Monday 2 August, 1920
The last time Trebitsch had been to that cafe was over a decade before, when he saw the funny little man shit himself. For that reason, it wasn’t his first choice, and he chose the seats carefully.
(THE WHITE RUSSIAN)
Biskupski looked ordinary. Slim, groomed; handsome to some. An affixing stare had burned through many nights and the cool breeze from the Danube could do nothing to soften it. Biskupski’s eye-bags were caked in sun. He was dressed in a white shirt and Russian military jacket, free of insignias. On the buttoned pocket flap was one removable metal badge: a swastika.
“The British wanted to colonise us,” he said. “Their actions ended with my people driven from their country and the rest ruled by tyranny.”
“We will help you take back Russia, General Biskupski,” said Bauer.
“If the Austrians and Bavarian Ogresch help. We must be united. Three years ago Moscow put me in charge of the Ukraine. Brutal. Chaos. Six armies fighting it out: the French, the Ukranians, Bolsheviks, yours, mine…”
“The Poles,” said Bauer.
“The Poles. It was hard. Civilians everywhere. We were in the Lviv suburbs. The Austrians and ours firing across the streets. Maybe the Austrians, it was hard to tell.”
Biskupski thumbed a side of black moustache three times. He glanced quickly at the next table and the two rigid Hungarians, then dropped his voice to a whisper.
“There was a commander, an old man, white moustache sticking out like antlers. He had pinned us down in a garden. I thought I had a clear shot: but I missed him. Blew the head off a woman!!”
The sharpness of teeth gave away Biskupski’s cruelty. Then it was concealed behind perfect cheekbones.
“Well it was war, I suppose,” said Trebitsch.
“She might have been one of them. Or a Jew. The commander got away, but before he did, the woman’s brains had spurted out all over his uniform: like a fountain!!”
Biskupski laughed, showing a glimpse of utter domination.
“You were stationed there after the war too?” asked Trebitsch.
“After? There was no ‘after’. It only got worse. They kept pushing and pushing. Then, the fucking treaties.”
“What good was a treaty in stopping that?” asked Bauer.
“You understand, Colonel. When they’d done killing everyone they pulled the corpse apart like a child would a spider. The Poles took it’s legs off, the Roumanians, and the rest: Uzhorod, Mukachevo…”
“Taken from Austria-Hungary by the Czechs,” said Trebitsch.
“I executed former comrades. Those with red mist in their heads were put out of their misery,” said Biskupski.
He looked past Trebitsch to the Hungarians. They had been silent: the trim bearded muscle-man and the thin youngster, his whole head covered in short hair.
“Lenin had his army ready to invade Roumania but the blow we dealt them in the Ukraine? They couldn’t spare the number. So, the Roumanians swept into Budapest and brought down Bela Kun.”
The Hungarians looked at him like he wasn’t supposed to be looking at them.
“Oh, lighten up,” said Biskupski, and turned away from them.
“I’ll tell you what I think of your plans for a new entente, Bauer. I want the Red Army and the Whites together, going into Poland. We will take back our 1914 borders. Once Poland is ours we’ll cut up any of the Reds in our ranks and put the military under a firm Tsarist dictatorship. Then, as members of our alliance have their revolutions we’ll get rid of every Communist in Russia.”
Bauer and Trebitsch were stunned. Their mouths hung open and the gears turned. Suddenly, Bauer got to his feet.
“Krauss is here,” he said.
Trebitsch leapt to his feet and shook the old man’s hand. “General Krauss, greetings. I am Dr. Johann Lange and….”
“Colonel Bauer,” said Krauss.
Bauer rose and took his hand. “At your service, General.”
Alfred Krauss wore his average stature like a hulk, from turtle shell shaped head to toecapped boots. “Your goings-on in Budapest have probably reached Australia,” he said.
He wore eye-glasses, no ears on black frames. White slathers of hair streamed on top but his moustache was broad, reaching out like a pair of antlers. He looked at the two Hungarians, their jackets hanging heavy. The Russian remained seated.
“Welcome. I am General Vasilly Biskupski, and those men are two of Pronay’s finest: Giczey and Faber.”
Neither Giczey nor Faber moved. Krauss shrugged with his throat as he sat.
