Publisher: Penmore Press
Formats: Paperback | e-book (Kindle, iBook/Apple, Nook, Kobo)
Pages: 454 pages
Car bombs set by a group called Red Hand are going off all over West Germany are killing American, British and German citizens. Red Hand’s manifesto reads as if it was copied from Nazi propaganda. Now, just four years after the 1972 Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes and three decades after the Holocaust, the West German government is facing its worst political nightmare: Germans are once again killing Jews – and former Nazis want to create the Fourth Reich. Red Hand is supported by the East German Stasi as well as militants in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
You meet a German paratrooper from World War II who loses his moral compass and a Luftwaffe ace who has not lost his puppy love for Adolph Hitler. A former SS officer and now a policeman who has been thoroughly vetted by the Allies is leading the investigation into the shadowy Red Hand. Unhappy with the progress the West Germans are making, the American and British governments decide to act covertly. Josh Haman, part way through an exchange tour with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, joins the team led by his friend and SEAL Team Six member Marty Cabot. The hunt takes their team into East Germany to execute their written orders, which tell them “to find, neutralize and render harmless to the United States and her allies the members of Red Hand.”
Taken from Chapter 3 – GREETING CARDS
Saturday, April 24th, 1976, 1426 local time, Schloss Theissen, West Germany
On one wall of the second story room were floor to ceiling windows; they provided an unobstructed view of the Harz Mountains fifty kilometers southwest of Bonn. The spring afternoon sun was moving down toward the horizon in a sky dotted with puffy white clouds. The passage of a front that had dropped a cold rain that left the bricks and gray granite on the patio between the building’s wings glistening.
While it was referred to as a schloss, which translates to castle in English, the building wasn’t a fortress. Instead it was a west-facing U-shaped three story building that had been completed in 1897, built with stone from a local quarry.
Besides the resident, Herr Baron Albert von Theissen, whose family’s wealth was measured in billions of safe Swiss Francs, there were seven other men at one end of a table that could seat thirty, but which was still lost in the middle of the immense second floor dining room. The seven had arrived in time for dinner on the Friday night before a two day working session.
As they waited for dessert to be served, Albert von Theissen decided to change the direction of the conversation. “Sehr gut, it is very good that we’re now registered as a party; we’ve filed the petitions and we’re on the ballot to contest twenty seats in the Bundestag. Also, we have a party platform and a strategy. Now, I ask, how much is it going to take for us to win? What do we need? How much money to hire staff for local organizations? How much for a party headquarters staff? How much for advertising? How much for whatever I have left out?”
“What do you mean, Herr Baron?”
In his late sixties, Oskar Zimmer was the oldest man in the room by about ten years. He was invited because he had been Theissen’s first flight instructor. Business was not his strong suit, but the former Stuka pilot and Templehof Airport manager knew how to lead men and knew how to get things done. He looked every bit the military pilot, and if asked, he would tell you that he was ready to climb back into the cockpit to fight for his Führer and his country.
“How much money will it take to win five seats? How much more will it take to win seven, or even ten?” Theissen looked at each of the other six men at the table.
Helmut Stiglitz looked at the numbers he had scribbled on the pad in front of him. “We’ll need at least ten million marks per seat, maybe more, just for advertising. No one knows our party or our platform. Two million marks should cover the costs of a staff to run the campaign, and another million for expenses. Figure fifteen million per seat to be safe. If you think of this as a military campaign, the fighting is done with the ads and speeches, the rest is logistics.”
“Helmut is right.” Viktor Horst owned a dozen jewelry stores in Bavaria that catered to the middle class. After losing a hand and a leg fighting the British at Dunkirk as a member of the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division, he had been sent to Dachau, where he’d supervised the melting down of gold fillings into bricks and the evaluation of jewelry taken from those arriving in the camp. Horst spent four years in prison while investigators tried to find enough evidence to try him for war crimes. They couldn’t, because in the chaos of the spring of 1945 he’d made sure that anyone who knew what he did was dead. Within a year of his release, he opened up his first jewelry shop.
