Project Main Details
The primary role is that of Moravec, a decent man, caught in a horrible time, faced with an almost impossible task. It is really his growth, his fight, and his view that dominates.
In my mind, Anthony Hopkins image comes to light as the good natured but somewhat troubled Moravec. 2010-01-12 15:58:50 GMT 2010-01-31 15:00:00 (GMT -05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada) Yes (click here to learn more about ) Closed 0 0 1 direct invitation(s) have been sent by the voice seeker resulting in 0 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far. Voice123 SmartCast is seeking 75 auditions and/or proposals for this project (approx.) Invitations sent by SmartCast have resulted in 0 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far.
In Lania, a small village in German-occupied Czechoslovakia,
* * *
THE WIND THAT HAD LASHED THE WINDOWS and rattled the doors finally
eased, but the rain still fell in ribboned streams and the cold damp air
turned one’s breath into rolling clouds. Heavy drops slapped against the
cobblestone road in relentless staccato, burst open and pooled in black
shimmering puddles before running off into the half-frozen roadside
ditch. There, where the ground was thick with mud and clumps of rotting
leaves, stood a boy of seven, squinting through the rain, his head almost
swallowed whole by an oversized cap of gray cloth, once a prized
possession of his grandfather’s. Water ran in rivulets from the brim,
streamed in front of his small brown eyes. The boy quivered, only one of
many boys and men standing in line, staring straight ahead, hands at
their sides, feet lost in the freezing sludge of the trench, naked bodies
spattered with the mud kicked up by the wheels of passing half-track
troop transports and three-wheeled Zundapp motorcycles.
On the western side of the road a large green Mercedes sat idling,
windshield wipers rhythmically parting a perpetual curtain of water. The
driver, a burly bald man, stared mindlessly ahead at the dim glimmer of
the world beyond. Beside him lounged a smaller man, singularly ugly
with a scarred face and a wandering fish-eye. He was dressed in a black
uniform, his name and division stitched on the jacket in silver piping:
Major Schulz 5 EG C. The man’s division was marked by a polished
death’s head medallion pinned to the peak of his cap.
In the back seat sat a tall, gangly Schutzstaffel officer wrapped in
a great leather coat. On the seat to his left lay a thick red file and to his
right rested a stack of neatly piled, alphabetized yellow folders. His sole
attention, however, was focused on the single green folder that rested on
his knee, labeled “Moravec, František, Chief of Czechoslovakian
Intelligence.” Stapled on the inside left cover was a dated photograph of a
man in mufti, sitting at a table in some Kaffeehaus, his head thrown back
in laughter…the image that of a confident man who enjoyed a good joke,
though something about the expression struck the SS officer as coldly
The photo was to have been a candid shot, taken unbeknownst to
Moravec by a special operative and yet… The SS officer leaned over and
studied the picture. Yes, there was something more, something in
Moravec’s eye, a glint that seemed to suggest he had known all along a
camera was trained on him. Do you like what you see… did you get
enough? Moravec's look seemed to be saying, taunting his unseen
His observations of the man in the photo were most likely to be
dead on rather than off. The tall man with the folder in his lap, after all,
had been well trained to see beyond appearances. General Reinhardt
Tristan Eugene Heydrich was not only founder and head of the Nazi
Intelligence Agency, the SD, he was also Chief of the Gestapo and second
in command of the SS. And recently, with his additional appointment as
Reichsprotektor of the former nation of Czechoslovakia, his power and
access had expanded. Hitler-to-Himmler-to-Heydrich had run the chain of
command—but now, as Reichsprotektor, there was an ever reducing
amount of Himmler sandwiched in between.
As he cast another cold, clinical glance at the subject in the folder,
Heydrich realized he was right: Moravec had known all along he was
being observed, and no doubt suspected there was a camera in the
vicinity. He flipped through several pages in the folder, absorbing the
clipped, dry sentences that were the intelligence bureaucracy’s habitual
form of communication. Startled by a trilling whistle, he looked up. One
of his Einsatzgruppen units was sloshing past his window, their whistles
and barking dogs just audible through the rain pounding his car’s soft
The commotion of men and dogs was quickly swallowed by the
wet gloom, and he refocused, briefly running his eye down the tabs of
yellow folders to his right—Canaris, Gehre, Halder, Holm, Muller,
Oster—before returning to the enigma in his lap. Who is it, then? he
asked himself for the hundredth time. He gazed once more into the eyes
of the laughing man on his knee, and considered again the possibility that
it was not just one man, but rather a conspiracy.
