If you get lost in the woods, leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Don’t stay out after dark. Don’t talk to strangers.
The schoolboy is walking along Warsaw’s ulica Naruszewicza with two friends. It is the afternoon of 22 January 1957. Snow is on the ground.
The three boys are on their way home from St Augustine High School for their dinners. St Augustine is a good private school, one of the very few in Communist Poland. Its students are the sons of important men.
The schoolboy is fifteen-years-old. His dark hair is combed back from his forehead in a pomaded shell. He carries his school books in a brown leather briefcase. He wears a herringbone overcoat and winter boots with white laces.
It is 13:50. At the intersection of Naruszewicza with ulica Wejnerta a tall man with a briefcase approaches the boys.
“Which one of you is Piasecki?”
The schoolboy steps forward. The man takes a piece of paper from his case and shows it to him. The schoolboy silently accompanies the man to a nearby taxi rank on Wejnerta. He does not look back at his friends.
On 24 September 1963 Alexander Irwin Rorke climbed into a twin-engine plane at Fort Lauderdale airport. He was never seen again.
The good-looking 37-year-old with black hair and blue eyes was a well known figure in the murky world of Florida anti-communism. He had been a free-lance photojournalist in Cuba covering Fidel Castro’s revolution until critical comments about the new regime’s leftward drift got him in trouble. Some jail time and a deportation order later, he was up to his neck in CIA agents, right-wing Cuban exiles, soldiers of fortune, and ultraconservative American patriotism.
In 1961 he scattered anti-Castro leaflets over Havana by plane. The next year was secret boat trips to Cuba for guerrilla warfare. Early in ’63 he was back in the air, bombing a Cuban oil refinery. FBI agents warned him off. Rorke ignored them.
Now he had another mission.
When the ambulance crew got there they found Stepan Bandera dead on the block’s third floor landing outside his apartment. The crew guessed the fifty-year-old Ukranian had died from a fall. Bandera’s crying wife insisted he had been murdered. It was Thursday 15 October 1959.
It took until the following Tuesday for the coroner’s report to reach Munich police. The Ukrainian had traces of cyanide in his stomach. Now it looked like suicide.
“We are completely in the dark as to the motive,” a police spokesman told reporters.
In early November 1944 French soldiers got into a firefight somewhere near Toulouse. They rounded up a gang of armed men. One of them, apparently the leader, had been hit in the shoulder. The French soldiers suspected the men had come over the border from Spain.
There was a lot of traffic through the mountains: Nazis on the run, escaping collaborators, smugglers, members of far-right Maquis Blanc bands trying to reconquer France for the Germans. The soldiers dragged their prisoners up to the nearest provisional government outpost and let the politicians sort it out.
The wounded man had slicked-back hair and a thin moustache. He spoke elegant French. The interrogators soon discovered he was Henri, Comte de Paris and heir presumptive to the throne. Royalists regarded him as the King of France.
On 9 September 1952 a man walked into Frankfurt Police HQ and confessed he belonged to a top secret paramilitary group. In the event of a Soviet invasion he was to sabotage enemy installations, blow up bridges, and assassinate collaborators.
The whistle blower was disgruntled Waffen-SS veteran Hans Otto and the organisation Technischer Dienst (TD, Technical Service). It was 2,000 strong and funded by the United States government. Parallel groups existed across Europe. TD was staffed by ex-Third Reich soldiers, few of whom had changed their ideas since the fall of the Third Reich.
This bothered Otto, a rare Nazi with a conscience, particularly when his comrades drew up lists of untrustworthy public figures to be liquidated in the event of an invasion. The list included politicians whose only crime was to be socialists. Otto’s conscience itched even more when the American in charge of TD approved the measures.