“I agree with Viktor and Helmut. Their estimates seem reasonable,” Graf Ernst von Spee said. His cousin had been a naval officer under the Kaiser, and a ship had been named after him. As the last surviving male in the line, by default he’d inherited the title. “It may be off, but not by much. I think it is a good working number.” Von Spee had followed the family’s naval tradition. With the surface ships of the German Navy bottled up in harbors along the German and Norwegian coasts, von Spee had spent the last two years of the war as Goebbel’s trusted courier between Berlin and the banks in Zurich. Now he was a merchant ship captain.
Von Spee paused for a few seconds and rubbed the jagged scar on his cheek. To this day, he could still feel the burning sensation from the shrapnel of a British five inch rocket that had slammed into the bridge of his destroyer. “Alois?” It was almost a command for the most un-Germanic looking man in the room to speak.
Alois Brunner was short and fat, with dark skin and jet black hair that everyone in the room assumed he dyed to cover his gray hair. His friends kidded him by saying that he didn’t walk, he waddled. Brunner usually remained quiet during meetings, but when he spoke everyone in the room paid attention to the man who had been the brains behind the smuggling of huge amounts of cash out of Nazi Germany in non-German denominations and gold. Not only did he know where it went, but in what amounts—and how much more it was worth today. It was all in his head, and in a ledger that everyone involved knew existed, but not where it was.
When the war started, Brunner was a currency trader in the Reichsbank. He kept himself out of the army by making his superiors rich with his shrewd trades, buying Swiss Francs with the devaluing Reichmark. By doubling the fees the Swiss banks charged and keeping half, he created a nest egg worth over ten million dollars that remained hidden from investigators in the very banks with whom he did business. In 1944, his superiors, who knew the war was lost, tasked Brunner with converting Reichmarks, which would be useless after the war, into Swiss Francs, British pounds, and U.S. dollars, and putting the money in numbered accounts which he controlled in banks in Zurich and Geneva. The party members and SS officers didn’t question the amounts when they were given the account numbers after the war so they could live comfortably. He also deposited money into accounts that would fund organizations that would be used to finance the smuggling of Nazis out of Europe.
When Nazis needed money after the war to flee investigators or restart their lives in Germany or abroad, Alois provided it—for a fee, of course! As part of each transaction, Brunner took a healthy cut and kept detailed ledgers that no one ever saw, documenting who provided the money, where it went, and how much it would be worth.
Alois had already done the math in his head before von Spee finished speaking. “One hundred and fifty million marks for ten seats, or three hundred million for twenty, is not a problem. We have plenty of money.” He tapped the table with a pudgy finger. “But we cannot just transfer those large sums into a new party bank account. Too many questions will be asked. It has to come via donations which have to be reported and are monitored by the government. Our names and some of our friends’ names have to be protected. So I suggest that our wealthy members set up offshore accounts at banks I recommend. Then they can make donations, and I can make up the difference between their contribution and what we need and make the transfers happen. Not all at once, but in such a way that we will not run out of cash. I will also make sure there is a proper accounting and that it will all look legal.” Another tap for emphasis on the first word of the next sentence. “My accounting firm will make all the arrangements.”
“Can my business help?” It was Horst. He always wanted to be involved if he thought he could get a piece, however small, of the action.
“Yes, those of us who have businesses or well recognized names will all become sponsors of The New German Party. We have to be quiet, but efficient leaders. Others will make donations. Some of our early supporters will be very generous.”
Von Theissen looked around the table. “So fear not; our campaign will be well funded. My question to you is, can we win? And if so, how many seats?”
“Herr Baron,” Horst spoke before anyone else could answer. The hook that functioned as his left hand clunked against the edge of the table. “The question is not how many can we win. The question is how ruthless do we want to be to ensure we win.”