“Austria’s help and yours is paramount in this great undertaking,” said Bauer. His eyes shone. “I have followed your career: managing the infantry in Belgrade and Tyrol…”
Krauss studied the youths playing round fountains and statues. Handelskal’s straight lines and box hedges. He scrutinised the hundred canopies covering the market, the horses over tramlines, the cart pushers and road holers digging in.
“The last few years when you commanded the Imperial and Royal armies in Italy,” said Bauer.
Krauss gave a sigh. “Yes. At the same time Vienna put me in charge of the occupied territories in the Ukraine,” he said.
Bauer, Trebitsch and Biskupski held their breath. Giczey and Faber looked to one another. Krauss appeared not to notice.
“We had to protect the Ukraine from Soviet influence, and organise the exploitation of their natural resources.”
The wind whistled. It blew silver balls of mercury toward Trebitsch.
“Only days ago we were south of here, at Villach, and met the Italian General Nascimbene. Well, he and Colonel Bauer have arranged a meeting with an influential journalist there. A man named Benito Mussolini who is of a like mind. Our Dr. Theodor Lakatos is going to meet with him. We hope!!”
“A strong Austrian-German alliance befits our task to reclaim Russia,” said Biskupski.
“As we unite all those wronged, we enjoy great support from Hungary,” said Trebitsch.
“Really?” asked Krauss.
“Yes,” said Trebitsch excitedly. “We are expecting General Ludendorff to lead Marinebrigade Ehrhardt and the armies of Bavaria!!”
Krauss had not smiled once and the veins appeared to burst through his cranium. His eyes, like an old baptist’s fires, peered deep into Trebitsch’s soul.
“It’s true,” said Bauer. “Mobilisation is already under way. Come with us to Budapest as Biskupski has done. See for yourself.”
“Budapest. What is Horthy doing about the rise in Communist attacks?” asked Krauss.
Trebitsch laughed. “General, you jest!!”
Then Krauss was shouting to spitting at Trebitsch. “Horthy’s parliament have been trying to disarm Pronay, give him the snip. The White Guard in Hungary, Ogresch in Bavaria, Orka here in Russia. It’s the same over! Who will protect us when the Reds are killing us in our sleep?”
“We will,” said Bauer. “And as President of the Association of German Officers -”
“You have my respect, Bauer, but I did not think you of all men would sugar my ego. Austria is having it much worse. More land is seized, more industry leaders are killed and their children drowned. If we were talking seriously which we are not, but if we were, I would want assurances opposing armies would be put down and their leaders arrested.”
“We are not talking seriously?” asked Trebitsch.
“Orka will take the lead but to seize all public buildings and transport systems… well frankly, this is all a pipe dream, isn’t it?” asked Krauss.
“What?” asked Bauer.
“A great Germany, a great Austria and a great Hungary! I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe it,” said Biskupski.
“If you were serious we would be discussing it somewhere discreet. Somewhere we haven’t the enemy at our gates.”
Krauss got to his feet and looked down on them. His cheeks were puffy red.
“It’s a pity your plans can’t include Austria at this time. Good day, gentlemen.”
Ministry of Defence, Buda Royal Palace, Budapest.
Tuesday 24 August, 1920.
Biskupski took large strides through the foyer. He found Trebitsch and ox-shaped Stephani looking out onto the St. George’s Square garden.
“Gombos wants us in the meeting room. We’re about to start,” he said.
Trebitsch’s face lit up. “General, it is good to see you. I was surprised Krauss came here. I thought you and he might come to blows.”
Biskupski moved in closer as Trebitsch drew on his cigarette.
“About Krauss… in Vienna, he heard you were a Jew, and was also convinced you were an undercover British agent. He received several warnings: a woman from the Hague, a journalist, Reventlow…”
“The bastard!” said Trebitsch. “Reventlow is–”
“The Colonel and I assured him you are capable, loyal and trustworthy,” said Biskupski.
Stephani grinded out his cigarette. “We should go in. Ludendorff has obviously made sure Bavaria is on board.”
“Bauer promised Ludendorff would be here! We cannot manage them without him!” said Trebitsch.
“The Bavarians have sent Escherich,” said Biskupski.