He went back to thumbing through the pages accompanying the
photo. Each had a large red GEHEIM! stamped across the top right corner.
Towards the back of the file a particular entry stopped him, one he
himself had authored—notes that documented the occasion upon which
he had first met František Moravec, just as Moravec had begun to climb
up the Czech intelligence ladder.
* * *
IT WAS IN THE LONG WINTER OF 1934, seven long years past, but
the memory of the day was as fresh in his mind as if it had occurred just
The meeting took place in the waiting room of an abandoned rail
station in the Czech town of Podmokly. The station, perched on the
German/Czech border, was considered a no-man’s land, and over the
years had been left by both sides to crumble and return to dust.
The purpose of the meeting was an exchange of operatives, two of
his men who had been arrested by Moravec’s people in return for a single
Czech agent who had had the misfortune of falling into the grasp of his
It was a January morning. The frost on the ground crunched
under his boots. The dawn had never truly broken; the darkness had
merely receded and left behind a dull, soiled gray. As the train rolled
south towards Podmokly, he had stood on the iron platform of the last car
and watched the smoke of the coal-fired engine roil behind him and
disappear into the dreary mantle above, the sky and the smoke becoming
In a show of power, he had arranged to have the special train he
commandeered arrive exactly ten minutes late to the Podmokly station,
and then ordered that the train idle a hundred yards from the platform for
another twenty minutes as he remained on board, meticulously reviewing
and initialing a stack of his agent's weekly reports. Finally, at exactly
thirty minutes past the appointed hour, the train chugged to the platform
and he emerged with ten SS men in tow, each man outfitted in a sharp
black uniform, polished leather boots that covered the calf, the latest
Luger on one hip and a loyalty dagger in a scabbard on the other. With
the men in perfect lock step behind him, Heydrich strode into the station
house, where the Czech delegation had been long waiting.
It had surprised him, when he first stepped onto the tiled floor of
the waiting room, to hear a crunching under his heel—not snow or frost
but rather hard chips. With a glance up he saw that the egg-colored paint
of the vaulted ceiling had peeled away in great swaths. The mortar
between the bricks was filthy and the windows were streaked with soot
and there was the sharp, nauseating stench of urine. Taking his final steps
towards the Czechs, he glimpsed a pile of rags and cardboard boxes in the
far corner and surmised that the Czech Security Service must have only
that morning chased a band of squatters away. Nation of swine…
He came to a stop before them and snapped off a curt “Heil
A man in mufti and a fedora stepped forward and returned the
salute with two fingers raised to the brim of his hat. “Colonel František
Moravec, Special Services, Czechoslovakian Armed Forces.”
“I know who you are,” he said slowly, his high pitched voice
edged with scorn.
But Moravec seemed not to notice, and replied calmly, “And I
And then the boys from the Foreign Office stepped forward, longfaced
fellows with briefcases and pens, followed by a small litter of legal
beagles from each side who recited the terms of the agreement, complete
with the usual mumbo jumbo and warnings and threats poorly disguised
Then it was Sign here, initial here, oh and here, and here, and just
one more time, gentlemen, if you please—and suddenly it was all over.
The prisoners were brought forward, two Germans from the Czech side,
and the lone Czech agent, a well built man with dirty blonde hair and
tired blue eyes emerged almost listlessly from behind the cordon of his SS
detail. The men were embraced by their masters and led away, the
officials from each side trailing, the Germans returning to the train, the
Czechs to the platform where they waited as the cars that had brought
them north from Prague were summoned.
As he gripped the handrail and placed one boot on the iron stair
of the train car, Heydrich glanced over his shoulder one last time.