Taken from Chapter 7 – ONCE FRIENDS, NOW ENEMIES
Friday, May 21st, 1976, 2130 local time, Zehlendorf
Dieter held up a bottle of beer in mock salute to the VW he’d just finished packing with explosives. This was a work of art. His!
It was his third beer. After a deep swig, he headed to the bathroom to clean up. His t-shirt was covered with a mix of dirt, oil, grease, and sweat. Carefully, he placed the bottle on the toilet seat as he washed his face and hands. When he looked up and saw his face in the mirror one word popped into his mind.
Because I hate my life.
Because until now, it had no purpose.
Because I didn’t fit in.
Because no one believes the same things as I do.
Because I am a radical—an anarchist, a social revolutionary.
Because I like making car bombs and killing people, especially enemies of Germany.
Because I hate what is happening to Germany. The fatherland deserves better.
Because this is not right! Too many foreigners, too many Jews. I hate them all.
Because I am my father’s son. Dieter drained the beer bottle. Red Hand is all about hate.
The thought pleased him.
Taken from Chapter 12 – BASTARDS IN THE SERVICE OF THE KING
Wednesday, September 29th, 1976, 1948 local time, Yeovil
Josh and Rebekah were the first to arrive at the small restaurant known for its authentic menu. The owner, knowing his guests included the future Duke and Duchess of Leeds, who were regulars, had set up a table in a quiet corner.
“How was your flight?” Josh waited until Marty, the last to arrive, hugged Rebekah and shook hands with John.
Marty took a sip of single malt scotch before answering. “Jenkins and I hopped over on an Air Force Special Air Mission JetStar. With all the classified stuff I was carrying we couldn’t fly commercial, and it was better than a MAC flight into Mildenhall.”
“Where do you think Senior Chief Jenkins and Colour Sergeant Calhoun are now?” John Osborne asked.
“Lord only knows. I’ll bet that they went to at least one pub to celebrate working together again before they got down to creating two lists—people and equipment. Whether or not they are still in a pub is anybody’s guess.”
So far, as a courtesy to the wives, the naval officers had managed to keep from talking shop and Marty wanted to keep it that way. “So John, tell me about your father and how he got his title back. I’d like to hear the story.”
John looked over at Josh, who was looking down at the table with his face buried in his hands.
“I swear, I didn’t put him up to it!” Josh raised his hands in an ‘I surrender!’ gesture.
“Do you want the truth or the official version?” John asked.
“I’ve never heard the truth,” Rebekah chimed in, “not even from Gwen!”
“You’ll love it,” Gwen Osborne, the future Duchess of Leeds, smiled as she took a sip of her wine. “But it’s John’s story to tell, not mine. Go ahead, John, the colonials love a good yarn about English royalty!”
“OK, if you insist….” John glanced around the table to make sure everyone had a well-filled glass before beginning. “Well, at one time, it was thought that the 12th Duke of Leeds—Charles Osborne—had never produced a male heir, and lord knows, from what I was told, he tried. The man married three times and had numerous mistresses, but no children. So when he died in the early sixties, the title went with him to the grave, so to speak, because there were no heirs! The reality is that the peerage goes back to the monarch, who can award it to someone else as a reward for service to the crown and country.”
Josh filled the wine glass that John held out from the bottle on the table. “My father, a commoner borne as William Bishop, developed an intense interest in heraldry after the war, for reasons that I will go into in a bit. By the way, during the war, he flew Bristol Beaufighters, then Mosquitoes with the Coastal Command’s 143 Squadron on anti-shipping missions in the channel, the North Sea, and off Norway. Despite his best efforts, my father managed to stay alive, even though he got bagged twice. One was a crash landing in a farmer’s field in Kent, and the other a ditching in the Channel. Both times he managed to hang on to his radio operator/gunner, so each time he got shot down it was a jolly good show.”