“Nobody sends Escherich,” said Stephani.
There were nearly twenty men packing the room. There were Kapp Putschists and White Internationals, a great many of them Trebitsch recognised, and a few he didn’t.
Bauer was at the front helping Georg Escherich to sit. Escherich was aided with a cane made by his own hand. Surly Bavarian soldiers guarded the spots behind his chair and were well armed. Stephani, having worked closely with the Bavarians, greeted Escherich as he entered, then took his place at the back with Trebitsch.
Bauer lowered his palms onto the table, compressing the whispers around the room.
“Gentlemen, we have a special visitor from Munich. Colonel Escherich, would you begin?”
Out of fear or respect, every whisper stopped. Veins rippled on Escherich’s head as he spoke. His accent was thick and he spoke with total control. He had a clear plan in mind and no doubt.
“Thank you, Herr Bauer. Organisation Escherich has close to a million members. A third of the Ogresch are in Bavaria. I am joined here by General Maercker and Captain Rohm. If we like what we see, we’ll match you with financiers and strategists. We can supply weapons through Rudolf Kanzer in Rosenheim. In Austria, we’re working with Rich Steidle and our counterpart, Orka.”
Bauer smiled sleazy. “Thank you, Colonel. Captain Ehrhardt, can you give us an update on troop movements?”
“Stormtroopers disguised as farm labourers have been smuggled into Tyrol and Salzburg. We have mobilised along the lower regions and the Austrian-Italian border: Carinthia, Judenburg and Steiermark.”
“Anyone able to fight will be given arms, trained and organised,” said Stephani.
“Simultaneous revolts have a tactical advantage in releasing Germany from the red danger,” said Ehrhardt.
“In that case you will want to target pro-coup areas, especially the East: Upper Silesia, Pomerania,” said Escherich.
“Berlin must be induced to provoke Bavaria,” said Trebitsch. “At the moment when Bavarian forces begin north, the Kapp supporters will strike in Pomerania and East Prussia.”
“A reunification of Austria and Germany is not the subject here. We are facilitating a campaign of many nations, not the building of a superpower,” said Horthy.
“Neither Krauss nor I are plan to conquer you,” said Colonel Escherich.
“Admiral Horthy. You will need a new munitions factory here in Hungary,” said Bauer.
“The Alpine Montangesellschaft are the largest heavy industry concern in Austria. It’s owner, Walter Pfrimer, is one of ours. Committed to the cause,” said Escherich.
Trebitsch was watching the back and forth between Horthy, Bauer and Escherich intensely. He was already filled with an intense loathing for the Bavarian.
“The Soviets will not like this unified anti-Entente action. Until it leads France’s vassal Poland away from Russia to defend against Germany,” said Biskupski.
“Hungary and Poland are on good terms. I do not want to alter that,” said Horthy.
Escherich raised his head slowly and looked Horthy in the eye. Then he shook it no, wildly. “They are putting together this ‘Little Entente’ with the Czechs and Roumanians.”
“We are well aware of this,” said Horthy’s Defence Minister, Gombos.
“Then,” said Escherich, “you know it is because of ‘the Hungarian menace’. Fears of the return of ‘the Habsburg monarchy!’ Respectfully, your Excellency, do you seriously think they, or the Czechs, are your allies?”
“They will see it as the French and the English do: a move against the Reds. We are not restoring a monarchy so where is the threat to them?”
Escherich’s Bavarian soldiers looked at Trebitsch accusingly.
“I am sorry, but who are you?” asked Colonel Escherich.
“Who am I? My name is Trebitsch Lincoln and I managed the putsch that gave Bavaria its independence. I have been planning this operation from the very beginning. Now, the Regent’s National Army already have troops in Czechosolovakia and there are many Germans living there. Enough of an alliance–”
“Yes, but Yugoslavia for instance,” said Escherich.
“Please do not interrupt me. There is no debate about the Slavs!! An alliance exists to secure the coal districts from the German Ostrauer across Czechoslovakia to Karwin in Poland. Captain Ehrhardt will tell you this is necessary, as will your own men. Perhaps if Bavaria had responded to this alliance at the outset, you and your representatives could grasp these facts.”
Colonel Escherich was taken aback. Half the room stroked their guns.
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