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Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy

Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy

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Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy

353 pages
4 hours
Jun 8, 2020


Mid-1940, the darkest of the nights for Britain during WWII. Adolf Hitler's unstoppable military has conquered most of Europe, including France, only twenty miles from the English coast. It is now set to conquer the island-nation itself. Plotting to aid this onslaught, a German spy lurks somewhere within Winston Churchill's government.

​Such is the dire news an emissary of the prime minister secretly brings to disgraced Churchill bodyguard, Jonas Shaw, an ex-New York City detective, along with a plea: help discover the agent before the Nazis invade.  Shaw has faced many challenges in his eventful life, but none as dangerous and fateful as this one, helping save Western civilization.  First in a series.

Jun 8, 2020

About the author

     Steve earned a B. A. Degree from the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in political science and minoring in history. Afterwards he passed his stock broker's exam and worked for a time at a brokerage house before returning to school.  Upon getting his legal assistant certification from UCLA, he worked at a law firm in Los Angeles. Successful stock market investments allowed him to retire early and to pursue two dreams, writing and foreign travel, and he has since traveled extensively and frequently to Europe. He speaks some French, a little less Italian, and four words in German and hopes to expand his fluency in all three languages.        He enjoys the cosmopolitan bustle, sidewalk cafes, the museums of Berlin, Rome, Vienna, London, Budapest, and Paris. Many of these capitals find their way into his stories of intrigue..."Murder Without Pity" (Paris), "The Killing Ploy" (London, Berlin, Paris, and Lugano) and the soon-to-be-released "Darkness and Blood" (London and Paris) and "Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy" (London and Zurich).  He's also researching for a fifth novel, this one to be set in 1946 Berlin.         I          

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Winston Churchill's Renegade Spy - Steve Haberman



SURRENDER! Belgium capitulates, leaves Allies on spot, The News, Los Angeles, May, 28, 1940

PARIS FALLS! 'France Doomed, Britain Next'—Nazis, Chicago Daily News, June 14, 1940





Jonas Shaw reached the corner out of breath, his lungs burning from hurrying. He paused, glanced over his shoulder, still didn’t see anyone tailing him along the narrow, cobbled passage. He must have imagined the man in that crowd. He checked his wrist watch; he just might be on time for the announcement. Then he studied the scrap of paper for directions. The cheese shop and the Matterhorn Ski Rentals off to his right. The store selling mountain climbing gear facing them. Straight past them then to the first cross street.

He trotted ahead, paperboys nearby shouting news about Hitler’s upcoming radio address. He crossed the intersection and stopped abruptly near the entrance, his eyes wide in surprise. This is it? he wondered...an unassuming one-story address, not a hotel? A single door painted primly white. Narrow arched windows, the sashed curtains tightly drawn. Only the golden heraldic knocker with its royal lion head hinted at some vague mysterious importance within. He rapped the golden ring twice, while he smoothed down his hair and straightened his clip-on tie with his free hand.

Shortly the front door eased open. An elderly man with a pinkish complexion and white prickly brows peered through the crack and frowned. May I help you, sir?

I hope so, Jonas said after introducing himself. I understand the Wayfarers offers aid for travelers visiting Zurich. Newspapers. Maps. Train schedules. And a shortwave radio, he added with a smile.

The doorman flicked his gray eyes from Jonas’s brown scuffed shoes, then up to his clip-on tie, where they momentarily lingered, before finally gazing across to him. We do, sir. For members.

For members? My hotel told me you were open to the public.

"Most certainly not, sir. This is a private establishment."

Jonas glanced at his wristwatch. Look, the British Broadcasting Company will be on the air any moment with an important program about Herr Hitler. If I could catch it at my hotel I would, but the reception is just terrible.

The doorman simply blinked back. News about the murderous dictator meant nothing to him. That, sir, is not a concern of the Wayfarers, he said and began to push the door shut.

Jonas planted his palm firmly on the door. Wait. Please. Could I speak with management?

The doorman cast his startled eyes at the hand, then to Jonas. Very well, sir. Wait here. Leaving the front door slightly ajar, he retreated into the depths of the club for consultation.

Not Would you wait here, sir, but Wait here, as though ordering an inferior. Jonas tapped the door slightly further open with the tip of his shoe, leaving a muddy smear near the bottom of the sill. Past the carpeted vestibule, a man in banker’s gray in an armchair read the Financial Times. Next to him a skeletal octogenarian, an ascot wrapped around his thin neck, browsed through the Daily Telegraph. A servant in black waited nearby to clip his cigar. Out of sight more members chatted. The clear voice of a British newsreader, sounding as if he stood in that room, came from a shortwave radio off to the side.