“Marty,” Josh jumped in, “his father was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, which is the equivalent of our Navy Cross, plus a couple of Distinguished Flying Crosses. The Beaufighter was a twin engine plane that the Brits used as a night fighter, a torpedo bomber on anti-shipping missions, and a long range interceptor looking for German patrol planes. John’s dad bought a Beaufighter that he is restoring to flying condition. It is about a year away from its first flight.” J osh took a sip of his wine. “Sorry, John, but I just wanted pass on that info. Go on.”
The future duke nodded. “My dad can’t wait to fly a Beaufighter again, and it will be part of the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain flight that maintains historic British aircraft.” John raised his glass in a half-salute. “Back to my father’s quest! After the war, he did quite well as a ship and cargo broker, and then as a lessor of ships. He was one of the first who saw the value in containerized freight, and to my very good fortune, he made a large one.” John chuckled. “But there was something missing in his life, and it was a father. His mother had told him that his father died right after he was born and left them a trust fund that more than met her needs. Other than that, she was silent on the subject, other than vague answers to his questions. The solicitors—that’s lawyers to you Yanks—were all mum on the subject of the fund, saying that the attorney – client privilege prevented them from divulging the source of the money or their client. All this aroused my father’s curiosity. So, after his mother died in the late forties from injuries she suffered in the Blitz, my father started digging through his mum’s personal stuff and found papers, love letters and others, many of which bore a heraldic coat of arms. Reading these convinced him that his mother and Charles Osborne, the 12th and last Duke of Leeds, had conducted a long running affair. But by the time he had sorted all this out, the old man had died.”
“To make a long story short,” Gwen interjected, “his father was a bloody bastard! For centuries, members of royalty have be impregnating commoners and walking away. At least Charles Osborne had some scruples and left Mary Bishop a nice pot of money.” Gwen giggled and cast a roguish smile at her husband. “Go on, John, I just wanted to make that important point.”
“Ah, yes. Anyway, he began to research the life of Charles Osborne. It was a bit of a cold trail, with the time that had elapsed and the absence of surviving family. I think he would even admit it bordered on an obsession. He hired private investigators. They found more and more evidence that Charles Osborne was indeed his father, and had arranged to support his mother until she died. My father thinks she was waiting for him to be free to marry her, but to be perfectly blunt, the likelihood of that was effectively nil, and perhaps she knew that. My father thinks that the old man liked to play around and didn’t want to be tied to one woman. The trust fund was the old man’s way to keep my grandmother quiet. You would think that having a war hero son, even one born out of wedlock, would bring them together. But it didn’t.”
“John, I keep telling you that it would make a tear jerker of a novel!” Gwen got the giggles when she drank wine.
John emptied his glass, and Josh divided what remained in the bottle into both their glasses. “So, with the evidence in hand, my father began to petition the crown to restore the title and lands. Since most of the property had been distributed to other peers of the realm, or sold off and the money kept by the crown, this was a bit dicey. My father, now a very wealthy man, told a chap in Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood during a formal interview that he would be happy to pay the owners of the house and grounds whatever it was worth to get them back.” John stopped for a second. “For you colonials not familiar with this part of our government, the taxpayers support the chancery, who report to the Lord Chamberlain, who is charge of matters of peerage for the Queen. Such a purchase would mean that the government would get a tidy sum, which always makes them happy.”
John toyed with the stem of his wine glass, turning it around as he mulled over what to say next. “It took a few years before my father was able to purchase the house in which his mother was impregnated. Then, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, his title was restored by the queen and he changed his name to Tom Osborne. My mother became Katherine Osborne, Duchess of Leeds. So, as his oldest son, when he passes away, I become the 14thDuke of Leeds. I have two brothers who help run the family business who will be getting their own titles once the chaps in the chancery decide what they should be. Anyway, to make a long story short, if I don’t produce a male heir, the next oldest brother in line, James, will inherit the title.”
“Dear, you left out the best part of the story,” Gwen said as she put her hand on his arm. “Tell them what the Queen said in the private meeting before the investiture ceremony.