Moravec was standing on the platform just where Heydrich had left him,
his hands resting easily in his trouser pockets, his fedora angled low over
his brow. The other members of the Czech party were clustered around
their spy, wrapping him in a great coat, bundling him away towards the
Czech side of the border. But Moravec remained motionless, his eyes
never leaving Heydrich. As the locomotive engine was fired and stoked to
readiness, Heydrich ascended the iron steps and settled in beside a
window and through the glass he saw Moravec still standing there, still
immobile, still waiting. A great burst of steam suddenly shot out from
under the train and rolled across the platform, and when it melted away
Moravec was finally gone. As the train picked up speed Heydrich closed
his eyes and wondered just who, if either of them, had truly won that day.
* * *
BUT THIS, HE THOUGHT as he heard a roll of thunder in the
distance and laid a hand on the red file to his left, this was something
altogether different; for on the basis of the evidence contained in this red
file, it was clear that Moravec was the one who had scored in the end.
He turned to the remaining page marked Secret! and slowly read
it through once again. What little there was to know about General
František Moravec, currently running his end of the game from some dark
corner of London, he knew. But in light of this evening’s action he
thought it prudent to review his adversary’s file. There was always, after
all, the chance that with something learned tonight, something in the file
that had not struck him as significant before might now leap out at him—
a small fact, a phrase, even a date that might point him in the right
direction. But so far, nothing, no overlooked fact or figure, no sudden
spark to help shine a torchlight and reveal the traitor he was hunting.
That Moravec had a spy operating within the highest ranks of the
German elite was now an established fact; the specifics of the red file bore
that truth out. The red file contained detailed notes, taken during a series
of rather brutal interrogations of a Czech man still shackled to a wall in
one of his prisons, the once powerful Colonel Churavey. The Wolf, the
Czech résistance had dubbed Churavey. The particulars of Churavey’s
confession, extracted in part by Heydrich himself, were simply staggering.
Over the course of almost seven years, indeed, beginning just after he had
first met Moravec at the train station in Podmokly, a German traitor had
passed priceless information to Moravec and his staff, who no doubt had
passed it on to the Allies; the flow of information turning to a flood even
before the war took its very first victim. The secrets passed were of
incalculable value—invasion dates, German army and navy plans, troop
training and strength levels, ammunition and supply locations, weapons
details, new explosive samples…
Throughout the interrogation, of course, it had been names he
had sought the most. Names of Churavey’s accomplices, names of the
Czech men and women who had helped the traitor pass the messages and
receive payments, but most of all he wanted the name of the German
officer who had to be behind it all.
Churavey’s interrogation had led to other Czechs and even a Pole,
and their interrogations in turn spun a growing web of dates and facts
and names that in turn allowed Heydrich to narrow the list of those
German officials he suspected to six men whose lives were detailed in the
yellow folders beside him.
He flipped back to the photo and gazed at Moravec’s laughing
eyes. “Talk to me,” he whispered. ”Who is your mole?’
“Did you say something, General?” asked the fish-eyed major who
was still staring blankly through the streaming windshield.
Heydrich looked up from the file. “Nine, Schulz … just thinking
aloud.” He craned his neck forward, peered through the windshield, and
suddenly snapped, “Are they still not done?”
“Just gathering the last of them, sir. They can’t be much longer.”
Heydrich drummed his fingers absently on the red file. Among
the names the confessions yielded had been a pair of Czech brothers who
lived in this sleepy village, the exposure of their identity the very reason
he had come to this wretched town on this most wretched of nights. Was
it only an hour ago, he thought, pulling his Ulysse Nardin Kriegsmarine
pocket watch from his jacket and flipping open the silver cover. The
watch had been a present from an old friend when the man had still truly
been a friend, and as he watched the steel blue second hand sweep across
the Arabic numerals, he thought of the man and remembered the day the
old white fox had given it to him, the very last day that he, Heydrich, had
been permitted to wear a naval uniform. That day too had been very long
and very wet. He pushed the memory away and noted the time. Yes, only
an hour had passed since his driver had led the SS convoy into this
village. The attack had been well planned, their surprise total.
