Mammon in Malmö, by Torquil MacLeod, part two: He was instantly gripped by a wave of realisation and fear
Prologue (cont.) 1951: Per Engdahl held his hand up to shield his eyes from the light. Sunshine in Malmö at this time of year was always welcome. To Engdahl, doubly so. This was a bright day for him, and for a broken Europe which was about to see a rebirth. A tram rattled along on the other side of Stortorget.
Soon people would arrive for the congress. His congress in his town. Not a bombed-out town like so many others that were half-emerging from the rubble of war. A vibrant town not tainted by occupation; a low-key town where his philosophy could take root and spread to create a new way of thinking in a rejuvenated world.
He knew he was a persuasive speaker - he’d even learned enough passable Italian for last year’s Rome Congress. That had gone down very well with the hosts. So had his ideas. Now he felt confident that he would have no trouble shaping the thinking of the disparate groups here in Malmö.
Representatives from Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Britain and, of course, Germany had been lined up to attend. He’d written to Sweden’s Prime Minister, Tage Erlander, asking that the guests’ visas be fast-tracked, and had been personally assured that this would happen.He smiled as he thought of the friends he’d be welcoming - Augusto De Marsanich from Italy, Maurice Bardèche from France, and Germany’s Karl-Heinz Priester. His only worry was that Oswald Mosley might have a last-minute change of mind; the Englishman had issues with Priester. To add a touch of glamour to the proceedings, he’d boldly invited Colonel Otto Skorzeny, the man who had daringly rescued Mussolini from his mountain-resort imprisonment.His only regret was that he couldn’t have his kindred spirit and collaborator Johann von Leers with him. But at least he was safely ensconced in Buenos Aires, where he was doing invaluable work spreading their message.Behind him was the Kramer Hotel, the venue for the congress. He felt a tingle of anticipation course through his limbs. There was so much to discuss, to agree on, to plan. To protect their culture from contamination in the face of growing Bolshevism, there would be a united front with a common European ideology; an octopus, whose tentacles of concordance and purpose would reach and coil across the continent. And he, Per Engdahl would be the mantle; the centre of it all.
2018The window rattled. He got up from his seat by the stove and pulled it tightly shut. The wind howled, and he could see from the outside light that the snow was starting to thicken in the yard. The roof of the barn had already turned white. He drew the curtain. As he sat down, it fluttered slightly. There was still a draught coming in. He would have to have a word with Rune Tham about getting it fixed. He couldn’t afford his own place just yet. But soon.
He shoved another log into the old metal stove. It spat and crackled as he closed the door. Winter was setting in. He knew he would have to curtail his plans if the weather continued like this. He wandered into the kitchen and poured himself the dregs of the coffee from the thermos, which he drank in a couple of gulps. He promised himself something stronger for a nightcap.On the side of the wooden cupboard in the corner was a rack of pipes. He still had three. Not that he smoked much these days. He never took a pipe on his travels but on a night like this, it felt right. He took his favourite one from the rack, stepped back into the living room and opened the drawer where he kept his tobacco. He sat down and enjoyed the sensation of stuffing and tightly packing the bowl.
You hardly saw anyone with a pipe these days, except Rune. Maybe it was old-fashioned. But, he reflected, he lived for the past. He was nothing without it. And the past had suddenly given him a future. He picked up a box of matches from the stone hearth and struck one.
After several puffs, the tobacco settled down to a satisfying glow. His contentment was almost total. But he still had one obstacle to surmount - how best to exploit the ‘find’, which he’d wrapped carefully and hidden in his bedroom. He needed a way of selling it without raising suspicion. Carl said he had a contact in Germany. He knew there wouldn’t be any consequences - there was no way they would dare report it missing or even acknowledge its existence. He would just have to be careful.
He refocussed his attention on the old map and the photographs on the table. Next spring, he’d make the follow-up trip to Walchensee. The find would do a lot more than finance the next phase of the operation. If he was lucky, it would finance the next few seasons.Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted. There was a rap on the front door. He hadn’t heard a vehicle approach. Maybe the snow had deadened the sound. Who could it be at this time of night in this weather? He didn’t normally have visitors. Even the neighbours kept their distance. And he was grateful for that. He didn’t need company except of those who shared his passions. And there was only Rune round here who showed any interest. He laid his pipe down on the ashtray next to the map and went to answer the door, muttering to himself. He squinted into the gloom. Two blurred figures were being buffeted by the blizzard. It took him a few seconds to see that their faces were hidden by masks. He was instantly gripped by a wave of realisation and fear - he’d made a big mistake.
Tomorrow: Meet Anita Sundström