, ran around the front of the other ambulance, where he pulled the woman with the triangles out of her ambulance, and after giving her a good look at the knife he held, placed it across her throat.
The other two men came out the rear of the ambulance. As one opened the second of its doors, the other ran to the 711th ambulance, pulled the technical sergeant from it, and, as the other had, showed her a knife and then placed it across her throat.
He then marched her to the rear of the hospital ambulance. By then, both doors were open, and the man who had opened both doors was inside.
“Get in!” the man holding the knife against the sergeant’s neck ordered.
When she was halfway in, the man inside the ambulance, now wielding the same kind of knife as the others, ordered her: “Get on the forward stretcher. On your stomach. And don’t move.”
The sergeant complied, crawling on her hands and knees to the stretcher, which was on the left side of the body, and then onto it.
The man who had brought her to the rear of the ambulance then ran to the passenger seat and got in.
The man who had pulled the woman from behind the wheel of her ambulance now marched her up to the open ambulance doors. His knife was still against her throat.
“Get in!” he ordered. “On your belly on the lower stretcher in the back.”
The man then shut the left open door, climbed into the ambulance, and kneeling on the floor, pulled the right door closed.
“Go!” he shouted to the driver.
Then, still on his knees, he made his way forward to the front. There he stopped, turned his head, and called out, “If you make a sound when we pass through the gate, he will slit your friend’s throat.” Then he turned his head forward and again shouted, “Go!”
The driver ground the gears as he revved the engine.
The man in the aisle pushed aside the curtain separating the stretcher portion of the body from the driver and passenger seats.
The blond woman with the civilian triangles began to slowly move her right hand from her side to the neck of her Ike jacket.
The ambulance began to move.
The blond woman unbuttoned her second and third khaki shirt buttons, and then put her hand in the opening. Then she pushed aside the top of her slip. Finally, she put her hand inside her brassiere.
And then she slowly removed it.
It now held a small, five-shot, snub-nose Smith & Wesson .38 Special caliber revolver.
She pushed herself off the stretcher onto the floor and, supporting herself on her elbows and holding the pistol in both hands, took aim.
The man holding the knife against the tech sergeant’s neck was trying to look though the small opening the other man had made. He heard, or sensed, her movement and started to turn for look.
Her first shot hit him just below the ear, and the bullet exploded his brain before making a large exit wound in the upper portion of his skull.
The technical sergeant began to scream.
The woman wearing triangles fired a second shot. It hit the man who had opened the curtain just below the left eye, exploded his brain, and then created a large exit wound in his cranium.
She fired two more shots, first one to the left, where she hoped the bullet might find the driver, and then one to the right, where she hoped it might find the man in the passenger seat.
Her third shot apparently missed, for the ambulance kept moving. The fourth, to judge by someone screaming in pain, had hit, but was not immediately fatal.
The driver, perhaps not wisely, pushed the dividing curtain aside to see what was going on in the back. She fired her fifth shot, the last she had, and it hit the driver just about in the center of his forehead.
Moments later, the ambulance crashed into something and stopped.
The technical sergeant was still screaming hysterically.
“Florence!” the woman wearing triangles called. “It’s over! Shut the fuck up!”
Then she crawled back onto the stretcher.
Get your little ass out of the line of fire.
The sonofabitch in the passenger seat may be alive, and he probably has a gun.
She realized her ears were ringing painfully from the sounds of five shots going off in the confines of the ambulance.
And then she felt dizzy.
And then she threw up.
From CURTAIN OF DEATH: A CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS NOVEL by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth, IV, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by W. E. B. Griffin.
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W. E. B. Griffin is the author of seven bestselling series: The Corps, Brotherhood of War, Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, Presidential Agent, and now Clandestine Operations. He lives in Fairhope, Alabama, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
William E. Butterworth IV has been a writer and editor for major newspapers and magazines for more than twenty-five years, and has worked closely with his father for several years on the editing of the Griffin books. He is the coauthor of several novels in the Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, and Presidential Agent series. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.