“Oh yes…” John grinned. “Before the ceremony at Buckingham Palace when the queen awards titles and knights people, she has a private chat with each new peer. My father walks in, and the queen asks him to sit down in a chair opposite her. Then, regally sitting there in her formal dress, she says to my father with a broad smile, ‘Congratulations on recovering your peerage. The crown and the nation owe you a debt of gratitude for your outstanding service to your country, both during and after the war. And by the way, you’re not the first bastard with a title who has served this country well!’
Taken from Chapter 13 – OUT OF CONTROL DOTS
Friday, October 1st, 1976, 1105 Local Time, East Berlin
Grünewald’s anxiety level was high. He hadn’t heard from Stiglitz for over a month, and he wasn’t in Geissen or Zehlendorf.
Damn you, Stiglitz! Where are you? The propaganda minister and the head of Stasi may like Red Hand and the carnage Stiglitz is creating, but they’re not running the asset. He was. And he, Colonel Gunter Grünewald, had all the operational problems. Now he was waiting for a phone call from an agent detailed with tracking the young radical’s movements.
When his agent called, the Stasi colonel strove to keep his irritation and anxiety out of his voice. “When was the last time you saw Stiglitz?” he demanded.
“Monday. He took a cab to the bahnhof in Geissen and bought a ticket to Berlin via Frankfurt. We didn’t board the train, because he’s done that many times before. We called the Berlin office and someone was supposed to meet the train and follow him.”
“They did. He was not on it. Do you know if he bought a ticket to someplace else?” Grünewald was seriously worried they had lost track of their asset.
“I am sure he did not. I was in line behind him when he bought the tickets. I heard what he said.”
“Then he must have got off at a stop and doubled back, or gone on further. What did you find when you went into his apartment?”
“Nothing new. As usual, there is very little in the refrigerator besides beer.”
“Do you think he abandoned it?”
“No. His car was parked on the street outside.”
“Thank you.” Günther Grünewald placed the receiver down in the cradle. It was the second call this morning that caused a gnawing in the pit of his stomach. The first had come from a man on his staff who had gone to Stiglitz’s Zehlendorf workshop. It too was lived in, but empty. “Shit,” Grünewald said to no one in particular. The papers on his desk told him that Stiglitz’s last series of bombs had killed a hundred more people, most of whom were Americans. Worst of all, the latest attacks were blatantly anti-Semitic. Grünewald was worried that Markus Wolf, the head of the DDR’s Ministry of State Security, would offer to assist the Bundesrepublik’s investigation. Wolf tolerated the inevitability of ex-Nazis in Stasi, but he did not tolerate open anti-Semitism.
Maybe Stiglitz had gone to ground for a while knowing that everyone—the West Germans, the British, the Americans—were all looking for him. Now the Stasi is looking too. And if we are, then so are the Russians.
He was just reaching for his phone when his administrative assistant opened the door.
“Sir, Colonel Krasnovsky called while you were on the phone. He invited you to lunch.Seeing nothing on your calendar, I accepted for you. He will be at the Gasthaus Kaiser at noon. I hope that is O.K?”
The Russian colonel was sitting in a corner booth in the back of the small restaurant when Grünewald arrived. Krasnovsky waited until the waiter had filled their glasses with mineral water and disappeared with their order before speaking. “You know, killing the dependents of American servicemen is a bit over the top,” he remarked. “Moscow believes that the Americans are going to get much more involved in the investigation.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, but I didn’t pick his targets.” Grünewald regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth.
“Maybe you should take more of an interest in where he places his bombs.”
“That would be difficult for me to do because my orders are to be a supplier, nothing more,” the Stasi Colonel said curtly. He didn’t add there was no practical way to control where Stiglitz placed his bombs unless Stasi officers were there to supervise and assist, which could lead to an embarrassing situation for the DDR.
“Your hands are just as dirty as his.”