* * *
HOURS BEFORE DAWN, the young boy who now stood in the
roadside trench had been sleeping in his bed, his grandfather’s cap resting
on the night table beside him. Uneventful until then, his dreams were
suddenly invaded by a menacing growl that awoke him with a jolt. He sat
bolt upright and stared through the dark, telling himself it was just a
dream, nothing more, then quickly realized that something was wrong.
He could still hear the noise, only it was louder now and seemed to have
leapt from his dreams and landed just outside his window. He shifted to
the edge of the bed, his feet dangling above the floorboards, and shivered
as the noise abruptly stopped. He thought of settling back into the folds of
the bed, a brief thought shattered by the slamming of metal doors and the
sound of heavy boots splashing through the flooded streets. The room
being cold, he reached for his robe and slipped it on, placed the cap on his
head and sat quietly, straining to listen. Then he jumped, startled by
harsh voices shouting strange words and the sound of fists banging on the
door below. He scrambled out of bed and hurried downstairs, found his
father in the foyer, peering through the curtains of the window beside the
door, his large frame barely visible in the dim light from the street.
All at once a strange face appeared on the other side of the
window and his father, startled, let the curtain fall and almost tripped on
his son as he stepped back. Whirling around, he saw the boy and barked,
“Go to the cellar!” The man outside began pounding on the door again,
shouting something the boy could not understand, though no translation
was required to reach the conclusion that it boded ill.
His father froze, eyes locked upon the door. The boy looked up at
his papa, a large man with a bald head and heavy mustache, nicknamed
Sonnig by his friends and he observed, almost unconsciously, that despite
the very late hour, his father had not changed his clothes from the day
“What do they want, Papa? Is it about Uncle Karl?” the boy asked
softly. His father’s only reply was to grab his son by the shoulder and
propel him forcefully through the kitchen and down the basement stairs.
As his son disappeared into the dark, the father clapped the cellar
door closed, hurried to the front staircase and charged upstairs, stumbling
on the fourth step. As he regained his footing from below he heard the
crash of breaking glass and the wrenching sound of splintering wood.
In the second-floor hallway he threw open the door to the closet
and closed it behind him, then clambered up the short wooden ladder that
he and his brother had nailed together from odd bits of pine. Halfway up
he ripped his palm on a protruding nail, but the tear in his flesh didn’t
stop him; his only thought was to reach the tight space between the attic
eaves. On the far side of the attic, in front of a metal box with long wires
tied to the whip of an antenna that poked through a small hole in the
roof, was Karl, lying on his belly on a large board laid across the attic
timbers, tapping away at the keys of the transmitter. Karl had one hand
over his ear, a sheaf of notepaper by his side.
“Karl!” Sonnig said in a hoarse whisper as he crawled over the
attic framing. “Karl, stop!” But Karl didn’t hear him over the drumming
noise of the rain on the roof, nor did Sonnig himself hear the sound of a
man clattering on the ladder below.
Sonnig crawled over the first few beams on hands and knees,
moving carefully so as not to slip and fall through the gaps between.
“Karl, stop!” he said more urgently, but still Karl didn’t hear him over the
drumming noise of the rain on the roof.
Suddenly Sonnig heard a sound behind him and turned to face a
helmet rising from below and a pair of hands gripping the top of the hole.
He picked up his pace, scurrying across the beams. As he advanced his
knee slipped but he caught hold of another beam just in time and
regained his balance. “Karl!” he shouted, throwing caution to the wind.
Karl looked up just as a gunshot cut through the water’s
deafening sound, and saw his brother Sonnig fall across the timbers, a redgray
pulp where the back of his head had just been, his hand stretched out
in a final desperate warning.
Directly behind his dead brother, a head poked through the attic
floor like some demonic jackrabbit popping out of its hole. The SS soldier
was brandishing a Luger. “Come down from there, Slav!” he barked in
broken Czech. “Come down quietly, you pig!
But Karl wasn’t going anywhere quietly. Instead, he whipped an
M42 Liberator pistol from the back of his belt, rolled over and got off a
shot. The soldier’s body jerked and his Lugar went flying. Then he
slumped sideways and slowly melted into the timbers.