The man in banker’s gray lowered his newspaper and called for quiet. The BBC broadcaster announced a bulletin. The French government would sign an armistice with representatives of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government in the Compiegne Forest at 18:30 hours that day. That clearing, he continued, was the same spot where twenty-one years before Germany had signed its own armistice with France ending World War I. History had come full circle, he added. The Herr Chancellor on behalf of his people had gotten his revenge. Jonas leaned forward to hear more.

But the doorman had returned, caught him listening, and pushed the door nearly shut. Mr. Vancourt, he said through the crack, "wishes to convey the Wayfarers’ member-only policy. We are a private club, sir, and, may I add, with a dress code strictly enforced."

He shut the door with a loud shove. And turned the lock with a loud click. Refused. Again. Like that New York City gym job opening once. No Irish need apply. Like that Lower East Side pool hall sign, Irish and dogs keep out. Fucking limey bastard, Jonas shouted. He kicked the bottom of the door, leaving yet another muddy mark.

With a hand, shaky with rage, he shoved a cigarette into the side of his mouth. He struck a match slowly against the primly white paintwork, smiling through clenched teeth, as it flared. He had left a yellowish streak.

He stepped back onto the sidewalk and paced in front of the Wayfarers, blowing smoke out the corner of his mouth, head tilted up to the warm June morning. When he had smoked most of his cigarette, he stepped back to the doorstep. He stubbed out the remains of his Camel on the golden doorknocker until the only evidence of his pleasure was the ashes scattered onto the doormat with its gold WC monogram.

Somewhere a church bell sounded the hour of eleven. There must be a hotel or bar close by with a radio. He counted out enough Swiss franc coins to buy a drink as any entry price. He walked a short way back to Bahnhofstrasse when he caught in a shop’s window the reflection of a solitary man across the street watching him.



The stranger was dressed in a coat, gloves, homburg hat, and gripped a cane. A war profiteer wanting to entrap in something illegal? A Nazi spy hoping to enlist against the Swiss? An anti-Nazi, looking to coax into some conspiracy? Or worst of all, an Englishman, and he had had enough of them.

He walked on, but paused briefly before the foreign exchange rates posted in a bank’s window. The British pound had sunk further against the Swiss franc. How much longer, he worried, could he hold out in pricy Zurich even with his small inheritance? Again he caught in a window's reflection that gentleman observing him the other side of the Bahnhofstrasse.

A tram, rattling down the thoroughfare towards the train station, blocked his view. When it had passed, he looked in the bank’s window. His pursuer had vanished. No longer caring about the newscast, he decided to draw out his nemesis to better judge this threat.

At the end of the Bahnhofstrasse he wandered across a street to a statue that overlooked the lake. He paused, as if to admire the view. But attuned to danger, he considered his next move.

Footsteps. He turned and saw his pursuer. The man doffed his hat in greeting, revealing a full head of white hair, and Jonas thought he looked vaguely familiar.

Ah Switzerland, Mr. Shaw, the gentleman said. Three things you can always say about this lovely country. You’ll always know the time. Always find a bank. And always enjoy the natural beauty, despite any war.

Jonas recognized him now and tensed momentarily speechless. A member of Winston Churchill’s unofficial entourage. The man who had signed the letter firing him as one of the prime minister’s bodyguards. He must have glimpsed him many times in Churchill's retinue and thought nothing of it. Yet there he was now, that rich and powerful bastard, Cyril Cavendish. Jonas fixed on a polite smile, but could think of only the obvious. Mr. Cavendish, I thought you'd be in London, advising on war finances or something.

Oh, officially I am. I’m sorry if I gave you a fright, but I had to satisfy myself you were alone. And since following you earlier when you left your hotel, I see you are except—he added with a smile that tweaked up the ends of his mustache—for the swans. Lovely birds, don’t you think?

The man’s high-born English accent grated on Jonas. It reminded him what he wasn’t, not well educated, not well off, not well connected. Yes...well, yes. There was an awkward pause, filled only by the raucous calls of ducks paddling past. I read in the papers recently, he managed at last to note, the Right Honorable Mr. Churchill’s now prime minister. Too late, he caught his sarcasm that had slipped out.