Grünewald ignored the comparison and accusation. “The leadership of my government likes the embarrassment he is creating for the West German government. I recruited a dammed good asset who may be too good. Stiglitz has got the West Germans looking under every rock and tree. So far, they have come up with nothing.”
“That is a good thing,” Krasnovsky nodded his head.
“Yes it is.” Grünewald was glad that the conversation was taking a turn toward the better. He didn’t like being on the defensive. He hoped that Krasnovsky didn’t know that he didn’t know Stiglitz’s whereabouts. To his relief the food arrived, and for a few minutes there was silence as the two men gave attention to the fare.
“Do you know when his next round of attacks will be?”
“No, but his pattern is to set off a series of bombs and then go to ground for some time between a week and a month.”
“So you think it will be quiet for a few weeks.”
“Yes. This time, my guess is it will be for thirty days, maybe longer. He has to build more bombs and get them into West Germany. Why?”
“Moscow is getting concerned. They do not like it when people claiming to be socialists blow up women and children. It is not good for our image as champions of the working class and downtrodden.”
“Do you realize that, this time, the Americans were all Jews?” Grünewald pushed a pile of sauerkraut onto the remaining piece of bratwürst before sticking his fork into the meat and stuffing it in his mouth.
“Yes, I do, and I know many of your former comrades are pleased, and many in Moscow feel the same way, but we won’t go into that.” The Soviet colonel chewed for a few seconds on a chunk of heavy black bread. “So I can tell Moscow that things will be quiet for about a month?”
“Do you have any news about the American reaction?” Grünewald hoped he might get something from the KGB colonel.
Krasnovsky took a long swallow of his beer before responding. “So far nothing other than they are very, very mad. But you know that. The pressure is building in the American media for their president to act, but he is trapped by his own words. He has stated in news conferences that the West German law enforcement agencies are in charge of the investigation. He cannot do anything more until the West Germans ask.”
What an admiral had to say about RENDER HARMLESS, a novel about hunting terrorists
Rear Admiral Ken Carodine, USN (Retired), author of NUCLEAR DRAGON
“Magnificently malevolent! Render Harmless taps into the nation’s latest fascination with the Cold War and the days leading up to our modern era of terrorism. RENDER HARMLESS features all the ingredients to keep the reader guessing and the plot moving: Nazis, Russians (Soviet’s not today’s capitalists), Arab terrorists, and of course, Americans. Prepare for a roller coaster ride that starts with a brutal assassination in a sleepy California town and climaxes in a dark Russian prison cell. Marc Liebman has perfectly fused his years as a combat Naval Aviator and as an ad agency executive to create a compelling, dramatic, and page-turning narrative worthy or comparison to Larry Bond, Tom Clancy, and Stephen Coonts.”
Military Writers Society of America
June 14, 2014
“Marc Liebman shares a complicated and disturbing story. His storytelling in Render Harmless is a telescopic insight into the horrors of global terrorism before our lives were irrevocably changed by 9/11. Although the book is historical fiction, its truth catapults the reader back into the Cold War that often feels bitterly frigid. Josh Haman, the heroic Navy pilot, will cause your heart to pound and your knees to shake, especially when the fuel hovers on empty on more than one occasion.” READ MORE »
Wings of Gold
“With Render Harmless, Marc Liebman has confirmed that he is a gifted story-teller. The narrative has a multi-faceted and complex plot, and it is developed nicely, keeping the reader’s interest, and working its way to a tight ending…” READ MORE »
THE AVIATOR, Magazine of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association
July/August 2014 Issue 32-4
“This is a book that is hard to put down and will keep you up late at night. Liebman is a master of the key element of fiction: character development. The bad guys are not just the “usual suspects” and they are well crafted and quite believable. There is also plenty of “white knuckles” helicopter flying. Comparisons with other writers like Steven Coonts and Tom Clancy come to mind. I highly recommend this book.” READ MORE »