Karl worked quickly to reload the single-shot Liberator, as he did
a second man rose from the hole in the floor, a rangy black and gray
specter with striking blue eyes and an officer’s cap perched on a freakishly
large head. He was carrying a Walther P38. Not a word left this man’s
lips. Peering through the darkness, Karl got off a second shot with the
Liberator, but this time the bullet was wildly off target. In rapid
succession four shots coughed from the German’s gun, slamming Karl one
way and then the other before he sank down, his face on the transmitter
keys, free hand clutching the message he had just finished sending.
On all fours the German officer crawled toward him, holding his
pistol steady. He knocked the Czech’s weapon away with his own, then
rolled him onto his back. With curious fascination he stared at the dying
man, the drained yellow eyes wide saucers of pain, the lungs struggling
for breath and filling with blood instead. Heydrich leaned over and
whispered “Vielen Dank” into his ear, then snatched the sheet of paper
from the man’s limp hand. The man gave him a fierce glance, his chest
heaved, his back arched and he slammed down against the floor, almost
gone, but not quite.
“You’re useless to me now,” Heydrich spoke quietly to him.
“Believe me, I would have preferred you alive, though you, my friend,
might not have enjoyed it as much.” He raised his barrel a final time.
“Consider this a kindness.”
* * *
IN THE KITCHEN BELOW, the dead man’s papers were spread out on
a large farm table and the decoders went to work. Schulz lurched into the
kitchen, holding a boy by the scruff of his neck. “I found this one hiding
in the basement,” he said, pushing the boy in front of him. “He claims to
know nothing. The man making the transmission was his uncle, the
other, the fat bald one, is his father. Other than that…”
Heydrich turned from the corner where one of the village men sat
in an armless kitchen chair, his hands tied to the slats of the back, his
bloody face slung lifelessly low. One eye was swollen shut, the other was
open hardly more than a slit, and the man's left ear, sliced almost clean
from his head, was dangling by only a wisp of a visceral thread. The man
gave a sudden shudder, coughed violently, struggling to gulp air; his
breathing just as suddenly subsiding to long, desperate wheezing.
Heydrich studied the man, then regarded the boy in the large cap for a
moment, not a flicker of expression crossing his long, drawn face as he
wiped the long flat blade of his barber's razor on the sleeve of the
bleeding man. He held the razor to his eye, studying it for any remaining
specks and satisfied, examined the reflection of his face for a moment
before he snapped it closed. “He’s no use to us,” he said, as he slipped the
razor into the leather pouch on his belt. He waved a hand dismissively.
“None of them are. These men transmitted whatever was given to them.
Their masters never sent the same cutout twice and the messages were
always delivered in code, just as you see them before you. They could have
been delivering a beer order for all they knew.”
“What should I do with him?” Schulz asked.
“What else? I’ll be waiting in the car, there’s something I want to
check in my files. As for him," Heydrich added with a jerk of his chin
towards the man in the chair. "Have him stitched up and sent back to the
prison at Prague. I'm through with him for tonight, but he may still prove
useful. See that he lives, - for now."
Schulz gave a salute and clicked his heels, then turned to the
soldier beside him. "Fetch doctor Giest." The man nodded, then slipped
silently into the night.
“Strum!” Heydrich called out to the company technician.
“Yes sir!” Strum said, snapping to attention as he looked up from
the papers spread out before him.
“Bring me the transcript the moment it is decoded.”
“Carry on then,” Heydrich said. All in the room stood at attention
as he exited, those by the door parting way.
When he had gone, Schulz stepped over to the bloody man in the
chair and lifted his head with two fingers placed just beneath the man's
chin. The man's head lolled to one side, both eyes now closed from the
swelling, his breathing, uneven, heavy. Over his shoulder Schulz said to
another young soldier, "Put the boy with the others, then see what the
hell is keeping Giest."
* * *
BACK IN THE MERCEDES Schulz leaned forward, his scarred face just
inches from the streaming windshield. “This must be the last of them,” he
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