home | login | register | DMCA | contacts | help | donate |      


my bookshelf | genres | recommend | rating of books | rating of authors | reviews | new | | collections | | | add


The package he had taken from Buhlers mailbox lay unopened on the front seat next to him. Perhaps it was a bomb, thought March, as he started the Volkswagen. There had been a blitz of parcel bombs over the past few months, blowing off the hands and faces of half a dozen government officials. He might just make page three of the Tageblatt: Investigator Dies in Mysterious Blast Outside Barracks.

He drove around Schlachtensee until he found a delicatessen, where he bought a loaf of black bread, some Westphalian ham and a quarter-bottle of Scotch whisky. The sun still shone; the air was fresh. He pointed the car westwards, back towards the lakes. He was going to do something he had not done for years. He was going to have a picnic.

After Goring had been made Chief Reich Huntsman in 1934, there had been some attempt to lighten the Grunewald. Chestnut and linden, beech, birch and oak had all been planted. But the heart of it as it had been a thousand years ago, when the plains of northern Europe were still forest the heart remained the hilly woods of melancholy pine. From these forests, five centuries before Christ, the warring German tribes had emerged; and to these forests, twenty-five centuries later, mostly at weekends, in their campers and their trailers, the victorious German tribes returned. The Germans were a race of forest-dwellers. Make a clearing in your mind, if you liked; the trees just waited to reclaim it.

March parked and took his provisions and Buhlers mail bomb, or whatever it was, and walked carefully up a steep path into the forest. Five minutes climbing brought him to a spot which commanded a clear view of the Havel and of the smoky blue slopes of trees, receding into the distance. The pines smelled strong and sweet in the warmth. Above his head, a large jet rumbled across the sky, making its approach to Berlin Airport. As it disappeared, the noise , died, until at last the only sound was birdsong.

March did not want to open the parcel yet. It made him uneasy. So he sat on a large stone no doubt casually deposited here by the municipal authorities for this very purpose took a swig of whisky, and began to eat.

Of Odilo Globocnik-Globus-March knew little, and that only by reputation. His fortunes had swung like a weathercock over the past thirty years. An Austrian by birth, a builder by profession, he had become Party leader in Carinthia in the mid-1930s, and ruler of Vienna. Then there had been a period of disgrace, connected with illegal currency speculation, followed by a restoration, as a police chief in the General Government when the war started he must have known Buhler there, thought March. At the end of the war, there had been a second fall to where was it? -Trieste, he seemed to remember. But with Himmlers death Globus had come back to Berlin, and now he held some unspecified position within the Gestapo, working directly for Heydrich.

That smashed and brutal face was unmistakable, and, despite the rain and the poor light, Jost had recognised it at once. A portrait of Globus hung in the Academys Hall of Fame, and Globus himself had delivered a lecture to the awestruck cadets on the police structures of the Reich -only a few weeks earlier. No wonder Jost had been so frightened. He should have called the Orpo anonymously, and cleared out before they arrived. Better still, from his point of view, he should not have called them at all.

March finished his ham. He took the remains of the bread, broke it into pieces, and scattered the crumbs across the forest floor. Two blackbirds, which had watched him eat, emerged cautiously from the undergrowth and began pecking at them.

He took out the pocket diary. Standard issue to Party members, available in any stationers. Useful information at the beginning. The names of the Party hierarchy: government ministers, kommissariat bosses, gauleiters.

Public holidays: Day of National Reawakening, 30 January; Potsdam Day, 21 March; Fuhrers birthday, 20 April; National Festival of the German People, 1 May Map of the Empire with railway journey times: Berlin-Rovno, sixteen hours; Berlin-Tims, twenty-seven hours; Berlin-Ufa, four days

The diary itself was a week to two pages, the entries so sparse that at first March thought it was blank. He went through it carefully. There was a tiny cross against 7 March. For 1 April, Buhler had written My sisters birthday. There was another cross against 9 April. On 11 April, he had noted Stuckart/Luther, morning 10. Finally, on 13 April, the day before his death, Buhler had drawn another small cross. That was all.

March wrote down the dates in his notebook. He began a new page. The death of Josef Buhler. Solutions. One: the death was accidental, the Gestapo had learned of it some hours before the Kripo were informed, and Globus was merely inspecting the body when Jost passed by. Absurd. Very well. Two: Buhler had been murdered by the Gestapo, and Globus had carried out the execution. Absurd again. The Night and Fog order of 1941 was still in force. Buhler could have been bundled away quite legally to some secret death in a Gestapo cell, his property confiscated by the state. Who would have mourned him? Or questioned his disappearance?

And so, three: Buhler had been murdered by Globus, who had covered his tracks by declaring the death a matter of state security, and by taking over the investigation himself. But why had the Kripo been allowed to get involved at all? What was Globuss motive? Why was Buhlers body left in a public place?

March leaned back against the stone and closed his eyes. The sun on his face made the darkness blood red. A warm haze of whisky enveloped him.

He could not have been asleep more than half an hour, when he heard a rustle in the undergrowth beside him and felt something touch his sleeve. He was awake in an instant, in time to see the white tail and the hindquarters of a deer darting into the trees. A rural idyll, ten kilometres from the heart of the Reich! Either that, or the whisky. He shook his head and picked up the package.

Thick brown paper, neatly wrapped and taped. Indeed, professionally wrapped and taped. Crisp lines and sharp creases, an economy of materials used and effort expended. A paradigm of a parcel. No man March had ever met could have produced such an object it must have been wrapped by a woman. Next, the postmark. Three Swiss stamps, showing tiny yellow flowers on a green background. Posted in Zurich at 1600 hours on 13.4.64. That was the day before yesterday.

He felt his palms begin to sweat as he unwrapped it with exaggerated care, first peeling off the tape and then slowly, centimetre by centimetre, folding back the paper. He lifted it fractionally. Inside was a box of chocolates.

Its lid showed flaxen-haired girls in red check dresses dancing around a maypole in a flowery meadow. Behind them, white-peaked against a fluorescent blue sky, rose the Alps. Overprinted in black gothic script was the legend: Birthday Greetings to Our Beloved Fuhrer, 1964. But there was something odd about it. The box was too heavy just to contain chocolates.

He took out a penknife and cut round the cellophane cover. He set the box gently on the log. With his face turned away and his arm fully extended, he lifted the lid with the point of the blade. Inside, a mechanism began to whirr. Then this:

Love unspoken

Faith unbroken

All life through

Strings are playing

Hear them saying

I love you

Now the echo answers

Say youll want me too

All the worlds in love with love

And I love you

Only the tune, of course, not the words; but he knew them well enough. Standing alone on a hill in the Grunewald Forest, March listened as the box played the waltz-duet from Act Three of The Merry Widow.

THREE | Fatherland | c