Cavendish looked oblivious to the tone. "Indeed. And with the weight of the civilized world on his shoulders. He smokes those foul cigars. He can outdrink almost anyone, yet has more energy than men half his age. And he’ll need every ounce of it to direct the war effort now that he resides at No. 10 Downing. We all must pitch in. Really we must because so much is truly at stake. Jonas—may I call you that? Without waiting for a reply he continued, Jonas, with what’s going on in the world these days, taking one’s time is a luxury, few, especially we British, can ill afford. I would very much like to talk to you about something of the utmost importance. It involves our very survival. Winston would very much like you back."

Jonas frowned in disbelief. He must have drunk too much Heineken or eaten too much fondue the previous evening. He shouldn’t have sampled those roasted nuts from that street vendor. Something must have affected his sense of reality. He what?

Cavendish laughed. Yes, old boy, moody, demanding, ruthlessly egotistical, devious Winston Churchill would very much like you back. Shall we go for a walk? I need to chat about something off the record. When Jonas didn’t budge, Cavendish gazed over his glasses to stress the gravity of what he needed to discuss. Come along now. Without waiting for a response, he pointed the direction with his cane, an autocrat used to getting his way.

Against his pride, Jonas trotted to catch up with Cavendish. Together they crossed over a bridge to Utoquai, next onto Limmatquai.

Cavendish gestured vaguely with his cane across the street. They say Lenin plotted his revolution at some café over there.

Well, good for Lenin.

Look old boy, I can fully understand your feelings over your termination.

I doubt that, Mr. Cavendish. Your Winston Churchill used me as a pawn.

Oh nonsense, my boy. Nonsense.

He made me a bodyguard in his campaign to enlist American support for his beleaguered Britain, not because he liked me.

You're entitled to your opinion. The truth is he miscalculated.

What? The great Churchill miscalculated?

The Old Man is human.

Too bad he doesn’t think so.

Well, he is, and yes, he miscalculated. The parliamentary and press uproar over an American and not a Britisher on the government's payroll blindsided him.

That press baron friend of yours, that Lord Beaverbrook fellow, his hack journalists skewered me in a way you Brits excel at. As far as I know, you didn't intervene with the prime minister.

You overstate my relationship with Lord Beaverbrook and my importance with Winston. I'm merely a factotum. He wants advice on war finances, I advise. A letter written, I write. Whatever helps the war effort. In any event, the discord left the P. M. absolutely no choice.

Except make me a sacrificial lamb.

Several Swiss soldiers, rifles slung over their backs, fell in behind them, and they both turned quiet. They passed through a covered arcade of shops, Jonas spotting an elderly man in lederhosen sipping a stein of beer, shotgun propped against a restaurant’s wall. That man might be too old to fight as an enlisted man, he thought, but not too old to pull a trigger as a volunteer, if the Germans invaded.

He and Cavendish emerged into the open. A bit of sun had broken through the milky gray overcast. They strolled right, up a steep and narrow cobbled passage that winded Cavendish. He paused to catch his breath as the soldiers headed toward another passage.

If it’s any comfort, Cavendish said at last, you’re not the first he’s antagonized nor the last. He’s the most remorselessly ambitious human I’ve ever met. Climbing, climbing, always climbing. And now that he's arrived, he has a country to whip into fighting shape.

I was a distraction from running his government. Yet now he wants me back? That makes lots of sense.

"It most definitely will once I explain. Before we go any further, I suggest since we might see a lot of each other, we dispense with social protocol. Cyril, please, will do. Why don’t you call me that? He wants you back, but only in a matter of speaking." But by then, they had reached the Café Ku'damm with its fur-covered rattan seats outside. Cyril Cavendish seemed more interested finding a table, secure against eavesdroppers, than explaining his cryptic remark.



You should try the bratwurst here, Cavendish suggested somewhat loudly in the nearly empty café as a white aproned waiter approached. It’s remarkably delicious. He plucked each white glove off finger-by-finger and placed the pair, one on top of the other, next to his black homburg hat.

Jonas seated himself across from Cavendish, but didn’t push his rattan seat completely in. I’ll keep that in mind.

He asked for a Heineken Lager; the Churchill advisor, for a Sherry wine. After the waiter had left, Cavendish glanced around the café, as though seeing if anyone listened before leaning forward.

