What really happened that fateful night when a fire destroyed the centre block of the Canadian Parliament building?
Chief Inspector Andrew MacNutt, his wife Katherine, and Count Jaggi know, since they were there in the centre block’s reading room when the fire started.
Ever since the war began, Inspector MacNutt, head of the Dominion Police’s Secret Police, has been struggling to secure the Canada-U.S. border against acts of sabotage by a network of saboteurs run by German military diplomatic attachés Captains von Papen and Boy-ed out of New York City.
MacNutt’s job is not easy as he tries to get a grip on authorized and unauthorized counter-intelligence operations being run by various Canadian government departments and busybodies such as Mrs. Ramsey, who, gripped by spy fever and an overactive imagination, is reporting anyone with a German sounding name as a spy. Learning about German and British intelligence activities in New York City via the American newspapers adds to his frustrations.
The good news is that the military attachés’ activities have caught the attention of the American authorities, especially Inspector Tunney of New York City’s bomb squad. They have declared von Papen persona non grata and ordered him back to Germany. The bad news is that German military intelligence has sent one of its best operatives, Count Jaggi, from England to replace von Papen with orders to hamper and disrupt Allied shipping out of New York City’s harbour.
Before going to New York, Count Jaggi visits Ottawa to gather intelligence on Canada’s war effort. While the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) has not developed the ferocious military reputation it will later have in the First World War, it is a critical supplier of food and munitions to the Allied war effort. Also, Ottawa is the key transit point for British gold shipments to pay for millions of dollars in munitions contracts in Canada and in the United States.
His title and his cover as Belgian Relief representative gives Jaggi quick entry to the highest level of Ottawa society, where he quickly meets Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden and former Liberal Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, as well as William Lyon Mackenzie King, a future prime minister of Canada, as well as the royals, the Governor General, his Royal Highnesses the Duke and the Duchess of Connaught.
In Ottawa, Count Jaggi, a womanizer with a weakness for married women, meets the very attractive Katherine MacNutt. Katherine, the inspector’s wife, is helping with the war effort by volunteering for Ottawa’s Belgian Relief committee. Their first meeting was not very auspicious, since she gave him a white feather, the symbol for cowardice, while he was mailing secret reports written in invisible ink back to Germany. Katherine starting handing out the white feathers when her son, Jamie, was reported missing in action in France.
When Jaggi arrives in New York, he and Müller, his second in command, try to clean up the mess created by the British confiscation of von Papen’s personal and diplomatic papers when his ship was stopped in the Port of Falmouth by British authorities. The papers detailed von Papen’s intelligence activities in America and Canada.
Inspector Tunney, of the New York City Bomb Squad, is soon hot on the trail of the German saboteurs that have been targeting Allied shipping in his beloved New York City harbour and has the Count in his sights.
As Count Jaggi takes a final trip to Ottawa to meet Katherine and the Belgian Relief committee, he doesn’t know that Inspector MacNutt has intercepted several of his letters, has discovered the invisible ink reports, and is waiting for him.
But the Count can’t resist seeing Katherine one last time, with tragic consequences.