Now then, he said, his voice low. "Because of my unofficial position, I can say frankly what many in Winston's war cabinet can't because they know he loathes talk of defeatism. Germany's overrun Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Low Countries and now France. Isolationist fever has gripped your country...who knows when or if you Americans will enter? That leaves for the time being Britain facing the most powerful military machine ever assembled. But a very weakened Britain, who has paid a dear price for years not taking Herr Adolf seriously. The civilized world as we know it, Jonas, our very freedoms, are for now... He looked up to see the waiter arrive. Splendid, our drinks are here. Thank you so much for your prompt service. He waited till the server had left before continuing. Our freedoms are for now and for the foreseeable future in the hands of one man, Winston Spencer Churchill. He has been, in a remarkably short time, able to infuse Whitehall with a sense of purpose Chamberlain lacked. He's also been able to rally the country, something that former prime minister also couldn't accomplish. But there remains a singular problem. We fear there is a spy at the heart of the British government. Somewhere in the very Whitehall bureaucracy."

What? Jonas stared at Cavendish, ignoring his beer. A spy? Jesus.

Cavendish took a sip of his wine. "We had a credible source in Rome, who said he had the name of a Whitehall civil servant who worked for German intelligence. But his network was blown, and he was on the run. When his courier went to him to get this spy’s name for us, she found him shot dead. Fearing for her life, she didn’t search his flat for clues to this foreign agent’s identity, but instead fled.

We’ve also witnessed lately a troubling development. Germany is massing its fighter force at aerodromes in France and the Low Countries for attacks against our shipping in the English Channel.

Jonas frowned, still ignoring his beer. France is what, just twenty miles or so from Britain?

Precisely. A mere stone's throw away. Separated only by the Channel, which they started bombing just days ago. But this opening phase of the Channel battle, if you will, is, we fear, merely the first stage leading ultimately to the bombing of London and, quite naturally, Whitehall. Several well aimed maximum explosive bombs in that area could wipe out the entire government, the P. M., the military chiefs of staff, other top-level personnel, and change the course of the war.

I thought his bunker was bomb-proof.

Sadly no. Not against a direct hit. I and others have advised Winston to leave London for the country, but Winston being Winston refuses. He insists on facing the same dangers as his countrymen.

No British listening post has picked up German communications to decode this spy's identity?

The Germans, we believe, aren't using the sometimes insecure air waves for something this secret. Instead they may be using land lines. There’s something else you should be aware of. This spy, if not caught, could well betray our intention to one day launch a cross-Channel assault to retake the Continent.

Retake Western Europe? You're joking.

I’m absolutely serious. That's Winston's offensive spirit for you. I’ve heard rumors, in fact, he has already deputed a military advisor to begin thinking of the best places for such an invasion. All this, however, assumes the Germans don’t discover the coordinates of Winston’s war room. Don't know when he'll be there. And don't then marshal their air armada to destroy it.

Jonas took a sip of his beer, all the time looking at Cavendish. Where’s MI5 and Special Branch in all this?

"They’re quite naturally engaged in this spy hunt. But they are overworked, tracking down German subversives in the U. K. To relieve their burden, Winston has appointed a few select individuals, a Committee of the Wise, he calls it. He’s asked them to also look into this matter and pass along their findings to the Security Service and Scotland Yard.

But there is a flaw with this. It is a very insular world, this committee. The appointees come from the same public schools. Enjoy the same private clubs. Have the same sporting enthusiasms. Live in the same London neighborhoods. Some even are godparents to each other's children. There might not be any divergent opinion. And if there is, any dissenter might not want to voice it for fear of offending. And, of course, there's the real danger this spy might come from that milieu, know them, and suspect what they’re up to. To give some proportion to this investigation, I suggested, and the P. M. concurred, we select an individual outside the scheme of things. Someone with an unbiased view, whose remit would be to roam wherever he so pleases. A committee of one so to speak. An outside investigator, who would pass along whatever scraps of intelligence he uncovered to this Committee of the Wise yet be responsible solely to Winston himself. Which brings me, my dear young man, to my unofficial visit here.

Are you implying me? Jonas asked.

Yes, you, absolutely. Why not? I don’t know if Winston ever told you, but he was greatly impressed with your work, saving the lives of those American senators.

I hardly worked alone...uh, Cyril. Anyway, after the way your press treated me over my firing, I’ll never set foot in London again. For any reason.

"My dear boy, we wouldn't want you to return. Some ministry official might spot you, gossip about his sighting, and inadvertently alert this spy that something's up. The traitor would go to ground. You're Churchill's pariah, remember? You'd be like the Committee of the Wise...sub rosa. Except you'd investigate here. Only when you felt it absolutely essential would we want you back in the city. Besides, this task would suit your temperament."

Jonas glanced at him, puzzled.

You don’t seem the kind of man, Cavendish continued, who easily submits to discipline. So you’d be your own man.

A party of suited, middle aged men, loud with good cheer, entered the restaurant. They spoke Swiss or pure German, Jonas couldn’t tell which. But he detected a Teutonic swagger in their rowdy voices.

Cavendish leaned in to Jonas. I think it best we depart. He laid out a generous amount of Swiss francs for their bill and reached for his hat and gloves. That was a most delicious Sherry wine, he said conversationally loud. I don't think I've tasted better in ages. I must buy you lunch here sometime. Shall we go?



They made their way downhill through a cobbled passage. From time to time Cavendish glanced over his shoulder, as if to check for other pedestrians. Our MI6 foreign intelligence service estimates there are about fifteen hundred or so Gestapo in Switzerland. And aided by the paper Swiss. They’re born across the Rhine, naturalized in this country, but they’ve rediscovered their German heart. So we must remain vigilant.

Nearby, a group of men clustered around a public noticeboard to read the war news, and Jonas noticed the worry on their weathered faces. Then he returned his thoughts to the magnitude of the government secret the Churchill confidant had revealed.

As I was saying, Cavendish continued, Winston was greatly impressed with how you protected those American senators from Mafia hit men. 'Bucking the system. Going beyond the call of duty,' he said.

Protecting them from a gangland murder hardly qualifies me to sniff out a traitor in the British government. That was New York. I was born and raised there. I knew my way around. And I spoke the language, he added, trying to soften Cavendish with some humor.

Come now, my boy. You're being much too humble.

I'm being truthful, that’s all. What I did, I did in my home town.

Now, now, now, I'll have none of that. Did you not, despite your modest detective’s salary, ignore hefty bribes and sweetheart deals from the underworld and from politicians?

Yes, but—

On your own initiative, did you not lead your own private investigation into that crime syndicate? Talking to sources. Conducting a stakeout where those hooligans plotted their scheme at that Italian restaurant.


Being called a renegade cop by some cheap press allies of that powerful councilman must have surely hurt. Must have made you feel isolated at times. And fearful for your life and the life of your parents. Yet you did what? You soldiered on till you had your proof, despite putting yourself in the line of fire.

I simply did what I was paid to—

My dear young man, I'm quite sure if those senators were here with us today, they'd thank you once again for letting them continue their Congressional hearings into New York organized crime. If what you did was such a small feat, bringing to light what that councilman planned against them, the American press wouldn’t have fallen over themselves for your comments. And that mayor wouldn’t have invited you to his office. Why he practically offered you a ticker tape parade down Broadway.

And it was too much attention, Jonas recalled. The politicians bickering over who would stand next to him. A state senator trying to slip him an envelope of money in exchange for a re-election endorsement. That mob of reporters shoving his Edith against the wall in the mayor's office for a closer view of him. Their bulb flashguns from their cameras bursting sudden explosions of light into their faces, momentarily blinding them.

That same dogged attention to detail and intuitive joining of disparate facts in that situation, Cavendish continued, into a damaging indictment, you will, I’m quite sure, bring to this. Plus that spirit of independence your fellow countrymen are known for. As I understand, you speak some German and French.

Some. My parents insisted I take advantage of what New York City had to offer.

There, you see, I was right. A self-starter. I have the utmost confidence you'll work your way around any and all obstacles.

An investigation in Zurich far from London struck Jonas as absurd as Cavendish's request he investigate it, and he said so.

We're not asking the impossible, Jonas. A vital clue would suffice. A name. A date. Something with a Swiss angle. Say a bank account opened. A chalet hideout or rendezvous. A documented exchange of pounds for Swiss francs with a signature on the receipt. Anything that could be passed on to the Committee of the Wise. By the way, how did you and Winston meet? he asked, as though Jonas's objections had hardly registered. He never explained.

Jonas sighed; his objection hadn't penetrated. I helped save his life once.

Do go on.

The retelling of the event had grown tiresome. But Jonas felt he had no choice. He was in New York years ago on a book and lecture tour. One evening, a cabby ran into him. I was finishing up some questioning near Central Park when I heard the accident. I rushed to the scene and saw what a bloody mess he was. I patched him up as best as I could, made sure he got to the hospital, and checked in on him the next few days.

You had medical training?

Hardly. My father was a milkman; my mother worked as a seamstress in a factory. I read some articles in a magazine about first aid. That’s all.

And you didn’t know who he was?

I thought he was just an ordinary chubby, hapless tourist.

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